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Pride & Prejudice

Engagement Reaction Series

Pride & Prejudice

Mr. Bingley’s Reaction

Darcy and Elizabeth deflected the Bennet family’s inquiries about where they had gotten lost with grace. Mrs. Bennet, with her penchant for exaggeration that Darcy could not get accustomed to, declared crossly, “We almost asked Bingley to take his horse along the lanes to see if you had fallen to some misadventure! How fortunate it was that Kitty had seen you from a window before we could make the request. But of course, Mr. Bingley would have been all indulgence and would not have minded the trouble in the least.”

“Of course, ma’am,” acknowledged Bingley good-naturedly. “Although I knew that Darcy would be capable enough to extract themselves from any trouble.”

“We have come to no harm, as you see,” Elizabeth declared. Before anyone else could add to the conversation, she added, “Mama, I saw Mrs. Long heading to the Lucas’ as we set out for our walk. She seemed to be in quite a hurry.”

Darcy silently applauded her for deftly changing the conversation.

Mrs. Bennet was immediately diverted, asking aloud why Mrs. Long should rush to see the Lucases. Miss Kitty was eager to give her opinions on plausible causes while Miss Mary was eager to give her opinions on the immorality of gossiping. Mr. Bennet watched the whole scene with amusement. Miss Jane Bennet and Bingley contented themselves with whispering to each other with the intimacy of ones in love. Darcy felt a pang of regret for having been party to their separation while both were in London, but, at least, they were together now.

Elizabeth seemed satisfied with the turn of events and contented herself with her plate with the occasional glance at Darcy’s direction. She gave him a secretive smile which he returned with as much display as he dared. For most of the dinner, however, Darcy watched her in silent admiration, looking forward to the time when they could finally announce their engagement and rid themselves of all pretensions at impartiality. He wondered how no one in the room had noticed his feelings for Elizabeth yet. Bingley had commented before that he stared at her overmuch while in Pemberley – ah, but he had made no secret of his regard for her then!

With dinner thus concluded and the gentlemen had finished their port, Bingley and Darcy bid the family a good evening and retreated from the house to the courtyard where a groom awaited with their horses. Darcy envied his friend’s opportunity to whisper his goodbyes to his betrothed, kissing her softly on her gloved hand. Darcy had to content himself with a bow to his own beloved, revelling at her lively eyes and the coy smile she granted only to him.

He felt a frisson of excitement rush through him – when he confessed to her that he still felt the same way as when he proposed at the Hunsford Parsonage (nay, his feelings have gotten even deeper, richer, when he witnessed her easy manner with his sister, who always craved female intimacy that a paid companion could not meet), he could not have imagined that her own response could be so favourable. He had hoped that she would open herself more to the idea of him; he had hoped that she would no longer have the feelings of animosity she had displayed so strongly when he had first proposed. His aunt’s report, indignant as it was, had given him enough hope to think at least that… But to hear from her own lips that she had grown to love him!

He was silent in his contemplation of that afternoon’s conversation that he did not notice Bingley call his name the first time. “Darcy!” Bingley had repeated louder. “Good God man! You are in your own world tonight!”

“Apologies, Bingley. I did not hear you.”

“Is something amiss?” Bingley asked. “Was your walk with Miss Elizabeth not to your liking? I know you admired her for her fine eyes before.”

Darcy hesitated only for a moment. He simultaneously wished to announce his good fortune to all of the world and keep it sacred and private for a little while longer – but this was his best friend. Bingley was always going to be the first to know.

“To the contrary. Miss Elizabeth and I took too long to return precisely because it had gone so well.”

At this, Bingley urged his horse forward so that he could turn and face Darcy completely. “Do not keep me in suspense! What has occurred?”

“I had merely confessed to her that I regard her as the best of women and that I would want to marry her.”

Bingley’s expression was all that Darcy could hope for. He was surprised and pleased all at once. “I knew you liked her, but I did not know it was to this extent! Did Miss Elizabeth say yes? I cannot imagine anyone saying no to you. Did she?”

Darcy laughed. “Miss Elizabeth said yes. She is to be Mrs. Darcy, should my conversation with her father go as planned.”

Bingley slapped his leg, almost startling his horse. “Congratulations, Darcy! It seems that you and I will know of marital felicity together. Why, this should make us brothers! And worry not that Mr. Bennet should refuse you. He is a good man and would likely see that you are a good man as well.”

“You say that, Bingley, but I assure you that I have been refused before.”

His friend thought this a falsehood and laughed with amusement. “Pray, who would dare refuse you?”

“Miss Elizabeth Bennet,” Darcy answered wryly.

Bingley’s shock at this announcement was more extreme than Darcy’s confirmation of their engagement. “I’m all agog! Was this in Pemberley?”

“Not at all. You recall I visited my aunt at Rosings Park?”

“I do; you attended her with your cousin, the colonel.”

“You recall I mentioned Miss Elizabeth was also there, visiting her friend Mrs. Collins, who is married to her cousin?”

“Ah yes, the former Miss Charlotte Lucas. Mrs. Bennet still has not forgiven her for marrying Mr. Collins when he could have of her other daughters. And so you and Miss Elizabeth were thrown into the same company then?”

“Just so. There is not much society to be had there, and the obsequious Mr. Collins suited my aunt immensely. Their party was often invited to dinner.”

“And?” Bingley prodded. “My word, Darcy. I sometimes wish you were not so frugal with your words.”

“I had admired Miss Elizabeth for quite some time, as you know. One day, I could not prevent myself from making such a violent declaration that I surprised her and myself. Like you, the thought of being refused did not even cross my mind, but she had humbled me at that moment.” Darcy closed his eyes momentarily at the memory. “When I saw her in Pemberley, I hoped that I could redeem myself in her eyes. It seems that I had, and so we are to be wed.”

Silence descended for a moment as Darcy basked in his reverie.

Bingley looked at him expectantly. Realizing that Darcy was not inclined to say more, he laughed heartily. “I should take you to task for not having been forthcoming with your feelings. I have been quite transparent with you. You will need to tell me the whole of it one day, but I will not insist on all the details now. You seem to be in a daze – as a man in love should be. I am very glad for you, Darcy. Very glad indeed. Perhaps we can arrange for you and Miss Elizabeth to get lost again tomorrow.”

Darcy said nothing, although he wished for the very same thing.

As Netherfield came into view, Bingley laughed again, “I wonder if I should write about this bit of news to Caroline! I can only wonder at her reaction!”

“There is no need to write to her or Mrs. Hurst about my engagement. Won’t they be coming to Netherfield in a week’s time?”

“You are right. This should surprise both Caroline and Louisa immensely!”

Mr. Bennet’s Reaction

Thanks to the machinations of Mr. Bingley and the eager encouragement from her mother, Elizabeth found herself putting on her spencer in her bedroom as Mr. Darcy awaited her on the courtyard. Shortly before exiting, she donned her bonnet and gloves on the hall as she glanced at her beloved’s form dressed in the newly fashionable black trousers and blushed with pleasure at the prospect of spending more time with him. Beloved, she thought with amusement. That I may now think of him as such!

“I am quite sorry, Lizzy, that you should be forced to have that disagreeable man all to yourself. But I hope you will not mind it: it is all for Jane's sake, you know; and there is no occasion for talking to him, except just now and then. So, do not put yourself to inconvenience,” her mother said as she bid Elizabeth goodbye. “But delay your return, my dear.”

The air was crisp and she felt the wind sting her cheeks.

“We must hurry off lest we upset your mother,” Darcy commented wryly. “She seems eager to have us off.”

“She wishes to secure Bingley’s time with Jane, if you must know.”

“Bingley is as secure as can be.  The only one more intent at a nuptial is me.”

This comment brought feelings of rapture that even Elizabeth’s lively nature was not accustomed to. 

“If you pay me too many compliments, my head shall swell. See if you shall still like me then!”

“Nay,” he protested most vehemently. “I feel I am a good judge of character to be mistaken in your personality. You have just enough humility in you for me to never worry that you should succumb to vanity.”

“Just enough?” she teased.

“You have confidence in your virtues; if you did not, the slight I regret having given you on our first meeting would have wounded you more.”

She laughed at this observation and admitted that it was true. “It seems you have told Mr. Bingley our happy news. I have told dear Jane as well. How did Mr. Bingley react to the news?”

“With utmost pleasure. He knew already that I admired you, though he admitted to being surprised at how advanced my affections were. And how did Miss Bennet react? Did she know of my fumbling attempts at Hunsford?”

Elizabeth nodded, unable to deny it. “I did tell her. I did not speak of your role in her separation from Mr. Bingley in London, but I informed her of your proposal and how I declined it. I spoke as well of your history with Wickham. Jane had always been inclined to think well of you, even when I was not convinced myself. Of Jane you would always find a supporter.”

“Then I am satisfied, since I can see how much weight you give her opinion. When may I apply to your father for his permission? I confess, I am eager to tell my sister the good news as well.”

“This very night, if I or my family have not changed your mind by then. Perhaps after dinner?”

“I am resolute and have been so for many months. You need not worry that I should not honour my word or my sentiments. I am quite impatient to announce it to the world, my dear!”

“My dear! How I relish hearing those words from your lips!”

“You will hear them often, my dear. If I could only use the moniker in front of your family now, I would. Do you worry we are moving too quickly?”

“Not quickly enough,” Elizabeth admitted.

Mr. Darcy rewarded her with a dazzling smile. He offered his arm and Elizabeth accepted it, slipping her own through his and laying a gloved hand on his forearm. She sensed his protective warmth and sighed.

“As soon as dinner is concluded, I will ask your father for an audience in his study. I hope he does not reject me.”

Elizabeth shook her head. “He may be surprised, but I do not believe he would. He would, at the very least, permit you to ask me and let me make my own decision. In that, he has been the best of fathers.”

“Now where is this Oakham Mount? I do not care much what direction we go, but if we do not go to it, I worry your mother may have more to find to her dissatisfaction. I fear she does not like me.”

Elizabeth did not respond. Her mother’s dislike was too apparent to the point of rudeness. Instead, she pointed to the general direction they should walk to.

She enjoyed playing the guide and showing the haunts of her childhood. Though she enjoyed their time alone together, she thought about her mother and worried about her reaction. When they reached their destination and beheld the view, Darcy clasped her hand into his, lifted it, and placed a gentle kiss onto her bare wrist. Her breath caught at her throat and drove all worries from her mind. It was not until they were on the path back to the house that she recalled her mother and what was to come.

“I will speak to my mother tonight, before bed, once you have spoken to my papa.”

Dinner, even if it was a simple affair, was always good at the Bennet household. Despite the delicious spread, Darcy found himself unable to eat more than what would be considered polite. Bingley and Elizabeth had both reassured him that Mr. Bennet would not outright refuse his suit, and yet he found himself anxiously awaiting the perfect moment to see him.

After dinner, the family and both gentlemen assembled in the drawing room. Mrs. Bennet played cards with Bingley, Jane, and Elizabeth — his Elizabeth! Mary’s head was buried in a weighty tome; Kitty was employed with dressing a bonnet. Mr. Bennet was reading a parchment as he drank his port. Darcy did not wish to be anchored to an activity, so he followed Mary’s example and retrieved a small book from a shelf. It was a rather dry history of farming in the region — not his usual choice, but he found he could not focus anyway.

Soon, Mr. Bennet stood and bid everyone good evening to go to his library. Darcy stood and bowed before Mr. Bennet made his exit, but he did not sit back down. Instead, he closed his book and returned it to the shelf before saying his excuses to the ladies. Elizabeth gave him a reassuring look.

As he turned, he heard Mrs. Bennet say with astonishment, “How strange! Where could he be off to?”

He took a deep breath as he faced the door to Mr. Bennet’s study. Resolved that this was the most confident he could make himself feel that evening, he lifted his hand to the door and gave its rough surface two quick raps.

“Come in,” called Mr. Bennet from beyond the door.

Darcy opened it and stepped in. Mr. Bennet looked up from his desk in surprise. It was apparent that he was not expecting Darcy at all.

“Why Mr. Darcy. How can I help you, sir?”

Darcy cleared his throat. “Sir, I was hoping I could speak with you about a particular matter.”

Mr. Bennet motioned towards the chair across from his own. “Of course. Make yourself comfortable, Mr. Darcy, and let me pour you a brandy. I was about to imbibe myself.”

Darcy was glad for the respite and gratefully received the glass of amber liquid. As Mr. Bennet settled himself into his armchair by the grate in the room and drank from his snifter, Darcy himself swallowed more than he intended in one gulp. He felt the burn of the liquid go down his throat.

“Well, Mr. Darcy? I cannot imagine what business we may have together, but, rest assured, I will do my utmost to be helpful.”

“Ah, yes. That is a nice sentiment, Mr. Bennet, but perhaps you may not feel the same after I have asked my question.”

Mr. Bennet looked at him expectantly. Darcy pushed past his agitation and said, “Sir, I have come to ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage.”

The older gentleman’s eyes shot up in surprise. “Pray sir, which daughter?”

Realizing his gaffe, Darcy immediately clarified, “Miss Elizabeth, sir.”

Mr. Bennet remained silent for a moment as he absorbed the news. “I was warned…a letter…” He took a sip of his brandy once again. “I have no objections, Mr. Darcy. You are obviously a man of means. The decision, however, lies with my daughter.”

“Err— I must admit, sir, that Miss Elizabeth is aware of my intentions for being here in your library this evening.”

“I see. And has she said yes?”

“Yes, sir. She had accepted my proposal.”

“Then there is not much left to be said, sir. She keeps her own counsel in such matters. You have my blessing and I wish you both happy. I hope that you would know how to treat one such as she. She does not suffer fools, my Lizzy, and her lively mind needs to be respected.”

Darcy immediately gave him what assurances he could as a gentleman. “I am well aware of her intelligence and her virtues and can only hope that I can endeavour to deserve her.”

“See that you do,” Mr. Bennet admonished firmly. “May you call her for me so that I may interview her myself? Alone, if you please.”

“Of course.”

Darcy did as he was bid and found Elizabeth restlessly pacing by the fire, the card game now forgotten.

“Your father has asked to see you, Miss Elizabeth,” Darcy said, smiling with reassurance.

She breathed a sigh of relief before exiting the room. Darcy, having nothing to do, returned to the bookshelf to retrieve the book he had abandoned minutes earlier. He felt his friend’s curious stare from the card table.

He spent above a half hour reading the same innocuous passage over and over again before Elizabeth returned, her eyes sparkling dreamy pleasure. Darcy felt immediately reassured. “All is well,” she murmured to him.

The evening passed tranquilly from there. Bingley and Jane were too well-behaved to comment on their restlessness and the remainder were too oblivious.

He did not know what had transpired between father and daughter, but as Bingley and Darcy exited the house to climb horses, Mr. Bennet followed them from the door and proceeded to warmly shake the hands of both men. To Darcy, he said quietly, “Lizzy had told me how much she loves you and how she considers you the most deserving of men. I am very satisfied with the match. Very satisfied indeed.”

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