Several of the Bennet sisters welcomed Bingley and Darcy upon their entrance to Longbourn. Elizabeth took their greatcoats and briefly greeted Darcy with a hint of a smile and an obligatory curtsy. When they repaired to the dining room, Darcy had hoped to be seated near Elizabeth, but finding himself seated instead close to Mrs. Bennet dashed those hopes. Bingley located a seat near Jane Bennet; oh, for such pleasure with Elizabeth! Darcy could hear nothing of what she said. Only once did he notice Miss Elizabeth’s attentions towards him. It was when Bingley placed himself beside Miss Bennet; Elizabeth gave Darcy a triumphant look, and he bore it with presumed indifference. The meal included venison and a white soup. Darcy attempted to make conversation with Mrs. Bennet, “I extend my compliments on the partridge, Ma’am,” he said a bit awkwardly.
“Thank you, Mr. Darcy,” the house’s mistress said with equal awkwardness. However, Darcy noticed that his words had obviously pleased Elizabeth’s mother.
She clearly had made a statement with the menu, and his good breeding required he take notice, but he would rather have taken notice of her second daughter’s eyes. Generally though, Darcy spoke very little to anyone at the table.
He had hoped for the opportunity of some conversation with Elizabeth as the evening progressed; all he required was a few moments alone. He would ask her to meet him privately, and then he would offer her his hand again. Following the meal, useless and mundane time was spent in the dining room with the gentlemen; he was anxious to return to the ladies. When the gentlemen entered the drawing room, Darcy planned immediately to approach Elizabeth, but she served coffee to the guests and was surrounded by ladies who appeared to be protecting her~for they stood close by. He moved toward her, but one of the girls stepped closer, taking on a conspiratorial stance. Darcy, therefore, took his cup and walked away to another part of the room.
The evening went badly, but, eventually, Darcy returned with his coffee cup. Elizabeth, thankfully, seized the opportunity of saying, “May I inquire of Miss Darcy?” She even forced herself to look at him.
“Georgiana is at Pemberley with Mrs. Annesley. She will remain there until the Festive Season.”
“Then her friends have gone to Scarborough?”
“They have, Miss Elizabeth.” Darcy was barely able to utter the words; her beauty enthralled him.
“I am sorry we could not dine at Pemberley as we had planned.” She struggled to express her regrets.
The conversation staled at that point. Searching for something more to say, he stood by her, but what he wished to tell her could not be done so in public. He wanted only a few minutes’ conversation with Elizabeth again, and he would be satisfied if only the opportunity occurred. Noting the girl still listened in, Darcy eventually walked away.
That was the last of their conversation for he was relegated to a table of whist at Mrs. Bennet’s insistence; Elizabeth sat at a different table. Darcy’s mind searched for her rather than paying attention to the game, causing him to play poorly. When the others took their leave, Mrs. Bennet attempted to keep them for supper, but their carriage had been ordered, and Bingley and Darcy were soon on their way to Netherfield.
Although he guarded his feelings from Darcy, Bingley rejoiced in the progress he made with Miss Bennet. Memories of Darcy’s censure of Jane Bennet required Bingley to be cautious. Obviously, his friend wanted to retain Darcy’s regard, but Bingley also desired Miss Bennet’s affection. Despite his own misery, Darcy knew the time for telling Bingley the truth had arrived, but he could not do so this evening. His own heart was breaking as he wrote a quick passage to his sister.