At Austen Authors, in celebration of the 200th Anniversary of the novel’s events, we are retelling Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice from the points of view of the other characters. If you like my attempt below, you might go to austenauthors.net and click on “The Writer’s Block” to read the other entries.
One evening just Darcy and his sister dined at his London townhouse. Mrs. Annesley had been given the evening off to visit a beloved nephew. They took a light repast together and casually enjoyed each other’s company in the drawing room. Uncharacteristically, Darcy partook of more brandy than he should; he was not drunk, but the warmth of the liquid lowered his defenses.
“Will you travel to Kent to see our aunt at Easter?” Georgiana asked as she casually flipped the pages of the book she held.
“I will; our cousin arranged a leave from his military duties so we will be able to tackle our aunt’s many business issues together. It is not a trip to which I look forward. Our aunt can be so…”
“Demanding,” Georgiana added maybe a little too quickly.
Darcy arched an eyebrow at his sister’s response; Georgiana had become more opinionated of late although she never expressed those opinions beyond her brother’s hearing. “Our aunt can be very solicitous. Has she said something to you, my dearest?”
“It is just her usual reproofs to practice my music and to maintain the proper manners. Sometimes I resent her constant remarks. I know I should not feel these things about a beloved relative, but, honestly, Fitzwilliam, her rebukes are very upsetting.”
“I am well aware that our aunt can irritate even the most devout, but I would not encourage you to be rude to our mother’s only sister. However, I would say it was permissible to overpass many of Lady Catherine’s sentiments.”
He noted how his sister bit her bottom lip in anticipation. “Fitzwilliam,” Georgiana began tentatively, “was not Mr. Bingley satisfied with his estate in Hertfordshire?”
Darcy felt the caution shoot through him. “Why do you ask, my Dear?”
“Mr. Bingley quit the estate on impulse it seems. Did something happen?”
Darcy felt a bit uncomfortable knowing his part in removing Bingley from Netherfield. He shifted his weight, gulped down the last of the brandy, and poured himself another.“Bingley is such an impetuous young man,” he extended an explanation.
“It is just,”Georgiana began shyly,“he speaks well of his short time there and expresses a fondness for the company of Miss Jane Bennet.”
Darcy said prudently, “Does he now?”
Georgiana continued, “He seems so downcast. Is Jane Bennet not the sister of Elizabeth Bennet? Your letters from Netherfield mentioned her several times. I hoped when I read your letters if Mr. Bingley remained at Netherfield that I could visit also. I thought I might like to meet Miss Elizabeth. It would be nice to have a friend such as you described. Do you think Miss Elizabeth could have seen me as an acquaintance she might like to make?”
“I am certain of it,” Darcy began slowly. “I often considered the possibilities.”
Georgiana’s interest perked up. Leaning forward and giving him her full attention, she asked, “Would you tell me about Miss Elizabeth?”
Darcy held his glass of brandy to his lips, but he did not drink. Impressions of Elizabeth Bennet came so easily to him, as if he had seen her but five minutes earlier, rather than it having been nearly eleven weeks. He began slowly, guarding his words, fearing to betray his susceptibility to the woman.“I believe I described Miss Elizabeth physically previously. Miss Elizabeth’s features are not as refined as her sister’s, but they tend to be more classical. Her eyes are the key to her soul, a quick note of what she really thinks. She says she loves to laugh, and I find her humor to be teasing in nature at times. I have not found many women with a more agreeable character. Everything is united in Elizabeth Bennet: she possesses a superior intelligence and good understanding; generally correct opinions, which she often expresses without regard to the time or the situation; and a warm heart. She demonstrates strong feelings of family attachment, without calculating pride or insufferable weaknesses. Miss Elizabeth judges for herself in everything essential.” Darcy stopped himself at this point, fearing he said too much.
Georgiana sighed heavily when he paused. “Miss Elizabeth Bennet appears the perfect mixture of sense and judgment. I hope some day I have the opportunity to make her acquaintance. I always wanted an intimacy such as you describe.”
Leaving his reason behind, Darcy said wistfully, “It would be pleasant to have Miss Elizabeth’s company again.”
Images of Elizabeth Bennet and Georgiana together at Pemberley invaded his dreams that evening.The images instantly created happiness without the misery, but when awake, Darcy could only dwell on the misery of such happiness.
Late February brought signs of spring, and Darcy, Georgiana, and Mrs. Annesley returned to Pemberley. He had buried himself in the his estate work, explaining his plans to increase the production of crops to his tenants. His steward, Mr. Howard, was a respected overseer, and they spent many hours planning a four-crop rotation among the farmers.The system, developed by the Second Viscount Charles Townsend, had been successful in the Americas since the early 1700s. Pemberley used a three-crop rotation for many years, usually wheat, barley, and the third field left to fallow. Yet, the land was being used up too quickly, and production decreased, leaving many of Pemberley’s tenants unable to maintain their farms.
Darcy had hoped the four-crop rotation plan would save his estate and the livelihood of his tenants. Nitrogen-rich legumes would be used to put back into the soil the nutrients the grain crops used, and the grain crops put back the minerals the legumes used.They fed each other; it was a simple plan; now, he had to convince his tenants of the necessity of the changes. Mr. Howard would examine each farmer’s soil makeup and decide who would plant which crops.
The excitement of getting back to the land had relieved Darcy of the agitations of his mind. He had not thought about Elizabeth Bennet more than a couple of times over the past few weeks.Then he received a letter from his aunt.
My dear Nephew,
I am anticipating your upcoming visit; your cousin Anne is most anxious to renew your relationship. Her health seems much improved; I am certain you will notice the difference. I hoped to introduce you to my new curate Mr. Collins and his wife, but much to my chagrin, I find you met them both while you were in Hertfordshire with Mr. Bingley.
Darcy’s heart stopped. Mr. Collins married someone from Hertfordshire. Pictures of Mr. Collins’s attentive behavior to Elizabeth flashed across his eyes. The man had danced with Elizabeth at the Netherfield Ball, and after supper, Collins had adamantly refused to leave Elizabeth’s side, leaving her in misery and unable to dance with other gentlemen. Please, God, do not allow Elizabeth to be married to Mr. Collins! he prayed. Mrs. Bennet would marry Elizabeth off to Collins just to be rid of one of her daughters. Collins kissing Elizabeth—the thought brought a murderous rage to Darcy’s heart. With shaky hands, he returned to the letter.
Charlotte Lucas has made Mr. Collins a reasonable match. Her temperament is most pleasing, and I assured Mr. Collins of my approval in his choice.
Darcy’s breath came in ragged bursts. Charlotte Lucas! It was not Elizabeth! He nearly cried with relief. Although Collins would provide Miss Lucas with a steady income and a protective home, he hated to see any woman’s attentions wasted on such a supercilious arse, as was Mr. Collins. Even without her being Elizabeth’s special friend, Darcy actually liked Charlotte Lucas. He would not wish Collins upon anyone.
Mrs. Collins’s father and sister have come to stay at Hunsford. Sir William spoke highly of you, as was natural, and of making your acquaintance in Hertfordshire; the younger Miss Lucas is quite pretty, in a plain sort of fashion, and I find her very attentive to my advice. I am certain she gets no such direction at home, and I plan to spend some time with her.
Good! His aunt’s reproofs could be directed toward someone besides Georgiana. He made a mental note to speak to his cousin about Lady Catherine’s censure of Georgina; Darcy did not like anyone interfering in his sister’s life.
There is another member of the Collins’s party at the Parsonage. Mrs. Collins’s friend Elizabeth Bennet has also come for a visit.
Darcy reread that line several times to be certain his eyes did not play tricks on him. Elizabeth? His Elizabeth? Could she really be at Rosings Park residing within an easy walk of his aunt’s house? Reading on, Darcy realized his eyes did not deceive him. His aunt actually spoke of Elizabeth.The irony of it all! Elizabeth Bennet stayed on his aunt’s estate.
I understand you also made the acquaintance of Miss Bennet. My pleasure in introducing you has been lost. I will forego that pleasure with you, but, at least, it will still be my honor to introduce the Collins’s party to your cousin, the colonel.
Miss Bennet, I find, is a very outspoken young lady. She has been allowed to run free with little reproach from her parents. She offers her opinions without regard to station in life; this is most unusual for one so young. I cannot say I approve of her manners or her upbringing. She is one of five daughters, as you know. Her parents saw no benefit in exposing any of them to the masters. None of them draw; Miss Bennet’s talents on the pianoforte are limited. I told her she could only improve with more practice. Besides having no governess to supervise her upbringing, the worst offense I find in her parenting is all five daughters are out in Society at the same time.The youngest are out before the eldest has married. When I expressed my disdain, you would not believe what Miss Bennet said.
Darcy laughed out loud for the first time in months.Without being told her response, he could just imagine Elizabeth’s retort, which was likely accompanied by the “flash” in her eyes, a shift of her shoulders, and the hint of a mischievous smile. His sister could learn much from Elizabeth Bennet; he realized quickly that Lady Catherine did not intimidate Elizabeth.
Her reply was very disrespectful. She seems to exist under the ill-abused conception that having all five daughters Out at the same time is perfectly acceptable. Miss Bennet believes her younger sisters deserve their share of Society and amusement as much as does she and her elder sister. She indicated it was not equitable for her younger sisters to be denied their share of fun and courtship just because neither she nor her elder sister have had the means or the inclination to marry. Miss Elizabeth does not feel it would be “very likely to promote sisterly affection nor delicacy of the mind.” I was astonished by this response. I hope to temper her rough spirits before she leaves Hunsford.
His aunt may wish to temper the lady’s spirits, but he knew Lady Catherine was no match for Elizabeth Bennet.
Miss Bennet simply needs an example of proper society to complement her undeveloped genteel attributes. Sir William, I am afraid, will depart before your arrival, but the ladies will remain another month.We will invite them to Rosings if you so wish to renew their acquaintances.Your cousin Anne and I look forward to your and Edward’s stay at Rosings.
Elizabeth Bennet, possibly the first to have done so, obviously, had dared to challenge the dignified impertinence of Lady Catherine. So, Elizabeth stayed at Rosings; he was glad to know prior to his arrival. It would be a good test of how well he had recovered from her charms. In thinking such, Darcy did not acknowledge the swirl of his emotions when he feared Collins married Elizabeth as being anything more than a true concern for her well-being and happiness. He would be able to meet Elizabeth again as indifferent acquaintances; Darcy was certain of that fact.
His cousin Edward Fitzwilliam came to Pemberley on the eighteenth. He would spend a few days with Georgiana before they departed for Rosings. Along with Darcy, the good colonel served as Georgiana’s guardian, and he adored her nearly as much as did Darcy.
“Cousin, Georgiana has told me about Elizabeth Bennet,” Edward teased.“Now, I am most anxious to meet our aunt’s visitors. At first, I was not looking forward to meeting a ‘country miss with poor manners,’ but Georgiana seems to feel you hold Elizabeth Bennet in some esteem. If she impresses Fitzwilliam Darcy, she must be something extraordinary, I dare say.”
“Pull in your tendrils, Edward,” Darcy cautioned.“Miss Elizabeth is not for you. As the younger son of an earl, you need to find a woman of wealth to keep you in style. I am afraid although Miss Elizabeth is a gentleman’s daughter, she has no wealth of which to make her a person of interest for a man in your position.” Darcy did not believe he could tolerate the idea of Elizabeth with his cousin. She would be family, but not his to touch.
“I see,” Edward began. “That is my bad luck. Some day I will find a wealthy woman with whom I might also find affection. I do not want to just marry for money; some level of affection is not too much to ask is it, Fitz?”
“I never knew you felt that way.” Edward’s words stunned Darcy.
“Oh, well, at least,” Edward said with resignation, “Miss Elizabeth may help brighten our time at Rosings, can she not?”
“Miss Elizabeth, I found, can brighten most any room,” Darcy whispered to himself.
(This scene comes from Chapter 6 of my first Austen-inspired novel, Darcy’s Passions.)