Darcy's Midsummer Madness

By: Cass Grix
A Pride and Prejudice Variation


CHAPTER ONE: SUNDAY


FITZWILLIAM DARCY

“Where is Mr. Darcy, Louisa?” Miss Bingley’s shrill voice is unmistakeable. “Have you seen him?”

I sit silently with a volume of William Blake in my lap, hoping that my friend’s sister will continue down the hall and not search for me in the library. I am sitting near one of the library windows in a tall, high-backed chair, out of sight from an opened door, but discoverable if Miss Bingley searches within.

I hold my breath, unwilling to call out to declare my presence, but also unwilling to hide behind the draperies like someone in a French farce, although I am sorely tempted to do so.

Not for the first time in the past month, I wish I were anywhere but at Netherfield Park, visiting Charles Bingley. I should never have agreed to visit him and to stay so long, but after my sister’s near elopement in early June, I wanted to spend time with someone calm and rational. My fifteen-year-old sister Georgiana is presently at my estate in Derbyshire, being watched over by a new companion, Mrs. Annesley. Our parents are both dead and I am my sister’s guardian, a duty I share with my Matlock cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam.

Georgiana believes her heart has been broken and she spends her days crying, brooding, playing melancholy songs on the pianoforte and reading depressing poetry. I hope that a few weeks away from her mean-hearted brother – myself – and the beauty of Pemberley in the summer will have a beneficial effect.

I would have left Netherfield days earlier if I had not met and become intrigued by Miss Elizabeth Bennet.

And I would leave now, if it weren’t for the deplorable weather – we have had several days of torrential rain - and for the upcoming ball. Bingley likes to tease me about not liking to dance and I do not want to look as if I am running away.

So I will stay for the ball which will be held Tuesday, two days from now, and then I will leave for London and Darcy House the following morning. After a week in Town, I will return to Pemberley. I will be there in time for the hunting at the end of August.

I hear Mrs. Hurst say, “I saw Mr. Darcy playing billiards with Charles.”

That was an hour earlier, but fortunately Miss Bingley believes her sister and I hear their footsteps as they walk away from the closed library door.

I take a deep breath, thankful for the reprieve.

I did not realize until recently how irritating Miss Bingley can be. She often flirted with me in the past, but in a casual, half-hearted way that was almost amusing. She is a handsome young woman with Town manners and a sarcastic wit. Like me, she is quick to find fault with others. But during this visit, she has become more persistent in her attentions to me, no doubt as a response to my mad infatuation for Miss Elizabeth. I have tried to keep my admiration for that young woman hidden, but I spoke out of turn once or twice, betraying myself, and Miss Bingley pounced on my weakness like a cat on a mouse.

She likes to needle me, imagining Mrs. Bennet as my future mother-in-law.

But she does not say anything that I do not say to myself. I know it is foolishness to consider Miss Elizabeth Bennet as a potential bride.

Elizabeth Bennet is the second daughter of a local gentleman – a pretty girl of average height with curling hair and the most fascinating eyes I have ever seen. She is intelligent, she is pert, and she has a way of lifting her chin with a defiant air that makes me want to sweep her off her feet and carry her to Pemberley.

Not that I ever would. She is completely unsuitable to become the Mistress of Pemberley.

Her manners are too informal; her humour too mercurial.

And her family is atrocious. Her mother is vulgar, her sisters except for the eldest, named Jane, are all silly, ignorant girls. Lydia particularly. I have never seen such a loud, irreverent girl. She is always laughing and running about, heedless of those around her. How can anyone think that she is ready to be out in public? I shudder to think what Georgiana would do if she took Lydia as an example.

Miss Elizabeth’s extended relations are no better. She has one uncle who lives in Meryton, a lawyer by profession, and another uncle in who lives in Cheapside, in Trade. Her father, although born a gentleman, has done nothing to improve himself or his estate. From what Bingley says, the man is rumored to spend most of the day in his library.

Considering the ill-bred behavior of his family, I cannot blame him. In truth, I am sympathetic to his plight. I am hiding in the library today to avoid Miss Bingley.

I know that my family and friends would never accept Elizabeth Bennet into their social circles and they will be horrified by my lack of judgment if I pursue her.

No, although she is delightful and enchanting, she is not for me.

I look out the window at the grey sky and damp grounds. If the weather were better, I would go riding or take a long walk.

But I fear that if I did, I would be tempted to go to Longbourn. I am like a compass, but instead of pointing North, I am inexplicably drawn toward Elizabeth Bennet.

I saw her last a few days ago in Meryton. She was walking with her sisters and some male relation. I had ridden with Bingley to enquire after Jane Bennet’s health. When we entered the village, I saw them on the street and my heart seemed to beat in my throat. Elizabeth was beautiful as always but she was standing beside George Wickham, my enemy – the man who tried to ruin my sister.

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