Incident: Chapter 33, Col. Fitzwilliam talking to Elizabeth
Mr. Darcy was, understandably, confused about the whole situation. He'd never been so conflicted in his life; what was he to do? Family, honour and prudence dictated that he have nothing to do with Miss Bennet, which was getting increasingly difficult. If only her family were not so unsuitable! There was nothing for it-the situation was insufferable and she was (mainly) to blame.
Sighing, he looked out of his window, barely admiring the picturesque but ill kept grounds. Due to his preoccupation with her, he's neglected his usual inspections and walks of the Kent estate, one of the main reasons he annually visited Rosings. For all her advice, Lady Catherine was remarkably lax about the proper running of such a large estate.
Quietly stealing past the breakfast room- he refused to entertain the notion that he was hiding from his aunt- he let himself out of a side door, hurrying along the tree-lined path until he could not blamed for not hearing the strident calls for "Fitzwilliam!"
It seemed fate was not on his side that day. A few scant miles along his route and the very creature that he was trying to distract himself from was walking along the path in front of him with his cousin. Even walking away from him at a hundred yards he could recognise her. It was getting ridiculous.
Not in the mood to talk to either of them, he ducked under the bowers of a large elm and carried on his way hidden on the other side of the trees, resolutely not eavesdropping.
"Do you certainly leave Kent on Saturday?" said she.
A more poetic man might have started composing stanzas on her charming voice, Darcy simply moved further into earshot.
"Yes - if Darcy does not put it off again. But I am at his disposal. He arranges the business just as he pleases."
"And if not able to please himself in the arrangement, he has at least great pleasure in the power of choice. I do not know anybody who seems more to enjoy the power of doing what he likes than Mr. Darcy."
That was hardly the most flattering of descriptions. Was that truly how she thought of him? Power hungry and controlling?
"He likes to have his own way very well," replied Colonel Fitzwilliam. Darcy raised an eyebrow; his cousin was meant on his side! "But so we all do. It is only that he has better means of having it than many others, because he is rich, and many others are poor. I speak feelingly. A younger son, you know, must be inured to self-denial and dependence."
"In my opinion, the younger son of an earl can know very little of either. Now, seriously, what have you ever known of self-denial and dependence? When have you been prevented by want of money from going wherever you chose, or procuring anything you had a fancy for?"
"These are home questions - and perhaps I cannot say that I have experienced many hardships of that nature. But in matters of greater weight, I may suffer from the want of money. Younger sons cannot marry where they like."
"Unless where they like women of fortune, which I think they very often do."
"Our habits of expence make us too dependant, and there are not many in my rank of life who can afford to marry without some attention to money."
In the brief silence that ensued, Darcy could ponder Fitzwilliam's words. If the formula for the world was that men without money had to marry women with it, surely the opposite was true, that a man with money could marry whoever he wanted? But, he reminded himself, it is not the lack of money as much as the connections in this case. And what was the meaning of his speech. Was he making sure that Miss Elizabeth knew he had no intentions towards her? Darcy had noticed how close the two had become, without a small amount of jealousy.
Darcy did not get much time to think, as she soon afterwards said -
"I imagine your cousin brought you down with him chiefly for the sake of having somebody at his disposal. I wonder he does not marry, to secure a lasting convenience of that kind. But perhaps his sister does as well for the present, and, as she is under his sole care, he may do what he likes with her."
Well that was rather rude.
"No," said Fitzwilliam, "that is an advantage which he must divide with me. I am joined with him in the guardianship of Miss Darcy."
"Are you, indeed? And pray what sort of guardians do you make? Does your charge give you much trouble? Young ladies of her age are sometimes a little difficult to manage, and if she has the true Darcy spirit, she may like to have her own way."
Darcy's thoughts immediately sped to the Ramsgate scandal. Why would Miss Elizabeth insinuate Georgiana's headstrong-ness if she didn't know? Although he supposed she didn't know Georgiana's true nature, especially since the summer she had become very withdrawn. It was obvious that Fitzwilliam was thinking of the same thing, as he immediately asked her why she supposed Miss Darcy likely to give them any uneasiness.
"You need not be frightened. I never heard any harm of her; and I dare say she is one of the most tractable creatures in the world. She is a very great favourite with some ladies of my acquaintance - Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley. I think I have heard you say that you know them."
"I know them a little. Their brother is a pleasant, gentlemanlike man - he is a great friend of Darcy's."
"Oh! yes," said she. "Mr. Darcy is uncommonly kind to Mr. Bingley, and takes a prodigious deal of care of him."
Darcy frowned; he knew Miss Elizabeth well enough by now to know that she was joking, but that gave her words a slightly… insulting twist.
"Care of him! - Yes, I really believe Darcy does take care of him in those points where he most wants care. From something that he told me in our journey hither, I have reason to think Bingley very much indebted to him. But I ought to beg his pardon, for I have no right to suppose that Bingley was the person meant. It was all conjecture."
"What is it you mean?"
"It is a circumstance which Darcy, of course, would not wish to be generally known, because if it were to get round to the lady's family it would be an unpleasant thing."
Oh Lord, no. This could not be happening. Darcy was aware that Fitzwilliam was trying to improve Miss Elizabeth's impression on his character, since her attitude towards him clearly wasn't as positive as he had thought, but this was exactly the wrong thing to do. Would it be possible to jump out at them to stop Fitzwilliam talking? They couldn't talk about him if he were there, but it would be quite hard to explain. But it was too late; now Fitzwilliam had brought it up, Miss Elizabeth could simply ask again later when they were alone.
"You may depend upon my not mentioning it."
"And remember that I have not much reason for supposing it to be Bingley. What he told me was merely this: that he congratulated himself on having lately saved a friend from the inconveniences of a most imprudent marriage, but without mentioning names or any other particulars, and I only suspected it to be Bingley from believing him the kind of young man to get into a scrape of that sort, and from knowing them to have been together the whole of last summer."
To be fair to Fitzwilliam, that would have been vague enough if it had been any other woman than Miss Elizabeth. It wasn't his fault that Darcy had never mentioned Miss Bennet by name.
"Did Mr. Darcy give you his reasons for this interference?"
"I understood that there were some very strong objections against the lady."
Whichever way Miss Elizabeth took that statement, it would not reflect well on him or his actions. Not for the first time, Darcy cursed himself for separating Bingley and Miss Bennet, although he knew it was the right thing to do.
"And what arts did he use to separate them?" Her voice was cold, Miss Elizabeth was definitely angry with his actions, although Fitzwilliam hadn't realised.
"He did not talk to me of his own arts," said Fitzwilliam, laughing. "He only told me what I have now told you."
She fell silent once again, although this time Darcy wasn't so sure what she was thinking. He was sure that Miss Bennet had no substantial feelings for Bingley, which was one of the main reasons that he'd acted. Was she simply angry that he had taken such an opportunity of marrying well away from her sister? That didn't seem very in keeping with her character, although it certainly would have been lamented by their mother. Maybe that was her motivation. It was though Fitzwilliam had read his thoughts, as he then asked her why she was so thoughtful.
"I am thinking of what you have been telling me," said she. "Your cousin's conduct does not suit my feelings. Why was he to be the judge?"
"You are rather disposed to call his interference officious?"
"I do not see what right Mr. Darcy had to decide on the propriety of his friend's inclination, or why, upon his own judgment alone, he was to determine and direct in what manner that friend was to be happy. But," she continued, "as we know none of the particulars, it is not fair to condemn him. It is not to be supposed that there was much affection in the case."
There! That proved it! Miss Elizabeth herself said that there was no affection on her sister's side. His heart lighter, Darcy decided that he really should be getting back to Rosings and start working on that damned paperwork without distractions from Miss Elizabeth Bennet.
Unfortunately for Darcy, after paperwork came actual work, namely riding to different tenants to sort out important issues. After convincing his cousin to accompany him- it was incredibly tedious doing it by himself- Darcy decided to bring up the overheard conversation from earlier, while resting in the shade of a large elm. If his cousin was going to tell tales of his exploits to all and sundry, he may as well some more of the facts, so as to not negatively incline relative strangers towards himself.
"I heard you talking to Miss Bennet earlier." He launched without preamble.
"I apologise, I was walking in the park and could not help overhearing. I only heard a few seconds." A little white lie might make his cause look a little better.
"Sorry Darcy, I shouldn't have talked about it behind your back. I hope we did not offend you?"
"That's not exactly what I wanted to talk to you about, it seems you misinterpreted my motives towards Bingley and his potential fiancé."
"Go on then man, redeem yourself! I'm afraid to say that after Miss Elizabeth's take on your behaviour I'm inclined to think a little worse of your actions."
"Although there were objections to the lady's family, it was more a matter of behaviour than connections, though it cannot be denied that their connections are lacking. The youngest daughters and the mother are determined to exhibit themselves at every opportunity, and the father does nothing to stop them. The lady herself and the next oldest were in every way charming, beautiful and kind. However, she was equally as kind to Bingley as she was to everyone else. Their estate is entailed away from the daughters, and their mother was very vocal about the advantages that Bingley presented. If he proposed, she would be forced to accept him, and how long will such a marriage be happy for? They may respect each other for a few years, but she would begin to resent Bingley eventually, as he took from her possible chances for permanent happiness. Bingley would never be happy with a woman who did not truly love him. Contrary to your opinion, I did act to help both of them."
"I see. Is there a reason you told me this previously undisclosed information now?"
"There is. You seem to have bad luck in your storytelling, as you told the situation to someone who already knew it. Miss Elizabeth is Jane Bennet's sister."
"Of all the people! Should I apologise to her or would that make it worse?"
"I think just leave it. She said herself that there was no strong affection on Miss Bennet's side."
"Very well. I think we've rested enough, don't you? Onwards to the next tenant we must go."
They remounted their horses, Darcy positively fleeing down the path after Fitzwilliam's call of, "wait, what did you say about the 'charming, beautiful and kind' second eldest? Isn't Miss Elizabeth the second eldest?" and leaving an extremely confused Miss Bennet, who had been enjoying a nice rest nearby, and had heard every word.
Anything you recognise has been copied directly from pemberly com/etext/PandP/chapter33 htm
I kinda wanted to see where that could go and theoretically Darcy could have heard that conversation and not mentioned it, but had the later conversation with Col. Fitzwilliam, so the only thing that isn't canon is Elizabeth overhearing it. Theoretically.
A huge thank you if you read this chapter/this fic so far, and a huge thank you to anyone who reviewed/folllowed!