"To look almost pretty is an acquisition of higher delight to a girl who has been looking plain for the first fifteen years of her life than a beauty from her cradle can ever receive." - Jane Austen
Jane and I stayed upstairs while Caroline and the men were downstairs playing cards. Bingley had insisted that the sick bed be brought down every morning and upstairs every night. However, I was certain that Jane could not get better with Caroline breathing down her neck. Caroline was nice enough to Jane. In truth, she was kind to her. But, there was a certain degree of superciliousness in her manner that I did not care for. I did not wish to be even more of a burden than what Caroline believed us to be. Thus, the sick bed stayed upstairs.
Most modern women had taught themselves never to cry in public, and I adhered to the practice. There was something imposing about Darcy. He came across as haughty and proud. I had to keep reminding myself that I knew him. I knew there were several layers to him. I knew everything about him and yet, if I faced him again, I would cry! It is as though he could shoot laser beams with those eyes! If only Kryptonite were real!
Jane turned towards me, "Let us go downstairs, Lizzy."
I shook my head, "I can't."
"What will they think?"
"I cannot face them right now."
"Why?" Jane asked.
"In truth, I do not know," I whispered, "Mr. Darcy makes me nervous."
"Do you not think that you are doing the same to him?"
"What?" I angled Jane a look.
"Perhaps, we should go downstairs and then you shall witness, firsthand, the power you have over Mr. Darcy."
I obliged Jane, out of curiosity and because I desired to see Darcy squirm. I felt squeamish, and I was hoping that it was only the remnants of my flu. We walked into the parlor room. Bingley grinned, "We have decided to hold a ball next week, for, we think that Miss Jane and Miss Elizabeth shall feel better by then."
"God willing." Mr. Darcy fixed his eyes on me.
I stared at him in amazement for I could not tell if his remark was a smolder alert or a sarcastic dig at my expense. However, the intensity in his eyes made me wonder if he was attracted to me. Oh, my head was spinning!
Caroline looked at me, "It is better to make the ball two weeks from now, for, Miss Elizabeth is flushed."
I glanced at Darcy, and he looked away from me. He seemed a bit embarrassed.
Bingley addressed his sister, "Must you?"
"I only stated the obvious," Caroline said in a condescending manner.
Jane took me by the arm, "She needs to rest. We shall see you at dinner."
"How emotional they seem!" I heard Caroline exclaim, for, she thinks we are out of earshot.
"It is better to have emotion," Darcy responded, "than to be sensitively hindered."
Did Darcy defend us from the Dragon Lady? I thought to myself as I smiled.
Once it was dinnertime, I was back to my jovial self. I wore the prettiest dress I could find though it was not as stylish as Caroline's. I was confident I could rock this outfit with aplomb! There was no one downstairs yet and as I walked in; Mr. Darcy came in from the other entry. "Poor thing, he seems frightened of me!" I thought to myself.
He bowed with haste, and I curtsied, but, tripped over my foot. These damn dresses! He rushed over and placed an arm around my waist to steady me. A strong arm!
I had stumbled in front of Mr. Darcy! The Mr. Darcy!
I did nothing but look at him, and he gazed into my eyes. His hand lingered on mine for what seemed like an eternity and before I knew it, he drew me closer towards him. He did not seem to understand how close he was to me or maybe he did. I let out a soft whimper for I could smell his intoxicating scent.
He inquired, "Are you well?"
I took a deep breath, "Yes. I am fine. I had a clumsy moment."
Did I say too much?
Something flickered in his eyes, and I did not want to ruin the moment by moving away. Why are you doing this to me? I wanted to scream at him. I reminded myself that I was not Elizabeth and that it was not up to me whether Darcy liked me.
He moved away and pulled my seat out for me, "Miss Elizabeth."
Still reeling from what happened, I stood in hesitation. I sat down after collecting my thoughts, "Mr. Darcy."
He walked towards the other side of the table and motioned for dinner to be served. I looked down at the plate set before me and saw oysters.
"I'm not big on seafood," I admitted.
"Please bring Miss Elizabeth the next course."
Another plate was set before me, and it was even worse than the first. It looked like little birds found dead on the lawn! I grew queasier by the minute until I replied, "You know, I think I'll have the dessert."
"Miss Elizabeth," Caroline entered the room, "is the food not good enough for your extravagant taste?"
"Please bring Miss Elizabeth the dessert." Mr. Darcy ignored Caroline's comment.
"Hardly extravagant," I said to Caroline, "I prefer to eat light."
"And, dessert is light?" Caroline questioned my diet.
"Yes," I said, "a good deal lighter than your three-course dinner."
A full tray of desserts was presented before me as Caroline chided, "Oh that is light, I assure you."
I ignored Caroline and chose a chocolate éclair from the selection. "Well," I smiled, "if I am to enjoy what I eat, then I might as well start off with the most exciting dish."
"Miss Elizabeth has a sweet tooth?" Darcy inquired.
"Yes," I smiled at Mr. Darcy, "I am guilty of that."
A little smile appeared on Mr. Darcy's lips and faded under Caroline's watchful eye. Bingley and Jane entered the dining room. Jane sat next to me and Bingley sat next to Darcy.
Caroline spoke up, "I hear that you are talented, Miss Elizabeth."
"At what?" I asked in suspicion.
"Singing." Caroline lied, "They say she sings like a lark."
"A dead lark!" I laughed.
"Well then," Mr. Bingley smiled, "we have some entertainment, after all."
"When I say I sing like a dead lark," I humbly defended my position, "please understand this means I cannot sing well!"
"What woman cannot sing," Darcy asked, "who possesses such a melodious voice?"
Had Darcy complimented me? Smolder alert number 2!
Dinner went by at a snail's pace. I was not at all surprised at this. Having read in several books how dinners were excessively long, I was hoping, at the very least that my singing would have been forgotten. Even so, Caroline Bingley did not overlook small details.
"Let us retire to the parlor." Caroline smirked at me, "Miss Elizabeth can rapture us with her singing."
Caroline took Mr. Darcy's arm, "What are your thoughts? Do you think Miss Elizabeth looks a fine songstress?"
"I cannot comment on what I do not know."
Caroline flirted, "Oh Darcy, how you vex me!"
I rolled my eyes at her ostentatious display of affection for a man who was just not into her! I was certain he was not trying to vex her. I did not understand why he let her flirt with him. Jealousy seized me as I thought of how desperate Caroline seemed. I smiled knowing I had caught Darcy's attention without even trying.
"I wish dinner were longer."
"You will do fine!" Jane beamed, "Sing what you know."
"That's what I'm afraid of." I said to Jane.