Pride in Meryton ~ Three Pride and Prejudice Novelettes
- Pride and Tolerance
What if Elizabeth immediately objected to Darcy’s ‘tolerable’ remark on the night of the Meryton Assembly? Would Darcy realize his blunder and make amends?
- Meryton Revisited
What if Darcy had a Groundhog Day experience? In this story, the day of the Meryton assembly is repeated over and over until Darcy finally gets it right!
What if Mrs. Bennet’s worst fears came true and she and her daughters were evicted from their home? Would they be forced to live in the hedgerows? This story follows the Bennets out into the cruel world after losing their beloved Longbourn. Will our dear couple find their way to each other?
Excerpt of Pride and Tolerance below:
Elizabeth Bennet was greatly diverted by the entrance of the Netherfield party. Ever since Sir William Lucas had invited the newcomers to attend the local assembly in Meryton, word of their arrival had been much discussed in the neighbourhood and was of special interest to the ladies. That eligible young men were to be in their midst was of the greatest interest to those ladies with marriageable daughters.
Elizabeth’s mama had spoken of little else during the past fortnight and now that the event was finally underway, she was breathless with anticipation. “Oh my dear Lady Lucas! They have finally arrived! What a wonderful thing for our daughters, to be sure!” Mrs. Bennet twittered with an air of delight. The two ladies were long-time friends; Mrs. Bennet with five marriageable daughters and Lady Lucas with two.
Elizabeth attempted to ignore any attempts made on her behalf to match her to the latest newcomers to the neighbourhood; perhaps they were unsuitable, she mused. Perhaps one was too old or was a recluse. Perhaps another had rotten teeth or warts. Perhaps he had foul breath and a leer. She giggled to herself and imagined any number of maladies from which the gentlemen might suffer as the party approached. “Or worse; what if he was a simpleton?” she wondered, imagining the greatest malady of all, in her estimation.
Netherfield Park was an estate bordering Elizabeth’s home of Longbourn in Hertfordshire. Since the current owner had fallen into failing health, Netherfield had been let to Mr. Bingley, who was widely considered to be the next owner of that excellent property. He was currently leasing the property but the prevailing opinion was that he could not fail to admire the grounds and the manor house, since it was the finest estate in the area. With an estate so perfectly situated, there could be no doubt that Mr. Bingley would be the eventual owner. Elizabeth knew that her mama dearly hoped that one of her daughters would soon be the mistress of Netherfield Park.
As the party of newcomers approached, Elizabeth was finally able to observe them; they numbered only five, not the twelve that had been widely circulated. Three gentlemen and two ladies walked slowly into the assembly hall and greeted the prominent elder in the community. Sir William had been knighted by the King some years ago and was widely regarded with great esteem for his wisdom and compassion. He warmly greeted the newcomers and introduced them to his family.
Elizabeth noted that the party appeared quite stylish, wearing the latest fashions from London. The ladies were especially fashionable, though a bit aloof, appearing quite out of place in the midst of the country assembly. Elizabeth glanced down at her simple green muslin frock, which despite being one of her favourites, in no way compared to the elegant silk gowns adorning the two new ladies. The three gentlemen all appeared to be wearing expertly tailored clothes made of the finest materials.
Mr. Bingley quickly made himself known to all the principal people in the room and requested introductions to as many others as he could. He had all the appearances of a well-bred gentleman with a pleasant countenance and easy, unaffected manners. He introduced the two ladies as his sisters and the one gentleman as his brother-in-law. The other gentleman, a Mr. Darcy, was not introduced as he preferred to loiter in the back of the room, pacing to and fro in a disgruntled manner, appearing to be above company with a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance. He refused to speak to or dance with anyone outside of his own party. Mr. Darcy’s tall frame, handsome features and noble mien did nothing to turn the tide of disgust that Elizabeth harboured for the gentleman.
In contrast to his disagreeable friend, Mr. Bingley danced every dance that evening, even taking a turn about the dance floor with Elizabeth. She found him in every way agreeable and could not help but notice his particular attentions to her older sister Jane. They seemed to quite enjoy their dance together and nothing would please Elizabeth more than to see her beloved sister happily matched. She and Jane were the closest confidants and she looked forward with great anticipation to their conversation later that evening when they would discuss every aspect of the evening, including the newcomers.
Due to the lack of dance partners, Elizabeth sat out one dance with her friend, Charlotte Lucas. The two had been lifelong friends and they amused themselves by watching the dancers. She observed Mr. Bingley approach disagreeable Mr. Darcy and entreat him to join in the dancing.
“I certainly shall not. You know how I detest it, unless I am particularly acquainted with my partner. At such an assembly as this it would be insupportable. Your sisters are engaged, and there is not another woman in the room whom it would not be a punishment to me to stand up with.”
“I would not be so fastidious as you are,” cried Bingley, “for a kingdom! Upon my honour, I never met with so many pleasant girls in my life as I have this evening; and there are several of them you see uncommonly pretty.”
“You are dancing with the only handsome girl in the room,” said Mr. Darcy, looking at the eldest Miss Bennet.
“Oh! She is the most beautiful creature I ever beheld! But there is one of her sisters sitting down just behind you, who is very pretty, and I dare say very agreeable. Do let me ask my partner to introduce you.”
“Which do you mean?” and turning round, he looked for a moment at Elizabeth, till catching her eye, he withdrew his own and coldly said, “She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me.” [i]
“No indeed,” thought Elizabeth, seething with disgust. “Simple-mindedness is not the greatest failure in a man; rudeness takes that honour.” She wanted to reprimand the horrid man for his bad manners but having received no introduction to the gentleman, it would have been improper for her to address him.
Turning to her friend, she decided on a less direct approach. “Charlotte, it is quite a shame, is it not, that all of Mr. Bingley’s acquaintances are not blessed with the same pleasing manners as that honourable gentleman?” she inquired, making sure that her question was well within Mr. Disagreeable’s hearing.
Charlotte said not a word but silently entreated her friend to refrain from giving further voice to her observations.
“Indeed, I would not have thought that such a well-bred gentleman such as Mr. Bingley would befriend someone who harboured such selfish disdain for the feelings of others,” she insisted, quite loudly, clearly annoyed at the snub. Throughout her entire life, Elizabeth had endured her mama’s endless comments about her lack of beauty but hearing it from the lips of the conceited gentleman had irritated her more than she cared to admit.
She had not yet finished her diatribe but suddenly found herself being forcibly removed from the area by her friend; Charlotte had grabbed her arm and escorted her to another corner of the room. “You will hardly recommend yourself to Mr. Bingley by insulting his friend, Eliza,” Charlotte scolded her in hushed tones.
Fitzwilliam Darcy had never been criticized in his life; as the son of a distinguished gentleman and noble gentlewoman, he had been blessed with fortunate circumstances and considerable wealth. Most people of his acquaintance regarded him with respect and reverence. He was a leading member of the ton and the master of Pemberley and extensive properties in Derbyshire. His astonishment at being admonished by a young woman in the wilds of Hertfordshire was beyond his imaginings.
His friend Charles Bingley had invited him to stay at his newly leased property. Darcy’s life had taken a considerable turn since last August and Charles had convinced him to come to Hertfordshire for a change of pace. He certainly could use a change of scenery, he agreed. August had been a particularly difficult month for him and his dear sister, Georgiana. The two siblings had been in constant company for the last three months; he could not bear to be parted from her and she needed his support and reassurance. She had suffered a devastating loss and had been inconsolable for weeks. She was nearly recovered now and under the tutelage of a new companion. He agreed to the Hertfordshire trip, knowing that London was a brief ride away. He left strict instructions with his staff that they should send word immediately if Georgiana needed him.
However, now that they were separated, his dear sister was never far from his mind. He worried constantly about her: Was she faring well? Did she need him? Was she able to concentrate on her studies? Would she be safe from unscrupulous suitors? Was Mrs. Annesley the best choice as Georgiana’s companion? Would she betray him as the previous companion had done?
These questions lingered in the back of his mind as he paced the floor. He had accepted the invitation to attend the local assembly but dancing was the furthest thing from Darcy’s mind at the moment. The welfare of his dear sister was the subject of his every thought; that and his failure in his role as her guardian. His parents were both deceased and the responsibility of raising and protecting Georgiana had fallen on his shoulders. He and his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam had been appointed as legal guardians but with his cousin currently in service to the King in His Majesty’s Army, the bulk of the responsibility fell to him.
Darcy was well aware of the dictates of society at events such as this; he was expected to dance with the ladies in attendance. But how could one think of dancing when haunted by such lingering doubts? Certainly dear Georgiana, who was not yet out in society, was not free to enjoy such pursuits; would she approve of his disregard for her devastation, dancing while she was recovering from an unfortunate incident?
‘Selfish disdain for the feelings of others?’ Had he really been accused of such a thing? That young woman who had been sitting nearby (he had hardly noticed her when Charles pointed her out) had uttered the insult. His only intention at the time was to let Charles know, in no uncertain terms, that he had no desire to dance again this evening. He had already stood up with both of his insufferable sisters; certainly his friend could ask no more of him. The locals had already spread the story of his fortune around the room; he knew perfectly well that the match-making mamas were scheming to introduce their daughters to him. He had endured much the same in London and he hoped that his escape to the country would have afforded him some small amount of privacy but, apparently, this was not to be the case.
And now one of the locals had insulted him. “Well, what is to be done now?” he wondered. He searched for Charles and found him otherwise enthralled with his pretty partner on the dance floor; he would be of no use at the moment, Darcy concluded. Surveying the room, his gaze fell immediately to the young woman in the green muslin gown, from whence the insult had come. Instead of finding her in ill temper, he now observed her pleasantly laughing with her friends, in the highest spirits. Her eyes had an uncommon brilliancy and her smile was luminous; she certainly enjoyed the admiration of the community, judging by their easy fellowship.
He then recalled his brief conversation with his friend; Charles had referred to her as ‘uncommonly pretty’ and he had called her ‘tolerable’; ‘not handsome enough to tempt me,’ he had said. Observing the woman more closely, he had to admit that she was quite tolerable indeed. In his effort to be released from society’s obligations, he had barely given her a passing glance before passing judgment on her. Regardless of what his opinion of her appearance may have been, it had been entirely ill-mannered to give voice to it in such a public forum. He had publicly insulted her appearance, which was unforgivable, and she had publicly insulted his manners in return.
He went in search of Sir William Lucas and requested an introduction to the young woman and her friends. Having the greatest affection for the young woman, Sir William was only too glad to oblige him and performed the introductions with reserved grandeur. Her name was Miss Elizabeth Bennet and, although she claimed to be pleased to make his acquaintance, her expression clearly showed the contrary; she offered him nothing but a proper curtsy and the expected pleasantries but no luminous smile graced her countenance. Miss Lucas, seemed to intervene on her friend’s behalf and exchanged pleasantries with him while Miss Elizabeth remained attentive but silent. It seemed that there was nothing for it but to ask her to dance; then he would be able to explain himself and beg her indulgence.
[i] Pride and Prejudice, (Chapter 3)
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