You can read other Friday Features here: Mr. Darcy’s Grieving Wife / Courtship at Rosings / Mr. Darcy’s Compassion / How Darcy Saved Christmas / Treasured / Reunited / Pledged / The Secrets of Pemberley / Mr. Darcy’s Miracle at Longbourn / The Gentleman’s Impertinent Daughter Second Edition / Sufficient Encouragement/ Mr. Darcy’s Kindness / Once Upon a December / Love Lasts Longest / A Sense of Obligation / No Cause to Repine / Undone Business / Letters from the Heart / The Gentleman’s Impertinent Daughter
What if Darcy overheard Elizabeth’s conversation about Jane loving Bingley?
I guess in 2019 and 2020 I decided the time was finally right to finish all my long overdue works in progresses. Eavesdropping was a novelette that I first put into an anthology of previously published works. After many months or perhaps a year, I decided to publish the novelette on its own.
Like so many of my works that began early in my writing career, I was inspired by a particular scene in Pride and Prejudice and wondering how it could turn out differently. In this instance, I was drawn to the idea that Darcy is apparently very near Elizabeth as she talks with Charlotte about Jane’s feelings for Bingley while at Lucas Lodge. Honestly, what is Elizabeth even thinking airing Jane’s feelings like that in so public a space when she knows Darcy has been creeping around her? Personally, I think it’s one of Austen’s clues that Elizabeth wasn’t so indifferent to Darcy. Anyway, my imagination caught on what could happen if Darcy had proof that Jane had sincere feelings for his friend. By the time I got around to working on the story again, the premise morphed into what would happen if Darcy was caught eavesdropping and Elizabeth knew that Darcy heard privy information? Would she leave Jane’s fate alone in Darcy’s hands? Would she approach him about it? And what would Darcy think her motives behind any such actions would be?
All in all, it’s fluffy and light-hearted. I am just realizing that I never made a paperback for it and so it seems extremely short due to how Kindle counts digital pages versus paperbacks. However, it is only a little shorter than a novella. Alas, I have a policy of not padding the length of a story just to meet a word or page count. So, while I could have added a few more scenes to make it a more marketable length, I chose not to do that.
Darcy’s eyes widened in astonishment as he reread Elizabeth’s letter to him. He had known she was unlike any lady he had ever met, and she always seemed to meet him with boldness…but this?
I wish to speak with you on a matter of the heart of some import.
Miss Bingley leaned closer to the desk, and Darcy hastily shoved the unsealed paper under one of his own. A part of him knew the danger of meeting Elizabeth. Do not do this, his mind cautioned. Leave tonight and return to London. Do not fall prey to her arts. However, a greater part of him was curious as to what she would say. Would she be like all the other women who had thrown themselves at him? The thought disappointed him. He had thought Elizabeth was of a different sort, not grasping at his income or estate.
Maybe she is different. His body reacted strangely at the notion. If he were the poetic sort, he might have even said his heart leapt. Darcy had already been tempted to meet with her when he had quickly shunned all other offers of entanglements. Still, now he could not reason it away.
Yesterday, she spent the entire day with her sister. Elizabeth had seemed anxious for Jane throughout dinner, and when she joined them later in the evening. By comparison, Bingley’s sisters professed concern for Miss Bennet. However, they quickly forgot about her within minutes when she was not in front of them. He hazarded a guess that the only reason they had spent so much time with their invalided guest yesterday was due to his absence from the home.
When Elizabeth had joined the party in the drawing room after supper, she responded to everything with sincerity. She did not join them at cards. Neither did she attempt to garner anyone’s notice. She had chosen a book to read. However, she entered the surrounding conversation quickly enough. She did not puff herself up when Miss Bingley had decried the abilities of women usually called accomplished. Elizabeth had sent no sly looks to Darcy—and he had been watching her closely.
Yes, if Elizabeth claimed her heart was involved, Darcy had every reason to believe she wrote the truth. What was he to do then? It would be ungentlemanly to dismiss her out of turn, would it not?
You are playing with fire, the more prudent part of his mind called again. Darcy accepted the fact. He already liked Elizabeth too much. Without any visible effort on her side, she always drew his attention. He had not thought her very pretty at first sight, but the more he looked at her, the more he saw things to like. He saw, too, her personality, intelligence, and vivacity. These were all things that intrigued him more than a heavenly smile or even her brilliant eyes. He had told himself only that he admired her, and it need not lead to love or matrimony as Miss Bingley had teased. He had taken for granted that Elizabeth would have been overjoyed with his attention if he chose to bestow it. However, he had never guessed that he might have unconsciously inspired love in her.
His pulse raced at the thought, and for a moment, the room spun in a circle. To win a woman like Elizabeth’s love for who he was and not what he could offer … Well, could he walk away from that even if she were not from the first circles or had anything of monetary gain to offer him?
“Mr. Darcy, pray, do remember me to dearest Georgiana.” Miss Bingley peered over his shoulder. “You have not written anything new in ages! You must not like your pen. I will mend it for you.”
She made to lean forward, reaching around him, and Darcy knew it was by design. He moved in such a way to avoid having her breasts rub against him. He laid his pen down before Miss Bingley’s hand could “accidentally” graze his. “Thank you for the offer, but I always mend my own.”
Unbidden, his eyes sought Elizabeth. She held an embroidery circle, but if he was not mistaken, she had done very few stitches. She studiously gazed at the white fabric, and while Darcy could not see her eyes, he observed the slight upturn of her lips and the way she held her shoulders. Oh! She was laughing at this! How curious! She must not be the jealous sort if she found Miss Bingley’s very unwanted attention humorous.
Undeterred by Darcy’s rejection of attempted physical contact, Miss Bingley continued to speak in a one-sided conversation. Did she suppose she could harass Darcy into marriage? He considered some of the married couples he knew. Perhaps that was indeed a tactic used by some females.
In a bid for peace, Darcy requested a reprieve from the barrage of messages Miss Bingley asked him to pass along to his sister. The fact that they do not correspond should be proof enough to Miss Bingley that my sister does not care to hear from her! As always, with Miss Bingley, saying anything at all was simply taken as encouragement. Distracted as he was, he fell prey to her next favourite occupation: false flattery.
“Miss Darcy will be most pleased to receive such a long letter! Are you always such a charming writer?”
Did she actually bat her eyes at him? He fought to keep the look of disgust from his face.
“My letters are often long, but it is not for me to say if they are charming.” What sister would use that word to describe a letter from her brother?
“Anyone who can write a long message with such ease must write the very best sorts of letters.”
Darcy just barely kept his mouth from dropping in an open gape. How desperate was Miss Bingley getting? That was some of the poorest logic he had ever heard, and she was not usually so stupid. Thankfully, he was saved from having to reply by Bingley. In the brief respite he had from answering, Darcy’s mind wandered again to Elizabeth’s letter. It was not long, but there were signs that she had paused in thought while writing. But then, who could write of the heart with ease?
“Charles ruins all his letters! He forgets half of the words, and his penmanship looks like scribbles,” Caroline cried as the conversation regarding letter writing continued.
“I regret to say that my ideas flow too rapidly for me to write coherently,” Bingley said with a chuckle.
“How modest you are, Mr. Bingley!” Elizabeth entered the conversation at last with a smile for her host.
“Do not be deceived, Miss Elizabeth. Bingley is proud of his letter-writing as he thinks it makes him interesting. Indeed, he greatly admires rapidity of thought and decision—even on some matters which should be taken very seriously and given time to come to a decision about.” Darcy gave her a long look. Did she write hastily as well? He had not thought she made rash decisions.
“If the matter is of little importance, such as conveying the general nothingness of how one fills their days, then I can see no harm in writing freely.” Elizabeth paused before continuing, “However, there are some occasions when one must weigh their words with more deliberation. Such as if one is writing about potential dates and times. Missing a meeting might have catastrophic consequences. Surely, there is no proof that Mr. Bingley is as careless in his letters of business as he is in personal letters to a sister.”
Bingley chuckled, and even Miss Bingley allowed it to be so. Darcy thought he discerned Elizabeth pressing for confirmation that he had received her letter and agreed to meet with her. How could he signal a time and place to her? For that matter, when had he decided to indulge her?
“If you will pardon me, I shall conclude my letter to Georgiana. Ladies, would it be too much to request some music?”
Miss Bingley nearly jumped from her seat. In a matter of seconds, she was at the pianoforte playing an Italian love song. Darcy would have rolled his eyes, but instead, they were drawn to Elizabeth as she looked over the sheet music. Undoubtedly, Miss Bingley desired to showcase her abilities and perhaps inspire some sentiment for herself. Instead, as she sang about the most beautiful woman in the world and the man who loved her unto death, Darcy could not help but notice how pretty Elizabeth looked this night.
Thankfully, an opportunity to speak with Elizabeth presented itself when Miss Bingley began playing lively Scotch songs instead.
“Miss Bennet,” Darcy said after approaching. “Would you care to dance a reel with me?”
For a moment, he thought she would refuse him again.
“It may be difficult when there is no one else dancing,” she said with a blush.
“I had thought it would allow us a word or two in privacy,” he whispered.
Mutely, Elizabeth nodded and placed her hand in Darcy’s. If this had been a formal gathering, they would have worn gloves. As it was not and the room was well-heated, neither wore barriers over their hands. A tingle of awareness leapt up Darcy’s arm at her touch.
He led her to an open area that could suffice as a makeshift dance floor. For a few moments, they danced in silence. It was different, as Elizabeth had said it would be, to dance with no other partners on the floor. However, Darcy also relished being the sole focus of her attention. The music was such that they did not often touch, but when they did, it seemed Darcy’s heart skipped a beat.
“I believe you had wanted to speak with me?” Elizabeth asked. “If we continue in silence, the others shall find it peculiar and quiz us.”
Darcy smiled. “Well, we cannot have that, can we?” He raised a brow. “Especially when our topic of conversation is about a clandestine meeting.”
Elizabeth’s eyes widened, and she quietly gasped. “I see you have found my missive.” She paused for a moment and focused on the complicated footwork required by the dance. “I almost regret writing it. You must think me very forward.”
“I find you everything charming.” He had never spoken truer words.
She blushed. “I am glad to know that I improve upon acquaintance. Or have you learned to tease?”
“I assure you, I am in complete earnestness. Your wish is my command. When shall we meet?”
Elizabeth glanced over her shoulder at Miss Bingley, who watched them with intense focus before replying. “I was hoping to walk the grounds tomorrow morning after breakfast. Surely two people might happen upon each other by accident.”
Darcy smiled. “It seems highly probable, in fact.”
“Yes, I thought so. I am known to walk as often as possible, so it is not an unusual activity for me. Is it for you?”
“I do prefer riding, but enjoy walking as well.” A vision of riding with Elizabeth around the fields of Pemberley entered his mind.
She laughed. “It shall have to be walking for I am no horsewoman. Besides, if I encountered you on horseback, I would be far more likely to race away than encourage a conversation. Alas, I am sure your step is longer than mine, and so I would not be able to outstrip you in a walk.”
He grinned and chuckled. “You have thought of everything, it seems.” The music drew to a close. Darcy bowed and raised Elizabeth’s hand almost to his lips. “I look forward to speaking with you on the morrow.”
“Eliza, are you certain dear Jane is well without you for so many hours?” Miss Bingley called from the pianoforte.
“You are correct,” Elizabeth answered. “Thank you for a lovely evening. Your performance was absolutely inspiring, Miss Bingley.”
“You understand Italian?”
“Sì. È una lingua meravigliosa!” she replied with a perfect accent.
“You are absolutely, correct, Miss Elizabeth,” Darcy said from where he was still standing by her side. “I was also inspired by Miss Bingley’s music and find the Italian language beautiful.”
Caroline frowned as she looked between them. Elizabeth cocked her head and furrowed her brow, as though Darcy’s words had confused her. “Yes…well, good night,” she said to the room with a curtsey.
Darcy could hardly explain what happened for the rest of the evening. Miss Bingley continued to irritate, and Mrs. Hurst assisted her most faithfully in the endeavour. Bingley sighed now and then, while looking longingly at the door. Mr. Hurst snored from the sofa. Darcy had spent countless nights just like this. A few weeks ago, he would have said they were among his happiest way to pass an evening. As annoying as Bingley’s sisters were, it was a small gathering and not a large ball. He also knew he could be in a foul mood and say what he wished without fear of negative consequences. Between a love of Pemberley and love of their brother, there was very little Darcy could say or do which would upset Caroline and Louisa. However, all that was before he had met the captivating Elizabeth, who wished to speak to him about the matter of her heart.
He can’t keep his eyes or ears off her.
Ever since Elizabeth Bennet overheard Mr. Darcy criticizing her at a ball, she has disliked the man. She immediately discerned his arrogance and has no patience for him. However, she is not the only person who eavesdrops on others.
Unable to fight his growing attraction to Elizabeth, Mr. Darcy has developed a bad habit of listening to her conversations with others. By chance, he hears personal information regarding Elizabeth’s sister. When Elizabeth asks for a private meeting with him, her sister is the last thing on his mind.
As Darcy and Elizabeth attempt to discuss the nature of their friends’ attachment, their own hearts become involved. One overheard conversation has set them at odds, can another unite them?
Misunderstandings and assumptions abound in this short, sweet, and humorous novelette that all Pride and Prejudice fans will enjoy. If you love fast-paced inspirational stories with witty heroines and loveable heroes, then grab your copy of Eavesdropping today!
5 thoughts on “Friday Feature– Eavesdropping”
I just added this to my Wish List and will borrow it through KU when I read some of those I have already borrowed to make room to borrow more. Thanks for sharing here.
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I hope you enjoy. It’s short but sweet and funny!
I found I had read this some time ago when I went to open it in my Kindle. I read so many stories it is hard to remember them all.
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How annoying and obvious is Caroline Bingley? I hope she doesn’t interrupt the meeting between Darcy and Elizabeth, fingers crossed he admits his true feelings for her and that her opinion of him improves greatly!
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She doesn’t need him to like her, she just needs him in her clutches long enough to convince him to marry her. LOL