Sufficient Encouragement Refresh– Chapter Ten

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Chapter Ten

After supper, Bingley stood up to invite the ladies to entertain the room. Elizabeth’s sister Mary hastily stood up, but Wickham stayed her arm. He wondered aloud if her constitution were too delicate to perform this evening. His tone sounded genuine and he managed to whisper it loud enough for Darcy to hear but without being so openly vulgar that the entire room knew what passed. Mary retook her seat with a pleased expression on her face. The scoundrel knew just how to toy on women’s emotions. Darcy had to admit that he might have been grateful for Wickham’s interference if he did not worry that his enemy meditated a scheme of some kind.

At last, it was time to return to dancing, and as Darcy escorted Miss Lucas into the ballroom, it finally occurred to him that he had not spoken above five words to either his supper partner or Elizabeth. The set with Elizabeth’s friend passed in easy but superficial conversation. Next, Darcy sought Miss Bingley to perform his duty to her. She complained, as he expected, over the course of the evening, especially about the Bennets. He was happy to have no need to supply much conversation as the dance was lively, and he found himself short of breath. He steered her to the punch table. Elizabeth was there as well, Mr. Collins hovering near her.

After quickly draining his glass, hoping to stave off a cough he felt tickling the back of his throat, he turned to Elizabeth. “Miss Elizabeth, I was hoping to partner with you for another set.”

“But Mr. Darcy!” Mr. Collins and Miss Bingley both exclaimed.

Collins seemed to defer to Miss Bingley for the moment. She continued, “Surely you should not tax yourself so much after your illness.”

“You were ill?” Elizabeth asked with concern. How he had wished that she had attended his bedside rather than his valet.

“Lady Catherine would be most displeased if her nephew threatened his health just to be so inordinately civil to such a crowd of people. Mr. Darcy, I insist you sit out the remainder of the ball.”

“Thank you, Mr. Collins, but gentlemen are in short supply, and I will do my duty.”

Miss Bingley’s partner collected her, so she could no longer protest, but Mr. Collins attempted to argue again.

“Mr. Collins, speaking of a shortage of gentlemen, perhaps you should find a partner,” Darcy suggested.

“Certainly, I would love to dance with my dearest cousin again.”

Darcy’s eyes widened in fear. He stammered something incoherent when Elizabeth interrupted.

“I am engaged to Mr. Darcy for this set.”

Collins gaped at her. “He does not mean to dance now; I am sure of it. Come, Miss Elizabeth.”

He held out his hand for her, but Darcy spoke coldly. “The lady is engaged, but I do see Miss Lucas without a partner for this dance. It is exceedingly ungentlemanly to let a lady sit out. My aunt, especially, hates such incivility.”

“Oh! I had not seen her there. I had not meant to leave…but if it would really be the gentlemanly thing to do…”

“I am certain Miss Lucas would be pleased,” Elizabeth interjected.

Mr. Collins made a bow and quickly moved to Miss Lucas’s side. Darcy held out his hand for Elizabeth, but she shook her head.

“Sir, if you have been ill, you really should rest yourself.”

“Are you to be my nursemaid?” He rather liked the thought, but then he thought he would rather her care for him daily, as a wife would. He smiled at the image.

“Oh no. I am certain you are a dreadful patient,” she returned.

“And yet I had thought you the sort whose courage always rose to every occasion.”

She laughed. A heavenly sound.

“I will strike a bargain with you, sir. We will sit out this dance, and I will allow you the silence I am sure you wish for if you will promise to go to the card room for the last set. No one can say you have been uncivil tonight.”

“Silence? Why would I wish silence in your presence?”

She said lowly, “I was under the impression the company of this evening had been distasteful.”

He lowered his head to speak for her ears alone. “Your company is never distasteful.”

She blushed. Why had he thought he could resist her?

“You did not always think so, sir.” She raised her head, and her eyes challenged him.

Darcy looked at Elizabeth in confusion. “I am sorry you think so. Since the beginning of our acquaintance, I have found you enchanting. My manners must be to blame.”

She peered at him cautiously for a moment before replying, “Enchanting but not tempting.”

“You are very incorrect.” She thought this was something to debate but the truth was he had always been in danger of her. “I have never been more tempted to converse.” Truthfully, she enticed him to do all manner of things out of the ordinary, such as nigh on beg for a dance.

She swallowed and paused. “You are far more civil tonight than you were during your first dance in the country.”

“I am uncomfortable forming new acquaintances.”

“You remained silent for most of your time in the country. It is impossible to make new friends if you do not try. However, tonight you have danced. Do you now count yourself as sufficiently acquainted with Miss Lucas or Miss Long?”

She was trying to say something, yet he could not connect the clues. It made him uncomfortable. “Did you not say some relationships cultivate faster than others?”

“I did. Perhaps now we can think about events of the evening with similar feelings after all.”

“Indeed?” He had not realised how insecure he felt of her feelings until such a declaration. He suddenly felt like he could move mountains.

“Jane has always been so reserved and never had her heart touched by a gentleman before. Yet look at her now. She smiles so happily next to Mr. Bingley.”

He blinked in surprise. Had she been speaking of her sister and Bingley? Darcy had never seen signs of real affection from either one of them. He studied them closely now. Yes, Bingley was more attentive than usual. But could mere smiles alone be Miss Bennet’s signal of admiration?

Such a peculiar family they were! Two incorrigible flirts, one sister who would rather read than speak to acquaintances, and then Elizabeth — lively but entirely proper. How could Miss Bennet turn out so differently?

Then his mind turned towards his own sister. Both Darcy siblings were both reserved, but Georgiana was truly shy, timid even, in company. And she certainly did not have the cause to worry and conceal her feelings that Miss Bennet did. But such thoughts just made him consider Elizabeth’s family again, and tonight he preferred to simply enjoy her smiles.

“I am certain Miss Bennet is everything proper,” he said at last.

“She is. Your sister will benefit from correspondence with her.”

“My sister wants more liveliness, Miss Elizabeth. I believe your letters will have the most necessary and revolutionary impact.”

“Thank you.” She blushed again.

Of course, he thought to himself, Georgiana would benefit even more if Elizabeth were a constant influence.

The music ended, and Wickham approached. He smiled gaily at Elizabeth and then Darcy, clearly wanting to continue the façade that they were friends. Seething with jealousy just seeing Elizabeth’s hand in Wickham’s, Darcy turned to the card room. He would call on the Bennets tomorrow and manage to say something. A call on Wickham was in order as well.


Wickham smiled at his partner. All was going according to his plan. The Bennets were charmed by him; he would easily be welcome in their home at any time. Mr. Bennet was encouraged to drink plenty of port and then took his suggestion to go to the card room after supper. Denny would take care of the rest on that side of things. Now Wickham needed to gain Elizabeth’s trust.

“Well, Miss Elizabeth, you have spent two dances with Mr. Darcy and sat near him at supper. Are you any closer to making him out?”

“I wonder why it concerns you so much. I am not in the habit of people being so interested in my affairs.”

“I have been connected with him for so long, and although our acquaintance is short, I feel as if I know you very well.”

She arched a brow. “And this sort of intimacy has allowed you to consider what, sir? That we are well matched?”

“I have certainly deduced what has attracted my friend.”

“And that is?”

His eyes scanned her body before returning to her face. He could nearly feel the heat of her blush. His mind strayed to lust, but he made his mind focus. “The sharpness of your mind, of course.”

Elizabeth scoffed. “You are incorrect. He prefers more mild-mannered ladies.”

“No, I know my friend well.”

She shrugged as though it meant little to her. “Then he certainly wishes for someone with greater connections and wealth.”

“If that were true, he might have married any lady long ago. His aunt is after him to marry his cousin.”

“I do not care for Town,” she said rather weakly.

“Neither does he.”

“I do care for my family, and he does not.”

“That is an obstacle,” Wickham admitted, “but one that is conquerable.”

“Really, I do not care if it is. I have no wish for his attentions,” Elizabeth said with what was clearly impatience.

“You certainly do not give the impression of a lady who wishes to put a man off. Now, your sister must be tiring of Mr. Bingley.”

“Jane loves him!” She blushed. “Forgive me. My sister is very reserved and would hate to be the source of such impertinent remarks.”

“Well, I do not know many men who would understand a lady had great feeling for him if all he received were serene smiles.”

She looked towards Miss Bennet and Mr. Bingley. “You think he does not perceive her regard?”

“I do not. And with such other objections…”

“What other objections?” she asked harshly.

“His sisters are very concerned with wealth and connections. And, as you say, his friend is not impressed with her relations.”

“But…if, as you suggest, his friend would consider me, surely my sister must be enough.”

“Yet you do not wish for Darcy to consider you.”

She hesitated, and in that instant, Wickham understood things exactly. She did not wish for Darcy’s attentions but neither did she wish to offend the man who held sway over her sister’s suitor. He may win both Darcy’s money and his woman after all, a very pleasing thought.

He smiled and spoke before she replied. “I have teased you enough for now. I certainly hope all ends well for you and your sisters. I have only your happiness at heart.”

The dance ended, and they parted in silence. On Wickham’s side, he wondered how he could use this information to the best advantage. Timing would be everything.

2 thoughts on “Sufficient Encouragement Refresh– Chapter Ten

  1. These excerpts certainly tempted me so I’ve just finished rereading the original! Wickham is indeed a conniving rogue, it’s a shame Darcy didn’t warn Mr Bennet and Elizabeth of his true nature, although it’s debatable whether they would have believed him.


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