Sufficient Encouragement Refresh– Chapter Twelve

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Chapter Twelve

Darcy watched as the expression on Mr. Collins’ face clouded.

“It is not quite settled yet. She is speaking with her father at the moment, who I feel will convince her of all the benefits of my offer.”

Darcy’s heart began to beat again as he realised Mr. Collins implied Elizabeth’s refusal.

“Mrs. Bennet did tell me that Miss Elizabeth was headstrong and foolish but only on these matters. I confess it does worry me. Would Lady Catherine really approve of such failings in my wife?”

How could Lady Catherine’s approval matter in such a case? To have Elizabeth as a wife… Darcy ceased his thought as he realised that not too many days ago, he had mentally declared Elizabeth unsuitable precisely because of Lady Catherine and those like her.

He chose his words wisely. “I do think my aunt would be displeased with a lady of such a forthright temperament. Surely if she persists in refusing, you would not wish her to come without choice to the marriage. Perhaps she is too foolish for hope of improvement if she cannot, as you say, see the benefits of your offer.”

A cough from the door drew their notice, and Elizabeth stood within.

“Miss Elizabeth,” both men said in surprise.

“Mr. Collins,” Elizabeth said in a trembling voice, “my father wishes to speak with you.”

Darcy’s tightened again. He had never been impressed with Mr. Bennet, but he had not thought him so terrible as to force Elizabeth, clearly his favourite child, to marry such a ridiculous man. Was he so concerned for his family’s welfare upon his demise? If only he could offer reassurances in some way, but it was impossible. There was no intimacy between him and the family, and the only way to establish it he was far from settled on, although now it seemed an impossibility.

“I can hardly contain my joy!” Mr. Collins exclaimed and then scampered into the house.

Darcy remained and watched as Elizabeth cast her eyes into the distance. Something like slight amusement played on her lips, but her eyes made him believe she was rather unsettled.

“My congratulations,” Darcy forced himself to say.

“Oh! I had forgotten you were here,” she exclaimed.

“I hope my presence is not an intrusion, then.”

“Of course not, only you have no reason to congratulate me.”

“Indeed!” His happiness at this was too obvious, for Elizabeth wrinkled her brow in confusion. Forcing himself to calm, he said, “So you have prevailed over your father, then?”

There was the play about her lips again. Half amusement, half fear. “This time,” she muttered.

“You must not be too harsh on him. I am certain he only has your best interests in mind.”

She took a step towards the path. “If that were the case, then he may have taken an interest our whole lives.” She shook her head. “You may believe me foolish to refuse an offer from Mr. Collins, but I will never give way. Nor am I so foolish as to not see my father’s failings, which I am sure you have as well.”

The reminder of her unsuitability ought to bring him relief, but now he only hated the remorse in her tone, the embarrassment he saw on her face.

“We all have troublesome relations, Miss Elizabeth. We may even all wish our parents were wiser or more just.”

“You speak as a kindred spirit,” she said in what sounded like awe.

“Perhaps I am. I also know age does not necessarily bring wisdom; neither does parenthood. I have been the guardian of my younger sister these last five years, and yet I cannot claim to always know what is best for her, nor to rely on it when I stumble near it.”

“You speak in riddles again, sir.”

He hesitated, and she spoke before he could reply.

“I cannot believe you so deficient. Miss Darcy cannot praise you enough in her letters.”

“You have received another reply, then?”

“I believe she replies right away, and her enthusiasm is catching. You shall soon be bankrupt with the cost from her post.”

“The cost! I had not thought it. I will arrange to have the letters conveyed by messenger.” As soon as he spoke, he realised his error.

Elizabeth replied with heightened colour, “I thank you, sir, but we are not so poor that we cannot afford the two penny post or the occasional express. Can you never take a tease, or must you prove at each moment your superiority to us?”

“At each moment?” When had he made her or others feel inferior? He may have thought it, but he was careful not to show it. He was raised to be a gentleman after all.

She ignored him and stepped past him. “Oh, look! Charlotte has come!”

He turned and saw the ladies greet each other. He also noticed the look Miss Lucas gave Elizabeth upon seeing Darcy at the house.

“Excuse us, Mr. Darcy. I believe Mr. Collins is finished with my father by now, should you like to see him. I am certain the society of us ladies is not the cause of your visit.” Elizabeth brushed past him and entered the house. Miss Lucas cast a sympathetic smile over her shoulder.

He stalked in after them. His planned and orderly thoughts on what to say to Mr. Bennet, whatever they might have been, had left him entirely.


Elizabeth managed to successfully bear the resentful silence from Mr. Collins and the strange visit from Mr. Darcy. Bizarrely, after a chess game with her father, he sat with the ladies in the drawing room and scarcely spoke more than ten words. Still, her mother could not scold her over Mr. Collins with Darcy present. She could not understand why the other man had called on Longbourn, but she was grateful for it nonetheless.

The next day, Elizabeth and her sisters walked to Meryton, happening upon Mr. Wickham. He greeted them with an elegant bow.

“You must be enjoying the fresh air after all the rain from last week.”

“Indeed,” was Elizabeth’s only reply. She had no wish to encourage his conversation. At least she could count on Jane not to encourage him either.

“Your sisters seem to be particularly enjoying it.” He nodded in the direction where Lydia and Kitty flirted with two officers. Mary trailed behind with a book in hand. “But where is your cousin?”

“He elected to stay at home.” Elizabeth shrugged, hoping to make him disinterested.

“He found indoor pursuits more amiable than escorting his pretty cousins into town?”

Elizabeth stifled a groan. Could there not be men of a balanced temperament and intellect? Wickham was too charming, Collins too ridiculous, Darcy too arrogant, and Bingley too happy. She was growing sick of them all. Perhaps she might return to London when her aunt and uncle visited for Christmas. At least there she would have more amusements and no talk of suitors.

“Mr. Wickham!” Lydia called out and then raced towards them. “Mr. Wickham, you must walk home with us. Mr. Denny has agreed to come as well, and I know Mama and Papa were particularly happy to meet you at the ball. We need some relief from Mama’s nerves ever since Lizzy refused Mr. Collins.”

Elizabeth turned her head away from the gathering crowd. How she loathed it when her family’s behaviour exposed them all to ridicule! Mercifully, Mr. Wickham made no comment to Lydia’s information and only happily assented to taking tea with them. Lydia soon returned to Mr. Denny’s side, and Wickham walked along with Elizabeth.

“I admire your fortitude, Miss Elizabeth,” he whispered to her.


“Many would have been tempted to contribute to their family’s security with the match you were offered. You clearly desire marriage for affection, however small the chances of such are.”

“Why must it be that I only spurned his offer of marriage out of a desire for a love match? And why must such a choice be painted as free from sense? Income is often a matter of chance in marriage, and our temperaments did not suit. How might he provide for my family any better than my own father has — who may live many more years and the concern all come to naught?” She felt as certain of her father’s health as she did that the sun would rise each morning.

“You do concede then to marrying for reasons other than wealth?”

“I only concede that I will act and think as I believe best for my own felicity and without interference from people so wholly unrelated to me.”

“Ah, but I might not always be so unrelated,” he said quietly.

She sent him a sharp look. “I have already stated that Mr. Darcy has no interest in me, nor do I seek to encourage him. Do you truly believe yourself so close to him as to have the right to meddle in his affairs? If so, how can you put up with his treatment in public, no matter what your private friendship is?”

He was saved the trouble of answering as they arrived at Longbourn. Mrs. Bennet greeted the officers with happy flutterings, but Mr. Bennet seemed unsettled and quickly invited the men into the library for a chess game. Upon returning to the drawing room, Mr. Denny soon made his excuses, and Mr. Wickham turned to leave with him.

Soon after that, a note from Netherfield arrived for Jane, and she paled upon reading it. After a quick look to each other, the sisters returned to their room.

“My note was from Miss Bingley,” Jane began. “She says everyone has left Netherfield by now. They are convinced Mr. Bingley will be delayed by business in Town and mean to open up the Hursts’ townhouse for him.”

“How strange when he will return in only a few days, even if he is delayed.”

“Miss Bingley believes he does not mean to return at all this winter.”

“Not at all? Impossible! For I can see how much he loves you.”

“Perhaps not,” Jane said sadly. “Miss Bingley writes of her belief that her brother’s affections are turned towards Miss Darcy.”

“Let me see!” Elizabeth cried, and Jane released the paper from her hands. Skimming the letter, Elizabeth saw only Miss Bingley’s designs. It was as Mr. Wickham had said. Mr. Bingley’s sisters did not think highly enough of the Bennets and were attempting to detach their brother from Jane. But what of Mr. Darcy?

“Jane,” Elizabeth began calmly, “you cannot believe this. We have been corresponding with Miss Darcy, who seems everything lovely. However, she is not yet out and is far too young to be wishing to marry anyone. Nor do I think her brother would allow her to marry yet.”

“But you do not disagree that all of Mr. Bingley’s friends and family wish him to marry elsewhere.”

Elizabeth could not reply. She was not entirely convinced Darcy believed it a great evil. On the other hand, what could be more natural than to wish his dearest friend with his beloved sister? She thought through their last interaction. Had she provoked him? She had forgotten her resolve to treat him with kindness for her sister’s sake, and now he was gone. Would his friend ever come back? Or would Darcy convince him that Jane was as unworthy as he obviously believed Elizabeth was?

“Lizzy? You are crying.” Jane’s words interrupted her thoughts.

She wiped at her tears. “I am only grieved that you have been so ill-used by your friend, dearest. And for selfish motives, too. I believe Miss Bingley only wishes Miss Darcy for Mr. Bingley as part of her designs to gain Mr. Darcy for herself.”

“I cannot believe that of Miss Bingley. Consider that she would be deceiving not only her brother and me but also a girl as dear and young as Miss Darcy.”

“You are too kind!” Elizabeth paced around the room. Perhaps she could work on Miss Darcy; at the very least the girl should know her friends might be manipulating her.

“Can Miss Bingley love Mr. Darcy so much as that? And why act this way now? Does she suddenly feel her chances with him so threatened?”

Elizabeth stumbled at Jane’s words. “Love would have very little to do with Miss Bingley’s desires to marry Mr. Darcy; rather, she desires the status and wealth she would gain.” She could not say that love did not lead to desperate acts, however. Nor did she wish to comment that Miss Bingley would have no cause to feel jealousy. “Come, Mother will be asking for us.”

The sisters returned to the drawing room and attempted to hide their concerns from their mother. Elizabeth would have to take her further suspicions and burdens to prayer as she did not wish to add to Jane’s cares.

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