Fantasy Friday– Mr. Darcy and the Bewitched Sisters, Chapter Six

I know I am dealing with a large cast of characters right now with the addition of the Tilneys. Do you think referring to the young people by their first names (Caroline, Henry, Charles etc.) would make it easier to keep track of everyone?

At the close of Chapter Five, Kate had a vision of the the Netherfield group dining at Longbourn.

Previous Chapters: Prologue to Chapter Four / Chapter Five

morgana yellow

Chapter Six

 

“What a lovely home you have,” Mrs. Tilney said to Mrs. Bennet in the drawing room after dinner at Longbourn. “Did any of your daughters assist with the meal?”

Mrs. Bennet attempted to answer civilly, but Elizabeth could see her embarrassment at what must be an obvious slight. Mrs. Tilney’s eyes scanned the room as though guessing the age and cost of each item. She had frowned at the dated appearance of the dining room and the less than perfectly polished silverware.

“No, the girls have nothing to do with the kitchen.”

Elizabeth wondered if smoke was coming out of her ears yet. She recalled her history lessons with her father. Gentry magical folk believed menial work beneath them in all forms, even magical.

“Oh, pardon me. I do hope I did not offend you with the question. Lady Lucas boasted of her daughter’s meat pie.”

Elizabeth had a hard time believing Mrs. Tilney was genuine, but Jane seemed unaffected by any feelings of pretension in the room, and surely she would have sensed the truth. It was their first meal in company since the return of their powers and also their first meal with their new neighbors.

“It is truly an honor to be here,” Eleanor Tilney said.

Caroline Bingley added, “Oh yes, we have heard much of the Bewitching Sisters.”

“Caroline, you must be careful with your words!” Mr. Henry Tilney said as the gentlemen entered. They had been ushered into the library for a discussion as soon as they arrived.

“Do you sense it is dangerous to speak of our magic now?” Kate asked and glanced about the room.

“Of course not,” he replied to only Kate as Caroline continued to talk with Jane. Sensing that their conversation was more interesting, Elizabeth focused on it.

“Caroline must mean that she has heard of you frequently. However, she misused the meaning of the word much. It implies volume and words take up no space at all, certainly not any space at all in the minds of most people.”

Kate chewed her bottom lip, confused by his wit and wordplay. However, Elizabeth smiled. “And then some people speak so little because their thoughts threaten to overflow. Such must be the case with you, Mr. Darcy,” she said as she turned to face the gentleman.

“Not at all,” he said so coldly the conversation died.

Turning her attention from the irritable man, Elizabeth took a sip of wine as she watched Jane and Mr. Bingley across the room. He had gone straight to Jane’s side and had not ceased smiling at her the entire evening.

Just like Kate’s vision, Mr. Hurst’s face was indeed reddened from his after-dinner port while Mr. Bennet and General Tilney talked in private conference. Unable to make out their words, Elizabeth’s eyes wandered to Mrs. Hurst. She said little and instead played with her elegant bracelets. Elizabeth had the feeling Mr. Hurst was of more fashion than fortune.

When Elizabeth turned her attention back to the assembled group, she found Mr. Darcy staring at her. He did not smile or talk yet had seldom looked away from her that evening. Annoyance festered in her heart and her palms prickled with sensation. She struggled to control her magical impulses under his critical gaze. Nearby, Elizabeth heard Kate speaking with Miss Tilney on the subject of books.

“Did you read the latest volume of Mr. Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire?” Miss Tilney asked.

“Oh, no. You will have to ask Lizzy her thoughts on that. Papa makes me read such things, but I can never make much sense of them. Do you not find it difficult to credit stories of what happened so long ago when they are reported with as much certainty as someone may describe what happened at last week’s ball?”

Internally, Lizzy sighed. Kate was attempting to apply Jane’s empathy lessons to the broader subject of history.

“It is hardly likely a historian will admit to an inability to accurately give his information,” Mr. Tilney countered.

“Then are we the fools to believe it when everyone can find fault with Mrs. Howes’ report of the order of events of the last ball or the accuracy of the gown worn by Mrs. Ridgeway?”

You dislike invention and embellishment?” Mr. Tilney said with a raised eyebrow.

“Not at all. I enjoy novels particularly.”

“The former Mrs. Burney?”

“Mrs. Radcliffe. I’m desperate to reread The Italian, but Father has been reading The Vision of Don Roderick this week. I think The Mysteries of Udolpho is the nicest book in the world, but I suppose you have never read it.”

Mr. Tilney looked exceptionally amused. “Why do you think that?”

“Everyone knows novels are not important enough for gentlemen, they read other things.”

Elizabeth furrowed her brows. Where had Kate come up with such garbage?

“I have read hundreds and hundreds of novels. I have many years of advantage over you if we would ask one another which books we have read. Now, Udolpho had me so enthralled I could not put it down even to spare five minutes when Eleanor was called away. I would not say it is the nicest book, however.”

Kate looked by turns pleased and annoyed. “Well, why not? If you liked it so much can you possibly like something else more?”

“Perhaps I may find one I do love more later, but I assumed you meant the binding was the neatest.”

“The binding!” Catherine cried in confusion.

Miss Tilney laid a calming hand on Kate’s arm. “Henry is teasing you, as he does with me. He has very demanding standards on word usage.”

Elizabeth found the conversation interesting. She had not supposed before that Kate could hold her own in such nonconventional topics. Elizabeth also understood why Kate had enjoyed Mr. Tilney’s humor from the night of the ball. More than anything, Elizabeth was pleased with Miss Tilney for easing Kate’s nerves when she grew too flustered and anxious. She quite reminded Elizabeth of Jane.

Mr. Tilney waged on. “Nice used to apply to a person’s dress or feelings, a sense of refinement or neatness and now it is used for everything.”

“Pay him no mind, Miss Morland. Come over here with me, and we may talk more about other books.”

Elizabeth joined them. Miss Tilney and she talked about drawing, while Kate listened with ignorance. She knew nothing on the subject, and it was only after several minutes of silence from her younger sister that Elizabeth realised she ought to have steered the conversation to a topic Kate could have joined in. Feeling as though she bungled things, Elizabeth was relieved to see Jane motion them over. Along the way, Mr. Tilney sidetracked Elizabeth but allowed Kate and Eleanor to reach Jane.

“Miss Morland tells me you enjoyed Gibbons’ The Fall of Rome?”

Elizabeth agreed and allowed him to ramble on for a few minutes while she tried to overhear the conversation next to her. Jane would admonish her for eavesdropping, but it was the only way she could ever learn the truth of things. Jane filtered things too much.

“Are you well?” Kate asked Jane.

“Perfectly!” Elizabeth could hear the smile in Jane’s voice.

“You have not been speaking.”

“I am afraid that is my fault, Miss Catherine,” Mr. Bingley said.

“Mr. Bingley is a telepath and can effortlessly read my thoughts,” said Jane.

“No more than you can discern my feelings!” Bingley replied.

Elizabeth smiled to hear Jane praised so ardently, even if she knew Jane likely blushed. Encouraged by Elizabeth’s countenance, Mr. Tilney laughed a little too loudly at his own remark. It broke through the conversation next to them. For some reason, Elizabeth’s eyes were drawn across the room. Mr. Darcy scowled at her and Mr. Tilney. Then Jane and Bingley jumped in fright beside her. Were they afraid of Mr. Darcy?

“I fear my friend has had enough company this evening,” Bingley murmured before excusing himself.

Tilney followed, leaving the three sisters watching the gentlemen. Jane’s eyes followed Bingley with an expression of concern. Before much longer, the Netherfield family said their goodbyes and departed.

“I dare say that went differently than you thought, Kate,” Elizabeth said.

“Indeed.”

“We had better return to Mama,” Jane directed her younger sisters to the drawing room but then held Kate back.

Elizabeth hovered in the doorway out of sight and heard Jane whispering to Kate. “She was too angry at Mr. Darcy the entire evening to notice Mr. Tilney.”

“And Mr. Tilney?”

“Despite what Mr. Bingley said I cannot seem to discern the feelings of any of the gentlemen, or any of the Netherfield group at all, except when Mr. Darcy seemed upset by Mr. Tilney’s laughing. I suppose it is not necessary since we know they are to safeguard us.”

“I wish we knew more about what we are supposed to eventually do.”

“Do not borrow trouble, Kate. We shall likely know before too long. Already, so much has changed.”

Feeling somehow responsible for the sad and far away sound in Jane’s voice, Elizabeth stuck her head out the door. “The next time you want to wish me away just to whisper in the hall you might say it.”

Jane and Catherine shared a smile before following Elizabeth to the drawing room.

 

*****

 

Before too many days passed, Mrs. Tilney returned the civility and asked the Longbourn family to dine at Netherfield.

“I cannot think of a better way to pass the evening,” Kate said in the carriage.

Elizabeth huffed. “I am sure you and Jane cannot for not only are you both nicer people, but you have the attention of charming gentlemen. The only people who notice me are sour. Miss Bingley and Mr. Darcy both stared critically at me the entire night they dined with us.”

“Perhaps they saw something worthy of admiration,” Jane said.

“If your powers worked at all on them, you would know how incorrect that is.”

“You are always so ready for a fight,” Kate observed.

“I suppose it is the fire in me!” Elizabeth said with a smirk.

“I trust you girls are not so silly as to be distracted by a couple of bucks and forget the seriousness of your powers,” Mr. Bennet cautioned from the other side of the carriage.

A pout formed on Kate’s lips. “Our days are filled with instruction and worry about what it means that our powers have returned. General Tilney’s reappearance has set all this in motion. Can we not enjoy ourselves when in their company?”

Mr. Bennet opened his mouth to speak, but Mrs. Bennet placed a hand on his arm, forestalling him. “Practicing your powers on those you know to be friendly can serve you when you must practice on your enemy,” she said.

Jane cried in horror, “Practice on them!”

“Do you think they have not used their powers on you?” Mr. Bennet asked.

They pulled up to the house, halting the conversation but Elizabeth wondered at the sense of civility and propriety in the magical world. Mr. Bingley and Mr. and Miss Tilney were kind enough, but the others Elizabeth could not like.

Mrs. Tilney had ordered a lavish meal with several courses. The furniture was upholstered in the finest silks, plush carpets draped the floors, and gold filigree was inlaid on most of the furniture. Elizabeth saw it as a pompous and vulgar display, flaunting General Tilney’s greater wealth. Little was said, at first, until Mr. Bennet cleared his throat and gave each of his daughters a pointed look, a clear reminder of his earlier words.

Mr. Darcy, sitting next to Elizabeth, commented on the meal. Unsurprised that he would enjoy the grandiose atmosphere, she gritted her teeth before replying and felt her palms itch. It occurred to her, she never wondered if he had magical powers, convinced as she was that he was aware of her own. He must be a fire wizard like her father for he always excited her powers. Amusing herself, she stared at a candle at the table, and the flame grew. Wondering if she could also snuff it out, she attempted to do so and was pleased to see the light diminish. Mr. Darcy chuckled beside her.

“I dearly love a laugh. I hope you will share your amusement,” she said.

“How far that little candle throws its beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world.”

Elizabeth pursed her lips at the Shakespearian quote. “You would assign me the role of Portia?”

“Do you not fight against the darkness?”

Elizabeth wondered if he had ever fought against dark forces. Instead of indulging her curiosity, she chose to joke. “But you believe I do so through trickery, as Portia disguised herself as a man to argue in court to save her husband’s friend?”

“I would not dare to know the arts of a Bewitching Sister.”

Elizabeth frowned as the flames in the room grew. Determined to ignore him, she turned her attention to her food. Darcy said nothing more, but the temperature of the room seemed to steadily drop. Elizabeth glanced at the fire, it had gone out, and ice frosted the windows.

Looking at the other occupants of the room, most of them showed signs of feeling cold. Jane’s teeth chattered but she was too polite to say anything. Anger flared in Elizabeth. Why did Mrs. Tilney not remove them from the room? As she thought about it, the fire on the far wall suddenly surged forward. Knowing it would still take some time to rewarm the room, Elizabeth was happy to see their hostess nearly immediately on her feet.

“I think if our guests are amenable,” said Mrs. Tilney, “we ought to adjourn to the drawing room for our dessert.”

The Bennet family nodded their heads in agreement, and Mrs. Tilney stood to direct the ladies to the drawing-room and allowed the gentlemen to remain. They would have dessert and coffee when the men joined the women, which the gentlemen assured them would not take long given the temperature of the room.

“Miss Bennet,” Miss Bingley joined Jane on a sofa, “my sister and I were simply amazed to hear of your story. Such times we live in! But tell us, dear, are you reconciled to our world?”

Always reserved in the company of others, Jane dissembled. “My father is a great teacher. Our progress is very rapid. We did have our powers as children and memories of such were restored.”

“How brave you all are!” Mrs. Hurst said.

Miss Bingley turned her head toward Elizabeth and gasped. “Miss Eliza! You are so flushed! Are you sure you should be so near the fire?”

“Are you ill, Lizzy?” Jane asked.

“I feel perfectly well. You look pale, dear.”

“She likely caught a chill while we were eating. The room gets terribly cold. That is why mother suggested we remove to the drawing room,” Mrs. Hurst explained.

Elizabeth understood as she struggled to control her emotions around Mr. Darcy, that she had not felt any cold at all. “Allow me,” she said, and the flames grew.

Elizabeth sat next to Jane, and the ladies discussed the impending winter weather. After several minutes, Mrs. Hurst excused herself to speak with her mother. Miss Bingley and Jane conversed pleasantly while Elizabeth found herself watching the door and awaiting the entrance of the gentlemen. Internally laughing at her folly, she shook her head and allowed her eye to rove over the extravagant room. The pianoforte likely cost more than the furnishings in Longbourn’s entire first floor. In the corner, a maid refilled coffee and teacups through spell work. Elizabeth had the uncomfortable feeling that she no longer understood the rules of the world around her. Mr. Bennet’s suggestion to practice magic on their friends confused her. Obviously, her power would be too dangerous to do so but others might. Indeed, even Jane had already attempted to uncover the feelings of the Netherfield party. It just seemed so… intrusive. The Jobbard world would never welcome it.

Elizabeth felt her palms prickle with sensation again a minute before there was noise at the door and the gentlemen returned. Mr. Darcy entered, catching her eye immediately. She held his gaze and lifted her chin. Magical world or not, she would not be ashamed of whatever he found to criticize.