Neither Elizabeth nor Darcy, despite their best resolutions, were able to steel themselves against their susceptibility to one another. In each others' company they could not help but enjoy themselves in defiance of
's vulnerability and Darcy's pride. Miss Bingley, remarkably subdued, avoided any intercourse she could with her unwanted guest, adding relief from the lady of the house's glares to the incentives Darcy had to seek Elizabeth out. He began to wonder if much of her bravado towards himself was a facade for they had, of late, taken to gazing at each other in what he believed was a tender way. He sincerely wanted the attraction he was experiencing to be mutual though he had no doubts that, should he ask, she would accept his proposal regardless. All the Bennet girls were surely obligated to marry as well as possible: everyone was, including himself. Therein lay his dilemma. Elizabeth
What constitutes a good marriage? Should wealth and breeding be the utmost concern? Many a marriage that perfectly fulfilled the worldly qualification ended in misery, as Darcy had far too often observed, and a lack of refinement was not an accusation that could be leveled at Miss Elizabeth. He marveled at how she maintained her grace and composure in the face of the incivility of her hostess.
“Mr. Darcy, you really must not continue to frown so,”
admonished. “If you persist you will force me to do something most unbecoming and childish”. Elizabeth
“And what would that be,” he asked, instantly intrigued.
She spoke softly and conspiratorially: “When no one else is looking I shall stick my tongue out at you!”
He laughed, “Oh how ever will I survive such an attack.” Temporarily all his concerns were forgotten. She had a unique and delightful way of causing him to lose himself.
The passing of another day saw Jane well enough to join the party after dinner, where Mr. Bingley fawned over her while his sister glowered. On the other side of the room Darcy and Elizabeth were discussing their favorite poets. Observing
Elizabeth's approving glance at her sister and Bingley, Darcy decided the time was right to fulfill a determination he had made, upon the evening of 's arrival and the declaration of Bingley’s intentions, to inquire into the state of Jane's affections. Elizabeth
“Your sister seems much improved.”
“Yes,” she responded brightly, though he thought he could detect a tinge of regret. “I believe we shall return to Longbourn soon.”
“When Miss Bennet has not yet had the opportunity to enjoy her stay?”
“For someone who has been ill she has had a remarkable time I assure you,”
“She does seem to enjoy Bingley's company.”
“I believe she said he is everything a gentleman should be.”
“High praise indeed.”
“From Jane it certainly is.” She grew serious, “Your friend would not toy with a lady's affections, would he sir?”
He responded in kind, “He has been known to fall in and out of love with great rapidity.” Noticing
's frown he hurried to reassure her, “But he does seem to be experiencing a most sincere attachment to your sister.” Elizabeth
“Does he indeed?”
asked excitedly, her sparkle returned. Elizabeth
Darcy laughed, thrilled to see her joy, “I cannot betray my friend's confidence. I have already said far too much.
“So you have, sir, as have I. Shall we resume the much safer subject of poetry?”