Between Darcy and the Deep Blue SeaBy: Jane Grix
A Pride and Prejudice Variation
“I, with my partie, did lie on our poste, as betwixt the devil and the deep sea.”
Robert Monro, 1637
The ballroom at Netherfield Park was ablaze with hundreds of wax candles in chandeliers and standing candelabras. A small orchestra at one end of the large room provided music. Fitzwilliam Darcy stood stiffly and rocked back slightly on the heels of his dress shoes as he surveyed the room. He did not enjoy dancing, he did not like balls, but it had been a week since he had last seen Elizabeth Bennet and he was eager to speak with her again.
Darcy searched the dance floor and finally located her. She wore a lovely high-waisted yellow gown with short sleeves and her curly hair was styled high off her graceful neck. He watched as she danced the first two dances of the evening with a thick-set gentleman who was an appalling dancer. Darcy recognized him as the man who had accompanied her and her sisters on a walk to Meryton a week before. Darcy assumed he was some relation, for he had a facial similarity to Mr. Bennet.
Elizabeth’s dance partner often moved wrong, stepping on her toes and advancing awkwardly into the other participants. Darcy noticed Elizabeth’s heightened colour on her normally pale cheeks and he knew she was distressed and mortified.
Darcy wished that he could smooth her furrowed brow but knew it was not his place. When the dances finally ended, he saw her smile with relief and he found himself smiling as well.
He intended to ask her for the next two dances, but before he could make his way across the ballroom floor, she had accepted the offer of another gentleman, an officer wearing a red coat.
For a moment, Darcy feared that the man could be George Wickham, for his friend Bingley, the current occupant of Netherfield and tonight’s host, had invited all the officers of the local militia, but Darcy was relieved to see that his nemesis was not the one with his hand at Elizabeth’s waist.
While he waited for Elizabeth to be free again, Miss Bingley approached him. “Ah, Mr. Darcy,” she said. “Are you not going to dance this evening?”
Miss Bingley was Bingley’s unmarried sister. She was determined to flirt with him, and her conversational gambit was an attempt to make him dance with her.
“Not at present,” he said coolly. “Perhaps later.”
She said, “I know the guests are not as refined as those we would find in London, but one must be neighbourly.”
“Must one?” he asked, thinking that a less neighbourly person than Miss Bingley would be difficult to find. For a woman whose grandfather had been in Trade, she was insufferably proud. Her expression was often a sneer and she was rude to her servants. Darcy only tolerated her because of his friendship for Bingley. Miss Bingley wanted to marry him, but she would be disappointed. His mother Lady Anne, dead now for more than ten years, had been an elegant, gracious woman, and it would take a unique and wonderful woman to take her place as Mistress of Pemberley.
Darcy was in no rush to marry. As a wealthy landowner with an income of more than ten thousand pounds a year, he had been considered an eligible bachelor for years. Matchmaking mamas and ambitious young women continually sought him out. Everywhere he turned, someone wanted his notice, his approval. He was sick of civility, of deference, of officious attention.
Elizabeth Bennet was different. She was like a breath of fresh air with her intelligence and her easy playful manners.
She teased him with her pert opinions. She often challenged him by disagreeing with him, and once she had even declined to dance with him. He had been stunned for he had never been refused before.
Darcy thought at first that she did not like him, but then as he got to know her better, he realized that she was only being wary, just as he was.
She would not give her heart easily. He would have to earn it.
In the game of romance, they were evenly match opponents, like two fencers, facing each other with foil in hand.
Each of their conversations was a bout with advance and retreat, thrust and parry and riposte.
Darcy found their interactions exhilarating and every time they parted, he wanted to see Elizabeth again.
He had never felt this way before, and he knew he was in danger of falling in love with her. The prospect both thrilled and alarmed him. Elizabeth Bennet might be almost perfection, but her family was atrocious. Mrs. Bennet was grasping and vulgar. Elizabeth’s younger sisters were silly and giddy, also vulgar. Elizabeth had one uncle who was an attorney and another in Trade. If he married her, his friends and family would be appalled.