I hope you are all well and keeping safe wherever you are. Here in Canada, we are going through the second wave of the pandemic and, unfortunately, the number of positive cases are surging. I have been staying home with my daughters since they are both enrolled in virtual schooling. It’s definitely a different experience and we are all trying to stay positive.
For today’s post, I’d like to begin with one of my favourite scenes from Pride and Prejudice, when Miss Bingley attempts to draw Mr. Darcy’s attention while he is writing a letter to his sister. She tries everything, from flattery to pure nonsense, to get a little attention from him and he ignores her as much as possible.
The perpetual commendations of the lady, either on his handwriting, or on the evenness of his lines, or on the length of his letter, with the perfect unconcern with which her praises were received, formed a curious dialogue, and was exactly in union with her opinion of each.
He made no answer.
“You write uncommonly fast.”
“You are mistaken. I write rather slowly.”
“How many letters you must have occasion to write in the course of a year! Letters of business, too! How odious I should think them!”
“It is fortunate, then, that they fall to my lot instead of yours.”
“Pray tell your sister that I long to see her.”
“I have already told her so once, by your desire.”
“I am afraid you do not like your pen. Let me mend it for you. I mend pens remarkably well.”
“Thank you—but I always mend my own.”
“How can you contrive to write so even?”
He was silent.
“Tell your sister I am delighted to hear of her improvement on the harp; and pray let her know that I am quite in raptures with her beautiful little design for a table, and I think it infinitely superior to Miss Grantley’s.”
“Will you give me leave to defer your raptures till I write again? At present I have not room to do them justice.”
“Oh! it is of no consequence. I shall see her in January. But do you always write such charming long letters to her, Mr. Darcy?”
“They are generally long; but whether always charming it is not for me to determine.”
I cannot help laughing every time I read Darcy’s short responses to her. He really doesn’t like her, doesn’t want to talk to her, and does not enjoy her attentions or her compliments. Anyone with even a little bit of self-respect would have understood his disinterestedness and would have looked elsewhere. But Miss Bingley is either too stupid to understand or too desperate to care for her dignity. On the other hand, I cannot help thinking that Mr. Darcy would have probably behaved very differently, or responded differently, had it been another young lady, say Miss Elizabeth Bennet, who was offering him compliments and trying to flirt with him. I actually think Darcy could be a good conversationalist if he ever chose to, and I am pretty sure he would flirt shamelessly if he liked the lady he was conversing with. I mean his conversation with Lizzy when she is playing the piano at his aunt’s house is very different from the one he had with Miss Bingley. Although Lizzy may not be aware of his intentions, I would argue that Mr. Darcy is actually flirting with her.
“You mean to frighten me, Mr. Darcy, by coming in all this state to hear me? I will not be alarmed though your sister does play so well. There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.”
“I shall not say you are mistaken,” he replied, “because you could not really believe me to entertain any design of alarming you; and I have had the pleasure of your acquaintance long enough to know that you find great enjoyment in occasionally professing opinions which in fact are not your own.”
Elizabeth laughed heartily at this picture of herself, and said to Colonel Fitzwilliam, “Your cousin will give you a very pretty notion of me, and teach you not to believe a word I say. I am particularly unlucky in meeting with a person so able to expose my real character, in a part of the world where I had hoped to pass myself off with some degree of credit. Indeed, Mr. Darcy, it is very ungenerous in you to mention all that you knew to my disadvantage in Hertfordshire—and, give me leave to say, very impolitic too—for it is provoking me to retaliate, and such things may come out as will shock your relations to hear.”
“I am not afraid of you,” said he, smilingly.
“Pray let me hear what you have to accuse him of,” cried Colonel Fitzwilliam. “I should like to know how he behaves among strangers.”
“You shall hear then—but prepare yourself for something very dreadful. The first time of my ever seeing him in Hertfordshire, you must know, was at a ball—and at this ball, what do you think he did? He danced only four dances, though gentlemen were scarce; and, to my certain knowledge, more than one young lady was sitting down in want of a partner. Mr. Darcy, you cannot deny the fact.”
“I had not at that time the honour of knowing any lady in the assembly beyond my own party.”
“True; and nobody can ever be introduced in a ball-room. Well, Colonel Fitzwilliam, what do I play next? My fingers wait your orders.”
“Perhaps,” said Darcy, “I should have judged better, had I sought an introduction; but I am ill-qualified to recommend myself to strangers.”
“Shall we ask your cousin the reason of this?” said Elizabeth, still addressing Colonel Fitzwilliam. “Shall we ask him why a man of sense and education, and who has lived in the world, is ill qualified to recommend himself to strangers?”
“I can answer your question,” said Fitzwilliam, “without applying to him. It is because he will not give himself the trouble.”
“I certainly have not the talent which some people possess,” said Darcy, “of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done.”
“My fingers,” said Elizabeth, “do not move over this instrument in the masterly manner which I see so many women’s do. They have not the same force or rapidity, and do not produce the same expression. But then I have always supposed it to be my own fault—because I will not take the trouble of practising. It is not that I do not believe my fingers as capable as any other woman’s of superior execution.”
Darcy smiled and said, “You are perfectly right. You have employed your time much better. No one admitted to the privilege of hearing you can think anything wanting. We neither of us perform to strangers.”
What do you think? Do you think Mr. Darcy has potential to be a good flirt? He is definitely intelligent enough to have good conversation. Below, I share a scene from my first novel, To Save and Protect, where Mr. Darcy and Lizzy, while staying for dinner at Lady Catherine’s neighbouring estate, have a chance to flirt a little and get to know one another better. Hope you enjoy the excerpt.
Stay safe everyone!
Elizabeth left her room and, retracing her steps from earlier, found her way back through the winding hallway to the top of the staircase. As she walked down the steps, she noticed Mr. Darcy standing at the foot of the stairs, staring up at her. He was dressed, as always, quite meticulously. He smiled as she reached the bottom.
“You look beautiful, Miss Elizabeth,” he said so softly she could barely hear him.
“Thank you, sir. Miss Sandry lent me one of her dresses for dinner. You look impeccable as ever, Mr. Darcy. Has the admiral lent you his clothes as well?”
“Er… no,” he said sheepishly.
“Well then I do not understand. Where did you come by these clothes?” Elizabeth asked.
Mr. Darcy avoided her eyes, shifting his weight from one foot to another.
Understanding dawned on Elizabeth. “Mr. Darcy! Am I to understand that you had these clothes delivered from Rosings?” she asked incredulously.
“My valet takes prodigious care of my attire,” he said, flushed and embarrassed.
Unable to contain her mirth, Elizabeth laughed.
Instead of being offended by her laugh, Mr. Darcy smiled deeply enough for his dimples to appear again. “Apparently, my valet took it upon himself to give some of my clothes to the men who delivered my letter to Rosings.”
“He must be a great source of comfort to you,” she said, her eyes still full of laughter.
“As well as a great source of embarrassment.”
“I take it you don’t particularly enjoy his attentions.”
“I do not want to be mistaken for a dandy, Miss Elizabeth.”
“Believe me, sir. No one will ever dare mistake you for a dandy.”
His eyes danced with amusement. “Another compliment, Miss Elizabeth? You astonish me!”
“Not as much as I astonish myself, sir. I am not used to offering you so many compliments.”
“I know that only too well, having been the recipient of your reproves so many times in the past. But I find I can happily become accustomed to your compliments.”
Elizabeth laughed. “Earlier today, you said my presence rendered you speechless, Mr. Darcy. You certainly have no problem conversing now!”
“You told me to practice, Miss Elizabeth. Did you not?” Mr. Darcy returned.
Before Elizabeth could think of a punishing response, they were interrupted by the entrance of Admiral and Miss Sandry.
“There you are,” Admiral Sandry said, walking toward Elizabeth. “How lovely you look, Miss Bennet.”
“Thank you, sir,” Elizabeth replied, taking his proffered arm.
Mr. Darcy smiled to Miss Sandry and offered his arm to her.
“We have chosen to dine in the smaller dining room tonight. It is cozy and informal,” Miss Sandry explained.
“And it allows for easy conversation,” the admiral remarked as they entered the dining room.
“Oh, that is what Mr. Darcy desires above all else,” Elizabeth said cheekily. “He is a great conversationalist.”