In my last blog entry I posed a provocative question: could you ever picture Elizabeth Bennet with someone besides Darcy? How would Elizabeth get along with some of Austen’s other leading men? I described how I thought Elizabeth would relate to each of the men of Austen’s other major novels. Along the way we saw again why Elizabeth and Darcy are absolutely perfect for each other, and why they are not perfect for anyone else.
After that post I received several requests to go through the same exercise with Darcy, so I thought I’d take a whirl at it today. It would be fun to go through Darcy and each of Austen’s leading ladies in turn, showing how each pairing would (or wouldn’t) work. But then my muse stepped in! The result is a short story, which is partly posted below.
For this story, imagine an assembly where Darcy meets not just Elizabeth, but other leading Austen ladies. And then, fortunately for us, he writes a letter to his cousin the next day. The result might be something like this:
Meetings in Meryton
To my estimable cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam,
I am writing to you from Netherfield, the estate in Hertfordshire that Bingley is leasing with an eye towards purchasing it one day. This little town of Meryton, of which Netherfield is the principal dwelling, is filled with good people of the middling sort. You know the type I mean- good enough for Bingley but rather beneath my notice. Nevertheless, I am here to assist Bingley in whatever way I can. So, after some urging on his part, I agreed to go to an assembly with him last night in order to allow him to become acquainted with the families in the neighborhood. ‘Twas an irksome duty but one I was determined to tolerate for his sake.
When Bingley and I entered the room we were at once the objects of curiosity on every side. Nearly the entire assemblage stopped what they were doing to gape at us, which was exactly as I had expected and the principal reason I did not wish to attend. Wanting to avoid their gaze I requested an introduction to almost the first creature I saw- it mattered not who. I was rewarded with the hand of a Miss Fanny Price, whom I believe to be visiting from L—–shire.
This was a most disappointing choice. Miss Price was so shy that we scarcely spoke ten words for the first ten minutes. Also, she tired within a short time and had to sit down before completing the first set. It was just as well, as I found nothing particularly appealing in her company.
It was not an auspicious beginning to the night. Bingley was already making himself friendly and agreeable to all. where I had to stand and look uncomfortable for some time, wishing I had not agreed to this evening. Almost a half hour passed before Bingley recalled my presence and introduced me tto someone else. That someone else turned out to be a Miss Elinor Dashwood.
I suppose I cannot blame Bingley for bringing the lady to my attention. She appeared to have a fine character, and I gather that she, her mother and her sisters are reliant on the kindness of family. She was the very embodiment of a “poor relation.” But I felt no attraction for her. She was too reserved, too cautious, and too guarded in her manner to gain my attention.
By this time word of my fortune had spread through the assembly, with the usual and predictable results. Practically the entire assemblage of mothers, and even fathers, began lining up to try to meet me. I had scarcely left Miss Dashwood’s side when a Mr. Woodhouse, a country squire, introduced me to his daughter Emma.
Miss Woodhouse was entirely the opposite of the woman whose company I had just left, being a young lady of superficial charm and no small amount of vanity. Her chief occupation in life appears to be observing others and convincing them to do as she likes. She would never do as a sister for my dear Georgiana, who would soon find herself at the center of every scheme Miss Woodhouse could devise. I risked being abominably ill-mannered by not even asking her for a dance, but I am not obliged to honor anyone with my attention. I made an excuse and left her company as soon as possible.
It was then that my evening took a different turn. When I turned away from Miss Woodhouse I accidentally collided with a woman who had come up behind me without announcing her presence. We both apologized and perforce introduced ourselves. Her name was Lady Susan Vernon.
My dear cousin, you would have been smitten in a moment if you had met this lady. I know you would have, for she is older than me, a recent widow, and possessed of a certain sophistication, an air which I know has drawn you to women like her in the past. Genteel, wealthy and handsome besides- just the sort of lady who might catch and keep the attention of an educated and worldly gentleman such as myself. I asked her to dance at once.
The first set was exceedingly pleasant. My partner spoke extensively of books and reading, demonstrating a well informed mind, an extensive education, and general good breeding. By happy chance we had encountered each other just before the fourth dance, so I was expected to take my partner in to dinner, a duty I happily complied with.
Our conversation continued right through the beginning of the meal, and I had every reason to believe our enjoyable interlude would continue afterwards, until Lady Susan suddenly announced that she did not feel well. She began a violent coughing fit, and nothing would do but for her to leave the table. Being a gentleman, I had to give her my assistance.
Lady Susan leaned on my arm as I guided her through a series of doorways, following the directions she helpfully supplied. I thought she was directing me to a quiet room where I could leave her to catch her breath. Instead, within a short time, I found that we had entered a darkened room which seemed nearly empty. I stepped away from Lady Susan long enough to push back a curtain and admit more light.
Are you laughing at me, cousin? I am sure you are, for you have doubtless discerned what I had yet to fully comprehend.
If you know Lady Susan, you probably have a good guess what might happen next. But there is much more to this story. What does Lady Susan have planned for our dear hero? How will Darcy respond? How will Darcy meet the remaining Austen ladies, and what will their encounters be like? Is there any chance that Darcy might fall for someone who isn’t Elizabeth? You will have to read and find out. This story is in progress here. I hope you enjoy it! And I hope you will leave a note below to tell me who you think Darcy might end up with if he never met Elizabeth!