“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.”
Chapter VIII of Volume II (Chap 31)
There are many passages in Pride & Prejudice that we authors (and readers) enjoy no matter how many times it’s used in the retelling of Darcy and Elizabeth’s rocky road to romance. In my book, Fitzwilliam Darcy ~ Undone (a Pride & Prejudice Alternate Universe) I have the lady call him out at the Meryton Assembly. As a fanfiction author, I placed Colonel Fitzwilliam in the scene and this is how it unfolded.
She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me; I am in no humor at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me.
Fitzwilliam Darcy, Master of Pemberley, watched the lively expression on the young lady’s face as she conversed with her friend Miss Lucas. He heartily regretted attending this Assembly with Charles and Miss Bingley and their sister Louisa Hurst and her husband. He’d received a letter from his sister Georgiana only that afternoon, begging him to allow her to quit their uncle’s house in London and travel back home to Pemberley. Her heartache pained him, but she did not have a suitable companion, and until one was approved of and hired, London is where she would stay under the watchful eye of their uncle.
With everything that had happened this past summer, a crowded assembly was the last place he wanted to be. Still, Bingley was determined to become a permanent fixture within the community of Meryton. Therefore, to the public Assembly, they went. Unfortunately, all of his low standards were met almost as soon as they entered the hall.
They hadn’t progressed more than ten feet before he heard whispers of Bingley’s five thousand a year, followed by remarks of his ten thousand, which was ludicrously low. And so, he’d kept to the outer edges of the room, speaking only when directly asked a question and firmly avoiding any contact with husband?hunting mothers and their dutiful daughters. If it weren’t for his obligation to Bingley, he’d have left the crowded hall immediately following their first introduction.
After everyone had danced a few sets, Bingley included, he’d experienced an inexplicable desire to move to the back of the hall. Chairs lined the wall for those who couldn’t or wouldn’t dance. It was there that Charles prevailed upon him to pair up with his partner’s sister for the next set, to which he’d parried back with a remark that would have had his father turn over in the grave. That is after his mother had finished spinning.
Against his will, his eyes followed the young woman he’d insulted as she conversed with what seemed like half the village. That she was popular was evident by the genuine smiles afforded her as she came upon each person. Why she’d sat out any dances went beyond his comprehension unless all the men in Meryton were as much a fool as he.
This petite woman unsettled him, and her eyes entranced him. Jade green, they’d blazed into his soul when she’d given him a saucy look after his caustic remark of her not being handsome enough to tempt him. Feet frozen to the floor, he’d practically held his breath when she sauntered by a few minutes later, sporting a secret smile that let him know in no uncertain terms she found humor in the situation. Her whole demeanor caused a stirring he hadn’t felt in a very long time.
He’d learned, from overheard snippets, that she was Elizabeth Bennet, second daughter of five. As she swayed and weaved through the crowd, a familiar heat spread through his body. What was it about her that drew his eye? He began to walk the edges of the assembly hall, taking care to avoid Miss Bingley. Not an easy feat when she watched him almost as close as he watched Miss Elizabeth. He stopped a few feet from where she stood with one of her many sisters.
“I could easily forgive his pride if he had not mortified mine.”
He felt the ghost of a smile cross his lips at her quick wit and sparkling banter. Most young ladies would have been in a state of high dudgeon, but she had raised her voice just enough so he could hear her comment.
Touché, Miss Elizabeth, he thought, risking another smile and glanced in her direction to see if she’d noticed. Their eyes met, and she became preternaturally still, her full lips parting slightly. A primal urge to possess clawed its way up from his belly, demanding to be released.
His whole body aflame, he experienced a floating sensation, as though he were physically leaving his body. In his mind, he cleaved through the crowd and reached for Elizabeth. With one hand, he cupped the base of her neck and pulled her close before curving his other arm around her hip. He lowered his head and teased the edges of her mouth, nibbling that lush bottom lip, savoring her taste. When she swayed closer, he captured her mouth and plunged his tongue deep into the sweet, velvety warmth, needing–
“At last, I have caught up with you, Mr. Darcy.”
The strident tone of Miss Caroline Bingley grated in his ear, and with a start, he crashed back into rational thought.
“I had not gone far, Miss Bingley.”
She attempted to hook her arm through his, but he maneuvered out of her reach with a subtle twist. That his actions more than piqued her became clear when Miss Elizabeth passed by them.
“Miss Eliza, I have not seen you dance yet.”
“Thank you for noticing, Miss Bingley.” Miss Elizabeth’s emerald eyes sparkled with mischief. “Alas, no eligible gentleman has politely petitioned my hand for a set. I suppose you and I, together, shall have to commiserate near the edges of the ballroom.”
Miss Bingley huffed at the implied insult, and he had to turn his head to hide a grin. The put down had been so precise and so polite. She cast her gaze about the room and stopped when she reached the area where Bingley escorted Miss Bennet back to her mother’s side.
“If you would, please excuse me. My next dance partner awaits near my sister. It seems as though I will no longer line the wall, Miss Bingley.” She executed a polite half curtsy in Miss Bingley’s direction before making her way toward Bingley, who led her out onto the dance floor.
Nicely done, Miss Elizabeth. You leave me here to cool my heels, knowing Miss Bingley expects me to ask her to dance.
About to resume his prowl around the edges of the Assembly to not give Miss Bingley a fixed target, he paused. The fine hairs on the nape of his neck had risen, and he tried not to scowl. Richard had arrived. His cousin’s sixth sense must have been working overtime. Usually, Darcy held his emotions in check. However, the culmination of his worry over Georgiana and the unexpected zing of lust over a country miss, his feelings over the last hour had been intense, unguarded, and he was ill prepared to explain them. At times like this, he regretted the closeness he and his cousin shared.
The entrance to the assembly room opened, and The Honorable Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam entered. Well over six feet, he stood almost as tall as Darcy. Raven hair spilled over his shoulders and would have swung about if not tied back in a queue. His regimentals did nothing to hide his broad shoulders, and although athletic, his stride was smooth and graceful.
Richard had arrived in full glamour, evidenced by the chorus of feminine sighs trailing after him as he drew near. Darcy knew it wasn’t to impress him or the Bingley entourage. No, his mischievous cousin had hurried to Meryton because he’d felt Darcy’s awareness of an unknown female. While Miss Bingley reminded him of a sticky burr beneath his saddle, Richard was ten times worse and exceedingly more annoying.
Richard sidled beside him, his alert gaze scanning the crowded room. Many young women, alongside their mothers, tittered happily behind their fans. Darcy heard a few squeals of excitement and knew it came from Miss Elizabeth’s two youngest sisters.
“Colonel. How delighted we are to have you join us.”
Once again, Darcy inwardly cringed at the sound of Miss Bingley’s voice. If he were able, he’d dearly love to banish her to some dark underworld, if only to appease his ears.
“I’m here to speak with Colonel Foster of the _____shire militia.” Richard gave Miss Bingley a polite bow. “When I heard Darcy was also in Meryton, I came a few days early to spend some time with my favorite cousin.”
“It’s too bad you didn’t arrive tomorrow and avoid being subjected to this dreadful assembly.” She sniffed in disdain. “I expect a pig to be loosed at any moment and the crowd to go absolutely giddy chasing it.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Richard drawled. “They seem to be a polite bunch, and you’re still unharmed.”
Miss Bingley frowned, not quite sure if she’d been insulted. There was no love lost between his cousin and Charles Bingley’s youngest sister. Desperate to climb the social ladder, she tried to curry favor with Richard, if only for the fact his father was an Earl. Anyone with half a brain and one dead eye could see she had lost the battle before it even began.
“Fancy meeting up with you in Hertfordshire of all places, cousin,” Richard boomed out in a cheerful voice.
“Bingley asked me to look over an estate he leased with an option to buy.”
Miss Elizabeth, enjoying a country reel, skipped by on the arm of Bingley. He steadied his breathing and forced himself to relax.
“I’m surprised you’ve let Georgiana out of your sight. I didn’t think you’d leave London so soon,” Richard commented in a low tone while Miss Bingley’s attention was drawn to her brother.
“Georgiana is perfectly safe with your father.”
A sudden cry, followed by, ‘Miss Elizabeth!’, caught his attention before a soft body collided with Richard. Gallantly, his cousin caught and held her in his arms. Just as quickly, he released her and asked if she was all right.
“I am. It appears I lost my footing–”
“Miss Elizabeth. I’m so sorry for losing your grip in that last turn.” A flushed Bingley hurried to her side. “I hope you are uninjured.”
“Not to worry, Mr. Bingley.” She laid a comforting hand on his arm, and Darcy imagined Charles dying a slow death. “I am unharmed, as you can see. His Majesty’s finest has come to my rescue.”
Bingley turned his attention to Richard.
“Colonel Fitzwilliam. I’m so delighted to see you again.” He extended his hand, which Richard shook. “Miss Elizabeth Bennet, may I introduce you to Colonel Fitzwilliam. Darcy’s cousin.”
She executed a polite curtsy to Richard’s equally polite half?bow. With a decidedly impish grin, she asked, “And, who is Darcy?”
Quite befuddled, Bingley’s mouth hung open.
“This is Mr. Darcy,” Miss Bingley interrupted, waving her fan in Darcy’s direction.
“I would not know as Mr. Darcy did not allow your brother to introduce us earlier in the evening.” She dared to look him directly in the eye.
“Darcy didn’t introduce himself? To you?” Richard’s tone of disbelief was very evident.
“Nor my family, Colonel.”
Darcy could see that she struggled not to smile or even laugh outright. He also noticed she didn’t react to Richard’s glamour. Women all around them, Miss Bingley included, couldn’t keep their eyes off him. Although his cousin cut a fine figure in his uniform, when he turned on the charm, so to speak, he became irresistible. Miss Elizabeth’s non-reaction was deliciously mystifying.
“Then I must immediately rectify that situation so that you don’t think we descended from barbarian hordes,” Richard offered, his tone silky. Seductive. Darcy’s hand fisted by his side. His cousin also realized Elizabeth remained unmoved by his glamour and sought to remedy the situation. With aplomb and overdone gallantry, Richard introduced Darcy to Elizabeth.
“Miss Elizabeth, may I introduce you to my pompous cousin, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley, Derbyshire.”
to meet you, Mr. Darcy.”
He gave her a polite bow and was about to start a conversation with her when another young buck stepped forward.
“This is our dance, Lizzy.”
“Thank you, Mr. Lucas.” She cast her gaze around their small half circle. “Enjoy the rest of the evening.”
She turned and weaved her way back onto the dance floor, smiling at the young man. Darcy focused his attention on Richard because if he watched her walk away, it would be difficult to keep his out of character desire in check.