Disinclined to Dance (Part VII.)

Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | (Part VII) | Index Page

When the letter came, Jane wasn’t the only one staring out the window.  Bella was looking out toward Netherfield Hall as she chewed her toast, wondering if Mr. Darcy would call that morning as it was a bit wet, and she would be unable to go wandering in the countryside to read her poetry.

They seemed to have an unspoken agreement.

On days when she and Caroline were not having tea, if it were fine, she would read poetry and he might find her.  If it rained, he would attempt to call.  It was not a perfect system, but it seemed to be regulating to their schedules over the past three weeks.

“I have had a letter,” Papa declared.

It would not pertain to a marriage proposal then, Bella mused, looking at the sky and wondering at the likelihood of rain.

“It is from a person, whom I have never before met!”

Then it could not possibly be Mr. Darcy and was of no importance.

The name of Collins, however, did draw her attention.

Mr. Collins arrived post haste, as the letter promised, on that very day, Papa having kept the news to himself for reasons that Bella did not wish to contemplate.  He wasn’t handsome like Darcy.  He wasn’t rich like Darcy.  He also didn’t mind that Jane was vapid and read to her from his book of sermons, even though Jane’s thoughts were somewhere else entirely.

The next day, when Caroline came to call, she looked at Mr. Collins and declared, “Dear heavens.  Where did he come from?”

“Kent,” Bella answered, taking a sip of her tea.  “He’s our cousin.”

Caroline looked at her askance.  “Surely not.”

“Papa’s cousin,” Bella amended.  “He’s the heir of all this.”  She motioned to the tea set that was being set between them to make her point.

There was barely a pause before Caroline nodded.  “Therefore, it is efficacious that he attach himself to a daughter of the house.”

“Indeed,” Bella agreed quickly.

“Your sister,” Caroline murmured, taking a shortbread, “has less to say on any subject I’ve ventured than even my brother.”  Her sparkling eyes looked up at Bella, clearly laughing, a shared secret.

A small smile crept over Bella’s mouth.  “I hope that Mr. Collins proves worthy of my eldest sister.”  She sighed.  Bella could not say what would suit Jane other than a rose garden.  Perhaps the parsonage had a small tidy garden that would suit Jane and she would be content.

Caroline pursed her lips.  “I am afraid, where dynasty and beauty is concerned….” she began.

Bella could only nod as it was completely the truth.  After a pause, she asked, “His patron is a Lady Catherine de Bourg of Rosings Park.”

Her friend shrugged, not knowing the place as Bella was certain she might not, and then their attention turned to Darcy’s uncharacteristic behavior at the Philips’ card party some evenings before.  The county was full of it.

Mr. Wickham, it appeared, was the son of the old Mr. Darcy’s steward.  He had been left a small parish living in Old Mr. Darcy’s will, had turned it down for a cash advance, and had squandered the money on loose women and the gambling table in a matter of months.  Wherever he went ruined women and debts seemed to follow.  It was said he broken tables, heads, and reputations were synonymous with his name…. And that Mr. Darcy had even stopped a nefarious plot Mr. Wickham had been attempting to set into motion regarding his own young, impressionable, and entirely innocent sister.

At this, Bella set her cold tea entirely aside.  “I never caught her exact age,” Bella admitted.

Caroline nodded, clearly saddened.  “Dear Georgina,” she mused.  “She is just sixteen or thereabouts.  She is so very quiet, but accomplished, so like yourself in some ways.  So very different in others.”

“I am not accomplished,” Bella argued.

“You are reading poetry whenever I see you, and in all the blank pages are your own verse, Miss Isabelle Mary,” she pointed out, causing Bella to turn a bright crimson instantly.

“You would not inform—”

“Nay,” Caroline agreed.  “I should like to read a verse at some point, but, no, I should not tell.  Those are your private thoughts, your private verses, and there is not yet an engagement between you.  Perhaps—”  She smiled a little to herself.  “Charles and I will be coming tomorrow to issue an invitation to a Ball.  Make certain at least your Mother is in attendance when we arrive.  We will include your Cousin—Mr. Collins, was it?—naturally.”

Bella’s eyes lit up at the thought of a ball, not for the dancing, but for the music.

“We will be serving apple tarts at Supper,” Caroline promised just as a fresh pot of tea was brought in.  “I know it has been too grey and rainy for the picnic my brother promised you.”

“And will Mr. and Mrs. Hurst be of attendance?” Bella inquired. She knew they were to be of the initial party, but business had kept them in Scarborough.

“Undoubtedly,” Caroline promised, “though I have prefered your company to Louisa’s.”

The invitation came swiftly and smoothly, offered by the host himself the next day, and the forewarned Mrs. Bennet accepted on behalf of herself, her husband, and her three eldest.  Mr. Collins also graciously accepted his own invitation with little excessive politeness.

Bella believed it was Jane’s soft temperance as he did tend to talk a great deal about nothing at all.

“But should you accept?” Elizabeth asked their cousin as soon as the Bingleys had departed.  “Would your Bishop approve?”

Jane looked at her sister like a rabbit stunned by sudden lantern light.  Bella wondered what Elizabeth could possibly be about to ruin Jane’s chance at an ardent suitor at a ball.

“There is nothing that could go amiss,” Mr. Collins responded after a moment, “by a sober affair given by an upstanding member of the community.—And Lady Catherine herself has often commented on my lightness of foot.  Now!  Miss Bennet, the first two dances.”  (Jane acquiesced politely, expecting the compliment.). “Miss Elizabeth, the next?”  (Elizabeth nearly rolled her eyes, but nodded).  Next Mr. Collins came up to Bella.  “I heard from the eldest Miss Bennet, Cousin Isabelle Mary, that you do not dance.  Therefore, I would ask the privilege of your time in conversation for the third set.” 

She blinked and was stunned at his thoughtfulness.  She then curtseyed to him.  “It would be my privilege, Cousin, to sit with you at the dance.”

Lydia might have snorted somewhere, and if she had Bella would be certain to chide her.  However, she believed that Elizabeth was serving as a bad influence, as she had taken great pains with Lydia over the years.

It was the first time that Bella would have a dance card, and she and Jane were invited for tea at Netherfield Park some days later.  Isabelle Mary was always included in the invitation, sometimes with one of her elder sisters, and once or twice with Catherine, even though she was yet not out.  At this particular tea, Darcy asked to have the first dance set and the Supper Dance as well, even if it was just to be in her company.

She blinked before laughing, and agreed, telling him her cousin—Mr. Collins—had claimed her conversation for the third dance.

“Then I,” Mr. Bingley stated, “shall have your second!”

“Done!” she promised. 

Caroline slipped her a sheet of paper and a pencil as the dance cards would be presented at the ball. Undoubtedly, hers would already be partially filled out for her by her friend.

“I daresay, Isabelle Mary,” Jane declared as they settled down for tea, “you shall not dance your first quadrille until your own wedding breakfast.”

“Then I daresay,” Caroline put in, “that might be very soon.”

Bella blushed at the insinuation, but denied neither comment.  Instead, she looked at Darcy, who was wholeheartedly looking back at her.

“In London,” Mr. Bingley added, “married ladies are now dancing the waltz.”

“None of us ladies are married,” Bella told him. 

“Yes,” Bingley certainly agreed good naturedly, though his bright gaze was a little focused on Darcy, “but if you shall not dance until your wedding breakfast, you will certainly be a married lady then…”

“Indeed,” Darcy agreed, his tone brusque to show how much he liked the idea, though Bella thought that to those who did not know him, it might come off as prideful.

Knowing Mr. Darcy was to become in tune with his finer mood and emotions.  Although Bella had never become a true proficient at the piano forte, she was beginning to feel that she had a true instinct at one Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy.

She cleared her throat.  “You have only to secure a dance with Elizabeth, Mr. Bingley,” she informed him with a friendly smile. 

He nodded.  “I shall be sure to at the first opportunity.”

After Mr. Bingley had secured Jane in good natured if simple minded conversation, Caroline leaned in and asked, “Does your family expect an announcement soon? “

Normally, Bella wouldn’t speak so freely, but Caroline had proved herself a true and fast friend.  This information was also pertinent to Darcy, who was sitting calmly on her across from the settee where the ladies were sitting.  “While I do not presume to know Mr. Collins’ mind, I would imagine he would use the Netherfield Ball as an opportunity to propose—or the morning after.”

“Miss Bennet is all loveliness,” Darcy suddenly complimented, surprising Bella.  “She would be an asset to any man of the cloth.  Lovely to look upon, with no thought to challenge her husband’s ministry.  Kind to the poor, compassionate to the stranger, lovely like an angel.”

Biting her lip so as not to smile, Bella agreed, “I think you might have the right of it.”

“Where is his living?”  Darcy inquired.


At this, Darcy’s face opened up.  “At the pleasure of Lady Catherine de Bough?”

Bella smiled in surprise at his knowing it.

“My mother’s sister.  She has this notion that her daughter and I ‘were formed for each other’… but I spend every Easter in Kent.—Have you ever been to Kent, Miss Isabelle Mary?”

“No.  I imagine I would go to see Jane, if I should be invited and if an engagement should take place.”

He looked at her warmly through his expressive green eyes.  “I think you might find another reason to visit Kent this Easter,” he promised, picking up his cup of tea and taking a sip of it.  His eyes, however, held Bella’s over the rim, never breaking the gaze, a promise—wonderful and full—that made her heart flip in her chest cavity.

To Be Continued…

Published by excentrykemuse

Fanfiction artist and self critic.

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