Frankenstein Darcy by Cass Grix © 2016
1811 – FIVE YEARS LATER
Longbourn was in a state of chaos as five young women and an anxious mother prepared for the Meryton Assembly. Lydia took Kitty’s gloves without asking; Kitty lost one of her slippers and accused Lydia of hiding it. Mary, who like her father Mr. Bennet often withdrew from family conversation to read books, was found to be the culprit, for she had been sitting on it. With only one maid capable of arranging hair, each young woman was reduced to either sitting in her petticoats for an hour, waiting for her turn, or choosing to fend for herself. Elizabeth, the second oldest, helped Jane, the eldest, with her hair, but their mother found the resulting arrangement insufficiently elegant and ordered the maid to stop working on Kitty’s tresses immediately and to tend to her oldest daughter.
“It’s not fair!” Kitty protested as she stomped to her bedroom. “Why does Jane always go first?”
“Because she is the eldest,” Mary, the middle daughter, said calmly.
“Because she is the prettiest,” Mrs. Bennet said. “And the most likely to catch Mr. Bingley’s attention.”
Jane blushed. “Mama, we have not even met the man.” Mr. Bingley was their new neighbour, a single young man rumoured to have a fortune of four thousand pounds a year. He had paid a morning visit to their father, but they had not seen him clearly from their upper window’s view.
“No, but we will, and when we do, I want you to look your best. Hurry, child.” Mrs. Bennet then looked at Elizabeth’s hair with a critical eye. “You are fine. There is not much that can be done with your mop, anyway. No matter what we do, in ten minutes, it always looks untidy.” Elizabeth was blessed – or cursed as her mother would say – with naturally curly hair that seemed to have a will of its own, often refusing to stay pinned up.
Mrs. Bennet reached over and removed the lace that had been tucked into the neckline of Elizabeth’s high waisted gown. “There,” she said happily, surveying her daughter’s cleavage. “Now none of the gentlemen will be looking at your hair.”
“Mama!” Elizabeth protested, but her mother did not listen.
Eventually they were all ready for the Assembly. Mr. Bennet chose to stay at home and enjoy a quiet household.
The Assembly was held in a public hall in Meryton, a town only a mile from Longbourn. The large room was decorated with garlands of pink muslin and lit with rows of standing candelabra. Mrs. Bennet quickly found her friend and neighbour Lady Lucas and the two women began critiquing the gowns of the other guests. “Can you believe it? Miss Cole is in her puce again. With her skin, that is not a happy choice.”
Elizabeth whispered to her sister Jane. “How are you feeling?”
“I am fine. My scalp is still a little tender, though.”
Their maid, when rushed, could be fierce with the hair pins. “Well, you look lovely,” Elizabeth said. “Mr. Bingley, when he finally chooses to arrive, will be smitten instantly.” Meryton gossip said that he would be attending the assembly with a party of guests from London. Elizabeth was looking forward to seeing some new faces.
Jane said quietly, “Please don’t tease me. It is bad enough that Mama does so.”
Elizabeth’s conscience struck her. She enjoyed finding the humour of their situation, but she never meant to be unkind. “Forgive me.”
“No, I know you are only joking.”
“It is difficult to be serious in a ballroom,” Elizabeth added. “But I shall try.” She found the entire situation ridiculous. All the unmarried women, looking their best, hoping to catch the eye and the admiration of an unmarried man.
At that point, both she and Jane were asked to dance by two of their male acquaintances, so they did so.
During the dance, Bingley and his party arrived. Elizabeth noticed them as she and her partner promenaded. There were three gentlemen and two ladies. She approved, for more gentlemen increased the probability of her dancing.
One gentleman, the tallest, had a commanding air.
But then she was forced to pay attention to the steps of her dance. She smiled at her partner and continued with the set.
Afterwards, she met her friend Charlotte Lucas at the refreshment table and sipped a glass of punch. “Have you met him?” she asked.
From her arch expression, Charlotte knew whom she was referencing. “Yes, and we will be dancing the next dance.”
“Congratulations,” Elizabeth murmured. She knew her mother would be vexed that Charlotte had the first opportunity to secure their new neighbour’s affections.
“Here he comes,” Charlotte whispered.
Mr. Bingley approached. He was a good looking man of medium height with an engaging smile. Nice hair, nice teeth, Elizabeth thought, which was always good. The last young man of fortune to ride through Meryton had been balding and had rivalled Sir William Lucas for size. “Miss Lucas,” he said pleasantly. “Would you do me the honour of introducing your friend?”
Charlotte introduced them. Bingley bowed. He said, “I believe I have already met your oldest sister.”
No doubt her mother had arranged that within seconds of his arrival.
As he and Charlotte joined the dance, Elizabeth walked over to where Mary was sitting. “Who is who?” she asked.
Mary answered, “The man of average height is Mr. Bingley. The two women are his sisters, Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst. The shorter gentleman is Mr. Hurst.”
“And the tall gentleman?” Elizabeth looked across the room and saw him staring at them. Or glaring. It was difficult to determine at this distance and by candlelight.
“He is Mr. Darcy.”
Elizabeth brightened. “Mr. Frankenstein Darcy of Pemberley?” she asked, catching her breath with hope. Could he be alive?
“I don’t know,” Mary said. “But they say he has a large estate in Derbyshire and has ten thousand a year.”
Elizabeth had always found it amusing the way a man’s income could become common knowledge within five minutes of his entrance, but tonight she could only smile with joy and relief that the young man she had met so long ago might not be dead. If this man was Frankenstein Darcy, she wanted to meet him.
She had often thought of that day at Pemberley. In some ways she considered it the last day of her childhood. The sun might shine or the clouds might lower, but nothing could appear to her as it had done before. Before she had been happy and carefree, and afterwards she had known that life could be unpredictable and cruel.
She walked around the room to the other side of the hall where the gentleman in question was standing. He wore ivory breeches, a gold waistcoat and a green coat. His hair was thick and dark. He was taller than she remembered with handsome features and a noble mein. The scar on his neck, if he had such a scar, was hidden by a brilliant white neckcloth.
She approached him. “Mr. Darcy,” she said pleasantly. “I believe we have met before. If you are Mr. Frankenstein Darcy of Pemberley, that is.”
He stiffened at her words and surveyed her with cool disdain. “That is my name, but I do not recall yours, ma’am.” It was clear that he thought her presumptuous to imply an acquaintance that did not exist.
If she were timid, his frosty tones and his forbidding disagreeable countenance would have reduced her to a quivering jelly. But she was made of sterner stuff. She raised her chin and smiled brilliantly. “Miss Elizabeth Bennet, sir.”
He bowed slightly. “Pleased to make your acquaintance, ma’am,” he said with minimal civility. “Now, if you will excuse me, I will join my party.”
With that, he left and strode over to speak with Miss Bingley.
Elizabeth stood for a moment, dumbfounded. What an arrogant, unpleasant man. Insufferable.
Seven years before, he had been a charming young man. She had liked him and had grieved to think him dead. She supposed she should be grateful that he was still alive, but oh, what a disagreeable man he had become.
She smiled at the irony. No doubt she had changed as well, but hopefully for the better.
Rather than dwelling on this negative experience, Elizabeth turned her attention to the dance floor. She saw that Mr. Bingley was dancing with Jane. Her mother would be pleased.
Later in the evening, Mr. Bingley danced with Jane again. At this point, Elizabeth was sitting by herself, without a dance partner. She did not mind for it gave her a few moments for reflection. She also happened to overhear a conversation between Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy. Mr. Bingley had left the dance for a few minutes to press his friend to join it.
“Come, Darcy. I must have you dance. I hate to see you standing about by yourself in this stupid manner.”
Elizabeth hid a smile behind her fan.
Bingley continued. “You had much better dance.”
“I certainly shall not,” Darcy said coolly. Elizabeth was surprised that he used such a superior tone with his friend as well. “You know how I much I detest it, unless I am particularly acquainted with my partner. At such an assembly as this, it would be insupportable. Your sisters are engaged, and there is not another woman in the room, whom it would not be a punishment to me to stand up with.”
Elizabeth almost choked. Heavens, had there ever been such a conceited man?
Bingley cried, “I would not be so fastidious as you are for a kingdom! Upon my honour, I never met with so many pleasant girls in my life as I have this evening; and there are several of them who are uncommonly pretty.”
“You are dancing with the only handsome girl in the room,” said Darcy, looking at Jane.
So he wasn’t completely blind, Elizabeth thought. Jane was the most beautiful girl in the room and she was pleased to hear Bingley say the same.
Bingley then said, “But there is one of her sisters sitting down just behind you, who is very pretty, and I dare say, very agreeable. Do let me ask my partner to introduce you.”
Oh no, Elizabeth thought and wished she had chosen another location to sit.
“Which do you mean?” Darcy asked, and turning around, he looked for a moment at Elizabeth, till catching her eye, he withdrew his own and coldly said, “There is no need. She already forced an introduction upon me.”
Elizabeth felt a blush rise in her cheeks.
“She is tolerable, I suppose, if one disregards the lack of manners, but she is not handsome enough to tempt me. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me.”
Mr. Bingley followed his advice. Mr. Darcy walked off, and Elizabeth remained seated, striving to master her uncordial feelings towards him.
Eventually the ridiculousness of the situation tickled her playful sense of humour. The man was absurd and she was absurd to take offense. Why should she care what he thought of her?
She then told the story with great spirit among her friends, although she did not share the part about her having met him before. She saved that for an evening conversation with Jane.
When Jane and Elizabeth were alone, Jane said, “It was so strange to see Mr. Darcy again. He has certainly grown up. I am not certain I would have recognized him.”
“Nor I,” Elizabeth agreed. His face was thinner with the angles of his cheekbones and jaw more pronounced. He looked harder, more cynical.
“He seems so grand now.”
Elizabeth was not as generous as Jane. She would use other adjectives to describe him. He was above being pleased. He was the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world.
Jane said, “And to think of his slighting you. That was poorly done.”
Elizabeth smiled. “Yes, it was, wasn’t it?”
“But I doubt he meant for his comments to be overheard.”
Elizabeth laughed. “Does that make it any better? No Jane, you can choose to forgive him, but I will not.”
“Mr. Bingley likes him. Mr. Darcy is one of his closest friends.”
“I think Mr. Bingley must be a very patient man,” Elizabeth said dryly.
Jane sighed. “Mr. Bingley is just what a young man ought to be: sensible, good humoured, lively; and I never saw such happy manners – so much ease, with such perfect good breeding!”
Elizabeth looked at her closely, wondering. Jane tended to like everyone. She never saw a fault in anybody. All the world was good and agreeable in her eyes. But she had never praised a young man so quickly upon first acquaintance. And there was an excitement about her, a happy glow, that Elizabeth had never seen.
Elizabeth did not believe in love at first sight, but could there be such a thing as love at first dance?
* * *
After the Meryton Assembly, Bingley and his guests ate a light supper at Netherfield before retiring. Darcy, according to his custom, declined everything except a bowl of soup.
Miss Bingley was anxious to hear his impressions of the assembly. “Mr. Darcy, did you enjoy yourself this evening?”
Bingley said, “I swear I shall give up on you, Darcy. Sometimes I think you are determined to be disagreeable. I wonder if it is a direct result of your medical training. All that illness and disease has weakened your affections and destroyed your taste for the simple pleasures of life. You see everyone as bits of blood and bone rather than the miraculous creatures that we are.”
Darcy was amused by Bingley’s poetic turn of phrase. “Would you rather I lie?”
“No, but I don’t understand why you did not enjoy yourself tonight. I have never met with pleasanter people or prettier girls in my life. Everyone was most kind and attentive. There was no formality, no stiffness, and within half an hour, I felt as if I were acquainted with everyone in the room.”
Darcy smiled grimly. “In two months, tell me if you feel the same.”
“You think I will become bored with country life?”
“Yes, I do.” In some ways, Bingley was like a dog – enthusiastic for one toy until another was introduced. He had rented Netherfield on impulse, but in a few weeks, he would return to Town on impulse as well. He had even talked a month before about wanting to join an expedition to search for a passage to the North Pole. Complete foolishness, but fortunately that idea had only lasted a day or two. Bingley liked the dream of travel and adventure more than the actuality.
Bingley was a good man and Darcy appreciated his easiness, his openness and the ductility of his temper, which was so different from his own, but sometimes he felt as if Bingley were a child and he were a hundred years older.
Miss Bingley intervened. “But you, Mr. Darcy, are a man of learning. I don’t think you would be happy to spend your days merely socializing, whether in Town or here in the country.”
“No, you are right. I miss my books.” In truth, he had come to Netherfield to consider his future. He had recently finished medical training in Edinburgh and had passed his examinations. Technically he could practise medicine as a physician, but Pemberley and Georgiana were waiting for him. There was so much he could do with his life, he needed to determine what he should do.
“How can you miss your books when you brought a trunk filled with them?” Bingley said. “Surely you cannot read fifty books at once.”
“No, but I might want to refer to them.”
Miss Bingley said, “I believe Pemberley has the most delightful library.” She had visited Pemberley the year before and often sang its praises.
Darcy said, “It ought to be good. It has been the work of many generations.”
“And then you have added so much to it yourself. You are always buying books.”
“I cannot comprehend the neglect of a family library in such days as these.”
“Neglect! I am sure you neglect nothing that can add to the beauties of that noble place.”
Darcy did not comment, for he knew he had neglected his home, partly from the wish to avoid painful memories. There was too much at home to remind him of his father’s weaknesses and Wickham. Vaguely he listened as Miss Bingley stopped flattering him and began to tease her brother, encouraging him to use Pemberley as his model for the home he would someday build.
Darcy thought about Pemberley and his obligations as Master. He knew he must return home and eventually he must marry. He was old enough and would need an heir. Over the past summer he had considered several of the debutants as possible candidates. Unfortunately, he had overheard the most promising young woman talking about him to one of her friends.
The friend said, “Mr. Darcy is handsome, but have you seen the scar on his neck?”
The young woman shuddered. “Yes. Some of it.”
It was normally hidden by his cravat.
“Horrifying,” the friend agreed. “But I suppose ten thousand pounds a year makes up for it.”
The young woman laughed. “If I do marry him, I will make him wear a neckcloth to bed.”
Darcy could not help but wonder how many other women felt the same.
As a young man he had learned quickly that the possessions most esteemed by his fellow creatures were: high and unsullied descent united with riches. Through a quirk of fate, he was blessed with both. A man might be respected with only one, like Bingley, but without either, a man was often considered dross.
Darcy inwardly railed against the injustice of society – was there no accommodation for talent and dedication?
He wished he were more like his father, able to accept each man as his equal, but it was not in his nature. He saw too clearly the vanity, pettiness and avarice of others.
Added to this was the curse of being a wealthy man – having to view all social interactions with suspicion. Darcy had few true friends, and those he had, like Bingley, were valued highly.
Eventually the conversation returned to that evening’s assembly. Bingley said he thought Miss Bennet was as beautiful as an angel.
Darcy thought his admiration excessive. He countered Bingley’s praise with the observation that she smiled too much.
“Perhaps she does,” Miss Bingley said. “But I still like her. I think she is a sweet girl, and I would not object to knowing her better.”
“Then you will call on her,” Bingley said hopefully.
“Yes, to be sure.”
Oh Bingley, Darcy thought as Bingley smiled happily. Do not fall in love again. It will not last.
Back to Chapter 2
Dear Reader: That’s it, that’s the end of Chapter Three. I hope you like it and that you are eager to read the rest! I had a great time writing this story – Cass