A Dishonorable Offer

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A Dishonorable Offer A Dishonorable Offer

by Timothy Underwood

Genre: Other2

Published: 2016

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Elizabeth's and Jane’s future looked bleak: Mama had wasted her money after Papa died, and Lydia married a blacksmith. Now they were barely seen as gentlewomen, but Elizabeth refused to ever let herself be unhappy. She still believed they would marry for love.
Darcy's uncle had been an exemplary guardian after Father died, but it was annoying how he insisted Darcy always keep a mistress. He pushed a new woman on Darcy every single time Darcy grew bored and ended an affair. Not again. This time he'd find his own woman. He wanted a woman he could talk and laugh with. Someone like the vivacious Miss Elizabeth. But even though her family had fallen far, he did not believe she would accept the only arrangement he could offer...From the Author
This is another romantic comedy like The Return, but I think it is even funnier. But Elizabeth is in a fairly terrible position, and while she forces herself to be bright and happy, beneath that is the worry about Jane and the future:
As always, Darcy counted how many dances he participated in, and he at last fulfilled his promise to his uncle to always dance half of sets.
Now for his favorite ballroom pastime -- staring at paintings.
Darcy's occupation as a wall ornament required some art: if he just watched the dance, people walking around the edge of the room stopped to talk to him. Instead he found a good painting or sculpture and stand with a heavy frown staring at it while stroking his chin. If a particularly obnoxious person approached, he faced the opposite direction and started humming.
Often Darcy actually studied the painting, sometimes he watched the people milling about or listened to the music; most frequently he would simply think.
A well-equipped mind never faced true boredom, except in the presence of others.
The walls of Meryton's assembly hall had no interesting decorations, and while he did not look directly at her, Darcy's attention was drawn to a young woman who sat near. She was pretty, but not near so very pretty as the girl Bingley danced with first. It was not her beauty which drew his eye, there was something in her expression and manner that was interesting.
She seemed caught by some melancholy deeper than unhappiness over not having a partner. Her face went through odd changes: she at first sat down with an unhappy huff, paying no attention to Darcy, who stood just a few feet away in apparent deep perusal of the brushstrokes used to capture George III's nose.
Her eyebrows were tightly drawn together, and she looked forlorn and close to tears. There was something so fetching in the cast of her cheeks that Darcy felt a desire to protect and help her, and he seriously considered seeking out an introduction so that he might have an opportunity to cheer her up through flirtation and conversation.
She leaned her head against the wall and closed her eyes. Her hairstyle was simple, none of the complicated woven flowers and intertwined braiding that fashionable women preferred. Just a simple bun and curls. Her hair was a vibrant healthy brown and it half covered her pretty ears. She had a pert nose.
A soft smile crossed her face, and for a little she was the very image of peaceful repose. There was something in her face that seemed made more for smiles and happiness than frowns. She was unfashionably freckled and tanned. Bit by bit the smile faded away into a hard frown. She breathed more heavily, and her color rose. Then she sighed and tried to smile again, but it did not hold and her full lips turned down into a frown.
Darcy wanted to convince her it would be all right.
Then she reached a resolution and sat straight. She formed her hand into a delicate fist and shook it at whatever troubled her.
Absorbed in watching the unguarded behavior of the girl, Darcy had not noticed Bingley's approach.
His friend loudly said something, and Darcy startled and turned to Bingley with a severe frown. "Why do you bother me?"
"The night is barely half done -- you must dance again. Are not my neighbors grand people?"
"Leave me alone -- earlier you danced with the prettiest creature in the room, ask her for another dance, and let me enjoy myself in my own manner."
Bingley shook his head. "Caroline discovered her connections; they are very low."
"You still have no reason to bother me."
"Be sensible, man! There are so many deuced pretty girls here -- what might I say to convince you to dance more?"
"I do not enjoy the art."
"But ladies enjoy it when you practice the art. By Gad, I wish I were as tall as you."
Darcy shrugged, and the tilt of his shoulders expressed a smug self-satisfaction.
"It is astonishing. You look precisely like your uncle Matlock when you do that."
"I do pattern myself off him."
"Aha! He would dance again -- a very pretty girl sits behind us. Ask her."
Darcy hesitated. He looked at the girl again, openly this time.
She turned her eyes towards him, and their gazes met. Her eyes were a deep brown. There was something in them... Darcy felt as though he was obliged -- or maybe he wished -- to do something for her. He kept the girl's eyes and grinned at her. It was a smile Derwent and Richard had drilled into him, one which showed both of his dimples. "She is a remarkably lovely girl. One more dance tonight might be possible."
Her cheeks reddened, and she met his eye with a confused half smile. Darcy's heart beat faster, and he felt the familiar tendrils of desire. He hadn't known a woman for three months.
Darcy called one of the local notables to come over. "Sir William! Introduce us to this delightful young lady."
She had stood and approached them cautiously. The dress swayed around her, and left her rounded elbows bare. Her head only reached to the top of Darcy's chest. "Mr. Darcy, may I present Miss Elizabeth Bennet? She is the cousin of my son-in-law, Mr. Collins."
Darcy took her warm hand in its white glove. "Might I hope the gentlemen of this assembly have been such fools as to leave you an open slot in your dance card? For else my evening shall be ruined by my foolishness in not securing the hand of such a goddess."
"You certainly can hope that I have a free dance," Miss Elizabeth replied with a lively smile. "But as for the discovery, I must hear you beg before I can say."
Darcy grinned into her bright eyes, and then she blushed and looked down. "I mean to say: yes, my card is mostly empty. I am free for the next dance."
"Are you certain you do not need me to beg?"
She looked back up at him and puffed one of her round cheeks out with her tongue. With her eyes smiling, she adopted a serious expression and nodded slowly. "I think you must beg."
"Miss Elizabeth, your loveliness has knocked my soul to the ground, your eyes with their lovely color like that of the richest chocolate, they have pierced me through the breast." Darcy tapped on his chest and looked down. "Hmmm. I'd expected to see blood. Could you look to make sure you do not see any."
Miss Elizabeth giggled and peered closely at his coat and the bottom of his gleaming neck cloth. "I believe it was just a metaphor. I can see no blood. It is fortuitous for you, but it would have been a great distinction for me if I'd killed a gentleman with merely a glance."
About the Author
I am from California and have been reading Pride and Prejudice fan fiction for a while. I first discovered Pride and Prejudice on a long day of travel out of Mexico as a teenager. I recall being very impressed with myself for getting the jokes. I constantly read nineteenth century literature that year, of which Austen and Charlotte Bronte, of course, were my favorites. It was years later that I discovered and repeatedly binge read Pride and Prejudice fan fiction. Now I am adding to the collection available for future binge readers to binge upon. 

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