Darcy had but one purpose in being in Hertfordshire: to help his friend Charles Bingley in navigating the tricky waters of being the master of his own estate. The last thing he expected was to meet the woman whose nearness caused him to entertain ideas of what it would be like to know her as his wife.
At seven and twenty, Darcy had managed to avoid any entanglement that might give rise to an expectation of marriage. At first, it might be said that he took some comfort in the presumption that those who knew him best held that he would marry his cousin Miss Anne de Bourgh. However, when Anne herself began to entertain such notions, Darcy put an end to that by declaring to anyone who dared ask that such a union would never be. Anne took the information as well as could be expected; however the same could not be said of her mother, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. The older sister of his late mother, Lady Catherine insisted that it was the favorite wish of her sister that the two young people should be married.
Anne and Darcy were fashioned for each other at birth, she always pontificated. Even Darcy’s own words to the contrary were insufficient to douse her hopes that such a union would one day unfold. Oh, what a determined advocate Lady Catherine could be when she put her mind to it. Satisfied in the knowledge that his aunt’s wishes were not and would never be his own, Darcy simply pretended not to hear a word she spoke about his future marital prospects.
He took his responsibilities as a landlord, a master of hundreds, and an older brother and co-guardian of his younger sister, Miss Georgiana Darcy, quite seriously. Among those responsibilities was choosing the next mistress of Pemberley wisely.
The next thing he knew, the thought of how Miss Elizabeth Bennet would be received in London crossed his mind. Darcy could hardly fathom why he would be picturing Miss Elizabeth traveling in his sphere in town. Then again, there were places in town where tradesmen of means cavorted with the ton: the park, the shops, and the theater. He then began to wonder if, indeed, they had frequented some of the same places. Her only connection in London that he was aware of was the uncle who resided in Cheapside. Surely if there were other, more consequential, connections, she or her mother would have said something.
Speaking of her mother, there was a woman whom he barely tolerated. His intercourse with Mrs. Bennet had been marred by contentiousness. When he rightly pointed out how the company in town was far more varied than in such a small place as Meryton, she took umbrage, insisting that they regularly dined with four and twenty families. As insignificant a number as that was compared to the Society he was referring to, he did not see how it could even be that high. Arguing with the woman was hardly something he wanted to do. I have done quite enough of that with her beguiling daughter since her arrival.
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