Skep's Place


Chapter 18: Much Ado About Introductions

Elizabeth arrives at Mr. Bingley's ball dressed all sexy-like for the sole purpose of enticing Mr. Wickham, before realizing that Mr. Wickham might not have even been invited to the damn thing.

(She finds out later that, in fact, he was invited, but was either away on business, or using that as an excuse to avoid Mr. Darcy.)

Determined not to let this completely sour her evening, she instead hangs out with her friend Charlotte Lucas to tell her about all the ways that Mr. Collins is a ridiculous person. Of course, her mood sinks again when the very man she's lambasting comes by to cash in on the dances he requested last chapter, and Elizabeth soon finds that he is a truly atrocious dancer.

She's chatting with Charlotte again afterwards when Mr. Darcy approaches Elizabeth and asks her for a dance next. She is so stunned that she blindly accepts, and distresses about it afterward. Charlotte tries to cheer her up, saying he might not be so bad; but Elizabeth complains that him not being that bad would be a complete and utter tragedy, since she's so determined not to like the man.

The pair say nothing during the dance, until Elizabeth decides it would be more unpleasant for Darcy to force him to have a conversation. She even teases him when he doesn't immediately return her small talk.

"So you usually have a chat while dancing?" asks Darcy.

"Oh, it would be a bit odd to be silent the whole time, even if some people might prefer it," replies Elizabeth."

Darcy asks, "Do you mean you, or me?"

"Oh, both of us," jokes Elizabeth. "Since we're both grouchy, antisocial people who don't talk unless we're guaranteed to amaze everybody with how clever we sound."

Elizabeth then tries to press Mr. Darcy on his poor treatment of Mr. Wickham, which definitely flusters the man; but they get interrupted for a moment, after which Darcy says, "I forgot what we were talking about."

"I don't think we've been talking at all," Elizabeth barbs.

After Elizabeth shoots down his attempt to engage her in idle chatter about books, she probes his demeanor further, attempting to get him to indirectly admit that he was at least somewhat at fault for what he did to Mr. Wickham. However, he claims to be perfectly rational in his judgement of others (really, I don't know what she expected).

So she admits that she's puzzled by the varying opinions people have of him. He understands why the discrepancies might exist, but asks her not to render judgement on his character until she knows him better. She tells him that's likely to be never then, so he gets snarky and shuts down the conversation.

After the dance, Miss Bingley swings by to tell Elizabeth, hey, I heard you were swooning after Mr. Wickham, and I should probably let you know that he and Mr. Darcy have a history together. I don't know the details, but if Darcy dislikes him there's likely a good reason for it. I'd guess it's because Wickham is a filthy commoner who doesn't know proper behavior.

Elizabeth tells her, look, I've already heard the story, and Wickham is fine, so nyeeeah. To which Miss Bingley stomps off, saying, bitch, I was just trying to be nice.

After that, Elizabeth goes to hang out with Charlotte Lucas again when Mr. Collins approaches her and exclaims, I just found out the greatest thing! A nephew of Lady Catherine is here at this party tonight! I have to go say hello.

This nephew is, of course, Mr. Darcy, and Elizabeth tries to tell Mr. Collins that Darcy is not the kind of person you just walk up and introduce yourself to entirely out of the blue; especially since he has the higher social standing. But Mr. Collins tells her, if you were giving me advice on anything else I promise I would totally listen to you, but I'm way smarter than you on this, and I'm a member of the clergy, so social standing absolutely doesn't apply to me. Anyway, I'm going.

Elizabeth observes from the sidelines. It's like watching a train wreck.

Mr. Collins returns and reports, yeah, I'm pretty sure Darcy was happy to meet me.

At dinner, Elizabeth is seated near her mother, who spends the entire time talking about Jane and Mr. Bingley. Specifically, Mrs. Bennet boasts about how the inevitable marriage is going to benefit Jane, and herself, and the Bennets as a whole, laying out every stroke of fortune in great detail. This is, of course, incredibly tactless, and despite her efforts, Elizabeth is powerless to stop it. Naturally, Mr. Darcy is seated within earshot of all this.

Elizabeth's embarrassment continues after dinner, when Mary "Buzzkill" Bennet offers to play the piano for the crowd, with much the same energy as that one guy who pulls out a guitar at a house party. That is to say, the only person enthused about this is Mary herself.

After two songs that could be described as "tolerable" at best, Elizabeth shoots her father a look that says "shut her the hell up", and he does. Meanwhile, Mr. Collins orates incredibly loudly about how he would be willing to sing, too, if only he could—a speech which then somehow twists into "anyway, that's why it's totally okay to introduce yourself to a family connection out of nowhere."

So Elizabeth is feeling pretty salty about her family's behavior this evening, with the one silver lining being that Jane and Mr. Bingley had been too into each other all night to notice anything else; and she can't even enjoy the dancing because she has to pretend not to be interested to shoot down Mr. Collins' advances. Her only relief is when Charlotte Lucas drops by and is able to actually hold a conversation with the man.

The ball drags on to the point of the Bennets overstaying their welcome, a ploy by Mrs. Bennet. She invites Mr. Bingley over for dinner any time, an invitation that Mr. Bingley is grateful to accept, once he gets back from his business trip in London.

On the ride home, Mrs. Bennet is pleased as punch thinking how she'll have Jane married off to Bingley soon, and Elizabeth to Collins as well.

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