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While Jane nurses her cold at Netherfield with her sister at her side, an unseasonably warm afternoon and a banquet out of doors leads to the fruition of Mr. Darcy's desires... in his heart, in his mind.

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In His Heart, In His Mind
by Lisa L

On the southern side of Netherfield, agreeably close to the manicured gardens and distant enough from the building to be situated in a natural environ, the servants had erected a marquee. It rivalled those of royalty; in fact, the same craftsman that fashioned the King's had made it for the owner of Netherfield. It was a replica of those used in the summer to grace the grounds at Windsor where this season, owing to the King being indisposed, the Prince Regent had hosted all the entertainment.

The marquee complemented its surrounding with understated style. The heavy cloth, a lovely shade matching the flesh of a ripe pistachio, was trimmed with thick white edging. The four sturdy posts that anchored the structure were wrapped in the same fabric with an elaborate tassel hanging from each corner. A peak at the top was created by converging curves that swept up, with just the right arc to please the most discerning eye, and soared into the cloudless sky. A triangular flag that fluttered sporadically capped it and scalloped edges ringed the perimeter, serving to finish the design with just the right amount of flair.

It was decidedly not the time of year for outdoor dining, and yet this did not deter Miss Bingley. The rainstorm that had struck down Miss Bennet with such a terrible cold had retreated and in its wake had followed several days of unseasonably warm weather. Having discovered the marquee only the week before, in her capacity as hostess for her brother, Miss Bingley had thought it would be a pleasant diversion to make use of. And she had been correct. Plans for a midday meal out of doors had begun. A mild Friday greeted them and steadfastly remained to offer a most welcome gift of clear pale blue sky and autumn's turning colours.

All in all, it was tranquil aspect and the event had proven to be a success.

Under the canopy, spread out along a suitable table, which two stout men had carried from the breakfast-room, sat the remnants of the elaborate meal. Haunch of venison and saddle of beef, local fowl and hare, puddings and tarts were still expertly arranged and left mostly untouched. Enough food had been laid out to feed a large party, but in fact the only people lunching today at Netherfield had been the tenant and his houseguests. And, though all had finished their meal, the attendants still hovered about, alternately standing silent guard or taking care of some imaginary task of importance.

In the aftermath, those who had partaken could not but be pleased and once they were sated their thoughts turned to other diversion. It was decided an excursion across the park was in order but one in their party was content to remain and enjoy another cup of tea. No amount of inducement upon the part of a particularly persistent lady could persuade him otherwise. So, while the others trekked across the wide lawn and disappeared around an untamed copse, striking out on an afternoon exploration to the farthest reaches of the property, Mr. Darcy settled more deeply into his comfortable chair.

Once he was free of the confines that certain members of their group were disposed to create, his mind quickly shifted to the chase, embarking on that which he did not intentionally seek. The hunt took him on an imaginary expedition through the rooms of Netherfield, where he bounded up the stairs and continued on until he reached the closed door of Miss Bennet's room.

Confined to her sickbed, the young lady had not been able to join them this afternoon; consequently neither had Miss Elizabeth Bennet, who chose to stay by her sister's side. He hesitated, savouring the anticipation of knowing she was only just out of reach, before he slowly raised his hand to rap firmly on the heavy obstacle. When Miss Elizabeth opened the door, her surprise was an inviting smile that spilled over and stoked the fire already burning in his heart. A low enquiry after her sister's health was followed by an application for her to step out into the hall. In his mind, she accepted as easily as he spoke. Generalities led to specifics and as they took a turn and then another around the vast hallways of Netherfield, conversation flowed and individual ideas were keenly compared. They sparred playfully and drew closer from the privacy of the tÍte-ŗ-tÍte. The seclusion of the empty corridors suited them both and they charmed each other without the pretence that often accompanies such an endeavour.

This was how it was, in his mind. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Reality left Darcy in equal parts paralysed by her presence and his feelings. He welcomed neither but desired both.

It was purely by chance that Miss Elizabeth had happened to stay at Netherfield and the occasion of her being in the household gripped his rational thinking. With increasing regularity, she succeeded in twisting and tying his emotions into nothing more than an inflamed rash of confusion. The reticent-natured man more often than not retreated into gloomy silence, for she circumscribed his ability to act normally. He regularly felt the fool. The possibility existed to meet her at any moment; he never knew when he might turn a corner and find her there. While it had never been often enough to suit, when chance provided the occasion, he proved himself a useless mess and would excuse himself abruptly. Darcy could not secure a peaceful outlook even with his removal from her immediate company; as soon as he had quitted it he began to plan how he might engage it again.

Despite his inability to act rationally, his judgement did not fail him in one regard. He knew he was in some real and serious jeopardy. His desire for her grew as surely as each elaborate meal was served, with extravagant punctuality, at Netherfield. Miss Elizabeth Bennet was conquering where others of her sex had suffered only defeat. Her methods had been delicately subtle and brazenly palpable; Darcy had been overrun by the singular qualities that defined her.

And, therein lay his trouble. For who she was made it an impossible situation. She was inferior by every standard: her family; her upbringing; her education and her rank all testified of it being so. It would be a degradation in the eyes of his family and his peers to make such an alliance. He could view it no differently. Giving her all the benefit he could, she still could be judged as nothing more than the daughter of a lowly country gentleman. By definition, she had little to offer. In his mind he knew it was not a good match. Miss Elizabeth Bennet was not suitable to be his wife.

His wife. This last thought brought Darcy up short. His sipped his tea, for his throat suddenly felt parched. He firmly believed his feelings were entirely out of hand and steadfastly resolved that he simply could not react this way. Understanding that his disciplined judgement should help him to overcome such inclinations, he sipped his tea again, trying to wash away the love in his heart. It refused his attempt and Darcy succeeded today as he had all the other days. He failed miserably.

Defeated, he breathed in deeply, filling his lungs with the fresh country atmosphere. With a rising breeze, the smells of turning leaves crackled in winter's approach. This time of year had its own special fragrances that he enjoyed. Sitting in quiet contemplation, he isolated the musky, dying scents, mentally ticking each one off. He was doing quite well until he came to roses.

Roses! His stomach quaked and he could not move. Darcy breathed in again, confirming his nose was not mistaken before he roused himself, stood and turned, knowing full well whom it was even before he looked behind him. Not ten paces away was Miss Elizabeth. Setting down his cup and saucer, he greeted her with all the poise he could manage. After a deep bow, he said, "Miss Bennet, what a delightful surprise."

"Mr. Darcy." When she rose from her curtsey, she said, "I do apologize for interrupting you. I had thought that I would find Mr. Bingley and his sisters here. But I see they have already left."

Miss Bennet made no move to come under the marquee so Darcy went to her before she could leave. "In fact, they have only begun a turn around the park. But please, that must not keep you from joining me. You may tell me of your sister and, I hope, her improvement."

The hesitation in her response was barely perceptible; she looked at the marquee and back to him. Her eyes were ambiguous and unreadable. He gestured towards the picturesque situation and waited expectantly until she proceeded in the direction of the tented shade. As Darcy stepped aside to allow her to pass, his detection of roses was secondary to another element: a heightened colour spreading on her face. In his frequently cloaked appraisals of Miss Bennet, he had noticed this rather persistent trait and its importunate affect upon him. He was moved to reach out and brush his fingertips across her cheek so he might draw in her warmth.

Owing that this would be entirely inappropriate, instead he pulled out a chair and helped her to sit, lingering for a moment under the spell of her proximity. His motions to the staff to have tea served were pointless; a man was already setting out fresh service for two.

As Darcy eased into a seat next to her, he was rewarded by a feminine routine that, whether it was understood by the lady or not, demonstrated a degree of provocativeness. He first witnessed the removal of her heavy gloves. One at a time she pulled, gently but surely on each finger, exposing a little more with each tug until the leather slipped fluidly off to leave her delicate wrist and hand uncovered. Her skin was creamy and smooth, like a pitcher of fresh milk on his breakfast tray, and from the movement of her willowy fingers, he concluded that they would feel as supple as they looked. The picture they presented corresponded perfectly with the gentleman's ideal. As he watched, she repeated the process with her freed hand doing the work. The alluring appeal when they were both uncovered and under his careful inspection was not lost to Darcy. Coupled with his free-flowing imagination, the display was wholly unsettling to him.

He looked away to escape its affect, only to see her womanly hands still before him instead of the fallow meadow beyond. Since the true articles were superior to those in his imagination, he focused on Miss Bennet again and another striking vision was granted. She was untying the satin ribbon of her bonnet. As she worked with the tie, tucked up under her chin, tiny bones under her skin could be seen dancing in time with her nimble fingers. Once removed, it became apparent that her bonnet had pulled some wavy hair loose and she engaged in tucking it back into place. One weightless strand avoided her efforts. Darcy was privy to Miss Bennet softly stroking the back of her neck to catch the errant bit stubbornly grazing against it.

Finally all was put into place, but by the time she had finished Darcy's heart was pounding at a furious pace. All he could think of was his profound desire to kiss either, or preferably both, of her hands and, without question, the spot where her hair had been resting along her neck.

She caught Darcy's eye. "Sir, you look as if you have just seen a ghost. As I have never heard any tales about the haunting of Netherfield Manor, I hope that I am wrong."

After a deep breath, he answered, "No indeed, Miss Bennet, I was simply enjoying the view."

"So, the rural environment captivates you, Mr. Darcy?" A ray of a smile accented the pert inclination of her head, indicating the lady chose to question his declaration.

Seeing her thus, something overcame Darcy. He boldly held her gaze. "I have a great appreciation for well laid grounds and the wilds of nature, but in this case I was referring to something entirely different." He risked a longer look.

Holding the saucer in one delicate hand, she fluidly lifted the cup with the other and took her first sip of tea. Over the rim she asked, "Can I persuade you to enlighten me?"

All he saw was the intensity in her eyes. "Must I? Do you not know?" He crossed his leg, shifting towards her before he answered with a leisurely question, "Certainly you could not think me immune to the company of a handsome young woman?"

As his remark was left hanging, a shrouded expression came over her. As quickly as it appeared, it vanished and the rising colour he observed moments ago returned, stirring him again. "Now sir, do not think for a moment that such flattery has any effect on me."

"That I would never do, Miss Bennet. I was merely stating a fact. Your intelligence would never make allowances for such obvious devices."

A quiet reply came from the lady. "I thank you for your compliment."

Nothing could please Darcy more than an easing of formalities between them. Something simple and quite proper, but nevertheless a step in a more personal direction than they had previously shared. His mind told him he could not but his heart told him he must, so he continued, "If I were to seek your approval, I believe I would be more successful by emphasising my integrity and intelligence. But, if that strategy proved ineffectual, I am afraid I would have no choice but to resort to more devious means."

Miss Bennet was incredulous and could not hide her amazement at his words, which were both generous and curiously suggestive. "Mr. Darcy, I believe you are teasing me now."

"Perhaps I am just being devious."

Miss Bennet sat quite still after he spoke, looking astonished, bewildered and finally diverted by his statement. Darcy congratulated himself. So far he had avoided saying anything trivial or dull. Nor had he been crushed by the enormity of his feelings and given into the urge to retreat. He had made progress. It was a successful five minutes.

After he made the proper inquiries about Miss Jane Bennet's recovery, they sat in happy silence, sipping their tea and viewing the park until, from the coppice directly opposite, a startled flock of doves rose and took flight. As Darcy followed their path into the fresh shadows of the afternoon, he saw Miss Bennet studying him.

She was doing so out of the corner of her eye, as if to conceal her action. With his attention focused on the birds, he reacted to her curiosity. His face lit up in a special way that was never revealed to strangers. When he turned, Darcy was displaying a smile that he shared only with those he was closest to. And while their relationship could not be defined in such terms, this was the wish in his heart. Her lips barely parted to take in a quick breath as her eyes travelled over his features. She regarded him frankly, transfixed for an extended time, before her modesty required her to direct her eyes to some other attraction. But, the lure of him in such unguarded repose was too engaging for the lady, it would seem, for no sooner had she looked towards the pond than she returned her attention to him.

So they sat in open consideration of each other, without disguise and possibly for the first time without any of the disturbing undercurrents that had run deeply between them before this unexpected meeting. But there was a bounty of sensations coursing through him, and Darcy sensed the same was true for her. As he observed her in profile, he noticed a tiny vein at the base of her neck; it was pulsating erratically, beating in time with her heart. If that were not enough, the rise and fall of her breast, another of Miss Bennet's qualities that that he had spent considerable time silently assessing, had intensified dramatically. She was affected. There could be no doubt.

The exchange had severely moved him too. Its memory was to be treasured, locked away and taken out to relive over and over. When Miss Bennet turned toward the repeated cry of the doves, Darcy glanced in his cup to confirm it held only tea, for he felt the effects of a fine brandy and he revelled in the knowledge that it was Miss Bennet who intoxicated him.

Wisely, he reasoned it best to steer them onto a safer course. Perhaps later, if the mood continued, it might be fitting to divulge what was in his heart, for what was in his mind had been completely forgotten, but it would not do to allude to it now. Belatedly he realized an oversight on his part. "Miss Bennet, I assumed at this hour you would have taken lunch. I apologise. Would you care to eat?"

"Do not trouble yourself sir, I ate earlier with my sister."

"Then I am most fortunate that I did not cause you any inconvenience."

They both inspected the array of food watched over by the footmen. She broke into his thoughts, "Miss Bingley arranged an elaborate lunch today. And in such an agreeable setting."

"Miss Bingley seems to have much free time on her hands. This affords her the luxury of planning a meal with the complexity of a major campaign." He glanced to his left, and saw her stifling a smile. "I meant no disrespect. It is an accomplishment for a lady to produce such a lavish display."

"Of this sort."

"Indeed. Displays of other sorts would have to be judged on their individual merit."

"One cannot suspend the opportunity for someone like Miss Bingley to partake of creative endeavours that are intended to please and delight."

"But one must exert caution in encouragement, for if it were not this, I am afraid she would direct her talents with considerable enthusiasm to something else, which might require the participation of others. And that may not be so pleasing or delightful," Darcy disclosed, looking at a boar's head with a crown of thyme and an apple stuffed in its mouth.

"Mr. Darcy," ventured Miss Bennet, still taking in all there was to see on the table, "The display in the centre has me most curious. I cannot identify some of the fruits. Would you be so kind?"

"Nothing would please me more." It was an ample selection, heaped to the same dramatic effect that might be painted by a Dutch master. While Darcy had enjoyed each variety many times before, he was sensitive to her inexperience with the more exotic selections. A word from him and the man closest to the mountain of fruit lifted the polished tray, and with concentrated effort carried it over and placed in front of them. One dry, brown and rather hairy large ball rolled off the tray and towards the lady. She was delighted and retrieved it immediately, turning it in every direction.

"Have you ever tasted cocoanut?"

"No sir I have not." The sparkle in her eyes suggested she might like to and Darcy excused himself, went over to a tall exhibit on the table, made a selection from a raised dish and had a man follow him back with a small tartlet on a plate. The baked confection was set before her. Miss Bennet stared at it.

"The meat of the fruit has been shredded and made into a sweet custard-type filling."

"Do you recommend it, Mr. Darcy?" she asked, swivelling the plate to study it from all angles.

"I find the way Bingley's cook has prepared it to be delicious. But, you must judge for yourself."

"So I shall," and without delaying her curiosity any further Darcy watched her take a cautious bite. It was consumed slowly and deliberately. When she was done she announced, "This is especially nice, I will take care not doubt you again."

"You astonish me, Madam! I am wounded. I cannot fathom you ever doubting me, but if you have, pray allow me to ease your concerns while we are together today." It was said in jest, as their repartee had developed into a comfortable vein, so when she looked up quickly as if she had been caught going through his correspondence, Darcy's toes curled in his shiny boots. He said in all seriousness, "Miss Bennet, there is not a hint of trickery or cunning in my desire to earn your approval. It is my wish that we be friends."

His compliment was not lost on her as he was thanked and assured that she would welcome the same. As she took a second bite, she offered him another bewildered look. And then it happened. She seemed to confirm how affected she was when she glanced downwards, appearing almost embarrassed. When she looked up again, he was certain an expression of affection had appeared. It became her, bringing a lush serenity to her manner, as if all she had required to complete her had just been discovered. Had he not been utterly enticed by Miss Bennet before, he was completely done in now.

Darcy gazed at her until his question broke an unbelievable interlude, only to create another. "Friends, then?" It was meant as much more, a tentative gesture of what was in his heart. She nodded her head. And the unspoken moment, so new and so different to anything between them before, was savoured in the extraordinary afternoon.

After they silently composed themselves, Darcy followed her interest to a pineapple that was the centrepiece of the arrangement. "And, you are familiar with the pineapple?" He assumed she would be. Its appearance in England dated back more than two centuries although, until recently it had been a rare commodity whose status had been raised to symbolize royal privilege. Darcy knew the one before them to have come from a hothouse in Cornwall, for he had arranged its delivery to Netherfield himself.

"I have only seen one in pictures."

It was at this point he preferred to close the gap between them, so without ceremony, he inched his chair closer until he no longer had to speak at his normal level. From this point their conversation adopted the tones of a furtive affair, wrapped in secrecy for no other reason than it fitted perfectly the mood at the table. "It is very ripe now. The strong yellow colour underneath the brown and the fragrance indicates it is ready to eat."

Darcy was prepared to demolish the intricate composition to allow Miss Bennet a closer inspection of the prickly fruit but he heard her protest not far from his ear, and stopped the man just before the pineapple was extracted. "It is quite unnecessary to ruin the display, Mr. Darcy."

"But how else will you taste it? It can be cut up directly." He cared not that it was Mrs. Hurst's favourite, and that he had been petitioned to send for it as a special favour to Miss Bingley so she might surprise her sister on her birthday. He knew there were more in the crate it arrived in.

"I do not have to taste it."

"I will only suspend your pleasure if you make me a promise."

"And that would be?" She looked deeply into his dark eyes.

"That if you are unable to dine with the party tonight, you will join me for dessert afterward so you have the opportunity to try it."

"I will do my best, Mr. Darcy."

"That is not the promise I would wish to hear, Miss Bennet." He motioned to the man to go after the pineapple again as he added, "I daresay, you would be depriving me of no little enjoyment."

She conceded by placing her hand on his arm. "Very well, I promise. I will join you, at the very least, for dessert." Before he could inflict any damage, the man with the knife was waved away with Darcy's free hand, for nothing less than the movement of heaven and earth would have caused him to disturb Miss Bennet's hand as it rested upon him. "However, I think I have just seen the devious side that you spoke of earlier."

"Surely not, Miss Bennet!" He shared another smile, pausing as long as he felt he could before he said, "Now, what of this?" There would be only one thing better than having Miss Bennet's hand resting on his arm. He removed it and, plucking a long, yellowish fruit that narrowed at each end from a large bunch, placed it in her palm. "Do you know of the banana?"

"I believe you have me at an advantage, sir."

"This," he emphasised, cupping her hand in both of his, "comes from Jamaica, one of the Caribbean Islands." Darcy could see from her reaction that she was not ignorant to these places any more than she was of the affect his hold on her hand had upon them both. Since he had taken possession of it, everything he said, already intimate, was now barely a whisper. "You must break the top open," he explained, "and peel back the heavy outer layer to get to the soft flesh inside." He looked at her, waiting for her to try. But, she could do nothing unless he gave her back her hand.

When he did, Darcy nearly forgot himself as each measured motion of her willowy hands divested the banana of its covering.

"How does one go about eating it?"

Shaking off his thoughts, he told her, "Ah well, the natives would simply use their hands." Another gesture by Darcy brought a man over with a bowl and several utensils while another arrived with a tray of condiments. "Bananas may be eaten raw. But to do so requires the accompaniment of sugar and cream, or perhaps wine or juice." Darcy took over serving the lady and approved of her preference for wine. He poured and watched her cut and eat a piece. "Perhaps tonight I will introduce you to a banana marmalade as well."

"Mr. Darcy, you may well raise the curiosity of some members of the party with your sudden interest in my eating habits."

"And, what of your curiosity in the matter, Miss Bennet?"

"Well, I suspect you to receive some gratification in satisfying my curiosity." Darcy was fully distracted by her innocent remark. His duty as a gentleman was momentarily forgotten and he reacted as any man violently in love and painfully aware of his innermost desires; he took her statement completely out of context and he gratified himself in doing so. Exactly, he thought archly, as Miss Bennet suggested.

But such diversions would not do in the company of a lady. "I have yet to receive an answer. Pray madam, have you taken to being devious as well? I cannot say what might happen if we were both inclined to such a similar tendency."

"I think that highly unlikely Mr. Darcy. I have always supposed you and I to be quite different in nature."

She had partaken of all she wished and it seemed opportune that Darcy should apply to prolong their time alone. "Miss Bennet, it is a superior afternoon for this time of the year. Would you do me the honour of accompanying me on a walk? I discovered a charming stream in the midst of the wych elms," he gestured to the statuesque grove that soared above the rowan, which was heavy with late red berries of the season. "We might use the time to acquaint ourselves better. We could," he leaned even closer, "compare both our similarities and our differences. I venture that some of the distinctions that set us apart are the very things that might bring us closer together."

A thrill rushed through Darcy at her acceptance. He watched her put on her bonnet and carefully tie it under her chin. Stepping away from the marquee and the protection it provided, Darcy noticed the first waning signs of the day's warmth. His arm was offered and accepted. No sooner had Miss Bennet's hand linked through and rested upon him than he instinctively covered it with his own. The sensation of her bare hand against his, being granted silent consent to possess it, was too much for Darcy. He tucked his arm closer to his side, drawing her to him. Her willowy fingers tightened around his arm in reply.

With that fleeting action on his part and her response in return, Darcy halted their progress. He was compelled to disclose his love for her but he could not find the words to express what was in his heart. His nerves had triumphed over him yet again. He merely stood there in silence.

"Mr. Darcy?"

"Miss Bennet," his dulcet voice replied. Her face was upturned and he saw that the breeze had blown loose a fine curly strand that rested on her cheek. As he brushed it from her face, Darcy leaned towards her, his intent perfectly clear.

"Mr. Darcy," came her hushed voice as her eyes fluttered closed.

"Miss Bennet," he breathed against her lips before they were startled out of their reverie by the wild explosion of the doves from the shrubbery just next to them. They broke apart before they had really come together, a most disappointing first attempt to act upon matters of the heart.

"Miss Bennet," he repeated, saying the first thing he could think of. Taking note of her free hand rubbing against her skirt, he offered, "It will only get cooler as we walk. Please, allow me to fetch your gloves." They both looked down where his hand had returned to cover hers, without either endeavouring to alter the situation. It seemed neither was of a mind to act upon his suggestion, for the practical course was not the most rewarding.

"Oh, thank you,' she said half-heartedly, "All thought of my gloves had vanished."

Darcy lightly squeezed her hand and looked once more into the eyes before he excused himself, hurrying back up to the marquee. He went directly to where she had set her gloves. The heavy leather ones. They were not there. He searched the length of the table. They were gone. Darcy immediately vowed to get to the bottom of the matter. The servants were questioned. And questioned again. Were he a different sort of man, he might have been taken as a prankster or possibly a drunkard. But he was not known to lean in either of these directions, so his meaning was lost to them.

He looked back to where they had been sitting. All was cleared away and the servants were removing any evidence of the meal. When he petitioned them about his tea, a fresh cup was brought out, an erroneous assumption that he wanted another. His demand to see the old cups produced a small degree of pandemonium. Eventually one was presented on a tray. Only one. He was told there were no more used cups.

The arrangement of fruit stood in the same spot on the table from the breakfast-room, where it had been all during the unusual afternoon. Nothing had been touched. Nothing had been removed. All the bananas were accounted for.

The only certain confirmation that the servants could make was that they had not seen Miss Bennet's gloves. Or her teacup. Or her cocoanut tartlet.

Or the lady herself.

Striding back towards where he had left Miss Bennet, at a pace that would challenge his best mare, he saw that she was gone. He paused in the growing shadows of the leafless maples. Undeterred, he looked in every direction, taking in each view of the park but she could not be found. Miss Bennet had disappeared. As the fallen maple leaves were lifted in the breeze and swirled in a fiery pool at his feet, Darcy could not recall feeling more dejected in the whole of his life. The waning afternoon had turned bitter. As if to confirm this, the wind changed course and blew from the north, sending a disturbing chill through him

He knew, in his mind, what was passionately being denied in his heart.

In an upstairs room of the manor, a figure had pulled aside the curtain and was framed by the rich fabrics that dressed the window. As she took in the scene below her, she absently stroked the back of her neck with her willowy hand, as if she were catching a weightless strand of her hair grazing along her neck. She spotted Mr. Darcy and watched as he apparently searched for someone. He seemed to be distressed; he looked all around the park. After a while he gave up and began walking back towards the fashionable marquee on the lawn. But his manner was altered to what Miss Bennet knew; she would presume him to have been direly disappointed. His carriage was not that which she had come to expect in the proud man. His shoulders were slumped. Even without being able to see into his eyes, she knew he was experiencing some degree of anguish. She was not devoid of feeling, even for the arrogant gentleman. Were she closer she might have offered him some solace. But, she reasoned, his trouble had nothing to do with her and Mr. Darcy would want his private business to remain just that. So, she concluded it was for the best that she was upstairs with Jane. With her hair repaired, the lady turned away and let the draperies drop back into place as she returned to her sister.

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