Elinor Dashwood was confused. She had thought that she and the General were quite good friends, she knew they could never be anything else, after all. The younger son of an Earl, one of the youngest generals, could not marry a penniless woman. She'd been amused by Georgiana's attempts to extract information subtly. She was not prepared for what resulted. She wasn't sure which of them noticed her partiality -- and if even Marianne had been surprised by her attachment to Edward, why could she not hide this! -- but they'd gone on a ride together and whatever they'd spoken of had caused the General to alter his manner to her. Before he had seemed quite comfortable talking to her, though he did not appear to flirt with her as he did the other ladies. Now, however, he appeared to be avoiding her. She saw him only at meals and after dinner, though he did his best to keep his distance.
She realised what was happening when she went through her portfolio, looking for paper to draw on. She came across a portrait of Edward and, as she turned it over to assess whether the back could be used for another drawing, she could not help comparing the General with him. Suddenly his behaviour made sense. She had told Georgiana about Edward's thoughtless selfishness and she'd shared the story with the General. Regardless of how much it hurt, the fact that he would do what he could to prevent raising her hopes gave her some comfort.
Naturally the rest of the party had noticed his behaviour. The gentlemen were occasionally amused by it, but generally let it pass without comment. Most of the ladies were kind enough not to mention it, communicating their sympathy through looks. Georgiana was distressed every time she noticed and was heard remarking that this was not what she had meant.
Only Miss Bingley felt the need to comment on it, and of course she chose to do so during the after-dinner separation of the sexes. "Why, Miss Dashwood, what have you done to upset General Fitzwilliam? He positively avoids your company now."
"Does he? I was not aware of any change in his behaviour."
"But there is a marked difference in the way he acts. Perhaps he noticed your attempts to draw him in?"
Elinor was pleased that Marianne was distracted by Georgiana at the piano, and chose to pretend not to understand her meaning. "In what? I was thinking charcoal would be best, though I know Jane thought I should try it in watercolours."
Miss Bingley pursed her lips and raised an eyebrow. "You mistake my meaning, Miss Dashwood."
"Oh I am sorry to hear that, Miss Bingley. What then did you mean?"
Louisa could see quite clearly where this was going and attempted to prevent her sister from continuing the conversation. Caroline ignored her, but now the attention of all the ladies had been drawn.
"I meant your paltry attempts to seduce him, of course."
Elinor laughed. "Seduce him? My dear Miss Bingley I would not know how to go about a seduction."
"You may deny it all you want. He knows what you are up to. It was clear to me from the beginning that he was trying to indicate his displeasure with your presumption, as I noticed that he was very careful not to flirt with you. What brazen behaviour you must have displayed in order for him now to so completely disdain your company!"
"Miss Bingley! How can you say such a thing?"
"Now, Georgiana, I know you're quite sheltered, but as your guardians will do nothing to protect you from these women, I will undertake that duty."
"Caroline, that is enough," her sister said. She might have saved her breath as Caroline paid not the slightest attention to her.
"Take Miss Eliza, for example. Your brother danced with her once and now she's followed him to his home in the hopes of entrapping him in a marriage."
She was wholly disconcerted when all the ladies laughed at her statement.
"Stop ascribing your motives to others, Miss Bingley," Lizzy said. "You are the only fortune hunter in the room."
Before Miss Bingley could respond they heard the approach of the gentlemen. They were rather disconcerted to walk into a completely silent room and only Bingley failed to notice the sour expression on his sister's face. The other gentlemen correctly deduced that they had interrupted an argument.
"It's awfully quiet in here," Bingley said jovially. "How about some music?"
"Perhaps a little later," Mrs Gardiner answered. "Miss Darcy had a lovely idea this morning, and now that we're all together we can discuss it."
"I did?" Miss Darcy asked.
"Yes. The picnic."
"Oh, yes! Please may we, brother?"
"I see no reason not to have a picnic if the weather is suitable. Did you have a particular spot in mind?"
"I do, though I'm not sure where it is. You know that watercolour Mother painted? I have never been to the spot and would very much like to go."
"It's a very pleasant spot," Darcy said. "We went quite a few times when Mother was alive. Do you remember Richard?"
"I do. And the walk there was lovely as well. I suppose we won't be able to go paddling in the lake, but we might do some fishing."
"It all sounds rather savage, if you ask me."
"But we didn't, Miss Bingley," the General responded immediately. "If you do not wish to join us I'm sure Darcy and Georgiana could have no objections to your remaining behind."
"Really. There's no need to be rude."
"I quite agree," Darcy said, glaring at his cousin.
Caroline was thrilled to have Darcy agreeing with her and preened.
"We will need to leave here shortly after breakfast, ten o'clock should be sufficient. I realise that is rather earlier than you are accustomed to, Miss Bingley, but Richard is right. Georgiana and I will not be offended if you choose not to join us."
She spluttered. "Surely there is no need to leave that early. And if a scheme does not meet the approval of the whole party I do not think it should be undertaken."
"Your objections have been noted," Darcy said, at the same time as his cousin grinned and retorted, "But it is necessary to leave that early. It's a two hour walk."
"Two hours! You cannot seriously expect me to walk for two hours for a mere picnic. Surely there is a more appropriate spot nearby."
"Really, Caroline," her sister said. "Miss Darcy clearly wants to go to this spot and if Mr Darcy and General Fitzwilliam could get there as children I'm sure you're capable of it."
Bingley had been looking increasingly uncomfortable with the argument and, hoping to settle the issue, addressed his sister. "What about your condition, Louisa?"
"The doctor told me to walk regularly, as it is very beneficial in these cases."
"Yes, but surely two hours is too much and you will be too fatigued to enjoy yourself?"
"No, brother. I may not be as accomplished a walker as Miss Elizabeth or Miss Marianne, but I am certainly capable of rambling at length."
"Perhaps Miss Bingley could ride?" Georgiana asked.
The others agreed that was a good solution, with the exception of the Hursts and the Bingleys.
"Well, Caroline?" Louisa asked.
She glared at her sister and ground out, "I am not able to ride."
"Really?" Elizabeth asked. "I thought all accomplished ladies could ride."
Miss Bingley glared haughtily and maintained a stony silence.
"If horses can reach the place perhaps some of the ladies could travel in a cart."
"Really, Charles, if a cart can reach it there's no reason not to take the comfort of a carriage."
"An excellent idea, Caroline."
The rest of the picnic was planned with somewhat less fuss, but Miss Bingley's objections had to be steadily overridden by the others. They planned to carry their dinner in baskets, with the intention of leaving the servants behind. When she objected to not being waited on, she was told she was welcome to bring one of her own servants if she truly required it. In keeping with their intention of informality, they agreed to seat themselves on rugs. Miss Bingley considered this quite undignified and finally settled on her making use of a nearby bench rather than bringing a chair with her.
Later that evening, when they were alone, Darcy reprimanded his cousin for his behaviour.
"I know it's hard to stop yourself, but you need to stop baiting Miss Bingley. It gives her an excuse to retaliate and make things even more unpleasant than she already does."
"It is extremely hard to resist. I do my best to just ignore her, but sometimes she asks for it."
"It's not your place."
"No, but her brother won't do a thing about it. Is he really so oblivious to everything around him?"
"Sometimes. I think, though, that he simply can't face reality if everything isn't rosy. He wants everyone to be good and amiable, so that's what he sees."
"In other words he believes whoever is in front of him and she ensures that he dances to her tune."
Edward was warmly welcomed at Mansfield Park and was pleased for his friend when they discovered the the Crawfords were still at the Parsonage. He tried to compliment the lady as his friend expected, but he could not do so comfortably. Bertram had spoken of her at length, in the warmest and most flattering terms available, but Edward could not agree. She was certainly a pretty girl, but rather too much like the ladies in town that his mother and sister approved of. He rather thought she and his sister would get along famously, considering their shared views on the church as a career option. He could not approve of her the way his friend did, and he certainly could not rationalise away some of the things she said.
He thought Miss Price to have the better temperament -- aside from her timidity, he thought her rather like Miss Dashwood. Had Miss Dashwood grown up as the poor relation in a family that seemed as self-absorbed as his own, she too may have retreated into herself in a similar manner.
He was rather surprised to find Mr Crawford trying to ingratiate himself with Miss Price. It was clear to him that she did not like the man. Perhaps it was merely the lack of other young ladies that caused him to behave so. Either way, Edward felt sorry for the girl and determined that the gentlemanly thing to do would be to distract the man’s attention. He rather misjudged his audience. Knowing that Mr Crawford had been to a university, and having heard him speaking with Bertram in his teasing way, Edward had assumed he’d be able to discuss matters of doctrine.
He was wrong. The man’s opinions were superficial at best. Miss Price, however, was able to discuss the matter with the ease that only the well-read and well-educated had. Mr Crawford was not pleased by this and kept trying to turn the conversation. Bertram and Miss Crawford were soon attracted by the lively talk. His opinion was welcome. Hers was as superficial as her brother’s and, even worse, was the fashionable view. It was clear that she had no true understanding of the subject. Edward wondered at his friend’s blindness, struck by the likeness to his own infatuation with Miss Lucy Steele.
For her part, Fanny was astounded. Mr Crawford’s attention was grating, and she knew not what he was playing at. Mr Ferrars on the other hand, was a true gentleman. She knew he had seen her distress and he had come to her aid. He was very like dear Edmund, though she rather thought he disapproved of some of Miss Crawford’s words. As Edmund should. If only Edmund would. Still, she was glad he had brought his friends back with him. Perhaps Mr Ferrars could make Edmund see how ill-suited he and Miss Crawford were for each other.
As the days passed, she came more and more to rely on Mr Ferrars’ presence. Mr Crawford continued to make himself a nuisance, but Mr Ferrars always seemed to know when she needed aid and had not yet failed her. She found herself enjoying his company more and more, and had even been so bold as to seek him out on occasion. He was so pleasant to talk to, she never felt as though she were a small child, as she sometimes did with Edmund, nor that she was provincial and uneducated as both Crawfords seemed to imply.
The morning of the picnic dawned bright and clear. Only Miss Bingley saw anything wrong with the weather, but as she could not bear to have the party leave her behind, she contented herself with continuous complaints and dire predictions of sudden changes in the weather. She was the last to join the throng in the hallway and refused to assist them in any way. She was most put out to discover that she would be alone in the carriage. She thought it prudent to be aware of the others' conversations. There was nothing to be done, however, as they were all intent on walking. Not even Charles would ride with her, presumably intent on fluttering around Jane for the full two hours. She had plenty of time alone in the carriage to derive derisive comments and put-downs for the rest of them and looked forward to showing them that they'd made a mistake by not listening to her.
She was disconcerted to find herself alone at the appointed spot, with only the driver and groom that were required by the carriage. They had made good time and she had a full hour to wait before the rest of the party arrived. When they did she was seething. She had dressed carefully in silks and jewels, intent on outshining the other ladies in the eyes of the gentlemen in general and Mr Darcy in particular. She merely made herself look ridiculously out of place as she descended from the carriage and more than one smirk was hidden.
Bingley had, as his sister suspected, attempted to escort Jane on the walk, but she wished to walk with Miss Dashwood. Georgiana joined them and the conversation mostly revolved around the landscape, the picturesque, and how pleased they were that they had brought their sketchpads. Bingley was relegated to the company of the military men that followed in their wake. The married couples were moving slightly slower than this group, but as they did not keep stopping for quick sketches and lengthy discussions of angles, light, and materials, they arrived ahead of them.
Marianne and Elizabeth had early discovered their mutual love of walking and preferred a far swifter pace to the rest of the party. Only Darcy had any interest in accompanying them at their pace, which while pleasing to at least two of them, had the unfortunate consequence of inspiring Miss Bingley to join them as soon as they arrived.
"Oh, Mr Darcy, how pleased I am to see you here. I was beginning to wonder if I were quite safe here all alone. The area is very wild."
"I assure you, Miss Bingley, that you are perfectly safe at Pemberley, regardless of the landscape."
She attempted to giggle coquettishly. "Oh, everyone knows that there is no danger at Pemberley!"
"Then why were you concerned for your safety?" Marianne asked bluntly.
Miss Bingley was forced to admit that she hadn't been. She then attempted to smile enticingly at Darcy, "You must be fatigued from your walk, sir. I saw the pace these ... country girls ... set for you. There is a bench just here."
"No, thank you, Miss Bingley. I am not at all tired. I am a country gentleman, after all, and used to more strenuous exercise than this."
To her indignation he then suggested that the ladies may wish to climb a small hill close by as the prospect it offered back to the house was quite worth seeing. Marianne and Elizabeth were more than pleased to do so. Miss Bingley was not prepared to let Mr Darcy out of her presence, especially not in the company of these hoydens, and insisted on joining them. Politeness required that he offer his arms to the ladies. Unsurprisingly, Miss Bingley grasped hold of him quickly, while the other two disclaimed any need for it. He was forced to go at her pace, but contented himself by ignoring her rambling diatribe while watching Elizabeth walk confidently up the slope and imagined the joy of having her always at Pemberley.
Almost as soon as they reached the top Marianne was declaring the view breathtaking and that Elinor and Georgiana would need to set themselves up there and paint it. Once they arrived they took her advice and did just that. They were therefore lucky enough to miss the ensuing argument over where to place the blankets. Miss Bingley felt that they should be placed at her feet, around the bench where she had installed herself immediately on descending the hill. While most of them agreed that that would be the polite thing to do, the fact remained that the bench was in full sun. Mr Gardiner and Mr Hurst insisted that their wives be seated in the shade and the blankets were placed accordingly.
Mr Gardiner, Mr Darcy, General Fitzwilliam, and Colonel Brandon set up their fishing rods and behaved somewhat like young boys doing it. Mr Hurst was content to sit against a tree and listen to the ladies chattering around him. Mrs Gardiner and Mrs Hurst were continuing a discussion on names and naming conventions, which attracted Jane, Marianne, and Elizabeth. Bingley was flitting between his sister, sweltering in her silks on her sunny seat, and his darling Jane. Marianne thought he was buzzing around like a particularly annoying fly, but before she could voice her thoughts she was distracted by an outlandish literary suggestion from Elizabeth. Marianne's passionate intensity was very different to Elizabeth's detached wit, but Jane could tell they were both deriving immense pleasure from the debate and let them be.
She turned her attention to the older ladies. "I am already aware of the particular family names of my aunt, but I know nothing of yours, Louisa. Are the three of you named for family?"
"I am named for our paternal grandmother, and Caroline for our maternal. Our mother disliked her name and so chose not to name either of us for her."
"And your brother?"
"He is named for our father and both grandfathers. They were so excited to have a little boy."
"What was your mother's name, if I may ask?" said Mrs Gardiner.
Louisa smiled broadly as she answered, "Abigail. Now how about you? Are all five of you named for family?"
"No. I am named for my father's sister, who died shortly before my birth. I was also given my mother's name, Frances, though she finds the practice of naming children after living relatives confusing. Elizabeth Anne is for our father's and mother's mothers. After that I believe she simply chose names that she liked."
"It's a hard balance to reach," Mrs Gardiner mused. "You want to honour the forebears equally, but you have no control over the number of children you have. You run the dangers of using them up too soon, or not being further blessed when you've got more people to honour."
Dinner was a lively affair, despite Miss Bingley glowering down at them. They had moved the blankets to where she sat when the sun had moved, but that had done little for her disposition.
"I feel quite sorry for Mrs Hurst," Elinor said to Jane as they walked back, "I can only imagine what she'll have to endure in that carriage."
"I expect it's best that she expresses her feelings in private. And only Mrs Hurst could hope to convince her to alter her thoughts or behaviour."
"Except that she has so far tried without success. Still, you are likely correct. Giving voice to her feelings privately, whether to a sympathetic audience or not, may help her gain control of herself better."
"And if her sister cannot curb her behaviour, our sisters will meet her barb for barb." They laughed and turned the conversation to more interesting matters.
"Georgiana drew a beautiful representation of the view from the hill, though I think she was rather disappointed that I would not show her my efforts."
"Why did you not?"
"Because I wish to surprise her. I drew the view beneath us, showing her brother and friends enjoying themselves because of something she suggested."
"And you intend to gift it to her. How thoughtful."
"She is a delightful girl, I'm glad the General thought to introduce us to her."
"Marianne certainly enjoys her company a great deal."
"It must be hard having only paid companionship. I could not imagine not having my sisters."
"Nor I. And, as I have four of them, I can readily spare one for her, even if it is my Lizzy."
"Derbyshire is quite far from Dorset. Still, you will both have the means of travelling and the space to house each other's families, aside from meeting in London."
"I'm sure I don't know what you mean, Elinor," she replied, trying not to smile and failing. "I must admit that while I find the land beautiful, this northern wildness is far better suited to Lizzy than I. I confess I much prefer the south of England."
"I will agree with you, and venture that Marianne agrees with your sister. I am so very pleased we were able to introduce them to each other."
"Oh yes! After my experience with Miss Bingley I can better understand how Lizzy must feel about Charlotte's marriage."
"She thought they understood each other and found Charlotte's behaviour incomprehensible and, no doubt, a betrayal of their friendship."
"Do you disagree?"
"I do. Charlotte made her opinion on marriage clear to us all. I was not surprised by her accepting Mr Collins."
"Do you think your sister imposed her own opinions on her friend?"
"Without a doubt. And, knowing that she cannot respect Mr Collins, while Charlotte's first loyalty and duty is now to him, I expect Lizzy considers their friendship irreparably damaged."
"And her believing this makes it so, as it alters her behaviour. Well, I pray none of us find ourselves in Mrs Collins' position."
"Indeed we shall not. Your family has already shown their willingness to aid you, and I shall always be welcome at the Gardiner's."
"And, no doubt, here," Elinor said, glancing pointedly at Lizzy and Darcy, walking ahead of them in deep discussion.