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.This disclosure was not something she had expected to hear.A query popped out inappropriately.“Were there indiscretions?”Darcy’s critic was obviously pleased with her curiosity.“I know nothing of substance, but I have heard rumours in that regard.It is said that he spent time with a very young woman, a girl actually, who tickled his fancy.His circle rarely honours their vows.It is not even considered immoral among their kind.Now, of course, he has the best of circumstances.He has his wife’s property and fortune, he has an heir and is free to find pleasure wherever he desires now that Mrs Darcy has passed on.”Elizabeth was sickened by Wickham’s disclosure.She studied the lieutenant to determine whether he was alluding to her time spent at Pemberley.The only thing she concluded was that Mr Wickham did not exhibit a strong sense of moral outrage for dalliances whether a man was married or not.Instead he seemed to be evaluating why she had such an improper need to know about this aspect of Darcy’s life.Throwing off this unpleasant topic, she steeled herself for her next question.“What of his children? I understand he has two.He seems very proud of them.”“Yes, he has a daughter and a son.I understand he talks of them incessantly.His cousin says he has become quite a bore on the subject.His pride causes him to tell of their accomplishments wherever he goes.No other children have ever been as perfect.Lord Wolfbridge thinks it quite humorous that his cousin’s daughter, in particular, seems to him to be the smartest and prettiest child that ever was born.”Again his smirking innuendo unleashed an involuntary shiver in Elizabeth.She was now convinced Mr Wickham’s motives with regard Mr Darcy were tied to her well being.With all the disguise she could muster, her next words were designed to introduce an entirely new topic.“I am astonished at his intimacy with Mr Bingley! How can he, who seems good-humour itself, be in a friendship with such a man? Do you know Mr Bingley?”“No, I do not.”“He is a sweet-tempered, charming man.He cannot know what Mr Darcy is.”“Probably not, but Mr Darcy can please where he chooses.He does not want for abilities and can be a fine companion if he thinks it worth his while.”Elizabeth was tired of their discussion.His descriptions of Mr Darcy had unleashed a desire to think of that man not through the lieutenant’s eyes, but through her own.Lucky for her, supper put an end to cards, and she gave the rest of the ladies their share of Mr Wickham’s attentions.That night, Elizabeth awoke from a nightmare as she did so many other nights.She was shaking and drenched in perspiration.The dream had been pleasant until the very last moment.She had been waltzing with Mr Darcy.She looked beautiful, and he had told her so.His dimples never left his face, as he smiled down at her, and even now, she could almost smell his delightful scent.They whirled around the room and ignored all the people staring at them.They only had eyes for each other.Suddenly she became dizzy from the whirling, and looked away for the briefest second.When she looked back, it was not Mr Darcy but Mr Wickham, and then the inevitable happened, the face above her became Lord Wolfbridge, with his malevolent smile of gleaming white teeth.She determined she must tell Mr Darcy what Mr Wickham had said.He was the only one who could help her make sense of his accusations and innuendos.Perhaps at the ball, they could find a moment alone.35 SUCH A BRAVE NEW WORLD OF POSSIBILITIESLongbourn was a beehive of activity.Mrs Bennet was busily preparing for Christmas with Sir Walter, Becky and the Gardiners in attendance, to be followed by Mary’s wedding.The additional anticipation of the Netherfield ball made her quite giddy, and her “flutterings” threatened to overcome her on a daily basis.Mrs Bennet decreed that all of her daughters have new gowns made for the ball.After all, she had a reputation to uphold.She was the mother of the most beautiful young women in the neighbourhood, and the host of the ball had singled out her eldest for the first set… as well as the set before supper.Jane did not confide in her mother or her sisters about the final dance with Mr Bingley.Fear and superstition led her to hide her hopes.If her glimmer of expectation was extinguished, she was sure she could not survive her family’s disappointment.When Becky arrived, she would request her friend to help discern the truth of Mr Bingley’s affections.She had wanted Tom’s sister to attend the ball, observe them together, and determine his seriousness.Elizabeth did confide in her sisters of her plans to attend the ball for the last dance, but asked them to conceal her decision from their mother.All her sisters, except Mary, were pleased she was making this attempt to spend time, and perhaps even enjoy herself in the company of a man.Mary was apprehensive that coercion might be the reason for her acquiescence, and planned to tell her father of this development.An outpouring of cajoling from her sisters was not enough to persuade Lizzy to have a ball gown made.She was adamant in believing the expense too extravagant; despite Lydia’s insistence she needed something new to wear.They went over possibilities if she was to borrow a gown from Kitty; but Lydia thought nothing suitable for her reclusive older sister.She insisted Lizzy show her what was in the trunk, where she had some items packed away from five years before.Lydia was hopeful, as this was the same trunk where Lizzy had found the red cape.Buried within was a green gown of the most beautiful silk she had ever seen.She quickly described alterations to Kitty, who sketched the result.Lydia was determined to make the gown over to show off her sister’s lovely décolletage [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]