Leonard folded the letter in disappointment and put it back to its folder, which also contained a smaller letter from his brother. All of the work he put into Oxford seemed to become more and more distant from him. Having graduated with good marks, he expected help regarding his future, his career. Maybe he expected too much from the University...
He tried to push these thoughts in the corner for now and opened his brother's letter. Very similar to his mother's, informing Leonard of how he knows about the loss of his aunt and that his brother had visited their poor uncle. The final note was the one Leonard was most interested at.
I am currently in Bournemouth, visiting my dear friend Henry. I was encouraged by our mother to pay a visit to our uncle myself at some point this month. I believe it would do him good if we are both present.
Please write back soon, let me know if my visit can take place.
Your brother, Tom"
At least there were some good news. Tom was quite the adventurous type of man, he was barely found to be home with their parents. Very social indeed, he had the talent of making everyone to enjoy his company. He could not remember the last time they had both visited their uncle's home, they were probably still children. After a certain age, Leonard became busy with his love for Math, which were followed by his studies. Tom, on the other hand, found it useful to join every single ball in town, meeting everyone and making connections. Leonard did find this risky at times, but there was still a sense of intelligence in his acting.
He took out a piece of paper and began writing his reply, stating that he is always more than welcome. He knew that his uncle would receive his visit as a lovely surprise, and it might instantly cheer him up. Mr Powell always had this soft spot for Tom, Leonard remembered... as everyone did.
It did not take him long to write the letter, he placed it in a new folder and sealed it with wax. Soon it was away from his hands, and would be travelling to his brother.
A couple of weeks later, nothing had changed to the scenery in the Bennett household. As always, the younger sisters were loud, Mrs Bennett was louder, and Mr Bennett would eventually calm the chicken down.
Jane was now sitting in the drawing room, with her cup of tea, next to the fire. She looked more lost than usual this day. Without really willing to, she had counted the days she had not seen Leonard since they last met by accident in the fields. Fourteen days.
Why did it seem like a month, or two? Or even more... Maybe she just got used to meeting him so often, almost in a daily bases. Her father would still pay visits to his uncle, for now one could say that they had become great friends. But he did not need her company any longer, and asking to join would bring more than suspicion in his mind. He always read Jane's intentions, no matter how well she tried to hide them, like they were displayed on her forehead for him to see.
A loud cheer coming from Lydia interrupted her thoughts and turned her attention to the girl who was now running and jumping in circles around herself. She saw how tightly she was hanging on the letter she had obviously just read. As soon as she was done with her act and had everyone's attention in the room she read out loud, only marking out the important detail.
"Dear Sir/ Madam,
We are pleased to inform you that you have been invited to Mr Cooley's residence for a ball that will be taking place on x.
"Blahblahblah, you understand the rest!" she said while giving the letter to her mother. She clapped her hands together and a wide smile appeared on her face. "It has been so gloomy in here, a ball is an excellent idea!!! Don't you think so, Jane?"
But Jane's question was "Dear Sir/ Madam... it means that anyone can go, right mama?" she looked at her mother who was now folding the letter. "I believe so myself! I agree with Lydia, an excellent idea to perk up this neighbourhood after Mr Powell's loss.
"Do you think they will join it too, mama?" Lizzie was the one to speak now.
"Oh I don't think so my dear. It is too early for Mr Powell to even consider having this kind of fun, the poor man..."
Jane sighed quietly, "But one may want to break away from this misery by accepting opportunities like this."
"And Mr Powell did not seem like the man who cares much about what people may say or think about him." added Lizzie.
"You girls seem to be awfully interested in them, don't you?" Mrs Bennett's eyes widened and her body posture was drawn closer to the girls, but still sitting on her favourite arm chair. She whispered, "Did something happen that I most certainly must know?!?!"
Lizzie bowed her head and let out a short chuckle "Oh no, mama. We are just concerned for his well being, for we haven't seen him or his nephew in a while..."
Jane turned her attention to Lizzie, "I wonder who Mr Cooley is... do you reckon our father may know him?"
Last edited by ILKSie; 01-17-2013 at 08:41 AM.
“I understand that father had made his acquaintance, some years back, when he first moved into the neighborhood. He lives with his family in Greenleaf Park, and Charlotte told me that his son is to be married shortly, hence the ball inviting half the county.”
“My, Charlotte is well-informed!” said Jane in admiration.
Mrs Bennet was keenly listening to the information being passed from one daughter to the other. Her eyes had widened, and quite suddenly, she grasped Lizzie’s hand.
“Does he have another son? Is the engaged one the first-born? What is their income?”
“Mama!”, complained Lizzie, pulling her hand out of her mother’s grasp. “Charlotte says that there is only one son, but there are three daughters, all of them married and living in town.”
Mrs Bennet enthusiasm died instantly, and, slightly annoyed, rested back in her arm chair. Lizzie looked mischievously at Jane, and they softly chuckled. They both returned to their books, but Lizzie was restless, and barely read more than a page. She turned to Jane.
“Would you like to walk into Meryton? We could have a look at the new dresses. I have outgrown all my old evening ones.”
“Yes, of course”, said Jane, closing her book.
The two sisters were soon walking towards Meryton, arm in arm, with the cold autumn breeze against their faces. Jane, without really realising it, was looking around her, secretly hoping for a glimpse of a familiar figure, bending, deep in thought, over a book or notebook. But Leonard was nowhere to be seen, and she felt slightly sad, and ridiculous at the same time. Surprised at her sister’s silence, Lizzie was casting uneasy glances in her direction.
“Jane, are you quite well?”
“Yes, yes, of course, dear”, she said, with a little too much eagerness.
“I am sorry to drag you out in this cold, I just wanted to have a moment’s peace.”
“Dear Lizzie, you must try to accept that our mother is a little too talkative, and that Lydia is like her. Do not judge them. They are good persons.”
“Oh Jane, how can you say that? All Mama does for us is to try and marry us off to some wealthy man we probably barely know. And Lydia is far too outspoken for her age. I hate to think what will become of her if mother continues to indulge her thus. She should have put any thought of attending the ball out of her head immediately! She is only 12, for God’s sake!”
Jane silently shook her head.
“You are right. Lydia is still too young to appear in company, but we can hardly prevent her from coming if our parents have given their permission. As for Mama... Well, I cannot deny that her husband hunting is a little too obvious, but I am sure that she has our best interests at heart.”
“Oh Jane. Can you not see that we will suffer from their folly too? I wish I could trust and think well of people as you do.”
“What have you got in mind for your dress? You will be beautiful whatever you choose, of course, but have you thought of a style or colour?”
Lizzie’s mind was immediately drawn from the subject of their mother’s folly, and described to Jane how she would like her dress to look like. As they entered Meryton, Jane could not help but throw a last glance towards the street were Mr Powell lived. Once more, she was disappointed.
Lizzie’s new dress came out beautifully, and suited her light figure perfectly. Indeed, on the evening of the ball, she looked stunning, and Jane could not help but shed a few tears of joy and pride, as she saw dearest Lizzie in her light blue frock, with her hair tied in an elegant knot. Her father, scarcely ever noticing gowns or headdresses, looked with admiration at his second daughter too. He was always fond of Lizzie, and Jane was very glad that her father at least appreciated her sister’s cheery personality and sharp wit. Mrs Bennet, as always, was making a fuss over her eldest daughter, her gown, her jewels, her hairpins, her slippers and her gloves, but Jane was used to it by now. Thankfully, her mother did not advise her to change her appearance in the slightest. She was rather pleased with the result, and as she was fixing a stray lock of blonde hair into her bun, she caught herself wondering wether Mr Carver would be there or not. Mercifully, it was time to go, and Kitty and Lydia’s whines were enough to wake a dead man, let alone distract Jane from her wonderings; Mr Bennet had not given his permission to them to join the ball, despite his wife’s attempts to change his mind.
“Oh, Mr Bennet, how can you be so cruel as to deny your daughter’s of a little bit of fun? Think of my nerves! I am sure that I would feel a good deal better if Lydia were with me!”
“My dear Mrs Bennet, I am afraid, much as I respect and value your nerves, that it is out of the question! They are not yet 16! It is enough that Mary will be attending.”
Now the five elder members of the Bennet family were seated in the carriage, heading for Greenleaf Park. Jane felt excited at the prospect of dancing, and looking into Lizzie’s face, she saw her feelings mirrored there.
"I must say, I feel extremely uneasy and ill by the idea of this, mama..." were Mary's words when she started realizing that the carriage was close to their destination.
"Oh, nonsense Mary!!" was Mrs Bennet's response. "Keep quiet, you will enjoy this more than you believe! There may even be a chance for you to show off your love and interest for music. You are old enough, you need to start attendings meetings such as this much more often!"
"No need to encourage her too much Mrs Bennet." said Mr Bennet. "View it this way my child, your sisters had to stay home while you will have the best of nights." As always, he ended his sentence with a tone of irony, which Jane and Lizzie did not fail to miss and looked at each other smiling, trying not to laugh. Mrs Bennet had to express her complainment.
"Oh Mr Bennet, you never consider my poor, POOR nerves! If you continue passing them this ideology our daughters will never be married!!"
This continued till the carriage stopped, giving them the signal that they had arrived to their destination. Coming out, Jane looked up to the house awaiting for them. Most would describe it as a miniature mansion, but for Jane it looked massive. It was truly impressive, and beautiful, but easily hidden behind the trees. She immediately felt an affection for the house, and soon followed her family to the entrance. One of the servants was waiting for the guests, ready to greet them and receive their coats.
Mrs Bennet, as always, made her way through to the room where chattering was heard. Entering the ball room, many guests had already arrived. Jane could see how Mary's mouth had gotten dry as she kept struggling to swallow. She had barely been to any events such as these. Jane felt pity, for her mother had forced her sister to attend this ball. As she looked around the ball room, she could not help but admire every aspect of it. The house was beautiful, she was used to much smaller places than this, not to mention the furniture, carpets, the soft lighting dancing around the room... it gave her a sense of calm, even though the room was filled with guests and noise. Mrs Bennet immediately spotted Mrs Philips and ran to her side to get the latest updates. Who is Cooley? Why did he decide to organize this party? Who is going to be present? Lizzie rolled her eyes and followed her father who was now talking Mr Cooley himself. Mrs Bennet motioned to her sister to wait for her and ran to introduced herself to the one who owned this great house.
"It's a great pleasure to meet you, Mr Cooley. Please allow me to thank you for the invitation-" Mr Bennet was soon interrupted.
"OH YES, we thank you dearly Mr Cooley! Let me introduce my daughters." Mrs Bennet grabbed Jane first from the arm, tight enough to make Jane slightly squeeze her eyes without wanting to. "This is Jane, my eldest! Quite a beauty, I am aware...".
Jane could feel her cheeks boiling as she made an elegant bow. Soon, Elizabeth was dragged into the game, and last but never least, Mary. Mr Cooley gave a great smile to all girls and her parents.
"It is my pleasure to have you here, and thank you for attending. Do not hesitate to feel comfortable, dancing shall take place soon. Please, treat yourself to a drink." he motioned to one of his servants who ran and served all of them with the selected drinks.
Jane's eyes continued to travel around the room and admire. The subject in her mind soon changed though, as she started focusing more on the guests' faces rather than the environment. She would recognise a few, but the one person she hoped to see was missing. She took a deep breath and tried to think positive. Maybe he will just show up later... And even if he doesn't, why should it matter to her so much anyway?
Leonard was getting nervous. He had been dressed for half an hour now, but Tom did not seem to be in any rush. They were already late.
“Uncle, are you sure you do not mind being left alone?”, he asked him with concern.
“Of course not, my dear boy. Go and enjoy yourselves. Oh, and give my kind regards to Mr Bennet and his family.”
Leonard’s breath was caught in his throat as soon as the name Bennet hit his ears. He averted his eyes from his uncle, trying to think of something to answer that would prevent Mr Powell from discerning his reaction. Failure was inevitable, as he himself could barely comprehend what it was that he wished well-hidden and unexplored in the darkest corners of his mind and of his heart. He was distracted enough from his research as it was, with Tom and Mr Powell claiming most of his time and attention.
Heart? What heart? Why had he even thought of the word heart? The heart, except for its purpose of retaining the human body alive, had no rational or logical hold over any man, and therefore ought to be left alone, pumping in the chest undisturbed. Leonard instantly became aware of his uncle’s keen gaze on his face, and through the corner of his eye saw his eyebrows rising slowly but surely, and a grin forming on his troubled face. Fully appreciating the fact that his uncle, still vaguely smiling, was watching him, he took out his watch and checked the time.
“What on earth is taking him so long?”, he muttered slightly annoyed, and made his way to Tom’s dressing room.
He knocked the door, and as soon as his brother answered, he opened it fiercely and entered. Tom was nearly ready, he had not yet tied the cloth on his neck and his coat lay on the chair, but he was in front of the mirror arranging his hair, then standing back to check on progress, and repeating.
“What are you doing?” was Leonard’s inevitable remark.
“My dear fellow, this is my first ball in Hertfordshire. First impressions are vital, and I would hate for the ladies to have a negative one of me. Who knows? I might meet my future wife tonight”, he finished, winking at his brother through the mirror.
Leonard rolled his eyes and sighed deeply.
“For God’s sake, man, make haste, or by the time we arrive your potential wives will have gone home.”
Tom chuckled softly.
“Why the hurry, Lennie? Perhaps your future wife will be there tonight?”
“Don’t be ludicrous”, said Leonard as he walked out of the room and slammed the door behind him.
A quarter of an hour later, Tom and Leonard said good-bye to Mr Powell, and boarded the hired carriage that awaited them outside the house. Leonard was twitching and could hardly sit still, but Tom was relaxed, straightening his collar and fixing his cufflinks. He smiled mischievously at his brother’s discomfort. Trying to ignore him, Leonard looked out of the window, and soon saw Greenleaf Park between the branches of the trees, splendidly illuminated. As soon as the carriage drew up to the entrance of the house, Leonard hopped lightly and swiftly out. Tom slowly descended from the carriage, careful not to spoil his coat and his shoes, to the great annoyance of his brother.
At last, they entered the beautifully decorated manor, were introduced to the hosts, thanked for the invitation, excused their uncle, and passed through to the ball room, were, mercifully, the dance had not yet began. Tom chatted merrily with everyone and anyone that Leonard introduced him to, until he spotted Mr Bennet, looking deadly bored. He steered his brother towards the older gentleman through the crowd, and immediately engaged him in conversation, transferring Mr Powell’s regards. He looked hopefully behind Mr Bennet, but only his wife could be seen there, gossiping with Mrs Phillips. He scanned the room, and, approaching the place were he was standing with her father, he saw Jane.
For a moment, Leonard was transfixed. Her beauty was beyond anything he could ever imagine. She wore an elegant ivory gown, decorated with gold trimmings around the sleeves and neckline, and a few golden locks fell on the sides of her handsome face, escaping from her complicated bun. Her bright green eyes and radiant smile seemed to emit a glow, surrounded as she was by the soft candle light. He felt Tom take a sharp breath as he followed his gaze.
The two elder Bennet sisters made their way through the crowd, and greeted them happily. Tom was delighted to make the acquaintance of such lovely young ladies, and Leonard saw his smile widen as he talked to Jane and Elizabeth.
“We have not seen you for quite a length of time, Mr Carver”, said Jane quietly to Leonard, as Tom engaged in lively conversation with Lizzie. “Of course, I expect you would have been busy with your brother”, she added, looking at Tom.
“Of-of course”, muttered Leonard, without being fully in command of his brain or his tongue.
In a haze, he saw Tom address Jane.
“Miss Bennet, might I have the honour of the first dance, if you are not otherwise engaged?”
“Thank you, sir, I am not engaged”, she uttered, slightly bewildered.
The music commenced, and Leonard watched as his brother led Jane to the dance, while another young man claimed Elizabeth’s hand.
As she made her way through the crowd, Jane turned and looked at Leonard, lost in thought, with a slight regret in her eyes, before returning her attention to her partner.
Last edited by Soubi; 01-27-2013 at 06:41 AM.
Jane bowed gracefully and followed the beginning of the dance, accepting Tom's hand and taking a turn around him. His eyes were focused into hers, and she felt her soul being greeted by them. It was a confusing feeling, it made her both uncomfortable but also flattered, as these eyes were accompanied with a big, friendly smile. She felt the force pushing her and she smiled back to him. She could not help but give glances to the place she had last spotted Leonard. He was still there. She felt really sorry for him, and wondered why he had not attempted to join the dance. Then again, she already knew what a quite soul he was, and how fixed he was in his own mind. Maybe he did not enjoy dancing... A part of her still felt slightly disappointed for he had not asked her to dance with him. She blinked twice and shook her head lightly and focused on the dance. She was now holding two hands, one being Tom's, of course, and the other being Lizzie's partner which meant her sister was right next to Tom. She looked at her, and Lizzie seemed to immediately understand the pity she felt for Leonard being alone in the corner of the room. As the dance continued and she took more turns around the room, she even spotted her younger sister, Mary, who was sitting on a chair on her own and was looking at the ground, as if no dance was happening. The fact that two people she dearly cared for were unhappy, lead her to miss the long stares Tom was giving her. The man realized this, and attempted to break the ice.
"What a fine dancer you are, Ms Bennet." he said once they were close enough for her to hear him.
"Excuse me?" said Jane.
"A very, very fine dancer you are, indeed. I would not mind having another one with you, I would most sincerely be delighted! My uncle has mentioned you and your family countless times, with all the positive comments of course. My brother himself has grown an attachment to them. I barely listen to Leonard talking about anything else than the science of Maths..." he gave her his smile again and grabbed her hand to take another turn in the dance.
Jane returned the smile and couldn't help but internally question about this attachment.
"Me and my family give our thanks, both to you, Mr Powell and your brother."
Tom bowed his head, slightly on the right, as a sign of appreciation.
"I bet you surely enjoy balls. I was delighted when I heard that one was taking place during my stay. Being around people is like nothing else in the world, isn't that right?" Tom had a wonderful way of expressing his enjoyments, much different to the one of Leonard. He was louder, more clear and straight forward. It made Jane smile further, as she now started enjoying the dance.
"It truly is, yes. Even though I believe it depends on what kind of people you are surrounded by." said Jane.
"I couldn't have put it better myself!" said Tom.
The dancing was heading towards its end, and they both bowed at eachother as the music stopped. Tom came closer to Jane and grabbed her hand, bringing it to his lips.
"Truly an honour to dance with you, Ms Bennet." he looked at his brother who looked completely lifeless. He smiled at Jane and let go of her hand, "If you now excuse me, I shall go to my miserable brother..."
Jane looked back at him running to Leonard. What a strange man Tom was. Not in a mean way, of course. She wondered how he could be so happy. No wonder her father did not have to pay very regular visits to Mr Powell the last couple of days, Tom was enough to brighten up everyone's day. She hadn't felt this flattered for a long time. She felt a pat behind her and turned to face her favourite youngest sister, who was smiling like a child being offered dessert.
Tom brought his face close to his brother's ears "I am truly disappointed in you Lennie!! Not taking part in the first dance of the night! And with such beautiful ladies in the room! Disgraceful!"
"You know I don't dance..." muttered Leonard in response.
Tom could not repress a scoff. He took his brother by the arm and led him to the nearly deserted hallway.
“No man in his right mind would honestly say that he did not care to dance with such pretty girls, especially the vision of loveliness that is Miss Bennet, and since I know that you possess a mind far superior to most in this room, I can only assume that the reason you did not ask anyone lies in another direction.”
Leonard cast his gaze to the floor in order to avoid his brother’s blazing eyes.
“You like her”, said Tom, a mischievous grin slowly forming on his handsome face.
“Don’t be ridiculous”, protested Leonard, feeling the blood rushing to his cheeks and betraying him.
“My dear fellow, you are perfectly justified in liking Miss Bennet. Few lovelier creatures have walked this earth.”
Leonard was forced to accept the truth of Tom’s speech. He was little acquainted with the affairs of the heart, but he had admired Jane Bennet’s beauty and sweetness of temper from the first time he saw her, nearly a month ago. Now he came to realise that the feelings growing in his chest, inexplicable and unfathomable as they were at first, must be an affection for that kind, sweet lady. Tom did not need his brother to confess his feelings to understand that his assumptions were correct.
“Now, Lennie, I realise that this must be a difficult situation for you, having barely spoken to a woman who was not a relative-”
“I am sorry, I was sorely tempted”, laughed Tom. “All you need to do is show your interest: talk to her, dance with her, for heaven’s sake! She’s not going to bite you.”
“Yes, but what if she refuses? What if she does not want to dance with me? What if she is too polite to refuse me, even if she does not wish to dance with me?”
“Good gracious, Lennie, social relations are not as complicated as that. What on earth do they teach you in those colleges?!” said Tom, losing his patience. “There is a lady in the next room you wish to dance with. All you have to do is walk up to her and ask her. If she does not want to dance, she will excuse herself. But if she does, she will accept. You will never know until you ask her.”
Argument was fruitless against Tom’s simple and entirely logical trail of thought. Leonard inhaled deeply and returned to the ball room, whispering to Tom “We will know who to blame if this goes badly.”
Tom smiled widely. It was good to see his little brother at last living a life instead of wasting himself on theorems and unsolved mathematical problems. He quickly followed him to see how he would do.
Jane sat beside Mary. She seemed very sad and distressed. She grasped her hand to show her support, but Mary did not acknowledge her touch; she simply stared blankly at the merry dancers in front of them.
“It will not always be like this, dearest”, said Jane softly. “You will dance. You will dance with men you will like, you will dance with men that you will not like, and finally you will dance with a man that will make you forget all the sorrow and disappointment you previously felt and he will be all that matters. The past will then fade away insignificant and distant, like a half-forgotten nightmare.”
“I do not care for dancing”, professed Mary with no feeling in her voice. “A book is far more interesting, I believe.” She rose, and was soon lost in the crowd.
Sighing, Jane took a large sip from her drink. Its warmth soothed the turmoil inside her for a moment, and she closed her eyes to let it take effect and relax her. Tonight was meant to be amusing, everyone should be having a splendid time. And instead, Mary was hurt that no one had chosen to dance with her, and Leonard’s behaviour was most peculiar. Another sigh escaped her lips, and another sip burned her throat. As the drink spread in her blood, she realised how much she would have liked to dance that first dance with Leonard instead of his charming and handsome brother. There was something about Leonard, smart and reserved as he was, that made her keenly interested in his welfare and happiness. At that moment, she did not care why or how such sentiments had been created in her, all that mattered was that her hopes for a merry evening had disappeared.
She felt a light figure sitting in the seat next to her, and she opened her eyes to meet a flushed and happy Lizzie.
“Have you seen Mr Carver? I have lost both of them, and I was hoping to dance the next reel with Mr Tom”, said Lizzie, searching for their friends.
“No, I have not.”
Something about Jane’s tone made Lizzie turn sharply in her direction, but before she had a chance to inquire what was the matter, Tom had appeared out of nowhere, and they ran off to dance the jig. Leonard approached timidly, and shyly gazed upon Jane as she watched her sister dance with great energy and grace the quick scottish song. At once, her spirits rose, and a smile, genuine and bright, broke on her pretty face.
“You care very much for Miss Elizabeth”, marked Leonard.
“I beg your pardon?”, said Jane, amazed to find him next to her.
“Your sister... You... love her.”
Taken aback by this sudden and frank question as she was, Jane composed herself quickly and formed an answer in her head.
“Greatly. She is a dear girl, very clever, and I cannot bear to be parted from her for any length of time. Do not you miss your brother when you are away from home?”
“Very much. But I hardly notice, I am always occupied with my research.”
The tune came to an end, and it was replaced by a slightly slower piece, though still quite fast. Jane looked longingly at the couples making their way to the centre of the room, and Leonard found his tongue working of its own accord.
“Would you like to dance, Miss Bennet?”
She turned her head in utter surprise to face him.
“W-with me? Would you do me the honour?” he managed to repeat.
Despite all his fears, Jane’s face brightened up and she offered him her hand. The smile she then gave him was a vision that would accompany Leonard for many years to come.
As soon as Lizzie and Tom saw them join the dancing crowd, they gave a great laugh of delight, and started dancing to the fast rhythm of the music. No conversation took place. Jane and Leonard simply danced, broad smiles etched on their faces, coming near enough to be able to see only each other, then away again, mixing with the rest of the couples. Their eyes never broke contact, their hands touched, and the rhythm led them to create a pattern of movements that at times was intimate, at times more stately and distant. Their bodies moved fast and gracefully, and when the music came to a halt, their cheeks were flushed a deep crimson. But still, they stood in opposite lines, intently looking at one another.
Last edited by Soubi; 01-28-2013 at 07:38 AM.
As they bowed and marked the dance to its end, Leonard felt a strange comfort surrounding him. It was strong enough to make his body walk closer to Jane and grab her hand and guide her to one of the empty seats for her to rest her body. Her hands truly felt like feather, so soft and light. He sat next to her and caught up his breath himself. They did not manage to share any words since they both spotted Tom running to their direction, holding Lizzie by the hand, who seemed to have the time of her life. Tom patted his brother on the shoulder.
"What a glorious dance that was! And what a great pair, as well! You two made me and your sister, Ms Bennet, very envious!" he said with the characteristic smile never leaving his face.
To these words, Elizabeth could not help but smile widely and look at her sister, who bowed her head to hide her boiling cheeks. Once she had the courage to look up, Mr Cooley was standing infront of them, congratulating Tom and Elizabeth and then looking at her and Leonard.
"Majestic movements you presented in the dance! Aah, you remind me of my younger days... Truly something I dearly miss! Keep making the best of it, as you do so."
Tom bowed his head, "Thank you, sir! From me and I believe, from everyone's behalf!" he made his hand travel into a circle, motioning at the Bennet sisters and his brother. "Do tell me sir, have you always lived in GreenLeaf Park?"
Soon, Tom had managed to win Mr Cooley's company. Laughs followed, together with further sipping of alcohol. Elizabeth was sitting right next to her sister, and as the ice did not seem to break, she tried to secretly catch Jane's eye attention and motioned towards the exit of the ball room.
Jane understood and looked at Leonard. "Please, excuse us for a moment." to which he nodded and soon the two sisters were left alone with enough room to listen to eachother.
"Lizzie, I am aware of what you will say-" Jane was soon interrupted.
"Of course you are aware! Jane, how blind can you be? This man's eyes were stuck on you during the entire dance, do not believe that I missed that... but how would you know, as your eyes were also drawn into his..." Lizzie's teasing smile had appeared on her face, but secretly she did mean the words she was telling her sister.
"Oh, Lizzie..." sighed her sister.
But Jane took a moment to think about it herself. How did she truly feel about this man? It was a fact that when he was gone for longer than she had assumed, she felt an emptiness inside her. Moreover, when he entered the room this evening and it was established in her mind that the possibility of dancing with him was high, she felt an unusual heat of excitement and happiness travelling inside her. It was becoming clearer to her, that she indeed really enjoyed the time she was spending with Leonard, and would have craved another dance with him.
"I believe you like him very much, Jane..." her sisters soothing voice, changing from a teasing tone to a more honest one, broke her thoughts.
"I confess, I do enjoy the time of his company..." she said, finally.
Elizabeth grabbed both of her hands very caringly and smiled to her.
"And I also believe... that he likes you very much."
"We enjoy eachother's company, Lizzie..." corrected Jane. She felt that her sister's words were too direct, exaggerating the situation. Even though she did know that her sister always wanted to slightly irritate her, and she never showed to get annoyed by it for most of the time it was enjoyable. Elizabeth rolled her eyes.
"Yes, yes, eachother's company, I understand, Jane..."
"We better get back in the room..." said Jane while she was walking back in. She spotted Mary, who was still sitting in her corner, silent and motionless, which made her take a deep sigh. She searched for her father, who she soon found being surrounded by some gentlemen, looking more bored than ever. They made eye contact, to which Mr Bennet responded by coming towards her.
"Father, please look at Mary. I truly feel sorry for her, may we request she plays the piano?" whispered Jane in his ear.
Mr Bennet looked at his youngest daughter in the room and felt a combination of pity for her and slight embarrassment, for she did not even try to make the event pleasurable for her.
"Very well then, if it is for her to stop being as miserable as she looks..."
Mr Bennet walked to the pianist and passed his request. He then caught Mary's attention and lead her at the piano seat. This obviously, meant the beginning of another dance.
Tom had now stopped talking to Mr Cooley, a conversation that had drawn even more gentlemen from the room to join in, laugh and consume more drinks. The spirit of the party had truly risen. Leonard was also dragged into it by his brother, of course, but remained silent, despite the continuous referencing of his brother to him, his studies, his hobbies... He admired his brother's spirit, but he could not help to admit that sometimes it annoyed him.
The two brothers did not have enough time to discuss the dance that had taken place, since the music began again marking the beginning of the third dance of the night. Leonard looked at the piano, and noticed that it was no other but Jane's sister playing the instrument. The male group broke apart as some were seated to watch, and others grabbed the hand of a lady to dance with.
Tom quickly managed to give his final advice before he grabbed the hand of a lady in the room to dance with, "You must have this dance with Ms Jane Bennet, right now! Do not hesitate!". He then ran off to the dance floor, leaving his brother fighting in his mind for a quick decision.
Leonard followed Tom’s advise, and found himself opposite Jane once more in the dance line. Wide-eyed with delight, Jane did not notice her sister’s grin as she sat down to rest after the two quick dances.
Eventually, to the relief of both the dancers and the onlookers, the music stopped and dinner was announced. Lizzie and Jane were sorry that such a wonderful evening was nearing its end, but their feet were complaining strongly, and a soft chair accompanied by a warm meal was the best remedy they could think of. Tom and Leonard, to the great delight of the elder Bennet sisters, sat very close to them, and soon all four were engrossed in conversation with each other. A vague smile never left Jane’s lips for the whole duration of dinner, and when the time came to say goodnight, Leonard seemed very reluctant to part from her. Right before Miss Bennet stepped outside to climb into the carriage, Leonard, in an unguarded moment, took her her hand and placed a small kiss on it. Jane did not utter a word during the ride home; she simply looked out into the darkness, holding slightly more gently than usual the kissed hand.
As soon as she was undressed, Lizzie headed to Jane’s room: a ball was not a ball if it was not followed by extensive conversation on the events of the evening.
“Tom Carver is probably the most delightful and good-humored person I know”, said Lizzie, as she stretched on Jane’s bed, rubbing her feet.
Jane smiled placidly.
“Watch it, Lizzie, or I might think you like him.”
“Good heavens, no!”
The earnestness of this remark took Jane by surprise, for she truly believed that her sister liked the elder Mr Carver. Her astonishment must have been apparent in her face, because Lizzie laughingly replied:
“My dear Jane, he is very agreeable and handsome, but I saw right away that he was a flirt. At one moment, he had eyes only for you, and at the next, he was completely engrossed by me. He did this with every girl he danced. One cannot take seriously such persons. But I find him to be very good company and I would like to see more of him.”
“It is true, he has a very different disposition from his brother. Had it not been for their physical likeness, I would not have been able to believe them to be related!”
Lizzie’s mischievous grin appeared on her face at the mention of Leonard, and was slowly widening.
“Oh, Mr Leonard is already in love with you, make no mistake.”
A violent blush burst on Jane’s cheeks, causing her sister to giggle once more.
Lizzie, however, was not the only one to notice that Leonard was particularly attentive to Jane that evening, and that she received his attentions with the highest pleasure: Mrs Bennet knocked frantically on her husband’s dressing room door until at last he opened in his powdering gown.
“Oh, my dear Mr Bennet! Young Mr Carver danced only with our dear Jane! You must do something to stop this immediately! What if anyone noticed, and thinks them engaged? Then no man of fortune would care to meet her, and then? Oh, that would be the ruin of us all!” she wailed.
“For God’s sake, madam, that scarcely means that they are at the brink of marriage! Please, quiet your fears, for there is nothing to cause you any uneasiness.”
But as he spoke, a frown appeared on his brow. Mrs Bennet did not notice, engrossed as she was by her own troubled nerves, and collapsed into the nearest chair, pretending to sob in her handkerchief, and constantly muttering “Ruin! Mr Collins will drive us out to die on the streets! Oh, my poor nerves!”. Mr Bennet rolled his eyes. His wife’s concerns, however, did not leave him as unmoved as one would have guessed, and the next morning sought a word with Elizabeth. As he confessed his suspicions, his daughter smiled and hastened to answer him.
“Oh, papa! I do believe that Mr Carver is in love, or nearly so, with Jane! And I am almost certain that Jane returns his affections.”
“Has anything been said between them? Has Jane informed you of an engagement?” asked he, ill at heart at what the answer might be.
“Not that I am aware of, but I don’t think that Mr Carver would express his feelings on so short an acquaintance. He is shy and needs time. And Jane is the model of propriety, she does not parade around her feelings.”
Worry was etched on Mr Bennet’s forehead for his eldest daughter.
“Let us hope that his reserve will cause him never to speak of his love for her.”
“Oh, father, you cannot think him unworthy of Jane! He is a kind, intelligent man, and suits her in many ways.”
“On the contrary, Lizzie, I admire him very much. But my visits to his uncle have informed me of his hopes for the future: he has applied for a position at his old college at Oxford.”
Realisation dawned on Elizabeth.
“He cannot take a wife”, she whispered.
“Precisely. University professors cannot be married. He himself believes that he will not be admitted, but his uncle is positive that he will make it. I cannot decide which prevails here, his modesty, or his uncle’s affection and pride for him. We will have to wait for the college’s decision”, finished Mr Bennet, with a long sigh escaping his lips.
Elizabeth could not speak. She looked at her father, worried and sorry for Jane and the disappointment she would savour, should Leonard’s application succeed.
“But-but he might decide to decline, and choose another career. Mightn’t he, father?”, said Lizzie, pleading for an encouraging answer.
“He might. I do not believe that he will, but he might. We can do nothing but wait until the college has made its decision. Then we will see were things stand. And pray to God that Jane has not fallen in love by then.”
Leonard yawned as he slowly took off the clothes he had worn for the ball. He looked at himself in the mirror, examining the skin of his face. He seemed much healthier since the first days he had come to Meryton. He had noticed the same for his father. Things were getting better and the pain had been subsided. Tom’s visit had contributed a lot to this as well. A knock was soon heard on the door of his room.
“Come in…” said Leonard.
With a quick move, Tom was in the room and the door was closed behind him. He skipped next to his brother, his handsome smile never leaving his face.
“What an EXCELLENT evening this was, my dear brother! I say, I have never met such wonderfully entertaining people! So joyful! And such pretty ladies, I must say! Specifically the eldest of the Bennet sisters, I must say Leonard, she definitely favours you!”
Leonard looked at the floor, his cheeks burning in embarrassment.
“Tom, that is pure nonsense. On the contrary, I believe she was more flattered by you. And so was her younger sister, Elizabeth. The talent of approaching women always belonged to you, we are both aware of that.” one could say there was a hint of slight envy in those words, but Tom missed that.
“Well…” Tom brushed his fingers through his hair, pretending to be some kind of important, handsome gentleman even though he was in his nightwear, and looked exhausted from all the dancing he performed some hours ago. It made Leonard chuckle silently, which for Tom it was a success. “I am well aware that my looks and attitude are something to be admired,” he said with a playful attitude “However, my dear brother, you have always been the intelligent one. Which is ironic, since you tend to miss how the ladies always get lost in your words of science, logic. Ladies do enjoy smartness, my brother.”
“They also enjoy fortune…” replied Leonard silently.
“Good Lord, Lennie… why all this misery after tonight’s events? I say, if I were in your position I would be treat myself to a bottle of wine and cheering.” Tom was desperately trying to make his brother see the obvious.
Leonard sighed and looked at his brother, “I suppose I will try…”
Tom smiled widely and gave Leonard a good pat on the back “That is what I want to hear from you, Lennie!”
He brought his hand infront of his mouth and covered a big yawn. “Well, I believe we both deserve a good, long rest. Good night, brother! And remember to keep your word!”
After Tom had left his room, Leonard blew the candle and rested his tired body on the bed. The last thing that crossed his mind before falling asleep was Jane’s beautiful face, smiling at him and encouraging him to ask her for one more dance.
The morning came faster than Jane expected. Even through shut curtains, the light was strong enough to wake her up. She jumped from her bed and immediately drew the curtains to reveal for her sight a beautiful, clear, bright blue sky. She let out a strong breath after smiling at herself, which blurred the window. It was very cold outside. The winter was slowly greeting them. However, it was greeting them pleasantly. Jane got dressed fairly quickly and ran downstairs to find Lizzie preparing breakfast. She also had a big smile on her face; the effects of a clear sky always made them both happy.
“We must go out for a walk, Lizzie!” said Jane.
Her sister looked at her. She had never seen Jane this happy before. Sure, good weather can affect ones mood but Jane was practically flying in a different world.
“I believe it is more than just the weather that has made you so happy, Jane.”
Lizzie was very happy for her sister, and, at the same time, she was struggling to hide the pain she was feeling for her. What would happen, if Leonard was indeed to go and become a University Professor? Maybe… maybe Leonard would be so in love with her by then that he may reject the position! Or maybe, a letter will never arrive for him from Oxford! Elizabeth felt very ashamed for even having the slightest hope for the last one… She would never wish such a misfortune for Leonard, for she knew how important this position was for him. Jane’s response interrupted her deep thoughts.
“Oh Lizzie, stop it now! You do know that my thoughts are not constantly about him.”
“Well, a fair amount of them are…” teased Elizabeth, but her words had a tone of pure statement and worry.
Jane just laughed and started having her breakfast. She was done very soon and grabbed her hat as soon as she stood up.
“Are you not coming?” she looked at her sister who was still finishing off her tea.
“Oh, you go, I will be following you soon.” said Elizabeth with a smile. Jane skipped to the door, meeting her father halfway. She quickly greeted him, gave him a tight hug and ran outside. Astonished by this new behavior, Mr Bennet entered the dining room and sat at his favourite spot with his newspaper. Elizabeth soon stood up and wore her hat and coat. Before leaving however, she looked at her father with a concerned expression.
“I am worried, papa…”
“All we can do is wait, my dear Elizabeth… and hope...” was her father’s response, but his tone also had a hint of discomfort that Elizabeth picked up.
She sighed and exited the house, following her sister who was waiting for her a couple of steps away from their garden.
On descending from his room to breakfast the next morning, Leonard was greatly surprised to find his uncle on his own.
“Good morning, uncle. I hope you had a pleasant evening. Is not Tom up yet?” he said to Mr Powell as soon as he entered the dining room.
“Apparently Tom last night could not sleep, so he helped himself to some of the best home-made brew that my cellar has. Two pints, in fact. He will not be up for a long time, I suspect, taking into account the immense quantity of punch he must have consumed at the ball.”
“As for my evening, I expect it was the least eventful, and yours is the one that should have been pleasant”, continued Mr Powell, as Leonard blushed a deep crimson. “Ah, and so it was”, said he, with a wide grin on his face.
Leonard tried to find something to distract himself, and avoid answering to the remark. Thankfully, the clock chimed ten, and thus gave him his opportunity to make his escape.
“Is this the time? I should be off for my walk, if I am to be back in time for luncheon. Good-bye!”
He put on his winter coat, for the morning was chilly, his hat and gloves, and with great rapidity left the house. As soon as he was out of sight of the house, a long sigh escaped him. He put his uncle’s remark out of his mind, however, and proceeded to follow his favorite path.
He had not been wondering long, when two female figures caught his eye. His heart jumped in his chest as he realized that it was the two elder Bennet sisters. They had not perceived him yet, so he made his way to where they were talking.
“Miss Bennet! Miss Elizabeth!”, he called out as soon as he was within their earshot.
The two sisters turned in search of the voice calling them. Leonard noticed how Jane’s face, already bright from the cold and the exercise she had had, became even brighter as she recognized him. Had he not been so fixed by the eldest sister’s countenance, he might have noticed the worried look on the younger sister’s face. He was invited to join them immediately, and he did so, with great pleasure, though he scarcely showed it. He immediately entered into quiet conversation with Jane, and he was finding it increasingly difficult to focus on their discussion, and he needed to remind himself every other step that it would be rude to stare at her. Jane herself was in no better position: the previous night she had come to fully realize the extend of her admiration for this bright young man, and was trying hard not to be too starry-eyed when he was addressing her.
Elizabeth had fallen a little behind, and watched them both with continually increasing alarm. Had circumstances been different, had her father never talked to her about Mr Carver’s prospects, she would have made some excuse to leave the lovers alone; now however that she knew how things really stood, she was determined never to leave Jane out of her sight again when Leonard was anywhere near her. She felt sorry for them both, for now they were at peace with themselves and with each other. But she dreaded the moment the letter from Oxford would arrive and, in all probability, tear them apart. She shook these feelings, and tried to think more cheerfully of the matter. Seeing Jane, however, so openly admiring Leonard, her alarm returned, and she resolved that it was time to remind them of her presence.
“I must say I was pleased to make your brother’s acquaintance. His manners are very engaging. I believe your uncle must be very happy to have two such excellent companions with him to support him in his grief.”
Leonard and Jane startled, and looked at her, at first surprised to find her still with them, and then guiltily, for having neglected her.
“Indeed he is”, said Leonard, barely aware of what he was answering to.
“Pray tell us, do you and your brother intend to stay in the neighborhood long?”, Lizzie continued.
“I do not know how long my brother’s visit will be, but I will stay till I am needed elsewhere, which, I expect, will not be for some time.”
“Mr Powell is lucky, to have such devoted nephews.”
Leonard replied by bowing to Elizabeth. The party remained in silence for awhile. Though Elizabeth had said nothing new, she had brought the lovers nearer to earth, though not as near as she had hoped to: she had reminded them that Leonard would, at some point, have to leave.
Within a few minutes, however, the couple was once again deep in conversation with each other. Lizzie realized that, though she had aroused them to the possibility of Leonard’s departure, she had failed to remind Leonard himself of a certain letter he was expecting. She sighed, resigned, and all she could now do was hope for the best, and follow her sister and Leonard silently across the fields.
Meanwhile, Tom managed to get out of bed sooner than his uncle had expected, and within an hour and a half of Leonard’s departure, he was sitting in the dining room, sipping a cup of strong coffee. He found a letter addressed to him laid next to his breakfast, and, curious, he tore the envelope, unfolded the sheet of paper it contained, and began reading it.
“My dearest Tom,
I was glad to hear that my dear brother is bearing up well. He will never fully recover from her death, I know, for he was very fond her, God rest her soul. Time, as you say, might at least lessen the pain of her loss.
Little Susan has made great progress with her geometry. I think she has something of Leonard’s mind, but with your father’s easy manners. She misses you both very much. I hope that we will see you both soon.
Send us news, especially of the ball. Lennie seemed excited about it, and I’ve never seen him anticipating any such event before. Can a girl have anything to do with it? I dare say my imagination is running away with me again.
PS: Please tell Leonard that no letter has yet arrived from Oxford. And tell him not to despair; you know how easily he gets worried.”
The postscript puzzled Tom exceedingly: what letter from Oxford? He was about to rush into his uncle’s study, and seize a paper on which to write a frantic answer to his letter, but he thought that maybe Mr Powell could answer his question. He had a feeling what the expected letter could contain, and the worry which seized him, made him run into the drawing room.
“Uncle! UNCLE!”, he shouted as he entered the room where Mr Powell was sitting, sadly gazing into the fire.
“Up and about already, Tom, my boy?”
“Yes. Uncle, are you aware that Lennie is expecting a letter from Oxford?”
“And do you know what that letter could be for?”
“Why, the answer to Leonard’s application for a position in his old college, of course.”
As his fears where confirmed, he could not hold his astonishment at the news. He sank into the nearest chair, holding his head with his hands.
“But surely you knew about it. Hadn’t Leonard informed you?”, asked Mr Powell, confused at Tom’s surprise.
“No, I had no idea...”
“And aren’t you pleased for him?”
“A month ago, I would have been beside myself with joy at the news”, said Tom, rising and moving towards the door.
“But something has changed?”, said his uncle, frowning.
If there was an answer, Mr Powell never heard it, for as soon as he finished his question, the door of the drawing room slammed behind Tom.