At length, Mr. Darcy said, “How long will you be staying at Hunsford Cottage?”
“Charles and Jane will send their carriage for me the first week of February.”
Mr. Darcy seemed lost in his thoughts for a while this time.
She could stand the silence no longer and cleared her throat.
He startled as if he forgot she was there. “What books do you read?”
Remembering their conversation at the Netherfield ball, she tried not to laugh, truly she did, but she did not succeed.
“You said you did not wish to speak of serious matters in a ballroom, but I thought the subject might be permitted in this setting.”
He recalled their conversation, too? Interesting. She offered the title of the book she was currently reading, and as it was one he had read in the past, they discussed it, moving on to the one he was reading at present. To her surprise, it turned into a stimulating deliberation, with his stance always opposite to her own.
Mr. Darcy halted. Elizabeth was shocked to find herself standing at the gate to the short path leading to Hunsford.
He smiled. “Actually, Miss Bennet, I agree with you on all counts.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Really! I never would have guessed.”
“It made for a more interesting conversation to take up the opposite stance, did it not?” His smile broadened, dazzling her.
Goodness! He needed to stop smiling like that. The awkward silences were much preferable to an interesting conversation with him, as well. It was such an inconvenience to find the man whom she was determined to hate agreeable in any way.
She blinked to ground herself. “Were you on the debate team at school?”
“Former captain of the Oxford Debating Society, at your service, madam.” He tipped his hat. “I must say that even if I had not already agreed with you, you would have persuaded me. You are quite good at finding the strongest argument to defend your point.”
Impossibly, his smile widened further, and a dimple appeared on his cheek.
Again she was left blinking, this time in astonishment. Had Mr. Darcy really complimented her?
After a few moments, she remembered herself. “Thank you, sir.”
She reached for the latch to the gate, but he got to it before her, dropped his horse’s reins, and stepped through to hold it open as she passed.
“Good day to you, Miss Bennet. I have never enjoyed a stroll, nor a debate, more.” He bowed.
She curtsied — an automatic response — and then she walked on. At the turn to the short path that led to the door, she paused and looked back. He was still watching her!
A confusing sense of pleasure coursed through her, but then guilt dampened the emotion. She continued into the cottage.
Elizabeth reminded herself not only of what Mr. Darcy had done to Lieutenant Wickham, but also what that gentleman had said; Mr. Darcy could please where he wanted, but it was all an act. She also could not forget that he had snubbed Jane and Charles.
What kind of game was Mr. Darcy playing?
Resentment rose in her chest.
There! That was much better.
I hope you enjoyed this taste of my story.