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For the second instalment of my ‘Scene It’ series, I’ve chosen chapter 6 in volume 1. The story is moving along nicely at this point but we’re still in the early stages of understanding the characters, particularly Mr Darcy, who reticence in company hasn’t disappeared with the passing of time.

This chapter starts with a conversation between Elizabeth and her best friend, Charlotte Lucas, regarding the increasing attraction between Jane, Elizabeth’s eldest sister, and Mr Bingley. This passage is full of prophetic hints and ominous signs for anyone who has read the book more than once. If not, the reader is blissfully unaware of how true some of the comments are, particularly those made by Charlotte. I won’t spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read the book; suffice to say that she is a very shrewd observer, and that it’s unfortunate Jane doesn’t overhear their conversation – the story might then have been quite different!

A significant scene in this chapter involves Mr Darcy. He is one of many attending a party hosted by Sir William Lucas and his wife at their home, Lucas Lodge. As at the Meryton Assembly, he shows no interest in anyone gathered and stands in ‘silent indignation at such a mode of passing the evening’. Nice. This sort of behaviour doesn’t go far in repairing the damage inflicted by his  rudeness at the assembly, or his refusal to ask Lizzy to dance! When Sir William, in his usual affable way, attempts conversation with Mr Darcy, he doesn’t do himself any favours either…

To Sir William’s questions, he answers with as few words as possible, as though wishing he were somewhere else. We also become aware of his dislike for dancing as he says: “It is a compliment I never pay to any place if I can avoid it.” So it’s not just in Hertfordshire!

When Sir William talks of finding a home in town, Mr Darcy makes no comment, further convincing the readers of his lack of manners and desire for Sir William to leave him alone! Not quite how you would expect a gentleman to behave. Luckily, a small saving grace comes along in the form of Elizabeth at this moment whom Sir William invites Mr Darcy to dance with. Despite his earlier comment, Mr Darcy actually requests the honour of her hand suggesting he can be polite when he wants to be, even if it may be formality at this point. Elizabeth refuses of course, having determined in the previous chapter never to dance with Mr Darcy. We’ll see how long her resolution lasts…

When Elizabeth leaves the gentlemen shortly after, Miss Bingley approaches him. After the Meryton assembly, she and her sister, Mrs Hurst, are described as ‘proud and conceited’ and as thinking “well of themselves”, which don’t endear either to Elizabeth. She sees through their forced smiles and appearance of politeness very quickly. Miss Bingley is not at all impressed by the people of Meryton and says so to Mr Darcy here. It’s not the last time she will ask for Mr Darcy’s opinion or pretend to know what it is. It seems to be a tactic she uses to show how similar they are, thereby winning his esteem, and hopefully, at least in her mind, his heart. She might need to rethink that strategm if she wants a happier outcome…

Mr Darcy surprises her, and the reader, with his subsequent comment: “I have been meditating on the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bestow.” So who do you think those ‘fine eyes’ belong to? Miss Bingley must be aching for him to say her name. This is cruel I know but I can’t help a smile at Miss Bingley’s surprise and embarrassment every time I read this part. It’s not her eyes that inspire such reflections, rather Miss Elizabeth Bennet! Ha!

Since Mr Darcy didn’t think Elizabeth pretty enough to dance with at the assembly, you might wonder where this comes from. Is it a ruse to fend off the attentions of Miss Bingley? A passing comment with no meaning, designed simply to amuse himself? Or something more? We’re told earlier in this chapter that although he first looked at Elizabeth only to criticise, he is beginning to find her features ‘uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes’ and ‘her figure to be light and pleasing’. So he’s not so indifferent to her after all! In a later chapter when he admits to abhorring disguise of all times it seems that he truly means what he says about her fine eyes. The first admission of his attraction to her? I think so!

What do you think?