These deleted scenes, showing Mr. Bennet’s increasing amusement with Bingley’s indecisive attempts at courtship, were originally shared at Babblings of a Bookworm as part of my blog tour. I’m sharing them here as well for fans of Mistaken to enjoy.
Thursday, 28 May 1812: Hertfordshire
Mr. Bennet halted his amble to the library mid-stride, leant backwards, and peered around the parlour door. No, he had not been mistaken. Mr. Bingley was, indeed, engrossed in an apparently diverting tête-à-tête with Elizabeth—his third call on as many sisters in as many days. Mr. Bennet could not but marvel at the man’s indecisiveness.
Tuesday’s choice had been Jane, with whom the young man had spent the better part of the day exchanging naught but protracted silences and mawkish smiles. The appeal of such a dull courtship eluded Mr. Bennet entirely, and he was not surprised when on Wednesday, Mr. Bingley had diverted his attentions to Mary. They had at least managed a dialogue of sorts and one that must have been more engaging than it appeared for in spite of Mr. Bingley’s appearance of ennui, he had yet stayed the entire day.
Today, it seemed nothing would do but to sample the company of a third Bennet, and very well pleased with his experiment he seemed too. Whatever it was Elizabeth was saying had him leaning almost out of his seat—so far, in fact, that Mr. Bennet was tempted to engineer some sort of commotion to see whether the pup toppled into her lap in fright.
Jane looked on with ill-concealed vexation (never had she looked so much like her mother), and he considered that for a girl heretofore unwilling to frown at a fart, her elevation to jealous inamorata was laudable. Mary seemed entirely unaffected by Mr Bingley’s defection, intent as she was on banging out a discordant bagatelle on the pianoforte.
Mr. Bennet wished his young neighbour luck and hoped he would not take overlong shedding his ambivalence, for he would prefer it if Mrs. Bennet remained ignorant of such vacillation for as long as possible, lest he be called to intervene.
Friday, 29 May 1812: Hertfordshire
The parlour at Longbourn was blessedly quiet, Jane’s youngest sisters having gone to visit Mrs. Philips with their mother. She, her father, and Elizabeth sat in companionable silence, they both reading, and she anticipating whether Mr. Bingley might call again today. She was not long kept in suspense. Not a quarter of an hour after her mother left the house, did Mr. Bingley arrive.
“Good day, sir!” said her father, folding his paper as he arose from his chair. “You have come for Kitty today, I suppose? I am sorry to disappoint you, but she is not at home.”
Jane often missed the gist of her father’s jokes and had grown used to ignoring them, but Mr. Bingley looked altogether baffled. He was saved from his stammering reply—and Jane’s spirits were raised considerably—by the announcement of a second visitor, Mr. Greyson. For Mr. Greyson was Elizabeth’s suitor and would monopolise her attention charmingly. Greetings were exchanged and Mr. Bennet excused himself, claiming five people were four too many for a truly civilized gathering.
Monday, 1 June 1812: Hertfordshire
Mr. Bennet had been uncommonly concerned at the prospect of Elizabeth walking to Meryton this day. Her rapid recovery notwithstanding, he did not think it wise for her to be venturing so far so soon. Nevertheless, she would not be deterred, and when his offer of the carriage had also fallen on deaf ears, he had taken the unprecedented decision to accompany her and her sisters on their walk. Thus, they had all—excepting Lydia and Mrs. Bennet, who tarried abed—enjoyed an agreeable morning in town.
Now almost home, he regarded Elizabeth with pride. The majority of their sojourn had been passed accepting well wishes from the good folk of Meryton. He had anticipated a certain amount of interest, but the ingenuous concern of his neighbours had far exceeded his expectation, speaking volumes as to the esteem his second eldest evidently commanded.
He was also disagreeably humbled, for the more people expressed their sympathy at her misfortune the greater swelled his own remorse. Had he but listened to Elizabeth’s warning, all the unpleasantness of the past days might have been avoided. Instead, she had borne the brunt of Wickham’s iniquity, Lydia’s stupidity and his own inaction and guilt poked incessantly at his equanimity.
As they approached the front door he patted her hand where it rested upon his arm. “I ought to have listened to you, I know. Though I cannot like of your method of proving me wrong.”
Elizabeth smiled at him weakly.
Relieved to have discharged his guilt, he continued more light-heartedly. “And now, with the militia departing next week sans your foolish sister, we need not concern ourselves with the preservation of her honour for at least another season. Our ruin has been wholly averted, and all with very little inconvenience to ourselves.” He chuckled and stood aside for Elizabeth, who now looked excessively weary, to go through the front door ahead of him.
As they entered the house, Hill informed them that Mr. Bingley waited upon them in the parlour.
“I should feel neglected were he not!” He left the girls to change their shoes and went to greet his guest—and knew not whether to be diverted or incredulous upon finding him this time in private conference with his fifth daughter. He allowed himself a modest smile and cleared his throat. “I commend your zeal for my progeny, Mr. Bingley, but even you cannot believe there is potential here!”
His delight in the man’s bewilderment was overshadowed by Elizabeth’s scowl as she trailed into the room after Jane. Hoping her recent travails had not permanently tempered her wit he excused himself and retreated to his library in search of sanctuary.