The next day, the day of the Meryton assembly arrived, and the Bennet household was abuzz with anticipation. Mrs. Bennet fluttered about ensuring every detail of her daughters’ dresses and hair was just so, determined that they should make a favorable impression on the Netherfield party.
“You must mind your manners and dance with whoever asks,” she lectured as their carriage rattled towards town. “And smile! We must convince these gentlemen you are the most amiable young ladies in the country.”
“Yes, Mama,” the girls chimed dutifully, though not without some shared smirking when her back was turned.
As soon as they stepped into the assembly hall, a palpable rush of excitement enveloped them. The sweeping elegance of the high-ceilinged room was brought to life with flickering candlelight from brass chandeliers that reflected off the freshly polished hardwood floor. Each corner was bustling with activity, filled with faces both familiar and new.
Clusters of elaborately dressed gentlemen conversed in earnest near solid oak walls lined with intricately framed portraits of past civic leaders, providing a testament to Meryton’s history. Friends and neighbors huddled together, their brightly colored gowns contrasting beautifully against the grandeur of the assembly hall’s stern architecture. Their mingled perfumes of lavender, rose, and citrus wafted through the air, hinting at an array of unique personalities present.
Ladies eagerly chatted behind delicate lace fans with their beaus, their soft laughter mixing with the low murmur of gossips rising and falling rhythmically like gentle ocean waves.
Off to the side, musicians took their places on a small, elevated platform, tuning their instruments for the night’s entertainment. Every so often, the resonant pluck of a violin string or the low, rich notes from a cello would cut through the chatter, underscoring with music the thick anticipation in the air.
In this lively scene, Charlotte Lucas spied Elizabeth and rushed over to meet her friend, practically glowing with eagerness.
“Lizzy! Have you heard?” she said, eyes dancing. “The rumors about Netherfield have grown even wilder since the tenants arrived.”
“Do tell,” Elizabeth replied, amused.
“Well, Mrs. Phillips claims a housemaid told her the most dreadful moans have been heard coming from empty rooms at night. And items flying off shelves of their own accord!” Charlotte whispered dramatically.
Elizabeth laughed. “It seems Papa’s silly ghost stories have taken on a life of their own.”
“There is more,” Charlotte smiled mischievously as she whispered, “I heard from the butcher’s boy that Mr. Darcy keeps odd hours, pacing his rooms deep into the night. And Mrs. Phillips swears she saw a face pressed against an upstairs window when the house was supposed to be empty! I’m starting to wonder if Netherfield really is haunted.”
Elizabeth laughed again. “You almost have me believing those wild tales now, Charlotte,” she teased. “Perhaps he is being kept awake by disembodied spirits.”
The two friends giggled behind their fans. But further speculation was interrupted as a hush fell over the hall, drawing Elizabeth’s attention towards the entrance. The Netherfield party had finally arrived, and their presence caused an immediate stir among the attendees.
Elizabeth turned to gaze at the spectacle of the Netherfield party’s entrance. Her heart skipped as she took in their grandeur and sophistication, a stark contrast to the village gentry she was used to.
First, Mr. Bingley came into view, looking genial and handsome. His golden locks gleamed under the chandelier’s light, enhancing his distinguished beauty. Underneath raised eyebrows, his sparkling eyes were brimming with kindness and excitement. His smile was infectious. Attributes which Elizabeth noted could easily win over Meryton’s households.
Mr. Darcy followed suit, his striking stature impossible to overlook. Unlike Mr. Bingley, he carried an intimidating air – an unreadable mask that seemed to hide more than it revealed. His imposing ice-blue eyes scanned the room and met hers, causing an inexplicable jolt in her pulse before he moved his gaze away nonchalantly. His indifference intrigued her, and despite herself, Elizabeth found her curiosity piqued.
When Mr. and Mrs. Hurst made their entrance, Elizabeth admired Mrs. Hurst’s elegance, showcased exquisitely by the delicate lavender of her gown, but she couldn’t help but feel a prick of disappointment upon observing Mr. Hurst, who lacked the distinct charm his friends carried with such ease.
Lastly, Miss Bingley appeared dazzling against the backdrop of subdued colors worn by most ladies present. The emerald green of her attire spoke volumes about her vivacity. Still, there was an air of smug satisfaction on her face that Elizabeth found hard to ignore.
The whispers swarmed around her like bees, their words barely registering as Elizabeth continued to observe them silently. An unsettling mix of anticipation and apprehension filled her as she anticipated what the arrival of these characters would bring to the tranquil life of Meryton.
Candid whispers fluttered through the crowd, traveling like waves as this colorful array of characters made their way through the hall.
“Mr. Bingley is quite amiable and cheerful, don’t you think?” Jane whispered to Elizabeth as they watched the set begin. “And very handsome too.”
“He does seem good-natured and lively,” Elizabeth agreed, “though I wonder if it is all a show to impress upon his first arrival.”
Jane smiled gently. “I think his friendliness is genuine. And he is very agreeable to dance with.”
“Just take care not to lose your heart too quickly, dear Jane,” Elizabeth teased. “We know nothing of Mr. Bingley yet beyond first appearances.”
Jane blushed prettily at the implication. “Of course. But I confess he does seem a pleasant young man so far.”
As Elizabeth and Jane quietly assessed the Netherfield gentlemen, the titter of excited whispers nearby caught their attention. A group of young ladies stood huddled together, casting admiring glances towards another gentleman who had just entered the room.
“Look there, it’s Mr. Wickham,” one of the women sighed dreamily. “Isn’t he just as handsome as a Greek god?”
Jane leaned closer to Elizabeth and whispered, “They certainly seem taken with Mr. Wickham.”
Elizabeth followed the women’s gaze and observed a handsome man in a smartly tailored redcoat. He possessed a charming smile that seemed to enchant a growing circle of admirers.
Before Elizabeth could comment, she noticed a subtle shift in the mood across the room. Mr. Darcy, who was conversing with Mr. Bingley, suddenly stilled. His eyes had locked onto the newly lauded Mr. Wickham. Elizabeth, intrigued by his reaction, watched unnoticed as Mr. Darcy’s jaw tensed, and his stance, usually so commanding, became momentarily rigid. It was clear even from a distance that the sight of Mr. Wickham was not received with any measure of pleasure by the haughty gentleman.
Wondering at the potential history between the two men, Elizabeth was about to point out the interaction to Jane, but their attention was redirected as Sir William Lucas approached, eager to play matchmaker.
Sir William Lucas eagerly made his way over to where Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy stood conversing. With a broad smile, he gestured towards the Bennet family and began making formal introductions between the gentlemen and the ladies. Though Mr. Darcy barely nodded in acknowledgement, Mr. Bingley greeted them warmly.
“It is a pleasure to make your acquaintances,” he said with a broad smile. “Your daughters are the loveliest young ladies here. Might I have the honor of dancing the next with Miss Bennet?”
“Oh, the honor is ours, Mr. Bingley!” gushed Mrs. Bennet. “Jane is an excellent dancer and quite the belle of the ball.”
Jane blushed deeper at their mother’s effusive praise.
“And my Lydia is the liveliest dancer here, though she still be the youngest,” Mrs. Bennet added with a wink.
Lydia giggled and bobbed a playful curtsy, while Elizabeth had to refrain from rolling her eyes.
Mr. Darcy stood silent beside them, his expression inscrutable. When Sir William hinted he should dance with one of the Bennet sisters, he declined coolly and walked away. Elizabeth bristled slightly at the snub but told herself she did not care to dance with such an ill-humored man anyway.
“The nerve of that horrid man! No matter, we shall have nothing more to do with the likes of him.”
Elizabeth privately agreed with her mother’s assessment, finding Mr. Darcy’s behavior quite disagreeable so far.
As Mr. Bingley led Jane to the floor, Mrs. Bennet sighed happily. “Such a charming gentleman. And so handsome too! Don’t you agree, Mr. Bennet?”
“Quite charming,” Mr. Bennet replied dryly, his eyes twinkling.
Elizabeth hid her smile. She knew her father well enough to detect his subtle amusement at his wife’s transparent matchmaking. She scanned the dancers, then caught her breath as she noticed Mr. Darcy’s stare fixed upon her. When their eyes met, he looked away abruptly. Strange, she thought, feeling unsettled.
The set ended, and Elizabeth made her way towards Charlotte. But she found her path blocked by none other than Mr. Darcy himself.
“Miss Elizabeth.” He bowed correctly. Elizabeth stared, surprised to be addressed by the aloof man she had pegged as too proud to converse with mere country folk.
“Mr. Darcy,” she replied after a brief pause.
He regarded her solemnly. “Are you fond of dancing?”
“Very much so.”
He nodded. “And do you dance often in Meryton?”
“Yes, sir, as often as we have balls.”
“I see.” His lips thinned in disapproval. “In my opinion, country manners often lead to a laxness in proper decorum amongst the younger members of society.”
Elizabeth bristled, instantly understanding his insinuation. “Indeed, sir? Then I wonder you chose to settle in such a rustic locale as Meryton.”
He frowned. “Necessity, not choice, dictated my friend’s decision to lease Netherfield Park. Were it solely up to me, I should not have chosen to subject myself to the company found here.”
Elizabeth flushed, incensed by the arrogant disdain in his tone. “I am sorry our society does not meet your standards, Mr. Darcy. I am sure you and your sisters must find it dreadfully burdensome to mingle with mere country folk. I shall not detain you any longer from the superior company you are accustomed to keeping.”
With that she stepped nimbly around him, not trusting herself to maintain civility. The nerve! The proud, horrid man. Swallowing her indignation, she made her way to Charlotte’s side. Her spirits soon rose again through dancing, though she took care to avoid Mr. Darcy, having no wish to further endure his conceit.
Later in the evening, Elizabeth spied her mother cornering poor Mr. Bingley and extolling the many charms of her eldest daughter. Elizabeth winced, imagining how Jane would blush to have her merits so loudly proclaimed. Sure enough, she glimpsed Jane’s cheeks blooming pink where she stood by the punch bowl as Mrs. Bennet’s shrill voice carried across the room.
“…and of course my Jane is the jewel of the county, known for her sweet disposition and beauty. And such a talent for the pianoforte and singing! You really must join us at Longbourn to hear her play and sing.”
Elizabeth hurried over to attempt a rescue. “Mama,” she interjected gently, “I do believe Mrs. Phillips was looking for you earlier.”
“Oh! Was she?” Flustered, Mrs. Bennet released her grip on Mr. Bingley’s arm. “Well then, I had best go find her at once. But we shall speak again later, Mr. Bingley!”
“Of course, Madame.” He gave a strained smile before beating a hasty retreat as she bustled off.
“Thank you, Lizzy,” said poor Jane. “I know she means well, but really, I was so embarrassed.”
Elizabeth laughed and shook her head. “She is incorrigible. But let us not dwell on it. Are you enjoying your evening?”
“Very much.” Jane smiled, her natural sweetness overcoming any lingering mortification.
As the evening drew to a close, the Bennets gathered to take their leave. Jane was all smiles, declaring Mr. Bingley to be a lively, pleasing gentleman.
“And I dare say he finds you equally pleasing,” said Elizabeth. “For he danced with you most of the evening. I believe Mama’s hopes are well founded.”
Jane blushed prettily. “Oh Lizzy, I am sure he was merely being polite.” But her eyes shone at the thought.
In contrast, Elizabeth felt her own eyes narrow when she glimpsed Mr. Darcy across the room, still looking as haughty as ever. “Not all the Netherfield gentlemen have made such a charming impression,” she remarked to Jane.
Jane followed her gaze and frowned. “No, though I am sure we do not know him well enough to judge his true nature.”
“Perhaps,” Elizabeth conceded reluctantly. “Though I confess I have not seen much evidence of an amiable character in Mr. Darcy tonight.”
Jane linked her arm through Elizabeth’s as they made their way outside. “First impressions can be deceiving. I still hope he proves less prideful than he appears.”
Elizabeth smiled ruefully. “Your goodness puts the rest of us poor mortals to shame, dearest. Very well, for your sake I will not give up on the gentleman entirely…yet.”
Arm in arm, the sisters joined the rest of their family to travel home beneath the moonlit sky. A night of new acquaintances, gossip, and dancing had enlivened the neighborhood and left much to discuss during the carriage ride back to Longbourn.
As the Bennet sisters prepared for bed, they eagerly discussed the evening’s events. “Mr. Bingley is just as amiable as we hoped,” said Jane. “And he is an excellent dancer.”
“I believe Mama has already started planning the wedding,” teased Elizabeth. “He does seem a genuinely kind young man.”
Jane blushed. “And his sisters were very gracious, though Miss Bingley is a bit…”
“Haughty?” supplied Elizabeth.
Jane smiled. “Well, I am sure she is just reserved being in new company.”
Elizabeth leaned in with a conspiratorial gleam in her eye. “Speaking of intriguing company, did you notice Mr. Wickham tonight? He is remarkably agreeable, and it seems he does enjoy sharing certain… anecdotes.”
Jane nodded, her expression growing slightly puzzled. “Indeed, I did hear Mr. Wickham spinning quite the tale about the illustrious Mr. Darcy. It appears they have a history together—did you see Mr. Darcy’s face when Mr. Wickham arrived?”
Elizabeth’s eyes sparkled with mischief. “Oh, how could I miss it? There was a distinct chill in the air the moment Mr. Wickham made his entrance. Mr. Darcy’s brooding look deepened considerably; I’ve never seen a countenance so suddenly overcast.”
The room echoed with Elizabeth’s laughter. “And now I half-wonder whether the rumors surrounding Netherfield’s haunts might be the handiwork of Mr. Darcy’s spirit, unsettled by Mr. Wickham’s presence in Meryton,” she said with playful sarcasm.
Jane gently chided, “Now Lizzy, you should not make light of such gossip. And as for Mr. Darcy’s demeanor, we mustn’t be too hasty in our judgments based on a moment’s observation.”
Elizabeth’s humor softened into thoughtfulness. “True enough, though I admit, my curiosity is piqued by their apparent enmity. Despite myself, I’m quite intrigued by the mystery tucked behind Mr. Darcy’s grave façade.”
The conversation then took a more serious turn as Elizabeth reflected on the evening’s interactions.
“But seriously, Jane,” Elizabeth mused, “there must be more to the story between those two gentlemen. One does not grow cold without cause, especially someone like Mr. Darcy, who is already rather… frosty.”
Jane shook her head gently. “Whatever the reason for their tension, it is not our place to speculate. Affairs of the past should remain just that.”
Elizabeth sighed, conceding the point. “Perhaps you are right. Still, with Mr. Wickham being so charming and forthcoming, it almost feels as though he could do no wrong. Mr. Darcy’s aloofness might just cost him in the court of public opinion here in Meryton.”
“Even so, we must be careful not to judge so quickly,” replied Jane, the ever-conscious observer of proprieties. “Appearances can be deceiving, after all.”
Elizabeth nodded, still intrigued by the complexity of human character they had witnessed that evening. “Indeed,” she agreed. “It seems we have much to learn about our new neighbors. But let us retire for the night, and who knows? In the light of day, we may discover things to be quite different from what we perceive by moonlight.”
Jane consented with a soft smile. “Good night, Lizzy. May your dreams be free of hauntings and specters.”
“Good night, dear Jane,” Elizabeth returned the smile. “Haunted or not, tomorrow is another day, and we shall no doubt have more to discuss after our next encounter with the gentlemen of Netherfield.”
With that, the sisters blew out their candles and settled into their beds, the mysteries of the evening still whispering through the darkened room.
The final, edited version!
When the Netherfield party arrives to take up residence in the long-empty Netherfield Hall, rumors swirl that the estate is haunted. Skeptical Elizabeth Bennet laughs off the ghost stories, until a series of eerie events forces her and the aloof Mr. Darcy to confront the possibility of restless spirits stalking the halls.
As bizarre occurrences plague the old house, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are drawn together in the search for answers. Battling fears and prejudices, they forge an unlikely alliance that blossoms into mutual understanding and possibly something more. But not everyone is happy to welcome this connection.
Can Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy overcome the mysterious workings of Netherfield before their hopes for happiness are extinguished? Set during the Christmas season, Halloween JAFF puts a spooky twist on Austen’s beloved Pride and Prejudice characters in this suspenseful tale of ghostly happenings, romance, and the power of courage and love conquering all.
Pride and Prejudice and Phantasms is a slow burn romance between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet that is over 65,000 words and features hijinks, lighthearted spookiness, a flustered Caroline Bingley and happily ever after for ODC.
#chapter 1It was a truth universally acknowledged that Netherfield Park was haunted. Or so the rumors in Meryton insisted. Ever since the estate had sat vacant these last five years, tales of ghostly happenings and strange noises in the night had spread through the village like wildfire. Now, with the arrival of Mr. Bingley and his party to take up residence, the speculation only increased.On their first morning in the grand house, talk turned to
#Chapter 2The next day, the day of the Meryton assembly arrived, and the Bennet household was abuzz with anticipation. Mrs. Bennet fluttered about ensuring every detail of her daughters’ dresses and hair was just so, determined that they should make a favorable impression on the Netherfield party. “You must mind your manners and dance with whoever asks,” she lectured as their carriage rattled towards town. “And smile! We must convince these gentlemen you are the
#chapter 3The carriages rolled up the drive to Netherfield Park well past midnight, the riders inside weary from the evening’s merriment. Under the glow of the full moon, the great house cast ominous shadows as the party alighted and made their way silently indoors. They gathered in the parlor to discuss the evening’s events over glasses of port and sherry.“Well Bingley, I take it you enjoyed yourself?” remarked Mr. Hurst, stifling a yawn as he
#chapter 4The Bennet ladies were startled from their morning reading in the parlor by an eager knock. Moments later, their servants ushered in Mrs. Lucas and Charlotte, both bearing delighted smiles.“Jane, Lizzy! How good it is to see you again so soon,” exclaimed Charlotte, embracing her friends.Mrs. Lucas nodded graciously to Mrs. Bennet. “Thank you for receiving us, I hope we are not intruding.”“Not at all! Do make yourselves comfortable.” Mrs. Bennet gestured hospitably to
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