Chapter IV: The Best Laid Plans
When Jane and Darcy were alone in their room that night, the former, who had been cautious in her praise of Mr. Odinson before, expressed to her sister just how very much she admired him.
"He is just what a young man ought to be," said she, "sensible, good-humored, lively; and I never saw such happy manners! He even seemed to enjoy discussing what little science we know about the stars, though I am certain that humans are wrong on many things."
"He is also handsome," replied Darcy, "which a young man ought likewise to be, if he possibly can. His character is thereby complete."
"I was very much flattered by his asking me to dance a second time. I did not expect such a compliment."
"Did you not? I thought so. But that is one great difference between us. Compliments always take you by surprise and me never. What could be more natural than his asking you again? He could not help seeing that you were about five times as pretty as every other woman in the room. No thanks to his gallantry for that. Well, he certainly is very agreeable, and I give you leave to like him. You have liked many a stupider person."
Jane smacked her sister with a pillow. "Darcy!"
"You rarely dislike a person and if you do, you are still unfailingly polite to them."
"I would not wish to be hasty in censuring anyone; but I always speak what I think."
"And so you like this man's friends, too, do you? Their manners are not equal to his."
"Certainly not—at first. But they are very pleasing to converse with. I do not think it is their fault entirely since they have not been to Earth in a long time. His friends are to stay with him a month at least. I am much mistaken if we shall not find very interesting neighbors in them."
“Interesting might be the best word, yes,” Darcy said.
“Oh, does it still sting what Mr. Loki Odinson said to you? That was quite rude, but I am certain he did not mean it,” Jane said.
Darcy laughed. “I care little about Loki Odinson’s thoughts on me. He thought well of you, and that is enough for me.”
The village of Longbourn was only one mile from Meryton; a most convenient distance for the young ladies, who were usually tempted thither three or four times a week, to pay their duty to their aunt, Mrs. Fury, and to a milliner's shop just over the way. The two youngest of the family, Maria and Natasha, were particularly frequent in these attentions. However bare of news the country in general might be, they always contrived to learn some from their aunt. At present, indeed, they were well supplied both with news and happiness by the recent arrival of a militia regiment in the neighborhood. It was to remain the whole winter; Meryton was the headquarters.
Their visits to Mrs. Fury were now productive of the most interesting intelligence. Every day added something to their knowledge of the officers' names and connections. Their lodgings were not long a secret, and at length they began to know the officers themselves. Mrs. Fury’s in-laws visited them all, and this opened to her nieces a store of felicity unknown before. They could talk of nothing but officers and Mr. Odinson's large fortune.
There was much discussion also on the Odinsons and their company. If there was more information on their past, Mrs. Fury was not letting on. She did pass on to the rest of the village that Darcy refused to ever dance with Loki Odinson.
Rumor had it that Mrs. Fury had illicit means of finding out information about anyone in town. Some rumors even said that Maria and Natasha Coulson would spy on unsuspecting residents. Of course, no rumor was true unless Mrs. Fury confirmed it.
As the weeks went by, the Coulsons did come to Netherfield and that visit was soon returned in due form. It was generally evident whenever they met, that Mr. Odinson did admire Miss Coulson. To Darcy, it was equally evident that Jane was yielding to the preference which she had begun to entertain for him from the first, and was in a way to be very much in love. Miss Darcy Coulson did worry though that the rest of the world would not catch on to Jane’s feelings. Darcy mentioned this to her friend, Miss Lucas, as they walked together.
Miss Lucas said "If a woman conceals her affection with the same skill from the object of it, she may lose the opportunity of fixing him. In nine cases out of ten a women had better show more affection than she feels. Odinson likes your sister undoubtedly; but he may never do more than like her, if she does not help him on."
"But she does help him on, as much as her nature will allow. If I can perceive her regard for him, he must be a simpleton, indeed, not to discover it too."
"Remember, Darcy, that he does not know Jane's disposition as you do."
"But if a woman is partial to a man, and does not endeavor to conceal it, he must find it out."
"Perhaps he must, if he sees enough of her. But, though Odinson and Jane meet tolerably often, it is never for many hours together; and, as they always see each other in large mixed parties, it is impossible that every moment should be employed in conversing together. Jane should therefore make the most of every half-hour in which she can command his attention. When she is secure of him, there will be more leisure for falling in love as much as she chooses."
"Your plan is a good one," replied Darcy, "where nothing is in question but the desire of being well married, and if I were determined to get a rich husband, or any husband, I dare say I should adopt it. But these are not Jane's feelings. She is not acting by design. She has known him only a fortnight. She danced four dances with him at Meryton; she saw him one morning at his own house, and has since dined with him in company four times. This is not quite enough to make her understand his character."
"Not as you represent it. Had she merely dined with him, she might only have discovered whether he had a good appetite; but you must remember that four evenings have also been spent together—and four evenings may do a great deal."
"Yes; these four evenings have enabled them to ascertain that they both like Vingt-un better than Commerce; but with respect to any other leading characteristic, I do not imagine that much has been unfolded."
"Well," said Miss Lucas, "I wish Jane success with all my heart; and if she were married to him to-morrow, I should think she had as good a chance of happiness as if she were to be studying his character for a year.”
Darcy squeezed her friend’s hand. “I shall try to find a way for the two to know each other better, without forcing Jane to do something against her nature.”
The two youngest Coulson daughters were speaking of the militia at breakfast with the family when Mr. Coulson said, "From all that I can collect by your talk, I wonder why the militia would settle here at all."
Maria said, “Well, we have to prepare for the French and…”
“Yes, yes, of course, but why Meryton?” Mr. Coulson said.
“It is fairly close to London and the coast,” Natasha said.
“What else is here?” Mr. Coulson asked.
The girls were all silent as they tried to think of what could be of interest in Meryton. Peggy finally said, “Our newest residents. The military is curious about the Odinsons.”
Mr. Coulson nodded. “Now, why would a group of Asgardians wish to retire to the country? Now that is the question. That pondering is NOT to leave this family, do you understand me?”
There was a round of “yes, sir” from the Coulson woman and they were true to their word.
When breakfast was almost finished, a footman came into the room with a note for Miss Coulson. It came from Netherfield and the servant waited for an answer.
Mrs. Coulson's eyes sparkled with pleasure, and she said as Jane read, "Well, Jane, who is it from? What is it about? What does he say? Well, Jane, make haste and tell us; make haste, my love."
"It is from Lady Sif," said Jane, and then read it aloud, "My dear friend, if you would be kind enough to come to lunch at Netherfield, I should be most grateful. I do quite enjoy your company and have looked for an opportunity for us to converse for some time and now that opportunity has come. I injured myself this morning but shall mend by tomorrow. Unfortunately, the gentlemen are abandoning me to dine with the officers. Yours ever, Lady Sif.”
"With the officers!" said Maria, "I wonder my aunt did not tell us of that."
"Dining out," said Mrs. Coulson, "that is very unlucky."
"Can I have the carriage?" said Jane.
A plan came into Mrs. Coulson’s mind. "No, my dear, you had better go on horseback, because it seems likely to rain; and then you must stay all night.”
"That would be a good scheme," said Darcy, "if you were sure that they would not offer to send her home."
"Oh! But the gentlemen will have Mr. Odinson's coach to go to Meryton."
"I would much rather go in the carriage," Jane said.
"But, my dear, your father cannot spare the horses, I am sure. They are wanted in the farm, Mr. Coulson, are they not?"
Mr. Coulson was reading a newspaper and did not bother looking up. "They are wanted in the farm much more than I can get them."
"But if you have got them today," said Darcy, "my mother's purpose will be answered."
“They are engaged, Darcy,” Mr. Coulson said, shooting her a glare for disturbing his reading more than necessary, “You all use Lola far more than you should.”
Jane was therefore obliged to go on horseback, and her mother attended her to the door with many cheerful prognostics of a bad day. Mrs. Coulson’s hopes were answered. Jane had not been gone long before it rained hard. Jane’s sisters were uneasy for her, but her mother was delighted. The rain continued the whole evening without intermission; Jane certainly could not come back.
"This was a lucky idea of mine, indeed!" said Mrs. Coulson more than once, as if the credit of making it rain were all her own.