“…You were the last man in the world whom I could ever marry.” Elizabeth said coldly, staring down the man who had just made her the most repulsive offer of marriage she thought she was ever likely to receive. And that was saying something – after Mr. Collins’ proposal she had thought that had taken the prize in the Worst Proposal Ever competition. However, this one beat that one hands down. She paused before continuing to survey the effect her statement had had on him.
Her victim flinched and stiffened, but relaxed after a moment and looked quizzically at the woman who had just trounced him verbally. Caught off guard, she went on the defensive.
“Well?” she said defiantly.
“Do you mean the absolute last? Like you’d prefer to marry a… a gamester or a rake or a fop or – scotch that.” Fitzwilliam Darcy, Esq. and linguistic nitpicker extraordinaire, looked a little guilty, having nearly mentioned topics inappropriate for a lady’s ears. “Well, you get the idea. Basically, would you rather marry, say, Viscount (name excised) or Mr. (blank (literally)) than me?”
“Weeellllll… No, I imagine not.” Elizabeth answered contemplatively, thinking of the rake and fop mentioned, who she wouldn’t go near with a fifty foot barge pole. Mr. (blank (literally)) would bore her to death or kill her with perfume, curls and lace, and the other one – well, she really didn’t know what Viscount (name excised) would do, but it ought to be really bad since no one would tell her. Besides, she had heard he smelt strongly of fish, and there was nothing she disliked more than the smell of fish. She forced her mind to return from its tangent among the wilds commonly known as her imagination.
“So did you mean that literally or figuratively?”
“That was artistic license.” Elizabeth said in an exaggeratedly haughty tone, forgetting for a moment that the man sitting in front of her was the nephew of the progenitor of her imitation. The man laughed, startling her and making her blush as her memory of his familial relationships caught up to her mouth. She thought about the interesting linguistic and philosophical question a little more, despite the disdain she held the man in front of her in. “It sounded like a proper end to the introduction of my projected rant. Really, I suspect you’d be about halfway down the list of men I could ever marry, given that I only know about a hundred of the eligible bachelors in England.”
“So… you can name 50-odd men below me on your list… Elizabeth?”
Now who could resist a challenge like that? Elizabeth spent the remainder of the afternoon compiling a list with Mr. Darcy, who, by the time Charlotte arrived, had actually wormed his way to the top five.
He stayed a little longer, having cleared up the misunderstandings that were lying about to trip over and by the time he had to leave (dinner was on the table), he had risen to the top of the chart.
Thus, meticulous attention to precision of speech saved Mr. Darcy and Miss E. Bennet months of angst, and led to the swift union of the pair, which took place in the summer instead of the winter, which was determined entirely too cold and entirely too far in the future.
“Oh, two daughters married, I shall go distracted! And a June wedding! The lace!” Mrs. Bennet was delighted. Lydia was not. The regiment left Meryton sans Lydia, and Wickham left Brighton sans regiment, young lady, or money. He stayed sans them, too, being killed some months later in an attempt to dive out of a window of a place he oughtn’t have been.