Beginning , Section II
Elizabeth was sitting by herself the next morning when a letter arrived from Longbourn. Recognising her father's seal she decided to read the letter at once. It couldn't possibly be a response to Jane's happy news but it might hold some very interesting news from home. She broke the seal and started to read.
My dear daughter,
Let me assure you that ever since you and Jane have left us the conversations at Longbourn have been deprived of much wit and all sense. Our house is currently occupied by soldiers and officers, your mother and younger sisters seem to be totally infatuated. Of course the most recent news of the militia moving to Brighton for the rest of the summer was a blessing to me and a curse to them. Ever since your mother has heard about it from Lydia she keeps torturing me to take them to Brighton for the summer.
You, my dear, know me well enough to sense that I shall not yield at whatever cost. Of course this is a big issue for your mother's poor nerves but am I not used to their suffering for more than twenty years?
As for the news about a certain gentleman you might be interested in, be assured that he really isn't worth your concern. All Meryton was in uproar when it came out that Mr. Wickham was to be engaged to Miss King who just inherited a fortune after a distant relative of hers had died. Both Kitty and Lydia "didn't eat for weeks" and were far too offended to show him anything but childish disdain. Lydia especially seemed to be very much surprised at this betrothal.
And yet everything changed completely when Miss King's uncle decided to take his niece back to Liverpool to prevent the betrothal, I can't really blame him for it. Mr. Wickham himself didn't spend much time pining for Miss King but is now pursuing our Lydia and gives wings to your mother's folly of having a daughter married at such a tender age. I see no reason to believe that Wickham will propose to Lydia, he seems to be enchanted by her but he is a clever man and won't marry a girl for her looks.
What do you think of all this, my dear Lizzy? I hope that you no longer feel drawn to Wickham after hearing about his true nature. He appears to be rather shallow and doesn't strike me as a most sincere fellow.
Give my warmest regards to the Gardiners and embrace Jane for me. Take care of yourself, my dear child, and come back home soon for you are missed most cruelly.
To her great surprise Elizabeth discovered that she had not given Wickham a thought ever since leaving Hertfordshire for London. Here the Bingley-family had occupied her thoughts and there was Mr. Darcy of course who never left her thoughts. In the days following Jane's betrothal she found herself thinking of him most warmly and his regular visit only added to her regard for him. Today she and Jane would call on him in his townhouse to meet his younger sister at last. The Gardiners, who had been informed of Miss Darcy's fear to be overwhelmed by too many people, had given their consent to meet her later on.
Elizabeth had thought much of Miss Darcy, she wondered what kind of girl she was. Mister Darcy had had little to say about her except that she was very shy and seemed to avoid society in favour of her piano and her singing. There was much warmth in his voice when he spoke of his sister, much unlike Mr. Wickham who had called Miss Darcy very proud and haughty. But did it matter? Nothing that Mr. Wickham had said was true, so why should this be true?
Mr. Darcy's townhouse was grand but somehow the Bennet-sisters felt more at ease here than at Bingley's townhouse which was dominated by Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst who took care of Mr. Bingley's household. Mr. Darcy and his sister were expecting their visitors in the salon. Both were feeling very awkward for various reasons. He because he was about to declare his feelings to Elizabeth and to ask for her hand in marriage, she because she was about to meet the woman her brother admired so much. She was afraid to appear silly and childish compared to Miss Elizabeth Bennet.
As the evening progressed Darcy's heart was wax in Elizabeth's beautiful hands. With her usual charm and kindness she had managed to make his sister smile, something which had not occurred ever since the sad incident with George Wickham. Darcy was glad that Mr. Bingley was there to be with his fiancé, it gave him the possibility to watch the woman he loved with his sister. And what he saw pleased him a great deal.
Elizabeth was sitting at the pianoforte playing a beautiful piece by Mozart, singing it in English and afterwards in Italian. After being guided by Miss Darcy she was finally able to play the fast passages fluently, something which had caused her great shame in the past because every young girl was expected to play rather well and she had always avoided this particular piece because of its fast runs. Feeling Mr. Darcy's intense glance touching her entire appearance her voice soared through the salon singing of yet unknown longing and pleasures of the sweetest kind.
"Now it's your turn, my dear!" Elizabeth cried with a smile.
Georgiana appeared startled, then she blushed violently. "Oh, no! Please, I couldn't possibly play in front of all this people! And my voice is so out of shape...."
Instead of forcing her to play Elizabeth grasped Georgiana's hand and gave her an encouraging smile.
"Then I will make you smile again with my wretched playing!" Her eyes twinkled.
Once more Elizabeth sang a beautiful Italian piece, earning much applause for a ravishing interpretation of Bellini's "Per pieta bell'idol mio!".
Per pietà, bell'idol mio,
Non mi dir ch'io sono ingrato:
Infelice e sventurato
Abbastanza il ciel mi fa.
For mercy's sake, my beloved idol, do not call me ingrateful!....
Afterwards Georgiana felt safe enough to play a slow piece by Beethoven while Elizabeth joined Mr. Darcy who was sitting by the fire listening to his sister's playing.
"Miss Bennet, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. What you did for my sister today is beyond every description." said he with much admiration and warmth in his voice.
"How come you thank me for being kind to Miss Darcy? She is a most delightful girl who seems to be very affectionate and kind. And her musical talents are just mesmerizing!"
"Miss Bennet, I did not question you why you were kind to my sister but I thanked you for being so encouraging. It has been a long time ago when I saw her smile like this and it means so much to me." he concluded most intensely.
He sent a thankful prayer to God for keeping Miss Bingley away tonight for her society always intimidated Georgiana. But Elizabeth had done what Miss Bingley had failed to do in a long acquaintance, she had given Georgiana self-confidence and some of her old sparkle. It had always been one of his main objections regarding marriage that he couldn't find someone who would be kind to Georgiana and not just tolerate her as his little sister. Women had tried to win his affection while ignoring little Georgiana and thus losing every chance to win his love or admiration.
But Elizabeth was different. When he had called her perfection he had known her for just a short period of time but he had sensed her perfection from the beginning. In vain he had struggled to repress his feelings for her ever since her first refusal. Even though he had chosen to put their friendship at stake to ask for her love again he couldn't foresee how she would react.
Elizabeth was writing a letter herself when her father's second letter arrived. Startled she broke the seal and started to read. The letter was written very ill indeed but the content upset Elizabeth beyond description.
My dearest Lizzy,
As much as I would like to send my congratulations to Jane I hardly have time to think of her happy lot right now. Since writing to you previously something has occurred of a most serious, if not alarming nature. But I'm afraid to alarm you, be assured we're all well. What I have to say concerns your sister Lydia.
In my previous letter I've told you about her being infatuated with Wickham and it seems that both have acted on this now. They went off to Scotland! We expect them soon to return from Gretna, man and wife, even though Wickham certainly isn't my first choice for a son in law I see no other possibility to solve this most serious matter without more damage being done to our family.
My dearest Lizzy, since I didn't have the time to conclude this letter in time I shall add the latest news we have received. I hardly know what to write but I have bad news. As senseless as a marriage would be, it has not taken place for Wickham never intended to marry Lydia at all! I dreaded this ever since finding out that my silly daughter inflicted so much harm upon our family. She cannot be that lost to all judgment, you think? Well, she is! She is like her mother, I blame her mother for this.
My dear child, I know that you were planning to see Charlotte Collins after leaving London but I must beg you to come home with Jane as soon as possible. Please forgive your poor old father for his poor judgment, I saw it all coming and didn't act because I underestimated your sister's foolishness.
When Mr. Darcy entered the study where Elizabeth was expecting him he found her sitting in front of her desk, her head on her arms, she was sobbing beyond control. The sight of her pain was so dreadful that he didn't know what to do but look at her. Then he saw the object of her sorrow, a short letter which had fallen on the floor.
"Miss Bennet!" he cried. With three steps he had reached her, bent on one knee before her and, resisting the desire to take her in his arms he touched her hand lightly.
She squirmed and looked at him, her eyes were red and filled with tears. "You must forgive me, Mr. Darcy. But I must go and find Jane immediately! An urgent business that cannot be delayed, I don't have an instant to lose!"
"Of course I will not hold you back but let me or the servant go to fetch Miss Jane. You're not well, you cannot go yourself!"
"No, I must!" Elizabeth insisted.
"Come, I insist. This shall be for the best!" He led her back to the chair and made her sit down. Afterwards he called for a maid and told her to fetch Miss Jane.
Elizabeth's thoughts were in a whirl. Her entire future had been smashed through a little letter. How would Mr. Darcy react when he found out about Lydia? Then all his reservations towards her family would be reborn.... And what about Mr. Bingley? The engagement had been made public but would he remain with a woman whose sister had eloped with a wretch like Mr. Wickham? As she watched Mr. Darcy return at her side she felt an urgent need to share her sorrow with him, somewhere in her heart she knew that he wouldn't despise her for it.
"My youngest sister has left all her friends, has eloped and has thrown herself into the power of Mr. Wickham."
His name! Darcy's heart froze, he blushed with shame and watched Elizabeth weep. Would she ever forgive him for not warning her, for not making his true character known to the world? He loved her so much but he had not been able to reveal the truth about Wickham. He could have prevented it, he who knew what he was! Had his character been known this could not have happened. But it was all too late now. Just when he thought that he was getting closer to Elizabeth fate ripped them apart again. He had come here to propose to her, to reveal his love and admiration but this was out of the question now. He, who was comforting her, felt so wretched and in need of comfort but he knew that Elizabeth was priority now. After a most dreadful moment he left her side and headed towards the door, feeling her glance following him.
"I have stayed too long, I shall leave you now."
"Yes, thank you. Goodbye!" she stammered looking on the floor.
One thought crossed their minds, ringing in their heads mercilessly.
We shall never meet again!
Posted on Wednesday, 9 April 2003
"Lizzy, I've done some thinking", Jane said as they were driving from town. "Mr. Bingley said that it may all turn out well after all. They might not be in Scotland already but why shouldn't they be on the way to Gretna Green?"
"Jane, their trace loses itself in London, not beyond. Following father's letter which was misdirected at first they have eloped about ten days ago. Supposing they're on the way to Scotland they must have traveled on some known road but there is no sign of it. I too am willing to hope for the best but I can't be blinded by Mr. Wickham's friendly appearance anymore. He has deceived me once, so why not twice? True, he can't be after her fortune for she has none but if he's madly in love with Lydia why didn't he ask father for his blessing? Why violate all rules of decency, honour and interest? But you're right, since he didn't elope with Miss King there might be some hope that his interest in Lydia is honourable."
Jane, who had been very alarmed herself, couldn't stop thinking of Mr. Bingley. How she had dreaded to reveal the terrible truth to him! But he was once more all kindness and love. There was no sign of regret or disdain on his part and he had promised her to conceal the unhappy truth as long as possible.
"Upon my word", said Mrs. Gardiner, "I'm inclined to believe Lizzy to hope for the best until we have some news."
"Dear Auntie, I would so love to think as you do but these doubts keep nagging me ever since I read father's second letter. Do you remember the rumors of Wickham being engaged to Miss King? Even though this betrothal never took place there was enough interest on Wickham's part to have all Meryton talk about it. He danced only with her, complimented her on her appearance and followed her everywhere. I've watched them together and Wickham's intentions were obvious to everyone. Now Lydia is the exact opposite of Miss King. And what claims has Lydia, what attractions has she beyond youth, health, and good humour, that could make him, for her sake, forgo every chance of benefiting himself by marrying well? I doubt that they eloped to prevent what happened when Miss King's uncle took her back to Liverpool. Why must it be a secret? And why should Wickham, lacking fortune, want to marry a girl with no dowry and her father's estate entailed away from his daughters?" Lizzy asked.
"But can you believe that Lydia would give her consent to such a shameless act? Do you think her to be lost to all reason and judgement?"
"I have to admit that I don't know what to think. Perhaps I'm misjudging her. And I doubt that it is her who should bear the entire blame. Both Mama and Papa allowed her to live an idle life in the past eight months, there has been nothing but love, flirting and officers in her head and Mama encouraged her whenever she could. All that Papa did was being sarcastic about it, he did nothing to hold her back or to put her in her place because he was convinced that exposing herself in front of everyone would cure her, now she has; thus our entire family is involved in her ruin and disgrace! Oh Aunt, she is lost forever! What can we do?"
"But Lizzy, as much as I trust your judgement I still cannot believe Wickham to be such a base villain! He has such a great amount of goodness in his countenance! I'm sure that he didn't mean to inflict so much harm upon our family." Jane said, slowly massaging Lizzy's shoulders.
"Jane, one has all the goodness and the other all the appearance of it. Our position as a family has never been very grand but now even the slightest chance of us marrying well is ruined. We are tainted by association, you and I, Mary and Kitty....all of us! Dear sister, can't you see that we've been laughed at before because of our sisters' foolish behaviour and lack of demeanour? We never had more than our charms to recommend us. But not even these will ever wash away the shame that Lydia has brought upon us! No respectable family will seek our company after this, Mr. Darcy made this very clear to me."
"Mr. Darcy?" Jane asked affectionately. "Does he know of our misfortune?"
Elizabeth coloured and remained silent for a long weary moment. How long had she asked herself that question? Ever since he had left her side in such a hurry she blamed herself for ever revealing Lydia's disgrace to him. Yes, she had not sought his love and and when he had offered it she didn't welcome it for modesty's sake but it was so hard to know that he was alive in the world and thinking ill of her. His narrowed shoulders, the tension in his tall body and his frozen face, didn't it betray his disdain for her and all those who wished her well?
"He happened upon me just a moment after I read father's letters. He was very kind, very gentlemanlike but he made it quite clear that he wanted nothing more than being out of my sight. I'm convinced that we can trust his promise of concealing what he knows of the affair but what must he think of me now?"
"But Lizzy, why should you care? You never were fond of him, remember?" Mrs. Gardiner suggested.
"I know and I can't explain why I'm feeling this way but ever since I've heard of Lydia's elopement I kept thinking of the most peculiar things. I didn't think much of the family or the disgrace. What I was thinking about were my conversations with Mr. Darcy, our dance at Netherfield...the little smile he gave me when I told him about my interest in Shakespeare. All those little meaningless things, they can't be replaced!"
"My dearest Lizzy, it is normal to think of more pleasant things in such a situation, do not blame yourself for it. You and Jane have sense and a good reputation, do not doubt it. And so far we do not know many details, perhaps this was all a big misunderstanding! It is possible Lizzy!"
But as much as Elizabeth wished to believe it, she knew it to be untrue remembering Wickham's conduct towards herself and thinking of it she blushed violently.
After closing the door behind him Darcy had only one thought in his mind. He had to find Wickham and then he would get him to marry Lydia at once. Once more this deceitful fiend had risen to get his revenge for something which only existed in his own twisted mind but this time Darcy wouldn't handle him that carefully. If a duel was needed to get what was necessary, he was ready. But he had to prepare everything twice as thoughtful as Wickham had planned his elopement with this unfortunate girl. The first task at hand was to tell his sister and the Bingleys that the Bennet-sisters and their aunt had departed for Longbourn because of some urgent business.
His explanation was taken immediately and the reactions were less than pleasing. Caroline Bingley couldn't stop pointing out how good it was to be in the right society again and her constant insults towards Elizabeth now hit his most vulnerable spot. Mrs. Hurst supported her cruel sister in everything while her husband exhibited his annoying snore once more after too much whine. Only Georgiana seemed to miss the kind sisters and their charming relatives even though all she did was saying how hopeful she was to see them again soon. Georgiana's behaviour always told him the truth rather than her words. With Elizabeth around she had been at ease, even joyful here and there but without her she was all defense again and hardly spoke a word, let alone played a song.
But Darcy didn't have much time to comfort his sister, there was an urgent business to be taken care of. As much as he hated London's nightlife he spent endless nights looking for the woman who had been Wickham's accomplice when he had tried to elope with Georgiana. Mrs. Eloise Young had been in charge of taking care of Georgiana when she had finished school and it seemed that she was particularly gifted as a governess, she even produced some encouraging letters written by former employers praising her skills to the sky.
He could hardly believe his eyes when he arrived early in Ramsgate. It had been his intention to surprise his little sister and instead of finding her alone he saw her in what could only be described as a fond embrace with this loathful scoundrel Wickham. Unwilling to support the idea of grieving a brother to whom she looked up almost like a father she acknowledged the whole plan to him at once. Had he not concealed his feelings and actions from the world Mr. Wickham's character would have been known to the world and thus this elopement could never have taken place.
It didn't take much time to find someone who told him everything about Mrs. Young and her whereabouts. A peasant girl who had worked for her showed him the way to a little filthy house which was kept by Mrs. Young and some young girls who were working for her. She also offered lodgings to those who didn't mind lice and other parasites. Of course she refused to talk to him at the beginning but an amount of twenty pounds made her sing like a nightingale. Of course she was the one who was supporting Wickham and "his wench".
At first Wickham laughed at the idea of marrying Lydia and refused it bluntly.
"Darcy, Darcy! Can't you see that I just want some diversion?" said he with much nonchalance.
"Some diversion? I know how cruel you are when you want to enjoy yourself! Does this poor girl know that you are duping her?" Mr. Darcy demanded harshly.
But before Wickham could answer Lydia came to his defense.
"My Georgie would never ever betray me, would you, my love? He just needs to finish some business and then we'll be married!"
Now it was Mr. Wickham who nearly lost his temper.
"Come to your senses, woman! You think I'll marry a woman like you? Lets see what we have here. You have the reputation of a fallen woman, you have no money, no connections, no wit and not the most ravishing looks. What could tempt me to marry you, you little...."
But before he could finish Darcy's hand slapped his face.
"There is one thing I know and that is that you will marry her. Be assured that I will be ready to enforce the most severe measures if necessary. So, either do as I command and accept my offer of an annual income if you marry her or fear the consequences!"
A brief glance and Mr. Darcy made it perfectly clear that he meant every word he had said. Lydia had passed out in tears and looking and her pretty face he could imagine far worse things than being married to a saucy girl like that. After a dreadful moment of silence he nodded in agreement.
Two days later and express reached Mr. Bennet, carrying a letter from Mr. Darcy.
My dear Sir,
Be not alarmed at receiving this letter that it may contain a dreadful outcome regarding Miss Bennet's elopement. It does not. Please allow me to explain my reasons for writing to you.
Right after your daughter, Miss Elizabeth Bennet, had read your letters I called on her unexpectedly to find her in most distressing anguish and pain. Giving as much comfort as propriety allowed I left her to the care of Miss Jane Bennet and her relatives, determined to help her in every way I could. Hear now why I feel to blame that this sad elopement has taken place for I knew about George Wickham's nature ever since a most dreadful time last summer, which I would like to forget.
Mr. Wickham is the son of a very respectable man, who had for many years the management of all the Pemberley estates; and whose good conduct in the discharge of his trust naturally inclined my father to be of service to him; and on George Wickham, who was his god-son, his kindness was therefore liberally bestowed. My father supported him at school, and afterwards at Cambridge;—most important assistance, as his own father, always poor from the extravagance of his wife, would have been unable to give him a gentleman's education. My father was not only fond of this young man's society, whose manners were always engaging; he had also the highest opinion of him, and hoping the church would be his profession, intended to provide for him in it. As for myself, it is many, many years since I first began to think of him in a very different manner. The vicious propensities—the want of principle, which he was careful to guard from the knowledge of his best friend, could not escape the observation of a young man of nearly the same age with himself, and who had opportunities of seeing him in unguarded moments, which Mr. Darcy could not have.
My excellent father died about five years ago; and his attachment to Mr. Wickham was to the last so steady, that in his will he particularly recommended it to me to promote his advancement in the best manner that his profession might allow, and, if he took orders, desired that a valuable family living might be his as soon as it became vacant. There was also a legacy of one thousand pounds. His own father did not long survive mine, and within half a year from these events Mr. Wickham wrote to inform me that, having finally resolved against taking orders, he hoped I should not think it unreasonable for him to expect some more immediate pecuniary advantage, in lieu of the preferment by which he could not be benefited. He had some intention, he added, of studying the law, and I must be aware that the interest of one thousand pounds would be a very insufficient support therein. I rather wished than believed him to be sincere; but, at any rate, was perfectly ready to accede to his proposal. I knew that Mr. Wickham ought not to be a clergyman. The business was therefore soon settled. He resigned all claim to assistance in the church, were it possible that he could ever be in a situation to receive it, and accepted in return three thousand pounds. All connection between us seemed now dissolved.
In town, I believe, he chiefly lived, but his studying the law was a mere pretence, and being now free from all restraint, his life was a life of idleness and dissipation.
He had found the law a most unprofitable study, and was now absolutely resolved on being ordained, if I would present him to the living in question—of which he trusted there could be little doubt, as he was well assured that I had no other person to provide for, and I could not have forgotten my revered father's intentions. You will hardly blame me for refusing to comply with this entreaty, or for resisting every repetition of it. His resentment was in proportion to the distress of his circumstances—and he was doubtless as violent in his abuse of me to others, as in his reproaches to myself. After this period, every appearance of acquaintance was dropt.
How he lived I know not. But last summer he was again most painfully obtruded on my notice. I must now mention a circumstance which I would wish to forget myself, and which no obligation less than the present should induce me to unfold to any human being. Having said thus much, I feel no doubt of your secrecy. My sister, who is more than ten years my junior, was left to the guardianship of my mother's nephew, Colonel Fitzwilliam, and myself. About a year ago, she was taken from school, and an establishment formed for her in London; and last summer she went with the lady who presided over it, to Ramsgate; and thither also went Mr. Wickham, undoubtedly by design; for there proved to have been a prior acquaintance between him and Mrs. Younge, in whose character we were most unhappily deceived; and by her connivance and aid he so far recommended himself to Georgiana, whose affectionate heart retained a strong impression of his kindness to her as a child, that she was persuaded to believe herself in love, and to consent to an elopement.
She was then but fifteen, which must be her excuse; and after stating her imprudence, I am happy to add that I owed the knowledge of it to herself. I joined them unexpectedly a day or two before the intended elopement; and then Georgiana, unable to support the idea of grieving and offending a brother whom she almost looked up to as a father, acknowledged the whole to me. You may imagine what I felt and how I acted. Regard for my sister's credit and feelings prevented any public exposure, but I wrote to Mr. Wickham, who left the place immediately, and Mrs. Younge was of course removed from her charge. Mr. Wickham's chief object was unquestionably my sister's fortune, which is thirty thousand pounds; but I cannot help supposing that the hope of revenging himself on me was a strong inducement. His revenge would have been complete indeed.
After this faithful narrative of what has occurred I beg you to accept my apologies for my part in the misfortune of your family. Had I not thought it beneath me to involve my family in the unmasking of Mr. Wickham's character all this may have been prevented. In the past week I've spent all my time looking for the unfortunate couple and I'm delighted to report my success. Miss Lydia Bennet is now taken care of by Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner who are also preparing the wedding at Cheapside, I myself shall be present as a witness.
Regarding Mr. Wickham's horrendous debts let me assure you that they are my responsibility and will be taken care of. I will accept no refusal here, the fault is mine and so must the remedy be.
Concluding I have one more favour to ask of you. I beg you not to mention my name in your narrative of the outcome. I refuse to take credit for something where I was the reason for the bad deed being done. Let it go to the credit of Mr. Gardiner, a man far more deserving of your gratitude than I am. Please give my regards to Mrs. Bennet and your daughters and I'd be honoured to call on your family at Longbourn as soon as Mr. Bingley and I have returned to Netherfield.
Posted on Sunday, 13 April 2003
Only the thought of Jane's happy engagement gave Lizzy the strength to endure having Lydia and Wickham around her for a few days. Wickham had told the family that through some obscure connections of his he had found a well paid position in the army. But to Mrs. Bennet's dismay it was far away, in Newcastle. In the past few weeks, ever since her daughter had been found, her attitude towards Lydia changed dramatically. She was no longer the girl who had shamed the entire family and whose elopement had tainted the chances of all her sisters to marry well. Lydia now was the brightest of her girls, the only one with enough wit to enthrall a man enough to marry her. In her opinion not even Lizzy, so fancied by her father for her wit, had as much intelligence as Lydia.
Elizabeth herself, totally involved in calming her emotions, barely noticed her mother's unjust behaviour. Her stinging remarks had lost their bitterness and thus she could overhear them with ease. She felt disgusted at herself for ever harboring any positive feeling for Mr. Wickham and his behaviour towards her shamed her for he had still not seen reason and continued to flatter her in a most inappropriate fashion.
It was however a most wonderful delight to see Mr. Bingley again who, at last, had returned from London, this time without his sisters but also, as Elizabeth noticed sadly, without Mr. Darcy. The excuses Mr. Bingley gave for his friend were accepted gladly for his reputation was still that of a haughty proud man who thought himself far above his company. Even though Elizabeth had no firm evidence for it she knew it in her heart to be untrue. Oh, how much she longed to see him and to tell him... Tell him what? That ever since he had followed her in the starlit garden she had so many feelings for him she couldn't possibly describe?? That she had been foolish and cruel when she rejected his proposal? Could she have any hope that he'd propose again? And would she accept if he did? Yes, oh yes!
But how much hope could there be that, after all that had happened, she was still dear to him? Only his return could tell. Was it indifference or still unshaken love she dreaded? His upcoming return had robbed her of her peace of mind and now he had not come at all. Her mother's spiteful remarks on him didn't help either to cope with her feelings. What if he were to come back only to be silent, grave and indifferent towards her? Would she be able to live on if his love for her had died? Watching Jane's happiness have her new hope and when Mr. Bingley told the entire family that he expected Mr. Darcy to return to Netherfield this very evening her heart missed a beat for the joy she felt at this remark.
And indeed, he came and called at Longbourn on the next day. Much to Elizabeth's vexation and grief he was hardly as friendly and delightful as he had been in London but given the circumstances it was a good sign that he had come back at all. She followed him with her eyes, envied every one to whom he spoke, had scarcely patience enough to help anybody to coffee; and then was enraged against herself for being so silly! A man who has once been refused! How could I ever be foolish enough to expect a renewal of his love? Is there one among the sex, who would not protest against such a weakness as a second proposal to the same woman? There is no indignity so abhorrent to their feelings! she thought giving him a strained smile.
After exchanging a few words with Mrs. Bennet and her daughters Darcy fled to the window. The only person whom he had wanted to speak to seemed to feel uncomfortable in his presence, her forced smile told him as much. He couldn't help thinking of her and the need to watch her, to live for the very sound of her smile which, of that he was sure, he alone could hear and feel was as intense as ever. To follow her everywhere, to listen to her voice, watch her smile and laugh, to comprehend her soul's perfection, this was bliss and he was cut off from it.
Later on that very evening, Elizabeth had just closed the door of her room to be alone, she found a letter and a little note on her bed. It said,
Read this and be happy at last!
There was no signature, nor was there a sign where the letter could have come from. The seal was broken, so it had already been read by someone. Reading she noticed that the letter was addressed to her father but recognising the author she just couldn't put down the letter. After finishing it she lied awake for the entire night. From the beginning she had failed to recognise his noble soul, his generous nature and loveable heart. Could this be the proof she had been seeking for so long? What other reason could there be for him to do this except that he still cared for her?
At dawn she got up and decided to walk to her, no, their clearing. The day promised to be beautiful, the sun was rising up to a cloudless sky. As Elizabeth got dressed she decided to write a note to her father, he alone understood her well enough to act the way he had acted.
Even though you didn't sign your note I knew it had to be you who put the truth right in front of my eyes. As usual you've read my mind and understood my heart better than even I possibly could. God bless you for it, hopefully this will all turn out as we hope it will. I shall be out all day, should he ask for me just tell him that. He'll know where to find me.
Your loving daughter, Elizabeth
Mr. Bennet spent the entire morning in his library, he had made it perfectly clear that he wasn't to be disturbed unless it was a matter of great importance. His daughter's note had moved him deeply, he had sensed what was going on ever since reading Mr. Darcy's letter and because of this he had not followed Darcy's request to hide the letter and the truth it held from Elizabeth. When he heard Hill knocking at the door he knew who his "unexpected" visitor was.
"Sir, Mr. Darcy is here to see you. He assures me that it concerns a matter of great importance."
"Well, then let him come in and explain himself."
Mr. Bennet's heart went out to the young man who just entered his study. Despite his proud demeanour there was a vulnerability so obvious to those whom he had allowed a glimpse at his true self. Indeed he was willing to help him, for Lizzy's sake and, he had to admit it, because he liked him very much.
"Mr. Darcy, I am delighted to see you again. Please, be seated." Mr. Bennet greeted him with much affection.
But Darcy was far too excited to sit down and refused politely. How hard it was to find the proper words, to express what he was feeling. This wasn't something he was used to, from his family he had learned to keep his feelings to himself and never ever to allow anyone to get to close him.
Mr. Bennet saw Mr. Darcy's struggles and put one hand on his shoulder, it was a fatherly gesture, something Darcy wasn't used to. His own father, as excellent as he had been, rarely ever had caressed him or embraced him. Until now he had not known that he actually needed this, that being near a person he trusted was something beautiful.
"Well, Mr. Darcy, will you tell me now what all this is about? I can see that you're suffering and I truly wish to support you in any way I can but you have to tell me what this is about."
Darcy took a deep breath and suddenly the words just formed themselves easily.
"Sir, I love your daughter, Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Ever since first meeting I've felt a passionate admiration and regard for her which, despite being away from her for a long time has not faded."
"I know, ever since I read your letter I felt it. Have you told her? Since yesterday she appears to be so distressed and unhappy."
"I told her once and when I thought I had her I lost her again. But then I saw her again in London and I knew that no matter how hard I tried, I could not stifle my feelings for her. And I did believe that she..... Sir, I'm asking for your blessing to ask her for her hand in marriage. What she is feeling for me, I know not, but I know that I shall regret it as long as I live if I won't ask her again."
Mr. Bennet was not surprised to hear this for he and Lizzy were very alike. As composed as they seemed to be in public their emotions were most important to both of them in different ways.
"I give you my blessing willingly for I have come to like you a lot, something which neither your wealth nor your position in the world could have achieved but your love for my dear Lizzy. And I too have a confession to make, I allowed Elizabeth to read your letter. Please, before you feel betrayed understand my reasons. I saw my daughter suffer and I knew that she had feelings for you. I want her to be happy and to be so she had to comprehend your noble character as I did. Please go to her and tell her what you just told me. And be good to her, it is very hard for me to lose her but I doubt I could lose her to anyone more worthy of her love and admiration. She asked me to tell you that you know where to find her."
The clearing seemed to embrace Elizabeth with mesmerizing colours, the songs of birds and the beauty of the pond. Water-lilies were blooming, a fresh breeze flushed Elizabeth's cheeks as she was sitting on the very blanket she had been sleeping on before Mr. Darcy proposed to her. There was no thought of sleep now, she was far too overwhelmed with fear and hope. Would he come? This was the day, if he decided not to come to her or if he forgot about the clearing she was resolved to think of him no more. She got up and turned to the pond, watching a few little ducks swimming by, losing herself in dreams.
When Darcy reached the clearing his heart was beating fastly. The moment Mr. Bennet told him that he knew where to find her he remembered the clearing, her favourite hiding place. Even though it seemed that Elizabeth returned his affection he still feared that all his love for her was in vain. Yes, she knew about Wickham now, had she forgiven him that he had concealed it from her? Would she hold it against him?
When he saw her standing in front of the pond, her back turned to him, all these fears ceased. He could see no tension of anger in her body, quite the contrary, she seemed to be at ease. As he came closer he hoped that she would turn around to greet him with her beautiful smile but she did not. Not for an instant did she betray that she had felt his presence ever since he had reached the clearing.
"I hoped that you would come here." she said warmly.
"You did?" he asked, still hoping that she'd turn around.
"Yes, I did. Did you know that ever since our last meeting here I've avoided this place? It was no longer a place of peace and solitude."
"No, I'm so sorry. I never meant to...."
"Oh, hush!" she said and turned around, smiling.
A wave of supreme joy poured through his heart as he felt her smile and the glitter in her eyes. Had Elizabeth been able to encounter his eye, she might have seen how well the expression of heartfelt delight, diffused over his face, became him; but, though she could not look, she could listen, and he told her of feelings, which, in proving of what importance she was to him, made his affection every moment more valuable.
He approached her and took both of her hands and kissed them tenderly.
"Miss Elizabeth, I would like to tell you how sorry I am. Both for the way I treated you and for concealing Wickham's true nature from you."
"Oh no, there is nothing to forgive! All the horrible things I said to you, I am so ashamed.."
"No, it I who should be ashamed of my arrogance, my stupid pride.....of all, except one thing. One thing, I'm not ashamed of having loved you. Having loved you as I did then and adoring you as I do now!"
"How much can I thank you for being so exceptionally kind to my poor sister? My gratitude knows no bonds and if you'd allow me to inform everyone my entire family would thank you."
"If you will thank me, let it be for yourself alone. Your family owes me nothing, as much as I respect them I believe I thought only of you."
"If only you knew how much this means to me, how much I've grown to respect and to love you! I can't express the depth of my feelings at present, I'm far too overwhelmed. Once I asked why we aren't allowed to marry where our hearts lie and now I know that this privilege may be rare but it can be achieved."
Indeed, to marry where our hearts lie maybe a privilege but to those who're brave enough to endeavour love it means more than anything else in the world. As Darcy walked Elizabeth home to Longbourn they told each other everything they had had to conceal for so long and as she opened the door to the library after saying Goodbye to her betrothed Mr. Bennet could tell that everything had turned out well by just looking at her.
Posted on Tuesday, 22 April 2003
Venus était blonde, on m'a dit:
L'on voit bien, qu'elle est brunette.*
All Hertfordshire was overtaken by the betrothal but nobody was as elated and yet surprised as Elizabeth's parents. Not for an instant had anyone expected any kind of fondness between Miss Bennet and Mr. Darcy, even the idea of any sort of attachment appeared ridiculous to those who considered themselves well acquainted with either party and yet it seemed that they had been fooled by appearances for the engagement had been made public a day after it had been sealed by both families. Congratulations were offered from many sides but not only friendly feelings had been stirred by this bond of love. The hideous bleak presence of envy was felt by more than one Lady in the land and had it not been for Miss Bingley's tactless behaviour it may never have become an issue between the lovers.
Feeling duped by a man she regarded to be rightfully hers the said Miss Bingley flew in a rage and many hard words were said. Miss Bennet, the "evil crude Jezebel", was not the only target of her vile attacks, Mr. Darcy was the object of many of her temper-tantrums. Not even the certainty, for to her this was the hope she was clinging to desperately, that Mr. Darcy would cast off his betrothed in due time cooled her temper or calmed down her anger.
Ever since she had laid eyes on her brother's friend she had made it the goal of her life to become mistress of Pemberley, an estate in the most beautiful part of Derbyshire, surrounded by some of the finest woods and lakes in all England. This wasn't a question of love but a question of rank and status, it had never occurred to Miss Bingley that becoming mistress of Pemberley required not only most elegant manners but as much kindness and heart as offered by Miss Bennet, Miss Bingley's very enigma. Observing the happy couple had hurt her pride, her most vulnerable spot. Had success not been close at hand before the unhappy trip to Hertfordshire where boredom and crude society had awaited them? To think that Mr. Darcy could lower himself to this level irked Caroline, what did this country-girl have which she herself couldn't boast with?
Meanwhile Darcy and Elizabeth made up leeway of their courtship as was the custom. Little love-tokens were exchanged, the couple was often seen strolling in the gardens accompanied by Mr. Bingley and Jane and, most dear to Elizabeth, they wrote each other daily.
My beloved and my friend,William seeks no other than Elizabeth Bennet; and around Elizabeth's initials Darcy drew a heart, as lovers have done from time immemorial.
For so beautiful a gift, I thank you right cordially, chiefly for the good intent and too-humble submission vouchsafed by your kindness. Ever since hearing from you and receiving your most precious gift my day has been illuminated by your love and kindness, virtues I cannot praise highly enough. Let me assure you once more, ange adorable (Pardon my usage of the French language, but describing you in mere English wouldn't do you justice), how much I love and honour you and, knowing your benevolence and goodwill on my behalf, allow me to return your thoughtfulness with regard and a present I sincerely hope you'll come to love as much as I do yours. I am well aware of the priceless treasure being given to me by God and by your kindness and simply cannot express my gratitude well enough. Knowing me as well as you do you'll forgive my ill writing and remember that what I cannot say is felt in my heart most ardently, this heart, dedicated to you alone, burns for our next meeting.
Autre EB ne cherche
Elizabeth's response not only matched the affection in Darcy's letter, according to him it even surpassed it by far.
My beloved and my friend,
I am a very selfish creature indeed, for not only am I betrothed to the most generous and loveable man in the kingdom but may also add another blessing to my fortune and that is hearing from you daily. I know not how I've lived before, without these drops of glorious affection and sincere admiration. Receiving your trinket was as great a pleasure as can be imagined, I shall wear it always until we're married, as you bid me in your second letter.
One might sense some naivety on both accounts, reading through these very early letters which were sent only days after Darcy's proposal but has there ever been a great love lacking this most touching and engaging naivety which, being inspired by the most noble feelings ever to be described, is the very essence of this mysterious craft, nay, blessing we call love?
Being most perceptive and well aware of the world surrounding them neither Darcy nor Elizabeth stepped into the trap of being head over heels in love. Their letters, as we may see, betray most sincere affection coupled with the first rush of blossoming love but they harbor neither melancholy nor pitiful pining for the other.
Pray, tell me, how our dearest Georgiana took the news of our proposal, I sincerely hope that it pleased her. My family has fallen prey to rapture over having "two daughters in wedlock", can you imagine how Mama is glowing? Not only does she refer to you as being "the most amiable and charming man she ever had the pleasure to be introduced to" but also never stops advising me as to how to make you the happiest of men. Can you but imagine how I suffer?
This passage both gladdened and enchanted Darcy, making him smile his rare Darcy-smile which Elizabeth had grown to love as much as his mysterious gaze. He could well remember Elizabeth's tales of her mother's "ailments" and "sufferings" and imagining her being fond of him both scared and touched him. He knew Mrs. Bennet to be a woman of whims, much emotion and very little judgement and thus he was neither flattered nor particularly offended by her regard. At their first meeting he had thought her to be a ruthless woman whose only aim in life was to catch rich men for her rather plain girls and further meetings did nothing to improve this first impression. With time his judgement of the mother influenced his opinion of her several daughters.
Being the offspring of such a mother and a father who seemed to feel ashamed for his wife and children, how could they possibly have turned out well? And indeed, the younger Miss Bennets fulfilled even his worst fears which, naturally, did nothing to improve his opinion. What he felt for this family was neither esteem nor disdain, it was indifference. Not until Miss Elizabeth's fine eyes had captivated him with their engaging sparkle had he believed it possible that anyone could break the ice surrounding his soul ever since he had lost most of his family. After losing his mother at thirteen and his father at twenty-four he had felt lonely and were it not for Georgiana's future he would have avoided society altogether.
Both Aunt and Uncle Gardiner send you their felicitations, their letter informed me of their upcoming arrival for our wedding which, I assume, will delight you as much as it is a pleasure to me. To tell the truth, it'll be much easier to bear with Mama and her many caprices having them around me since their calm and understanding has always had a positive effect on both Mama and my sisters. Not that your presence doesn't give me joy but not even I could be that cruel as to demand you to endure their presence twenty-four hours a day. This bears no hard feelings on my part, as I believe you know, but simple honesty. Have I grown to be too much like you, yearning for some poise and dignified manners in those who are dear to me? I may as well shield myself to avoid your influence but it would hardly reflect my heart's desires which beats for you alone.
Never in his life had Darcy envied anyone for having something he wasn't lucky enough to have but now he found himself envying Elizabeth for her family. Puzzling as this sentiment was, it bore no base blot but mere desire for a family to nurture and love. Could this be another aspect of his very complex soul being unmasked by his dearest loveliest Elizabeth?
And her father, he had to admit. Even though he had seen little of Mr. Bennet in the past Darcy had developed a much more favourable opinion on Elizabeth's father who had been the first man being able to stir some rather intimate feelings within him, he, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, looked up to Mr. Bennet as he had honoured his own father. The difference was that with Mr. Bennet he felt at ease while his father's rather grave air had intimidated him instead of arousing trust and love.
Since I have no wish to engage you longer than needed I shall conclude now by repeating how much I love you. May God preserve you as you are, for I would not have you otherwise. Always remain the one whose letters and love are life itself to your loving,
Elizabeth was a continual thorn in Caroline Bingley's side. To her disgust Darcy displayed his affection for her openly and jealousy made her shrewish. She kept a continual watch on Elizabeth's activities and made it very clear that it was her point to make her disapproval known to the world whenever possible. Her tactics included friendly dissing, desperate ways to prove her social superiority by dressing even more tasteless than before, especially her use of makeup had increased, making her look most vulgar and artificial compared to the natural beauty and simple elegance displayed exquisitely by Miss Bennet.
No matter who tried to advise her to keep her dismay to herself, Caroline would listen to no one. Her biased view did not permit the simple truth, that it was only Elizabeth's influence on Darcy which kept him from putting her in her place. Where a calculated show of propriety might have led to success her way of dealing with her frustration only made matters worse. Darcy found her presence to be unbearable and avoided her which gave him more time to be with Elizabeth, thus only throwing grist on Caroline's mill who, the more she was set aside the more she was craving for his affection, continued to bother the happy couple with her offences, hateful remarks and long face.
Thus an atmosphere of held back hatred was developed and it finally came to a clash at the second ball Mr. Bingley gave to celebrate his betrothal to Jane. Breaking custom he seated Darcy between Jane and Elizabeth, excluding Caroline and Mrs. Hurst from their merry conversations. After bearing with this insult, for she felt most horribly treated, her temper broke free. The two couples were speaking of a reception the Darcys would give at Pemberley as soon as they were settled there, giving Caroline a good possibility to use Elizabeth's inexperience as mistress of a big manor against her.
"Dear Miss Bennet," she pointed out sweetly, "I'm sure that it'll require much time for you to be hostess at Pemberley. Regarding your most unfortunate upbringing I'd advise you to accept my help to learn the ways and customs of the high society, something, as yet, sadly amiss from your education."
She had gone too far, even Miss Bingley noticed her grave mistake as she beheld the shock evident on all faces surrounding her. Darcy seemed to be boiling with rage while Elizabeth, though deeply hurt, held her head high bravely. If it were in her power she would have erased every word she had uttered and the reaction she was about to witness was anything but promising.
*Venus, I'm told was fair: but behold, she's brunette (Francis I. of France)
Posted on Wednesday, 14 May 2003
A dreadful silence had spread itself over the entire room, everyone was holding his breath, waiting for the long-desired put down of Caroline Bingley, she did not have many friends among the people assembled to celebrate the two happy couples. Many guests were stretching forward to overhear the scolding, which had to follow, but Mr. Bingley, offended as bridegroom and friend, was far too discreet to allow a scene. Nevertheless he was determined to teach his sister a lesson she wouldn't forget too soon.
"Caroline, as your brother, I advise and demand you to apologise to both Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy." Mr. Bingley began, his hushed voice sounded more intimidating than screaming could possibly have sounded.
Caroline blushed violently, it was most dreadful to her arrogant spirit to ask for the pardon of a nobody but to be humiliated thus in front of the man she desired was the ultimate indignity. By asking her to apologise to Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy her brother had spoken of them as lovers, as people who belonged together, something she wasn't willing to accept that easily.
She remained silent for a long moment, yearning for a hole to disappear in. Finally she got up and advanced Elizabeth slowly, her face was green and distorted with grief while Elizabeth, never spiteful or mean-spirited, gave her a warm glance. Only Darcy could see that she was as furious as she felt humiliated.
"Miss Bennet, I-I..." she broke off and gasped. "I apologise with all my heart, I did not mean to offend you." No one was more surprised than Caroline when she realized how much facilitation a sincere apology could cause. How wonderful it felt to overcome one's mistakes, suddenly apologising to Darcy no longer held such terror. Excited murmur was heard as she was seen smiling at Miss Bennet while she turned to Mr. Darcy.
"Mr. Darcy, please forgive me. I didn't mean to offend you or your betrothed. It was a sad error, I am deeply penitent."
This was by no means a Maria Magdalena turning into a saint but it was a good beginning, suddenly the person who should feel humiliated was proud at herself for facing her errors and having the courage to correct them. Of course one most not give in to naivety by believing that a character can switch in just an instant after twenty-four years of misguided errors but there is the credible hope that this put down may have caused some good effect on Caroline.
"Miss Bingley, of course I will forgive you and I believe I may say that for my fiancé as well," Elizabeth said, with a hint of gravity in her voice. Darcy only nodded in agreement, there was nothing to be derived of a temper-tantrum, and this was neither the time nor the place.
The ball continued with much talk and little dancing, the atmosphere was rather dull after they crowd assembled at Netherfield had been denied the pleasure of a scandalous scene. It was en vogue among the ton to gossip and if there was no food for gossip the society was unhappy and bereft of its most prestigious toy. The two couples enjoyed themselves in dancing and planning their future; already plans had been put on the map to look for an estate close to Pemberley so that meetings and little parties could become part of daily life.
"Elizabeth, don't let her hurt you. She is a mean old maid and doesn't know what she's saying. Such things are bound to happen..."
But those were exactly the wrong words to soothe Elizabeth who, much unlike her happy nature, had been brooding the entire afternoon following the ball at Netherfield. No matter how foolish Miss Bingley was, this had just been the beginning of a long list of insults, which were bound to come if she married into Darcy's family. Not that a thought of regret ever crossed her mind but the prospect of being the target of constant hissing and flaring was most unpleasant to begin with, especially for a passionate creature like Elizabeth.
"Bound to happen?" she hissed. "I suppose so, Mr. "high and mighty" Darcy, because I am to blame for being born by my mother, I suppose. Of course, this is enough to condemn my family and me. And now you, my betrothed, sanction this abominable behaviour by saying that this was bound to happen? How dare you? Who gives you the right to look down on me, you, who has as many true friends as fingers on one hand!"
Darcy, shocked at this outburst, remained silent for a while and paced up and down while Elizabeth was watching him with glowing eyes.
"Elizabeth, this isn't a question of sanctioning rudeness, I believe my anger at Miss Bingley was very visible last night. But by marrying me you must understand that there will be people who'll treat you with disdain and that might hurt you. And before you fly in a rage again I might add that I neither approve of nor agree with such snootiness and arrogance. Dearest, loveliest Elizabeth, by you I was properly humbled and saved from such a fate. Pity her for her one dimensional view of the world, do not pay her any attention." he concluded calmly.
"William, I am not hurt I am angry and offended. When she spoke her poison so sweetly I just wanted to scratch her eyes out! Her offences don't touch me personally but it is different if she's insulting me in front of everybody. Of course she made a fool of herself rather than diminishing my reputation but I hate to be the centre of such scenes, they're embarrassing and uncalled for. I prefer prudence over spontaneous behaviour in such matters, which isn’t meant to imply that I will tolerate whatever rudeness, is hurled at me. Do you understand?" Her voice wavered slightly.
Darcy pulled her close to assure her of his utmost support. Her body was tense and beaming with both anger and desire.
"Of course I understand you, sweeting. Believe me, I'll do all in my power to prevent such happenings from now on."
But just as he bowed down to kiss her lightly she broke away and walked farther away from him.
"What more do you want?" he asked calmly but with a hint of tension in his voice.
"To tell you the truth, I don't know what I want. You call me sweeting in one sentence and speak of preventing such scenes in the next; this is not the language of a lover. Tell me plainly, are you feeling ashamed because of my status in life? So far all you have said is that such happenings are naturally bound to happen and that, thanks to me, you were humble enough to see more in me than poor relations. Not one word of her being unjust and you disagreeing with her. It all has the appearance of falseness, as if you were having doubts already. You do not approve of it, you do not agree with it; and yet you don't seem to disagree either!"
"Elizabeth! Be fair, I've never ever left your side and I never will but stop accusing me of being shallow and insincere. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I love you, I honour you and I need you. How can I prove that you're supreme to me? I won't write glowing poetry or love-letters, I'm not capable of that. What is it you want, sweeting? My love? You have it. My respect? It's yours. My support against people like Miss Bingley? I'm always at your side. Don't ask for what I cannot give. You once said you wouldn't want me to change because you wanted me the way I was, the way I am. Has your resolution weakened that fastly?"
Now it was Elizabeth pacing up and down while she listened to his words. His reproof was gently put but clear.
"Do not misinterpret what I say, I beg you. If loving you the way you are means to lose you, I will embrace it. But do not change, not now, not ever. I have grown to love you so much, it would break my heart to see you turn into another Sir William." She chuckled lightly at the comparison; Darcy's lips were shrugging as well, it was all too amusing how his Elizabeth had managed to switch the tone of her conversation in such a sincere and yet amusing manner.
Instantly she found herself in his arms and let him kiss all her worries away, feeling his lips fluttering over her eyelids, cheeks, throat and collarbones arose a desire in her she had never dared to dream existed.
"You know that you'll never lose me, sweeting,“ he teased.
"Do I? You may still change your mind and wed Miss Bingley whose experience as a mistress of a mighty house might be valuable to you,“ she whispered with twinkling eyes.
"Sweeting...." he sighed, breathing in the sweet scent of her hair.
"Yes?" she whispered back, lingering at his broad chest while he loosened her hair with his left hand; his right arm was wrapped around Elizabeth's slim waist.
He wrapped one of her lose curls around the fingers of his left hand, enjoying the silky feel of it.
"Your hair is flossier than the feathers of a young bird, my love. I can't get enough of it, I fear. Your skin feels as smooth as silk..."
"Oh, let it lie, William. You're not a man of compliments."
"Am I not?" He sounded hurt. "But I mean it, sweeting."
"My love, I was just suggesting that I prefer a man of deeds over a man of words." she gave back lovingly, tightening her embrace.
"Well, if that be the case, my love, I'm most happy to oblige." His voice was filled with desire as he bent down to kiss her as he had meant to earlier.
Posted on Saturday, 17 May 2003
"Mama! Mama, look! The most enormous carriage has arrived!" Kitty squealed.
Her outcry caused everyone to run to the window, and indeed, a most pompous carriage had arrived. The four horses in front of it were exquisitely bred; two servants were taking care of the persons seated within it.
Elizabeth's watchful eyes beheld and elderly woman with a sour face, dressed in exquisite material but of poor taste. All the damask and velvet couldn't conceal her sagging skin, her bitter mouth and her hard face. Dislike arose in Elizabeth as soon as she beheld her; she sensed that this Lady, whoever she was, meant trouble. Her companion was much younger but of weak constitution, she appeared weakly and pitiful. While her companion remained in the carriage the elderly woman was helped out with much etiquette and her condescending look at the house made Elizabeth's blood boil with rage.
There was much commotion to be heard, a terrified Hill trying to announce the visitor only to be scolded most rudely. Like an intruder she swept inside the room, ready for battle.
"Lady Catherine de Bourgh!" Hill announced.
If it had not been that serious Elizabeth would have laughed off this intrusion but knowing who her guest was she felt humiliated and angry. Her mother was far too taken aback to greet her rude visitor, thus she herself greeted her.
"Lady Catherine, what an unexpected delight. Pray tell me, what brings you here?"
"Are you Miss Elizabeth Bennet?" Lady Catherine hissed violently. "According to your presumption to greet my in such a manner with your mother in the same room you fit the common description!"
Elizabeth flared up. "Madam, I don't think that presumption is among the things that should be discussed right now. Since you assume to know me so well, according to which source I do not care, I may choose not to answer. I ask you one more time, what brings you here?"
As much as she had been told Lady Catherine had not expected such well-spoken protest. This nobody dared to treat her as an equal! Her, the daughter of a poor man and a lowborn mother, aspired to meet her on equal grounds? Well, now she would be put in her place!
Elizabeth, still hoping that Lady Catherine may only have a letter from Charlotte and dreading bad news at the same time listened to Lady Catherine's disrespectful comments on her home in silence. Let her mother deal with this haughty creature.
After a short displeasing conversation with Mrs. Bennet Lady Catherine turned back to Elizabeth.
"Miss Bennet, there seemed to be a prettyish kind of a little wilderness on one side of your lawn. I should be glad to take a turn in it, if you will favour me with your company."
Elizabeth accepted unhappily and led Lady Catherine outside.
"Miss Bennet, I will be frank with you because it is my wish to be completely understood. A most alarming report has reached me only a few days ago. Not only is your sister to be most advantageously married but that you, Miss Elizabeth Bennet, are to be married to my own nephew, Mr. Darcy. Of course I know that this can only be a most vile report, nevertheless I decided to come at once to see you."
"Well, if it is only a vile report, I wonder why you came here at all. Your coming here will only confirm it!" Elizabeth gave back, gritting her teeth at her insults.
"I came here to have it contradicted by you! Universally contradicted, do you understand? Has he? Has my nephew made you an offer of marriage?"
"You've declared it to be impossible!"
"It ought to be so! But by your arts and allurements you may have made him forget what he was taught from the cradle!"
"If I had I should be the last person to confess it! And do not believe that behaviour such as this will persuade me to be explicit!"
"Shameless girl! Tell me, are you engaged to him!"
Both women were glaring at each other, hatred blazing in their eyes.
"Yes, I am!" Elizabeth held her head high.
After being utterly smashed by the truth Lady Catherine gave her a bittersweet smile.
"See, dear girl, this was a big mistake on your part. You thought to marry a rich man? Well, know this: Mr. Darcy is engaged to my daughter! They were intended for each other ever since they were children!"
"Lady Catherine, if this were the truth, you ought to be horrified at your nephew's behaviour for he made an offer of marriage to me, not only once but twice. I accepted the second; we shall be wed in two weeks. I know this to be untrue, lets regard it as settled."
"Well, you might be surprised that by marrying him you will remain as poor as you are now. It is in my power to strip Mr. Darcy of everything that he calls his, never fear, I'm willing to carry out my power if he marries against my wishes!"
"I've been poor all my life. If you call my life's circumstances poverty, so be it. I gave my word to your nephew and not one word by you will make me falter!"
"Well, how about his young sister then? Would you be the cause of her ruin?" Lady Catherine sneered smugly.
"I have no part in this, Mr. Darcy is his sister's guardian. You must speak to him, this is none of my business."
"Insolent girl, I'm ashamed of you! Have you no feeling for his family's wishes? For years his mother and I were planning this match, now to be destroyed by a young woman without family, connections or fortune?"
"Madam, if it was his desire to make another choice, why should he not? And if I am the woman he wishes to wed, why should I object?"
"Because honour, prudence, no, interest, forbid it. Yes, Miss Bennet, interest; for do not expect to be noticed by his family or friends, if you willfully act against the inclinations of all. You will be censured and despised, by every one connected with him. Your alliance will be a disgrace; your name will never even be mentioned by any of us."
"Be assured that Mr. Darcy's love is worth all this. These misfortunes, as heavy as they might be, are nothing to me!" Elizabeth replied hotly.
"I will not be interrupted; hear me out in silence! Are you determined to have him against his family's dearest wishes? Are you ready for a mock-marriage? For that it shall be! I was hoping to find a more prudent woman in your place; but it seems that you're still as much as slave to your whims as a child. You think you can defy the entire world? Well, you can't! Be assured that I am thinking only of your own happiness; promise me to renounce him!"
"I will make no promise of the kind!"
"Well, you better do as I ask!"
"Are you threatening me? I won't be intimidated by something that foolish! Neither my renouncing him nor your threats would make Mr. Darcy marry your daughter! You've known him all his live and still you have no clue about his real character! You think I'm weak and foolish? I'm going to surprise you then! I will not give in, neither to threats nor to persuasion!"
"So you a determined to ruin him and make him the contempt of the world? Are you lost to all demands of duty, honour and gratitude?"
Elizabeth's face lightened up as she saw her betrothed coming towards her with a stern look on his face; Lady Catherine had not noticed him yet.
"Madam, may I as whether you are lost to all these things? Whatever possessed you to come here and harass my betrothed?" he asked angrily.
Lady Catherine blanched and started to sweat.
"Dear nephew, since you're not willing to see your error I hoped that your bride would see reason." she replied haughtily.
"Oh, but you're mistaken, dear aunt. I have seen reason; hereby I ask you most politely to leave this place and never to return. Family or not, I will have no one around insulting my future wife!"
Lady Catherine knew that she was defeated and recoiled in disgust. Watching her waddling off to her carriage Darcy came towards Elizabeth and took her in his arms.
"What a brave little woman you are, sweeting." he praised her gently.
"Don't tell me you heard it all?"
"Not all, I guess, but most of it. How touching your words were, my love. I apologise in the name of my entire family. Please believe me that those whom you might come to like will treasure you almost as I do."
"There is no need for an apology. But is it true? Will her threats harm Georgiana?" Elizabeth was very distressed.
"No, my angel. What she said were lies, my fortune and my estate is mine and only mine."
"I'm glad of it. I wouldn’t be able to live peacefully if my happiness had its foundation in her disgrace."
"How dare she speak of honour to you? She has lied to you, offended you in every possible way!" Darcy flared up, much unlike his calm nature.
"Don't worry about it, my love. This is over. Our life together will begin in two weeks and then nothing will part us ever again."
She had spoken true. The marriage between Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet became known for being an example of matrimony. Her sister Jane moved near them with her husband Charles Bingley and while there might have been some gossip at the beginning nobody truly dared to despise Mrs. Darcy, a woman who was loved by servants and relations alike.