Posted on Friday, 16 July 2004
Sitting at her night stand raking her cross back and forth on its chain around her neck, Elizabeth stared at the image in her dressing mirror, a pensive expression gracing her face. The hour was late and the house had quieted from all the noise from Lydia and Kitty’s bemoaning of the pending removal of the militia to Brighton, and their mother in turn wailing of their lack of compassion for her poor nerves!
Elizabeth had tried her utmost to ignore them; her thoughts were on the events what had occurred just prior to her homecoming. And in fact she had been home for less time than was needed to recover from her sojourn into Kent and the Hunsford cottage of her cousin and his wife.
Charlotte was gracious as was to be expected, and even clarified her logic to Elizabeth’s satisfaction of her marriage to one of the most obtuse man in the world, making Elizabeth easy in accepting Charlotte’s rather unequaled marriage.
Even Mr. Collins was extreme in his attesting to the felicity of himself and his wife, blessing his good fortune to have Charlotte as his spouse who was approved of by his illustrious benefactress, Lady Catherine DeBourgh.
Only once did he begin what Elizabeth knew to be a disparaging observation that her rejection of him as suitor gave Charlotte the opportunity of what could have rendered Elizabeth’s own happiness at Hunsford. But with her unwavering gaze he saw the wisdom of not finishing the remark.
Thank you for your clarity of mind for once, Mr. Collins, for which I was eternally grateful. Only after your wise decision to desist voicing your reflection did I then know I could show you my capacity to civility without too much derision.
She grabbed her brush and vigorously combed through her tresses to a more manageable state, sighing in disgust as her thoughts recalled Mr. Darcy’s proposal, and her reaction to it.
Of all the audacity to presume that I would accept him, of all people, after all he said, and all he had done!
But then her actions slowed as she wondered why she was still plagued by the memory of his stares of hurt and confusion when she refused him so harshly. Her words had been bitter and cruel, and she was now heartedly ashamed of them. But she was still angry that he had been able to press her into stating her rejection of him in so decidedly a hostile manner.
How can he elicit such violent emotions from me when I do not even care for him or for his opinions?
With fingers now playing with the brush’s bristles she was then reminded of the journey home. All the time they were at Hunsford, Mariah Lucas had barely opened her mouth for fear she would say something to offend the illustrious Lady Catherine, a transgression for which Mr. Collins would see fit to relate to the Lady as he did all the goings-on in his house. Vainly both Charlotte and Elizabeth tried to illicit some exchange between Mariah and Anne during all of their times at Rosings, but it was to no avail. Elizabeth likened it to trying to get a tortoise to make reply to a hare!
As the coach departed from the parsonage Elizabeth had hope that the journey to the Bromley Post would be a pleasantly quiet one, and for a while it was. Mariah’s tentative nature kept the ride serene and the landscape passed the windows without incident, and Elizabeth felt obliged to have a little conversation, and mistakenly encouraged the girl.
Buoyed by the positive atmosphere in the near deserted coach it was not five minutes away from the Bromley Post than this self same taciturn creature begin a nonstop description of the entirety of their stay, leaving nothing out, including entire conversations from weeks before by all the parties attending. Elizabeth’s gentle admonishments that perhaps the other passengers would be more at ease with a slacking of the whole of their holiday exploits did not dissuade Mariah in the least.
How at Mariah’s refusal to stop her prattle of all they had seen and done at Rosings Elizabeth found herself harboring thoughts of pushing the young girl out the door of the moving carriage. Elizabeth was only appeased when she noticed the gentleman opposite her in the carriage rolled his eyes at Mariah’s incessant drone, and she knew he could be enlisted as a willing accomplice in her murderous whim while his elderly woman companion slept through it all.
Now at home roughly brushing tangles from her hair Elizabeth remembered her thought at the time.
I have never known anyone besides Mother who in one breath could spout such nonstop drivel. How on earth Charlotte could have ignored her silly sister for all these years is beyond me! Oh, Jane, I know that is unkind. Please forgive me.
Thinking of the sweetest person in whole the world Elizabeth was then reminded of the remainder of the journey home when the carriage contained her own sisters who had taken it upon themselves to have a lark and accompany her rest of the way. Then it was even more of a discomfort than with only Mariah. All Lydia and Kitty talked of was of the impending removal of the militia from Hertfordshire to Brighton, and how their hearts were broken with the news. Elizabeth was furious with indignation.
They had no consideration for poor Jane, who’s heart is truly broken with the continued absence of Mr. Bingley.
Why he did not return was apparent in Mr. Darcy’s letter now laying open on the night stand. Elizabeth re-read it several times with displeasure each time her eyes fell upon the passage of Mr. Darcy’s reasons and decision for separating Mr. Bingley from Jane.
The arrogance of the man has no bounds that he would presume to know what is best for all concerned! What audacity!
But this accusation brought with it the reminder of his description of her family’s shortcomings that when he first stated them she could not abide, and when to read a repetition of their defects in his letter she could not think on Mr. Darcy without a loathing of the author. But now in the quiet of her room and with some time to reflect she could not but agree with his assessment. She shook her head in disgust at this notion of having some common ground with the man.
She brushed her hair with renewed vigor, pulling the last of the tangles from the ends and then stared at the woman who stared back from the mirror.
“So many events had occurred this past year, I can hardly believe it.”
To have refused two marriage proposals with Jane in want of but
Sudden tears for her sister began to fall from her eyes at such hopelessness of her sister’s prospects now because of the officiousness of Mr. Darcy.
If only his friend was not so swayed by his influence perhaps Jane would have had a chance at happiness, more so than the rest of us.
This thought brought on the resignation of her own future life of spinsterhood. And soon her tears were replaced with a bout of giggles and then out right laughter at how preposterous it all seemed.
Surely as my father’s daughter I have the capacity to find amusement at my own fulfillment of the prediction I made long ago to Jane with now my refusals of both gentlemen.
She smiled at her own image, recalling her words to her sister.
I will be the maiden aunt who teaches your ten children how to embroider and play their instrument ill!
How true that would now be as she realized she could never hope for another proposal from even one of the local gentry. She had long since swiftly discouraged the lot of them one by one for various reasons much to her mother’s chagrin.
All the reasons boil down to but one, the fact that I could never love any one of them.
And with a mixture of laugher and tears which she wiped carelessly away, she gazed at her trunk being readied for yet another venture from home, this one being with her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner who had invited her to tour the Lakes regions to the north. Elizabeth smiled knowing she would enjoy the change of scenery and their company. Even without the benefit of what her mother considered prospects of marriage, she recalled her mother’s words.
You will never catch a man’s eyes if you are always strolling about countless parks and hills, Miss Lizzy! You had best stay here and try to find someone who would accept you in the neighborhood, or if your father would consent, we could follow the militia to Brighton where I could go sea bathing. That would set me up for life!
No, Elizabeth vowed. She would not be blinded by the sight of the red-coated officers of any militia as were her younger sisters or even that of her mother. She knew now she would never allow that to be her fate.
As she finished brushing her hair of the last of the tangles Elizabeth came to the conclusion that being an old maid surely must have its advantages.
I wonder how many cats would be sufficient company.
Elizabeth swallowed and smiled sadly at her reflection and sighed, blowing out the candle.