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Walk With Me - Chapters 20-21

June 06, 2015 06:18PM
Chapter 20 – An Abduction

Several days later Darcy and Elizabeth had accompanied Jane and Bingley to Netherfield Hall where Jane was to receive a tour of the house of which one day she was to be mistress. If the ostensible purpose was to review to the furnishings and furniture in order that she might consider which would require to be changed, in reality, both couples wished to escape, for an afternoon, Mrs. Bennet’s desire to parade her daughter around the neighbourhood so as to share the happiness of her engagement with as many as possible. They had only managed to escape without Mrs. Bennet’s insisting upon accompanying them by virtue of the fact she had taken a nap so as to be fresh for her triumphal tour later in the afternoon.

But escape they did and, after an hour touring the house, they had wandered outside to walk the paths of the Netherfield gardens. The couples had separated and Darcy and Elizabeth were so enjoyably engaged on a discussion of a Shakespearean play on which they held strong but opposing opinions that they were quite oblivious to their surroundings until a footman ran up gasping, “Mr. Darcy! Miss Elizabeth! Come quickly! An accident!”

Elizabeth first thought was that something had happened to Jane, “Jane? Has something happened to Jane?”

“No, ma’am. Miss Lydia!”

Elizabeth and Darcy looked at each other in amazement and immediately began running towards the house where they encountered Bingley and Jane coming around the other corner of the house and obviously as worried and confused as themselves. Hurrying inside they were informed by the butler that Miss Lydia had been carried upstairs to a bedroom and that the apothecary had been called. Elizabeth and Jane hurried to see their sister while Darcy and Bingley attempted to find someone who could tell them what had happened.

When Elizabeth and Jane entered the room, it was to find Lydia lying on the bed and crying and moaning in obvious discomfort. Mrs. Nichols, the Netherfield housekeeper, looked up as they approached and briskly stated, “She has a broken arm but no other serious injuries as far as I can determine.”

“But what happened?” demanded Elizabeth.

“I cannot say, Miss Elizabeth. I cannot get two words of sense out of her. Something about Wickham and eloping but none of it makes much sense, I am afraid.”

Elizabeth stopped in shock, “Wickham?” she gasped.

At Mrs. Nichols’ nod, she attempted to control her thoughts. Her first instinct was to ensure privacy and, to this end, she thanked Mrs. Nichols for her help and assured her that she and Jane would care for their sister until the apothecary – Mr. Jones - arrived. Mrs. Nichols assented and directed the maid, who was cleaning Lydia’s scratches, to return to her regular duties. As Elizabeth drew closer to Lydia she could see that the lower part of her left arm, cradled by her right hand, was bent at an unusual angle. As well, her dress was torn around the shoulder and the side of her face and upper arm badly scratched. Taking the cloth left by the maid she and Jane finished the job of cleaning the scratches, removing earth and gravel from the sores. Not wishing to do too much until the apothecary arrived, they satisfied themselves with laying clean cloths over the wounds.

Attempts to calm Lydia and find out what happened proved difficult; while her crying had lessened, she would not answer their questions at first – simply shaking her head when they pressed her more closely.

Finally, in exasperation, Elizabeth snapped, “Lydia, you will tell us eventually. Our father will not be satisfied with your silence! I suspect you have done something…tried to do something incredibly foolish! Eloping! Wickham!....Dear God, you were eloping with George Wickham?”

Lydia burst into a fresh torrent of tears but before Elizabeth could say more than, “You foolish girl! What have you…?” Mr. Jones entered the room, his displeasure at his patient being harangued evident in the glare he directed at Elizabeth.

She huffed and was silent for several minutes as he began his examination of Lydia. Finally, she could restrain herself no longer and, looking at Jane, said, “I am going down to find out what happened. You must stay with Lydia.” And without waiting for Jane’s agreement, hurried from the room and went looking for Darcy who, she was sure, had more information to share with her.

The butler directed her to the study where she found Darcy and Bingley listening to a man with whom she was quite unfamiliar. Seeing her enter the room, Darcy came to her asking, “Your sister, she will be well?”

“As well as one can be with a broken arm, I believe. She bears some scratches and bruises but nothing worse, I suspect. Mr. Jones and Jane are with her now. Can you tell me what has happened to her?”

“We are just finishing up talking to Brooks here. He found her and brought her to Netherfield. Let me finish with him and I will explain all.” Saying which he led her to a chair beside him and asked Brooks several more questions. Satisfied as to the answers, he dismissed him and drew up a chair next to hers. Not waiting for his explanation, Elizabeth blurted, “Lydia would say nothing but eloping and Wickham. But how could she have come to be injured so?”

“That, I can explain but first, Brooks, whom you just met, is one of two grooms from Pemberley that I brought here to guard you and your sisters privately. I told no one, except your father and Bingley, about them and Bingley here had to be told since they stay here at Netherfield.”

“Why the secrecy? Could I not have been told?”

“I could, and probably should, have told you but did not want to worry you unnecessarily which I thought you might do.”

“I am not a child, Mr. Darcy! You do me no favours by hiding from me something which affects me so closely.” Elizabeth realized that she had spoken too sharply and, after a brief pause, spoke in a softer voice, “However, I recognize the kindness of the intent and appreciate it.”

“Well…Anyway, Brooks had followed your two sisters, Kitty and Mary, to visit your Aunt Philip and had dismounted and was watering his horse some distance away – your sisters were also accompanied by a groom who was waiting inside in the kitchen apparently. Anyway, as Brooks was watering his horse, a curricle came through Meryton at a very fast clip and was past Brooks before he fully realized who was in it; however, he recognized your sister, Lydia, and wondered at what she was doing. Failing to see an escort, he immediately became worried, mounted and gave chase. By this time the curricle was, according to Brooks, some quarter mile ahead of him but he was quickly able to overtake it and within a few minutes had closed to a hundred yards. As he was riding he could see you sister looking back and pointing at him and by the time he had closed to less than a hundred yards, the driver himself looked back. Brooks said that it looked to him that your sister was pushed out of the curricle as it was moving. As he passed her, he could see that she was injured. He admitted that he could have caught the curricle but felt it more important to help your sister and stopped his chase.” Darcy spoke with some bitterness as he said, “That was obviously Wickham’s intent, his hope, and he was able to escape – this time.”

Elizabeth shook her head in bemusement, “It was Wickham, then?"

Darcy nodded, "Brooks could not be sure. The man was bearded but he states that Miss Lydia claimed it to be him. I think it unlikely, under the circumstances, to be anyone else."

"She chose to elope with Wickham? After all that has been said about that man! Did she believe none of it? Obviously not, but how did this come about? She must speak.”

“I agree. Your father will be most seriously upset over this but…let me finish Brooks’ tale.” At her nod he continued, “Once he had returned to Miss Lydia, he found that she was unlikely to be able to walk due to the pain from her arm. He thought Netherfield was the closest spot to bring her and, since he did not think himself capable of carrying her that distance, he placed her on the back of his horse.” Darcy grimaced, “He said he had never heard such a crying and whining in his life; but they made it safely and he said he was quite happy to turn her over to Mrs. Nichols while he waited to tell me of what had happened.”

Bingley spoke up for the first time, “I do not understand why she would do such a thing.”

Elizabeth ignored this comment and turning to Darcy asked, “Has a note been sent to my father?”

“No. I shall send one now. Brooks can deliver it quickly.”

A note was written and sent off within minutes. Elizabeth and the two gentlemen remained in the study until Mr. Jones came to impart the news that Lydia had suffered no worse injury than a broken arm and some scratches. She would remain in bed for several days at least but was young, healthy and should heal quickly. He had administered a small dose of laudanum and left more should her arm pain her further. She was sleeping now and he recommended against moving her for a week at least.

Shortly after Mr. Jones had returned to his home, Jane joined them having ensured that Lydia was being attended by a maid. Mr. Bennet arrived a quarter hour later both confused and concerned. After being apprised of events, he immediately went to look upon Lydia but returned shortly to report that between laudanum and her distress she was hardly comprehensible. After some thought he indicated that he would prefer Elizabeth and Jane to return to Longbourn – for the sake of propriety – and would send Mary to nurse his youngest daughter. While both Elizabeth and Jane would have preferred to spend the evening in the company of their betrothed at Netherfield, they also realized that it would be most improper since there was no older lady to act as chaperone. Mr. Bennet departed for Longbourn in company with his two oldest daughters who were assured that their betrothed would journey there also for supper. Mr. Bennet had impressed upon his daughters that Mrs. Bennet should only be told that Lydia had suffered an accident while riding in a curricle. The circumstances and the name of the driver would be suppressed for the time being. That Lydia’s accident would be the main subject of conversation during the meal was to be expected although Mrs. Bennet was diverted – to the satisfaction of all – to discuss the upcoming Assembly and waxed eloquent upon the pleasure of talk there of one daughter engaged and another courted by a most eligible suitor. That it would be a most suitable occasion to announce a second engagement was broadly hinted at, to the mortification of Elizabeth and the amusement of Mr. Bennet and, to Elizabeth’s surprise, Mr. Darcy. However, when this topic had exhausted Mrs. Bennet’s conjectures and effusions, Mr. Bennet had the happy thought to inquire as to where Jane’s wedding clothes were to be purchased and the even happier thought to suggest that Meryton would be the appropriate location. To this Mrs. Bennet could not be persuaded and waxed long and eloquently on the benefits and superiority of venturing to London to acquire all the necessities. After dinner she remained so absorbed in the topic as to retire to her rooms to begin preparation of the list of items that would be most appropriate to a young lady marrying a man of five thousand a year.

If Mrs. Bennet could be so diverted, the remainder of their party could not; perforce Kitty had to be made aware of the essentials of what had transpired and pledged – on the forfeit of her allowance for a month – to secrecy on the matter. Since Lydia could, as yet, not be questioned as to the particulars of her presence in the curricle, they could only review such details as were known until she could be questioned the next day.

So it was that the next morning, shortly after breakfast, Mr. Bennet, Jane and Elizabeth were welcomed by Mr. Bingley at Netherfield. The betrothed couple were not long in finding themselves pleasantly engaged in touring the rooms of Netherfield, suitably chaperoned by Mr. Darcy and Mary, in order to assess what changes the future mistress might contemplate.

Mr. Bennet and Elizabeth were less enjoyably engaged in meeting with Lydia so as to find out how she had come to be in the curricle with Wickham. She, having been denied a further dose of laudanum – as expressly ordered by Mr. Bennet – was in some discomfort from her broken arm and the various bruises she had suffered. If the prime motivation for Mr. Bennet’s direction had been a desire to have her coherent for their discussion, it may be also easily understood if he had felt little sympathy – and perhaps some satisfaction – in observing her discomfort. After her pleas for relief had been refused several times, she was finally given to understand that such would not be available until a full accounting for her actions was made. To this she reluctantly agreed – a circumstance which did little to comfort either of her questioners as to the probable propriety of such actions.

The discussion took the better part of an hour and such information as could be obtained was gleaned from a most reluctant subject. In essence, Lydia had not fully believed the warnings about Mr. Wickham; his handsome features and amiable manners having so recommended him to her that she was willing to accept his assurances that he was being most infamously treated by all and sundry and that Mr. Darcy, in particular, was quite prejudiced against him for reasons which he had previously related to her. She had met him, secretly, on several occasions and, on the last such occasion, been persuaded of his attachment to her and agreed to elope with him. Since that meeting had not been planned, she had not the opportunity to pack any clothing and thus they were - according to Lydia off to London to shop for the same before proceeding to Gretna Green to be married. She had thus accompanied Mr. Wickham quite willingly and the speed with which he had passed through Meryton had excited no thoughts in her other than pleasure and excitement. That he had become increasingly agitated she had noted but had not realized that it derived from the recognition of being pursued, until she herself had looked behind the curricle to note the rider who was giving chase. It had been clear – to her - that they were to be overtaken quite soon but she had been totally shocked to be suddenly thrust from the curricle by Wickham. Indeed he had struck her several times to ensure her departure and her fall had been quite awkward as she struck her head on the hard ground as she landed. Her disparagement of Mr. Wickham and his treatment of her were quite as vociferous as her previous commendations had been and she felt herself to be quite ill-used by the whole experience and quite unable to feel that her behaviour was wanting in any respect. With this, her father – and Elizabeth – were very much in opposition; and, if Mr. Bennet had any reservations about sending her to school to learn proper conduct, they were vanquished by her attitude.

Some few additional minutes were spent in convincing Lydia to claim that she had been forced into the curricle – her presence there could hardly be denied since she had been seen by half of Meryton. It took threats of banishment to a school in the north and no allowance for her to comprehend that Mr. Bennet was both serious and resolved to have his way before he was convinced that she would comply with his directives. Elizabeth, who had largely been silent throughout the interrogation - mortified by her sister’s want of sense and propriety and, upon reflection, by the failure of both her parents in her sister’s education – could find no words to either chastise or sympathize with Lydia and left the room as silently as she had entered it.

She and her father removed to the study, there to apprise Darcy of the circumstances of Lydia’s involvement. He made no comment other than to approve of the measures that Mr. Bennet had taken and the cast of his countenance remained sombre throughout. Elizabeth found it almost impossible to look at him, her embarrassment extreme and the errant thought crossed her mind that he might be extremely reluctant to attach himself to such a family. Would he end their courtship as a result of Lydia’s actions? It seemed likely, since he could not fail to attach great importance to preserving his family’s name and reputation. Therefore it was with a mixture of trepidation and embarrassment that she agreed to his request to join him on a walk in the Netherfield gardens. Mr. Bennet, recognizing their need for privacy, did not require a chaperone provided they were in view of the house.

Darcy and Elizabeth walked silently out to the gardens and when Darcy placed her hand in the crook of his elbow, she felt a palpable sense of relief. He could not be considering ending their courtship if he acted so. Of that she was certain. How else he might feel about the issue, she could not ascertain but she was positive that he was angry; however, it did appear that her family was not necessarily the cause or source of that anger. So wrapped in her thoughts was she that his voice surprised her.

“You appear quite downcast, Miss Elizabeth. I realize that your sister’s situation must be of a concern. I hope there is nothing else that concerns you.”

Elizabeth forced herself to speak, “It is true that Lydia has been quite…successful in mortifying me. I had not thought her so foolish as this but, on reflection, she has been poorly instructed in proper behaviour.”

“She is but fifteen, Miss Elizabeth. There has been no harm done this time and she has time to improve. I suspect the lesson will be taken to heart.”

“I am not as sanguine as yourself. I did not hear from her any expression of regret or understanding of the impropriety of her actions.”

“Schooling becomes even more important therefore.”

“On that we may agree.”

“Is there aught else to concern you?”

Elizabeth was reluctant to raise her concern and, after several moments, asked instead, “Why were you so sombre, so angry before?”

“Did I appear so? I am sorry.” He shook his head, “I was angry at Wickham for his actions and at my failure to apprehend him before he could further harm your family. His actions yesterday caught me quite by surprise. I had not expected such precipitous actions from him. It was rather desperate now that I think on it. Quite unlike him.”

“What shall you do now?”

“I have informed my cousin of what has happened and he apparently is quite active in his efforts to discover Wickham; however, as he has a horse and curricle at his disposal, the area he could be hiding is rather extensive which makes the search more difficult.”

Chapter 21 – An Assembly To Remember

Despite the turmoil of the past week or so involving as it did Jane’s engagement and the attempted elopement – although abduction might be the more appropriate word – of Lydia, who was now more discontented because of having to miss the Assembly on account of a broken arm than discomposed by the failure of that attempt, and seemed to still harbour an affection for Mr. Wickham, despite being treated so badly - the ladies of Longbourn had spent the best part of the afternoon preparing themselves for the occasion.

Elizabeth had managed to escape the house early in the morning, before her mother could rise and prevent her from doing so on the grounds that such an outing might lead to a cold or fever that would prevent her attendance at the Assembly, and possibly – Mrs. Bennet hoped – an offer of marriage from Mr. Darcy. As her mother had expressed peevishly more than once, he did appear rather slow to come to the point and Elizabeth’s manners or behaviour must therefore, in some fashion, be lacking. Nevertheless, escape she did and was quickly joined by Darcy for a brisk walk of more than an hour before breakfast. Their pace, that day, was too brisk to admit of much conversation apart from brief mentions of the scenery. It was very much a beautiful late spring day and, as such, one to be enjoyed for itself alone.

Darcy had travelled to London the day before – leaving early and returning late. The purpose of the trip had not been disclosed, other than business, and Elizabeth had given it little thought since he had made several similar trips during his stay at Netherfield. This trip was no exception and her only thought was to the pleasure she experienced in having him with her once more. There had developed a comfort and easiness between them that she had never previously experienced – not even with her father – and if she was not as close to Darcy as she was to Jane, that was a matter she fully expected to change once they married. At the moment, her first loyalties remained with her family but once married, her husband and their family would command her loyalties above all others. This she knew intellectually, but was coming to understand that emotionally she was already transferring those loyalties to Darcy. Painful as it was to acknowledge, Darcy was a better man than her father in those respects which must matter to a women who was to be his wife. That she could, in so short a time period as a month, come to this realization had amazed her and she knew that somehow, even when disliking Darcy, she must also have been attracted to him and aware of some of his excellent qualities. However, she did not let her thoughts dwell overmuch on these matters as they walked, but forced her attention to remain on her surroundings, pointing out to Darcy, as they walked, objects or views which had significance to her as she grew up: the brook where she and Jane and a few of the neighbourhood children used to wade and catch frogs, trees she climbed, places where they picnicked during the summer and her favourite spot for seclusion when her family's foibles made such a necessity. Darcy listened and laughed with her, seeming to enjoy her pleasure in these reminisces, finally saying, “You know do you not, should we marry that I would never deny you your parents or their home. We would visit often and they will be welcome in our homes.”

Elizabeth looked at him softly, “I know my mother tries you greatly but I do love her despite her faults. I…I thank you. I was sure that you would not deny me my familybut it relieves my heart to know that I will see them.”

Darcy was spared from answering as Longbourn came in view. Their approach did not go undetected and Kitty was shortly seen to hurry towards them exclaiming, “Lizzy, Mama wants you inside right now. She was most seriously displeased to find you had gone for a walk.” Kitty laughed when Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “I am just the messenger, Lizzy. Do not blame me!”

“Indeed, I do not.” Elizabeth looked at Darcy, “Are you to join us for breakfast, Mr. Darcy?”

“I dare say I should. If I am there your mother may be less severe with you and I wish to speak to your father as well.”

At Elizabeth’s quizzical look, he simply shrugged saying, “Business, just business.” However there was that about his manner – Elizabeth was not yet able to discern all his expressions – that suggested that the matter was not that simple but, apart from a suspicious glance, she declined to pursue it further and they very shortly joined the remainder of the Bennet family at breakfast. Darcy did indeed closet himself with Mr. Bennet for near a half hour and, when he rejoined Elizabeth and her sisters, could not be persuaded to reveal the nature of those discussions. Since Mrs. Bennet was convinced that preparations for the Assembly could not be satisfactorily completed unless they began immediately following luncheon, Darcy and Bingley – who had arrived shortly after breakfast - were required to return to Netherfield.


Darcy and Bingley had offered to convey the Bennets to the Assembly in their carriages – an offer which Mrs. Bennet was quick to accept since both were noticeably finer than that of the Bennets – and so Darcy and Elizabeth in company with Mr. Bennet and Kitty arrived in the Darcy carriage while the Bingley carriage provided a similar service for Mrs. Bennet, Jane, Mary and Bingley. Their entrance into the hall met with all of Mrs. Bennet’s expectations as they were the centre of all eyes and quickly the subject of most conversations. While Mrs. Bennet had been assiduous in her efforts to ensure that all her neighbours were aware of her good fortune in acquiring a wealthy husband for Jane, the opportunity to further share her pleasure with them could not be too little valued. To see her two eldest daughters escorted to the dance floor by two such eligible suitors could only enhance such pleasures.

Elizabeth could not remember when, or if, she had enjoyed a dance more. She hardly spoke a dozen words with Darcy throughout. Neither felt the need to speak. If Darcy had been somewhat stiff and uncomfortable at the beginning of the dance – the intense interest that had been focussed on him and Elizabeth when they entered the hall had activated his natural reserve and Elizabeth’s presence had only ameliorated it slightly – Elizabeth had quickly solicited his attention and, with his eyes captured by hers, his mien softened greatly. Discriminating observers were able to discern a slight smile on his lips and it was apparent to everyone that he viewed Elizabeth with affection. That lady’s affections were even easier to read and any suggestion that her motives were mercenary was quite dispelled.

At Elizabeth’s gentle urging, Darcy exerted himself to dance with other partners once his dance with Elizabeth was done. Jane and Kitty obliged him with pleasure although both were required to recall his attention as his gaze tended to drift to watch Elizabeth as she was being partnered in the dances. It was with no little relief that he claimed Elizabeth’s hand for the fourth dance and, if Elizabeth wondered at his unusually nervous manner, she gave little thought to it since it affected his dancing abilities not at all. They had completed the first dance of the set when Darcy placed Elizabeth’s hand on his arm and began to lead her towards one of the balconies looking out onto the terrace behind the building saying, “I feel a need for a small respite and fresh air. Would you oblige me, Miss Elizabeth?”

Elizabeth made no effort to conceal her surprise, “Where are you taking me, Mr. Darcy? I must speak with my father or mother first.”

"I have already spoken with your father.”

“You appear to have planned this, Mr. Darcy.” Elizabeth made no attempt to mask the amusement in her voice; however, if this initiative was for the purpose she suspected, the small frisson of anticipation that arose suddenly made her nervous. She was barely conscious of her surroundings until she felt the cooler air that greeted her as she stepped on to the balcony. That her anticipations were correct she quickly realized as Darcy turned her to face him and took her hands in his.

“Elizabeth, I started to fall in love with you last fall. From almost the first moments of our acquaintance I was bewitched by your liveliness, your intelligence, your kindness. I hardly was able to remove my eyes from you when you were in my presence. I admit I struggled against the attraction because you were not what I was expected to acquire in a wife and in that struggle I led you to misunderstand the attraction I felt. Yet the more I was in your presence, the more I realized you were exactly the woman I needed and wanted as my wife. You had just reason to question my character and behaviour. I hope – I believe - that I have amended those faults which you so correctly charged me with. I most ardently love you and would be honoured if you consented to become my wife.”

Elizabeth could not help the smile that graced her face or the joy that was imbued in her voice as she quietly replied, "I have come to respect and love you very much and would be honoured to be your wife."

The happiness which this reply produced was such as he had probably never felt before; and he expressed himself on the occasion as sensibly and as warmly as a man violently in love can be supposed to do. 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.

“Before we return to join your parents, there is one more thing I must do.” said he and reaching into a pocket of his waistcoat retrieved a small box. “I would wish you to wear this ring – it was my mother’s and was to be given to my betrothed upon our engagement.” Opening the box he showed her a gold ring, elegant in its simplicity with a small diamond with two rubies on either side.

“It is beautiful! Perfect!” and Elizabeth could say no more as he removed the glove from her left hand and slipped the ring on. “My mother would have been delighted to see you wear this,” said Darcy.

After he raised her hands to his lips, kissed each warmly and then tucked her hand onto to his arm and said, “I fear we must rejoin your parents. I have kept you an unconscionably long time.”

“I am only sorry we must do so. I shall not tell my mother tonight – I fear the volume of her reaction.” She paused, “You will, I gather, speak to my father tomorrow?”

“That is not necessary. This was the subject of our discussion early today. I sought his approval then and permission to address you tonight.” He paused, “I believe he plans to announce our engagement before the last dance.”


“Are you displeased?”

“No, not at all. It just seems to have been taken out of my hands.” She said with a slightly rueful smile.

“It need not be so. I can ask – we can ask your father to wait until tomorrow.”

Elizabeth thought for a moment as they walked the perimeter of the hall and approached her father and mother, “No, let it be as you have planned. I was being a little missish I fear. And even if I was not, my father would not hesitate to lay the charge upon me.” Her smile at him was missed by none of those who were watching their approach and her father’s raised eyebrow was answered by a slight nod from both Darcy and Elizabeth. Even her mother seemed to have grasped what had happened and exclaimed, “Lizzy?”

Elizabeth murmured to Darcy, “I fear any circumspect announcement is no longer possible.”

However Mr. Bennet, for once, restrained his wife placing a hand on her arm and a sharp whispered, “Mrs. Bennet!” recalled her to a sense of propriety. “I will make an announcement shortly, Madam. Please restrain your enthusiasms until I have done so.”

Elizabeth hardly remembered the rest of the evening. The announcement was made and the couple received a multitude of congratulations – most of them sincere, although some obviously touched by envy and jealousy. Elizabeth was a popular object of affection for numerous young gentlemen and, if her poverty in dowry had precluded many of them for offering for her, the pleasantness and liveliness of her manner made her a popular partner in social settings. As for Darcy, the poor opinion that had been engendered during his first sojourn in Hertfordshire had been largely dissipated by his less reserved manners while courting Elizabeth. If he was still someone that was regarded with reserve, he was no longer actively disliked and when it became known that he had recovered all of Mr. Wickham’s debts, his assurance of being greeted with pleasure in any of the shops in Meryton was beyond question. In short, they were in no doubt of the approbation that their engagement received.

Their final dance – the last of the evening – was danced in almost total silence. Neither felt the need to converse and such communication as did take place was by means of looks, smiles and lingering touches of the hands as they moved through the patterns of the dance. They parted, for the night, in complete and mutual sympathy.


Elizabeth slept very little that night – or rather – it was late before she was allowed to get any rest. Her mother’s effusions could not be restrained with the prospect of two daughters so advantageously married and she returned to Elizabeth’s bedroom twice to express her pleasure and to ensure that her daughter was aware of all that must be done to ensure that Mr. Darcy’s commitment to the engagement did not waver. Jane, perhaps realizing her sister was too full of what had occurred and too beleaguered by their mother to converse with her, did not attempt to engage her in that late night talk which so frequently happened after an event of such magnitude.

Her mother, however, was not prepared to allow Elizabeth to recapture the sleep which she had been denied the night before and woke her several hours earlier than Elizabeth would have wished in order that she be dressed and ready to receive Mr. Darcy or those persons which Mrs. Bennet fully expected to call on Longbourn this morning. In this she was proven correct as many of those who had wished Elizabeth well the night before, called once more to extend their congratulations and hopefully be provided with those details which could form the substance of gossip for several weeks. Wedding plans, Mr. Darcy’s income, the particulars of his estate, his carriages, townhouse and relatives were all worthy of discussion and repetition. If Elizabeth herself was of lesser interest, it could be attributed to the fact that she was well known to them and she had to be largely resigned to accepting their congratulations about capturing such a worthy husband and, if not a few mothers wondered how she did so, they kept such conjectures to themselves – at least in Mrs. Bennet’s presence.

This was to be the pattern for several days. Darcy would arrive shortly after breakfast although Elizabeth was frequently not able to be much in his company as her mother demanded of both her eldest daughters to meet with the callers that were disturbing the tranquility of Longbourn. Darcy and Bingley found refuge on many occasions in Mr. Bennet’s study, there to read, play chess or converse – all quietly.

Neither Darcy nor Bingley could escape some attentions from the many callers and, if Bingley bore it easily and displayed no obvious reluctance, Darcy bore it, at least, with admirable calmness. He could even listen to Sir William Lucas, when he complimented him on carrying away the brightest jewel of the country, and expressed his hopes of their all meeting frequently at St. James’s, with very decent composure. If he did shrug his shoulders, it was not till Sir William was out of sight.

Mrs. Philips’s vulgarity was another, and perhaps a greater, tax on his forbearance; and though Mrs. Philips, as well as her sister, stood in too much awe of him to speak with the familiarity which Bingley’s good humour encouraged, yet, whenever she did speak, she must be vulgar. Nor was her respect for him, though it made her more quiet, at all likely to make her more elegant. Elizabeth did all she could to shield him from the frequent notice of either, and was ever anxious to keep him to herself, and to those of her family with whom he might converse without mortification; and though the uncomfortable feelings arising from all this took from the season of their engagement much of its pleasure, it added to the hope of the future; and she looked forward with delight to the time when they should be removed from society so little pleasing to either, to all the comfort and elegance of their family party at Pemberley.

After several hours of such scrutiny, Elizabeth usually managed to escape the house in company with Darcy, Bingley and Jane and wander for a while in their company. The two couples did separate to give the other privacy and despite the irritation that the morning’s activities had engendered Elizabeth’s spirits soon rising to playfulness again, she wanted Mr. Darcy to account for his having ever fallen in love with her. “How could you begin?” said she. “I can comprehend your going on charmingly, when you had once made a beginning; but what could set you off in the first place?”

“I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.”

“My beauty you had early withstood, and as for my manners - my behaviour to you was at least always bordering on the uncivil, and I never spoke to you without rather wishing to give you pain than not. Now be sincere; did you admire me for my impertinence?”

“For the liveliness of your mind, I did.”

“You may as well call it impertinence at once. It was very little less. The fact is that you were sick of civility, of deference, of officious attention. You were disgusted with the women who were always speaking, and looking, and thinking for your approbation alone. I roused, and interested you, because I was so unlike them. Had you not been really amiable, you would have hated me for it; but in spite of the pains you took to disguise yourself, your feelings were always noble and just; and in your heart, you thoroughly despised the persons who so assiduously courted you. There - I have saved you the trouble of accounting for it; and really, all things considered, I begin to think it perfectly reasonable. To be sure, you knew no actual good of me - but nobody thinks of that when they fall in love."

“Was there no good in your affectionate behaviour to Jane while she was ill at Netherfield?”

“Dearest Jane! Who could have done less for her? But make a virtue of it by all means. My good qualities are under your protection, and you are to exaggerate them as much as possible; and, in return, it belongs to me to find occasions for teasing and quarrelling with you as often as may be.”

By the time they had returned to Longbourn, it was to discover that Mrs. Bennet's exertions in regards to exclaiming the benefits to befall the Bennet family had quite worn her out and she had no choice but to retire to her chambers for a rest. This unexpected quietude was too precious to be ignored and those chores, such as letter writing, best undertaken in quiet could now be attempted.

Accordingly Elizabeth teased her betrothed, “Shall you ever have courage to announce to Lady Catherine what is to befall her?”

“I am more likely to want more time than courage, Elizabeth. But it ought to be done, and if you will give me a sheet of paper, it shall be done directly.”

“And if I had not a letter to write myself, I might sit by you and admire the evenness of your writing, as another young lady once did. But I have an aunt, too, who must not be longer neglected.”

Elizabeth had not attempted to keep Mrs. Gardiner fully informed as to the progress of the courtship and that lady had declined to inquire, knowing her niece would answer those unasked questions when she was ready to do so; but now, having that to communicate which she knew would be most welcome, she was almost ashamed to find that her uncle and aunt had already lost three days of happiness, and immediately wrote as follows:

“I would have thanked you before, my dear aunt, as I ought to have done, for your long, kind, satisfactory, assistance to me but to say the truth, I was too hesitant to write – the fear of expressing my hopes only to have them dashed made me avoid expressing them on paper as though the thought, the fear would become a reality. But now suppose as much as you choose; give loose to your fancy, indulge your imagination in every possible flight which the subject will afford, and unless you believe me actually married, you cannot greatly err. You must write again very soon, and praise him a great deal more than you did in your last. I thank you, again and again, for your advice and guidance. I wonder that I could be so happy now without it! Your wish to go round the Park every day in a phaeton and ponies shall be a reality. I am the happiest creature in the world. Perhaps other people have said so before, but not one with such justice. I am happier even than Jane; she only smiles, I laugh. Mr. Darcy sends you all the love in the world that he can spare from me. You are all to come to Pemberley at Christmas.


Mr. Darcy’s letter to Lady Catherine was in a different style; and still different from either was what Mr. Bennet sent to Mr. Collins, in reply to his last.

“Dear Sir,

I must trouble you once more for congratulations. Elizabeth will soon be the wife of Mr. Darcy. Console Lady Catherine as well as you can. But, if I were you, I would stand by the nephew. He has more to give.
Your’s sincerely, &c.”

The joy which Miss Darcy expressed, on receiving similar information, was as sincere as her brother’s in sending it. Four sides of paper were insufficient to contain all her delight, and all her earnest desire of being loved by her sister.

Before any answer could arrive from Mr. Collins, or any congratulations to Elizabeth from his wife, the Longbourn family heard that the Collinses were come themselves to Lucas lodge. The reason of this sudden removal was soon evident. Lady Catherine had been rendered so exceedingly angry by the contents of her nephew’s letter, that Charlotte, really rejoicing in the match, was anxious to get away till the storm was blown over. At such a moment, the arrival of her friend was a sincere pleasure to Elizabeth, though in the course of their meetings she must sometimes think the pleasure dearly bought, when she saw Mr. Darcy exposed to all the parading and obsequious civility of her cousin .

Walk With Me - Chapters 20-21

PeterJune 06, 2015 06:18PM

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