Posted on 2014-08-21
Elizabeth paused as she entered the garden and frowned. Looking around, she saw the flowers blooming and the trees green like that of midsummer, but something was not quite right. Turning, she took her favorite walk among the well-known paths around Longbourn and took in the details of the garden until she stopped and stared hard at the building before her shaking her head.
"This cannot be. The house looks like home, but the garden is far too ornate; not at all like usual. It cannot possibly have changed over the course of one afternoon but yet . . ."
Frowning more deeply, she continued walking and this time started taking particular notice of each and every alteration she observed feeling dismayed by them all. Even while she focused on the obvious physical changes to her home, somewhere in the back of Elizabeth's mind she acknowledged one more distinct oddity - the garden's full summer bloom when it was nearly the end of November.
Unfortunately, she was so thoroughly wrapped up in pondering this sudden transformation of her home that she did not see Mr. Collins approach until it was too late.
"My dear, you must come inside at once. I cannot believe you have forgotten! My former patroness's daughter will be stopping here shortly and we will be expected to attend her."
Looking at him in confusion and not a little irritation at his familiar manner, Elizabeth responded, "Do you not mean your current patroness? And why would Miss de Bourgh be travelling if she is as ill as you say? Besides, I was not aware that my father had invited anyone else here."
Mr. Collins stepped back, an expression of growing alarm spreading across his features, "My dear, are you well?"
"Perfectly well and what gives you the right to address me as 'my dear' every time you speak. I am only your cousin."
The gentleman gulped and began to wring his hands, "Oh dear, oh dear and at such a time too." Turning to Elizabeth, he attempted to gently take her hand, "My dear, did you fall and hit your head on one of your walks? No? Well then, how to tell you . . . well, let us get you inside where you can rest. I am sure Lady Elliot will understand your absence."
Elizabeth jerked her arm away from his grasp and stood back, "Now wait a moment! I am perfectly fine with no need to take a rest. What is going on and who is Lady Elliot? Please tell me what all this nonsense is about."
Mr. Collins huffed and continued to wring his hands, but upon seeing her cross her arms, he sighed and dropped his hands to his sides, "Darling, Lady Elliot is the former Miss Anne de Bourgh daughter of my most noble former patroness. As for the rest, I do not know how you could have forgotten, but for the last five years, you have been my wife. It must be the walk, that must be why you are so out of sorts. I know you insist on them and I know you will say that you have never had any trouble with them, but now with the baby . . . well, the doctor did say . . ."
Unable to listen to more, Elizabeth's eyes widened and she spluttered, "Baby? Your wife? That is impossible!"
"It is not impossible! We married five years ago and only a year ago we came back to Longbourn permanently when your dear father died as you well know. Oh, there I go . . . the doctor did say I should not distress you and here I remind you of your beloved father's unfortunate and untimely death."
Her mouth dropping open in horror, Elizabeth backed away, "Papa cannot be dead, why I . . . I spoke to him only today. Where is my mother and my sisters? They will clear up this matter for you."
Suddenly stopping her movement toward the house, her eyes narrowed as she turned back toward her cousin, "Lydia did not put you up to this ridiculous charade, did she? It would be just like her to think it a good joke."
Mr. Collins paled and gasped in horror, "You do not remember what happened with your youngest sister either do you!"
Now wary of where this preposterous prank was headed, she sighed, "What about Lydia?"
"A few months after our marriage, she ran off with one of the officers she was always so infatuated with."
Shocked, Elizabeth shouted, "What?!"
"Oh yes, she confessed the whole thing after Wickham abandoned her."
"Wickham? She ran away with Mr. Wickham? But . . ."
She stopped at Mr. Collins emphatic nodding, "Oh yes, it was that scoundrel that ran off with Lydia though I knew he was no good the moment I saw him."
Elizabeth stood there mouth hung open, her face extremely pale and her body trembling as she realized that this was no joke perpetuated by her youngest sister; Lydia was not so clever as to devise one with so much detail, "And my father?"
"Ah, my poor cousin. He never did recover fully after that incident; he lived only another three years with his health in constant decline. Your mother was in such a state after he died, I feared for her too. However, she seems to have made a remarkable recovery of both health and spirits as you should well know having attended her since our moving here. Now, come with me. Oh, this could not have happened at a worse time with Lady Elliot coming. Oh dear! Perhaps if you rest for a while everything will return to normal. That is right; you have only overexerted yourself again. I truly wish you would have taken Lady Catherine's advice and stopped your pursuit of long walks. She always said it was entirely unhealthy and unladylike for a woman to walk so far as you do particularly now with the baby. Should I send for the doctor? I do not know. Perhaps you only need rest. In that case, it might help if I send Mary in to read to you . . ."
So completely numbed by this strange situation, Elizabeth did not react as Mr. Collins put his arm around her waist and propelled her toward the house. Only when they arrived at the door, did she come out of her stupor and begin to struggle.
"No! No! No! This cannot be! I would never have married you! I could not have! I absolutely could not have! None of this could have happened! Lydia could not have run away with Mr. Wickham! Papa cannot have died! I am absolutely not going to have a baby! No! No! No!"
With that last pronouncement, Elizabeth broke away from Mr. Collins who began to shout after her begging her to come back as she ran blindly away from him. Glancing back to see if he followed her, she did not notice the root sticking up from the ground before it was too late and tripped falling headlong toward the ground. Unable to stop her fall, she threw her hands out in front of her . . .
Elizabeth shot upright in bed shaking violently. As she looked around the room, she recognized it for hers and memory started to flood back. Not trusting her own senses however, she got up and crept out of her room and down the hall. First, she peaked into Jane's room and saw her sleeping quite peacefully. Next, she opened Lydia's door and saw her sister sleeping in her customary haphazard way with arms and legs every which-a-way. Finally, she glanced into her father's room to see him sound asleep. Breathing a sigh of relief, she hurried back to her own room and quickly wrapped the covers around her.
Despite the knowledge of it being only a dream, Elizabeth could not go back to sleep. Her mind kept replaying it, particular parts more vivid than others. As her thoughts raced, considering each part over and over again, she kept repeating one thought to herself until her eyes finally closed as exhaustion overcame her:
It was only a dream, only a dream.To Be Continued . . .