Beginning, Section II
Chapter 6 - Two Engagements
Posted on 2008-11-20
It was nearly three weeks since the Meryton assembly ball, and Elizabeth was spending a day with Jane and Charlotte at Lucas Lodge, while Maria had gone with Kitty and Lydia to Meryton to pay a visit to the Bennet girls' Aunt Phillips and to a milliner's shop just over the way. They had recently received a letter from their sister Mary, written soon after the wedding of Anne de Bourgh and Colonel Fitzwilliam. Consequently, Mary's letter was full of the description of the wedding, including the various guests who had attended it, especially the Colonel's brother and sister-in-law, Lord and Lady Fitzwilliam, and their cousins Mr and Miss Darcy of Pemberley. According to Mary, Lord Fitzwilliam, who had given away the bride, was a genial and affable nobleman whose manners were not unlike that of his younger brother the Colonel. Since Jane and Elizabeth had met the Colonel when they were visiting Hunsford in the spring, that should give them a good idea as to what Lord Fizwilliam was like. Lady Fitzwilliam was a gentle and elegant lady who, despite her own high rank, seemed to hold her aunt Lady Catherine in great awe and respect. Mr Collins supposed that it was quite proper for members of the younger generation, even those of high rank, to show respect for their elders. Miss Darcy was a quiet, pretty and graceful young girl who had made a charming bridesmaid, and Mr Darcy was rather quiet and reserved with everybody except his cousins, with all of whom he appeared to be on the most excellent terms. Mary recollected how her sisters and brother-in-law had missed meeting Mr Darcy during their stay in Kent, due to his premature departure from Rosings following a quarrel with his aunt. Thankfully, a reconciliation had now been effected between him and his aunt, through the efforts of his cousins. Part of the quarrel with his aunt had been due to certain rumours that had reached Lady Catherine regarding his intimacy with a tradesman's son by the name of Bingley, and the suspicion that he had intended to pay his addresses to that young man's sister. Mr Darcy had given his assurance that he was not going to marry Miss Bingley. Mary had of course received the news through her sisters' letters that Netherfield Park had been let at last, and that the tenant was a Mr Bingley. Could this be the same Bingley family who had been intimately acquainted with Lady Catherine's nephew, Mr Darcy?
As they discussed the news in Mary's letter, Elizabeth realized that Mr Bingley of Netherfield was probably the same Mr Bingley who had been intimately acquainted with Lady Catherine's nephew. Mr Bingley had made no secret to her of the fact that his fortune had been acquired by his father through trade, and he had even expressed his admiration over the activity of her brother-in-law John re-engaging himself in business after his father Sir William Lucas had retired from it. He feared, however, that he himself might not made a very efficient businessman if he were to be engaged in that kind of trade, and instead he had made up his mind to purchase the Netherfield estate and concentrate his efforts on running the estate and its farms and becoming a good landlord to his tenants. He had also mentioned a very prosperous and well-run estate of a friend of his in Derbyshire, which he would like to take as a model, of course, now she remembered that that estate was called Pemberley! Well, it was quite a coincidence. Putting two and two together, the three young ladies realized that the row between Lady Catherine and her nephew must have involved rumours about an attachment between him and Miss Bingley, and that her ladyship was too proud to countenance an alliance between her nephew and the daughter of a tradesman, even one with a dowry of twenty thousand pounds. Jane expressed the hope that there had been no strong attachment on either side; it certainly did not seem so on Miss Bingley's side. Colonel Forster was quite obviously courting her, and she seemed to receive his attentions with pleasure. Elizabeth declared that if there had been an attachment on his side, she would think very poorly of a gentleman of independent fortune who would allow the interference of haughty relatives to make him give up a woman to whom he had been genuinely attached. Charlotte sensibly observed that very likely the so-called attachment had been nothing but idle gossip and rumours. Even in their neighbourhood, such rumours and speculations as to possible attachments were sometimes circulated, and quite often as not, turned out to be quite false. It was not so long ago that it was hinted that Colonel Forster was going to marry the then Miss Harriet Goulding, and that speculation had been proven to be false since Harriet was now married to Captain Carter, and Colonel Forster was happily courting Miss Bingley. So the rumours that had reached Lady Catherine as to an attachment between her nephew and Miss Bingley were quite likely to have been as false as the rumours that had been circulated regarding Colonel Forster and the then Miss Goulding. Probably that was why her ladyship's nephew, who was a gentleman of independent fortune, had been willing to give the assurance that he was not going to marry Miss Bingley; since there had been no actual attachment between them in the first place.
Idle gossip and rumours were often untrue, but they also quite often had a grain of truth in them. Colonel Forster had in fact been briefly infatuated with Miss Goulding, he had been captivated by her youth and beauty, and that appearance of good humour, which youth and beauty generally give. However, she had preferred the younger Captain Carter to him, at two and thirty, Colonel Forster had seemed quite middle-aged to the seventeen year old Harriet, as he was fifteen years older than herself. Fortunately for him, Colonel Forster had soon consoled himself by finding out that the grapes were sour. The charming good humour that had first captivated him had turned out to be the silly childishness of a rather immature young woman, who would hardly fit into the role of a commanding officer's wife, at least not at present, she was still very young, and by the time her husband Captain Carter would be due for promotion, she would perhaps by then have grown into a more mature and sensible woman. Colonel Forster no longer bore any resentment towards Captain Carter, on the contrary, he felt rather grateful to him as he was now thankful for his escape. Colonel Forster had now decided that he must not look for a wife among such naïve young girls, but that he needed a more sophisticated and fashionable lady who would be able to fit immediately into the role of a commanding officer's wife and be respected by the regiment. Unfortunately most of the young ladies in the neighbourhood were either rather naïve or unfashionable or unsophisticated, until the arrival of the Bingleys at Netherfield.
Colonel Forster had been immediately struck with admiration for the elegant and fashionable Miss Bingley, he had danced with her twice at the Meryton assembly ball, and had found that she could converse quite intelligently as well as dance gracefully. Her powers of conversation were considerable, she could describe an entertainment with accuracy, relate an anecdote with humour, and laugh at her acquaintance with spirit. Without realizing it, they both had more in common than they knew. Colonel Forster was getting over a brief infatuation for a young girl who had thought that he was too old for her, and Miss Bingley was recovering from the disappointment of a dear, though irrational hope, over a man who was indifferent to her, or who thought of her only as his friend's sister, and had made his indifference clear. They thus were finding their mutual consolation in each other for what had occurred of disappointment to either.
Mrs Hurst had become reconciled to a possible match between her sister and Colonel Forster upon finding out that Colonel Forster was not dependent upon his pay from his position in the army, but had private means of his own, and that his private means, together with his pay and emoluments, probably brought in an income of between five or six thousand a year. Louisa had been greatly cheered by this information, and had told Caroline that the Colonel was quite a good catch after all, and perhaps if they get married, she could persuade him to resign his commission in the army and purchase a nice estate like Netherfield and also establish themselves amongst the landed gentry. She had been surprised to find that Caroline had been quite unaware of Colonel Forster's private fortune. To Caroline, the news about Lawrence Forster's private means was of course very welcome, but it was not essential. She had liked him before finding out about his private fortune, and had thought that his agreeable manners, his thoughtful attentions to her, his position as a commanding officer, his pay and emoluments as an army colonel, and his prospects for future advancement in his military career, were sufficiently attractive to tempt her into matrimony with him. She had thought that combined with her dowry of twenty thousand pounds, they would have a sufficiently comfortable income together. Although it now turned out that he was in fact a man of means, she told Louisa that she doubted if she could persuade him to resign his commission in the army, nor did she really wish to do so. From their conversations, she had gathered that he had a keen interest in the military and the prospects for his career advancement in the army. She had in fact caught his interest for the military and was quite looking forward to becoming an army wife, especially a commanding officer's wife. She believed that she had fallen in love for the first time in her life, she had previously fancied herself to be in love with Mr Darcy, but perhaps it had been his beautiful estate of Pemberley that she had fallen in love with. It was a good thing that Lawrence had a private fortune of course, and perhaps he could purchase a nice estate for them to retire to in their old age.
Three weeks after they had first became acquainted with each other at the Meryton Assembly ball, Lawrence Forster had proposed to Caroline Bingley, and she had accepted him. He then approached her brother for his consent for her hand in marriage.
Charles Bingley could not help feeling rather amused at being approached for his consent to his sister's hand in marriage by a man about eight years older than himself. Of course, he had no objection to the match, it was rather quick since they had known each other for only three weeks, but he had observed that they had got along well together since their first introduction to each other. So perhaps it was a case of love at first sight.
His sister's engagement led Bingley to think seriously about his own affairs. He believed that he too knew what it was like to fall in love at first sight, he had been strongly attracted to the present eldest Miss Bennet ever since he had first danced with her at the Meryton assembly ball. He had been thinking of proposing to her and had sought to make himself agreeable to her. However, he had not wanted to appear to be hasty or precipitate by proposing on such a short acquaintance, she might want more time to be better acquainted with him, and since he was purchasing Netherfield and was going to settle down near the neighbourhood of Longbourn, he had thought that there was no hurry and that he could take his time over it. But now he believed that it would not be hasty or precipitate for him to propose soon. He was by nature a modest young man, and rather diffident as to his own attractions for a young lady, but on thinking over his interactions with Elizabeth Bennet, he believed that she had received his attentions with genuine pleasure, and that she returned his affection with sincere, if not with equal regard. Louisa to be sure, had made various remarks about young ladies with little or no money of their own who would be on the lookout for men of fortune, and that the only safeguard against fortune-hunters was to marry someone who also had a fortune. But Bingley did not share his sister's views on the matter, nor did he entertain any idea of Elizabeth being a fortune hunter. Perhaps Mrs Bennet was a fortune hunter on behalf of her daughters, but Elizabeth herself was far superior in her good sense and her manners to her mother and younger sisters. She was more like her elder sister Mrs Lucas, and their sister-in-law Miss Lucas, except that she was livelier than Mrs Lucas, and prettier than Miss Lucas. She was the most accomplished among her sisters, except for her other married sister, Mrs Collins of Hunsford Parsonage, Elizabeth was the only one among the Bennet girls who could sing and play the pianoforte. It was generally acknowledged that Elizabeth Bennet and Charlotte Lucas were the best young lady performers in the neighbourhood. Elizabeth was also very well-read, Mr Bennet had quite a wonderful library at Longbourn, making Bingley wish that his own collection of books were larger for her benefit and his own credit. Perhaps if they get married, she could recommend the books to be purchased and help him to build up a library at Netherfield.
Bingley thought that if there was a good fortune on one side, there need be no occasion for any on the other. He did not like the idea of one great fortune looking out for another. Moreover, except for the difference in fortune, it was not as though Miss Bennet was at all beneath him, after all she was the daughter of a gentleman with a landed estate, and although that estate was entailed away from females, one of her sisters was married to the next heir, thus ensuring that the estate would remain in the family. He had emphasized this point to his sisters, leaving Louisa to recollect that Mr Hurst himself was a gentleman of rather more fashion than fortune. As for some of the Bennet relatives, including Elizabeth's brother-in-law being engaged in trade, well, it was a good thing that John Lucas wanted to improve his family fortune. Caroline had appeared to be quite unconcerned either way, no doubt she had been too pleasantly preoccupied in her own love affair to spare any attention to her brother's.
The news of Colonel Forster's engagement to Miss Bingley spread rapidly through Meryton and the neighbourhood. Nobody was much surprised, Colonel Forster's courtship of Miss Bingley had been quite obvious since the arrival of the Bingleys at Netherfield. Many of the matrons around the neighbourhood were not too pleased, for they had hoped that Mr Bingley would fall in love and marry one of their daughters, but it turned out that his sister had taken one of the other eligible bachelors instead. Mrs Bennet was an exception, for she had seen enough of Bingley's attentions towards Elizabeth to be quite certain that they would be announcing their engagement next. As for Colonel Forster, of course she would have been glad had he fallen in love with one of her younger girls, but there had never been any sign of it, moreover her younger girls appeared to prefer the younger officers. There could still be some advantages for her younger girls in this match, for with Colonel Forster married to Miss Bingley and with Bingley married to Elizabeth, they would be related to the Forsters, and if the regiment were to leave Meryton, perhaps Kitty and Lydia might be invited to stay with the Forsters. Mrs Bennet thought that if she could but see Elizabeth happily settled at Netherfield, and Kitty and Lydia happily married to a couple of nice young officers with good future prospects, then the main business of her life would be successfully accomplished. She would then be quite at leisure and very willing to assist Lady Lucas in looking for husbands for Charlotte and Maria, it would not do for the Miss Lucases to remain unmarried once her own daughters have settled down, she did not want the Lucas sisters to become old maids who would be a burden on John and Jane.
A few days after the engagement of Colonel Forster and Miss Bingley, there happened to be a dinner party at Longbourn. The guests included the family from Lucas Lodge, Mr and Mrs Philips, the Netherfield party, Colonel Forster and several other officers to make up the numbers. After dinner, the pianoforte was opened and there was some music, Elizabeth politely invited Miss Bingley to lead the way and begin the performance, and there was much praise for her musical accomplishment. Miss Bingley's performance was followed by that of Miss Lucas, and then by Elizabeth. At the request of Kitty and Lydia, who did not much care for Miss Bingley's Italian songs or Charlotte's concerto, Elizabeth played some lively Scotch and Irish airs. An impromptu dance followed, Kitty, Lydia and Maria with some of the officers soon seized the opportunity of dancing a reel, then Colonel Forster and Miss Bingley, as well as Mr and Mrs Lucas, also joined them, and Bingley politely invited Charlotte to dance with him. Charlotte accepted Bingley's invitation to dance, he conversed most politely with her during the dance and did not allow his eyes to stray too often towards the fair performer at the pianoforte, but she guessed that he would rather be dancing with Elizabeth than with her, and at the end of the dance, Charlotte stepped over to the pianoforte and suggested to Elizabeth that she would take over the post of musician and play the music for the next dance. Elizabeth resigned her place to Charlotte, and Bingley promptly asked Elizabeth to dance. During the dance, it was quite natural that Bingley and Elizabeth should talk about his sister's engagement. Charles asked Elizabeth if she thought that three weeks was a sufficient period of time for a couple to fall in love and get engaged to each other, or whether she thought it was too short an acquaintance.. She raised her eyebrows and responded archly,
"But you have already given your consent to your sister's engagement, sir. You cannot now be thinking of withholding or suspending your consent until they are acquainted with each other for a longer period of time."
"It would have been difficult for me to refuse my consent to a man taller and older than myself -- but I would have done so if I had believed it to be my duty, and necessary for my sister's welfare. As it is, Colonel Forster is a sensible man and highly-respected officer, and there is no possible objection to the match. Moreover, I also think that three weeks is quite a sufficient period of time for a man to fall in love, but I am not so sure if it is a sufficient period of time for a lady, who may think that a man is being hasty or precipitate on presuming upon such a short acquaintance."
As he said this last sentence, Bingley was looking intently at Elizabeth, and she felt her colour rise. They were supposed to be discussing his sister's engagement, but she was well aware that his words intended a more personal meaning between the two of them. But he had not actually proposed to her, perhaps he needed some encouragement, to be assured that he was not presuming upon too short an acquaintance?
Elizabeth remembered something that Charlotte had said to her a few days ago, "There is so much of gratitude or vanity in almost every attachment, that it is not safe to leave any to itself. We can all begin freely -- a slight preference is natural enough, but there are very few of us who have heart enough to be really in love without encouragement. In nine cases out of ten, a woman had better show more affection than she feels."
At that time, Elizabeth had laughed, and said that it was not sound, and that neither of them would act in such a way as to show more affection than she felt. She had not changed her opinion, she certainly believed that it would be wrong and improper for a woman to be acting by design, and to show more affection than she felt for a man whom she did not really care for. But what struck her now was that perhaps it would also be wrong for a woman to show less affection than she felt, for that might mislead a modest gentleman who was in love with her into thinking that she was indifferent to him. And she was certainly not indifferent to Mr Bingley. He was the most agreeable gentleman whom she had ever met, and she had every reason to believe that his character was all that was amiable and honourable. Ever since the Meryton assembly ball, she had dressed with more than usual care when attending parties at which the Bingleys were expected to be present.
Recalling her mind back to the present moment, she said quickly, "That would depend, sir."
"May I ask -- depend on what?"
"Well, let me see now. My brother-in-law Mr Lucas has known my sister Jane for years before he proposed to her, but he could hardly have proposed upon a three weeks' acquaintance or even a three years' acquaintance, as they were still in the schoolroom then. My other brother-in-law Mr Collins proposed to my sister Mary after hardly a fortnight's acquaintance."
Bingley was surprised "I understood that Mr Collins is your cousin as well as your brother-in-law."
"He is, but his father and my father had been estranged for years, and it was only after his father's death that Mr Collins visited us."
"Then you would not think it hasty or precipitate if -- Miss Bennet, Elizabeth, I had greatly admired you since we were first introduced to each other, I believe I must have fallen in love with you at first sight. I decided to purchase Netherfield in order to be near you. Elizabeth, will you marry me?"
Elizabeth was blushing rosily as she gave Charles Bingley to understand that she accepted his proposal with gratitude and pleasure.
Needless to say, Mrs Bennet was overjoyed, and could not give her consent, or speak her approbation in terms warm enough to satisfy her feelings. Mr Bennet was much calmer than his wife, but his voice and manner plainly showed how really happy he was. There was nothing of presumption or folly in Bingley, that could provoke his ridicule or disgust him. His son-in-law Collins was his favourite in that respect, but he thought that he would like Bingley quite as well as he liked Lucas. And it was a wonderful thing that his favourite daughter was not going to be settled at a far distance from him upon her marriage, but that she, as well as Jane would be settled so near Longbourn. He would have missed Elizabeth exceedingly if she had married a gentleman whose home was far away from Longbourn.
Charlotte sincerely rejoiced in the match and was truly happy for her friend, and though she sighed as she rejoiced, her sigh had none of the ill-will of envy in it. She was nearly approaching the age of seven and twenty, and although she believed that she was not romantic, she found herself longing to have a romance of her own. John and Jane were very kind and affectionate to her, and she would always be assured of a home with them if she were not to be offered with an establishment of her own, but she found herself longing for a lover and a future home of her own. She would certainly have liked to have risen to the engaged couples' blessings if she could, but she did not wish to lessen their happiness.
Bingley intended to give a ball to celebrate both his own engagement to Elizabeth, and Caroline's engagement to Colonel Forster. He hoped to invite his friend Darcy to visit Netherfield and to attend the ball. There could be no reason for Darcy to stay away from them any longer, now that Caroline was engaged to another man.
Chapter 7 - Mr Darcy in Hertfordshire
Posted on 2008-11-27
After attending the wedding of their cousins Anne and Richard Fitzwilliam at Rosings, Mr Darcy, his sister and her companion Mrs Annesley, had returned to the Darcy house in town.
By the time of the wedding, Lady Catherine de Bourgh had managed to persuade herself to believe that she was very well-satisfied with the match between her daughter and her military nephew, after all he was a son of her noble brother the earl of Matlock, even if he was the younger son. She had convinced herself that her chief concern over her daughter's marriage had been to prevent Rosings from falling into the hands of some unworthy stranger as its master, therefore she had been anxious for her daughter to marry one of her nephews, but it did not really matter which one, although it was a pity that her nephew Robert, the future earl, had got married and slipped through her fingers when Anne was only sixteen.. Perhaps she had almost convinced herself that it was she who had made up the match between her daughter and the Colonel. Her nephew Darcy was an untitled gentleman after all, without even the prefix "the Honourable" to his name, unlike her nephew and son-in-law Colonel the Honourable Richard Fitzwilliam. Of course Pemberley was a very nice estate, but perhaps if Anne had married Darcy instead of Richard, her husband would have been too occupied with his own estate to care for Rosings. Lady Catherine had thus convinced herself that the chief cause of her quarrel with Darcy during his visit to Kent in the spring earlier that year was not because he had told her that there was no possibility of a marriage between him and Anne, but because of the rumours that she had heard from her acquaintances in town about his intimacy with a tradesman's son and the possibility that he was going to pay his addresses to that young man's sister. Darcy should have more regard for his noble maternal relations and not think of making an imprudent match that they would look upon as disgraceful. So Lady Catherine had eventually been appeased by her nephew Darcy's assurance that he was not going to marry that young woman. She also felt herself to have been very gracious in demonstrating the reconciliation with Darcy, not only by extending the invitation for him to attend Anne's wedding, but also by asking Georgina to be Anne's bridesmaid. Actually, it had taken a great deal of tact and persuasion on the part of both Anne and Richard to extend the invitation to Darcy, Anne's chief plea being that her cousin Georgina was the most proper person to be her bridesmaid, and that they could hardly invite Georgina without inviting her brother. Both Anne and Richard were naturally very grateful to their cousin Darcy for smoothing the way for the course of their true love by informing her mother that there was no possibility of a marriage between him and Anne -- especially after he had in fact proposed a marriage of convenience and affection to his cousin Anne (thank goodness he had not thought it necessary to inform his aunt that he was going to propose!), and Anne had to refuse him and explain that she and Richard were in love with each other. Fortunately, Darcy had not fallen in love with Anne and had proposed to her merely thinking that their cousinly affection for each other would be a sufficient foundation for wedded love which may be developed after marriage, so he had not been hurt by her rejection and as soon as he understood that she and Richard were in love, he had given his cousinly affection and support to them both -- by giving his aunt the impression that he had no intention at all to marry Anne.
Lady Catherine was a proud and overbearing woman, but she was not evil or malicious, and she took pride in doing good works. Though this great lady was not in the commission of the peace for the county, she was a most active magistrate in her own parish, the minutest concerns of which was carried to her by Mr Collins, who was very useful to her; and whenever any of the cottagers were disposed to be discontented or too poor, she sallied forth into the village to settle their differences and inquire into their needs, so that they could be in harmony and plenty. It was thus important to her that there should be harmony within her own family -- and she had settled it in her own mind and convinced herself that there was no disharmony among her relatives and that everything had turned out as she had hoped it would.
The Darcys had been in town for less than a fortnight since their return from Kent when Darcy received a letter from his friend Bingley, written from his new estate of Netherfield in Hertfordshire. The contents of the letter were doubly astonishing to Darcy. Bingley wrote that he had just got engaged to a Miss Elizabeth Bennet, the daughter of the owner of the neighbouring estate of Longbourn, and that his sister Caroline had got engaged a few days earlier to a Colonel Lawrence Forster, the commanding officer of the militia regiment which was being quartered at Meryton, a small town about two miles from Netherfield. The Bingleys were going to give a ball at Netherfield to celebrate their double engagement, and they were also planning to have a double wedding celebration. Bingley hoped that Darcy, Miss Darcy and her chaperon would visit Netherfield and attend the ball and he hoped that they would also be able to attend the weddings. Coincidentally, double weddings seemed to be quite frequent among his fiancée's family, less than a year ago, two of Miss Bennet's sisters were also married in a double wedding celebration, her eldest sister had married the son of a neighbour, while a younger sister had married her cousin, the vicar of Hunsford parsonage, whose patroness was no other than Darcy's aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Miss Bennet herself had visited her sister at Hunsford during the spring and had been introduced to Lady Catherine, her daughter and her nephew Colonel Fitzwilliam, and had narrowly missed being introduced to Darcy himself, it seemed that she had arrived at Hunsford a few days after Darcy had left Rosings.
Darcy thoughts upon reading these astonishing news from Bingley were -- what had Bingley done, how rash and impulsive of him to have proposed marriage to a young lady upon such a short acquaintance, he could not have known her for more than a month, for it had been little longer than a month since he had taken up residence at Netherfield. Darcy had often seen Bingley in love before, and such fancies for one pretty girl after another had seldom lasted for longer than a few weeks. But he supposed that there had always been the danger that his friend might be induced to say the word and propose the question of marriage to one of his pretty fancies if there was nobody to exercise some restraining influence over him, and bring him back to his senses. Darcy had always had a lively concern for the welfare of his friend, and he believed that the motives for his concern for his friend to be quite disinterested, but perhaps his interest was not so completely disinterested. He would have liked to have Bingley for a brother, and had certainly formed a plan of possibly match-making him with Georgina some time in the future, perhaps in a couple of years' time when Georgina at eighteen would then be of quite a proper age to be married, and Bingley hopefully would have become steadier and more ready to settle down. That wish had made him particularly anxious to conceal Georgina's meditated elopement with Wickham at Ramsgate so that not a syllable of it would reach Bingley or his sisters. Of course that idea of a possible future match was out of the question now that Bingley had got himself engaged, for no gentleman could break a marriage engagement that he had voluntarily entered into without being labeled as a dishonourable cad. So Darcy could only hope, for his friend's sake, that the young lady in question was not some unworthy minx or silly country miss who had nothing but a pretty face to recommend her. And to think that Bingley's fiancée was Mrs Collins' sister! That was another surprise. Darcy could not imagine Bingley having even a momentary fancy for some girl who was as plain and dull as Mrs Collins, but sisters were not always alike so this Miss Bennet was probably prettier and livelier than Mrs Collins.
Then there was also the equally astonishing news of Miss Bingley's engagement to an army colonel. So Bingley was not the only man rash enough to propose marriage on such a short acquaintance. And Caroline too, was equally rash to be accepting a man on such a short acquaintance, perhaps Charles and Caroline were more alike than he had thought, they were brother and sister after all, so perhaps an attitude of rash impulsiveness in forming and entering into hasty marriage engagements was a Bingley family trait. Darcy was in a way relieved that Caroline was now safely engaged to another man, he had not liked to think that she might have been seriously disappointed regarding her hopes for him. He had sufficient regard for her, as his friend's sister and his sister's friend, to be concerned that he might have unwittingly caused her to suffer a serious disappointment, by being a little too friendly with her in the earlier days of their acquaintance. He had found her to be quite a tolerable young lady as a friendly acquaintance in those early days, it was only after she had started to set her cap at him and had flattered and praised him at every turn that he found her to be quite sickening and most irritating. He hoped that she was really cured of her feelings for him, and had accepted another man from unbiased inclinations.
Darcy supposed that they should accept Bingley's invitation, and he owned to himself that he felt a certain curiosity about meeting both Miss Bennet and Colonel Forster. He heartily hoped that Bingley and Miss Bingley had not made complete fools of themselves in their choices.
At dinner that day, Darcy spoke to his sister and Mrs Annesley about the news in Bingley's letter and the invitation for them to visit Netherfield. Georgina's warm and cheerful interest in the double news, and the absence of any appearance of the slightest dismay or self-consciousness over Bingley's engagement, showed that Georgina never had any thought of Charles Bingley for herself. Georgina commented cheerfully that this seemed to be a season of engagements and weddings for their relatives and friends, she had thought that the wedding of their cousins Anne and Richard was a most charming and delightful affair, in spite of the fact that it had been organized by her formidable Aunt Catherine.
On the following day, Darcy wrote to Bingley politely offering him and Miss Bingley the congratulations of himself and Georgina on their respective engagements, and accepting the invitation to visit Netherfield and attend the celebratory ball next month. Darcy, Miss Darcy and Mrs Annesley traveled to Hertfordshire some three weeks later, about a week before the date of the ball at Netherfield.
Upon their arrival at Netherfield, Bingley heartily welcomed his friends with his usual warmth and cheerful friendliness, and Darcy was relieved to find that Caroline was more like the Miss Bingley of the earlier days of their acquaintance. She received him politely, in the calm manner of a friendly acquaintance, but was as fond as ever of Georgina. She seemed to be quite cheerful, so perhaps she was really happy in her engagement.
Bingley promised to introduce his friends to both Miss Bennet and Colonel Forster on the following day. He, Darcy and Hurst would ride over to Meryton and to Longbourn, while the ladies could accompany them in the carriage. And on the day after that, they would attend the ball at Meryton. Darcy was surprised, and said,
"I thought you're going to have the ball next week."
"Oh, yes, of course, next week is the ball that I'm going to give at Netherfield. The ball at the Meryton hall on the day after tomorrow is given by Colonel Forster, and you're also both expected there, I assure you. I've told Colonel Forster that my particular friend and his sister will be visiting Netherfield, and he immediately invited me to bring you both to his ball."
"I don't know whether it would be proper, I mean, Georgina is not properly out yet, and while it may be all right for her to attend a private ball given by a friend, like the one you're giving at Netherfield next week, I'm not sure about her attending a ball at an assembly hall. I don't think she will want to attend either, do you wish to attend such a gathering, Georgina?"
Before Georgina could answer, Bingley said quickly, "I hope that Miss Darcy will not mind ‘such a gathering', as you put it. Anyway, although the ball is to be held at the Meryton assembly ball, it is actually a private ball given by Colonel Forster, who is soon to be my brother. Many girls quite as young or even younger than Miss Darcy often attend these balls, Miss Bennet's youngest sister is only sixteen, and she will definitely be attending it. I hope it is not improper for Miss Darcy to attend as well, especially with Mrs Annesley present as her chaperone."
Darcy was not quite pleased, but he made no further objection, he did not wish to offend either Bingley or Miss Bingley by refusing to allow Georgina to attend a ball that was to be given by Caroline's fiancé.
The promised introductions took place on the following day. At Meryton, Darcy found that Colonel Forster appeared to be a sensible, good-humoured man, and that the Colonel and his fiancée were on easily affectionate terms with each other. Miss Bingley appeared to be quite sensible herself, she did not lavish excessive praise or flattery on her fiancé, but seemed to be on comfortably friendly terms with him.
At Longbourn, the Darcys and Mrs Annesley were introduced to Bingley's fiancée, her father and mother and her two youngest sisters. Darcy decided that Miss Elizabeth Bennet was not a beauty, but she was tolerably pretty with lively manners. She was certainly not as plain and definitely not as dull as her sister Mrs Collins. He supposed that she was just the type of girl for whom Bingley would have a fancy for, and since Bingley had imprudently formed this hasty engagement, he hoped that they would be reasonably happy together in their married life. Mr Bennet was rather quiet during the visit, but Mrs Bennet talked a great deal, and Darcy certainly did not envy his friend his prospective mother-in-law. The very thought of having Mrs Bennet as a mother-in-law caused Darcy to shudder, especially since Longbourn was at so near a vicinity to Netherfield. He supposed that Bingley's easy temper and good humour would enable him to tolerate it. Then he remembered that he himself had once considered the possibility of having his Aunt Catherine as his mother-in-law, but in that case, Rosings in Kent was at a great distance from Pemberley in Derbyshire. Miss Bennet's younger sisters appeared to be rather silly young girls who could talk of nothing else but the balls to be given at Meryton and Netherfield, and the officers they hoped to dance with; her youngest sister especially was a stout, well-grown girl of sixteen, with a fine complexion and good-humoured countenance, and rather loud manners which bid her fair to equal her mother at a later period in life. He could see that Georgina was rather shocked by Miss Lydia Bennet's loud manners, she was certainly not the kind of girl that he would want his sister to befriend. At least Miss Bennet was not silly like her younger sisters, she must have sensed Georgina's shyness and embarrassment, and took some pains to put her at her ease and to draw her into the conversation. Elizabeth knew from Charles and his sisters that Miss Darcy was very musical, so she sought to put her at her ease by asking her about her favourite music, and Georgina began to relax a little.
On the following evening, the Netherfield party was awaited for at Colonel Forster's ball at Meryton with quite as much eagerness as they had been awaited for at the first assembly ball attended by the Bingleys, for it was well-known that Mr Bingley had a friend who was also a single gentleman of large property staying with him. And when the party of seven arrived -- Mr and Miss Bingley, Mr and Mrs Hurst, Mr and Miss Darcy, and her chaperon Mrs Annesley -- Mr Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien, and the report which was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance, of his having ten thousand a year. The gentlemen pronounced him to be a fine figure of a man, most of the ladies, with the exception of Mrs and Miss Bennet, declared that he was much handsomer than Mr Bingley. Mrs Bennet was not pleased at this implied slight on her intended son-in-law, but even she admitted that Mr Darcy was a very handsome man, but not handsomer than Mr Bingley. Consequently, Mr Darcy was looked at with great admiration for about half the evening, till his manners gave a disgust which turned the tide of his popularity, for he was discovered to be proud, to be above his company, and above being pleased, and not all his large estate in Derbyshire could then save him from having a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance, and being unworthy to be compared with his friend.
Mr Darcy appeared to be a most disagreeable contrast to his friend. He danced only with his own sister and once with Mrs Hurst, declined being introduced to any other lady, and spent the rest of the evening in walking about the room, speaking occasionally to one of his own party, especially his sister, who after dancing with her brother and once with Mr Bingley, spent the rest of the evening sitting demurely beside her chaperon. At least there was some excuse for Miss Darcy not to be dancing with any other gentleman besides those of her own party, for she was not properly out yet, but there was no possible excuse for her brother. There was no scarcity of gentlemen at the beginning of the evening, but as some of the older gentlemen, including Mr Hurst, retreated into the card-room to from a whist-table midway through the evening, more than one young lady was obliged to sit down in want of a partner. As Darcy, who did not much care for cards either, had not retreated into the card-room and was still walking about the ballroom, Bingley tried to get his friend to join in the dance.
"Come, Darcy," said he, "I must have you dance. I hate to see you walking about in this stupid manner. You had much better dance."
"I certainly shall not. You know how I detest it, unless I am particularly acquainted with my partner. I have already danced with Georgina and Mrs Hurst, and that is quite enough for me. I don't suppose Miss Bingley will care to dance with me instead of with her fiancé, and there is not another woman in the room, whom it would not be a punishment to me to stand up with."
"I would not be so fastidious as you are," cried Bingley, "for a fortune! Why, even when I first came here and had not known anyone yet, I never met with so many pleasant girls in my life."
"Your Miss Elizabeth is quite pretty, I suppose."
"Yes, of course she is very pretty, and very lively and intelligent. But there is one of her relatives sitting down just behind you, her sister's sister-in-law, who is a very pleasant and agreeable young lady. Do let me ask my fiancée to introduce you."
"Which do you mean?" and turning around, he looked for a moment at Charlotte, till catching her eye, he withdrew her own, and coldly said, "I suppose you would call her tolerable, but she is certainly not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better return to your fiancée and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me."
Elizabeth had been standing beside Charlotte, and had been near enough for her to overhear the conversation between her fiancé and his friend. She saw to her indignation and dismay that Charlotte had also overheard the two gentlemen, and was striving hard to conceal her distress by turning her face away and attempting to regain her usual composure. Charlotte knew that she was rather plain, but to have a gentleman actually say so aloud at a ball! Elizabeth was furious on her friend's behalf, she could have borne such an insult better had it been directed against her own person, for her lively, playful disposition would have enabled her to laugh it off with great spirit among her friends. But poor Charlotte! Elizabeth decided that she must speak to Charles about his rude, disagreeable friend. It was astonishing that such an amiable man as her dear Charles could have such a rude and haughty man as his particular friend, but perhaps his haughtiness was not so very surprising when she remembered that he was Lady Catherine de Bourgh's nephew. Still, her ladyship's other nephew, Colonel Fitzwilliam, was not at all proud and was a very agreeable man. No wonder Miss De Bourgh -- now Mrs Fitzwilliam -- had preferred to marry the Colonel rather than this rude gentleman.
Chapter 8 - Consequences
Posted on 2008-12-02
When Bingley returned to Elizabeth after failing to get Darcy to join in the dance, he realized at once that there was something wrong. Elizabeth's sparkling dark eyes were flashing with indignation, as she moved swiftly towards him and hissed in his ear, "Your fine friend is so rude!" A glance at Charlotte, who was sitting nearby with her face slightly averted, showed Bingley to his horror and dismay that both Elizabeth and Charlotte must have overheard his conversation with Darcy, and Darcy's remark about Charlotte not being handsome enough to tempt him to dance with her. Elizabeth whispered to Bingley to ask Charlotte to dance the next dance with him, while she herself walked across the room to have a word with Jane, who was sitting with Lady Lucas and Mrs Bennet.
Earlier that day, Jane had confided to Elizabeth and Charlotte that she believed herself to be in a delicate condition, and that they could both look forward to becoming aunts in about eight months' time. Therefore Jane did not wish to over-exert herself on the dance floor that evening. She had danced a couple of dances with her husband earlier in the evening, and had decided to sit out most of the later dances. John had been hovering solicitously near his wife, until Jane had persuaded him either to ask some of the other young ladies to dance, or to join the gentlemen in the card-room.
Elizabeth asked Jane to join her in taking a turn about the room, and Jane could see that there was something wrong, and that Lizzy wanted to speak to her in private, away from both her mother and her mother-in-law. Mrs Bennet wondered aloud as to why Lizzy was not dancing the next dance, and Lizzy claimed that she wished to take a little break from dancing. Jane excused herself to the two mothers and agreed that it would be very refreshing for her to join Lizzy in taking a gentle stroll about the room. Once the two sisters had walked to a secluded corner of the room, and Lizzy had glanced around them to make sure that there was nobody near enough to overhear them, she told Jane about the conversation that she had overheard between Bingley and his proud, disagreeable friend.
‘You know that Mr Darcy had danced only with his own sister and Mrs Hurst, and had been standing or walking about the room since then. Charles tried to get him to join in the dance, and offered to introduce him to Charlotte, who was sitting nearby without a partner for the next dance, and that rude man actually said that she is not handsome enough to tempt him! Both poor Charlotte and I overheard him, and it must have been dreadfully mortifying for her. I hope nobody else will get to hear of it, but I think you should know, that you might help to comfort Charlotte and cheer her up. Personally, I don't think that she, or anybody else, would gain any pleasure by dancing with him, for he is such a proud, rude man, that he must be a most disagreeable partner. But it is dreadful that she should have overheard him made that remark about her looks."
Jane was quite distressed on her sister-in-law's behalf, unlike Lizzy, she was not easily roused to anger, but even she felt some mild indignation against Mr Darcy. However, her nature soon instinctively sought to find some mitigating excuse for him, he must not have realized that his voice would carry and that he would be overheard when he made that unfortunate remark. Lizzy did not think that Mr Darcy had deliberately intended his rude remark to be heard by its subject either, but it was very discourteous and ungentlemanly of him to have made such a remark in the first place. In fact, his whole conduct at the ball was discourteous and disagreeable. Jane did not attempt to deny that Mr Darcy appeared to be generally disagreeable to almost everybody except the members of his own party, and that strengthened her opinion that he had not meant to insult Charlotte personally; but that he might have made that remark and refused to dance with any young lady suggested by his friend. It was very unfortunate that Mr Bingley had suggested that his friend dance with Charlotte, and most unfortunate and distressing for Charlotte to have overheard him refuse in such s manner.
While Jane and Lizzy were talking over Mr Darcy's rudeness, Bingley had complied with his Lizzy's request and had asked Charlotte to dance with him. As they took their places on the dance floor, Bingley felt that there was no point in trying to pretend that nothing untoward had occurred to distress her, and that he had better apologize on his friend's behalf and attempt to explain away the insult. The apologies and excuses that he put forward for his friend were similar to the ones that Jane had come up with, and he even blamed himself for having attempted to urge his friend to join in the dance, when he knew that Darcy hated dancing with strangers.
Before they parted that evening, Elizabeth and Bingley had a private talk about his friend and the insult to her friend. Elizabeth spoke her mind quite freely, and Bingley realized how very proud, haughty, disagreeable and discourteous his friend Darcy must have appeared at the gathering. The insult to Miss Lucas was of course the worst of all, but even without that piece of rudeness, Darcy must have appeared to be quite haughty and disagreeable to almost everybody, and had created a most generally unfavourable first impression.
Bingley made up his mind that he had to speak to Darcy about it, and get his friend to make his own apologies to Miss Lucas on the following day. Accordingly, when they returned to Netherfield, Bingley asked Darcy to step into the study with him, as he had something to say to him. He then told him that his remark about Miss Lucas not being handsome enough to tempt him to dance had been overheard by both Miss Bennet and Miss Lucas herself, to the former's indignation and the latter's distress. Darcy had certainly not intended his remark to be overheard, and was genuinely dismayed when he realized the distress and mortification that his thoughtless remark must have caused to Miss Lucas. He had not been in a very good humour throughout the evening, he had not been eager to attend the ball in the first place, and he had certainly not wanted Georgina to attend it. He did not wish her to dance with those officers over whom most of the girls there were so taken up with, and he also did not like her to be making friends with some of those silly girls who were behaving with such lack of propriety, especially the youngest Miss Bennet with her loud and unrestrained manners. He had reluctantly allowed his sister to attend the ball because he had not wanted to offend the Bingleys, but his subsequent ill humour had caused him to be most offensive to an innocent lady who was a stranger to him. Miss Lucas had certainly not been one of those silly badly-behaved younger girls that he had so disapproved of. She was perhaps not very pretty, but there was nothing really wrong with her looks after all, or with her manners either. It was not her lack of personal beauty that had provoked him into saying that she was not handsome enough to tempt him, he had made that thoughtless remark more to stop Bingley from pestering him to dance with anybody at all, than out of any personal objection to dancing with Miss Lucas in particular. Perhaps, even if she had been a reputed beauty, he would still have said that she was only tolerable.
On the next day, Bingley and Darcy paid a visit to Lucas Lodge, as Darcy was anxious to make his apologies and explanations to Miss Lucas in person. The call was ostensibly made to Sir William Lucas, but Bingley inquired after the ladies, and Sir William informed them that his daughters and daughter-in-law were preparing to walk to Longbourn. Bingley and Darcy then offered to walk with the three ladies and accompany them to Longbourn, as they also intended to visit Longbourn.
As they prepared to set out on the walk to Longbourn, Bingley, in order to give his friend the opportunity for a private conversation with Miss Lucas, immediately offered an arm each to Mrs Lucas and Miss Maria, leaving Darcy and Miss Lucas to follow them. Darcy quickly offered Miss Lucas his arm. Charlotte was outwardly composed, and only a very keen observer would have noticed her slight hesitation before accepting it. Jane gave them a quick, anxious look, but calmed down when Bingley quietly informed her that his friend wished to make his apologies and explanations to her sister-in-law.
On the way to Longbourn, Darcy gravely apologized to Charlotte over his rude insult to her on the previous evening. He frankly explained to her about his ill-humour at the ball, his concern for his sister, his disapproval over some of the younger girls' free and unrestrained manners with the officers, and that he honestly hated dancing with strangers. He had certainly not intended any personal insult to her, for he had simply wanted to stop his friend from pestering him to dance. He would not have been tempted to dance on the previous evening even by the most beautiful lady in the room, indeed he had often found some beautiful and fashionable ladies, even among the ton in London, to be quite tiresome and irritating, and therefore intolerable. So, when he had said that he supposed that she was tolerable, he was not being uncomplimentary, he had certainly found no fault in her manners, unlike the rather loud manners of some of the other girls at the ball which had really provoked his disapproval. He actually did not set much store by a pretty face, unlike his friend Bingley who was always losing his head over one pretty girl after another, here Darcy checked himself, remembering that Bingley was now engaged to Miss Lucas' sister-in-law. He added hastily that no doubt Bingley's feelings for Miss Bennet were much deeper than that of any of his past infatuations, for he had never proposed marriage to any of his previous fancies.
Charlotte was well-pleased to accept Mr Darcy's apology and explanation. She perceived that he was a rather proud young gentleman, but his pride did not offend her quite so much as pride often did, because there was an excuse for it. One could not wonder that so very fine a young man, with family, fortune, and everything in his favour, should think rather highly of himself. Moreover, she was pleased by his concern for his sister, nor could she deny the justice of his observation regarding the undesirably imprudent behaviour of some of the girls at the ball, which had provoked his disgust and ill-humour. Of course, she thought to herself that it would have been better and more gentlemanly of him if he had taken some pains to conceal his ill-humour, and not to appear so haughty and above his company. But the very fact of his general haughtiness at the gathering convinced her that he was sincere when he assured her that he had not intended any particular insult to her specifically. To change the subject, she started to ask him about his sister, and he spoke so affectionately of her as to prove him capable of some amiable feeling. He said that he would like for her and his sister to become acquainted, and he promised to bring Georgina over to Lucas Lodge on the following day. Darcy found himself thinking that Miss Lucas was a sensible and agreeable young lady, one whom he would not mind befriending Georgina, she was not at all like those silly girls that he so disapproved of. Her sister-in-law Mrs Lucas too, appeared to be most amiable and gentle, as well as pretty, but she smiled too much. He told her that his sister was very musical, so she and Georgina should have some common interest, for he had heard from his friend that among the local young ladies, Miss Lucas and Miss Bennet were the best young lady performers in the neighbourhood. Miss Lucas said that she would be very pleased to be acquainted with Miss Darcy, but disclaimed possessing any extraordinary musical talent herself, it was true that she played the pianoforte, but she did not sing, and that Miss Bingley, with her Italian songs, was a far superior performer, and even Miss Bennet, who could sing as well as play the pianoforte, may be reckoned as a superior performer. Mr Darcy observed that he thought it would be well if some young lady performers would play the pianoforte without attempting to sing, and he mentioned obliquely that during his visit to his aunt Lady Catherine de Bourgh at Rosings, her rector's wife, Mrs Collins, who coincidentally was a sister of Mrs Lucas and Miss Bennet, had occasionally entertained them by playing on the pianoforte.
By the time they reached Longbourn, Mr Darcy and Miss Lucas appeared to be good friends, much to the relief and pleasure of both Mr Bingley and Mrs Lucas, and greatly to the surprise of Miss Bennet, who met them on the lane in the garden of Longbourn.
Chapter 9 - Another Engagement
Posted on 2008-12-09
The day for the double wedding of Mr Charles Bingley of Netherfield to Miss Elizabeth Bennet of Longbourn, and of Colonel Lawrence Forster of the __militia regiment to Miss Caroline Bingley of Netherfield was fast approaching.
Things had apparently gone smoothly enough since the day after Colonel Forster's ball at Meryton. Darcy, having been brought by his friend to realize how haughty and disagreeable he must have appeared at the gathering, had sought to make amends for the unfavourable first impression that he had given by making some effort to be civil to everybody in general, and in view of his overhead insult to her, to Miss Lucas in particular. Darcy had been a little surprised by Bingley's forcefulness in speaking out to him, and in his friend's new-found confidence in actually giving him, Darcy, advice on making amends to Miss Lucas and the others, previously it had always been Bingley who had sought his advice and had deferred to Darcy's judgment. That was an obvious change that had taken place in Bingley since his engagement to Elizabeth Bennet.
Darcy supposed that he must regard the change that had taken place in his friend as a change for the better, it was good that Bingley should learn to be his own man and to have more confidence in himself, especially as he was now settling down to be the landlord of an estate and would soon be a married man. Although a selfish part of him might miss the former Bingley who used to be so easily guided by hum, he told himself that he would be happy for his friend to become his own man, as long as he really did become his own man, and not one who was to be easily manipulated by his future wife. Darcy suspected that his friend's strictures as to his conduct at that gathering in Meryton had originated from Miss Bennet. While the former Bingley would also have told him about Miss Lucas unfortunately overhearing his insulting remark about her, he would not have gone further about his general conduct at that ball, nor would he have ventured to offer him advice as to how he, Darcy, should conduct himself among the principal inhabitants of the society in Hertfordshire.
Darcy had allowed Miss Bennet only to be tolerably pretty when Bingley had first introduced them, he had looked at her without admiration on that first visit to Longbourn, and when he looked at her again at the ball at Meryton and at their subsequent meeting on the next day, he looked only to criticize. He made it clear to himself that she was not pretty like her sister Mrs Lucas, but instead was scarcely prettier than Miss Lucas and had hardly a good feature in her face. He told himself somewhat cynically that if Mrs Lucas was not already married, Bingley would probably have fallen for her pretty face instead of for her younger sister's. But later he began to feel that Miss Elizabeth Bennet's countenance was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her fine dark eyes. To this discovery succeeded some others equally mortifying. Though he had detected with a critical eye more than one failure of perfect symmetry in her form, he was forced to acknowledge her figure to be light and pleasing, and in spite of his asserting to himself that her manners were not those of the fashionable world, he was caught by their easy playfulness.
Darcy began to understand why his friend was so captivated by Miss Bennet that he had proposed marriage to her after only a month's acquaintance. He found himself thinking that if she were not already engaged to his friend, he himself might be in some danger -- he caught himself up, what nonsense was he thinking about! She and her connections were certainly good enough for Bingley, but such connections would hardly do for him -- she was a gentleman's daughter but on her mother's side she had an uncle who was a country attorney and another uncle who was in trade in London, in partnership with her own brother-in-law. Except for a difference in the size of their incomes, his late father and Mr Bennet would have been equal, as they were both gentlemen, but what a difference there would have been between his late mother, Lady Anne Darcy, the daughter of an earl, and Mrs Bennet, the daughter of a country attorney and sister to a tradesman! Mr Bennet had made a very imprudent marriage with a woman outside his sphere. He could not help smiling to himself as he thought of what his aunt Lady Catherine, would have said to such a connection! Although Mr John Lucas was a very agreeable, gentlemanlike young man, not unlike his friend Bingley, and Mrs Lucas was a pretty, gentle and amiable young lady. That brought his thoughts to Miss Lucas, who was not a beauty but had impeccable manners and was very pleasant and agreeable, while her younger sister Miss Maria might be a bit empty-headed in comparison, but at least her manners were passable, and not loud or unrestrained like that of some of the other girls, especially Miss Bennet's youngest sister. Darcy wondered if Bingley would be able to do anything to check the imprudence of his young sisters-in-law.
Darcy's thoughts were curiously swirling between Miss Bennet and Miss Lucas -- of course, Miss Bennet was engaged to his best friend, but he found himself thinking what if he had met her before she became engaged to Bingley -- he felt angry at himself for having such unprofitable thoughts and useless speculations which he also felt to be dishonourable and disloyal to his friend, and firmly resolved to put such nonsensical fancies out of his mind. He thought he now understood what Bingley must have felt during one of his friend's previous momentary fancies for a pretty girl, he had thought that he himself was above having such fancies, but perhaps he was not. He hoped that Bingley and the future Mrs Bingley would never suspect that his momentary fancy had lighted upon her, for that could cause some awkwardness between them in the future.
In the meantime, Darcy had really sought to make amends to Miss Lucas by being particularly courteous to her at their subsequent meetings, and had also encouraged Georgina to become better acquainted with her. Miss Lucas was certainly the kind of sensible young lady that he would like to befriend his sister. The Darcys' friendship with Charlotte began to be noticed by both Lady Lucas and Mrs Bennet. Only Bingley, Elizabeth and Jane had known about the insulting remark at the Meryton ball, and they knew that Darcy was seeking to make amends for that remark by his civilities to Charlotte. Lady Lucas became beset by wild hopes and trembling suspense, she could scarcely believe that her rather plain daughter Charlotte would attract such a handsome young man of ten thousand pounds a year, but he did seem to like her, and if it were so, what a splendid match and brilliant triumph it would be! Better even than Elizabeth's match to Mr Bingley of Netherfield! Mrs Bennet was also torn by conflicting feelings, on the one hand, it was a pity that Mr Darcy was not attracted to either of her two youngest daughters, but then, he was probably too serious and dull for Kitty or Lydia, who obviously preferred the dashing young officers in the militia regiment. And so, if he was inclined to follow his friend's example into matrimony but could not be captivated by one of her own remaining single daughters, then it was better that he should be captivated by her eldest daughter's sister-in-law than by some other girl unconnected to them.
Darcy was finding the sensible and practical Miss Lucas to be a very desirable friend for Georgina, and a very comfortable friendly acquaintance for himself, especially in his efforts to avoid being unduly attracted to the future Mrs Bingley and her fine eyes. To Charlotte's horror, her mother began to hint to her about the possible consequences of Mr Darcy's attentions to her. At the first hint of such expectations from Lady Lucas, Charlotte immediately sought to dampen her mother's wild hopes and expectations on that subject, by firmly asserting, with outward calmness and placidity, that there was only friendship between them, and even that friendship was not so much with Mr Darcy as with Miss Darcy. Mr Darcy was merely being grateful and civil to her as his sister's friend. Charlotte also begged Jane to help her silence her mother's speculations on the matter. Jane, perceiving how very embarrassing, and even distressing, such maternal speculations would be to Charlotte, did her best to end such unlikely hopes, expectations and speculations on her mother-in-law's part by informing her of what she had learned about Mr Darcy's grand maternal relations during her visit to her sister Mary in Kent. His aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, would expect him to make a match with a lady of both fortune and consequence, and would not tolerate him paying his addresses even to a young lady with a dowry of twenty thousand pounds, if she was not of sufficient consequence in the eyes of the ton in London society.
Besides the ball at Netherfield, the intervening days before the double wedding day were also often filled with evening parties attended by the Netherfield party, the families of Longbourn and of Lucas Lodge, and Colonel Forster and some of the other officers of the regiment. Mary and Mr Collins were also due to arrive at Longbourn on the week before the wedding in order to attend the ceremony, while Mr and Mrs Gardiner would be arriving a couple of days before the wedding.
At the ball at Netherfield, Darcy had made amends for his conduct at the previous ball by dancing several dances. His partners this time included, besides his own sister and Mrs Hurst, Miss Bingley, Miss Lucas, Miss Maria, and a few other young ladies. But he felt most comfortable dancing with his own sister and Miss Lucas, and he danced with each of them twice. Charlotte had momentarily hesitated when he asked her to dance for the second time, fearing the construction that her mother would put upon such an attention, but she had not known how to refuse without entering into an embarrassing explanation, so she accepted him, and decided that if her mother should remark upon it, she would simply point out that he had also danced with his own sister twice. Georgina had also danced several dances at the Netherfield ball, besides her own brother and Mr Bingley, she had also danced with Mr Lucas and Colonel Forster, and one or two other young men whose manners were quite unexceptionable, who had been introduced by Mr Bingley..
Darcy had not asked Miss Bennet to dance with him, he dared not. He feared that he had not yet completely cured himself of his momentary fancy for her, and he did not wish to be in close proximity to her. He tried to dislike her, telling himself that the playful liveliness of her manners often bordered on impertinence and that he should be affronted by such impertinence. But there was a mixture of sweetness and archness in her manner that made it impossible for her to affront anybody, no wonder that she had so bewitched Bingley into proposing to her upon such a short acquaintance.
Elizabeth was perfectly unaware of the unconscious attraction that she had over her fiancé's friend. On her part, she was pleased to see that the proud Mr Darcy was at least making some effort to be civil to most people after that first evening at Meryton, and she was particularly pleased to see that he was seeking to make amends for his insulting remark to Charlotte by being very courteous to her at their subsequent meetings. She credited her dear Charles for effecting this change in his friend, he had promised her that he would speak to Mr Darcy after that overheard insult to her friend, and he had evidently done so to good effect. But when Mrs Bennet as well as Lady Lucas, started to indulge in wild speculations regarding Darcy's civilities to Charlotte, Elizabeth, along with Jane and Charlotte herself, was quick to dampen and silence such wild expectations and speculations. Charlotte and both her sisters-in-law all believed that Darcy was merely seeking to atone to her for his insulting remark at that first ball at Meryton. Mrs Bennet thought that it would be such a good connection for Jane and her husband to be brother and sister-in-law to the mistress of Pemberley. Elizabeth gave Mrs Bennet much of the same information that Jane had given Lady Lucas -- that Mr Darcy's grand maternal relations, especially his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who incidentally was the Collinses' patroness, would expect him to make a match with a lady of both fortune and consequence, and would not tolerate him making a lesser match with any young lady who was not of sufficient consequence in the eyes of the ton in London society.
Elizabeth also believed that Mr Darcy actually disliked her, for while he had become tolerably civil in his manners to almost everybody else, he remained cold and distant towards her. This belief did not pain her, as she was too indifferent to him to care for his liking or approbation, except in so far as she hoped that it would not cause any serious friction between her fiancé and his friend. Of course Elizabeth was confident that Charles would not be swayed by his friend even if Mr Darcy tried to turn him against her, nor did she think that Darcy would be foolish enough or ungentlemanly enough to attempt such a thing. Perhaps, if she and Charles were not already engaged, he might have attempted to persuade his friend against forming the engagement, but there was nothing that he could do about it now. She also guessed, this time quite correctly, that he disapproved of her younger sisters, and did not want his sister to be friends with them. She could not really wonder at that, for Miss Darcy's manners were perfectly unassuming and gentle, while Lydia's manners were often loud and unrestrained. Her father, contented with laughing at them, would never exert himself to restrain the wild giddiness of his youngest daughters, and her mother, with manners so far from right herself, was entirely insensible of the evil. Elizabeth had frequently united with Jane in an endeavour to check the imprudence of Kitty and Lydia, but while they were supported by their mother's indulgence, what chance could there be of improvement? Kitty was weak-spirited and generally under Lydia's influence, and Lydia, self-willed and careless, would not listen to their advice and would scarcely give them a hearing.
Had Elizabeth's opinion been all drawn from her own parents, she could not have formed a very pleasing picture of conjugal felicity or domestic comfort. Her father, upon recovering from his brief infatuation for her mother, had discovered that he had married a woman whose weak understanding and illiberal mind had put an end to all real affection for her. Respect, esteem and confidence had vanished for ever, and all his views of domestic happiness were overthrown. But Mr Bennet was not of a disposition to seek comfort for the disappointment which his own imprudence had brought on, by any of the pleasures which too often console the unfortunate for their folly or their vice. He was fond of the country and of books, and from these tastes had arisen his principal enjoyments. To his wife he was very little otherwise indebted, than as her ignorance and folly had contributed to his amusement. Elizabeth, however, had never been blind to the impropriety of her father's behaviour as a husband. She had always seen it with pain, but respecting his abilities, ands grateful for his affectionate treatment of herself, she endeavoured to forget what she could not overlook, and to banish from her thoughts that continual breach of conjugal obligation and decorum which, in exposing his wife to the contempt of her own children, was so highly reprehensible. Fortunately, she had also the example of the conjugal felicity and domestic happiness of her Uncle and Aunt Gardiner, which both Jane and Elizabeth believed was a shining example of a marriage based on true affection and mutual esteem, and they had resolved that neither of them would marry without true affection with mutual respect and esteem.
As for Darcy, he was annoyed with himself for not having completely got rid of the vision of the future Mrs Bingley's fine eyes. When not in her presence, he could believe that his foolish and impractical momentary fancy for her had faded away, but in her presence, such foolish "what if" thoughts would sometimes recur to him. He knew that his fancy for her was against his will, against his judgment, against his honour and even against his character. Therefore he avoided Miss Bennet as much as he could, and treated her with distant civility. In avoiding Miss Bennet and the disturbing and disloyal thoughts to his friend that was aroused through her, he often found it a comfort to be in the company of the sensible Miss Lucas. She was not a beauty, her eyes did not have that haunting quality, but they had a kindly expression, and through his conversations with her he found that she was infinitely sensible, practical and comfortable. Georgina also liked her very well, though unfortunately, Georgina quite liked Miss Bennet too.
There was a large evening party at Lucas Lodge two days before the wedding day. Seeking to completely cure himself of his fancy for his friend's fiancée, Darcy had a little too much to drink that evening. He saw that Miss Lucas happened to be sitting by herself for a moment on a seat near a doorway to the adjoining room, and decided to join her. He was not quite steady on his feet, and did not notice the rug on the floor, so he stumbled and fell and found himself on his knee before Miss Lucas just as Bingley and John Lucas came in from the adjoining room and found him in that position. They stared at him in amazement, and Darcy said the first thing that came into his head -- that he was about to propose to Miss Lucas. Charlotte also stared at him in amazement -- an amazement that was mixed with trembling confusion, doubts and joy. For Charlotte, who had believed herself to be of an unromantic disposition, had secretly lost her heart to the handsome Mr Darcy soon after he had began to treat her with such particular courtesy, but she had told herself that he was only making amends to her and that there was no such hope that he would ever look upon her as more than a friend. So the sensible, practical Charlotte, who had once told Elizabeth that a woman should show more affection than she felt, had instead concealed her own secret affection for the man she loved, because she did not want to embarrass him by displaying an emotion which she believed that he would not be able to return, nor did she wish to lose his friendship. It had been with these thoughts in mind that she had firmly quashed her mother's hopes and expectations on the subject.
Charlotte did not know in what terms she accepted Darcy's unexpected proposal, but she must have accepted it, because the next thing she knew, both Mr Bingley and her brother John were offering their congratulations to her and Mr Darcy.
On the next morning, Charlotte felt herself to be filled with doubt and confusion. Darcy's sudden proposal on the previous evening seemed too much like a wild, impractical dream to be true, and she began to wonder uneasily if he have had too much to drink last evening, and had proposed to her in a drunken state. She would not be surprised if he were to come to beg her pardon this morning by confessing to her that he had been drunk and did not really mean to propose to her.
Darcy did come that morning, but he made no such confession. He formally applied to Sir William Lucas for Miss Lucas' hand in marriage, and needless to say, it was bestowed with a most joyful alacrity. When Darcy was alone with Charlotte, he spoke to her gravely of his expectations of the married state, he did not wish to deceive her and did not claim to have fallen passionately in love with her, but gave her to understand that he admired and esteemed her for her good sense and practical disposition, and believed that she would be a good companion and a comfortable wife.
The engagement of Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley and Miss Charlotte Lucas of Lucas Lodge was officially announced on the following day, at the reception held after the double wedding of Mr and Mrs Charles Bingley, nee Elizabeth Bennet, and Colonel and Mrs Lawrence Forster, nee Caroline Bingley.
Chapter 10 - Quite Tolerable
Posted on 2008-12-12
On the day after his accidental proposal to Miss Lucas, Darcy's mind felt surprisingly calmer and more at peace than it had been for several days. He really liked Charlotte and held her in esteem and regard, he had sought her out as a refuge from his undesirable attraction to the future Mrs Bingley, and he realized that he must have been thinking of the possibility of contracting a pragmatic marriage with a sensible and undemanding woman as a cure for his absurd fancy for that soon-to-be married woman whose liveliness often bordered on impertinence. It was the kind of sensible marriage that he had once thought of making with his cousin Anne when he had proposed to her earlier that year, only to find out that Anne and Richard were romantically in love with each other. He had not wished to come between them and had immediately given his cousins his support and assistance to promote their marriage, but if Anne had fancied herself to be in love with some unworthy scoundrel like Wickham, for instance, he would have acted very differently. In such a case, he might even have felt it to be an honourable duty to press his suit and marry Anne in order to save her from herself. He was an honourable man; he could never act against his honour.
Darcy was convinced that he could be tolerably happy, or at least contented, with Charlotte. She would suit him better as a wife than some fashionable lady who was a member of the ton, who would likely be tiresome and demanding, and would either expect him to dance attendance on her, or to constantly provide for her entertainment in society. He would probably have eventually proposed to Charlotte even without that accident last evening, though he would not have been so precipitate and would have proposed in a more honest, seemly, sober and sensible manner, much like the manner in which he had proposed to Anne. He did not wish to deceive her into thinking that he had fallen passionately in love with her, and now his main concern was that the ridiculously romantic manner of his proposal to her last night -- on his knee before her!-- might have misled her into thinking that he was madly in love with her.
After formally obtaining Sir William's consent to Miss Lucas' hand in marriage, Darcy sought to have a private conversation with his fiancée, to explain to her about his expectations regarding their marriage. As she listened to him -- he wanted to marry her because he liked and respected her and had seen that she was an intelligent, sensible and practical woman who would be a good helpmate to him, a good sister to Georgina, a good mistress of Pemberley who would help him to care for the estate and the surrounding villagers, she realized that only half of her improbable dream had come true. He did not want a romantic marriage with her, but only a pragmatic one. Yet she was not altogether surprised, she knew that it would have been too wildly improbable that the handsome Fitzwilliam Darcy should have fallen romantically in love with her. It seemed that he wanted to marry her because he believed that she was not of a romantic disposition -- that was what she used to believe herself -- and that she would make him a good, helpful and undemanding wife. Well, she would not disappoint him, she would do her best to make him a good wife, and she would not embarrass him with romantic protestations of love which he would not be able to return.
Charlotte did ask Darcy about what his relations would think of their marriage, and he told her not to worry about that, his uncle and aunt the earl and countess of Matlock were an easy-going elderly couple who would make no objection, his cousins would be happy to welcome her into the family, and as for his aunt Lady Catherine de Bourgh -- well, she need not worry about her either. His Aunt Catherine might prefer him to marry some fashionable lady of the ton, but he had never had any inclination for such great ladies who were often tiresome, capricious and demanding, and quite intolerable. They found themselves laughing together over the words "intolerable" and "tolerable", now she should know that to be considered as "tolerable" by him was in fact quite a great compliment. His Aunt Catherine was sometimes quite intolerable herself, but the good thing about his aunt was that, if she was rightly handled, once she realized that she could not get what she had originally wanted, she would somehow manage to convince herself that she actually wanted what she had got! She had not at first wanted her daughter Anne to marry her military nephew Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam, but by the time of the wedding, she had almost convinced herself that it was she who had made up the match! And in their own case, no doubt his Aunt Catherine would eventually make the most of the fact that Miss Lucas' father was a knight, without mentioning to her acquaintances that he had formerly been in trade, or that his eldest son was currently engaged in trade.
As Mr Darcy did not want a long engagement, and Sir William and Lady Lucas were also anxious that this splendid match for their daughter should take place as soon as possible, an early date was fixed for the wedding, quite as soon as the Bingleys and the Forsters have returned from their wedding trips. The Forsters could only take a short wedding trip as Colonel Forster could not take a longer leave of absence from his regiment, which was due to leave Meryton soon, and be encamped near Brighton. The Bingleys returned to Netherfield about a week after the Forsters had returned to Meryton, and the wedding of Darcy and Charlotte took place soon afterwards, with both Georgina Darcy and Maria Lucas as the bridesmaids. His cousins, Lord and Lady Fitzwilliam, as well as Colonel and Mrs Fitzwilliam, were so good as to attend the wedding. Colonel Fitzwilliam was obliged to return to his regiment immediately after the wedding, he had already taken leave of absence for a considerable period for his own wedding, but both Richard and Anne felt that they owed it to their cousin Darcy to attend his wedding, for they could not forget their gratitude to him in paving the way for their own marriage. A polite invitation had also been sent to Lady Catherine, but she had refused to attend, she was not pleased with the marriage, but she had not abused him either, which was a sufficiently good sign that she would soon convince herself that she was quite satisfied with her nephew's marriage to the daughter of a Sir William. After all, it was no longer of much importance to her who Darcy married, now that Anne was married to Richard.
Elizabeth hoped that Charlotte would be truly happy in her marriage; she herself could not quite like Mr Darcy, although he was her husband's friend, and would now be her friend's husband, and her sister's brother-in-law. She did think that he had proposed very suddenly and unexpectedly to Charlotte, and hoped that it was not a brief infatuation which would soon wear out, or an imprudent impulse which would be regretted, as she knew had happened in the case of her own father's relationship with her mother. Of course, Charlotte was very sensible and intelligent, not at all like Mrs Bennet or even Lady Lucas. She could not help wondering aloud to Charles about the suddenness of Mr Darcy's proposal to Charlotte. Charles had smiled at her and said,
"Was it so very sudden, my love? I had also proposed to you upon what some people would have regarded as a short acquaintance, and you know that I have never regretted it for a moment."
"But you and I have liked each other since we first met, whereas Mr Darcy and Charlotte..."
"Are you still thinking of his unfortunate remark about her at that first ball at Meryton? I believe that they now joke and laugh about it together, that he has told her that to be considered tolerable by him is in fact quite a compliment, as he has found many beautiful and fashionable ladies to be quite intolerable."
Lizzy could not help laughing then, and she felt easier in her mind about her friend, if the rather cold and serious Mr Darcy could make a joke after all. Although it might also be a mark of Mr Darcy's arrogance to divide ladies into either "tolerable" or "intolerable".
Charles went on, "And you know, my love, that from a worldly point of view, it is a most brilliant match for her. She will be quite the wonder and envy of quite a number of those fashionable ladies whom he has found to be quite intolerable."
"Oh, I know the worldly point of view all right, but I have never cared much for it."
Both Elizabeth and Jane had in fact been getting an earful of the worldly advantages of the Darcy match, not only from Jane's triumphant mother-in-law, but also from their own mother, who had allowed herself to be quite delighted with it, perhaps almost as delighted as she would have been had Mr Darcy chosen either of her remaining single daughters. Mrs Bennet was happy to be relieved of the fear that Charlotte might become an old maid and a burden on John and Jane, and about Maria too, for with Charlotte married to the rich Mr Darcy, the Darcys could take care of Maria.
Lizzy went on, "Jane and I have always resolved that we would do anything rather than marry without true affection, and I believe that Charlotte also shares our views."
"Then we can be fairly confident that they will be almost as happy as we are."
"There can only be one happiest couple in the world, Lizzy dearest, and I believe that we already occupy that place. Am I not right in my belief?"
"Indeed, you are."
Soon after the Darcys' wedding, the militia regiment was to leave Meryton, and all the single young ladies in the neighbourhood were drooping apace. The dejection was almost universal. The misery of Kitty and Lydia was quite extreme, they would often exclaim in the bitterness of woe,
"Good heaven! What is to become of us? What are we to do? Won't papa take us to Brighton for a few weeks? It would be such a delicious scheme, and I daresay would hardly cost any thing at all. Mama would like to go too."
Their affectionate mother certainly shared their feelings, and the Brighton scheme was under frequent discussion between their parents. Mr Bennet had not the smallest intention of yielding, but his answers were at the same time so vague and equivocal, that Mrs Bennet, though often disheartened, had not quite despaired of succeeding at last, though she began to think of an alternative way to get her daughters to Brighton. If only Mrs Forster would invite Kitty and Lydia to accompany her to Brighton. And why not? After all, Caroline Forster was now Lizzy's sister, and that should make Kitty and Lydia her sisters-in-law also, and the two girls had been the bridesmaids at the double wedding of Elizabeth and Caroline. Mrs Bennet decided that she would try to get the colonel's wife to invite her youngest daughters to go with her to Brighton. It would be such a good opportunity for her girls to be chaperoned by the wife of the colonel of the regiment.
There were frequent parties with the officers during the last week of the regiment remaining at Meryton, and Mrs Bennet soon took the opportunity of tackling Mrs Forster about taking her girls to Brighton. She spoke to Caroline about the Brighton scheme, of how she had hoped that Mr Bennet would agree to it, of what a good opportunity it would be for Kitty and Lydia to be at Brighton with the Forsters, and of how she would be happy to consign the care of her single daughters to dear Mrs Forster. Caroline, listening with half an ear, got the mistaken impression that Mr and Mrs Bennet were taking Kitty and Lydia to Brighton, and that Mrs Bennet was merely asking her to act as the girls' chaperone on such occasions when Mrs Bennet herself would not be obliged to go into company. So she politely said that she would be happy to chaperone the girls at Brighton. Mrs Bennet instantly fell into raptures of joy, thanked dearest Mrs Forster most effusively for her kind invitation to her sisters-in-law to accompany her to Brighton, and on Colonel Forster joining them at that moment, immediately informed him that his wife had invited Kitty and Lydia to Brighton, and that she hoped that he would have no objection. Colonel Forster naturally said that he would be happy to have the girls with them at Brighton.
Caroline was inwardly horrified when she realized what she had done, and that she had misunderstood Mrs Bennet when she thought that Mr and Mrs Bennet were taking their girls to Brighton. It was one thing to occasionally act as chaperone for the two girls who would be staying with their parents, quite another to have them actually staying with her and on her hands under her sole charge. She could hardly retract her "invitation" or explain that she had misunderstood Mrs Bennet without appearing either very uncivil or very foolish, and she did not wish to appear to be either rude or foolish. What was she to do about it? These girls were Charles' sisters-in-law, so he should take care of them, they were more his responsibility and his wife's, rather than hers.
So Caroline soon spoke to Charles about the Brighton scheme, and told him that he and his wife must also go to Brighton so that Elizabeth's sisters could stay with them. She told her brother quite frankly of what had passed between her and Mrs Bennet, and that she had not meant to take the girls under her sole care, though she would not at all mind chaperoning them to some of the parties. Charles understood the fix that his sister was in, and knowing his mother-in-law, he was not very surprised at how the situation had come about. He would not mind going to Brighton himself, so he agreed with his sister's suggestion.
Elizabeth had no desire to go to Brighton, but when Charles explained the situation to her, she reluctantly agreed with him. She knew that Caroline had taken upon herself more than she had bargained for, and that it was not fair on Caroline to be saddled with the sole care of Kitty and Lydia at Brighton. Chaperoning those two girls, especially Lydia, at a camp in Brighton would be no light task, nor did she feel that it could be properly entrusted to a sister-in-law whom they hardly knew. To Brighton, therefore, the Bingleys were to go.
Chapter 11 - An Elopement and Other Matches
Posted on 2008-12-19
On a fine morning several weeks after their sojourn in Brighton, Elizabeth and Charles were reading the following letter, which had just been handed to them by an agitated Kitty.
My dear Kitty,
I hope you will laugh and not cry when you know where I am gone, and I cannot help laughing myself at your surprise tomorrow meaning, as soon as I am missed. Reggie and I are going to Gretna Green. You and Matthew were such simpletons when you thought that we had given up that plan, just because the two of you had become so proper and refused to join us. The way the two of you preached about prudence and propriety to the two of us was quite funny, it could almost have done Mary and her Collins credit. You may be willing to accept Papa's condition and wait until Matthew gets his promotion to captain before getting married, but I don't mind being a lieutenant's wife for the time being. I love Reggie dearly and everybody says what a good officer he is, he is bound to be promoted some day, so think it no harm to be off. You and Lizzy need not send word to Papa and Mama if you do not like it, for it will make the surprise the greater when I write to them and sign myself Lydia Denny. What a good joke it will be! I can hardly write for laughing. Pray make my excuses to Pratt for not keeping my engagement, and dancing with him tonight. Tell him I hope he will excuse me when he knows all, and tell him that I will dance with him at the next ball we meet, with great pleasure. I shall sent for my clothes when I get to Longbourn, but I wish you would tell Sally to mend a great slit in my working muslin gown, before they are packed up. Goodbye. Give my love to Lizzy and Charles and the Forsters. I hope you and Matthew will drink to our good journey.
Your affectionate sister,
The last few weeks at Brighton had passed quite pleasantly for the Bingleys, and very pleasantly for their youngest sisters. They had frequently gone to the library, which was a popular social resort, and dealt not only in books, but also sold tickets for entertainment, and various trinkets and ornaments. Of course, unlike Lizzy, Lydia was much more interested in the ornaments than in the books, some of the beautiful ornaments had almost made her quite wild. The girls occasionally had a new gown, or a new parasol, and Mrs Forster had often taken them to the camp, where various officers had attended them. However, it had become increasingly obvious that, of all the officers, Lieutenants Matthew Sanderson and Reginald Denny were paying serious attentions to Kitty and Lydia respectively, and that the two sisters were more than pleased to accept those attentions, and also preferred those two gentlemen to any of the other officers. They had liked each other when the regiment had been quartered at Meryton, and now their mutual attachment and constancy seemed to be confirmed. Brighton had a whole campful of soldiers, but Kitty and Lydia were not swayed by any of their new acquaintances from among the other officers from any of the other regiments, not were Sanderson or Denny swayed by any of their new acquaintances from among the other young ladies at Brighton.
Seeing the mutual partiality between those two lieutenants and their sisters, Elizabeth and Charles had been anxious to find out more about the characters of those two young men, and were assured by Colonel Forster and Caroline that they were both quite respectable, and quite promising young officers with good future prospects in their careers. However, although their future prospects were good, it would be imprudent for either of them to be married immediately.
It was hardly surprising when Lieutenants Sanderson and Denny approached Mr Bingley and declared themselves as suitors for the hands of his two sisters-in-law. Bingley agreed to write to Mr Bennet about their proposals. Having quite recently married for love himself, Bingley had no wish to put obstacles in the course of true love, but he did caution the two officers that the girls, especially Lydia, were still very young, and that it would not be prudent to support a wife on a lieutenant's pay. Sanderson said quickly that he perfectly understood the situation, and that if they could only obtain Mr Bennet's consent to the engagement, they would not press for an early marriage. Indeed, he spoke quite eloquently that he himself would prefer to wait until he could be promoted to captain before getting married, which would probably be in a year or two, but he wished to form a binding engagement with his Kitty, so that they could be mutually secured of each other's faith and correspondence. Denny was more quiet, but he seemed to acquiescent in his friend's views.
The answer from Mr Bennet was much as Bingley and Lizzy had expected it to be. Mr Bennet wrote that he would not withhold his consent to the respective marriages if the young people would wait until the two young men were in a better position to support a wife, in other words, when they would have received their respective promotions.
Sanderson expressed himself with becoming gratitude when he was informed of Mr Bennet's answer, the necessity of waiting for about a couple of years before he and Kitty could marry was no more than what he had expected, and accepted by him without discontent. Perhaps Denny would also have been similarly grateful and reconciled to the wait, had not Lydia been so discontented by it. Lydia did not see any necessity for waiting, she did not mind being a junior officer's wife for the time being, her Denny was sure to receive his various promotions in due course, and she could see no reason why they should not get married at once. She even complained about her father's condition to Lizzy, until Lizzy told her sharply that her childish and ungrateful attitude was making her think that Lydia was not at all fit for marriage for many years yet, and that if her father knew about it, he might withdraw his conditional consent altogether. That silenced Lydia, at least she stopped complaining to the Bingleys about the wait, and confined her complaints to Kitty and their fiancés.
Nobody quite knew when the idea of a flight to Scotland first occurred to Lydia or Denny or both, though Elizabeth later suspected that the elopement was brought about by the strength of Lydia's impatience rather than Denny's. Lydia and Denny had spoken to Kitty and Sanderson about what fun it would be for all four of them to go to Gretna Green and be married at once in their own simple double wedding. They could give a new style to the tradition of double weddings that appeared to be recurring among the Bennet girls with the double wedding of Jane and Mary to begin with, and then of Elizabeth and her new sister Caroline.
Sanderson was a fairly sensible young man, and he quickly poured scorn over the idea of an elopement. Kitty, who was by now generally influenced by her fiancé instead of by her youngest sister, also quickly rejected such an idea. Sanderson and Kitty had spoken quite seriously about the impropriety, imprudence and ingratitude of such a step. Lydia had laughed at them, and had then answered them so lightly and cheerfully, that Kitty and Sanderson were thankful to believe that Lydia and Denny were only joking when they had mentioned the idea of a flight to Gretna Green. So Kitty had not thought it necessary to inform Lizzy about it, perhaps she also feared that if Lizzy knew that Lydia had been joking about an elopement, the Bingleys might decide to cut short their stay at Brighton and bring both her and Lydia back to Hertfordshire immediately.
Denny had subsequently applied for a few days leave of absence, on the excuse of wishing to visit his mother in order to inform her in person of his engagement. Perhaps Kitty or Sanderson should have suspected something then, for Lydia was remarkably cheerful over the prospect of her fiancé's absence, although she accounted for it by saying that she was so pleased at the thought of her dear Reggie singing her praises to his mother.
On the morning when Denny's leave had commenced, Kitty had woke up to find Lydia gone from her bed, and that note to her left in its place. Only then did Kitty realize that the idea of a flight to Scotland had not been a mere joke of Lydia's after all.
Elizabeth was understandably upset and angry over an act of such foolish and scandalous imprudence, as well as ingratitude towards her father. However, there was nothing that could be done about it. It was conjectured that Denny and Lydia had left Brighton at about midnight, and since their flight was discovered only at about eight the next morning, they have had several hours start, and could not be overtaken even if they were pursued for that purpose. Moreover, since their flight was now known to most of the regiment, there could be an even greater scandal if Lydia was to be brought back unmarried, than if they were to be married at Gretna Green. Colonel Forster attempted to console his brother and sister-in-law by pointing out that at least there was no fear that the young couple was engaged in a dishonourable elopement. They were obviously serious in their intention to get married at once, unlike a case he had known when he was a major a few years ago, where a scoundrel who was then a lieutenant in the regiment had been forced, due to the pressure of his gaming debts, to flee the place, and he had taken with him a young girl, the daughter of a tradesman who had been infatuated with him, and who had believed that he was taking her to Gretna Green to be married. But he had taken her to London instead, and had never married her and eventually abandoned her. Some friends had stepped forward to help the unfortunate young woman, and she had since then been secluded from the world, in some distant farmhouse. Lieutenant Reginald Denny was no such scoundrel, he was an able officer and an honest man, he was no gamester and owed no debts, in fact he had always behaved sensibly and honourably, until he had had fallen in love with Lydia, and seemed to have completely lost his head over her.
An express letter was sent off directly to Longbourn, and the Bingleys decided that they and Kitty should return home at once, and they left Brighton not many hours after sending the express. Inquiries along the road easily showed them that the eloping couple had proceeded to travel on the Barnet road at considerable speed, and that there was no point in attempting to overtake them. Elizabeth was angry with Kitty for not telling her about Lydia's talk of an elopement, and Kitty pleaded that neither she nor Sanderson had taken it seriously, and that they both thought that Lydia and Denny wee only joking about a flight to Scotland. Unlike Lydia and Denny, she and Matthew Sanderson were more than contented with her father's conditional consent to their engagement, and were perfectly willing to wait patiently for Matthew's promotion before getting married.
A few days after the Bingleys' and Kitty's return to Hertfordshire, a letter arrived at Longbourn, signed "Lydia Denny", informing her father and mother of her marriage. Mrs Bennet was upset that she had been unable to plan for her youngest daughter's wedding, or to order the wedding clothes, but apart from that, she was very happy to have four daughters married, and her only unmarried daughter safely engaged to be married. She did not pause to consider what the Dennys' present income would be like, or that Lydia would be a sad, heedless young housekeeper, who would have difficulty in making ends meet on a lieutenant's pay.
Lydia soon discovered the limits of a lieutenant's pay, she did not cease to love her husband and he did not cease to love her, but she did begin to realize that it had been imprudent of them to elope, and that they should have accepted her father's condition and waited until Reggie was in a better position to support a wife before getting married. Kitty and Matthew had been quite right after all. However, Lydia cheerfully determined to make the best of things, and she did not mind applying to her mother, or to Lizzy or Jane, for some little assistance towards discharging their bills. Once, she even applied to Mary for assistance, and Mary did not fail to send her the required sum of money, but accompanied it with such a sermonizing letter on the follies of extravagance and imprudence, and the virtues of economy and prudence, that Lydia resolved not to apply to Mary again if she could help it.
Kitty and Captain Matthew Sanderson were duly married about two and a half years later, a few months after he had received his promotion. Reginald Denny was also promoted at about that time, and things became a little easier for him and Lydia.
In the meantime, Maria Lucas had formed a steady friendship with Georgina and was frequently invited to make long visits to Pemberley. The two girls were more alike than had appeared at first, for they were both shy and diffident, and not well at ease in company. Neither Darcy nor Charlotte cared much for fashionable society, but Darcy felt that it was their duty to bring their sisters out in society. As it was, on one of Maria's visits, she made the acquaintance of the Rev Mr James Morland, a young clergyman who had recently been installed at Kympton Parsonage near Pemberley. Morland had suffered a disappointment in love about a couple of years ago, when the pretty girl that he had been engaged to had turned out to be a worthless and mercenary flirt. He had since then become a more prudent and discreeter young man, and determined not to be misled by a pretty face again. Miss Lucas was not very pretty, but like her elder sister Mrs Darcy, she appeared to be a sensible young woman. Maria was soon aware of James' interest in her, and as she had often thought that a respectable clergyman would be a very desirable match, for she could hardly hope to have the unexpected luck of her sister Charlotte, encouragement from her was not long wanting. No objection was made on either side, and James Morland and Maria Lucas were soon engaged.
James's sister, Mrs Catherine Tilney, the wife of the Rev Mr Henry Tilney of Woodston Parsonage in Gloucestershire, arrived at Kympton to help with the wedding preparations about two weeks before the wedding. Mrs Tilney was a charming young woman, and soon formed affectionate friendships with both Maria and Georgina. Georgina found out that Catherine Tilney had a great taste for literature, and after her return to Woodston, Catherine and Georgina frequently corresponded together, often discussing the latest novels and literary publications and making comparisons of their likes and dislikes. Georgina was eventually invited to pay a visit to Woodston, and during the course of that visit, she made the acquaintance of Henry Tilney's elder brother, Captain Frederick Tilney, the heir of Northanger Abbey.
Captain Tilney had been a bit of a rake not so long ago, but seeing the happy marriages of his brother and sister had influenced him to realize his past errors and to appreciate the value of true affection and domestic tranquility. In fact, it had been his flirtation with James Morland's former fiancé that had led to the breaking off of that engagement. However, James no longer resented that, in fact, he now felt that he had reason to be grateful to his sister's brother-in-law for opening his eyes and exposing the unsteady and mercenary character of that unreliable young woman.
Frederick Tilney found Miss Darcy to be a most charming, accomplished, intelligent and delightful young lady, and he did all he could to make himself agreeable to her. He proposed to her after first confessing to her about his rakish past, while assuring her that all that was indeed in the past, he had reformed and would never again flirt with any woman except herself as his wife. She liked his openness and reciprocated by confessing to him about that incident at Ramsgate when she was but fifteen. She was very pleased with his reaction to her confession, for he did not blame her in the least but was most indignant at the scoundrel who had attempted to take advantage of an innocent fifteen year old girl. At least he himself, even in his most rakish days in the past, had never attempted to flirt or to take advantage of innocent young girls.
Georgina's guardians had some initial reservations about consenting to her marriage with Captain Tilney. Darcy could not help wondering why his gentle sister was so unaccountably always drawn to rakish young men. However, at least they knew that Captain Tilney was not a fortune hunter, for he was the heir to a very considerable fortune himself. Darcy was rather concerned when Georgina told him that she had already informed Frederick about that incident with Wickham at Ramsgate, and that Frederick was so nice to her about it. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam made no further objection to the marriage, and hoped that Captain Tilney really meant it when he assured then that he had indeed realized his past errors, and had come to value fidelity and appreciate domestic happiness.
The Bingleys had a happy and lively relationship with each other. Over the years, Charles Bingley developed a great and of course respectful admiration for his eldest sister-in-law, Mrs Jane Lucas, and Elizabeth once teasingly said to him that if such respect and admiration had been for anybody else other than her dearest sister, it would have made her quite jealous. Of course, Charles assured Lizzy of the brotherly nature of his regard for Jane, and Lizzy laughed and did not doubt it, indeed she was pleased that she and her husband shared the same great affection and admiration for her favourite sister, who was such an angel, full of goodness and sweetness and generosity towards everybody.
John Lucas prospered in his business, and bought some adjoining property to Lucas Lodge, thus turning it into an estate at least equal to Longbourn, and almost equal to Netherfield.
The Darcys were very contented in their marriage. Darcy did not fall passionately in love with his wife, but he became very fond of her, and developed a great affection and tenderness for her. Charlotte was such a comfortable companion, and such a capable manager of their home and estate. As for his fancy for his friend Bingley's wife, Darcy believed that it had faded away, or at least that it was no more than an absurd, impractical dream that remained only in a most obscure corner of his heart, probably many men had such absurd little fancies tucked away somewhere. Darcy quite often invited his brother-in-law John Lucas and his friend Bingley to shooting parties at Pemberley in the autumn, but as these were mostly gentlemen's parties, Elizabeth seldom accompanied her husband to Pemberley.
Over the years, the Bingley and Lucas children practically grew up together. Bingley and Elizabeth's son, Charley, the heir to Netherfield, was always especially fond of his cousin Jenny, the daughter of his Uncle John and Aunt Jane Lucas, and she was equally fond of him. Charley was very much like his father, and Jenny was beautiful and serene like her mother. Charlotte and her children also paid regular visits to their relatives at Lucas Lodge, although Darcy seldom accompanied his wife on such visits. Elizabeth secretly thought that Mr Darcy was still too proud to be comfortable with his wife's relations, although she did not say so, as she did not wish to upset Charlotte about it. The Darcys' son William, became particularly good friends with the Bingleys' daughter Beth, who had inherited her mother's fine eyes.
And so, more than twenty-five years after Mr Bingley first came to Netherfield, there was another double wedding among the families. With the marriage of Mr Charles Thomas Bingley, the heir of Netherfield to Miss Jane Elizabeth Lucas of Lucas Lodge, there was a Mrs Jane Bingley at Netherfield, and with the marriage of Mr William Richard Darcy, the heir of Pemeberley, to Miss Elizabeth Jane Bingley of Netherfield, there was a Mrs Elizabeth Darcy at Pemberley. And there was another wedding a couple of years after that double wedding, with the marriage of Mr Bennet Collins, the heir of Longbourn to Miss Charlotte Georgina Darcy of Pemberley, there was a Mrs Charlotte Collins at Longbourn.The End