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Walk With Me - Prologue + Chapter 1

April 20, 2015 04:29PM
Prologue - Letters from Hunsford

Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery, I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore everybody not greatly in fault themselves to tolerable comfort, and have done with all the rest.
Jane Austen



Hunsford, near Westerham, Kent
March 5, 1812

Dearest Jane,

We have arrived and, I assure you, been most affectionately welcomed by Charlotte and our cousin who has not altered in manners in any particulars that I can discern. I admit the pleasure on Charlotte’s countenance renders me more and more satisfied with coming to see her.

I was prepared to see our cousin in all his glory and was not disappointed; I cannot help but fancy that in displaying his house, the good proportion of its rooms, its aspects and its furniture, he was addressing himself particularly to me, as if hoping to make me feel what I had lost in refusing him. If so, I was not able to gratify him at all and, in truth, I can only wonder at Charlotte’s having so cheerful an air with such a companion. Whenever our cousin uttered one of his more inane statements – a not infrequent event, I could not help but glance at Charlotte; at worst I saw a faint blush of mortification but usually she appeared to have not heard what was said. I admire her immensely and consider her hearing problem fortuitous.

The house is rather small, but well built and convenient; and everything is fitted up and arranged with a neatness and consistency which is a credit to Charlotte, I am sure. The garden is large and well laid out and our cousin is much engaged in its cultivation and to work in it appears to be one of his great pleasures. Charlotte owns that she encourages it as much as possible – I could not but admire her management of her husband which is surely necessary in such a marriage. There is really a great air of comfort throughout the house - if one could forget our cousin’s presence - and by Charlotte’s evident enjoyment of it, I can only suppose he is often forgotten.

From the garden there are many pleasant views but none could compare, our cousin avers, with the prospect of Rosings, afforded by an opening in the trees that border the park nearly opposite the front of his house. It was a handsome modern building, well situated on rising ground; however, I saw nothing to amaze me.

I have been told that Lady Catherine is still in the country and that we will have the honour of seeing her next Sunday at church. I expect to be quite delighted with her. Our cousin assures me of her affability and condescension and when I consider Mr. Wickham’s account of her, I expect to be hugely amused. We apparently can anticipate frequent sources of such amusement since we are to be honoured twice a week by being allowed into her presence.

I have little more to write. Please assure my little cousins that I miss them already; that I could wish for your company here hardly needs saying but I think the company of our aunt and uncle to be much more to your benefit. Till my next letter, I remain,

Your most affectionate sister,
Elizabeth

~~~

Hunsford, near Westerham, Kent
March 12, 1812

Dearest Jane,

I will not bore you with further evidence of our cousin’s foolishness; my letter after I first arrived has, I hope, satisfied any cravings as you might unwisely suffer in that regard. You will be pleased to know that our cousin has not changed in any particular. He is as he ever was; a unique mixture of pride and humility, obsequiousness and self-importance. As our father was wont to say, a little of Mr. Collins’ company can suffice for several days, if not longer. I have already a surfeit and have been here but a week – by the time I leave, I suspect to have enough for a year or more; but no more of our cousin. Last night we were privileged to dine with his patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

After being assured by him that the lady would not think less of me if I was simply dressed, since she likes the distinction of rank preserved, I resisted the temptation to wear my oldest gown, and satisfied myself with that light yellow one that I bought before Christmas. It hasn’t been seen by the company here and must count as new, I suppose. Dressing was quite an experience. I rather thought our Mama was present as our cousin must have urged me several times to hurry my dressing since Lady Catherine does not like to be kept waiting. Poor Maria was quite discomposed which, given her lack of sense, did not portend well for the evening.

Our cousin waxed rapturously as we walked the half mile to Rosings about the plenitude of windows and the cost of glazing so as to quite upset Sir William and overset Maria altogether. For myself, I had heard nothing of Lady Catherine to inspire awe from any extraordinary talents or miraculous virtue, and the mere stateliness of money and rank I believed myself capable of witnessing without trepidation. Once we had arrived, our introduction was performed by Charlotte, which I doubt not shortened the time required by our cousin as those apologies and thanks were omitted which he believes so necessary.

Rosings is, I imagine, quite grand although I believe it gaudy and uselessly fine, meant to impress by a display of wealth with little true comfort or elegance. Sir William was so overwhelmed, however, that his bow was so low as to cause me concern that he might be unable to rise or indeed might fall forward, while Maria was rendered virtually senseless – perhaps an improvement, although I suspect you would tell me I am being too unkind – poor Maria – truthful, but unkind. Lady Catherine is a tall, large woman, with strongly marked features, which might once have been handsome. Her air is not conciliating, nor is her manner of receiving us such as to make us forget our inferior rank. She is not rendered formidable by silence; but whatever she says is spoken in so authoritative a tone as to mark her self-importance. She does, in countenance and deportment, bear some resemblance to Mr. Darcy although she could well benefit from his habit of silence. Lady Catherine’s daughter bears no similarity in face or figure to her mother, being thin, small and speaking little except to her companion, a Mrs. Jenkinson of whom there is little that is remarkable.

The dinner was exceedingly handsome, and there were all the servants, and all the articles of plate which our cousin had promised; and, when he took his seat at the bottom of the table, by her ladyship’s desire, he looked as if he felt that life could furnish nothing greater. My dear Jane, he carved, and ate, and praised with delighted alacrity; and every dish was commended, first by him, and then by Sir William, who was now enough recovered to echo whatever our cousin said. I wondered that Lady Catherine could bear it but she seemed most gratified by their excessive admiration, and gave most gracious smiles. Her ladyship was not disposed to allow any share of the conversation to belong to anyone else, a state which continued when we retired to the drawing room. I longed for my father. How he would have enjoyed the opportunity to gently expose the follies of our company. I can almost hear his strictures now; of course, Lady Catherine would hardly allow such a trespass on her dignity. To be banished from her company would, however, be no punishment and, if I were not a guest of my dear Charlotte and concerned for her well-being, I would gladly forsake the pleasure of Lady Catherine’s company. However, such cannot be; fortunately we are called but once or twice a week. Suffice it to say that the evening surpassed all of my expectations of impertinence, misguided condescension and foolish arrogance. I can want for nothing more I assure you.

Oh Jane! I am so glad our father supported me in refusing our cousin’s offer of marriage. I could not have borne Lady Catherine’s interference in my household concerns. I can only marvel at Charlotte’s ability to do so. Her ladyship enquired into Charlotte’s domestic concerns familiarly and minutely, and gave her a great deal of advice as to the management of them all; told her how everything ought to be regulated in so small a family as hers, and instructed her even as to the care of her cows and her poultry. When not instructing Charlotte, she addressed a variety of questions to Maria and to myself particularly, of whose connections she knew the least. I am, I learned, a very genteel, pretty kind of girl. Mama will be so pleased! Her ladyship asked me, at different times, how many sisters I had, whether they were older or younger than myself, whether any of them were likely to be married, whether they were handsome, where they had been educated, what carriage out father kept, and what had been our mother’s maiden name?

It took, I assure you, all my composure to answer these questions without becoming impertinent in turn. Unfortunately, my forbearance seemed only to encourage her ladyship who then began to inquire minutely into my accomplishments. She was most distressed that none of us draw, had not been taken to London to be taught by masters and that we had no governess – I admit to agreeing with her on this matter, a situation which is noteworthy only for its rarity. However, when she heard that all of my sisters were ‘out’, she could hardly believe it and was not at all amused by my touch of impertinence when I said that I thought it would be very hard upon my younger sisters, that they should not have their share of society and amusement because you and I may not have the means or inclination to marry early. The last born has as good a right to the pleasures of youth, as the first, said I. And to be kept back on such a motive! I told her I thought it would not be very likely to promote sisterly affection or delicacy of mind. While I defended our family in this, I must admit that when I consider Kitty and Lydia’s behaviour, I feel some agreement with her ladyship. To agree twice in one evening with her ladyship! – do not tell our father, please. I should be teased for a half year altogether.

I will not bore you with the rest of the evening. We played casino until such time as Lady Catherine had played as long as she wished and then we were sent home – in her ladyship’s carriage no less. Our journey back to the Parsonage was brief but our cousin was most desirous of hearing my praises of Rosings and Lady Catherine; unfortunately, they appeared to be insufficient and he most readily assumed the burden of providing them for me.

You may be assured that I have spared your sensibilities by forbearing to relate much of the foolishness that I have endured. I truly envy you to be staying with our aunt and uncle. I suspect there is more sense spoken at Gracechurch Street in five minutes than would be heard in Rosings in a month.

Sir William returned home today; and I wonder whether I will be exposed to more of my cousin’s company than has been the case hitherto. Sir William and he have spent much of their mornings driving around in our cousin’s gig, which left the rest of us free to pursue our particular interests. I can only hope that our cousin has sufficient employment to occupy his time without reference to me.

I will not bore you further. Give my hugs and best wishes to those four imps that reside with you and another to my aunt and uncle. I am enjoying myself here but envy you their company and that of my small cousins. There are a number of wonderful paths to walk here at Hunsford near and in Rosings Park. I can just imagine their exuberance and shouts of glee as they would run about unfettered. It would make my own walks that much more enjoyable to be in their company here and yours as well. I know our young cousins too well and I am sure that you are being persuaded to spoil them badly – a privilege afforded to an older cousin I am sure – be it by reading stories to them past their bedtimes, playing games with them when they are supposed to be studying, taking them for walks … Well, you understand my meaning I am sure!

The small dinner party you attended with our aunt and uncle sounds, from your praise, to have been pleasant; you have no idea how much I miss intelligent and interesting conversation. If it were not for Charlotte, I would, in the words of our father, ‘not hear two words of sense in the course of a day’ and poor Charlotte has too many demands on her time to give more than a small portion to me. I am not complaining at all, just very, very envious.

You mention that you will be attending an art exhibit; I confess I have much less interest in, and knowledge of, art than you – I know what I like and what I don’t like, and that is the best one can say of my accomplishment in that area. I hope you will enjoy it hugely. I will spare you any further effusions. I will plague you again with another letter in a week. Until then I remain

Your most loving and envious sister,
Elizabeth

~~~

Hunsford, near Westerham, Kent
March 19, 1812

Dearest Jane,

I have been here a fortnight now and we seem to have settled into a routine of sorts. You may remember my concern that, with the departure of Sir William, we might enjoy more of my cousin’s company; fortunately, that is not the case. He spends the chief of his time between breakfast and dinner either at work in the garden, or in reading and writing, and looking out of window in his own book room, which fronts the road. The room in which we pass most of our time faces the back of the house and I rather wondered why it should be so since the dining parlour is a better sized room, and has a pleasanter aspect; but I quickly realized that Charlotte has an excellent reason for what she did, for our cousin would undoubtedly be much less in his own apartment, if we were to sit in one that afforded him both a view and lively company. I must give Charlotte credit for the arrangement. Mr. Collins is assiduous in his duty to keep us informed of what carriages come along; and especially how often Miss De Bourgh drives by in her phaeton. She not infrequently stopped at the Parsonage, and had a few minutes’ conversation with Charlotte, but can scarcely ever be prevailed upon to get out.

Very few days passed in which our cousin does not walk to Rosings and not many in which Charlotte does not accompany him. I wondered at this until I realized that there might be other family livings to be disposed of. Now and then, we are honoured with a call from her ladyship, and nothing escapes her observation of what was passing in the room during these visits. She examines into their employments, looks at their work, and advises them to do it differently; finds fault with the arrangement of the furniture, or detects the housemaid in negligence; and, if she accepts any refreshment, seems to do it only for the sake of finding out that Charlotte’s joints of meat are too large for her family.

The entertainment of dining at Rosings is repeated about twice a week – although we now have but one card table which allows me to escape the activity quite often; every such entertainment is the counterpart of the first and the pleasure has diminished in direct measure to the number of visits. I can state with no uncertainty that Lady Catherine’s company does not improve upon further acquaintance. Our other engagements are few; as the style of living of the neighbourhood in general is beyond the reach of our cousin and Charlotte. This, however, is no evil to me, and, upon the whole, I spend my time comfortably enough; there are half hours of pleasant conversation with Charlotte, and the weather is so fine that I have great enjoyment out of doors.

We are soon to expect an addition to the family at Rosings; Mr. Darcy is expected to arrive tomorrow. While I cannot view his company with any great pleasure, his coming should provide a new face for the parties at Rosings. Lady Catherine is, I assure you, most displeased that Maria and I have already made his acquaintance, and that she will be denied the pleasure of introducing him to us.

Your account of the theatre play was most entertaining; although I had not known you to have any liking for tragedies. Macbeth surely must have strained your appreciation for evil. How much I could wish to hear you explain the goodness in Lady Macbeth. I am sure you would be able to find some great goodness in her – love for her husband perhaps? – And that the whole business was a most unfortunate misunderstanding and that Lady Macbeth never meant to kill anyone. I should not tease you so, I know, but your goodness is so steady that I am sure you will forgive me – eventually.

Have you visited the bookstores recently? I hope to do so when I return to London as there are several books of poetry that I wish to find and I had heard of a new novel by a lady author that I thought to buy. It was first published just last year and is, I have been told, written very sensibly – not a haunted castle to be found anywhere and the chief characters are young ladies such as ourselves.

Give my young cousins my usual measure of hugs and best wishes and tell my aunt and uncle that I can hardly bear the period before rejoining you all in London. I remain,

Your most affectionate, and not too bored, sister,
Elizabeth


~~~

Hunsford, near Westerham, Kent
March 26, 1812

Dearest Jane

Another epistle from Hunsford. The only excitement this week was the arrival of visitors to Rosings; yes, visitors for we were blessed with not one but two of Lady Catherine’s nephews. Mr. Darcy we had long expected but he had the courtesy to bring his cousin with him, a Colonel Fitzwilliam, and thus spare us the tedium of his company.

The Colonel is the younger son of his uncle, Lord Matlock; is about thirty, not handsome, but in person and address most truly the gentleman. He and Mr. Darcy called on the Parsonage the morning following their arrival. Mr. Darcy looked just as he used to look in Hertfordshire, paid his compliments to us all, with his usual reserve, and said little else for the duration of the visit apart from a slight observation on the house and garden to Charlotte; Colonel Fitzwilliam, however, entered into conversation with the readiness and ease of a well-bred man, and talked very pleasantly. They stayed for only about a quarter hour.

Colonel Fitzwilliam has called at the Parsonage again more than once since his arrival, but Mr. Darcy did not accompany him - which neither surprises me nor vexes me at all. With the extra company at Rosings, Lady Catherine appears most willing to forego the pleasure of ours; and apart from the Colonel, I find I can bear the deprivation quite well.

I find I have little new to tell you; our days here have a uniformity of activity that is quite unvarying. I have my walks and my talks with Charlotte; we visit the village quite frequently although it has little more to recommend it than Meryton. I am not unhappy or dissatisfied - do not believe that to be the case. I dare say I would be in equal spirits if I were at home; although here I am spared Mama’s nerves, at least.

Your letter had one beneficial effect – it raised my spirits; I am happy to read that you were invited to dine with friends of our uncle. They sounded most delightful – can I hope that their other guest, Mr. Chaulker, was handsome and amiable? I am sure that he was most delighted to be sitting beside you during the meal. You are sly though – not mentioning his attentions to you. My aunt was more forthcoming in her letter – did he indeed call upon you the next day? You must not be reserved with me, dear sister for you know I shall winkle it all out of you eventually.

I must heartedly thank you for sending me that present. You can imagine my surprise to open it and find a copy of ‘Sense and Sensibility’. I had not thought you would do anything of the sort; indeed, I had not been aware that I had revealed so much as to allow you to know my preference. I must be even more discrete I fear. Allow me to tell you that I am enjoying it a great deal and I am sure that you will as well. I find that the main character, Elinor, reminds me very much of my dear elder sister. Such a command of her sensibilities, and her manner to all she meets, cannot be recommended too highly. I will spare your blushes and disclaimers. Let it be known that you are the dearest and best of sisters, and protest no more.

My thoughts are with you all at Gracechurch Street and every week that passes brings me closer to you. I remain, as ever,

Your most devoted sister,
Elizabeth

~~~

Hunsford, near Westerham, Kent
April 2, 1812

Dearest Jane

I am afraid our cousin has been in some distress for the last week; it appears our company is by no means so acceptable as when Lady Catherine can get nobody else. We were not invited to dine at all this past week with her nephews to provide her with subjects to talk at and we were merely asked on leaving church today to come there in the evening and we could not, of course, decline such an invitation.

Her ladyship received us civilly, but she was, in fact, almost completely engrossed by her nephews, speaking to them, especially to Darcy, much more than to any other person in the room.

Colonel Fitzwilliam seemed really glad to see us; his manners are admirable and I seemed to be of particular interest. He seated himself by me quite quickly, and we talked agreeably of Kent and Hertfordshire, of travelling and staying at home, of new books and music, that I have never been half so well entertained in that room before. Unfortunately, it seems that we conversed with so much spirit, as to draw the attention of Lady Catherine as well as that of Mr. Darcy. Her ladyship could hardly bear to have a conversation of which she did not have the major part and did not scruple to interrupt. It certainly was effective and we were unable to resume any comfortable conversation.

Her ladyship’s kindness knows few bounds; I have been informed that I am in want of practice on the pianoforte and, if I should wish to remedy this deficiency, I may use the pianoforte in Miss de Bourgh’s companion’s room since I will be ‘in nobody’s way, you know, in that part of the house’. Even Mr. Darcy had the grace to be embarrassed at his aunt’s incivility. I have learned one thing of interest last evening. Lady Catherine informed us that, if she had ever bothered to learn to play the pianoforte, she would have been a great proficient. I must remember to inform her that should I have ever learned to speak Italian, I should also be a great proficient.

I was prevailed upon later to demonstrate my lack of accomplishment – Miss Bingley would have been so pleased – at the pianoforte; but since it spared me her ladyship’s further attentions, I cannot repine to so exhibit. It could not have been too poorly done, since I drew the attention of both her ladyship’s nephews. Yes! Even Mr. Darcy deigned to afford me his attention. We wound up arguing, although not impolitely I assure you, and I was able to tease him about his behaviour at the Meryton assembly where we first made his acquaintance. His excuse was that he had not been introduced to any lady apart from his party and claimed to be ill-qualified to recommend myself to strangers. I dismissed his excuse and asked him why a man of sense and education, and who has lived in the world, is ill-qualified to recommend himself to strangers? The good Colonel answered for his cousin, and accurately I believe, saying that Mr. Darcy would not give himself the trouble.

Her ladyship could not, once more, endure the prospect of there being a conversation in which she had no part, and interrupted to provide a critique of my playing, I apparently have a good notion of fingering but my taste is deficient, I need to practice more and should avail myself of a London master.

Her Ladyship was never at a loss for an opportunity to praise her daughter for accomplishments she did not possess by virtue of being unable to acquire them due to her poor health. Lady Catherine’s purpose is clear – to forward an arrangement between her daughter and Mr. Darcy; however, I cannot believe it likely. I cannot discern any symptom of love; and from the whole of his behaviour to Miss de Bourgh, I can as readily believe him to marry Miss Bingley as his cousin – which is to say, neither of them.

It grows late and I believe I will finish this letter in the morning.

In resuming, I am reminded of the past evening. It was one of the more memorable evenings at Rosings and I suspect that it will not be repeated too soon. I believe that Lady Catherine and I are of a like mind and desire on this prospect at least.

Dearest Jane, in the course of a visit that provided a number of different happenings, this morning has perhaps provided the oddest. I am resuming this letter once more after being interrupted by a visit from Mr. Darcy. I cannot account for his visiting alone – without Colonel Fitzwilliam - it has not happened before. He apparently was expecting Charlotte and Maria as well as myself, but they both had business in the village. He found me alone and stayed.

It was most uncomfortable; I hardly knew what to say and ventured several topics. It distresses me to relate them to you but we have already reached similar conclusions and Mr. Darcy but verified those. It appears that Mr. Bingley may spend very little of his time at Netherfield in future. According to Mr. Darcy, he has many friends, and is at a time of life when friends and engagements are continually increasing.

I suggested that, in this event, it would be better for the neighbourhood that he should give up the place entirely, for then we might possibly get a settled family there. Mr. Darcy thought that to be quite likely.

I could find nothing further to say and left it to him to begin a conversation, which he did by commending the house and showing some good sense by praising Charlotte, saying our cousin was fortunate in his choice of a wife. I did not hide my opinion that she has an excellent understanding - though I admitted to being uncertain that her marrying Mr. Collins was the wisest thing she ever did. However I could not deny her happiness and conceded that, in a prudential light, it is certainly a very good match for her.

We talked on some inconsequential matters for a few more minutes until Charlotte and Maria returned. Mr Darcy took his leave shortly thereafter.

Charlotte made an immediate leap of fancy, claiming he would not have called on the Parsonage in such a familiar way if he were not in love with me; but, when I told them of his silence, she agreed that it seemed unlikely. After various conjectures, we could at last only suppose his visit to proceed from the difficulty of finding anything to do, which was the more probable from the time of year.

I can say no more, if I am to get this letter to the post on time. As ever I am,

Your most loving sister,
Elizabeth





Chapter 1 – A Walk In The Park

More than once did Elizabeth, in her ramble within the Park, unexpectedly meet Mr. Darcy. She felt all the perverseness of the mischance that should bring him where no one else was brought; and, to prevent its ever happening again, took care to inform him at first that it was a favourite haunt of hers. How it could occur a second time, therefore, was very odd! Yet it did, and even a third. It seemed like wilful ill-nature, or a voluntary penance, for on these occasions it was not merely a few formal enquiries and an awkward pause and then away, but he actually thought it necessary to turn back and walk with her. He never said a great deal, nor did she give herself the trouble of talking or of listening much; but it struck her in the course of their third encounter that he was asking some odd, unconnected questions - about her pleasure in being at Hunsford, her love of solitary walks, and her opinion of Mr. and Mrs. Collins’s happiness; and that in speaking of Rosings, and her not perfectly understanding the house, he seemed to expect that whenever she came into Kent again she would be staying there too. His words seemed to imply it. Could he have Colonel Fitzwilliam in his thoughts? She supposed, if he meant anything, he must mean an allusion to what might arise in that quarter. It distressed her a little, and she was quite glad to find herself at the gate in the pales opposite the Parsonage.

She was engaged one day, as she walked, in reading once more Jane’s last letter, and dwelling on some passages which proved that Jane had not written in spirits, when, instead of being again surprised by Mr. Darcy, she saw on looking up, that Colonel Fitzwilliam was meeting her. Putting away the letter immediately and forcing a smile, she said, “I did not know before that you ever walked this way.”

“Well, Darcy had mentioned in passing that he had encountered you here. I found myself free of duties this morning and thought to join you should that prove possible.”

“I wonder at Mr. Darcy pursuing such activities. It is not apparent that he finds much pleasure in them.”

“I am sure he finds the company quite pleasant. Who would not?” The Colonel’s gallant speech drew a small smile from Elizabeth, “I can assure you, sir, Mr. Darcy has learned to mask his pleasure quite well.”

“His manner, I admit, is not one to readily display such pleasure as he may experience. But are you soon to return to the Parsonage?”

“Yes, I should have turned in a moment.” And accordingly she did turn, and they walked towards the Parsonage together.

“Do you certainly leave Kent on Saturday?” said she.

“Yes - if Darcy does not put it off again. But I am at his disposal. He arranges the business just as he pleases.”

“And if not able to please himself in the arrangement, he has at least great pleasure in the power of choice. I do not know anybody who seems more to enjoy the power of doing what he likes than Mr. Darcy.”

“He likes to have his own way very well,” replied Colonel Fitzwilliam. “But so we all do. It is only that he has better means of having it than many others, because he is rich, and many others are poor. I speak feelingly. A younger son, you know, must be inured to self-denial and dependence.”

“In my opinion, the younger son of an Earl can know very little of either. Now, seriously, what have you ever known of self-denial and dependence? When have you been prevented by want of money from going wherever you chose, or procuring anything you had a fancy for?”

“These are serious questions - and perhaps I cannot say that I have experienced many hardships of that nature. But in matters of greater weight, I may suffer from the want of money. Younger sons cannot marry where they like.”

“Unless where they like women of fortune, which I think they very often do.”

“Our habits of expense make us too dependent, and there are not many in my rank of life who can afford to marry without some attention to money.”

“Is this,” thought Elizabeth, “meant for me?” and she coloured at the idea; but, recovering herself, said in a lively tone, “And pray, what is the usual price of an Earl’s younger son? Unless the elder brother is very sickly, I suppose you would not ask above fifty thousand pounds.”

He answered her in the same style, and the subject dropped. To interrupt a silence which might make him fancy her affected with what had passed, she soon afterwards said, “I imagine your cousin brought you down with him chiefly for the sake of having somebody at his disposal. I wonder he does not marry, to secure a lasting convenience of that kind. But, perhaps his sister does as well for the present, and, as she is under his sole care, he may do what he likes with her.”

“No,” said Colonel Fitzwilliam, “that is an advantage which he must share with me. I am joined with him in the guardianship of Miss Darcy.”

“Are you, indeed? And pray what sort of guardians do you make? Does your charge give you much trouble? Young ladies of her age are sometimes a little difficult to manage and, if she has the true Darcy spirit, she may like to have her own way.”

As she spoke, she observed him looking at her earnestly, and the manner in which he immediately asked her why she supposed Miss Darcy likely to give them any uneasiness, convinced her that she had somehow or other got pretty near the truth. She directly replied, “You need not be frightened. I never heard any harm of her; and I dare say she is one of the most tractable creatures in the world. She is a very great favourite with some ladies of my acquaintance, Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley. I think I have heard you say that you know them.”

“I know them a little. Their brother is a pleasant gentleman-like man - he is a great friend of Darcy.”

“Oh! Yes,” said Elizabeth drily, ”Mr. Darcy is uncommonly kind to Mr. Bingley, and takes a prodigious deal of care of him.”

“Care of him! - Yes, I really believe Darcy does take care of him in those points where he most wants care. From something that he told me in our journey hither, I have reason to think Bingley very much indebted to him. But I ought to beg his pardon, for I have no right to suppose that Bingley was the person meant. It was all conjecture.”

“What is it you mean?”

“It is a circumstance which Darcy, of course, would not wish to be generally known, because if it were to get round to the lady’s family, it would be an unpleasant thing.”

“You may depend upon my not mentioning it.”

“And remember that I have not much reason for supposing it to be Bingley. What he told me was merely this; that he congratulated himself on having lately saved a friend from the inconveniences of a most imprudent marriage, but without mentioning names or any other particulars, and I only suspected it to be Bingley from believing him the kind of young man to get into a scrape of that sort, and from knowing them to have been together the whole of last summer.”

“Did Mr. Darcy give you his reasons for this interference?”

“I understood that there were some very strong objections against the lady.”

“And what arts did he use to separate them?”

“He did not talk to me of his own arts,” said Fitzwilliam, smiling. “He only told me what I have now told you.”

Elizabeth made no answer, and walked on, her heart swelling with indignation. After watching her a little, Fitzwilliam asked her why she was so thoughtful.

“I am thinking of what you have been telling me,” said she. “Your cousin’s conduct does not suit my feelings. Why was he to be the judge?”

“You are rather disposed to call his interference officious?”

“I do not see what right Mr. Darcy had to decide on the propriety of his friend’s inclination, or why, upon his own judgment alone, he was to determine and direct in what manner that friend was to be happy. But,” she continued, recollecting herself, “as we know none of the particulars, it is not fair to condemn him. It is not to be supposed that there was much affection in the case.”

“That is not an unnatural surmise,” said Fitzwilliam, “but it is lessening the honour of my cousin’s triumph very sadly.”

This was spoken jestingly, but it appeared to her so just a picture of Mr. Darcy that she would not trust herself with an answer; and, therefore, abruptly changing the conversation, talked on indifferent matters till they reached the Parsonage. There, shut into her own room as soon as their visitor left them, she could think without interruption of all that she had heard. It was not to be supposed that any other people could be meant than those with whom she was connected. There could not exist in the world two men over whom Mr. Darcy could have such boundless influence. That he had been concerned in the measures taken to separate Mr. Bingley and Jane, she had never doubted; but she had always attributed to Miss Bingley the principal design and arrangement of them. If his own vanity, however, did not mislead him, he was the cause, his pride and caprice were the cause, of all that Jane had suffered, and still continued to suffer. He had ruined for a while every hope of happiness for the most affectionate, generous heart in the world; and no one could say how lasting an evil he might have inflicted.

“There were some very strong objections against the lady,” were Colonel Fitzwilliam’s words, and these strong objections probably were, her having one uncle who was a country attorney, and another who was in business in London.

“To Jane herself,” she exclaimed, “there could be no possibility of objection. All loveliness and goodness as she is! Her understanding excellent, her mind improved, and her manners captivating. Neither could anything be urged against my father, who, though with some peculiarities, has abilities which Mr. Darcy himself need not disdain, and respectability which he will probably never reach.”

When she thought of her mother, indeed, her confidence gave way a little, but she would not allow that any objections there had material weight with Mr. Darcy, whose pride, she was convinced, would receive a deeper wound from the want of importance in his friend’s connections, than from their want of sense; and she was quite decided at last, that he had been partly governed by this worst kind of pride, and partly by the wish of retaining Mr. Bingley for his sister.

The agitation and tears which the subject occasioned brought on a headache; and it grew so much worse towards the evening that her cousin’s conversation could not but make it much worse. Excusing herself, she removed to her room where she hoped the application of cool cloths to her forehead would relieve her distress. After some time her discomfort lessened and Elizabeth, as if intending to exasperate herself as much as possible against Mr. Darcy, chose for her employment the examination of all the letters which Jane had written to her since her being in Kent. They contained no actual complaint, nor was there any revival of past occurrences, or any communication of present suffering. But in all, and in almost every line of each, there was a want of that cheerfulness which had been used to characterize her style, and which, proceeding from the serenity of a mind at ease with itself, and kindly disposed towards every one, had been scarcely ever clouded.

Elizabeth noticed every sentence conveying the idea of uneasiness with an attention which it had hardly received on the first perusal. Mr. Darcy’s shameful boast of what misery he had been able to inflict gave her a keener sense of her sister’s sufferings. It was some consolation to think that his visit to Rosings was to end in several days, and a still greater that in less than a fortnight she should herself be with Jane again, and enabled to contribute to the recovery of her spirits by all that affection could do.

She could not think of Darcy’s leaving Kent without remembering that his cousin was to go with him; but Colonel Fitzwilliam had made it clear that he had no intentions at all and, agreeable as he was, she did not mean to be unhappy about him.

Finding her headache to be so diminished as to allow her to rejoin company; she was preparing to do so when she heard a soft knock on her door and, expecting it to be Charlotte, called for her to enter. Indeed it was Charlotte come to check on her friend and, concerned as to the cause of her headache, asked, “Did Colonel Fitzwilliam distress you, Lizzy?”

Elizabeth was loath to reveal the particulars of Colonel Fitzwilliam’s revelation but, since Charlotte was already well informed as to Jane’s situation, the information could not be altogether surprising. Hence she replied, “The Colonel simply revealed that Mr. Darcy had spoken of his recent efforts to separate his friend, Mr. Bingley, from a young lady against whom there was strong objections.”

Charlotte quickly surmised that the young lady was Jane and wondered how to respond. Truthfully, she was surprised that such news would distress Elizabeth and said as much, “I am surprised, Lizzy, that this distresses you. Surely you knew that Mr. Darcy must have been involved and possibly played a major role since Mr. Bingley relies so heavily on his advice.”

“I suspected that, of course, but did not accord the majority of the blame on him. The Colonel’s comment suggests that Mr. Darcy accepted most, if not all, the credit for severing the attachment. That I find intolerable!”

“I see.” Charlotte regarded her friend closely, “Elizabeth, from your comments in the past, you have never thought well of Mr. Darcy. It seems to me that your dislike of him is colouring your perception of his actions. If I may be forthright, it seems to me that you never speak of him but to criticize or censure.”

“As he does when he glares at me!"

“I have never heard Mr. Darcy censure or disparage you. Rather the reverse actually - although you will not credit it.”

"Charlotte, I have heard you say so before but I cannot give credit to your opinion on this.”

“Yet two men whom we know to be honourable and fair – Mr. Bingley and Colonel Fitzwilliam – consider him an honourable and kind man. You know yourself that you can tell much about a man by the company he keeps. Do not those two gentlemen stand as a testament for Mr. Darcy’s probity?”

As Elizabeth was about to respond, Charlotte looked at her watch and hurried to rise and leave the room saying, “I did not realize the time. I must arrange for supper.” She stopped in the doorway, “Perhaps we can talk later tonight?”

Elizabeth was not eager to continue this discussion but could not think of any way to discourage her friend’s desire to be of assistance and hence simply nodded her head, hoping that the matter would be forgotten. However, she was not to be so fortunate and later that evening, as she was preparing for bed, her friend once more knocked on her door. Elizabeth’s soft ‘come in’ saw Charlotte step into the room and quietly close the door behind her. Elizabeth fluffed two pillows against the headboard and made herself comfortable for what she suspected might be a prolonged talk. Charlotte drew a chair close to the bed so that their conversation could be carried on as quietly as possible. Elizabeth was not inclined to be the first to speak and waited for her friend to do so.

Charlotte was quiet for several minutes, clearly contemplating those matters she wished to discuss, and then said, “I have been considering Mr. Darcy’s behaviour and, while I at one time thought him attracted to you, I can no longer discern such. He puzzles me greatly and yet I cannot think ill of him. If he does not admire you, Lizzy, I am sure he does not dislike you. He has not displayed anything but the utmost civility to me and to you while you have been here.”

“I cannot like the man, Charlotte. I simply cannot! Even if he were not a means of separating Jane from Mr. Bingley, his character has been most admirably sketched by Mr. Wickham.”

“Ah, Mr. Wickham! I wondered when you would introduce his name.” She grinned at Elizabeth, “A great favourite of yours, is he not? Although he appears to have shifted his attentions to another, I gather.”

Elizabeth grimaced, “Miss Mary King has a fortune of ten thousand pounds. A gentleman of limited means must be prudent in his attachments.”

“When does prudence become mercenary, Lizzy? If he shows no true affection for the lady, I have to think his motives mercenary.”

“I like him too well to think him mercenary, although I admit others might attribute such motives to him.” Elizabeth could not forget her aunt’s rather similar reservations on this subject.

“I know little of Mr. Wickham. He has been remarkably quiet about his background apart from his dealings with Mr. Darcy. I do wonder about one thing however.”

Elizabeth waited for a few seconds for Charlotte to continue before prompting, “One thing?”

“Hmm? Oh yes. Well, we know Mr. Wickham is about six or seven and twenty and that he was educated at Cambridge along with Mr. Darcy who finished about five or six years ago. I would think Mr. Wickham did as well. We know what Mr. Darcy has been doing for five years – running a large estate and raising a younger sister. What has Mr. Wickham done in that time? He has a gentleman’s education and yet is only recently joining the militia. It seems like he should be more settled by now. What professions did he follow? Since he has not a gentleman’s income, he must work surely.”

“He would be settled if he had received the living he was due!” Elizabeth’s response was vehement and angry.

“Perhaps, but with the education he received surely he would have and should have found alternate employment. If he had an inclination for the church, surely he could have found another living. What was he doing all those years? It is strange indeed, and I wonder that he has not spoken of it.”

Elizabeth was silent. She could not dismiss Charlotte’s musings outright and indeed, the more she considered the matter, the less satisfied she became with it. She knew a gentleman must have some means of support. What was Mr. Wickham doing for those years? It was puzzling indeed.

Charlotte could see that her words had caused Elizabeth to consider Mr. Wickham more carefully and decided that she had pressed the matter as fully as she dared at this point. Rising, she made a quiet departure with a simple ‘good-night’ leaving Elizabeth in contemplation on the bed. There she remained for several hours with her thoughts attempting to solve the puzzles provided by men from Derbyshire. Finally, her desire for sleep led to the extinguishing of the only candle still burning; however, it was some time before her desire became a reality and her sleep remained restless throughout the night.
SubjectAuthorPosted

Walk With Me - Prologue + Chapter 1

PeterApril 20, 2015 04:29PM

Re: Walk With Me - Prologue + Chapter 1

Lucy J.April 24, 2015 02:18AM

Blurb?

Amy I.April 22, 2015 06:31PM

Re: Blurb?

PeterApril 22, 2015 09:21PM

Re: Walk With Me - Prologue + Chapter 1

Shannon KApril 21, 2015 04:20PM

Re: Walk With Me - Prologue + Chapter 1

ShannaGApril 21, 2015 02:31AM

Re: Walk With Me - Prologue + Chapter 1

JeannineApril 20, 2015 10:35PM

Re: Walk With Me - Prologue + Chapter 1

Amy A-NWApril 20, 2015 09:45PM

Re: Walk With Me - Prologue + Chapter 1

terrycgApril 20, 2015 06:31PM

Re: Walk With Me - Prologue + Chapter 1

KarenteaApril 20, 2015 07:36PM



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