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Walk With Me - Chapters 4 & 5

April 28, 2015 12:58PM
Chapter 4 – Painful Truths

Elizabeth awoke the next morning to the same thoughts and meditations which had at length closed her eyes. She could not yet recover from the surprise of what the previous day had revealed; it was impossible to think of anything else, and, totally indisposed for employment, she resolved soon after breakfast to indulge herself in air and exercise. That she had agreed to meet with Mr. Darcy she remembered only as she set out on the path and, if she had not committed to doing so, she knew she would have chosen a different path.

She had gone but a short distance when she saw a gentleman standing on the path just ahead of her. Recognizing Mr. Darcy, she was about to greet him when he turned and stepped rapidly towards her. She acknowledged his quick bow and greeting and continued her walk. As she expected, he fell into step with her and for several minutes they walked together in silence. She was determined to require him to open the conversation since they were meeting at his request. She was beginning to wonder if that gentleman had not lost the power of speech when he at last cleared his throat and began, “Miss Bennet, I had reason to speak…or rather my cousin had reason to speak to me yesterday. I understand you and he had a rather prolonged discussion and he imparted matters of a private nature pertaining to me.”

His manner was as haughty as she had come to expect and his distaste for the subject matter evident. Whether that distaste encompassed her, she could not discern and her response was cool, “Indeed, sir, your understanding is complete.”

“Miss Bennet, I believe my cousin revealed to you all of my dealings with Mr. Wickham. I can add nothing to that account except in one regard. I wish for this to be kept in the strictest confidence but I trust in your discretion. I would have you understand that the young woman my cousin spoke of was, in fact, my sister - Georgiana. This, more than any other circumstance, will I am sure explain to you my anger towards, and disgust with, George Wickham.”

Elizabeth, seeing him regard her closely, simply nodded, not insensible to such an expression of confidence and trust in her.

“I know not if Mr. Wickham has gained your affections, but I would hope this information would be sufficient for you to protect yourself against him.”

It seemed to Elizabeth that Mr. Darcy spoke with controlled anger which she could not understand, but her quiet, “I am in no danger from Mr. Wickham, Mr. Darcy.” seemed to relieve him as his countenance showed less anger. She wondered at Miss Darcy’s well-being and asked, “Your sister, Mr. Darcy. She is well I hope? She has recovered?”

“Yes, her spirits are improving although I fear it will take some time yet for her to feel comfortable again with people.” They walked on in silence for a few more minutes before Mr. Darcy once more spoke.

“My cousin also revealed that he had spoken with you about my having recently separated my friend Mr. Bingley from a young woman and he suspected that you or someone known to you was the lady concerned. I was able to satisfy him that the young woman was your sister. I will not say that he was relieved. Indeed, appalled would be a more apt description of his feelings and he sends his apologies for having spoken of it to you and for having caused you such distress as he observed. That he was outraged I should have committed such an act, he also expressed most forcibly.”

“You may tell Colonel Fitzwilliam that his apologies are accepted.” Her tone was so cold as to leave Darcy in no doubt of her feelings on the subject.

He began, “Miss Bennet, I…” when he was interrupted by her exclaiming, “You, sir, have been the means of ruining, perhaps forever, the happiness of a most beloved sister.”

As she pronounced these words, Mr. Darcy changed colour; but the emotion was short, and he listened without attempting to interrupt her while she continued. “I have little reason in the world to think well of you and your actions in this matter do nothing to improve that opinion. No motive can excuse the unjust and ungenerous part you acted there. You dare not, you cannot deny, your own words assure me that you have been the principal, if not the only means of dividing them from each other, of exposing one to the censure of the world for caprice and instability, the other to its derision for disappointed hopes, and involving them both in misery of the acutest kind.”

She paused and saw, with no slight indignation, that he was listening with an air which proved him wholly unmoved by any feeling of remorse. He even looked at her with a smile of affected incredulity.

“Can you deny that you have done it?” she repeated striving to remember her vow of maintaining her civility. With assumed tranquillity he then replied, “I have no wish of denying that I did everything in my power to separate my friend from your sister, or that I rejoiced in my success. Towards him I have been kinder than towards myself.”

His last words puzzled her but she would not that let distract her, saying, “I resolved when I left this morning to allow you to explain your actions, little though I wish to hear any such explanation. I will honour my vow although I also admit my reluctance to credit any explanation you may provide. It is only my egregious error with respect to Mr. Wickham that has induced me to do so.”

His look of haughty composure had not deserted him – although that small smile had disappeared - and his manner was, if anything, even colder than before when he began to speak, “I shall hope to be in future secured from your censure, when the following account of my actions and their motives has been heard. If, in the explanation of them, I am under the necessity of relating feelings which may be offensive to yours, I can only say that I am sorry. The necessity must be obeyed and an apology would be absurd.”

He paused as though to collect his thoughts, “I had not been long in Hertfordshire, before I saw, in common with others, that Bingley preferred your eldest sister to any other young woman in the country. But it was not till the evening of the dance at Netherfield that I had any apprehension of his feeling a serious attachment since I had often seen him in love before. At that ball, while I had the honour of dancing with you, I was first made acquainted, by Sir William Lucas’s accidental information, that Bingley’s attentions to your sister had given rise to a general expectation of their marriage. He spoke of it as a certain event, of which the time alone could be undecided. From that moment I observed my friend’s behaviour attentively; and I could then perceive that his partiality for your sister was beyond what I had ever witnessed in him. Your sister I also watched. Her look and manners were open, cheerful, and engaging as ever, but without any symptom of particular regard, and I remained convinced from the evening’s scrutiny, that though she received his attentions with pleasure, she did not invite them by any participation of sentiment.”

He paused once more to glance at Elizabeth, and her tightened lips suggested her disagreement with his observation, but he continued nevertheless, “If you are of a contrary opinion here, I must have been in an error. Your superior knowledge of your sister must make the latter probable. If it be so, if I have been misled by such error, to inflict pain on her, your resentment is not unreasonable. But I shall not scruple to assert that the serenity of your sister’s countenance and air was such as might have given the most acute observer a conviction that, however amiable her temper, her heart was not likely to be easily touched.”

Elizabeth observed that his manner seemed less haughty as he continued, “That I was desirous of believing her indifferent is certain, but I will venture to say that my investigations and decisions are not usually influenced by my hopes or fears. I did not believe her to be indifferent because I wished it; I believed it on impartial conviction, as truly as I wished it in reason.”

His belief of her sister’s insensibility, she instantly resolved to be false, and his account of the real, the worst objections to the match, made her too angry to have any wish of doing him justice. He expressed no regret for what he had done which satisfied her; his style was not penitent, but haughty. It was all pride and insolence. “And this sir is your objection, your sole objection to the attachment. This is your impediment, sir?”

The subsequent pause in his narrative was somewhat lengthy as clearly he was reluctant to continue in the face of her obvious anger but, as one facing a most disagreeable task, he shook his head and spoke once more, “No, Miss Bennet, my objections to the marriage were not merely the want of connections and dowry. These could not be as great an evil to my friend. There were other causes of repugnance which must be stated, though briefly. The situation of your mother’s family, though objectionable, was nothing in comparison to that total want of propriety so frequently, so almost uniformly, betrayed by herself, by your three younger sisters, and occasionally even by your father.”

She saw him glance at her once more and she thought his manner to be almost beseeching – all trace of haughtiness lost - as he said, “Pardon me. It pains me to offend you. But, amidst your concern for the defects of your nearest relations, and your displeasure at this representation of them, let it give you consolation to consider that to have conducted yourselves so as to avoid any share of the like censure is praise no less generally bestowed on you and your eldest sister, than it is honourable to the sense and disposition of you both. I will only further say that, from what passed that evening, my opinion of all parties was confirmed, and every inducement heightened, which could have led me before to preserve my friend from what I esteemed a most unhappy connection. He left Netherfield for London, on the day following, as you, I am certain, remember, with the design of soon returning.

He took a deep breath as if to fortify himself, “The part which I acted is now to be explained. His sisters’ uneasiness had been equally excited with my own; our coincidence of feeling was soon discovered; and, alike sensible that no time was to be lost in detaching their brother, we shortly resolved on joining him directly in London. We accordingly went and there I readily engaged in the office of pointing out to my friend, the certain evils of such a choice. I described, and enforced them earnestly. But, however this remonstrance might have staggered or delayed his determination, I do not suppose that it would ultimately have prevented the marriage, had it not been seconded by the assurance, which I hesitated not in giving, of your sister’s indifference. He had before believed her to return his affection with sincere, if not with equal, regard. But Bingley has great natural modesty, with a stronger dependence on my judgment than on his own. To convince him therefore, that he had deceived himself, was no very difficult point. To persuade him against returning into Hertfordshire, when that conviction had been given, was scarcely the work of a moment. I cannot blame myself for having done thus much.”

Elizabeth struggled to control her anger. That he believed Jane to be indifferent to Mr. Bingley she could not credit and his arrogance to presume to guide his friend in this matter and it was not until she remembered Charlotte’s observation that Jane’s reserve was such as to make it difficult for one not familiar with her to discern her true feelings. Nevertheless, was it his role to guide his friend so and was not his advice tinged by his disdain for Jane’s connections and the improprieties of her family? She could not restrain herself from saying as much to him, “I wonder at your advice Mr. Darcy, if my sister’s connections and family were not so disgusting to you. Would you have then been so ready to question her affections? I am sure Mr. Bingley’s sisters would not have scrupled to have done so.”

“I am not one to let my wishes determine my observations, madam. As I said, I believed that her affections were not engaged because I could see no sign that they were.”

“And so you took it upon yourself to assure your friend that my sister’s heart was not engaged! If you had limited yourself to admitting that you could not discern any particular affection, I might have little to object to; but to assert, to give your assurances, was an act of such arrogance as I can hardly credit. From your observation – from some distance you admit and based on one evening of observation - you were prepared to give assurances that you could read my sister’s heart! I can barely comprehend such arrogance.”

Darcy remained silent, Elizabeth hoped from consideration of her words. His mien was unreadable – he seemed unable or unwilling to answer her charge and so she continued, “And was it your affair to recommend that your friend should relinquish this attachment? Should not that be a matter, a decision that he resolves himself?”

This bestirred him to respond, “Let me ask you a pertinent question, Miss Bennet. If my friend were penniless and your sister in possession of a fine fortune, would you not wish to determine the extent of his affections and how would you do so? And if you believed him to be deficient in those affections, would you not advise your sister accordingly?”

His comment struck home and Elizabeth was forced to acknowledge the truth of this assertion, as unwilling as she was to do so. She knew herself well enough to believe that, if Jane – or another of her sisters – was to receive a proposal from one she believed mercenary, she would not hesitate to advise accordingly. As she considered this, her feelings on the manner in which he spoke of her family in terms of such mortifying yet merited reproach, her sense of shame was severe. The justice of the charge struck her too forcibly for denial, and the circumstances to which he particularly alluded, as having passed at the Netherfield ball, and as confirming all his first disapprobation, could not have made a stronger impression on his mind than on hers.

The compliment to herself and her sister was not unfelt. It soothed, but it could not console her for the contempt which had been thus self-attracted by the rest of her family; and as she considered that Jane’s disappointment had in fact been the work of her nearest relations, and reflected how materially the credit of both must be hurt by such impropriety of conduct, she felt depressed beyond anything she had ever known before. In disquietude she walked for several minutes with little attention to her surroundings or her companion and, if she had been asked, would have been grateful if he were to leave her to enjoy her suffering in solitude.

But Mr. Darcy, taking her silence as assent to continue, felt obliged to finish his disquisition, “There is, Miss Bennet, but one part of my conduct in the whole affair, on which I do not reflect with satisfaction; it is that I condescended to adopt the measures of art so far as to conceal from Bingley your sister’s being in town. I knew it myself, as it was known to Miss Bingley, but her brother is even yet ignorant of it. That they might have met without ill consequence is, perhaps, probable; but his regard did not appear to me enough extinguished for him to see her without some danger. Perhaps this concealment, this disguise, was beneath me. It is done, however, and it was done for the best. On this subject I have nothing more to say, no other apology to offer. If I have wounded your sister’s feelings, it was unknowingly done; and though the motives which governed me may to you very naturally appear insufficient, I have not yet learned to condemn them.”

Elizabeth had, without realizing that she was doing so, turned and had begun her return to the Parsonage. Her thoughts were in too much turmoil to allow for sensible discourse. Making little effort to mask her distaste for the gentleman walking beside her - that his words merited her consideration and revaluation she acknowledged - but the man himself she could not view with favour and did not try to do so.

With a cold civility so much in contradiction to her normal manner that Mr. Darcy could not but be aware of her dislike and anger, she finally responded, “You have given me much to think on, sir. You have assured me of your ignorance of my sister’s affections and I concede that you may have inadvertently misunderstood her nature; however, that your opinions were guided to some degree by your disdain for me, my family and my neighbours I am reluctant to disbelieve. From the very beginning, from the first moment I may almost say, of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form a groundwork of disapprobation, of dislike that I find it almost impossible to afford your words the merit they deserve. For this I apologize and provide my assurances that I will be able to reflect on them more easily as time passes.”

As she was about to take her leave of him, she saw that Mr. Darcy, with his eyes fixed on her face, appeared to catch her words with no less resentment than surprise. His complexion became pale with anger, and the disturbance of his mind was visible in every feature. He was struggling for the appearance of composure, and would not open his lips, till he believed himself to have attained it. The pause was, to Elizabeth’s feelings, dreadful. At length, in a voice of forced calmness, he said, “And this is your opinion of me?” that he wished to say more was obvious but his composure was intact as he continued, “You believe me to dislike you? To hold you in disdain? Is this truly your belief?”

“Yes Mr. Darcy it is. You made your opinion of me quite clear the very first occasion of our being in company together. I was not handsome enough to tempt you - those I believe were your very words and that it would be a punishment to dance with me. Why would I not believe you to hold me in disdain? Your subsequent disapproval was evident in the stares you directed my way. I could not help but believe they signified your contempt and belief in my inferiority. Your disapproval was obvious to me and others. My family and neighbours were also embraced by that disdain which you did not scruple to display.” Elizabeth felt uneasy relating these particulars to Mr. Darcy but since they were unlikely to be in company again, she could see no reason to be less than truthful.

Darcy looked at her with amazement and puzzlement compounding incredulity. He found himself laughing in disbelief but her shocked expression quickly caused him to stifle his mirth. His voice was rueful as he replied, “I must ask your forgiveness for that appalling lack of manners. That you believe me to dislike you, I find incredible.” He cast a mortified look at the sky before facing her and saying, “The truth, madam, is quite the reverse. Very much the reverse but I perfectly comprehend your feelings, and have now only to be ashamed of what my own have been. Forgive me for having taken up so much of your time, and accept my best wishes for your health and happiness.”

With these words he hastily turned and walked away to return to Rosings; and Elizabeth watched him until he was hidden from sight on the path he had chosen.

The tumult of her mind was now painfully great. She knew not how to support herself, and from actual weakness sat down and cried for half an hour. Her astonishment, as she reflected on what had passed, was increased by every review of it. After wandering along the lane for two hours, giving way to every variety of thought; reconsidering events, determining probabilities, and reconciling herself, as well as she could, to a change so sudden and so important, fatigue, and a recollection of her long absence made her at length return home; and she entered the house with the wish of appearing cheerful as usual, and the resolution of repressing such reflections as must make her unfit for conversation.

She was immediately told that Colonel Fitzwilliam had called during her absence and had been sitting with them at least an hour, hoping for her return, and almost resolving to walk after her till she could be found. Elizabeth could but just affect concern in missing him; she really rejoiced at it. Colonel Fitzwilliam was no longer an object. She could think only of Mr. Darcy’s words – ‘The truth madam is quite the reverse. Very much the reverse’ Was Charlotte correct after all? Did Mr. Darcy hold her in some affection in spite of all the objections which had made him prevent his friend’s marrying her sister, and which must appear at least with equal force in his own case, was almost incredible! It would be gratifying to have unconsciously inspired so strong an affection, if she indeed had done so but this she found hard to believe. But his pride, his abominable pride and the inferiority of her connections compared to his own and the impropriety of her family would surely ensure that such an interest would be of a short duration.

In the middle of the afternoon, while the ladies of the Parsonage were sitting in the parlour, the ring of the doorbell signalled a visitor. To Elizabeth’s surprise, Mr. Darcy entered the room and, after a quick glance at Elizabeth, immediately approached Mrs. Collins to express his compliments and to take his leave of her and Mr. Collins. After a short conversation with her, he moved to speak to Elizabeth who, upon seeing him approach, resolved to speak of her intentions with respect to Mr. Wickham. Rising she moved to the window and turned to face him as he came to stand beside her. Speaking quietly she addressed him thus, “Mr. Darcy, I do not know if Colonel Fitzwilliam has spoken to you on the matter but he has given me leave to speak to my father about the possibility of Mr. Wickham being in debt to the shopkeepers of Meryton who can ill-afford losses if they exist. I will also impart to my father the colonel’s opinion with respect to Mr. Wickham’s ….ah, behaviour to young women – even those with no dowry.” Her voice dropped even lower, “You may rest assured that your sister’s name shall not be mentioned.”

Darcy’s surprise at her words was obvious and, if a brief flicker of displeasure crossed his features, it was replaced quickly by a look akin to satisfaction, “That would be well done, Miss Bennet.”

“I would also impart to him such information as would refute the charges against you that Mr. Wickham has made common knowledge in Meryton, unless you prefer otherwise. I will be ruled by you on that matter.”

Elizabeth watched coolly as Darcy considered her words and their implications. Finally, after a lengthy pause he replied with a slight upturn of his lips, “I think I might I appreciate that, Miss Bennet.”

Elizabeth did not understand what he could find to amuse him in her proposal but nodded and was about to return to her seat when he spoke once more, “Miss Bennet, I believe you are to return to London on Saturday next are you not? And will stay a few days with your relatives there?”

“Yes?”

“To your relatives who live on Gracechurch Street?”

“Indeed” Elizabeth was puzzled at these questions and the next only added to her confusion.

“And the name of your relatives is?”

Elizabeth’s confusion was now quite obvious to Darcy and his small smile irritated her greatly but she responded civilly nonetheless, “Gardiner, sir. Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner.”

Darcy, she could see, was not going to explain his interest or reasons for these questions and the only reasons she could think to explain them made little sense. Before she could form a question on the matter, he bowed to her and, with a final word to Mrs. Collins, took his leave of them all.

Mrs. Collins spoke to her sister, sending her on an errand to the kitchen with the intent, Elizabeth could see clearly, to have a private conversation with her friend. Her first words were much to the point, “Mr. Darcy was not so silent today, Lizzy. Of what did you speak?”

Elizabeth was not prepared to disclose Mr. Darcy’s questions relating to her relatives in London; she would have to think more on those. However, she was not reluctant to discuss her plans to inform her father of Mr. Wickham’s dealings and Charlotte, upon learning of those plans, spoke warmly in their favour. On one point, however, she was less certain, “Are you sure that revealing Mr. Wickham’s lies about Mr. Darcy is necessary? Or wise? What do you hope to gain by it?”

Elizabeth’s manner suggested an equal mixture of embarrassment and ire, “Mr. Wickham used me to spread his lies and I was a most willing accomplice. I feel a fool and do not like that feeling at all!”

“I see. I would be cautious – perhaps you should wait until Mr. Wickham’s character has been revealed, that his debts are made known before speaking.”

Elizabeth considered that suggestion thoughtfully and finally nodded in agreement. Further conversation on the topic was prevented by the return of Maria who appeared oblivious to the nature of the talks between her sister and Elizabeth.


Chapter 5 – Time to Reflect

The two gentlemen left Rosings the next morning; and Mr. Collins having been in waiting near the lodges, to make them his parting obeisance, was able to bring home the pleasing intelligence of their appearing in very good health, and in as tolerable spirits as could be expected, after the melancholy scene so lately gone through at Rosings. To Rosings he then hastened to console Lady Catherine and her daughter; and on his return brought back, with great satisfaction, a message from her ladyship, importing that she felt herself so dull as to make her very desirous of having them all to dine with her.

Elizabeth felt no regrets at the departure of Mr. Darcy and his cousin and viewed her own with increasing pleasure. One task, however, she felt impelled to undertake immediately; she must write her father and impart to him all the particulars that had been revealed by Colonel Fitzwilliam. Knowing her father’s habits of indolence, she was far from sure that he would act upon such information; and, to this end she thought that information as to Colonel Fitzwilliam’s possible intervention might provide her father with an excuse to avoid taking any action and hence might best be omitted from her letter. To this end, she assigned her concerns for the well-being of the merchants and their daughters to the Colonel, with her role simply to convey such concerns to her father. However, she did not scruple to suggest to her father that Mr. Wickham’s attentions to Miss Mary King might be injurious to that young woman and her guardians might be warned of the man’s background. While she might wait until she returned to Longbourn to inform her father, a delay of almost a fortnight might only increase the number of debts incurred or fail to ensure Miss King’s protection. She could see no reason to delay and valid reasons to avoid doing so and thus, within an hour, the letter had been written and sent on its way to Longbourn.

Later that day, as she entered the drawing room at Rosings Park, Elizabeth could not see Lady Catherine without recollecting that she had once considered Mr. Darcy to be much like his aunt; now she recognized that her perception was much at fault. There was some commonality in terms of pride but Mr. Darcy’s understanding and civility was much superior to that of his aunt. Such thoughts, however, were not long in being banished from her mind by Lady Catherine’s conversation.

Their first subject was the diminution of the Rosings party. ”I assure you, I feel it exceedingly,” said Lady Catherine; “I believe nobody feels the loss of friends as much as I do. But I am particularly attached to these young men; and know them to be so much attached to me! They were excessively sorry to go! But so they always are. The dear colonel rallied his spirits tolerably till just at last; but Darcy seemed to feel it most acutely, more I think than last year. His attachment to Rosings certainly increases.”

Mr. Collins had a compliment, and an allusion to throw in here, which were kindly smiled on by the mother and daughter.

Lady Catherine observed, after dinner, that Miss Bennet seemed out of spirits; and immediately accounting for it herself, by supposing that she did not like to go home again so soon, she added, "But if that is the case, you must write to your mother to beg that you may stay a little longer. Mrs. Collins will be very glad of your company, I am sure.”

“I am much obliged to your ladyship for your kind invitation,” replied Elizabeth, “but it is not in my power to accept it. I must be in town next Saturday.”

“Why, at that rate, you will have been here only six weeks. I expected you to stay two months. I told Mrs. Collins so before you came. There can be no occasion for your going so soon. Mrs. Bennet could certainly spare you for another fortnight.”

“But my father cannot. He wrote last week to hurry my return.”

“Oh! Your father of course may spare you, if your mother can. Daughters are never of so much consequence to a father. And if you will stay another month complete, it will be in my power to take one of you as far as London, for I am going there early in June, for a week; and as Dawson does not object to the Barouche box, there will be very good room for one of you and indeed, if the weather should happen to be cool, I should not object to taking you both, as you are neither of you large.”

“You are all kindness, Madam; but I believe we must abide by our original plan.”

Lady Catherine seemed resigned. “Mrs. Collins, you must send a servant with them. You know I always speak my mind, and I cannot bear the idea of two young women travelling post by themselves. It is highly improper. You must contrive to send somebody. I have the greatest dislike in the world to that sort of thing. Young women should always be properly guarded and attended, according to their situation in life. When my niece Georgiana went to Ramsgate last summer, I made a point of her having two men servants go with her. Miss Darcy, the daughter of Mr. Darcy of Pemberley, and Lady Anne, could not have appeared with propriety in a different manner. I am excessively attentive to all those things. You must send John with the young ladies, Mrs. Collins. I am glad it occurred to me to mention it; for it would really be discreditable to you to let them go alone.”

“My uncle is to send a servant for us.”

“Oh! Your uncle! He keeps a man-servant, does he? I am very glad you have somebody who thinks of those things. Where shall you change horses? Oh! Bromley, of course. If you mention my name at the Bell, you will be attended to.”

Lady Catherine had many other questions to ask respecting their journey, and as she did not answer them all herself, attention was necessary, which Elizabeth believed to be lucky for her - with a mind so occupied, she might have forgotten where she was. Reflection must be reserved for solitary hours; whenever she was alone, she gave way to it as the greatest relief; and not a day went by without a solitary walk, in which she might indulge in all the delight of unpleasant recollections.

Mr. Darcy’s explanation, she was in a fair way of soon knowing by heart. She remembered every word he spoke: and her feelings towards him were at times widely different. When she remembered the style of his address, she was still full of indignation; but when she considered how unjustly she had condemned and upbraided him in her past perceptions of him, her anger was turned against herself. His general character merited respect; but she could not approve him; nor could she for a moment repent her words of censure, or feel the slightest inclination ever to see him again.

In her own past behaviour, there was a constant source of vexation and regret; and in the unhappy defects of her family a subject of yet heavier chagrin. They were hopeless of remedy. Her father, content 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 Catherine and Lydia; but while they were supported by their mother’s indulgence, what chance could there be of improvement? Catherine, weak-spirited, irritable, and completely under Lydia’s guidance, had been always affronted by their advice; and Lydia, self-willed and careless, would scarcely give them a hearing. They were ignorant, idle, and vain. While there was an officer in Meryton, they would flirt with him; and while Meryton was within a walk of Longbourn, they would be going there forever.

Anxiety on Jane’s behalf was another prevailing concern, and Mr. Darcy’s explanation, by restoring Bingley to all her former good opinion, heightened the sense of what Jane had lost. His affection was proved to have been sincere, and his conduct cleared of all blame, unless any could attach to the implicitness of his confidence in his friend. How grievous then was the thought that, of a situation so desirable in every respect, so replete with advantage, so promising for happiness, Jane had been deprived, by the folly and indecorum of her own family!

When to these recollections was added the development of Wickham’s character, it may be easily believed that the happy spirits which had seldom been depressed before, were now so much affected as to make it almost impossible for her to appear tolerably cheerful. Her greatest confusion arose when she considered his words when he took his leave of her after their walk. His manner contained all the pride she could have expected from him but clearly tempered by surprise when he learned of her dislike. Clearly he had thought otherwise and when she remembered his words “The truth, madam, is quite the reverse. Very much the reverse…” Did this mean he held her in affection? Was Charlotte correct after all? But how could she have known? Even Charlotte had finally conceded that she could detect few signs of regard, no dislike perhaps but not affection. And yet now, when she looked back on his actions, it was possible to see them as attempts to show his regard for her. Fumbling, confused attempts surely but, if his words were to have a meaning, he must have held her in some regard. That it was to be of short duration seemed likely if she was to give weight to his expression as he had left her, “but I perfectly comprehend your feelings, and have now only to be ashamed of what my own have been.”

But then when she thought about his behaviour when he came to take his leave of Charlotte, her confusion mounted. His manner was quite different once more – almost amiable – and she thought he appeared almost amused at her confusion at his questions about her return to London. What could he mean by such questions? What purpose would be served by such knowledge? Surely he did not mean to call on the Gardiners? She could not imagine that he would so – not after decrying such connections. It was altogether too puzzling and finally she resolved to think on it no more.

Their engagements at Rosings were as frequent during the last week of her stay as they had been at first. The very last evening was spent there; and her Ladyship again enquired minutely into the particulars of their journey, gave them directions as to the best method of packing, and was so urgent on the necessity of placing gowns in the only right way, that Maria thought herself obliged, on her return, to undo all the work of the morning, and pack her trunk afresh.

When they parted, Lady Catherine, with great condescension, wished them a good journey, and invited them to come to Hunsford again next year; and Miss De Bourgh exerted herself so far as to curtsey and hold out her hand to both.

On Saturday morning Elizabeth and Mr. Collins met for breakfast a few minutes before the others appeared; and he took the opportunity of paying the parting civilities which he deemed indispensably necessary. “I know not, Miss Elizabeth,” said he, “whether Mrs. Collins has yet expressed her sense of your kindness in coming to us, but I am very certain you will not leave the house without receiving her thanks for it. The favour of your company has been much felt, I assure you. We know how little there is to tempt any one to our humble abode. Our plain manner of living, our small rooms, and few domestics, and the little we see of the world, must make Hunsford extremely dull to a young lady like yourself; but I hope you will believe us grateful for the condescension, and that we have done everything in our power to prevent your spending your time unpleasantly.”

Elizabeth was eager with her thanks and assurances of happiness. She had spent six weeks with great enjoyment; and the pleasure of being with Charlotte, and the kind attentions she had received, must make her feel obliged.

Mr. Collins was gratified; and with a more smiling solemnity replied, “It gives me the greatest pleasure to hear that you have passed your time not disagreeably. We have certainly done our best; and most fortunately having it in our power to introduce you to very superior society, and, from our connection with Rosings, the frequent means of varying the humble home scene, I think we may flatter ourselves that your Hunsford visit cannot have been entirely irksome. Our situation with regard to Lady Catherine’s family is indeed the sort of extraordinary advantage and blessing of which few can boast. You see on what a footing we are. You see how continually we are engaged there. In truth I must acknowledge that, with all the disadvantages of this humble Parsonage, I should not think anyone abiding in it an object of compassion while they are sharers of our intimacy at Rosings.”

Words were insufficient for the elevation of his feelings; and he was obliged to walk about the room, while Elizabeth tried to unite civility and truth in a few short sentences. “You may, in fact, carry a very favourable report of us into Hertfordshire, my dear cousin. I flatter myself, at least, that you will be able to do so. Lady Catherine’s great attentions to Mrs. Collins you have been a daily witness of; and altogether I trust it does not appear that your friend has drawn an unfortunate... but on this point it will be as well to be silent. Only let me assure you, my dear Miss Elizabeth, that I can from my heart most cordially wish you equal felicity in marriage. My dear Charlotte and I have but one mind and one way of thinking. There is in everything a most remarkable resemblance of character and ideas between us. We seem to have been designed for each other.”

Elizabeth could safely say that it was a great happiness where that was the case, and with equal sincerity could add that she firmly believed and rejoiced in his domestic comforts. She was not sorry, however, to have the recital of them interrupted by the entrance of the lady from whom they sprung. Poor Charlotte!—it was melancholy to leave her to such society!—But she had chosen it with her eyes open; and though evidently regretting that her visitors were to go, she did not seem to ask for compassion. Her home and her housekeeping, her parish and her poultry, and all their dependent concerns, had not yet lost their charms.

At length the chaise arrived, the trunks were fastened on, the parcels placed within, and it was pronounced to be ready. After an affectionate parting between the friends, Elizabeth was attended to the carriage by Mr. Collins, and as they walked down the garden, he was commissioning her with his best respects to all her family, not forgetting his thanks for the kindness he had received at Longbourn in the winter, and his compliments to Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, though unknown. He then handed her in, Maria followed, and the door was on the point of being closed, when he suddenly reminded them, with some consternation, that they had hitherto forgotten to leave any message for the ladies at Rosings.

“But,” he added, “You will of course wish to have your humble respects delivered to them, with your grateful thanks for their kindness to you while you have been here.”

Elizabeth made no objection;—the door was then allowed to be shut, and the carriage drove off.

“Good gracious!” cried Maria, after a few minutes silence, “it seems but a day or two since we first came! And yet how many things have happened!”

“A great many indeed,” said her companion with a sigh.

“We have dined nine times at Rosings, besides drinking tea there twice!—How much I shall have to tell!”

Elizabeth privately added, “And how much I may have to conceal, for I doubt I can reveal all to Jane and none of it can safely be told to my mother.”

Their journey was performed without much conversation, or any alarm; and within four hours of their leaving Hunsford, they reached Mr. Gardiner’s house, where Elizabeth was to remain a few days while Maria continued the trip to her home. Jane looked well, and Elizabeth had little opportunity of studying her spirits, amidst the various engagements which the kindness of her aunt had reserved for them. But Jane was to go home with her, and at Longbourn there would be leisure enough for observation.

It was not without an effort, meanwhile, that she could wait even for Longbourn, before she told her sister of the particulars of what had been revealed by Colonel Fitzwilliam and Mr. Darcy. To know that she had the power of revealing what would so exceedingly astonish Jane - the possibility of Mr. Darcy having formed an attraction for Elizabeth – no matter how weak or short-lived – added impetus at the same time, both to the state of indecision in which she remained as to the extent of what she should communicate; as well as her fear, if she once entered on the subject, of being hurried into repeating something of Bingley which might only grieve her sister further.
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Walk With Me - Chapters 4 & 5

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