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Ignorance and Irony - Chapter 5 Part One

May 27, 2017 06:53PM
Author’s Note: Hey guys! I am thankful I finally got this posted. Huge shout out to Betsy and Roxey for their amazing help!

I did want to mention something: It is intentional on my part, not Elizabeth’s, that she never mentions Mr. Darcy’s name. I know this has caused a few of you confusion, but there is a method to my madness. When you read the letters from Elizabeth to her grandfather, please keep it in mind that she believes she HAS already written her grandfather Mr. Darcy’s name and does not realize that she has never actually used the phrase “Mr. Darcy” or any variation of it…




Chapter 5 – Accepting Self(Part One)
Longbourn, Hertfordshire January 1812

Elizabeth went into the sitting room, one morning after Jane and the Gardiners had left. She had come inside from a short walk in the snow, and was handed two letters by Mrs. Hill.

“Why! Mrs. Hill! How did you know I wanted to hear from Jane!” she asked cheekily.

Mrs. Hill just laughed and walked away. She called out over her shoulder, “Mrs. Brown has just removed some blueberry muffins from the oven…if you are interested, Miss Lizzy.”

Elizabeth laughed and raced to the kitchen where she was handed a plate by the cook, “Thank you Mrs. Brown!” Elizabeth called as she walked back out of the kitchen.

As she headed to the sitting room, she found Catherine was there sketching and offered some of her muffins to her. It was quite a lazy and quiet morning.

“Did Jane write?” asked Catherine.

“Yes.” Elizabeth then realized that Mary was not with Catherine as she normally was, “Where is dear Mary?”

“She went to the Lucas’. She gathered quite a bit more rosehips from the Reverend’s garden and wished to share.”

Smiling at the mention of Mary’s beau, Elizabeth took out her first letter: hoping rather than believing it would be filled with good tidings.

Gracechurch Street, London
January 6, 1812

Dearest Elizabeth,

I wanted to let you know that we have arrived not only safely in London but with much laughter. Apparently, young Benjamin needed to ride with his mother the very last leg of the journey and refused to sit on my uncle’s lap. This led to a conversation about how mothers know how to cuddle more than fathers.

Apparently, during the middle of his explanation, young Ben decided that all fathers needed was practice and therefore scrambled off my aunt’s lap across his younger sister who had already fallen asleep, to make his way to Uncle’s lap. It was very cute and darling. When he woke up, as Uncle was carrying him inside, he exclaimed, “See, Papa! All you had to do was practice!” I am afraid our laughter woke the rest of the children up.

Actually, if I am truthful Elizabeth, we arrived three days ago, as you can probably surmise from the date supplied. I wanted to get this letter in the post before I left to see the Bingleys. This morning is the only free morning my aunt has to accompany me for about a week. I sent them a letter yesterday stating that I was in town and planning the visit for today. It is really short notice, but I felt I had no choice but to try today. I do not wish to give the appearance that I am avoiding them by waiting a full week and a half before attempting to visit them.

Elizabeth felt an ominous feeling as she read Jane’s words; Surely Miss Bingley will receive her. If she cuts her direct…I will do the same! As Elizabeth realized that the rest of the letter were stories about what had happened in the two days since Jane had arrived in London. Elizabeth was only a little jealous when she found out that her grandfather was to dine with them the next evening. As she finished the letter, Elizabeth realized that it was a lot lighter and a more hopeful attitude that was conveyed than what Jane had before she left. She is anticipating seeing her friends. I can only hope they are her friends, she thought.

Elizabeth then turned to her letter from her grandfather, and as she opened it, felt something fall out. As she leaned down and picked up two small pieces of fabric, she laughed. She held one up for Catherine to see and exclaimed, “Catherine! I have no idea why Grandfather would send swatches to me, but are they not beautiful fabric?”

Catherine drew close and stated, “They are heavier fabric, almost like upholstery fabric. Is he planning on redoing your room?”

“I have no idea.” Elizabeth said as she held up the letter, “I have barely opened the letter.” As she quickly read the letter, she found herself laughing out loud, and stated, “You are right! He is planning on redoing my room and wished me to see what he has chosen.”

Elizabeth then read the section out loud,

“My dear child, I find myself more and more excited about your coming to London toward the end of the year. As I was rambling through the house, I realized it is terribly out of fashion. I will not do too much to it, as I know young ladies love to spend money and refurnish things. I confess, however, that I have taken a great delight in assisting in the remodeling of your room. There are not many changes, and I will not describe them to you right now, maybe in my next letter. I chose some fabrics for when they are done with the remodel, and Mrs. Baines informed me that I should probably get your opinion on them, or all my hard work would be redone!

Certainly you would not cause me extra bills by requiring me to redo what has already been redone! You are much too sensible for that. However, I will not second guess Mrs. Baines or I might find myself without help soon. Therefore, I send you some swatches and ask your opinion. I even attempted to get Jane’s opinion on them, but as you know, she is loath to give any negative feedback and therefore I cannot trust her opinion. Please do not tell her I said that though. I know you will tell me truthfully, what you think! You may call them beautiful or exceedingly distasteful, whichever you prefer. However, if you wish for something else, simply inform me. I have some errands to run this week in town and can certainly find time to consult Mrs. Gardiner and her husband’s emporium again.

Catherine asked quietly, “Elizabeth, I have never really asked, but can you tell me about your grandfather? I understand if you do not wish to.”

“Why would I not wish to speak with you about my grandfather?”

“There has been such an air of secrecy around him and you never bring him up. I thought…maybe you were…”

“You thought I was ashamed of my mother’s family?” finished Elizabeth. “I am not.” She then realized that her younger cousin had matured considerably but wondered if she could trust her with the sensitive information. Maybe another day, I will certainly tell her before I leave, she thought.

Catherine giggled as she gathered her supplies to put them away and said, “When Lydia and I were younger, we made up all kinds of stories as to who your grandfather is. It was quite diverting. He was a pirate or highway man exiled from England and lives in London under an assumed name. He has been a poor dirt farmer and you had to learn how to take care of his fields. My particular favorite was when he was a prince and you were thrust into the royal family and became engaged to a Duke from France!”

Elizabeth laughed out loud to her cousin and stated, “I myself had quite a few of those types of imaginings when I was young. I promise though, he is not a pirate or highwayman!”

As soon as Catherine put away her sketching supplies, she indicated that she and Elizabeth had not engaged in their Italian or French studies for quite a while. Elizabeth sighed in resignation, set her letters aside and thought, Oh well. I will find time later to respond to them.

It was not until after dinner that evening, when Elizabeth was able to excuse herself from her family stating the need to write a few letters and wished to do that in her room, that she was able to find peace and quiet. She sat in silence as she re-read Jane’s letter and attempted to respond in an encouraging manner. It did not take long as what she wanted to say was not very extensive.

Then she grabbed her grandfather’s letter and re-read it, this time more fully:

Grosvenor Street, London
January 12, 1812

Dearest Elizabeth,

I write this with yet another apology. I found myself too engrossed in the renovation of our London home to remember I have not written you for a while. You are ever present in my thoughts, so please do not think that I have forgotten you. I have only forgotten to write to you.

However, I have so much to say and so much to concern myself with that I find I have much to write to you. Please forgive this long letter.
First, I must explain the fabric included.

Elizabeth smiled as she read through the changes he was planning on making throughout the London home and as well as those he planned on making at Heythrop Park. She laughed at he described the attitudes of both housekeepers at some of his plans, and silently thanked him for wanting all the construction work to be completed before she would return in the fall. Her mood turned contemplative as she read the last portion of his letter.

My mind is also so full of people I wish to introduce you to; Eddy and Bea, of course, being at the top of the list. I have a feeling all of you would be quite put out with me if that did not happen almost immediately upon your arrival.

However, I also wish to introduce you to my godson and his sister. I do not believe I have told you much about them. It is not by design I assure you; George was one of my best friends. He valued his and his family’s privacy above everything and I simply got in the habit of never bringing them up. I cannot say they are alone in the world, for they have a large extended family, but both of their parents are gone. The young girl is so shy and quiet; I believe you would make a great friend of her. I cannot say that I find William any less shy either. So much responsibility at so young an age, but he has held up well and become a fine man.

Please do not accuse me of matchmaking though. William is very much his own man and even though he is single, he does not seem to be looking for a wife. A fact for which I am grateful, since he turns heads wherever he goes. I do not suppose that you will be exempt from that category. A grandfather can hope for time with you first, cannot he?

I have no reservations. Once you have been presented to high society, you will be the toast of the ton. Young men will flock around you. That is the only thing that I regret about having you in my life: all the coxcombs will come out from the woodwork with your beauty around. I have no worries, as I have said, William and his family, with whom I am very close, will rally around and keep the worst from you.

Elizabeth set the letter down. This sounds like Mr. Darcy! Grandfather writes such glowing terms of his godson, it surely cannot be Darcy! No. He also speaks of the sister as if she is out, and from what I understand Miss Darcy is not. No. This certainly is not Darcy. She put the thought out of her head entirely. It was very late by the time she had responded to James’s letter.

It took two weeks before Elizabeth received another letter from her cousin. Elizabeth was starting to believe that Jane had forgotten about her. Elizabeth could not help but feel sadness for her and anger toward Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst as she read the latest from London.

I told you in my last missive that I was planning to visit Caroline that day. I know that I sent a note around the day before, but when I was shown into the parlor, I did not think Caroline was feeling well. She expressed her surprise by my visit. When I mentioned the note, she informed me she had never received it. I asked after Mrs. Hurst who was not present and she replied that she was feeling indisposed and begged my leave. I of course gave it.

It was then that I inquired after her brother. She informed me he was much engaged with Mr. Darcy and they scarcely ever saw him. I found that Miss Darcy was expected to dinner. I wish I could see her; Miss Bingley’s description paints her as very elegant. My visit was not long, as Caroline was headed out to a previous appointment.

Elizabeth could feel the hurt that Jane was attempting to hide from her. It was clear that even though Miss Caroline did not cut her completely, she by no means wished to follow through on the relationship. It was also clear that it would take an accident for Jane to meet with Mr. Bingley during her time in London. I can only hope that they realize their mistake and have a better meeting when they return her call, if they return her call, she thought sadly.

Elizabeth knew she needed to respond to the letter, however, her emotions were running the gauntlet. Elizabeth realized she needed to work off some of her energy before she did so, and put on her winter boots and headed outside. Almost as soon as she made it outside and around the corner, she ran into Mary and Catherine.

“I am sorry ladies! I was not watching where I was going.” She said quickly and attempted to move around them. Both ladies were dressed for outdoors and looked to be carrying baskets to visit Longbourn’s families. Mary nodded to Catherine and they both moved to follow Elizabeth.

Elizabeth was so lost in her thoughts that she made it half way to the top of Oakham Mount before she realized the girls were still behind her. Shocked out of her reverie, she exclaimed, “Mary! Catherine! You look like you had plans to visit our tenants, why are you following me??”

Mary calmly said, “You looked vexed and we thought we might be of assistance. Jane is not here to confide in, but we are available.”

As Elizabeth was shaking her head, Catherine spoke up, “Is it about Jane? You received a letter from her this morning.”

Elizabeth sighed and said, “Yes. I am simply disappointed for her, upset that she is upset and angry over the callousness of people. It is always unfortunate when a little bit of Jane’s ideal world gets tarnished.”

“Then she has not seen Mr. Bingley?” queried Mary.

“No.”

Catherine said, “But there must be more to it than that? She said multiple times that she did not think she would.”

Elizabeth eyed Catherine and responded, “Simply because she claims one thing does not mean her heart does not feel another.” Shaking her head, Elizabeth turned to continue her walk, “No, she is still very much in love with Mr. Bingley, and now it seems that only chance can bring the two of them together.”

Catherine responded, “I can understand your comment about hurting when she hurt, but Elizabeth, surely you cannot mean that Mr. Bingley is callous? He was ever so kind.”

Elizabeth stated, “I was not referring to Mr. Bingley but rather his sister.” She sighed when she realized her cousins would not let her escape from explaining, “Jane writes that she attempted to see Caroline Bingley and Louisa Hurst at the Hurst townhouse. Caroline was less than pleased by her presence and Mrs. Hurst completely absent! All of this after Jane had sent a note around saying she would be calling. It is inexcusable rudeness!”

Mary asked, “I found Louisa very polite and extremely solicitous of Jane. She seemed to actually enjoy her company, why would she not be at home the very morning she was expected a caller? I remember they spent quite a good deal of time together at the Netherfield Ball.”

“It could easily be seen as an oversight, I guess. Jane did mention she did not give them much notice and she had been informed that Louisa had been ill.”

“When you move to London, you will certainly not make that mistake,” added Mary.

“What? Get ill?” Elizabeth teased, “I assure you, even I cannot escape that state at times.”

Ignoring both ladies comments, Catherine asked, “When do you move, Elizabeth? I shall be sorry to see you gone!”

Elizabeth smiled, “Toward the beginning of autumn,” with a sly look at Mary she added, “Grandfather and I are planning on being here for Mary’s wedding, if she ever intends to set a date. Before that, I am going on a trip with the Gardiners in the late summer. It will be about a month to two months after I return.”

Mary blushed at the comment and attempted to divert the attention from her, “Surely, when you come back from the lakes, you will have much to do. All your things will have to be gone through and transferred to London. Catherine tells me that your grandfather is redoing your room. Tell us about it.”

The rest of the walk was spent in companionable laughter as Elizabeth described what her grandfather had planned as well as the remodeling that was being done. As they approached the house, Elizabeth saw that Catherine had become very quiet.

“Why Catherine, what is wrong? Surely you cannot take offense to me not wanting a pink room?”

Catherine shook her head, and said, “No, that swatch your grandfather sent was very pretty, but pink is not for you. I was only wondering...” she hesitated, “Elizabeth, the changes you described he is making: all that construction. It is very expensive is it not?”

Elizabeth was instantly alert; surely she had not given too much away. She looked at Mary who only shrugged. Elizabeth replied, “I believe so. Why?”

Catherine looked about ready to cry when Elizabeth confirmed her thoughts, “Then your grandfather is very rich! And I made fun of him!”

Elizabeth started laughing and said, “Yes. Grandfather is indeed very rich. However, I assure you he has a humorous side, when you meet him you will probably be at the receiving end of quite a lot of his jokes.”

Catherine still on the verge of tears choked out, “No, Elizabeth! I should not pry, but I am so curious. Please tell me he is not a prince and that I have not offended him.”

Elizabeth sighed, knowing she needed to tell Catherine, “He is not a prince, my dear. But,” here she hesitated, “He is a very important man. However, you did not offend him. I wrote to him of your imaginings and he thought them delightful. He particularly liked the idea of being a highway man.”

Barely believing her cousin, Catherine sighed, “Oh Elizabeth! You do not have to tell me more! Just so long as I did not offend him...”

“Far from it. One day, I hope to introduce you. He particularly wants to see what you have been painting, saying surely my descriptions of your work do not do you justice. Those drawings you gave me for him? He had them framed and hung in his study.”

They walked for a little bit, and after a few moments, Elizabeth finally said, “You know Catherine. I am quite pleased with the friendship we have been developing. I am ashamed to say, for too long I subscribed to Uncle’s former opinion of you: you were simply too silly for me. For that error in judgement I apologize.”

Catherine looked up with surprise and had the grace to blush at the reference to her former character and replied, “I can certainly understand why you thought so. Personally, I cannot look at my previous character and be pleased.” She asked quietly, “Does Father really not see me as silly anymore?”

Elizabeth laughed loudly and replied, “He complained to me just last week that he was quite put out that he did not have three silly daughters anymore, only one.”

The two sisters smiled at each other and then continued walking with their cousin. After a few more minutes of silence, Elizabeth finally said, “As you know, I wrote to my grandfather about you and the Lieutenant. He confessed that he sent one of his men to check out your favorite’s suitability.”

Catherine’s head lifted immediately from her focus on her shoes and asked, “What do you mean by one of his men?”

Elizabeth sighed and stopped in the road and replied, “Catherine, you were right in your estimation that my grandfather is not destitute but a very powerful and rich man. My grandfather cares about each of the members of this family because I claim you as family. With the military being full of not only honorable men but also equally full of dishonorable ones, he wanted to ascertain which your Lieutenant was.” With a twinkle in her eye she added, “I should tell you, Sanderson passed with flying colors.”

Catherine did not know what to say, so she kept walking and left Elizabeth and Mary to follow her. When they reached the top of a hill that overlooked Longbourn, Elizabeth sighed and said, “I will miss this place when I am in London, or even at Heythrop Park.”

“Heythrop Park?” asked Catherine.

“Yes,” Elizabeth nodded. “Heythrop Park is the country estate of the Duke of Shrewsbury,” she looked directly at Catherine and said, “who is my grandfather.”

Catherine gasped and gaped at her cousin. She finally stuttered out, “That…mean….means…you are…you are…”

“Lady Elizabeth Evette Bennet Talbot, future Duchess of Shrewsbury.” Dryly Elizabeth said as she rolled her eyes, “I will not bore you with my current title at the moment.”

“That means you are….” Catherine started. She put her hand over her mouth as she continued to gape at her cousin, and finally asked, “I am related to a Duke?”

Mary interrupted and said, “Not related but connected. You will be related to any children Elizabeth has and therefore a future Duke.”

Elizabeth could see her cousin was having a hard time accepting the truth and laughed when Catherine finally asked, “But Elizabeth, I mean Lady Elizabeth, why would you spend time here if you could be with…your grandfather?”

Elizabeth smiled and replied, “Would you wish to miss the memories you made growing up with Lydia? Or maybe you would rather miss those memories you are making now with Mary? Growing up at Heythrop Park, I would not know you, Mary, or even Jane as well as I do. I would not give that up for the world. Please continue to call me Elizabeth or Lizzy, as you have always done," Elizabeth started to walk down the hill slowly as she added, “Indeed, there is no amount of money or prestige that would be worth giving up the childhood I have received.”

Catherine was curious and asked, “Why now? Why did you wait to tell anyone? I mean, everyone thinks you are penniless!”

Elizabeth sighed, “Yes, well. Think for a moment on how people would have reacted. Would I have been Charlotte’s friend? Who would be my friends? Would I ever be able to trust that their friendship was based on my merits or my pocket book? Indeed, how would men from the militia reacted if they had known?” Immediately, she thought of Wickham and realized he would have never left her side. Funny, I know he needs to marry well, but why do I now see him as a fortune hunter?

Elizabeth realized that her comments had silenced Catherine. Seeing her cousin was becoming very serious, Elizabeth started to tease her and said, “You should feel honored; you are the first person I told before you found out on your own. Jane and Mary found out before I could tell either of them.”

Catherine laughed and then cried out loud with humor, “To think, Mr. Collins’ might have married into a dukedom!” The three girls laughed at the comment. Catherine continued, “But Mr. Bingley! And Mr. Darcy! Do they know who your grandfather is?”

“No.”

Catherine chewed her lip a little and asked, “Please do not be offended, but would not Miss Bingley knowing who your grandfather was, help Jane?”

Elizabeth smiled at her young cousin, “I take no offense, and no: I do not believe it would. You are right in wondering that if Miss Bingley knew of Jane’s connection to my grandfather, she would do everything in her power to support the match. However, what good does that do for Jane? Would she ever be able to know for sure if Mr. Bingley actually loved her? I do not think she would. I think she would spend the rest of her life wondering if Mr. Bingley married her for herself rather than her connections.”

Catherine then asked, “What about Mr. Darcy?”

In confusion Elizabeth asked, “What do you mean?”

“You are always saying how he believes himself better than everyone. He would not be seen as better than you, would he?” Catherine continued and asked, “Would he not have acted different around you?”

Elizabeth smiled and replied, “Indeed he would have acted differently; how much, I cannot fathom. From what I understand, Mr. Darcy does not have a title but his family goes as far back as mine.” She then hung her head sadly and added, “However, I believe Mr. Darcy’s overall character would not show any different mannerisms than they did without him knowing of my inheritance. He strikes me as exactly the type of person who my grandfather says the first circles are full of: arrogance, entitlement, and rudeness.”

“Is that why you dislike him so much,” Mary asked, “Because he represents what you will have to deal with come the fall?”

Elizabeth stopped walking and stood in stunned silence. After a few seconds of consideration, she responded, “That is a very astute question Mary. Am I projecting my own uncertainty upon his character because of my own reticence to join his society? Maybe.”

Mary hesitated, “I have never thought him as bad as you described, Elizabeth. I know he insulted you from the first moment you met, and I am also aware of what Mr. Wickham has said Mr. Darcy has done to him. However, part of me keeps holding my own opinion back; part of me believes that maybe there is more to the man than what we have seen.”

“Mary, surely you are not saying that in different company Mr. Darcy is polite, humble and actually cares for the feelings of others!” teased Elizabeth. The three ladies laughed together. As they arrived back at Longbourn, they were pleased to find that Mrs. Bennet and Lydia had gone to call on some friends. The girls made their way up to Elizabeth’s room where Elizabeth found herself plied with more questions that she could imagine from both Catherine and Mary regarding her grandfather.



Hunsford Cottage, Hunsford March 1812

Elizabeth could not say that she was completely excited to visit her cousin Collins, who was sure to try to point out everything she could have had, had she not refused him. However, Elizabeth was looking forward to seeing Charlotte. All of her friend’s letters to her were filled with contentment. She had not been there a full week before she realized that her friend was, indeed, truly content with her life.

“Mr. Collins spends most of his time in his garden,” Charlotte had explained during her tour of her house. “He has the perfect view of the lane to Rosings Park from there and spends much of his time watching for Lady Catherine or Miss De Bourgh.”

“I take it you encourage him in this?” asked Elizabeth.

“Indeed! Most passionately,” With a smirk she added, “After all, he has an excellent vegetable garden, and herb garden that allows us to be most generous with our parishioners. After Lady Catherine mentioned that this was indeed Christian charity at work, he doubled the garden!” Then grimacing, “Then again, the amount that I find I must preserve has also grown exponentially.”

Anne added, “It is mostly herbs that we dry, however, much of the excess fruits and vegetables are re-distributed amongst the poorer of my mother’s tenants.”

“When do you find the time for it?” inquired Elizabeth.

“I do not. Miss De Bourgh felt bad when she found out, and requested us to send anything we could not preserve to Rosings’ kitchens. She has her staff preserve much of my husband’s efforts from his herb garden and returns it to us so that we can distribute it. I keep what I can, but everything else goes to the villagers and tenants of Rosings Park. Indeed, most of his vegetables do not stay here.”

Elizabeth felt her eyebrows rise as Charlotte continued, “The only thing that Anne requires is that I come and visit her weekly with news from her tenants and the villagers. She is most curious as to the state of her mother’s tenants. She has her companion write our conversations down, something about informing her cousins, to rectify their circumstances when they come.”

“Her cousins? Surely you do not mean Mr. Darcy?”

Charlotte nodded, “I do believe he is one of the cousins who regularly .visit From what I understand they are expecting him soon.”

Elizabeth sat back on the window seat in the room she had been provided and thought back to that conversation. Since her arrival, Charlotte had informed her that it was indeed Mr. Darcy who would be visiting in a few short weeks. He was also bringing his cousin who was a Colonel in the army. She was a little dismayed that her tranquility would be so soon tested by Mr. Darcy, but quickly thought the better of it, for surely Rosings is a large enough estate, I certainly shall not see much of him.

It was at that moment that a great commotion could be heard downstairs. Elizabeth raced to find out what was going on. When she reached Charlotte, who was standing a respectable distance from a grand open coach, she found out.

“My dear Cousin Elizabeth! Come and meet Miss De Bourgh, who through her kind benevolence has brought you some mail,” cried Mr. Collins loquaciously.

Elizabeth approached the carriage and took stock of the small pale creature in the carriage. She was dressed in all black and an overly excessive amount of frills. But there was laughter in her eyes as she eyed Mr. Collins. “Miss Bennet, I presume! I have heard so much about you, from both Mr. Collins and Mrs. Collins. I have quite been anticipating your arrival!”

To Elizabeth, the voice did not seem weak. The description she had from Mr. Collins described her as being perpetually ill. However, despite her pale color, Elizabeth had a feeling that there was nothing wrong with the young lady. She stated as she curtseyed, “Miss De Bourgh, it is indeed a pleasure. I have also been hearing about you.”

Miss De Bourgh nodded toward Mr. Collins and stated, “Do not believe everything you hear about me. But come closer, please, I do have letter for you. I was retrieving a parcel from London that I had ordered and sought to pick up Mrs. Collins’ mail, as I normally do, while I am in town. It always gives me an excuse to see Charlotte. While there, they mentioned they had one for you, and I offered to drop it by.”

Surprised at Miss De Bourgh's willingness to do such a mundane thing, Elizabeth commented, “Surely, you need not have gone out of your way –”

Miss De Bourgh cut her off with a wave of her hand, “It certainly was not. I also expect you the day after tomorrow when Charlotte comes to visit after her rounds with the tenants.” Then turning to Charlotte she added, “I almost forgot! Would it be possible to move our meeting to the day after tomorrow instead of tomorrow? My cousins are planning on arriving tomorrow and Mother has so many plans. I must wait until Fitzwilliam and Richard convince her they have much too much to do before they are free for any social events.”

Laughing at the daughter’s descriptions of the next few days, Charlotte simply said, “Of course, Miss Anne –”

“Charlotte! You must call her Miss De Bourgh! Her rank! The distinction –”

“Mr. Collins, I told Charlotte to call me that, at least when Mama is not around.” Waving her driver on, Miss Anne yelled, “I will see both of you on Wednesday!”

Elizabeth made her escape as the carriage pulled away before Mr. Collins or Sir Lucas could engage her in any conversation. She went back up to her room she would share until the end of the week with Mariah. Elizabeth immediately sat down to read the letter from Jane. She was surprised by her cousin’s handwriting. It was not as beautiful as it normally was, almost as if she was having a hard time writing.

Gracechurch Street, London
March 1st, 1812

Dearest Elizabeth,

You will surely tell me that you warned me about the Bingley sisters. As you know, I had planned on waiting for Caroline and Louisa s to call upon me after I first arrived. It was four weeks after my visit that Caroline came by. I waited every morning for two weeks for her to visit; it was not until two weeks after I had given up on them that Miss Bingley came alone to see me. I can no longer be blind to Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst’s inattention. Miss Bingley arrived alone, stayed no longer than a quarter of an hour, declined any refreshments, and regarded my aunt’s house with a disdain that bordered on rudeness.

I felt mortified that this woman, who I thought was a friend, would treat our aunt so…ungraciously. I am sure you will be incapable of triumphing in your better judgement, at my expense, when I confess myself to have been entirely deceived in Miss Bingley's regard for me. However, even though you were right about her regard for me, I still believe that I was right as well. I do not understand Miss Bingley at all. However, should circumstances happen that I am thrown into her society again I certainly will not be deceived by her manner.

It is a pity though. I cannot help but blame her. Until I came to visit Aunt Madeline, she was the one who sought my society out. I pity her because she must have felt she had been acting wrong, probably because of my apparent interest in her brother. It certainly could not be because her brother was interested in me; if there even was any interest. He knows of my being in town, Miss Bingley assured me of it, but is still very much partial to Miss Darcy.

As Elizabeth finished the letter, the complete and utter disappointment of Jane seeped through every sentence. How despicably they have acted, thought Elizabeth. However, by the end of the letter Elizabeth was pleased to see that Jane would no longer be fooled by the Miss Bingleys of the world.

However, the more she thought about the contents of the letter, the more she was disturbed by it. Surely, Mr. Bingley had been in love with Jane! But it does not recommend himself if he allows the will of others to come between him and the woman he loves.Surely, Miss Bingley does not hold that kind of power over her brother?



Rosings’ Park, Kent March 1812

“Mr. Bennet’s estate is entailed on Mr. Collins, I think. For your sake,” turning to Charlotte, Lady Catherine stated, “I am glad of it; but otherwise I see no occasion for entailing estates away from the female line. It was not thought necessary in Sir Lewis de Bourgh's family. Do you play and sing, Miss Bennet?"

Elizabeth was excessively diverted. She had been in Kent for almost a week now, and had only that morning saw off Sir Lucas and Mariah. Almost immediately after the Lucas’ carriage left, a runner had come to the cottage with a note from Lady De Bourgh, informing Charlotte she would expect them for morning tea promptly and Charlotte should make sure to bring her all of her guests.

To say that Lady Catherine was quite put out by the fact that Sir Lucas and Mariah left without meeting her, was an understatement.

“I do apologize, Lady Catherine, however, I know that I informed you that Father could not stay longer than a week and Mariah was to visit some of her own friends for a few months. Father was to drop Mariah off at her friend’s home on the way back to Hertfordshire.

“Well, I believe you did mention something of the sort, but it is extremely vexing circumstance.”

“I assure you, had my father not had business to attend to, he would have been honored to make your acquaintance,” offered Charlotte.

“Well, I am sure he would have, but I am a very busy woman! My nephews, Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam are due in this afternoon and I simply do not know when I would have found the time to meet him, outside of this tea,” stated Lady Catherine.

Elizabeth smirked; from where she sat, Lady Catherine did not seem to say very much other than to give orders and unsolicited suggestions out. It was then that Lady Catherine started quizzing Elizabeth, “You there, Miss Bennet, do you play?”

"A little," Elizabeth replied, “but not well enough to amuse your ladyship.”

"Oh! Then some time or other we shall be happy to hear you. Our instrument is a capital one, probably superior as well. You shall try it someday. Do your sisters play and sing?"

"One of them does."

"Why did not you all learn? You all should have learned. The Miss Webbs’ all play and their father has not so good an income as yours. Do you draw?"

"Mr. Bennet is my uncle, and no, not at all."

"What, none of you?"

“My cousin Catherine draws quite beautifully, but has had no formal instruction."

"That is very strange. Your mother should have taken you to town every spring for the benefit of masters."

"My aunt would have had no objection, but my uncle hates London."

Lady Catherine ignored the correction, and instead asked, "Has your governess left you?"

"We never had any governess."

"No governess! How was that possible? Five girls brought up at home without a governess! I never heard of such a thing. Your mother must have been quite a slave to your education." Elizabeth could hardly help smiling as she assured her that had not been the case and was quite amused at her ladyship’s lack of comprehension regarding her guardians. "Then, who taught you? Who attended to you? Without a governess, you must have been neglected."

"Compared with some families, I believe we were; but those of us as who wished to learn never wanted the means. We were always encouraged to read, and had all the masters that were necessary. Those who chose to be idle certainly might" replied an amused Elizabeth.

“That is exactly what a governess would have prevented!”

Elizabeth thought of Lydia and could not help but agree, but Lady Catherine was not done.

As she continued to express her opinion on how Elizabeth should have been raised, Elizabeth glanced at Anne De Bourgh who was trying not to smirk, “Had I known your mother, I would have strongly advised her to engage one! I always say that nothing can be done without education and regular instruction. No one but a good governess can give it!”

Miss De Bourgh finally interrupted her mother and said, “Aunt, Mother. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are Miss Bennet’s uncle and aunt, not her father and mother.”

Lady Catherine looked shocked by this revelation, “I understood from Mr. Collins you were a member of his Hertfordshire family, Miss Bennet!”

Elizabeth offered, “Indeed, they were kind enough to allow me to be raised alongside of their own daughters. However, my father was the current Mr. Bennet’s younger brother.. I am still related to Mr. Collins.”

Lady Catherine took this with aplomb and after a short pause, Lady Catherine continued, “Are any of your cousins out besides the eldest?”

"Yes, ma'am, all."

"All! What, all four out at once? Very odd! The younger ones out before the elder ones are married! Your younger cousins must be very young?" cried Lady Catherine in astonishment.

"Yes, my youngest is not sixteen. Perhaps she is full young to be much in company. But really, ma'am, I think it would be very hard upon younger ladies that they should not have their share of society and amusement, because the elder may not have the means or inclination to marry early. I think it would not be very likely to promote affection or delicacy of mind." Elizabeth’s smiled grew even larger as she said, “Indeed, one of my younger cousins is engaged to be married: a state she would not be in had my aunt and uncle waited on me to marry.”

"Upon my word," said her ladyship, "you give your opinion very decidedly for so young a person. Pray, what is your age?"

"With three younger cousins grown up, and one engaged," replied Elizabeth, smiling, "your ladyship can hardly expect me to own it."

Lady Catherine seemed quite astonished at not receiving a direct answer; and Elizabeth suspected herself to be the first creature who had ever dared to trifle with so much dignified impertinence.

"You cannot be more than twenty, I am sure, therefore you need not conceal your age."

Elizabeth bowed her head in Lady Catherine’s direction and stated, "I am not one-and-twenty."

“Indeed.”

The conversation turned to latest events happening in a nearby town. However, not thirty minutes later when there was a pause in the conversation, Lady Catherine inquired, “You say Mr. Bennet is your uncle, the who was your mother?”

Elizabeth went silent at this point as she attempted to answer without giving too much away, “My mother’s name was Faith.”

Thankfully, Lady Catherine continued without questioning, “And you have no relatives other than the Bennets?”

“I have a grandfather who lives in London, and is my guardian,” replied Elizabeth.

“Then you rely on your uncle’s generosity?”

“Actually no, it may seem that way, but my grandfather is gracious enough to let me remain with the Bennets in order to partake of some society and enjoy my cousins’ company. He himself rarely goes out.”

“Have you any dowry?”

“Mama! That is not any of our business!” cried Anne. She swiftly changed the subject to inquire as to Elizabeth’s cousins. It was a short time later that Charlotte rose and made their excuses and they left.

The last thought Elizabeth had, when she wrote a letter to her grandfather that evening describing Lady Catherine was: I got myself out of the frying pan and right into the fire for that one. I shall have to be more careful with Lady De Bourgh in the future. After all, she might know my grandfather.

Only about a week later, Elizabeth found herself, once again, walking toward Rosings Park for dinner. I hope this evening will be better, although I rather doubt it if Mr. Darcy is in attendance, she thought.

“Elizabeth! I believe we owe this dinner to your presence. After Anne canceled our meeting this morning, I was quite unprepared for the note inviting us to dinner this evening. Surely, it is because of both of our prior acquaintance with Mr. Darcy.” Charlotte stated as they walked to Rosings.

“I do not understand your meaning Charlotte. When they called on us this afternoon, it was quite clear that Anne wished to introduce the Colonel to you.” Elizabeth stated as she thought of the surprise encounter that morning.

Mr. Collins had already left to meet with a parishioner, and Elizabeth and Charlotte were conversing quietly over some plans they had to harvest some of Mr. Collins’ herbs that afternoon, when the housekeeper announced, “Miss De Bourgh, Mr. Darcy, and Colonel Fitzwilliam to see you ma’am.”

“Charlotte!” cried Anne as soon as she entered, “First, let me introduce my cousins. You both know Mr. Darcy, but the shorter fellow next to him is Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam, a cousin on my mother’s side.”

Both men bowed and took seats as soon as the ladies sat. Charlotte sat on the love seat with Anne, while the men shared the couch. Elizabeth opted for a chair across from the men but close to Charlotte. She listened as Anne exclaimed, “Charlotte my dear, I must cancel our meeting this afternoon. I showed Darcy the journal that I have been making notes in about Mother’s tenants and he insisted that we needed to go this afternoon to visit a few of the more…distressed cottages. I am going along so that these two men do not frighten them.” She said as she pointed to her cousins.

“Frighten them! I do not know what you mean!” exclaimed the Colonel in a very jovial manner.

Anne waved him off and continued, as she pulled out a note and handed it to Charlotte, “Mother agrees with me, I feel bad about canceling yet again, and we invite you, your husband and Miss Bennet to dinner tonight. Maybe we can speak more then. If not, you and I will find some day to get together this week.”

Charlotte took the note and set it aside and addressed Mr. Darcy and Miss De Bourgh, “Which cottages will you visit?” As the three discussed Rosings’ Estate, Elizabeth started a conversation with the Colonel about his recent adventures.

It seemed to Elizabeth that Mr. Darcy was only half listening to her friend and his cousin. Her suspicions were proven correct when half way through their visit he addressed her, “Miss Bennet, how is your family faring with your absence?”

“Tolerably so.” She replied, and then added, “However, they must make do with two fewer individuals as my cousin Jane has been in town these few months. Have you happened to see her there?”

Mr. Darcy lost a little color from his face and Elizabeth supposed that it was due to the reference of his friend who was also in town, she was not surprised when he said, “I have not had the opportunity to meet with her again.” She left it there. He turned his attention back to Charlotte and Anne’s conversation and the party soon left after that.

“Cousin Elizabeth, you must not mind your attire,” exclaimed Mr. Collins, bringing Elizabeth back to the present, “She appreciates the distinction of rank. You are most suitably dressed.”

Elizabeth looked down at the brown muslin she was wearing andsmiled and said, “Indeed, I endeavor at all times to dress for my place in society at that moment.” Charlotte looked curiously at her for her comment, and Elizabeth simply smiled and concluded, “I would not dare usurp Lady Catherine’s esteemed presence by dressing too formally.”

Elizabeth could not say that she had been anticipating this meal with pleasure. In fact, it was quite the opposite. She found the Colonel interesting, Anne intriguing, and Lady Catherine boorish. However, she felt most displeased at Mr. Darcy’s presence. It reminded her of her dear cousin’s heartbreak and brought on a melancholy that she had to fight back. Jane is hurting in London and I am forced to sit idly by as she does so. Is there no justice in this world? The attitude lasted most of the evening until after dinner. Mr. Darcy’s attention was demanded by Lady Catherine and Elizabeth found herself all but pushed to the side of the room where she found Colonel Fitzwilliam, a situation she was most satisfied with. However, her satisfaction was short-lived when Lady Catherine practically demanded she play for them.

After a few moments of denial and attempts to convince Lady Catherine that she really did not play very well, Elizabeth rose to go over to the piano. Colonel Fitzwilliam offered to turn the pages for her and so she set off attempting a simple song. Lady Catherine listened to half a song, and then talked, as before, to her other nephew. After a lull in her conversation, Mr. Darcy made his way over to the piano to listen closer.

"You mean to frighten me, Mr. Darcy, by coming in all this state to hear me? I will not be alarmed though your sister does play so well. There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me,” challenged Elizabeth.

"If I believed that were your real opinion, I might say you are mistaken,” he replied. "However, you take pleasure in espousing opinions that are not your own and I will not give you the satisfaction.”

Elizabeth laughed heartily at this picture of her, and said to Colonel Fitzwilliam, "Mr. Darcy would not have you believe a word I say! It paints a very dismal picture of my character. It does provoke me to retaliate and give details of your behavior in Hertfordshire that would shock your relations.”

“I am not afraid of you,” said Mr. Darcy, smilingly.

“Pray let me hear what you have to accuse him of,” laughed Colonel Fitzwilliam. “I should like to know how he behaves among strangers.”

Elizabeth looked at Mr. Darcy for a second to gauge his reaction before she stated, “The first time of my ever seeing him in Hertfordshire was on a hillside near my uncle’s estate where he almost ran into my cousin and me with his and a friend’s horses. He was quite uncivil, and basically blamed us, who had almost been killed, for walking on a public road.”

Seeing the alarm in the Colonel’s eyes she added with merriment so as to show that there were no hard feelings for the incident, said “The second time was at a ball, where he danced only four dances, though gentlemen were scarce; and, to my certain knowledge, more than one young lady was sitting down in want of a partner. Mr. Darcy, you cannot deny the fact."

“I had not at that time the honor of knowing any lady in the assembly beyond my own party.”

"True; and nobody can ever be introduced in a ball-room. Well, Colonel Fitzwilliam, what do I play next? My fingers wait your orders."

“Perhaps,” said Darcy, continuing the conversation, “I should have judged better, had I sought an introduction; but I am ill-qualified to recommend myself to strangers.”

"Shall we ask your cousin the reason of this?" said Elizabeth, still addressing Colonel Fitzwilliam. "Shall we ask him why a man of sense and education, and who has lived in the world, is ill qualified to recommend himself to strangers?"

"I can answer your question," said Fitzwilliam, "without applying to him. It is because he will not give himself the trouble."

"I certainly have not the talent which some people possess," said Darcy, "of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done."

To Mr. Darcy she spoke, "My fingers, do not move over this instrument in the masterly manner which I see Mary’s and even Miss Bingley’s do. But then I have always supposed it to be my own fault— because I will not take the trouble of practicing. It is not that I do not believe my fingers as capable as any other woman's of superior execution."

Darcy smiled and said, "You are perfectly right. You have employed your time much better. No one admitted to the privilege of hearing you can think anything wanting. We neither of us performs to strangers."

"What is that you are saying, Fitzwilliam? What is it you are talking of? What are you telling Miss Bennet? Let me hear what it is!” exclaimed Lady Catherine, who was quite put out for not being part of the conversation with him.

"We are speaking of music, madam," Mr. Darcy replied dryly.

"Of music! Then pray speak aloud. It is of all subjects my delight. There are few people in England, I suppose, who have more true enjoyment of music than I, or a better natural taste. If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient. So would Anne,” As Lady Catherine declared this, her daughter rolled her eyes and almost caused Elizabeth to laugh out loud, “If her health had allowed her to apply. I am confident that she would have performed delightfully. How does Georgiana get on, Darcy?"

Mr. Darcy spoke with affectionate praise of his sister's proficiency.

"I am very glad to hear such a good account of her," said Lady Catherine; "and pray tell her from me, that she cannot expect to excel if she does not practice a good deal."

"I assure you, madam," he replied, "that she does not need such advice. She practices very constantly."

"I have told Miss Bennet several times, that she will never play really well unless she practices more. I know Mrs. Collins has no instrument and I have instructed her to use the one in Mrs. Jenkinson's room. She would be in nobody's way, you know, in that part of the house. “

Mr. Darcy looked a little ashamed of his aunt's ill-breeding, and made no answer. As Lady Catherine proceeded to expand upon what things Anne would have been good at, Elizabeth glanced at Mr. Darcy to see his reaction to it; he neither looked interested nor listened to his Aunt’s prattle. As she watched Lady Catherine continue, it was hard to miss both Mr. Darcy’s and Miss De Bourgh’s disinterest. Elizabeth thought, he looks as willing to marry Anne as he is to marry Miss Bingley.

Lady Catherine continued her remarks on Elizabeth's performance and her preference for Anne’s would-have-been accomplishments, mixing with them many instructions on execution and taste. Elizabeth received them with all the forbearance of civility, and, at the request of the gentlemen, remained at the instrument till her ladyship's carriage was ready to take them all home.
SubjectAuthorPosted

Ignorance and Irony - Chapter 5 Part One

MarciMay 27, 2017 06:53PM



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