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In a Prudential Light, Chapter 7

Roslyn
February 03, 2018 07:59PM
Hi All - long time, no post! Still enjoying writing this story, though, and had a little time to put together another chapter this week. Hoping you enjoy and that I can keep finding time to write and post updates.

Chapter Seven

As Darcy marched down the path toward Rosings in a haze of half-formed thoughts and emotions, he hardly knew whether to agonize over the impossibility of ever truly being joined to Elizabeth, or to exult in the clear proof she had given him that she ardently returned his love.

Was there any way to proceed from here? They had been interrupted before she could give him her answer about his offer to provide an allowance to her family, and her suddenly distant manner upon the arrival of Mr. Collins made Darcy worry she was already beginning to regret their tryst in the moments before.

He knew he should, but he could not regret it. She had far more to lose than he did, and of that inequity he was keenly aware. But the heady memory of her soft, eager lips on his was too intoxicating to allow him much thought at present beyond these basic facts.

Upon returning to Rosings, he was met with a predictably irritated Lady Catherine, who chastised him for his perceived tardiness as one would a small boy. There was also a letter waiting from his man of business in London, outlining a number of pressing matters that required his attention directly upon his return the following week. It would seem that delaying his journey from Rosings for the sake of attempting to come to some sort of understanding with Elizabeth would be imprudent for reasons beyond the not insignificant fact she was a married woman.

Bounding up to his rooms, having given his aunt the excuse that urgent business required his immediate attention, Darcy contemplated his options. He could hardly go back to the parsonage this evening—not only would Mr. Collins and Miss Bennet be there, but Elizabeth, having had the space of a few hours to reflect on the evening’s events, might refuse to see him.

But he could not leave Kent with the nagging worry that she would come to think harshly of him. Her earlier accusations about his behavior regarding both Bingley and Wickham, despite what followed, were troubling to him. He wished to give her some explanation of his actions. Could he perhaps get a letter to her before he went? He sat down to write.

Be not alarmed, madam, on receiving this letter, by the apprehension of its containing any repetition of those sentiments or renewal of those offers which were this evening so upsetting to you. I write without any intention of paining you, or humbling myself, by dwelling on wishes which, for the happiness of both, perhaps would be better forgotten. The effort which the formation and the perusal of this letter must occasion should have been spared, had not my character required it to be written and read. You must, therefore, pardon the freedom with which I demand your attention; your feelings, I know, will bestow it unwillingly, but I demand it of your justice.

Two offenses of a very different nature you laid to my charge. The first was, that, regardless of the sentiments of either, I had detached Mr. Bingley from your sister, and the other, that I had ruined the prosperity and prospects of Mr. Wickham. These charges, if true, would indeed be grievous, but are wholly without foundation, and which I can only refute by laying before you all the facts as I know them.

I had not been long in Hertfordshire, before I saw that Bingley preferred your elder 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. I observed my friend’s behavior attentively, and I could then perceive that his partiality for Miss Bennet 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 peculiar regard, and I remained convinced that though she received his attentions with pleasure, she did not invite them by any participation of sentiment. Your superior knowledge of your sister may tell you I was in error here—and if my error has inflicted pain on her, I fully acknowledge your resentment on this score was not unreasonable. The serenity of your sister’s countenance and air was such that an observer such as myself was convinced that, however amiable her temper, her heart was not likely to be easily touched.

I told Bingley as much, and did not spare him my other reservations about the marriage. He had before believed her to return his affection with sincere regard. But Bingley has great natural modesty, with a stronger dependence on my judgement than on his own. To convince him, therefore, that he had deceived himself, was no very difficult point. If this was error, I had no reason to know it till now.

With respect to that other accusation of having injured Mr. Wickham, of what he has particularly accused me I am ignorant; but of the truth of what I shall relate, I can summon more than one witness of undoubted veracity.

Mr. Wickham is the son of a very respectable man, who had for many years the management of all the Pemberley estates, and whose good conduct in the discharge of his trust naturally inclined my father to be of service to him. On George Wickham, who was my father’s godson, his kindness was therefore liberally bestowed. He supported Mr. Wickham at school, and afterwards at Cambridge. My father was not only fond of this young man’s society, whose manners were always engaging, he had also the highest opinion of him, and hoping the church would be his profession, intended to provide for him in it.

As for myself, it is many, many years since I first began to think of Wickham in a very different manner. The vicious propensities—the want of principle, which he was careful to guard from the knowledge of my father, could not escape the observation of a young man of nearly the same age with himself, who had opportunities of seeing him in unguarded moments.

My excellent father died about five years ago. His attachment to Mr. Wickham was to the last so steady, that in his will he particularly recommended it to me to promote his advancement in the best manner that his profession might allow—and if he took orders, desired that a valuable family living might be his as soon as it became vacant. There was also a legacy of one thousand pounds.

Within half a year from these events, Mr. Wickham wrote to inform me that, having finally resolved against taking orders, he hoped I should not think it unreasonable for him to expect some more immediate monetary advantage, in lieu of the preferment, by which he could be benefited. He had some intention, he added, of studying law, and I must be aware that the interest of one thousand pounds would be a very insufficient support therein. I rather wished, than believed him to be sincere. At any rate, I was perfectly ready to accede to his proposal. I knew that Mr. Wickham ought not to be a clergyman; the business was therefore soon settled—he resigned all claim to assistance in the church, and accepted in return three thousand pounds.

All connection between us seemed now dissolved. I thought too ill of him to invite him to Pemberley, or admit his society in town. In town I believe he chiefly lived, but his studying the law was a mere pretense, and being now free from all restraint, his life was one of idleness and dissipation.

I must now mention a circumstance which I would wish to forget myself, and which no obligation less than the present should induce me to unfold to any human being. Having said this much, I feel no doubt of your secrecy. My sister, who is more than ten years my junior, was left to the guardianship of my mother’s nephew, Colonel Fitzwilliam, and myself. About a year ago, she was taken from school, and an establishment formed for her in London. Last summer she went with the lady who presided over it, to Ramsgate. Thither also went Mr. Wickham, undoubtedly by design, for there proved to have been a prior acquaintance between him and Mrs. Younge, in whose character we were most unhappily deceived. By her connivance and aid, he so far recommended himself to Georgiana, whose affectionate heart retained a strong impression of his kindness to her as a child, that she was persuaded to believe herself in love, and to consent to an elopement. She was then but fifteen, which must be her excuse.

I joined them unexpectedly a day or two before the intended elopement, and then Georgiana, unable to support the idea of grieving a brother whom she almost looked up to as a father, acknowledged the whole to me. You may imagine what I felt and how I acted. Mr. Wickham left the place immediately, and Mrs. Younge was of course removed from her charge. Mr. Wickham’s chief object was unquestionably my sister’s fortune, which is thirty thousand pounds, but I cannot help supposing that the hope of revenging himself on me was a strong inducement. His revenge would have been complete indeed.

This, madam, is a faithful narrative of every event in which we have been concerned together. If you do not absolutely reject it as false, you will, I hope, acquit me henceforth of cruelty towards Mr. Wickham. I know not in what manner, under what form of falsehood he had imposed on you, but his success is not perhaps to be wondered at. Ignorant as you previously were of everything concerning this history, detection could not be in your power, and suspicion certainly not in your inclination.

There was not time to tell you all this tonight, and even if there had been, I was not then master enough of myself to know what could or ought to be revealed. For the truth of everything here related, I can appeal more particularly to the testimony of Colonel Fitzwilliam, who, from our near relationship and constant intimacy, and, still more, as one of the executors of my father’s will, has been unavoidably acquainted with every particular of these transactions.

As for the rest of what passed between us this evening, I can only beg your pardon if I have offended you, and hope that friendship and the depth of mutual respect and regard I know has grown between us these many weeks in Kent was not ruined in the space of a few ill-considered moments. Even so, I cannot regret them.

I shall endeavor to find some opportunity of putting this letter in your hands in the course of the morning. I will only add, God bless you.

FITZWILLIAM DARCY





Elizabeth rose the next morning to the same agonizing thoughts, meditations, and self-reproach which had kept her from sleep most of the night. She had been incredibly weary upon retiring, but was not able to quiet her mind sufficiently for any real repose. She could not yet recover from the shock of all that had happened—it was impossible to think of anything else—and, totally indisposed for any employment, she resolved, without going joining the others for breakfast, to throw herself into fresh air and exercise.

The events of last evening seemed as though they ought to belong to some fevered dream and not to reality. As she replayed its events over and over in her mind, Elizabeth hardly recognized herself in the behavior she’d displayed, not only in the rash manner she had dropped her guard and allowed unchecked emotion to govern her, but also in how forcefully she had argued with and baited Darcy before his sudden declaration had changed everything between them forever.

Quickly climbing the hill behind the parsonage toward her favorite walk, Elizabeth’s cheeks were aflame and her breath came quick and shallow, her equanimity lost yet again in another memory of his confession of love and the embraces that followed. She knew it had been wrong both to take and to allow such liberties, something entirely shameful for a wife to do. Much as she wished she could simply forget what had occurred between herself and Darcy, it seemed all the more etched in her memory for that desire. Every now and then she caught the faintest hint of his masculine scent still hanging about the locks of her own hair. The intimate reminder of his closeness was both intoxicating and agonizing. From moment to moment, she could not be certain whether elation or regret would rule in her heart.

In the midst of these reflections, she recollected how often she had met Darcy somewhere along the path of her favorite walk. The thought of a meeting now, while her emotions still rioted within her, stopped her progress, and instead of entering the park, she turned up the lane, which led farther from the road. The property line of Rosings Park was still the boundary on one side, and she soon passed one of the gates into the grounds.

She was on the point of continuing her walk, when she caught a glimpse of a gentleman within the grove which edged the park; he was moving toward her. Fearful of its being Mr. Darcy, she retreated directly. But the person who advanced was now near enough to see her, and stepping forward with eagerness, pronounced her name.

She had turned away, but on hearing herself called in a voice which proved the approaching figure to be Mr. Darcy, she moved again towards the gate. He had by that time reached it also, and extended an arm to stay her hand as she moved to open the latch and let herself through.

“I have been walking the grove for some time in the hope of meeting you,” he said, in a voice rich with unspoken feeling. “Please—don’t go just yet. How are you this morning?”

Elizbeth, cheeks now burning even brighter, could not meet his eyes. “I have slept very little,” she said presently, finding that dissembling in her present state of exhaustion, worry, and agitation was neither possible nor desirable.

Out of the corner of her eye, Elizabeth saw him smile wryly in response. “No, nor have I.” A sudden gust of breeze blew a few strands of her hair across her face, and seemingly without thinking he reached out to brush them back and tuck them gently behind her ear. He let his fingers linger at her jaw line a moment, a subtle caress. Elizabeth felt something inside her unraveling once more.

“Sir, please,” she said, shutting her eyes tightly and turning her face away. He seemed to recollect himself and take pity on her then, dropping his hand and taking half a step back. She could feel his eyes studying her face intently.

Presently, he said, “I know I have no special claim on your attention, but I felt I had to see you again privately before I went, to make sure you were alright. My man of business wrote yesterday—I’m afraid I must return to London as planned on business that cannot be further delayed. But before I go, that is — I have— I wrote— Will you do me the honor of reading this letter?”

He reached into his breast pocket and retrieved an envelope, which he held out to her. She instinctively took it, too surprised to do otherwise. Her acceptance, however reflexive, seemed to placate him somewhat, and he added, “I go first thing tomorrow morning. I do not know when I shall see you again, but I hope it will be soon.” He shifted on his feet then, as if struggling with himself for how much he ought to say. At last he said, not meeting her gaze but staring off toward the horizon, “I very much hope that you will look forward to that next meeting as much as I shall.”

He sought gaze then as if to gauge her response to this minor admission, and she could not conceal the warmth and depth of feeling which flooded her heart and countenance at his words, nor the shallow, unbidden sigh that escaped her lips. This seemed to be answer enough for him, and grasping her hand firmly in both of his, he placed a lingering, reverent kiss on her fingers. And then, with a slight bow, he turned on his heel, and was soon out of sight.

Elizabeth leaned against the gate, trying to regain her composure as she watched him recede into the distance. A letter? She had by no means expected such a response from him. When she was once more mistress of herself enough to begin to feel the strongest curiosity as to its contents, Elizabeth opened the letter, and, to her still increasing wonder, perceived the envelope contained two sheets of letter-paper, written quite through, in a very close hand. The envelope itself was likewise full.

Part of her wondered whether it was fitting to read the letter at all - what if it contained renewed professions of love, and pleaded with her to make a choice which would surely be wickedness itself? What could possibly be said that had not been said between them already? But it was beyond her power to resist. Pursuing her way along the lane, she unfolded the first page, and began to read the letter. . .
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In a Prudential Light, Chapter 7

RoslynFebruary 03, 2018 07:59PM

Re: In a Prudential Light, Chapter 7

Lucy J.March 26, 2018 04:55AM

Re: In a Prudential Light, Chapter 7

NinaTMarch 02, 2018 06:22AM

Re: In a Prudential Light, Chapter 7

JeannineFebruary 04, 2018 06:48AM

Re: In a Prudential Light, Chapter 7

EvelynJeanFebruary 04, 2018 05:18AM

Re: In a Prudential Light, Chapter 7

RoslynFebruary 04, 2018 07:36AM

Re: In a Prudential Light, Chapter 7

EvelynJeanFebruary 05, 2018 05:41AM



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