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In a Prudential Light, Part II Chapter 2

Roslyn
February 27, 2018 01:28AM
Chapter Two

On Saturday morning, Elizabeth and Mr. Collins met for breakfast in the few minutes before Lady Catherine’s carriage was to collect her to set out on the journey to Derbyshire by way of Mansfield Park. Mr. Collins took the opportunity of paying the parting attentions to his wife which he deemed indispensably necessary.

“It gives me great pleasure that her ladyship has favored you with this magnanimous invitation, my dear. I feel most fortunate to have had it in my power to introduce you to very superior society. Our situation with regard to Lady Catherine’s family is indeed the sort of extraordinary advantage and blessing which few can boast, and your budding friendship with Miss de Bourgh does you great credit. 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 share 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. She did not wish her husband any ill will—she knew that, in his way, he did his best. Perhaps with time, she might learn to make the most of his finer qualities.

At length the chaise arrived, the trunks were fastened on, the parcels placed within, and it was pronounced to be ready. Elizabeth was attended to the carriage by her husband, and as they walked down the garden he was commissioning her with his best respects to all the Pemberley party, her sister Jane, and his compliments to Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner. He then handed her in, the door was shut, and the carriage drove off.

“I say, Mrs. Collins,” exclaimed Lady Catherine, “it seems but a day or two since you first came to Hunsford! And yet how many things have happened!”

“A great many indeed,” said Mrs. Collins, with an imperceptible sigh.

“How well Anne looks since Darcy and Fitzwilliam’s visit in the spring. How much we shall have to tell!”

Elizabeth added privately, “And how much I shall have to conceal!”




Darcy’s business in town had been rigorous and time-consuming, but at length everything was resolved satisfactorily. The distraction had frankly been a welcome reprieve from thoughts of a certain lady in Kent.

Now at last it was time to make preparations to return to Pemberley for the remainder of the summer. Darcy keenly looked forward to this return home, despite the fact he expected his aunt Lady Catherine in a matter of a few weeks. It had been many years since her ladyship had visited Derbyshire, but Darcy did find it easier to manage his aunt’s demands and idiosyncrasies while she was a guest in his own home as opposed to when he was a guest in hers.

A letter from Pemberley’s steward arrived at the Darcy townhouse in the first week of June, asking the master to return a bit earlier than planned in order to address an issue which had lately arisen on the estate. Darcy was only too ready to take the excuse to return home early. As soon as he had written to his steward, assuring his early return, Darcy went in search of his sister.

He found her, as expected, at the pianoforte.

“I have just heard from Mr. Nelson, and I’m required at Pemberley somewhat earlier than expected. Will you mind very much if I go first thing tomorrow? I am sure there is room for you in the Bingley carriage next week.”

“Not at all, brother. Nothing serious has occurred, I hope?”

“No, no. At least, nothing to unduly concern yourself with. It appears some of the local land owners are disputing our tenants’ use of the northern field we re-opened for grazing last month. It’ll be best if I see to the issue sooner rather than later, and in all honesty, I rather welcome the opportunity to return to Derbyshire now. But I hate to take you away from town before you had planned.”

“Yes, thank you, William – there are two concerts next week that I am particularly eager to attend. But I would not detain you on that account. I am perfectly happy to leave with the Bingleys next Sunday.”

Darcy smiled, bent to kiss the top of his sister’s head, and left Georgiana to her practice.

The next morning, several hours after Darcy had left for Pemberley at first light, Georgiana received a letter addressed to both herself and her brother from their aunt Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Most of it contained effusive praise of Cousin Anne’s glowing health and bloom, but one section in particular captured Georgiana’s attention:

I have decided to bring our vicar’s young wife, Mrs. William Collins, along with Anne and myself to Derbyshire. She and Anne have recently developed a rather agreeable friendship, and poor Mrs. Collins needs the Derbyshire air to clear her mind of thoughts for her poor dead father. We set off from Rosings this Saturday, and will stay a week or two with Lady Bertram at Mansfield Park before completing our journey to Derbyshire. We expect to be with you all at Pemberley by the 20th of June.

“I must write to inform Fitzwilliam we’ll have another guest,” thought Georgiana as she finished the letter. “He will be pleased – he’s said on more than one occasion that I might be very fond of Mrs. Collins. . .” But no sooner had she folded the paper again than the bell rang, signaling Caroline Bingley’s arrival to collect Georgiana for the day’s outing. Her brother’s letter would have to wait.




The party from Rosings arrived in good time at the Bell in Bromley to change horses. The ladies were all glad of the opportunity to rest, stretch their legs, and take some refreshment.

They were just sitting down to tea and cake when the innkeeper rapped politely on the door of the private dining room they were occupying, holding out a letter.

“Beginning your pardon, your ladyship, but an express arrived for your ladyship earlier today from Mansfield Park.”

“Oh! Yes, thank you, my good man. Give it to me.” Lady Catherine wasted no time in opening the letter, finding her spectacles, and scanning its contents.

“It is from Lady Bertram— she writes. . . oh no, I say!”

“What is it Mama?” asked Miss de Bourgh.

“Mr. Tom Bertram, the eldest son, has fallen desperately ill. Poor Maria! She writes to ask that we kindly delay our visit to Mansfield Park until another time.”

“How sad,” said Elizabeth, feeling genuinely sorry for the Bertrams, who she was not now to meet. “Does this mean we ought to go back to Rosings, or . . . ?”

“Poor, poor Maria. Her eldest son too. He was always quite a wild young man, but then, most young men eventually get over that. There is a younger son, I think, destined for the church. Well, I hope he proves a worthy heir if it comes to that.”

Lady Catherine removed her spectacles, placed the letter aside, and addressed her companions. “I believe we ought to go straight on to Pemberley. Mrs. Reynolds is sure to have already begun preparations to open the house for summer visitors, and we’ll only be arriving a few days earlier than originally planned. There really is no sense in returning to Rosings only to set out again a few days later.”

Elizabeth felt the heat rising in her cheeks. She knew she would be forced eventually to prepare herself mentally to meet with Darcy once more, but until this moment, she had depended upon the fact that she would have the better part of two weeks to do it. At this rate, she would be face to face with him in a matter of only a few days.

“But, Lady Catherine, is it not less than ideal to arrive at Pemberley before even the master has returned from town?”

This argument carried little weight with her ladyship. “Darcy is my nephew and Anne is one day to be mistress of Pemberley. I see no reason why we ought not make ourselves perfectly at home in the place until the rest of the family arrives.”

There of course was no arguing when her ladyship had made up her mind. Plans were altered, their course modified, and an express was sent to the Darcy townhouse to notify her ladyship’s nephew and niece of the change in plans. Before Elizabeth knew it, they were headed straight on to Pemberley.




Summer travel proved easy, and after only a few days at a gentle pace, the Rosings party had arrived in Derbyshire. Elizabeth, as they drove along, watched for the first appearance of Pemberley Woods with some perturbation, and when at length they turned in at the lodge, her spirits were in a high flutter.

The park was very large, and contained great variety of ground. They entered it in one of its lowest points, and drove for some time through a beautiful wood stretching over a wide extent.

Elizabeth’s mind was too full for conversation, but she saw and admired every remarkable spot and point of view. They gradually ascended for half-a-mile, and then found themselves at the top of a considerable eminence, where the wood ceased, and the eye was instantly caught by Pemberley House, situated on the opposite side of a valley, into which the road with some abruptness wound. It was a large, handsome stone building, standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills; and in front, a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance. Its banks were neither formal nor falsely adorned. Elizabeth was entranced. She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste.

They descended the hill, crossed the bridge, and drove to the door; and, while examining the nearer aspect of the house, all her apprehension of meeting its owner returned.

The housekeeper came, a respectable-looking elderly woman, much less fine, and more civil, than Elizabeth had any notion of finding her. Elizabeth was relieved to hear that the master was still in London, and not expected until tomorrow or the day after. They followed Mrs. Reynolds into the dining-parlor. It was a large, well-proportioned room, handsomely fitted up. Elizabeth, after slightly surveying it, went to a window to enjoy its prospect. The hill, crowned with wood, which they had descended, receiving increased abruptness from the distance, was a beautiful object. Every disposition of the ground was good; and she looked on the whole scene, the river, the trees scattered on its banks and the winding of the valley, as far as she could trace it, with delight. As they passed into other rooms these objects were taking different positions; but from every window there were beauties to be seen. The rooms were lofty and handsome, and their furniture suitable to the fortune of its proprietor; but Elizabeth saw, with admiration of his taste, that it was neither gaudy nor uselessly fine; with less of splendor, and more real elegance, than the furniture of Rosings.

“Well, I am tired,” declared Lady Catherine, presently, beginning to remove her gloves and bonnet. “Mrs. Reynolds, would you be so good as to show Miss de Bourgh and I to our usual rooms? Mrs. Collins, I suppose you’d like to be shown up too.”

Elizabeth, whose spirits were too agitated for repose, felt she needed to walk or she would burst. “If it’s all the same to Mrs. Reynolds, your ladyship, I think I will walk a little in the park before going up – I long for a bit of exercise after being shut up so long in the carriage.”

“It’s no trouble at all, ma’am,” volunteered Mrs. Reynolds, kindly.

“Very well,” replied Lady Catherine, who was really too weary after such a long journey to mount much opposition. “I suppose Mrs. Reynolds you might ask the cook to put together some light refreshment later this evening that we could take in my usual sitting room, say at eight o’clock? Mrs. Collins, we will see you then.”

“If I may, ma’am,” said Mrs. Reynolds before Elizabeth turned to go, “there’s a very pretty pond about half a mile from the house to the south—it would make for a very agreeable destination.”

Elizabeth smiled at the housekeeper over her shoulder. “Thank you, Mrs. Reynolds.”




Darcy entered Pemberley Woods on horseback with keen relief, happy to be nearing home and the end of his journey on what had proved to be a very warm summer day. Since he would be returning to an empty house, he saw no point in forgoing a tradition he and George Wickham had perfected in much younger days after a long, hot ride—a refreshing swim in the south pond.

As he neared the pond, Darcy jumped down from his horse and lead the beast the rest of the way to the water, working to loosen his cravat with his free hand. He had made good time from London, and was very glad to have arrived home before evening. The long journey on horseback had also given him sufficient exercise and distraction to keep him from allowing his thoughts to stray too far or too often in the direction of Elizabeth Collins.

Now sitting on the bank of the pond, removing his boots and riding coat, however, her face came flooding back into his mind. He had spent many of his non-working hours in London since the Easter journey to Kent trying not to imagine bringing her back to Pemberley one day as its mistress, but with little success. The only sure way to gain some respite from thoughts of her, he had learned, was either vigorous exercise or throwing himself into matters of business. Constant self-reminders that Elizabeth was a married woman, however, had little to no effect. He was too far gone for that unfortunate fact to make much of a difference to him now.

“I shall conquer this. I shall.” And without further ceremony, he dove into the pond.




The sun was warm and inviting on her face, and as she walked, Elizabeth removed her bonnet and unbuttoned the first two clasps of her spencer. She made her way across the courtyard towards the river, and being a strong walker keen for a bit of solitude, soon gained enough distance from the house to be quite alone.

The strength of her feelings on being faced with Darcy tomorrow or the next day were too much to be dealt with now—she needed the warm summer breeze, fresh air, and quiet of a Derbyshire afternoon to calm her spirits and return her to sense.

Being in Darcy’s home, even without his actual presence, had been more effecting than she realized it would be. It seemed so incredibly intimate, to be moving about his family’s rooms and belongings without his attendance or knowledge. But his physical presence, she knew, would soon enough be even more problematic than his absence. Once the initial shock of being thrust into Lady Catherine’s Derbyshire plans had worn off, Elizabeth could not deny that the thought of seeing Darcy again brought with it a thrill of anticipation somewhere deep inside her. Would there be an opportunity to discuss his letter further? Would he wish even to do so? Would he renew his offers to provide an allowance for her mother and sisters? . . . might he try to kiss her again . . . ?

Before Elizabeth had time to reproach herself for this last thought, the sound of rustling brush and an approaching figure recalled her to her surroundings. She was now some ways from the house, and, to her complete surprise and amazement, the owner of the estate himself suddenly came forward from a gap in the tree line, leading his horse, in his shirt sleeves, and nearly soaking wet.

They were within twenty yards of each other, and so abrupt was his appearance, that it was impossible to avoid his sight. Their eyes instantly met, and the cheeks of both were overspread with the deepest blush. He absolutely started, and for a moment seemed immovable from surprise; but shortly recovering himself, he advanced toward her.

“Madam, how— how do you do?” His tone conveyed, if not perfect composure, at least perfect civility.

She had instinctively turned away; but stopping on his approach, received his greeting with an embarrassment impossible to be overcome. She scarcely dared lift her eyes to his face, and yet, the sight of his damp shirt and trousers was equally problematic.

“Well, sir, thank you,” she managed to reply eventually, in a voice that seemed not quite her own. Every idea of the impropriety of her being found there recurred to her mind. How stupid she had been to allow herself to be persuaded, by Lady Catherine of all people, to come to Derbyshire!

“I— I did not expect to see you today, sir. We understood all the family were from home until later in the week—”

“—I returned some days early.” He did not seem any more at ease than she felt. When he spoke, his accent had none of its usual sedateness, and his manner plainly spoke the distraction of his thoughts.

“Excuse me— your mother and sisters are in good health? And all your . . . family?”

The usual formalities would perhaps save them the full brunt of this embarrassing encounter. “Yes!” replied Elizabeth, a little too enthusiastically. “They are very well, I thank you, sir.”

“I am glad to hear it. How long have you been in this part of the country?”

“We only just arrived an hour ago, sir. Your aunt was quite set against any delay.”

At this, he seemed to lose her. “My aunt?”

“Yes, Lady Catherine— you. . . you did receive her express, I hope? Perhaps it missed you in London. Mr. Thomas Bertram took very ill, and we had to forego our fortnight at Mansfield Park until they could be sure he was out of danger. Your aunt decided we had better make our way straight on to Derbyshire.”

“I see. But, forgive me— I had no idea that you were to be one of the Rosings party.”

Elizabeth felt her cheeks flush scarlet again. “Oh! Well, it was all decided rather quickly last week – her ladyship insisted. She wrote to you and your sister in town to inform you— that is, to ask you if I might accompany her and Miss de Bourgh to Pemberley, but I daresay the letter did not reach you before you left town yourself.”

“Indeed—Georgiana must have received it.”

“Indeed.” Elizabeth shifted uncomfortably and looked away toward the late afternoon light beginning to color a nearby hillside. “So . . . here I am.”

“Yes. . . here you are.”

At length every idea seemed to fail them both, and they stood staring at each other for a few moments, neither saying a word. Then, unsure exactly who began it, a small smile broke over both their faces, followed by a gentle laughter, at first quiet and uncertain, then heartier and without affectation. And with that, it was as if the awkwardness between them was at once dismissed and forgotten.

“Mr. Darcy—I hope you won’t think me impertinent, but— why on earth are you so wet, sir?”

He laughed in earnest at this. “It’s very hot business riding a horse all day in the summer heat, madam. Until now I thought myself returning to an empty house— as such you can hardly criticize me for availing myself of the pond just over the hill.”

She pursed her lips and raised her eyebrows in recognition. “I see. . . then I am sorry to have intruded on your privacy.”

“Not at all.” Now he was all ease and friendliness. “Come back to the house with me. I’ll change into some fresh clothes and give you a proper tour of the grounds.”

Without waiting for her reply, as if opposition to this plan was unthinkable, he began again his progress toward the house. Elizabeth, feeling she somehow ought to object but finding no articulatable reason why, took a deep breath to steady herself, then fell into step behind him.
SubjectAuthorPosted

In a Prudential Light, Part II Chapter 2

RoslynFebruary 27, 2018 01:28AM

Re: In a Prudential Light, Part II Chapter 2

Lucy J.March 26, 2018 05:02AM

Re: In a Prudential Light, Part II Chapter 2

LucieFebruary 28, 2018 01:43AM

Re: In a Prudential Light, Part II Chapter 2

MichaFebruary 27, 2018 01:22PM



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