I hope all my readers that are mothers and in the US, had a great mother’s day!
School is mostly over here. My son has to write a sentence a day and send it in. I will also work with my daughter on some sight words so he doesn’t feel like she doesn’t have to do anything. This will continue until May 22.
My husband has resumed traveling overnight for his job. He’s not on planes yet, but is allowed to stay in hotels again.
It will be a bit of a re-adjustment for all of us. I’m hoping I’ll be able to have more writing time during the day when my mind might be fresher. My goals are to write two chapters of this story a week and add an extra day of posting.
Well, Elizabeth didn’t stop Darcy from leaving. Now, she’s back in Hertfordshire. What is she feeling? Does she have any suspicion yet that she’s actually pregnant?
Mr. Darcy had gone.
Elizabeth laid in her bed at Longbourn and allowed a few tears to escape. Jane slept beside her, probably dreaming of Mr. Bingley. He had arrived at Netherfield earlier that day and immediately called upon Jane. He asked to speak to Mr. Bennet tomorrow. There could be no doubt that they would soon be engaged.
It was everything Elizabeth had thought she ever wanted. Jane deserved all the happiness the world could give, and she would, at last, receive it. Mrs. Bennet already talked of their engagement and began considering possible wedding dates. Despite Elizabeth’s many smiles at Bingley’s return and in whispered conversations with Jane about the man, Elizabeth wondered if her smile appeared brittle and fragile to others.
Elizabeth’s conscience scolded herself. She had no right to be upset when she had continually pushed Mr. Darcy away. She had been so horrible to him that he had to flee the country to be away from her. Still, regret stabbed at her.
How had he fallen in love with her when she felt she had understood nothing about him at the time? How had he considered their walks around Rosings with such stilted conversation a form of courtship? What had he even known of her when he declared his feelings?
Her rejection had surprised and angered him. That much was clear. He had not the least idea that she felt differently than him—or even if she did, that she would not leap at the chance to accept his proposal. If Mr. Darcy did not understand that she would never marry where she had no respect or affection, then he did not know her at all. His feelings for her must have been entirely imaginary.
However, they did not feel imaginary in that dark room at Rosings. It was his eyes that had done her in. They were filled with heartbreak, sadness, and a gleam she did not recognize. When he had leaned towards her, it seemed time had slowed. Elizabeth knew he would kiss her. She did not pull back, did not even wish to. Her lips tingled in awareness and desire in the second before he made contact. Once they met, she had no wish for it to stop.
And yet, mere minutes later, she rejected his offer again. Reality had quickly descended upon her, and Elizabeth could not live with the shame of what she had done. Accept him? Impossible! She would forever be reminded of her moment of unaccountable weakness. She had not liked the man, but the shallowness of his proposal angered her. Now, she had proof that she did indeed arouse ardent feelings in him. It was what she had wanted, but she was left with the uncomfortable questioning of why. Why had she cared?
If possible, his second proposal was more humiliating than the first. Mr. Darcy used fewer words but dwelt upon their impropriety and his duty to make it right regardless of her extreme dislike of him. There was no rational or logical thought possible in her mind at the time. She only wished to be as far away as possible from him from that moment on. If he thought he might regret a marriage to her before she had played a harlot, then, of course, he would after. And while she did not consider his feelings, she knew she could never be in a marriage built upon such foolish ground. No one need ever know what they had done. There was no reason to marry, she had said.
Now, weeks after the incident, Elizabeth recognized what had assailed her for many months. She removed from the bed and withdrew Darcy’s letter, which she now knew by heart. She read it under the moonlight by her window. From the first minute of their acquaintance, she had courted ignorance and drove all reason away. She had thought Mr. Darcy proud and vain when those were the very flaws she now understood to be her own.
Elizabeth had been a willing partner to their intimacy. She had all but begged for some sign that Darcy’s feelings were genuine. Her vanity had demanded it. She would not have wavered for an instant in her refusal, but to be proposed to by two conceited men and not to have inspired actual affection in either one, was too much a great insult. She had even wished that Darcy would have felt genuine love for her. The feelings of despair he may feel at her rejection would only be the justice he deserved at separating Jane and Bingley. Elizabeth discarded Darcy’s words about Wickham. She had been too proud to see there was any truth behind his words.
Perhaps Darcy had been insulting in his proposals. However, Elizabeth no longer thought he meant to be. He had humbled himself to ask for her hand. He showed humility again in his letter, by returning Bingley to Jane, in his behaviour to the Gardiners, and most especially in his continued kindness toward herself. Elizabeth had been too slow to see what had been before her eyes all along.
If he had ever truly loved her, could it survive this separation? Elizabeth knew she did not deserve another chance with the gentleman. Still, she dearly hoped he would keep his promise and return to Netherfield sooner rather than later.
Sighing, she returned to her bed, knowing that she would dream again of that night at Rosings. Amidst all the words she wished she could call back, the vehemence and cruelty of her rejection, the stupidity of refusing his second offer even after their intimacy, there were memories she would not trade for all the peace of mind in the world.
While she had been in Darcy’s arms, she thought she had a glimpse of the real him. The man who could passionately love and even if he made mistakes it was with the best of intentions as he recognized he was every bit as human as the rest of the world. It was that man with his layers of complexity and moods that she wished to know. It was to that man she had always felt an inexplicable draw.
For the first few days after Elizabeth’s return to Longbourn, she remained at home. Perhaps it was her morose thoughts and regrets fatiguing her, but she never felt well-rested. A week later and even her mother noticed that Elizabeth was not in her usual spirits. To keep the woman from believing Elizabeth had contracted some deadly disease from her travels, Elizabeth walked into Meryton with her sisters to shop and visit their Aunt Phillips.
They were greeted outside the milliner by several officers, including Mr. Wickham. The gentlemen walked with the ladies to Mrs. Phillips’ house, where they were invited inside by Lydia. Elizabeth hoped to avoid seeing Wickham as much as possible as the Regiment was soon to decamp to Brighton. Elizabeth had spent much of the afternoon speaking with Jane and her aunt. However, when Mr. Bingley arrived, he stole the attention of both. Wickham used the moment to approach Elizabeth.
“I see you are back from your travels and none the worse for the wear.” He gave her a simpering smile. “How did you find Kent? Was Lady Catherine as ridiculous as I gave you reason to expect?”
Determining that it would be too unusual if she seemed too cold compared with how they parted, Elizabeth returned Wickham’s smile. “Lady Catherine was everything you led me to believe and more.” She took a sip of her tea. “Indeed, she had a guest while I was there who I believe you are acquainted with.”
“I cannot imagine anyone of my acquaintance being a guest of Lady Catherine, but you do intrigue me. Pray, who was it?”
“Her nephew, a colonel in the regulars. I thought I heard that you knew one another.”
“Fitzwilliam was there?” Wickham’s eyes darted around the room as though looking for an exit.
“Yes, two of her ladyship’s nephews visited. I wonder why the viscount did not come as well, but I suppose he may have had other plans.”
“Darcy was there as well?”
Elizabeth watched as panic entered Wickham’s eyes for the briefest second before being replaced by his well-practiced coolness. “And how did he treat his betrothed?”
“Miss de Bourgh?” Elizabeth shrugged. “I never saw any sign of lover-like devotion from either of them. To be sure, Lady Catherine never made mention of the arrangement.”
“No, I suppose she would not. It is not thought that Darcy relishes the idea except to gain her estate. Tell me, was Miss Darcy there?”
Elizabeth fought to keep her composure. The impudence of the man to bring up the young lady he had so wounded! “No, she remained in London at the Earl’s house, I believe.”
She had no idea where Miss Darcy was, but she did not want Wickham thinking he could try anything with her again. Better for him to believe that she was well-protected. Of course, wherever she was, Darcy was sure to keep her safe from Wickham.
“So, everything is settled with Mr. Bingley and Miss Bennet?” Wickham asked.
“Yes,” Elizabeth said with a genuine smile. “I am very pleased for her.”
“It is a good match to be sure. However, I regret that Bingley maintains his friendship with Darcy. I should hate for you to have to be in his company very much. I suppose it is not known if he approves of his friend’s choice?”
“Mr. Darcy called on Gracechurch Street with Mr. Bingley, and I believe he means to return to Netherfield at some point. As for what his personal thoughts about his friend’s engagement are, I surely cannot say.”
“If he is to return to Hertfordshire, then I can finally have some pleasure in the upcoming move to Brighton.” He lowered his voice. “I had been thinking about how much I would miss the company of my friends.”
Elizabeth’s stomach roiled at his behaviour. Did he imagine she was under his spell? “It is an unfortunate truth in life that nothing is permanent. We must enjoy our friendships while we can and part without regret when the time comes.”
Wickham gave Elizabeth a long look before agreeing with her sentiment. “Well said, Miss Elizabeth. Now, if you will excuse me, I see Denny trying to get my attention.”
Elizabeth heaved a sigh of relief when he had left. He had clearly been fishing for information to see if she had discovered the truth about him. She hoped that she had not given too much away.
Lingering at the window, her eyes scanned the room. Everywhere else, people chatted amiably in small groups. Not a single person was a stranger to her, and she had enjoyed many a pleasant conversation with each of them before. How curious that her heart weighed heavily as though she were alone in the world even while in the company of so many acquaintances and friends.
The feeling continued even when others came to talk to her. As she and her sisters walked back to Longbourn, accompanied by Mr. Bingley, it persisted all the more. She could not see Bingley and not think of Darcy. Indeed, Hertfordshire held many memories for her sore heart and confused mind. Her one hope came from the Gardiners, who had requested Elizabeth to join them on their summer tour to the Lake District. She need only endure for three more weeks.