Happy Memorial Day to those in the US! I’m so thankful for the sacrifice of our servicemen and women who have fallen. They are not forgotten.
Time is marching on for Elizabeth. Last time we were in her POV, she was looking forward to the trip to the Lakes with Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner. The Regiment is gone, has Lydia gone with them?
“I ought to have gone to Brighton!” Lydia stamped her foot. “It is ever so dull since the Regiment went away.” She threw herself onto the sofa, knocking into Jane.
“Hush, child!” Mrs. Bennet screeched. “Mr. Bingley shall be here soon and do take care to not muss your sister’s hair.”
Lydia rolled her eyes. “They are already engaged, Mama.”
“Yes, well, until they say ‘I do’ before the parson, I shall still fret. We must do nothing to scare him off this time.”
Elizabeth fidgeted uncomfortably. When Lydia had first been invited to go to Brighton by the Colonel’s wife, Elizabeth had approached her father. She presented all the ways in which it would be disastrous for Lydia to go with them. Well, all the forms except the one that weighed most heavily in her mind. When Mr. Bennet continued to remain unconcerned, despite several attempts from Elizabeth, she finally told him that she had discovered what drove Bingley away.
While her father, at first, attempted to laugh away the thought of Lydia’s behaviour frightening away eligible suitors, he had come to value Mr. Bingley. To hear that Bingley had been persuaded to reconsider his attachment to Jane because of his lax parenting had the desired effect. Fortunately, Elizabeth was able to steer the conversation without having to give too many particulars about why Mr. Darcy had been so forthcoming. In the end, Mr. Bennet seemed to think that Elizabeth was more than capable of demanding the truth from even a man as arrogant as Darcy.
Elizabeth assumed her father must have told Mrs. Bennet something to the effect, for she no longer wished for Lydia to be at Brighton. Elizabeth was convinced, too, that some of her mother’s alteration in behaviour came from the fact that her eldest daughter was now engaged to a wealthy gentleman. There was not quite the same desperation about her to allow her youngest daughter to marry at such a tender age.
Peeking at Jane, Elizabeth observed how her sister took her mother’s slip of the tongue. Jane caught her eye, and they silently communicated that they would discuss it later. Elizabeth dearly hoped that she had not put Bingley in an awkward position.
“Jane has her beau, but where shall my sisters and I find handsome young men? There is no one in Hertfordshire.” Suddenly, Lydia sat up straight. “Mama, you must convince Papa to take us to town in the autumn.” She turned to Jane. “Or I could go with you after you marry Mr. Bingley.”
Jane was saved the need to reply by a knock at the door. Sighing, Lydia moved from her seat on the sofa and took a chair next to Elizabeth.
“You cannot invite yourself to someone’s house,” Elizabeth chided. “They will have other things to do besides chaperone you.”
“I suppose you are right. There is no use in thinking that London has many eligible gentlemen either. After all, you often stay with our aunt and uncle and have never had a suitor.”
Lydia’s words were not quite cruel. They were more insensitive than anything, which was often her way. However, Elizabeth felt the need to blink back tears.
“Well, you did have Mr. Collins, but we all know he wasn’t serious in his regard for you.”
It was absolutely insupportable. Elizabeth ought to have allowed her to go and ruin herself at Brighton! She threw her sister a disgruntled look and was about to excuse herself from the room when something Bingley said caught her attention.
“Thank you for inquiring after Mr. Darcy, ma’am,” he said to Mrs. Bennet. “I have recently had a letter from him. He is at his estate in Ireland with his sister. I believe they mean to stay for the entire summer.”
“I have heard Ireland is extraordinarily beautiful,” Jane said.
“Yes, so Darcy says as well.”
“And when do you expect Mr. Darcy to visit you again?” Mrs. Bennet asked. “I had supposed you wanted him to stand up with you, or perhaps you have another friend or relative.”
Bingley looked at Jane, adoration evident in his eyes. “Jane and I have talked about it, and we thought a wedding near Michaelmas would be ideal.”
“How romantic!” Mrs. Bennet clapped her hands. “It should be on the anniversary of the very first day you saw one another. I knew right away how it would be. I knew as soon as you first saw her that you would fall in love with her.”
Mrs. Bennet had made it sound like a fairy tale without any obstacles or the slightest hiccup. The truth was that Jane and Bingley were separated because of Mr. Darcy’s interference. Then again, they might never have reunited if Darcy had not sought to make things right.
Is that what Elizabeth had thought falling in love would be like? It would begin with an instant attraction? How foolish she had been!
“I shall never love a man that does not wear a red coat,” Lydia muttered beside Elizabeth.
“That is precisely why you were not allowed to go to Brighton. All you think about is officers. Do you even begin to understand that the nature of their occupation puts them at risk of early death? There is far more to being an officer’s wife than having an escort in a dashing coat.”
“You are in a foul mood, Lizzy.” Lydia scowled at her. She leaned closer so no one else could hear. “Are you to have your courses soon? You are always unbearable then.”
“Lydia!” Elizabeth admonished in a whisper.
“What? No one else can hear us. It is not as though I said it loudly.”
Elizabeth drew in a deep breath. “This is not proper drawing room talk, and you know it.”
Lydia smirked and raised her brows. Elizabeth knew that look. It was a challenge, for Lydia knew that there was nothing Elizabeth could do about it at the moment. Additionally, Lydia had all the delight in vexing Elizabeth, which was undoubtedly at least part of her plan.
“Mama, may I walk to Maria’s house?” Lydia interrupted her mother as she continued to talk about the wedding details with Bingley and Jane.
“Take Kitty with you,” Mrs. Bennet said with a wave of her hand.
“But I do not want to go on a walk! It is still wet out, and I hate the mud.”
“I will go.” Elizabeth volunteered. “I can walk you to Maria’s and then continue for a while before returning.”
“If you are not averse to a little mud, Jane, would you like to join Lizzy and Lydia on their walk?” Bingley asked.
“Let me change my shoes,” Jane said with a smile. For a moment, she and Bingley stared at one another, lost in each other’s eyes.
“Well, if they are all going, then I will go too.” Kitty’s voice seemed to startle Jane and Bingley.
After the appropriate shoes and outer clothes were on, the group set off in the direction of Lucas Lodge. Elizabeth was thankful that Kitty had decided to join them. As they neared Lucas Lodge, Bingley and Jane chose to go in and call on the Lucases. Elizabeth elected to continue her walk. She needed exercise to quiet the tumult of her mind.
She did not regret convincing her father to keep Lydia home. However, Elizabeth certainly wished Lydia were far away. Her complaints had not relented in the last fortnight. Soon, though, Elizabeth would be with her aunt and uncle and enjoying the wilds of the Lake Country.
Elizabeth had to admit that Lydia had said one sensible thing, although at a most inappropriate time. She did feel as though her courses were about to begin. Unfortunately, they had never been very timely or regular. She was almost always caught off guard by them. More than once, she had all the impending signs, and yet they did not appear. Thankfully, her flow had come a few weeks after her intimacy with Darcy. She need not fear their union would result in a child.
The thought alone brought immense relief. If she had feared he would resent her if he married her “against his better judgment,” he would surely hate her if he was trapped into marriage because of her weakness. Worse than her own unhappiness, there would be that of the child to consider. It would hardly be a happy home in which to grow. Did not she understand the difficulties of having parents so ill-suited for one another?
However, she would have to see Darcy again. Bingley seemed unsure when his friend would arrive at Netherfield. Even if he were not present for the wedding, Darcy had told Elizabeth he meant to visit. Had he said it to show he had put his feelings for her behind him? Or was it to tell her that he was not giving up his suit? Elizabeth hardly knew if she anticipated or dreaded seeing him more.
Sometimes, she welcomed the chance to renew their acquaintance. Perhaps they could begin again. She had never been indifferent to him, and while she hesitated to label feelings, the liberties she had allowed him spoke a truth she could not deny. She had not reviled him. Logically, she had considered him an arrogant and deceitful man who was insensitive to the feelings of others. However, alone with him in the near-dark of a room, as he spoke to her about love and showed her his ardent feelings with kisses, the truth had come out. A part of her liked him very much despite her better judgment. After reading his letter, she now understood he was worthy of her esteem. What should stand before them now, but her own folly? On the other hand, if he had never been very attached to her, despite his words, or if he had learned to sever those emotional ties during their many weeks of separation, what hope did she have of igniting them again? Had he not told her that his good opinion once lost was lost forever?
Thinking about him in that light, made Elizabeth wish him far away. She could not bear the thought that he was out there in the world and thinking ill of her. In any case, it would be easiest if they never saw one another again. Or if they saw each other as infrequently as possible, considering her sister would marry his dearest friend.
Elizabeth returned to Longbourn tired from the exertion of her walk, but her mind was in as much tumult as ever. The mail had come, and a letter from her aunt Gardiner awaited her. Taking it to her room, she collapsed on the bed, hoping for some distraction from her thoughts.
I am very sorry for the disappointment this letter will bring to you. We are obliged to give up our original plans for our Northern tour. Your uncle has had unexpected business arise. Our departure date is now mid-July. Additionally, he is needed back in London within the month. Therefore, we cannot go as far as the Lakes.
Fear not, although we cannot go as far as we had initially devised, we shall go as far as Derbyshire. Meeting Mr. Darcy put it into my head to see if any of my acquaintances still lived near Lambton. I was happy to learn that a few remain. We will still enjoy all the sites and great houses en route. Then, we will linger in Lambton for several days.
My husband has written to Mr. Darcy about his offer to visit Pemberley. However, I understand that he will be absent. I hope that this does something to alleviate the disappointment you undoubtedly feel at the alteration of our schedule.
Give my love to your sister and parents.
Your loving aunt,
If Elizabeth’s thoughts were in a whirlwind before her aunt’s letter, they were tossed about like a sea tempest now. The idea of visiting Pemberley created such conflicting feelings in her breast. However, one emotion was clear above the rest. She had begun her day uncertain if she most wanted to see Darcy or avoid him. She now knew that she would much rather be in his company again, even if she would feel awkward and embarrassed.
The realization gave no comfort as more alarming thoughts came on its heel. She was in every danger of falling in love with Mr. Darcy while she had given him many reasons to hate her. She must determine to guard her heart against him unless he declared that he still loved her. Elizabeth’s heart grew heavy as her head began to pound. She had always thought herself courageous, but she knew now there were two things which caused her blood to chill and her heart to race. One was to love Mr. Darcy without his returning the sentiment, all while knowing she had rejected his proclamations of love. The other was the thought of him marrying her only because she would have his child without returning her affection at all. To live each day with him as husband and wife and see his feelings sink to resentment and regret would be the worst fate she could imagine. Thankfully, it seemed there was no reason to fear such a calamity.