Lizzy Bennet’s Diary continues below! I hope you are enjoying these extracts and thank you to everyone who has commented on the story so far.
If you’ve missed the other chapters, you can find them in the Readers’ Library here at Austen Variations.
Lizzy Bennet’s Diary
Extracts from the Journals of Miss Elizabeth Bennet
The days go by at a tiresome pace and still we await some intelligence. Yet if our hopes fade with the passage of time, none of us will acknowledge it openly. The post arrives each morning, and I foolishly hope to see the one hand I know I never shall; how could it be so? Not only does propriety forbid it, but what could Mr Darcy possibly have to say to me when our acquaintance is so decidedly at an end?
It is with no little relief I have escaped from the house this afternoon, and I am relishing the opportunity for both bringing my journal up to date and indulging in some long overdue fresh air and solitude. I sit here by the lake with nothing more than the gentle quacking of ducks for company – a far more soothing sound than Mama’s whimpering squawks.
My lowness of mood shows little sign of abating, and the feeble attempts I make to shake myself free of it are nothing if not half-hearted. I can well comprehend I must not dwell upon what might have been, yet though I strive to keep myself occupied, Mr Darcy is ever present. No matter the topic of conversation, I wish his name to be mentioned; whatever I am engaged upon, my thoughts drift to him.
It is certain, though, my spirits are more at ease by day than by night. Whilst daylight persists, distraction may be found if truly sought; sadly there is little to aid me once night has fallen. Rest does not come without a struggle, for it is in the hours of darkness I am most haunted by Mr Darcy.
I shall thus make no foolish declarations within these pages claiming never to pen his name again – for it is clear I shall end in failure once more. I do attempt not to think of him, yet how much harder it is to deny my love. I failed to banish him from these pages when I believed myself to loathe him – what hope is there for me now?
Even the daily routine is infused with memories I would wish to suppress. I watched Bessie return some of my belongings to the closet this morning, and my heart lurched sorely as my eyes rested upon the gowns I wore to Pemberley. There is no trace of the Derbyshire air about them now, freshly laundered as they are, nor any soil of the Peaks upon my newly polished boots. All trace of Mr Darcy’s county has been washed away.
But I must desist, for this is indeed a poor beginning. It is some days since I took up my pen – my previous entry left me drained of energy, being such an exquisite blend of pain and pleasure to record. It is time to turn my thoughts to more weighty matters and, whilst unlikely to offer aught of comfort, the distraction will be beneficial.
Jane has shared with me the letter left by Lydia for the Forsters, and it would appear she fully believed and intended she and Wickham would be married in Scotland; it is some small solace to discover her actions are not as wholly ridiculous as first appearances implied. Yet they are traced only so far as Clapham, and there remains little evidence of a marriage having taken place.
Even if they are discovered, how can this vile man be worked upon to marry her? Lydia has no fortune, no connections, nothing in short to tempt him. And whilst a marriage between them would be most imprudent, it will be far worse now if such a ceremony does not take place. Jane advised me further how Colonel Forster travelled from Brighton for a private interview with Papa before he departed for London. The Colonel feared Wickham had no intention of marrying Lydia, claiming Wickham was not to be trusted and was fleeing from gaming dues. Clearly when presented with the opportunity of a companion in his flight, he took it – for it appears from the Forsters all the partiality was on Lydia’s side. Tiresome girl, how could she be so reckless?
Mama continues in bed; her incessant attacks of nerves prevent her from leaving her room and our only relief is when she falls into a fitful sleep. It is perhaps fortunate she maintains this state, for her distress would be all the more if she realised how we are shunned, for one cannot fail to notice callers have dwindled until there simply are none. If Mama were fit to receive visitors, this lack of attention would be blatant – as it is, we must be thankful her preoccupation with her nerves is sufficient to keep her fully diverted.
Of course our Aunt Philips still attends her sister, but her infrequent visits bring little relief. Her only news confirms the worst of Wickham, with debts unpaid and proprieties breached. As such, the salts remain as essential as air is to breathe to aid Mama through each day’s trials.
If our situation was lamentable before this blow fell, I dread to think what it is now. If I were not so wary of the effect, I would wish to share my concerns with Jane, but we both avoid such conjecture – we cannot bear to speculate upon our prospects just yet and, truth be told, I sense neither of us is as focused upon this disaster as we would have been, were our hearts and minds not engaged elsewhere.
Jane has referred back to our speculations earlier this year, and Wickham’s blackening of Mr Darcy’s character… I have shared with her much of what I have since discerned about Wickham, without revealing my source or indeed mentioning the names of those involved.
Though she must recall my opinion at the time, of both Mr Darcy’s alleged duplicity and Wickham’s innocence, she is too kind to remind me of my lack of judgment. I value her discretion, for there is naught she could add to make me feel the distinction less.
There is, though, a little of comfort to record here, for Papa has written to inform us of his impending return. Our uncle has persuaded him home, and has promised to write Papa daily as he alone follows up any remaining leads. By contrast, Mama takes naught of comfort from this news, and all her concerns for Papa’s safety have dwindled entirely; apparently, his honourable demise in a duel is nothing to his daring to return home without a daughter married.
I see Kitty approaching, with her pup dancing at her heels as always. No doubt I am summoned to Mama; here ends all peace and solitude…
Longbourn, the 15th day of August… continued
Jane sleeps, but I cannot rest and have offered to help settle Mama when I am called.
My aunt made no further mention of Mr Darcy before she left for London… or indeed our time at Pemberley. How I wished she would – I dared not start upon the subject myself, for fear I would reveal more than was wise – but I should so have loved to be able to talk of him to someone. Furthermore, our correspondence of late studiously avoids all mention of Derbyshire, be it the scenery or its inhabitants.
I begin to wonder if I imagined his continued interest – perhaps my aunt does not speak of it because there was naught worthy of remark. How such a possibility pains me… but no more so than the wish I could look upon Mr Darcy’s features once more. How I regret my inability to capture someone’s likeness – if I could but draw his face it would be some small comfort…
I have passed an idle half hour whilst the attempt was made, and a poor effort it was. No sooner had I finished than I lit a candle and watched the flare of light as it was consumed.
Why I took such a precaution I know not. The rendition was so poor it had more likeness to Kitty’s pup than any other… such a notion brings forth a smile, for which I am grateful – there has been little enough to entertain of late.
This entire exercise only serves to illustrate how of little consequence it is none of us has been educated in the art of drawing – even had one of my sister’s the talent, I cannot conceive of the reaction should I have made the request for a likeness of Mr Darcy!
Thus all I have in my possession is a sample of his handwriting – and I long to study it again, but cannot bear the association of the letter with my refusal of his offer. I can no longer endure keeping it inside this book. I must remove it and place it out of temptation’s way…
There, it is done.
I hear Bessie calling; it is time for me to settle Mama for the night… poor Bessie – how I miss her humming and singing of late – such silence speaks volumes.
Longbourn, the 17th day of August
Papa has returned and his timing could not have been more fortuitous. An Express had arrived from our uncle just hours earlier (clearly having been dispatched soon after Papa’s departure), and though Jane had been authorised to open all missives in his absence, she was ever reluctant to do so.
There is at last some good news to impart: our uncle has, by whatever grace, located both Lydia and Wickham. They are not married, but if Papa will agree to certain conditions being met, they soon will be. Our reputations may well be salvaged, but not without cost, for what is to be expected of marriage to such a man? He is hardly the brother we have long been in need of.
Mama, for whom this outcome was more effective than any bottle of salts, fails even now to accept Wickham’s fault in all of this, believing him a saviour, a husband for one of her poor offspring. Papa fears the cost to my uncle must be vast; how it is ever to be repaid I know not, yet Mama takes all for granted, so delighted is she to finally have a daughter settled.
Lydia goes to our aunt and uncle’s house on the morrow for she is to be married from Gracechurch Street, much to Mama’s disgust, for she foresaw a grand affair at Longbourn church. I am grateful such a spectacle can be avoided… it would indeed be too hard to bear. To have Wickham as our brother is sufficiently painful, without having to witness the deed itself.
Wickham may well be his name, and thus I shall call him, but for myself I shall retain the satisfaction of always thinking of him as Blackguard and trust to hope I shall never address him as such to his unworthy face.
Thankfully, there is one good thing (if it can be called such) to come from such distasteful news. We gained some satisfaction from our meal this evening, for gone are the uninspired cold dishes. Now Papa has returned and Mama has freed herself from her self-imposed imprisonment upstairs, the cook has found inspiration once more and served up a welcome warm repast!
Longbourn, the 20th day of August
I have passed dull weeks before, but never with such a pointless emptiness as I suffer now. Constantly, I seek distraction and often find myself doing things I believe will satisfy, but then serve me ill.
I have taken to practicing upon the pianoforte – much to Mary’s dissatisfaction. It is rare before now she has had to barter for her time upon the instrument. There is, of course, no danger any sound I may produce could evoke memories of the beautiful melodies played by Miss Darcy; therefore, I am safe from any such association by practicing one particular piece so arduously.
Papa is weary and appears to carry an almost physical burden… I begin to perceive his age in the lines upon his face. He claims his current discomfort is fair reward for his lack of duty and it will no doubt be of shorter duration than he deserves. It grieves me to hear him sport so with himself. Furthermore, Papa jests he bears me no ill will for my earlier wisdom – yet never have I wished so dearly I had been proven wrong.
Meanwhile, the reinstatement of Mrs Long and Lady Lucas as callers puts them in unforeseen jeopardy. Papa has often talked of extending the hen house that they may take up more permanent residence within. It is thus fortunate for them he keeps to his library, for in his current mood I believe Papa would have relished beating in the final nail – and I may well have handed him the mallet.
Longbourn, the 31st day of August
It is early but the summer sunrise disturbs my uneasy rest. On this day, Lydia will be wed – yet I fear we feel it more profoundly than she.
The days have settled into the pattern of last year, before we ever heard such names as Darcy, Bingley and Wickham. Would that we had never made any of their acquaintance…
No! I do not mean it. Though my heart is sore, I will own I am grateful for knowing Mr Darcy, for he has taught me much about myself. And though I fear this pain will linger henceforth, I would rather have felt its presence, for all its intensity – for the experience has made me a better person, I hope, and for this I will be forever thankful. To know there is such a man out there in the world and once I had his full and deepest affection is no little consolation.
And lo, thus I am once more thinking of him. Such was the time when I could ease my thoughts by putting pen to paper – yet even this means appears to fail me now. My head refuses to release him, my heart its willing servant, and though I understand the failure, oh that it would desist. I could scrawl his name incessantly across these very pages, in an attempt to free my mind – but comprehend full well it would not suffice.
My aunt has written and her letters tell us nothing of surprise. Lydia’s behaviour has been both disrespectful and inappropriate. She sees no error in her actions, is airily dismissive of anyone’s concern and only bemoaned the fact her wedding would not be a lavish affair attended by all our friends and neighbours. Lydia is Lydia yet.
Our uncle has formally written to Papa, requesting the newly-weds be permitted to visit Longbourn on their way north. Papa has adamantly refused to let either Lydia or Wickham across the threshold; as such, they arrive Thursday for a se’ennight.
I dread their coming, but understand it must take place if the potential for any remaining scandal is to be averted.
The days continue to hold little interest for me – I walk, but my steps lead me to places evocative of painful memories. Only yesterday I found myself at the boundary of Netherfield Park. Almost against my volition, I climbed the stile and crossed the fields, much as I did on my early morning visit to see how Jane fared last November.
I came to a halt under a large elm and leaned against its roomy trunk for some time, studying the silent edifice for signs of life. It was a sad sight to behold, its windows shuttered, no smoke spiralling from its vast chimneys, no bustle of servants and grounds-men.
But the memories became too painful to bear, and I quickly turned for home, wishing I had never come.
Earlier, I was gripped by a sudden urge to trace my finger once more over the ink forming a certain name – Fitzwilliam Darcy; how different it looks when formed by my hand, and how close was I to loosing his letter!
I returned to my chamber on the morning after I had removed it from temptation’s way, intent upon finding my shawl and making an escape into the lanes hereabout, and there I found Bessie, just then come to strip the bed. Had I not reached my pillowslip before her, she may well have rinsed away all Mr Darcy’s words in the washtub.
As it was, I quickly retrieved it, and it has since resided in its former place, tucked into the back cover of my journal.
Mary has moved in permanently with Kitty. They have taken to reading aloud to each other, and as this is frequently accompanied by Kitty’s giggles, I must assume they do not peruse Fordyce’s Sermons!
I am not sure Mary will ever enjoy a ball any more than Kitty will a piece of moral text, but each is endeavouring to please the other in their efforts, and it is heart warming to see. Some good has perchance come of Lydia’s desertion, and none of us could have foreseen it – a closeness and fondness for each other between two very different sisters.
My air of despondency can no longer be attributed to Lydia’s situation, and I must strive to hide my sorrow. It is fortunate Papa keeps to his library more than usual, for he would surely perceive all is not well – but I have no taste for witty ripostes at my expense, nor am I diverted by Mama’s flights of fancy.
Were Jane not so engrossed in her own thoughts, I might struggle to deceive her also but as it is, we neither of us pay the other much mind. Jane has lived longer with her disappointment. My wounds remain a little too fresh, yet I observe my sister’s composure and admire her for it. I can only aspire to be more like her – she handles her broken heart with dignity, whilst I wish to rage against the cruelty of fate.
Now Lydia and Wickham are wed, I am full of regret for Mr Darcy’s having been party to my distress over their misbehaviour. It would seem we could yet have concealed the circumstances leading up to the marriage from the world in general, and he would never have known of the shame almost brought upon us.
But what difference would it make? Had he even considered renewing his addresses to me, Lydia’s marriage – however it came about – has sealed our destiny. Brother-in-law to Wickham… it could never be.
I retired early to my room this evening, desperately seeking some diversion. In a burst of industriousness, I pulled open the drawer of the dresser and emptied its contents upon the bed, intent upon restoring some of them to order and perhaps disposing of the rest.
Even this endeavour was doomed to failure, for what should I find lying beneath a bundle of white ribbon but my dance card from the Netherfield Ball. It is but a small piece of ivory, but as it was the last ball I attended, the names of my partners were still visible.
I sought Mr Darcy’s name instinctively, but more fool I for the weakness – for I had not inscribed his name, merely written the word ‘Him!’ in its place – a sorry tribute to my foolish pride; I fail to recognise the person who attended that ball in my name, for she exists no longer…
Longbourn, the 3rd day of September
I have repaired upstairs to change for supper, though I have little interest in such preparations. Lydia and Wickham have arrived, and I feel no desire to be in company with them.
It is fortunate the weather continues so fair; I shall take every opportunity of walking out alone for the duration of their stay and look forward to the passing of these few days and their departure for Newcastle. My only hope is their route northwards will not take them through any part of Derbyshire, for I do not wish that county to be sullied by their unworthy carriage wheels.
I would indulge the hope their visit will provide distraction for my thoughts, and leave little space for Mr Darcy – but how can I look upon that scoundrel’s face without remarking the association? The damage he near accomplished is compounded by the disservice he did the Darcy name. I feel again a surge of protectiveness sweeping through me on behalf of both Mr and Miss Darcy.
And there is the bell – I am called to table…
Longbourn, the 3rd day of September… continued
I am quite distracted and have no patience for the company below, for I have become privy to a most singular fact: Mr Darcy was in some way connected with my sister’s marriage!
There… I have placed the words upon the page as if by some miracle the justification for such an incongruous statement will reveal itself. Yet more perplexing, Lydia claims he was not only in attendance at the wedding itself but he funded it! Furthermore, she claims he was responsible for purchasing Wickham’s commission into the regulars… and this is all I have: particulars which make little sense and raise a thousand questions with not one answer accessible to me.
How in error have my thoughts been these past weeks, when thinking of him? Having seen him at Pemberley, I had pictured him in his home, or riding his horse through its beautiful grounds. I had tortured myself wondering, if he was so busy with his guests, he had forgotten our brief re-acquaintance. Not once did it occur to me he was in London and engaged upon such business.
I am quite bewildered and taken aback, for I cannot conceive of any grounds for Mr Darcy to be associated with Lydia’s wedding, nor to involve himself in her current situation. Why would he seek them out? What possible motive could he have for wanting to engage with Wickham, to be in such company and associate himself with someone whose presence is so offensive to him?
I tried to press Lydia further, but she was as stubborn as a mule. Having let slip the supposed secret of Mr Darcy’s involvement, she derived much pleasure from withholding any further facts. What is more, I found it necessary to desist in my interrogation, for she neatly turned the tables upon me and began to question why I should have any interest in someone whom I profess to loathe – a humbling thought indeed.
Longbourn, the 4th day of September
I can bear Lydia’s tiresome raptures over her new status no further. Hill procured some victuals for me, and I have taken myself on a long walk. The sun has grown higher, and I am settled under a shady oak; it is time to put my journal aside, for I have a purpose this day. A night’s sleep, albeit somewhat restless, has restored my distracted thoughts to reason with the morning.
My aunt must know it all! Though thankful for this realisation, it came hand in hand with dissatisfaction, for how could she not tell me she had seen Mr Darcy? I hope very much the letter I am about to write will find a willing correspondent in Aunt Gardiner, for I intend to beg for an explanation, but if pleading and cajoling is insufficient to win the day, then I shall take myself to Gracechurch Street and demand satisfaction in person!
To be continued next Sunday in Chapter Nine.
All colour drawings of Darcy and Elizabeth have been produced by the lovely Janet Taylor of JT Originals, as have the two ‘covers’ for the story. Many thanks to Janet for sharing such gorgeous images with us!