Lizzy Bennet’s Diary continues below in its new Sunday slot! 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 here:
Lizzy Bennet’s Diary
Extracts from the Journals of Miss Elizabeth Bennet
What a wretched day this has become. Am I destined to only receive proposals of marriage from those I cannot respect? Romance is for fools, and I am the worst of them all.
He has made me the offer of his hand… he has proposed to me, asked me to marry him… if I pen the words often enough, will I comprehend it?
My mind is in turmoil, and my head hurts. I cannot imagine what possessed the man… how could he even consider I might accept him? What arrogance, what conceit could lead him to believe I would welcome his addresses? Has my manner been so misleading throughout our laboured acquaintance, or is my family’s position in society so very dreadful he would expect me to accept his hand, despite my marked aversion to his company?
And he was so very shocked by my refusal… his air and countenance I shall never forget. Yet how can he have been in love with me for so many months, so much so as to wish to marry me, when he has long been dwelling upon the objections which led him to persuade his friend away from Jane?
This is unfathomable! I cannot rouse a coherent thought…
Hunsford, the 9th day of April… continued
A change of clothing may have ceased my shivering, but my composure is hard bought; my efforts do naught but increase the ache upon my brow. If only Jane were here to soothe me. How I miss her – yet what of this could I possibly reveal? I must pour my burden into these pages… it is a feeble substitute as confidante, with neither wisdom to impart, nor reassurance to offer, but perchance it will relieve some of the pressures from my mind – for they are many, and they jostle for consideration without respite.
It is fortunate the Collinses are gone to Rosings for the remainder of the day. I am sure my discomposure upon hearing Colonel Fitzwilliam’s news earlier (he professed to the certain knowledge of his cousin separating his friend from Jane) supported the excuse of indisposition I made as we left church, for Charlotte accepted it without demur.
Have I taken leave of my senses? I have just refused the hand of one of the most eligible men in the country! Yet gratifying though it is to have unconsciously inspired so strong an affection, I could never entertain accepting a man who has behaved in such a way.
Colonel Fitzwilliam can have no idea of the significance of what he shared with me. The poor man, to be so taken in by his cousin as to consider him doing Mr Bingley a favour! Yet how can this be? The Colonel must have known him all his life; they are of similar age, and must be of intimate acquaintance. For certain, he knows his own cousin for what he is… yet… I do not understand. And Mr Bingley – to be so trusting of a friend who has done him such a disservice… how is it society in general is not aware of this propensity for unscrupulous behaviour?
And to be proposed to in such a way – my cheeks glow afresh. His pride – his insufferable pride! He seemed so proud of his actions, with his arrogant assertion of willingly parting Jane and Mr Bingley and his sarcastic disdain for Mr Wickham’s reduced circumstances, and he gave no sign of remorse for his cruelty in that quarter. Further, his appraisal of my family was insulting.
Ah poor Jane. How could he do it? How dare he relish in his success, and how foolish now my belief Miss Bingley was the sole perpetrator, the single manipulator of circumstance.
Yet despite my lingering anger, his eyes persist in haunting me, as does his stunned air and countenance once he comprehended my rejection. There is an unaccountable ache within my breast and confusion in my mind, and I suspect I know whence these hail.
It must be done, I will own it all here in these pages, a moment of madness which troubles me greatly: after my final outburst there was an aching silence, and I became conscious of his closeness, our eyes fixed upon each other. It was overwhelming, and then I thought I heard him whisper something as his head inclined towards mine; I could not move, and for a mere second I was certain his intention was to embrace me…
Surely I was bewitched – for how else can I account for my reaction? Is it wrong to put these words on the page? My breathing is restricted as I relive the moment – why, of all that has passed this morning, does this one memory persist in intruding? For with his wounded eyes locked upon mine, had he acted, I suspect I would have allowed it to happen! How my cheeks burn and my heart reels beneath my ribs – it must be the shame of it; I cannot otherwise account for such a severe reaction.
But how could I? How could I, however briefly, feel empathy for a man I loathe? Am I betraying myself? Is some part of me seduced by his wealth and consequence? No… no, I am not so much my mother’s daughter as that.
I can no longer concentrate – I must seek some form of activity, but still the rain pours. Perhaps a turn downstairs will aid the restoration of my composure; I am certain the confines of this bedroom oppress my spirits.
Hunsford, the 10th day of April
It is early to be about, but I have suffered a wakeful night.
Mr Darcy brought a letter in the early evening. The interruption was more welcome than may be supposed; neither the view from the window nor an attempt at reading could halt my ceaseless rambling around Hunsford Parsonage, which culminated in my standing for some considerable time in front of the drawing room mirror ensnared in those very memories I sought to forget.
Drawn from my speculation, I met his gaze in the looking glass as he entered the room. I might have suffered some embarrassment at the state of my undress had I not remarked immediately his equally dishevelled appearance, an indication of our mutual discomposure, but thankfully what little interaction we had was conducted through the artifice of the mirror. He spoke of the letter in his hand, of its purpose, and placed it on the sill nearby before meeting my gaze once more; yet words failed me entirely, and then he was gone, riding through the gateway to Rosings Park as though demons were at his back.
The letter remained on the sill, and I looked at it, unsure whether I should permit him the liberty to so address me. Mr Darcy had declared his need to speak of the two offences laid against him; though I held little desire to give him fair hearing, my curiosity was at its height. Quite tentatively, I picked the letter up and studied it, then quickly broke the seal, with little expectation of pleasure but determined I would know what he felt could be said in his defence.
There were two pages, written quite through in a very close hand, and I remained at the window to peruse them, the light now fading from the room as dusk began to fall.
I cannot conceive of such wickedness as Wickham’s. I have been a fool and have much abused Mr Darcy. How he must suffer, knowing the depth of my ill opinion… But no – I must try to order my thoughts, for my feelings upon first reading the letter differed vastly from how they are now.
Once I had begun to read, my interest was quickly caught, though on first perusal I retained a strong prejudice against anything Mr Darcy might say. My eyes devoured the words faster than my brain could grasp their import, rushing from one sentence to the next, barely leaving me with the power of comprehension. Mr Darcy’s explanation of his reasoning for separating Jane from Mr Bingley appeared no less sound than when he first told it. It was all pride and insolence. Further, I could not believe Wickham’s character to be so very bad – it was all a vast falsehood – and I was thankful for Charlotte’s return just then, whereupon I determined to think on the letter and its content no more.
Yet it was not to be; I excused myself and returned to my chamber, and without delay I opened the pages and once more began to read Mr Darcy’s account of his connection with Wickham, and slowly a consciousness I may have wronged the former began to take hold. By the time sleep found me I had perused Mr Darcy’s words so many times I was close to knowing the letter by heart, and my restless night was peppered with fragments of sentences whirling through my tired head wrapped in memories from our laboured acquaintance.
This morning, I have read the letter once more and with a much more open mind and how differently, in what new light, does it now appear? I am deceived in my own abilities; never has my judgment so sadly erred.
Wickham’s behaviour and actions are revealed to be the work of a corrupt and deceitful man – I recall with embarrassment my willingness to believe all he told me, even when his actions were contrary to his words. How could I not have noticed his absence from the Netherfield Ball was in direct contrast to his avowal Mr Darcy could leave, not he?
I am shamed by how easily I overlooked how his gracious commitment to never expose the son out of respect for the father disintegrated upon Mr Darcy’s departure from the neighbourhood, when the alleged mistreatment became widely known. Blinded by the pleasure of receiving his marked attentions, I also failed to admit the indelicacy of his disclosures to me on such slight acquaintance.
How fortunate for Miss King she has relatives to watch over her and her fortune; his attentions to her were not the mark of good sense, but merely of an avaricious man.
And poor Miss Darcy – I confess I have longed to see her, but for such selfish reasons. I sought confirmation she was as proud and disagreeable as Wickham painted her, and had begun to feel Mr Bingley deserved to be bound to her for being so weak as to allow himself to be parted from Jane. It is perhaps fortunate such an encounter will never arise for I would feel unworthy of her attention.
Mr Darcy’s assessment of my family’s behaviour was painful to hear, and mortifying to see in black and white upon the page, but my honesty demands I own its truth, for it is well merited. It shames me, but I must own I have oft seen the very same offences – and have long been embarrassed by them. His compliment to Jane and myself is not unfelt. It soothes, but it is no real consolation for the contempt attracted by the remainder of my family.
As for my dear Jane – if he really did perceive her as indifferent towards Mr Bingley – and I cannot deny her naturally reticent composure (did not Charlotte perceive the very same?) – then he cannot be faulted for the advice offered to a friend, for it shows a real concern for that friend’s tender heart and nature – no matter I feel for both of the injured parties in the outcome.
Poor Jane. Discovering the depth and sincerity of Mr Bingley’s feelings only emphasises her loss. She must never know of this, it would make it all the more painful to bear. It grieves me to acknowledge her own family – one which loves her and would to all intents see her happily settled – is more than partly responsible for her disappointment.
I have wronged Mr Darcy in every way – my wit has never been so ill applied. Though his manner in offering his hand was objectionable, so was my refusal, couched in such uncivil terms. Further, I have occasioned him great pain – unintentionally, but pain nonetheless. There was a time when this would have been a source of some satisfaction to me – but not now.
I feel all the discomfort of having maligned him without just cause, and looking back through these pages, I am reminded of the general discourtesy I extended towards him. Though I do not deny his manners in Hertfordshire were somewhat lacking at times, or that his air and countenance were unwelcoming to all but the Netherfield party, I have unjustly maligned his character and by this I am humbled. I can think of neither Mr Darcy nor Wickham without feeling I have been both prejudiced and absurd.
Leastways, I must now allow the gentleman his full address rather than the insult of a mere initial, and… oh! I laugh at myself, though I am in all truth little amused. I see “Mr Darcy” has reinstated himself of his own accord…
Alas, I am no longer mystified such men as the Colonel and Mr Bingley remain supportive and close acquaintances of the gentleman. How could they have been his loyal companions if he did not command their full respect?
I wish him well; I am appreciative of his loving me sufficient to make the offer of his hand despite his overall objections to the match. Oh how just a humiliation this is, I am led to this fall through my own vanity. Pleased with the preference of one and the seeming neglect of the other, I have courted ignorance where either were concerned – I, who pride myself upon my discernment. They say love is blind; I could not have been more so had I been in love myself.
My departure cannot come soon enough. As for Mr Darcy, at least his pain will be of short duration, for his anger over my misdirected accusations will ensure any feelings he had for me are soon extinguished. At least there is little likelihood of his postponing his departure again – Colonel Fitzwilliam will at last be allowed to escape from Rosings.
Jane will be on her way back to Longbourn with our aunt and uncle soon, and how I long to join her there. Yet how much I shall have to conceal.
I hear movement – it is time I dressed and faced the day. My poor night’s sleep has left me with a pale and tired face, and will lend me the disguise I most need to allow me rest and solitude today.
Hunsford, the 11th day of April
I have told Charlotte little – that I am unwell she does perceive, but I am able to make use of the lie I have acquired a chill from my soaking the other day.
Mr Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam left Kent for Town this morning; Mr Collins made sure to be in the road outside Hunsford Parsonage to wave them on their way, but owned upon his return to the house that he had quite failed to catch Mr Darcy’s eye, despite exhaustive effort.
My own relief in knowing I shall never have to look Mr Darcy in the eye again is somewhat countered by a lowness of spirits upon hearing confirmation of his departure. However, as any further contact between us would surely be painful to both parties, I refuse to anticipate a situation which would serve no useful purpose to either side.
I depart for home next Saturday, and it cannot come soon enough, though my dear Charlotte has been discretion itself – she has proven her friendship a thousand times over the past two days, and I shall miss her terribly when I am gone from Kent. She questions me little, ensures I have all I need for my comfort and deflects the notice of Mr Collins repeatedly.
That she wonders at my being indisposed when all visible signs of illness are absent I doubt not, but her natural delicacy prevents her from satisfying her curiosity, and I am confident my spirits remain sufficiently subdued for her to find my manner far from normal, thus confirming there is indeed something amiss.
A letter arrived from Jane yesterday – she travels home from London with our aunt and uncle on the morrow, and how I long to see her again. Though Mr Bingley’s name makes no further appearance in her letters, I know her well and can detect she is not herself, and as such my anxiety to observe for myself how she is faring has increased.
Mr Darcy’s letter I keep within the pages of this book. Though I know its content by heart, I have a perplexing compulsion to read it over and over, which goes against all my efforts to put the matter from my mind. One glimpse of his handwriting, and I feel he is present, for his voice is in my ear as I read his words… the firmness in the style of his lettering and integrity in his manner of expressing himself are representative of the man himself, of his character.
I cannot help but smile as I re-read the words I have just penned. Perhaps this deep admiration for Mr Darcy’s penmanship only serves to emphasise my relationship to Mr Collins!
Longbourn, the 18th day of April
At last I am home. I have repaired upstairs to tidy myself before dinner, and must take a moment to record my first impressions of our household.
The journey passed uneventfully; I can, in truth, recall little of it, so wrapped was I in introspection. What a change has come upon me since I travelled to Kent – I hardly know myself, such is the consequence of what has taken place. Yet I have little alternative but to suppress my thoughts, for fear of exciting an interest I am ill prepared to answer.
It has been a joy to see our aunt and uncle once more. Their company always gives such pleasure; my only regret is their stay being of such short duration – though they plan a summer journey northwards and will make some stay with us again as they begin their travels.
I am relieved to be with my dear Jane again. She looks well enough, but I detect sadness upon her brow and a deeper reserve in her manner, even towards me. We managed a few moments of private conversation – not that there is ever much of that to be had in such a household as ours – whereupon she declared herself completely over Mr Bingley and, further, she would hardly know him should he pass her in the street. For a second, this left me bereft of speech, and she took my silence as doubting the veracity of her words.
It is fortunate she could not comprehend my thoughts. The irony of my attack upon Mr Darcy in defence of Jane and Mr Bingley and of his conviction of Jane’s indifference weighed heavily upon me as she affirmed her interest so soon faded.
If this were indeed the case, then my passionate defence of her feelings to Mr Darcy would be all the more ridiculous – however, I believe her to be mistaken. Jane has no deceit; she would not lie, and has simply chosen to convince herself this is truly how she feels. Despite her words, I could detect quite clearly her spirits remain depressed. Coming into her first real attachment at such an age, and being of a constant, steady disposition, it is no surprise she suffers.
I did not press her upon it, though, for I would ill bear any similar examination of my present spirits and thus have curbed my tongue more perhaps than is my wont.
There is a scheme afoot troubling me deeply and causing me great unease. The Forsters have invited Lydia to join them in Brighton for a stay of several weeks. Lydia’s joy on this occasion is boundless, and she shows no compassion for Kitty’s distress – who, being the elder of the two, feels she is overlooked and as such is most upset.
Lydia is outspoken in her approbation of her dear friend, Mrs Forster, and proud of their close acquaintance. For myself, I found Colonel Forster’s wife to be little more than a child herself, as obsessed with her appearance, finery and red coats as Lydia – wherein, no doubt, rests their mutual pleasure in each other’s society.
Kitty’s only solace is derived from the fact that, had she too been invited, she would have had to leave her pup in the care of others – and as her attachment to the hound is sincere, she becomes almost reconciled to her fate.
My attempt earlier this evening to appeal to Papa and put a halt to this visit was a failure. He cannot, or will not, comprehend the damage Lydia’s behaviour might bring to us all. Oh, if they only knew Jane’s present situation was partly a result of their own failings… and Lydia is in need of a firm hand to guide her through these impressionable years, yet I cannot see whence it might come.
I was torn over whether or not to make known the true nature of Wickham’s character to Papa, and even my entire family; it was a sore temptation, knowing Lydia would be in the constant company of the regiment. But what could I possibly disclose?
The content of Mr Darcy’s letter was shared in the utmost confidence, particularly those sentences relating to his sister. Wickham is so well regarded by Mama, and Kitty and Lydia also – and Mr Darcy the reverse – without showing them the letter, I would have no way of persuading them otherwise. Even then, I doubt they would accept the word of a man they and the neighbourhood so despise.
I dearly love Papa, but I must confess to feeling frustrated and disappointed by his adherence to a desire for peace and quiet. He knows not the risk he takes by letting a silly little flirt like Lydia loose upon a regiment, away from the care and protection of her family.
I begged him to reconsider. I cannot deny Mr Darcy’s words were fresh in my mind as I talked to him. Much as I love my family, I must acknowledge there are times when there is much to be desired in their public conduct. Yet, my protest fell upon deaf ears – I must trust to the fact Lydia has no fortune by way of temptation and that Papa is correct in his assumption she will be of little notice in Brighton. It is fortunate neither Mama nor Lydia were aware of my purpose when I visited Papa in his library, or I should have had no peace myself this evening from their enraged sensibilities.
Longbourn, the 19th day of April
I have passed a poor night. I suffer an unaccountable physical ache beneath my breast, which shows no sign of easing.
Jane lay abed, her back turned, when I joined her in our bedroom last night, but I did not believe she had found the peace of restful sleep. My fate seemed likewise, for when I finally lay in the bed, repose remained elusive, and I could not help but revisit yet again the moment when Mr Darcy offered me his hand. I cannot forget the look upon his face when I flung those final words at him or the pain in his eyes before he left me… I only wish I had understood his true character and thus had responded more civilly in my rejection.
So strong was the wave of emotion this memory evoked in me as I lay upon my pillow, it brought unbidden tears to my eyes, and almost against my volition, I spoke of seeing Mr Darcy in Kent (it seems I was correct in my surmise, for Jane did not sleep and responded without delay).
I would foolishly have stumbled into a confession, I fear, had she not instantly made the connection between the two friends, and asked if he had mentioned Mr Bingley. What could I possibly say? What was there to tell her of our only conversation regarding that gentleman?
Poor Jane, she is not quite so over Mr Bingley as she would convince herself, and there was nothing I could add to ease her pain. Thus it was I offered an untruth and met the darkness and my painful memories in silence.
To be continued next Sunday in Chapter Six.
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. The black and white drawings were done by my equally lovely friend, author Angela Quarles. Many thanks to them both for sharing such gorgeous images with us!