Lizzy Bennet’s Diary continues below! Many thanks to everyone following and commenting! You make my heart smile! 😀
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
Mr Darcy has gone beyond my wildest imaginings in his efforts to repair the damage caused by Lydia’s flight. He has outlaid a sum so vast, I dare not think on it. Further, he has been obliged to bargain with a man who has done nothing but serve him ill, settling substantial debts and securing his future profession yet again. I cannot believe what Mr Darcy has done for us, and all down to a silly, thoughtless girl with no respect for him and a cad who came so close to grievously wounding his sister – it is beyond my comprehension. Not only has he restored to us a sister and daughter, but he has simultaneously saved all our reputations – it is too much, entirely too much to absorb.
My dear aunt, of course, has not disappointed – her response arrived this morning, and I quickly determined from the thickness of the envelope she had chosen to honour my request for details. Yet so agitated were my spirits on first reading it, I found myself unable to settle, moving from my chosen haven of the lake to the bench outside the back door; half way through my second reading I retired to the bedroom, and here I have remained for no little time.
I have derived equal sorrow and satisfaction from the letter. That he must have suffered through so much to achieve the outcome pains me deeply, yet my heart is warmed by my aunt’s approbation, for she admits how very well she likes Mr Darcy. I must own I share the sentiment for I like him very much. I cannot tell whether the depth of my liking is brought about by my falling in love with him, or whether it came first; the more I hear of him, the more deeply I admire and respect him. I had not imagined he could be an even better man than I already gave him credit for.
Yet I am almost more overcome by what was not said than the information my aunt was able to impart. There is an underlying suggestion throughout the whole she believed Mr Darcy to be acting with my knowledge… indeed, she goes on to imply – it makes my heart lurch to write these words – both she and my uncle suspected Mr Darcy to have some further interest, and that I was it.
How I wish it were true. My heart longs to embrace her words even as my head rejects them – his given reasons for acting, as outlined by Aunt Gardiner, seem reasonable to be sure, and I do not believe they stem from any particular regard. However, though I am saddened it can come to naught, it brings some comfort to read of my aunt’s belief in affection and confidence existing between Mr Darcy and myself. Further, to read words of approbation from her for his character and actions is a welcome respite, for his name has never been pronounced by anyone at Longbourn with any pleasure, save Jane.
Longbourn, the 9th day of September
Lydia and Wickham left for Newcastle this morning. I trust it will be many a year before I set eyes upon that man again; I only hope my sister remains as content with her choice henceforth, though I fear her present happiness will not endure. Poor, misguided Lydia – she seems so proud of her establishment as Mrs Wickham. Mama feels their departure most sorely; indeed, to have finally achieved her aim in having a daughter married yet unable to parade Mrs Wickham about the neighbourhood above a few days has tried her nerves greatly.
I did long to point out this fate might await her upon each of her daughters’ marriages – but I did not. I felt all too well the reality… we none of us have any suitors, be they local or otherwise – and as Mama was quite as likely to remind me of the fact, I kept my own counsel.
Longbourn, the 16th day of September
Mama’s spirits remain a little depressed since Lydia left, and no word has come from my sister of how she fares in her new neighbourhood and establishment. As the wedding, such as it was, has long been exhausted as a topic for discussion with her friends, Mama feels this lack of further intelligence deeply. As such, she is in need of our company and has asked us to accompany her into Meryton, for nothing cures her low spirits with more ease than a browse amongst the shelves of the local shops and the occasional purchase. It is a sad reflection of their marriage, I fear, that what raises the spirits of one ultimately lowers those of the other. Papa will no doubt be pouring over the receipts all evening.
Kitty is out walking with her hound; Mary wishes to visit the public library, and Jane and I will do our best to curb Mama’s spending.
The most unsettling news… Mr Bingley returns to Netherfield next week! We learned of the impending visit in Meryton, and Mama could only contain herself long enough to reach Lucas Lodge and her dear friend’s ear. Mary, Jane and I continued on to Longbourn in silence – the poor man has every right to return if he so wishes, and it is a shame such audacity as returning to one’s own home can be deemed the best piece of gossip in weeks.
My heart went out to Jane, for she was clearly unsettled. Yet she says she dreads nothing other than people’s remarks and is glad he comes alone, so that we will see less of him. It seems Miss Bingley remains in Town, which implies Mr Bingley returns merely for the shooting rather than the social niceties. If this is indeed the case, Jane is correct and we shall see little or nothing of him. For myself, I suspect he left his sister in Town for fear she would hamper his game by scaring away the birds.
I do wonder whether Mr Darcy is cognisant of Mr Bingley’s plans. The possibility cannot be denied, yet there is no knowing whether he comes with Mr Darcy’s sanction or not. Perhaps he is sufficiently recovered from his affection for Jane, he no longer sees the need to absent himself. It is a disturbing notion, but quite possible. As such, I must do as Jane asks and refrain from mentioning him.
Poor Jane – she has suffered so – I can only imagine what torment the coming days will be for her.
Longbourn, the 24th day of September
The days pass and there remains neither sight nor sound of Mr Bingley, though his arrival at Netherfield has been confirmed to Mama by Mrs Long, my Aunt Philips, Lady Lucas and quite possibly every passing lark or crow.
Mama is insisting Papa wait upon Mr Bingley, for she claims all the neighbouring families will do so and how will it appear if he does not? Papa refuses; he has long despised the ritual, claiming Mr Bingley knows full well where he resides, and he has no intention of running after his neighbours every time they choose to return from some place or other. Furthermore, he reminds Mama she promised Mr Bingley would marry one of his daughters if he visited him when he first entered the neighbourhood, yet it came to naught.
This thankless debate does more harm than good to Jane. Cannot they see the distress they cause? Much as I dearly love Papa, I do wish his wit better applied at times.
Mama consoles herself she will flout convention (if only such a thing were a rarity) and invite Mr Bingley to dine regardless. We can only hope the poor man returns to Town before she embarrasses us further. Jane owns she will be glad when he has departed – she cannot bear such incessant talk upon the subject.
For myself, I have tried to provide a shield between Mama’s constant bemoaning of our neighbour’s absence and Jane’s discomfort. Dear Jane – whilst I may have helped relieve the tension in her head (and the assault upon her ears) by dragging her out of the house more than is her wont, she claims her feet will never forgive me for the paths they have trodden these past days! I find, though, the distraction has reaped some benefit for myself. My own low spirits have had to take second place to the need to support my sister, and whilst I wish the cause a pleasanter one for Jane, I am grateful for this.
As such, I find some of my dispirited mood lifting and begin to feel more myself. It would be both foolish and an untruth to claim I never pay Mr Darcy a passing thought. I suspect there will never be a day when I do not think of him… but I am making a conscious effort to accept my fate and move forwards. Being needed by Jane is a balm, for not only does it offer solace to my heart to be able to support one I love so much, but it clears my head from self-destructive regrets as I strive to distract Jane from what troubles her.
As for my aunt’s letter, I have finally accepted, no matter how I might wish it otherwise, Mr Darcy did not repair the damage of Lydia’s imprudent flight for me. Admittedly, he has done much – but his reasons for involving himself to such an extent are not beyond the realm of common sense, and I am convinced I was not his principal inducement.
I will own, though, to cherishing my aunt’s words, and her letter now resides with Mr Darcy’s inside the cover of this book. To be able to read praise of him, of his character and deeds, by one I esteem as highly as Aunt Gardiner, is one of the small pleasures remaining – and as I am unlikely to ever hear such words of approval within my own neighbourhood, it shall remain a treasure I will not lightly forego.
Longbourn, the 26th day of September
Having taken my pleasure of the outdoors by rambling for miles this morning, my petition for another opportunity to walk out has been denied; Mama insists we all accompany her into the drawing room for the remainder of the day, and I have repaired to my chamber to collect a book by way of amusement.
It is fortunate Papa chose to refill Mama’s wine glass repeatedly during our meal, for I recognise the signs full well; she will shortly fall into a period of repose, giving us all respite from her lamenting Mr Bingley’s continued absence.
It is Kitty’s turn to arrange the flowers in the hallway, and she made her escape directly; Papa, unsurprisingly, has retired to his library and Jane has taken her sewing basket into the drawing room. Mary claimed the need to respond to some correspondence, but has likewise been directed by Mama to bring her writing materials along. Thus we are all kept indoors for the duration, and I must endeavour to enjoy my captivity, though in truth my heart regrets such idleness and confinement.
What a singular month this has become. My emotions of late have peaked and troughed the like of which I have never yet experienced, and today differs little. I seem to plunder the pits of despair even as I touch upon the summit of joy. Oh, if only my pen could move as swiftly as Mama’s mouth – there is so much to tell, and I know not where to begin…
I have seen him! Mr Darcy was here! It is too much to comprehend. He was here, in our very drawing room at Longbourn – and yet now he is gone away and will be restored to Town on the morrow. I have known once more the painful pleasure of his presence, and in a cruel repetition of history, I watched his departure from the room and was powerless to prevent it.
I had thought myself longing to look upon his features just once more, only to find once was insufficient to stem the wretchedness and despair stirred anew by this encounter. Instead of satisfying my need for him, the hunger inside grows stronger, and I suspect a lifetime would be too little to spend in his company.
And Jane… little does she suspect. How troubled I was when she expressed regret for Mr Darcy’s presence, how ill prepared was I for such a comment. Lord knows what I might have gone on to confess had Mr Bingley not chosen that moment to return… and thankfully, Jane is now so blissfully happy she appears not to recall my unguarded words.
But my distraction does not serve these pages. I must try to record here what has come to pass, for it is most incredible. I have retired above stairs with the excuse of preparing myself for dinner, but the truth of the matter is I must settle myself, for my discomposure over seeing Mr Darcy again is hard to conquer. How fortunate it was all attention was upon Jane and Mr Bingley earlier, for I must display only the happiness I feel for them – and indeed I do feel it. All I seek is a few moments to rid my mind of this oppression, and this journal must suffice once more as confidante.
Mr Bingley paid his visit, of course, its unexpectedness compounded by his friend accompanying him. My heart once again pounds furiously in my chest as I recall the moment of clarity, the split second when Kitty’s words revealed his attendance; how the sight of him from the window took the very air from my body – for a while I am sure I forgot to breathe at all.
Hearing Mrs Hill pronounce his name was my further undoing. It felt such an age since I had heard anyone utter those two precious words, “Mr Darcy”… yet despite my desperate need to see him again, once he was before me I could not raise my eyes to look upon his face, for fear what I might see there. Mama, as is her wont, was rattling away like a runaway carriage about Lydia and her marriage – I must own Mr Bingley struggled to get a word in, and the shame of it all brings fresh warmth to my cheeks.
How dispiriting it was to hear Mama’s words against Mr Darcy when she realised he was accompanying her precious Mr Bingley; how galling to witness her general discourtesy in not acknowledging him when they entered the room – if only she comprehended all he has done for her favourite daughter – for all her daughters…
But if nothing else, her behaviour gave me the strength to act, and my first brave venture was to raise my eyes to risk a glance towards Mr Darcy; my heart lurched within my breast as his eyes turned to mine at the same moment – but he looked away before I could muster any sound. Had I not then found the courage to speak, I wonder… would he have addressed me at all? I fear not… I was in no humour for conversation with anyone but he, yet could find no words. Commonplace civilities, his health, the weather – how ridiculous I could be so lacking in conversation, how ineffectual when there was so much I wished to say.
The shock of Mr Darcy’s disclosure he was returning to Town so soon had barely registered when Mr Bingley made his sudden departure. Indeed, had I not been so distracted by my own discomfort and disappointment, I may well have been able to observe more closely Mr Darcy’s reaction – that he was surprised at the shortness of the visit was clear; it was only upon Mr Bingley’s return and his demand for a private audience with Jane the full purpose of their call became apparent.
But what is done is done, and I must desist from wild conjectures over what might have been said. All notions of Mr Darcy must be put aside, for I am able to record here the most wonderful news.
Jane is to marry Mr Bingley! Oh, how well those words look upon the page.
To know my dear sister is so very happy, this most satisfying of ends has come to pass… I am thankful my own sadness is counteracted by such wonderful, heart-warming news. Despite all the interference in their affairs, to finally see Jane and Mr Bingley truly reunited is ample consolation; yet I wonder at Mr Darcy’s purpose in accompanying his friend, which poses more questions than answers. His serious air and countenance were in vast contrast to how he was at Pemberley and much more in accord with his silent attitude of earlier days – how is it the air of Hertfordshire affects him so? Perhaps it is Mama’s company – oh, how I wish she would curb her tongue, make some little – any – attempt to conceal her displeasure of him and be less officiously subservient to his friend. If she only knew how it pains me…
One further blessing of Mr Bingley’s rapid return to ask for Jane’s hand was the distraction it provided, enabling me to escape the limitations of the house once more and take some air. The distraction was insufficient though, knowing full well Mr Darcy was, at that moment, making his way back to Netherfield and I had lost all opportunity for us to talk. How cruel is fate to continue bringing us together like this, yet never permitting me the liberty of showing how much my opinion of him has changed nor express my gratitude for all he has done for Lydia – for our entire family.
I sat for some time beneath my favourite tree, but my thoughts were sadly distracted. The calm summer day was fading; clouds were gathering as I sat wallowing in my thoughts, and occasional gusts of wind tugged at my skirts and my hair. I do not think I will ever forget how I felt at that moment, the breeze rustling restlessly through the treetops and the distant call of the cuckoos and my heart heavy within my breast.
How I wished Mr Darcy had lingered; how I wished I might have seen him before he left. I cannot deny how tempted I was at that moment to follow him back to Netherfield and demand to see him, force him to talk to me… but I had not the right and, should such a circumstance have arisen, I would not have found the words either.
But to what end is my despondency? Though I feel in my heart he is lost to me, my head once again reminds me of reason, and as one of Bingley’s closest friends there will be occasions in future when we are bound to be in each other’s company – yet his silence today hints at a reluctance to be near me. Can he no longer bear to be around me – are things truly so altered since we last met in Derbyshire?
Even harder to bear is this: how shall I feel when Mr Darcy himself takes a wife? And he is certain to do so – a man must have an heir, must he not? It pains me to think on it; I can write no more.
Longbourn, the 27th day of September
I have passed a sleepless night and long for daylight, for I have been downstairs these past hours, not wishing to disturb Jane by lighting a candle. I tried to settle myself with a book at first, but despite staring at the page for some time, I took in not one word. Thus it was, I fetched my journal and here shall record yet another astonishing occurrence, which took place before the day had ended.
Lady Catherine de Bourgh has called upon us!
We were roused from our beds soon after retiring by the sound of a carriage, and we all gathered, mystified, in the hall as the door was rapped. And there she was, the last person I ever expected to be standing there, as demanding and rude as I recalled from Kent. She was both derogatory and abrupt to Mama and Papa and demanded a private interview with me. If these matters alone were insufficient to overwhelm me, what followed should, by rights, have left me without words. Yet a lack of voice has never been my fate when confronted by something that angers and astounds me – as Lady Catherine’s nephew could no doubt well affirm.
Oh Lord, her nephew… what if she approaches Mr Darcy? What if she tells him of her visit? Yet I suppose it does not signify… what possible effect could it have upon him? He will surely find himself much in agreement with her – after all, her arguments were not dissimilar to those he struggled with when making his proposal. However, it remains I am both mortified and distressed such a discussion might take place.
I am at a loss to understand how such a report as Lady Catherine claimed to have heard could have reached her – a scandalous falsehood indeed. To my understanding, there are but two people in the world who know of Mr Darcy’s proposal to me in Kent: the man himself and me. But I should pay little mind to her astonishing words, for much of what she claimed was based upon misinformation. She believes my uncle secured Lydia’s marriage; she clearly has no intelligence of her nephew’s involvement… and even her assertion of Mr Darcy’s engagement to her daughter is built upon false hopes.
And what should I fear if she did approach him in like manner? Mr Darcy has no intention of renewing his addresses to me – his manner yesterday made it clear all interest is gone. Lady Catherine, should she deign to repeat any of our angry confrontation, can do no further damage than has already occurred.
Yet I cannot prevent my thoughts from being with Mr Darcy. What torture it is to be but three miles distant and to know in the morning he will be gone away, as far from my reach as ever.
I had not suspected how far the night had progressed – the candle is guttering, and I hear birdsong drifting in through the window… the darkness is lifting as dawn approaches. There will be no waking to the awareness of Mr Darcy’s departure, for morning is upon us.
I am weary of this introspection, tired of bearing such regrets. I wish to see the dawn, watch the sun pierce the early morning mist and breathe deeply of the cool autumnal air. And I will find myself during my walk; I will return to the house with a new determination to overcome this sorrow and put the past behind me…
To be concluded next Sunday in Chapter Ten.
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!