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Lizzy Bennet’s Diary
Extracts from the Journals of Miss Elizabeth Bennet
Lambton, the 5th day of August
The most dreadful news has come… we depart at once for Hertfordshire, and I grieve not solely for foolish, thoughtless Lydia, or the ruin of our family’s reputation; though my aunt and uncle perceive my distress they cannot fully understand its source.
There, I have done it. It is penned in indelible letters upon the page, and there is no further need for prevarication, for the Fates have already set upon destroying such sweet agony of understanding. All the exquisite pleasures of today are swept asunder by a damaging tide of ill fortune, and I must think of him no more.
Leicester, the 7th day of August
It is early and dawn is far from breaking, yet I cannot sleep. We stopped to take our rest at a coaching inn overnight and by departing with the rising sun should be at Longbourn by noon – I derive little comfort from the thought, for what of solace exists there for me now?
How could Lydia do this? How could she consider an elopement… and then for a marriage not to have taken place…
During our tedious journey (how different our mood from our outbound travels) my aunt and uncle have questioned me about Wickham. They wish to understand what it was I did not share with my sisters though it was clearly known to Mr Darcy. I have therefore given them to understand this is not Wickham’s first attempt to discredit the reputation of an innocent girl, but must remain discreet for protection of the lady in question. I justified Mr Darcy’s knowledge of the incident through Wickham’s close connection with the family in the past.
Of my acquaintance with Mr Darcy (and anything our behaviour towards each other may have implied), they asked nothing. My aunt merely squeezed my hand – perhaps she has seen something in our manner towards each other… or perhaps I just wish it to be so. What would I have given to hear them say they think Mr Darcy demonstrates a particular interest in me; how I yearn to hear him profess his words of admiration and affection once more… and how futile is that desire now?
So this is love… how I have longed to know it; and to fall in love with such a man… how do I move beyond this despair?
It is yet too painful to think of our day at Pemberley. Just the penning of the word alone causes the ache in my breast to intensify and my breath to catch in my throat. I can write no more…
Longbourn, the 9th day of August
Mama has taken to her bed and remains in a permanent state of agitation, though her fears seem more for herself and what may become of her should Papa fail to win a duel with Wickham. We attend her repeatedly, sometimes alone, often all at once, for there seems some small consolation in our unity.
There is as yet no news from Papa in Town, but this is no great surprise, for where would one begin to look in such a vast, anonymous place? It is like seeking two sewing pins in a hay bale, and I dare say success will fair be as painful as failure.
I am grateful for our uncle’s assistance and my aunt’s good sense. They departed for Gracechurch Street this morning after taking some rest, and I know their endeavours will be tireless to achieve some form of resolution in this matter.
It is good to be with dear Jane again, though we could both have wished for less trying circumstances. The air is fraught with tension; Kitty and Mary argue endlessly over the smallest of things, the servants hover in doorways awaiting any snippet of news, and I long to escape the confines of Mama’s chamber and seek the relief of a good long walk in fresh air; though should I achieve the aspiration, I fear my recent urge to walk ever onwards and not turn back would hold full sway.
Longbourn, the 12th day of August
It is some days since my return, and still we await any intelligence of the missing pair. Papa writes sporadically, but with little to report of his actions, though he is much relieved to have my uncle engaged upon the search with him.
I have retired to my room early, for supper was a wearisome occasion, with little effort at conversation on all sides and nothing but our troubled thoughts to accompany the cold meat and cheese.
Jane attends upon Mama, whose spirits remain much troubled. Kitty has persuaded Mary to move into the chamber she shared with Lydia for the time being; having someone to disagree with is clearly preferable to facing solitude, where we can do naught but be consumed by our fears.
Sleep will not seek me out for some hours, for rest does not come easy of late. I will immerse myself in memories of a better time, of a day which brought unanticipated happiness before the news from Longbourn broke upon us.
I know it is weakness to so indulge myself, but I am determined to record it within these pages, for my memories are all the consolation I shall have henceforth…
Though a little overwrought upon our arrival at Pemberley, I had no time to examine the source of my discomposure. We were received most genuinely by Mrs Reynolds, who greeted us with warm familiarity and led us immediately to a large drawing room – it was a most beautiful space, so full of light and melody, the latter emanating from a large pianoforte at the far end of the room.
Miss Darcy was as dainty and as slight of build as I had perceived the day before, and far from the proud and disagreeable paragon described by Wickham. Her words of greeting were not only friendly, but most gratifying – though they do make me wonder what exactly Mr Darcy could possibly have told her about me; clearly he had found something in me worth praising to his sister, and I could not help wondering if he retained some of his former admiration. This aroused no little excitement in my breast – furthermore, his civility and openness of manner towards my aunt and uncle was a very rewarding attention. Yet later, on our way home, he admitted he had been giving much thought to how he appeared to others. Was the alteration in his disposition merely an extension of this, into which I read too much?
Uncle had the pleasure of an afternoon’s fishing and Mr Darcy accompanied him, attended upon by his steward, Thomas. Uncle was later all praise for this gentleman, not only for the respect and friendship clearly existing between himself and Mr Darcy, but for Thomas’s extensive knowledge of Pemberley’s lake and its inhabitants.
This interlude left Miss Darcy alone with my aunt and myself, and we enjoyed some time at the instrument together whilst my aunt listened. Miss Darcy is truly gifted, though she confessed she does not enjoy performing for an audience as yet – however, she graciously exempted my aunt with a disarming smile.
We played some duets – my poor skills were not entirely up to the challenge, but we took much amusement from my follies, and she endeavoured to play with me the piece she was executing so stylishly yesterday when I happened upon her… apparently the music is a recent favourite with her, her brother having sent it up from Town with the new pianoforte. Indeed, she had been practicing it for him when he had surprised her with his early return.
Perhaps Mr Darcy’s hearing was so damaged by my mangling of the same melody, he wished to hear the piece played competently in order to repair his ears!? After all, for my appalling performance at Rosings to be described as being quite well executed is a gross exaggeration, or at least demonstrates an ill-merited generosity.
Mrs Annesley, a well-featured, genteel woman who resides with Miss Darcy when she is in London, joined us for afternoon tea. We enjoyed some pleasing conversation, for Miss Darcy is delightful company. There are moments of shyness and uncertainty, which I am sure stem from her young age and not having yet been out in society much, but she possesses such an appealing manner and lively, expressive face it would be impossible not to be charmed by her.
She clearly has a real fondness for her brother and cherishes her time with him when he is in Derbyshire. Mr Darcy, she informed us, has become very fond of walking of late, and Miss Darcy declares she accompanies him whenever she can be spared from her lessons.
Upon Mr Darcy and my uncle’s return to our company, the former appeared gratified by the level of our evident rapport and intimacy, and indeed confirmed as much to my aunt directly, as she did share with me when we were taken away to refresh ourselves before dinner.
Apparently, Mr Darcy was most taken by how relaxed and natural his sister’s manner was upon such short acquaintance. He did seem much pleased with what he observed; I could not help seeking out his face often during the remainder of the afternoon, for I have never seen it so infused with smiles, and it drew my attention repeatedly.
We dined in some style, but with far less formality and forced splendour than at Rosings. There is little need for me to describe in these pages the beauty of the dining room: the fine china on the table, the many candles shimmering in their silver sconces or the warm glow from the fireplace. The beauty of the room (and our party sat to table) will remain with me forever.
Yet I must record here a part of the dinner conversation which to some would have passed un-remarked, for whilst I am reluctant to reflect too much upon what might have been, I was both amused and stirred by its import.
The conversation had turned upon music, and Miss Darcy’s level of accomplishment in particular, when that young lady happened to turn a teasing smile upon her brother, who was seated directly opposite and therefore whose countenance I could observe with ease. She announced quite mischievously she was tiring of her instrument’s demands upon her time, and intended to give up the playing of music entirely and discover a new occupation.
A reluctant smile tugged at the edges of Mr Darcy’s mouth as she announced this to the table, but before anyone could respond to her pronouncement, Miss Darcy continued by saying she had heard lately there are things more appealing in a woman than the so-called traditional accomplishments.
Having not taken my gaze from Mr Darcy, I was well able to perceive a slight look of alarm flashing momentarily across his face and had to bite my lip to hold back a smile as I perceived the look he threw his sister and the brow raised in admonishment.
Fascinated by this interaction, I wasted no time on glancing at Miss Darcy – who sat to my left – during this exchange, but continued to study the gentleman, his discomfort clearly deepening as he attempted in vain (albeit silently) to stem his sister’s flow of words.
Miss Darcy, though, was either as genuinely comfortable in our new friendship as Mr Darcy had earlier implied, or was emboldened by the small glass of wine she had been permitted with her meal, for she looked happily about the table and announced her brother had informed her by letter some months ago his preconceptions of what amounts to an accomplished woman have changed.
It was not completely unexpected at this point for Mr Darcy’s eyes to meet mine, and I made a point of returning his stare with one of wide-eyed innocence, as if I had no notion of what she might be alluding to, before turning to Miss Darcy and encouraging her to continue.
Miss Darcy artlessly obliged; it would appear her brother has been encouraging her to develop a lively, enquiring mind, and more open manners and concern herself a little less with the ability to converse in multiple languages or spend endless hours embroidering cushions no one but one’s immediate family or their attending sycophants will admire.
At this point, Mr Darcy was forced into speech to stem his sister’s joyful words; he addressed himself to my aunt as he spoke, admitting that of late he has come to value the traditional accomplishments less and has taken it upon himself to broaden his sister’s education by encouraging her to be less afraid of expressing her own opinion, to read more and to divide her time more beneficially between the drawing room and the outdoors.
Tempted as I was to comment upon Miss Darcy’s obvious success at the former, I could perceive her brother’s genuine discomfort with the subject, and thus made an effort instead to divert her attention to other matters, and we began a lively discourse on the current fashion for gothic novels.
The remainder of the meal passed without due incident, though the atmosphere remained cordial and at ease. I become aware I have gone into much detail, but every moment was a delight – seated across from Mr Darcy, watching him so at ease in the company of his sister, in his home; listening to the rich resonance of his voice as he talked with my uncle… I must smile, for even his mere pronunciation of some fishing term or other could bring me pleasure that night.
His eyes caught mine so frequently, I fear there must have been many moments when we appeared to stare at each other across the table – what the others must have thought I have no idea, though my uncle was often so intent upon his dinner plate and my aunt and Miss Darcy frequently enjoying a gentle conversation with Mrs Annesley about the delights of London, that perchance they did not notice.
As our meal was ending, Miss Darcy advised the Bingleys were due to arrive at Pemberley the following day, along with another sister of Mr Bingley’s, a Mrs Hurst and her husband.
My aunt was clearly intrigued – she has heard so much of Mr Bingley and has not forgotten his sister’s poor civility towards Jane when she was staying in Gracechurch Street. However, other than a fleeting glance in my direction, she remained discretion itself. I did take it upon myself to request Mr Darcy to remember me to Mr Bingley, and he held my look gravely for a moment before acceding with a nod, and the conversation soon reverted to safer ground.
As such, I am certain our company has not been missed with the enhanced society at Pemberley and can only hope our dreadful news will be concealed from them for as long as it is possible. I know I can trust Mr Darcy to secrecy, but it will out – how can it not, such a scandal as this?
As it is, our paths are unlikely to ever cross again, and nothing could make me more aware of the depth of my feelings for him as such a notion as this. I am obliged to own all hope is gone. Thus I shall complete my recollections of such a perfect day, and then it is done.
As we rose to leave the gentlemen to their port, Mr Darcy made the unprecedented offer of accompanying us back to the inn, and partaking of a nightcap with us there. I looked to my aunt for guidance, but my uncle had already taken our host up on the offer, and we were soon taking our farewells of Miss Darcy and Mrs Annesley and being escorted to the door by the ever patient Mrs Reynolds.
Mr Darcy chose to drive us himself and no sooner had he settled my aunt, uncle and the day’s hoard of fine fish into the carriage, than he indicated I should sit upon the driver’s bench with him.
Without hesitation I grasped his extended hand and allowed him to help me climb up. It was fortunate in the ensuing delay as Mr Darcy moved round to climb up and settle himself beside me, I was able to take control of my breathing again, for the touch of his hand upon mine sent a tumult of emotions through my body.
How clearly I was reminded of the first moment we made contact when he handed me into the carriage at Netherfield… I was stirred again, yet more deeply, by the inexplicable feelings it had aroused in me then – and if I needed further confirmation, I could simply peruse the earlier pages of this very book.
Conscious of the rush of warmth to my cheeks, I was grateful for the darkness. The earlier clouds had parted and the inky black sky was laden with stars, but the moonlight was insufficient to reveal my discomfort. A stiff breeze was blowing, and I tucked the proffered blanket about my legs and diverted my attention to making myself secure upon the bench as Mr Darcy took up the reins, and we set off for Lambton.
I recall even now the heightened awareness of being so closely seated beside him, our legs all but touching, and I was thankful for the blanket’s thickness in preventing the connection, for I am not certain my composure could have withstood such an occurrence.
We travelled in silence for some distance, but at no great speed; indeed, Mr Darcy seemed in no hurry at all, his hands holding the reins loosely and giving little direction to the horses, as they ambled slowly along the road towards the town. I can remember watching those hands, fool that I was then, wishing he would take mine in his again – let me be entirely truthful, for what purpose is there in denial now? – I could not help anticipating with pleasure his assisting me down from the carriage at our destination.
Desperately, I sought some conversation, and reflecting upon our day quickly thanked him for his hospitality and the introduction to his sister. This stimulated some brief converse, of what I can no longer recall, but the ensuing silence was broken this time by Mr Darcy.
He expressed pleasure in my accepting an escort back to the inn upon this occasion, and I saw he meant to tease me a little, though I assured him I had been in need of a walk the day before, and had been in no hurry to reach my destination. His response was immediate: had I accepted the offer, walking had been his design also, for no dissimilar reason.
I could not answer for a moment, so touched was I, not only by the words and their implication, but also by the timbre of his voice as he spoke to me. I was conscious of his throwing me a quick glance as he said these last words, but I could not meet his eye.
Another lengthier pause followed, and I remember my dismay at seeing so soon the lighted windows of Lambton coming into view in the distance. How I wished for another damaged carriage wheel at that moment, though to what end I know not. I find love does not inspire in me the quick retort, the witty reply; it leaves me without words…
If Mr Darcy was conscious of the absurdity of my lost tongue, he did not acknowledge it. He soon spoke again, and as I mentioned earlier in this entry, talked of his attempts to understand how he appears to others.
I responded warmly to this sentiment and assured him it did him credit, but how I wished I could say something else instead; how I longed to know if he detected my changed manner towards him, understood how much I now respected his character – but I could find no words to express this, and merely added that, after all, first impressions are often misleading.
It would be all too easy to lose myself in the gratification of remembering such a day as we passed at Pemberley… but truth will intrude – indeed, how could it not, when my heart lies heavier than ever in my chest, and my eyes continually fill with unshed tears? Perhaps it is all the more precious to me now, as it has no chance of repetition.
Furthermore, I have felt Mr Darcy’s touch for the last time, though I perceived it not at the time… he helped me from our precarious perch, as I knew he would, but I know not whether it was my choice or his that we did not release hands for some moments.
But I must give it up, cease to dwell upon it. Such pleasant reminiscing may bring me some small comfort one day, but now it is too soon; the wound has not begun to heal, and all I do is provoke it and intensify the pain.
And thereafter ended any tentative hopes and dreams, destroyed in an instant by the piercing reality of the written word.
That Mr Darcy should be the person to witness the devastation of such news, or indeed to be a party to the hearing of it, is unfortunate; yet with all honesty, I must confess there is no other person I would rather have had with me at such a time.
Yet a physical ache swept my body as I watched him quit our chambers at the inn, and I bear it still. It does not lessen as the days pass, only intensifies with my longing. No amount of residual affection for me can overcome this; any power remaining must sink under such circumstances as these.
I struggle with this comprehension… this path upon which I have journeyed; at last to have fallen so deeply in love, and what is more with someone who loved me with at least at much ardency – for what else could have persuaded Mr Darcy to overcome all the obstacles of a connection with my family? And yet it comes to nothing. How relieved he must be the Darcy name is not associated with that of Bennet now.
I recall Mr Darcy once begged me to end his agony – who could have foreseen this was how it would come to pass? And henceforth mine begins…
To be continued next Sunday in Chapter Eight.
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!