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
Longbourn, the 27th day of May
A long-awaited letter arrived from Charlotte this morning, though she brought more intelligence of Rosings than of Hunsford. Without Mr Darcy and the Colonel there to entertain her, Lady Catherine has once more fallen back upon the Collinses for company, and not only at her table. Under her Ladyship’s instruction, Charlotte’s time has been committed to satisfying all of the lady’s demands of late.
Lady Catherine also remarked repeatedly upon Mr Darcy’s low spirits when leaving Rosings this year, ascribing it to his regret at being parted from a place so dear to him. Charlotte hints his reasons are more to do with the company he was keeping. She cannot know how her comments unsettle me.
Lydia departs for Brighton tomorrow, and the day of preparation has passed slowly. I tire of her expressions of delight over her forthcoming adventure, and Mama’s endless speculation on how fortuitous it would be if a young Captain of three or four thousand should offer his hand – the matter of Lydia being ill prepared for married life in both age and disposition seems to have quite escaped her.
Kitty tries hard to conquer her disappointment, but it is not easy to be always smiling at someone else’s good fortune, and she retired to her bed early this evening, complaining of a sore head.
Longbourn, the 13th day of June
A letter came from Aunt Gardiner today, and she has invited me to join her and my uncle on their summer tour. Their original itinerary has been curtailed due to some recent developments in my uncle’s business; as such, they have been obliged to give up the Lakes and go no farther northward than Derbyshire. She says they have several weeks at their disposal and propose visiting all the celebrated beauties of the Peak District, including Matlock, Chatsworth and Dovedale.
My aunt, who has always been of a discerning nature, says she believes I am not quite myself and recommends the taking of some northern air by way of a tonic. Tempted though I am to accept their generous offer, and much as I wish to explore new places, I am hesitant. Oh, if they had only planned to make some stay in any other county in England!
Longbourn, the 1st day of July
The weeks have lengthened since I last saw Mr Darcy and can now be numbered in months, yet still I fail in my attempts to rid him from my mind. He is there when sleep finally claims me at night, and again upon my waking. How mistaken was I in my belief this… interest would ease. If anything, it grows ever stronger, and my spirits are not improved for the fascination.
I suppose I do not help myself – of late I have taken to reading back through my journal to the early days of Mr Darcy’s arrival in the district. Why I do this I know not, for it pains me now to perceive my dismissive attitude towards him; moreover, when I try to recall my feelings of aversion towards him back then, I cannot. The recollection of his touch brings a warmth I cannot justify, and our discourse is softened in my memory.
What satisfaction would he gain, if he could but know how frequently he is in my thoughts? But I must endeavour to control this inexplicable interest in the man, for it can lead to no good.
It was with much relief I espied our aunt and uncle’s carriage coming along the drive this afternoon, making Longbourn the first stop on their journey north. We are in dire need of interruption, for our household is in a sorry position. Jane remains in denial of her own heart, and Kitty continues to mope, though Lydia has been absent some weeks now. As for myself, I continue my struggle to put the past behind me, and the need for diversion becomes more pressing by the hour.
The solution is before my very eyes, of course. I must accompany my aunt and uncle on their travels – an invitation they have repeated since their arrival. They have never made Mr Darcy’s acquaintance and know of him only by his poor Meryton reputation – to which I must own to having contributed in my correspondence with my aunt earlier this year. Yet Mr Darcy is likely to still be in Town, and his county is a large one, a goodly distance from London. My presence is certain to go undetected, and surely new surroundings and the company of those who are not at all connected with him will put him from my mind?
It is done, the offer accepted and the commitment made. In but two days I shall be setting out with the best of company, certain to raise my spirits, and the welcome prospect of new places to explore and the balm of altered faces and surroundings.
My heart swells in anticipation. I feel a curiosity to see a part of the country about which I have heard so much and am confident this is the best of all remedies for my disturbed spirits. There is unlikely to be anything along our way to remind me of recent events, and as such, I fully embrace the proffered ‘cure’. What, after all, are men to rocks and mountains?
Warwick, the 23rd day of July
The journey is most enjoyable and without incident thus far. We have made our overnight stop at a coaching inn in Warwick, having spent time in both Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon earlier this week.
We spent an agreeable hour or two at Blenheim Palace when we left Oxford, a very fine building surrounded by extensive acres of landscaped parkland. Aunt and Uncle Gardiner have a fondness for grand buildings and grounds so I am certain this will be the first of many such visits during our journey. I do not complain, indeed quite the contrary. Having escaped from Hertfordshire with their assistance, I am relishing all and any distraction.
We walked up to the castle before dinner, and very imposing it was, but regrettably closed for the day. Aunt has had to content herself with visiting Kenilworth, which we have added to our route for the morrow, before we continue onwards to Derbyshire.
It is a word I find it difficult to pen without the obvious association coming swiftly to mind. Yet this will not do. I must make a commitment to myself here I will no longer refer to Mr Darcy in these pages. It is a closed chapter in my life, and I will think of him no more. It is time I left the remembrance of the past where it justly belongs.
Lambton, the 1st day of August
We have passed a pleasant day meandering through various towns and countryside, and now we are settled at the Rose & Crown, a charming inn in the small town of Lambton in the heart of the Peaks. This place has an appeal for my aunt, who passed much of her youth in the neighbourhood, and she is delighted to find there remains some former acquaintance here. As such, our plans include a substantial tour of the local vicinity along with paying calls upon old friends.
Persuading my aunt to leave behind the charms of Kenilworth was a lengthy business, and delayed our travels. By the time we entered the district, night had fallen, and my only knowledge of Derbyshire thus far rests with the local fare upon the table and those friendly fellows serving it to us. We passed a pleasant evening, and there are several parties staying here who are touring all the renowned glories of the county.
Yet, as was inevitable, the talk eventually turned to Pemberley, which is but a few miles distant. I must own I wearied of the conversation at this point, professed myself fatigued by the long day’s journey, and made my excuses. A good night’s rest will ensure I am refreshed for the pleasures of the upcoming day.
Lambton, the 2nd day of August
Our first full day in Derbyshire has been a delight! My aunt and uncle are such agreeable companions; they could not do more for me in their efforts to keep me amused, or to indulge my love of a good walk – even though they themselves admit to a preference for wheels over leather soles.
Though our morning included a visit to Kedleston Hall – a home of fine interiors – I have passed much of the day out of doors, enjoying a walk around the adjoining gardens, and exploring renowned locations for best viewing the stunning scenery hereabouts. The most pleasing moment came when we walked to see the impressive outcrop, known locally as The Edge, where I continued on alone for some distance, as my aunt fears heights and did not favour scaling the rocks as I did. I lingered upon the cliffs for some time, the wind playing across my face and tugging restlessly at my skirts – such an exhilarating feeling. The wild and untamed beauty of the landscape was a joy to behold, and my heart felt soothed in its glorious presence.
Our afternoon has consisted of several calls upon old acquaintance of my aunt. My uncle is jovially tolerant of these occasions; well supplied with tea and cake, he can endure any amount of ladies gently gossiping – and does well to maintain a conscious mind. I swear if I were in his shoes I would have passed many an hour fast asleep!
It is fortunate therefore I have been able to spend much of my time strolling through a variety of gardens and village roads, enjoying the warmth of the sun on my face and charming vistas at every turn. How I do love the English countryside and Derbyshire is no disappointment.
Indeed, the only hindrance to our day was on our journey home, whereupon our carriage suffered some damage to a wheel – but it was not such a loss as might at first appear. We took advantage of the opportunity presented and settled ourselves beneath the most wondrous tree – gnarled and aged as it was, I felt sure it could tell countless tales of bygone days as the centuries passed it by.
Uncle, despite his afternoon of indulgence in baked goods, announced this the perfect place for light refreshment, and we enjoyed some fruit and cheese in these peaceful surroundings.
There was but one note of disharmony in such a charming scene – the turn of our discourse, for our mishap occurred close to Pemberley’s grounds – and I have no one but myself to reproach for the subject being raised, as I had foolishly enquired as to our location.
Would that I could remove ink from paper, for it is all very well to declare one’s good intentions at the commencement, only to find them overthrown without due care and attention by others less committed to making one appear constant in one’s proclamations! How many times in recent months have I affirmed something, only to have my words return to haunt me?
Such is the case here, for how could Pemberley be mentioned, without Mr Darcy’s name following hard upon its heels?
I was disconcerted by the force of my relief at being able to speak his name… it has taken a deal of effort not to think of him these last few days. It may be months since we were last in company, yet I can recall his countenance as clearly as if I carried his miniature in my pocket…
Lambton, the 3rd day of August
It is time for rest, yet I am most unsettled.
How is one to put aside all thought of Mr Darcy, when there is a scheme afoot to walk in his very footsteps, to gaze upon things so familiar to his own eyes, to perhaps make contact with something that has felt the touch of his own hand?
My dear aunt and uncle… we have toured two more fine establishments today – Hardwick Hall and Calke Abbey – yet in their love for extensive parkland and elegant buildings, they do so desire to visit Pemberley tomorrow. Though they have mentioned it before now, I had hoped it would come to naught.
However, despite saying I felt we had no business there, and indeed reminding them of the many fine country homes we have already viewed, I could see they were not inclined to share my view. I continued to pretend disinterest throughout our meal, protesting we came here to indulge our love of walking. Indeed, I went so far as to request they go alone and leave me to take another long stroll through the beautiful countryside hereabouts, but I was forestalled: Aunt suggested if I am so desirous of a walk on the morrow, I may make my way back to Lambton from Pemberley on foot rather than ride with them.
Thus, I am ensnared and as such had to make an effort to conceal my frustration. Though I suspected Mr Darcy to be yet in Town, I was deeply troubled by the notion of entering his home uninvited. Yet as my aunt and uncle knew nothing of the cause of my apprehension, I was unable to argue the point further.
I questioned the chambermaid this evening – in a terribly tortuous way, leaving me feeling nothing but devious – but my scheming was to good purpose. She confirmed the family is not presently in residence, so I must trust to hope Mr Darcy remains unaware of our ever having been in the neighbourhood. I shall therefore be able to assure aunt of my willingness to fall in with their plans.
I am a little taken aback at my own hypocrisy, for I experienced a momentary sense of regret when first I received the confirmation I had sought. I could not have considered accompanying my aunt and uncle to Pemberley had he been in residence – besides, the housekeeper would likely have been obliged to deny us entry in such a case – but inexplicably, the thought of his being but a few miles distant hinted at a strange sort of comfort.
Mr Darcy… why do I derive such pleasure from forming those seven letters? I seem unable to shed my absorption, but am wary of examining the possible cause.
Lambton, the 4th day of August
A most dreadful occurrence… I have seen him. What must he think of me… to be found not only in his home, a most unwelcome visitor, but spying upon his sister, and all this after the appalling circumstances of our last encounter?
Yet even as I recall my humiliation and my desire to escape, deep inside I know I wished to linger in Mr Darcy’s company, and I am overjoyed to have laid eyes upon him once more – reluctant though I was to raise my gaze to his at first. I must own the dull ache I have carried within my breast seems to have lessened, and my spirits appear to have taken flight.
I was amazed he should even speak to me, let alone with such pleasantness and with no hint of a reprimand. Is this man so noble he has forgiven me my slurs upon his character? In what even better light does this place him? Today, we have heard much of his goodness – as a brother, a master and a landlord – his reputation hereabouts is sound and of many years duration. Every word I form upon this page stands to reinforce my loss…
My loss… is this truly where I have been led? Do I now regret my refusal of his hand? It cannot be. Perhaps I am merely over-awed by the beauty and splendour of Pemberley – for it cannot be denied to be mistress of such a property would be something indeed. A shallow notion; I am quite satisfied with it.
The maid has taken my boots to clean them – in my haste across the fields this afternoon I acquired far too much dirt for her liking – and a servant is making up the fire as I write, for the weather has turned and there is a chill in the air. I am determined to attempt a record of the day’s events, and I will not let the perverseness of the situation distract me further.
The dappled sunlight as we passed beneath a wealth of trees seemed to match my feelings, so agitated were my spirits as we approached Mr Darcy’s home. Indeed, such was the flush in my cheeks that my aunt remarked upon it, and suggested I leave my travelling coat in the carriage, it being such a warm day.
The housekeeper, a Mrs Reynolds, appeared a very respectable woman, and she greeted us with great civility. She escorted us through several handsome rooms, furnished with excellent taste and far more real elegance than I had seen at Rosings.
I lingered as long as possible in each room, for there was much to admire and absorb, none more so than the light and airy hall housing an impressive collection of sculpture, and no piece could hold my attention more than Mr Darcy’s face… how it captured my eye. I have never before had the luxury of being allowed to study his features at such leisure; so entranced was I, some words almost escaped my lips, until I realised I had fallen behind and was entirely alone.
And thus my downfall…
How could my aunt and uncle have put me in such a situation? This is completely their fault… no – no, Mrs Reynolds must be held culpable. How could she be uninformed her master was to return ahead of time… unless the steward chose to keep his own counsel – then he is to blame… what could he be thinking, calling his master home a day earlier than anticipated by his household and then keeping such intelligence from them?
But no – I must cease this pointless prevarication and own where the fault truly lies – with myself. Indeed, I may just as well blame poor Miss Darcy for playing so beautifully and enticing me to intrude upon her privacy. My own choices have led me to this, for I decided to accompany my aunt and uncle on their tour – I knew full well their destination was Derbyshire, and I comprehend all too well their love of fine buildings. Surely I could have avoided the visit to Pemberley, feigned illness or otherwise found an excuse had I truly wished it?
As it was, I not only chose to join them but I strayed from their company and walked instead through a doorway into a stylish salon, containing all manner of interesting objects. I should not have lingered there, admiring the room and the view from its window, but made haste to find where the others had gone, for clearly it was not to this place. But then, the faint strains of a pianoforte, a tune tugging at my memory so familiar was it to me, drifted across the room. Despite the inappropriateness of my presence there, I felt myself drawn to the sound, which emanated from a half-open door.
Foolishly indulging my curiosity, I peered into the adjoining room and beheld a figure seated before the instrument. I assumed this must be Miss Darcy, though her form was so slight and un-intimidating. I became fascinated by the image before me, conscious only of the music and a pendulum swinging to and fro, and thus I forgot the precariousness of my situation.
Before I could comprehend its significance, a shadow formed and then Mr Darcy was before me, swinging his sister about in his arms. My heart falters as I recall the moment when his eyes met mine! Foolish, foolish girl, for straying from the tour!
And so I have glimpsed the face of this accomplished, educated woman, the alleged rival for Mr Bingley’s affections over Jane – she is a mere child, perhaps only the same age as Lydia – yet for all her class and breeding, her face held a sweet innocence my youngest sister’s never has.
Having met their startled gaze, I fled. Taking the first door I came upon, I found myself at the back of the house and running down some stone steps, desirous only of removing myself from the most appalling situation. I have long considered myself light upon my feet but it was not so today – that or my legs refused to co-operate, for Mr Darcy soon caught up with me. How difficult it was to turn and face him…
Our brief discourse was awkward and lacking in fluency; yet his manner was so very different, so tentative, so mild – the softness of his voice was compelling – I had expected no particular attention from him, yet he was all politeness, despite his somewhat bewildered air and countenance. I regret now my abrupt departure, yet I had neither the sense nor strength to continue our encounter – all I longed for then was a release for us both from such embarrassment.
By good fortune, my aunt and uncle were making a tour of a small rock garden at the side of the house when I reached the bottom of the steps; what they thought of my distraction I know not, but how thankful was I we had a prior arrangement for me to walk back. I hastily bid them farewell, agreeing to meet for dinner later, and set off for Lambton across the park.
My breathing was coming in such gasps it pained me, and I was obliged to slow my pace – I could not help but look back over towards the parapet where our brief conversation had taken place. It was too far away to be certain, but I had a notion Mr Darcy lingered there yet.
The weather had turned whilst we had been inside. The clouds had thickened, the sun was long gone, and a stiff breeze had arisen; had I not been walking at such a rapid pace, I am sure I should have regretted leaving my coat behind. As it was, by the time I reached the inn I was both flushed and breathless.
We leave tomorrow for Matlock. I am sure it is a perfectly good sort of town, but I confess I have no desire to see the place. Furthermore, I should be overseeing the packing of my trunk by the maid, but I have no taste for it…
I have experienced such emotions today the like of which I could never have envisaged. How can it be I do not wish to leave this place? My heart is full; my throat aches with unspoken words, and I would weep, except I know not what for.
Lambton, the 4th day of August… continued
A most astonishing development! Mr Darcy has made the acquaintance of Aunt and Uncle Gardiner!
My tardiness in attending my aunt and uncle for dinner, whilst something they have a tolerant affection for, was never so well applied, for I do not think I would have received the gentleman with any more composure, or indeed less surprise, than I did at Pemberley. As it was, all it took was one glimpse of his broad shoulders as I came down the staircase before I quickly took refuge behind a conveniently positioned drape! What he could be doing at the inn, I could not fathom; how he could be speaking to my aunt and uncle at all was beyond my comprehension and instead of taking my courage in hand and joining them, whereupon all my curiosity would be satisfied, I remained in hiding, spying upon him much as I had upon his sister only hours earlier.
The moment the gentleman took his leave, I emerged from my hiding place and hurried over to my aunt and uncle, only to learn my desire to linger longer in this neighbourhood is satisfied, for our journey is delayed by the most unprecedented thing imaginable: we are invited to Pemberley!
This was his purpose, and the invitation is enhanced by even further generosity: we are to be fetched at noon by Mr Darcy’s own carriage and are to spend the afternoon at Pemberley, making Miss Darcy’s acquaintance, prior to dining with them. It is an honour beyond all expectation, and my cheeks warm as I recall my aunt’s actual words: “He particularly wants you to meet his sister”.
Both my aunt and uncle are full of praise for Mr Darcy, claiming he is not as they imagined, and if their comments begged a question, they had the tact not to voice it outright. Further, they have repeated over our evening meal some of the housekeeper, Mrs Reynolds’, reflections upon her master and have declared themselves more than satisfied Mr Darcy is of a respectable and sound character.
I am secretly delighted by their appraisal of his worth, yet there was one matter remaining unresolved – clearing Mr Darcy’s name of all I had accused him of in my earlier correspondence. There was much to conceal, but I made the attempt nonetheless, claiming to have been misinformed, and as they appeared too impressed by his recent gesture to believe him capable of anything bad, they were happy to receive what limited assurances I could give.
Though the invitation itself is so unexpected, Mr Darcy’s wishing to introduce Miss Darcy to my acquaintance is even more remarkable. I have abused his character, rejected the offer of his hand in the strongest of terms, and now I have placed myself once more in his path by intruding uninvited into the seclusion of his own home and spying upon a private reunion with his sister. It is indeed fortunate my aspiration to invite his ill opinion has faded, for he appears impervious to all I throw at him, and thus I am destined for failure!
And so for a second time I anticipate a visit to Pemberley, but how different are my thoughts on this occasion. Not only are we welcomed as guests, but I shall have a chance to be in Mr Darcy’s company – how those words makes me smile, albeit ruefully. Who could have foreseen such a phrase flowing from my pen into these pages?
Some activity is essential for I cannot settle to sleep yet; I must make haste to remove some garments from my trunk before the creases set in too heavily. I dare say a dark-coloured gown will be a wise choice, for I am not certain this agitation will abate and am sure to spill either my tea or my wine in my lap before the visit is done – for once in my life I feel some empathy for Mama’s flustered nerves!
There is much to anticipate on the morrow, but most of all I hope to see once more a smile upon his countenance the like of which his sister inspires.
To be continued next Sunday in Chapter Seven.
The covers for this story have been produced by the lovely Janet Taylor of JT Originals.