Today, I am continuing to post another extract from the journals (there are ten in total, not twelve as originally mentioned). This week, Elizabeth has made two new acquaintances. Come and read her thoughts on her first encounters with Mr Collins and Mr Wickham!
Missed the opening chapter? You can read it here.
Lizzy Bennet’s Diary
Extracts from the Journals of Miss Elizabeth Bennet
Netherfield, the 17th day of November
We are about to remove from Netherfield for Longbourn, and I have excused myself to attend upon Jane and complete the packing of our belongings. My elation over our imminent release is subdued, however, for Mama remains below making gauche observations on everything from Mr Bingley’s fine furnishings to citing the number of our intimate acquaintance, and Kitty and Lydia’s enthusiasm for all things, the Militia and balls in particular, is also displayed in all its glory before the company.
I doubt this will turn Mr Bingley’s growing regard for Jane, but Miss Bingley’s cold civility and the haughty disdain of Mr Darcy are beyond my patience.
Longbourn, the 18th day of November
How relieved am I to be once more at Longbourn, though one aspect of our departure yesterday from Netherfield preys yet upon my mind.
Before joining the others downstairs, I made a tour of both rooms to ensure nothing remained – I had no desire of being suspected of any art to extend the acquaintance by having justification for a return visit.
As I crossed the main hall, I was surprised to be accosted by Miss Bingley, who then proceeded to attend me outside. My speculation was high as to the depth of her pleasure in personally escorting me from the building – indeed, I am not sure whose steps were hurrying the most, mine in my desire to be gone or Miss Bingley’s in her anxiety for my departure!
Suffice to say, we arrived at the carriage only moments after Jane took her seat. Miss Bingley and I made our farewells with mutual insincerity, and I took my leave of Mr Darcy and Mr Bingley before turning to take my place – but then a most unsettling thing occurred.
As I made to climb upon the step, I found my hand taken firmly in a steady, warm grasp and instinctively my fingers closed upon it. What is more, I felt a return of the pressure of the thumb as it closed over my fingers. I turned in surprise, only to meet Mr Darcy’s grave stare as he handed me into my seat.
Rendered speechless at such a gesture of gallantry from the man, my foolish head would not let go of the incident for some minutes, and I was thankful Mama was too engrossed extolling the glories of Netherfield and the charms of Mr Bingley to be conscious of my discomposure.
Upon reflection, what lingers is not merely the courtesy from such an unexpected source but the touch of Mr Darcy’s hand upon mine, for it evoked the very same sensations I experienced when first our eyes met at the assembly. Such a reaction is unfathomable; it is best I think on it no more.
Papa had some surprising intelligence upon our return. Mr Collins, the distant cousin upon whom Longbourn is entailed, had written to Papa hoping to heal the rift between our families and announcing his intention to pay us a visit of some duration. What is more, he was expected the same afternoon.
Another single young man entering the neighbourhood, albeit one in possession of our own particular fortune, afforded much speculation for the remainder of the morning. Mama, of course, began to suffer from her nerves, (precisely the purpose of Papa’s delaying the announcement), bemoaning the terms of the entailment and its audacity in directing the Longbourn estate away from the female line.
She proclaimed loudly how she would not make welcome the very gentleman who may turn us all out of our home one day; so steadfast was she in this, she immediately dispatched a servant to acquire the very best haunch of beef and the gardener to fetch the finest array of vegetables Longbourn could offer.
Jane made sure to rest for a while during the afternoon, but Kitty and Lydia were nowhere to be found; doubtless they were in Meryton again, flirting with the officers. Mary was desirous of walking into town to exchange a book, and in need of some air I agreed to accompany her. We called upon Charlotte on our way, and she professed herself perfectly disposed to join us and hear all the news from home.
Word of yet more society was intelligence sufficient to excite our interest, and we enjoyed much speculation over the character of this unexpected visitor, despite the small matter of his being the means of disinheriting us.
Alas, ‘twas all in vain. Mr Collins duly presented himself upon our threshold, and with his appearance faded all hope. He makes little enough impact on first sight, but when he begins to speak one is immediately captivated by his peculiar way of expressing himself, proving him not only self-satisfied but also ridiculous.
His disproportionate admiration for all things, from his esteemed patroness, a Lady Catherine de Bourgh, down to the vegetables on the table, showed him to be a far from sensible man, and as such Papa finds in him a valuable addition to our society.
Mr Collins expounded for some considerable time upon the merits of Lady Catherine, her daughter Anne, (who would, by all accounts, be the most accomplished young lady in all the land, had her health permitted), his situation at Hunsford – where he has a generous living – and not least upon his having been invited to dine not once, but twice at Rosings Park – the allegedly palatial home of the de Bourgh family!
Our evening meal was thus more entertaining than usual, though we did pay the price upon withdrawing. Mr Collins insisted upon reading to us from Fordyce’s Sermons – a tome only Mary has familiarity with – and succeeded in boring us all to the point where even Jane, try as she might, failed to conceal her yawns.
Our reprieve came at last, though, for he engaged Mama in earnest conversation, allowing the rest of the company to return to more desirable pursuits. It was not long before I excused myself. Mama did seem much more taken with Mr Collins when I wished them goodnight. She was all smiles and could barely spare the time to acknowledge my farewell.
I had entertained hopes of Mr Collins being a pleasant addition to our society, and whilst I am highly diverted by his absurdity, it is poor recompense for his not being a man of sense and intelligence. What misfortune is it that of three young men so recently introduced to our neighbourhood, one should be so dour and disapproving, another so senseless and sycophantic?
Longbourn, the 19th Day of November
I am all astonishment! It is impossible to conceive Mr Darcy to be so very bad as this… his arrogance and pride pale into insignificance against what must surely be hailed as cruelty and dishonour. Even as I pen the words, my mind can barely comprehend it.
But I am distracted and have begun in the middle – I shall begin again and record here the events of a truly remarkable day.
We awoke to clear skies, and Jane and I made haste to enjoy the dry weather by walking into Meryton. Kitty and Lydia had left directly our morning meal was over and Mary had no interest in making the journey into town – the lending library remains closed on Tuesdays – so we set off alone. (Much to our relief, Mr Collins was engaged in the business of letter writing and remained at Longbourn. Apparently, he had yet to acquaint Lady Catherine with all the details of his sojourn, not forgetting his reception into his estranged family, his accommodations – including the charming closet he had been offered the use of, for which he thanks Mama daily – and doubtless every exemplary morsel he has consumed since entering the house.)
We had not walked many paces across the town square before we made, by accident, a new acquaintance. I confess I grow weary of all these new faces; how tiresome it is to have to make lively conversation always, when one longs to indulge in silence and solitude!
However, as was my duty, I accepted the introduction of one Mr Wickham, a lieutenant in the ________ shire Militia, with all the equanimity I could muster. I had never before thought one red coat to stand out from another, but now I see I was much mistaken. Mr Wickham wears his coat with such style upon his frame I doubt there is a French solider who would not surrender his arms at the mere sight of him!
But jesting aside, I will own he has a most gentlemanlike appearance and combines not only a pleasing countenance and a fine figure, but also an inclination for agreeable conversation, rendering him all the more charming.
Kitty and Lydia, who had clearly effected an introduction to Mr Wickham by their own design, were shopping for ribbons and this amiable gentleman accompanied us all to Mr James’ shop with gallant ease.
With pleasure I accepted Mr Wickham’s company on our walk home – at Lydia’s invitation, he accompanied us to Longbourn to make the acquaintance of Mama and Papa. He is both amusing and self-deprecating, and our journey passed in the most pleasant of manners until we encountered Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy.
Mr Bingley was on his way to Longbourn to enquire after Jane, an attention that does him credit and brought a blush to Jane’s cheeks upon hearing it.
Yet they could not hold my attention, for I unwittingly intercepted a most baffling exchange of looks between Mr Darcy and Mr Wickham. I could not so much say hatred was in Mr Darcy’s eye as suppressed anger – yet Mr Wickham raised his chin and stared the man out until he rode off.
Intriguing though this was, I could not find a polite way to have my interest satisfied, so said nothing.
Mama found Mr Wickham most delightful, and has invited him to dine when several of the officers and their wives attend us on Friday. Papa was his usual dry self and though he was perfectly pleasant towards our new guest, I noted his attention drawn more towards Mr Collins, who persisted in reading out excerpts from his letter to Lady Catherine, so we might all marvel at his ability to turn an elegant compliment.
Before he departed for Meryton again, Mr Wickham and I took a turn about the grounds, eventually pausing to rest by the stream. I acknowledge my curiosity over the look exchanged between him and Mr Darcy lingered, but how to have it gratified remained uncertain.
Then an opening presented when Mr Wickham himself mentioned Mr Darcy’s name and, being neither reticent nor shy, I took my chance and asked him openly. His generosity and honesty when our acquaintance is so newly formed is both rewarding and flattering.
Mr Wickham has been so badly treated it is a wonder Mr Darcy holds his head so high in the world. It is all credit to Mr Wickham he keeps a silence which protects Mr Darcy. Such honourable feelings give Mr Wickham a nobility all Mr Darcy’s wealth and position could not bestow.
It would seem Mr Wickham and Mr Darcy… how could Mr Darcy… I refuse to waste further ink upon that man’s name; henceforth in these pages he shall be known merely as “D” – I do not even deign to call him Mr D – for the audacity of designating him a mere letter would doubtless outrage his sensibilities, and therefore I derive great satisfaction from it!
It transpires Mr Wickham and D have been acquainted since childhood, indeed more than acquainted, and yet D has behaved scandalously towards him, overruling the inheritance intended for Mr Wickham, and in doing so ignoring the wishes of his own father – all because of a dislike fuelled by jealousy!
Mr Wickham has been ill used, yet he says he could never expose D out of respect for the father’s memory. Such principled sentiments are to be admired; this merely adds to my regret over such a fine young man being cast out in the world without fortune, his true vocation of the church removed so cruelly from his grasp. D deserves to be publicly disgraced – but then what of the impact upon his close acquaintance? Mr Bingley cannot know what he is.
I must find Jane directly and inform her of all I have learned.
Longbourn, the 21st Day of November
Jane was both appalled and disbelieving when I told her of D’s treatment of Mr Wickham. She will hear evil of no one and does not believe Mr Bingley could be so mistaken in his friend. She insists there is some misunderstanding, some fact as yet un-revealed, which will remove culpability from D and yet still retain Mr Wickham’s integrity.
I begged leave to differ, as Jane knew I would, though I must admit she did caution me to keep a reign over my tongue. As Mr Wickham himself maintains a secrecy over the circumstances, I was able to assure her I would apprise no-one of the true nature of D’s character – besides, he is sufficiently despised throughout the neighbourhood without need of a further slur being cast.
The Bingleys called in their elegant equipage bearing an invitation! The gentleman has been as good as his word, and a ball is to be held at Netherfield next week. Attentive as it was of our neighbours to personally deliver the note, I suspect from her demeanour and the rapidity with which she excused them both from our company after only the briefest of civilities, Miss Bingley accompanied her brother under duress.
However, her blatant disapproval of hosting such an event had little enough impact. Not much can enliven a household as confined to quarters as we have been these four and twenty hours by an unceasing downpour, but it seems a piece of parchment bearing news such as this will suffice to keep Kitty, Lydia and Mama in raptures for the foreseeable future. I only hope the weather allows their joy to escape into the outside world soon – I fear for both Papa’s sanity and our very rafters if it does not!
Longbourn, the 22nd Day of November
The ball at Netherfield has become as essential a topic of conversation for Kitty and Lydia as air is to breathe. Papa has banned all talk of it during meal times, as he claims it affects his digestion, but every waking hour not at table is filled with twittering and simpering about nothing else.
Our dresses come along well, despite the restriction of time. It is fortunate perhaps we are all able to turn our own hands to the trimmings! I merely hope we are not the only simpletons dressed in white for, if we are, we shall resemble nothing more than a gaggle of geese.
Mary practices at her instrument daily, hour upon hour. It grieves me to say, no matter how diligently she strives to attain a level of accomplishment worthy of public display, her voice remains less tuneful than Bessie’s and her playing as proficient as Mr Collins’ good sense.
This afternoon a letter arrived from Aunt Gardiner, inviting Jane to make some stay with them in Town. As a rule, Jane would make no hesitation over accepting such an offer, but her reluctance supports my conjecture she is more than usually attached to Hertfordshire for now.
Mr Collins hounds me excessively, I know not why, but the challenge of avoiding him effectively has provided a welcome diversion of late.
We have passed a pleasant evening with the gathered company. A Colonel and Mrs Forster, newly married, were part of the party, and as the lady is but seventeen, she struck quite a chord with Lydia and Kitty – it appears she too can converse at great length on ribbons and lace.
I was fortunate enough to be seated next to Mr Wickham at supper, and we enjoyed some lively debate. His manners are inviting and upon further acquaintance my desire to know him better has increased.
The character of Mr Collins’ revered patron, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, has been confirmed as suspected. Mr Wickham, having heard her name mentioned by our cousin the other day, raised the matter. It appears he knows of her through his acquaintance with D’s family, for D’s mother was Lady Catherine’s sister, and Mr Wickham confirms she is as proud and disagreeable as her nephew, full of her own self-importance and dismissive of those beneath her in rank.
Mr Wickham also mentioned D’s sister, Georgiana, this evening. For all her alleged accomplishments, she has at least one failing, for he confirmed she too suffers from an excess of pride, and though they were friends when children, she no longer condescends to know him.
These subjects were of no great satisfaction to either party, and we thereafter directed our conversation towards more mutually pleasing topics, eventually discussing the forthcoming ball at Netherfield. I had experienced some concern over Mr Wickham’s attending and having to endure D’s odious presence, but he was firm in his resolve to be present. Indeed, his sentiments are admirable and demonstrate both strength of character and a refusal to be cowed by those professing superiority.
It is many a month since I have anticipated a ball with such pleasure; indeed, I may perhaps even make some small effort in having my hair dressed with more elegance than usual… perchance I may have my dance slippers brushed… and perchance it is time for bed, before I disgrace myself further with such frivolous thoughts!
Longbourn, the 24th Day of November
What a tiresome week, the incessant rainfall a drain upon our spirits. There is little to report, other than the mundane. We are confined to the house through the inclement weather, and as such are in all manner frustrated by the limitations of our own society.
For certain, if the skies do not clear on the morrow, Papa will carry out his daily threat to secure the entrance to his library to prevent further intrusion by Mr Collins. By return, should such a thing come to pass, I have no doubt we shall all break the door down and return our cousin swiftly to Papa’s company. Much as I love my father, I fear my distaste for more than half an hour of our visitor’s discourse would prevail in such a circumstance.
Longbourn, the 25th day of November
Finally this night is come; the ball takes place on the morrow, and within little more than four and twenty hours the palpable anticipation will have abated.
Our gowns hang like restless ghosts in the closet, as white as one could wish for, our dance slippers are spotless, and our gloves are being pressed even as we sleep.
It feels as though we have lived and breathed nothing but the ball since the invitation arrived; but that is not so.
I have enjoyed a more frequent correspondence with Aunt Gardiner of late – she has questioned me about Jane’s reluctance to visit. Jane, of course, is not prepared to discuss her reasons, not even with me, so I have taken it upon myself to keep Aunt informed of the recent alteration in our close acquaintance.
She is, thus, fully conscious of the progression of Mr Bingley’s marked attentions to Jane, my own feelings on Jane’s reception of them, and we have enjoyed some speculation as to the probable outcome.
I did, perhaps, overplay my witticisms at the expense of Mr Collins when detailing his visit with us and received a mild admonition over my lack of reverence for the gentleman who is to inherit the estate – I accepted the censure with the spirit in which it was offered, and have assured my aunt that henceforth she can rely upon me to show Mr Collins all the respect his character and manners deserve!
One aspect of our recent exchanges, however, leaves me with some disquiet. I confess to having shared my thoughts regarding Mr Wickham with Aunt Gardiner – she has long known my initial dislike of D and my reasons for it – but she was both shocked and concerned to hear of Mr Wickham’s misfortunes, and at the hands of such a man as D.
Whilst reserving judgment on D’s character, she sympathises much with Mr Wickham’s reduced circumstances, not least upon hearing he hails from a part of Derbyshire once dear to her heart.
Yet she did offer some counsel, and I must own it to be sound and wise, albeit not so welcome to receive. If I could but read again the last letter I sent, I am certain I should see why she cautions me so, for I believe my recommendation of Mr Wickham was rather more fulsome than she is accustomed to hearing from me.
Aunt Gardiner directs me to consider carefully, to be on my guard, to not let my fancy run away with me and to use my good sense well. It is undeniably sound advice. Our mutual want of fortune would make for an imprudent match, should such a situation ever arise.
I have assured Aunt with all honesty I am not at present in love with Mr Wickham, though he remains beyond doubt the most agreeable man of my acquaintance. I acknowledge the impracticality of there ever being more than that between us, and understand my family would expect me to act wisely.
These feelings I have shared with Aunt Gardiner openly and write them here in the hope it will reinforce my intention to do my best not to be tempted to feel more than I ought, not to want to be his first object. Can good sense overrule a ready affection? Should it?
Yet these musings do not lower my spirits substantially, and thus I suspect I truly was in earnest when I gave my assurances as to remaining heart-whole for the present.
Charlotte continues to be a welcome source of relief from the company of Mr Collins, who persists in his attempts to make sermon-readers of us all! On paying a call at Lucas Lodge on Wednesday, she also introduced me to a Miss King, formerly of Little Standing – I recollect first seeing her at the last assembly and Mr Bingley going down one dance with her, much to Mama’s disgust at the time. It appears she has come to stay in Meryton with her uncle, having recently lost her only parent. The melancholy one would expect in a daughter at such a time seems offset entirely by having gained from this misfortune an inheritance of several thousand pounds.
Kitty is petitioning Papa daily for a puppy! She adores our old hound, but he is a dog liberal with his affections – I believe Kitty wishes for something of her own to embrace, and has heard Mr Hill’s terrier is close to term. Papa maintains there will be no more pets in the house and Kitty is thus busy choosing a name for her new pup.
Jane has had little occasion this past week for intimate conversation with Mr Bingley, but in the absence of further knowledge, she continues to defend D and will not hear ill of him. Jane values Mr Bingley’s judgment and opinion too highly to entertain any negative thoughts about D. She maintains her belief in it all being a misunderstanding and Mr Bingley incapable of being so deceived in his friend.
Apparently, so Mr Bingley informed her some time ago, D inherited his vast estate at the young age of three and twenty. Begrudgingly, I will own it to be an immense burden for one so young. He must have had little time for amusement and enjoyment of his wealth and consequence, for it also appears, in addition to managing his property, land and business interests, he also raised his sister who had attained no more than eleven years when orphaned.
One can only hope he has not been her sole instructor, for if he has, who will teach the poor girl how to smile?
Longbourn, the 26th day of November
Well, the time for departure is upon us, and I am pleased to report white becomes us all quite well!
Kitty and Lydia are, much to their disgust, to travel with Mr Collins in his curricle, as there is no room for our whole party in the carriage, with such finery upon us. It will be a snug fit for three, but the notion of travelling alone with a single young woman in an open curricle – and what might happen should Lady Catherine hear of it – made him accept his fate (and the presence of two single young women) with surprising equanimity!
Jane says she will discover the truth this evening from Mr Bingley, by asking him what he knows of Mr Wickham… and I? I anticipate an evening of delightful dancing and much of it (sorry, Aunt) with that very gentleman!
All images of Darcy and Elizabeth have been produced by the lovely Janet Taylor of JT Originals, as have the two ‘covers’ for the story.