Thursday, March 16, 1815
Let me jot down some recent events and they will help to bring tonight's events into context. After the double engagement of Kitty and Mary Bennet, everyone stayed on for several days at Pemberley in order to celebrate the anniversary of Charles and Jane and the Darcys. Eventually, everyone went their separate ways. The Matlocks returned to Matlock Park in order to prepare for Lord Matthew's arrival. Charles, Jane and Fanny returned to Foxchase, the Bennets to Longbourn and the Hursts and I to London. I had a pleasant enough Christmas with all the Hursts (George and Sarah came and visited) and I received long letters from Foxchase and Longbourn describing the celebrations that took place there. But the only letter that contained surprising news came from Georgiana. Apparently, Lord Matthew Fitzwilliam had safely returned from his journey with what his brother called a most unusual present for Lady Matlock -- a daughter-in-law!
According to Georgiana (who got the news express from the Colonel). Lord Matthew had been sent on a diplomatic mission to Brazil in order to discuss a treaty with the King of Portugal, who had fled there when the French invaded Portugal. While there, he spent a great deal of time with the family of one of the King's Brazilian advisors, D. Domingues. So it was only natural, given the amount of time that he spent with the family, that he fell in love with the family's eldest daughter and proposed. After a very short engagement (owing to his scheduled return to England) they were wed and took ship for home.
In her letter, Georgiana says that her cousin the Colonel must have enjoyed the humor of the first introduction. Evidently, he passed along only the roughest of descriptions of Lady Andrea, but he painted an exact picture of the scene. The family had risen (with what must have been expressions of utter confusion on their faces!) when the butler announced "Lord and Lady Fitzwilliam". After everyone stood rooted to the floor in shock for a moment or two, the one daughter in the house, Barbara moved to greet her new sister-in-law. Seeing Barbara take the lead in welcoming Lady Andrea gave the rest of the family the nudge they needed to get moving again. She was formally introduced and she quickly won over Lord and Lady Matlock and the Colonel.
Georgiana regretted that she did not have more details about Lady Andrea to send to me in her Christmas letter, but she noted that she was going to stay at Matlock Hall for New Year's Day. She promised to give me a better description of the newest addition to her family when they met. By Twelfth Night, I had my letter with a complete portrait of Lady Andrea. Georgiana noted that Lady Andrea was about 24, a couple of inches over five feet tall with black hair and dark eyes. She added that Lady Andrea's skin was darker than most English ladies (Georgiana compared it to a dark tan). Lady Andrea spoke English, French and Italian along with her native Portuguese, was a good piano player, but that her true love was drawing (Georgiana spent a good portion of her letter telling me about the exquisite sketches of Lady Andrea's home in Brazil that she was shown). As far as Lady Andrea's personality, Georgiana said that she combined Elizabeth's liveliness with Jane's kindness and Charlotte Collins' common sense.
Early and mid January were relatively uneventful in London. I kept busy with my social activities, but the engagements did not bring me the same sort of joy that an afternoon spent with Sam or writing letters did. Georgiana spent much of early January at Matlock Hall and her letters were filled with her impressions of Lady Andrea, a lady who certainly seems to have pleased not only Georgiana but her new in-laws as well.
By early February, my schedule moved towards getting ready for Kitty Bennet's wedding that was to take place on Valentine's Day at Meryton. My original intentions had been to travel with Louisa, Edward and Sam like I always did. These plans ran into difficulty when first Sam and then Louisa caught a mild but nevertheless persistent cold. Edward was of course reluctant to leave them, and an unexpected business problem gave him an excuse to stay in London.
I was on the verge of writing to the Bennets to tell them I was unable to attend when Charlotte came up with a solution that allowed me to be present at the wedding. Charlotte had intended to journey to Meryton with Anne de Bourgh prior to the wedding in order to visit her family. Lucas Lodge, Charlotte informed me, had plenty of extra rooms and finding a place to me would pose no difficulty at all.
My stay at Lucas Lodge was pleasant enough. I found Sir William's cheerfulness to be a bit irritating at times, but I enjoyed Lady Lucas's company very much. In fact, the more I spoke with Lady Lucas, the more she reminded me of Charlotte. If Maria had her father's cheerfulness as the key part of her personality, Charlotte had her mother's common sense and level headed thinking.
As had become my practice, I went for a walk every morning after breakfast. I was a bit surprised when Anne asked if she might join me. I thought that the poor health that I had always been told of would prevent her from such physical undertakings. Anne must have read my mind, since she told me that her doctor in London wanted her to walk everyday to improve her health. Anne admitted that at first, she had been unable to go very far, but that as the weeks had passed, she had improved and that she looked forward to her walk. We asked Charlotte if she knew of a path that might suit our purposes, and she pointed out one that led to Meryton. Anne and I fetched our bonnets and our cloaks and we tramped to the village.
While we were there, we encountered a similarly attired Elizabeth and Georgiana. I expressed my surprise at meeting them, Elizabeth rolled her eyes and Georgiana covered her mouth to keep from giggling. Neither one of them said a word, and yet I knew they were in Meryton to escape Mrs. Bennet. Anne asked Elizabeth a few questions about the village, and Elizabeth pointed out a few shops where Anne would be able to get anything she might need during her stay. After perhaps fifteen or twenty minutes, we parted and Anne and I returned to Lucas Lodge.
The wedding was a simple affair, held at the same church where Elizabeth and Jane had been married. I remembered that wedding and my wish that God would strike Elizabeth dead. The memory of that thought chilled me. Had I actually been so filled with hatred for another person? I was spared from examining that thought any more by the opening notes of the wedding march. Everyone stood and turned to look at Kitty as she made her way up the aisle on her father's arm. She looked magnificent in her neat but elegant dress. I could not help smiling as I compared the bride's calm even serene face with the nervous expression on that of the groom. The ceremony itself was error-free, although the groom's nervousness had me on the verge of giggling on several occasions.
After the wedding breakfast the happy couple departed for London, where they were to spend a week at the Darcys' townhouse. (I had heard from Georgiana that this had been the cause of a minor argument between Mr. Darcy and Mr. Medcalf, with the latter not wanting to take advantage of his patron's kindness and the patron insisting that he do just that!)
Two or three days after the wedding, there was an assembly at the Meryton Assembly rooms. I was reluctant to go, but Georgiana and Anne insisted that I attend, so I eventually agreed to be a member of their party. The dancing started soon after we arrived, and although I had not intended to dance, several gentlemen, including two of Charlotte's brothers asked me. (I must admit that I was a bit suspicious when I saw Georgiana and Anne conversing with Charlotte, who then spoke with her brothers, but I decided not to complain about it). It was nice, I decided, to have friends that truly cared about my welfare. I enjoyed my dances, although none of my partners was as skilled as Mr. Darcy.
A week after Kitty's wedding, I returned to London with Anne and Charlotte. The next two weeks were fairly quiet. The only activities worth mentioning were two shopping trips with Georgiana, Anne and Charlotte. Anne it seemed was determined to improve a wardrobe that had languished for years while she lived with her mother. She was still in mourning, which of course limited her choices severely, but we managed to find several dresses that she could wear while walking or paying calls.
I had just returned from the second of these two shopping trips and sat down by the fire with a new book when Louisa showed me an invitation that had arrived in my absence. The invitation, judging by the quality of the paper, was from someone truly important. I glanced at Louisa, hoping she would tell me what the contents were, but she gestured that I should read it for myself. I did so, and was astonished to see that Lord and Lady Matlock had invited Louisa, Edward and I to a party in less than 10 days!
My amazement at being invited to such an event continued until the next morning, when a note arrived from Georgiana. Lord Matthew and Lady Andrea were in London and the Matlocks were determined to give Lady Andrea a proper introduction into London society. I was still a bit puzzled at why I had been invited, but I suspect that Georgiana or Anne had persuaded their aunt to include me on the guest list.
The Matlock's party brought about yet another shopping trip as Anne, Georgiana, Elizabeth and I returned to a dressmaker who Anne had decided to patronize. Anne quickly found a design for a dress in mourning colors, but the rest of us spent most of the morning looking at designs. We eventually all found designs and colors we liked and Georgiana chose white and Elizabeth selected pink. My new dress was to be in a dark green and I was quite excited about it.
The day of the party itself arrived all too quickly. All day, I began to get more and more nervous, but I did not have the faintest idea why. I had been to dozens of balls and parties. Why should this one be any different? Edward wisely stayed as far away from me as he could, but I eventually got so apprehensive that Louisa was forced to calm me down.
When we got to the Matlock's townhouse, I was surprised to see Charles' carriage pull up just behind ours. We were able to walk in together and Charles and Jane were just in front of us in the receiving line. I thought that Lord Matlock was a handsome, distinguished looking gentleman, and Lady Matlock reminded me a great deal of her son, the Colonel. As I moved on down the line, I could see Lord Matthew and Lady Andrea. Lady Andrea certainly was the beauty that Georgiana said that she was, and her dark blue dress looked splendid on her. Lord Matthew could have been his brother's twin. Except for the fact that the Colonel was slightly taller and had fair hair (Matthew's was dark), the brothers looked exactly alike.
As we finished with the receiving line, I stepped into the room and quickly glanced about. I could see Georgiana and Anne speaking with Mary and Kitty. I made my way over to them and we spoke pleasantly for several minutes. Soon Mr. Medcalf came to get Kitty and Mary's arm was taken by her fianc»e. It seemed that both men were intent on making some introductions and mingling with their wife or fianc»e on their arm.
I parted with Anne and Georgiana and made my way around the room. I stopped to speak with people I recognized, but mostly I just wandered about nodding to whomever I made eye contact with. After fifteen minutes, I felt someone touch my arm. I turned and saw that Lady Adrienne Jackson evidently wished to speak with me. Adrienne and I had gone to school together and several years before we had been very close. Unlike me, she had succeeded in finding a rich husband. But I did not pity either one of them. Sir Thomas Jackson was middle-aged and not particularly handsome and Adrienne had always been a bit too "forward". She was also a gossip (Mrs. Bennet was hopelessly outclassed by her!).
She leaned over to whisper something in my ear as she extended her arm and pointed her fan at someone I could not see. "Who is that young lady in black speaking to Lord Matthew Fitzwilliam? And who is the other young lady? Is she the foreigner who tricked him into marriage?" As soon as I heard the words "lady in black" I had turned to find out whom she was referring to. It was Anne, who stood speaking with Lord Matthew and Lady Andrea.
I could feel the anger beginning to boil within me. I gripped her forearm, hoping that she would take it as I sign to stop speaking. Fortunately, she did so, and I hissed "Come with me!" I glanced about the room hoping to see an exit that led to a place where we could speak privately. I saw a door on the far side of the room and I headed in that direction followed by Adrienne. We found ourselves in a small hallway and a quick look around revealed a small sitting room. We entered the room and I made sure that we were alone. I then turned to face Adrienne.
"The young lady in black is a friend of mine named Anne de Bourgh. She is wearing black because she is in mourning. Her mother has recently died! As for the foreigner, as you so snidely refer to her, she at least is the daughter of a nobleman. Her father is an advisor to a king. Your father can not say that he has ever advised anyone, except perhaps on what type of goods to buy!"
I saw that my remark about her father had touched a nerve. Like me, she was the daughter of a merchant. In marrying a rich man, she seemed to have forgotten her origins and taken on the airs of a vain gentlewoman. She clearly did not like to be reminded of her ancestry.
"But Caroline . . ." Adrienne began. She never got a chance to finish whatever she was going to say because I interrupted her. I could see from the look on her face and the surprised tone of her voice that she was going to remind me that I had once held similar opinions. Just thinking about my past made me feel ashamed.
"Adrienne, if I ever hear you speaking poorly about the Darcys, the Fitzwilliams or the Bennet sisters again, Sir Thomas will receive a very revealing letter." Upon hearing this, Adrienne's mouth dropped open and she turned as white as a ghost. The look in her eyes said you wouldn't! I continued, "Yes I know all about Major Marcus Simpson. Sir Thomas has a great deal of influence. A few words in the right ear and your friend will be spending Christmas in India or some other far away place." The words had barely left my lips when a clearly horrified Adrienne pushed past me, threw open the door and hurried down the hall.
I could feel the beginnings of a satisfied smile on my lips as I reentered the room I had left Georgiana and Anne in. Georgiana was there, with an impatient look on her face. "Where have you been? It's time to eat!" I nodded and she asked, "Who was that woman you were talking with? She looked terribly upset about something!" I replied, telling Georgiana that Adrienne was an old school friend who had told me something about a mutual acquaintance from our school days. Georgiana did not appear to completely believe my answer, but she did not press for details.
The meal was fairly pleasant. I was seated between Edward and Mr. Darcy and I enjoyed my conversation with both of them. Lady Andrea, who sat across from me, also spoke with me. She asked me about Adrienne (apparently many people had seen us together) and I told her about my schoolmate. After hearing about Adrienne, Lady Andrea nodded and leaned over to Lord Matthew and whispered something. Mary, who was sitting on the other side of Lord Matthew, must have heard it, because she quickly covered her mouth with her napkin. I could tell that she was trying to keep from giggling and when she had regained her composure, she looked at me and mouthed "later".
After dinner, the party moved to the music room. Louisa, Elizabeth and Georgiana all played for us. Lady Andrea played as well, but it took some coaxing from Lord Matthew and Lady Matlock. I was a bit surprised when Mary politely declined to play and I took advantage of her not playing by asking her what Lady Andrea had whispered. Mary grinned and said that Lady Andrea had called Adrienne a "tamandua" (I think I have spelled the word, right) which is the word for "anteater" in Portuguese. Mary explained what an anteater was and said that she would show me a picture when I called on the Darcys in the morning. I thought about the description of an anteater that Mary had given me and I remembered that Adrienne did have a big nose. For the rest of the evening, just whispering to myself "anteater" made me giggle.
Eventually, the party ended and I rode home with Louisa and Edward. We did not speak much about the party and it was not until I got to my room and my maid asked me while she was helping me with my dress that I gave the matter some serious thought. She stood behind me and I could see in the mirror that she expected an answer so I said:
"I cannot remember when I have been so furious! I have just returned from a party where I have been forced to listen to people I hold in high regard insulted in the worst manner. To make matters even more galling, the insults came from someone who I at one time considered one of my closest friends!"
My maid Amelia still stood behind me and I could see her in the mirror. She was apparently thinking about something. After a moment or two, she nodded, as though she had finished with whatever she was thinking about. She asked if I needed anything else and I told her that I did not. Amelia quietly slipped out of the room and I got into bed. As I blew out the candle, I whispered "anteater" again and I sank back onto the pillows chuckling.
Friday, August 18, 1815
I feel as though a great weight has been lifted from my shoulders and from my heart. I know this will sound strange, since the events which have troubled me these past few months have had nothing to do directly with me. In fact, I did not even witness most of the occurrences that have caused me this distress. Most of my knowledge about this entire affair has come from letters from Charles and other eyewitnesses.
However, in order for these events to be better understood, we must journey back several months to Pemberley. Last December, as you well know, both Mary and Kitty Bennet became engaged--Kitty to Mr. Benjamin Medcalf, the vicar at Kympton and Mary to Georgiana's cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam. Kitty and Mr. Medcalf were married on Valentine's Day, while Mary and the Colonel were forced to endure a rather longer wait. They had originally planned to be married on June 1, but unforeseen complications caused a delay.
The chief of these unforeseen complications was the return of Napoleon from Elba in March. By April, the allied nations (Britain, Russia, Prussia and Austria) had determined their strategy for opposing him and the Duke of Wellington was forming a British army in Belgium. Thousands of soldiers were sent to Belgium and among those chosen was the Colonel, who was to join the Duke's staff by mid May.
This news came as quite a shock to Mary, who was in the midst of planning the wedding. Not surprisingly, she advocated getting married immediately with a special license. According to Georgiana and Elizabeth, who witnessed part of the scene and later got all of the details from both parties, the Colonel reluctantly refused to do so. His worry was that if they were married and he was killed, he would have made her a widow "before the ink was dry", as Georgiana quoted him. Elizabeth wrote that Mary seemed to accept this argument with a heavy heart but that there was a look of fear in her eyes. I could guess what that fear was--fear that he would be killed before he could marry her. Fear that he would die and the wonderful dream that she had lived would die with him.
Although I had not seen Mary before she left London to return to Longbourn, the description that I had received frightened me. I wrote to Jane, Elizabeth and Kitty asking that they pass on whatever news they obtained from Longbourn or Mary. I could not explain exactly why, but I suspected that as Mary became more and more concerned about the Colonel's safety, she would draw more and more into herself. Keeping all her pain and fears to herself would not do her any good.
Therefore, I was not tremendously surprised when I received a short note from Georgiana in early June that said that she was accompanying Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy to Longbourn, where they would meet Charles, Jane and Fanny. Evidently, Mary's "increasingly erratic behavior" had frightened Mr. Bennet enough that he had written to his daughters pleading them to come home to try and help him with Mary. Georgiana's brief missive gave no hints as to what this "erratic behavior" was, so I was forced to wait for her next letter for further information.
I was a bit startled when Georgiana came calling about eight days after she had dispatched her note. I was a bit puzzled as to why she would be in London while her brother was still in Hertfordshire. She revealed why she was in London quickly enough. Quite simply, staying in the same house with Mrs. Bennet had been too much for her. Mrs. Bennet, it seemed was quite fond of mentioning "my dear Lydia's husband" at every opportunity. Georgiana had thought she had put Mr. Wickham firmly behind her, but Mrs. Bennet's continual reference to his name had gotten to her after two or three days. She had gone to her brother begging to be sent to London and the two of them had successfully come up with an excuse that got her out of the house. Georgiana had arrived in London the evening before and had quickly settled in at the de Bourgh house where she was staying with Anne and Charlotte.
The news that Mrs. Bennet's behavior had driven Georgiana away did not come as a complete surprise, but Georgiana did bring back further information on what Mary's "erratic behavior" had been. Mary had taken to sitting by the fire for hours, not saying a word, even when asked a direct question. She would disappear for hours at a time during the daylight, silently slipping away, returning just in time for tea. Georgiana said that she and Elizabeth had been a bit surprised that Mr. Bennet had not tried to see where Mary went every day. So, on the third day Georgiana had been there, she and Elizabeth had followed Mary at a distance. They had noticed that she entered the church, so they turned back confident that they had answered one of their questions about Mary.
That night at dinner, I related Georgiana's news to Edward and Louisa and was a bit surprised when Edward asked if there was any way he could help. He must have recognized the puzzled look on my face, because I must admit that the offer had rendered me temporarily speechless. He pointed out that while his contacts through his business affairs and his clubs were not as varied as Charles' or Mr. Darcy's they should provide him with the latest news of what was happening in Belgium, adding that his brother George's contacts would widen the net even further. I must admit that I was touched that Edward would make such a generous offer to aid someone that he barely knew and I gratefully accepted his offer.
The next morning I sent an express to Charles telling him of the offer made by Edward and passing on Georgiana's intelligence about where Mary was going on her solitary walks. I suspected that Elizabeth had quietly alerted the family in case they needed to find Mary in a hurry, but I told Charles anyway.
On June 20, I received an alarming express from Charles. Mary had not eaten anything nor slept for three days (from June 16 to 18). She seemed to totally withdraw from any contact whatsoever. Whereas before, she would at least acknowledge one's presence with a nod or a glance if spoken to, she ignored people now, even her own parents. It was as though, Charles noted, that she was consumed with some sort of inner struggle, or was trying to affect some far away struggle through sheer will power.
He further reported that she only left the house to visit the church and that she had not returned on the afternoon of the 17th. Charles, Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bennet had gone down to the church to see if she was there. They found her kneeling at the alter, praying. Mr. Bennet had wanted to approach her, but Charles and Mr. Darcy restrained him. Charles said that Mr. Darcy had argued quite forcefully that Mary would not welcome such interference. Mr. Bennet nodded in agreement and the three men took turns sitting in the back of the church watching her. Charles said that he was a little embarrassed when the vicar found him dozing in one of the back pews the next morning when he came to prepare for the Sunday morning services. Mary did not seem to notice or care however, and when she left the church, Charles was able to make his excuses to the vicar and follow her back to Longbourn.
It was with a strange mix of worry and relief Charles commented that the family watched Mary faint from hunger and weariness. Mr. Bennet was able to catch her before she slid completely out of her chair. He and Mr. Darcy carefully carried her upstairs as Elizabeth and Jane tried to calm a hysterical Mrs. Bennet.
By the afternoon of the 20th, Mary had begun to recover physically from her ordeal, but her spirit had not been so fortunate. According to Charles, she still had that haunted look that had so troubled everyone earlier. It troubled them so much in fact; that it was with a great deal of reluctance that Mr. Bennet quietly told her the news of a battle in Belgium that had occurred four days previously. Charles attempted to get Mr. Bennet to tell him what Mary's reaction had been, but her reaction had evidently so puzzled her father that he only murmured "She nodded as if she knew already".
On the morning of the 22nd, all London was abuzz. We soon found out what the reason for all this excitement was. The first dispatch from Wellington, with news of a great victory on the 18th, had arrived the night before and The Times had printed it in that morning's edition. I'm not sure how Edward managed to obtain two copies of the newspaper, but somehow, he did. Louisa and I immediately cut the article out of one copy and forwarded it to Longbourn with a short note. While we were happy to forward the piece from The Times , we were a bit reluctant to forward any of the rumors that had begun to circulate about casualties, which were believed to be very heavy. It was only when the rumors persisted for several days, with more and more details being added, that Louisa and I decided to mention them in our daily missive to Charles.
The letter that first revealed the unofficial reports of casualties was one of the most difficult pieces of correspondence, if not the most difficult, that I have ever written. Louisa and I worked on it for hours, and we soon had the desk cluttered with discarded drafts. We eventually chose to pass onto to Charles all the stories that were circulating in London. However, we emphasized that none of the anecdotes about casualties had been confirmed yet, although at least one story said that casualties on Wellington's staff had been heavy and that at least two staff officers had been mortally wounded.
When I sent the letter, it was my belief, I guess, that the news about staff officer casualties at Waterloo would be broken to Mary gently, much like the news about Quatre Bras had been. Unfortunately, she learned in a much more dramatic fashion. Shortly after the express had arrived, Mary had been passing the library door with Elizabeth and Jane. When she heard the gentlemen discussing the letter and how to break the news to her she stopped to listen. Jane attempted to pull her away, but Mary gripped her arm so tightly that Elizabeth saw Jane wince. Then she turned to her sisters and quietly, but emphatically said, "I must hear this!" The three sisters stood by the door, but when the gentlemen began to talk about the staff officers casualties, Mary tottered and would have fallen had Elizabeth not moved to support her. Elizabeth and Jane helped Mary upstairs and got her back into bed. Jane then made her way to the library to tell the gentlemen that Mary had overheard much of their discussion and that she had taken to her bed again.
Mary remained in bed for several days, eating little, saying almost nothing and spending most of the time looking out the window with what Charles described as the most anguished face he had ever seen. Four days after Mary had returned to bed, Longbourn received two most unusual visitors. The Fitzwilliams, Lady Andrea and Lord Matthew arrived unexpectedly and Lady Andrea was soon upstairs for a private visit with Mary.
Lady Andrea remained upstairs for over an hour while Lord Matthew stayed down in the drawing room with the rest of the family. After fifteen or twenty minutes, Jane and Elizabeth could see that Lord Matthew was becoming annoyed with their mother's incessant questions. Jane suggested that Mr. Bennet show Lord Matthew the grounds. Charles and Mr. Darcy decided to join them, and the gentlemen slipped out into the garden.
Once they were outside, Lord Matthew acquainted them with the latest news, both from London and from the rest of the family. (Mr. Darcy had written several letters, but Lord Matthew's replies had not contained much family news). Mr. Darcy asked why Lord Matthew had suddenly decided to visit and he looked puzzled when Lord Matthew burst into laughter. Everyone patiently waited for Lord Matthew to stop laughing and he explained why he and Lady Andrea were there.
Mr. Darcy's letters from Longbourn had been eagerly anticipated at the Fitzwilliam's London home, since Lady Andrea and Mary had become close since their meeting in March. Although they had only met once, they had corresponded frequently. Due to Mary's desire for new knowledge, some of the correspondence had even been in Portuguese, since Mary wanted to become fluent in the language. Lady Andrea's concern for her friend heightened, as Mr. Darcy's descriptions of her became increasingly bleak. The first rumors of casualties had made her mind up. (It seemed that the Fitzwilliams had been among the first to hear about Wellington's staff).
Lady Andrea had announced her intentions of visiting Longbourn and when Lord Matthew protested, she had informed him that he could stay behind if he liked, but that she was going. After a rather feeble protest on Lord Matthew's part about the propriety of a woman traveling alone, he agreed to accompany her. Hearing that they were staying at the inn in Meryton, Mr. Bennet offered them a room at Longbourn, but Lord Matthew politely declined. He did say that he had accepted Mrs. Bennet's kind invitation to dinner.
Charles reported that he and Mr. Darcy were pleasantly surprised to see Mary at the dinner table. She still looked quite haggard, but she spoke with everyone. Most of her conversation was with Lord Matthew and Lady Andrea however. When the gentlemen retired to the library after the meal, Lord Matthew told stories about his journey to Brazil and the ladies asked Lady Andrea questions about her home.
Elizabeth and Jane had made Mary promise to tell them about her visit from Lady Andrea, since something had occurred during that visit to improve her spirits. So after everyone had retired for the night, the sisters gathered in Mary's room and she told them about her conversation with Lady Andrea.
Mary reminded her sisters that Lady Andrea's family had powerful connections in Brazil. Her father was an advisor to the King of Portugal and he was a successful landowner in his own right, although Lady Andrea's eldest brother, Alberto, handled much of the estate business. Several years before Lord Matthew's journey to Brazil, Alberto was required to return to Portugal on family business. He sailed from Rio de Janeiro, on a ship bound for Lisbon. The ship never arrived in Lisbon and was presumed to have sunk with all aboard.
The news of the ship's loss struck Lady Andrea's mother, Dona Domingues particularly hard. Court business kept Dom. Domingues busy, but his wife sat at home, surrounded by memories of her son and the grief ate into her as her daughters watched, unable to aid her. Months later, a miracle happened. A ship from Lisbon brought a letter from Alberto.
His ship had been sunk in a storm and he had been the only survivor. A British warship rescued him and took him to Gibraltar. The ship that rescued Alberto had been badly damaged in a second storm and it was forced to undergo repairs before it could sail for Lisbon. The warship finally left Gibraltar with the convoy it was supposed to escort, only to suffer further storm damage that required a return to Gibraltar. Eventually, over two months after his arrival in Gibraltar, Alberto reached Lisbon safely.
Lady Andrea's story provided a much-needed boost to Mary's spirits. The Fitzwilliams remained in Meryton for a week and they visited Longbourn every day. The gentlemen went out shooting on several occasions and Mary and Lady Andrea often sat in the garden practicing their languages. However, it was a rainy day when the ladies were all sitting in the music room listening to Elizabeth play when Mary finally received good news.
Mrs. Hill interrupted Elizabeth to ask Mary to come to the library, since her father wished to speak with her. Jane reported that Mary paled, but slowly rose and went to the library. Within five minutes she came running back into the music room shrieking. Elizabeth noted that she and Jane were too astonished to speak, so Lady Andrea was the first to ask Mary what the matter was. Mary danced about the room waving a letter repeating over and over, "He's Alive! " After three or four circuits of the room, Jane caught her and they embraced. Elizabeth and Lady Andrea embraced Mary as well and then she excused herself to find Mrs. Bennet.
I was delighted to hear from Charles that my letter about the casualty lists had made Mary so happy.
The crisis having passed, Charles and Jane and Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth were able to return home. Several weeks passed and I received a letter from Georgiana, who had returned to Pemberley, that Colonel Fitzwilliam, taking advantage of the lull afforded him by the occupation of Paris, had tried to catch up with his correspondence. Georgiana reported that Mr. Darcy had received a missive from the Colonel. She had also heard from Lady Andrea that Mary had received a long letter from the Colonel saying that he would be bringing dispatches home to London in the near future. He must have written to nearly all his relatives, because I called on Anne the same day that Georgiana's letter arrived, and she had also been the recipient of a communication from her cousin.
Later in July, I was paying a call on Anne when a most interesting visit took place. We were in the drawing room when the butler announced that Anne had two more visitors. Anne looked confused and she asked the butler who they were. The butler replied "Colonel Fitzwilliam and Lieutenant Colonel Sir James Passmore." Anne of course expressed delight at seeing her cousin again, but asked me if I had heard of the other gentleman. I was forced to admit that I had not.
The gentlemen were shown in. Colonel Fitzwilliam immediately crossed the room to Anne, who had risen from the sofa, and embraced her. After they parted, he introduced his companion, an officer in the Life Guards who had been wounded at Waterloo and had resigned his commission so that he might take up the management of his estate. I sat near Anne and listened to her conversation with her cousin. She was moving about on the sofa a good deal, so I paid no attention to a slight nudge I felt after the gentlemen had been there about fifteen minutes. A not so subtle elbow to the ribs soon followed and I turned to look at Anne. She tilted her head and I looked in the direction that she indicated. Charlotte had resumed her previous seat in one of the armchairs near the fire with Beth in her lap. Sir James (who I would describe as a tall, broad-shouldered man with dark brown hair and a pleasant face) sat across from her and he seemed to be conversing with her quite energetically. I turned to look at Anne and was amused by the raised eyebrow and the slight smile on her lips.
I continued to look at Charlotte and Sir James occasionally, but my attention was torn between them and the two cousins. I found myself listening to the Colonel and Anne again when Anne mentioned Mary. I turned to see that the Colonel had paled slightly, as if he was bracing himself for bad news. I hastened to add that Charles had reported she was well, but that she had suffered a good deal in his absence. The Colonel paled a bit more, but Anne opined that the best restorative for her would be to see the man she loved again. The color returned to Colonel Fitzwilliam's face as he nodded and smiled broadly. He announced to Sir James that they were leaving. Anne and I noticed with great interest that it was with some reluctance that Sir James departed. The fact that he stopped in the doorway to turn and speak with Charlotte once more was something we found especially intriguing.
The Colonel must have gone straight to Hertfordshire after leaving Sir James at his lodgings. Within 4 days we received a wedding announcement stating that Colonel Michael Fitzwilliam and Miss Mary Bennet were to be united at the church in Meryton on August 18th. So once again I find myself ensconced at Lucas Lodge writing of a Bennet wedding. This has been a happy day indeed!
Wednesday, December 13, 1815
How very trying these past few weeks have been. The fall was one social disaster after another. All my London acquaintances commented that I seemed to be in a permanently foul mood. They are correct of course. I have been cross for over two months now. Even Sam noticed that something was wrong. God bless my little nephew. He's much too young to understand the cause of my anger, but he realizes that I do need cheering up.
I've looked at the first paragraph for this entry and realized that it's not quite true. I haven't been incensed for every moment of the last two months. For some of them I have actually been quite calm. At other times I have been incredibly afraid, but not of another person. I have been afraid of myself, of my temper and my ability to lash out and hurt someone.
This entry is getting more and more confusing. I should have remembered Papa's advice when I sat down to write this entry. "Begin at the beginning" he used to remind me whenever I tried to tell him a story. I will do just that and start this entry at the beginning of the story where I should have.
The summer or what was left of it after Mary and the Colonel were married, was quiet enough. Instead of returning to London after the ceremony, we went to Foxchase. It is always nice to escape the London heat. We spent a pleasant two weeks there with Charles and Jane and Fanny. As I grow older, I begin to appreciate the importance of family. This is not to say that I shunned my relatives in the past. Louisa and I have always been close. It is just that I have begun to understand Papa's teachings about family that I paid little attention to all those years ago.
Edward's business affairs necessitated our return to London in early September. As we sat in the carriage, Louisa and I talked about our stay at Foxchase. The Darcys had called several times, spending one weekend, but dining there on other occasions. They had also brought happy news. Elizabeth was expecting a child early in the new year. Mr. Darcy had fairly beamed with pride and Elizabeth also looked pleased. Georgiana was almost giddy with anticipation. Talk of children brought us to Sam, who sat dozing in Edward's lap. He and Fanny had enjoyed each other's company. Sam had been distressed that Fanny could not run as well as he could, but they liked playing on the floor of the drawing room.
September was uneventful. The only things worth mentioning at all were the letters I received and the calls I made. Georgiana wrote from Pemberley, giving me all the details of what was happening there. Mr. Darcy was fussing over Elizabeth. So much so that it was beginning to annoy Elizabeth. Kitty had settled in nicely as the rector's wife at Kympton and had become very popular with the parishioners. Georgiana also added a bit of intelligence from Lady Andrea. Colonel Fitzwilliam had been ordered to Gibraltar. His orders had originally been for Bermuda, but had been changed at the last moment. My thoughts turned to Mary. She would go with him, but would she be happy? This was the life she had chosen for herself, but would it fit? I must admit that I cannot see myself in her shoes.
As far as my social activities were concerned, the only ones that gave me any sense of excitement were my calls on Anne and Charlotte. I was particularly interested to see if Sir James Passmore had come calling again. When I first called at the de Bourgh house shortly after my return to London, he had not, and I think that Anne's romantic tendencies were more disappointed than Charlotte herself. It was two weeks before I was able to visit again. Sir James had called the day before I visited and when Charlotte left the room to check on Beth, Anne and I were able to talk for a few minutes. According to Anne, Sir James appeared to admire Charlotte greatly, but she was extremely cautious around him. So cautious, Anne argued that she might drive him away.
September ended and October began. For the first two weeks, little happened. I wrote to Elizabeth, asking her questions about Charlotte and her life with Mr. Collins. Elizabeth's answers, particularly the ones about how Charlotte became Mrs. Collins, gave me a greater understanding of Charlotte and I was able to calm Anne's fears somewhat. But I could understand what Anne and Charlotte were both thinking. Charlotte's marriage had not been one of love, but one of convenience. She had married to gain all the advantages of matrimony but one -- affection. I could remember thinking about what I would do if I had been in Charlotte's place. I would give up almost anything I resolved, but love. If I ever married, it would be for that reason.
The next time I called on Anne and Charlotte, I had little time to think about love, Sir James or anything else. I had only entered the drawing room when Anne's butler announced there was someone here with an urgent message for her. I turned to see who it was and I recognized one of the footmen from the Darcy's London townhouse. He apologized profusely for interrupting us and held out his message for Anne. Anne read it quickly and passed it to Charlotte. I watched, growing increasingly concerned as Charlotte's face assumed the same anxious expression as Anne's and the footman. After a long moment I asked what was wrong. Charlotte and Anne glanced at each other for a moment and Anne gave a slight nod. Charlotte's arm extended and I took the note from her hand.
I quickly studied it, recognizing Georgiana's handwriting and, judging by her obvious haste, the importance of the contents. My hand flew to my mouth as I saw the key portion of the missive. Early that morning, Elizabeth had lost her baby and Georgiana, the butler and the housekeeper were growing increasingly concerned not only for Elizabeth, but for Mr. Darcy as well. Could Anne and Charlotte come at once?
I folded the paper and handed it back to Anne. I walked out into the hall to ask the butler to send for my carriage. I jumped as I felt someone touch my arm. I turned to see Anne at my elbow, asking why I was leaving. I stammered out a reply--something to the effect of not wanting to intrude on a private family moment. "Nonsense!" Charlotte snorted. "If we are with Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth, whose shoulder will Georgiana cry on?" I frowned. I was still reluctant to go with them, but I allowed Anne's butler to send my carriage home, with a note to Louisa explaining the situation.
We said little as Anne's carriage took us to the Darcy townhouse. I think that each of us was lost in our own thoughts and concerns. I doubt that more than two dozen words were spoken during the entire journey. We soon arrived at the Darcy's and Charlotte and Anne hurried inside, leaving me standing by the carriage. I remained there a moment, trying to muster the courage to follow them up the stairs and into the house. The sight of the housekeeper standing in the doorway, looking at me jolted me back into the present and I made my way up to the house. The housekeeper took my cloak and told me that Georgiana was in the music room. I hurried down the hall to see her.
It was obvious that she had been crying. I sat beside her on the sofa, not really knowing what to say. Thankfully, Georgiana merely wanted someone to talk to. Mr. Darcy it seemed, had split his time between trying to comfort Elizabeth and sitting in a rage in his dressing room, frightening anyone who came near him, even Georgiana and their housekeeper, who had been with the family almost 20 years. After perhaps 45 minutes, Georgiana appeared to be much improved. She excused herself and said that she would return as quickly as possible. I moved to the piano bench and examined the pieces of music that were lying upon the piano. Ten minutes elapsed, and having grown restless once I had perused Georgiana's new music, I went in search of her. I had an idea which direction she had gone in and I moved in that direction.
As I walked along the hallway, I passed several open doors. I stopped for a moment and peered inside each room, trying to see Georgiana. Soon I came to the library. The door was closed, but I thought Georgiana might be inside. I opened it and stepped in, crossing about half the distance to the fireplace. Suddenly a figure moved in one of the armchairs by the fire and an arm reached out to place a glass next to a half empty bottle on a small table. The person in the armchair turned and I could see that it was not Georgiana, but Mr. Darcy.
I stood in the middle of the room and we watched each other for a long moment. I studied his face and saw the emotions that seemed to play across it simultaneously. Exhaustion appeared to be the most obvious, but sadness and anger were also visible. Then I realized that I had disturbed his privacy. My own experience had taught me that alcohol would not ease the pain for long, but I chose not to voice that opinion. I decided to quietly leave the room and tell the servants to watch him carefully. I hastily apologized for disturbing him and hurried towards the door. I had taken about two steps when his voice, which seemed to boom through the room like a cannon blast said:
"Why are you here Caroline? Have you come to gloat at your rival's misfortune?"
His words stunned me and I stood rooted to the floor. Why had he reopened this old wound? It had been Elizabeth that I had treated so badly in the past and she had forgiven me nearly two years ago.
I could feel every muscle and fiber in my body tighten. If my angry outburst at Adrienne Jackson could be compared to a kettle coming to boil, the anger that I could feel surging through my body could surely be compared to a volcanic eruption.
My first instinct was to whirl about, snatch up the closest thing at hand, hurl it at him and begin screaming at him. I even began to move my right arm towards the vase I could see out of the corner of my eye. As I did so brief segments of memory flashed before my eyes. At first they were almost entirely bad. The day I had heard that Elizabeth had accepted Mr. Darcy's proposal. The night after their wedding when I had tried to drown my pain with a bottle of wine. The party at Netherfield where the mere sight of Mr. Darcy had changed me into a statue, unable to move or speak.
But as soon my hand began to move, I could hear a voice in my head that reminded me of Mama's. "Control", it kept saying. "Do not lose control. Do not throw away the most important things in your life in a moment of anger." As the voice spoke in my head the memories changed. They were happier ones. Georgiana's friendship--the foundation that I had rebuilt my life on. The day Elizabeth forgave me for all I had done to her. The day we wiped the slate clean and began anew
I pulled my arm back and slowly turned around. The few seconds that it took to cross the room and stand behind the other chair seemed like an eternity. I stayed behind the chair, needing some sort of physical barrier between us, in case I lost my composure and tried to strike him. I glared at Mr. Darcy who leaned slightly unsteadily against his own chair.
"What did you say?" I had meant to sound calm, but the words came out in a snarl.
"I said . . . "
He got no farther because I immediately interrupted him.
"I heard what you said! Do you honestly think so poorly of me to imagine that I would come into your house to gloat at Elizabeth's misfortune? To gloat at the misfortune of a woman I have come to call a friend? I have seen the great happiness that a child can bring a household. I see it everyday when I see my niece and nephew or Beth Collins. When I heard that Elizabeth was to become a mother, it was my sincere desire that you would share that look of happiness that I see on the face of Charles or Edward whenever their children are in the room. I cannot begin to tell you how sorry I am to hear of your loss."
Mr. Darcy looked genuinely stunned. He opened his mouth to speak, but once again I interrupted.
"I have nothing further to say to you. Good day, sir!" Every ounce of contempt that I could grasp was placed in the speaking of those final three words. I turned on my heel and strode towards the door. As I neared it, I could see Anne and Georgiana standing in the doorway looking utterly astonished. I pushed past them, turned and made my way to the back door. I flung it open with a resounding crash and stormed out into the garden.
For the next ten minutes I paced up and down the garden paths, arms crossed, head down, mumbling. I blush when I remember what I was saying. Just about every curse that I had heard Papa's men use in the years I had played in the warehouse flowed from my lips in a torrent. As I reached the end of one path, I paused before I retraced my steps. It was then that I began to notice the chill that was in the air. I hugged myself tighter, trying to get some warmth back into my body. A weak smile crossed my face as I imagined what the neighbors would have thought if I had shouted aloud the words that I had mumbled during my pacing. A most unusual sight it would have been. A well-dressed woman (but without a cloak!) on a chilly day marching back and forth, swearing like a teamster.
The smile left my face as I concluded that it was simply too cold for me to stay outside any longer. I frowned and opened the door, hoping that I could find an empty room with a fire where I could warm myself. I decided to try the drawing room and I quietly slipped up the hall, hoping no one would notice me.
I came to a stop when I passed the library door. I could hear a raised voice. A raised female voice. It was Georgiana! She was shouting at somebody at the top of her lungs. The thickness of the door prevented me from hearing her exact words, but I could still recognize her voice. Georgiana paused and a male voice began. Mr. Darcy spoke about 3 words before another voice overwhelmed his. My mouth, which was already hanging open in incredulity, opened a little wider. Anne? I could hazard a guess as to what they were discussing so loudly. Anne and Georgiana sounded like they were furious! I stood there for perhaps five minutes, staring at the door in amazement. Then I heard something and I scurried away to hide. The library door was wrenched open and my two friends marched out, each with a face as black as a thundercloud.
I waited until Georgiana and Anne's footsteps faded as they stormed up the stairs before I emerged from my hiding place. Sensing that the hall was empty, I continued my journey to the drawing room. Fortunately, the room was empty and I was able to pull a chair close to the fire and warm myself.
My thoughts were a jumble as I sat there by the roaring fire. Many of them were about the scene in the library with Mr. Darcy. But the incident was still too new and too raw for me to look at it objectively. Instead, my thinking turned more and more to what I had heard in the library as I had passed the door. I had a fairly good idea what Georgiana and Anne had been so angry about. While I was pleased that my friends had taken it upon themselves to chastise Mr. Darcy, I was flabbergasted by the ferocity of their counterattack. Well, perhaps not too surprised that Georgiana possessed such a temper. I'd very nearly had that rage turned in my direction only a few years before. Only Georgiana's ability to change her emotional state from one of anger to pity had kept me from receiving the same sort of tongue lashing that her brother had received.
For a moment, I wondered what Mr. Darcy was thinking. Was he as stunned as I was? The human soul is a strange thing I mused. Only moments ago, I'd dreamed about scratching his eyes out. Now I was mulling over the argument I had overheard, speculating as to whether or not his thoughts were the same as mine.
I was spared further contemplation about a man I seemed to alternately despise and feel concern for by a discreet cough. I looked up to see Mrs. Hood, the housekeeper standing beside my chair. I was a bit startled by the message she delivered. So startled that I had her repeat it several times. It took three recitations of the message and several questions from me before I was assured that Elizabeth wanted to see me.
I slowly made my way upstairs and knocked on the door. Charlotte opened it and I stepped inside. She quietly said, "I'll leave you now." The door closed behind me and I stood there looking at Elizabeth as she lay in bed. She met my gaze and I could see that she had been crying. I crossed the room and sat in the chair that had been placed near the bed. "I'm sorry about the baby." was all I could say. It did not seem to be nearly enough. I thought that I should say more, but no coherent thought entered my mind. After a moment or two of silence, Elizabeth reached out her hand. As I took it, she quietly said "Thank you".
We were silent for several more minutes. I believe that each of us was looking for some subject we could talk about. I was afraid to bring up any topic that involved children, so the topic that I could always talk about, Sam and Fanny was of no use. Finally, Elizabeth spoke again:
"What was that commotion that Charlotte and I heard in the hall?"
I stiffened and released her hand. I could feel my jaw tighten and my eyes narrow. I hoped that she realized that it was not a subject that I wanted to talk about. My response must have accomplished that, at least in part. She tried to approach the subject from a different direction.
"Judging from your response, it is not something that you wish to talk about."
I knew that she would persist until I told her something, so I tried to keep my answers as short and as vague as possible, so I answered, "Yes".
"Does it involve Georgiana or Anne?"
That query confused me for a moment. I hesitated and replied "Not directly". It was clearly not the sort of answer she had expected. I could see the puzzlement on her face as she thought about my answer. But she was not confused for long.
"Does it involve you and another member of the household?"
I shifted uneasily in my chair as I tried to determine how to answer that question. Elizabeth probably had her suspicions as to who the other person was, but I was not going to confirm them for her. So I said "Yes" and emphasized the answer with a frown, hoping that she would get the idea and drop this line of inquiry.
Elizabeth took the hint and suddenly blurted out, "What do you think of Sir James Passmore?" Her abrupt change of conversational topics left me a little startled and somewhat thankful. Startled in that she had changed the topic so quickly and thankful in that she had decided not to find out what exactly was bothering me. I knew that if she wanted to find out, she would, probably from Georgiana. But at least she saved me the embarrassment of having to describe the scene with Mr. Darcy.
My thoughts soon collected themselves, and I asked Elizabeth how much she knew about Sir James and Charlotte. It turned out that most of our knowledge of them came from the same source--Anne. I had at least had the benefit of seeing them together and I could tell that there was at least a flicker of interest on Sir James' part. The person I was unsure of was Charlotte. It was here that Elizabeth's knowledge of Charlotte was useful. She had known Charlotte for most of her life, and she understood her, or at least thought she did, better than most.
Elizabeth must have anticipated my next questions before I asked them. She said that she had spoken with Charlotte, admittedly indirectly, about Sir James. Although Charlotte had not said much on the subject, she had talked about the man. Elizabeth was of the opinion that Charlotte's thoughts were in a jumble. She was certainly gratified by his attentions, and the economic and legal security marrying him would bring her was obvious. But it was Charlotte's heart that seemed especially confused. Elizabeth sensed that Charlotte felt some sort of affection, perhaps even love for Sir James. Charlotte's head was quarreling with her heart. I hoped her heart won.
Elizabeth and I talked a bit longer, mostly about Anne and Georgiana. Soon Charlotte opened the door and told me it was time to leave. We rode home in silence. I was afraid to look at either Charlotte or Anne. If I looked at Charlotte, I was afraid that I would reveal my thoughts about Sir James Passmore by smiling at her. Why I did not want to even glance at Anne was obvious. I'd seen her face for a moment as we walked down to the carriage. Her earlier anger was still apparent. I certainly didn't want the scene with Mr. Darcy discussed in front of Charlotte
Thankfully the rest of the day ended quietly. I was able to hide my emotions from Louisa, Edward and Sam for at least that first night. But as the days grew into weeks, I found myself constantly meditating about the scene in the library. I thought about it whenever I had nothing to do, which meant I contemplated it more and more for the first four weeks after it happened. Like an old wound that refuses to heal, the scene festered inside my mind.
Edward seemed to have an uncanny ability to know when it was best to keep his distance from me. Louisa either did not notice at first or made no mention of the fact that I was increasingly cross. I brought it to her attention one Saturday morning in mid-November however, by screaming at the housekeeper, a maid and Sam in less than an hour. The three outbursts left Mrs. Longstreet quivering with anger, the maid threatening to give notice and poor Sam bawling in his mother's arms that Auntie Caro was a mean old witch.
Louisa restored order fairly quickly. She managed to calm Mrs. Longstreet, persuade the maid not to leave and dried Sam's tears before leaving him in the library to look at picture books with his father. Then she asked me to join her in her room. Louisa had barely closed the door before she turned, and in a remarkably calm voice, considering the fury I could see in her eyes asked me what was the matter. I stood looking at her for a moment, thinking that I had not seen her that angry since we were children. I knew why she was so furious. I'd taken out my anger and frustrations on a two-year-old boy. I could feel the rage that was still inside being washed away as a new emotion flooded my body -- shame.
I took a step back and felt behind myself for the chair that I knew should be close behind me. I found it and sat down and Louisa pulled a second chair over and sat down with an expectant look on her face. I could tell from that look that she expected me to tell her everything. She listened quietly as I told the story of what happened that afternoon at the Darcys' house, occasionally raising an eyebrow when I mentioned something that surprised her.
When I finished telling her of the events that day, Louisa sat quietly for a minute or two, grimacing. Her first question startled me "Why didn't you tell this to me earlier?" I sat in stunned silence for a few seconds, before stammering out a reply, telling her that I had not wanted to involve her in a very private and painful matter. Louisa reached out and touched my arm. I looked up and her smile wordlessly told me everything that I needed to know. I need not have kept the anger that day had created bottled up inside me. It had eaten at me for a month. Talking with Louisa probably would not have taken all the pain and anger away, but it would have helped. I returned her smile with a nod, to indicate that I understood her meaning. Louisa told me where Sam was and I went to apologize to him.
A day or two after my talk with Louisa, I received two letters from Pemberley. One was from Georgiana, full of the usual family and estate news. I shuddered a bit when I saw the writing on the second missive. It was Mr. Darcy's writing! My hands shook a little as I broke open the seal and examined the contents. He was apologizing for the scene in the library! My hands shook a little more and my jaw dropped. I read the letter again to make sure that the words I thought I had read were actually there.
I wasn't sure what to think of the apology. It certainly read like he meant it, but I had this nagging idea in the back of my mind that he'd been forced into it. Probably by Elizabeth, if she had been told of the incident, but perhaps by Georgiana or Anne.
In the weeks that remained until our trip to Foxchase for the anniversary party, a new emotion came into play -- fear. I began to have nightmares in which Mr. Darcy took a private moment to apologize and I attacked him, all the anger that I had held in check erupting out of me.
Eventually, it was time to make the journey to Foxchase. In a way, I began to feel as though I had experienced the dream I was worried about before. I thought about it a bit more and I realized that I had, except before I had wanted to see Mr. Darcy right away, to prove to myself that I could actually be in the same room with him. Now I was afraid to be in the same room with him. I shook my head and tried to banish the thoughts from my mind by picking up my book.
I managed to stay away from Mr. Darcy for most of the first day at Foxchase. This earned me several curious looks from Georgiana, but I ignored them. This afternoon, I was in the library, examining one of the books that Mr. Bennet had sent Charles when something startled me and I looked up to see that Mr. Darcy had pulled a chair close to mine.
He began to speak, but I instinctively recoiled from him, getting as far away from him as the large armchair allowed. It was not that I was afraid of him, but that something inside of me said that keeping my distance would allow me to keep my self-control. However, he interpreted my backing away from him as fear. I could see the pained expression on his face, and I relaxed, resuming my previous posture.
Once I had returned to my original position in the armchair, he began his apology. During the first few moments of it, I was restless and I recalled the nightmares that had plagued me. But the tone of his voice and the honest emotion behind his words calmed me. I could see in his face that he truly meant what he was saying.
He explained about the letter that I had received, telling me that it had originally been his intention to only apologize via a letter. However, upon further reflection he had thought that the letter might be misinterpreted, so he had decided to make a personal apology. (I was thankful for his explanation about the letter. I had been eager to ask about it, but could not think of polite way in which to do it!)
When Mr. Darcy had finished his apology, my anger had evaporated. I could not continue to be angry with someone who was so honestly repentant for his actions. I readily accepted his apology, and I believe that both of us were happy to put the incident behind us.
Thursday, May 30, 1816
I've always been a person that believed some things were just fated to happen. While the things I have believed were fated to occur did not always come about (my marriage to Mr. Darcy being an excellent example), on other occasions things did turn out right. Anybody who had ever seen Charlotte Collins and Sir James Passmore talking together knew that they were meant to be together! That day has finally come and they were joined in a small ceremony in London this afternoon.
It feels a little strange to see them married. After all, it was only last October when I sat in the Darcy's townhouse and spoke with Elizabeth about how Charlotte seemed to be fighting any sort of attachment that might be forming between herself and Sir James. That afternoon Elizabeth and I came to the conclusion that Charlotte's heart was locked in battle with her head. It was something that I had a good deal of trouble understanding at that time. After all, here was a man who obviously had feelings for her, someone who could give her all the security she and her child could ever possibly want. Economic, legal and social security, plus someone who loved her? What more could any woman want? Charlotte's behavior where Sir James was concerned left me extremely confused. If Sir James, who was by all accounts a truly good man, asked for my hand, and I had the same feelings for him that she occasionally appeared to have, I would not have hesitated to say yes. Especially if I had a child!
But I digress. Before I report on how Sir James won Charlotte's hand, I should summarize the events that have taken place since our December visit to Foxchase. As per our custom, I returned home to London with Louisa and her family to celebrate the holidays with them. Christmas was quiet and I enjoyed watching Sam play with his new toys.
In the two weeks following Christmas I received a stack of letters from friends and family describing their festivities. Georgiana wrote of Christmas at Pemberley and New Year's Day at Matlock Hall. Charles and Jane both wrote about the holidays at Foxchase. I grinned at the scrawl at the bottom of Charles' letter, which was supposedly from Fanny. I was a little surprised to receive a letter from Kitty, who reported that life at the Kympton parsonage was marvelous. It sounded as though there was a kernel of truth to Georgiana and Elizabeth's reports that she had settled in quite well as a rector's wife.
One comment that caught my eye in Georgiana's Boxing Day letter was that Mr. Darcy, hoping to cheer Elizabeth up had invited Charles and Jane, along with Kitty and Mr. Medcalf to Pemberley for the New Year's Day weekend. I eagerly anticipated my next letters from Charles and Jane. But it was Kitty who gave me the most insight into that weekend. I suppose that not having to keep one eye on your child allows you to observe someone else in the room more carefully. According to Kitty, Elizabeth had physically recovered, but her spirits were still quite low.
Once I became aware of this, I asked Jane, Kitty and Georgiana that I be kept informed of how Elizabeth progressed. All three of them happily complied with this, Georgiana and Kitty being the most diligent and they passed on the details of Elizabeth's slow but nonetheless steady recovery. Thanks in large part to the tenderness of Mr. Darcy's care at least some of the spirit of the old Elizabeth had returned by late February.
In mid-March the Darcys journeyed to London. Louisa and I called on them two days after their arrival and the reports of my various correspondents looked to be accurate. Elizabeth did look as though she had recovered physically, but there was nevertheless a noticeable difference in her. While there were hints of the old spirit about her, she was at times very quiet, almost eerily so. I resolved to speak with Louisa about it, but the opportunity to do so did not present itself for several days. Perhaps four days after the visit to the Darcys, when we had finally determined that the next morning would suit our purposes, a note arrived from Charlotte. It appeared that she urgently wanted me to call on her the next morning, so I asked Edward if I could borrow the carriage the next morning and told Louisa that our discussion about Elizabeth would have to wait.
You can imagine my surprise when I saw a second carriage arriving at Anne's house just as we pulled up. I alighted from my conveyance and was astonished to see Elizabeth exit the other vehicle. She looked just as amazed to see me and we stood on the sidewalk and spoke for a moment or two. I'm not sure who mentioned Charlotte, but each of us soon produced our note and we noticed that they were identical. We shrugged our shoulders and made our way up the steps to the door.
Mr. Dawson, the butler, showed us into the sitting room, where Anne and Charlotte were waiting for us. Charlotte asked us to sit down and then she rose and stood before the fireplace. Elizabeth and I glanced at each other. I'm sure that the same thought passed through our minds. She wants to tell us something. I hoped that it had something to do with Sir James Passmore. "Perhaps he finally proposed!" I said to myself.
I believe that all three of us were sitting on the edge of our seats as Charlotte cleared her throat and said, "Sir James Passmore has asked me to marry him." Anne was the first person to leap to her feet and offer her congratulations.
"That's wonderful Charlotte!" she exclaimed, as Elizabeth and I rose and offered our own congratulations.
"But I have asked him for time to think." Charlotte continued. "I asked for 48 hours. He will be here tomorrow to see what my answer will be." Charlotte's voice halted for a moment and I stole a glance at Anne and Elizabeth. They were clearly as confused as I was. After those few seconds' hesitation, Charlotte resumed speaking. She had sunk down into the armchair by the fireplace. She cradled her head in her hands for a moment before raising her head again and saying in little more than a whisper, "I do not know what to do!"
It was Elizabeth who voiced the bewilderment that I am sure we all felt. "Not know what to do?" was all that she said.
"No", Charlotte echoed.
I sank back in my chair utterly perplexed. "Why would she not know what to do?" I kept wondering. As I sat in my chair pondering this mystery, I could hear Anne and Elizabeth conversing with Charlotte.
I'm not sure how soon after Charlotte's announcement that my mind began to wander. But I was soon sitting in my own private little world, trying to determine why Charlotte would be so unsure about what she should do. It did not take long for my thoughts to take a different course. I was soon thinking about what I would do if I were in her place. It was easy to imagine a similar situation.
So I remained perfectly quiet in my seat, my chin cupped in one hand. I was staring at a spot on the wall opposite me, contemplating. I was soon imagining that I was in circumstances similar to Charlotte's. The man from my dream had proposed. The tall, gangling fair-haired man with the enormous smile and the unusual accent who I had dreamt about for three years. I stopped thinking and scowled for a moment. Why did it have to be HIM? I shrugged my shoulders and resumed my thinking. The question about what I would do if I were in Charlotte's shoes soon resolved itself into a series of queries.
Did I know the man as well as Charlotte knew Sir James? If the answer was yes, I believed that I would know my own mind well enough that I would not need to ask for advice.
If I were unsure, whom would I consult? Louisa was an obvious choice, but would she be the only one? I had grown to admire Sarah Hurst greatly, so she was another possibility. There were also several people I didn't think that I would speak with about this kind of problem. Jane always saw the good in people no matter what. Georgiana had had some difficult times in her life, but she still had too much of the hopeless romantic about her.
I then began to ponder the third query on this list, which was . . .
"CAROLINE!" Anne's voice jerked me back to the present. I lifted my head and looked around. I was sure that I was red with embarrassment.
"I'm sorry", I mumbled "What was the question?"
Anne looked annoyed. Elizabeth was watching me, with an interesting look on her face. Charlotte just laughed. I asked Elizabeth and Anne to summarize what they had told Charlotte. I also requested that Charlotte explain why she was so unsure about Sir James.
Anne's arguments about why Charlotte should marry Sir James were surprisingly simple. In Anne's mind there were no reasons at all why Charlotte shouldn't marry him. As far as I knew, Anne had never been in love, so her comments were very much those of the idealist, who can see the beauty in something, but not the emotions and uncertainties that can affect how one views the issue.
Elizabeth, on the other hand, was someone who was all too aware of those uncertainties. So instead of Anne's insistence that Charlotte go ahead with the marriage, no matter what her emotional state, she advised that Charlotte think the matter through carefully. I could sense that Elizabeth and I were in agreement on this point. Charlotte seemed to have not thought the matter through completely. Was her uncertainty about what to do a hasty decision, or had she examined everything?
But once I had heard Charlotte explain the reasons for her uncertainty, my belief that her decision was a hasty one vanished. She did have legitimate reasons for being unsure about what to do next. The main cause of her hesitation was quite simple really. Despite her previous marriage, she had never been in love before. She frankly admitted that the strength of these new emotions terrified her. It was this fear of the unknown that made her so unsure.
I listened to them and thought carefully about what everyone had said. While thinking of what I would say, I thought about Charlotte's fear of the unknown. But I also thought about the heart breaking pain of rejection. I knew that Sir James would not take rejection well. There was a moment or two of silence before I spoke.
"Charlotte, you've been given a second chance at happiness. If it is what you want, what you really want, grab it with both hands and never let go."
The room went quiet again. I could see Elizabeth nodding, perhaps in silent agreement. Anne looked at me with her left eyebrow slightly raised. Perhaps what I had said had surprised her. Charlotte just stared at me, but she pursed her lips as if my statement made sense.
Charlotte and I watched each other for a few seconds, then Elizabeth spoke. "Caroline?" I turned to look at her. "Wasn't there a new tea shop that we had decided to visit? Perhaps we can take Anne as well?" I gazed at her for a second or two before I understood what her intentions were. I smiled and replied. "Yes! Shall we take my carriage?" Anne did not seem to quite understand what was going on, but she came anyway.
The next afternoon, I was watching Sam construct a tower of blocks on the drawing room floor. A footman coughed quietly and I turned to accept the note that had evidently just arrived. I recognized Anne's writing and the haste in which she had written it seemed to indicate that the contents must be important. I tore it open and examined the paper. She had written just one word in large letters and underlined them with a broad stroke: "YES!"
The ceremony itself was a small one. Her family was there, as were the Passmores. There were not many other guests, just the Darcys, the Bennets and the Medcalfs. I sat beside Anne. As Charlotte turned to leave the church, she saw us, and she smiled.
Wednesday, July 15, 1818
Today I saw my dearest friend married. I should be happy for her. I am happy for her. But nevertheless I have this idea this is one of the days that I will look back on when I'm old and feeble and say that it was one of those moments I knew that my life that had changed. I'm not quite certain as to why I should say that it was my life has changed, when I'm not the one who was joined in holy matrimony today.
After a few more minutes of staring at the page trying to understand the emotions that have possessed me all day, I think I understand them better now. This confused emotional state is due, I believe, to several things.
One must surely be the loss of a dear friend, who will soon be far removed from me. After all, Georgiana's letters, even when she had nothing of any real interest to say, have brightened many a day over the last five years. I used to get one letter a week from her. By Christmas I'll be lucky to get one every two or three months.
It is the other emotion that I have been feeling recently that frightens me though. There have been times when I have felt envy, like the tentacles of some sea creature, tighten its' hold on me. If there is anyone who deserves to be happy, it's Georgiana, and she's been so happy these last months that I doubt that her feet have touched the ground. Anne was the same last year. The idea that I could look at two of my closest friends and feel the fires of jealousy kindling in my soul is most disturbing.
Why is this happening? It is I suppose the rather bitter realization that I am now thoroughly confirmed in my "old maid" status. I'm 29 now. So I've been on the shelf for what, four years? Five years is more like it. But Anne was what, 27 when she married last November? There is, I imagine, some hope for me, but the chances of that happening are so slight that I shouldn't even consider them. To do so would only make me more miserable later.
I just glanced over what I've written so far and I see that once again, I've failed to start the story at the beginning. I've mentioned on two occasions that Anne's married now, and I have not said how that actually came about.
Anne's journey to happiness began on a cloudy day in February of last year. After Charlotte's marriage, we still called on each other regularly and occasionally went on outings. These outings were usually to go shopping, and occasionally Elizabeth or Georgiana accompanied us.
However, on this particular trip, Anne and I had gone to _______'s to look at new bonnets. After several hours of perusing and experimenting and occasional giggling (some of the bonnets were just not becoming on us), each of us had found two bonnets that we liked. Since I wanted to go to a second shop that was a short distance away, we decided to take advantage of the fact that after several days of rain, the weather was gradually clearing.
After depositing our purchases in Anne's carriage, we began the short walk to the second shop, where I hoped to purchase a new pair of boots. As was our custom, we conversed on the way, with Anne telling me about her recent visit to see Charlotte. Anne reported that she was very happy and that she and Sir James had begun to make some alterations to the house at Fair Lakes, which according to Anne desperately needed "a woman's touch". We were so engrossed in our conversation that we forgot to pause and see if the way was clear before we rounded a corner.
The first signs I had that anything was wrong were a grunt from Anne, the sound of bundles falling and a gentleman's voice cursing. I turned to see Anne sprawled on the ground, with several bundles of what appeared to be letters scattered around her. She gathered the bundles up and held out her arm to the gentleman who helped her to her feet. Anne held out the bundles to the gentleman who took them, a little too hastily in my opinion. He made his apologies and asked Anne if she had been injured. When she answered that she had not, he bid us "Good day." and hurried down the street.
Anne watched him as he turned the next corner. She looked at me and asked, "So what do you think?"
"About him", Anne inquired as she gestured in the direction the mysterious gentleman had taken. "I thought he was rather handsome."
I also thought that he was a handsome man and said as much, but I did not mention that I had thought him to be rather rude. After all, he had knocked her down and made no more apologies than the minimum dictated by politeness.
I reminded Anne of our errand and we continued on our way.
The next week we went shopping again, choosing to visit a new establishment which had earned an excellent reputation. I was wandering through the store, appraising the merchandise when I felt something tug at my sleeve. It was Anne, who inclined her head towards the far corner. I looked in the direction indicated and saw that it was the man who had run into Anne the previous week. Both of us watched him for several minutes as I tried to determine why he was there. He did not appear to be a customer and he was too well dressed to be an employee. Could he be the owner? I smiled to myself at what Lady Catherine's reaction would be to her daughter taking a sudden interest in a tradesman.
We continued to stand there, watching the conversation taking place in the far corner. Anne was content merely to gaze at the gentleman, while I tried to think of a plan to at least get an introduction. I had nearly decided that I could think of no practical scheme to get Anne an introduction when the door opened and Mr. Gardiner walked in. I observed Mr. Gardiner and Anne's mysterious gentleman speak for a moment or two before I had an idea. Mr. Gardiner knew me only slightly and he and Anne had only been introduced to each other once, at Pemberley. But he could at least introduce us to the slightly built fair-haired man in the corner. I smiled to myself and touched Anne's arm to get her attention.
Anne and I made our way over to where the gentlemen were standing. Mr. Gardiner appeared to see us coming since he stopped speaking and waited for us to draw near. Mr. Gardiner's companion, noticing that Mr. Gardiner has stopped speaking, turned in our direction and watched us approach. I stopped a few feet from Mr. Gardiner, with Anne at my side.
Mr. Gardiner made the proper introductions, and we soon learned that the mysterious gentleman was Mr. Anthony Somers. We curtseyed and the gentleman bowed as the introduction was made. The four of us stood talking together for a few minutes while I thought of some way to allow Anne and Mr. Somers a few minutes to themselves. Glancing about at the goods that were near us, I saw a table stacked with books a short distance away. Excusing myself from the group, I made my way over to the books, hoping that Mr. Gardiner would do something similar.
I took my time perusing the books, finding nothing that would interest me, but several that might be to Charles or Edward's liking. I looked around the shop a few times, and saw Anne and Mr. Somers quietly conversing while Mr. Gardiner stood at a nearby table, examining something. I was unsure what was on the table until he picked one up and I recognized it. Turning back to the books I smiled to myself, wondering if Mrs. Gardiner would be receiving some sort of gift from her husband this evening.
Eventually it was time for Anne and I to leave. We walked out to the carriage in silence. I had purchased two books, one for Charles and one for Edward. Anne had a dreamy sort of smile on her face. When we were in the carriage I tried to get her attention. "Anne?" I asked, repeating myself twice before she seemed to notice. Even then she only looked at me, with that same expression on her face. I shook my head, realizing that she was a lost cause. We rode the rest of the way home in utter stillness.
Weeks passed by and Anne and Mr. Somers spent more and more time together. It was all proper of course, as I or one of her relatives chaperoned them. But I could not shake a strange feeling that something about Mr. Somers was not quite right. So I began to quietly make inquiries amongst my friends and acquaintances for information about him. I knew that I would not intervene unless I found something truly terrible about the man. I was merely looking for anything to ease my troubled mind.
You can imagine my surprise when I discovered that Mr. Somers was one of the "Wiltshire Somers"! The Somers family, as most people know, were once one of the wealthiest families in that county. But several generations of excessive spending had reduced the family's finances to such an extent that they were on the brink of financial ruin. This knowledge did nothing to calm my fears, nor the further intelligence that Anthony was a younger son, who would have looked to "marry money" anyway. What truly startled me was the reason that Anthony appeared to be a tradesman, because in a way he was.
Realizing that his family would be unable to support him and that many eligible young ladies might not want to marry into such a family, he had decided to make his own fortune. So he had gone to London, with little to recommend him but his name and his Cambridge education. He had struggled at first, but a moderately successful company had taken him on as a sort of junior partner and he had done well. According to George Hurst, all that kept Mr. Somers from going into business for himself was insufficient funds.
For a time I wondered if Anne was being courted for her money, but these fears were soon proved false. These two were truly in love and when he proposed in early September she accepted. The wedding itself was a small one, with few people there from the groom's family and only family and a few friends from the bride's.
With Anne joining the ranks of married women, I was saved from boredom by two things. The most important of these was the birth of my twin nieces Sarah and Caroline in early December. Louisa seemed to have an easier time than she did with Sam and I was truly honored that she would name one of her daughters after me. It was a great joy to have babies in the house again, even if little Caroline did seem to be extremely fussy at times.
The second thing that kept my life from becoming dull was the arrival of the Darcys in early January. They had decided to spend some time in London with Charles and Jane so I saw Georgiana fairly often.
In early February, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth honored their promise to take Georgiana to the opera and purchased a box for the show that was supposed to be the finest of the season. Since there was an extra seat in their box, Georgiana invited me to come along. Eager for an evening that did not involve crying babies, I accepted.
The show was indeed a fine one, with superb music, singing and costumes. During one of the intermissions, we all left the box for a few minutes. That was when it happened. Elizabeth saw someone she knew emerging from their box a short distance away and we made our way over to speak with them. I knew the couple in question slightly, but the key member of the other party was the man in uniform, a captain in the Royal Navy if I remember my lesson in uniforms. The proper introductions were made and after speaking with me for a moment o
r two, his attention was occupied largely with Georgiana, who seemed to be quite pleased by it.
My emotions were in a strange turmoil as I watched them. I was glad to see that Georgiana had an admirer (even though Mr. Darcy's frequent glares were amusing), but what rankled was how quickly I had been passed over in Georgiana's favor. I could feel the envy beginning to build inside me and I turned away for a moment to collect myself.
I examined my thoughts on the matter and got them into some kind of order.
Was I jealous because she had the attention of this particular man?
No, I'm jealous because she is young and beautiful and I am not.
Come now! Do you really believe that? You're envying your best friend!
I suppose not. My pride is bruised that is all. Put it down to further proof that I'm "on the shelf". One glance and he identified me for what I am. A spinster here because there was room!
Besides, you never liked officers! Although there was that one when you were 17 . . .
I turned back to the group with a small smile on my face. I could see Charles standing beside Elizabeth, looking concerned. His eyebrow was raised as he examined my face. I mouthed "Later" at him, and he nodded as if he understood before resuming his conversation with Jane and Elizabeth.
The courtship between Georgiana and Captain Paul Stewart went smoothly, although Mr. Darcy's attempts to play big brother were a constant source of amusement to just about everyone, especially Charles and Elizabeth. When the time came for Captain Stewart to ask for Georgiana's hand, he had accepted that Georgiana was no longer the little sister that needed constant protection. (An idea fostered by Elizabeth no doubt.) Thus the engagement of Miss Georgiana Darcy and Captain Paul Stewart was announced in mid-May.
The wedding itself was a splendid one. All of Georgiana's relatives were there, as were many friends. I spent much of my time at the reception speaking with Mary Fitzwilliam (just back from Gibraltar) and Lady Andrea. Both of them were quite pleased to tell me of their sons, Henry and Albert, both of whom had been born in the last year. I in turn talked of my growing brood of nieces and nephews which had increased to five with Sarah and Caroline joining Sam, Fanny and the year old Master William Bingley.
The entire day seemed to pass in a whirl and it was only after I retired for the night that things began to sink in. I'm the only one left now. They're all married . That hurt even more than the knowledge that Georgiana would soon be departing for Halifax.
Continued in Part 3
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