A Letter from Maria Lucas
I would like to express my appreciation to Barbara, who gave me the idea that inspired this story, encouraged me to try to write it, and made suggestions for improving it. I would also like thank Lou and Alan for their comments and encouragement, and the denizens of the chat room for their brainstorming.
You may have heard the momentous news from Longbourn by now, but in case you have not, I will tell you. Lizzy is to be married to Mr. Darcy. The whole neighbourhood is alive with speculation, not all of it kind to either Lizzy or Mr. Darcy.
Perhaps I should start at the beginning. As you have heard from Mother, Mr. Bingley returned to Netherfield almost two weeks ago, bringing Mr. Darcy with him. Mr. Bingley called on the Bennets a few days after they arrived. Kitty tells me that Mr. Darcy was with him, but he was, as usual, quiet and haughty. The two of them were invited to dinner the following evening. No one could understand why Mr. Darcy came to Netherfield. He certainly did not give any sign of liking Hertfordshire better than he did the last time he was here. However, there were rumours that he came back because he was interested in Lizzy, that perhaps they were already engaged. When Mr. Bingley became engaged to Jane, I believe that Mother wrote you about those rumours.
I did not believe the rumours at the time. Not about the engagement, anyway. Anyone who knows Lizzy well would not believe them, for she is not one who would ever marry for money, and who would marry Mr. Darcy, except for his money? But it seemed to come to nothing, for Mr. Darcy left just before Mr. Bingley's engagement to Jane was announced.
Then something amazing happened -- something that made it seem that the rumours might be true. A very grand carriage arrived in the neighborhood. Kitty told me later that it was Lady Catherine de Bourgh. She spoke privately with Lizzy, and then left. Kitty said that Lizzy was angry and upset afterwards, but she would not talk about why Lady Catherine had visited her.
Mr. Darcy returned to Netherfield, and the following day, he again went with Mr. Bingley to call on the Bennets. Mrs. Bennet was mightily vexed over his presence, Kitty said -- his brooding countenance is not at all conducive to romance, but Mrs. Bennet's coldness apparently did not deter him. Mr. Bingley and Jane went on a walk with Lizzy, Mr. Darcy, and Kitty. Kitty was rather afraid of him, I think. She left the group to visit me, and she told me that she had not wanted to force poor Lizzy to deal with Mr. Darcy alone, but she was uncomfortable in his presence.
We think that it might have been on this walk that he made his addresses to Lizzy. He and Lizzy were following Jane and Mr. Bingley at a short distance, but they became separated from them and did not come back to Longbourn until some time after the others had returned. The following day, Mr. Bingley encouraged Lizzy to take Mr. Darcy to see Oakham Mount, and Mrs. Bennet felt guilty about imposing on Lizzy in such a way -- which must have seemed a joke to them, considering what happened later.
That evening, Kitty said that Mr. Darcy followed Mr. Bennet into his library. He was there for some time. When he came back, Lizzy went and talked to her father for a time, and when she came out, she appeared to have been crying. I can only imagine that Mr. Bennet must have strongly opposed the match. Everyone knows that Lizzy is his favorite daughter, and he must not have wanted her to marry such an unpleasant man, a man for whom she has so often expressed her dislike. Whatever his objections, however, Lizzy must have convinced him in the end to consent.
Later that night, Kitty overheard Lizzy telling her mother that she was to marry Mr. Darcy. You will not be surprised to hear that all of Mrs. Bennet's former objections to Mr. Darcy suddenly disappeared, and the words "ten thousand a year" echoed through the halls of Longbourn.
Now the neighbours seem to talk of nothing else but these engagements. As I said, not all of the talk is kind. People wonder why two men who could marry fashionable London girls are interested in the Bennets. Jane, to be sure, is the handsomest girl in Hertfordshire and Lizzy has a very attractive animation about her, but Hertfordshire is not London. I wonder if Mr. Darcy has not loved Lizzy for a long time. At the Netherfield ball, she was the only one with whom he danced, other than Mr. Bingley's sisters. Do you remember when we were visiting you at Hunsford? She said that she often saw him on her walks, even though she told him where she would be so he could avoid her. We were surprised by the impertinent way she spoke to him, but he never seemed to mind. I don't imagine many girls speak to him that way, for they want to impress him, to attract his attention. Lizzy did not appear to care what he thought -- that must have been a new experience for him! And do you remember the evening that Lizzy stayed at Hunsford while we went to dinner at Rosings Park? Mr. Darcy disappeared for a time that evening. Do you suppose he went to see Lizzy then?
As for Jane and Lizzy, no one wonders why Jane is marrying Mr. Bingley, for she has loved him since he first lived at Netherfield. But what of Lizzy? Many people say that she is only marrying this man because he is so wealthy. Mrs. James called on us the day after the engagement was made public, and she was quite eloquent on the subject of fortune hunters, even though she did not mention Lizzy by name. It is not as if there is any danger of her sons being married for their money!
Of course, no one who really knows Lizzy thinks she would be influenced in the least by Mr. Darcy's wealth. It is difficult for me to understand how people could say such a thing. Perhaps they are jealous that the Bennets' fortunes have turned around so quickly. Only a few weeks ago, it seemed that no one would marry any of the Bennet girls, and now these two are to be married, and to two very eligible men. I heard Mrs. Everett talking to Mother the day before yesterday. She speculates aloud that the two gentlemen, being from London, are unaware of the situation with Lydia. She thinks that they would not be so eager to marry Jane and Lizzy if they did know. I shouldn't wonder if she should take it on herself to tell them! Perhaps she hopes that they will look more favorably on her own daughters if they know how the Bennets have been disgraced.
Unlike many people in the neighbourhood, I do believe that Lizzy holds Mr. Darcy in high esteem. I have two reasons for thinking so. When the Bennets and Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley had dinner with our family last night, I saw Lizzy watching Mr. Darcy when she though no one could see her. He was talking with Father, and if you could have seen the expression on Lizzy's face, you would have no doubt that she loves him. It was the greatest expression of tenderness and regard.
The second reason is Mr. Darcy himself. After dinner last night, I was sitting alone on the couch, and he approached me. I was apprehensive, because I did not know what to say to him or why he would come to talk to me. He asked after you and Mr. Collins. He seemed momentarily at a loss as to what to say next and then suddenly asked me if I like to go on walks in the neighbourhood. I told him about some of the places I like to walk, and he seemed genuinely interested. You may be surprised at this, but I do believe Mr. Darcy is shy. We have always judged him as being a proud, unpleasant man, but perhaps we were wrong. And perhaps Lizzy understands this and has been able to find the amiability under his stern exterior.
I did not intend to spend this entire letter on news of Lizzy and Mr. Darcy, but no other news from Hertfordshire seems nearly as interesting right now! Kitty has arrived, so I will close this letter and write to you again soon. I hope you and Mr. Collins are well.
Your loving sister,
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