A Letter from Charlotte Collins
This is a letter written in reply to "A Letter from Maria Lucas."
My dear Maria,
Thank you for your recent letter. You know that I always look forward to hearing from you with great anticipation, but this letter was a special pleasure to receive because of the joyous news it contained.
I have written to Lizzy to wish her the greatest happiness.
I am saddened -- but not surprised -- by the tone of the talk related to the engagement of Lizzy to Mr. Darcy. Too many people received too much pleasure from the apparent downfall of the Bennets to receive much joy from their good fortune.
I have not been much in Lizzy's confidence these days, so I was unaware of any change in her affections. However, I believe that you are almost certainly right in regards to Lizzy's motives for accepting Mr. Darcy's offer. (I am glad to know that you have formed your opinions based on your observations and your knowledge of Lizzy's character rather than the gossip of malicious people.) In spite of my advice to her that she not slight a man of Mr. Darcy's consequence, I have not the least doubt that she accepted him for a romantic rather than a prudent motive. My good advice came to naught, but happily, the final result was the same. I can only hope that your speculation about Mr. Darcy's shyness is the correct one. Thinking back on his visit to Rosings, I believe it may be. I also believe you are right about Mr. Darcy's affections dating from at least that time, if not before.
As for the knowledge of Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy about the circumstances of Lydia's marriage, if Mr. Bingley's behaviour when he was in Hertfordshire before is any indication, he is far too besotted with Jane to care about any indiscretion Lydia might or might not have committed. The only mystery is what took him so long. If Mr. Darcy were unaware of the circumstances, I am sure Lady Catherine was all too happy to inform him. So I fear that Mrs. Everett's hopes for her daughters are bound to be disappointed.
You may be interested in some relevant events here in Kent. When we received the letter from Mother about the engagement of Mr. Darcy's friend, Mr. Collins casually passed along this information to Lady Catherine, along the with news of Mr. Darcy's possible engagement. He may have thought to congratulate her, but much to his surprise, she did not take the news in this spirit. She abruptly cut short our visit and, we later learned, left the following day for Longbourn, taking Anne with her.
Enjoying Anne's confidence, I know something of that visit. (I am not the sort of person Lady Catherine would normally accept as a friend to Anne, but Lady Catherine is under the impression that Anne enjoys being read to and that I am a better reader than Mrs. Jenkinson. Under this guise, we enjoy long conversations. She is a more intelligent and observant woman than most people seem to credit.) Lady Catherine spoke privately in the park with Lizzy, so Anne did not hear most of the conversation, but at the end, Lizzy came storming out of the park, followed by Lady Catherine, who was shouting something about Lizzy's sister and the shades of Pemberley. Lady Catherine seemed to be trying to extract some promise from Lizzy, and Lizzy seemed to be refusing to give it, but Anne could not hear them clearly. In the light of subsequent events, Anne and I believe that Lady Catherine was trying to extract a promise not to marry Mr. Darcy.
After the visit to Longbourn, Lady Catherine and Anne went to Mr. Darcy's townhouse in London. Anne did not go into the house, and Lady Catherine was there less than thirty minutes. She seemed much better pleased with this interview than the previous one. On the way to the de Bourgh's London home, Lady Catherine talked of the need for Anne to be more attentive to her cousin. This train of thought worried Anne not a little, since she had no more interest in marrying Mr. Darcy than he apparently had in marrying her. She seems relieved at the announcement of Mr. Darcy's engagement, and she will write secretly to him to wish him joy.
The day after your letter arrived, I was invited to Rosings Park for tea. Naturally, I did not tell Lady Catherine about the contents of your letter. She seemed distracted and frequently asked a servant whether the mail had arrived. After a time, a letter was brought to her. It bore Mr. Darcy's seal, and she immediately tore it open. When she read it, she was speechless, a sight I had never thought to see. She seemed stricken, and I almost feared for her life. When she did regain the power of speech, she was almost incoherent, but the burden of her utterances was that Lizzy had used arts and allurements to snare her nephew. She went up to her rooms to lie down, and I returned to Hunsford.
Before I left, I saw the letter lying on the floor where Lady Catherine had dropped it, so I picked it up and put it on a nearby table. I did not intend to invade their privacy, but the letter was short and Mr. Darcy's writing so well formed that I could not avoid taking it in at a glance. It contained the announcement of Mr. Darcy's engagement and the hope that she would be at his wedding to wish him well. (A vain hope, I fear.) I thought that it also included an expression of appreciation for her encouragement in making his addresses to Lizzy. However, even a much less intelligent man than Mr. Darcy could not possibly have mistaken Lady Catherine's sentiments for encouragement, so I must have mis-read that sentence.
After a time, Lady Catherine summoned Mr. Collins to Rosings and berated him secretly for his cousin's supposed misbehaviour. He gave her what spiritual comfort he could, but if this continues, we may repair to Lucas Lodge until the storm dissipates.
I may see you before I can receive another letter, but in case we do not leave Hunsford soon, please write with any further news.
Your loving sister,
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