"Louisa!" cried Caroline as she opened the door to her sister's bedchamber. "Where are you?"
Over by the window, Louisa is standing, wearing their mother's lace wedding dress, so deep in her own thoughts that she hardly notices the arrival of her sister. Caroline quietly closes the door, takes a deep breath and approaches her.
"Louisa, you must come downstairs! Papa grows tired of waiting for you. Its time to go to the church."
"I am aware of the time, Caroline" sighs Louisa. She slowly turns and looks at sister, desperately. "I should not go through with this. You know that I do not love him."
"Yes, I know. But..."
"But what, Caroline? What can justify this? Marrying a man I do not love!" Louisa turns and looks out the window. "What was I thinking in accepting him. I wish I did not have to go through with this."
"I know, but it is too late for that now. You have made a commitment and you must abide by it. To call it off, would break Papa's heart." Caroline then reaches and takes the white veil from her sister's hand and places it atop of her brown curls. "Louisa, one of us must settle. Charles is not ready and Mr. Darcy is...well, I mean, I have not secured...." Caroline hesitates but then finishes with "well, I do not have to explain this to you. You are aware of my situation. So, I am afraid that it leaves only you to marry."
"Even without love?" asks Louisa
"In time you will learn to love Mr. Hurst."
Louisa walks over to the large four poster bed and sits down. "But how long until that happens? How long must I wait? We have been engaged for six months now and it has yet to occur. It is I who grows tired of waiting." she states angrily.
Caroline sits down by Louisa and pats her hand. "You must be patient! Of course, Marshall Hurst is not perfect, but he is a man of fashion with excellent taste and connections. You will do well with him."
"I don't know...I have an uneasy feeling about this, Caroline. Do not my own feelings have some bearing on this? Should I not be concerned with my own feelings and not with Papa's?" Pausing for a moment, Louisa utters "Maybe I acted in haste in accepting him!" relieved that she has thought of a way of escape. "I really should take some more time to give this ample consideration."
Reaching up, Caroline takes Louisa's face in her hands and softly says "Prolonging this, won't change things." Louisa begins to cry and shakes her head from side to side. Caroline holds her tight. "Look at me, Louisa....He is not coming!"
Breaking down, Louisa sobs softly "He still could come...there is still time."
Caroline rises from the bead and turns to face Louisa. "No! Against my own better advice, you wrote that letter and its been three weeks since. He's not coming! You have apologized and declared your love and he doesn't even have enough respect for you to respond. I don't understand you, Louisa!"
"Can you not understand that I would be happy with him?"
"How could you possibly be happy? He has no money or connections? What hope of life or society could you have with him? Louisa, you cannot live off love!" Exasperated, Caroline turns and faces the wall and in a whisper sighs "I thought you had forgotten him."
"Forgotten? How Caroline, how could I forget him? My every thoughts are filled with him? Even my dreams!" Louisa lowers her head and stares at the floor. In her mind, she hears the wonderful music that was playing on their last night together. She remembers the look in his eyes and can still feel him take her hand. She remembers their dance together. He leads her to the dance floor and smiles at her. She willingly returns it. She is so happy and so in love. The music and the sweet memories completely engulf her, but as quickly as she is take in, she is brought back to the present by her sister's voice.
"Louisa! Did you hear me?" asks Caroline loudly.
Louisa feels the tears begin to well up in her eyes again. Crying out "Why Caroline? Why did he leave me? Did I frighten him away?"
"No...No..." Caroline walks over and places her hand on her shoulder.
"Then what did I do wrong? We have not spoken since our last night together at the ball. Something happened...his countenance changed." She looks at Caroline suddenly "You were there...what did I do? I saw you talking to him. What did he say?" Louisa searches her sister's face for an answer.
"Nothing of consequence, sister."
"We were planning our future. He did love me." says Louisa, shaking. "Maybe it is he who has forgotten me."
"I truly doubt that he has forgotten you, Louisa." reassures Caroline. "But you must face this, he did leave. But all in all, I believe it has been for the best. He could not have supported you in the type of life that you are accustomed to nor do I believe you would have been happy."
"Of this, you are very certain?" Louisa asks bravely, knowing that her sister will not like such a comment. She rises slowly from the bed. Her heads aches. She walks over to the mirror and looks at her reflection. "Caroline, can you be sure that I will be happy? Can I be happy without love?"
Caroline walks over to the mirror "Louisa, the one and only thing I can be sure of, it that Marshall Hurst cares for you and if you try, you can be content. You will be happy. You must trust me."
"I do trust you." Louisa says defeatedly, knowing that at this point, it is fruitless to argue. Caroline has always pushed her opinions and ideas and usually things do work out for the best. Hopefully, this will be one of those times.
Resigning herself to her fate, she walks over and takes her sister's hand. "Come, Papa awaits."
"Yes he does, Louisa." replies Caroline "and have no more regrets about him.! Today is your day and nothing should spoil it. You are a very beautiful bride and if Mama were here, she would be very proud."
"Now....pray, you take care of this dress!" Caroline smiles "I should like to wear it one day. I trust soon!"
Louisa and Caroline walk arm in arm toward the door. "Do you think Mr. Darcy is ready for marriage, Caroline?" Louisa asks.
"Yes, I do. Just not aware of that fact, yet." answers Caroline smugly as she opens the door. Turning to Louisa, she reaches over and kisses her on the cheek.
"What was that for?" smiles Louisa
"For good luck" whispers Caroline.
The sisters walk down the hall towards the stairs to their awaiting father. Louisa, who is the vision of her mother, looks so beautiful, that her father sheds a tear. Taking his daughter by her arm, he accompanies her to the carriage and gingerly helps her in. Louisa can see the happiness in her father's face, and even though in her heart she loves another, she is certain that she has made the right decision. She smiles back at her father and watches as he closes the carriage door.
The heavy carriage lurches forward and the horses begin in a slow trot towards the church. Louisa leans forward and peaks out the window to see her father and Caroline following behind in their carriage. Caroline notices her and smiles. Resting back against the seat, she is once again alone with her thoughts. Louisa pushes her memories of him out of her mind and tries to concentrate on her future. She will be beginning a new life today and it will not be so totally unagreeable. He appears to be a good man, and as Caroline says, in time I will learn to love him. Her mind satisfied, she begins to relax and enjoy the ride to the church.
As the carriage enters town, Louisa hears the noises of the streets and knows that the church cannot be far away. The carriage drive begins barking orders to the coachmen as she feels the carriage start to slow down. She closes her eyes to think. She is getting nervous again and tries to be calm by telling herself that everything will be fine. The carriage jerks to a stop and Louisa exhales slowly.
"Louisa..?" Startled, she opens her eyes to see the face of her father. "Are you ready, my dear?"
"Yes, Papa!" Louisa makes her way out of the carriage. the joy in her father's face brings a nervous smile to her own. She takes her father's arm and together they enter the church.
Slowly, step by step, they begin their descent to the altar where Mr. Hurst stands looking very solemn. She feels the approving looks from everyone, especially Caroline. She turns and looks. Caroline smiles reassuringly. Mr. Bingley and Louisa finally come to rest at Mr. Hurst's side. Louisa hears the heavy church doors shut and feels her father place a kiss on her cheek. She turns her head and watches him take his place along beside Caroline. She listens intently to the priest and thinks of her future. She will be happy to be married. If he does truly care for her as Caroline says then it will surely not be long before she has feelings for him also.
These thoughts cheer her heart and for a moment a feeling of love overcomes her. She sneaks a look at Mr. Hurst. He does not notice her. I am sure he is just as nervous as I am she thinks to herself. She sees the priest speaking but barely comprehends what he is saying, still she answers all of the questions and makes promises to love, honour and obey. She glances once more at Mr. Hurst. Again, no notice. Still nervous, I suppose.
The priest pronounces them man and wife. Louisa's husband takes her hand and places it in the curve of his arm and together they start up the aisle to begin their new life. Louisa takes this as a sign of love. Once outside, Mr. Hurst turns Louisa to face him. He looks at his new bride longingly and places a small kiss on her cheek. Again she is pleased and hopes that this feeling lasts forever. Friends and family pour out of the church and begin gathering around the new couple to wish them well. Mr. Bingley pushes through the crowd to get to his daughter. He extends his hand to Mr. Hurst and then turns to face Louisa. With tears of happiness, she reaches for her father. He holds her tight and then bids them farewell. Louisa spots Caroline in the crowd and rushes to meet her. Caroline grabs and hugs her sister. Caroline now realizes how alone she is going to be. She will miss Louisa.
The carriage arrives at the front of the church. Mr. Hurst takes Louisa's arm to help her in. Louisa starts to step up into the carriage but stops for a moment and searches through the crowd. Even though she can do nothing about it, she just has to know. Caroline sees her and catching her eye, shakes her head indicating to Louisa that he did not come. Sadly, Louisa takes her place in the carriage. It slowly pulls away from the church and for the first time she is alone with new husband. She smiles at him and he returns it.
Caroline and Mr. Bingley stand, watching the carriage disappear in the distance. The crowd at the church begins to dissipate. Many stop and express their good wishes to Mr. Bingley. He smiles and shakes many hands. He is very happy to have a daughter married.
Another carriage pulls around to take the family back to Bingley Manor. Mr. Bingley is anxious to return home as soon as possible as many well wishers will be stopping by. The coachman climbs down from the top and helps the family inside, then pulls the carriage slowly around and begins the journey back home. Caroline is relieved that the wedding is over. She is sure that her sister will grow to love him and has made the right decision. She knows that she will not have to endure such emotional turmoil as Louisa did. For there is no question who she will marry. With such thoughts running through her mind, she closes her eyes in exhaustion.
The church courtyard is now empty. All signs of family and guest are gone. No one remains but the priest inside the church. Outside, a figure emerges from the shadows and stands alone in the courtyard. He looks in the church and sees no one other than the priest. He gazes all around the courtyard and he imagines that he sees her. He walks to where the wedding carriage was. Flowers petals are strewn all around and he can still hear the cheers for the happy couple. He stares intently down the lane thinking and hoping that she might reappear. He waits. He can see nothing! It is fruitless....all are gone! The silence is overwhelming. He must leave this place. He turns slowly and walks away as one single tear falls silently to the ground.
© 1997 Copyright held by author