An Excerpt From Jane Fairfax's Diary
One Summer Day
This morning I awoke early troubled over my encounter with Mr. Churchill yesterafternoon. As I had walked home from the garden party at Mr. Knightley's estate of Donwell, I happened upon Mr. Churchill headed in the opposite direction. He wished to accompany me, but, knowing the impropriety of such conduct, I refused. Mr. Churchill forgets the fragile state of our concealment and threatens to destroy our happiness with his indiscretions. I fear he misunderstood my reason though, for his face was quite cross as he rode off.
Today was Mrs. Elton's party at Box Hill. With all that has occurred today it is hardly believable that that happened just this morning! It is odd how one's life can be so turned about in one lazy, sunny day. Little did I suspect all the turmoil that was to follow this simple party.
I had hoped that while at Box Hill I might have an opportunity to explain my actions to Mr. Churchill. I soon realized that no explanation was necessary. Mr. Churchill was completely distracted by Miss Woodhouse. At first I ignored their behavior, Mr. Churchill has always declared that his relationship with Miss Woodhouse is no more than friendship, but those words that I had so readily believed before echoed hollowly when his soft brown eyes were gazing at Miss Woodhouse instead of myself. Mrs. Elton, who considers me her closest acquaintance and personal confidante, commented that she thought the two made a ridiculous couple and their flirtatious behavior was outrageous. She nearly started one of her "when I was a young girl" speeches, but fortunately, she and Mr. Elton walked off instead.
I sat there trying to sort through the confusion her comment had caused. Miss Woodhouse and Mr. Churchill? Was it possible? My mind raced. Miss Woodhouse truly was the better match - beauty, money, reputation - she had all those while I was merely an orphan. Yet many a sonnet I have sung proclaims that such things matter naught when love is true...
My attention was caught by Mr. Churchill's voice. "How many a man has committed himself on a short acquaintance, and rued it all the rest of his life!" Who was he speaking of? I drew my breath in sharply. Was he referring to our engagement? I still am surprised at how calm I remained as my heart seemed to be tearing apart. If he finds our engagement burdensome then the proper thing to do is release him from such a troublesome commitment, I thought to myself. I offered a reply, knowing that he would understand the hidden meaning of my words. "A hasty and imprudent attachment may arise-but there is generally time to recover from it afterwards..it can be only weak, irresolute, characters who will suffer an unfortunate acquaintance to be an inconvenience." I know I startled him for he looked at me for a long moment, as if trying to read my thoughts. Then he merely bowed. I remained sitting there in the group confused, what did his action mean? He turned to Miss Woodhouse once more and asked her to find him a wife, just like herself and with hazel eyes. Then I understood - Mrs. Woodhouse has hazel eyes! Could his meaning have been any clearer? Fearing that I could remain in their company no longer or I would reveal some outer sign of the tumult within me, I turned to my aunt and the two of us went to join Mrs. Elton.
That afternoon my grandmother, my aunt and I went to Mrs. Elton's for tea. Before we sat down, we were interrupted by the arrival of Mr. Abdy with a request for Mr. Elton. When Mr. Elton returned he reported that Mr. Churchill had rushed off to Richmond. At first I feared his aunt had taken a turn for the worse, but my fears were allayed with Mr. Elton's reassurance that she was no worse than usual. Why the sudden departure then? Unless he left to attend to personal affairs, such as...no, I will not torment myself!
A decision I had been thinking about since we left Box Hill suddenly resolved itself. While we were at Donwell yesterday, Mrs. Elton had mentioned that she had found a governess position for me. Of course, at that moment I had refused. I never planned on governessing, I was only waiting for Mr. Churchill to ask his uncle and aunt for their blessing over our marriage. I had been delaying looking for such a position by saying that I had to wait for the Campbell's to return, but Mrs. Elton was determined to help. After this morning's events, I know that I can no longer count on marriage and so, to Mrs. Elton's delight, I have accepted the position.
My dear aunt has just brought me some tea. She knows I am terribly upset but can't possibly understand the full meaning behind my agony. I wish she wouldn't worry so, the poor dear. She pleads with me to lie down but I cannot....
I must have been more willing to sleep than I thought. I woke up this morning and found myself sitting at my writing desk, pen in hand. My aunt has been bustling about with excitement, I wish I could look forward to this position with as much joy as she is. I quite shocked her when I suddenly burst into tears as I caught sight of the pianoforte, Mr. Churchill's gift. It has not been a happy morning for me. I pause now to write my letters to Colonel Campbell, Mrs. Dixon...and Mr. Churchill.
Never has writing to my dear friends been so hard! My head aches and my eyes are red from the many tears that fill my eyes. Miss Woodhouse arrived shortly after my letters were finished. I did not wish to be seen in such an distraught state, so I remained in my room. I do not blame her for my broken engagement. She certainly didn't know of our attachment and Mr. Churchill never gave her any reason to suspect that his feelings were attached to another.
I have sent a letter to Mr. Churchill notifying him that I have accepted this governessing position and also informing him that our engagement is dissolved. I feel this is best. If he finds our engagement burdensome surely setting him free is kindest. I await his reply.
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