Dear Cousin - Letters to Colonel Fitzwilliam
Friday, September 13
I must thank you again most profusely for the help you provided with Georgiana. The shock of seeing her with Wickham still haunts me, and if your cool head had not prevailed, I fear I may have physically harmed him, which would have provided no comfort or relief to my innocent sister. Thank heaven she is safely ensconced with Mrs. Annesley at your mother's home and Wickham is bound to be squandering his settlement in some gambling den or other house of ill-repute.
Charles Bingley has been trying to convince me to go to Hertfordshire with him when he settles in the house he has let in the country. He has been determined to purchase his estate and thinks he may have found it at Netherfield. You know I usually find the country to be the most tedious of places, but I feel so fatigued after the events of the summer that I can barely bother to give him reasons why I should not go. So I think I shall spend a few weeks with him. His sister Caroline will join us, I am sure. She is an amusing companion and has a wicked wit. I am sure she will have many diverting things to say about the locals.
After a few weeks, I will return to London. Any more time spent on the fringes of civilization would be more than I could bear. I hope to see you in town soon. You owe me a chess match.
Sunday, October 6
Lord, Tom, get me out of this place. The locals here are as boorish and vulgar as any costermonger in town. The gentlemen all want to be invited to shoot at Bingley's estate, the ladies all want to introduce their daughters to us and the daughters... Well, you have a broader idea of beauty than I but I defy even you to find anyone here in this backwater worthy enough to be called one.
We shoot every day, for the game is plentiful, but we usually have to end our day early, for Hurst is so drunk by three o'clock he's bound to shoot himself or one of us if we continue. Besides riding or an occasional game of billiards, there is little else to do. I suppose that is the reason I allowed Bingley to drag me out to the little Assembly ball in the town of Meryton. It was the last place I really wanted to be and then, when we got there, all the townsfolk stared at us as if we were specimens under a glass. Bingley, of course, found it great fun and his cheerfulness only served to annoy me further. Quite forgotten, apparently, is his infatuation with Miss Spencer, for he danced all evening with almost every young lady in the room. He pronounced every one of them lovely and accomplished. He was particularly enamored of a pretty yellow haired girl (I know you like them fair yourself), but I could not give him the satisfaction of dancing with anyone but his sisters. By then nothing could shake me out of my dark mood, and you know how I hate to dance anyway.
There was a slip of a girl who gave me such a cheeky look as she passed by me, I was somewhat taken aback by her bold manner. I think I gave her much amusement all night for she was off giggling in a corner with her friend and, I can't imagine why, but I believe they were laughing at me.
The society of these savages is appalling, and I believe I shall tell Bingley that I must be off to town before he compels me to go to another party.
Your rather bored cousin,
Monday, October 14
I received a letter from Georgiana today telling me she is safely back at the house in town. I hope you will be able to visit her soon to see how she is getting on. She sounds happy though, so I hope the events of the summer are fading in her memory.
By now I thought I would be in town myself, but Bingley has convinced me to stay a few weeks longer at Netherfield. Sometimes I don't understand myself, because I don't really want to be here but we have had some amusing moments. Miss Bingley is entertaining with her impersonation of the locals, especially a tedious old bore who is the idea of nobility in these parts, Sir William Lucas.
We attended a party at the Lucas home Saturday night and I amused myself watching the rather feeble attempts of the country people to hold a fashionable party. Apparently a militia has encamped in Meryton for the winter so the young native girls are flinging themselves at the soldiers. You, being an army man, must experience this yourself. How do you bear it?
Bingley spent all evening with that fair girl again. I do not spoil his fun too much, for I know when we get back to London he will forget about her, just as he forgets about every pretty face he has fallen in love with. This girl is very pleasant to look at, though she is too mild for my taste and her family is horrid. The mother is an embarrassment. She loudly castigates her daughters in public. Her voice sounds like a banshee. Caroline Bingley gives a wicked impersonation of her too, though frankly, Caroline gets wearing. I confess I am cruel to her sometimes, but she is so quick to attack others that she leaves her own defenses quite open, and when I see the opportunity, I must penetrate. It is a perverse game we play.
That cheeky girl is the sister of Bingley's latest infatuation. She alone is different from the others. I believe she would take me on if I had a mind to let her, for I don't think she thinks too kindly of me. I can't imagine why. You'll laugh at me, Tom, for before I even knew what I was saying, I asked her to dance. Luckily she declined. Her refusal did not harm her in my estimation for she was quite charming. A quick wit and remarkable, intelligent eyes. She played the pianoforte and while her accomplishments do not rival the Bingley sisters, she plays in the same manner as her address - a pleasing, unaffected way which I find more agreeable. Yes, I may stay at Netherfield just a little longer.
Your indolent cousin,
Wednesday, October 30
I may stay at Netherfield another fortnight, so I must apologize now for missing you while you were in London. If you would only delay your trip back to your regiment another week, you could come to Hertfordshire. Your company would be most welcome. Bingley's attentions are all on that Bennet girl and Hurst finds his companionship in his bottle. The Bingley sisters are eager to amuse me but I find their constant mockery of their surroundings a little trying. So you may wonder why I stay here longer. It is that girl, Tom, the one who declined my dance invitation. Her name is Elizabeth Bennet and I am captivated by her more than I would like.
I wish you could see her, for I trust your judgment more than Bingley's and you perhaps could tell me if what I see is genuine or if I am just bored and looking for any source of comfort. Miss Bennet is not fashionable - her figure is not precisely what the ladies in London decree is in vogue today. But she has such an easy playfulness. You should see her play with Bingley's dog - as carefree as a child, with no thought as to how much of her petticoat is revealed. I observe her when she is not aware of it and am fascinated by the sardonic twist of her lips when she is listening to Miss Bingley and the flash in her eyes when she attacks me. She does attack me, Tom, and it is evident that she takes great pleasure in it. I invite her to challenge me because I find her opinions so refreshing, and she delivers them with such a sweetness, though there is a bite to them.
It is too bad that her family is so uncouth and has such low connections. I have not told you that her elder sister is that vapid girl Bingley is so entranced by, Miss Jane Bennet. When the elder sister was invited to dine with the Bingley sisters, she became ill and had to be put to bed at Netherfield where she stayed for several days. The very next morning I came across Miss Elizabeth Bennet traipsing across the fields to visit her sister. Three miles she walked, quite alone. I could scarcely conceal my surprise when I saw her, but she seemed as if it were the most natural thing in the world. She looked at me with such impatience, but she was positively glowing from her exercise. I would highly recommend such exercise for ladies as a form of seduction, for I was completely entranced by her appearance. Do not think me hopeless, Tom. Better sense has since prevailed and I have no desire to form any attachment to her.
Your last letter to me about Georgiana left me quite heartened. Her adherence to her practice of the pianoforte makes me hopeful she is finding solace in other things besides pining for Wickham. You have been a better guardian to her than I have been a brother these past few weeks. Tell her I shall make amends as soon as I return to town. Of course I told her so myself in my last letter to her written on Thursday.
You know Mr. Hurst a little, I believe, so I am sure you will agree with me that he is a lout. Being a younger son, his family has allowed him to indulge in hedonistic pursuits. In front of his own brother- and sister-in-law he tells his wife he does not care how she spends her time as long as she is there to warm his bed each night. His family looks quite resigned at these outbursts, though I was appalled and was only glad the Bennet sisters were not in the room to hear him.
I think that members of our class are sometimes more ill mannered than the country folk here. And then I encounter someone like Mrs. Bennet, the young ladies' mother. She arrived a few days ago to see to her elder daughter's health, and I was fearful she would exchange places with Elizabeth Bennet and send that lady home while she nursed Jane, but luckily that did not come to pass. The vulgar woman dislikes me openly. I have no idea how I ever offended her but she takes delight in abusing me. I just ignore such crude tirades because it is beneath me to respond. The mother does everything to affront me while the daughter can tease me, laugh at me, taunt me, and even criticize me, but can in no way affront me. She thinks me proud and vain and resentful but she presents me with these opinions in such an amiable manner that I am not offended. Nay, I am instead perhaps in danger of paying her too much regard than her station should allow.
Thomas, when you return to your regiment, pray look up Benjamin Folsom. He is at his home in Northamptonshire and writes to tell me his wife's cousin is staying with them. She has a small fortune and perhaps you will find her agreeable. See, cousin, I look out for your welfare.
One more thought on Elizabeth Bennet. Caroline has perceived I felt an attraction to the young lady while the Bennet sisters were at Netherfield. She baits me constantly and I find her more annoying than ever. She thinks she is amusing when she provokes me by teasing me on the prospect of Mrs. Bennet as my future mother-in-law. I enjoy piercing her little jokes with barbs of my own - on the expressiveness, the colour, the shape, the brightness of Elizabeth Bennet's beautiful eyes. Caroline deflates faster than a punctured balloon. But I have resolved to attribute this attraction to Miss Bennet these past few days to the boredom of the repetitive days and tedious company. Why do I stay then, especially now that the Bennet sisters have returned home? I do not know, Tom, but Bingley has plans for a ball soon, and I think I shall stay at least as long as that.
Write to me when you return to your regiment. Your letters are a form of relief to me and I relish the correspondence.
Your grateful cousin,
Tuesday, November 19
Wickham is in Meryton. Your information was correct. He has joined a militia and it is my damnable luck to have him encamped not five miles from me. I must avoid this man at all costs for I can not be civil to him and our animosity toward each other will be noticed by all the town, including the Bingleys, if we are forced to spend company with each other. This place is too small, I fear, to hold both of us for long and I think I shall leave directly after the ball which Bingley insists on having next week.
I was shaken to see him in the village when Bingley and I passed through on our way to visit the Bennet sisters today. We had not seen either of them except at church since October. I enjoy watching Elizabeth during Sunday services, so I don't sit with the Bingleys in front but stay in the back pews. I can not say Miss Bennet concentrates much on the sermon, for I see her smiling to herself as her eyes wander from neighbor to neighbor. She can not turn to look at me though, which is the way I like it. I have been trying very hard to keep my feelings about her in a little box from which I may not remove the lid. So far it has been successful. Still I was disappointed to see Wickham speaking in his charming way to all five Bennet sisters. Instead of finding them at Longbourn, we found them in the village. Bingley, of course, jumped quickly off his horse and headed directly to Jane Bennet. I was about to dismount myself but that familiar figure soon diverted me. We exchanged cold glances, and I quickly turned away and headed back to Netherfield.
I know Bingley is going to invite the militia to the ball. He is aware of my poor regard of Wickham but knows not the real reason other than he did not live up to my father's expectations. If Wickham is bold enough to attend the ball, I will leave immediately. It will be with great regret though, for I am eager to spend time in Elizabeth Bennet's company again. Instead, it looks as if she may be eager to spend time with Wickham. I curse that man.
Your seething cousin,
Friday, November 29
I have returned to London and it is not a moment too soon. Bingley returned with me, and I believe I will convince him to stay in town longer than he may have planned. There were two invitations waiting for me when I returned - one to the Folsoms for a party and one to your brother for dinner - and I think it is time for Bingley to be introduced to other young ladies who would be more suitable partners for him.
I have not much to say about the ball at Netherfield. You know I hate events like these and only go when it is most required. I wish I could say that the evening went well but it did not. Curiously though, in some respects it went very well indeed and I expect, in another day or two after restoring myself in the drawing rooms of my more polished London neighbours, I will be very glad that Hertfordshire is behind me. I plan never to go back there again.
The ball did not go well for me in regard to Miss Elizabeth Bennet. I was determined to be polite with her, but distant, for she disturbs me, and I can not let my feelings go in that direction. She looked lovely. Her hair was simply arranged, much more flattering than the feathers the fashionable ladies wear. She has a pleasing figure which was charmingly revealed by her gown. I asked her to dance. I had planned on dancing with several ladies but after dancing with Miss Bennet, I had no desire to be polite with anyone. She taunted me about her friendship with Wickham. He has told her his lies, I am sure, so I know her sympathy is with him. Even though she barely disguises her aversion to me, I am drawn to her, Tom. As we danced, I would reach for her hand before it was time just to have the pleasure of touching her. When we would pass each other I would dip my head to breathe in the scent of her hair. How can a woman so intrigue me and so anger me at the same time? But I know it is only anger at Wickham I feel and jealousy that she thinks highly of him.
Before you think me beyond hope, let me say that the evening also went well. Wickham was not there. I am glad I did not slink away from him as the coward did from me.
I was also glad that the actions of the Bennets, their cousin, a Mr. Collins, the Lucases, and some of the other local families opened my eyes to the reality of Bingley's situation. The whole town thinks Jane Bennet has made a lucky catch and appears only to be waiting for an announcement. I observed Bingley closely and realized he was perhaps more infatuated by the elder Miss Bennet than I had suspected. Observing her, I realized she does not return his ardor with the same fervency. I knew then it was time to go back to London with him before he got himself too mired in the town's expectations and it would be too late to extricate himself.
When I told Bingley the next morning that I was returning, I suggested he accompany me, for I knew he had some business he had been putting off. To my chagrin, Miss Bingley immediately announced she was returning too, and then the Hursts also began to pack. I had hoped to have Bingley to myself, but I see now that his sisters are valuable allies to me, and Bingley is already looking forward to seeing Miss Morton, Mrs. Folsom's cousin. You see, Tom, you were not quick enough in Northamptonshire to meet her and so your chance at a good match with her is gone. I tried, cousin.
While Bingley forgets about Jane Bennet, I will forget about her sister. I was never in any great danger though there were times I was glad I was not alone with her. You'd have been tempted too if you saw her.
There, I am done. I had not intended to speak of the ball and now I find my whole letter is about precisely that. I promise that in my next letter, you will find me just as I used to be.
Your confused cousin,
Monday, December 16
I was very pleased to get your letter with the assurance that you will be in London for Christmas. I have missed our amiable conversations. Letters can never do them the same justice. Georgiana is very pleased as well, you may be sure.
Perhaps when you are here I may introduce you to Miss Morton. Bingley has paid her little mind. She is a pleasant girl, Tom, pale and slight. Her connections are of the highest order and her fortune only scarcely less so. Do not think Bingley is pining over past loves though. He is invited to parties almost every night and has pronounced every young lady he has met as very charming and agreeable.
I myself am confident that those powerful feelings I felt in Hertfordshire have dissipated. I thank you for not laughing at me, Tom, for I'm sure I sounded a fool in my letters. My better sense has returned and I do not think of that girl at all.
Your stalwart cousin,
Friday, March 19
Just a few brief lines to remind you of your promise to visit Kent with me this Easter. I had hoped Bingley would join us. After detaching him from a most unfortunate connection to a certain young lady, his spirits seem low. I know spending company with Lady Catherine is not beneficial to anyone in his state of mind. I do not regret playing a part in his separation and in fact am rather proud I influenced him so positively, for her family was objectionable, but I had hoped it would soon be forgotten.
Georgiana will be in Wiltshire with friends, and I can not bear the thought of being alone with Lady Catherine and Cousin Anne, so you must accompany me. I promise our stay will be brief.
Your indebted cousin,
Wednesday, April 30
When you saw her, Tom, I think you could comprehend what I felt in Hertfordshire. I had no intention of renewing my feelings for her. Indeed, when you proposed that we visit the Collinses at the parsonage, so you could make her acquaintance, I truly felt I could withstand such a visit and receive her with polite indifference. But it could not be so. I was barely at Hunsford parsonage for five minutes, when I felt my desire for her returning. Could you see it? You never let on if you did. You have no idea why I insisted on going on to Wiltshire so abruptly. Please indulge me once more and let me tell you what happened between myself and Miss Elizabeth Bennet.
All the while during our visit to Lady Catherine, I sought Elizabeth out. I would ride where I thought she might be walking, I would go to the parsonage when I knew she would be alone, though I knew not what to say to her. Didn't you notice me watching her whenever we would dine together? You remarked once after they left us on Easter how attentive I was to her when she was sitting at the pianoforte. I confess now I was eaten up by jealousy that you and she were so quickly friends, while I had to struggle over every word and every pause to make sure I was not offending her. I even thought that night that I was successful. I thought I detected some interest.
When I visited her at Hunsford after she took ill, I never told you this, I asked her to be my wife. Her relations are impossible, her rank inferior, she has nothing, but she has everything I want. Her beauty, her wit, her charm, her grace, her satirical eye, her intelligence, her mouth, her eyes, her skin, her scent. I am bewitched by her. I could not tell her this of course. It would be indecent to tell her how I feel about her. So instead I presented my proposal to her in this way - that despite her family and despite my family's anticipated objections to her and my own objections, I have defeated my reason and must have her for my wife. I look at this and seeing it on paper makes it even worse. She of course declined such an ungallant offer and she did so with such vehemence, I realized how foolish I was to even entertain for a moment the fantasy that she had any regard for me.
She thoroughly misunderstands and to a great extent that is my own fault. I never opened up my heart to her until that moment. How could she know what my true feelings are for her? How could she know what kind of man Wickham is when she only knows his story? How could she know how I've protected Bingley all these years and have saved him from many a scrape much worse than marrying her sister? She flung all my actions toward her, toward her family, toward Wickham, toward Bingley, at me without knowing why I acted. I only have myself to blame.
When you saw me Monday night, you saw I was in great agitation. Now you know why. My business that evening was to write to Miss Bennet explaining all my actions. It took me all night but it was cathartic. I found her early Tuesday morning and gave her the letter. You know then that when I returned I gave Lady Catherine my regrets that I had to leave, and I am still grateful that you chose to leave with me. I am sorry I could not speak to you on the journey back to London, but I wanted to explain myself after we parted.
I will not stay long in Wiltshire with Georgiana. I expect to return to London in a week and there I will engulf myself in business and try to get my humiliation behind me. Now you see what a fool for love I have become.
Your disgusted cousin,
Thursday, May 8
Georgiana and I have returned to London and would be pleased to have you call on us. Please, Tom, don't berate yourself. You could not have know it was Jane Bennet from whom I had removed Bingley. He has formed so many attachments through all our years of knowing him, it could have been one of any number of women who I found unsuitable for him. It is probably better that you had spoken to Miss Bennet of this. This information was not the only cause of her declining my ungracious proposal of marriage, but it certainly made it easier for her to do so. Better I should know her true feelings than to think there would some day be a chance of her accepting me.
When you get here I feel a need for catting. I hope you will join me. Shallow conversations with improper women is just the tonic I need right now.
Your wanton cousin,
Wednesday, June 18
I look back on the last month with shame and no satisfaction. I am forever in your debt for shaking me out of my despondency and awakening me to my responsibilities. To sink to such degradation over a woman is a folly I have often been scornful of others for succumbing to. Now I see I am as weak and foolish as any man, and had you not pulled me back to my senses I believe soon all our friends would soon have taken notice of my dissipation. I will take your advice and go back to Pemberley, but I must stay in London one more month. Never fear though. It is legitimate business that keeps me here, business I have too long neglected. I am finding that concentration and hard work are better tonics for getting over a lost love than self pity and self indulgence.
I still think of Elizabeth every day. I dream of her too, though I never used to dream. I wish I could undo the letter I wrote her, for it was written in a bitter spirit. Her opinion of me, I fear, will never be softened.
Pemberley is beckoning to me, but it will be bittersweet to return. I will think of her there as the mistress of my home and know it now will never be.
Your pensive cousin,
Wednesday, July 30
Whatever business brought me home yesterday has been barely acted upon. Whatever company I have invited to stay in my home has been barely acknowledged. She is here, Thomas, Miss Elizabeth Bennet is in Derbyshire. I dare not tempt the gods by believing that fate is bringing us together, for then I would have to ask for what purpose. I dare not think that far ahead.
I was so astonished to see her in the very place I once had hoped to bring her - Pemberley. I arrived in Derbyshire a day earlier than planned, leaving Georgiana and the Bingleys to follow the next day. You know how agitated and distracted I have felt since last spring. Even coming upon the house did not give me the diversion I had hoped for. I headed for the pond and chose to delay the obligations waiting for me there yet again by diving into the deep end. I did feel better when I emerged and yet somehow still dreaded returning to the house. But I slogged home, dripping wet, and as I rounded the corner of the copse of trees by the stream, I was stopped short by the sight of her staring at me in shock. I probably frightened her by my disheveled appearance - I had removed my coat and waistcoat and my shirttails were hanging loose. Not knowing what to say, but trying desperately to be polite, I believe I made a complete fool of myself. One day you must try to be refined while dripping water into your boots. In short order, all good sense failed me, and before I sank any lower in her estimation by inquiring after her family for the third time, I hurried away.
Of course as soon as I left her sight, I knew I could not let this chance to redeem myself slip away. You tell me I spend too much time on my attire. I assure you, yesterday I spent no more than two minutes changing into dry clothes, all the while cursing myself for jumping into that pond like an errant farmboy. When I ran outside again to find Miss Bennet, I half expected she would be gone and I would have to fetch my horse and ride to Lambton after her, and I would have done it, Tom. I would have exposed all my feelings to her and her traveling companions by chasing after her. Luckily, I was able to stop her from leaving just in time.
Miss Bennet was remarkably subdued from the last time we had discourse. I was desperately searching for a sign from her to what her feelings for me may have been. She was civil but painfully so. I believe she actually was embarrassed that I found her on my property. It was a welcome change to see her discomfited.
To what purpose do you think she came? She explained that her trip to the north with her aunt and uncle was planned for several months, and it was only at the last moment that they decided to include Pemberley on their list of sites to visit. She proclaimed she never would have come had she known the family was home. There is no reason to think she would think any better of me than she had four months ago, so why would she come to Pemberley? I am in a muddle, Tom. I need your level head to straighten me out again, for I can not think rationally about that woman.
I did retain enough of my senses to ask permission for me to introduce Georgiana to her, to which she readily agreed. What does that mean? We walked together along the stream - her aunt and uncle but a few steps behind us. She barely looked at me, which gave me an opportunity to study her as we walked. I resolved then and maintain now, if this woman will not be my wife, then I will have no other.
We walked a great distance, her aunt and uncle lagging far behind. I thought of offering my arm for her support, but I was fearful of any dismissal, so kept my hands behind my back. Now I am getting foolish again. You must be shaking your head while you are reading this.
When Elizabeth left, I could barely keep my mind on the affairs of the estate. Poor Mr. Greene looked quite disturbed when I told him to do what he thought was best about draining the lower pasture. This was something we have been debating for six months, and I promised him it would be the first order of business I would address when I returned. When instead I practically dismissed the project, he looked at me as if I was quite mad, and I suppose I am.
To show you that I am quite beyond hope, I must tell you that I cajoled poor, tired Georgiana to Lambton barely one hour after she arrived this morning, so she could meet Elizabeth. I left them alone for a few moments and when I returned, I was pleased to see they were already on amiable terms. After just a little prodding from me, Georgiana quite charmingly invited Elizabeth and her aunt and uncle, the Gardiners, to Pemberley for dinner tomorrow evening. I am soon to see her again.
Your hopeful cousin,
Postscript. By the way, the Gardiners are very civilized, respectable people despite the fact they live in Cheapside, as Miss Bingley so derisively says. I would be pleased to entertain them in my home at any time.
Saturday, August 2
I write quickly to ask you to use your connections to gather intelligence on Mrs. Younge's whereabouts. I must find her or anyone else who may have knowledge of where George Wickham might be. He is traveling with a young lady, a gullible girl barely sixteen years old. I know he has no plans for marriage, so leads to Scotland are useless to pursue.
I am traveling to London and should be in town by noon tomorrow, so you may send your correspondence to me there. I count on your help and discretion.
Your driven cousin,
Monday, August 11
Thank you for your invaluable help. Wickham has been found, and the girl he had with him is now safely with her family and will soon, for better or worse, become his wife. I fear it will take a sizable amount to induce him to follow through with his promise, but I am prepared to settle on him whatever he requests and will take him to the church myself to see him married.
What disreputable lodgings I found them in - and I shall no longer conceal her name, since you have already guessed, and once they are married it will be a secret no longer. Yes, Lydia Bennet is Elizabeth's sister, her youngest and apparently her most irresponsible.
It is not my love for Miss Bennet that was the motive to seek this swindler out, but my own acknowledgment that I must redress the ill fortune I brought on the Bennet family by hiding from the world what kind of man Wickham is. None of this would have taken place if his true character had been known, and it was only I who could expose him. I could not have lived with the guilt to see the Bennets, and especially Elizabeth, ruined. But she can never know, Tom. I can not have her feel grateful to me. If I can ever make her love me, it must be for myself and not what I have done for her family. You must promise me you will never speak of my role in this to anyone.
I do not know what I should do next. I know Elizabeth is back at Longbourn but I can not go there. I am returning to Pemberley tomorrow, but will be back in London in a fortnight to see Wickham married. After that, I do not know.
So back to Pemberley, and this time I shall not find Elizabeth standing by the stream, and I will not see her sitting at the pianoforte looking as lovely as I have ever seen her. She will someday be another man's wife. The thought of someone else touching her, possessing her, drives me into a frenzy.
Georgiana was quite charmed by her, and I was pleased to see them get on well. Caroline did everything in her power to humiliate Elizabeth - both to her face and behind her back. I can not be in the same room with Bingley's sister anymore. The urge to abuse her is too great.
I have had the most haunting dreams about Elizabeth. I get out of bed ready to explode and pace the rest of the night. I long to go back to sleep so I can dream of her again, but the frustration is just too great.
I was preparing myself to ask for her hand again. Yes, I, Fitzwilliam Darcy, was prepared to be humiliated a second time - to take the chance of being refused again, to put my pride aside and beg her to tell me if there is any chance. When I saw her in my home, I knew I needed her there to share it with me and, God help me Tom, when I looked at my bed, I wanted her there too.
The day after our dinner, I returned to Lambton brazenly early to call, eager to search for any sign that she might accept me. Instead I found her alone, which I had not dared hope for, but in tears - a sight which drew me closer to her than I could ever imagine. That is when she opened herself up to me. She told me everything about her sister and Wickham. I had found her at her most vulnerable, for she had only just learned the news and had not yet told anyone else.
I felt impotent to console her, so my thoughts turned only on ways I could alleviate her suffering. I left her soon after, intent on devising a plan to find Wickham. Knowing it may be months before I might hope to see her again, I took one last look to remember her by and hurried home. You know the rest.
Perhaps you can tell I am hopeless. Take pity on me and do not laugh too hard. When you finally find the woman you love, I promise I will not laugh at you. No matter whether she be rich or poor, I hope you marry her when you do find her. Love brings great pain but, dare I say, it purports to bring great pleasure. I hope we both find that pleasure soon.
Your yearning cousin,
Friday, September 12
Your company in London was most welcome, but I hope you will forgive me for not accompanying you to your family's home. There is another matter I must atone for first - my role in removing Jane Bennet from Charles Bingley. I have seen him in London and it is only now apparent to me how unhappy he has been, and it is all my own doing. Now I must see if Miss Bennet feels the same way for him. If that can be ascertained, then I shall confess to Bingley what false impressions I had of Miss Bennet and how I intruded where I should not have.
To do that, I must go back to Hertfordshire with Charles. He will be returning in a week and I shall join him there for some shooting. Any other opinions you have for my reason to go to Hertfordshire are completely false and you may keep them to yourself. I do not even think of Miss Elizabeth Bennet. And if you believe that, Tom, you are a bigger fool than I.
Your penitent cousin,
The next letter is from Colonel Fitzwilliam to Darcy and then the letters continue as they have before, Darcy to his cousin.
Thursday, September 25
The time has come for me to give you some advice and I want you to heed this. I have listened to you bemoan your loss for months now. My sympathy is with you, but only up to a point. Yes, I have seen Miss Bennet and I understand why you love her. Then take her, Will. Don't stand in corners and watch her. Don't wait for signs from her. Don't surrender your happiness. Take her. Do whatever you have to do to show her you love her. And after you show her you love her, tell her you will ask for her hand one more time. If her feelings have not changed for you, if she does not love you, you will relinquish her forever. Then go away and forget her. This is killing you and it is painful to watch. Do it now, Will. If she refuses you, I will do everything in my power to help you get over her. If she accepts you, I will rejoice with you as if I myself had won her. Kill these demons, Will. Do it, take her.
Friday, October 3
I received your letter today which was forwarded to me from Netherfield. I left there Saturday a week ago. I wish I had read it before I left, for I did nothing of what you advised. I stood in corners watching her and waiting for signs from her which did not come. In frustration I returned to London where I must conclude some business which has been hanging over me for months. But I will return to Hertfordshire soon and then I will do it. It is time.
Another letter came to me this week, this one from Charles Bingley. He asks for my congratulations on his engagement to Jane Bennet. I knew this was coming and I am very happy for him. Miss Bennet will be the perfect wife for him. She is kind and sweet tempered, and I have seen her love for him. I told him last week of my part in separating him from Miss Bennet. I expected his anger at me to be greater than it was, but he is so good natured, he can not be angry at anyone for more than one minute, so I was easily forgiven. It is of course myself who takes longer to forgive. So Bingley will have his happy marriage. His relations with his mother-in-law may not be so happy. I can only imagine her raptures when she was informed of the engagement. But then I would be very happy if only she were my mother-in-law, situated far away, of course.
Twice I saw Elizabeth while I was in Hertfordshire, both times at Longbourn. I went with Bingley to visit the family and to see if I could deduce Jane Bennet's true feelings. The mother hates me, Tom, and I still can not see why. I suppose I slighted her last year when we met, but I can't recall any particular conversation or action that would have offended her. That is of little matter. I could not help but look at Elizabeth and twice I caught her eye but I looked quickly away. There was no sign of any particular regard, but she was very attentive to Bingley and in her sweet, considerate way smoothed over any unhappy remarks her mother chose to make. We did not stay long but long enough for me to ascertain that it was time for Bingley and Jane Bennet to work things out on their own, which they lost little time in doing.
The next time I saw Elizabeth was a few days later when we were invited to dine at Longbourn. Yes, I stood in a corner and watched her. She wears the simplest of gowns, Tom, but she looks so pleasing in them. There was a rather large group of people invited, large for Hertfordshire at any rate, but I resolved to speak to her. When the servant girl asked for my empty coffee cup after dinner, I told her I was not finished and walked over to Elizabeth who was pouring coffee. I was not able to get more than two or three sentences out before I was again at a loss for words. Then I was forced to play whist with her mother and aunt. Could a group of cardplayers he more unsuitable? Mrs. Bennet was forever scolding me for laying the wrong cards down. My mind, you can imagine, was not on the game.
Bingley can tell I have an affection for Elizabeth. He does not come right out and say it, but he hints broadly and always tries to get me to go to Longbourn with him. I have never confessed to anyone but you of my feelings. Bingley is a romantic and would never understand why I can not declare myself and get it over with. But I think he would like nothing better than to have me marry his future sister-in-law.
Your letters to town will find me here for two more weeks until I can conclude my business. After that I will return to Hertfordshire. The outcome of my visit rests in her hands.
Your anxious cousin,
Postscript. Do not tell anyone I am in town. I am trying to avoid certain people, namely Caroline Bingley. She is not aware of my whereabouts at the moment and I would like to keep it thus.
Wednesday, October 15
I again write hastily. I am cutting my business short in town to travel directly to Hertfordshire. Lady Catherine has paid me a visit and has given me the most remarkable news. I have not much time to tell you but it has given me much hope that I may yet be able to make Elizabeth Bennet my wife. To give me hope was not our aunt's intention at all, of course. She thought I would be quite shocked and angered to know that there are rumours in the country that I am engaged to Miss Bennet. Furthermore, Miss Bennet refuses to honor my aunt's wishes that she never become engaged to me. Lady Catherine is quite sure that the young lady is trying to trap me and set out immediately to warn me. She has left me but a few moments ago, quite unhappily I may add, because I told her I had to travel immediately and had to see her to the door. She can not know that I feel as if a great vise is lifting from my heart, though I still have great trepidation. But I will honor your advice, cousin. If I can do it, I will take her.
I hope you are able to make some sense of this letter, but I can not take the time to explain myself further. The next letter you get from me will tell you of my success or failure.
Your incoherent cousin,
Thursday, October 16
Of all my friends, I know you will be the one who will most warmly congratulate me on my engagement to Miss Elizabeth Bennet. It is true. She has accepted me and I am ready to run off with her to Scotland tomorrow. No, that of course is not possible, but one word from her and I would do it.
I have not been able to express my happiness all day, except to Elizabeth, and even then I spoke more reservedly than I felt. I don't want to frighten her just yet with my feelings. Tomorrow I will speak to her father. Elizabeth assures me there will be no objection, but it saddens her to think of her father's feelings, when he realizes he is losing her. I want to hold her and tell her he can live with us at Pemberley, if that would make her feel better, but luckily, better sense prevails when I remember the mother would also come.
It was with great pleasure that I walked unexpectedly into her house this morning with Bingley. I studied her intently, watching as she blushed furiously, which I took for a good sign. All during the ride to Netherfield yesterday and then again laying in bed at night, I rehearsed what I was going to say to her. Cousin, my words failed me. Every opportunity to tell her I loved her came my way, and still I struggled. We walked together quite alone, and she was silent, though agitated. Finally she spoke to me, thanking me for helping with her sister Lydia. Her Aunt Gardiner had told her the role I had played in that sorry affair. My heart sank as I thought her kind feelings toward me might only be caused by gratitude. It was too much. Your words rang in my head to do it, so I finally spoke.
I told her I did it only for her, but if her feelings for me have not changed since last April, to tell me now. I told her my feelings for her have not changed, but one word from her would silence me forever. She gasped and stammered. My mind was racing, waiting for her response. I knew I had won when she looked at me coyly and told me her feelings were now quite the opposite. Tom, this was how she looked at me the very first time I took notice of her last autumn at the assembly ball. That was the beginning of my falling in love with her, though I can not place the day or time when it finally did happen.
What did I say then? I can barely remember. I apologized profusely for my actions to her and my angry words last April. I felt badly about the letter but she insists she acted just as badly and will not let me shoulder the blame alone. Sometimes I could see she was looking up at me and it was all I could do not to kiss her then and there. Perhaps I would have done it, but I dare not dishonor her. It took all my self control when she looked up at me, as I told her how she has changed me for the better, and then I called her Elizabeth. One more second of gazing into her eyes and .... then she looked away.
Back at Longbourn we sat together, not saying anything. No one paid us any mind, but we were both lost in our own thoughts. We decided to wait until tomorrow to tell her family, though she will tell her sister Jane tonight. I have told Charles. He is almost as happy as you will be, though he says he does not know what his sister Caroline will think. I know what she will think - that I have gone mad. And Lady Catherine? I must compose just the right words for her letter. I wish you could arrange to be at Rosings when she receives it, for I would dearly love to hear you describe the effect of my words.
Our wedding date is not yet set. Tomorrow is not soon enough but Elizabeth wants her elder sister to marry first. Write to Bingley and tell him he must marry Jane Bennet immediately. He just laughs at me. She has opened me up to so many new sensations, I fear an impulsive nature may be one of them.
Come to my wedding, Tom. You must bear witness to the happiest day of my life. Come to Meryton and give us your good wishes. My Elizabeth thinks very fondly of you, and I desire to thank you most fervently for the advice and consolation you have generously given this past year. It would have been hell without you, cousin.
Your impatient cousin,
Thursday, October 23
The wedding date is set. We will be married on the same day as Charles and Miss Bennet. Two more months I must wait for her to be my wife. Two more months of stealing kisses behind doors and trees. Elizabeth is changing me in so many ways; I have already thrown decorum to the winds and look for every chance I can to indulge myself. I never had a doubt she would so warmly oblige me, but she is always a lady and holds herself to high principles, so I choose my moments carefully. In front of others, of course, we are the very essence of propriety.
The Bennets held a party for their newly engaged daughters. I am an object of great curiousity in Meryton, so all the town turned out, it seemed. It will take great tolerance to withstand the eager advances of my Elizabeth's Aunt Phillips, not to mention my new mother-in-law. This is how I managed the evening, Tom. Whenever Aunt Phillips descended on me with the news of the apothecary's daughter's liaison with the butcher's son or the wonders that Bath provides for her husband's gout, I imagined Aunt Catherine's advice to me on the expenses of running Pemberley, or the desirability of having her daughter married soon, and I knew one aunt was no worse than the other. Tolerating Lady Catherine has steeled me for many a ridiculous relative. Besides, poor Elizabeth was so anxious for me all evening, I could not let her think I was irritated.
Georgiana has written to tell me of her happiness and she wrote a most charming letter to Elizabeth. It has always been important to me that my sister find a friend in my wife, and no one more than Elizabeth is suited for that role. We shall see her in London in a fortnight, for I am accompanying Elizabeth with her mother and sister Jane to town. They will stay at the Gardiner's home, but I will bring Georgiana with me often to visit.
No word yet from Lady Catherine. However, if the letter you received from her is any indication, I suppose I may not expect her at my wedding. I have done my duty to her by informing her of my engagement. Any response she chooses to make to me will be either graciously received or completely ignored. If I do not hear a good word from her, at least I will be spared another tedious visit to Rosings. I would watch myself now, if I were you, Tom. Cousin Anne is still of marriageable age.
Elizabeth has just come into the room. I have been alone at her father's desk in the library, while she has been seeing to some household duties. Now she is sitting patiently across from me while I write. With her in the room, it will take me very long to finish this letter. Sometimes I stop and surreptitiously watch her at her needlework. She wears a small smile as she glides the needle through the cloth, sometimes she bites her lower lip and squints when she comes to a difficult patch. I have just told her that I am writing to you, and she wishes me to send her regards and commands you to come to London when we are there. She asks me if she can admire my handwriting, but she laughs as we remember another lady who used to request the same. Now she has gone back to her work. It is impossible to finish this letter. I know you will forgive me.
Please come to London if you can, or Meryton if you can come sooner. Elizabeth has other sisters, you know. None can compare, but some of her spirit and wit may reside in them, buried deep within. Perhaps you can draw it out and become the happiest of men, as is your devoted cousin.
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