I. Colonel Fitzwilliam to Mr. Darcy
I pick up my pen not three days after I sent my last to you, a testament to my sad plight if ever one could be offered. Did you tell my father of my threat? Last night I very nearly made good on it. It was only the awareness that I would discomfort the servants by my presence that kept me from taking myself down to their dining hall and seating myself at the table between the footman and the scullery maid. 'But cousin, surely you are not so desperate as to go dining with the servants,' you think to yourself. Oh, but I am! I am not like you, Darcy, I am not satisfied in my own company. I have not your depths. I lack that self-complacency, that strength of character that makes a man able to withstand the trial of solitude. Yet I have been condemned to spend my summer in London. Such a time! Such a place! It is punishment rather than pleasure! The streets are bereft, the exhibitions dull, the parks a dim reminder of the pleasures of the country. I, an innocent man, sentenced to such a fate! A younger son I am, and it is my lot that I must bend to the will of my father and do his bidding. Do not weep for me, my friend! I shall bear up! I shall persevere!
Have I bored you sufficiently with my theatrics? Do you roll your eyes? Very well. I shall leave melodrama behind. In truth I do rather well, considering the circumstances. Each morning I wake and, after breakfasting, I wander about the house waiting for the the clock to strike upon a suitable hours for making calls. When it has done so, I do not tarry in carrying out my father's business, and calling upon those gentlemen by whom he is so eager to be remembered. This being done, I go to my club, drink more than I ought, and, after attempting to socialize and finding the society insufferable, I return home. Buxton house has never had a very entertaining library, you know, so you will not accuse me of hyperbole when I tell you that I have read every book in the house that can be read, even those by Mrs. Radcliffe that my father keeps hidden in his apartment. I have joined a circulating library in the hopes of becoming a man of letters, or at least slightly less ignorant and ill-informed. Most nights, I dine alone and go to bed early.
Does this all sound like a plea for sympathy? It is not, and to assure you of that, I will share with you the secret of my endurance: I take very long naps. I am convinced that the ability to nap can get a man through anything. It is rather too bad that one cannot nap entirely at will. I wish to God I'd been able to nap during my time with the surgeon's knife.
Bear up, cousin, the letter is almost at an end. I pick up my pen one last time to recount to you something which happened early this afternoon. I was returning home from my club via Bond Street which was remarkably crowded for the time of year. There are other poor souls in town, yet we none of seem to meet, only to pass, trapped in our own wretchedness and ennui, and never is this more apparent than on the streets where we shuffle by one another, heads bent, like the condemned marching to an execution that never comes. As I walked, trapped in my own despair, I saw a woman struck by a boy of the lower orders, running no doubt from some mischief or crime, and jolted so severely that she was knocked into the streets. Being the heroic sort, I immediately went to her aid and pulled her to safety just as a carriage rumbled past.
I expected that the fair maiden (for it is always a maiden in these sorts of circumstances, you know) would fall into my arms, and I was quite prepared to offer her my assistance through her womanly hysterics. Instead, she cried, 'My gown!' And immediately she began decrying, oh, a great many things from carriages to small children. When she recollected my presence, she blushed, and thanked me prettily for my help. We made ourselves known to one another, and I found her to be none other than the sister of your brother Bingley. I had not time to discover how she had found herself among the condemned before she began chastising her footman severely for allowing her to be jostled into the street. I know Mr. Bingley to be with you at Pemberley. Would you therefore care to satisfy my curiosity as to how his sister found herself in London in June?
I will only add that I found her a pretty sort of woman, but rather too tall and too thin, and with features too strong to be of any real pleasure to my eyes. A shame, because the company of a beautiful woman would not be unappreciated.
And so I bid you adieu, cousin, until my next.
II. Miss Bingley to Mrs. Hurst
My dearest Louisa,
You know that I am wretched already. Having detailed at length the evils of London in the summer in my last, I will say only that nothing has changed and I am still as miserable as I was a week ago. London is still hot, the air is still stale, and the company still non-existent. All the world is enjoying pleasures that are denied me. If this is not enough, today I was very nearly killed when an urchin knocked me into the street to be run down by a hack chaise. Aunt Lucy's footman did nothing to help, yet still managed to drop my packages in his shock. If not for the assistance of a gentleman, I might not be writing this letter.
Our aunt sends her regards. Those were the last words she spoke to me before she retired to her apartment this morning. "If you should happen to write to anyone I know, do send my regards." She is not fond of me. I do believe that my presence here is as much a punishment to her as it is to me. I have yet to forgive either you or Charles for condemning me to this. I can hear you protesting that it was our uncle who forced my hand, and played upon my guilt until I agreed to stay, but neither of you came to my aid, though you must have known that I have not the temperament to be a companion for an old woman who takes no pleasure in anything.
Oh, but I ought to mention that the gentleman who assisted me this morning was Colonel Fitzwilliam, the cousin of Mr. Darcy. I am sorry to say he is not at all handsome, certainly nothing to his cousin. I suppose there is a slight resemblance about the eyes, but that is all. He is all together very plain, and his ears stick out almost comically. He will not do at all. I can see your expression, Louisa! Rest assured I am not thinking any such thing. I have had done with the entire family. I would not let myself have any hopes in his direction, for certainly the moment I even thought such a thing he would fall madly in love with the daughter of a glove maker.
I hope my brother's ill health has been improved by he waters at Bath and that you are well. As asked, I shall make no congratulations regarding that small line you tucked into your last letter, but I trust you will keep me appraised, and give me the honor of being the first to send well-wishes when the matter becomes a certainty (as I am sure it will, dearest). Do write to me soon. Your letters are one of the few things I have to look forward to as I carry out my sentence.
Your most devoted sister,
III. Colonel Fitzwilliam to Mr. Darcy
I trust my last satisfied your request for "a letter fit to be read in company", with all its idle pleasantries, regards to my father, Mr. and Mrs. Bingley and Mrs. Darcy, love for Georgiana, &c. In this letter I shall indulge myself by writing only to you.
I took the liberty of calling upon Miss Bingley at her aunt's house two days ago. The aunt, who I am told is also a Miss Bingley, was not present and had retired to her rooms for the day. It was a pleasant sort of social call. I tried not to lend too much weight to my prior knowledge of her, as my prior knowledge of her came mostly through you, and you can be most severe on women of her sort. For myself, I found her pleasing, polite, genteel company.
She made it clear that I am welcome to come again, though she of course can have no occasion for calling on me. I suppose I see in her a fellow prisoner, trapped in the hot and stale London air with only the epistles of our friends and relations to remind us that the outside world exists. Commiseration in mutual misery is as steady a foundation for a casual acquaintance as any.
It has been a day since I penned the last. It occurred to me to attend a small exhibition of portraits that I had heard spoken of at the club. I happened to see Miss Bingley there. The gallery was largely empty, as most places are at this time, and we had much time to talk as we walked about, certainly more than is afforded by a social call. I wonder if she has ever held a real opinion in her life, everything that came from her mouth seemed calculated to please, and to conform to the fashion.
But this is an exceptionally dull letter. I suppose I should conclude, lest I spill more ink upon the subject of my two conversations with Miss Bingley which, and this is a sad commentary, are the most interesting things which have happened in this past week.
IV. Miss Bingley to Mrs. Bingley
I trust this letter finds you and all your family in good health. I shall not hope that you find Pemberley pleasing, for to hope is to suggest something that is uncertain, and there is nothing more certain than that Pemberley cannot fail to please. I well remember my first visit, and I could write for hours about the pleasing walks and tastefully appointed rooms. It is the work of generations; I do not believe there is a finer estate in all England.
I beg you will forgive me for failing to write earlier, but I have had so very much to do. London in not the ideal place to spend one's summer, 'tis true, but I have so many associates in town that I have had quite a lot of society to choose from. There was a lovely art exhibition yesterday. It was of portraiture, and featured a number of very renowned artists, including a few portraits by Mr. Gainsborough, though my particular favorite was a portrait of Mrs. Stanhope by Sir Joshua Reynolds. The conversation was nearly as pleasant as the art itself; it is so fine to exchange reasoned, educated opinions with those of well-formed minds.
Do give my love to Charles, to Georgiana, and to your dear sister, Mrs. Darcy. I beg you will excuse the brevity of this letter. I shall write again as soon as I have the time.
V. Miss Bingley to Mrs. Hurst
Can one die of boredom? There is no one here to speak to, this house is empty and bereft of people. My aunt and I have progressed from civil silence to cross words. I am not certain what I have done to offend her, but she scolds me terribly for everything from the dress of my hair to my playing and drawing. I am at home as little as I can be, but there is so little to do. There are some small art showings. There will be an exhibition of exotic plants soon, which is the first thing I have looked forward to since I came here.
Colonel Fitzwilliam called three days ago, and I found him pleasing enough. We met again at an exhibition of portraits, and spoke for some time. I did not go intending to be pleased. The picturesque is the fashion now, you know, and I am told that portraits are often thought inferior to examinations of Nature. Colonel Fitzwilliam says that he prefers portraiture to all other forms of art. He spoke of his pleasure in observing the expressions on the faces of the subjects that I begin to like them very much myself. I hope that he calls again. Any company at all would be an improvement over my current isolation.
- June 13 -
I left this letter open in the hopes that something would happen which would make it worth the cost of the paper. Colonel Fitzwilliam called again, a brief social call, and my aunt held a small card party. Can you imagine anything more insufferable than ten old women playing cards for hours at a time? They talked of nothing but how things were when they were girls, and how stodgy and staid and dull our generation is becoming.
I have tortured myself by reading Jane's last letter from Pemberley. She is enraptured with it, of course. Who would not be? She has filled two pages, and half a page crossway with her ramblings. The walks are lovely, the company is delightful, Miss Darcy plays so well. Have you gotten one like it?
Charles added his own illegible scrawl to the end of the letter. I have not the faintest idea of what he has written. No doubt it is more of the same, mixed, of course, with his own puppyish, slavish complements for Jane, and Mr. Darcy and Mrs. Darcy and the whole lot of them. I care for none of it.
(By the by, when you see my brother next, will you mention how positively shabby my green gown looks? It must be replaced, and the going will be easier if you soften him for me first.)
I have thought a bit more on Mrs. Bingley's letter, and I am decided. It is her revenge. She still hates me for not telling Charles she was in town, and the letter is exactly calculated to drive home to me everything I am missing. Our sister is more devious than either of us knows, Louisa, I am sure of it.
I shall end this letter now. I love you dearly, sister. You know not how much I wish I were with you.
VI. Colonel Fitzwilliam to Mr. Darcy
It is very late, or perhaps I should say very early, but I cannot sleep. Do not concern yourself. There is nothing the matter. I am grown vastly stupid and dull of late. This house is empty, I have so little to do. My father's business is nothing to keep a man truly occupied. It is very hot. I have been in hotter places, places where the sun beats down upon your head with such intensity as to make a man think of the fires of hell. Yet, one expects it in such regions. I have every window open, and the noise from the carriages scrapes my nerves raw. I am in such an odd mood. I am cross. My father will return to find that I have driven out all of his servants with my hash words and queer demands.
It is many hours since I wrote the last, and I very nearly took a out a new sheet of paper as I read over what I wrote early this morning, but I trust you not to place too much stock in my ramblings. I am much better now, with several hours sleep and a meal in my belly.
There was an exhibition of exotic plants which I attended this afternoon. Miss Bingley was there, and greeted me prettily when we met, and we took in nearly the whole of the exhibition together. Did you know she is quite the botanist? I am not one of those men who likes imbecility in females, but she had such an air of superior knowledge about her that I could not resist teasing her.
We were bent over an orchid, a lovely plant, and Miss Bingley was telling me of how they reproduce. I gather that it is a finicky business. I said, "Miss Bingley, do you not find that there is something untoward about a woman knowing quite so much about these matters?"
She looked at me very sharply and said, "Whatever do you mean, sir?"
"All this talk of male and female, of the way in which the male is joined with the female, it seems almost an affront to modesty."
She blushed and said very coldly, "A mind which is always looking to make even things which are innocent seem rife with--with improper meaning might see it in such a light, but I do not have one of those minds."
She was rather standoffish with me for the rest of the afternoon, and I believe I will call on her tomorrow and set things right between us. She is my only friend in London, you know. It would not do for her to be cross with me.
VII. Miss Bingley to Mrs. Hurst
My dearest Louisa,
I am so very very sorry for your loss. Do take care of yourself, and listen to the accoucheur. Would that I could fly out of here and wrap my arms around you. You need only ask and I will leave for Bath at once.
Your most devoted and loving sister,
VIII. Colonel Fitzwilliam to Mr. Darcy
I have written another letter fit to be read in company, but this sheet is for you alone. I called upon Miss Bingley on the 16th but I was told she was 'not at home'. I have not yet gone back. If she is still cross with me for what I said at the exhibition--which, upon reflection, was perhaps somewhat unkind--I shall not tax her by calling every day. I will try again tomorrow.
We have had rain these last two days, and my hip has ached terribly the entire time. It is eight months since they dug the bullet out and it is still not right. I begin to fear it will never be right again. Yesterday morning I nearly wept as I drug myself from my bed. A very hot towel is the only thing that will do for it, but my valet must replace them every ten minutes, for even in the heat they cool too quickly to be of relief for very long.
No more of this!
I have been reading Mr. Smith's Wealth of Nations upon your recommendation, and recently finished it. I found those pages in which he speaks of Treaties of Commerce most interesting, that being what I am so much concerned with at present. What would Mr. Smith think of my so intensely promoting a treaty which will prove advantageous to my father's interests, without regard to its effects upon others? I like to think he would be as disgusted with the whole business as I myself am.
I will return the book tomorrow, if this infernal rain will end.
IX. Miss Bingley to Mrs. Hurst
I am glad to hear you are recovered, in body if not in mind. I have every desire to comfort you with words and actions, but you say you prefer that I not make a fuss, and I will respect your wishes.
My aunt and I are getting on rather better of late. We have taken to ignoring each other again, which is a vast improvement over sniping at each other all the day. I am pleased that we have finally seen an end to the rain, and I can once again leave the house at my ease. I left once or twice even with the rain, to escape the confinement of my aunt's company, and returned with all the appearance of a drowned cat. A grand idea this was. Do remind me to thank my uncle for his taking the time and effort to arrange my affairs to suit himself.
Yesterday I went to the circulating library. My aunt has such a poor collection of books. There is not a novel in the entire house. Not that I read novels, of course, only there are a select few which can be instructive, or useful. I hear so many good things about Madam d'Arblay, and I thought to get the first volume of her most recent work. Colonel Fitzwilliam was on his way out when I entered, but he stepped inside with me again when we greeted each other. He did not recommend Camilla, but thought that I might like Evelina. Having read a few pages of it, I find I like it very well.
He apologized for what he said to me at the exotic plants exhibition, which I never did tell you of, and which does not signify in any case, except that he was very impertinent and I was rather cross with him when he said it, but it is forgiven now. He walked me home, but declined to come in. Perhaps he will come again tomorrow. I miss his company. I should say, I miss company, and his is the only I have at present.
I must conclude. I shall take a cool bath tonight, and I will go to bed early. A good night's sleep does wonders for the complexion.
Do care for yourself, dearest.
X. Colonel Fitzwilliam to Mr. Darcy
Do you cringe when you see my direction on a letter? I have no intention of stopping my frequent epistles no matter your answer, I am only curious about how they are received.
I thank you for your concern regarding both my physical and mental well being. Physically I am much better. I have had only a little pain these last few days, mostly in the morning. I have not touched the laudanum for nearly a week, though I do sometimes require a bracing drink. I fear I may have given up the cane too soon. It helps greatly when I use one, and I have brought mine out to use when I am at home alone. I do not like to use it in company.
I am also much improved in spirits. I cannot account for it, except perhaps it is because I have been about the town more. I have called upon Miss Bingley several times. I fear I encroach upon her hospitality, for my visits are no longer strictly social calls, but she is often the one who begs me to stay a bit longer. Her aunt seems a very unpleasant sort of woman. I am surprised than anyone thought the two of them would be good company for one another. She would be far happier if she were with her brother, at Pemberley, but I suppose I am happier with her in London, so I will be selfish and say I am glad she is among the condemned.
She is surprisingly pleasing to call upon, you know. She is not what I would call a wit, but her manners are everything polite and engaging and she is knowledgeable about all of those things which a woman is supposed to be knowledgeable about, and a few things more. She plays quite well, and she showed me several of her drawings. I was even talked into sitting for her for a spell, and am engaged to sit for her again in a few days. I have seen the beginnings of her sketch, though I had to sneak a glance, for she would not show it to me. My ears do not stick out that much.
I have taken your advice and called upon the Gardiners. It seemed a bit odd, calling upon people I have never before met, but we are family, in a way. Mr. Gardiner was not at home when I called, but Mrs. Gardiner was very hospitable. I was able to meet Mr. Gardiner the following day, and I am engaged to attend a small party at their house next week. I am very much looking forward to it. I mentioned that Miss Bingley was also in town, and after a very long pause, an invitation was extended to her as well. I carried their invitation to her, but she declined it. Is there something I should know regarding the Gardiners and Miss Bingley?
Do give Georgiana my love, and my regards to everyone.
XI. Miss Bingley to Jane Bingley
I thank you for your most recent letter. I am so pleased that you are enjoying yourself at Pemberley. For myself, I find that London in the summer is not nearly so bad as I had feared. There are so many people in town, one begins to forget it is not the height of the social season. Mr. Darcy's cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, calls often, and I recently attended a party at the home of your Aunt and Uncle Gardiner. They are delightful company, and they have such wonderful, sweet children.
There have been a great many exhibitions, of exotic plants and of portraits and of all manner of things. My mind is full to bursting with all that is going on here.
I do wish I had time to write you a proper letter, but it seems there is so much to say and yet it seems when I sit down to write to you I can never say it all. Well, I do hope to hear from you again very soon. All my love to Charles.
XII. Miss Bingley to Mrs. Hurst
Jane must truly despise me. Her last letter is two pages of nothing but what a wonderful time they are all having at Pemberley. I cried when I read it.
No, I must be more complete. It was not Jane's letter only which made me cry, I was already quite out of sorts when I received it this morning. I attended a party at the Gardiners' house. When Colonel Fitzwilliam first brought me the invitation, I declined it, as I thought wise, but a second, written, invitation arrived, and against my better judgement, I accepted. I wish I had not. The Gardiners have clearly not forgiven me for the events of over a year ago. Honestly, Louisa, have they met Mrs. Bennet? The scandal with the youngest only proves what I said all along: the Bennets are a vulgar, ill-bred family. I was only trying to protect my brother from a most imprudent match! I never thought I would say this, but I am glad, for Charles' sake, that Eliza Bennet managed to catch Mr. Darcy. At least now they will manage Mrs. Bennet, and Mr. and Mrs. Wickham, and the two other girls, between themselves, and it will not fall to Charles' lot alone.
I have lost the thread of my thoughts. To return to my point. The house was very cold to me, which truly would not have bothered me, but Colonel Fitzwilliam was rather cold to me as well. I suppose this means they have told him all about me and he no longer cares for me. I do not know why this bothers me so, only it was nice to have a friend in London. I tried my very best to make conversation with him, but I found myself rebuffed.
I sat down beside him, and said, "You have not called in several days, sir."
"No. I have unfortunately not had the opportunity to do so," he said, not quite unkindly, but not with very great warmth.
"Your sketch is still unfinished. When will I have the opportunity to complete it?"
"I am sure," said he, "that a lady of your talents must have a great many things to draw that are far more interesting than myself."
This was said unkindly, and he moved away before I could say anything in reply, which was a good thing, for I could not trust myself to speak for several moments.
I spoke to few other people the entire evening, and left as early as I possibly could. I very nearly hurled the unfinished sketch into a fire when I returned home, but I could not quite bring myself to do so, especially as a fire would have had to have been made simply for the purpose of burning the sketch and that seemed rather a big to do for a spiteful gesture. I know not why I care so much. It was pleasant to have a friend, someone to talk to and--well, it matters not. Tomorrow I will attend another botanical exhibit. I had planned to finish Evelina tonight, but as I had only planned it in the hopes of discussing it with Colonel Fitzwilliam when he next called, I see no reason to bother.
But do tell me all about how you are faring, dearest. Your spirits seem dull. You write that Mr. Hurst is a great help to you, and that is very good to hear. I am glad also that his health is improving, but then your husband seems the sort of man whose health is most positively affected by Bath: a man who becomes very ill when he wishes to go, and quite well again when he is there.
I send my love to you both.
XIII. Colonel Fitzwilliam to Mr. Darcy
I am out of sorts again, I fear. I suppose it is because I have so little to do. One would think that business so vitally important to my father that it must needs keep me in London for over three months would occupy a greater portion of my time, but it is not so. It is a slow moving thing, brief calls to men I hardly know, genial conversation lacking substance, yet always with subtle persuasion underlying every word. Deals and offers made, seeming to have nothing to to do with the true aims of either party, but both playing a sort of extended chess match, moving pawns and rooks into place until such time as the final strategy is revealed. I do not speak of myself as a player, you understand, merely a pawn.
I have not called upon Miss Bingley for two weeks. It is a bit cold of me, I suppose, but the sort of duplicity that you described to me has rather put me off of her.
The weather has been fine, neither oppressively hot nor miserably rainy, but the air is still thick and choking. The coal dust is dreadful. Why, I wonder, is it worse in the summer than in the winter? One would think that the winter, with the many fires that are burning in the many stoves in the city, would see the worst of it. It is one of the great mysteries of life.
I ought to call again on Miss Bingley. It is unkind of me to cut her so. I was not under any misconception about her, you know. She is much the same as any lady of the ton. (Do you dislike that word as much as I do? There is something very affected in it.) I have dealt with such ladies all my life. I did not expect any more from her. Perhaps I had hoped for more.
Lady Susan O'Brien, the one who ran off with the actor when she was young, and was exiled to the colonies for it, is town with her husband. He has gotten some appointment or another, no doubt at the charity of her family. I did call, I thought it only proper, since her brother is a friend of my father, but though they are a lovely couple, I was ill at ease in their company. Perhaps my knowledge of their elopement was an unpleasant reminder of things best left unmentioned.
And now I have used up all of my news, and all of the news that I am likely to have for some time. I believe I will call upon Miss Bingley tomorrow. Politeness demands it. I have no intention of staying for very long, however.
XIV. Miss Bingley to Charles Bingley
My dear brother,
Might I impose upon you to write to your uncle and use your not inconsiderable influence with him to convince him to send me an advance on my allowance. I do not think this a unreasonable request since--and do forgive me if I am failing to grasp some theory of economics which is beyond my ken--the interest from my 20,000 pounds is in fact mine. I know that we poor females are hopeless with money, and I do so appreciate my uncle structuring the annuity so that I am paid only once per quarter, and must put myself to much trouble in order to take any sort of advance on the funds, but if I am willing to take such troubles, for the sake of a lovely necklace which I am getting at a very good price, I find that I become rather put out upon receiving a letter in which I am talked to like a child.
Further, when you write, do tell him that I am not such a fool as to touch the principle of my fortune, and he need not concern himself with that.
All my love,
XV. Miss Bingley to Mrs. Hurst
Colonel Fitzwilliam called today. I was very nearly not at home to him, but I have been very much lacking in company of late, and I could not bring myself to turn him away, though he was so unkind. He stayed a very long time. I hardly noticed how late the hour had become until after he had gone. It is very odd that time seems to fly by when I am in his presence. Our conversation was a bit strained at first. I do not know what he was told about me, and I do not care. We were soon on good terms again, though perhaps not on terms so good as before.
We talked gossip a bit, but there is little good gossip. Everyone is behaving themselves right now, or their misbehavior has not yet come to light in any case. How dull.
As we spoke, I noticed he would occasionally grimace, and shift in his seat, and I finally asked, "Are you quite alright, sir?"
"Well enough," he replied. "I was shot not a year ago. My hip has not yet set itself to rights. I am fine, most days. I think perhaps it will rain again soon."
"I am very sorry," I said. "It must have hurt very much."
His lips twisted into something I suppose you could call a smile. "Yes, very much. It has been many months and I am still sometimes set off by reminders of--" He broke off abruptly and complemented the wallpaper, for which I thanked him on behalf of my aunt.
"Did you attend the botanical exhibition?" he asked.
"It is still open, I believe. I had thought to go tomorrow, but I suppose now I will not have the pleasure of seeing you there."
"Oh, but I may go again," I said. I do not know why I said this, for I had no such plans. It is not as though I want to be in his presence every day.
"I will look for you then," he said, his voice suddenly cool.
I must know what he was told about me! I should not care, but it vexes me to have him think ill of me. The Gardiners I am sure made me into quite the harpy.
No, I do not care. It matters not.
I had best conclude. I really must pen a letter to Mrs. Darcy. I have been putting it off, but it will not do to neglect her.
Your devoted sister,
XVI. Colonel Fitzwilliam to Mr. Darcy
On Tuesday I took in yet another botanical exhibition. It was not quite as grand in scope or perfectly arranged as the former, but I found it more interesting. The plants were those species native to England. I saw Miss Bingley there, though she had been once before. She was far more quiet than the last time I saw her at such a show, and once or twice I said something I knew to be wrong and she did not correct me. I fear she may have taken my previous censure--which was meant in jest, truly!--too much to heart. It was not my intention to quiet her entirely.
We went for a ride in the park, after. I know it is not quite smiled upon to be seen riding in a gig with a woman not one's relation, but Hyde Park was very deserted, and I hardly intend to make a habit of it. In any case, her abigail was with us, which always lends respectability to a situation. She found some unkind thing to say about nearly everyone we passed.
"Good Heaves, that woman is wearing panniers. Has she been asleep since '74?"
"I do believe I could write my name in that woman's face. Some people ought to have powder rationed out to them in small quantities each day."
"Was that man's cravat tied by a drunken monkey in the midst of an apoplexy, do you think?"
I am ashamed to admit how much she amused me.
I must say that she is a very pretty woman. Her height is striking. She must be five feet and eight inches at least. I have always preferred women of shorter, fatter stature, but I find I rather like a woman who can look me right in the eye without bending her neck to a painful angle. She looked particularly well this day. I believe it was the light. It is fortunate for her that she does not have her brother's red hair; red hair on women is always a disadvantage. Her hair is instead very light brown, and though she was shaded by her bonnet and her parasol, once in a while the sunlight caught the curls at the sides of her face, and it set off her features in a very flattering way. I still think she is too thin, but women nearly always develop a plumpness as they age. I daresay she will be more handsome at one and thirty than she is at one and twenty.
Your news about Georgiana was very pleasing. I am glad that Mrs. Darcy is proving to be the sort of influence you had hoped, and that Georgiana has become rather less shy of late. I am glad also to hear of her friendship with Mrs. Bingley. I do not claim to know Mrs. Bingley very well, but what I have seen and heard of her I like exceedingly, and I am moreover always pleased to see Georgiana making any new friend.
I think that perhaps I am forgetting something. Did you not mention something of importance in your last letter? I do not have it here in front of me, and I cannot seem to bring it to mind. It cannot have been so very important if it has slipped my mind like this. Ah! I recall now! Mrs. Darcy has found herself in the family way, has she? Well, I offer my congratulations, of course. I do hope for your sake that it is a boy. You are outnumbered. You need another male presence, even an infantile male presence.
I need not tell you what a fortunate man you are, and unlike other men with wealth, health, beauty, and marital felicity, one cannot even hate you for your good fortune. You are too good. You deserve it all.
Because you have put me in a sentimental mood, I sign myself
your humble and devoted cousin and friend,
XVII. Miss Bingley to Mrs. Hurst
How shall I begin this letter? Shall I tell you how I came to my revelation? Shall I tell you every detail, down to the color of my gown and the dress of my hair? No, I will simply say it. I have fallen in love with Colonel Fitzwilliam.
I feel like such a fool for allowing it to happen. I do not know how it happened. He is not at all handsome! He does have very broad shoulders, I must in all fairness credit him with that. There is something in the twist of his mouth when he speaks that is very appealing, and his eyes, I like his eyes very much. They are a light brown, almost hazel, and striking, very striking. But no one could call him handsome.
Yet his manners are so engaging and he is so pleasing to be around that I find I do not notice his less than ideal features, and notice far too much his better ones.
I hate myself for this. I am sure it would not have happened were I not trapped here with nothing to do and no society to interest me. Perhaps I will join you in Bath. My aunt would say good riddance to my leaving her, and I would be away from him. I am not--Louisa, you alone know that I was in love--no, I was never in love with Mr. Darcy, but whatever certain people might think, it was not only his great fortune that attracted me to him. It hurt a great deal to lose him, and to a woman like Eliza Bennet!
Now that I know what I feel for him, I find myself very afraid of Colonel Fitzwilliam. Does that not seem very odd to you? But I am not afraid of him, I am afraid of losing him, which will inevitably happen. He leaves town on the 4th of August which seems at once too soon and not soon enough. Perhaps if he had not heard such a bad report of me from the Gardiners I might entertain some hope. Perhaps if he were not such good friends with Mr. Darcy, and Mrs. Darcy, who he thinks excessively well of, and talks about far too often in far too complementary terms, perhaps then I might...but he is such, and I cannot, will not allow myself to entertain any hope that he feels anything for me. Even if he did, Mr. Darcy would surely dissuade him from it. I know from my reception at the Darcys' house in town this season just past that I am welcome there as Charles' sister, and nothing more.
I have not yet told you how I came to this knowledge, this accursed knowledge about myself that I wish I did not have. He called again, yesterday, and stayed for quite a while. My aunt deigned to grace us with her presence, and we played at cards for a time. We played at piquet after she left us, and I won a two guineas. We talked a while more, after the cards were set down, and I picked up the sketch I began several weeks ago. He agreed to sit for me, and I made good progress, but it became late in the day, and he took his leave of me. It was all so unexceptional. Having him with me seemed the most natural thing in the world, and I could not remove him from my mind for the rest of the evening. I read books, and thought of passages he would like. I worked at my embroidery, and caught myself daydreaming of embroidering his handkerchiefs and making small items for his rooms.
I had always thought falling in love a dramatic sort of thing, with swoons and declarations, but it happened so quietly, and now what am I to do about it? Oh, Louisa! If I avoid him I will take from myself the only interesting companion I have. If I allow myself to be in his presence, I will surely give myself away. Your advice will be very welcome.
XVIII. Colonel Fitzwilliam to Mr. Darcy
I am not quite certain what your design was in sharing with me the information that Mrs. Darcy received from her aunt regarding Miss Bingley. I suspect it was to amuse me, but I fear in that it has failed. Indeed, the effect may be quite the opposite from the one you intended, for I feel terribly guilty now. Miss Bingley did indeed keep much to herself at the Gardiners' party, and I suppose one could say that her air was conceited, though I do not think she thought herself above the company so much as she did not know the company. It should have fallen to those who knew her to make her feel welcome. I do not censure the Gardiners in any way, for they were everything hospitable to everyone, but for myself, my behavior to her was so cold that I am not surprised she left as soon as she could.
I think I will call on her this afternoon. It would not do to bring the subject up, of course, but I will feel a great deal better after seeing her in good spirits.
- July 19 -
I have called upon Miss Bingley, yesterday and today, but she is not at home, at least to me. I saw another young lady admitted entrance as I was leaving, so it seems that it is only my presence which is not desired. I can think of nothing that I have done of late which might have occasioned such a response, but I cannot concern myself with it overmuch. I will try again tomorrow. Very likely we will meet in general company. I will go to an exhibition of paintings of landscapes on Monday, which is the 21st. Nearly the end of July! My time here is almost at an end.
Perhaps Miss Bingley will be at the exhibition. I will have to see if I can discover what I have done to remove myself from her good graces, and coax myself back into them if I can.
XIX. Miss Bingley to Mrs. Hurst
I am quite relieved! I have not yet received your response to my last, but I had to write and tell you that Mrs. Weston has come to town. She was a schoolgirl friend of mine, you may recall. She is here because her husband must have an operation, and it is serious enough--perhaps I should say interesting enough--that he has gotten the attention of several prominent London doctors. He has some sort of tumor, which they will try to remove from his leg without taking the whole leg. Dreadful business! I quite feel for her, poor woman. But, if I may be selfish for a moment (which I always give myself permission to be, as it happens) if the operation goes well, she will almost certainly be a frequent caller here as her husband recuperates. So, I may avoid Colonel Fitzwilliam without depriving myself of the only tolerable company in London. I will call on them both tomorrow, and I will be sure not to mention to poor Mr. Weston that his misfortune has aided me considerably, for I really do feel terribly for the man. I am not so selfish as to be happy he is suffering, for all that Mrs. Weston's presence has heartened me considerably.
XX. Colonel Fitzwilliam to Mr. Darcy
You have taken leave of your senses! I must thank you for the most diversion I have had since my exile began. Your letter provided me with great amusement, and even now I chuckle to think of it. I assure you I am in no danger from Miss Bingley. She is nothing more than a friend, and hardly even that. Since you cite as your evidence the fact that I have mentioned her in my every letter since the beginning of June, I will write you a very long letter without mentioning her once, which should not be difficult at all, as I have not seen her in several days.
How is everyone? Good news of Georgiana always cheers me, and I am very happy to hear that she has mastered the concerto to her satisfaction. Tell her I will expect a private performance when I see her next, so she must make certain to keep practicing the piece.
I trust Mrs. Darcy does not suffer too much from her condition. Dare I hope that when you reference her waking you early each morning, you refer to more pleasurable pursuits than listening to her vomit? Ah, but I can see your face even as I write the sentence, the way your brows have drawn together in annoyance and the very slight blush that has appeared on your cheeks. Do remember that your cousin is a military man. If you knew the sort of talk that goes on among the bloody backs, that even we officers engage in at times, you would see that what you think of as my cruder speech is actually very restrained.
I am glad to hear that Mr. Bingley approves of the estate you have chosen for him, and I am sure the steward that you have picked out will suit him very well. Tell me, will you let him choose the furniture for his study, or do you intend to direct him in that as well?
So, my brother arrived at Pemberley last week. What does Mrs. Darcy think of him? Andrew is very eccentric, and I daresay she finds him amusing. I hope she does, and that she is not annoyed with him. Keep an eye on him, I beg you. You know what he is like around my father, and what my father is like around him.
I have finished reading Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, and I have nothing which with to follow them. I am in the mood for something heavy and theological. I am sure you have suggestions. Nothing in Latin. My Latin is very poor and worse for being out of practice. I prefer to read in English.
Give my regards to everyone, and my love to Georgiana.
XXI. Miss Bingley to Mrs. Hurst
My dearest Louisa,
I thank you so very much for your letter. Do stop apologizing for not being able to invite me to Bath. I am not sure I would wish to go on any account, and you are entirely right in your actions. If the dowager Mrs. Hurst is in Bath, you must pay your respects. Meddlesome woman that she is, she will no doubt be very much in your business and you recall correctly that we do not get on at all. I am sorry to hear that John has had occasion to mention your loss to his mother. A handsome man your husband may be, but he is not always very clever. No doubt the odious woman will find some way to make it your fault. Do not pay the least attention to anything she says.
I had heard that Mrs. Darcy is in the family way, yes. I only did not mention it to you for fear of upsetting you. You have my sympathy, Louisa. It is not fair that you have been without a child for three years while she finds herself in such a happy situation not a year after her marriage. Perhaps it is the country breeding and you should take to running about the countryside with no concern for decorum and propriety. No, you had better not. Mrs. Hurst would only criticize you for it, as she criticizes you for everything. I worry for you dear. I know how that woman upsets you, and you do not need to face anything more when you are still recovering.
As to your advice about Colonel Fitzwilliam, I have taken it to heart. My hopes that Mrs. Weston would provide me with company have been dashed. I understand that the operation did not go as well as we all wished and prayed for, and that they had to take the leg. She is with her husband, and I doubt very much that she will make any calls in the foreseeable future. He seemed a very nice sort of man when I called on him, and I am very sorry for him.
I do think you are being very optimistic about my chances. I am not a capital match for him, I fear. I do not mean I would be a poor match, only that he could easily do as well, or better, being that he is the son of an Earl, and well connected in the military, though he has said that he may retire from the army soon, if his hip does not improve. I would be glad of it. I do not like the idea of people shooting at him.
Still, I will not avoid him. I will do my best to succeed in making him love me. I will not talk about botany. I will let him direct all of the flow of the conversation. He mentioned reading Paradise Lost. I will read it as well, or enough of it that he will think I read it. I despair of it working, but you are right. I must try, or I will regret it.
Your loving sister,
XXII. Colonel Fitzwilliam to Mr. Darcy
May I speak of Miss Bingley without raising your suspicions if I speak only to criticize her? I was readmitted to her presence yesterday, but she has grown very dull. We do not have conversations so much as she agrees with everything I say. I wonder if she is out of spirits, and not up to conversation, but then I wonder why she admitted me at all, if that is her condition. I did not stay long.
As to the concern that you raise, that my behavior will raise expectations regardless of my intentions, I have thought seriously on them. There is some validity in what you say, and it is possible I have been imprudent. My calls have been very frequent. However, she lives at present with her aunt, a respectable woman. We have done nothing with even the appearance of impropriety, except perhaps my calls have been longer than society dictates acceptable. As to Miss Bingley's feelings, I would be concerned indeed if I thought myself raising her expectations, but I believe we understand one another perfectly. I have seen nothing of pursuit in her, and certainly she shows no symptoms of love.
I will furthermore be leaving town altogether very soon. I go on the 4th, if all is well, and I hope to see you at Pemberley by the 10th of August at the latest. I look forward to seeing you, and Georgiana, and Mrs. Darcy. I believe Mr. and Mrs. Bingley will be gone by the time I arrive, to spend a few final months at Netherfield while their new estate is prepared. I am glad to hear my father is gone. Ashbourne is surely more at ease. I am vastly pleased that he and Bingley have struck up a friendship. My brother is so odd, and one never can know if he will take to a person or not, but from what you have told me of the man, I think Bingley is just the thing for him. You and Ashbourne are too much alike in certain things to be good friends. (Do not make outraged faces at me. You know it is true.)
I may go to the theater tonight.
XXIII. Miss Bingley to Charles Bingley
I would be happy to join you and Jane at Netherfield on the 1st of September. I do not know the exact plans of Louisa and Mr. Hurst, but I imagine they will accept your hospitality as well, when they leave Bath. I look forward to seeing you in town on Tuesday se'nnight. I am, however, perfectly happy with my aunt, and I see no reason to change accommodations for so short a time as you will be spending in town.
All my love to Jane.
XXIV. Colonel Fitzwilliam to Mr. Darcy
All has not gone well. I am trapped in London a fortnight at least. I will not bore you with the details, but it will be quite impossible for me to join you at Pemberley before the 25th at the earliest. I need not convey to you how much I would rather be with you and Georgiana and Mrs. Darcy and even my brother, for I am sure you already know.
I called upon Miss Bingley again, but her behavior has not changed from what it was the last time I saw her. She has designs upon me. Once the idea occurred to me, it became quite obvious. I wonder why she has chosen to pursue me now, when all summer we have had a pleasant friendship. Do you think perhaps if I propose, she will go back to being as she was before? I am not serious, of course, though the idea did tempt me for a moment, if only because it might have gotten me my friend back. Not that I wish to marry her. She is very pretty, and I enjoy her friendship and her company. She is not unintelligent, though I would not call her bright, or witty. She is actually rather amusing, in her own way. She is very critical, of everything, but she has genuine feeling in her. When I called upon her last, she was making a sweet-smelling sachet for the sick room of her friend's husband, which I thought very kind of her to do. Sick rooms always have a dreadful odor, do they not?
Matrimony, however, is quite out. She will not do for me, though I'll not ramble on with all of the reasons why we are unsuited.
I only wish that she were not so determined to pursue me in such a clumsy fashion. It vexes me to see it, not least because I want better from her. I want better for her than a man who would take her while she acts in such a way, for a man who does cannot have either sense or respect for her.
I have spent too much time thinking about this. I will end now, and sign myself
XXV. Miss Bingley to Mrs. Hurst
Oh how I wish you were here.
Colonel Fitzwilliam came yesterday. Of late he does not stay long. I blush to reveal how much his visits mean to me, though I am careful. That is, I try not to seem overeager. Charles will arrive in town on the 11th and I am to go to dinner at his house in the 12th. He asked me to dine with him and stay at the house he has recently let, but I would rather not have him know how miserable I have been with my aunt while he has been at Pemberley, so I declined, saying that I was so very happy with my aunt I saw no reason to leave her. Foolish, yes, but I have my pride.
- August 9 -
He has not come at all. I am going out of my mind. I do not like being in love.
- August 13 -
I dined on Grosvenor Street yesterday. It was a small family party. Miss Kitty Bennet was there, which was just the thing to lift my mood, as you can well imagine. She has been staying with the Gardiners since the beginning of July, and is returning home with Charles and Jane. She is not quite so stupid as she used to be, that is the best that can be said of her.
I had to force myself to eat, and be myself. I have not seem him since the 6th, which is a full week! I truly have lost my mind. I shall be far, far happier when he is gone, and I can begin to put myself to rights, and forget him.
I will send this letter now, for it is meant as a letter, and not a journal.
XXVI. Colonel Fitzwilliam to Mr. Darcy
I beg your pardon for not replying to your last in a more timely fashion, but I have had a trying few weeks. In an ill-judged move, I agreed to a fencing match with a friend from my club and while I enjoyed it a great deal, my hip was less pleased by the exercise. I woke the next morning in terrible pain, but was not at leisure that day to stay in bed, so I swallowed my pride and took up my cane and made my way to St. James. All would have been well, but as I was making my way down a flight of stairs, a skitter-brained fool tried to rush past me, my crippled hobbling being too slow for him. I lost my grip on he handrail, and took a fall. He was everything apologetic and helped me to my chair, and what was I to do but pardon the whole thing? I suppose I could have knocked him about the head with my cane, but they do frown upon things like that these days.
I spent the next two days at home, often abed, or hobbling about the house, snapping at the servants. I was moreover forced to decline an invitation to dine with the Bingleys during their short stay in town.
Mr. Bingley called on me the next day, but I am vastly prideful at times, and I did not want to reveal my weakness, so I said nothing of my hip. I only pled exhaustion as my reason for declining his invitation. We talked of my brother for a time, and I--quite casually, I promise you--asked after Miss Bingley. She will return with them to Netherfield. I should say, she has returned with them to Netherfield, for they left on the 19th. I believe that she was not supposed to travel to Netherfield until the 1st of September, but I suppose the allure of leaving her aunt's company could not be denied.
It is likely for the best. Her decision to pursue me puts me in a very awkward spot, as I have no intentions in that direction. I have been imprudent, I confess it. I hope I have not done very much mischief by spending so much time with her. A separation is best for both of us.
On to my good news. My father's business is complete, and I leave tomorrow to join you at Pemberley. I hope to see you by the 23rd, or the 24th at the earliest. This letter is, therefore, somewhat excessive, but I have done so much for Post office revenue this summer, I could not resist stuffing their coffers just this much more.
XXVII. Miss Bingley to Mrs. Hurst
I am glad to hear you will be leaving Bath, and joining us here at Netherfield soon. I eagerly await your company. The Bennets grow no more tolerable by long association than they were on first blush. Oh, Jane is pleasant enough, and though I am severe on Charles at times, I do love him dearly, but the rest of the company here is unbearably stupid when it is not insufferably dull.
I have decided to put Colonel Fitzwilliam out of my mind. He was to come to dine with my brother before we all left town, and I put myself to such pains in my toilet, and even finished reading that dull book so that I might have something about which to speak, when he sent his apologies! My preparations were wasted for there was no one to appreciate them but Kitty Bennet and my own brother and sister!
He seemed so reserved with me, the last few times I saw him. I am entirely discouraged from the whole scheme. I hope I never see him again! As that does not seem likely, I hope that I do not see him again for several months. I am sure that several weeks out of his company will leave me wondering why I cared for him at all.
This will likely be the last letter I send before I see you next, and can embrace you properly.
All my love,
XXVIII. Colonel Fitzwilliam to Mr. Darcy
Arrived in Bath two days ago, after as comfortable a journey as one could expect in January. I have taken lodgings, and settled in. I doubt very much that the waters, or anything else offered in Bath, will be of much use to my hip, but I will not complain. My father is paying for me to spend six weeks here, and I only have to allow myself to be examined by some physician who will no doubt agree with me entirely in my assessment of the situation: To wit, that my hip aches because a French soldier shot it.
Did I tell you the best part of our discussion? I believe I was still too upset when I saw you last to speak of it. My father accuses me of dissembling. He says the pain, if there is pain, is caused by a desire to free myself from my responsibilities. My responsibilities are to be at his beck and call, you understand.
Forgive me. I am perhaps still somewhat out of sorts with the whole thing. I will not think any more of it. I will focus instead on the six weeks I have ahead of me in Bath, all of them paid for out of my father's purse.
I suspect I will again begin contributing a great deal to the revenue of the Post office as I have few associates here. My friends are all in London, what irony. I hope Mrs. Darcy is well, and that she continues well, and that neither you nor Georgiana suffer the start of nervous disorder as her coming out draws near.
XXIX. Miss Bingley to Mrs. Hurst
Now I am in Bath and you are not! And he is here. I need not specify who he is, for you know too well how my hopes have persisted despite my best efforts to conquer them. I am determined that I shall make a conquest while I am here in Bath. Not of him, but of someone. I will marry this year. There is a Mrs. Bingley now, and I am a guest in my brother's home no matter what pains he may put himself to in order to pretend that I am not.
I suspect Jane is in the family way. They have not said anything, but she has been twice visited by a medical man, and she and Charles smile at each other even more than is usual for them. The Bennet women do breed prodigiously, do they not? First Mrs. Darcy and now Mrs. Bingley. And Mrs. Wickham gave birth to a surprisingly large, healthy lad, for all that he was born only seven months after the wedding. I hope Mrs. Darcy has nothing but girls.
I shall marry. I want away from it all. I am not without my charms, and I have received at least one offer every year that I have been out. Fool that I am, I declined them all. I shall not make such a mistake again. The next eligible offer I receive will be the last.
XXX. Colonel Fitzwilliam to Mr. Darcy
I have visited the physician and endured much pain as his assistant manipulated my hip this way and that. Mr. Schofield himself even condescended to palpate the affected area. His guess is that a fragment of the bullet remains, and is irritating the nerves and the joint. There is nothing for it, unless I will consent to go under the surgeon's knife. He says that such a course carries serious risks as there is no guarantee that a bullet fragment is even there, or that an operation will not do more harm than good. (This, of course, assumes that an operation does not kill me outright.) In his discussion of the arguments against an operation he neglected to mention that such a plan would require me to suffer to allow myself to be sliced open, and poked at in the hopes of finding something. If I am so fortunate as to indeed have a fragment in my hip, it will no doubt be ossified and have to be wrenched out. I am sick to my stomach just thinking of it. I will not do it, and Mr. Schofield quite agrees with me that it is better for me to manage the pain as best I can than undergo such agonies with no sure expectation of a good outcome. He therefore suggests that I set aside my pride and take up the cane at all times, and prepare myself to go through a great many hot linens throughout the remainder of my life.
Physicians and talk of operations aside, my time in Bath passes pleasantly. The Bingleys are here, I imagine you know, and my brother has recently joined them. I have seen Miss Bingley several times. Her behavior towards me is somewhat cold. I confess to being rather conflicted in her presence. I want her as a friend, but I am afraid to put myself forward for fear she will misinterpret me. My behavior this summer past was imprudent, and things are awkward.
I am vastly amused by Ashbourne's friendship with Mr. Bingley. They are so different, Mr. Bingley at ease in every society, Ashbourne at ease in none, and yet they seem to get on famously. I do not understand it at all, but I think it a very fine thing for my brother. I have not previously been much in company with Mr. Bingley, and I confess I never knew quite what to make of your friendship with him. He is too diffident for my tastes, but he is agreeable, and not altogether unintelligent. I give you leave to continue arranging his life. You have condescended to direct the lives of far less worthy individuals.
XXXI. Miss Bingley to Mrs. Hurst
I have this comfort, at least. I only waste my time pining for one Fitzwilliam. Colonel Fitzwilliam's brother, rich and titled as he may be, holds not the least interest for me. I have never met a queerer, more disagreeable man in my life. I do not know what Charles was thinking bringing him into the house to stare morosely at walls and blunder through conversations. Charles claims he is "agreeable, once you become acquainted with him". I ask you how one becomes acquainted with a man who barely opens his lips except to say something impolitic.
He is more to be despised because he brings Colonel Fitzwilliam himself 'round quite often. Louisa, how can a man's mere presence be agony and joy at once? And why can I not be rid of these abominable feelings?
Enough! I will be rational now.
Do you recall Sir Frank Watson? We had a minor flirtation during my first season, but nothing ever came of it. He is in Bath, and we have seen a good deal of one another. His first wife died about a year ago, and he is out of the blacks now. He pays me the kindest attentions of late, and I encourage them all. We flirt quite shamelessly. You would blush to see it. He is an idiot, of course, but he is handsome and rich and I will be able to manage him without the least trouble.
Have you had the news? Jane is indeed in the family way. I said everything right and congratulatory when they told me. They expect the confinement in June. I can only hope to be married by June.
XXXII. Colonel Fitzwilliam to Mr. Darcy
Were Bingley any other sort of man, I would fear for your friendship with him. After the spectacle my family has made of itself in his very house, I would not blame him for casting us all off.
My father came unexpectedly to Bath on the 15th. He disagrees with my assessment of my situation, and has found a physician to parrot him. I must submit to the operation, anything less would be unworthy of me. Unworthy of him, he means. The man is senseless! Am I to risk my life and put myself to agonies for an operation which offers no sure hope of success or relief? Our discussion became quite heated and uncomfortable. It is not the first time my father and I have traded harsh words, and yet I am not able to dismiss some of his more cruel statements from my memory easily. This, fortunately, happened within the walls of my own lodgings.
Unfortunately, my father then decided to call upon Andrew, at Bingley's house. Andrew, in a rare showing of fraternal loyalty, declared himself to agree with me, and moreover, I understand, said that even if he did not, he should not pressure me to change my mind, I being the one who must live (or not) with the consequences of any decisions that are made. This uncommon filial defiance did nothing to calm my father, and he upbraided him most severely.
Perhaps this too might have passed without much consequence, but I happened to call upon Andrew while my father was still there, and coming upon Andrew seated in a chair being scolded like a child and not saying the least in his own defense--You know that I am not given to protecting my brother. We are not always on good terms, not least because I find his unwillingness to act as a man before my father unseemly, but I could not stand by and watch this display without saying something.
The end of it is, that my father and I shouted at each other for a time before my father stormed from the house, and Andrew locked himself in his room and did not come out of it for two days.
Mr. and Mrs. Bingley are of such yielding tempers and easy characters that I daresay they were excessively shocked by our display. I apologized as best as I could, and forgiveness was both freely granted and declared utterly unnecessary.
There is something else, which I hesitate to tell you. I went back yesterday to see Andrew again. I found him in surprisingly good spirits. I saw Miss Bingley also, and she reminded me so much of herself, her true self, the woman she is when she is not preening and pursuing, that I engaged her in a very long, very agreeable conversation. I think perhaps some of my speech was imprudent, for I revealed to her things that I am now embarrassed to have told her. Nothing improper, I assure you, only I have been more troubled about this sorry business of my hip than I have let on even to you. I should not have spoken so candidly to her.
She is much occupied with Sir Frank Watson at present. He is a fool, and she deserves better.
I am exhausted from the events of the last few days and beg your forgiveness for my lack of civilities. I trust everyone is well. Tell Georgiana I will be in London for her presentation at court.
XXXIII. Miss Bingley to Mrs. Hurst
Forgive me for not writing sooner. I have had headaches of late, and when I am not laid up with them, I am occupied with Sir Frank. He makes his intentions very plain, and I am in daily expectation of an offer. I will accept him. A fool he may be, but he is a rich and handsome fool. I only wish I did not see the colonel so very often. Is it not odd, Louisa? Colonel Fitzwilliam has not more than a few thousand a year, and even I am not so smitten as to think him Sir Frank's equal in looks, and yet I would--
Well, there is no use thinking about it. I shall tell you more of Sir Frank. He is very handsome, and beautiful. There is something very delicate in his features, but they are not effeminate. The curl of his hair and the curve of his jaw puts one in mind of a classical statue. He is tall, but not overly tall. And his eyes are a shocking blue. He is entirely perfect for me. He never teases me, and treats me as though I were a princess. He defers to me in everything. I am sure I would be very content to be married to him.
Did I mention to you the conversation that I had with Colonel Fitzwilliam some time ago? He was so candid with me, and our speech flowed so easily. No, never mind, I will not speak of it. It has not been repeated, and it will not be repeated. There is no use thinking on it.
I do wish Lord Ashbourne would leave. He had made some noise about going, but Charles begged him to stay so earnestly. You have the intelligence of the affair between him and his father from Jane, I know. No doubt she put the whole thing in an absurd light which made it all an unfortunate misunderstanding. Well, the truth of it is, Lord Buxton is a very disagreeable man.
Colonel Fi I am sorry for his sons, but glad that I am not part of such a family.
My head begins to ache again, and I expect Sir Frank shortly. Perhaps he will make his offer today. I will be glad to have this matter settled.
XXXIV. Colonel Fitzwilliam to Lord Buxton
I regret to inform you that I will not accede to your wishes. As you have expressed your intention of withdrawing all financial support of my stay in Bath in such a case, I have taken the preemptive step of repairing to plainer lodgings and have enclosed my new direction should you care to write to me here. I cannot give any intelligence regarding my brother's failure to answer your letters, but as he spends money on nothing but dead insects and religious books, I suspect your threats to cut his allowance will not have the effect you desire.
Your respectful son,
XXXV. Colonel Fitzwilliam to Mr. Darcy
My brother has discovered himself. Just today he wrote to my father refusing his lordship's demand that he return to London. I was privileged to see the letter before it was sent, and I must say that it almost borders on the insolent. We will make a man of him yet. The moment the post left, Ashbourne seemed to realize what he had done. I left him to Bingley's care, that gentleman having far more patience for my brother's anxieties than I.
I saw Miss Bingley at the Upper Rooms two days ago. She was in company with Sir Frank Watson for much of the night. I blush for her when she is with the man. She acts like such a simpering idiot, agrees with every word he says, and pretends to care about his cravats and coats as much as he does. I am too clear-sighted with respect to my own sex to fail to realize that many men are pleased with such behavior, but it would never do for me. She can be rational, you know, and I infinitely prefer her when she is.
I asked her to dance. I should not have, but something in her eyes told me that she had had enough of Sir Frank's inane conversation, and I felt duty bound to come to her rescue. She seemed at first pleased, but she was ultimately very dull with me, and seemed eager to be out of my company. I had hoped we could be something like friends again, now that she has turned her attentions to Sir Frank, but I suppose that we shall not ever be as we were last summer. Is it not odd how I now look on the summer months wistfully? At the time I longed for them to end and yet, yesterday I found myself thinking on nothing so much as the ride Miss Bingley and I took through Hyde Park.
My letters are dreadfully self-centered of late. I do apologize. I am glad to hear that Mrs. Darcy is in good health. Anxiety about an impending confinement is only natural. As to your suspicions that the ladies of the neighborhood are adding to her fears by telling her horrid tales, I daresay you are correct. It is the same in the Army. No green soldier goes into battle without having been first terrified out of his wits by stories of fearsome injuries, gruesome death, and suchlike things. It is far from kind, but that seems to be the way of the world. (This reminds me, I have it that Ensign Wickham is being sent to the West Indies and may see battle. I really must write to him before he goes.)
My love to Georgiana.
XXXVI. Miss Bingley to Mrs. Hurst
Forgive my poor penmanship, but I write to you in agitation. I saw Colonel Fitzwilliam at the Upper Rooms some few days ago, and he asked me to dance. I was so pleased, but he was so agreeable, and it was soon all I could do to keep myself from bursting into tears. I do not want to marry Sir Frank Watson! I despise being in love. It makes me such a fool. Sir Frank is rich and handsome and his connections are good. He is a baronet. I would be presented at court as his wife. And he is perfectly--
He is perfectly dull and stupid and his company is a trial. But what am I to do? Last night he gave me to understand that he will call today, and he was so particular about finding me alone. I have not slept a wink this night, and I write to you now by candlelight, my hand shaking and my head throbbing. I cannot stay in his house. I will not be nothing but my brother's sister any longer. Once the child comes--I must marry. I must have an establishment of my own. To be Lady Watson would be an answer to my hopes and dreams. Why can I not see my way to letting go of foolish, childish, romantic thoughts?
It is later now, just after dawn. I have spent some time crying and it has done me good. Things seem clearer now. When Sir Frank comes, I will make the only prudent choice.
Sir Frank has come and gone, but my headache was so bad that I could not possibly go down to see him. The matter is thus delayed. I feared he would think I was avoiding him, so I sent a message through my brother that I very much hoped he would call again tomorrow. Perhaps Colonel Fitzwilliam will come to the house today, declare his love for me, and save me from this wretched decision.
Perhaps also I will learn to fly tomorrow.
All my love,
XXXVII. Colonel Fitzwilliam to Mr. Darcy
I saw Andrew today and found him in surprisingly high spirits. No reply has yet come from my father, but Andrew is determined to hold fast and not return to London until the beginning of March. I never thought I would pen these words, but I am proud of him.
Miss Bingley was upstairs with a headache when I called. She has had several recently. I made a joke about her wishing to avoid me, but Bingley assures me that is not the case. He seems worried about her. She is prone to migraines, I recall that from our conversations this past summer, but she told me they were infrequent. It seems that of late she has been troubled with frequent headaches. I hope it is nothing serious.
I saw Sir Frank Watson today also and I felt I had to greet him for all that he is such dull conversation. He acted very strange with me, and more so when I mentioned I had just come from Bingley's. He said something about hoping Miss Bingley would not be cross with him and that he would 'much rather have been with her this afternoon' and being so sorry that her headache delayed him and some other things that I could not quite make sense of. He seemed somewhat agitated. I do not know what to make of it, but I am once again convinced that Miss Bingley could do far better. Why is she prepared to waste herself upon a man like Sir Frank Watson? Bingley is good to her, and she is still young. She need not rush headlong into an imprudent match. If it were not so terribly improper, I would speak to her and try to dissuade her from the scheme, but I cannot imagine how I would broach the topic.
Forgive me for spilling so much ink upon a topic which cannot interest you. I am oddly troubled by this.
I send my regards and love to everyone.
XXXVIII. Miss Bingley to Mrs. Hurst
I have never been so wretchedly miserable or so embarrassed in my life. I will never leave my room again. Nay! I will leave my room, and flee to the continent. Perhaps I will flee to another continent. Even Australia could not be a greater evil than Bath is at present.
XXXIX. Colonel Fitzwilliam to Mr. Darcy
Received your most recent letter this morning. Very brief and to the point, but then you always are. Do I acquit myself if I tell you that I had already come to the same conclusion? Yes, I am in love with Miss Bingley. I particularly liked your decision to send me a few of the letters that I have written since June with certain passages marked for my review. I have perused some of them, and it it is so apparent, I take exception at my own foolishness.
I have said that I had already come to the realization before your letter arrived. That happened yesterday, when I went to Bingley's house. Have you heard that Sir Frank Watson proposed to his cousin? It is a great upset, Sir Frank having been so blatant in his attentions to Miss Bingley. For myself, I can only think of it as a bit of good fortune, but I do feel for Miss Bingley. Not for the loss of Sir Frank--she is well rid of him--but his cousin, Miss Watson, has been unkind to her. It seems the family expected him to propose to Miss Watson as soon as he was out of the blacks, and his attentions to Miss Bingley were not looked upon kindly, least of all by Miss Watson herself. The matter has been set to rights, as far as the family is concerned, but Miss Watson is still put out and as she cannot vent her ire on her future husband, she has made Miss Bingley her target.
I do not fear for Miss Bingley's reputation or comfort in the long term, only they have several mutual acquaintances, and the whole thing must be very uncomfortable for her at present. I further have it from Bingley that Miss Bingley is quite determined to marry this year, and Sir Frank's defection has upset her greatly.
To return to my story. I went to Bingley's house to see Andrew, but I had also hoped to see Miss Bingley, to determine her state for myself. When I asked after her, I was told she was not taking guests, but Andrew happened to mention she was in the downstairs sitting room, and I confess I purposely lost myself in the house in order to find her.
The door was slightly open, and opened fully with a slight push. She was lying on the sofa, a pillow clutched to her chest. Her eyes roamed the ceiling. My heart quite broke for her. I realized then what you have known for months. I could have gone to her, and I desired nothing more than to gather her in my arms and comfort her, but I only backed quietly out of the room. I needed time to think.
My mind is a whirl. Tonight I am glad of the ache in my hip. It provides an occasional distraction from my thoughts.
XL. Colonel Fitzwilliam to Mr. Darcy
Miss Bingley has agreed to marry me. In a month you may make me the subject of as much raillery as you like, but I beg you to defer your teasing for a time. I have been made to understand the depth of her feelings for me, and I am perfectly disgusted with myself for thinking her attempted pursuit of me dispassionate. Rationally I know that I had no way to know her heart, but what has rationality to do with a man in love?
XLI. Miss Bingley to Mrs. Hurst
Colonel Fitzwilliam has asked me to marry him. Upon writing that sentence, I stared at it for some minutes. I still cannot credit it.
He came today to see his brother, and I was determined to meet him. I will not have the world thinking that a Miss Watson who is so ugly and stupid that she must have her father bully her cousin into marrying her can have any effect on me. I am so glad to be rid of Sir Frank. We would have been wretched together.
I looked quite well today, I think, though I did not take particular care with my toilet. My hair has been cooperative of late. That always puts me in a good mood.
We met in the drawing room, myself, Colonel Fitzwilliam--oh! But I am allowed to call him Richard now, and he particularly asked me to. Lord Ashbourne and Charles were there as well, though Jane had gone to lie down. It was strange and awkward at first, for he kept staring at me, and I had not seen him in several weeks. Charles and Lord Ashbourne went away for a time, to, oh, I do not know what they went off to do, only
Colo Richard watched them leave with an odd expression on his face. I was suddenly overcome with distraction, and I could not think of of a thing to say. I started to talk of something, I cannot remember what, and then he came across the room and sat beside me and said--
No, I will not tell you what he said. Those words are for me alone. Only, he gave me to understand that he cares for me and I--
Do you remember when we were girls and we used to practice just how we would respond to our marriage proposals? "Your Grace, you have made me the happiest of women, and I would be honored to accept your proposal." I was always so poised and composed and graceful in my acceptance. Well, there was nothing of composure or poise in this. Were I in a different frame of mind, I might be able to see my way to being embarrassed, but I am only--
Ah, but I am getting ahead of myself. The moment he had made plain to me that he was asking me to be his wife, I burst into tears. Oh, Louisa, it was awful. They were not even lady-like tears of happiness, they were sobbing tears of relief and I suppose I somehow communicated to him that there was nothing in the world I wanted more than to be his wife, for when Charles returned, and saw us, me sobbing into his handkerchief and Richard with his hand on my back, I heard Charles say, "What on Earth is the matter?" and Richard said, "I think your sister has just agreed to marry me."
Despite my joy, I am seeing my way to be embarrassed about all of this, but it was all settled in a few minutes more. I managed to restrain myself and speak with tolerable composure. Charles gave his blessing to the match. I suppose I will have to write my uncle, but I care not a fig what he thinks. I am sure he will be glad to be rid of me entirely.
What a fright I must have looked! Richard did not seem to mind, and stayed for several hours.
I can hardly think. He comes again tomorrow. You must come to Bath, then my every happiness will be complete.
XLII. Colonel Fitzwilliam to Mr. Darcy
Ah, Cousin, would that you were in Bath and had witnessed it for yourself!
I wrote twice to my father following my engagement. My first letter went unanswered, my second was returned unopened. I was prepared to leave the matter at that, but Caroline begged my leave to pen a letter of her own to my father, and I gave it. I know not what she said in her letter, but my father came to Bath.
We have met him four times. The first visit saw him at his most unkind. The treatment Mr. and Mrs. Bingley, and especially Caroline, received was not to be borne. I could have tossed him from the house, would have had it been my house and not Bingley's, but Caroline cajoled me into being civil. After he had gone, she told me she feared her fortune and connections were not smart enough for him, but I assured her that I could have been marrying a German princess and my father still would have found it exceptional that I had chosen a bride for myself without first consulting him.
My father returned the next day and the day after and Caroline was in fine form each time. It was a masterful display of obsequiousness and toad-eating that would have made Lady Catherine's parson green with envy. I would have choked on my own vomit had I attempted such blandishments. The end of it all is this: I am once again on good terms with my father, solely on the basis of my having chosen for myself "a woman of sense and good breeding" as my bride. I moreover have it from Ashbourne, who has it from my sister, that my father may make a wedding present of one of his houses in London, not a mere lease on good terms, but an actual transfer of property. This is not to reach Caroline's ears until it is certain, however.
Well, I am not entirely pleased with her methods, amusing though they were, but I will not argue with good results. She is not under the least misapprehension about what sort of man my father is, and even at the height of her fulsomeness I heard her tell him that she would not agree with him that it was better for me to suffer the surgeon's knife than "give myself up to my weakness" (his words). Since I have mentioned it and you specifically asked in your last letter, I will tell you that my hip is better. I use the cane nearly every day now, despite my hatred of displaying my infirmities for all to see, and it does help. Caroline scolds me when I leave it at home.
Do not worry overmuch about Mrs. Darcy. It was only the accoucheur's educated guess that she would be confined in February. These things can never be known exactly. Children come when they are ready to and not a moment before.
Tell Georgiana that if she trips and falls at her presentation, I will provide her with a set of men's clothing and procure her passage on a ship to the Indies (East or West, whichever she prefers). Never mind that, I will write to her myself and try to reason her out of her fears.
I had best conclude before I am forced to reach for yet another sheet of paper. I send my love and regards to you and all your household.
XLIII. Miss Bingley to Lord Buxton
I could not wait another moment to take pen to paper and tell you how grateful I am for the kindness you have seen fit to bestow upon your most unworthy servant. How can I ever give proper thanks for such kindness? I shrink from the thought of taking on such a task. Dear Richard has been forced to tell me every detail of the house, all that he can recall, for he has only seen it once. This does not surprise me, your holdings being so vast that one cannot expect your children to know every detail of every house, but I do wish he could tell me more. I am sure it is a delightful home. Richard said that it is grand and stately, and only a little old-fashioned. I am sure that we will be able to bring it up to the standard that is worthy of a son of yours with only a small outlay, though perhaps we will have to wait some time before going forward with the expense. Weddings are such costly things you know. No, upon reflection, it will not do to wait. I would never have anyone seeing your son and, if I may take the liberty of calling myself so, daughter living in a house that is anything but a proper reflection of your rank and position. I am sure we will find the money somehow.
I was furthermore delighted to receive your kind invitation to stay with you at Kentridge when we return from Weymouth. I am so eager to see Lady Mary once again. You have a very fine daughter, sir. I have never met a more accomplished young lady. You have done very well by her.
Richard wishes to make his greetings in his own hand, so I will end here.
With most heart-felt respect and deepest gratitude I am, sir, your lordship's
most obliged, humble, dutiful, and obedient servant,
Sir-- I am sure I cannot exceed Caroline in expressing my gratitude for your gift, so I will not try and say only that I thank you for your kindness. Caroline and I will marry in the church at Kentridge, as you have asked us to do. The Bingleys leave for Pemberley along with my brother in a few days. I will be about three weeks behind them as I have some business to attend to in London before going on to join them. --R. Fitzwilliam
XLII. Colonel Fitzwilliam to Miss Bingley
My dear Caro,
No, I will not stop calling you by that name. I like it, and what is more no one else uses it, so it is mine alone. I hope this letter finds you well. I know from experience that traveling with my brother can be a trying experience. I recommend a glass of wine and a nap to help you recover. Have I ever told you my philosophy of napping? Remind me when I arrive, and I will enlighten you.
My father has given me two thousand pounds to be used in the renovation and repair of our house. Your abilities frighten me, woman.
Shall I ask you to give my love and best wishes for her recovery to Mrs. Darcy, or would that be testing your forbearance? I think I shall send it through Darcy instead. I look forward to seeing the little one. I must begin instructing Master Richard Darcy on how to be as charming as his namesake.
God willing, I will arrive at Pemberley no later than the 1st. It occurs to me that this is the first letter I have ever written to you. Am I making a mess of it? I have no talent for letters of love. There should be more verse and less sarcastic prose, but I would laugh too hard to hold my pen if I attempted to write you a sonnet, and I see no occasion for transcribing the words of another.
Caro, this is the man you have accepted: not always properly serious, given to much complaint, and with a bad hip besides. In scant weeks, you will be joined to me forever. If you wish to cry off, you had best do it soon.
I will be be earnest for a moment. I miss you terribly. I have a picture of you in my mind. Do you recall when we went riding in Hyde Park? I think I fell in love with you that day, but I was too foolish to know it. You looked so well with the sunlight in your hair. You critiqued the dress of each person we passed, and some of your comments amused me greatly. It is a memory that I will use to carry me through the next week.
Your most devoted,
XLIII. Miss Bingley to Colonel Fitzwilliam
I am ill-equipped to speak on your talent with love letters. The letter I have just received seems to me the most perfect specimen of its kind. I have no wish to cry off. Your complaints will always have a willing ear if you will endure mine.
I give you leave to call me by That Name, if you must, only I beg you never to do so in public. It took me years to dissuade my brother from using it, and I will not have you return him to the habit.
I have seen Master Darcy. He has that odd, unfinished look that newborns always do, but he is a healthy, well-looking child and I am happy for them. Do not make a face, I am in earnest. I will let Mr. Darcy transmit your love and wishes. I doubt very much Mrs. Darcy would be able to keep her countenance if they came from me.
I recall very well the afternoon in Hyde Park. It is one of my happiest memories. I did look very handsome that day, did I not? Ah! I have found a flaw in your letter. You have praised my hair, but not my smile, or my eyes. In fact, now that I read it again, I think your letter quite lacking in admiration of my good looks. I trust you will remedy this when you arrive. We must go riding in Hyde Park when we take possession of our house in London. And only think, we will be able to ride out as husband and wife, with no need for maids or footmen to lend us propriety, and we may go out every day if we wish.
I miss you very much. Charles teases me for being love-sick. He is as troublesome now as he was when he was a child. I confess I am easily distracted now that you are not here. I spend too much time staring at my sketch of you and now that I have a letter to read, I will read it until I know every stroke of the pen by heart. I am so eager to see you.
I left this letter open while I walked out with Jane and Miss Darcy. I am bad company at present, too given to staring into the middle distance and not attending to anything that is said, but as this is to be expected in a woman whose lover has chosen the company of bankers over hers, I am excused. Miss Darcy thinks nearly as highly of you as I do, and Jane's patience is never exhausted, so at least I do not fear censure when I speak of you at length, and I frequently do.
I will be genuine with you for a moment (this, sir, is a rare event, I think you know). You have honored me with your proposal. I want you to know that I will do my best to be worthy of that honor. If you will only tell me what you want in a wife, I will do my best to fulfill your wishes.
XLIV. Colonel Fitzwilliam to Miss Bingley
I was not intending to write any more letters from London. I leave in but two days. After reading your last, however, I have decided to send this letter ahead of me. I had better not arrive at Pemberley and find you bent over The Improvement of Human Reason, or some other book that I have mentioned in passing and I know you would find a torment.
You have been genuine with me and I will return the favor. I have seen enough simpering, idiotic females, and enough women who play the part with varying degrees of success to know that I do not want one of them. What do I want in a wife? Perhaps some men have the inclination and patience to take a Child Bride in hand and mold her into their ideal. I do not. Your brain, Caroline, does more than hold the sides of your skill apart, and that is not a trait that is as common (in women or men) as one would hope. I expect you will take advantage of this.
I do not expect you to change to suit me, and I moreover am well aware that any such changes would be superficial and half-hearted at best. I know you better than you might think, thanks in greatest part to the interminable boredom of long, hot, London afternoons when there is nothing to do but converse. Those afternoons have largely passed into the dreamy haze of idealized memory, not because I particularly enjoyed sitting in your aunt's parlor sweating through my shirt, but because of you.
I love you, Caroline. It has nothing to do with your being worthy of me, or what you or I deserve. I love you, I believe I understand your character, and I trust we are capable of making each other happy. I can only hope that you are entering this marriage with the same open eyes and clear head. I'll not have you put me on a pedestal, Caro. It will not do.
I hope that I have set that bit of foolishness to rest for good. Since I am writing to you again, I will address the failure of my earlier letter and say that I look forward to seeing my beautiful Caroline once again. Her smile is the light of my world, bright as summer sunshine, and her eyes are the clear blue of Caribbean waters.
I do hope the pimple on her chin has healed.
XLIV. Mrs. Fitzwilliam to Mrs. Darcy
Dear Mrs. Darcy,
I thank you for your kind invitation to Pemberley, but Colonel Fitzwilliam and I have no plans to leave London at present. The summer in London is so delightful, and we would not go away from it for the world. We will be at Tetley Hall in August, and I look forward to seeing you there.
I send my regards to Mr. Darcy, Miss Darcy, and young Master Darcy.