Charlotte watched the carriage drive down the lane, taking her sister Maria and her dear friend Elizabeth on the first stage of the journey that would take them back to Meryton. Mr. Collins had gone back in, for he had a sermon still to write, and Charlotte knew she would not see him again until supper-time. She would not miss his company.
She would miss Maria and Elizabeth, though. Such visits would be few and far between; letters must suffice for the present.
When the carriage passed from view, Charlotte turned and surveyed her domain. It was little enough, but it was hers. A quick tour of the house assured her that despite the disruptions attendant on the departure of their guests, everything was well in order, so she took up her sewing. With Maria and Elizabeth's help, one of her dresses had been made over into something a little more in the current style--she was not a beauty, nor a woman of fashion, but it was nice to have something a little different. But there was always mending to be done.
The quiet was welcome. There had been periods of silence between conversations, these last weeks, as she and her guests worked together or on their own projects. But all too often it had been the silence of pity, the silence of a painful subject avoided.
Charlotte loved Maria, and Elizabeth, very dearly. But there were some things they did not understand about one another. Charlotte had long ago given up trying to bridge the gap; it was one she was well used to. She was not romantic, and never had been. Her mama, Lady Lucas, attributed this to a sensible character, good upbringing, and a disinclination towards novels. And certainly, Charlotte had always been sensible. But she had read no fewer novels than other girls her age.
Charlotte appreciated a handsome man, but not as other girls did. She appreciated a handsome man in much the same way as she appreciated a beautiful woman, or a fast horse, or a picturesque landscape: she saw it, and liked it, but it did not stir her. And by eight-and-twenty it had become quite obvious that it never would. She had never felt the type of partiality that wreaked such havoc among others of her sex.
Once there was no expectation of such partiality, what did her life lack? She had a comfortable home of her own, and friends both here in the village and in her old home of Meryton. True, she could not count her husband among them; but he could be managed. She missed her family and friends, but enjoyed her independence and would not change it for anything. Her marital relations, while scarcely a pleasure, were not onerous; Mr. Collins did his duty, but his distaste for intimacy reduced the frequency from what she had been led to expect by her mother's instructions. Truly, Charlotte was quite content.
She bent to her work with a will, humming softly as she stitched up a tear in a petticoat. Perhaps she would be with child, soon. She liked children, and it would be company for her when she did not go to the village. If it were a boy, an heir, Mr. Collins might well not trouble her nights further. And her confinement would be a marvelous reason for Mama to come for a long visit.