AN: The characters of Pride and Prejudice do not belong to me. That honor is reserved for the inimitable Miss Austen

1 February 1812
Hunsford Cottage, Kent

Dear Jane,

I must first apologize for being so long in sending news. My only excuse can be that I have been excessively busy in setting up our home and adjusting to the ways of marriage. This morning, however, I find myself quite at leisure and can think of nothing I would like better than to share a cup of tea and pleasant conversation with you, my dearest sister. Alas, as we are much too distant for such an occurrence, I shall settle instead for the poor substitute of pen and paper.

I shall start by wishing you joy. I cannot begin to relate to you my pleasure in knowing that your Mr. Bingley returned and was as much in love as I ever thought him to be. You shall know such happiness in your life. Of course you are released from your promise to visit as I am certain the company of a sister is nothing to that of a lover. Please tell Mr. Bingley I am happy to call him brother.

There is so much with which I would like to acquaint you that I hardly know where to begin. I suppose I should first speak of our cousin. I find that he is quite attentive to my every action. I often despair that my natural impertinence will lead to unhappiness between us, but he is determined to assist me in becoming a wife fit for his station in life. I shall endeavor to be compliant for the sake of harmony.

Now that is done let me tell you of my home. It is comfortably situated and the surrounding park is beautiful. There are enough paths and woods to satisfy even me. I do not walk so much as I would wish; I have been informed it is not becoming for a married woman. Instead I have begun to learn to draw. It is an appropriate occupation that none can despise and it gives me a reason to be out of doors. Perhaps I shall send you a sketch for your wedding.

As for the great lady, I can only say that her interest in my improvement is second only to that of my husband. I do think however that she is not entirely unhappy with my manners; I believe I have more than once seen a spark of humor in her eyes when she speaks to me. She is a veritable fountain of advice on everything from the floors to the attics and has even condescended to advise me on how to best manage our servants and plan our menus. There is, I think, nothing beneath her notice.

Do not worry for me dearest; though perhaps I do not laugh so much as I once did, I am still quite myself. I must leave you here if I am to post this letter today. Please give all my love and best wishes to my sisters and especially to my father when he is well enough to receive them. Aside from you, it is him I miss the most.

Your Affectionate Sister,

Elizabeth Collins


16 March 1812
Hunsford Cottage, Kent

Dear Jane,

My dear sister how I wish I could be with you to share in this time of courtship. I believe I would make a very useful chaperone; though perhaps not so observant as our sister, Mary, appears to be. Your happiness fairly leaps from the pages of your letter and I am glad. I know you will not think me too wicked when I say you must disregard mama's advice as to the amount of lace on your dress, unless of course you wish to be covered in so many yards of the same that your Mr. Bingley cannot distinguish his bride from the drapes. I know you wish to be an obedient daughter, but please believe me when I say that sometimes obedience is bought with rather too high a price. You know your own preferences Jane, choose that which will bring you happiness. As to mama's other advice, I fear I can be of no use to you. I believe your experience will be vastly different from mine because there is such love between you and Mr. Bingley. Do try to overcome your mortification at the subject and seek the counsel of your Aunt Gardiner. That lady, I think, is a much better resource and certainly less prone to hysterics.

Your news that our father has begun to regain his health brings a lightness to my heart. It is so light that I believe I will risk my cousin's ire by defying his advice and daring to pray for my father's speedy recovery. Mr. Collins is convinced this will only prolong papa's suffering, but I defer to your intelligence on the matter as you are situated so much closer to the subject than any of us in Kent.

Things here continue ever much as they have since I first arrived, so I must beg your indulgence when I fail to share significant news.

I remain your

Affectionate Sister,

Elizabeth Collins


21 April, 1812
Hunsford Cottage, Kent

My Dear Mrs. Bingley,

How well that sounds! Please forgive me dear one for not being in attendance at your wedding. My heart was truly broken and I thought of little else that day. I fear a slight accident prevented my being able to travel. You will think me a goose and a clumsy goose at that when I tell you that the very morning we were to depart I stumbled over the hem of my gown, fell down the stairs and struck my head on a table. I did not wake for a full day. Do not trouble yourself for I am now much improved, only I could not travel for many days after.

Perhaps you heard that my brother's friend visited his Aunt for some weeks prior to your wedding. I confess that I did not, at first, look forward to his visit with much happiness. Do not fear, sister, for it was unhappiness purely of my own making. Having now spent no small amount of time with his esteemed Aunt and cousin, I had begun to believe I badly misjudged his character when he was in Hertfordshire last year. You know how capable I deemed myself in sketching the characters of those around me so you will also know how little I appreciated discovering my own errors in that regard. Will it please you, dearest Jane, to know that I have mended my thoughts and now consider him to be almost as amiable as my new brother? To be certain Mr. Darcy is reticent in company but I now believe that to be a result of shyness rather than arrogance or pride. As to that other gentleman, from the militia, let us only say I was greatly deceived in his character. But I will speak no more on that subject. Mr. Darcy assures me he will undertake the task of warning my father. I am much relieved, for although we are of but little fortune I feel our youngest sister in particular could be in danger from W's attentions.

I know you shall have much less time to write now that you are wed, but should you find yourself in possession of a few moments, please send word of my father's health. I do miss you dear sister.

With all my love,

Elizabeth Collins


June 1, 1812
Hunsford Cottage, Kent

Dear Papa,

What relief I felt at receiving your letter can only be imagined. I am immensely pleased that you are so far recovered as to once again take up your pen and write to your daughter. I must beg your forgiveness for taking so long in replying to your thoughtful words. I fear marriage has made me rather clumsy and just after your letter arrived I had an unfortunate encounter with some exceedingly hot tea. I fear the burn to my arm left me unable to write for some time. Do not worry, for I have since recovered and excepting some little scarring I am entirely myself again.

I think, papa, that you would not recognize your daughter so changed as I am with my marriage. My cousin has succeeded where mama despaired of all hope and I am now nearly always a proper lady. My cousin is very diligent in correcting my behavior on those occasions I may forget myself. I am sure mama will be pleased to hear that where before I was impertinent and bold I have learnt to be silent and demure as is more becoming a clergyman's wife. I do not laugh as I was once wont to do but rather I smile only slightly when it is proper to do so. I no longer spend hours out of doors wandering the lanes as I find that with only a very few servants my time is consumed with assisting in the kitchen and maintaining my home. I have discovered I have a talent for baking and I find the process of making bread to be quite helpful in settling my mind. Mary will be pleased to know I have even learnt to appreciate the Reverend Fordyce and when next we meet I shall be able to quote him nearly as well as she. Fordyce's works are a great favorite of Mr. Collins and he insists upon our reading it together for some time every day.

Though I do not envy you the discord it must have caused, I am pleased with the intelligence that Lydia did not go to Brighton. I fear her youth and lack of discretion could have badly injured more than just her character. As for my other sisters, please tell Kitty I treasure the sketch of Longbourn she sent. I did not know she possessed such talent! I keep it in my chambers where I may see it every morning when I wake. Mr. Darcy mentioned Mary's playing is much improved and as that gentleman only rarely gives a compliment, I must take him at his word and say I long to hear her performance for myself. It may be some time before we visit as Mr. Collins is loath to leave his parishioners or his patroness and he does not think it proper for me to travel outside his company.

I pray daily for your continued recovery.

Your Affectionate Daughter,

Elizabeth Collins


1 June 1812
Hunsford Cottage, Kent

Dear Lydia,

I know, sweet sister that you are very angry at not being allowed to go to Brighton. You are young and beautiful and full of adventure. I have not been an ideal elder sister, but please believe me when I say you are far too young to chance losing your freedom. I could not bear to see you chained for life to a man who cared only for your charms but not for your liveliness of spirit. Mama is wrong, Lydia. You need not be married at so young an age. Please, please Lyddie, allow Jane to guide you. Our eldest sister will show you how you may be yourself and still attract the kind of man who will truly care for your well-being. I daresay such a man might still be an officer. Though I should caution you that many soldiers would be unlikely to afford to keep a wife in the manner which you would prefer and I do not think I am wrong when I say you would not like to do your own cooking or to help with the wash. I understand from Jane that Mr. Darcy and his sister will visit over the summer; perhaps you will find Miss Darcy to be a worthwhile friend and companion.

Love,

Elizabeth Collins


15 July 1812
Hunsford Cottage, Kent

Dear Jane,

You are to be a mother! I can scarcely believe it. I wish you joy and I insist on knowing every detail you wish to share on the subject. Do not worry that I might be envious of your news, for I confess that I am not. Please do not think me so very wicked for rejoicing that I have yet to achieve your current state. I do not believe it is anything to do with me that such an event has not come to pass. For though I know but little of the marriage bed, I am certain that a child cannot come about from the manner of my cousin's attentions to my person. I have shocked you; but I cannot apologize for if I do not confide in you, to whom else may I turn? I shall say no more on the subject excepting this; where I once thought our sister Mary would have made a better match for our cousin, I am now thankful that of all my sisters he chose me to be his wife. I would not wish him on any other.

There is so much more I should like to say, but Mr. Collins will return soon and I must be prepared to welcome him home. Remember me to papa and my brother and sisters.

Love

Elizabeth Collins


1 September 1812
Rosings Park, Kent

Dear Jane,

I fear my last letter gave you rather more distress than joy. I am sorry to add to your burdens. I can only plead that I was somewhat out of spirits that day. Since then something of most unexpected nature has occurred. Please do not be alarmed as I believe this change will be of some benefit. When I sent your letter I had not left the parsonage in some five or six days due to another silly mishap that left me unfit to be seen outside my home. Apparently my absence left Lady Catherine most seriously displeased and the great lady condescended to pay a call. It is the first time, Jane, in all my months of marriage that she had graced me with such a visit. She was here only a short time, but after looking over my person with a most critical eye she pronounced there to be no reason I should not return to Rosings with her that afternoon and wait for my cousin to join us for dinner that very evening. Mr. Collins naturally complied with the wishes of his patroness despite his own misgivings. In the course of the afternoon, Lady Catherine bid me to begin calling on her daughter daily as Miss de Bourgh expressed a desire to know me better. Knowing my husband would not favor such an arrangement, I demurred. The Lady became so insistent that at last I was obligated to outright decline with the explanation that Mr. Collins could not well spare me so often. Lady Catherine scoffed at this, but did not press me further. I will not bore you with the details of the evening meal for it is the conversation after which brought so much change. We had not long retired to the drawing room when Lady Catherine remarked that I was much altered since coming to Kent. When Mr. Collins attempted to take credit for the improvement in my character, Lady Catherine stopped him before he could complete even one sentence. She informed him she did not think the alteration to be in his favor and that she rather preferred the "witty if impertinent" bride she first encountered. She then censured my clumsiness, saying she had never met a person so inclined to mishaps and injury as myself. "Mr. Collins," said she, "it will not do for your wife to continue sustaining these grievous injuries. She must receive better care." My husband turned quite pale at her words, yet he could do naught but agree. Lady Catherine then informed Mr. Collins that my presence would be required at Rosings every day to attend to Miss de Bourgh. Mr. Collins thought to disagree, but the Lady was rather insistent and would carry her point over all his objections. Before we departed that night the arrangements were made.

I am happy to report that there has not been a single mishap since that night. I spend my afternoons with Miss de Bourgh. She is a charming conversationalist and we have much in common. When she retires for an hour or two to rest, I am at leisure to walk the paths around Rosings, write letters to my dear family or even lose myself in the library. I believe papa would adore the library at Rosings. Mr. Darcy has added to the collection here nearly as faithfully as to his own from what his cousin tells me. It is good to read something other than Fordyce for a change. Only do not tell Mary I said so.

Love,

Elizabeth Collins


26 November 1812
Hunsford Cottage, Kent

Dear Jane,

Was it only one year ago that we danced with our friends at Netherfield? So very much has changed since then. I wonder if I had not been so hasty to judge Mr. Darcy how things might have been different. But it is no matter now. I can scarce believe I shall be an aunt in just a short time. You and my brother will make wonderful parents. I do wish mama would give you some peace. I would suggest you appeal to our father, but after so long a marriage I do not think he will begin to check her behavior now. I am happy to hear that Lydia is learning to play so well from Mary, and that Kitty continues to improve in drawing. Indeed it sounds as though Miss Darcy made quite the impression on our little family in the weeks she was visiting you at Netherfield. Perhaps the new found peace will have some influence on mama as well.

Life in Kent continues on rather quietly. Lady Catherine sends her coach daily that I might continue my friendship with Anne. I have been assigned my own rooms at Rosings as there are times when Anne feels she cannot part with me and begs that I remain overnight. Lady Catherine keeps Mr. Collins busy with the various needs of the parish and so between his increased responsibilities and my new duties to Anne, it frequently happens that I do not see my husband more than once or twice a week. I find I can well bear the separation.

I confess I dread the coming holiday for Lady Catherine and Anne will travel to Matlock for a month complete and I shall find myself quite desolate without them or my dear family for company. We shall make a very small party, just Mr. Collins and myself. Perhaps I should invite some distinguished family of the parish to join us. I will speak to Lady Catherine first as my cousin will never fail to do her bidding.

Please give my brother and sisters and father my love. As to our mother, and do not think I have ignored your entreaties in this department, I have not yet learnt to forgive her. I do not know that I ever shall. I know you do not approve of that sentiment, but I cannot help myself. Our father was ill, but he was not dying and she very well knew it. To force me into my present circumstance was unconscionable. Please do not ask me to pardon the woman who has been responsible for ruining all my hopes. I am at last finding some measure of contentment here, but it is not due in any part to her.

Wishing you every joy.

Love

Elizabeth Collins


16 January 1813
Rosings Park, Kent

Dear Jane,

Congratulations on the birth of your son. I am sure little Charlie will be the most complying child ever known, as well as the most handsome. Truly I am happy for you. Kitty included a lovely sketch of your little family and it warms me to see the love radiating from your face. It would seem you were made to be a wife and mother.

Lady Catherine and Anne have returned from their sojourn to Matlock and I am glad to be in their company once again. I fear the holidays in Kent were not at all agreeable as I once again found myself the victim of my own lack of caution. It was a painful lesson I am not likely to forget soon. Mother and daughter were somewhat at odds when they first returned. It seems Anne has a suitor, and it is not her cousin. Lady Catherine, I think, begins to reconcile herself to the probable match. Never before have I heard her speak of anything other than the importance of uniting Rosings and Pemberley through marriage. Since she has begun to see Anne's true contentment however, she has begun to speak more of the importance of felicity in the marriage state. Am I vain to think that perhaps witnessing almost daily the disastrous results of an unequal marriage has softened her heart toward her daughter?

Love,

Elizabeth Collins


16 January 1813
Rosings Park, Kent

Dear Papa,

I must thank you again and again for the book of sonnets. How very kind of you to send it to me at Rosings rather than Hunsford Cottage. You are too clever by half. I am sorry not to have sent any presents for you or my sisters. It could not be helped. Kitty's newest sketches of my beloved family enjoy a place of honor in my rooms at Rosings. It is a great comfort to sit in that room surrounded by images of the ones I love whilst I read a book from my excellent father. You do not know the joy you have delivered.

I love you papa, and I miss you so very much.

Your Affectionate Daughter,

Elizabeth Collins


23 March 1813
Hunsford Cottage, Kent

Mama,

I have received your letter. On the subject of Lydia's desertion, as I have not had the privilege of seeing my family since I married over a year ago, I do not see how I can be rightly blamed. Furthermore it is my understanding that rather than abandoning her mother, she is in fact becoming an accomplished young lady under my sister's watchful eye. This should give you cause to rejoice for now that she can speak sensibly of something other than fashion and red coats she shall certainly make a better marriage than she ever could have before.

As to that other matter of which you so extensively wrote, I find I must beg you to refrain from offering any further advice on the necessity of providing my cousin with an heir. I cannot imagine how such a private matter is any concern of yours. I assure you madam, you have done quite enough in regards to my marriage. You would do well to focus your attentions where they are better welcomed than they are here.

Elizabeth Collins


1 April 1813
Rosings Park, Kent

Dearest Jane,

I am so excited as to scarcely be able to hold my pen. I feel as though I may burst with the effort of containing my pleasure. I shall keep you in suspense no longer dear sister. Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam arrived in Kent last week for their annual visit and they brought with them Miss Darcy. She is indeed the sweetest creature imaginable and I have delighted in coming to know her. But this is not the only source of my happiness. Miss Darcy invited Anne to come to Pemberley when she departs Kent next week with her brother. Lady Catherine has absolutely insisted that I be allowed to join them. She is certain Anne cannot bear to be without my company for so long as she was at Christmas. Lady Catherine thought to come as well but feels she must stay to ensure my cousin does not slack in his duties to the parish. Instead she will send along Anne's companion, Mrs. Jenkinson. So you see there can be no scandal in my accompanying my two dear friends to Derbyshire.

Jane, I know you will think me to be the worst sort of wife imaginable but I cannot hide anything from you. The very idea of spending even a few weeks away from the constant scrutiny and attention of my cousin brings a lightness to my being such as I have not experienced this past year at least.

Your Affectionate Sister,

Elizabeth Collins


6 May 1813
Pemberley, Derbyshire

Dear Papa,

What can I say of Pemberley and my delight in being here? Never have I seen a place for which nature has done more or where natural beauty has been so little counteracted by an awkward taste. The estate itself is nearly ten-miles around and is covered by meadows, woodlands and streams. I wander the paths every day to my heart's content. When the weather does not permit me out of doors I find I can cheerfully spend an entire day in Pemberley's library. Mr. Darcy tells me it is the work of many generations and I daresay, Papa, that even you would be satisfied with its offerings. The very air of this place restores my soul.

I spend my days in company with Anne and Georgiana. We do all those little things which occupy a lady's time. Georgiana plays the pianoforte so beautifully that I am almost ashamed to perform in the same room with her, but our host often requests that I play and as a lady I can hardly refuse. Perhaps Georgiana's prodigious talent is why Lydia wanted to learn and Mary became so determined to improve her own playing. Mr. Darcy purchased a new instrument for his sister and she is gracious to allow my poor fingers to caress its keys.

I had forgotten, Papa, that I was capable of such contentment. The only thing I lack here is my dear family.

Your loving daughter,

Elizabeth Collins


15 May 1813
Pemberley, Derbyshire

Dear Papa,

You are very sly to keep from me the secret of Jane's visit. I will not hide from you, dear father that I wept with joy on seeing my beloved sister. How I have longed for her companionship. Anne and Georgiana are quite dear to me, but they are not my Jane.

Jane and Charles arrived only two days after my last letter to you but I believe they plan to stay for several weeks. Mr. Darcy and Charles are very much engaged with the estate, so I see very little of them except after dinner. What can I say of your grandson that you do not already know? Little Charlie is an absolute joy. He is a happy baby with an excellent disposition. With his mother's looks and his father's humor, he is destined to be a good man.

Yesterday our entire party, Mrs. Jenkinson, Anne, Georgiana, Charles, Jane, Charlie, Mr. Darcy and I, partook of a picnic very near the pond. It was truly a perfect day. Mr. Darcy saw to the comfort of all his guests. There was nothing that needed to be done that he did not do himself. There was an abundance of excellent food and intelligent conversation. We sat on blankets in the shade of a massive oak and spoke of happy memories. We played a wonderful game of similes which I am sure you will not be surprised to find Mr. Darcy won. Though I will say I came very close to it in the end.

I have heard from no one in Kent save Lady Catherine. She tells me my cousin is very much engaged with his duties and will not be able to join me any time soon. I took the news quite cheerfully.

I love you papa.

Elizabeth Collins


21 June 1813
Pemberley, Derbyshire

Dear Jane,

It seems wholly unfair after being deprived of your company for more than a year to be parted again after so short a reunion. I miss you already and I am certain Charlie misses his favorite aunt. It has now been three weeks since you left Pemberley. Have you told mama yet that you are looking for an estate and will settle in Derbyshire as soon as an eligible purchase presents? I think not, for surely her lamentations would be so loud as to be heard even at this distance.

I write to impart good news. Our dear Anne is to be married. I do not believe it will be a long engagement as each of the parties is anxious to begin a life together. As the groom is a second son, the couple will reside at Rosings. I do not know if Lady Catherine will retire to the dowager house. It is rather difficult to imagine Rosings without her formidable presence. Alas, along with the happiness there must be some sorrow. Now that there is a wedding to plan, we must all return to Kent. Dearest Jane, I hope you will not judge me too harshly when I say that I shall leave the very best of me behind at Pemberley. These past months have been like a dream. I have been surrounded by friends, I have been at peace and I have not known an instant of fear except in the night. We none of us can control our dreams and that is where my cousin finds me. And so to Kent I must go and I shall hope that this time apart has brought a change to the one I must call husband. If it has, then perhaps I shall find some measure of contentment in that country.

Your Affectionate Sister,

Elizabeth Collins


17 August 1813
Hunsford Cottage, Kent

Dear Jane,

I wish you joy on the coming addition to your family. Little Charlie will be an excellent elder brother.

Mr. and Mrs. Addison have left for their wedding tour. They shall travel the country for three weeks before returning to Kent to take up their lives. Mr. Addison is a pleasant, cheerful sort of fellow and he exhibits every possible kindness to his wife and her mother. They shall make a merry party. In Anne's absence I have returned to Hunsford Cottage. Lady Catherine could think of no excuse to keep me away any longer. Indeed, even when Anne returns I think it will be difficult to contrive a reason she should need my companionship.

My cousin is unchanged from the earliest days of our marriage. Though Lady Catherine endeavors to keep him very much engaged with his duties to the parish, when he is home he continues in his plan to improve my character and in fact has redoubled his efforts because of what he terms my relapse in the months of our separation. I cannot regret my time away, difficult as it is to reconcile myself to my present circumstance. I find that even the memories of my friends at Pemberley bring a certain peace to my mind.

I hope, sister, that you treasure your dear Charles. I believe that he and his friend, Mr. Darcy are the rarest of men and you are extraordinarily fortunate in his love for you. Kiss my nephew and give my regards to my sisters and father.

Your affectionate sister,

Elizabeth Collins


20 September 1813
Rosings Park, Kent

Dear Mr. Bennet,

Forgive this abrupt introduction; I am Matthias Addison, husband to Anne de Bourgh and newly master of Rosings Park. I have taken the liberty of writing to you on your daughter's behalf. At the insistence of my wife and her mother, and indeed I offered no objection to the scheme, your daughter has been removed to Rosings Park. We anticipate her stay with us to be of some duration. I fear sir that I have given you cause for some alarm. I will not trifle with you, though Mrs. Collins is now recovering she was in very poor condition when she first arrived.

Mrs. Addison and I had not long returned from our wedding tour when she observed Mrs. Collins had yet to pay a call. It is my understanding this was quite unusual as it was their established routine for Mrs. Collins to call daily. When three days had passed with no word from Mrs. Collins, my wife and her mother, Lady Catherine, set forth immediately to call upon the parsonage. Apparently when they were announced to Mrs. Collins she was able to stand to greet them only with great difficulty. Though she attempted to hide her circumstances it did not take long for the ladies to determine Mrs. Collins was indeed seriously injured. Though she would not speak a word against Mr. Collins, the servants of that house have no love for their master and the housekeeper did not scruple to give a full account as to the cause and nature of the injuries to her beloved mistress. The full force of my esteemed mother-in-law's will was brought quickly to bear and with the assistance of a few trusted servants and a small dose of laudanum, Mrs. Collins was bundled into our carriage and brought directly to Rosings. Here she has remained these ten days.

It is the express wish of my family to offer shelter to Mrs. Collins for so long as it is needed. While her husband certainly retains the right to claim his wife, it is our belief that he will not do so as long as she resides in the home of his patroness. We did extend an offer to assist your daughter in obtaining an ecclesiastical separation but she would not hear of anything that might attach scandal to your good family. The story that has been circulated in the village is simply that Mrs. Collins has taken ill and requires constant care for her recovery. Her husband's reputation is such that the story has not been questioned and any censure has been reserved for the gentleman.

Your daughter had no wish to inform her family of her situation. She is experiencing no small amount of mortification and does not want her family to share in her shame. My wife works diligently to disabuse her of such notions but to no avail. It is for this reason I have taken it upon myself to write. I believe your daughter to be in need of her family, but we cannot risk sending her to you. I shall leave it to you to determine which of her family would be of greatest benefit. If you will consent to a visit please send your reply and we shall assist with all the arrangements.

Your Servant,

Matthias Addison


21 September 1813
Rosings Park, Kent

Dear Mr. Bennet,

It is with gratitude and relief we have received your reply. We shall expect you and your daughter on the morrow.

Matthias Addison


1 November 1813
Rosings Park, Kent

Dear Jane,

Grey Manor sounds perfectly charming and I think you and my brother are quite wise to take possession in the spring. To undertake a move in the winter, and so close to your confinement would be arduous indeed. I am sorry to hear mama has been so trying; though perhaps it will make the time of removal less burdensome as you will be relieved to be out of her daily presence. To take Kitty with you is a kindness I am certain she will appreciate.

I should thank you and Mary again and again for your kind attentions in September. I am sure if papa had come alone he would have been quite at a loss and I confess that I was in great need of your company as well. My hostess tells me I should inform my family of my continued recovery though I have been loath to write of it as I do not believe words can adequately express how greatly changed I am from the poor bedraggled creature of September. I shall start with the area of least recovery. I am certain you will not be surprised to learn that I still do not laugh and I do not sleep well at all. Indeed my cousin plagues me ever in my dreams so that I have little desire to sleep. Not all my news is so terrible. My appetite for both food and life is returning and I must say that Rosings is an excellent place to recover one's spirits. Though not perhaps so excellent as Pemberley proved to be last spring. Lady Catherine and Anne have been most attentive in making sure every meal contains some or other favorite of mine. They were quite convinced, as I believe you were, that I was too thin before. I have very nearly recovered my former energy and can now enjoy frequent walks about the grounds. Fret not, for I am never without an escort. I do try not to chaff at this restriction as I well understand the necessity of such measures. The escort is not nearly so much an insult to my desire for independence as being restricted to the parsonage had been for so many months.

I thank you and my brother for the kind invitation to join you first at Netherfield and then on to Grey Manor. As much as I would wish to be able to accept, I fear it is impossible. So long as Mr. Collins retains a legal claim on my life I am best beyond his reach here. I shall not scruple to say I would not likely come to Netherfield in any case. Mama has been vigorous in her objections to my current status and I cannot conceive of placing you or any of the rest of my family in what would surely be a most awkward position. I am quite resigned to live out my days at Rosings in this strange state of being neither single nor truly married.

4 November 1813

Oh, Jane surely you will think me to be the most unnatural creature that ever was when you read these next lines. I had just set my mind to close this letter when an unexpected visitor arrived. You can well imagine how guarded the entire household has been of late, so I do not exaggerate when I say the man was nearly turned away before he could state what he was about. He was an assistant to the local magistrate. It seems a carriage was found overturned on the London road that very morning. The driver and passenger both suffered mortal injuries. To be very plain, sister, I am now a widow. Mr. Collins is dead. I confess to you alone that I felt nothing but relief at the news. There, I have said it and you may judge me as uncaring and unnatural as may be.

It has now been three days since we heard the report of my cousin's demise. As I am his nearest relative (in fact our family are his only living relations) it fell to me to make the arrangements. I will not deceive you; I was most pleased to leave the entire matter to Mr. Addison. I hardly know what more to write save that I am grateful the support of my dear friends means I do not have to determine the course of my future today.

Your Unashamedly Relieved Sister,

Elizabeth Collins (might I ever rid myself of his name?)


15 December 1813
Rosings Park, Kent

Dear Jane,

It is nearly impossible to think that another Christmas is nearly upon us. I had thought to come to you at Netherfield to join in the family celebrations. However, I find that is no longer possible. I have in my possession a letter from mama making it very clear that despite the entail having broken with my cousin's death I am still very much out of favor with that lady. She blames me for Mr. Collins' death and says I failed in my duty by not producing an heir. There is more, but in the end she says I am no longer welcome at Longbourn. I fear the breach between us is now complete. No matter how I miss my dear family, I cannot add to the general uproar and discontent of the household. I shall have to wait some time before seeing you all again. Do not worry for me; I shall not spend the holiday alone. Anne's Aunt Fitzwilliam, Lady Matlock, has graciously included me the general invitation to her family to spend the holiday season with the Fitzwilliam-Darcy-De Bourgh families at Matlock. Mr. and Mrs. Addison will travel to Bath to be with his family while I shall go with Lady Catherine to Matlock. I am given to understand it is a lovely estate and I confess that the thought of spending the season with a large family gives me pleasure.

I have enclosed some small gifts for my family, even mama. I dare not send them directly to Longbourn so I shall trust you to have them safely delivered.

Happy Christmas dear Sister,

Elizabeth


31 January 1814
Matlock House, Derbyshire

Dear Jane,

Once again I offer my congratulations on the arrival of my niece. Despite the testimony of her grandfather, I believe it is much too early to say she has my disposition. Surely with two such agreeable parents any daughter of yours must be infinitely more complying than her Aunt could ever hope to be. I am happy to learn you passed the holidays in relative peace and that our dear Kitty has decided to follow you to Derbyshire. I only fear a little for Lydia as she will have no elder sisters to guide her. Perhaps we might take it turns to host her. Both Anne and Lady Catherine have expressed again and again that I may invite any of my family to come whenever I am so inclined.

We leave tomorrow to return to Rosings. Our holiday in Matlock has been all that is delightful. Georgiana asks that I pass on her regards to Mary, Kitty and Lydia. I believe she intends to invite them to visit her at Pemberley, only do not say anything as I would not wish to disappoint our sisters if the event should be postponed. As Kitty is going with you and I hope to have Mary join me, perhaps she will have to settle for Lydia alone. It seems that would be of benefit to both as Lydia's liveliness might lessen Georgiana's reserve and from Georgiana, Lydia might learn some little restraint. As you have guessed, we were joined at Matlock by Georgiana and Mr. Darcy. Also in the family party were Colonel Fitzwilliam and his elder brother and his wife the Viscount and Countess Hargrove. It was quite a large gathering and everyone seemed determined to display as much affection and love as could be had. Having spent no small amount of time with Lady Catherine and Mr. Darcy, I confess I was surprised at the open warmth of the family. Though I suppose I should not be. After all, Aunt and Uncle Gardiner are not at all similar to our own parents. Mr. Darcy amongst his family is a revelation. Gone is his taciturn disposition and reserve. In its place is a gentleman who is all ease and friendliness. He seemed somehow lighter in his bearing now than ever he was last summer. It was as if a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders. I found myself frequently in company with Mr. Darcy and Georgiana as everyone else was naturally paired off. In Colonel Fitzwilliam's case his frequent partner was his betrothed, Lady Amelia, who is the daughter of an earl. I understand the Colonel has done his duty to both his family and himself by having the good sense to fall in love with an heiress. We had sleigh rides about the grounds and there was even a snowball fight or two. Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam were utterly incorrigible. Lady Matlock only shook her head at them and muttered something that sounded distinctly like, "Boys. They never do grow up!" I almost laughed, but I still cannot, though I do smile more. I spent much of my time very agreeably engaged reading, playing duets with Georgiana or walking about the gardens near the house. My escort at Matlock was far more pleasant than the ones with which I am familiar from Rosings. Will you think very badly of me when I say that Mr. Darcy often found reason to walk with me? We were sometimes joined by Georgiana, but just as often it was just we two. I daresay we are now great friends.

After much discussion, Anne has persuaded me to invite Mary to Rosings for a time. I believe our sister would do well away from the censure of my mother and having a companion would be quite agreeable to me as it would enable me to accept invitations to travel without inconveniencing my hostess. That said companion could also be a dear sister is only a source of happiness.

Your Inexplicably Happy Sister,

Elizabeth

P.S. You see I have divested myself of his name at least in writing.


March 5 1814
Pemberley, Derbyshire

Dear Jane,

As you see from the direction on my letter, Mary and I have traveled to Pemberley to visit Georgiana and Lydia. We hope to also see Kitty and your family whilst we are here. I had not the least intention of coming so soon, but Georgiana can be most persuasive and I found I could not decline so well phrased an invitation as hers. There was, of course, the added inducement of being once again in the company of my sisters. I believe the timing of the visits was rather carefully planned for it seems too great a coincidence that we should all chance to be at Pemberley at the same time.

Our sisters are so greatly changed! Lydia is still herself; still fiercely independent and livelier than what is entirely acceptable and yet she is entirely proper. Mary is still quiet, bookish and reserved, but she has discovered the works of Donne and Wordsworth, much to my relief. Lydia has abandoned the pianoforte but is becoming quite proficient on Georgiana's harp and Mary's playing is now quite delightful. They are so improved that we are now able to have an entire conversation without a single mention of officers, lace, or the great Reverend Fordyce. To be honest, the improvement in them makes me feel a little ashamed that I did not make a greater effort toward them much sooner.

Mr. Darcy had thought to go to London for a time, but finding no support for this scheme he very soon abandoned it. Georgiana and Lydia are not yet out (Lydia herself declared this much to my astonishment), Mary is not at all inclined to visit town and I am supposed to still be in mourning, though I have scandalized our sister by refusing to wear black. I daresay if she had been married to that man, she would not mourn him either and I care not one jot for society's opinion on the subject except as how it might bring harm to my sisters. We are all content to remain at Pemberley, for who could not approve of such a magical place?

We shall likely remain in Derbyshire at least until summer, enjoying all the estate has to offer. I have already discovered several pathways on which to lose myself although it would seem Mr. Darcy always manages to find me, a circumstance which never fails to brighten my day. Here at Pemberley I feel entirely free and even in my dreams the specter of our cousin does not appear.

Your Unfashionably Impertinent Sister,

Elizabeth


May 14 1814
Pemberley, Derbyshire

Dear Papa,

I am sending this letter in care of my dear Mr. Darcy because I know after my disastrous first match you will be cautious in giving your approval to him.

How can a daughter speak to her father of the man she wishes to marry? It is not his money, papa, nor the security and respectability he can offer that I love. I would love him even if he was only a servant. I love the way he listens when I speak. I love the way he encourages my impertinence and seeks my opinion. I love the peace I feel when he enters a room. I love the way he looks to the needs of my sisters and his own. I love the way he cares for all those under his mantle of responsibility. He is a kind master, a good brother and a most excellent man. He is reserved in the company of those he does not know, but I can find no fault in that. He loves me, papa and he respects me. 'Tis more than I ever thought possible in a marriage partner.

I hope this letter gives you some peace. If you find yourself in need of additional incentive, the library at Pemberley is astonishing and I believe even you could quite lose yourself for days in its volumes. Mr. Darcy bid me to invite you to come at any time and stay for as long as you like.

Your Love-struck Daughter,

Elizabeth


26 November 1814
Pemberley, Derbyshire

Dearest Jane,

Had anyone told me last year that I would now be so happily settled in a new life, I would have pronounced them ready for Bedlam. I now understand your words when you asked how anyone could be so happy. It is indeed far, far too much.

I am given to understand that I am now back in favor with mama. I think it is not me but rather my husband's fortune that has won her over. I fear she shall not soon be in favor with either myself or Mr. Darcy. Neither of us is quite willing to forgive her behavior of the past year. I do not wish to be at odds forever though, so I do not doubt we will at least return to civility before long.

But now to happier subjects. My dearest Fitzwilliam has made me whole. He has made me feel valued and loved. We do not always agree, indeed with two such opinionated, out-spoken people in the house such a thing would be nearly impossible. But when we disagree there is no unkindness or disrespect between us. Even then, even when we are at odds, there is love.

Our family party is usually made up of the pair of us, Georgiana and Mary. We would welcome Lydia at any time, as I know you would. For now she seems content to divide her time between three households. I am delighted to now inform you that you must be the first to wish me joy; we are to welcome another to our family in the spring. The newest Darcy is expected to make an appearance in late-March or early-April.

Dear, dear, Jane, how magnificently different is my life now from what I ever imagined. We do not do anything extraordinary. In fact we are quite dull I suspect. We read together, I play the pianoforte while he speaks with our sisters, we sometimes play cards. But the most astonishing thing, Jane, the most wonderful, delightful thing is that we laugh. Oh, Jane how we laugh.

Your Incandescently Happy Sister,

Elizabeth Darcy


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