Mr. Darcy breathed in the salty, fresh air and sighed. He relaxed against the carriage seat and smiled. He would have a lads holiday with not even a modicum of distress. Even though this journey to Brighton had taken several days, he was contented that he had listened to his cousin.
He had originally been surprised at the invitation to join Col. Fitzwilliam in Brighton for a holiday, as his cousin was now stationed there. But the more he avoided Miss Bingley's machinations, and the more Elizabeth's boorish refusal of his marriage proposal tormented him, the more he realized his cousin was a brilliant man.
The only concern he had was leaving his younger sister. But he had to escape from Miss Bingley or he would do something wholly ungentlemanly and demand her to leave, which would insult his friend. So instead of ordering them to leave, Mr. Darcy left himself, thereby forcing the Bingleys to leave by consequence. This actually pleased his sister Georgiana, as she did not admire Miss Bingley's false cheer concerning her.
He verily should have been more commanding at letting Miss Bingley know his thoughts about her. The last night he spent with the Bingleys, she had conveniently forgotten what door was her bedchamber. His valet had been in the room undressing him, otherwise he would have been well and truly caught in the parson's mousetrap. Mr. Darcy departed the next day for Brighton.
He turned his head to look out the carriage window. Pairs and groupings strolled along the Steyne, the principal street in Brighton. According to his cousin, walking on the Steyne was a popular pastime. Mr. Darcy hoped his reply in the affirmative had reached Col. Fitzwilliam by now. Mr. Darcy had replied to his cousin's invitation the morning he departed Pemberley as he had not made his decision until the night before. Or should he say Miss Bingley made the decision for him?
His lips tipped up as this was exactly what he needed. He would be refreshed by the sea, away from Miss Bingley and get his mind off Elizabeth Bennet. Every time Miss Bingley fawned over him he wished Elizabeth was in her place. Every time he saw happy couples he wished it was Elizabeth and him. He had to get over her or he would end up in Bedlam.
Brighton would not have been a destination he would have chosen as it did not have the best reputation. This was due no doubt due to the Prince Regent holding court with his mistress at the Marine Pavilion having abandoned his wife in London. However, there was a military camp located there, to prevent Napoleon from landing, and as that was his cousin's location for the time being he was more than willing to get away to Brighton.
Elizabeth almost leaned out of the carriage window as they rode through Brighton, so excited she was to view the sights. This would be her first time seeing the English Channel, or any ocean, and she was quite exhilarated. She had read descriptions of the ocean in books, but there was no substitute for encountering it herself. After that she did not care what attractions they visited.
Their journey to Brighton came about principally due to Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth had never forgotten what he had said about the conduct of her family. When Lydia received an invitation to accompany Col. Forster's wife as her particular companion in Brighton, Elizabeth knew she had to stop her sister from going. Lydia, an unabashed flirt let loose in a military camp with her friend, who was only two years elder than Lydia, was a means for disaster. Her discussion with Mr. Bennet regarding Lydia staying home came to no avail and Lydia cheerfully departed for Brighton.
Then the Gardiners arrived to take Elizabeth on their excursion through Derbyshire. When Elizabeth mentioned her concerns, both Gardiners agreed and were quite anxious. They changed their destination on the hope that they could keep Lydia in check. Otherwise all three feared Lydia would cause a scandal and ruin the reputation of the entire family.
During the short journey from Longbourn, Elizabeth often reflected upon Mr. Darcy's horrible proposal chiefly his thoughts regarding the want of propriety by her family. He had been absolutely correct. It hurt to admit that even after explaining how Lydia would behave in Brighton, her father swept aside her concerns.
Along with that embarrassment was the knowledge that she had been so inordinately wrong with what she had accused him of regarding Mr. Wickham. She could not imagine how furious Mr. Darcy must have been. Elizabeth knew she would never see him again, and could not write him an apology, but she still vowed to improve the conduct of her family however she could. As well as her own tendency to judge without knowing all the facts. She owed Mr. Darcy no less after being so abominably rude to him.
"Lizzy, that is the fourth time you have sighed in the last hour. What is concerning you?" Mrs. Gardiner leaned towards Elizabeth who sat on the carriage bench across from the Gardiners.
She pasted on a smile and turned to her favorite aunt. "I apologize. I did not notice I had sighed so often." She hoped that would console her aunt as Elizabeth did not want to tell her the reason she had sighed. No, only Jane knew how rudely she had spurned Mr. Darcy and how mistaken she had been regarding Mr. Wickham.
"I do not know what is resting heavy on your mind, besides Lydia's prospects for impropriety. But rest assured we will soon have her under guidance."
"Yes indeed," said Mr. Gardiner. "The brisk air off the ocean cures all ailments, I like to say."
Elizabeth smiled at the both of them, full of gratitude that they had listened and agreed with her concerns regarding Lydia. It was too late this day to call upon the Forsters, but on the morrow they would and she could relax. Plus with all the new sights and entertainments in Brighton, Mr. Darcy would be replaced in her thoughts. That would give her relief for the first time since she had returned from Hunsford.