CHAPTER ONE

Monday 30 March

And so I am off! Off, at last! Into the wild blue yonder. The thought that I am finally on my way to Pemberley makes me tremble with anticipation. To be almost-twenty and feeling very independent is marvellous. I am sure I do not know how I have borne the last months since both Lizzy and Jane, now Mrs Darcy and Mrs Bingley instead of the pretty Miss Bennets, went away. Only Father, Mama and Mary have been at home besides me, and have driven me to the very brink of mania, I am sure of it. Father, I suppose, has not – but you could not say that he has done anything to save me from it, either! He spends most of his time in his library, comes out at mealtimes alone, says not a word, and then returns to his library or goes for a solitary walk or something that does not involve any of us. Mama, as much as I love her, has seemed more and more like fingernails scraping on a chalkboard as time goes on, screaming for me whenever she thinks she needs something ("KITTY! Kitty! Come and do this!" or "Kitty! KITTY! Oh, drat the blessed girl, where has she got to?"), and Mary has sat and read her books or played her instrument and, all in all, ignored me.

But! Now I am AWAY! Off into the world at long last! I was forced to promise Father faithfully that I would not run away with a scoundrel like Lydia did – I wouldn't want to, in any case – and after many tearful embraces from Mama and a half-hearted goodbye and 'I'll miss you' from Mary, I managed to escape.

I am now sitting in a carriage bound for Derbyshire with my maidservant Betty, and no doubt you have realised already where I am; it is so bumpy my handwriting is very ill indeed. An hour has passed since I left Longbourn, and still my spirits are high and excited. I cannot sit still knowing I will be at Pemberley this time tomorrow and with my sister Elizabeth again! She is with child now, and the baby will be born in about a month and a half's time. That is one of the reasons I am going; she is not allowed to run about much in her usual style and live her normal sort of life, and I have to keep her company and help her with things she cannot manage. Maybe I will even be allowed to help her when the time comes for the baby to arrive.

I do hope we will be apprehended by a highwayman. What a thrilling adventure that would be! Father tells me that highwaymen have long since died out, but I do not believe him. In my mind, Dick Turpin and Black Bess will always exist. I am forever loyal.

It will be interesting to see what Mr Darcy is like as a husband. He always seemed so stiff-backed and disagreeable, and although he is only about eight-and-twenty he seemed much older in terms of proud dignity, but while he courted Lizzy before their wedding, well, he suddenly became so different! He didn't change one jot, but … you just noticed more of him. His smiles, for instance. One day I suddenly noticed that he had the most beautiful smile in his eyes as he looked at Elizabeth, and I realised that he had always looked that way – you just never noticed, underneath that proud outer shell. He even roused himself to speak to me sometimes. I liked that. I fear this is becoming very garbled, for I find it very hard to explain myself in this instance. I will just give up and hope that you, diary, may understand what I mean to say.

By the way, diary, on beginning you, I am perfectly resolved to be absolutely truthful with you. Nothing shall be hidden. Lydia kept a diary for a very small amount of time once, and she only wrote about what she would have liked the redcoats to say to her, and not about what they actually did say. I do not think that is correct. As you see, I have high moral standards.

I wonder if there are any redcoats in Derbyshire?

Tuesday, March 31

I am finally here and so tired I can hardly pick up the pen. I had a most wonderful adventure today, not exactly highwaymen galore, but still exciting; our carriage overturned, just in time! It was about three miles out of Lambton that it happened, a silly little man called Archibald Walters trying to drive a phaeton much too fast came around a corner and knocked right into us. We went tumbling all around the place, all our luggage fell out, he went purplish red (he was very fat and unctuous), and tried to help, but only managed to get in the way. Just as I was about to get very angry indeed, another carriage drove up, and it was driven by the most elegant of men! Mr Walters turned even more puce and the most-elegant man gave him such a quelling look and he helped us, and took Betty and me to Pemberley! His name was Lord Gosford, and do you know what he said to me? "Miss Bennet, I am very glad your carriage capsized."

"And why is that, pray?" I asked (trying to be elegant).

"Because if it had not, I should have had to meet you at some demure little evening party where you would have been prim, proper and pale, but you looked so fetching back there with your eyes fiery and your cheeks red, about to begin screaming at Mr Walters."

"Oh!" I said, losing my elegance momentarily in a frightful blush and a wicked little giggle.

"Why the laugh, madam?" he asked, looking at me with a twinkle in his eye.

"You are a dreadful tease, sir," I replied.

"Well, I meant every word, Miss Bennet!" he said, pretending to be affronted.

I just laughed again and refused to believe him.

And then we came to Pemberley and I saw Mr Darcy and Elizabeth finally and thanked Lord Gosford with a pretty little curtsy and a mischievous smile. I caught sight of Lizzy rolling her eyes at Darcy with a smile at the sight of me, and felt ashamed, for I had vowed I would not embarrass them, and I had sworn I would stop being a flirtatious little peacock. (I had overheard Captain Harper calling me that and it had shocked me to the core. I never want to be called a peacock again.)

Then I went into Pemberley and was shown around and met Georgiana and I cannot write anymore because I am utterly wasted after my long day. Good night, diary.

I wonder if I will fall in love with Lord Gosford? He is no redcoat, to be sure, but he is very rich and very handsome.

Wednesday, April 1

It is strange seeing Darcy and Lizzy so evidently in love with one another. I suppose being in your natural habitat brings out the relaxation in a person, in this case, Mr Darcy. I knew that Darcy loves Lizzy amazingly, but I didn't know quite how much Lizzy returned the love. Why, I caught them kissing this morning, full on the lips, and they were not embarrassed in the least – save that Darcy blushed a little when he realised I was standing in the doorway, gobsmacked, but he had such an uncontrollable grin on his face that the red on his cheeks was hardly noticeable.

Georgiana, Darcy's younger sister, is an obviously sweet girl, and only a year younger than I, at eighteen. But she is so deathly shy that I am not quite sure how I am going to get any response out of her in the near future. This was our conversation today over breakfast:

Georgiana: Good morning, Miss Bennet. (Well, at least she initiated it!)

Kitty: Good morning, Miss Darcy. How did you sleep?

Georgiana: Very well, thank you.

PAUSE

Kitty: I am very impressed with Pemberley. It is so beautiful!

Georgiana: Thank you. My brother works constantly to improve it.

Kitty: Yes, that is obvious.

PAUSE

Kitty: Did you enjoy the winter?

Georgiana: Very much.

PAUSE

Kitty: (trying to think of anything suitable to say) What is your favourite part of the grounds here?

Georgiana: The lake.

BIG PAUSE

Kitty: (grasping at threads) It is a very agreeable day.

Georgiana: Yes.

And that was the general idea of the conversation. I hope I can draw her out of her shell at some point, because I get the feeling from Lizzy that Georgiana was one of the reasons I was invited. She certainly needs to get used to the company of people her age.

After breakfast, I had a lovely long tête-à-tête with Lizzy. I love it when Lizzy treats me like a real grown-up sister, and talks to me like she would talk to Jane. She used to be scornful of me, I could tell, but now she seems so happy that she has forgotten all my silliness in the past. We talked about the coming baby (she is much more calm about it than I would be), about the society in Derbyshire, about Lord Gosford (I was wondering who he was), and how perfect Mr Darcy is (well, she did), and about our parents. Then Georgiana came in, and Lizzy made her sit down with us and join in the conversation, and she actually contributed a few titbits voluntarily! It was an accomplishment indeed. I could tell Elizabeth was very pleased.

And you will never guess what my sister told me later! They are holding a dinner party for me tomorrow night, and inviting all their friends in the district! Lord Gosford is coming, among quite a few others, and some are YOUNG MEN. My heart is fluttering wildly already. I know I swore not to be so flirtatious and silly – that is my behaviour; I'm still allowed to be excited in my head, am I not? Lizzy said there will be dancing! But no redcoats. Even so, diary, I cannot wait for tomorrow night!