Thank you Bethmasencullen for your donation to the Support Stacie Auction and bidding on me.
This outtake is Bella's point of view from Chapter 18, The Letter.
I do not own Twilight or Pride and Prejudice
I desperately needed fresh air. The house which had been my safe haven now felt like a prison.
It had been easier than I thought to convince Jessica I needed to be outdoors this morning. I had come upon Mr. Newton and Jessica seated at the table eating breakfast. Luck seemed to be on my side this morning, unlike yesterday.
Mr. Newton's mouth was full of food, preventing him from talking to me. I took advantage of this rare opportunity to escape without having to listen to his endless droning about Lady Irina. I told Jessica I needed some fresh air, she remarked that I did look pale. I suppose I had not taken the time to look at my appearance this morning. Mr. Newton, in an attempt to speak with his mouth was full, began choking slightly. I slipped out before he was able to clear his throat and talk to me.
Walking slowly toward my favorite path, I stopped suddenly.
Would Mr. Masen be out walking this morning?
I don't think I could take another encounter with him right now. Everything was still to raw.
I looked around making sure I was alone. Seeing no one I took off running. I loved the feeling of the wind on my face as I ran. Running was my escape, even though it was considered a sign of ill breeding. I didn't care, I felt free.
I had been cooped up for far too long, or if I was being honest with myself I was hiding. Never before had a man so thoroughly confused and provoked me. I hated him, yet was unable to deny the irrational draw I felt when near him. Never in my wildest imaginations did I believe he would propose. Why would he want that? Mr. Masen was either a total fool or a masochist. No man would purposely attach themselves to someone who so thoroughly disliked them.
No, he must be a fool.
I slowed to a walk and finally came to a stop. Grasping the nearest tree and I caught my breath. It had been a while since I had an opportunity to run and I felt tired.
I had tried countless times to understand why I reacted the way I did to him. It was as if I had no control over my actions, and that bothered me considerably. The feelings he stirred in me were confusing and new, I had no idea what to think. He seemed to bring out strong reactions in me, unrelenting on every front. We were toxic together, there was no denying it. If I had accepted him, we would have made each other miserable.
A noise behind me broke me of my musings. I turned thinking I must be hearing things, only to be face to face with no other than, Mr. Masen.
He looked exhausted, his face which usually held such a haughty demeanor, was drawn and tired. I felt my heart clench as it cried out for him. I wanted to caress his face, taking away all the pain in his eyes.
No! I couldn't do this, he had done too much.
I steeled myself.
He looked at me as if he were trying to decipher something. He sighed heavily and reached into the breast pocket of his coat.
"I know I have no right to ask anything of you, but would you do me the honor of reading this letter?" he entreated in a soft voice. It was so unlike any other time I had spoken with him.
He sounded broken.
Before I could respond he turned and all but ran from me.
What had I done to him?
I watched his retreating form, hoping he would turn around. I needed to see his face one last time. Even though my feelings for him were confused, and I was certain I disliked him, I didn't want that face to be my final memory of him.
He didn't turn around, and now he was gone.
I looked at my hand where he had placed the letter and slowly closed my fists tightly around it. I willed myself not to cry out in frustration, why could he not leave well enough alone? From the feel of it, the letter was lengthy, he must have had much to say. No doubt more complaints on the unworthiness of myself as well as my family.
I walked over to the stream, and sat on a fallen log. I contemplated throwing the letter in the water and letting the current carry his hateful words far away from me.
But curiously got the best of me. He had gone to a lot of trouble to not only write this, but track me down.
Sighing, I broke the seal, and paused looking around to make sure I was still alone. I had no idea what the contents of this letter held, but I knew I did not want an audience intruding on my reaction.
Slowly, I unfolded the letter and began to read.
Be not alarmed on receiving this letter, or that it contains any continuation of sentiments or renewals of offers which today were so disgusting to you. I would, however, like to address the accusations leveled against me.
He was angry and bitter; I couldn't help the sadness my heart felt with his declaration.
First, despite the feelings of either party, I separated your sister from Mr. McCarty. Although I do not deny this, I feel my reasons were just.
Justified? Really, Mr. Masen astonished me.
I noticed early on that Mr. McCarty admired your sister and was very much taken with her. The night of the Netherfield ball convinced me that it would not be long until a serious attachment would be made. However, after observing your sister for several weeks, I was unable to sense any kind of strong attachment on her side. Although she seemed to enjoy his company, I was convinced her affections were not as strong as my friend's feelings for her. So many of our class marry for wealth and titles, and it is a rare match indeed that is formed from love. I did not want my friend to suffer that fate.
Though I was loathed to agree to his point of view, I grudgingly accepted that although it was flawed, his reasoning made sense. Too many people married with the intent of aligning powerful families or to combine wealth. Often the bride and groom had no say in their prospective spouse. I searched my memory for those times Rose had been with Mr. McCarty. I could remember his enthusiasm, and cheerful demeanor, Rose, though shy, seemed genuinely comfortable around him. This was a huge step considering she generally shied away from the company of men altogether.
In addition, I was given information that night about a prior engagement your sister had with a Mr. Royce King, one which he ended suddenly. Mr. McCarty was confused and unsure of how your sister really felt, afraid that perhaps she pined for this other man. I convinced him it would be wise to leave for town in order to sort out his feelings.
Oh that man, would we never be rid of the horrible shadow he cast over our lives?
I now understand that she did have strong feelings for him, as you informed me, and for that I am truly sorry. It was foolish of me to make assumptions based on what was obviously gossip. I never meant any offense against your sister. I hope you can understand I acted in a way to protect the happiness of a friend by encouraging him to make an informed decision. I can not blame myself for having done this much.
A tear slipped down my cheek and then another. I blinked letting the rest fall freely. I folded the letter and looked at the calming landscape before me, the stream, the trees, anything to distract myself. A heavy weight, which sat on my heart, suddenly felt slightly lighter. I was far from happy with the manner in which Mr. Masen had acted, but his reasoning was sound. Based on the information they had received, and my sisters less than enthusiastic response. I grudgingly agreed that I would have been cautious as well. I wondered what kind of response they were used to. Did they except a woman in love to flirt shamelessly and demanded the attention of the whole room? Was it not enough to show affection through simple gestures? I laughed as memories of Miss McCarty's behavior came rushing back. She had thrown herself shamelessly into Mr. Masen's path time after time only to receive little or no response. Her method of flirting often bordered on the obscene. I was surprised Mr. Masen allowed her to use his Christian name so freely. I thought of the difference between Miss McCarty's behavior and that of Rosalie. Did Mr. McCarty expect more because of his experience with his sister?
I groaned in frustration.
Having never been to town for society functions, I had no experience to draw from. It seemed my only comparison was Miss McCarty, but a nagging feeling told me her methods were more mercenary, and not a reflection of normal ton behavior. I decided I was going in circles and needed to finish the remainder of the letter, I unfolded and began to read.
In the matter of Mr. Wickham, I do not know under what falsehoods he imposed himself on you, yet I hope you can acquit me of cruelty toward him. I feel the only way to do this is it to reveal to you his connection with my family.
James Wickham is the son of my late father's steward. His father was a good man and held the management of our family's estate. We played together as children, often fishing and getting into trouble, as most young boys do. My father was fond of him and offered to assist him with his education. James attended; however, he showed little real interest in pursuing any career. By the end of his term at school, his habits had become alarmingly erratic, from drinking, to gambling heavily, to debauchery of the worst sort. It was not long before he was dismissed from school.
He floundered in and out of several other careers. We saw little of him until news of my father's illness brought him back to Pemberley. My father's attachment to Mr. Wickham was so steady that upon his death, James was given three thousand pounds, as promised in my father's will. After receiving the money, he vanished for a time. Subsequent to gambling away all his money, he sent a missive asking for more funds, which I refused. He then severed all contact, and I did not hear from him until a year ago, under the most painful circumstances, which every day I wish I could forget.
My sister, Alice, who is ten years my junior, was left in the care of a Mrs. Laurent, in whose character we were very much deceived. After reading several of my sister's letters, I determined that she seemed to be suffering from low spirits. I resolved to leave immediately and try to do what I could for her. Wanting to leave as soon as possible, I did not write ahead to inform anyone of my arrival. When I arrived, the house appeared vacant, and Mrs. Laurent was nowhere to be found. At that moment, I heard a scream that will forever be seared in my memory.
I ran frantically, searching for the source of the scream, knowing it was Alice. Approaching her chambers, I threw open the door. What I found shocked and enraged me to no end. James had his hands on my sister, attempting to force himself on her. I ran and threw him off of her, but in my attempt to comfort Alice, who was in hysterics, James had fled.
The bastard had tried to befriend her, in the hopes she would elope with him. When it became clear that she did not harbor any feelings for him beyond friendship, he sought to ruin her reputation in exchange for money to keep his silence. I suppose his primary motive was money, however, I feel a secondary motive was to revenge himself on me for denying him more funds. If he had succeeded, his revenge would have been complete indeed. We were unable to pursue him through the law; to expose him would have meant ruining Alice's reputation. That was not something I was willing to risk. And so the rogue roams free, while my sister tries to regain her life. She was but sixteen years old.
I understand the shock you must be feeling, and I would not burden you with this; however, I have a strong need for you to understand the truth. I know this will not improve your opinion of me, and to that I am reconciled. For confirmation, should you feel in need of it, you may apply to Col. Whitlock, who shares the guardianship of Alice with myself, and is aware of all these events and transactions.
I wish you health and happiness.
Edward Anthony Masen
I felt an overwhelming need to be sick. With shaking hands I refolded the letter and attempted to steady myself on the log. I looked up at the landscape, which had been so soothing and was now blurred. I realized I was shaking with sobs which had been held at bay and now broke through, freely racking my body. I clutched my middle, rocking forward, my free hand covered my mouth holding in the scream threatening to come.
What had I done? How had I been so blind, unwilling to see the truth behind Mr. Masen's words and actions. I had ignored all sense and allowed a man I barley new to blind me from seeing the goodness of another.
Mr. Wickham had been so convincing and I had stupidly listened to him, because Mr. Masen had wounded my pride. What sort of man would relay such private thoughts and accusation to a stranger, and then when Mr. Masen had left Mr. Wickham freely shared with the whole of Meryton. So many signs I should have seen but was blinded by my anger at his slight.
I stood and began walking or pacing if I was being honest. His sister! I had defended that... that man. And he was no better than the bastard who had hurt Rose. I was going to have to face him when I returned to Meryton, and I didn't know if I could restrain myself from physically harming him. He had deceived me, but why? Why had he singled me out of all the ladies who would have been more than willing to listen?
I stopped walking. Had he seen something in Mr. Masen that I had not? Jessica was stubbornly insistent about how Mr. Masen must be in love with me, simply because he paid me more attention than anyone else. Being stubborn as well, I scoffed and brushed it off to thinking Mr. Masen only enjoyed provoking me.
However, after yesterday's declaration it was apparent I need to reevaluate things.
I thought back to our encounters, his time in Meryton, and Kent. I allowed myself to remember our meetings, without my pride blinding my judgment. I remembered his attentions, the discussions about literature. At the time I thought he was trying to insight an argument, but now I realized he was trying to understand me. His attentiveness to me during my time here in Kent. I had grossly misunderstood his attentions, determined to think the worst of him. Now I realize he was the better man all along. Oh Lord, what a fool I was.
And now he was gone and I would give anything to take back my harsh words. I couldn't say I loved him. Attraction and want were often mistaken for love. Regardless, he did not deserve my harsh reproofs. I walked back toward the cottage, feeling infinitely worse than when I had left. Nothing but time it seemed would heal this wound. I had lost so much.
Jessica was waiting for me, pacing the foyer. She didn't ask me much, knowing me far too well. She did however inform me Colonel Whitlock had been there, he waited for over half an hour before he was forced to leave, and now he was gone as well. Jessica seemed confused as to why the Col. had been so insistent upon seeing me, but I knew. He was here to lend testimony to his friend's letter. I thanked her and quickly went up to my room. I stepped inside and locked the door, desperately trying to calm the panic that was overwhelming me.
He was gone, and I would never see him again.