A year and a month is how long it took me to finish this little story, but now it's done. I was twenty-nine when I started writing and tomorrow I'll be thirty-one. Thank you to everyone who has read and commented and patiently (and sometimes not so patiently) waited for me to update - I couldn't have done it without your encouragement. And above all, as always, I want to thank Gayle (scmema), my beta superstar. She's the best.
Three more letters to come, I sure hope you'll like them. Don't forget to leave me a comment at the end, you know you want to:)
Pemberley House, March 25th 1813
My dearest Jane,
It is a day for letters – I have received one from you, one from Charlotte, one from Aunt M and one from Mama. The sage young lady that I am, I saved yours for the last, and a blessed thing it was that I did, for it provided just the sort of balm one needs in order to rally after reading two full pages of Mama's plans for Lydia's upcoming wedding. Her foremost aim in writing to me seems to have been to assure that my husband and I would arrive to Town in time to host the wedding breakfast – a notion I am afraid I must disabuse her of as soon as I may. I sincerely doubt that my husband will ever allow Mr. W to set foot in his home. And even if I thought that he might, I am sure I would never ask it of him.
My husband is to return to P the day after tomorrow. Determined not to let his curt missives intimidate me, I penned him a long letter in response to his recent express, conveying both my sincere gratitude for his once again performing a great service to our family, as well as my hope that he might return to P sooner rather than later. In reply, we had another short-worded express from him, informing us that there was some dire matter of business that he would have to take care of, but that he expected to arrive to P on the 27th. He had blotted over the last words of the letter, which was surprising, as he is nothing if not fastidious.
To prepare for his return, Miss Darcy, Mrs. Annesley and I have decided that we are to do tomorrow everything that we had planned to do on the day after it. That way we will be able to spend the entire morning of the 27th looking out of the windows for any sign of his carriage, and the rest of the day either chatting merrily with him (Miss D & Mrs. A) or trying to interpret every move of his head & every twitch of his brow to decide his mood (myself). My wretched heart thumps quite nervously in anticipation of his arrival, and my head is far too full of foolish thoughts for my liking.
Inspired by little Samuel Reynolds, who happened upon me in the park some three days ago, I have (with more than a little help from Mrs. Annesley, I have to admit, for my first attempts turned out quite atrocious) embroidered my husband a set of new handkerchiefs that carry his initials and a very clever pattern of two dragonflies below them. I am quite proud of my achievements and hope he will like them – if nothing else, they should save him from the trouble of borrowing handkerchiefs from his sister!
Embroidery, at least, is an art in which I can boast some improvement. Miss Darcy and Mrs. A have more than once tried to include me in their pursuits of decorating various objects with filigree, but I confess that I am quite appalling at it – I can roll papers charmingly, but that is as far as my talents go. I am afraid that the Very Accomplished ladies in Town will find me woefully inadequate and will spend many a summer afternoon in various parlors, drinking tea and discussing my husband's odd choice of a wife.
Charlotte's letter contained the news of the Brown family. Were you as astonished as I? But of course, you must have been, for who could have foreseen such a solution? East Indies! And to think that I once thought that Derbyshire was at the end of the world. I had thought that the family's most exotic acquaintance would have been Mrs. Brown's relatives in Shropshire, but Charlotte tells me that Mr. Brown is acquainted with a colonel in His Majesty's Army, who has connections in the East India Company. How extraordinary, do you not agree? But then, to escape a scandal, I am sure that the East Indies are just the Place To Be. It seems unlikely that even the most determined gossips of Meryton could spread the news quite that far. I can only hope the winds are favourable & that the Browns will arrive to their destination soon and unharmed.
Equally astounding, I think, is the information I have from Aunt M on Mr. Wickham's resolution to quit the Militia. Aunt tells me that it is his intention to go into the regulars once the wedding has taken place. Apparently, he has the promise of an ensigncy in a regiment now quartered in the North. With the number of debts I am sure he has left behind him in every town and every county he has visited of late, I am surprised that he would still have friends willing to help him with such matters! It all seems so conveniently arranged, that I am inclined to think that mischief of the best kind is afoot. I have my suspicions on the matter, but since that is all they are as of yet, I will say no more at present.
I will close now, for Miss Darcy has come to announce that we are to practice a duet to perform to my husband once he arrives. It is a charming idea, to be sure, and will certainly make her talent on the piano forte appear in the best possible light – I can see myself already, desperately trying to fumble through a piece with some small semblance of grace, my fingers shaking under the unnerving gaze of my husband. How are the mighty fallen!
Give all my love to everyone at L – someone must have it, if my husband should not.
Affectionately your Most Gloomy & Rather Impatient sister,
Pemberley House, March 28th, 1813
My dearest Jane,
At length the day is come on which I am to fight my last with my husband. I expect to be well scolded when I tell you this, but it seems that I have worried you with my bleak suspicions for naught. All is well. So very, very well that I hardly know how to put it into words. But for your sake I shall try. (See, I am vain enough to think that your happiness depends on a thorough knowledge of the trifling minutiae of my life!)
My husband arrived home yesterday afternoon – to our surprise, he came on horseback, and arrived at the house so soon after he had been sighted that I barely had time to compose myself. Which was just as well, as there was very little chance of my being able to compose myself in any case. Other than his fretful wife, everyone was well-prepared for his arrival. The sun was shining, bright and unabashed. The servants stood in line outside the front door, ready to greet him. Even little Samuel had made his way to the end of the line, which managed to amuse me even in my nervous state, for he was at least a good two feet shorter than the footman next to him, but every bit as grave and solemn.
Miss Darcy was standing next to me, nothing remotely solemn in her appearance, and I must admit that I was a little envious of her excitement – I was too agitated to feel anything of the sort. I had longed for my husband's return, but when I saw him, my longing swiftly turned into dread. How could I bear it if I had forever lost his affections? But of course, I had lost nothing of the sort, and felt remarkably foolish and melodramatic afterwards for ever allowing myself to think so.
When he got off his horse, I could naught but look at him. He looked like a man who had travelled quite a distance, to be sure, but so much had I longed to see him that even the specks of mud on his cheek seemed dear to me. But he did not look at me. He nodded to the servants, exchanged a few words with Parker and kissed his sister's cheek. Only then, was it my turn. He seemed to look right past me, mumbling my name by way of greeting, and my chest tightened with disappointment at his cold manner. But then, he bent down to kiss my cheek, and I felt his nose brush my cheek, his lips lingering a few moments longer than perhaps was necessary. Just as I thought that I might very likely faint like the most missish of misses, he exhaled sharply, as if he had been holding his breath, and quickly stepped back.
Oh, Jane. The moment was so fleeting that it might easily have been nothing more than a figment of my imagination. But it was enough – I found myself looking up at his dear face, hoping as I had scarcely allowed myself to hope before. In return, he offered me his hand, and I took it, pleased as Punch when he twined his fingers through mine.
When we went inside and Parker offered to take his coat, my husband took a look at our hands, joined together, and said that he had rather keep it on. I dare say Parker looked appalled at the thought of the muddy garment entering any of our finely decorated rooms, and whilst all he said was 'very good, sir,' I am sure he did not think it a Very Good Plan at all. Oh, dear sister. I jest because I do not know what else to write. How does one put happiness on paper? Is there a word to describe that strange mixture of utter calm & complete unrest that one feels when in the presence of a loved one? If there is, I do not know it.
See, you have caught me. After all these years, your all-knowing sister has finally run out of wit. From now on, my letters shall be equal parts saccharine & trite, without a single clever sentence in sight. A few months from now, if you were to compare a letter from me to a letter from our dear cousin, Mr. Collins, I am sure you could not tell one from the other!
Should I tell you of the Very Serious Conversation we had in my husband's study? Of the awkward moment when we each tried to apologise to the other at once? Like me, he was blaming himself because he had not done more to assure that Mr. W did not try his old tricks again. Should I try to describe the consummate happiness that overtook me when he knelt in front of me, took my hands in his and told me that while our union might not have had the best of starts, for many, many weeks now he had thought of little else than my happiness? Or attempt to make you blush with too many details of the tender kiss that inevitably followed?
Very well, I will spare your sensibilities and close now; we shall save my meagre efforts of explaining for later. It is as well that I should close, for my husband has awakened and seems determined to have my undivided attention. He and I have had our share of grievances and petty arguments, and perhaps I did not always love him so well as I do now. But in such cases as these, a good memory is unpardonable. This is the last time I shall ever remember it myself.
I started this year more bitter than I have ever been in my life, my heart full of resentment over what had happened; feeling ill-used by our gossipy friends in general & Lettice in particular. But from this day forward, I promise never to be bitter again. I have forgiven them all. After all, for what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?
A letter to Miss Lettice Thompson, Meryton, Hertfordshire
Pemberley House, March 29th, 1813
Dear Miss Thompson,
Do allow me to express my sincere apologies for not penning this missive sooner – I am sure that you have been wondering these many months why I have not yet thanked you for the fine service you have done to me. As I know you to be a Great Advocate of Honesty, I feel it my duty to admit that I did not at first see your actions in the light I am sure you always meant them. I was resentful, and for that I humbly apologise. I can see now that you were a true friend who only had my very best interest at heart.
I know it will please you exceedingly to hear that my husband and I are on the best possible terms and have every plan to become quite the happiest couple in the world. The house & the grounds here at Pemberley are everything that is charming – if so very vast that I still must admit to losing my way every now and then – and my new sister, Miss Georgiana Darcy, is a delightful young lady. In a few days, we are to remove to London for the duration of the Season. I hope you will join me in my sincere hope that I should not stumble on the train of my gown when I am presented at Court.
To be quite frank, I did not know such happiness existed. And to think that if it were not for your timely interference, my husband and I might never have married! I will only add, God bless you, & I hope that you might soon experience similar felicity yourself.
Most sincerely yours &c.,
Mrs. Elizabeth Darcy
P.S. My cousin has a parsonage of no mean size in Hunsford, Kent. He is quite Single and Unattached. Perhaps, if you ever travel thither, you might make his acquaintance? My venerable Aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, resides in close proximity to the parsonage. Like yourself, she is a selfless, unassuming lady who always has the best interest of others at heart – I am sure that you would get along charmingly.
* In Sense and Sensibility, during an evening at Barton Bark, Elinor Dashwood aids Lucy Steele in making a paper filigree basket to Annamaria Middleton. Google 'paper filigree' plus 'Austen' and you'll get a link to Austenonly where there's more information and some cool examples of filigree work.
* The start of the second letter is a modified quote from Jane Austen's letter to her sister Cassandra, dated January 14th 1796: "At length the Day is come on which I am to flirt my last with Tom Lefroy, & when you receive this it will be over – My tears flow as I write, at the melancholy idea."
* This second to last footnote is a late addition, added well after the story was finished. When I was younger, among my favorite novels were the Anne of Green Gables series - I've read each several times, though not in English. I had neither realised it nor intended it, but a few astute readers have pointed out moments of this story that owe a debt to L.M. Montgomery, in spirit, if nothing else. I'm more than happy to pay that debt - I grew up with Anne, Gilbert and friends and if any of L.M. Montgomery's wonderful wit and warm-hearted humour has rubbed off on my writing, however unwittingly, I'm glad to give recognition where it's due. :)
* I have tried to be diligent with my footnotes during this story, explaining little details and sources of quotes and such. However, as anyone can tell, I have quoted Pride and Prejudice several times during the story with little concern for footnotes. As this is the last chapter, I'll make one exception: The last line of the second letter – and the last "official" line of the story – about making sport for neighbours is a direct quote from Chapter 57. The rest of the many, many borrowed words and passages I leave for the reader to find – now despise me if you dare.