Chapter 23

They were married; it was done, and done for the best. Relief was finally given to Elizabeth's chest as a burst of air was expelled. Mr. Collins exuberant happiness was almost a comical contrast to his brides tragically contorted features. Any apology she might offer would serve no comfort and so she kept her lips sealed tight. The condemnation of anyone to such a fate, and especially one so dear to her, could not but elicit only the most profound heartbreak of sympathy and the deepest pity. Any sparkle of life, any hope for a brighter future, must dull and sink under the permanent connection to a companion such as this. Mr. Collins, to be sure, was neither sensible nor agreeable; his society was irksome, and his attachment to her must be imaginary or at most only superficial. But still, he would be her husband.

They all agreed that it would be best to travel back to the inn in which her father was stationed immediately after the marriage ceremony. There would be no well-wishers to throw rice and see them off on their new journey as husband and wife. Lydia complained of all that she missed having married there rather than in Meryton church where all her friends could see her. In an attempt to placate her, Mr. Collins spoke at length upon the attention she would certainly receive from her acquaintances in Meryton upon her returning as future Mistress of Longbourn.

They were congregated in front of the church from which they had just exited. Mr. Collins assurances however, died on his lips as he spotted the last people he expected to see, just on the other side of the street making their way towards them. Mr. Darcy's appearance was most unexpected, yes, but what was more astonishing were his companions. One was Lady Catherine, and the other Miss Anne De Bourgh. Mr. Collins voiced his great astonishment and gratitude for their presence, assuming they had come to witness his marriage. He was halfway through an apology explaining that it had already taken place when Lady Catherine interrupted him.

"Mr. Collins! We are here to witness the union between my nephew and my daughter. Excuse us, we have an appointment here."

With that they made their way into the chapel. Mr. Darcy's eyes, which had remained locked with Elizabeth's all the while, were suddenly gone along with his whole body as they disappeared through the ancient holy doors behind them.

Lydia took the opportunity to be vulgar and said somewhat ruefully, "At least she will enjoy her wedding night. None of us ever much liked Mr. Darcy but there is no denying how handsome and how fit he is. It is a pity it did not work out for you to marry him Lizzy."

Hardly believing what she had just witnessed, she replied,

"Yes, a great pity."

Mr. Collins who had not attended to a word that had been spoken was anxious as to what he had done that might of displeased his patroness.

He ought not to have worried. She would be pleased soon enough.

Elizabeth was grateful, for once, for Mr. Collins' ability to fill a silence without needing the participation of others. Their journey back to her father seemed interminable. When at last they arrived Elizabeth did her duty and brought the newlywed couple before her father. Once this task was complete she excused herself professing a need for fresh air.

Elizabeth wandered down the main road of the town hardly knowing where she intended to go. Her footsteps took her south into a terrain full of rocky grass covered hills. Harsh winds beat at her face until it was red, but she did not take note. She climbed peak after peak seeking something which she could not find. Her point of exhaustion was reached fittingly at the same time as the sun seemed also to tire, and was rapidly making its way below the horizon.

Her thoughts were clear questions which had no answers. How could he marry her? Does he love her? Does he love me? Did her ever truly love me? Why marry here? She sank to her knees and sent her questions heavenward. Why God did you have this happen? Why did you make me love him only to take him away!? These were her last thoughts as exhaustion overcame her and everything went black.

Her father, in his state was not permitted to leave his bed, though it was only his arm which was injured. The doctor had advised him not to move at all. He expected Elizabeth to come bid him goodnight, but when she did not he did not think much of it. He had taken the laudanum for the pain and he quickly fell asleep.

The night spent by the Collins was one of new discovery for each, good or bad, each may tell. The first attempts brought only distress; they were trials of mortification. Mr. Collins, awkward and solemn, apologizing instead of attending, and often moving wrong without being aware of it, gave her all the shame and misery which a disagreeable partner can give. The moment of her release from him was the evening's only ecstasy.

Anne was kept awake all night. It was a full moon and wolves could be heard howling at it incessantly.

The next morning was grey. Mr. Bennet impatiently waited for his daughter to come to him for hours. Finally around eleven he rang for a servant to fetch her. The report that came back that she was not to be found and the fact that her bed had not been slept in was indeed distressing to him.

Her mangled body which was found later proved to be too much for the sight of the old man. His heart gave out on him and he eventually died. Mr. Darcy had come along to witness his cousins Anne and Richard marry to show his support. Lady Catherine fury was great when Mr. Darcy had arrived at Rosings and declared that nothing would stop him from marrying Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Her ranting and storming had been interrupted by Kitty entering to announce that Lydia had left with Mr. Collins. Mr. Darcy's mind immediately began to work. Lady Catherine's face turned from red to puce. She continued to abuse Mr. Darcy of the notion of marrying Elizabeth, using this new information to her advantage. In the middle of all this, her daughter Anne entered the room escorted by Colonel Fitzwilliam. Smiling, they announced their intention to elope. Normally this would have only transferred the object of her ranting to another, but she feinted straight away.

In the end Lady Catherine decided to accompany them all to Ireland. She refused to miss her own daughter's wedding. The morning the deed was to take place, the dear Colonel was having some difficulty with his cravat, and arrived to the chapel a good fifteen minutes after the rest of the party. His tardiness to his own wedding had far reaching consequences.

Mr. Darcy sought out Miss Elizabeth Bennet after the wedding, but was disappointed in the extreme when his search turned up naught but word that they had already left. When his inquiries went round in the next town, he was alarmed by the news that a young woman's body had been found torn apart by wolves the night before. His heart broke when he learned that it was his Elizabeth. Such was his grief that he took his own life, leaving a note behind requesting that his body lay beside hers in death as it could not in life. Being unable to refuse anything which Mr. Darcy would condescend to ask Mr. Bennet could not refuse the dead man's wish. They lay now together, never again to be parted.

THE END


AN: Its such a lovely day today. Is it not? You know, April 1st ;p