This passage from Pride and Prejudice (chapter 26) talks about how Elizabeth’s relationship with Charlotte changed after Charlotte married Mr. Collins. It was the inspiration for a “missing scene” I wrote a few years ago for another blog. When I ran across it again today, it made me chuckle, so I decided to share it with you here. Hope you enjoy it!
The wedding took place; the bride and bridegroom set off for Kent from the church door, and every body had as much to say or to hear on the subject as usual. Elizabeth soon heard from her friend; and their correspondence was as regular and frequent as it had ever been; that is should be equally unreserved was impossible. Elizabeth could never address her without feeling that all the comfort of intimacy was over, and, though determined not to slacken as a correspondent, it was for the sake of what had been, rather than what was.
When Elizabeth had said goodbye to the former Miss Lucas at the church door, it had been with a heavy heart. The previous years of unreserved friendship, of easy intimacy, were over. The fact that one was now married and the other not would have formed somewhat of a barrier in any case. But the manner of Charlotte’s marrying – whom she had accepted and why – was an obstacle Elizabeth feared could never be overcome. Henceforth, the specter of Mr. Collins would always divide them.
Nevertheless, out of respect for what had been, she was determined to preserve at least a remnant of their past friendship. Charlotte had asked her to visit Hunsford in March, and Elizabeth had agreed, though she foresaw little pleasure in the scheme. In the meantime, there would be letters exchanged.
Elizabeth anticipated the first missive from Kent with a sort of morbid curiosity. Not that she hoped her friend would be unhappy. Certainly not! It was simply impossible for her to imagine the situation as being otherwise, to envision Charlotte’s state of mind without her own feelings creeping in. “You were right, my dear Lizzy!” she would surely say. “I have made the biggest mistake of my life in marrying Mr. Collins, and it is one from which I fear I will never recover. Why, oh, why did I not listen to your advice?”
But instead, Charlotte wrote the following:
My dearest friend,
I know you will have been wondering how we are getting on here in Kent. So I will jot down a few lines for you, while I have a half-hour’s leisure, to assure you that Mr. Collins and I are very well. We experienced no difficulty with our travel from Hertfordshire after the wedding, arriving in good time. And my impressions upon first setting eyes on Hunsford were most agreeable as well.
The parsonage, while not grand by any means, is as neat and tidy as any reasonable person could well wish for. I already feel quite at home and have been allowed to claim a pretty little parlor at the back of the house for my own particular use. I find the furnishings throughout exactly suited for a clergyman’s family. This should come as no surprise since Lady Catherine has done it all according to her own discriminating taste and judgment, as she informed me herself when she condescended to visit me the very day after my arrival. Was not that considerate? I anticipate that she will be just as generous with these civil attentions as my husband has always given her the credit of.
As for more about our distinguished neighbor, her daughter, and the splendors of Rosings Park, I must defer to another occasion the detailed descriptions Mr. Collins has encouraged me to make to you. I simply have not time or room on the page to do them justice now. In any case, you will see all these things for yourself when you come in March. For the present, be satisfied to know that everything here – house, furniture, gardens, neighborhood, etc. – is to my liking, and I am well satisfied with my situation.
Please write soon, Lizzy. I long to hear all the news from Meryton – all your little comings, goings, and doings – and none of my own family has yet proved to be a very satisfactory correspondent.
With loving regards from Hunsford,
P.S. – Mr. Collins sends his greetings to you and to your family as well. He asks that you would be so kind as to apologize to your father on his behalf, for his not having written more promptly himself. This is a circumstance he promises to remedy very soon, at which time he will beg Mr. Bennet’s pardon in proper form.
Oh, my. Well satisfied. It was precisely what she should have expected to hear from her friend – all cheerful practicality and no complaints. Elizabeth could accept that much. She could even respect such a statement, whereas she would never have believed a claim of Charlotte’s being deliriously happy with Mr. Collins. Impossible! Very well. Elizabeth supposed she must be satisfied too. She could not quite understand it, but she owed it to Charlotte to be glad for her, to be glad she could be content with the life she had chosen for herself. There was clearly nothing else to be done.
Well, there was one more thing. Elizabeth drew two sheets of paper from the desk and took up her pen to write an answer.
My dear Charlotte,
Thank you for your letter. I was so pleased to hear that you are well, and that you find everything at Hunsford so consistent with your taste and expectations. Here at Longbourn, we continue on much as you left us…
Is this the way you imagine these events playing out?