A few weeks ago, I shared a post I wrote for the Austen Authors P&P200 project – a “real-time” review of Pride and Prejudice leading up to the book’s 200th anniversary of publication. The idea is to augment the book with scenes that are implied but not written in the original novel, or to retell existing scenes from a different point of view.
Here’s my next assignment: Elizabeth thinks about Darcy and reviews his letter again. This is supposed to take place shortly before she goes to Derbyshire with her aunt and uncle Gardiner. I based what I wrote on this short excerpt. The rest is my imagination. Read it here in its entirety, or at Austen Authors. Hope you enjoy it!
With the mention of Derbyshire, there were many ideas connected. It was impossible for her to see the word without thinking of Pemberley and its owner. “But surely,” said she, “I may enter his county with impunity, and rob it of a few petrified spars without his perceiving me.” (Pride and Prejudice, chapter 42)
Derbyshire. That one word brought it all flooding back to my mind, all that I had so studiously endeavored to put from it. My heart had been set on seeing The Lakes, but my aunt’s letter two weeks ago not only put an end to that thrilling expectation, but replaced it with something like apprehension at the thought of diverting to Derbyshire instead. Even now, I am tormented by the idea.
I cannot think of Derbyshire without unhappy associations rising up in my mind. No doubt it is grand country, full of beauties that are not to be missed. But to me it can only ever mean one thing; I will be entering the county wherein resides the owner of Pemberley, a man I had fervently hoped never to meet with again in the whole course of my life. And I know he must feel the same. For proof of it, I have only to refer again to his letter.
Why I have kept it, I cannot rightly say. It is not normally in my nature to dwell on unpleasantness. But in this case, I make an exception. My culpability in the debacle with Mr. Darcy is something I dare not forget entirely, lest I should ever behave so badly again. How despicably I acted! How dreadfully I misjudged him! His written words at last taught me to properly know myself, and I have resolved to revisit them occasionally as a sort of penance.
Pulling the letter from its hiding place, I peruse its pages once more. The truth of his explanations concerning the two charges I so vehemently laid at his door, I have long since ceased to question. I need not read those sections again; I know them by heart.
Mr. Darcy’s interference with Jane and Mr. Bingley is something I continue to lament most grievously for my sister’s sake, although I can no longer bring myself to hate him for it. There was no malice in the case, only an error in judgment – a failing to which I proved similarly susceptible in the other matter. When I think what he and his sister suffered at the hands of Mr. Wickham, I believe I better understand some portion of his actions in Hertfordshire, some grounds for his distrustful reserve.
Although his careful explanations are most material in exonerating his character, it is always the beginning and the end of Mr. Darcy’s letter that cut me to the quick. That is where my conscience seeks to punish me, for that is where the man himself and how I have injured him are most clearly revealed.
Be not alarmed, Madam, on receiving this letter, by the apprehension of its containing any repetition of those sentiments, or renewal of those offers, which were last night so disgusting to you. I write without any intention of paining you, or humbling myself, by dwelling on wishes, which, for the happiness of both, cannot be too soon forgotten…
And then at the end…
…If your abhorrence of me should make my assertions valueless, you cannot be prevented by the same cause from confiding in my cousin; and that there may be the possibility of consulting him, I shall endeavour to find some opportunity of putting this letter in your hands in the course of the morning. I will only add, God bless you.
Oh, how these words have tortured me! If I still believed him to be a man without feeling, I could laugh at my own blindness well enough. Yet here is evidence that he has a heart after all, one capable of caring deeply… and being just as deeply wounded. Even should he one day find the charity to forgive how I have insulted him, I shall never forgive myself. But neither can I be content to wallow forever in self recriminations. I was not formed for unhappiness.
No, the only safe solution is that I never see Mr. Darcy again. He may get on with his life, well rid of me, and I will get on with mine, a little better for having known him. So there’s an end to it. Now, if only I can tour Derbyshire without him crossing my path…
(letter excerpts from Pride and Prejudice, chapter 35)