Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Charlotte's Spoiler Part Three: And They Lived Happily Ever After

Again, please stop right now and read no further if you want any mystery to attend your reading of Charlotte Lucas' romance in Holidays at Pemberley, or Third Encounters: A Tale of Less Pride & Prejudice Concludes, for the following will ruin it all. Why am I sharing it anyway? A poignant question to which I have no rational response. 

So nearly all the pieces of Charlotte's puzzle have now been exposed except how the inevitable understanding with Mr. Westover finally comes about. For this last spoiler excerpt to make sense, it does help to have read the prologue to my story (you'll find it here). I hope those of you who have enjoyed this exposure will find the following gratifying.

Soon the sun betrayed sure signs of descent and they began to pack their things and head back to Pemberley, where Mr. Westover was engaged to dine. As he handed Miss Lucas over the worst of the snaggled roots in their path, he knew that anything private he wished to say to her must be conveyed now, for the activity of a dinner party could not allow the kind of disclosures he wished to make. The problem was finding the right words. Verse could help him no more.

He looked at her pleadingly, and Miss Lucas instinctively understood his plight. How odd that so many misunderstandings had proceeded this moment, when now his every expression spoke volumes to her! “You wish to say something, Mr. Westover,” she prompted him.

“Indeed, Miss Lucas,” he found his tongue. “I just want you to know what a great pleasure this afternoon has been. I cannot thank you enough for your company.”

She smiled shyly, “I fear I offered you little more than my presence. As far as conversation is concerned, you might as well have been alone.”

“Not at all,” he asserted seriously. “You presence has been invaluable.”

She blushed. “I cannot see how.”

“Can you not?” he inquired earnestly. “I do want to make my intentions very clear Miss Lucas, in order to be certain that there shall be no more confusion. Unless you urge me to desist, when next I call upon you at an unconscionably early hour, you may expect to hear the words which you once awaited, though my own stupidity then failed to understand what you were owed.”

“You have no obligation towards me, Mr. Westover,” she quickly insisted, unaccountably terrified to hear him confess that for which she had longed. “Please do not act out of some sense of duty, to me or anyone else.”

He looked confused, and asked, “What do you mean?”

Grasping at the easiest explanation, she hastily confessed, “Mrs. Hendley came to visit me some days ago.”  

“My sister?” he asked in confusion, then a rapid consciousness descended upon his face. “So she could not restrain herself from interfering! I might have suspected so much. She has not been imposing on you?”

“Not at all, but she did lead me to understand your purpose,” she blushed, “and I just hope your intentions are formulated upon your own feelings, and not something that might have been urged upon you, either by myself or anyone else.”

“Miss Lucas,” he said earnestly, and in all seriousness, “I assure you with all my soul that I have loved you from the very first moment we met, which is to say all my life.”

Her look intensified. “You remember?”

He nodded. “I did not know who you were until Cordelia enlightened me. I am the most impossible dullard to have not instantly recognized you.”

“I did not know you either,” she hurried to confess. “It was not until I returned to Hertfordshire that I learned you were the boy from all those years ago. Your sister said something that made me understand she knew me, but I did not know if she had told you who I was.”

“I never had much interest in women, always consumed by science, but for as long as I can remember I thought that if I should ever again meet the kind girl who was so good to me so many years ago, that she should be the lady with whom I would spend my life. I just never believed it should really happen.” He clasped her hand, and Charlotte’s heart felt as if it might burst from her breast. “I love you, Charlotte Lucas. Do I have your permission to court you?”

“No,” she declared breathlessly, a laugh in her voice. “I am far too old for courting, Mr. Westover.  You shall have to do much better than that.”

He smiled at her crookedly. “Marry me, Charlotte. I cannot promise perfect happiness, but I do feel certain that we will be most content.”

Through tears glistening in her eyes, Charlotte joyfully replied, “What a reasonable aspiration! Yes, Mr. Westover, I will be delighted to relish perfect contentment by your side.”

Their return to Pemberley might have taken longer than one would usually expect, but far too soon they there arrived. Though they need not part for long, Charlotte loathed relinquishing his grasp. 

“I will see you at dinner,” were his parting words, and though the statement was commonplace enough, the intimate look that accompanied it left Charlotte succumbing to a senseless, overpowering joy. She nearly skipped up the stairs to her quarters, a wildly different creature than she was, yet somehow, for the first time, precisely whom she was always meant to be.

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