Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three, Chapter Four, Chapter Five, Chapter Six, Chapter Seven, Chapter Eight, Chapter Nine, Chapter Ten, Chapter Eleven, Chapter Twelve, Chapter Thirteen, Chapter Fourteen, Chapter Fifteen, Chapter Sixteen, Chapter Seventeen, Chapter Eighteen, Chapter NineteenElizabeth was true to her word and kept up a daily correspondence while in Derbyshire. If she did not write to Alison on a given day she wrote to Jane instead, and so her activities were well known to all her family. The beauties of Oxford, Blenheim, Warwick, Kenelworth, and Birmingham were all described in detail, and as the travelers approached the small town of Lambton, Alison's increasing eagerness upon reception of each consecutive missive did not go unremarked.
"it is a wonder how your attachment to Lizzy has increased in recent weeks, my dear," Mr. Bennet remarked.
"My affections are equally divided amongst all my children," she replied.
"You weren't so egalitarian of old."
"Yes, as we have discussed time and time again, I have changed. Be warned that if you continue to take note of the fact, my nerves might retaliate," she replied with a teasing smile.
He laughed. "Consider the matter entirely forgotten. Now, what has my Lizzy to say?"
Alison read aloud:
My dear Mama,
We arrived in Lambton in time for dinner this afternoon. The charms of this small part of Derbyshire are little regarded compared with the more renowned sights nearby, but I admit to anticipating our time here a great deal. How to account for such misplaced enthusiasm? Having pondered the question at some length, I find it is my aunt who is entirely responsible. Were you subject to her joy in returning to this beloved corner of the country after so many years and reuniting with old friends, you would be swept up in her excitement as well.
We traveled leisurely, and it was a day designed for an open carriage. It is a fine country, and the well-maintained roads do their part to add to a traveler's pleasure. The inn keeper's wife set us off this morning with a picnic basket, and we enjoyed it above a fabulous vista of a river nestled in a valley. We had intended to arrive in Lambton much sooner than we did, but so enjoyable was our repast and location that we remained far longer than intended. I explored some of the adjacent paths and climbed to an even high peak with my uncle while Aunt Gardiner organized our removal. The rest of the journey was marked by little of significance but perfect harmony, excellent conversation, and those visual delights which mother nature is so very adept at producing.
After so many great houses, one might be expected to tire of fine carpets and satin curtains, but I find myself enduring. Pemberley, as we discovered prior to my departure, is but a few miles from Lambton, and we will visit it tomorrow. Dear Mama - you will recall my concern in visiting this home, not knowing if it's master would consider it an intrusion, but the chambermaid has just now informed me that the family is away from home over the summer, and so I may view it without qualm. There is a great deal of relief in this knowledge, but also some disappointment. It would be interesting to confront Mr. Darcy in his own domain. Who knows - perhaps the chambermaid is mistaken?
"I don't know how Lizzy could possibly hope Mr. Darcy would be at home!" Lydia interrupted.
"Can you imagine coming upon him unexpectedly," Kitty giggled nervously. "I wonder if he would acknowledge her?"
"Of course he would!" Alison protested. "Mr. Darcy is a perfect gentleman and extremely hospitable."
"And how would you know that, my dear?"
Alison blushed. "I should say I assume he would be hospitable."
"It is rather amusing," Mr. Bennet chortled. "I find myself in sympathy with Lizzy in hoping for a meeting with Mr. Darcy. The encounter would certainly enliven her next letter, and we would learn who had the best understanding of the man's character, but it is highly unlikely that the chambermaid is wrong."
"It is my understanding that working in such a position would render the girl a strong source of information. Gossip is sure to circulate in an inn, and the comings and going of a great family nearby are likely to be tracked with interest," Mary contributed.
"Very true, Mary. The obviousness of your observations render them no less astute, I assure you."
Alison cast a disapproving look on him, under the glare of which he smiled meekly. "Will you not continue your letter, Mrs. Bennet?"
She gave him one more admonishing glance before proceeding:
We dined on very tolerable mutton this evening: the best, according to my uncle, that we have enjoyed since our departure. I confess I grow weary of eating from inn larders. My aunt and uncle send their good wishes to you and everyone else at Longbourn. I will be sure to describe all the wonders of Pemberley for you tomorrow. Much love, etc.
"Lizzy has undertaken a most complete correspondence," her father commented, gazing at his wife meaningfully. "I wonder where her newfound sense of urgency in writing derives?"
"I asked her to write often."
"But daily? What secrets are left for her to relate in letters addressed to you, Jane, when she makes such a complete account to your mother?"
Jane smiled serenely. "It is almost like being with them, her descriptions are so complete."
"Well maneuvered, my dear, but all the tact in the world will not alter the fact that Lizzy has been especially attentive - perhaps even anxious - to keep your mother abreast of her every action, while we are regaled with Mrs. Bennet's surprisingly knowing declarations on Mr. Darcy character. This particular letter, furthermore, seemed to be more focused on that gentleman than the scenery."
"I fail to comprehend your point, Mr. Bennet," Alison replied.
"That is because I have not yet come to it. The point, as you phrase it, is that Lizzy next letter ought to be far more interesting than those that have proceeded it, regardless of the precision of chambermaid gossip. Do you not agree, my dear?" he smiled quizzically.
Alison shifted in her seat. "I do look forward to descriptions of Pemberley's interior and grounds. The house is said to be uncommonly fine."
"Oh, yes," he chuckled. "We are all so interested in the house, never mind the master."
"I for one still don't care a fig for Mr. Darcy or his house," Lydia declared stoutly.
"Of course, you do not. No one ever expected perception from my youngest child." Ignoring the confused looks gracing the bulk of his family's faces and the admonishment on his wife's, Mr. Bennet left the parlor for his library.
Read Chapter Twenty-One
Read Chapter Twenty-One