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Pride, Prejudice and Wicked Pleasure

By Jane Austen and Em Brown







Copyright 2017 Em Brown

All Rights Reserved

Published by Wind Color Press



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CONTENTS

BOOK ONE

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 Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

BOOK TWO

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Three

Chapter Thirty-Four

Chapter Thirty-Five

Chapter Thirty-Six

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Chapter Forty

Chapter Forty-One

Chapter Forty-Two

Chapter Forty-Three

Chapter Forty-Four

Chapter Forty-Five

Chapter Forty-Six

Chapter Forty-Seven

Chapter Forty-Eight

Chapter Forty-Nine

Chapter Fifty

Chapter Fifty-One

Chapter Fifty-Two

Chapter Fifty-Three

Chapter Fifty-Four

Chapter Fifty-Five

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Pride, Prejudice & Wicked Pleasure

BOOK ONE

CHAPTER ONE

Lizzy woke with a start, her body flushed, her heart beating in her ears, and that intimate space between her legs tingling. To her consternation, instead of the privacy of her own bedchamber at Longbourn House, she found herself bumping along inside a chaise, seated opposite Sir William Lucas and his second daughter, Maria. To Lizzy’s relief, her travelling companions were fast asleep, with Maria snoring away as loudly as her father. Had they been awake, they could not have seen into her mind, but she blushed nonetheless to think they might have witnessed her in the throes of a most unladylike dream. Winter had yet to give way to spring, but she unbuttoned her pelisse to release the warmth she felt.

Of all men to infiltrate her dreams, especially one of a most prurient nature, why him? She could not have been more rattled and vexed had she dreamt of her cousin, Mr. Collins. Nay, that would have been appalling. She chided herself for summoning such a revulsion to mind. Shuddering, she looked out the window of the chaise, desperately seeking some visual fodder—an interesting formation of rocks, a remarkably tall tree, or a shapely cloud—to replace the vision in her head.

Why could she not have dreamt of George Wickham? That would have been comprehensible. Though he presently pursued another, and her own attachment had subsided, she found him no less amiable or handsome. Their farewell had been perfectly friendly.

Instead, she had dreamt of the one man whom she disliked above all others; the one man she could do without and who, despite his intelligence and articulation, offered nothing, not even the value of amusement afforded by Mr. Collins, when she was able to put aside her exasperation of his personality and observe him with the calm à la her father; this so-called gentleman, whose absence she had enjoyed through winter and whom she was not likely to ever see again, if Caroline Bingley was to be believed that they were never to return to Netherfield; and the last individual on earth to waste her thoughts upon now that she had, at least in her mind, bid good riddance to the lot of them.

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy.

Perhaps the stress of the journey had seeped into her subconscious, though she had been in good spirits since leaving London, where they had stopped to see her aunt and uncle, the Gardiners, and her sister, Jane, who was staying with them. Jane had looked well enough as to banish all fear for her health, and Mrs. Gardiner had invited Lizzy to tour the northern lakes later in the year. Lizzy was all excitement and good cheer until her dream.

The reverie had begun pleasantly enough. She was lying upon a bed in a luxurious room, a nameless young man seducing her with soft kisses upon her neck. She could feel the ache in her nether region blooming into the most beautiful of sensations. He began untying the top of her stays, then lowered his head to address his lips to the swell of her bosom. What delightful shivers attended this caress! But when he lifted his head to meet her gaze, the face of Mr. Darcy flashed before her.

It was awful. Like finding a spider in one’s pudding. Her state of arousal coupled with his physiognomy was an unnerving pairing. Like instruments playing in discordant keys, the two should never simultaneously occupy the same space. She would sooner listen to Sir William recount the wonders of his presentation and knighthood for the hundredth time or suffer the many laments of her mother for having turned down the marriage proposal of Mr. Collins, thereby sending him into the arms of Charlotte Lucas, than to have that dream reoccur.

She disdained Mr. Darcy, and she was not alone in her sentiments toward him. Though many a gentlemen had pronounced Mr. Darcy a fine figure of a man and the ladies declared him much more handsome than even Mr. Bingley, and both sexes had initially looked at him with great admiration for his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien and the report of his having ten thousand a year, his manners had quickly turned the tide of his popularity. He had been discovered to be proud, to be above his company and above being pleased. Not all his large estate in Derbyshire could then save him from having a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance and being unworthy to be compared to his friend Bingley. Charlotte had been the only person to express his right to be proud as he was “so very fine a young man, with family, fortune, and everything in his favour.”

Mr. Darcy’s initial affront to Lizzy had engendered no cordial feelings toward him, but her lively, playful disposition, which delighted in the ridiculous, had compelled her to tell the story with great spirit among her friends:

Due to the scarcity of gentlemen at a ball, Lizzy had been obliged to sit down for two dances, and during part of that time, Mr. Darcy had been standing near enough for her to hear a conversation between him and Mr. Bingley, who had come from the dance for a few minutes to press his friend to join it. In contrast to Darcy, Bingley was all affability and politesse.

"Come, Darcy," he had said, "I must have you dance. I hate to see you standing about by yourself in this stupid manner. You had much better dance."

"I certainly shall not. You know how I detest it, unless I am particularly acquainted with my partner. At such an assembly as this it would be insupportable. Your sisters are engaged, and there is not another woman in the room whom it would not be a punishment to me to stand up with."

"I would not be so fastidious as you are for a kingdom! Upon my honour, I never met with so many pleasant girls in my life as I have this evening, and there are several of them you see uncommonly pretty."

"You are dancing with the only handsome girl in the room," Mr. Darcy had said, looking at the eldest Miss Bennet, Jane.

"Oh! She is the most beautiful creature I ever beheld! But there is one of her sisters sitting down just behind you, who is very pretty, and I dare say very agreeable. Do let me ask my partner to introduce you."

"Which do you mean?"

Turning round he had looked for a moment at Lizzy, till catching her eye, he withdrew his own and coldly said, "She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me. I am in no humor at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me."

His very real slight of her had produced only the briefest and most inconsequential anguish, but her most unreal dream disturbed her greatly. She shivered as if doing so could discard the awkwardness of it all before settling back into her seat. Though she had parted London wistfully, having much enjoyed the company of the Gardiners and Jane, and though it was unlikely Mr. Darcy would have ever ventured as far from Grosvenor Square as Gracechurch Street, she was glad she had not stayed in the city long enough for their paths to cross. If she did not see that man for another ten years, it would be a day too soon.

CHAPTER TWO

When they left the high road for the lane to Hunsford, every eye was in search of the Parsonage, expecting it come into view at every turn. The palings of Rosings Park was their boundary on one side, and once more Mr. Darcy flitted unwanted through Lizzy’s thoughts for it was his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who resided at Rosings. Wickham had had little in the way of compliments for her ladyship and daughter, who was said to be as good as betrothed to Mr. Darcy. For a moment, Lizzy was struck with a premonition that she had not seen the last of that proud and disagreeable man, but Mr. Darcy was in London, and it would be too much the coincidence for him to visit Hunsford during her time.

At length they discerned the Parsonage, standing between green pales and laurel hedges. Mr. Collins and Charlotte appeared at the door, and the carriage stopped at the small gate which led by a short gravel walk to the house. In a moment they were all out of the chaise, rejoicing at the sight of each other. Mrs. Collins welcomed her friend with the liveliest pleasure, and Lizzy was more and more satisfied with coming when she found herself so affectionately received. She saw instantly that her cousin's manners were not altered by his marriage; his formal civility was just what it had been, and he detained her some minutes at the gate to hear and satisfy his inquiries after all her family. After pointing out the neatness of the entrance, Mr. Collins took them into the house. As soon as they were in the parlour, he welcomed them a second time, with ostentatious formality to his humble abode, and punctually repeated all his wife's offers of refreshment.

Lizzy was prepared to see him in his glory, and she could not help in fancying that in displaying the good proportion of the room, its aspect and its furniture, he addressed himself particularly to her, as if wishing to make her feel what she had lost in having refused his hand. But though everything seemed neat and comfortable, she was not able to gratify him by any sigh of repentance, and rather looked with wonder at her friend that she could have so cheerful an air with such a companion. When Mr. Collins said anything of which his wife might reasonably be ashamed, which certainly was not unseldom, Lizzy involuntarily turned her eye on Charlotte. Once or twice she could discern a faint blush, but in general Charlotte wisely did not hear. After sitting long enough to admire every article of furniture in the room, from the sideboard to the fender, to give an account of their journey, and of all that had happened in London, Mr. Collins invited them to take a stroll in the garden, which was large and well laid out, and to the cultivation of which he attended himself. To work in this garden was one of his most respectable pleasure, and Lizzy admired the command of countenance with which Charlotte talked of the healthfulness of the exercise, and owned she encouraged it as much as possible. Mr. Collins led the way through every walk and cross walk and scarcely allowed them an interval to utter the praises he asked for. Every view was pointed out with a minuteness which left beauty entirely behind. He could number the fields in every direction and could tell how many trees there were in the most distant clump. But of all the views which his garden, or which the country or kingdom could boast, none were to be compared with the prospect of Rosings. They could see the house, a handsome modern building well situated on rising ground, through an opening in the trees that bordered the park opposite the front of the Parsonage.

Lizzy learned that Mr. Collins’ patroness, Lady Catherine, was still in the country. It was spoken of again while they were at dinner, when Mr. Collins joining in, observed,

"Yes, Miss Elizabeth, you will have the honour of seeing Lady Catherine de Bourgh on the ensuing Sunday at church, and I need not say you will be delighted with her. She is all affability and condescension, and I doubt not but you will be honoured with some portion of her notice when service is over. I have scarcely any hesitation in saying she will include you and my sister Maria in every invitation with which she honours us during your stay here. Her behaviour to my dear Charlotte is charming. We dine at Rosings twice every week, and are never allowed to walk home. Her ladyship's carriage is regularly ordered for us. I should say, one of her ladyship's carriages, for she has several."

"Lady Catherine is a very respectable, sensible woman indeed," added Charlotte, "and a most attentive neighbor."

"Very true, my dear, that is exactly what I say. She is the sort of woman whom one cannot regard with too much deference."

The evening was spent chiefly in talking over Hertfordshire news, and telling again what had already been written. Afterwards, in the solitude of her chamber, Lizzy reflected upon Charlotte's degree of contentment and had to acknowledge she bore her husband very well. Lizzy climbed into bed with hopes for a deep and dreamless slumber, but her contrary and perverse mind would dwell on questions best left unasked. Though she had no desire to know the particulars of what Mr. and Mrs. Collins did behind closed doors, she could not help but wonder if matters of the bedchamber were as consonant with what she was able to observe? She wondered that any woman could be excited by Mr. Collins, but perhaps the wifely duty of submitting to a husband’s attentions was no more unbearable than the other chores one was expected to perform on a regular basis. Lizzy could not help but be saddened by such a prospect. If the corporal harmony between a man and wife should ever find easy allowance as a topic of discussion, her mother would doubtlessly dismiss with a snort the need to inquire into such a useless subject and Jane would dampen its importance beneath other qualities, such as the moral character of a husband or his level of affection for wife and family. But Lizzy had not Jane’s virtues nor Charlotte’s practical nature. Perhaps she was alone in the force of her corporal passions. For herself, she could not reconcile to a marriage that did not fulfill in all the important qualities, including what must transpire in the bedchamber.

Her hand crept beneath the hem of her nightshift, and without thought, she grazed her fingers along the softness of her inner thigh. With a sigh, she gave into the concupiscence that had taken a hold of her of late. The first stirrings of desire had come upon her at a tender age, and she had on occasion allowed the passions to overcome her better judgment—twice with a rugged young footman named Francis and once with a barrister and friend of the Lucas family. Both men, fortunately, had not stayed in Hertfordshire. She dreaded that her indiscretions should somehow come to light, not for its impact upon her but the damage it would do to her family. Thus, for the better part of recent years, she had suppressed these inauspicious cravings until coming across Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure a few months ago. She had found the illicit edition at the home of Sir William on a night when the Lucases were hosting a dinner for a number of officers from the regiment stationed at Meryton. Having a vague notion of the banned novel, she had at first been tempted to leave the book where it had fallen upon the ground in the corridor, but she could not leave it to be found by one of the Lucases’ younger children. Inquiring among the guests to see who would claim ownership would have proved too awkward, so she had picked up the story of Fanny Hill.

Compelled by curiosity and a fondness for reading, she had taken the book into the nearest room, Sir William’s library. Most of the party had gathered in the drawing-room for cards, and in the library, she was assured of solitude. Beside a lone lamp, she opened the book with every expectation of reading no further than the first few pages to confirm the worthlessness of the work and justification for the prosecution of its author, John Cleland. Instead, she found, much like Fanny Hill in her first licentious experience, that the obscenity intrigued more than disgusted her. She flushed reading the passage of that first encounter between Fanny and Phoebe, and her own body responded in the most unsettling way with that warm aggravation in her loins and moistness between her legs.

“There you are!”

Startled, Lizzy dropped the book and hastily retrieved it to set it, face-down, upon the table beside her, regretting that she had not checked to see that the library doors had been tightly shut.

“I fear you must find the company of my regiment disappointing,” George Wickham remarked.

The sparkle in his eyes made her cognizant of the weakness of her sex, and she once more admired how dashing he appeared in his bright red coat and white trousers encasing his legs in a tight fit.

“Not at all! I am sorry to give that impression,” Lizzy replied. “I was merely replacing a book that I had found in the corridor.”

“Ah, that is some relief,” he said, advancing toward her. “There is talk of dancing. I think Sir William cannot long refuse your sisters.”

“For Lydia and Kitty, no party is complete without dancing.”

Wickham gave a gracious smile. “You are not opposed to the activity…I hope?”

Her breath caught. Did he have an interest in dancing with her? He had often shown a preference for her company, and she had accepted his attentions with much agreement.

“Not at all,” she found herself repeating. She was happy to join Wickham but wanted a moment to calm the lust her reading had provoked. “I will be in attendance shortly.”

She wondered what she would do with the book. Should she leave it in the library and retrieve it later?

“Allow me to replace the book for you,” Wickham offered and picked up the book before she could stop him.

“That won’t be necessary,” she said quickly and tried to pluck the book from his hand. Their fingers brushed, and a palpitation went through her.

He did not relinquish the book but dropped his gaze to her hand, which half-covered his. In doing so, he saw the title. The surprise on his face was evident, and Lizzy felt the flush in her cheeks deepen.

“This is…Sir Williams?” he asked.

“I think not,” she confessed. “I found it and—and meant to—”

“Read it.”

No!

“You appeared to be reading it when I walked in.”

She dropped her hand and took a step away from him.

He took a step toward her. “Please, I did not mean to offend. I find it remarkable that one of the delicate sex would dare consume the contents of such a book.”

This unexpected compliment and the sincerity of his tone thawed her guard, and she was prepared to be amenable to him once more.

“We are not so delicate as your sex would believe or wish, but I am not familiar with the work of Mr. Cleland, so I cannot know if courage is required to read it. I found the book in the corridor and suspect it belongs to one of your brother-in-arms?”

He glanced from the book back to her and, taking her hand, placed it in her grasp. They stood with mere inches separating them. Her breath became uneven, and it seemed his did, too.

“I confess I am intrigued to know your thoughts on what you have read,” he said, lowering his head for his voice had become deep and husky.

She hesitated for she worried her voice would waver too much. “Mr. Cleland clearly intends to titillate the reader.”

“And do you find he is successful in his aim?”

He had lowered his head to such a degree that she could not comfortably focus upon the whole of his countenance, so she fixed her gaze upon his mouth. His nearness had scattered her thoughts, and she replied, without advanced contemplation, “Yes.

The word emerged as a whisper and was the invitation he sought for he dropped his mouth to hers. That flame she had hoped to quell moments before surged inside her. He wrapped an arm about her waist, pulling her into him. She required no further encouragement and returned his kiss despite the intuition that she was much less practiced than he. Book still in hand, she wound her arms about his neck. He ground his hips at her. Desire pooled low and hot within her as she felt the thickness of his cock pressing into her belly.

He swept her into his arms and laid her upon the sofa. Prudence battled for dominance, and she looked to see that the doors were fully shut this time. They ought not disrespect the home of Sir William. But when Wickham’s lips claimed hers a second time, she found her passions a formidable foe. He reached beneath her skirts and skimmed the bare part of her leg, making her tremble. She ached for him to touch her most intimate parts, yet when he did, she gave a small cry, which was promptly swallowed in his kiss. His hand was slightly rough between her legs, but the wetness allowed her to bear and even exalt in his brusque and fervent manhandling.

“Wickham! Wickham, where have you gone off to?”

Lizzy heard the giggling of her younger sisters in the corridor.

“Such an exasperating man!” Lydia grumbled.

Wickham emitted a soft and ungentlemanly oath.

“We must not be found,” Lizzy whispered, pushing her skirts down as she sat up. She was no less disappointed than he, but perhaps it was all for the best.

“Go,” she urged him. “I think Lydia and Kitty will not rest till they have found you.”

He straightened and adjusted the area of his fall. A bulge was still apparent there.

“Will you join us then? Or do intend more reading?” he asked.

She looked sharply at him, but she could not be angry when his eyes glimmered so bewitchingly. “I must properly dispose of this book first.”

“Have you no wish to further discuss its merits?”

She made no reply, but her lips curled faintly in a smile. She watched him take a deep breath before facing the library doors and exiting. A minute later, she heard Lydia exclaim, followed by much prattling before the voices faded down the corridor.

The naughty novel found its way back home with Lizzy later that night. In the end, she had finished the book faster than she had read any other. Though she had often thought to dispose of the book and worried that it might be accidentally discovered, she had retrieved it as many times to read certain passages a second or third time. Her body had reacted at every reading. The ribald and bawdy scenes had left her breath heavy and induced a lively pressure between her legs. The author had composed all manner of lechery: orgies in which couples bore witness to one another in the act of congress, a man aroused by the deflowering of virgins, and one in which the act of flogging aided titillation. This last concept had stayed with Lizzy for some time. She marveled that pain could be incorporated into pleasure. The more she dwelt upon it, the more her curiosity grew.

Her mind turned frequently also to that evening in the library with Wickham. Alas, they would not get to reprise the scene. The following day brought a devastating letter from Mr. Bingley’s sister, Caroline, and Lizzy felt it necessary to attend her heartbroken sister.

The whole Netherfield party—Charles Bingley, his sisters, and Mr. Darcy—had quit Hertfordshire rather suddenly. The very first sentence of Miss Bingley’s subsequent letter to Jane conveyed the assurance of their being all settled in London for the winter, and concluded with her brother's regret at not having had time to pay his respects to his friends in Hertfordshire before he left the country.

Hope was over, entirely over. When Jane could bear to read the rest of the letter, she found the contents chiefly comprised of praise for Mr. Darcy’s younger sister and Caroline boasting joyfully of her brother’s increasing intimacy with Miss Darcy. Lizzy heard it all in silent indignation. Her heart was divided between concern for her sister and resentment against all others. To Caroline's assertion of her brother's being partial to Miss Darcy she paid no credit. That Bingley was really fond of Jane, she doubted no more than she had ever done; and much as she had always been disposed to like him, she could not think without anger, hardly without contempt, on that easiness of temper, that want of proper resolution, which now made him the slave of his designing friends, and led him to sacrifice of his own happiness to the caprice of their inclination. Had his own happiness, however, been the only sacrifice, he might have been allowed to sport with it in whatever manner he thought best, but her sister's was involved in it. Whether Bingley's regard for Jane had really died away, or were suppressed by his friends' interference; whether he had been aware of Jane's attachment, or whether it had escaped his observation; whatever were the case, her sister's situation remained the same, her peace equally wounded.

Jane’s grief was not helped by her mother, who still continued to wonder and repine at his returning no more, and though a day seldom passed in which Lizzy did not account for it clearly, there was little chance of Mrs. Bennet ever considering it with less perplexity. Her daughter endeavoured to convince her of what she did not believe herself, that his attentions to Jane had been merely the effect of a common and transient liking, which ceased when he saw her no more; but Mrs. Bennet's best comfort was that Mr. Bingley must be down again in the summer.

Mr. Bennet treated the matter differently. "So, Lizzy," said her father one day, "your sister is crossed in love, I find. I congratulate her. Next to being married, a girl likes to be crossed a little in love now and then. It is something to think of, and it gives her a sort of distinction among her companions. When is your turn to come? You will hardly bear to be long outdone by Jane. Now is your time. Here are officers enough in Meryton to disappoint all the young ladies in the country. Let Wickham be your man. He is a pleasant fellow, and would jilt you creditably."

Lizzy coloured. "Thank you, sir, but a less agreeable man would satisfy me. We must not all expect Jane's good fortune."

"True," said Mr. Bennet, "but it is a comfort to think that whatever of that kind may befall you, you have an affectionate mother who will make the most of it."

In Mr. Darcy’s absence, the whole of his crimes against Mr. Wickham was made publicly known. Wickham had in his first meeting with Lizzy recounted how he and Mr. Darcy had grown up together, how Wickham’s father had provided an invaluable service to the late Mr. Darcy in caring for the family’s property, and how the late Mr. Darcy had promised to provide for young Wickham by bequeathing to him the position of pastor and its valuable living. The present Mr. Darcy had chosen not to honour the intentions of his father and presented the position to another man.

Shocking. Dishonest. Abominable.

Lizzy had uttered these words and remarked that Mr. Darcy deserved to be publicly disgraced for such a malicious and inhumane act.

Everybody was pleased to know how much they had always disliked Mr. Darcy before they had known anything of the matter.

Jane was the only creature who could suppose there might be any extenuating circumstances in the case, unknown to the society of Hertfordshire. Her mild and steady candour always pleaded for allowances, and urged the possibility of mistakes—but by everybody else Mr. Darcy was condemned as the worst of men.

CHAPTER THREE

About the middle of the next day, as Lizzy was in her room getting ready for a walk, a sudden noise below seemed to set the whole house in confusion. After listening for a moment, she heard somebody running upstairs in a violent hurry, and calling loudly after her. She opened the door and met Maria in the landing place, who, breathless with agitation, cried out,

"Oh, my dear Eliza! Pray make haste and come into the dining-room, for there is such a sight to be seen! I will not tell you what it is. Make haste, and come down this moment."

Lizzy asked questions in vain. Maria would tell her nothing more, and down they ran into the dining-room, which fronted the lane, in quest of this wonder; it was two ladies stopping in a low phaeton at the garden gate.

"And is this all?" cried Lizzy. "I expected at least that the pigs were got into the garden, and here is nothing but Lady Catherine and her daughter."

"La, my dear!" said Maria, quite shocked at the mistake. "It is not Lady Catherine. The old lady is Mrs. Jenkinson, who lives with them. The other is Miss de Bourgh. Only look at her. She is quite a little creature. Who would have thought that she could be so thin and small?"

"She is abominably rude to keep Charlotte out of doors in all this wind. Why does she not come in?"

"Oh, Charlotte says she hardly ever does. It is the greatest of favours when Miss de Bourgh comes in."

"I like her appearance," said Lizzy, remembering from Mr. Collins that Mr. Darcy was the nephew of Lady Catherine and intended for Miss de Bourgh. . "She looks sickly and cross. Yes, she will do for him very well. She will make Mr. Darcy a very proper wife."

The thought of Mr. Darcy, alas, brought back the strangeness of her dream in full force, and to combat the disconcertion that ensued, Lizzy recounted all the reasons she disliked the man: chief among them, his transgressions upon Wickham and his part in crushing her sister’s happiness. She had no evidence of the latter, but she did not doubt but that he and the Bingley sisters must have had a hand in separating Bingley from Jane

At length, Miss de Bourgh and Mrs. Jenkinson drove on, and the others returned into the house. Mr. Collins no sooner saw Lizzy and Maria than he began to congratulate them on their good fortune, which Charlotte explained by letting them know that the whole party was asked to dine at Rosings the next day.

Mr. Collins's triumph, in consequence of this invitation, was complete. The power of displaying the grandeur of his patroness to his wondering visitors, and of letting them see her civility towards himself and his wife, was exactly what he had wished for. He could not admire enough this prompt instance of Lady Catherine's condescension.

"I confess," said he, "that I should not have been at all surprised by her ladyship's asking us on Sunday to drink tea and spend the evening at Rosings. I rather expected, from my knowledge of her affability, that it would happen. But who could have foreseen such an attention as this? Who could have imagined that we should receive an invitation to dine there—an invitation, moreover, including the whole party—so immediately after your arrival!"

"I am the less surprised at what has happened," replied Sir William. "My situation in life has allowed me to acquire much knowledge of what the manners of the great really are. About the court, such instances of elegant breeding are not uncommon."

Scarcely anything was talked of the whole day or next morning but their visit to Rosings. Mr. Collins carefully instructed them in what they were to expect, that the sight of such rooms, so many servants, and so splendid a dinner, might not wholly overpower them.

When the ladies were separating for the toilette, he said to Lizzy, "Do not make yourself uneasy, my dear cousin, about your apparel. Lady Catherine is far from requiring that elegance of dress in us which becomes herself and her daughter. I would advise you merely to put on whatever of your clothes is superior to the rest—there is no occasion for anything more. Lady Catherine will not think the worse of you for being simply dressed. She likes to have the distinction of rank preserved."

While they were dressing, he came two or three times to their different doors, to recommend their being quick, as Lady Catherine very much objected to be kept waiting for her dinner.

As the weather was fine, they had a pleasant walk of about half a mile across the park. Every park has its beauty and its prospects; and Lizzy saw much to be pleased with, though she could not be in such raptures as Mr. Collins expected the scene to inspire, and was but slightly affected by his enumeration of the windows in front of the house, and his relation of what the glazing altogether had originally cost Sir Lewis de Bourgh.

When they ascended the steps to the hall, Maria's alarm was every moment increasing, and even Sir William did not look perfectly calm.

Lizzy’s courage did not fail her. She had heard nothing of Lady Catherine that spoke her awful from any extraordinary talents or miraculous virtue, and the mere stateliness of money or rank she thought she could witness without trepidation.

From the entrance-hall, of which Mr. Collins pointed out, with a rapturous air, the fine proportion and the finished ornaments, they followed the servants through an ante-chamber, to the room where Lady Catherine, her daughter, and Mrs. Jenkinson were sitting. Her ladyship, with great condescension, arose to receive them. Mrs. Collins had settled it with her husband that the office of introduction should be hers, and it was performed in a proper manner, without any of those apologies and thanks which he would have thought necessary.

In spite of having been at St. James's, Sir William was so completely awed by the grandeur surrounding him, that he had but just courage enough to make a very low bow, and take his seat without saying a word. His daughter, frightened almost out of her senses, sat on the edge of her chair, not knowing which way to look. Lizzy found herself quite equal to the scene and could observe the three ladies before her with full composure. Lady Catherine was a tall, large woman, with strongly-marked features, which might once have been handsome. Her air was not conciliating, nor was her manner of receiving them such as to make her visitors forget their inferior rank. She was not rendered formidable by silence, but she spoke with authoritative tones that marked her self-importance. Lizzy recalled how Mr. Wickham had described her ladyship and believed the woman to be exactly what he had represented.

When, after examining the mother, in whose countenance and deportment she soon found some resemblance of Mr. Darcy, she turned her eyes on the daughter, a thin and small young woman. There was neither in figure nor face any likeness between the ladies. Miss de Bourgh was pale and sickly. Her features, though not plain, were insignificant, and she spoke very little, except in a low voice, to Mrs. Jenkinson, in whose appearance there was nothing remarkable, and who was entirely engaged in listening to what she said, and placing a screen in the proper direction before her eyes.

After sitting a few minutes, they were all sent to one of the windows to admire the view, Mr. Collins attending them to point out its beauties, and Lady Catherine kindly informing them that it was much better worth looking at in the summer.

The dinner was exceedingly handsome, and there were all the servants and all the articles of plate which Mr. Collins had promised. He took his seat at the bottom of the table, by her ladyship's desire, and looked as if he felt that life could furnish nothing greater. He carved, and ate, and praised with delighted alacrity, and every dish was commended, first by him and then by Sir William, who was now enough recovered to echo whatever his son-in-law said, in a manner which Lizzy wondered Lady Catherine could bear.

But Lady Catherine seemed gratified by their excessive admiration and gave most gracious smiles, especially when any dish on the table proved a novelty to them. The party did not supply much conversation. Lizzy was ready to speak whenever there was an opening, but she was seated between Charlotte and Miss de Bourgh—the former of whom was engaged in listening to Lady Catherine, and the latter said not a word to her all dinner-time. Mrs. Jenkinson was chiefly employed in watching how little Miss de Bourgh ate, pressing her to try some other dish, and fearing she was indisposed. Maria thought speaking out of the question, and the gentlemen did nothing but eat and admire.

When the ladies returned to the drawing-room, there was little to be done but to hear Lady Catherine talk, which she did without any intermission till coffee came in, delivering her opinion on every subject in so decisive a manner, as proved that she was not used to having her judgment controverted. She inquired into Charlotte's domestic concerns familiarly and minutely, gave her a great deal of advice as to the management of them all, told her how everything ought to be regulated in so small a family as hers, and instructed her as to the care of her cows and her poultry. Lizzy found that nothing was beneath this great lady's attention. In the intervals of her discourse with Mrs. Collins, she addressed a variety of questions to Maria and Lizzy, but especially to the latter, of whose connections she knew the least, and who she observed to Mrs. Collins was a very genteel, pretty kind of girl. She asked her, at different times, how many sisters she had, whether they were older or younger than herself, whether any of them were likely to be married, whether they were handsome, where they had been educated, what carriage her father kept, and what had been her mother's maiden name? Lizzy felt all the impertinence of her questions but answered them very composedly. Lady Catherine then observed,

"Your father's estate is entailed on Mr. Collins, I think. For your sake," turning to Charlotte, "I am glad of it, but otherwise I see no occasion for entailing estates from the female line. It was not thought necessary in Sir Lewis de Bourgh's family. Do you play and sing, Miss Bennet?"

"A little."

"Oh! Then—some time or other we shall be happy to hear you. Our instrument is a capital one, probably superior to—You shall try it someday. Do your sisters play and sing?"

"One of them does."

"Why did not you all learn? You ought all to have learned. The Miss Webbs all play, and their father has not so good an income as yours. Do you draw?"

"No, not at all."

"What, none of you?"

"Not one."

"That is very strange. But I suppose you had no opportunity. Your mother should have taken you to town every spring for the benefit of masters."

"My mother would have had no objection, but my father hates London."

"Has your governess left you?"

"We never had any governess."

"No governess! How was that possible? Five daughters brought up at home without a governess! I never heard of such a thing. Your mother must have been quite a slave to your education."

Lizzy could hardly help smiling as she assured her that had not been the case.

"Then, who taught you? Who attended to you? Without a governess, you must have been neglected."

"Compared with some families, I believe we were. But we were always encouraged to read, and had all the masters that were necessary. Those who chose to be idle, certainly might."

"Aye, no doubt, but that is what a governess will prevent, and if I had known your mother, I should have advised her most strenuously to engage one. I always say that nothing is to be done in education without steady and regular instruction, and nobody but a governess can give it. It is wonderful how many families I have been the means of supplying in that way. I am always glad to get a young person well placed out. Four nieces of Mrs. Jenkinson are most delightfully situated through my means; and it was but the other day that I recommended another young person, who was merely accidentally mentioned to me, and the family are quite delighted with her. Mrs. Collins, did I tell you of Lady Metcalf's calling yesterday to thank me? She finds Miss Pope a treasure. 'Lady Catherine,' said she, 'you have given me a treasure.' Are any of your younger sisters out, Miss Bennet?"

"Yes, ma'am, all."

"All! What, all five out at once? Very odd! And you only the second. The younger ones out before the elder ones are married! Your younger sisters must be very young?"

"Yes, my youngest is not sixteen. Perhaps she is full young to be much in company. But really, ma'am, I think it would be very hard upon younger sisters, that they should not have their share of society and amusement, because the elder may not have the means or inclination to marry early. The last-born has as good a right to the pleasures of youth as the first. And to be kept back on such a motive! I think it would not be very likely to promote sisterly affection or delicacy of mind."

"Upon my word," said her ladyship, "you give your opinion very decidedly for so young a person. Pray, what is your age?"

"With three younger sisters grown up," replied Lizzy, smiling, "your ladyship can hardly expect me to own it."

Lady Catherine seemed quite astonished at not receiving a direct answer, and Lizzy suspected herself to be the first creature who had ever dared to trifle with so much dignified impertinence.

"You cannot be more than twenty, I am sure, therefore you need not conceal your age."

"I am not one-and-twenty."

When the gentlemen had joined them, and tea was over, the card-tables were placed. Lady Catherine, Sir William, and Mr. and Mrs. Collins sat down to quadrille. The remaining were obliged to play at cassino, Miss de Bourgh’s chosen game. Their table was superlatively stupid. Scarcely a syllable was uttered that did not relate to the game, except when Mrs. Jenkinson expressed her fears of Miss de Bourgh's being too hot or too cold, or having too much or too little light. A great deal more passed at the other table. Lady Catherine was generally speaking—stating the mistakes of the three others, or relating some anecdote of herself. Mr. Collins was employed in agreeing to everything her ladyship said, thanking her for every fish he won, and apologising if he thought he won too many. Sir William did not say much. He was storing his memory with anecdotes and noble names.

When Lady Catherine and her daughter had played as long as they chose, the tables were broken up, the carriage was offered to Mrs. Collins, gratefully accepted and immediately ordered. The party then gathered round the fire to hear Lady Catherine determine what weather they were to have on the morrow. From these instructions they were summoned by the arrival of the coach. After many speeches of thankfulness on Mr. Collins's side and as many bows on Sir William's, they departed. As soon as they had driven from the door, Lizzy was called on by her cousin to give her opinion of all that she had seen at Rosings, which, for Charlotte's sake, she made more favourable than it really was. But her commendation, though costing her some trouble, could by no means satisfy Mr. Collins, and he was very soon obliged to take her ladyship's praise into his own hands.

Lizzy did not expect to greet future visits at Rosings with exceptional enthusiasm, but she was satisfied that her fear of having Mr. Darcy constantly in her thoughts while in the company of his relations had not come to much fruition, and she anticipated that perhaps she might not think of him at all in a few days.

But such hopes, alas, were to be shortly dashed.

*****

Lizzy woke with a start, sitting up in bed to find her breath shallow and her heart racing. She could not have been more startled had a flock of birds suddenly swarmed through her room. More disconcerting than finding fauna in the house, however, was the degree of wetness between her legs and the knowledge that it had been brought about by yet another dream of Mr. Darcy.

When her senses had calmed, she lay back in bed, for dawn had yet to break, and stared at the ceiling. What, by the grace of God, was the matter with her? Once again, her dream had started in all pleasantness. She had returned to Herfordshire to find Wickham’s regiment still in Meryton. After finding a moment alone, Wickham had professed that he had been unable to turn his thoughts from her, even whilst he pursued the hand of women whose fortunes he must depend upon if he was to have the life he sought.

“But I wonder if, in the end, it is worth the loss of one whom I truly admire?” he had asked as he brought her hand to his lips.

His words had satisfied her vanity and the touch of his mouth upon her skin had ignited all manner of flutters throughout her body.

“I think I would risk it all for one night with you,” he had said before circling an arm about her waist and pulling her into him.

His hips had pressed into hers, banishing all chagrin of her weakness, at how easily she could and would succumb to the heat flaring inside her. He had kissed her then, and though it did not sweep her away as much as she had hoped, she was content to melt against him and surrender to the urgency of the moment. No further caresses of affection were required. She wanted his hardness within her. He lifted her onto a table and began to lift her skirts.

Before he could penetrate her, however, she was face-down upon the table, her derriere rounding the edge of the table, and it was not Wickham but Mr. Darcy who was buried inside of her. Instead of trying to escape, she was thrusting her hips back, grinding her rump against him, stoking the fire that could only be extinguished after it had burned its brightest.

She was still in a state of arousal, but Lizzy lay motionless upon her bed as if any movement might provoke the dream to return. She could arrive at no logic to explain why she would dream of the man a second time but that her mind must be far more perverted than she thought possible. She could recall no encounter of theirs that did not reinforce her discontent with him and was convinced his experiences to be the same.

That he had once asked her to dance during a ball at Netherfield puzzled her still. Surprised, she had accepted his request, much to her own disconcertion. Taking their place upon the dance floor, they had stood for some time without speaking a word. At long last, she had made some slight observation on the dance. He had replied, and all was silent again. How trying of the man to leave all attempts at conversation to her!

After a pause of some minutes, she had addressed him a second time. "It is your turn to say something now, Mr. Darcy. I talked about the dance, and you ought to make some sort of remark on the size of the room, or the number of couples."

He had assured her that whatever she wished him to say should be said.

"Very well. That reply will do for the present. Perhaps by and by I may observe that private balls are much pleasanter than public ones. But now we may be silent."

"Do you talk by rule, then, while you are dancing?" he asked.

"Sometimes. One must speak a little, you know. It would look odd to be entirely silent for half an hour together, and yet for the advantage of some, conversation ought to be so arranged, as that they may have the trouble of saying as little as possible."

"Are you consulting your own feelings in the present case, or do you imagine that you are gratifying mine?"

"Both," she had replied archly, "for I have always seen a great similarity in the turn of our minds. We are each of an unsocial, taciturn disposition, unwilling to speak unless we expect to say something that will amaze the whole room, and be handed down to posterity with all the éclat of a proverb."

"This is no very striking resemblance of your own character, I am sure. How near it may be to mine, I cannot pretend to say. You think it a faithful portrait undoubtedly."

"I must not decide on my own performance."

He had made no answer, and they were again silent till they had gone down the dance, when he had asked her if she and her sisters did not very often walk to Meryton. She had answered in the affirmative, and added, "When you met us there the other day, we had just been forming a new acquaintance."

He had stiffened. "Mr. Wickham is blessed with such happy manners as may ensure his making friends. Whether he may be equally capable of retaining them is less certain."

"He has been so unlucky as to lose your friendship," she had replied with emphasis, "and in a manner which he is likely to suffer from all his life."

He had made no answer. At that moment, Sir William Lucas had appeared close to them, meaning to pass through the set to the other side of the room, but on perceiving Mr. Darcy, he had stopped with a bow of superior courtesy to compliment him on his dancing and his partner.

"I have been most highly gratified indeed, my dear sir. Such very superior dancing is not often seen. It is evident that you belong to the first circles. Allow me to say, however, that your fair partner does not disgrace you, and that I must hope to have this pleasure often repeated, especially when a certain desirable event, my dear Eliza—”

And here Sir William had glanced at Jane and Bingley.

“—shall take place. What congratulations will then flow in! I appeal to Mr. Darcy—but let me not interrupt you, sir. You will not thank me for detaining you from the bewitching converse of that young lady, whose bright eyes are also upbraiding me."

Darcy had appeared engrossed in thought. Recovering, he had turned back to her. "Sir William's interruption has made me forget what we were talking of."

"I do not think we were speaking at all. Sir William could not have interrupted two people in the room who had less to say for themselves. We have tried two or three subjects already without success, and what we are to talk of next I cannot imagine."

"What think you of books?" he had said with a rare smile.

"Books—oh! No. I am sure we never read the same, or not with the same feelings."

"I am sorry you think so, but if that be the case, there can at least be no want of subject. We may compare our different opinions."

"No. I cannot talk of books in a ball-room; my head is always full of something else."

"The present always occupies you in such scenes, does it?" he had asked.

"Yes, always," she had replied, then exclaimed, "I remember hearing you once say, Mr. Darcy, that you hardly ever forgave, that your resentment once created was unappeasable. You are very cautious, I suppose, as to its being created?"

"I am," he had said with a firm voice.

"And never allow yourself to be blinded by prejudice?"

"I hope not."

"It is particularly incumbent on those who never change their opinion, to be secure of judging properly at first."

"May I ask to what these questions tend?"

"Merely to the illustration of your character. I am trying to make it out."

"And what is your success?"

She shook her head. "I do not get on at all. I hear such different accounts of you as to puzzle me exceedingly."

"I can readily believe," answered he gravely, "that reports may vary greatly with respect to me, and I could wish, Miss Bennet, that you were not to sketch my character at the present moment, as there is reason to fear that the performance would reflect no credit on either."

"But if I do not take your likeness now, I may never have another opportunity."

"I would by no means suspend any pleasure of yours," he had replied, a touch coldly.

She had said no more, and they went down the other dance and parted in silence.

CHAPTER FOUR

If she continued with these disturbing reveries, Lizzy supposed she might go mad. Something had to be done. But what could possibly purge these upsetting fantasies?

Not daring to return to sleep, she rose from bed and went to the sideboard where she splashed water from a pitcher onto her face. She took several long breaths and decided that some strenuous exercise might expel the distress. When the others had begun to stir an hour after dawn’s arrival, Lizzy had all but dressed herself save for a few pins required of her gown.

The party at the Parsonage had diminished by one for Sir William had stayed only a week at Hunsford, assured that his daughter was most comfortably settled and possessed of such a husband and such a neighbour as were not often met with. While Sir William was with them, Mr. Collins devoted his morning to driving him out in his gig, and showing him the country. After his departure, the whole family returned to their usual employments, and Lizzy was thankful to find that they did not see more of her cousin by the alteration. He spent most of the time between breakfast and dinner at work in the garden, reading and writing, and looking out of the window in his own book-room, which fronted the road. The room in which the ladies sat was backwards. Lizzy had at first rather wondered that Charlotte should not prefer the dining-parlour for common use. It was a better sized room, and had a more pleasant aspect, but she soon saw that her friend had an excellent reason for what she did, for Mr. Collins would undoubtedly have been much less in his own apartment, had they sat in one equally lively, and she gave Charlotte credit for the arrangement.

From the drawing-room they could distinguish nothing in the lane, and were indebted to Mr. Collins for the knowledge of what carriages went along, and how often especially Miss de Bourgh drove by in her phaeton, which he never failed coming to inform them of, though it happened almost every day. She not unfrequently stopped at the Parsonage and had a few minutes' conversation with Charlotte, but was scarcely ever prevailed upon to get out.

Now and then they were honoured with a call from her ladyship, and nothing escaped her observation during these visits. She examined into their employments, looked at their work, and advised them to do it differently, found fault with the arrangement of the furniture, detected the housemaid in negligence; and if she accepted any refreshment, seemed to do it only for the sake of finding out that Mrs. Collins's joints of meat were too large for her family.

Lizzy soon perceived, that though this great lady was not in commission of the peace of the county, she was a most active magistrate in her own parish, the minutest concerns of which were carried to her by Mr. Collins. Whenever any of the cottagers were disposed to be quarrelsome, discontented, or too poor, she sallied forth into the village to settle their differences, silence their complaints, and scold them into harmony and plenty.


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