Novels by Jack Caldwell


The Companion of His Future Life

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(Excerpt from Chapter 2:)

The Wedding

Elizabeth Bennet sat in the pew of the Meryton Church, trying to understand what was going on. There, before the altar, was her sister Jane, a participant in a wedding ceremony but not as the bride. Jane was the bridesmaid. For her sister Mary. Who was getting married. To William Collins.

What has happened?

Six weeks earlier, Jane was enjoying the attentions of Mr. Bingley, Elizabeth was enjoying her contempt for Mr. Darcy, and both were trying to avoid Mr. Collins. Now, Mr. Bingley and his annoying sisters and friend were gone from the neighborhood. Mr. Wickham, the soldier who had been so entertaining to the Bennet ladies, was paying exclusive attentions to Miss King. And Mary was uniting herself for life with Mr. Collins.

What has happened? No, no, this is wrong. It should be Jane marrying Mr. Bingley. Perhaps this is a dream. Perhaps if I close my eyes very tightly and open them, this will all go away.

Mr. Collins was repeating his vows. "With this ring, I thee wed. With my body, I thee worship."

Elizabeth tried. It did not serve. I believe I shall be ill now.

Eventually the ceremony was over. Elizabeth found herself alone in the church.

"Elizabeth? Are you well?"

"I have a mind amazed at its own discomposure, Jane. I cannot believe that Mary has married Mr. Collins. It is just… wrong!"

"Well, it has happened and we are all returning to Longbourn for the breakfast. You must come along now."

Elizabeth grasped her sister's hand. "Oh, Jane, if only we were to be going to your wedding breakfast!"

Jane smiled a thin smile. "Mr. Bingley is perhaps the most amicable man of my acquaintance, but I am sure you apprehend too much about him. He is a very pleasant sort of person, and I enjoyed his company. That is all. Now, come along."

Elizabeth chose not to challenge her sister and walked out of the chapel. At the door she turned back and looked at the sanctuary one last time.

William Collins is my brother. I cannot believe it!

***

The new Mrs. Collins approached her elder sisters as she prepared to leave.

"Mary, let me wish you joy again," cried Jane as she hugged her.

"Thank you, Jane." Mary turned questioning eyes to Elizabeth. "And you, Lizzy? Do you wish me well?"

"Of course! All the joy in the world, my dear sister." As much as she tried, Elizabeth's sentiment sounded false, even to her own ears.

Mary was clearly not deceived, but she did not challenge her sister. Instead, she grasped Elizabeth's hands most fervently. "Please, you must promise me, both of you, that you will visit me as soon as may be."

Elizabeth was taken aback to see the apprehension in Mary's face. "Of course, we shall! Shall we not, Jane?"

"Oh, yes," Jane assured them both.

Elizabeth smiled. "There, it is settled! Write to us when you are ready."

Mary was visibly relieved. "I shall -- perhaps at Eastertide. I shall ask Mr. Collins."

Elizabeth was almost overcome by the look of fear and trepidation on Mary's countenance. "Oh, Mary, take care! We love you so!" She embraced her trembling sister.

Mary was in tears. "You do? Oh, I love you, too! Both of you!"

Jane joined in, and the three held each other until they were interrupted by a pompous voice.

"Ah, what a picture of sisterly felicity! Would I could but stand here to admire it for the rest of my days! But, Mrs. Collins, we must be off if we are to make Hunsford before nightfall." To Elizabeth's disgust, Mr. Collins was actually dancing from foot to foot, so fervent was his desire to leave.

Mary closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "Yes, Mr. Collins, you are right. Give me your arm… husband."

Elizabeth blanched. I believe I shall be ill now.

The remainder of the leave-taking took no little time as Mrs. Bennet was in full rapture over her now-darling daughter being the first to leave Longbourn after entering the state of Holy Matrimony. Finally, the farewells were accomplished, and the couple ascended the waiting carriage. As it pulled out of the drive, Mary leaned out.

"Jane, Lizzy, do not forget your promise! Goodbye all! Goodbye!"

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