(Excerpt from Chapter 2:)
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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!"