A few scenes got cut from the final project, but they live on here, for your enjoyment.
Aunt walked into the parlor and handed Elizabeth her bonnet and pelisse. “Come, my dear, put those on. Now that all the rain has finally cleared, it is time for some fresh air and a long walk. If I do not get out of the house for a bit, I may just run mad, and perhaps take you along with me for the company.” She chuckled and adjusted the edges of her mobcap under her hat.
Four children notwithstanding, Aunt was a pretty woman with a trim figure and a ready smile, one of the reasons Mama did not like her very well. She and mother had been good friends and she remained a close correspondent with Jane and Elizabeth, even when their father’s relationship with Uncle had soured, another reason why Mama did not like her.
She took Elizabeth’s arm and led her out the door.
“Have you a destination in mind, or do we walk simply for the pleasure of it?”
“While I told the servants I had a destination in mind, you have discerned the truth of it. There are sufficient options in the city that we can decide any number of places were our destination after we arrive there.” Aunt winked.
Her smile was contagious and Elizabeth found it creeping across her own lips. She had smiled more in the few days here than she had in weeks, maybe months, in Kent. Except, of course, when in Mr. Darcy’s company.
“I thought we might visit the circulating library.”
“Oh yes, what a delightful idea!”
“There is also a lovely little tea house near there or a park where I thought we might stop for—”
“A bit of a chat?”
“You are every bit as perceptive as your mother was.” Aunt laughed. “Yes, my dear; we do need to make some decisions for your future.”
“Mama thought to send me to Meryton to see Aunt Philips.”
Aunt snorted. “That is entirely unsuitable. That woman is as coarse and short-sighted as—” She glanced at Elizabeth, cheeks coloring, “—ah, well, no, you are definitely not going to Meryton.”
Elizabeth released a deep breath she did not realize she had been holding.
“As I told you before, you are entirely welcome to stay with us for as long as you desire.”
“I do not think it is so entirely simple as that.”
“Because there are most definitely things you have not told me that it would seem are needful that I know.” Aunt patted her arm. “You will eventually learn that I am far more perceptive than your stepmother and far more active than your father. If you wish something to escape notice from me, you will have to do far better a job at concealment.”
Elizabeth tried to say something, but nothing sensible would come out.
They walked in silence a few minutes and arrived at the park.
“I imagine you are more comfortable here than confined inside.” Aunt took her arm and guided her down a smaller footpath to a small vine-shaded bench. They sat.
“My dear, you have been too much left to yourself, caring too much for others and not nearly enough for yourself.”
Elizabeth stammered some nonsense that sounded like protest, but even she did not believe it. “What other occupation have I?”
“I concede that point. I suppose Mrs. Bennet could do more to involve you in matters of the household, but it is—was better for all of you that she did not, or you would have been running that as well as your father’s demands.”
“Took advantage of your good nature. He should have taken someone in his employ to help him. He used you for so many disagreeable tasks.”
“I did not mind.”
“Of course you did not. That is your nature. And it might not be so troubling had he taken the effort to do right by you. But he has not.”
Elizabeth gulped back the lump in her throat, but it remained stubbornly in place. She closed her eyes and the trembling began, the one that had haunted her every night since she arrived. Whenever she closed her eyes, she intruded to carry her off once again. “He just stood there and allowed her—”
Aunt slipped her arm over Elizabeth’s shoulder. “And he was entirely wrong and negligent in doing so. Insofar as we are able, your uncle and I will never give him opportunity to wrong you again.”
A squeak escaped as she pressed her fist to her mouth.
Aunt rubbed her back. “I think it is time for you to tell me everything. What excuse did Lady Catherine make for removing you from your father’s house?”
“I disobeyed her orders.”
“Precisely what orders were those?”
“She forbade me to speak to her nephew, but I continued to speak with him.” The rest of the story of Mr. Darcy and his proposal poured out in a torrent she had no power to stop. “It is my fault—”
“Stop right there.”
“Do not go down that path. I will not have it. You may not have observed her wishes, but that hardly makes you at fault for all the rest. She crossed boundaries she had no right to violate.”
“No. For the first time I can recall, you stood up for yourself and it was the right and proper thing to do.”
“See what it earned me?”
“Freedom from Kent!”
Her retort died on her lips.
“I shall never see him again.”
“You love him?”
Elizabeth wrapped her arms tightly around her waist, against the aching emptiness that opened in her belly. “Yes, very dearly.”
“You would have accepted his offer?”
“Yes. But Lydia and Mr. Wickham broke in, cavorting like—like that couple there.” Elizabeth pointed at a couple in the distance. “He was carrying her exactly like that.” She snorted. “Lydia always wanted a red riding cloak like that girl’s.”
“We may discuss Lydia later. Why do you think you will not see him again?”
“No one knows where I am…and no one in Kent ever shall.”
“But you said Jane is engaged to his friend and they will leave Kent soon enough.”
“I do not follow.”
“I shall write Jane as I usually do and suggest that a visit might be in order. She will write back with news of the wedding, perhaps even invite us to attend. At the very least, she will suggest they visit with us on their wedding trip.”
Her eyes prickled. “I had not thought…”
“Of course not, you have had much too much on your mind to think clearly. But the way I see it, if you can be patient for a few weeks, we might definitely put you in the way of seeking your Mr. Darcy again, if he does not seek you out sooner himself.”
“You think that possible?”
“I think you inspire very great attachment in people and it would not surprise me if he did.”
But Papa never was so affected. “What if—”
“That I cannot say, but if he would change his mind simply to please his aunt, he is entirely undeserving of you.”