by Bill Kirton
felt a little chill of alarm at his words. Over the past few weeks, the
knowledge she would soon be obliged to impart to him had been a heavy burden.
Only prudence had stilled her tongue for so long. Elizabeth sighed deeply. The moment had arrived. Elizabeth gave a little shake of her head. Elizabeth felt her cheeks begin to burn at this implication that her woeful condition
might have been occasioned by some other dalliance. She stood and confronted
Excellent news coinciding with the recent 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice revealed that hitherto unseen fragments of alternative narrative departures had been found in the papers of a private collector in
. Perhaps the most startling was one
revealing the author’s original account of the wooing of Boston .
The full text is appended below. Elizabeth
The gentlemen had joined the ladies and the card-tables had been placed but Darcy, whose countenance betrayed quite openly the displeasure he would feel at being compelled to tolerate conversation which he was certain would be superlatively stupid, made his way into the withdrawing room where he was agreeably surprised to find Miss Bennet seated at an escritoire.
‘Why, Miss Bennet, to be sure,’ he said. ‘I wonder that I find you here absorbed in reclusive meditation at a moment when the company is preparing to initiate the evening’s entertainments.’
Elizabeth had heard his arrival and, aware of the fact that his inclination was ever to deliver his sentiments in a manner which did little to recommend them, was nonetheless reassured to note that his countenance was less forbidding and disagreeable than was his wont and, emboldened thereby, she replied ‘But sir, you too are equally guilty of absenting yourself from the imminent merriment.’
Darcy waved a dismissive hand and said ‘I am rarely in the requisite humour to give consequence to those who prefer the tedium of quadrille or cassino to the infinitely more delicate delights of personal discourse.’ He then paused before adding, ‘I would suggest, too, that such discourse holds even greater charms if it is of an amatory nature.’
‘I must confess,’ she said, ‘that my spirits of late have inclined little towards post-prandial diversions. I regret to say that there is some tumult in my mind.’
‘Then you must unburden yourself, dear lady. Mysteries held in the mind must surely become injurious encumbrances unless they be shared.’
‘Oh, it is no mystery. That is too grandiloquent a word. It is a mere discomposure of my spirits and yet I find that it cannot easily be overcome.’
Her words served momentarily to discompose Darcy himself.
‘Then, perhaps a stroll through…’
To his extreme surprise,
her hand and pressed her fingers against his lips to stop his words. Elizabeth
‘Ah, Mr Darcy,’ she said. ‘I beg that you should not ask that I walk again with you in the garden for our exertions of yesterday evening have quite wearied me.’
She withdrew her hand and a silence grew between them until, disconcerted by its prolongation, Darcy felt obliged to break it.
‘In truth,’ he said, ‘I must confess to some fatigue myself. And yet I own that I much prefer those after-dinner pastimes to retiring for whist at your Aunt’s table.’
‘Oh indeed, indeed, Mr Darcy,’
to reassure him before her voice became almost a whisper and she added ‘But I
fear that their consequences may be other than those you have led me to
‘Why, my dear Miss Bennet, whatever is it that ails you?’
‘Alas, I know not,’ she said, ‘save that of late I have experienced much difficulty in tolerating breakfast and have oft had occasion to withdraw to the closet beyond the withdrawing room, there to disgorge in a most helpless and piteous manner all that I have partaken of at table.’
The dreadful silence returned as Darcy absorbed the import of her declaration. At last, he had composed himself sufficiently to reply, in broken, barely articulate utterances.
‘Oh my goodness! My dear Miss Bennet. How disconcerting. I never heard any thing so abominable.’
‘I am exceedingly gratified by your concern,’ said
. ‘It is indeed
a most disagreeable pursuit, and, moreover, the unpleasantness is exacerbated
to almost intolerable proportions by a wholly incomprehensible deterioration in
the efficacity of the lumbar regions of my anatomical dispositions so that
forbearance from the audible bemoaning of my ill fortune is not easy of
Darcy nodded, then asked ‘What?’
‘I get backache,’ said
Darcy, apparently lost in thought, raised his hand to his face and drew his fingers down the line of his left cheek. At last his countenance cleared and the ghost of a smile formed at the corners of his lips.
‘Is it then perhaps that the moon has run to its last quarter and that that affliction by which all young ladies are with such tiresome regularity beset is upon you?’
‘I think not, Mr Darcy. For it is now some thirteen weeks since I last suffered that indignity.’
Having at last begun to ease the burden she had been carrying,
felt a lightness permeate her being. It seemed
to her only just that the weight of this specific knowledge should be
distributed between those responsible for its inception. Darcy, however,
appeared to be resistant to its import. Elizabeth
‘Thirteen weeks?’ he cried. ‘But this can only signify gestation and work for the apothecary.’
‘I fear your observations may be only too pertinent.’
Darcy walked slowly across to the window and looked out over the lawns.
‘I am nonetheless perplexed,’ he began, without turning to look at her, ‘as to how such a situation could have come to pass, for I have, each evening, without fail, made use of that cylindrical configuration of finely-wrought India-rubber which is intended to be the receptacle for the consequences of such pastimes.’
‘Mr Darcy, I have been graced by no visitors from the Lord and awakened by no angelic Gabriels. There is precious little of the immaculate about this conception. I thought you a man of honour. I hope I was not mistaken.’
Darcy looked at her frowning face, felt the fire in her eyes, and sensed the power which filled her impassioned frame. He also recalled those moments they had spent in the garden which had led to the present discomforting situation and began to opine that betrothal and subsequent marriage would make available to him after-dinner pursuits far preferable to tuneless songs, piano recitals during which notes were struck in apparently random sequences, and the repetitive flutter of playing cards across baize. He took her hands in his.
he said. ‘It is a cliché acknowledged by many that a single man in possession
of a good fortune and an estate in Derbyshire must be in want of an heir. Much
as I loathe the aphorisms engendered by such convoluted elucubrations, I
confess that I find such a fancy reasonable, sensible and not entirely unattractive. Shall we
perambulate in the gardens to discuss our future?’ Elizabeth