The idea of an arranged marriage is one I’ve long found intriguing, which is why I am particularly amused by Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s dogged insistence that her daughter, Anne, and her nephew Mr. Darcy were intended for each other in Jane Austen’s timeless classic, Pride and Prejudice.
My fascination caused me to wonder what if the elder Mr. Darcy had entertained the idea of an arranged marriage as well. What if his first-born son was promised to Mr. Thomas Bennet’s first-born daughter?
Mr. Bennet drew on his pipe as he continued to reflect on how things had come to be. He recalled his old friend citing in his letters on more than one occasion that his son, who was more like his aristocratic Fitzwilliam relations than not, might first appear a bit aloof. Haughty and proud is precisely how the young man had been described. On the other hand, his friend had also said his son had proven on many occasions to be a most loyal friend, and one who would do anything in the world for those whom he cared about the most.
Pray, my Jane will meet the young man’s approval and pierce his elusive facade, Mr. Bennet silently considered. We are all depending on her. The thought of what life would be like back at Longbourn should this alliance not take place gave him considerable pause.
My dear wife would be beside herself with grief. Jane’s marriage is meant to put all the other daughters in the path of rich young men who would marry each one of them in their turn, including Lizzy. With little to no dowries to speak of, such a fate was crucial. He laughed a little despite himself in recollection of his wife’s favorite antics.
Once again, he took up the task of admiring the beautiful scenery rushing by the carriage window. His wife’s words echoed in his mind: “Surely my Jane cannot be so beautiful for nothing. Young Darcy would have to be a fool not to fall madly in love with her.”
Getting lost in a good book affords the surest means of improving one’s mind as well as fueling one’s imagination with a sense of adventure. All the better if said book should happen to be of a romantic bent.
The first day passed much the same as the second day of her arrival. On the third day, the Collinses received a much-anticipated invitation to dine at Rosings. Taking advantage of the pleasant weather, they walked the half mile or so across the park in companionable silence. That was until the manor house appeared on the horizon, at which point her party members’ enthusiasm was scarcely contained.
With each step that Elizabeth took as she ascended the stairs of the palatial home, she thanked heavens that she was her friend Charlotte’s guest and not the other way around. Best described as a sensible woman, at the age of seven and twenty, Charlotte had recently married Elizabeth’s cousin, Mr. William Collins. He was the complete opposite of Lieutenant Wickham. Indeed, a pompous man, he was not only a strain on one’s eyes, but his voice also set Elizabeth’s nerves on edge. More than once since the start of her visit she had congratulated herself on escaping the sentence her friend ardently embraced, by rejecting his hand in marriage. The thought of finding herself married to the toady man who towered over them was enough to turn her stomach.
Her mother had protested fiercely against the injustice of having such a child—one who spurned the hand of the man who would one day inherit every material possession the Bennets of Longbourn now called their own. “He may throw us all into the hedgerows as soon as he pleases once my dear Mr. Bennet passes away,” was her mother’s most ardent complaint.
The second of five daughters, Elizabeth knew she had an obligation to marry, the more favorable the match the better for all her family. But she did not mean to be a martyr. Her strongly held conviction did not lessen the guilt that would make its presence known from time to time, and thus she made an unspoken pact with herself that the next time she would think long and hard before spurning an offer of marriage should one be presented to her again. Charlotte had mentioned that there was to be more than one single gentleman in attendance at that evening’s gathering. May at least one of them be amiable, Elizabeth silently prayed.