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.‘Be not alarmed, madam, on receiving this letter.’Lizzy was alarmed, and being alone at sea, found herself reading out loud those phrases that struck her most:‘I will not repeat my sentiments which were so disgusting to you.I write only to clarify the two offences you laid to my charge.Yes, Bingley was in love with your sister, but from my observations, I did not think she reciprocated, and this, combined with the ghastly behaviour of certain members of your family—sorry to offend you—encouraged me, as a friend, to discourage my friend.There is but one part of my conduct in the whole affair on which I do not reflect with satisfaction—I did conceal from Bingley your sister’s presence in town.If I have wounded your sister’s feelings, it was unknowingly done.As for Wickham…’A sudden spray made much of what followed illegible, but enough remained for Lizzy to understand the heinous behaviour of that young gentleman.Wickham had wasted money and opportunity bestowed upon him by Darcy’s generous father.When this source of money had dried up, he planned to elope with Georgiana, Darcy’s sister, his object being the young girl’s fortune! But at the last minute, Georgiana confessed the plan to her brother, whom she looked up to as a father, and Darcy foiled the elopement, saving his sister from disaster and writing to Wickham who, seeing the game was up, left immediately!So Wickham wanted revenge on Darcy! All along, he had tainted Darcy’s character in her eyes—in the eyes of all Salcombe society!The final words of Darcy’s now-soggy letter swam before her eyes.I will only add, God bless you.Fitzwilliam DarcyChapter 36Oh! Oh! Oh! Lizzy scarcely knew what to think.She pulled in the mainsheet as if to gather her thoughts, but gybed instantly, then almost immediately went about in error and was in danger of being thrown into the waters.The little boat rocked and rolled on the tempestuous seas.She began with prejudice against his every word.How could he pretend that he was insensible to Jane’s feelings? That must be false! How could he find her family such an objection? And where was the apology? Only a hint of wrongdoing at concealing Jane’s existence in London.But hardly an apology.Yes, he was all pride and insolence.Lizzy went about putting the boat onto a starboard tack, heading straight out to sea.She was in no mood to return.What mood she was in she hardly knew.The sun came out and glinted over the breaking waves.The dark clouds became rimmed with silver, and the little boat struck forth intrepidly through the waters.But where Lizzy’s mind was going she could not say.After her fury but confirmation of feelings at the first part of the letter, she found the account of Wickham filled her with astonishment, apprehension, even horror.She thought back of her times with Wickham and blushed at her own forwardness, her own fondness, his impropriety—yes impropriety—at discussing Darcy’s faults so freely with her aunt, then a stranger to him.Oh! And what of Mary King? Of course, the pink-hulled speedboat.Despite the cold wind, Lizzy felt herself redden at the thought of any affection she had had with Wickham.She had been well and truly duped.But what then of Darcy? Perhaps… she reread the letter again.Charlotte’s words rang in her ears that Jane should not be too secretive about her affections.How she had teased her friend then, but perhaps, after all, Lottie had been right.Jane was in danger of losing the man she loved by disguising her feelings too well.As for the comments about her family—she blushed at the outrageous behaviour at the Estuary Swim.It was a ghastly exhibition.Her mind rambled on over the events of the summer since first meeting Darcy and Bingley.Each memory of each encounter caused her excruciating embarrassment and an immediate wish to expunge all recollection of her behaviour towards Darcy.Physical exertion seemed her only immediate escape.She pulled in the jib, jamming its sheet into its clamp, and heaved in the mainsheet as tightly as possible, forcing the boat to keel over, and pushing herself out on the gunnels, leaning right back over the waters to prevent capsizing.In this manner, she battled fiercely with the waves, the wind, and her feelings until she felt able to return to Little Rosings on the Rocks and appear cheerful as usual.On her return, soaking and exhausted, she was told that earlier, Darcy had called for a few moments, apparently soaked and exhausted, then left.Sometime later, Colin had called and waited and waited for her, and eventually, with a sigh, had also left.Lizzy could only pretend to affect concern at missing him; she really rejoiced.Colin was no longer an object.She could think only of her letter.Chapter 37Darcy and Colin had left Rosings on the Rocks that afternoon, and Lizzy decided to leave Little Rosings shortly after.She had a call from Mr Bennet, begging her to return.With Jane also away, he was finding no moment of sense with the rest of the family and, fearing for his own sanity, could do with her company.Chapter 38At lunchtime Lizzy, taking Maria with her, said her good-byes to dear Lottie and thanked Mr Collins (who laboured over their leaving a great deal and without necessity) and returned by water taxi and with much relief to 3 Island Street.Chapter 39As the water taxi glided past The Ferry Inn, Lizzy’s attention was caught by screams, and turning her head towards the shore, she saw Kitty and Lydia leaning over The Ferry Inn wall, waving wildly at them.Lizzy waved back and instructed the taxi to drop them off at the inn, where she and Maria went and joined her sisters in the stone garden.Kitty and Lydia were in high spirits.On the table was a spread of mussels, oysters, and crab for the girls to enjoy as a reunion lunch.‘Is it not kind of us?’ said Kitty.‘And we mean to treat you,’ added Lydia, ‘only you will have to lend us the money, as we have just spent all ours in Amelia’s Attic on this gorgeous clippy art bag and this gorgeous sun hat from Joules.It doesn’t really fit me, but I thought I might as well buy it as not.’‘And guess what the big news is, Lizzy!’ said Kitty.‘Mary King has given Wickham the boot!’ interrupted Lydia, stealing Kitty’s thunder.‘What do you think of that, Lizzy? Are you thrilled?’‘I just think Mary King has had a lucky escape,’ said Lizzy, smiling.‘Who cares about Mary King anyway?’ interjected Kitty, already losing interest in Mary King.‘I’m starving.Let’s start!’The girls had a very merry lunch and walked back down Fore Street arm in arm and singing jollily until they reached 3 Island Street, where Mary was sitting, studying Advanced Physics, and whose only greeting on seeing Lizzy was ‘Shhhh.’Chapter 40Later, as Lizzy and Jane sat crabbing on Victoria Quay, Jane squeaked in surprise at news of Darcy’s attentions to Lizzy.Lizzy calmed her, but she squeaked again on hearing what a bad egg Wickham had been [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]