WITH NO GREATER EVENTS than these in the Longbourn family, and otherwise diversified by little beyond the walks to Meryton (less often interrupted by zombies on account of the hardened earth of winter), did January and February pass away. March was to take Elizabeth to Hunsford. She had not at first thought very seriously of going thither; but Charlotte, she soon found, was struggling to keep the last of her senses, and Elizabeth thought it an appropriate tribute to their former friendship to see her one last time. She found that absence, as well as pity, had also weakened her disgust of Mr. Collins. The journey would moreover give her a peep at Jane; and, in short, as the time drew near, she would have been very sorry for any delay. Everything, however, went on smoothly, and was finally settled. She was to accompany Sir William and his second daughter. The improvement of spending a night in London was added in time, and the plan became perfect as a plan could be.
The farewell between herself and Mr. Wickham was perfectly friendly; on his side even more. His present pursuit could not make him forget that Elizabeth had been the first to excite and to deserve his attention, the first to listen and to pity, the first to be admired.
Her fellow-travellers the next day were not of a kind to make her think him less agreeable. Sir William Lucas, and his daughter Maria, a good-humoured girl, but as empty-headed and untrained as himself, had nothing to say that could be worth hearing, and were listened to with about as much delight as the rattle of the chaise. It was a journey of only twenty-four miles, and they began it so early as to be in Section Six East by noon. The coachman, as was the custom on trips to town, had employed two young men from Meryton to ride beside him with muskets. This was done in spite of the fact that Elizabeth was herself fully armed, and more than capable of defending them should they encounter any unpleasantness.
When they were but three miles from London, and Sir William was prattling on about the particulars of his knighthood for the second time in as many hours, the chaise lurched to a halt. The suddenness of this was enough to send Maria flying from one side of the carriage to the other, and was promptly followed by frightened shouts and the crack of powder outside. Had Elizabeth not been graced with steady nerves and the fortitude of years of combat, she might have gasped upon pulling back one of the curtains-for there were no less than one hundred unmentionables surrounding them on all sides. One of the young musket men had been dragged off the chaise and was being devoured, while the other two living men fired clumsily into the crowd as the hands of the dead pulled at their pant legs. Elizabeth grabbed her Brown Bess and Katana sword and told Sir William and Maria to remain as they were.
She kicked open the door and sprang atop the coach. From here Elizabeth could appreciate the full measure of their predicament, for rather than one hundred unmentionables, she now perceived no less than twice that number. The coachman’s leg was in the possession of several zombies, who were quite close to getting their teeth on his ankle. Seeing no alternative, Elizabeth brought her sword down upon his thigh-amputating the leg, but saving the man. She picked him up with one arm and lowered him into the coach, where he fainted as blood poured forth from his new stump. Sadly, this action prevented her from saving the second musket man, who had been pulled from his perch. He screamed as the dreadfuls held him down and began to tear organs from his living belly and feast upon them. The zombies next turned their attention to the terrified horses. Elizabeth knew that she and the present party were all doomed to slow deaths if the horses should fall into Satan’s hands, so she sprang skyward, firing her musket as she flew through the air, her bullets penetrating the heads of several unmentionables. She landed on her feet beside one of the horses, and with her sword, began cutting down the attackers with all the grace of Aphrodite, and all the ruthlessness of Herod.
Her feet, fists, and blade were too swift for the clumsy horde, and they began to retreat. Seeing her chance, Elizabeth sheathed her Katana, sprang into the driver’s box, and grabbed the reins. The zombies had already begun to regroup as she cracked the coachman’s whip, driving the horses forward and carrying them down the road at a rather unsafe speed, until she was satisfied that the danger had passed.
Shortly thereafter, they approached the southern face of London’s wall. Though she had once walked upon China’s Great Wall, Elizabeth was nonetheless impressed whenever she had occasion to lay eyes upon Britain’s Barrier. Considered alone, each section offered little to boast of. The wall was similar in height and appearance to that of many older castles, and punctuated by the occasional gorge tower or cannon port. But considered as a whole, the wall was so massive as to defy the notions of what was possible with human hands. Elizabeth brought the carriage to a halt at the southern guard tower. A dozen or more chaises were stopped ahead of them-waiting as the guards searched for contraband and made certain that none of the passengers showed signs of the strange plague. Sir William poked his head out and informed Elizabeth that the coachman had died, and asked if she thought it appropriate to leave his body beside the road.
As they drove to Mr. Gardiner’s door, Jane was at a drawing-room window watching their arrival; when they entered the passage she was there to welcome them, surprised by the sight of Elizabeth in the driver’s box. Elizabeth’s spirits lifted at the sight of her sister, who looked as healthful and lovely as ever. She relayed the details of their unhappy journey as swiftly as she could, and begged they speak no more of it, except to say that she had never seen such a number of unmentionables together in the country, and wonder why so many would attack a single chaise. The day passed most pleasantly away; the morning in bustle and shopping, and the evening at one of the theatres.
Elizabeth then contrived to sit by her aunt. Their first object was her sister; and she was more grieved than astonished to hear, in reply to her minute inquiries, that though Jane always struggled to support her spirits, there were periods of dejection. It was reasonable, however, to hope that they would not continue long. Mrs. Gardiner gave her the particulars also of Miss Bingley’s visit in Section Six East, and repeated conversations occurring at different times between Jane and herself, which proved that the former had, from her heart, given up the acquaintance.
Mrs. Gardiner then rallied her niece on Wickham’s desertion, and complimented her on bearing it so well.
“But my dear Elizabeth,” she added, “what sort of girl is this new object of his affections? I should be sorry to think our friend mercenary.”
“Pray, my dear aunt, what is the difference in matrimonial affairs, between the mercenary and the prudent motive? Last Christmas you were afraid of his marrying me, because it would be imprudent; and now, because he is trying to get a girl with only ten thousand pounds, you think him mercenary.”
“If you will only tell me what sort of girl she is, I shall know what to think.”
“She is a very good kind of girl, I believe. I know no harm of her.”
Before they were separated by the conclusion of the play, Elizabeth had the unexpected happiness of an invitation to accompany her uncle and aunt in a tour of pleasure which they proposed taking in the summer.
“We have not determined how far it shall carry us,” said Mrs. Gardiner, “but, perhaps, to the Lakes.”
No scheme could have been more agreeable to Elizabeth, and her acceptance of the invitation was most ready and grateful. “My dear, dear aunt,” she rapturously cried, “what delight! What felicity! You give me fresh life and vigour. Adieu to disappointment and spleen. What are young men to rocks and mountains? Oh! what hours of mountaintop sparring we shall spend! How many bucks we shall fell with nothing more than our daggers and swiftness of foot! Oh! How we will please Buddha by communing with the earth!”