The bonds of friendship run deep, and the secrets we keep for our dearest friends can be gruesome as in the case of Elizabeth Bennet and Charlotte Lucas in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
On the Wednesday of Elizabeth’s rejection of Mr. Collins’s proposal for marriage, Charlotte arrives “flush with the warmth of exercise” and has “a rather disconcerted look on her face”, which prompts Lydia to ask if Charlotte is ill. However, before Charlotte can respond the far more intriguing news of Mr. Collins’s failed proposal and the distress it causes Mrs. Bennet takes precedent.
Better Dying than a Spinster!
Charlotte utilizes her wiles in the most ladylike of fashion to secure a marriage proposal from Mr. Collins for herself. But as Elizabeth’s friendship is “valued beyond any other person” by Charlotte, she knows that she must speak to Elizabeth woman to woman of the matter before it becomes public knowledge. It is then that we learn the “sorrowful truth” that has prompted Charlotte’s scheme and to risk the reproach of her closest friend. Charlotte confesses that she has been stricken.
“I don’t have long, Elizabeth. All I ask is that my final months be happy ones, and that I be permitted a husband who will see to my proper Christian beheading and burial.”
Because Elizabeth’s affections for Charlotte are “greater even than her honour,” she agrees to keep Charlotte’s secret and not to interfere with her ghastly transformation. Thus begins Elizabeth’s witnessing of Charlotte’s dreadful decline, which seem inconceivably unnoticed by anyone else.
The Best of Charlotte’s Transformational Moments
- “The only harbinger of Charlotte’s unhappy fate was her ever-worsening penmanship.”
- “That none of the others noticed this, Elizabeth attributed to their stupidity–particularly Mr. Collins, who apparently had no idea that his wife was three-quarters dead.”
- “Apparently overcome with excitement, Charlotte dropped to the ground and began stuffing handfuls of crisp autumn leaves in her mouth.”
- “Elizabeth immediately excused herself, rose, and (taking care not to draw attention) grabbed Charlotte by the arm and escorted her to the toilette, where she watched her stricken friend suffer through a quarter-hour of sickness so severe that decorum prevents its description in these pages.”
*Photo: Autumn Leaves by jayneandd, obtained through Flickr.