Posted on: 2011-12-11
Since this morning I had been all in a flutter. This is the night that can make or break my Jane's life. Her whole future - nay, our entire family's future - and happiness depends upon her capturing Mr. Bingley's heart! Oh my lovely child, you are my only hope of escaping from a lifetime of penury after Mr. Bennet leaves us for the Unknown. Of course, Mr. Collins ought to let his mother-in-law live on at Longbourn after he takes over - Lizzy is nothing but manipulative when she wants something and I trust that she may exert herself at least that much for the sake of her Mamma - but she has been so obstinate with the man that my hopes keep on fluttering back and forth. Lord knows I have been so put out all week getting my child settled; and has she ever been thankful? Not her! If only Lizzy were as pliant as Jane or my darlings Lydia and Kitty, but no - she must vex her poor mother out of her wits…
Ah, the carriage is moving at last! I thought that we were never going to set off at all; but then, girls will be girls and Lydia really did need those new ribbons to be sewed on her gown. It made the whole thing look so much more fetching; I am sure that my lamb will be the most courted belle at the ball! And Hill really should know not to disturb me with kitchen matters when my nerves are so finely strung. What did she expect to achieve but my complete breakdown? It is a good thing that my smelling salts were handy, or else I might have had to miss out on tonight's entertainment due to a severe attack of vapors; and where would my daughters have been then, without me to guide them?
Jane looks so beautiful tonight. I knew that the blue sprigged muslin was a good choice - it brings out the color of her eyes and makes her hair glow. If only Miss Lizzy had given her sister her cashmere shawl to wear over this gown the outfit could have been perfect: but she must go and wear it herself. Who does she need to impress anyway? Mr. Collins is enamored enough of her and she must only stop that vicious tongue of hers from doing damage to keep him by her side. Why couldn't she be as good-humored as Lydia or as malleable as Kitty? Or even as attractive as Jane, so that wealthy men would offer for her without her fatigued Mamma having to exert herself to look out for a recalcitrant child all the time. Though the way things are shaping up, it looks like I need to look out for Jane as well. She is too gentle for her own good, and Mr. Bingley doesn't seem to be making a move on his own. Tonight I must drop a few delicate hints around him about the suitability of a match with my exquisite eldest daughter.
Two hours into the revelry, and already it seems like my greatest dreams are going to be fulfilled. Mr. Bingley has eyes for no one but my Jane. She is as good as settled at Netherfield already! And no other girl present here has half as nice a dress as her, except for the charming Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst. I knew that buying that pricey material with my sister Gardiner would be worth it in the end, even though Mr. Bennet kicked up no end of a fuss over the expense at that time - you can't beat the London shops for quality!
My youngest daughters also seem to be enjoying themselves pretty well. Dear Lydia and Kitty are certainly in demand tonight, even though the charming Mr. Wickham does not appear to be in attendance anywhere. But at least the other officers seem to be properly enamored of my darlings, and they have not sat down for a dance even once. They are as popular as I was in my youth, I warrant. Ah, the dear Colonel Miller…and yes, that very dashing lieutenant named something like Sanders or Mycroft. Those were the days, indeed. Now all that is left to me is aspiring for good husbands for my girls, and hoping that the process does not send me into Bedlam. No one cares for the delicate state of my nerves.
Oh my, look at that! Lizzy is dancing with Mr. Darcy! Whatever are they doing together? Could she get no other partner than that insufferable man? Even Lizzy doesn't deserve to be imposed upon by someone who thinks himself to be above his company in general, and especially considers himself to be above her touch. He may be worth ten thousand a year, with a grand estate to his name, but…hmph! Not all his money can make him one jot agreeable in my eyes any more. Not handsome enough to tempt him, indeed! How dare he assume that he can make such a comment about my daughter and then dance with her like nothing has happened? At least Lizzy does not seem to be giving him an easy time of it. They are so quiet and awkward with each other, the very air between them crackles with resentment. One thing is for sure - Lizzy will put him in his place. This is one place where her acerbic tongue will stand her in good stead. And if I ever get the opportunity I will be certain to show him how displeased I am with him, though I will be prodigiously civil in my set-down for dear Mr. Bingley's sake. Mr. High-and-Mighty will know that ten thousand pounds a year or not, I will not be cordial with an ungracious fellow like him.
Where is Mary? She must be hiding away somewhere with a book as usual. What I can do with her the Lord only knows. If I had not given birth to her myself I would not have believed in a hundred years that she is my daughter! If only she dressed a bit more and applied some color to her sallow cheeks…but no, she would not listen to her Mamma. And what use is Mr. Bennet to me, I ask? He never stands up for me, and rather delights in undermining my authority with these obstinate misses. Even here he takes himself off to the card room as soon as possible. The library at home, the card-room during balls…no help for a harassed mother from that quarter. No one knows what I suffer! Even at my age I have to attend balls in order to accompany my children and look after their welfare, and what do I get in return? Everyone does their best to vex me and send me into an early grave.
My only consolation tonight is in Jane. I knew that she could not be so beautiful for nothing! Her beau is completely ensnared. Now I can rest assured that she has a comfortable future in store for her. Unlike me, she will never have to scrimp and save for little pleasures all her life, for she will have fine carriages and ample pin money showered on her by a doting husband. They have eyes for none but each other, and even while dancing apart they are always seeking each other out. Oh, I will burst from this happiness! I simply must go and share my delight with dear Mrs. Long and Lady Lucas. They, poor women, will not be knowing the felicity of having a daughter fortunately settled anytime soon, and I am positively certain that it is my Christian duty to let them get a glimpse of the satisfaction which ensues in the bosom of a fond parent on beholding her child well on the way to matrimony.
I declare, this night has been a complete success. Lydia and Kitty are all tired out with dancing, which shows that they have enjoyed themselves prodigiously. Mary and Lizzy are behaving themselves prettily for a change, sitting quietly instead of shocking the Bingleys with their opinions. I certainly did a good thing by ordering our carriage so late…it has given Jane a chance of talking with Mr. Bingley and ingratiating herself with his family even further. It helps to stay in a man's sight for as long as possible, I always say. Our little group has all the flavor of a family scene now - the Bennets and the Bingleys together discussing the aftermaths of a ball they had hosted. I can just see our futures in tonight, perhaps even an immediate future if Mr. Bingley proposes tomorrow. He certainly seems ready to do so!
The wedding cannot be held earlier than spring, though - I must put my foot down about marrying in winter, however eager the couple might be. Besides, nothing less than haberdashery and milliners from London would do for my Jane's marriage, I am determined. It will be the wedding of the year! Maybe it could even be a double wedding, if Mr. Collins would be willing to wait that long. Of course, Lizzy's marriage is not as important as Jane's and if Mr. Collins insists, she will be married before her elder sister. Perhaps that would be best after all, since an early marriage would mean that Mr. Collins would have no time to change his mind about marrying Lizzy - as he certainly might do once he gets to know her headstrong nature. No; as soon as he proposes and Lizzy accepts him, Mr. Collins must be kept away from her until the day of the nuptials so as to reduce any chances of his crying off the wedding. But it can be managed…and with a bit of tutoring from me, I am sure that Lizzy could manage to curb her tongue long enough for the man to be bound to her. Oh, I will go distracted from the very notion of having two daughters so well settled within a year!
By this time tomorrow I am certain that I would be congratulating my Jane and Lizzy on their forthcoming marriages. I just know it.