Posted on 2011-01-27
Mary had been awaiting this very moment for weeks, an Italian master had come to Meryton to give a piano performance. The room waited in anticipation as he took a breath and laid his hands tenderly on the keys. Beethoven was one of Mary's favorites, and Master Capelliano had truly become a master at it. Mary sat as far forward on her chair as the old wooden seat would allow as she strained her ears to hear the first few notes of the Sonata. At her side was Mr. Bennet, who had received the honor of escorting Mary to the concert. Mr. Bennet had never developed a love for music, but the thought of being at home on the eve of the arrival of the future master of Longbourn had been enough encouragement for him to voluntarily accompany his daughter.
Mr. Collins, the dreaded cousin, was to inherit everything upon Mr. Bennet's demise. He was talked of with such viciousness and tenacity that none could comprehend his coming to visit. That is with the exception of Mrs. Bennet, who knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he would be looking for a wife. Fortunate for him, four of her daughters remained unattached. And as much as the thought of hosting the future master of her home sent her into a wave of nervous complaints, Mrs. Bennet was able to set her mind on the idea of having one of her very own daughters become the mistress of her very own household. What a marvelous thought! Even as sinful as Mr. Collins must be for having the audacity to be born, he was certainly on the path to redeeming himself- if he sought out one of her daughters.
With these sentiments swirling in Mrs. Bennet's head, she had the household in quite a fuss. Directions for the staff were barked to the poor servants as to how Mr. Collins' room should be prepared, the dinner that would be served and the scones that would be taken at tea. Jane and Lizzy had recently returned from Netherfield, Jane having been sick due to Mrs. Bennet's match-making strategy of riding in the rain. Jane was slowly recovering from her illness, and Elizabeth was always at her side. Kitty and Lydia were almost never to be found; always dashing around Meryton with some officer or another. This left Mary and Mr. Bennet to endure Mrs. Bennet's nerves. And as the latter had the luxury of his own library, the former received the pleasure of hours of ceaseless worries and nervous complaints. Tonight was the one night that both Father and Daughter were able to escape and hear only music.
As Master Capelliano continued through the Sonata, Mr. Bennet could not help but regret the lack of training that his Mary had received. She could be quite a nuisance with her constant practice, and an embarrassment at assemblies when she would insist on performing her latest works. But Mr. Bennet somehow felt a twinge of guilt that this daughter had not received the instruction she needed. If only she would take pleasure in the novels as Lizzy did, she would be a very happy person. She would never lack for a good read- for Mr. Bennet possessed a bountiful supply of novels in his beloved library. But that was not to be. This girl loved Fourdyce's sermons, and had practically memorized them from cover to cover. Where her interest in sermons came from, Mr Bennet could not imagine.
As the concert ended, Mr. Bennet and Mary were approached by Sir William Lucas, their close family friend and neighbor. "Ah! Mr. Bennet was that not a delightful concert! What an inspiration for your Mary! Did you not enjoy that Mary dear, Master Capelliano is a superb performer is he not?"
"Yes, Sir Lucas but I wonder at his choice in Beethoven's Sonata. It was a rather melancholy work for such an audience. One would imagine Master Capelliano would have chosen Mozart." As much as Mary tried to go on to critique the Master's performance, it was clear that she had not a clue what she was about. The comments on his touch of the keys, and the interpretation fell on deaf ears, for neither Sir Lucas nor her father had any interest in the craft.
"Lady Lucas informed me that you all are expecting the company of a young man for a fortnight. Pray, do enlighten me as to the man's particulars"
Mary instantly chimed in, a bit hurt at being ignored over her opinions of the performance "Mr. Collins is to inherit Longbourn at the time of my father's unfortunate death. He is a dreaded cousin, for he shall turn us out of the house as soon as he pleases! Everything belongs to him-even my piano stool!"
"Such a pity" Sir Lucas shook his head. "But such things are not in our power to prevent my dear. And therefore, I hope that you will look favorably upon the poor lad, for it can not be easy coming into a home with such a preconceived dislike from your hosts"
Mary almost shot back at this, but realized this discussion was one that Lizzy would do a much better job at convincing Sir Lucas of Collins' failings (primarily the very audacity of birth) and that he was not welcome in their home in the least. If it was not for this man, her mother would be much more agreeable. Not nearly as many nervous complaints and outbursts of fear for the future would be endured. As all of these events spun around in Mary's head, Mr. Bennet had taken the liberty of ending the conversation.
"Sir Lucas, I am glad you enjoyed the performance. If you will excuse us, we will bid you good night."
Once Mr. Bennet and Mary were in the carriage, the father observed to his daughter
"Mary, we must brace ourselves. I am afraid your mother will be in a fit of apprehension. I am not at all pleased with this Mr. Collins, he has ruined my peace. I may retreat to my library, but I will still be bombarded by shrieks and wailing from the rest of the home. I'm afraid you have a very silly mother, Mary. And some very silly and exuberant sisters! Of course Lizzy and Jane will make the best of it. Jane will never think any ill of him, and Lizzy will mock him incessantly. And you my dear, I am sure you will have plenty of topics to discuss with Mr. Collins if he is the type to enjoy Fourdyce"
"Every clergyman should encourage Fourdyce, Papa. It is simply biblical behavior. He would not be a clergyman if he did not agree with Fourdyce!"
"Very well my dear, if he is as you say I am sure you shall have endless topics to discuss. But I am afraid your sisters, Kitty and Lydia in particular, will never agree with you on them!"
The next morning Mary set out to accomplish her usual morning routine. Scales were executed with extra energy, and Beethoven was practiced with precision due to the inspiring performance of the previous evening. Mary then warmed up her voice and began to practice for whatever occasion might arise, for many would be prompted by the appearance of their new guest. Because of the natural inquisitive nature of the Bennet's neighbors, there would most likely be many dinner parties and Mary was not about to be out played by any other young women in the neighborhood.
At precisely four o'clock in the afternoon Mr. Collins arrived, true to his word. The ladies of Longbourn all anxiously awaited his arrival in the sitting room. There was more than one beating heart when a carriage was heard pull up in front of the house! The ladies quickly made themselves of use, not wanting their guest to suppose that they had been previously engaged with any activity other than those of other accomplished young ladies. The door opened and Mr. Collins was announced.
He had a certain ere that inclined one to believe he thought very well of himself. He was neither handsome nor graceful. He wore his clergical attire, which Mary noticed to be very well maintained. It was obviously made of the best quality fabric available. What a calling, to be in the church. To instruct one's congregation to behave with fear of the Lord, and to concern one's self in the well-being of his parishioners. As these thoughts swept through Mary's mind, she was finally introduced.
"Oh my dear, dear cousins!" Began the stout man "I am so very pleased to see you all! I am very pleased to see the establishment that I will soon inherit to be very well kept. I congratulate you, Mrs. Bennet, for your attention to the home. However, on my way in I have taken note of several changes that would be in your best interest to make in the garden. It is quite a small park, but it will due suitably for me someday."
Mary took an immediate liking to Mr. Collins' frankness. There was no need to deny the future. There was no possibility of Mrs. Bennet having any more children, therefore the possibility of an heir was non-existent. It was best for the Bennet family to face the situation that was dealt to them, and that meant facing these facts. As Mary smiled with the assurance that this man could be an excellent prospect for her, she looked around the room to see her mother, speechless. This was a very unusual state to find her mother in. Mary naturally attributed her state to the excellence of the man before them, as her mother was of course lost in a state of delight at the good fortune of their family to have such a cousin.
As dinner approached, the family made their way to the dining room along with Mr. Collins. The meal began in the following manner:
"What a nicely situated room Madam. Although I do regret that the windows face West, how unfortunate. Dining room windows must always face East to catch the morning sun. How horrid to take part in one's breakfast in the dark."
"I assure you Mr. Collins" began Mrs. Bennet with determined civility "that is it is neither dark nor unpleasant in the mornings here."
"Good, I am very glad that it is satisfactory. My dinning room faces east, it is most excellently situated. My home is in prime condition, due to the very meticulous oversight of my Patroness, Lady Catherine deBourgh. You've heard of her I assume?"
There was a general shake of the head in denial by the Bennet family. Mr. Collins thought this the most fortunate circumstance to acquaint them with his good fortune.
"I am quite astonished, my dear cousins, to hear of your lack of knowledge of the highest of the nobility. Even though you all may live a very... modest life, you cannot neglect the duty of knowing whom God has bestowed the good fortune of nobility upon. Lady Catherine is of the most decided fashion and elegance. Her estate, Rosings park, is next to my sizable parsonage. Lady Catherine saw to the preparation of the home even before my coming, and her staff took meticulous care of it. Why, she even saw to the placing of the shelves in the closet! I often find myself in company with her, for she finds it very appropriate to communicate with one's clergyman. Therefore I pride myself, my dear cousins, in keeping her informed of every minute occurrence of my parishioners. She is most attentive to their needs, and often condescends upon them to give them her valuable advice about various situations."
Elizabeth and Mr. Bennet were greatly amused by such a speech, and thoroughly enjoyed the absurdity of it. But Mary was quite in raptures at his close acquaintance with nobility and his interaction with his parishers. "This is how a clergyman ought to be" thought Mary "sensible, convenient and attentive." Mary continued to reflect upon nobility, she had never encountered them before. Would Lady Catherine be as grand as Mr. Collins suggested? She imagined her to be a very stately woman, kind hearted and just in her dealings with the villagers. Mary decided that she should very much like to spend her time with such a grand woman as Lady Catherine.
Mrs. Bennet then had the good fortune of stumbling upon a topic to which Mr. Collins found himself particularly eloquent. "Does Lady Catherine have any family?"
"Yes madam. Her daughter, Anne deBourgh, is the heiress of Rosings and of very extensive property. She is most charming, and as Lady Catherine has observed to me on more than one occasion, she is a true beauty-for her character and, of course, her distinguished birth. I have informed her Ladyship that a finer young woman could not be found in all of England. Unfortunately, she has a somewhat sickly constitution which has greatly affected her musical education. Lady Catherine feels it most acutely, for she is very fond of music. If Anne would have learned, she would have been a great proficient."
On this subject, Mary was very confident. Much to the chagrin of her family, Mary found every opportunity to expand her knowledge of the instrument. Feeling confident that she could finally contribute to the discussion, she attempted to appeal to Mr. Collins "That is a shame, for she may never improve unless she practices. No excellence can be acquired without constant practice." Mary secretly hoped that one of her family members would mention her dedication to the instrument, but unfortunately none of them seemed particularly interested in Mary's comment. So to take matters into her own hands, she continued "I must apologize in advance, dear cousin, for I find that much of my day is spent with my instrument. I hope you will not be bothered by my diligence." The effect was just what Mary wished for "Oh my dear Miss Mary, I pride myself on my particularly fine taste in music. Although, as her Ladyship often reminds me, it is not equal to her own, I take great pleasure in music. Therefore, do not distress yourself cousin-you are not as accomplished as the masters in London, but I will endure your music with the greatest pleasure." Mary let a smile tug at her lips. Elizabeth watched in disbelief, as Mary's smile was a rarity indeed. Elizabeth took a mental note to talk with her mother about the incident later, if anyone could get Mary engaged it was Mrs. Bennet.
Posted on 2011-02-03
The next morning after breakfast, Mrs. Bennet declared that she needed a few things in town and requested that her daughters and Mr. Collins make a trip to fetch them for her. Elizabeth took this opportunity to quickly opt out of spending time in the company of Mr. Collins, claiming she was previously engaged to spend the morning with Charlotte. This was partly true, Elizabeth was indeed planning to visit her dear friend and tell her all of the particulars of this new guest of theirs, but also a chance to be alone with Mrs. Bennet. After the girls departed with Mr. Collins, Elizabeth made her way to the drawing room. She found her mother staring out the window "Lizzy, you know Mr. Collins has many recommendable qualities. He seems to be very close to Lady Catherine, and I dare say that is a very advantageous connection." Elizabeth had a suspicion that her mother was thinking of having her be the center of Mr. Collins' attentions, but Elizabeth could not possibly pay any attention to such a silly man. "Yes Mama, I dare say it is. I do believe Mary is very taken with him" "Mary! How could he..." Elizabeth could tell her mother was pleased with such an idea. Mrs. Bennet had often observed that Mary would be the hardest daughter to get married, for she possessed neither the beauty of Jane nor the liveliness of Elizabeth. Lydia and Kitty made up for their lack of knowledge and beauty by their flirtatious manner. But Mary had always kept to herself, dedicating all of her time to the advancement of her mind. Yes, Mrs. Bennet could now very well see the advantages to such a match.
"I do believe my dear that we must see to it that Mr. Collins is much in the company of Mary. And we cannot have you or Jane lurking about, for he is far less likely to take any interest in Mary if you and Jane constantly out do her. Now dear Jane, she must stay here-for you know we must not separate her from Mr. Bingley! I will simply hint that she is soon to be engaged. Now you, Lizzy, what shall I do with you?" Elizabeth went wide eyed at her mother's lack of discretion in regards to Jane and Bingley. "Ah! I shall send you to your Aunt and Uncle Gardiner! That is just the thing! I will write to my dear Mrs. Gardiner and request a visit at once! You will leave first thing after the Netherfield ball!"
Elizabeth tried to protest, insisting that she must be there for Jane. But Mrs. Bennet would not hear it. Once she had a plan in her mind, it could not be questioned. Elizabeth knew full well that her fate was decided. Lizzy dearly loved the Gardiners, and considered Mrs. Gardiner more of a mentor than her own mother. They were a very wise couple, and they held a great affection for each other. As much as Elizabeth adored both the prospects of London and the Gardiners, she knew Jane would not be pleased with such a plan.
"Mama I'm afraid..." "Shush Lizzy! Can you not see that I am writing to my sister! How is one supposed to write eloquently when one is constantly interrupted! Why is everyone so set on ruining my poor nerves" Mrs. Bennet waved her hand in the air with her pen to exaggerate her point. Elizabeth took this as her cue to leave. The moment she stepped out of the drawing room, she met her father-book in hand. "My dear Lizzy, I have just come to show you the latest arrival! I have been waiting for this book for some weeks! Perhaps once I am finished, you would wish to read it yourself! It is by the most distinguished Author-" "Papa" Lizzy interjected "forgive me, I am very late to an engagement with Charlotte. If you will excuse me" Elizabeth stormed up the stairs leaving her father standing in nothing but awe at what his wife could have said to create such a reaction from his book-loving daughter. Upon entering the drawing room and finding his wife busy with a letter, he soon had his answer.
When the ladies returned with Mr. Collins, they were full of stories. Jane had left to call on Charlotte, knowing Lizzy would be there, and Kitty and Lydia were laughing merrily and parading their new ribbons for Mr. Bingley's ball. Mary had secured the arm of Mr. Collins, who had discovered her love of Fourdyce and eagerly engaged in a discussion. They were both very much engaged in the discussion upon entering the house, until Mrs. Bennet graced them with her presence "ah, Mr. Collins and my dear Mary! It is so wonderful to see you both so engaged in discussion! I believe, Mr. Collins, that you will find Mary a very dedicated learner. It is wonderful to see that you both possess such a love for learning!" Mary looked down and blushed at her mother's comment, but Mr. Collins did not notice. "Oh yes Mrs. Bennet! My cousin and I have had a wonderful afternoon." He went on to describe all of the events in painstaking detail to a very eager Mrs. Bennet.
While everyone at the Bennet home was in the best of spirits, the same could not be said for the Lucas'. Elizabeth was quick relay that afternoon's discussion with her mother. Charlotte assured Elizabeth that she would have a wonderful time in London, and that she could easily visit Jane to keep her company. Jane was utterly embarrassed at her mother's behavior, but assumed that it was for her benefit. Elizabeth had a harder time coming to terms with the situation. Charlotte sat in amusement as these two sisters reasoned through the following weeks.
When Jane and Elizabeth returned to Longbourn they were greeted by cries of joy as the family was in preparation for the Bingley's ball the next evening. It was discovered that Mr. Collins had secured Mary's hand for the first two dances, much to the delight of Mrs. Bennet. Mary was no great dancer, in fact she quite despised the whole process. This left her sisters much confused as to her agreeing to not one, but two dances with this very strange cousin. To add to Lizzy and Jane's shock, Lydia and Kitty announced that they intended to stay with the Philips for a week after the ball. This pleased Mrs. Bennet in two ways, the first was to get Mary alone in the house, and the second was to get those girls closer to the officers. Surely they would dine with them every night!
While Elizabeth was on the verge of protesting at the foolishness of this decision, she realized that it was a hopeless cause. She turned towards her father's library and knocked heavily on the door
"Lizzy! How very glad I am to see you! I trust you had a nice afternoon with the Lucas'?" He could tell she was once again in a foul mood, but still attributed it to the day's earlier turn of events
"Papa, you are not going to believe what Lydia has decided. She and Kitty have announced that they have every intention of staying with the Phillips' for the next week."
"Yes my Lizzy, I have already heard their plea. I believe it is a very smart situation, it gives so little inconvenience to her family"
"Father! If you do not take the trouble to check her, Lydia will become the most determined flirt that ever made herself and her family ridiculous. Jane and I are always desperate to keep her under control when we are with her in Meryton, but without any family she will run positively wild!"
"My dear Lizzy, Lydia will never be easy until she has exposed herself in some way or another. In fact, I do believe we should thank our dear Phillips for bearing with her for the week!"
Elizabeth stormed out of the room and flew up stairs. At least she would be in London, away from the embarrassment of her family.
The next morning brought a state of frenzy to the Bennet household. Lydia and Kitty shouted their excitement of spending the whole evening with officers, and went on to describe who's attention they would capture that evening. Jane was blissfully happy, knowing that she would be with Mr. Bingley, who always captured her attention. Elizabeth was becoming ever more convinced of Mr. Bingley's strong regard for her sister Jane, and was looking forward to seeing her blossom under his presence tonight. She was also looking forward to the company of a certain young officer, George Wickham, whom she had met at one of her Aunt Phillips' parties in Meryton. He had informed her of how abominably ill Mr. Darcy had used him, and Elizabeth was filled with dislike for the man.
Mary, although not typically fond of a ball, was all affability tonight. As she sat in her chamber while her maid attended to her hair, she could not help but contemplate how agreeable the week had been with Mr. Collins. No one had ever paid attention to Mary, but Mr. Collins never left her side. They had spent endless hours in the library, originally to escape her mother, but had found that they each enjoyed spending hours pouring over sermons and other theological books. Mary expressed her interest in learning Latin, and Mr Collins declared he would teach her. They spent hours with the Latin books, and both found a great enjoyment in her progress. Although Mr. Collins was not a patient man, he did enjoy the praise he received from Mr. Bennet for making his daughter into such a scholar.
Mary gazed into the mirror in front of her. She did look lovely tonight. Betsy had taken particular care with her hair, due to her mother's ever watchful gaze and intent on having her daughter well settled. Everything had been cared for with the utmost supervision. She wore a simple white muslin gown, it suited her figure well, but was quite modest in cut. Mary had always been most insistent on modesty, and had often tried to persuade her younger sisters of its importance in the achievement of godliness. Much to Mary's frustration, her words of wisdom had fallen on deaf ears.
She made her way downstairs with extra care, not wishing to ruin anything that had been done to her hair or to hurt her dress. Mary's self-esteem suddenly took a tumble when she saw Jane and Elizabeth. Each of them was beautiful, Jane's goodness and beauty radiated from her and her grace could be felt by anyone standing near. Elizabeth had a very pleasing figure, not as fine as Jane's, but still very beautiful. Her hair was adorned with tiny pearls, and her eyes sparkled with the vivacity with which she lived her life. Kitty and Lydia were nothing to the elder two, their silliness being their primary allurement.
Mr. Collins soon appeared, and the whole party made their way to the carriage.
"Mary, you look lovely this evening my dear" said Mr. Bennet, who was pointedly looking at Mr. Collins to follow in his footsteps
"Ah yes, I am sure her ladyship would approve. She has never been adverse to the truly humble"
Mr. Bennet was quite amused at such endeavored civility. It seemed that the poor man was incapable of giving any meaningful compliments. He would certainly have an interesting marriage! Mary managed to smile back at the man's attempt at a compliment. Tonight would certainly be an interesting evening.
The Bennet family was ushered to the ballroom where they were greeted by Mr. Bingley himself. The gentleman could not have possessed a bigger smile upon seeing Jane. Mrs. Bennet was quite overjoyed at the reaction, as she was sure there would be a wedding at Netherfield very soon. Mr. Bennet found endless amusement at the reactions of Bingley and his daughter, convinced as he was that Bingley was in love with his daughter far beyond reproach. Mary did not notice any of this however, for upon entering the ballroom she was escorted by Mr. Collins to the center of the dance floor.
The musicians played the introduction for the dance, and all of the couples took their places. Mary curtsied in the most regal and elegant manner she knew how. Then the dance begun. The lines both stepped forward to meet in the middle for a half turn, when her feet were offended by the squashing weight of Mr. Collins' toes. "I am so sorry, my dear Miss Mary. It seems I have yet to get into the habit of a lively dance this evening!". This continued on for the entirety of the first two dances that Mary had promised herself for. Fortunately for both parties, Mary was very forgiving of dance skills. She herself held no interest in the discipline and was quite content with a husband who did not possess a particular grace in that frivolous area of life.
After the dance had come to an end, and bows and curtsies were once again exchanged, Mr. Collins ran off to produce punch for the two admirers.
After returning from the punch table with about half of the original amount of liquid left in the two glasses and the other half on the ballroom floor, Mr. Collins ushered Mary out to the terrace. As they made their way to an unoccupied corner, Mr. Collins addressed Mary in a very solemn tone "Miss Mary, I find myself unable to contain my feelings any longer. I must make known to you a very well pondered question." Mary's heart began to pound. She was to be engaged before any of her sisters! She would soon become the most doted upon one of the Bennet sisters, for they would all envy her good fortune. And to be the mistress of such a sizable parsonage, and to be so close with a lady of such extreme consequence! Mary no longer felt the chill of the night, but only felt the warmth of the blood rush to her cheeks as she leaned forward on her toes in expectation of the most wonderful words she would ever hear.
"Miss Mary, I find myself particularly struggling with the ability to reconcile the rector here in Meryton. He has not mentioned Fourdyce once in his sermons thus far!" Disappointment would be an understatement to Mary's feelings. Mary leaned back on her heels, and her face went white. Mr. Collins at once reached out to catch her, for surely she was about to faint. "Miss Mary! You must be ill! How thoughtless of you to endeavor out of doors without a shall!" "Oh yes, how thoughtless" she thought to herself as she berated herself for such lofty expectations.
The two soon made their way to the entrance to the ball room. But even as Mr. Collins had his hand firmly holding her arm, she nearly fainted again when she saw the sight before her. Mr. Darcy was dancing with Elizabeth. How could that be? His character had been decided upon as the most unkind and ungracious creature when he had behaved so abominably ill towards Elizabeth at the Meryton assembly. How could she in her right conscience accept the hand of a man of such little character? Had she no value of virtue in a man? Perhaps Lizzy was simply jealous of Mr. Collins' attentions towards Mary, and had been desperate for a partner. Yes, that must be the reason.
"Oh my! Is that Mr. Darcy of Pemberley in Derbyshire?" Mary gave a slight nod to affirm Mr. Collins, but was in such a state of confusion she barely understood his next words. "I must go to him at once! He is the nephew of my esteemed patroness Lady Catherine!" He immediately began to walk towards the man, or perhaps skip would be a more appropriate description of his fast pace, in the middle of the dance.
William Collins had never been so proud his entire trip to Hertfordshire as he was when he discovered someone who would fully appreciate the enormity of his employment for such an esteemed lady as Darcy's Aunt. Surely as soon as he related the information to the man, he would immediately take a kinship with Mr. Collins, and would further the man's annual allowance through writing to his aunt to congratulate her on such an eloquent clergyman.
Mr. Collins barely remained out of the way of the dancers, for he hovered around the space that Mr. Darcy would reach in certain parts of the dance as he moved down the set. Mr. Darcy was engaged in a very serious discourse with Miss Elizabeth, as both parties showed a rather serious and unpleasant look about them. But Mr. Collins did not notice. He cursed his luck for the length of the dance, and was so focused on rehearsing the forthcoming conversation with his esteemed patroness' nephew, that he took no notice of the mood of his future object of conversation.
When the dance ended (after what Mr. Collins felt was an ungodly amount of time-he would mention it to Mary later in the evening) he made his way to his unfortunate prey. As soon as Darcy turned from bowing to Elizabeth, his face contorted with pain, Mr. Collins accosted him:
"Mr. Darcy! Ah! My dear Sir, allow me to tell you how truly delighted I am to see a man of such nobility among this gathering of humble country folk! Your presence here, dear sir, does them good to know their place in the greater society of England. And, my dear sir, if I am not mistaken, you are of extremely noble lineage! You have by now, I am sure, guessed that I am the very fortunate clergyman for your most esteemed aunt, Lady Catherine deBourgh. The ability to see a relation of hers this evening has brought me the deepest joy! Would you believe it, Mr. Darcy, that everyone I have encountered in this very desperate establishment had never been fortunate enough to have knowledge of her ladyship? It speaks dearly of the poor education of the inhabitance here I am afraid." Mr. Collins tried to catch his breath after having delivered the whole of his rehearsed monologue in one breath.
"If you will excuse me, give my regards to my aunt." With that, the noble Mr. Darcy of Pemberley walked in an extremely firm step towards the sister of Mr. Bingley.
"What an excellent man! He is the spitting image of Lady Catherine's description! She is always very observant, and describes people in the utmost detail. Why, I daresay I should have recognized him from miles away, for he does possess the Fitzwilliam eyes which are also possessed by his cousin Anne, of whom, a most advantageous marriage...Miss Elizabeth?" the poor man turned to his right to find that his noble cousin was half way down the set with the very amiable Mr. Bingley.
Mr. Collins located Mary right before dinner, and managed to acquire her as his partner. Over dinner they found a mutual interest in a certain philosopher whom, it was decided, was the most inspiring for future clergymen. Their animated conversation did not go unnoticed by Mrs. Bennet, who was quite in raptures at the idea of having two of her daughters so well settled- or so she informed Lady Lucas. While Mary and Mr. Collins were so amiably engaged, Jane and Mr. Bingley were involved in an equally engaging conversation at the head of the table.
Posted on 2011-02-08
"Mornin' miss, you best be gettin' up. I recon you will want to breakfast before you leave for London." Lizzy's eyes fluttered open "Betsy, what time will the coach be leaving from Totteridge Village? I suppose that is where Mama is planning to have me catch the coach to London." "Eye Miss, it is. I am told it will leave right after luncheon." The peaceful morning silence was broken by the old wooden floors creaking outside Lizzy and Jane's room which preceded the breaking of the darkness of the room when Mrs. Bennet flung the door open "Oh my, lazy child! How am I ever to get you girls married if you are not on that coach to London! Make haste Lizzy! The carriage will take you to Totteridge in an hour. Now you must remember to not be a nuisance to my brother and sister Gardiner, they already have so many children of their own. And no rambling through the London streets as you do the country, it is not seemly for a young lady to be out alone. And you must make every effort to be in the company of young men Lizzy dear, your aunt ought to know how it is to be done." Elizabeth rolled her eyes and swung her feet out from underneath the warmth of the covers to greet the cold morning floor.
A few tearful goodbyes later and Elizabeth was on her way out of Longbourn park. Just at the edge of the Bennet property the carriage passed a messenger man. It was odd, Lizzy thought, to be delivering news at such a time. She sighed, surely Jane would write to her in London and describe any important information the messenger had. Elizabeth reached for her reticule and pulled out the latest novel her father had added to their library. Upon attempting the prologue, she found she had no appetite for a novel. Surely Jane would be able to handle Longbourn herself, and be able to court Bingley all the while. And Lord willing Mary would be able to check her younger sisters' behaviour when Collins was not hovering beside her. No, it would not do. Elizabeth could not fool herself-the only two sensible sisters she left home to watch over their flirtatious Lydia and Kitty were besotted and therefore utterly useless in their sisterly duties. Heaven help them all.
A sudden jerk of the carriage awoke Elizabeth from her nap. The door opened to reveal a rather stout older man with a jolly countenance who offered his hand to her. "Welcome to Totteridge miss." She took his proffered hand and descended from the carriage. "You will find a nice fire an' a hot meal right inside miss. The coach comes in an hour, it will meet you right outside ye front gate there." With a nod and a slight curtsey, Elizabeth made her way inside of inn that an aroma of freshly baked pies projecting in a thirty foot radius from the building.
Making her way into the front parlor, she spotted a middle aged woman who looked to know what she was about. "Excuse me, might I get a table for luncheon? I am to catch the coach in then next hour" "Of course miss, it will be just a moment." With that the woman disappeared into the dinning room. Staring after the woman, Elizabeth missed the sound of the front door opening behind her. "My word, it cannot be! Miss Bennet?" Elizabeth turned on her heels only to find Charles Bingley right in the middle of the door way.
Mr. Bingley! What a surprise! Whatever are you doing here?"
"And I might inquire the same of you as well! You were dancing at home no more than twelve hours ago! But if you truly must know, Miss Elizabeth, we-that is Darcy, Caroline, Louisa, Hurst and I- are off to London so that Darcy and I might conclude some business this week. Caroline swore she would write to Ja-err Miss Bennet to inform her of our sudden departure, surely she was not remiss on her promise!"
"I left so early myself as to have missed any news that might have arrived, however I did pass a messenger on my way out of the park. "
"Well now, I came in ahead of the others to procure a table for my party and alas I have been remiss in my duties! I insist that you join us Miss Elizabeth, I simply insist!"
"It would be a pleasure Mr. Bingley"
No sooner had the request for Elizabeth's table been changed to a party of six, than the party in question came stumbling through the door.
"Really Darcy, I do not see what he saw in that horrid neighborhood! The whole lot of them with their countrified mannors and fine eyes and impertinent remarks! How I would loathe to ever set eyes upon.."
"Caroline!" Mr. Bingley exclaimed, perhaps a bit too loudly "look what good fortune we have! I have just encountered Miss Elizabeth at this very place! She is to join us for luncheon. Is this not wonderful!"
Caroline's face turned to that of a lady consuming a lemon as elegantly as she might. "Why, Eliza! What a surprise! I did not know you traveled. Did you lose your way on one of your rambles?"
"Miss Bennet has such a keen sense of direction, Miss Bingley, that I am sure she is never lost. Not in her hometown of all places. As you know she is a most devoted walker" Mr. Darcy said with such haughtiness and distain for Caroline's ill-bred remarks that he received no rebuttle.
Charles and Louisa looked most decidedly uncomfortable.
"Well, here is our table." Charles stated as he zoomed over to Caroline's side to claim her arm. Surely he could put her as far away from Elizabeth as possible if they were all going to make it through meal alive.
Hurst took his wife's arm, rambling about his hopes for a decent ale in such a godforsaken place. Darcy had no chocie but to offer his arm to the one he had attempted to flee. He silently escorted her to her seat, between he and Charles with a tingling arm. After Caroline had ordered a feast enough for the king himself, Charles decided to draw Elizabeth into conversation.
"So Miss Elizabeth, what brings you here?"
"I am for my Aunt and Uncle Gardiner's house. I make a visit at least once a year, for I dearly love to see the children grow. The youngest, Susan, is my godchild and I am sure to spoil her as often as I can."
"How delightful it must be to be an aunt!" Charles sent a pointed glance in the direction of Louisa and Hurst, thankful that no children had been brought into that horrid marriage.
"Oh yes, the children are delightful! Their governess is excellent, just enough strictness mixed with a very healthy affection. "
"One can never be too careful when selecting a governess" Mr. Darcy observed very soberly, "...their impact on the children is such that one must observe the highest amount of caution with references and interviews." A pained look passed his face briefly before looking back to his plate.
"Very true Mr. Darcy, my young cousins are very fortunate in their parentage, for they could not have chosen better guardians had the whole of England been up for the choosing! They are of such a wise and compassionate nature as to be sure of securing the highest quality of governess"
After the food had been served, a carriage was heard approaching the building
"Mr. Bingley, it has been so wonderful to see you again. I am afraid I must fetch my things and catch the coach. "
"The coach? Surely not! I will not stand for you traveling alone in a coach!"
"Really, Mr. Bingley, I shall be alright"
"No, Miss Elizabeth, I absolutely insist on delivering you to your aunt and uncle myself. We brought two carriages, I see no reason why you should not come with us. I will not have it any other way. Right Darcy?"
Darcy, not wanting to appear too eager for her company, replied in as indifferent a tone as he could muster. "Of course Charles"
"Well then, it is all settled. What providence that we should meet you here today Miss Elizabeth! I am so glad that Darcy and I shall have your company all the way to London! You must ride with Darcy and I, Louisa, Hurst and Caroline can ride in my carriage and amuse themselves with the droll fashion plates from London."
Elizabeth knew she stood no chance arguing with these men. Although Darcy appeared indifferent, she could tell that Bingley truly wished for her company. Perhaps she could even mention Jane...To Be Continued . . .