Posted on Wednesday, 8 October 2003
Mr. Bennet sat down heavily in his chair by the fireplace, breathed a sigh of relief, then addressed his wife as she entered the room.
"Well Mrs. Bennet, that is the last of them. What will you do with yourself now that our Kitty is married and gone from us?"
"Oh Mr. Bennet, God has been very good to us!" she replied, wiping a tear from her eye. "I shall be able to sleep well for the rest of my days. Five daughters, Mr. Bennet - all five - well married and settled. I think I shall go distracted!"
"They did not just marry well, my dear, but to gentlemen with whom they can be happy- although perhaps not in Lydia's case, but that could not be helped."
"Nonsense! Mr. Wickham is a fine gentleman - and he looks so dashing in his red coat. Lydia is quite fortunate to have him for a husband."
Mr. Bennet rolled his eyes to heaven, muttered "that remains to be seen" to himself, but made no further derogatory comments about his least reputable son-in-law. Instead he said, "We too should manage to live quite happily now that your greatest wish has come true for the girls. You should be content for some time now - or at least until the Collinses come to put you out of Longbourn on my death."
"Oh, those artful Collinses - do not speak to me of them, I beg you! Did you see the way Mr. Collins was eying the silverware at the wedding breakfast? He was taking inventory for when he shall inherit, I am sure of it. Just the thought of him being master in my house always sets my nerves a-flutter!"
"Be easy my dear, I meant it only in jest. You've managed to stay out of the hedgerows for close to 200 years, I imagine you are safe from them for some years yet. Besides, I do not plan on going anywhere, aside from an occasional unexpected visit to one or another of our daughters."
"Death is usually not something one plans for, Mr. Bennet; although should your maker call you, I suppose I shall have to live with one of the girls."
"As my maker's maker has called her home some time ago, God rest her soul, again I think it is safe to say that I shall be with you for quite a while yet."
"Still it does no harm to make arrangements ahead of time - just in case. Perhaps I shall go to Jane; as she is the oldest, it is her place and privilege to take me in."
"Prepare for my demise if it gives you pleasure, my dear. In your place however, I would go to my Lizzy. Mr. Darcy and I get along tolerably well. He leaves me to myself in his library, unlike Mr. Bingley who is forever popping in to see if I need anything. I should think with a wife like Jane he would find ... a better way to occupy his time."
"Mr. Bennet!" his wife exclaimed, "Mind what you say - that is our daughter you are speaking of!"
"And just how do you suppose she came to be our daughter, Mrs. Bennet?" he asked, causing his wife to blush becomingly.
"Remember, this is a PG site, Mr. Bennet," she said with a hint of a smile. "Please keep your innuendoes to yourself."
"I would rather keep something else to myself, my dear," he said suggestively, patting his lap.
"Goodness, have you lost your senses - at this time of day? And what would Hill think if she were to come upon us, sir?"
"Hill has quite enough to keep her busy, what with her chickens and secret past. There is little danger of us being discovered. Really Mrs. Bennet, you are beginning to sound like our moralizing Mary."
"You exaggerate sir, I do not think I am that bad - or rather - good?"
"Not yet, but consider yourself warned," he laughed. "Poor Mary, the way she can go on. And in the end it was Kitty that married a minister."
"Although Mary too might have - if that sneaky Charlotte Lucas had not been so quick and stolen Mr. Collins away from us."
"Never mind, my dear. Mary's young man is worth ten Mr. Collinses. She is very pleased with her husband; and although he is not as amusing as our dear cousin, he has a way of quieting Mary when she starts her sermons. Which puts me in mind of what we were speaking of..." said Mr. Bennet, winking and patting his lap again.
Mrs. Bennet went to her husband and gave him a light kiss on the cheek.
"That will have to hold you until this evening, dear. My brother Gardiner and his family will be back from their walk with the Darcys shortly. That leaves me little time to arrange the dinner party for our remaining guests."
"You win Mrs. Bennet, I shall endeavor to contain my desires - but I shall take your last statement as a promise; one I plan to hold you to."
"I am counting on it, Mr. Bennet, and wouldn't have it any other way. Now, if you will excuse me ... HILL!! Where can that woman have got to? How we have managed all this time, with no one where one expects them to be? OH HILL!!" she shouted as she headed out the parlor door.
"I don't know." Mr. Bennet's answer was heard only by himself. "But I could think of worse ways to spend the last 200 years." He got up and made his way to his library, picked up a well-worn copy of Shakespeare's Sonnets and settled himself comfortably behind his desk. Flipping the pages to one of his favorites he added, "Until tonight, Mrs. Bennet..."