Louisa Hurst's Pen Pal ~ Being a further sequel to "Lady Catherine's Pen Pal" and "Jane Bingley's Pen Pals"
Posted on Wednesday, 18 October 2006
Rating: General audiences
Well, dear sister, I suppose you've heard by now that Lady Catherine threatens to come to Netherfield to "assist" you in the birth. Well, I have good news to report.
After much discussion and persuasion and by using my cleverest tricks and strategems, I was finally able to persuade Aunt to change her plans. Instead of her coming to Netherfield, we will all be coming!
Believe me, you will be better off with all of us there. I will be sort of a "bulwark" between you and Lady Catherine. Not that you will really need any protection, of course, since she is very fond of you. (Did I neglect to mention that before?)
Get the rooms ready. I don't think Mr. Darcy and I will fit into the room that you and I shared at Longbourn.
I'll bet that room is so much tinier than I remember! And the bed is far too short for Fitzwilliam anyway. Can you imagine the once-dreaded Mr. Darcy sleeping in the bed where you once slept? Actually, he wouldn't be sleeping on your side. I've had to switch sides of the bed since ..., oh, why are you letting me ramble on like this?
Anyway I'm sure you will want me close. You'll need my help to keep our husbands and father out of mischief.Love,
Oh, Caroline, come at once to Netherfield and rescue me!
Charles has just informed me that a large party from Derbyshire will be disembarking in a few days time. The Bennets, the Darcys, everyone under the sun!
But listen to this. I asked Charles if Mrs. Darcy would be walking all the way from Derbyshire. She's a great walker, you remember. You see, sister, I can be just as witty as Eliza.
Anyway, Charles was not amused at my little jibe but our new sister thought it was very funny. It's so easy to amuse these provincial types.Love,
Oh, Caroline, the rabble has arrived!
I have asked our new sister to move Mr. Hurst and me to another set of rooms on the upper level so that we can get some peace and quiet. Charles really must get those squeaky floors fixed. The house is never quiet now, except when I can't get to sleep at three o'clock in the morning.
Unfortunately our new rooms are near the servants' quarters so we can hear them bustling about all day and night.
I am hoping that Mr. Hurst and I will be long gone by the time the baby arrives.
What a disruption to our quiet evenings! Up until yesterday, we always had a nice game of whist after dinner, with Mr. Hurst and I pitted against Charles and our new sister. But now Charles has partnered up with Mr. Darcy, who as you know is an avid player, and so Mr. Hurst has become rather competitive.
Oh, I made the most witty comment the other night. We were all playing cards and I had ruffed only one of my husband's aces that evening. I led a diamond at one point and all of a sudden Mr. Hurst bellowed at me, "No, no, my dear, it's through strength and up to weakness. Does the name Hoyle mean nothing to you, Mrs. Hurst?"
So I said, and listen to this, "Does the name Chesterfield mean nothing to you, Mr. Hurst?"
He took the hint and spent the night on his beloved sofa.
Unfortunately, Mrs. Darcy wasn't there to hear my witticism. I hope her husband told her about it.
Now Mr. Hurst partners with Mr. Bennet at the whist table. The four of them are there every evening engulfed in a sea of cigar smoke and surrounded by a bevy of brandy bottles. It's a wonder any of them can remember how to follow suit after all that ingurgitation.Love,
My dear brother Gardiner,
How are you my fine fellow Edouardo. Fine fine fine. Yes I am fine too. Fine fine fine. Come to Netherfield at once to enjoy this fine cognac that my son-in-law Mr. Dracy captured from a pirate ship with Benwick last year. One of the bottles broke on the journey here so we gave it a proper burial out in the garden just now. Very sad affair indeed. Come at once. Fine fine fine.Regards,
Oh, Caroline, I must say that this Lady Catherine is an odd bird. She disparages Mrs. Darcy with comments such as "Lizzy ignores my complaints," or "Lizzy spends too much time walking out of doors for a woman in her condition."
But then when I say something similar about Mrs. Darcy, Lady Catherine almost takes my head off!
I really feel like an interloper around these people. They ignore me and make no effort whatsoever to include me in any of their activities.
Well, except for this afternoon when Mrs. Bennet and Lady Catherine insisted that I join them for tea. They actually wanted to know all about London, about the latest fashions, about you (!), and even when you would be coming up to Netherfield for a visit.
And they were concerned about poor Mr. Hurst (poor, indeed!) having to sleep on the sofa. They listened while I told them how lonely I was, and Mrs. Bennet even hugged me and I got a little bit emotional, but only for a moment.
It's absolutely insidious the way these nosy old women get under your skin and make you tell them everything.
Actually, I noticed that Mrs. Bennet smells something like our mother. Do you remember that time, Caroline, when mother took us to Bath and you and I wandered into that perfume shop near Lower Bristol Road? And that jasmine scent that mother loved so?
I ended up telling that story to Mrs. Bennet and Lady Catherine. I know that caper was to be our little secret for the rest of our lives, Caroline, but I couldn't help myself.
Please forgive me, and come soon.Love,
Dear Sister Gardiner,
Wish you were here. We're having so much fun. Jane will have her baby soon. The midwife has quit just last week. I have no idea why. No problem because Jane has Lady Catherine and myself to help out.
Tell me. Are you still planning that trip to Bath next week? Send me an express right away.With love,
Dear Mrs. Jenkinson,
Please go to the library and procure my copies of Bernard's Basics of Birthing and Mayfair's Methods of Midwifery and have them sent to Netherfield Hall in Hertfordshire at once.
The library here at Netherfield is woefully inadequate.Sincerely,
Oh, Caroline, what a congregation!
My husband spends most of his time either reposing on his sofa, getting finessed by Mr. Darcy at the whist table, or imbibing in the library with the clamourous coterie of Misters Darcy, Bennet, and Bingley. You can actually hear their bawdy songs all through the house! Four old married men. They're nothing better than a horde of ruffians?
Mrs. Darcy calls them the "Foul Foursome". She really is a very witty woman, you know. Mr. Darcy was so lucky to have found her.
Oh, sorry Caroline. I didn't mean it like that. It's just that, well, you know, Elizabeth is somehow able to put up with his quirks, you know what I mean. I think you were very lucky to have avoided his regard. I don't think you would have wanted him for a husband.Love,
I released my husband from his sofa purgatory yesterday.
Sometimes I feel so lonely around all these people. I just need someone to be close to. Jane has Charles, Elizabeth has Mr. Darcy, Mrs. Bennet has Lady Catherine. And Jane will have a baby soon, and then she won't need me around any more.
I've been wondering lately what it's like to have a baby. To walk around with a big belly, to feel its kick, to have a little hungry mouth searching out my ...
Oh, what am I saying. Come here at once and slap some sense back into me, sister.Love,
Oh, Caroline, I wish Elizabeth and Jane would include me in their private conversations. I am family to them now, don't they realize that?
I walked in on the two of them the other day while Jane was saying something like "My husband only has five thousand a year, so he would have used five pound notes."
They burst into hysterics at this and then clammed up as soon as they saw me, as if they were planning a high treason.
And then later Kitty Bennet was showing Elizabeth a ten-pound note. Elizabeth's face turned white and then she ran away from me in the opposite direction.
I wish I knew what was going on here with all this money. Maybe if I offer someone a twenty-pound note then they'll include me in this conspiracy.Love,
Dear Aunt Gardiner,
I wish so much that you were here with me, aunt. I am surrounded by too many people who love me dearly and want to help me too much.
Lizzy of course is my closest companion, but Lady Catherine tires her out every afternoon by taking her on long walks through the park.
And mother, though more subdued than I would have expected, continues to fuss and fret.
Charles is having a wonderful time with the other gentlemen. I am so gratified that he gets along with father, as do Mr. Darcy and Mr. Hurst. Sometimes it appears that father is reliving his childhood, or perhaps he is just enjoying having sons for the first time in his life.
My new sister Louisa is having a difficult time, I can tell. She longs to have her own sister Caroline here with her. We are all so absorbed in our own little worlds that we tend to leave her out.
The baby will be here within the month. Please come to see her as soon as you can. (I think it's a girl.) Everyone will be delighted to have you here.Love,
The other day everyone was out shooting or fishing or whatever and the servants were busy with something or other, so I took Jane's breakfast up to her. She thanked me so nicely and insisted that I stay to talk a while.
She acknowledged me for being such a companion those last few weeks before everyone arrived, when she had needed someone to talk to, and she apologized for her family and their aggravating ways. And she apologized for being so involved in her own problems and concerns and thereby ignoring me.
And she let me feel the baby kick.
She really is a sweet girl, you know. I mean, she really is. I have to admit that I haven't been a good listener these past few weeks when she's tried to unburden herself to me. But now in the mornings she and I talk for about half an hour before we begin the day's pursuits.
Oh, yes. Now I'm bringing Jane's breakfast to her every morning. It's really no trouble. I might as well do something useful around here.Love,
Oh, Caroline, you should have heard the hilarious comment that Lizzy made today!
Georgiana was teaching Lizzy how to draw horses. Georgiana is quite the accomplished rider and artist, but Lizzy falls off real horses and her drawings look like the beasts that are described by our African explorers.
Anyway, you remember that stupid trick that Charles always did as a boy, wherein he would lay out a fork and a spoon on the table, then hit the spoon with his fist, and then the fork would twirl in the air and deposit itself either in a drinking glass or in my hair?
Well, he was showing that stunt to his father-in-law, the two of them having just consumed a bottle of Bordeaux. As usual, Charles misjudged the strike and so the fork went spinning up through the air and came down and stabbed one of Lizzy's drawings.
Then Lizzy said, with a completely straight face, now listen to this, she said, "Why Mr. Bingley, you've pierced my foal!"
Well, we all just erupted, because just yesterday we had been reminiscing about that sweet letter that Anne Wentworth showed us last spring.
I'm glad Jane wasn't there to hear Lizzy's remark. She would have had the baby right there on the spot.
My goodness, Caroline, Lizzy really is such a witty person.Love,
Oh, Caroline. You wouldn't believe what Harriet gave me today! You know, Mrs. Bennet.
Somehow she managed to get two bottles of that very scent from that same perfume shop in Bath! The maker's name that we couldn't remember is Glanders.
One of the bottles is waiting for you here at Netherfield. Come soon!Love,
It's a girl!
As soon as I heard the baby's cries I rushed into the birthing room to have a look. Jane was sitting there holding the sweet little thing and looking so radiant! Seven pounds and twelve ounces! I've never seen such a smile on Jane's face! (Even though she's always smiling.)
And now listen to this. She handed the baby to me and said, "Aunt Louisa, I'd like to present Elizabeth Louisa Bingley."
I got tears all over little Elizabeth's blanket. Her grip was so tight! And then she opened her big eyes and looked right at me!
Then I rushed downstairs to tell Charles, but he already knew somehow. He even let me light his cigar for him. I've never seen him so happy except on the day he married Jane. What a beautiful day that was. Do you remember?
Oh, the baby's cheeks smell so nice when you kiss them. And her toes are like little peas. Mr. Hurst likes nibbling on her tiny fingers.
Oh, Caroline. You really must come at once to see.Love,
What a wonderful time it is here at Netherfield. How was Charles so lucky to find such a place, with such people?
The baby is now the centre of attention. I get to burp her every morning so that Jane can eat her own breakfast. Everyone calls her Little Lizzy except for Mr. Bennet, who calls her Very Little Lizzy.
The Darcys have gone back to Derbyshire since Very Big Lizzy is getting rather far along. She made me promise to come up in November to be there for her when her baby is born. And she wants you to come too. You must!
And Caroline, listen to this. I'm two weeks late. You know what I mean. Late.
My god, Caroline. Dare I hope?Love,