Posted on Wednesday, 16 August 2006
Another day had come and again the obvious was thick in the air - that the mother favoured this child least and that the daughter esteemed the other parent far more.
Words were flung on both sides, and thus it continued...
"I am sure there was some great neglect or other on their side, for she is not the kind of girl to do such a thing if she had been well looked after."
Exasperated, Elizabeth could not help answer under her breath,
"No, indeed. Her behaviour over the past year while the militia was camped here had always been a fine testament to diligent parental guidance."
"You are your father's daughter, Miss Lizzy! You have his sharp wit to be sure. But like him, my dear, you brandish it like a sabre. Like him you have yet to realise how deep your words cut."
Lowering her voice and eyes Mrs. Bennet continued,
"But I can understand you. I only hope you never harm someone who does not understand or cannot forgive."
Elizabeth saw the pain she had caused in her mother's eyes and out of contrition for causing it, was just about to confess that she may have already done just that.
But, alas, Mrs. Bennet was quick to continue her tirade and the moment for Elizabeth's remorseful apology faded quickly away.
"What you do not see, daughter, is that you are very much like me in some ways. Your liveliness, my dear, your love of life - comes from me! ...but you cannot give me credit for it. Had you been entirely of your father's disposition you would be as melancholy as Mary! As peevish as Kitty..."
Just then, Hill knocked softly on the door with a message from Mr. Bennet, summoning Elizabeth to him.
"Go, then." said Mrs. Bennet, "Your father sees fit to separate you from me, again."
As she bound down the stairs Elizabeth was almost sorry that her father had chosen that moment to rescue her.
Quick to forget the argument, Mrs. Bennet caught her reflection in the window and smiled gently, more concerned now with the wrinkles she saw.
She found comfort in telling herself that being the mother of five almost grown daughters had earned her the right to be proud of every one of the furrows on her face.
The old thought that she had once been as beautiful as her Jane renewed her smile.
But as quickly as it had appeared, it dissipated into sadness as she remembered again the failed promise she had made to herself as a young woman.
"A parent should not favour one child over the other"
With the hurt surprisingly still raw after all these years of her own parent's sudden disaffection, she remembered how solemnly she had sworn she would never do it. But, despite her good intentions she had fallen into the game of counteracting his favouritism.
"That," she always told herself "was my excuse! "
Her parents, although not so very wealthy, early on, had indulged their two daughters to no end, showering them with gifts and all their attentions.
All of it had come to an abrupt and confusing halt with the birth of a long awaited son, leaving two girls on the verge of womanhood wondering what had happened to the floor beneath them.
Sunny dispositions had turned to distress and the two young women saw that their anguish was best served with frequent and vocal lamenting, thus learning their life long incantation that,
"Those who do not complain are never pitied."
She herself could have hated her brother, would have , had it not been for the sweetest innocence of his very being. "Like Jane he is. " No one could ever find fault with either.
"Oh! Mr. Bennet"... she whispered to the window, "What I would do to step back to a time when I was the apple of your eye"
And in a breath, there she was - back in that magical place - looking into warm velvet eyes that matched his coat.
"Miss Gardiner, may I introduce to you Mr. Thomas Bennet. He has just moved into the neighbourhood, recently coming into his inheritance, Longbourn."
"Oh, Mr. Bennet I am pleased to meet you. 'Tis such a lovely home."
Oh! Every beautiful word he had ever said, indelibly marked in her mind.
"Miss Gardiner, may I have the honour of this next dance?"
"Miss Fanny, will you do me the honour of allowing me to court you?"
"Fanny, make me the happiest of men and become my wife?"
"Mrs. Bennet, will ... you ... kindly ... cease ... that ... incessant ... prattling! " Oh! Mr. Bennet! When did things change?
The fact that there was not the pride and joy of having a son, always weighed heavy on her mind.
But, quiet pride warmed her as she remembered his first reactions when seeing each newborn babe for the first time -
"You should be proud of yourself, my dear, as proud as I, for she is the most beautiful child I have ever laid eyes upon."
"Ah!, my dear, such a feisty one! Should have been a boy! But she seems sharp enough ... look at those bright eyes!
"Another daughter, eh! Well, she is a quiet one. Has she even opened her eyes yet?"
"Maybe we should name this one Winny or is that spelled whiny?"
"Well, no need to announce this one's birth in the newspapers! I think she can be heard in the next county!"
A son! Yes, had there been a son Mrs. Bennet was certain that her own anxieties would have been considerably less. Had Elizabeth been a born a male child, he would have been the one that had gone to London, instead of her brother, to save Lydia.
He would have been deserving of all his father's accolades and attentions and would have made Mr. Bennet's differing attitudes toward his children so much easier to understand.
He would have saved Longbourn.
"Oh, what I suffer" ... and so it went, as she was not in custom to blame herself for any shortcomings, she redeemed herself with this last thought,
"I am not as dull as you think Mr. Bennet, after all I married you, did I not?"