Proverbs - A short story
Posted on Thursday, 29 April 2004,
Sleep, dear Jane, and soon we will be home.
Elizabeth made her way down stairs to the back grounds of Netherfield where the sun had yet to dry the dew upon the leaves. Taking in a deep breath Elizabeth smiled, thankful to be out of the house for even a while.
As she began walking through the forest of Ash, Beech, and Oak trees separating Netherfield and Longbourn, she looked down at the volume purloined from Mr. Bingley’s meager library, a book of Proverbs. Searching for a sunny spot, she spied an old tree trunk, and made to sit. Opening the book, she began to laugh as she envisioned those to whom the proverbs could pertain. Without an audience she read aloud.
“One may have good eyes and yet see nothing.”
“An empty purse frightens away friends.”
“Lord, please keep your arm around my shoulder and your hand over my mouth.”
“Well, well, it seems these were meant for Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst.”
Smiling, she read on. “Why even dear Mr. Bingley is included in this volume.”
“A love that can last forever takes but a second to come about.”
I wonder if my observations are correct as to his forming an attachment to Jane. That would give her such happiness if it were true.
She sighed and continued to read, laughing at the saying pertaining to her.
“Better to wear out shoes than sheets.”
Turning to the next page, she was quite diverted. “So, Mr. Darcy has not been left out.”
“It takes two to make a quarrel but only one to end it.”
“Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
“Every ass loves to hear himself bray.”
A sudden rummaging about the thistle brought Mr. Bingley’s dog ambling into view. He stopped to gaze upon her, wondering if she were friend or foe. Smiling, she showed him her hand to let him know she was cordial. Tentatively wagging his long tail, the Great Dane approached, sniffing her hand. Elizabeth rubbed his ear, and was rewarded with that happy sound that begins in a dog’s throat and reverberates throughout his chest.
“Did you know,” she spoke as though he understood, “that there is a saying in this book that relates even to you?”
She turned back several leaves and read.
“A dog is wiser than a woman; it does not bark at its master.”
Darcy, having ventured forth even earlier than Elizabeth, was returning from his extensive walk when he heard her musical laughter. Stopping to listen to her recitation, he smiled as a proverb immediately came to his conscious thought.
“A worthy woman is far more precious than jewels; strength and dignity are her clothing.”
Shaking such thoughts from his mind, he continued his approach. She spied him and stood to curtsey, but her eyes showed none of the amusement she had previously bestowed upon the dog.
“Miss Bennet. I hope your sister is fairing better this morning.”
“I thank you, sir. Yes. Her fever broke, and I left her a short time ago sleeping comfortably.”
“I am glad to hear it.”
There was a pause in their discourse while he tried to think of something else to say. Noticing the book, he remembered her remarks to Bingley’s hound, and pointed to the volume.
“I see you have found the book I recently gave Bingley. I thought he might enjoy some of the sayings within, but cannot remember him ever remarking of his ever opening it.”
Her cheeks flushed, thinking he was upset at her removing the tome from the house, perhaps with thoughts of thievery, and was warning her that he was aware of it now being in her possession.
“I meant no harm by taking it from the library while on my walk, sir. I was going to replace it as soon as I returned.”
“May I?” He asked, putting out his hand.
Embarrassed now that he would not trust her to return the volume to its rightful owner, she gazed down at her feet and handed him the book. While she stood before him as though a child caught in the act, he leafed through several of the pages, searching for a specific one.
“A penny for your thoughts, Miss Bennet,” he teased with one of the proverbs. He saw her eyes flash with indignation at his chiding her into response.
“A closed mouth catches no flies.”
He smiled, countering. “A silent mouth is melodious at times.”
“A spoon does not know the taste of soup, nor a learned fool the taste of wisdom.”
“To talk without thinking is to shoot without aiming.”
“A throne is only a bench covered with velvet.”
“A wise man hears one word and understands two.”
“A wise man makes his own decisions; an ignorant man follows the public opinion.”
He paused, firstly wondering if he had just been insulted, and secondly he was impressed that Miss Bennet had, without much effort, memorized quite a few of the sayings in so short a time. He nodded, his eyes intense upon her once more.
“An enemy will agree, but a friend will argue.”
She stared back, wondering if she had correctly gleaned his meaning, and smiled.
“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.”
He handed her back the book. “Good day, Miss Bennet. Enjoy the remainder of your stroll.”
He bowed, and departed. She curtseyed. He was almost invisible when she came to glance at the page he had turned to.
“Yesterday is but a dream; tomorrow is but a vision, but today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness, and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well, therefore to this day.”
Watching him disappear beyond the curve of the path, she knew him as a man arrogant and even prideful, but not an ignorant one. Her brows rose, and sighing, she turned again to the patient canine.
“Let us return to house to see if Jane is well enough to leave them all to this place.”