Posted on 2014-10-31
Charlotte looked up from her writing desk, pausing in her perusal of her accounts. Perhaps she hadn't heard correctly, but no there it was again; a squealing noise.
Their capable maid all work - she had to be capable she had been vetted by Lady Catherine - popped her head around the door. She was flushed red, no doubt boiling something in the kitchen. "Yes, Ma'am?"
"Have the pigs got into the garden?"
"I don't know, ma'am, have the pigs got into the garden?"
Charlotte sighed and got up to investigate herself.
The pigs had indeed got into the garden and done an amazing amount of trampling of the undergrowth.
They had also done a good job trampling in Mr Collins' skull.
"Robert! Robert!" Lucy Steel looked at the shiny perch phaeton.
"Yes, my dear?" Robert had been admiring himself in a nearby window.
"I should like this phaeton."
It was phrased as a suggestion but it was an order. Robert found himself sighing. He had not thought it would be like this when they married. Lucy had been so obliging and so interested in everything Robert did.
But now she seemed more interested in the content of his pocketbook. However it was not worth crossing Lucy. It was worse than crossing his mother.
"Do you not think I would look very smart, cracking the whip, in Hyde Park?"
Robert nodded, "You should take the curricle for a test." It would give him at least ten minutes respite from her, and allow him to think on whether he wanted to replace his toothpick case. He thought this one was looking a little shabby.
He would argue later that he had not at all deliberately moved his toothpick case into the sunlight so that the resulting glare would spook the horses. He wasn't entirely believed particularly since he had not apparently displayed the right amount of grief over the body of his wife who had been thrown a considerable distance from the phaeton.
"This is entirely improper," sniffed Lady Catherine.
The washerwomen paused in their ministrations. Lady Catherine had never come down to their little part of Rosings before. But, they considered, it was only a matter of time before Lady Catherine ran out of other areas of her life to micromanage. Of course they had received many a note on their prowess or lack thereof.
However before this moment they could happily ignore any advice that was contrary to the reality of laundry. Lady Catherine always seemed pleased after her notes, even if they had actually not changed one iota of their process.
"Give that...pole, to me," commanded Lady Catherine and no one dared object as her ladyship started to show them how best to agitate the water. She stepped up on a box. "Your results will be more acceptable from this height."
Except of course, from that height, it was easy to slip into the big vat. From thence it was easy to be clobbered on the head and for one's very expensive and voluminous dress to become clogged with water.
It turned out that the one thing Lady Catherine wasn't proficient in was swimming.
"I have never heard of the like," said Emma Knightley quietly. She did not want to disturb her father who was already distressed. "Is Dr Perry sure?"
"Quite sure," replied Anne Weston. "He does not want it generally known."
"I cannot blame him!"
"What are you talking of, Emma? Are you talking about poor Miss Bates? I am sure it was the cake. Dr Perry said it wasn't the cake but I think he was protecting me. Oh! They should have gone to the seaside..."
Emma got up to reassure her father, that it wasn't the cake and that Miss Bates had been beyond the aid of the seaside. She was not entirely successful but soon Mr Woodhouse allowed himself to be placated with some gruel.
She then impatiently made her way back to Mrs Weston. "Please tell me more about poor Miss Bates. I really cannot credit it, surely it is impossible to die from talking too much?"
Their parsonage was cozy but it was small. Hence why it was called the 'Little parsonage'.
Normally Catherine had no complaints. Who could complain at being forced into close confinement with Henry?
She just objected to being kept in close quarters with Henry's stash of muslin. Her husband's knowledge of muslin was charming, and it meant Catherine was always the best dressed woman in the village.
However his obsession with buying every piece of fine muslin he saw, or noticed in a catalogue, or heard about from others who shared his obsession was beyond acceptable. She'd finally made him promise to store it all in one closet. Any muslin that spilled out of the closet would be immediately burnt.
Her threat worked quite well, and if she couldn't find Henry, Catherine always knew she could go find him in his muslin closet. He would be stoking the muslin or cataloguing it, or perhaps even deigning to allow some of it to be sewn into a dress.
It was where he was now. Except this time apparently there was a limit to the amount of muslin the closet shelves could hold before they collapsed and managed to smother anything they fell on.
Her mother when she flew to Catherine's side made what Catherine judged as a very unhelpful remark, when she observed that at least her husband died doing what he loved.
"Laurentina's skeleton must exist here!"
"That is not how the book actually - " interjecting on the subject of gothic novels, or in fact any other matter, was useless, Isabella Thorpe made up her mind and that was it.
"But look at how vast this castle is? No one can have explored every nook and cranny!" Isabella marveled and ran her hands over the stone. "We must explore." She winked at the handsomest man of their acquaintance.
Unfortunately while he was an admirer of Isabella, that did not outweigh how much he was not an admirer of semi-ruined castles.
The other young ladies of the party were glad to see the back of Isabella allowing them time to exhibit with the men. After all did they not have better claims to a good match than Isabella Thorpe who only had her good looks and expert manipulation?
Isabella set off on her own and when she happened upon a secret closet behind a tapestry she was convinced she had found a great secret. It looked as if no one else had ever thought to look behind this particular tapestry because they had no imagination.
She was right. No one had thought to look there, and when she failed to return to the party no one thought to search there either.
It was a nighttime ritual. The soothing smell of the book. The calming well thumbed pages. The reassuring words there in black and white. Sir Walter Elliot Esquire.
His relatives, his ancestors, his claim to nobility. Everything that his retrenchment was slowly draining away from him.
Even Anne had married to a mere Captain of the Navy! That was not a marriage he would be happy to see inscribed in the Baronetage.
At least Elizabeth had not settled and would soon no doubt be an ornament adorning the brightest household. A worthy addition to the baronetage. Quite possibly it would even be eventually, when the publishers got their act together, added in print rather than Sir Walter's own spidery handwriting.
He barely noticed that while he was pursuing and reassuring himself that the text had not changed somehow, that he had given himself a paper cut.
It did not even register when the cut did not heal itself. Indeed Sir Walter did not care even upon his death bed. All he asked for was that the date of his death be recorded accurately in his beloved book.
Mary Crawford was so happy to be back in civilization where a little thing like the harvest did not prevent her ability to move her harp about at her leisure.
Her footmen, were probably cursing her indecisiveness in where to put the harp, but Mary could not bring herself to care. It was what they were there for.
"No, no, I want everyone to be able to see me when they are seated."
"Perhaps, Miss Crawford, we could move the chaise?"
Mary smiled at the handsome footman, and wondered if indulging in a flirtation with him would be a sign of failure. But he was very handsome and apparently not entirely dull and stupid.
Later, much later when she'd been about to perform, in those few seconds before she lost consciousness, Mary would blame her distraction over the footman on the fact she had not made sure the harp had been properly secured. It turned out that a harp was actually quite heavy.
"You are putting this as food aside as suitable only for the cats?" Mrs Norris looked at the man in amazement.
"Yes, ma'am. It is a little spoiled. The cats should not mind but I could not in good conscience allow - "
"My good man I will explain to you what can be allowed. This is entirely wasteful!" Mrs Norris was moved to outrage. This was food she had paid for. Sir Thomas was most disagreeable in the terms of his daughters banishment. Poor Maria received no money from her husband, as was surely her due as a wronged woman. For it was all a misunderstanding! And Sir Thomas was so miserly with her allowance that Mrs Norris found it necessary to dip into her own money to provide for them. It was that or allow them to be figures for gossip in the neighbourhood; two gentle ladies of breeding living in poverty.
She had been trying so hard, and here was this servant, who knew so little, throwing away good food! It was beyond the pale.
That evening, Maria claimed illness and shut herself away in her room, she did that frequently and showed less resolve and strength of character than Mrs Norris would like, but no matter it allowed Mrs Norris to serve herself a very large portion of the nice hearty stew made with the supposed 'cat food.'
Maria found her the next morning slumped into her bowl
"Who is this Colonel Fitzwilliam and why does he receive so much mail?" scoffed the corporal who had been put in charge of sorting the mail.
"That is not even all of it, you have not included his nom de plumes. Or at least those his admirers place upon him," His lieutenant came in to dump more mail on the bench.
The corporal blinked, "Nom de plumes?"
"Colonel Hottie. Colonel Hotpants. Colonel Studmuffin...I am sure you can work it out from there."
"I wish I had so many female admirers," sighed the corporal. "I can barely get Miss Smith from next door to look at me."
"Don't wish this upon yourself," The lieutenant jerked his head out the window. A flash streaked by followed by a mob of shrieking women. "He's going to be worn out and dead in weeks if this keeps up. Either from the running or from over exertion in general, if you know what I mean."
The corporal did know what he meant, and privately thought it wouldn't be a bad way to go.The End