Posted on 2016-02-24
Elizabeth stormed into Longbourn, the door hitting the wall with a reverberating thud. She slammed the basket in her arms onto a small table, and ripe blueberries tumbled out, hitting the floor with tiny little splats and wobbling rolls. Her hands free, she set to taking off her bonnet, but in her irritation the ribbon only became horribly snarled beneath her chin. The more she fought it, the more knotted it became. At last she surrendered with a growl, ripped the ribbon from the bonnet, threw the tattered millinery to the floor and exploded with the most unladylike word she had ever heard, a gem that had dropped from the lips of a stable boy one day when he had hit his hand with a hammer.
Oh, it felt satisfying.
"Elizabeth Mary Margaret!"
Everything within Elizabeth froze but her eyeballs, which swiveled with unerring accuracy to the door of the morning room, whence the sharp voice had issued. There stood her mother, her hands on her hips and a scowl on her face. The heat rose to paint Elizabeth's cheeks red, and she dropped her eyes in shame.
But her mother said not another word, and when Elizabeth dared to look up again, she recognized the sharp gesture indicating that she should precede her mother into the room. She obeyed without argument.
Just inside the door, Elizabeth stood to one side and bowed her head. She heard her mother enter and dismiss the servant who had been helping her with some task, and the door closed.
"And where did a gently born, proper young lady hear that word?"
Elizabeth blushed again and explained about the stable lad and the hammer, and having been in the hayloft with the kittens, and...
"Well, thank goodness it was not from your brothers! I would have had their hides if they -- but no matter. Can you now explain that little fit you had out in the hall, and the reason for such a scene? Your sisters left not ten minutes ago for Lucas Lodge, and your father is in his library, but you can be sure that a few of the servants saw or at least heard that. What can you have been thinking?"
She hadn't. Indeed, she had been swinging wildly emotional from rage to amusement the whole way back to Longbourn. It just so happened that her ire had prevailed in those first moments upon entering. How much easier had she been laughing!
"I was...upset, mama," Elizabeth said now, seeking for a way to explain her egregious use of language, if not absolve it. "I had overheard something that ... offended me, and I -- I just wasn't thinking. I let my anger get the most of me."
Her mother looked at her shrewdly and then gestured for them to sit. "Tell me about it. I thought you were out picking berries."
Elizabeth sat down, and felt the tension begin to drain out of her under her mother's now patient gaze. She took a moment to order her thoughts before beginning. "I had, indeed, been picking berries, and I found quite a treasure trove of them on the other side of the path that goes to Meryton. But it was so beautiful out today, that after filling the basket I had sat down in the shade to read my book, and so I was not visible from the road. I could not have been, indeed, or they would have seen me and not -- oh!" She gave a shake of her head and huffed angrily.
"Who was it that passed by?" he mother asked gently.
"Mr. Darcy," Elizabeth said, spitting out his name as violently as she'd cursed earlier. "Oh, and his cousin," she added after taking a moment to recover from recalling the name and person of her newly sworn enemy.
"Oh, yes," her mother said. "I'd heard they'd arrived on their annual visit to their grandmother a few days ago. I have no doubt we shall see them at the assembly this week."
Elizabeth snorted. "One of them, perhaps, but surely not Mr. Darcy. He seems to think that we are all country bumpkins and would have no pleasure in our society. 'It is tolerable here," she said, lowering her voice in a creditable imitation of that gentleman's baritone, "but there are hardly enough people of taste and class to tempt me into company."
A surprised laugh came from her mother, which was quickly stifled, though her smile could not be wiped away. "Oh, did he say so? Naughty young man."
"It was worse than that, mama!" Elizabeth cried. "For, of all people, he singles me out for his ridicule! His cousin was saying how there were certainly more friendly people and beautiful young women here than he'd seen elsewhere -- and it's certainly to his credit, and I think him quite the nice young man -- but then he asked why Mr. Darcy didn't think there were interesting people here, and does he not recall that young woman last year, what-was-her-name, who had been such an interesting conversationalist and quite witty. And Mr. Darcy says my name, and his cousin says, yes, indeed, and was I not, at least, someone it would be a pleasure to converse with, if Mr. Darcy could not be prevailed upon to see the value in anyone else? And do you know what he said to that?"
Elizabeth had worked herself up into such a state that her mother's amused, "No, indeed," fell on deaf ears.
"'She is passably clever, I admit, but certainly with no more wit than a ten-minute conversation would exhaust.' Oh! how dare he?"
But her mother had started to laugh, and it was some time that Elizabeth was made to fume in solitude as she listened to the laughter seemingly at her expense. But after a while, she, as well, recalled the humor in the situation and she joined in with a chuckle of her own.
"Oh, my dear," her mother said, taking her daughter's hands in hers when she had at last reined in her mirth. "Please do not for one moment think I was laughing at you. I was simply ... recalling. Mr. Darcy is so very much like his father, it seems."
"His father?" Elizabeth echoed, surprised. "Did he insult you once, too?"
"Me? Oh, no, not me, my dear. It is a long story, but suffice it to say that many years ago, at an assembly in Meryton, Mr. Darcy's father insulted my friend, your godmother, in a quite similar way. Indeed," she said in surprised remembrance, "and whilst in conversation with Mr. Bingley, then, as well! The father, you understand. My, how history repeats itself. But Elizabeth eventually forgave him for it, you know, and, indeed, came to love him despite his less than congenial first impression."
"Well, I can promise you I shall never fall in love with Mr. Darcy!"
Her mother laughed at that. "Perhaps not, my dear. Perhaps not. But, still, promise me you will not take this too much to heart and maybe even give Mr. Darcy a second chance this year. He is most likely ... well, let us simply say that he and Mrs. Bennet are not the most compatible of characters. This visit is no doubt a trying time for him. There is no need to add to it, my love."
Elizabeth pursed her lips in consideration of that. At last she nodded and agreed. "I will give him a second chance, mama. But he had better improve on his first one, or I will not answer for the wit I shall break upon him. Ten-minute conversation, indeed!"
With an amused smile, Charlotte Collins kissed her eldest daughter and sent her on her way to take the berries to the kitchen, with a severe caution to watch her tongue in future and forget that particular word ever existed. When the door closed behind her, however, her laughter rang out again and she crossed to the writing desk to pen a letter she was sure would amuse her friend, Elizabeth Darcy.The End