Section I, Next Section
The Forster's Take on the Netherfield Ball ~ By Teresa AF Posted on Thursday, 10 June 1999
To: Miss Arabella Scott
Botley near Oxford,
From: Mrs. Harriet Forster
Meryton, near Wattford
November 27, 18__
The Colonel continues to be well though I really could care less. He is so old and I quite detest his touch, but then what can I do but keep a smiling countenance. If he only knew how I wish he were someone else, someone youthful, dashing, and bold. I do miss our society with the Kingsley brothers. Why did papa insist I marry his friend, such an old bore? I dare say he was only interested in getting me off his hands. If I were you I would be on my guard for I believe papa has plans for you and old Doctor Wilkins. With you out of the house he can carry out his plans for his retirement to Bath. The only consolation is that the Colonel quite dotes upon me and showers me with gifts. I have him wrapped around my little finger. Believe me when I say it, anything I ask for is granted within a matter of minutes. He has bought me three new gowns these past two weeks and I have not even begun to wear all the things from my trousseaux.
There is so little amusement here that when there is something, I cannot wait to send you news of it. We went to a ball last evening given by a charming young man from the neighborhood by the name of Bingley. I wore one of my new gowns that shows off my "charms" most agreeably. If I were not a recently married woman I would endeavor to catch him for myself. He is thoroughly delightful and his home at Netherfield Park is quite large and pleasing. Oh, how I wish I were the lady of a great house, then I would give a ball every week. There was talk one time of the Colonel giving a regimental ball but he has grown so tiresome and says that there is no time for one.
I wish you were here with me, but I daresay papa will not let you come to me with so many young officers around. Mr. Denny and Mr. Chamberlayne were in company last night along with most of the officers of the regiment. You will remember from my last letter how much I enjoy their company. They were amusing as usual and have become the darlings of all the local ladies. I was quite jealous of the attentions they paid to a young lady here by the name of Miss Lydia Bennet. She is quite enchanting though and has them eating out her hand, for whenever she is near the young officers are not far away. I believe that in time she will become a particular friend because we share many of the same interests and pursuits.
Her sisters, for there are several, are very boring though and not worth my attention. Miss Bennet danced almost every dance with Mr. Bingley and I heard whispers that they most likely will be soon engaged. He had a particular friend at the ball too, a Mr. Darcy, who I believe is quite rich, who spent the entire evening standing off to the edges of the room, scowling and glowering at everyone and not dancing at all. How very odd to be so rich and so aloof. Had he stirred himself he could have had his choice of dance partners for he is exceeding handsome. If the colonel would but let go of my arm for one moment I would have walked by him and hinted for a dance myself. However, now that I recall he did dance only one dance with the second Miss Bennet, whom I believe is called Eloisa or Elisa or something. I really don't recall too much because Mr. Denny, telling me an amusing tale about Lieutenant Sanderson, and mimicking they way he stutters, had me quite enraptured.
The supper was excellent and Mr. Bingley spared no expense in the choice of wine, meats, and dessert. The only distasteful part of the evening was when Mr. Bingley called for entertainment and one of the other Miss Bennets, whose name I don't recall at all, jumped up to perform without being asked. She sang a song or two that was quite beyond her vocal skills. Oh sister, the sound that came from her mouth disturbed me most horribly. Soon after Miss Lydia came in waving a sword over her head and several of the young officers were in a mad pursuit. Oh how I wish that was me who was being chased. It was so very funny and diverting. Then Mr. Denny was compelled to fetch her a glass of wine for she was quite out breath. Oh, how I laughed and laughed and then the colonel of course, gave me one of his looks and I was obliged to look away.
The ball ended and we went away satisfied with our evening. The colonel of course chose then to pay his attentions to me upon our arrival at home and follow me to my rooms but I pleaded a headache and he thankfully went away. La! When you are married to old Wilkins I will share all my tricks and stratagems for keeping a husband at bay, but I dare say nothing works its magic like a headache.
Write soon and tell me of all the news from home, especially of the Kingsley brothers. Give my love to papa.
The Netherfield Ball from the Orchestra Seats ~ By Leonore Posted on Thursday, 10 June 1999
I don't get paid enough for this much punishment, thought Nigel as he picked up his horn.
It wasn't so much the redundant efforts of the evening that bothered him -- just the usual 4/4 pieces with a little 3/4 for variety -- nor the lack of opportunities to display his virtuosity (why did the strings get all the good solos?).
No, what bothered him was his father's voice ringing in his ears: "Legal apprenticeship is right honorable work! Play your cards right and you'll be sponsored for the bar yourself one day, have a secure future laid out ahead of you! But no, you're going to worry your poor mother to death and starve in the streets. And for what? Artistic creativity? With a HORN!? When you've landed a spot with the Royal Orchestra I'll come and hear you play, but until then don't bother begging for help from me. Off with you, and don't come back until you can say truthfully that you're filing papers for your Uncle John!"
Oh well, at least he could count himself more fortunate than a thousand other poor wretches still struggling towards the bottom rung of the musical ladder. With membership in a reasonably well-established band to his credit, at least he had obtained steady, if unimportant work. And very occasionally he had an opportunity such as tonight's, the chance to travel outside the London environs for a change and remind himself of why he had left Humberside in the first place.
He had to give credit to the estate owner -- Dingley or Tingley, something like that -- for greeting the band personally and providing them with a decent hot meal before starting the evening's entertainment. Usually they had to sneak in the backstairs and grab some cold beef tongue from the kitchen. And either the man himself or his steward had good taste; the ballroom looked gorgeous. None of those gaudy ice sculptures and live animals. He shuddered at the memory of the time the Duke of Devonshire had thought a harem ball, complete with live cheetah, would be just the thing. Fortunately Arthur had kept all his fingers so he could still play the violin.
The owner had requested that they open with "The Shrewsbury Lasses," a bit fast for the first dance of the evening, but he supposed the man wanted to start things off with a bang. Either that or the piece had some significance for a lady he was trying to impress. The fellow couldn't be more than 22 or 23, and the puppy-dog eagerness in his eyes was a dead giveaway.
Arthur cued for the start and they played an extended introduction to give dancers time to get organized for the first set. Nigel had only two phrases in this piece, repeated ad nauseum, so he liked to let his mind wander and observe the goings-on around him. There were several beautiful ladies in the set, but for some reason the best looking brunette was lined up opposite a real twit in a clergyman's uniform.
He scanned around quickly for the owner and his lady. When he spotted them, Nigel nearly lost his grip on the instrument. Good Lord, she's a goddess! What a figure, and her hair! He was so distracted that he hit the last introductory measure with a little too much oomph, sending bass notes bellowing out of balance throughout the room. Arthur shot him a glare and he recovered quickly.
The clergyman, who had executed a remarkably affected first bow, managed to miss the first turn altogether and smash into his corner lady. Nigel barely hung on to his phrase but he could hear Clarence wobbling his flute with laughter. The twit's partner called, "Other way, Mr. Collins!" and with profuse apologies he rejoined the circle. My, she looked mad.
One gentleman seemed to find it slightly amusing. A tall, good looking, silent fellow, pacing around the outskirts of the set, eyes fixed on the brunette. Extremely well dressed, dignified demeanor, obviously a nob. Why wasn't she dancing with him? But there -- he betrayed a smirk when the brunette turned a circle near him. No wonder they weren't paired up. He must be her brother.
Some odd couples lined the room. A cute, giggly young brunette with noticeable decolletage, attached to a pompous military officer old enough to be her father. The Warhorse and the Child Bride. Whose stupid idea was that? Nigel wondered. Then he spotted several other officers, young and energetic, flirting with a few other girls the same age. They seemed entranced by the showy red uniforms. I definitely joined the wrong profession, Nigel thought morosely as he glanced at his recently re-sewn jacket sleeve.
They finished up the first set quickly and, after a endless version of "Barley Mow" (WHY did every couple in the room have to line up for the most boring piece?), pushed on to "Carter's Round". A young, expensively dressed redhead was taking a turn with a man who was several sheets to the wind already, but at least he knew his footing. The Owner and the Goddess were sitting out this one, chatting. Rich fellows had all the luck.
The band had nearly reached the end of "Carter's Round" when The Brother approached the Gorgeous Brunette, who was speaking in obviously angry tones to a friend of hers. Not surprised; the Twit would try anyone's patience. The Brother said a few words, the Gorgeous Brunette appeared to resist but then nodded assent, and they lined up together for Mr. Beveridge's Maggot. A remarkably fine couple they made. Some families just got all the good looks. Obviously The Brother had offered to demonstrate proper dancing; you could tell from the way the clergyman ogled them.
An adorable sixteen-year-old blonde had paired off with a balding officer. Why did that seem to be a trend this evening? Parental interference? The Goddess and the Owner took places across from each other again; their friends are sure to talk if they're not already engaged, thought Nigel. Alas, a couple of ladies had fallen for that abominable fashion of vertical feathers in their hair. Young Miss Feather stood across from a decent looking officer, but Matron Feather could do no better than the Red Headed Hawk Nose for a partner.
Beveridge's was a thoroughly dull role for a horn, but the slow, simple style of dancing revealed much about people's personalities if you paid close attention. The Brother and The Brunette were elegant but tense. Both held their heads quite high, either from pride or annoyance, and they chatted in low tones almost the entire time. Nigel could imagine the conversation -- "I hate him, I won't marry him, and that's final"; "You'll do what Father says!". Adorable Blonde bounced; Balding Officer positively radiated conceit -- "Look, boys, I caught a cute one!"; Hawk Nose actually had an affable, easy style; Matron Feather thought herself a duchess or something.
It was too long until the first break, but finally Nigel got a chance to quaff a glass of decent wine and empty out his spit valve. They lined up their music for the second set and compared notes on the company. The Goddess was by far the winner among the girls, with Gorgeous Brunette and Statuesque Blonde vying for second place. The "He'll Never Dance With My Sister" prize went to either The Twit or The Brother, who had only danced the one set. He was even more snobbish than your average rich man and obviously only here in an escort capacity.
The evening progressed much as those evenings always did, with Arthur muttering, "Think of your rent, gentlemen," as they began to fatigue and lose their key towards the end of the last set. Fortunately it was soon over, and they packed off for backstairs while the guests took their places for dinner. The Owner was an awfully decent chap; he took the time to thank them personally and ask Mabel, the kitchen maid, to provide them with a hot toddy and some more supper before they set off back to London. Too bad the society was so high; no chance of making any serious acquaintances.
Nigel sighed as he settled back in his carriage seat. Robert was snoozing against the window, Clarence slumped forward, and Arthur was changing an "A" string. Thank God they had two carriages this time so all the band could travel in relative comfort and no one squashed their instrument cases. A pleasant enough evening, but the routine was becoming tedious. By this time next year, thought Nigel, it's the Royal Orchestra or a career change.
Maria Lucas ~ By JenR. Posted on Friday, 25 June 1999
Once the Lucas carriage had come to a full stop, Sir William descended, offering his wife a hand. Maria descended after Charlotte, in awe of the brightly lit house. She had of course seen Netherfield before, but not since the arrival of its latest tenants, and it looked quite bigger than she remembered. Maria and Charlotte fell behind as their parents proceeded to greet everyone as condescendingly as if they were the hosts of the gathering.
"I hope," said Charlotte, "that you will take care not to be quite so silent this evening as you often are. While this is a large assembly, it is nothing terribly unusual for our neighbourhood. Do not--" here she lowered her voice, "pray do not give Mr. Bingley's sisters the satisfaction of seeing how easily overwhelmed you are."
Maria smiled nervously. "But the house is so grand! I shall go distracted if I make some sort of mistake! What shall I do? Pray advise me, Charlotte!"
"The gravest mistake you could make," smiled Charlotte, "would be to worry forever about making one. I have noticed your fidgeting at recent outings and dances. I pray that you would endeavour to conceal your anxiety and appear at ease."
Maria had only come out six months before, and was therefore somewhat uncomfortable in large gatherings. The Netherfield ball was by far the largest she had yet attended, and the first in which she expected to dance. Her feelings upon coming out had been a mixture of joy and anxiety. She was wholly unaware of the gossip surrounding this event, and it was as well that she was oblivious for the sake of her timid spirits. (It was widely suggested that the Lucases had given up any chance of the elder Miss Lucas marrying and were trying their chances with their second daughter, who was acknowledged to be quite prettier, although many would not allow her any beauty beyond the natural bloom one finds in the young. However, I am sure my readers expect how often gossip is proved true.)
Charlotte and Maria proceeded up the stairs. Maria managed to smile faintly when greeted by Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst. She sensed their belief in their superiority and disliked it even while acknowledging its just cause. Her weak smile turned into a true smile at Bingley's very effusive greeting. She and Charlotte soon followed Sir William into the ballroom.
"Maria dear," called Lady Lucas from behind them, "please try to stay with myself or Sir William as much as possible. I should like to see Charlotte mix a little this evening, and she cannot do it while standing up with you." Maria nodded, smiling at Charlotte as she disappeared into the crowd.
Maria expected Kitty to come and acquaint her with the latest gossip concerning the officers; however, Miss Elizabeth was the first of the Miss Bennets that Maria saw arriving. As Miss Bennet walked by, Maria turned to watch her pass, unaware that in her look of humble admiration she looked nearly as lovely in her own way as the girl she beheld.
Maria had always admired the second Miss Bennet, and tonight was no exception. She did not even glance at Maria as she continued on her path to greet Charlotte. Maria sighed. She knew that her sister had always been Miss Bennet's particular friend, and had often wished that Miss Bennet showed her the same partiality. Maria had always made a study of emulating her. After all, someone whom her father so heartily approved, calling her "the brightest jewel of Hertfordshire," must be worth imitating. She could not help wishing that she had more opportunities to enjoy Miss Bennet's wit, although she was sometimes more than a little frightened by it. So bold! So unconcerned with the opinions of others! Oh, Maria wished she could be so entirely unaffected without fearing what society might think.
"What do you think, my dear?" inquired Sir William, tapping her arm to recapture her attention.
Maria blinked, and recollected her surroundings. "Why, ah, I quite agree!"
Her mother stared. "You do not think the officers pleasing? That is most strange, considering that not half an hour past you were longing to dance with all of them!"
"Perhaps they will improve on further acquaintance, eh, Maria? You need not be timid, my dear! They are quite the gentlemen, you know, although nothing to what you find at St. James' court!"
"Well, I did not quite mean all of them," Maria stammered, blushing faintly. "Perhaps one or two of the most agreeable." At that very moment, Maria was not thinking about any body; it rather seemed to her that the more inclined an officer was to dance with her, the more agreeable he should be.
Lady Lucas showed how little she knew her daughter by responding, "You must not be so very fastidious, you know. You have not the particular regard of any man, and you are far too young to be learning a haughty or disinterested demeanour. While some might think such behaviour fashionable," here Lady Lucas inadvertently glanced at her eldest, "you would do well not to follow their example."
"So, my dear!" laughed Sir William. "Is this not a handsome display? So tasteful in every particular! Why, these new neighbours are just the sort of well-bred people we need to see in this neighbourhood. Just the thing! Capital! Capital!"
Maria's eyes roamed the room with some awe, as though seeing it for the first time through her father's over-exaggerated words. She rocked on her toes, hardly knowing she did it, so nervous was she as the first dance approached and it became less likely that any man would invite her to dance.
"Come, my dear," said Lady Lucas kindly as they moved to one side of the room, "let us watch from this side of the room."
"Capital, capital!" called Sir William to no one.
Maria spun around quite startled at the loud bass of the horn, proving with its first few measures that no one would ask her to dance this set. She smiled as Mr. Pratt caught her eye, but her hopes were quickly dashed as she saw him leading a feathered matron onto the floor. She sighed and recollected herself. Mortified that someone might have noticed the turn of her thoughts, she turned once more to her parents.
"It is a kindness you have not been asked," continued Lady Lucas as if her daughter had been paying constant attention to her. "As you are not familiar with this dance, you are much better to learn by observing the couples, not betraying your ignorance."
Maria allowed some of her frustration to creep into her voice. "I do not see that it is so very hard. I daresay one unfamiliar with this dance could manage quite well!"
At that moment, the eyes of all three were drawn to Elizabeth and Mr. Collins as he collided head-on with Mr. Pratt's partner. "Other way, Mr. Collins!" called Elizabeth resignedly. The matron attempted to recollect her ruffled composure, quite distressed that her attempt at an elegant demeanour had been so easily shaken. "Come, Mr. Collins!" said Miss Elizabeth to her partner, whose apologies were so profuse as to put him even further out of step.
Lady Lucas smiled. Her point proven, she nonetheless pointed out this example of the fate of those who enter into dances poorly prepared. Maria laughed to herself, counting herself lucky that this woman, and not herself, was subjected to such difficulties. She reflected that there were some men she was quite content not to dance with.
Miss Lucas joined her family with the purpose of continuing the advice which had been interrupted before.
"Remember, Maria," said Charlotte in a low tone, not intended to be overheard by her parents, "you must not be too forward in your approach to the other sex." Here she glanced at Miss Lydia Bennet, who was playing with the brass buttons on an officer's coat as she passed him in the dance. "However, you must neither be determined against allowing them some small freedoms," she said, nodding at Miss Mary Bennet. "Neither of them are likely to secure any man. The first chases too many; the other chases none. Men are jealous, yet they like to feel they have won a prize. As they are contradictory, you must ensure that you are not."
Maria listened to this speech with wide eyes, attempting to absorb the advice. "Then I should not run after all the officers, but only one or two of the most agreeable?"
Charlotte frowned in her serene way. "Why no, my dear! Allow them to run after you--and when they do, take care not to run away."
Maria waited for the next dance with something like a confusion of joy and disappointment, for at last she was to dance. Perhaps Mr. Pratt was not the most dashing of men, nor very young, but Maria was too flattered at his request to be anything but grateful--for the first few seconds after his offer. Her nervousness soon returned in anticipation of the coming event. Maria had always expected to remember her first dance for the rest of her life, and possibly even to fall in love with the man who asked her; she soon realized that Mr. Pratt did not at all fit her ideals.
Maria felt an uncharacteristic urge to roll her eyes. She did not quite know why. Mr. Pratt's regimentals had the effect they ought on any young lady. He was not unpleasant. She did not realize her discomfort stemmed from the fact that he had less hair than her own father.
"And how are you liking the ball, Miss Maria? It is your first large ball, is it not?"
"Why, yes, Mrs. Bennet," said Maria, watching the couples of the dance. "I confess I find it quite overwhelming!"
"Ah," laughed Mrs. Bennet, "you will soon be accustomed to it. Take my daughter Lydia as an example of how you ought to behave. So agreeable, and the officers are all so particularly fond of her! I confess, though, though she may have such an excellent disposition, she will never be as beautiful as my dear Jane! Why, even your mother has told me she envies my good fortune in Jane's beauty."
Lady Lucas pretended not to hear this remark. Maria blushed as much for Mrs. Bennet's remark as for her mother's opinion. "Hush!" said Mr. Bennet, "are you so eager to start a feud that you must gloat in your neighbours' faces?"
"Lady Lucas," gushed Mrs. Bennet, "has Miss Maria found an eligible partner yet? I daresay you are quite wishing to be so universally liked as my younger daughters, my dear child!"
"Why, yes, Mrs. Bennet," said Maria uncertainly, torn between civility towards Mrs. Bennet and admitting that she did not wish anything of the sort.
"My daughter is to dance the next with Mr. Pratt, who you see dancing there," said Mrs. Lucas somewhat proudly.
"There now!" beamed Mrs. Bennet, pleased both that Maria was to dance, and that her partner was somewhat less becoming than those her daughters enjoyed. "Isn't that lovely! To be sure, the younger officers are more agreeable, but--"
"Mr. Bennet," interrupted Lady Lucas, "how do you like the arrangements Mr. Bingley has made in this room? They are quite tasteful, do you not agree?"
"Why, yes, there are doors and lights enough for the present purpose, I suppose."
"Oh, yes, quite," said Mrs. Bennet, eyeing her husband significantly. "They are quite lovely, although I do not suppose they are anything finer than our Assembly rooms can produce. While I do feel the room needs something of a woman's touch, I must say I most heartily approve of dear Mr. Bingley's arrangements. My dear Jane has such wonderful taste in such matters that--"
"But hush!" gasped Lady Lucas. "Here is Mr. Pratt. Smile, my dear!" Mrs. Bennet frowned at the interruption, but Mr. Pratt's red coat soon brought the expected smiles to her face.
"Miss Lucas! Shall we join the couples now assembling?" smiled Mr. Pratt.
Maria sighed inwardly. "Why, certainly, Mr. Pratt."
"Only one or two of the most agreeable, remember, my dear!" called Lady Lucas as she proceeded onto the floor.
Maria stood somewhat nervously, staring ahead in a dazed manner, waiting for the dance to begin. Swallowing, Maria glanced at Miss Elizabeth Bennet, envying her composed, if not exactly cheerful manner. Her gaze crossed to Miss Bennet's partner, whom she noted was the proud Mr. Darcy. She could not imagine why Miss Bennet had been prevailed on to accept such a frightening man; however, she recalled that Miss Bennet had not been happy in her share of partners this evening. Maria swallowed again as she realized that Mr. Beveridge's Maggot would require her path to cross his.
As the dance started, Mr. Pratt's friendly smiles and easy footing set her at ease.
"A fine assembly, is this not?" said Mr. Pratt.
"Yes, I must own that find it quite overwhelming," faltered Maria, immediately berating herself that she had gone against her sister's advice. This last was said just as Maria was to take Mr. Darcy's hand. She did not quite know where to look, and her spirits shook at Mr. Darcy's disapproving, taciturn glare. She recovered at the encouragement of Mr. Pratt's friendly smile.
Presently they paused at the end waiting to enter the dance again, and Maria decided that the easiest conversation would be found in a subject other than herself.
"What can they be talking of, do you think?" wondered Maria, leaning forward that Mr. Pratt might hear her better.
"Who?" inquired Mr. Pratt, "Mr. Darcy and Miss Elizabeth Bennet?"
"Why, yes! They seem quite eager not to be overheard, do you not think?"
"Yes, and they speak most earnestly," offered Mr. Pratt.
Maria considered the case as she made her next turn. "Why, I have it! They are discussing the upcoming engagement of her sister Jane and Mr. Bingley!"
"Is that a certain event?" asked Mr. Pratt. "I am not well acquainted with the elder Miss Bennets. Lydia has made no mention of their attachment."
"Miss Lydia Bennet is not likely to mention any attachment if it does not involve an officer and herself," replied Maria hotly, immediately blushing as she recalled who she spoke to.
Mr. Pratt's eyes twinkled. "That is very likely true. She does flirt excessively! I should think the officers should avoid her for fear of another 'good joke'. The most recent involved Mr. Chamberlayne and a dress that became him very well!"
Maria giggled, not certain whether it was most appropriate to be amused or shocked. "I should like to hear that story, but not at present! I should laugh out loud and lose my step, I'm sure of it."
Mr. Pratt smiled. "Another time, perhaps, I shall recount it."
Neither spoke for a pause. Presently Maria, catching a glimpse of Mr. Darcy's sober face, began, "They cannot be talking of the upcoming engagement between their friends. Both are far too serious to be taking any joy from the conversation."
"Perhaps one has some objections to the match?"
Maria thought. "I believe Mr. Darcy has just confessed that Mr. Bingley's family have made their fortune in trade, and Miss Bennet is unhappy enough at the discovery to disapprove the match!"
Mr. Pratt eyed the two, saying "That is very likely to be the case. Mr. Darcy is defending his friend, explaining that Mr. Bingley's excellent qualities compensate for his inferior connections, and reminding Miss Bennet that it is an eligible match for her elder sister."
"And Miss Bennet," said Maria with her eyes sparkling, "is just on the point of protesting that her sister would never marry without love!"
"Is it so doubtful that there is a sincere attachment on her part?" chuckled Mr. Pratt.
"Why, Mr. Darcy," said Maria in a fair imitation of Miss Bennet's manner, "I do not see what right you have to decide on the certainty of my sister's inclination, or why, upon your own judgment alone, you are to determine and direct in what manner Jane is to be happy."
Mr. Pratt drew himself up to his full height. "You have said quite enough, madam. I perfectly comprehend your feelings, and now Mr. Bingley has only to be ashamed of what his own have been."
As she again met the couple in question, Maria could not resist looking up at Mr. Darcy with a mischievous glint in her eye as she considered the words they had been putting in his mouth.
"Mr. Pratt, we must stop, for I can barely keep my composure when meeting them!"
"If you insist, Miss Lucas. In any case, the dance will be over presently, and we will not have another such opportunity of taking their likeness. Let us then turn to the story concerning Mr. Chamberlayne..."
"Hush! He shall hear you, for he stands directly behind us!"
"You did not fear Mr. Darcy's or Miss Bennet's large ears, did you?"
"I do not think they could have heard us!" protested Maria.
"At any rate, the dance is done... shall we proceed to a safer corner, in which I may make my confession without fear of discovery?"
Charlotte and Maria talked intimately during dinner. "Tell me, Maria, how did you find your first dance at a ball? Was Mr. Pratt... agreeable?"
"Oh, very!" breathed Miss Lucas. "We laughed and talked of I know not what!"
"Am I right in thinking you were not initially so well pleased with him?" queried Charlotte. "He is not quite the handsomest of the officers, nor the closest to your age."
"I must own that at first I did not like him at all," admitted Maria, "but his smiles were so reassuring and his conversation so pleasing that I forgot my disinterest!"
"One might say," mused Miss Lucas, "that in being determined to be well pleased, you became so..."
"I am not certain," began a puzzled Maria, "I would have phrased it quite that way."
"Nevertheless," asserted Miss Lucas, "you heeded my advice and seized the opportunity as it came to you. At the next assembly, you are certain to have more partners, and you must do likewise."
Maria reflected that to do likewise with as many men as their were dances would prove impossible. Maria's wit, a faint and unreliable organ, had only succeeded so long due to Mr. Pratt's encouragement; besides this, trying to please different men in rapid succession would confuse her as to who enjoyed riding and fishing, and who preferred a quiet book or a stroll through the park. She realized that whatever her sister was determined to think, Mr. Pratt had been pleasing of his own accord, not because she had chosen to find him so. However, Maria knew that to tell her sister so would be futile.
Charlotte then interrupted her reveries. "Maria, do you plan to entertain us tonight?"
"Goodness, no! I should not sing even if Miss Mary Bennet were to ask me to sing with her, and she expressed an interest in singing tonight. You know I play far too abominably to display my meager talents at the pianoforte."
"Maria, you really must apply yourself more. Nothing is more pleasing to a man than beauty combined with accomplishment."
At that moment, Mary rushed to the pianoforte almost before Mr. Bingley expressed his desire for some music. Charlotte and Maria quietly watched her play, schooling their expressions most carefully as she began to sing. Forgetting herself, Maria watched with open incredulity Mrs. Bennet's apparent delight in the pedantic manner of Mary's playing, and once again straightened her face upon seeing Mr. Bennet's pained look.
"I should qualify my last statement," murmured Charlotte. "True accomplishment is desirable in any lady; however, an awareness of the limitations of one's abilities is far more valuable."
"Most certainly," replied Maria, "although I will venture to declare that Miss Bennet sounded far better rehearsing this song than she does now."
"I should think that vanity makes an unpleasant noise," said Miss Lucas, "marring what might otherwise be enjoyable music."
As Miss Bennet finished her song, she promptly began another, and Mr. Bennet walked towards her, importuning her to stop. Maria bit her lip in sympathy, and fidgeted as Mr. Collins began an ostensibly apologetic speech to those whom he had no right to address, lacking a pulpit as he did. She sighed in relief as Mrs. Hurst played a masterful air, only to bite her lip again as Miss Lydia Bennet came into the room wielding a sword, crying out and dancing with delight, chased by several officers. Charlotte and Maria watched agape at her wild behaviour, surprised that her mother did nothing but laugh delightedly.
"A false self-consequence," declared Charlotte, "makes no very pleasant sound in a young lady." Her gaze swept from Miss Lydia Bennet, lolling in a chair, to her cousin, once again looking as if he should like to address the room. "However, I think it somewhat easier to tolerate in a man. A woman must always show gratitude for any man's attentions, and by so doing, will come to feel that gratitude."
Maria followed her gaze to Mr. Collins, attempting to picture herself expressing gratitude toward him. She failed to picture it, sighed unconcernedly, and returned to her dinner.
Through the Post ~ By Jaro Posted on Sunday, 18 July 1999
Letters going in and out of Longbourn in the days immediately after the Netherfield Ball...
Part One - First Impressions From Mr. Bennet To Charles Bingley
Longbourn, Wednesday, 7 am
My dear sir,
The females of Longbourn spent the entire drive home from Netherfield importuning me to thank you for giving a ball. To save my hearing, I am complying. In all seriousness, I observed you enjoyed yourself greatly last night and wish to assure you that the evening also afforded many sources of amusement to your neighbour,
From Kitty Bennet To Mrs. Gardiner
Longbourn, Wednesday November 27, 9 am
My dear aunt,
I hope you do not mind me writing, although I never do, but Jane is writing letters, Lizzy will not listen, Mary is so provoking, Lydia will not speak to me, for I told her off so about her behaviour at the ball, and if Mr. Collins speaks one more word to me I shall scream.
I shall die if I cannot talk about the ball, so I hope I may tell you all about it. Our neighbour Mr. Bingley gave such a charming ball at Netherfield last night, and he danced twice with Jane, everyone remarked upon it. My particular friend Maria only had one dance (I told her not to listen to her sister!), but I danced with Mr. Denny, Ensign Pugg, Captain Carter and Lt. Sanderson and had to sit out only once. Mr. Wickham did not attend. Lydia, shocking girl, danced every time. She was forever asking the officers to stand up with her, and I am sure it is very wrong. I hear Mr. Bingley will have another ball before Christmas and at the next one I shall dance every dance now I know how Lydia does it.
Mary sang, but apart from that we all had a good time, and Lizzy danced with Mr. Bingley's friend Mr. Darcy, who is very handsome and they could not take their eyes from each other. But Mama does not like him so perhaps it will be a forbidden love. I expect they will quarrel dreadfully and then spend months repining in secret, until at last they are thrown together once more under romantic circumstances, and he will secretly do her a great kindness which will melt her heart and they will live happily ever after. But perhaps I read too many novels?
Miss Bingley wore a dreadful scent, so strong no one could stay near her. I saw Mr. Darcy practically running away when she walked past where he was standing. I ran away from her twice myself. I must stop now, Hill is going out to the post.
Your affectionate niece, Kitty Bennet
From Jane Bennet To Caroline Bingley
Longbourn, Wednesday, 9 am
Dear Miss Bingley,
I am writing to thank you and your brother for last night's delightful ball. We all had a lovely time. You must have gone to a great deal of trouble to arrange everything. Your rose scent was charming and I hope the gentlemen appreciated it half as much as
Your friend, Jane Bennet
From Jane Bennet To Mrs. Gardiner
Longbourn, Wednesday morning
My dear aunt,
I hope you, the children and my uncle are all well. The pattern you sent was very lovely, and Mama insisted I have a new dress from it for last night's ball at Netherfield. We had a charming evening and we all danced a great deal (except Mary). She sang. I am sure she will improve with further practice. Lydia is developing an alarming tendency to flirt, but she is such a good-hearted girl, I am sure she will settle down after the --shire Militia leave Meryton. Otherwise I shall be sorry to see them go, as I believe Mr. Wickham has been quite attentive to Lizzy, and she seems not displeased with his regard. Our cousin Mr. Collins is here on a fortnight's visit which has been a wonderful opportunity for us all to learn Christian forbearance. Believe me, the anticipation of your own proposed visit at Christmas is very comforting to
Your loving niece, Jane
From Mrs. Bennet To Mrs. Gardiner
Longbourn, Wednesday, 9 am
Our neighbour Mr. Bingley gave a ball last night and it was everything that was charming! Four and twenty families were in attendance, but no one was as lovely as Jane in her new muslin, Mr. Bingley danced with her twice. Oh the wedding clothes she will have! He has 5,000 a year, you know. Lizzy danced with horrid Mr. Collins who will turn us all out of our home into poverty and misery--but between you and me, I have high hopes he will make Lizzy an offer and then all shall be well. After all, he did not dance with anyone else all evening.
I must close, as Hill is just going out with the post and I must make sure Lizzy is not hiding from Mr. Collins. I am sure he will propose, if given half a chance.
From Mr. Collins To Lady Catherine De Bourgh
Longbourn, Wednesday November 27th, morning
My honoured and formidable patroness,
Today's report will be brief, for I have important business to attend to this morning. But I feel it my Christian duty to inform your imposing Ladyship that at last night's ball I followed your dancing instructions to the letter.
Eternal gratitude for the constant advice and attentions of your most knowledgeable ladyship ever burns in the heart of your lowly and obsequious servant,
From Lydia Bennet To Mrs. Forster
Longbourn, Wednesday morning
My Dear Mrs. Forster,
I hope you do not mind me writing, although we have not yet been introduced, but as soon as I saw your becoming gown at the ball I so longed for one like it, and this made me feel sure we should be friends.
Would you tell those sly gentlemen of the regiment that one of them has got my French lace handkerchief which I dropped at the ball and I shall never speak to any of them again unless the gentleman returns it. Do you not think all the officers dance delightfully (not like Mr. Collins, ha ha!) but their manners are shocking. If my handkerchief is not returned I shall have to come to Meryton and scold them all amazingly. Was not the ball delightful and was not the horn player so dreadfully handsome? although I always say there is nothing like a red coat.
Yours, etc., Miss Lydia Bennet
Part Two - Aftermath From Mary Bennet To The Reverend Fordyce
Longbourn, Wednesday afternoon
Enclosed please find three contributions to Volume LXIV. I confess I found myself at a loss for examples on the subject you requested, vanity. However, perhaps you will be interested instead in the enclosed condemnations of:
1. Officers and Ostentation 2. Dancing and Dissipation 3. Frivolity and Folly
Sincerely and Soberly, Mary Bennet
From Mrs. Forster To Lydia Bennet
Meryton, Wednesday afternoon
My Dear Miss Bennet,
I am glad you wrote to me for now we shall be friends forever. The Colonel is so old and tiresome I quite long for companions my own age. You must call on me tomorrow. The Colonel wants me to read to him and you shall save me from this dreadful fate. There are no books I detest more than Fordyce's boring old Sermons. We shall visit the milliners and quiz the young gentlemen about your handkerchief.
Yours, etc., Harriet Forster
From Colonel Forster To Lydia Bennet
(Surreptitiously enclosed in Harriet Forster's letter)
The regiment was truly grieved to hear of your loss of a handkerchief and await with pleasure your arrival for our promised scolding.
Respectfully, Col. Forster
From Ensign Horatio Pugg, Aged 15, To Lydia Bennet
(Hastily tossed over the garden wall at Longbourn)
Dear Miss Lydia,
I do not have your handkerchief, but I wish I did.
Your humble servant, Horatio Pugg
From George Wickham To Lydia Bennet
(Brazenly hand-delivered to Longbourn's front door)
My dear Miss Lydia,
I have your handkerchief, and if you will meet me behind the milliners at 10 tomorrow morning, I will with the greatest pleasure restore it to its place in your lovely bosom.
An ardent admirer
From Mrs. Bennet To Mrs. Gardiner
Longbourn, Thursday, 9 am
Lizzy refused Mr. Collins. I shall never speak to her again. Poverty stares us all in the face and my nerves are all to pieces. Indeed, I can barely write. Five daughters unmarried! I shall go distracted.
From Mr. Collins To Lady Catherine De Bourgh
Longbourn, Thursday November 28th, morning
My gracious and intimidating benefactor,
The weather here continues fine. I hope you are likewise in good health. I have nothing to report of yesterday's activities but rest assured, your advice is ever sacred to me and I shall not return to the hallowed environs of Rosings without a refined and useful wife.
In deep, dejected humility yet with proper Christian determination, I remain your mortified servant,
From Mrs. Gardiner To Jane Bennet
My dear Jane,
I very much enjoyed hearing about the ball. I am so busy with the children I do not often attend such amusements myself and for the same reason I hope you will forgive this short letter. Betsy gave her notice yesterday and I am in an uproar looking for a new nursemaid. Do not tell your mother, however, I am sure I can find someone myself.
Please do tell me more about this Mr. Bingley when you next write. How charming he must be to give balls for the neighbourhood! Tell Kitty and your mother that I will write soon, and please ask Lizzy to write me. I am very curious to hear how she enjoyed the ball. I must close, Smithers just showed in another candidate. How I loath these interviews!
In haste, M. Gardiner
From Mr. Collins To Lady Catherine De Bourgh
Longbourn, Friday November 28th, morning
I return to Hunsford tomorrow, and am determined to arrive an engaged man. Believe me, it is the exquisite imagination of your potential condescending displeasure that strengthens my determination. I have high hopes for this evening. I must not, I shall not fail you.
Yours with a great number of worthy and servile adjectives,
From Mrs. Gardiner To Mrs. Bennet
Indeed it is a trial to have five daughters unmarried, but do you not have hopes for Jane? I am happy the pattern suited and beg leave to enclose another.
Perhaps it would be best to leave Lizzy be for a few days to reflect. Do ask her to write me.
Affectionately, M. Gardiner
From Reverend Fordyce To Mary Bennet
Dear Miss Bennet,
I received your latest submission with anticipation and perused it with satisfaction. You have surpassed your usual excellent standards. I am purchasing all three sermons (a banker's draft is enclosed) and would be happy to consider more in the same vein. Perhaps a small dissertation on Sense and Sensibility, or Pride and Prejudice? My thanks for your continued discreet silence on our professional association, and I remain,
Your confrere of the pen, Edgar Fordyce
Author's Note: After I wrote this I found out that Fordyce's Sermons came out in 1766. So please, just imagine that the extremely aged (and highly successful) Reverend F. has been publishing continuing installments of the Sermons for the last 45 years!
A Hopeless Love ~ By Eva Posted on Saturday, 24 July 1999
It had been a long time since Ruth Collier had been to a ball such as this one. Since her parents had died five years ago, there had been few opportunities for her. Her position as a governess at Ashworth, ten miles from Meryton, made it difficult to attend social functions. But this occasion was different. She had met Mr. Bingley in Meryton on the Tuesday before the ball, and they got naturally talking. On the spot he had invited her, and her employees, Mr. and Mrs. Lesley (whom he had met at the assembly), to his ball. In the normal manner of things, of course, Ruth would have had to stay at home and care for the three Lesley children. However on this happy occasion Mrs. Lesley's aunt was visiting, and offered to take over poor Miss Collier's duties for the evening. She had been brought up for better things, the poor dear, and it was only kindness to let her go this once.
Ruth was only eighteen when her parents and elder brother were killed in a tragic carriage accident. Unfortunately, her father's rather comfortable estate was entailed upon heirs male. With her only brother gone, the fortune left to her by her mother so small as to be insignificant, and the distant cousin who inherited not wanting the burden, she elected to become a governess. For three years she was the governess of a family in London, however, the one daughter of the family grew up. She was then fortunate enough to hear of a situation very close to the town where she had grown up. Mr. and Mrs. Lesley were the parents of three young children, who were all bright and eager to learn, and consequently a pleasure to teach. The Lesley family was comparatively new to the neighbourhood, moving there a year after Ruth's departure for London. But they were kind, pleasant and well informed, so she soon felt like she had known them all her life.
Mrs. Lesley was unwell the day of the ball- Mr. Jones was sent for, and she was declared unfit to go. Ruth was unwilling to attend without her, but Mrs. Lesley insisted on her going, accompanied by her husband.
"I am not very ill," she said, "and you have so few opportunities for amusement. I shall not be comfortable unless I can think of you dancing away at Netherfield."
After much persuading by Mr. and Mrs. Lesley, Ruth made herself ready for the ball. Her best dress was not really good enough for the occasion, but it was all she had, and she supplemented the outfit by putting her mother's pearls in her hair. As she looked in the mirror, Ruth realised that she looked almost as she had five years ago. But yet how much had changed since the last time she had adorned herself thus! Ruth had to admit to herself that the reason she had taken such particular pains with her appearance was because at the back of her mind was the hope of meeting some dashing young man and falling in love tonight. As much as she liked the Lesley children, a husband and children of her own would be preferable. Thinking of the children made her remember the time, and she hurried into the nursery to show herself off as she had promised them. The boys did not really care, but six year old Katie was entranced by the transformation of her governess.
"You look like a fairy princess, Miss Collier," she said, spellbound.
"Thank you, Katie," she said, laughing. A maid appeared at the door and told her that Mr. Lesley was waiting in the carriage. She kissed the children goodnight and ran downstairs. Her employer waited outside the carriage, and helped her inside with a compliment that Ruth hardly heard. She was thinking apprehensively of the evening ahead. Her original euphoria had worn off and she was worried about how people would accept her. She was forced to say something of this to Mr. Lesley when he asked her about her distractedness, but he could say nothing to reassure her. Words would not suffice; it would be the actions of the people at Netherfield that would show if she would fit in.
Her fears of being shunned all night were allayed. Almost as soon as the Bingleys had received them, Ruth was accosted by Mr. Goulding, an elderly gentleman who had been a friend of her father.
"My dear Miss Collier," he said. "I'm so glad to see you here. Are you in good health?"
"Indeed I am, sir," she replied, smiling. "How is your family? What has William been doing with himself the last year?"
William Goulding had been a friend of Ruth's brother, John, and had always had a word for her when he had used to visit. Mr. Goulding replied that his son was well, and they spent a while in pleasant conversation. He was then called away by his wife, and Ruth was left alone. Of course Ruth knew most of the people in the neighbourhood by sight, but there were few people she felt comfortable talking with. She saw some of the Bennet girls talking to some officers, Miss Lucas with Elizabeth Bennet and the clergyman she had seen her with in Meryton last week, her host with Miss Bennet, Miss King talking to her parents. Awkwardly she stood looking around her, until she was joined once more by Mr. Lesley.
"Enjoying yourself, my dear?" he asked, smiling down at her.
"Oh, yes!" she said truthfully.
He smiled again. "Well, I felt I simply must engage your hand for the first two dances. My wife would not forgive me if she felt I had neglected you. Will you do me the honour?"
Ruth gave a little curtsey and a twinkle. "Thank you, sir, it would be my pleasure."
He looked as if he were about to say something else, but stopped.
"Until later, then," he said, and turned away.
The chords indicating the first dance began before he had a chance to get very far. He took her hand and led her onto the floor. They were third from the top of the dance, beneath Elizabeth Bennet and her partner and a lady with a big feather in her hair. The horn player seemed to be getting a little over-zealous. Ruth smiled as she turned around to see the leader glaring at him. Herself a competent pianist and harpist, she understood the pressures of performance. So quickly she returned her attention to the dance.
Which was evidently not something that Miss Bennet's partner had done. He went the wrong way, bumping into Mrs. Big-feather, complicating the dance somewhat. I suppose clergymen should not be expected to dance as well as a gentleman of leisure thought Ruth. Not that all the gentlemen of leisure were dancing. Mr. Darcy was pacing the room and seemed much amused by the mishap. He was a very handsome man, the traditional tall, dark and handsome with a touch of haughtiness that added to his attraction. She could have watched him all evening, had she not needed to keep her attention on the dance.
She danced the next with an officer named Lieutenant Fredrickson, who was a pleasant, if not the most scintillating, companion. She noticed Mr. Darcy approach Miss Bennet. It was the first time he had spoken to anyone apart from Bingley or one or two other gentlemen all evening. He must be asking her to dance Ruth thought with a little pang of jealousy. And to think that she could have been myself a few years ago. If her father was to die tomorrow, she would be worse off than myself. But fate throws her Mr. Darcy, and myself nothing but sorrow. Such morbid thoughts occupied her for the rest of that set.
The two after she danced with William Goulding, while Mr. Darcy was indeed dancing with Elizabeth. They did not, however, seem to be having a very pleasant conversation. Maybe there is hope yet! she thought, without any real hope. William Goulding was an attentive and talkative partner, but it was not the same as dancing with that other…
For the rest of the evening, Ruth alternated between dancing with officers or sitting out, usually by herself. The time went slowly, and it was a relief when supper was called and she could stop sitting staring at a gentleman she could never have.
The food was excellent, as she would have expected from Mr. Bingley, who had excelled himself this evening. In an attempt to impress Miss Bennet, no doubt. He had obviously succeeded with Mrs Bennet, who was loudly telling any one who would listen how great a marriage that would be. Elizabeth was talking angrily with her sister over the punchbowl, and when Mr. Bingley asked for music Mary Bennet stood up and positioned herself over the pianoforte. As she broke into song, the musician in Ruth could stand it no longer. She left the supper room in a hurry, bumping into Mr. Lesley.
"Ruth- Miss Collier!" he said.
She blushed. "I am so sorry, sir, I was just…"
"Running away from Miss Mary Bennet and her wonderful interpretation of Haydn?" he finished for her. Her following blush confirmed it.
Damn it, she thought, why have I been blushing so much around him tonight?
"I cannot blame you," he continued, "for I must confess that that is what I am doing myself. Great minds, as they say, think alike, and when the dog howls the cat must run out of the manger."
Despite her turbulent thoughts, what he said pierced her consciousness.
"Wha-at?" she asked.
He smiled. "Just testing. I was not sure if you were paying attention. Were you not, there would have been little point in carrying on a conversation. As you are, we may proceed without a care."
"But what is there to talk about, sir?"
"Well, I might remark on the size of the room. You may comment upon the number of couples. Or we could maliciously gossip about all the people we have encountered this evening. You may make the choice," he said, generously.
"Why thank you, you are most courteous, but I would not dream of depriving you…"
He gave an exaggerated sigh. "Since you will not, it seems that I must. What think you of the chances of Mr. Darcy and Miss Elizabeth Bennet announcing their engagement within a year? Most people, I know, would concentrate on her sister and Mr. Bingley, but two people so obviously in love without knowing it seems to me a more interesting topic."
Ruth could not look at his face. "Certainly," she muttered, looking at his toes, "there seemed to be a preference, on his part at least. Now if you will excuse me, sir, it would seem that the howling has ceased. I beg you to allow me to return to the room."
He stepped aside and allowed her to pass, but took her elbow just before she turned the handle.
"I'm sorry to have offended you," he said. "Forgive me for my tactlessness in talking so of a man you have feelings for."
She looked him square in the eye.
"You have misunderstood me, sir," Ruth said. "I have no feelings for him, and you could never offend me." Embarrassed, she rushed inside the room and sat down right next to Mrs. Bennet, where she would not have to talk for the rest of the night. With his words, she had realised who it was that she had feelings for, without knowing it.
The carriage ride home was silent, and the next day Ruth handed in her notice. She could no longer stay in a household that included the man she had fallen for without encouragement, and could never have.
An Obsession ~ By Morgan
Posted on Friday, 27 August 1999
author note: before I begin, let me say that I have high respect for the field of psychiatry, and my poking fun at Dr. Freud was simply a way I found of telling Denny's story. I don't think it was a Freudian slip...
setting: Army Psychiatrist Dr. S. Fraud's Office
Dr. Fraud: So, Captain Denny, you say that your recent breakdown in Meryton is the result of weeks of suppressing true feelings for someone. Would you like to tell me about it?
Denny: No, but they won't let me back on active duty until I do.
Dr. Fraud: Then I suggest you go ahead, go to the beginning, and start your story.
Denny: Well, it all began when we were first stationed in Meryton. We were invited to numerous engagements at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Phillips, who happened to have 5 nieces, many of whom are quite lovely to look at. I was especially struck by the eldest daughter, Jane. An angel, really. Beautiful to look at, and perfect in countenance and personality. The problem is, my red coat meant nothing to her.
Dr. Fraud: Your red coat?
Denny: Yes. You see, many of the young ladies are quite taken by the sight of a man in uniform, in this country that being a red coat. Her sisters are quite wild about it, actually. Just two of them, the youngest. Miss Kitty, and Miss Lydia.
Dr. Fraud: And you say they're wild about a man in uniform? (*making notes to self and planning a trip to a clothier, then to Meryton*)
Denny: Absolutely. But it worked no magic on the fair Miss Jane. I tried and tried to get her attention, but to no avail. Finally, the night came when I realized I had no hopes at all in making her notice me.
Dr. Fraud: Ah, a specific catalyst for your emotions. Good, good. Go on, my man.
Denny: Well, it was in November, on the 26th. There was a ball, you see, a ball at a local property named "Netherfield". It was owned by a landed gentleman by the name of Bingley, Charles Bingley. Word around town was that Miss Lydia had named the date of the ball, so naturally I assumed that Mr. Bingley's attention had turned in that direction…
Dr. Fraud: Naturally. So, you arrived at your ball…
Denny: Yes, I arrived in plenty of time to be on hand to greet everyone, hoping to specifically greet ONE young lady and walk her into the ballroom. But, it seems I was wrong about Mr. Bingley's interests. As the Bennet girls entered the room one by one, he seemed to be searching for one in particular. There was no mistaking when he had found her, you could see it in his eyes. And to my horror, it was the one whom I had secretly been calling "my beloved". How could I compete against such a man? However, I had hopes that all was not lost for a fine evening. Her second sister, Miss Elizabeth, is second only to Miss Jane in beauty. She does not have the same docile, agreeable manner as her elder sister, I admit, but there has always been a sparkle in her eyes, and a smile one cannot refuse but must respond to in kind. When she showed a definite interest in my approach, I felt that perhaps the evening could redeem itself after all. However, it was evident by her eyes darting around the room that it was not I she was looking for, but my good friend, George Wickham. Never one to begrudge my fellowman what he has earned fair and square, I gracefully discussed his absence with her, never bespeaking the pain that was now squeezing my heart as if it were caught in a vise grip. But, I am nothing if not totally inconstant in my deep affections. So, I decided to mend my heart with another pretty lass. And lo and behold, who should walk up to me but the fair Misses Lydia and Kitty. Ah, what fun was to be had now. Such drinking, such dancing. I swear, that Miss Lydia is so lively and energetic, I thought she would wear me out! We had such food and drink, and things even began to get out of hand. At one point, she grabbed my sword, and ran through the room, brandishing it above her head as she danced about. We finally got her settled in a chair, and calmed down a bit. She's a sweet girl, but I could see even then that she's a bit too lively for me.
Dr. Fraud: And during all this time, Misses Jane and Elizabeth were….?
Denny: Ah, they were so lovely – dancing, enjoying themselves with complete propriety! Not that there weren't a few moments that could have caused them distress. They had brought a cousin, a man of the cloth by the name of Collins…..
Dr. Fraud: Not William Collins?
Denny: Yes, do you know him?
Dr. Fraud: Ahem, let's just say I've heard his name in other people's sessions. Anyway, what did he do this time?
Denny: Well, he mortified Miss Elizabeth when he stood up with her for the first dance. What an oaf! And then, when things for the poor girl couldn't look any bleaker, she had to dance with that proud Darcy fellow! I couldn't even dance that one, I felt so bad for her. They looked like they were having a miserable time, I'll tell you that. On top of all that, when I saw the Collins fellow standing before Darcy, groveling and sniveling like a cowering dog, saying heaven only knows what, I saw that she wanted nothing else than for the floor to swallow her whole and get her out of that place. Oh, the embarrassment written on her face!
Dr. Fraud: Yes, yes, this is all SO fascinating *yawn*, but now I really must ask you to get to the point, man. What could have possibly happened that night that is connected with the dramatic scene in Meryton when you threatened to kill yourself there at the tavern?
Denny: Well, just when I thought that all hopes of my finding my true love were dashed forever, a hush fell over the room. It seems that this Bingley chap had just requested music from some of the young ladies. The middle Bennet sister, Mary, took her seat at the pianoforte, and delivered a performance such as I've never been privileged to hear. It was as if an angel from heaven were seated there, she sang so sweetly. She was prepared to treat us to a second piece, but her father could evidently see that it was embarrassing the other ladies to have one so talented take up all the time, so he bade her sit down and give the others a fair turn.
Dr. Fraud: And is this sister as lovely as the others?
Denny: Well, I had never really noticed her before this, but I must say that I began to see her in a new light. After this particular evening, I started looking for her whenever her sisters were in town (for they always found Carter and me when they came to town). I even went several times to Longbourn in hopes of conversing with her, but blast! Those younger sisters of hers insisted I entertain them, pushing them on the swings and such. I had all but despaired of her ever noticing me, when one day providence stepped in and our paths crossed in Meryton. I was just leaving a local pub, when I beheld her leaving the bookstore. I rushed over, hoping to be able to start a conversation with her, but she had no time to talk with me. She said she had just purchased a new copy of Fordyce's Sermons, and was anxious to go home and begin studying it and making notes in it. Then she caught a whiff of the ale on my breath, and bade me go away and leave her be. She declared that she had no time for conversations with a person who would show such a lack of self control as to be imbibing spirits in the middle of the afternoon. I tried in vain to get her to at least let me call on her at another time, but she made it clear to me that she wanted no part of me. You can see how despondent I was, knowing that the pleasure of sitting by the fire of an evening, listening to that voice, was never to be mine. Hopelessness, despair….
Dr. Fraud: Yes, well, hm.
Denny: Is there any hope for me, doc? Will I ever get over her?
Dr. Fraud: Well, there are a number of options available to us at this point. The first thing I would recommend is a thorough check-up. We need to get a test on your hearing done. Why don't you come back next week at this same time, and we'll begin working on straightening you out.