Posted on 2012-06-06
"Punning is a talent which no man affects to despise but he that is without it."
? Jonathan Swift
Mrs. Bennet's shrill cries sounded throughout Longbourn, and her husband had heard quite enough. As she rounded the corner, passing his library, Mr. Bennet spoke out.
"Whatever are you droning on about this time, Mrs. Bennet?" he asked, not bothering to lift his eyes from his tome.
The lady stepped forward with alacrity.
"It's Mr. Bingley; he has gone and left - possibly forever - and Lizzy has refused Mr. Collins! What is to become of us all?"
Mr. Bennet set his book down. "Well, Mrs. Bennet, I have been giving a great deal of thought to the problem of our unmarried daughters, and I have stumbled upon a solution that I believe will please you."
"Indeed?" The light in the matron's eyes clearly revealed pleasure.
"Yes; we shall sell your two youngest daughters to be married to men in China."
"Mr. Bennet! I do believe you are teasing me!"
"I assure you, Mrs. Bennet; I have never been more serious."
"But - to sell our children?" she questioned, "And, why to China? Surely, Kitty coughs too much, but why my Lydia?"
"I would think the answer to your first question should be quite obvious, dear; men there can have multiple wives. No sensible man, if limited to a single spouse, would saddle himself with one of our daughters; excepting, perhaps, Jane or Lizzy, but they shall remain."
Surprisingly, or not so much so, Mrs. Bennet was convinced of her husband's sincerity, and heavily weighed his declarations with what little intelligence was at her disposal.
"Of course Jane is the most beautiful, and must remain here; but why do you favor Lizzy so?"
"She is the most clever, and will therefore be needed to help manage the estate as I age."
"What about Mary? She is of no consequence to anyone."
"Generally speaking, you are correct; but I did hear you tell of her being described to Mr. Bingley as the most accomplished girl in the neighborhood. Those were your words, were they not?"
"Yes, but -"
"But nothing! She will stay as well. You must see why it has to be Kitty and Lydia; they are two of the silliest girls in England - beyond that, Lydia, is by far the most stout, and Kitty is insignificant - let her be of some benefit to her family. There are many arguments in favor of my plan."
"First, we will have two fewer mouths to feed. Second, the money we receive will be used to supplement the pithy dowries the other girls are left with. Third, we will eliminate a majority of the senseless blather I am constantly subjected to - your own, notwithstanding. Fourth, Lydia will not run have the opportunity to away with Mr. Wickham, or any other officer for that matter. Fifth, Mr. Bingley and his friends will be more inclined to align themselves with our non-insipid daughters."
"Surely, there must be another way, Mr. Bennet!" she cried.
"No, there is no other way. Do not speak to me of expedients; believe me, I have considered all options: we cannot act with a bit of parsimony and save money; we have done away with that idea long ago, we are unable to impress upon the younger ones the importance of decorum and proper comportment, and we cannot expect that any other men will come along. Therefore I repeat, let no man talk to me of these and the like expedients, 'till he hath at least some glimpse of hope, that there will ever be some hearty and sincere attempt to put them into practice.* No, Mrs. Bennet; this shall be for the best."
And with that, he gently nudged her out of the library, returning his attention to his book.
"Kitty, Lydia!" screeched Mrs Bennet.
*"Fine words! I wonder where you stole them."
Well, that's easy; I stole those, as well as these these, from Jonathan Swift.