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With Just a Little Guidance Chapters 13 and 14

May 20, 2015 04:55PM
AN: thanks again for comments. I appreciate them. Sorry we see so little of Lizzy in this section of the story. She'll be back soon.
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Chapter 13
As luck would have it, Mr. Collins had again invaded the library, so Lady Stanford could not inform her brother of their plans. However, since she had Maria in tow, she assumed Thomas would understand once the men arrived at the dining table. Maria and Lady Stanford found Kitty and Jane in the parlor working on embroidery. Lady Stanford announced, “Girls, we have decided that Maria would be a far better match for Mr. Collins than would Kitty. We will all need to work together to redirect his attentions. I think it too early to say that his affections have been attached, so his heart should be safe. Jane, can you let the kitchen know that Maria joins us for lunch today, and the entire Lucas family for dinner tomorrow? Kitty, I will place Maria between you and Mr. Collins at table. Maria will converse nicely with him and keep him pleased and occupied while he eats. We will discuss the joy Maria finds in her charity visits to the tenants while Kitty will mention how tedious she finds such activity.”

Kitty asked, “Are we trying to show that I am not suitable while Maria is?”

Maria answered, “That is exactly what we do. I understand he is not the brightest of men, but he is respectable and a better prospect than most around here. Your aunt thinks he might be greatly improved with the assistance of the right wife. I think I could rise to meet such a challenge to help him. And even if he remains as he is, it should be a relatively comfortable home and very respectable. I am not terribly romantic. I would just like a good home of my own.”

The ladies laughed while Kitty and Maria sat down to embroider and discuss strategies. Jane returned with the assurance that the kitchen would manage. Within a half an hour, it was time for the luncheon and the start of the campaign.

During the introduction, Maria saw what Lady Stanford had meant about his social skills. However, she also saw that with some slight prodding, they might be easily improved. Perhaps all he needed was reinforcement of what was good and gentle prodding to leave off that which was ridiculous. Luncheon followed the strategy mapped out in the parlor. Maria kept Mr. Collins engaged, for which Mr. Bennet was very grateful. Mr. Bennet looked at his sister and quirked an eyebrow, and nodded his head in the direction of Maria. Lady Stanford nodded and smiled to which he returned a smile. They were in perfect agreement.

At the end of the meal, Lady Stanford invited Mr. Collins to the parlor to read to them while they worked. Lydia and Miss Bosworth joined them, with Miss Bosworth keeping a close eye on her charge so that this time she would behave. Mr. Collins was asked to read from Shakespeare’s Richard III which Lady Stanford felt would not be as abhorrent as a novel and would be much more interesting than Fordyce.

When he rested his voice with tea after each scene, the ladies would discuss what he had just read. Kitty kept most of her thoughts to herself, while Maria asked his opinion on the scene. She would then agree and expand upon his contribution where she could. Jane and Lady Stanford participated in the discussion but to a lesser extent. By the time peace was restored to England at the end of the play, Mr. Collins was looking very thoughtful. Lady Stanford saw Maria out, and a look from her encouraged the rest to retreat to their rooms to prepare for dinner, although it took some prodding from Miss Bosworth to get Lydia to move.

Lady Stanford said, “Miss Lucas is such a good young woman. She is certainly a good friend to Kitty. What did you think of her, Mr. Collins?”

“I enjoyed her contributions to the discussion of the play. And at luncheon, we talked about the charity work she does.”

“She would certainly be far more of an asset to a clergyman than would Kitty who does not find much enjoyment in that sort of parish work,” replied Lady Stanford.

Mr. Collins did not reply but continued to look thoughtful. In fact, he was so thoughtful he forgot to talk about Lady Catherine through supper, for which everyone else was thankful.

The following day, rain prevented all walks into Meryton. However, the transfer of interest from Kitty to Maria was still underway and fascinated the Longbourn household. Even Mrs. Hill, the housekeeper, was aware of what was afoot. She too did what she could to assist.

Jane spent a considerable amount of her time that day with Betsy and Meg and in writing to Elizabeth informing her of all that was happening at Longbourn. She found the machinations of her aunt fun to watch although she could not imagine employing such a stratagem herself. It took Lydia some time to realize what was happening. She could not imagine wanting to encourage such a man as Mr. Collins because she really did not understand the necessity of a respectable home. Miss Bosworth tried to explain the need, but Lydia was just not ready for such knowledge.

Finally, the Lucas family arrived for dinner. The rain could not stop that plan. During the dinner at Longbourn, all did what they could to encourage communications between Maria and Mr. Collins.

“Mr. Collins, I understand you have extensive gardens at Hunsford. Do you work in them yourself or do you have your man take care of them?” asked Maria.

Mr. Collins smiled, “I find it a very relaxing way to spend a morning. I pride myself on doing much of the work myself. It helps me settle my mind and allows me to better concentrate when I work on my sermons afterward.”

“Do you write your own sermons or do you use those of others?”

“Lady Catherine likes me to use a combination. Sometimes I use my own, sometimes published sermons of others. I will use someone else’s words about once each month. I will admit that I may find some inspiration in the words of others more often.”

“You must spend a great deal of time with your parishioners, don’t you?”

“Generally three or four afternoons each week. After working in the garden, I spend part of my morning with Lady Catherine almost daily. She is often aware of needs that I can address. She is very conscious of all that goes on around Rosings.”

Mr. Bennet smiled to see the schedule maintained by Mr. Collilns, but Maria found that it was illuminating. Even if he were to remain as he currently was, they would actually spend relatively little time together. Since he seemed to have an extensive library of sermons to draw upon, perhaps she could find some that would help her help him to change some of his actions to improve his social skills. She was more satisfied than not with the decision to attract him. It did not matter to her that he was somewhat embarrassing. That could be ignored if one tried hard enough.

When the gentlemen returned to the ladies after the separation, Mr. Collins seated himself next to Maria to continue their conversation. Finally, he asked Maria for the second set at the ball, mentioning that he had previously asked Kitty for the first. Maria accepted with relief.

Dinner at Lucas Lodge the following night was similar to the dinner at Longbourn. It was apparent to all that Mr. Collins was now quite interested in Maria. They spent most of the evening in conversation. Maria found that there were ways to deflect Mr. Collins from his almost constant mention of Lady Catherine and that when he forgot her, he could be almost a good conversationalist. She decided she really could help him become his better self. She would enjoy the challenge.

Chapter 14

The day of the ball finally arrived. All were happy when the rain, which had been nearly constant of late, had finally moved away leaving a clear, sunny day. Kitty spent anxious time preparing, which required that Lady Stanford visit her to offer both reassurance and calm.

“Kitty, you look lovely. All will go well. Was the Assembly not fun?”

“Yes, but this is different. This is not a public assembly, it is a private ball.”

“But almost all of the attendees are people well known to you. Please relax. I am sure you will dance and enjoy yourself. All you need remember is how to make small talk and all will be well.”

As Jane and Kitty descended the stairs, Mr. Bennet was in the entry way to greet them. “You both look wonderful. Kitty, this is a wonderful opportunity for a ball even before your London Season. I hope you have a wonderful time tonight. Jane, you too must have fun.”

When they entered the drawing-room at Netherfield, Lady Stanford looked in vain for Mr. Wickham among the cluster of red coats there assembled. She overheard when Mr. Denny informed Kitty that Wickham had been obliged to go to town on business the day before, and was yet not returned, adding, with a significant smile, “I do not imagine his business would have called him away just now, if had not wished to avoid a certain gentleman here.”

Lady Stanford shared this intelligence with Mr. Bennet. The two then approached Mr. Darcy. After sharing greetings, Lady Stanford said, “I do not wish to raise an unhappy subject at such an event, but I believe we have tidings for you to be aware of. I know from Kitty’s observation that you are acquainted with Mr. Wickham. He is spreading a slanderous story of those dealings. Mr. Denny just informed us that he is not here because of your presence. Knowing you as I do, I feel something should be done. At the very least, we need to understand the true story so as to stop this defaming of you. I realize you are likely privy to things that should not be shared, but what can you tell us?”

Mr. Darcy swallowed uncomfortably, “Of what he has particularly accused me, I am ignorant; but of the truth of what I shall relate, I can summon more than one witness of undoubted veracity. Mr. Wickham is the son of a very respectable man, who had for many years the management of all the Pemberley estates; and whose good conduct in the discharge of his trust naturally inclined my father to be of service to him; and on George Wickham, who was his god-son, his kindness was therefore liberally bestowed. My father supported him at school, and afterwards at Cambridge; most important assistance, as his own father, always poor from the extravagance of his wife, would have been unable to give him a gentleman's education. My father was not only fond of this young man's society, whose manners were always engaging; he had also the highest opinion of him, and hoping the church would be his profession, intended to provide for him in it.”

“As for myself, it is many, many years since I first began to think of him in a very different manner. The vicious propensities, the want of principle, which he was careful to guard from the knowledge of his best friend, could not escape the observation of a young man of nearly the same age with himself, and who had opportunities of seeing him in unguarded moments, which Mr. Darcy could not have. Here again I shall give you pain, to what degree you only can tell. But whatever may be the sentiments which Mr. Wickham has created, a suspicion of their nature shall not prevent me from unfolding his real character. It adds even another motive.”

“My excellent father died about five years ago; and his attachment to Mr. Wickham was to the last so steady, that in his will he particularly recommended it to me to promote his advancement in the best manner that his profession might allow, and, if he took orders, desired that a valuable family living might be his as soon as it became vacant. There was also a legacy of one thousand pounds. His own father did not long survive mine, and within half a year from these events Mr. Wickham wrote to inform me that, having finally resolved against taking orders, he hoped I should not think it unreasonable for him to expect some more immediate pecuniary advantage, in lieu of the preferment by which he could not be benefited. He had some intention, he added, of studying the law, and I must be aware that the interest of one thousand pounds would be a very insufficient support therein. I rather wished than believed him to be sincere; but, at any rate, was perfectly ready to accede to his proposal. I knew that Mr. Wickham ought not to be a clergyman. The business was therefore soon settled. He resigned all claim to assistance in the church, were it possible that he could ever be in a situation to receive it, and accepted in return three thousand pounds. All connection between us seemed now dissolved.”

“I thought too ill of him to invite him to Pemberley, or admit his society in town. In town, I believe, he chiefly lived, but his studying the law was a mere pretense, and being now free from all restraint, his life was a life of idleness and dissipation. For about three years I heard little of him; but on the decease of the incumbent of the living which had been designed for him, he applied to me again by letter for the presentation. His circumstances, he assured me, and I had no difficulty in believing it, were exceedingly bad. He had found the law a most unprofitable study, and was now absolutely resolved on being ordained, if I would present him to the living in question, of which he trusted there could be little doubt, as he was well assured that I had no other person to provide for, and I could not have forgotten my revered father's intentions. You will hardly blame me for refusing to comply with this entreaty, or for resisting every repetition of it.”

“His resentment was in proportion to the distress of his circumstances, and he was doubtless as violent in his abuse of me to others, as in his reproaches to myself. After this period, every appearance of acquaintance was dropt. How he lived I know not. As other people are involved in the next connection with him, I cannot share all of the information, but he did try to improve his financial situation with an attempted elopement with a young heiress of but fifteen, who was not even out yet, working with a confederate in the employ of the lady’s family. It was mere luck that helped her to escape.”

Mr. Bennet looked grave indeed. “It appears I should not allow him entrance to my house nor any meetings with my daughters. If he went through so much money so fast, should we pass a warning on to our neighbors about extending credit?”

Mr. Darcy replied, “That is a good thought. He often leaves debt in his wake. Perhaps a general warning about extending credit to the militia, then maybe something more pointed to Colonel Forster? Perhaps my cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, who is privy to most of this, could inform the Colonel? What do you think, sir?”

Mr. Bennet agreed that both were excellent suggestions. He himself would have a quiet word with his neighbors, reminding them about the need to watch their daughters and suggesting that he had knowledge of at least one to beware of. By this point, the ball had started. With the girls already on the dance floor, Lady Stanford and Mr. Bennet circulated through their neighbors dropping hints or making more pointed remarks to protect the shopkeepers and young women of the neighborhood.

Kitty’s set with Mr. Collins was worse than she had feared. Mr. Collins, awkward and solemn, apologizing instead of attending, and often moving wrong without being aware of it, gave her all the shame and misery which a disagreeable partner for a couple of dances can give. The moment of her release from him was ecstasy. Her other partners were far more agreeable. Maria, while not particularly enjoying her set, saw that, with practice, he might become an acceptable partner. She would add that to the list of things they would need to work on. As the project grew in her mind, she found herself looking forward to helping him progress.
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With Just a Little Guidance Chapters 13 and 14

ShannaGMay 20, 2015 04:55PM

Re: With Just a Little Guidance Chapters 13 and 14

terrycgMay 21, 2015 09:21PM

Re: With Just a Little Guidance Chapters 13 and 14

Lucy J.May 21, 2015 08:01AM

Re: With Just a Little Guidance Chapters 13 and 14

nastasiatMay 21, 2015 01:13AM

Re: With Just a Little Guidance Chapters 13 and 14

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