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With Just a Little Guidance Chapters 25 and 26

July 01, 2015 06:46PM
AN: I am glad you are enjoying and appreciate the comments. Sorry it takes so long for Lizzy and Darcy to make progress, but they will eventually.
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Chapter 25

As the early social season slowly began, Kitty regularly attended a number of musical evenings which required that she exhibit her accomplishments. She was adequate on the piano but hated these exhibitions. There were occasional card parties which were far less stressful. Playing cards was simple enough. The only trials she experienced were when her partners were incapable of any intelligent conversation at all. She enjoyed their forays to musical entertainments and the occasional play. While most were there to see and be seen, she actually enjoyed the presentations more than the society.

Her friendships with Bethiah and Rachel continued to deepen as did that with Georgiana Darcy. Since Miss Darcy was not out, she was not in competition as a debutant yet. Miss Darcy found that Kitty and her friends were far more pleasant callers than Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst had ever been. She could even relax and enjoy the visits. She was sure this situation would continue to improve when her own friends from school eventually came to town within the next year or so. After the engagement between Bingley and Jane was announced, the butler at Darcy House was informed that Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley were no longer welcome. They had been turned away for the first time the day after the engagement announcement.

Miss Bingley was shocked when the butler had told her she was no longer welcome to see Miss Darcy. She had been remonstrating with the man when Darcy had come out of his study with a frown on his face. He had interrupted the tirade with, “And what is this? Miss Bingley, can you truly not understand when a butler indicates that you are not to be admitted? You were given admittance due to your relationship with your brother. When you hurt his prospects and severed the relationship with his betrothed, and he then severed your ties, your admittance was also severed. Please do not make us bodily remove you. Are you so lost to respectable behavior as this?”

Behind the library door, Georgiana was grinning. She had always been uncomfortable around Miss Bingley and was enjoying seeing her discomfited. When Miss Bingley tried to cajole Darcy into an admission of friendship, he merely nodded to the footmen behind him and gestured in her direction. They moved to assist Miss Bingley out the door. She turned angrily and hurried away lest she be seen to be thrown out the door. Her face was an unfortunate shade of red. She had never anticipated being denied access to Darcy when she had been so impolite to Jane Nelson. Georgiana was elated that she would no longer have to endure her insincere flattery.

Immediately after the excitement about Jane’s engagement, Kitty, Bethiah, and Rachel attended their first dance at Almack’s. All three were grateful for the tickets as this would provide introductions to a variety of eligible young men. For this momentous occasion, both mothers attended as did Lurinda. She was still welcome from her original season so many years ago. She spent most of her time talking with the other chaperones. Mr. Bennet escorted Kitty and Lady Stanford. While Lady Stanford was busy catching up with various friends, he found himself making observations of the evening to Mrs. Gaisford and both Mrs. Williamsons. After a short while, the two mothers decided it would be best for them to also circulate and renew old acquaintances. As they walked off together, Mr. Bennet said to Lurinda, “You have no desire to renew old friendships?”

“I have already done so. None of my friends are here tonight. Those that live in town are home with their families. What about you?”

“I do not see anyone that I know. Most of my friends are like me, they prefer a quiet life in the country. We write occasionally, perhaps two or three times each year, and that seems to suffice.”

She continued, “I understand congratulations are in order. It seems that Mrs. Nelson will soon be married.”

“Thank you. Yes, Jane has found herself someone almost as amiable as she. They are each so complying, that nothing will ever be resolved on; so easy, that every servant will cheat them; and so generous, that they will always be tempted to exceed their income. Seriously, however, I am very pleased for her.”

The two continued to talk to one another occasionally throughout the evening, and Lurinda found she enjoyed his acerbic comments on the evening, the dancers, and the efforts of many to impress the others. He found the evening far more enjoyable than he had anticipated thanks to Lurinda’s agreement or disagreement with his comments. They had some very comical debates about various attendees that evening.

The Ladies ensured that the debutants had appropriate partners throughout the evening. Kitty found the lessons in small talk enabled her to find something to say to each of her partners. Asking leading questions worked well with all but one. He apparently had no thoughts on anything. She had no desire to further that acquaintance. The others were all worth knowing, though.

The next day, the three girls must meet to discuss the dance. Lurinda escorted the other two to Stanford House as early as calls were permitted. She sat in the corner with Lady Stanford watching as the girls recounted their evening.

Bethiah said, “Well, I think I met one or two young men that I enjoyed talking with. They were also decent dancers, which I think is important.”

Rachel laughed, “It is only important while we are single. We never get to dance as much after we marry.”

Lady Stanford interrupted their conversation, “That actually depends on your husband. Many of us do continue to dance frequently. Sir Henry and I continued to dance right up until the illness that took him. He always said he enjoyed it.”

Kitty added, “Well, it was a fun night. I loved the dancing. The Ladies introduced us to some very interesting, and a few very dull, men. None caught my eye yet, but that is fine. The real Season hasn’t even started yet.”

Rachel said, “I am interested to see who comes to visit. We must return home to see who was interested.”

Bethiah agreed, “Yes. We would not want to miss someone interesting”

Kitty laughed. “I guess I should stay home too then. Perhaps I will read.”

Lady Stanford added, “So, you don’t think you will have any callers? I suspect you are wrong, but I agree, it will be interesting to see who follows up.” After about thirty minutes, Lurinda escorted the two from the house and back to their own homes to see who would call.

Mr. Bennet joined them in the parlor after their friends left and asked, “Should I expect any gentlemen seeking your hand? I am available this afternoon if needed.”

Kitty laughed, “No. I don’t even expect any of them to call on me.”

Lady Stanford added, “She did quite well Thomas, as you saw. It would serve you right should one of them come and ask for her hand immediately. However, I think you can rest easy on that end. We will likely keep here for the entire Season. Will you accompany us each time?”

Mr. Bennet responded, “I think not, Bess. As I was here, I thought I would at least attend this first time. I am happy with the progress Lydia is making. I may be able to return with her to Longbourn before much longer. She has had her eyes opened about what some of her heedless thoughts could lead to. I will admit that I would prefer to be in my own library and allow you to oversee Kitty’s Season just as you have the other girls’ without my assistance. Of course, if we do return home, we will be back for Jane’s wedding.”

Lady Stanford smiled. She knew how very much her brother hated the social scene in London. “Very well Thomas. When you deem Lydia ready, you have my leave to return home.”

Kitty was greatly surprised that a couple of the young men did stop by to see her. She was very flattered. They had a very slightly stilted conversation as they had happened to stop by at the same time. When they finally left, Lady Stanford pronounced Kitty a success. Kitty smiled at the idea, although she was aware that she was really just getting started. At their next visit, she found both her friends had also had gentleman callers. All three were excited about it. They felt that this meant they would be successful in finding someone during their social efforts.

That Sunday, Miss Bosworth, Mr. Bennet, and the Gardiners had a long discussion before dinner concerning Lydia. The other three spent so much more time with her that they had a better idea of how she was changing from her charity efforts. Finally, they had Lydia join them in Mr. Gardiner’s study.

Mr. Bennet began, “Lydia, I have been very pleased with the progress to maturity you have made. Tell me honestly, how do you feel about the charity work your aunt does?”

Lydia frowned a moment and said, “It is sorely needed. I hate the conditions these people live in. It is simply terrible. I cannot understand why it is even allowed. I am grateful my aunt does what she can to alleviate the pain and suffering of these people. I have realized that, while a uniform might look good, it really has no place in making decisions about my own life. I have also recognized that my sisters have done some of this charity work at home as they have come out, and I would do so even before then. It is as if my eyes are now open and can no longer be closed.”

“Are you ready to return to Longbourn to finish up your studies this year or should you prefer to remain in London and continue your charity work?” asked Mrs. Gardiner.

Lydia was thoughtful for a moment. “I came to London hoping for parties and fun in spite of what you told me before we left. However, it has been far more educational than I ever anticipated. I think I would like to continue my charity work, but not here. I would rather begin a little early back in Longbourn. I know my sisters have done that once they move from the school room, and that Aunt Stanford and Hill do it when none of us are available. I would like to make a positive impact at home, if I may. I am not sure yet if I am ready to come out next season. Before coming to town, I thought I was. I think I will wait a few more months if the rest of you approve before I make that determination. Right now, I feel very young.”

Miss Bosworth said, “Lydia, it is very mature to realize that you are not ready. I cannot tell you how proud of you I am. We can definitely incorporate the charity needs of Longbourn into our remaining classes together.”

Mr. Bennet added, “I am more than pleased to see you mature this way. I would like to return home until Jane’s wedding. I think we will all be more comfortable.”

Lydia replied, “Aunt Madeline, thank you for these experiences. They have really opened my eyes to a different world. Father, before we leave, could I have at least one outing?”

Mr. Bennet laughed, “Would a trip to the theater suffice? I do not think you would want a concert.”

“You would be correct. Although, listening to Kitty talk, it seems I had better concentrate on improving my piano so I can be decent to listen to at these musical evenings. Right now, it would merely hurt my chances as I scared away all the gentlemen.”

Everyone laughed and agreed that she might need to improve before her Season, and the meeting broke up. They returned to the parlor where the rest of the family was visiting before dinner. Mr. Bennet informed them that he would take Lydia and Miss Bosworth to the theater on Tuesday, and then return to Longbourn. Any not already engaged were welcome to join them. Only Elizabeth was free. Jane would be dining with Bingley in the Ladies’ room of his club that evening. They would be discussing future living arrangements. Lady Stanford and Kitty were committed to attend a card-party.

During dinner, Elizabeth, seated next to Lydia, said quietly to her, “Lydia, you have grown so much in these few weeks here in town. I am very proud of you.”

“Have you ever visited the places Aunt Gardiner supports?”

“No.”

“The lives of the people she helps are just terrible. She really helped me to see what could be the consequences of some of my actions. I had never realized it before. I know Miss Bosworth and all of you have told me, but seeing it was something different. Now I truly understand. I want a life more like ours than those are. I also want more fun than they enjoy.”

“Now that last sounds more like the Lydia we all love.”

“I can see now that I have to be more cautious if I do want to have a great life. I have to look at the next step, not just the one I am taking. I’ll do my flirting after I come out and admire from a distance for now. Even then, I think I will be far more careful in choosing who to flirt with as there are certainly some men who are not truly gentlemen. I had better become friends first, flirt later.”

“That sounds like a much wiser Lydia. Congratulations.”

The night at the theater was quite pleasant. Lydia was satisfied that at least she had one outing before going home. The performance was excellent, and Lydia and Elizabeth enjoyed surveying the clothing choices of the audience before it began and during intermission. Lydia was a little surprised at how few people attended to the play, but realized that during the Season, play-going was a social activity allowing people to see and be seen. Enjoying the performance on stage was a secondary consideration. Elizabeth verified her surmise when asked.

They would all be back for the wedding, but on Wednesday, Mr. Bennet, Miss Bosworth, and Lydia returned to Longbourn leaving fairly early that morning. Lydia was relieved to have the opportunity to offer charity at home in pleasanter surroundings and read quietly on the ride home.

At the club, Bingley and Jane discussed their future together. They decided that, after the wedding, they would go on a short wedding trip alone for a week or two to a cottage of a friend in Kent. They would remain in London until May, when they would then retire to Netherfield. Having a country home for the summer and autumn was preferable to remaining in London. Since Bingley had no permanent home in town, they would live in Jane’s home when in London.

As the Bennets were returning to Longbourn, Bingley visited Jane’s home to help make some decisions about his future. Carter showed him through the master’s quarters so he could determine what changes might be necessary. Jane joined them after Bingley had viewed everything to discuss his impressions. “These are very much to Robert’s taste. I would have you be comfortable here. Is there anything you want changed?”

Bingley considered the darkness of the rooms and replied, “I prefer a room that isn’t quite as somber. The blue is nice, but a little dark. If the walls were a lighter color blue, everything else would still harmonize, but it would not seem so heavy.”

“Carter, please make a note of that. Anything else, Mr. Bingley?”

“No, I like Mr. Nelson’s taste. I can be very comfortable here.”

As they headed toward the parlor, Jane said quietly, “I will be too. You should be aware that I expect to spend most of my nights in that suite rather than in my own. We cannot rightly talk of this before the wedding, but I think you should be aware of my preference. It is to be together.” Jane was blushing as she entered the parlor.

Bingley was quite surprised and had actually stopped for a moment before walking on again. As they joined Elizabeth in the room, he replied, “Thank you.”

Elizabeth raised an eyebrow at him and he said, “The master suite here is quite nice. We are going to lighten the wall color but otherwise leave it as it is. I was thanking Mrs. Nelson for her consideration in asking for my opinions.”

As Elizabeth considered her sister’s blush, she rather thought a different topic might have come up, but kept her thoughts to herself. Rather, she said, “Jane, I have been thinking. You will want some time with just you, Mr. Bingley, and the girls once you return from your wedding trip. I find I am not as ready to return to society as you were and as I thought I was. I think after the wedding, I will return to Raynor Hall instead of trying to help Kitty with her season. My heart just isn’t in it yet. Then, when you come home from your trip, it will be just your little family here.”

Bingley looked a little fearful at the topic and said, “I think this needs to be between the two of you. I shall take my leave.”

Elizabeth smiled and said, “No need. There isn’t anything to discuss. And you will shortly be my brother. There is no reason you should not know I am not really ready to be in town socializing just yet. It is not that my heart is broken from my loss, it seems I am more like my father than I thought. He prefers to stay home and have minimal socializing. Right now, it appears I am the same. Some socializing is fine, but the niceties of the Season are just a little too much right now. Stay and visit with us a while longer before you run off.”

He smiled and sat near Jane on the settee. They talked of the benefits of Netherfield as their country home and whether he might not prefer one further north so he could easily go to York to manage his business concerns when necessary. He was a sort of silent partner in the business his father and uncle had started. It was now run by a cousin. He would need to visit there at least twice annually if not more often. After much consideration, they decided to keep Netherfield for at least one more year before making any permanent decision.




Chapter 26

The day after returning from London, Mr. Bennet, Miss Bosworth, and Lydia met with Mrs. Hill in Mr. Bennet’s library. He began, “Hill, Lydia has decided that she would prefer to take up her charitable activities here in Longbourn where she has more of a relationship with those in need. Lady Stanford remains in town, so, could you please include Lydia in those endeavors you undertake on Longbourn’s behalf?”

Mrs. Hill looked at Lydia consideringly. She had known her all her life and knew well of her wild and unruly ways. Lydia returned the look unflinchingly. Hill returned her gaze to Mr. Bennet and replied, “Of course. How would you like to proceed?”

As the response had been discussed on the ride home, Lydia answered, “We think it best if I could spend the time in the afternoons two or three days each week, depending on need. It is a far better use of my time than a walk into town to window-shop or gossip with my aunt. Mind you, I will still do those, after all I am still Lydia, but it will be somewhat curtailed. Also, Miss Bosworth will attend me some of the time, but we expect a maid to accompany me most of the time for deliveries. Do you think Sally would suit?”

Mrs. Hill was surprised at the measured response from one so heedless in the past. “Yes, I think she can be freed from other duties to accompany you as needed.”

“Thank you. Is there anything pressing today or could we start tomorrow?”

“Mrs. Rogers had her babe yesterday and I was planning on taking her some dainties as a treat for her and some soup for the rest of the family.”

“I would like to accompany you, if you would permit.”

“Very well, miss. I will be ready immediately after luncheon.”

“I will meet you in the kitchen then.”

As Hill returned to her duties, she was very surprised at the changes in Lydia. Whatever they had done in London seemed to have successfully matured the wild child. She hoped it was a permanent change.

Upon Hill’s exit, Lydia sighed and said, “I guess I should practice now. Would the school room in one hour be agreeable, Miss Bosworth?”

“Yes dear, it would.”

Lydia retired to the parlor and the piano while her father and Miss Bosworth remained in the library. He said, “I think that is the first time I have ever heard her volunteer to practice rather than have to be encouraged to do so.”

“She and Kitty spent a lot of time talking about Kitty’s current daily routine. Lydia had never considered why she must have some visible accomplishments and was worried about having to play for large groups. She has never desired to exhibit that way and realized that she would have to work hard this year if she is to be ready next year. She may want to come out next year, but only if she makes sufficient progress in the remaining time.”

“Well, that is an added bonus to her maturity from the London charity work.”

“It does mean that I will likely be looking for a new situation come the end of the summer if she does decide she is ready.”

“That is true. Are you looking for older or younger family for your next venture?”

“In many ways, it is much easier when they are younger.”

“Shall I ask around to see if anyone knows of a situation you might enjoy?”

“Thank you. That would be helpful.”

“Not at all. You have done so much for my girls, I want to do what I can for you in return. It is a shame that my own grandchildren are still too young to need a governess.”

She smiled and excused herself leaving Mr. Bennet to ponder who might have a need for such an excellent governess as Miss Bosworth. Jane would not need one for her girls for a few years yet.

Hill and Lydia visited the Rogers family and delivered both the soup and the dainties. The new baby, a son, was admired, and Lydia held him and cooed at him for a few moments before returning him to his mother. “He is very nice. You must be very happy to have another son.”

“Yes, we need boys to work the farm and this wee one will be able to start helping in just a few years.”

Hill was surprised at how well Lydia was able to visit with Mrs. Rogers and felt some relief that she would be able to entrust certain visits to her, as long as Sally or Miss Bosworth accompanied her.

The next day, Lydia and Miss Bosworth called upon Mrs. Phillips for a regular visit. As usual, Mrs. Phillips was full of gossip of everything that was going on around town. One bit of news was that most of the shopkeepers had not suffered by limiting credit for the militia and were truly enjoying having the extra men in town spending money instead of credit. Lydia learned that many of the girls spent a considerable amount of time with the officers at various venues around town, card parties being the most common, and there was speculation that two or three young women would end up as officers’ wives. Colonel Forster had become engaged to one such young woman, Harriet Pulvis. They would be married by the end of February. Harriet was not a very sensible young woman, but he was quite smitten with her liveliness. She and Lydia had always been fairly close friends having had similar liveliness.

As Lydia and Miss Bosworth walked back to Longbourn following this visit, Lydia said, “Miss Bosworth, I have a question. I know the Colonel is probably situated so that Harriet will be fine, but those other girls will be in very straitened circumstances, won’t they?”

“Unless they have a significant dowry, yes, they will. However, it is only slightly lower than their current situation, so they may not notice much change until after the children come.”

“That is what you feared for me, was it not?”

“Yes. Since all you could talk about was officers, we feared you might get yourself into a situation where you would either choose or be required to marry one.”

“What do you mean, required?”

“You know enough that certain intimacies are not appropriate if you are not married. If you are caught engaging in those intimacies, a gentleman will do the honorable thing and marry the girl. A rake will not. It is even possible to be compromised by accident with no intention of doing something inappropriate. The most precious asset you have is your reputation.”

“That is why it is so hard for those women we were helping at the clinic isn’t it? They no longer had a reputation to protect and were at everyone’s mercy.”

“Yes.”

Although Lydia had been told something similar repeatedly for a few years, she was finally in a position where it meant something to her. She continued to think on this the rest of the way home that day. 
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With Just a Little Guidance Chapters 25 and 26

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