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With Just a Little Guidance Chapters 29 and 30

July 15, 2015 07:10PM
Chapter 29

While all of Jane’s and Bingley’s friends were having entertainments to celebrate the upcoming wedding, Lady Stanford held an afternoon card party for them. She invited a cross-section of her friends, including Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, to allow Bingley to expand his associations within her set. Bingley had yet to meet the Gardiners and was anxious to know the rest of Jane’s family. Kitty and her friends were also included, so there was a far greater age range at this than at most of the celebrations Bingley and Jane had attended which had consisted of people near their own ages.

After Bingley was introduced to Mr. Gardiner, he found that they had a number of mutual acquaintances from his family’s business activities. As they talked, Bingley realized that Mr. Gardiner could be an excellent resource on how to continue to support his family’s business without being obvious about still participating in trade. Darcy had been talking with him during the introduction and was surprised to find that the Bennets had family in trade. He wondered how he had missed that bit of gossip. It must have been what Miss Bingley had objected to in the Bennet family. He thought that strange since her father had been in trade, but he realized that many of her opinions were quite often oxymorons. He found himself thinking that the man was so much a gentleman, no one would realize he was in trade without asking about it. Darcy continued to ponder this as Mrs. Nelson and Mrs. Raynor finally arrived.

As they greeted the attendees, both Elizabeth and Jane gravitated toward the Gardiners. After they exchanged greetings, Elizabeth said, “How is Eleanor?” Looking at the men, she added, “My cousin was quite ill when we were at their home on Sunday.”

Mrs. Gardiner smiled and replied, “I am happy to say, she is doing much better. She was able to eat a nice hearty soup today, so she is on the mend.”

Darcy asked, “Do you dine with your family often?”

Jane answered, “We generally spend Sunday after services with the extended family at the Gardiners. Aunt Elizabeth brings Kitty, and we all catch up on what has happened with our week. When Father and Lydia were also in town, it was quite active at their house. We have not yet had a chance to bring Mr. Bingley since we came to our understanding.”

Elizabeth added, “The Gardiners have always provided a haven here in town. Aunt Elizabeth does not stay year round, so when we were younger, we visited the Gardiners at least twice each year. With no mother, our aunts have stood in her place and been our examples.”

Bingley smiled and said, “I am so glad to have even more family to embrace. Between the Bennets, the Nelsons, and now the Gardiners, I will have quite a large family in contrast to my own which is so small. I am really looking forward to this.”

Mrs. Gardiner replied, “And we are all excited to have you join our family circle. You must attend us this Sunday after services.”

“I will be sure to do so.”

Darcy added, “It is wonderful to see how warmly welcomed Bingley is. Of course, he is so amiable, it is easy to do so. However, I can assure you, he is a wonderful fellow.”

Mrs. Nelson said, “Thank you for the recommendation. I too am happy at how well we all get on together. I dislike discord greatly.”

Sadly, Bingley added, “And I have brought some of that with my sisters.”

Firmly, Elizabeth said, “Think of the past only as it gives you pleasure. Do not think of that unhappiness. All is now well. And I understand that at least one of them is trying to make amends.” He smiled sadly at her comment.

Soon, all were settled at the tables and chatting animatedly as they played their cards. The younger members of the party were surprised at how good a time could be had with all these age groups together. Their own activities were generally limited to others within their set, so they had not yet experienced very many parties of mixed ages such as this one. They found the conversations more wide-ranging than their own usually were and truly enjoyed themselves.

Darcy was glad of another opportunity to spend the afternoon with Mrs. Raynor. He recognized now that he had spent enough time to know he wanted to court her in spite of these newly recognized connections to trade. Obviously Allen Raynor had not minded those connections. Had he known about them before actually meeting the Gardiners, he might have thought differently. He would need to examine his own prejudices since this could have easily caused a rift with Mrs. Raynor.

Since she had made it clear she was not ready for the social whirl, he would have to bide his time before beginning to court her. For now, he would settle for friendship. At least her friendship with his sister ensured that he would not lose touch with her in the future. He could be grateful for small favors such as that.

Bingley found he enjoyed most of Lady Stanford’s friends. He was grateful to be accepted and embraced by people with whom he had previously had little interaction. He realized that, between Lady Stanford and the Nelsons, he would now be on intimate terms with a much higher rank on a more regular basis. Where he had been more on the fringes of the first ranks of society, with some acceptance from Darcy’s friends, this would significantly enhance his standing. He once again lamented the vitriol of Caroline and her obsession to increase their rank. He had managed exactly what she wanted but it had cost her dearly.

Over refreshments, Bingley said to Lady Staford, “I wanted to thank you for this entertainment today. This is a good way to become acquainted with many people in a less formal setting. You have some wonderful friends and family.”

“I am glad you think so, particularly as the family will soon be yours. I did not invite any of the stuffier among my friends. I am sure you will meet them soon enough. Most of these will be at the Nelson ball, so you will already have a large acquaintance there before it starts.”

Bingley replied, “It is always amazing to me how many layers and circles within society exists. I have a fairly large acquaintance and yet knew almost none of your friends. It has been fun meeting them.”

Darcy and Elizabeth were talking about some of the other rules of learning to make small talk. He realized that this was a skill good hostesses exhibited and was something Georgie needed to learn as well. When he mentioned that, Elizabeth suggested that he and Miss Darcy discuss it with Kitty as it was a skill Kitty was currently learning as well. He agreed that this would be a good idea and sought out Kitty where she was talking with her friends.

“Might I borrow Miss Bennet for a moment, ladies?”

They laughed and agreed.

“Miss Bennet, Mrs. Raynor was describing the lessons your aunt has provided in learning the art of small talk. I find that I am woefully insufficiently instructed, and realize that Georgie is as well. Do you think you could assist us in learning the skills necessary to be easy in the company of strangers?”

Kitty smiled. “I would not say yet that I am easy, but it is easier than it used to be. I would be happy to share what I have been learning. Can the two of you come tomorrow morning?”

They agreed to a time and Darcy returned Kitty to her friends. When questioned, she merely said it was a matter concerning Miss Darcy.

Darcy returned to Elizabeth and said, “Mrs. Raynor, thank you for your advice. I have made an appointment for my sister and me to talk with her tomorrow. Since I have managed so many years in society without this skill, I think it time that I remedied the lack. I have made an effort since we first discussed it and find that instruction is quite necessary if I am to improve.”

Colonel Fitzwilliam chuckled and said, “This should prove to be a very interesting Season. I eagerly anticipate seeing you become easy in the company of strangers.”

Darcy agreed with him. “Yes, I think it will be although I have my doubts about becoming easy. I will settle for becoming more open.” By the time he returned home, he was pleased with how relaxed the interactions with Elizabeth had been. He was sure they were developing a solid basis for friendship before any courting might take place later.

After the visit to Stanford House, both Darcys had much food for thought on the art of small talk. Shyness and reserve had nothing to do with the ability to talk with strangers. It was simply a matter of learning and becoming comfortable with some simple conversational tricks and then using them regularly. As the Darcys drove home, Georgiana said, “Some people must do things like this naturally. I had friends at school who could easily become acquainted with anyone. Mr. Bingley is much like that.”

Darcy replied, “Yes, he is. He has always seemed to know just what questions to ask. In his case, it is because he is inquisitive and caring. I have never really known what to ask without seeming intrusive. I hate conversations with people who seem to be interrogating me like an inquisitor. As Miss Bennet explained Lady Stanford’s rules, it will be much easier to find something to say. I just need to listen to the answers. Since I have spent most of my time listening, that part should be easy.”

Georgie chuckled. “We both seem experts at listening. Now, there will be more point to it. Perhaps it will become easier for me to speak up. I know since meeting the Bennets, I feel more comfortable voicing an opinion. I just need to practice asking questions as well.”

When Richard called to see Georgie, both Darcys practiced their new skills with him. Richard was amazed at how much more relaxed and confident Georgie seemed. She was still quiet, but it was not solemn and sad as it had been.

After a short visit, he shared his mother’s request that they return with him for a family luncheon. They agreed and determined to try out these new skills with the family. Since Darcy was quite comfortable with the Fitzwilliams, he simply asked more pertinent questions. Georgie made an effort to speak up and was rewarded by a great deal of positive attention from both her aunt and uncle.

Upon returning home, Georgiana noted, “I can already see a difference in how I feel. Of course, I love our family, but they have always been a little overwhelming and intimidating so I felt quite awkward, not knowing what to say. By simply asking a few questions, we had true conversation, and it was not awkward at all.”

“This will certainly help both of us in the future, particularly next year once you come out. Lady Stanford has quite good advice and a sound method for helping her nieces learn to navigate society. I am impressed with her efforts.”

Wistfully, Georgie replied, “I am too. I wish we had someone like that to help me. Our aunt is a little overpowering in her efforts with me. I do not think I could be easy spending so much time in her company.”

“We must take advantage of what we are learning now and practice it for next year.”

In Meryton, Lydia attended the sewing circle as she had promised. She was careful to keep her comments to herself and pay close attention to her sewing. Much as her aunt’s circle had done, the women had shared news of their families, then of their neighbors, and then moved into speculation and gossip. She found that last portion the most entertaining, never having guessed that these women had such fertile imaginations.

Happily, she found that there was no suggestion of impropriety in Caroline Goulding’s marriage to her supposed long-term suitor. That had actually been why she had wanted to hear the gossip. Caroline had always been a friend and she had wanted to ensure her reputation. It seemed that everyone accepted that there had been a long-term arrangement that Caroline and Mr. Stevens would marry after she turned eighteen. That she had other gossip as entertainment was a fun bonus for her. She determined that she would attend regularly. She had never realized there was so much potential entertainment in performing acts of charity. She would talk to a few of her friends and suggest that they might enjoy the activity with her. It would reflect well on all of them and give them more to talk about.

Chapter 30

Finally the end of February approached and with it, the Nelson’s ball. Since it was before many were in town for the Season, it would not be the crush it would have been if held later. However, that also meant it would be more fun and personal for those invited to attend. Miss Bingley was not one of those. She had continued to try to see both her brother and Mrs. Nelson at their homes and been turned away from both. She was not quite ready to surrender, but she was getting quite desperate. Mrs. Hurst had quietly written both her brother and Mrs. Nelson letters of apology and acceptance of her current status with a hope that in future they might come to be friends. These letters and her general contrition at various social activities had gone a long way toward thawing relations with her brother.

As Caroline’s invitations to the upper reaches of her circle declined with her dismissal from her brother’s circle, she more and more regretted her treatment of Mrs. Nelson. She refused to recognize that this was a direct result of her general attitude to others and would not consider changing that attitude. In order to remedy the situation, she spent much more time than usual visiting those few friends who remained. Happily for her, some were expected within the week for their annual sojourns in town. Those already in town were not helpful in returning her to her brother’s new circle.

The estrangement with her brother caused Mrs. Hurst to realize that she no longer shared Caroline’s opinion of what mattered, so she spent the last days of the month trying to determine how to successfully rid herself of her toxic sister. She was not sure she could just throw her out of the house. One morning, when Caroline was out visiting friends, she interrupted Mr. Hurst in his study.

“Sebastian, have you a few minutes you could spare me?”

“Of course, Louisa. What can I do for you?”

“I am not happy with our current situation. Caroline’s actions, and my inactions, are the cause of my estrangement from Charles. This should be a very happy time for all of us and yet it is not. Caroline refuses to admit to any wrongdoing in her manipulations of our family. As I watch her, I realize that I do not condone her attitude and do not want to live this way any longer. However, I do not know what I can do about it.”

“It is not as easy for us as it was for your brother to turn her out, is it?”

“No. Since she was not living in his home, he could just cut the legal ties. Have you any suggestions about what we might do?”

“Just one. I do not know how you will feel about it, though.”

“Try me.”

“Let us omit the Season this year and retire to Sussex now, even before the wedding. We will make no plans to return and will shut up the house. If Caroline wants to spend the Season in town, she will have to get her own establishment. You know she hates it when we are in Sussex as she dislikes spending time with Mother. We can encourage her to stay here and set up her own establishment. I do not think she will want to come with us. If she does, we will just have to make it very uncomfortable for her.”

“You know, that might work. Particularly if we say that your mother is ailing and will need a great deal of care.”

“You don’t mind about the Season?”

“Not particularly. I would actually like to see if there is more to life than I have considered. Mrs. Nelson made some interesting remarks last autumn that have had me thinking there might be. This would give me the opportunity to see.”

“Very well then. Have the servants begin packing. I believe we can leave in three days’ time. We have some engagements we must meet before we can go. We can leave after those. Would that suit?”

“Yes, it would. I will see to it. And Sebastian, thank you. Thank you for putting up with Caroline these past years as well. It cannot have been easy.”

“It has not; and you are welcome, my dear.” They smiled at one another, and Mrs. Hurst left to start the process of separating herself from her sister. She did not know it, but she was also improving the relationship with her husband.

Caroline arrived at the Hurst home in a foul mood. All anyone could talk of was the Nelson ball to which she was not invited. Neither were most of her friends, but they were maliciously pleased to ask her about her own attendance. All had heard of the split with her brother. Therefore, when she arrived and saw the unusual activity in her sister’s room, she immediately sought Louisa to question her.

“Are you redecorating your room? I saw that the maids were packing up many of your things.”

“They should be packing up all of them, not just many. No, we are not redecorating. Mr. Hurst and I have decided to skip the Season this year and are preparing to leave for Sussex by the end of the week. There is no compelling reason to stay. I do not want to wait and hear all about the wedding which I will not attend. Also, Mrs. Hurst is ailing and needs our assistance. You are welcome to come with us and assist in her care. If you wish to stay in town, we can help you set up your own establishment. Otherwise, you must expect to help us nurse Mother.”

Caroline was aghast. She hated the acidic and disapproving tongue Mrs. Hurst directed at her and had no desire to spend any time in Sussex during the Season. “You cannot be serious. You must stay here and help me.”

“I am sorry, but I must attend to my husband and his mother. You may help, or you may stay, but not here. We will be closing up the house. Would you like assistance finding your own place? Or your solicitor can probably help. He will likely know of some possibilities.”

Caroline ground her teeth silently as she considered these highly unpalatable alternatives. “I will go see him now. You leave by the end of the week?”

“Yes. We could not be ready to leave sooner or we would.”

“Very well. I will see you later.” So saying, she left again to visit the solicitor. Bad enough that she had to suffer with snide comments from her friends, now her sister was going to abandon her. After a trying afternoon, she had appointments to see some flats the next day as well as interview prospective companions the following day. The Hursts had left her little time to make adequate arrangements. She would berate them at dinner for being so inconsiderate of her feelings.

Caroline returned home exhausted and ready to upbraid sister and brother-in-law. She was informed that they were at friends and would return after the meal. She was offered the option to eat on a tray in her room or alone at the table. She opted to eat in her room where she increased in anger until she heard her sister return home. As Louisa mounted to her room to change, Caroline intercepted her in the hall outside her room. “How dare you go out without me? Have you no consideration?”

“Mr. Hurst wanted to say farewell to his friends. You were not here to join us when it was time to depart. You don’t even like them, so why are you so angry with me?”

“You abandoned me.”

“No, I attended my husband. He is where my priorities should lie. I had forgotten that and been reminded of it by your own actions lately. Now, please excuse me. I would change. You can continue to whine in the parlor if you feel the need. I will be there in a quarter of an hour.” Louisa turned, entered her room, and firmly shut the door on her sister. Caroline was so affronted, she did not join them in the parlor. She returned angrily to her room and decided that she had better begin packing as well. She summoned her maid and gave her the order to begin. All was to be packed up and they better start now. Rather than going to the parlor, she went to the music room where she banged out a number of pieces on the piano.

In the parlor, the Hursts smiled at her reaction and he said, “It seems your sister is not pleased with us.”

“No, she made that clear. Truthfully, she reminds me of a small child. I will be glad to return to Sussex. We have been gone too long.”

“I am happy you think so.”

She smiled. “I hope this can be a fresh start for the two of us as well. With Charles and Caroline always with us, I am afraid I never gave our marriage the attention it deserves.”

He smiled back at her. “And I was not willing to fight the tide. Yes, this will be a new beginning for both of us.”

Meanwhile, Jane and Elizabeth were heading to the Nelson’s for the ball. Jane looked beautiful in a gown of pale blue. Lizzy wore one of buttercup yellow. Bingley had presented Jane a necklace and ear bobs of pearl to wear as a wedding token. Elizabeth said, “Jane, those are just lovely, simple and elegant, just as you are.”

Jane smiled. “Thank you Lizzy. Mr. Bingley is quite thoughtful.”

“So are the Nelsons to show their approval in such a manner. I am looking forward to this, but I must say, I will be happy when this is all over and I can go home again. You are lucky that the Nelsons will take Meg and Betsy so you can leave immediately after the wedding breakfast.”

“They are kind to do so.”

“Well, here we are. Let’s go have a wonderful time.”

Back in Meryton, this was also the day for Caroline Goulding and John Stevens’s wedding. Mrs. Goulding and Caroline spent the month preparing for the wedding. Part of that preparation was Mrs. Goulding helping Caroline learn some basic cooking as she would have only a maid for help in the house for a short while. She also spent time with her father trying to learn something more about farming than she had ever cared about in the past. Caroline tried to be happy and excited, but mostly, she was relieved that the repercussions of her unseemly activities were not worse. By the time the wedding arrived, even Caroline’s younger brother believed that the wedding had been planned for years and was not a hurried affair. Her older brother had some suspicions but kept them to himself.

John, Johnny, and Tommy Stevens arrived at Haye Park two days before the wedding. Mrs. Goulding was thrilled to have such darling little boys as grandsons. As they all became more comfortable together, Caroline quietly suggested to John that perhaps she could help teach the boys to read and cipher, that it might improve their options when they grew older. He agreed and asked her to help him as well. By the time the ceremony came, John was actively courting his new wife, who was not with child. There would be no reminders of her poor choices in the years to come.

Most of the neighbors attended the ceremony at Meryton’s church. Lydia was attendant to Caroline. Her older brother William stood up with John Stevens. Mr. Goulding escorted his daughter down the aisle in front of her friends and family. He handed her over to Stevens with both relief and regret. He was sorry they had never succeeded in curbing her wildness and hoped that she would now be able to settle in this new life.

Mrs. Goulding wept quietly as her daughter was joined to the farmer from Surrey. His sons sat with her and the other Goulding children. The boys were relieved that they could return to live with their father and new mother. They had missed him while they had been with their aunt. A short time later, Caroline, John, Lydia, and William signed the register and the new Mr. and Mrs. Stevens received congratulations. After the breakfast, they left for their farm at Raynor Hall and new life together. Mr. and Mrs. Gouldings were quite relieved.

Lydia and Mr. Bennet walked home from the wedding breakfast together. She was still shocked that her friend would now become a tenant farmer’s wife with two young boys to care for. This immediate result of poor choices, combined with what she had learned in London, was all that Lydia needed to become confirmed in circumspect behavior and speech. She was relieved that her family had loved her enough to curb her behavior before it caused a similar situation. “Papa, I cannot thank you enough for finding a way for me to learn about consequences before I had to experience them. Apparently it never really sank in when I was told what I must do. However, seeing what the results could be had far more impact.”

“I am very pleased that you were able to learn the lesson without any untoward incidents necessary. I want all of you girls to have happy lives. Your sisters never gave me the concern that you did. You seemed so focused on officers and flirting that I despaired of you making it to your debut successfully. However, now I feel quite confident that you can make mature choices.”

“Thank you for helping Caroline. I do not know how you did it, but I am glad she will not suffer too much.”

“She may not have the kind of life she had planned, but if she wants to, she can be happy. Stevens is a good man and his boys will offer her much love if she lets them.”

“I guess this has also another object lesson in addition to those in London. I suppose I want more say in my future than poor choices offer.”

“Well, we shall see that you get them.”
SubjectAuthorPosted

With Just a Little Guidance Chapters 29 and 30

ShannaGJuly 15, 2015 07:10PM

Re: With Just a Little Guidance Chapters 29 and 30

Lucy J.July 16, 2015 06:19PM

Re: With Just a Little Guidance Chapters 29 and 30

BrigidJuly 16, 2015 01:13AM

Re: With Just a Little Guidance Chapters 29 and 30

ShannaGJuly 16, 2015 02:01AM

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Kathy BerlinJuly 16, 2015 12:24AM

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terrycgJuly 16, 2015 12:13AM

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