November 24, 2016 08:23PM
AN: Happy Thanksgiving to those in the US. One of the things for which I am grateful this year is the helpful supportive community here at dwiggie. It is lovely having this extended community of friends.
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Chapter 35

With all of the activities associated with the wedding behind them, the Bennets settled back into the full social scene once again. The next week included two card parties, one ball, a couple of dinner parties, and a trip to a concert. Mary joined the trip to the concert but none of the other events.

Mary, John, and Rachel, however, did spend a very pleasant day with Miss Switzler at the British Museum. This was the day after things returned to normal. When her sisters returned from the card party, Mary shared her excitement at the outing.

“We have been discussing many of the sources of the antiquities we viewed today for the past couple of weeks. It was fascinating to understand what these things meant, how they were used, and all of that. I am so grateful to live in modern times. Our lives are so much easier. John thought he might like to live in ancient Greece, but Rachel agrees with me.”

Elizabeth said, “I am not sure I have ever considered having to live in those days. I think I agree with you. However, I think many of the Greek women had more choices in life than we do.”

Mary replied, “Perhaps some did. However, while we may not have many options, we also are not sold into slavery after a defeat in war. Some of their clothes look a little less constricting than ours. I might like that.”

Jane smiled as Elizabeth agreed. “I know I would enjoy that. The freedom to walk comfortably is one I cherish.”

“So, did you both have fun at the card party?”

Elizabeth answered first. “I know Jane did as Mr. Bingley was very attentive. He played very ill as a result. As for me, it seems that Mr. Raynor is paying me far more attention than he does anyone else. However, I am having great difficulty getting him to talk with any depth about anything. He tells amusing stories and enjoys mine, but he seems to have no opinions. He doesn’t even care much about his estate. I am afraid I need to find a way to discourage him if he has no opinions.”

Jane agreed, “Since you want someone of depth, I am afraid I must agree with you. He is quite pleasant, but there seems to be no substance behind that.”

Elizabeth said, “Why Jane, that is almost critical. I do not think I have ever heard you say something to criticize someone.”

“I am not criticizing him, but merely agreeing with you that since you are looking for someone of a particular type, that he does not suit. I think him very nice. I do not think he is someone Mary would admire either.”

Mrs. Gardiner had entered the parlor during Jane’s final comment. She added, “I think I agree with Jane. I have been listening and watching your interactions, and I think you are correct, Lizzy, that he would not suit you. Since he has made no declaration, there is little you can do yet. However, I think I may have a brief word with his mother when next I see her. I believe she has been helping to steer him toward you, so she should be able to change his direction if his heart is not too engaged yet.”

Elizabeth smiled. “Thank you. I do not think him terribly engaged yet and would not want to hurt him. I do like him for a friend and would not want to lose that.”

Jane agreed. “One can never have too any friends.”

During visits the next day, they called upon the Raynors. Luckily, Allen was out. While the girls visited with Joan, Mrs. Gardiner was able to help Mrs. Raynor see that Allen should make a different choice. Once she understood what Elizabeth was hoping for in a spouse, Mrs. Raynor could understand that the two would not suit well. She promised to try to deflect Allen’s attention going forward.

Although Anne was no longer with them, they continued to call upon the Alleyn’s and paid their next visit to Lady Harriet. She was happy to see them to revisit the lovely wedding day for the Wentworths. Once that was complete, she asked, “So, are we to expect more wedding chimes from your household this season?”

Jane blushed as Elizabeth answered, “I think it possible since Jane has a definite admirer. I, on the other hand, am having a much harder time finding someone I feel I could respect for the rest of my life. Perhaps I am just too choosey.”

Lady Harriet smiled. “Oh, is it Mr. Bingley?” Of course, everyone smiled their agreement. “He seems an excellent choice. Miss Elizabeth, there is nothing wrong with not being willing to settle for someone who does not suit. Although your mother may disagree, it is important to find someone compatible so you can have a happy home life. There were a couple of other candidates I was considering when I met Mr. Alleyn. But after knowing him a short time, I realized that he would suit much better than anyone else I knew, including those who had titles. I have never regretted that choice.”

Elizabeth said, “Oh, I know that my mother would have me attach the first eligible young man I met. However, my aunt is more reasonable and wants me to find someone with whom I can be happy. I am sure happiness would be possible with a number of my new acquaintances. However, none of those have indicated any interest in pursuing such an attachment, at least not so far. I do not despair. I merely fear my mother’s comments if I do not find someone this season.”

“Would they be very harsh?”

Elizabeth answered, “Unfortunately, yes. They are already quite harsh in her letters and will be much worse in person if I return home unattached. Her comments when she visited were quite pointed and critical.”

“That must be difficult.”

“Somewhat. However, I ignore as much as I can.”

Once visits were complete, they returned to Gracechurch Street to prepare for that evening’s dinner party. Elizabeth was quite contemplative as she considered why she was having a harder time finding someone. She was perhaps a more volatile personality than Jane, but she also wanted something more than a pleasant companion. Social events were not designed to help someone understand the depths of her friends, but she was determined to find someone more likely than Raynor. Of course, once she found someone, she would still need to find a way to attach him, and she knew she was not a particularly skilled flirt. Maybe it was all hopeless, and she would just become a favorite maiden aunt to any children Jane and Bingley might produce.

At the dinner party, Raynor no longer spent his time trying to garner attention from Elizabeth. He spoke with her for a few moments, but then he turned his attention to another young lady of their acquaintance. She watched him drift away, turning as she heard Mr. Darcy say, “Do I sense a defection?”

Elizabeth smiled. “Rather a deflection, instead. My aunt had a word with his mother suggesting that he did not seem to possess some of the traits that I am seeking and might be happier looking farther afield. After some reflection, she agreed. I enjoy the friendship so do not begrudge what admiration there may have been moving elsewhere.”

“What traits were you seeking?”

“I need someone who is willing to think deeply, care about his estate and tenants, have opinions about the world and its events, and allow me to have differing opinions. Mr. Raynor does not seem to share those interests. He even leaves all of the estate concerns to his steward. Although my father is at times somewhat lax, even he chooses to have more involvement in our estate than that.”

“So you are looking for someone with a nice estate?”

“No, that isn’t a requirement. It is just, if he has one, he needs to be involved. You are a good example of someone who shows that caring and involvement. Isn’t that what you are hoping to teach Mr. Bingley? Your discussions with Mr. Musgrove certainly seemed to indicate that. Mr. Musgrove also appears to be quite engaged on his estate.”

“You are correct that I do hope to teach Bingley that. I can see that Raynor is a little lightweight in that regard. It was kind of your aunt to help him move on without coming to a declaration.”

“As I said, I enjoy his friendship and would not want to hurt him. I do not think his heart was very engaged, just that enjoyed my company. That does not need to change even as he looks elsewhere for a companion.”

Captain Fitzwilliam joined them along with a few other friends. They began speaking of the upcoming ball. Both Darcy and Fitzwilliam engaged Elizabeth for a couple of sets.

Across the room, the Bingleys and Findlay were conversing with Jane. Caroline was telling her of one of the stories Mrs. Findlay had shared about their recent time in Sweden. She finished the story with her own impression. “Although I think it sounds quite beautiful, it also sounds a great deal colder and snowier than here. Northern England can get cold. I do not miss that. Sweden sounds even worse.”

Findlay smiled. “Unfortunately, I agree with you. Sussex is much nicer in winter than Stockholm. Even London is better, although I do like the winter social scene in both. However, nothing beats spring in Sussex unless it is a beautiful autumn shooting party.”

As Hurst joined the group, he agreed, “It is certainly one of the most beautiful areas of England. I look forward to getting back there in June. Will you be spending the summer at home this year?”

Findlay smiled. “I hope to. Of course, circumstances may change. I love to see the new growth as the crops and flowers start to appear on the estate. Mother enjoys flower gardening, and some years we head back early.” Looking sideways at Caroline, he added, “However, this year, there seem to be some benefits to spending a little longer in London than has been our custom.”

Caroline smiled at this. Hurst did too, adding, “Indeed. I am glad we are able to see so much of you.”

Bingley added, “Darcy has had success in engaging Ambleside for me. I hope to head north when we finish the season.”

Hurst teased, “Well, do not expect all of us to join you. At least some of us will be heading south instead.”

The more time the courting couples spent together, the more they recognized that they were very compatible. However, both men realized they should wait at least a few more days before pursuing a betrothal. Neither wanted to wait, but both felt that the courtship had been too short to move forward-but soon.

In Somerset, the carriage Wentworth had borrowed for their use pulled up in front of the rectory in Monkford. As it drew to a stop, Wentworth turned to Anne. “I shall miss this time we have had alone.”

Anne smiled. “It has been very nice. However, it will be nice to see Mr. Wentworth again.”

Frederick smiled. “You must call him Edward now, you know. After all, he is your brother.”

Anne returned the smile. “It may take a little time to change. After all, I have known him longer as mister than as Edward.”

The door opened and Frederick stepped out to help Anne. As she was descending, the door to the rectory opened and Mr. Wentworth came to greet them.

“It is wonderful to see you both. How happy you look. Mrs. Wentworth, you must call me Edward now.”

“And you must call me Anne. It is wonderful to be here with you.”

In short order, they were installed in a small, neat room washing away the dust of travel. A few moments later, they were seated in the tidy little parlor with tea and biscuits visiting with Edward. Frederick and Anne took turns to describe the wedding and breakfast and their pleasure in the day. Once that was done, Edward said, in satisfaction, “Well, I can see how very happy you both are. Marriage suits you.”

Frederick replied, “It does. It had never realized before how satisfying it could be to have someone at your side providing love and support. I now understand why the Crofts have chosen to have her accompany him. I cannot imagine leaving Anne behind.”

Anne added, “I know it is not always possible, but I am grateful that Frederick has advanced far enough that I can join him. I look forward to seeing how good a sailor I am. Now, you must fill us in on what you have been up to while I have been in London.”

Anne was grateful for the opportunity to visit Somerset once again. She considered it likely to be her last such visit for a long while, possibly ever. She would cherish this time with Lady Russell and the Musgroves but was sure she would rather visit Mr. Wentworth on future leaves rather than Kellynch and understood that he was expecting a posting further north soon.

Once the others returned from London, Anne was able to spend much of her time with these friends. She found Lady Russell more accepting of the marriage, finally becoming accustomed to the changes in Anne. She knew they would greatly enjoy their future correspondence.

The Musgroves were more changed by the visit to London than was Lady Russell. When the Wentworths arrived at Uppercross, they found a lively discussion under way. Mr. Musgrove and Charles were trying to finalize plans for a number of changes at Uppercross.

Mrs. Musgrove motioned Anne to join her on the sofa while the men were shown to the library. “It appears that the discussions with the Bennets and Mr. Darcy have stirred up some desire for change in both my husband and my son. The entire way home, they discussed ways that they might improve the lot of our tenants who have returned from the fighting wounded in one way or another. Their ideas are quite exciting.”

“What are they planning?”

“As you know, there are a number of men on our estate, as well as others around us, who are not really able to farm any longer with their missing limbs. Charles proposes to open a school for them to help them become literate and able to work in an office where the missing limb will not be such a liability. Since most of them cannot read or cipher adequately, that avenue is currently closed to them. Most can barely sign their own names and read only at a rudimentary level.”

“That seems an excellent plan.”

Mrs. Musgrove agreed. “But that is not all. We plan to create a dame school for any of the children they care to send so that they too may have the option to learn. Nanny will work with the youngsters while she and Miss Grove will work with the adults. Charles is going to ask Mr. Wentworth to assist as well. We think some of the men could become clerks while others might train to become stewards. My husband is to speak to other gentlemen in the area and offer to educate their men if they desire-at no cost. We are all so excited about the possibilities.”

Anne smiled. “It does seem particularly wonderful. It will offer so much help to those who want to contribute but find it hard. I am very impressed.”

“It was mostly Charles’ idea. It seems he saw the charity work you girls had been doing and combined that with some of the things that Mr. Darcy told him about. I am most pleased.”

The men eventually joined the ladies in the parlor where they shared the decisions and timelines for implementing this plan. They expected to have the school started within a week for tenants at Uppercross and expanded to other estates within a month. They could all foresee a number of changes in the area as a result of the scheme.



Chapter 36

By the evening of the ball, both Bingley and Findlay felt they had waited long enough. Both thought that they had found the perfect match and wanted to ensure their future happiness.

During a relatively quiet moment together, Findlay said, “Miss Bingley, do you feel our courtship has given you ample opportunity to discover if I will suit? I hope your answer is yes, as I feel we have reached an excellent understanding.”

She smiled demurely and said, “Why, I do believe you are correct.”

“Then, would you do me the very great honor of accepting my hand?”

“I would be most pleased to do so.”

“May I call upon your brother in the morning to ask his permission?”

As she looked over at Bingley in earnest conversation with Jane, she said, “You might want to catch him this evening. It looks as if he may be asking similar permission himself tomorrow.”

Findlay looked over at Bingley and smiled in return. “Very well. I will do my best.”

Meanwhile, Bingley was indeed asking Miss Bennet a similar question. “Miss Bennet, you cannot imagine how difficult I found it not to pay my respects at the wedding. It made me realize that I want the world to know just how very much I admire you. Now that I have a house to offer you, would you do me the very great honor of becoming Mrs. Bingley and helping me to make that house a home?”

She smiled. “I can think of nothing I would like more.”

“I shall call upon your uncle tomorrow morning to ask his permission. How would you like me to approach your father?”

“Uncle Gardiner has proxy for Father. I would like us to have all our plans laid before we make it known at home as my mother will want to order the day to her taste rather than ours. If we have already made the decisions, that will be much harder for her to change everything. Perhaps after you talk with my uncle, you can meet with me and my aunt to make those decisions?”

“Gladly.”

Caroline and Findlay approached Bingley and Jane once it was clear that a happy decision had been made. Caroline drew Jane away for a moment so Findlay could talk with Bingley. Caroline asked if Bingley had finally proposed after she told Jane of her own happy news. When Jane agreed, Caroline asked, “What would you say to sharing our day together? Then neither of us would have to wait for the other to return from their wedding trip since Charles will need to be at both ceremonies.”

Jane thought for a moment. “You know, I think that would be lovely. We are going to make our plans tomorrow after he speaks with my uncle. Why don’t you join him when he calls on us? Mr. Findlay might also want to attend so he can help us decide.”

“I will ask him, but I think it more likely his mother will want to attend.”

“Yes, of course. I should have thought of that.”

All were wreathed in smiles when the gentlemen rejoined the two ladies. With one accord, they did not speak of their happy news but of the ball. They would wait until Findlay received formal approval to share their happiness.

Once again, Elizabeth and Jane were very popular and danced nearly every dance. Although it was common knowledge that Mr. Bingley was courting Jane, there were still those who thought they might be able to oust him from her affections. In her quiet way she tried to help them understand that they would be unsuccessful.

As she was dancing with Captain Fitzwilliam, Elizabeth noted, “I have missed the Major of late. I know he was recalled to service before the wedding. Is he still here in London?”

“He is for now. He expects that by the end of April, he will be heading back to the continent with new recruits. Mother would like him to transfer to a unit that remains here, but that is not his way. If this campaign is successful, he will likely soon be promoted to Colonel. I know he will relish such a promotion.”

“Have you heard any word on your next assignment?”

“No, I am still at liberty.”

“I am sure Lady Fitzwilliam appreciates having you home this year.”

“She does. Of course, it gives her an extra excuse to attend balls as she hopes to see Darcy or me make some progress in choosing a wife. Frankly, he has attended more than any year since his father died. I do not think I am ready, but perhaps he is finally deciding that he is. That one young lady I had considered earlier definitely would not suit.”

“I am sorry she did not. We women discuss that sort of thing frequently. I gather that the two of you do not?”

“I suspect we feel if we do not talk about it, we never have to acknowledge that the time is coming.”

Sir Walter and Miss Elliot also attended this ball. Both were dismayed that neither Lord nor Lady Fitzwilliam would spend any time with them. In addition, Elizabeth Elliot was forced to watch her cousins dance every dance while she was asked only a couple of times. She could not understand why Jane and Elizabeth were so sought after when they were just obscure country girls. After all, she was the daughter of a baronet and they were not. She never considered how off-putting her airs and attitude were.

As the Elliots were almost universally ignored, they agreed that they would attend no more events with the family and Anne’s friends. At the same time, the hosts agreed that it was not worth it to invite the Elliots. They were nothing when compared with Mrs. Wentworth.

Once they were home again, Jane called Mary and Elizabeth into her room. “You must promise not to say anything until it becomes official, but Mr. Bingley asked for my hand tonight, and I said yes.”

After congratulations from her sisters were received, she continued. “And Mr. Findlay asked Miss Bingley as well. She and I have decided we would like a double ceremony so that neither of us has to wait upon the wedding trip of the other. She will be coming tomorrow for a planning session. I would like both of you involved.”

Mary asked, “Are you sure you want me?”

“Of course I do.”

Elizabeth said, “Of course we will do anything we can to assist. How fun the day will be.”

Jane then asked Elizabeth about all her admirers that evening. “Oh, Jane, how you tease. Now that Mr. Raynor has moved on, I have merely friends, no admirers. However, it is very nice to have friends who are good dancers. Watching our cousin Elizabeth, I am grateful for friends that dance. She appears to have none.”

Mary asked for clarification, “She has no friends or she has no friends that dance?”

Elizabeth giggled. “Well, I am not sure about friends in general, but apparently, she has made no friends within our circle. She danced but two dances the entire evening. Since she does not deign to speak with me, I do not know how well entertained she was.”

Mary replied, “That is sad. Is it because of her attitudes?”

Jane answered, “That would be my guess. Most people do not enjoy being looked down upon, and that is how Elizabeth seems to approach everyone.”

“I will keep that in mind. I do not see any need to try to appear superior.”

Jane said, “That is because you have superior understanding. Those who are somewhat insecure or less well educated often feel a need to appear superior when they are not. I find if you are always kind and attentive, most people respond similarly. Our cousin seems to be unable to be so, and people also respond in kind.”

Elizabeth added, “And if you can actually be interested in finding out about people, they often become much more interesting. I cannot claim to be as kind as Jane, but I also find that being attentive to someone seems to increase their own positive feelings and improves our interactions. Even if they have very little to offer in the way of conversation or intellect, they can still be comfortable companions, at least for short periods of time. I need my close friends to have substance, but the others are welcome to be just as they wish. And, for those who are truly lacking any intelligence in spite of their pretensions, well, there is always some entertainment value in watching them as well, even if it is not very kind.”

Mary smiled at her sisters. “Thank you. You have both given me much to think about. I am grateful we have had this time together in London. How different it will all be with Jane becoming Mrs. Bingley soon. But, I guess this was what we were hoping for, wasn’t it?”

Jane said, “Yes, it is. I am sure it will come for Lizzy and you too, when you are both ready.”

Elizabeth said, “I certainly hope so or I will never hear the end of my failure from Mama.”

All three retired that night with much to consider. Jane was happiest in contemplating Mr. Bingley and her future. Elizabeth was thinking of their discussion with Mary and why it was that she had not yet found someone special. Mary was considering how she might become a better conversational partner and friend. Eventually, all found the comfort of sleep.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/02/2016 03:42PM by Amy I..
SubjectAuthorPosted

A Kindly Aunt 35 & 36

ShannaGNovember 24, 2016 08:23PM

Re: A Kindly Aunt 35 & 36

Lucy J.November 26, 2016 07:29AM

Re: A Kindly Aunt 35 & 36

BrigidNovember 25, 2016 04:07AM

Re: A Kindly Aunt 35 & 36-could editors fix when archived?

ShannaGNovember 25, 2016 05:11PM

Post is fixed

Amy I.December 02, 2016 03:43PM

Re: A Kindly Aunt 35 & 36

Margaret FNovember 25, 2016 03:53AM



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