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Ignorance and Irony - Chapter 1 Part 2

April 05, 2017 09:46PM
Author's Note: I apologize for the double posting - this chapter was just too big...



Chapter 1 – New Tenants of Netherfield (Part Two)


“Jane, did you know Kitty draws?” Later that night Jane and Elizabeth had gotten together to speak with each other in Jane’s room. Elizabeth was upset by her lack of understanding and acquaintance with her own cousins, “I feel so foolish! She’s been carrying that a sketch book around for years!”

“Lizzy, yes, but –”

“You should have seen her, Jane! She was positively cringing when we went in to ask Uncle to buy her some paints and an easel for her to try her luck with. Uncle Thomas just sat there and prolonged her suspense while he asked her all kinds of questions about where her allowance money went, why she would let Lydia take advantage of her, how could he really know that this expense would be one she would continue with, etc. She was almost crying by the time I took her journal from her hands to show him her work!”

“Lizzy, I do not –”

“And then! She was so disappointed when the shopkeeper did not have any paints or supplies for painting. She wanted to try watercolors. She told me that they look to be the easiest to learn but then she turned right around and said ‘It is for the best Lizzy; I probably would be horrible at it anyway.’ It was all I could do to refrain from saying I would get her a master painter to teach her anything she needed!”

“Lizzy, if you would please calm –”

“It was just a godsend when the Reverend Forsythe came in and overheard us. His mother used to paint and he still had some of her supplies, the joy on her face when he offered to bring them by tomorrow!” As Elizabeth finished her story, she flopped on the bed.

“Lizzy, may I speak now?” Jane calmly asked with a wide smile on her face.

“Sorry, Jane! I just could not believe it at all!”

“I can well understand that. First, yes, I did know. I never asked her because she seemed to not want anyone to know. I will speak with her tomorrow as well. Second, you are right: Father should not have teased her like that. She is not used to his attitude and humor being directed at her. I do not believe he meant to make her cry. I will say I am quite humbled by your recent interest in my sisters.”

With one raised eyebrow, Lizzy asked, “What do you mean?”

“I feel a little ashamed. When you brought Mary back to me earlier in the week and said she would be joining me on my tenant visits, I was a little caught off guard. Then, this morning, while we were still at the breakfast table, you asked Father to help teach her Longbourn’s books. I was caught off guard yet again. Now you are interested in Kitty?” holding her hands out in confusion, Jane offered, “What is it that you are trying to accomplish, Lizzy? I wish to help.”

Starting to pace in the small room, Elizabeth cried out in frustration, “I do not know! I only saw an opportunity to help Mary gain some confidence. As for Kitty, I simply wanted to support her efforts; it was obvious she felt no one was. That…humbled me.” Elizabeth finished lamely. “I have felt for the first time in years that I do not really know my cousins. I feel as if I have neglected them.” With a teasing glint in her eye, Elizabeth added, “Morose feelings never sit well with me, you know that. I believe am I simply trying to restore my own peace. See, am I not terribly selfish?”

“Hardly!” laughed Jane, “Helping my sisters could never be construed as a selfish act.”

Hesitating, Lizzy asked, “Then will you help me? The circumstances surrounding my recent dealings with both Mary and Kitty were happenstance. I have no hope the same will happen with Lydia and I have no idea how to relate to her.”

“Well. The only thing I believe Lydia is concerned with is attention and men.” Dryly, Jane added, “I really do not want to encourage her in either.”

“Ah yes…everyone in Meryton could hear her excitement about the militia being quartered in Hertfordshire. When are they to arrive?”

Jane rolled her eyes, “Mid next week.”

“Oh no.”



Elizabeth was pleased to find a letter delivered to her upon her return to Longbourn after her morning walk a few days later. She immediately went to her room where she found Jane reading. Taking up her own post near their window, she excitedly tore open the missive.

“Another letter Elizabeth? Surely he hasn’t had time to receive the last one and return it?” questioned Jane from across the room.

Elizabeth smiled and replied, “More than likely not. That means this is an extra letter, simply because he misses me!” Flipping over the letter she said, “Actually, maybe he did receive mine: he sent it express.”

Heythrop Park, Oxford
October 05, 1811

My Dear Elizabeth Evette,

My heart breaks to think that you believe I would force you into a marriage where you could neither love nor respect your partner in life. Believe me when I tell you, this has been the topic of your uncle’s and my conversations multiple times. Your Uncle Thomas is very aware of the mistake he made in marrying Francis Gardiner. That may be a little strong: your Uncle and Aunt have made a very comfortable life for themselves. Even if the relationship is not what you or I need in life, they do deserve the respect they’ve earned for carving out their life for their beautiful children.

It would be a complete dishonesty if I tried to tell you that no one expects me to arrange a marriage for you. I feel the need to be completely forthright with you: I have had at least three families approach me regarding this very topic. It has become well known, thanks to your Uncle Robert who does not know how to hold his liquor at my club, that you will be formally introduced next season.

Almost immediately after that debacle, the Carlisle’s and the Compton’s approached me about an arranged marriage. Even that half-wit, our cousin the Earl of Shrewsbury thought he could convince me to marry you to his heir! He even dragged the unimpressive man with him.

I understand, even though I do not agree with any of them, why there is an assumption of a marriage. My own marriage was arranged. I do not believe I have told you that story; maybe if I had, you would not be torturing yourself so far from my comforting arms.

Knowing you, dear Elizabeth, you are probably staring at this page in astonishment. Yes, my own dear Evette, God rest her soul, married me out
of duty rather than love. All of my sibling’s marriages were arranged. Even my own Mother’s was arranged. My Grandfather, the first duke, felt it was important to have the Talbot name carried on with the Dukedom. So, he arranged a marriage between his eldest daughter, Viscountess Elizabeth Talbot and Robert Edward Rich who was the younger son of the Earl of Warwick at the time.

The Warwick Earldom was a very prestigious earldom. Mother said that grandfather chose Father for her because of his willingness to change his last name to Talbot, to ensure the dukedom would stay within the Talbot family. I wish I could relate that Mother and Father chose to arrange all their children’s marriages because their own was so felicitous. Unfortunately, that was not true. Charles, my elder twin brother, who should have inherited, died before he could marry and ensure the line continued, much to the consternation of our mother.

Mother, I believe, in a state of panic, immediately had Father arrange marriages for both myself and my brother. As you know, Robert’s marriage was not a happy one and has left his distaste for the state himself.

Your grandmother’s and my marriage was quite different. At the time Mother was searching for an appropriate candidate for suitable for me, she was in a feud with her sister, Lady Victoria and a cousin, Lady Constance. Lady Victoria believe that my mother should not have inherited the dukedom but rather it should have been put into abeyance and held the title for the next son, which would have been her son. It does not matter that that could not have happened. The patent was written in such a way that if the presiding Duke or Duchess has no children, it becomes extinct: siblings cannot inherit.

Lady Constance, at the time, wanted Mother to arrange a marriage with myself and her youngest daughter, in order to allow the Dukedom and the Earldom to coincide once again. Our Talbot relations never really appreciated how the Earldom and the Dukedom had been forced to separate when Mother gained her inheritance. The patents for the Dukedom allow for women to inherit, a rare occurrence I assume you realize, whereas the Earldom does not. However, Lady Constance and her spouse were universally not liked by my mother and our family. It is a story for a different time, but does serve to say, some of our Talbot relations attempt to take Mother to court over her inheritance.

In the end, Mother went to France to find my bride. Evette was the daughter of an obscure French Baron, and just barely acceptable enough in Mother’s eyes to arrange the marriage with her son. Evette was witty, beautiful, and intelligent. Evette’s father was a traveler and took Evette everywhere with him. He visited London the season Mother was searching for wives and they met at a large ball. I do not believe I was even in attendance. I wish I had been. Apparently, Lady Victoria and Lady Constance were hounding Mother again when they pointed Evette out to her. My wife had been dancing with one of their sons and the two ladies started pointing out everything wrong with Evette and why it would be impossible for her to be accepted into polite English society.

Mother spent the rest of the evening with the Count of Poitiers, Evette’s father. At the end of the evening, Mother was satisfied. I was wed to Evette within the prerequisite six months, as is acceptable in any good society. For the first year, I felt trapped. I had only just lost my brother, my own twin. Even though the appropriate amount of mourning time had passed, I was still mourning Charles in my own way. I had no wish to go to any balls with Mother and the time and had been thankful Mother had allowed me to forgo the event was the very one I should have attended.

At the beginning of my marriage to Evette, I found out that not only had I no wish to be married, neither did she. We hardly even spoke to each other for the entire first year. I recall the day things changed for us, or evening for that matter. We had a ball that she was required to go to; it was being thrown by one of her dearest friends: Lady Margaret Fitzwilliam. It was some sort of birthday celebration, I believe. I stalked the edges of the room like a caged animal. I had no wish to be there but I also had no wish to prove my mother was wrong in her choice to our cousins. I am, after all, loyal.

I remember being such a cad and a bore. Anyone who came near me left quickly, which I approved of. I was so relieved when it was time for us to leave. I was standing by the door, trying my hardest to ignore Lord Fitzwilliam, and I overheard a conversation that haunts me still to this day. Two young jack-a-napes were talking about your grandmother, very unkindly. I almost approached them to put an end to their discussion when they said something that changed the way I looked at her.

One of the young men said, “See, even the Viscount Shrewsbury does not even like his wife.”

That was not true. I turned to Evette and saw her coming toward me and I had this overwhelming feeling of protection. As we rode home, it intensified when I realized she was silently crying on the opposite side of the carriage. I asked her about it and all she told me was that she was “fine”. After many years of marriage I have learned to keep pushing when she said that, because she obviously was not “fine”.

Unfortunately, I had not learned that lesson that evening and we both went to bed as soon as we got home. I, however, could not sleep that night. Did I like my wife? Did it matter? These questions plagued me for weeks. I sought out Mother and Father who both informed me that it did not matter whether I did or did not like my wife. My own father offered to find me a mistress once Evette had given me an heir. I have never approved of such a practice and it only drove me away from them.

I was so incensed that he would even offer such a thing; I removed myself and Evette to Heythrop. I used some excuse of renovations needing my supervision. Evette said not a word and followed me dutifully. The year we spent at Heythrop was…healing. Both Charles and I loved the estate. I was finally able to mourn my brother’s passing without watchful eyes, and I loved every second of it. I also found I was able to be more open and enjoyed your grandmother’s company. It was very soothing. Shortly after we arrived, I found myself telling her more and more about my brothers, myself, and what I wanted in life.

Slowly, she also started to open up. We had many, very candid, conversations. It was then that I found out she hated being married to me. For some reason, at the time, that devastated me. It was then that I realized I had already fallen in love with that wonderful, dedicated, intelligent, and beautiful woman. I wanted to be for her what she was for me. Our marriage changed after that realization. It took another two years of my courting her in our marriage for her to finally admit that she loved me in return.

I still remember the moment she told me. It was like something dormant in my soul open up and I finally felt whole again. We had many wonderful years of marriage after that and even welcomed a much loved child: Faith, your mother.

What you do not know is that we tried to welcome at least four more children, none of whom survived the pregnancies. Each unborn child took some of your grandmother’s health from her. When we finally stopped attempting to give Faith a sister or brother, your Grandmother’s strong will had been broken. She poured everything left she had into Faith and lasted until the year before Faith entered society.

Elizabeth, I know this is a long letter, but you deserve it. You also deserve to be married to a man that you can love and respect from the very beginning. Evette and I went through so many things those first years of our marriage that would have been much easier if we had felt we could have relied on each other. Unfortunately, we could not. The thought that I would be the cause of such a situation for either my Faith or my Elizabeth is abhorrent to me. I wish what we went through on no one…except maybe your worthless Talbot and Berkeley cousins.

So, let this be the end of the matter: you will marry who you choose without regard to anyone else. I will tolerate nothing less. I do not believe that I would have ever had the wonderful years I had with your grandmother if I had been allowed to choose my own bride. A fact I am most grateful for. However, you and your mother were both brought up very differently that I was. My daughter’s judgment of character, as well as your own, cannot be questioned. Faith chose a man I was able to love like a son and mourned as if he was one of my own. I have complete trust that you will choose wisely as well. You are not required to wed nor are you required to have an heir. If you choose never to marry and teach Jane’s ten children to play poorly, I will be content. Your happiness is the most important thing in the world to me.

I love you and wish I could be there with you; I count the days until I can see you again.

Your Loving Grandfather,
James



“Lizzy! You will make us all late!! How you do try my nerves!” Mrs. Bennet cried as she saw Lizzy folding her letter up.

“I am ready Aunt. Is Uncle going with us?”

“No! That man! First he will not greet Mr. Bingley for us, and then he says he already met him, now he claims we do not need him to introduce us to them tonight! Oh he loves to play with my nerves!”

Laughing, Lizzy got up, picked up her wrap and walked toward her door, “Well, we must still love him even though he does like to vex you. Is everyone else ready?”

“No. Oh dear! Kitty! Lydia!” she screamed as she ran down the hallway.

Jane came into their room and said, “You look quite pretty. Is it for Mr. Bingley or his friend?”

Scowling at the memory, “I hope he does not bring his friend. It is not for Mr. Bingley. He was quite charming but I think a little too eager for me.”

“Lizzy, you barely met the man! How can you say so without spending time with him?”

Laughing, Elizabeth linked arms with her dearest cousin as they walked down the stairs, “Dear me, Jane. It really does not matter! He’ll take one look at you and any potential thought of me will be out of his head.” As they gained the lower level, they saw Mary who, it seemed, had taken more time with her appearance than normal.

“Why Mary! You look quite lovely this evening! Is that a new dress?” Jane asked kindly.

Nervous, she replied, “Not really. It was one of Lizzy’s old dresses we remade. I feel frightfully immodest.” She started to pull at the neckline of her dress.

Elizabeth reached out to still her cousin’s hands, “Mary, you look wonderful. There is not a stitch of immodesty in this dress. And what is this ‘we remade’ it? I simply helped you see what needed to be done and you did all the work!” Turning to Jane, “Truly, she’s been working on it the latter part of the week!”

Coming closer, Jane asked, “Is this what you have been working on in the evenings? Mama has needed my attention these past few nights. I have seen you sewing rather than reading and have not had the opportunity to ask about it.”

Half laughing, and still very nervous, Mary stated, “I daresay my hemline will fall out. I have never remade a dress before, and Lizzy is so much taller than I am.”

“Well! You have now, and you have done an admirable job!” stated Elizabeth emphatically.

“Indeed, daughter! It is quite fetching on you! I am surprised though to see you in such a lively color: a spring green!” called out Mr. Bennet from his office. “Whatever made you choose that one?”

Shyly, Mary responded, “I have always liked this dress.” Indicating where Elizabeth was standing, “Lizzy offered to let me wear one of hers, and I asked about this one…” then losing her confidence she stopped speaking mid-sentence.

“I had quite forgotten about it since I have not worn the dress for a while; in fact, many of the changes Mary herself suggested!”

“Ah! That is why I do not see any lace!” exclaimed Mr. Bennet. All laughed at that remark.

“Oh girls! Hurry up or we will be late!” shouted Mrs. Bennet from the top of the stairs.

As the girls were hurried out the door by Mrs. Bennet, Elizabeth and Jane flanked Mary. Elizabeth whispered to her cousin, “Tonight, ignore whatever Aunt has to say. Tonight, think of your roses blooming in Reverend Forsythe’s garden and the smile you have gotten each time we’ve been seen him since then.”

Blushing Mary responded, “Lizzy!”

“Tonight, you might even dance with him!”

Sighing, Mary leaned back into the seat, “Lizzy, he said he never dances. It is too improper for a single man of the cloth.”

Smiling Lizzy responded, “I also heard what he said next; he said he would dance with his wife when he was able to.”

Mary just sighed and said, “His wife.”



The assembly was crowded by the time they gained entrance. The crush was a little overwhelming for Lizzy. As she looked for her eldest cousin, Elizabeth realized she and Mary had already been abandoned by Jane. Jane had been spirited off by Mrs. Carlston, who had a nephew visiting from town. Mrs. Bennet followed after, twittering the entire way. Lizzy then looked at Mary who was looking even more overwhelmed than she was.

“Mary!” shouted Lizzy, “Let’s find Charlotte and a place to sit!”

“Alright.”

They walked and pushed their way through the crowd until they found the tables and seats on the far side of the room. Charlotte was already there with her mother and youngest sister, Mariah. Upon seeing Mary and Lizzy, Charlotte exclaimed, “Elizabeth, Mary! How delightful to see you!”

“Indeed Miss Elizabeth, Miss Mary! It has been a few weeks since we’ve seen you!” declared Lady Lucas. Lady Lucas was a vision of refinement, which was in contrast to her husband’s bulbous figure and infectious attitude. Though not very pretty and really rather plain, her countenance was one of dignity. The Lucas’s had been intimates for years with the Bennets. Lady Lucas had been good friends with Mrs. Bennet since before Jane had been born. She married Sir William Lucas shortly after he had been knighted and returned to Hertfordshire with him. Indeed, Lady Lucas was one of the few people who could control Mrs. Bennet’s more enthusiastic nature most of the time.

Charlotte, being older than Jane Bennet, had become friends with Elizabeth shortly after Elizabeth came out in Hertfordshire society. She appreciated and could relate to Elizabeth’s intelligence more than Jane’s beauty and grace. At the age of seven and twenty, Charlotte felt quite “on the shelf”. The group spoke for a few moments before they heard a shrill, “Mariah!” coming from across the room where Lydia was calling her over to Kitty and herself.

Lady Lucas shook her head at her youngest’ manners, as her daughter all but ran across the dance floor where people had been gathering to start dancing. “That girl will be the death of me!” she exclaimed.

Elizabeth watched her younger cousins and said, “Well. Kitty is changing, I guess it is too much to hope for that she change her…exuberance overnight.”

“I heard about your recent venture into town with her this morning,” remarked Lady Lucas.

Concerned as to what rumor was be spread about, Lizzy asked, “Excuse me? You mean how we went to buy paint?”

“Yes. I came into the shop shortly after you had left. You had left quite an impression on Mr. Steiner. Apparently, it is been years since someone needed painting supplies. He commented that he might have to order your supplies from London.”

Realizing the situation, Lizzy responded, “Yes. Kitty is an excellent artist but she’s never attempted painting. I was encouraging her to try. She wants to try watercolors but Mr. Steiner had no art supplies outside of a few old canvases to purchase. Kitty was quite disappointed. Thankfully the reverend overheard; he has a few supplies left over from his mother and offered to allow Kitty to use them until she could get some of her own.”

At the mention of the reverend, Lady Lucas turned to Mary and said, “Speaking of Reverend Forsythe. Charlotte and I visited him last evening to make sure he felt welcomed tonight. He was out working in his rose garden. It looks absolutely changed. He informed me that you and Elizabeth have been helping him clean it up! You are doing a splendid job dear!”

Mary simply remarked, “Thank you, Lady Lucas.”

At this point Lady Lucas noticed Mary’s appearance, “Why Mary! That green does wonderful things for your eyes and your complexion! Is that a new dress?”

Bashfully, she responded, “No. It is an old one of Lizzy’s. I simply remade it to today’s style and my height.”

Lizzy laughed as she looked slightly down at her cousin, “She is slightly directionally challenged!” Everyone laughed at that statement. They continued to speak for quite a while after that. At one point, Lizzy was asked to dance by one of the Long boys and left her cousin with the Lucas’s for a while. When she returned, Lady Lucas had made her way to Mrs. Bennet and only Charlotte remained with Mary.
Lizzy went straight to them and whispered, “Jonathon Long is getting better! He only trod on my toes once!”

Both Charlotte and Lizzy laughed, Mary said in a concerned voice, “Lizzy! That is not kind. We ought not to speak of our neighbors so!”

Thoroughly chastised, she responded, “You are correct Mary –”

“What is Miss Mary correct about?” asked Reverend Forsythe as he approached the group. Mary immediately blushed as he continued, “Speaking of roses, are we?”

“No Reverend.” Said Elizabeth when she realized Mary was not going to speak, “I was being reprimanded for a remark I made. Mary is quite right though. I ought not to have said it. It was not kind.”

“Lizzy, I –”

“No dear!” exclaimed Charlotte, “You were perfectly right. Remarking on one’s ability to dance is not kind. We should not be speaking of it as we did. If he had heard us, we would have injured his feelings.”

The Reverend looked between all the ladies, and said, “Well, then, what did you tell me this week Miss Mary? Look at the past only as it brings you pleasure?”

Embarrassed, she responded, “Lizzy’s always told me that.”

“Oh!” It went quiet for a few moments, until the Reverend continued, “That is a fetching color Miss Mary. I do not believe I have ever seen you wear it.”

“I have not before.”

After it went silent again, Elizabeth realized that neither the Parson nor Mary would be able to start a topic on their own. She attempted to help them as she said, “I have always believed that phrase. However, let us speak of better things. Reverend, how are your roses? Are you doing any better at naming them?”

At this comment, he got a little sheepish, but admitted, “I admit, I am doing dreadfully with knowing what I have out there. I know it is not customary for one to do this, but I sent to London a month ago for a book on gardening roses. This was before you generously offered to help me. I just received it this morning and thought you, Miss Mary, would enjoy it. I have read a few pages in it and have a few questions, if you do not mind…” he said as he pulled out a small bound book from his pocket.

Elizabeth saw a chance to give them some time alone and grabbed Charlotte’s arm, “Charlotte, remember we needed to speak with Mrs. Haberdash about the quilting bee next month?”

“Lizzy, I do not…ah yes! Yes, I do!” Charlotte exclaimed as she looked between the Reverend and Mary, “We should go find her before we forget. Please excuse us.”

As they walked away, Lizzy could see the look of panic on Mary’s face and turned to Charlotte and said, “I feel bad for that, but she must learn to be comfortable in his presence.”

“I completely agree.” Charlotte then turning to Lizzy, “Did you really want to participate in the sewing circle next month?”

“Not really! Ah look! Jane has been released!” The girls started to laugh as they watched Jane make her way to them. Before she arrived, the room went quiet. Mrs. Bennet came huffing over to where Jane had joined both Charlotte and Lizzy and whispered loudly as she strained to see, “Mr. Bingley and his party have arrived. Jane, do you seem them?”

“Yes Mama. There are three gentlemen and two ladies with them.”

Charlotte said, “That will be his sisters, brother-in-law, and his friend.”

As she said this, Lizzy hissed, “Mr. Darcy!”

Mrs. Bennet did not hear Elizabeth’s comment, as she pressed Charlotte for more information. “Do we know anything about his friend? Is he engaged to one of the ladies or is he single as well? He is quite handsome is not he girls!”

Before Charlotte could answer, Jane whispered, “They are coming over here!”

Mrs. Bennet pushed her way between Charlotte and Jane, “Charlotte, you had best go back to your mother, dear.”

Rolling her eyes, Charlotte said, “Of course Mrs. Bennet,” and walked away a few seconds before the Netherfield party arrived in front of the Bennet party.

Mr. Bingley, without taking his eyes off of Jane, remarked to Elizabeth, “Miss Elizabeth Bennet, it is good to see you under different circumstances. Would you do me the honor of introducing me to your friends?”

Curtseying, Elizabeth started, “Of course, Mr. Bingley, this is my aunt, Mrs. Bennet, and my eldest cousin Miss Jane Bennet.” She pointed over to where Mary was still speaking with the reverend, “Over there is my second eldest cousin, whom you have already met, Mary Bennet. By the way, she is speaking with the Parson, Reverend Michael Forsythe.”

“Yes! I met him earlier this week, quite by accident!” Then realizing his blunder, he exclaimed, “I mean, I did not try to run over him or anything… oh dear!”

Laughing at Mr. Bingley, she continued, “It is quite alright Mr. Bingley.” Then continuing, she pointed at her youngest cousins in line dancing, “There you see my youngest cousins: Lydia Bennet and Kitty Bennet.”

Bowing to Mrs. Bennet and Miss Jane Bennet, he said, “It is a pleasure to meet you. Mrs. Bennet, may I introduce my friends? My sister Louisa Hurst and her husband Mr. Hurst. My youngest sister, Caroline Bingley, and of course, Miss Bennet, you’ll remember Mr. Darcy.”

Staring at Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth responded coldly, “I do not believe I could forget Mr. Darcy.”

Mrs. Bennet could feel the tension mounting, and exclaimed, “Well, it is wonderful that you have moved into Hertfordshire! We look forward to seeing your more! Mr. Bingley, do you dance? “

“I do indeed! There is nothing I love more than a country dance!” Turning back toward Jane, he said, “If Miss Bennet is not otherwise engaged, may I have the honor of the next dance?”

“I am not engaged sir.”

“Splendid!”

As he led her toward the floor where the dancers were beginning to line up again, Mrs. Bennet asked Mr. Darcy, “And you, sir? Do you like to dance?”

“Not if I can help it” Mr. Darcy responded and walked away with the Hurst’s and Miss Bingley in tow.

Mrs. Bennet, extremely affronted, exclaimed “Well! I have never! The absolute gall! Who does he think he is?”

Charlotte approached the two again and said, “That is Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, Mama just told me he has his own estate in Derbyshire worth near £10,000!”

“Well, Aunt, the rich can afford to offend wherever they go,” responded Lizzy, “but we need not care for his good opinion.”

“I daresay not!”

Smiling at her aunt’s immediate retreat Lizzy stated, “I do believe he is not so handsome after all!”

“Indeed not!”

It was some time later that Lizzy was able to make her way back over to where Mary still sat. A parishioner had taken the parson’s attention away and Lizzy felt comfortable approaching them again. “So, Mary, how do you like this assembly?”

Smiling at her cousin, she said, “I normally find it a waste of an evening, but I am thoroughly enjoying myself.” Elizabeth smiled at that response, but Mary continued, “Lizzy, you do not have to keep me company! Why are you not dancing?” she asked.

Mary was unware that Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy were close enough to hear, however, Elizabeth was and replied gaily, “There are not enough men for all the women tonight. No dearest, it is my turn to sit out.”

“Jane never sits out.”

“Jane is the most beautiful woman here.”

“You are quite pretty!”

“Thank you Mary, but I am well aware that I am not as pretty as Jane and I am fine with it.”

They went silent while they watched Jane being guided to the floor yet again. After a few moments, they overheard, Mr. Bingley try to whisper to Mr. Darcy, “Come man! I must have you dance! I must! You are standing around in the most stupid of manners!”

“Indeed not. You have been dancing with the only lovely lady here this evening and I have already danced with your sisters.”

“Darcy! I would not be as fastidious as you for a kingdom! Look over there, there is her sister, or is it cousin, anyway there is Miss Elizabeth. She is quite pretty as well.”

“She is not tolerable enough to tempt me. Bingley! I am in no mood to pander to women who have been slighted by other men! Go back to Miss Bennet, and leave me alone.”

Mr. Darcy attempted to walk away only to have Mr. Bingley follow him.

Mary looked at Lizzy’s face with a shocked expression, “Oh Lizzy!”

Shrugging it off, Lizzy started to laugh, “It is alright!”

“He probably did not know you could hear!”

“Why not? He could hear us not moments before.” Trying to laugh off the comment, she continued, “It is exactly what you had been speaking about before: I overheard something that probably should not have been said, and only got hurt by it. However, I am not hurt by it. Mr. Darcy may have his ill opinion of my looks and this town. I care not about it.”

Mary simply shook her head. Lizzy changed the subject, “What did you and the reverend speak of tonight?”

Mary smiled in remembrance of her conversation. “His family, mostly.”

“Really?” asked Lizzy, curious she continued, “And tell me, what did you learn about our parson’s relations?”

“Well…” Mary thought for a moment about her conversation, “He has two sisters who reside with his elder brother, on his brother’s estate in Oxford.” She stopped for a moment and whispered, “I did not have the nerve to ask where in Oxford.”

Elizabeth laughed and replied, “That is alright Mary! But tell me of the sisters and the brother. What do you know of them?”

Mary smiled and replied, “The reverend’s sisters sound delightful. Both are between my age and Kitty’s ages and love to read and paint. Reverend Forsythe said that his brother’s father died young and the mother remarried. His elder brother is quite a few years older than himself. He and his sisters are only half siblings to the current Mr. Maurice. They’ve been residing with Mr. Maurice since the passing of the reverends’ mother about four years ago.”

“That is very generous of the brother; taking in his sisters,” commented Elizabeth.

Smoothing out a wrinkle in her green gown, Mary concluded, “It was his familial duty, he was only doing what he should.”

Elizabeth replied, “Not necessarily. After all, Mr. Maurice is not related to Reverend Forsythe or his sisters paternally. He actually may have had a choice on whether or not to take in his younger half siblings. Did the good Reverend mention his sisters’ circumstances?”

Mary looked thoughtfully at her cousin and asked, “Not really. We spoke of his sisters’ possibly obtaining a season in London, but he mentioned his brother had not decided if it was necessary. Why would he have a choice whether or not to take care of his sisters? After all, they are family.”

Elizabeth considered her cousin for a moment and decided to tread carefully, “Depending on how the late Mr. Maurice left his estate, he may not have been able to leave the girls or even the good Reverend anything. Grandfather has told me of one of his good friend’s situations. He has told me of another friend who married and had an heir; his wife died and he eventually remarried. With his second wife, my grandfather’s friend had three more daughters. Unfortunately, due to the way the estate was set up, my grandfather’s friend was unable to leave anything to his second wife or second family. When my grandfather’s friend died, he asked his eldest son to take care of his second wife and daughters. The son was persuaded not to. The young ladies have lately removed themselves from the only home they’ve known and are now economizing in a different part of the country.”

Mary looked in shock at her cousin, and cried, “How could he do such a thing? To treat ones’ family like that is unpardonable!”

Elizabeth shrugged, “It may not be right in your or my eyes, but the man was within his legal rights. As I said, it was very generous of Mr. Maurice to take his sisters in like that.”

“Indeed!” Mary was quiet for a few moments. The two cousins sat and watched Kitty and Lydia laughing louder than they should be on the dance floor. After a few minutes, she quietly asked, “Is that why you keep telling Mama that she has no need to worry about our hedgerows? You intend on acting like Mr. Maurice?”

Elizabeth smiled and rose when she saw her dance partner come close to where she and Mary were sitting. She replied very quickly, “Yes, neither myself nor my grandfather would want any of you to worry about your futures,” she added as she was being led to the dance floor, “For tonight, dear Mary, find your Reverend Forsythe and enjoy the rest of the evening.”



“Surely, he did not mean what he said!” exclaimed Jane.

“Of course he did, Jane! He almost looked straight at me when he said it!”
Jane just started shaking her head, “I cannot believe he would be so rude when his friend was so kind.”

“I can believe it. When he almost killed me, he blamed me for the accident and did not even apologize. No, Mr. Darcy is a proud and disagreeable man.”

“I cannot believe him as ill as all that!”

“He does not have his friend’s happy manner that is for certain.” Looking at Jane as she blushed at the mention of Mr. Bingley, Elizabeth continued, “And what do you think of our neighbors, dear cousin? He did dance with you twice.”

“He was only being polite.”

“I believe he was polite to me, you on the other hand, he was staring at the rest of the evening.”

“Lizzy!”

“I believe I asked you a question that you have not answered.”

“Oh Lizzy, He is just what a young man ought to be,” Jane replied, “Sensible, good-humored, and lively. His manners were exceedingly pleasing and very happy! He wanted to put me at east during our dance.”

“He is also handsome,” interjected Elizabeth, “‘which all young men ought to be, if they can possibly help it.”

“I was extremely flattered by being asked to dance a second time. I did not expect such a compliment.”

Elizabeth stopped surprised, “Did you not? I did for you! That is the great difference between us. Compliments always surprise you and me never.” Lizzy concluded, “He is certainly very agreeable; I give you leave to like him. You have liked many a stupider person.”

“Lizzy!”

“What?” Elizabeth asked while attempting her most innocent face.

It was not that Jane did not like being teased, however, for some reason, she found herself attempting to change the conversation, “What did you and Mary discuss last evening? I saw you to speaking for a little bit and Mary had both a shocked expression but also a worried one on at one point.”

“For the record, I notice the misdirection, but I will play along,” Elizabeth smiled as she replied, “What else would we speak of than Reverend Forsythe? I asked about her conversation with him and she told me about his sisters.” She stopped walking around the garden, and forced Jane to stop with her, and stated, “Although, I never did find out what exactly they and been talking about. I daresay we did get into a somewhat serious conversation.”

“Really?” inquired Jane, “What on earth was the discussion about?”

“Inheritance.”

Jane looked quickly around and asked quietly, “Elizabeth I do not think that is a suitable conversation much less for a ballroom! Especially if you want to keep yours quiet!”

Elizabeth laughed and exclaimed, “Not mine” Seeing her cousin’s confused look she elucidated, “The good Reverend spoke of his sisters who reside with their half-brother at his estate. I made the comment that the half-brother was generous indeed. We simply started to discuss that fact that some women have to rely on the goodness of their families for support until they are married and that some men, not Mr. Maurice, do not rise to that challenge.” She shrugged, “Mary had automatically assumed the brother was doing his duty. I simply pointed out that his duty may not have legally included the care of his sisters, or even his half-brother, Reverend Forsythe.”

“A heave topic indeed.” stated Jane, “Is that why she was so quiet on the way home last night?”

Elizabeth shrugged again, “I have no idea.” She then became thoughtful and added, “She did ask if that was what I mean when I tell Aunt not to worry about hedgerows.”

Becoming lost, Jane asked, “Excuse me?”

Elizabeth nodded, “I did not have a lot of time to discuss it with Mary as my dance partner was coming close, but she wanted to know what I meant. I was only able to tell her that neither Grandfather nor I would want any of our family to worry about their futures.”

Jane started walking again, with a thoughtful expression on her face. Elizabeth allowed her cousin her thoughts. They walked in silence for some time until Jane finally asked, “Elizabeth, why have not you told mother about your inheritance? Do you not think that knowledge would help her to…”

“Calm down? Give her nerves a rest?” offered Elizabeth, “Grandfather and I discussed it at great length this past visit. Should we tell Aunt now? Or should we wait until I leave for the next London season? During my visit, neither of us could answer that question. Do you think it would help?” asked Elizabeth.

Jane was a little taken back by her cousin’s question. It took her a few moments before she answered, “I honestly do not know. I would love to believe that she would calm down knowing that we will at least have a home were something, God forbid, to happen to my father.”

“But will her nerves calm down? Will she stop speaking so….inappropriately in public of other’s wealth? Or would she seek to use my position in society and inheritance to find you rich and eligible young men? Would she allow you to marry whom you wish, or would her requirements in husbands for us simply raise?”

“What do you mean?”

Elizabeth sighed and spotted a bench and went to sit down. After Jane joined her, she said, “Dear Jane, I do not wish to disparage the women who has raised me as one of her own, however, I am convinced that my uncle and grandfather were right to keep my inheritance from Aunt.” She grabbed her cousins’ hands and quietly asked, “Jane, let me ask you this: right now, Mr. Bingley is a very eligible gentleman in Aunt Fanny’s eyes. But ask yourself, if Aunt Fanny knew about Grandfather, would he still be eligible?”

Jane bit her lip and replied, “No. Mother would want me to marry someone with a title.” She withdrew her hands and rose to pace. Since Jane rarely paced, Elizabeth allowed her cousin her thoughts. “But Lizzy, I want to marry for love, not a title or what my husband can give me. It embarrassed me so when I heard her speaking of Mr. Bingley’s income last night. Normally I am able to ignore it, but last night….”

“You could not?”

Jane sighed and turned away from her cousin. Elizabeth rose and put an arm around Jane, “Jane, please. I wish that I could say that knowing her, you and your sisters will never have to want for anything, would help Aunt Fanny. Unfortunately, I can’t. I can however tell you, that between your father and my grandfather, Aunt Fanny will not be allowed to choose our futures for us. Feel free to fall in love with Mr. Bingley or not. Either way, your choice will not be forced.”

The ladies returned to walking in the garden. After a few moments of walking in silence, Jane asked, “I watched Mary a good deal last night. I am quite proud of the changes she has made this past week. In fact, when I left her this morning, she was planning on going to visit Hill and gather baskets for us to take to some of our tenants this afternoon.”

Elizabeth only smiled.

Jane continued, “Kitty had gathered up her supplies and was headed to Oakmont Hill this morning to ‘try to capture the beauty from the hill’” she added. When Jane saw that Elizabeth was not going to respond again, she said, “Their changes are remarkable. Even Kitty was calm last night. She was still very boisterous but nothing like normal.”

“Oh yes! I heard her tell everyone she had danced every dance!” said Elizabeth with a giggle, “I even spied her dancing with Mrs. Carlston’s nephew, much to his dismay.”

Jane giggle at the thought, “Yes, he was most put out when he could not dance anymore with me.”

“Another admirer?”

Jane shook her head and said, “No. He made a point of speaking of a Miss Digby in London. I am sure he left his heart with her.”

“Poor Kitty,” teased Elizabeth, she then spied a figure walked toward them, and cried, “Oh look! Charlotte is come!”

It was customary for Charlotte and her mother to come over to Longbourn the day after dances, assemblies, and balls to discuss the night before. It was more of surprise that Charlotte came by herself this day, rather than the fact that she came at all.

From a distance they could hear Charlotte say, “My father and mother are having a card party next week and you are all invited!”
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Ignorance and Irony - Chapter 1 Part 2

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