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Ignorance and Irony - Chapter 2 (Part 1)

April 11, 2017 03:57PM
Huge shout out to Betsy, my beta. Without you this would only be the ramblings of a Jane Austen Fan.

Chapter 2 – New Neighbors

“Miss Lizzy! Oh Miss Lizzy!” shouted Mrs. Hill as she half ran toward Elizabeth who had just begun her morning walk. “The post has come and you have another letter,” she huffed as she approached.

“Hill, you did no need to run after me!” laughed Elizabeth, “I would have been fine reading it when I returned.”

“I know ma’am. It is just that you get so much pleasure out of letters from your grandfather. I recognized the paper.” Then she lowered her head and her voice as if she was afraid of being overheard, “And between you and me, I surely would not want Mrs. Bennet to get ahold of your letters. She’s been curious lately, ever since Mr. Bingley moved in. She told me to take her the mail first.”

“Thank you Hill. I appreciate it.” Elizabeth stated, “Has Mr. Bennet been informed of my aunt’s recent curiosity into the mail?”

“Not yet.”

“Let me discuss it with him.”

“As you wish,” the housekeeper stated as she turned to return to the house.

Lizzy sighed as she looked at the envelope clearly addressed to her in her grandfather’s handwriting. Seeing how near Longbourn she still was, Lizzy felt the need to put some distance between her and the house before opening her letter. She made it to the bottom of the hill toward Oakham Mount and realized that it looked like rain. I should probably return to the house, she thought, I do not want to get caught in the rain.

Lizzy fingered the letter as she turned toward home, and spied a large rock off to the side of the road. It was far enough from the road that she felt she would not be bothered. After making herself comfortable, she opened the letter and started reading.

Grosvenor Square
October 12, 1811

Dear Elizabeth,

Another assembly? Do you not have more worthwhile activities in that small town than to spend yet another evening dancing away? Oh well, we each have our own ways to spend a perfectly good evening, and I am sure your Aunt Fanny was in her element. For myself, I am quite pleased I am not responsible for five girls during one evening, chaperoning your mother was enough for me. It is no wonder Thomas takes no interest in these events. He should, but I completely understand his wish to stay home.

Why should you be surprised that a growing affection for her young curate would cause changes in Mary? Be thankful they are good changes. For me, your grandmother did an excellent job, if I do say so myself, in molding me. I am glad the changes Mary is making in her life are for the better! I remember what effect your Aunt Eunice had on your Uncle Robert. I am hopeful that a young curate would not drive anyone to drink like Eunice did.

I probably should not speak so…candidly, about your departed aunt. However, neither I nor my brother (especially him) can look back on that marriage with any happy memories. One day, Robert will tell you about his marriage and hopefully you will learn from his mistakes just as he and I both did, without the heartache of course.

As for your cousin Kitty, I am well pleased that she appreciated the art supplies. The sketch she had you send me of Longbourn was delightful! I am having a special frame made up for it and will hang it in the study at Heythrop. How would I go about getting another sketch for my study here in London? Possibly a larger ? Does she have the paper necessary for such an undertaking? Is her easel large enough? I will admit to being curious as to how all those supplies I sent are used. I visited my goddaughter recently, who had many of them and she was kind enough to show me what was necessary for painting and sketching. I spent a delightful afternoon with her and her companion while she sketched me. It is only a small one, but if you are nice to me, I might send it to you!

I challenged her to sketch your Uncle Robert but neither was willing to take the challenge. One did not want to sit still long enough; the other did not believe the first could. Please let me know if you need anything else for your cousins. I never thought of obtaining items to help them in their chosen hobbies. I found I quite enjoyed the treasure hunt! I ran into Eddy at one of the book shops I visited for Kitty’s art books. He found it quite enjoyable as well. As you know, his daughter-in-law loves to paint. He thought she might enjoy a few trinkets as well.

My dear girl, I must speak of more serious matters now. Your Uncle Thomas wrote to me informing me that there will be a camp of militia nearby for the winter. If this is true, I would caution you greatly, my dear, I am not saying all men in the militia are dangerous, Eddy’s son is a good example of an exception, but there are a few who would use you for devious plans if they knew about me. I may be overcautious in my old age, sitting here in this massive mansion, surrounded by security here in London, but the truth is, I still fear for you. I am half tempted to send my man to you.

Jones is quite robust and extremely intimidating. As you know Burke wanted to retire, something about a long lost sweet heart or something. We stumbled on Jones quite by accident! I almost ran him over with my coach. Thankfully, he was not injured. When I found he needed employ, I hired him as a footman. I was pleasantly surprised when I found out he had been educated as a gentleman.

He had some type of story, being the son of a servant of some Lord out in the lower counties. Apparently, his father was respected by the master of the house and so the master agreed to educate him. I checked into it and found out he was telling the truth, but had not told me all! The son, who inherited after the good man died, threw both Jones and his father out! I was pleased to offer both a new home here with me.

I know you would not appreciate my man’s presence so I was very tempted to ask Eddy’s son about this group of soldiers. He is a colonel now and would be happy to help. I also thought you would not appreciate my interference; so I will not tell you when I look into the camp, but I will tell you I will not ask Eddy’s son. .

On to one last topic, at least for this letter: Whiting Place. We have never broached the topic of your Father’s and Mother’s home and need to: what do you wish to do with Whiting Place, the home your parents purchased? I do not know if you wish to see the place, but your parents did not live there very long, only a few years. My Faith often wrote of visiting Heythrop with your father and then with you. When your mother died, your father really did not want anything to do with the place. I have been renting it to a cousin, who, if I offered, would probably buy it from you. But that is up to you. You need not decide at this moment.

Gregory never did like the thought of being a member of the society. He was a very loveable man, loved country society, but hated London. That is why your mother and he purchased, with part of her dowry, that home on the sea side. He wanted to have society but he did not want to be in London and Faith wanted to raise you away from the judging eyes that reside in that illustrious town. I always appreciated the fact that my daughter never had to worry about her husband; she had absolutely no reason to doubt his love or sincerity.

Your father and I had removed all valuable personal things from the house after your mother died. Most are at Heythrop, waiting for you. I honestly do not know why this topic has never come up. As I mentioned, I have a relative renting the place at the moment and he is more than welcome to use any of my homes if you wish to return to Whiting Place. If you do not wish to do that, we could always continue to rent it to Matthew Berkeley and his sister Martha. I caution against selling it however, you may have children who you would like to inherit it. If you do wish to sell it, I would advise selling it to your Berkeley cousins.

Knowing you, you will probably tease that there are many other topics we have had the need to cover.

Please enjoy your time in Hertfordshire. Greet your family for me, for soon they will be my family as well.


“Oh grandfather!” she groaned as she folded the letter up and started to return to Longbourn. The moment was made worse when Elizabeth felt the heavens open up hesitantly to rain down on her. Lizzy realized she was still quite a distance from Longbourn and started to run. As she raced to the bottom of the hill as quickly she could without falling, Lizzy saw two riders racing across the meadow below her. As she turned her gaze back to her footing she could not help but admire the strength and balance of the man in front on the black horse. As she neared Longbourn she realized the horses had been headed toward Netherfield and immediately scowled as she thought, The first was probably Mr. Darcy and his black devil, his pride would never allow him to be behind Mr. Bingley.

Before she made it to the house, the heavens opened up. Elizabeth was quite wet when she entered Longbourn.

“Lizzy? Lizzy, is that you?” called Mrs. Bennet from the drawing room.

“Yes, Aunt!” Mrs. Bennet ventured toward the foyer where Lizzy was getting out of her wet shoes and her wet jacket. “Sorry Aunt! I did not make it back before it started to rain. I will go immediately and change.”

“Of course! You will not be fit to be seen otherwise! Look at how you are dripping on my carpet! Hill! Hill!” cried Mrs. Bennet, “Help Miss Lizzy to her room and take care of these dripping things!”

“Of course, ma’am.”

“Lizzy, when you are dry, you wanted to practice a duet with me?” asked Mary as she came out from the sitting room. She added, “I thought it might be a nice change to play a duet at the next party rather than by myself.” Mary then teased, “I know you can probably play it beautifully but I could benefit from the practice!”

Amused at Mary’s reference to her joke with her grandfather, Elizabeth was also pleased at the bravery of her cousin to ask for help. Lizzy replied, “Of course Mary! Only, let me find Jane first, I want to share my letter with her.”

“A letter? You did not receive a letter,” stated a confused Mrs. Bennet.

“Jane is gone to the Bingley’s for lunch. She received a note while you were out walking. She left not a few minutes before you returned.” Mary responded to Lizzy’s comment.

Confused, Lizzy asked, “I did not see or hear a carriage leave.”

Preening with pleasure, Mrs. Bennet responded, “I sent her on Nelly.”

Astonished, Lizzy exclaimed, “You sent Jane three miles on horseback in this rain! At the very least she’ll not be fit to be seen!”

Waving her hand as if to dismiss Lizzy, Mrs. Bennet said, “She’ll be fine! It is all going according to my plan.”

“What plan, Aunt? To have Jane ill?”

“No!” snapped Mrs. Bennet, “If she arrives on horseback, she will not be able to leave again until it stops raining. The men were not to join the women for lunch. If she is unable to leave until after dinner, she will be able to see Mr. Bingley. Indeed, if the rain does not let up, she might need to stay overnight!” It was at this point that Mrs. Bennet realized Lizzy was still dripping on the floor, “Lizzy! You go at once to your room! You will have the entire house soggy if you are not careful!”

Lizzy turned to go upstairs and called over her shoulder angrily, “If Jane should get ill, it will all be in pursuit of Mr. Bingley!” and hurried to her room.

By the time she entered her room, she was thoroughly cold. Jane is probably faring much worse after being out in it for longer than I was! Oh Aunt! If only you knew that you are actually safe from the hedgerows. I would never let anything happen to this family.

After a few moments, Lizzy heard a slight knock on the door, “Enter!”

Mary poked her head in and said, “Sally was needed in the kitchen. I know how hard it is to remove wet clothes. Did you need some help?”

With a grateful smile, Lizzy responded, “Yes, if you do not mind!”

“It is mine, I tell you! Mine!” they heard in the hallway.

“But it looks better on me!”

“Give it back!”

Looking at Mary, Lizzy asked, “What on earth is going on?”

Mary shrugged and reached for the door knob, just as she went to turn the handle the door burst open to let Kitty in and Mary was barely able to move out of the way before the flying door hit her. Mary was about to reprimand Kitty for her hasty entrance when she realized her sister was crying, “Kitty! What is wrong?”

Kitty started wailing, “She took my new hat! I bought this ugly hat and remade it last week. You remember it, Lizzy? I bought it when we went to town for my painting supplies. I went to find it today to make sure I had finished it and could not find it. I found it in Lydia’s closet. She says that it looks better on her and therefore is hers!” She rushed to Lizzy and disregarding the wet clothes starting crying into her shoulder. “She takes everything that is mine!”

Lizzy held her until she could stop crying. After Kitty had dried her tears, Lizzy motioned for the door to be shut. “Kitty, you may stay, but I need to change clothes,” Lizzy,” she calmly stated as she gently pushed her cousin a little away from her.

Kitty looked up with enormous red eyes with shock, “I am sorry! I did not even realize!” she went to sit at Lizzy’s desk. Mary proceeded to help Lizzy remove the wet and now drying clothing and replace it with something more suitable for midday.

As she watched her cousin and sister, Kitty commented with a raspy voice, “Mary, that is a lovely color on you.”

Mary was wearing a light blue frock that was printed with small blue flowers. Elizabeth had noticed that Mary had been wearing more of her colorful dresses that Mrs. Bennet kept trying to get her to wear. This one was no different. As she eyed the dress closer, she vaguely remembered the pattern, “Mary, I seem to remember this dress but never of you wearing it.”

Blushing, Mary responded, “Thank you Kitty, and no Lizzy, I have never worn this dress.” Lizzy, fully dressed now, turned and raised an eyebrow at Mary who had been holding her breath. With a huge release of air, she quickly said, “Mama bought this dress for me a few years ago. I never wanted to wear it. It was covered with lace and frills. After the last assembly, however, I found it and decided to try to take all of the frills off. I was able to complete it last night. I finally decided to wear it.”

Kitty jumped up, “Oh that is right, Mary! You have all those extra dresses!”

Still blushing Mary said, “Not a lot. But I have been going through them…”

Curious, Lizzy asked, “Why Mary?”

“Well…I do have so many. I even have dresses that are not even my size anymore. Mama has been trying to get me to wear any color other than what she terms ‘those dull colors I normally wear’. I do not think she realizes how many she does buy me. I feel so greedy having so many when there are tenants who hardly have anything. I was thinking…”

“Yes?” encouraged Lizzy.

“I was thinking about giving some of the older ones or smaller ones to some of the tenants. There is still so much usable fabric in them...”

“Why on earth would you wish to do that?” queried Kitty, “If your gowns reasonably fit you we can remake them to be more fashionable.”
Blushing Mary replied, “I do not need an entire closest full of gowns. I have more than I wear on a regular basis. If I can give something back to our tenants and those that need it, it would be my Christian duty to do so.”

With a grunt Kitty responded, “This is the influence of your Parson on you, I think.”

Mary was slightly irritated and replied, “No this is the influence of my Lord on me. Kitty, I choose to do this, I do not even think Reverend Forsythe is aware of my actions. I wish to be charitable.”

Kitty looked at her sister with nothing short of astonishment, “You are giving away your dresses because you want to, basically?”

“No, I want to help those who need the help and I can do so in this one way. It is not simply the whim of a moment.” Mary replied, “Kitty, if I asked you to help me remake a dress, would you not help?” As Kitty nodded, Mary added, “Of course you would, after all, I have the ability to do and there isn't much else I can contribute. I do not have many talents but what I have, I wish to share.”

Kitty sat and studied her elder sister for a moment and said, “I have dresses I do not wear anymore, and have no wish to remake, would you like them to donate?”

Shocked that her younger sister would join her, Mary stammered, “Of-of course!”

“Great!” Kitty exclaimed, then Kitty got quiet as she eyed Mary and said, “I wonder…”. She studied Mary so long that it started to make Mary uncomfortable.

When Mary could not stand the scrutiny anymore, she asked, “Is there something else, Kitty?”

“Well…I wonder, as you said, I do remake dresses well…would you mind if I helped you remake your wardrobe,” when she saw Mary start to decline, she responded, “I promise I will not do anything you do not want or feel comfortable with, and I promise: no lace!”

Both Lizzy and Mary laughed at that. Mary replied, “Of course.”

Excited once again, she grabbed Mary’s arm and dragged her to the door and said, “There’s no time like the present! Let us go raid our closets!”

Lizzy called after the two, “Mary! We can practice this afternoon if that is convenient for you!”

It was Kitty who answered, “Of course it is convenient for her! It is raining outside!”

Elizabeth simply laughed at the exuberance of her cousin. One minute she is in tears, the next she is dragging Mary to her closet to dress her up like a doll, she thought. Elizabeth went to her desk and carefully laid out the recent letter from James to allow it to dry. She also reached for a fresh piece of paper and started to respond to her grandfather’s letter.

When she was finished, Elizabeth made her way down stairs and quietly knocked on her uncle’s study door.

“Come in!”

Elizabeth stuck her head in and smiled when she saw her uncle hastily hiding a glass of port, “You know Aunt Fanny does not like it when you drink during the middle of the day.” She shut the door behind her and said, “Would you like me to ring for tea?”

“No,” he replied, “I do not care what your Aunt Fanny does not like me doing, and this is not port. It is some bourbon your grandfather sent me.” He indicated a box on the floor next to his desk, “He sent some other things as well,” looking into the box, he said, “It looks like Kitty will not have to worry about additional spending money anytime soon.”

Elizabeth went over to where the box was and knelt on the floor beside it, “Oh!” she cried as she picked up five or six books on a variety of painting subjects. She smiled largely at the generosity of her grandfather when she saw a multitude of other paint supplies and drawing supplies. She found some music sheets for Mary in it as well as a book on roses for her cousin. She held up a small delicate paint brush and said, “Oh, Grandfather. You are too good.”

“Yes, I daresay he is,” Thomas added as he enjoyed the bourbon, “But you did not come in here for that box did you?”

Elizabeth was standing with some of the supplies in her hand and replied, “Actually I was. Grandfather wrote that he was sending some things, and since I did not hear Aunt Fanny speaking of them, I assume you commandeered them before she did.”

“Yes, I did. I also have given instructions for Hill to find me a basket for those painting supplies. If you would be so kind and to inform Kitty that she has a few more items to divert herself with, I would appreciate it,” Thomas replied as he picked up the book he had been reading before Elizabeth came into the room.

Elizabeth hesitated for a moment, then sat down and asked, “Uncle, Grandfather wrote about Whiting Place. He wanted to know what I wanted to do with it.”

Thomas looked up from his book with one eye brow raised and asked, “Just what do you wish to do with it? It is not part of your inheritance from James. It is part of what your father left you.”

Elizabeth started fidgeting and said, “I honestly do not know, after all I will not need it. Grandfather wrote that I might want to keep it for future children…”

Thomas nodded and replied, “Yes, yes. That sounds fine.”

Elizabeth said quietly, “Would it be too unfashionable if I were to give it away…. as a wedding present?”

Thomas considered his niece for a moment and replied, “Why would you want to do that? Actually I can guess the why, before you make a decision, you must consider: who would you make a gift of it to? Jane? If your aunt is correct, she’ll be Mistress of Netherfield. Mary will be a parson’s wife, and Kitty and Lydia are so far away from being married, it is almost an irrelevant point.”

Elizabeth nodded and said, “It does seem wise to not upset current plans, just because I wish to. You are right;; I will think no more of it, for now.”

Then Elizabeth remembered her letters, “Uncle, I do wish to inform you, Mrs. Hill felt it necessary to come directly to me with my mail. It seems Aunt Fanny has directed her and the rest of the staff to deliver all the mail directly to her.”

Thomas Bennet sighed in resignation, “Your aunt will always be a nosy person, Lizzy. I had thought you used to it by now. However, I will direct Hill to bring them to me instead. If you aunt questions that, she will also be directed to me.”

Elizabeth nodded and rose to leave the room, Thomas called out, “Elizabeth,” when she turned he said, “It is very generous of you, my dear, to offer your parent’s home to my daughters. That would be well done. I, however, have no qualms in informing you that your cousins’ dowries are not as dire as your aunt believes. These seventeen years have seen many profitable investments…” he said with a wink. Then with a much more serious expression he offered, “If you wish to be generous, I would consider selling the estate to your cousins that are renting it.” Holding out the letter he had received from James for her to read, “This letter arrived within the last few days. I have only just gotten to it. I would imagine they would appreciate your generosity. However, it is your choice my dear.”

Elizabeth smiled as she grabbed the letter, and left the room, she found her younger cousins still in Mary’s room. When she peeked in, the two young ladies were busy tearing lace from a pile of dresses lying on Mary’s bed. They were giggling and laughing together. Elizabeth only smiled and returned to her room, where she took up her own book to read but decided to read her uncle’s letter first.

Grosvenor Street, London
October 08, 1811


It was, as always, good to hear from you!

To your first request, I have already had the opportunity to chaperone my own daughter in society and will repeat the experience when Elizabeth finally comes to live with me. I have no need of any of your girls. I assure you, whereas you may have a large quantity to chaperone, I will have the quality to deal with instead. You chose to have four girls, you live with the repercussions: at least for now, until Elizabeth starts having a say in my homes.

I know Edward Gardiner has already written you, but we have been unsuccessful with locating a small property close to Whiting Place for Matthew Berkeley and his sister Martha to move into. I am growing more and more concerned by the day about their situation. It will always astonish me how a family can be so unfeeling with relatives, especially my extended cousins.

I do not know if you are aware of the history between the Talbots and the Berkeleys, but there is certainly bad blood between them. When Ezra Berkeley (one of my grandmother’s grandsons from her second marriage) married beneath him to the women he loved, his Berkeley relations cast him off. It is appalling that since the Berkeley’s cast their own kin off, no one will acknowledge them. Ezra had five children, only two of whom are still alive: Matthew and Martha.

I grew rather fond of both Matthew and Martha, after having met them a few years ago. They are definitely good people. When I found out that Matthew had taken his sister in when her husband died. Apparently, Martha’s husband had left her and her children nothing. Matthew’s own children died when they were tiny, and now he has made he nephew his heir; even though I am sure he has not much to leave the boy. I was pleased when they accepted the lease at Whiting Place. I felt that your brother Gregory would have liked Matthew as much as I do.

I have a feeling Elizabeth will be speaking with you about Whiting Place soon. We will need to make arrangements for the place, it is one of those little pesky things my solicitor keeps bringing up in regards to her inheritance. I told her that Matthew was interested in buying the place. If she wishes to sell it, Whiting Place could go to no one more deserving.

At this point, Elizabeth realized the rest of the letter was business and folded it back up. Since it was too soon to go to dinner, and still raining outside, Elizabeth reached for her book. For the next few hours, she lost herself in the world of Shakespeare. When her quiet solitude was interrupted by Mary and Kitty, later that afternoon, she found she had absolutely no cause to repine.

The evening started as one of contentment. James had seen clear to add a magazine of latest fashions in the crate along with some other things for Mrs. Bennet and Lydia, and they were excessively diverted.

“Lizzy, it was so good of my brother to send these things!” cried Mrs. Bennet, “You must come and look at the sleeves on this dress!”

Elizabeth simply shook her head. Accustomed as she was to having gifts from her grandfather disguised as from her Uncle Gardiner, Elizabeth only said, “Aunt, I have no need for new sleeves. However, I believe that pink muslin you bought Lydia could use better ones.”

As the matriarch and her youngest daughter’s attention were fascinated on the magazine, Mary and Elizabeth were attempting to practice a duet at the piano forte. Kitty was so excited at the basket of supplies she had received; she was sitting on a chair near the piano where she was sketching with new charcoal the scene at the piano.

“Lizzy! That was not your part!” cried Mary with a smile.

“But I love to play that note!” Elizabeth teased as she reached as far as she could across Mary to tap the ivory.

A single solitary note floated in the air as Mary exclaimed, “It is on the other side of my side of the piano! You have to reach across me to get to it,”

“That is why I like to play it!”

“Oh Lord, you two are simply dreadful,” cried Lydia from across the room. “You should not make everyone suffer so simply because you wish for the amusement! I might add, it is not very amusing either!”

Elizabeth sharply corrected her cousin, “Lydia! That is not kind!” She sent a glare toward her youngest cousin and added, “Besides, we are practicing so that we can get better.”

Lydia rose from where she had been looking at the magazine with Mrs. Bennet, it was clear the magazine no longer held any interest for her. She wandered over to where Kitty was attempting to use charcoal pieces to draw for the first time. The middle Bennet’s picture was not very clear, and was exceedingly smudged. Lydia started laughing, “Kitty! Your drawing is exceedingly hideous! Mary is not taller than Elizabeth, even sitting down, and look at the mess you’ve made!” she pointed to the black smudges Kitty was unaware she had made on her dress.

Kitty looked in horror at her dress and then disappointment at her drawing, and said in a small voice, “Lydia, it is only my first try and I have never really sketched people before and never with these sticks.”

Lydia snorted in disgust and said, “I would hate to have to use something that got my fingers so very dirty. Why do you insist upon being so boring? What fun is drawing?”

“I find it very pleasurable.”

Elizabeth interrupted at this point and said, “Indeed, I find your sketching to be quite good. I would love it if you would draw Jane for me.”

Kitty nodded meekly but the conversation had drawn Mrs. Bennet’s attention. When she saw the state of Kitty’s dress she cried, “Catherine Victoria Bennet! You go upstairs right now and clean your hands, and change your dress! It is probably ruined with by all that black charcoal!” As Mrs. Bennet started waving her white handkerchief around she cried, “Oh, my nerves! Why would my brother send such an offensive and dirty thing?? Whoever thought that using charcoal would be acceptable for drawing? You are playing with soot!”

Mr. Bennet thankfully intervened and said without looking up from his book, “Da Vinci.”

The whole room turned to Mr. Bennet and he was forced to explain himself, “Leonardo Da Vinci drew and he used charcoal. I daresay if he could sketch with it, so can Kitty.” He then looked at the mess she was making and offered, “However, Catherine, I believe I must agree with your mother on this: you are a sight. Go change, please.” He winked as he added, “in the future, I suggest you wear an apron or something to cover your clothes, and maybe have a wet cloth you can wipe your hands off with while drawing?”

Kitty half smiled and she rose to leave the room. Elizabeth was, upset by not only her younger cousin’s actions, but also the response of both her aunt and uncle; she, rushed out of the room after her.

She caught up with Kitty as she was washing her hands in a basin in the room she shared with Lydia. “Kitty?” She asked quietly from behind the younger girl, “Are you alright?”

She heard Kitty mumble something and approached the young lady. Elizabeth and brought Kitty’s chin up with one finger and saw the tears threatening to cascade down her face. “Oh Kitty!” Elizabeth said as she grabbed her cousin in a fierce hug, “Your drawing was wonderful for a first try. I would never be able to draw someone as clearly as you did. You have talent.”

She held Kitty away from her for a second and added, “Yes, you were a little messy, but it was your first time and you had no idea what the charcoal would do. I daresay you should imagine what I would produce if I attempted to sketch with that medium.” She then turned her cousin around and said, “Let’s get you out of this dress and see if Mrs. Hill can clean it.”

Kitty nodded and asked, “I think I will just get ready for bed though. I have no wish to return downstairs.”

Elizabeth nodded and after a few moments, she held the blackened dress in her arms, and said, “I will be right back, dearest.”

As soon as she rushed downstairs, she found Mrs. Hill in the kitchen with Sally, and Mrs. Brown. She gave the trio a smile and said, “Just the ladies I wanted to see! Kitty was unaware of the messiness of the charcoal sticks she was using this evening to draw. Unfortunately, there is charcoal all over this dress. Is there a good way to get it out?”

It was Sally who hopped up and took a look at the dress before either Mrs. Hill or Mrs. Brown could, and after a quick survey, she said, “That will not be a problem Miss Elizabeth! I can get this taken care of with the next wash for you and Miss Kitty.”

Elizabeth smiled and said, “I would appreciate it.” She then turned to the housekeeper and cook and said, “I was also wondering if there is an apron we could have, like the one you are wearing Mrs. Brown. Kitty might need to wear it over her clothes until she gets better with the charcoal.”

Mrs. Brown laughed a little and said, “I have just the thing for the little Miss,” and as she got up to retrieve a brand new white apron, she said,
“We all love Miss Kitty, and she is quite the artist! Why, she drew me a picture of Miss Mary’s roses, I had it framed and put on my wall. It is quite lovely.”

They spoke for a few more moment before Elizabeth returned upstairs to Kitty. As she walked in to the room she said, “Kitty! I have an apron for you and Sally said she would have no problem removing the charcoal.” She smiled as she saw Mary sitting on the bed, braiding Kitty’s hair.

Before anyone could say anything else, they heard Mrs. Bennet and Lydia ascending the stairs quite noisily. Kitty and Mary looked at each other and Elizabeth smiled as the two wordlessly left the room. She was even more amused to see them both enter Mary’s room. Feeling very drained from the day, Elizabeth chose to retire to her own room instead of following her cousins.

The next morning, Elizabeth rose and walked toward her window to see the bright and sunny morning greeting her. Not a rain cloud in the sky, she thought. As she stared out of the window she reminisced on the night before. I do not believe I can remember spending a more pleasurable evening with my younger cousins before, Lizzy thought as she remembered their laughter. Well, almost all of my younger cousins. Lydia was quite the handful. She was so loud and annoying last evening, complaining about the weather. But it was good to see Kitty stand up to her and send her out of the room. I believe Lydia spent the rest of the evening scowling in her room. After dinner, it was pleasant to have them continue their laughter in my room. However, the evening could have ended better.

With that thought in her mind, she readied herself for the day and made her way down to breakfast. When Elizabeth entered the dining room for breakfast, Mr. Bennet and Mrs. Bennet were discussing a note he had received that morning. “I daresay, Lizzy, you are somewhat of a prophet!” said Mr. Bennet with a slight smile.

“What do you mean?”

“Jane. She has caught a chill,” Handing the letter to Elizabeth to read, he directed his next comment to Mrs. Bennet, “If Jane should die of this cold, as Lizzy said yesterday, it will all be in pursuit of Mr. Bingley and at your instruction.”

“Oh Mr. Bennet! People do not die of trifling colds!”

“Uncle, after breakfast, I wish to go see her.”

“I believe that means I shall have to call for the carriage.”

“Lizzy! There is nothing for you at Netherfield!” cried Mrs. Bennet, “No, you had best go into Meryton with Kitty, Lydia, and Mary to welcome the militia.”

“No Aunt, Jane would want me with her.” Elizabeth said with irritation. After all, it was because of Mrs. Bennet’s wish that Jane was now ill.
Mary stated to Lizzy as she sat down with her breakfast, “We can walk you as far as the turn in the road, if you wish.”

“Lizzy! You do not need to go to Netherfield! All that mud! You will not be fit to be seen!”

After seeing the resolve in his niece’s eyes and in her words as she argued with Mrs. Bennet, Mr. Bennet got up and said, “I will see to the carriage.”

Lizzy exclaimed, “No, Uncle, it is quite alright. It is only three miles to Netherfield; I will be back before supper.” Turning to Mary, she stated, “I will take you up on your offer. When do you leave?”

“In about an hour, after we have completed breakfast.”

Lizzy felt she needed to change the topic before either Mr. Bennet or Mrs. Bennet complained again about their plans, “And you, dear Mary, are going to welcome the militia to town?” She questioned.

Laughing, Mary looked at Kitty and stated, “Indeed! We are to watch the militia march in, and then I agreed to accompany Kitty to buy some notions for our project from last night.”

Laughing Kitty responded, “Yes! We compromised: she will choose a few lace notions for her dress, which is something she detests, and then I will accompany her to the Parson’s to gather clippings for next year. Gardening!” she shuddered as she exclaimed that last word.

Everyone laughed; Kitty was renowned for having a black thumb and worse than Elizabeth. It was Mrs. Bennet who perked up at the mention of lace, “Lace? Dress? Mary! Why did you not tell me you needed a new dress! I will need to come!”

Seeing her cousin retreat from the easy manner she had, Lizzy interrupted, “Aunt, Mary is not ordering a new dress. Kitty has convinced her to remake some of her older dresses into today’s fashion! You know Kitty has impeccable taste.”

Looking at her second youngest, Mrs. Bennet could not help but agree, “Yes. Kitty has my taste.”

Kitty looked with astonishment at her mother, and stammered out, “Than-k-k you, Ma-a-ma!”

Mr. Bennet grinned at the obvious pleasure he second youngest had derived from such a small statement and concluded, “Then it is settled, Mrs. Bennet. You are to stay home and be safe from all the mud.”

Elizabeth made no attempt to go around the mud puddles. After realizing that most of the mud was not deep enough for her to get stuck in, she soldiered on. As she grew closer to Netherfield, her worry increased, I must get to Jane. I must see for myself how bad she is, was all she could think.

Netherfield Park was the stateliest house in within the vicinity of Meryton. It looked to be more than two stories tall, with windows lining either side of a grand staircase inside. The staircase itself was indeed beautiful, with two entrances facing toward either side of the house; it looked as if it was actually a balcony. Unfortunately, before Mr. Bingley arrived, the grounds had started to overgrow, the paint had started to chip in many places, and the last time Elizabeth had been to the house, five years ago when she first came out into society, there had a been a huge crack up the left side of the grand staircase.

As she approached Netherfield, it occurred to her that the house had recently been painted. Lizzy had stopped a few feet from the bottom of the staircase and mused over its recent renovation. It seems as if Mr. Bingley cares for the property, she thought as she saw the crack in the left side staircase had be replaced or fixed. You almost cannot tell there was ever a crack, she thought. Distracted by her thoughts, Lizzy turned to walk up the stairs only to run into something very hard which propelled her backward toward the muddy ground.

“Steady!” she heard called out just as she felt two strong arms catch her and keep her from falling. When she looked up she was astonished to see it was Mr. Darcy who had caught her.

As soon as she was steady, she backed away from Mr. Darcy and said, “Thank you sir, I would hate to have to walk home completely muddy before even seeing if my cousin was alright.”

“You are here to visit Miss Bennet?” he asked incredulously.

Her courage rising, she replied, “Yes, of course.”

“On foot?”

“As you see,” she replied with an amused smile, “would you mind taking me to her?”

Bowing he stated, “Of course,” and started walking back toward the house.

Upon entry to Jane’s room, Lizzy passed the physician as he left. Lizzy could see Jane’s discomfort. Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst were in the room but oblivious to Lizzy’s arrival. Elizabeth noted they were seated as far away from her cousin as possible. It was not until Jane wheezed, “Lizzy!” that they stopped speaking with one another and turned to see Elizabeth’s presence.

As Lizzy went straight to Jane, she bowed slightly to Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst as they left the room. After spending a few minutes with Jane and realizing she was indeed extremely ill, she went downstairs to find Miss Bingley in order to ask what the doctor had said about Jane’s illness.

As she approached the door to what she remembered was the drawing room, Lizzy overhead Miss Bingley speaking with Mrs. Hurst, “Her petticoat, Louisa! Did you see her petticoat?”

“Six inches deep in mud, I am absolutely sure of it!” Miss Bingley exclaimed.

Lizzy smiled at the ladies’ censure of her appearance, Of course they took exception: I was not in feathers and an unflattering color, Lizzy thought.

She started to enter the room but stopped when she heard Miss Bingley continue to exclaim, “What could she mean walking that distance in such a condition simply because her sister has a cold? You certainly would not want dear Georgiana to do that.”

“Of course not,” came Mr. Darcy’s reply.

“I think Miss Elizabeth looked remarkably well.” Mr. Bingley chirped.

“I believe this has injured your opinion of her fine eyes, Mr. Darcy?” Miss Bingley asked.

“Actually, they were brightened by the exercise.”

Lizzy was shocked at what she just heard. Mr. Darcy admires my eyes? Before she could consider this any further, she heard Mr. Bingley repeat, “I thought she looked remarkably well. It is very pleasing that she would come so far on foot simply to put her cousin at ease.”

Mrs. Hurst cried, “Of course! Jane is a dear sweet girl! Who would not for her?”

Caroline interrupted, “But her family, Charles, Louisa! Really?”

“What of them?” her brother asked.

Miss Bingley exclaimed, “She told us that she has an aunt and uncle in Meryton. The uncle is a barrister. Jane also has another aunt and uncle in London; in Cheapside. If it was not bad enough to have an uncle as a small town barrister, but the other uncle is trade.” Caroline started to twitter and added, “Perhaps we should call on them the next time we are in town!”

Louisa said, “Charles, do you know anything about Miss Elizabeth? I understand she is a cousin of the Bennets.”

Caroline answered for her brother, “Apparently, her father and mother are dead, and she is reliant on the care and good will of her uncle, Mr. Bennet.”

“That is certainly not her fault, Caroline!” cried Mr. Bingley, “I care not if Ja – Miss Bennet had enough uncles to fill Cheapside: my opinion remains unchanged.”

Lizzy smiled at Mr. Bingley’s defense but immediately entered the room when she heard Mr. Darcy say, “But it would materially hurt Miss Bennet’s chances of marrying well and even then, she will have a better chance of marrying well than will Miss Elizabeth, who has no clear connections other than Mr. Thomas Bennet.”

As she burst into the room, Mr. Bingley jumped up from his chair to welcome her. Mr. Darcy was already standing next to a window and turned his back when Mr. Bingley began, “Miss Elizabeth, it is good to see you. It is a sad thing that brings you here! How is your cousin feeling?”

“Jane is indeed not well. I came to inquire as to what the physician said about her condition.”

“Oh! Well…I do not–”

“Dr. Randall did not speak with Mr. Bingley, Miss Bingley and I did. I took his message and imparted it to the staff.” Mr. Darcy stated as he turned from the window and walked toward Bingley.

“Oh. Would you be so kind as to impart it to me then?” questioned Lizzy.

“Of course. Your cousin has a severe fever. She is to remain until she is able to stand on her own. She is only to be allowed hot broths, and needs to remain still, and keep her head cooled. Rest is his prescription.” He turned around and grabbed a piece of paper laying on the credenza next to him, “I took the liberty of having him write down his instructions, in detail for you, as well as for the staff.”

“Did you?” cried Bingley, “I appreciate it! My attention has been called elsewhere.” Turning to Elizabeth as she crossed the floor to where Mr. Darcy was, “I assure you, Miss Elizabeth, your cousin will receive every attention. I am quite pleased with my staff here, and I am sure you will be as well.”

Elizabeth approached Mr. Darcy and took the piece of paper with no more than a little confusion. To her mindset, it was Mr. Darcy who was acting like the master rather than Mr. Bingley. However, Mr. Bingley was new to estate management and Mr. Darcy was not. Elizabeth turned to Mr. Bingley and asked, “Mr. Bingley would it be an imposition to spend the rest of the day with her? I would feel more comfortable if I administered the doctor’s instructions, rather than a servant.” With a quick glance to Mr. Darcy she returned her gaze to Mr. Bingley and added, “I have no reason to doubt your staff, but I would feel better if I were able to stay and nurse her myself.”

“Indeed! And of course you will stay until she is well!” He exclaimed. Lizzy glanced beyond Mr. Bingley to see Caroline give Louisa a frustrated look. Charles continued, “Yes! Yes! Why do you not write a note to your family explaining the situation, and have them send some clothes for both you and Miss Bennet? I insist!”

After completing a note that Mr. Bingley sent with his footman, Lizzy returned to Jane’s room. There she spent the rest of the day nursing Jane. There was no clock in the room for her to watch or read to know what time it was, and she was startled when a young, obviously new upstairs maid entered with a tray with lunch for her and a bowl of hot broth for Jane.

“Why, thank you! I had not realized it was so late.” Elizabeth calmly stated.

“We are so sorry Ma’am! No one informed us that you would not be having lunch with the rest. It was not until it was pointed out to Cook that you had not been in the dining room when we served that we realized neither you nor Miss Bennet had lunch. We quickly made you up something. We are so sorry!”

Curious, Elizabeth realized it was indeed later in the day than she had thought, but hungry and knowing she needed to feed Jane, she stated, “Oh. It is alright. I appreciate Miss Bingley for realizing and correcting it.”

Confused, the young maid stated, “It was not Miss Bingley who realized it…”

“Who was it then?”

“Mr. Darcy asked if Miss Bennet seemed to be better after having the broth. Cook told him that we did not know about the broth request. He asked if Miss Bingley had been to the cook with the doctor’s instructions. When she responded no, he confirmed that we needed to make the broth for Miss Bennet and then requested this tray for you.”

Looking at the maid with astonishment, Elizabeth only said, “Thank you.” The maid curtseyed and left.

Once the maid had left, Elizabeth wandered the room for a few moments. When she spied some writing paper and an ink well, she decided to write to her grandfather.

Netherfield, Hertfordshire
October 15, 1811

Dear Grandfather,

I was very pleased with your latest missive. I am not writing to you from Longbourn, and I know you will be as surprised by my location as I am. I will admit to alarm at the recent happenings here in Hertfordshire. I told you that Netherfield had been let at last. You are probably wondering why this letter is being written from that location. Do not worry about redirecting your letters; I will be home at Longbourn soon enough.

Jane has been making friends with the current residents of Netherfield. I daresay “her Charles” is quite an amiable fellow. Mr. Bingley is quick to see to anyone’s comfort, when he remembers. He strikes me as very new to being a host. His sister, Miss Caroline Bingley is not so much so. It is apparent she only tolerates me and my family because we are not “worth” her notice. Mr. Bingley also brought to Netherfield his elder sister and her husband, a Mr. and Mrs. Hurst. I am at a loss as to what to think of Mrs. Hurst. She has asked that I call her Louisa and I believe that I shall. She is quite friendly, to be sure; however, she is very close to her sister and I wonder at the disparity in their characters.

I digress, however. Caroline and Louisa invited Jane for tea yesterday. Since it was going to rain, of course Aunt Fanny sent Jane on horseback! I would ask if you could believe that, except we are speaking of Aunt Fanny, so of course the ludicrous must be true. If I am too sarcastic, I have good cause: she sent Jane on horseback so that Jane would have to stay overnight because it looked like rain. Well, Jane was indeed forced to stayed overnight…due to a terrible fever!.

I am here at Netherfield nursing poor Jane. I found this quill and paper, and decided to write to you while Jane sleeps. She is not sleeping well, and I have to cool her face every few minutes. If Miss Bingley were to find me writing to you, surely she would feel imposed upon, unless of course I divulged to whom exactly I was writing. Then I have a feeling I would be the imposed upon one. Having you for a grandfather is definitely a trial!

I will say I was quite surprised by just how ill I found Jane. She was extremely hoarse, and her cough is exceedingly worrying. That brings me to Mr. Bingley’s last guest and one of his good friends. The man is from Derbyshire and I simply do not understand him. He stalked around the assembly room with nothing but derision in his face and this was after he blamed me for almost being killed by him! However, I probably must concede that he is not all bad: after all, he would not allow Jane or me to wither away from starvation during our short visit here.

Elizabeth thought about what she had seen and heard since coming to Netherfield. I simple do not understand it. He claims he appreciates my eyes, but then turns around and belittles my family. And yet, he is solicitous of my and my cousin’s wellbeing. The frustrating man is an enigma!. She shook her head and continued writing.

He definitely has a complex character. He came to Hertfordshire in order to instruct Mr. Bingley in estate management. The differences between the two could not be more drastic: Mr. Bingley is all smiles, like Jane, and wishes to please and be pleased wherever he goes, even in his own home. His friend is the opposite: he finds fault with everything, stalks rooms in the most condescending manner, and passes judgement on everything and everyone. He is most determined to be displeased with his surroundings.

On a different note, I thought I would take this quiet opportunity and tell you of what is happening between Kitty and Mary! Kitty has been separating herself completely from Lydia. Lydia proclaims she “does not care a whit” if Kitty joins her anymore. I highly suspect that Lydia is actually a little put out by it. However, her feelings could not have been too harmed due to the fact that she already has acquired a new companion for her exploits: Maria Lucas, much to Lady Lucas’s dismay.

Mary’s interest in the good Mr. Forsythe has caused her to become more interested in what she is wearing; she has taken to wearing more colors. I daresay she is quite as pretty as the next Bennet girls when she stops wearing those atrocious dirt brown and grey dresses she used to insist upon. Last night, she had Kitty spent a good deal of time tearing apart dresses Aunt Fanny had bought Mary and that Mary had never worn. I can honestly say, I have never seen so much lace strewn around Jane and my room. Kitty and Mary attacked the dresses with the most frills with a vengeance. I do not believe I have ever seen Mary smile so large when she saw her dresses without Mrs. Bennet’s lace on them. I asked Mary what she wished to do with extra the lace this morning before I arrived at Netherfield: she replied, “Burn it.” Kitty was most put-out with the thought and stated she would keep it.

I believe, by the next assembly or ball, Kitty will have a whole new wardrobe for Mary. I am quite pleased to see them spend more time with each other. I only worry what will happen to Kitty if Mary does end up marrying the good Parson. Kitty will be on her own again. I wish there was a young lady around her age who was as interested in art as Kitty seems to be; your goddaughter sounds perfect!

I need to end this missive now; not only am I more than likely running out of your patience when the topic is lace, but I also am running out of paper. There were only a few sheets here to begin with. Grandfather, I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Elizabeth Evette Bennet

Ignorance and Irony - Chapter 2 (Part 1)

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