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Five Little Ducks - Part One

July 29, 2019 09:49PM
Summary: Mrs. Fanny Bennet attempts to adjust to a new chapter of her life as she learns to let her daughters go.

Author's Note: This story is complete and will be posted in 2 posts.

Chapter One – Five Little Ducks

Five little ducks went swimming one day, over the hills and far away.
Mother duck said, "Quack, quack, quack, quack," and only four little ducks came back.

“Hill! Oh Hill! We shall be murdered in our beds!” shouted Mrs. Bennet from her room where she trembled with fear. Having lived in Longbourn for more than twenty six years, Fanny Bennet had never once been woken from her slumber by such a racket. “Oh Mr. Bennet!” she called, “Do be careful! I do not know what we shall do if you are killed by an intruder! Perhaps you should send Mr. Comstock?”

Mr. Bennet, only shook himself awake and replied, “Comstock is probably already at the door; but I am quite sure whoever is waking the entire household at this time of night will need more than our footman’s presence. Do not fret my dear: I’ll stand behind him if I should feel the need.”

Fanny quivered as she watched her husband leave the room quickly. However, despite her fear of whoever was making such a commotion, she quickly donned her own robe and hurried to follow the small light of her husband’s candle. When she reached the bottom of the stairs, she saw that Mr. Bennet was reading a message. A sense of relief started to calm her nerves. There was no intruder.

However, as soon as she saw her husband’s face as he read the missive, the tension returned. “An express?” she queried quickly, “Please tell me nothing is wrong with my brother?” Vaguely aware of a light calming touch surrounding her shoulders, she continued, “Please tell me! What has happened?” Without giving her husband enough time to answer her, Fanny added, “Nothing has happened to dear Mr. Gardiner, or Mrs. Gardiner? Surely it could not be about Sister Philips! They would not send an express! Maybe one of their own footmen but not –”

Mr. Bennet only finished the reading the letter and then turned to the express rider, and said, “You must be hungry. While your horse rests, our housekeeper Hill,” nodding to where the small round woman was standing in her own robe behind Comstock the butler, “will provide you with refreshments, and find you a room to sleep in, if you need it.”

As he turned back to his family, Mrs. Bennet felt her eldest daughter Jane’s arm squeeze her in reassurance; she then felt her third child, Mary, take her other hand.

“It is not about the Gardiners,” Mr. Bennet said seriously, “It seems our youngest child has run away with an officer, and her host, Colonel Forester needs my assistance in recovering her.”

Mrs. Bennet felt her nerves attack her entire body. She felt hot and cold at once, and her vision started to blur as she felt the fear take over. Before she could say a word, she felt herself falling as she heard Jane yell, “Mama! Comstock, help!”

Mrs. Bennet was known in Hertfordshire for her hysterics. For years, she had complained about how much her nerves affected her, however, no one ever actually expected something to come of them, least of all Fanny. Unfortunately, the shock of her youngest, and to be honest, most favored, daughter running off with a redcoat was simply too much for her. It was some time later that she woke in her room with the light shining on her face. A little disoriented, Franny at first thought everything had been a horrible nightmare. As soon as she saw her beautiful Jane writing a letter at the desk near her window, Franny started crying, quietly conflicted.

The task of marrying off her children has always been one that Mrs. Fanny Bennet was worried about. With five daughters and the family estate, Longbourn, to be inherited by their cousin, Mrs. Bennet had been so worried for so many years about the future of her wonderful girls. Her fear was only strengthened by the fact that the surrounding families all seemed to have a surfeit of daughters. It did not help the in the past eight years since her eldest, Jane, came out into society, the young men returning from school, all seemed to come back engaged or with sweethearts of their own. The simple fact was there were not very many eligible men in Hertfordshire for her to match her girls to.

If only Mr. Bennet would have taken us all to London! I am quite sure I could have gotten all of our girls married there! she thought furiously. It is quite his fault Lydia was tempted to run away. If she had only been given a little more amusement; if only she had been allowed to go to London with the elder girls. The insufferable man has been quite determined that Jane and Lizzy are the only ones mature enough to visit my dear brother.

There is nothing for it now, however. We shall be shunned, when Meryton hears of it. I cannot bear to think of how they will laugh and ridicule us. Oh dear Lydia! She is such a good girl. I cannot imagine that she how she would have allowed herself to be tricked so! That artful Wickham! I am sure my dear Tom is by now on his way to make him marry her! I hope they do not come to blows, I do not know what we shall do if Wickham were to kill dear Mr. Bennet! Those awful cousins, the Collins’, will kick us out toot sweet! We will have nowhere to go! We will be thrown to the hedgerows for certain!

By the time, Mrs. Bennet had worked herself up into rather a dither; Jane had completed her letter and turned to see her mother crying silently and uncontrollably in bed. When Mrs. Bennet realized she had the full attention of her most compassionate daughter, she let out a wail that could rival a new born child in its intensity.

“Dear mama! You must calm yourself! Please!” cried Jane sweetly, as she rushed over her mother’s bedside.

When Franny actually fainted, Jane was beside herself with worry. She had quickly gotten their footman to help you put her mother back to bed. Jane had only left Franny’s side long enough to change for the day and speak with her father about what his plans were. She had then been tasked with writing both to her uncle, Mr. Gardiner, to hasten his return from the holiday he had taken with his wife and Jane’s second sister, Elizabeth. Jane had only just finished the letters when Mrs. Bennet had woken.

“Mama, please! You must try to calm yourself! You will give yourself such a frightful headache!” said Jane quietly as she reached into a basin to wet a rag.

“No, no Jane! You must understand! He will be killed!”

“Who will be killed?” Jane asked worried.

“Your father! He will fight Wickham and be killed! Then what will become of us?” Franny cried hysterically.

“I am sure he will find them and they will be married already,” Jane soothed, “Wickham never struck me as so very bad.”

“He has tricked my darling girl! He has ruined her! And now we will all be sent to the hedgerows!” came the wailed reply.

Over the next three days, Jane did her best to calm her mother while Mrs. Bennet did her best to believe Jane. However, whenever she allowed her mind to roam or think of anything at all, Mrs. Bennet would once again start desperately. It was in this state that her second child, Elizabeth, and her brother and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, returned from their holiday.

Edward Gardiner, having spent most of his life soothing his sister’s nerves, did so quite efficiently almost immediately upon his entry, “Calm yourself Fanny. All will be well, I promise you!”

“No! Mr. Bennet will get himself killed and then what will we do?” Seeing Elizabeth standing behind her brother Franny continued, “You! Miss Lizzy, if you had married Mr. Collins, I am quite sure all would be well. He would not be so tempted to throw us out of Longbourn as soon as Wickham kills your father!”

Elizabeth, also being used to her mother’s wild accusations, almost responded, expect her Uncle replied for her, “What is this? You believe that I would not take you in if the most unfortunate event occurs? Come now Fanny, calm yourself! I will go to London myself and endeavor to help find Lydia and this Wickham fellow. You will see: all will turn out alright.”

“Yes, Mama, Uncle will go help Father. Please you must rest!” entreated Jane.
“I second that motion,” came a dignified reassuring voice from behind Elizabeth. Fanny softened as she saw her sister in law enter the room. Mrs. Gardiner continued, “Jane dear, why do you not take a rest yourself? I will be here for Fanny is she needs anything.”

Jane only nodded and grabbed Elizabeth’s arm as both sister left the room, followed by their Uncle.

To say that the next few days were must calmer in the Bennet household would be truthful. Fanny had always loved Madeline Gardiner’s calm and practical view of the world. She did not even realize that Madeline was doing everything she could to take Fanny’s mind off of Lydia’s indiscretion. In fact, Fanny, over the course of the next few days heard nothing of her youngest child and almost completely forgot of her dearest’s dilemma.

Unfortunately, on the sixth day, Mr. Bennet returned home without his daughter, and Mrs. Gardiner left for London to meet up with her husband. The house of Bennet, it would seem, would go into a sort of state of mourning. Fanny, so consumed by the thought that she would never be able to see her favorite again, became inconsolable. Her wailings and cries only increased when she heard her third daughter comment to her fourth daughter that they were effectively ruined, and that no one would want to marry them now.

Half a week after Mr. Bennet’s return there still had been no word from London and Fanny’s thoughts threatened to be her undoing. We are ruined: I will never get husbands for my wonderful girls. What will happen to us now? No matter how Fanny tried, she could not figure out how to overcome this hurdle. First, Mr. Bingley abandons my dear Jane, and then Elizabeth refuses to marry the heir to the estate, now Lydia will be gone forever. Oh what shall we do?

A week and half after Fanny was jolted out of bed, her nerves were once again attacked. This time by her eldest children: as Jane and Elizabeth came bursting into Fanny’s room waving a letter from Mr. Gardiner, Fanny’s heart started to pound in anxiety. Jane however, did not wish to prolong her mother’s agony and yelled almost as soon as she entered, “They are married, Mama! They are married!”

For a moment Mrs. Bennet was stunned. Who was married? She rose from her bed with confusion as she swiftly took the letter from Jane’s hand and read that her youngest had been found unmarried, however by the time they received the missive Lydia would no longer be a Bennet.

“Married? A daughter married?” she cried in wonder and astonishment. All former opinion of her newest son would be forgotten for he had married her dearest child. Every thought of hedgerow disappeared: “A daughter married!” she cried again as she clutched the letter to her breast, “I knew how it would be! And at just sixteen!”

A daughter finally married.

Chapter Two – Four Little Ducks

Four little ducks went swimming one day, Over the hills and far away.
Mother duck said, "quack, quack, quack, quack," And only three little ducks came back.

It had been two weeks since the elopement and Kitty took up her usual space in a window seat in the drawing room with her sisters where she could see anyone who would come visit them. One morning as the ladies were sitting and sewing in the drawing room that Kitty happened to look out the window and saw two riders coming up the lane.

“Jane, I think Mr. Bingley is coming,” she said cautiously not wanting her mother to hear.

Unfortunately Mrs. Bennet did hear. She had been waiting five days for this visit and immediately called out excitedly, “Mr. Bingley! Oh Jane! Sit up straight! Put your sewing away ladies! Oh Jane, you should go change to your blue gown, it is much prettier on you than that rose. No wait! Do not go! They will be here in a minute! Stop! Smile girls! Smile!”

Mr. Bingley was leasing a house, Netherfield Hall, and was the Bennet’s closest neighbor. The previous fall he had arrived with his sisters, brother-in-law, and best friend. By all accounts, the entire community watched as he became attached to Jane; they also watched her own feelings grow for him as well. It baffled the not only the community, but Jane and Mrs. Bennet as well when he left after holding a spectacular ball and not returning for almost a year.

Mrs. Bennet had promoted to the match as best as she could, but a few months before had finally given up hope of him ever returning. She had been heartbroken to see Jane’s own content character start to sadden. Fanny could tell her eldest had really been attached to the man; it had tempered her attempting to set the poor girl up since.

But now Mr. Bingley was back and this time she would ensure an engagement. The only dark side of the situation was that he had brought his best friend, Mr. Darcy, again. The taller darker man had come the previous autumn with the jovial Mr. Bingley and had been a thorough conceited bore. Even though the man was worth twice what Mr. Bingley was, and hardly ever said anything, Mrs. Bennet had been upset to hear him slightly her second eldest.

To be sure, Lizzy was not as pretty as Jane, as studious as Mary, or joyful as either her Kitty and Lydia, but Lizzy was most definitely her husband’s daughter. Lizzy was the wit of the family. Mrs. Bennet may never have been able to relate to Lizzy but she had been quite pleased to see Lizzy put the odious man in his place on more than one occasion.

It was with this thought that she smirked to herself and thought, Oh Lizzy, you may not like it, but for the good of your sister’s future, I will have you keep that odious man’s attention on yourself today. The men entered the room just as Mrs. Bennet was able to calm her thoughts. The men walked in and bowed to the ladies while they rose and curtseyed. Mrs. Bennet held a hand out to a nearby chair, “It has been a long time, Mr. Bingley, since you went away.”

“Indeed it has, a situation I am most heartily sorry for – ”

Mrs. Bennet interrupted continuing, “I began to be afraid you would never return. People did say that you meant to give the place up entirely, but I hoped it was not true,” she saw her other guest take a tea cup from Elizabeth and turn toward the window. What no one realized is that Mrs. Bennet could see Mr. Darcy’s reflection in the window from where she sat. “A great many things have changed since you went away. Miss Lucas is married and settled in Kent. One of my own daughters has also married.”

Mrs. Bennet thought it curious as she watched Mr. Darcy’s reflection directly behind Mr. Bingley’s head; it was almost as if he flinched. Had he been partial to Lydia before they left? Did I miss that? She thought. Out loud she continued, “You may have seen it in the papers, although it was not put in correctly,” Mrs. Bennet saw Mr. Darcy’s back stiffen slightly, Interesting, “It only said that ‘lately, George Wickham, Esq. to Miss Lydia Bennet’ and without a syllable as to her father or the place she lived or anything.” That was probably a good thing but why is Mr. Darcy…is he smirking? “My brother Gardiner drew it up and I wondered how he could do such an awkward business of it. Did you see it?”

“I did, actually. You will, of course, pass on my hearty felicitations will you not?” Mr. Bingley replied.

Mrs. Bennet turned her attention back to her favorite guest but saw, out of the corner of her eye, not just Jane’s stiff countenance but also a very uncomfortable Lizzy. That is even more interesting. She quickly looked at her second eldest to see Lizzy actively avoid looking toward Mr. Darcy. Maybe he interest was not in Lydia but in Lizzy…

To Mr. Bingley she saw his attention was still on her eldest and she smiled and pushed all thoughts of Mr. Darcy and Lizzy out of her mind and focused on the important task at hand, “It is a delightful thing, to be sure, to have a daughter well married.”

“Indeed, I am sure it is –”

“But at the same time, it is very hard for her to be taken away from me.” Mrs. Bennet was not prepared for the twinge of regret as she spoke those words. After all, she did miss her favorite. When would she be able to see her again? “They have gone to Newcastle and there they are to stay, for I do not know how long. His regiment is there. He has left his regiment that was in Brighton and moved to the regulars. Thank heaven he has some friends, although not perhaps as many as he deserves.”

Mrs. Bennet smiled as she saw Mr. Darcy visible flinch. Mrs. Bennet was a little surprised when she heard Elizabeth’s voice shake a little as she asked, “Do you mean to stay long in Hertfordshire, Mr. Bingley? I had heard you were only here for a short shooting party.”

“I have no plans to leave yet. I will stay in the country at present, a few weeks…at least!”

Mrs. Bennet preened to hear she had more time than she had originally supposed to make the match between him and her eldest, “That is good! When you have killed all your own birds, Mr. Bingley, I beg you to come here and shoot as many as you please on Mr. Bennet’s manor. I am sure he will be vastly happy to oblige you!”

The room went silent at the ridiculousness of her comment. Even Mrs. Bennet inwardly cringed; Surely, I could have come up with something better than that! And I always do that! She thought with frustration, Why can I not be as witty as Lizzy? I just am not quick enough to come up with smart and intelligent things to say! As she inwardly chastised herself, Mrs. Bennet saw her second eldest give her a look that told Mrs. Bennet that if they had not been in company, her daughter would have rolled her eyes at her. Mrs. Bennet shot a look at Lizzy that was as if to say, “You do better than!”

Thankfully, Lizzy did just that and asked Mr. Bingley after his family. The men stayed for another quarter hour before leaving but not before Mrs. Bennet got a promise from Mr. Bingley to return three days hence for dinner.

When the men came the next day at the same time and nothing could be done to temper Mrs. Bennet’s joy at the evident pending attachment between Netherfield and Longbourn. The only damper, once again, was that Mr. Darcy accompanied his friend. Thankfully, Mrs. Bennet saw both Kitty and Lizzy engage the man in conversation; she was able to turn her attention to encouraging conversation between Mr. Bingley and Jane. When they left more than an hour later, Mrs. Bennet was happier than ever.

It was the third morning and the day of the dinner with Mr. Bingley that surprised Mrs. Bennet. This time, Mr. Bingley came alone and Mrs. Bennet knew exactly what he needed. Almost immediately after he arrived she contrived a reason to leave the room and take Kitty with her. Mary, thankfully, found a reason of her own to leave Bingley alone with Jane and Lizzy. After another ten minutes when Lizzy did not show up in her sitting room, Mrs. Bennet could wait no longer and sent a servant to retrieve her wayward daughter on the excuse that she needed her help.

“Mama, Jane asked me to stay with her!”

“Nonsense!” Mrs. Bennet responded, “A quarter of an hour should do the trick. Do not roll your eyes at me, Lizzy! I assure you, for your sister’s happiness, we need to stay away from the drawing room at least for another quarter of an hour!”

True to her word, she let Lizzy go not a quarter of an hour later. She was pleased to see her eldest come up to her sitting room ten minutes after that with the happy news. The entire family found themselves on the steps outside of Longbourn not an hour after Mr. Bingley’s arrival waving good bye at another future son.

When he was out of sight, Mrs. Bennet heard her husband say to Jane, “I congratulate you dear girl! You will be a very happy woman! You are good girl and have no doubt of you two doing well together. Your tempers are so alike. You each are so complying that nothing will ever be resolved upon; so easy that every servant will cheat you; and so generous that you will always exceed your income!”

“Exceed their income!” cried Mrs. Bennet. “Of what do you speak of?” In a softer voice, she grabbed her eldest daughter’s hands and said, “Oh! My Dear Jane, I am so happy for you! I am sure I shan’t get a wink of sleep all night. I knew how it would be. I always said it would be so. I was so sure you could not be so beautiful for nothing. As soon as he came to Hertfordshire last summer, I knew you two would be perfect for each other. He is the handsomest young man that ever was seen!”

As she hugged her daughter, Mrs. Bennet felt elated. Two out of five daughters married! I can start to rest easy. For surely Mr. Bingley will help find appropriate husbands for the rest of my girls. As soon as she thought about all of her daughters leaving, Mrs. Bennet felt the pang of disappointment. Not ready to deal with the ramifications of a marrying all of her daughters off yet, she turned her attention back to the present.

Two daughters to be married! My job is half done!

Chapter Three – Three Little Ducks

Three little ducks went swimming one day, over the hills and far away.
Mother duck said, "Quack, quack, quack, quack," And only two ducks came back.

Life at Longbourn did settle back into a routine, but a rather chaotic one at best. Mrs. Bennet was so happy for her eldest daughter to marry the richest man to have come to live in their small hamlet; she had to visit everyone she could and also have them over to Longbourn to visit as well. Mr. Bingley took the entire thing in stride. It did not escape Mrs. Bennet’s notice, however, that Lizzy was needed more often than not to chaperone impromptu walks.

Fanny through herself into wedding preparations and became excited on helping Jane plan a trousseau. She found herself proclaiming, rather louder than she really wanted to, that she had not been able to help her youngest plan her own wedding and removal from Longbourn. As she did so, Mrs. Bennet started to see more and more exchanges of looks between her neighbors and her daughters and Mrs. Bennet knew she needed to be a little bit more reserved in her manner in regards to her youngest daughter.

She is respectably married! She thought one day, but I can see why they might have a problem with my continually bringing her up. After all, I do know that she almost ruined this family. Do they think I’ve forgotten that? Surely, they must realize by reminding them that she is actually married maybe I’ll be able to help regain some of her stature in this community. I saw the looks most of our friends gave the Wickham’s when they were here last. I want all my children to be welcome in Hertfordshire! I want Lydia to feel welcome to come home.

But Longbourn is not her home anymore is it? Her home is in Newcastle now…

Mrs. Bennet started to feel a wave of longing to see her youngest child. She knew Mr. Bennet would never agree to take her North. Mrs. Bennet sat back in her chair as she embroidered something for Jane, and sighed. I miss my Lydia, she thought. It was just then that a great commotion could be heard from outside.

In rushed Kitty out of breath who said hurriedly, “There is an enormous carriage outside, Mama!”

Mrs. Bennet rose from her chair just as Elizabeth entered the room. Mrs. Bennet didn’t have time to note the heightened color on her second eldest face before a rather loud voice could be heard, “No, I will not wait!”

Mrs. Bennet was more than a little astonished at the woman who appeared before her. She looked to be very regal and important and Mrs. Bennet resolved not to offend this lady with her normal nervous chatter. After all, now that Jane would be marrying so well, it would not only be her daughters who will be thrown into higher society. Mrs. Bennet was cognizant that she may be as well.

The visitor slightly nodded her head toward Elizabeth and Mrs. Bennet absently wondered if this lady was known to her daughter. Mrs. Bennet had not realized she had not welcomed her visitor until she heard the elegant lady say to Elizabeth, “That I suppose is your mother.”

Mrs. Bennet looked at her daughter and saw a slight blush creep across Lizzy’s face before her daughter quickly said, “Yes, Lady Catherine De Bourgh, may I introduce Mrs. Bennet?” Turning to her mother, Elizabeth added without looking Mrs. Bennet in the eyes, “Mama, this is Lady Catherine De Bourgh, Mr. Darcy’s aunt.”

Mrs. Bennet noted that Elizabeth had referenced Mr. Darcy rather than their own cousins. She tucked that thought away to think about later. Turning to her guest, who had decided to take a seat without being offered one and she heard Lady Catherine address Elizabeth again, “That,” pointing an ornate cane toward where Kitty sat behind the group, “Is one of your sisters,”

Mrs. Bennet replied, “Yes, Madam. She is my youngest girl but one. My youngest is lately married, and my eldest somewhere around the grounds with Mr. Bingley who is to become part of our family in a few weeks.”

Almost completely ignoring what Mrs. Bennet had said, Lady Catherine offered, “You have a very small part here.”

Mrs. Bennet started too say excitedly, “It is nothing, of course, to Rosings, my lady, but I assure you it is much larger that Sir William Lucas’.”

“This must be an inconvenient sitting room for the evening,” Mrs. Bennet flushed at what she felt was an attempt to disparage her home, “In summer, the windows are full west.”

Mrs. Bennet said quickly, “We never sit here after dinner, my lady.” The room went silent again as Mrs. Bennet started to wonder why the woman had come. Surely nothing has happened to Charlotte or our cousin. If it had certainly she would have simply sent a letter. Mrs. Bennet looked toward Lizzy and saw that her daughter was not as comfortable as she would normally be. No, it must have something to do with my Lizzy.

Realizing the room had become too quiet, Mrs. Bennet attempted to restart the conversation, “Lady Catherine, my I ask how our cousin’s the Collins’ are?”

“They are well. I saw them the night before last.”

Another length of silence descended until even Mrs. Bennet was becoming uncomfortable, “May I call for some tea, your ladyship? You must have had a long ride.”

Instead of responding to her host, Lady Catherine abruptly rose and stated, “Miss Bennet, there seemed to be a pretty-ish kind of little wilderness on one side of your lawn. I should be glad to take a turn in it, if you will favor me with your company.”

Mrs. Bennet rose as well and all but pushed her daughter to go and retrieve her outer coat and said, “Go, my dear, and show her ladyship about the different walks. I think she will be pleased with my rose garden the most.”

It took Lizzy no time to be ready for a short stroll out of doors, even though it was quite cold. Mrs. Bennet knew the park was not attractive this kind of year, but it was apparent the grand lady wished to speak with her daughter alone. The fact that Mr. Bennet’s study had a direct line of sight to almost the entirety of her rose gardens could only help her daughter, Mrs. Bennet thought. As Mrs. Bennet watched the two ladies resolutely walk toward she wondered if the lady was here for something that happened while Elizabeth had visited last spring.

But that was so long ago. No, I wonder if something has happened more recently. Whatever she wishes to speak with Lizzy about must be very important. I wonder if I should warn Mr. Bennet so he can watch them through his window. She quickly went to her husband’s study and strode him, “Mr. Bennet, Lady Catherine arrived not fifteen minutes ago and now she is in the garden!”

Mr. Bennet tore his eyes from his book and with a confused look on his face asked, “Lady Catherine here? Whatever for?”

Mrs. Bennet strode to the window where she could clearly see the grand lady and her daughter on the far side of the rose garden, pointed, and replied, “To speak with Lizzy apparently. She was quite determined, in fact, to take Lizzy away and speak with her privately.”

Mr. Bennet rose and went over to the window and when he saw the truth of his wife’s words, asked curiously, “What on earth could she want to speak with Lizzy about?”

“I assure you, I do not know!”

The two watched in silence as they could tell the discussion was turning heated. Mrs. Bennet said, “Oh! Mr. Bennet! Should we go out there? They seem to be arguing!”

Mr. Bennet put a hand on his wife’s shoulder and said, “No. Lizzy is perfectly able of taking care of herself. If she needs help, she knows my study in right here. Look,” he pointed, “She also realizes we are watching. If she needs help, she will certainly ask for it.”

“Are you sure?”

“Of course, my dear,” Mr. Bennet said quite resolutely, “Of all of our daughters, Lizzy is not the one we need have any worry over. She is quite capable of defending herself.”

Mrs. Bennet nodded, but continued to watch the argument. She knew the moment it was over as she saw Lizzy stalk off, away from the grand lady. Mrs. Bennet watched in amusement as Lady Catherine followed waving her cane at her daughter.

The mistress of Longbourn rushed towards the front of the house and opened the door just in time to overhead, “I take no leave of you, Miss Bennet. I send no compliments to your mother. You deserve no such attention. I am most seriously displeased.”

Mrs. Bennet was a little concerned but not completely shocked by the lack of attentions toward herself and her daughter. She would never admit it out loud, but Mrs. Bennet had always been secretly amused every time Elizabeth would decompose someone. Even though this was a grand lady of the first circles, Mrs. Bennet still felt quiet proud of her daughter.

Mrs. Bennet watched as the carriage rode quickly away and as soon as it was out of sight, she saw Elizabeth’s shoulder’s lower in a sort of defeat, “Lizzy,” she started.

Unfortunately, Elizabeth did not wish to speak of the interlude and interrupted her mother, almost rudely, to say, “I am sorry, Mama; she did not choose to return to the house. She has left.”

Mrs. Bennet was unable to respond because as soon as she had finished speaking, Lizzy all but ran upstairs and closest herself in her room until dinner time.

Mrs. Bennet was not the fool that everyone would normally take her for. She could tell there was something going on with Lizzy. However, over the last one and twenty years, Mrs. Bennet had learned that when Elizabeth did not wish to say something, nothing would induce her to. Mrs. Bennet sighed and went back to the sitting room to contemplate just want possibly could have Lizzy so upset. What on earth could she and Lady Catherine have been arguing over?

A week later, Mrs. Bennet found her husband re-reading a letter. She had gone to his room to ask him a question, however after finding her husband of more than twenty five years attempting to read by candlelight, she became curious. It was not as if Mr. Bennet never read by candlelight, he always did. She felt she was forever reminding him to mind his eyes. Certainly reading in such dim light was not very healthy. What made Mrs. Bennet stop at the doorway was the letter in his hand. Mr. Bennet never brought correspondence upstairs; only books.

Mr. Bennet saw his wife at the threshold of the doorway and overlooking his glasses he asked, “Yes, my dear?”

She indicated his letter and probed, “Is something the matter?”

Mr. Bennet looked back at his letter and finally put it away. As he did so he said, “I do not believe so. It is from our cousin Collins. Something struck me as humorous earlier, but Lizzy’s reaction has me wondering if there is any truth to it…”

Walking in, and after shutting the door, Mrs. Bennet went over to the side of her husband’s bed she asked as she sat down, “Does it tell you why Lady Catherine was here?”

Mr. Bennet looked up at his wife and considered her for a moment, and finally said, “The fool seems to believe that Mr. Darcy will be offering Lizzy his hand in marriage.”

Mrs. Bennet’s eyes went wide and she was silent for quite a while. Mr. Bennet interrupted her thoughts and said, “That, of course, is preposterous.”

Mrs. Bennet quickly asked, “Why? Lizzy would make a good match for him! Her liveliness would offset his…”

“Arrogance?” interrupted and said, “Even if he were so inclined, a fact I find hard to believe: you do not really want Lizzy marrying a man who is as conceited and arrogant as that man?’

If Mr. Darcy was truly interested in Lizzy it would explain both of their behaviors latterly. I know I have not been as keen on him as Mr. Bingley, but it would be a very good match. And what has he done that is so very bad? Stared out windows? Refused to dance? Thomas does that all the time. “Are you quite sure he is as bad as you say?”

“He slighted Lizzy!”

“Well yes, but he really hasn’t done anything – ”

“Mrs. Bennet, he may be rich, which is what I believe you are focusing on, but he will not make Lizzy happy. That is what we want, do we not?”

“Well yes…”

“My dear, it is late. You should probably go to bed. Mr. Bingley is coming tomorrow for dinner, and I am quite sure you want to be well rested for the occasion.”

“Yes, yes. You are right of course,” Mrs. Bennet nodded and went off to her own room. However, her mind could not let go of the notion that maybe Mr. Darcy was indeed attached to her second daughter.

After all, I cannot honestly believe that she would stop to tell us about our cousins. She has never met anyone other than Lizzy. I might believe it if she had given Lizzy a letter from Charlotte Collins, but from what I saw she brought nothing. Even if she did, what were they arguing about? It can only be in regards to mutual acquaintances, and that brings me back to Mr. Darcy.

I am more inclined to believe he is interested in her or at least that something has happened between the two. Otherwise, why would she have been so reticent during his last visit? No, there is something else going on, no matter what my husband thinks. After all, he doesn’t pay much attention to our visitors unless I make him. I think I will just have to sit back and have patience. Like with Jane, everything will turn out as it ought.

Mrs. Bennet did not have to wait very long. Three days after the letter came, and almost two weeks after his last visit, early one morning Mr. Darcy arrived with Mr. Bingley. Mrs. Bennet did not even have time to mention his aunt’s visit to Longbourn before Mr. Bingley had three of her daughters out walking with him and his friend.

Not completely surprised when Jane and Bingley returned by themselves, Mrs. Bennet found herself more interested in the fact that Kitty, her fourth child, returned without her sister or Mr. Darcy. Mrs. Bennet started to worry that something had happened to the two when they returned more than 30 minutes after the rest of the party arrived. Unfortunately, her sister, Mrs. Philips arrived almost immediately after the gentleman left, and Mrs. Bennet was unable to ask about the curious smile that Elizabeth returned with.

The next morning, Mrs. Bennet, who by this time had her own suspicions that she had no intention of sharing with anyone, looked out the window and saw the two gentleman riding over again, so soon after their last visit. With a sly smile she called out behind her with as fake of a dismayed voice as she could muster, “Good gracious! That disagreeable Mr. Darcy is coming again with our dear Bingley!”

She saw Lizzy, out the corner of her eyesight, attempting to hide a smile and continued in her false distress, “What can he mean by being so tiresome as to always be coming here? Why does he not go shooting or riding like everyone else? He could at least do something as to not disturb us with his company! What shall we do with him?”

Turning around and spearing Lizzy with a fake frown, she stated, “Lizzy you must walk out with him again, that way he will not be in Jane and Bingley’s way.”

Lizzy let her smile widen only a little and asked, “Must I, really?”
Jane was openly smiling now and Mrs. Bennet was almost certain her guess was correct, and continued with her own triumphant grin, “Yes. For the good of your sister’s relationship!”

“For Jane, anything,” Lizzy demurred.

At that moment, the gentleman arrived and Mrs. Bennet watched Bingley greet Lizzy with such warmth, she now had no doubts that she had been right all along. “Mr. Bingley, I have advised Lizzy to show Mr. Darcy Oakham Mount this morning. It is a nice long walk, and Mr. Darcy has never seen the view.”

Mrs. Bennet felt two pairs of male eyes spear her as if to ascertain what she did or did not know. She attempted to keep her false front up long enough for the group to quickly disperse. She watched the group leave and made her way to the window where she could see them set off on their walk.

As Fanny Bennet watched her eldest children walk out of her sight she let her mind drift. Jane and Bingley are simply perfect together. Their light complexions and sweet spirits are even more perfectly matched than when I first saw them together at that assembly last year. They shall be well off and give me beautiful grandchildren.

It is Lizzy that used to worry me. I should have known that stubborn child would take every opportunity to surprise me and prove me wrong. Her wit and liveliness, I hope, will be cherished by Mr. Darcy. I have not liked him for so long; I simply do not see what she sees in him. I will need to endeavor to try to understand him, for Lizzy’s sake. She has always been an excellent judge of character, so he must be a good man. I shall have to tread very carefully as to not offend him. Unlike Mr. Bingley, who is so amiable, I do not believe Mr. Darcy approves of me. I would not wish to be…cut off from Lizzy.

Mrs. Bennet then turned her attention to her youngest daughter left at home, just as she disappeared out of sight trailing behind Lizzy and her beau. She had not wanted to join the couples walking out but rather was headed to town to see if she could visit with a local girl, Miss Mariah Lucas.

Since Lydia has married, Kitty has become quieter. I think she needs more society. I hope either Jane or Lizzy, after they are married, will take her to town. There just is no one locally who is lively enough for my dear girl.

Mrs. Bennet turned to the empty room and felt a sudden sense of loss. A feeling she had not realized she would ever associate with her daughters marrying or leaving her. However, there in the empty room, Mrs. Bennet realized she would have to start getting used to the empty house. After all, with all of my children leaving, it will just be Thomas and myself.

She sat in the quite room taking in the new stillness that accompanied her thoughts. The feeling was little overwhelming for her and she was, for the first time in quite a while, Fanny found herself exceedingly pleased to see Mary enter the room.

Mary went immediately to the piano and started her daily practice. Mrs. Bennet had never been so glad to have her here daughter attempt to play a piece in her life. When Mary hit a wrong note, Mrs. Bennet quietly said, “Flat, Mary.”

Mary looked up surprised to even see her mother in the room.

Mrs. Bennet rose and went over to the piano and pointed to the symbol, “That note is supposed to be a flat.”

Mary looked closely and finally said, “You are right! I did not know you played, Mama.”

“That is because I have not played in years…since Jane was born,” Mrs. Bennet offered. She then motioned for her daughter to move over. The two ladies attempted to play the piece in front of them. It was this sight that Mr. Bennet and a guest saw when they entered the room sometime later.

“Mrs. Bennet, I haven’t heard you play in years,” he said with a little astonishment.

Mrs. Bennet and Mary looked up from the instrument and saw him standing in the doorway with a taller man standing behind him.

“That is because I have not had the time before. There seemed to always be something to do or,” Mrs. Bennet rose and said with a pointed looked to Mary, “someone using it.” As Mary blushed, Mrs. Bennet turned back to her husband, “But you have a guest I see.”

Mr. Bennet recalled himself and entered the room followed by the dark haired young man, “Mrs. Bennet, I would like to introduce you to the new curate of the Meryton parish: Reverend Joseph Weston. Reverend, this is my wife, Mrs. Bennet. The young lady you see is my middle daughter, Miss Mary Bennet. I had hoped to introduce you to my other children; specifically Jane. ”

The group bowed and curtseyed to each other. Mrs. Bennet offered, “Jane and Lizzy are out walking with Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy. I allowed Kitty went to visit Mariah Lucas.”

Mr. Bennet nodded and replied, “The good Reverend has settled into the local parish keep and will be starting his duties come Sunday. So your plans have not been scuttled by the abrupt dissertation of Reverend Marlstone last week. He has agreed to marry Jane and Mr. Bingley in two months and has come to discuss the event with you.”

Mrs. Bennet was momentarily taken aback, and was a little distracted by Mary leaving the room quickly and returning during her father’s words, “I had not even known he had left…”

The Reverend spoke up, “He has retired and has gone to live with his daughter in Oxford. He informed me when I arrived that most of the village and community were unaware of his removal and mentioned my first stop should be here to Longbourn. He also mentioned your eldest daughter’s marriage and his approval of it. I can only hope I will be a sufficient substitute.”

“Oh, no! You will be just fine! I had hoped they would marry from London, but Jane has been adamant about marrying from home.” cried Mrs. Bennet in a moment of panic. The conversation was interrupted by the two couples returning from their walk. The sudden arrival of the group had Mary calling for more refreshments than she had already asked for. The group retreated to the sitting room, where the Bingley upcoming marriage and what they wanted was discussed with the reverend.

Mrs. Bennet noted, but said nothing, when Mr. Darcy quietly asked for a moment of her husband’s time. Slyly, Mrs. Bennet got a glimpse of a grin on her second daughter’s face. With the secret knowledge that she had been right, Mrs. Bennet sipped her tea and wondered how the reverend would react to a double wedding. Surely, Jane and Lizzy will want to be married together. With Mr. Darcy’s standing in the first circles, he and Lizzy really should be married from London; but knowing Lizzy, she would want that even less than Jane.

As Fanny sat back to enjoy the noise around her with a full sitting room, she sighed a little to herself but then grinned at her fortune and thought: three daughters married!

Five Little Ducks - Part One

MarciJuly 29, 2019 09:49PM

Re: Five Little Ducks - Part One

Lucy J.July 31, 2019 06:03AM

Re: Five Little Ducks - Part One

BrigidJuly 30, 2019 02:14AM


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