Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three, Chapter Four, Chapter Five, Chapter Six, Chapter Seven, Chapter Eight, Chapter Nine
Having finally disposed of her daughters to the safe occupation of bonnet trimming, Alison determined to walk the grounds, in hope the air would clear her head. Intent on escaping unseen through a back door, she was halted in her quest by Mr. Bennet, emerging from his library.
"Finding yourself rather unpopular, are you not, my dear?" he smiled.
"You might have stood by me, rather than abandoning me to task."
"You were the one who decided Mr. Wickham was an unsuitable companion, and after being so encouraging to him previously."
Alison blushed. "I was mistaken in his character."
"And since when did the character of an eligible bachelor way so high with you?" he persisted.
"Since I realized the potential consequences of allowing our daughters to run rampant!" she said angrily.
"Had I known a bump to the head would enact such an extraordinary transformation, I would have inflicted one upon you years ago! Was it not you who insisted on bring Lydia out so young, Kitty too, for that matter?"
"I may have made mistakes, but I am at least striving to correct them, rather than hiding in the library all day long. Have you not considered your responsibility, as their father, to safeguard your children's safety?"
It was his turn to blush. "No one knows my shortcoming better than I, my dear. Happily, I am of a complacent nature and uninclined to indulge self-rebuke for long."
"Perhaps you ought to indulge it, Mr. Bennet. What good is being aware of your flaws if you don't seek to rectify them? Now if you'll excuse me, I am greatly in need of fresh air!" And she flounced off, an easy thing to do in her multi-layers gown, and sought relief in nature, only to return in time to change for dinner.
They were just the family that night. Thank god! Alison reflected with relief, as she had barely weathered her way the few nights they entertained. Finding the menus incomprehensible, most of the dishes being entirely unknown to her, she put all her faith in Mrs. Hill, for whom she was excessively grateful. The good woman now saw her into the the right clothes, ordered the household, and pressed a cool cloth to to the back of Alison's neck, providing the first real relief from her headache. "That's marvelous!" Alison murmured. "Thank you so much, Mrs. Hill!"
"Tis nothing, ma'am, but what I do for myself when my head aches. I would have brought you a cloth earlier, but usually you prefer laudanum drops in wine, which is why I left them beside you this morning."
Alison looked at the side table, where a tray laden with the aforementioned items, as well as carafe of water, sat. She had not even noticed it before. It reminded her of the way her mother tended her when she was sick as a child, perceiving her needs before Alison even knew she had them. She looked Mrs. Hill in the eyes and said rather blankly. "I do not care for laudanum anymore."
"I'll bring you another cloth when you retire."
Downstairs she found all the family assembled in the drawing room awaiting her arrival. "There you are, Mrs. Bennet! We thought you might be deserting us this evening. While you were abdicating on your parental responsibilities, I have been entertaining our daughters with tales of the adventures to be at a country posting house. According to the literature of our day, at any one might a heroine might meet her hero, be abducted by a band of gypsies, or find her long lost parent. A real girl might expect at least a little diversion from the monotony of a restricted life."
Alison felt some chagrin with him for turning her early rebuke back upon herself, but the twinkle in his eye calmed her rising ire, and she found herself both interested in his purpose and pleased he seemed to have heeded her words.
He continued, "It is, therefore, that I propose sending Kitty and Lydia off on an adventure tomorrow. I am sorry Mary, that you will not have your share of the fun, but I am convinced such a levelheaded lady as yourself would not enjoy being jammed six in a coach, with the added encumbrance of bandboxes and reticules."
"What kind of adventure, Papa?" Kitty inquired.
"I'm sending the carriage to collect Jane and Elizabeth, and I thought you'd enjoy the change of scenery."
"Oh yes! It will be very pleasant to surprise them," Lydia said with a gleam in her eye that Alison failed to notice, too relieved did she feel that the girls would be out from underfoot all day and well away from Wickham. Once Jane and Elizabeth were home, they could keep an eye on her on trips to Meryton, and in two weeks, the regiment would be gone. As long as she could keep Lydia from going to Brighton, all would be well ... maybe.
Read Chapter Eleven