Friday, November 16, 2012

Second Glances: A Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice Continues (Chapter Two)

Chapter One

“Aunt Augusta!” Sir James kissed the widow's hand in greeting. “How nice to be here at last!”

“Was it a terrible journey? We expected you a few hours ago.”

“Not at all. I come only from Bristol, where I spent last evening.”

“Bristol? A strange stop over, seven hours out of your way.”  

“I was seeing to some shipping interests.”                                     

“Really, Sir James! I wish you would leave such matters to your man of business.”

“Mine is a maritime land, dear Aunt. I cannot neglect its needs.”

“Humph!” she replied. “Neither your father, nor mine before him, ever saw the need to go to Bristol on business.”

“We live in changing times, my dear Aunt, but let us speak of other matters. I believe you have found a bevy of eligible ladies for me to fall in love with, am I right?”

“Surely not so many! I have merely invited a few unexceptional members of the fairer sex, who may or may not entrance you, I could not say. I know I wrote you a sharp letter, James, but were I not distraught to learn of your accident, I would never have taken such a tone.”

“Certainly not,” he smiled.

“I will not engage in matchmaking, if that is what you are thinking. Such matters I leave between Cupid and you.”

“Of course you do,” he laughed, “and a good thing it is, too, for an arrow has pierced my heart this very day, as I passed through Bath. I am quite undone, I assure you.”

Mrs. Westingham's still youthful eyes sparkled with interest, “Do tell me your tale!”

“I was riding quite recklessly, as you well know, (Bristol is only five hours out of the way, dear Aunt, at the rate I drive), when a young lady stepped into my path, very nearly losing her life in the process.“

His aunt looked shocked. “What kind of behavior is this? Will you not even conduct yourself properly in Bath itself? Someone surely recognized you.”

“That I do not know, but a great many people certainly saw me, and the likelihood of your being acquainted with at least one of the many spectators is quite good. The lady gave me the scolding of my life.”

“I have no doubt you deserved it. She might have been killed! Quite frankly, it's about time you saw the consequences of your shenanigans.”

“My gratitude for her safety is a more effective lesson to me, Aunt Augusta, than any lecture you can possibly deliver.”

“So it was love at first sight! Who is the lady?”

“I haven't the slightest notion. A schoolgirl, I would imagine, though certainly not for much longer. One of her companions called her Miss Bennet, I believe.”

“Bennet? I believe that is the name of Darcy's new wife, is it not? Perhaps there is a relation. Regardless, you have little time to waste waiting on school girl misses to come out.” 

“I have no intention of doing anything of the sort, but she has set a new bar for any perspective wives.”

“Too bad, really, for the lady who could like you despite being nearly run over by you would be particularly suited to be your wife, as she will surely have to accustom herself to all sorts of wild stunts.”

“It is a sad loss. I feel it acutely,” he assented, adding bemusedly, “I wonder if she is a relation of Darcy's?”

“Perhaps I shall warn my young guests that you respond well to a sharp tongue.”

“To the great chagrin of their careful mamas! Besides, Aunt Augusta, you said you would not engage in matchmaking!”   


“Mr. Bennet! Mr. Bennet!”

“Yes, my dear?”

“How can this be? Lydia writes that Kitty is leaving school, to go frolicking through London as Miss Darcy's chosen companion, but Lizzy has not included her in the invitation! That seems most unfair, does it not?”

“Not in the slightest. Kitty is older and has applied herself far more than Lydia. She has become a most unexceptional companion for Miss Darcy, while all my youngest daughter has proven with her education, I am afraid, is that she is an incurable romp.” 

“I do not see what age has to do with the matter, and Lydia is just as much Lizzy's sister as Kitty. There is no reason to betray such favoritism. Lydia must feel dreadfully, and rightly so, to be so left out. Lizzy must not be so disagreeable. I will write to her at once to tell her how much my sister Phillips thinks London would be just the thing for Lydia. She was saying, only yesterday, how time in town adds an unmistakable refinement to a young lady's demeanor. Mary King returned so very much improved from her time there. One scarcely notices her freckles at all.”

“You may write all you like, but it will make not the slightest difference, not even with the benefit of Mrs. Phillips’ sanction or the evidence of Miss King's complexion. Neither Lizzy nor Mr. Darcy will consent to bringing Lydia out at this time, and even if they were so foolish as to agree to such a proposal, I would not allow it, having lost count of the number of missives I've received from Mrs. Rivers regarding Lydia's bad behavior. Poor woman! If it wasn't for the peace her suffering buys me, I would sincerely pity her.”

“Nonsense, Mr. Bennet! How can you say such things of your own daughter?”

“I can say them, Mrs. Bennet, because they are undeniably true.”

“Oh! You have no pity on my poor nerves!”

“I had thought that seeing so many of your daughters properly disposed of would have cured your famous nerves, but instead they find new sources of worry with which to plague me.”

She grew red with indignation. “Mr. Bennet!”                                

“And for that matter,” he continued, “do I not have claim to nerves of my own? Yours have played such a decided role in our lives, I believe it is time that mine might be considered, lest they feel neglected.”

“Oh, do not talk such nonsense when important matters are at hand. I insist you write to Mr. Darcy. He will persuade Lizzy to include Lydia in the invitation.”

“I am sorry to inform you that I have already discussed the matter with Mr. Darcy, and we both agree Lydia is not ready to leave Mrs. Rivers.”

Mrs. Bennet narrowed her eyes suspiciously at her husband. “How long have you known of this, Mr. Bennet?”

“Oh, at least a fortnight, if not more.”

“I would think that, as a mother, I might be consulted in such arrangements.”

“You are perfectly right, my dear. What do you think of the notion of Kitty spending the season in London with the Darcys?”

“I think it a splendid notion, especially if Lydia might join them.”

“Then we are in agreement that it is a very nice thing for Kitty. Lydia will have her turn next year.” Mrs. Bennet looked disgruntled, and her husband offered the following balm to her ruffled sensibilities: “Oh do think of the great men Kitty is sure to meet. She may very well have an Earl falling desperately in love with her. How can that irritate your nerves?”

Mrs. Bennet took a moment to consider. “She should do very well, as all her sisters before her made excellent matches, and without the benefit of a London season. Of course, they had my guidance, which Kitty will be without. If she should attract a very great man – someone with a title – I hope she isn't fool enough to let him slip away. I always thought it would be Lizzy who would cause us trouble, but never did I see two people fall more furiously in love than she and Mr. Darcy when they first met. There certainly was no question of her ever rejecting him. And, of course, Jane could never have considered such a thing, nor Mary, not when Mr. Collins was so good as to ask for her!”

“Must a lady accept every offer that comes her way?”

“It depends a great deal on the lady, Mr. Bennet! Or the offer, I suppose. I hope a daughter of mine knows better than to say no when an unexceptional man proposes, unless she is secure of a better one. What a notion!” and she shuffled off to regale Hill, a far more receptive party, with her thoughts on Lydia's exclusion and Kitty's prospects. Mr. Bennet was left alone to reflect on his wife's current state of temper.

Mrs. Bennet, ever since learning it was key to Mr. Darcy’s happiness, had become very good at containing her over exuberant behavior in public, but in private she had grown steadily more frenzied. Mr. Bennet had first attributed the change to the lack of other ladies in the house, especially as the situation seemed to have worsened since the Bingley’s left Netherfield. It was perfectly understandable that she should be lonely, having been used to always have her daughters at hand, and he, by way of a cure, encouraged her to visit any hospitable relations as often as possible. But every happy event seemed to upset her, giving her more cares and worries to dwell upon than joy. The birth of their first grandchild had exposed Lady Catherine de Bourgh, of all people, to a fit of nerves that Mr. Bennet blushed, as far as he was able, to remember, particularly as Lady Catherine chose to remind him of it so often.                               

However nonsensical Mrs. Bennet might behave, her husband never ceased to be amazed by the depth of her perception, though revealed only thoughtlessly. Her last words on this occasion caused him pause, forcing him to take greater regard of his forth daughter. He feared he knew her character the least of his brood, as her former tendency to follow Lydia in everything led him to pay little attention to her. It was a mistake; he knew that now. Since falling into Miss Darcy’s sphere of influence and leaving Longbourn for Mrs. Rivers' establishment, Kitty had distinguished herself as a young lady of far more depth than he had formerly suspected, excelling in all her subjects and making the most of her opportunities. All this reflected very well, as did the affection she had earned from the Darcys. He sincerely hoped that Kitty never was forced to reject a gentleman deemed worthy by her mother, for it was a trial under which he knew not how the sensitive Kitty would fare, and he had no desire to find out. One thing was certain: the uproar incurred by such circumstances would be a horrid disruption to the peace and serenity he was so stridently trying to grow accustomed. 


Check back for a peak at chapter three!

First Impressions: A Tale of Less Pride & Prejudice is available on Amazon now (buy it here). Second Glances: A Tale of Less Pride & Prejudice Continues will be available soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment