Saturday, December 28, 2013

Chapter XIII

As Mary and her father set forth on the day's journey, the gray weather began to deepen further, making the interior of the carriage too dark to read and the scenery too dreary to appreciate. Mr. Bennet, still somewhat dyspeptic, betook himself of a nap and Mary soon followed his example. Although she had eventually slept the previous night, her dreams had been vexatious and peopled with nonsensical characters who explained themselves badly.

A rut in the road, however, eventually catapulted Mary and her father into awareness and they found themselves suddenly awake and staring at one another across an expanse of dim light, midway to Eastbourne.  It did not seem to Mary that her father was much improved. He had begun so cough in a congested sort of way, and Mary was forced to exclaim, “Are you quite well, Father?”

“Not entirely,” he replied. “I had a late night—not to say an early morning—of it, as you saw. The rain did me no good either, for my boots were altogether wet by the time I arrived back. Indeed they are still quite damp and I seem to have taken a chill.”

“Please, Father! You must take them off and wrap your feet in this robe or you will be ill—as I already fear you are.”

“Merely a little dull and headache-y,” he responded. “Soon enough we shall stop and I shall dry my coat and boots before the fire as I ought to have done last night. I was not entirely prepared to be wise when I awoke this morning, my friend having a better head for spirits and a worse one for wisdom than I had remembered."

So her father too had been disappointed in the Wittingtons. Mary wished she might learn more of what had transpired, but it was not in her nature to pursue such subjects with anyone, let alone her father. If Lydia or Kitty, or even Elizabeth had been part of their party, they would have prodded him for more information, but she herself had not the talent.

"We may spend a night on the road if necessary," he continued with a sniffle, "for I am indeed feeling poorly. We will soon be in Uckfield where I recall there is a passing good inn. What a sorry thing that my brother Gardiner was not at home, so I might have avoided last night's adventure altogether.  Reacquainting one’s self with one’s youthful companions is not always what could be wished for."

Indeed? Here was an opening for further details. Summoning her courage, Mary ventured, "How can a mere dinner have been so untoward?"

Mr. Bennet, instead of answering directly, fixed his daughter with a bleary eye. "As well, one might ask, how could an evening spent in one's room summon a bouquet and a caller the next morn?"

Mary stifled a gasp, hoping his question was rhetorical, but in this she was disappointed. When she did not answer, her father continued. "Tell me what has interested the gentlemen of London in my quiet daughter? Never tell me they spied your face at the window and were struck by one of Cupid's wayward arrows?"

Mary felt the heat rising to her cheeks.  However was she to tell her father of her expedition to Vauxhall or the company which had made it possible? She had so rarely attracted his interest that she knew not how he would respond to this confession. She regretted intensely having asked him of his own evening, never thinking it would call attention to hers. Surely now whatever reputation she had in the family for sober good sense and propriety must now desert her.

"Mary?" her father prompted. "Tell all, for I require some diversion from my misery."

Under the best of circumstances, Mary was a poor storyteller. Ordinarily, she related every event in detail to the degree that those who actually listened until the tale's end were sorry they had. Now, she must sift through what had occurred and omit all the barest facts. 

"I left the inn for a bit, last night," she began, "for it was still light and I had seen so little of the City."

"I see," her father responded. "Unescorted?"

"Why, no," she stammered. "Sara, the innkeeper's daughter walked along with me."

"And merely taking a walk set you upon the road to courtship!" His brief laugh descended into a paroxysm of coughing, giving Mary a brief respite in which to collect herself. 

"Of course not," she said at last, "but really, father, you must not tire yourself listening to my trivialities. You are clearly not well."

"I will not interrupt again.  Speak, my dear, and divert me from my malady."

"There is not so much to tell, Father. Merely that Sara and her sister and brother escorted me about the neighborhood, and I came upon Mr. Augustus Wittington and we spoke briefly.  It was he who sent the bouquet—merely as a matter of courtesy—and we returned to the inn soon after that encounter."

Mr. Bennet tapped the tips of his steepled fingers together. "Encounter, you say? An odd word to use."

Mary squirmed uncomfortably. "I meant nothing in particular by it, Papa."

"So the bouquet came from young Wittington, did it? Smitten, is he?"

"By no means, Papa. At least, I daresay..." she trailed off miserably. 

"Well, do not set your sights in that direction, Mary," he said with some distaste. "I barely missed being saddled with your cousin Collins and have no need for a cheap imitation. At least, you do not sit, clasping the nosegay to your heart."

"Of course not, Papa!"

"Now what of the other gentleman—the one who called and pressed your hand in his this morning. From whence did he spring?"

Mary all but groaned. Why, of all times, must her father pay heed to her now? "That is Mr. Little, a friend of Sara's...that is a friend of Sara's sister's suitor."

"How friendly you have become with the help, Mary. Never a good idea, as I hope you know."

"Mr. Little is a clerk, Papa."

"So is your uncle Philips, but that hardly recommends him! And how did you manage to recommend yourself to this clerk?"

Mary hung her head. "It seems I had best tell all," she said drearily.

"That is sometimes a good course," her father said gravely. "Now what is so terrible that you must hide it from me. You are surely not become another Lydia."

It occurred to Mary in the moments before she responded that her actions of the night before were much more like Lydia than her own staid self. If she must share some trait with her sister, why could it not be beauty?

"You may not know me half so well as you imagine, Papa. I went to Vauxhall last night."

"Vauxhall! Mary! I begin to think I do not know you at all!"

Monday, October 21, 2013

Chapter XII

Mary and Kitty: A Tale of Two Sisters

Chapter XII

As Kitty might have anticipated had her powers of discernment been more powerful, the heavy repast fortified by free-flowing spirits took its toll on the elder passengers. Soon all but Maria and herself were wrapped peacefully in the arms of Morpheus. However, where her mental prowess failed, Kitty's resourcefulness soon awoke. Her friend, unfortunately squeezed by the slumbering bulk of Mr. Collins, had sunk into the corner and could not immediately see what Kitty was about.

"Maria," Kitty whispered, passing a bottle over the top of the clergyman's head, "take a sip."

"What is it?" Maria squeaked.

"Just a taste of the claret," Kitty responded. "I find myself quite parched, as I am certain you must be as well. A small sip can surely have no adverse effect."

Maria, in apparent agreement, betook herself of the draught, making a sound like a surprised puppy. "Mama must have been mistaken! She always told us that spirits tasted like poison, but this is not so very terrible."

Kitty took her turn, and passed the bottle again.

"It is like over-ripe currants. Very nice indeed," Maria sighed. "I think they were cruel not to share a taste with us."

"It is always so with our elders," Kitty agreed pettishly. "If there is something we will love, they soon enough discover a reason to prohibit it! Besides, it is not as if we were children. Why you may end this journey by being a married lady. Have you learned any more of your suitor?"

"Not a word," Maria admitted, "but Mama bade me pack two pairs of gloves and told me I might put my hair up at dinner if there was company. That is a very odd thing, now I think of it, for in general she does not like me to be at all fashionable."

Kitty took another sip and Maria had her turn once again. "In this matter, I can be of service. I have watched both Jane and Elizabeth prepared by their lady's maids, so I know what's what! And..." she took a moment to ensure that the sleepers continued in their dreaming, "when we get to town we must contrive to visit a linen drapers. I have brought all my pin money with me and am determined to make some additions to my wardrobe."

"But how is this to be accomplished, Kitty? Mr. Collins will not like it."

"To be sure, I had thought to enlist my mother's aid, but I do not believe I can rouse her without waking the others. She is a very heavy sleeper."

Maria looked thoughtful for a moment. "Perhaps we can prevail on Mr. Collins to bring Charlotte a gift from town."

"Would he do so without the permission of the esteemed Lady Catherine?" Kitty asked archly. "I have a better plan. You shall tell him that, in her letter, Charlotte requested that you select a length of muslin for her."

Giddy insobriety
"What a capital plan!" said Maria, handing the bottle back to Kitty. "And I know Charlotte will like it above all things, for I daresay she does not often have to opportunity to avail herself of shops outside the village. And I should like to purchase some ribbon, for even my best hat is sadly in need of re-trimming."

Passing the remainder of the journey in making their plans and quenching their thirst, the young ladies soon attained a giddy state of insobriety and from thence passed into a state of sweet repose.

The day being fair and the road excellent, both London and Gracechurch Street were attained before any of the travelers awakened. Such events oft combine to create interesting occasions, and the Gardiners, only moments returned from their holiday, were still at the entry to their home when the grand equipage jolted to a stop.

"Is that not the de Bourgh crest?" Mrs. Gardiner exclaimed.

"I believe it is, my love," her husband returned, "although what it is doing here I cannot begin to fathom."

Their curiosity heightened when a liveried footman descended to open the carriage. On his doing so, a stray bottle rolled out the door and shattered on the cobblestones, introducing a scene of such dissolution that Mrs. Gardiner gasped.

 "What's this, Mama?" one of the younger Gardiners exclaimed. "Are my aunts dead? They look so very happy."

Indeed they did, but despite his internal observation -- not dead, dead drunk -- his father remarked instead, "No child, merely resting." Casting a speaking look at his wife, she reluctantly retreated into the house, shooing the children before her.

Within the carriage, the Mr. Gardiner had recognized at once his sisters' recumbent forms, leaned against each other, snoring in turn. Across from them his niece Kitty's face was pressed flat to the window, and next to her sprawled Mr. Collins, momentarily at ease with himself and the world. Just beyond the clergyman's bulk peeped a pair of slippers which could, he judged, only belong to Mary. What strange occasion could have prompted the arrival of such oddly-sorted company?

"A moment, sir?" At his elbow stood his housekeeper with a young maid in tow. "Alice here tells me that Mr. Bennet called yesterday and was forced to go to an inn."

Mr. Gardiner frowned deeply. His brother Bennet yesterday?  His sisters here today? Something was clearly amiss, but what had prompted them to call on Mr. Collins' support, he had not the faintest clue. Some disaster at Longbourn?

Kitty, who had by this time ascended from the depths of repose, kept her eyes firmly shut. She recalled with trepidation Lydia's tales of their uncle's ogreish behavior during the days before her marriage to Mr. Wickham. If anything fell beyond the boundaries of what he deemed proper, it was bellows to mend! Worse, he was altogether likely to impress on her mother the unwisdom of her accompanying Maria to Hunsford uninvited. This sort of interference was not to be borne.

Despite her uncle's giving her shoulder a firm shake, Kitty maintained her shammed slumber steadfastly until her mother and Aunt Philips were safely dislodged from the equipage by two footmen and steered toward the house under the direction of her uncle.

This moment was all she needed to jump from the carriage and address herself to the driver, who helpfully informed her that there were several establishments not far which enjoyed Lady Catherine's patronage. Indeed, Lady Catherine had several commissions which must be addressed before their quitting London and he hoped the party would not mind the delay. When he expressed some concern over the horses becoming restless standing thus in the street, she declared that they need await neither her uncle's return nor Mr. Collins' awakening. Instead, she suggested they make their way directly toward the aforementioned emporia. Thus were all of Kitty's dearest plans brought neatly to fruition, the family Gardiner 's eventual dismay notwithstanding.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Chapter XI

Chapter XI

That the party setting forth from Longbourne should experience any degree of discomfiture, Mrs. Bennet and her daughter were determined to ignore. To Aunt Philips such an idea did not occur, for her character was comprised of such equal parts of ignorance and good humor that she was never in the least conscious of what might, in others, produce mortification. This lady carried on a rambling conversation with no one in particular as, within the first miles, she began to unpack and disgorge the contents of her hamper. 

Such a sumptuous array of roasted chicken, rabbit pies, cheeses and tarts did much to assuage whatever insults to his dignity Mr. Collins had suffered at the outset. He was by nature a solid trencherman whose appetite was rarely satisfied. However much he must esteem Lady Catherine de Bourgh, her table and consequently his own (by means of her constant intervention) tended toward the abstemious. Therefore, by the time Mrs. Philips produced the first of several bottles of claret as a means of aiding digestion, he betook himself of her generosity with growing amiability.

Kitty and Maria, seated on either side of Mr. Collins had no opportunity to share their impressions but could only, when the gentleman happened to lean forward to betake himself of  "just one more morsel," exchange a glance or two. At last, Mrs. Philips addressed them with an apology, for she had quite forgot to bring either a jug of tea or bottle of ratafia for the younger members of the party, and, she went on, "I am sure your mama and Mr. Collins will agree that you are far too young to be drinking claret."

With this pronouncement, Mr. Collins agreed at length. "Does not the Bible in numerous places adjure us to beware the fruits of the vine?" Refilling his cup, he went on, "Indeed, Proverbs is most clear:
Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
    Who has strife? Who has complaining?
Who has wounds without cause?
    Who has redness of eyes?
 Those who tarry long over wine;
    those who go to try mixed wine.
In the end it bites like a serpent
    and stings like an adder.
 Your eyes will see strange things,
    and your heart utter perverse things."

Until these words had been spoken, neither of the girls had given any thought to thirst, but now they were forbid to share in the libation, it seemed very sad thing and the road became exceptionally long. Further, Kitty found her aunt's conversation trivial without being entertaining. Still more tedious were Mr. Collins lengthy comments on every imaginable subject. How odd her mother could eat and drink with such company, especially with the man whose very name was to be unspoken in her home. This circumstance prompted in Kitty such an unaccustomed period of reflection on human nature that she felt quite in harmony with her sister Mary.

By this time, the elder threesome had embarked on a round robin of increasingly shocking tales of inebriation which bordered on competitive. All the while, the claret bottle (and its successors) circulated among them.

"I knew a man once," Aunt Philips was saying, "who was so often in his cups his fellows called  Belchy for fun. Pleasant enough to begin, but after a bottle or two one wouldn't know him. Not but what he was only at my card parties several times before Mr. Philips forbade him entry, but it goes to show you, doesn't it?"

Mr. Collins nodded. "So the book of Neuterdominty, that is, Deuteronomy  tells us: ... 'wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of the, asp'."

Kitty, scheming.
Kitty, recognizing the signs of a fit of giggling about to overtake her, was force to bite her handkerchief and stare out the window. Nothing she could see looked familiar, which at least meant that they had left the environs of Longbourne well behind, but she was not at all certain how far they were from London. Her previous visits, accompanied by her sisters, had flown by, but she suspected today's journey would be endless. As the dull countryside passed, she reflected that, if only she might have a bit of claret, time might pass more pleasantly. She and Lydia had more than once tasted their father's bottle and found it quite conducive to jollity. It was with a good deal of pleasure, therefore, when she saw the elder members of the party begin to smile and nod. It would not be long, she thought with a smile, before she would be able to introduce Maria to a taste of the wicked vine.


It was no surprise to Mary that her father slept late and that, when he did join her in the dining room, he forbore to break his fast with more than a dry piece of toast and cup of tea. That he would hardly be discussing his own evening, she thought it unlikely that he would ask after her own. Oddly, this came as something of a disappointment. Not that she had ever before considered confiding in her father, but she thought that she had survived her adventures rather well and wished there were someone who might congratulate -- or at least envy-- her.

Her thoughts were thus occupied when Sara entered with a fresh pot of tea and a small bouquet. This latter she handed to Mary, whispering, "There is someone to see you!" Mary felt her color heighten as she read the attached note:

A. Wittington indeed! Of all the effrontery! That he should address her, let alone  in the language of flowers, was beyond anything. Still, an understandable curiosity compelled her to consider what the message might be. Though Mary was well acquainted with the subtleties of the symbolic language, she was sadly incapable of identifying any blooms beyond a daisy or common rose. There were two roses in the bouquet, of that she was sure, but each shade meant something different-- and none of those was anything she could wish, for considering her petitioner's behavior on the previous evening.

"Miss?" Mary found herself addressed by the maid who looked at her speakingly and glanced at the door.

"Er, no. Thank you. Nothing else," she stammered. Should she go to see who had called? If it were Mr. Wittington, she felt sure he would have been denied her presence by one who had been a witness to his impudence. And, if she did not go, surely she would wonder all the way to Eastbourne who it had been. Rising, she excused herself to her father and made her way to the front of the building. There she found herself greeted by Frank Little.

"How kind you are to call, Mr. Little," she exclaimed. "I do not know if I thanked you last night."

Mr. Little bowed over her hand briefly before addressing her. "No need, no need, Miss Bennet! I merely wanted to assure myself that you suffered no lasting anxiety after last night's encounter."

"I am quite well as you can see, and I do thank you most gratefully for your protection."

Mary watched in amazement as he puffed out his chest and bowed again. "Had I not had the pleasure of escorting you back here last night, I would have boxed that coxcomb's ears. I do not come in the way of such high company as yourself so often, as you might guess, but I am prepared to fight for a lady's honor like a veritable Ajax, whoever the rascal may be."

Mary smiled at the warmth of his expression, and at the notion of what Mr.Wittington's response might be to hearing himself referred to in such terms by a mere clerk. "I am thankful it did not come to that, for it would be an insult to your dignity, to be sure, to linger a moment longer in his company."

Mr. Little stood beaming at her now, both wordless and, she suspected, mindless of the time. Unsure of how to extricate herself, she was almost glad to hear her father's step in the hall, despite how much he must be sure to wonder at her speaking with a strange gentleman. When he did encounter them, however, he merely bowed and said, "Come now, Mary. We must be on the road if we are to make Eastbourne by nightfall."

"Of course, Father," she agreed. "Thank you again, Mr. Little."

She followed her father up the stairs, her heart somewhat a-tremble. What she must surely reveal to him during the length of the day's travel would change his opinion of her forever. Perhaps as much as the adventure had changed her own notion of who she was and the possibilities her future might embrace.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Chapter X

Chapter X

In finding the contents of Mary's wardrobe altogether too Gothic, and rejecting after all the bonnet for which she had so impertinently exchanged her own, Kitty now took to an examination the remains of her sisters Jane and Elizabeth's gowns and gloves. These had been "donated to the cause" when those fortunates left the family circle to begin their own households in more exalted realms. Among Jane's largesse, Kitty found a gown and several pairs of silk stockings which were not to be despised; however, as much of Elizabeth's wardrobe had already made an appearance at Rosings, she could not considered any part of it suitable for a new entree at that august estate except for a pair of gloves.

Shopping at a linen draper's.
On noting that one or two additional items might easily fit into her portmanteau, Kitty formed an admirable plan. It seemed a waste to pass through London without visiting its fashionable shopping districts and, while the addition of her mother and aunt to the traveling party had at first prompted a great grinding sensation in the pit of her stomach, she recognized that this pair might assist her in persuading Mr. Collins to grant them an hour or two for such an adventure before arriving at Gracechurch Street.

That the matrons would be accompanying the party as far as London, Kitty had kept to herself, wisely determining to let them bear any recriminations that might arise. Such a revelation was certain to put Maria into a tizzy, and no doubt set Lady Lucas's hackles a-tremble. Mr. Collins' response she did contemplate, for she considered him to be one who could certainly be managed easily enough.

In a rare harmony with his fellows, however, Mr. Collins held an inveterate dislike of females who insisted on carrying what he judged to be the entirety of their households with them on every journey. For Lady Catherine, naturally, he made an exception. On the following morning, therefore, after farewells at Lucas Lodge had been made and the carriage turned into the drive at Longbourne, he was both astonished and disgusted to see a startling number of bags, boxes, baskets, valises and one roped trunk.  Having been determined to alight for a mere moment and say only what was civil, he was now in such a state of high dudgeon that offering an abbreviated greeting to Mrs. Bennet was impossible.

"My dear Mrs. Bennet," he exclaimed when that lady appeared in the doorway. "Whatever can you mean by allowing Kitty to bring such a collection to Rosings? Why Maria has only brought one valise and a small one at that. I do not like to think--"

"You are mistaken, Mr. Collins," she cried, interrupting him with asperity. "Kitty brings only her portmanteau. The rest are my own and I do not see that you have anything to say about that for I am not going to Rosings!"

Abashed at this set-down, Mr. Collins apologies were profuse and prolonged. Not seeing the Bennet carriage, he had made an unforgivable assumption, prayed to be forgiven, but what after all was he to think? Indeed, achieving a proper balance of abasement and self-justification might have taken him several moments longer had not Mrs. Philips arrived just then in a cart with her own bags and a largish hamper. Directing the driver to strap these to the top of the carriage, she made for Mr. Collins with open arms telling him what a joy it was to see him. "Many's the time I have thought of you and the card parties we enjoyed when you were first in the neighborhood," she went on, embracing him warmly. "And your goodness in bring my sister and me to the Gardiners in London cannot be too highly praised, not but what I said I expected no less of you."

Mr. Collins' being momentarily bereft of speech, Kitty made haste to direct the stowing of the remaining baggage and joined Maria in the carriage.

"Whatever is going on?" asked Maria.

Ignoring the rising tones of her elders' conversation outside, Kitty merely explained, "Mama and her sister will be paying a visit to the Gardiners in London since it is on our way. It is a very happy circumstance for them, and I am sure Mr. Collins will be all kindness."

"He looks very red in the face," Maria said doubtfully, peering through the window. "I hope he is not getting too much sun."

"Indeed! That would never do. Mama!" Kitty called from the door. "Maria worries that Mr. Collins is too warm. Had we not best be on the road?"

A moment later, Mr. Collins burst into the compartment urged forward relentlessly by Aunt Philips. "Do sit between the girls," she insisted. "You will not wish to be crushed between my sister and I, and there must be room for the hamper as well, for I have had a nuncheon prepared for us."

As Mr. Collins recalled Mrs. Philips table fondly -- and indeed could think of nothing more to say -- he fell between Kitty and Maria and sunk resignedly back onto the squabs. Although Kitty could not like the seating arrangement, she was happy to see that the ladies had combined their talents to speed them on their way.

"Well, now we are cozy indeed!" Mrs. Philips declared. "And we shall be more so, for I have brought a deck of cards and some several bottles of claret to pass the time."

Mary Bennet did not spend a quiet night, for she had much to think about and indeed, the nighttime streets of London were little more quiet than during the day, despite the muffling effects of the rain. In Mr. Wittington she was grievously disappointed, and in herself as well for assuming that his scholarly prowess bespoke virtue. She has always believed in a strong relationship between learning and uprightness in character, and to find that it was not so was extremely disquieting. Strangely, the characteristics she had assumed in one of superior upbringing were clearly more discernible in the more lowly Mr. Little, whom she had learned was no more than a clerk. This position might have raised him in the standing of his circle, but his station was considerably lower than her own. How odd that his actions were so clearly those of a gentleman when another who could more rightly claim that title failed grievously to fulfill expectation.

Her own behavior last night puzzled her as well. That she should have left the inn without her father's permission in the company of strangers to visit a public pleasure garden was above anything. However she might justify herself on the basis of having learned a great deal, there was no real excuse for clandestine behavior. Further, the visit might well have ended disastrously, but for Mr. Little's quick action and laudable instincts.

Mary's ruminations, timed by the calling of the watchman, brought her to two o'clock at which time she heard her father return and make his way to the room beside her somewhat unsteadily. Peeping out into the hallway, she spied him leaning against the door frame trying to hold a candle in one hand while extricating the key to his chamber.

"Are you quite well, Papa?" she called.

A slow smile spread over his features. "Well, well," he whispered loudly. "Yes, am well."

Mary, who was acquainted with her father's range of comportment, recognized in him the symptoms of a night happily spent in good company and libation. While she might condemn Mr. Wittington the younger, she was pleased to see that her father had enjoyed in evening in the city. She took charge of his keys and conducted him into his chamber, saw that his night gear was laid out and bade him find his way to bed quickly for morning would be upon them before they knew it.

In this, Mary was not mistaken. Awakening to the calls of knife grinders, sweeps, egg sellers and sundry rather than the rooster's crow, she arose betimes and prepared her portmanteau for the trip to Eastbourne. A heavy rain had continued to fall throughout the night, and how well maintained the road would be, she could not guess. Sitting across from her father -- who seemed in somewhat lowered spirits -- at breakfast, she learned that they would take the Brighton Road as far as Lewes, and then change to another conveyance which would take them to Eastbourne.

"I am sorry we shall not travel through Brighton, after all, Mary," he said. "I am afraid you are finding this trip a dead bore."

Mary demurred, thinking it a very good thing that her papa was unlikely to learn that thus far her travels had been a good deal more exciting than anyone would ever know.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Chapter IX

Mary and Kitty: A Tale of Two Sisters

Chapter IX

An inferior bonnet
Mary had been on point of abandoning her plans to visit Vauxhall any number of times between their formation and the proposed departure. Torn between duty to  propriety and the urge to make the most of  her time in the capital, she spent some considerable time justifying and then condemning the outing. In the end, it was her sister's effrontery (the discovery that Kitty had iniquitously absconded with Mary's best bonnet and replaced it with an inferior one of own) that decided the thing. Weary of being imposed upon at every turn, the notion that she might for once have her own way without considering the desires of any other person was enormously appealing. When the knock came at her chamber door, she donned her shawl, rejected the offensive bonnet and joined the maid in the hallway.

Following the girl down the stairs to the back of the inn, Mary became conscious of  a nervous sensation midway between pleasure and dyspepsia. Tedious though it might be, the tranquility to which she was accustomed had not been so much disturbed since she had for several brief hours suspected that Mr. Collins might turn his marital interest from Lizzy to herself. That had been more than a year ago, but she remembered the incident keenly--as well as its odd aftermath of relief mixed with disappointment when she learned that he had offered for Charlotte Lucas instead.

It was a merry group assembled within the inn's family quarters, all of an age equal to her own and so obliging, welcoming and, best of all, deferential, very little time passed before she  began to think of the night's adventure with true anticipation rather than an as a mere act of rebellion. The party consisted of the innkeeper's daughter, Sara, who had issued the invitation, her sister Nell along with her promised beau Tom Waters, and Mr. Waters cousin, Frank Little.

Mary wished vainly that Mr. Wittington might have been the one to escort her to the gardens, for she knew he would be able to enlighten the evening with all manner of tidbits, as well as insights to the nature of her fellow creatures. How vexing that he should be engaged! This one, unexpected night must be her only opportunity to broaden her acquaintance without the interference of her importunate younger sisters.  She wished, too, that she might meet the gentleman in a setting less solemn than the Abbey. It was not to be, however. Practical as ever, Mary set aside disappointment for anticipation and set forth into the lamplit streets with something like happiness.

As a matter of course, Mr. Waters took them into the gardens via the servants entrance, which none besides herself seemed to think out of keeping. Assisted by his cousin, he provided the ladies with glasses of lemonade directly from the kitchen and led them out to a remote table and chairs provided specifically for their comfort. Securing a table in one of the pavilions well beyond his touch, but from here, he informed them, they might have as good a view of the stage as any as well as an even better prospect for the illuminations when that time came.

Of this, Mary heard little. Already, Vauxhall had enchanted her. Colored lights hung in the trees and glittered in the fountains, music floated in the air, and a diverse company of patrons strutted about in their finery. Among these she saw not a single familiar face, and that, perhaps, was the greatest treat at all. There was not a soul who cared who she was, what she thought or how she comported herself. Until this moment, she had not been sensible of the degree to which the opinion of others had been the most compelling force in her life.

Free of constraint, unshackled by convention, she might be anyone or do anything. For the first time in her life, she understood temptation. It was simple enough to have lived a blameless life at Longbourne, but in a place such as this? She did not know.

"May I take you for a stroll, Miss Bennet?"

Mr. Little stood before her with a look of inquiry in his sparkling brown eyes. "Sara will come with us, so you may be easy."

Sara, who joined them now, giggled and took Mary by the arm. "Nell and Tom have tremendous little time to be private, you understand. And besides, there is so much you will want to see."

Led forth by this pair, Mary could not help but reflect on how different their views were from her own. Courting couples surely ought not to be allowed to be alone. Where there was an inclination, there might also be a slide!

Soon, however, the surrounding delights transported her thoughts once again to less censorious spheres. She listened to the strolling musicians with great pleasure, regarded with famous statue of Handel with appropriate awe, and gasped at the overhead performances of acrobats and trapeze artists. All the while, citizens high and low (for the cost of admission was a mere four and sixpence) paraded by. Merchants and marquesses, clerks and countesses -- none was precluded from entering. Among those gathered, Mary was soon able to discern a less obvious distinction which she could only characterize as levels of corruption. These were evidenced by degrees of drunkenness, volume of conversation and the sheerness of the ladies' gauze gowns.

She was fascinated not only by the spectacle but by her own lack of disgust. She had always thought herself to be fastidious to a fault, and to be sure, she was when among those who knew her. But the anonymous character she had become this night was merely curious.

"Here is Druid Walk! Shall we try it?" Sara asked.

"I do not think it would be quite the thing for Miss Bennet," her cousin returned sternly.

Mary was intrigued. She had seen more of the world in the previous half hour than in her entire life. She had a thirst to see more. "Pray," she said, "what is Druid Walk? An historical spectacle? I may be country bred, but surely I am equal to that."

"I beg your pardon," Mr. Little said. "Sara ought not to have proposed such a thing. Druid Walk is a place for romantic assignations, and not at all the thing for a young lady."

"Frank! Do not be such a dull pigeon," Sara chastised him. "At least let us sit here by the walk's edge for a moment. I am sure Miss Bennet will enjoy watching the promenade."

To this suggestion, Mr. Little could make no objection and so they settled themselves on a convenient bench from which a pleasant prospect might be viewed. In a whisper, Sara recommended that Mary make good note of those entering and exiting the walk. This she did with her customary attention. Soon she was aware that those who disappeared into the lane precise as a pin re-emerged adjusting their costumes and repairing their disarranged coiffures.

Mary, unused to such an unremitting assault on her sensibilities, did not immediately know whether to be offended or not. As she recalled her earlier reflections, it seemed indeed that immediate indignation did not arise when the persons involved were strangers to her. She recognized that she was glad not to have entered the walk herself, but was quite content to have gained a new understanding of human nature.

When the next party strode uncertainly out of the darkness and into her view, however, she was shocked to see a familiar face and simultaneously felt a sensation of revulsion arise. Augustus Wittington! The gentleman who had seemed such a paragon at the Abbey, a master of propriety and learning, staggered into the clearing where she sat, a disheveled damsel on either arm. As his eyes met hers, the slow dawn of recognition rose in his bleary eyes.

"Miss Bonnet!" he slurred. "Your servant!"

"Bennet! Miss Bennet!" she cried, her indignation rising. "I collect you did not, after all, attend a lecture with friends!"

He glanced at the ladies who were tittering into their fans. "My friends, Rose and Fern. Learned a tremendous lot from their lecture just now."

Then, a silly smile spread over his features, slow as the flow of spilled treacle. Whether from forwardness or insobriety, Mr. Wittington listed forward several steps and reached out a hand, "Care for your own lecture?"

"I think not!" cried Mr. Little, placing himself between Mary and her offensive acquaintance. Forthwith, he hoisted the the offender by his collar and tossed him into a patch of ferns. "Come, Miss Bennet! Sara, now! I think we have seen quite enough!"

At that, Mary allowed herself to be steered towards the main pavilion, beyond the reach of insult and insinuation, the groans of Mr. Wittington fading into the general noise. Well, thought Mary, as a soaking rain began to fall, I believe I have just been rescued--and enlightened!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Chapter VIII

Mary and Kitty: A Tale of Two Sisters

Chapter VIII

Mary and her father now continued their tour accompanied by the Wittington gentlemen, the younger maintaining a monologue on the Abbey's history-- ecclesiastical, architectural and political-- as well as such anecdotes as might enlighten the understanding of provincial visitors to the Great City. While Mary began to wish she might have continued the quiet exploration on which she had embarked prior to this encounter, she was at least gratified by the young man's attention.

"My Arthurus," said his father, "is a regular encyclopedia. Set his tutors on their ears when he was a lad, skipped his way through Cambridge and now considers the church as a vocation. His parishioners would have no need to complain of his learning."

"Indeed," replied Mr. Bennet, "nor of being disappointed by too brief a sermon."

Mary, while she might agree with this assessment, was happy to see that neither gentleman seemed aware of her father's irony. However much he might esteem his old school friend, for such Mr. Wittington the elder proved to be, Mary knew that from veiled insults to out and out disdain was but a short step for her parent.
She was much relieved, therefore, when the intervention of the sexton, announcing that services would begin shortly, rescued them from further disquisition on the use of ceremonial incense over the past three centuries.

When the party had made its way out of doors once more, Mary cast a fond glance over her shoulder at the Abbey and prepared to part with these friends. This was not to be. While Mr. Arthurus was committed to attend a lecture with friends, his father evinced a wish to continue his reminiscences with Mr. Bennet.

"Shall you mind very much dining alone, Mary?" her father asked. "I shall ask the innkeeper to send a tray up to you so you need not endure the common room."

Mary did mind very much indeed, for she was not at all content to end her London adventure with a solitary plate of meat. Still, she knew her father's limited circle at home offered few opportunities for conversation, and agreed to this plan without revealing the disappointment she felt. Mary was, after all, a very good girl.

Sitting alone with her tray later on, she began to wonder what Kitty might have done in a similar situation. Certainly she would not have resigned herself to a solitary evening in the capital -- nor would their father have trusted her to do so. Mary was given the opportunity for mischief without fear she would grasp it, while Kitty would never have been allowed the chance to execute the plans her fertile imagination might have engendered. This must indeed have been the true reason her father preferred her company on his journey. She was no trouble. It was as if she were not here at all.

The delights of Vauxhall
The sky was only beginning darken. Mary opened the casement and leaned out to watch the lamplighter embark on his evening's work. In one direction, she could see the windows of Westminster Abbey begin to glow; in another, a cluster of fairy lights flickered among the trees of a vast park. For a moment, she wished she were Kitty. Her sister would discover everything about the diversion to be found in the neighboring environs in short order. Although she had never been on to put herself forward except in the service of displaying her talent at the pianoforte, she gathered her courage when the maid came in to take the tray and said, "Excuse me -- the lights I see from my window. There in the park. What are they?"

The girl came up beside her and peered out. "Why that's Vauxhall Gardens--the most wondrous place in the City if you ask me."

Vauxhall Gardens--she knew a little of them. Her mother had visited the gardens prior to her marriage and remembered the occasion fondly. She also recalled that Dr. Johnson had written favorably of them.

"I don't like to speak out of turn," the girl continued, "but my dad that owns the inn has given me and my sister leave to visit there with friends tonight, if you should care to come along?"

The notion of becoming familiar with young persons far below her own station was hardly to be thought of, but still, Mary's heart fluttered. Who, after all, was to know?

"What does one do there?" she asked with only a little hesitation.

"Oh! There's no end to it! There's music and masques and other jugglers by the score, but best of all I like the illuminations. I daresay you might see some of the show from your window, but there's nothing like it when those fiery stars burst above your very head! And what is more, Tom Waters --who my sister is promised to-- is apprenticed there and has passes for who-ever's to come with us tonight, so there's no expense since you've had your dinner after all."

Whatever inner debates and conflicts of the soul Mary endured need not be described here; these were argued away with little trouble. She knew herself to be responsible, her father had in no way commanded her to stay where she was, and, after all, what mischief could come to her in a garden?


While neither Lady Lucas nor Mrs. Bennet could quite approve the plan for Kitty to accompany Maria to Rosings, each recognized benefits which could only be described as both maternal and vengeful. Indeed, the score that had yet to be settled between the pair had at last found its arena, as each lady imagined how her own daughter might best the other.

That Mr. Collins was in favor of the plan began the smoothing of the way for Lady Lucas. Shy Maria was not at all likely to show her best face in company, but Kitty's presence might lend her some courage to speak up and make herself pleasant. At the same time, Kitty's forwardness would very likely reveal her as the hoyden she was and provide a very happy contrast to Maria's general submissiveness. Her only real worry was that Maria's wardrobe might not be equal to Kitty's. This she deficiency began to address at once, and was soon trimming up Maria's bonnets with fresh ribbon.

Mrs. Bennet was more difficult to win over for she could not immediately perceive how sending Kitty to Lady Catherine might benefit her situation. Further, she did not like to be alone and the very thought of spending an evening unattended threatened to erupt in a flurry of spasms.

"But Mama," Kitty exclaimed, "why do you not ask my aunt Phillips to come to you. It would be a great treat for her and the two of you may be cozy until father returns with Lydia."

"Aunt Phillips," she said repressively, "does not stir from her front window -- else she might miss out on the doings in the street. But indeed, I do not understand you, Kitty! Why should you wish to oblige the Lucases? They are no friends of ours, let me tell you, no matter how much you may dote on Maria!"

"I do not dote on Maria!" was Kitty's pettish response. "It is rather the reverse. Besides, one must have a companion of one sort or another to go about with. Who else is there to bear me company in the neighborhood? And further, I am anything but obliging. Lady Lucas would describe me as conniving rather than obliging!"

"Of all the stomach! Well, then, I shall certainly not give you leave. I will not have it said  that my daughter is pushing her way where she is not wanted. What is it she believes you are about?"

Kitty smiled. This would be her coup de grace. "Why I am sure she believes I will try to cut Maria out with her suitor..."

At this, Mrs. Bennet sat up very straight and cast aside her salts and handkerchief. "Maria Lucas has a suitor? Why do I not know of this?"

Kitty then described the morning's events with a great deal of ornamentation, leaving out only her own contributions to Maria's perfidy, and ending with Mr. Collins announcement that Maria should be housed at the great estate of Rosings. As these great revelations unfolded, Mrs. Bennet exclamations and changes in countenance revealed quite clearly the workings of her unremarkable brain. When she began to look thoughtful, then to abandon her salts and walk about the room, Kitty knew that her mother to be more than half-way convinced.

"What an opportunity for you, Kitty," she said at last. "A stay at Rosings would give you just the sort of polish and dash you have been lacking, as well as widening your circle. And if Charlotte thinks this tenant marriageable for her sister, there is no doubt he will do for you if you can catch him."

Kitty was by no means anxious to attach herself to one of Lady Catherine's tenants and spend the rest of her life in the country. Indeed, her secret hope was for Jane or Elizabeth to sponsor her for a season in London to see the great sights, dance until dawn and suffer the delights of dozen impossible loves before she was finally settled.  Her aim in accompanying Maria was merely to put a period to the boredom she suffered in Hertfordshire. She knew her mother well enough,  however, to understand that she must appear to be similarly devoted to ending her own maiden state as soon as could be. With this end in mind, she encouraged her mother's various plots and stratagems until she was convinced her adventure was securely settled. In this she was mistaken.

 "What a good thing it would be were it only possible," Mrs. Bennet sighed, "for I should dearly love to see you cut Maria out. Lady Lucas would be well-served for playing off her tricks in encouraging Charlotte to take Mr. Collins!"

"But why-ever should it not be possible, Mama?"

Mrs. Bennet turned on her with surprise. "Your father is not here to give his permission, of course! He would in no way approve your jauntering off across the country with Maria Lucas. 'Tis diverting to think of, but it will not do."

Deprived of the ability to produce coherent speech in response to her mother's conclusion, Kitty released a sigh which sounded very much like a tea kettle about to boil. To what ends her frustration may have led her remained unknown, for at that moment the arrival of her aunt Phillips was announced, and in that lady, Kitty recognized an ally.

"Well, Sister," said Mrs. Phillips, when all had been disclosed to her, "I see no problem here. Your husband has clearly left all to your charge. If he'd no confidence in your judgment he surely would not have gone away."

Mrs. Bennet allowed that this was so. 

"Do you know," said the other lady, "I believe I might have a good idea. Why do not you and I accompany Kitty and her party as far as the Gardiner's in London? Surely Lady Catherine's carriage is commodious enough for us all. Then Mr. Bennet may find us there easily when he passes through London again and we may travel back with him."

Mrs. Bennet, who had been longing for to visit several of her favorite shops in the City, was not long in approving her sister-in-law's plan and congratulated her on seeing how all might be accomplished with so little trouble. With that, Mrs. Phillips made her farewells and left to pack a bandbox, and Kitty took herself upstairs to ravage her sister's wardrobe.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Chapter VII

Mary and Kitty: A Tale of Two Sisters

Chapter VII

If the exterior of Westminster Abbey had raised in Mary an awareness of the insignificance of one mortal being, stepping inside that great structure demonstrated that the hand of man might create a semblance of the divine. Had she been able to compose these thoughts into a suitable epigram, she would have thought herself a very happy young lady indeed. In the event, however, she was capable only of emitting a great sigh.

On entering, Mr. Bennet purchased a map of the Abbey and under its guidance they made their way through the dark structure. Taking in the monuments and memorials to past sovereigns, saints and sundry, Mary could not help but feel she was treading on the realm's history, as many grave stones were set in the floor itself. She bit back the urge to excuse herself as she stepped upon the memorials, but she was very much alive to the notion that the dead could hardly approve the daily footfalls of the living over their final resting places.

When her father stopped to ask several questions of an architectural nature, Mary continued to Lady Chapel on her own where the memorial to Elizabeth I stood in imposing splendor. Leaning in to examine the face of the monarch's effigy, she could not but feel that Good Queen Bess looked just the least bit menacing. And to think, her memorial had been erected over the grave of her sister, Mary I. That was just the sort of thing a younger sister might be expected to do. Not but what Elizabeth had been in any position to make such a decision herself, being dead after all, but it seemed like such a Lydia-ish thing to do she felt quite put out on Mary Tudor's behalf.

Inscribed with Latin epitaphs, the base of the monument prompted some consternation. Although Mary had studied Italian, she could not decipher their meanings with any surety. As she reached into her reticule to find her notebook, a voice from behind her intoned:

    Regno consortes & urna, hic obdormimus Elizabetha et Maria sorores, in spe resurrectionis

"A poignant sentiment, do you not think?" a gentleman's voice inquired.

 Mary turned to find herself joined by a young man of scholarly appearance, perusing the epitaph through a very elegant pince nez. He was tall, sufficiently pale to suggest an existence dedicated to study, and thin-lipped, which feature was now curved into a slight smile.

"I am afraid I do not read Latin," Mary confessed a little self-consciously. "I was searching for Italian cognates."

"I am afraid that only regno traverses the bridge of language exactly. The rest are oblique. May I translate for you?"

Mary, already half in love, suddenly could not find the voice to articulate a simple Yes, if you please but rather nodded her approval.

Needing no further encouragement, the gentleman did not hesitate:

    Consorts in realm and tomb, here we sleep, Elizabeth and Mary, sisters, in hope of resurrection.

"I translate the meaning of  regno consortes roughly," he continued apologetically. "The original plays on the various nuances of consortes, which might mean  sibling, partner or sharer in common."

"Poignant indeed," Mary managed after a moment. "I find it quite moving." While neither monarch could in truth be described as entirely amiable--there were all those executions, after all--here they rested peacefully despite their rivalry. Thus confronted with this historical exemplar, she was force to admit to herself a slight sense of guilt for the unloving thoughts held toward Lydia a moment earlier. How extraordinary that a shift in heart might arise out of classical explication!

"Shall I continue?"

"Oh! Please do, sir, if you do not mind." The unknown, quite prepared to illuminate further, led Mary around the monument, revealing the many memorable accomplishments of Elizabeth's reign and the honor done by James VI in erecting such a testament to his predecessor. With these--the rout of the Spanish Armada, difficulties with France, sponsorship of universities--Mary was well acquainted. Nevertheless, she nodded and exclaimed suitably as she took an inventory of his person, from his elevated forehead to his well-polished boots.

Thus occupied, she did not mark the approach of Mr. Bennet, accompanied by another gentleman of similar age. As she and her acquaintance exclaimed on the simultaneous appearance of their fathers, all relationships were revealed, introductions made and Mary was able to drop a curtsey and discover at last the name of her preceptor: Mr. Arthurus Wittington. She liked the sound of it very well indeed.


"They have come for me!" Maria gasped as the De Bourgh carriage pulled up the front of Lucas Lodge. "I am done for!"

"Dramatics will serve no purpose," Kitty declared severely. "Come, let us meet them at the door that we may know all at first hand."  Having made this pronouncement, she summarily took Maria by the elbow and attempted to steer her towards the front door. Maria, however, resisted this effort stoutly, averring she had much rather seek the security of Longbourne than face the dragon in its lair.

To this heartfelt entreaty, Kitty merely responded, "Pooh!" Her only fear in confronting her ladyship, if that indeed were the occupant of the carriage, was extreme tedium, for she had long since christened that personage "Lady Catherine de Bore" and thought it a very good joke indeed. "Knowing what is in store is certainly better than creating bogeymen out of mere fantasy! Do find some pluck, Maria. I shall be at your side, after all."

Maria, by nature unfitted to resist, allowed Kitty to pull her forward and a few moments later was greeted not by the sight of Lady Catherine, but rather her brother Collins exiting the carriage. While no more welcome than his patroness, at least Maria did not  fear the clergyman, and stepped forward to greet him with enthusiasm borne of relief.

Mr. Collins, looking somewhat travel worn and pale, tottered forward as if still feeling the sway of the carriage and did not immediately speak. When at last he vouchsafed a reply, he begged their pardon, planted a salute on Maria's cheek and shook hands with his cousin, then asked to be shown to the presence of Sir William and Lady Lucas. These personages, alerted by a watchful footman, attained the door at the same moment and welcomed him to the Lodge.

Hats from Ackermann's
Despite her eagerness to hear learn whatever messages her son-in-law might bear, Lady Lucas allowed Mr. Collins to be shown to a chamber to refresh himself after a journey which by all rights must have commenced at dawn, and informed him that a nuncheon would be served in half an hour's time. While Maria twisted the ends of her kerchief, Kitty was happy to peruse the pages of Ackermann's, the young ladies adequately filled their time until the company regathered.

When at last the meal had been eaten and the servants dismissed, Lady Lucas was at last free to interrogate Mr. Collins. Before she did so, however, she addressed Kitty. "Surely, my dear," said she, "had you not better return to Longbourne? I am certain your mother will have been wanting you this past hour."

"I am sure she has not," Kitty said. "Mama always rests in the afternoon."

"Do let her stay, Mama," Maria begged. "Mr. Collins is Kitty's cousin, after all."

Lady Lucas frowned and tried to catch her husband's eye, but was forced to relent, hoping Kitty would be well served for her imposition when she heard of Maria's upcoming nuptials.

"Well, Collins," Sir William began. "We have just received interesting news from Charlotte. Is that the purpose of your visit?"

"To be sure," replied he, "but my wife's missive was posted before we learned of what I shall call our great news:

And GOD said, let the waters bring forth abundantly,.... The waters gathered together in one place, the waters of the ocean, and those in rivers, pools and lakes, and which, before their collection into those places, had been sat on, moved, and impregnated by the Spirit of GOD!

"And so," he concluded with eyes solemnly raised upwards, "we have been most truly blessed."

With the exception of the visitor, there was not one at the table who did not feel a blush at this vivid quotation from Genesis, although their other reactions were somewhat varied. At last, Lady Lucas managed to inquire, "Are you telling us, Mr. Collins, that Charlotte is with child?"

 When that gentleman exclaimed in tones of revulsion, "Good God, no!" Sir William and his lady could not but exchange a glance of confusion. "Whatever can you be thinking? I mean only to tell you that my esteemed patroness has given permission to install a duck pond on the property."

"A duck pond?" Lady Lucas echoed in hollow tones. "Yes, of course. Why did I not think of that immediately? Clearly I must not be over-anxious in looking forward to grandchildren."

"Indeed,"  Mr. Collins went on, "Lady Catherine de Bourgh, whose condescension in advising me in such matters cannot be sufficiently praised, has seen fit to pronounce severe warnings on the pitfalls which so often attend a too-early pursuit of fecundity."

Sir William knit his brows for a moment before asking. "D'ye mean she tells when you are to set up your nursery?"

"In that, as in all other matters, Lady Catherine is my most dedicated instructress."

Although clearly as devoted to the great lady as his son-in-law, Sir William was held speechless for some moments until at least he found his tongue and murmured that such attention was no doubt to Mr. Collin's very good fortune. Kitty rather thought her own father would condemn such an interference as "damned impudent," especially since his habitual epithet for Lady Catherine was "that grand old trout." She relished the notion of sharing this tidbit with him when the occasion arose, but knew it was probably not at all the sort of thing that was likely to come up in conversation.

When a thorough description of the proposed duck pond and its myriad benefits had been delivered and commented upon, the conversation at last turned to the subject most dear to all present. Kitty whispered to Maria, whose powers of dissembling she did not in the least esteem, "Try to look surprised!"

 "As you know by now," Mr. Collins began, "Lady Catherine has once more deigned to turn her attention and great good will to the benefit of my wife's family by instigating the pursuit of an eligible parti for our dear sister, Maria."

Maria responded with an appropriate gasp, although Kitty was obliged to pinch her first. Mr. Collins, much gratified by this response, congratulated Maria's parents for their foresight in keeping Maria in ignorance. "For," said he, "we should not wish to see her head turned by imaginings of what may be in store, for Lady Catherine wishes to learn more of Maria before she risks promoting her chances. It is of the utmost importance that Maria act with decorum and demonstrates a willing manner. Lady Catherine is adamant on this point, for with the exception of our dear Charlotte, her experience with the natives of Hertfordshire--" and here he glanced speakingly at Kitty --"has not left her with any great opinion of the county. Oft has she lamented the tendency of certain ladies to set their sights too high and marry above their station."

There could be no doubt that he was speaking of Elizabeth, and Kitty felt herself bristle at this untoward attack. She only wished she might be able to marry a duke and set her toady cousin and Lady Catherine on their ears. There was little scope for such an ambition in her home county or at any of the diversions within her small circle, but -- oh!-- would that things were different! How she would love to wear a coronet!

As Mr. Collins continued, he remained vague about the details of Maria's would-be suitor, which could only mean he was unacquainted with them, his tendency to reveal all that he knew being a major contribution to his role as universal bore. All that he revealed of a substantive nature was the Maria was to travel with him to Rosings on the morrow to spend some weeks to allow for a re-acquaintance with Lady Catherine.

"And there is a special treat in store for you as well," he continued, "for you will be staying at Rosings itself, rather than with Charlotte and I at Hunsford."

At this, Maria did indeed cry out, for the very notion of being on her own in that grand place quite undid her.

"But what of her clothes," Lady Lucas cried. "I can in no way send her to Rosings with the wardrobe that serves her here in Hertfordshire. We must be allowed time to make preparations."

"Do not trouble yourself, Lady Lucas. I assure you that  Lady Catherine will better esteem Maria if she shows herself to be humble. What is more, Mrs. Jenkinson, companion to Miss DeBourgh, has been called away to her family. I am certain Maria will be able to make herself useful in that lady's absence, and that will call for no particular elegance. What do you say?"

Maria, who now looked as if she might become quite ill,  could only open and close her mouth several time before whispering in a strained voice, "Pray, do you think Kitty might come with me?"