The ladies of Longbourn soon waited on those of Netherfield. It was an informative visit. The two new neighbors spoke of their background with a teasing, yet bragging manner, about their years at a seminary in Town—about the first-rate education it had provided them, and about all their refinements.
“You have a governess, we understand?” said Mrs. Hurst.
“Yes, she is with us still,” answered Jane.
“Old, ugly, and temperamental, like our Miss Stone, no doubt. How we hated her,” said Miss Bingley.
“Oh no,” said Mary, “she is young, and we adore her.”
Miss Bingley raised an eyebrow but said nothing else.
“Were you always in London?” asked Elizabeth. “I mean, does your family originate from there?”
“No,” said Mrs. Hurst. “The family originally is from a town in the north: Scarborough.”
“We have been to Scarborough,” said Catherine. “When we were little girls.”
“You came for the waters,” said Miss Bingley, “everybody does.” She said it with triumph and pride as though her family owned the entire town.
“How delightful,” said Mrs. Hurst with the same sentiment, and turned to Jane. “You must have enjoyed yourself.”
“I believe it is the only time I ever admit to feeling peevish,” remarked Jane. “Mary and I had to stay home. I was fourteen—there is something about that age and being discontented with one’s life, is there not?” She smiled sweetly. “It was when Miss Simnel came to us.”
“So you have not always had her?” remarked Miss Bingley.
“No,” answered Jane, who missed a certain tone in Miss Bingley’s voice. “Mamma and the younger girls went to Scarborough. Elizabeth went to London for a Season, but Mary and I were at home being taught deportment.” In any other woman it would have been churlish or pretentious, but coming from Jane, it was a wistful observation only.
“Miss Eliza, you have been to London and had a Season!” declared Miss Bingley, who turned her eyes then to Elizabeth.
“Yes,” nodded Elizabeth.
“But you have not been back?” prompted the elegant lady.
“No,” she answered.
“And has anyone else been to London for the Season?” continued Miss Bingley.
“None of us,” said Catherine with a certain resentful tone to her voice, “I do not know why she received one, but we did not.”
“That is probably because of Simon,” said Mary. The two Netherfield ladies raised curious eyebrows.
“And who is Simon?” asked Miss Bingley.
“My son,” answered Mrs. Bennet. “He was born right after Lizzy finished her Season, and we have not had any of the other girls back to London. Life has been too hectic.”
“There are four girls and then both Caroline and Charles in our family,” said Mrs. Hurst. “I believe I understand.” She paused to look at her sister. “We have one sister, Mrs. Peterson, Leticia, who still lives in Scarborough.”
“That was six or seven years ago, now,” said Mrs. Bennet wistfully. “It has been quite a number of years since we have gotten away. I fear Mr. Bennet is not one for travel.”
“Our uncle and aunt in the city, however, love to travel which has been of advantage to us,” said Elizabeth. “They sometimes take one or two of us on a trip with them.”
“An uncle and aunt in the city!” cried Miss Bingley. “Do they live in Town year-round, or do they have an estate in the country as well?”
“Uncle Gardiner is in trade,” said Jane.
“In trade, you say,” said Mrs. Hurst with a sniff before she pasted a smile on her face. Elizabeth frowned at them. The fact that their own fortunes had been acquired by trade seemed to be overlooked, but there was a certain condemnation in that sniff for the nature of the Bennet’s relations.
“My brother does very well in his establishment; he is quite a wealthy man,” said Mrs. Bennet.
“Ah,” said Miss Bingley.
Their half-hour came to a close, and the Bennet ladies left, discussing their fashionable neighbors on the return journey to Longbourn. Mrs. Bennet was pleased with the new neighbors, as elegant as they were, and as they would, in all likelihood, promote any interest between Mr. Bingley and Jane—for who could not see he had admired her! Especially after hearing how Charlotte Lucas had overheard Mr. Bingley tell Mr. Robinson that Miss Jane Bennet was the prettiest girl in the Assembly room that night.
The two Netherfield ladies were less inclined to think well of the Longbourn ladies. Jane Bennet was a sweet girl and Mary Bennet, was a well-read and accomplished girl, though her conversational skills were lacking. The eldest, Miss Elizabeth Bennet, they did not quite know what to make of. That she was intelligent and witty, they had been assured, and yet, she appeared to be motivated by practicality, something they could not understand. As if common sense was something never considered or used in their daily lives.
Copyright © 2018 Anne Morris