The ladies of Longbourn soon waited on those of Netherfield. It was an informative visit. The two new neighbors spoke of their background in a teasing yet bragging way about their years at a seminary in Town, the first-rate education they had received, and all their refinements.
“You have a governess, we understand?” Mrs. Hurst asked.
“Yes, she is with us still,” said Jane.
“No doubt old, ugly, and temperamental, like our Miss Stone. 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?” Elizabeth asked. “I mean, does your family originate from there?”
“No,” said Mrs. Hurst. “The family 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 if her family owned the entire town.
“How delightful,” said Mrs. Hurst similarly and turned to Jane. “You must have enjoyed yourself.”
“I believe it was the only time I ever felt cross,” said Jane. “Mary and I had to stay home. I was fourteen—there is something about that age and being discontented with life, is there not?” She smiled sweetly. “It was when Miss Simnel came to us.”
“So you have not always had her?” Miss Bingley remarked.
“No,” Jane answered, missing the 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 stayed home being taught deportment.” It would have been churlish in any other woman, but coming from Jane, it was a wistful observation only.
“Miss Eliza, you have been to London and had a Season!” Miss Bingley declared, turning her eyes to Lizzy.
“Yes,” she nodded.
“But you haven’t been back?”
“And has anyone else been to London for the Season?” Miss Bingley continued.
“None of us,” said Catherine resentfully, “I don’t know why she got one, but we did not.”
“That is probably because of Simon,” Mary interjected. The two Netherfield ladies raised curious eyebrows.
“And who is Simon?” Miss Bingley asked.
“My son,” Mrs. Bennet answered. “He was born right after Lizzy finished her Season, and we haven’t had any of the other girls 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, who hadn’t listened. “It has been quite many years since we’ve gotten away. I fear Mr. Bennet isn’t 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 trips.”
“An uncle and aunt in the city!” Miss Bingley cried. “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. The fact that their fortunes had been acquired by trade wasn’t mentioned, yet there was condemnation in that sniff for the Bennet’s relations.
“My brother does very well; he is quite a wealthy man,” Mrs. Bennet asserted.
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 them, as elegant as they were, believing they would promote an interest between Mr. Bingley and Jane—for who could not see he 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 women of Longbourn. Jane Bennet was a sweet girl, and Mary Bennet was well-read and accomplished. But the eldest, Miss Elizabeth, they didn’t quite know what to make of. That she was intelligent and witty, they had been assured, and yet, she appeared motivated by practicality, something they couldn’t understand. As if common sense was something never considered or used in their daily lives.
Copyright © 2018 Anne Morris