It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a family member near death’s door cannot but have an effect on and change the members of that family.
Mr. and Mrs. Bennet were sitting together one evening and, for once, were by themselves and not surrounded by their children.
“Mr. Bennet, have you heard the news?” said his lady to him.
“No, my dear, what news do you have to report?” He looked up from his book.
“Netherfield Hall has been let! I believe it indicates that there is an end to the troublesome times that the neighborhood has confronted.” Her face glowed with excitement; her cheeks displayed a rosiness that contrasted with the starkness of her dress. The glow took off a few years from her face and, for a moment, the former beauty of Meryton could be seen in her features.
“Too true, my dear. Though it cannot truly brighten our family troubles.” Mr. Bennet’s face looked grave as he looked down at his lap. No bloom graced his cheeks, and his dark eyes held a world of worries and sorrow.
“Well, my dear, it has been let by a young man from the North. Mrs. Long reports that he is young and single. Perhaps he may consider one of the girls!” she remarked, attempting to cheer him before returning to her stitching.
“And I suppose you wish for me to visit him? Does it not seem too soon after losing our Mary to be thinking of marriageable young men for our remaining daughters?”
“Mr. Bennet, the death knells rang over a year ago. I think it is time we consider that we need to move on.” Mrs. Bennet’s eyes sought his in a plea that said far more than her words.
“I, for one, cannot forget the day that Mary was lost to us, my dear.” Her husband returned her gaze and tried to say things with his eyes that he could not say with his voice.
“Nor I, Mr. Bennet, nor I. I have loved all of my children, but we have four daughters to consider. And Lizzy has just come back to us after being gone for most of that year—we need to consider them,” she maintained, pursuing her lips while she pursued her line of thinking.
“Perhaps you are right, my dear,” he muttered, though he did not sound convinced.
“Consider…” she began, but Mr. Bennet interrupted.
“That seems to be your favorite word,” he commented.
“Yes, Mr. Bennet, consider that Jane is now almost two years past twenty, and no matter how beautiful she may be, beauty does not last forever. And Lizzy…”
“Yes, my poor Lizzy.” His shoulders sagged, and he looked down at his book, though not because it held his interest.
“Poor Lizzy has recovered, but her hair will take a long time to grow back. And her injury—I fear no man will take her now.” Mrs. Bennet shook her head sadly and bent over her embroidery again, pulling tightly at a stitch.
“I doubt that; it may make marriage more manageable if she cannot hear what her husband has to say. Besides, Lizzy says she has some hearing in one ear and seems to be slowly recovering more and more.” Mr. Bennet’s voice brightened for the first time, and some semblance of his old humor snuck back in. “And our Katherine, well, Kitty appears to have settled down and is considerably less ridiculous than she once was,” he added. “I never thought I would think to see her less foolish, but there it is.”
“Our Lydia is still a sweet, joyous girl,” proclaimed his wife. “This period of mourning has been such a strain on her. It is too bad that her formative years had to be marked by losing a sister,” remarked Mrs. Bennet of her youngest and still favorite child.
“That is one of the lessons of life.” Mr. Bennet’s face showed that he did not subscribe to his wife’s views about their youngest with his firmly-set lips. “So you wish me to visit this new tenant of Netherfield Hall?” He brought his wife back to their original point.
“We have had no balls or assemblies in the neighborhood for over a year. Families have barely been visiting with the fever passing through. It will be pleasant to have things return to normal.” She put on her most alluring smile as she winked at him.
“Nothing will be normal with so many in the neighborhood having been affected.” Mr. Bennet looked at her sternly. “But I will visit this new neighbor.”
Copyright © 2019 Anne Morris
© 2019 Anne Morris
Excerpt from Scarlet Fever, Scarlet Coats