Meryton Assembly Ball - Again /font>
My dear Cousin Edward, good evening. How good it is to see you. Welcome back to our Meryton Assembly Ball. It has been many months since you were here--about one year, I think. I hope your trip to the Continent was as pleasurable as it was profitable. What has happened here since last we met, you say? Well, let me tell you. Much has happened, more than you would think could happen in this little town. I know you'll want to know of the Bennet girls, since they were your friends as well as mine when we were but children. We even shared masters with their family and for a while I even suspected you might have felt something for Elizabeth, but I know that is long in your past. Although you did dance with her at the Assembly Ball last year, didn't you. But the last time you were here was when Mr. Bingley held the ball at Netherfield, was it not?
As you will remember, the Bennet girls were much in evidence at every gathering then. Miss Bennet and Mr. Bingley were so clearly in love we were all expecting an announcement at any moment. You recall that awful Mr. Darcy, always frowning, never speaking to anyone or dancing with any of our Meryton girls, just to those elegant Bingley women from town. And what everyone said he did to poor Lt. Wickham! That night Mr. Darcy stood up with Elizabeth Bennet for two dances. He danced so elegantly and gracefully! But all the gossips said that Elizabeth did not appreciate the distinction of being chosen by Mr. High and Mighty Darcy as she felt an attraction to Mr. Darcy's enemy, Lt Wickham. She was overheard saying things to Mr. Darcy during the dance which must have angered him for he walked off after their dance and did not speak to her again.
You left the next day, didnt you? Well, we were all so surprised when the next day Mr. Bingley left, too -- closed up Netherfield and took his guests back to town. There was no mention of any engagement with Miss Bennet, and when she was seen in Meryton, all who observed her said she looked much depressed and lovesick. It was all the talk of the ladies until new gossip arose-- Lt. Wickham, who had been spending all his free time at the Bennets, courting Miss Elizabeth, suddenly began paying his attentions to Miss King who had just inherited Ten Thousand pounds! Lizzy must have been devastated. The ladies all said that Miss King would marry Lt. Wickham and that those poor Bennet girls couldn't keep a man. I tried to tell them that Lizzy could hardly have expected to marry Lt. Wickham since he was supposed to be a penniless officer, and we all know Lizzy will get nothing from her family. But no one would listen to me. They found their own stories about the žpoor Bennet girls--they'll be worse off than all of us when Mr. Bennet dies and leaves them with nothingÓ to be so much more interesting. Those gossips!!!
Do you remember Mr. Collins that silly clergyman cousin of the Bennet's who came with them to the Netherfield Ball? He was supposed to marry one of the Bennet girls, but we heard within a few days after the ball that Lizzie had outright refused Mr. Collins. The next thing we heard was that he was marrying Charlotte Lucas, Sir William's eldest? I was so shocked--every one believed Charlotte was about to take her spinster's cap. And to think that Mr. Collins proposed to 2 ladies within one week. It was all we could talk about for days. That and the fact that the poor Bennet girls have lost another chance for marriage. They were so pitied.
Your mother and sisters spent Christmas with us, and we all had a wonderful time. We went to a number of parties given by the Lucas' and the Kings, as well as the Bennets. The Bennet relatives from town, Mr. & Mrs. Edward Gardiner (you remember he was originally from Meryton many years ago, and is also brother to Mrs. Philips as well as Mrs. Bennet) came to Longbourn for Christmas. Mrs. Bennet brought them to all the parties and they seemed to have a lively enough time of it. When they returned to London, they took Jane Bennet with them. We all hoped that the change of scenery might brighten Jane's spirits. She is so loved by all of Meryton. We hated to see her so depressed. (We knew she could not be going to town to see Mr. Bingley since Mr. Gardiner is in trade and does not travel in the same circles as the Bingleys and the Darcys.) Then in January Charlotte Lucas married Mr. Collins and they left for his parsonage in Kent. The remainder of the winter was very wet and very dull. Little happened of interest for some months--some births and marriages of a few of your acquaintances, but nothing of any importance. Then in March, Elizabeth Bennet, Sir William Lucas, and Maria Lucas traveled to Kent to visit with the newly married Charlotte Collins. Sir William only stayed a week or two, while the girls stayed almost 2 months. Sir William returned with such tales of the elegance and majesty of Rosings Park, Lady Catherine deBourgh and her many windows that enlivened our gatherings for weeks.
Lizzy, Jane and Maria Lucas came back to Meryton in the early part of May and we all thought that we would see some more lively parties now that they were back. The families who spend the winter in town for the season were also back, and the social life picked up considerably. However, all noted that neither Jane nor Lizzy had their old spirit back. They seem distracted and distressed. They neither of them would enter into the round of parties in the Spring at all.
The militia left Meryton in May, followed soon after by Lydia Bennet who had an invitation from Colonel Foster's new wife to come stay with her in Brighton where the militia is now encamped. Those few who received letters from Miss Lydia said she appeared to be having a great deal of fun, but then she has fun no matter where she is. We all knew how she did love the officers' attentions, so we knew the trip to Brighton could be nothing but pleasure for her.
Lizzy also had a pleasure trip. She was to go to the Lake District and the Northern counties with her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner in July. It was a shorter trip than they had planned and she was back with us in August (she said it was due to Mr. Gardiner's business). Rumor had it that about that time Lydia eloped from Brighton with Lt. Wickham to get married in Gretna Green. But I found it hard to believe this. Why would a penniless lieutenant of the militia run off with a penniless girl (especially since by then everyone knew he had left behind so many large debts)? Although I did discount this rumor, the Bennets were very quiet about that time--they went to no gatherings or assemblies and were not seen in Meryton shopping, so everyone thought the rumor was true, but then Lt. Wickham and his new bride that was Lydia Bennet came riding through town in their new chaise, just as big as life. She was showing off her new ring to everyone who would look at it and they were both dressed in the latest fashions from town. I could only think that Lt. Wickham must have come into a goodly inheritance and they had gone off to London to get married. Soon after that all his debts in Meryton were paid off, and they left to take up a commission in the Army up North which they say he had purchased. He must have come in to quite a lot to afford both an Army commission and Lydia Bennet!
For several weeks after that, things went back to the slow ways of Meryton. It was quite warm and we were all looking forward to the Fall hunting parties before everyone returns to town for the winter season. In early September, we were all astonished when Mr. Bingley sent word to Netherfield to open up the house for his return with a hunting party. He arrived soon after and went hunting every day with his friend that awful Mr. Darcy and a number of the local gentlemen. I did hear from several of these gentlemen however, that Mr. Darcy had improved his manner and had become quite amiable, or so say the gentlemen of the hunting parties. (My cook told me her daughter who is a maid at Netherfield said Mr. Darcy was even friendly with the household staff, and was heard to inquire after the health of the housekeeper and her family and had been seen chatting with his horse's groom!) After about a week, Mr. Darcy had to return to town, but Mr. Bingley stayed at Netherfield, going hunting and visiting in the evening with all the families in our neighborhood. He apparently visited the Bennets frequently, and recently we have heard that Jane and he are engaged! Finally! We are all so happy for Jane. She is an angel, and deserves the very best husband which I believe she has found. I know she believes he is the best because I have seen them together at several parties and they have eyes for no one else. It is heartening just to watch them.
The rumor is that Mr. Darcy has returned to Netherfield. We expect that he will stand up with Mr. Bingley as his best man since he is supposed to be Mr. Bingley's best friend. His coach was seen driving through Meryton earlier in the week, and the cook at the Bennets has told our cook that Mr. Darcy accompanies Mr. Bingley every day when he comes to see Miss Bennet. Mr. Bingley goes out with Miss Bennet for long walks around the countryside accompanied by Mr. Darcy and Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Poor Lizzy, having to endure those long silences with Mr. Darcy just so Mr. Bingley can be alone with Jane. I'm sure Mr. Darcy finds it very trying to be in low company again this year but, as Mr. Bingley's dearest friend, I suppose he must.
Well, I guess things are about to start. Let's go in Ů I think the Netherfield party and the Bennets are here already. I wonder if Mr. Darcy will pay any attentions to Lizzy again this year. Those Bingley sisters are not here to monopolize his time and look down their noses at us all. Perhaps without the ladies here, Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy will a little more at ease with us country folk.
There they are, over there. Both parties, the Bennets and the Netherfield gentlemen, are over there by the fireplace. Of course, Mr. Bingley is paying close attention to Jane and she looks most pleased. As does Mrs. Bennet. She is positively glowing with pride over Jane. Where is Elizabeth? And Mr. Darcy? Did Mr. Bingley leave him at Netherfield? I know Mr. Darcy dislikes these public assemblies. No, there he is. And who is that I see on his arm? It's Lizzy! Come, Edward. There is Mrs. King. I must ask her about this. If anyone here knows what is going on, she will. Mrs. King, may I introduce my cousin Edward Thompson? Edward is my cousin, visiting us from London. Edward, would you get me a glass of wine. I must discuss some things with Mrs. King.
Mrs. King, how well you are looking this evening. Your dress is such a becoming shade. I hope your family is well. Mrs. King, tell me what is going on with the Bennet family. I know, as close as you are with Mrs. Bennet you will be able to tell me all÷÷
Mrs. King, I see Edward returning. I thank you for your most interesting information. I'm sure as a close friend of Mrs. Bennet you will be attending many interesting parties in the coming weeks. I must, however, introduce Edward to some of the other ladies here.
Edward, you will not believe what I have learned. Mrs. King says that Mr. Darcy is to marry our Lizzie! Apparently when he returned to Netherfield earlier this week, he accompanied Mr. Bingley on his trips to Longbourn to visit with Jane. Just as Cook said, Mr. Bingley wanted to go on long walks with Jane, so Elizabeth was sent to walk with Mr. Darcy to keep him busy while Mr. Bingley and Miss Bennet walked and talked in private. But all the while Mr. Darcy was courting Elizabeth. Elizabeth has agreed to marry him, and Mr. and Mrs. Bennet have given their consent, and it is to be a double wedding. Is that not wonderful? I'm so excited for Lizzy and Jane! It will be a celebration such as Meryton has never before seen.
Look, the Bennet girls and their gentlemen are to lead off the first dance. Now we will see some elegant dancing. Of course Mr. Darcy is at the head of the line. Such a handsome man and Lizzy truly looks the loveliest I have ever seen her. Mrs. King says all the ladies believe that Lizzy is marrying Darcy for his money and the chance to be Mistress of Pemberley, or perhaps to show Jane she can get a better husband. But you and I know Lizzy better than that. She has always said she will never marry unless she loves and respects her chosen husband. That must be why she refused Mr. Collins. Obviously she could have never respected him. Who could?
Look, Jane and Mr. Bingley are standing by her sister and Mr. Darcy. The two couples are talking and laughing. They have the biggest grins on their faces, even Mr. Darcy. The air fairly glows with the love about them. It brings tears to my eyes to see the two couples so happy. I know Lizzy has found some one who respects her as well as loves her. Mr. Darcy is said to be a very intelligent and well educated man, and he could have had his choice of any of the beautiful and educated young ladies in town, and yet he has chosen our little country girl. It must be love. The dance has started. Look how gracefully they move. Lizzy has gained much maturity and dignity in the past months. It must be from associating with such a dignified man. When they step through the dance, they never take their eyes off the other. It's as though they are the only people on the floor. I almost feel embarrassed to watch them; it's like invading their privacy. Truly, everyone must see that these two couples were made in Heaven. Mrs. King, cannot you agree? Lizzy and Jane may have captured the hearts of two very wealthy eligible gentlemen, but from the looks on the faces of Lizzy and Jane, those two gentlemen have captured their hearts also.
Come, Edward, this dance is over. Let's go over and congratulate Jane and Lizzy and Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. I know you will want to wish them well, especially Lizzy. Why, Edward! Is that a tear I see in your eye? You were attached to Elizabeth, weren't you? You do not have to congratulate her if you do not wish to, but I know it would please her to see you again. And you have not seen Kitty recently, have you. She has grown much in the past year. I think you would be interested in talking to her again. (She looks much as Lizzy did when we were younger.) And you must meet Mr. Darcy. He has extensive business interests. Perhaps he would be interested in your business. (You know, any man who marries Kitty will have Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley as brothers. How good that could be for business!) Smile, Cousin Edward, smile.
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