News of Old Friends
Two days after the announcements of the betrothals of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy to Miss Elizabeth Bennet & Miss Bennet & Mr. Charles Bingley, the aforesaid Gentlemen woke to a steady rain. Not wishing to disappoint their ladies, Mr. Darcy's carriage was called for, and the Gentlemen were ushered into the west parlour at Longbourn, after being informed that Mrs. Bennet had awakened with the headache and Miss Bennet & Miss Elizabeth were helping their Mother, and would join them as soon as was possible. Very soon, Miss Bennet entered the west parlour, and informed Mr. Darcy that her Sister had been called upon to solve a small crisis that had erupted in the Kitchen.
Not wishing to feel in the way of his best friend & his betrothed, Mr. Darcy instructed Miss Bennet to inform Miss Elizabeth that he could be found in the library. Miss Bennet told Mr. Darcy that she would do so.
Mr. Darcy had been happy that Mr. Bennet had offered him the run of his library while he was in Hertfordshire. Yes, Mr. Bennet's library could be fit in a corner of the Great Library at Pemberley, he had discovered that this library contained many volumes that his own Grandfather had not been able to find. As Mr. Darcy entered the library, he expected to discover Mr. Bennet hard at work, but instead he discovered his third daughter, ensconced upon a chaise, reading what appeared to be her Father's copy of Plato.
"Good Morning, Miss Mary. Are you enjoying your book?" asked Mr. Darcy,"That just happens to be a very fine translation you have, I have the same one at Pemberley, and another at Darcy House. "
Mary Bennet covered her mouth with her hand, and felt her face colour, as she realised who had entered the library.
"If you are looking for Lizzy, she is in the kitchen. If you are searching for my Father, he is in Meryton calling upon my Uncle Phillips, about My Sisters' dowries," said Mary.
"I have come here to await your sister, but since we have an acquaintance in common, I thought I might speak with you until your sister has finished up in the kitchen. I take it that that is your Father's translation?" said Mr. Darcy.
"Yes, this is my Father's copy of Plato, and I have read it before, but that is not what I am reading. I am reading a travelers' journal from America. I found this at the lending library in Meryton, two days ago," replied Mary.
"Are you enjoying it, Miss Mary?" asked Mr. Darcy, in a curious tone.
"Yes, I am enjoying it, but I must admit, I do not like the way the writer describes these mountains. My cousins; Lucas & Daniel have both seen these mountains, and the way Lucas described them to me, made me wish to see them first hand," replied Mary.
"I must ask you Miss Mary, how has your cousin fared since his return to America?" asked Mr. Darcy.
"Lucas is faring well. He has finished his studies at Harvard College, and has returned to the mission to assist his Father," replied Mary, as she bent down to scoop up a somewhat large grey tabby cat, and placed it upon her lap.
"I noticed last October and in my earlier sojourn here in Hertfordshire, that you were a cat lover and that you gave your cats interesting names. Has this one a name?" asked Mr. Darcy.
"This is Dame Mousebane, she is the kitchen cat, but I am afraid that this new crisis in the kitchen is because Dame Mousebane is very near to giving birth to her kittens, and Guinevere is not quite working out, I think that I will have to go out to the stables, and bring in Morgana la Fey, she may be a better mouser. I am afraid that I have been watching over Dame Mousebane, as this is her first litter of kittens," replied Mary.
"I am happy to hear that your cousin Lucas returned to America safely, and he has finished his studies," replied Mr. Darcy, as he happily discovered his favorite translation of "The Odyssey", and began to read.
There was a silence in the library that was broken by Mary's humming a tune that was pleasant, but unfamiliar to him, but as Mary hummed, she put words to the song, the words he recognised.
"I see you are an admirer of Isaac Watts. I am familiar with those verses, but not the tune," said Mr. Darcy.
"The tune was composed by an American called William Billings, Lucas taught me the tune. I like this tune," replied Mary.
"Miss Mary, when I returned to Hertfordshire, so to speak, I noticed that you and your sister Elizabeth enjoyed to read. I am curious to discover who it was formed yours & your sister's tastes in reading?" asked Mr. Darcy.
"It was my Father. After my Sisters & myself learned to read, my Father gave us the run of the library, and while I will admit he did not forbid us any volumes, he did inform us that, as long as we were able to reach for the shelf, we would not be denied that particular book. Mr. Darcy, you will discover that the lowest shelves contain many improving volumes, and books on household management, these were provided for my Sisters & myself by our Aunt Gardiner. Of course, Mr. Darcy also can observe that there three very sturdy step ladders in this library, and I was never afraid of heights, and neither was Lizzy," replied Mary.
A Bouquet of Flowers
The following morning found Mr. Darcy & Mr. Bingley back at Longbourn for their now daily morning call. Hill informed the Gentlemen that their Ladies were once more occupied above stairs, as Mrs. Bennet had, as consequence of Mr. Bennets decision that he would travel up to Town with Jane & Lizzy, while they visited the warehouses with their Aunt Gardiner to shop for wedding clothes, as he was well a ware of his brother-in-law's wife's excellent taste, had brought was suffering from a case of nerves. The Gentlemen were shown in to the Morning Room, where he found both Miss Mary & Miss Catherine. Miss Mary, was busily doing some work, that he had seen the morning before. Miss Mary had informed him that she was working upon a very special wedding gift for Elizabeth, as she was, in Miss Mary's words, "the best" of her sisters. Miss Catherine, on the other hand, was making a not so valiant attempt at hiding something. As Darcy had been himself, making his own valiant attempts at becoming better acquainted with the young Ladies who would shortly be come his sisters-in-law, and as he had had a most interesting conversation the morning before with Miss Mary. He decided that he would try to make a similar attempt with the fourth Bennet Sister. He knew that it would be bit more difficult, as Miss Catherine tended to become flustered if he but looked in her direction, it occurred to him that perhaps Miss Catherine was a bit reticent as he was. He also thought he had not anything to converse with Miss Catherine about, while he had a mutual acquaintance with Miss Mary, in the person of her American cousin. A young man whom he could not conceive to be a first cousin of the pompous & obsequious Reverend William Collins. He was wondering what he could converse with Miss Catherine about, other than the weather, when he noticed just what that young Lady was trying to conceal.
"Miss Catherine, I am afraid that you will spill paint on your gown, if you continue in that fashion,"said Mr. Darcy, pushing her paints back from the edge of the table. "Might I see your sketch?"
Kitty picked up her sketch and presented it to Mr. Darcy. "It is not very well done, sir," said Kitty shyly.
Mr. Darcy could well debate that, as he found the sketch to be very well done, and he had been shown many a sketch executed by many a hopeful daughter and her matchmaking mama. The sketch was of a vase containing five very disparate flowers. A white rose, touched with the palest of pink blushes, a scarlet rose, which was positioned next to the white rose. The third flower was a rather large daisy, that stood apart from the roses, as did a violet, and some chicory. Mr. Darcy was surprised that Miss Catherine Bennet had painted this, for he was quite aware of just what or whom the flowers were meant to represent.
A Bouquet of Flowers concluded
"You meant to represent yourself & your sisters by the flowers, did you not, Miss Catherine?" asked Mr. Darcy.
"Yes, that is who the flowers are meant to represent," replied Kitty, a little more boldly. "But it truly is not very well done, sir."
"Miss Catherine, your sketch was very well done. If have seen many sketches painted by many a Town miss, and I was told by their Mamas that it was her best, but this surpasses them," said Mr. Darcy.
"I try to come into the morning room on sunny mornings like this to sketch, but I do not always have the time. My Mama says I should be trying to find a husband, and not to be serious about my painting. So I have to hide my sketches from my Mama. I am really not interested in a husband right now. I am too young," replied Kitty.
"Perhaps Miss Catherine, when you visit your Sister at Pemberley, you like to take lessons from my Sister's tutor. He would very appreciative of a sketch such as this," said Mr. Darcy, in an a tone that could not have been anything but honest.
"I would like that, Mr. Darcy," replied Kitty.
"What would you like, Kitty?" asked Lizzy, as she entered the Morning Room. "I was told that I would find you here, Mr. Darcy. "
"I was showing Mr. Darcy my new sketch, Lizzy. The one for Papa's library,"replied Kitty, as Mr. Darcy returned Kitty's sketch. "He thought it quite good, and asked me if I might like to take lessons from Miss Darcy's tutor when I visit you at Pemberley. I said that I would like it."
& #169 2001 Copyright held by author