Thursday’s 300: Darcy’s Predicament, excerpt 6

Welcome back to Austen Promises!

I went back and counted excerpts, and there seems to have been five before this one, so I made this one six and went back and changed last week’s to five. 😀

Today’s post is part of Chapter 4. The previous posts about Mrs. Bennet and what she heard encompassed all of Chapter 3, much to my delighted surprise.

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Upon reaching her rooms, the mistress of Longbourn yanked at the ties that held her bonnet on. When they became knotted, she tugged and pulled at them, eventually ripping the thing off her head and throwing it at a chair. Ignoring the ruined head covering, she began to stagger back and forth across the room, pressing her handkerchief to her chest as sobs overcame her. When the quivers from her nerves overtook her, she rang the bell and then collapsed on the bed.

A few short minutes later, though to Mrs. Bennet they seemed like hours, the housekeeper entered the room.

“Oh, Hill!” cried the mistress. “Where are my salts? It is just too much. I feel such flutterings and spasms all over me.” She moaned, her mind a whirl of fear and distress.

“Here you go, ma’am,” Mrs. Hill leaned over the bed with Mrs. Bennet’s vinaigrette, waving the item under the mistress’ nose and speaking in a soothing tone that always helped calm her.

Mrs. Bennet took a deep whiff and pressed her handkerchief to her nose, waiting for the nervous spasms to ease. Her tears had not stopped, but the sobs had.

“Might I get you a cold cloth, ma’am?” Hill had been the housekeeper since Elizabeth was four years old. Of all the staff, she was the most capable of handling Mrs. Bennet when she was having an attack of nerves, and she was the one the mistress always called on.

“No,” Mrs. Bennet groaned. “I wish to be left alone.” She sniffed. “Tell my family that I will remain here for the night and do not wish to be disturbed.”

“Very well, ma’am.”

“You may go.” Mrs. Bennet’s arm was thrown over her eyes and she did not see the housekeeper curtsey to her. She did hear the door shut, and, feeling the weakness that accompanied the spell begin to leave her, lay quietly crying.

Thoughts of what she had heard from both the officers and Darcy spun through her head. Her breath caught on another sob. My Lydia … they think her a strumpet! Another moan slipped out of her throat. Does the entire neighborhood feel the same? I cannot ask. It would be too humiliating to discover they did. Better to ignore it. Pretend they do not.

Next, her thoughts turned to her daughters. Her desire was to leave them alone. After all, they were reflections of who she had been as a young girl, especially Lydia. Did gentlemen think of me the same way when I was young? A moan was cut off by a sob. Mrs. Bennet swallowed it back. She remembered the officer she had been fond of before she married Mr. Bennet. Things he had said to her began floating through her mind; snatches of conversation that she had not understood at the time and had not thought about since her marriage. Miss Gardiner, how wonderful to see you! I was just telling the captain that you were a peach.

Mrs. Bennet started at the memory. The words of the red coat had closely matched what she had heard the officers at the haberdasher say today. In her heart, she knew they meant the same. She cried harder, attempting to stifle her sobs when she heard her daughters coming up the stairs and down the hallway past her rooms. What am I to do about the girls?

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