Here is Chapter III. If some of it seems familiar, it’s because originally I had the first part of this chapter as the ending for Chapter II. This chapter will catch you up with the first two parts that are already posted on this site. Enjoy!
Remorse Most Keen
Elizabeth sat quietly on her bed and faced the floor as big, fat tears rolled down her cheeks. Not a sound could be heard as she sat in misery, contemplating the disaster that was experienced that evening.
She wasn’t a vindictive individual. Having four sisters—three of them younger than herself—meant that she had to learn forbearance and forgiveness if there was to be a measure of peace in the Bennet household. And yet, there had not been much tranquility this past evening beginning with her losing her temper with the youngest Bennet child in the family.
She dropped her head in her hands and began weeping in earnest as her eldest sister entered the room.
“Lizzy. Whatever is the matter?”
“Oh, Jane. I have been so cruel. I’ve tried to be a loving sister to all my siblings, but this night has seen me fail at everything: love, civility, and even common courtesy to my family and to new acquaintances.”
Elizabeth felt comforted as Jane sat on the bed beside her and gathered her into a hug. Very gently her sister began rubbing her back and speaking quiet words to sooth her younger sibling. In a few minutes, Lizzy hiccupped and accepted the offered handkerchief. Wiping away her tears, she succumbed to a sigh.
“Are you well, Lizzy?”
“No, but I soon will be. Thank you.”
“Could I ask what has distressed you the most this evening?”
Elizabeth barked out a watery laugh. “Yes, you may. However, I may not give you a satisfactory answer.”
So, the ever loving and patient Jane chose to just wait. She knew if she waited long enough without saying a word, Elizabeth would eventually confess to what had her so discomposed. Then she might determine what she could do or say that would give Lizzy true comfort.
Elizabeth finally dried her tears and turned to face her sister.
“Jane, something must be done about Lydia. I fear she will do something that will ruin all of us one day. She has no regard for the possessions of others, particularly those of her siblings. The other day she even went into Mama’s bedchamber and dabbed on some of her expensive perfume without repercussion. Mama simply told her to ask in the future. But…but Lydia made a face at her when she walked away. Even if Mama had seen her, I’m not sure she would have chastised her.
“Her conduct at the assembly this evening was so embarrassing. Lady Lucas and Mrs. Goulding were glaring at her most of the evening as she laughed and flirted with John Lucas and his friends and the two men from the militia. When I asked Mama to make Lydia act like a young lady, she told me I was just jealous that the men liked Lydia better than me. Lydia’s lack of modest conduct didn’t even bother her. She said that Lydia’s flirtations would probably enable her to be among the first of us to marry. She even mentioned again that flirting was how she first interested and then gained a proposal from Papa.”
Jane grimaced, then asked, “But what would you suggest?”
“We need to speak with Papa. We must get him to see that unless Lydia is brought under control, she is liable to do something that will hurt the entire family. With the rest of the militia coming soon to Meryton, the town will be full of red coats, and I dread to see how she will behave with a large group of young men. You know she has proclaimed that she will be the first to marry, and I fear that the scandal of an elopement would not even begin to stop her determination to do so.”
“Should we speak with him tonight? I’m not sure if he has retired as yet.”
Elizabeth shook her head. “No, he has not. The light in his library was still visible when we arrived. Let me wash my face, and we can see if he is willing to do something.”
When Mr. Bennet said ‘come’ to their knocking on his library door, Elizabeth and Jane entered and sat in the chairs before his desk.
“Papa, will you discuss Lydia’s conduct with us?”
With a sigh of resignation and a nod of his head, the patriarch of the Bennet household acquiesced to Lizzy’s request. “What do you desire that I do?”
“First of all, I must mention that I was disappointed that Lydia was not made to stay home tonight. Instead of standing firm, you allowed her to attend anyway. Why, Papa?”
Bennet squirmed with embarrassment at being gently chastised by his second eldest daughter. He was not oblivious to his lack of determination, but he was also mindful of the misery Mrs. Bennet put him through before the assembly and would inflict upon him for the next few days if he had stood his ground about Lydia remaining at home.
Years ago, when Lydia was in the nursery and getting her own way with tantrums that included screeching or destroying her toys until her other sisters would leave the house because of the noise, Mr. Bennet has just turned the disciplining of his youngest over to his wife. That resulted in a more peaceful state in the home but didn’t guarantee that Lydia’s conduct in public was acceptable. The Bennet family was unaware that their neighbors and friends throughout Meryton worried that Lydia might one day do something that would embarrass the Bennet household or ruin it entirely.
“Lizzy, what do you suggest that I do? If I put my foot down and demand that Lydia obey me, she just ignores me and does what she wishes anyway. When I set forth a punishment for her rebellion, her mother takes her side and encourages her to do as she pleases in spite of my authority as her father and head of this household. Your mother and Lydia both ignore any mandates I endeavor to exercise. Without Mrs. Bennet’s backing, I am unable to be the leader in my own home. What little I am able to achieve is only with threats to cut or totally eliminate pen money.”
He hung his head in shame and wrung his hands. Jane and Lizzy were unaware that he had tried everything he could think of for several years until he finally gave up the fight. He had accomplished nothing.
“Well then…we must consider Plan B.”
“Plan B?” said Jane.
“Plan B?” her father echoed. Then he asked, “What is Plan B?”
“Papa, I need to work out the details of Plan B. However, I will need your permission to implement it.”
“First, I need to know what it consists of. I’ll not sanction anything that will hurt the family.”
“I promise it will not, but it might get the point across.”
Mr. Bennet frowned. He knew that his second eldest was the most intelligent of his offspring. He also knew that she could also be the most daring, second only to his youngest, and he had twinges of trepidation that Lizzy’s Plan B might unsettle the entire Bennet household. That, he was not sure he would allow as he treasured his peace and quiet. Therefore, his library was his hideaway and not available to anyone without permission. To give her permission to experiment with bringing order to his household, he would have to consider for a while.
“Lizzy, I need time to think about your offer. I will let you know my decision in a day or so.”
“No buts, Lizzy. I will consider giving permission…if I agree to your Plan B.”
“Very well. But please make it soon. The balance of the militia arrives in three days. We need to do something before then.”
Mr. Bennet just grunted in response and waved his daughters out the door, closing and locking it behind them.
Not a word passed between Elizabeth and Jane as they slowly ascended the stairs to their bedchamber.
When they reached their shared room, Jane started quizzing her sister about Plan B. Elizabeth smiled slyly causing Jane’s eyes to widen, and she started to protest Plan B.
“Jane, let me tell you what we need to do,” and Lizzy proceeded to do just that.
Elizabeth’s smile grew even wider as Jane sat and began shaking her head in denial.
“Lizzy. Papa will never approve of that”
“Whyever not…if it works.”
“Wait and see. You may be surprised at what Plan B could accomplish.”
With a sigh, Jane gave up for the moment and readied for bed. After dancing all evening, she was too exhausted to argue with her younger sister and fell asleep the moment her head hit the pillow.
Elizabeth, however, stayed awake for quite a while pondering the pros and cons of Plan B. She was well aware that most of her faith in the Plan was wishful thinking and was not sure what kind of results could be achieved. Perhaps the next few days would bring more clarity and assurance of success.
Now, if I can get past the foggy brain that Long COVID leaves one with, I hope to get this published in March. I do have most of the action in my head as well as the epilogue. However, I’m still working on connecting everything. Please wish me well. 🙂