A Lie Universally Hidden(5)

By: Anngela Schroeder



“I asked what I am to do about Miss Bingley. I do not wish to seem ungrateful, but her attentions make me terribly nervous.” His sister bit her lip, then immediately stopped.

“I will rescue you if her attentiveness becomes unbearable. I will always rescue you, sweetling. Never fear.” He patted her knee and picked up his book to continue reading. But his mind could not focus on the printed words as his thoughts rambled back to the young woman he had just seen. A slow warmth began to spread in his chest as he saw her again in his mind’s eye.

“Why do you smile so, Brother?” Georgiana teased setting down her sewing.

He shook his head. You are promised to another. There is only one woman you need to think of from now on. He shrugged.

“Oh nothing, darling. I am only thinking…”

“Of Anne?”

“Yes,” he replied smiling. “How pleased I am knowing how content we will all be when she is well enough to set a wedding date.”

His smile faltered and he returned his gaze out the window, wondering about the young woman. There was something rather pleasing about her features…

The carriage passed in the direction of Meryton allowing Elizabeth Bennet’s smile to linger a bit longer at the memory of the handsome gentleman who had only moments before disappeared around the bend. The imposing chaise and four surely was heading to Netherfield Park which, according to her mother, had been let at last. Mrs. Bennet seemed to think it would somehow affect her daughters, though Lizzy could not see how. Their new neighbor, a Mr. Charles Bingley, had been in residence for a little over a fortnight and no one, save Sir William Lucas, had made his acquaintance.

“But, I guess that is the problem with being a man,” she joked to no one in particular as she continued to walk on her way home. “You have too much business and no time for frivolity.”

Truth be told, Lizzy was not out on a frivolous walk. She had been visiting a few of her father’s tenants with Cook’s weekly basket of sweets. They had been lovely visits: the Millers were expecting their third baby next month, and as ungainly as she was, Mrs. Miller was very hospitable; the Watsons were grateful for the cakes as it was little Sarah’s birthday the next day; and the Reeds were happy for the book of poems offered to young Billy as he was preparing to leave for the continent. She adored their tenants and was grateful her father had always encouraged the girls to visit them regularly since their mother did not.

Lizzy sighed as she neared Longbourn, her family’s estate. She loved her home, even with its once stately façade now somewhat faded by the sunlight. The footprints of generations of her father’s ancestors could be seen throughout the grounds and buildings—the park, a small nod to the great estates of years past with its asters, sage, and daisies; the barn, expanded a half century ago to increase the livestock output; the watermill along the stream to help the Longbourn mill produce flour for its tenants and local markets. She shook her head at the disuse. Her father had no disposition to increase the holdings of his estate.

I do not understand why he is so hesitant to consider the estate as a business instead of solely as our home. As a woman, my training is limited, but even I see the benefit of using the land for our advantage. The commotion of her home suddenly brought her back to reality. Even from this distance, she could hear her mother and the din spilling from the house as preparations were being made for tomorrow’s festivities.

“Jane… Jane!” wailed Mrs. Bennet. “Bring your dresses to me so that I may pick which one for you to wear. We must take advantage of every opportunity.”

Upon walking into the house, Lizzy could not avoid the uproar. Her younger sister Mary was plunking away at the piano. The youngest, Kitty and Lydia, were arguing over ribbons. At seventeen and not quite sixteen respectively, Lizzy often wondered if they were too young to come out into society but could not begrudge their pleasure due to her lack of the marriage state. She walked down the hall and knocked gently at the door of her father’s study.

“Enter.” He smiled as she crossed the room and kissed him affectionately on the cheek. “Good morning, Lizzy. How are our tenants?”

Lizzy inhaled the scent of leather and tobacco which permeated the air. Even in fifty years, she knew when she smelled the two scents together, she would feel her father’s presence. Light filtered in through the dark window tapestries and a low fire was smoking in the hearth. He motioned toward “her chair” and she sat down, raised her feet under her, and crossed her ankles.