Elizabeth Bennet ConsidersbyOldlockguy©
It is the praiseworthy custom of authors on this site, when presenting to the public a literary endeavour which depends on a previous work, to direct the reader to that first writing. This humble offering cannot be understood without some knowledge of Miss Jane Austen's classic novel, Pride & Prejudice.
If you have not read that novel, why are you wasting time here? Pride & Prejudice is not just a romance; it is the romance in the English language. On the Literotica five star scale, it scores two hundred... at least. Go read it forthwith! It's available online, if you so desire.
If reading gently paced early 19th century prose, even of the very highest quality, is not an attractive prospect to you, you may wish to watch the magnificent film adaptation starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. The Bollywood adaptation of the classic, Bride & Prejudice, is great fun too, with dancing that Miss Austen herself, who delighted in the pastime, would doubtless enjoy. The Keira Knightley version is Jane Austen lite. Another, rather different film, loosely based on an episode in Jane Austen's life, that you may enjoy is Becoming Jane Austen.
If you find anything witty or well written in this tale, it is probably stolen from Miss Austen. The story will also be gently paced. To quote Jane Austen herself from the preface to an unpublished and, for that matter, undiscovered novel, though there is some sex here, "this is not a stroke story."
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single young woman in possession of a good offer of marriage must be in want of instruction. It was the universal opinion of the four and twenty families of the neighbourhood who visited at Longbourn, that the two eldest Bennet daughters had received very good offers of marriage indeed. It was whispered in every corner of every ball, assembly or dinner, without fear of contradiction, that these offers were beyond any reasonable expectations for the sisters, who could anticipate, at most, a hundred a year from their father upon his death, as a consequence of the inconvenient fact that their father's estate was entailed upon a distant cousin, Mr. Collins, presently Rector of Rosings, in Kent.
If this were true for Miss Jane Bennet, first alike in seniority and in beauty, now the betrothed of Mr, Bingley, with five thousand a year, how much more was it true for Elizabeth, the second daughter of the family. She had been so fortunate as win the affection of Mr. Darcy, he of the reputation for pride and disagreeableness of disposition, but also, it was well known, the command of an income of ten thousand a year. The last characteristic, thought Elizabeth, outworked the former two in procuring approval of her match, even before the neighbours came to know the true sweetness and generosity of character of Mr. Darcy.
For a second daughter of a gentleman of middling fortune to become mistress of so notable and extensive an estate as Mr. Darcy's house and park at Pemberley, was a marvel to be canvassed in amazement by the gentlemen of the neighbourhood and with envy by the mothers of young women of marriageable age, or even those who might be counted as that age in their maternal imaginations. Still, both the elder Miss Bennets, were held in such esteem, Jane for her sweetness and good nature, Elizabeth for her charm and lively wit, that the envy was but little voiced and the instruction flowed with goodwill from every lady of a certain age among their acquaintance.
So it was that their Aunt Phillips directed her nieces in the correct management of parlour maids and the proper method of dismissal of the same, should they prove dilatory in their duties. Mrs. Goulding of Haye Park offered advice on a French manner of serving any delicate white fish in a sauce certain to make guests suppose they were dining upon lobster. Elizabeth was of the opinion that to discipline parlour maids in her future life would be to trespass upon the responsibilities of the housekeeper of Pemberley, of whose abilities Mr. Darcy spoke so highly. She was also quite sure that, as the wife of Mr. Darcy, surely the wealthiest private gentleman in Derbyshire, she need not present imitation lobster at her table but could afford the delicacies themselves, always supposing that they were in season.
While these offerings were received with courtesy by the sisters, they were more deeply touched by the gifts of the poor of Longbourn. Old Mrs. Brockthwaite, widow of the baker of the village, presented each of the sisters with a crockery pot of preserve of quince, together with a receipt of instruction in how to prepare that delicacy. So excellent was the preserve that Elizabeth thought it might be proper to pass on the receipt even to so august a person as the housekeeper of Pemberley.
The sisters had visited the widow regularly in the last winter season, supplying her with little delicacies from the table at Longbourn to ease her sufferings from rheumatism. Elizabeth was humbled by the remembrance that she had visited so frequently largely out of duty and a desire to keep company with her sister, whose care for the poor sprang from more admirable qualities.
She considered what power for good would lie within her situation as Mistress of Pemberley and resolved that a disinterested and active care for the poor would stand among her duties behind only her responsibility to Mr. Darcy and the care of any children with whom they might be blessed.
So the season of engagement passed on for Elizabeth with general satisfaction. She strove always, and with tolerable success, to keep Mr. Darcy to herself or to her more presentable connections. She was pleased that her father was coming gradually to know and value Mr. Darcy as he ought and that her mother was so awed by his wealth and his height that she was at least quiet, if never sensible, in his presence.
Elizabeth acknowledged to herself, if to no one else, however, that she was indeed wanting further information and instruction in areas which none of the ladies of the surrounding country seemed able or willing to discuss. In the first place, she was anxious to know more of the person and history of the man she was about to marry. One could be engaged, she came to realize with surprise, knowing very little of the gentleman with whom one would share a future, not to mention the matrimonial bed.
It occurred to her, to consider but one small example of this lack, that she had become engaged without even knowing the full Christian names of her betrothed. She knew she must call him by those names in that place where N takes M for better or for worse, but she did not know what she would say. Elizabeth feared that this was but one area of ignorance in which she required enlightenment.
As it happened, the matter was resolved with extraordinarily little trouble on her part. One day as she and Mr. Darcy were walking towards Oakmount, he himself raised the matter.
"My dearest Elizabeth, I have noted that though I address you by your Christian name, you still call me Mr. Darcy. From long use, it has not so very formal an air, but it would please me if you could do otherwise in our private moments."
"Shall I call you 'Mr. D.' in imitation of the elegant terseness of the Rector's wife at Hartfield, where dwells my cousin Emma?" teased Elizabeth.
"Pray do not!" exclaimed Mr. Darcy in amused astonishment.
With a more serious air Elizabeth continued, "Your kind letter of explanation that you wrote me at Rosings..."
"Oh, do not mention it, I pray you. I am convinced that it was written in dreadful bitterness of spirit and, as I have told you, I recall it only with abhorrence."
"It is precious to me as a token of your generosity of spirit to a foolish and prejudiced girl. But it was signed, as I remember, 'Fitzwilliam Darcy.' If I were to address you as 'Fitzwilliam,' I should think I was speaking to your cousin, 'the dear Colonel,' as your aunt calls him."
"That is indeed a problem. Fitzwilliam is the name my mother used, as a constant reminder of her noble connections, but my full name is Thomas Henry Fitzwilliam Darcy. My excellent father, when alone with me, would call me Tom. It has a very loving ring in my ears from those memories. Can you not use that name in private moments?"
Mr. Darcy's eyes darkened with some strong emotion, even as he spoke, and he seized her hand. Elizabeth thought he was about to embrace her and perhaps even to salute her with his lips, when a ploughman driving his brace of oxen came in sight. Mr. Darcy stepped away from her and the pair continued on their walk.
Elizabeth wondered whether it would have been required of her, as a young woman of character, to repel her beloved's advances, had he pressed them, or whether such tokens of love were permitted between those shortly to be wed. When she examined her feelings, Elizabeth, asked herself if she would have wished to repel them or even if she would have been able to do so, whatever the proprieties might be.
In any case, deeply touched by these signs of the depth of his affection, she promised to think on these things. As they continued with their walk, she found herself experiencing those pleasant yet disturbing sensations of moisture between her legs which had been occurring with such marked frequency since her engagement to Mr. Darcy. She had noticed that these feelings seemed connected to any particular manifestation of Mr. Darcy's care for her and she supposed that they had something to do with anticipation of full marital closeness.
The thought of full marital closeness raised the other matter of concern for Elizabeth. Of those intimate duties which pertain to the matrimonial bed Elizabeth knew very little and longed to know more She knew not where to turn for that instruction, however.
As a young woman raised in the countryside, Elizabeth had seen from a respectable distance the bull on the home farm covering the cows and the stallion the mares and one could scarcely walk to Meryton without witnessing dogs coupling in the road. Consequently, she had some notion of the act that unites men and women. A memory from her childhood made her wonder, however, if the coupling of farm animals was a safe and complete guide to matrimonial relations among humans.
As a very little girl, she had been suffering one night from an affliction of the stomach and, her sister Jane being, for some reason unavailable, had sought comfort in her mother's room. She had found her father in her mother's bed, nightgown drawn up over his bare bottom, lying between her mother's legs which, likewise entirely bare, were extended straight upwards into the air. Mr. Bennet was thrusting fiercely with his bottom and grunting in a manner she had never heard before from him. Becoming aware of her presence, he had ceased his movements, and had shouted at her to go away.
Elizabeth could recall no other time when her father had been so audibly angry with his favourite daughter and consequently had never forgotten the incident. Upon reflection, she was convinced that she had surprised her parents in the marital act. That her sister Lydia had been born later that year, as she recalled, confirmed to Elizabeth that her understanding of the incident was a correct one, From behind or on top for the man? From beneath or on all fours for the woman? How was the act to be carried out?
Elizabeth was of the opinion that most young women in her condition would consult their mothers in these delicate matters, but she was not sanguine about the possibility of gaining helpful or sensible information from Mrs. Bennet. She commenced her inquiries, therefore, as was her custom, by speaking with her sister Jane.
"My dearest sister, "she began. "May I consult you on a matter pertaining to our future duties as wives?"
Jane put down her embroidery and, with an inclination of her head, signified her willingness to listen. Elizabeth decided, nevertheless, to approach the subject indirectly.
"Years ago, when I began the first of my monthly courses, you explained to me what was happening and with your customary kindness held a warm cloth against my lower parts to ease my discomfort. I can never thank you enough for your kindness."
Jane blushed and shook her head slightly, as if to dismiss the subject.
"Then you and I did the same for Mary and the younger girls when their times came."
"But I am ashamed to say that I had never considered who carried out those valuable duties for you. Was it our mother?"
"No," said Jane. "It was left to Hill."
"Mrs. Hill, the housekeeper?" exclaimed Elizabeth.
Elizabeth considered that in better regulated families, such intimate responsibilities would normally be the province of a girl's mother, rather than that of a servant, no matter how long serving. Once again, she was aware of the disadvantages that necessarily were the lot of children raised in a family such as her own.
"It may be, my dear sister, that we are in a like situation as we contemplate our approaching marriages. I would wish to know more of the interesting secrets of the marriage bed, in order to make Mr. Darcy a good wife... But I confess that I should not like to receive this instruction from our housekeeper."
The elder Miss Bennet, frowned as she considered the problem.
"My dear Lizzy," she replied. "I consider that we may be deficient in respect towards our mother if we do not at least afford her the opportunity to speak with us on these matters."
"You are doubtless right, dearest Jane," Elizabeth replied with both a blush and an arch smile, "With five children our mother must have some familiarity with the marital act!"
Accordingly, the two sisters sought out their mother, who was lying back on a chaise in her dressing room. After ascertaining that their mother's nerves were in no agitated or elevated state, Jane commenced the discussion. "Mama, Elizabeth and I wish to consult you about that which will take place on our wedding night,"
"Well, my young misses! I was wondering when you would deign to consult with your own mother. There are matters about which you know very little that must be considered at these times and it is very proper that you should speak with me. Who better than your mother to advise you?"
Elizabeth was vastly encouraged by this reply and the two sisters settled in to listen to their mother.
"You will recall that Mr. Bennet was very tiresome about your sister Lydia's wedding and made no gift to her to mark her marriage to dear Wickham, as a token of his regard. She was married, with no new clothes whatever to mark the occasion."
"But..." interjected Elizabeth.
"But he is disposed to be generous with you both, I am glad to say. Poor Lydia, married in a year old dress! A very ill managed affair indeed!" Mrs. Bennet shook her head in remembered shame.
"But, mother, we have not come to speak of wedding dresses!" exclaimed Jane.
"And very wise, you are, my dears!" Mrs. Bennet. "So many young women, and, I am ashamed to say, their mothers, think only of the church and the wedding breakfast, and do not considered the needs of the wedding night!"
Elizabeth considered that this was proceeding much better than she had expected.
"Yes, there is a warehouse in London, near your Uncle's home in Cheapside, where nightgowns and shifts of the finest French silk can be found at the best price. I intend to travel to London with you and we shall see what we may find there. What say you to that?"
"But mother," remonstrated Jane with her customary gentleness. "We had been considering more what is beneath a nightgown."
"Oh my poor sweet innocents! I should have thought you would have known. There is nothing beneath a nightgown, especially on a wedding night!"
"Exactly," said Elizabeth.
"Exactly, what?" replied Mrs. Bennet, with puzzlement.
"What is beneath the nightgown. We wish to know what will happen in the marriage bed and how we may please our husbands."
Mrs. Bennet began to grow agitated and to raise her voice. "Wear a French silk nightgown and your husbands will be pleased!"
Elizabeth and Jane looked at one another. "Very true, Mama," replied Jane, "But we imagine they may be more interested in what is under the nightgown."
Mrs. Bennet grew more agitated still. "Well, I never heard of such bold talk. Why do you girls ask me such things? Dearest Lydia, never troubled me with these questions before she married Wickham!"
This was quite true, thought Elizabeth, since Lydia had eloped and lived with Wickham several weeks before the wedding. Lydia must surely already have learned the secrets of the marriage bed well before she entered it legally.
"But Mama," remonstrated Elizabeth. "No one has instructed us in the proper comportment of a bride on her wedding night so that we may please our husbands."
"Proper comportment of a bride? Oh, just lie back and think of England!" shouted Mrs. Bennet. "You have no consideration for my poor nerves! Hill! Hill! Where is Hill?"
Judging that nothing further of value would come from continuing the interview, Jane and Elizabeth left their mother to the ministrations of Hill. They slipped into the hallway and there encountered their father. Mr. Bennet was gazing in the direction of his wife's dressing room and looked grave.
"Jane, Elizabeth, pray come into my library."
Mr. Bennet led his two eldest daughters to his sanctuary, closed the door firmly and, with an air of apology said, "I fear that your mother and I have not given provided you with a model of marital felicity to imitate.'
Nothing could be said in response to such an admission by their father so nothing was what they said.
Mr. Bennet continued. "You appear to be in want of instruction which a man, and particularly a father, cannot rightly give to young women. Your mother has a carrying voice. She is, I gather, unwilling to relieve your uncertainties and teach you what you wish to know.'
"With your permission, I will write to your Aunt Gardiner to ask her to take up this office for you. She is a wise woman and her marriage with your uncle is more to be imitated, I fear, than my own with your mother. They will be in Longbourn several days before the wedding and your aunt will doubtless answer any questions you may wish to put to her. Will that assist you?"
Jane and Elizabeth thought this a capital plan and signified their glad assent. Receiving that approval, Mr. Bennet, who seemed reluctant to continue the subject, indicated they could go about their business and picked up a worn copy of an old favourite volume, Tristram Shandy, as a signal that the interview was over. Jane and Elizabeth slipped away in silence.
The flow of information as to her proper conduct in the married state, in all matters except the one that interested her most, increased as the wedding date of the sisters drew near. Elizabeth was gratified, however, that with one exception the male gender denied themselves the pleasure of instruction. To her distress, the one exception was the egregious Mr. Collins, and the unwanted advice was proffered in the most public manner imaginable, namely, from the pulpit of the parish church.
Mr. Collins, at the instigation of his wife Charlotte, Elizabeth's dear friend, had brought his wife to Meryton, in anticipation of her forthcoming confinement. Having engaged a curate to read the services at Rosings Park, Mr. Collins proposed to remain in the vicinity of his in-laws' home at Lucas Lodge until the forthcoming "olive branch," as he described his anticipated offspring, should be delivered.
This was a development highly satisfactory to all. Lady Catherine de Bourgh, with what Mr. Collins described as her usual gracious condescension, had let it be known that she blamed Charlotte for bringing Elizabeth into Kent. This, in her view, had led directly to the disgraceful engagement of her nephew, Mr. Darcy, to such a girl as Elizabeth.