JA quotes and intro

"I should infinitely prefer a book." -- Chapter 39, Pride and Prejudice
"...I wish my collection were larger for your benefit and my own credit..." -- Chapter 8, Pride and Prejudice
"I shall be glad to have the library to myself as soon as may be." -- Chapter 20, Pride and Prejudice

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Much Better Fitted

Pride and Prejudice
"Mr. Collins marries someone other than Charlotte Lucas"
Upon returning to Longbourn after the Netherfield Ball, a minor stumble causes Mr. Collins to reconsider his plans for matrimony.

"Lydia, wake up! We are home." Kitty reached across and shook her sister's arm.

Mary glanced at Lydia and returned her gaze to the window. "Her eyes are closed, nothing more."

Kitty yawned and gathered her skirts. "She has been asleep for the last mile, at least. Had you danced as much as Lydia, you would understand. But you never do." She giggled, and Mary scowled at her.

Mr. Collins looked about him and wondered how he had been manoeuvred into travelling in such diminished company. Mrs. Bennet had just arranged for their carriage to be brought round last when Mr. Bingley, expressing concern for the size of their party and the comfort of Miss Jane Bennet, offered his own carriage, ready and waiting for the very purpose of delivering her and her parents safely to Longbourn. Mrs. Bennet vacillated, Miss Bennet smiled and blushed prettily for all to see, and Mr. Bennet accepted the generous gesture with alacrity.

Then Miss Elizabeth, whom Mr. Collins had showered with attention and delicate compliments all evening, had been escorted to Mr. Bingley's carriage by Mr. Darcy. Mr. Collins was left to sit with his young cousins and endure the glares of Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst until the Bennet conveyance finally appeared in front of Netherfield Hall.

Mr. Collins shifted Miss Lydia off his shoulder. She was indeed asleep. He hurried out to assist Miss Kitty, who looked ready to jump to the ground on her own, and Miss Mary, who quite properly waited for him to extend his hand. Miss Lydia finally stirred as her sisters left the carriage.

"Miss Lydia? Are you coming?" He offered his hand, and she gave him hers in return, not a slender, dainty one like Miss Elizabeth's, but broad and strong, almost a match for his own. Even in her languid state, her grip was firm.

"Can you not carry me inside, Mr. Collins? I am so tired."

Mr. Collins believed his young cousin was being a bit dramatic and had opened his mouth to reprove her when she tripped and fell into his arms. He stared into her half-closed eyes. Though the youngest, she was taller than her sisters, and as a tall man, he found it strangely appealing all of a sudden to stand so near a woman who was not completely overshadowed by him. When he had met her upon arriving at Longbourn, he had thought her older than both Miss Mary and Miss Kitty until her childish ways had made it clear she was not. Her attractive, well-grown figure and her confident voice often made her seem beyond her years.

Her exuberance and vivacity might actually be acceptable if tempered with the silence and respect that exposure to those of rank would excite. But how likely was that to occur in Hertfordshire? Miss Lydia only needed to be a little more in the world, to be taken out of the stifling society of Longbourn, where she required her high animal spirits simply to ensure her share of attention in a houseful of sisters. Mrs. Bennet, though a gentleman's wife and an affectionate mother, was not the best gardener to tend this blossoming flower; she required too much attention herself. Mr. Collins could think of one woman who exuded an excess of good breeding and no doubt would provide the perfect example to Miss Lydia, if only the latter were given the chance to meet her, and meet with her frequently.

Roused from his reflections by the stamping of the horses, Mr. Collins saw that his cousin had not moved from his embrace. "Miss Lydia?" She only pressed closer. "Come, we must get you inside."

"When you first came here," she said in her drowsy drawl, "I thought, 'What a large man! A boring old parson.' But you are not all bad, though you must preach sermons every week and you dance horribly and do not wear a red coat." She laughed, a throaty, sleepy sound. "You are being very nice, and your shoulder is comfortable." She patted his chest and nestled back into place.

"Miss Lydia." He turned her face outward. "Miss Lydia?" He could see her smile and knew she was wide awake. He was glad for the darkness, glad her eyes were closed, for her criticism of his dancing made him flush with mortification. However, her kind words were not unfelt. 'Very nice' was just that: very nice, but very ordinary praise. Comfortable? To his knowledge, he had never been described as such.

Thirdly, it was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort that the one ought to have of the other...

The thought made him start. He had never even considered the possibility, not for a moment.

Wilt thou love her, comfort her...

It was not so difficult, he decided, to do as much for one willing to receive. He had never before reflected on the benefit of having a spouse not only ready, but eager to lean on him and depend upon his support. Granted, his present support of Miss Lydia was merely physical, but it was something. He thought of Miss Elizabeth - her stilted replies to his questions, how she had discouraged him from making the acquaintance of Lady Catherine's nephew, her habit of moving away from him. She had not hesitated to quit his company altogether when the opportunity had presented itself. Had they ridden together, she might have leapt from the carriage as quickly as Miss Kitty, with or without his help. Quite possibly without, he realised. Miss Elizabeth Bennet was the independent sort and at times disturbingly decided in her opinions. As such, she might forever be going her own way, never truly relying upon him as a wife ought, other than for the protection their alliance would provide against the entail.

The driver had been delayed long enough. Mr. Collins backed away from the carriage and practically dragged Lydia towards the entrance of Longbourn. He chided her gently. "You know you are fully able to walk through this door." His efforts elicited nothing but a giggle. Mr. Collins sighed. "This time, I shall relent, but do not expect it always to be so." He surprised himself by stooping down and lifting her off her feet. It felt awkward at first, but she was lighter than he had anticipated. Pleasantly so. He tried not to think of how pleasant her arms felt around his neck. She was an easy burden to carry; he wondered that he had not complied with her request at once.

"La! What will Mama say when she sees us?"

"We will find out in a moment, Miss Lydia." After a long night of calculated courtship, the girl's playful spontaneity was most welcome. Yes, she would have to learn to be serious when the occasion warranted, but there was nothing reproachable in a night's dancing and general merriment. Perhaps she could help him improve his own dancing skills. Not that he would often be dancing; he did not have the leisure for it, with the many duties belonging to his station in life. Yet, it would not do to draw censure whenever he ventured out to the occasional ball, and Miss Lydia was most accomplished in the art.

The other Bennet ladies gathered round once they recovered from the shock of seeing Lydia being carried into the house by a man. He assured them that she was quite well, only fatigued, as could be expected after the evening's exertions. Mrs.Bennet made room on the sofa for her daughter and immediately took charge of her.

Mr. Collins stood back from the scene and surveyed the room. He glanced at Miss Elizabeth, who seemed amused by the situation. She maintained her distance and certainly did not look jealous, upset, or concerned in any way.
He had come to Longbourn for a wife, and he remained steadfast in his intent. His object, however, was now in question. Just a few hours ago, he had decided, come morning, to propose to Miss Elizabeth. Now, he deemed it best not to be in a hurry. He was to stay at Longbourn until Saturday. Surely, then, he could wait until Thursday, even Friday, to secure his bride. What were two more days? A day or two of prayerful consideration might keep him from making a serious misjudgement.

He looked again at Miss Elizabeth. She avoided his eye. He turned to Miss Lydia, now resting happily on the sofa and talking to her mother and sister. She caught him staring and giggled, covering her mouth. He was not sure why, but he was certain she was not laughing at him. He smiled back, and his hand settled over the place on his shoulder where she had rested her head.

He hoped two days would be enough time to determine the most fitting companion for his future life. Perhaps he would start in the morning by asking Miss Lydia if she desired to be carried in to breakfast.

~The End~

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