Mrs. Bennet's Talk
Elizabeth and Jane Bennet sat in Elizabeth's room waiting with every semblance of patience for the arrival of their mother. Mrs. Bennet had asked them to wait there 'but a moment' for she had 'something of particular importance' to speak with them about.
The girls knew what was coming - the wedding night talk - and they looked at each other, rolling their eyes and making wry faces as they settled together on the bed.
"Are you ready for this, Lizzy?" asked Jane.
"Oh yes, and you?"
Then they giggled together, whispering little secrets until their mother bustled in.
"Well girls! Almost married! And such handsome young men! So rich! But you knew that already," Mrs. Bennet waved her hands about in nervous excitement, "Oh, I shall go distracted! But that is not what I am here to talk to you about. No, tonight I must tell you what you are to expect on your wedding night - oh my poor Jane! My poor, poor Lizzy!"
And with that Mrs. Bennet buried her nose in her handkerchief and snuffled loudly.
Jane and Elizabeth glanced at each other, then moved to take their mother's elbows and lead her to a chair beside the bed.
"There, there, Mama, all will be well," soothed Jane.
"Indeed, Mama, and how can you say that we will be poor when you just said our young men are so rich?" questioned Elizabeth with a wink to Jane
"I suppose that you must mean that we are poor in comparison - if Mr. Bingley is 'rich', then Mr. Darcy is surely 'rich rich' - for he has twice as much - so I am 'poor' and Lizzy is 'poor poor'-"
"I do not mean poor in terms of rich!" Mrs. Bennet interrupted, "What nonsense! I mean poor in terms of what you must suffer on the wedding night!"
"Suffer? Oh surely not," Elizabeth responded, "I know it will be strange to sleep in an unfamiliar bed and house, but it is nothing we have not done before. I am sure we will each sleep very well."
"Yes indeed, Mama. Lizzy and I can each attest that the beds at Netherfield are quite comfortable, and I am certain the beds at Darcy House in London must be very fine indeed."
Elizabeth and Jane smiled at each other then turned their expressions of affected innocence on their mother.
"Oh girls! I do not speak of the comfort of beds! I speak of the wedding night!"
"Oh, then you must mean the supper," Elizabeth mused, "I am sure the suppers at Netherfield have never been deficient, and I can not imagine Darcy House is in any way lacking in that regard, can you, Jane?"
"Not at all! Mama must mean that we will suffer from having to deal with unfamiliar servants," Jane replied with a nod, "Dear Mama, do not fret so! There will be a period of adjustment surely, but neither Lizzy nor I will feel poorly that we have no Sarah or Hill to call upon."
"Oh!" cried Mrs. Bennet, "How can you talk so! Suppers and servants! How can you be so ridiculous? I am talking of the wedding night! When your new husbands will come to you!"
"Come to us?" asked Elizabeth with a frown, "But are they not to leave with us after the wedding? Do you mean that we are expected to travel ahead by ourselves and they are to follow after? Well, I cannot say I like the sound of that, can you Jane?"
"Dear me, no, Lizzy! I thought Charles would ride with me to Netherfield and Darcy with you to London."
"Girls! Oh, my nerves! Of course your husbands will leave with you! I beg you would be quiet and just listen!"
"Yes Mama," Jane and Elizabeth smirked in unison then fell silent, looking at their mother expectantly.
Mrs. Bennet fluttered and shifted about for a few moments, then came to the point: "On your wedding night, my dears, your new husbands will come to you in your beds; this is the suffering I spoke of. Simply lay back on your pillows and close your eyes and think of pleasant things and it will soon be done with and you can sleep in peace."
Mrs. Bennet heaved a huge sigh and closed her eyes, relieved at finally having imparted this pearl of wisdom on her daughters. She did not expect to hear a giggle.
"Oh, Jane! Mama means that they might want to share our beds!"
"Oh! Of course! But Mama, though Lizzy and I have always had separate rooms did you not know that we often share a bed?"
"Indeed, for we often have things to discuss before going to sleep and so we tend to fall asleep together in one bed or the other," agreed Elizabeth.
"And if Charles should want to talk with me late at night," continued Jane, "and should happen to fall asleep in my bed (though I am sure he has a very comfortable bed of his own) I can not imagine it would be a hardship to sleep with him."
"Perhaps, Jane," replied Lizzy thoughtfully, "Mama means that the bed will feel crowded?"
"What do you mean, Lizzy?"
"Well, think about it; your Charles is not a small gentleman, and Fitzwilliam is even larger, but either one by himself must take up most of the bed. That must be what Mama meant when she said that you would be 'poor' and that I would be 'poor poor'."
Jane frowned, "Yes, I see, and perhaps he might steal away the covers, like you do sometimes - wresting the covers back from a husband must be far more difficult than from a sister."
"Yes, or - oh no, Jane! What if he snores! I am sure Fitzwilliam must snore twice as loud as Charles!"
"Snoring! Oh no! We will never be able to sleep no matter how many pleasant things we can think of!"
"Snoring, blanket-thieving, bed hogs? Is that what husbands are? Oh Jane! No wonder no one tells us these things until the night before the wedding - what girl would ever agree to it otherwise? Well, I can only say it is a good thing that Fitzwilliam will have his own bed for he shan't be welcome anywhere near mine!"
"Nor Charles near mine, I am sure! Thank you so much for this warning, Mama! We will be on our guard, you may rest assured."
Mrs. Bennet, who had been trying to interrupt this exchange to no avail (her daughters had learnt the art of babbling from a true proficient, after all) finally just shouted, "NO!" And sat there looking wildly back and forth from one shocked daughter to the other.
Mrs. Bennet closed her eyes and breathed quite heavily for a minute or two. "No," she finally said, "Girls I have been trying to tell you about marital intimacies!"
Jane and Elizabeth simply looked at her with feigned expressions of puzzlement.
Mrs. Bennet blew out an exasperated 'oh' then frantically whispered, "The begetting of children!"
"Oh!" Elizabeth laughed, "Is that all? Why did you not say so in the first place! You have had us all in a dither!"
"I-is that a-all?" Mrs. Bennet spluttered, "B-b-b-but-"
"There is nothing to it, Mama; Charles explained everything," Jane smiled.
"Mr. Bingley!" shrieked Mrs. Bennet, "Explained!"
"Yes, of course," Jane serenely replied, "I asked him to. Lizzy, you asked Mr. Darcy also, did you not?"
"Well, yes I did, but you know how reticent he can be at times; he tried to tell me but was unable to explain a great deal."
"Oh dear. Well, if you still have any questions you and I can talk later; Charles explained it thoroughly."
"Thank you, Jane, but there is no need; I simply asked Fitzwilliam to show me instead, and I assure you he was quite thorough."
At this Mrs. Bennet squeaked, "Oh, where are my salts!" And fled the room. Not a peep more was heard from her for the rest of the night (nor much of the next day).
Jane and Elizabeth grinned mischievously at each other in the moments of silence that followed the slamming of their mother's chamber door.
"I think that went rather well, Jane."
"Yes, it did... umm... Lizzy?"
"Do you really think they will snore?"
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