Thank you for all of the lovely reviews.
A guest reviewer commented that my authors notes were the reason they were going to stop reading this story, so I went back and reread all of my authors notes. I didn't realise that they were coming across as so passive-aggressive, and that truly wasn't my intent so I apologise if anyone else found the tone of them offensive.
I try to take all criticism constructively but it seems as though I'm not very good at accepting criticism about stuff that concerned me while writing the chapters, so I will try to be better at accepting them.
Thank you to everyone that does continue reading, and if the guest reviewer that said they weren't going to continue with my story does happen to read this, thank you for pointing out the tone that my author's notes had taken, and I hope you continue with the story.
On with the story,
As soon as they started the group lesson, Lizzie realised how ill prepared she was to deal with the situation. She could see that everyone was speaking in the group, but because they all seemed to be speaking at once, she didn't know who to look at. As such, she didn't understand what any members of the group were saying.
It was too much, and Lizzie felt like she had just lost her hearing all over again; everyone was looking at her waiting for a response, and she couldn't give one because she didn't know what to respond to. Her breath hitched a little as panic began to overwhelm her, just as it had when she had first lost her hearing, and Mr Darcy seemed to notice.
Mr Darcy had sat next to Miss Elizabeth, hoping that she would focus her attention on him during the lesson. As such, he could see when she began to feel overwhelmed, her eyes took on the same startled expression that his sister, Georgiana's, did when confronted with an uncomfortable situation.
Subtly he moved his foot to nudge hers, and she turned to look at him. It upset him to see the panicked look in her eye, but he knew better than to let her see that. Slowly he took a deep breath in and let it out, motioning slightly for her to mirror his actions; it was a practice he had found that could calm Georgiana when she was feeling overwhelmed and he hoped it would work the same on Miss Elizabeth. Fortunately as she copied his actions he could see the fear receding from her eyes.
Elizabeth had just calmed down when Kitty looked in her direction, and immediately she felt awful. She had been doing so well at coping with her lack of hearing, that Kitty sometimes forgot how overwhelming groups could be for Lizzie; especially in a less formal setting where people sometimes spoke over one another. In that moment, Kitty realised that she would need to take the lead in this situation.
Kitty gathered her courage, and then cleared her throat, waving slightly at the same time to gain her sister's attention as well as the attention of the others in the group. When she had everyone's attention Kitty began speaking and signing at the same time.
"While I am glad that you all seem excited to learn sign, I need to ask that we all take our turns speaking. While Lizzie can follow a conversation if each person takes their turn, my sister is unable to follow conversations where multiple parties speak at the same time or interrupt each other."
Lizzie looked slightly embarrassed at her sister reminding everyone to be mindful of her, but she was also grateful that Kitty had done so. The others in the party seemed likewise embarrassed at having forgotten the reason that they would be learning sign language.
Oddly enough Louisa Hurst was the first to reply, shocking everyone that she had willingly entered a conversation without prompting.
"I really am sorry, Miss Elizabeth, Miss Catherine. You were both going to teach us a new skill, but we forgot the reason you had attained this skill."
"Thank you for apologising Mrs Hurst," began Lizzie, "however, we failed to realise that such an issue would likely occur. We are just as much to blame as yourselves, so can you forgive us for our abysmal lack of planning?"
With that, the tension was broken and everyone was ready to learn again.
"As with teaching Mr Darcy this morning, it is probably best to start with names. This is done by signing the first initial and a prominent attribute. For example, my name is Elizabeth and I have rather unruly hair, so my sign name is an E followed by the gesture for curly hair." She showed them all the gestures and they all followed her example.
Kitty corrected Mr Bingley when he made a slight error with the gesture, but he soon caught on. When all members of the group could sign Elizabeth, Kitty spoke up.
"Now, my sign is slightly different. My name is Catherine, but I prefer Kitty, so I sign a C for Catherine and the sign for cat to represent that I prefer Kitty."
Once again the gesture was shown and copied throughout the group. Mr Hurst and Mrs Hurst were very quick at picking up the gestures, and Mr Darcy already knew these gestures so merely used this as practice.
"If the second part of the sign name is an attribute, how do you decide which attribute to use?" questioned Mr Hurst.
Lizzie and Kitty blushed slightly at this, intriguing the group before Lizzie replied.
"Usually it is the attribute you first notice, so with Mr Darcy, he is both incredibly tall and has very curly hair on the top of his head, so I do each gesture; however with Miss Bingley, when I first saw her she was wearing an orange gown the same shade as her hair, so I do the sign for orange. Fortunately for me, she also wore orange today and it once again was a similar shade to her hair, so the attribute rings true."
The group began to chuckle at the description, admitting to themselves that it was a fairly accurate portrayal of Caroline's dress sense. When they were all slightly calmer, Elizabeth showed them the signs for Mr Darcy and Miss Bingley.
"My name next," exclaimed Mr Bingley, looking rather excited at the prospect of having a sign name.
Kitty smiled at him nodding before teaching the group. "For your name Mr Bingley we sign B for Bingley and the sign for happy, because you seem to smile often."
Mr Bingley seemed very pleased with his sign name and seemed to pick it up rather quickly.
Next the two Bennets decided to demonstrate Mrs Hursts name, saving Mr Hurst for last.
"Mrs Hurst, you came across as rather shy when we met, and I still believe that holds true, however if you would prefer a different defining attribute, that would be agreeable." Lizzie explained.
"I would rather not confuse you, of you already have a sign name for me," Mrs Hurst stumbled, unsure of what attribute she could say defined her. Although she was rather glad that these Bennet's had recognised her as being shy rather than pride and aloof. She had once heard someone she had thought was a friend describe her as such to someone in the milliners, and hadn't appreciated the thought that she came across as being so.
"Oh that will not do," exclaimed Kitty, "Mrs Hurst, we do not want you to have a sign name that you cannot be happy with. Although it is kind of you not to want to confuse us, we would not want you upset over a sign name."
As Mrs Hurst blushed with discomfort Mr Hurst stepped in.
"Perhaps, Miss Elizabeth, there is a sign for caring, as I have always found my wife to be a very caring woman?"
"Yes there is Mr Hurst, and I find I agree with you that it suits Mrs Hurst wonderfully." With that Mrs Hurst's sign name became an H followed by the sign for caring.
"Do I get a sign name now," questioned Mr Hurst impatiently, he had been as eager to discover his sign name as Mr Bingley, but hid his excitement better.
"Yes you do, Mr Hurst." replied Lizzie. "Now Mr Hurst, the first time I was introduced to you was at Lucas Lodge last night, where you successfully appalled our mother. This is a feat in and of itself and as such your defining attribute is the sign for warrior, mainly because we do not have a sign for witch slayer."
Mr Hurst guffawed loudly at this and said that it was the first time his bluntness had been considered positive, but they were welcome to use that as his sign name. The Bennets showed the others how to do his sign name before teaching the group the room names and actions that Lizzie had taught to Mr Darcy earlier that day.
Each member of the group enjoyed themselves, but all remained mindful not to talk over one another for Lizzie's benefit. None of the group were aware that in her suite, Caroline Bingley was trying to plot a way to get the Bennets away from her brother and her Mr Darcy.