A/N: August 2016: I am taking this down to finally go to the editor I have hired as she has room on her schedule at last. Thank you to the hundreds of you who read and reviewed.
It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a family member near death's door cannot but change the members of the family.
Mr. and Mrs. Bennet were sitting together one evening, and for once, by themselves and not surrounded by their children.
"Mr. Bennet, have you heard the news?" said his lady to him.
"No, my dear, what news do you have to report?" He looked up from his book.
"That Netherfield Hall has been let! I believe it may indicate that there is an end to these troublesome times that the neighborhood has faced." Her face glowed with excitement and shown with a rosiness above the stark black of her dress. The glow took some of the years off of her face and for a moment, the former beauty of Meryton could be seen in her features.
"Too true, my dear. Though it cannot really brighten our family troubles," his face looked grave as he looked down. No rose bloom graced his cheeks and his dark eyes held a world of worries and sorrow.
"Well my dear, it has been let by a young man from the North. Mrs. Long reports that he is young and single. Perhaps he may consider one of the girls!" Mrs. Bennet continued in a cheering voice looking down at her stitching.
"And I suppose you wish for me to visit him? Does it not seem too soon, after losing our Mary, to be thinking of marriageable young men for our remaining daughters?" He did not look up from his book.
"Mr. Bennet, the death knells rang over a year ago. I think it is time we consider that we need to move on," her eyes sought his in a plea that said more than her words.
"I, for one, cannot forget the day that she was lost to us, my dear." He caught her eyes, looking over at her, trying to say things with his eyes that he could not say with his voice.
"Nor I, Mr. Bennet, nor I. I have loved all of my children. But we have four other daughters to consider. And Lizzy has just come back to us after being gone for most of that year. We need to consider them," she continued on. She pursed her lips and pursued her line of thought with her husband.
"Perhaps you are right my dear," but he did not sound convinced.
Mr. Bennet interrupted. "This seems to be your favorite word," and he smiled briefly.
"Yes Mr. Bennet, consider that Jane is now almost two years past twenty, and no matter how beautiful she may be, beauty does not last forever. And Lizzy…"
"Yes, my poor Lizzy." His shoulders sagged and he looked back down at his book, though not because it held any interest.
"Poor Lizzy has recovered but her hair will take so long to grow back. And her injury—I fear no man will take her now." Mrs. Bennet shook her head sadly and bent over her stitching again pulling tightly at a stitch.
"I doubt that; it may make a marriage more manageable if she cannot hear what her husband says. Besides she says she still has some hearing in her one ear and seems to be slowly recovering more and more." Mr. Bennet's voice brightened for the first time and some semblance of his old humor snuck back in. "And our Kitty, well, Kitty seems to have settled down and is considerably less silly than she once was," he added. "I never thought I would think to see her 'less silly,' but there it is."
"Our Lydia is still a sweet, joyous girl. This period of mourning has been such a strain on her. It is too bad that her formative years had to be marked by losing a sister," Mrs. Bennet enthused about her youngest and still favorite, child.
"That is one of the lessons of life," and his face showed that he did not believe his wife's views on their youngest with his firmly-set lips. "So you wish me to visit this new tenant of Netherfield Hall?" he brought his wife back to the point.
"We have had no balls or assemblies in the neighborhood for over a year. Families have been barely visiting with the fever passing through. It will be nice to have things return to normal." She put on her best alluring smile as she winked at him.
"Nothing will be normal with so many in the neighborhood affected." He looked at her sternly, "baut I will visit this new neighbor."