Lydia Bennet’s moods were as changeable as…well…changeable as the spring weather. In the vast experience of her fifteen years, if she had learned one thing, it was the wisdom of never dwelling too long on anything unpleasant. This time, however, she simply could not shake off the despair that came along with the latest gossip from Meryton. Two days ago, Lydia had learned the militia would be removing to Brighton in a few weeks, and she was absolutely convinced her whole world was coming to an end.
Walking along on her way to Meryton, she thought about how the winter months in Hertfordshire had been made exceedingly enjoyable by the presence of all the lively, young militia officers with their dashing red coats. Now they were ruining everything! She kicked a stone in the road to emphasize her disappointment. Who would she flirt with? Who would she tease? All the local young men were as dull as rocks, but the regiment was full of handsome, fun-loving officers like Lt. Denny, Lt. Kendall, Lt. Jameson, and of course, Lt. Wickham. The others were charming, but Wickham was… He was delicious. She grinned as she thought about him.
Ah, George Wickham! Just saying his name gave her a little thrill. When first he arrived last fall, Lydia’s sister Elizabeth had caught his eye. Much to Lydia’s delight, this spring with Lizzy away visiting Charlotte in Kent, he had turned more of his attentions her way. In her opinion, no one was as handsome or as clever as Wickham. No one was more elegant or lighter on his feet on the dance floor, and no one made her laugh as much as Wickham.
Today, she was on her way to visit with her dear friend Harriet Forster. Since Harriet’s husband was the commander of the militia, she would be going to Brighton, too. It did not bear thinking about. In Harriet, Lydia had found a kindred spirit, someone who loved to laugh as much as she did. Lydia tried to find comfort that they would be able to enjoy a few more afternoons of lovely gossip before her friend left forever.
Knocking on the door of the Forsters’ house, Lydia was admitted and shown into a small parlor. When Harriet saw her friend, she put aside her sewing. Immediately, they began sharing funny stories, talking about the attractive physical attributes of particular members of the regiment, all the while giggling as they always did when they were together.
“Oh, Lydia, my dear friend,” said Harriet, wiping the tears of laughter from her eyes. “I am so pleased you are here. We always have such fun. How dull it is just sitting here and sewing. Truly, I was beginning to go mad with boredom. The most exciting thing I have done all day is choosing colors of thread. Is that not sad?” She held up the handkerchief she was embroidering and waved it in the air.
“Not as sad as the fact that very soon you will be gone, and I will never see you again. Oh, Harriet, I do not know how I will ever survive the loss! When you leave, Meryton will return to being the dreariest place in England.” By now her smile had turned to a frown.
“Then I have news which should cheer you. We may not be parted so soon after all.”
Lydia looked up hopefully at her friend. “Do not tease me.”
“I told the Colonel I could not bear to be all alone in a new place with no friends around me.” Harriet reached over and squeezed Lydia’s arm. “He has given his permission for me to ask you to accompany us to Brighton for the summer as my special companion. Lydia, say you will come. We shall have such a grand time together!”
Throwing her arms around her friend, Lydia squealed, “Oh, dear Harriet, there is nothing in the whole entire world I would like more.”
Then standing up, Lydia pulled Harriet to her feet, and they began to dance around the parlor chanting, “Oh, what joy! What joy! We are off to Brighton!”
Finally, out of breath, they collapsed back on the settee and started making plans. They talked at the same time, finished each other’s sentences, and laughed about the grand time they would have together.
“You do think your parents will give their permission for you to come with us?” Harriet asked.
“Oh, la! Of course, they will,” said Lydia with a wave of her hand. “My mother will think it a wonderful idea because it may help me catch a husband in a beautiful red coat.” She grinned wickedly. “Mama has a partiality for red coats, you know.”
“And your father? Will he approve?”
“Oh, do not worry about Papa. If he has any objections, Mama and I will wear him down quick enough. He is never able to resist a little pouting and a few tears.”
The two friends spent the remainder of the afternoon dreaming of all the parties and balls they would attend in Brighton, and as they were nearly the same size, they talked of the gowns they would lend each other. Suddenly, there was so much to do – ribbons to buy, hats to decorate, and trunks to be packed.
On the walk back to Longbourn, Lydia’s feet scarcely touched the ground. Her head overflowed with thoughts of all the handsome young officers she would flirt with and of one particular officer whom she liked best of all.
“I am going to Brighton! I am going to Brighton!” she chanted as she skipped along. How she would enjoy lording this special invitation over her sisters! Yes, things were looking up indeed.