Hi everyone, I am Amy D’Orazio, the newest member of Austen Variations and the author of The Best Part of Love, recently published by Meryton Press.
The ‘about me’ part of these things is always tough for me so I’ll just make it quick and say I love me some Jane Austen (I mean, why else are we here, right?) I drink too much diet Coke, my favorite color is pink and, like my favorite heroine, I love a good long walk — mostly for me, but also because I have two Jack Russell terriers who start chewing the legs off the furniture if they don’t get a good ramble. And of course I love to write … hopefully you’ll like this bit I’ve written for you today! I like to think of it as regency Cougar-Town 🙂
As the morning light beamed ever brighter into her bedchamber, Mrs Bennet sat at her vanity taking a critical look at herself.
First order of business: remove the cap. Yes, indeed, an improvement already. She unpinned what her maid had just pinned and allowed the thick, honey-coloured curls to fall to her shoulders. Not bad at all, a few strands of grey perhaps but certainly a far sight better than most.
Her skin bore very few wrinkles, thanks to diligence in wearing her bonnet from a very young age and the religious application of a cream she had Mrs. Gardiner bring her from London. Oh, perhaps she did not have the bloom she once did but, as her sister said, an older lady does not need to glow if she smoulders instead. She practised several types of seductive smiles and concluded her sister must be right on that score.
She rose from her seat so that she could better view her figure. Of course, bearing five daughters had left its mark on her but was that not the business of corsets? Before she went to the breakfast room, she would have her maid tie her more tightly; perhaps she could even try one of Jane’s, see if that did the trick.
“Yes indeed,” she murmured to herself. “Only just forty. Still, quite enough kick left in these boots.”
When she had received Mr Collins’ letter — intended for her late husband God rest his soul — she believed the worst of all her fears was about to be realised. Then when the boy himself had arrived, and that foolish second daughter of hers had refused to do her duty, she despaired, believing all was lost. Foolish, foolish Lizzy! — selfishly refusing to secure her family’s comfort.
So she would do for them herself, no sense wallowing in misery and complaints. There was a duty to be done, and she was still young enough to do it. She had coveted and won the position of Mistress of Longbourn once, and she was sure she could do it again. She had seen, immediately, that Mr Collins had an ardent attachment to his benefactor and wondered that she had not understood the nature of it sooner. Evidently, Mr Collins knew what there was to appreciate in an older, experienced woman.
She moved her hair into a style that she had once seen on Lydia and with a last scornful glance at her mob cap, left her bedchamber.
Mr Collins was sulking over a hearty breakfast, still wounded over the infamous treatment he had received at Lizzy’s hand. She took a seat next to him, listening as he once again expounded on how Lizzy was unworthy of his offer and unlikely ever to receive another.
“I could not agree more,” she said, locking her eyes with his. “Mr Collins you are indeed an exceedingly eligible prospect for any woman.”
Something in her tone must have alerted him. He stared, blinking owlishly for a few times before remembering the food in his mouth. He chewed absently, his eyes not once leaving hers.
“But we cannot blame Lizzy,” she continued. “I see now that she is not at all the wife for you.”
“She is not?” he asked.
Mrs Bennet shook her head firmly, allowing the motion to toss her curls and jiggle her bosom. “No, indeed. Why Mr Collins you do not require a girl — you need a woman. A woman who has the experience of being mistress of an estate like this; a woman who has the wisdom to tend to all your needs.”
She reached out, spooning another generous portion of ham onto his plate, and refilling his coffee cup with a little coffee and a generous amount of cream and sugar.
“You see, just as Lady Catherine aided and advised you on your role at Hunsford parish,” said she “so too shall you require a mistress for your home who knows what she is about. A woman who can manage all these little details for you, that your superior male mind need not be troubled by it.”
“Lady Catherine gave a vast deal of attention—”
“I am sure she did,” Mrs Bennet smiled and reached out, giving his doughy hand a pat and a lingering caress. “And I am confident that you could never wish for less.”
She watched him as he considered it; soon enough she saw his eyes wander over her face then down to her bosom before coming back to her face. She gave him a smile she had practised in the mirror — not the smile of a maiden but the smile of a lady who knew what she was about and would gladly make sure he did too.
It did the trick. Mr. Collins flushed a little, as dots of moisture appeared on his brow. “Perhaps after breakfast, we shall take a walk, Mrs Bennet.”
“Indeed,” she said in a breathy tone. “I would like nothing more.”