Renee Olsthoorn

Bed of roses

Renée Olsthoorn

You do not know what I suffer

`Hill! Oh, Hill! Where are you, Hill? Why are you never there when I need you? Bring my tea now. Have you no compassion on my poor nerves?' 

After ringing the bell a second time with the last strength she could muster, enforcing the sound of it with her piercing voice, a very low-spirited Mrs. Bennet fell back on the pillows of her bed, groaning and grumbling.

Poor Mrs. Bennet. What agonies she suffered. Indeed, every single soul who witnessed the manner in which she amused herself the previous night did not need much imagination to comprehend how she felt. When she awoke the morning following the Netherfield Ball, Mrs. Bennet was quite ill. Her stomach was utterly upset and ached as if it had received a violent punch, her limbs felt numb and her hands were shaking. She could scarcely lift her arm to protect her excessively sensitive eyes against the rays of the autumn sun that were so bold as to shine through the chink between the curtains.

And her head! Oh, her poor, poor head: the headache she was suffering was well nigh unbearable. She attempted to moisten her lips, but her tongue was dry as parchment, and she noticed with disgust the foul taste in her mouth. With a glance at her chamber pot, her stomach clenched and she remembered briefly the delicate white soup, roasted chicken, cold ham and exquisite red wine she had enjoyed abundantly at the ball.

Pray, do not think of food or wine now, it will make things worse. Mrs. Bennet warned herself. My goodness. Considering the state I am in now, I would most happily assign Longbourn to Mr. Collins in exchange for a drop of laudanum, a strong hot cup of tea and some fresh air! `Hi..iill, where are you?' She uttered feebly a third time.

Mrs. Bennet had never felt so awful in all her life and could not but admit for once that it was the result of her own doings: she knew very well that she, against her better judgement, had overindulged in the intoxicating beverages and tempting dishes offered by the elegant Netherfield hosts.

`Indeed, I had a drop or two too much. But is that reason enough for such a severe punishment? Good Lord, I would rather give birth to a child than be in the state I am in now! Upon my word, I will never touch a glass of wine again!'

Whilst revelling in her current agonies, the events of the previous evening slowly came back to her. In spite of her flutterings, palpitations, nausea and excrutiating headache, she managed a faint smile. It had been such an enjoyable, entertaining evening and she was so proud of her family, including Mr. Collins, who conversed with Mr. Darcy in a most civil manner. Indeed, they all made such a favourable impression on the Netherfield party. Jane was so admired by Mr. Bingley. He danced at least three dances with her and could not keep his eyes from her.

Mrs. Bennet was confident that he indeed favoured her above every other girl in the neighbourhood and was convinced that it would not be long before a certain desirable event took place. Another, quite astonishing occurrence of the evening, which caused the amazement of the entire room, was that Mr. Darcy stood up with her Lizzy. Initially she was quite vexed that Lizzy had not refused that proud, disagreeable man. However, the looks on the faces of Lady Lucas and Mrs. Long, in which one could read a mixture of envy and admiration, had not escaped her notice. That had made her so happy.

Last but not least, Lydia and Kitty danced every dance, and Mary sung beautifully. Mrs. Bennet unconsciously whispered the words: `Cometh breathe over thee?' Indeed the warm applause Mary received was very well deserved. It was most ungracious of Mr. Bennet to prevent her from singing another song. Ah well, I should have known: he always takes delight in vexing us. Teasing, teasing man. Mrs. Bennet mused resignedly.

As far as Mrs. Bennet was concerned, the evening had not lasted long enough. Thus, it was hardly surprising that the Bennets left the premises long after all the other guests had done so. Whilst finally taking their leave of the Netherfield party - whose faces spoke volumes - Mrs. Bennet had been too far gone to notice the embarrassment of her husband and two eldest daughters. If she had, she probably would not have cared. Quite euphoric in her intoxicated condition, she shouted out loud with a thick tongue her high hopes for her daughters to marry rich men and exclaimed what an agreeable, obliging man Mr. Bingley was, how charming his sisters were and how sensible a young man Mr. Collins was.

Because of her unsteady walk, her husband and eldest daughter had to support her on their descent from the main entrance of Netherfield Park, which was, even in the case of Mrs. Bennet, whose want of propriety was notorious in the vicinity of Meryton, a most indecorous sight. Small wonder then that her husband heaved a sigh of relief when he finally managed to literally push her into the carriage and close the door, rendering her unfortunate utterances out of earshot of the Netherfield party.

Wiping her forehead with a handkerchief drenched in lavender, Mrs. Bennet pondered contently: I wager that this ball will turn out as the most fortunate of events. Mr. Bingley and Jane will marry as will Mr. Collins and Lizzy, Lydia and Kitty will undoubtedly live happily ever after each with one of the officers and Mary will remain at home to take care of her mother. My future is finally secure.

Whilst Mrs. Bennet gave free reign to her musings, leaving Mr. Bennet entirely out of consideration, Hill entered her mistress's chamber to bring her her morning tea. Regaining her usual histrionic self, she said: `Ah, Hill, there you are. You do not know what I suffer?'

©Renée Olsthoorn


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