‘But here, by my carrying with me one ceaseless source of regret. . . I may reasonably hope to have all my expectations of pleasure realized. A scheme of which every part promises delight, can never be successful; and general disappointment is only warded off by the defence of some little peculiar vexation.’ Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice Vol. II, Chap XIX
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a married man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a son.
This truth is so well known, that all families related to the man consider his heir to be their rightful descendent and all of his neighbours await the new arrival.
‘My dear Mr. Bennet,’ said his lady to him one day, ‘have you not considered that it is six months since our two eldest were married?’
‘Why should I consider this?’ replied Mr. Bennet, though he daily remembered the wit and sense they brought to his otherwise foolish household.
‘But it is so. I have thought of little else since their nuptials. How can you not have?’
‘I leave such consideration up to you, my dear. Why should I squander my time on matters which occupy all of yours?’
‘Well, my dear, you must reflect upon the fact we have had no word from either girl since her wedding day.’
‘Now there, I have caught you in an untruth, for I see a pile of no less than five letters from each daughter upon your writing table.’
‘Mr. Bennet, pity my nerves with your tiresome responses.’
‘My dear, I could hardly pity the nerves you use to trump every conversation.’
Mrs. Bennet carried on, ignoring Mr. Bennet.
‘Mr. Bennet, you must know, both Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley are men of large fortunes. Why just the other day, Mrs. Long mentioned such large fortunes must be insured by the acquisition of an heir.’
Here Mrs. Bennet’s voice dropped, uncharacteristically.
‘You know I never tell a falsehood, I was only trying to be delicate in the presence of our two unmarried daughters.’
‘What did you say Mrs. Bennet? I can hardly hear you at so moderate a decibel.’
Mrs. Bennet made an utterance of exasperation and raised her voice to its regular volume.
‘I said, Mr. Bennet, I was trying to be delicate in the presence of our two unmarried daughters. I should not wish to startle them with talk of producing an heir.’
‘Now, Mrs. Bennet, do you not think you should lower your voice when speaking of such subjects?’ Mr. Bennet admonished with a barely repressed twinkle. ‘Especially when our unmarried daughters might overhear you.’
At this, Kitty coughed and Mary flipped quickly though her latest book. Mrs. Bennet, so used to Mr. Bennet’s daily exasperations, continued on her quest.
‘If you were only to visit our neighbours more frequently and inquire upon the visitations of their young men, perhaps our younger daughters would be married by now rather than being present to overhear my indelicate remarks.’
‘Heaven help us, Mrs. Bennet, for then who would save me from such indelicate remarks?’
‘What I propose, Mr. Bennet, is a letter from you to our eldest daughters encouraging them in the matter I earlier mentioned.’
Mr. Bennet had been pushed beyond his ability to banter and flew into a strong, though entirely brief, rage.
‘My dear, surely you jest! How do you suppose such a letter would look?’ Mr. Bennet’s face had taken on a hint of rouge at his lady’s impropriety.
‘Of course, you would not come right out and say what I mean, only hint at the importance of subservience and attention to their husbands.’
Mr. Bennet returned once more to his sarcasm and humour.
‘I fear, my dear, they would not know of which I wrote. From where did our girls ever observe such qualities in this home?’ At this, Mr. Bennet turned from the room and was not to be seen for the remainder of the afternoon.
‘Really Kitty, do control control that cough. You are ruining my nerves.’
Mrs. Bennet breathed quickly while Kitty tried to apologize and return her mother to equilibrium. Mary, knowing her own attentions would only be ignored, turned another page in her endless book.