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Smarter Than She Looks

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Mrs. Bennet knew very well that Mrs Darcy, formerly Miss Price, was not truly from Hammersmith. On their journey to Hammersmith to retrieve Lydia and Mr. Bingley, she saw nothing at all that could serve as an explanation for the woman. Her ill-cut hair, painted lips, immodest clothes and outrageous behaviour remained unique. Nor did Mrs. Bennet see anything to explain Lizzie, who had stayed away for so long without a word, and then returned home without her hair yet with a new and higher tilt of her chin.

This terrified her. The world was too full of dangers for her to want the most headstrong of her daughters running off to foreign parts. Lydia's elopement and Jane's unfortunate first marriage had been all the misery she could take. Though both her daughters had escaped their ordeals unscathed, Mrs. Bennet now only wished for her daughter to have peace and happiness. It would have been moderately more tolerable if at least Lizzie had brought a man home, so that her mother would have been able to gauge something of her living habits; men were ever so much better clues than strange diets could ever be.

There was no point to telling Mr. Bennet of her fears; she had tried, and he had dismissed her as he always did when she said things he did not want to hear. In the end, she was forced to draw the conclusion that he either didn't care that their daughter and Miss Price were serving them blatant lies, or that he indeed conspired with the girls to do so.

Perhaps her husband's lack of concern should have put her at ease, but she was far too aquainted with his character. Were his daughters lost in a heathen jungle where wild beasts roamed, no doubt he would find a pithy comment to make about that also.

No, her main comfort came, strange though it might seem, from Mrs. Darcy herself, because Mrs. Darcy thrived in her marriage. While she had blundered through her maidenhood in a way bordering on the obscene, and quite often seemed to regard the people around her as figures on a chess board to be moved around for her personal amusement, rather than individuals with futures to be considered, she managed her current role very well. There were times Mrs. Bennet suspected Mr. Darcy of directing his wife's moves from behind the curtain, as it were.

Surely, if such a coarse creature could manage happiness and fortune, no less must be said of her own, brave, resourceful Lizzie. Therefore, Mrs. Bennet restrained herself as well as she could and tried not to nag Lizzie too much with concerns of her welfare. Even so, she could not resist asking, quietly, "Are you certain this is the future you want for yourself, Lizzie?"

Lizzie smiled as if she was the keeper of some secret joke. "I will have a glorious future, mother. I only hope..." She broke off, and gave her mother a tender kiss on the cheek. "Promise me, mother, that you will have one too."

The idea of having a glorious future, while still maintaining responsibility for the futures of Lydia, Kitty and Mary, was rather foreign, but something of Lizzie's mien was so encouraging that Mrs. Bennet managed to answer with utter conviction, "Darling, I will."