Light flooded in through the nearby window as the clouds moved past and the sun crept into view, rousing Mr. Bennet from a long think. Like an elderly cat in a sunbeam, Mr. Bennet slowly and carefully stretched his achey, disused bones in the warmth and then dragged his hands exasperatedly down his face in an attempt to rouse himself from the quiet, dusty, tucked-away corner of his sleepy mind where he had been residing.
In a few hours he and his rather cumbersome family would be visiting Netherfield Park to attend the ball of the recently arrived Mr. Bingley. The name was burned into his ears, ringing like a shrill bell that sounded a little too much like his wife. It would take him at least as many hours to prepare himself to bear the excursion.
He began reviewing his usual mental blocks, running them over and over to be sure he had them down to a T before entering the social battlefield. Six young daughters and ridiculous wife had given him plenty of practice to develop the ability to seal himself inside the long corridors and bookshelves of his own mind. The trouble, more often, was pulling himself back out again.
He practiced his very best standoffish “I’m musing” face to avoid being drawn into conversation with any of the gossip-drenched tongues of his neighbors. Resting Bennet face would scare off the chattiest of acquaintances. Little did Mr. Bennet know that no one had approached him for a talk in many years. The local population much preferred his loquacious wife.
Then Mr. Bennet started repeating his mental lexicon of responses that he could use despite the context because neither Mrs. Bennet, Kitty, or Lydia would hear a single word no matter how much they badgered him.
“Yes, my dear.”
“Oh, I’m sure.”
“I don’t see why not.”
“What is his name?”
“I leave you to your own trifle amusements.”
He could always keep the lack of any answer at all in his back pocket if he wanted to completely torment his wife or youngest daughters. He chuckled a bit at the thought. He knew Jane would blossom in her element. Though she may have been somewhat reserved, she was born holding tight to a book on etiquette, he was certain. Mary would, as ever, be the odd one out. She was terribly uncomfortable at these affairs and though she hid it well, her father knew it was her nerves rather than her mother’s that truly suffered. His thoughts made their way to Lizzie and with them came a smile as warm as those rays of sunlight. She held all of the same manners as Jane, but she was bold and bright and tough. She made him prouder than any son ever could and he trusted her above all else to keep the rest of his family in line. And with that comforting thought he allowed himself to drift back into the delectable doze from which he had been roused.