Lydia Bennet's Story begins with some of Lydia's thoughts from her journal - the following precedes Chapter One. Lydia's journal appears at intervals throughout the book; I had a lot of fun getting inside Lydia's head and 'seeing' her version of the events that take place. I hope you enjoy what follows - Jane Odiwe.
Tuesday, April 13th
I have quite worn out my silk dancing slippers at the Assembly Ball tonight by standing up with several very handsome officers for every country jig and figure. Indeed, on entering the Rooms I had barely cast my eye about before I was applied to by a string of gentlemen, though sadly, they were not all officers. I must say there is something about a soldier, which makes an excellent partner - I am quite giddy in their company!
I wore my tamboured muslin, which becomes me extraordinarily well and received so many compliments I was quite the belle of the ball. So smitten by my saucy looks were the officers of the Derbyshire militia, I swear I sat down not once! I danced the first two with Mr Maybury, then Mr Denny, Mr Wooton, Mr Blount and Mr Wooton again; then a simpering coxcomb, Mr Cavendish, followed by Mr Wickham. That gentleman danced and teased me by turns - he has a way of looking into my eyes, which I find most disconcerting. Mr Wooton begged to dance again but I was heartily sick of him, so as the supper bell rang, I affected a fainting seizure with an attack of the vapours, which had the opposite of the desired outcome, making him attend me all the more. It also meant that I missed dancing the Allemande, which I love - hateful man!!
Mr Blount took me quite unawares at the supper table, by presenting me with a small package. On closer examination, I guessed it had been sent from Mr Howett who was indisposed this evening. Enfolded in a piece of violet scented paper was what I can only imagine to be a lock of his hair, (nasty, wispy, sort of stuff) with a page of sentimental poetry, (clearly not of his own invention). As soon as I had the opportunity, I disposed of this unwanted gift, as I happened to be passing the huge chimneypiece on one side of the room. Unfortunately, I had not taken into consideration the stench a large lock of hair like that can make and the paper would smoulder and only half burnt. It caught the attention of my mother who is generally not so observant but she has a suspicious nature. However, I managed to convince her that it was merely a lock of my own hair that I had cut off because it was being unruly, wrapped in an old laundry bill. Fortunately, I am the apple of her eye and she is easily placated.
Mr Maybury asked me to take a turn with him in the grounds as he suddenly became overheated whilst conversing by the fire. No sooner had we stepped through the french doors than the naughty man was begging to steal a kiss and as I was thus constrained between a jagged wall and a rugged man I was forced to surrender. Note to myself - will hereafter forbear kissing gentlemen with whiskers - they tickle too much!
Mr Wootton is threatening to pay court and at the very least will call tomorrow. His eyes are too close together and he has damp palms, bad teeth and breath reminiscent of a stableyard privy. No doubt he will bring Mr Blount for my poor sister, Kitty. He is equally captivating, being two feet nothing, with more fat than a hind of pork and with eyes that squint out from a florid visage like a slapped behind. Mr Edwards will be dragged along in tow to plead their case - we must visit Aunt Phillips and escape the deputation.
His whiskers might tickle but he is so gallant. I long to see Mr Maybury again! Mrs Lydia Maybury – there, that looks very well!
Tuesday, April 22nd
As a result of certain incidents that have lately taken place, I have decided to reside quietly at home and forgo any trips to Meryton or flirtations with officers for a month at the very least. Likewise, when the time comes for me to step out into Meryton again, I will be more cautious in my choice of company and look for more than a handsome face amongst the gentlemen. I shall not let Mr Maybury know he has quite broke my heart - I dareswear I shall never look at a fellow again! He is a very sly young man and as Kitty pointed out, not only is his nose too long for sincerity of character, but I have also had a narrow escape from an alliance, which surely would never have been happy. She quite rightly says that I am none the worse for the experience, only she and Mr Wickham know of his dallying with my heart and I can trust both of THEM implicitly.
It is my greatest desire to fall in love and catch myself a husband, yet, whilst I am truly proficient in the art of becoming enamoured, so far finding my partner in life eludes me, however vigilant I have been in that endeavour. My fondness for an officer as befitting exactly what I require in a husband is so well established, that it would take a good looking man indeed to capture my affections, if he had not the added attraction of a scarlet coat. But to tell the truth, I am fast learning that not all soldiers are the marrying kind!
I have decided to devote the next few weeks to refining and polishing accomplishments, that for my good fortune I am already liberally blessed. I am to give more time and effort to preserving my Beauty, Health and Loveliness, whilst exercising a Graceful Attitude in Deportment and cultivating my Superior and Beautiful mind. Kitty and I have drawn up some ideas and instructions (gleaned from some Ladies books on the Art of Beauty and Accomplishments) for a new plan, and we have both agreed that we will not entertain any officers even if they should call!
Friday, April 23rd
Kitty and I have had a most wonderful day devoted to ourselves. Hill woke us at a little before five as requested but we decided it might be more fortuitous to our walk and our constitutions, if we could actually see where we were going. We had not considered the lack of daylight on a cold April morning, and so we determined to delay our ramble until eight, thereby shortening the time and distance to be covered and thus being duly returned by the breakfast hour. We set off in the direction of Holly Knoll but had only got half way, when the sun disappeared behind a black cloud and we had the misfortune to be caught in a sharp shower and were drenched through with rain. We have decided that in future we may just as well lie in bed and will postpone our brisk walking until June at least, as tramping through mud, rain and cowpats is strictly injurious to a graceful carriage of the body.
We sat down to breakfast at the appointed hour but it was a rather poor affair, toast and tea instead of the requested steak and ale. Mama was in ill humour.
It has to be said that Rebecca and Mrs Hill were not as delighted to see us in their kitchen as we might have expected but were very helpful, especially with the receipt for a face mask. Lord how we laughed; the breadcrumbs would keep falling off, despite the sticking effect of egg whites and vinegar. Finally, Rebecca suggested that we sit round, with our heads lain upon the table top. Just as we were made comfortable, Mr Hill came in and asked if he should cut off our heads to match the chickens that were lying on the other side awaiting plucking. We could not help but laugh at him, although his manner of speaking was such that if you didn’t know better, you might think he meant it.
Rebecca was sweetness itself, in making up our faces and declaring she had never seen such beauties. For her kindness, we returned the favour but I am not so sure that she was as pleased with our efforts as we were with hers. It has to be said that the canvas we were working on is no painting in oils and Kitty’s insistence on applying the ‘Liquid Bloom of Roses’ was rather too artistic. Rebecca looked more likely to be at home in Drury Lane but Ned the stable boy, seemed rather to like it and chased her around the kitchen begging for a kiss from her ruby lips!
We pressed on with our dancing practice and Kitty had the marvellous idea of asking Rebecca and Ned to join us. The poor boy was quite worn out before we had finished with him and played the part of the gentleman exceptionally well, though I had to scold him for his insolence. As Rebecca and Kitty were whirling one another round in a very dizzy fashion, he whispered in my ear that he had never seen such pretty ankles as mine in the dance. I did not like to admonish him too much, after all, I am sure what he says is perfectly true!
Still, our performances certainly cheered up mama who laughed and clapped and hummed songs for us until Mary deigned to give us a few tunes on the pianoforte.
We have spent the evening in refined conversation with papa who did not attend to a word we said, so just to vex him; we took turns about the drawing room, walking with great Fluidity and Elegance. Mama was in such excellent spirits that the workbox did not make an appearance and we three were all in high spirits. Kitty and I are determined to keep up our admirable routine, though we have been persuaded to venture out tomorrow by a missive from dear Harriet Forster who has promised news and gossip, not to be missed. I do not think I shall come to any harm just by strolling out to Meryton and have cause to think that a little exercise and company can only do me good!
Extract from Lydia Bennet's Story by Jane Odiwe