Chapters of Rush to the Altar

Chapter 1 – Rush to the Altar – Funny Pride and Prejudice Variation

Unedited, beta version.

Elizabeth Bennet lifted her eyes from the pages of a heavy, leather-bound volume on British history and looked curiously at the dramatic entrance of her mother whose extravagant rustle of skirts announced her arrival in Longbourn’s drawing-room.
“Look, Mr. Bennet, look!” Mrs. Bennet cried with breathlessness bordering on hysteria, her voice shrill enough to make the porcelain teacups rattle on the polished wooden side table. She waved a piece of paper in the air like a conquering flag. “I have made a discovery that will change our lives and the futures of our dear daughters!”
Intrigued and bemused amidst the chaos, Mr. Bennet emerged from behind his newspaper with an ironic arch of his brow, the crisp sound of turning pages mingling with the sweet song of birds outdoors. The eldest Bennet sister, Jane, set aside her embroidery, her gentle hands pausing beneath the delicate latticework of silk thread she had been working on, the soft swish of her skirt testifying her genuine interest.
Meanwhile, Lydia giggled, the playful toss of her bonnet onto a nearby corner chair echoing a mischievous jangle of laughter. “Oh, do tell, Mama! Is it adventure you promise us? Treasure or pirates, perhaps?”
The sudden silence felt almost as palpable as the tension in the room; Elizabeth could feel it settle around them like a swirling fog.
“Silence, girls!” Mrs. Bennet commanded, clutching her fluttering heart, her breathing ragged and labored. “This is no joking matter. I have discovered—nay, deciphered—a loophole in the inheritance document of dear Longbourn!”
The sisters held their breath collectively, attention fixed on their mother whose flushed cheeks glistened.
“You see,” continued Mrs. Bennet triumphantly, whispers of a relieved smile gracing her pink lips, “it states that if one of Mr. Bennet’s daughters marries a gentleman of substantial means, then that odious Mr. Collins cannot lay his grasping hands on our beloved house!”
“Indeed?” mused Mr. Bennet, crossing one leg over the other leisurely as he watched the scene unfold before him.
“Preposterous!” Mary declared, her nose scrunching up in distaste. “That doesn’t make any sense. The house is intended for a male heir to support the family. If we were to marry someone wealthy, then what need would there be to secure Longbourn?”
“I don’t know why it’s written this way, but it is,” Mrs. Bennet insisted, momentarily flustered but steadfast. “It says so in writing! No matter how strange or baffling, there it is.”
“But why,” asked Kitty, her curiosity piqued, “has this groundbreaking discovery not been made before?”
“You see, dear child,” Mrs. Bennet explained with a touch of embarrassment, “I have never spent much time examining this document—at least, not until today.” She cleared her throat and continued, “Earlier, as I sought our treasured family Bible for Mary, I chanced upon this well-concealed paper tucked within its pages. Imagine my surprise!”
The room erupted into excited murmurs peppered with incredulity, each sister exchanging wide-eyed glances. The reality of their newfound hope trickled through them like a stream cutting across the still meadow of uncertainty.
“All our prayers answered!” Jane whispered softly to Elizabeth, who despite her reservations couldn’t help but feel a thrilling lurch of possibility.
Mrs. Bennet clasped her hands together, allowing herself an indulgent smile. “My dear girls, we are saved from ruin—all thanks to the fortuitous revelation of this once-hidden clause. Now, let us set our sights on those wealthy gentlemen, and secure Longbourn’s future with haste!”
“And who might you propose for such a duty, wife? Or rather, which of our daughters should bear this crucial role?”
“Why, our dear Jane, for she is already beloved by the charming Mr. Bingley, and perhaps even Elizabeth, provided she can secure an appropriate match,” declared Mrs. Bennet, her gaze settling upon her second daughter.
Elizabeth stared at her mother with sudden alarm. “And whom do you imagine to be perfect for me, Mama? Dare I inquire as to your potential suitors?”
Her mother’s answer came much too quickly: “Mr. Darcy, of course! Despite his ill-concealed disdain towards you at the Meryton assembly, he would serve your purposes well.”
The incredulity surging through Elizabeth nearly boiled over. How could her mother seriously suggest such a miserable alliance—binding herself to a man who openly detested her! The thought sent a shiver down her spine, making her acutely aware of the beads of sweat forming on her brow, which seemed simultaneously to burn like hot embers and chill her to the bone.
“You wish me to marry a man who publicly despises me? Surely, there must be other, more amicable means of securing our home!” Elizabeth choked on what could only be described as indignation blooming within her breast.
Undeterred, Mrs. Bennet gesticulated wildly before pressing a clammy hand to her dew-drenched forehead, every breath recaptured turning in vain to restore the voice in which she declared, “Oh, but think of the wealth, Lizzy! The respectability—and the carriages!” Her countenance softened with genuine affection. “I only want what’s best for us all.”
Lydia chimed in, toying with her bonnet’s silk ribbons, “Well, how much is ‘substantial means,’ Mama? I’m quite sure they would have to be making enough money.”
The sisters awaited their mother’s response, who responded, flustered, “It merely says that he must be ‘a man of substantial means.’ There isn’t a specific amount stated.” She turned to her husband expectantly, “Right, Mr. Bennet?”
Mr. Bennet, conceding that curiosity had finally triumphed over his long-suffering amusement, fetched his reading glasses and held the document before his eyes. After a moment spent scrutinizing the inked lines, he raised a brow. “Indeed, dear wife, that is what it says. But perhaps we should write to the solicitor’s office for a more precise definition of ‘substantial.'”
Mrs. Bennet all but waved away this suggestion like a bothersome gnat, confidence saturating her voice as she declared, “Oh, pish posh! If Mr. Bingley doesn’t qualify with his fortune, then Mr. Darcy most assuredly would with his ten thousand pounds a year! Elizabeth, you simply must marry Mr. Darcy.”
“But, Mama,” protested Elizabeth, “it was Mr. Bingley who expressed interest in Jane. Surely he—”
“We do not yet know if Mr. Bingley’s wealth is sufficient to satisfy the terms of the clause,” Mrs. Bennet interrupted, effectively ending that train of thought. “No, Lizzy, you must set your sights on capturing Mr. Darcy at once, so that we may secure Longbourn!”
Sensing her sisters’ collective apprehension, Mary tentatively remarked, “There’s no need for haste, Mama. Mr. Collins has no knowledge of this clause, after all.”
Her mother’s resolute stare would not be dampened by such a meager attempt at reason. “I do not wish to leave anything to chance,” Mrs. Bennet admonished. “We must work quickly and secure the future of this family!”
The words hung heavy in the air. Elizabeth exchanged glances with the ever-supportive Jane, her blonde hair shimmering like molten gold in the golden rays of the sun as she patted her sister on the arm.
Jane, ever the peacemaker, offered a tender smile that seemed to momentarily warm the room and said, “Surely we can find happiness without sacrificing ourselves entirely to this necessity, dear sister. Let our hearts guide us; I believe they will not lead us astray.”
The sound of youthful laughter bubbled from behind Lydia’s mischievous smile as she interjected boldly, “And wouldn’t it be grand if we found suitable husbands for all five of us, leaving Mr. Collins without a hope in the world?”
Lydia’s excitement at the prospect of attracting rich men was hardly restrained. “We’ll need new finery to charm such gentlemen!” she chimed, her enthusiasm infectious. Kitty joined Lydia as they danced giddily in a little circle holding hands, their laughter like the tinkling bells of carefree liberty.
“Yes, exactly,” Mrs. Bennet agreed with gusto. “We must present ourselves elegantly and fashionably! Just imagine trying to compete with the likes of Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst wearing our current gowns—preposterous!” Her eyes roved over her brood, assessing them with fierce judgment and motherly pride.
Jane, however, attempted to diffuse the situation. “Mama, we don’t require new clothing. I believe that true affection will find us in spite of our appearances.”
Elizabeth interjected, unable to contain her rising frustration. “Furthermore, Mr. Bingley already admires Jane for who she is, not her attire. As for me dressing fancifully for Mr. Darcy—absurd! I’ve no desire to marry him!”
Mrs. Bennet’s temper sparked dangerously at Elizabeth’s defiance. “You will do as you’re told, young lady!” she seethed, cheeks flushed an angry red.
The sisters exchanged wary looks, astonishment etched on their faces over their mother’s outburst.
Mr. Bennet, having been silent until now, finally chimed in. “Now, now, ladies. There’s no need for such heated discussion. Lizzy is quite right, Mr. Bingley seems smitten by her as she is. Besides, it’s not the frocks that make a woman attractive, but her wit and character.”
Jane, feeling the need to ease the tension in the room, spoke up softly. “Mama, I understand your concern. We’ll do our best to find suitable husbands, and take our appearances into consideration.”
Mrs. Bennet, still fuming, couldn’t help but retort. “Well, that may be true for some, but attracting a rich husband requires more than just wit! It doesn’t hurt to present oneself in the best possible manner! Your grandfather’s will leaves us all in a precarious position. It’s your duty as daughters to marry men of substantial means, so that we may secure our family’s future!”
Elizabeth’s voice rang out clear and strong, laced with a hint of defiance. “Very well, Mama. If it is indeed our duty to secure Longbourn’s future, then I shall do my best. But I will not marry for convenience or wealth alone. My heart will have a say in this matter as well.”
Mrs. Bennet huffed, her voice a mixture of frustration and determination. “Well, I’m sure in time you will fall in love with Mr. Darcy.”
Elizabeth’s face flushed with frustration upon hearing, again, Mr. Darcy’s name as the man she was expected to marry.
“As Aesop’s Fable says ‘too much familiarity breeds contempt.’” Mary offered from the corner of the room, her book momentarily abandoned.
This remark elicited a few stifled chuckles from the other sisters.
“Contempt or not,” she retorted, “it’s my life and happiness at stake here. If I cannot respect or truly love the man I marry, what kind of future can we possibly have?”
Jane and Elizabeth nestled in their adjoining beds, the soft flicker of the single candle casting an intimate glow about their shared room. With a sigh, Jane turned to her sister, her voice just above a whisper, “Our life certainly took an unexpected turn today, Lizzy.”

Elizabeth chuckled, but there was a hint of desolation beneath the mirth. “Our mother certainly possesses a flair for dramatic revelations,” she paused before adding, “and a creative sense for matchmaking.”

Smoothing a loose tangle of dark hair away from her face, Jane pressed on hesitantly, “It’s quite startling, isn’t it? To find out that we might have some control over our future after all…”

“Yes,” Elizabeth replied, her voice wistful, “If only it didn’t involve securing it through a union with a man who wears his disdain so blatantly.”

A moment of silence passed between them before Jane gently offered, “Mr. Darcy hasn’t proven himself most affable, especially towards you. But perhaps he has hidden depths or virtues that weren’t immediately apparent.”

Elizabeth huffed, “I doubt such depths could compensate for his contemptible attitude, not even his ten thousand pounds a year.” Her tone was resolute. “No, Jane. I could never respect, let alone love, such a man.”

Jane gazed at her younger sister, admiration glowing in her eyes. “You are right, Lizzy,” she nodded. “As always, your conviction is complete and I admire you for it. True happiness can only be found in a marriage built on love and mutual understanding. It’s what we should aim for.”

“Agreed,” Elizabeth answered softly, an affectionate smile spreading across her face. “Goodnight, Jane.”

“Goodnight, Lizzy,” Jane replied, returning the smile with equal warmth before blowing out the candle and allowing peaceful darkness to envelop them.

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