[Note: This is a story that might have been added by Bennet’s father to the book he and Elizabeth received in my novel, Oxford Cottage.]
Bennet scampered into the room. “Mama, Mama. Look at the frog, Mama!” He shoved a muddy, wiggling creature under his mother’s nose. “I found him near the pond. He was hard to catch.” His small face shone with triumph. Globs of mud dripped from his hands unto the floor. His feet were shoeless and a trail of muddy prints formed a trail from the door to the sitting room.
“Marie, there appears to be no need for the search party; the young master has found us. Please, instruct someone to draw a bath.” Elizabeth spoke to the nurse maid that stood at her side, mouth agape. “Bennet, do not move.” She gave him a stern stare. “Roger, a container with a lid, please.” The footman quickly fetched a small lidded crock. She pointed to the frog. “I believe, Bennet’s new friend would much rather be back at the pond with his family instead of in my house.” The footman carefully placed the crock under Bennet’s hands and the lid above. With a pout, Bennet released the frog, and Roger secured the lid before the frog could make an escape.
“Thank you, Master Bennet. I shall return your friend to his family where he can await your next visit.” Roger smiled at Elizabeth and gave a bow. Elizabeth bit the side of her cheek to keep from smiling in return.
“Roger, could you please alert Mrs. Reynolds that my floors are unfortunately in need of some attention.”
“Very well, Madame.” He stepped gingerly across the muddy trail, the crock held firmly in his hands.
Elizabeth turned to her son. “It seems you have lost your shoes, my child. Are they still at the pond?” Bennet nodded his head. “And your socks, they are there as well?” Again, Bennet nodded his head. “And you found a friend at the pond?” Bennet’s eyes sparkled and his head bounced up and down.
Elizabeth sighed. She found it very difficult to look into those eyes, the eyes that reminded her so much of his father when he laughed, and remain stern. She pulled her brows together and looked at the mud that covered the floor and her son; she really must chide him for his thoughtlessness. “You have created a great deal of extra work for many people, son. There are servants who will now have to spend time washing a floor that has already been washed and drawing a bath that did not have to be drawn.” The sparkle was gone from his eyes in an instant, and he furrowed his brows; another expression so like his father. Elizabeth’s heart pinched. She knew he needed to learn to be responsible, but she would not allow that sparkle to be lost. How long had it taken her to get his father’s eyes to sparkle in amusement? She placed her hands on her hips and scowled down at her son. “And then there are those who will have to attempt to get the mud out of your clothing and mine.”
“Your clothes are not muddy, Mama.”
“Not yet,” said Elizabeth. Then, she scooped him up. “Now, they are muddy. Did you think I would allow you to walk any further? That would have only created more work for the servants. A master must always treat those within his employ with kindness and respect. Creating unnecessary work is neither kind nor respectful.”
Bennet snuggled his face into his mother’s neck and wrapped his muddy arms around her. “Sorry, Mama.”
“I am not the person that needs to hear those words.”
Bennet looked up at his mother, a questioning look upon his face.
“It is not I who shall have to do all the extra work, my son. After we retrieve your shoes and socks, and you take a dip in the pond to remove some of this mud, we shall return to the house, and you will bathe. Then, I shall come see you in the nursery, and we shall devise a plan to compensate the servants who have done extra work today due to your actions. Do you understand?”
Bennet nodded his head against his mother’s chest.
“It was a fine frog though, my son.” She kissed the top of his head. “There is a book in the library that has several drawing of frogs. Perhaps we could look at that later? And maybe you could draw me a picture of your friend?”
A smile broke out across Bennet’s face. “His name is Percival. But I call him Percy.”
Elizabeth chuckled as she carried her son out of the house. He continued to relate to her the great effort that went into the capturing of Percy.
Darcy watched from the door that attached his study to the sitting room. He never tired of watching his wife no matter what she was doing, but the way she had instructed his son about how to treat those in his employ without damaging his spirit was enchanting. Mrs. Reynolds approached him, towels in hand. Darcy shrugged out of his coat and removed his waist coat. He exchanged them with his housekeeper for the towels.
“I have asked Sally to draw a bath for Mrs. Darcy. Will she be needing Sally’s assistance, sir?” Mrs. Reynolds asked with a playful glint in her eye.
Darcy smiled at the elderly woman who was more mother to him than servant. “No, I think we can manage.”
She chuckled. “Good. It is about time Master Bennet had a sibling.”
Darcy bent and whispered in her ear, “If I am correct, he shall have one very soon, but since I have not been told, one must not shirk his duty.” He chuckled at her gasp. “Now, I am off to meet Percival and offer to carry my young scamp of a son back to the house so his mother does not have to do it.” He hoped that the visit with the frog would not take too long. He was rather looking forward to helping his wife remove the mud from her neck.