By Amanda Pizzolatto (alias Aurora Mandeville)
Word Count: 2418
Summary: A story of the Regency era and troubles for men.
Everyone knows that a woman with a large fortune is in need of a man to manage it. Or, in some cases, to use it, if the woman turns out to be a better manager of money than the man; but whatever the case may be, a woman with money is more likely to find a husband than a woman without. At least, that was certainly something Mrs. Collins would often tell her sons. George, the eldest, would only smile and nod at his mother’s somewhat interesting notions. He was also the favored one, the one most likely to get a lovely wife, handsome as he was with his sandy locks and grey eyes. Richard, the youngest, took her words mostly to heart. Considered the second most handsome of the family, though by far the most airheaded of the lot, he was the one who really wanted to please his mother.
The second-youngest, James, seemed to follow Richard around like a puppy dog, being his minion in all his schemes. Charles, the middle child, was not interested in finding a wife at all; he saw no point in it for himself. Then there was Henry, the second eldest. With his dark hair, green eyes, and something of a mysterious demeanor, he turned a lot of ladies’ heads. But of the bunch, he alone loudly voiced his intentions to marry only for love, not money. So what if he had to work harder than most men to keep a roof over his family’s head and food on their table? He would do it for the love of his wife and their children.
Unfortunately, due to his poor health, he couldn’t do a lot of what was required of him in terms of military, farmer, or sailor. His tongue proved too tart for a judge or to be a clergyman. He tried to take up accounting, but found his greatest strength to be words, not numbers. His mother, however, thought it all well and good that he had such poor health; it meant that he would have to marry a woman of consequence in order to get by in the world. And with George taking up the family business in the accounting line, Charles preparing for the clergy, James determined to become a midshipman, and Richard with high hopes of becoming a dashing soldier, Henry didn’t have to worry too much about attempting to find a job, as long as they all stayed at home, for the most part. Henry understood that George would soon want to break away and start a family, but as of right then, he hadn’t found a woman he was interested in. He was currently saving up to purchase a place of his own, though their dear, sweet mother kept insisting on him to wait, there may yet be a rich woman who could provide one.
Henry rolled his eyes every time she said that and would retort with, “Dear sweet mother, how do you ever expect George to be a man if you do not let him work for his own living instead of living off a woman?” And every single time she would glare at him, though she would become quiet after that or switch to a different subject, mainly because George would always speak up. This time, they were in the sitting room, all the men reading and drinking tea while Mrs. Collins was sewing. She barely stopped stitching when she glanced up to glare at her second-eldest.
George let out a sigh before continuing with his usual, “Henry, really? How can you speak thus to your own mother?”
“Oh come now, George, a man has every right to let a woman know when she is wrong, just like a woman has every right to let a man know when he is wrong,” their father said as he flipped a page in his paper. “Though, it’s less of a right and more of a duty, as a right has a few privileges attached to it, while a duty must be done, though begrudgingly and at the expense of being ridiculed.”
Mrs. Collins turned her angry glance upon her husband, who was safely unaware of it thanks to the paper, or at least, at that moment. He would no doubt hear it when the two retired for the night.
“And how exactly do we know what is right and what is wrong?” asked Charles from his corner, poring over the Bible, yet again. It was nice that he liked the Bible so much, but there was only one, and the others would like to read it every now and then.
“Maybe if you let your brothers read that book much more often, they might actually know for sure,” quipped their father.
Charles rolled his eyes and went back to reading the Bible. Henry let out a sigh; they had to have been the most dysfunctional family in all of England. Besides, how could his mother think that a woman with a fortune was in need of a man to manage it? Out of the five of them, George was really the only one qualified and capable of managing anything! Richard and James were as liable to spend it as quickly as their mother could. Charles could care less about money; besides, he was more interested in the clergy than anything else; hence his Bible hugging. And Henry was expensive only because becoming a writer was the best option he had.
The whole family jumped when feverous knocks came crashing on their front door.
“Who in the world could that be?” asked Mrs. Collins as Henry watched one of the maids rush to the front.
“Guess we shall find out,” muttered Mr. Collins as he folded up his newspaper.
The maid came rushing into the room and gave a quick curtsy. “It’s your sister, ma’am, says she must speak with you.”
“Oh,” muttered Mr. Collins as he rolled his eyes and unfolded his newspaper.
“Oh no,” mumbled Henry
“Well, of course! My sister is always welcome here!” exclaimed Mrs. Collins as she eyed both men before picking up her sewing. The maid gave a quick curtsy and left, returning with Mrs. Collins’ sister.
“Oh my dear Mrs. Collins, I have some wonderful news!” she stated as she rushed to sit next to her sister.
“My goodness, you are rather flushed, Mrs. Russell!”
“Oh, because I just had to rush over here once I heard! Did you know, Crescentwood is to be let to a wealthy family!” she exclaimed as she grabbed Mrs. Collins’ shoulders in her excitement. She just as quickly let go and fixed her hat. “I figured you would want to know.”
“What do you know of the family?” asked Mrs. Collins, her eyes clearly picking out George. By then, everyone was listening.
Mrs. Russell smiled; she had their attention. “The family is rumored to have four daughters, and that the father is eagerly seeking a son-in-law, or more, so that the wealth can stay within the family instead of being inherited by a cousin,” replied Mrs. Russell with a big grin.
Henry let out a soft groan when his mother’s eyes passed over all five of her sons; she was going to play matchmaker. Or, at least try to.
“Oh my, well, we should definitely welcome them to the neighborhood!” exclaimed Mrs. Collins, looking pointedly at Mr. Collins.
“As in, having a party?” asked Richard excitedly. Mrs. Collins and Mrs. Russell glanced at him excitedly.
“Oh, that’s a wonderful idea, Richard! What do you say, Mr. Collins? Should we not throw a party to welcome the new family to the neighborhood?”
Mr. Collins sighed, folded up his paper again, and finally spoke, “It would be nice, would it not? However, I must remind you, there is not enough room at Newpoint for a party of your tastes or size.”
“But there is plenty of room at Ivylane. I shall talk to Mr. Russell about it and get you your invites as soon as I know,” remarked Mrs. Russell as she placed her hand reassuringly on her sister’s hand.
“Oh, will you? That would be wonderful!” exclaimed Mrs. Collins as she clasped her sister’s hand. “Oh, my boys may yet be married by next year!”
“Mother!” cried Henry, causing everyone to look at him. He rose stiffly and placed his book on the table before giving a quick bow. “Thank you for your consideration, but as an adult, I make my own decisions. Good evening, Mrs. Russell, Mother, Father.” Without waiting for another word or look, he practically stomped out of the room. He dashed up the stairs, breathing quickly so as to let out his anger. Oh, his mother could be so frustrating!
“Henry!” called out George. But Henry didn’t stop until he was in his room. He sat down on the bed, crossed his arms, and waited for George to come through the door.
A minute later, George burst through. “What is with you today?” he asked as he sat next to Henry.
“What do you think? It’s the usual with me. You know Aunt Russell is going to leave here with the report that you acted like an angel as always and I’m just the devil in disguise.”
“Henry,” berated his brother with a sigh.
“You know it’s true, you’ve been Mother’s favorite ever since we were little. I mean, come on, with your sandy locks and your grey eyes, you were destined to be an angel,” stated Henry as he tried to make his voice high-pitched and fluttered his eyelashes. George merely shook his head while trying not to smile. “At least, according to mother; and boy was she ever right.”
“Well, you can rest assured that you’re at least Father’s favorite, being the devil’s advocate and all,” George said with a smirk.
Henry scoffed, “Right, but then, if you’re the angel and I’m the devil, what does that make Charles, James, and Richard?”
“Mere humans, my dear brother; our parents finally got it right,” replied George with a pat on Henry’s back. Henry eyed him as he scrunched up his nose.
“Charles, James, and Richard they got right? Which household did you grow up in?” Henry’s face went from dead serious to a silly grin, causing George to burst out laughing. Henry joined in, until he began to cough. George instantly got him to his feet and bent him over, patting him on his back until the coughing fit died down.
“Alright, that’s enough excitement for you, time for bed,” he ordered.
“Alright, alright, let me change into my night clothes, please. I can do that myself, thank you,” stated Henry as he went about getting ready for bed.
“Do you have your water?” asked George, looking for the glass by the bedside. Henry picked it up to show him.
“Good, now . . .”
“Keep talking like that and you’ll convince me that you were meant to be a doctor,” Henry teased.
George sighed as he shook his head. “Come on, Henry, please be serious.”
“What? You don’t have a problem with our dear sweet mother setting us up with some women we haven’t even met?” grumbled Henry.
“Ah, so that’s the problem.”
“Oh, come on! You should know by now that’s always been my problem!” Henry snapped. It was followed by a quick cough, causing him to pick up the glass and drink.
“And you should know by now that your health has always been my problem,” snapped George. Henry glanced at him in surprise, George rarely got upset. George heaved a sigh when he noticed the look on Henry’s face. “I’m sorry, it’s just; sometimes, you act so selfishly. You do understand that I would go crazy if you weren’t around?”
“You mean, you would have left at the first chance you got if it hadn’t been for me and my health?”
“What? No! It’s not like I can leave just yet, I don’t have enough money saved up to buy my own place! Besides, I’m the one who’s going to inherit everything.”
Henry smiled and gave a soft chuckle, “That is true.”
“Well, I should be going, and you should get to bed. There’s a lot that has to be done,” stated George as he got up to leave.
“To meet our future wives?” mumbled Henry.
“To welcome the new family to town; you need to stop expecting things will go Mother’s way. Let’s just go to the party, meet the family, and do nothing else. Mother doesn’t have to be always right.”
Henry let out a sigh, “Oh, alright, if you insist; unless, of course, you’re thinking that one of those women is to be your future wife.”
“Hey, we have only established that you don’t want to make one of them your future wife, that doesn’t mean I can’t be open to the idea for myself.”
“Well, alright, maybe they won’t be as bad as I’m making them out to be.”
“Good idea, dear brother, after all, you have never even seen them. You know as much as the rest of us; there are four daughters and they’re wealthy. What did you expect to learn about them based on that information?”
Henry let out a laugh. “Oh, alright, alright; I see your point.”
“Good, now time for bed,” remarked George as he went to his brother and led him to his bed.
“You’re right yet again, George, I will admit it. But I can go to bed on my own, thank you,” said Henry as he shook his brother’s hand off of his arm. But he did move closer to his bed to show that he was at least heading there.
“Alright, good night,” said George as he walked towards the door.
“Good night,” said Henry before George closed the door behind him.
He heaved a sigh after George left, and crawled into bed. Yes, George was right, as usual, but he really did not want to give his mother the satisfaction of being right again. But as he slowly drifted off the sleep, he couldn’t help but wonder about the new family moving into town. Yes, they were wealthy with four daughters, their mother’s dream come true, but what were they like? Could they even be friends? All he knew was, if any woman tried to break his brother’s heart, she would come to regret it.