Southern Fried Austen

I’ll Give You Something to Cry About

After church, everyone went back to the Bennet family farm for Sunday dinner. Elizabeth and Darcy were in the front hallway with her Daddy and Mama when Lydia came through the front door, draggin’ George Wickham behind her. Her daddy took one look at him and squinted.

Mr. Bennet: Boy, I thought I told you not to come ‘round here no more.

Lydia: (crying loudly) But, Daddy, Will Darcy’s here, and Charlie’s comin’. Why can Lizzy and Jane bring their boyfriends, but I can’t? It’s not fair!

Cry about

Mr. Bennet: Lydie, stop that cryin’, or I’ll give you somethin’ to cry about.

Mrs. Bennet: Tom, it’s not Christian to turn the boy away, and you’ve just got back from church. I say he’s welcome at my dinner table on Sunday, even if he can strut sittin’ down. We sat in the same church together this morning, and we can sit down together around a meal. Girls, come help me set everything out. You men can sit in the livin’ room.

The women went to the dining room, goin’ back and forth from the kitchen, settin’ out the food on the dinin’ room table, except the desserts. They went on the buffet table.

Lydia: Mama, George wants me to be in the Miss Sugarfield pageant. I need some new clothes, for I don’t have anythin’ fit to wear.

Mrs. Bennet: Lydia, you know what your Daddy said. If Lizzy isn’t in it, you can’t be either.

Lydia: But, Mama. Lizzy doesn’t like beauty pageants. You know she won’t do it, and I want to be in it.

Lizzy: Nobody’s asked me to be in the Miss Sugarfield pageant. Does it offer scholarship money?

Lydia: Yeah, but you already have a degree. What would you need with scholarship money?

Lizzy: I want to get my master’s degree in journalism.

Lydia: What for? There aren’t any jobs around here for that degree. You’d do better to get a master’s in education. There’re always openings for teachers.

Lizzy: I don’t want to be a school teacher. I want to report on the news and write. Jane’s the school teacher. Come to think of it, she’d get a raise if she had her master’s degree. She should be in the pageant, too.

Lydia: (crying loudly) But I want to win the pageant. I don’t want you two to be in it. It’s not fair! Mama, tell Lizzy it’s not fair!

I'll give you something to cry about

Mrs. Bennet: Lydie, hush up that cryin’, or I’ll let your daddy give you somethin’ to cry about. Here’s Kitty and Mary. Girls, grab those last few dishes and set the table. Jane and Charlie better get here soon. It’s time to eat before the food gets cold.

Kitty and Mary: Yes, ma’am.

Lizzy: I think that’s everything, Mama. It looks wonderful! Good enough to eat. Well, look what the cat drug in. What took you so long, Jane?

Jane: We talked a spell with Charlie’s Mama and Daddy. They wanted us to go out to eat with them, but I told them Mama had been up since dawn cookin’ for us. I promised we’d go out with them next weekend. I didn’t tell Mrs. Bingley, but you can bet the farm I’ll never swap Mama’s home cookin’ for a bought meal.

Lizzy: Everything’s ready. I’ll get the men.

Mrs. Bennet: Lydie, make sure George sits on the other side of you down at that end of the table, away from your Daddy. And put away that duck tape that’s on the buffet table. It’d make him nervous as a prize turkey on Thanksgivin’ day, and he’s a guest here. We want him to feel right at home. Jane, you and Charlie sit between Lydie and your Daddy. The more people we put between George and Tom, the better. Lydie, you’ve got us stuck in a dry pond, but we’ll make the best of it.

Lydia and Jane: Yes ‘um.

Lizzy: Here they are, Mama. Tell us where to sit.

Mrs. Bennet: Lydie and Jane, sit where I told you and take Charlie and George with you. Tom, sit here at the head where you always do. Darcy, you sit at the other end of the table. Lizzy, you’re across from George. Kitty and Mary, sit between me and Lizzy. That’s good. Now, Tom, say grace.

Mr. Bennet: Lord, we thank You for this food. Please bless the hands that prepared it. Amen. Kitty, don’t keep the sweet potatoes all to yourself. Mary, I’m so dry I’m spittin’ cotton. I need some more sweet tea.

Mrs. Bennet: Thankee kindly, Mary. See if anybody else needs more tea yet. You can just leave the pitcher on the buffet table.

George: Lizzy, Lydia tells me she can’t be in the Miss Sugarfield pageant unless you’re in it. I don’t get it.

Lizzy: You don’t have to get it. Daddy said it. The end.

George: Okay. Are you goin’ to be in the pageant?

Lizzy: I’m not big on crowns and sparkly dresses. I don’t like the idea of havin’ my parts judged like a prize hog at the county fair.


That’s me, fourth from  your left, in the 1972 Miss Pageland Pageant. How about those hot pants?


George: How about money? Everybody’s big on money.

Lizzy: I suppose I like money as well as the next person. What’re you offerin’?

George: The winner gets a $5,000 scholarship. Lydia says you already have a bachelor’s degree. Do you want a graduate degree?

Lizzy: A master’s would help me get the job I want, I suppose, but I don’t know anything about pageants. I’m sure I don’t have the right clothes, and I don’t wear much makeup. I’m fine as I am. Why shear a pig?

Darcy: I’ve heard there are coaches for that sort of thing in Columbia.

Lizzy: They probably cost a lot of money, and I’m as poor as a sawmill rat.

George: I’m starting a pageant consulting business in Roseland with a satellite office once a week in Sugarfield. If you and your sisters agree to be in the pageant, I’ll cut y’all a deal on the coaches, but I expect y’all to recommend my business to other contestants.

Lizzy: Sounds good. What kind of coaches will you have?

George: Evening gown walkin, swimsuit walkin’, interview and questions, nutrition, physical fitness, clothing, hair, makeup, talent, and spiritual advisor. I already have them lined up and ready to go.

Mary: Spiritual advisor? I like that, but I don’t want to wear a skimpy swimsuit on stage.

Lydia: (snorting) No wonder. You’re flat as a fritter. If you put your bra on backwards, it’d fit.

Mrs. Bennet: Lydie, watch your mouth, or I’ll wash it out with soap.

Keep crying

Lydia: (cryin’ loudly) But it’s the gospel truth. I didn’t say anything wrong! You know Mary’s so skinny you could give her a Big Red and use her as a thermometer. It’s not fair!

Mr. Bennet: Stop that cryin’ right now, Lydie, or I’ll give you somethin’ to cry about. Be nice to your sister, too, or you can go to your room. You know better’n to talk like that at Sunday dinner.

George: Mary, you can wear a one-piece suit, and it doesn’t have to be skimpy. Our personal shopper can help you get one that looks real nice.

Mr. Bennet: Are your coaches ladies who’ve already won pageants?

George: They’re mostly men.

Mr. Bennet: Well, I be. Have the men won pageants?

George: The fitness instructor has won several male modelin’ and body buildin’ competitions, and the interview coach is well-known for producin’ winners, as long as the girl has a brain. He can’t make a girl smart who’s dumb as dirt. The walkin’ coaches have all worked with multiple winners. No other pageant consulting business has as fine a staff as I’ve put together.

Mr. Bennet: Hmm… I don’t want my girls alone with men I don’t know. You’ll have to coach ‘em two at a time.

Darcy: That’s a great idea, Mr. Bennet, or I could come along if they need a chaperone. If you agree, of course.

Mr. Bennet: That’s mighty kind of you. I know you’re a busy man.

Charlie: If Darcy’s goin’ with Lizzy, I’m goin’ with Janie.

Mr. Bennet: I’m beginnin’ to get downright comfortable now.

Talking in church

Mrs. Bennet: Not to change the subject, but I saw you two talkin’ in church, Lizzy, noisy as two skeletons dancin’ on a tin roof. You know better, and I don’t cotton to it. Mrs. Long was cranin’ her neck so much watchin’ you two I thought she’d freeze that way, and the men would have to carry her out after the service. She’ll have it all over town by midafternoon that I didn’t raise you right. Don’t shame me like that again. I need that like a tomcat needs a trousseau.

Lizzy: Sorry, Mama. The sermon was about as excitin’ as waitin’ for paint to dry, but that doesn’t excuse it. We’ll be good next Sunday.

Mrs. Bennet: I’m right glad to hear it. How about you, Will?

Darcy: My mama taught me better. I’m sorry, Mrs. Bennet.

Mrs. Bennet: You mean that?

Darcy: I’m serious as the business end of a .45. I tried to get Lizzy to hush up.

Mrs. Bennet: I’m not surprised she didn’t listen. That girl is independent as a hog on ice, and she could talk the legs off a chair. Why’d you even try to tell her to be quiet?

hush up1

Darcy: Simple. She told me what you cook for Sunday dinner, and I didn’t want to miss it by bein’ sent home. I want my two desserts.

Mrs. Bennet: That’s layin’ it on thick as fleas on a farm dog, but I like it.

Charlie: I want my two desserts, too, and I didn’t talk in church. Everybody knows you’re the best cook in two counties.

Mrs. Bennet: Charlie, everybody at my table gets two desserts. You can hang your hat on it. No need to butter me up.

George: Do I get two desserts?

Mr. Bennet: I guess so, since you went to church, and you’re at our table. That makes you brave as the first man who ate an oyster.

George: So, you won’t use duct tape on me again?

Mr. Bennet: I can’t make any promises about that. I still got one eye on you.

George: At least you’re honest.

Mr. Bennet: I am. If I say a hen dips snuff, you can look under her wing for the can.

Darcy: (whispering to Lizzy) What does that mean?

Lizzy: (whispering to Darcy) Hush up, or you won’t get your two desserts.

Darcy: (whispering to Lizzy) But, I got all gussied up and everything.

Lizzy: (whispering to Darcy) Mama’s lookin’ again.

Mrs. Bennet: It’s fine, Lizzy. He was raised on concrete. I’ll have to make allowances. Let the man have his two desserts.

Darcy: I’m happy as a clam at high tide.

Mrs. Bennet: Eh?

Lizzy: Never mind, Mama. He went to college up North and in California. He’s a live dictionary, but at least he tries to fit in down here.

Mrs. Bennet: Lizzy, didn’t I teach you anything? Get him his sweets. When a man’s eatin’, he can’t talk.

Darcy: (whispering to Lizzy) Your Mama’s just like you. She speaks ten words a minute with gusts up to fifty.

Mrs. Bennet: I heard that. Don’t try to make a livin’ at whisperin’. You’re loud enough to wake the dead.

Darcy: Do I still get my desserts?

Mr. Bennet: I like that boy. Lizzy, give him his desserts.



9 thoughts on “Southern Fried Austen

    1. Robin Helm Post author

      I’ll make you two desserts. Yes, I won that one. I was also the Chesterfield County Farm Bureau Queen. Isn’t that hysterical? I was first runner-up in Miss Tiger (our high school mascot) and the Miss Pageland pageant in 1971. I was in the top ten at the South Carolina Farm Bureau Queen pageant, and I was the Hostess Queen for the Pageland Watermelon Festival in 1973. There was a Miss Watermelon Pageant attached to that, but as Hostess Queen, I wasn’t allowed to enter. None of those pageants required competing in sportswear or talent, but I did win the talent competition for the Chesterfield County Farm Bureau the year before I was the queen.

      I actually have a good background for this story. My two sisters and I were all in pageants. Layne went to Miss South Carolina.

      A good bit of this will be based on my experience a few years ago when my younger daughter was recruited at the Pageland Watermelon Festival pageant to be on a TV reality show. She had the coaches and all the trimmings.

      Liked by 3 people

  1. Laura Hile

    Better and better! Loving the pageant idea, so great to see your photo. I’ll sit right back and hear a tale, that’s for sure.

    It’s impossible to come up with a favorite line, but this one is a stunner: “I need that like a tomcat needs a trousseau.”

    We’re going to have to form a Just-Sayin’ Southern fan club for wannabes like me.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Robin Helm Post author

      Found that one online. That’s a saying from Texas. I’m started to hit the vernacular from all the Southern states. Alabama should be a deep well.

      Liked by 2 people


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