Fantasy Friday- Mr. Darcy and the Bewtiched Sisters, Chapter One part 2

Road in dark forest

Here’s the second part of Chapter One! I really like how we get more of Darcy’s point of view in this version.

London

September 23, 1811

 

Fitzwilliam Darcy now just under thirty, with the same dark hair and piercing blue eyes of his youth, leafed through several letters of recommendations. He brushed an unruly and curly lock slightly to the side.

“Richard,” Darcy said in a deep but distinct voice, “I think Mrs. Annesley is the one.”

Richard, around the same age as Darcy and wearing Regimentals, took a sip of wine before replying. “I believe you’re right, which will come as no surprise to you.” He assumed an exaggeratedly pompous posture as his companion scowled. “Fitzwilliam Darcy is never wrong.”

“Very amusing,” Darcy scowled. These days, he felt like everything he did was wrong. “Has she spoken to you at all?”

“No. Father and I only get one-word answers. Mother gets little more. When we mention her returning here, she bursts into tears.”

Darcy glared as Richard drained his glass as though there was nothing unusual with what he just said.

“Well, if you’re sure her references all check out, then I’ll be off. The Major has complained about my absences recently. You’ll be ready for Georgiana at the end of the month?”

Darcy’s grip on the papers tightened. He had checked Mrs. Annesley’s references three times personally and employed half a dozen others to do so as well. He would not be caught unawares again. It was all entirely his fault, but Georgiana could not bear the devastation she almost caused by her planned, but thankfully interrupted, elopement. “Yes. I think redoing the upstairs drawing room will excite her. And by then I will be free of daily correspondence with my steward at Pemberley. I do not want any distractions when she returns.”

Richard stood and shook his head. “You’ll frighten her more if you hover. Don’t treat her like a child — ”

“That is precisely what she is!” Darcy said with a quietness that belied his intense feelings and the temperature in the room dropped. “I never should have allowed her to go to Ramsgate, or to entrust her care to a woman who was not a relation.” His sister, twelve years his junior, was all he had left of his family. His parents had believed he would protect her and instead his selfishness nearly led to her ruin.

“You will not always live with her,” Richard said. “Someday she will marry, and you will have to have faith that man will see to her wants and needs. You will have to trust Georgiana…and yourself,” he added softly.

Rather than replying to his cousin, Darcy turned his attention to other correspondence. His mentor wrote to him of a group of ladies in Hertfordshire that he expected to come into magical powers very soon. The General reminded him of his duty to his mother’s memory. He alone knew all of her prophecies — which ultimately got her killed — and he alone could determine if these sisters fit the prophecy of restoring balance to the forces of good and evil.

Darcy did not need the reminder. He could never forget his duty, even as he loathed the requirement. Did anyone understand the pressure he felt having to straddle two worlds? The mortal world required he present the face of a typical English gentleman: impeccable manners, landlord, with a healthy interest in sporting, ladies, politics, concern for over taxation, and his estate’s drainage ditches. To be entirely mortal would mean sacrificing his magical heritage. The magical world, however, desired he fully embrace his legacy. Yet, how could he want to live in a world which killed his loving mother? A world that now thought they had endless claims on him no matter that he had his own desires. Both worlds had one thing in common: they expected him to marry one of their own.

Memories washed over Darcy. His father and mother had a love story the likes of which few could understand. However, his mother had kept her powers a secret and the older Mr. Darcy did not take to the truth very well. Especially as he only became aware of his wife’s abilities when he began having premonitions himself. It was proof that they were true soul mates but put the Darcy family into even more trouble when the Caligo took over.

While Mr. Darcy had been called away on Council business, Caligo struck at Pemberley. Even now, that day haunted Darcy. If he had been braver, he would have protected his mother instead of hiding. He could have prevented her death, and that tormented him more than any concerns about weaknesses in the magical world. In the years that followed, Darcy’s father could hardly look at the boy who led to his wife’s demise.

“What a monstrous frown, Cousin,” Richard interrupted Darcy’s musings.

“News from the General.”

Although Darcy did not serve in the military or the magical community’s counterpart the agmen, he headed the Cabinet of Premonition. In particular, he had taken over his father’s tasks of investigating claims of an ancient prophecy regarding three sisters who would restore the balance of power between good and evil. His mother had the sight and became a renowned oracle. In her later years, most of her prophecies proclaimed the impending arrival of the Bewitched Sisters. Darcy did not realize it at the time, but most of the things his mother taught him, from nursery rhymes to fables, held some degree of memorizing her prophecies. The instruction served as insurance should she be killed and evil infiltrate the Council.

“He and the family will return to their estate in Hertfordshire around Michaelmas to investigate a claim to the prophecy.”

“Ah,” Richard said with raised eyebrows. “So it begins again. Are you ready for it?”

Darcy sighed and leaned back in his chair. “I only wish I did not have to leave Georgiana, but she must stay.” In the years since he had become Minister of Prophecy, he had investigated many claims between sisters.

“This is the first time you will be staying with the Tilneys, however,” Richard said. “Bingley’s sister—”

“I know she’s a devious, grasping woman, and a powerful witch. I will not fall prey to her wiles — magical or mortal.”

“I did not mean to insinuate you would,” Richard raised his hands to cease Darcy’s tirade. “I only worry about the added stress you must bear.”

“Thank you,” Darcy gave his cousin a soft but sincere smile.

He had few he could count on and few who understood him. Richard had reason to fear Darcy’s travels to Hertfordshire with the General. Tilney’s first wife had died five years ago, and he remarried last year. It was not a love match by any means. Mrs. Bingley was still lovely at forty and had a substantial fortune. Additionally, she had a noble magical legacy. Darcy, however, had reason to rejoice and mourn the match. His good friend Charles Bingley was now the General’s step-son, and that would naturally help advance his career and position in both worlds. On the other hand, Charles’ sister Caroline had set her cap at Darcy years ago and would not give him up.

“I had best be off,” Richard said and stood. “Give my regards to Charles and Henry.”

“Is that all you wish me to do?” Darcy asked with a raised brow.

“Oh, I’ll be around with a letter for Ellie. Why would I trust you to give her my sentiments? She might just as easily fall for my loving words from your rich mouth.”

Darcy laughed. “She is far too intelligent for that.”

“That she is,” Richard smiled and agreed. “She loves me, after all.” The gentlemen shared a laugh and Richard took his leave.

After his cousin had left, Darcy perused the General’s letter again. It was an unusual set of circumstances. Mr. Bennet had two daughters. The eldest was an empath, and the younger had the ability to create and control fire. His step-daughter had just come out and was rumored to have the sight. However, Darcy did not think as step-sisters they would have the required bond to manifest the strength of the Bewitched Sisters. Additionally, their powers were currently bound, and while they would soon be released, they would be utter novices at the craft. It seemed unlikely they would fulfill the prophecy, but Darcy’s duty required he examine them anyway. Too many mortals and witches both had perished in the last twenty years. Once peace was restored, Darcy could have the peaceful country existence he had always craved.

Music Monday- I Don’t Dance

Beautiful black and white rose with note on the petals

I was a new and unpublished writer to the JAFF genre the first time I got inspiration from a song. I was actually buying clothes for my kids and it came over the store’s speakers. It struck me as so very Darcy-like. I hope you enjoy!

 

I’ll never settle down,
That’s what I always thought
Yeah, I was that kind of man,
Just ask anyone
I don’t dance, but here I am
Spinning you around and around in circles
It ain’t my style, but I don’t care
I’d do anything with you anywhere
Yes, you got me in the palm of your hand
‘Cause, I don’t dance
Love’s never come my way,
I’ve never been this far
‘Cause you took these two left feet
And waltzed away with my heart
No, I don’t dance, but here I am
Spinning you around and around in circles
It ain’t my style, but I don’t care
I’d do anything with you anywhere
Yes, you got me in the palm of your hand, girl
‘Cause, I don’t dance
No, I don’t dance
I don’t dance, but here I am
Spinning you around and around in circles
It ain’t my style, but I don’t care
Well I’d do anything with you anywhere
I don’t dance, but here I am
Spinning you around and around in circles
It ain’t my style, but I don’t care
I’d do anything with you anywhere
Yeah, you got me in the palm of your hand, girl
‘Cause, I don’t dance
No, ooh
Songwriters: Dallas Davidson / Lee Brice / Rob Hatch
I Don’t Dance lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Mike Curb Music

Fantasy Friday- Pride and Prejudice and Prophecies, Mr. Darcy and the Bewitched Sisters Chapter One, post one

I’m going to do a cover reveal when I get closer to publication so for now we just have the Fantasy Fridays graphic. Here’s the prologue in case you missed it.

Road in dark forest

Chapter One

Longbourn, Hertfordshire

September 21, 1811

 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that love is the greatest magic of all and to most of the old families in Britain, just as inconceivable.

As the Bennets of Longbourn in Hertfordshire were neither an ancient family nor had they the distinction of rank or wealth, they must be forgiven for Mr. Bennet learning to dearly love his second wife. Despite this vulgarness, they had not openly spoken of the magical world in sixteen years, at least. When news arrived of returning neighbors after a long absence, the conversation between husband and wife were so discreet as to puzzle their three adult daughters. They gathered in the drawing room to enjoy the last hours of sun through the southern windows.

“Have you heard, Mr. Bennet, that General Tilney is to return to Netherfield Abbey, at last?” Martha Bennet asked her husband.

After several moments of silence, Mr. Bennet replied from behind a newspaper. “Is he? I suppose he has his reasons.”

“Indeed. He has married a Mrs. Bingley.” Mrs. Bennet pulled a lamp closer as she pulled out a pile of stockings to darn for the little children.

“And does the new Mrs. Tilney have any grown children? The General’s should all be past their majority by now.”

“Yes, all of their children and a large party of friends are coming to Netherfield.”

Mr. Bennet put down his paper and raised his eyebrows in silent question.

His wife complied. “They are to be here in time for the ball after Michaelmas.”

Mr. Bennet stroked his jaw line. “I suppose that will turn the neighborhood on its heel.”

“Will you call on him?” Mrs. Bennet gave her darning more attention than it usually warranted and did not meet her husband’s eyes.

Mr. Bennet put aside the newspaper and walked across the room to the bookshelves on a far wall. He scanned it for several minutes, muttering under his breath. “I believe I’ll read Leonora to you all tonight. You like that one, don’t you, Lizzy?”

Their second eldest daughter looked up from where she sat with her sisters. “You know I like all those sorts of novels — ”

She was interrupted by the youngest, Catherine. “Oh, no. Why not The Italian?”

“No, Kate! Not that one again!” Lizzy argued. “I am sick of melodrama.” She tossed a ribbon at her younger sister’s head, who shrieked in undignified shock. “I was aiming for the basket to your side. It’s not my fault your head is so big,” she said with a shrug and a smirk while Kate glowered.

“Elizabeth,” the eldest said in a firm but gentle voice. Her wide, clear blue eyes made it difficult to displease her.

“No need to defend me, Jane,” Kate said. “I know how to get even.”

Elizabeth’s jaw dropped open for a scathing retort, but Mrs. Bennet cleared her throat. “Girls,” she said in a sharp tone and with raised eyebrows. Her dark eyes transformed from gentle to piercing and each daughter ducked their heads and returned to their work.

“Ah, here we are. The Vision of Don Roderick by Scott shall be an agreeable compromise,” Mr. Bennet said as though he had not paid any heed to the squabbling of a moment before.

“Mr. Bennet,” Mrs. Bennet said in a milder tone than she used on her daughters but one that demanded an answer all the same.

Mr. Bennet sighed before speaking. “I think it better should I see him at the ball and allow him to settle in first.”

The answer displeased his wife, who sucked in a breath and pursed her lips in a thin line. However, she said nothing.

The three eldest daughters exchanged curious looks with each other. Ordinarily, their parents had far too much sense to care this much about a neighbor returning to his estate.

Elizabeth mused to herself that her birth mother would have had many flutterings over a wealthy gentleman with available sons coming to the area. The first Mrs. Bennet had passed five winters before in an illness that swept the area and took her three youngest daughters and their nearest neighbor, Mrs. Tilney. The current Mrs. Bennet’s first husband, the Reverend Morland, also passed as they were visiting a relation in Hertfordshire.

Mr. Bennet found himself with two grief-stricken daughters of marriageable age, and Mrs. Morland with several children and no pension, the two married for necessity when their half mourning was complete. General Tilney had quickly left the area and took his children: two sons and a daughter, with him. They had not heard a thing from him or about him in all these years.

“Jane, Lizzy,” said Kate, “do you remember General Tilney or his children?”

“It was years ago,” answered Jane, “but they were all kind.”

“But did you know them well?”

Elizabeth shook her head. “Eleanor is Jane’s age but the boys, Frederick and Henry, are four and two years older than her. They were too old to join in our games.”

Kate frowned, and Elizabeth passed a newly mended handkerchief to her. Kate had the most patience for embroidery out of all the girls. Elizabeth looked out the window longingly. It was now too dark for a stroll in the garden. Her father took a break from his reading to place lamps around the room. The slightly worn but pale wallpaper and several well-placed mirrors magnified the light. Elizabeth shuddered at how much they would spend monthly in candlesticks otherwise.

Jane stretched out a gown her youngest sister had outgrown and neatly cut a rectangle. She cut a long strip from a contrasting fabric to make an apron string. “Eleanor was at school when her mother died, as was Henry. The eldest was at university. We had seldom been in their company for many years before Mrs. Tilney’s death. I know not being at home bore heavily on them all.”

Elizabeth nodded. “Yes, as much as I wish Mother would have agreed to send us to school, I am glad we were at home for her final hours.”

Her mother had insisted she would have missed her daughters too much to send them to school, but Elizabeth believed the real reason was that her mother was a spendthrift. Of course, her step-mother’s brood of children cost nearly as much, and so the Bennets continued to spend most of their annual income of two thousand pounds a year.

Kate let out a happy sigh. “General Tilney must have loved his wife very much if he could not stand to be home or remarried until now.”

“Perhaps,” Elizabeth said while shrugging. She had been fifteen and in little company of either elder Tilneys.

At the same moment, Jane said, “Of course!”

“Such romantic sensibilities must be passed on to his sons then,” Catherine continued.

“Kate!” Elizabeth chided quietly. Her sister read too many romantic and gothic novels. “Life is not like your books. Do you suppose that your mother felt the loss of your father any less than General Tilney would have felt of his wife? And she remarried quickly.”

“My mother did love Father dearly,” she replied, evidently reconsidering.

“Life is not fair to women, Lizzy,” Jane said. “Mama may love Papa now, but you know that was not the arrangement when they married.”

Elizabeth frowned as she pulled out another handkerchief from the mending basket. At least this one was for a brother and therefore required less fancy needlework. “Mama, is it James that needs more handkerchiefs?”

“Allow me to consult the list,” Mrs. Bennet said and held a ledger toward the lamp at her side. As a mother of nine children of various ages, she managed the household through extreme organizational means. “Yes, James and John both,” she informed Elizabeth. “What they do with them, I don’t know,” she muttered to herself and stabbed a child’s stocking with her needle.

Elizabeth bent her head over her work and blew a wisp of dark hair out of her eyes. She kept her thoughts to herself about the potential personalities of their neighbors. Jane was too apt to trust and like people. No intimacy had existed between the Netherfield and Longbourn families. Jane would only know what she had seen on the civil calls and large dinners. Additionally, she had only been in company for a year before the Tilneys left the area. She had always been predisposed to view everyone in a favorable light.

Elizabeth wondered if the situation of their parents’ demise and remarriage colored the outlooks that Jane and Kate had of romance and marriage. For herself, she was not easily pleased or impressed. A man would have to love her quite ardently to marry her with only fifty pounds to her name and yet that could hardly be sensible. She could never marry a man out of his wits.

Thursday Three Hundred- 14th of October, Regency

Last week, I posted a story inspired by Thomas Rhett’s Unforgettable. It had a modern setting. Today, I have a story inspired by the same song but set in the Regency Era. Let me know which you liked better!

14th of October, Regency

 

Charles Bingley greeted the master of ceremonies of the country assembly he attended. He had recently let a large house in the neighbourhood. Many of the area gentlemen had called and introduced themselves as a necessary etiquette before they could introduce their wives and daughters. Sir William Lucas, the man he was speaking to, introduced his eldest two daughters, Charlotte and Maria. Both seemed kind young ladies although Maria appeared very young and uncertain of herself. Bingley assumed she had only recently entered Society. Miss Lucas looked a few years his senior, and her mother desperately suggested they partner for the first dance. Never one to want to give offense and an enthusiast of the sport in general, Bingley complied.

As he led Miss Lucas to the dance floor, his eyes fell upon an angel. Her white gown had a blue overlay and exposed nearly all of her shoulders. The seductive glimpses of skin were balanced by covering her ample décolletage.

“Mr. Bingley,” Miss Lucas’ voice interrupted his musings.

“Pardon me, I was admiring the splendour of the room.”

Miss Lucas grinned. “I could see that. She is lovely, is she not?”

Bingley blushed. “Forgive me. I did not wish to offend.”

“Oh, I am not offended. I am quite used to young men falling in love with Jane. She is too sweet for me to be upset about it.”

Was he in love already? His friend, Darcy, would laugh at him for he had a habit of falling for a lady at first sight. Usually, Darcy would have to talk sense into him later and expose the lady’s cruel designs. Joining high society had been Bingley’s father’s greatest wish, but he was far more ready for the cutthroat attitudes of the ton than his son was. Bingley would rather live in the country than in London. His greatest wish was to surround himself with true friends who loved him and not his five thousand a year.

Seeing that Miss Lucas was not upset at his indifference, he asked, “Would you introduce me to her after our set?”

“Certainly.”

Bingley’s heart hammered loudly in his chest as Miss Lucas performed the introduction. He bowed over Miss Bennet’s hand and promptly asked her to dance. When she smiled at his request and agreed, he swore his heart skipped a beat.

Minutes passed while the musicians shuffled their music and couples filtered to the dance floor. Bingley grabbed a cup of punch to steady his nerves. Throughout the dance, Bingley’s tongue could not keep up with his brain which went blank every time Miss Bennet glanced at him. They spent most of their dance in silence, conversation limited to general topics and entirely perused by Miss Bennet.

After their dance, Miss Bennet’s mother came to her side shrieking and complimenting her daughter on her conquest. Many other young ladies, some with striking facial similarities to Miss Bennet, gathered around her. He needed to dance with her again, to feel the pressure of her gloved hand in his. However, etiquette dictated that he could not yet ask her to dance again. Instead, he sought an introduction to the lady closest to him, a Miss King. Then he danced with the younger Miss Lucas. Between sets, he sought out the punch bowl to loosen his tongue so he might dazzle Miss Bennet with his charm and wit during their next dance.

At last, the moment came. Bingley confidently walked to Miss Bennet’s side, but before he could say a word, an aging man with a growing gut appeared.

“If you are free, my dear Miss Bennet, I would be honoured to dance with you.”

Charles scowled at the man and his poorly worded request. He ought to humbly beg this angel sent to earth to deign to glance at him! Feeling his face heat in indignation, Miss Bennet’s sweet voice rang out.

“Forgive me, Mr. Long, but I am already promised to Mr. Bingley for this set.”

She reached her hand forward, and Bingley immediately grabbed it. Without another look, he led her to the dance floor.

“Pray forgive me. I did not mean to trap you, but Mr. Long has been so persistent and will not take my hints at displeasure with his suit.”

“How intolerable. I will gladly be your partner at any ball.” Bingley paused for a moment as the dance separated them. “In fact, dinner engagements may not be safe either. We could arrange to find one another at each meeting and then you would be safe from his attentions.”

A soft smile set on Miss Bennet’s face. “I do not know that we need to go to such lengths. Surely, he will be discouraged soon enough.”

“If it were me, I would not give up so easily.”

Miss Bennet laughed. “Upon my word, that is very forward of you for such a new acquaintance. Sir, are you foxed?”

“No, certainly not.” Missing a step to the dance, he almost fell and most certainly would have sprained his ankle.

Miss Bennet’s eyebrows rose. “I see.”

Taking a deep breath to puff out his chest, Bingley focused on saying something that would convince her of his sobriety. “Would a drunk man say that…” Miss Bennet began to smile, and his mind went blank.

“I am waiting, sir.”

“I am going to marry you.”

“Pardon?” Miss Bennet stumbled, and Bingley caught her by the hand.

“I said I am going to tarry here.”

“No,” Miss Bennet shook her head. “I do not think you did.”

Flushing, Bingley attempted to think fast. “Forgive me, I was attempting to tease, but I think perhaps it was too far.”

Miss Bennet’s eyes went wide and then searched his. Slowly, she began to smile.

“Oh, I can tease as well. My sister, Elizabeth, is a great teaser.”

“Is that so?”

“Yes, that is her in the green.” Miss Bennet nodded to her left. “You ought to ask her to dance next. I think you will enjoy her wit.”

“An excellent suggestion, thank you.”

“You see if I thought you were serious about wanting to marry me I would hardly suggest you dance with my sister.” Miss Bennet’s eyes shined with mirth. “And I might point out how utterly nonsensical it would be to marry a lady when you do not so much as know her Christian name. My sister and I are agreed to never marry a man out of his wits.”

The dance separated them, and Bingley considered how to respond to her tease.

“If that be the only obstacle to our union, then I am assured of our happiness, Diana.”

“I wish you every happiness with the mysterious Diana but am sad to say it is not I.”

As they waited for the others to go down the set, they continued with their game. Thirty minutes later, the set ended and Bingley had not correctly guessed Miss Bennet’s name. She turned to introduce him to her sister.

“This is my next youngest sister, Elizabeth. Lizzy, this is Mr. Bingley.”

Miss Elizabeth curtsied and greeted him with civility and good humour.

“I am very pleased to meet you, Miss Elizabeth. Your sister tells me that you have a very charming wit and love to tease.”

Miss Elizabeth laughed. “Did she indeed?” She turned to Miss Bennet. “Jane! You surprise me!”

Bingley’s rejoiced at Miss Elizabeth’s use of her sister’s name. His eyes immediately met Jane’s. “You remind me a bit of my own sister, Miss Elizabeth. Already, I believe I have a very brotherly regard for you. Your sister, Jane, has made me look forward to this set.”

Elizabeth furrowed her brow but merely glanced between Jane and Bingley. Jane blushed but did not look away from Bingley.

“Indeed?” Elizabeth said. “How else would you describe your dance with Jane?”

“Unforgettable,” he replied.

One year later, Bingley entered the Meryton Assembly hall with Jane by his side as Mrs. Bingley. “There,” he pointed to the centre of the room. “Right there was where I fell in love with you.”

“And I with you,” Jane smiled and squeezed his hand as they walked to the dance floor.

Tea Time Tattle- Jane Bennet

on a white wooden table red roses, cup of tea, heart made of lac

Last week, I discussed Bingley and how some view him as spineless and stupid. Today, I want to consider Jane Bennet.

Fan Fiction usually portrays her as simplistically angelic or stupid and disgustingly naive. A few make her less angelic or maybe even evil. Rarely does one give her a sort of dreamy approach. I tend to disagree with all of these approaches for Canon Jane. Again, this is not criticizing any fan fiction but rather examining the character as Jane Austen wrote her. Be merry and recreate however you please for a re-imagining!

We first learn about Jane with her mother defending her chances with Mr. Bingley while her father has said he would champion his second daughter, Elizabeth.

Lizzy is not a bit better than the others; and I am sure she is not half so handsome as Jane, nor half so good-humoured as Lydia.

To which Mr. Bennet replies:

“They have none of them much to recommend them,” replied he; “they are all silly and ignorant like other girls; but Lizzy has something more of quickness than her sisters.”

Now, the next interaction reveals Mr. Bennet’s teasing personality and we can be sure he doesn’t actually think so little of his daughters. Jane Austen undoubtedly did this to help reveal Elizabeth as the primary protagonist. It’s worth noting that, usually, in novels of the day the heroine was perfectly demure and beautiful. She was often naive and the target of a cad who she had believed to be a hero. She lacked independence and her romantic interest was usually as pure as she was. In other words, the ingenue. The flip side to the ingenue was the femme fatale who used feminine wiles to try and achieve her means.

If the latter sounds familiar, then it’s because Lady Catherine accuses Elizabeth Bennet of using her wiles to entrance Darcy. However, just as there is far more to Elizabeth than her charming personality which “bewitched” Darcy, Jane Bennet is no ingenue despite it seeming so on the surface. Austen does not give us blank characters.

Jane is not really mentioned again until she dances with Mr. Bingley who is soon revealed to have a heart of gold. While Jane reveals her thoughts about Bingley’s sisters, the reader understands that Elizabeth believes Jane is being too kind-hearted. She also says things to the effect.

69c48443b14dcb7cfac35e3ab277e04eAs the book is from Elizabeth’s perspective, it seems that Elizabeth would be justified in thinking Jane too naive to see the guiles of Caroline and Louisa Bingley. Jane is also mentioned as being the only one who saw merit in Mr. Darcy (although I think Elizabeth was the only one who thought him so bad. I think the rest of the area was mostly indifferent to him while it was an all-consuming obsession for Elizabeth). We learn about half way through the book that Darcy isn’t actually bad, most of it was Elizabeth’s prejudices. Jane is also vindicated in regards to Caroline Bingley. She was not alone in arguing for her brother to stay in London. Darcy, he admitted himself, had more weight there. I could say more about Caroline and her motives, but I’ll leave it at the fact that in the end we’re told that she learns enough to stay in Darcy and Elizabeth’s good graces.

So is Jane stupid for seeing the good side in Caroline and Darcy when Elizabeth did not? I’ll admit, I always had trouble with this quote.

if the same circumstances were to happen again, I am sure I should be deceived again.

Ms. Austen is very authentic about human nature. It takes many times for us to learn. Elizabeth is wrong about Charlotte and she did not learn. She was wrong about Mr. Darcy and still she did not learn. She continued to doubt him. It is not until the final chapters that she really overcomes her prejudices about the world. Why should Jane be any different? Why is it forgivable for Elizabeth to be prejudiced in a hateful way while Jane is prejudiced in a sweet way? If you’re going to make mistakes about people and how the world operates, I think having a rosy view on things would be the better way. Both sisters faced separation and heartache. Elizabeth’s cynicism did not protect her from anything and it does not make Jane naive for being so tenderhearted.

Ah, but there’s more to this impression of a naive, stupid Jane than just Caroline and Darcy. What about Mr. Wickham?

What a stroke was this for poor Jane! who would willingly have gone through the world without believing that so much wickedness existed in the whole race of mankind, as was here collected in one individual. Nor was Darcy’s vindication, though grateful to her feelings, capable of consoling her for such discovery. Most earnestly did she labour to prove the probability of error, and seek to clear the one without involving the other.

Elizabeth has just confessed she was mistaken about Darcy’s character. Jane has learned she was mistaken about Caroline’s. It is only sensible then to consider that they might be mistaken regarding Wickham as well. Elizabeth is very hot-headed and largely believes Wickham and then Darcy based on their own words and appearances. Consider that Elizabeth did not consult with Colonel Fitzwilliam, as was offered. Even if she had, he might have lied to corroborate Darcy’s story. Elizabeth really hadn’t learned very much from the ordeal by this point and it was just as likely that Darcy could still have been a villain. The fact that he wasn’t, I believe, was Austen’s way of reinventing the trope.

janebennet2005Elizabeth argues with Jane and tries to make her pick a side. Hmmm…refusing to change one’s opinion is not generally stupid. It might later prove to be so but we typically call that stubbornness. That’s something the entire Bennet family has in spades. Mrs. Gardiner even says Darcy’s real fault is his obstinancy. So, if we do not fault Darcy for his stuborness and often gladly wear Lady Catherine’s intended insult of “obstinate, headstrong girl” as a badge of honor, why then should we fault Jane for sticking to her understanding?

Jane shows even more prudence when she says this regarding Elizabeth asking if they ought to expose Wickham:

To have his errors made public might ruin him for ever. He is now, perhaps, sorry for what he has done, and anxious to re-establish a character. We must not make him desperate.

There is more regarding Jane’s opinion about Wickham to examine. After Lydia’s elopement, Jane remains hopeful that Wickham intends an honorable marriage. When Mrs. Gardiner tries to calm Elizabeth and remind her of Jane’s views, Elizabeth replies in a fit of passion:

Of whom does Jane ever think ill? And who is there, whatever might be their former conduct, that she would think capable of such an attempt, till it were proved against them?

Well, gosh. Is it stupid to give someone a chance to prove themselves? The benefit of the doubt? The idea of innocence until proven guilty? Regardless of what Darcy’s letter said Wickham had never displayed such dishonorable actions to them. Elizabeth had once hated Darcy on Wickham’s behalf. Next, she hates Wickham on Darcy’s behalf. Jane is level-headed and considers that Wickham might have reasons for his treatment to Darcy but that does not necessarily translate to maltreatment of all mankind. She is wrong, we discover, but I can’t fault her for being cautious to condemn the man who, hopefully, would be her brother-in-law.

Throughout the ordeal, Jane supports Mrs. Bennet’s anxieties alone until Elizabeth arrives. Once Elizabeth is there, she can split that burden but must also soothe her sister. Elizabeth blames herself for not exposing Wickham but dearest Jane replies with this:

“But to expose the former faults of any person without knowing what their present feelings were, seemed unjustifiable. We acted with the best intentions.”

Having lived years with guilt and regret and seeking professional help, I can say the line about best intentions can give you a world of freedom. While Elizabeth is busy flaying herself with regrets which adds to the stress she’s feeling, Jane can handle it better. She was not quick to jump to conclusions, she did not act in haste, and had the best intentions at heart. She has nothing to reprove herself with and can bear this entire situation all the easier.

As the crisis continues, and stories about Wickham rip through Meryton, Jane and Elizabeth both reassess their first feelings.

Elizabeth, though she did not credit above half of what was said, believed enough to make her former assurance of her sister’s ruin more certain; and even Jane, who believed still less of it, became almost hopeless, more especially as the time was now come when, if they had gone to Scotland, which she had never before entirely despaired of, they must in all probability have gained some news of them.

When more evidence came to light, Jane did not stubbornly stick her head in the sand. When Mr. Gardiner writes after Darcy finds Wickham and arranges for them to marry, Jane offers this piece of wisdom:

“We must endeavour to forget all that has passed on either side,” said Jane: “I hope and trust they will yet be happy. His consenting to marry her is a proof, I will believe, that he is come to a right way of thinking. Their mutual affection will steady them; and I flatter myself they will settle so quietly, and live in so rational a manner, as may in time make their past imprudence forgotten.”

Elizabeth refuses to believe that others will forget about the situation but, once more, she over reacts. Of course, people will soon forget. A greater scandal will come and in the end, Lydia is married and respectable. That’s hardly the enduring scandal people need to remember the situation forever. I am convinced Elizabeth’s concerns on the matter shrink significantly when Darcy and Bingley arrive, even more so once Bingley proposes and they likely evaporate entirely when Darcy asks for her hand a second time. Let’s be honest, Elizabeth’s real concern here is how Lydia’s actions will affect her possibilities with Darcy. Not with just any suitor but a man who has reason to hate Wickham. The text explains as much so I won’t go into it here.

There is one more character that Jane is sometimes accused of being wrong about. The love of her life, Mr. Bingley. What does the text say about how she handles seeing him again? She was anxious before his arrival and told Elizabeth she could meet him without a problem if only others did not constantly stare at her or talk about it. After he visits Longbourn, Jane says this:

“Now,” said she, “that this first meeting is over, I feel perfectly easy. I know my own strength, and I shall never be embarrassed again by his coming. I am glad he dines here on Tuesday. It will then be publicly seen that, on both sides, we meet only as common and indifferent acquaintance.”

That does not seem naive or stupid to me. Elizabeth, for whatever its worth as her powers of judgment are in serious question by this point, replies:

“Yes, very indifferent indeed,” said Elizabeth, laughingly. “Oh, Jane, take care.”

“My dear Lizzy, you cannot think me so weak, as to be in danger now?”

“I think you are in very great danger of making him as much in love with you as ever.”

Hmmm…but does Jane take care to not make Bingley love her? Or does she act as she ever does and he chooses to seek out her feelings? She did not really change her reactions to him as though she learned from the “mistake” of concealing her emotions too much. She can be stubborn, after all. She can only be herself, as much as any other Bennet daughter can be. But she does not send him flying in the other direction. And I think that was encouragement enough for Bingley. He knew as well as anyone that she had every right to hate him but the fact that she met him with as much attention as she had before when at worst she was accused of being indifferent toward him, I think was a sign he rightly interpreted as reason for hope. Additionally, if she were suddenly bold, she would not be the Jane he fell in love with and had as much potential for disaster as it did for success.

 

I hope I’ve made a case for a more complex Jane that is neither all angelic or naive and stupid. She is delightfully complex as full of flaws, insecurities, anxieties, and worries as the next person but she also has wisdom, intelligence, and fortitude.

If you would like to read more about my observations regarding Jane Bennet, I invite you to read my posts on A January of Janes in which I compare and contrast Jane Bennet and Jane Fairfax.

What do you think of Jane Bennet?