Fantasy Friday- Mr. Darcy & the Bewitched Sisters Chapter Four Part Two

Road in dark forest

Previous sections: Prologue / 1.1 / 1.2 / 2.1 / 2.2 / 3.1 / 3.2 / 4.1

“Just the usual nerves and village disputes. Nothing malevolent.”

“Charles?” Darcy watched as his friend, a telepath, flushed a little. The others had not remarked on it, but Darcy had noticed how little Charles actually spoke during his dances with Miss Bennet, who rumor had it was an empath. Darcy would have bet Charles conversed through thoughts with her.

“Sir William Lucas has done his job well,” Charles said, at last. “The Bennet ladies seemed sufficiently ignorant of their powers, and all the jobbards had no suspicion of magic being the cause for our return.”

“Eleanor?” The General looked hard at his daughter who had not said a thing all evening.

“I agree they did not seem to know of their powers, but I sensed great potential,” she answered in a gentle voice. “They are strong, confident and unaffected young ladies. They will rise to the task if allowed.”

Before more could be said on the subject of “allowing” the ladies to become true witches, Mr. Hurst let out a loud snore. Judging by the look on the General’s face, it was best to not allow the conversation to continue anyway.

Mrs. Tilney must have noticed as well.

“Louisa,” she said, “I’m afraid Hurst is long overdue his rest. You must wake him.” Mrs. Tilney stood and called for the servant who began using spells to clean the room. “I will bid you all adieu.” She looked at her husband meaningfully.

“Allow me to escort you,” he said and stood. He gave the room a sloppy bow before placing his wife’s hand on his arm and leading her up the stairs.

Before Caroline’s eyes could brighten with the opportunity of more secluded conversation with him, Darcy announced his intention to retire as well. He extended his arm to Eleanor, who sat near the door, as Caroline nearly fell off the sofa trying to stand. Mr. Hurst’s feet rested on her train.

In his chamber, Darcy dismissed his valet and sighed. It continued to feel too stiff and formal. He hated being a guest in other places. He had grown up just outside the one all-wizard town in Britain. The rest of the county, of course, was inhabited by many non-magical people. It was only in Pember Wigan that wizards and witches did not have to worry about blending in with jobbards. He supposed other people that grew up in that environment were more adept at it than he. His parents sent him to jobbard school so he might learn to fit in better, but by that age, it was rather sealed. Unfortunately, he was awkward among wizarding-kind as well.

The necessity of living double lives to avoid detection had caused an interesting revolution in the practice of magic in the last century or so. While the learning of potions and spells continued to be taught, they were increasingly less useful. Even more so, the rich shunned using them at all and instead hired magical servants. Now, a simple spell to carry away tea things was seen as low work. The lack of practical application of magic had an adverse effect on the wizards. Fewer and fewer families had children with any manifesting powers at all. Three sisters with inherited powers was a potentially devastating weapon. Darcy and the other members of the Quorum were tasked with finding the sisters before Napoleon did. Recalling his recent letter from his cousin, Richard Fitzwilliam, who was non-magical but served in the King’s Army added fuel to Darcy’s already steadfast determination.

Darcy punched his pillow without success before climbing out of bed. “Solatium,” he said, and the room was transformed to a mirror image of his bedchamber at Pemberley. He sank into the comfortable mattress that lacked the frilly lace with which Mrs. Tilney decorated. The room was now covered in muted colors and thick carpets, the furniture a dark and sturdy wood. Just before he closed his eyes, the fire went out, and he heard the crackle of ice frost over his windows. He smiled as he felt the tension of the evening ease away. It was his duty to lead the Quorum in this journey to find the Bewitched Sisters, but the truth was, he much preferred solitude.

Fantasy Friday- Mr. Darcy & the Bewitched Sisters- Chapter Four Part One

Road in dark forest

Previous sections: Prologue / 1.1 / 1.2 / 2.1 / 2.2 / 3.1 / 3.2

Chapter Four

 

The occupants of Netherfield also did not rest well the evening after the ball in Meryton but for different reasons entirely.

“I want to know,” Mrs. Tilney said when everyone was seated with coffee and refreshments, “what you all thought of that…that…I believe I heard the residents refer to it as a ball but with the number of country dances it surely would never qualify!” She shuddered.

“We are not here to worry about friendships or fashion, Agatha,” General Tilney said. “We have been assigned to determine if these are the Bewitched Sisters.”

Mrs. Tilney smiled at the scold. “We might be magical but we are still ladies, and as we frequent London more than Pember Wigan, you must allow that we care about good Society and gowns.”

The General grunted and reached for a newspaper.

“Still, I am curious what the gentlemen of our party thought,” she continued, “because I am sure I can guess the ladies’ opinions. Mr. Darcy, what did you think of Meryton?”

“I saw little beauty and no fashion,” he said disinterestedly.

“You did not think the Bennet ladies worthy of your notice? I thought they seemed quite interested in you,” Miss Caroline Bingley, the General’s younger step-daughter, said.

Darcy, used to Caroline’s prying manners from his long friendship with her brother, knew how to answer her. “I saw no attention or pleasure shown to me.”

Caroline gasped in shock. “You mean to say they ignored you? How could they not know who you are?”

Darcy approached Mrs. Tilney to refill his coffee to keep from rolling his eyes, although it was difficult as she simpered while pouring from the ornate coffee service. He returned to his seat and wondered when he might go to bed, hoping the chamber was more comfortable than the drawing room. Every cushion was stiffly stuffed and upholstered in garish colors the Bingley ladies favored so much. At last, he replied as Caroline did not take her eyes off him. “It is no consequence when they were of equally no interest to me.”

“Of no interest?” the General threw the paper down. “You know, of course, that in this back-country village is a family that claims to harbor the most powerful witches of the era!”

He was beginning to turn red and when worked up could be in a rage for quite some time. Usually, Darcy avoided doing so but collaborating with the General meant Darcy finally had a chance to observe him carefully. Alas, Bingley could never stand for there to be unhappiness or strife.

“Now, I must disagree with something you had said earlier, Darcy,” Bingley shook his head. “The Bennet ladies were exceedingly lovely. The eldest was an angel! Nor did I dislike the manners at the dance. I am not one for formality and stiffness.”

“I believe we generally call it elegance, Charles,” Caroline said with a sly smile. She looked at Darcy for confirmation.

“The eldest Miss Bennet was pretty, I will grant you, but she smiled too much for my taste.” Charles only grinned at Darcy’s words, and he had to hide his own smile. The lady indeed smiled far too much to interest him, but it was all he could say against her as of now. It was a code they used for Darcy to give in approval of Charles’ dance partners. From experience, they both knew far too many ladies would prefer to catch Darcy and only used Charles as a means to an end. Darcy did not pretend to read emotion or minds, but he could at least allow Charles to know that he had no interest in a lady.

“That may be true, but I still found her very agreeable,” Mrs. Louisa Hurst, Charles’ elder sister, interjected.

“Yes, if we are to be trapped here, she is one I would not dislike getting to know better,” Caroline said.

Darcy glanced at Bingley’s step-siblings, Henry and Eleanor Tilney, who had remained silent. “What did you think, Henry? I believe I saw you dancing with one of them.”

The General, who still seemed put out by not venting his spleen earlier, looked at his son with more interest than usual.

“I danced with the youngest one,” Henry said. “I was the only one to dance with her. I don’t know why I go to balls with you two! Charles always heads right for the prettiest girl and plays court to her all night, and Darcy refuses to stand up with anyone he doesn’t already know.”

Caroline grinned at the mention that she had been the only single lady Darcy danced with all evening.

“I danced with the middle daughter!” Charles said. “I tried to get Darcy to dance with her too!”

“I daresay you cannot blame Charles for not dancing with Miss Catherine Morland,” Louisa said in her brother’s defense. “She stood at the back and was hardly noticeable at all.”

“And when you did notice her!” Caroline made an unpleasant face. “Those teeth!”

“Nevermind her looks,” Darcy said through a clenched jaw. “Did you sense anything from her or the others?” Henry was a Kleros, his magical gift was to sense evil.

Fantasy Friday- Mr. Darcy and the Bewitched Sisters- Chapter Two part two

Road in dark forest

What does Elizabeth think of the Assembly and Darcy? Can they get along better in this magical world?


While Jane and Bingley danced, Elizabeth sat out due to the absence of partners. She had not minded and was busy watching the new neighbors. Mr. Darcy had caught her eye early in the evening, and she now amused herself imagining his inner thoughts as he circled about the room with an expression of disdain. His strong jaw was firmly set. Now and then someone bumped into him and his face contorted. She was busy wondering if the spasm was an expression of revulsion or pain when Mr. Bingley left his second dance with Jane to approach his friend.

“Darcy! I must have you dance!” Mr. Bingley’s face was flushed from the heat of the ballroom and the exertion of dancing.

Mr. Darcy looked amongst the crowd. The baker and his wife promenaded past, and Elizabeth thought she saw his lip curl.

“I loathe dancing with strangers. Save your sisters I do not know a soul here.”

Elizabeth found that strange wording but was too taken with the rest of their conversation to pay much heed to it.

“I have not seen prettier girls in my life!” said Mr. Bingley and he turned his whole body to look at Jane.

Darcy loosened his cravat and then stared at his gloved hand while responding. “You are dancing with the only beautiful one.”

Bingley grinned but shook his head. “No, there is her sister just behind you. She is very lovely and quite amiable too. Let me call Miss Bennet to introduce you.”

Elizabeth’s breath caught. The last thing she desired was to be inspected by Mr. Darcy. She reminded herself she had no reason to want his good opinion, all the same, she wished she had worn a different gown or spent more time on her hair.

“Which do you mean?”

Darcy looked over his shoulder and his eyes locked with Elizabeth. Perhaps it was just from the peculiar inspection, but she had the strangest feeling settle in her at that moment. First, she felt heat, then a chill. He quickly tore his gaze away.

“She is tolerable, I suppose, but not handsome enough to tempt me. Return to your partner and enjoy her smiles for you are wasting your time with me.”

Although she felt like a puddle after the riot of feelings meeting his eyes gave, Elizabeth’s courage always rose to every occasion of intimidation. The minute Darcy walked on to find fault with another dancer, she promptly left her seat and retold the scene to her closest friend, Charlotte Lucas.

Charlotte laughed at Elizabeth’s description of the haughty interchange. Once calmed, she whispered into Elizabeth’s ear, “His eyesight must be weak for him to make such a remark! My mother and I have just the tonic which would help him…”

Elizabeth sincerely doubted such a specimen of a man could have any fault so mundane as weak eyesight but laughed at the image provoked. She imagined Darcy with a quizzing glass which magnified objects tenfold and yet he still needed to bring items close. Perhaps he might mistake a dirty stocking for a posy and sniff it.

“Oh, Charlotte! He is too proud to want any of your homemade tonics or even to admit to such a deficiency at all. I daresay he is entitled to his opinion, and I could much easier forgive his pride if he had not wounded mine.”

Charlotte’s sharp eyes met her friend’s. “Was it your pride or your vanity, Lizzy? Did he affect how you think of yourself, or only what you want everyone else to think?”

Elizabeth scoffed. “As if I care what the neighborhood thinks of me!”

“Little more than you do what a stranger thinks of you? I am your dearest friend, and I know the truth. You desire to project the image of a quick-witted and lively, pretty girl. You dislike close examination.”

Elizabeth shook her head. Her dark curls dancing at the movement. “You would not understand, Charlotte. I’ve always felt so…different than the other girls.”

Miss Lucas was saved the trouble of replying by the arrival of Jane. She was astonished at Elizabeth’s report of Mr. Darcy.

“I cannot believe he meant it in that way!” Jane’s blue eyes went wide in shock and disbelief. “Mr. Bingley is the friendliest man I have ever met, surely his friend must be as kind. No, you shall not laugh me out of my opinion no matter how much you roll your eyes at me, Lizzy. You must have misunderstood Mr. Darcy.” Jane could be firm where she believed herself right.

Mr. Bingley approached, ending the conversation. He asked Elizabeth for a dance but spent every other possible moment talking with Jane, ensuring he was in the same set as her. Elizabeth was too happy for her sister to feel slighted. As the evening wore on, however, it seemed Mr. Darcy was always watching her. Finding more fault with her, she assumed. She did not care about his close inspection.

At one point, Mr. Bingley’s younger sister was led to the dance floor by Darcy. Her orange silk gown floated around her in an almost magical quality. At first, Elizabeth admired the dress but believed it did not flatter Miss Bingley’s complexion. Additionally, her nose quite literally stuck in the air lest she suffer from the aroma of her fellow dancers. Elizabeth watched Miss Bingley cringe before touching every other partner. If Mr. Darcy’s eyes wandered, Miss Bingley would say some joke, judging by the way she laughed at her words, and Mr. Darcy’s lips tilted up in a small smile. Elizabeth suspected snide comments being made and hoped someone in Miss Bingley’s set would trample on her train. Elizabeth grinned at the possibility then immediately felt guilty about what Jane’s reaction would be.

Rolling her eyes at herself, she turned her attention to her sisters. Kate danced with Henry Tilney, and Elizabeth smiled to herself as the gentleman made her younger sister laugh. Kate had just come out a few weeks earlier, and Elizabeth applauded her parents for allowing their other daughters of close age out even while the eldest remained unmarried. Elizabeth happily saw her sister’s first ball must be everything a lady needed. For once, Elizabeth did not even regret Kate’s fanciful imagination. Growing too warm, she stationed herself near an open window until Mr. Bingley collected her for their set.

 

Fantasy Friday- Mr. Darcy and the Bewitched Sisters Chapter Two Part One

Road in dark forest

 

First, here’s a family tree for those who asked. Mr. Bennet married the former Mrs. Morland. Mr. Bingley’s widow married General Tilney. All of the characters were several years old when the deaths occurred so everyone has at least one dead parent. Does that make sense?

sisters bewitched family tree 2

 

Chapter Two

Meryton, Hertfordshire

October 4, 1811

 

Without much more fuss, the days passed until the next Meryton assembly. It was not the ladies’ first desire to get to know their prodigal neighbors at a public ball, but their father had been adamant in not calling earlier. As it happened, General Tilney had only been at Netherfield for a day or two before leaving for London. Mrs. Long, the circulator of all local gossip, claimed he would be arriving with five gentlemen and five ladies.

The single women of the area pouted at the possibility that all the men were already attached. At last, the moment of truth came. When only four women and five gentlemen, including the General, arrived, the crowd, unanimously gave up Mrs. Long as once again wrong in her information and before so much as a word was spoken had settled it in their heads that the four young gentlemen were unattached. One lady was surely Mrs. Tilney, given her age, and the others must only be sisters.

The truth was something to the effect. One lady was indeed Mrs. Tilney. She brought a son and two daughters — one married with her husband in attendance. This left the two sons of General Tilney, but no one could claim to recognize the eldest. His age looked correct, but there was no family resemblance.

They were soon to find out, that it was not Frederick Tilney, heir of Netherfield Abbey of four thousand a year and houses in Town and Bath. Instead, it was a Mr. Darcy of Pemberley in Derbyshire. His reported income was ten thousand pounds; he was cried up as good as a lord. He was the particular friend of Mrs. Tilney’s son, Charles Bingley, and it would have been the prize of the night to attain his admiration if his manners had not given a disgust. Compared with the amiability of Mr. and Mrs. Tilney’s sons, Mr. Darcy was seen as intolerably proud.

Mr. Bingley was without a house, although his inheritance was large, and he declared a desire to lease an estate in the neighborhood. Mr. Henry Tilney had just taken orders and was to take over for Dr. Harrison in a nearby parish. The ladies of Meryton, both sensible and romantic, sighed at the elegant figures the two gentlemen cut and their dancing skill. Mr. Darcy was the most handsome and tallest, but no one could admire his way of staring critically at the crowd.

General Tilney was declared as much improved from when he was last seen. Town gossips determined him very much in love with his new wife who came from a good family but married into trade with her first marriage.

Elizabeth saw, with much joy, that Mr. Bingley had immediately sought an introduction with Jane at his earliest opportunity.

Jane smiled at her handsome partner. “We were so pleased to hear of your arrival in the neighborhood, Mr. Bingley,” she said. “We have all missed General Tilney’s presence, and I am sure your mother and sisters will be welcome additions as well.”

“My mother seems most fortunate in her marriage.” Mr. Bingley’s brown eyes danced in the surrounding candlelight.

“I believe I heard they married last year?” Elizabeth asked.

“Yes, and you may wonder at the delay for their taking residence at Netherfield again.”

Jane and Elizabeth nodded.

“They met in Bath and chose to stay there until all their children finished their educations. I have just completed my master’s examinations at Cambridge. Henry completed his studies just before the marriage but then served as a deacon until he came of age. Frederick’s regiment was also stationed nearby.”

Jane smiled at the mention of the eldest Tilney son. “I knew him as a boy. He has joined the military?”

“Yes, a Captain in the Militia,” Mr. Bingley said. “There was talk of him going into the regulars, but he has not yet, and as heir to Netherfield I rather doubt that he will. His father insisted in some form of employment for his son, however, to keep him occupied.” Mr. Bingley gazed out across the crowd as though to be sure his step-father had not heard the remark.

Jane furrowed her brow. “And have you had the same demands put upon you?”

Uncertainty clouded Bingley’s eyes. “I am charged with purchasing an estate as soon as may be.”

Elizabeth observed that although Jane’s expression did not change, disappointment momentarily flashed in her eyes.

“Oh, then you will not stay long at Netherfield?” Jane asked.

Bingley grinned, and his white teeth dazzled like diamonds. “I doubt I shall find anything until next Spring. The autumn and winter are hardly conducive to looking at estates.”

Jane blushed but did not reply. Elizabeth felt it necessary to say something.  “I suppose so. We are fortunate, though, with our easy distance to London.”

“Indeed. My sisters enjoy that as well.”

This, at last, roused Jane to speech. “They seem like very elegant ladies!”

Elizabeth looked across the ballroom and immediately saw the women in question. Their delicate silk gowns and ornate headpieces with feathers stood out amongst the crowd of patterned muslins and fresh flowers as they lined the dark paneled walls. Mr. Bingley’s elder sister, Mrs. Hurst, toyed with a shining necklace of emeralds and sapphires. Elizabeth guessed it cost half her father’s annual income. Firm to believe in first impressions, Elizabeth perceived the ladies felt above their company and could not like them.

“Thank you. Caroline and Louisa do count themselves as such. I am afraid my newest sister, Eleanor, is more reserved.”

Elizabeth looked around the room and saw Miss Tilney, dressed not nearly as finely as her step-sisters, standing alone.

Jane smiled gently. “I know my sisters and I will enjoy getting to know her better. It simply takes some people longer to warm up to a crowd of strangers.”

Mr. Bingley cocked his head. “I think you speak from experience.”

Jane blushed. “Yes, I find new people and situations uncomfortable.”

The musicians began to strike up for a new set, and Mr. Bingley civilly requested Jane and Elizabeth as partners. As Jane was lead to the dance floor, Elizabeth overheard what she said to Bingley.

“I have never revealed so much to a new acquaintance before,” she confessed.

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?