Friday, October 25, 2013

Jane and Bingley: Something Slightly Unsettling (Part Two)

Part One

Charlotte Lucas was just leaving Lucas Lodge on a visit to Longbourn when she saw Jane Bennet pass by, apparently returning from Meryton. “Jane!” she called and quickened her pace to catch up to her friend. “You are out early this morning.”

Jane smiled sweetly, as she always did. “My mother consumed the remains of her preferred tincture last night. I hoped she might not know a moment’s unease without it, and so set out as soon as I’d breakfasted to replenish the stock.”

The two ladies fell in step together, and Charlotte considered Jane’s errand with amusement. Intimate as she was with Longbourn and it’s inhabitants, she was most certain the true reason for Miss Bennet’s excursion resided in a desire for solitude, but Jane was always quick to adapt her inclinations to duty. “Elizabeth chose not to join you?” she asked slyly.

“Lizzy was busy with my father this morning.”

“You mean they were cloistered together in his library, both engrossed in their own book, with not a word spoken between them?”

Jane smiled but said nothing.

“And as we all know how Eliza despises a walk, you would not dare to impose on her?”

“I admit to not having inquired if she wished to come,” she said with accustomed calm, though her smile was a bit forced. “I hope I did not make an assumption which in anyway curtailed the pleasures of my dear sister. It was not my intention.”

“No, you simply wanted some time to yourself, as we all do, and Mrs. Bennet’s tincture provided a ready excuse. It is acceptable to do things for your own benefit, you know, and no matter how beloved a sister, her presence cannot be always agreeable. No one's can.”

Jane smile grew natural again, and she laughed. “Have you completed your lecture, my dear Charlotte?”

“Not quite. I’m actually rather pleased to find you alone, for I have something I’d like to discuss with you.”

“Yes?” Jane asked with unfeigned curiosity.

“I’d like to ask you about Mr. Bingley.”

“Oh,” came an almost curt reply, and Jane quickened her pace.

“I just hope you make the most of this opportunity. He clearly likes you, and you must move quickly to solidify that attraction before he gets distracted.”

“Now I understand why it was so important to speak with me alone,” Jane sought a diversion. “Lizzy would be most perturbed to hear you speak so.”

“Eliza is younger than you, and she still entertains a great deal of romantic notions. I hope they never lead her to chagrin, just as I hope fear of her censure wont hinder you now.”

“I’m not sure what you mean,” was the slightly offended response.

“Forgive me for saying so, but I know you hide a great deal of your true sentiments from Elizabeth, lest they diminish her admiration for you. You’ve confessed so much yourself.”

Jane looked in the opposite direction from her companion. She wished Charlotte had not such a good memory, nor so observant an eye. “I’m not sure I understand how that is relevant,” she protested, but her mind held a perfectly vivid image of her younger self, in a rare moment of weakness, crying upon Charlotte’s shoulder for the loss of Mr. Thornton, a wealthy friend of her Uncle Gardiner’s, whose very promising attentions desisted following Elizabeth’s mockery of the poems he wrote in her honor. 

“Do you not? Mr. Bingley is thrown into our midst, for no definite period of time, and you are not at leisure to get to know if you like him well enough to marry. Eliza’s notions must be ignored in the face of the facts. I hope you do your best to encourage his suit, regardless of what anyone might say.” Jane would never criticize Mrs. Bennet aloud, but she longed to retort: You forget what an active advocate he will have in the form of my mother. Charlotte must have read her thoughts, for she continued: “A gentleman’s heart is unlikely to be touched by the wishes of a lady’s family. Most require the encouragement of the lady herself.”

“Charlotte!” Elizabeth’s voice called out from within Longbourn’s palings. “How good of you to keep Jane company. Had I known her intention, I would have ventured to accompany her.” She cast her sister a playful scold, and Jane smiled on Elizabeth with affectionate relief. Charlotte should not have initiated such an intrusive subject of conversation, but still she could not help but think of what had been said, knowing both the good intentions and sound mind behind the words. Yet she abhorred the notion of making a spectacle of herself and being the talk of the neighbors. As the daughter of Mrs. Bennet, she had experienced a bounty of such humiliation, and it had become the focus of Jane’s life to minimize such attention. To openly flirt with Mr. Bingley, as Charlotte had essentially suggested, would be intolerable. She envisioned herself with the manners of Lydia, her youngest sister: laughing and batting her eyes and bouncing up and down. Then she conjured an imaginary Elizabeth, all shock and disappointment. She could not bear to see her sister look at her like that. Surely, if she maintained her friendliest manners and exerted all her notable ability to please, it would suffice for Mr. Bingley? Besides, was she not the handsomest lady in the neighborhood? That must stand her in good stead.   

It was at Sir William Lucas', where a large party was assembled, that Jane had next an opportunity to impress Mr. Bingley. His party arrived after hers, and as soon as he completed his introduction to his hosts, he began to scan the room in search of her. She knew it was so. When he discovered her, his face illuminated. Her satisfaction at his reaction shown through her smile, imbibing it with an unaccustomed degree of warmth, which she hoped he perceived. 

“Miss Bennet! You look an angel descended from heaven, as usual!”

She blushed, finding such overt flattery embarrassing. She rather preferred the staid greeting of Mr. Darcy, who stood beside his friend, though she noticed with interest that he, too, seemed to be searching for someone. Determined to use this precious time to the best end, she focused her attention entirely upon the more receptive gentleman.

“You seem in fine spirits this evening, Mr. Bingley,” she smiled.

He beamed back. “I am always elevated in your company, Miss Bennet.”

Making use of an opportune sofa, Mr. Bingley sat beside Jane, choosing to entertain his fair lady with reports from his estate, clearly enjoying his new role. He spoke with all the excitement to be derived from novelty, and she listened with the all the interest of one who has always lived on a country estate and couldn’t find such matters more mundane. Yet her smile never wavered, and she replied to all his questions and statements just as she ought, so he never suspected how little she cared for drainage and pasture. 

Soon their attention was called to the instrument, and Elizabeth sat down to perform. Jane watched with the same sensations she always had when Lizzy entertained at the pianoforte: something like jealousy, but muddled with regret. She wished she had been more diligent in her own fumbling attempts to learn to play, then she might adorn a room with something more than just beauty and elegance. 

Elizabeth soon ceded her place to Mary Bennet, who roused no emotion in Jane at all. For many minutes she could devote all her attention to listening to Mr. Bingley’s talk and smiling encouragingly, until the tiring concerto was replaced by an Irish air, as her younger sisters and several Lucases began to enthusiastically perform in impromptu dance.

“Shall we join the set, Miss Bennet?” Mr. Bingley asked, his hand extended to her.

She smiled as brightly as she could, “It would be my pleasure, Mr. Bingley,” certain that no one, including Charlotte Lucas, could possibly miss her pleasure and enthusiasm, as she put all her effort into simulating both.


Come back tomorrow to read Part Three!



Today I have on offer more Halloween greeting cards, this group representing some of the most harrowing moments from the other Austen novels (enter to win the Northanger Abbey cards here). I make the cards by hand using stencils and card stock. You can get a better look at this collection here. Open internationally!

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“Yes, but he is Darcy, after all. Can you imagine the lady who would reject him?”

Sir James laughed. “I don't know; if he had made a muddle of a first impression upon his wife, as I have on Miss Bennet, then perhaps his gentlemanly status would have undergone similar attack.” 

A year has passed since the conclusion of First Impressions, and the marriages made by the three eldest Bennet ladies are prospering. Expectations are high for the two youngest sisters to do equally well. Kitty, having excelled in school, receives an invitation to join Georgiana Darcy in her first London season, leaving Lydia to bear the burden of the classroom alone. Will the most forward Bennet tolerate such inequity? 

Kitty arrives in London prepared to be happy, but her delight is marred when she finds a most unwelcome gentleman on intimate terms with her hosts. She has met the reckless Sir James Stratton before and would like nothing more than to never encounter him again, but his acquaintance she is forced to endure. Struggling for firm footing amidst the whirlwind of London society, will Kitty be allowed to follow her heart, or will her family force her hand? Join the reimagined cast of Pride and Prejudice as they pursue happiness amidst the ongoing obstacles of life, love, and interfering relations.

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  1. I'm not surprised that she wouldn't give Charlotte's advice much thought because she also did seem more influenced by Elizabeth even if Elizabeth was the younger sister. Interesting that it is flavored with jealousy too and that she is more drawn to Mr. Darcy than to Mr. Bingley.

    1. I hope you're still enjoying it. My Jane is not someone who Austen would approve. That's the "scary" part: questionable morality instead of perfection. I also tried to make her more like Mrs. Bennet in her thoughts, if not her actions. I hope that's coming through. Thanks for reading!

    2. definitely enjoying it, Alexa!

  2. I think she would consider Charlotte's advice and not overly flirt with Mr Bingley like how Lydia does it. Maybe some hint that she is responsive to his gesture. No, I never stop to consider that Jane might try to alter her behaviour it if Elizabeth disapprove.

    1. That was sort of the inspiration for this story - how much does Elizabeth impose her own sentiments on Jane ( as she does with Charlotte), and is Jane afraid of her censure? So glad to hear from you!


  4. Charlotte is a sensible forwarding looking female(as far as marriage is concerned), her advise I would have thought worthwhile listening to

    1. I agree, and so does Jane (at least I think she does). Thanks for reading!


  6. Thank you very much Alexa! I've sent you an email! Hugs!