Thursday, October 31, 2013

Jane and Bingley: Something Slightly Unsettling (Part Eight - The Conclusion)

Part One / Part Two / Part Three / Part Four / Part Five / Part Six / Part Seven

The ladies attended a card party at their Aunt Phillips’ home the following evening, and Jane was sorry to see Mr. Wickham both in attendance and spending a considerable amount of time in Elizabeth’s company, engaged in the appearance of private conversation. She had not seen her sister pay such rapt attention to a gentleman before, and she feared what it portended. Her concerns were justified the next day, when Elizabeth poured his tale of misuse at Mr. Darcy’s hands into her pained ears. 

Jane listened with astonishment and concern. The passion with which her sister spoke was highly alarming. This was far worse an end to Elizabeth’s irrationality regarding Mr. Darcy than she had imagined possible. How could you be so unguarded as to allow this young man to play upon your prejudices and affections in such a way? Jane wanted to scold, but she knew such a tactic would never succeed with Elizabeth. Struggling to find a way to make her sister see reason, she finally replied, “Forgive my silence, Lizzy, but I know not what to think. How is it possible that Mr. Darcy could be so unworthy of Mr. Bingley's regard?”

“Mr. Bingley might be deceived regarding his friend’s true character.” Jane knew she should have expected that response, and silently cursed her sister’s quickness. “You should have heard Mr. Wickham speak for himself. There can be no doubt he suffered at Mr. Darcy’s hands.”

“I do not mean to question the veracity of a young man of such amiable appearance as Mr. Wickham...”

“Of course you do not,” Elizabeth replied, displaying exasperation. “It is not in your nature.”

“ ... but I can no more imagine a man of Mr. Darcy’s reputation and character behaving so!” 

“The world is often and easily deceived, particularly when a large fortune is involved.”

And do you not learn from this story anything regarding what happens to the weak and friendless? Do not align yourself so foolishly, Lizzy! She took a steadying breath. “Perhaps Mr. Wickham misunderstood Mr. Darcy intentions.”

“That is very generous of you, Jane, but it will not do! One man was denied his livelihood, practically a birthright, when it was in the other’s disposal. How can such facts be misconstrued?” 

“The very possibility of Mr. Wickham having endured such unkindness is enough to interest anyone’s tender feelings, but surely they have both been deceived, I dare say, in some way or other, of which we can form no idea. Interested people have perhaps misrepresented each to the other. It is, in short, impossible for us to conjecture the causes or circumstances which may have alienated them, without actual blame on either side."

"Very true, indeed, and now, my dear Jane, what have you got to say in behalf of the interested people who have probably been concerned in the business? Do clear them too, or we shall be obliged to think ill of somebody."

Jane almost wished she could cry in the face of such blatant misunderstanding on her sister’s part. "Laugh as much as you choose, but you will not laugh me out of my opinion,” she defended her sensibilities, struggling to find another tactic with which to convey her meaning. “My dearest Lizzy, do but consider in what a disgraceful light it places Mr. Darcy, to be treating his father's favorite in such a manner. One for whom his father had promised to provide! It is impossible. No man of common humanity, no man who had any value for his character, could be capable of it. Can his most intimate friends be so excessively deceived in him? Oh no!"

"I can much more easily believe Mr. Bingley's being imposed on, than that Mr. Wickham should invent such a history of himself as he gave me last night: names, facts, everything mentioned without ceremony. If it be not so, let Mr. Darcy contradict it. Besides, there was truth in his looks."

Oh Lizzy! "It is difficult indeed. It is distressing. One does not know what to think."

"I beg your pardon; one knows exactly what to think."

Nothing seemed to penetrate her sister’s prejudices. If only she had been born with their father’s ready tongue! “I am surprised Mr. Wickham was so forthcoming with his story. I know that Mr. Bingley, if he had been imposed on, would have much to suffer when the affair became public.”

There was no time to say more. The two young ladies were summoned from the shrubbery, where this conversation passed, by the arrival of some of the very persons of whom they had been speaking. Mr. Bingley and his sisters came to give their personal invitation for the long expected ball at Netherfield, which was fixed for the following Tuesday. The two ladies were delighted to see their dear friend again, called it an age since they had met, and repeatedly asked what she had been doing with herself since their separation. Jane bore their effusions gracefully, with only the slightest glance about to see if any member of her family took exception with Miss Bingley’s use of her christian name, but finding them all as insensible on the subject as Elizabeth, even in the face of their own, notably cooler treatment at their visitor's hand, she attempted to set the matter behind her. It was too usual for her to be alone in her concern for the bad manners of others to dwell upon such familiar discomfort. What she really desired was a private word with Mr. Bingley, in order to question him regarding Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham, but such an opportunity was denied her. His sisters’ anxiety to be departed was apparent, and depart they soon did, having avoided Mrs. Bennet as much as possible, said not much to Elizabeth, and nothing at all to the others. Rising from their seats with an activity which took only their brother by surprise, they hurried off as if eager to escape from Mrs. Bennet's civilities. Jane felt the shame that should belong to others, but her concern for Elizabeth’s growing attachment to Mr. Wickham undermined its intensity. Surely she would have more opportunities to question Mr. Bingley before the ball.

She did not, for from the day of the invitation to the day of the ball there was such a succession of rain as to cause a complete cessation of all casual intercourse with the neighborhood. Jane could be expected to lament the weather in far less boisterous a manner than her sisters, but she would never be imagined so unfeeling as to rejoice in it, though that is precisely what she did. She thought it a very good thing for Elizabeth to have no opportunity to further her acquaintance with Mr. Wickham, as reflection must surely bring about the change of heart her own words had so utterly failed to instill. Better yet, Mr. Collins’ highly public and pompous request for Elizabeth’s hand for the first dances at the ball finally bore upon her than it was she who was selected from among her sisters as worthy of being the mistress of his parsonage. Such a fate must teach better sense than to slight the possibility of being Mrs. Darcy. Jane wished she might speak to Charlotte Lucas on the subject, for they were sure to see eye to eye on such matters, and where Jane lacked the forcefulness to sway, Charlotte might have more success. 

Unfortunately, Elizabeth’s faith in the veracity of Mr. Wickham’s story remained strong enough for her to entertain not a doubt of his attending the ball, until she arrived there and looked about her in vain. It was his friend Mr. Denny, upon Lydia’s application, who soon informed them that he had been obliged to go to town on business the day before and was not yet returned. He smiled significantly and said something to Elizabeth alone. Jane knew not what it was, but she saw her sister’s face harden, and she worried that whatever it was placed blame on Mr. Darcy for Mr. Wickham’s absence. Surely, if Mr. Darcy had wished to keep Mr. Wickham at bay, he could have persuaded Mr. Bingley to exclude him from the invitation? Their host was still greeting his guests, but Jane was to be his partner for the opening set. She thought to use the opportunity to finally ask all she had been wanting to for the past several days but reconsidered. I ought to be focused on securing Mr. Bingley’s affections to myself, not worrying about Elizabeth’s fate, Jane chided herself. If my sister wishes to throw her best opportunity for happiness away, I cannot allow it to endanger my own chances. She possessed more true affection for Elizabeth than anyone else, and she would do what she could on her behalf, but it must wait until later in the evening. While dancing, Mr. Bingley must have her undivided attention: must be the sole recipient of her most endearing smiles. 

Soon the musicians could be heard, and Mr. Bingley appeared by Jane’s side to claim her hand. She smiled genuinely at his eagerness, sparing not a glance at Elizabeth’s pained expression as she reluctantly clasped Mr. Collins’ proffered arm. She could not, however, avoid seeing that gentleman trod most mercilessly upon his partner’s foot as he led her down the line. No one could. But Jane was philosophic: Learn from this, Lizzy! Such mortifications might be yours always, if you do not proceed with care!

With the conclusion of the set, Mr. Bingley led Jane to where his sisters stood with Mr. Darcy and Mr. Hurst. Her natural inclusion in their set made Jane feel more confident than ever before. She looked about her at the uncouth people populating the room and felt a natural affinity for the representatives of society amongst whom she was placed. This must be how Mr. Darcy looks upon the world, she thought. His birth protects him from any doubts of his place. Soon marriage will afford me the same protection. She looked towards the gentleman and was gratified to find his attention fixed upon Elizabeth, who stood across the room with Charlotte Lucas. She was speaking intently, and Jane readily imagined the subject that so engrossed her. She looked to Charlotte, noting her calm, skeptical mien with relief. When Mr. Darcy strode in their direction, bowing formally and addressing Elizabeth, Jane rejoiced to know that such a representative of manners and conduct should succeed Mr. Collins as a dance partner. The contrast, along with whatever sage wisdom Charlotte was pouring into Elizabeth’s ear, would hopefully drive the nonsensical Mr. Wickham from her mind. 

“Miss Bennet, if you are not already engaged, I would be very happy if you would stand with me once more.”

Jane was surprised, but she beamed her acceptance, noting the glances and whispers of her neighbors as he led her to their place. Such remarkable attention could not be misconstrued. All must know it to be as good as a proposal. The music began, and Jane felt she had never been happier. She was not a lady of strong emotions, but the surge of contentment in knowing her own future amongst superior society secure, and probably her one worthy sister's as well, was unlike anything she had previously known. She sighed happily upon Mr. Bingley, who gazed on her lovingly in return. All would be perfect. Now how to convince him to relinquish the lease on Netherfield ...

The End



This is the grand slam! One of each item offered during the entire course of Twisted Austen will all go to one lucky winner. That means two different sets of greeting cards, two handmade books (Emma & Elton: Something Truly Horrid & Jane & Bingley: Something Slightly Unsettling), and a complete set of the Tales of Less Pride & Prejudice Series (paperbacks are available to residents of North America, and Kindle or Nook versions to the international entrants). Best of luck to all. Thanks for reading and Happy Halloween!

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    meikleblog at gmail dot com

  2. I like the way that you have made Jane's thoughts known - it gives her more character . I think a lot of her attitudes will now change - as no proposals comes from Darcy or Bingley as she obviously expects . I think if she becomes more open in her conversations with Elizabeth will not that make her a better sister? even if not the one that Elizabeth thinks she is.

    1. It was my hope that the end would provide a path towards improvement for Jane. I really might have to continue the story someday, because I'm kind of curious to see how it all comes together myself. Several peopel have asked me to continue Emma & Elton, but I've never seen a path forward on that one. This story might keep calling. We'll just have to wait and see.

      Thanks for reading, commenting, and sharing the event. I really appreciate all the support you've shown!

  3. I enjoyed going inside Jane's head and be privy to her thoughts and concern. When Bingley departs from Netherfield, she will have to endure heartbreak. Thus her opinion on marriage will slightly change where she should have shown more encouragement to Bingley's suit instead of being demure and polite.

    1. I'm glad you came along for the ride! I really wanted the story to keep P&P's plot perfectly intact, so its a relief that the feedback so far sees Jane's path forward so clearly. Thanks for participating!

  4. I've watched with interest as each part of the story has been posted; planning to read in its entirety this weekend!

    1. I hope you enjoy it, Regina! Thanks for reading!

  5. Thank you so much for the lovely excerpt and for the giveaway! Your writing style is exquisite and I love the way you make Jane a lot more vocal, articulate, sensible, not just the placidly smiling foil to Elizabeth she usually comes across as! Loved it (and I would have tweeted as well if I could learn how to use Rafflecoper!!! I tried 2 weeks ago and failed dismally, but we leave and learn!) Thanks again

    1. That's lovely, Joana! I'm so pleased you enjoyed the story

  6. Thanks Alexa for sharing your story! I like your Jane! I don't think her opinion changes too much on marriage. Although she is disappointed she is the eternal optimist and finds the best in everyone and every situation. I believe she is and ever will be the sister that Elizabeth believes her to be. Their relationship is bound by love, loyalty, trust and a bond unbreakable.

    Your giveaways are lovely! You do good work.

    1. Thank you, Janet! I'm so pleased you enjoyed my Jane. Your approval regarding my "elegant extracts" means a great deal to me. I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment!