Thursday, October 24, 2013

Jane & Bingley: Something Slightly Unsettling (Part One)


Your sister I also watched.  – Her look and manners were open, cheerful, and engaging as ever, but without any symptom of peculiar regard, and I remained convinced from the evening's scrutiny, that though she received his attentions with pleasure, she did not invite them by any participation of sentiment. - Mr. Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice
“The entire evening was not perfect: oh, no Mr. Bennet, it was not!”

“And what, dare I ask, could possible besmirch Mr. Bingley’s triumphant introduction to the neighborhood?”

“It was his horrible friend, Mr. Darcy! I care not at all for how handsome he is, nor for his 10,000 pounds and estate in Derbyshire, not after his ungentlemanly behavior towards poor Lizzy!”

“Oh? His sins must be grievous, indeed, for such a man to lose your favor so quickly. What did he do to you Lizzy? Need I call him out?”

“Little more than tell the truth, Papa,” Elizabeth replied with a mischievous smile. “He rightly observed that Jane was the only handsome lady in the room, and as I’m sure we all look quite plain in comparison, I cannot fault his taste.”

“Lizzy!” he mother admonished. “Mr. Darcy is not detestable because he admired Jane! You know very well he called you not tolerable enough to stand up with, when gentlemen were scarce, and more than one lady forced to sit down! You heard him yourself!”

Mr. Bennet’s eyes grew wide. “Is this true, Lizzy?”

“Not precisely,” she laughed. “Mr. Darcy said I was not handsome enough to tempt him to dance. Nothing worse.”

“Well! This is an adventure you’ve had, my dear! It’s not every lady who has the honor of being slighted by 10,000 pounds.” 

“I can assure you," Mrs. Bennet interrupted, "that Lizzy does not lose much by not suiting his fancy, for he is a most disagreeable, horrid man, and not at all worth pleasing. So high and so conceited that there was no enduring him! He walked here, and he walked there, fancying himself so very great! Not handsome enough to dance with! I wish you had been there, my dear, to have given him one of your set downs. I quite detest the man."

Jane Bennet said little of either gentlemen while they remained downstairs, but when she and Elizabeth found themselves alone, she had words on only one. "He is just what a young man ought to be: sensible, good humored, lively, and I never saw such happy manners! So much ease, with such perfect good breeding!" She confided, alive with the flattery and attention that had marked the evening’s assembly.

"He is also handsome," replied Elizabeth, "which a young man ought likewise to be, if he possibly can. His character is thereby complete."

Jane blushed at her sister’s pointed humor. She knew she was expected to signal her agreement, but as Mr. Bingley’s appearance seemed rather immaterial, she pointed the conversation in a more meaningful direction. "I was very much flattered by his asking me to dance a second time. I did not expect such a compliment."

"Did not you? I did for you. But that is one great difference between us. Compliments always take you by surprise, and me never.”

Presumptuous, Lizzy! Jane silently admonished. 

“What could be more natural than his asking you again?” Elizabeth continued.

Why must she insist on making light of it? 

“He could not help seeing that you were about five times as pretty as every other women in the room. No thanks to his gallantry for that. Well, he certainly is very agreeable, and I give you leave to like him. You have liked many a stupider person."

"Dear Lizzy!" Jane protested, though doubtful that the slight scold in her tone would be attended. Elizabeth was forever examining the characters of her fellow humans in a most merciless manner. Jane could only feel relief that her sister was reliably obtuse when it came to herself, for if she could penetrate that fair head, she would surely find far too much fault to tolerate.

"Oh! you are a great deal too apt, you know, to like people in general. You never see a fault in anybody. All the world are good and agreeable in your eyes. I never heard you speak ill of a human being in my life."

No, you never would hear me speak it, she silently replied. Out loud she prevaricated: "I would wish not to be hasty in censuring anyone, but I always speak what I think." She studied Elizabeth for a hint of doubt upon her trusting mien, a concern her next words totally nullified.

"I know you do, and it is that which makes the wonder. With your good sense,” Jane turned away in embarrassment, “to be honestly blind to the follies and nonsense of others! Affectation of candor is common enough – one meets it everywhere. But to be candid without ostentation or design – to take the good of everybody's character and make it still better, and say nothing of the bad – belongs to you alone.” Her sister not responding, Elizabeth tried another tactic. “And so, you like this man's sisters too, do you? Their manners are not equal to his."

"Certainly not,” she spoke too quickly and hastened to distance herself from the thoughtless outburst, “at first. But they are very pleasing women when you converse with them. Miss Bingley is to live with her brother and keep his house, and I am much mistaken if we shall not find a very charming neighbor in her."

Elizabeth listened in silence, but was not convinced. Jane knew she had put an end to the inquiries. Lizzy would have to content herself with assumptions of her sister’s feelings, good or bad. They indulged in a few less meaningful observations from the assembly before bidding each other goodnight.



That the Miss Lucases and the Miss Bennets should meet to talk over a ball was absolutely necessary, and the morning after the assembly brought the former to Longbourn to hear and to communicate.

"You began the evening well, Charlotte," said Mrs. Bennet with civil self-command to Miss Lucas. "You were Mr. Bingley's first choice." Jane wished her mother would not be so transparent in her quest for compliments.

"Yes, but he seemed to like his second better." Miss Lucas looked to Jane, apologetic and amused. 

"Oh! You mean Jane, I suppose – because he danced with her twice. To be sure that did seem as if he admired her – indeed I rather believe he did – I heard something about it – but I hardly know what – something about Mr. Robinson."

"Perhaps you mean what I overheard between him and Mr. Robinson,” she smiled bemusedly, catching Elizabeth’s eye. “Did not I mention it to you? Mr. Robinson's asking him how he liked our Meryton assemblies, and whether he did not think there were a great many pretty women in the room, and which he thought the prettiest? And his answering immediately to the last question: ‘Oh! the eldest Miss Bennet beyond a doubt, there cannot be two opinions on that point.’”

"Upon my word!” Mrs. Bennet blushed in pleasure, as Jane renewed her attention to her work. “Well, that was very decided indeed – that does seem as if – but, however, it may all come to nothing, you know."

"My overhearings were more to the purpose than yours, Eliza," said Charlotte. "Mr. Darcy is not so well worth listening to as his friend, is he?” Oh no, thought Jane, not Mr. Darcy again. “Poor Eliza! To be only just tolerable."

"I beg you would not put it into Lizzy's head to be vexed by his ill-treatment, for he is such a disagreeable man that it would be quite a misfortune to be liked by him.” My mother has a very contrary understanding of what misfortune means. “Mrs. Long told me last night that he sat close to her for half an hour without once opening his lips."

Jane could not hold her tongue. "Are you quite sure, Ma'am? Is not there a little mistake? I certainly saw Mr. Darcy speaking to her."

"Aye – because she asked him at last how he liked Netherfield, and he could not help answering her, but she said he seemed very angry at being spoke to."

"Miss Bingley told me," Jane continued in defense of the most consequential person to have come into their social circle, "that he never speaks much unless among his intimate acquaintance. With them he is remarkably agreeable."

"I do not believe a word of it, my dear. If he had been so very agreeable, he would have talked to Mrs. Long. But I can guess how it was. Everybody says that he is ate up with pride, and I dare say he had heard somehow that Mrs. Long does not keep a carriage, and had come to the ball in a hack chaise."

Or he couldn’t abide such idiocy as Mrs. Long is wont to spout, Jane mentally retorted.

"I do not mind his not talking to Mrs. Long," said Miss Lucas, "but I wish he had danced with Eliza.” As do I, or better still, with myself! 

"Another time, Lizzy," said her mother, "I would not dance with him, if I were you."

What a ridiculous notion!

"I believe, Ma'am, I may safely promise you never to dance with him."

Oh, no Lizzy! Do not suddenly be as one with our mother on this issue!

"His pride," said Miss Lucas, "does not offend me so much as pride often does, because there is an excuse for it. One cannot wonder that so very fine a young man, with family, fortune, everything in his favor, should think highly of himself. If I may so express it, he has a right to be proud."

"That is very true," replied Elizabeth, "and I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine."

Their sister Mary chose this moment to lecture on the distinctions between pride and vanity, and Jane was at liberty to let her mind wander. Usually, Lizzy was her staunchest ally against their mother’s unpolished behavior. It was she who was most likely to maneuver the conversation away from inappropriate subjects. A propensity to dislike and disparage Mr. Darcy was as dangerous as anything Jane could currently fathom. The appearance of two potential husbands in the neighborhood was as miraculous as manna from the heavens, and she prayed most fervently that her relations would do nothing to alienate these new acquaintances. 



The ladies of Longbourn soon waited on those of Netherfield. The visit was returned in due form. Jane could see that the sisters looked to find fault: their candid survey of the room and it’s accouterments, complete with the mortification of hearing their half-hearted compliments accepted by her mother with the greatest of pleasure, was apparent enough to any thinking creature. Maintaining her constant placidity, Miss Bennet exerted herself to please, and she was gratified to see her effort rewarded, as her accommodating and deferential manners grew on the good will of Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley. Upon their departure, a wish of being better acquainted with them was expressed towards the two eldest Bennet sisters. Jane comprehended such pointedness, as she knew Lizzy must, but it little mattered if Mrs. Bennet was deemed intolerable and her youngest daughters not worth talking to: she had been extended a hand of friendship from those who could do the most for her, and she could only express her joy.

“Is this not felicitous, Lizzy? I am very pleased to have won the good opinion of our new neighbor.”

“Yes, you would be pleased by such treatment. I have more exacting standards. The superciliousness of Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst was not at all to my taste, and I cannot like them.”

“Much more good will come to you if you try to befriend them. There is nothing gained in dislike.”

“Is there not? I think a great deal of personal satisfaction might be found in the dismissal of others as unworthy. Think of the rush of superiority! Our new acquaintance certainly seem to relish the pleasure, which is as good a reason as any I can think of to heed your advice. Instead, I will seek amusement in the knowledge that my manners are far better than theirs, and they are only too ignorant to notice.”

“Oh, Lizzy!” Jane laughed. She knew precisely the feeling.

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Come back tomorrow to read Part Two!

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TWISTED AUSTEN GIVEAWAYS! 

In the spirit of Halloween, I have lovingly constructed these Northanger Abbey inspired Halloween greeting cards using stencils and card stock. Enter to win a set for yourself (you can better look at the cards here). Open internationally!






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Also up for grabs, a copy of First Impressions: A Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice Concludes. I'm happy to provide either a paperback (for North American residents only), a Kindle, or a Nook version of the book to the winner. Open internationally. The rest of the series will be on offer as Twisted Austen continues.

In Pride and Prejudice, Fitzwilliam Darcy begins his relationship with Elizabeth Bennet with the words: "She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me; I am in no humour at present togive consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men." What would have happened if Mr. Darcy had never spoken so disdainfully? First Impressions explores how the events of Jane Austen's beloved novel would have transpired if Darcy and Elizabeth had danced together at the Meryton Assembly. Jane and Bingley's relationship blossoms unimpeded, Mary makes a most fortunate match, and Lydia never sets a foot in Brighton. Austen's witty style is authentically invoked in this playful romp from Longbourn to Pemberley.


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10 comments:

  1. I'm enjoying the story so far. I've always wondered what Jane was really thinking. She never said anything bad about anyone, but I'm sure her thoughts weren't always so nice!

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    1. Hi Anna! No one's can be, right? I always think of Jane when I hear that "pictures of perfection make me sick and wicked" quote: can anyone be so flawless? Not in Austen's world, and that was the inspiration for this story. Thanks for supporting my little event!

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  2. I confess, sadly I haven't give Jane's inner thinking much thought. I did always wish to get more from her than we got in the original story b/c she always seemed so 2D to me. Glad to read your story! I'm enjoying it.

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  3. I pinned your story and giveaway on two of my Pinterest boards.

    Pinterest as Sophia Rose

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    1. Thanks Sophia! I hope you continue to read my little tale. I sort of thought my Jane would be aggravating, but then my husband read the story and said he preferred her to Austen's, whom he called insipid. The comment sparked a somewhat heated debate, as I jumped to Miss Bennet's defense, ironically.

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    2. Tell your hubby that we are agreed on this one. ;D

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  4. http://www.pinterest.com/pin/241435229997312027/

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  5. Sometimes wonder if Jane is so guarded because she had been hurt in the past

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  6. http://www.pinterest.com/pin/241435229997312259/

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    1. Hi Vesper! Thanks for all the pins! I agree - there has to be an explanation for how Jane grew up to be so reserved in a family that has almost no reserve.

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