Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Jane & Bingley: Something Slightly Unsettling (Part Seven)

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

They were not welcomed home very cordially by their mother, who wondered at their coming, but it was no more than what both sisters expected. Their father showed true pleasure at their return, and their sisters were gratified by the increase of audience for either moral ministrations or militia gossip, as the case might be.

It proved fortunate they had not delayed their removal from Netherfield, as the very next day Mr. Bennet announced at breakfast that he expected a visitor. William Collins, cousin and heir to Mr. Bennet, might be thought to be of great interest to the family, but hitherto he had been known only in name. Mr. Bennet read his letter with relish, finding humor in every supercilious remark, of which there was an abundance. Jane listened attentively, less concerned with the statements of a silly man than with the prospects for such an acquaintance. She had long regarded him as a potential husband, and certain hints, as surprised as she was to perceive them, suggested that he too had considered the possibility. Her mother’s thoughts proved not dissimilar.

“There is some sense in what he says about the girls, however, and if he is so disposed to make them any amends, I should not be the person to discourage him.”

Nor I, thought Jane, but she doubted her own senses. Could he truly be proposing to marry one of them in a letter of introduction? If so, it was totally inappropriate - nearly preposterous to do so - but it was of little matter. Her younger sisters were bad enough in their manner to render lack of tact no barrier to an advantageous union. “Though it is difficult to guess in what way he can mean to make us the atonement he thinks our due,” she began carefully, “the wish is certainly to his credit.” But instead of receiving an answer, Elizabeth commented on the poor style of the letter, a topic much more engaging to their father than marital speculation. She would just have to wait until he arrived to satisfy her suspicions.

It took only a few minutes in Mr. Collins’ company to establish his intent. He was clearly disposed to admire, the ladies no less than the house. His manner was even worse than expected, but Jane still felt some satisfaction in perceiving his admiration was primarily directed towards herself, as it ought to be. She felt no concern that he should so aim his sights; her mother would soon inform him of Mr. Bingley’s attentions, and he would direct his intentions towards a more appropriate quarter. Mary might suit him very well. Jane did feel some concern for Elizabeth. It would be better if she had already secured Mr. Darcy’s affections, but she had no doubt her sister’s tongue would soon ward off the pretensions of a Mr. Collins. Elizabeth might do far better and should not be sacrificed to Longbourn’s preservation.

She saw Mr. Collins attach himself to Elizabeth the very next day, when all the ladies except Mary, despite Jane’s attempts to change her mind, walked to Meryton in his escort. She was pleased to see her mother had indeed warned him away from herself, but she wished Mary was there to capture his attention. But upon reaching Meryton, where they spotted an unknown gentleman, of handsome appearance and promising comportment, her attention wandered. Despite some shame in the forwardness of her youngest sisters, she was pleased to follow them across the street to acquire an introduction. Mr. Wickham presented exceedingly well, and Jane began to wonder if Mr. Bingley might not be supplanted until learning the newcomer was joining the militia. She had no interest in being the wife of a mere lieutenant.

A welcome distraction soon presented itself in the forms of Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy, who were just then riding down the street. Both looked exceedingly well on their thoroughbreds, but Jane could not help observing the superiority of Mr. Darcy’s seat. She silently sighed and cast his companion her most gracious smile, an effort for which she was rewarded by his immediate attendance.

“Miss Bennet! Ladies! This is an unexpected pleasure!”

“Good morning, Mr. Bingley,” she replied.

“We were just on our way to Longbourn to see how you and Miss Elizabeth fared during the journey home.”

Jane looked to Mr. Darcy for confirmation of the fact, thinking his presence on such an errand boded very well for Elizabeth’s prospects, but all she encountered was a stony stare. Following the direction of Mr. Darcy’s displeasure, she was surprised to find Mr. Wickham, his discomposure apparent. He gathered himself enough to offer a slight salutation, which Mr. Darcy barely acknowledged. Clearly, the two men were already acquainted and were not on cordial terms. She forced her attention to Mr. Bingley, despite the many questions that arose in her mind, and soon he departed along with his friend.

The militia men escorted them to their Aunt Phillips’ house, for which they were bound, and it wasn’t until after a lengthy visit that Jane was gratified by a communication with Elizabeth, as they were making their way homeward, confirming what she herself had observed between Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham. “Did you notice that our new acquaintance seemed familiar to Mr. Darcy? They acknowledged each other, but only with the barest civility.”

“I did indeed, but I know not what to make of it.”

“It is easy to believe that Mr. Darcy should have offered some offense, as it comes so easily to him, but it was Mr. Wickham who acknowledged him first.”

“It is difficult to imagine a man in Mr. Wicham’s circumstances daring to offend a man so much greater,” Jane conceded.

“Exactly. Mr. Darcy must be the guilty party, and Mr. Wickham has proven himself the better gentleman by maintaining his civility.”

“I would not presume to judge the situation without a greater knowledge of Mr. Wickham. After all, Mr. Darcy’s character has Mr. Bingley’s friendship to attest for it.”

“My dear Jane, you will defend either or both, if it would alleviate any appearance of wrong in everyone involved, but you forget: though Mr. Bingley’s friendship might stand in Mr. Darcy’s favor, little else does. We well know his capacity for insult.”

Jane did not reply. She had hoped Elizabeth had put the incident at the assembly behind her, but it seemed such optimism was premature. As it would not do to elevate Mr. Wickham at Mr. Darcy’s expense, she thought it best to refrain from all comment. There must be more to the situation, and she determined to ask Mr. Bingley if he knew what there was between the two men at her earliest convenience.


Tomorrow is Halloween! Come back to read Part Eight, the conclusion.



Tomorrow is the jackpot, but I hope some of you will find all three volumes of my Tales of Less Pride & Prejudice almost as compelling. Todays winner will receive the complete series in either paperback (sorry, this option is only available for residents of North America), Kindle, or Nook format. Open internationally!

First Impressions: A Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice

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.

“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.

Holidays at Pemberley, or Third Encounters: A Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice Concludes

"Charlotte smiled from across the room at the man’s obvious devotion to her friend. Such attachment was very charming, undoubtedly, and when it came to an end, as it was most certain to do, they would have abundant good fortune to keep the inevitable aggravations with each other to a minimum."

Both a Christmas celebration and conclusion to Tales of Less Pride & PrejudiceHolidays at Pemberleybegins where First Impressions ends, with the marriage Fitzwilliam Darcy to Elizabeth Bennet, and spans the course of Second Glances to conclude their story. As the Darcys enjoy their first years of marriage, Charlotte Lucas is often invited to join them. Watching as the Bennet sisters, one by one, marry to both outrageous advantage and with great affection, her only ambition remains independence and respectability, stubbornly blind to the virtues of a love match. Miss Lucas thinks she has found an acceptable husband in David Westover, rector of Kympton and determined bachelor, but he remains oblivious to the implications of befriending a Miss Lucas. It may mean some heartbreak, but if Mrs. Darcy's pragmatic friend will only surrender to Cupid, she may find wild fantasies do come true, even for ladies dangerously close to thirty.

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  1. I dislike the necessity of her attitude, but my practical side understands that when you have no means of supporting yourself other than marriage and because of your family circumstances can't expect more than a few proposals if any, even the silly men must be considered a prospective marriage partner. But Ugh! The heart does get a pang at the thought.

    I really enjoy this analytical Jane who thinks circles around everyone else it seems.

    1. Almost too pragmatic, isn't she? Charlotte Lucas definitely inspired her character to a large degree, as I had just finished my novel all about her when I started writing this story. Yes, this Jane is very intelligent, but her powers of communication are lacking. Mrs. Bennet probably never let her get a word in edgewise ...


    meikleblog at gmail dot com

  3. It is a practical attitude but I am not sure I like it. I always thought Mary was a better object of Mr Collin's attention but felt that he thought he deserved a prettier wife

    1. I never heard someone express a desire for Mr. Collins to have a pretty wife! Poor lady! There's a story int hat scenario, I'm sure.

      I don't care for her pragmatism, either, but that's the Halloween spirit at work. I had to make her dark somehow, even if it was only through moral ambivalence.