Thursday, April 1, 2010

Pride and Prejudice Janeicillin: Part One

I have long suffered from a most annoying ailment that I call please-don't-let-this-be-the-last-pageitis. The disorder kicks in whenever I reach the end of a particularly satisfying book, usually resulting in my turning back to page one and starting to read it all over again. But relief is on the way for, at long last, after many failed attempts, I have finally succeeded in manufacturing a cure. I call it Janeicillin.

"What is Janeicillin," you ask? Really nothing more than the very bad title I have given to a recent writing project, largely still in its conceptual phase. The idea is to take those last few pages of Austen's novels, when she speedily rushes us towards the end, and elaborate on them to create short stories detailing the time between the engagements and the weddings. I started easy with Pride and Prejudice and, now that I have the story half written, thought I would start sharing it with you. Ideally, I'd like to post approximately 2500 words each Thursday, but I can make no guarantees that I wont become distracted with another project. So, if you are in need of a weekly dose of Janeicillin, please badger me to keep writing. Enjoy

Pride and Prejudice Janeicillin: Part One

"Ma’am, I have something truly wonderful to tell you. Mr. Darcy has been so kind as to request my hand in marriage, and I have accepted." Elizabeth watched her mother closely, both curious and terrified of her response, but Mrs. Bennet only stared. She had persuaded that excitable matron to sit down before making this important communication, as swooning seemed one of her probable responses, and to encounter calm collection instead was rather unnerving. "Mama, do you attend?"

"Yes, Lizzy dear."

"Mr. Darcy has proposed."

Nothing. Mrs. Bennet just sat there, blinking at her daughter in seeming obliviousness. Elizabeth had expected this moment of disclosure to her mother to be difficult, but at least the customary flutterings and fidgetings that were habitual to Mrs. Bennet were familiar: she knew how to manage them. This stunned silence was something extraordinary.


Mrs. Bennet heard her daughter, but as if through a fog and at great distance. Mr. Darcy? Could she have heard correctly? That odious man who snubbed Lizzy? Mr. Darcy, the great, proud man, ask her daughter for her hand? There must be some mistake. But no, she says it again. Could it be a joke? Lizzy doesn’t look as if she jests. But why? Mr. Darcy of Pemberley? Mr. Darcy with ten thousand …, “Oh my! Excuse me, child, but what did you say?”

Elizabeth smiled in relief, “Mr. Darcy has asked me to marry him. Is this not felicitous?”

“Oh yes indeed, my dear girl. But Mr. Darcy? You are quite certain?”

“Yes, ma’am. I am quite certain.”

Mrs. Bennet stood up, only to sit back down again, as if unsure of what it was she wanted to do. She stared up at Elizabeth and began to ramble, with a great deal of awe, "Good gracious! Lord bless me! Only think! Dear me! Mr. Darcy! Who would have thought it! And is it really true?”

“Yes indeed it is, Mama. I would not jest regarding a matter of such import.”

“Oh! My sweetest Lizzy! But how rich and how great you will be!”

“I suppose I must be, as Mr. Darcy is himself so rich and great.”

“But only consider! What pin-money, what jewels, what carriages you will have! Jane's is nothing to it – nothing at all.”

“I’m sure you need not share that opinion with her.”

“Oh! I am so pleased – so happy. Such a charming man! – so handsome! so tall! Oh, my dear Lizzy! Pray apologize for my having disliked him so much before. I hope he will overlook it.”

“You will find Mr. Darcy everything gracious. We have been very much mistaken in him. He is the best of men.”

“Yes, yes of course. Oh my dear, dear Lizzy. A house in town! Every thing that is charming! Three daughters married! Ten thousand a year! Oh, Lord! What will become of me. I shall go distracted."

This Elizabeth took as a sign that she had best leave her mother to such sanguine reflections and, excusing herself, retreated to her own room. She was pleased her mother was happy and could, in private, rejoice in her triumph, but she felt no need to subject herself to the spectacle. Unfortunately, Mrs. Bennet was not ready to quietly reflect on the family’s good fortune and not three minutes later was at her daughter’s door: "My dearest child," she cried, "I can think of nothing else! Ten thousand a year, and very likely more! 'Tis as good as a Lord! And a special license. You must and shall be married by a special license. But my dearest love, tell me what dish Mr. Darcy is particularly fond of, that I may have it tomorrow."

This was a sad omen of what her mother's behavior to the gentleman himself might be. “Dear Mama, Mr. Darcy himself has already complimented the excellence of your table. You need not go to extraordinary means to please him.”

“Yes, yes of course, you clever girl! He particularly enjoyed the partridges. But we can’t possibly serve them again – not so soon. Do you think grouse will suffice?”

 “I am sure that would be delightful.”

As her mother bustled off to plague Hill with menus, Elizabeth reflected that, though in the certain possession of his warmest affection, and secure of her relations' consent, there was still something to be wished for in her engagement. She was sorry her relations were sure to be such a trial to Fitzwilliam but, thankfully, he was determined to overlook them for her sake. She must do her best to minimize his mortifications. 

On their way to Longbourn the next day, Mr. Bingley, too, predicted much discomfiture for his friend at the hands of their future mother-in-law. “Shall you enjoy having the opportunity to kill all the pheasants at Longbourn? Admit it, Darcy, few hostesses are so generous.”

“Indeed. It may prove a very welcome invitation. Each time I am tempted to snub the lady, I’ll take a gun and deplete her park instead, a very satisfactory exchange.”

“Hopefully we will be able to continue to orchestrate long walks with Jane and Elizabeth, instead of remaining confined at Longbourn. I daresay you will miss Mrs. Bennet’s previously cold demeanor. At least you have spared me the brunt of her effusions, you being a far greater matrimonial prize than I. I shall surely be neglected now that you have eclipsed me.”

“Don’t be so downcast, Bingley. I have perfect faith that Mrs. Bennet has enough admiration to spare for us both.”

Despite his jocular tone, Darcy was quite nervous to witness the change in demeanor that Mrs. Bennet was sure to display now that Elizabeth had announced their engagement. He hoped to conduct himself in a manner to make Elizabeth proud, enduring Mrs. Bennet with good grace and tolerance. More he doubted he could muster. He braced himself for the onslaught upon their arrival, but his precautions proved unnecessary. All the ladies of the house were at home, and it was upon a scene of peaceful domesticity that the gentlemen entered. Jane and Elizabeth came forward with greetings, but Mrs. Bennet seemed oddly subdued. She smiled nervously at the gentlemen and invited them to sit down, but after offering and ordering refreshments fell silent - she, Mary, and Kitty choosing to stare at Darcy rather than assault him with felicitations.

Bingley looked at Darcy with a shrug before taking his place beside Jane. Darcy, following his lead and Elizabeth’s invitation, proceeded likewise. Her smile put him somewhat at ease, but the inattention of the three ladies across the way to their needlework as they continued to inspect him was unnerving.

Elizabeth, while relieved her mother wasn’t cooing over her intended, was very aware that such unusual behavior on her family’s part was almost as conspicuous. She never thought it would come to this, but decided she ought to nudge Darcy into opening conversation with her mother. Clearly, that lady was so very awed by such a grand son-in-law that the proverbial cat had quite stolen her tongue. Darcy, though rather nervous, complied.

“Mrs. Bennet, it is a lovely afternoon, is it not?”

“Yes indeed, Mr. Darcy, very lovely,” was that normally loquacious lady’s response.

Darcy looked again to Elizabeth, who smiled in encouragement. “Unseasonably warm too.”

“Yes, quite so. Unseasonably warm. Don’t you agree, Kitty?”

With a jump that young lady responded, “Yes, Mama. Unseasonably warm.”

This would not do. Elizabeth realized her family was so very impressed by Mr. Darcy that anything resembling coherent conversation was beyond them. The situation called for drastic measures. Turning to Mr. Darcy, she said, “My mother had a wonderful notion last evening. She suggests that we marry by special license. Would that not be felicitous?”

Darcy turned to her in surprise, well aware that such ostentation was far from what Elizabeth preferred. She tilted her head towards her mother and, glancing in that lady’s direction, he noted her blushing countenance and responded appropriately, “Yes, of course I can acquire one, if you like. My uncle is well acquainted with the archbishop and I have often dinned in his company.”

By Mrs. Bennet’s response, he knew he had hit upon precisely the right topic, “Do you really know the archbishop himself, sir?

“I do indeed, ma’am. His Grace and my uncle were at school together.”

Mrs. Bennet beamed and addressed the daughters that were flanking her, ”There! Now you see, my girls!”

“See what, Mama?” Kitty questioned, much confused.

“Why, what a very great gentleman Mr. Darcy is, just as I said!”

This reply left him flustered, but Elizabeth knew how to steer the conversation back to her purpose, “I imagine the procurement of a special license will require several days in London. There must be some protocol to be followed, and as his Grace is a familial connection, it is of particular import that you not be remiss in these matters. How long must you be away?” She smiled slyly at him, and he took the hint.

“Yes. You are correct. I imagine a month might suffice, for once I am in town I cannot possibly leave without paying my respects to those of my primary connections currently in residence.”

“But sir,” Mrs. Bennet interrupted, “surely you intend to go to town to see to the settlements?”

“Bingley and I had intended to perform a quick trip, just to consult our lawayers, and then be gone. I would not even have had to place the knocker on my door for such a mission. But a consultation with the archbishop will take time to arrange, and society must be given its due.”

“Oh no, Mr. Darcy. One can never be too correct regarding such things. For the honor conveyed by a special license, I believe I can bear the separation from your delightful company.”

Though her tone was teasing, the novelty of claiming her affections as his own was still so new to Mr. Darcy that he said whispered worriedly, “Can you?” Reassured by her smile, he said honestly, “I am afraid I am not likewise ready to part from your company at this time.”

“Then you mustn’t!” declared Mrs. Bennet, much in her usual manner. “Though your heart is set on marriage by special license, Lizzy, you simply must make do with the banns! Soon you shall be a married woman and will have to accustom yourself to accommodating your husband’s wants.” She made several strange gestures with her eyebrows in Elizabeth’s direction which her daughter did not seem to notice, attending as she was to her needlework, to Darcy’s great relief. Bingley, on the other hand, was not so spared, Jane’s grim face being diffused with crimson.

Still plying her needle, Elizabeth responded with a subtle grin, “I imagine I can tolerate the disappointment, Mama, if you can.”

“Dissapointment, Lizzy? What are you speaking of, child? Never have I been more content!”

No one in the room had the least doubt of the veracity of Mrs. Bennet’s claim.

Following an uncommonly fine meal, from which Mrs. Bennet derived still greater depths of satisfaction upon learning that grouse, prepared in just that manner, was a favorite of Mr. Darcy’s, the gentlemen were entertained by both Mr. Bennet’s amusing anecdotes of their fiancées’ childhood antics and a very tolerable Madeira. They joined the ladies and, upon Mrs. Bennet’s urging, Elizabeth performed a few light pieces upon the pianoforte, to Mr. Darcy’s infinite satisfaction. With out any urging, Mary succeeded her sister to the instrument. In fact, it was only with her mother’s coercion that she finally was prevailed upon to cease. Greatly relieved to be finally able to return his attention to Elizabeth, Mr. Darcy was unaware of Mr. Bennet’s approach.
“Mr. Darcy, I would be pleased if you would join me in my library. I understand that the allure of books pales besides my Lizzy, but you will indulge your future father-in-law, will you not?”

Darcy glanced at Elizabeth in surprise, but her encouraging smile allowed him to respond with his customary dignity, “Certainly sir. I am delighted.”

“No need to go that far, sir. Willing will suffice.”

The gentlemen settled themselves into the comfortably worn armchairs, Mr. Darcy curious as to the nature of this tête-à-tête. Surely, everything needing to be said had been said the day before. He had noticed that, like himself, Mr. Bennet was not a man of idle conversation, adding to the unexpectedness of this interview.

“Well Mr. Darcy, you have weathered my wife’s effusions admirably. I commend you for it, through my entertainment would have been better secured had your notable self-command faltered. And she did let you off easy, you know. It seems the requisition of such a grand son-in-law has been precisely the balm to sooth her nerves. Pity I didn’t think of it years ago. Take my advice, Mr. Darcy, and keep Mrs. Bennet in awe of you. If she perceives a crack in that notable dignity of yours, we shall all suffer.”

Darcy smiled, “I will do my best, sir.”

“Of course, if she knew of your service to her youngest daughter, there would be no escaping her gratitude, which would come in the form of massive imposition, as she would surely expect you to forevermore play the hero in all our family dramas.”

Mr. Darcy flushed. “I had no notion you knew, sir.”

“Lizzy only just told me.” He lost his typical air of humor and grew serious, “We are deeply indebted to you, Mr. Darcy. I cannot conceive how Lydia’s adventure could have ended so well had you not intervened.”

“I thought only of Elizabeth, sir. I could not, having witnessed her desolation at Lambton, allow her to suffer so. She has already thanked me. You owe me nothing.”

“Nothing, sir? Excuse me, but it is inconceivable that you did not lay out an absurd amount of money to bring about the marriage of two of the most worthless individuals to ever grace this earth, to say nothing of the personal exertions of body and mind such an endeavor entailed. I ask that you disclose all, so I may at least compensate you for the financial loss.”

“That is unnecessary, Mr. Bennet. Please be assured that I understand why this arrangement is uncomfortable for you, but also that I acted on my own behalf. I am a future member of your family, soon to be the husband of your daughter. I would do anything to insure her happiness, and if you attempt to reimburse me for each favor I bestow upon her, you will soon find yourself in a sorry state.”

Mr. Bennet chuckled. “When you phrase it that way sir, your advice seems rather sound, though I must admit to some disappointment. I was certain you would resist cooperating, but not in such an amiable manner. I was so looking forward to a violent display of lovers’ devotion. Bingley would have done it right.”

“I am sorry to disappoint, sir,” Darcy chuckled.

“Oh, no need to apologize. I’m none the worse in gaining a sensible son-in-law. Mary and Kitty will surely fulfill their potential by marrying two thoroughly amusing specimens of mankind. At least except my thanks, Mr. Darcy. While Lydia and Wickham are undeserving of your kindness, Jane and Elizabeth are not. I think you will make my Lizzy a very happy woman.”

“I will do my best, sir.”

“I need not importune you any longer, son. You had best get back to Elizabeth.”

 “Gladly. Please know, Mr. Bennet, that you will always be welcome at Pemberley.”

“I will keep that in mind. Longbourn will be awfully tedious once my only daughters with sense depart.”

The next morning Mr. Bennet penned the following, long delayed response to Mr. Collins’ last missive:


I must trouble you once more for congratulations. Elizabeth will soon be the wife of Mr. Darcy. Console Lady Catherine as well as you can. But, if I were you, I would stand by the nephew. He has more to give.

Your's sincerely, &c."


  1. Alexa, you are not alone in suffering from the please-don't-let-this-be-the-last-pageitis! Thanks for sharing your Janeicillin with us! Will the story continue from here or will you switch to another novel?

  2. HI Meredith. I am going to finish Pride and Prejudice first, then I will move on. I don't know what will come next but probably either Sense and Sensibility or Persuasion.

  3. Thank you for the dose of Janeicillin! I especially like Mr. Bennet's letter to Mr. Collins. Please keep writing.

    ps. I really like your new layout

  4. Thanks Katherine! I really appreciate the encouragement!