Friday, September 28, 2012

A Mixed Up Mashup: The Ladies at Longbourn

Amanda Root 1995
It was with trepidation that Anne followed her sister Mary down the remarkably ordered road, packed with structures one would undoubtedly describe as noble homes, had they not been stacked one on top of the next. Yet when she spotted the great house at Uppercross, remarkable as it appeared sitting upon a street corner surrounded by neighbors on all sides, the world suddenly seemed not so unbearable. It was her first taste of true comfort since reality had been cast into confusion that morning, when she watched a house materialize upon her sister's veranda,  Mary must have felt something similar, for both quickened their steps, hurrying to the door. Upon crossing the threshold, they found themselves in such a scene of chaos that the one just left no longer seemed so bizarre.

Morag Hood 1971
Children ran everywhere, several unknown persons crowded the hall, and all seemed to be talking at once, creating a grand cacophony. Instantly spotting Charles through the mayhem, Mary threw herself into his arms and burst into tears.

"Charles!" she cried through her sobs. "Do you know what has happened? Has the whole world gone mad? Thank goodness Anne was with me, for I never could have calmed the boys myself. Jemima is overwrought and completely useless!"

"Mary!" he said soothingly, leading both ladies into an adjoining parlor. "I cannot think that Anne, nor you, would have left the boys alone with her if that were true."

"What can you know of it? Men do always manage to avoid everything most disagreeable!"  

Simon Russell Beale 1995
"You would not envy me if you knew what I have been up to," he mumbled disconsolately. "That strange woman brought all these people here, insisting my mother take them in for some indefinite period of time. I was not here, and so do not know quite how it was, but she assures me that there was no rejecting them. The Harvilles seem very good sorts, but I know not what to make of this Benwick fellow. Even worse, she insisted Lousia be sent to bed for a head injury she never has sustained. How either agreed to such a thing, I haven't a clue."

Judy Cornwell 1995
"She was not to be denied!" explained a remarkably placid Mrs. Musgrove, just then entering the room. "Had you met Mrs. Adams, you would have complied with her wishes too, Charles. How else could she convince Captain and Mrs. Harville to relocate their entire family from Lyme? Just imagine! Two of poor Richard's commanding officers! I could not possibly refuse them."

"I already explained to you, mama, that they did not come from Lyme, but just up the road. The entire world has been turned on its head, you know, and Harville has a perfectly good house not two miles from here. The only trouble seems to be that he took the place on account of its proximity to the ocean, and now it sits upon a river instead! Quite remarkable!"

"It certainly is," concurred Anne, glad to be getting to the matter uppermost in her mind. "I am no scientist, but must there not be some reasonable explanation for the strange phenomenon we are experiencing?"

"Someone might have one, but it is not me," declared Charles with fervor. "If I were to consider the matter, I think this Mrs. Adams must be at the very root of the problem."

"Oh no, Charles!" his mother cried. "She had the sweetest baby girl! Besides, only think how very kind of her it was to warn us that Louisa might fall if she went to Lyme. We had no plans for such an excursion, but nevertheless, it is quite a relief to me that we shall never have to suffer such a harrowing incident as Mrs. Adams described. It was really quite dreadful!"

"But that is precisely my point, mama! How could she come by such information, and why would she insist that you take in all these unknown house guests!"

"She said it was essential to my daughter's happiness. I do not know to which she referred, but I am not one to do anything that might curtail the pleasures of my children! She further told me that Mary and Anne would soon arrive, and that I was to send them to a house down the road - Longbourn is the name - just as soon as I was able. There is much to do, but I am sure I can manage with just Henrietta. You had best be on your way at once, for they must be expecting you!'

Be it due to the relief of action or just plain curiosity, the sisters readily complied with this dictate. Of course, Mary did make some protest, particularly when she discovered that Charles was to remain behind, but even this was relatively mild. Soon they were again making their way down the strange road, and it was not long before they stood in front of the ivy covered edifice that Mrs. Adams had described to Mrs. Musgrove.

"This is very strange, Anne. Can we really just appear upon the doorstep of persons totally unconnected to us?"

"Nothing can be stranger than this morning, Mary. Such exceptional circumstances surely override common civilities. Besides, we have Mrs. Adams recommendation." Even as she said the words, Anne wondered if the residents of the house would have any idea who Mrs. Adams was, but she kept her thought to herself and knocked upon the door. 

Alison Steadman 1995
The ladies were ushered into a small sitting room overcrowded by ladies, young and old. A Mrs. Bennet greeted them in a flustered and overly intimate manner, instantly arousing Mary's disdain. She put forward three of her daughters, all rather unpromising, explaining as she did so that the two eldest were away from home, "And how they shall ever return to us I am sure I do not know, for we do not even know where we are. It has been a most trying morning, most overwhelming to my nerves! This is Mrs. Dashwood and her youngest daughter, Miss Margaret. The two eldest, she tells me, are in London, just like my poor Jane. Who can say, my dear Mrs. Dashwood, if we shall ever see our dear girls again! And this is Mrs. Weston, who has no children, but nevertheless worries about a Miss Woodhouse. Do you have children, Mrs. Musgrove?"

"I have two sons."

"Sons! Are they married?"

Mary's hauteur increased. "They are four and two!"

"Oh! Mere boys then," said Mrs. Bennet despondently. "Be grateful! You cannot know the worries Mrs. Dashwood and I bear."

"I assure you, ma'am, that the events of this day have left me quite as distraught as anyone. I am terribly prone to the headache, and it is a wonder I have not yet succumbed."

As Mary and Mrs. Bennet began an animated debate regarding who suffered more, Anne found a seat between Mrs. Dashwood, who looked to be struggling not to laugh, and Mrs. Weston.

Janet McTeer 2008
"Do not mind our hostess," said Mrs. Dashwood in an undertone. "I have now been here for some hours and feel quite the expert on her excitability. I was on the verge of departing when Mrs. Weston arrived, but as she too had spoken with Mrs. Adams and been directed here by her, I decided to remain. We are very fortunate in Mrs. Bennet's hospitality."

"You are not concerned for your daughters?" asked Anne.

"Not at all. Mrs. Adams assures me they should be along shortly."

"Who is Mrs. Adams? I did not see her myself but was the recipient of a message, yet I cannot but think she must be somehow involved in whatever it is that has happened to us all."

Samantha Bond 1995
"It is most peculiar," agreed Mrs. Weston, "but having spoken with the lady and seen her with that dear little girl, I am assured there can be no harm in her. Her knowledge of us all is uncanny, and I know not how she came by it, but she is going to help us. I feel certain of it."

"Mrs. Weston is right. We just have to stay here and wait for whatever it is that will happen next."

All three ladies glanced towards Mrs. Bennet, who was now insisting Mrs. Musgrove could not possibly know a headache as bad as her own, and Anne realized that she ought to intervene before Mary became too incensed. Before she could ask their hostess where Longbourn, under normal circumstances, was located, a diversion was provided by one of the Miss Bennets, who exclaimed from her perch by the window:

Polly Maberly 1995
"Look, mamma! Is that not Mr. Bingley coming towards the house?"

"Mr. Bingley!" Mrs. Bennet cried, bustling towards the window.

"There is another gentleman with him - it looks like that tall, proud man."

"Good gracious! Mr. Darcy! What is the world coming to? And Jane stuck in town! How will we ever get her back before he leaves again?"

All the ladies, whether they knew who the gentlemen referred to were or not, eagerly awaited their knock.

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