Monday, July 26, 2021

Ruminations on and a story of Sense and Sensibility

This post, or something very like it, was first published in the summer of 2018. It has been updated to reflect current happenings

It’s so tempting to interpret Sense & Sensibility through the lense of its title, even more so than Pride & Prejudice. Yes, Elizabeth is prejudice and Darcy is proud, but there is some muddling of the lines, whereas Elinor is all sense and Marianne is total sensibility. Furthermore, Austen’s exploration of this polarity fits so beautifully into the context of Romanticism (somewhat ironically, as it implicitly rejects some of the movement's core precepts). Of course, the dynamic between the two sisters isn’t entirely black and white. Marianne will eventually be swayed by sense and Elinor is proven far from a cold fish. Feelings are not incompatible with reason, as she so eloquently argues:
If you can think me capable of ever feeling–surely you may suppose that I have suffered now. The composure of mind with which I have brought myself at present to consider the matter, the consolation that I have been willing to admit, have been the effect of constant and painful exertion;–they did not spring up of themselves;–they did not occur to relieve my spirits at first.–No, Marianne.–then, if I had not been bound to silence, perhaps nothing could have kept me entirely–not even what I owed to my dearest friends–from openly shewing that I was VERY unhappy.
It’s a conversation I have with my mother quite often.

The funny thing about that is that I am usually on the side of sense and my mom sensibility. This is amusing because the other temptation I find myself succumbing too when analyzing this text is dismissing Marianne’s behavior as adolescent. It’s an argument I’ve made far too many times to count, and I rather wish I hadn’t. As I grow older it becomes more and more apparent that some people are less able (or less willing, some might insist, to attempt) to constrain their feelings. If this is not merely a characteristic of youth but a defining personality trait, then despite Marianne’s best intentions, she will never succeed in regimenting herself into pragmatism. Even in her old age, she will continue to be subject to the whims of emotion. I dwell on this thought now having just reread a story I wrote well over a decade ago about Marianne’s engagement to the Colonel. I’m glad that even at a time in my life when I was quite dismissive of Marianne, I understood this about her character.

The story is part of the collection “And Who Can Be in Doubt of What Followed?”: The Novels of Jane Austen Expanded, extending the ending of each of Austen’s six novels in accordance with those hints and explanations she so quickly flies through in her closing chapters. Here is a favorite scene, just to give you a taste:
Elinor used the opportunity afforded by the Dashwoods’ visit to reaffirm her relationship with her brother, knowing it was what her father would wish. They often walked together in the mornings, when Edward’s parish duties kept him occupied, and as Fanny was no walker, here was ample time for the siblings to share confidences. It was on one such occasion towards the end of his stay that John, as they passed by the gates of Delaford House, began the following soliloquy:

“I will not say I am disappointed, my dear sister. That would be saying too much, for certainly you have been one of the most fortunate young women in the world, as it is. But, I confess, it would give me great pleasure to call Colonel Brandon brother. His property here, his place, his house, everything is in such respectable and excellent condition! And his woods! I have not seen such timber anywhere in Dorsetshire as there is now standing in Delaford Hanger! And though, perhaps, Marianne may not seem exactly the person to attract him, yet I think it would altogether be advisable for you to have them now frequently staying with you, for as Colonel Brandon seems a great deal at home, nobody can tell what then may happen. When people are much thrown together, and see little of anybody else — and it will always be in your power to set her off to advantage, and so forth; in short, you may as well give her a chance. You understand me.”

Elinor had the grace to betray neither her own hopes in this direction, nor any shame for her brother. It was not until John renewed the subject with his wife on their journey home to Norland that his hopes received any encouragement

“I would not be surprised if that is precisely how matters unfold,” Fanny declared, having heard him out. “Our next visit to my brother will surely find us staying at the great house.”

“But do you think Marianne could attract a man like Colonel Brandon? A year ago, perhaps, but having lost her bloom, I see nothing but the convenience of her company to entrance him. I have suggested to Elinor that she would do well to throw them together quite often.”

“You miss a great deal, John! Marianne has fully recovered her looks, and with her disposition so vastly improved, I think her prospects better than ever. Her manners used to be impertinent — never a characteristic to endear a potential husband — but she has grown quite presentable. Furthermore, she seeks out the Colonel with surprising regularity, his library being her excuse. I am rather shocked your mother allows it, but she never was able to regulate the conduct of her daughters. Even were such advantages not hers, you must see that when any comely young lady sets her sights in the direction of an aging bachelor, one should not bet against her success.”

John, as usual, was quite pleased to embrace his wife’s perspective. “Indeed? I think you might be right, my dear. What a match! What timber! Did you take the time to properly observe the hanger?”

“Who could not? It is a vast deal more than Marianne has any right to expect, but I always did think your sisters would do well for themselves. I suppose we must have the entire family to Norland soon.”

“Yes indeed!” exclaimed John, allowing free rein to his most sanguine expectations.
The book is available for purchase on Amazon. Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 19, 2021

Five ways in which the Regency rocked


The following was originally posted in 2015 and now feels rather dated, but it still makes me smile. I hope it will do the same for you, dear reader.

There is a certain class of people who, upon learning of my Jane Austen obsession, feel the need to explain why the modern world is superior to that of the Regency. “But the 19th century was a terrible place to live! Women didn’t have any rights, most people lived in squalor, and you were lucky to survive your infancy!” Of course I realize that Jane Austen’s world was not just one of manor homes, top boots, and ladies maids (I do spend three months in Portsmouth with the Price family every time I read Mansfield Park). I have a massive appreciation for modern plumbing, medicine (especially the medicine!), electricity, and something resembling gender equality, but that does not mean that there are not ways in which the Regency period was superior to our current era. I am working on a novel entitled Being Mrs. Bennet, in which a modern woman, following a car crash, finds herself inhabiting the body of probably the worst mother Austen ever foisted upon heroine. Alison Bateman finds much of the early 19th century disconcerting, but she also discovers aspects to treasure. One can adapt to almost anything.

I planned this post to be a list of reasons why the Regency remains superior to the modern world. I intend this list to be egalitarian, so it does not include privileges and luxuries that belonged to the upper classes alone, and I confess: it was rather difficult to make. It started out as a top ten, then narrowed to a top eight, etc, until finally levelling out as the top five reasons why I think Jane Austen’s world was superior to ours. Enjoy!



1. Caps

A married woman used to wake up in the morning and plop a frilly cap on her head. Hairdressing done. I call the cap the Regency equivalent to the ponytail in Being Mrs. Bennet, and it is true, but how many of us actually get to wear that ponytail to work? Thanks to makeover shows, a ponytail is derided as boring and lazy, where as a cap could be fashionable and even becoming. Somewhere in the course of women’s liberation, we messed this one up.



2. Custom Shoes

You couldn’t share shoes with your friends and relations back in the day. Each shoe was made for and molded to a particular foot. Today you can buy handmade Italian leather shoes for somewhere in the range of $1000 a pop, but this buttery and luscious feel of slipping your foot into such a concoction used to be much more accessible. Of course men’s boots, those of both the laboring classes and the gentry, would be made of sturdier stuff that needed to be broken in, but once that first round of blisters healed you had a shoe that hugged the contours of your feet perfectly.




3. Cheap Live Entertainment

One need not be a mogul to attend the theater in the Regency Era. Even the most lavish venues had seats cheap enough to accommodate the working classes. Now even our sporting events are beyond the reach of many, television having rendered live entertainment a luxury item. Sigh.



4. Standardized Mourning Rituals

Having been to more than my fair share of funerals lately and experienced mourning rituals ranging over a wide swath of cultural and religious beliefs, I really think it would be nice to have not an imposed period of mourning (that would be far too stifling), but the broadly recognized need for a person to step outside their normal activities and take the time to grieve. I also like the idea of wearing all black, or having some other, external signifier of grief, so that others know to approach you with care, preferably without looking like an overgrown Goth kid. I also like that they had gradations of mourning. Black ribbons in my hair would have been perfectly appropriate for my cousin’s death last year, while my grandfather’s loss made me crave bombazine and a heavily veiled bonnet. Can’t wear that to the supermarket!




5. Etiquette

While some of the imposed social rituals of the 19th century, like calling cards, are archaic in our modern world of cell phones, they represent a code of behavior designed to help humans interact with each other in a peaceful and orderly manner. We’ve lost a lot of that. I could really go on and on with this topic, which would end up being preachy, at best, so I’ll just beg each reader to hold the door for someone, wait for others to exit before you enter, and say excuse me when you step in someone’s path. The world could be such a happier place.

There you have it! What is your favorite thing about the Regency Era? Anything you would gladly trade for today? Or has Jeanna inspired any one else to confess their closely held secrets to the world?

Monday, July 12, 2021

Lord Byron and The Prisoner of Chillon

George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron
by Richard Westall, 1813
Recycling content from 2015, inspired by recent conversations with my husband about wanting to go back to Montreaux. The next few weeks are very busy for me as school finally lets out and my mother arrives for an eagerly awaited visit. I might have to take a pause, but this having been my best streak of blogging in oh, about a decade, I'm determined to keep it up 🤞.

The weekend before Christmas my husband, my four year-old daughter, and I had our first adventure into the french speaking part of the country. Montreaux on Lake Geneva (Lac LĂ©man) has a huge Christmas celebration complete with a market, Santa’s workshop, and medieval fun and games at the Chateaux de Chillon, a strategic holding of the Counts of Savoy dating to the 12th century. The castle is gorgeous, and we enjoyed the performances, crafts, and food provided, but the highlight of the experience was found in the unlikely locale of the dungeon.

I have never been a huge fan of Lord Byron’s poetry. He is not my Romantic poet of choice. However, lack of interest in his writing had never hindered my fascination with him as a popular personality from the Regency. After all, he was with Mary Shelly when she conceived Frankenstein, he did have a public and raucous affair with Lady Caroline Lamb, he has been accused of incest with his sister, and he fathered the woman who helped invent computer science. It is extremely hard to resist him. So when I spotted his name on a plaque in the dungeon, I had a full on fan girl moment, complete with squeals and swoons. Byron came to Chillon on his travels and became fascinated with the castle’s most famous prisoner, François Bonivard. Bonivard was a Genovese patriot who opposed the Savoy attempts to consolidate their power over the region. He was imprisoned twice for his defiance: for two years in 1519 and then again in the dungeon of Chillon in 1530, where he remained until the area was conquered by the Bernese in 1536.

In 1816, Byron penned his 392 line narrative poem loosely based on Bonivard. He is represented as a
typical Byronic hero, but the poem is devoid of the sexual current that usually runs through Byron’s works. I had not read it before visiting Chillon, but I was quick to devour it afterwards. The descriptions of the dungeon are chilling and visually acute, while the plight of the prisoner (who remains anonymous), shut out from the world and at the mercy of his keepers, is incredibly touching in its humanity. I may have to revisit some of his lordship’s other works. Perhaps he will hold more appeal for me now in my late 30’s than he dis in my early 20’s, when I last groaned my way through Don Juan.

The Prisoner of Chillon

My hair is grey, but not with years,
Nor grew it white
In a single night,
As men's have grown from sudden fears:
My limbs are bow'd, though not with toil,
But rusted with a vile repose,
For they have been a dungeon's spoil,
And mine has been the fate of those
To whom the goodly earth and air
Are bann'd, and barr'd—forbidden fare;
But this was for my father's faith
I suffer'd chains and courted death;
That father perish'd at the stake
For tenets he would not forsake;
And for the same his lineal race
In darkness found a dwelling place;
We were seven—who now are one,
Six in youth, and one in age,
Finish'd as they had begun,
Proud of Persecution's rage;
One in fire, and two in field,
Their belief with blood have seal'd,
Dying as their father died,
For the God their foes denied;—
Three were in a dungeon cast,
Of whom this wreck is left the last.

There are seven pillars of Gothic mould,
In Chillon's dungeons deep and old,
There are seven columns, massy and grey,
Dim with a dull imprison'd ray,
A sunbeam which hath lost its way,
And through the crevice and the cleft
Of the thick wall is fallen and left;
Creeping o'er the floor so damp,
Like a marsh's meteor lamp:
And in each pillar there is a ring,
And in each ring there is a chain;
That iron is a cankering thing,
For in these limbs its teeth remain,
With marks that will not wear away,
Till I have done with this new day,
Which now is painful to these eyes,
Which have not seen the sun so rise
For years—I cannot count them o'er,
I lost their long and heavy score
When my last brother droop'd and died,
And I lay living by his side.

They chain'd us each to a column stone,
And we were three—yet, each alone;
We could not move a single pace,
We could not see each other's face,
But with that pale and livid light
That made us strangers in our sight:
And thus together—yet apart,
Fetter'd in hand, but join'd in heart,
'Twas still some solace in the dearth
Of the pure elements of earth,
To hearken to each other's speech,
And each turn comforter to each
With some new hope, or legend old,
Or song heroically bold;
But even these at length grew cold.
Our voices took a dreary tone,
An echo of the dungeon stone,
A grating sound, not full and free,
As they of yore were wont to be:
It might be fancy—but to me
They never sounded like our own.

I was the eldest of the three
And to uphold and cheer the rest
I ought to do—and did my best—
And each did well in his degree.
The youngest, whom my father loved,
Because our mother's brow was given
To him, with eyes as blue as heaven—
For him my soul was sorely moved:
And truly might it be distress'd
To see such bird in such a nest;
For he was beautiful as day—
(When day was beautiful to me
As to young eagles, being free)—
A polar day, which will not see
A sunset till its summer's gone,
Its sleepless summer of long light,
The snow-clad offspring of the sun:
And thus he was as pure and bright,
And in his natural spirit gay,
With tears for nought but others' ills,
And then they flow'd like mountain rills,
Unless he could assuage the woe
Which he abhorr'd to view below.

The other was as pure of mind,
But form'd to combat with his kind;
Strong in his frame, and of a mood
Which 'gainst the world in war had stood,
And perish'd in the foremost rank
With joy:—but not in chains to pine:
His spirit wither'd with their clank,
I saw it silently decline—
And so perchance in sooth did mine:
But yet I forced it on to cheer
Those relics of a home so dear.
He was a hunter of the hills,
Had followed there the deer and wolf;
To him this dungeon was a gulf,
And fetter'd feet the worst of ills.

Lake Leman lies by Chillon's walls:
A thousand feet in depth below
Its massy waters meet and flow;
Thus much the fathom-line was sent
From Chillon's snow-white battlement,
Which round about the wave inthralls:
A double dungeon wall and wave
Have made—and like a living grave
Below the surface of the lake
The dark vault lies wherein we lay:
We heard it ripple night and day;
Sounding o'er our heads it knock'd;
And I have felt the winter's spray
Wash through the bars when winds were high
And wanton in the happy sky;
And then the very rock hath rock'd,
And I have felt it shake, unshock'd,
Because I could have smiled to see
The death that would have set me free.

I said my nearer brother pined,
I said his mighty heart declined,
He loathed and put away his food;
It was not that 'twas coarse and rude,
For we were used to hunter's fare,
And for the like had little care:
The milk drawn from the mountain goat
Was changed for water from the moat,
Our bread was such as captives' tears
Have moisten'd many a thousand years,
Since man first pent his fellow men
Like brutes within an iron den;
But what were these to us or him?
These wasted not his heart or limb;
My brother's soul was of that mould
Which in a palace had grown cold,
Had his free breathing been denied
The range of the steep mountain's side;
But why delay the truth?—he died.
I saw, and could not hold his head,
Nor reach his dying hand—nor dead,—
Though hard I strove, but strove in vain,
To rend and gnash my bonds in twain.
He died—and they unlock'd his chain,
And scoop'd for him a shallow grave
Even from the cold earth of our cave.
I begg'd them, as a boon, to lay
His corse in dust whereon the day
Might shine—it was a foolish thought,
But then within my brain it wrought,
That even in death his freeborn breast
In such a dungeon could not rest.
I might have spared my idle prayer—
They coldly laugh'd—and laid him there:
The flat and turfless earth above
The being we so much did love;
His empty chain above it leant,
Such Murder's fitting monument!

But he, the favourite and the flower,
Most cherish'd since his natal hour,
His mother's image in fair face
The infant love of all his race
His martyr'd father's dearest thought,
My latest care, for whom I sought
To hoard my life, that his might be
Less wretched now, and one day free;
He, too, who yet had held untired
A spirit natural or inspired—
He, too, was struck, and day by day
Was wither'd on the stalk away.
Oh, God! it is a fearful thing
To see the human soul take wing
In any shape, in any mood:
I've seen it rushing forth in blood,
I've seen it on the breaking ocean
Strive with a swoln convulsive motion,
I've seen the sick and ghastly bed
Of Sin delirious with its dread:
But these were horrors—this was woe
Unmix'd with such—but sure and slow:
He faded, and so calm and meek,
So softly worn, so sweetly weak,
So tearless, yet so tender—kind,
And grieved for those he left behind;
With all the while a cheek whose bloom
Was as a mockery of the tomb
Whose tints as gently sunk away
As a departing rainbow's ray;
An eye of most transparent light,
That almost made the dungeon bright;
And not a word of murmur—not
A groan o'er his untimely lot,—
A little talk of better days,
A little hope my own to raise,
For I was sunk in silence—lost
In this last loss, of all the most;
And then the sighs he would suppress
Of fainting Nature's feebleness,
More slowly drawn, grew less and less:
I listen'd, but I could not hear;
I call'd, for I was wild with fear;
I knew 'twas hopeless, but my dread
Would not be thus admonishèd;
I call'd, and thought I heard a sound—
I burst my chain with one strong bound,
And rushed to him:—I found him not,
I only stirred in this black spot,
I only lived, I only drew
The accursed breath of dungeon-dew;
The last, the sole, the dearest link
Between me and the eternal brink,
Which bound me to my failing race
Was broken in this fatal place.
One on the earth, and one beneath—
My brothers—both had ceased to breathe:
I took that hand which lay so still,
Alas! my own was full as chill;
I had not strength to stir, or strive,
But felt that I was still alive—
A frantic feeling, when we know
That what we love shall ne'er be so.
I know not why
I could not die,
I had no earthly hope—but faith,
And that forbade a selfish death.

What next befell me then and there
I know not well—I never knew—
First came the loss of light, and air,
And then of darkness too:
I had no thought, no feeling—none—
Among the stones I stood a stone,
And was, scarce conscious what I wist,
As shrubless crags within the mist;
For all was blank, and bleak, and grey;
It was not night—it was not day;
It was not even the dungeon-light,
So hateful to my heavy sight,
But vacancy absorbing space,
And fixedness—without a place;
There were no stars, no earth, no time,
No check, no change, no good, no crime
But silence, and a stirless breath
Which neither was of life nor death;
A sea of stagnant idleness,
Blind, boundless, mute, and motionless!
A light broke in upon my brain,—
It was the carol of a bird;
It ceased, and then it came again,
The sweetest song ear ever heard,
And mine was thankful till my eyes
Ran over with the glad surprise,
And they that moment could not see
I was the mate of misery;
But then by dull degrees came back
My senses to their wonted track;
I saw the dungeon walls and floor
Close slowly round me as before,
I saw the glimmer of the sun
Creeping as it before had done,
But through the crevice where it came
That bird was perch'd, as fond and tame,
And tamer than upon the tree;
A lovely bird, with azure wings,
And song that said a thousand things,
And seemed to say them all for me!
I never saw its like before,
I ne'er shall see its likeness more:
It seem'd like me to want a mate,
But was not half so desolate,
And it was come to love me when
None lived to love me so again,
And cheering from my dungeon's brink,
Had brought me back to feel and think.
I know not if it late were free,
Or broke its cage to perch on mine,
But knowing well captivity,
Sweet bird! I could not wish for thine!
Or if it were, in wingèd guise,
A visitant from Paradise;
For—Heaven forgive that thought! the while
Which made me both to weep and smile—
I sometimes deem'd that it might be
My brother's soul come down to me;
But then at last away it flew,
And then 'twas mortal well I knew,
For he would never thus have flown—
And left me twice so doubly lone,—
Lone as the corse within its shroud,
Lone as a solitary cloud,
A single cloud on a sunny day,
While all the rest of heaven is clear,
A frown upon the atmosphere,
That hath no business to appear
When skies are blue, and earth is gay.

A kind of change came in my fate,
My keepers grew compassionate;
I know not what had made them so,
They were inured to sights of woe,
But so it was:—my broken chain
With links unfasten'd did remain,
And it was liberty to stride
Along my cell from side to side,
And up and down, and then athwart,
And tread it over every part;
And round the pillars one by one,
Returning where my walk begun,
Avoiding only, as I trod,
My brothers' graves without a sod;
For if I thought with heedless tread
My step profaned their lowly bed,
My breath came gaspingly and thick,
And my crush'd heart felt blind and sick.
I made a footing in the wall,
It was not therefrom to escape,
For I had buried one and all,
Who loved me in a human shape;
And the whole earth would henceforth be
A wider prison unto me:
No child, no sire, no kin had I,
No partner in my misery;
I thought of this, and I was glad,
For thought of them had made me mad;
But I was curious to ascend
To my barr'd windows, and to bend
Once more, upon the mountains high,
The quiet of a loving eye.

I saw them—and they were the same,
They were not changed like me in frame;
I saw their thousand years of snow
On high—their wide long lake below,
And the blue Rhone in fullest flow;
I heard the torrents leap and gush
O'er channell'd rock and broken bush;
I saw the white-wall'd distant town,
And whiter sails go skimming down;
And then there was a little isle,
Which in my very face did smile,
The only one in view;
A small green isle, it seem'd no more,
Scarce broader than my dungeon floor,
But in it there were three tall trees,
And o'er it blew the mountain breeze,
And by it there were waters flowing,
And on it there were young flowers growing,
Of gentle breath and hue.
The fish swam by the castle wall,
And they seem'd joyous each and all;
The eagle rode the rising blast,
Methought he never flew so fast
As then to me he seem'd to fly;
And then new tears came in my eye,
And I felt troubled—and would fain
I had not left my recent chain;
And when I did descend again,
The darkness of my dim abode
Fell on me as a heavy load;
It was as is a new-dug grave,
Closing o'er one we sought to save,—
And yet my glance, too much opprest,
Had almost need of such a rest.

It might be months, or years, or days—
I kept no count, I took no note—
I had no hope my eyes to raise,
And clear them of their dreary mote;
At last men came to set me free;
I ask'd not why, and reck'd not where;
It was at length the same to me,
Fetter'd or fetterless to be,
I learn'd to love despair.
And thus when they appear'd at last,
And all my bonds aside were cast,
These heavy walls to me had grown
A hermitage—and all my own!
And half I felt as they were come
To tear me from a second home:
With spiders I had friendship made
And watch'd them in their sullen trade,
Had seen the mice by moonlight play,
And why should I feel less than they?
We were all inmates of one place,
And I, the monarch of each race,
Had power to kill—yet, strange to tell!
In quiet we had learn'd to dwell;
My very chains and I grew friends,
So much a long communion tends
To make us what we are:—even I
Regain'd my freedom with a sigh.

Monday, July 5, 2021

A Mixed-up Mashup Excerpt

As previously discussed, I have resumed work on an absolutely insane story started ten years ago. In a moment of madness, probably inspired by the tale, I volunteered to read from it for the next JAFF Reader/Writer Get Together WIP meetup on July 17th (you can sign up here: http://jaffwriterreadergettogether.org/). I'm not really sure what compelled me, but I have made a commitment, and I must follow through. The thing is, I am not the best at public readings, and this story is so weird that I really have no idea which part is best to read. The following excerpt is probably the most obvious to choose, because it kind of (sort of) explains a lot of the story, but it is also dialog heavy, and that is exactly where I tend to read too fast and lose my audience. I am, therefore, posting it here in an attempt to eliminate it from the contest. It can still be my fallback option. If you like what you see and want to read more, I am posting the story at A Happy Assembly. Please do come by and read along: https://meryton.com/aha/index.php?/topic/22136-a-mixed-up-mash-up/.

To get an idea of just how wild this tale is, I have drawn this rough map to keep track of the characters. I keep adding to it as the story develops, and I have a beta reader who does beautiful watercolor work and has agreed to remake it pretty for me, should I end up publishing this story. That remains uncertain. First, I need to see my way through this mess I've created. Enjoy!

He frowned. "You are not Miss Bennet."
"No, sir. Certainly not."

"Do you have a purpose here?" he pressed. "Forgive me if I intrude, but these are my aunt's grounds."

"You must be mistaken," she replied readily. "This land belongs to the parsonage. My father is the rector," she continued, by way of explanation.

Mr. Darcy, being rather sleep deprived, and feeling more depressed and excitable than was his custom, replied with horror, "Good God! It cannot be so!"

Miss Morland was affronted. "I have no reason to prevaricate, sir!"

"You are the daughter of Mr. Collins?"

"Certainly not! I am Mr. Morland's eldest daughter," she said in as superior tones as she possessed. "And who might you be? Mrs. Allen has no nephews your age."

"Mrs. Allen? I have no notion of any such person! This land belongs to Rosings," he gestured empirically towards the house, just visible through the trees, "the estate of my aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh,"

"You are mistaken, sir!" she stubbornly insisted, though quite unsure from where the elaborate structure could possibly have appeared. "This land belongs to Fullerton, as it always has."

Mr. Darcy knew not what to make of such an assertion. He had never heard of Fullerton, the Morlands, or the Allens, and he was on the verge of concluding the young lady was out of her senses, when he suddenly had cause to doubt his own. There, right before him, where he was certain a path never before existed, came yet another young lady, elegantly dressed and of eager stride.

"May I be of some assistance?" Emma Woodhouse inquired pleasantly, eying the two before her with approval. She knew not what two such promising looking strangers were doing in Highbury, but she was pleased to see them. It had been a particularly dull morning, and such interesting persons, arguing in the middle of the lane, must provide diversion. When neither responded to her question, only staring at her most disconcertingly, she pressed on. "You appear as if you were lost," she explained, somewhat irritated that it should be necessary. "I know this country well and might be able to direct you."

"But," stammered Miss Morland, looking to the strange gentleman for confirmation of what she saw, "but, excuse me, there was no a lane here before, was there?"

"Certainly not," affirmed Mr. Darcy, relieved enough to have his own senses confirmed that he dispensed with any further examination of his measure. Other questions were more pressing. "How it comes here now, I cannot say. But we all agree it is here now," he paused in confusion, "are we not? That is something."

Miss Woodhouse, quite out of patience, spoke her mind. "What nonsense do you speak, sir? This path, or something very near like it, has been here more than 20 years," she asserted confidently, "and though I cannot bear witness to what proceeded that time, I think it is enough is to prove the path's existence just a few moments past."

Though he could not see where it led, Mr. Darcy thought he spotted solid foundation, which he desperately required, in her assertion. "Then tell me, Miss ... I am so sorry, ought we not introduce ourselves? I am Fitzwilliam Darcy, of Derbyshire, and this is Miss Morland, of Fullerton, I believe, and you are?"

"Miss Woodhouse!" she snapped, quite expecting to repress the man's impertinence. Her surprise when the name meant nothing to her companions was transparent. “Of Hartfield,” she continued, still no effect. 

Darcy saw her confusion and hurried to establish those facts he could. "Miss Woodhouse, I do not know from where you materialized, nor Miss Morland either, but I do know that this," he pointed again towards Rosings, "is the estate of my aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. You can both see the house, can you not?"

"From where did it come?" exclaimed Miss Woodhouse in disbelief, but before the matter could be further investigated, an angry voice was heard approaching from the direction in which all three were gazing.

"I will not have it, sir! I cannot say how such a thing has come to be, but I warn you it will not be tolerated!" Mr. Darcy had only just processed who it was that spoke so empirically when his aunt, accompanied by Charles Bingley, came into view. The latter spotted his friend gratefully, but before he could express a word of greeting, Lady Catherine commanded his attention.

"Darcy! There you are! You must assist me. This man has put a house on my lawn, and I insist that it must be removed at once!"

Mr. Darcy stared at Mr. Bingley, who hurried, as best he could, to explain the situation. "I do not know how it may have happened, Darcy! A marvel it is, but I am only leasing the house, you know, so I really cannot be held responsible for a thing like this." He gestured behind him, where the ramparts of a second house, quite next to Rosings, could now be discerned.

Mr. Darcy, shaken, asked, "What can Netherfield Hall be doing in Kent?"

"This cannot be!" declared an alarmed Miss Woodhouse. "We all saw that it was not there two minutes ago. And we are not in Kent, but Surrey! What can be happening?"

"Oh, dear!" a new female voice was heard to moan, and the entire assemblage turned to confront two newcomers: a woman, very handsome put no longer young, and an older gentleman, of extremely dignified appearance. "We cannot live in Surrey! It is far too close to London."

"Indeed my dear, you are quite right!" the man replied. "Nothing but merchants and tradesmen, seeking to gain a bit of respectability by purchasing the mere acre or two of land, at an easy distance from their shops and warehouses. Surrey will not do for us."

"Pardon me," declared an incensed Miss Woodhouse, "but I have heard it said that Surrey is the garden of England."

"Your point is highly irrelevant," insisted Lady Catherine, not to be outdone in indignation, "as Rosings is in Kent. The De Bourghs have always hailed from Kent, and neither I, nor my daughter, will reside anywhere else!"

Elizabeth Elliot sniffed disdainfully. "I do not know what to make of this new company we have found ourselves in, Papa. Who might they be?"

"I don't know my dear, but this gentleman certainly appears presentable," Sir Walter Elliot gestured towards Mr. Darcy, eying his greatcoat. "My good sir, who is your tailor?"