When I started posting my P&P fic, I figured any of my LJ flist who wanted to read it could go to the archives where I'm posting. Since then, I've quit the main archive I was using and discovered that another doesn't cope well with guest readers. So I've rethought that approach and decided to post it here as well as there. Posts will come pretty quickly at first, while this site catches up with my archive posts. Title:
Protection and TutelageFandom:
Austen - P&PPairings:
Darcy/Lizzy (natch), Bingley/Jane (pretty standard), othersCategory:
Romance, social commentary (hey, this is Austen, it has to be social commentary)Disclaimer:
I don't own P&P, but since it's out of copyright, no one cares anywayRating:
PG-13 (for occasional language)Warning the first:
As most of you know, in real life, I am a professional historian. In the Potterverse, this was irrelevant, since there was not historical reality. But this story was written in an actual historical time period, which makes it relevant and requires me to be pedantic (there’s an oath and a secret handshake, but I can’t tell you about those). I’ve tried to restrict the pedantry to the footnotes. Please feel free to ignore them as they have little to do with the story.Warning the second:
As a challenge to myself, I tried to write in the style of Jane Austen. This means that, not only are there are bits and pieces from Pride and Prejudice scattered about, but also inclusion of her non-standard use of grammar, voice-shifting paragraphs, and barely-adorned epigrammatic passages. This is not modern prose. Acknowledgements:
Much thanks to my sharp-eyed betas, Bambu and Dickie.Summary:
Darcy invited his cousin, Eleanor Fitzwilliam, to join him at Netherfield, where she takes Caroline Bingley under her wing, a position their hostess finds less mothering than smothering. But Caroline’s is not the only life Eleanor meddles in.( clickie for storyCollapse )
“I find myself in need of assistance.” After careful consideration, Fitzwilliam Darcy had decided to pay a visit to his cousin, Eleanor Fitzwilliam.
“My assistance? How delightful. I adore having men in my debt.”
“You may well consider it a favour. Do you remember my friend Bingley’s sister?”
“The horrible creature who thinks she’s worthy of your hand?”
“The same. Would you care for the opportunity to put her in her place?”
“Tell me more.”
“Bingley has taken an estate in Hertfordshire and wishes my advice on managing it.”
Lady Eleanor took little convincing, and so to Hertfordshire they went.
Miss Bingley was all that was gracious in welcoming them, her pride in having been given consequence by the daughter of an earl exceeded only by her pleasure in learning that Mr. Darcy had most particularly wished for her to become acquainted with his cousin. She took considerably less pleasure in her brother’s promise that they would all attend a local assembly, quite certain that their guests would not wish to spend their time in such unfashionable company. As it was the Bingleys’ first opportunity to entertain guests of such exalted rank, she wished to offer only the most refined of entertainments. That her brother cared less for the position of their family than his own pleasures was proved by his insistence that the entire party join him for the evening.
At the assembly, Mrs. Bennet was quite disconcerted. She had heard a report that Mr. Bingley was to bring twelve ladies and seven gentlemen with him to the assembly and could not imagine how her daughters might catch the attention of any gentlemen with so many ladies about. She grieved over such a number of ladies, but was comforted the day before the ball by hearing that instead of twelve he had brought only six with him from London -- his five sisters and a cousin. And when the party entered the room it consisted of only six altogether -- Mr. Bingley, his two sisters, the husband of the eldest, another young man, and one more lady.
Mr. Bingley was good-looking and gentlemanlike; he had a pleasant countenance, and easy, unaffected manners. His sisters were fine women, with an air of decided fashion. His brother-in-law, Mr. Hurst, merely looked the gentleman; but his friend Mr. Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, noble mien, and the report, which was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance, of his having ten thousand a year. The lady on his arm was discovered to be his cousin, the Lady Eleanor Fitzwilliam, a handsome woman with fine features, who was the only daughter of the Earl Fitzwilliam, a man known to the company to be one of the richest men in all of England. As his income was generally thought to be somewhat greater than fifty thousand a year, speculation as to Lady Eleanor’s fortune quickly overcame all other subjects of conversation. Her encouragement of Sir William Lucas’ efforts to introduce the new party to all the principle people in the room and her affable manner on meeting new acquaintances were noted with approval and she was found to be everything a great lady of rank should be.
What a contrast between her and her cousin! Mr. Darcy followed her about the room, speaking only when spoken to and then with as few words as possible. His character was much in question and therefore the topic of much speculation. Some thought his taciturn behaviour showed him to be proud and disagreeable, but others noted that, while he rarely spoke, he did not avoid any acquaintance and was, perhaps, only reticent. Mr. Bingley, however, met with universal approval, as he was lively and unreserved, danced every dance, was angry that the ball closed so early, and talked of giving one himself at Netherfield. Such amiable qualities must speak for themselves.
Elizabeth Bennet had been obliged, by the scarcity of gentlemen, to sit down for two dances; and during part of that time Mr. Darcy had been standing near enough for her to overhear a conversation between him, his cousin, and Mr. Bingley, who came from the dance for a few minutes, to press his friend to join it.
"Come, Darcy," said he, "I must have you dance. I hate to see you standing about by yourself in this stupid manner. You had much better dance."
Lady Eleanor added, “You had indeed.”
"I certainly shall not. You know how I detest it, unless I am particularly acquainted with my partner. At such an assembly as this it would be insupportable. I have danced with the ladies of my party and thus are my obligations fulfilled. There is not another woman in the room whom it would not be a punishment to me to stand up with."
"I would not be so fastidious as you are," cried Bingley, "for a kingdom!"
“Nor would I. And how could a mere dance be considered a punishment?” Eleanor Fitzwilliam examined Mr. Darcy quizzically. “If I did not know better, I would suspect you to be sackless. You are most certainly an addle pate, but you may also be a noddy.”1
“Does your father know you use such coarse language?”
“Pish! That was hardly coarse, but accurate. Has it escaped your attention that there are rather more ladies than gentlemen here this evening?”
Darcy looked around. “So there are. What is that to me?”
Bingley snorted and left his friend to the mercies of that gentleman’s cousin.
“Obviously nothing. A gentleman
would consider it his obligation to partner as many ladies as possible to ensure that they enjoy the evening. You
, on the other hand, stand in the corner imitating a wooden post. Where is the famous Darcy pride tonight?”
“You would have me honour these …” he waved his hand vaguely at their company.
“Ladies, Darcy. The word you are looking for is ladies. There are at least half a dozen landed families here tonight. That makes the fathers gentlemen and the daughters ladies. But you have only danced with your own kin and a couple of tradeswomen.”
“I didn’t ask you here to teach me
“Then why am I here? It is obvious to everyone in this room that you value nothing so much as money. How is it any less crude for a wealthy man to disdain women of lesser portions than an impoverished one? Your actions tonight are no different from those of the worst sort of fortune-hunter, judging ladies’ worth solely on their fortunes.”
“That’s completely different! I prefer the company of my equals, not my betters.”
“So snobbery is acceptable in one direction, just not in the other? You would not behave so in Derbyshire.”
Darcy sighed deeply. “You are correct, I would not. But, please, Eleanor. Not tonight.”
“Very will, if you insist. But do try to remember to treat respectable ladies with respect instead of glaring at them as if they posed some dire threat to the wellbeing of the nation. You degrade only yourself, cousin.” She left him to join a group of nearby women discussing the latest fashion in sleeves, a subject on which her opinion was thoroughly canvassed.
When Bingley approached again, Darcy said only, “My apologies, but I am not in the best of moods this evening. I would better have stayed at Netherfield.”
“I am very sorry indeed to hear it. Upon my honour, I never met with so many pleasant girls in my life as I have this evening. Is Miss Bennet not the most beautiful creature you have ever beheld? I dare say dancing with such agreeable company might lift your mood.”
Darcy shook his head. “I thank you my friend, but not this evening. Perhaps the next time, as I am certain there will be many such opportunities in so friendly a place.”
Elizabeth remained with no clear portrait of Mr. Darcy’s character, for it seemed equally likely that he held himself above his company as that his aloof behaviour was an extraordinary occasion. His own words seemed to prove the former, but both his friend and his cousin appeared to believe he was capable of better. Of Mr. Bingley she could only approve, as he had not only singled out her dearest sister Jane for his particular attention but had also done his utmost to encourage his reticent friend to do his duty to the neighbourhood. That he had failed reflected only on his friend. As for the Lady Eleanor, Elizabeth could not help agreeing with the sentiments that lady expressed, though she found the manner of their expression lacking in civility, demonstrating an arrogance and conceit that could not please.
On their return, the ladies of Longbourn found Mr. Bennet still up, as he generally was when they went out of an evening. With a book he was regardless of time; and on such occasions he had a good deal of curiosity as to the events of an evening, most particularly one which had raised such splendid expectations. Such curiosity did not extend to the details of dancing partners and lace, however much Mrs. Bennet might want to share them. It was greatly to his satisfaction, then, that Mrs. Bennet had barely begun her diatribe against a particularly rude gentleman of Mr. Bingley’s party who had not danced with even one of her daughters when she was interrupted by her second eldest.
“I heard him say he was not feeling well, but would be happy to dance at a later occasion.”
“Hmph. Well, we shall see, that is all that I have to say on the matter. We shall see.”
“And until we do, there is nothing left to say, so I will bid you all a goodnight,” replied Mr. Bennet, postponing further discussion till a more sensible hour. This served as no deterrent to Jane and Elizabeth, who could not rest until the virtues of Mr. Bingley had been thoroughly canvassed. On the merits of his sisters, however, they found little agreement. Elizabeth, with more quickness of observation and less pliancy of temper than her sister, was very little disposed to approve of them.
Mr. Bingley’s sisters, Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst, were in fact very fine ladies by some measures; not deficient in good-humour when they were pleased, nor in the power of being agreeable where they chose it, but proud and conceited. They were rather handsome, had a fortune of twenty thousand pounds, were in the habit of associating with people of rank, and had been educated in one of the first private seminaries in town. They were anxious for their brother having an estate of his own, and though he was now established only as a tenant, Miss Bingley was by no means unwilling to preside at his table. She and her sister agreed that Miss Bennet was a sweet girl, and one whom they should not object to know more of. “But otherwise there was little beauty or fashion to be found. There was no one else there who I should wish to know.”
“I found a number of the young ladies very pleasant company,” said Lady Eleanor. “Miss Lucas and Miss Watson both impressed me as sensible, intelligent girls.”
“They may be sensible, but surely you would not wish to spend much time with them. Miss Lucas is so very plain and Miss Watson’s gown was poorly made. Did you see those sleeves, Louisa? I would not be surprised in the least to discover that they were made for another dress entirely. You will have no need to call on either of them, Lady Eleanor, for Louisa and I can provide you with far superior company to anything they might have to offer.”
“As you do not wish to further those acquaintances, it is fortunate that I have Darcy’s coach at my disposal, for I fully intend to call on Miss Lucas in the next few days. As for Miss Watson’s sleeves, they appeared to cover an appropriate portion of her arms and support the remainder of her dress, and what more can one really expect from sleeves?”
That the Miss Lucases and the Miss Bennets should likewise 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. It was quickly agreed amongst them that Mr. Bingley was most amiable, Mr. Hurst was pleasant enough but nothing more, and that Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst were quite elegant but nothing to Lady Eleanor. As for Mr. Darcy, there was much puzzlement. Mrs. Bennet held that if he was not in a mood to dance he should not have attended, but her eldest daughter Jane suggested that it was a compliment to the neighbourhood that he had gone out despite feeling unwell. Charlotte Lucas quite agreed, pointing out that they should have thought even worse of him had he failed to appear at all. In the end it was decided that they would have to wait to discover what sort of gentleman he might be.
1 - Sackless is a Yorkshire term meaning guileless, simple minded, lacking energy. It has nothing to do with an absence of portions of the standard male equipment, which was my first thought, but comes from an Old English word meaning innocent. An addle pate is an inconsiderate foolish fellow. A noddy is a simpleton.