As promised, here are the first three revised chapters of Pride and Prejudice:The Other Way Round. This is Pride and Prejudice with a twist – all the characters have revised genders and live in a society where women are the dominant sex, so Mr. Darcy is now Miss Darcy and Miss Elizabeth Bennet is Master Elijah Bennet.
Chapter 1 – Miss Bingley
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a husband.
However little known the feelings or views of such a woman may be on her first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that she is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their sons.
Mrs. Bennet had opened the door and was about to leave his library when he heard Mr. Long’s noisy arrival. She had no desire to take tea and listen to the interminable gossip and therefore stepped back inside and quickly closed the door. She waited some time until she heard Mr. Long’s equally noisy departure and judged it safe to venture forth. She was in the hallway, shrugging on her greatcoat (Mrs. Bennet had radical notions about the necessity of servants to help one on or off with one’s articles of clothing) when she heard the rustle of a gown and looking round, saw her husband approaching.
‘My dear Mrs. Bennet,’ said her gentleman to her, ‘have you heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?’
‘Is it indeed? Let us hope it is to just as amusing a family as the Greys,’ Mrs. Bennet replied, hoping to end the conversation.
She completed the putting on of her coat and turned towards to the front door. She had business with the estate agent over the matter of some disputed bills and did not want to be delayed by her husband.
‘But it is,’ returned he; ‘for Mr. Long has just been here, and he told me all about it.’
Mrs. Bennet made no answer.
‘Do you not want to know who has taken it?’ cried her husband impatiently, waving his beringed hands in the air with agitation so that the ends of his shawl, draped so becomingly over his arms, fluttered. Mrs. Bennet turned back reluctantly, knowing that if she did not, her gentleman would waylay her until the information was given.
Why did I not marry Julian Clarke was the question she asked herself. She knew the answer. In her youth she had placed a higher value on beauty and youthful high spirits than on intelligence and good sense. Julian Clarke had come to stay with his cousins the Grenvilles, for one summer. Miss Bennet had been tempted to make him an offer but had been swayed by John Gardiner’s charms. Shortly after she had proposed to Master Gardiner, Master Clarke had returned home and his cousins soon after quitted the neighbourhood so that Mr. Bennet never knew what had become of him.
‘You want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it.’
This was invitation enough.
‘Why, my dear, you must know, Mr. Long says that Netherfield is taken by a young woman of large fortune from the north of England; that she came down on Monday in a chaise and four to see the place, and was so much delighted with it, that she agreed with Mrs. Morris immediately; that she is to take possession before Michaelmas, and some of her servants are to be in the house by the end of next week.’
‘What is her name?’
‘Is she married or single?’
‘Oh! Single, my dear, to be sure! A single woman of large fortune; four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our boys!’
‘How so? How can it affect them?’
‘My dear Mrs. Bennet,’ replied her husband, ‘how can you be so tiresome! You must know that I am thinking of her marrying one of them.’
‘Is that her design in settling here?’
‘Design! Nonsense, how can you talk so! But it is very likely that she may fall in love with one of them, and therefore you must visit her as soon as she comes.’
‘I see no occasion for that. You and the boys may go, or you may send them by themselves, which perhaps will be still better, for as you are as handsome as any of them, Miss Bingley may like you the best of the party.’
‘My dear, you flatter me. I certainly have had my share of beauty, but I do not pretend to be anything extraordinary now. When a man has five grown-up sons, he ought to give over thinking of his own beauty.’
‘In such cases, a man has not often much beauty to think of.’
Mr. Bennet looked complacently down at his still trim figure.
‘But, my dear, you must indeed go and see Miss Bingley when she comes into the neighbourhood.’
‘It is more than I engage for, I assure you.’
‘But consider your sons. Only think what an establishment it would be for one of them. Sir Wilhelmina and Lord Lucas are determined to go, merely on that account, for in general, you know, they visit no newcomers. Indeed you must go, for it will be impossible for us to visit her if you do not.’
‘You are over-scrupulous, surely. I dare say Miss Bingley will be very glad to see you; and I will send a few lines by you to assure hereof my hearty consent to her marrying whichever she chooses of the boys; though I must throw in a good word for my little Elijah.’
‘I desire you will do no such thing. Elijah is not a bit better than the others; and I am sure he is not half so handsome as John, nor half so good-humoured as Lydior. But you are always giving him the preference.’
‘They have none of them much to recommend them,’ replied she; ‘they are all silly and ignorant like other boys; but Elijah has something more of quickness than his brothers.’
‘Mr. Bennet, how can you abuse your own children in such a way? You take delight in vexing me. You have no compassion for my poor nerves.’
‘You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these last twenty years at least.’
‘Ah, you do not know what I suffer.’
‘But I hope you will get over it, and live to see many young women of four thousand a year come into the neighbourhood.’
‘It will be no use to us, if twenty such should come, since you will not visit them.’
‘Depend upon it, my dear, that when there are twenty, I will visit them all.’
She moved quickly towards the door and went through it. Mr. Bennet chased after her but as he did so, his wife closed the door and his blue morning gown was caught. By the time the servants had heard his cries and extricated him, his quarry was safely away.
Mrs. Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three-and-twenty years had been insufficient to make her husband understand her character. He knew as little of his character as on the day he married her. His mind was less difficult to develop. He was a man of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper. When he was discontented, he fancied himself nervous. The business of his life was to get his sons married; its solace was visiting and news.
That same afternoon, John and Elijah were walking back from Meryton after visiting their aunt, when three ladies on horseback passed them. John saw that the two of the three, a handsome fair haired gentlewoman riding a smart chestnut and another gentlewoman less good looking but very smartly dressed, looked at him admiringly and tipped their hats as she went past. The other lady, riding a magnificent black horse, made a gesture towards her hat indicative of tipping it. John and Elijah inclined their heads, John blushing as he did so. They had not been introduced so there was no possibility of the ladies speaking to them.
‘I wonder who they are?’ asked John as the riders disappeared up the path.
Elijah laughed. ‘You are teasing me, John. You know perfectly well who at least one of them is. Let us see if we can solve the mystery. We have seen three young women, strangers in the neighbourhood. We have also been told that Netherfield Hall is let at last. Is it too much to suppose that one of those fine gentlewomen must be the tenant of Netherfield Hall?’
‘You are right, of course, Elijah,’ John said. ‘Now, the mystery is, which of them is the tenant?’
‘That I am unable to deduce,’ Elijah admitted.
John secretly hoped that it was the fair-haired lady.
‘Perhaps, we should not tell Mama and the others about this encounter, otherwise they will plague the life out of us with questions,’ Elijah added thoughtfully.
Chapter 2 – Mrs. Bennet
Mrs. Bennet was among the earliest of those who waited on Miss Bingley. She had always intended to visit her, though to the last always assuring her husband that she should not go. Mrs. Bennet knew as well as her husband the importance of the boys marrying well although by nature, less inclined to do anything about it. Respectable and well-paid professions such as the law, the military, the church and even disrespected trade were closed to respectable and well bred young gentlemen. The office of tutor would be the only avenue open to them and of his boys, only Mair might perhaps have earned his living that way.
She had paid her visit to Miss Bingley and had been introduced to her brothers, brother-in-law and mother. The sight of the latter made her speechless. It was Julian Clarke now Bingley.
‘I have had the pleasure of Mrs. Bennet’s acquaintance before’ Mr. Bingley told his son.
Mrs. Bennet bowed, able now to speak, ‘I am happy to renew our acquaintance, Mr. Bingley.’
He smiled. ‘As am I,’ he said.
Up until the evening after the visit was paid, Mr. Bennet had no knowledge of it. It was then disclosed in the following manner. Observing her second son employed in trimming a hat with a rose coloured ribbon, Mrs. Bennet suddenly addressed him with:
‘I hope Miss Bingley will like it, Elijah.’
‘We are not in a way to know what Miss Bingley likes,’ said his father resentfully, ‘since we are not to visit.’
‘But you forget, papa,’ said Elijah, ‘that we shall meet her at the assemblies, and that Mr. Long promised to introduce her.’
‘I do not believe Mr. Long will do any such thing. He has two nephews of his own. He is a selfish, hypocritical man, and I have no opinion of him.’
‘But neither Simon nor Stephen Long are as not as pretty as John,’ Lydior said. ‘She will probably be disgusted with them.’
‘Even so,’ sniffed Mr. Bennet, ‘she will meet them first. Mr. Long is not to be depended on and I do have no trust in him.’
‘No more have I,’ said Mrs. Bennet; ‘and I am glad to find that you do not depend on her serving you.’
Mr. Bennet deigned not to make any reply, but, unable to contain himself, began scolding one of his sons.
‘Don’t keep coughing so, Kit, for Heaven’s sake! Have a little compassion on my nerves. You tear them to pieces.’
‘Kit has no discretion in his coughs,’ said his mother; ‘he times them ill.’
‘I do not cough for my own amusement,’ replied Kit fretfully. ‘Indeed, I am sick of coughing.’
‘So are we,’ Lydior said unsympathetically.
‘When is your next ball to be, Elijah?’
‘Aye, so it is,’ cried his father, ‘and Mr. Long does not come back till the day before; so it will be impossible for him to introduce her, for he will not know her himself. What a ridiculous thing to have promised.’
‘Then, my dear, you may have the advantage of your friend, and introduce Miss Bingley to him.’
‘Impossible, Mrs. Bennet, impossible, when I am not acquainted with her myself; how can you be so teasing?’
‘I honour your circumspection. A fortnight’s acquaintance is certainly very little. One cannot know what a woman really is by the end of a fortnight. But if we do not venture somebody else will; and after all, Mr. Long and his nephews must stand their chance; and, therefore, as he will think it an act of kindness, if you decline the office, I will take it on myself.’
The boys stared at their mother. Mr. Bennet said only, ‘Nonsense, nonsense!’
‘What can be the meaning of that emphatic exclamation?’ cried she. ‘Do you consider the forms of introduction, and the stress that is laid on them, as nonsense? I cannot quite agree with you there. What say you, Mair? For you are a young gentleman of deep reflection, I know, and read great books and make extracts.’
Mair wished to say something sensible, but knew not how. He adjusted his spectacles and blinked at his mother.
‘While Mair is adjusting his ideas,’ he continued, ‘let us return to Miss Bingley.’
‘I am sick of Miss Bingley,’ cried her husband.
‘I am sorry to hear that; but why did not you tell me that before? If I had known as much this morning I certainly would not have called on her. It is very unlucky; but as I have actually paid the visit, we cannot escape the acquaintance now.’
The astonishment of the gentlemen was just what he wished; that of Mr. Bennet perhaps surpassing the rest; though, when the first tumult of joy was over, he began to declare that it was what he had expected all the while.
‘How good it was in you, my dear Mrs. Bennet! But I knew I should persuade you at last. I was sure you loved your boys too well to neglect such an acquaintance. Well, how pleased I am! And it is such a good joke, too, that you should have gone this morning and never said a word about it till now.’
‘Now, Kit, you may cough as much as you choose,’ said Mrs. Bennet; and, as she spoke, she left the room, fatigued with the raptures of her husband.
‘What an excellent mother you have, boys!’ said he, when the door was shut. ‘I do not know how you will ever make her amends for her kindness; or me, either, for that matter. At our time of life it is not so pleasant, I can tell you, to be making new acquaintances every day; but for your sakes, we would do anything. Lydior, my love, though you are the youngest, I dare say Miss Bingley will dance with you at the next ball.’
‘Oh!’ said Lydior stoutly, ‘I am not afraid; for though I am the youngest, I’m the tallest.’
‘And the fattest,’ Kit whispered to Elijah, giggling and then burst out coughing again.
The rest of the evening was spent in conjecturing how soon she would return Mrs. Bennet’s visit, and determining when they should ask her to dinner.
Chapter 3 – A Snub for Elijah
Not all that Mr. Bennet, however, with the assistance of his five sons, could ask on the subject, was sufficient to draw from his wife any satisfactory description of Miss Bingley. They attacked her in various ways, with barefaced questions, ingenious suppositions, and distant surmises; but she eluded the skill of them all. She even resorted to going up to town one day to escape their incessant questioning and Mrs. Bennet disliked London as a matter of principle. They were at last obliged to accept the second-hand intelligence of their neighbour, Knight-Consort Lucas. His report was highly favourable. Sir Wilhelmina had been delighted with her. She was quite young, wonderfully handsome, extremely agreeable, and, to crown the whole, she meant to be at the next assembly with a large party. Nothing could be more delightful! To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love; and very lively hopes of Miss Bingley’s heart were entertained.
‘If I can but see one of my sons happily settled at Netherfield,’ said Mr. Bennet to his wife, ‘and all the others equally well married, I shall have nothing to wish for.’
‘Not even eternal life, unending beauty and a large fortune?’ asked Mrs. Bennet. ‘I am sure that they would not go amiss with you.’
Mr. Bennet angrily denied this.
In a few days Miss Bingley returned Mrs. Bennet’s visit, and sat about ten minutes with her in her library. She had entertained hopes of being admitted to a sight of the young gentlemen, of whose beauty she had heard much; but she saw only the mother. The gentlemen were somewhat more fortunate, for they had the advantage of ascertaining from an upper window that she had wavy fair hair under her black top hat, wore a blue coat, and rode a black horse. John was now sure which of the riders had been Miss Bingley.
An invitation to dinner was soon afterwards dispatched; and already had Mr. Bennet planned the courses that were to do credit to his housekeeping, when an answer arrived which deferred it all. Miss Bingley was obliged to be in town the following day, and, consequently, unable to accept the honour of their invitation, etc. Mr. Bennet was quite disconcerted. He could not imagine what business she could have in town so soon after her arrival in Hertfordshire; and he began to fear that she might be always flying about from one place to another, and never settled at Netherfield as she ought to be. Lord Lucas quieted his fears a little by starting the idea of her being gone to London only to get a large party for the ball; and a report soon followed that Miss Bingley was to bring twelve gentlemen and seven ladies with her to the assembly. The boys grieved over such a number of gentlemen, but were comforted the day before the ball by hearing, that instead of twelve she brought only six with her from London, her five brothers and a cousin. And when the party entered the assembly room, fashionably late, it consisted of only six altogether, Miss Bingley, her father and two brothers, the wife of the eldest, and another young woman. The Bennets were not on hand to witness their arrival. Their tardy arrival was due not to fashion but to the fact that five unmarried sons in the family all requiring shaving of their chins and their chests, added a great deal of time to the toilette needed for a ball.
Miss Bingley was good-looking and ladylike; she wore a fine black coat and light, fitted breeches, she had a pleasant countenance, and easy, unaffected manners. Her father was a sensible looking man who wore a black silk dress appropriate to her status and age. Her brothers were fine men, with an air of decided fashion. Master Bingley wore a deep primrose taffeta dress with puffed sleeves slashed to show a jonquil lining. He had been so carefully shaved and powdered as not to show any sign of five o’clock shadow and his oiled, sculpted chest displayed in his low cut gown showed not one hair nor did his brother’s. Her brother, Mr. Hurst wore a beautiful lavender dress trimmed with lace. He sported a Van Dyke moustache and goatee as was currently fashionable with married gentlemen in London. Her sister-in-law, Mrs. Hurst, merely looked the lady in a dark, cutaway coat and breeches; but her friend Miss Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by her fine, tall person: handsome features, noble mien, the snowy white cravat, superbly fitted coat across her wide shoulders and tight fitting breeches, and the report which was in general circulation within five minutes after her entrance, of her having ten thousand a year. The gentlemen pronounced her to be a fine figure of a woman, the gentlemen declared she was much handsomer than Miss Bingley, and she was looked at with great admiration for about half the evening, till her manners gave a disgust which turned the tide of her popularity; for she was discovered to be proud; to be above her company, and above being pleased; and not all her large estate in Derbyshire could then save her from having a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance, and being unworthy to be compared with her friend.
Miss Bingley had soon made herself acquainted with all the principal people in the room. While speaking to Knight-Consort Lucas and her gentleman, she looked up and saw John moving down the dance. She stopped in mid sentence and gazed at him for a moment. Then she asked, ‘who is that handsome gentleman?’
On being told John’s name, she lost no time in making her way to John and ensuring that she was placed so as to be the nearest person to him and thus able to be the first person to ask for his hand for the next dance. This John blushingly granted. He had recognised Miss Bingley from her exceptional face and figure as soon as she had entered the room. She told John that she remembered seeing her walking from before, John was flattered that she had retained the memory of him, and they conversed together most amiably on several unexceptional topics. Once that dance was finished, she immediately asked John, ‘might I have the favour of another dance later on?’
Miss Bingley was lively and unreserved, danced every dance, was angry that the ball closed so early, and talked of giving one herself at Netherfield. Such amiable qualities must speak for themselves. What a contrast between her and her friend! Miss Darcy danced only once with Mr. Hurst and once with Master Bingley, declined being introduced to any other gentleman, and spent the rest of the evening in walking about the room, speaking occasionally to one of her own party. Her character was decided. She was the proudest, most disagreeable woman in the world, and everybody hoped that she would never come there again. Amongst the most violent against her was Mr. Bennet, whose dislike of her general behaviour was sharpened into particular resentment by her having slighted one of his sons.
Elijah Bennet had been obliged, by the scarcity of ladies, to sit down for two dances; and during part of that time, Miss Darcy had been standing near enough for him to hear a conversation between her and Miss Bingley, who came from the dance for a few minutes, to press her friend to join it.
‘Come, Darcy,’ said she, ‘I must have you dance. I hate to see you standing about by yourself in this stupid manner. You had much better dance.’
‘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. Your brothers are engaged, and there is not another man 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 Miss Bingley, ‘for a kingdom! Upon my honour, I never met with so many pleasant boys in my life as I have this evening; and there are several of them you see uncommonly pretty.’
‘You are dancing with the only handsome boy in the room,’ said Miss Darcy, looking at the eldest Master Bennet.
‘Oh! he is the most beautiful creature I ever beheld! But there is one of his brothers sitting down just behind you, who is very pretty, and I dare say very agreeable. Do let me ask my partner to introduce you.’
‘Which do you mean?’ and turning round he looked for a moment at Elijah, till catching his eye, she withdrew her own and coldly said: ‘he is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me; I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young gentlemen who are slighted by other women. You had better return to your partner and enjoy his smiles, for you are wasting your time with me.’
Miss Bingley followed her advice. Miss Darcy walked off; and Elijah remained with no very cordial feelings toward her. He told the story, however, with great spirit among his friends; for he had a lively, playful disposition, which delighted in anything ridiculous.
The evening altogether passed off pleasantly to the whole family. Mr. Bennet had seen her eldest son much admired by the Netherfield party and had discussed the fact loudly with his friends. Miss Bingley had danced with him twice, and he had been distinguished by her brothers. John was as much gratified by this as his mother could be, though in a quieter way. Elijah felt John’s pleasure although still smarting at Miss Darcy’s set down. Mair had heard himself mentioned to Master Bingley as the most accomplished boy in the neighbourhood. Fortunately, he had not heard Master Bingley’s reply of ‘indeed? It is just as well for he is the most unprepossessing creature.’ Lydior had been fortunate enough never to be without partners, which was all that she had yet learnt to care for at a ball. Cather would have had as many partners as Lydior had it not been for a bout of inconvenient coughing that prevented him from dancing the last dance so she was almost as happy as Lydior. They returned, therefore, in good spirits to Longbourn, the village where they lived, and of which they were the principal inhabitants. They found Mrs. Bennet still up. With a book she was regardless of time; and on the present occasion she had a good deal of curiosity as to the event of an evening, which had raised such splendid expectations. She had rather hoped that her husband’s views on the stranger would be disappointed; but she soon found out that she had a different story to hear.
‘Oh! My dear Mrs. Bennet,’ as he entered the room, ‘we have had a most delightful evening, a most excellent ball. I wish you had been there. John was so admired, nothing could be like it. Everybody said how well he looked; and Miss Bingley thought him quite beautiful, and danced with him twice! Only think of that, my dear; she actually danced with him twice! and he was the only creature in the room that she asked a second time. First of all, she asked Master Lucas. I was so vexed to see her stand up with him! But, however, she did not admire him at all; indeed, nobody can, you know; and she seemed quite struck with John as he was going down the dance. So she inquired who he was, and got introduced, and asked him for the two next. Then the two third she danced with Master King, and the two fourth with Marion Lucas, and the two fifth with John again, and the two sixth with Elijah, and the Boulanger.”
‘If she had had any compassion for me,’ cried his wife impatiently, ‘she would not have danced half so much! For God’s sake, say no more of her partners. Oh that she had sprained her ankle in the first dance!’
‘Oh! My dear, I am quite delighted with her. She is so excessively handsome! And her brothers are charming men. I never in my life saw anything more elegant than their dresses. I dare say the lace upon Mr. Hurst’s gown”
Here he was interrupted again. Mrs. Bennet protested against any description of finery. He was therefore obliged to seek another branch of the subject, and related, with much bitterness of spirit and some exaggeration, the shocking rudeness of Miss Darcy.
‘But I can assure you,’ he added, ‘that Elijah does not lose much by not suiting her fancy; for she is a most disagreeable, horrid woman, not at all worth pleasing. So high and so conceited that there was no enduring her! She walked here, and she walked there, fancying herself so very great! Not handsome enough to dance with! I wish you had been there, my dear, to have given her one of your set-downs. I quite detest the woman.’
He turned to go and turned back, having remembered something else to tell his wife. ‘You will never guess whom I met at the ball tonight,’ he began.
‘If I will never guess then you had best tell me,’ his wife replied.
‘It was Julian Clarke as was. He is now Mr. Bingley, the father of Miss Bingley. Imagine that! I swear I did not recognise him at first for he has aged so dreadfully but as once he had addressed me and claimed acquaintanceship, I did remember him. He asked after you most politely, my dear, and asked to be remembered to you.’
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