Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a review (two stars)

It is only right to begin with a few disclaimers. First, I—and  members of the Southwest Washington–Northwest Oregon regional chapter of JASNA—was invited to a free screening of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”, tonight (1-13-2016). Second, I have not read the book. I have read all of Jane Austen’s major novels, those unfinished, and her letters; I mention this because it is important to enjoying this movie (or not…maybe better I didn’t know?). Third, I  know little of the zombie genre. Last, I attended with my BFF, Jacky; we felt strongly a couple of cocktails beforehand were advisable. I mention this because once we started to lose our buzz about 2/3 of the way through, our attitude and the movie took a turn for the worst. One of us should have brought a flask.

An added bit of whimsy to the event was the presence of six young men from the Madison High School (SE Portland) film class. While I was in the loo pre-film, Jacky chatted them up, and they were into a convivial discussion when I returned. None of them had read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Two had seen P&P 2005. All had read P&P&Z, and their assignment was to compare the characterizations from the P&P&Z book versus the movie. Jacky and I lost it at that, and after glaring at their teacher, explained that most of what they were about to see was NOTHING like Jane Austen had written. One of the boys said he hoped seeing THIS movie would help him understand Pride and Prejudice, which he planned to start tomorrow. In a jovial manner, Jacky and I (well, mostly me) razzed them about confusing bad movies with great literature. I told the boys that I would fist-pump when I heard any unadulterated Austen, so they would know. I did so once.

The premise of the movie is that the Bennet sisters have been raised by Mr. Bennet to be Amazon-like zombie-fighting warrior women. Mr. Bennet is played by one of my favorite British actors, Charles Dance (and please, he would prefer it pronounced Dahnce, not Dantz). This is the niftiest casting in the movie. I mention this because the only unmodified Jane Austen in the entire movie is the Mr. Bennet saving Lizzy from having to marry Mr. Collins scene. Unlike many JAFF writers, I adore Mr. Bennet for all his flaws, and this was where I was fist-pumping.

The screenplay followed much of Jane Austen’s plot. There was a Meryton assembly, Jane sick at Netherfield (with a fun bit of business for Lizzy when Darcy visits the sickroom to make sure Jane isn’t turning into a zombie), a Netherfield Ball, refusing Mr. Collins, visit to Hunsford, and so on. The set pieces were inter-laced with fighting off zombies. Naturally, every other sentence has “zombie” in it. Those lines that do not were stolen from Andrew Davies (especially Darcy’s Hunsford proposal). I hope he is getting a percentage. It was a surprise hearing some of JA’s more famous bon mots in her letters—most audiences aren’t going to know what lines are direct quotes from Austen in life and will search P&P a long time to find them. The most glaring, mind-bending annoyance was during Darcy’s second proposal to Lizzy, when he quotes the climactic portion of Captain Wentworth’s letter to Anne Elliot in Persuasion. Mind you, I was sober then, and could not laugh at it.

Some of you will want to know about the costumes. For the most part the women’s clothing was well done, far better than in P&P 2005. Yes, there is a man-teasing scene as the five Bennets dress for the Meryton assembly, and one sees lots of bare thigh over stockings as daggers are inserted into scabbards before gowns are donned. Lily James as Elizabeth Bennet is light and pleasing, corseted and breathless, working her fluttering bosom to good effect. She goes sleeker when she knows she is about to fight, but it’s a zombie movie, so I was ready for that. Soldier uniforms were little better than from a child’s wooden soldier set—nothing swoon-worthy. Jane was lovely and fiesty; Bingley was more earnest than typical, and other than a bit of dithering in the end when he should have been blowing stuff up, he was acceptable.

Which brings us to Sam Riley as Darcy. Other than the send-up of Colin Firth—when this Darcy obviously does his own stunt diving into a presumably cleaner pond than that offered to Firth—this Darcy wears a heavy black leather great coat throughout. It squeaked and creaked and I assure you only the deafest zombie would miss this guy coming. The effect was much more Zorro than zombie-fighter. Sam Riley played Darcy as pissed off. No smokey stares at Lizzy, no smirks at her wit, no beseeching eyes as he proposed. His voice was gravelly. Maybe this was supposed to make him seem more sincere and serious. Nope…this Darcy was unhappy and taking it out on zombies and shrubbery (horticulturists be advised: many topiary were irreparably maimed in the making of this movie).

As for Lady Catherine de Bourgh… Perhaps the intent was to go for some sort of S&M queen, but that lane was never wandered down despite her look. The actress was a little young to have the gravitas necessary. She was supposed to be the finest lady zombie warrior in England, but she never so much as lifts a butter knife. She has an eye patch, but we have no backstory as to why. She and Lizzy have their little pissing contest, but then Lady Catherine turns around and protects the Bennet family at Rosings while Jane and Lizzy are off fighting zombies in the movie’s final battle. All in all, not enough was done with Lady Catherine; miscast and poorly written.

Why even two stars? Well, the costumes were fun and mostly right, minus Darcy’s leather. And, Lizzy and Darcy get into a brawl during the Hunsford proposal that was somehow, oddly, wholly believable and well-staged. If just that scene shows up on youtube, you will have seen the best part.

Other trying observations: no Colonel Fitzwilliam! Shocking! No mention of the Hursts, so alas, no hursting. Mary Bennet gets two zinger lines early on giving me hope for the younger sisters, but this did not last. Mrs. Bennet wasn’t Mrs. Bennet enough. Caroline Bingley did and said so little, one wonders why they included her. There isn’t much to say about Wickham except he’s a trifle handsomer than Darcy, which is never good. As stated, I don’t know much about zombies, but these seemed extremely easy to kill, and once a zombie was dead, it stayed dead… funny, I thought there was more to it than that. Most of them were CGI, so one was tempted to whisper in Lizzy’s worried little ears, “Hit delete a few times, dear, and it will all go away.”

Now we are to the end. There was the double wedding, some kissing, and roll credits. The teenage boys sitting behind us went wild, crying, “No sex!?” Jacky and I laughed and said, “Just like Jane Austen wrote it, only this had kissing—a wedding and you’re out.” But as we stood gathering hats and coats, an audaciously lame spoiler for a sequel roared onto the screen. The audience groaned.

This entry was posted on January 14, 2016, in Reviews.

Let’s Have a Ball!

Festive Beverages Guaranteed to Raise Your Courage to Ask that “Special Someone” to Dance!

Dateline Netherfield Park, 26 November 2015 or 1811

But what to serve your guests!? It hinges upon, one supposes, just how intoxicated you want them to become? On a cold night, we might at least serve negus to warm and refresh after their exertions. And it must certainly be served if the younger Miss Austen is to attend—she thinks nothing of a ball without negus.

Negus (warm punch)
Ingredients:
Port wine
Lemon Juice
Loaf Sugar
Calves-foot Jelly
Grated Nutmeg

Heat until not quite boiling, and serve in a two-gallon footed metal bowl to save the surface of the sideboard from the heat.

In the Regency era, refined white sugar was formed into cones and shipped wrapped in paper. It was quite hard, requiring a hammer to break off chips, and then further cut into smaller pieces using sugar nips.

Of course something warm and nourishing might assuage the guilt of Jane Austen for drinking so very much of it, but it will hardly set the Thames afire, since in her day Port was not fortified as it is now. Perhaps something cool might be more “fortifying?”

Common London Punch
Ingredients:
36 Peeled Lemons
2 pounds of Loaf Sugar
1 Pint of Brandy
3 Quarts of Sherbet
1 Pint of Rum

Now that will rejoice the cockles of your heart, and those of your guests. It had to have tasted like candy! As the room warms, serve this strong chilled punch before the supper set, so your guests will soon have something on their stomachs! We wouldn’t want the young maidens in attendance to become inebriated. They might start stealing swords from the officers!

In the Regency Era, bottles of wine and spirits were only three quarters the size they are now (currently 750ml), but still, brandy and rum? The mind reels as well as the legs!

But if you truly want to impress your guests with your wealth and standing, the only punch to serve is Regent’s Punch!

hughlaurie_princeregent

As my pioneer Grandma used to say (think an Oregon version of Lady Lucas), “this will knock your hat in the creek!” Toss back a bumber of this, and you’re anybody’s!

Regents Punch
Ingredients:
2 Bottles of Madeira
3 Bottles of Champagne
1 Bottle each of Curaçao and Hock [hock was any German white wine]
1 Pint of Rum
1 Quart of Brandy
4 pounds of Oranges [thank goodness…at last something without alcohol!]
Four Pounds of Lemons
Raisons sweetened with sugar candy
Plus Seltzer Water [to fill the bowl]

Given Prinny’s proclivities, one can imagine those hosting him amping up the alcoholic components to impress him with the thunder of one’s punchbowl. There were over 200 “confirmed” recipes for Regents Punch in 1815. The unifying ingredient in all of them was Champagne, so your author here is predisposed to like any of them. La! I have something in common with the future George IV!

Drink up and Dance!

A Cocktail for Mr. Bingley, or You Are What You Drink

Netherfield’s effervescent host!

Mr. Bingley’s Cocktail, or…You are what you drink.
By Linda Beutler

Now anyone who knows me well will tell you my unrepentantly lust-filled forays into Jane Austen Fan Fiction are in some part fueled by the occasional infusion of quantities of champagne and sparkling wine from countries other than France. (It has recently been posited that three glasses a day prevent Alzheimer’s disease—I am taking no chances this isn’t true.) They will further report I have researched champagne cocktails with a passion usually reserved for collectors of Star Wars paraphernalia or bacon recipes. But here we will not dwell upon the Hugo, the French 75, the Epiphany, or the Raymond Massey. No, let us consider instead the cocktail most aptly seen in the hands of the leaseholder of Netherfield Park, “Seeing Angels”.

In a cocktail shaker ½ full of ice add:

• 1 oz. of London Gin, preferably Boodles or any brand with a silly name.

• 1 oz. of ginger syrup, because, as stated in the title, Mr. Bingley is what he drinks.

• Crush and macerate in a mortar 4 fresh ripe pitted dark sweet cherries (preferably Bing* cherries, as if it needs saying); add to the cocktail shaker.

• Juice of one half of a lemon (No one appears to want a Bingley that is too sweet, if comments at the Meryton Literary Society’s A Happy Assembly are any indication.)

Shake vigourously and strain into a capacious champagne flute (6 ounces at least, 8 ounces is best). I would be neglectful not to mention glassware for serving champagne are supposed to resemble Marie Antoinette’s breasts. Now, whether using a flute or a saucer, one must think her endowments oddly shaped, to say the least. During the Regency era in England, both styles of glassware were used for champagne, so make of that what you will.

Fill the flute with champagne to nearly the rim, and garnish with a pitted and partly split dark cherry.

Once you’ve downed a couple of these, you will be “Seeing Angels” everywhere!

*Bing cherries were developed about half a mile from Linda Beutler’s home, at the site of the old Lewelling Orchards of Milwaukie, Oregon, in around 1875. In England, dark sweet cherries were grown by order of King Henry VIII, who tasted them in Flanders.

Denizens of the Hunsford Tar Pits

Hot Spring

 

Denizens of the Hunsford Tar Pits

By Linda Beutler

 

The dominant (although the word is hardly an apt descriptor) male dinosaur living in the environs of the Hunsford Tar Pits is the Tricollinstops pachypygoura forma tardus (the thick-rumped-and-tailed Tricollinstop, slow moving form). It was originally thought to be sterile, occurring in nature only rarely through a complex hybridization of cousins in the family Bennetiadae—in which every deviant recessive gene is expressed in one grotesque creature—but careful observation of the fossil record deemed the Tricollinstop too slow-moving (and slow-witted) to catch a mate, rather than being sterile. The oily—one might almost say greasy—nature of the creature’s horned hide made it particularly disgusting, as well as its constant meaningless vocalizing.

 

This small series of pits lies just outside the known boundaries of the Rosings region (described previously), and the influence of the Archeoechinodon deBourghii var. rigida is felt in no small measure. It is believed the thick-rumped Tricollinstop regurgitated food for the old spiny dinosaur (submissive behavior learned from the Haplojenkinsonopteryx minimus), as well as preening and grooming it in ways quite deplorable for God-fearing modern zoologists to contemplate, but pre-dating the evolution of small mammals such as the naked mole rat, Heterocephalus glaber. The social interactions of the Rosings dinosaurs and the Hunsford Tar Pit dinosaurs mimic naked mole rats in that the subservient Tricollinstop covers himself in the old spiny dinosaur’s urine and feces to keep from being eaten by the colony queen; thus she is fooled into thinking the Tricollinstop is some extension of herself.

 

This behavior continued until, unlikely as it may seem, the thick-rumped Tricollinstop was eventually singled out as a mate by a Charlottedon domesticus subspecies desperatadephis, known as the desperate-wombed Charlottedon. All Charlottedons, like some females in the family Bennetiadae, produce only female offspring, and so are shunned by the more virile and masculine of the various dinosaur families and genera. We can only imagine the surprise of the Tricollinstop to be stalked and eventually cornered by the desperate-wombed Charlottedon, for Charolottedons in general emit no pheromones and are without distinctive secondary sexual characteristics. It would appear the thick-rumped Tricollinstop, once initiated to the voracious sexual proclivities of the Charlottedon, avoided certain death from over-exercise by promising a more comfortable nest amidst the tar pits for the always practical Charlottedon, and the likelihood of an even greater domicile after their future migration to the Longbourn environs. But for that eventuality to occur, the Tricollinstop had to avoid the amorous attentions of his mate and the challenges of being constantly under the eye of the old spiny dinosaur.

 

 

Previous Jurassic Austen dinos:

KC Kahler: Hunkasaurs pemberlii
KC Kahler: Maternosaurus vulgaris
Beau North: Avaricium hypochondrius
Jessica Evans: Siblioraptor wantonus
KC Kahler: Diplosororia dramatis
KC Kahler: Nauticolophus fidelum
Linda Beutler: Dinosaurs of the Rosings biome

 

 

Primary Dinosaur Species of the Rosings Biome

Primary Dinosaur Species of the Rosings Biome By Linda Beutler

 

Rosings
(Extract from Saurdonteryx, Journal of Very Amateur Paleontologists)

The verdant forests and steamy caves of the Rosings Biome were dominated by the “queen bee” of this eusocial animal community, Archeoechinodon deBourghii var. rigida (common name, old spiny dinosaur of firm opinions and intrusive manners). This was a dinosaur who would not be gainsaid, and no details of the of any lesser dinosaurs and evolving mammals were too small to escape her hawk-like eyes and loudly-voiced opinions on the most minute of topics. This was a fearsome creature, and many submissive species danced attendance upon her, engaging in grooming, preening, and regurgitating activities (most notably the thick-rumped Tricollinstops, soon to be described in Denizens of the Hunsford Tar Pits, Beutler, 2015). That the Rosings community survived its queen is a testament to the ingenuity of the lesser creatures and the queen’s attraction to shiny objects with which to adorn her thick hide and ostentatious lair. Distracting her was blessedly easy.

The mate of the old spiny dinosaur must have either been equally fearsome—one assumes heavily clad with protective scales and likely deaf—or a small darting creature able to, at least initially, take her unawares, and again, likely deaf. The two built an elaborately ornate nest, and the queen Archeoechinodon rarely migrated from it unless sorely vexed. Once the queen was impregnated, the mate was eaten.

The only offspring of the old spiny dinosaur was the Pseudohypochondricasaurus sempernothos subspecies annei, or more commonly, Anne’s falsely-ill-and-always-wrong dinosaur.  This was a pale, sickly creature, often cross and as impatient with its inferiors as the colony queen.  Although the colony queen did everything possible to attract the highest quality mate for her offspring, the disinterested Anne’s-falsely-sick-and-always-wrong dinosaur would, as advertised, feign some temporary but repugnant malady (emitting copious projectile bodily effluvia), which sent prospective males screaming for more fertile dinosaurs with light and pleasing figures and given to rolling in plants pre-dating Lavendula angustifolia (lavender) known in its earliest evolutionary stages to be a great aphrodisiac.

The tiniest dinosaur in the Rosings Biome was the Haplojenkinsonopteryx minimus, (Jenkinson’s single dinosaur). The only known specimen was always found in association with the Pseudohypochondriacasaurus. It was a flightless yet flighty creature given to eating the food of the Anne’s-falsely-sick-and-always-wrong dinosaur and spitting it back half digested into the larger creature’s mouth. No fossil record exists for any male form of Jenkinson’s single dinosaur, likely because the female would, every few years, molt its skin to reveal brighter colors before eating a male and turning black again within days of metabolizing its feast.

 

 

The Reel Netherfield

A recent A Happy Assembly playground theme was “ballroom missteps”. Although flummoxed and uninspired at first, as others posted their short stories and quickies, I felt a little plot bunny begin nibbling my less than nimble toes. While doing research in an annotated edition of Pride & Prejudice, the right “what-if” took hold. It seemed that when Darcy asked Elizabeth to dance a reel at Netherfield, he gave up early in the game when she expressed her distrust of his invitation. What would have moved Darcy to ask in the first place? Guilt, perhaps? So what would happen had he not taken no for an answer?

Given that we are in the autumn season, when Darcy and the Bingleys were in Hertforshire, let’s celebrate the season with…

The Reel Netherfield

by Linda Beutler

A guilty conscience is a perilous thing, especially in the breast of a gentleman who holds his behaviour to a high account. If said gentleman discovers he has insulted a lady, only to find, upon more studied perusal, that she has fine eyes—charmingly brightened by physical exertion—well, what can the gentleman do but plot some method of apology? Fitzwilliam Darcy was one such gentleman.

He did not wish to admit Miss Elizabeth Bennet could have overheard his peevish remarks made to his Hertfordshire host, Charles Bingley. The assembly they were attending was over-heated, the music grating, and the company beneath what Darcy preferred. If he was honest, and he liked to think he was, calm reflection would have revealed the denizens of the market town of Meryton were no different than the common folk of Kympton or Lambton, the villages nearest his home estate in Derbyshire. The salient difference—the material point, as Darcy liked to say—was that for twenty miles in every direction of Pemberley, he knew everyone and they knew him. In Hertfordshire, where he was acquainted only with the Bingley family, it was easy to imagine the society savage, when they were merely unknown.

Yet there he stood, perspiring and thinking only to subdue his fear of being criticised behind a mask of hauteur, when Bingley offered to effect an introduction with Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Darcy barely spared her a glance before deeming her merely tolerable, and assumed aloud she had been slighted by other men, else she would not have been seated awaiting a partner. That there were not enough men present to make up couples with the many willing ladies was a not inconsequential detail he chose to overlook. He loathed prevarication of any sort, but was not above being childishly obtuse.

Moments later, musical laughter was aimed in his direction, and seeing it burble forth from the lady he had scorned, he assumed she was restating his untoward comments to the friend with whom she was standing. She had heard. Damn it, Darcy! You have opened yourself to ridicule… His back stiffened, and quite oddly, upon observing the gentle swell of Elizabeth Bennet’s hips in her simple gown, another part not usually given to stiffening in public places, was awakening. I am absurd! He wanted to dislike her, but her light and pleasing figure, generous in all the places a woman should be generous, and trim for the rest, prohibited disdain.

The lady found several more opportunities to laugh at him, including, when she did dance, during a rather energetic display of her abilities with Charles Bingley. They seemed to be having a rollicking good time of it, but for one moment the lady said something causing Bingley to go all over sheepish, and glance at Darcy accusingly. Darcy apprehended she admitted hearing his unkindness, his selfish disdain for her feelings, to Bingley. But the moment soon passed. The lady spoke conspiratorially, Bingley laughed, and they went skipping down the line with brows unclouded.

**********

Very soon Darcy had the chance to observe Miss Elizabeth again. At an evening party at Lucas Lodge, she was more intriguing than at the assembly. That she was given to eloquent and animated conversation proved magnetic. Darcy found himself following her around the room, hoping to hear her next bon mot.

Everyone noticed his attention to her, most particularly the eldest daughter of the house, Miss Charlotte Lucas, the very lady who had laughed with Elizabeth at his imprudent remarks. Sir William Lucas was not a man given to deep thinking, and when the young people began dancing, applied to Darcy for his approval. Sir William did not know what to make of Darcy’s response, “Every savage can dance.”

Forthwith, as Elizabeth passed by them, Sir William took up her hand and offered it to Darcy, bidding him behave as a savage with “Miss Eliza”. Her countenance hid nothing from Darcy. She was mortified, turned pale, and glanced down. Behind her, her youngest sister was giggling raucously and capering wildly. Some rational portion of Darcy’s mind believed Elizabeth intended to censor her sister when Sir Lucas intercepted her. However, it was not his rational mind that reacted to Sir William’s suggestion. Assuming a benign expression, Darcy asked her to dance. His was a primal need to be forgiven by a pair of fine eyes. She denied him absolution.

Later that night, Darcy cursed himself for giving Elizabeth the opportunity to look him in the eye with a refusal clearly meant to repay his insults. She was explicit. They were not to think she approached the dancers because she wanted to dance. Her face was stony, offering nothing but rebuke. Darcy would not have reckoned she could deaden her lively eyes as she had. Any other lady in the world would have accepted his offer—his conceit assured him—but Elizabeth Bennet turned away to enter into a conversation with her father, immediately regaining the lustre in her countenance. Darcy could only stare, and be stared at.

He felt a cold shiver of danger ripple down his spine that could not be warmed by Bingley’s fine port. What did warm him was the notion of dancing with Miss Elizabeth Bennet.

*********

In only a few days time, Darcy found himself living under the same roof as Miss Elizabeth Bennet. She had walked three miles in dirty weather to tend an ill sister. Without being always conscious of it, Darcy was pleased by their every encounter. Her manners were gracious and cheerful. Her wit was impertinent but informed. Her devotion to her sister’s care was tender. Yet towards him, she consistently attributed judgmental motives and an assumption that even here amongst friends, he thought himself above his company.

His bewitchment worsened. If she was in a room, it took every effort to not gaze at her. He veiled his admiration behind a grim visage; his thoughts were more agreeably engaged. He longed to join in her laughter. She continued to laugh at him, but she did not laugh with him.

Darcy knew he was failing to improve in her regard, and put it down to a lack of apology for his initial blunder. He owed her a dance.

Bingley assured the Bennet family, when they called, that a ball would be forthcoming. Darcy did not like the idea of waiting until such an event was scheduled. There must be a way to garner her clemency sooner. Their verbal sparing could not go on unchecked. He knew it was motivated on her side by a distrust that challenged her to cross him, although her polite method of address disarmed reproof.

**********

Bingley’s sisters were accomplished at the pianoforte, and the eldest, Mrs. Louisa Hurst, had a fine voice. Elizabeth Bennet’s singing conveyed more emotion—whether for comedic or tragic effects—she was the superior performer. After a particularly trying conversation, when even Bingley entered a few well-placed barbs into the proceedings at Darcy’s expense, the exchange became much like a dispute. Bingley fled the room. Darcy requested music of the ladies to sooth his savaged breast.

He hoped to hear Elizabeth Bennet play and sing, but she was outflanked by Caroline Bingley, who played whilst Mrs. Hurst sang. Elizabeth made a desultory perusal of the music on the instrument, and Darcy stared at her, only looking away when she looked up at him with a slight frown.

When Caroline began a spritely Scotch air, Darcy could hardly believe his luck. Here was danceable music! He approached Miss Elizabeth, but again she would not have him—assigning him nefarious motives for asking her to stand up with him. She dared him to despise her. She was unknowingly—quite artlessly—drawing him in. He was powerless to save himself.

“Indeed, I do not dare,” Darcy said, admitting more than he cared to. He did not move away; his hand was still extended. “Please, Miss Elizabeth. I am certain I owe you a dance.” He looked into her eyes with great meaning.

She stepped around the pianoforte as if she might accept him, yet did not take his hand. “But how are we to dance a reel for two, sir? There is no pattern allowing for anything less than two more couples.”

Darcy advanced a half-smile into her eyes. “We shall have to chart our own course, Miss Elizabeth.”

She started to open her mouth, perhaps with a rejection, but her eyes met and held his, and he saw the defiance in them change. She appeared confused.

Darcy leapt at the sudden advantage presented by her hesitancy. She did not say no again. Silence was not acquiescence, this Darcy knew, but it was also not a final refusal. “Come.”

He took her hand, and she did not resist. Delicate. “We must start with an address, I think,” Darcy began. He stood opposite her and bowed. She curtsied. She did not meet his gaze. Winsome. “Let us bring our hands together.” She held her hands out. Graceful. “Step to your left, next to me.” They lifted their arms, her hand in his moving near enough by his lips he could have, with little effort, kissed it. He breathed in her scent. Flowers. “Let us repeat this to the other side.” She stepped back, their hands still joined, and they lifted their arms again as she stepped to his other side. Darcy glanced down to her, and caught a trace of merriment. Lovely. “Now, if you will allow, let me swing you.” He was opposite her again, still keeping both hands in his, and at her nod, they swung in a circle, returning to their places.

“Ought we to have some clapping, sir, as most reels do?” Her trepidation seemed to have fallen away. She was in the moment with him, or so he hoped.

Clever. “An excellent suggestion, madam.” He smiled, dropping her hands and placing his up in front of his chest for her to slap. Then she held up her hands, and he slapped them. By mutual unspoken signal, they then clapped their own hands together four times. Vigourous. “Shall I swing you again?”

She nodded and held out her hands willingly. Delightful. “And those shall be our steps? I fear, Miss Elizabeth, that I shall forget a more complicated sequence,” he said as he swung her around. This time she pulled against his hands, making their actions more exhilarating.

She smiled, “So we shall repeat?”

He was still holding her hands; she stepped to his right and towards him to begin again. They repeated their sequence. Enchanting. Each time she stood close to either side of him, she looked into his eyes with undisguised gaiety. She began to laugh with genuine joy. Exoneration. Darcy chuckled.

They completed their reel-for-two once again before their accompanist noticed what they were about. There was still the coda to perform, a near repetition of the entire song. Rather than call attention to the consternation Miss Bingley felt by stopping mid-song, she narrowed her eyes and played rapidly to the end.

Darcy and Elizabeth had no choice but to hasten their steps, increasing their hilarity with each swing and clap. They were gasping when the music stilled with a final banging chord.

I want her, Darcy admitted to himself abruptly. I must have her.

He stood with eyes fixed where a gentleman’s ought not be found gaping, as Elizabeth panted for breath. A careful observer would have seen his slight nod as he watched the rise and fall of her chest and its environs. He realised what he was about and counted himself fortunate Miss Elizabeth was glaring at Miss Bingley.

Feeling a tightening of his trousers in a crucial location, Darcy spoke curtly. “Thank you for helping me with the reel. You are an excellent partner. Now, if you will excuse me, Miss Elizabeth.”

Elizabeth turned to him with a smile. She was ready to jest with him at the trial Miss Bingley had set them, but saw only his back as he dashed from the room.

“What have you said to offend Mr. Darcy?” Caroline Bingley asked with heavy impatience.

Elizabeth shook her head, bemused. “I hardly know, Miss Bingley. It could have been anything. I have no notion at all of when I am amusing or when I give offense.”

Caroline’s tight smile quelled an unkind remark. Her disdain would have burst forth but for the knowledge that Miss Eliza’s presence, tending Miss Bennet, saved Caroline from any sickroom duties other than sitting in the furthest away chair and making highly diverting comments—if she did say it herself—about the fashions in a catalogue.

Darcy stood with a heaving chest inside the billiards room door. This would not do. He must get himself under better regulation.

“What the devil is chasing you, man?” Bingley asked, entering the room.

Darcy turned and blurted, “A woman, but she does not know it.”

Bingley looked this way and that exaggeratedly, before winking. “If you, of all men, run from a woman, then I fear she has already caught you. Elizabeth Bennet?”

Darcy rolled his eyes. “How did you know?”

“Your well-controlled demeanor may serve you at cards, Darcy, but not in the presence of a lady who has captured your interest.”

“Have I been so obvious? Do you believe she has expectations of me?”

“Although I see what you are about, I doubt she does. I believe Miss Elizabeth thinks you dislike her, and I know she dislikes you.”

“How can you say so? We have just been having an exceedingly congenial time of it… dancing.”

Dancing?!” Bingley’s eyebrows climbed his forehead. ”You danced? Just now? With her? But I know for a certainty she told her mother she would never dance with you.”

“She what?” This explains why she resisted, why she appeared so annoyed.

      “Miss Bennet relayed her sister’s sentiments to me, at the Lucases’.”

“Damn it,” Darcy muttered. “Damn and blast. She dislikes me?”

“So I have been told. She overheard you, you know. And when your comments were repeated amongst the family, she vowed to never dance with you.”

Darcy shook his head in astonishment at his self-inflicted folly. “I would not let her refuse just now, whilst your sister was playing. We made up a reel. It seemed perhaps she enjoyed herself enough to forgive me.”

“Then what the hell are you doing in here?” Bingley began to laugh.

“I… uh… I had to recover myself. I became rather…” Darcy looked into Bingley’s eyes, chagrined. “…Aroused by the exercise.”

“Darcy!”

“I know…”

A surreptitious glance at the fall of his friend’s breeches revealed Darcy’s lapse had in some measure corrected itself. “Darcy, you must return to her.” Bingley turned his friend by the shoulder and they made for the drawing room. “Do not go on being stupid. And tomorrow morning, you will ride to Mr. Bennet at Longbourn, yes?”

Before entering the drawing room, Darcy paused. “I am not sure.”

Bingley and Darcy watched Elizabeth’s countenance for any clue to her heart. She was standing at the mantel. Her eyes flared in Darcy’s direction. She blushed. She looked down. She looked back into his face, quizzical, but quickly nodded down before closing her lips over her teeth to suppress a smile. But she was Elizabeth Bennet, and no emotions so strong as she was experiencing—sensations entirely without precedent—could be hidden. It was not her nature. She returned her gaze to the man who was now, astonishingly, an object of intriguing interest. Darcy was broadly smiling when their eyes met. A sharp inhale of breath lifted her bosom, and she openly mirrored his warm expression.

Bingley whispered, “Good God, man…you are not sure?”

“Miss Elizabeth, let us demonstrate for Bingley the Reel Netherfield, shall we? Miss Bingley, would you oblige us by playing the song you rendered before? Only…perhaps a little more slowly, please.”

Elizabeth came forward, arms out, beaming, and as he approached her, Darcy spoke quickly over his shoulder to his friend. “I am sure.”

 

 

The Purple Virgin’s Bower, Clematis viticella

 

 

1800

Before launching myself completely into the debut of Longbourn to London, I cannot leave The Red Chrysanthemum behind without including one more flower used by both Darcy and Elizabeth in their nosegays to each other. Identified as merely “clematis” in the story, the specific plant they would have found festooning the fences of Pemberley would almost certainly have been Clematis viticella (pronounced “vie-te-sel-la”; Latin, not Italian), the purple virgin’s bower.

This species, native around the Mediterranean Ocean and well into upper elevation habitats in the Middle East, was brought into common cultivation in England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, so naturally its common name pays homage to her. Given my love of Elizabethan history and my affection for this genus, I wanted to include it in the tale. When my research revealed its meaning is mental beauty, cleverness, or wit (depending on your source), it was all a perfect fit for Elizabeth and Darcy.

The only clematis native to England is Clematis vitalba, called variously traveller’s joy, old man’s beard (for the shaggy silvery seed heads), and the virgin’s bower (again for QEI). It has its own meaning, filial love. This is hardly appropriate for Darcy and Elizabeth. The other clematis commonly listed in herbals is the evergreen clematis, which in the early 1800s would not have been some relation of Clematis armandii, but rather the winter-blooming Clematis cirrhosa, from northern Africa and the Middle East, which is, in fact, evergreen when grown in mild or sheltered situations in the British isles. It means poverty! Hardly an appropriate flower to give a man with 10,000 a year (and very likely more!).

The Regency era saw many wonderful plants arriving from plant explorers active all over the world, plants seen first in the gardens of the wealthy and interested. Surely during the time of Darcy’s mother Lady Anne Darcy, interesting plants would have been cosseted by her as a lady of fashion who was devoted to her husband and estate. The large-flowered hybrids we grow today were nearly fifty years off in their first development. At Pemberley, Clematis vitalba would have been left to the wild places, and Clematis cirrhosa would have been too tender for anything but conservatory cultivation. That leaves the hardy and lovely nodding pagoda roofs of the purple virgin’s bower to blossom through the summer, adding a touch of impertinence and activity to the formal gardens. If ever a plant embodied Miss Elizabeth Bennet, it is this particular clematis.

The flowers branch in trios from the main canes on 8-10 inch flower stems, a perfect length for inclusion in a nosegay. The illustration here, from ~1800, shows the flowers to be a more violet hue than the typical purple, but the profile image is spot on. Clematis viticella has continued to be popular in gardens, and it is still widely used in breeding durable, floriferous, and relatively easy-care hybrids. Just as Elizabeth and Darcy remain vibrant in our modern age, so too does Clematis viticella, the flower of wit. Let’s believe Jane Austen would be well pleased.