Hi fellow Janeites! I have been a long time reader of the various blogs, one of my favorites being The Book Rat, so I am thrilled to finally be able to contribute something. I, like many of us, have been a fan of Austen almost since I learned to read. Her works are all at once complex and yet simple, characters who are common everyday people and yet so extraordinary in their depth. This is no easy feat and something we rarely see today. Alas I must confess up until a few years back (actually 5 years, man time flies!) I was an Austen purist snob and refused to even consider reading any JAFF. Thankfully I have come to see the error of my ways all because of a book I noticed by accident. I saw “Jane Austen Made Me Do It” collection of short stories by Laurel Ann Nattress in the bookstore and decided to give it a shot. I am so happy I did because I have found many great writers of JAFF!!! I have many favorite writers of JAFF, such as Noe, Jane Odiwe, Karen V. Wasylowski, Laurie Viera Rigler, Nancy Kelley, Susan Kaye and many many more. All of this led me to finding Georgette Heyer and her wonderful works. And many of my fellow Janeites have helped me, or hurt me depending on who you ask, find scores of great JAFF. So to all you great writers and readers, Amazon and my credit card company thank you!
The short story below is one I wrote a few months back for one of my English classes. We were instructed to take a painting and write a story around it, so naturally I had to write a story that was Austen-like. I had some friends say it might be worth turning into a longer story so I would like to hear back from my fellow Austen lovers about what they think. Please offer both positive and negative feedback, I really would like to hear both so if I do decide to develop it into a longer piece I can cut out what doesn’t work and keep what does. If phrases are not used properly or if you know of a better regency manner of conveying an idea please let me know. Feel free to follow me on Twitter (@AustenInDR) to see if I develop this further, I would love to get feedback along the way.
Thanks to everyone and I wish you an exciting AIA!!!
Is That So?
Katherine reluctantly sat in the drawing room for what was to be another long and tedious day. There simply was nothing worse than having to sit for one’s portrait. She may have to sit in the chair holding a book for hours on end but at least she could let her imagination take her to another world, a world where she could do as she pleased. Today she would go to a world where she could have the same freedoms that her brothers had, a world where she could go out unescorted, ride her horse astride, go to a boxing match and see someone’s “cork drawn”, to do all the things that she was not allowed to do now. It was incredibly unfair to be born a girl and be forced to stick to those activities that were deemed appropriate, those activities that made one an “accomplished” young lady. Katherine longed for one day of adventure, one day where she could do as she wanted and not as society told her.
She knew she should be happy, that there were women in the county who would love to have her life and her prospects. While her mother had died when she was young, she was the beloved daughter of a wealthy Earl, she had a large dowry, her hair was the perfect shade of gold that set off her bright blue eyes and she had access to the best Mantua Maker in all England. While she did not take these things for granted, she had heard so many stories from her brothers and their adventures that she longed for an adventure of her own. She thought that when she was able to force her cousin William, at the threat of revealing a secret to his father, to teach her all the things he was learning from Dominico Angelo Malevolti Tremamondo that her desire for adventure would be satisfied. While over the past two years, she had excelled and quickly learned all the intricate moves and rules of the sport, her desire for adventure only grew stronger.
“Please stop tapping your foot, Katherine,” Mr. Milton said in his impatient tone.
“I apologize, Mr. Milton, for I had not even noticed I was doing so.”
Katherine let her mind wander to the exciting news her brothers had been discussing over breakfast that morning. The Prince Regent was to have a ball in a fortnight and during the ball there was to be a fencing bout between Angelo’s top student, who just happened to be her oldest and most bothersome brother, Edward, and any man present who was brave enough to challenge him. She would be allowed to attend and watch the fencing bout, something her father only reluctantly agreed to, but it was not enough. She was tired of her brothers, especially Edward, treating her as if she was a child when she was almost seventeen. Every evening they regaled their father with stories of the day’s adventures, and if she asked a question, they simply laughed at her and told her it was not something she could do, so it was best she just return to her needlework. She was really quite tired of hearing them say that; how she would love to show them just what she could do. She was sure she could beat them in many a number of things, her seat was much better; her footwork was far better, and she just knew she was pluck to the backbone. That was it! She would show them, show them all!
“Katherine! I beg you; please stop tapping your foot or I shall never get this painting completed.”
“I do beg your pardon, Mr. Milton; I was just at a most exciting point in the book”
She would find a way to get into the fencing bout at the ball! Of course, she could never do so as a woman, she would have to disguise herself as a man. How hard could that possibly be? She would need help; she would need to figure out how to get William to help her. She could plead with him, but she doubted that would work; he would be excessively terrified of her father finding out. She would just have to threaten to tell her father that he had been teaching her fencing for the past two years. She would tell him her plan that afternoon when he returned from town but until then she had a lot of planning to do.
When William arrived that afternoon, Katherine told Mr. Milton that she felt a headache coming on and would need to return to her bedchambers to rest. She knew that he was not happy to have his work interrupted when he was at a critical point but she also knew that he would not press the issue so he quietly, although begrudgingly, packed up his things and left her to her governess’s charge. As soon as he was out of the room she told her governess to ask William to come in, she had an important message to give him before she retired to her bedchambers.
Katherine paced the floor until she heard William come in and then ran to him. She was too excited to go through the formalities of asking how his trip was and about the health of his family members. She told him of her plan, and while she had expected him to be surprised and resistant to help her, she was not prepared for the reaction she got instead. William was bent over and laughing hysterically, to the point that he had tears streaking down his face. He sat on the edge of the sofa in order to try and gain control of himself. When he realized that she was in earnest, he abruptly stopped laughing and told her he would not help her in anyway. He then proceeded to give her a proper dressing down. However, in the end when the threat of crying rope on him was made he relented and helped her make her plans. In exchange for his help, he made her promise that after the ball he would no longer have to give her fencing lessons that he would not have to be involved in anymore of her quests for adventure.
After much planning and many disagreements with William, the day of the ball had finally arrived. Katherine was so excited that she woke up early and drove her lady’s maid to the end of her rope with all the changes of gowns and hairstyles. She knew she would need a gown that she could easily get out of and then back into on her own. Her hair would need to be arranged so that the fencing mask would fit and yet not leave her hair a complete mess when she was done. She would need to be able to reenter the ball and not have people asking about her appearance. Once she was finally ready, she went down to the drawing room to wait for her father and brothers. When she entered the room she saw that William was already there waiting for her.
“Katherine, are you sure you want to go through with this?”
“For the millionth time, yes, William,” she said as she stood before him, hands placed on her hips showing her determination. “Did you place your name on the challenge list?”
“Yes, it is all set,” William replied.
William had known it was a pointless question, but he had hoped against hope that she would have been so nervous that she would change her mind. He should have known better, Katherine had more courage than many of his friends, more than he himself had. Once again, they went over the plan to be sure that nothing was missed. About thirty minutes prior to the start of the bout, William would give her a signal and she was to make a rip in the hem of her gown; she would discretely tell her father that she needed to go and repair it. In order for her father not to be suspicious she would need to have tears forming so that he would think she was upset over missing what she had so looked forward to. She would then meet William at the staircase at the opposite end of the ballroom where the bout would take place. He would take her to the room where he had hidden the fencing gear and stand guard at the door in case anyone tried to enter. Once she came out with the mask on he would wait in the room until she returned. It would not do for him to be seen by a servant when he was supposed to be downstairs participating in a fencing bout.
Katherine made polite conversation with the other guests but was constantly watching for the signal from William that it was time. When he gave her the signal, she surreptitiously made a rip in her gown and made the rehearsed and tearful speech to her father. She made her way to the staircase where William was waiting. They made sure no one was observing them and then made their way upstairs to the room where Katherine would change and William would wait. He reminded her to be sure to make her bindings tight so that her female figure would be hidden, for if she did not, her plan would fail before it even started. She had to be extremely careful; if anyone discovered what she had done, she would be cast off by society.
With the change made, she made her way back down the stairs, consciously trying to imitate the walk that William had taught her. She was greeted by the butler and showed where she should wait until the Prince Regent called for the bout to begin. As she followed him she could see her brother Edward waiting.
“William, are you really foolish enough to challenge me?” he said arrogantly.
Katherine knew she could not answer, so she simply nodded in reply.
At last the Prince Regent called for the bout to begin. Edward was announced and entered the ballroom, to the applause of many. When William was announced and she entered the ballroom, there was barely enough applause to be heard. Instead of this intimidating Katherine, it only served to make her more determined than ever to follow through with her plan. As they faced each other and waited to be given permission to start, Katherine went over again all the reminders William had given her. Permission was given to start, and Katherine immediately began an attack. The suddenness of her advance startled Edward and gave her the upper hand. As her blade made contact with his, a sudden rush filled her; it was a sensation she had never had and could not explain. She kept her cadence steady and lunged at every opportunity and followed her parry’s with a riposte. She could tell from Edward’s moves and cadence that he was surprised at how skilled “William” was and had not anticipated it. The bout continued for some time without any clear leader, but after a while “William” gained control and made contact with Edward’s torso target area. Katherine stopped in surprise; she could not believe that she had actually beat him. Edward was shocked and stood still for what seemed like an eternity before bowing to her and then leaving the floor. She stood there as the Prince Regent came and congratulated “William” on his win. She bowed to the audience who now applauded quite loudly. She made her way through the crowd shaking hands with many people along the way. She made her way back to the room where William was waiting and finally took off her mask. When he saw the look on her face, he jumped up from the chair; he did not need to ask, he knew she had won. While he knew it would be he who got all the credit and accolades for the win, he would be sure to let her know what people had said. He told her he would go downstairs and that she should put the fencing gear back in its original hiding place. Katherine changed her back into her gown, all the while in shock that she had truly beaten her brother. She knew he would never know, but she would, and the next time he started telling her that she could not do something, she would simply smile and remember this night, the night of her great adventure!
She did not see her brothers the rest of the evening, supposing they were off doing those things that only men were allowed to do. Still, she was able to enjoy the rest of the evening and danced a great number of dances. People remarked at how lively and beautiful she was this night, not knowing it was due to the excitement of winning the bout, for finally doing something instead of just being a spectator.
The next morning, as she sat for her portrait in the drawing room, her brothers, except for Edward, could talk of nothing else than the fact that William had bested him. They made sure to tell her in detail all about the bout that had humbled Edward and how she had missed one of the best fencing bouts they had ever seen.
In reply, all she said was, “Is that so?”
|Return to the Austen in August Main Page by clicking here for more Janeite goodies!|