There is a difference between fan fiction and Austenesque fiction. Fan fiction assumes the readers know the original work. The story below is fan fiction. Too much happens in too short a story for someone unfamiliar with the original to follow. It also makes several unusual assumptions, such as Wickham being a man of honor…
“What is it?” Mrs. Hurst asked her sister.
“A love potion,” Caroline Bingley replied. “Or sort of a love potion.”
“Are you going to give it to Mr. Darcy?” Mrs. Hurst asked. “That’s a very large amount for someone to drink.”
“It works in an odd way. It works best if there is a crowd of people who take it all at once. I’m going to use it in the soup at the ball tomorrow.”
“But how will you get it to work on Mr. Darcy and you? What if it effects married people?”
“The beauty of it is that it only effects one member of a couple and never works on married people.* It will work on Mr. Darcy because it makes a person fall in love with the one who most wants to marry him who is nearby.”
“There’s no one who wants to marry Mr. Darcy more than you do.”
“Yes, and if other marriages occur, one party will be in love and the other will want to marry. It’s perfect. It can’t fail.”
Miss Bingley visited the kitchen and poured the potion in the huge pot which contained the soup.
“What are you doing?” Cook asked with a hint of concern in his voice.
“It will make the soup better,” Miss Bingley replied. It didn’t matter if Cook agreed with her assertion. He would have to serve it.
Cook stirred the soup and cautiously tasted it. He smiled happily and nodded. “Yes, it does. I don’t recognize the flavor.” He took more of the soup on a spoon. “I think a little nutmeg will help.” The cook added a few grains of the spice to his spoon and tasted it again. “Yes. I’ll put some in.”
Miss Bingley smiled, happy that the soup would likely to be eaten with pleasure. She left the kitchen, knowing that Jerimiah Cook would do a good job. He was young to oversee the kitchen of Netherfield Park, but he was the son of the cook in her father’s household and had learned his trade early. She had vague memories of playing with him as a child when her nurse wanted her entertained and no other children were available. As an adult, she knew he routinely cooked dishes she liked.
She did not see that he stared longingly at her as she left the kitchen.
Jane was happy and proud to open the ball with Mr. Bingley. She loved him and believed she had a realistic hope that he loved her. But the conversation, fleetingly made during the dance, destroyed any hope she had. As she told her sister, Elizabeth, “He said it was an enjoyable time but he is going to London and wouldn’t return until next summer or maybe not even until autumn. He hopes that he will be able to dance with me again then, even if I’m married.”
Elizabeth soothed her sister as best she could. She could hear the tears in Jane’s voice and worried that Jane would succumb to them publicly. But Jane’s fortitude was sufficient to sustain her. That fortitude was partially augmented by the glass of wine Jane gulped down.
Mr. Collins had engaged Jane for the second set. Jane gently guided him through the dance, achieving better dancing on his part than he had evidenced with Elizabeth. Helping someone else soothed Jane’s broken heart. Elizabeth had been too upset with the idea that Mr. Collins was courting her to try to help him dance.
Mr. Collins said after a few minutes, “I understand you expect a happy event soon. If my plans work out, there will be a second happy event. Mr. Bingley’s singling you out for the opening dance certainly foreshadows the first happy event and my attentions to your sister should ensure the second one.”
“Mr. Bingley will be leaving for London tomorrow. I may not see him again for a year.” Or ever, Jane fervently hoped. His telling her during the dance was not kind.
“But your mother said you were about to be engaged.” Mr. Collins was visibly upset.
“Mother is wrong.” Almost to herself, Jane added, “She’s wrong about a lot of things.”
“She’s wrong about a lot of things?” Mr. Collins said.
“Yes. For instance, if she led you to expect my sister Elizabeth would accept a proposal of marriage from you, she was wrong. Elizabeth will never marry you.” Even as she said it, Jane wondered if it was the wine talking. She should not have intervened. She took Mr. Collins’ hand, even though the dance didn’t call for it. “Step to your left. That’s right. You’re getting better at it. You just need more practice.”
Charlotte Lucas criticized her friend, Elizabeth, for refusing to encourage Mr. Darcy’s interest in her. Charlotte would be delighted if someone with a quarter of Mr. Darcy’s wealth asked her to marry him.
Elizabeth’s dance with Mr. Bingley was a trial. His cheerful friendliness annoyed her after his behavior toward Jane. She sought a brief respite from company after the dance, ducking into the deserted foyer. There was a knock on the door. No servants were nearby, so she opened the door to see Mr. Wickham. He was dressed for the ball.
He apologized for being late as a servant arrived and took his cloak. When the servant left, Mr. Wickham said, “I have proof!”
“Proof of what?” Elizabeth asked.
“My godfather, the father of the current owner of Pemberley, wrote a more explicit will than I was told. Darcy had to give me a choice of the living or a certain piece of land.”
“Is the land valuable?”
“Yes and no. It has a place where a stream can be dammed.”
“To make a flour mill?”
“No. To run a factory. Darcy has a factory on the land. He started building it just after his father died,” Wickham said. “Can you get Darcy and bring him here? I would like to get this over with.”
Darcy had just finished his soup. Elizabeth hadn’t had anything to eat, but she was too excited to be hungry.
“I just came from Pickering’s office in London,” Wickham said. “He let me see a copy of your father’s will.”
“Come with me,” Darcy said. Elizabeth followed, worried that Darcy might attack Wickham if no one stood near enough to witness the act. As soon as they were in the library, Darcy asked, “How much?”
“How much money do you want for the land?”
“One hundred thousand pounds,” Wickham said.
“Half for the land and half to keep Lady Catherine from finding out. Miss de Bourgh is almost eighteen and Rosings is worth more than that. You’ll lose her if your aunt finds out you didn’t honor your father’s will.”
They bargained and eventually settled on thirty thousand. At Wickham’s request, Darcy rounded up two witnesses to the signatures.
Both Elizabeth and Darcy missed the remainder of supper. Talking in a corner of the ballroom, Wickham apologized for that.
“It’s not a problem. I can find food at home. Will Darcy fulfill the agreement?”
“Yes. There are respectable witnesses. He fooled people before by saying that his father’s will said I had to be ordained to receive the living. That much was true, but he didn’t mention the alternative. The living was more valuable than the land as a farm.”
“But not as a place to build a factory.”
“I suspected my godfather would not have put that clause in without providing for me in another way. Darcy’s objections were not entirely for his own financial gain. Some people knew about my needing to be ordained to receive a living and Darcy couldn’t just give it to me when that was known.”
“Many people own livings who aren’t ordained.”
“Yes, but my godfather objected to that.”
When it was time to go home, Wickham slipped out and Elizabeth rejoined her family. Mary was praising Mr. Bingley’s pianoforte as being very superior to the one they had at Longbourn. Kitty and Lydia were talking about officers. Jane was surprisingly cheerful, considering Bingley’s rejection.
Her cheerfulness was partially based on the man she had suddenly fallen in love with. Jane was very forward in pushing her interests, and Mr. Collins justified his apparent fickleness with the realization that he always intended to marry the eldest daughter. Mrs. Bennet felt Jane was overthrowing Mr. Bingley for Mr. Collins and was terribly upset until Mary and Mr. Bingley announced they would like to marry.
Kitty and Lydia became engaged to officers. Happy that four of her daughters were to marry, Mrs. Bennet barely noticed the news that Miss Bingley was marrying her cook.
Mr. Collins was so in love with Jane that she became more important to him than Lady Catherine. He found Jane’s gentle advice better than Lady Catherine’s decrees. Under Jane’s tutelage, he became a good husband to her.
Mary Bennet Bingley played endlessly on the pianoforte for Bingley. He loved it, even though visitors found it a trial.
Five months after the ball, Elizabeth married Mr. Wickham. He had only stayed in the militia so he could court her, since his newly obtained financial independence meant he didn’t have to. He claimed he fell in love with her at first sight, and that was why he disclosed Mr. Darcy’s bad character.
What Miss Bingley, now Mrs. Cook, had not known was that the effects of the love potion gradually faded. It was a year later that she realized she had made a terrible mistake. She consoled herself with the knowledge that she ate very well, because her husband usually cooked or at least oversaw the kitchen. She grew fat.
Mr. Bingley one morning woke up and realized he married a plain woman with few social skills. He consoled himself by realizing that he did better than his younger sister and there were plenty of pretty women to dance and flirt with.
Mr. Darcy fared better. Charlotte Darcy became the perfect wife. Even when he stopped loving her, he realized he chose wisely. To crown it all, she presented him with an heir a year after their marriage. He never lost his illusion that she loved him.
Mr. Collins had changed so much to please his wife that Jane was content with her lot. While no longer in love with him, she accepted his minor foibles and corrected his major ones.
Kitty and Lydia both managed to live comfortably with their husbands without serious regrets.
Elizabeth and Wickham never drank the love potion and never fell out of love. They lived happily ever after.
…and other assumptions were made, one being that Bingley was a twit and another that what Wickham told Elizabeth was true.
Writers, who wish to have readers, must take into consideration what the readers want. I do not believe the previous story is what the readers want in a book, but they will probably forgive me in a blog post.
Summer Hanford and I are planning a story where Wickham is the hero and has good and honorable reasons for his behavior, but the projected novel is ultimately much more in keeping with Pride and Prejudice than the above. That story is part of a project in which we are participating in, tentatively titled Love After All and the novel, our contribution to the joint venture, is currently titled George Wickham’s Deceit. Since other authors are involved, it’s difficult to know the exact release date yet, but we predict between late 2020 and early 2021.
As noted, we will not be making as many changes to Pride and Prejudice as this little story does. In our planned story about Wickham, as far as Elizabeth and Darcy are concerned, almost everything is the same until a couple of years after Pride and Prejudice ends, but there are many things that happen that they don’t know about…
So, as readers, could you overcome your dislike of Wickham and read a book that features him as a hero?
- Thanks to The Sorcerer by Gilbert & Sullivan