Pride and Prejudice - Jane and Leonard
The sun was up. It's rays travelled sneakily through the curtains of the room and greeted Jane's eyelids. Her mother's high voice coming from downstairs was enough to tell her that it was time to get out of bed. She stood up, and changed from her nightgown to one of her everyday, plain white dresses. She always took a while to organise her long, golden hair.
Her mother's voice was still ringing in the house, she was unable to understand what exactly she was saying but was sure that once she was out of her room, the first thing that would greet her would either be the "joyful" or "unfortunate" news.
She was soon downstairs, Elizabeth was sitting for breakfast with her mother. Mrs Bennet immediately stood up once she saw Jane.
"Oh, Jane!" she squeaked, and attempted to hug her "Jane, Jane such unfortunate news! You remember Mr. Powell, you must remember him! Oh, the poor soul, he lost his wife last night! The whole neighbourhood is talking about it! From what I gathered, we most certainly need to pay him a visit, it makes me sick at the heart thinking how ill he must be!!"
Soon, Lydia and Kitty ran downstairs to join their mother and two sisters. Their father must have been informed already, Mrs Bennet always makes sure of it.
Lydia walked almost aggressively towards her mother. "Mama! What is all this commotion about? Do tell us!"
Mrs Bennet, however, was by now incapable of relating the news to her youngest daughter, as she had taken out a handkerchief and was sobbing in it. Jane herself was too grieved by this announcement, so the task of informing Lydia, Kitty, and a solemn-looking Mary, who had just paraded through the dining room door clutching the “Clementi Sonatas”, fell on Elizabeth.
“Mrs Powell passed away last night”, said she, sternly. “Mr Powell’s wife, who lives across the street from our aunt Philips!”, she added, seeing the perplexed looks of her sisters.
“Oh!” exclaimed Lydia, adopting a serious manner, but after a few moments, her face returned to its usual cheery demeanour, and, followed by Kitty, hopped to her seat, and began eating breakfast with zeal. Mary’s expression became even more solemn than its ordinary, and said something that sounded like “we are all earth, and to earth we shall return”, but no one was really listening to her.
Jane was truly sorry for Mrs Powell’s death. True, she had been ill for some time, but still the news were shocking to hear. And to think of her husband, now left all alone! Being childless, Mr Powell had lost his only family in Meryton, and was left to mourn the loss of his beloved wife without anyone to console him. She felt very sad for him, for he was a kind man, as had been his late wife.
He was not from Meryton: he had grown up in Winchester, were Mrs Powell, then Miss Fosset, had spent a summer some years back. They had fallen in love instantly, and before the autumn settled, they had married and were living in Meryton. To have known true love was the absolute form of felicity to Jane, and Mr and Mrs Powell’s story had always moved her. She knew full well that she would be obliged to marry for material considerations, as her father's estate would be entailed on a distant cousin, since Mr and Mrs Bennet had no heir, but a small part of her young, romantic heart hoped that she might marry the man she loved.
Mr Bennet’s entrance ended her musings, and returned her to reality. He sat at the head of the table, opening his newspaper.
Last edited by Soubi; 12-22-2012 at 03:18 AM.
Reason: Grammar mistake
"Good morning father..." said Jane, her words coming in out in a low tone for she was still shaken from Mrs Bennet's news. Her father took off his glasses and left the newspaper for a moment on the table. "Not such a good morning, I am afraid. I heard you were informed already." He reached for his pocket and took out a letter, which had already been opened and, most probably, read by him. He passed it to the two older sisters. "What is it, Mr Bennet?" asked immediately Mrs Bennet as she jumped from the seat to take a look at the letter herself. It was from Mrs Philips. Jane read it out loud.
"Dear Mr and Mrs Bennet,
I hope you and your family are well.
I will allow myself to assume that you have already heard of Mrs Powell's passing away.
There is being a commotion, and many are thinking to visit the poor man at the funeral, which I believe is taking place tomorrow morning. It is more than encouraged for all of us to be there.
I am hoping to see you tomorrow.
With all my best wishes,
Jane folded the letter and looked at her father. "I suppose we should go..."
Mrs Bennet's jaw dropped "We will most CERTAINLY go! And you two girls are coming with us! Oh, the poor, poor man..." she brought the handkerchief on her eyes and nose again and fell on her favourite armchair in the room sobbing quietly. Jane looked at her sister who looked her back, both sighing at the same time.
Far away, a young man had just received a letter from his uncle.
"Addressed to Leonard Carver, from John Powell"
Leonard reached for the knife on his desk, and tore the envelope. Tired as he was, the hand-writing on the letter, clearly his uncle’s, had put completely out of his mind the Fermat theorem that had caused him to stay up all night, reading. He impatiently unfolded the sheets of paper and found in them his worst fears realised.
“My dear nephew,
All is over. Tess, my beloved Tess, is dead. I knew her illness to be fatal, but I never expected that God would truly take her from me. I am lost. I can hardly believe that my darling wife will never again call my name, or sit beside me. She is dead, gone, lost, and I cannot help but wish that I could join her on that last voyage, as I have joined her on every activity, every single day of our married life.
I cannot face the funeral. Not alone. Leonard, I cannot help but beg you to come to me. You know how she always considered you as our own child. It would console me immensely, and I am sure that she would like you to be here. Please come as soon as possible. The funeral will be held tomorrow morning.
Your affectionate uncle,
No. It could not be. And yet, it was true. Mrs Powell had been gravely ill, and now she was dead. He could hardly believe it. The affectionate woman, who had been almost like a mother to him, had closed her eyes, never to open them again. Hot tears began running down Leonard’s cheeks, but he disregarded them, and gave the letter to his father to read out to the rest of the family. When he was done, he turned to his mother.
“Mama, I must go immediately, if I am to be there in time for the funeral.”
“Of course, my boy”, she said, draining her own tears with her apron.
“I will hire a carriage for you from the village”, said his father. “Go and pack your trunk. You must be ready to leave in half an hour.”
In half the appointed time, Leonard was in the hall, waiting for the carriage to arrive. Mrs Carver came to him, and started straightening his coat.
“Give my condolences to my dear brother”, she whispered with emotion. “Poor John, he loved her so much. We all did.”
Leonard could not find the strength to reply. His throat was dry, but his eyes were once again watering.
“Mother, may I ask a favour? Should any letters arrive from Oxford for me, will you please forward them to Meryton?”, he said, overcoming this new wave of grief that was threatening to consume him.
“Yes, dear, of course.”
“Thank you”, he said, squeezing her hand.
He boarded the carriage, and before they had left the village, he had fallen in a deep, dreamless sleep.
Some hours later...
The carriage coming to a complete stop was the alert for Leonard's eyes to open. The sun was not down yet, but he must have been sleeping for longer than he wished to. The shock the news had caused him was really heavy for his mind and body. He exited the carriage and looked around. Meryton… he couldn't recall the last time he was here, for the studies in Oxford had kept him severely busy. His uncle was already outside his house and was now walking towards his location. It was impossible to form any words, in fact, they both knew there was no reason to talk. It was uncalled for, but his uncle could only throw himself on his niece and seek for a hug. Leonard could hear short sighs followed by silent sobs coming from his poor uncle. He could do nothing more than just respond by hugging him back to express his grief. "I'm so sorry…" he finally said in a voice that was shaking. After some seconds the men separated and Leonard took his luggage and followed his uncle back in the house. The next days were not going to be easy…
Back in the small Longbourn house, the family was preparing dinner. Mr Bennet had just left his desk room when Mrs Bennet approached him in quick steps. She was still trying her best to express her grief and misery. "Oh, Mr Bennet! I believe we need to invite poor Mr Powell for dinner soon!"
Jane and Elizabeth looked at each other a bit concerned. Then Elizabeth's gaze travelled to her mother, "Mama, would that really be a wise idea?"
“Of course it would!” cried she, offended.
Jane shuttered at the prospect: to drag the unfortunate man for an evening of “compassion” was probably the worst idea ever uttered under the roof of Longbourn. She did not, however, possess enough nerve, or, as others would prefer it, courage, to argue with her mother. Lizzie, on the other hand, with whom she usually agreed, was more than ready to point Mrs Bennet’s folly to her, without her short 17 years of age hindering her from doing so. Jane always thought that she was a little short towards their mother. Their father was undoubtedly to blame for that, and, much as Jane loved him, she could not help but silently reproach him for his treatment of his wife.
“What say you, Mr Bennet?” asked Mrs Bennet for a last source of support, and not a very promising one at that.
“I think it an admirable idea, and can only be surprised that I did not consider it myself” said he, his voice heavy with irony.
His lady did not notice, and with a new air of determination, entered the dining room. Lizzie shot her father an understanding look, and they chuckled softly before following Mrs Bennet. Jane shook her head. Since it cannot be avoided, she thought, we might as well try and cheer Mr Powell up. God knows, he will need all the cheering up he can get.
The day of the funeral dawned, and yet, for Mr Powell, the sun seemed set forever.
Thankfully, with some medication from the doctor, he had slept through the night, but Leonard could find no peace in his bed, and had remained awake for several hours. When the sun rose, so did Leonard, his deep blue eyes sunken from exhaustion. Rousing his uncle from his slumber for Mrs Powell’s funeral was a task he would gladly have relinquished: but he had no choice. He had to be strong for his beloved uncle, and forget the sorrow and pain it meant for himself. He helped Mr Powell get dressed in his mournful suit, for he seemed completely lost and the valet could hardly touch the black cloth without breaking into tears, not quite helpful in the present situation.
At last, they stepped out of the house, were the carriage was waiting, carrying the remains of Mrs Powell. Leonard felt his uncle completely surrender to his guidance, and he wished that he could have someone to share this burden and grief with. But such a thing was not possible, and all he could do was silently follow the carriage. To Leonard, it seemed like a nightmare; to Mr Powell, it felt like hell.
Last edited by Soubi; 12-24-2012 at 06:51 PM.
Reason: Improved writing
For Leonard, time was now passing fast. So fast, indeed, that he began thinking that God was playing even more tricks on him. Moments seemed to black out, for he was walking from his uncle's home, and the next thing he knew, he was at the funeral. He was surprised to see how many people arrived. It felt like he had entered a completely new world, in which more than half of these visitors, he did not know. Many would approach, he would introduce himself, they would express their grief. The mourning... "I am very sorry…", how many times did he hear these words, and it was painful every time. He tried to constantly remind himself to grab his uncle by the shoulder, arm… to show physical contact, he knew how important that was for his uncle, how affectionate he was as a person. At some point, in the middle of the ritual, he took a glance of his red face, his eyes swollen and dry, he was unable to shed more tears… Time was needed, and plenty of it… and it was already running like a wild horse.
Before they had to depart from the ritual, he remembered getting introduced to a middle aged man, he must have been close to his 50s if not more. After expressing his compassion to the poor man, he suggested they'd join him and his family for dinner tomorrow. As for tonight, a plain and cold dinner was to be followed, if they could get any food down to their stomach…
Jane was preparing the table, while her sisters were doing the final touches in the living room. Everything was almost ready, and they would have been here soon. Lizzie walked next to her, letting out a sigh.
"I do hope they come," she whispered to her sister, "father didn't make it completely clear if they were emotionally well enough to leave their house and even join us for dinner."
Jane nodded, as she had the same concerns "You know father, though… he would have let us know if there was a high possibility of them not showing up..."
Their mother’s high voice broke the silence presiding over the house.
“Mr Bennet! Girls! They are here!”
Jane closed her eyes in relief, and Lizzie took her by the hand and led her to the drawing room, where the rest of the family began to assemble. After a few moments, the doorbell rang, and Mr Powell and Mr Carver were announced.
“Mr Carver, you are not acquainted with Mrs Bennet.”
As was expected, Mrs Bennet was a little overwhelming in her compassion towards them, but Mr Bennet interrupted her before she became too annoying.
“And may I present my daughters, Jane” he cut across his wife, pointing towards Jane, who bowed and smiled placidly, “Elizabeth, Mary, Catherine, and Lydia.”
Each time, Leonard bowed mechanically. He seemed lost. Jane felt very sad for them both. To have lost a loved one must be painful beyond imagination.
Dinner was soon served, and Jane found herself sitting next to Mr Carver. As she sat, she gave him an encouraging smile, that seemed to have no effect on cheering him up, or even making him feel more at ease. He remained stubbornly silent and vacant-faced. Mr Powell sat on Mr Bennet’s right, and the two of them were quickly engaged in conversation. In fact, what happened was that Mr Bennet talked, and Mr Powell nodded. Mr Bennet was not talkative by rule, but the man sitting next to him needed so desperately a diversion from his misery, that he was very keen on keeping Mr Powell’s mind occupied to the present.
Meanwhile, his nephew’s entertainment and diversion was left to the women of the household. Of course, as the three younger girls were not yet out, and she feared lest her mother should say anything inappropriate, Jane tried to strike up a conversation.
“So, Mr Carver, I understand you are Mr Powell’s nephew.”
“Yes”, replied he, without looking up from his plate. “He is my mother’s brother”, he added after a short pause, in which the ladies evidently awaited the rest of his reply.
“Then, you live in Winchester, I take it?”, asked Lizzie, in order to lighten her sister’s load.
“No.” Once again, the ladies inquiring looks made him extend his answer. “I live in Oxford. I studied there for the past 3 years.”
At the sound of this, Mrs Bennet's neck straightened up, taking her head away from the plate. Just like a chicken interrupting its intake of corn from the ground. Her eyes pierced Leonard's face with great interest. She hadn't completely swallowed her food while she spoke, but her curiosity beat her manners. "Oxford, you say? Why that sounds like a marvellous position to be in! What did you study there Mr Carver, if I may?"
Mr Carver wiped his mouth with the provided napkin, "Mathematics, ma'am."
Mrs Bennet's mouth took the shape of an O, "Oooh, Math, how wonderful! I suppose you must be a very intelligent man, indeed...", she said and nodded several times while looking at Mr Powell, her daughters and even Mr Bennet who was just focusing on his food. Jane tried to give the man the chance to talk more about this, as she spotted how his face slightly became brighter as Mathematics were brought to the conversation.
"I suppose you take great interest in this study, Mr Carver?" she said softly, finishing up her sentence with an encouraging smile.
Mr Carver sighed and nodded, and Jane could have sworn that she spotted a weak smile that was fighting to appear through his misery.
"Yes, you are very correct. I find Mathematics to be very beautiful and deep. The ability to explain everything with just one language, an universal language too as it is not just our people who use it. And it is something unlimited, yes... everyday you can discover something new through this language, it is endless. Like a puzzle that keeps multiplying, and doesn't exactly allow you to complete it, but through the process you discover something new. You get new laws, new meanings, new results. It's very beautiful, indeed..."
His last sentence came from his mouth in a lower tone which marked that he had finished this short, passionate speech. The whole table was speechless, Mr Powell couldn't help but express how proud he felt of his nephew as an extremely vague smile, like gravity was still pulling down his lips, seemed to appear on his lips as he looked at him. Jane herself, was speechless. She had never seen a man being so passionate about something. She looked at Elizabeth, who was already looking at her with a smile and an expression of admiration. As for Kitty and Lydia, they were completely lost and just looked at each other to share the feeling of "I have no clue what he just said". Mary was the one to bluntly break the silence "I say, you must take great pleasure from books then, sir?"
The spell that Leonard’s speech had cast on the listeners broke immediately, and everyone returned to their previous selves: Mrs Bennet attacked once more the Ragu in front of her, Lydia and Kitty chatted loudly, Mr Bennet laid down his fork and knife, regretting the fact that such a beautiful and refreshing topic had been dropped, and poor Mr Powell became stony-faced once more and looked down at his plate in despair. As for Jane, she turned to Lizzie, who was eyeing Mary angrily, and then focused her attention on Leonard, who seemed once more gloomy.
“Books are a useful instrument to communicate and access knowledge, but my main emphasis is understanding their content, and trying to further it”, said Mr Carver, picking up his fork.
Mary, thankfully, realised the dismissal, and did not pursue the matter further. The rest of the dinner passed in near complete silence, and when pudding was finished, the ladies were glad to leave for the drawing room. As soon as the dining room door was closed, Lizzie cornered Mary and began her attack.
“Mary, how foolish you were back there! And you are not yet out! You are not allowed to parade around, showing off to anyone who cares to listen your so called love of books!”
“Oh, Lizzie, leave your sister. She is an accomplished girl, who will soon be moving in society, and advertising her skills will help her find a good and respectable husband! And I must say, if that young man is Mr Carver, I will not say no! I will, however, have to discover his income...”, said Mrs Bennet, scarcely drawing breath as she did.
Jane sighed at her mother’s folly. Lizzie made to reply, but she held her back.
“Let it rest”, she whispered, laying a hand on her arm to sooth her. “You can hardly persuade her not to inquire.”
As they settled down, and started making tea and coffee, the gentlemen entered the drawing room.