No. 16: Rewrite a Fable: Will and Virtue
Date: Spring 2003
Quickly glancing in the mirror, Caroline tied her bonnet on top of her blonde curls. Her brown eyes were sparkling with excitement. She would be joining her dear friend Alice on an open carriage ride. A thick wood of trees shaded the lane, and the late summer breeze was cool and the sun pleasantly warm. They would be driving to town, and there was much news to be shared. Only the day before, Mr. Harris a beaux of Caroline’s, had confided in her the promise of a potential ball. With her influence, he would not only set a date, but an immediate one. If her speculations were correct, that would not be the end to his date setting.I discovered Jane Austen shortly after I delved into the Chick Lit world. I picked up Bridget Jones's Diary sophomore year of high school. After falling for that story, I realized I needed to give the novel that inspired it a shot. And on the drive to and from southwestern Colorado, I read Pride and Prejudice.
She heard the horse hooves clomping down on the grassy lane. As she reached the front entrance, her elder sister Katherine entered.
“Oh, hello Caroline,” Katherine smiled pleasantly. “I believe I saw Alice and her carriage down the lane. Are you to drive to town?”
“Yes we will. I heard the carriage and am only just preparing to leave. Dearest sister, won't you join us? Her carriage is not limited to two, I am sure,” Caroline invited.
Gently removing her gloves and bonnet, Katherine declined, “As kind as it is of you to consider me, I could not possibly. I have long been negligent of my studies. As I have already taken my walk, I am afraid I simply must focus.”
Laughing heartily, Caroline did not attempt to hide her amusement. She could not understand why Katherine felt the need to always acquire intellect. Their family was well respected, and she would certainly find a suitor. Furthermore, should her own desires be forgotten to fulfill their parent’s wishes?
“My sister,” Katherine explained, “not everyone has been blessed with the good looks and charms you seem to carry in spades. If I am to find a suitable husband someday, I must possess in character and virtue what I do not in my appearance. My own enjoyments are not far from what I do. I enjoy my studies exceedingly.”
At only twenty-one, Katherine could not have believed her hopes of finding a proper husband were so bleak. Certainly not as stunning as herself, she was a rather handsome girl. Her brown hair and blue eyes were reputed to catch the fancy of many a young man. No, she would marry yet, but perhaps not as well as Caroline believed she would.
Alone at last, Katherine began to examine her newest piece of music. She allowed the music to flow through her fingers yet she couldn’t set her mind completely on the piece.
She wondered of her future. Was she destined to remain a spinster, or would she find someone? While she carried the pretense that she would be quite sensible in marriage, she knew that to be a partial falsehood. Nothing but a deep love would allow her to enter marriage. Her family was well enough off that she would not need to resort to marriage to find socioeconomic contentment.
Her thoughts then turned to Caroline, who believed herself to be in love with Mr. Harris. It was quite certain it was he Caroline was venturing to town to see. Katherine was too intelligent to doubt their approaching engagement, yet she couldn’t help but wonder of his motives. His character and situation were questionable as his spending always exceeded his annual, and he was linked with a number of exploits and romantic scandals. If his love was true and his will proper, Katherine could only be happy for her sister. She only hoped Mr. Harris would manage his expenditures properly.
As Caroline predicted, Mr. Harris set a date for the ball. It would be the following Friday evening. Then as she had hoped and as Katherine had foreseen, Mr. Harris had requested they set another date as well. Their marriage would occur in a month, and the two would take up residence in London. What a laugh it was that at only nineteen, she had secured her future happiness. While her sister had constantly striven to excel at matters of intellect and talent, and Caroline in that of fashion and society, it was the latter to find martial splendor and the former to be left searching. If only she could see her sister so well attached.
This could only occur if she could convince her sister to join their family at the ball. Parties were not typical of Katherine, but her sister never declined an invitation by a family friend, and Mr. Harris was most certainly very dear to the family.
The music of the string ensemble floated through the air. Katherine sat in a chair along a wall watching as her sister danced partner to partner and song to song. Her recent engagement obviously had not dampened her flirtatious carriage. At least the music was beautiful. She had just stood up to find one of her friends when she felt a hand softly touch her arm.
“Please excuse me, Miss,” the stranger with deep blue eyes spoke quietly, “I wonder if I might claim the next dance, unless of course you are otherwise engaged.”
She hardly knew what to say, but agreed to dance. Katherine learned that the young man’s name was Mr. Carleton. As a cousin to Mr. Harris, he was in the country visiting with him and had only just arrived. She found him to be a shy, pleasant man, and immediately enjoyed his company. The two spent much of the remaining evening together dancing but mostly by sharing their views on various issues of intellect. Mr. Carleton was just as impressed by Katherine as she was by him.
The next morning, Katherine hardly knew what to think. She believed she could actually grow to care for Mr. Carleton and hoped to meet with him again. While she was staring blankly at her needlepoint and thinking of the wonderful man she had just met, Caroline entered the sitting room to give her some unwanted news. Mr. Carleton had been called to London on urgent business and would not return for quite some time. Caroline hadn’t quite approved of Mr. Carleton, so she was pleased by this information. She had found him to be much too quiet and did not enjoy the nature of his conversation. Matters of intellect were a bore.
Hoping to thrust a different young man into her sister’s life, she concealed a letter, which he had written to Katherine. Instead she suggested a stroll to town. Katherine declined, and instead began to focus more seriously on her needlepoint. The one time she had allowed herself to begin dreaming of love, it was shattered before it could begin. She had learned her lesson. A person gains nothing by flitting about at parties.
A month later, while preparing for her sister’s wedding that afternoon, Katherine stumbled upon a letter addressed to her! She had never seen this before in her life. Uncertain whether or not she should open it, curiosity gained the upper hand, and Katherine opened it. It was a letter from Mr. Carleton. He apologized for being so forward by writing a letter of this proportion, and so soon in their acquaintance, but he informed her of his business in town, and requested that she write to him. He told her that while they had only known one another a day, he felt as though he had known her for years. Tears nearly came to her eyes when she read his closing lines.
‘Do tell me, do you believe in love at first sight? Until I saw you and felt a surge of power in my heart, I never believed it to be so. I hope your response to this is yes you do, or even that you are not certain. If it is either one of these, I beg of you to consider my proposition. We will never know if we had love at first sight unless it is given a chance to grow. Please allow this to grow. Help me to care for this seedling that will one day blossom into a garden.’
Shocked beyond belief to know how he felt and to realize she felt so similar, Katherine knew that things would work out. She wondered why her sister had concealed this from her, but could make no sense of it. While she longed to question her sister, she instead chose to leave her wedding day alone. Hopefully the harm done by concealment would not negate Mr. Carleton’s feelings and she could correct the wrong.
Katherine was once again sitting against a wall at her sister’s wedding party. The ceremony had been beautiful, and as a bridesmaid, she had a lovely gown as well. Hoping to make an early retreat, Katherine stood to leave but felt a hand lightly on her arm. She knew who it was even before she turned to face him. The happiness she felt at that moment reached her eyes, and before he could reproach her for never giving an answer he saw her eyes and knew what it was. Holding her arm, he led her outside where they could converse in solitude. She revealed all that had happened and confessed her feelings to him. He was so overpowered by joy he began ranting uncontrollably how her words impacted him. The next day, they consulted her parent’s permission to marry. They were wed within a month.
Many years later, Mr. and Mrs. Carleton remain happily settled. They have been blessed with a beautiful home with vast grounds, and a set of children so wonderful, they can scarce find reason to complain. Unfortunately for Mr. and Mrs. Harris, things did not turn out so well. Mr. Harris continued to invest poorly, and by joint expenditures the two lost all of their money. Even with the economic assistance of the Carletons, the Harris find it difficult to struggle. By now Mrs. Harris sees the error in her adolescent time but it is too late. If only she had used her time wisely, and gained knowledge, she could have made a more wise marital decision or at least prevented their expenditures from growing. One thing is for certain, a good mind is a necessity and must come first before looks. Those who dance must pay the fiddler, and Mrs. Harris is now having to pay while Mrs. Carleton had already paid up front.
Junior year, I followed up that read with Sense and Sensibility, which was the book I was reading at the time I received this assignment in creative writing class. We had block scheduling, which meant each class lasted a quarter in length, so everything was pretty heavily concentrated. We were expected to do a lot of reading and even more writing in short time. That really doesn't have much impact on what Little Laura was getting at with this story, bu tit does give a little context, I suppose.
Selecting Austen as an inspiration for writing a re-imagining of a fable was a pretty good idea for LL. Though, with all of the preachiness and melodrama of this story, it kind of comes off more like a Gothic cautionary tale than anything else.
I'm trying to figure out when exactly Little Laura will figure out how to correctly use commas. And, oh man, who am I kidding. I can't get into this analysis. My head is spinning after reading this Little Laura piece, and I just can't. I have a NaNoWriMo book to plot.
Receive Change the Word's latest updates in your Inbox. Subscribe by entering your information under "Follow by email" in the sidebar. Follow me on Twitter @lmchap or "Like" Change the Word on Facebook.