Elizabeth, meet Miss Havisham!

Write a post in which the protagonists of two different books or movies meet for the first time. How do they react to each other? Do they get along?  Christine Goodnough, this is a GREAT idea 🙂

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Elizabeth Bennet was nervous.  She’d been traveling for three long, jolting, dusty days in the small closed-in carriage, accompanied by her maid and driven by her father’s coachman.  It felt as if the trip would never end, and she sorely missed the company of her husband of only one year, Fitzwilliam Darcy.   He hadn’t wanted her to make the journey alone, but business matters kept him at their estate.

How she missed that estate!  Rolling green lawns and terraces planted with every variety of flower Elizabeth could imagine; a summer house that she loved, and a pond for fishing or boating. She was just getting used to being the mistress of such a magnificent place, of having a housekeeper who ruled the roost and a cook who competed with the housekeeper for authority. Elizabeth had learned how to keep them all happy, balancing her natural friendliness with just the right air of  The Quality to keep order in her household.

She laughed to herself as she thought about being part of “The Quality.”  Indeed, she would never be as high in the instep as Darcy’s snooty Aunt Catherine deBourgh, who was still not reconciled to Darcy having married so far beneath him.  Mostly, she was angry that Darcy hadn’t married her sickly daughter.

She was truly nervous, though, about meeting the woman at the end of this journey.  Her friend Estella had wirtten to her and begged her to come to visit for the express purpose of cheering her elderly, crazy aunt out of her lifelong doldrums.  Estella believed that Elizabeth had just the right combination of humor and good sense to be able to persuade  her Aunt Eleanor Havisham out of her self-imposed gloom.

Estella had met Elizabeth in Town during the short time Elizabeth had spent there after her marriage to Darcy.  She had dreaded the time she would have to spend in London, but she quickly learned the art of hostessing the upper crust of society and had pulled it off with warmth and wit.  Darcy had been extremely pleased with her.

Estella had attended an afternoon tea in the company of one of Darcy’s friends, and she and Elizabeth had taken to each other quickly. They laughed as they compared notes on Darcy’s aunt and Estella’s.  Two unusual creatures, to be sure. Miss Havisham had been disappointed in love, deserted on her wedding day many years earlier. She lived with all the wedding finery still in place, including food, flowers, and clothing that had slowly rotted away over the years.

And finally, here she was.  She was greeted with great warmth and relief by Estella, who had her own  warped memories to deal with.  Growing up with such an aunt as hers had certainly marred her ideas of herself and of others. She and her fiance, Philip, had a most difficult beginning.  It was really quite amazing that they had managed to resolve their differences.

Estella helpd Elizabeth settle in a room that was very nicely kept, and then she  escorted her to her aunt’s wing of the huge house. This?  This was beyond Elizabeth’s imagination.  Estella had tried to describe it, but the reality was much worse than she had thought.

Miss Havisham sat in a throne-like chair that was draped with netting  that hung from  a metal loop that had been fixed to the wall. The chair was wide enough for two, and had been intended for the newlyweds to use at the wedding feast. The netting was tattered. It fluttered around Miss Havisham with every  whisper of movement.  She herself, still bedecked in her wedding dress, was so old that Elizabeth expected her to dissolve into dust if any breeze should touch her. She still wore her bridal headpiece, with the veil swathed around her face and shoulders. She stared vacantly at nothing.

“Aunt, here is a dear friend come to visit you,” said Estella. “Her name is Mrs. Elizabeth Darcy.  Her husband is Fitzwilliam Darcy.  I’m sure you’ve heard of him.  He is quite the wealthiest man in his county.”

“Darcy?” quavered Miss Havisham. “I know no one by that name. Why is this person come to visit me?  I’m sure we have nothing to say to one another.”

“Aunt, please, I’ve invited her to come to try to cheer you. She is well-read, and witty and bright. I’m sure you will have much to discuss with her,” pleaded Estella.

“Come closer, girl.  No one will light enough candles for me.  I can’t see you at all.”

Elizabeth, overwhelmed by the decay, the stench, the sorrow of the setting, stepped forward and curtsied. She smiled at Miss Havisham and said, “I’m pleased to meet you, Ma’am.  Your niece and I are great friends, and I hope to enjoy making your acquaintance as well.”

“Nonsense. Utter and complete nonsense.”  Miss Havisham squinted up at Elizabeth, studying her carefully. “Well, you do seem to have fine, intelligent eyes.  And you certainly know how to dress, although I can’t imagine why fashion has become so immodest as to show so much bosom. Can’t you cover yourself?  It’s outrageous!”

Elizabeth took the shawl that hung from her elbows and put it around her shoulders, crossing it high in the front. She dimpled at Estella, then turned to Miss Havisham and said, “There. That should cover things quite nicely.  Tell me, Miss Havisham, how long has it been since you were out of your house?  It’s a fine day outside. Perhaps we could go for a short stroll in your gardens.”

“Impudence!  I never leave this house.  I leave this room only for my bedchamber. Never think that you will persuade me otherwise!”

“Most certainly, Miss Havisham, we will stay in if you wish.  Only I would think you would enjoy being out so that your rooms could be set to rights—“

“How dare you!  How dare you come into my home and tell me it needs to be ‘set to rights’!  These rooms will stay just as they are, so that no one ever forgets the great wrong done to me!”  With these words, Miss Havisham gave a rasping cry and turned her face away.

“Miss Havisham, I assure you I meant no harm. Let’s talk of something else.  Tell me, do you read? Do you enjoy romantic novels, or religious treatises, or history?”

“Estella!  Estella!  Get this young woman out of my rooms and out of my house!  She has no reason to be here!  You’re trying to move me to change my life, and I WILL NOT!  I will DIE in these rooms, in these clothes because it is here that my life truly ended!  There is nothing to live for. . . .nothing. . . .nothing at all. . . .”

As MIss Havisham wept, Estella and Elizabeth backed out of the room.  Estella sighed, shaking her head in despair. “You know, Lizzie, I believe she will indeed die here, just as she said.  She wants to. She longs to. I don’t know what to do.”

“Estella, my dear friend, you have tried everything.  Doctors, ministers, companions, even a pet dog. I don’t believe there is anything that will make her change her mind, and it’s not your fault.”

Elizabeth spent two more days with her friend, not seeing MIss Havisham again. She was immensely relieved to travel back to home and to Darcy, feeling the gloom of Miss Havisham’s house lifting with every mile that passed.

It was two weeks later that the letter came from Estella.  Miss Havisham had died in a fire that started when a burning candle toppled over, and the flame caught in the wispy remains of her wedding gown.  It was a terrible fire.  It was very likely that MIss Havisham had died from the smoke before she was too badly burnt.

Her lonely vigil was at last ended, and Elizabeth could only be glad that Estella was finally free to go on with her own life, she and Pip.

(Characters are from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations)

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/pleased-to-meet-you/

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21 thoughts on “Elizabeth, meet Miss Havisham!

  1. Wow, I do enjoy your writing, this reminded me of all the books I used to read when at school. Sadly nowadays I hardly read or watch movies at all. The movie (50 shades) is being released here (in Sydney) next week, and I am trying to avoid all the hoopla around it, with respect it saddens me that this is what is on offer nowadays.

      1. Anne

        “I am all astonishment!” I’ll at least try to quote P & P since my rambling has little to do with the wonderfully creative topic 🙂 After Passion’s reference to the current hoopla that I wasn’t aware of, it set my mind on a different path…reminded me of once upon a time with P & P, Mansfield Park, etc. films. I remember the chatter when P & P and Mansfield Park, etc. came out… some deciding to cross the living room to turn those off…

        “It is a truth universally acknowledged” that filmmakers distort history (even well-documented appropriate Regency Period attire for the sake of entertainment). Then, in our entertainment, we accept more (or is that less) than we would for ourselves. Austen’s Elizabeth was impeccable and discreet in contrast to her mother and Lydia on such matters. But Davies (who influenced Firth on how to smoulder realistically) and succeeded with his mark as noted by secular reviewers, “His Pride and Prejudice pretty much coined the phrase “sexed up”, and he has lived up to his bodice-busting reputation ever since.” His stated regret is that he did not have Firth go farther in a way that 50 Shades plans to do.

        So, I was reminded of THAT hoopla and then checked into the 50 Shades. I see Ehle’s involvement…and the Christian blogs excusing and encouraging the reading and viewing.

        “To yield without conviction is no compliment to the understanding of either.” Maybe Christianity is actually the sad influence. We’ve come a long way since BBC and A & E productions with pop culture youtube diets…with chatter that dress is neutral…not immodest as long as it’s appropriate or not worn with the intent to seduce…regardless of state of dress or undress any responsibility is solely with the man…that Christians sexualize women with efforts at modesty–all the while encouraging and joking seductively on Facebook. And now, Christians will find some merit to 50 Shades.

        “Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can…” I guess we all have our line (or not) where we will say, “And you certainly know how to dress, although I can’t imagine why fashion has become so immodest as to show so much bosom. Can’t you cover yourself? It’s outrageous!” 🙂 For now, 50 Shades is being regarded favorably by some Christians for its thematic merit, realism, bringing a novel wonderfully to life, and for adding spark to our personal lives.

        “The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it…”
        Yes, I needed a safe place to vent after finding out what the hoopla was about 🙂

        “Adieu to disappointment and spleen.” Back to the novel (Austen’s, of course!) and your other thought-provoking posts 🙂

      2. Well. I had to go back and read it again to take it all in, but I think I’ve got it 🙂 I’m glad you found a safe place to vent. Ever since I was old enough to understand such things, I’ve found it slightly amusing that the buttoned up, corseted Victorians who purported to be the sole of propriety also participated in the most horrid dabauchery in the various houses of ill repute that dotted their landscape. They had the same seamy underside of their world that every generations has had.

        I think it’s fascinating that the very first thing Adam and Eve noticed after they sinned was their nudity. It never bothered them at all until after their disobedience. Human sexuality was the first thing Satan touched with his scaly fingers, and we’ve had trouble with it ever since.

        Anyway, thanks for a great little rant. Always enjoy hearing from you. And I didn’t know Ehle was involved with the 50 shades movie. That makes me sad. Firth had already fallen off his perch just a tad, for me, but I can’t hold anyone to my own standard without even telling them what that standard is 🙂

  2. Very good reply to the prompt. 🙂
    I’m surprised the feisty Elizabeth didn’t give the old lady a sharp reproof about selfishness—such as she gave Mr Darcy when he first proposed marriage. 🙂 I’ll have to read Great Expectations and find out learn more about this Miss Havisham.

    1. I thought about doing that, but typically, Elizabeth came unglued only when she was provoked beyond endurance. She was already in love with Darcy, although I’m not sure she really was aware of it; she had no emotional connection at all with Miss Havisham. Besides, my piece was already pushing the limits for being too long 🙂

      1. Elizabeth was an amazing character. As you say, she kept her cool around most irritating people, even Lady Catherine, who was as meddlesome as they come. (No wonder the aristocracy was in such bad shape, being so inbred!)
        I went way over the limits with my post, but I was having fun. I’d like to do this again and try for a short ‘introduction’: me introducing two MCs to each other. (But first I have to learn how to do ‘short.:) )

  3. I cut my teeth on “Great Expectations” and have had the ghost of Miss Havisham looming in the background of my awareness ever since. She has often served as a foil and challenge to my usual optimism, represented, in your piece, by Elizabeth, whom I have not yet met, although I would hope to tackle my Miss Havishams a little more obliquely. An enjoyable and instructive encounter!

  4. I loved your post. Very strictly adhering to the prompt. I’ve read others that strayed so far from the prompt you wouldn’t know the prompt; however, they were very well done also, just differently. I am one of the other type, the strayer-away-from-the-prompt. I’m in Bali, and writing travel pieces with photographs, so I had Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love…perhaps not your cup of tea?) meet my alter ego in Ubud. Your writing is crisp and clean.

    1. Thank you for your encouraging comment. I do tend to be a literalist in interpretation of the prompt 🙂 Had fun writing that particular piece.

      I haven’t read EatPrayLove, but it’s on my very long list!

  5. Oh, one more thing: I like what you did with your header, I assume next month it will read February. I like the Hemingway theme, but don’t like that black rectangle blocking an image. Yours is a great alternative.

  6. ALZamba

    I love Austen and Dickens, so the answer to this prompt was lovely. It also lends a hand to imagining what life could have been like after the Lizzy and Darcy got married too.

    Two very different characters again, which is what makes the story so gripping to read. I can feel the wrath of Havisham’s anger too. So good; I enjoyed this very much. Thank you.

  7. Pingback: Sincerest Form of Flattery | Just Writing!

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