Posted on 2016-03-03
Coming up next on the P&P Network is the Barry Winter Show, where Barry's guests solve the problem of what to do when your lover leaves on business and never comes back.
Warning to parents: The following show is for mature literary audiences and may be inappropriate for children.
"Ba-rry! Ba-rry! Ba-rry!" As the audience cheered, the host, Barry Winters bounced out from backstage, a microphone in hand, waving and shaking hands with the people in the front row. He came to a stop in front of the center aisle and raised a hand. The din slowly died down, a few whistles piercing the applause as it faded.
"Welcome! Today we have an interesting problem to deal with. We all know how it is when a family member or a friend doesn't like your girlfriend or boyfriend, but what if it goes beyond that? What would you do if everyone connected with your boyfriend has conspired to keep the two of you apart? We've got someone here who has been close to this very situation. Elizabeth, how are you?"
"Very well, Barry."
The host came over to the stage and sat down in a chair next to the young woman. "I understand that it's not you, but your sister who has been facing this problem. Can you tell me about it?"
"Well, it all began a few months ago, when a gentleman named Mr. Bingley moved into the neighborhood. He brought his sisters and one of his friends with him, and at first it seemed like they were going to be a beneficial addition to the usual company in the area. And, in fact, Mr. Bingley was: it became pretty clear early on that he and my sister had become close."
"How close?" the host interrupted.
"Oh, very. It was clear they had fallen in love and he was just looking for the opportunity to pop the question. Everyone in the neighborhood remarked on it."
"But what about his sisters and friend?"
Elizabeth grimaced. "From the very beginning, it was obvious that neither Miss Bingley nor her sister, Mrs. Hurst, nor Mr. Bingley's friend Mr. Darcy were at all inclined to become friendly with the neighborhood. Even when the sisters befriended my sister and so much as invited her to dine with them one day, they were just doing so because they were bored and wanted a diversion. They made it abundantly clear that they were above the rest of us socially and would have nothing to do with us if they could find anyone else worth knowing."
"So what happened?"
"Everything was going great -- Mr. Bingley had even hosted a party at which he'd pretty much ignored everyone except my sister Jane. But then, the next day, he was gone. We'd known he had to go to London to take care of some business, but then we got a note from his sister saying they all had left and wouldn't be coming back, even implying that Mr. Bingley was practically engaged to someone else -- Mr. Darcy's sister. Well, I thought it was all just in Miss Bingley's head, but it turns out she had more influence over her brother than I thought. He never came back, and left my sister heartbroken."
The audience booed, and Barry Winter stood up and approached the camera. "Our next guest will be able to tell us more about that. Here's Elizabeth's sister, Jane, straight from London!"
From backstage came a beautiful young woman, and Elizabeth jumped up to meet her. The two sisters embraced, to the cheers and approval of the audience, and then returned to sit on the couch, holding hands.
"So the two of you are very close, then?" asked the host.
"For all our lives," said Elizabeth.
"So then what happened to you must have hurt your sister, too, didn't it, Jane?"
"I think it did, Barry," came the quiet voice of Jane, who smiled sadly at her sister. Elizabeth patted her hand in comfort. "She was the one who came up with the idea of sending me to London, so I could visit the Bingleys and try to renew the acquaintance."
"And you did, didn't you?"
"I did," she confirmed, "but I don't think it did any good. I couldn't put much credit in Lizzy's opinion that Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst were keeping their brother away from me, because I couldn't believe they would betray our friendship like that. But when I wrote to them and they never responded, and visited them, and they acted so coldly to my aunt and I ... well, I can't deny it anymore. I still think that maybe part of it was for my own good. Maybe he doesn't love me and they were just trying to protect me from finding out my feelings weren't returned!" And with this, the tears that had threatened burst forth, and she sobbed into her sister's shoulder.
Barry Winters turned to the audience and said, "Well, what do you think? I think we should find out if it is all in Miss Bennet's head, or if there's some plot going on behind the scenes. Our next guest should be able to clear it up for us: say hello to Miss Caroline Bingley!"
To the mixed boos and applause of the crowd, a haughty Caroline Bingley emerged from backstage and began her way across to the chairs, her every movement expressing her disgust of her surroundings. The moment she had appeared, though, Elizabeth had stood and stepped in front of her sister, as if to shield her. The gazes of the two women locked across the stage, and a sneer curved the lips of Miss Bingley.
"Miss Eliza," she said, "what a surprise to find you here. I should have known someone of your taste and ... class would be at home in such surroundings."
Elizabeth flushed slightly, but tipped up her chin. "This happens to be my mother's favorite show, and she made the arrangements. But you needn't hide your own preferences, Miss Bingley. We noticed when we'd stayed at Netherfield that you DVRed all the episodes." She smiled at her adversary's discomposure. "See, you have more in common with my mother than just being descended from trade. Why, some day you might even be as fortunate as her and marry a gentleman!"
"Why, you little--" Miss Bingley's face had grown alarmingly red throughout this speech, but at the last sentence she lost all composure and nearly flew across the stage. Her clenched fingers went for Elizabeth's face, but the latter avoided her nails by grabbing hold of Caroline's hair. Security guards rushed onto the stage and pulled the two women, kicking and screaming, away from each other. Caroline managed to elbow one of the guards in the face and get free, rushing over to attack Elizabeth again, but she was held back. After a few minutes of struggle, they were given glasses of water to drink and sat down in their respective seats, their tempers in check for now.
The audience, throughout all of this, cheered and catcalled, and Barry smiled benignly on them. "Well, now that we've cooled off a bit, ladies, we'll hear more about this from Miss Bingley. Tell us, Caroline, why did you follow your brother to London?"
Miss Bingley tipped up her chin. "Why shouldn't I have? He was going there for business, and I knew it would take him longer than he expected. I wasn't about to stay in some rural backwater with no decent company. London is so much more refined, varied. We had spent more than enough time in Hertfordshire already."
"And his relationship with Jane Bennet?"
"What relationship?" Caroline scoffed. "My brother knows better than to align himself with a family of no importance, fortune, or refinement. He had no serious designs on Miss Bennet. He was only amusing himself, and was more than happy to return to the company of such elegant and accomplished ladies as Miss Darcy in London."
"You lie!" Elizabeth said heatedly. "Your brother was in love with my sister!"
Caroline tried to ignore the interruption, though her air betrayed some consciousness of its veracity. "Charles was merely confused. After all, he and Miss Darcy are really quite close. And I may say, though I'm sure we can keep this just between us, Barry, that I'm quite looking forward to a more sisterly relationship with that young lady," she finished with a sly smile and knowing look.
A scoff came from Elizabeth's general direction, but Barry Winters turned to the crowd. "This is developing into quite a love triangle! Let's see if we can shed a little light on the subject by introducing our next guest, who may have something to say about Miss Darcy's future connections -- her brother, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy!"
No one appeared amid the cheers, and Barry looked momentarily discomposed. He tried the introduction again, and then, looking somewhere upstage asked, "We do have him, don't we?"
At last, a tall gentleman was shoved from behind the curtain and stumbled slightly onto the stage. He shot a glare in that direction before readjusting his clothing and glancing witheringly around at the admiring audience. His scan stopped, however, when it alighted on one particular figure and his face flushed. "Miss Elizabeth," he murmured, staring. "What--" He suddenly recalled himself and, glancing at Barry Winters, continued his way forward toward the indicated chair. "Miss Bingley," he said with a bow when he arrived. "Miss Bennet, Miss Elizabeth."
The three ladies all acknowledged him with a nod of the head, and he took his seat.
"Now, then, Mr. Darcy, we've got a small problem here we're hoping, as a close friend of Mr. Bingley, you can help clear up. Miss Bingley here," Barry said with a grin, indicating the suddenly nervous-looking lady, "was just telling us about how her brother was quite interested in forming a more secure commitment to your family. What have you to say to that?"
Mr. Darcy looked slightly nonplussed at such a question, and looked to Miss Bingley for elucidation. That lady, though, merely shrugged and tried to look uncomprehending. "I really have no idea what you mean, sir," the gentleman said at last, turning back to his host. "Mr. Bingley and I are simply good friends."
"So you're not aware, then, of his interest in your sister?"
"My sister!" Mr. Darcy said with some horror, his gaze drawn again to Miss Bingley. "Your brother has said this? Why, she's barely sixteen!"
The crowd "oohed," and hissed. Miss Bingley attempted to stumble through an explanation, but Mr. Darcy's brows had drawn together and his formidable stare soon caused her words to dry up. "I can assure you that Mr. Bingley has expressed no romantic interest in my sister, and I would never countenance such a thing, most especially at her age."
"Then how can you account for his behavior?" Elizabeth said with accusation in her voice. "In raising Jane's hopes and then disappearing to London with not a word of when or if he would be coming back, he has ruined the happiness of a most beloved sister!"
The effect of this speech was obvious to even the most casual observer: Mr. Darcy started, colored, and his eyes flew to Miss Bennet in question.
The latter had colored at her sister's words and her hands shook. "Lizzy, please," she said pleadingly.
"No," Lizzy said firmly. "He must know this. Why, I would not be surprised if he had something to do with this, that he, along with Miss Bingley, has exposed her brother to the censure of the world for his caprice and instability, and you to its derision for disappointed hopes, involving both of you in misery of the acutest kind. Can you deny that you have done it, Mr. Darcy?"
The flush in Mr. Darcy's cheeks, which had begun to recede, rushed back. "I have no wish of denying that I did everything in my power to separate my friend from your sister, or that I rejoice in my success," he said tightly, his voice breaking slightly at the last.
The audience greeted this admission with some anger, and Barry White bounded up the stairs to one woman who was standing. "You have a question?" he asked.
"I do!" she said with some heat. "I don't think Mr. Darcy's actions suit my feelings. Why was he to be the judge?"
"You are rather disposed to call his interference officious?" Barry asked solemnly.
"I do not see what right Mr. Darcy had to decide on the propriety of his friend's inclination, or why, upon his own judgement alone, he was to determine and direct in what manner his friend was to be happy," the woman said, to calls from the audience of "Take it to Oprah!"
"Well, let's ask Mr. Darcy, shall we?" Barry said, turning to the stage.
Mr. Darcy squirmed slightly in his seat. "I have often seen my friend in love before, but it was not until the ball at Netherfield that I was made aware of certain expectations that had been raised. From that moment, I observed carefully and saw a distinct preference on the side of my friend, but was unable to see any signs of love in Miss Bennet that would indicate she was accepting his addresses with particular pleasure. That, in addition to certain objections--"
"Objections!" Elizabeth scoffed. "You mean, of course, that we are so far below you in consequence."
"That is true, madam,' Darcy said wearily. "But while true, it is not so great an evil to my friend as it is to, say, someone in my position. I am sorry to cause you any pain, but the situation of your mother's family, though objectionable, is nothing in comparison to that total want of propriety so frequently, so almost uniformly betrayed by herself, by your three younger sisters, and occasionally even by your father. You and your sister, it must be said, have conducted yourselves so as to avoid any share of the like censure, is praise no less generally bestowed on you and your elder sister, than it is honourable to the sense and disposition of both."
"What a compliment!"
"It is a compliment," he retorted angrily. "Do you think I am not very aware of all of these advantages and disadvantages? Do you not think I have dwelt on them nightly since nearly the day I met you? Do you think my heart has not rebelled against them, nearly overcome them in my desire for you?"
At these words and the passion in his voice, the crowd hushed, and Elizabeth gasped. "What -- what can you mean, sir?" she stuttered.
Though conscious now of his audience, Darcy felt he had already said too much and could no longer turn back: "Though I have struggled, it is in vain; my feelings cannot be repressed. Elizabeth, you must know that I admire and love you."
Her eyes grew wide, and she shook her head slowly, but there was a cry from the audience of "Nooooo!" and Barry Winters bound up the steps again to an overdressed lady in one of the top rows who had risen from her seat.
"This shall not be borne!" cried the lady when the microphone had been thrust in front of her. "How dare this young lady use her arts and allurements to draw my nephew in!"
"Your nephew?" Barry Winters repeated.
"Yes. Do you know who I am? I am almost the nearest relation he has in the world, and am entitled to know all his dearest concerns. That this report should go abroad! Let me be rightly understood. This match, to which she has the presumption to aspire, can never take place. No, never. Mr. Darcy is engaged to my daughter. Now what have you to say?"
"I would say that's pretty disgusting. Cousins!" said a woman in the row in front of her.
"I will not be interrupted! Hear me in silence," the woman at the microphone said, and the greasy-looking man beside her bobbed his head in agreement. "My daughter and my nephew are formed for each other. They are descended, on the maternal side, from the same noble line; and, on the father's, from respectable, honorable, and ancient -- though untitled -- families. Their fortune on both sides is splendid. They are destined for each other by the voice of every member of their respective houses; and what is to divide them? The upstart pretensions of a young woman without family, connections, or fortune."
"Lady Catherine," came a voice from the stage, "sit down."
The woman at the microphone flushed. "Is this to be endured! But it must not, shall not be."
"Sit down!" her nephew barked, and she obeyed with an unintelligible mutter. He ran a hand over his face. "Miss Elizabeth, I apologize for that display."
Elizabeth arched one eyebrow. "It seems we both have relatives for which we must have moments of embarrassment."
A small smile quirked his lips in response.
Miss Bingley, seeing the sudden amity between the two, was stirred to action. "But, Miss Eliza! What of Mr. Wickham?"
"Wickham?" Elizabeth repeated contemplatively, her brow creasing.
"Wickham!" Mr. Darcy repeated with scorn.
"Wickham?" Barry Winters repeated, putting a hand to his earpiece. "Did we know anything about a Mr. Wickham?"
"You take an eager interest in that gentleman's concerns!"
"Who that knows what his misfortunes have been, can help feeling an interest in him?" Elizabeth replied.
"His misfortunes!" said Darcy contemptuously. "Yes, his misfortunes have been great indeed."
"And of your infliction," cried Elizabeth with energy. "You have reduced him to his present state of poverty -- comparative poverty. You have withheld the advantages which you must know to have been designed for him. You have deprived the best years of his life of that independence which was no less his due than his dessert."
Darcy's lip curled. "I? I reduced him to his present poverty? Oh, Miss Elizabeth. If he can go through, in three years, the four thousand pounds he received after my father died -- one thousand outright and another three as compensation for the living he refused -- it is not I who reduced him to poverty. And it surely does not excuse his predation of young fifteen-year-old ladies for their dowries."
The audience gasped and whispered and Barry Winters muttered, "Dang, this is good. Is someone getting on this topic?"
Elizabeth and her sister clutched each others' hands and stared at Darcy in horror. Mr Darcy, took a deep breath and added, "If you don't believe me Miss Elizabeth, I can introduce you to my cousin, who was executor of my father's will and knows one young lady of which I speak."
"Mr. Darcy," Elizabeth said at last, "I shouldn't need such proofs. I should not have listened to his slander in the first place and am ashamed to have been so willingly deceived."
"Ignorant as you previously were of everything concerning either, detection could not be in your power, and suspicion certainly not in your inclination," Darcy replied with a gentle smile, which Elizabeth tremulously returned.
Miss Bingley grew even more alarmed at this further sign of detente and desperately said, "But, surely, we are far from the topic! Why, you even admitted, Mr. Darcy, it was you who separated my brother from Jane Bennet!"
Barry Winters, who suddenly realized that his show had, indeed, gone off the rails, quickly looked to take charge, saying, "And, indeed, our last guest, who has been in a room listening to all of this, even this other, extraneous stuff, is none other than the man in question! Audience, here he is: Mr. Charles Bingley, himself!"
A moment later, and a young man with fair, curly hair bound from backstage. Jane Bennet, who had grown pale at Barry Winter's announcement, stood and looked around, as if to find somewhere to flee, but the action only further drew the newcomer's eyes. "Miss Bennet!" he cried, rushing over to her side. "Miss Bennet, are you all right?"
"Yes, yes," she said tremulously, sitting quite suddenly.
"Miss Bennet, I heard everything, and I am so very, very sorry I was influenced by my family and my friends. I love you so much and did not wish to presume on your good nature. I thought it was best for me to withdraw, rather than force my attentions on you, not realizing that in so doing I was causing you more pain. If your feelings were even half what mine were -- and I should not have doubted they were -- I have caused you so much grief. Please tell me you will let me try and make it up to you."
The audience waited, not a sound escaping, watching Jane Bennet. She, at last, nodded her head ever so slightly, then laughed, wiped her cheek with her hand and raised her eyes to his, saying, "Oh, Charles, I have forgiven you already! I should never have doubted your love for me, either. I love you so much!"
The crowd erupted in cheers and hoots, Miss Bingley cried out in anguish, Elizabeth Bennet smiled widely and her eyes sparkled, and Darcy looked on this last apparition with love in his eyes. Barry Winters smiled as well, walking across the stage to sit in a chair and face the camera. "And this leads me, folks, to have The Last Word. I want to thank our guests for being here, and I really hope that you're able to work through your differences and find love and happiness.
"We all want the best for the people we love, but we also have to let them live their own lives. People are not puppets, and we shouldn't try to manipulate them to benefit our own preferences, even when it seems as though our way is best. Sure, give a little advice, but in the end let them make the decision, make the mistake, if mistake it is. Then stand by them -- they'll thank you for it in the end."
Tune in tomorrow, when Barry confronts the question of officers in love: my lover wants to run away with me, but is it me, or merely escape from moneylenders?
But for now, stay tuned in the next hour, as Judge Julie takes on a perplexing case of withheld property:
Judge Julie banged the gavel to restore order to the court.
"Your honor," the handsome young man said, "The defendant's father, my godfather, bequeathed me the next presentation of the best living in his gift. He meant to provide for me amply, and thought he had done it; but when the living fell, it was given elsewhere. A man of honour could not have doubted the intention, but Mr. Darcy chose to doubt it. And I cannot accuse myself of having really done anything to deserve to lose it. The fact is, that we are very different sort of men, and that he hates me."
Mr. Darcy, who stood at the podium to Mr. Wickham's left, rolled his eyes. "You have got to be kidding me," he muttered under his breath. "How do they talk me into this?"
Coming up next, on the P&P network. All Pride and Prejudice, all the time.The End