Posted on Tuesday, 18-Aug-98
Once upon a time Annie wrote about Sir James Hampton in 'Caroline's Lament' . He appeared in several other stories too, before playing a part in 'Suffering Fools'. Only then did he strike Laura as an extremely sexy character. When Laura read that he had stayed with Caroline during childbirth, she knew this was the guy for her. "He is wealthy to be sure and soft spoken, well how Annie has described him. He doesn't mind going against the grain. Marrying Caroline would be considered against the grain, no? He is connected to Darcy which is an incentive, but not terribly important. He's handsome, winsome, ethereal?" this description was followed by many giggles.
As you can well imagine Annie claimed she had the right to Sir James too, as his creator, and she opposed Laura's claims with fervour. The two ladies were even prepared to fight a Deathmatch over Sir James.
The arena was packed with many familiar faces, those from Austen and those who write about them. The Austen crowd was interspersed throughout the audience, with one notable exception missing -- Colonel Fitzwilliam, who was currently enjoying a sojourn at an undisclosed location for a rest. The crowd began screaming in anticipation. Everyone had heard about this feud, how it had started through the e-mail, carried over into Chat, and had now come to this arena to be settled tonight. They smelled blood.
The announcer yelled, "Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and for the many of you watching at home! LET'S GET READY TO RUMMMMBBBBLLLEEE!" The crowd shrieked.
"Welcome to the main event! About to make her way down the aisle, in the red corner--LAURA!!" The announcer waved in the direction of Laura's fans. The crowd cheered and whistled. Annie, who tried to throw Laura off balance, booed and hissed, but her voice was lost in the cacophony of cheers. Laura stepped into the ring, blowing kisses to her contingent--causing her daughter to wave and say "iloveyoumommy" over the crowd.
The announcer gave her a few minutes to grandstand to the crowd, then began to speak again. "And in the blue corner, weighing in at--"
"Don't tell them that!" Annie shouted, having her own microphone, from the backstage area. "A lady never reveals her weight!"
"Right. The Queen of Music, Bad Movies, Good Literature, and Creator of Sir James--ANNIE!"
The crowd, prompted by the announcer's waves, cheered and yelled again. Laura stuck out her tongue, but only people in the first rows were aware of it.
After greeting Annie's section of the crowd, the announcer began again. "And finally, the man these two ladies will be battling over. He's the King of Patience (after all, look who he married!), the man who can find amusement anywhere, the one, the only--SIR JAMES HAMPTON!!"
An extra loud and long cheer went up, for everybody loved Sir James. Sir James stepped into the ring, bowed and blew kisses in all directions. The predominantly female crowd went wild. Lise, who was the referee, and therefore immune to Sir James' charms, waved him out of the ring impatiently so she could start reading the rules. "Ladies, I want a fair fight. I want a clean fight. Laura, you know that poor Annie just had gallbladder surgery so they'll be no low blows. And no high blows. In fact, if we could avoid coming to blows, that would be better. LET'S DO IT!!"
It was decided that the prosecution could state its case first, in other words, Laura. She stepped into the middle of the ring and started to speak very calmly. "I will point out reasons as to why Annie should not have Sir James; although she is his creator it would be incestuous. I'm older and more experienced. I know how to make a man happy (Do I?) I am a bubbly, kooky, cute professional who has her own money and does not really need his crock of bullsh-t, but you get the idea. Annie, has way too many stories going right now that she could not possibly pay any or all attention to him. He would only come slinking back to me after all was said and done! Besides Annie lives in ILLINOIS. Who goes to Illinois! Boston is easier more like England as a matter of fact WE ARE NEW England!! So it will be like home!"
Laura's fans cheered. Among them were Nick Hornby, Helen Fielding, Jonathan Firth and Colin Firth, Bridget Jones and Helena. Laura's daughter Rebecca was shouting, "gomommyiloveyou".
The Annie contingent, consisting of Alexander Darcy, Anthony Ashton, accompanied by Annie's best friends Chandra, Evonne and Stacy--who looked if they knew how to fight if needed!--and her sister Danielle, began to shout "An-nie An-nie An-nie" as Annie prepared herself for her first words. "I'll have you know that in Illinois, Sir James will find the sort of countryside that he is accustomed to seeing in England--he would be far more comfortable in a place he's familiar with. However, I am not the greedy type--if he longs for a London-type atmosphere, he can always visit Boston! As for more experienced...sigh. Okay. You win there. But I'm a smart, kooky professional with my own money (albeit not very much of it) too. And as for Sir James' possible relationship with me being incestuous because I created him! I don't see it that way! I don't see him as a child or a father. I see him as a mentor--sort of like Mr. Knightley and Emma--and you know how that ended up!"
While Annie's fans gave their friend a standing ovation for her opening speech, Lise noted that Annie was not unwilling to share Sir James. She was willing to allow Sir James to go to Boston if he so wished.
Laura was never silent for very long, and she retaliated. "Firth things firth, can we change me from the red corner? I look horrendous in red. Maybe purple corner or better yet, lavender. Second things firth, Annie said she was willing to share him ONE DAY a year! So she was not being nice at all," she complained.
Annie snorted. "I thought I was being extremely generous in offering him to you for one day a year! Reasonably generous would've been half a day. Not so generous would've been one hour. Totally ungenerous would've been a restraining order!! And I think there's something of a preoccupation with more men than just Sir James! Seems like it to me, anyway! (However, I am totally biased and therefore unreliable...)"
"Good point, Annie," said Lise. "Hmmmm yes, why do I see all the writers put in a little apology to Laura for not including any steamy mushy scenes in their story (yet)? She must be preoccupied!!"
Laura retorted, "She was totally ungenerous. And now, she is saying that she doesn't want me to have him at all! hee hee. And my loyalty lies with Sir James, Firth allowed me to use his name; in name only."
"Ha ha," said Annie sarcastically, "I'm a nice person! Honest! I'm still amenable to sharing him! I'll even give you a whole week with him! (Talk about generous!) And I still want to know what Sir James thinks of this somewhat suspect alliance between Laura and Mr. Firth..."
Laura drowned out all other sounds. "Now, Annie cannot go back and work the crowd in her favour-- it's not fair! She said I could have him for one day. She cannot retract that now and get the sympathy vote!!!"
"Shut up, Laura," Lise said. "I don't go for sympathy votes."
Laura pouted and stamped her foot. "Why don't we have Mr. Rushworth as the ref!!!"
Annie was still hoping for a peaceful settlement. "I extended the offer!! You try to do something nice, and it backfires."
Sir James was getting quite restless. He raised his hand and the referee allowed him to speak. "I wish to insert at this point that I miss my wife and child and I wonder how I ever got mixed up in all this. What have I done? Why are these women fighting over me?"
No one but Rachel, who knew him everywhere and under every circumstance, had suspected that the poor Colonel should be the announcer, until he spoke up and said the following: "It is sort of my fault for starting this and putting Sir James in this awkward position, since I am so tired of having women hanging off of me. Since Sir James seemed like a popular sort of fellow, I directed some of them his way. But holy cow, I had not imagined that it would get as tough as this!"
To which Sir James, being an amiable gentleman and understanding the situation, replied, "you're Darcy's cousin and therefore I'm disposed to forgive you, but I must say that you have put me in quite an awkward position with my wife. Caroline is furious with me."
While Laura and Annie were bickering in one corner and all the attention was on Sir James, Caroline came running into the ring, prompted by Sir James' words. "Darling, I am not furious with you!" she cried, as she tried to climb over the ropes in an elegant manner.
Sir James smiled and looked relieved. He held out his arms to embrace his wife, and gave her a lengthy kiss. After five minutes or so Laura and Annie realised that something else was going on in the ring and they stopped fighting, looking rather sheepish as Sir James and Caroline started to leave the ring.
"What?" cried Annie.
"Where are you going?" Laura whined.
The referee had the last words. "Girls, may I point out to you that in both of your stories you paired Sir James up with Caroline. So clearly, that must be who both of you felt he belonged with!"