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An Austen Sleeping Beauty

April 10, 2021 02:30PM
In thanks and inspired by other fan stories, and as always the lady's own words: a fairy tale found among the works of Jane Austen. Each section of the tale is retold by the characters of a different novel or novella. Also posted on my blog, Fanfiction.net, and AO3.



Birth (Mansfield Park)

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A king and queen reigned in a country a great way off, where there were in those days fairies, and had plenty of money. But one day as the queen was walking at the bottom of the garden, she saw a poor little fish. She took pity and threw it back again into the river; and before it swam away it said, "You will soon have a daughter."

A baronet and his wife (even one who had married far above her prospects) may live in the grandest fashion, with ease and plenty to spare; the elder sister and the rector might, through careful frugality, manage well enough on a modest salary. But what could the youngest and her poor marine do, with so many gasping mouths to care for?

Yes, Mrs. Norris decided upon careful consideration, it would be a great kindness that threw a little girl into the merciful bounty of Mansfield.



Curse (Sense and Sensibility)

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Just as eleven of the fairies had done blessing the princess, a great noise was heard in the courtyard, and word was brought that the thirteenth fairy was come. Now, as she had not been asked to the feast she was very angry, and scolded the king and queen very much, and set to work to take her revenge.

The blessing of an inheritance was double-edged for Mr. John Dashwood. There was so much abundance for his first family, while the second were almost left out completely. But the girls were each so gifted: Elinor's steady goodness, Marianne's fey beauty, and Margaret's precious charm. Surely, with time, he could provide enough to see them comfortably settled.

That hope was dashed by the black haze of disease, heralding disaster for the survivors more than the dying. He gasped a final wish of provision to his son.

The misfortune of a loved one's parting was sorrow enough for the present; the future would instruct the Dashwood girls what evils dependence could eventually bring to their lives.



Conceal (Emma)

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However, the king hoped still to save his dear child altogether from the threatened evil; so he ordered that all the spindles in the kingdom should be bought up and burnt. But all the gifts of the first eleven fairies were in the meantime fulfilled; for the princess was so beautiful, and well behaved, and good, and wise, that everyone who knew her loved her.

A respectable boarding school, in a healthy village, run by a plain but sensible matron, was just the sort of place to send a young girl out of the way of trouble. Mrs. Goddard knew it as well as her clientele, and was as scrupulous at keeping private matters to herself as providing for those entrusted to her care. No sharp signals of rank separated her students. There were no spinning wheels, only ladylike embroidery; nor any higher Latin, mere simple English in poetry and prose.

So it was that Miss Harriet Smith grew up to hear herself called beautiful and good-natured, and if not altogether wise, was none the wiser of what might do her harm. Indeed, it was as if all the world had decided to reward her: not only had she spent a delightful summer with friends, and come to know a very pleasing young man, but she was to meet Miss Woodhouse in her palatial home that very day. Who knew what might occur next?



Reveal (Northanger Abbey)

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It happened that the king and queen were not at home, and she was left alone in the palace. So she roved about by herself till at last she came to an old tower, and there sat an old lady spinning away very busily. But scarcely had she touched it, before the fairy's prophecy was fulfilled; the spindle wounded her, and she fell down lifeless on the ground.

Catherine had watched carefully, and as soon as she found herself alone, crept with sure purpose to the abbey's forbidden chamber. There might be any number of horrors hidden within. Her heart beat wildly as she flung the folding doors open at last.

But there was nothing to see! It was all so normal, so domestic: there was no sign of the Gothic anywhere inside the prettily furnished room. Her apprehension of the unknown gave way to a dread of discovery, and she retreated at once.

Scarcely had she made her escape than another door burst open, an encounter that fulfilled her worst fears and pricked her to the heart. All her romantic notions collapsed as she fled to her room and lay upon her bed in agony.



Repose (Love and Friendship)

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However, she was not dead, but had only fallen into a deep sleep; and the king and the queen, who had just come home, and all their court, fell asleep too. Even the fire on the hearth left off blazing, and went to sleep; the jack stopped, and the spit that was turning about with a goose upon it for the king's dinner stood still: and thus everything stood still, and slept soundly.

Any trial could be met and dealt with by faithful companionship, as Laura explained in her carefully edited (and wildly hyperbolic) letters to her dear friend's daughter. To run mad was the sport of young people, men and women alike. It did not do to chide anyone into caution.

Still, some restraint might be seeded amid the natterings of her history. It was all well and good to rush out to meet the world. It was better still to remember to keep one's head in the process. Now, how best to impart that wisdom in a manner so winsome as to avoid any disgust from her corespondent?

“Take warning from my unhappy End and avoid the imprudent conduct which had occasioned it... Beware of fainting-fits... Though at the time they may be refreshing and agreeable yet believe me they will in the end, if too often repeated and at improper seasons, prove destructive to your Constitution... One fatal swoon has cost me my Life.... Run mad as often as you chuse; but do not faint—”



Enclosed (Lady Susan)

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A large hedge of thorns soon grew round the palace, till at last it was surrounded and hidden. But there went a report through all the land of the beautiful sleeping king's daughter, and from time to time, several kings' sons tried to break through. This, however, none of them could ever do; for the thorns and bushes laid hold of them, as it were with hands; and there they stuck fast.

Having run out of money, and spent too much of her hostess's forbearance, Lady Susan Vernon found herself surrendering to the seclusion of a retiring country village. As if that prospect were not intolerable enough, she must come to a place she had scorned to acknowledge but a year before: Churchhill, the home of her younger brother by marriage (an amiable but simple man) and his wife (for whom none of those descriptors applied).

Here there were no entertainments and little company, just hills and trees and overgrown shrubbery to hide them away from everything and anyone. Certainly there were children everywhere one turned, but a little boy on her knee was a pitiful conquest for a true coquette to sigh over.

"My brother will soon be with us," Mrs. Vernon announced happily over breakfast to her husband, which at least broke the soporific monotony of the weather as a topic of conversation.

On learning that this brother was young, handsome, and wealthy, Lady Susan was as happy to receive the news. A new fly venturing into their web might provide some amusement.



Tidings (Persuasion)

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After many, many years there came a king's son into that land: and an old man told him the story of the thicket of thorns; and how a beautiful palace stood behind it, and how a wonderful princess, called Briar Rose, lay in it asleep, with all her court. Then the young prince said, "All this shall not frighten me; I will go and see this Briar Rose."

It had been so long ago, and yet it felt like only yesterday, since Anne had dared to speak the name "Wentworth" aloud. It was a name she carried alive like an old story in her heart, but had hardly ever dared acknowledge to the world at large since the day he departed from her life.

Learning that he would come to her home, where she had been confined for so long, evoked sensations she could barely contain in company. It took a stroll about the garden to soothe her nerves and calm her fluttering feelings.

"I shall not be frightened," she counseled herself again and again after seeing him anew, even as her heart misgave her. She had grown older and haggard, while he seemed more vigorous and successful than ever. Such a disparity the years had wrought between them! It would take a prince indeed to scale the walls of time.



Finding (Lesley Castle)

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The prince saw nothing but beautiful flowering shrubs, through which he went with ease. There in the court lay the dogs asleep; the flies were sleeping on the walls; the butler had the jug of ale at his lips, going to drink a draught. Then he went on still farther, and opened the door of the little room in which Briar Rose was; and there she lay, fast asleep on a couch by the window.

Based on the steady flow of complaints his sister had written after her marriage, William Fitzgerald expected Lesley Castle to be an old broken-down affair: perhaps covered in briers, overgrown with thickets of thorns, or even surrounded by a swampy moat swarming with pythons. He was pleasantly surprised to discover a well-maintained edifice possessing the full dignity of Scottish heritage with all the comforts of an English manor.

He listened with patient inattention to her critical appraisal of the house and grounds as they made a tour ("The servants all lazy, butler at the ale I am sure, dogs under heel everywhere, flies plastered to the walls with the cold,") while finding much to admire himself. They had just gone up another staircase ("Everything is uphill here!") when his composure was shaken by a beautiful vision lying on a sofa, book in hand, frozen as if by paint and yet brought to life by their noisy approach with a sudden lurch to her feet.

This elegant creature, with lustrous eyes and a pinch of rose in her cheeks, was the tall gorgon of a stepdaughter his sister had spoken of so vociferously? William stepped forward at once, apologizing for their interruption and prompting an introduction.

"Pleased to meet you, Miss Lesley," he said, stooping to bestow a gallant kiss on her hand.

"And you, Mr. Fitzgerald," she smiled back, awakening his heart to wonders undreamed before.



Endings and Beginnings (Pride and Prejudice)

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But the moment he kissed her she opened her eyes and awoke, and smiled upon him; and they went out together; and soon the king and queen also awoke, and all the court, and gazed on each other with great wonder. Then the prince and Briar Rose were married, and the wedding feast was given; and they lived happily together all their lives long.

Exiting the church was made the easier for Elizabeth having her sister nearby; the whole town seemed to have come alive in celebration of the née Bennet girls. She and Jane laughed girlishly over the sumptuous wedding breakfast their mother had insisted upon, then cried like brides in their parting. As the Darcys rode away in their fine coach, the new husband reassured his wife that she was not parting from her family forever.

"I know it," Elizabeth answered, taking one last look at the village she had been born to, yet which no longer felt like home. "But do not think I wish to return too soon. Familiarity has bred contempt; I must admit, I have been spoiled for anything less than Pemberley since seeing it."

He quirked a small smile, one she had once thought imperious but had learned to value for the promises it portended. "So, I might have been spared the trouble of proposing at all, and merely showed you my grounds to win your hand?"

She laughed, turning completely away from the view of her past and toward the welcome visage of her future. "Oh, my dear Fitzwilliam, that would not have done for half! Come, we have not had a moment alone in nearly a week, and you should know I am still trying to sketch your character. Before we arrive in London, I must insist on learning at least five new facts about you."

They soon lost count, exchanging the subject of their discourse a dozen times ere as many miles had passed. Rather than a happy ending, it was a very auspicious start.
SubjectAuthorPosted

An Austen Sleeping Beauty

MichelleRWApril 10, 2021 02:30PM

Re: An Austen Sleeping Beauty

Shannon KApril 11, 2021 07:52AM

Re: An Austen Sleeping Beauty

Lucy J.April 29, 2021 04:48AM

Re: An Austen Sleeping Beauty

MichelleRWMay 01, 2021 01:55AM



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