April 25, 2021 03:10AM
The Princess and the Pea as told through selections from Austen's minor works, with an emphasis on the rarely glimpsed downstairs point of view.



Maintaining an Elusive Quality (The Watsons)

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Once upon a time there was a prince who traveled all over the world to find a real princess, there was always something about them that was not as it should be. So he came home again and was sad.

It was all very well to be the most handsome man in the county, and furthermore for the young ladies of that place to know it. But as the inn's arrivals pounded past his door to yet another ball, Tom Musgrave confessed to his valet that he was tiring just a little of the chase. "Miss Osborne is right handsome enough," he mused aloud, picturing his latest flirtation.

"Yes sir."

"Though she may take after her father as she ages, and she hasn't one thought of her own to speak of."

"Yes sir."

"But wherever is a man to find a pretty, wealthy, and moreover interesting lady to fall in love with?"

"I wouldn't know sir."

"Well, Michaels," Musgrave observed himself and his servant in the mirror, "it is good for you that your talent for dress far exceeds your conversation, else I should part with you as readily as the girl."

"Thank you sir."



Handling Novel Disruptions (Love and Friendship)

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One evening a terrible storm came on; there was thunder and lightning, and the rain poured down in torrents. Suddenly a knocking was heard at the city gate, and the old king went to open it.

Knock. "What noise is that!" There, wasn't that just like the master of the house? Even a dullard like him should know someone was at the door.

Knock. "Had we better not go and see who it is?" Yes, that was her lady's occasional good sense sprouting up after years of neglect spent in the company of such a man, far beneath even her meagre expectations.

Knock. "I think I hear Mary going to the door."

"I'm glad of it, for I long to know who it is."

It was a good thing old Mary was used to the family's eccentricities by now, and went about her work no matter what they remembered or forgot to order, or even how she felt about the matter. For she was not eager to find what outlandish sort of person might have wandered up to their little cottage at this hour. What was the good of living in pastoral poverty miles away from anyone if you still had to suffer disagreeable company like everyone else?



Enduring a Disagreeable Situation (Collection of Letters)

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It was a princess standing out there in front of the gate. But, good gracious! what a sight the rain and the wind had made her look.

The life of a coachman for such a family as the Grevilles was not always easy, and Brooks counted himself in high luck this week: only one assembly the night before, and then the usual drive for her ladyship and the young miss about the town today.

He had just begun to turn toward home when a rap sounded from behind. "Stop here," Lady Greville commanded, despite her daughter's protests, "and have Miss Maria come out and speak to us."

What could a fellow do but obey? Still and all, it didn't sit well with Brooks, especially given how the wind got devilish as his mistress all of a sudden. That Miss Maria, she had looked so smart last night in her fancy things, and now here she was getting blown about at her own gate, forced nearly to shout her replies to the party at their ease in the coach.

"There'll be a reckoning one day," he muttered to the horses when at last commanded to drive on. He only hoped it would come soon enough to keep Miss Maria—and himself—out of any further mischief Lady Greville planned.



The Challenge of High Expectations (Lady Susan)

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"Well, we'll soon find that out," thought the old queen. But she said nothing, went into the bed-room, took all the bedding off the bedstead, and laid a pea on the bottom.

Vernon Castle had endured weeks of its mistress sniping about the upstart de Coursey girl after the family fortune. It was never the family name, or even the young man himself who was deemed too valuable to lose; no, always it was the (dwindling) fortune that must be preserved. Any of the household who might have wondered at the hypocrisy of a climbing lady-by-marriage denouncing the machinations of a well-bred gentlewoman from a family of means had long since been dismissed from service; only the survivors were left to hear no evil, nor see it.

Performing it in service to Lady Susan, however, was only to be expected by these hardened souls.

"You think this'll scare the girl off?" one maid asked another as they fitted a guest room with the worst bedding to be found.

"I hope not all at once," her companion replied breezily. "I've five pennies bet she'll last till next Tuesday."



Duty as Its Own Reward (Sanditon)

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In the morning the princess was asked how she had slept. "Oh, very badly!" said she. "I have scarcely closed my eyes all night."

"And please, sir, if we might trouble you for a bit of assistance," Sam asked the hotel master respectfully as they concluded their business. "One of the ladies took ill the last leg of the journey."

Mr. Woodcock did not bother asking Sam why neither he nor Mister Arthur were capable of getting a frail lady out of a carriage, for which the servant was grateful. Instead, the man offered a sympathetic smile and fond shake of the head before following Sam back into the yard.

"Ah, Miss Diana, a pleasure to once again see you in these parts," Mr. Woodcock greeted his new guests genially as he helped them out. "And Miss Parker, how do you do? No, no trouble, I understand how travel may tear a lady's health to pieces. I reckon you must all be ready for a good long nap."

But the ladies, after having their ill health acknowledged, leapt to the business at hand without a sign of distress. "No, no, I have not slept at all, will not, how can anyone with so much to do?" Miss Parker exclaimed over directing the servants, caring for her brother, and nearly unloading the baggage herself. As usual, the holistic influence of their arrival had worked another miraculous recovery.



Applying a Sensitive Touch (Frederic & Elfrida)

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Now they knew that she was a real princess because she had felt the pea right through the twenty mattresses and the twenty eider-down beds. Nobody but a real princess could be as sensitive as that.

"I must see her!" Frederic Falknor announced with all the high spirits of a young man, despite outgrowing the description many years ago. He barely allowed the footman to lead him, but confidently marched through the familiar hall of his uncle's house to where his cousin lay.

The nursemaid, summoned back after decades spent waiting for a new generation of Falknors to receive her tender mercies, looked up in alarm from her stool outside the room. "I don't know that you should see her, sir, not in her current condition."

"Dear Mrs. Smith, I know you mean to shield my soft heart, but I will dare behold my sweet Elfrida, no matter how ill she be!"

Mrs. Smith made no further protest as he swept past, but remained at her post, listening. After his "sweet Elfrida" was so callously dismissed when she dared ask Frederic to honour their long-standing engagement, she had been dangerously low, but a good talking to with her old nurse (and careful discussion of the varying ways to secure a man) set her right. Now the aged woman was pleased to hear the shocked discovery of health, and expansive professions of love, that guaranteed a visit to the old rector might soon be in order.



Serving Faithfully Above All Else (Lesley Castle)

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So the prince took her for his wife, for now he knew that he had a real princess; and the pea was put in the museum, where it may still be seen, if no one has stolen it.

"And they lived happily ever after," Miss Lesley finished reading to her niece, kissed the half-dozing child, prayed softly over her bed, and only then joined Miss Poe in the small nursery's even smaller antechamber. "I trust she will sleep the night, and hope you will both rest well before your long journey tomorrow. Is there anything else you require?"

The recently hired governess and traveling companion only thanked Miss Lesley for her pains while politely ignoring how little the situation agreed with the affectionate aunt. It was not exactly a fairytale ending for the poor young Louisa: parents married to other people—foreigners at that—and then summoned clear across Europe like a forgotten relic to fit out their exotic new homes. "Try to get some rest yourself, ma'am," Miss Poe made bold to recommend as they parted. London did not appear to agree with Miss Lesley's health.

It was perhaps a half hour later Miss Poe went down to check on some last items of preparation. She was not surprised to hear Miss Lesley discuss her niece's itinerary with someone down the hall. Nor, indeed, could she claim shock when she recognized the voice of Mr. Fitzgerald answer. "Then it is all settled, I will see them to Dover at the least, it is no trouble." Something else passed between the two, and then, "Miss Lesley, will you not reconsider and come as well? I would be glad to accompany you there and back, even to Italy itself if that be your wish. I know how dear Louisa is to you."

If Miss Poe had Miss Lesley's measure, this plea would be refused, however tempting. Still, she reflected as she climbed the servants' stairs back to the snug little attic rooms, the much mourned separation might result in a new beginning for them all.
SubjectAuthorPosted

Miss Austen's Guide to Mincing Pease and Dues

MichelleRWApril 25, 2021 03:10AM

Re: Miss Austen's Guide to Mincing Pease and Dues

Lucy J.April 29, 2021 04:22AM

Re: Miss Austen's Guide to Mincing Pease and Dues

MichelleRWMay 01, 2021 01:49AM

Re: Miss Austen's Guide to Mincing Pease and Dues

Shannon KApril 25, 2021 07:52AM

Re: Miss Austen's Guide to Mincing Pease and Dues

MichelleRWMay 01, 2021 01:51AM



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