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Jane's Little but Fierce Ladies

May 08, 2021 02:00PM
An abridged Thumbelina with expanded roles for the minor Austen women: secondary, tertiary, and barely mentioned alike. Dedicated to mothers near and far, on page and in our hearts.



Mother (Sense and Sensibility)

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"What a pretty little wife this would make for my son," said the toad, and she took up the walnut shell in which Thumbelina lay asleep, and placed it on a water-lily out in the stream.

It was a brief, inauspicious meeting: Miss Morton had never been much in society, and Mrs. Ferrars enjoyed it so often that she was ignorant of anyone feeling otherwise. The girl soon bowed out of the conversation during their morning call, only nodding now and again or offering a monosyllable answer when called upon. She had far more interest in the garden they passed to enter the house than the prospects of either Mister Ferrars being discussed.

Their hostess condescend to walk them to the door. "I compliment you, Lady Morton; anyone would be proud to claim her. Knowing the sire, it is a wonder you have raised up so poised and respectful a creature."

It was a further wonder, Miss Morton mused to herself on the way home, that Mrs. Ferrars could know anything of the matter, being so lacking in the very qualities she claimed to admire.



Sister (Lady Susan)

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How frightened Thumbelina felt when the beetle flew with her to the tree! But especially was she sorry when the others paid a visit, for they stared at her, and said how ugly she looked.

"Well, Maria, I hope you are grateful to your brother, for having so much company on your account," Mrs. Mainwaring said in some agitation after supper. Maria felt certain she knew which guest had caused this display of temper; it was likely the same one making her miserable as well.

"I am certain he does not do it for my sake alone," she replied, just as the handsome widow approached with her usual admirers.

"Why, Miss Mainwaring, one would supposed you a very plain sort of creature, to be stuck in a corner by the old married ladies. I wonder you can support it! But perhaps it is a place you are delighted with from familiarity."

Sir James Martin laughed. Her brother actually smiled. His wife seethed. Maria could only grieve in silence, fearful of further exposure, and wish for attention that had nothing to do with Lady Susan Vernon.



Niece (Sanditon)

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During the whole summer Thumbelina lived quite alone in the forest. Then came the long, cold winter. "You poor creature," said the field mouse. "You are quite welcome to stay with me."

The passing of the youngest Brereton scion and his wife was a sore trial for their daughter, since it meant Clara must leave their rented rooms nearly at the same time as her parents. The abrupt, solitary trip to her uncle's house was made bearable by warm weather and good roads.

The conclusion of this odyssey was as much an exchange of feelings as location. The family's initial solicitude eventually gave way to other distractions as the seasons passed, and without being unkind, they were all given to think more of their own concerns than consider her's.

Lady Denham's arrival gave Clara some much needed employment. It was no difficult thing for her to sit quietly with this rich aunt or listen to her concerns, and though done without a thought of putting herself forward, resulted in a favourable outcome all the same.

"Whatever can you be thinking by such a notion?" Lady Denham exclaimed on hearing Mr. Brereton observe that Clara might obtain a respectable position some day. "I have already decided to take her to live with me."



Matron (Emma)

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The mole was rich and learned, but always spoke slightingly of the sun and the pretty flowers, because he had never seen them. He fell in love with her because she had so sweet a voice.

"You are comfortable?" Mr. Woodhouse asked his guest from the cocoon of his coat and chair.

"Yes sir," Mrs. Bates answered, wrapped in her shawl and seated by the fire. "Thank you."

At length the gentleman remarked: "It is amazing how daring the young people are. I warned Emma to be mindful of any drafts. Candidly, I believe we are the better situated of the parties gathered tonight."

Mrs. Bates, from long experience, did not quibble about the supposed dangers a May ball might pose to either his or her children. She was more agreeably occupied by recalling entertainments when she was courted by Highbury's scholarly vicar, and the future mistress of Hartfield was admired by its heir. "What tune was it, that Mrs. Woodhouse always used to sing so prettily?"

The recollections of their past lives, and those they had loved so well, were as welcome to these souls as the finest music any assembly might enjoy.



Maid (Northanger Abbey)

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When the others turned their backs upon the bird, she stooped down and stroked the soft feathers: he was alive but very weak. All winter Thumbelina nursed him with care and love.

Mr. Thorpe and Dr. Andrews had known each other but sparingly before the death of one, and the long illness of the other's wife, separated their families. A chance encounter at the start of the year allowed their daughters to mend this breach, which the physician encouraged. "You have been hidden away too long, my dear. Go and enjoy yourself."

At first it was exciting to leave off the sickroom for society, tutored by an expert on the subject. There was even the flattery of a young man asking for a dance immediately after being introduced. But this event proved what Miss Andrews already suspected: Miss Thorpe was not delighted for her protégé to outshine her. And when they went down the set, it was quite obvious he was more enamoured by the maiden who both coyly rebuffed and yet continually sought his attention.

As the season progressed Miss Andrews could only pity the callow Mr. Morland, more pursued than pursuer. With no regrets of her own she listened to his compliments for her fair friend, and offered what support she could for his sinking rationality.

"I hope they may be happy," she said of an evening by her mother's bedside, no longer as welcome in Thorpe circle as before Mr. Morland had entered it. For her own part, she was glad enough to return to the simpler but no less welcome attractions of home.



Daughter (Pride and Prejudice)

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"You are going to be married," said the field mouse. "What good fortune for a poor child like you! Nothing must be wanting when you are the wife of the mole."

For nearly the first time in a decade, Charlotte Lucas had welcome news to relate to her parents. "Mother, I have accepted an offer of marriage. Mr. Collins came on his way from leaving Longbourn; he is speaking to Papa now."

"Is he really?" Lady Lucas at first dared not believe her good fortune, but soon made up for her doubts with quiet effusions of joy. "A home, a living, and one day, a very good inheritance!"

Charlotte suffered more regrets than a good Lucas child should at this eventual triumph over their neighbours. She was fond of the Bennets, and did not like to think of gaining by their loss.

But a Mrs. Collins must eventually benefit from Mr. Bennet's death, no matter who she might be. Charlotte did not scruple to think herself as deserving as any other potential candidate, and was united with her mother in thinking the next mistress of Longbourn would be more fitted for the role than the current one.



Damsel (Mansfield Park)

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She told the swallow how unwilling she was to live always beneath the earth, nevermore to see the bright sun. Said he, "I am going to fly away to warmer countries. Will you go with me?"

Her cousins' house was become as much a prison for Julia Bertram as that from which she had fled. At least they only hinted their displeasure at her sister's scandal. At Mansfield Park there would be no such delicacy, and all pleasures would be gone.

"And I do not mean playing at acting," she expressed to the one sympathetic ear in reach, "I mean even the ordinary comforts, everything will be curtailed. We will have no company at all. And if Tom is to die, oh!" Her better feelings provoked her and she broke off, shamed by her tears.

Only after she had sufficiently mastered herself did Mr. Yates speak. "I should have been with him. As a friend, as a companion; I might have been useful." Then with an air of former gaiety, "My dear Julia, we may neither of us deserve happiness at this hour, but I can not stand by and do nothing. Let us leave this mournful country and fly to greener pastures. My horses can be ready within the hour." He looked foolish, nervous as a sparrow, attempting greatness and unsure how to wear it properly.

Even in her present distress, she saw his frailties and understood her own. It was a desperate move. But Julia determined not to scorn this opportunity to escape. At least she had the consolation that his offer must be disinterested: it was novel to be courted merely for her own pitiful sake.



Wife (Persuasion)

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The little prince was at first quite frightened at the bird; but when he saw Thumbelina he was delighted. This was a very different sort of husband from the son of the toad, or the mole with his black velvet and fur, so she said Yes to the handsome prince.

They were at cards when Mrs. Hayter exclaimed, "Why I have quite forgot I meant to go over the accounts! But do not fret Henrietta, dear Charles will keep you company." She winked as she passed her eldest son, whose cheeks turned the same shade as the hearts in his hand.

It had been difficult playing with only three, as Mr. Hayter was in the fields and the other children out walking; the cousins left off the pretence of a game consisting only of themselves. Their conversation soon turned to their united joy at Louisa's recovery. "But," the lady said, "it has been pleasant to be near home again, even if my parents continue with her."

"It has been more than a pleasure. It has been true happiness." His flush deepened but his speech did not waver. "I confess my relief at her fate is partially selfish. I was afraid of speaking before, but I think my words can not offend now."

"Oh no, not at all!" Henrietta answered before he had quite formed the question. Though once captivated by a sailor, she had grown inured to that species. They were good and noble creatures, to be sure, but no captain's bluff manners could compare with the consideration Charles showed her; no prize money was equal to the treasure of his regard.
SubjectAuthorPosted

Jane's Little but Fierce Ladies

MichelleRWMay 08, 2021 02:00PM

Re: Jane's Little but Fierce Ladies

Lucy J.May 15, 2021 06:18PM

Re: Jane's Little but Fierce Ladies

MichelleRWMay 17, 2021 03:10AM

Re: Jane's Little but Fierce Ladies

Shannon KMay 12, 2021 03:51AM

Re: Jane's Little but Fierce Ladies

MichelleRWMay 15, 2021 01:03AM



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