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Srebrna, Skald Arkadii (and thoughts on writing)

Archive for the ‘Oneshots’ Category


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“So this is the famous good breeding and proper manners that are so important in the Town?” she asked, both brows high on her forehead. “I’m so happy we don’t have these in the country. We wouldn’t know what to do with such a treasure.”

He stifled a giggle and made a choking sound.

“How terrible, Mr Darcy! You are already ill of it, I’m quite sure!”

“Thank you, Miss Elizabeth, but I’m quite well. However I’d like to see some members of the ton reacting to your statement. I’m almost certain the spectacle would be… interesting.”

“Oh, la, sir” she waved her imagined handkerchief and rolled her eyes heavenwards. “I’m perfectly aware of my status as a poor, unsophisticated small-town girl – practically a country savage! I’ve actually walked on an unpaved path at least once and most probably got sunburnt doing it! All town ladies would eat me for breakfast with their accomplishments, education and vast knowledge of topics most suitable for morning visit discussions.”

He executed a slight bow in her direction.

“I would however place my bet on you – if any bets were placed on ladies in situations such as these – to be able to survive any conversation on good walking shoes, ways to evade unruly horses and which trees are the best cover from rain.”

She blushed so hotly he could well nigh feel the wave of warmth coming from her.

“Please, Mr Darcy. These are hardly the topics for a proper morning visit in the Town. They aren’t even quite proper for a visit in the country, especially if one’s mother is sitting in on said visit and making various remarks about the fate that awaits the girls who climb trees.”

“So you also climbed trees, how interesting. Which kinds?”

“Mr Darcy! I’m not going to discuss the theory and practice of climbing trees in the middle of the park!”

“Would you rather discuss it in the middle of a drawing room?” he frowned in mock non-understanding. “I have not the pleasure of comprehending your unwillingness in this subject.”

She closed her eyes for a second, making the face of a person praying for patience.

“I’d rather not discuss my few painful and traumatic – at least to my mother – attempts at climbing trees with anyone and at any time or place. I’d rather not discuss the state of my dresses afterwards, either. Or the talking to I received from my father on each of these occasions. Or the one time that I managed to fell down a particularly tall chestnut tree and land on young Tom Lucas who was standing there and shouting encouragements all the time.”

“Ah” he inhaled slowly. “Did you break anything?”

“Yes. His left ankle.”

“Ah. Did it hurt?”

“From the way he screamed, a lot. He was, however, a rather plump boy, so my landing was soft.”

“May I inquire as to your age at that time?”

She stretched her gloved palms and counted silently.

“We must have both been about seven or so.”

“Did he keep accompanying you on other excursions?”

“I’m afraid sir William thought I was a bad example to his heir and he sent him away to school as soon as the ankle healed. That was the only way to make sure we won’t come into any contact before we’re both quite grown up.”

He smirked and looked down at the top of her bonnet.

“I’m finding such astonishing new things about you, I’m quite scared of the idea of introducing you to my sister. She’s but fifteen and could probably happily climb numerous trees in our gardens, had she ever had this kind of idea. I may want to keep the two of you separated so that she doesn’t get too… well. Just thinking about the cost of gowns she could shred to nothing if she took to climbing pines…” he shuddered theatrically.

She sighed.

“What can I do? You’re already committed to accompanying me to the dinner at your aunt’s tomorrow, and your sister will certainly be there. We will have to speak a little, and as we’ve already ascertained, I’m unable to keep to the correct topics. So I will either be absolutely dull and speak about weather in Hertfordshire as compared to the, most probably, superior weather in Derbyshire, or we’ll stray into the dangerous subjects of walking the stony paths and getting our dresses muddy.”

He smiled, unseen by her. Quite happily. She was holding his heart in her slender palm, not even knowing it. From the moment he almost run her over with his horse and she told him off so soundly he almost fell from his saddle, he admired her wit and vivacity and willingness to experience life in all its aspects. Their paths crossed again and again, as he met her ruining her parasol to fish someone’s purse from stinking river water and that someone turned out to be his own aunt Theresa, or when she snatched the last copy of a book he was looking for and paid for it before he managed to protest. He followed her, begging to let him buy the book off her, even for double or triple price, until she was joined by an older couple who looked at him with visible surprise – and a bit of apprehension, even though she was laughing all the time.

He felt like a fool. He was talked about in the Town and he hated the feeling, but he couldn’t help himself and keep away from her. Her relations in trade, her position in life, everything should have helped him to rein in the feeling of being pulled towards her, but every time he thought about them, they seemed somehow unimportant. His aunt was all for the match, as Elisabeth made her recall her own young years in her family’s estate. His uncle kept wisely silent on the topic, probably recalling the same. His cousins… He didn’t care what they thought. He thought she was perfect and this small walk in the park only made him even more sure, especially watching her trade barbs with some of the fashionable wannabe-Mrs-Darcys that accosted her just before he arrived.

“Mr Darcy?”

“Pardon?” he blinked and came out of his reverie. “I’m so sorry, I was just a bit lost in thought.”

“As long as we don’t get lost in the park, I’m quite happy” she smirked. “I was thinking about manners and wanted to consult with you, you having much more experience in the way the Town works in these matters.”

“Anything I can do to help. I’m yours to command.”

She tapped her lips with a finger.

“I was trying to work out the proper way for a lady to determine whether a gentleman’s intentions towards her are serious or not. Is there a savoir-faire solution for this kind of quandry?”

Written by Srebrna

2014/02/05 at 02:08

Story of Anne and George

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“Their wasn’t a love match, mind you” he added, standing aside and letting her view the painting at leisure.

“But… Mrs Reynolds said more than once that they loved each other dearly!” she protested, astonished.

“Oh, they did, for sure. But they didn’t marry for love. They were just good friends. Their families knew each other for quite a some time, they met at social events and gatherings at common acquaintances. They knew each other since they were ten, or something similar.”

“But… why then?”

“My Mother was set up.”

The snow behind the window sparkled in the candlelight.

“It is a rather unusual description of the situation, I should say. Usually it is a pair that is set up, isn’t it? As you say, not a love match, she was not set up by your Father…? It would mean they were both set up?”

“Yes, certainly, usually both sides are – if none of them is willing… But in this case, Maman was set up to be compromised by another man. Papa just happened to be in the vicinity… Have you seen his portrait, over there? Commissioned just before the whole affair.”

She took his hand as he led her down the row of the exhibits.

“Here. He was one-and-twenty, and loved betting. But his father – my grandfather – was absolutely against betting on horses, cock-fights or other sport like this. So my father and his friends invented a new, and completely socially acceptable venue – they started to bet on information. So one day they are in this great society event, some ball or other, in a great manor of some relatives, and they make a bet with his friends about, as far as I remember, the distance from Dublin to Gibraltar. One friend run hastily to find a seaman among the guests, as there were several soldiers and sea captains present, but my father dashed to the library. As soon as he made it, he locked the door – this is the important part – and run to find the atlas and some means of measure. He run across the huge room, absolutely ignoring the fact that there is a half-sleeping – and also half-undressed – lady on one of the settees.”

Her eyes were wide in the half-darkness of the Great Gallery, as he led her to the next portrait, that of a smiling, handsome young woman of about nineteen.

“Mother, commissioned before, but painted during the engagement time. Well, Mother was lying there, completely and absolutely without consciousness, as she has been set up, indeed. One of… One of her friends – so-called friends – was jealous of her. This was Mother’s first season and she was receiving quite a number of invitations and lots of attention. Male attention, of course. So this… This friend, let me keep her calling that, but remember – she didn’t wish my Mother well – this friend found a gentlemen – again, so-called gentlemen – eager to ‘compromise’ the young débutante and acquire her with her sizeable dowry.”

He sighed and held her hand tighter.

“This friend, as viscous as she was, wasn’t particularly bright. She got my Mother inebriated by the means of some doctored wine, placed her in the library, undressed her partly and left her there in search of the appointed man. Unfortunately for her, he managed to get just a little bit too much in his cups and instead of being cooperative, he became… teasing. So he didn’t want to listen to her and most certainly didn’t want to follow her to the library. Now was the moment when my Father made his run upstairs to the library and locked himself there with the poor, completely drunk Lady Anne Fitzwilliam. He run straight to the shelf where the needed books could be found, he pulled an atlas, with great vigour, you understand… and half a shelf of other, leather-and-wood bound books fell on him, mainly on his head, knocking him out.”

He waited for an appreciative sigh and exclamation, nodded and pointed at yet another painting.

“They both, together, before the wedding. At this time all wedding paintings simply had to contain at least one pigeon. Awful creatures, I say, but fashion must be followed. So, now we have a pretty situation – a drunk débutante, an unconscious young man – a bit dishevelled at it, as he had run through the whole house – and an elderly lecher pounding at the door and demanding to have them opened immediately, as he has an appointment inside – he finally understood what was wanted of him, you see. Nobody could find the main key – it was inside, used to lock the door – and nobody dared to use force, as the owner of the manor was also not to be found for quite some time.

“Finally they obtained the permission to use a crowbar and several footmen against the door and as soon as they used the whole set, the friend of my Mother’s came in, wailing about her losing her reputation and, oh, Lord Netrim, you simply must marryher. Lord Netrim was by far more wise than he was moral and he saw no gain for himself in the situation, so he promptly rejected the claim, stating that he stood at the door all the time, with four footmen, and he never saw the young Lady’s exposed flesh. So the friend looked frantically about the room – afraid that if someone asks too many questions, my Mother may remember who gave her the last glass of wine – and saw my father, trying to pick himself up after the onslaught of the geography books. He found himself dragged across the room and placed in front of an almost unconscious girl – daughter of his father’s friend – and her still partly-exposed… values…” he smirked with a bit of embarrassment. “and literally forced to propose. He did so and was soon brought in front of both sets of parents. They immediately understood that the youngsters didn’t see each other and most certainly weren’t meeting clandestinely, but the damage was done, several footmen, the old Lord and some other guests heard or saw the whole proceedings… and my Mother’s dress’ shoulder failed in the middle of the proposal and exposed everything there was to be exposed.”

She covered her lips with her palm to stifle an unladylike sound which threatened to escape.

“So they got married after a month of engagement, moved ‘into the country’ as soon as all the shopping and business was finished and stayed there for a year – they were back for the end of the next Season. All gossip died by then and as my mother was neither showing any signs of pregnancy – indeed, any effect of the scandalous night would have been four months old by that time, and no effect showed at all – nobody cared how the marriage came about and they were looked at as an example of happy matrimony.”

“And what about the ‘friend’?”

“She got her comeuppance – her family was disgusted with her behaviour and they promised they will marry her to the first suitor that comes asking. As she managed to scare away most of eligible young men in the vicinity, finally the only bachelor left was older than her by some fifteen years, usually a bit drunk and without much patience for whims of a young, independent lady. He largely limited her freedom, made her stay at his country house for most of the year… managed to produce a heir and died in the fifth year of the marriage, of apoplexy.”

They stood in silence for some time, until she felt the need to move and started slowly walking back.

“Who told you the whole story?”

“My father. It was just after one of my university friends has been maneuvred into a marriage of an ugly girl of low social standing by ‘compromising’ her in the hallway. He thought I should know that the lady is not always a willing participant and that I should never lock myself in a library without checking all the sofas. Especially… Well, it should be enough if I say that I simply knew Maman never wanted me to marry Anne.”

She clung to his side.

“Do you mean to say that the elderly aristocrat this wicked friend married was sir…”

“Exactly. Sir Lewis De Bourgh. And now, by dearest, we should be back in your room, soon. The midwife said ‘a walk’ and not ‘a sightseeing trip of the whole house’!”

“I hope you saved some embarrassing family secrets for the next occasion.”

“I’m somehow sure that if I didn’t, Mrs Reynolds would invent something!”

Written by Srebrna

2013/07/24 at 20:55


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A short story about Miss Elizabeth Bennet and what happened at a certain ball.

The sparks in her eyes, so seemingly impish and welcoming just a moment before were now the very flames of hell, as she removed her gloved hand from his grasp.

“You… you disgust me” she uttered, slowly. “How could you… How could you even think that I would accept you, how could you even dream of me, accepting such a… such an offer?”

Her voice trembled with carefully controlled rage as she smoothed her hair.

The ballroom around them halted, the musicians suddenly silent, only the waiter quietly put down a tray of glasses and the bell-like sound reverberated in the chamber.

“How could you expect… I don’t even believe you. I can’t believe my own ears, the very fact that you could have said these… these things! About my family, my father… and myself.”

She was breathing faster and faster, his eyes strayed from her face to her décolletage, which rose and fell dramatically.

“Maybe I missed something? Because somehow I do not remember being courted – well, maybe it is not correct to expect being courted in such a situation! But… I just can’t understand, how – in this situation, in our relative…”

She threw up her arms and he could only stop himself from salivating.

“But my situation in life… Your parents would agree!”

Her eyes narrowed and her hands landed firmly on her hips.

“My parents? Oh, I see. You have been talking to my mother! And what did you promise her? To support her properly after my father’s demise? To make sure she doesn’t have to change anything in her life? Or does she just want to ‘have a daughter safely settled?”

He swallowed. This was becoming a nightmare. He came here, with all the feeling of benevolence towards his distant relatives, to offer for this… this… And that was how she treated it? He couldn’t believe. She had to be playing at something. Probably read one romance too many and though that by refusing him…

“What… What were you exactly trying to gain by offering for me in this place?” she inhales and makes a general gesture around the room. “I know only one reason for making a respectable offer in such a situation – when a man is so in love and so certain of the woman that he knows she will not refuse him and that she will be honoured and moved by his actions.”

Well, she should have been honoured. Apparently the girl was too stupid to see that his superior connections and the benevolence…

“And I can imagine one situation when the intentions are not that honourable. When a man is trying to shame a lady into accepting him – he counts on her being unable to reject him, due to whatever reason – her parent’s pressure, the society judging her as a flirt or her being distracted enough by the setting to accept such an offer without thinking. Or he counts on her mercy and not wanting to make him look ridiculous in front of his peers.”

She took a step back.

“You, sir, however, took your chances with the wrong girl. I’m not merciful. I’m not frightened. My parents will not press me, as I suppose you didn’t consult your suit – if I can call it that – with my father. I have not been flirting with you and if anyone judges me so, I can easily give up their company until they regain their senses. And I’m not distracted enough to accept due to overindulging in wine. Unlike you, I drank only water.”

She shook her hands, as if trying to get rid of something dirty.

“You may think you’re respectable. You may think that with your connections, patrons and prospects you’re someone a young lady like me should accept. You’re wrong, sir.”

Elizabeth Bennet, seventeen, whirled around in her first grown-up gown and stalked away, leaving her coming-out ball, the Meryton assembly hall and a dumbfounded younger son of a baronet.

In her heart she swore to never, ever accept someone who doesn’t even let her know in advance that he thinks he is courting her.

It worked quite well for her in the coming years.

Written by Srebrna

2013/07/24 at 20:41