Good news, beloved readers! We’ve found something to ward off those post-Austen’s-birthday blues: the Jane Austen Made Me Do It Short Story Contest. Our lovely and talented fellow blogger (blogress?) Laurel Ann Nattress of Austenprose.com is editing a new anthology of fiction inspired by Jane, and she and The Republic of Pemberley want everyone to get in on the game. Enter your story in January or February, and then vote on your favorites. The Grand Prize winner gets included in the anthology! (And no, this doesn’t count as vanity publishing, as far as we can tell.) So . . . in that spirit I would like to offer a little holiday mash-up of my own.
The Nutcracker, by Jane Austen
Little Clara Elizabeth Bennet doesn’t expect too much from the Christmas assembly family party ball at Netherfield. A chance to be witty, some animated dolls, and a few partners in the Grand Dance, that’s it. However, her deus ex machina, Jane Drosselmeyer, has other plans: She gives Lizzie a Nutcracker, of all things. Despite its stiffness and unresponsiveness, Lizzie finds the Nutcracker mysteriously attractive, as does everyone else. (The Nutcracker must have at least ten thousand a year.) Everyone wants a piece of him, but nobody gets results until Lizzie’s bratty little brother(-in-law . . . to be), Fritz Wickham, grabs the Nutcracker and breaks him in two!—or his reputation at least.
Then, Lizzie has a dream in which she visits Charlotte Lucas and Mr. Collins, and Rosings Park. (You didn’t think she’d go see Mr. Collins while she was awake, did you?) Colonel Mouse King Fitzwilliam and his minions, the Mice of Doubt and Listening to Gossip, almost manage to kill the wounded Nutcracker entirely, and he himself takes a kamikaze marriage proposal run. BUT, just when you think the Nutcracker is down for the count, he writes a letter to Lizzie and gets her to read it/hit the Mouse King with a slipper/fire a cannon at him. And then the Nutcracker springs up, he slays the Mice of Doubt, he takes off his head, and ta-da! he turns into Colin Firth!
Now I know this is just sounding more and more improbable. But it is a dream after all. So bear with me.
After all these revelations, both Lizzie and Mr. Darcy spend the winter in thought. He’s relieved to finally be a human being, and to not have a papier mache head anymore, but . . . she doesn’t hate him anymore, but . . . In some thoughts they might dance together, in others there might just be snow. Thus, intermission.
Miss Drosselmeyer Austen, having given everyone time to go to the bathroom, decides to send Lizzie off to Pemberley, presided over by the Sugar Plum Fairy Housekeeper. Mr. Darcy appears, as does most of the cast of Act I in slightly different clothing. Pemberley provides lots of food for thought for Lizzie, all of it yummy: Spanish chocolate, Arabian coffee, Chinese tea, Russian candy canes, Danish marzipan shepherdesses. There’s also polichinelles that live under a drag queen’s skirt (Miss Bingley and her neverending drama), and flowers, tons and tons of flowers. The gardens of Pemberley are famous, are they not?
All this sweetness and light convinces Lizzie that Mr. Darcy is the man/prince/alien-with-two-heads for her. However, there’s a lot of serious dancing to get through yet—a sort of back and forth, moral agonizing about who’s done what, does s/he really love me, and all that. In the end, though, as we knew it would be, Lizzie runs to Mr. Darcy, he scoops her up and gets a mouthful of tutu (Mrs. Bennet), and they live happily ever after.
. . . Or do they? . . . Sometimes Lizzie wakes up from her dream, and realizes she’s back at home, with her Nutcracker toy and no prince at all. Sometimes she doesn’t . . . The top is still spinning. Will it stop? . . .