The Ladies Take Their Turn
In which the story ends, we hope satisfactorily.
“This meeting of the League will come to order,” cried Mr. Bingley, banging his gavel several times. The hubbub died down in the crowded Pemberley ballroom. Everyone had come: the gentlemen, the ladies, the blackguards, and even the minor comic characters.
“Miss Bates, I beg your pardon, madam,” said Mr. Bingley, “but I must ask you to desist as well.”
“Oh, Mr. Bingley, I beg your pardon,” said Miss Bates. “I was just telling dear Jane and my mother about the unfortunate result of the blackguards–”
Mrs. Churchill managed to quiet her aunt, and Mr. Bingley nodded to her gratefully.
“Mr. Darcy will speak to you all now about the next steps of the defense.”
Everyone applauded politely as Mr. Darcy took the podium.
“We undertook the defense of Miss Jane Austen’s work against the forces of popular culture, which sought to overtake us and bend us to its will,” said Mr. Darcy. “We have used the generous resources with which Miss Austen provided us, and have had success. The Royal Navy, the army, the gentlemen of the hunt, and the gentlemen of the cloth. Even those of us who have not behaved as they ought–” he glanced at the blackguards, who sat a little apart from everyone else, passing around a bottle between them; Mr. Crawford, wrapped in blankets, sipped shakily– “have had a part in the defense. I am proud of all that we have done, and I hope you all are proud as well.”
He stopped speaking to take a drink of water, and there was scattered applause. Mr. Darcy held up a hand.
“Thank you—but I am very sorry to report that we have not, at last, succeeded.”