Austen meets Byron

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This original tale of ‘A Changed Heart’ puts Jane Austen and Lord Byron in Bath, England during a period that both were known by facts of history to have visited.  Jane visits for her health, and Byron for his renewal. In 1812 Bath was the place to be, and in this year Jane was 36 years old ~ and recently diagnosed with Addison’s disease. With her opaque, failing health Jane Austen returns to Bath. These words were carefully etched to add  details of truth beyond the mere facts of Jane’s quiet existence.  This 5,000 word short story includes historical places that remain in existence today.  Byron austen hat A CHANGED HEART ~ The retired Rector of Stevenson went home to glory in 1805. His surviving family of wife and both spinster daughters moved into son Edward’s country estate near Canterbury. It was the twenty second day of 1812 when Jane and Cassandra were set upon celebrating a fresh year of promise. Together these exuberant siblings enjoyed a carriage ride through the woods from Chawton House, across the bridge at Avon gorge. As the mighty steeds thundered across the stone arch, Jane smiled amazed at how these horses defied all mathematical principals as they valiantly stampeded over the water. In a great measure all merriment was increased by a grand expectancy to reunite with sister Lydia. The sun piercing the crisp cold of January added to the delight of Jane’s long awaited return to Bath. With deliberate pursuit of what news, good or bad they would gather, the horses clopped down Lilliput Alley to arrive at their chosen destination. mainediBoth sisters were absolutely ravenous for any sort of interesting conversation. It had been ten elongated years since Jane refused to accept the unbearable affections of her rejected neighbor Harris Bigg-Wither. Sense and Sensibility was recently published and with that an extra portion of income. Gossip was blooming regarding her unknown pen. Jane’s chosen secrecy produced a scandal among growing fans which brought a bit of notoriety to the Austen manor. It was a welcomed lift to the entire families spirit.  Jane’s all consuming passion of the written word had indeed turned into sweet fruitfulness for all. However reclusive and miserable Jane had become, she rebounded this day from being vertically flattened by her comfortable, yet stifling country existence. She was abnormally happy to greet this day with hope for the years spawning ahead. Today was not going to be another dim witted party with a limit of six people. “No indeed” Jane declared “we shall not need to utter a single word of nonsense, and for this I am motivated beyond the acute disorder of boredom.” The famous Spring Gardens drew a fashionable throng across the river. The Bath Chronicle had advertised hot buttered buns and public readings at Sally Lunn’s House, the very place of great attraction to which they had reserved to be. With explicit purpose these Austen sisters had planned and twittered about what to wear ever since Christmas Eve. They arrived just before noon and were quickly engulfed in Lydia’s embrace! The reception of the three sisters by the proprietor was exuberant. True to herself, Jane dreaded any recognition that may result from his great felicity. They were seated among the visiting aristocrats at a requested back table. The atmosphere chosen for this reunion was done without a thought for economy.  Jane delighted in the opportunity of being generous towards her sisters. In December Jane had written a note asking the proprietor to pay particular attention to the elegance of the table in which she and her sisters would sit. This would provoke an apt expression of exceeding joy, especially for sweet Lydia! Even in her maturity, Lydia was yet unabashedly Lydia! She was prone to notice any and all accouterments’s added in honor of her presence. camellias-57d70ec13df78c5833728c2fA moistened cluster of Pansies and Camellias tied together with purple ribbon was the centerpiece atop a white embroidered table cloth. The decor accentuated the rare joy of Lydia’s unique way of abounding in vigor. For this particular New Year reunion, the rich use of color combined with the aroma of bread baking elevated the mood of  each heart in attendance.  Jane was recently released from her doctors restrictions and ever so delighted to be out. Jane proudly wore Cassandra’s Christmas gift. A hand stitched white lace scarf that brightened the grey long sleeved satin dress that fitted her thin shoulders. Lydia had received a letter from Cass that gave voice to her dire concern for Jane’s frail health. Such news gave priority to her certain attendance. The provocation that led to this celebratory moment was unbeknownst to Jane. With extreme happiness over this New Year reunion, Cass was pleased that Jane’s countenance had notably improved. From the hand painted menu, Jane ordered a selection of sweets for the reunion. Tea, three hot buns, lemon curd, Devon-shire cream and strawberries. After the customary etiquette of time, the tea was poured by attending staff into delicate cups. With spoons quietly swirling, Jane’s eyes widened with a shock. Her confounded expression led Lydia and Cassandra to join in Jane’s directed gaze. A pin drop would have sliced the silence Byron portraitthat enraptured all three sisters. Suddenly the group focus was on whose voice they were hearing. Could they trust their ears? What was being publicly read was from Sense and Sensibility. A portion of Jane’s pen had recently circulated in the Bath Chronicle. Their astonishment was not simply that Jane was the author,  but rather who was reading it! To Jane it was a disturbing misfortune that such an  undesirable reader was giving voice to her words. Simultaneously the Austen sisters recognized the one reading as England’s very own Lord Byron! Jane would have hoped to find a noted scholar reading her captivating words,  but as it was, she was completely vexed!  Lord Byron brandished his arms and chuckled lowly as he read what Edward Ferrars spoke to the impressionable young Marianne. Jane was instantly filled with illegitimate thoughts as ‘her words’ slithered through the lips of this most offensive person. Her eyes froze upon Byron’s smiling mouth as he read. With growing consternation she thought “Fate has been unkind that this man, of all men should read my heartfelt works with such a grinning smirk!” Seated directly across from Jane, Lydia was lit up with great pride! She was bursting to applaud, but Jane constrained her. Byron’s eyes glanced over at their table. Jane shifted in her chair and lowered her eyes to dissuade any polite conversation. Byron ended his animated reading and sat down with a crowded table of mostly female admirers. Cassandra and Lydia both acknowledged verbally how lovely of Lord Byron to read words from Sense and Sensibility, and none of his own. With hilarity in their volume, the two chortled on.  Jane bowed out of their silly theories of why Lord Byron had chosen her words to read.  Jane was understood by family to resist any extroverted public nonsense.  Jane chose to sit silently musing about the history of Bath. The name came about from the legend of Prince Bladud. The Prince had leprosy and was banned from the court. He then was issued the dirty task of looking after the realm of pigs. He was further instructed to wallow in hot mud which actually cured his decaying skin. After being crowned King, he founded the city and named it Bath. Byron Corsham CourtJane blinked her smiling eyes and returned to the mutterings of her sisters.  Based on town gossip, she continued to hold harsh judgements of  Lord Byron. Cassandra was loyally attentive to Jane and ever aware of her sister’s discomfort.  With resignation and a lowered tone, Jane turned and bitterly complained in a whisper “He may pen verses that cause women to faint at his feet, but his good looks cannot recover his unrepentant reputation. It grieves me to think of his eternal destiny because of his chosen morality!” Cassandra quietly pleaded “Oh Jane, I agree that he is not a hero, however, I perceive him to be a melancholy man. Perhaps one who broods about some unforgivable event in his past. His heart pours pure in his poetry, and in his music. Dear sister Jane, Byron’s delight in your wit brings him a measure of joy, and for this we must see that your pen has fulfilled its purpose.”VSoEjY As Jane grew conflicted by her sister’s supposition,  Lord Byron approached their table. It was Jane’s forthright intention to remain unapproachable. She began to fidget and whispered to Lydia, “Oh what shall I do, I simply cannot speak to this man. His reputation is ruined by a confirmed promiscuity!” Byron was greatly admired by many but not Jane! His romantic poetry was in a style that she could not fully comprehend.  The fame of his scandalous private life was described by one contemporary as “mad, bad and dangerous to know”. Lydia retorted “Oh Jane, calm yourself and take pleasure in the moment.” Byron had recently published the first two cantos of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage and Jane was not one of his adoring socialites! She gave him due credit for speaking effectively in the House of Lords on important liberal themes, however, his hectic love-affair with his half sister Augusta was disgusting! Brother Henry wisely chose to simply empower Jane with noteworthy facts about Lord Byron.  Unlike Byron, Jane refused to write to please the latest fashionable obsession to read paragraphs filled with adverbs.  The fascination in England over Byron’s life and style of pen was indeed not shared by Jane. She felt as though Byron had  tarnished the elegance of her words with his tongue! Miss Austen had most recently procured a quiver of dark facts about Byron from Lady Beckham, wife of the local magistrate. No mercy was worthy as seen through the eyes of this law abiding citizen. A sudden prick of heart reminded Jane, that our Creator looks upon us all Byron Peto Gardenthrough the eyes of grace.  Lady Beckham felt obliged to share her perception of Byron the brute.  Having ascertained steadfast knowledge of his affairs, Jane was absolutely incensed that this tragedy should land on her happiest day! Lord Byron unaware of Jane’s personal rebellion against him, stood at their table. He humbly bowed, clicked his heels and with a wave of a gentleman’s arm said “Miss Austen, your appearance is far lovelier than a flower in bloom. It is indeed my genuine honor to meet the woman that shall most certainly cause any man of intelligence to open the contents of his heart.” Altogether astonished at his grace and manner, Jane felt a flush of conviction spreading to her cheeks. The spirit of repulsion had been suddenly banished. Confounded by his sincerity, she questioned “What brings one as notable as you to Bath when London brims with praise for your work?” Byron then spoke “It would have been bold of me to suppose that on my birthday I should be gifted with the presence of such an accomplished woman. Forgive my lack of social reserve in my cavalier approach, however, I am compelled to confess that it has been my hope to meet the mysterious author of such brilliance. Fortune happens to surprise each of us with occasional sweetness. buckled-book-2180047_640Having just refreshed my spirit with the insights of wisdom, I am obliged to inquire are you the originator of Sense and Sensibility?” With lowered eyes Jane remained stunned by his directness.  Byron continued “I am coerced to agree with the whispers in England that a woman, indeed a brilliant poetess penned Sensibly the Sense found in the verses I just read. If you are indeed the author, your secret is safe with me.” Jane and her company sat like stone sculptures. “I am further bold to ask that if we are contemporaries, might we enjoy a literary conversation over tea whilst I am in town?” Jane hesitated while Lydia quickly gushed “Yes, yes Jane wrote what you have read and she has been writing many wondrous works since before she attended the Abbey School in reading.” With that horrifying thrust of truth, Jane could not offer any ignorance to who wrote what Byron just read. Jane’s eyes blazed across the table at Lydia!  Silence hovered like a thick blanket of fog and Lord Byron was correct in his perception that Lydia’s innocent enthusiasm had caused Jane to fluster. The kismet of their meeting had quickly dissolved and with the fastidious aplomb of a gentleman, Byron said “I stutter in the presence of such humility for it is a lesson that I am hard learning. Might you be assured that your anonymity shall be reverently respected Miss Austen. My time in Bath will be short as I have been invited to Lake Geneva with Percy Shelley. So if I should be so fortunate to cross your path again, maxresdefaultit would be my fullest delight to speak more completely of your inspirations. Thank you for giving me the gift of your time on my birthday. Miss Austen and ladies I bid you good day.” Byron left their table. His stunning words hung in mid air as each lady considered what just occurred.  Lydia burst into tears at the thought of having vexed Jane when the afternoon had been so full of promise. “Dearest Jane, I am miserably sorry for having ruined our day.   I disrespected your desire to remain anonymous, and I admit that my pride for your accomplishment simply erased any ability to control my tongue. I beg for your pardon my sweet Jane.” Jane remained quiet in a state of violent shock by the afternoons dialogue. She usually was quick to recover with a bit of wicked wit, but somehow she sat unready to speak a word. Lydia became excessively more distraught in Jane’s hushed state. Compassionately Cassandra quietly offered Lydia a look of encouragement. It was a nod of approval for her surprising maturity in the admission of her uncontrolled tottering. Jane seemed to suddenly come back to a dimension of consciousness.  With a warmth in her tone, Jane looked at Lydia and proclaimed “The afternoon is yet young and it need not be cut short on a sour note. I shall seek no excuse for your bold assertion of truth. It is I that must seek your merciful forgiveness. Let us return to joy and dismiss any further conjectures regarding Lord Byron.  Jane possessed a winsome nature which allowed her to devote her observations and responses to any witnessed social guffaws.  All content of the afternoon would serve her as a source of inspiration for a book yet to be penned. With a renewed heart, Jane continued “Let us delight in the fact that we have met Lord Byron. Rest assured my effervescent Lydia! Your exuberant personality is something that I will continue to cherish. We shall all gain valuable 1-pergolainsights from what has transpired this day. My spirit was forthrightly admonished most accurately for the rage I held towards Lord Byron.  My heart heaves to think of how my behavior must have grieved God, for He is our soul’s witness and the Provider of all our saint-in- training experiences!  Are we not all called to forgive as we have been forgiven?  I needed His stab of conviction!  How dare I have ever considered myself in any way superior to Lord Byron. Sin is sin, and my pride has been rightly punctured this day.  I shall strive to offer more grace instead of disdain for those who have not been as fortunate as myself. Oh my dearest Lydia, may the innocence of your joy ~ be contagious unto me. Come then let us amuse ourselves with what else is worthy of our attention. We came together to spoil ourselves with the fruits of our lessons of life’s labor. I am the proud sister of two amazing women. My capacity to grasp the love and mercy that God has lavished upon me was widely stretched today! ” A more noble self reproof could not have been better stated. Cass gushed with glee for the end of the tension at the table. Each face brightened as they all served themselves a heaping spoon of berries and cream. An unequaled magnitude of happiness was the joint lullaby that rocked all to sleep that night. As they did when they were young, all three slept together tucked between luxurious silk sheets in their shared garden suite at the Apsley House Hotel. Lydia’s giggling awakened all very early.  They shared such bliss in exploring  Bath’s exquisite gardens. Just as they once did as little girls, Cass, Lydia and Jane engaged in a joyful frolic of ring around the Posey. Jane began to sing as she brushed her hair and Cass played the piano while the fire crackled. Before getting dressed and assuming proper composure for breakfast, the three spent time delighting in the coincidence of Lord Byron’s meeting and reading.  Such providence was a sure sign that 1812 would continue to be a year of tremendous surprise. Raised in the country the ladies insisted on a brisk morning walk before tea. Bundled up in jackets and bonnets they took a jaunt across the 112green to the camellia garden. Jane let loose with a fanciful bird call and indulged her imagination.  The ever demure Cass also afforded herself a skip in her walk and a tune in her hum.  Lydia shrieked over the finery of each new blossom that seized her gaze. As Jane turned the corner around a carved hedge she came face to face with none other than Lord Byron. Her red face was bitterly cold as she quickly wiped her dripping nose with an embroidered hanky tucked in her sleeve. “Good morning Miss Austen” His greeting was chipper and again she felt that her tongue had been swallowed. Jane was absolutely exasperated by her inability to hide her annoyance of being rendered utterly speechless in this man’s presence. As if she were a school girl, her eyes darted away from his . They both sought to redirect their focus.  Time seemed to have been suspended as her troubled mind tumbled over what words would become sensible in response to his obvious delight in having encountered her again. Peering round the hedge to see if her sisters were coming, her gaze then settled on his face. “Good morning Lord Byron, and what a surprise to happen upon you so early in the morning. My sisters and I found our chambers at Apsley House most agreeable. We so hope that your stay has been equally congenial.” Just then Cassandra and Lydia approached from behind the immense hedge.  5335371aadaa6afcb1bd3cca061f790dStartled, their eyes opened wide in astonishment as they stared at Lord Byron. Lydia never pinched for clever words squealed “My Lord what a lovely jolt of good fortune to chance upon seeing you twice within so short of hours. Is not this morning a bounty of benefit! Once again we find the favor of your presence! Come Cassandra, since we have all been formally introduced, it is certainly socially acceptable to allow these contemporaries to engage in a conversation.  Jane we will not be far ahead, and do not worry Lord Byron, we shall also keep this accidental meeting treasured as a family secret.” Jane stood confounded by her sisters offering that she would be available for such a extemporaneous meeting. Lord Byron noted Jane’s surprise and accepted the option with grace .  “Jane if you find it within your schedule, and if it is not too objectionable, might we sit briefly and enjoy a fortuitous exchange?” With consideration for her recent lesson on grace, with the utmost elegance she extended her gloved hand to accept the arm he most handsomely extended. They walked together in silence at a dignified pace towards the garden bench. Feeling ever so slightly pained by the obligation thrust upon her repentant heart, she was hesitant to admit that Byron’s charm was having its impact and she simply chose to acquiesce. Byron placed his woolen scarf to soak the dew from the bench. He then assisted Jane as she descended to sit. Sitting aside her he gave careful respect for a ladies requirement for a decent distance. After a lush moment of silence they both began to speak at the same time. Giggling softly Jane composed “You have delivered me unsolicited appreciation for what has been anonymously published of my writing. Coming from a man of such magnified influence on society, it took me a bit of time to receive the full measure of your most genuine manner. I therefore must acknowledge your professional garden-five-senses-yvoire-cloisterrecognition with a rather delayed and reflected honor. Your evaluation was extremely favorable and with that said — I must confess that though your style differs, in your poetic verses, I am fairly charged to accept perceptions that would not be mine.” Byron’s gaze remained fixed upon her particularly honest and refreshing candor. In his fame he has known many a person who would struggle to flank him with praise for works that he himself believed to be unworthy. His earnest fascination for her plain speaking encouraged him to be likewise. “May I consider you a friend Miss Jane?” She looked at him quizzically “I would be honored to name you among my small orchestra of friends. I shall consider you the sweet violin that accompanies the delicate keys of my sister’s piano” Byron was smiling wide when he professed ” Then Jane, it is with unsurpassed respect that I feel compelled to now speak apt words of encouragement. You must continue to write as a clear mirror of great value for the generations to come. My poetry is to be figured out, to be interpreted by some as folly, and others as romance, but your insights within relationships has been a grand lesson for me. Your brightness and humor holds in it great promise as a writer of important substance.” Jane sat blushing as she had not been so encouraged by anyone quite so eloquently. She was accustomed to her beloved Cassandra’s partial praise, but this was from a person who had no association or occasion to gain. Lord Byron halted his desire to further persuade Jane of the tremendous clout with which her words had impaled upon him. He leveraged the moment by adding “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now seem to bear.” It was wise to hold his words to a few . Byron was certain that Jane grappled with the minimum of what he so ardently desired to confess. “Until the spirit of revelation is fully surrendered to, none of us can comprehend how deeply the263655_51105e9411d6d1ab982d9eb86e2fcced_largewritten word can minister to the hidden brokenness of a human heart.” Jane was struck with the duplicity of his public persona and the words he was now speaking to her. It was as if God Himself had introduced him to her for such a time as this. In her fragile state of health, the family excursions to the seaside of Sidmouth, Dawlish and Lyme Regis were intentional to refresh Jane’s weakened condition. She concluded that God had a ripping sense of humor that He would use Lord Byron to teach and uplift her to a height that was precisely heavenly. His gallantry with her erased all previous inclinations regarding his character. She was reminded in their silent walk of a conversation she had enjoyed with her father. As a daughter of a member of clergy, Jane was charged to pray for all people, the saved and especially the lost. Her sister Cassandra had readily perceived that Lord Byron’s lack of parenting and disconnect from the Way had caused him to write from his personal darkness. It was curious to Jane that the wit of her pen had been so meaningful. She had not written with the intention of converting a soul. Feeling a freedom to speak honestly Jane confessed “Among my few friends and shrinking family it would be considered an indecent crush if it were known that we are sitting alone sharing such transparent words. Ashamed as I should be,  my first impression of you was rather severe and unjust. I now perceive you with extraordinary esteem. Not entirely 102663960_wbased on your kindness towards me, but having more to do with my own conviction for having judged you at all”.  Byron was then tested to recite his compulsory penchant to discover who wrote the stirring words encased in Sense and Sensibility.  “Miss Austen, prior to our meeting I must divulge that I unmercifully badgered my publisher to uncover and report just who was the lady genius who penned the volume that so stirred my heart. Your bound words are a legacy, a gift to all who at some point find themselves questioning the meaning of life. The content of Sense and Sensibility is profound as it does not ridicule, but it penetrates to deeply enlighten. My initial shock was to learn that it was written by a woman.  Another most astonishing revelation was that the Authoress is a daughter of a clergyman. In my life I have read about love and the emptiness of existence without it.  My depraved self-indulgence has never been delayed or as controlled as your words. My attempts to fill the emptiness of my souls cry for love with fame or money — has never satisfied my ache with contentment or peace.  The question of why was I born, or why I was chosen to live out the title as Lord Byron have yet to be answered. Having met many a statesmen, and after many debates with esteemed writers, I was moved to take steps to meet and speak to creator of this impactful publication.  Escaping my past is impossible; however, I do have hope in a future that includes people of your wisdom and character. My confession Miss Austen is that I came to Bath in hopes that I would have the chance to personally tell the wordsmith how her pen had filled my soul with hope.” Jane was surprised by the clarity he gained from something she wrote to simply entertain.  The Way of God is profound as He uses the an innocent word to draw the lost back to Himself. After soothing Byron with a look of sincere compassion Jane shared “My dear brother Byron, it has been miraculous to acknowledge my own transformation during our brief yet divine interface. My lessons were great last night and they continue again today. What I am not — is a saint. 6f368d267750ede967d597176c572ec3I therefore must encourage you to trust that God has a plan for you just as He planned that you would read something He intended in my work. Indeed our lifestyles may differ, however, with lifelong coaching from within, I am challenged to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.  Without my father talking to me about God, left to myself, my life would be full of what the world would perceive as unforgivable. When I heard you reading my words last evening I was filled with pride and prejudice. People all seek to know that our work, our life, our being has in some measure benefited someone, somewhere in some small way. Sitting here now with the man known to the world as the bad, mad and dangerous boy ~ by His immense grace, mine eyes see you in the light of His truth. I was blinded and deceived, but now I perceive thee correctly. I shall treasure our friendship forever, and NOT because you protest that my words have inspired you, but because you Lord Byron have inspired me to write more truly about the deceptiveness within the human heart.  My desire is to  write as transparently as you have spoken.  My pride had a desperate need to be broken so I thank God for our chance encounter. For all the friends that I have had while alive, for all the silly parties that I have attended, this conversation we now share has been the most fulfilling of my lifetime. Might I call you simply brother Byron?” His response was immediate “Yes, sister Jane, I would like that very much.” Lydia came into view and waved them towards the lake where Cassandra was engaged in teasing the geese. Jane was promptedmaxresdefaultto ask  “Brother Byron, please accept my earnest invitation to join the Austen sisters for some frivolity this afternoon! It would be so kind of you to grace us with your fame for a surprise birthday lunch?”  Byron smiled a quick reply.  “I accept on the condition that you would read to your adoring family some of your favorite pen!” They both laughed and soon all the members of the family stood beside the lake skipping rocks. Lydia’s childlike laughter and Cassandra’s sweet humming added the distinct sense that 1812 was bound to be a great year filled with a joy. The Austen family had acquired a rather dashing new brother in Lord Byron! (END OF STORY) History accounts Jane’s demise at the age of 41, but not without this fictional chance encounter with Lord Byron the rebel! This story was submitted to the Austen Fan 2011 Contest hosted on the Republic of Pemberly website and published on Valentine’s Day 2011 by Barbara Alley Hoyle (BAH) Ears of the Heart

via Daily Prompt: Opaque

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