A few days ago, I watched the new Cruella movie with my younger daughter and we both greatly enjoyed it as it is filled with beautiful costumes and scenes. But what I most enjoyed was how the story revolves around the character of Estella/Cruella and shows the events that made her the person she became.
I am so glad that Disney has been making movies about the villains, showing them as human beings. In the original versions of the Disney movies, characters are so black and white. They are either all good or all bad. In recent years, however, we are seeing the villains in a new light and I like that my daughter gets to watch these new movies and can juxtapose them against the originals.
In keeping with the same spirit of seeing “villains” as real humans who have good and bad traits, I have to admit that there are some characters in Jane Austen’s novels that I actually quite like. Prominent among these characters is Mr. William Elliot in Persuasion. He is heir presumptive of the baronetcy and the family seat, Kellynch Hall. He is well spoken and intelligent and a joy to read about. One of my favourite scenes from Persuasion is his conversation with Anne.
“My idea of good company, Mr Elliot, is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company.”
“You are mistaken,” said he gently, “that is not good company; that is the best. Good company requires only birth, education, and manners, and with regard to education is not very nice. Birth and good manners are essential; but a little learning is by no means a dangerous thing in good company; on the contrary, it will do very well. My cousin Anne shakes her head. She is not satisfied. She is fastidious. My dear cousin” (sitting down by her), “you have a better right to be fastidious than almost any other woman I know; but will it answer? Will it make you happy? Will it not be wiser to accept the society of those good ladies in Laura Place, and enjoy all the advantages of the connexion as far as possible? You may depend upon it, that they will move in the first set in Bath this winter, and as rank is rank, your being known to be related to them will have its use in fixing your family (our family let me say) in that degree of consideration which we must all wish for.”
“Yes,” sighed Anne, “we shall, indeed, be known to be related to them!” then recollecting herself, and not wishing to be answered, she added, “I certainly do think there has been by far too much trouble taken to procure the acquaintance. I suppose” (smiling) “I have more pride than any of you; but I confess it does vex me, that we should be so solicitous to have the relationship acknowledged, which we may be very sure is a matter of perfect indifference to them.”
“Pardon me, dear cousin, you are unjust in your own claims. In London, perhaps, in your present quiet style of living, it might be as you say: but in Bath; Sir Walter Elliot and his family will always be worth knowing: always acceptable as acquaintance.”
I know Mr. Elliot’s intention is to secure his position as the future heir, but I cannot help but like his intelligence. He is not all bad. He genuinely likes Anne, and prefers her to Elizabeth, which shows good judgement and taste on his part. Of course, we love Captain Wentworth and we don’t want anyone in the way of the love he shares with Anne. But when I compare him to some of the other villains like Mr. Wickham or Captain Tilney, I cannot help but think Mr. Elliot is not so bad. And in fact, I can see myself reading about him as a character.
How about you? Do you have a favourite villain among the villains in Austen’s novels? Have you ever been curious to read more about them?
One of the villains I write about in my second novel, To Love and Cherish, is Mr. Wickham. Mr. Wickham who has planned to kidnap Georgiana to force her to marry him has Miss Bingley as his accomplice. But Lord Paisley, Col. Fitzwilliam and Mr. Darcy find out about the plan ahead of time and trick Wickham and Miss Bingley. Wickham ends up kidnapping Miss Bingley by mistake and gets caught in the act. Below, I share an excerpt, where Lord Paisley (the “hero”) is punishing Mr. Wickham (the “villain”) in his own special way. I hope you enjoy it.
It was impossible to judge who was more stunned by Lord Paisley’s sudden appearance. Mr. Wickham was fuming at Mr. Wilton’s gaffe in kidnapping the wrong woman as well as the marquess’ arrival. Miss Bingley’s reaction was certainly much more dramatic as she made unintelligible sounds as to capture His Lordship’s attention, and attempted to stand, only to lose her balance and fall on the floor.
“Come in, Matthew,” Lord Paisley called to his friend who was waiting outside the cottage, his eyes never breaking contact with Mr. Wickham’s face. “Miss Bingley is in need of assistance.”
Mr. Audley came inside and upon taking in the scene before him, ran to Miss Bingley’s aid, removing the handkerchief from her mouth and undoing the bindings around her hands and feet. Miss Bingley coughed and cried simultaneously as Mr. Audley helped her arise from the floor and sat her down on the chair once again.
Mr. Wickham glared at His Lordship who had not yet moved from his position at the door.
“I have been hunting.” Lord Paisley smiled as he gestured toward Miss Bingley’s bewildered face. “And by the looks of it, so have you.”
Miss Bingley’s cries grew higher in pitch at the marquess’ words. Mr. Wickham looked away angrily.
“How does she fare, Matthew?” Lord Paisley asked his friend.
“She is not injured,” Mr. Audley said grimly. “But she is quite shaken.”
“Indeed.” Lord Paisley smirked and returned his attention to Mr. Wickham’s resentful gaze. “Well, Mr. Wickham, would you like to explain what you are doing here, or should I venture a guess?” Lord Paisley nodded as Wickham remained silent, eyes wild. “You see, you made it my business when you abducted one of my guests. I am sure you agree that, as a gentleman, I cannot ignore the offence, no matter how bothersome the whole affair may be.”
“I did not abduct her.”
“I beg your pardon.” Lord Paisley raised both eyebrows in mock surprise. “Could I have possibly misunderstood the situation? Are you suggesting that Miss Bingley came here of her own volition?”
Mr. Wickham shrugged but did not reply.
Lord Paisley laughed. “Forgive me for being so daft. Are you also suggesting that the lady gagged and bound herself as well?”
“I came upon her just as you did.”
“Oh!” Lord Paisley raised both eyebrows. “Oh, you found her thus? How very strange!”
“I was riding when I heard the lady’s screams coming from the cottage.”
“You heard the lady’s screams?” Lord Paisley asked with amusement. “While you were riding your horse? And while she was gagged? Either you have amazing hearing abilities, or Miss Bingley must indeed have a strong voice.”
Miss Bingley cried harder once again.
“Miss Bingley can attest to my innocence,” Mr. Wickham said smugly, as he looked down at her with unspoken warning. “Did I bind you and bring you here, Miss Bingley?”
“Well—” Miss Bingley began hiccupping. “I… I …”
“Yes, Miss Bingley?” Lord Paisley leaned his head closer with interest. “Tell us how you happened to be here, all by yourself? Bound and gagged?”
“I was kidnapped,” Miss Bingley said softly.
“Yes.” Lord Paisley nodded. “I think we all surmised that much. But tell us who kidnapped you?”
Miss Bingley’s eyes sought Mr. Wickham’s briefly, unsure of how to respond.
“I was brought here, against my will, by a man.”
“Go on,” Lord Paisley encouraged. “Who was the man?”
“I…” Miss Bingley looked at Mr. Wickham again. “I… I do not know him.”
“You mean you had never seen him before?” Mr. Audley asked.
Miss Bingley shook her head. “I do not know who he was. He was certainly not the sort of man I would know.”
“And what sort of man is that, Miss Bingley?” Lord Paisley asked with sudden interest. “Do you mean he was not respectable? Not a worthy man? The kind of man who would take advantage of an unassuming, innocent, young lady for his own dishonorable, selfish reasons?”
“I suppose,” Miss Bingley whispered.
“And I am sure you will agree”—he pressed on—“that anyone helping such a man must be completely devoid of any human decency.”
Miss Bingley mumbled unintelligibly.
“I beg your pardon, Miss Bingley.” Lord Paisley leaned closer. “What was it that you said?”
Miss Bingley snapped. “I would not know.”
“Of course not.” He smiled and turned toward Mr. Wickham again. “How about you, Mr. Wickham? Do you know who would consider kidnapping a respectable, young lady?”
Mr. Wickham smiled smugly. “I should imagine he must have had his reasons.”
Lord Paisley raised an eyebrow. “Enlighten me.”
“Well, perhaps he held the lady in real affection.”
Lord Paisley chuckled. “What part of gagging and binding a lady suggests affection?”
“I neither know nor care.” Mr. Wickham snapped. “I had nothing to do with Miss Bingley’s abduction. And she has already told you that another man is responsible for her situation. I suggest you allow the authorities look for that man.”
“That is a brilliant idea.” Lord Paisley approved. “Which is why my friend Mr. Matthew Audley is here. Mr. Audley is the county’s magistrate. Matthew Audley, this is Mr. Wickham. Our paths crossed in London a few weeks ago.”
Mr. Wickham lost all color upon hearing Lord Paisley’s words.
“How is it that you are in this part of the country, Mr. Wickham?” Mr. Audley asked.
“I… I am traveling through.”
“I see.” Mr. Audley nodded, his eyes surveying Mr. Wickham with open curiosity.
Mr. Wickham moved nervously under the other man’s scrutiny. “I wish you all the success, Mr. Audley. But I must be on my way. I have already lost a great deal of time.”
The magistrate chuckled. “How amusing, Mr. Wickham, but I cannot allow you to leave.”
“Why not?” Mr. Wickham asked angrily.
“I simply do not believe your story.” Mr. Audley shrugged.
“My story? I told you precisely what happened. I have nothing to do with this lady’s abduction. I was but riding by.”
“So where is your horse, now? And whose carriage is that outside of the cottage?”
Mr. Wickham was frustrated. He had forgotten that Mr. Wilton had taken the horse and had left the carriage for him.
Lord Paisley sneered. “Did not think it through, did you, Mr. Wickham? You are an excellent liar, it seems. But you are simply incapable of keeping track of your lies.”
“You are insulting my character, sir.” Mr. Wickham glared at His Lordship.
Lord Paisley shook his head. “I am insulting your intelligence. We have not discussed your character yet.”
“You will be sorry for insulting me, sir.”
“I doubt it.” Lord Paisley waved his hand, dismissing the man’s threats. “Now, let us endeavor to have an intelligent conversation. Shall we? There is no doubt that you are not innocent in what has taken place in this cottage. For reasons that do not interest me, you have brought the lady here, by force, and had we not interrupted you earlier, you would have caused the lady irreparable injury.”
Miss Bingley burst into tears again, remembering her disagreeable situation.
“That is nonsense,” Mr. Wickham bellowed. “I had no intention of causing this woman injury.”
“You suggested that there may be a case of deep affection,” Lord Paisley said. “Tell us, Mr. Wickham. Are you in love with Miss Bingley?”
“In love with Miss Bingley? What a repulsive notion! The very idea disgusts me.”
The effect of his words on Miss Bingley was immediate.
“Why…you…horrid man!” Miss Bingley cried as she jumped from her chair and pounced at Mr. Wickham with such intensity that made the bewildered man lose his balance and sent them both falling on to the ground. Mr. Wickham struggled to free himself from Miss Bingley’s angry clutches. But it was to no avail! Miss Bingley continued to scratch him, her anger rising with every failed attempt at hurting the man who had been the cause of her miserable situation.
Mr. Audley stood beside his friend who was watching the scene with no little amusement. “We must stop her.”
“Must we?” Lord Paisley raised an eyebrow.
“She is going to claw out his eyes.”
“Yes, I believe she is.” Lord Paisley smiled with satisfaction.
“I cannot allow that, Julian,” he said apologetically.
“I suppose not.” Lord Paisley sighed. “Pity, though. It is quite diverting.”
Mr. Audley chuckled and moved to intervene, pulling Miss Bingley away from Mr. Wickham, whose face was striped with blood.
“Keep this mad woman away from me.” Mr. Wickham winced as he stumbled away, wiping the blood from his face with his neck cloth.
“But, my dear Mr. Wickham,” Lord Paisley said, “I understood it was your desire to be with her.”
“It was never my desire to be with her.” Mr. Wickham snapped. “Who in their right mind would ever want her?”
His Lordship shook his head. “Pity! I fear you will be spending a great deal of time with her from this day on.”
Mr. Wickham’s eyes widened with shock. “What are you talking of?”
“Well, you must see that you have entangled yourself with her. Her name and reputation is ruined. You will have no choice but to marry her.”
“I would rather die.”
“I am afraid that is precisely the alternative,” Lord Paisley said apologetically. “For that is what her brother, Mr. Bingley, would wish for once he hears of this affair.”
As if on cue, Mr. Bingley walked in, surveyed the room and upon finding his target, charged at him with an unmistakable intent to cause him harm.
“You cad!” he yelled, slapping Mr. Wickham squarely in the face “I am going to have your head for your crimes.”
“What…the…devil!” Mr. Wickham tried to move away from the angry man.
“Oh, Charles!” Miss Bingley ran to her brother for comfort. Mr. Bingley did not seem to hear his sister. He continued to glare at Mr. Wickham.
“How dare you kidnap my sister? You will be hanged for this offence. I will personally see to it.”
“I did not kidnap your sister,” Mr. Wickham said, still overcome by Mr. Bingley’s arrival.
“Stop lying, Wickham.” Mr. Bingley reached into his pocket, producing a folded paper. “I have your letter to prove it.”
Mr. Wickham’s eyes grew wide in recognition of his own handwriting. This was the letter he had written to Mr. Darcy. Mr. Wilton had given it to Mr. Brooks the other evening to have it delivered to Mr. Darcy this morning after Miss Darcy’s abduction. How was it that the letter was in Mr. Bingley’s position and not Mr. Darcy’s? His fingers raked through his disheveled hair as he tried in vain to make sense of what was happening.
“Do not try to feign ignorance, Mr. Wickham,” Mr. Bingley said, once again attempting to attack the man. “Do you think me a simpleton?”
“What is this letter you speak of Mr. Bingley?” Mr. Audley asked, trying to pacify Mr. Bingley’s anger. “Pray, my I read it? It may shed light on this situation.”
Mr. Bingley nodded gravely and handed the letter to Mr. Audley, who read it aloud:
By now, you must have heard of your sister’s abduction. She is in my possession. Rest assured that no harm shall come to her as long as you agree to my terms and conditions. Needless to say, if you tell anyone about this, I will not be responsible for the loss of her reputation or her virtue. I will be in touch.
Mr. Wickham grew white with realization. What a simpleton he had been! But why would Brooks hand the letter to Mr. Bingley and not to Mr. Darcy?
“What an interesting letter, Mr. Wickham.” Lord Paisley smirked. “I must congratulate you. You managed to remain elusive throughout the short missive, only to give away your identity by signing it.”
Mr. Audley chuckled. “And a very self-explanatory letter, if I have ever seen one. I believe you wrote your own confession and signed it too. This will be a very easy case.”