Dupe and Duplicity



The obligatory Austen pastiche.

“Please, somebody, help! Elinor! ELINOR! ” cried Miss Marianne Dashwood as she stood over the lifeless body of Mr. John Willoughby of Allenham.

“How did this happen?” asked Marianne’s elder sister Elinor who at the instant conclusion of yet another of her sister’s follies could not restrain her eyes from being fixed on her with a look that spoke all the contempt it excited.

“We were arguing,” replied Marianne, “mostly about his memory most declined, he failing to remember what the weather was like at our first meeting on High-church Down nor what colour the sash I wore would you believe!  He blew hot then cold then hot again and stepped backwards into the path of a runaway carriage, so quickly taken into the wheels and ground to a pulp”. Marianne began to cry, her voice suspended by tears. “There was nothing I could do.”

“Hmm,” mused Elinor, glancing at the footsteps on the ground beside her and the position of the cadaver upside down and spread-eagled against the rear wheel of the carriage. “The carriage must have been running at all possible speed. Did Mr. Willoughby not see it coming?” Elinor asked.

Marianne, astonished at her sister’s lack of solicitude, replied with haste, “He is quite blind in both eyes.”

“Poor creature! I am sorry, I was not aware,” said Elinor.

“Not many people are.”

Elinor thought it wisest to touch that point no more. She knew her sister’s temper. Instead she inquired, “When the accident happened did you try to aid Mr. Willoughby in some way?”

“I grabbed the horse instantly to try to move the carriage away but instead of doing as I asked the horse stood firm in its incredulity and recited the first verse of God Save the Queen. Oh, dear sister, what else might I have done?”

Elinor was spared not the troublesome feelings that came from the unpleasant situation but still the cause of her concerns proved difficult to fathom. After pausing a moment she asked of her younger sister, “Was this Mr. Willoughby’s first experience of a carriage of this type?”

“No, he was a devil with the things. I’m surprised he lasted this long.”

“Indeed!” started Elinor, for the circumstance was in perfect unison with what she had heard and seen herself. “So am I.”

“Whatever do you mean, dear sister?”

“For shame, for shame! The whole world is familiar with the indiscretions of John Willoughby, Marianne. You more than us all know his captivating looks and ardour of mind were masking nothing but boundless cruelty and impotence. That afflicted inconstant villain made a mockery of you and ruined your life which, I believe, is why you killed him!”


The footsteps in the ground leading up to the carriage were accompanied by a lengthy “gutter” as if a heavy object had been pulled along the ground. Elinor said nothing about this at the time. It is also impossible for a horse to sing because it cannot move its arms expressively, something she distinctly remembers being told at school. Finally, on closer inspection Willoughby had received a Chinese burn to his right arm leading Elinor to examine further his body for other injuries; turning him to his right hand side she found  forcefully imprinted on his left temple the words: “Shakespeare’s Sonnets” which matched perfectly the title of the book Marianne kept by her bed.

It was a forgone conclusion.

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