Posted on: 2010-08-25
Jane Bennet had often been called angelic. This could be attributed to her looks, because with long, golden hair, blue eyes, flawless complexion and perfect body measurements Jane really almost looked like an angel sent from heaven, but there was more to Jane Bennet than meets the eye. She had a beauty that came from within. In contrast to many beautiful people whose beauty had gotten to their head and who had become arrogant and condescending, Jane had kept her kind heart and serene countenance and had not chosen to make money from her looks. There had been offers from agencies to model or maybe act, but she had refused them all and – much to her mother's chagrin I might add – had become a social education worker.
And there lay the problem. At the age of 27 Jane was already the head of a little orphanage in London, which was about to be closed due to financial problems. There simply wasn't enough money to cover all the expenses the children caused. Jane was very worried about the future of her orphanage and "her" children. What would become of her little ones when the little family they had created was forced apart and they were sent to different orphanages?
Some had suggested that Jane should utilize her looks to attract money, which essentially meant beguiling rich men and squeezing money of them, but Jane was simply too good and lacked the coldness and expediency necessary to do such a thing. Furthermore, she wanted to be rewarded for her work and her skills and not for her looks.
On a beautiful autumn day, when Jane had just managed to persuade her electricity supplier not to turn off the electricity due to non-payment and when she had scraped together the money to pay her colleagues, Jane decided to visit her sister Elizabeth. Elizabeth was an artist, a paintress, and her pictures were quite sought after. From time to time (much too often to tell the truth) Elizabeth supported her sister with money, but Jane always felt bad about it and vowed to pay Elizabeth back sometime. Jane never actually asked her sister for financial help, but Elizabeth knew when the boys had again broken a window while playing football in the yard or when a new bed was needed and just paid the bills tacitly.
When Jane arrived at Elizabeth's studio the latter was just putting the finishing touches to a wonderful life-size picture of a beggar man. The beggar himself was standing on a raised platform in the middle of the studio and looked simply pitiable. His face, hair and hands were dirty, over his shoulders he wore a brown cloak seemingly made out of patches, his jersey had several wholes and was much too short ("How he must freeze in winter!" Jane thought), his trousers were all tears and tatters and with smudges all over and even his boots were patched and cobbled. But what struck her the most was his age, he was still very young, Jane estimated his age to be not higher than 30 and he was already in such a desperate state. The poor man!
"How much does a model get for sitting?" asked Jane softly.
"Five pounds an hour."
"And how much to you get for the picture, Lizzy?"
"This one is already sold for 6,000 pounds."
"6,000," Jane gasped, "but-"
At this moment they were interrupted by the frame maker coming in and asking for some details.
"I'll be back in a moment," Elizabeth said and was gone.
The model took advantage of Elizabeth's absence to rest a moment and sat on a chair that stood behind him. Jane knew how exhausting it was to pose, because she herself had once acted as a model for her sister. Lizzy had even sold the painting but had not revealed to whom. But she had given the 4,000 pounds she had received for the painting to Jane to pay for the electricity bill and to buy a new computer for the office.
The beggar now looked so forlorn and wretched that Jane could not help but pity him and she felt in her pockets to see what money she had and found a 20-pound note. She had saved the money to buy a new book of fairy-tales for her children, because the old one was dirty and ripped and very read trough, but now she hesitated.
"The poor chap!" she thought. "He needs the money more than I do! And we can still use the old book for some time."
She crossed the room and walked towards the beggar and slipped the note into his hand. The man started at her touch and looked up at her questioningly. But Jane just smiled encouragingly and so he took the money. A smile passed over his face. "Thank you," he simply said, "thank you very much."
Jane blushed and when Elizabeth arrived back to continue painting she soon left afterwards.
The next day the orphanage received a donation of 2,000,000 pounds. Jane felt faint when she saw a number with so many zeros on her bank statement as she was so accustomed to it being in the red. There must have been a mistake! She immediately went to the bank to set things right, but she was told that the bank statement was completely right, yes, there had been a donation, no, the they couldn't reveal who it had been as the donor had chosen to remain anonymous.
In the evening Jane met her sister, by then she still could hardly believe her luck.
"And, did you finish your picture?" she asked her sister when she thought of the poor beggar who was not as lucky as she was.
"Finished and framed! It already hangs in its new owner's house. Oh, and you've made quite a conquest by the way. My model was really enchanted by you. I had to tell him everything about you, your job, the orphanage-"
"What?" cried Jane. "How could you! He will probably wait for me by the orphanage when I get home and frighten all the kids. But I cannot help him any more, I work with children. I do have a heap of old clothes, but those are children's clothes and I daresay they won't fit him."
"Oh yes, have you seen his rags?" Lizzy said dreamily. "I think he looked magnificent in them."
"You are heartless!"
"I am not! I just see things with the eyes of an artist and my model looked great. But anyway… How are your children? My model was also very interested in them."
"Is there anything about me you didn't tell him?"
"Your bra size," Lizzy said dryly. "But he asked me all sort of questions and I told him of your job, the orphanage and its financial problems, that you're still single-"
"You told a beggar my private affairs!?" Jane cried deeply shocked.
"A beggar?" Lizzy asked. "But Jane, didn't you recognize him? My model – your beggar – was Lord Bingley, Earl of ______, owner of the bank B&D and probably one of the richest men in our country."
"WHAT?!" cried Jane and had suddenly become very pale.
"The man you saw yesterday in my studio was Lord Bingley dressed as a beggar. He had given me a commission to paint him as one. A bit eccentric if you ask me, but he can afford it. And he's quite a fan of my art, I think I can tell you now that he bought the picture I had painted of you a year ago."
"Oh dear God… Why didn't you tell me! I have made a complete fool of myself. I gave him 20 pounds!"
"You gave him 20 pounds?" Lizzy repeated and broke into fits of laughter. "Oh Jane, this is so you, you are just too good to everybody. Well, I bet he will invest it with a healthy profit, he's some sort of financial genius after all what I've heard."
"Lizzy, you should have told me!" Jane said sulkily.
"To tell the truth, I didn't think about it. I thought you would recognize him. Besides, I didn't know whether I was allowed to mention Lord Bingley's name, you know, he wasn't in full dress. And additionally I couldn't know that you would have your generous day and give the little money you have to the poor."
"What a fool he must think me," Jane said miserably. "I bet he had a good laugh at my foolishness."
"Not at all. He was in the highest spirits after you left," Lizzy tried to cheer up her sister. But Jane walked home that evening feeling very foolish and unhappy. This was so embarrassing!
Two days later, when Jane sat in her office and tried to decide what to do first with the money after having paid all the debts, there was a knock at the door and in came Lord Bingley.
"The beggar!" Jane cried and then blushed and turned red as a beet. "I'm sorry, Lord Bingley, I apologize, I … I … I really didn't" she stammered, "I simply didn't recognize you. I'm sorry."
"Absolutely no offence taken, Miss Bennet", he just smiled. To him Jane Bennet was even more adorable when she was embarrassed. "And the name is Charles."
"Jane – but you already know that."
"Jane, you were quite right to call me a beggar when I stepped unannounced into your office because I'm willing to beg you to go out with me on this beautiful Friday evening."
"Oh! I'd love to… But the kids…" Jane trailed off.
"Then I'll stay here with you."
"No!" she cried although she could think of nothing more beautiful than spending the whole day with Charles and her children. "You shouldn't feel obliged… and I guess you have more important things to do than staying at a little orphanage with a woman who didn't recognize-"
"Jane," he interrupted her, "I'd love to stay here and see you working with the children."
And he stayed the whole day, he played with the boys and quite enchanted the girls when he read to them out of the old book of fairy-tales and helped Jane bringing the little ones to bed in the evening. For him the evening ended with their perfect first kiss on the stairs in front of the orphanage before he went home.
They got married a year later. No one except her sister and his best friend ever learned the true story of how they first met each other. I think it's needless to say that they lived happily ever after.