Excerpt (c) Reprinted with Permission. All Rights Reserved.
Chapter 2 Excerpt
After quickly perusing the contents of the letter, Darcy could draw only one conclusion. “Richard!” Darcy shouted out loud. Am I expected to give financial support for his debauchery for the rest of our lives? he asked himself, while thinking he could not wait for the opportunity to confront his cousin.
Never before had Darcy been opposed to the many calls on his purse by his cousin Richard as he understood that to be necessary in order that they might enjoy a similar lifestyle. Neither cost nor intent was of concern to Darcy. In certain respects, Richard had financial carte blanche. Is there really any reason for that arrangement to change? he wondered.
Upon Richard’s arrival a couple of days later, the issue of how he chose to live his life was relegated to the back of Darcy’s mind. Darcy had reached the point where he would only tolerate his guests at dinner and during the obligatory after dinner gathering in the drawing room. The after dinner tradition when gentlemen would “pass the port” before joining the women was rushed or avoided altogether as Darcy was most anxious to see an early end to each evening’s entertainment. Mr. Collins’s obsequiousness alone was enough to offset Mr. Gardiner’s good sense and taste. Mrs. Bennet’s foolishness and her harsh treatment of Elizabeth were increasingly difficult for him to abide with equanimity. Mrs. Phillips’s vulgarity, he found deplorable.
Richard provided a lifeline of escape for Darcy. The two had always been inseparable whenever Richard had visited Pemberley before. This visit proved no different in that respect than any other. Elizabeth, on the other hand, was quite disconcerted. Now observing her husband with the ingenious eye of a wife, Elizabeth could discern just how symbiotic the relationship between the two men was. Lady Ellen often remarked that the two were as thick as thieves. Even Elizabeth had been critical of the two, as she was forced to recall, during her argument with Darcy on that fateful day in June. When she had said they were ‘two peas in a pod,’ she later had supposed herself to have been angry and overly dramatic. Now she was obliged to reconsider the truth of her hastily spoken words.
In the beginning of her acquaintance with Richard, he was the one most eager to bestow his attentions upon her while Darcy endeavoured to hide his regard. Elizabeth was, to a certain extent, distrustful of the former even then. She recalled Darcy once telling her that outside of Richard and Georgiana, she was the most significant person in the world to him, but that was in the earliest days of their friendship. Just where do I now figure in his esteem? she asked herself. Am I to compete with Richard as most important, as it now seems?
As she mulled it over more, it occurred to her that the two men were behaving exactly as they had the summer before last when the Bingleys had been guests at Pemberley. And yet, it had scarcely warranted her attention. Suddenly, it had come to vex her exceedingly. Richard assumed such a proprietary attitude of the time spent with Darcy that even she, Mrs. Darcy herself, often felt like an intruder.
It had gone far enough, in Elizabeth’s opinion. The night before, Elizabeth had waited up hours in their bed, perusing the pages of a fashion magazine that her aunt Gardiner had brought from town. As much as she enjoyed spending time with her sister Jane, she had come to cherish her time alone with her husband. She was eager to share confidences she had gleaned from her many interactions with her family, as those had become a delightful diversion betwixt the two of them. A house full of guests afforded so little time for the two of them simply to converse. She missed that.
She awoke that morning to find the fashion magazine on the bedside table. She did not recall placing it there. She surmised she had fallen asleep whilst waiting for her husband to come to her. Darcy’s side of the bed showed evidence of his having slept there. As Elizabeth was not a late riser, she wondered where he might be at such an early hour.
Darcy did not even bother to make an appearance at breakfast. Elizabeth endeavoured to mask her displeasure in being completely unable to account for his absence amongst inquiring minds. She was not in the habit of checking up on her husband. His inattention to his responsibilities as host demanded that she do so that particular morning. Having summoned his valet, inquiring of Mr. Darcy’s whereabouts, she avoided, as best she could, appearing too stern.
“Mr. Walters, thank you for your promptness. It seems my husband has gone missing. Are you aware of what time he left this morning, and more importantly, when he might return?”
Mr. Walters, being a most loyal employee, responded cautiously, “Yes, madam, Mr. Darcy informed me that Colonel Fitzwilliam and he planned an early morning hunting outing. He, however, gave no indication of when he might return.” He hoped that would be the end of it. The last thing he wanted was to have Mrs. Darcy make a habit of asking him of his master’s comings and goings. He knew, more so than anyone, the influence that Colonel Fitzwilliam had on his master. He never wished to pry in Mr. Darcy’s affairs, but the late nights spent in his cousin’s company was nothing new, neither was the drinking. Evidently, that had not changed with his master’s marriage. What if nothing else has changed? Mr. Walters asked himself.
Elizabeth interrupted his silent deliberation. “Again, I thank you. I want to be informed immediately upon Mr. Darcy’s return. Will you see to that?”
“Yes, madam, is there anything else that you wish of me?”
“No, that is all for now. You may go.”
~ ~ ~
Elizabeth stood poised just outside the closed door of Darcy’s private study. She did not wish to come across as too demanding or too chastising of her husband. He was master of Pemberley, she was mistress, and therein was a hierarchy that must be revered, even amongst close family members.
Elizabeth entered the room, intent upon discussing a matter of considerable importance to her. She was not surprised to see Richard was there. Where else would he be? she asked herself. When it became clear that all her more subtle attempts to send him on his way had failed, she asked Richard, in no uncertain terms, to excuse them. Richard looked at her oddly. He then looked to Darcy as if he meant to have Darcy insist that there was no need for privacy.
Darcy suddenly became deeply engrossed in some paperwork before him. Elizabeth was on her own. Richard was on his own. Darcy was not unaware of the escalating tension between his two favourite people—he simply had no interest in intervening, believing as he did that they would be able to reach an amiable accord. Thinking to himself, Surely, Richard can see that he owes my wife the utmost deference. Surely, Elizabeth can see that Richard is a prick. Perhaps not...
“Mrs. Darcy, I will be happy to see you in but a few moments. First, I must speak with Richard. I will meet you in your sitting room.”
Elizabeth could not believe it! Her husband dismissed her, not Richard. She would not allow either of the two men to know the true extent of her outrage.
“Very well, Mr. Darcy,” she stated calmly, turned, and left the room, not bothering to close the door for even the calmest demeanour would not have prevented its being slammed shut.
Darcy walked over to close the door and then returned to his large mahogany desk. “Richard, why on earth do you persist in vexing my wife?”
“Come now, Darcy, you must admit she handles it rather poorly, which only enhances her charms.”
“Nevertheless, stop it! You are not endearing yourself to her at all, you know. I think she dislikes you very much.”
“I imagine I should be afraid,” he said sarcastically.
“Just give it a rest!” Darcy barked impatiently, as he stood to leave the room.
When Darcy joined Elizabeth in her sitting room, there was no mistaking her mien; she was upset. The boyishly innocent smile that graced his countenance did nothing to dissuade her.
She began immediately. “Pray tell me why my husband is never to be found during the day in the absence of Richard’s company.”
“Is that all you wished to discuss with me?” Darcy asked, clearly not taking the matter as seriously as she.
“When is he ever planning to leave?”
“I have no idea. Richard arranges his schedule for his own convenience.”
“Perhaps you might plant the idea in his head, that it is time to be on his way.”
“Why would I do that, Elizabeth?”
“Because—I wish it!”
“Elizabeth, I am here now. What is it that you wish to discuss? If it is my company that you wish for, let us remedy that immediately with no more talk of Richard.”
Not at all pleased with his manner of sidestepping her request, she jested, “Are you absolutely certain that Richard will not miss your company too much? I have no wish to come between you two.”
“You need not worry about that, my love,” he said, as he pulled her from her seat into his arms and kissed her adoringly along her neckline.
“This is not what I had in mind.”
“What did you have in mind?”
“I miss you. I feel utterly alone when we are apart.”
“We have a house full of guests. How can you possibly feel alone?”
“I want you by my side. Why am I expected to entertain so many on my own, while you remain cloistered with Richard?”
“You know that I detest performing to strangers,” he said, while continuing his seductive tease.
“Strangers, Mr. Darcy? Is not my family, your family? How are they thus considered strangers?”
Bringing to mind Mr. Collins, Mrs. Phillips and Mrs. Bennet, he thought to himself, They are, by far, the strangest people whom I have ever met. He said, “Please, Elizabeth.”
“This is not open to debate. I expect you to spend as much time with my brothers as you do with your cousin. They should be made to feel as welcome as he.”
“And of what benefit is that to me?”
“You sir, will benefit from the knowledge that you are satisfying your wife, at the same time as you are fulfilling your responsibilities as host to everyone.”
“I can envision a number of other ways to satisfy my wife, none of which involve having to suffer spending time with those I would rather wish to avoid.”
“It takes two to satisfy, dear husband.”
“Shall we test that assertion, dear wife?”
“I would rather not. At the moment, I prefer to have you test your social skills, starting with Mr. Collins, whom I know to be looking forward to spending more time in gentlemanly pursuits—perhaps a horseback tour about the estate.”
Whilst stoking mounting involuntary tremors of desire, and further frustrating her purpose in summoning him, Darcy continued to test his wife’s claim that it took two to satisfy, and she persisted in having her own way. Finally, after managing the situation to secure Darcy’s promise to do a better job in spending time with others besides Richard, they were free to spend some quality time with one another. As it turned out, both Darcys were absent from all their guests for the next hour or so.