<This piece of Regency nonsense continues from the May 31st post below.>
“A king?” Miss Austen’s eyes brightened. “Even if monarch of some minor kingdom in a distant eastern land, I am perhaps somewhat reassured that you will find a ready acceptance of your foreign customs. While the owners of Pemberly are most respected county gentry they are not accustomed to being received at Court—although they have been presented to the Prince of Wales when attending a function in the city.”
Author quickly cut off Gisel’s darkening response by interjecting, “Is that Pemberly House?” drawing Miss Austen’s attention to the first view of Pemberly House offered by a bend in the drive and a gap in the formal row of beech trees.
“Yes. That will be the house. Perhaps you might request the coachman to pause here a few minutes.”
“Good idea.” Author let down the window of the door and leaned out. “I say, old chap. Will you stop here a moment so we might look at the estate?”
The coachman pulled back on the reins. “Right yer be, Sir.”
Author reached out to the handle and opened the door. “Would you like to step out a moment to look?” he suggested to Gisel. No response. “Miss Austen?”
“I think not. I believe I feel quite a chill in the air.”
“Yes of course, the nasty frost at Christmas in 1813,” Author remarked. “How about it, Miss Matah. I think it a good idea to stretch our legs.” He followed that up with a meaningful glare.
“Oh, all right.”
Author gave a hand to Miss Matah as she alighted and they walked a few yards away from the carriage without speaking. When they reached a place where they could see the house in the hillside opposite, Gisel began speaking in a low voice. “If I have to be exhibited as a throwback from some goddamned savage kingdom almost too, too coarse to speak of in polite company I’m bailing out of this horseshit right now. Turn this boneshaker around and let’s go back.”
“We can’t. Not without insulting our hostess and her people. This is a great opportunity to broaden our treatment of the culture and polite society of Lingdon and Tarnland. I don’t mean Gaian society to be anything inferior to Regency England.”
“I don’t see why I have to be included in this.”
“If I can put up with wearing this uncomfortable and damned cold monkey suit without complaint I’m sure you can practice your genteel discretion and modest silences when they are appropriate in formal society. You could find it useful.”
“Don’t speak so loudly. Look at the scenery.”
From the edge of the wood the eye was instantly caught by Pemberley House, situated on the opposite side of a valley, into which the drive, with some abruptness, wound. It was a large, handsome, stone building, standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills; — and in front, a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance. Its banks were neither formal, nor falsely adorned.
Author turned his attention to his companion. “Miss Austen described the house, as seen for the first time by the mistress to be— “
Gisel waved her hands at waist height, as if conducting a very short choir. “Although she didn’t know she was going to be, then – did she? You’re not the only one who’s read the book.”
“Right. ‘She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste’.”
“Okay. So I promise not to make a scene. Let’s get going.”
They climbed back into the carriage and resumed the drive—descended the hill, crossed the bridge, and drove to the door; and, while examining the nearer aspect of the house, the front door opened and a footman approached to speak with the driver.
Author heard the exchange as, “Yers, ‘tis the Austen party o’ three.”
With that another footman and three maids appeared from a side door and came to assist the travellers’ dismounting, removal of the baggage, and sundry other attentions that characterized an arrival of unfamiliar guests. The front door was opened by yet another footman who, with one of the maids, took their outer travelling garments and carried them away. An older man, the butler, met them in the foyer and with great dignity said, “If you’ll kindly come this way, Ladies, Sir, the family are gathered in the South drawing room,” and led them across a tiled hall and past a grand staircase to a door which stood partly open.
As they filed in the butler stood by the open door to address the family. “Your guests, Sir, Madam… Miss Austen, Miss Matah, and Mr Author.”
A tall man standing by the fireplace bowed, and the three responded. Fitzwilliam Darcy was every bit as imposing in appearance and manner as he had appeared in the novel: tall and handsome and of noble mien. “Miss Austen, Miss Matah, welcome. I hope you are not too fatigued from your journey. Mr Author, thank you for your diligent care of the ladies. I trust you found our county facilities adequate and easy of access. I hope we can find something to amuse you while the ladies are visiting. Do you shoot?”
“Not lately. I was somewhat of a marksman in my army service, but restrict myself to more social entertainment these days.”
“Quite. Quite so.” Mr Darcy dismissed the topic with a wave of a hand that scattered the grouse and partridge into far distant coverts. “You have not actually met any of the family before, I understand.” He proceeded to point everyone out by deferential but slight bows. “My father in law, Mr Bennet; my wife Mrs Darcy –“
That lady looked up and smiled. “Elizabeth, please. Let us be more hospitable than formal.”
Mr Darcy leaned back and raised his chin. “Very well. Elizabeth Darcy, then: My mother in law, Mrs Bennet; and my sister, Georgiana Darcy. Please take a seat— Miss Matah, beside me at the fire?” He turned to the butler still standing by the door. “Perhaps our guests would enjoy a glass of wine, Haggerston – the family also.”