by Jack Caldwell
Mr. Darcy Came to Dinner coming soon from WSP!
Greetings, everyone. Jack Caldwell here. I thank each and every one of you who bought PEMBERLEY RANCH and/or THE THREE COLONELS. For my next act, I’m going light and funny. I will be releasing my Pride & Prejudice farce, MR. DARCY CAME TO DINNER – A Jane Austen Farce, early in 2013 through our new imprint, White Soup Press.
Now, some of you have seen MR. DARCY CAME TO DINNER posted at various JAFF sites. So why should you buy a published version of this?
- It’s not on the boards anymore.
- It’s new and improved (I’ve done some edits)!
- You can hold it in your hand, or store it in your Kindle (or Nook or whatever). Cool, huh?
- Because you love me.
Any of these reasons will do.
To whit your appetite, below you will find an excerpt from the novel. The plot follows Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice up to the day Elizabeth Bennet meets Mr. Wickham for the first time in Meryton. I’ve changed three things.
- Mr. Collins blurts out during the silent confrontation between Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham that Mr. Darcy is engaged to Anne de Bourgh. Of course, he’s not, but no one is aware of that.
- The Netherfield party is to have dinner at Longbourn that evening.
- Elizabeth owns a cat.
This all-out farce is inspired by the classic THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER, by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. Unfortunately, there are no penguins, but I think you’ll like it anyway.
Without further ado, the following is an excerpt from Chapter One of MR. DARCY CAME TO DINNER:
Elizabeth walked out of the garden of her home, her cat, Cassandra, in her arms, and wondered if wishing her mother ill was a sign that she was a bad daughter.
Normally, Mrs. Bennet would be nervous about a dinner party. For all of her defects, the mistress of Longbourn was celebrated as a gracious hostess. It was a reputation difficult to achieve, and one she was jealous to maintain, particularly as Mr. Bingley was to come to dine. Therefore, Mrs. Bennet’s efforts and exclamations of calamity were redoubled, for Mr. Collins was to be impressed, as well. According to Elizabeth’s mother, this dinner might mean the difference between having two daughters comfortably married and starving in the hedgerows.
Elizabeth sought quiet and received permission from a relieved Mrs. Bennet to step outside. Her mother would not have been as happy to know her daughter had retrieved her pet. The ginger-colored cat was tolerated because the girls loved her, and Mr. Bennet loved peace—peace that would be broken by the wails of the girls should the furry beast be sent away. Cassandra was an agreeable creature, at least for the girls, Mr. Bennet knew, and Elizabeth was his favorite daughter. So Mrs. Bennet’s protests fell on unhearing ears, and Cassandra was firmly established at Longbourn.
Elizabeth strolled about the lane in front of the house in a thoughtful haze, her mind wondering over the events in Meryton while her hand stroked the purring feline. Mr. Wickham was declaimed by all of the Bennet girls as a handsome and agreeable man, and even Mr. Collins said some words of praise for the new lieutenant—three times as many words as necessary for the compliment. Mr. Darcy was known to be a prideful and disagreeable man, but the look on his face was far above the disdain she would expect from the haughty gentleman. It seemed more akin to rage, disgust, and even hatred. Fear marked Mr. Wickham’s countenance, as well as something else—something Elizabeth could not quite identify. She hoped to learn more from Mr. Wickham tomorrow at the Philipses’. She felt she would learn nothing tonight from the silent and taciturn Mr. Darcy.
She wondered why Mr. Darcy was so angry at Mr. Collins’ declaration of his engagement to Miss de Bourgh. While the gentleman gave no indication that he was betrothed, that was not an unusual occurrence; certainly it was nobody’s business in Meryton as to Mr. Darcy’s eligibility. But his disproval of Lizzy’s foolish cousin’s words seemed disproportionate. Did Lady Catherine de Bourgh disapprove of the match? Certainly, if Miss de Bourgh was anything like Mr. Collins’ flowery description, Elizabeth could understand a loving mother’s reluctance to unite a daughter for life with as unpleasant a man as Mr. Darcy, no matter what his income.
Elizabeth allowed a small chuckle to escape her lips. Mr. Darcy’s set-down of Mr. Collins was very apt, even if the recipient was ignorant of it. Only the manners drilled into her from birth prevented Elizabeth from saying the same to her oblivious cousin.
Elizabeth shuddered, an action that disrupted Cassandra’s contentment. She knew that her mother was set on her becoming Mrs. Collins and the next mistress of Longbourn. While confident that her father would support her certain refusal of any proposal from Mr. Collins, she knew the lamentations from Mrs. Bennet would be great indeed and painful to hear. She would much rather not deal with the issue at all, but nothing Elizabeth did discouraged Mr. Collins in any meaningful way. She feared that the man’s stupidity would lead inevitably to scenes unpleasant to more than one person.
Elizabeth’s fine, plump lips tightened. There must be a way to put Mr. Collins off! She set her mind on the problem at the cost of her comprehension of all else. That was why she did not hear the beat of hooves until the horse was around the bend of the road.
Startled, she loosened her grip on Cassandra, and to her horror, the cat ran towards the path of the large, brown stallion as its rider cried out, pulling hard on the reins. Stopping in the middle of the road, the cat arched its back and hissed before jumping away. This action was enough to cause the horse to turn and rear, and the next thing Elizabeth knew, the rider was on the ground, flat on his back, gripping his leg and screaming in pain, the horse dashing through the meadow.
Elizabeth’s heart was in her mouth. “MR. DARCY!”
Mr. Darcy turned his agonized face to her, and Elizabeth was frightened to see that he had cut his forehead in the fall. “Miss…Miss Elizabeth,” he gasped, “I am afraid I require assistance.” He winced and cursed, his head falling back into the dirt and dust.
Instantly, Elizabeth took to her heels and dashed inside Longbourn. Within moments she had raised the house, and she returned with her parents, sisters, and Mrs. Hill, bearing cloths. Mr. Hill was dispatched without delay to Meryton to fetch Mr. Jones, the apothecary. The older ladies comforted Mr. Darcy and saw to his head wound while the others stood about in degrees of shock or amusement. Never before had Elizabeth dearly wanted to throttle her two youngest sisters.
Elizabeth was proud of her mother, however. Silly she might be, but Frances Bennet knew her remedies and, in the face of this calamity, showed great fortitude. The last time influenza visited Meryton proved that. Elizabeth expected this sensibility was only temporary; once the immediate crisis was handled, her mother would give free rein to her baser particulars, and her nerves would run wild.
Her father, however, was a disappointment. Concerned as he was over the accident, he did little to correct Lydia or Kitty besides a weak admonishment. It fell to steady Jane to quietly scold the youngest Bennets. Mary did little more than stare.
Mr. Collins was a trial. He stood, wringing his hands, intermittently praying to the Almighty to save his worthy servant, Mr. Darcy, when he was not agonizing over what this disaster would do to the affectionate feelings of Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Elizabeth could see that Mr. Darcy was aware of his surroundings, for when not grimacing in pain, he was glaring at Mr. Collins.
“Would someone please silence that imbecile?” Mr. Darcy finally managed.
Lydia and Kitty laughed aloud, and Lizzy almost joined them. It was a shame she did not like him, otherwise she would have admired Mr. Darcy for saying what they were all thinking.
Mr. Bennet finally took it upon himself to speak to his cousin, and just then, the carriage from Netherfield came into view. Mr. Bingley was out of the vehicle before it came to a stop and dashed to his houseguest’s side, Miss Bingley and the Hursts close behind.
“My God!” cried Mr. Bingley. “What has happened? Darcy—Darcy, are you well?”
Mr. Darcy pushed away Mrs. Bennet’s attentions to his forehead. “Must you yell, Bingley?”
“Oh, Mr. Darcy! Good lord! Someone fetch a physician—this instant!” Miss Bingley was quite overcome. “Mr. Darcy, I—”
Elizabeth saw Miss Bingley’s eyes go wide, and she turned to see what had paled the lady’s complexion so completely. All she could see was Mr. Darcy, trying to prop himself up by one elbow, the wound on his forehead once again bleeding freely, as such injuries are wont to do.
The next instant there was the sound of a body crumpling to the road as Miss Bingley fainted dead away.
“Oh, bother! Now I have two people to care for,” grumbled Mr. Bennet. “Come, gentlemen, let us bring them inside.”
It was not a good day for Mr. Bennet.
Stay tuned to Austen Authors for the release date of MR. DARCY CAME TO DINNER – a Jane Austen farce. It will be available on-line in both print and e-book formats.
BTW, how about letting me know what you think about this?