A bonus scene from Sir Walter Takes a Wife by Laura Hile
In which Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam are delighted to participate,
as they are not point-of-view characters in the novella and would like to have their say
“So who’s the dressy snake charmer?” Colonel Fitzwilliam indicated the gentleman who sat on the sofa beside their aunt.
“Sir Walter Elliot,” replied Mr. Darcy quietly. “A baronet who hails from Somersetshire. Apparently he arrived in Hunsford the other day. She asked him to take tea with her.”
“Hmm,” said Colonel Fitzwilliam. He gazed for some time at the pair. Darcy pushed aside his cup and saucer. The tea was already cold.
“If you ask me,” his cousin said at last, “Aunt Catherine is rather pleased with herself. He is a handsome devil.”
“He is all that. But what is he doing here?”
“Isn’t it obvious? He is smitten.”
“I see that,” said Darcy. “But shouldn’t he be courting Anne instead? That is where the money is.”
“A valid point. And I daresay he would, if Anne were prettier. Confound it, an older woman is easy prey; you know that. There’s no fool like an old fool. In army circles, it’s surprisingly common.”
Darcy digested this in silence. He had never associated his aunt with this particular type of foolishness, but there it was.
Presently Darcy spoke his thought. “What I fear,” he said, “is that Sir Walter will put her in a morally compromising situation. With his eye on a monetary settlement from us to make him disappear.”
“Compromise our aunt?” Colonel Fitzwilliam appeared thunderstruck. “I’d like to see him try!”
“The devil you would!” Darcy lowered his voice. “Aunt Catherine, in flagrante delicto, is a sight no one should see.”
Colonel Fitzwilliam gave a shout of laughter. “In that case,” he crowed, “I should have to be blinded. Like that Greek fellow who saw Aphrodite bathing.”
“Erymanthos,” supplied Darcy.
Lady Catherine’s voice traveled across the drawing room. “Of what are you and Colonel Fitzwilliam speaking?” she demanded. “I must have my share in the conversation.”
“Nothing amusing, I fear,” Colonel Fitzwilliam called back. “Darcy was, ah, correcting my understanding of Greek mythology.”
Darcy saw his aunt’s eyes narrow. “You were laughing,” she began.
Sir Walter spoke up. “Of which Greek gods were you speaking, sir?”
“Er,” said Colonel Fitzwilliam. “Aphrodite.”
Sir Walter turned to Lady Catherine. “Venus! The goddess of love and beauty, my dear. Most appropriate, given the time of year.”
They returned to conversing together. Darcy did not miss the smile his aunt gave to Sir Walter. “Well played, Fitz,” he grumbled. “Now look what you have done.”
“Me? You were the one who brought up moral compromise and set me to laughing.”
“This is no laughing matter,” said Darcy. “We must take action.”
“Well now, that depends. Paying off a fellow to save a lady’s reputation is your stratagem, not mine. If I had several thousand, I’d not part with them for a kingdom. No, I prefer a more direct way of dealing with offenders.”
Darcy’s lips twitched into a smile. “Need I ask you to elaborate?”
“As I have said before (you will recall), we should have shot Wickham while we had the chance.”
“I have no desire to murder Sir Walter Elliot. Or George Wickham, tempting though that thought might be.”
“Who said anything about murder? A nice little flesh wound will do the trick. Enough to convince Wickham—or in this case, Sir Walter—to retire quietly to the Continent. Permanently.”
Darcy’s gaze traveled to where Sir Walter sat. “As to that,” he said quietly, “a disfiguring blow to the face might suffice. Look there, Fitz.”
Colonel Fitzwilliam was not stupid. “By Jove,” he marveled. “If that don’t beat all! The man is gazing at his own reflection in the pier glass. What an idiot!”
Darcy was not so sure. He drew a long breath. How was such a self-absorbed man to be worked on?
“We needn’t fear that he will lose his head and fall in love with our aunt,” he said grimly. “It appears that he is already very much in love. With … himself.”