Mr. Darcy Takes

The Plunge

~ A pun-filled tale featuring Austen’s Pride and Prejudice characters~ with some added or addled, missing or missish, modified or mortified, healthier, wealthier or wiser

In memory of two special ladies who were well loved by a sister:

Jane Austen

An inspiration in my life and in this story

She died in Cassandra’s arms July 18, 1817.

Judith Padmore

An important part of my life and of this story

She passed away May 8, 2010.


Darcy in a Meadow at Pemberley


A Man’s Field (in his) Park

A tribute to Austen’s Mansfield Park

Chapter I

Whilst Enduring the Heat of the Summer Sun,

a Gentleman Still Wears His Coat — and Pants

Pemberley’s revered housekeeper, Mrs. Esther Reynolds, graciously entertained, in her own comfortable private quarters, three genteel ladies, one of middle age and two much younger. Once they had finished their tea and the older women had caught up on all the latest news and gossip, Mrs. Reynolds inquired as to whether her guests would care for a guided tour of the grand estate’s public rooms and its immediate lawns. The visitors had anticipated such an invitation and quickly and eagerly agreed to the scheme. The housekeeper was mightily proud to show to advantage her employers’ excellent taste and elegance, for the rooms were richly furnished and tastefully decorated with the very finest-quality pieces without pretension.

Mrs. Reynolds was highly efficient at her job and had held the esteemed position for the past three and twenty years. As a native of nearby Lambton, the young Esther Bentley had begun work at Pemberley as an upstairs maid. She had even met her husband, Owen Reynolds, at the stately estate when he was but a burly footman; and the loving couple had progressively worked their way up through the ranks of servants to their present important positions of housekeeper and butler.

Both fiercely loyal and protective of Pemberley’s Master, Mistress, and their offspring, Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds had no complaints about serving the distinguished family; although they could not quite understand the family’s propensity to allow a motley assortment of dogs, rabbits, hedgehogs, and other sundry critters the freedom of the manor. Not that the housekeeper and butler disliked animals, nonetheless, their jobs, and those of their underlings, would be made much easier if the beasties were kept outside where, in their humble opinion, God intended them to live. From the time they had each been in leading strings, the Darcy progeny brought home countless stray and wounded creatures of the furred, feathered, and scaly persuasion; and they had never entirely outgrown performing such rescue missions.

As Mrs. Reynolds guided her dear friend and the two young ladies through Pemberley’s public rooms, she kept a constant and wary eye out for anything flying, slithering, crawling, creeping, hopping, or racing through its corridors, especially the first four categories; and she involuntarily shuddered. When the indoor portion of the tour was nearly complete, Esther Reynolds breathed a sigh of relief that no critter encounters had occurred. Over the years, the housekeeper and her staff had suffered countless unexpected and heart-stopping discoveries of birds, snakes, spiders, turtles, and toads whilst performing their duties. They had learned the hard way that boxes hidden under beds were an especial reason for suspicion and caution.

When the party neared the music salon, it became apparent they would have to bypass that room, as from behind its closed doors came the sound of scales being practiced on the new pianoforte. As they started down the hall to the portrait gallery, the musical training ended, the door opened, and a young lady appeared at the doorway and said over her shoulder, “Do continue, dearest, and I shall return in just a moment. You are progressing well, Anna. I am so very proud of you.” As she exited the room and spotted the others, she rushed forward and exclaimed, “Oh, Mrs. Reynolds, I understood you to be off duty today. Are you conducting a tour?”

An indistinct white shape dashed out of the music room, followed by another blur of fawn and black; the objects skidded across the highly polished hardwood floor of the hallway and ended up in a heap together at the feet of one of the visitors. That astonished young lady gathered her skirts, stepped aside, peered down, and smiled in delight at the two small balls of fur, which proved to be a sweet, silky Maltese and a cute, cuddly Pug.

From the direction of the music salon, a girl’s voice urgently called, “Dust Bunny! Pug-Nacious! Come back here at once, you little scamps!” A pretty young woman of approximately six and ten years appeared in the doorway and looked to the left and then to the right. Upon seeing the assemblage in the hall, her eyes widened, she blushed, and covered her mouth with an elegant hand. “Oh, I am so very sorry. The rapscallions were both sleeping so peacefully until Georgiana left, and then they just suddenly careened across the floor and out the door after her. I should have been attending them, but … ”

“Anna, do not fret, dearest. As you can see, no harm has come to these ladies; and the puppies are fine,” the older girl reassured the younger.

Mrs. Reynolds also stepped in to soothe the girl’s unease and spoke kindly. “Yes, Miss Anna, we were momentarily startled but have come to no injury. The little beasts are relatively harmless, except perhaps to the finish on the floor.” The housekeeper spared a brief scowl for the two canines, which were by then sitting at Georgiana’s feet, staring up at her with rapt adoration. A pretty lady of about twenty years, Miss Darcy had pale blonde hair and lovely azure eyes, whereas Miss Anna had darker blonde hair and captivating eyes of hazel. The sisters were both quite tall and had light but well formed figures.

The senior female servant then began her introductions. “Madeleine, Miss Bennet, Miss Elizabeth, please allow me to introduce to you Miss Georgiana Darcy and her younger sister, Miss Anna. I was just about to show you their beautiful portraits in the gallery, but here they are in person.” She smiled lovingly at the girls and then introduced her dear friend, Mrs. Madeleine Gardiner, from London, though formerly of Lambton, and the lady’s nieces, Miss Jane Bennet and Miss Elizabeth Bennet, from Hertfordshire. Curtsies and smiles were exchanged, and polite small talk ensued until Mrs. Reynolds suggested she and her guests should continue with their tour.

The kindly housekeeper was pleasantly surprised when Miss Darcy made a suggestion. “Mrs. Reynolds, perhaps you and Mrs. Gardiner would enjoy more time to chat together. In the meantime, Anna and I would be delighted to take a turn in the garden with the Misses Bennet.” Georgiana paused and frowned at the two furry creatures at her feet. “As for these little rascals, I believe they would benefit from a tiring romp outside.”

Agreement was immediate; and bonnets, gloves, and parasols were brought to the four young ladies, while the two older women continued on to the impressive portrait gallery. The Darcy sisters each scooped up a pooch and accompanied the Bennet siblings through the doors and down the front steps. As soon as they were on the garden path, the dogs were released. Miss Darcy explained, “These are my newest pets, Dust Bunny, the Maltese, and Pug-Nacious, obviously the Pug. Mother and Father presented the puppies to me on my twenty-first birthday, several months ago, and I am still endeavouring to train them. Do you have any other siblings or any pets, Miss Bennet and Miss Elizabeth?”

Elizabeth spoke first. “We have no pets, at least none allowed inside our house; but our father raises hounds for hunting, and there are a number of barn cats at Longbourn.”

Jane scolded, “Lizzy, perhaps you should have first mentioned our siblings before alluding to any animals.”

“Oh, of course, yes. There is only one year between Jane and I; however, the rest of us are all spaced about four years apart. We have three younger sisters, Mary, Catherine, and Lydia, and a darling baby brother, who is but three years of age and the pet of our entire family.” Elizabeth smiled fondly and continued, “Our parents waited so long for an heir, I am afraid little Robert Thomas Bennet is quite spoiled by all of us. I understand you ladies have an elder brother.”

Georgiana plucked a plump rose from a bush and replied, “Yes, Fitzwilliam is five years my senior; and Anna is five years my junior, which means I, alas, am the poor, neglected middle child.”

Anna Darcy gasped. “Georgie, you are neither poor nor neglected. Mother and Father dote on us all equally, as you are well aware; although dear Fitzwilliam, being the heir, is held up to very exacting standards and great expectations.”

Jane asked whether their parents and brother were presently at home. Miss Darcy answered, “Mother and Father were called away rather suddenly to take care of an urgent family matter in Kent.” Georgiana furtively rolled eyes at her sister and continued, “But Fitzwilliam is expected later this evening or early tomorrow with a party of his friends.”

Miss Anna added, “It is unfortunate you will most likely not have the opportunity to meet the young men, for they are all quite attractive and dashing. Our cousin, Richard, is an army officer and has earned a rather suspicious nickname. We have heard him referred to as Colonel Stu … ” She had been about to reveal the sobriquet but caught her sister’s disapproving glare and quickly changed the subject. “Um … and I may not be totally impartial; nevertheless, I believe our own brother to be the most handsome of men, as do many of the ladies, both young and old, in Derbyshire and in London. However, Fitzwilliam does not much care for Town society, except for attending the theatre, opera, museums, and art galleries. He prefers the bucolic country life but is still always impeccably dressed and proper, even here at home.”

“Dearest Anna, our guests do not care to hear so many details about our perfectionist brother and please refrain from ever mentioning Richard’s scandalous nickname. But now, Miss Bennet and Miss Elizabeth, you must tell us about your summer travels. Is this your first visit to Derbyshire, where are you lodging, and how long will you be staying?”

Jane answered, “You have already met our aunt, and we are also here with our Uncle Gardiner. He is in the import-export trade and is conducting business in the area, so our aunt took the opportunity to accompany him in order to visit with some of her dear friends, Mrs. Reynolds being one of them. Lizzy and I were fortunate to be invited along to enjoy the rugged beauty of Derbyshire. It is our very first visit to your breathtaking county. We are staying at the inn at Lambton for two more nights. We will travel home to Longbourn after a brief stop in London.”

“Do you spend much time in the city?”

“Not really, Miss Darcy,” Elizabeth replied. “Similar to your brother, although we enjoy the arts and entertainment available in Town, our family also favours the peaceful country life.” She plucked a small stick off the ground and tossed it down the path. The little dogs fetched it and scampered back, side by side, with the twig held between them. Their tails wagged in unison, and the four young ladies laughed at the delightful sight.

“You mentioned Longbourn,” Miss Anna said as she walked carefully between the puppies while they frolicked around her feet and wrestled for the stick. “Is that your family’s estate, Miss Bennet?”

Jane looked down, also taking care not to step upon tiny paws, as she replied, “Yes, it is one of the county’s largest and has been in our family for many generations. Papa is a very attentive landowner and is responsible for a large number of tenants and workers, with the help of our steward. Have you ever been to Hertfordshire?”

“I believe we have passed through after visiting Kent or London, but I regret to say we have never stopped,” Miss Darcy responded.

“Well, now that you have such interesting new acquaintances there, you must promise to visit and not simply pass us by next time,” teased Elizabeth.