With my lighter summer schedule, I’ve finally made some significant headway on my current work-in-progress. Return to Longbourn is the sequel to the sequel to Pride and Prejudice. In other words, it follows The Darcys of Pemberley.
One of the scenes I wrote yesterday has Mary Bennet stuck for 3 hours alone in a carriage with Mr. Darcy. A dream come true? Not for Mary. Darcy’s married to her sister, remember. Plus he’s not the easiest person to talk to, especially for someone as socially awkward as Mary. She draws upon her recent experience with a similar guy – Mr. Farnsworth, the current master of Netherfield Hall, where she is governess. Here’s an excerpt:
Her longstanding acquaintance with Mr. Farnsworth should have somewhat prepared her for confinement with Mr. Darcy. The two men were not unlike in some ways – the same powerful presence, the brooding and taciturn tendencies. Yet with Mr. Farnsworth, Mary had the children in common. They were the starting point for nearly all their conversations. What did she have in common with Mr. Darcy? Only Elizabeth and an appreciation for books and music. She supposed those topics would have to serve.
As Mary puzzled over how to begin, Mr. Darcy opened the conversation himself. Five minutes down the road, he said, “This seems a very fine carriage. Your employer must be a gentleman of considerable means. Do you find him a just and principled man as well?”
Mary was taken aback by this inquiry and nearly as surprised by her own response. “I… I’m not sure I have ever seriously considered the question. But I believe he is. He may rant like a despot, and we sometimes argue over what is best for the children, yet Mr. Farnsworth has never been anything other than honorable and scrupulously fair to me personally. Beyond that, I cannot say.”
“That speaks well of him. The true measure of a man is not taken by how he treats his peers and betters, but in how he deals with those over whom he holds unconditional power – his wife, his children, his tenants, those in his service and employ. If he treats them fairly when he has no one but his own conscience to answer to, then he is honorable indeed. Outsiders do not know what goes on in another man’s house, but his servants do. Therefore, it is their approbation that is most worth the earning. What praise is more valuable than the praise of an intelligent servant? I should much prefer it to the commendation of a lord.”
“Truly? That is very well said, sir.”
Mary was struck not only by the admirable nature of his sentiment but by its length. She could not recall ever hearing her brother-in-law speak so many words together before. He seemed to have exhausted his full supply at this, however, for not another did Mr. Darcy utter for a good half hour.
Only two and a half hours to go. What will they talk about the rest of the way? I’ll admit, Mary and I are stumped. Any ideas?
“He is the best landlord, and the best master that ever lived. Not like the wild young men now-a-days, who think of nothing but themselves. There is not one of his tenants or servants but what will give him a good name.” (Mrs. Reynolds about Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice, chapter 43)