Because a girl's got to get a dot sometime.
This is modeled after P.G. Wodehouse's golf stories, all of which are anthologized in The Golf Omnibus. A good number of them were first published in The Clicking of Cuthbert and Nothing Serious. I think there is one other volume dedicated wholly or largely to the golf stories, and a few are scattered about at random in other short story collections. My story is not directly based on any of them, although a good number of them do use Pride and Prejudice-esque plot lines. The basic conflict is reminiscent of Up From the Depths, and one particular incident is adapted from another story whose title escapes me at the moment but whose principals are called Wilmot Byng and Gendolyn Poskitt. There are more subtle influences from a number of the other stories, all of which I highly recommend.
A young man sat in a deck chair facing the practice green, staring wistfully at the two young women accompanying a child of approximately two years, in whom they were attempting to inculcate the proper interlocking grip. Beside him, apparently asleep in his chair, was an old gentleman whom he had always found lying in the same posture on each of his visits to the club.
"New here, aren't you?"
The young man looked up, startled to find his companion capable of emerging from his vegetative state.
"Yes, I'm Charles Bingley. I've just taken a house in Netherfield, and the club came very highly recommended. Of course I love golf. Always have, ever since I was a child..."
"Yes, new members all the time. I'm beginning to lose track of everybody here. For a minute I thought you reminded me of one of our other members. It's that dark hair."
Bingley stared at him, uncomprehending.
"Yes, that's how I knew you weren't Darcy."
"I once knew a man called Darcy. Very good golfer. Didn't talk much either. I say, you wouldn't happen to know who that woman is..."
By now the Sage had unwound into affability.
"Perhaps it's the same Darcy. He was sitting there too, staring out like that at her. And oddly enough, that's his wife and son you're looking at."
Bingley sat up straight, a look of determination on his face.
"Which one? Which one is his wife?"
"He was sitting right where you are, staring at her out there on the practice green. Every day, for more than two weeks he sat here, and the only time he spoke to me in all that time was to ask me her name."
"Speaking of her name..."
But there was no stopping the Oldest Member, and Bingley slumped back in his chair in defeat.
But I should start at the beginning. His name was Fitzwilliam Darcy, and he had taken rather a large house which had a nice view of the lake on the fourteenth hole. He had made quite a name for himself two years earlier, when he had finished third at the Open, and our little club was glad to have him. We at Pemberley are an open, friendly community, and when Darcy joined there were any number of men who asked him to play with them, and not a few who invited him home to join them for a family meal. But although Darcy politely accepted every offer, and played one round with almost every member of our club, he didn't find a regular pairing or foursome. He didn't speak much on the links, and while nobody likes a prattler on the links it was a little tedious to find that he restricted himself to monosyllabic utterances even when pressed between strokes. And at the dinner table he managed to make it absolutely clear that he had come to Pemberley for golf, and that he had no intention of obliging the members' wives by falling in love with one or another of their daughters. In his game there was nothing to complain of - he was very nearly a scratch player, and if he had one fault it was that he pressed too hard, and sometimes overswung. We soon found out that he had some sort of business in the city, and he played a round by himself early every morning. And on weekends he would play several rounds with his younger sister Georgiana, who was in school during the week. Georgiana had an uncannily accurate short game, but before she could be a serious player she needed to add distance to her drives, and Darcy was unfailingly patient as he worked on perfecting her swing.
Now Georgiana, although she was as faithful a golfer as any young woman who would in a year or two find herself a contender at the women's amateurs, had, in her past, a blot that she and her brother were still recovering from. Of course the Darcys had taken every precaution to keep this secret history from the world, and it was only much later that I learnt anything about it. Now, the story went something like this. At the tender age of fourteen, Georgiana had descended for a short time into the world, or rather the sub-world, of tennis, goaded on by an unscrupulous coach, George Wickham. Now Wickham and Darcy had played together as children, and he had hated Darcy ever since he had moved his ball ten feet, leading to his disqualification from the Children's All-Day Sucker tournament, for golfers below the age of seven, which Darcy had subsequently won. It was this watershed that had diverted Wickham from the fairway - he had steadily sunk into the nether realm of tennis, and in his twisted way, he took pleasure in luring other innocent golfers into the same hazard. He had become tennis instructor at this girls' school, for apparently even among the dregs there are some standards, and Wickham had not survived in the world of competitive tennis. And it was at this girls' school that he had his way with the poor girl who didn't know better and didn't have a choice.
That weekend Darcy found that instead of her being able to hole out from anywhere within twenty feet of the pin, which was her usual form, Georgiana was unsteady even at five foot range. He examined her grip, and was shocked. Instead of the interlocking grip that she had learnt at her mother's knee, she was holding the putter like it was a hack-saw! He asked her what the matter was, and found out that George Wickham had been giving her tennis lessons at school. Nobody had told the poor child the consequences of her actions, and she had picked up the tennis raquet, or whatever that barbarian implement is called, without knowing its injurious side-effects to her health and happiness. You can imagine what Darcy felt and how he acted. He put an end to the travesty of tennis lessons, and moved Georgiana to a school uncorrupted by such institutional fascism, where she was safe from the deleterious effects of the pseudo-sport. Since then he had lovingly nourished Georgiana's handicap, which, after that particular hiccup, had resumed its steady downward slide. Now he judged that she was sufficiently recovered from the incident, and he had signed her up for the Scarlet Ribbon, our local tournament for young ladies under the age of eighteen.
Georgiana's chief competition for the tournament would be Lydia Bennet. The Bennets were established as long time members of our club. Mr. Bennet was a respected member of the Greens Committee, and each of his three daughters had been brought up in the sport, and indeed, between them they held a good number of our juvenile records. The two eldest Misses Bennet were both former winners of the Scarlet Ribbon, Elizabeth having won it twice, and now that they were no longer eligible for the competition, it was widely held that this was to be Lydia's year. Elizabeth, who was beginning, at the time, to attract some attention in Open competition, was the most serious golfer of the three, Jane being too gentle-natured to enjoy prolonged competition, and Lydia being, for all her talent, a frivolous young thing with no conception of the solemnity of her calling. But Elizabeth had taken her sister in hand for this particular tournament, and with her sister's help and experience behind her, it was hard to see how Lydia could fail to click.
Now, Darcy, when he had been making his rounds of the dinner-tables of our members, had offended Mrs. Bennet by taking no interest in the mention of her three daughters, then absent visiting their aunt in Derbyshire. He had further compounded his error by inadvertently insulting Elizabeth almost to her face the very first time he met her. It happened something like this. Every year, the wives of our members organize on our club premises a dance for all the members, which is widely recognized as the primary occasion for our younger members to interact in a setting other than the links, and every year it results in several engagements being announced. Now, Darcy, when he had received his invitation, had accepted reluctantly, remembering the speculative looks on the faces of the members' wives, good mothers all, who were always eager to find steady young golfers for their daughters. The Misses Bennet had just returned from visiting their aunt, and popular girls as they were, none of them lacked a partner for any of the dances. Now, our club pro, William Lucas, had been watching Darcy standing around by himself all evening, was a sentimental old soul who held that a young man who was very nearly scratch, however lacking he might be in the niceties of conversation, deserved a young woman of very nearly the same handicap. He went up to him and offered to introduce him to Elizabeth Bennet, who was talking to the pro, and standing out a rare dance. Darcy, whose round that morning had been held up by the slow progress of two giggly young things, one of whom, he had ascertained, also of the name of Bennet, replied that he was in no humor to make himself agreeable to young women who made appearances on the links because they liked the way they looked in sporting apparel.
It was from Elizabeth herself that I had learnt of this unfortunate blunder the following day. She and I were old friends, and I had caddied her through so many of the important matches of her youth, including her three hundred stroke victory over all the other five-year olds in the Magic Umbrella, and more recently at the Scarlet Ribbon, where she had broken seventy in the championship-round. So when she came to visit me the next day, she told me the entire story, extremely amused by the fact that Darcy didn't appear to have realized that the young lady he had spoken so scathingly of had been the very one standing next to him and William Lucas.
At any rate, Darcy soon learnt that the favorite for the Scarlet Ribbon this year was Lydia Bennet, and he was unimpressed to find out that this was one of the girls who had held him up on the links, taking as much as fifteen minutes on the tenth because of a sudden fit of giggles induced by the unremarkable if somewhat unfortunate event of her friend Kitty's ball being taken captive by a squirrel. A girl who had such scant respect for the holiest of all sports could hardly pose any realistic challenge to his sister. But he thought it best nevertheless to have some idea of her form, and it was with that intention that he first found himself where you are sitting now, to watch Lydia as she practiced her short game under the watchful eye of her sister. But when he kept coming back here day after day, it became increasingly obvious that it wasn't Lydia he was watching.
Elizabeth was putting in a lot of time with Lydia's short game, because the child's natural inclination was to rush, and she invariably put too much force into her strokes, overshooting the green or skidding past the hole. And every day Darcy came out here to the terrace and, thoughtfully scratching his chin with the handle of his putter, watched as Elizabeth painstakingly corrected her sister's exuberant strokes, attempting to teach her control. Darcy had just barely noticed Elizabeth on the dance floor, where he had thought her only moderately pretty. But here in the wholesome surroundings of the practice green he found that she was breathtakingly beautiful. He was enchanted by her fine eyes, which she kept so steadily on the ball, and by the symmetry of her trim figure, displayed to best advantage in her immaculate follow-through. At long last, Darcy had fallen in love. No longer could he be satisfied to walk alone through the medal round of life. What could it profit him to break the course record, or even to bring home the Open trophy, if he did not have a wife who would listen to him in sympathy as he told her how he had managed to make it out of the sand-trap on the ninth without dropping a stroke?
It wasn't long before he confided in me. All the young men around here look upon me as a mentor and spiritual guide in such matters, and Darcy was no exception, though he had not said two words together to me before then. He came one day as usual to watch Elizabeth in the practice green, and finding for once that she wasn't there, he turned to me and began without preamble.
"I love her; I love her; I love her."
"Whom do you love?"
He looked at me as though I were a trifle weak in the head, and gestured impatiently towards the practice green.
"Her, of course. Where is she?"
"Do you mean Elizabeth Bennet? She's playing a round with her sister Jane. Lydia's away for the day, visiting some friends from school."
"Elizabeth. So that's her name. E-li-za-beth."
He almost sang it the second time. I scrutinized him. The symptoms were plainly evident - the spring in his step which unless carefully monitored could turn his measured swing into a nasty hook, the worshipping look in his eye which could hardly allow him to address the ball attentively, the accelerated heart-beat which would play havoc with his neat sense of timing. Unless he did something about Elizabeth, his game would quickly fall to pieces.
"Ever tried talking to her?"
"Talking to her?"
"That's when you pick a subject you think might interest her, and try to start a conversation. It's been known to answer. Girls like that sort of thing."
Darcy looked at me thoughtfully, without saying anything, and went away. I didn't see him the next day, and it was from Elizabeth that I heard the sequel. Apparently, he had taken my advice, and tried to start a conversation. Unfortunately, instead of starting out with a nice neutral subject such as poetry or golf, his idea of breaking the ice had been to pour his heart out before her. Elizabeth hadn't known what to make of him, but that hadn't stopped her from saying a great deal. She told him he was the last man she could ever marry, and proceeded to put him in his place for having thoughtlessly insulted her at the dance, for trying to distract her from her coaching sessions with Lydia by staring at her relentlessly, and for proposing to her without even bothering to introduce himself properly.
And yet when she recounted the proceedings to me there was something in her manner which I was very nearly remorse. Elizabeth was a sensible girl, and though she knew just how good her chances were at the Women's Open, she was perfectly aware that she did not get as much distance off the tee as she ought to, and that she relied too heavily on her short game. She had seen Darcy's relentless efforts with his sister, and she was fully aware that a few sessions with him would probably shave off those few strokes from her handicap that prevented her from calling herself scratch. When he had offered her the opportunity of signing on the dotted line the thought of his three hundred yard drives had undoubtedly caused her to waver in her decision for a second. But though his ball was invariably in the right place, the same could hardly be said of his heart. In the final balance, Elizabeth had been unable to link her lot with a man as inconsiderate as Darcy undoubtedly was, and she had not minced her words in conveying the same to him. In short, the thing had been a complete walk-over, and she had sent Darcy away licking his wounds.
But there was more good stuff in Darcy than I would have guessed, and though he was down, he was not out. The next day being Saturday, he was out on the links with Georgiana as usual, and took the same assiduous care as usual in ministering to her swing. Elizabeth and Lydia did not play a round all morning, which rather mystified Darcy, seeing as the opening matches of the Scarlet Ribbon were barely a week away. When he came in to the Dining Room to shoot a bit of nourishment into Georgiana before taking her out for another round in the afternoon, he found that Elizabeth and Lydia were there as well, along with George Wikham, his old nemesis.
Under ordinary circumstances, it is unlikely that Darcy would have spoken to Elizabeth at all, but his proposal had, in a manner of speaking, successfully broken the ice between them, and besides, the sight of Wikham always left him strangely moved. He felt that he owed it to Elizabeth to issue a suitable warning, and when Lydia and Wikham sauntered out leaving Elizabeth to pick up the tab, he went up to her and addressed her.
"Have you known that fellow long?"
"Wikham? I only just met him. He's attached to Lydia's school."
Darcy did not elaborate. He was of the opinion that the plain facts were bound to make a suitable impression.
"He plays tennis."
"Yes, I know, but he's very open-minded. He said he wouldn't mind walking around the links with us."
Darcy tottered away. There was nothing more for him to say.
Now, Darcy knew that though Georgiana had returned to the straight and narrow, it would undoubtedly disturb her nerves to be confronted with the sight of George Wikham. Fortuitously, in the Dining Room that day, she had been seated at such an angle that she had failed to notice his presence, and though Darcy had been concerned that the man would stalk the links along with the Bennet sisters, his fears failed to be justified. Undoubtedly they spent a considerable amount of time in his presence, for he heard portentous rumors of tennis lessons, but Wikham did not show his face at Pemberley.
It was under such circumstances that the Scarlet Ribbon competition began. Like in so many other local club tournaments for young ladies, the competitors fell into two categories - the rabbits, a technical term loosely describing the sort of women Darcy had purported to despise, who entered because they fancied their appearance in sports apparel, and the lionesses, who were the serious contenders for the Ribbon. Georgiana Darcy, who had not, temperamentally, anything of the lioness about her, had nevertheless been coached into that status by her brother, and much the same could be said of Lydia, who left to herself approached the sport with frivolous abandon, but who had been forced to apply herself with an unaccustomed seriousness. As the early rounds progressed the play was hardly of any interest, as the rabbits dismissed each other with gleeful fits of giggles, and Lydia and Georgiana made short work of the surviving rabbits. It was in the final round where, having eliminated all the other contestants, Georgiana and Lydia finally faced each other. It was not a match to be missed, and even if I had not been invited to act as referee, I would probably have been among the audience.
Darcy, of course, was acting as his sister's caddy, and Elizabeth was acting as hers, but all of us were surprised to find that George Wikham would be accompanying them through the round. I knew, of course, of his connection to the reprehensible would-be sport, but I did not know the blacker details of Wikham's history, and I saw no reason to bar him from the links. Nor did either Darcy choose to enlighten us of the circumstances. To be sure, at the sight of him Georgiana paled slightly, but she was a remarkably fair girl, and the difference was hardly striking. As for Darcy, he pursed his lips distastefully, but he swallowed the bitter pill with seeming equanimity. The girls tossed a coin for the honour, and Lydia, who won, chose to play first. Her drive went a clean two hundred yards down the fairway, and whether it was the fact that she was facing her real competition, or simply the unexpected presence of George Wikham, poor Georgiana was clearly shaken, and she lost the first two holes. At the third, however, she seemed to recover, and she won her first hole after holing in a remarkable thirty foot putt, judging the break of the green to a nicety. The fourth, fifth, and sixth they halved, the seventh and eighth Georgiana won also, but at the ninth, the long hole, Lydia prevailed again, and they arrived at the turn all square.
Not that all of this had been accomplished in the air of reverent silence that normally envelops our course, especially on solemn occasions like tournament finals. George Wikham, not content to sully the course with his mere presence, had brought along the racquet with which he plied his dark trade, and it appealed to his simple mind to amuse himself by bouncing a ball along the course. Moreover, he saw no reason to refrain from comment about what struck him as the idiosyncrasies of this holiest of all games.
"What a funny little ball! I say, where's the net?"
"You'll never be able to stop the ball with those sticks!"
"Oops, that isn't where the ball was supposed to go, was it? Doesn't she get a second serve?"
"So do you play a best of three holes, or a best of five?"
Darcy was seething inwardly, being of the opinion that Wikham was feigning ingenuousness in order to put his sister off her stroke. Of course, it might have been argued from the circumstances of Wikham's banishment of the game that he had little if any notion of the rules and principles by which golf is played, but I doubt that Darcy was in any mood to split hairs about such matters. As for Elizabeth, I could tell from the sarcastic air that her painstaking explanations were assuming that she was beginning to regret the blithe nonchalance with which she had assented to the proposal that George accompany them on this of all rounds.
Up until now, the weather had stood up remarkably well, but as we came up to the tenth tee, dark clouds had gathered, and the sky was beginning to look distinctly ominous. None of us present were fair weather golfers, for even Lydia had some sense of the solemnity of the occasion, but George, I could tell, kept glancing up at the sky apprehensively, and speeded up the pace of his bouncing, which was beginning to take on the more unpleasant aspects of the much publicized Chinese principle of water torture. He did, however, have the sense to refrain from comment on that score, and contest continued uninterrupted. Georgiana won the tenth, but Lydia unexpectedly took the eleventh, holing out from an impressive distance in a manner that betrayed the careful training regime to which she had been subjected. They halved the next two holes. It was at the fifteenth that the first droplets of rain appeared. George Wikham ceased his bouncing and examined his ball, a large neon yellow object of obviously shoddy manufacture that was soggy from the rain.
"It's wet. Hadn't you better call it a rain delay?"
"Of course not. And in any case, there's only three more holes left in regular play."
That silenced George for the moment, and the bouncing did not resume as the rain slowly gathered force. The girls continued with their closely fought contest, halving the fifteenth as well. At the sixteenth, however, Georgiana managed to take the lead once again, and despite all of Lydia's efforts, it was she could do to halve the seventeenth, so that Georgiana came to the eighteenth tee one up. Darcy, I could tell, was tremendously proud of his sister, and Elizabeth was in close conference with hers, impressing upon her that all was not yet lost, and that she would have to force a sudden death. Rapt in the unfolding drama of the match, none of us noticed that the rain had reached truly tempestuous proportions.
Being in the lead, Georgiana was the first off the tee, and with a good solid drive, she sent off her ball to nestle securely in the fairway. But Lydia's stroke was inspired, and as we made our way down the fairway, it became obvious that it lay only a short chip shot away from the pin. Georgiana, however, was undeterred, and with her second shot, she made it safely to the edge of the green. Given her uncanny short game, it was quite possible for Georgiana to hole out from that distance, and she would not, under any circumstances, require more than two strokes. Lydia could only be secure of a victory if she were able to hole out on her next shot. Following her sister's counsels, she examined the lie of the land, and began her practice swings. It was at this moment that George Wikham spotted the clubhouse, which lay across from the eighteenth green. Like the rest of us, Wikham had been steadily absorbing the precipitation falling like manna from the heavens for the last three holes, and now the lure of a change of clothing and a pint was too strong. With a cheery "See you later!" he bounded across the green. Suddenly a stroke of lightning tore across the sky, laying prostrate a large oak tree across the fairway. Lydia's ball shot out from underneath her, surprising everyone, including herself. Elizabeth almost cried out in alarm at her sister's abrupt stroke when she realized that it was following a marvelously accurate trajectory for the pin. The next second, it disappeared from sight, and a search of several minutes revealed it to be lying just beneath the lip of the soggy bunker. At the crucial moment, George Wikham and his racquet had deflected Lydia's ball from certain victory.
Elizabeth's anguish was writ large over her lovely features, and it was obvious that she wasn't taking well to the fast one that the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune had pulled on her. Darcy, though he desired to see his own sister's victory, felt her pain keenly, and was conscious of a strong inclination to pull her into his arms and comfort her. Manfully, he resisted, and standing at the opposite corner of the green, he did the one thing that was certain to take his mind off the present. He began to practice his swing.
George Wikham, in the meantime, had returned to Elizabeth's side, and resumed his prattling. Apparently, after having sabotaged its outcome, he was taking a renewed interest in the game, and abandoning all intention of returning to the clubhouse, attempted to engage Elizabeth in casual conversation, comfortably settling into a monologue as she pointedly ignored him.
The only other person who appeared to be taking the whole situation with an appalling levity was Lydia. Her first reaction to the interrupted stroke had been a sound that in a less attractive young thing could only have been described as a snort, and as she began to take her shots from the waterlogged bunker she kept erupting into fits of giggles that were hardly beneficial to her stroke. With each subsequent attempt, she managed to dig herself a deeper hole in the sand, and there was no immediate prospect of her emerging on to the green unless she managed to burrow her way there. And it did not appear that she had any intention of conceding the match either, so we began to prepare ourselves to remain for some time in the rain. It was only after she had taken about ten strokes in the sand that Elizabeth admitted to herself that the match was lost. The thought of subjecting herself any further to Wikham's mindless prattle seemed absurd, and yet, she knew no escape. The poor girl was almost driven to tears, and as the gushing chit-chat reverberated through her head she gave herself up to imaginings of bloody murder. The thing could be done in one quick supple stroke, and if it had to be done, it was undoubtedly a niblick shot.
But just as her fantasies were reaching their most gory height, the torrent of conversation ceased in a sudden, miraculous stroke, replaced by a series of yelps that was as music to her ears. And lifting her eyes across the green, she met the steady gaze of the man who had come to her rescue. Going against every principle he had learnt at his mother's knee, Darcy had driven a ball straight into Wikham.
For the rest, there is little left to tell. When Wikham realized that he was endangering life and limb by remaining at large on the golf course he fled, never again to be seen anywhere near our idyllic community. Darcy and Georgiana attempted to concede the match, saying that it went against regulations for caddies to play during a match, but Elizabeth objected, and as I failed to find any stricture preventing a caddy from playing a ball not belonging to either player, their objection was overruled. We stayed out there on the eighteenth green for several hours and a few hundred strokes before Lydia was able to extricate her ball from the bunker, and hole out. Georgiana then proceeded to take the hole in three strokes, which gave her the match by two holes. It was Georgiana's first and only Scarlet Ribbon. She went on to acquit herself creditably in the Women's Amateurs that year, and still has a fine career ahead of her.
That evening, Darcy scoured the entire club before finding Elizabeth at the practice tee, attempting to polish her drives. He stood there for a few minutes, watching her from a distance. She wasn't getting anything like the distance she ought to have been, and even from a distance he could spot the pernicious results of tennis lessons. He felt the tragedy of it keenly, for like all strong, silent golfers', his was a sensitive soul. And yet, he hesitated to speak. He was in uneasy position of a comedian trying to tell a joke for a second time, knowing that the punch line has already fallen flat with the audience. For though it was clear to him that only now had he learnt the true meaning of love, he had no reason to believe that this might prove acceptable to Elizabeth.
He stood there for he knew not how long, until awakening, like Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase), from a deep dream of peace, he realized that Elizabeth was talking to him. She stood there, looking at him expectantly, and he realized in a sudden panic that he had no idea what she had just said.
"Yes," he tried, hesitantly.
Her eyes lit up, and taking his arm, she led him back to the practice tee, and handed him her driver. Darcy still had no idea what she wanted, but it was absurd to imagine that if given a driver in his hands he would not do what he did best. He put down a ball, waggled briefly, and sent a screamer down the fairway. When he looked up, Elizabeth was looking at him with an expression of awe in her eyes.
"Four hundred yards! And you can do it every time. That's wonderful!"
"It is a fairish distance, I suppose," he said, blushing prettily.
"Now show me how it's done," she said, taking the club from him and addressing the ball.
Even to the eye of Love, the defects of her posture and grip were plainly obvious, and once again, Darcy cursed in his mind the man who had been allowed to perpetrate such offenses. Enfolding her in his arms he made the necessary corrections, and then guided her arms through a perfect arc.
Extricating herself, she turned to face him, and for a moment that familiar pang of apprehension returned, as he realized belatedly that his actions, though undertaken in the purest spirit and not intended to bring the slightest blush to the cheek of modesty, might be interpreted in quite a different light. But the light in her eyes made it amply clear how she had interpreted his actions, and it left him in no further doubt of how to act.
He clasped her to his bosom, using the correct interlocking grip
The Sage sunk back into a somnambulant state as abruptly as he had arisen from it. Bingley observed him cautiously for a minute or two, and then made a run for it, trusting to the heavens that the trance would persist for long enough to allow him to make good his escape.
His course, however, was interrupted by a sudden obstacle of rather sizable proportions. He looked up, feeling like a Mohammed taken unawares by the precipitous appearance of his mountain.
"Gosh, I'm sorry! Whatever must you think of me, bounding about like a menace to life and limb, not to mention health and happiness, or home and hearth..."
"Stop blathering, Bingley."
"Darcy, fancy seeing you here! This is marvelous! I was wondering whether it mightn't be you! There aren't too many people around with a name like yours..."
"Bingley, has anyone ever pointed out to you that you talk too much? I tell you this for your own benefit. When was the last time anyone allowed you to finish a sentence? Fight the verbosity. It will not be easy for you, for you have let yourself go for long years. You will feel the pinch. You will tell yourself that that one more compound clause will do no harm, but it adds up, Bingley, it all adds up. Don't speak for a few days. Smile, and nod, and take it from there. Good, just like that. Now come with me. You haven't met the family, have you? They're right there. Elizabeth, my wife, with our son. And her sister Jane. You'll like Jane. Nice girl, that. Very quiet."
The obvious debt to Jane Austen and P.G. Wodehouse.
Lots of cliched expressions and proverbs, etc, but specifically from Hamlet and the poem Abou Ben Adhem. Hamlet is by Shakespeare (although there are those who would contest it, but we need not enter into theories about Marlowe, Oxford, etc.). Abou Ben Adhem is by some Victorian poet. I studied it in eighth grade, and all I remember are the first two lines and the last line, as well as the gist of the plot, which basically involves the said Abou Ben Adhem waking up in the middle of the night to find an angel by his bedside (which seems like rather a nasty shock) making a list of good people or something like that. Abou Ben Adhem makes some kind of a self-deprecatory comment, and the angel shows him in response that in the list "Abou Ben Adhem's name led all the rest." I provide this summary for no particularly good reason, other than to acknowledge that I my source. I simply don't happen to know what that source is.