Posted on 2015-10-31
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a graduate in Golf Park Design must have trouble finding a job. (It is also a truth universally acknowledged that a National Trust membership comes with free parking, but that is neither here nor there.) Elizabeth Bennet had applied at all the first-class golf clubs in the country, and then the second- and third-class ones, at a golf-simulation arcade-cum deep-fried chocolate bars merchant booth on Brighton Pier and, worst of all, a miniature golf course in Guildford, but all to no avail. She had received nothing but rejections. She was now becoming rather desperate, especially since the question whether she could afford to renew her National Trust membership was coming up, and had had few scruples in replying with a gushing letter to an ad in the classifieds that even her sister, who saw the best in everything, had thought shady.
WANTED, Personal assistant (m/f) for unusual non-profit venture, flexible working hours, wide range of tasks. Light office work, other responsibilities negotiable. Must possess valid driving license and be willing to apply for NT membership. No criminal record. Physical fitness and interest in archeology a bonus. Please state lowest salary expectation and earliest starting date.
Fitzwilliam Darcy, her potential employer, turned out to be the most peculiar man Elizabeth had ever met.
'It's an old family tradition,' he explained. 'We are called the guardians, but, well, uh, have you ever drunk very strong dessert wine?'
Elizabeth had to say that she hadn't.
'Well, you see, the magic that gives us our special abilities' - Elizabeth was not yet quite sure what those abilities were, but she supposed she would find out soon enough - 'it's supposed to be renewed every generation, and, well - have you ever been to Brighton Pavilion?'
Elizabeth had to say that she hadn't.
'Well, never mind, I've already covered that one, no Magna Cartas there, but anyway, as it happens, the magician who was supposed to renew the magic in the early 1800s had been invited to a dinner with the Prince Regent at Brighton Pavilion the night before and it turns out you can really only stomach the wallpapers there if you get really drunk. So he may have made a tiny mistake with the incantation.'
'What incantation?' Elizabeth asked, and almost instantly wished she hadn't.
'It enables members of my bloodline to discover copies of the original Magna Carta,' Fitzwilliam Darcy explained. 'Used to be that we could feel them with a touch of our hand, but these days, unfortunately' - he lowered his voice - 'it's a touch of the tongue.'
Elizabeth shook her head to clear her ears. Surely she had heard him wrong. Fitzwilliam Darcy, meanwhile, was shaking his head in disgust.
'Had to lick my way all through bloody Westminster Abbey,' he muttered. 'Filthy. Not to mention St Paul's Cathedral, half of Leicester and that Norwich toothbrush factory - well, never mind that. Turns out dessert wine is also an excellent disinfectant if taken in copious enough amounts -'
Elizabeth was too stunned to rush out of the office, as was her first instinct. Fitzwilliam Darcy pushed a piece of paper towards her.
'This is the contract,' he said. 'It includes a standard non-disclosure agreement as well as a waiver to any rights for antiquities we discover.'
Elizabeth could never say afterwards why she had signed the contract. Might be that that 19th century magician knew how to do his job after all.
Their first job was Avebury Henge. Fitzwilliam Darcy did not drive, so Elizabeth had to drive him there in her old Dutch Fiat (inherited from an eccentric third cousin). They had both dressed up as hippies, the better to blend in, and Elizabeth's National Trust membership card allowed them free parking. So Elizabeth waited in the parking for three hours munching on M&S sandwiches and disgustingly addictive cheese snacks whilst Fitzwilliam Darcy made his way through the many, many, many stones. Then he returned, clutching a rotten-looking old document and complaining of a dry tongue, emptied a thermos full of tea and off they were again. Elizabeth had only earned a pittance during those three hours, but it was the most easily-earned pittance ever.
Buckingham Palace was a right old fiasco. Turns out they had video cameras everywhere.
It was quite a task distracting the guide and visitors whilst Fitzwilliam Darcy covered all the statues at Petworth House. Fitzwilliam Darcy sprang for cakes in the tearoom afterwards, which was quite a surprise for Elizabeth, and she finally felt comfortable enough to ask the one burning question.
'Why are we doing this anyway?'
Fitzwilliam Darcy gulped down half a cup of tea before he answered.
'Have you ever heard of the Knights Templar? Well, never mind, it's not them exactly, although maybe it is - not sure actually, nobody ever tells me anything. Anyway, apparently they're after all the Magna Cartas and they're like - what is that physics thing that makes rooms explode? They're like that in the wrong hands, and, well, the long and short of it is, I have no bloody idea but my arch-nemesis is working for the other side so naturally I'm in.'
Elizabeth understood about arch-nemeses and didn't ask further questions. They needed to get an early night anyway because they were going to Hastings the next day.
'Why exactly do you not have a National Trust Membership anymore?'
Fitzwilliam Darcy muttered something incomprehensible about Stonehenge and an obscenity trial that had been settled out of court.
'Why Jane Austen's cottage?'
'Who could have guessed it would be hidden in Jane Austen's writing desk? Was that even an authentic writing desk?'
'Jane Austen's grave, after Jane Austen's writing desk - it was obvious it wouldn't work. That was totally an Austen overkill.'
'At least nobody thought it odd I genuflected on the grave and licked.'
'They even offered you a pillow for the knees.'
'Never would have guessed there was one underneath the statue of Alfred the Great though.'
'I told you right from the beginning he had great legs.'
'Do you think you will ever have found enough of them?'
'Truth be told, I think they keep hiding the same ones over and over again. I think they're waiting for some sort of grand finale.'
'What happens after the grand finale?'
'No idea. Maybe eternal life or some such thing?'
'Guildford Miniature Golf Arcade and Fun Complex? You're quite sure that's what he said?'
'I can check the address again, but the post code looks about right -'
'That's where the grand finale will take place?'
'Seems like it -'
'Who would ever go to Guildford voluntarily?'
'Well, the parking fees can only be more moderate than in Brighton, so that's an upside to it, I guess.'
'The White Cliffs of Dover would have been more impressive though.'
'That's it, then?'
'I guess so.'
'So duct tape was the secret weapon all along?'
'Seems like it, yeah.'
'And all the licking, what was that for?'
'I have no clue.'
'And now ... for something completely different.'
'Is that dessert wine?'
'Oh, twenty years at least.'The End