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The Education of a Chaperon - Chapter VIII

April 11, 2020 05:28PM
DNA:I've finally finished Chapter 10. That's good news because I had been struggling to find an ending I liked for ages, but it also means that I'm now past the point where I had a detailled idea of where this story is going. There is a broad outline, but nothing more. So, this is not normally how I approach a story, but seeing as this is just everyone's favourite crack, if you have any wishes for things you'd like to see, or suggestions for things you think I absolutely should include, feel free to let me know smiling smiley I'll see if I can incorporate it!

Thank you again for all your lovely comments!

VIII. Lambeth

The archbishop of Canterbury would have said of himself that he was a very complacent man. Nothing, he would have said, could faze him easily. He took fashions and fads in stride as they came and went, there were more important things to life.

The archbishop would also have described himself as a moderate man. He did not like excesses, neither in himself nor in others. They could only lead to most unpleasant outbursts and displays reminiscent of foreigners. In the archbishop’s opinion, this applied to all matters, regardless of what they were, for a middle ground would always be preferable to either extreme.

It was for this reason that there was only one woman in the archbishop’s bed now, and while she was, as a matter of fact, not his wife, she was not in any way scandalous. She was neither quite highly nor quite lowly born, being the daughter of a tradesman on the brink of gentility and the widow of a respectable curate, in age closer to the archbishop than to his daughters or his mother, and of altogether rather average, though pleasing, looks. The archbishop would not say that he was mad about her, certainly, but he was rather fond of her, perhaps even more than averagely. He was thus rather displeased to be called out of his warm, moderately large four-poster bed by an incessant, altogether rather unregulated knocking on his door. The archbishop was not too much of a friend of punctuality; he found those who were too fixated on being exactly on time rather suspicious, but nevertheless he agreed with the majority of society that saw certain hours of the day as more agreeable to social and business calls than others.

His secretary, however, informed him that the visitors were rather insistent and as the secretary was young and inexperienced, he had not been able to deny them entrance to the library, where they were now waiting for the archbishop. The archbishop sighed. He would have preferred to only concern himself with the matter of his mysterious nightly visitors in the morning, but now that they were actually in the house, the rules of hospitality, even when not quite strictly interpreted, demanded that he listen to their matter. He quickly ran a brush through his hair, donned a neatly, not too lavishly decorated nightshirt and covered himself with a dressing gown befitting his status as a prince of the church.

When he entered the library, he inwardly groaned, though he took care not to betray his feelings to his visitors. He had never liked Fitzwilliam Darcy – the man was unnecessarily tall, for one thing, far above the average – and that he now showed up at an impolitely late hour with not one, but two women in tow – and one of them almost young enough to be his daughter! – was a clear sign of a complete disregard for all standards of moderation.

At least, the man had manners. They were, perhaps, a bit too nice to be completely agreeable, but he could be relied upon to make the proper introductions. The creature in the black dress, prettier than her mousy companion, was apparently no lady at all, but a government chaperone. The archbishop had to applaud Fitzwilliam Darcy for this clever move and wished that a government career had been an option that his parents approved of, back in the day. The girl, in turn, was the chaperone’s charge, and thus not of interest to the archbishop, and probably not to Fitzwilliam Darcy either.

The archbishop briefly thought of offering his visitors tea, but, his current companion not being in a state that would allow her to be mother, dismissed the idea again. He might appear a tad more rude than he intended to for omitting the offer of hot drinks to his guests, but from the manner of his late arrival, he guessed that Fitzwilliam Darcy had come to seek his good graces, and not the other way around.

Of course he had. There had been another “incident,” as Fitzwilliam Darcy liked to term it, and instead of just letting time and nature take their curse, providing the young couple in question with the post schedule to Gretna as a helpful hint, and looking the other way until the deal was completed, Fitzwilliam Darcy insisted on following the letters of the law to the very last jot. It was not the way the archbishop had been doing things for years. Of course he had never promoted or supported public indecencies, but there was such a thing as taking a practical approach that made life much easier for everyone involved.

Not of course for Fitzwilliam Darcy the way ordinary people did things.

‘With all due respect, your grace,’ he said, ‘but I need to make sure that the name of the couple in question will not be tainted. They surely erred, but there is such a thing as Christian charity that should allow you to grant the necessary papers swiftly.’

The archbishop had been too busy to ponder how much respect Fitzwilliam Darcy thought was his due to instantly realise the attack on his position as a shepherd.

‘I assure you, Fitzwilliam Darcy,’ he said, ‘that I do take Christian charity into full account when handling these matters. Indeed, I have frequently made it known that the approach of the Church has always been more charitable than the stance the government has taken recently -’

‘I apologise again, archbishop,’ Fitzwilliam Darcy said and the archbishop was pleased to note that his face gained colour, ‘I mistook your position in the recent Vernon affair. You know I meant no harm to either you or your see.’

The archbishop decided that now was the time to show some leniency.

‘Very well,’ he muttered. ‘I suppose we may both have been mistaken in the character of Lady -’

‘I was very clear about her character very early on,’ Fitzwilliam Darcy said at once, with a rather annoying degree of warmness. ‘Indeed, as I pointed out to you in my letter of the fifth of -’

The pretty young thing that Fitzwilliam Darcy had brought with him gave the tiniest cough. The archbishop was astonished to see that instead of recommending she drink some tea, Fitzwilliam Darcy actually interrupted his diatribe and turned his eyes towards her.

‘Be that as it may,’ Fitzwilliam Darcy said, ‘we can agree to let that matter rest, you will find the full details in my report of the -’

The chaperone coughed again.

‘Coming back to the matter at hand,’ Fitzwilliam Darcy said, ‘I have here with me all the necessary application papers as under Section IV of the -’

The archbishop could never remember all the legal niceties, and did not really care for them either; he knew what to sign and what not. Instead of listening to Fitzwilliam Darcy’s rambling, he amused himself with observing the young thing, who hung on the man’s lips as he dissected subclauses. Then it was finally time for Fitzwilliam Darcy to produce the promised papers, and for the archbishop to at least make a proper show of examining them as thoroughly as he deemed necessary.

The unexpected omission hit him squarely in the eye. Mechanically, his hand was already reaching for his quill in order to sign the papers - he was not one to get caught up in details when the intention was clear - but then he remembered Fitzwilliam Darcy shredding the Vernon paperwork with his bare hands because the archbishop had ticked the wrong box in the section on prerequisites, and he drew his hand back into his lap.

‘I cannot sign this,’ he said, gaining an almost carnal knowledge of the very foreign concept of schadenfreude.

‘Sir, I beg of you -’ the pretty chaperone said and he almost reconsidered but for Fitzwilliam Darcy’s stern glance.

‘You have forgot, Fitzwilliam Darcy,’ he said, enjoying every syllable, ‘to obtain the necessary signature of the local magistrate with the seal affixed. I cannot possibly countenance such a glaring ignorance of the rules.’

Fitzwilliam Darcy’s complexion went from pale to burning scarlet in a few precious seconds. The archbishop returned the papers to him and helpfully pointed out the line where the missing signature should have been.

Night airs, in the opinion of the archbishop, were a thing best to be avoided. Nevertheless, as he returned to his bedchamber and his snoring companion, he opened the window a crack, knowing that Fitzwilliam Darcy would be mounting a carriage in the street below.

‘We will not return to Hertfordshire tonight,’ he heard the chaperone say with a rather steely tone. ‘There is no tonight to speak of anymore, and Miss Price is dead on her feet. I would not mind a rest and something to eat, either.’

The archbishop had never slept more sweetly.

The Education of a Chaperon - Chapter VIII

Mari A.April 11, 2020 05:28PM

Re: The Education of a Chaperon - Chapter VIII

KateRMay 01, 2020 04:27PM

Re: The Education of a Chaperon - Chapter VIII

Mari A.May 01, 2020 08:04PM

Re: The Education of a Chaperon - Chapter VIII

KatApril 24, 2020 12:02AM

Re: The Education of a Chaperon - Chapter VIII

EvelynJeanApril 15, 2020 02:09AM

Re: The Education of a Chaperon - Chapter VIII

UlrikeApril 11, 2020 06:59PM


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