The Darcy Inquisition
The Scene: Darcy’s house in London, a week post-Hunsford. Darcy has lapsed into despair; Georgiana, fearing for him, has called for her cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam to help. They intend to interrogate Darcy to find out what is wrong, but somehow things go slightly awry.
Based on selected nuggets from the wonderful Monty Python sketches of The Spanish Inquisition.
Incidentally, did you know that one of Jane Austen’s suggestions for Colonel Fitzwilliam’s first name was Montgomery? That discovery inspired this whole ficlet…
“I don’t know what to do, Monty,” Georgiana almost ambushed the Colonel as soon as he entered the house, latching onto his arm and leading him towards her brother’s study. “I have never seen him like this – not even after – you know – Ramsgate!” The last word was a hushed gasp.
The Colonel patted his young cousin’s hand. “Whatever it is, I shall help you sort it out, you know that, Georgie. And no, I am sure that it is not your fault, or indeed anything to do with you.”
“Oh, good,” she said, and at his inquiring look, admitted, “I was afraid that Aunt Catherine might finally have convinced him that I should go to live with her and Anne, and he was avoiding me because he didn’t want to tell me…”
“Definitely not,” she was assured, and then they were at the study door. Georgiana lifted her hand to knock timidly, but her cousin tapped it aside gently and swung the door open himself.
Darcy looked up, startled, from his seat at his desk. He looked exhausted and sad. He also looked surprised, and slightly irritated by the interruption.
“Monty! Georgiana! What – what can I do for you?”
“Sit down,” the colonel barked. “Now, what is all this about?”
“All – what about?”
“This! This – moping about, not eating, not sleeping, spending hours in here on estate business, as you call it, when you and I both know Pemberley is very well run by your extremely capable staff most of the time! Now Darcy, you are going to tell me what’s wrong. Confess!”
“Monty, I have no idea what you are talking about and I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition!”
“It’s not like that, Brother…” Georgiana began timorously, but her cousin interrupted her.
“Yes, Darcy, it is exactly like that, this is the Darcy Inquisition, and of course you didn’t expect it, nobody does. Our chief weapon is surprise. And brandy,” the colonel added, spotting a decanter on the sideboard. “Our two chief weapons are surprise and brandy.”
“And love, because we love you and we don’t want to see you suffering like this,” Georgiana joined in.
“Yes, yes, our three chief weapons are surprise, brandy and love. And a determination to stay here as long as it takes to get you to tell the truth. Our four chief weapons – oh, bugger it. Our weaponry includes, but is not limited to…”
Darcy leaned back in his chair and started to laugh. “Oh, Monty, enough. Pull up a chair and pour a glass. Georgiana, would you like some sherry?”
“Yes, please,” she said, surprised that her brother would offer, but not wanting to say or do anything to put him out of humour.
“I’m not sitting there,” the colonel eyed the hard wooden chair before Darcy’s desk, “come over here, cousin.” He almost dragged Darcy over to the window, where there was a grouping of very comfortable armchairs. “Here, sit here. Georgie, pass me that footstool. And that cushion. There, comfy, Darce?”
“Why, yes, thank you.” He leaned back and put his feet up, eyeing his cousin with amusement. “Still not sure what it is that you want me to confess to.”
“You will.” A large tumbler of brandy was shoved into his hand, and the other two seated themselves. “Now, if we have to drink you under the table, that’s fine.”
“Possibly for you, but I am not sure I am up to that task, Monty,” Georgiana said with a giggle.
“That’s all right. You can watch and interrogate him while I get him drunk. His answers might make more sense to you anyway. So. How long has this been going on?”
“How long has what been going on?” Darcy said plaintively, at the same moment that his sister announced;
“Since you two came back from Kent.”
“Kent, eh? And what happened there to make you so morose?” The colonel knew he’d hit a nerve when Darcy said nothing and took a gulp of his drink. “That’s it, get drunk if that’s what it takes to talk about it. Was it Aunt Catherine?”
“No, it wasn’t Aunt Catherine.” Darcy sighed, looking between the two dear faces, two of the three people in the world most dear to him. They both looked fiercely determined, and also deeply concerned.
“Confess it, Darcy,” his cousin said.
“Confess all, Brother,” Georgiana said in her gentle voice. “Whatever it is, you told me that problems are always halved when shared, are they not? Let us share this and solve it with you.”
“Confession is good for the soul, Uncle George told me. I don’t doubt he taught you the same lesson. So tell us.”
Darcy sighed, downed the remainder of his brandy in one long swig, and let the name of his sin drop from his lips.