Costumes & Chaos
Chapter 6: Marie Antoinette and the Vampyres
Sir Rupert and his younger-by-five-minutes brother, Mr. Rudolph Graves (called Rudy by his friends) stepped out of carriage in front of Pemberley. Sir Rupert's dress appeared to be fairly normal, though his entire outfit was black--from his simple mask to his dancing slippers. The dark outfit only served to emphasize his dark hair and eyes. Only by showing the extended wax teeth could one discern that Sir Rupert had chosen to appear as a vampyre. Mr. Rudolph, as fair as his brother was dark, came dressed in a plain brown suit. In his hand he held a papier-maché mask shaped like a deer's head.
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As Laura stepped out of the carriage, Sir Rupert was there to greet her. "Your majesty, I see that your outfit has come to no harm," he gave her an elaborate bow before taking his her hand and placing it on his arm. "You must be ashamed to been seen with such plainly dressed fellows such as myself."
"No, indeed, I feel no shame whatsoever when I am in the company of such a handsome gentleman. But truly, no one will believe that you are a vampyre, for they look monstrously like, well, like monsters, and you, my dear, do not."
"Well, if anyone should ask, I will simply say that I believe that if vampyres do walk amongst us, then we should not be able to tell them apart from ourselves. So a vampyre may be a handsome dashing rogue, such as myself."
Lord Byron, who behind Sir Rupert and his wife, overheard this conversation. "What a novel idea," he thought, storing the memory away. The line to greet the hosts moved steadily forward. Sir Rupert had Mr. Henry announce them as Sir Graves Ghastly and Marie Antoinette.
Laura rushed forward to greet her hostess. "Elizabeth, I fear that you will have move all the breakables for I am sure to send them crashing about. I do not how our mother's ever got around in such outfits everyday, I truly do not," Laura greeted her hostess. Laura had become friends with the new Mrs. Darcy over the past few weeks due to their participation in the local Literary Society. Laura was a member of long standing who had welcomed Elizabeth with such genuine warmth and kindness, that Elizabeth could not help becoming friends with Lady Graves.
"I shall see to it that the servants remove the figurines whenever you near," Elizabeth promised. "You look so grand, you will put the rest of us to blush."
At this moment, Darcy turned to greet the guests. When he bowed to her, Laura dipped down in a very low curtsey. Darcy could not ignore what was before his face. He blushed.
"There is your proof, Laura," Mrs. Darcy teased.
Rupert admonished his wife, "Stop flirting, my dear, for I should hate to have to call out one of my friends, and leave his new bride a widow."
"You are so sure of skill, then, Sir Rupert," asked Elizabeth, ready to come to Darcy's defense.
"I am sure of all my skills, aren't I, my dear?" he asked his wife silkily, who was turning red to everyone's amusement.
Outside the Pemberley main grounds, two men watched the arrival of the carriage for the party. Rufus and his younger-by-five-minutes brother, Rudyard (called Rudy by his friends) Groves waited for the steady stream of carriages to cease.
"Later, when the party is in full twig," said Rufus, "we will enter Pemberley to steal Mrs. Darcy's jewels and if anyone sees us, they will think that I am Sir Rupert Graves and you are his brother, Rudolph. They are the ones that will be blamed for this theft."
Rufus looked over his shoulder at his brother, "You did your part in this caper very well little brother, getting us the exact copies of the Graves costumes."
"It was easy, I but walked in the door of the tailors and there were all but ready to strip me down and dress me up then and there," Rudy grinned slyly, "they did not hesitate to hand over the pattern cards." He looked over his outfit. "You would have made a fine tailor if you had stuck with old Hudson."
"I didn't intended to spend the rest of my life making up to the gentry, I intend to become one of them," Rufus pulled a flask out of his pocket, "A toast to father, and us. We see the ruination of the family that ruined father and we get wealthy in the process."
Rufus drank from the flask and handed it to Rudy. "To father," he said solemnly, "and to wealth," he grinned delightedly at the thought, and swallowed the gin that remained in the flask.
Sir Rupert and Laura were trying to dance. The awkwardness that resulted from the unaccustomed width of Laura's skirts made the attempt laughable. Laura giggled as she almost knocked over her gentleman.
"You used to be so graceful, love, I do not know what has happened, all these missed steps and near collisions with your partner. You must be getting old," Rupert teased.
"Old indeed! Find us an empty alcove to sit out the next dance in and I will show how "old" I have become," Laura responded.
Sir Rupert took up her challenge, and they soon disappeared from the ballroom.
"I see my brother and sister-in-law have already left the dance floor," Rudolph said to Elizabeth as they danced. "Would you care to wager that when they reappear Laura's wig will be askew?"
"I am not much of a gamester," Elizabeth responded before moving down the line.
"Well, should you ever wish to learn, I would be more than willing to teach you. I have some rare good luck with cards," Rudolph told her when they finally met again, "I shall be heading to the card room after our dance. I could not pass up the opportunity to dance with the most beautiful woman in the room."
"Mr. Graves, I fear you flatter me insincerely, I can see many woman much prettier than I," said Elizabeth, before turning in the dance.
"A woman in love will always outshine all rivals," Rudolph replied as the dance ended. He led her over to Darcy's side, congratulated him on his good luck in finding such a delightful bride and then went to the card room, searching for his own good luck in a hand of cards.
Rufus and Rudy slipped into Pemberley a little before nine. By adopting the attitude that they belonged at the ball, no one questioned them as they made their way through Pemberley's corridors. The few guests they ran into mistook them for Rupert and Rudolph (if indeed they gave them any thoughts at all).
They continued to make their way upstairs to Elizabeth's room. Thus far, Rudy's careful courting one of the maids was paying dividends. They found the room with only wrong turn.
"Rudy, keep a watch outside the door," said Rufus.
"Why do I always have to keep watch?" complained Rudy.
"Because I am the better cracksman, that's why. Now quit complaining and keep watch," and after swatting his brother across the back of his head he entered the room.
Rudy rubbed the back of his head and glared at the door. He pocketed a small miniature landscape that was hanging on the wall. Keeping his eye the door, he made an inspection of the hallways contents, trying to find tradable goods.
Rudy's courtship of the maid had let slip several key pieces of information, besides the location of the bedroom. Rudy learnt that the most of the jewels were hidden in a wall safe. He reported this bit of knowledge back to brother.
Rufus went unerringly to the picture that hid the safe. He had an uncanny ability for finding hidden jewels. It was almost as he could smell them.
Once he had the jewels from the safe in his pouch, he looked at the bed. He crawled on top of the bed and ran his eyes over the carvings on the headboard. According to the maid, there was a secret drawer somewhere in the carvers.
"Where are you, my beauties? Come out, come out wherever you are," he whispered softly, his hands tracing the carvings. "Ah-ha, thought you could hide from me," he said as found the opening mechanism. He pulled out the sapphire and gold cross from its protective sack. "No wonder they hid you away. A rare beauty you are indeed." The cross went into his pouch.
Taking his full of Elizabeth's jewels, he left the room surreptitiously. "All is well?" he asked softly.
"Right as rain," said Rudy as they started down the hall. Everything had gone according to plan.
"Sir Rupert, Mr. Graves!" a voice cried out behind them. Then turned to find Caroline Bingley and Lady Nancy Palmerston were walking down the hall. A piece of good luck, thought Rufus, the lady obviously mistakes us for the Graves.
"My queen," Rufus bowed over Caroline's hand, "and my Empress, is it not?" as he bowed over Nancy's hand.
"Come, Sir Rupert, surely you know who we are?" teased Lady Nan.
"I fear you have disguised yourselves too well for this simple man," Rufus proclaimed. Caroline and Lady Nancy laughed delightedly. "My brother and I are just on out way back to the ballroom." (Rudy started at this, for it was not part of the plan) "would you ladies care to accompany us?"
"We would be delighted," said Lady Nan, as she grabbed Rufus' arm like a limpet.
"I do not believe that Mr. Graves wishes to return to the ballroom," noted the more observant Caroline. "Perhaps he is longing for the game room?"
"Indeed I am," Rudy said, completely missing Caroline's overture for a compliment. "If you will excuse me." Rudy barely remembered to bow, before he took down the hall.
"Obviously, my brother has been dazzled by your magnificence," Rufus offered his other arm to Caroline. When they reached the door to the ballroom, Rufus scanned the dance floor to make sure that Rupert was not on the floor, nor could he be spotted elsewhere in the room. Feeling safe, he bowed to Lady Nancy, "May I have this dance?"
"Well, of course, Sir Rupert. It has been some time since we danced together. Not since you committed the act of folly known as marriage."
"A most tremendous piece of folly on my part," Rufus agreed. Nan sent him an invitational smile. I might just be willing to take up the invitation, he thought, if time allows.
Time allowed, he decided during the dance. Even if Sir Rupert did not get blamed for the jewel theft, Rufus would have the consolation of knowing that "Sir Rupert's" obvious flirtation with another woman would be reported back to his wife. When the dance was over he led her out onto the balcony and proceeded to kiss her, without any objections from the lady.
No one needed to report to Lady Laura of her husband's doings for she had seen the whole thing from across the room. "Going to the necessary, he said," she fumed to herself, "I will show him how necessary it is to dance with that...that..." words failed Laura. She was ready to barge onto the balcony, when she caught sight of her husband taking Lady Nan into his embrace. Her hands clenched so tightly that her nails bit into the palms that they showed blood. She felt almost faint with anger and pain at this betrayal.
Colonel Fitzwilliam came up to her asking for the next dance. "Of course you may have it," Lady Laura said bitterly, a brittle smile on her face.
"Lady Graves, I can see that you are not well. Shall we sit out this dance?" he asked kindly.
Laura nodded. Almost as soon as they entered the alcove, Laura burst into tears. "Lady Graves, please...I shall fetch some wine...some tea perhaps? Would you like your husband's company?" Laura wailed and the Colonel grew more flustered. "Not your husband, then. How about Mrs. Darcy, my mother?"
Laura nodded, wanting to be rid of the man. Colonel Fitzwilliam beat a hasty and welcome retreat.
Elizabeth's maid hovered anxiously at the entrance to the ballroom. She had sent one of the footman to get Mrs. Darcy. It was an emergency. The maid was pacing back and forth in hall when Elizabeth and Darcy appeared.
"Oh, Ma'am, Sir, 'tis the most dreadful thing. It's been stolen, all of it, oh Mrs. Darcy," she wailed.
"Calm yourself," insisted Mr. Darcy. "Take a deep breath, yes, that is it. Now tell us has happened, what has been stolen?"
"Mrs. Darcy's jewels, Sir. I was just getting everything ready for this evening, turning down the bed and such. When I noticed it looked somewhat rumpled--the bed clothes that is--and I wondered why, cause it was not as if you and Mrs. Darcy would have had the chance..." here the maid's voice trailed off. "And that's when I noticed it was open."
"What was open?"
"The hidden drawer, Sir, and it was empty. I knows Mrs. Darcy was not wearing her fancy cross tonight, so I checked to see if it was in her jewelry case and everything was gone!"
"Hush, now. It will be all right," comforted Elizabeth. She looked at Darcy, silently asking, what to do now?
"Excuse me," butted in Caroline Bingley, "but I could not help but overhear. Have you lost all your jewels, Elizabeth? Poor Elizabeth," she commiserated.
"Do you know something that might be of use, Miss Bingley?" asked Darcy.
"Oh, nothing much I am sure, it just that I saw Sir Rupert and Mr. Rudolph Graves up in the hall not far from Elizabeth's room."
"And what would Sir Rupert Graves want with Elizabeth's jewels?" asked Darcy.
"I have not the faintest notion, I am sure. Why do you not ask him?" suggested Caroline, pointing out Sir Rupert as he came out of the ballroom.
"I say Darcy, have you seen my wife?" asked Sir Rupert.
"I saw her on the dance floor not to long ago," offered Elizabeth.
"Well, she is not there now! Where could she have gone?" he asked again.
"Perhaps up to Mrs. Darcy's room, like you did, Sir Graves?" questioned Caroline.
"I have no idea what you are talking of," Sir Rupert replied.
"Come now, Sir Rupert, do you mean to tell me that you have forgotten that we met in the hall there not a quarter of an hour past."
"I fear you have mistaken me for someone else. I was out visiting the necessary."
"I have never heard Lady Nan refereed to as a necessary. More of a luxury I should think," insinuated Lady Caroline.
"Lady Nan?" Sir Rupert looked totally confused. Suddenly, Laura rushed upon him. With all her might she smacked Sir Rupert across the face, "How could you!" she roared as the musicians fell silent. Everyone in the ballroom was staring at the doorway. Laura picked up her skirts and ran.
Rudolph had spent the evening winning at cards. Lady Luck had been more than kind to him. His pocket jingled as he left the card table seeking refreshment.
Rudyard, separated from his brother, made himself at home in Darcy's study, emptying the brandy decanter, and helping himself to a few objet d'art that were handy. His pockets were also filling up.
Feeling that it was time for them to depart, Rudy went off to find his brother. When he exited the study, the first person he saw was the oh-so-helpful-but-unknowing maid. He was fearful that she might recognize him.
"Oh, sorry, Sir. I was not watching where I was going. Such a to-do has got me all confused."
"I am most sorry to hear it. What is the to-do that so upset you?"
"The mistress' jewels have been stolen, every last one. Can you believe it?" Rudy could, since he was one of the thieves. He and Rufus needed to leave Pemberley at once so others could take the blame for their deeds. He went off in search of his brother.
A few minutes later, Rudolph mistook Darcy's study for the men's parlor (said to contain many a fine cigarillo and the best brandy). When he realized his mistake, he immediately left the room. Mr. Bennet spotted Rudolph just before he, himself, sought the sanctuary of Darcy's study.
Rufus, was about to step into the ballroom, when he noticed a commotion on the other side of the room. Though some distance away, he was able to make out Sir Rupert. Not wanting his companion to see the gentleman, he convinced Nan that they should go somewhere more private, like the library.
"I have always had a keen interest in knowledge--carnal knowledge," flirted Lady Nan, stroking his arm, "shall we take the back way?"
"A lady after my own heart," said a delighted Rufus.
"So I told you many times, but you would not listen, and look at whom you married in the end?"
Lady Laura, running as fast as cumbersome costume would allow, left the embarrassing situation in the hall and ducked into the library when she heard Rupert at her heels.
Rupert was following on his wife heels. Hearing her scream of outrage he charged into the library.
Rudy mistook Rupert for Rufus and followed him into the library.
Rudolph coming from the opposite hall, came abreast of Darcy and Elizabeth, who are chasing after Rupert. All three enter the library.
French history was being rewritten before their eyes as Marie Antoinette was at Josephine's throat. The ladies were being restrained by two identically dressed gentlemen.
Darcy called everyone to attention. "What is going here?" Everyone ignored him.
"I said, What is going here?" Darcy repeated louder. Again he was ignored. He took a deep breath when a shrill whistle sounded in the room. They all turned to stare at Mrs. Darcy, who was now caught with her two pinkie fingers still in her mouth. Quickly, as her face was turning vary shades of red, she wiped her hands on her skirts.
"A singularly useful talent, my dear. You must show me how to perform it someday," Darcy complimented. He surveyed the now silent group of people before him. Two dark suited vampyres, two deer, a French Queen and a French Empress. And perhaps one of them held the clue to Elizabeth's stolen jewelry. "Sir Rupert, Rudolph perhaps you would be so kind as unmask yourselves so we can see who these impostors are?"
"Of course," came the reply. Sir Rupert and Rudolph took off their masks.
"Mr. Darcy, arrest these men, for they are impostors," said the other vampyre. "I am Sir Rupert and this is my brother Rudolph."
Rufus took off his mask. So did Rudy. Every face in the room wore the same expression of incredulity. For now there were two Sir Ruperts and two Rudolphs. It seemed impossible to say who is who.
"How are we to tell them apart?" asked Elizabeth.
Laura coughed. All eyes turned to her, "Rupert has a birthmark on his lower back," she offered as a way of identifying the men. However, both men had the same birthmark on their lower backs.
"That is of no use," Laura commented. After thinking a moment, she cried, "I have an idea."
"Let us here it, Lady Graves," encouraged Darcy.
"I want both gentlemen to close their eyes. Make sure they are complete closed." The Ruperts complied. She then asked, "What color are my eyes?", knowing that most men never actually look above her neckline.
Her eyes, Rufus thought, who looked at woman's eyes when so much bosom was exposed for admiring glances. "Blue," Rufus guessed, "blue like your dress."
Rupert smiled, knowing that they had the impostor. "Your eyes the most beautiful chestnut brown color I have ever seen. I fell in love with your eyes (and with you) the first time your brother showed the miniature portrait you had sent to him. Your brother could not understand why I continually wanted to see your portrait. I found it difficult to believe myself that I had fallen in love with a mere picture."
"Oh, Rupert," Laura cried, rushing into his arms.
Rufus made for the door. To his chagrin, he found Mr. Henry on the other side with a pistol. "If you would be so kind to empty your pockets?" he asked in his most polite voice.
Rufus emptied his pockets. To his disappointment, the gun never wavered from his chest. Out came the bundle of jewelry. Darcy spilled the jewels on the library table. Rufus looked at them with regret, as the colors spilled across the dark wood of the table.
"Now that Rupert has bee revealed to us, we must find the true Rudolph," Laura said.
"Rudolph has a scar on his left arm," Rupert offered. Uncannily, both men had similar scars caused by similar falls from similar trees on their similar ninth birthday.
"Your eyes are brown, dear brother, just plain, old, ordinary brown," quipped Rudolph.
Mr. Henry coughed.
"Yes, Henry, what is it?"
"Mr. Rudolph was spied coming out of your study, sir, by Mr. Bennet. He mentioned that a few geegaws (his word, Sir) seemed to be missing. A quick investigation revealed a snuff box, an ivory figurine, some Dresden shepherdesses were no longer in the room."
"Is that all?" asked Darcy.
"I did not have time to be more thorough. However, I could add a bottle of brandy to the list for the decanter is empty."
"I believe that is one object that it is impossible to retrieve," said Darcy.
"Quite," said Rudolph, "I am sorry to have missed it, Darcy. You always have the best brandy." Rudolph laid out a pile of gold on the table. "My winnings from this evening. As you can see, I have Mr. Hurst's voucher also."
Rudy emptied his pockets. Out came the shepherdess, the ivory figurine and the snuff box. Also added to the growing pile on the table was the painting Rudy had lifted from hallway.
"Henry, you are slipping," commented Darcy.
"I am sorry, sir."
Elizabeth asked "What I want to know, is how this came about."
"If I may be so bold, Ma'am," Mr. Henry interjected.
"Be as bold you please, Henry, if it will satisfy my curiosity."
"I am only repeating servants gossip, you understand. However, it seems that on the home from a trip to Bath, Mrs. Graves went into labor. It was earlier than expected. Sir Graves was forced to stop the carriage at the first inn he came to. Also at this inn was a couple by the name of Groves, whose wife was also in labor. Mr. Graves and Mr. Groves settled down to a game of cards while awaiting their firstborn. Each woman gave birth to twin sons. All the babies were placed in a third room. The doctor wrote each child's surname on a slip of paper, but, possibly due to the hectic nature of the moment, his writing was not clear."
"It has been speculated, even by the late Sir Graves, that a possible mix up occurred during the birth, especially when the brother's grew up so dissimilar in looks and Master Rudolph lacked the Graves birthmark. I believe that I have heard that at one time he tried to search out Mr. Groves, but met with no success."
"That is a lie," shouted Rudy, "Mr. Graves ruined our father. He said so from the time we were old enough to remember."
"My father never ruined a man in his life," Rudolph said heatedly.
Rufus was not interested in defending a man who had raised him. "Brother," he cried to Rupert, "release me, for after all I am Graves, I have the birthmark to prove it."
Rupert answered, "I have only one brother, the one I grew up with. But there is no denying that we are of the same parentage, even though you are a rogue, a scoundrel and a thief."
"That is a bit harsh, dear brother," cried Rufus.
"I will you and your brother the use of the Graves name, and I will supply you with an allowance of 500 pounds per annum if you both leave England and never set foot upon it again."
Rufus made another protest.
"Or I can turn you over to the authority's and be done with you."
"We will take the 500 pounds," said Rudy.
Mr. Henry left the room. Shortly he arrived back in the company of four of Darcy's burliest grooms. "You are to escort these men to the docks and place them on the first ship leaving the country. Where it is going does not matter," Darcy told them.
"Oh, Rupert, I am so sorry, how I acted earlier. But I thought it was you with Lady Nan." She looked up her husband. "It was your twin that was with Lady Nan, was it not. Of course it was." Rupert decided to let the matter rest.
"I shall be heading back to the card tables as soon as I found something to eat," Rudolph declared. "Lady Nan, can I interest you in partaking of the buffet?"
Laura had forgotten that Lady Nan was even in the room. "You will say nothing of this evening to anyone, or I will finish what I started earlier. You do not know the pleasure that would give me."
"No knowledge of this evenings events will come from my lips, rest assured," Lady Nan grabbed onto Rudolph's arm. "You know, you always reminded me of young man I know, by the name of Frank Churchill, do you know him? It is uncanny to think that three such handsome men exist in the world."
After the other's exited, Elizabeth asked Darcy, "Tell me, William, could you have guessed the color of Lady Laura's eyes?"
"No, for why would look at her eyes when I can look into yours?" Darcy asked her.
"Louisa?" cried an inebriated Mr. Hurst, who was not so drunk that he did not recognize his wife in the arms of a mysterious man in black.
"Arthur, whatever is the matter?" Did Mrs. Darcy hide all the sofa's so you have nothing left to sprawl upon?" Louisa questioned.
Turning around she was not surprised that her mystery man had disappeared again. No matter, he would appear again soon. She walked to the door, ignoring her husband completely as she walked out of the orangerie. He pinched her bottom as she went past.