An Unexpected Guest
Elizabeth Darcy looked over the dining room at Pemberley with a great degree of satisfaction. Tonight was to be very important; it was her husband's 30th birthday. Knowing that he did not want a lot of guests around, she had ordered the table to be set for six: the two of them, Jane and Charles Bingley, Georgiana, and Colonel Fitzwilliam. The presents that she had bought were all laid on a table at one side of the room. Another table stood next to it for the cake which would be brought up in a few hours. Looking at the clock, she saw that the time was now seven o'clock; the Bingleys were two hours late. As she continued surveying the room, she noticed that the flower arrangement had not been brought up yet. Ringing the bell, she waited as the gardener came up with a large vase containing that night's centerpiece.
"Thank you, James. It's wonderful. I'm sure Mr. Darcy shall love it," she said as the gardener placed the vase in the center of the table.
"Yes, ma'am. I made extra care to be sure that there were enough lupines, knowing that they're the master's favorite flower," he responded.
Just then, Darcy walked in, and took in the room with a bit of surprise.
"What is all this for? No one told me we were having guests for dinner," he said, with mock astonishment.
"Do not worry, dear; it is only a few close friends. I promised you that I would not subject you to a huge party on your birthday."
"That is good," he replied as he continued to take in the room. Noticing the flower arrangement, Darcy said, "That arrangement is exceptionally beautiful, James. You've really outdone yourself this time."
"Thank you, sir. Will you be needing anything else?" he asked, as he began to move in the direction of the door.
"No, thank you; that will be all," Darcy replied as a deafening crash filled the room.
Glass flew everywhere as a tall man, dressed in black, with a black cape and mask, and two pistols jumped through the dining room window. Brushing a few small shards of glass off of himself, he drew his guns and shouted, "Stand and deliver!"
Darcy, Elizabeth, and James all stood in astonishment of this man.
"Just what is the meaning of this, sir?" Darcy said.
"Stay where you are!!!" the bandit shouted, raising his guns higher. As James began to pull a florist's knife out of his back pocket, the masked man shot him in the chest. James collapsed and Darcy went to him.
"My God!" cried Elizabeth. "Is he dead?"
Darcy checked the servant's pulse. It was slow, and seemed to be getting even slower.
"How dare you! This man was one of my best gardeners, and you killed him!" Darcy said, almost exploding in rage.
"Actually, I'm not quite dead, sir," James said weakly, from the floor.
"Well, then... How dare you! This man was one of my best gardeners, and you mortally wounded him!"
"I really think I'm going to pull through, sir," James said, as he sat up and leaned against a table leg.
"Well, then..." Darcy began, as he realized just how silly this was becoming. "What do you want?"
"Stand and deliver!" he shouted again. "And let what I did to your servant be a warning to you all. You move at your peril, for I have two pistols here. I know one of them isn't loaded any more, but the other one is, so that's one of you dead for sure... or just about for sure, anyway. It certainly wouldn't be worth your while risking it because I'm a very good shot. I practice every day... well, not absolutely every day, but most days in the week. I expect I must practice, oh, at least four or five times a week... or more, really, but some weekends, like last weekend, there really wasn't the time, so that brings the average down a bit. I should say it's a solid four days' practice a week... At least... I mean... I reckon I could hit that tree over there," he said, motioning out the window. "Er... the one just behind that hillock. The little hillock, not the big one on the... you see the three trees over there?"
"Yes," they all replied quickly.
"Well, the one furthest away on the right..."
"Please, sir, just tell me what you want, and you can have it. Gold, silver, fine china, valuable antiques and paintings, rare books; you name it, and it's yours. Just leave us alone!" Elizabeth said.
"Yes, anything you want," Darcy agreed.
"I want..." he began.
"Yes?" Darcy and Elizabeth said in unison, getting ready to turn over some of the good silverware, or the gold clock on the mantelpiece.
"WHAT???" they all asked incredulously.
"Yes, that's right. I want your lupines!" he said.
"You mean the flowers?"
"That's right, now hand them over!"
Elizabeth quickly took the lupines out of the vase on the table, and handed them haphazardly to the man.
"No, no," he said, waving his pistol at her. "In a bunch, in a bunch!"
Elizabeth quickly bunched them and handed them over.
"Thank you. I shall now take my leave of you," he said as he jumped out of the window. As he landed on his horse, they could hear him shout, "On, Concorde!" The horse and rider galloped away into the night.
Elizabeth and Darcy looked at each other in astonishment and shock, and then helped James up off the floor. He was now completely recovered, and bore no signs of the shot that the bandit had drilled into his chest.
"What was that all about?" they wondered aloud. However, their questions were interrupted as Jane and Charles Bingley entered the room, looking half scared out of their wits.
"Oh, Jane!" Elizabeth exclaimed as she ran over to embrace her sister. "You look like you have been through an awful trip!"
"I am sorry, Lizzy, for we are almost two full hours late."
"It is alright, but what happened?"
"We were attacked by a mysterious highwayman while we were coming here from Netherfield. He took one of the presents, and ran off with it!" Bingley said, still in shock over what had happened to him and his wife during their journey.
"You didn't happen to bring... lupines by any chance, did you?" asked Darcy.
"Why, how did you know?"
"A lucky guess."
Suddenly, they began hearing this strange music coming from the background.
"What is that?" Darcy asked.
Nobody knew, but rather began looking for its source, as singing began to accompany the ghostly musicians:
"Dennis Moore, Dennis Moore, galloping through the sward,
Dennis Moore, Dennis Moore, and his horse Concorde.
He steals from the rich, he gives to the poor,
Mr. Moore, Mr. Moore, Mr. Moore."
Author's Note: The flower mentioned here as Mr. Darcy's favorite is based on a conversation between him and Elizabeth in the conclusion of Lou's story, "The Best Laid Plans". When I read what it was, the wheels in my head started to turn (a very dangerous thing, indeed!) and this was the end result.
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