I recently went searching for Buzzfeed posts about Mr Darcy (as you do), and I found this one: ‘17 Jane Austen Characters, If They Were on Tinder.‘ The post got me to thinking (which is rarely a good thing):
What would it be like to go out on a date – a real date – with Darcy, or Knightley, or Mr Wickham, Edward Ferrars, or perhaps Colonel Brandon? Let’s say you have one week to date five Austen men. Only imagine the various romantic (or not so romantic?) scenarios…
Tuesday Evening. Colonel Brandon arrives to pick you up exactly on time. He’s a bit older than you expected, but is well dressed and possessed of impeccable manners. He drives an expensive but understated car and opens the door for you. You feel treasured, like a piece of fine Limoges china. Although he drones on a bit over dinner a deux at a Michelin-starred French restaurant about a variety of (mostly boring) topics, he offers little in the way of personal information, other than ‘I do believe it looks like rain’ and ‘by the way, that Mr Willoughby is a womanizing rat-bastard and you’d do well to avoid him.’
Upon further questioning, he evades specific details and says vaguely, ‘I just know he’s no good. You must take me at my word on that.’ He’s too much of a gentleman to even consider asking you to stay over. He thinks far too highly of you for that.
So you return home…regrettably, alone.
Wednesday Evening. Make no mistake, George Wickham is one smokin’ hot man. He’s all about a good time, preferably if it ends up with the two of you in bed. He’ll take you to a chain restaurant for dinner (nice, but nothing too pricey) where your focus will be on him and not the unspectacular food. You’ll have fun, and be treated very well on your date, of that you can be sure; and he’ll almost certainly want you to stay over at his. But like a hangover, or a morning after that probably shouldn’t have happened in the first place, there will be regrets the next day. Big ones.
Be sure to use birth control. And don’t say you weren’t warned.
Thursday Evening. Ah, Mr Knightley. Beware – this one is intelligent, and an excellent and challenging conversationalist, but he has a distressing tendency to berate, reprove, criticize and admonish your every move. However, you’re inclined to forgive him as he’s very attractive, and he takes you to a restaurant that’s so exclusive it doesn’t have a name, just a street number. You feel incredibly special…until he scolds you roundly for ordering red wine with your fish and tells you that such a grievous gaffe is ‘badly done, Emma.’
‘Who’s Emma?’ you demand. He mumbles something unintelligible and surly and abruptly changes the subject.
Needless to say, neither he nor you is getting lucky tonight.
Friday Evening. Edward Ferrars is that most pleasing of things in a man…kind and attentive. He has the shy, self-deprecating Hugh Grant thing down pat. Actually, with his floppy brown hair and soulful brown eyes, he could almost be Hugh Grant. He takes you to a steakhouse where the offerings are, like him, modest, traditional, but nonetheless pleasing. He muddles his way through the wine list and manages to choose a decent bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. He tells you earnestly over the pommes frites of his desire to become a clergyman. You’re excited. ‘As in role playing, you mean? Costumes? Punishment? Whips and chains and cat ‘o nine tails?’ you ask as you flutter your lashes at him.
He looks at you in mingled confusion and alarm. ‘No. As in my becoming a vicar. Ordained, actually.’
You suppress a sigh. So far, it looks like you’ll be spending another night alone in front of the telly in your fuzzy socks and t-shirt with nothing but a bottle of cheap red and Graham Norton for company.
But there’s one more date left on the week’s agenda…this one, with a certain Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy. His name sounds a bit pretentious, but he comes highly recommended by your divorced friend Liz. So you agree to dinner at his at eight.
Saturday Evening. He sends a car for you. A car! And not just any car. It’s a chauffeured limo with the works – a bar, a stereo softly playing classical music, a sumptuous interior. Of Mr Darcy there is no sign. The driver informs you he’s waiting for you at Pemberley and you’ll be dining there together.
‘Pemberley?’ you ask, intrigued. ‘It must be a new restaurant. Never heard of it.’
The driver says nothing more until, a short time later, the limo glides to a stop in front of the most ginormous stately home you’ve ever seen. It’s beautiful…bigger than Downton Abbey. But there’s nary a sign of Carson or Mrs Patmore; just a vast and sweeping staircase rising up at the far end of the entrance hall, down which a man in a black tuxedo is descending.
And what a man… His face is swoon-worthy, with a granite jaw, dark, unreadable eyes, and a head full of thick, dark hair. His expression is polite but haughty. As for the rest of him? Let’s just say he does serious justice to his tux.
He holds out his arm and you take it. He leads you into a dining room of breathtaking beauty and size. You sit in the chair he holds out for you at one end of a mahogany table, easily as long as Sloane Street, and wait as he sits across from you. A series of servants arrive and you dine together on crab bisque, Cornish game hens, asparagus, and creamy Duchesse potatoes. The food is delicious, and you tell Mr Darcy so.
He regards you without expression. “The asparagus is barely tolerable, I daresay.”
“Barely tolerable?” You eye him in surprise. “But…I must disagree! It’s perfectly cooked, and very good.”
“I fear it is not handsomely enough arranged on the platter to tempt me.” His words are firm and leave no room for further question on the matter.
You decide to change the subject. “Do you like to dance, Mr Darcy? I’m fond of going to a nightclub on a Saturday night.”
“I equate dancing with poorly plated asparagus – tempting in theory, but ultimately disappointing.”
Annoyed, you lay your napkin aside. “Is there anything you do like, Mr Darcy?”
He presses his lips together. “I like conversation…when it consists of an intelligent topic. And I confess, I do like to go riding.”
“I knew it!” you exclaim, and clap your hands together. “You are a romantic at heart!”
Mr Darcy frowns. “And what,” he inquires with a scowl, “has riding to do with romance?”
You lean forward and give him your best come-hither expression. “Let’s go upstairs, Fitzwilliam,” you purr, “and I’ll show you.”
And – after a moment of shock – he does. And you do. And…well, let’s just say that you both get lucky that night.
Very, very lucky…