Summary: Inspired by A Happy Assembly’s “Captivating Compromises” playground theme.
Disguise of every sort is Darcy’s abhorrence, unless he is being blackmailed into a very compromising position and encircled by Society’s leading ladies.
Fitzwilliam Darcy repressed a shudder as he slowly swayed to the bawdy music and tried to seductively take off his top coat amidst the cat calls of London’s so-called finest ladies. He surveyed his prison, a very large bird cage, originally made for the exotic ostrich bird, in Madame Du Bouis’s east drawing room, aptly called the Bird Room. Like himself, the ladies were masked, though they were covered with various feathers from exotic birds and most definitely unlike him they were not doing much to hide their identity. Good Lord, its Bingley’s sisters! Well, this is the most compromising of a position Miss Bingley shall ever find herself in with my person.
He was a private man by nature and not present by choice. He took very stringent measures to hide his identity, though if all else failed everything pointed to his identity being George Wickham. Wickham!
As if he did not have enough reason to hate his former best friend, the blackguard attempted to seduce his baby sister and planned an elopement with her. At the last minute she confessed all to her elder brother and guardian. Wickham’s goal was Georgiana’s 30,000 pound dowry and revenge on Darcy. In light of his current surroundings, Darcy could agree that Wickham succeeded in that regard nearly completely. It’s all for Georgiana.
Down to just his shirtsleeves and breeches, he began to untie the intricate knots of his cravat. For some reason this part always drove the ladies crazy. Why fashion decided a man’s neck must be covered and then in layers of knots he understand not. Women’s fashion exposed much of their bosoms but somehow a man’s neck was taboo. If he were not so disgusted with his current position he would have spent the time contemplating the beauty of a woman’s neck and agree that he was glad that fashion did leave it exposed.
Hearing the timing of the music he realized, with great relief, his session was almost finished. The routine was learned easily enough. He tried not to shudder again from unwanted memories of Wickham teaching him his ‘tried and true’ routine. Only two more nights.
Only two more nights and his contract with Madame Du Bouis in Wickham’s stead would be complete. He could still remember the look on Wickham’s face when he countered Darcy’s offer of 5,000 pounds for silence on his plans for Georgiana with a threat to write an express to Darcy’s aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Aside from making his life miserable, she would likely demand guardianship of Georgie or even worse, that Darcy marry Anne immediately. Who am I kidding, she would definitely demand that.
Lady Catherine had been saying it had been Darcy’s mother’s ‘dearest wish’ for him to marry Anne since he was fifteen and Anne was eleven and it became clear she would not be able to compete in the London marriage mart despite the promise of Rosings Park. Probably because even the Dowager House would not be distance enough to have a mother in law like her. The dowager house was only another motivation to push Anne on Darcy. She could only otherwise appeal to second sons, which would mean relinquishing control of Rosings.
No, Darcy would never give Catherine the means to blackmail his life. He often hated balls and soirees where he felt but a piece of horseflesh on the London market of marriage, complete with intrigue with disgusting propositions from married ladies and widows and compromising schemes from matchmaking mamas- this was even worse. But a lifetime better than Lady Catherine’s blackmail.
He tuned out the shrieks for more as the dissatisfied ladies ogled his naked torso as ‘Genevieve’ his ‘assistant’ stroked a blasted peacock feather across. Hearing the end of his session he plastered on a fake smile and took a formal bow. Then he hurried to his dressing room and refreshed himself quickly followed by exiting through the back of the house and into an unmarked carriage- taking every care not to be followed.
The biggest flaw with this plan was that Wickham still held the upper hand. He could spill this situation to Lady Catherine. But Darcy was working with his cousin, a colonel, to find something on Wickham, and preferably on Lady Catherine as well. Yes, two can play at blackmail, old friend.
Darcy entered his study and poured himself a large tumbler of brandy and then saw two notes on his desk. Neither one brought good tidings. Colonel Fitzwilliam still had not uncovered what could be considered a coup de gras against Wickham and Catherine and Bingley was apparently asking his help looking at a leased estate in Hertfordshire, of all places. A little vacation after all of this distastefulness would be enjoyable, but Bingley wrote that not only would they be attending an assembly on Darcy’s first night in the country, but that Bingley’s two sisters- women that he now knew frequented Madame Du Bouis’s- were to be present. It was impossible to suppress the shudder this time.
I have had enough with fawning, insipid, immodest, insincere and immoral women! But to deny this request would open him to questions when he would rather not have any, So to Hertfordshire I must go.