A few scenes got cut from the final project, but they live on here, for your enjoyment.
Wickham was difficult to extract from the Bennet house. Mrs. Bennet was loath to permit him to leave until Darcy intimated that Lady Catherine expressed her approval for their outing, at which point she could not usher him out quickly enough.
Michaels led them to several soggy, overgrown fields and a cluster of dilapidated cottages. At least two of them were not inhabited, which, though it was a relief, also signified more squandered opportunity for much-needed revenue. Both Michaels and Fitzwilliam were appalled at their findings, while Wickham appeared quite sanguine in the midst of it all, even suggesting they share a meal at the local pub afterwards. While dining at a pub was hardly desirable, even less desirable was facing Aunt Catherine until he considered how to present this day’s discoveries in a way most likely to gain her cooperation. So he agreed to Wickham’s proposal.
The pub, tucked in a dark, narrow building wedged between two far finer establishments, looked exactly like the kind of place Darcy would never patronize. At least the smells emanating from within were more reminiscent of a kitchen than a refuse heap, some little comfort there.
The interior was dark. Probably just as well, to hide the dirt, but the serving girl wore an apron that had probably been fresh that morning. She led them to a well-worn table in the far corner.
“I can assure you of the quality of the beer and victuals here.” Wickham leaned back in his chair and draped his arm over the back of Michaels’ seat. “It is nothing to Rosings, or even the Bennet’s table, but when one would enjoy a meal free from prattling baggage, it is quite acceptable.”
So that was his opinion of the Bennet ladies. What would Mrs. Bennet think if she knew? What would Bennet?
“You seem no worse for wear for your confinement at the Bennets’.” Fitzwilliam lifted his tankard.
“I have greatly enjoyed their hospitality. The daughters are most agreeable company. Though Bingley commands the eldest’s attentions, the younger girls are quite keen on seeing to my amusement.”
Michaels cleared his throat and glowered.
Wickham was about to make another enemy. No wonder he seemed to do it so easily where young ladies were concerned. Perhaps he should—what an absurd thought. Darcy give Wickham advice concerning women? What a way to be scorned and ridiculed. No, Wickham could learn on his own. Perhaps this time it would make an impression on him.
Or not. Michaels was mild in temper, though sharp in discernment. He would cut Wickham and Wickham would never even realize. How inconvenient.
“Not to fear, Michaels.” Wickham laughed “Miss Mary quite refuses to pay me any more mind than her mother requires. She is by all accounts a very good girl with little curiosity as to what the wider world might offer.”
Michaels settled back in his seat, though his clenched jaw implied he was in no way satisfied with Wickham’s answer.
“Do not be so serious, Michaels! I would not dream of interfering with your suit. Miss Kitty and Miss Lydia are far more pleasing company in any case.”
“Forgive me, but I am surprised you are a fine enough suitor for one of Mrs. Bennet’s daughters.” Fitzwilliam took a long draw from his tankard.
Darcy winced, but Michaels merely shrugged.
“Miss Mary is of little concern to her mother. She is far too plain and sensible to marry well, in Mrs. Bennet’s estimation.” Michaels ducked his head over his tankard and grumbled.
So Miss Elizabeth was not the only daughter out of favor in that house.
“All things considered, that might not be so bad a thing.” Fitzwilliam cocked his head. “It would seem too much of that lady’s attentions would be rather undesirable.”
“I rather enjoy them. She does know how to make a guest feel welcome.” Wickham’s grin raised the hairs on the back of Darcy’s neck.
“That reminds me. I want you to accompany Michaels as he rides the estate.” Darcy glanced at Michaels who nodded.
“What? And leave Mrs. Bennet’s hospitality? I would not offend her—”
“She will take no offense. You will return in the evenings as Bennet will not have you back at Rosings for another se’nnight at least.”
“Not about to permit me to enjoy any leisure are you?” Wickham tossed back the remainder of his beer and waved to the girl for another.
Darcy snorted. “That was not the purpose of your journey, or have you forgotten? Should you not wish the position as Pemberley’s steward, you have only to speak the words and I shall embark on finding another man.”
Wickham lifted his hands. “Must you always carry the keg, Darcy? One would think this lovely venue has only shortened your temper rather than eased it.”
Why had he allowed himself to be persuaded to give Wickham one more opportunity? He should have followed his initial instincts.
Michaels leaned forward on his elbows. “You do understand, Mr. Wickham, stewardship of a large estate is no easy job. The hours can be long, with many spent on horseback.”
“You must keep abreast of the markets for all goods produced so as to understand how best to utilize the land. There is much new work to study in farming and husbandry.”
“So you say this is a bookish pursuit?”
“Not really, though my evenings are oft spend reading, if not for new learning, then to discover the answers to current problems. Of course, accounts must be maintained and settled. Sometimes, I consult with the vicar regarding disputes among the tenants who may be apt to squabble like schoolboys.”
“The vicar? I would think it better to drop them a sixpence and leave Mr. Prunella in his pulpit.”
Michaels glanced at Darcy with upraised brows.
“That is your philosophy of management?” Darcy said. No doubt, it was best he never made it to the bar.
“Does not all management work that way?” Wickham took a large gulp from his refreshed tankard.
“I do not wish to see Pemberley run that way.”
“Nor do I manage Rosings in that manner.”
“I shall keep that in mind then.” Wickham raised his mug.
Acknowledgement, but not agreement. Darcy stifled a chuckle. Miss Elizabeth would have noted that. But then, she was already quite clear in her dislike of Wickham. That alone should inform him.
Fitzwilliam cocked his head at Darcy. Darcy shook his head. He would ask Michaels for possible candidates for a steward for Pemberley immediately.
Still, Wickham needed to be removed from the Bennet house as much as possible. Michaels would probably agree. “See that you do as you tour with Michaels. It would seem you have a great deal more to learn than I thought.” He settled back in his seat and crossed his arms.
“There, there, now, calm yourself. You make too much out of a small trifling remark.”
“I find small remarks very telling.” Darcy muttered.
“I would not be so fastidious for the world. Ah, look.”
The serving girl arrived with their plates.
“Tuck in, Darcy. A little kitchen physic will set you up.”
Certainly not, especially considering the indistinguishable brown mass on his plate. Darcy tucked his napkin into his collar and resigned himself to his meal.