According to unofficial reports, most of Derbyshire was destroyed by fire yesterday following an incident in the grounds of Pemberley House, near Lambton. It appears that the owner, Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy, a handsome gentleman with a fortune of £9,000 per year, began to brood out of control when taking a turn in the gardens with Miss Elizabeth Bennett, the demure yet witty daughter of an impoverished local gentleman.
‘With hindsight, Mr Darcy was an accident waiting to happen,’ said Commander Ray Walker of the Peak District Fire Brigade. ‘Such was the ardour of his unspoken passion that his breeches had spontaneously combusted several times before. Apparently this once forced him to dive into a lake in the grounds. Several young ladies who witnessed him climb out were later found reduced to ashes and damp petticoats.’
Architectural historians are lamenting the loss of Pemberley House, which had long ravished the refined sensibilities of all who saw it. They are now calling for restrictions on the movements of mysterious, romantic yet dangerous men with dark secrets before more disasters take place. The move is being fiercely opposed by young ladies.
‘His eyes met mine so keen and fierce, I started; and then he seemed to smile,’ said Catherine Earnshaw, 22, from the Yorkshire dales. ‘I could not think him dead: but his face and throat were washed with rain; the bed-clothes dripped, and he was perfectly still. The lattice, flapping to and fro, had grazed one hand that rested on the sill … sorry, what was the question again?’
Nonetheless, after this latest in a series of uncontrolled smoulderings, the authorities may be forced to act. Last year, the Assembly Rooms in Bath nearly went up in flames after a particularly intense scotch reel. Disaster was only averted when a quick-thinking footman threw himself onto the conflagration. The local gentry generously subscribed 17s/6d to keep his widow and four children fed in the local workhouse for a year.
Commander Walker warned that the latest disaster could easily have been even worse. ‘Fortunately this is still the early 19th century, so it didn’t occur to Mr Darcy to offer Miss Bennett a helicopter ride or a spanking. And had his hair been properly tousled as well, the whole of the East Midland could have been lost. How do you ‘tousle’ hair anyway? I wish someone had told me before I went bald.’