* Thoroughly Ridiculous *

A Bit of Silliness

By Jocelynn Peters

"I - " Catherine said, "I have stabbed you."

Arthur looked down to find the necessary proof of her words, and there, protruding from his abdomen at almost a ninety-degree angle exactly, was the handle of a kitchen-knife. Puzzled by this oddity, he folded up his brow into a series of collateral lines. It was a strange expression, for he was quite unused to thinking. Arthur was a gentleman, and, as we are all well aware, gentlemen have little need for thinking. After a time, he moved his gaze to her face, saying in an uncharacteristically direct manner, "Whatever for?"

Catherine blinked. "I implore you," she stuttered, reverting to customary politeness, as was her habit under duress, "Please take a seat."

"Oh, no!" He waved a hand, and tottered unsteadily in his boots. "I shall be quite alright. The shock is beginning to fade."

"Need I do it again?" she asked, clumsily raising the knife once more. The sight of his very own life-blood, mingling with something in a distasteful shade of yellow upon the knife's serrated edge, was quite unsettling, and he did not waste more than an instant in falling, with violence, into the chair.

"Goodness me," he repeated. Genteel and non-committal as it was, "goodness me" was a sentiment that had served him dutifully and well throughout the better part of his two-and-thirty years. So grateful was he to have come upon so useful a phrase in his hour of need, he uttered it again, a number of times. "Goodness me," he breathed. The sensation of "me" passing his lips was quite odd, for he could no longer feel them. "Goodness me."

Drawing in a breath, perhaps louder than was entirely necessary, his wife began, with a statement quite at odds with her previous action. "Ought I call Dixon?"

"No, my dear," he replied, blinking. His study had become quite light, all of a sudden - he would have to speak to Dixon about the drapes. "No - I shall be quite alright." He knew not how ridiculous this remark was, in reality, for a gory flower of blood was quickly blossoming upon the fine white linen of his shirt. "I implore you," he said, bending his wide, flexible mouth into what he hoped to be an understanding expression. "Whatever did you stab me for?"

Catherine stood still and pale, as if carved out of marble. The quivering of the knife, clenched in a white-knuckled grip, was the only indication that she was still breathing. It was a curious expression, the one writ across her face, and it twisted Arthur's gut in a peculiar manner to see her so distraught. He cared for her, in his ludicrously polite and undyingly proper sort of way. Being of an optimistic character, he had not supposed it impossible for a measure of affection to grow between them, though their marriage had been quite sudden, and extremely recent.

It was in this way that he supposed she had managed to sneak up on him in the study. Entirely accustomed to solitude, Arthur had never supposed that someone else might enter into his rooms. He fancied himself an observant man, and so, to poultice his wounded pride, he told himself firmly that had he been on his guard, he should never have permitted such unladylike behaviour.

Catherine sank onto the settee, with downcast face, as if all the world had rallied against her. If Arthur was correct in his observation of her countenance, a congregation of tears had formed upon the lower lids of her pale grey eyes. He did not vocalize what a great deal of pain he was, just then, experiencing. To do so would have been most indecorous, and, he supposed, quite rude.

The young lady sighed, in a manner most melancholy. "I did so wish – so wish – to marry for love."

At exactly this point, Arthur Daintree experienced a flash of insight. It was a very rare occurrence, on his part, for he was considered to be (and indeed,considered himself to be) a thoroughly ridiculous gentleman, on multiple counts. He managed this quite well, and hid his ridiculous nature behind the thin but effective veil of manners. "My dear Catherine," he said, suddenly, "Not every woman finds herself theheroine of a genteel parlor novel. While they may wish it, such a thing must be a rare honour."

As he said this, he was almost entirely overcome with the desire to stroke the back of her head, just there, where skull and neck connected. It would have been an effective manner of calming the poor, distraught young lady, and it would have served a two-fold purpose by endearing him to her. Little did his good sense know these benefits, and so, what little he had quashed the idea before he had even quite finished pondering it.

"But how we all long for it!" she wailed piteously. "How much time have I spent, wishing to be Elizabeth Bennet!"

Finding himself capable of surprising laconicism at this juncture, he felt that he expressed himself well in saying "It is a well-known fact, my dear, that Miss Austen remains precisely that to this day – Miss Austen. And I propose that, although a charming, certainly intelligent woman, she has managed to delude even herself." Leaning just slightly towards her, he continued, "You cannot spend all your days waiting upon a Mr. Darcy, for you see, he does not exist."

With this, she broke into tears even more piteous. Arthur felt quite poorly for having caused the delicate young woman any distress, but found her tears to be in excess. He almost drew her into his arms. It would have been an effective manner of calming the poor girl, and it would have endeared him to her even more. His shirt, however, was already thoroughly ruined. What little good sense he had quashed the notion outright.

A/N: This is just a bit of silliness that I wrote for my Writer's Craft class - I haven't even gotten it back yet! Reviews would be appreciated muchly :)