This was originally posted at From Pemberley to Milton blog, but I’m sharing it here as well for fans of Speechless to enjoy. Speechless is a Pride and Prejudice variation set in the winter following Darcy’s first visit to Meryton. After a terrible accident, he and Elizabeth are stranded together at a remote inn called The Dancing Bear. In this interview, we catch up with its proprietor, the lovely Mr Timmins.
Good afternoon, Mr Timmins. Could you begin by telling us about your establishment?
I should be glad to. The Dancing Bear is just outside Spencer’s Cross in Hertfordshire. ‘Tis a little off the beaten track—not your run-of-the-mill coaching inn—but those as wish to drink here always seem to find it.
Mr Darcy certainly found it, and he was in dire need of your hospitality when he knocked at your door, was he not?
I should say it was Death’s door at which Mr Darcy was knocking when he arrived, but he found his way here, and I took him in. There are few I refuse.
Did you have any inkling of his consequence at first?
None at all. The name Darcy was completely unknown to me ’til that day, and there was rather too much urgency to take account of anybody’s airs or graces. Indeed, it would have been mighty tricky for Mr Darcy to present himself as a man of consequence when he was so diligently attending to playing the part of a corpse. It was discovered he was a gentleman in the days following, but such things are not generally accorded much import here at The Bear. If you are thirsty, you are welcome.
A very shrewd policy, Mr Timmins, though I had heard Mr Darcy’s consequence enabled him to liberally bestow his gratitude on all those who assisted him in his time of need, is that not the case?
Mr Darcy has been vastly generous to us, that I shall not deny. Though it is his good word that has benefitted us most. We have enjoyed a great deal more business of late on account of his recommendation.
Could you tell us what your part in his recovery entailed?
Truth be told, very little. I provided a room; I fed and stabled his horse. And what with my sister being snowed out at her mother’s all week, and me not generally being known for my culinary excellence, I dared not venture to prepare him any food. Fortunately, I was not required to serve him in that capacity.
Is it true, then, that Elizabeth prepared Mr Darcy’s meals for him?
Aye, it is. Most of us dined on what my sister had stored away in the kitchen, but Mr Darcy could scarcely swallow his own spittle, let alone cured meat and hard cheese, so he was treated to a special diet of watery broth and my best brandy.
What did you make of Elizabeth?
I was singularly impressed by her fortitude. She went to great lengths to secure aid for Mr Darcy despite having been involved in a dreadful accident herself. His injury was gruesome to behold, too, yet she was not frightened by it—or if she was, she kept her head and showed no sign of it. Stayed by his side almost every hour of the day after that. Mr Darcy is very fortunate in his choice of wife.
[Interviewer coughs] Did they seem like a happily married couple to you, then?
They seemed like a married couple. Happiness is relative. Though in fairness, they did not have a great deal about which to be happy at the time. They had a bit of a spat on the last day that gave us all a chuckle. Especially Mr and Mrs Stratton, who’ve been married a lot longer, I think, and have had their share of vexations.
Can you tell us the nature of their quarrel?
Can’t say as I recall. It was a funny old sort of quarrel in any case, for Mr Darcy was completely mute at the time, and we heard only one side of every conversation they had. His contributions never amounted to more than a few hand gestures and a very limited range of facial expressions, mostly scowls.
They understood each other, though?
Seemed to. Which was useful, for it meant she could translate for the rest of us what he was trying to say. Not that we had much need of that, for the very same day Mr Darcy ventured downstairs, his cousin arrived to whisk him away.
Could you tell us a little about the night Colonel Fitzwilliam arrived?
Very strange affair, that. Arrived out of the blue with half a dozen soldiers and the sort of urgency typical to all men used to being at war. We all thought it unnecessary at first, for Mr Darcy had been drinking with us only an hour before. He had not looked well, admittedly, but he had been conscious, which is the opposite to what he was when the colonel’s men carried him downstairs ten minutes later. The whole party had departed within quarter of an hour, preventing me from making enquiries—and Mr Darcy is not the sort of man one questions, which is why, to this day, I have no notion of what transpired upstairs. Still, you see all sorts when you run a drinking establishment. I daresay I shall see stranger things before my time is up.
A very strange story indeed, Mr Timmins. I should think Mr Darcy and Elizabeth’s version of events would be interesting! Thank you for talking to us. One last question, if you please. Your establishment is named for the large stuffed bear in your taproom. Can you tell us where it came from?
My sister likes to tell the customers it danced all the way across the world and only stopped dancing when it found somewhere it wished to call home, but I do not know about that. All I know is it came with the building. Happen it stopped dancing when someone stuffed it.