An Unexpected Party, by Amanda Kai

An Unexpected Party, by Amanda Kai

As a treat for you all, I have a short story that I have written for today’s post!

 

An Unexpected Party

by Amanda Kai. Copyright 2022.

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Lady Catherine settled into her plush, velveteen chair by the fire, intent on taking a nice long snooze. After a whirlwind of London social events the past few weeks, she was pleasantly surprised to find that she and Anne had no engagements that day. For once, the two of them could enjoy a relaxing afternoon at home in their cozy dwellings on St. James’ Square. 

Anne was already hard at work netting a drawstring purse, her fingers nimbly knotting the crochet lace, which she would later embellish with beads.

Lady Catherine was just beginning to snore when there was a sharp rap at the door. Lady Catherine woke with a snort, her eyes blinking.

Anne set down her work. “Who on earth could that be? Were you expecting anyone, Mother?”

Lady Catherine merely frowned. Who would dare disturb her slumber on the one quiet afternoon she could expect this week?

The door footman entered the room to announce the visitor. “The Reverend Mr. and Mrs. Collins.” In strode the hefty rector and his dutiful wife.

“Good afternoon, Lady Catherine, Miss de Bourgh!” he said cheerfully. “I hope I have found your ladyship to be in good health today. We were most pleased to receive your invitation. Are we the first ones?”

Lady Catherine was flummoxed. “First ones– why, what do you mean?” She certainly had not invited him today…had she? She wracked her brain, trying to recall whether there was some plan she had made and then forgotten. Before Mr. Collins could respond, Lady Catherine’s nephew, Colonel Fitzwilliam strode into the room unannounced. 

“Ah, Mr. Collins. My good fellow! A pleasure to see you again.”

“The pleasure is all mine, Colonel.”  Turning to his wife, he added, “You see, Charlotte, even arriving a stroke early, I knew we could not be the first ones.”

Lady Catherine looked from her rector to her nephew. “Richard, what is going on? Why are you here?”

“Why, you invited me, dear aunt! I hope you have not gotten the date confused for your own party!”

Anne covered her mouth before rising to greet her cousin. “Richard! So happy to see you. You know you are always welcome here.”

Lady Catherine had questions, but just then, the butler entered, needing to speak to her. 

“The florist is here, my lady, and also the musicians. They are wondering where you would like them to set up.”

“F-florist? Musicians?”

“Shall I have the string quartet set up in the hall, and the brass quintet in the drawing room? I shall tell the florist she may distribute the flower arrangements as she sees fit.”

“Y-yes, that will do, I suppose.” Lady Catherine was bewildered. But she had no time to consider these strange events. The footman had returned, bearing more news.

“My lady, the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker are all here.”

“The what? Is this some sort of joke?” Lady Catherine was beginning to grow angry. 

“I do not jest, my lady. They are standing at the front door and asking whether they might come in with their wares.”

“Wh– would they not use the servants’ entrance, downstairs?”

“They would, my lady, but unfortunately there is already a line out the door at that entrance. They cannot get in.”

“A line!”

“Yes, my lady. The cobbler, the fishmonger, the blacksmith, the glovier, the milliner, the clockmaker and the animal-keeper are all down there trying to get in.”

“Eh– did you say ‘animal-keeper’?”

“Yes, my lady. From the Royal Menagerie. I am afraid it is his elephant that is causing the logjam.”

“Elephant!”

“Er, my lady? What about the butcher, baker, and candler? May they use the front door?”

Lady Catherine was too stunned to speak. Anne stepped in to give the footman direction.
“Yes, please tell them all to come in. We cannot leave them waiting in the street, after all.”

Lady Catherine turned to her daughter with a scowl. “Anne! Do you know what is going on here? You are not in on all this are you?”
“I assure you, mother, I am quite clueless. I thought you said we had no engagements this afternoon. Did you neglect to tell me that we had a party planned?”

While all this was happening, more guests were arriving. Many were tradesmen whom Lady Catherine knew, not by name, but by sight, from the stores she frequented. But also members of the ton and the gentry– knights and baronets, viscounts and barons and earls, a marquess or two, and even the lord mayor!

“My–my lord mayor!” Lady Catherine exclaimed when she saw him walk past with a plateful of food. 

“Lady Catherine!” he exclaimed cheerfully. “Splendid party we are having! So good of you to invite me. I must say, this is a rather novel idea– inviting both the common folk and the ton. What an excellent way to blend our society! I commend you. I have just been having the most fascinating conversation with my tailor, whom I have never before thought to be acquainted with outside the business of fitting my waistcoats. It turns out he is from the same hamlet where my mother grew up and is a cousin of the vicar who baptized me as a child. Who knew!”

In the span of half an hour, Lady Catherine’s whole entire townhouse was filled to the brim. Everywhere she looked, people were standing about eating and talking with one another. She knew not where all the food came from, but her servants kept appearing out of the kitchens, their arms laden with tray after tray of things, some of which was handed out by the footmen circulating the room, while other things were piled onto the buffet in the dining room. 

The brass quintet had set up right in front of the fireplace where Lady Catherine had intended to take a nap and were now loudly playing ‘God Save the King’ and other patriotic ballads. She had no clue where her comfortable velveteen chair had been dragged off to. Walking to the entrance hall, she found she could not hear herself over the cacophony from the string quartet and the throng of guests pouring in as she tried to speak to Colonel Fitzwilliam standing nearby. 

“IS THIS YOUR DOING, RICHARD?” She bellowed at him.

Colonel Fitzwilliam put his hand to his ear. “Sorry, what is that you say, Aunt? I cannot hear you over this din.”

She leaned closer and shouted directly in his ear. “ARE YOU RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS?”

“My good lady!” He chuckled. “I wish I could take credit for this. I am having a marvelous time! What a good idea you had, throwing a party in the middle of the week in the afternoon when nobody has anything else going on. Half of London has turned out for your soiree!”

But all Lady Catherine could make out was ‘marvelous’ ‘party’ and ‘half of London’. 

“WHAT??” She shouted. 

Colonel Fitzwilliam laughed again and nodded to her, then made his way through the crowd and out of her reach.

Lady Catherine fought her way to the window and peered out. The street was full of people of all kinds, waiting to get in. Carriages could not pass, and in the midst of all the commotion, somebody was leading an elephant by a rope, trying to get the crowd to make a path for it. 

A voice spoke loudly next to her.

“LOVELY PARTY, YOUR LADYSHIP!”

Lady Catherine blinked and rubbed her ear before looking at the speaker. The voice had come from Mr. Collins, who was eagerly stuffing himself on a large platter laden with every sort of food. 

“MR. COLLINS, DO YOU KNOW WHAT IS GOING ON?” Lady Catherine said just as loudly, hoping to be heard.

“NO NEED TO SHOUT, YOUR LADYSHIP!” Mr. Collins echoed back. “I WAS JUST COMMENDING YOUR LADYSHIP ON THE EXCELLENT FOOD AND ENTERTAINMENT.”

“IS THAT ONE OF MY SERVING PLATTERS YOU ARE HOLDING?” she asked, but he had already disappeared in the direction of the buffet table, intent on replenishing the serving dish he was eating from.

Lady Catherine edged through the packed drawing room, being obliged to stop and acknowledge comments and compliments from a variety of guests along the way. She was in a rage now. Somebody was responsible for all of this hullabaloo! She certainly had not orchestrated it! Richard, probably. Oh, his father would hear about this for certain! And if Anne was involved, she would be confined to her room for a week! 

She had just caught up to Richard, who was standing near the staircase, and meant to give him a piece of her mind, when the butler reappeared. 

He whispered loudly in her ear. “My lady, the performers are ready in the courtyard, if you would be so good as to direct everyone’s attention to go there.”

“Performers?”

“Yes, my lady. From the circus. They have prepared an acrobatics show.”

But Lady Catherine did not need to get her guest’s attention. The loud clanging of cymbals and the “oom–pa-pa” of a cheery calliope drew the mass into the spacious courtyard, where somehow a stage had been set up. Lady Catherine pushed her way to the front of the crowd. Seemingly out of nowhere, acrobats came swinging in on trapezes, flipping across the stage and landing perfectly, while another performer sailed down on a sturdy scarf that must have been affixed to the roof, tumbled down gracefully as the scarf unwound, then performed a series of handsprings before posing in the center of the stage. 

The crowd cheered. More performers came from every nook and cranny, as if by magic. Their acrobatics show had the crowd going wild with their tumbles, lifts, and contortionist feats. Then, for the grand finale, the courtyard gates were opened and the elephant was marched in, bearing on top of it a huge cake. Fireworks went off, and the cake popped open, confetti flying, and a scantily clad dancer emerging. She carried a sign that read April Fool!  The audience laughed.  

Lady Catherine, red in the face, clenched her fists together. “I am going to find out who did this and make them pay!” But as the band moved outside and the party continued, Lady Catherine was swept away by the circus performers, who had hoisted her up on top of the elephant and were now leading the elephant along the street in a noisy, gay parade. 

At the hotel across the street, seated on one of the balconies, a man and a woman were enjoying a very good view of the whole spectacle. 

The man turned to the woman. “I must commend you, Mrs. Darcy, for your masterful execution of this display. Lady Catherine would never have been able to throw such a marvelous party on her own.”

The woman turned to her husband. “It is like I said, Mr. Darcy. Revenge is a dish best served by a thousand uninvited guests.”  

“Remind me never to do anything to raise your ire,” Mr. Darcy chuckled. He raised his glass of champagne to hers. “Happy April First, Mrs. Darcy.”

“Happy April First, Mr. Darcy,” she echoed. The sound of their glasses clinking could not be heard over the merry din coming from the street below. They did however hear Lady Catherine shouting, “Somebody get me down from this malodorous beast! At once! DO YOU HEAR ME?!!!” 

 

~The end~

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I hope you all enjoyed this little morsel I cooked up!  Some background on the story: as you probably know, today is April 1st.  As I was doing research on the history of April Fool’s Day, I came across some info about a Mr. Thomas Hook, who literally went down in history for executing the most epic  prank I have yet to come across. His victim, poor Mrs. Tottenham, was taken quite unawares when a large party, including several dozen tradespeople, showed up at her door. My colleague Eliza Shearer elaborated on his original prank in her post this week, which you can read about here.  I was so impressed with Mr. Hook’s prank, I used it as the basis for my tale in which Mr. and Mrs. Darcy prank Lady Catherine.

This is now the second year that I have written a short story for April Fool’s Day.  I am enjoying it so much that it may just become an annual tradition! Last year, I featured an abridged version of my short story “Unconventional”.  On the same day, I also released the full-length version of that story, a little snack of about 10,000 words, which you can grab for just 99c here.

Happy reading,

Amanda Kai

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18 COMMENTS
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Linda Dunleavey
Linda Dunleavey
May 20, 2022 11:25 AM

Hi Amanda,
I enjoyed reading that short story. Thanks for sharing. Appreciated Lady Catherine’s response, since I am a nap person as well. Very creative prank but probably expensive in that time.

Liz
Liz
April 9, 2022 6:33 AM

I wish I could have been there!

Caryl Kane
Caryl Kane
April 6, 2022 4:34 PM

I’m all astonishment!

DarcyBennett
DarcyBennett
April 6, 2022 4:27 PM

Loved it!

Riana Everly
AuAu
April 5, 2022 8:35 AM

hahahah! That was fabulous. Thank you.

Gianna Thomas
AuAu
April 3, 2022 3:29 PM

This was hilarious, especially since I found out Elizabeth Darcy instigated it. I’m with Darcy. I will never do anything to raise her ire. 🙂

Jennifer Redlarczyk
Jennifer Redlarczyk
April 3, 2022 10:24 AM

Delightful Story! Love the party and that Mrs. Darcy planned it. Ha Ha! Thanks for your little joke.

Sue Barr
April 2, 2022 10:17 AM

Absolutely wonderful! I laughed the whole way through and it made sense. I read about the grand ‘hoax’ earlier in the week and this fits the scene perfectly. Well done!!!

Gayle
April 1, 2022 10:12 PM

Absolutely delightful.

cindie snyder
cindie snyder
April 1, 2022 7:16 PM

Darcy and Elizabeth as co conspirators! I love it! Such fun I can just imagine Lady Catherine’s face!lol

J. W. Garrett.
J. W. Garrett.
April 1, 2022 6:11 PM

Oh, I so wanted to say poor Lady Catherine… however, I just can’t muster up the strength to do it. Bwahaha! That was hilarious. I enjoyed this since I had read the other historical account. They fit so well together. Thanks for sharing.

Wendy Luther
Wendy Luther
April 1, 2022 4:21 PM

OK… short story was histerical

Lorraine Austin
Lorraine Austin
April 1, 2022 4:12 PM

Enjoyed the short story very much.

Kirstin Odegaard
AuAu
April 1, 2022 1:22 PM

Very fun! Mrs. Darcy, great use of that newly acquired 10,000 pounds by marriage.

Angela Secondino
Angela Secondino
April 1, 2022 11:30 AM

Delightful! What an enjoyable April Fool’s Day story! Wonderful writing as always. Elizabeth’s revenge is complete!

Linda A.
Linda A.
April 1, 2022 11:10 AM

Somehow I KNEW Darcy had to be involved. What fun!

Glynis
Glynis
April 1, 2022 9:20 AM

Just desserts! Great revenge Elizabeth! I really didn’t see that coming as I too thought she was dreaming! Brilliant!

Jean Stillman
Jean Stillman
April 1, 2022 6:08 AM

Happy April Fool’s Day! This was so cute! I thought Lady Catherine must be dreaming during that snooze, but the ending you chose was so much better! Yes, an annual event sounds in order!

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