Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy looked into the mirror and, startled, cried out, “Who are you?”
He turned to look at the man who stood a mere foot from him. How could it be possible? The man looked exactly like him, with just the same tall frame and dark, curly hair.
While he himself wore a black overcoat, matching waistcoat and breeches and a pristine white shirt, the man had everything in reverse. His coat, waistcoat and breeches were alabaster white, while his shirt was black. The other differences were that this stranger had olive skin and a reckless grin.
“I am your rakish soul,” the man replied with a wink, and rubbed his hand over his thigh.
“Rakish soul? I do not believe it. You have the manner of an imposter.”
“Do I not look exactly like you, Good Darcy?”
“My complexion is not so dark.”
“Well, people normally associate rakish behaviour with the shadows. As your blackguard, I take on the darker complexion. But tell me, are not my eyes, nose, mouth and voice exactly like yours?”
Ignoring the question, Darcy said with conviction, “I do not have a rakish soul. I am an honourable man.”
“Ah, but you are wrong. Every human is born evil. Only upbringing and education prevent them from staying evil. Still, I can reassure you, to a point. You were born with only a tiny bit of rakishness, not evil at all. You are mostly a good man, truth by told.”
“You are a fake!” Darcy accused, but thoughts rose to assail him. Am I turning mad? I am about to attend the Meryton Assembly. Should I instead stay in and send for a doctor for myself?
“Do not be alarmed, Good Darcy. I appear here and now for a good reason.”
“To show you how to court a lady.” Rakish Darcy grinned. “And I shall be with you for a while. You may call me Rake Darcy.”
“I do not intend to court any lady, and certainly not here in Hertfordshire. And you cannot make fun of my surname in this manner.”
“Ah, but you cannot fight fate. I am part of you. Darcy is as much my surname as yours.”
“Nonsense! I am devoted to caring for Georgiana until she has recovered from her heartache. Move aside,” Darcy command. “And do not follow me.”
“No one can see me, except you. And Georgiana needs a woman’s hand. It will do her good when you find her a nice sister.”
“You sounded like a match-making mama. Go away, charlatan!” With that, Darcy stalked out of the room. But when he glanced back, he saw his olive skin twin was following him, although Mr. Bingley, Mr. Hurst and the servants did not seem to notice the imposter.
Am I truly mad? he wondered.
“I say, Mr. Darcy, do you think we will be quite safe among the savages?” The angular voice of Miss Bingley woke him from his thought.
Darcy did not reply. He simply bowed to her. But his rakish soul walked near her, then pulled and clipped a long feather from her head. Her head jerked to the side and she cried out in pain. She did not seem to see Rake Darcy either. Darcy’s mouth gaped open. He wanted to laugh but, as a true gentleman, he stifled the urge.
Bowing to Miss Bingley quickly again, he pulled her brother aside.
“Bingley, can we go in separate carriages?”
Bingley glanced at his sister, who was stomping her feet and swearing to herself, trying to tidy the unruly feathers. With a sigh, he nodded and asked Mr. Darcy to go ahead with his carriage, while he and the Hursts waited for Caroline. Miss Bingley tried to protest, but she was muffled by Rake Darcy.
Mr. Darcy turned a blind eye and settled into the carriage with trepidation. Has my mind truly turned mad?
“No, you are not mad. And Orange Lady’s feathers are ugly!” Rake Darcy commented, appearing abruptly in front of him after the carriage had been on its way for several minutes.
Darcy’s heart raced at the shock, but he folded his arms and said angrily, “She is my best friend’s sister. You should not play tricks upon her.”
“Bah! She is a bad influence! You will become a snobbish jerk if you continue to associate with her.”
“No one can influence me. I am the master of my own self.”
“Master, my ass! Once I have observed your behaviour tonight, I shall know how to label you.”
Rake Darcy looked out of the window, exclaiming at the lovely scenery, the bright moon and the fresh air. He seemed as excited as a five-year-old boy on his first picnic.
Mr. Darcy gritted his teeth, refusing to talk to Rake. I do not behave like this. He has no dignity or manners.
When the carriage pulled up in front of the Assembly, Darcy panicked. He should have waited for Bingley. He did not know anyone else who would be attending, and he did not want to go into the hall alone. People would surely size him up, attempting to assess his wealth.
“Come on! We’ll find lively music and merry ladies inside.” Rake Darcy tugged him out of the carriage and pushed the reluctant Mr. Darcy, causing him to stagger forward.
The Assembly abruptly fell silent. Darcy halted in his tracks, flustered. He had never before stumbled into a gathering in such an inelegant manner.
An elderly gentleman came forward to greet him. “Sir William Lucas here. Welcome to our Assembly. I do not believe I have yet had the good fortune of making your acquaintance.”
Mr. Darcy bowed with as much dignity as he could belatedly muster. “Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley. I am a guest of Mr. Bingley. He has been delayed for a few moments.”
“Capital! Capital! Mr. Bingley mentioned that you might be joining him.”
While Sir William was asking him about his journey to Hertfordshire, Darcy caught sight of Rake Darcy skipping around the room, clipping more feathers from ladies’ hats and then stopping in front of a group of three women.
Sir William followed the direction of Darcy’s gaze and said jovially, “Oh, may I introduce you to Mrs. Bennet and her daughters?”
“Umh…” Darcy stammered as he saw Rake lowering his mouth to the earlobe of one of the younger ladies. She was extremely pretty, with blond hair, a serene countenance and a sweet smile. She did not seem to notice that she was mere inches away from being kissed.
Darcy gave his rakish soul a glare and walked toward the party quickly. Stop, Rake! How could you do such a thing here?
“…delighted to make your acquaintance.” The sound of a high-pitched voice startled him, and he realized belatedly that Sir William had introduced him to the older lady.
Darcy could feel sweat beading on his brow. He had been so preoccupied by thinking how to stop Rake that he had ignored the women’s greetings.
“Do you like to dance, Mr. Darcy?” Mrs. Bennet asked, looking annoyed. She tilted her head to the direction of the blond lady.
Seeing that Rake Darcy was circulating around that young woman, ogling her from every direction, Darcy closed his eyes for an instant and reasoned that a dance with the other maiden would at least allow him to draw his scoundrel twin away from the handsome woman who had captured the rogue’s attention, if Rake was really here to observe him court a lady.
He turned to the younger lady and bowed. “Would you do me the honour of dancing with me?”
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