This was the 2012 Jubilee Special.
The guests were beginning to arrive for the Pemberley Emerald Jubilee Ball. The summer ball was always Elizabeth’s favourite event of the year, even if her present condition meant that once again she would not be able to take part in the dancing herself. This was especially vexatious as a certain very important personage would be attending this year.
‘Any sign of him, Fitzy dear?’ she hissed as her husband appeared in the entrance hall.
‘Bad news, I’m afraid, my dear,’ said Mr Darcy, drawing her to one side. ‘The Prince Regent will not be coming after all.’
‘He has let us down again?’
‘I fear so. However, he has sent us a crate of his raspberry conserve by way of apology.’ He produced a small pot and showed it to his wife.
‘Hmmm,’ said Elizabeth, viewing the label. ‘Regency Originals. Nothing good will come of this.’
Darcy coughed. ‘There is one other thing,’ he said. ‘The Prince Regent’s father will be coming in his stead.’
‘The King? But Fitzy, he’s … bonkers! Completely doolally! Round the twist! He’s a total nutjob!’
‘Well, it is his Emerald Jubilee, my dear.’
‘Even so, ’tis somewhat risky, is it not?’
‘I understand he stays perfectly well provided he receives his medication. Besides, it is not as if he would be asking you to dance, my dear,’ said Fitzy, eyeing Elizabeth’s bulge. ‘You are still with child after all. How long is it now?’
‘’Tis over over eighteen months. And yet there is still no sign of the sequel that would provide a resolution to my condition. ’Tis most vexatious.’
‘Indeed it is. Moreover I understand that prequels are more the fashion these days. Perhaps we should consider such a thing instead?’
‘Great heavens, no! That would be a Promethean endeavour!’ She sighed. ‘Yet I still live in hope that we will see a sequel. The reviews are most favourable, particularly in the Amazon.’
‘I believe so,’ said Elizabeth. ‘I know little of that far country.’
‘I must confess to knowing next to nothing of it myself. Although I once met a Brazilian girl. Or was she? There was something Brazilian about her anyway. Perhaps ’twas her hairstyle?’ Darcy reddened and became very quiet all of a sudden.
Elizabeth sighed once more. She felt her life was on hold until this wretched thing was resolved, one way or the other. If only she could be like her sister Jane who had such an exciting life these days, travelling around Europe with her husband Charlie. Only today she had received a letter from her saying that they were no longer in Greece, now that Charlie had finished putting together a comprehensive copper-bottom guaranteed long-term investment portfolio. It seemed that they were now on their way to the Levant in order to take delivery of a large flock of Black Swans from a Mr Taleb. Clever, clever Charlie.
Her musings were interrupted by a cry from Dench, their footman.
‘The King is here! Pray silence for His Mad … His Majesty!’
For the first hour or so, everything went well. Elizabeth and Darcy took it in turns to introduce the King to their guests. The King would ask them ‘Have you come far?’ before ignoring their response and moving on in the time-honoured manner of royalty. Every now and then he would interject something that sounded a bit like ‘Where’s my cupcakes?’ or ‘Fish-buttered toast!’ but as long as the addressee ignored him and avoided eye contact, it went no further than that.
However, after Elizabeth had introduced him to Mistress Fitz-Loosely, a local dress designer, things took a curious turn. After the lady in question had curtseyed, the King opened his mouth and began to speak.
‘Have you come fffffffffffffff—?’
He seemed to freeze in the middle of the word, and a deathly silence fell on the room. Then a young man rushed up clutching a vial in his hand.
‘Let me through, I’m a doctor!’ he cried.
‘Excuse me,’ said Darcy, barring his way, ‘but you look far too young to be a doctor.’
‘I assure you I am.’ He held out a hand. ‘Dr Goldknacker, the King’s personal physician.’
‘And what are you proposing to treat him with? While he is on our premises, it is my duty to protect the King’s personage against quack remedies.’
‘I assure you, sir, ’tis entirely evidence-based.’
‘Excellent!’ said Darcy, beaming. ‘I am a keen devotee of Homoeopathy myself. Do carry on.’
The young doctor forced open the King’s mouth and tipped the fluid down it. The King made an odd gargling sound and then shook his head violently. A fierce jet of steam issued from his ears and a jet of flame shot out of his mouth.
‘Hmmm,’ said Dr Goldknacker. ‘I haven’t seen that happen before.’
‘HAVE YOU COME FAR!’ cried the King, advancing on Elizabeth. Darcy attempted to interpose himself, but the King batted him out of the way with a single blow.
‘HAVE YOU COME FAR!’ bellowed the King again.
‘Stop!’ came a voice from the doorway.
‘Wickham!’ cried Elizabeth.
‘I do apologise for my late arrival,’ said Wickham, advancing towards the King with his sword raised. The monarch turned and fixed him with a steely eye. Then he raised his hand, which fell open to reveal a kind of metal pipe.
‘DROP YOUR WEAPON,’ said the King. ‘YOU HAVE TWENTY SECONDS TO COMPLY.’
‘I’d better not hang around then,’ said Wickham, launching himself at the monarch and slicing at his neck. There was an odd sort of metallic sound and the sword bounced off.
‘HAVE YOU COME FA-FA-FAR FA-FA FA-FA-FAR FAR!’
‘Psycho killer!’ yelled Wickham, striking out again.
Elizabeth turned to the assembled guests, who were all looking on in horror at the unfolding scene. ‘Better run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run away!’ There was the briefest of hesitations and then they all scattered into the night.
Wickham’s blade struck once more, and this time the King’s head wobbled briefly before falling off onto the floor, trailing a long series of tubes behind it. The King’s body followed not long afterwards.
‘Great heavens!’ said Wickham. ‘Who would have thought it? A robot! A whole century before they even invent the word, too.’
‘’Tis a perversion of learning,’ said Elizabeth, mopping the brow of her groaning husband.
‘Bad science,’ agreed Wickham.
‘What did you say?’ said Dr Goldknacker.
After Goldknacker and Wickham had disarmed the robot King, they reattached its head, with Darcy and Elizabeth watching from a safe distance.
‘What have you done with the real King?’ said Wickham.
‘Gggggaaahhh,’ said the robot.
‘Who sent you?’
‘Gggggaaahhh,’ it repeated.
‘Who sent you?’
‘Gggg… k’Ek ek-ek-ek-ek-ek k’Ekkk.’
In the ensuing silence, something inside Elizabeth’s belly wriggled. Would this nightmare ever be over?