A Regency romance, JAM-style.
Disclaimer: I don't own the Office at all.
Categories: Jim and Pam
, Alternate Universe Characters:
Angela, Darryl, Dwight, Jan, Jim, Katy, Kelly, Kevin, Mark, Meredith, Michael, Pam, Phyllis, Roy, Ryan
March 10, 2018 Updated:
April 17, 2018
This is inspired by the works of Georgette Heyer, by Blackadder III, and by Lois McMaster Bujold's A Civil Campaign (though I doubt it will be as funny as the last two).
1. In Which a Gentleman is Pulled, Unsuspectingly, into an Orbit by Comfect
2. In Which a Game Begins and an Introduction is Made by Comfect
3. In Which a Victory is Won by Comfect
4. In Which Jim Gathers Wool, and Pam Notices by Comfect
5. In Which a First Impression is Made and Marred by Comfect
6. In Which Jim Drinks, and Meets an Old Friend by Comfect
7. In Which Observations are Made by Comfect
8. In Which Jim Eats Breakfast by Comfect
9. In Which the Mail Arrives by Comfect
10. In Which Shopping is Done by Comfect
11. In Which Two Friends Chat by Comfect
12. In Which Four People Meet in Hyde Park by Comfect
13. In Which a Dessert is Almost, But Not Quite, Eaten by Comfect
14. In Which More Whist is Played by Comfect
15. In Which a Friendship Is Reluctantly Formed by Comfect
16. In Which Judgements Are Passed by Comfect
17. In Which Another Party Is Considered by Comfect
18. In Which Habits Are Disrupted by Comfect
19. In Which a Conspiracy is Hatched by Comfect
20. In Which Cricket and Not Cricket Occur by Comfect
21. In Which Pam Buys Paints by Comfect
22. In Which Mr. Howard Gets Advice by Comfect
23. In Which Two Gentlemen Begin an Association by Comfect
24. In Which the Incomparable Comes to Town by Comfect
25. In Which a Lieutenant Buys a Bag by Comfect
26. In Which Jim Throws a Party by Comfect
27. In Which the Farce Begins by Comfect
In Which a Gentleman is Pulled, Unsuspectingly, into an Orbit by Comfect
I'm back! I suppose, now that I'm Author of the Month (for which, copious thanks) I should provide some new content. So here we are. I may or may not update at my usual once a day schedule, but I hope to keep the action going. Let me know what you think of the premise, the writing, or whatever else.
The Honourable James Halpert, second son of a minor baron in the Welsh Marches, straightened his cravat as he prepared to enter the ballroom. He had never found it easy to dress in the heights of fashion as demanded by the ton. This fact had rather brought him satisfaction than discomfort as he despised the dandies who lived their lives by the cut of Mr. Brummel’s suit, but he found himself of a sudden wishing that he had some of that natural skill with clothing—and more insistently, with hair and the mystery of its styling—that seemed to come so easily to his more socially daring college fellows. As he lamented his lack of perfection, he was utterly unaware of the effect of his own innate élan, coupled with an easy, disarming manner only accentuated by the striking fashion in which his flyaway hair and shirtpoints had been visibly tamed into position, had upon members of the opposite sex. He thought himself a gentleman’s gentleman, as indeed he was, but mistook the open friendliness of his female acquaintances for disinterest, having noticed the lack of sidelong coquettish glances sent his way but misunderstood the cause. Of course, such unintentional humility only endeared him more to those who knew him, but that was little comfort to him in this moment, as he did not recognize in himself the same virtues he lauded in his friends—most notably Mark, Viscount Banbury, with whom he was lodging in well-furnished but unremarkable chambers on Fleet Street, and at whose suggestion he had presented himself at this ball, thrown by a social connection of the Banbury clan that James had barely met.
He spared a moment as he hesitated on the threshold of the ballroom to cast aspersions on his friend’s character, aspersions he knew to be false but thought deserved as Mark had neglected to inform him that he, Mark, would not be in attendance, leaving James—who styled himself Jim in his head, though none but Mark at present took the liberty of calling him it out loud—to fend for himself.
“How the deuce am I to greet Colonel Scott without Mark?” muttered Jim under his breath. It was not as if he and his ostensible host had exchanged three words in the past five years, though they had been introduced by Mark’s uncle before Jim began his service in the diplomatic corps. It was not so much a matter of disinterest on either of their parts as of different social circles: Jim was a diplomat by profession, a cricketer by inclination, and a rider for relaxation, while Colonel Michael Scott was notorious as one of the most enthusiastic and least impressive aesthetes and gourmands in the City, as well as perhaps the man with the worst sense of humour in London, if not England. But that same reputation for failed art, embarrassingly rich feasts, and bad, off-colour jokes had paradoxically made an appearance at one of his balls de rigueur for any young man wishing to make his mark in the City—or one whose needs compelled him to make a mark, no matter his own wishes. One never knew what he would do next—and the opportunity to discover the answer was universally deemed worth enduring the man’s poor etiquette and worse comedy. Universally except for Jim, who had had no desire to become an intimate of such a man until Mark’s insistence (and his own moderate means) had made a social introduction a necessity, and Mark’s invitation to Colonel Scott’s ball his nearest and best opportunity.
As fate would have it, Jim needed not to have worried about Mark’s absence. An overly familiar arm was instantly draped across his shoulders and a voice he barely recognized crooned out his name—or a variant thereof—at top volume.
“Jimbo!” crowed the Colonel. “So pleased you could join us. Banbury told me you might be making an appearance. So glad that you could come!”
Before Jim could make an astonished but glad response to this unexpected set of remarks—almost before he could realize that he himself was the object of address by the unfamiliar and yet too familiar name “Jimbo”—his host had continued:
“That’s what she said, of course, as the bishop said to the chorister.”
Underneath Scott’s braying laughter Jim recovered himself enough to politely thank the Colonel for entertaining him on such short notice, and to politely chuckle at the apparent attempt at wit. Scott waved his thanks away with his free hand and steered Jim into the room with the other, still locked around his shoulders.
“Nonsense, nonsense, my boy, pleased to have another young man here to share the revelry. Why, before you came it was only me and Captain Schrute, my aide-de-camp. And Toby Flenderson, our MP from Brighton, but he hardly counts, as he’s hardly a man. Divorced last year, you know. Terrible scandal. Surprised he still shows his face, much less at my party, but of course, you know, must invite him, the local touch. Besides, there’s that military pension bill in Parliament, wouldn’t do to upset the punters before that passes, eh Halpert?”
As Scott had just exceeded in three seconds the number of words that had passed between them in a half-decade, Jim found himself somewhat at a loss how to respond to this rapidfire patter. He confined himself to nodding and polite nothings, hoping all the while that someone or something would rescue him from his well-meaning captor cum host. To his good fortune, someone did. As Colonel Scott half-dragged Jim around the room his eye caught on another figure entering the ballroom, and he stopped, allowing Jim a moment to catch his breath.
“Jimothy, she’s here! The Dowager Duchess of Hereford! JAN!” Here he raised his voice to shout across the ballroom. “JAN! She must not have heard me. I beg your pardon, Halpert, but needs must…I don’t believe you’ve met Miss Pamela Beesly, of the Cambridgeshire Beeslys? Pam, the Honourable James Halpert, fresh in from Vienna, new blood for our evening! Jimmer-jammer, Pam here is my social coordinator, keeps all this running, would be absolutely lost without her. She’s keep you straight. Pam show him around, why don’t you? I really must be off. JAN!”
And with that he was gone.
Jim turned to see the lady he was so hurriedly introduced to and stopped short. Waves of soft hair cascaded down her head—what might have been mousy blonde on another woman but seemed corn-ripe to his eyes—and across a light shawl that in turn covered the shoulders of a breathtaking cerulean dress. When he dared to look her in the eye he found a sparkle of good humour lighting her face, making her even more beautiful than his cursory examination of her other parts had assured him she was. He took the hand she proffered him and bowed deeply over it, hoping to catch his breath in time to make the polite comment he knew he owed such loveliness. To his delight, the apparition spoke first.
“So I see you’ve met Michael,” she smiled.
I'm interested to know how you all feel about the concept and my execution of it; do please let me know at your leisure.
In Which a Game Begins and an Introduction is Made by Comfect
I couldn't resist bringing in Dwight here.
“So I see you’ve met Michael,” she smiled.
“Is that what happened?” he replied. “I was rather of the impression that I had been swept up in one of those Atlantic hurricanes Viscount Melville’s captains are always going on about and deposited somewhere a thousand miles away.”
She giggled up at him and he had never felt so…wholly at peace as he did in that particular moment.
“Colonel Scott can be like that. Let’s see if we can find you safe anchorage, shall we?”
He intimated that he would like that very much, and she guided him around the ballroom with a deft touch. In the course of their journey he discovered that this angel in blue was as pleasant to speak with as she was to look at, if not indeed more so. Their humours matched perfectly; more than once he found himself on the verge of a quip or a quiddity only to see the edge of her mouth turn up and hear a whispered confidence that pre-empted his own, often in more amusing terms. He could not tell if he had the same effect on her, but if her frequent lowering of her voice so that only he could hear was any indication, it seemed most like. He lived for her smile. It seemed impossible that he had known her only a few minutes. Surely it must have been years.
She slowly drew him out of the centre of the room where Colonel Scott had led him and brought him towards the card tables. Had he still been in the dumps he had been upon contemplating attendance at this function, he would have visibly perked up at the sight, for James Halpert was an accomplished player of all manner of cardgames—not through direct inclination, but as a natural outgrowth of his keen insight and careful attention to detail, both traits he preferred to demonstrate only in his idle time unless strictly necessary. However, as Mark’s tastes ran in the pasteboard way, he had had ample opportunity to evince them in the empty hours spent in their Fleet Street flat, and could almost give Hoyle a shout in his encyclopaedic knowledge of the field. As such, had he been constitutionally capable of greater joy than he was experiencing simply tarrying with Pamela Beesly, he would have experienced it when she led him to the tables—but as he was not, he did not.
However, some inkling of his reaction must have filtered onto his face—far too expressive to be proper for his diplomatic career, though when he concentrated as he was not doing now quite capable of the most stoic deceptions at need—for she turned to him and said “Oh! Do you like cards, Mr. Halpert?”
“I have been known to dabble, Miss Beesly. When the stakes are low and the company reasonable.”
“Well, I cannot speak to the company. That you must judge for yourself. But despite appearances, Colonel Scott is always insistent that the stakes here are set as low as can be managed. I hear” and here she lowered her voice for him only, and a warm sensation floated down the back of his neck. “I hear that he had some difficulties at table once with Admiral Packer, and that ever since he has refused to play for stakes above tenpence.”
She giggled. Jim would have said it was infectious if it were not improper for a gentleman of his standing to giggle like a schoolgirl. As it was so, he would not have mentioned it, lest he be forced to reveal that he did so indeed.
“I believe I could stake myself to so high a rate, if milady is game.”
“Oh, could you? Then perhaps we have a bargain.” They smiled at each other. After a moment she broke eye contact to discreetly signal someone behind him. “And I do believe I have found us two more for whist.”
He turned casually to see a sharp-cut man in military colours deep in conversation with a rather rotund gentleman in a Cumberland corset. At Pam’s signal the two broke off their discussion and came up to join the pair. As they did so, Pam whispered by his ear.
“If I were you, I would enjoy this moment, because you're never going to back to this time before you met your tablemate, Lieutenant Schrute.” Her eyes danced as he glanced back at her.
“Lieutenant? But Colonel Scott…”
“Said he was a captain? Yes, but it’s only a courtesy title as he owns a little ship down on the Regent’s Canal. He’s a lieutenant, Scott’s aide-de-camp, and somewhat starchy about it.”
“Thank you for the intelligence.”
“Well, I wasn’t sure if you had any yourself.” He almost didn’t catch the quip as she went on. “The other is Kevin, Lord Malone. He has recently returned from a sojourn in Chile as His Majesty’s Ambassador.”
“Oh yes, Lord Malone and I are well-acquainted. Before serving in Chile he was in Vienna with Viscount Castlereagh, whose staff I was on.”
This brief conversation had covered the time it took the Lieutenant and the Ambassador to cross the territory between them and the pair. Jim greeted Malone with good humour and was received in kind, and turned to Schrute, whose hand was already out.
“Dwight K. Schurte, Lieutenant Colonel. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”
“And I yours. James Halpert, son of Gerald Baron Denbigh. Are you sure you don’t mean Lieutenant to the Colonel, my good sir? I hear you are high in our host’s graces.”
The mention of Scott seemed to have mollified the initial dislike that shot into Schrute’s eyes at being corrected on his rank. They settled into a table and drew for positions—Jim finding himself paired with Malone for the first game, which he found a pity as it prevented him from staring into Pam’s eyes but which was most likely for the best in terms of his ability to recall his cards. He shook himself imperceptibly and tried to think about whist.
Thanks to those who have read! I will continue soon with the game of whist and Jim's feelings therein.
In Which a Victory is Won by Comfect
I contemplated making this chapter just a mechanical description of several games of whist, but I thought that might not suit. So here's a quick game of whist and a following conversation.
Ultimately, Jim let his innate skill with people and cards carry him along in the game of whist, not much noticing whether he ended up behind or ahead on the night (ahead, as it happened. Schrute had a distinct tendency to underbid, only bidding what he was certain to take, while Malone seemed to care very little for the quality of his hand, as long as the numbers involved amused him—Jim noted at the end of the evening that Malone had personally won just under 70 tricks all night). Instead he spent his attention on Miss Beesly. Her hair. Her face. The way her shoulders shuddered under her shawl when a comment amused her. How her eyes glowed when she won the deciding trick. When they were partners, this attention served him well, and they worked together easily; when they were paired with the others, he tended to neglect winners from her partner’s hand, being too drawn in to her. He noticed a similar pattern on her part, and was thankful that the luck of the draw placed them opposite more than not. It certainly would not have done to have lost what little he had left at whist while at the ball that was intended to make, not mar, his fortunes.
At the end of a sufficient number of rounds to be polite but not so many as to deprive the others of whatever other entertainment they might have sought out, he rose calmly and extended his hand across the table. The calm was a ruse; this moment was more fraught for him than any other this night, even the moment before entering the ball when he despaired of making any social connection at all. After lightly acknowledging the other two and suggesting they settle up (a task Schrute fell to with almost alarming acumen) his eyes rose to Miss Beesly’s face and he asked the question he had been waiting to ask since Colonel Scott first dropped him in her path.
“Miss Beesly, would you do me the honour of a dance?”
A smile. “But Mr. Halpert, there is nothing playing.” A giggle.
How had he not noticed that? He ducked his head and essayed a grin in her general direction while hoping that his faux pas had passed unnoticed by their furiously tabulating tablemates.
“Are you sure? I could have sworn there was.”
“Why, Mr. Halpert, succumbing to fancy so soon? It usually takes Colonel Scott’s guests months to imagine music playing in a silent room. I’m afraid he has that effect on people, but I felt sure you hadn’t spent sufficient time in his company to have been overcome as yet.”
“Well, Miss Beesly, I always was a quick study.”
Malone harrumphed into their conversation in a manner that suggested he had only been listening with half an ear, which—albeit it was a half more than Jim would have preferred—was in its own way a relief.
“True, true. Always caught on quick in Vienna, didn’t you Halpert? Could tell what the Frogs wanted before they knew themselves. Here’s your winnings, m’boy. Good on you. If you’ll pardon me, I’m off to the buffet. Scott may be mad as a hatter but he knows his way around food. I hear there’s iced cream and cakes.” He stuffed a few notes and coins into Jim’s extended hand and waddled away.
As Malone rose, Schrute did too, unceremoniously snatching his own small pile of coins departing with a snappish “Halpert. Miss Beesly.”
This left Jim staring at Pam, whose amusement had only deepened at seeing Malone fill his hand so unceremoniously. She noticed him watching her and ducked her head down to the table, where she picked up another pile of winnings and spoke.
“It looks like Lord Malone was quite generous this evening to us all.”
“Indeed, it’s rare to see three winners stand up from a table of four.”
“You should check that with Lieutenant Schrute. I’m sure he would say, despite our slightly heavier pocketbooks, we all stood up losers compared to him.”
“I do find myself at a loss about him, I will concede.”
“Don’t be alarmed, he strikes most people that way. You will get used to him, if you remain long in the Colonel’s company.”
“I will indeed then, for the company is most exquisitely charming.” His eyebrow rose.
Hers rose to match it. “I’m sure I don’t know what you mean, Mr. Halpert.”
“Naturally not. My tutors at Oxford were quite insistent on the point: the eye cannot see itself.”
She blushed, but rallied. “An Oxford man? I’m not sure I can be seen with you. We Beeslys are strictly Cambridge folk. An old family habit, I’m afraid.”
“Well, I will endeavour not to hold it too much against you. One’s upbringing is hardly under one’s control, after all.”
“Perhaps so, but I cannot help but imagine that you had some influence on your own attendance at that second-rate school, Mr. Halpert, which makes it difficult to forgive your educational faux pas so easily.”
“I can only beg your leniency, Miss Beesly, under the circumstances. Halperts are always Balliol men, and I dare not disappoint my forefathers.”
“I suppose I might, though it surprises me to hear that you are of Balliol. I had thought, from your temper, to find you rather at Magdalen.”
“A low blow, Miss Beesly, low indeed. But putting this aside for the moment, if you are amenable—I hear the strains of a new song beginning to build, and I wonder if I might have that dance that was mentioned a few moments ago?”
“Hmm…I do believe you are right. And since you ask so nicely, and the song happens to be a particular favorite of mine, I believe I shall accept your offer.”
“I am most happy to hear it. But I am afraid I do not recognize the song; perhaps it became popular while I was abroad in Austria. What is it called?”
“I am unsure of the title, but I know the composer. In fact, I do much wonder that you have not heard it before if you indeed came directly to us from Austria, for he is himself a northern Italian, from one of the Venetian satellites. A Mr. Enrico Cugino—his waltzes in the Viennese style are all the rage. The waltz is quite the done thing.”
“Well, if it is the done thing it must be done—Cugino’s it is.”
Thank you those who have read, those who have reviewed, those who have jellybeaned. All feedback is welcome.
And Jim and Pam's byplay about Oxford colleges is not just college snobbery--"Magdalen" is pronounced "maudlin," so it is also a pun on his temperament.
In Which Jim Gathers Wool, and Pam Notices by Comfect
Assume an interval of waltzing between these chapters, of indeterminate space.
Jim could never tell anyone, even himself, later how long the song was—only that it felt like both an eternity and an instant wrapped within each other. It was eternal in that he was transported beyond himself in a daze of delight to have Miss Beesly clipped within his arms. It was an instant in that it was over all too soon, and he found himself not so curiously unwilling to let his hands fall back to his sides. Only the thought of his mother’s face if she knew he had so dishonoured the family as to practically canoodle a woman not his wife in public forced him to release his hands and let them drop.
It must have been his imagination that she looked almost as reluctant as he, and that her arms lingered on his waist in a similar if not identical manner. He looked down on her with bated breath wondering what to say, what to do—how to express that which he had been firmly instructed under no circumstances to express, much less to someone he had been acquainted with for such a comparatively short amount of time, less still in such an unprivate and exposed setting. Just as he was beginning to square his shoulders and steel himself to disclose a certain set of inclinations that history tells us the English are singularly unready to disclose, the object of his inner musings looked up at him through laughing lashes and spoke first.
“Thank you for the dance, Mr. Halpert.”
How strange, Jim thought in retrospect, that such a simple speech should so disturb his inner workings as to distance him completely from the ability to respond. It was, he reflected, a distinct example of the unfairness of the world that the very conversation he wished to have was blocked to him by some unknown force within himself. As he stared down at the entrancing figure of Miss Beesly, the thought occurred to him that what he had thought was time standing still was, in point of fact, not—that she had been standing waiting for a response to a completely innocuous comment for what was probably a most ridiculous length of time. He stirred himself.
“You are of course most welcome, Miss Beesly.”
“Am I so welcome? It seems to me, Mr. Halpert, that perhaps you are, in the inimitable fashion of your sex, searching for a way to politely tell me that I should perhaps stand further off, lest I tread your feet so much they turn to wine.”
“No, indeed, Miss Beesly, not so indeed. For if I were so cruel and misguided as you imagine my entire sex to be—a recrimination for which I am not entirely sure I should forgive you—to think that you should be anywhere but where you are, I should on no account have given you the slightest inclination thereof. In fact, it might be better said that the very fact that I have given you cause to imagine so—for which I would be, in any other case, profoundly sorry to have so misled you—might stand as evidence that no such thought ever did or could have passed my mind. For it would be most ungentlemanlike for a man such as myself to lead a lady such as you—if there are indeed any ladies such as you, for you seem quite singular to me—to know the truth of his mind so bluntly as that.”
“Ah, but here I have you caught in a misprision, Mr. Halpert, and a great error it is. For if you imagine me singular, you must have but small experience of the social life of the Capital, or indeed of any social scene whatever, for I can assure you, Mr. Halpert, I am not as you seem, in your too-kind character, to have painted me. And as I am not, I must conclude you are as innocent of experience in these matters as you are kind to speak of me so, and therefore sufficiently untutored to speak just as you think—and that, in turn, returns me to the thought that you have found me stepping on your toes during the dance and are by your very innocence too kind to tell me so, but not so smooth as to avoid the thought.”
“I confess you have defeated me, Miss Beesly—I stand before you all disarmed and unarmored against the press of your unanswerable wit. I can only plead leniency in that you caught me merely in a brown study, and not at all imagining you would believe my inattention—unfortunate as it might be—any commentary on your skills either social or terpsichorean. I beg forgiveness, madam, humbly so, and throw myself upon your mercy.”
“And how can I fail to forgive such a speech? Let us let by the question of my feet, your toes, and our respective explanations, and turn to the remaining question.”
“And what is that?”
“Why, what are we to do next? For the Colonel charged me to entertain you until his return, and now that the Dowager Duchess is here I fear we cannot expect that for some hours yet.”
The thought of spending the next several hours in the company of Miss Beesly was anything but unpleasant to Jim, but he knew it would be imprudent and impolitic to explicitly suggest such a thing. It was not beyond the pale, however, for him to gently suggest that they turn their joint attentions to the hors d’oeuvres that the Colonel had set out—or, as Miss Beesly corrected him, that she and her associate (a Miss Martin he had not yet had the pleasure of encountering) had set out on the Colonel’s instructions. And so they turned from the dance floor with a flourish to find that Lord Malone’s anticipation had not gone wrong: there was indeed cake, and it was glorious.
I am afraid that angst will soon approach these pages, but worry not--this is a Regency Romance, and the tide will turn happy by the end.
In Which a First Impression is Made and Marred by Comfect
Hello everybody, it's angst o'clock! Or at least, the beginning of it. I apologize for taking a few days to get this up, but you'll find it's almost double my normal post length, as a consolation.
As Jim Halpert dug into the cake with a vigor that his mother, nurse, and all the rest who had a hand in raising him to be a proper, dignified man with society manners would have deplored, he was pleased to see from the corner of his eye (for this was all he felt it prudent to deputize to the task, much as the remainder of each eye strained to join the corner in its observation) that Pamela Beesly was as lost to decorum as he. Her face lit up with a sheer joy as she dug into the confection, the greatest efforts of the Florian Bakery, renowned confectioners of the aptly named Baker Street, with at least as much gusto as it deserved—a delight that was only the more impressive, to his mind, when he recalled that she was Colonel Scott’s social secretary, and therefore must be familiar with such delights on at least a weekly basis. He loved the simplicity and truth of expression that this little moment revealed, and tucked in behind his heart in what he had already come to realize upon such short acquaintance was destined to be a bottomless storeroom of such endearing observations as made him, if not already love her, tender a great and growing affection in her amiable direction. The way she attempted, despite constant and inevitable failure, to tuck a wayward strand of her enchanting curls behind her ear; the time, immediately after the first round of whist, when she confided intimately in his ear that she always chose to shuffle the deck—despite it not being, traditionally, a lady’s task—because she enjoyed the shuck-shuck-shuck sound that the cards made; the glow that lit up her eyes when she glanced over at the Gainsborough hanging on one wall of the ballroom and whispered that she wished she could paint so gloriously—each of these was now stored quietly away for him to recollect at leisure, and he had no doubt he would treasure them far into this night and well beyond.
Jim was roused from his enamoured examination of his oblivious hostess by the approach of a large gentleman in a blue jacket, red waistcoast, and starched shirtpoints, who, despite the evident effort that had gone into preparing his clothes and dressing him in them, managed to give the effect of total dissolution upon a closer examination: the starched points sadly drooping, the belly straining the waistcoast, a small stain of unidentified sauce upon the jacket. Yet in fairness Jim noticed none of these until a later—and more jaundiced—examination caused him to have reason to look for his new acquaintance’s flaws. On first notice, the dominant effect of the gentleman and his ensemble was of power confined by strength: an athlete’s body with the decisive motion of one who has honed his craft and is at great length fully comfortable within his own skin. Only a slight tension about the eyes revealed that all might not be well, and it would be many months before Jim could explain that particular feeling in any great detail.
At the instant moment his observation was cut short—or rather, intensified but irrevocably altered—by the athlete’s close approach to his companion, and his rather cavalier salutation to her, coupled with an intimate move inward for a kiss: “Hullo there, Pammy!”
To Jim’s shock and dismay—as carefully concealed as he could, though it was fortunate for him that at that moment no eyes were on him—his fair partner did not, as he might have hoped, rebuff this overt and scandalous familiarity, except to slightly turn her head, giving the newcomer her cheek to kiss, and saying mildly (and, to Jim’s horror, fondly and familiarly) “Oh, Roy! What have I told you about proper modes of address?”
“Yes, I know, Pammy, but you know I don’t give a toss about those things! Dash it all, you’re my Pammy, and I don’t see why it should matter two pins if I say so!”
At this Jim Halpert could keep quiet only with the greatest effort, and some sense of his disquiet must have made its way by some undefinable method to Pam Beesly, for she turned quickly towards him as if recalling his existent forcibly to mind. She shook her head prettily and turned back to the newcomer.
“But Roy, I know that, and you know that, but not everyone does, and those who do not are bound to be terribly shocked! And by slipping up on me in that detestable manner you rob me of the opportunity to make a more proper introduction of you to whomever you might meet. A difficulty which I will now undertake to overcome by introducing you properly.” She turned to Jim. “Allow me to introduce to you Mr. Roy Anderson, my fiancée. Roy, let me make you known to the Honourable Mr. James Halpert, second son of the Earl of Denbigh. Mr. Halpert is a guest of the Colonel’s. Or perhaps I should say a particular guest, as the Colonel is of course the general host.”
Jim and Roy exchanged a formal handshake, as that appeared to be the greatest degree of formality the latter was capable of—Jim certainly could not imagine him nodding his head to anyone, much less cutting a bow of any depth whatever. But if this was Pamela Beesly’s fiancée—and where, pray tell, had any mention of her intended been in the previous hour?—he was deuced if he would be anything but civil until his heart and mind had stopped their whirligig of sorrow and confusion.
It would perhaps be useful here to interpose a somewhat more complete description of Mr. Anderson, as the eyes Jim was using to evaluate him were if not uniquely, intensely biased to see in Roy Anderson the worst version of the latter possible. It was at this moment, for example, that he first registered the sauce stain on Roy’s jacket, and that his view of Roy’s movements changed from “athletic and vital” to “dangerous and unrestrained.” He noted the lack of any distinction given to “Mr. Anderson,” and wondered if Pam imagined—correctly, he was sad to admit—that “Pam’s fiancée” was sufficient distinction for any man, if—heaven forbid—it was some form of incognito for a higher-ranked gentleman that he had already proven himself a mere Welsh country bumpkin by failing to recognize, or if, as his jaundiced mind led him to believe most likely, Mr. Anderson was simply void of any further distinction whatever. He could admit that Roy Anderson would likely thrash him in a fight, but if his treatment of proper civility was indicative of his more general personality, Jim had no doubt that he himself was the more distinguished gentleman. He had no illusions whence came these unworthy thoughts into his head; he was not in the habit of comparing himself to every man of his acquaintance like a male lion sniffing a rival on the wind, and he was well aware that the source of his antipathy and sense of competition in this instance was currently engaged in straightening his rival’s—or imagined rival’s! One must not forget she was engaged!—shirt while whispering urgently about “dignified behavior and appearance.” He held Roy Anderson in near-instant contempt, and while he was too well-bred and self-aware not to recognize that this was not entirely Roy Anderson’s fault, it most certainly coloured his vision of whatever good qualities Roy might have had.
Pamela Beesly’s view of Roy was not quite opposite to Jim’s—though it would have been quite convenient to her if it had been. She was not insensible to his frequent—nigh-incessant—breaches of decorum, nor to his patent unconcern with the niceties of her own position as social secretary to a notorious would-be rake and raconteur. He was unsympathetic to a good deal of her own ambition, little as it was, and to her strong belief in the value of her own independence. But against these flaws—which in her mind she minimized, even if at times her heart might disagree—she could weigh a great deal more virtues than Jim Halpert could imagine for Roy even in his most generous moments. Some of this was of course his personal magnetism, for he was capable, when he placed his focus on her for any extensive period, of being almost alarmingly charming in a way that could chivvy her out of her worst moods and gain him unearned forgiveness for even the most troublesome scrapes. Some was the way he moved, almost pantherlike to her eye (though she had never seen a panther, she was certain Roy moved like one) and a constant thrill whenever she gave in to her inclination simply observe him in motion, or the way he filled out the coats and trousers she had pressed for him that morning and that he had managed, somehow, to distress despite her best efforts to render them proof against such difficulties. A large portion of it—how large she would not have guessed even to herself—was the familiarity and affection bred of long and easy use, for they had grown up together and pledged themselves to each other at a young age—though always with the caveat of “as soon as Roy was in a position to make a home for her.” Each year that happy event had not come about had been a sore trial to her, to be sure, and now at twenty-and-five she was nigh (she thought) to becoming the proverbial leader of apes, but he remained devoted even as each scheme to earn his fortune ran aground or adrift, and she counted herself therefore happy. She had been startled and overjoyed to learn that Roy Anderson had conceived a tender for her at 16; she was no less happy at 25, or at least so she believed, and indeed he remained very much the same Roy she had loved for nearly ten years. And so she loved, and believed, and trusted in Roy, and was only slightly put out when he appeared in public spouting that ridiculous nickname and failing to stand on the ceremony of which she was such an expert.
A more neutral observer than either of them might have said that Roy Anderson had the virtues of his faults and the faults of his virtues: that his early prowess in physical activities, from boxing and wrestling at school to hunting and shooting in the Cambridgeshire woods, had produced a man overly certain in his own desirability and general outstandingness, while his constant failures in the schoolroom had at the same time made him more humble than most when confronted with an academic question, and willing to rely for such concerns on his intended; that his inability to keep a shirtpoint stiff or a jacket unstained somehow lent him an air of the cavalier and dashing soldier (despite never having served) while his genius for setting other men at ease through manly jollity had led him to ignore the need of putting effort into making sure that his fiancée was equally happy with him. He was, on the balance, a good, blunt man, somewhat out of his depth in a brilliant ballroom but capable, when he exerted himself, of making a delightful impression on anyone he chose.
Anyone, that is, but Jim Halpert—and that was not his fault, but Pam’s, and she, poor soul, had no idea of it at all.
In the next chapter, we will actually get to meet Roy, and perhaps learn his opinion of Jim.
In Which Jim Drinks, and Meets an Old Friend by Comfect
It was with great reluctance, but a deep feeling of dignity, that Jim decided that it was his obligation to distance himself from the situation. If indeed this was Miss Beesly’s fiancée, it was clearly his right to claim her attention for himself, and the interloper—Jim—must cede the field to its possessor. He began to make his apologies and slide himself out of the conversation only for Miss Beesly to turn to him with a blinding smile and say “Nonsense! Colonel Scott put your entertainment in my hands, and I will most certainly not disappoint him. Roy doesn’t mind, do you Roy?” Here she squeezed her intended’s arm, which she had wound her hands around, and smiled up into his face. He looked down at her with an expression that she might be able, by virtue of what Jim could already tell on such short acquaintance, was a kind and generous nature, to imagine indicated happy acquiescence, but which even such a mildly experienced man of the world as Larissa Halpert’s younger son could tell was only a touch shy of a snarl. Jim had no imagination that the other man was happy, or indeed even willing, to continue his fiancé’s exposure to Jim Halpert, but he was well aware that neither of them was prepared to make a scene in front of Pam. Yet he had sufficient control of his own self-conceit to draw himself up properly and beg off. After all, no matter how much he might esteem Miss Beesly, Mr. Anderson clearly possessed a prior claim, and while she might not acknowledge the reality of Jim’s intention, he was not sufficiently unaware of his own mind to be able to ignore his own feelings in her regard. So acting in self-preservation as much as a sense of propriety, he bowed and expressed his intention to partake of the beverages set in another part of the room, smiling his insistence that Pam not concern herself further with his entertainment than to direct him on his way and advise which of the drinks she might most enthusiastically recommend.
He made his way across the crowded floor, reflecting as he did so that his initial reservations about this particular event had reversed themselves: where he once stood trembling in fear of knowing no one and having nothing to say, now he rejoiced that his relative unfamiliarity with the company made it mostly unnecessary for him to acknowledge or engage with any of the throng as he progressed across the room. He nodded to a few elderly ladies of his vague acquaintance, exchanged a glance with Lord Malone (currently engaged full-face with what Jim believed to be a pork pie), and busied himself with a pretended concern with the offerings at the beverage table. He passed by the fine wines, the hearty ales and beers, and the wide array of liquors for a simple squash, infused with soda water—now was not a time to get his head out of joint, a lesson he had learned at length in Vienna. Grape was his favourite, and grape they had, so grape it was. He sipped and found it, as with everything at the party, delightful.
That small consideration was enough to make him sad again, for what had been more delightful at this party than the exquisite Pamela Beesly? And what could be further from possibility than that he should find himself in her company again? For the Colonel was unlikely to assign her to dance attendance on him again, now that she had shepherded him through one such rout—even assuming he was invited again—and what were the chances he would find himself so fortunate as to encounter her in another venue? He did not know where she was lodged, nor was there any pretext, no matter how flimsy, to seek her out if he had.
So, trying despite the impossibility of it to push Pamela Beesly out of his mind, he sipped his seltzer and scanned the room, forcing his mind back to the circumstances that had called him there. He still stood as much in need of a social introduction as he had at the beginning of the night, and the one connexion he had hoped to have made being already dashed, he now found himself even further on the outs with life than he had imagined himself at the start of the night.
In these and similar forebodings he indulged himself, working himself into a brown study as he stared into the depths of his squash. At length a soft and kindly voice insinuated itself into his ears, in a manner that suggested strongly that the speaker had been attempting in a calm but now impatient manner to intrude upon his musings for some little while already.
“If I didn’t know better, James Halpert, I would say you were giving me the cut direct!”
The words themselves would have been enough to startle anyone of Jim’s breeding and character out of themselves, for such a social solecism was utterly unforgivable when it was not (of course) entirely intentional and calculated. But beyond that consideration, Jim found he recognized the voice as well, and looked up with an abashed smile on his face.
“Dear Miss Lapin, you wound me! I would not—no I could not so forget myself as to fail to cherish your acquaintance. You merely found me deep within my own thoughts, for which I must of course apologize.”
“Now that’s more like it. Now, don’t stand upon ceremony and try to fool me into thinking you were simply dozing off on your feet! Tell me, who is she?”
And with that Jim’s heart and smile both fell a little, because Phyllis Lapin (for so it was) was an old family friend, recently removed to London (on account of a sickly aunt) from Chester, where she had been for years the grande dame of the social scene. She knew Jim too well for him to dissemble to her, for all that it had been five years if it had been one since they last spoke—and she had seen him through enough boyhood infatuations to be able to clearly identify what, if not specifically who, had occupied his mind. Nevertheless, Jim felt the obligation to dissemble, if for no other reason than to avoid the revelation of how slight his acquaintance was with the object of his sudden affection.
“My dear Miss Lapin, I must beg of you not to press me, for my concerns were hardly so directed as you imagine! I simply found myself returned to London after a lengthy excursion on the Continent in service of His Majesty, and am at present overwhelmed with the beauty of the entire array of English flowers on display tonight—among which yourself of course numbers among the highest.”
Phyllis smiled a knowing smile at him but said nothing more to the point, allowing herself to be distracted into thanking him for the compliment—a fact which he was profoundly thankful for, but did not imagine for a moment would prevent her from returning to her prior line of questioning at whatever time she chose. He considered it a minor tactical victory however to have so delayed her, and continued sipping his drink in the knowledge that at least one friendly face had been vouchsafed him by chance, even if not one he felt he could be entirely honest with at the present moment.
I have put off the consideration Roy's state of mind for a little to revel in Jim's misery.
Squash, for those not aware, is basically juice--not pumpkin.
In Which Observations are Made by Comfect
As promised, Roy's view of Jim.
As Phyllis Lapin escorted Jim over to her small coterie of likeminded gentlewomen of a more advanced age—a clique ranging from the Dowager Duchess herself, the unfortunate target of Colonel Scott’s improvident interest, to Meredith Palmer, rumoured to have drunk the Duke of Wellington himself under the table at a military soiree in celebration of the victory at Waterloo—three sets of eyes marked his slow progress across the room. Pamela Beesly found herself regretting Roy Anderson’s approach (though she did not acknowledge it to herself, allowing herself only to think that she wished he had approached more circumspectly and appropriately, dissolving her annoyance at being interrupted in her tête-à-tête with Jim in her broader frustration with Roy’s lack of manners) and hoping fondly that she would see Mr. Halpert again at such another gathering, resolving to continue their acquaintance if it might be done in maiden modesty. Colonel Scott himself glanced over to see Jim being sat at the right hand of the Duchess and marked an inner reminder to himself that “Jimbag” was definitely a fine fellow, the sort who should be issued a first-round invitation to all future soirees, rather than stuffed in at the last minute when a few too many cards went unanswered, and that furthermore the Colonel himself might want to be publicly associated with such a fashionably acquainted young man. But the eyes that marked Jim most carefully were those of Roy Anderson, and they shone with concern and an innate dislike, for while Jim had taken an instant disapprobation to Roy, the feeling was entirely mutual and tinged with an unacknowledged but self-protective concern that was more instinctual than intended.
In sum, Roy Anderson liked being comfortable, and he saw in the Honourable Mr. James Halpert the first threat to that comfort that he had ever truly apprehended. He was uncertain as to why, and most definitely would have been incapable of explaining it if anyone had had the temerity to put him to the question on the point. But the feeling was there, lurking in the back of his mind like Nelson off the French coast during the War, and it coloured every interpretation he put on Halpert’s behaviour since their introduction—and, more importantly, on Pamela Beesly’s. He had grown accustomed to experiencing her undivided and uncritical attention—to being, as it were, the lodestar that drew the magnet of not just her heart but her eye, and of having the minor faults he might himself commit (minimal as he would have ever admitted them to be) disregarded and nontendered by her adoring gaze. He would have been the first to admit that he was imperfect, but he would have done so in the careless way of those who think that the mere acknowledgement of the possibility of fault should inoculate them against the need to take any further action to cure themselves of the fault so graciously admitted. His expectation, therefore, was that while he himself made no real effort to advance in the direction of an active fulfillment of the promises he and Miss Beesly had exchanged, she would remain as devoted and singular in her attentions as ever, and that his tender of affection and expression of intention to increase his portion to the desired degree that would permit their eventual union would be accepted as the true coin of progress towards that goal. They had fallen into what was, to him, quite a comfortable routine—her social contacts and grace advancing them both into circles from which he would have been quite barred on his own, and his easy manner securing him a continued place therein, without the necessity of actually undergoing the changes in life and style of living that would have accompanied real motion in the direction of marriage.
In Jim Halpert’s behavior towards his intended he saw, therefore, the first wisps of autumn in the summer of his content. Or rather say that he saw them in Pam’s easygoing acceptance of Jim Halpert and all he represented. Pamela was, as he well knew and breezily acknowledged to all and sundry, a “right piece of fluff,” and he was not unaware of the degree to which she generally drew the attentions of men beyond himself. In certain company, in fact, he could and would acknowledge that those very attentions made her all the more attractive to him—his employer and boon companion Mr. Darryl Philbin had heard more than one encomium on the subject. But all this enjoyment hinged on the simple fact that Pam Beesly did not appreciate this attention—that, if anything, it made her draw in on herself and attempt to appear (despite all logic and reality) another Phyllis Lapin, as if her five-and-twenty years were twice themselves. But when she talked to Jim Halpert, she was still herself, still Pammy—his bright and beautiful not-yet bride. And he could not blame Halpert for reacting to that as he himself did, but he could and did blame him for existing in Pam’s way, and seethe internally at the idea that Halpert imagined himself as good as Roy knew himself to be. So while the first two pairs of eyes were sympathetic, the third pair narrowed themselves in thought as he laughed at a joke of Meredith’s, wondering how to best be rid of such a rival.
Jim, of course, had no idea of the fact, and would have laughed it off if he had. But the laughter would have been hollow, for Roy Anderson knew Jim’s heart better than he would ever admit.
Soon the party will come to an end--but our story will not. Reviews and other feedback are always welcome.
In Which Jim Eats Breakfast by Comfect
The morning after, in which we also meet Mark.
For Jim Halpert the rest of the ball passed in something of a blur. His memories were selective, in that he carried with him only those moments that seemed significant at the time, and even in that moment he was completely aware of only Pam. So the time after his self-willed departure from her was a shadow of a shade to him, filled only with the dull sensation of a toothache, or perhaps a sharp head cold—the indefinable sense that something internal was wrong, with the complementary awareness that nothing one could do would eliminate the sensation short of massive surgery or an explosive but unplannable set of sneezes. As the heart was generally agreed to be incapable of solving its own problems, and Jim had neither a surgeon in mind nor the inclination to seek out one if he had, he had concluded that the concern was therefore inoperable and incurable, and had done his best to focus on his surroundings, but the true depth of his feeling made this impossible, so he remembered nothing except for Colonel Scott (Michael! as he breezily insisted Jim call him after several rounds of what Jim suspected to be less than entirely top-flight whiskey) pounding him on the back and calling him “my boy!” in cheerful tones. He was uncertain in retrospect what might have inaugurated this particular outburst of good feeling, but as it had undeniably resulted in his being gifted with the Colonel’s card and an assurance of further acquaintance by several persons of substantially higher financial, if not social, standing, he could not bring himself to regret it, even as he suspected (knowing the Colonel even the little that he did) that he should.
Jim awoke in his own bed, in his own pyjamas, wrapped (as was his wont) in a rather intense bundle of his bedclothes, with the sun shining in through a crack in the curtains. He was relieved to find himself not only alone, but properly attired for slumber, and this relief astonishingly outlasted the appearance of his valet, who informed him that the Viscount was equally abed, though not (between the two of them) seeming to have enjoyed his night as much as Mr. Halpert, if the valet might say so. Jim changed smoothly into a more suitable ensemble for the morning (sharp, but not too sharp—not only did Jim’s own style and sadly weakened pocketbook militate against too closely following the vagaries of fashion, but any move in that direction was likely to cause murmurs that the Viscount Banbury was supporting him, an allegation that offended both his sense of honour and reality). He made his way downstairs to the small dining room attached to the kitchen, greeted the cook, and set down to his breakfast. The table was set for two, although the Viscount had not yet arisen, and Jim moved with the efficiency of long habit to the one of the two place-settings that faced the staircase, allowing him to greet Mark when the latter languidly made his way to the same table—whenever he might choose to do so, which was rarely before noon. A glance at the grandfather clock suggested that this meal was unlikely to be interrupted by that worthy, as it was only half ten. Jim, not himself habitually an early riser, wondered momentarily at the vast array of foodstuffs arranged on his plate—Cook had chosen a full English this morning, and while he was willing to believe that the bacon was, as it should be, cut from the belly of some anonymous pig, he found himself of the firm belief that the bangers, if such they could be called, were not sausages at all but the limbs of some enormous tree, perhaps from some Indian jungle or American wilderness. If that were so, he decided, the eggs were of similar vintage, for only in such a tree as the sausages represented could so large a bird find roostage. He amazed himself by devouring the whole, remarking to himself (his valet having swiftly and silently withdrawn to see to straightening Mr. Halpert’s personal effects and Cook being otherwise occupied with the occult affairs of the kitchen) that he had no idea social affairs could make a man so hungry. He chased the lot with nearly the entire pot of tea, leaving only enough so that Mark could, if he chose, furnish himself a single cup (though in point of fact, Jim suspected that by the time that gentleman had shown his face downstairs time would have necessitated the brewing of a new pot) and bestirred himself into the parlor, where the morning’s newspapers were set out. These he disturbed only enough to reassure himself that no great upheavals of a diplomatic sort had erupted in the previous twenty-four hours, before turning to the cricket scores from Lords. These engrossed him for a good half an hour, at which time, it being still only eleven and the Viscount not in evidence, he picked a volume from the bookshelf at random—something relatively new by one of the Shelleys, Mark being somewhat avant garde in his tastes—and began to read.
Mark’s descent an hour later found him utterly engrossed in the dealings of a diabolical doctor and his invented patient-cum-child. He set the volume aside with some regret to make small talk with his friend, whose evident triumph regarding Jim’s social success the previous evening began to make him feel somewhat better about the whole thing.
“There you are, chap!” cried Mark, clapping him on the shoulder. “Told you Scott would be just the ticket. He holds a ball every other week, so if you’re on his shortlist you’re set. And I wouldn’t half-bet that once you’re known as one of his set you’ll find yourself on the list at a great deal more, too, so don’t you worry that you’ll be kicking up your heels. We’ll find you a commission of some sort at one of them, I fancy—probably not Scott’s, the man’s simply too too—but somewhere. And who knows,” he added, his eyes twinkling, “maybe we’ll find you a wife there too.”
He was too caught up in his own musings to catch Jim’s face fall for a moment, and by the time he looked around Jim had schooled his countenance into a more appropriate expression—though apparently something was still lacking, for he only laughed and said “Oh, I don’t mean you should be one of these men like…Major Packer or somesuch, who throws himself at even woman he meets, almost bodily, or that you should think yourself obliged to marry for money, or to take the first woman who comes your way. But I do mean to see you hitched, Halpert, before me, or at any rate not long behind!” With that he strode into the dining room, calling out to cook for his nuncheon, and Jim returned to his book, but not before rolling his eyes heavenward and wondering if his flatmate had the least idea what he was talking about. Viscount Banbury was a catch on the marriage market, with eligible ladies and their mothers setting hooks in his way; Jim Halpert, Honourable as he was, knew himself no such thing, and wondered if, like the character, his only hope of posterity was ingenious, not purely biological. With that thought he re-engrossed himself in the doings of the devious doctor and tried to put marriage—and the thoughts of Pamela Beesly that had floated in adjacent to it—utterly out of his mind.
Now that we're out of the first ball, time will begin moving somewhat faster (though not like a rocket by any means). Reviews, jellybeans, and particularly fast carrier pigeons are appreciated.
In Which the Mail Arrives by Comfect
And now for a switch in POV midchapter! See if you can notice it ;).
But it seemed that fate did not intend for Jim Halpert to so easily forget Pam Beesly. After an afternoon spent with his nose in the book and a tea beautifully set out by Cook, a series of cards arrived for him in the evening mail. Lord Malone wished to invite him to The Leviathan, which a keen word in his ear from his ever-faithful valet suggested strongly was an establishment closely associated with the more profligate forms of gambling in the city. Phyllis Lapin begged that he should not stand on ceremony and come by her establishment in Russell Square, adding in a lengthy handwritten postscript that she hoped to introduce him to one Robert Vance, the Ice King of London, with whom she had developed a connection, and who was eager to meet a friend from back in her Chester days. Robert, she wrote, had been sorry to miss Jim the previous night, having been downstairs inspecting the ice chests in Colonel Scott’s kitchen when she had found Jim. Even Dwight K. Schrute had sent a formal note stiffly wondering whether the Denbigh holdings on the Welsh Marches came anywhere near the Allscott beet farms in Shropshire. Nestled amongst the other cards from people he barely remembered meeting (who was Creed Bratton?) was a gilt-edged invitation from Colonel Michael Gary Scott desiring his attendance at “the best, most spectacular, most amazing soiree yet thrown” the next night. Jim wondered at this, both at the suddenness of the second party and at his own receiving an invitation to it—though he did express some relief when he learned from the staff that Mark had received an invitation as well, thus reducing the confusion to some degree.
Had he but known it, the degree of his own surprise was but de minimis compared to that of Pamela Morgan Beesly. Pam had awoken in her dowager aunt’s flat on Pimlico Street with a disquieting sense that the world was somehow wrong. She had clung to this notion through her morning toilette, as her hair failed to fall in the way she wanted, her nose felt a little askew (even though she knew there was no chance that her pillow had somehow pushed it aside in the night), and her makeup seemed to develop a mind of its own and deliberately clump. As she came downstairs and gathered the morning post, she found sitting in her hands the confirmation of her unease. The Colonel had sent her a note. This in itself was not unusual; it happened most days, as Colonel Scott seemed to develop most of his ideas over the course of an evening or—more commonly—the period that developed as the night rolled over into the morning, and he invariably sent these ideas along to her by messenger in time for her to find them alongside the morning post. In most cases this simply called for her to visit the Colonel’s apartments in order to talk him down from his most recent brainstorm: to convince him that there was no need to hare off to India for a particular brand of tea because a friend of his had expressed a fleeting desire to taste it, or that his dream-invention of an automated machine for grilling food and removing the fat was perhaps impractical at the present time. But on other occasions, it was more of a burden, as the ideas he had conceived were either sufficiently practical to be undismissable, or even actually good ideas that would simply require a great degree of effort on her part (and almost always, none on his). Worst of all, sometimes the ideas were impractical or unwise but it would turn out that even the most emphatic effort on her part could not dissuade him from putting them into practice in any case. She had a sad sense that this was one of these, for he had written to her:
Dear Miss Beesly,
I have had a most marvelous idea that I cannot wait to put into action. I am certain that, in this case, you will not hesitate to agree with me and begin the preparations at once. You have heard, no doubt, that the Dowager Duchess of Hereford is back in town. She was at the ball last night, but by some unfortunate circumstance we were unable to connect. Perhaps she didn’t hear me call her name—have you found out yet whether she is perhaps going a little deaf in one ear? As this clearly cannot stand, it is my intention to hold another ball tomorrow night so that I can casually meet her again. Be so good as to write up the invitations for the usual set; you know, the sort of people who were there last night. And send round to the caterers again. You know what I like.
You’re the Beesly-kneesly,
Col. Michael Gary Scott
She sighed. This was going to be a long day, and it had only just begun. This idea was horrible, gauche, and likely to expose Colonel Scott to the ridicule of the more elegantly composed set (who would still attend in order to twitter loftily while enjoying the Colonel’s food). In a word, it was Michael. She turned the card over.
P.S. Make sure to invite my new best friend Jimbo! Dwight speaks very archly of him, which I’m sure means he’s a lot of fun!
She tried not to think too carefully about why a day spent planning an entire ball from scratch looked so much less problematic now that she knew she was to invite Jim Halpert.
The beet farms (well, factory) at Allscott are real, though about 100 years too early. I looked it up on JSTOR. Thank you for reading, reviewing, &c.
In Which Shopping is Done by Comfect
We'll get to the good JAM stuff soon I assure you, but first let us meet another of Miss Beesly's circle.
It turned out to be a little less work than Pam expected to send out the invitations; given Michael’s penchant for calling sudden parties she had stockpiled a large number of invitations, some of which she had even strategically chosen to engrave in advance with the names and addresses of those whom Colonel Scott most frequently invited. For those, she had only to add the details of this particular event, which she did not by engraving but by calligraphy. She relished the feeling of power, of creativity, in the brushstrokes, dipping and re-dipping the pen and watching the words grow under her hands. Lord Oscar of Martinsdale, The Honourable Mr. James Halpert, Kevin Lord Malone. It was soothing. And for the rest, her regular engraver was more than happy to fill a rush order, and to accept the Colonel’s note as a promise of future repayment—which she would ensure that he got, even if she had to dun the Colonel herself. The letters were ready by the middle of the day, and she set about to finish the remainder of the tasks that had suddenly fallen upon her in preparation for the next evening.
It occurred to her briefly to call on Roy for assistance, but the idea died as soon as it arose to the background of her mind. It was not worth the effort it would take to drag him out of whatever amusement had taken his fancy, and lord help her if he had actually been engaged in some productive vein! You’d have imagined that her merely interrupting him was the cause of all the strife in the world, and the sole reason he hadn’t made a mint in the ten years they’d been engaged. So no matter the degree of effort Colonel Scott’s whims might require of her, she would not ask Roy.
However, she was still in need of assistance; not merely for fetching and carrying, but more generally in that it was deemed unacceptable for a lady of her not yet sufficiently advanced years to wander the streets alone in search of the various supplies she stood in need of, much less to barter openly with tradesmen. She needed a chaperone or a male escort—and the male escort had best be of high reputation, of advanced years, or her employer if she did not wish for scandal. Not instinctively knowing anyone besides Roy (whose reputation she considered undeniable0 who would both fit these descriptions and be willing to assist her, she decided female companionship was the best—and indeed the only—option available to her.
It was thoughts like these that brought her to the doorstep of Miss Angela Martin, her next-door neighbour. Miss Martin was a prim and prissy miss, fond of finding fault in everything Pam did, from the frequency of her intended’s visitations to the colour of her dress, but she was also a sharp and insightful woman with a strong head for numbers and a complete unwillingness to be hornswoggled by anyone, which made her an invaluable companion when she chose to be of use on trips like these. Pam was more than willing to swallow the occasional unflattering or downright insulting remark thrown her own way for such forceful assistance when dealing with an uppity carter or intransigent shopkeeper. She knocked on Angela’s door, caught the cat that inevitably tried to make a break for it when the door opened even the smallest crack, and, with an unintentionally sly mix of cajolery, outright flattery, and straightforward desperation succeeded in engaging that lady’s services for the day. “After all,” hummed Miss Martin as they stepped out together “it isn’t as if I don’t have my own errands to run, and if you’re to hire a coach it will certainly make them much easier for me.”
Pam was well aware that these errands mostly involved the acquisition of cat food, cat toys, and small wooden or porcelain figures of cats, and so foretold correctly that they would not put her much out of her own way, as these were often found in the same shops and thus necessitated few additional stops that deviated from her own plan for the afternoon and evening. Having Miss Martin along for her own shopping did result in the alteration of some of her initial plans—Angela would not allow her to buy green bunting for the Colonel’s staircases, declaring it a “whorish colour” and refusing to sit by a roll of it in the carriage—but they got along tolerably enough, and the older woman’s nose for a bargain came in handy in acquiring the seating cards, as she pungently observed to the printer that he could hardly find a use for the quarter sheet of stock that would be left after the smaller order Pam had initially requested, and successfully negotiated a major discount on filling the entire sheet.
It being a bright summer day, the city remained light well into the evening, a fortunate occurrence for the two ladies as Miss Martin’s first supplier of cat food announced to her dismay that the cart from his supplier had overturned on its way in from the country and he was unable to supply her needs. Her second supplier was on the other side of town, and they were fortunate to make it there before he closed up shop, but it left them sadly behindhand with the clock. But Pam found herself forgiving this for reasons she refused to examine too closely, as a handsome phaeton pulled up alongside them by Hyde Park and she found herself addressed by a certain floppy-haired young man she remembered quite well from the night before.
I think you all know who that is. Thanks for reading, reviewing, &c.
In Which Two Friends Chat by Comfect
Our first real experience of Mark awaits.
The time had not gone idly by Jim Halpert, but he could not quite deny that hiding from his host and friend in a book, even one so exciting as the tale of the good doctor F----, was coming on a little strong in the hermit line. He resisted his conscience’s urgings for as long as he could, knowing that once he gave in to its urgings he would be unlikely to be able to hide himself away again in a similar manner in the near future. But at length, as he knew would have to happen, Mark strolled into the library where he had been hiding away and cocked an eyebrow at him. Coming from Mark, this was the equivalent of any his relatives stampeding into the room and throwing themselves into his arms full of questions, so, naturally, he waggled his eyebrows back at him. Mark took this in the correct mode, as Jim had known he would, and drew up a chair beside him.
“Well, Halpert?” he began. “As Jenkins assured me that we received not one but two invitations for this sudden ball Scott’s chosen to throw for some reason, so I assume that your appearance last evening was a success, but I must confess myself surprised not to have heard more about the affair from you yourself, rather being obliged to infer from the behavior of Michael Scott, which is always a dangerous thing to attempt.”
Jim grinned. “That it is. But in this case, you have gone only a little afield. I hardly talked to Scott—that is to say, he talked to me for twenty minutes but I hardly got a word in edgewise—“
Mark broke in to confirm that that did, indeed, sound like the Colonel Scott he was familiar with as well.
“—but then he left me entirely to myself for most of the rest of the night. I barely exchanged glances with him after that, let alone words! I cannot tell why I am so heartily blessed as to receive this additional invitation, for without it I would have thought myself almost entirely a failure. Though perhaps it was the intervention of Miss Lapin…”
“Oh ho, a lady! A lady! My dear Halpert, I never thought I’d see the day!”
“It is nothing like that, Mark, and I will thank you not to jump to conclusions—you are liable to harm your hamstrings. Phyllis Lapin is an old friend from Chester who, I will have you know, is far closer to being a long-lost aunt than a…a romantic entanglement of mine.”
“You interest me. Go on.”
“There’s not much more to tell, save that she was there, holding court amongst the ladies at the ball, and we spent a great deal of time renewing our acquaintance towards the end of the night. She seems well connected within, if not the ton, whatever term we might use for Scott’s set.”
“Ah yes, the tots. Quite like the ton you know—a fair degree of overlap, in fact—but not quite tout a fait the thing. Howard and I named it, after the way Scott pronounces tout.”
“Indeed. How is Howard, by the way? Still stuck in Norfolk with his family? Or is he back at Oxford again?”
“Oh, no! I thought you’d heard. Rusticated again—six months this time, something to do with a fire—but not in Norfolk, not at all. Staying with his aunt in some family villa on the west side of town. Looking for something to do, I think; come to think of it, I might bring him tomorrow to Scott’s little to-do. Been too long since the three of us had a chinwag, and I know he’s always amused by Scott’s tots.”
“Tomorrow? But I thought…that is, I was told you were intending to decline the invitation. You can’t possibly tell me you’re free on this short notice.”
“Oh, I’m not, but it was simply a family affair; Uncle Dorian, having failed entirely to launch Katherine into the ton, or at least into a nice quiet marriage, has given up his grand hopes of balls and dancing and chosen instead to invite little groups of people over for so-called informal dinners, with the hopes of intruding one or two eligible bachelors in each evening and drawing her attention to one of them. If anything, my absence will simply permit Aunt Louisa to shoehorn another of her young bucks into the table.”
“All right, but that doesn’t explain your own sudden change of mind.”
“But how can you wonder at that, my dear fellow? I’m simply too intrigued by your triumph last night. I must be with you as you revisit the scene of such a smash! And besides, I’m sure there’s more to it than you’ve had the good grace to tell me. You didn’t sit here in” he shuddered “the library for six hours—seven now!—just because you thought Colonel Scott had ignored you, and even if you had, you didn’t come back here after the confirmation of your success for that. Come come old boy, you’d much better have it out.”
“I suppose if I do not you’ll simply consider it your obligation to hound it out of me?”
“Don’t be so vulgar! I’ll have Howard do it, you know how he loves to get under your skin.”
“Heaven spare me from childhood friends!”
“Heaven seems particularly indifferent to the matter, in my experience. If it cared, I’m sure I wouldn’t have to entertain my bore cousins this evening.”
“That’s a very different thing!”
“I suppose it is, for I suppose I liked my childhood friends at one point; I can’t really recall ever liking my cousins. But seeing as I do have to entertain them, I am not sure I have the time this evening for your endless beating around the bush. So spill it, Halpert.”
“I’m sure you’ll have it out of me eventually, so I might as well give.” And so Jim gave. He told Mark the whole story from his anxious arrival to his exhausted exit, and, to his surprise, his friend simply listened to the whole, only nodding occasionally, though Jim could see a mischievous twinkle in his eye. At the end he cleared his throat.
“A very full retelling, Mr. Halpert, very full indeed. But you did omit one minor detail.”
“What’s that?” sighed Jim.
“You haven’t told me when you’re planning to offer for Miss Beesly." He added under his breath "I knew there was a lady somewhere."
“What? You heard me say she’s engaged.”
“Engaged ten years, you said. Well, I know there are long engagements, and I daresay you saw them together and I didn’t, but Pamela Beesly hasn’t been Michael Scott’s secretary for three years for nothing, you know. She’s the sort that gets things done; couldn’t have stuck with Scott if she weren’t. And if a woman like that has a fiancée who takes ten years to get his boots on, I’d be very much surprised…well, I don’t like to traduce those I don’t know, but I don’t like it, and I don’t think she must either. And while I may not know this Anderson, I do know you—and I’ll note you didn’t say you hadn’t thought of it.”
“Of course I thought of it, Mark! But I’m no rake.”
“No, more’s the pity. No, don’t hit me! I only mean…well, let us forget it if you’re that upset. Would a ride ‘round one of the parks help cheer you up? I’ll let you drive my greys, to make up for my impertinence.”
Jim smiled sadly at his good friend. This was always Mark’s way—an easy manner and a disarming admission of fault without withdrawing the objectionable remark. But seeing as he wasn’t far wrong, Jim didn’t feel like pursuing the matter. He allowed as a ride around the parks might do him good, but disclaimed the desire to be the driver, as he considered Mark by far the whip hand. In this way he both managed to pay his friend a fair compliment (Jim himself being a renowned handler of horses) and let him know he was not entirely off the hook for jumping, as was his wont, so heavily into conclusions.
The Howard family are Dukes of Norfolk--and yes, that's Ryan. I appreciate any criticism, commentary, or other feedback.
In Which Four People Meet in Hyde Park by Comfect
After an hour or so spent rambling about in Hyde Park, Jim did have to admit to himself that he was feeling better. For all of Mark’s kind words about Jim’s own handling, it could not but be admitted that Viscount Banbury was himself considered one of the finest whips in all of England, and a fellow connoisseur like Jim could hardly be faulted for allowing the observation of such deft management to relieve the tedious lethargy that had tugged upon his soul. His imagination was still caught up in Miss Beesly, of course, but he could look upon the situation with new eyes, seeing that it was only natural that, in the first time he had had a good long talk with a stout English girl after returning from the Continent, he should find himself inclining towards her. It was a matter of familiarity, of habit and inclination in general. Not that there was nothing special about Miss Beesly—she was a very flower of English womanhood, to be sure—but there was nothing about her that was so very outstanding, so very unique as to bedevil a true bachelor’s breast, or to cause—quelle horreur—such a gentleman to impinge upon such a long-standing engagement as some mild inquiry (in tones of greatest disinterest) had revealed hers to be. No, it was clearly the merest flirtation of the eyes, with no greater implications for his or her disquiet. Indeed, it might be the best thing for him to see her again, to go to Scott’s impetuous second ball, simply so as to reassure himself of this new and much healthier resolution of his.
All of these comforting thoughts died away instanter when his eyes met a pair of green eyes under a smart bonnet in Hyde Park. He felt his face stretch immediately into a broad smile, and his arm come up into a wave. He did not know whether to be grateful or dyspeptic that his friend Banbury seemed to read his mind like a deuced mesmerist and drew up slowly alongside the lady in question (accompanied by another lady he did not know, somewhat more severely dressed) and left him no choice but to address them both. If he didn’t know better, he would have said this was planned on Mark’s part, but there was no way…was there? He refused to speculate too far on this point and instead committed himself to the conversation.
Had Miss Beesly made the acquaintance of his good friend the Viscount Banbury? She had? Oh, of course, at one of the Colonel’s balls. Would they be blessed with the Viscount’s presence at tomorrow’s affair? How lovely. Pray, Viscount, Mr. Halpert, be known to my companion, Miss Angela Martin of the Shrewsbury Martins. Oh, you know the family? Indeed, the Welsh border is a small world. Perhaps we’ve met before, in Wrexham, was it? Or perhaps it was a sister, or a cousin? No matter. Will we have the pleasure of seeing you both tomorrow? Perhaps we can make another hand of whist? Oh, Miss Martin does not gamble, I do beg your pardon. Perhaps Schrute or Malone will make up the table then, or maybe the Colonel himself? Well, how delightful. Is there any assistance I can render you? I see you have packages; could we be of service in transporting them—or indeed you? Oh no, I’m sure I don’t mind, and neither does Banbury, do you Mark? No, no, simply delighted. Where? The Colonel’s? Not a problem, no problem in the world. We will, I’m sure. Tomorrow then.
And they were out. Not without Mark glaring at him…no, not glaring, simply staring agog…for having agreed to transport two rather large and as it turned out quite heavy packages to the Colonel’s apartments for the ladies, but safely out without blurting out anything like “I adore you” or “have you noticed how perfectly green your eyes are?” or “might I have the honour of addressing your father for your hand” or any other nonsense. He answered the growing mirth in his friend’s face with a sheepish grin and a shrug, and held the packages tightly as they turned onto the main road. After a brief colloquy with the Colonel’s butler, they deposited what that worthy believed to be several dozen pounds of assorted decorations in his capable hands and turned back towards home, at which point (to Jim’s mingled regret that he would have to answer Mark’s questioning and relief that his friend had come down on the side of amusement and not reproach) the Viscount began to badger his companion with a series of laughing questions about his intentions towards their mutual acquaintance with the fetching bonnet. Jim at first pretended that Mark must of course have been referring to Miss Martin, then, once that jest had paled, answered honestly and firmly that he was not the sort of gentleman to disrupt another’s happiness, but that he was, for the first time, uncertain of retaining the propriety over his own heart that he had had for so long. Mark clapped him on the shoulder, announced that even this feeble declaration demanded a drink, and steered him into their flat, up the stairs, and into the parlor, where Jenkins was called on for two glasses of madeira, which quickly turned into four, then six, and resulted in the gentlemen in question sleeping most soundly that evening, after a rousing rendition of “To Anacreon in Heaven.”
Miss Beesly’s experience of their encounter was somewhat less fraught, though if anything more confusing to her. She was conscious of a great deal of satisfaction at re-encountering Mr. Halpert, and was in no way surprised to find him the intimate of such a person as Viscount Banbury, for as Colonel Scott’s social secretary she was quite certain it was Banbury’s influence that had obtained for him the invitation to the previous night’s ball. She was somewhat relieved to learn that while Shrewsbury and Denbigh were within common calling distance of Wrexham, the Halpert and Martin families were not closely acquainted, for she was already certain that being hailed in the street by an unmarried man—well, two unmarried men—was most certain to obtain for her a scolding from her companion, and to have it reinforced by animadversions on the known character of her friends would have made it most unpleasant. As it was, Angela confined herself more generally to the habits of “gentlemen these days” with a sniff about ladies who engaged in gambling, especially whist—a game that she could not approve of, as it went about “partnering” men and women willy-nilly, and worse, unpartnering them afterwards—though she did find herself conceding that if men like Dwight Schrute played it, it could not be the worst sin, though she was quite sure it was still improper for Pam to be so engaged. Speaking of engagement…Pam politely ignored the rest of her companion’s chatter, as she was already familiar with Angela’s opinions of that score and had no need to hear them told over again. She instead dedicated herself to considering why she was so pleased to have seen Mr. Halpert again, and why it was that he had so graciously offered to carry her packages for her. Deciding just as she got to her door that he must simply be the most accommodating man alive, a consideration only reinforced by her memory of him allowing Phyllis Lapin of all people to corner him for hours last night, she bid her neighbour good night at her doorstep and made herself at home for the evening, banishing all thoughts of the outside world as she took up her paints and endeavoured to finish the Pietà she had promised Angela to make in time for Easter. She was quite proud of it, and the effort required to get Mary’s face just right allowed no time for Viscounts or Halperts or packages.
Thank you for reading! The next chapter should take us into, if not through, the Second Scott Ball.
In Which a Dessert is Almost, But Not Quite, Eaten by Comfect
Let me know how you're feeling about the switches between perspectives here; I'm not sure about them.
Jim Halpert spent the next day getting ready. He did not admit this to himself, however, but rather convinced himself that he spent it in pleasurable pursuits: a little whist with friends, a round of boxing at Jackson’s—where he was not accounted among the nonpareils but nevertheless could hold his own—a spot of tea at a particularly familiar and delicious pie shop. But in actual fact these activities never held above a pittance of his mind at any one time, for it was focused entirely on the upcoming evening. He was certain he would see her again, since it was most literally her job to be present, but would he be able to occupy her attention to a similar degree? It seemed unlikely, regardless of the presence or absence of her fiancée, seeing as Scott had only asked her to chaperone him due to his unfamiliarity with these events, an excuse not liable to be brought out on his side at the second such affair in the course of a single week. What, then, could he do to ensure that he might while away the time in Pamela Beesly’s company? A single dance could comfortably be presumed, and perhaps, if that dance were rightly timed, the time immediately preceding or following it might be included as well. A game of whist had been suggested at their chance encounter, which might in turn be the predicate for a reasonable amount of conversation if properly handled. He was at a loss to go any further, but his innate good sense fortunately reared its head and reminded him that what he liked about Miss Beesly—among a great many other things—was the ease with which they communicated ex tempore, and that therefore overpreparing for the time they might spend together would be entirely opposite from the purpose. Nevertheless, he spent the entire day living out the Shakespearean dictum that the readiness is all, living forever in the if it be not now, yet it will come of the moment.
Pam Beesly, had she but known of it, could have used some of that readiness herself. Her day was all fluster and bluster, filled with unprepared tradesmen, cupboards already ransacked by the previous partygoers, and a cook whom Michael had somehow forgotten to notify that he would be serving an additional fifty or so guests—not for dinner, but for the after-dinner delicacies that were both the cook’s and the Colonel’s specialty, and which, the cook explained at tedious length, generally required at least (at least) thirty-six hours of advance preparation. In the result they were prepared, but not without much expostulation, some of it in French and some in what Pam was certain was some kind of Eastern European language distinguished (she was sure) for its vulgarity on the one hand and (she was grateful) for its unintelligibility to her on the other. Perhaps Dwight would know, but as she had no intention of asking him, it really made no nevermind. Around this exchange she prepared the ballroom, answered several letters on Michael’s behalf, and generally played the role of hostess to an otherwise notably bachelor establishment. She was unclear exactly why the Colonel’s apartments always stank of bacon and unwashed linens, but she would be—well, she would refrain from saying what she would be, but it would probably be best expressed in the cook’s language—if she would allow it to remain so when guests were coming over. She supervised, pitched in, and generally made it all happen, despite the Colonel’s rather ineffectual—or perhaps, one might say, whatever went beyond ineffectual into the reverse—attempts to help. When she returned for a brief (indeed, but momentary) sojourn of relief in her own rooms, she found a card left with her landlady from Roy saying only that he would not be accompanying her tonight, as Mr. Philbin had a horse in some local race or other and Roy would be joining his party to see it (as he wrote) win. She had no doubts that this would only result in the poor horse casting a shoe or some such other form of bad luck, but dismissed the likely increase in debt from her mind, focusing only on the fact that Roy would not be there and therefore her—well, the Colonel’s—table would be quite out for dinner. She reconciled this difficulty quickly by choosing to demur from dinner herself, thus rebalancing the table, while simultaneously permitting her an additional hour or so to make sure the ballroom would be up to snuff once the small gathering in the dining room was joined by the larger set of invitees for the evening’s entertainment. She herself grabbed a handful of the sliced potatoes that cook had prepared as an appetizer and washed them down with hot tea, hoping that this, and her usual refraining from alcohol in order to keep a straight head in case one of Michael’s ideas came to a bad end mid-ball, would keep her steady through the evening.
The evening was, as these things go, a surprising success, at least as beginnings went. Her absence went unremarked on at dinner, and the extra hour permitted the ballroom to shine at its best once the larger party began to occupy it. She even had a few extra moments to slide into the refreshment table and extract a delicacy for herself—one of her favorites, a vaguely Turkish dish consisting of yoghurt whipped into a froth and studded with raspberries and blackberries for taste and color—and was about to dig into it to satisfy her hunger when a voice she had already begun to recognize filtered into her consciousness.
For his own part, Jim Halpert wasn’t sure what devil or angel was looking out for him in the moment he stepped into the ballroom, but he was certain some being beyond the ordinary was involved—more than involved, taking an active interest in his affairs—for he no sooner stepped into the ballroom, a few paces ahead of Mark and their mutual friend, the Lord Ryan Howard, than he saw the object of his…infatuation break out of the press of bodies and make her way to the refreshment table. Indicating to Mark and Ryan that he would obtain refreshment for the three of them and meet them by the windows, he slipped over to greet Miss Beesly, only to notice that the dish she was about to partake of was one he was greatly familiar with from his time in Vienna—a Turkish confection made of yoghurt—and that it was a colour he had been taught in Vienna was only attained when the yoghurt in question had turned from delightfully tart to offensively nauseating. He therefore interrupted her without thinking, hoping beyond hope that he had caught her immediately before rather than immediately after the fatal taste that would reveal the truth of his accusation.
“Pardon me, and I know it is very impertinent of me to speak of it, not to mention that there is no good reason that I should know it, but I’m afraid the mixed-berry yoghurt you’re about to eat is rather spoilt.”
Thanks for reading!
In Which More Whist is Played by Comfect
I think the pace of the story may pick up from here on out, though not necessarily the pace of my posting.
Pam felt something stir in her that she had neither the time nor the inclination to examine too closely, but she thanked Mr. Halpert with a charming laugh and put aside her yoghurt. Was there any more of it that Mr. Halpert thought was spoiled? As the hostess she would rather like to know? Oh, no, somehow she had obtained the only one that was visibly off and not noticed. How unfortunate, but then, how lucky that she could simply pick up another! And so she did, and ate it while laughing charmingly at all of Mr. Halpert’s jokes, slipping an arm into his and propelling him around the ballroom with her while she greeted the other guests.
This latter behaviour did not go unnoticed by the Viscount and his young guest from Norfolk, who soon abandoned any hope of Jim returning with drinks or food and went to seek them out themselves. Ryan was decidedly of the opinion that Miss Beesly had no interest in Jim—that this was the behaviour of a woman who unselfconsciously believed herself already married, or at least advanced in her spinsterhood, and therefore not neither object nor subject of flirtatious advances—to which Mark replied with a wager of his own good greys against Ryan’s decidedly inferior team of roans if there ever came evidence that this was not a flirtation. Ryan considered this very bad business on Mark’s part, but, never one to shun a wager or to warn a man off his own self-inflicted doom, heartily shook hands upon the bet, agreeing that they would only settle once entirely solid evidence was adduced on one side or the other, but that each would keep a weather eye out for such a sign. With that they addressed themselves to the whist tables, where they found themselves once again confronted with the subjects of their wager, and agreed to make a table of four.
The conversation flowed easily around the whist-table; the three men were in their element, having a shared wealth of experience to fall back on whenever the talk might lag, and Pam found herself oddly at peace listening to it ebb and flow. She certainly held her own, twitting Jim especially as she learned various things about him from the rollicking quizzing of his peers, but for the most part she found herself sitting back a little and thinking about how Jim and the others seemed to interact. It was not that they were unwilling to tease or quiz each other, or to sometimes bring up moments in their shared history that one or more of them found uncomfortable or embarrassing—though some of those moments were quickly flitted over with a glance in her direction or a muted cough, suggesting strongly that they were inappropriate for mixed company—but they were somehow more genteel, less coarse than the similar conversations she had been party or witness to among Roy and his friends, who tended to congregate in Roy’s or Darryl’s apartments in the evening and shoot craps or draw a game of vingt-et-un. Those conversations often ground to a halt when she dropped by, or worse, on a few occasions, did not, whereas this one simply skimmed over the moments that were perhaps best left unreferenced in her presence and seemed if anything to grow stronger and more interesting to its participants for the omission. She could tell that this was a game for Ryan Howard in particular, who seemed to delight in pushing the boundaries while remaining just technically within the realm of propriety—an endeavour that was clearly encouraged by the laughing Viscount Banbury but merely acknowledged by Jim Halpert, who would ruefully signal a hit when Ryan managed to push the conversation back into more risqué or controversial ground and steadfastly redirect to safer territory. She was almost beginning to suspect Jim of protecting her, but his play at the table was sufficiently ruthless no matter his assigned partner that she assured herself that could not be the case; if it were, why had he just set her bid by three? No, he was simply a gentleman—a gentleman’s gentleman, if his friends were to be taken as any indication—and a good friend. Truly, she was not sure she had had a friend since childhood, at least not one as good and…well, friendly…as Jim. She smiled and laughed and, for once at one of Colonel Scott’s parties, thoroughly enjoyed herself.
This all threatened to come crashing down when Ryan arose from the table and expressed a desire to go have a drink, suggesting that they settle up for the game. Jim agreed and offhandedly noted that they hadn’t agreed on stakes. Pam realized that they had not, and a dismayed feeling forced itself up from her stomach, only accelerating when Jim casually offered to settle at a shilling a trick. A shilling a trick? She didn’t have that kind of money, not even if you included the very simple jewels she wore, or the whole cost of her gown. Were these seeming gentlemen really sharks—a term she remembered Roy using about a couple of his supposed friends who always seemed ready for a game and never stood up losers except for petty stakes, or winners except for high ones—set to gobble her up? She was so worried she lost all opportunity to object as the gentlemen agreed and tabulated their scores, only to return to full consciousness at the realization that Ryan was good-naturedly placing a full guinea into her hand. Jim seized the opportunity of her distraction and Ryan’s departure to whisper in her ear that he was sorry about the stakes but he’d noticed how far the two of them were up on Ryan especially and had not been able to resist offering the high price knowing Ryan had not been keeping track. She giggled, and could move again, finding herself glad to be confirmed in her initial supposition about his character, at least where she herself was concerned. The three of them arose from the table and made their way towards the salon, where Pam could see Colonel Scott holding court to an ever-diminishing audience. Somehow Mark conceived to slip away on the walk so she found herself once again alone with Jim—or as alone as one could be in the packed space of the party. She listened to Michael pontificate about whatever it was was on his mind that day and leaned against Jim’s arm, content with everything for once.
Jim, of course, stood stock still as soon as he felt Pam’s face press against his arm, and forcibly resisted the instinctual urge to wrap his arm around her and offer her his chest as a more comfortable resting place. Instead he stood carefully, not allowing her to slip or fall, despite the pins and needles building up within his own arm. At length, Michael’s flow of words stopped and the last hearers dwindled away, one of whom fortuitously brushed against Pam’s sleeve, bringing her back to awareness.
“Hey” he smiled down at her.
“Hullo” she smiled back, then realized where she was and what she had been doing. “Are you an equestrian, Mr. Halpert?”
“I am reputed to be a bit of a hand, I believe, Miss Beesly. Why do you ask?”
“Ah, I thought you must be. I have been told, by many reputable friends of mine, that hay is for horses, so I felt certain that you must be well-acquainted in that field.”
“A touch, a touch, I do confess.” He grinned. “Shall we dance?”
She took his hand. “Most certainly.”
And so they did.
Thanks very much for reading, reviewing, etc. I appreciate you all.
In Which a Friendship Is Reluctantly Formed by Comfect
It's Michael time!
The rest of the evening passed in a whirl of delight for both Jim and Pam; not that they ever admitted as much to each other, except by the beaming light in their eyes, or that they would have said so to anyone else, for while Jim was entirely aware of his feelings for Pam, he was also aware that they were inappropriate feelings for any man to have towards an engaged woman, while Pam was almost completely oblivious not only to the degree but to the direction of her feeling for Jim. She was at turns convinced that her giddy gaiety was the result of successfully pulling off a ball of this magnitude upon such short notice; that the wine must be particularly intoxicating that night for some strange reason, which meant she should talk to the caterers about their choice of spirits; that she was simply dizzy from a prolonged bout of twirling in the waltz; anything but that she was finding out what it was like to spend time with someone connected to your soul, not merely your heart, and whose place in your life was a result of an innate resonance between your minds rather than a habitual affection based on historical proximity. She was, in short, truly infatuated in the first time in her life, and entirely unaware of the fact.
She might have realized her state had she contemplated deeply on the one moment in the evening that seemed to shine out less brightly than the rest. This was when Jim was pulled aside by Colonel Scott for an “urgent conference” in the stairwell and she was left to cool her heels by the refreshment table. She barely noticed Ryan Howard doing his best to make up to her, or Mark, Viscount Banbury, laughing at him, or even the soda-water in her hands (having laid off the wine at an earlier point in the evening because of the aforementioned concern about intoxication). She could not have told you how long she stood and sipped mechanically, staring at the swirling couples on the floor before her, but in truth it was not long before the return of Jim to her side and the smile to her face.
For Jim it had felt even longer than for Pam, not solely because of his absence from her side and hers from his but also because of the necessity of dealing with Michael Scott in full form. Does she like me followed hard upon why won’t she love me, and it took Jim a full minute to discover that the She in question was Jan, Dowager Duchess of Hereford. Not being intimately acquainted with the lady in question, he could only respond with hums and haws to Michael’s heartworn inquiries, with the occasional quirk of the head and slight grimace—but this seemed to be all that was required, as Michael’s incessant self-concern thrust on past any question of response. The rest of his brain was occupied—beyond thinking of Pam and maintaining an apparent involvement in what might generously be called a conversation—with the question of why Colonel Michael Scott had chosen him as a confidante. Fortunately, as he had made little headway on this question, that worthy relieved him of wonder on that point by blurting out towards the end of a particularly morose disclosure about his misfortunes in love an expression of extreme gratitude for “being my best friend.”
Jim considered rebutting this as a ridiculous supposition, but a moment’s thought gave him substantial pause and he reconsidered. Who, after all, might Colonel Scott call friend? He seemed—as the torrent of discourse had revealed—surprisingly sensitive and aware of the fact that most (if not all) of those attending his parties were there to goggle rather than out of any genuine connection, and the rest of those who seemed to bear him in esteem or even amiability—Miss Beesly, Lieutenant Schrute—were technically not only in his employ but explicitly employed to make it look as if they cared about him, thus making it difficult or indeed impossible to judge their true feelings. Jim was uncertain whether he himself felt much more than pity for the Colonel, but he could not deny that he felt no prurient desire to see the man flail about, nor was he paid to coddle or support him. He was, in short, a friend, or at least a friendly acquaintance, someone who bore the Colonel no ill will and indeed perhaps owed him something more akin to a quiet gratitude for the invitation—and the introduction to Miss Beesly. So perhaps he was Michael’s best, if not only, friend. That thought saddened him for Michael, but it also gave him an impetus to become more involved in the conversation. If he was Michael’s friend, he would act like it. He would earn it even if he had not yet. He suggested quietly to Michael that perhaps throwing himself blindly at the Dowager Duchess was only calculated to make her confused and dismayed—that perhaps friendship or at least a show of common interests and compatibility might be better suited to wooing such an august and self-composed personage. Or at least, he added, make her think of you more as a potential suitor and less as a—here he rapidly replaced such words as “clown” or “fool” with a more neutral option—mere host. His reward for this suggestion, to his immense surprise, was a most indecorous hug and a grateful assurance that Michael would not forget this. He patted his new friend on the back and made encouraging noises, and was finally released.
He was not insensible, of course, to the idea that what he was recommending to Michael was in its own way a version of what he had already resolved to do himself in regards to Miss Beesly, only with the opposite end in view. He realized as well that this most likely represented a hypocrisy in him, for while he claimed, even on a surface level to himself, to desire only a fast friendship with Miss Beesly and to be struggling against any inclination towards a more…formal and intense association, he was in his depths utterly incapable of letting it go. How else would his advice to Michael of how to woo Jan be so similar to his own plan to not woo Pam? Become friends; treat her and have her treat you as an equal; express your common interests. In short, respect her. He was sure it would help Michael’s cause; how, then, could he be so apparently sure it would doom his own?
Thoughts like these were utterly banished from his mind as he approached Pam and saw her face light up when she caught his eye. He couldn’t help himself; he took her arm and led her to the whist tables, whispering conspiratorially in her ear: “I have got to tell you about Michael.”
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In Which Judgements Are Passed by Comfect
By Jim and Pam, naturally.
The remainder of the night passed in a whirlwind that neither Pamela Beesly nor James Halpert could have given a clear recollection of later. Champagne flowed freely, waltz compiled itself upon waltz, and by the time the proverbial clock struck midnight and the ball ceased its revel (a time that, upon the literal grandfather clock in Colonel Scott’s main hall, had more in common with two or three in the morning than with midnight) Pam was in full possession of Jim’s understanding about Michael and he of hers. From this warm discovery of a similar set of ideas about Michael, they moved on to consider the remainder of the company, whispering their insights into each other’s giggling ears upon a chaise longue and matching sofa in a discreet corner of the room that nevertheless provided a clear prospect on the rest of the ball. From there they quietly passed judgement on the rest of the world. It began innocently enough in a turn from their laughing discussion of their sympathy for Michael to a wonder at what he saw in Jan—whom they both fully respected, but whose utter, almost brutal focus and powerful stare seemed so opposite from the friendly but ridiculous effort Michael dispersed over as wide an area as possible with a quizzical smile—and thence into a consideration of Jan herself. Jim wondered at her coming to so many of Michael’s parties if she was so uninterested in him as she seemed; Pam reflected both that she was not so certain of that disinterest as Jim but more importantly (she thought) that this kind of social scene was the Dowager Duchess’s natural habitat—to borrow one metaphor, her symphony hall, with the people in it as her instruments; to test out another, her place of business, with the busy buzz of followers who hung upon her every word as the pronouncement of social deity as her stewards, substitutes, and lowly factors for her social gain. And indeed the social winds did seem to blow according to her whims, with everyone from the lowest cousin of a cousin to the almighty Patronesses of Almack’s hanging upon her vision of correct behavior, so to this great insight Jim could not but concede most handsomely (as, a small treacherous whisper deep in Pam suggested, he did all things).
However, while Jim was willing to admit her superiority of insight in the realm of Jan, he was not willing to concede her a greater understanding of this social world in general, for all she had a substantial head start upon him, having observed Michael’s parties for years now. In search of a suitable target for a demonstration of his own superiority of understanding, his eye lit upon his friend Ryan, in deep conversation with a young Indian woman he understood to be Kelly Kapoor, the eligible daughter of a rich nabob. His knowledge of this was not due to any deep familiarity with the lady in question, or with her family, but simply the ability to hear well, as Miss Kapoor had been discoursing at high volume to Mr. Howard on these and closely related points for some time, while simultaneously making a remarkable number of sausage rolls disappear, chasing them down with a cup of shaved ice decorated with flavored syrup. He watched his friend’s eyes flicker all around in apparent search for salvation before fastening on Miss Kapoor somewhat lower than her face. He pointed this behavior out to Miss Beesly, not considering until too late the potential impropriety of drawing her attention to such boorish actions on his friend’s part. Fortunately she seemed amused, if a little sad, declaring herself not unfamiliar with such masculine treatment of her own person and assuring him that Miss Kapoor deserved better, being a lovely lady in her own right with an intelligent mind—albeit one perhaps too devoted to fashion, though that itself might not be considered a mark against her in the current London season—and a warm heart. Jim admitted to how she seemed to be handling Ryan quite effectively—he was uncertain that he had ever seen his friend spend so much time with a single lady at an event that provided such variety—but deplored the possibility of her becoming too attached to Mr. Howard too quickly, given his known propensity to flirtation and dalliance rather than sincere attachment. He begged Miss Beesly, if it stood within honesty, to give Miss Kapoor some sense of this in an offhand way before she repined too closely upon Mr. Howard’s attentions. Pam undertook to do so, though she admitted both to Jim and to herself that she did not believe herself to have any great influence in that quarter.
A sudden movement caught Jim’s eye and he turned the conversation to Lieutenant Schrute, whom he saw emerging from the press around the refreshment table with two chocolates studded with some kind of nut and heading forcefully out of the room. The discussion of the good lieutenant took up much of their attention for a good while, with Jim insisting that he could not possibly be as self-involved as he appeared on the surface, while Pam sadly corrected him that while she held Dwight in the highest regard in terms of his rectitude, his sincere attachment to Colonel Scott, and his belief in the necessity of doing one’s duty, he was indeed as strange, self-absorbed, and conceited as his initial impression might convey. She saw a light kindle in Jim’s eyes at this news that she did not quite know how to account for, but dismissed it in favor of noting that Angela Martin, whom she had not expected to come (though she had, of course, been invited, being instrumental in the preparation of the event) was even now strolling into the room with a chocolate in her hand. She filed this information away for future reference as Jim asked her her opinion of her neighbor, noting that to him she appeared almost a female iteration of the same basic construction as Lieutenant Schrute. The amusement inherent in this observation distracted her from all other thoughts, and she endeavoured to simultaneously acknowledge the validity of the observation while protecting both of her friends from the calumny of being compared to each other without implying that to be compared to either was itself inherently an insult. She saw from the glowing amusement in his eyes that Jim was alive to the delicacy of her rhetorical situation, and appreciated his willingness to allow her to walk that particular verbal tightrope without excessively poking at her in such a way to cause her to topple. In this vein they turned to each of their acquaintances in the ballroom, whiling away the evening in their mutual enjoyment of the pastime.
Of course, what Pam had taken for amusement in Jim’s eyes was not merely that; there were strong admixtures of admiration and affection included in it as well, and while Pamela Beesly was as yet unwilling to admit their existence to herself (in Jim’s eyes or indeed her own), she was not the only observer or the only drawer of conclusions in the room. Mark saw, and congratulated himself on his earlier perspicacity; Ryan saw, in his frantic attempt to catch someone’s eye besides Kelly’s, and inwardly cursed Jim for having attracted a much less verbally prolific female; and Phyllis Lapin saw, from her perch near-but-not-too-near to the Dowager Duchess, and smiled to herself. It was nice to see that Halpert boy find a match for himself, even if it was with Roy Anderson’s fiancée. She had never thought much of Roy, certainly not as much as she thought of Pam Beesly, with whom she shared a warmth of understanding, and so she thought only “Good” as she watched them chatter away oblivious to her observation.
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In Which Another Party Is Considered by Comfect
Some background in the foreground.
It would be unfair at this point not to spend some time considering the position of Roy Anderson. One must believe him happy: happy in his choice of wife, for Pamela Beesly had been (despite the shyness that lent her conversation the sense of intense and singular confidence that made her every whisper an attraction to those who knew her) the belle of the Cambridgeshire set, and the most eligible young lady he had ever met before their mutual relocation to London. It was naturally not to be supposed that he was any less than equal to her in station; while he could boast no baronetcy or knighthood, no famous name or connexion to the upper ranks of the nobility, his family was well enough off, and as the local earl and his dependents were in continuous residence in London themselves, the Andersons stood for local gentry in the typical social calendar of the Cambridgeshire countryside. And even if they had not, Roy Anderson was the kind of man to make a name for himself without intending to: a dab hand at the reins, though a bit of a hard-goer; a county boxing champion thrice over; the kind of cricketer who had been invited three towns over to Cambridge proper as a ringer in the annual contest of town over gown, and who had logged a century in bringing the townfolk their first victory over the matriculated in recent memory; in short, the nonpareil of a certain set, seemingly chiseled by divinity for masculine exploits. As such, and given his relative position in the local countryside, there had been no doubt of his ability to choose whichsoever young lady might happen to catch his fancy—nor any doubt from a young age of which lady that might be. True, certain mothers of certain other daughters in the shire might have expressed at one time or another some surprise that Pamela Beesly should so singularly captivate young Mr. Anderson, but there was never any surprise even from those quarters that she should at least interest him, nor any great wonder in the neighbourhood of whether they would see the two young folks tied together someday soon. Though that soon had lingered into years, yet there was little down back in Cambridge, nor none in Roy Anderson’s heart, that it would nevertheless come to pass in the fullness of time, if not perhaps so swiftly as had once been supposed.
One of the reasons for this, if Pam had but known it, was the game that Roy was currently engaged in. His friend Darryl had set up a faro bank, and Roy was playing it. He had begun the evening on a streak of luck—he always seemed to begin evenings in this manner—but now he found himself somewhat in the dumps, being obliged not yet to push himself towards Point Non Plus or the issuance of self-incriminating paper chits, but certainly to an uneasy remembrance of the fact that the bank always won. He was always certain that he was but one good game off from having the capital to set himself and Pam up as he had always intended to, but he was equally never able to pull off that good game—nor to remember, as Darryl had, that if the bank always won the solution might well be to be the bank and not the player. He was too wily to be caught in one of the notorious gambling hells of the city, but not cunning enough to avoid the same vices in the prettier paint of his friend’s front parlor; too wise to play with those he did not know, but not thoughtful enough to realize that if he did not know the loser at the table it was himself.
Yet he was happy—happy in his ignorance of the chances he was taking, happy in his chosen life and the ease with which it afforded him both entertainment and pleasure, happy in the future he was so easily able to imagine, though never quite to grasp. He was glad to have removed himself and Pam to London, away from the queries about wedding dates and towards the quick movement and easy pleasure of the city, and if it bothered him that his fiancée had had to (through a mutual acquaintance) secure a position in the working world as Colonel Scott’s social secretary in order that they might continue that life in parallel it did not show in his behaviour, manners, or even his surface thoughts. He himself worked in the hauling business, by virtue of a familial connexion to the trade, neither in the lowly menial side nor in that portion that admitted to shares and partnerships—the comfortable middle for him, and a comfort indeed it was to have a steady income to head off the debtors. He knew that Pam’s newly acquired set of friends might scoff at his employment, but as Pam herself was (to use the phrase he so frequently thought of her) too good an egg to be addled by it, he did not greatly care.
He gave little thought to what Pam might be up to up at the big house; it was another one of those balls he found so tedious, so he’d begged off on account of Darryl’s horse. The horse had gone off half an hour before the ball began, of course, but he saw no reason Pam should ever know this, especially as its victory had provided the scratch he had been slowly losing over the past few hours. He stepped away from the table—best to know when one was beat, even if it took a few extra whacks to get the idea through one’s head—and walked over to the refreshment table in the corner of the room, took a glass of shandy, and started up a conversation with a mutual friend.
Yes, one must remember Roy Anderson happy.
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In Which Habits Are Disrupted by Comfect
And a prank is hatched.
But for all Roy’s happiness, he could not forego a general sense of unease over the next week. Roy was not generally an observant man, nor was there much for him in this case to observe, but one element of his rather fixed life had suddenly deviated from its accustomed comfort and he was displeased with it rather more instinctively than consideredly. This was that Pam Beesly was not quite as constantly available at his every whim as he wished. He was used, of course, to the vagaries of her position: that she was forever doing something for Colonel Scott, or on his behalf, or at his insane whim. But he was used, even while she was working in that capacity for that worthy, to being able to call upon her attention at need, except during the major events themselves, and to having her bend herself most urgently to his needs in the hours available to her. He never did his own mending or washing or had it sent out; she was always there. He ate and drank away from home frequently, but when he was at home she was invariably available to him as prepared, companion, and general help-meet, unless Colonel Scott had detained her on his own business—which was not never, but was infrequent enough that it rarely impinged on Roy’s mindscape.
This week, however, he found her out more often than not, and not always with the express intent of doing Colonel Scott’s business. One morning a Miss Kapoor that he could not recall had apparently called and swept Miss Beesly out shopping, or somesuch, and he did not hear of her for many hours subsequently and she was distracted and (as she said) behind on her work afterwards. This mysterious lady apparently occupied his fiancée for another afternoon that week promenading in the park in the newly acquired get-up, which he himself was not privileged to see on account of having missed them and Pam having apparently stuffed the chosen garments immediately into the back of her closet after returning home. Another day she was out with Miss Martin, which he allowed as normal, but they kept such long company that he found himself eating alone again, despite his preference. On yet another day she was simply out, no explanation given, and though he later learned that she had been in Colonel Scott’s company on some errand or other it hardly mollified him to learn such after the fact when she had generally been so good about being beforehand with the knowledge in the past. In short, Roy found himself put out of his routine, which bothered him, and he was uncertain how to proceed.
He could not however have been nearly as uncertain how to proceed as his poor fiancée, who was herself a devotee of routine and habit and who found herself most put out by the constant interruptions to that routine that the intervening week had imposed. She had no idea of why Ryan Howard should have pointed her out to Kelly Kapoor as a bosom friend, or what ideas that lady herself might have had that led her to consider that idea with such religious fervour, especially after their first shopping expedition led her to assure Pam in a very loud voice that “they would have to do something about her entire look, and that prices were something intended only for the lower classes.” Whatever Kelly saw in her was apparently indelible, however, for even Pam’s urgent complaints about the height of heel and skirt and depth of bust associated with Kelly’s choice and recommendation of clothing, and her unwillingness to be seen out in the said clothes (especially after a first expedition so equipped resulted in male attentions Pam felt quite excessive) could not discourage her from actively and persistently maintaining the acquaintance. Miss Martin too pressed her surprisingly for her time, and while Pam contemplated the possibility that inviting the two ladies to accompany her at the same time might well have solved her difficulty of finding it necessary to ever associate with either again, she did not give in to this temptation and instead allowed Angela to wax rhapsodic about the wonders of cats, arithmetic, and the religious life in ways that suggested highly to Pam that something new was going on in her friend’s life—and that given Miss Martin’s interest in learning German, she had some of idea of what. Given that German was a most unmelodic language and that Miss Martin insisted on practicing it at every opportunity, however, Pam was unwilling to venture to ask her friend about this for fear that she might be required to chaperone some kind of mutually agreed upon event that included copious declarations in that tongue.
Indeed, the only real relief that Pam felt in the course of the week came in the person, not of her fiancée or either of her female friends, but of Jim Halpert, whom she found herself almost continually running into. It was perhaps not a surprise that he too should be shopping on the high street while Kelly ran her from pillar to post, nor that he should be out riding with Mr. Howard when Kelly deliberately drew the latter gentleman’s attention on their perambulation of Hyde Park, nor that when Mr. Howard wished to talk to Kelly in private (or rather, when Kelly convinced him that he did—and Pam could only wish it more private, given Kelly’s general apparent desire to speak at volumes that might be heard without difficulty deep into Essex) that Mr. Halpert and she should find themselves conversing at some length. But it was certainly a surprise to find him walking into the small church that Angela Martin frequented—though she much appreciated both his presence and the whispered explanation for it that he proffered while Miss Martin haggled with a small boy over the price of a devotional candle. Apparently—and not to Miss Beesly’s surprise in any way—a Lieutenant Dwight Schrute was known to play the organ at this particular church on those days when he could be spared from Colonel Scott’s whims or his rarely commanded other military duties (seeing as the military rarely drilled on Sundays and Colonel Scott personally believed that the day of rest was to be literally observed by a staunch refusal to awake before noon, this was most Sundays—and given Colonel Scott’s other behavior, many other days of the week). Jim had discovered this, and determined that Lieutenant Schrute was an unobservant player who simply threw himself into the seat and began, which led him to a devilish invention of his own. He had apparently measured the inner dimensions of each of the organ pipes—Pam being left uncertain as to whether he had suborned the manufacturer, asked the curate, or brought a tape measure of his own—and had produced, God alone knew from where, a set of cotton stops carefully measured to each pipe. He intended to insert one each time Dwight played the organ, hoping to slowly convince him that the instrument was either breaking down or possessed. She was uncertain as to how he knew when Dwight had been playing, but the suspension of disbelief was sufficient to draw a laugh from her—and thus a glare from Angela—which was matched by a slow, soft smile she could not quite forget when Angela peremptorily gestured to her, bowed swiftly to Jim, lit her candle, muttered a prayer, and swept out.
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In Which a Conspiracy is Hatched by Comfect
Jim's perspective this time.
From Jim Halpert’s perspective, the week was a most pleasing one. He had discovered in Lieutenant Schrute a target for the boyish hijinks that he had thought left in the schoolroom before his Oxford days—a constant dupe who thought himself much sharper than Jim believed him to be, and a man whose fuse was short enough to produce enjoyable explosions but long enough that Jim need never fear for his or anyone else’s safety—and he enjoyed prosecuting this discovery to the utmost of his means. He found Ryan’s discomfiture at his being saddled with Miss Kapoor a delight: upon the revelation that she was to be presented at court the day after the ball (an occasion that Ryan’s father would under no circumstances allow him to miss, as the Howard family must have a representative present at all the Queen’s formal gatherings) and that Ryan would thus be forced to acknowledge their incipient connection much more rapidly than he had, perhaps, desired, he was almost in hysterics. In this he was joined by Mark, who found in Ryan’s histrionic declaration of amazement that he was a dashed idiot for making up to the girl the day before such a momentous occasion the exact levity that he thought missing from Jim’s desperate liking for Miss Beesly. This was not to say the Viscount or Mr. Howard allowed their friend Mr. Halpert a moment’s respite from their own mockery of his obvious infatuation, but it was certainly true that Mr. Howard’s situation moved to the forefront of their collective mind.
This was a relief for Jim, because he felt his feelings moving on apace, much faster than he could safely navigate himself. It reminded him of a time in the diplomatic service when, urged to an inevitable folly by the younger son of a Balkan chief, he had stepped into the sea and felt a riptide begin to pull him out to shore. There fortunate chance had placed a navy pinnace in the water not twenty feet away, and the sailors had heard his loud hallooing and pulled him thrashing from the water. Now he was uncertain where assistance might be found—though he was sure it was not in the braying laughter of his supposed friends—and more worryingly found himself equally uncertain whether he would take it if it were offered. He knew it to be pure folly to give in to the depth of feeling he was beginning to sense within himself without some indication that Miss Beesly was likewise interested, or at least that she was no longer engaged to another. But he could no more stop himself from it than he could have breathed underwater, or flown himself to the moon.
As a result he cherished, but felt guilty for cherishing, those moments when fate seemed to throw them together. He was surprised to see her on the high street, trailing behind Kelly Kapoor with a single bag containing who knew what—though from what he had heard about the particular store he saw them exiting, he was simultaneously extremely intrigued and put to the blush to consider the source of his own intrigue—and somewhat less surprised to see her still (or again) with Kelly when the latter contrived to “run into” Ryan Howard and himself riding in the park. He did take discreet advantage of the situation to ensure himself some minutes of private but not impertinent conversation with her while Kelly and Ryan spoke loudly to one side, and he was overjoyed to see her face lighten from its former haggard state when he approached—though he keenly guessed that this might come as much from a moment’s respite from Kelly’s interminable stream of speech as it did from pleasure in his company. He could not doubt however that she did take some pleasure in it, particularly when she allowed him in the churchyard (a completely unlooked for meeting that he made sure to thank God for expressly in the pews afterwards) to discourse at length about his prank on Dwight—an occasion in which she not only hung upon his every word with a bright, eager countenance, but suggested a distinct improvement to his plan by urging him to also fiddle with the height and stickiness of the pedals on the organ so that the good Lieutenant would have even less command of the sounds emitting from it. To hear of this idea was to implement it, and to implement it was to resolve that, come what might, Miss Beesly was to become his co-conspirator in any further pranks, assuming her willingness.
This willingness was asked and given when he saw her next, struggling down Mayfair with a load of packages in her arms. He at first thought these to be her shopping, then (seeing the labels from a series of expensive lady’s shops his mind rebelled at imagining she spent her hard-earned brass in shopping at) some extravagant gift, most likely from Roy, but when he swooped in to give her a welcome hand he discovered that he had erred in both suppositions: they were Michael’s gifts for the Dowager Duchess, which he had peremptorily commanded Pam to acquire, rate, and sort for him so that he could convey them to his lady in a proper and convincing style. Chuckling at this offloading of his romantic duties onto Pam (though sorrowing a bit when he realized that Pam did not even consider the possibility of a similar gesture being directed her way), Jim merrily offered to assist her with the manhandling of such stock, and suggested that once they had delivered it to Michael’s residence and sorted each package into the various objects it contained, they might drop by Lieutenant Schrute’s desk (hard by Michael’s in the study) to examine what they might try as a prank upon him in his place of employment.
Receiving a decided affirmative to this idea, he lifted the packages easily into his arms and set off down the street, leaving a much-lightened Pam to skip on after him with nary a box. Upon their arrival at Colonel Scott’s apartments it was the work of a moment to divide the contents into piles of similar goods, at which point they slipped into the empty study. Jim studiously avoided considering what he would prefer to do alone in a room with Miss Beesly as she scampered over to Dwight’s desk, revealing a Pascaline calculator atop a large book of files.
Jim seized upon the calculator and a slightly larger metal box he found lying in the corner of the room (he believed it had once contained some kind of military hardware, but was now entirely empty). He mimed to Pam the act of filling up the box with the calculator and something else, and followed her silent steps as she inclined her head and led him out the door. They tiptoed through a passageway into the kitchen, where Jim pantomimed the same behavior to the cook, who took one look at the calculator, smiled, and said only “Lieutenant Schrute’s?” At Pam’s nod and Jim’s smile, he turned around, rustled a little, and revealed a gigantic box of gelatin stuffed into a cupboard. Jim helped him lift the box, mix some of the gelatin with water, and pour it all over the poor calculator. Pam smoothed the top of the gelatin so that it sat perfectly within the metal box, and then the two co-conspirators snuck back up into the study, left the box where the calculator had been upon the desk, and returned to the room where they had left the various gifts, giggling all the way. Mr. Halpert took his leave at length from Miss Beesly, and went home, while the latter awaited with both excitement and some trepidation for the Lieutenant to return from whatever errand had removed him from the premises.
It would have warmed Jim Halpert’s heart to have heard the Germanic exclamations that erupted from the study at four o’clock that afternoon—but not nearly as much as it did to receive a simple note addressed to himself the following morning that contained only the words “It worked!” written in a flowery hand. His heart flowed over when he turned the card over and saw on the back a simple cartoon, sketched in pencil, of Dwight Schrute jumping up and down while jiggling a box of gelatinized pascaline.
A Pascaline is an early mechanical calculator; I will admit to having no idea if it would be harmed by gelatin, but I doubt Jim would care much.
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In Which Cricket and Not Cricket Occur by Comfect
I think you can guess which episode this might be based on.
Jim would have liked nothing more than to spend the next forever forgetting the existence of Roy Anderson and basking in his delight in Roy’s fiancée’s company. He was not to get his wish. This was most likely inevitable, but came about in particular through the intervention of Colonel Scott, who found himself bored—a most dangerous position for the Colonel, as both Pam and anyone even mildly conversant with his personal habits might have been able to inform Jim, and as he quickly discovered for himself. Worse, for Jim, he had rapidly slipped into the position—in the Colonel’s opinion, at least—as the Colonel’s right hand man for those activities to which a military adjutant or a social secretary not ideally suited. This position would have delighted him but two weeks prior, when his greatest concern had been a lack of social connection and visibility. Now that he understood the Colonel’s methods better, however, he recognized the danger of becoming the first in line for any of the Colonel’s more mischievious humours—a role he now filled in full. This meant that when the Colonel became bored, it became Jim’s problem, and when the Colonel became bored and neither Jim nor Pam was there to head off his more ridiculous conceptions, it became Jim’s problem in a more permanent way. Although these ideas were never quite so terrible as to make Jim regret the Colonel’s acquaintance and friendship (and despite it all he did truly consider him a friend), they could become particularly ticklish from time to time, as he rapidly learned. The present predicament was one of these.
One Thursday evening it occurred to the Colonel that he was bored, and that he looked out only on the prospect of continuing in boredom for the entirety of Friday, as those engagements he had scheduled had, by a rotten stroke of bad chance, all been cancelled. As such, he foresaw nothing but a gaping maw of time stretching out before him, and experienced a sudden and intense desire to fill it. Thus he sent out a series of messengers to arrange him an all-day entertainment for Friday; being a middle-aged Englishman with pretensions to a certain kind of social stature and a somewhat inexhaustible supply of money, this took the form of renting out the cricket grounds at Lords for a private event the next day, and pledging himself and two teams of as-yet-unwitting acquaintances to spend the day at bat and ball. This Jim learned of by a still later messenger, who informed him that the Colonel looked forward to (and insisted upon) his attendance at the said event the next morning, and would brook no argument.
Now, this news was not as unpleasant to Jim Halpert as one might imagine upon first hearing it. Jim had bowled for Balliol, and he was a noted spinner, able with a casual flick of the wrist to make a ball that appeared to be destined to make contact with an opponent’s head whirl itself aside at the last moment to spend its furor upon the wicket with a cry of “out.” He was a noted bat as well, having stood a century in more than one match in the heated intramurals of Oxford, and having been strongly considered for the Oxford team for an exhibition against Cambridge immediately after his attaining his baccalaureate—in fact, he would have joined that team had he not been called away to the Continent in His Majesty’s service at a most inopportune juncture. He had not had much opportunity since to practice his arts, as the European citizenry had not taken to the sport with the enthusiasm of the English, with even the ardor of gratitude for their liberation from Napoleon’s yoke being insufficient to induce them to participate. As such he was raring to take ball and bat in hand again and shake off the rust.
However, on the morning at Lords, he found to his discomfort that while he himself was placed with Michael Scott, Dwight Schrute, and the military set, Michael’s need for an opposing force had led him to name Roy Anderson captain of the other team, which he had filled with his own friends and acquaintances. Jim recognized Darryl and a few others, but there could be no doubt that he would need to interact and exchange pleasantries primarily with Roy, who alone could (and did) introduce Jim to his remaining teammates. Jim managed these introductions with his innate courtliness, but the sight of Pamela Beesly in the nearly empty stands caused his heart to shrink. There could be no doubt which team Pam would of necessity and affection root for, nor whose innings she would look to see crowned with success. The thought thrummed through his heart that in seeing him put Roy’s team to shame he might have a rare opportunity to demonstrate his superiority to her, but he quickly put it aside as unworthy—and perhaps more importantly, as unlikely to assist him in defeating his foe. He had no difficulty in inducing Michael to place him first amongst the bowlers, but he was disappointed to see that the common assumption that bowlers had no bats had led his friend to place him last among the batsmen, behind even Dwight, who confided that he had grown up playing an obscure Germanic game rather than cricket, which Jim could not deny was a legitimate excuse given his understanding of the Lieutenant’s personality but which nevertheless filled him with dismay.
He was not given a long time to consider this, however, as Roy’s team had first innings and he was called into the crease. He was faced with a waggly, lanky batsman who seemed constantly dissatisfied with the balls served to him and fouled ball after ball without moving towards the opposing stick. On the sixth delivery, however, Jim uncorked a lazy spinning ball that bounded opposite from the batter’s expectation and struck the wicket soundly. The first man was out and Jim could not help but sneak a look up into the stands. The smile on Pam’s face was pronounced, and if he had not known better he would have thought she was sitting on her hands to stop herself from clapping. He grinned. This was going to be fun.
Not all the overs were as easy as the first; Roy’s team did score, particularly after Jim rotated out of the bowling, and Roy himself batted a respectable 67. The break for dinner came swiftly, and Jim found himself eating alone (Michael, Dwight, and his other acquaintances on the team having ventured out in search of some kind of food Jim was not quite certain of but did not entirely trust as the suggestion came from a Schrutish direction) and unable to keep his eyes off of Roy and Pam sitting and giggling on the grass, where Pam had drawn out a picnic for them. He wished himself in Roy’s place and Roy to the devil; he wished himself anywhere but there no matter where they were; he wished himself capable of looking anywhere but at them. None of these wishes having any effect, he found himself gladder than he had expected of his teammates’ return.
But the ensuing innings were anything but pleasant. Roy’s team found their rhythm and (in deference to the one-day nature of the match) turned over the game at 284 not out—a respectable score, but no world-beater. They started well, but Jim’s hopes faded, however, as Lord Oscar contrived to stick his leg out in front of the wicket (ably kept by Roy Anderson) and found himself called out for LBW, which no amount of Michael’s histrionic arguments with the umpire would rectify. This left Dwight was standing at the stumps paired with Michael, who (despite batting early in the innings) had managed to foul enough balls and slip in enough singles to remain at bat despite an underwhelming 32—and the team needed 120. After a mere four, Dwight swung mightily at the next pitch, which passed directly by him, struck the wicket, and set him down. This left Jim at the stumps with 116 to go—and he could not help glancing back at Roy Anderson as he took up position by the wicket. The look of pleasure on the latter’s face was infuriating, and Jim set his jaw. It was time to go to work.
He was fortunate in the bowler he faced, a whey-faced friend of Roy’s who had clearly been tiring as the innings went on. His delivery was straight, relying on pace to bypass lesser batsmen like Dwight—but Jim was no such man. He thumped boundary after boundary, mixing fours and sixes like he was five years younger. He showed a keen eye to avoid those balls that would have given him trouble, and the few times he ran and the ball failed to make the boundary he was fortunate enough to have hit it hard and far enough to make a double and remain batting. When the bowlers switched ends he hit singles and triples, shielding Michael from the requirement of doing anything but switching positions with him. He cast the occasional glance upwards and saw the gratifying sight of Pamela Beesly openly, if quietly, cheering him on. At long last the score stood at 283 and Jim felt destiny calling him. The ball arrived straight and true, but his foot twisted slightly as he swung and he merely nudged the ball—but in the direction where no fielder stood. He felt rather than saw Michael Scott swing into motion and he knew it was his duty to match his partner’s run with one of his own, certain as he felt that this ball was not hit hard enough to make it worthwhile. Upon reaching the first wicket he saw the fielders still in chase just reaching the ball and—to his horror—Michael turning and running towards him again. He turned towards the wicket from which he had begun and felt a shoulder nudge his, throwing him off balance and causing him to stumble. He had no time to think or react save to throw his stumble into an off-kilter run and dive with bat extended as he saw the ball fly in towards the stumps.
A mighty roar went up from the few people in the stands and Jim dared to look up at the umpire, who was gesturing “not out.” He had made it—and Colonel Scott’s team stood at 285, victorious. He glanced back to see an angry Michael Scott remonstrating with Roy Anderson, who the quick glance revealed was the only candidate for the man who had so unsportingly collided with him. He dusted himself off, drew Michael aside, and nodded to Roy. It was not cricket, but as the winner he could well afford to be gracious.
He deliberately did not look at Pamela Beesly, but she looked at him, and as he strode off with Michael to the changing room even she could have told you there was nothing but admiration in her eyes.
If anyone knows cricket better than I do I imagine I have made many errors, and would appreciate knowing. Whether or not you do, I appreciate you reading, reviewing, etc.
In Which Pam Buys Paints by Comfect
Sorry for the delay and the short update. Trying to figure out exactly what the beats are in this story is more difficult than I expected.
Pamela Beesly was greatly out of sorts. She was conscious for the first time in a long time of a sense of disappointment in Roy; not for losing the cricket match, but for being so ungentlemanly as to collide with Jim in an attempt not to lose. She had no doubts as to Roy’s intent, even if he had tried to play it off as an entirely accidental interference. She knew how smoothly and easily he could move when he tried, how he could avoid contact with others with the catlike grace that so attracted her. If he had hit Jim, he had meant to hit Jim. And the breezy ease with which the denial of it came from him only convinced her more. Roy, embarrassed, stammered. Roy pretending to be embarrassed had the same free and easy manner Roy usually had. This was unfortunate, as she could very easily tell that he was not embarrassed by running into Jim, only disappointed not to have succeeded in getting him out.
More bothersome still, a small quiet voice inside her head would not stop pointing out that this wasn’t really the first time she’d been disappointed in Roy, only the first time she’d been disappointed in his behaviour towards other people in public. It reminded her of the missed appointments, the seeming inability to hold onto money as it flowed through his hands despite his avowed intention of raising enough of a stake to get married and settled with, the unwillingness to consider her interests and desires as equal (let alone superior) to his own. The aborted trip to Italy. The ruined paints from when she took up watercolors and he washed the tins out to store his flyfishing tackle. The many, many postponements of the wedding date that never quite materialized. She was angry with the voice, but a deeper part of her was angry with whatever piece was angry with the voice. The voice was right, and that was important. She was disappointed in Roy all the time, so much that it had become the background noise of her life, no more noticed than the creak of a chair or the hush of rain on an autumn night without wind. It made her too happy when he did show some consideration, some indication of his regard, because it made her forget all the times he had not shown it—because they were all too common. It was rejoicing at the frosting on a cake while neglecting that the cake itself was dry.
Facing this unaccustomed vehemence in her soul, she fled. She found herself in St. John’s Wood outside the cricket ground, and stepped blindly into the first shop that caught her eye. The sign above the door said “Pethick’s Paints.” She emerged fifteen minutes later with a fresh set of brushes, a small selection of paints, a small canvas laid out carefully on a woodenframe, and a sketchbook bound in bright leather. She turned and walked determinedly for home, not looking back.
Jim Halpert also headed for home, fully recovered from his collision with Roy Anderson but somewhat the worse for wear from the pounding his back had received when Michael had realized they had triumphed on the last ball. He needed nothing more than a stiff drink, a few hours of rest, and perhaps a good game of whist or piquet to take his mind off things.
He was not destined to get them.
Thank you for reading and reviewing. I appreciate any feedback on where this is going and how fast.
In Which Mr. Howard Gets Advice by Comfect
I must admit to mixing together moments from a variety of points in the Office's TV run for the sake of simulating the Regency novels which I am imitating; so I know Ryan + Kelly is a somewhat later and longer development, but here it is anyway.
As soon as Jim’s valet had handed him a small glass full of brown liquor the doorbell rang. The butler came up to tell Mr. Halpert that Mr. Howard was there to see him—and he had only enough time to deliver the bare announcement of that fact before Ryan was in the room. He cast a single glance at Jim in his chair, quirked an eyebrow, and announced with a put-upon air:
“Get up, Jim, we’re going to Brooks’s.”
Jim was unsure quite how it happened that he found himself following Ryan. Perhaps it was the exhaustion of having played a full match of cricket; perhaps it was a sense of guilt that he truly had been neglecting his friends in the aftermath of meeting Pam Beesly (not to mention pranking Dwight Schrute); perhaps it was simply the force of Ryan’s personality—his attention was rarely fully engaged, but when it was there was a depth of animal magnetism in him that could coax water out of a stone. But whatever it was, Jim found himself tossing down the drink, shrugging on his jacket, and hurrying out into the evening air. He found Ryan’s phaeton standing at the curb, a groom currying the horses, and was bundled into the carriage not quite by main force but with a great deal of alacrity on Ryan’s part. The journey to the club was short and filled mainly with the effort required to keep his seat as Ryan careened the horses around all comers. Jim was mildly disconcerted; he knew Ryan Howard to be a whip hand, but the precipitous nature of their onward journey made him worry that his friend might be at least slightly foxed, if not full three sheets to the wind.
This impression was not reduced by Ryan’s behaviour when they alighted from the phaeton and strode into the club. Brooks’s was neither the height of fashion nor a bustling hangout for busybodies, but the club was not unfull, and Ryan’s hurried progress through the rooms required Jim on more than one occasion to hurriedly mumble his apologies for his friend’s inconsiderate haste. Ryan only slowed to open the door to one of the private salons, which he hustled Jim inside, following him quickly and shutting the door. Mark looked up from a small volume that he closed with a snap and chuckled at Jim’s disconcerted face.
“So I see Ryan did find you at home.”
“Clearly. What was so urgent that it couldn’t wait?”
“He’ll have to tell you himself.”
The third party implied by this conversation was now rapidly pacing the room, as if the curious haste that had infected him from Jim’s door to the club demanded use despite the close quarters of the salon.
“Well, as he hasn’t yet, may I ask why we’re having this little conversation at Brooks’s, and not at home? If it’s just to be the three of us…”
At this Ryan gave a start, looked around the room hurriedly, and stepped out, shutting the door behind him while mumbling something that sounded like “calling Spot.” As Jim was fairly certain of Ryan’s not having a dog, he was rather confused by this somewhat unclear pronouncement, but at a gesture from Mark he sank into another of the well-upholstered chairs that ringed the edge of the salon, and accepted the evening’s paper from that worthy’s hand.
“Not sure what it is, old boy, but Howard’s in some kind of flutter, and it didn’t seem quite right not to help, especially when it’s my fault he’s in the bother in the first place.”
“Yes, well, I suppose it’s Ryan’s fault as much as anything, but if I hadn’t brought him along to laugh at your…why, dash it, Halpert, I’ve just realized, it’s all your fault! If you hadn’t made such a cake of yourself over that Beesly woman, I wouldn’t have had to bring Howard there in the first place!”
“I have not been making a cake of myself, as you so delicately put it, over Pamela Beesly. And I certainly did not ask you to come and laugh at me at Colonel Scott’s—no, nor to bring Ryan with you to share in the fun, as you call it. Besides which, you still haven’t told me what you’re blaming me for.”
“Well, my dear fellow, you can call it what you will, and I won’t argue. But you can’t deny that your interest in Miss Beesly was quite extraordinary. And I don’t regret bringing Ryan by to see it in the least. Though he made do, the poor…”
At this moment Ryan burst back into the room followed by, to Jim’s immense surprise, Colonel Scott. He and Michael had just enough time to nod to each other before Ryan burst into speech with a vehemence that took Jim by surprise, despite the intensity with which his friend had been bearing himself. The gist of his impassioned communication was that he had been finagled by Kelly to meet her parents that afternoon walking in Green Park, and that Mr. Kapoor had taken an instant dislike to him. It did not seem to Jim that this fact was of particular concern to Ryan, but rather that Kelly’s reaction to the fact—which seemed to involve alternate bursts of crying and despair on the one hand and impassioned pleas to Ryan to flee with her to Gretna Green and marry over the anvil on the other—was driving him mad. He was torn between a natural—for Ryan—disinclination to do anything impetuous or smacking of work and a strange—for him—feeling that he owed Miss Kapoor more than the affectionate indifference with which he tended to meet the demands of his amours. He ended by demanding of the somewhat surprised circle of friends he had assembled what he should do, only to shoot down in turn every suggestion they lobbed at him, from running away (with or without Miss Kapoor) to standing and fighting for her hand or withdrawing entirely from his accustomed expressions of interest in her. Only when at the last Jim suggested in utter frustration that he should just try to make up with Mr. Kapoor if he wouldn’t do anything else did he at last perk up, as apparently the idea of intentionally making himself personable to any person not of his own class or of a direct romantic interest to him was a novel conception. Upon that happy thought the charge of desperation went out of the room, and the gentlemen spent an otherwise excellent evening at the club engaged in piquet, whist, and (after the imbibing of a wide variety of alcoholic beverages of many sorts) vingt-et-un.
Jim strolled back to their rooms with Mark that night much refreshed, with an extra hundred pounds of Ryan Howard’s and Michael Scott’s money in his pocket. He should have been quite contented as he flopped into his bed for the evening well after it had transformed into a technical morning, and on the surface he was. But beneath it all he could not quite forget Mark’s words at the beginning of the evening and wonder if he had truly been making a cake of himself over Pamela Beesly.
Thank you to those who have read, and I appreciate any and all feedback on how and where this is going.
In Which Two Gentlemen Begin an Association by Comfect
I think the plot will pick up from here on out--but not really until next chapter.
The next three weeks passed surprisingly quickly for both Mr. Halpert and Miss Beesly, though neither could have put a finger exactly upon why. Suffice to say that they each had their particular pastimes to engross themselves—a renewed interest in her art, on the one hand, and a languid but amused interest in the progress of Ryan Howard’s pursuit and counter-pursuit of Kelly Kapoor on the other—and other day to day events to distract them as well. But the key to their respective happinesses was, to a remarkable extent that neither of them was entirely aware of, the happy series of chances that led them to a consistent if not continual state of sociability with each other. Colonel Scott was of course the primum mobile of these pleasant circumstances, due to his intense reliance on Miss Beesly’s help and social skills and his growing affection for Jim, which led him to invite them both to practically every soiree or rout party he chose to throw—and due in addition to his near-crazed attempts to draw the attention of the Dowager Duchess, which led him to throw an ever-increasing number of these. Jim was unfailing in his attendance, which Michael attributed to their newly forged lifelong bond, Pam referred to his unfailing politeness, and Jim himself knew to be the result more of a lodged liking for a particular pair of warm, kind eyes and a head of softly curled if often somewhat unmanageable ringlets. Pam in turn, if somewhat less consciously, found her feet often treading down those streets where she most often found Jim, and welcoming gladly his company on the frequent occasions where she did in fact run across him. At first this caused some difficulties with her most frequent companion, Miss Martin, who felt that while she could not quite disapprove of Mr. Halpert she ought not to be too encouraging of his attentions towards her engaged friend. But that gentleman was a quick judge of character, and Miss Beesly needed only to drop a hint of this in his way by roundabout and happenstance for him to suddenly undertake to engage Lieutenant Schrute to accompany him on many of these daily jaunts. This entirely unexceptionable gentleman’s presence entirely dissolved Miss Martin’s qualms, despite the fact that an unbiased observer might well have noted that she was now wont to pay far less attention to her companion’s behavior with Mr. Halpert, devoting herself instead to extensive conversations with the Lieutenant.
It might well have appeared a wonder to that same observer that Lieutenant Schrute had agreed to accompany Mr. Halpert on these journeys—at least, it might have done so before the habit of accidentally encountering the Misses Beesly and Martin had been established. After that event, of course, all objection on his part, as hers, dissolved (with the exception of those objections that derived more from his own obstreperousness than from any larger reason). But such an observer would have reckoned without the deep game that Mr. Halpert was engaged in. On the surface he supplied Lieutenant Schrute with the impression, never explicitly stated, that he was as unblooded in the wars of business and trade as he was in the wars on the Continent, and that he was in awe of and in need of the Lieutenant’s experience in the former. This flattered the Lieutenant’s pride in his own accomplishments while not engaging his suspicion, for he had a decided belief that Mr. Halpert was indeed incompetent in the most basic of tasks, a condition he attributed not so much to that individual’s personal weakness as to a general issue with the nobility as a class, which he considered substantially disimproved by the removal of their direct association with their land, especially among the second and subsequent sons. At the same time, Jim managed to convey the idea into the Lieutenant’s head (without revealing himself as its source, which would have spoiled the point) that by accompanying Jim on his jaunts about the city Dwight would be doing Michael a service, either by ingratiating himself with someone suddenly grown mighty in his idol’s esteem or (more likely) by spying on a dashed interloper into Michael’s affection. As a result of this alternate laving of his pride, his attachment to Michael, and his suspicion of Jim, combined with the opportunity to converse at will with Miss Martin, there was nothing Dwight Schrute preferred to an afternoon’s stroll in Mr. Halpert’s company.
Lest it appear that the only reason for Mr. Halpert’s engagement of the Lieutenant as a sort of chaperone was to facilitate his connexion to Miss Beesly, it should also be noted that such frequent close proximity with the man permitted him substantially greater scope for his true vocation of pranking such an irresistible victim. Miss Martin’s unwitting role in distracting his target should not be discounted either, as under her forbidding spell Lieutenant Schrute might be counted on to ignore such minor distractions as Jim Halpert slipping a series of farthings into his scabbard until he was familiar with the new weight, then removing them all at once so that in his next formal salute he nearly brained himself, or nearly imperceptibly marking the back of his uniform with the emblems of a different service, causing a very different class of person to address him than he was accustomed to until he became aware of the ruse. In short, Lieutenant Schrute’s presence played many roles in Jim Halpert’s entertainment, and for all he found Dwight frustrating as an individual he would not have forgone his company for the world.
The only person discommoded by these near-daily interactions between the four was a fifth: Roy Anderson, who was beginning to be bothered in a way he could not quite explain by the number of his fiancée’s stories that included, as a matter of course, the presence of Jim or Dwight. He quickly dismissed the idea that Dwight Schrute might have been suddenly forming a tendre for his Pam, given the length of their association in the mutual service of Colonel Scott, but he had no such confidence in the disinterest of Jim Halpert. Only Pam’s innocent certainty that Jim was simply the most helpful of men to Michael as well as herself and the intelligence that Pam believed Dwight to be forming an attachment to Angela (thus explaining their constant interactions) prevented him from striding over to Halpert’s place and giving him a piece of his mind. But he was careful to avoid as much as possible giving his fiancée any hint of his worries, fearing lest the idea of Jim’s interest in her might prove too attractive for her to resist. But he was uneasy, and he began to hang about Colonel Scott’s apartments more often, a set of circumstances that outwardly brought Pam a great deal of joy but which, if she had been honest with herself, proved more frustrating and bothersome than she had anticipated when first it began.
Thank you for reading and reviewing. We will work more with Roy's suspicions in the future.
In Which the Incomparable Comes to Town by Comfect
I have made Katy Michael's cousin, and thus a Scott, because as far as I could determine she had no last name in the show. They are not meant to be close cousins, and the idea of Michael pursuing her even to a minor degree would not have been considered inappropriate in the setting.
The inciting incident, when it began, seemed wholly innocuous—as is the way of such things—or at least as innocuous as any plan of Michael Scott’s could be. A distant cousin of Colonel Scott wrote him a humble missive begging him to find a lady to shepherd the cousin’s daughter into polite society, remarking that the young lady in question had begun to find Lancashire sadly dull for her tastes and offering to defray the costs of bringing her out in London if the Colonel could but find a suitable matron to sponsor her entrance into the ton. Colonel Scott had no particular memory of the cousin in question, but a quick glance at the family Bible and a brief recourse to Lieutenant Schrute’s voluminous memory for the Colonel’s affairs soon relieved that concern, revealing that this particular branch of the family were noted textile manufacturers, with particular lines in leather and woolens, to the tune of several thousand pounds a year. Miss Katy Scott was thus an heiress of some value, as her father’s letter off-handedly mentioned that she was his only heir. Nothing could convince the Colonel but that he should send for her forthwith, and no entreaties on the part of Pamela Beesly, Dwight Schrute, Jim Halpert, or Angela Martin could convince him that it was most wrong to do so without having first arranged (as her father desired) for someone to actually promote her into the ton. After all, Michael was repeatedly heard to say, he looked forward to the day when Jan would smile upon him and then she, as his wife, could most properly nudge her own flesh and blood (by marriage) into the proper parts of society. Upon Pam’s gentle hint that this was perhaps unlikely to occur before Miss Scott would arrive upon the stage, he suggested that perhaps she could take Jan’s place in doing so, a suggestion which Miss Beesly treated with the respect it deserved. This so infuriated the Colonel that he shut himself petulantly into his study, declaiming sulkily that if Jan wouldn’t marry him and Pam wouldn’t do this little thing for him, he’d just have to sponsor Miss Scott himself.
This was most improper, of course, for a gentleman could hardly sponsor a lady into society who was (though related to him in some way) sufficiently distant in blood as to have been unheard of before that day. Nothing could sway the Colonel, however, and as the Dowager Duchess was by no means fully wooed in the two weeks it took for Miss Scott to arrive, it was the unfortunate reality of the case that Colonel Scott would have to stand as sponsor to her, and when Katy stepped off the hired chaise at the Colonel’s apartments that Tuesday there was nothing more to be said about it.
About Miss Katy Scott, however, there was much to be said, and much was said by all who saw her. She was beautiful in the unselfconscious way that country women often are before their exposure to what the vulgar in the Metropolis called the Marriage Mart, fully aware of her own attractiveness but not yet trained to think of that attractiveness as a weapon to be deployed on those around her. Her red hair fell in pretty ringlets around her face, framing it like a Virgin in a pietà, and her symmetrical face peeped out from beneath a most becoming bonnet with an impish smile. Her trim frame was subtly emphasized by the well-cut dress she wore, and in sum the entire effect was such that Lieutenant Schrute, who was the closest by of the house’s occupants upon her approach, was struck near dumb by her appearance. She was, in fact, an Incomparable, and the only element of her ensemble that struck any discordant note from the whole was the extensive array of valises she and her abigail both carried in their arms and the absence of trunks in the back of the vehicle. For, as she said with a laugh to the dumbfounded porter who relieved her of the bags, one could hardly come from a pursemaker’s family and patronize a rival shop!
Her laugh rang like a silver bell into the silence caused by Dwight Schrute’s admiration, and it was as if a spell had been lifted—or more likely, cast. The servants of the house swung into action, the Lieutenant shook himself and invited her in, and the activity of the day returned to its busy bustle after the momentary lull introduced by the arrival of the Incomparable. By the end of the day she had roosted Colonel Scott out of his study, which he had instantly consigned over to her use, taken over the best bedroom in the south wing of the apartments for her own, and managed to do both these things without actually asking for any of them, so strong was the household’s desire to do what they imagined might please her.
The only exception to this general admiration was Pamela Beesly, who saw in Miss Scott a perfectly nice young woman likely to be spoilt by the general indulgence she was being shown. Pam had no particular animosity towards her employer’s young guest, but she did not see why Dwight should go around with that particularly stupid look on his face, nor why Michael should give over to her spaces that he himself had occupied for years, thus forcing her out of her accustomed routine of using the lower parlor for the preparations for the next week’s social schedule due to his need of it as a replacement study. All this she complained to Jim Halpert with a ready will when that worthy encountered her in Upper Grosvenor Street in the company of Miss Martin, and all he could say to it at that time was that her description of Dwight’s face was nothing new to him, but merely an everyday occurrence. At this Miss Martin suddenly recalled the need for herself and Miss Beesly to take a sudden left turn into a shop, depriving them so unfortunately of dear Mr. Halpert’s company, so sorry to be a bother, and Miss Beesly was left to merely bid him (at the Colonel’s request) to dine with them that night in order to introduce him to Miss Scott. There, she intimated, he would See What She Meant.
The gathering that evening was a small affair, consisting primarily of the Colonel’s closer acquaintances, Roy Anderson, whom Michael had found lingering around the place that afternoon, and Kevin, Lord Malone, whom he had run into in the street that day and happened to invite in. Miss Martin was also invited along to make up the numbers on the ladies’ side, especially after (as Pam whispered to Jim upon his arrival) Jan had refused an invitation to such an exclusive event. At dinner both Mr. Halpert and Miss Beesly entertained themselves by exchanging speaking glances across the table as the other gentlemen present fell visibly under Miss Scott’s spell, including the Colonel himself. After dinner the men retired to the smoking room, where the Incomparable was the sole subject of conversation—a conversation that became a little too loud as the gentlemen rejoined the ladies for whist and an informal hop, when Lord Malone could be overheard loudly commenting that Miss Scott, with her red curls, was “Miss Beesly the Second, or more accurately, Miss Beesly Improved.” Pam’s mortification at this was only intensified to hear her own fiancée chime in in agreement, suggesting that if he were not already engaged for the first dance with Miss Beesly he would no doubt have pursued Miss Scott instead. Miss Beesly curtly informed, or rather reminded, him that he was not merely engaged for a dance but for marriage, and that he had best remember the fact. He shrugged this off, and indeed Miss Scott had her first dance with her cousin, who as host had claimed the honour for himself.
During the course of the dancing, Jim found himself leaning against the wall next to Lieutenant Schrute, whose eyes never left the Incomparable. Jim entertained himself by suggesting quietly that while the ignorant imagined that a dance was the way to a young lady’s heart, any truly worthy woman was most interested in solid, material benefits, and that therefore the true way to Miss Scott’s admiration would be to be seen to acquire one of her family’s bags for oneself, thus demonstrating both a sincere regard for her family’s workmanship and a solid interest in advancing her father’s profits. The Lieutenant was much struck by this observation, but demurred that he believed that the Scott family produced bags that were primarily fashionable for women at the moment. Jim admitted himself shocked that Dwight had not yet heard of the new fashion of male valise-carrying, averring that he himself had seen the pinks of the ton carrying large purses on their persons all week. The lieutenant was much rallied by this consideration, and resolved to put the plan into action forthwith.
No sooner had Jim disentangled himself from this conversation than he went in search of Miss Beesly to inform her of it. He found her in a rather foul mood, but the news of his successful imposition on the lieutenant perked up her spirits as he had known it would. Unfortunately, Mr. Anderson took that moment to address himself to Miss Beesly and chivvy her into better spirits towards himself, taking her by the hand and addressing himself to her in accents of deep devotion alternating with playful animadversions on her own loveliness. This sight was so deeply distasteful to Mr. Halpert that he made his excuses from their company and sought out some other companionship—finding it, as fortune would have it, in the conversation of Miss Scott, who had noticed that he alone of the male company present had not yet solicited her to dance or indeed to any pastime. She asked coquettishly if he meant to ignore her all night, and he, looking over her head to see Mr. Anderson and Miss Beesly taking their leave of their host together, Pam’s arm wrapped around Roy’s sleeve, conveyed the impression that nothing could be further from his mind. Indeed, he lead her into the next two dances, a country dance and a more scandalous waltz, and at the end of it she internally pronounced herself most satisfied with his attentions. He begged leave to call upon her again, and she gave it most freely—though as he had by now the customary run of the house even in the Colonel’s absence this was perhaps less significant than she imagined it to be.
That night the Incomparable went to bed quite satisfied with her first day in London, and as she fell asleep it was a slightly quirked smile and a mop of almost controlled hair that flashed into her mind. The possessor of that head of hair, however, found it most difficult to fall asleep, and when he did it was a very different set of curls that occupied his dreams.
Thank you for reading and reviewing. I realize that this follows "Hot Girl" fairly closely given the differences in setting, but I assure you we will not be closely clinging to an S1-S2-S3 arc as we go on (though I do expect this to end happily).
In Which a Lieutenant Buys a Bag by Comfect
And on to the next day!
In a way it was the appearance on the scene of Miss Katy Scott that finally revealed to Jim the degree to which he was, in fact, in love with Pam Beesly. He had known before that he had a particular attraction towards her, and that he wished intensely that she were not already riveted—much less to somehow he held in such disesteem as Roy Anderson. But he had managed to avoid truly considering how much that attraction and that wish had been united with an ardent desire for her company, a deep-seated affection for her lively personality, and a firm belief that the two of them were meant to be together by some eternal Fate. In short, he had been aware that he could fall in love with her, but had denied to himself until this time that he was already so. The arrival of Miss Scott disrupted this equilibrium. It could not be denied that, as Kevin had so infelicitously observed, she was quite similar to Pam. To other eyes, perhaps, she was as Kevin had suggested (and Roy, boorishly, confirmed) a superior iteration of the same basic model: the same friendly smile set into a more classically beautiful face; the same delightful framing of that face accomplished by a redder and more delicate set of curls; the same kind and endearing manner crowned with a greater and more charming vivacity. But while Jim could and did acknowledge the wonder of the picture so conveyed, he could not help but have brought home to him most effectively that he could see it only as a picture, as if Katy were a mere two-dimensional representation of the reality that Pam embodied in the full three.
This realization was not entirely welcome. Jim had, in fact, been endeavouring to convince himself of the opposite: that he was entirely capable of serving Miss Beesly solely as a friend and confidante, as that role seemed all that was left to him given the inevitable presence of Roy. He could not help but think that Roy’s forgetfulness about his engagement was somehow symbolic of the whole affair: what Pam most scrupulously held to he was willing to forget whenever it suited his purpose—and although Jim was too good of a person to imagine that Roy truly had any further designs on Katy than mere rhetoric, that in turn made the situation worse, from a certain angle. If Roy truly had no intention of wooing Miss Scott, why waste the breath to say that he would have done so if not for Pam? It was merely gratuitous, and it grated.
Had Jim but known it, it grated with Pam as well. She spent a sleepless night and most of the following day in a state of botheration ensuing from both her fiancé’s inconsiderateness and her general sense that everyone present had approved of Lord Malone’s thoughtlessly cutting remark in her direction. She had at first imagined Jim above such thoughts, but the fact that he danced two dances with Miss Scott in the ensuing party convinced her that he too felt much the same contrast between her charms and Katy’s. Had she examined her bosom more rigorously, she might have realized that her disappointment in Jim’s behaviour was not entirely the result of the platonic feelings that she professed to have in his direction. After all, if a bosom friend of hers showed interest in a lady, and she herself was taken, should she not wish him every success? From this perspective, was it not indeed flattering that Jim would express that interest in a lady described by all as similar to her (if in unflattering terms towards her)? Indeed, was it not wrong of her to feel what could only be described as jealousy over a man she had not the slightest intention of fixing upon for herself? But of course she did not think these things, only feeling a vague and inchoate discomfort with Jim’s attentions towards Miss Scott, and believing herself hard done by almost as much by Jim’s actions as by Roy’s choice of words. She did not dislike Miss Scott herself, finding her actually a delightful improvement over her distant cousin’s manners and behaviour, but her dislike for her power over the men in her life was a powerful motivator against her new acquaintance.
Of course, she would not have been Pam Beesly if she had fully given into this dislike. Instead, she did the opposite, throwing herself into entertaining her employer’s new house guest with a wild abandon normally foreign to her. She engaged herself to show Katy the town, rejoicing in the opportunity to explore the city without Miss Martin’s somewhat conservative chaperonage (not that she disliked Angela, but it was certainly a relief to be able to converse with a man for longer than a few minutes without hearing a huff of disapproval from behind her). She took immediate advantage of this freedom as she ran into Jim Halpert and Dwight Schrute on the high street—and to her surprise, it was Dwight who took Miss Scott aside and whispered in her ear, while she herself was treated to the pleasure of Jim’s company.
“What on earth is he doing?”
“Oh, I put a bug in our good lieutenant’s ear last night, suggesting that he could better fix his interest with the young lady by carrying one of her family’s bags on his arm. He is merely taking the opportunity to confer with her about which particular bag might best suit such a formal man as himself.”
“But Jim…” here Miss Beesly forgot, in her mirth, her annoyance with Mr. Halpert, and with it the formality with which she was accustomed to treat him, referring to him instead by the name she thought of him by—the name she had heard his best friends use for him. He beamed warmly down upon her, delighted to hear her forget herself so far. “…aren’t Scott bags for ladies?”
“Indeed they are. I wonder how that could have slipped my mind?”
She laughed up at him, and all was, for the moment, right with the world. It was right enough, indeed, that she was barely disconcerted when, as was only natural, Dwight’s conversation with Miss Scott came to a close and Jim’s salutation to that lady was greeted with what could only be called a blushing simper.
Thank you for reading, reviewing, and so on.
In Which Jim Throws a Party by Comfect
And now we will begin to veer away from canon order, if not canon events; this looks like Email Surveillance in this chapter, but there will be elements of Booze Cruise, elements of Casino Night, and my own elements mixed in.
Miss Scott’s presence in London did not go unnoticed by society—and despite the massive social solecism of the Colonel himself serving as her entrée into that society, it was generally agreed that Miss Scott’s own winning manners, undeniable beauty, and gentle spirit were sufficient guarantees of her quality to overlook this flaw. Indeed, Miss Scott was rapidly on her way to becoming a Success of the first water, to such a degree that her amiable cousin was simultaneously utterly unprepared for and quite willing to frequently take credit for. The Colonel was riding high on his younger relation’s triumph over good society, and Pam found it surprisingly easy to deal with him over the next few weeks as his good mood spread to a general easing of his crotchets and occasional cantankerousness.
This was, however, the only element in which Miss Scott’s appearance upon the scene represented an improvement in Pam Beesly’s life. Roy’s daily visits to the Colonel’s apartments, once at least seen as a source of relief from the stress and tribulation of the day were transformed into an exercise in attempting to ignore his blatant address towards the Incomparable. Pam was, she was beginning to realize, quite accomplished at cognitive dissonance; easily able to reconcile Roy’s inattentions and her dissatisfaction with them on the one hand and her extreme desire to become his wife on the other. But this proved a strain even for her, as Miss Scott was all too often at home when Roy arrived, and—being the accommodating soul she was—was quite willing to entertain the guest if Miss Beesly happened to be out or occupied.
Pam had no concern that Katy Scott intended to rob her of Roy, though, but the reason for that unconcern made it register less as a relief and more as an imposition of its own. This was because Miss Scott, though ardently pursued by all and sundry, including at least one duke and a rather wealthy marquis, had shown a firm interest in only one suitor: Jim Halpert. As such, while Pam could not count against her any intention to increase Roy’s interest in her, she found herself unable to obtain that free and easy conference with Jim that she had unwittingly become so used to. Whenever he called at the Colonel’s apartments she could not be sure if he wished to see her or merely Miss Scott, and as the servants were quite well aware of Miss Scott’s interest in his direction and could not think it possible that any man so graced would fail to reciprocate, it was much too frequent an occurrence that he would, upon arrival, simply be bowed into the lesser parlor where Miss Scott stood waiting. Not that Pam thought he had any other designs than to see Katy—but it certainly would have been nice, she thought, to have had the opportunity to at least pass words with him in the hall or as one of them ascended the stairs. As it was, she found that although they shared the same building quite frequently, they shared the same room much less often, and this caused an unpleasant feeling in her stomach that she could not quite explain.
It might have done much for Pam’s digestion to know that her feelings on this subject were, if anything, more sanguine than Mr. Halpert’s. While he did find Katy engaging, he had no intention to become engaged in that direction—not, at least, while she was still sharing a roof with Pamela Beesly. He did not dare to flatter himself that Pam shared the interest he had developed in her, but there was still something about wooing another woman under the same roof that felt ineffably wrong. He felt one the one had as if he were betraying Pam despite her own clear signal (by remaining engaged to Roy) that she was uninterested, and on the other that he was betraying Katy by inevitably wishing her to be more like Pam. He had almost found himself walking into the wrong room on one of his more recent calls, turning left towards where he knew Pam spent most of her time organizing the Colonel’s social schedule rather than right towards the parlor where Katy awaited, and only a small expression of surprise in the butler’s supercilious face had led him to retrace his steps. He could neither bring himself to declare a lodged interest where there was as yet none, nor to quit Miss Scott’s company entirely—not that an effort to do so would have been successful, given the Colonel’s doting attitude towards them both, or that that worthy would have understood at all why Jim might not be equally under the spell of his young cousin as everyone else—himself included. As such he enjoyed her company and established himself as a constant visitor to the house, but refrained from directly expressing anything beyond the customary intimacy of two young people often thrown together and not unappreciative of each other’s company. He made sure to face the doorway of the parlor when he sat down, and attempted as best he could to time his arrival or departure with some errand of Pam’s that might bring her by the door. In this he was mostly unsuccessful, the geography of the house not permitting him to monitor that effectively, but the occasional victory was sufficiently rewarding that he nevertheless continued to do so.
It was in many ways a relief for Jim to have been drawn in to l’affair Howard, as he and Mark privately described Ryan’s oft-interrupted wooing of Kelly Kapoor. In this they were required at various times to pretend to hold up Miss Kapoor’s carriage, so that Mr. Howard could appear valiant in repelling them (a ruse that resulted in Mark nursing a sore head for several days after Kelly, rather than cowering in fear, took up her heavy handbag and swung it at his head); to procure a band to play serenades at her window while Ryan was called back to Oxford for some business or other (a task Jim undermined by being unable to resist a prank—ladies generally not appreciating having a brass band play at their window late in the evening); and to arrange frequent parties and smaller get-togethers at their own lodgings to provide Ryan with a safe third space to invite Kelly without raising her parents’ suspicions of his intentions. It was to one of these that Jim eventually invited Pam Beesly on a night he was well aware Roy was otherwise spoken for, having spent the afternoon sparring at Jackson’s with Mr. Darryl Philbin, who boasted of the gaming he and Mr. Anderson were due to undertake that evening.
Miss Beesly arrived punctually at eight o’clock in the company of Miss Kapoor to find the party already underway, which allowed her, as she had hoped, to slip in almost unnoticed. Almost but not quite, for Jim Halpert suddenly detached himself from a wall as if he had stepped out of a secret passage upon her arrival and steered her conveniently towards the whist tables. She smiled up at him, he grinned down, and they might well have walked into a wall had Mark not come barreling down the hallway to claim them for a table he was forming with Ryan, Kelly having established herself as holding court among a large gaggle of females near the refreshments and left him to his own devices. A few hands of whist and a glass of champagne later, and Miss Beesly was feeling much better—even more so for she had not noted the presence (or rather, had noted the absence) of Miss Scott, though she would not have admitted that particular fact for all the world, even to herself. She listened carefully to the chatter between the old friends and held her tongue, partly because of the effects she knew drink often had on her and partly because their comfortable banter made her feel…cozy, and she did not want to spoil it by reminding them too actively of her presence. She thought briefly about how nice it would be to spend more of her evenings in this manner, with Jim and his friends acting like she belonged among them, and was not quite sure why the thought was so attractive to her—or why that realization made her sad.
Once more she would have been shocked but most likely pleased to have known how closely her own thoughts mirrored Mr. Halpert’s. He was giving as good as he got in the conversation, but for all Pam might feel herself inconspicuous next to the other two, he could not help but be intensely aware of her at all times, and wonder what she thought of the reminiscences of their younger days that he and Mark were comparing to Ryan’s present experience of Oxford. He was conscious of a deep wish to see her here always; to always sit down to whist with her, and stand up from the table together, go to parties together, enjoy themselves together—go home together. He too was saddened by this vision, not because it was unfelicitous, but because it seemed, at that moment, utterly impossible.
Next chapter will involve the arrival of more visitors to this already not hardly exclusive gathering. Thank you for reading, reviewing, jelly-beaning, and whatever else you do to engage with this.
In Which the Farce Begins by Comfect
The chapter title is relevant, and will become increasingly so.
In the course of the evening Pam stayed very close to Jim, not necessarily by a conscious choice but rather by a subconscious preference for his company. She found herself serving as an unofficial hostess for the evening, a behaviour she thought of as a natural result of her day to day role as Colonel Scott’s de facto hostess despite the fact that she had never found herself falling into these habits at any other party she had attended outside of the Colonel’s aegis since beginning that position While floating around in this capacity she found her attention being drawn consistently to Angela and Dwight—neither of whom was dancing even the country dances but who stood on opposite sides of the oval main parlor staring at each other throughout. Once Pam happened to walk by Angela while looking for Ryan on Jim’s behalf, and she heard her friend whispering softly to herself. She later found herself helping Jim with a minor prank on Dwight (removing his sword-belt without his noticing and placing it in the umbrella stand) that required her to come into close proximity with the lieutenant, and she could have sworn heard Angela speak. As she had found herself surprisingly invested in the thought that these two were meant for each other, she whipped her head around, only to see Angela still standing on the far side of the hall. Her disappointment momentarily distracted her from her purpose in Jim’s prank, so it was quite fortunate that her role was simply to obtain the lieutenant’s attention while Jim did the busy work of the prank, and her sudden turn and intake of breath had accomplished this inadvertently.
Later, sitting with Phyllis Lapin (who had commandeered Jim’s attentions and thus hers during one of the lulls in the entertainment), she found herself at a loss for conversation when Jim excused himself to attend to something the butler had brought to his attention. She saw Phyllis smiling over at her with a warm expression on her face and sought about her for a topic, hitting on the issue of Dwight and Angela. However, the phraseology she chose to do so proved hazardous—a shy inquiry as to whether Miss Lapin had observed anyone at the dance showing signs of an unacknowledged inclination towards a surprising flirtation produced only a raising of the older lady’s quizzing glass and the laughing assurance “If you mean yourself and dear Mr. Halpert, you need have no fears on that score, or on mine! I’ve known James from his cradle, and there’s no doubt he’s knees-in-boots for you! You needn’t worry I’ll be telling anyone, mind, as I’ve no doubt you children will find your way where you want to go without any intervention from maiden aunts.”
Pam had no idea what to do with this information, presented as it was with the air of one not entering into a confidence or divulging a secret but rather acknowledging a well-known but politely occluded fact. She was utterly flummoxed both by Phyllis’s calm assumption that she was engaged in a deep flirtation with Jim and her easy confidence that Jim was in love with her. That Jim Halpert thought of her, Pam Beesly, in that way was…well, it was actually extremely flattering and very intriguing, but it was also a total shock.
It was not a shock she was to be provided an opportunity to process and absorb, as just that moment she saw Jim re-enter the parlor in the company of one Miss Katy Scott. Miss Scott’s face was vaguely flushed, while Jim at first glance appeared entirely composed but a key or interested eye with a fond familiarity for his preferred mode of self-presentation—say, Pam’s—could tell that the smooth composure covered sheer consternation. Unfortunately, Pam was not best positioned to consider what the cause of that consternation might be, having just sustained a notable shock to her own system, and the only thought that came into her head was that Jim was supposed to have escorted Miss Scott to his party and was currently undergoing the intense embarrassment of having failed in his duty. As this would also entail his squiring Miss Scott around the social circle in a desperate attempt to redeem his previous behaviour, Pam felt a sudden and intense need (which she did not reflect upon) to find herself somewhere, anywhere else. She muttered some kind of apology to Phyllis, whose eyes had been drawn to the same picture as hers, and hurried out to the side parlor where the games of chance were set up. Had she but lingered a moment longer she might have seen Jim’s head snap around at her movement and an abortive raising of his arm, or heard Phyllis say contentedly to herself “I knew it! That has put the cat among the pigeons and no mistake.”
Jim Halpert was feeling extremely ill at ease. He had been vaguely aware that he had been paying more attention and respect to Katy than he ought, given the state of his own inner emotions, and he had planned this party carefully with her social schedule in mind as well as Roy’s, knowing she was engaged with her cousin the Colonel to attend the opera as part of the Dowager Duchess’s party. This was not with the intention of cutting Katy out, but certainly with the idea of quietly reversing any implication that he carried a torch in her direction. What he had not counted on was that lady feeling hurt that she had not been given the opportunity to express her regret at not being able to come, much less that the Dowager Duchess would come down with a headache, bringing the Colonel to cancel the outing entirely. This set of circumstances led Miss Scott to enquire of Ryan Howard (whom she had run into about an hour before the event while dining out) what entertainment might be on offer that evening, to her receiving, unbeknownst to Jim, an invitation to the party, and to (after a requisite amount of time spent re-costuming herself for a night at a house party rather than the opera, with suitable breaks of time to feel most put upon by the unkindness of Mr. Halpert in not inviting her himself) her arrival quite fashionably late to Mark and Jim’s apartments.
This, then, was what the butler had called Jim aside for, and while he had risen to the occasion with glad words and a smile on his face, he was inwardly reeling. Katy was simply not supposed to be there—and her presence, and the general assumption that emanated not only from her but from all and sundry that his place was by her side, could not help but disconcert him. He rigorously refrained from staring at Pam Beesly as she hurried from the room, but he could not help the twinge of pain that rose when he saw her do so out of the corner of his eye. He became aware that Katy was addressing him, and responded desultorily but apparently well enough to satisfy her. Unfortunately, he had apparently unwittingly agreed to dance, and as the musicians chose that moment to sweep back into performance he found himself dragged to the floor by the elegant Miss Scott. There was nothing for it but to go through the motions, though he contrived despite the gyrations of the dance to keep an eye upon the doors through which Pam had passed a few minutes ago.
Katy had no notion of the confused and sickly thoughts tumbling through Jim’s brain. She was quite relieved to find him so thoughtful, in fact, after becoming nearly ill thinking he did not wish her at his party. Only the recollection of Ryan’s languid “Halpert told me you would be at the opera tonight” kept her from demanding an answer from him as to where her invitation had gone off; she was somewhat mollified, in fact, by the consideration that he knew her social schedule so well. The idea that she had not failed to mention the Dowager Duchess’s outing to the opera in any conversation in the past week did not enter into her head. She was also pleased to find herself quite the center of attention due to her late entrance alone, and she beamed out at her admirers as she spun around Jim. Perhaps this evening would be a good one after all, even despite the twin disappointments of not going to the opera and having to wrangle an invitation from Ryan Howard to Jim’s party.
Thank you to all who have read and provided feedback of whatever sort. More farce-like elements coming soon.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.