Posted on Friday, 1 April 2005
It had all started with a conversation about money, an uncharacteristic subject for the newly-married Darcys. The couple had recently learned that they would have a child in the autumn, and Mrs. Darcy was wondering how they would afford to give their girls (should they be so blessed) proper dowries. She knew she had brought less to her marriage than her mother had brought to hers, and Mrs. Bennet's dowry was so little as to cause worry about hedgerows.
"My dear," said Mr. Darcy, "did you never discuss any of this with your father?"
"No, of course not! I knew he would look out for me and the children, and I knew you would as well. I didn't think I needed to know more than that."
"I did wonder. You seemed so unconcerned at Ivy House."
"We had just been married, I had other things on my mind."
"Yes, I see. But I had expected you to take more of an interest in the house, and was a bit disappointed that you did not. Now I understand it was all perfect innocence, and not some sense of mercenary disappointment."
"Mercenary! What on earth are you talking about? Have I ever given you cause to think me mercenary?"
"No, indeed not. In fact, my comment was only to point out your refreshing lack of such a motive."
"But, you say I gave you cause to worry. Indeed, I am shocked my dear. I thought you knew me better than that and gave me more credit."
"My dear, you misunderstand. I know you are not mercenary, I just wondered at your unconcern about Ivy House."
"What does Ivy House have to do with anything!"
"Well, when we were there, you did not take a profound interest in the place, and I expected that you would."
"We were only there for three days, and I thought I took a great interest. It's a lovely house, and I am eager to see the grounds in the spring and summer."
"Then we shall have to make sure to stop by again, with your approval, of course." Mr. Darcy's face showed such a hint of mirth that Mrs. Darcy knew he was enjoying a private joke-too private for her tastes.
"Sir, please tell me what you find so humorous about this. I hear you calling me a mercenary and see you laughing at me at the same time. Please, what exactly is this joke you find so amusing?"
"Oh, yes, my dear, I laugh every time I think of the comical fašade and the droll furnishings."
"I am well aware that it is one of the Darcy estates, my dear, that comes as no surprise at all."
"But, Elizabeth, I did not say 'mine' or 'ours', but ' yours.'"
"No, not 'mine', ' yours."
Elizabeth looked very cross.
Darcy finally became serious, "Ivy House is yours, my dear, for as long as you live. That was the primary part of your marriage settlement. The house is yours, the money from the estate, which last year was about 3,400 pounds is yours to do with as you wish, and the estate is yours to manage as you wish. Furthermore, I swear I will never again go there unless expressly invited to do so by my wife."
Elizabeth just stared blankly.
"You won't go to your own house?"
"I won't go to your house, unless you wish me to do so."
"Why on earth not! It's a perfectly lovely house."
"I'm glad you like it, in fact I would be disappointed if you did not. But that is beside the point."
"Which is, that you will not go there."
"Not without your permission, no."
"And why is that?"
"Because my dear, I know that marriages have good times and bad times. If we ever reach the point where you loathe the sight of me and want nothing to do with me, I will know you have a nice house of your own to go to."
"You anticipate a disagreement of such magnitude will arise between us that will make this a necessity?"
"Not at all. I would be surprised and greatly disappointed if that were to happen, but in case it does, you have Ivy House. In addition, if I should die before you, you will have a place of your own to go to-where you will always be comfortable, and of consequence. You did not have time to meet with many of our neighbors, but you will find them to be very good people, my dear. You may be glad of such a refuge in the future, and you never know, after all, what our daughter-in-law will be like; though, I trust Henry will marry well."
"Our first son, of course. Unless you do not like the name, then perhaps Charles?"
Elizabeth knew he was not being serious. "That is a very generous gift, my dear. I can't believe you gave me a house of my own for a wedding present. And I am rather partial to Percy."
"Percy it shall be then."
"Can we afford a Percy? Or a Henry or a Charlotte, for that matter. I brought nothing with me into this marriage, as you know."
"You didn't?! Oh dear. And I suppose it is too late to send you back to your father then?"
Again, Elizabeth looked cross.
Darcy laughed. "You mean you really don't know?"
"That over the years I have been quite content to let people believe my income was substantially less than it is."
Darcy's face transformed into a very silly grin. "Shall I give you all the details? The ones you didn't want to bother your father about?"
Elizabeth looked expectantly.
"Since you now have an estate of your very own, I will share with you my secrets-and, of course, since we are now married, my secrets are yours.
He continued, "There are two fundamental things to remember if you want to accumulate wealth. The first is to always spend less than your income, substantially if you can. The second is compound interest. Do you know what is meant by the term compound interest?"
"I've never delved into the subject, no."
Darcy looked like an eager child, bursting at the seams with some great secret. He grabbed his wife's hand and said, "Come then, let me show you."
The couple went to Darcy's office, where he pulled a second chair over to his desk and sat his wife down. He withdrew a paper and began writing:
"First, annual expenses. Running all of my estates, servants, gifts to charity, clothes, food, horses, dogs, taxes, losses at cards, new carriages, wives...
"...run to about 8,500 per year. Anything over that, then, is pure profit."
"Please, pay attention dear.
"Now, for the income side. Pemberley you know about, of course. That was worth about 12,000 per year for the last few years-not the 10,000 as the whisperers believed. Ivy House you now also know about, for an addition 3,400 pounds per year. But there is also Barleigh in Scotland, worth about 3,200 a year, and Wittwell Hall in Surry, 3,500 per year-there's good land down in Surrey (the Garden of England, you know.) So the total of estate income runs at about 22,000 a year."
Elizabeth looked as if she were in shock.
"I also have some non-estate income from investments, many of which have been showing accelerated growth in recent years. Since inheriting Pemberley, I have earned about another 7,000 pounds from those investments, and expect to receive about 2,500 per year in the next few years.
"If you add up all of that since my father's death, I have earned about 75,000 pounds, all of which has been put into the funds.
"But I also inherited 100,000 pounds when my father died. That has been sitting in the funds, earning 4% since that time.
"My steward is still tallying up the final results from last year, but it looks like I made a profit, after everything has been paid, of over 23,000 pounds.
Elizabeth's jaw was hanging down upon her lovely and ample bosom.
"Over the years, all of my income, above expenses, has been put into the funds, where it earns interest at 4%, and the cycle spins for yet another year. One hundred thousand pounds at 4%, becomes 104,000 pounds the next year and 108,000 the next, then 112 and 117 the year after that, and so on. Each year I add the profit from my estates and investments as well as the interest from the year before. As a result, I currently have over 215,000 pounds sitting in the funds. My steward, Mr. Birdle, and I also estimate that by the time I am 50 years old, and perhaps beginning to seriously think about which man a daughter of mine should be allowed to marry-or perhaps more accurately, which man is good enough for Caroline..."
" Caroline ?! Oh, no, my dear. I really must put my foot down to the name Caroline ."
"...we expect to have somewhere around 800,000 pounds in the funds, and an annual income above expenses-even taking into account the cost of raising a large number of children-of around 45,000 a year. With that much to play with, I fully expect to give each of our children-boys as well as girls-a dowry of 100,000 pounds.
"Would you consider that adequate, Mrs. Darcy."
"Eight hundred thousand pounds!"
"Eight hundred thousand pounds!"
"Now I know you must be joking, Mr. Darcy. You have told me such a story that I can not possibly trust you further on the subject."
"No, of course not, my love. Just please remember one thing: compound interest!"
"You are a silly man, Mr. Darcy!"
"Be assured, it is all your influence Elizabeth. Here's a bargain for you, I'll deal with the bankers, and you with the bakers."
"Lemon tart for dinner tonight, darling?"
"That would be lovely, Mrs. Darcy."