Decorum and Detection

First published: 25th September 2013

Watching the miniseries Pride and Prejudice I noticed Emilia Fox in the role of Georgiana Darcy. Emilia Fox also plays forensic pathologist Dr Nikki Alexander in Silent Witness. Perhaps we can catch a glimpse from a different universe of Jane Austen's

Decorum and Detection

After dinner, the company retired to the Drawing room.

Lady Catherine de Bourgh said imperiously, "Georgiana, would you be so kind to entertain us on the piano-forte?".

"I fear I must disappoint you, your ladyship. I have neglected my musical skills somewhat since taking up forensic pathology." Georgiana demurred.

"I have always said that young ladies should apply themselves to the arts, but I am not sure this recent fashion for the medical and engineering arts is at all suitable. Caroline, I trust you will not disappoint, come." Lady Catherine made herself comfortable close to the piano and Caroline Bingley took station at the instrument. Elizabeth Bennet, Charles Bingley, Georgiana and Fitzwilliam Darcy continue their conversation closer to the fireplace.

Georgiana said, "Charles, I must thank you for your most kind gift of A Concise Illustrated Flora of the British Isles, it is really a most beautiful book."

"Not at all, it is my pleasure."

"And it has been most helpful in my current investigation."

"Is that the murder in the Netherfield marsh?"

"Why, yes, and no. I examined the victim's clothes carefully and found several fragments of vegetation. I was able to identify them, with the help of a microscope and your gift, Charles, as heathland plants, so I can safely say that the murder did not take place in the marsh, the body had been moved."

"Was that a van Leeuwenhoek microscope, Georgiana?", Elizabeth interjected.

"No, I find them awkward in use. I used a compound microscope, the image quality is close, if you take care to configure the lenses."

"Do you have the crime-scene oil painting?", Fitzwilliam asked.

"Alas, no. I wrote to Mr. Constable for his assistance, but he replied that he was already fully occupied with a traffic incident involving a haywain and would unavailable for several months. He did write that his work there clearly showed an angler was in a suspicious spot."

"Did you try Mr. Turner?" inquired Elizabeth.

"With the storms last winter, he has been fully occupied with maritime disasters. But really, it was most fortuitous. With no available artist, I tried the new Daguerreotype process, and the speed is astounding. I was able to capture the entire scene in a mere hour, and the chemical processing was complete the next day. I have the Daguerreotype here." Georgiana showed the company the image.

"Quite amazing. Is that a fragment of cloth in the victim's hand?", Elizabeth enquired.

"Why, yes, and I would like your opinion on it, dear Elizabeth. I have it here." Georgiana passed Elizabeth a scrap of faded red cloth.

"Most interesting. Wool, and badly faded. It has been exposed to strong sunlight for some time, so perhaps an agricultural worker's clothes, or, given the red colour, more likely a soldier's uniform, perhaps one who has returned from a more tropical climate. But we must establish the dye type and method, I have my chromatography equipment and reagents in my room."

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