Posted on 2012-03-06
Elizabeth pulled on the reins, trying vainly to restrain the horse. She finally gave up and let the horse continue at its own pace. Her thoughts quickly flowed far away from the horse and carriage, to the parsonage at Rosings. "I believe his letter but it does not change anything" she thought stubbornly. "It does not change the fact that he was insulting. Otherwise........ he is handsome, tall, and Mother certainly does not let me forget that he is rather wealthy. No, no, no! I will marry only for love, nothing less!" Elizabeth was brought back to the present by the horse. It stopped abruptly and began to crop the grass by the side of the road. As Elizabeth looked, to her right was beautiful, wooded lane, and she vigorously contended with the horse, in order to turn down it. The horse was getting tired, so it trotted along at a more sedate pace. She approached a large gate, and, looking back, realized that behind the foilage there was a high stone wall. She pulled the horse in to a slow walk. Almost directly in front of the gate, the horse stopped, and began to munch on some flowers. Elizabeth gave the reins a tug, but gave up and sat back on the seat of the light carriage, daydreaming idly.
Fitzwilliam Darcy gave his horse a sharp kick in the flank. He was still rather irritated, and was in no mood to listen to Richard. The horse sped up accordingly, and despite his cousin's shout of protest, soon outdistanced the other rider. "There, peace and quiet. Ah, we should be at Pemberley within a half hour." he thought gleefully, but even though he gave it a desperate attempt, his thoughts slipped into a less pleasant vein. "She refused me! There are richer and better connected woman that would do anything to please me but she- a country girl, with no dowry- refused me! I did, she was right, I was not always perfectly polite, but still, she believed Wickham's poppycock. Bah! Have I doomed myself to forever dream of a girl that barely even respects me?" Darcy spurred his horse on faster, determined to forget all about one Elizabeth Bennett.
Richard Fitzwilliam shook his head. "I am very near to doing something---- anything! He cannot even speak civilly anymore. And a woman, even! He has survived how many Seasons in Town, and has fallen head over heels in love with a country girl. And she is Aunt Catherine's curate's cousin. Pshaw! Women are very much a problem!"
Elizabeth's head snapped up. She glanced around frantically, truly hoping that the approaching riders did not want to enter the gate that she was parked in front of. She gave the horse a slap. It utterly refused to move forward but danced sideways, nearly upsetting her. She thought that she had finally restrained the horse when the first rider came over the hill with a shout, "Ah, so I will always be able to beat you, Darce! The army is the only place that really teaches you to ride." Elizabeth realized who it was in a flash. "Colonel Fitzwilliam and.....oh! It is Mr. Darcy! This must be the gate to Pemberley!" She had only a moment to think for the horse suddenly hopped to the side as the Colonel approached at a gallop. She barely retained her seat in the carriage but as Mr. Darcy also approached, the horse bolted, throwing her out and onto the side of the road. She felt her head hit something hard and her leg twist under her and screamed in pain but merciful blackness quickly enveloped her.
"Richard! What has happened?" Darcy yelled. Richard spun his horse around, "A woman, her horse bolted and she was thrown out of the buggy she was in." Darcy slipped off of his horse and hurried to the crumpled form of a woman, tossed against the wall. As he ran, he slipped off his riding jacket and folded it into a ball. He placed it under the woman's head and pushed the hair out of her face. "Elizabeth!"
"What?" the colonel asked as he bent down beside Darcy. "Oh!" he exclaimed, before Darcy even answered.
Darcy jumped up and ran to the gate. The gate keeper opened it immediately, "Welcome home, Master Darcy!"
Darcy did not even bother to answer. "There has been an accident outside of the gates! Please get a carriage to take her to the house and get the doctor to the house immediately."
"Yessir," the man answered, taking off at a run to the stables, which were nearly a half-mile down the drive. Darcy paced in front of the gate house until the man was out of sight then turned back outside to wait until the carriage came. "Why is she here! and now, and just drat! Funny how fate plays such mean tricks on you. I wanted to bring her here as my fiance' and show her everything but not only did she refuse me, I will still be bringing her into Pemberley, but unconscious." Darcy snapped out of his self-pitying reverie at the sound of tearing cloth. Richard had his coat off and was tearing it into strips, and with the aid of two sticks that he had found nearby, was fashioning a crude splint on her right leg, which seemed to be broken.
Darcy broke the relative silence by asking, "Will she be all right?" and mentally kicked himself for sounding like a love-sick puppy dog, that has been kicked, but still faithfully follows his master everywhere.
Richard did not even look up, but, despite the seriousness of the situation, Darcy could hear the smile in his voice as he answered, "You do have it bad, don't you, Darce? And I am not a doctor, so I will not even try to answer that."
"I do not 'have it bad'. I am just concerned and......." he was spared further lies when a carriage was heard coming swiftly down the drive. The driver pulled the horses in and jumped down. Darcy hurried over to open the door but not before he heard his cousin's hiss "Liar!" He ignored him, and gently picked Elizabeth up and placed her in the carriage. After instructing the man to drive slowly, he mounted his horse and followed behind.
Richard chuckled as they walked slowly along, resting their sweating horses. Darcy turned on him and said, "I still do not see anything amusing."
Richard smirked at him, "There is a little irony in the situation, do you not think?" Darcy decided not to favor his cousin's prod with an answer.
"Oh, please, Darce!" he exclaimed in frustration. "You wanted to show her Pemberley, and now you will get to." "And I might not have to interfere and play match-maker."
"Hmmm?" replied the colonel, knowing full well what Darcy was going to say, and was fully prepared to ignore him once again.
"Mind Your Own Business!"
"You know I won't. And you know that you really do need my help. Of course, the hit to the head could be worse than we think, and if she wakes up, she will not remember that she is supposed to hate you, and fall madly in love and live happily ever after." "I guess not. He, at least, desperately needs my interference."
Darcy stiffened at the significant 'if' and when Richard finished, he spun and shouted at his cousin. "Shut up!"
"See! you can't deny it!YOU ARE IN LOVE WITH HER!"
"Oh, just be quiet!"
Richard only laughed and urged his horse ahead, once again beating Darcy.
Darcy paced his study. The doctor had come and gone, putting a more complete splint on Elizabeth's leg and directing that she was to be watched and he was to be alerted when she woke up. And, on no uncertain terms, was she possible be moved, and considering the damage done to her leg, she would be stuck at Pemerly for nigh unto two months. "Just to consider it! She hates the sight of me! Good grief! What a very long two months this will be. And, for all that, Richard is right. But I did not need his confirmation..... NOR do I need his 'help'."
Georgiana Darcy sat quietly in the downstairs sitting room. Mrs. Annesly, her teacher and companion, had left to fetch them both some tea while they sat watching Miss Elizabeth. She looked at the girl lying on the sofa. "I think that William is in love with her. He seemed very worried. And she is the first girl he has ever written about. 'Miss Elizabeth said this' or 'Miss Elizabeth did this' . She really is quite pretty. I would guess that she is very small, she looks smaller than me, for I have not been able to lie full length on that sofa for very nearly a year. And her hair is so pretty! It curls like mine, though it is a pretty brown, not blonde like mine, and falls around her face so perfectly that she looks like a innocent little girl lying there." Georgiana's attention turned back toward the door as Mrs. Annesly and her cousin, Richard entered. Richard had noticed the dreamy smile on her face as she looked on Elizabeth lying there and decided to let her in on his little secret.
"Ah, Mrs. Annesly, might I please speak to Georgie for a minute?"
Mrs. Annesly looked at him curiously but went out, shutting the door gently behind her.
"Do you want something?" queried Georgiana innocently.
Richard assumed the smirk that Georgiana immediately recognized. It was the look that he assumed when he knew a great secret, or had played an immensely funny practical joke, or gotten under someone's skin, usually his father, the Earl of Matlock, or William.
"Yes, I do, little Georgie. I want your help playing matchmaker."
The smile that lit up Georgie's face proved to him that he had been right in his guess that she knew at least a little of what was going on and would be a willing accomplice. He explained everything, even some parts that Darcy did not know that he knew, including Darcy's snub of Elizabeth at the Meryton Assembly, for Mrs. Collins had also had a desire to play matchmaker, and had told him that story. He also told Georgie that Elizabeth had refused Darcy's proposal at Rosings.
Georgie bounced up and down in her seat like a little girl, "I think she likes him though. Why else would she be riding a buggy right in front of Pemberley?"
"Good, good, little one! You will be very good at this! Now I think I will start our little plans in motion and go have a word with him."
"Oh yes, yes! And, Richard? Don't tell Will that I know anything! It will work better that way!" Richard saluted cheerily and exited, intent on ruffling Darcy's feathers just a little bit more.
Elizabeth heard voices through a deep fog. It sounded like a young girl.....where was she? and why did her leg hurt so? She stirred and heard a voice, the girl again, "Mrs. Annesly, I think that she is waking up. Please go tell my brother and have him fetch the doctor." Who is Mrs. Annesly? And where, what, who???" Elizabeth's thoughts became more and more disturbing as she realized she did not even recall her own name. She slowly opened her eyes and found herself looking at a young girl, perhaps fifteen. The thought briefly flitted across her mind that the girl was an angel or fairy, for her dress was a light color and seemed to float. And her hair, it was a beautiful gold that curled and swam gently around her face and shoulders. The sunbeam that came from the window made her wince and shut her eyes. When she put her hand to her head she felt a large bump. "That does explain the headache. I must have hit my head. Why do I not know where I am, or more importantly, WHO I am!" She heard a rustle in the hall and heard the door open. She briefly opened her eyes and saw three people entering the room. The short plump man with white hair she assumed was the doctor, and the woman she assumed was the Mrs. Annesly, The man who was in the back she assumed was the girl's brother. He looked at her keenly, and, embarrased to be caught staring at her, dropped his gaze. "I am sure I know him, he is very nice looking, and if this is his house, he must be a man of some means..... I wonder why he looks at me that way?"
Darcy entered the room with some trepidation. He wanted so desperately to see with his own eyes that she was all right, but would she be upset that he had entered? His concern for her outweighed the fact that all of his gentlemanly training rebelled against him going into the presence of a lady that did not want him. As he entered, his eyes immediately strayed to the couch were he had personally laid her. He looked at her for a moment, but as she looked at him and saw him staring, dropped his eyes to look on the floor. It was hard to read the look on her face as she saw him enter. It had not been anger of any sort, so he decided to stay while the doctor spoke to him. At that very moment, Richard poked his head in, and seeing what was going on, entered without a word, "A most unusual event, for him to come into a room without saying any thing, particularly with the people who are in here." His attention turned back to the sofa, where the doctor was just turning around. Darcy stiffened at the furrow in the doctor's brow, for the man had been the Darcy family physician for as long as he could remember, and he knew when the man was upset about something. He gave Darcy a quick gesture, which seemed to include Colonel Fitzwilliam, and met them in the hall.
Despite his earlier quiet, Richard was the first to speak out, "What is the matter?"
The doctor drew a deep breath before speaking, "As I spoke with our patient I discovered that she remembers nothing. Nothing of the accident, nothing of her family, not even her own name. She is rather upset, thought she seems to be a sensible young lady and did not make a fuss, like many young women would."
Darcy inhaled sharply, and, against his better judgement looked at his cousin. He immediately looked away, as the knowing smirk he knew that he would see was leveled on him.
"Otherwise, except her leg, of course, she seems to be all right. I would suggest, if possible, to find out who her family is and contact them. However, right now, she cannot be moved because of her leg, and, I have seen cases like this before, and she will probably become comfortable here and this will feel secure and moving her back to her home would be extremely upsetting, even if her family was extremely understanding. She will probably regain her memory eventually, though it may be slow. Right now, I suggest we assign her a name, and, for now, not even try to jog her memory. Eventually, perhaps her family could produce something, such as a journal, or paintings or some such thing, to help regain her memory."
If Richard had been alone, he would have danced through the halls. "Hahaha! Little Georgie and my job will be so much easier! Just perfect! And there is no way he will insult her again! he is so much more comfortable at Pemberley! There is no way she will be able to help falling in love! Ha!" He was completely exultant, hardly even thinking about Darcy's conversation with the doctor, while Darcy explained to Doctor Fisher that her name was Elizabeth and he knew her family, and that she was in town with her uncle and aunt. "But now, I need to tell Georgie. I think I know exactly what we should do...."
Darcy stood thunderstruck. The past several......no, the past half hour had been rather hectic and full of astounding discoveries. "And of course Richard was thrilled! He would be! And perhaps she may fall in love with me........ no, it would not be right for me to even pay her attention. She has already made it abundantly clear that she has no desire to be near me, and even if she does not remember it, it does not change my position. I am a gentleman, and will continue to act like one, even if Richard sees no need for it and desires otherwise. And he will do the best he can to play matchmaker, I am sure. At least I have my allies. I can always escape with Georgie"
Downstairs with Richard, his "ally" was busy plotting. "Oh yes! It seems so very mean to be glad but it seems to be impossible to be terribly upset. It is just perfect."
Richard knew his cousin better than that. "Georgie, it will not be that easy! Your brother prides himself on being a gentleman. She has refused him once. He will feel honor bound to not pay her any attention." Richard shifted uncomfortably, "Do you think you could....well, maybe instead of me working on Darcy, we should concentrate on her. If you subtly work to make her at least like him, he might not feel so bad about......courting her, maybe. I think that well.............I am making Darce a little too mad, so he will ignore me."
Georgie giggled, "You always make Will mad. I suppose that this makes him more sensitive though."
Richard bristled a bit, "I do not always make him mad! I just....tease."
"Oh yes you do! but most of the time it is a fun mad that he laughs about." Georgiana turned back toward the parlor where Elizabeth lay. "Perhaps I should get started on my little project?" Richard nodded and grinned, but his grin dropped suddenly at Georgiana's parting shot. "You know, if all else fails, you could pretend to like her and make Will jealous." Her energetic giggle restored Richard's grin, as she walked away into the room.
Elizabeth reclined on the same sofa. She was propped up against several pillows, and was staring idly at the book in her hands. She opened it up to the inscription "To Elizabeth" was all it said. That much she knew. The book was the only thing found on her person after the accident. " 'You need a name' the doctor says 'and it appears to be Elizabeth'. How nice! but now, even though at least we know my first name, it does not help. I know nothing else!" Georgiana entered the room with a bit of embroidery in her hands. "I thought perhaps you would enjoy the company." she said cheerfully. "Will said that you seemed rather bored when he brought you the book."
Elizabeth was rather pleased to have Miss Darcy come in. She felt out of sorts and Miss Darcy was very cheering. "It is getting very boring sitting here. I have spent three day with nearly nothing to do but sit. I do not mean to complain." she amended hastily. "But I do believe that I am unused to being sedentary for such extents of time."
Georgie looked up from her embroidery thoughtfully. "I do have an idea.....I must speak to Will. Do you mind if I go speak to him for a moment?"
"Not at all, and I am terribly sorry for being so cross."
Georgie stopped at the door. "If I was confined to this little parlor, lying on a couch, I would probably be even grouchier than you." and was gone with a glimmer.
Georgiana skipped to the door of her brother's study and knocked. "Come in."
She pushed the door open slowly and went in. "Will, when will Doctor Fisher be here?"
"This afternoon. Why you do want to know?"
Georgiana slowed, looking at her toes, "Miss Elizabeth is bored and I thought, perhaps, maybe," she finished in a rush, "That someone could get the wheel-chair that Mama used out of the attic and Miss Elizabeth could use it." "There! I said it! Even if he is upset, I do like Miss Elizabeth and want to help her......and Will!"
"Of course! As long as the doctor approves, that would be an excellent idea! You could show her the library and the ballroom, and the other things on the ground floor."
Georgie had a sudden brilliant idea "Everyone thinks that I am a shy thing, I will act like it and make Will be the tour guide" "Oh, no!" she said, clasping her hands in what she hoped was a nervous manner, "Would you do it? I could not show her everything, or tell her about it as well as you."
Darcy did not even start at her shyness, for he was rather used to it, but he rebelled at the thought of spending the day, or even part of it, in her company, when she did not desire him at all. He ceded to Georgie's demands, however, thinking that he would be less a gentleman if he did not act a proper host, and, though he would not admit it, even to himself, he desperately wanted to see her, to watch her brilliant eyes flash as she became angry or excited, to see her curled hair splash gaily as she talked and laughed, just to see her!
Georgie barely supressed a giggle as she watched her brother's face. She knew nearly exactly what he was thinking and was not surprised when he answered yes. She gave him a spontaneous hug and skipped out the door. She nearly ran into Richard as she exited.
"I am not in the habit of eavesdropping, but I saw you enter and did not want to disturb you two. I could not help but here you say something about Miss Elizabeth, and listened in hope that you would pull it off masterfully. And you did!! Bravo!"
Georgie smile would have lit a candle. "It was too perfect! He practically handed me the opportunity! But I must get back, and tell Miss Elizabeth the news."
Fitzwilliam Darcy sat at his desk, mentally berating himself, "I am an idiot! I just pledged myself to a day of gazing after something that I cannot get. And she, if she were to remember, I would cause her distress, and anger, to be sure. But she is more pretty when she is angry.......Oh! I am a fool." But, still, he kept his promise, and spent the rest of the morning having the chair brought down and making sure it was cleaned and oiled so that it was in perfect working order.
Georgiana took her seat in the parlor with the air of someone with a secret. Elizabeth looked at her quizzically.
"My idea should work." Georgiana stated calmly, enjoying teasing her guest.
"And...." Elizabeth prompted eagerly, enjoying the suspense, but still hoping that her boredom would be banished.
"No, no, no! I must get the doctor's approval first." Georgiana claimed demurely, not daring to look up from her embroidery.
Elizabeth took the challenge and, pretending carelessness said, "Well, then, I suppose I shall wait. It must not be that spectacular anyway. And, now, where is that book?"
Georgiana looked up slightly, rather hurt at the way her idea had been dismissed, and saw the smile pulling at the corners of Miss Elizabeth's mouth as she gazed steadfastly at her book. She dropped her sewing in her lap, and assumed a hurt look, said rather wistfully, "Yes, I suppose my plan is rather dull." and continued to gaze at her sewing. Through her hair, she saw Miss Elizabeth look at her, and seemed to not recognize it as joking, said rather tremulously, "No, no, I was teasing, I thought..... I did not mean to......"
Georgiana could no longer hold in her laughter and her laugh rang through the room. Elizabeth was quick to realize that Georgiana really had been joking and joined her, adding her laugh to to Georgiana's.
When both had exhausted their giggles, they began to talk in earnest.
"I still do wish to hear you plan." Elizabeth stated wryly. "Even if it is dull."
Georgie set aside her sewing, and moved her chair closer to the sofa, "I thought that you might benefit from a change of scenery, and spoke to my brother about removing the wheel-chair from the attic and allowing you to use it."
"I sincerely hope that you have never had occasion to use it."
"No, indeed. It was my mother's. She was never very strong, and died not long after I was born. She used the chair during her pregnancy and for the short time after that she was not confined to her bed."
"Oh! I thank you for being willing for me to use it."
"Yes, and Will said that he would give you a guided tour of at least the lower level of Pemberley."
"Will is your brother, Miss Darcy?"
"Yes, he is. It is actually Fitzwilliam but I was seven before I could call him anything but Will, and Will he has remained. And please call me Georgiana, or Georgie, actually."
"Only if you will call me Elizabeth! Miss Elizabeth is rather formal, and seems better attached to someone in a ball gown, not someone with a broken leg!"
"All right then, Elizabeth."
"And I would be happy to consider you a friend, if that is acceptable to you."
"I think that is good! I would almost like you as an older sister. I do like Will, but it would be ever so nice to have a sister."
"I would be willing for you to regard me as one, and I, you, for I think friends are almost sisters anyway, and I feel as if I need a sister."
Georgie bit her lip in contemplation, staring at her sewing, and decided to make a rather bold statement. "Though you have no need to claim my brother as well! You would not befit him as a sister, I think." "Though as a wife, I am more and more convinced you would suit!" She noticed Elizabeth's slight squirm of discomfiture and relieved her by changing the subject, blithely skipping along to another subject, as if unaware of her guest's discomfort. They spent the entire time until the maid brought lunch talking of music, and books, and discovered, to each other's delight, that both spoke, with some fluency, French and Italian.
Darcy sat sullenly, picking at his food. "Why today, of all days did Georgie decide to eat with Elizabeth? With her present, Richard is a bit more discrete in his 'comments'." He gazed at his plate, nearly causing Richard to lose all of his self-control, as he watched Darcy, staring at the plate like it was the answer to all of his questions. He continued to watch in amusement as Darcy stared at the plate wistfully, rightly guessing that his cousin was not seeing a plate, but a beautiful young woman with curly brown hair and fine eyes. He nearly envied his cousin, since he was in love. He wanted it just as much as the next, but particularly envisioned a blonde. "Yes, he can have his brunnette, but I lean toward a blonde. Angelic and sweet, perhaps a bit naive; everyone says I am cynical, and someone a bit naive would balance me out nicely. Yes, and blue eyes! Yes, someday I will find my perfect someone, and she will not be quite so hard to catch as Darce's Elizabeth!"
Dr. Fisher had quite agreed with Georgiana, so it had been set that all four of those occupying Pemberley at the time would be going on a grand tour of the ground floor, which would be the non-residential section. The upstairs consisted more of the bedrooms, though of course it had the occasional parlor or sitting room. By 10:30 in the morning, breakfast had been consumed and, with the help of a maid, and some alterations, one of Georgie's dresses had been made over to fit Elizabeth.
Georgie let out a trill of laughter. Elizabeth's obvious discomfiture at being lifted into the wheel-chair by a footman that she did not know, was to Georgie's great amusement. The footman was rather small, and though Elizabeth was indeed rather tiny, the splint added extra weight and was rather clumsy. Georgie was rather relieved (as was Elizabeth) when Richard came in and rather easily lifted her into the chair. The last of their party, Darcy, came in and greeted Georgiana with a hug, and directed a rather stiff bow in Elizabeth's direction, "Good morning, Miss Elizabeth."
"Good morning to you, Mr. Darcy! I am pleased to meet you."
Gerogie and Richard shot each other a triumphant glance as Darcy perceptibly started over her cheery greeting.
"And you mean we have met before, and you recall it, and am a bit surprised that I do not. "
"Yes," Darcy said, stumbling over his words. "But we did not know each other well." "And seemed to have a habit of misunderstanding each other also."
"I thank you very much for your hospitality to me."
Richard cut in smoothly, suggesting that they begin. Darcy and Georgiana had planned rather well, and decided that they would time it so that they would enter the dining room just in time for luncheon. Over lunch, Elizabeth expressed her delight over some different aspects, and surprised Darcy by recogninzing the painting in the entry to be by some artist. Their talk turned from Pemberley quickly, and Richard and Georgiana shared a smile at how quickly Darcy and Elizabeth began discussing a book that only the two of them had read. They had rather different opinions on it, and their discussion developed into a friendly debate that extended into a matter that did not only concern the book, but the general politics and Georgiana listened intently, and Richard was easily included when it was discovered that his opinion differed ever so slightly from that of either. The entire lunch time was spent in cheerful disscusion.
As maids cleared the table, Elizabeth turned to Georgiana and they began a cheery chat in Italian, both enjoying it immensely as Richard glanced at them in wonderment. Darcy had a decent grasp of Italian but instead of following the conversation, sipped his water in contemplation. "She is immensely enjoyable to be around when she has not decided to hate me. I am afraid that it would take very little prodding for me to ignore her previous protests and court her earnestly. No, this is simply an enjoyable day, acting as a proper host, entertaining one of Georgie's friends." He stood up, outwardly calm and perfect, but inwardly trying desperately to convince himself to behave properly.
"Would we all like to continue the tour?"
Georgie stood quickly, "Yes! yes, is the ballroom next?"
Darcy smiled, "Most assuredly! Let us be off!"
"Oh!" Elizabeth gasped in delight at the sight of Pemberley's ballroom. "How beautiful! And to your credit, it is beautiful without being gaudy, unlike many." She smiled, "It makes one long to be able to dance!" Richard bowed gallantly to Georgie, "May I have this dance?"
Georgie looked quickly to her brother and Elizabeth for approval. Darcy nodded and Elizabeth smiled, indicating to Georgie that though she wanted to dance it would not hurt her feelings if someone else did. Richard led Georgie off in a spirited country reel. Elizabeth looked to Darcy, "Might I play the pianoforte?" she asked, indicating the one reposing in the corner.
Darcy was somewhat surprised at the request but wheeled her over obligingly. "I was not aware that you could play."
"Neither was I, but I do believe I can, that is, I do not remember playing, much like I remember nothing else, but I am nearly certain that I can."
The wheel-chair was the perfect height, and she played an energetic reel that was perfect for the dance that Richard and Georgie were doing. When the reel was finished, she tried a slower dance, which Darcy requested from his sister. They spent easily an hour with Elizabeth on the piano, and Richard and Darcy dancing with Georgiana. When the dancers declared they could dance no more and Elizabeth gladly turned from the piano, declaring gaily that her fingers were positively stiff. Mrs. Reynolds, the housekeeper, had noted their vigorous activity, and a maid appeared with a cart containing a pitcher of fresh lemonade and glasses, and some biscuits. They gladly partook of the refreshments, spending the time in gay conversation. When they had finished, Darcy stood and announced that, with everyone's consent, they would go on to the next and last place on their tour. Darcy knew very well that it would be of great delight to Elizabeth to be surprised by the library, and gestured to Richard and Georgiana to not say anything. He shook his head out of the great delight he was obtaining from showing her everything, and would have liked to kick himself, for while he was dancing with Georgie, he had found himself ardently wishing that he was dancing with Elizabeth. He stopped in front of the library doors, "Who would like to play a little game here?" Georgie and Richard agreed instantly but Elizabeth looked at him quizzically, seeming to attempt to discover what he was thinking. She finally agreed, and Darcy produced a blindfold, "That had better not be for me!" Elizabeth said lightly.
"But it is." said Darcy, and kneeling behind her, tied it gently over her eyes. With a quick gesture to Georgie, he and Georgie quietly opened the library doors all the way and Richard wheeled her in to the very center of the library. Darcy pulled the blindfold off with a flourish. Elizabeth gasped in delight! "So many books! This is your library?! How wonderful! I am surprised that you ever emerge into the outside world. I do not suppose that I would. How amazing!" She shoved the chair over to a shelf and skimmed over the contents of the shelves. She spent several blissful moments in oblivion. She realized with a shock that she was being rather rude to ignore those around her, and as she looked up to apologize for her blunder, she realized that everyone had scattered. She saw Colonel Fitzwilliam on a ladder, grabbing a book from the top shelf. She spotted Georgie in a window seat, giggling over a book that she had retrieved. Turning her head, she saw Darcy settle into a couch in a corner that had been set up as a reading nook. Satisfied that everyone was occupied, she pulled a volume of poetry from the shelf, and settled down cheerfully. It was early afternoon, and since it was still early in the spring, it was very late before the sun began to set. None of them noticed the time, though the clock in the corner loudly proclaimed 3 o'clock, 4 o'clock, 5 , 6, 7, 8-a servant poked his head in to discover why there was no one present for supper but decided it best not to interrupt. Darcy was still intent on his book, which was rather large. Colonel Fitzwilliam's book had fallen on his knees and his head was tilted back, asleep. Georgie had finished her book but turned back to a particular description of a countryside and had begun to sketch it. Elizabeth had finished her book of poetry and turned to a complete volume of Shakespeare's works and was enthralled over The Merchant of Venice. The light had begun to wane, but it went unnoticed until it was combined with the clock striking nine. Georgiana had finished her sketch and was turning to a fresh sheet of paper to attempt a picture of Elizabeth, for she had noticed how beautiful she was, bent over the book with a half smile on her face. She had gotten the basic shape and was about to put it away in favor of a book when the clock clanged. She naturally assumed it to be four or so at the latest, and looked up in surprise as she counted 6--7--. She saw that it was nine, the supper hour gone, and Richard asleep, and all the other intent upon their books. She sprang to life, shelving her finished book smoothly, and slipped over to the couch her cousin was settled in. She giggled softly at the thought of scaring him. Seeing Elizabeth watching her, she decided that she would. She crept up behind the couch and jumped up, gently tapping her cousin's head and shouting, "Boo!" Her noise attracted Darcy's attention, and he and Elizabeth watched in amusment as Richard jumped up and fell off the couch yelling, "Ah, ah! You got me! I surrender!" Georgie and Elizabeth collapsed in gales of laughter as Darcy looked on in mild amusement when Richard sheepishly picked himself up and glared at Georgiana. Richard dusted himself off ceremoniously and looked to the clock. "We are late! I wonder if we will even be allowed supper!"
Darcy yawned as he crawled into bed. The late supper had led to a late evening and the clock read midnight, which was bit later than he usually retired. As much as he wanted to immediately go to sleep, it seemed elusive. He recalled the day. "Never simple! I am falling in love with her even more so than ever, and she is so much more wonderful when she does not detest me. She does not even necessarily like me but at least she does not hate me. She is pretty when she is angry though, her eyes flash and she tosses her head so that all of her little curls around her face dance. Elizabeth Darcy........... It does sound so right... " and as he drifted off to sleep, he could almost see Elizabeth coming down the aisle, resplendent in the most beautiful white dress that he had ever seen.
Elizabeth lay in bed, gazing at the ceiling. "What a beautiful home! It is wonderfully decorated, stately without being gaudy. And I have never seen so many books in one place. He is very nice...... So is Georgie. But I almost remember him. It seems like... I knew him. The Colonel is amusing company. Some of the things he says..... such a cynic. But he seems to enjoy being a bit cynical. He should marry someone naive and optimistic.... to balance each other out. Georgie needs someone sensitive, and brave... a 'knight in shining armour' so to speak. Mr. Darcy is so serious.... he needs someone with a hint of mischief... someone that smiles a bit more easily than he does. He does seem a bit shy and reserved, someone more outgoing than he would be excellent."
The next day dawned bright and clear, but no one but the servants saw it. Richard had sat up until two or three, writing some necessary letters, but primarily hatching plots to get Darcy to woo Elizabeth. Georgie had nearly finished her sketch of Elizabeth, remaining up till three. And Darcy and Elizabeth had both found sleep to be elusive, both lost in thought, and both having dreams that disturbed them. Darcy's dreams disturbed him for the sole reason that he knew better, he was a gentleman, but he still had awakened in the middle of his and Elizabeth's wedding multiple times that night. Elizabeth's dreams were not confined to one but many different dreams. It bothered her, because when she woke she could not remember these particular dreams, and they all seemed to be about something that had happened in the past that she should remember but could not. Other dreams that disturbed her though, were dreams of Darcy. It was really only one but it woke her up in the night at least twice. In the dream, she was dancing with him! Just like Georgie had done that afternoon. And Colonel Fitzwilliam was dancing with someone she knew she should recognize, but she did not. It bothered her immensely and when Georgie came in after breakfast she was rather out of sorts, sitting in the wheel-chair, reading. Georgie noticed immediately, and instead of making conversation, got out her easel and paints. She took her small sketch of Elizabeth and began to work at making it full size. She began with the face, looking at Elizabeth who was bent over a book that she had taken from the library. She then did her hair, carefully catching the curves of her curls as they fell gently down her neck and framed her face. They sat doing their respective occupations for some time. Georgie finished the picture and polished it neatly. She set up a small table and set out her paints. She mixed carefully to capture Elizabeth's hair color, which was not just brown, but had a hint of red, giving it life. She mixed colors to get as close as possible and began painting. Gentle sweeps of her brush captured the gentle curves of everything. There were hardly any angles in the painting and those she minimized. She used soft colors and to her delight, was able to capture to near perfection the sunbeam that fell across Elizabeth, illuminating her and casting everything around her into shadows. She finished and put her initials very small in the corner. She began rinsing brushes and packing things away. "Just perfect!" she mused happily.
Darcy wished to speak to Richard. At breakfast he had dropped blatant hints in front of Georgie and Darcy wished to scold him. He could not find him in his room, the library, anywhere. The only place he had left to look was the parlor where Georgie and......Elizabeth were. As he reached the door, he heard very little noise. He heard soft singing and recognized Georgiana and Elizabeth's voice. Elizabeth's voice was a slightly lower soprano than Georgiana and they harmonized nicely. The door was open, but he knocked gently on the doorframe before entering. The singing stopped and Georgie sang out "Come in!" Darcy walked in tentatively and discovered Georgie in front of her easel, putting brushes away and Elizabeth, with the help of a maid, getting situated on the bed. Darcy walked over to Georgie. "What are you painting?" he asked.
Georgie did not even look up from the box that she was placing paints in. "You may look if you like."
Darcy took one look and his eyes got extremely wide. "Beautiful! It is perfect! The sunlight, and the colors...... her hair color is perfect, the pink of the dress looks perfect."
Georgie looked up and saw her brother staring at the picture. She bit her lip to keep from laughing but said seriously, "Do you like it, Will?"
"Ahh, ahh, yes very... it is beautiful!" he stuttered, and nearly bolted out the door, calling back that he was looking for Richard. Georgie glanced toward Elizabeth and noticed that she had fallen asleep. She pulled out her sketchbook and began another sketch.
Richard galloped merrily along. He shouted with glee and his horse nearly threw him but he was an excellent horseman and kept his seat. "Yes, everything works well! Little Georgie and I will have the two of them married in no time! See if we don't! I would quite bet money on it! Darcy certainly glared at me during breakfast but Georgie is such an effective shield. And all the while that he scolds me, she does just as much work but he does not notice. Yes! I am quite pleased with all this! But what is with the dreams I have been having?! My matchmaking must be affecting my head, for all I can dream of is a blonde women with green eyes. Not necessarily unpleasant, and indeed, 'tis my very ideal of what I want for a wife but I have yet to meet someone that looks exactly like that. Ah, well, I was up too late last night. That probably explains everything. Yes, I was just up too late."
Georgie sat in her room, told by Mrs. Annesly that she was sadly neglecting her studies, so she had sat down to do something profitable while Elizabeth was asleep. She had picked up her embroidery but put it down abruptly after only two or three stitches. "I wish Will would just do..... something. Instead, he almost seems afraid of her. I am afraid that she will remember everything before he decides to pursue her. Humph! Don't I wish there was such a thing as a love potion! Just like in books, and it would be so much easier. I do need to talk with Richard!"
Elizabeth skimmed idly through the book. She had enjoyed all the rest of the plays, but was finding Romeo and Juliet to be rather irritating. She did not know why, but still truly preferred a comedy to a tragedy. Besides, though her nap had refreshed her, she still felt restless. "I suppose it is because there are so many things that I know I should remember and it bothers me to not remember them. Ah! A sonnet!" She had come across a section of sonnets and began to read them with renewed interest. She found them to be quite pretty, though the thought of anyone writing a sonnet to her made her blush, especially since she immediately of Mr. Darcy. "I am mad! Most of the time, Mr. Darcy avoids me steadfastly, though he stares at me dreadfully. He seems nice but looks at me so strangely. He is so very nice to look at, though! I wonder why he is not in Town for the Season, since he seems to be quite wealthy and unmarried." Elizabeth shook her head in disgust at her own behaviour, and turned back toward her book.
Georgie struck the last chord with a flourish, and stood with a curtsy. She was unaware of any company and was enjoying herself, since she rarely practiced the pianoforte in the ballroom. An imaginary partner bowed to her and requested a dance. She immediatly assented and whirled around the room, hand in hand with the air. Elizabeth sat in the doorway, watching Georgie in amusement. When the dance ended, Elizabeth clapped and asked of Georgiana whom she was dancing with.
"No one. I have not come out yet, and don't know very many men that I would even consider dancing with. If you could dance who would you dance with?"
Elizabeth answered immediately without thinking, "Your brother." she stopped quickly, and blushed grandly, "I mean, he did so fine when he danced with you that it seemed that he would be fun to dance with."
"But why not Richard? He dances well too." Georgie had her hands hidden in the folds of her skirt, where she was pinching herself to stop from laughing aloud at Elizabeth's wonderful, joyous slip, and utterly amusing embarrasement.
"I do not know. I just.... he just... oh bother, Georgie! You ask the most irksome questions."
Georgie replied haughtily, "You were the one who started it, asking whom I was dancing with."
"I meant no offense. I just....never mind! Do let us speak of something else. Oh, I would like to see your painting." Elizabeth, Georgie knew, did not know that it was a portrait of herself. Georgie agreed to show it to show it to her. Georgie grasped the handle of the wheel-chair and pushed Elizabeth to the library.
"The painting is in my sitting room. I will bring it down here and show you." Georgie flew up the stairs, where she covered the painting with a cloth and snatched up her easel. She entered the library with all of her things and set up the easel. She set the painting on it and looked to Elizabeth, who was watching intently. She unveiled it with a flourish and a curtsy.
"Oh goodness! It is a picture of me!" Elizabeth rolled herself closer to the painting."
"Goodness, Georgie! That is me! You do an excellent job! That is excellent! I have tried my hand at painting and do not do well at all. But why did you paint me?"
"Because you are perfect. You did not know that I was painting you so you did not do anything out of the ordinary. And it was so much fun. Will was speechless when he saw it."
"You showed it to your brother?"
"Yes, he asked what I was painting and I showed him. I think he rather liked it."
"Oh." Elizabeth was unsure rather or not she would have wished for him to see it, but, as she noted, there was nothing she could do about it now so it would be best if she were to just live with it.
Georgie produced a book. "If you do not mind, Mrs. Annesly recommended that I read this book and wants me to finish it before Friday evening."
"Oh, no. What book is it?"
"It is a French book of poetry. It is rather good poetry but it does not translate well to English. I tried one but it does not read like poetry then."
Elizabeth nodded, "I tried translating one of Shakespeare's sonnets into Italian, as it would be were it sung in an opera, and it was rather frightful. One or two of the words barely had Italian equivalents, and those bordered on being words that would not be acceptable language."
Georgie giggled, "Yes, the translating is.......very interesting...... sometimes."
They heard steps in the hall and Darcy entered. His plan was to get a book and spend some relaxing moments in the library but when he saw the ladies, he found his book and went to go. Georgie stopped him, "Will, come look at my painting. I did a tiny bit more work since you saw it and the lighting here is much better."
Darcy obligingly came over and looked over the picture quite intently. He nodded and turned to go.
"Do you like it Will?"
He did not turn around until he got to the door. "It is a beautiful picture of a very beautiful woman." and left quickly, shutting the door behind him.
Elizabeth was rather dumbfounded, but Georgie recovered quite quickly.
"I think that is the most lavish compliment he has ever given anyone! A beautiful picture and a beautiful lady. Oh my! I would never have guessed Will to be a flatterer! That is the closest he has ever come to flattery. Oh goodness!"
Elizabeth blushed a brilliant red while Georgie still exclaimed.
Richard lay on a couch in the back of the library. "What is with these dreams!?! I do not often dream of women but now.....a blond women with blue-green, not green, but blue-green eyes. And she is always there! Dancing with me, walking in the gardens, riding, once even we got married! I do not even have the foggiest idea who it is! I never believed in dreams before but......." His thoughts were cut off as he heard a hum of conversation near the front of the library then was able to distinguish Darcy's voice, "....a beautiful picture of a beautiful woman...." "What! Who is he talking to? and who is he talking about?" He then heard Georgie talking and walked to the front of the library to investigate. When he reached the couches near the door, he found Elizabeth in her wheel-chair blushed a bright red and Georgie on a stool near her, chatting. He took in the situation at a glance, guessing that the picture that he saw of Elizabeth was the picture that had elicited Darcy's comment. "Georgie, may I see you alone for a moment?" he requested, heading back to where he had been sitting. Georgie meekly followed.
"Did your brother just say what I thought he said?!?! In front of her?"
"Yes! oh yes! He really did! and you should have seen Elizabeth blush! I think we very nearly have them both."
"Good! You had better return to her. But please do not let her know that we are playing matchmaker."
"After supper come up to my room. I need to show you something."
"Fitzwilliam Darcy, a complete idiot! I should stick my foot in my mouth a little more often! How perfect! Blast! and Georgie looked absolutely shocked. Elizabeth blushed most grandly! But then, if she had disliked it, it seem to me that she would have said something. Is it actually possible that she did not object to me so blatantly complimenting her? Maybe so...... she does not usually hold her tongue when she objects to something. But there is so much that she does not remember! I can hardly think that she would welcome my attention if she knew, if she remembered everything that has happened. I should not forget it! to do such a thing...... I will! I will just forget that any of it ever happened and act as though we were cordial acquaintances and pursue her properly. Hopefully without insulting her this time." And if any of Pemberley's staff was surprised at seeing their master do a jig in the hall outside his study, they were well trained enough not to show it.
Posted on 2012-03-14
Elizabeth was quite distressed. Georgie had told her regretfully that she needed to leave her to her own devices until supper time. But her distress was because of what Mr. Darcy had said. "And I quite liked it! But Georgie says that he does not hand out compliments freely, so I shall assume that he did mean it. And that is the end of it!" She firmly put the incident from her mind as she wheeled about the library, searching for a book to read. In the very back, she found a single shelf that seemed to be full of textbooks. She found a science textbook regarding plants that she thought would be very interesting. She found a window seat near a corner and with some effort pulled herself into it. The wheel-chair she pushed into the corner where she could reach it, but it would not be in the way. As she opened the book, she discovered that it must have been a college textbook of Mr. Darcy's. In nearly every page, there was a sheet of paper. Most of them must have been lecture notes, and though she felt slightly guilty reading them, as they were not her's, she found them full of excellent supplementary information. She was halfway through the book when she found three sheets of paper in between the pages that, though they had perhaps been written during the lecture, were assuredly not notes. One of them was apparently a sketch of the professor, really a caricature, for the man's eyes and arms were extremely exaggerated. She giggled as she looked at the bottom, for it seemed as though the artist had been caught with the picture and the pictured professor had written a note. " Excellent job, Mr, Darcy! Perhaps art is your true calling and you should not come to my lectures at all! Or you could care to keep your art from falling into my hands at least. As it is, I will assure you that I have seem much less complimentary pictures of myself. And please be aware that I do not typically enjoy bothering my students but when you obtain a sense of humor, I will stop teasing you! I learned to laugh at myself, quite obviously, considering the fact that I enjoy the picture, and you should also! My expertise is science, but I know quite a bit about other aspects of life. And so, until you chuckle when I tease you about your obsession with obtaining perfect grades and your copious lecture notes, I will continue. But do know that I appreciate your dedication.
Professor Andrew Graystone
Elizabeth looked at the other papers and was amused to find a note of apology from Mr. Darcy, and a note dated several weeks later from the professor complimenting Mr. Darcy on perhaps discovering a bit of a sense of humor, "For at least you smiled when I mentioned your excellent artwork." Elizabeth began laughing and found that as she looked over the paper again it was a full belly laugh.
Darcy entered the library, hoping that it was finally empty. He saw no evidence of anyone and sat down to enjoy his book. He heard a giggle and than a laugh. He recognized it as being Elizabeth's laugh but did not see her anywhere. As she continued to laugh and laugh he finally stood and went to see if she was all right. He found her in a window seat but stood quietly in a shadow watching her. He finally stepped toward her, "I am sorry to disturb you, I just wanted to be certain that you were all right."
Elizabeth stopped laughing long enough to gasp, "Yes....yes... I am fine."
She held up the book that she had been reading long enough for Darcy to catch a look at the cover. "My college textbook is that amusing?" The light suddenly dawned as he realized what was in the book. "Ah, I think I understand now."
Elizabeth hoped that he would not be angry and ventured to say, "You are quite an artist. With a bit of practice you might rival Georgie!" before collapsing in another round of giggles. He sat down on the edge of the window seat and scooped the papers out of her lap. He looked over the sketch and smiled at the memory. "He was the only professor that I ever dared to draw like that. The tutors I had when I was younger are another story."
"So it was a habit of yours to draw those you were displeased with?" Elizabeth asked curiously.
"Most of them, yes."
Elizabeth smiled, "And is this the only sample that has survived your...less mature days?"
"Most probably not. I placed them in the most convenient textbook at the time, so they could probably be found again. Also, unfortunately, it is not the habit of only my less mature days, but one I exercise now on rare occasions."
Elizabeth raised her eyebrows. "I would guess, though, that those do not happen to survive long."
"No indeed! It would not be well if they were found by some other person."
"I am extremely curious about something though. Would all of the textbooks that might contain these sketches be in the same place this one was?"
"Perhaps." Darcy answered cautiously.
"Excellent!" She proclaimed. "May I?"
"I suppose.... But prepare to be rather shocked. None of them are inappropriate but none are complimentary. I can claim with some confidence that it is the only bad habit that I have retained, so you are discovering my deep, dark secret."
Elizabeth pulled herself into her wheel-chair and Darcy pushed her over to where the books were. They both, in unspoken consent, began opening the books and flipping through them, looking for the sketches. Elizabeth did it from a desire for amusement, and Darcy did it partially to please Elizabeth and also because the sight of the picture that Elizabeth had found had called to remembrance some others that he was most interested in seeing again. The shelf was large, but with the two of them working quickly, they finished in a short time. Both had several sketches, and Darcy deposited his in her lap, and he pushed her to a table. They spread the sketches over the table and began looking over them. Darcy came upon one and tried to slide it beneath the table but Elizabeth caught him. "Now, I thought that you said none were that terrible."
Darcy quickly defended himself, "It is not that terrible, just..." His voice trailed off as he snatched two more from beneath her hand.
She gave him a look of reproach. "But I am terribly pessimistic, and will assume the worst if I do not see them. And I might slip, and let Georgie or Colonel Fitzwilliam know about these...."
"Unless, of course, your curiousity is satisfied. That is purely blackmail!"
"So it is! How nice. It is definitely convenient to know something about your host that you can hang over them."
Darcy nearly smiled. Any observer would have been able to tell that both were enjoying this immensely.
"It is not very proper or kind, however! I could never believe it of you."
"Perhaps not, but you truly do not want to test me on it."
"And if I do?"
"Dinner might not be very pleasant for you tonight."
"Fine, then, I surrender......IF you promise not to tell anyone."
"No promises, but I will try to hold my tongue." she amended her statement as he handed over the papers. "As long as silence suits my purpose, of course."
She glanced down over the pages and let out a peal of laughter. "Colonel Fitzwilliam?!?! And he looks about ten! Why?"
"When we were younger, he had a knack for getting in trouble, and a like talent for making sure that I was blamed for at least part of it."
"And I am sure you would never draw him now!" she said, with a hint of sarcasm in her voice.
"Oh, no never!" he answered, with like tone, though he thought guiltily of the pictures in the locked top drawer of the desk in his study. Elizabeth read it in his face, though, and called him out on it.
"And where exactly are the ones you produced this morning?"
He started, but answered readily enough, "Somewhere where you will never see them."
"I had better see them! Remember that I am not above blackmail."
Darcy opened his mouth to reply, but shut it, enjoying his fun immensely. "If that is the way you want to do this."
He left, quickly getting the sketches. As he reentered the library he heard Elizabeth's bell-like laughter and............. Colonel Fitzwilliam's low voice earnestly contending with her.
"No! They are surely none of your business, Sir!"
"I believe they are, though. And where is my cousin? I do believe that this is his fault, not yours."
"I assure you, Sir, that it is uneccesary to drag Mr. Darcy into this. In like manner, it is not necessary to continue. I assure you that you may leave with the peace of mind that none of this is your business and that none of this will harm you in any way."
Darcy came to a halt, watching with amusement. He had the foresight to tuck the papers that he was carrying into the inside pocket of his waistcoat, and stood watching. Elizabeth was sitting primly, the sketches in a heap on her lap, with her hands over them. Colonel Fitzwilliam stood across from her, with his back in Darcy's direction, and stood glaring at her. Darcy stepped up behind his cousin and grabbed him by the shoulders and spun him around. The colonel was appropriately surprised, but in the melee the sketches fell out of Darcy's pocket. Elizabeth was laughing at the two grown men fighting like little boys but still was able to call a warning to Darcy. He grabbed for the sketches but Colonel Fitzwilliam was quicker. He snatched the papers up and glanced over the top one and turned to Darcy with a glare. "You still do this? I though you had grown out of this."
Darcy grimaced and Elizabeth answered for him. "I dare say that we all have our own ways of dealing with frustration. I suppose you would prefer him to draw you as to yell at you or some such thing."
Richard looked at Darcy, who shrugged. "Well then, I want to see the others though." Richard said with a grin.
Darcy surrendered and allowed him to see the sketches, commenting to Elizabeth, "Now you have nothing to blackmail me with."
"I certainly do! There still is Georgie!"
"Does someone want me?" Georgiana asked, poking her head around the corner.
"Oh, yes!" Darcy exclaimed, at the same time as Elizabeth said no.
"There indeed! Absolutely nothing to hold over me."
Elizabeth faked a pout for a moment but then joined the others as they laughed over some of Darcy's more ludicrous sketches. Many of those pictured Richard recognized but their faces meant nothing to Georgie and Elizabeth. The pictures led to stories of those pictured and why Darcy had been upset with them at the time. More pictures of Richard were uncovered and each of them led to a story of something he had done as a boy. They spent a happy hour until supper laughing over the stories of Darcy and Richard.
Their supper was also enjoyable, spent in calm conversation and laughter. After supper, they retired to a sitting room not far from the dining room. Richard and Georgie smoothly disappeared one after the other. Darcy glanced at the door as Georgie left and wondered momentarily if those two had been conspiring together. He said nothing, and despite the impropriety of the situation, enjoyed himself immensely. Elizabeth and Darcy spent a half hour getting to know each other better than ever before. Darcy told Elizabeth about his parents and other relatives. Elizabeth, of course, still remembered nothing of her family or past events but through a few questions, Darcy was able to learn of her personal likes and dislikes. After a half-hour, Elizabeth excused herself, explaining that she was tired and really quite wanted her bed. Darcy went up to his study and finished some paperwork that he had not been able to concentrate on earlier that day.
Georgie slipped out of the sitting room and raced up the stairs and down the hall to her bed chamber. Richard was waiting at the door and followed with barely veiled curiousity into her sitting room. Georgie's lady's maid, Hetty, was busily sewing there and excused herself when they entered. "Thank you, Hetty. I will be but a moment, I am showing Richard one of my paintings and I would like a bath before I go to bed."
"And where is this amazing painting?"
"Over here." she said, gesturing to a large covered canvas in a corner. "But before I show you, you must know that it was an accident, really. I truly did not intend to do any such thing, but this is how it ended up." She pulled away the cloth and watched Richard intently as he took in the painting. His eyes became rather large, and he cleared his throat. He was looking at a picture of Darcy and Elizabeth. It was very different than Georgie's typical style. The canvas seemed divided in half diagonally. On the upper left was Darcy, several different angles of only his top half. It was done in primarily blacks and blues. On the lower right was Elizabeth, nearly the same but in mostly pinks and browns. The two sides of the painting seemed in total opposition to each other but it still was pleasing to the eye.
"I did not intend to. The canvas was slightly damaged so I was using it for quick little sketches and was not paying attention to what they were. And it ended up with Will on one side and Elizabeth being there. It looked so pretty! And it really was by complete accident that the pictures of them in opposite corners seem to be looking at each other."
It was true. The picture of Darcy in the top left corner seemed to be gazing at the picture of Elizabeth in the lower right corner. In turn, Elizabeth seemed to be looking at Darcy with a gaze that was equally composed of shyness and mischief.
Richard finally laughed. "You should give it to them as a wedding gift, then confess when you painted it."
"Well then, if that is what you wanted to show me, goodnight, Georgie."
As Richard exited, he said behind him, "It is very pretty Georgie. Just do not let them see that! Someday that should be interesting, but not any time very soon."
Georgie laughed, "No, I think my other picture did the trick anyway."
She smiled, humming a waltz as she took her bath and readied for bed.
Elizabeth lay in her bed, gazing at the ceiling. "It is unlike him to even speak to me so much. It was quite enjoyable though. He was quite attentive to me. He is enjoyable to speak with. His opinions differ little from mine, just enough that we can debate over some little things. My time in the library was certainly interesting! He is usually so staid that it is hard to believe that he could draw such things. And that he could laugh so easily about them!" She drifted off to sleep happily, little guessing that she was the object of HIS thoughts that night.
Each day for nearly a month similarly passed. Darcy stayed true to his resolve to win Elizabeth and Richard and Georgie continued in their schemes to allow them time alone. They rejoiced over their success and laughed privately at the fact that though Darcy had been mad at Richard, Georgie had done most of the work. Elizabeth quickly grew to enjoy Mr. Darcy's company. She wondered at the fact that he paid her so much attention but enjoyed their conversations and grew to wonder if she was almost in love with him. She considered it for a time and realized that she really was quite nearly. She came to the conclusion that Darcy's attention was merely him being a proper host. And even as she fell in love with him, her behaviour began to reflect it ever so slightly, and though she did not notice it herself, the others in the house did, and each rejoiced privately.
When six weeks since the accident had passed, the doctor told Elizabeth that she could begin to walk, at least a bit. The wheel-chair was used less and less and Elizabeth, with the aid of a cane, began to walk with a will. Also, unbeknownst to her, because of the doctor's concern of the fact that her memory was not returning, messages had been sent back and forth between the Gardiner's and Mr. Darcy and it had been decided that Jane would come to Pemberley, in hopes that seeing and speaking with her sister would help restore her memory.
Elizabeth was positively seething. She had gone to bed exhausted the night before, and her leg had hurt badly though she would not admit it. Georgie, however, had noticed it and decided to take action. She had taken the cane Elizabeth used and hidden it, hoping that Elizabeth would use the wheel-chair. Elizabeth had resorted to the wheel-chair, but very reluctantly. Though she would not be blatantly rude to Georgie, and knew quite well that Georgie had done it for her own good, she had made a rather weak excuse and had retired to the ballroom, where she ended up on the balcony, which overlooked the front of the house and the drive. She discovered that if she was in a certain position, she could see the door of the house and the stable. She saw Colonel Fitzwilliam head toward the stables and knew that he would be taking a horseback ride. "And he probably will not be back in time for lunch." She reveled in the sunlight and drifted off to sleep within moments. She awoke suddenly, to the sound of a carriage coming down the drive. It stopped at the entrance and she saw Mr. Darcy and Georgie exit the house to greet the young woman that stepped out of the carriage. The thought briefly crossed her mind that she had seen the woman before, but she could not recall a name or any other details. She saw Colonel Fitzwilliam approaching from the stables and stop short when he saw the guest.
"I don't believe it! I must be dreaming again! The blond woman that has haunted my dreams for weeks is on the steps of Pemberley! How...... This is just ridiculous! I have never seen her before, I would swear to it! But here she is, live and in person!" He snapped back to reality long enough to bow a hasty greeting as he realized that Darcy was introducing him to her. "Jane Bennettt? Elizabeth's sister?! They do not really look at all alike." Indeed, they did not really. Elizabeth was smaller, and petite, with darker hair, eyes and complexion. Jane, in contrast, was tall and stately, a bit taller than Georgiana, and had a fair complexion with blond hair, and, yes, blue-green eyes. She greeted the colonel softly, glancing down shyly, and Richard excused himself as quickly as he possibly could. He stomped into the library and sat down in a secluded corner. "I am just......it is... oh bother! I am mad! I do not know how in the world! I have never seen her before in my life, at least to my knowledge, and I have been dreaming about her. Bah! I still think that believing in dreams is ridiculous, but this is indeed queer. Humph!" He rubbed his head absently, feeling that a headache was coming. He exited the library, and headed toward his bed chamber, hoping that he could take a nap before luncheon. "A dreamless nap!"
Elizabeth pushed her way into her room. Her cane had been restored to where she had left it the night before. She shook her head in a mixture of a amusement and frustration as she used it to manuever from the wheel-chair to the bed. She sat down atop the blankets, feeling that she would like to finish the nap that she had started on the balcony. Just as she laid down and closed her eyes, Georgie entered. Elizabeth instantly realized that for some reason, unknown to her, Georgie was a bit nervous. She raised her eyebrows in silent question, and Georgie quickly answered, "We have a guest."
Elizabeth personally cared very little. She was rather tired and just wanted to sleep. She was already drifting off as Georgie added something to her statement that woke her quickly. "She is your sister."
Elizabeth sat up quickly, "Oh."
Georgie nodded without saying anything.
Elizabeth opened her mouth to ask Georgie why her sister was there now, but Georgie knew her question before she asked it. "The doctor is a bit concerned, he thinks that you should be getting your memory back faster, and he thought that seeing your sister, and talking to her might help bring it back."
"I was on the balcony of the ballroom when she came up. I saw her, and it did nothing. I did think for a moment that I should recognize her but I could not even think of her name."
Georgie looked rather crestfallen, "I had hoped, we all hoped, that it would help you."
Elizabeth pulled Georgie to her in a hug. "It is all right, Gigi."
"But does it not bother you, Lizzie? Not remembering everything?"
"If it makes sense, yes and no. Once in a while, I will see something or hear something that makes me think that I should remember something and that bothers me. But really, I do not know what I am missing not remembering things. And, though I am sorry to encroach upon you and your brother for so long, I am really quite happy here."
"Do not be sorry! Sometimes I would get so lonely here, by myself. Even with Will, well....he is not a girl, and I always have wanted a sister, and you are like one. Now I am never lonely." a smile pulled at the corners of her mouth. "And it is fun to tease you, and hide your things, and to just have a sister."
Elizabeth seized Georgiana's hands. "Regardless of what happens, ever, I will always be glad to consider you a sister."
Georgie hugged Elizabeth impulsively and then said, "You should take a nap before lunch. I will go, and let you sleep."
Elizabeth smiled, "All right, Gigi, I will see you at lunch."
Georgie left the room quietly, and went to her room to change and prepare for lunch. Elizabeth lay, sleep suddenly far from her. "My sister, here and now. And I do not even know her name. Hmm. I would be sure I have.....of course! the dream I had about a lady dancing with Colonel Fitzwilliam. She is my sister?!? What a strange dream to have, especially since it appeared that she had never met Colonel Fitzwilliam before. It must simply be a dream. They did look so fine together, though! It would be fun to play matchmaker just a bit. Perhaps not, she might not like it. Colonel Fitzwilliam deserves it though! He thinks it is most amusing to annoy people and that certainly would annoy him! Perhaps it is meant to be, and will be so with or without my interference. I suppose I will watch and listen carefully for a while, and if it seems right, then maybe Georgie would help me, even." Elizabeth drifted off to sleep, thinking of how very fun it would be to make the colonel her brother.
Lunch was an enjoyable affair. Jane, Elizabeth's sister, had excused herself, saying that she was tired from her trip, though in reality, she and Georgie had engaged in a few moment of conversation, and she had discovered that Elizabeth would not recognize her in the least, and Jane decided that she wanted to speak to her sister in private, to avoid any embarrassment. Elizabeth had been rather apprehensive, hoping ferverently that she would not make a fool of herself. "Though I do suppose I would have an excuse. Still, she is my sister and it would be rather perturbing for me to ask her what her name was." Since Jane was not there, the company engaged in their usual conversation, and banter, though all parties were distinctly more strained than usual, each for his or her own private reason. Elizabeth was not the only one relieved by Jane's absence. Richard Fitzwilliam had been in a state of extreme nervousness, earnestly attempting to decide how to make conversation with someone he had never met before, yet had dreamed about for the past weeks. Elizabeth noticed the Colonel's nervous state, and found out exactly how much he did contribute to the conversation usually, for he was very quite. She smiled to herself, thinking that perhaps he was in love with her sister. Darcy was perturbed also, though he did perhaps the best job masking it. His main concern was that Jane's arrival would bring Elizabeth's memory back, and she would then hate him like she had before. Georgie also had that concern, but she had been around Elizabeth enough to realize that Elizabeth was in love with her older brother and even if such a thing did happen, she thought that it would be short-lived. She wanted to keep her brother, and Elizabeth from any hurt, however, and desperately hoped that one of them would do something, anything, soon.
Jane sat in a window seat, picking at her lunch. She had volunteered to eat in her room, hoping to avoid any pain. She leaned her head against the window, gazing into the sky. "Oh, I am so confused! Why is life never simple? Georgiana seems so sure that Lizzie is in love with Mr. Darcy, but I thought that she hated him! At least she will be happy, as long as Georgiana is correct." She sighed, thinking of what it would take to make her happy. As she mused, she was rather amazed that her thoughts did not really have a name. Typically, she always thought of Mr. Bingley, but she found herself thinking of more than Mr. Bingley. She had no name, or face, just an idea. Her main criteria was that he was a man more independent, not so easily swayed by family or friends, but someone determined to go his own way, regardless of others approval. Another guideline she formulated was that he needed to be at least a little more sensitive. She wanted him to be a little more firm than her, a little more suspicious. "For Lizzie is right, if we had ever gotten married, we would be easily cheated by everyone." She stopped herself. She was surprising herself, thinking that way, "I truly did think that we were perfect, but now, now I am not sure." She pulled her journal from the top of her trunk and absently flipped through it. "I.....Just.....Do....Not...Uncerstand!! I am not in love with the man that I thought I would always love, and Lizzie is in love with the man she thought she would always hate!" She sighed again, walking to the French doors, and walked out onto the balcony. The dining room was below her, and the windows were open. She could hear Elizabeth's laughter, which was immediately joined by a laughter that she judged to be Mr. Darcy's. She was unsure, as she reflected, because she believed that she had never heard Mr. Darcy laugh. She tuned out the noise from below and heard a bird trilling in the tree that stood behind the stables. She gazed up to the sky and sank to the floor of the balcony, crying. She cried because it felt like she had lost her sister, the only sister that had ever understood her, and it seemed to her that she had lost her, lost her to Georgiana, as a sister, would lose her to Mr. Darcy as a constant companion. She cried because she realised that she had lost a love, her first love, that had not been false, and would have worked out, but was never to be. She cried for a long time, lying on the cold stone. She finally stood, tears still streaming down her face, but it felt so much better, that she had cried about it. She dried her face with a handkerchief and pulled a light spring shawl from her partially unpacked trunk. She slipped into walking shoes. She was not good at directions, but miraculously found her way out of the house without meeting anyone. She slipped along the back of the house, and toward the woods in the back of the house. She walked slowly, through the trees and among the bushes. She walked for nearly an hour, and found herself in a grove. It was simply a circle, surrounded tightly by trees. The grass was knee-high, and waved perfectly in the breeze. She sank to the ground in bliss, and laid her shawl over her. She meant to watch the sky, but fell asleep almost immediately. She did not sleep very long, but woke up in a matter of a few moments, to the pounding of hooves. She was a bit disoriented, and sat up quickly. She screamed as she realized the horse was nearly on top of her and the rider started, pulling the horse smoothly into a jump. The horse sailed over her, missing her easily, but it still had frightened her badly. The rider reined the horse in instantly, and dismounted. "Are you all right, Ma'am?" he shouted, coming toward her quite rapidly. As he approached, she realized that it was Colonel Fitzwilliam.
"Oh goodness no! First, I cannot escape from her in my dreams, and now she is everywhere I go in real life." He stooped down next to Jane. "Are you hurt, Miss Bennett?"
"Oh, no, I am fine, just frightened." She smiled shyly, "I suppose that I chose a bad place to lie down."
Colonel Fitzwilliam chuckled wryly, "You are not the first one that has found this to be an excellent place to sit and think." As he looked at her more closely, he discovered that it looked like she had cried herself to sleep. He had spent too long dealing with people in general to let it show on his face, but he solicitously helped her up. She noted his concern, and smiled at him. "I truly am fine, Sir."
He was slightly doubtful, but took her word for it. "Would you like to join me? This grove has become the place that I come for solitude,and to think, and I have a bad habit of bringing food."
Her answering smile reassured him, and he led her to a flat place in the middle of the grove. He laid down a blanket, and unpacked the basket.
Her eyes widened as she saw the amount of food that he produced. "Did you truly plan to eat all of this?"
"I had not planned to return to the house for supper. Occasionally, when I need to think, I will just stay our here all day."
"I am sorry that I have interrupted your solitude."
He just raised his eyebrows, and leaned back on the blanket, gazing at the sky. They were both glad for a moment of quiet, but when Colonel Fitzwilliam's horse whinnied, they both snapped back to the present.
They spoke for a moment of trivial things, but Colonel Fitzwilliam abruptly sprang a question on Jane. "Might I ask what upset you, and sent you fleeing out here?"
Jane gazed at her hands in her lap, but answered. "I had thought that I was in love with a man, but realized that it was not real, not meant to be. It did not upset me, so much as it relieved me. I am quite concerned for Elizabeth.... And a bit confused! I talked to Georgiana for quite some time, and am rather confused. Georgiana says adamantly that Lizzie is in love with Mr. Darcy, but when he visited Meryton, he said something that rather insulted her, and I was nearly certain that she disliked him."
Colonel Fitzwilliam explained everything to her, including Darcy's failed proposal in Hunsford. He said nothing about his and Georgie's effort at matchmaking, but did tell her that as far as he could see, they were both very much in love.
Jane sat quietly as he finished his recital. Her only response was a strangled, "Oh!" and she rubbed her forehead in surprise. Colonel Fitzwilliam leaned back on his elbow and pulled a slice of cheese from the food spread in front of them.
As he swallowed, Jane asked, "Why did you come out here?"
He nearly choked, but finished swallowing and pulled off his hat. He leaned back and closed his eyes. He gulped before answering, then blurted out his answer quickly, "You!"
Jane leaned back, rather shocked, "Why me? We have never even met before!"
He sat up shaking his head, "Precisely! Which is why when I started dreaming about a blond woman, with blue-green eyes,about a month ago, I thought that I was going mad. Understand that the dreams were not unpleasant, I just found it strange that I was dreaming about a woman I had never met before. I assumed that it was just some sort of mental image that I had conjured up, but when you arrived this morning, I nearly fainted when I discovered that I was dreaming about a real live person."
Jane raised her eyebrows suspiciously. "What about me did you dream, exactly?"
He shut his eyes again. "Dancing with you, riding with you, walking with you, having a picnic, just like this, right here, with you. Once, only once, I actually dreamed that we were getting married."
Jane shook her head again. "If I did not know better, I would indeed think that you were going mad."
He sat up rather quickly, "Why do you think that I am not mad, then?"
She answered slowly, "You do not seem mad, you seem fully rational. But that is strange. And rather disconcerting too."
"I am terribly sorry to cause you distress."
"I am the one that asked."
"You did not know what you were asking."
Jane laughed gaily. Once she started, she found it hard to stop. "I think we are both mad." she gasped out between giggles. "Look at us! We have never met before today, yet we are out here, in the woods, alone. Most improper if you think about it. Even more so, we just told each other our deepest secrets, or so it seems. What do you think people would say if they could hear us, or even see us?" She pulled out her handkerchief and dabbed at her streaming eyes. Her giggles eventually subsided, and she sat quietly, nibbling at the food spread before her. Richard said nothing, though he too could see the amusement in it. He thought back to the lunch that he and Darcy had shared. Darcy had been taciturn and he had teased Darcy about his lady love. He thought with slight amusement that at the waning of conversation that his daydream had been his perfect bride. "Funny, but that was when the dreams started. I wonder if dreams can be prophetic. If they indeed can, than perhaps......perhaps I have found my perfect bride." The thought made him slightly nervous, but he was quick to school his features into perfect nonchalance. He watched Jane through half-closed eyes. He nearly laughed aloud, because she was not an actor, and he could read her thoughts on her face. It seemed to him that she was having similar thoughts, because a look of shock and surprise flashed across her face so quickly that he bit his tongue to keep from roaring with laughter. A look of quiet contemplation crossed her face, and it seemed to him that as that look passed, she seemed to think that it would not be such a bad thing. He easily reconciled himself to that, even if it was not love at first sight, acceptance was something to work from. "Work from!?!? Oh goodness! I sound as if I am already in love with her and just need to convince her. Maybe I am...."
He chuckled and Jane looked at him sharply. He shook his head and rolled his eyes. "'Tis nothing, I am just thinking." Jane snorted in a most un-ladylike manner. "Oh, certainly! Sir, I am not completely certain exactly what you were thinking about, but it is certainly not nothing! I would hazard to guess that your present train of thought affects me very much."
"Perhaps," he replied cautiously. "But I will not confirm it one way or the other."
Jane appeared satisfied, and turned her attention to gazing over the the meadow. She gasped delightedly as she spotted a patch of wildflowers. She gracefully pulled herself up and darted toward them. Richard watched her in amusement. "I wonder if this is how Darce looks when he gazes after Elizabeth when he thinks no one is watching." The thought amused him greatly, but he continued to watch her as she flitted from one patch of flowers to another. She had a huge armload of flowers and returned to the blanket. She spread them gently on the blanket, and quickly scooped the food out of the way to make room. She began selecting flowers, seemingly randomly to Richard. She turned, and saw him watching, "If arranging flowers is so interesting to you, you could start sorting them into piles." He grudgingly agreed and began sorting them into piles. He had sorted several when she stopped by picking up the pile of pink flowers he had made. "Look at these!" she exclaimed, selecting two of them and holding them up for his inspection. "They are two different flowers!" He mad a great show of grumbling over a flower who had the lack of intelligence to differ from another only by the shape of the petals, but sorted through them. All the while, she would pluck a flower from this pile and that, and was arranging a boquet. She pulled a ribbon from her hair and tied a bunch together. "There." she said satisfied. "That is perfect for Georgiana, isn't it." He gave it a very cursory glance and nodded. She laughed at his lack of care, and started another bouquet for Elizabeth. He continued sorting the flowers when suddenly he made the mistake of not looking one over thoroughly for insects before grabbing it. Needless to say, the bee that he had the misfortune of grabbing was rather upset. "Ouch!"
Richard yelped, tossing the flower down.
Jane looked up in concern. "What is it?"
He glared at the insect flying away. "A bee."
"Oh, let me see it."
"I don't know what you looking at is going to do." he grumbled under his breath, but he surrendered his hand.
She turned his hand over and easily found the sting. It was turning a rather brilliant shade of red and swelling quite quickly.
"Is there a stream or pond nearby?" He jerked his head to his right and she scooped an empty plate out of the basket. She jumped to her feet and walked in the direction that he had indicated. He watched her intently, thinking how like a fairy she looked, with her gown flowing in the breeze and the grass blowing about her.
She returned in less than a minute, the plate full of gooey brown mud. Her hands and the front of her dress were spotted with brown and the hem of her dress was wet. She sat down beside him again. She grabbed his hand and slapped the mud on it. "There! It may not make the stinger come out, but at least it will not swell anymore, and that should make it less red."
"And you know this because...." he queried with raised eyebrows.
She blushed a bit. "Lizzie and I used to enjoy... climbing trees and once we had the misfortune of practically falling into a bee's nest. A boy from the village that we knew came by and said that putting mud on bee stings made them feel much better. I only had two, and they were both on my feet and the mud did help. Lizzie's stings were in......other places, some of which were not available to have mud put on them but some of them could and even she acknowledged that it helped."
He had nearly made the mistake of laughing at Jane's shamefaced mention of stings in other places, but was able to keep a straight face.
Jane wiped the mud off with her handkerchief. "Now, it is not so swollen. This should be the enjoyable part." She leaned over his hand and began picking at it to get the stinger out.
"Ouch!" he exclaimed. "Good grief how I hate bees."
She merely laughed, and continued her prodding. "There!" she announced triumphantly, displaying the hardly visible stinger in the palm of her hand. She tossed it casually to the side and wrapped her handkerchief around the sting.
"I believe you should keep it covered. I dug a big enough hole in it that it will sting if anything touches it."
With the stinger out and the swelling diminishing, it hardly even hurt him anymore, but he decided to take advantage of it.
He looked at her beseechingly, "Won't you please kiss it and make it better?" She looked at him slightly incredulously and blushed a shade of pink that he found most flattering.
"Please?" She shook her head, but assented and placed a feathery kiss on it before wrapping it back up in the handkerchief.
He let out a whoop that made his horse jump and Jane turned and glared at him. He just looked back calmly and she dropped his gaze, blushing.
"You are most attractive when you blush, you know." He had the satisfaction of watching her blush a deeper red at his comment. She continued to gaze at her hands, not trusting herself to look up.
She finally trusted her voice enough to give an unrelated comment, "We've been out here quite a while."
"If I am not back by supper, something will be suspected and some one will find us out here......and probably assume the worst."
He stood slowly. "Probably. I suppose that I should not offer you a ride?"
"If you did, I would say no. I don't really like horses."
"Are you afraid of them, or just do not like them?"
She glanced up at him, then back at her hands, "I am afraid of them."
He finished gathering the picnic things and attatched them to his horse. "We shall remedy that with a riding lesson at a later date."
Jane glared at him and crinkled her eyebrows rather unattractively. "Maybe...but maybe not." she told him sourly.
He shot her his most disarming smile as he mounted, "I think we will."
"Men!" she huffed under her breath. He did not reply, but turned his horse toward the house.
"I will see you at supper."
He rode off quickly and Jane gathered her shawl and set off walking. "Oh! If he does not remember to take my handkerchief off his hand, someone will notice and get suspicious." She did not need to worry, because as he approached the stables, Colonel Fitzwilliam pulled the handkerchief off and stuffed it into his pocket. He entered the house cheerfully and was told that supper was in one hour, so he retired to his room to prepare.
Jane entered the house some time later. She carefully held her shawl draped over her muddy dress. The maid assigned to her was awaiting her when she entered her room, and she was clean and dressed in short order. She gave the bouquets to the maid and instructed her as to which one was Georgiana's and which was to go to Elizabeth. She had fifteen minutes before supper, and Georgiana had suggested that Elizabeth and Jane meet together in the library before supper. She descended the stairs nervously, but checked herself before she entered. "Do stop it! She is your sister!" She inhaled deeply and prepared to open the door but was stopped by Colonel Fitzwilliam.
"My sincerest apologies for being so forward. I..." He stuttered and stopped, and Jane nearly laughed as she discovered that even he was not above blushing. She did not say anything, but impulsively grabbed his hand and planted a kiss on it once more. She darted into the library, whispering toward him as she closed the door. "You look wonderful when you blush too."
She closed the door behind her and slumped against it. She managed to shock even herself. "I sound like Lizzie! So audacious! What has come over me? He apologizes for being forward and I respond by being even more forward than he!" If she had seen the reaction in the hall she would not have been so very concerned. Colonel Fitzwilliam had stood still in the hall, watching the door where she had disappeared. When the door had shut, and his heart had started beating again he danced a happy jig in the hall. Darcy saw him in passing, but opted not to say anything, recalling his own triumphant jig not so long ago.
Jane approached the sofa where she saw Elizabeth and Georgiana sitting. She sat down slowly at Georgiana's gesture. Georgie looked from one to other, and quickly excused herself. When Georgiana was gone, Elizabeth was the first to speak. "I am sorry. I don't know......at all."
Jane grabbed her hand. "Oh, Lizzie, don't be sorry! It is not your fault!" The invisible wall broke down, and even though Elizabeth still did not recall anything, they were able to talk of trivial things. Jane had been told by Georgie that the doctor had said it all right to tell Elizabeth anything, though it might not be the key to her memory. They talked until supper, and though Lizzie did not remember anything of her own accord, her head was spinning with the new-found knowledge that she had three more sisters, and so many other things.
Supper amused Georgie greatly. Her brother had been nearly frantic, thinking that perhaps Elizabeth would have remembered everything, and his relief had been quite obvious when Elizabeth greeted him cheerfully. She was the only who had noticed the quick glance that passed between Jane and Richard. She wondered about it for a moment, but decided that those two needed her help less that her brother and Elizabeth. She kept mostly to herself and observed those around her. Elizabeth and Will were practically oblivious to those around them, and despite the looks Richard and Jane gave each other, they barely spoke to each other. Supper finished quickly and, with little discussion, all ended up in the library. Jane was not a reader like her sister, but did enjoy the occasional good book, so, although she was not as awed as her sister, she did accept gratefully when Colonel Fitzwilliam offered to show her around. Georgiana feigned interest in a book, and moved a discreet distance from where her brother and Elizabeth were in earnest discussion over some thing or another. She was not habitually an eavesdropper or spy, but had she known about the discussion going on between Jane and her cousin she would have paid more attention to them.
Jane had dutifully admired the amount of books in Pemberley's library, and, was indeed pleased with the amount. They had rounded set of shelves and were hidden from view when Colonel Fizwilliam produced her handkerchief from his pocket. She accepted it with a smile, but decided to say what she felt she had to. "I am so sorry for my behaviour earlier. You apologized, and I responded by behaving inexcusably." Her gaze fell to her feet.
The colonel debated to his response, but plowed ahead boldly. "Are you truly sorry? I am not."
Jane's cheeks reddened, "No, not really." she replied softly without looking up.
"Then you will join me after breakfast tomorrow for your riding lesson?" He phrased it as a question, but his tone made it quite apparent that it was part invitation, and part challenge. Jane accepted, more reluctance in her tone than was real. "I really do dislike horses." He merely laughed, "Then we will start with Butter."
"Who is Butter?" She asked suspiciously. He smiled mysteriously, and refused to say any more.
Posted on 2012-03-20
Elizabeth woke early, and with the help of the cane, readied herself for the day. Once she was ready for the day, she walked toward the back of the house. The sitting room that was in the back had a large closed in porch and she went there to sit until the others woke and were ready for breakfast. She had brought a book and sat in the rising sun, enjoying her poetry. She was very happy, sitting reading sonnets. She still immediately thought of Mr. Darcy writing her a sonnet, however ridiculous she knew it was. Still, despite the fact that it was very unlikely, it seemed to her rather pleasant. She smiled, looking over the garden happily.
Darcy woke a bit later than he usually did. He was usually up two or three hours before breakfast, but as he looked at the clock, he realized he only had an hour. He decided to dispense with the usual business that he worked on in the mornings and enjoy a quiet hour with a book before breakfast. He looked on the shelf above his desk that contained books that he was desirous of reading. He removed the oldest one, which had been there for several weeks, and decided to take it down to the porch off the sitting room. As a little boy, he had discovered that was where his mother most often was in the morning, and would often join her. Even though he knew that this particular morning it would be empty, it would be quiet, and it was full of pleasant memories. He reached the top of the stairs and looking around, seeing that no one was near, slid down the banister and leaped to the ground. A small smile reached his face, though he knew that it was hardly proper for him to be doing such things. He opened his book and began to read as he walked, a talent he had perfected as a boy. He opened the door without looking and walked onto the porch. He sat down in the chair in the far corner, the one he had sat in often ever since he could reach it. He settled down comfortably, and turned the page. At Elizabeth's giggle, he realized that he was not alone. He nearly dropped his book, and sat up straighter.
"My apologies, I was not aware anyone was here."
Elizabeth barely contained her laughter, "That was quite apparent! For a moment, I was afraid that you would sit on me." At his shocked expression, she reassured him, "I would have warned you."
"At the last possible moment, of course."
"Most certainly! Once I was completely assured that you would jump when I said something." she replied impishly.
Darcy shut his book, holding his place with his finger. "I assure you, despite my cousin's efforts to prove otherwise, I do not jump, yell, or otherwise embarrass myself when people try to frighten me." Elizabeth raised her eyebrows, obviously not believing him.
"It is true!" he exclaimed, "Ask Richard if you doubt me."
"What do you do, then? Everyone has a reaction to being frightened or surprised, I would be quite certain. I, personally, scream, as your cousin found out when he was napping in the library several days ago."
"What happened there?" Darcy asked suspiciously. "He does enjoy irritating people."
"He was in the nook in the back, and I was reading, in my wheel-chair, with my back toward him when he sat up and said something, I do not know what. I was reading something slightly less than cheerful, and his sudden noise corresponded so exactly with my book that I screamed quite loudly."
The corners of Darcy's mouth twitched as he attempted not to laugh at her. She noticed, though, and told him sulkily that he could laugh at her if he wanted to.
"Oh, no." He sputtered, "I could never think of laughing at a lady's distress." but his facial expression belied his words, and Elizabeth's very expressive eye-roll finished him, and he sat in the chair laughing, until he gasped for breath. Elizabeth sat very primly, watching him, and shaking her head. She thought in amusement how he laughed so easily at her, but was so stiff around others. She found it quite puzzling, for she knew that he had an excellent sense of humor, if a bit dry, but he was very stiff with most everyone. He was comfortable with Georgiana, her and Richard, but Elizabeth noticed how he almost perceptibly became more quiet and withdrawn when Jane had been added to the party. Both became lost in their respective thoughts, until a maid came in.
"Mr. Darcy, sir, you are wanted by Mr. Hendricks."
The mention of Mr. Hendricks, Darcy's steward, made him spring up.
"Is there a problem?"
"Not really sir, but Mr. Hendricks says that Belle is foaling."
Darcy immediately began to walk toward the door, stopping to address Elizabeth.
"Please give the others my apologies for missing breakfast, I should be in by lunch."
At Elizabeth's confirming nod, he quickly kissed her hand and left. Elizabeth quite enjoyed his touch, and realized, as she touched her hand to her flaming cheek that she was even blushing over it!
Breakfast was quieter than usual, because Jane and Colonel Fitzwilliam spoke almost exclusively to each other, though their conversation even then was minimal. Elizabeth did wonder exactly how much they said without words, because they spent nearly the entire meal looking at each other, and it seemed that the raised eyebrow of one, or the hand motion of the other would set them off into another quick conversation, or would provoke Jane to blush, something that Colonel Fitzwilliam seemed to relish in. Georgiana afforded little conversation also, for she was lost in thought and seemed to be incapable of answering any of Elizabeth's questions coherently. Elizabeth presently lost all interest in making those around her speak, and sat lost in her own thoughts. She scolded herself for finding so much pleasure, especially in such a common thing as a gentleman kissing a lady's hand. "It was only polite of him! He was simply being perfectly polite." but another, more sensible part of her mind told her, "Oh, yes! He did do it to Jane didn't he? No! He barely talked to her. But why would he single me out so? That would be so......wonderful if he did love me......Oh, please, Elizabeth! You are trying a bit too hard!" She started as the colonel stood and asked to be excused, and offered his arm to Jane, claiming they were going riding. Georgie barely said a word in good-bye and bolted. Elizabeth also rose, and, a bit more slowly, made her way toward the library. She was stopped by Jane, who pushed something into her hands.
"Here, Lizzie, this is your diary. Maybe it will help." Jane offered no more explanation, but hurried to the waiting colonel in the entry hall. Georgie, who was watching from the top of the stairs, bit her lip in frustration. "She was not supposed know until after Will said something. I thought it would be today. Oh, Bella! if you had just waited to have your foal for even one more day! then everything would have been worked out." She turned, and went back to her room to formulate a plan, knowing quite well that Richard was so caught up in his own lady love that she would get no help.
Elizabeth looked at the book in her hands. It was small, rather pretty, a gorgeous cranberry color, with her name in gold embossed on the front. She flipped through it quickly, and discovered that it was nearly full. She decided to go somewhere else, outside to read it. She donned the shawl that Georgie had lent her and headed toward the garden. She had been told by the doctor to avoid going out doors, because the if she were to trip on the rough ground it would be a bad thing, but she was not above disobeying his orders and felt quite house bound. She found a bench along a path in the garden, and sat down, and opened the diary. She started at the beginning, and discovered that she had received the diary when she was 15. She read further, discovering more and more. She read a page she had written that was rather amusing, describing a run-in Jane had had with a horse. "If she hates horses so much, though, it seems strange that she is riding this morning. Or not! Hmmm. She must be in deeper than I thought if he was able to talk her into riding." She continued reading, and did not go in for lunch when she heard the call for it, and a laughing Jane and Colonel Fitzwilliam go in. She finally found herself in a more recent section of the diary, which told of an assembly she had attended. It mentioned in passing a Mr. Darcy who had insulted her quite badly. It troubled her a bit, but she passed it off as saying that it was impossible that it was this particular Mr. Darcy, he was much too polite to insult her so. It also talked of Jane being in love with a Mr. Bingley. "Well, that is not true any more." But as she kept reading, she became more and more disturbed. She continued to read enough about Mr. Darcy to realize that it really was him that had insulted her. Then she read about Mr. Wickham. "How could I have possibly thought myself in love with him, at all! None of the things he said about Mr. Darcy could possibly be true! I would be certain." But her distress was not yet complete. She continued reading, of her visit to Charlotte at Rosings. She read the account of Mr. Darcy's proposal, and her adamant refusal in horror. "It cannot be true! It can't!" but she knew it was. Images rose in her mind, of Mr. Darcy standing before her, and the look in his eyes when she refused, so adamantly, so callously, so rudely! A sick feeling rose in the pit of her stomach. She turned the page, wishing that what was on the next page would erase, or correct what was on the previous page. But it did not. All she saw there was a letter tucked in the pages. She saw her name written on it in firm masculine hand. She moved to open the letter, but realized that she did not need to, that she remembered everything in it. She stood, unable to sit any longer and fell back onto the bench, reeling. "Everything! I remember everything!" Even the accident came back in a rush. She understood Mr. Darcy's look of confusion, and veiled hurt when she had first seen him after she awoke, and when she did not remember even his name. She re-read the passage of her refusal, thinking in astonishment of how right he had been about Jane's feelings, how she was so obviously not in love with Mr. Bingley. And the thought of Mr. Wickham's deeds, and that she had believed his account horrified her. She stood again, and flung the diary to the ground. " And I have behaved so! I am in love with him and have behaved so that he must know it! He must think me the worst sort of fool. And he would never want me, never ask for me again!" A sob escaped her, a wrenching painful sob. Her tear-filled eyes blurred everything around her, but all she could think of was to find a place to escape. She began walking rapidly further into the garden. She tripped and fell and pulled herself up, ignoring the pain searing through her leg. She limped even worse, but finally saw what was almost a grove of roses. They had grown up against a circle made of lattice, and were almost overgrown, but she could see a way through them, into the middle, where she could be in peace. She had to crawl to get through them, and the thorns tore at her skirt. She worked her way through, and fell to the ground heaving with sobs and pain.
Fitzwilliam Darcy was quite pleased with himself. He felt that all was right with the world. Belle had delivered a beautiful little foal and he was going into the house for lunch. He went in, and handed his dirtied jacket to the butler. He moved toward the kitchen hoping to find a bit of food but was stopped in the hall by Georgiana.
"Elizabeth did not come in for lunch." Her statement did not worry him very much, his most pressing thought was finding something to eat, but Georgie's next statement stopped him in his tracks.
"She know, I think." He tried to school his features into nonchalance.
"Fitzwilliam, I am not a fool! Richard told me everything, and now she knows."
"What did Richard tell you?"
"Will! Jane gave Elizabeth her diary! You need to go find her!"
"She is stubborn." he said rather hopelessly, "If she knows now, she will ignore me, or hate me again."
Georgie had never before chastised her brother, but was very upset. "Fitzwilliam Johnathan Darcy! You are being an absolute fool! You don't think that she loves you? I will tell you right now that she does! You really think that a previous misunderstanding will ruin it? Oh, goodness, Will! You will spoil all of our wor...." she broke off, noticing her slip.
Darcy caught on quickly, "You've been plotting! Georgie! and Richard, too?"
Georgie felt much like screaming at her brother, and despite her attempts to control herself, raised her voice to a shrill shout.
"Is that all you care about? Fitzwilliam, SHE IS IN THE GARDEN! I love you as a brother, and Elizabeth as a sister! I will not let you sit here in absolute stubborness and hurt her, or yourself! Get over it! Your were rude, she was rude back! Just forgive and forget!" Darcy opened his mouth to respond, despite his shock that his shy, innocent little sister was practically screaming at him, but Georgie did not let him say anything, saying very softly, "I thought that I had found true love and it was a lie. You have truly found it, and so has Elizabeth. For both of you, it is a dream. You can make the dream a reality, or you can go eat your lunch and and when you become a grumpy old man, you will look back and think that you should have gone, and then the dream would have gone on forever, or almost forever. It really is your choice, and your choice alone." She turned stiffly and walked away, trying valiantly not to show her brother that she was crying. Darcy sighed after her disappearing form. He knew that she was right. "I will go, even if she turns me away. I will not be guilty of my pride standing in the way once again." He turned back around and exited the way he had come.
Darcy walked through the garden, looking for Elizabeth. "Where would she have gone?" He found the bench where she had sat, and saw her diary in the dirt beside it. He picked it up, and, despite his inclination to be gentlemanly, looked at the page it was open to. He caught his name many times in it, and, glancing over it, realized that it was the account of his proposal. He shut the small book, and placed it on the bench, and followed the path. He walked for quite a ways, finally coming to what had been his mother's favorite place, where the roses had been allowed to grow around a lattice to form a fence-like structure, with a circle in the middle. He smiled as he recalled the picnic he and his mother had shared in that very place. He heard a low sound, and looked around. Searching his surroundings, he realized that Elizabeth was in the middle of the roses. He glanced suspiciously at the thorns, but shrugged, got down on his hands and knees, and crawled through. He saw Elizabeth lying in the middle, sobbing, and his dearest wish was to pull her into his arms and tell her that everything was all right, he did not care about anything that had happened in the past and his dearest desire was for her to marry him. He restrained himself, and simply sat there for a moment before speaking.
"Elizabeth?" he said softly. He had called her Miss Elizabeth, as was proper, the entire time that she was at Pemberley, but her Christian name slipped out easily.
She started at his voice, and sat up, hugging her knees to her chest. Her hair had fallen out of the neat bun that it was usually in, and fell tangled down her back, and in her face. Her eyes were swollen and her face tear-streaked but she answered clearly, "I am sorry."
He shook his head, "No, don't be."
"You were right, and I was wrong. About everything."
"No, you were right, actually, I was proud, and rude, and utterly undeserving of you."
"You have not been proud, rude, or anything else. You have allowed me to stay here for two months, even after I was so rude to you, and have been most kind. Why?"
He took a deep breath. "Because, even if it had not been you, I had decided to make an effort to deserve you, and was trying to not be proud, or withdrawn and sullen, but pleasant. I did it because I wanted you to say yes if I asked you again."
Elizabeth had watched him in silence as he spoke, and her good humour was returning. When he stopped, she looked at him curiously, but at his continued silence responded. "If you were to ask again, I might say yes. I did not know, when I came here, that I was supposed to hate you, and instead found myself falling in love with you. Even once I remembered everything, I realized that it changed the circumstances, drastically, but it did not change my feelings."
Darcy smiled thoughtfully. "That is what Georgie said. She and Richard have been conspiring."
Elizabeth laughed. "I did think that they disappeared quite neatly whenever we were together, but I did not think.......Georgie! conspiring with Colonel Fitzwilliam. And she seems so innocent too!"
Darcy was quite pleased to have her restored to her usual cheerfulness, and said quickly, before they could change the subject yet again, "Elizabeth, you said if I asked again, you might just say yes. Will you? Will you make me ultimately happy and become my wife?"
Elizabeth nodded, "Yes, yes, yes!"
Darcy gently pulled her to him and her arms flew around his neck. For one brilliant moment, their lips met and they both were supremely happy. It was perfect moment, that neither wanted to end, but they pulled apart reluctantly.
Darcy plucked a rose from the bushes surrounding them and gallantly handed it to Elizabeth. She took it happily, and tucked it into her hair. She smiled and began winding her hair into a braid which she coiled onto her head and pinned. It was hastily done, and far from perfect, but it was quite attractive. Darcy reached out tentatively to pull on a curl beside her face. It had been bothering him, and he had so wanted to touch it for a long time. He wound it around his finger, and Elizabeth watched him, slightly amused.
"It does not bite, really it doesn't." She said laughingly. Darcy glared at her.
"I was not afraid of the hair, just the owner."
"Well, it is now your privilege to touch it as often as you want. The privilege may be suspended if you pull it, though."
Darcy sat back suddenly, "I do think it would be fun to play a joke on Georgie for her meddling."
Elizabeth, always ready to tease, responded immediately, "Oh, yes! What is your plan?"
"We go in, and act like we have argued horribly, and barely wish to speak to each other."
"Fun! But we need to tell her quickly, because we do not want her too upset."
"Agreed. Shall we then?" he asked, gesturing toward the "door".
"Oh, good then, let's go!"
Elizabeth crawled out, and was standing by the time that Darcy worked his way out. The barely suppressed smile on her face let him know exactly how gracefully he had made his way out.
"You are making it easier to pretend to be angry with you." he told her lightly.
"Your sense of humor, Sir, is most becoming. I will now pretend that aforesaid comment was not directed at me, however. Couples are not supposed to be angry at each other until at least after they are married."
"Perhaps, but most couples only have one proposal to look back on also."
"Pity for them! I think two are even better. Besides, the second would not have happened without the first, for I do not know would have happened if neither of us had spoken our mind."
"We are getting close to the house now, your had better stop smiling."
"It will take a great effort, I assure you."
Elizabeth put her hand to her mouth to stifle her giggles. "You are an excellent actor. If you can sing, you should consider being in the opera."
"Fine, then, Mr. Darcy, I think the remainder of my stay here will be much more pleasant if we avoid each other altogether."
"An excellent idea, Miss Elizabeth! Don't smile! You spoiled it! I think you need more practice at this."
Elizabeth put her nose in the air. "Lying is not a habit of mine."
"Maybe so, but teasing is."
"Something you will have the rest of your life to enjoy, too. That would be something that I would not forget, if I were you!"
Darcy sighed, and opened the door to the house with a whisper, "Now!"
Elizabeth screwed up her face and nodded toward him stiffly. "Thank you for escorting me back to the house, Sir. If you will excuse me now, Mr. Darcy." She walked into the parlor that had been made into her bedroom, since stairs were still something that the doctor recommended avoiding.
Darcy from the hall watched in a bored manner until he was certain that she was safely in her room, then turned toward the stairs with a backwards, "Good day, Miss Elizabeth." He mounted the stairs, and saw Georgiana at the top of them, her eyes wide, and quite horrified. He nodded to her as he passed and heard a muffled, "Oh, Will, no!" but he continued walking until she disappeared down the stairs to speak with Elizabeth. He turned and followed her at a safe distance, and listened at the door. He heard Georgiana's tremulous greeting and Elizabeth's forced sounding reply. He suddenly fell into the room as the door burst open.
Georgie railed him soundly. "You are both cruel rogues to do such a thing to me! That was wicked!"
Elizabeth who was sitting on the bed, shrugged at Darcy, and Georgie explained. "She was smiling when I came in, and I realized that you were trying to trick me. Did the both of you kiss and make up?" Elizabeth said nothing, but gave a smiling shrug, but Darcy colored a beet red and stuttered something about her being too curious. Georgie smiled broadly, "You did! You did!" she crowed merrily. She laughed gaily. "Will! I cannot believe it."
Darcy finally found his tongue, "Yes, we did. We are now betrothed. But do not tell Richard! He deserves a little torture after leading you astray like he did."
Georgie smiled wickedly, "Sorry, dear brother, but I do not believe that he will notice. He is too busy teaching Jane to ride. And other things."
Elizabeth looked at her suspiciously, "How exactly is he teaching her to ride?"
Georgiana laughed, "I think she is, or was afraid of horses, so he introduced her to Butter. Butter was my mother's horse. She is rather old now, but very sweet. So Richard taught her how to groom her, and to put a saddle on, and I think that he actually talked her into getting on her for a little bit."
Elizabeth was satisfied at Georgie's answer, but Darcy had noticed something else that she had said.
"What else is he teaching her?"
Georgie looked at him solemnly, "From what I saw, he is teaching her several other things."
"He is teaching her what a man looks like when he is in love, and teaching her how to flirt. I think that I am going to be taught what not one, but two weddings in the family look like."
"Jane? Oh, goodness, flirting! That does not sound like Jane at all."
"Not really flirting, perhaps, but certainly she blushes every time she looks at him."
"Isn't this rather quick? Jane has been her only two days!"
Georgie laughed gaily, "Not everyone needs to be proposed to twice, Elizabeth. Some people make things much easier."
Elizabeth glared at her, and noticed Darcy's surprise at the realization that his little sister did indeed know everything that had transpired between Elizabeth and himself, asked her, "How exactly do you know that today was not the first time? More to the point, how does Colonel Fitzwilliam know about it to tell you?"
"Richard said that some lady, Mrs. C. something, told him about your past history, and he did a bit of eavesdropping while you were at Rosings."
"Charlotte!" Elizabeth huffed at the same time as Mr. Darcy exclaimed, "Mrs. Collins."
"Yes, Mrs. Collins! How did you know, Will?"
Darcy sighed, "She is a friend of Elizabeth, who is married to Elizabeth's cousin. Her cousin, Mr. Collins, is Aunt Catherine's curate."
"And......" Georgie inquired. Elizabeth finished the thought that Darcy did not want to.
"And, first of all, Mr. Collins proposed to me before he proposed to Charlotte, and secondly, the fact that someone related to me is your Aunt's curate is a reflection on my perceived lack of social connections, and status."
"Why would anyone with common sense care about your social status and connections? I think it is quite ridiculous. If one is well-mannered, kind, and genteel, others should not care about their social status."
Georgie did not quite understand why her brother turned so red, or why Elizabeth barely surpressed a laugh, for Colonel Fitzwilliam had only informed her of the barest facts, not mentioning exactly how, and why, Elizabeth had refused Darcy in the first place. Elizabeth's noticed Darcy's discomfiture, and decided that was a story best kept for another day.
"That is something that will be debated about for ages, I would guess. Social classes are a very ingrained thing in most parts of the world, and will not be easily abolished anywhere, much less here, where we have been establishing them since the 1200's or so. Someday, that would be an interesting conversation to have, but for now, it is almost supper, and I think you are the only one in this room that has eaten since breakfast, and Mr. Darcy since last night."
Georgie smiled and stood, "I will go check on supper. I do believe that since my dear brother calls you Elizabeth, without the courtesy title, you hardly need to call him Mr. Darcy! You two brilliant people should be able to figure out something better than that."
She tripped out of the room, and left Darcy and Elizabeth to their own discussion.
Darcy shook his head in disbelief, "How does she know....everything? My innocent little sister! I am beginning to think that Richard is a bad influence on her!"
"Match-making is a skill that many people in Town are quite proud of."
"Not Georgie!" Darcy claimed quite fiercely.
Elizabeth shrugged teasingly, "I suppose that is not the best of things to be accomplished in."
"She is right, though. Now that she has succeeded in her little scheme, you hardly need to call me Mr. Darcy."
"What is your full name then?"
"Fitzwilliam Johnathan Darcy."
"You heard me correctly, I do not want to call you Will like Georgie, nor do I want to call you Fitzwilliam or Johnathan. Fitz suits my purposes just fine." She could tell by Darcy's grimace that it was not his first choice, but it had been invited, she felt.
"Why does William not work?"
Elizabeth laughed, "I enjoy the unique, and I would be nearly certain that you have at least one friend or family member that calls you 'William'."
Darcy sighed, "Yes, I do."
"There you have it!"
Georgie darted back in. "It is time for supper, and did you figure out a name for Will, Elizabeth? and I think that Richard and Jane should just get married and get it over with, because they have not stopped looking at each other all day." she stopped breathlessly. Darcy looked on in amazement, marveling at the changes that had been wrought in his sister. "And it was only a year ago that I was near certain that she would never be quite as she was before. No, she is not, she is more mature, and she always was shy, but now she is almost.....bubbly!" Darcy shook his head in disbelief, "The changes that Georgie and I have undergone since meeting Elizabeth, and all for the better, of course." He was jolted from his thought by a gasp from Elizabeth.
"Are you all right, Elizabeth?"
"Oh, yes, I am, but I think that I had better write some letters tomorrow. I have a friend in London that I just recalled that I was to meet, and I ought to apologize for missing our meeting, and perhaps explain why I was not able to be there." Elizabeth laughed, "I do hope I will see her soon, though. I am getting quite out of practice! I have not played chess in nearly six months, or so."
"You play chess?" Georgie asked curiously.
Elizabeth smiled sheepishly, "Yes, I do. I know that it is not considered proper at all for a woman, and even my father would acknowledge that, but we live in the country, where it would be impossible for him to easily find a partner, so he taught me how to play."
"You know someone in London whom you regularly play with, then?" queried Darcy, jumping in on the conversation.
Elizabeth smiled, "Yes, we met under, um, slightly unusual circumstances several years ago, and have played together ever since, when I am in London, that is."
Darcy knew better than to ask about the slightly unusual circumstances, but Georgie's curiousity got the better of her.
"How exactly did you meet?"
Elizabeth's lips twitched, "Perhaps this story should wait until supper, Georgie."