Posted on 2012-10-31
They were always so obvious. Georgiana had never been able to keep a secret; she would dissolve in nervous giggles and avoid making eye contact. Darcy knew it was his own preoccupation with rebuilding the stables after the fire and holding drawn-out meetings in London with his solicitors which kept him from seeing, truly seeing the secrets his sister had been carrying last spring before the debacle at Ramsgate.
And Mrs. Reynolds, the heart of their home at Pemberley and keeper of its secrets, often betrayed happy news by the twinkle in her eyes, or warned of bad news in the shrouded, sad look that befell them. Now, as they all grew older, Georgie had become more clever in carrying her secrets and Mrs. Reynolds, beset by failing memory, frailer bones, and weaker steps, seemed even more transparent. And yet happier than ever.
But there were whispers going on. And light footsteps could be heard--if one listened closely in the stillness--outside of his study, his library, and his rooms. He would be reading away or making a note, or often as not, sitting numbly in a chair staring into space and wondering what Elizabeth Bennet thought about his letter and if he would ever again see her beautiful face. And he would hear them. Giggles, rustling papers, quick footsteps. It didn't alarm him--it was good to hear some life going on outside the doors he hid behind.
It was clear someone was up to something. And since no one in this house had made mention of his birthday tomorrow, he assumed all the furtive noises were surely the work of two very busy women who, save one with flashing green eyes and a biting tongue, were closest to his heart. They both worried for him and wondered at his growing desire for solitude. Both seemed to have some sense he had suffered a great disappointment of the heart. They must have something special planned, he mused.
The birthday celebration was quite dear, with a beautiful concert by Georgie and all of his favorite treats. His appetite was roused and he ate a heartier meal than he had in the past months. Mrs. Reynolds was made happy by the sight of his plate being refilled. Georgiana was overcome with joy that he joined his voice to hers for one song.
But there was no great surprise. Georgie had illustrated a beautiful folder of Pemberley's native wildlife. Rarely had he seen a rabbit rendered so realistically, or a crow so faithfully recreated on paper. His cousin, unable to tear himself away from his regiment, had sent a gift, its wrappings cautioning that Darcy open it after his sister had gone to bed. It was, according to a note, a bound book he had found in a Spanish market. "The Kama Sutra." One glance at the first few pages ensured that the volume was destined for the locked drawer in his desk. He silently thanked his cousin, despite his mortification at the book's implication. His cousin was the only one to know how inexperienced Darcy was with the opposite sex. Oh, he'd seen nude women, in statuary. And there was that cheery courtesan he had been taken to for his 18th birthday. He had been so frightened that he could now remember little except that it had felt wonderful, both times. But the rest was a blur. He rose and took the book to his bed.
The next day, he again heard the scurrying, the whispers and the giggles. At dinner he noticed that his sister's finger was smudged. Two days later, Mrs. Reynolds arrived with a message from cook and he blanched when he saw her bonnet askew. And her cheeks quite rosy. He peered more closely. Were her lips swollen? She looked overworked.
"Mrs. Reynolds, you've been quite busy lately. Mayhap you need a day or two away? Some additional rest?"
Mrs.Reynolds' face flushed with happiness. "Oh, thank you master. In two days' time, I would like to visit with my sister in Lambton. With your permission, I would spend the evening with her and return the next day."
"Of course, of course." He smiled at the obvious pleasure she received from his suggestion. "Some rest will do wonders for your body and spirit. Take two days if you would like."
She nodded eagerly and smiled. He dismissed her.
The giggles and whispers were louder that night. He pulled off his boots and jacket and slipped out of his rooms. He could hear more muted whispers, more laughter, as he neared the end of the hall. He lifted his head. It was above him, in the attic rooms. Slowly, he crept up the stairs. Should I have a weapon? The voices were those of women, but what if..? He shook his head. This is my home, I have nothing to fear.
"Ahhh…that is lovely."
More giggles. And a sigh.
"He will love it."
At the top of the stairs, he paused only a moment before throwing open the door. Georgie whirled around, a paintbrush dropping from her hand.
The older women, naked but for a sheet of linen wrapped loosely around her, began trembling. "Oh master…."
His voice rose.
He squeaked out, "Mrs. Reynolds?!"
His eyes were transfixed, however, on the large canvas behind them. In the years ahead, he would never forget the vision of a naked Mrs. Reynolds splayed before him, her naked flesh covered by nothing but a few daisies covering her nether regions.
"What...what…what is this about?" he croaked.
"It's my friend's birthday surprise. Mr. Buggins loves my wrinkles," she said, weakly. A red blush was creeping up from her bosom. He averted his eyes.
Her eyes fell as well, first noting his bare feet and then slowly lifting. A proud smile emerged on her face as Mrs. Reynolds looked at the young man she had helped raise.
"Oh Master Fitzwilliam. I see you like it too."The End