Part I of II
Posted on 2009-03-08
We begin after the "Too Much" Information Meryton assembly, which ended quite differently than canon. In fact, since I have already messed with Miss Austen's masterpiece, the whole P&P timeline is now going to be moved forward four years or so. Therefore, in this corrupted version, Napoleon, Mr. Darcy, and Elizabeth Bennet have all met their Waterloo in the same year. In terms of who surrendered with the least amount of struggle, Mr. Darcy immediately fell for Lizzy like a ton of bricks, without putting up a fight at all; and this story is certainly not about Boney. It did, however, take some persuasion and determination for Fitzwilliam Darcy, man of the world, to win a hard-fought campaign, of several weeks duration, for the affection, and later the hand, of the country maiden who captured his heart. But any resistance on her part was futile, and in the words of ABBA:
Elizabeth: My, my, I tried to hold you back but you were stronger
Oh yeah, and now it seems my only hope is giving up the fight
And how could I ever refuse
I feel like I win when I lose
Pemberley – I was defeated, you won the war
Pemberley – Promise to love you forever more
Pemberley – Couldn't escape if I wanted to
Pemberley – Knowing my fate is to be with you
p-p-p-p-Pemberley – Finally facing my Waterloo
As you may remember, we left off with Mr. Darcy fantasizing about Miss Elizabeth Bennet. At that time he saw her, in idea, settled at Pemberley in all the felicity which a marriage of true affection could bestow; and he felt capable, under such circumstances, of endeavouring even to like Elizabeth's younger sisters. Allowing for the necessary preparations of settlements, new carriages and wedding clothes, he calculated he could realistically see Elizabeth settled at Pemberley in the course of three or four months.
Charles Bingley pleaded with his esteemed friend to cease having such improper thoughts about Miss Elizabeth before even becoming acquainted with the young lady and then, reluctantly, set about to perform the requested, or, more likely, demanded, introduction. Darcy lost no time in asking the enchantress to dance; and Elizabeth took her place in the set, amazed at the dignity to which she was arrived in being allowed to stand opposite to Mr. Darcy, and reading in her neighbours' looks their equal amazement in beholding it.
That the request to stand up with him could occur a second time that night, therefore, was very odd! Yet it did, and even an unheard of, and scandalous, third! The young lady's father, upon later being apprised of the amusing, nay, shocking events at the assembly was heard to impatiently cry, "For God's sake, if he had had any compassion for me, he would not have danced half so much! Oh, that he had sprained his ankle in the first dance!"
They had not only danced at the assembly but had also spent the rest of the evening talking agreeably of Derbyshire and Hertfordshire, of traveling and staying at home, of new books and music. They conversed with so much spirit and flow that neither had ever been half so well entertained before.
Darcy felt that the commonest, dullest, most threadbare topic might be rendered interesting by the skill of the speaker. Whatever Miss Elizabeth Bennet said, was said well; and whatever she did, done gracefully. He went away with his head full of her and could think of nothing but Elizabeth all the way to Netherfield. He stayed awake half the night fantasizing and spent the other half asleep and dreaming of her.
No one, especially Mrs. Bennet, who had seen Mr. Darcy and Lizzy together could doubt his affection. Elizabeth's took longer to be so obvious, but the gentleman was persistent, as were her parents; and a courtship was soon begun. Such a tame and lame stage of their relationship was not adequate for the impatient Master of Pemberley, who was used to having his every wish immediately gratified; so within weeks of being permitted to court her, he then set out to win her hand, and other body parts, in marriage.
On finding his ally, Mrs. Bennet, during a visit to Longbourn, Darcy addressed his beloved's mother in these words, "May I dare hope, my dear Madam, for your interest with your beauteous daughter, Elizabeth, when I solicit for the great honour of a private audience with her in the course of this day?"
It would have been sufficient had he merely asked, 'May I please have time alone with Elizabeth?' Or, he probably could have even gotten away with just a curt 'Leave us!' The result would have been the same, for Darcy was the kind of man, indeed, to whom others never dared refuse anything.
Mrs. Bennet was, of course, absolutely thrilled to comply and had no compunction in immediately providing an opportunity for the wealthy young man to get down to the business at hand. She settled him in the sitting room with the full-west windows and scampered away in search of Elizabeth. Finding that daughter in the parlour with Mary, she fluttered her lacy handkerchief about, shooed the younger girl away from the pianoforte, and determinedly pushed her out the door. Turning her attention to Lizzy, she tsk-tsked at her appearance and hovered about, poking and prodding at unruly chestnut curls and pinching her already rosy cheeks. Annoyed by all the fussing, Lizzy firmly put her foot down when her mother attempted to tug further downward the neckline on her gown.
"Mama, why are you in such a tizzy? Ah, allow me to rephrase that. Why are you in this particular tizzy?"
"Oh, my dear girl! You must look your very best! Although you are nothing to Jane, Mr. Darcy is strangely attracted to you; and I do believe he is now going to make you an offer of marriage. Argh! What is that smudge on your face? Have you been reading your father's newspaper again? Let me see your hands. Oh, Lizzy, black, as I expected!"
To her daughter's disgust, Mrs. Bennet licked her handkerchief and scrubbed at the culprit fingers and the offensive streak they had caused. Lizzy wrinkled her nose, thought Eew!, pushed her mother's hands away, and said, "Mama, it will not bother Mr. Darcy that I have been improving my mind through extensive reading or that I have a few smudges. He is, in his own words, totally besotted; and in his opinion, I can do no wrong."
"Please, Elizabeth, do not underestimate or take for granted such a rich and attractive suitor. You must do nothing to scare him away, for it is by no means certain that another offer of marriage may ever be made you. I will go now and bring Mr. Darcy. Oh, my sweetest Lizzy, how rich and great you will be! Such a charming man, so handsome and tall! Ten thousand a year and very likely more! I am so pleased, so happy for us…I mean, for you! What pin-money, what jewels, what carriages we will have…I mean, you will have!"
Mrs. Bennet's shrill voice trailed away as she advanced down the hall; and it was not long before Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth were alone, and he expressed how ardently he loved her. Well, actually, he could not very well reveal his innermost private thoughts about just how ardently he admired and desired Elizabeth Bennet; for his passion would surely frighten such an innocent young lady.
Instead he tempered his ardour, lowered himself on one knee, held her hands, and settled for merely saying, "Miss Elizabeth, you are just what a young woman ought to be, sensible, good humoured, lively; and I never saw such happy manners. You are also ravishingly gorgeous, which a young woman ought likewise to be, if she possibly can. In point of true beauty, Elizabeth, you are far superior to the handsomest of your sex and far beyond them all in person, countenance, air, and walk. The British court has been deprived of its brightest ornament because you have not been presented. You seem born to be a duchess; and that most elevated rank, instead of giving you consequence, would be adorned by you. I cannot give you a title, but I wish to endow you with all my worldly goods."
Here he paused and, still holding her hands, sat beside her on the sofa and continued, "You can hardly doubt the purport of my discourse; my attentions have been too marked to be mistaken. Almost as soon as I entered the Meryton assembly, I singled you out as the companion of my future life; and now nothing remains for me but to assure you, in the most animated language, of the violence of my affection." His avowal immediately followed; and he spoke eloquently on the subject of tenderness, ignoring any feelings of pride. He ended by asking, "Please, Elizabeth, will you make all my fanta…er, dreams come true and consent to be my wife?"
Feeling almost secure, and with reason, for Elizabeth had been tolerably encouraging over the past fortnight, his reception was of the most flattering kind. In as short a time as Darcy's speech would allow, everything was settled between them to the satisfaction of both. As they departed the room, he earnestly entreated her to name the day that was to make him the happiest of men. Though such a solicitation had to be waived at that moment, the lady felt no inclination to trifle with his happiness. Mr. Bennet was speedily applied to for his consent, and it was bestowed with a most joyful alacrity. Mr. Darcy's circumstances made it a most eligible and excellent match for Elizabeth, as her father could give her little fortune. Yes, they would do well together; for Darcy was rich and appreciated the finer things in life, and she was Hertfordshire's brightest jewel.
Week # 5 of 14
Enjoying an aperitif before dinner one evening, Darcy and Bingley sat in Netherfield's pitiful library discussing their upcoming nuptials. Although Jane Bennet and Charles Bingley had met and formed an attachment some months prior to the time Darcy first arrived in Hertfordshire, that couple had not decided on when they would marry. Darcy and Elizabeth's wedding was set for fourteen weeks from the date of their having met at the Meryton assembly; but to the Derbyshire gentleman, it seemed an absolute eternity.
Bingley envied his fast-acting friend, and said, "It must be very agreeable to have your wedding date settled within so short a time of having met Miss Elizabeth."
"So short a time do you call it? It is nearly three and a half months!"
"And what are three and a half months of a happy courtship and engagement?" Bingley scoffed. "Little more than a quarter of a year, so yes, I call it a very short time; and five weeks have already elapsed. You certainly have an advantage over me, for Jane and I have not even discussed a date yet."
"I should never have considered the remaining time as one of the advantages of the match," Darcy replied. "I am most eager to whisk Elizabeth away to Pemberley and every night have been entertaining thoughts of doing so via a detour through Gretna Green."
Bingley sat forward and protested, "Darcy, you cad! You would not dare!"
"Perhaps not; but it is a tempting notion. She is tempting, and I find the wait intolerable."
"Champing at the bit, are you? Use some horse sense and rein it in, Darce. Do not start horsing around unbridled or your filly may get skittish and bolt. Chivalry, my friend!"
Darcy grinned, displaying his dimples, and said, "Ah, but you know me…accustomed to charging ahead at full tilt."
Dinner was then announced, and Bingley cried out, "Finally! I am so hungry, I could eat a horse!"
During their meal, the Hursts and Caroline were puzzled when Charles snorted as Mr. Darcy smirked and inquired, "Would anyone care to accompany me when I go riding tomorrow morning? There are several fine-looking steeds in Netherfield's stable from which to choose; but I intend to mount the pretty chestnut mare and determine whether she is hot to trot."
Week # 7 of 14
On a sultry summer afternoon, two engaged-to-be-married couples spread blankets near the grassy bank of Netherfield's duck pond. They unpacked picnic baskets that the gentlemen had carried to the spot, and the ladies took pleasure in preparing plates of food for their future spouses. The four young people chatted and sipped wine until Charles Bingley and Jane Bennet decided to take a leisurely stroll along the edge of the pond to the other side. Bingley could only tolerate being in Elizabeth's company for short stretches of time, as he was allergic to the lavender scent she wore. Fortunately for him, Jane preferred rosewater.
Fitzwilliam Darcy sat back against the trunk of a huge willow, one long leg stretched along the length of the blanket and the other bent to support the hand casually holding a nearly empty glass of wine. He had doffed his hat and, with the ladies' permission, had also divested himself of his coat. Elizabeth surreptitiously took pleasure in the sight of her handsome betrothed relaxing in shirtsleeves, green waistcoat, tan breeches, and tall brown boots. She rummaged through the picnic basket, glanced again at her fiancé, and frowned at his lack of interest in the delicious fare prepared by the staff at Netherfield's kitchen. The plate of cheese, fruit, and biscuits that she had placed beside him had failed to entice the gentleman. He had not taken a bite of the food but seemed to enjoy the wine. Elizabeth sighed, moved to kneel in front of him, and, with arms akimbo, she raised one eyebrow at him. Darcy immediately admired the view this change of position had afforded, as the lowering sun in the western sky allowed him to see the outline of her thighs through the thin muslin. The fetching pale peach gown was trimmed with wide ivory lace beneath the distractingly low neckline, and her décolletage was vying with her legs for his attention.
He suddenly realized she had been speaking, and he raised his eyes from her bodice to her pretty mouth, which was saying, "…more, or is it too full-bodied?"
Oh, Good God! She has caught me staring at her bosom again! Aloud he said, "I beg your pardon?"
"I was inquiring whether you wanted more of that particular wine or if you found it to be too full-bodied. Really, Mr. Darcy, you appear quite distracted. Are you unwell, sir?"
"Please, Elizabeth, you must remember to address me as William; or, if you prefer, you may call me Will, as does Georgiana."
"Very well, Will, I will; but are you well?"
She smiled mischievously at him, her fine eyes sparkling, and that saucy eyebrow arched just so. In Darcy's heart there was a tolerable powerful feeling towards Elizabeth. The mixture of sweetness and archness in her manner was endearing, and he had never been so bewitched by any woman as he was by Lizzy Bennet. Her appearance was greatly in her favour; she had all the best part of beauty – not only a very pleasing address, but also a comely countenance and a gorgeous figure. He experienced a momentary feeling of guilt over his physical attraction to his young lady, as he had some time ago objected to Bingley forming an attachment based mostly on looks. But the feeling was fleeting, and he knew it was much more than her beauty that had him so totally besotted. His desire for his fiancée was aroused anew as he realized this spirited little minx was going to be a handful in more ways than one, or two. Darcy's eyes darkened and his heart rate increased as he watched her.
Elizabeth was becoming concerned, so she spoke again. "Truly, William, you appear to be breathing rapidly yet are not exerting yourself as we quietly sit here; and you do not seem to have much of an appetite."
Darcy's eyes bored into hers as he took the last swig of wine from his glass and then spoke slowly, softly and distinctly, "Dearest, loveliest Lizzy, I guarantee I am, in fact, actually exerting considerable effort right now." He leaned forward and cupped her jaw with his free hand as he continued, "And you may rest assured that I am a perfectly healthy male with a very healthy appetite."
The relieved young lady quickly retrieved another plate of food from the basket, sat beside her husband-to-be, looked into his face with her wide innocent eyes and asked, "May I offer you some of this chicken then, William; and pray, tell me, sir, do you prefer thighs or breasts?"
"Oh, for pity's sake!" exclaimed Darcy as he scrambled to his feet and raked fingers through his hair. "Please, Elizabeth! Although I am not ashamed of these feelings, for they are natural and just, if you want me to behave in a gentlemanlike manner, you must not tease and torment me so! Honestly, you would tempt a saint!"
He stood upright, his body erect, stiff and rigid. He then excused himself, turned away from his fiancée, and strode toward the pond.
Unsure what she had done to warrant such a reaction, Lizzy stared, doubted and was silent. She decided she would speak with Jane about William's outburst and also realized she might have to curb her teasing manner. She could not, however, remember saying anything to ridicule him prior to his eruption.
Before they retired for the night, Elizabeth and Jane Bennet discussed the pleasant day they had spent with their fiancés.
"Dearest Lizzy, I hope you and Mr. Darcy did not mind when Charles and I left you for a while. I am afraid none of us proved to be adequate chaperones for the other, but I do so enjoy time alone with my handsome husband-to-be. We have now set a date for our wedding and have much to discuss. But, Lizzy, when we returned, it seemed there was some tension between you and Mr. Darcy. Have you and he quarreled? Please tell me he did not dare make any improper overtures toward you."
"Oh, Jane, no! William is not like that at all and always strives to be the perfect gentleman, but I confess I do not understand him at times. I apparently ridiculed him this afternoon; however, I cannot recall having done so. William has asked me not to torment him so much, and it is confusing. On the one hand, he has often mentioned that he admires my teasing nature; and now, on the other hand, he has requested that I quash it. He even insinuated that I would try a saint's patience. Mama was right; I must not run on in the wild manner that I am suffered to do at home. Therefore, I shall learn to hold my tongue and quell my taunts. It will be difficult though; for what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours and laugh at them in our turn?"
Elizabeth smiled mischievously and arched her brow; and Jane knew instead, by the sparkle in her sister's eyes, that the dignified Master of Pemberley would have to learn to endure Lizzy's teasing for the rest of his life.
Week # 8 of 14
A rainy Sunday afternoon found Jane, Elizabeth, and Mrs. Bennet visiting Netherfield in order for the future Mrs. Bingley to finish inspecting the apartments she would soon be calling her own. Their mother insisted on accompanying her two eldest daughters as chaperone and interior decorating expert. Elizabeth, however, soon tired of the endless effusions gushing from her parent's mouth, either praising the furnishings or enthusing about the shopping and changes in which they would have to indulge. She excused herself from further raptures and skipped down the stairs, hoping the weather had cleared.
As it was still drizzling, Lizzy accepted, with resignation, to remain in the house and made her way to the so-called library. Although there was not much to choose from on its unorganized shelves, she was surprised to find one of Mrs. Radcliffe's novels amongst the agricultural treatises. She removed her shoes, curled up on a settee, opened 'The Romance of the Forest,' and soon completely lost herself in mystery and suspense.
It was one of those particular occasions, and of a Sunday afternoon, when the awful object, known as Darcy, had nothing to do. He was in a foul mood, as he had not seen his fiancée for days and was unaware she was visiting Netherfield at that very moment. He strode toward the library with his hot-off-the presses anonymously published volume of 'Waverley'. His crankiness was arrested in the doorway by the sight of luscious chestnut curls, a voluptuous figure, seductive lips, and magnificent eyes in the adorable face of his stunningly beautiful fiancée so engrossed, and inflexibly studious, in the pages of a book. He had fantasized about the two of them reading romantic poetry from his rare leather-bound tomes in Pemberley's extensive library; and his alarming and overwhelming passion for her suddenly arose.
He cleared his throat, straightened his too-tight cravat, and continued into the room. His entrance startled Lizzy, who had just read the part in which Adeline had stumbled upon a mystery in the ruined abbey. The novel slipped from her fingers; and she scrambled to rise, embarrassed that she stood before him in stocking feet.
"Mr. Darcy! William, what a pleasant surprise; and does this dreary and dismal day find you well, sir?"
"Good afternoon, my love. I am well, and my day has just vastly improved upon finding you here so fetchingly at ease." He glanced at her toes peeking out from beneath the hem of her frock, and she blushed as he continued. "I am delighted to be in your company, but please do not let me disturb you; as my intention is to catch up on some reading as well. The prospect of sharing the occupation with you is very inviting, indeed. Shall we?"
He gallantly picked up the fallen book and handed it to her, caressing the soft skin of her hand as they made contact. His eyes smouldered into hers; and Elizabeth blushed and blushed again at their intensity and his touch. She was the first to break the spell by furtively slipping her feet back into her shoes and properly sitting back down on the settee. Darcy smiled at her reaction and took a seat on the chair facing her. He made an effort to pretend he was not so severely affected by her presence and opened to the page in Chapter VII he had earlier marked with a hair ribbon she had presented to him after his proposal. He commenced to read Sir Walter Scott's words, 'He now entered upon a new world, where, for a time, all was beautiful because all was new. Colonel Gardiner, the commanding officer of the regiment, was himself a study for a romantic, and at the same time an inquisitive youth.'
The reference to Colonel Gardiner brought to mind that Elizabeth had an uncle with that surname, and Darcy raised his eyes from the page to his betrothed. She was totally enthralled by the gothic happenings in her novel and was twirling an errant curl and had her bottom lip caught between her teeth. He watched her biting that which he longed to kiss, causing him increasing discomfort. Darcy was so much caught by the action as to leave him very little attention for his book.
Finally tearing his eyes away from the distraction, he returned them to Colonel Gardiner. 'In person he was tall, handsome, and active, though somewhat advanced in life. In his early years he had been what is called, by manner of palliative, a very gay young man, and strange stories were circulated about his sudden conversion from doubt, if not infidelity, to a serious and even enthusiastic turn of mind. It was whispered that a supernatural communication, of a nature obvious even to the exterior…'
Mr. Darcy realized he had not comprehended a word he had just read and started the paragraph again. But his attention was quite as much engaged in watching Elizabeth's progress through her book as in reading his own; and he was perpetually either making some enquiry about her enjoyment of the story or staring at her luscious lips, upon which she persisted in nibbling.
He shook his head, sighed, and resumed reading, 'It was whispered that a supernatural communication, of a nature obvious even to the exterior…'
Darcy's mind wandered, and he found himself again drawn to the attraction of her lips. He squirmed, fidgeted, crossed and uncrossed his legs, and pulled at his cravat. He stood, walked to the sideboard, and poured himself a glass of water. Returning to his seat, he placed the drink on a table and picked up his book. 'It was whispered that a supernatural communication, of a nature obvious even to the exterior…'
His concentration was not on 'Waverley', which he had immensely enjoyed reading the day before. But then his lovely bride-to-be had not been in close proximity. Darcy wondered why she was not similarly affected by his presence and determined to petulantly ignore her and focus on his own novel. 'It was whispered that a supernatural communication, of a nature obvious even to the exterior…'
Remembering a time when he had objected to one of Bingley's love interests because she read too much, Fitzwilliam Darcy now wished Lizzy would put aside her own book and pay him some undivided attention instead. But she was so charmingly engrossed that he dared not disturb her again, so he returned to his page. 'It was whispered that a supernatural communication, of a nature obvious even to the exterior…'
It was no use. At length, quite exhausted by the attempt to be amused with his own book, he soon put it wholly aside next to his untouched glass of water. Darcy ran his fingers through his brown curls and then pressed the back of his hand against his mouth. He was lost to the temptation of gazing at her loveliness and sighed with a loud exhalation.
Elizabeth took pity on the agitated young man, who could not seem to lose himself in the pages of his book. She marked her place and asked, "Is something bothering you, sir?" She looked at him with love and concern.
The gentleman could not suppress a short snigger, which he disguised as a cough, and cleared his throat to reply, "I must admit I am bothered, my dear, but not in a manner you would imagine."
"Dear me, William, is there nothing you could take to give you present relief?"
Darcy groaned, thinking of what he would like to take for his present relief.
The lady was distressed by his wretched moan and said, "Let me call a servant, sir; you are very ill. Or perhaps a glass of wine…shall I get you one?"
"No, thank you, my dear. I am not ill…just ill at ease, perhaps. Do not trouble yourself further on my behalf."
Lizzy could do nothing but fret and worry, causing her to nibble on her lip again and again.
Finally at wit's end, Darcy snapped, "Please, Elizabeth! Must you keep doing that?"
Shocked by such brusqueness, she flashed him an angry glare. "Doing what, Mr. Darcy? What in my manner offends you so now?"
The gentleman stood, towering over her and said, "I am sorry, dearest; but must you always chew on your lip like that? It is most distracting!"
"Pardon me for worrying about your health and bothering you with my nervous habit. I will attempt to keep both in check. Excuse me, please."
With a parting frown aimed in his direction, Lizzy snatched up 'The Romance of the Forest', and flounced out of the room, leaving her fiancé awash in misery and the sensuous scent of lavender. (Poor Bingley would have to have the library aired.) The awful object, known as Darcy, flopped back down in his chair, picked up 'Waverley', and started to read, 'It was whispered that a supernatural communication, of a nature obvious even to the exterior senses, had produced this wonderful change; and though some mentioned the proselyte as an enthusiast, none hinted at his being a hypocrite. This singular and mystical circumstance gave Colonel Gardiner a peculiar and solemn interest in the eyes of the young soldier.'
Darcy read through the rest of the afternoon, all evening, late at night, and well into the wee hours of the next morning. He had snuffed the candles and tried to sleep numerous times but only ended up tossing and turning. The wicks were repeatedly relit; and each time he picked up the blasted book, he had to reread several pages. But he persisted in trying to banish his vivid and overwhelming fantasies of life with Lizzy. His choice of a historical novel about the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion was, perhaps, a bad decision. Scotland brought to mind Gretna Green, Gretna Green brought to mind eloping with Elizabeth, eloping with Elizabeth brought to mind being her husband, being her husband brought to mind…
Week # 10 of 14
While the rest of the Bennet family pursued other after-dinner activities at Longbourn, Elizabeth and Jane entertained their gentlemen in the west-facing sitting room. The two couples each played a few games of cribbage; but Bingley and his fiancée soon decided to amble about in the garden before the sun finally set. They left the door ajar as they exited, and Mr. Darcy promptly escorted Lizzy from the card table to sit beside him on a sofa. They smiled and stared into one another's eyes for a moment before the young lady said, "One must speak a little, you know. It would be odd to be entirely silent for half an hour together."
He silently disagreed but smiled again and assured her that whatever she wished him to say should be said.
"Very well, Mr. Darcy, please tell me more about your family."
"Please, Elizabeth, remember to call me by my Christian name."
"I apologize, William; but Mama has always addressed my father as 'Mr. Bennet'. You must forgive me if I occasionally forget your preference for less formality between us."
"My dear, I am certain even your mother calls her husband 'Thomas' when they are alone together. It may be difficult to imagine one's parents in terms of intimacy, but…"
Elizabeth became uncomfortable with the direction of their discourse and interrupted him by saying, "Mr. Dar…" At his frown, she immediately blurted, "…ling." Aghast at what she had let slip, Lizzy's eyes went wide, her hand flew to cover her mouth, and she blushed.
Darcy laughed, kissed the back of her knuckles, and said, "Please, Elizabeth, my love, I have no objection whatsoever to your calling me 'darling' when we are alone. I am, in fact, delighted but insist you drop the 'Mister'. I was somewhat acquainted with a Mr. Darling in Cambridge…quite an odd fellow. He had an annoying aversion to soap and water, and the irritating bloke emitted a most unpleasant odour. You may have noticed that I am a rather meticulous chap and would not wish to be confused with Mr. Darling and his aroma. There, have I 'cleared the air'?"
"Teasing, teasing man! My tendency to ridicule is obviously contagious; and I wonder what your family will think of my bad influence. This brings to mind the fact that you have diverted me from my initial request for information regarding your kin. Tell me truly, darling, do they approve of our up-coming marriage?"
Darcy stood, took a turn around the room, and came to rest in front of the fireplace before replying. "You must know that over the past several weeks you have secured the devotion of Georgiana and our Fitzwilliam relations, which are the only kin that really matter. Why would you even wonder about my family's approval? What is going through that pretty and intelligent head of yours now?"
From across the room, Darcy was giving Lizzy that knee-weakening 'look' again, and she blushed and replied, "It is strange you should phrase your question in such a manner, sir; as there is often a rather ostentatious voice in my head putting thoughts and words there. It suddenly occurred to me that there might be an issue over the disparity of our circumstances."
Author: Wait a minute! Hold everything! I was thinking ahead to what Darcy would say next and missed what Lizzy just uttered. Did she just describe the voice as ostentatious or 'Austentatious'?
Darcy: "Madam! Kindly refrain from inserting yourself in our stories! It is the epitome of vanity and arrogance."
Author: Look who's talking! Insufferable man! However, I am not afraid of you.
Darcy: "I would not have you so. You might retaliate by having me spout more of Mr. Collins' dialogue than you have already done. Why did my proposal have to contain so many of his insipid words?"
Author: Please don't whine, Mr. Darcy. I could force your mouth to quote Lady Catherine instead, you know.
Darcy: "Unfeeling, selfish girl! I am ashamed of you and am most seriously displeased!"
Lizzy: "Could we just continue with the story, please? It is becoming rather cold in this room."
Author and Darcy: "Yes, dear."
The sun had disappeared, and the temperature dropped considerably. Jane and Mr. Bingley had joined Mrs. Bennet to discuss giving a ball at Netherfield; and the servants must not have known that the west sitting room was still in use, for a fire would have been lit had they been aware. Mr. Darcy was preoccupied with ideas of how to keep Lizzy warm, and they did not include a fireplace at all. He did, however, keep eyeing the rug in front of the hearth.
Elizabeth could have gone to get a shawl, but instead she asked, "Mr. Dar…William, I do not wish to part company yet and should call for a servant but do not want anyone to intrude on our solitude. So, would you please light my fire, darling? I am confident you can enkindle it and bring some much-desired heat into this room. I want to experience some spark and flame tonight and rely on you, sir."
Darcy's head instantly bent downward, and he beseeched, Give me strength! He was leaning against the mantelpiece, and he raised his head and fixed his eyes first on the ceiling and then on her face as he struggled for the appearance of composure. He would not open his lips till he believed himself to have attained it.
Elizabeth sensed his distress and hurried to his side. "William?"
"Lizzy," he whispered, "you know not, you can scarcely conceive, how this is torturing me. Can you truly be so innocent as to not understand what you are saying?"
Elizabeth frowned in confusion and said, "I am merely asking you to ignite a fire, sir. Perhaps I am naïve; but how is such a request torture, William?"
He smiled at her and caressed her cheek. "At present I will not say more; but perhaps when we are better acquainted…"
"No. Explain to me now. I want to know."
Darcy once again escorted Lizzy to the sofa and sat beside her while holding her hand. He cleared his throat and traced circles on her palm with his thumb, causing her to blush. "Sweetheart, does my touch affect you?"
"Yes, William, of course it does."
"How does it make you feel, Elizabeth?"
"I…I cannot explain…"
He pulled her into a gentle embrace and whispered, "It is a natural feeling, Lizzy; and nothing of which to be ashamed." Darcy released her and stroked her hair while saying, "We will soon be married, and you will have your explanation. I am sure your mother will have a talk with you before the wedding; but please believe me, Elizabeth, that I love and cherish you with all my heart. At times that 'natural feeling' I have for you tries to gain the upper hand. Words like 'inflame' and 'enkindle' not only pertain to fire but also to causing passion to flare up."
"Elizabeth, may I kiss you?"
"Yes, please. But I must warn you, I have never been kissed before, sir."
Darcy teased, "Intimate as we are, you must know how it is to be done."
"But upon my honour, I do not. I do assure you that our intimacy has not yet taught me that. But I am willing to find out and am a very fast learner."
Darcy knew they were playing with fire, but she was irresistible.
Their first kiss was soft, sweet, and tender. When Elizabeth opened her eyes, his were dark and smouldered into her soul. Their second kiss was a white-hot, searing one that left them breathless; and when Lizzy regained her senses, she whispered, "You need not bother lighting the fire, William darling, the room is quite warm enough now."
Posted on 2009-03-13
Week # 11 of 14
Fitzwilliam Darcy may have explained the nature of his torturous problem to his fiancée, but the confession did not consequently lessen his suffering. In fact, Elizabeth's friskiness had just discovered a whole new field in which to play; and he soon learned that his future wife was quite a flirt. Once she understood the power she held over him, she was merciless. Without breeching propriety, Lizzy became adept at innuendo and the double entendre; and the torture was exquisitely carried out with an air of innocence. A certain sparkle in her eyes, an arching of her brow, or a mischievous smile belied her ingenuousness. Cries and moans of "Please, Elizabeth!" could often be heard whenever the two were in close proximity to one another. Had she merely confined her goading to when they were alone, it would have been bad enough; but, oh no, Lizzy Bennet had to tease, incite, and cause him discomfort in company as well.
On Sunday Jane and Elizabeth had been invited to dine at Netherfield with their fiancés as well as with the ho-hum Hursts and carping Caroline. When the meal was over, and the men had joined the ladies in the drawing room, servants arrived bearing trays of tea, coffee, and pastries; and the Bennet sisters took pleasure in serving Bingley and Darcy their favourite hot beverages and desserts.
Lizzy brought Darcy a piping-hot cup of tea; and as soon as his gaze locked on her face, she slowly pulled her bottom lip through her teeth. When she was sure his attention was totally focused on her mouth, she softly and seductively whispered, "This is hot and honeyed, William, just the way you like it." The young man blushed and squirmed in his seat as she licked her lips, and the sweet torture continued in her dulcet voice. "Take a taste and see if I satisfy your craving; but be careful not to get burned, darling, as it will be steamy." Elizabeth waited for him to take a sip before softly purring, "Slake your thirst, Will. Savour a flavourful mouthful, and enjoy the musky spiciness of your Darjeeling and its uplifting effect."
Darcy choked and shot Lizzy a reproachful glare, as Caroline jumped up to pat him on the back. Bingley exclaimed, "Good God, Darcy! Are you all right, man? Take care! That was obviously much too hot for you!"
(Author's Note: Darjeeling would not have been available for about another 35 years; but you know me…I could not resist.)
On Monday Darcy and Lizzy set out for a walk to Oakham Mount with Kitty; however, the latter decided her time would be much better spent twittering and gossiping with Maria at Lucas Lodge than acting as chaperone for her sister and her boring fiancé. She could not imagine that those two could possibly have any need for a chaperone, not realizing that the gentleman's still waters ran deep. They were quite agreeable to continue alone, hand in hand; and when the path narrowed, Lizzy took the lead. Darcy told her he was captivated by the ringlet bouncing charmingly against the back of her neck and commented that her figure appeared to the greatest advantage while walking
"You do, indeed, walk very nicely, Miss Elizabeth Bennet; and do you realize that your gorgeous gossamer gown becomes somewhat translucent in the sunlight?"
"Oh! Shocking! How shall I punish you, Mr. Darling?"
"You could punish my lips with yours."
"Hmmm, no. I think I will more effectively punish you by not punishing you in that manner."
She picked up her skirts and ran, making sure the ringlet bounced charmingly. At the summit she turned to face him looking almost wild, with her hair all untidy, fine eyes brightened by the exercise, and complexion flushed and with a fine sheen of perspiration. He thought she had never looked lovelier; in fact, her appearance was similar to the way he pictured her in his fantasies of their wedding night, although, at that moment, a little more formally, and muddily, attired.
After a silence of several minutes, Darcy strode towards her in an agitated manner and thus began, "In vain have I struggled, and it will not do. You must allow me to tell you how utterly distracted I am by this wayward curl tumbling down the back of your lovely neck. It has been the unwitting cause of a considerable amount of torture, and I must confess to being rather jealous of the way it caresses you." He turned her around, moved the distracting curl to one side, planted a quick kiss on the exposed skin of her neck, and then let the ringlet spring back to its original position. "Please, Lizzy, can you not do something about this distressing tress? It shall certainly be my undoing."
Elizabeth removed the pins holding her hair, gave her head a shake, and let the mass of chestnut curls cascade down her back. She smiled irresistibly at him over her shoulder and asked, "Does this undoing help or hinder your undoing, sir?"
Darcy pressed the back of his hand against his forehead and emoted, "Oh, Lizzy! I am undone by the undoing of your hair! You do not know what I suffer and what a dreadful state I am in." He tried to keep a straight face, but the smirk and the dimples soon appeared. "I have such tremblings, such flutterings, all over me, such spasms in my side, and pains in my head, and such beatings at heart, that I can get no rest by night or by day. Is there nothing you could give for my present relief?"
Doctor Bennet immediately came to his rescue and administered a dose of sweet kisses for the patient's present relief; and Darcy knew she was, beyond all comparison, the most wonderful tonic in the world.
He was growing quite inattentive to other people and wholly engrossed by her, and every time they were together it was more decided and remarkable. (At dinner one night Bingley had to say his name three times before getting any reaction or response from his best friend.) But after another day spent in professions of love and schemes of felicity, Mr. Darcy was called away by the arrival of Tuesday. The trip could not be put off; and the pain of separation might be alleviated, on his side, by preparations at Pemberley for the reception of his bride.
Darcy sent an express letter to Elizabeth informing her that he had commissioned a portrait artist to be at their estate the month after her arrival in Derbyshire, but he feared it would not be easy for the painter to catch the expression in her magnificent eyes. He also related that her settlements had been finalized, he had taken delivery of the new carriages, had some of his mother's jewelry taken out of safekeeping for presentation to her, and that the apartments of both the Master and Mistress of Pemberley had been refurbished to his satisfaction, although he hoped one of the sumptuous bedchambers would be redundant. He had presumed time away from one another might ease his 'problem'; but he confessed that because he had already imagined her in so many scenarios at Pemberley, that actually being home only intensified his longing for her to join him. Further words of love and devotion were expressed as sensibly and as warmly as a man violently in love can be supposed to do, and finally he asked whether she was missing his company as severely as he was hers.
When Lizzy's lavender-scented reply arrived, the happiness it produced was such as he had probably never felt before. Yes, she missed him horribly; and it had been many days inexpressibly painful to her. "I am quite ashamed of what my own feelings have been, Mr. Darling; for you see, I have been having 'torturous' thoughts and dreams of you. Although I believed myself perfectly calm and cool, my family has, in fact, become tired of hearing my sighs of yearning. I have turned to Mr. Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing for advice and found it in Sigh No More, Ladies as follows: Then sigh not so ~ But let them go ~ And be you blithe and bonny ~ Converting all your sounds of woe ~ Into Hey nonny, nonny. As to our future sleeping arrangements, which one of our rooms shall we make redundant? That hard decision I will gladly leave in your most capable and loving hands, as I am sure you have a firm opinion on the subject. I am pleased to hear of the settlements, jewels, and new carriages to be endowed upon me and wonder whether you have anything else, other than all your worldly goods, to propose for my domestic felicity. But, William you are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings, affections and wishes are truly as you have so eloquently expressed in your letter, please return to me at once. Jane, Mr. Bingley, and Mama are in a frenzy of preparations for the ball next week. Well, Jane is as serene as usual and your friend merely enthusiastic. However, my mother is certainly frantic; and you must rescue me from her clutches, as I would much rather be in yours. I am looking forward to dancing with you at Netherfield, so you must promise to do it with me at least three times that night. Until then, my love …"
That night Darcy thought with pleasure of doing it at least three times with Elizabeth (Author: Dancing, that is! Sheesh! Darcy: "Ahem!"); and nothing less than a ball on Tuesday could have made Saturday, Sunday, and Monday endurable to him.
Week # 12 of 14
Mr. Darcy arrived back at Netherfield mid-afternoon on Tuesday, in plenty of time to prepare for that night's ball but not early enough to visit Longbourn. Absence had made his heart grow fonder; and he wondered how that was even possible. That tortured organ already desired Elizabeth more than he could stand.
As the Bennet carriage was reined to a halt at the foot of Netherfield's steps, a very tall and devastatingly handsome man, impeccably dressed, could be seen watching from an upper-floor window. He waited until he espied the second eldest daughter alight before he hurried to the foyer. A footman was already taking her cloak as he approached, and Fitzwilliam Darcy's jaw dropped as Elizabeth turned to face him. Their separation had been painful, and he drank in her beauty as an elixir.
She was a vision in an elegant silk gown of a pale and creamy flaxen hue. The wide neckline, trimmed in a slightly darker blonde edging, deeply plunged to a 'v' between her breasts. A pale pink ribbon encircled the empire waist, met at the 'v', and fell to the ruffled hem. Buff-coloured long gloves stopped just below the frock's short, puffy sleeves. Around her lovely neck she wore a plain narrow gold chain, and pinned beneath her cleavage was a small cameo brooch on loan from her Aunt Gardiner. A lacy petticoat and pair of daintily buckled gold slippers peeked from under the hem when she moved.
Elizabeth's hair was styled in a different manner that night. The chestnut curls were parted to one side and gathered up by gold and pink satin ribbons, with the distracting ringlet resting upon her right shoulder. Her neck was otherwise exposed and, in the gentleman's opinion, it begged to be kissed.
He bowed and settled for kissing her hand as he breathed in her lavender scent. As he escorted her into the ballroom, he bent toward her ear and spoke softly, "Elizabeth, my love, you are extraordinarily beautiful this evening. Words fail. I have never seen you draped in silk before, but this will not be the last. I intend to lavish you with the finest fabrics available, although you do not require such to be truly exquisite. You are the most alluring and magnificent woman I have ever seen, and I am the luckiest man in the world."
"William, I … thank you. I am overwhelmed and glad my appearance pleases you. My Aunt Gardiner had this gown made for me when I was last in London, and I was saving it for a very special occasion. Your return qualified as such. Oh, look! Is there a ball here tonight? How fortunate that I have worn this pretty dress and that you are so handsomely attired as well. Shall we join the others?"
Elizabeth's spirits were high, and Darcy was captivated by her liveliness and brilliant smile.
"Lizzy, I wish this celebration was, instead, our wedding breakfast and that we could soon leave and start our lives together. You are a very tempting armful, and I do not wish to share you with others this evening. I hope your dance card is not filled and that you have saved the first, supper, and last sets for me, as planned."
The strains of La Belle Assemblee March signaled the dancers to take their positions for the first set, and Fitzwilliam Darcy was proud to stand opposite his enchanting fiancée. Afterward he had to endure watching her dance with her father, her Uncle Gardiner, and even Bingley. He, in turn, stood up once with Jane; however, he was in no humour to give consequence to other young ladies who were slighted that night. Whenever Elizabeth danced with one of the local young bucks, Darcy paced, scowled, and became quite jealous. Lizzy was a ravishing sight, and he did not at all care for the lascivious leers he imagined the other men directed at his bride-to-be.
He was pleasantly surprised, however, that Bingley had arranged for the supper set to be the Slow Waltz. The new sensation was hardly acceptable yet in London, let alone at a country ball in Hertfordshire. Darcy was absolutely delighted to be able to embrace Lizzy, although the contact was at once too little and too much for him. He entreated in a whisper near her ear, "Please, Elizabeth, will you meet me outside while the others dine? I have missed your sweet kisses this past week, and I promise to behave." When he smiled and gave her 'the look', she could not resist.
"I will, Will. But for now, please do stop gazing at me in that penetrating manner, sir; for you make my knees quite weak, and I must concentrate on the movements to this scandalous dance in which we are engaged. Let us have some diverting conversation. I will begin by commenting on how very much I was flattered by your asking me to dance a third time when we first met. I did not expect such a compliment."
"Did you not? What could be more natural than my asking you again and again? I could not help seeing that you were about five times as pretty as every other woman in the room, as you are tonight as well, my love. When Mrs. Long asked me how I liked your Meryton assembly, whether I did not think there were a great many pretty women in the room, and which I thought the prettiest, I answered immediately to the last question, 'Oh, the second eldest Miss Bennet beyond a doubt. There cannot be two opinions on that point.'"
"Upon my word, sir, I am certain Mr. Bingley would disagree with you on that point. I must say I was at first far from suspecting that I was becoming an object of some interest in your eyes that night. I was, in fact, perfectly unaware until you amazingly asked me to stand up with you that third time. You are always so proper in public, so stiff, so rigid, and erect." He shot her a warning look before she continued, "So how do you account for having disregarded propriety at our assembly, Mr. Darcy?"
"Your face was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of your dark eyes, and your figure…well, let me just say that you were a very desirable dance partner. I could not refuse when so much beauty was before me. What man would object to such an inducement?" He paused and looked a little guilty and sheepish as he then said, "Actually, Lizzy, I have a confession to make. My imagination was very active that night and jumped from admiration to love in a moment. How soon any other wishes introduced themselves, I can hardly tell; but I believe in about half an hour after I had first seen you, I thought about you as my wife."
"Half an hour, sir? I am all astonishment! What took you so long? As soon as you entered the room, I thought you a very suitable candidate for a husband."
"Miss Elizabeth Bennet, I am appalled! Before you were sure of my character? Before you were even certain of your own regard? Shame on you! And come to think on it, shame on me. Why, then, did it take an agonizing two-week campaign to gain permission to court you?"
"Well, Will, is it not usual for young ladies to reject the addresses of the man whom they secretly mean to accept when he first applies for their favour?"
"Teasing little minx! Speaking of favours, young lady, I believe you agreed to a tryst outside. Come as quickly as you can, Lizzy; and meet me near the garden wall."
While Elizabeth mingled, Darcy marched back and forth under the stars silently repeating his mantra. We must not anticipate our vows. I will behave. We must not anticipate our vows. I will behave...
After making sure her family and friends had seen her during supper, Elizabeth finally evaded notice, slipped out a side door, and ran down the steps to the garden. She could see William pacing, and it appeared he was mumbling and muttering to himself. When he saw her, he hurried to catch her up in a gentle embrace as they kissed for the first time in a week. He had promised to behave himself, but got lost in the moment and urgently pressed her against the garden wall. Lizzy then found she was caught between a rock and a hard place. She knew she should not be alone with him, yet being in his arms felt so right. She broke the kiss; and Darcy groaned and looked at her with need and desperation. "Please, Elizabeth!" He did not know if he was pleading with her to make him stop or begging for permission to continue.
Feeling flushed and bereft, Elizabeth breathlessly whispered, "My, my! I am afraid my Will is weakening."
"Please, Elizabeth! You have to help me be strong. If you tell me your will is weakening, we are both lost. We must not anticipate our vows. We must wait until we are married. I am hopeless, so you have to be the strong one."
Elizabeth was embarrassed to tell him, "Actually, you misunderstood. When I said my Will was weakening, I meant you, my Will…oh, never mind!"
"Lizzy, my love, I am truly sorry. This urge is a weakness indeed, but I will endeavour to keep it under good regulation with your assistance."
"Perhaps, William, we should limit our interaction or not see one another at all during the final week of our engagement."
"No! Please, Elizabeth! I promise I shall behave in a more gentlemanlike manner. Just do not deprive me of your company and affection. I need to see you, even if you do cut up my peace."
"It will certainly cut up my father's peace if we are discovered out here. Why, you might be forced to take me as your wife, sir," Lizzy teased as she chewed her lip and looked up at him through her lashes.
"To take you as my wife right now would not require much encouragement, I assure you," he growled, took her hand, and led her across the lawn. "But you are correct, we should return indoors before we are missed. I am not looking forward to the rest of this night, as I shall be forced to watch as you stand up with other men."
"Darling, your carefree bachelor days will soon be over, so you should enjoy yourself tonight. You can dance. You can waltz. You should be having the time of your life. The night is young, and the music nigh. Come, William, I must have you dance. I would hate to see you standing about by yourself in that stupid manner; and when you get the chance, you had much better dance."
"Good God, Lizzy, you sound just like Bingley and, strangely enough, also like a couple of Swedish chaps I was slightly acquainted with in Cambridge. Did I ever tell you about the song they composed about Bonaparte's surrender at Waterloo?"
Week # 13 of 14
At Longbourn, mid-week, the Bennets hosted a party so friends and neighbours could say their farewells to Lizzy, and especially so Mrs. Bennet could gloat over her good fortune.
As Elizabeth mingled and chatted with ease, Darcy sat and conversed with her father, Mr. Gardiner, and Sir William Lucas. Her laughter reached his ears and he longed for Lizzy's company. The three elder gentlemen failed to hold his attention, and they exchanged amused glances. Mr. Bennet finally took pity on the young man and said, "Son, would you see if you can find your wife-to-be and ask her to bring me some fruit and cheese; and perhaps she could prepare a plate for you as well. There's a good fellow."
Darcy eagerly sprang from the chair, and his long strides soon brought him to her side. "Pardon me, Mrs. Phillips, but may I steal Elizabeth away for a few moments?"
Lizzy excused herself; and as they walked away she asked if she had been neglecting him. "Yes," he pouted, "and I now require some of your undivided attention; but first, Lizzy, your father has requested you bring him a …a glass of ale? No." He furrowed his brow trying to remember what Mr. Bennet wanted. Wine? No. Her nearness was befuddling his brain. "Oh, just take him some grapes and hurry back to me, my love."
Darcy settled on a vacant settee in a quiet corner and waited for her; and when she appeared in front of him, she was holding a small platter of fresh fruit. Elizabeth was certainly a sight that evening, with glowing complexion, bright eyes, and dazzling smile. As she bent forward, extending the tray, his eyes came to rest on the voluptuous curves of her revealing neckline, just as she had planned.
Lizzy's voice was low and sultry as she asked, "William, darling, do you see anything tempting? Will these ripe offerings whet your appetite? I have been told yours is a very healthy one, but I hope it is not insatiable."
He squirmed and urgently whispered, "Oh, Good God, please, Elizabeth! We are in company! Have some mercy!"
Darcy's face coloured and his eyes grew wide in panic, as she continued to speak before he could stop her mouth.
"Please take a large handful, sir. These plums and cherries are all nicely firm, well rounded, and…"
A hand on the back of her shoulder caused Elizabeth to straighten and freeze.
"That will be quite enough now, Lizzy; you have tormented the poor fellow sufficiently for one evening."
She wished the floor would just open up and swallow her as she looked over her shoulder at the retreating form of her father. When she turned back, she also wished she could wipe the smirk off Fitzwilliam Darcy's face.
Her betrothed laughed at the priceless expression on her lovely countenance and thought that Lizzy had certainly been served her just desserts. And that is just what you deserve, saucy little minx, for trying to tempt me with a plate of fruit! You may be Eve in my Garden of Eden, but I am not Adam. I am Fitzwilliam Darcy, Master of Pemberley; and what goes around, comes around!
Comeuppance, payback, retribution, retaliation - call it what you will, but it was that which Mr. Darcy had in store for Miss Elizabeth. He patted the case in his pocket, knowing that the contents would play a part in his plan for revenge.
He found his fiancée in Longbourn's stillroom with her sisters. "Good morning, Miss Bennet, Lizzy, Miss Mary, Miss Catherine, Miss Lydia. Ladies, may I steal the bride away from these wedding preparations for a short duration?"
Elizabeth hesitated, as there was yet much work to be done; but he was looking at her so invitingly, that she relented. However, she made it clear that she would have to return to the house shortly.
Darcy led her to the prettyish kind of a little wilderness on one side of the lawn and then to a small stone bench. He had taken extra care with his appearance that morning, bathing with the sandalwood soap she favoured, donning an outfit, in shades of brown and green, she had previously admired, and wearing the tall brown boots she preferred. Whenever he spoke, he lowered his deep baritone voice. Whenever he touched her, his hand lingered and caressed. He smiled often, knowing the high regard she had for his dimples; and at every opportunity, he gave her 'the look', filled with as much love and passion as he could exude.
He doffed his hat, sat close beside her on the bench, and ensured their thighs made full contact. Darcy knew he had gotten off to a fine start, as her colour became increasingly high; and he was pleased to know she was already affected by the implementation of his scheme. There was some trepidation on his part, for he knew not whether he could control his own desire while he kindled hers. Once again, he was playing with flame; and he hoped the whole gambit would not backfire on him. Darcy turned slightly to face his beloved and peeled off his gloves so skin would touch skin, then he gently took her small hand in his and traced circles on its palm with his thumb.
"Lizzy," he began, his deep voice rumbling and vibrating within her, "are you well, my love? You are blushing. Where is my teasing little minx, and why are you suddenly shy with me?" His mouth was very close to her ear, not touching but near enough to tickle her hair and send shivers down her spine.
She began to speak, but her reply came out as a croak. Elizabeth cleared her throat and said, "William, I am fine; but I thought we were going to curtail our solitary assignations so close to our wedding day."
He gave a roguish smile and replied, "If you will recall, I never agreed to that. But I am being a perfect gentleman, Miss Elizabeth, am I not? Why, I have not even kissed your lips yet today. Do you not trust yourself alone with me?"
She was uncertain. Something was different in his manner and in her reaction to his behaviour. One moment she felt it advisable to get up and walk away, and the next she wanted to breach all the rules of propriety and fling her body upon his. She began to feel guilty about all the teasing and torture she had put him through, for he was now wreaking havoc with her senses. Touch. Every time he touched her today, it was with a lingering caress; and when his thumb had stroked her palm, sensations were evoked not only in her hand. Hearing. His deep, husky voice in her ear caused vibrations within, and shivers up and down her spine. Sight. Oh, yes, he was a sight! Tall, broad shouldered, rakishly handsome, cleft chin and dimples, dark chocolate hair and eyes. Smouldering eyes that made her knees weak when they bestowed that certain look. Elizabeth glanced at her beloved. The breeze played with his tousled curls and wafted his scent to her. Smell. Sandalwood. Her man.. Fitzwilliam Darcy… sitting there, smirking at her, and oozing masculinity. Taste. Oh, why does he not kiss me?
Coming to her senses from reflections on her senses, Elizabeth remembered his question. She gave a quivering smile and assured him she felt quite safe, indeed, and could certainly withstand his charisma.
Darcy was well pleased with his progress so far but had to keep a very tight rein on his own ardour. After all, as Bingley had warned, he did not want his filly to get skittish and bolt. He knew she could only stay a short time before duty called her home.
"Lizzy…," he began. She was not listening. "Lizzy?" She was staring dreamily at his mouth. "Miss Elizabeth Bennet!"
"Hm? Oh, sorry, darling… William. I was… gathering wool. all the wedding preparations …We are to be married very soon, you know; and…" Her gaze wandered back to his lips.
He smirked and said under his breath, "Yes, I know; and not soon enough it would appear." He lowered his head, turned her hand over, and kissed her fingers as he raised his smouldering eyes to hers. "Elizabeth, is there something you desire from me?"
Her pretty face, already rosy, flushed an even deeper pink.
It was time. Darcy moved in for the kill. "Something only I can give you, sweetheart?" He released her hand and arose.
Elizabeth became alarmed and scrambled to her feet. "Really, William, I should return home now; for there is much ado about…" She could not finish, as a pair of strong hands, whose thumbs were caressing her blushing cheeks, had gently cupped her face.
William slowly lowered his head toward her, and she closed her eyes. "I have something for you, Lizzy," he whispered next to her ear, "something I can only give to my wife." His hands moved to caress her jaw, under her chin, down her neck, and around to her nape.
She waited for the exquisite touch of his lips on hers, in vain. Darcy had released her and stood a few feet away admiring the glazed expression in her fine eyes and the priceless heirloom jewels adorning her lovely neck.
"They are oval-cut rubies, Elizabeth, and have been in the Darcy family for generations. My mother was the last to wear them."
Elizabeth shook her head, slowly came out of a daze, and realized he was speaking of the weight she suddenly felt around her throat. She raised her hand to the gems, and her eyes grew wide in amazement. "When did you…how did you…do that? Am I to marry a man adept at slight-of-hand?"
Darcy's male pride was immensely satisfied that she had been so obliviously wrapped up in his seduction that she had not noticed the necklace being fastened around her neck. The first stage of his revenge was complete; one down, and two to go.
"Do not be alarmed, Lizzy. As I mentioned in my letter, I have taken from safekeeping some of my mother's jewelry for you. There are certain pieces that have been handed down from our ancestors, and each marriage brings new pieces to the collection. Some of the jewels will go to Georgiana; but I am very honoured to be able to bestow this particular piece upon you, my love. Here, allow me to remove it so you can have a better look."
He stood behind her and moved the charming ringlet to one side, unfastened the clasp, and reached around to place the necklace in her dainty hand, caressing her fingers as he did so. She gasped at the precious red gems sparkling in the sunlight and at the timbre of his voice as he remained behind her, speaking of the stones.
"Rubies are the world's most rare and valued gemstones, Lizzy. They are the gems of desire, love, and passion." He nuzzled her neck and murmured, "The Bible says only wisdom and virtuous women are more precious then rubies." He nipped her earlobe. "They are fiery, like you, my love."
Lizzy did not feel like fire, she felt like jelly. His mouth was kissing the sensitive skin behind her ear. But the fire was igniting, and her toes were curling inside her shoes.
Darcy moved to her other ear and whispered, "So, how do you like the Darcy family jewels, Lizzy?"
"Hmm? The what?"
Her fiancé was suddenly in front of her, smiling at her befuddled expression, and thoroughly enjoying his game. "The Darcy family jewels are those specifically for the Mistress of Pemberley; so my mother enjoyed them for a while, they will soon be yours, and then we will pass them along to our son for his wife."
Elizabeth turned red upon mention of a future child.
Darcy teased, "You are blushing again, my love. It is just as well that you are now wearing a string of pearls, as your red face would certainly outshine rubies."
"William!!!" she gasped. "How on earth are you doing this magic? You, sir, are not to be trusted at all; but I will not be hoodwinked again."
"Again? Are you expecting even more gems, Elizabeth? Greedy for the Darcy family jewels, are you? Strangely enough, that particular avarice pleases me, sweetheart."
"It pleases you that I am a greedy fortune-hunter, only marrying you for the famous Darcy family jewels?"
Darcy guffawed, "They are hardly famous, my dear; but thank you for the compliment."
She was confused by his words and wondered if she was being administered a taste of her own medicine. Oh, no…Is there another meaning to 'the Darcy family jewels'?
To be on the safe side, she did not use the term again but asked, "Tell me about the pearls, William."
He closed the space between them and trailed his index finger along the top of the necklace with a feather-light touch, but his eyes never strayed from hers as he answered, "They were my great-great-grandmother's anniversary present from her husband. A knight traditionally gave pearls to his lady." Darcy took his lady into his arms and finally gave her the kiss she had been craving, gentle and tender, yet deep and filled with passion, leaving her utterly breathless. When she opened her eyes, he was smirking again. Her hand flew to her neck, but the pearls were still there.
"Tsk, tsk, Lizzy. Were you expecting something else?"
"Why were you smirking then, sir?"
"You should not answer a question with a question, Elizabeth; but I will tell you anyway. A string of pearls supposedly keeps a newlywed bride from crying and ensures marital bliss; and that is why I was smiling, not smirking. I was thinking of your, and our, domestic felicity."
"William, it has been settled between us already that we are to be the happiest couple in the world. But the wedding has to take place first, and I must return to my preparations. We must have flowers, you know, before our domestic felicity can be sanctioned."
"You shall have flowers, Elizabeth; do not worry on that account. And please do not part company with me yet; but perhaps you should part company with the pearls. Unless you wish to wear them with your wedding dress, I will take them back to the safe at Netherfield until we depart for Pemberley."
"Thank you, William; but when I walk down the aisle, I will be wearing the cross Papa gave me. I am still his little girl until he gives me away to you, and I am sure he would be pleased by the gesture; and can you imagine the raptures in which Mama would be if I arrived home with the Darcy family jewels in hand?" She shot him a quick glance to see if she would catch him smirking but only encountered a deadpan face; therefore, she did not think there was any double entendre involved in the words after all. However, the Master of Pemberley had long ago perfected that inscrutable, stony look.
As he removed the necklace he informed her that the pearl is the only gemstone made by a living creature. He then took her hand and pulled her with him to sit side by side on the bench again. "It also symbolizes purity, Elizabeth. You are an amazing mixture of that innocence and the ruby's fire, and I love and desire you." He proved it by placing feather-light pecks all over her face before moving his hands to the sides of her head and threading his fingers through her hair. His touch was soothing and yet arousing; and she closed her eyes in contentment, feeling like a cat in a sunny spot with a tummy full of cream. Had she been able, Lizzy would have purred, as he moved his hands to caress her neck. Darcy then took his hands away; and between kisses to her eyelids and the corners of her mouth, he spoke, "Sweetheart, I said you would have flowers; and I hope you like these." Dangling from his raised hand was a glittering choker necklace of flower-shaped diamonds. Hundreds of diamonds. "These stones mean strength and courage, but more importantly everlasting love. This necklace is part of the Darcy family jewel collection, and they need to be against your soft skin. May I?"
She nodded and stared in silence as he touched the dazzling jewelry to her throat. After his heated touch, it felt cold on her skin. As it was fastened in place, he continued, "Pemberley has been without a Mistress since my mother passed; and these gems have been waiting for you, Elizabeth Darcy. I know you are not impressed by gaudy displays of wealth, but I hope you will treasure them in your own way. The Darcy family jewels belong to the woman though whom our line will continue, and I could not be prouder than to have you as my wife and mother of my children. You are worth more to me than every gem on the face of the earth."
Elizabeth Bennet appreciated the gesture of the bestowing of the jewelry collection and the responsibility that came with it, but his words meant more than all the necklaces in the kingdom. When she looked into his eyes, she saw her future; and it was rosy. Their lips came together in an explosion of passion, and the rest of the world disappeared. The kiss was searing hot, and his hands scorched her wherever they touched. Darcy was the one who broke contact first, only to move his mouth to her neck; and his teeth scraped down the sensitive skin below and behind her ear until they came to the diamonds.
Lizzy begged, "Please, William!" But she knew not what she wanted from him. She was lost in a fog of sensation. It was several moments before she realized his touch could no longer be felt, and she was bereft.
"Will, darling? William?" She turned to the right and then to the left but could not see him. She jumped up and spun around, but he was nowhere to be seen. Her hand flew to her throat. Both her beloved and the necklace had disappeared.
She picked up a slip of paper from the bench:
"Oh, insufferable, teasing, teasing man! What is he about? Certainly not poetry! Horrible rhyme! And what does he mean by such a postscript? I must behave? And this is his real opinion! Very well. I shall now know how to act!"
Much later that afternoon, the awful object, known as Lizzy, had something to do. She was walking the three miles to Netherfield, as the carriage was unavailable; and she would not ride a horse. Lizzy was not merely walking; she was marching, quickly, determinedly, and quite stormily, head bent forward, and arms pumping. She needed to blow off some steam. When she arrived at the manor, she demanded to see one Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, immediately, if not sooner.
The gentleman had half expected a visit from her and was directed to the library, where she had demanded to be taken. Before entering, he inquired of the footman if he might possibly be able to shed some light on the mood of the young lady. The servant just raised his eyebrows, and opened the door.
A muddy hellcat immediately attacked. She strode up to him and poked him in the chest with every sentence she spoke.
"Mr. Darcy! How dare you? I have never been so mortified in my life! How could you do that to me? Explain yourself, if you can, sir!"
He probably deserved the tongue lashing, so he spoke softly as he rubbed his sore chest, "Elizabeth, calm down, love. Ah, for which particular crime am I being taken to task? I fear that there are several possibilities."
She just glared at him.
"Let me see then. Are you miffed because I write poetry really badly?"
"In a snit because I disappeared and left you in an …excited…state?"
She picked up a chair cushion and threw it at him. And glared.
"May I ask for a hint?"
He waited for the hint. She waited for him to ask for the hint.
He sighed and asked, "Did something occur at Longbourn for which you blame me?"
Again she nodded.
"Lizzy, could you not just tell me what I did?"
He waited for her to tell him what he did. She waited for him to ask her to tell him what he did.
Author: This is getting nowhere fast. Lizzy, speak!
"I went into the house, or should I say the inquisition, and had to explain my absence, which, by the way, was of a far longer duration than I had realized."
"Time flies when one is having fun, Lizzy." Darcy had the audacity to waggle his eyebrows at her.
He really was insufferable, wrote bad poetry, and had, indeed, left her in a state; but she loved him with all her heart and could not stay angry. She, in turn, raised an eyebrow at him and grinned.
"Mr. Darling, during the course of the inquisition I happened to mention to Mama that you had shown me the Darcy family jewels, and she nearly had an apoplexy! She ranted and raved that I was ruined, that the family was ruined, and that everything was in ruins. I had to spend hours listening to her wails, fetching her salts, fanning her, and apologizing. You, sir, have a cruel streak."
To this he only raised his arm in victory and crowed, "Yes! Stage three complete."
The next morning Lizzy had been up early, as usual, had breakfast with her father, and taken a walk before the rest of the family had arisen. While scampering about the countryside, muddying her skirts, she decided on a plan of action.
By the time she had returned to her room, prepared for the day, and skipped downstairs, her mother and sisters were all in the sitting room sewing and working on bonnets. Her father had, of course, escaped to his study.
When she entered the room, Jane looked up, frowned, and said, "Lizzy, are you well? You appear…not your usual self…"
Lydia snorted and exclaimed, "Lud! Lizzy you look like Mary! Ha, ha! What a joke! Wait until Mr. Darcy sees you!"
Mrs. Bennet jumped up from her chair and cried, "Get back upstairs, young lady! Your husband-to-be shall arrive here with Bingley at any minute. Oh, my poor nerves! Hill, Hill! Get me my smelling salts! Where is that Hill?"
Mary said, "I think you look nice, Lizzy. Prim and proper as a young wife should."
Her mother did not agree. "Elizabeth Bennet! Make haste to fix your hair and put on one of your regular gowns. Where did you get that ugly monstrosity, and why are you wearing that cap? Mr. Darcy must not see you in such a state! For if he does, he will change his mind about marrying you; and we will all be ruined! After yesterday, my nerves are in tatters. Hill, Hill!"
Kitty had been silently gaping at Lizzy's appearance but turned to look out the window at that moment and saw two riders dismount and make their way to the front door. "Mama, it is too late. They are here."
Mrs. Bennet's wails assaulted the two gentlemen's ears as they entered the foyer and were shown to the sitting room by Hill. The uneasy occupants of the room sat frozen after greetings were exchanged; and their eyes kept shifting between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth, who was unaffected and welcomed the visitors warmly. She received a kiss on her hand from her fiancé before he took a seat beside her.
Mr. Bingley gave Elizabeth a puzzled look and asked, "Miss Elizabeth, …are you well?" When he was assured she was, indeed, quite well, he looked around the room to see if anyone else found her appearance …odd. Jane seemed concerned, her mother mortified, Mary satisfied, and the two younger girls whispered to one another and snickered. After a few minutes of uneasy silence, Bingley suggested a walk to Meryton, as it was such a glorious morning.
Mrs. Bennet and Mary declined; however, the rest of the party enjoyed the stroll into town. Kitty and Lydia hurried ahead, eager to find Denny and Sanderson; while the two engaged couples took their time. Lizzy and Darcy, who were contentedly ambling arm and arm, slowed their pace and lagged far behind Jane and Bingley.
Darcy leaned toward Elizabeth and said, "You look lovely today, Lizzy, and appear quite well, despite Bingley's concern about the state of your health."
Elizabeth looked up at him expecting to see a smirk and a teasing look in his eyes but instead found him giving her that breathtaking, knee-weakening, devastatingly torturous 'look'.
She stopped in the road, crossed her arms, and turned to face him. "Mr. Darcy, everyone else has commented on my altered appearance; yet you have not made mention of the fact that I am wearing one of my mother's most hideous, lacey, shapeless, buttoned-to-the-throat dresses and a matronly linen mob cap, underneath which my hair is pulled back into a severe bun, with not a strand out of place. I have been demure, have not teased you yet this morning, am not wearing lavender, have not drawn your notice to my lips; and still you have not batted an eye. And, to top it all, you now say I look lovely! Just what are you about, sir?"
Darcy gave her a puzzled look and replied, "Dearest, loveliest Lizzy, you always look beautiful to me. I told you, you do not require the finest fabrics to look exquisite; and I meant every word. Gorgeous gowns, elaborate hairstyles, and expensive jewelry may enhance your comeliness, but it is your inner beauty that attracts me. As I once told Bingley, quite some time ago, to find one's own wife to be, at least, tolerable would be a bonus. Your beautiful, intelligent, sparkling dark eyes are what drew me in, Elizabeth. Eyes are the windows to the soul; and I believe our two souls have found their mates. I love you, Lizzy, not your packaging…although that is, indeed, a bonus I will enjoy treasuring. You know how I have struggled with that!"
"Oh, William, you are truly the best man I have ever known. I do not deserve you!"
"No, my love, it is I who does not deserve you."
"We will not argue for the greater share of worthiness, if it pleases you "
"I look forward to being able to please a woman worthy of being pleased."
Indeed, Fitzwilliam Darcy, Master of Pemberley, resolved to do everything within his power, beginning on their wedding night, to please Elizabeth.
Week # 14 of 14
Darcy: "Whew! Finally! Week # 14! I made it!"
Author: Sorry, kiddo. You haven't made it yet. It is The End
Darcy: "No, no! Wait! Please do not end it here! It is truly just The Beginning."
Darcy: (down on his knees) "Plleeeease, Joanne!"