Part 1. At Pemberley
Darcy closed the last of the ledger books and leaned back in his chair with a sigh. How could he concentrate on the numbers when his wedding was barely less than a week away? He rubbed his hands against his tired eyes and then stretched languidly.
Darcy contemplated this past week. He had never felt so alone as he had in the past few days. Each day had seemed more solitary than the last. He wondered if all future days without Elizabeth's company would be as lonely as the past week had been. His only consolation had been that his loneliness would not be lasting too long.
Each day had been carefully marked off his calendar. Finally, the day was about to arrive, tomorrow would be the happy day that he returned to Hertfordshire and Elizabeth.
"Mr. Darcy?" a gentle knock sounded on the door.
"Mr. Darcy," Mrs. Reynolds repeated as she entered the room, "is there anything more you will be wanting this evening?"
"No, thank you, Mrs. Reynolds," Darcy replied. Mrs. Reynolds turned to leave. "Mrs. Reynolds," Darcy's voiced stopped her, "Everything is ready for the arrival of the new mistress?"
Mrs. Reynolds knew that the question was due to Mr. Darcy's desire to please his new bride and was not intended as a slight on the servants' ability to carry out his orders. "Yes, sir, everything is ready. We are all looking forward to greeting the new mistress."
"Thank you, Mrs. Reynolds. I knew that I could rely on you to see that all was well." Mrs. Reynolds blushed happily at the compliment. She gave a slight curtsy and left the room.
The next morning Darcy left his home in Derbyshire for Netherfield. The sun was shining brightly, conveying a false sense of warmth to those who viewed the day from indoors. Darcy shuddered as a cold chill blew into the carriage. He settled deeper into his greatcoat.
The horses would not, could not move fast enough for his liking. Even if the horses could fly down the road at fifty miles an hour (Darcy smiled slightly at this absurd thought) it still would not be fast enough. He was filled with the excitement of seeing his Elizabeth again. It curled within him.
Darcy's thoughts drifted to when he and Elizabeth would meet again. He smiled, he could not help himself. Sweet Elizabeth, the woman who had stolen his heart with her sparkling eyes. She was unlike any other woman he had ever known. Her intelligence and wit intrigued him. However would he be able to contain his happiness at seeing his beloved again? Settling back in his coach he daydreamed his way to Netherfield.
Part 2. A day or so later
Meryton watched as the carriage drove down the main street and out of town towards Netherfield. Mr. Darcy was back! And it was not long before of all of Meryton had heard the news.
The village had been busy gossiping about the upcoming marriages ever since the first rumors of an engagement had resurfaced when Mr. Bingley returned to Netherfield. The talk only increased when it was learned that Elizabeth Bennet was to marry Mr. Darcy. Gossip flowed up one side of the street and down the other. No detail was too small to be overlooked: the number and the rank of guests, the amount of lace in the bridal veils, the food and the drink.
Not even the pub was safe from the gossip--though this was perhaps due to the fact that Bingley's happiness made him generous, and he had, on more than one occasion, bought a round of drinks for those in the pub. Bingley was hailed as a welcomed addition to the community. Darcy, being away in Derbyshire and thus unable to buy the good opinion of the pub patrons, was regarded as a lucky devil who did not deserve the prize he was getting.
As the wedding day drew near, the center of gossip was at the dressmaker's shop. Mrs. Patch was doing a good business as the local ladies who had been so fortunate as to receive an invitation to the grand event were relying upon her services. Her establishment was busy the ladies coming and going from their fittings and coming and going with all the latest gossip.
"I hear that smuggled French champagne is to be served at the wedding banquet," said Mrs. Long to a group of ladies waiting for a fitting.
"I heard that Mr. Darcy's French chef was coming to prepare the wedding banquet," stated Mrs. Moore with assurance.
The door bells rang as Rose Long, Mrs. Long's niece, entered the shop. "Aunt, have you heard, Mr. Darcy is back! His carriage just came through town," she informed the customers in the shop.
"Indeed," said Mrs. Long, "I for one did not doubt that he would return. However, there were some that said that his family's objections to match would put an end to it."
"Of course Mr. Darcy has returned!" cried Mrs. Phillips. "He is besotted with my niece, positively besotted!"
"He would have to be to bear having Fanny Bennet as a mother-in-law," muttered Mrs. Moore.
"What!?" cried Mrs. Phillips, turning towards her.
"I was just wondering if the milliner had finished my bonnet made of straw," Mrs. Moore replied blandly.
Mrs. Phillips harrumphed in disbelief. "And as to any objections to the match, I will have you know that the Earl and Countess of Matlock will attend the wedding. I had directly from my sister just this morning." Thus having completed the "shopping" she had intended, Mrs. Phillips hurried to deliver the good news to her sister and niece.
Part 3. Meanwhile, at Longbourn
Elizabeth thought of Darcy whenever she could find time during the busy days just before the wedding. Not that there was much time for reflection. She was in pleasant contemplation of her fianc»e when her mother entered the room. Elizabeth had to stifle a laugh.
Mrs. Bennet was wearing the high-heeled shoes and a low-necked gown of her youth. She tottered into the room, long unaccustomed to the wide skirts and precarious heels.
"Mama, whatever are you wearing?" questioned Elizabeth, trying to keep her mirth hidden.
"My own wedding gown. Is it not amazing that it still fits?" Mrs. Bennet
Which it did, Elizabeth thought, if one carefully ignored the fact that the lacings were not done up in back. "But why are you are wearing it, Mama?"
"All this talk of wedding clothes reminded me that my own wedding gown was upstairs in the attic. So I had the trunk brought down to my room." She patted the gown fondly.
"Sister, sister! Elizabeth! Have you heard the news!" cried Mrs. Phillips, rushing into the room and collapsing into the nearest chair.
"My dear Aunt, whatever is the matter?" inquired Elizabeth, pouring her aunt a cup of water.
"Thank you, my dear. I have wonderful news, Elizabeth! Mr. Darcy is back and the whole village is talking of it! His carriage was spotted in the village not a quarter hour past!" Pleasure lit up Elizabeth eyes. "I knew you would want to hear about it first thing!" she crowed delightedly. Suddenly, she noticed Mrs. Bennet for the first time. "Goodness, sister! Whatever are you wearing?"
"Surely, you recognize my wedding gown? Remember how Andrew Mooney claimed he would die of a broken heart if I married Mr. Bennet?" she reminisced fondly. "Or how Lieutenant Jenkins promised to challenge Mr. Bennet to a duel if I accepted him?" questioned Mrs. Bennet, sounding remarkably like her youngest daughter.
"Indeed I do," said Mrs. Phillips, "and do you recall..."
Elizabeth slipped quietly from the room. Gathering up her bonnet and jacket, she was out the door and on the way to Netherfield.
Part 4. On the way to Netherfield.
There was no impropriety in going to Netherfield, Elizabeth told herself, for Jane was already there meeting with some of Bingley's relatives. Though it really would not have mattered if there was, for Elizabeth would have gone to Netherfield despite any censure. It had simply been too long since she had last seen her Mr. Darcy.
She reached the fence that separated Netherfield from the adjoining property. She began to climb over it as she always did. However, as she stood upon the top style she glanced down. Oh, dear, she thought, observing the mud on the other side of the fence. Elizabeth did not wish to arrive at Netherfield with her the hem of her dress covered in mud.
Elizabeth pondered her options. She could try to jump past the mud, but there was no guarantee that she would make it. She could climb over the planked fence, but her gown might wind up in a worse condition than that caused by mud. Or she could take the long way around to Netherfield, but she was too impatient to see Darcy. As she was deep in thought, she did not notice the footsteps approaching her.
"You seem to be in a bit of a predicament," a voice called.
"Darcy!" Elizabeth whirled about and nearly lost her footing. Her arms flailed in the air as she tried to right herself.
"Elizabeth!" cried with fear and a small touch of amusement. When Elizabeth was in control again he said, "Forgive me. It was not my intention to startle you."
"I shall forgive you, if you can find some way to remove me from this position without getting my skirts muddied."
"I can remember a time when a little dirt would not stop the intrepid Miss Bennet.
"That was before I wished to appear to best advantage. I have a fianc»e now, you may have heard."
"I heard something of it, I confess," Darcy replied with a smile.
"Then you should realize that I would not wish to look a sight before him."
"You look beautiful. Even that day so long ago, I barely noticed your dress, for your eyes were bright with exercise, just as they are know." Elizabeth blushed. Darcy stepped close to the fence, his boots sinking into the mud. "Come," he said, lifting his arms up to settle on Elizabeth's waist, just below the Spencer jacket.
Elizabeth laid her hands gingerly on Darcy's shoulder. When she felt herself being lifted off the fence, she tightened her grip. Elizabeth enjoyed the dizzying sensation of being whirled through the air in Darcy's strong arms.
She barely felt her feet touch the ground. Darcy did not let go of her. There was a silence and a stillness between them. Slowly, Elizabeth began to lean forward. Darcy's hands tightened on her waist. She tilted her face up to his. He began to lean down towards her. Her eyes began to close of their own accord...
Suddenly, a rabbit darted out the underbrush, startling the couple. The rabbit sat back on haunches. One ear was high and pointed, the other was rakishly dipping over one eye. He regarded them for what seem to be a long while, before bounding off across the field. Elizabeth could have sworn that before he took off, the rabbit had given them a knowing wink.
"It seems we have made a hair's breadth escape," Elizabeth giggled, more from embarrassment at being caught (even if it was only by a woodland creature) that now consumed her than at her pun.
Darcy's arm fell slowly to his sides. He shook his head to clear it, for it was foggy with unquenched yearnings. "I would rather have faced the danger," he muttered.
"I, also," she whispered in reply.
"Just a few more days, dearest Elizabeth, and we can get back to the moment just past and fear no interruptions from man or beast."
"Mr. Darcy, I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to it," Elizabeth smiled. Arm in arm, they walked towards Netherfield.
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