A Walk in the Meadow
The former Miss Elizabeth Bennet was stalking the halls of her new home Pemberley. She had been installed at that much talked of estate for some months now, and had found to her delight many enchanting paths to follow on her daily rambles. Her spirits were high; summer was coming on fast and the meadows around the estate full of bloom. What's more, she had completed her daily tasks as mistress and even called on some of the poorer tenants, the afternoon was reserved for nothing but her pleasure. She had but one complaint, she was quite unable to locate her husband; having searched each of his usual haunts she had found him quite conspicuously absent from all. Of course she could take a solitary ramble, as she had done so often in Hertfordshire, but for the sad truth that since her marriage she had become a poor missish creature, quite unable to walk any distance without the strong arm of her husband for support. Or perhaps that should be unwilling, you see Mrs. Darcy was not so different a character from Miss Bennet as to remove all her joyful independence, it is simply that she had discovered the very great pleasure to be had in admiring the beauty nature offered with her arm safely tucked up around that of the man loved, and now that she had become accustomed to such a pleasure she was very little willing to do without.
Now quite used to her home, and its workings she was well aware how to find the information she sought, and that was with the fountain of all knowledge on the Pemberley estates, Mrs. Reynolds. Poking her head around the housekeeper's open door while knocking lightly to make her presence known she called out to the elderly lady. "Mrs. Reynolds, what luck, you are here. May I come in?"
"Of course," came the reply from behind a rather delicate and wonderfully carved oak desk, a much-appreciated gift of thanks from the present Master to his most devoted and deserving servant for her many years of loyalty to the family.
"Humbug?" she questioned her guest holding out a glass jar filled with boiled sweets.
"Umm, please," answered Elizabeth with a grin as she popped one of the offered sweets into her mouth. Sucking her treat with gusto and in a most unladylike manner she continued, "It appears, Mrs. Reynolds, that I am in need of your assistance once again."
The old lady smiled fondly at her new mistress then offered with a teasing smile. "The red drawing room you will find in the same hallway as the Library, three doors down in the opposite direction of the east staircase."
Elizabeth smiled in return. "And what makes you think I would be searching for the red sitting room, a room I never heard mentioned till now, and have not thought to set foot in since my arrival?"
"Because, Madam, I believe Mr. Darcy is planning to have the room done up anew, and is very probably looking over it at this moment with Mr. Edwards." With a self-satisfied smirk she finished, "I would imagine your input would be greatly appreciated by the Master, Mrs. Darcy."
There was little Elizabeth could do but laugh. "I do believe you have found me out Mrs. Reynolds, I am very grateful that you at least, know where to find my husband. I could not imagine where he had gotten too, and if you will excuse me I shall go to him at once."
The rustle of skirts created by Elizabeth's swift flight from the room and towards her husband did little to mask the gentle chuckle released by Mrs. Reynolds, always amused by her new Mistress and never disappointed to see the young ladies enthusiasm to be in the Master's company.
Easily finding the red sitting room, it luckily being situated exactly where Mrs. Reynolds had described, Elizabeth was delighted to find her husband, not with Mr. Edwards as anticipated but quite alone.
Bustling into the room Elizabeth cried out to her husband, "So now I see where you have been hiding, Sir. Pray what is all this about your changing this room all of a sudden, a room no less, which held so little importance in your estimation that you have never before introduced it to me? "
Darcy smiled "I have not been hiding Elizabeth. But I have been considering what use we may give to this space. For too long it has been simply a closed door, you know how I despise waste. I should like to neglect it no longer and give it some purpose."
"You do not think another sitting room is purpose enough? True we have several others but this is I believe the only one which is coloured such an interesting hue, we have not another sitting room furnished entirely in red!
"I think you are teasing, Mrs. Darcy," he smiled at his wife, "but you are also correct. We do not need another sitting room, especially one so ill favoured as this, but I cannot think what else to do with it."
"Then do not think of it, Mr. Darcy. Make better use of your time; accompany your lonely wife in a walk through the meadow. Your cousin will be bringing your sister from London shortly and then we shall have little time for walking together. In any case the best of ideas are always formed when we exert least effort in forming them. "
With an indulgent smile Darcy leaned down to place a kiss on his wife's upturned face. "Such a tempting offer, Elizabeth, how could I possibly resist."
Together they set out arm in arm away from the house. From behind her beloved desk Mrs. Reynolds watched the couple's progress with a contented smile, to say that she approved of the new Mistress would be the gravest of understatements. To see again, the boy Fitzwilliam in the man Darcy had become was gratifying indeed. Once they were out of sight of preying eyes Mrs. Darcy dropped her husbands arm in favour of taking up his hand, so it was with fingers interlocked that the happy pair made their way slowly towards the meadow.
"So," began Elizabeth in a voice Darcy had now learnt to recognise, he was about to be teased, "May I enquire the reasons why you consider that poor room so ill favoured it fails to tempt you within."
"I assume you wish a reason quite apart from the garish colour."
"A colour I am sure our dear friend Miss Bingley would greatly admire."
"A colour none but Miss Bingley could admire."
"Ahh, you suppose Miss Bingley to have poor taste in that which she admires," said Elizabeth impishly.
Choosing to ignore the last remark Darcy returned to the original question. "Quite apart from the colour which is not too my taste, but could be easily changed, is the fact that your husband is a very stubborn man"
"My husband," cried Elizabeth is mock horror, "surely you jest for there is nothing stubborn about my husband, nothing at all."
"I am afraid it is true, your husband, in his stubbornness refuses to have an old oak cut down."
"Why would he want too, he is, like myself very fond of nature."
"Because, Elizabeth, the old oak shades the red room completely, no sun ever filters through its vast canopy. Making the unfortunate room too cold to inhabit but for the very hottest summer months, and that is why it is so ill favoured."
"I see, so the room for the fault of never catching the sun has been neglected and now, as a noble act you wish to find some way of reviving it."
"We must, therefore, find a use for a cool room." The couple waked quietly together for some minutes before Elizabeth spoke again. "We have already a still room I know, for I have used it and it is quite sufficient for its purpose. Cook, I am sure, would not turn down the chance of increasing her larder but I suppose you will say is not really the place for storing preserves."
"It is close to the Library and your Study."
"So its use could be in keeping with academic pursuits."
"True, what are you thinking Elizabeth."
"A collection of what?"
"Foreign Artifacts, mysterious treasures from distant lands."
"We do not travel to distant lands, it is not safe."
"Very true, then perhaps something closer to home ancient pottery dug from the ground."
"Perhaps we should start digging first."
"Oh no, I cannot see us digging, what then of Nature?"
"Yes, I have seen it in homes I have visited, like the head of the stag you first shot as a boy, stills of nature. Once on a trip with my Aunt and Uncle we visited a house with an entire room devoted to British wildlife, there were owls and foxes, small birds, stoats, and some larger animals too. The owner was something of a scholar it was a wonderful exhibition, if a bit morbid. We could do the same, but on a smaller scale, given the size of the room. Perhaps we could restrict ourselves to one species, something small and pretty of which Georgiana would approve. Birds perhaps or, I know butterflies!" She stopped and turned to face her husband a wide smile illuminating her features "Just imagine, Fitzwilliam, a whole room full of butterflies. Would it not be beautiful, and what at thing to show our guests."
Darcy stopped still as he thought, then turned to look at his wife. "Your suggestion is to use the red room for a collection of preserved butterfly's."
Elizabeth grinned back at him "Yes!"
"It is an unusual idea, I have heard of it, but it is not often seen"
Here his wife, still grinning as she spoke, interrupted him. "Certainly, but for why are we rich, if not to indulge in our fancies, and provide sights for our guest which will amaze and entertain"
Continuing as though his wife had not spoken Darcy completed his observation, "But a not a bad one, so long as it was done well, the collection would have to be properly catalogued, or else it would be little more than a frivolous indulgence. Information would need to be sought and recorded with each specimen"
"It would keep me out of mischief, and Georgiana would help I am sure, she may take likenesses of our specimens. Please, Fitzwilliam, may we?"
Observing the flush of colour brought to Elizabeth's complexion and the brightness of her eyes as she warmed to her idea he could do little but agree. "If it would make you happy, then yes you may. I shall speak with Edwards about it as soon as may be, Lord Whichfield will likely know how to go about starting your collection."
For a while the couple walked along in silence each deep in thought, Elizabeth with dreaming of rooms filled with colourful winged beauties. Darcy happily attempting to envision what curious idea his unpredictable wife would come up with next. They soon found themselves amongst the wildflowers of the meadow Elizabeth so loved. Delighted with the sights and smells around her Elizabeth soon dropped her husbands hand and ran off laughing through the long grass twirling about as she ran. Darcy's first thought was for the safety of her gown, surely the long grass would damage the delicate muslin, but a moment later he too was captured by the beauty of the day and set off in pursuit of his wife. Having a much longer stride than his petite wife Darcy soon captured his prey, locking strong arms about her waist. Elizabeth stopped giggling and breathless and looked up into the eyes of her laughing husband. Darcy looked far too satisfied with the results of his successful hunt, but Elizabeth could not hold it against him. It was at these moments, when he was at his most natural and relaxed that Elizabeth's heart was fullest. Delighted with her husband's behavior so far Elizabeth could do little but test his current abandon further, which she did, but dropping quite suddenly to the ground and dragging her husband beside her.
"Elizabeth," came Darcy's warning tone, kneeling bolt upright beside his wife.
"Fitzwilliam," was the immediate reply as Elizabeth settled herself more comfortably on the ground, bringing her knees up to her chest and wrapping her arms closely around them she rested her chin on her knees, daintily shoes just peaked out from under the hem of her dress. "If you are going to be stiff you may return to the house, I shall not have your noble attempt to rescue my gown no matter how likely it is to suffer under my care." She held up a hand to silence him, her words softened by smile in her eyes, "For we both know you are thinking of their ill treatment at this moment. It is a lovely day and I intend to sit here, in the middle of this meadow and enjoy it"
Registering the challenge in his good lady's voice Darcy simply smiled, removed his jacket and placed it carefully on the ground. To the astonishment of his wife Darcy laid out quite flat by her side and casually cast one ankle over the other, to complete the look of perfect ease he linked both hands together under his head as if to provide a cushion. "The state of your clothes are your own affair, madam, far be it from me to suggest you treat them with anything but the deepest respect. But I shall give some advise, I believe you would be infinitely more comfortable should you recline more fully on this soft grass, the position you now occupy appears to be a little cramped." He looked up at into his wife's laughing eyes. "I should not like you to become stiff."
This was invitation enough and soon the Master and Mistress of Pemberley lay outstretched side-by-side, surrounded by meadow flowers, with hands linked between their prostrate bodies and gazing up at the blue sky above. In truth they looked every bit like a pair of mischievous estate children lounging in the sun, only missing from the scene was a hoop and stick. And so they appeared still some while later when happened upon by Colonel Fitzwilliam and Georgiana who, having found no one home to receive them had gone in search of their relations. Rather than interrupting the now slumbering couple the visitors moved slowly away, unwilling to disturb the picture before them, and stifling laughter as they went. It was not till they had ventured beyond hearing that Colonel Fitzwilliam ventured to complain to his cousin that this was not the welcome he had envisioned, and worse still he suspected that dinner would be decidedly late.
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