It was a beautiful spring morning, the sky clear and the air crisp. Darcy smiled as he sat by a trickling brook, which was full of trout for the asking. He leaned back on the bank and took a deep breath, letting the warmth of the sun shine on his face. It was wonderfully quiet and serene, just what he had been searching for after the long, cold winter. Thoughts of his lovely Elizabeth entered his mind and he wished she were sitting there with him. As he turned his face, he saw her looking at him with a saucy little smile. He reached out for her, but with impish thoughts that lit up her eyes, and a devilish smile that took over her face, she scampered away giggling. "Elizabeth, come back here!" He called for her. She turned and tripped about in the brook barefoot, splashing and calling out to him.
"Catch me if you can!"
How he loved it when she teased him. He was never opposed to a little game playing between them, in fact he rather enjoyed it, for it made his heart race in anticipation. He stood up and watched her as she splashed in the water, each time soaking the skirts of her frock a little bit more. As he walked towards her, she laughed and called to him again.
"Will you not capture me, love?"
He grinned and started running after her, only to see her dance through the water, laughing and beckoning him to come closer. He kept running, however he never seemed to get any closer to her than he had been originally. She called his name and stood on the opposite bank of the brook, wringing out her skirts and giggling.
"You are getting closer!"
It seemed a lifetime before he was able to reach out and grasp her wrist, pulling her to him. "I have caught you and now I shall never let you go," he breathed in. The scent of her skin was heavenly, and her eyes were as bright and teasing as he had ever seen them. It was true, he would never let her go. She belonged to him, and he to her...and lovers they would eternally be. He could stand her teasing no longer. He slowly bent down to kiss her, as she whispered his name, "Fitzwilliam..."
"...Fitzwilliam!" she gently shook him. "Wake up!" Elizabeth called out as she sat on the edge of the bed.
Darcy opened his eyes with a start, and rolled over. "What?"
"Wake up, we have much to do today, and here you are still idling in bed!" she admonished. "Mrs. Reynolds is practically beating down the door with information of all the visitors waiting for you downstairs."
He sat up and tried to adjust his eyes to the brightness of the room, as Elizabeth flung open the drapes, exposing the daylight.
Moaning and rubbing his face he commented lethargically, "This is not the way a person should have to awaken in the morning."
"How else should a person awaken in the morning?" she questioned in amusement.
"Slowly." He yawned. "Very slowly...and at one's leisure."
There was a pounding on the door, and he soon heard the stampeding of little feet. The children scurried into the room and Elizabeth picked them up and put them on top of the bed. They raced over to Darcy, giggling and throwing themselves at him and knocking him back onto his pillow. Elizabeth laughed as they jumped up and down, coaxing him to chase them and tickle them.
He sat back up and grabbed a child in each arm and pinned them down on the bed, as they screamed in rapture. "Good morning you little urchins." He laughed. "Must you jump on your poor papa like that?" he gently growled. "Must you wake up so early?" he said as he tickled each child.
Mrs. White rapped on the door, not wanting to disturb the master and mistress. "I am sorry Mrs. Darcy! I turned around to gather their clothing and they scampered out of the room!"
"It is all right, Mrs. White. They may stay with us for a little longer." Elizabeth reassured her.
Elizabeth began pulling the children off of poor Darcy, and telling them that they must settle down and behave. Darcy looked at them all, trying to remember what it was like to wake up peacefully in the morning. Soon there was another knock on the door, and Mrs. Reynolds' voice was heard telling the master that two gentlemen had called, his steward was waiting in the morning room to go over some paperwork and she needed to speak with him, regarding some new hires.
"All right, Mrs. Reynolds." He frowned. "I shall do my best to accommodate everyone."
Elizabeth took the children back to the nursery, and Darcy pried himself out of bed, mumbling to himself how it was only a dream. He went to his dressing room and looked at himself in the mirror, trying to work up some enthusiasm for the day. He looked tired...he was tired. Tired of business matters, tired of doing things that he had to do, instead of the things he wanted to do. Tired of everyone demanding his attention, and feeling pulled this way and that. Tired of the restless feeling he always seemed to have every spring. Definitely tired of going to London for the Season.
There was no one who said they must to go to London. Why not somewhere else...a little holiday perhaps? That was it...a holiday...away from business matters, away from obligations, away from family, friends and acquaintances. Dare he think away from the children? Just he and Elizabeth, alone? Perhaps for a week?
A smile came to his face and a little life came back to his person. "It does not have to be just a dream." He thought. He rang for his valet and hurried himself, for he had things to take care of, and a very important letter to write.
The post arrived a few days later. Elizabeth took the letters from Mrs. Reynolds and examined them as she walked towards the study where Darcy had locked himself away trying to catch up on all the paperwork. She knocked lightly and opened the door. He smiled when he saw her enter, however she had a perplexed look upon her face.
"What is the matter?" he asked.
"There is a letter from my Aunt and Uncle." She said rather absentmindedly as she took a closer look at it.
"Do you find that strange?" he chuckled.
"No, dear. Only that it is addressed to you...and you alone."
Darcy bounded up from the chair, with enthusiasm. "Excellent! Here let me see it."
She handed it to him and watched as he practically tore it open in his haste. He began skimming it, smiling all the while. He was nearly ecstatic with its contents, which made her all the more curious as to what the Gardiners could have to tell her husband and not herself.
"Shall you tell me what they have written...or is it a secret?" she inquired with some little annoyance.
He looked at her again and his revelry dimmed. "Oh...it is a reply to a letter I sent the Gardiners a few days ago. A confirmation of sorts."
"A confirmation?" she smiled. "Are they to come to Pemberley for a visit?"
"Yes...in a way." He felt awkward at not having discussed the matter with Elizabeth prior to this, but what was done was done for the best, in his opinion.
"Elizabeth, sit down please." He requested.
He led her to one of the chairs and he sat down in another chair to face her. He nervously tapped on the letter with his finger, as he searched for the proper words. Words which would spark her interest and elicit her consent to his plans.
"My love...I wrote to the Gardiners to ask a favor of them. I have been thinking that it would be good for us to get away from Pemberley for a few days...a week perhaps. I have been feeling restless and uneasy as of late. I wrote the letter to ask them to come for a time, and stay here while we are gone...on holiday."
Elizabeth was confused. "That is very nice, my dear. But why should they come to visit if we will not be here?"
Darcy looked sheepish for he knew that Elizabeth would not care for what he had to say next. "They have consented to stay here and...and watch the children, while we are away."
Elizabeth was speechless. The color began to rise in her cheeks and her lips tightened into a little pout. Darcy sat motionless, awaiting the explosion that he could see brewing within her.
"Fitzwilliam!" she huffed in annoyance. "I...I cannot leave the children, and go..." her face contorted such that it made him lean back in his chair, not wanting to remain in the line of fire. "They are babies! They cannot be left alone for that amount of time! I have never been away from them before!"
"Yes, exactly." He said. "We have not been anywhere together since their birth. They are almost two years old Elizabeth. They are not really babies anymore."
"Fitzwilliam, you are only having a bad case of spring fever...it will pass!"
Darcy looked rejected. "Perhaps, but it is something I want to do...together."
Elizabeth knew deep her heart, that her husband was correct. But she was a mother, and it would not be an easy thing to be away from the children that she had devoted so much time to since their birth. There were times when she felt a longing for the companionship she had shared with Darcy before the children came along. But she always seemed to be too busy to dwell on it much. Perhaps she had mistaken her own obsessions for his as well, and had not given enough thought to his feelings.
"Elizabeth...I miss the attachment we once shared. I feel as though most times it is necessary to make an appointment to be alone with you for any length of time." He frowned. "If that is selfishness on my part...then so be it."
She rung her hands and attempted to plead with him. "But, they shall certainly miss us, Fitzwilliam."
"Yes, and we shall miss them." He smiled warmly. "Well...I think for a week I shall not miss being trounced upon every morning." he laughed. "But it is only for a week, and they will have the Gardiner children to play with, and the careful and experienced supervision of your aunt and uncle...not to mention Mrs. White and Mrs. Reynolds."
Elizabeth smiled and nodded her half-hearted consent. She was flattered that her husband wished so desperately to be alone with her that he would take the trouble of working out all the details himself. "Are we to go to London?"
Darcy gasped, "Do be serious, Elizabeth! We should have no privacy there at all. I thought perhaps we would finally take that trip to the Lakes that has eluded you for so long."
Her face lit up at the mention of it. "And what shall we do there?"
"I do not know...whatever we like I suppose." He smiled. "Perhaps, some hiking in the countryside, a little fishing, a bit of frolicking..."
Elizabeth squinted as she tried to get a clear picture Fitzwilliam Darcy 'frolicking'.
"...a little of the romance we had once." He said with a roguish grin.
Elizabeth blushed, "We still have plenty of romance in our marriage!"
"When do we have an opportunity Elizabeth?" he frowned. "No one will leave us alone for five minutes! Just yesterday one of the servants absentmindedly followed me into the loo, because I kept rattling off orders as I walked in. If that is not a lack of privacy...I do not know what is?"
She resisted the temptation to laugh at him. "Yes, it is true that we never do get much peace."
"I shall send an express inquiring of a nice quiet inn to stay at." He leaned over and kissed her, "Thank you my love."
She watched him walk to his chair at the desk and pull out a piece of paper. She still had her reservations about leaving her children, but seeing his evident delight, she could not speak of them any more.
Elizabeth was in her dressing room with her maid, carefully packing her trunks for the week that she and Darcy were to spend away. There was a soft knocking at the door but it made Elizabeth jump to attention on hearing it.
"Come in." she said flustered.
Mrs. Gardiner entered the room with a motherly smile. "May I be of assistance, dear niece?"
"Thank you, aunt. But it is all done."
Mrs. Gardiner saw some of the sparkle leave her niece's eyes as she spoke. "Elizabeth...the children will be just fine!" she scolded.
"Oh aunt, I do not doubt your maternal abilities, it is just that I feel so...guilty!"
"For wanting to spend some time with your husband?" Mrs. Gardiner chided her. "Elizabeth, believe me...this will be like a holiday for the children as well. They are very busy, even as we speak. They are completely content to play with their cousins, and your uncle." Mrs. Gardiner took Elizabeth's hands in her own. "The children are important, but so is the happiness of your husband, and yourself."
"Yes, you are right." Elizabeth smiled. "Fitzwilliam is very important to me."
"I hope you packed something pleasing to wear for him?" Mrs. Gardiner gave a slight blush.
Elizabeth blushed herself and giggled. "Would you like to see for yourself aunt?"
The two women giggled as they looked at the garments that Elizabeth had chosen to take with her. Mrs. Gardiner told Elizabeth of her trip away with Mr. Gardiner after their first daughter had been born, which evoked more laughter. A servant interrupted them inquiring whether or not the trunks were ready to be loaded onto the carriage.
The ladies went to the nursery and found Uncle Gardiner and Darcy talking and watching the children play. Andrew and Hannah were running and playing with the Gardiner children and having the time of their lives. Darcy watched his wife as she gathered her children to bid them good-bye. He knew it was hard for her to let go, even just a little, for he too would miss their exuberant little faces and unconditional love. She hugged and kissed them, and they showered her with love.
"Say good-bye to your papa." She sniffed.
Darcy knelt down and they ran to him, "Bye bye, papa." Andrew yelled, gave him a quick hug and hurried off to play with the other boys.
Hannah gave him a hug and a kiss, then she patted him on the head. He smiled at her, "You will be a good girl?" She nodded in reply. "You will watch your brother, and make sure he stays out of trouble?" She nodded again and toddled off to play.
Darcy took Elizabeth by the arm and gently pressed her to leave the room. As they walked down to the carriage, Elizabeth rattled off instructions to her aunt and Mrs. Reynolds. The two older women looked at each other in exasperation as Darcy helped his wife into the carriage and she poked her head out the door for a few more words.
"Good bye, ma'am. Have a good holiday!" Mrs. Reynolds waved.
"Do not worry Elizabeth!" Mrs. Gardiner called after her, and the carriage jolted forward on its way north, for what Darcy was hoping would be an intimate week, with the woman he loved.
Elizabeth was rather quiet in the carriage on the trip north. The trip itself would take the better part of a day, and she had time to reflect, and time to stir up her worries again. She looked over at Darcy who had brought a few letters with him to read, so that he would feel he had actually cleared away some of his obligations. She thought back to a time when all she wanted was to be alone with a certain Mr. Darcy, to know every thought he had, every minute of the day. She still wanted that, however feelings of obligation invaded her senses, as she thought of the children, the running of the household and her duties as mistress of Pemberley. She finally decided it wise to close her eyes and try to clear her mind and rest.
Darcy finished his letters and tucked them away. He glanced across the carriage at Elizabeth as she slept and thought of the things he had wanted in a wife. She was all those things and more. She was unselfish and caring, rarely, if ever, did she ask for anything special. Had she asked, however, he would have gladly given her whatever she had wanted. She was a kind and generous mistress to those in her employ, a loving and caring mother and an upstanding presence in their society. However, he was convinced that there were other women he could have married that would have provided him with all those things. He knew he had wanted her as his wife for the most selfish of reasons. He had wanted her for the emotions she elicited in him, something that he had been indifferent to before he had met her. He wanted to share her passions for life, and somewhere in the last few years they had put those passions aside for a more conservative life. The restlessness he had been feeling came flooding back and he knew exactly what he wanted. He wanted her devoted attention, even if it was only for one week.
It was some hours before the carriage came to its destination. Darcy stepped out and looked around the countryside and at the inn which would be their residence for a week. It was not pristine by any means, but quaint and rustic. He smiled when he saw it, for the inn and its surroundings seemed to match the wildness he felt in his heart.
Darcy and Elizabeth entered the inn and were greeted by its proprietor. Darcy took a moment and looked around at the lobby which was filled with memorabilia of the structure's history, portraits of patrons and landscapes of the area. He looked closely at the portraits and read the names under each one. They were shown to their rooms and Elizabeth went about settling themselves in. Darcy walked about the room and glanced out the windows into the dusky sky. He smiled to himself thinking of a little brook full of trout, which he was certain they would be able to find in the morning's light. For now however, he was eager to be with his beautiful wife.
Elizabeth came out of the dressing room and rubbed the back of her neck. She felt stiff and sore from sleeping in the carriage, and she was hungry and anxious and restless.
"Might we have some supper in the room Fitzwilliam?"
He turned around from his interest in looking out the window, "Of course. I shall ring down directly." He smiled in satisfaction, for all he wanted was to be alone with her.
"I think I shall just like to have a light supper and go to sleep." She sighed rather absently as she sat down in a chair and continued to rub the back of her neck. Elizabeth was too preoccupied with her own thoughts and worries to see the look of disappointment in her husband's countenance.
The morning light crept into the room through the shutters and Darcy awoke to find himself alone in the bed. He was still tired, for Elizabeth had tossed and turned in a fitful sleep the entire night. He sat up and looked around the room for her. She came out of the dressing room, completely dressed in her traveling clothes, looking grave and concerned.
"Elizabeth, it is very early. What are you doing dressed already?" he inquired.
She looked as if she would cry. "Fitzwilliam, I could not sleep one wink all night!"
"Yes, I know."
"Fitzwilliam...I..." she hesitated for a moment. "...I wish to return to Pemberley immediately!"
Darcy got out of bed and put on his robe. "You wish to what?" he asked, thinking he had not heard her correctly.
"I am not comfortable here." She huffed. "Why did I let you talk me into this? If you had wanted to go fishing, you could have done it on the grounds at Pemberley!"
Darcy could not believe what he was hearing to be true. He stood in silence and saw her determination to leave, which was matched only by his determination to stay. "Elizabeth, I did not want to come all the way here just to go fishing! I wanted to come here to be alone with you." The color spread across his face as he became angry. "Since we have been here you have wanted nothing to do with me!"
She lashed out at him. "You are being absolutely ridiculous!"
"You treat me as if I do not exist!" he said feeling humiliated. His anger peaked and he spit out vehemently, "Do you not care for me anymore?"
"I shall not even venture to respond to such a senseless question! How dare you!" she fumed. "I just want to know that my children are well!"
"Elizabeth, the children have not even had a chance to miss us yet. Just which one of us is acting foolishly here?" his voice broke as he paced around the room.
"Will you not oblige me and call for the carriage, Fitzwilliam?"
Elizabeth would not give up her resolve to return to Pemberley and her children. Darcy felt as if she could have done less damage, had she actually slapped him in the face. He waited a moment, trying to collect himself enough to speak without giving away his true feelings.
"I will call for the carriage, Elizabeth." he said in a low voice. "But I shall not return to Pemberley with you. I shall not be humiliated in such a way. You can take the carriage and go. I will not return until Saturday next, but I should think in your present state, you do not give a care as to when you will see me next."
With those petulant words Darcy entered the dressing room and threw on his sporting clothes then stormed out of the inn, heading for some solitude down by one of the lakes. Elizabeth's frustration came to the surface and she quickly sat down on a chair, holding her handkerchief to her face and sobbing. A few moments later there was a knock on the door and she ran over and threw it open.
"Fitzwilliam! I am..."
A servant stood on the other side and handed her an express.
Darcy grabbed a rod, a reel, and some tackle from the attendant at the sporting house. He inquired as to some directions and the attendant pointed down a path. Darcy took off at a expeditious pace, kicking at the ground and spewing angered words now and then. He felt humiliated and hurt at Elizabeth's rejection of his wishes and of his person. He was tired and their argument had left him emotionally downcast. He followed the path for a short time until he came to a clearing, where he stopped and sat down on a slope, putting down the tackle and running his hand through his hair, trying to calm himself before he exploded in emotions.
He looked up and curiously stared at the scene before him, for it greatly resembled the landscape in his dream. There was a running brook, winding around down to a lake and the banks were gently sloped and grassy. All around were newly budded birch trees, their white bark contrasting with the new spring greenery. He was however, not happy to see the sight at all. It had no meaning to him now, for Elizabeth was surely on her way back to Pemberley.
Elizabeth unfolded the express from Pemberley and anxiously read it.
I have sent you this express not to alarm you, but to dispel your worries. The children are well and happy. They asked about you and Mr. Darcy, and were content upon hearing that you would return to them in a few days. Meanwhile they continue to have a wonderful time playing with their cousins.
I hope this note finds you enjoying your stay, and renewing the love and contentment you share with your devoted husband. Take every opportunity to enjoy yourself to the fullest, for not every woman has such a compassionate and caring man as you do.
I will send you an express each day of your stay to inform you of the happiness and well being of your little ones. I understand your feelings of concern as a mother, but believe me, they will ease with time.
Elizabeth folded up the note and tucked it away in one of her trunks. How could she have been so unfeeling towards her husband? She did not realize until that moment how she had rejected him. She felt ashamed of herself and wondered if she had managed to damage her marriage beyond repair. She went to her dressing room and took off her traveling clothes and donned a light frock and some walking shoes. She did not know how she would find Darcy out in the countryside, but she was determined to try and make amends for her selfishness.
Darcy had no luck fishing and was even more discouraged than ever. He was still very angry and upset at Elizabeth for leaving him, and now even the trout would not give him the time of day. He walked back up the bank and threw down the rod and reel in frustration. He found a comfortable spot next to a large tree trunk and sat down leaning against it. The sun was beginning to make its way between the trees and it shown on the spot where he sat. He lifted his face to the sun and felt its warmth and he closed his eyes, letting his mind wander.
He heard a voice a ways in the distance. "Hello there!" the voice called out. Darcy opened his eyes to see an elderly gentleman looking down and smiling at him.
"Hello." The gentleman said again. "Any luck?"
Darcy looked at the rod and reel next to him and said, "Not a bite."
"Well, that is the way it is out here. Is this your first day in the area?"
Darcy did not feel like conversing with the gentleman, but he could not think of a way to avoid it. "Yes." He said rather impolitely.
"Ah, well that sews it up. No one ever catches anything their first day out." The gentleman slowly took a seat next to Darcy and extended his hand out. "I am Sir Philip Pennington, but please call me Philip."
Darcy reluctantly reached out to shake the man's hand and replied, "Fitzwilliam Darcy."
"Well Darcy, you must be staying at the inn?" Darcy nodded in the affirmative. "A very quaint and comfortable inn it is too. My wife and I have been coming here for nearly forty five years."
Darcy looked out over the landscape wondering how long he would have to endure the polite conversation of Sir Philip. He really just wanted to be left alone to stew about his own problems.
"Are you married, Darcy?"
Darcy pursed his lips and nodded in silence.
"Yes, twins." Darcy replied.
"Ah yes, by the look of you I would say they would be youngsters, two or three perhaps?"
Darcy replied in impatience, "They are almost two years old."
"Your wife must have been concerned to leave them, although I have no doubt they are being well cared for?" Darcy was beginning to show his annoyance at the interference of the old man, but he held his tongue out of respect for his elders.
"You must be enjoying the time away. A chance to romance your wife a little?" Sir Philip chuckled and elbowed Darcy in the ribs. "Men like us Darcy spend too much time with business matters and not enough time for the pleasures in life."
Darcy made an annoyed reply before he quite knew what he was saying. "I fear I am not enjoying myself at all."
"Now, now young man. Why in heaven's name not?" Sir Philip asked in a fatherly way.
Darcy was not in the habit of sharing his most intimate thoughts with strangers, yet there was something trustworthy about the old man. He felt a need to vent his frustrations to someone, and perhaps it would be better to tell a total stranger. Someone he would probably never lay eyes on again. "My wife has left the inn and gone back home...she could not stand to be away from the children."
The old man smiled and nodded his head. Darcy gave him a sideways glance and frowned, for he could not imagine what could be so amusing about a man being left by his wife.
"Do you find that entertaining?" Darcy blurted out harshly.
"No...no, my boy...not at all." Sir Philip said rather indifferent. "It is just that I find it...common."
Darcy raised an eyebrow in question of the old man's comment, and leaned forward waiting for him to continue.
"You know Darcy, the first time I came to the lakes with my wife, I found myself in a similar situation. We had a three year old daughter and my wife devoted herself to being a mother and a proper mistress to our estate. I found that I rather resented her attachment to the child and to her duties, for it left very little of her time for me. I persuaded her to join me on a trip here, just her and I. The night we arrived she had a very fretful sleep and the next morning she demanded to go home. I told her I would not leave and I stormed down here to this very spot and sat down on the bank of this brook, cursing my ignorance at having thought she still cared for me at all."
Sir Philip stopped to reflect, leaving Darcy discomforted at the man's revelations. It was as if Sir Philip had been looking in on him through a window.
"I suppose you went home, to find that things did not change?" Darcy inquired sarcastically.
Sir Philip looked at Darcy, startled out of his daydream. "Good heaven's no, my boy!" he chuckled. "My wife had a change of heart and remained here. She came down the path looking for me, and when she found me it was as if nothing had ever happened between us." He stopped to smile and his eyes sparkled. "We spent a good part of the day, here on this spot, laughing and frolicking about. She waded in the brook barefoot, laughing and calling out to me to come after her, teasing me with her uninhibited manner. It was one of the happiest days I have ever spent."
Darcy smiled at the old man wishing the same happiness for himself.
"We spent the rest of the week together at the inn and touring around the countryside. We loved each other like they were our last days together." Sir Philip beamed. "When we returned home, my wife made it a point to spend more of each day with me, alone. And I made an effort not to allow my selfishness and jealousy to rule my thoughts."
Darcy felt rather embarrassed, for he supposed he had been a bit selfish and jealous towards all the attentions that Elizabeth paid to others.
"My wife and I have lived very happily since then, and we returned to the inn every few years to renew our passions for each other and for life. We could only come back every few years, since it seemed that every time we left this place, we would soon discover we would be blessed with a child." Sir Philip grinned in pride, "All boys they were, too!"
Darcy could not help but laugh at the old man's tale. "And now you tell me you have come back to the inn again...to renew old passions?"
The grin left Sir Philip's face and a more solemn expression overcame him. "In a way...but this time I have come alone. My wife died a few years ago, and I found that I wanted to sit by this brook and think of the times when I was happiest. The times I spent alone...with her."
The smile that Darcy had been unknowingly wearing faded as he heard the old man's words. He leaned back against the tree and his thoughts drifted back to Elizabeth, and how lonely he was without her. If only she were with him then, he could tell her how much joy she had brought him in the short time they had been together.
Darcy heard a faint voice in the distance calling him and he awoke from his reverie. It was Elizabeth's voice and he stood up to see her coming down the path.
"Fitzwilliam!" she ran to him, wrapping her arms around his neck. "I have been a fool! I hope you are not very angry with me...please forgive me? I want to stay after all, for I can not imagine being without you."
A genuine smile lit up Darcy's face as he looked at her, for there was truth in her expressions. "I am very glad you did not go, Elizabeth." he sighed.
He took her hand and turned around to introduce her to Sir Philip, but the old man had gone. Darcy looked quickly around the landscape and saw no one.
"Are you all right, my love?" Elizabeth asked him, seeing his confusion.
"Yes, of course. I wanted to introduce you to the man I was speaking with...Sir Philip...uh..." Darcy paused, "I cannot remember his name now?"
"Fitzwilliam? I saw no one here when I came down the path...no one, except for you."
"Nonsense...he must have made his way back to the inn, when we were not looking." Darcy was sure that this was the case, and he would find Sir Philip later on.
Elizabeth paid no attention, but only looked at Darcy with an expression of love that he had not seen in some time. "What a lovely place!" she declared and sat down to slip off her shoes and stockings to wade in the brook. Darcy watched as she frolicked in the water, each time wetting the skirts of her frock a little bit more.
She gave a laugh and called out to him. "Come and catch me, my love!"
He laughed out loud and went towards her as she teased him and climbed onto the other edge of the bank, wringing out her skirts. He jumped across the brook and grasped her by the wrist and pulled her to him, breathing in her wonderful scent.
"I have caught you and shall never let you go!" he grinned, remembering the words from his dream.
Elizabeth kissed him and whispered, "I never want you to."
The Darcys spent the rest of the week exploring the countryside, taking in the landscapes and delighting in each other's company. Darcy felt as if he fell in love with Elizabeth all over again, and he loved her like those were their last days together. He quite forgot to inquire about Sir Philip, until they were in the lobby of the inn, on the day they were to leave. He settled the tab with the innkeeper and looked up to see a portrait of a man, hanging behind the desk.
"So he does stay here often?" Darcy inquired nodding over at the portrait.
The innkeeper turned around and took a look and then said to Darcy. "You mean Sir Philip Pennington?"
"Yes, Sir Philip Pennington!" Darcy grinned, "That was his name."
"He was one of our best patrons, sir." The innkeeper said proudly.
"Was? He is not still here then?"
"No sir." The innkeeper looked strangely at Darcy. "He has been gone for many years now...may he rest in peace."
Elizabeth came up behind Darcy and slipped her arm through his. She looked up at him and was alarmed. "Fitzwilliam, are you quite all right? You look as if you have seen a ghost?"
"No, no...I am well. Just a glimpse of a portrait and a very imaginative mind, is all."
The Darcys arrived back at Pemberley and were enthusiastically greeted by their relations. The children were kept at bay, until their parents disembarked the carriage and then they ran to Elizabeth, very excited to see her. When they were satisfied that their mother was home to stay, they noticed Darcy and ran to him, wanting his complete attention. He picked one up in each arm and carried them into the house.
Mr. Gardiner was very glad to see Darcy, for it had been some time since there had been toddlers around the house and he had forgotten how energetic and exhausting they could be. Mrs. Gardiner hugged her niece, and Elizabeth thanked her for everything, especially the daily expresses, which Elizabeth whispered to her aunt that she had managed to conceal from Darcy.
Darcy walked into the bedchamber at Pemberley late one night, some months later. He sat down in the chair next to the bed and looked at Elizabeth, who had drifted off to sleep. She opened her eyes lazily and smiled at him.
"I love you, Elizabeth." he said with a sigh. "How could I help but not?"
"I do not know...for I am the most attentive of wives." She said playfully.
He gave a little laugh and asked her, "Well, are you going to let me see him?"
"How did you know it was a boy, Fitzwilliam?" she whispered.
He anxiously laughed. "A very good guess."
"I should like to call him Christian...he is a very fine child, Fitzwilliam."
Darcy nodded his consent, "Christian Philip Darcy." he said.
Elizabeth's eyes lit up as the nursemaid handed Darcy his newborn son. Darcy looked at the tiny baby in his arms, "Yes, that is a very fine name, for a very fine boy", he pronounced.
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