The Book of Love
It had been merely three days since Miss Elizabeth Bennet had accepted the marriage proposal of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. The approval of the match had been solicited and granted from Elizabeth’s parents, and Darcy had received an express from his sister as to her overwhelming favor of his choice. For all intents and purposes, everyone concerned were happier than they could have imagined at the prospect of such an alliance, especially the young lovers themselves.
Gone were the bleak days when Miss Bennet wondered whether Mr. Darcy still held some regard for her. Departed were the days of Mr. Darcy’s agony as to whether Miss Bennet’s opinion of him had changed. All that remained was a period of time before the marriage in which the lovers could strengthen their bonds.
Usually this aspect of courtship was the most joyous, for there was no more speculation between the couple as to their feelings for the other. However there was always some uncertainty as to one’s behavior during courtship. Parents had their own ideas on the subject, but lovers tended to have another point of view. There would be plenty of opportunity in which these young lovers could solidify their happiness, however quiet and unfettered moments had always been a rarity in the Bennet household.
It was a beautiful autumn morning and Darcy awoke with the same smile upon his face that he had worn for the past two days. He jumped out of bed and called for his man to select appropriate apparel, then groomed and dressed, and made his way down to the breakfast room at Netherfield House. He found a pot of hot coffee awaiting him and not seeing anyone else in the room, poured himself a cup and happily took a seat at the table.
As he took a sip of his coffee, he leaned back in his chair to speculate on what this, the third day of his engagement would hold for him. He had promised his love that he would call on her in the morning, and the whole day would be spent in her company if she so desired it. She had given him her assurances that she indeed desired his company, much to his great delight and relief.
He was staring into space, absentmindedly grinning when Charles Bingley entered the room.
"Good morning, Darcy."
"Good morning, Charles." Darcy answered his friend.
Bingley poured himself a cup of coffee and sat down at his own place at the table. Darcy looked at his friend and chuckled for Charles Bingley always had a ridiculous grin on his face, since Miss Jane Bennet had accepted his proposal of marriage a few weeks prior. It was true that in the last three days Darcy did indeed possess the same absurd look, he just did not realize it.
"It appears to be a fine day." Bingley speculated.
Darcy took another sip of his coffee, "Indeed, the weather is quite agreeable. Excellent walking conditions."
"Yes, indeed," agreed Bingley, but he could not hold back his laughter any longer.
Darcy also began to laugh as they had the same thoughts in mind. They had both come to know in the past few days the benefits of long walks about Longbourne. Not for health reasons mind you, but for their own peace of mind. They had agreed that engagement to the Bennet daughters was immensely pleasurable, however they had also agreed that confinement to the house in the presence of their mother, and occasionally their sisters and father, was not.
"I must admit Darcy that yesterday’s walk was excessively engaging." Bingley told his friend.
"Yes, indeed," Darcy concluded as he finished the coffee in his cup and rose to pour himself another. "The weather and the conversation were perfect and the landscape quite fine."
Bingley grinned at his friend as Darcy took his seat, "I was not referring to the weather or the scenery, or the conversation for that matter, Darcy." Bingley blushed, as only Bingley could. "I was referring more to the sweet kiss I received from my lovely lady," he sighed as he thought about it and his grin became even sillier than Darcy could have thought possible.
Darcy’s rather pleasant smile turned into a careworn frown as he heard his friend’s confession. He tried his best to hide his reaction, however Bingley noticed it straight away. "What is the matter, Darcy? Tell me you do not disapprove of stealing a kiss from your fiancée?"
Darcy nervously took another gulp of coffee then set down the cup on the table. "No Bingley...it is not that at all," he pursed his lips.
Bingley made a move to defend his actions, believing his friend did not approve of his forwardness towards his betrothed. "I did not exactly steal it...it was given freely and willingly."
"There is no need to justify it to me, Bingley." Darcy raised his eyebrows and tensely looked away from his friend.
Bingley sat in nervous contemplation of his friend’s apparent disapprobation of his actions, until a preposterous thought crossed his mind. "Darcy...do not tell me that you have not...?"
Darcy interrupted Bingley, disdain spread on his face. "It is not that I do not want to, Bingley. It is only that...well...that the time has just not been right...is all." Darcy stammered and stuttered, then waited for a forthcoming reaction from his friend.
Bingley showed no expression upon his face as he pondered Darcy’s dilemma. The room was uncomfortably quiet, until Bingley let out a chuckle. It was a ridiculous giggle really, then it turned to an outright laugh. Darcy flushed with embarrassment as he watched his friend’s revelry at his own expense. "I am sorry Darcy...I cannot help but picture you in my mind. You are the epitome of propriety...everything must be exactly perfect, before you can even kiss a woman!" Bingley gasped for a breath.
"That is definitely...not so!" Darcy shot back with a growl. "Since my engagement has become public I feel as if I am in a circus...everyone always watching each move that I make. It is positively...indecent!"
Bingley settled down with an amused sigh, and stabbed at a crumpet with his fork. "I have to admit that I was very apprehensive about the whole business myself. As you are well aware, I am not exactly one to act on my own accord."
Darcy gave a presuming nod in the affirmative, and folded his arms across his chest awaiting the great revelation that Bingley was about to offer up.
"Until I went into Meryton one afternoon to the bookshop and found the book." Bingley pronounced.
Darcy’s features softened, "What book?"
"A book I found in the shop...a sort of..." Bingley stuttered and waved his butter knife in the air, searching for the right words, "...how to book."
"I have no idea what you are talking about Bingley?" Darcy finally admitted. "How to what?"
Bingley groaned, "Wait right here, Darcy...I shall be back in a moment." Bingley got up from the table and quickly left the breakfast room. Darcy took a moment to compose himself for this was rather an unsettling conversation, to say the least. How could he have allowed himself to be teased into disclosing his most intimate secrets, even to his good friend?
It was true that there had just not been an appropriate moment for him to demonstrate the depth of his true affection towards Elizabeth. When he had proposed again to her, he had been so relieved at her disclosure as to her altered feelings, that he had simply neglected to act upon his impulses. He did not want to frighten her with his burning desires, and before he knew it they had arrived back at Longbourne House.
Even something as simple as a kiss required the correct atmosphere and timing, when exchanged between new lovers. It was not something Darcy was accustomed to demonstrating lightly, let alone very often. He did not consider himself all that naïve in these matters, however he could not boast of having had all that much opportunity to practice either.
Darcy was startled from his reflections by the return of Bingley with a book in his hand. He sat back down in his chair, placed the book on the table and pushed it over towards Darcy.
Darcy stared down at the cover and read the title out loud,"The Way to Win and Woo a Wife." Darcy immediately began to laugh, and it was Bingley’s turn to take the defensive.
"Do not laugh Darcy! These kinds of books are all the rage these days." Bingley retorted.
"Good god, Bingley...you actually purchased this in Meryton? I would not have considered purchasing such a thing if I were walking down the streets of Paris! What will people think?" Darcy said still laughing at his friend.
"I do not care what people think Darcy...and besides there was no one else present in the shop!" Bingley shouted. "Go ahead, Darcy...do yourself a favor and read it!"
Darcy ceased laughing and shook his head, "No...absolutely not! I do not need a...book...to instruct me how to kiss a woman!"
"Really?" Bingley replied with doubt in his voice. "Alright Darcy, what do you say that if by the end of this day you have not found the appropriate moment to extend an affectionate kiss to your beautiful, and may I venture to say most likely willing, fiancée...then you will agree to read the book."
Darcy eyes widened, "I am not going to wager over a simple kiss, Bingley."
"It is not a simple kiss, Darcy...it is your first passionate kiss with your bride-to-be. There is a lot to live up to in that kiss...it could determine your entire future!"
A look of terror overcame Darcy as he heard Bingley’s words. Suppose it was true of a first kiss. What if Elizabeth thought him ridiculous, or completely inept in the delivery of it? A knot formed in the pit of his stomach and he felt queasy as the servants placed trays of food on the table.
"Besides, it is not a wager...there is no money involved." Bingley sat back in his chair and grinned with resolve. "Eat up Darcy, or we will be later than expected at Longbourne."
The maid fixed Elizabeth’s hair that morning as she sat in front of the vanity looking at her reflection. Jane lightly tapped on the door and entered the room, "Good morning, Lizzy...did you rest well?"
"Yes, indeed I did Jane...and you?" Elizabeth smiled slyly.
Jane sighed, but with a broad smile, "Very well, Lizzy!"
The maid left the room and Jane gave her sister a warm embrace. Both young women began to giggle in delight, "Oh Lizzy...is it not wonderful? I am so happy and you are so happy. Could you have ever imagined it would be so?"
"I could always have imagined it so in your case, Jane...but in mine...well...I am still in awe, in shock, whatever you wish to call it. I am so completely happy that even I could be ill at the sight of me!" Elizabeth laughed again at herself.
Jane floated over to Elizabeth’s bed and sat down, "Oh Lizzy...how wonderful it is to know that I will wed the man I love. His kisses are tender and there is love in all his looks."
Elizabeth’s countenance changed as she heard Jane’s disclosure, "When did Mr. Bingley kiss you?"
Jane smiled at her sister, not thinking it imprudent to make such a disclosure. "Yesterday...when we were out on our walk. I had been wondering when he would do so." Jane blushed, "Oh Lizzy, it was anything but disappointing!"
Elizabeth smiled again nervously then pursed her lips into a tiny pout.
"What is the matter, Lizzy?" Jane noticed Elizabeth’s unusual manner.
"Mr. Darcy has not kissed me...as yet," she pouted more noticeably. "I certainly hope he wants to kiss me!" she contemplated out loud.
"Oh Lizzy...do not be silly. Of course, Mr. Darcy wants to kiss you!"
"Jane," Elizabeth sighed. "Mr. Darcy is very proper and reserved. It is his manner to be so and I also believe it stems from his upbringing. I do not believe the word impulsive is even in his vocabulary." Elizabeth rolled her eyes and Jane giggled.
"Somehow I have fallen very much in love with this austere man. How he can fill my heart and soul with just one look." Elizabeth stared out into nothing as she thought of him.
Jane was surprised to hear her sister refer to Mr. Darcy in such a fanciful way. "What makes you think he will not kiss you?" Jane broke the silence.
"Nothing," Elizabeth shook her head. "Oh Jane...It occurs to me that I hardly know him! I wonder what his interests are, whether he has ever been anywhere other than England? Perhaps he plays an instrument, or writes books and I do not know it? Why, I do not know if he even owns any sporting clothes, for I have never seen him wear anything remotely casual. Perhaps somewhere underneath the exterior there is a man who loves jokes?"
"Lizzy!" Jane laughed at her sister’s distress. "That is what courtship is for...to learn more about each other. Why, you have only been engaged three days. Give the poor man some time, Lizzy."
Elizabeth smiled her approval at Jane’s counsel. "You are correct, dear sister." She sighed dramatically, "Well, we had better hurry downstairs before mama meets Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley at the door and demands to see financial records."
By the time Bingley and Darcy had arrived at Longbourne, the weather had begun to turn inclement and it started to rain. Elizabeth was fretful thinking of Mr. Darcy’s promise to spend the entire day with her. She so much desired his constant companionship that she had thought of nothing else since the last time she had seen him. It was only the thought of her fiancé being cooped up indoors all day with every distraction that her mother and sisters could devise, that distressed her.
Mr. Darcy appeared to be in a fine humor, and even smiled a few times when Mrs. Bennet dared to tell him of amusing little things that Elizabeth had done as a child. After a while, Mrs. Bennet grew weary of providing her future son-in-law with such entertaining bemusements, and left the lovers alone in the front parlor.
Elizabeth smiled nervously at him after she was sure her mother had gone, "Well, Mr. Darcy...you have heard everything you never wanted to know of me as a child."
Darcy stood up from his place on the sofa and walked over towards Elizabeth. "That is not true, Miss..." Darcy paused and smiled slightly "...Elizabeth. I am very glad to know what you were like when you were a girl." Darcy gave a tug on his waistcoat, cleared his throat and proceeded, "I very much like the name Elizabeth. I hope you will not mind if I do not call you Lizzy?"
Elizabeth smiled at this first tentative step at coming to concessions between them, "Not at all, Mr. Darcy," she assured him.
"Pray...I have never been known by a nickname or anything of the like, other than Darcy. However, I believe given our relationship, Darcy would not be very appropriate. I should be very pleased if you would call me by my given name."
"I should like that, Fitzwilliam." Her eyes sparkled as she pronounced it.
Darcy’s smile consumed him, and Elizabeth took in a breath when she saw it. It was something she would have to get used to, not that she did not like it, for she indeed did. It was just that he had done it so seldom when they had been in each other’s company before their engagement.
Elizabeth moved back over to the sofa and took a seat. "Tell me...what were you like when you were a child, Fitzwilliam?"
He grinned and shifted his position, "Tall and gangly, and not at all as serious as you would imagine."
Elizabeth began to lose her timidity with him as he opened up to her. He was different when no one else was around them, and she grew fonder and fonder of her exclusive look at the real Fitzwilliam Darcy. She remembered his cousin the Colonel saying Darcy could be lively at times, and she was so curious about the statement that she dearly wanted to witness it for herself.
"I cannot picture you as anything but the model child, sir." she giggled.
"I do not believe I was an awful child, however I did get into my share of trouble. For a while I was all arms and legs and a bit accident prone. My poor mother would cringe every time I got on a horse, or she caught me climbing a tree."
Elizabeth laughed at the picture in her mind of this lanky boy. "You have grown out of it very nicely, I think," she boldly ascertained. Darcy looked at her with his piercing stare and Elizabeth colored and quickly looked down realizing her improper assertiveness. "Fitzwilliam...I take too many liberties for a proper young woman."
Darcy’s smile faded and he moved over to the sofa and took a seat next to his fiancée. "Elizabeth...I have no wish for you to feel inhibited in my presence." He reached over and took her hand in his own. She looked up through repentant eyes, at his expressions although the sensation of his hand holding hers made her tingle everywhere else. "I do not think you would wish to be in a marriage where you could not speak your mind, and I would not have it so."
A wave of overwhelming desire consumed Darcy and he slowly moved closer to Elizabeth. Her heart began to race as she silently willed him to lean over and kiss her. The lovers were locked in a dreamy gaze and a tiny smile appeared on Darcy’s lips as he placed a hand under her chin and inclined towards her.
"Elizabeth! Mr. Darcy!" came a screech from out in the hallway and the lovers quickly pulled away from each other in shock. "Are you two still in here? We are ready to have luncheon!" Mrs. Bennet exclaimed. "Come...come...Mr. Darcy, surely you must be hungry...men are always hungry! Remember Elizabeth, it is a truth universally acknowledged that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach!"
Darcy let out a small huff of a laugh as he stared into space with a mixture of nerves and wonder on his features. Poor Elizabeth wanted to weep at the indecency of her mother’s untimely interference, however she stood up and tried to smile calmly at her beau.
As it so happened the rest of the day passed much as it had earlier. It drizzled continuously, making it practically impossible for Darcy and Elizabeth to have many moments alone in each other’s company. Bingley and Jane discovered they were having the same inconvenient problem, but every time Bingley would come across his friend in the house he would raise an eyebrow and grin. This began to grate on Darcy’s nerves, for not only was he desperate for the experience of Elizabeth’s fair kiss, but if she did not bestow it on him this day he would be obligated to read the blasted book.
After supper the rain let up a bit, however Mr. Bennet commented on how the young men would be wise to take advantage of the fortunate break in climate and make their way back to Netherfield. As this was the only practical thing to do, they donned their hats and coats and said their farewells. However, before they departed Bingley had the presence of mind to suggest a picnic on the morrow...that was if weather permitted. It was agreed that the ladies would provide the fare, if the men provided the transportation.
Darcy made his way outside followed by Elizabeth as Bingley stood in the doorway bidding good night to Jane.
"Good night, my lovely Elizabeth," Darcy managed to whisper to her as he bent down towards her ear. She caught the masculine scent of bay cologne as she lifted her face to him. Darcy took a quick glance at the doorway, and did not perceive the threat of anyone watching them. As he turned back to face her he whispered, "You are lovely...so very lovely," and his breath tickled her neck just under her ear. The world began to spin for Elizabeth and she closed her eyes in eager anticipation of Mr. Darcy’s good night kiss.
"DARCY!" Bingley yelled as he bounded from the house.
Elizabeth practically jumped into Darcy’s arms as Bingley’s booming voice broke her spell. Darcy looked at his friend as if wanting to pummel him, however Bingley was oblivious to his untimely interference.
Darcy grabbed the reins of his horse from the stable boy. He took Elizabeth’s hand and placed a gentlemanly kiss on it and said in a frustrated manner, "Until tomorrow," and bowed before he mounted his horse and sped away hard on the heels of Charles Bingley.
Elizabeth wrapped her arms around herself as she watched Darcy and his mount fade into the night. When she was sure she had caught the last glimpse of him, she turned around and stomped off into the house. Mrs. Bennet opened her mouth to comment on the evening, however Elizabeth stormed past her as she hissed the words "Good night, mother!"
Mr. Bennet stood watching his favorite daughter scale the stairs towards her bedchamber, then he looked at Jane in question.
"What is wrong with Lizzy, Jane?"
"I am sure it is nothing, Papa. I will go and make sure, however," and Jane ascended the stairs.
When Jane gently opened the door to Elizabeth’s room, she saw her sister sitting on her bed, with her arms still determinedly folded in front of her.
"This is impossible!" Elizabeth huffed and fell back on her bed with force. Jane sat on the other side of the bed in silence for she did not know what to say to her sister. Elizabeth stared up at the canopy over her bed and let out a pent-up whimper, "Ooh Fitzwilliam Darcy...you were so close to kissing me...I cannot bear the suspense any longer!"
"Lizzy," Jane spoke calmly.
Elizabeth sat bolt upright and glared at Jane. "Let us pray for good weather tomorrow Jane...for if we do not get it I shall surely go distracted!"
Darcy did not say a word as he and Bingley rode back to Netherfield. When they reached the front of the house, Darcy quickly dismounted and threw the reins towards the stable boy. He strode up the steps and entered the house followed closely by Bingley. He rid himself of his hat and coat, and Bingley watched him round the corner and head for the billiard room.
A few minutes later Bingley entered the billiard room to find Darcy racking up the balls and breaking them, over and over, again. Bingley stood with his hands behind his back as Darcy took another shot.
When Darcy had finished, Bingley moved his hands from behind his back and threw the book onto the billiard table. Darcy stood and glared at the book with a crimson face, then placidly turned and placed his cue in its resting spot. He walked back over to the table, and swept the book from its place on the felt.
"Good night, Bingley," he muttered as he left the room.
Bingley drew a victorious smile, "Good night, Darcy."
Darcy threw off his coat and waistcoat, loosened his collar and kicked off his shoes. His man knocked on the bedchamber door, but Darcy sent him away with his only instructions being to bring up a bottle of port. Darcy bid the poor man good night as he took the port, and slammed the bedchamber door. He scooped up the book in one hand, and with the port in the other, plopped down in the chair by the fire.
He poured himself a glass of the port and opened the book. "Chapter One," Darcy spoke out loud. He took a drink of the port and placed his glass on a table. "How to secure the good opinion of the lady." Darcy looked up with a frown and rolled his eyes at what he had read.
He sighed, "Perhaps I shall go on to Chapter Two." He flipped a few pages and looked down, "How to give a proper proposal of marriage." Darcy reached for the port and poured himself another glass then took another drink in haste as his stomach began to churn. "I am very glad this is not a textbook and there will be no examination," he said resolutely.
He flipped a few more pages until he came to Chapter Three, "Proper and decent behavior during courtship." Darcy nodded his head as he determined that he would begin with chapter three. He began reading the book and found that it was not such a bad book after all...in fact it was a fairly good read. He chuckled at some of the passages thinking to himself that most of the things the book instructed which were not proper behavior, were simply the instituting of common sense. He could not imagine what buffoon would actually treat his intended with such incivility, then he remembered Elizabeth’s cousin, Mr. Collins.
What he read he actually enjoyed, but when the clock on the mantle chimed two in the morning he determined that if he did not go to bed that minute, he would not be able to wake up in the morning. He flipped a few more pages of the book, however he did not see anything to that point which would help him with his present dilemma.
He wondered if somewhere in chapter four there would be a section on how to avoid your future mother-in-law, then threw the book on the bureau and crawled into bed.
Darcy tossed and turned as visions of rules and regulations of courtship flew through his mind. Was Elizabeth really expecting such amorous attentions? He hoped she was, for he was more than willing to bestow them. He had no wish to disappoint her, by any means, however if this was to determine his marital bliss it had to be veritably perfect. By the time Darcy mulled over all the disciplines and fell asleep it was close to four in the morning.
"Mr. Darcy, sir!" Mr. Stevens, Darcy’s valet stood outside the bedchamber door. He knocked louder this time, "Sir, are you awake?"
Bingley, who was already dressed and ready to leave, walked down the hallway towards Darcy’s room. "Mr. Stevens, is Mr. Darcy ready?"
"Sir...I have not even seen him this morning. I believe he is still asleep." Mr. Stevens replied.
"Good god, we are to leave in a half hour," Bingley said rather annoyed. "Darcy!" he yelled as he pounded on the door.
Darcy was sound asleep, a tangle of arms, legs and bed sheets. There was a loud thump and he startled to semi-consciousness. He rolled over and tried to keep his eyes open, but only succeeded in drifting off back to sleep with a quiet snore.
"Darcy! Wake Up!" he thought he heard Bingley shout and there came more banging. Darcy sat up and groped around for a robe and began to sleep walk towards the sound of the shouting.
He opened the door and saw Bingley and Stevens standing on the other side, "What?" he inquired sluggishly with only one eye open.
"Darcy, it is eight o’clock...we are suppose to be at the Meryton livery at eight-thirty!"
"Bingley, it cannot be eight o’clock. I just went to bed." Darcy yawned and rolled the kink from his neck. Bingley took his timepiece and held it up for Darcy. Darcy tried to focus his eyes enough to read it, "Good lord, it is eight o’clock," he said and turned around, bolting for his dressing room quickly followed by a bewildered Mr. Stevens.
Darcy ran down the stairs at quarter to nine, and found Bingley finishing a cup of coffee. He grabbed a cup of coffee, blew on it to cool it, and downed it in nothing flat then took a small cake and ate it as they both ran out the front doors.
The weather was indeed lovely and it looked as if it would continue throughout the day. Jane had assisted the cook in packing their luncheon and Elizabeth had piled blankets and a basket with eating utensils and wine, a favorite book and a couple of parasols by the door. When she had finished she raced outside and looked down the lane.
Elizabeth had taken great care in dressing that day, in a comfortable yellow walking frock with a matching cloth bonnet. It was one she was sure Darcy had seen but rarely and she has adorned it with some additional lace. She was delightfully bright in it and her countenance was merry in anticipation of solitude in the countryside with her love. An unfamiliar vehicle rolled up the lane to the house, and Elizabeth squinted trying to make out its occupants. She was pleasantly taken aback when she recognized one of the men to be Mr. Bingley, however the other man did not look familiar to her at all.
She backed up as the carriage rolled to a stop and Mr. Bingley jumped out, "Good Morning, Miss Bennet!" he smiled.
"Good morning to you, Mr. Bingley," she laughed at his delightful enthusiasm. "Jane is just inside, I believe she is putting on her bonnet."
Bingley bowed and rushed into the house, leaving Elizabeth still smiling at his manner. She turned around to look back at the unfamiliar carriage, and took in a breath in astonishment when she saw Darcy.
"Good morning, my love." Darcy said low enough to be heard by only his fiancée.
Elizabeth was astonished at the sight before her, for she still hardly recognized her intended. "Good morning, Mr. Dar...I mean, Fitzwilliam," she giggled.
"Is something the matter, Elizabeth?" Darcy nervously inquired of her.
"No...no, not at all. You do wear sporting clothes!" she giggled a little more.
"Of course I do," Darcy frowned. "If you do not like them I shall go and changed them directly?"
"NO!" she quickly put her hand out and touched his coat sleeve. "You are quite handsome in them, Fitzwilliam...I would not wish to have you change at all!"
Darcy believed her statement, for his love’s eyes appeared to light up in approval. He smiled and held out his arm and Elizabeth held on to him, still awed by his appearance. She turned around to look at the carriage again, "Where did you get this carriage, sir?"
"The park phaeton?" Darcy pronounced. "Bingley and I hired it in Meryton this morning. It is much more appropriate for our outing than the barouche, and I shall drive it instead of having to have a man come with us." He smiled down at her, "There is one like it at Pemberley."
She turned to look at him again, her eyes sparkling in the way he loved. He was an amiable presence in his loose waistcoat and relaxed jacket, his wide brimmed straw hat making him appear not nearly as tall and austere as usual. "Here..." he said. "...show me where everything is and I shall pack it up."
"Yes...it is all by the door," she replied, her sly smile teasing him as they walked towards the house. "Tell me, Fitzwilliam...do you like a good joke?"
Bingley helped Jane into the back seat of the phaeton, then Darcy turned to Elizabeth. Mrs. Bennet stood on the stoop waving a handkerchief, "You will drive carefully, Mr. Darcy? We would not want anything happening to our favorite girls?"
"Yes, madam...I shall be most careful," he replied and flashed his grin at Elizabeth. He placed his hands around Elizabeth’s waist and effortlessly lifted her up onto the front seat of the phaeton, then climbed in next to her and slapped the reins over the horses to cue them to pull forward. They eagerly pranced out of the yard and back down the lane away from Longbourne.
Elizabeth turned around to take a quick look at Bingley and Jane, and it was obvious to her that the lovers in the back seat were not interested in her and her beau at all. She inched across the seat a little closer to Darcy, and timidly slid her arm through the crook of his.
"Will this bother your driving?" she said shyly.
"Not at all," He smiled at her. "Where are we headed, my love?"
"Perhaps to Waltham glen. It is very beautiful there...and secluded." She blushed and turned away from him, hoping he would have no objections.
"Waltham glen, it is then," and he let out the reins allowing the pair of fine black horses to travel down the road at a faster pace.
Upon arriving at the glen, Darcy secured the team and Bingley searched for an appropriate spot to settle down at. There was a stand of aspen overlooking the waters edge which seemed like an appropriate spot. Elizabeth and Jane merrily fixed the blankets and baskets upon a patch of soft grasses.
The yellowish leaves of the aspens were quaking in the light breeze and they looked and sounded a little like gold coins clinking together. The sights and sounds and smells of the glen were delightful and Darcy took in a deep breath and looked all around in appreciation of Elizabeth’s choice.
"Will you walk with me, Elizabeth?" he held his hand out to her. She put her hand in his and they walked down a shale path which led towards the water. Darcy held her securely as the path narrowed, and when they rounded a bend the path leveled out and disappeared into an emerald green pool. Water splashed down from several places along the shale and moss covered walls of the gorge.
"What a site," Darcy exhaled in wonder. He turned his attentions towards Elizabeth as she stood in front of the pool, her pale yellow skirts gently billowing around her waist and legs. Her youthful pink skin summoned his touch, and her dark lashes motioned him to her with every womanly flutter.
"I always thought this was a spot straight from a fairy tale...like a place where sirens sleep far away from the sea." Elizabeth enticed Darcy to move closer with her ruminating observations. "You know what happens when a siren sings to a man."
Darcy did indeed know, and had Elizabeth been a siren he would gladly have perished for a song and just one of her beguiling kisses. She turned around to gaze into the pool and Darcy came up from behind her and touched her elbow. He took off his hat and threw it on the ground next to them and then carefully reached under Elizabeth’s chin and pulled on the loose end of one of the ribbons securing her bonnet. When it was untied she reached up and pulled the bonnet from her head and let it drop in the direction of Darcy’s hat.
She trembled with anticipation as his palm caressed the curve of her chin and he gently directed her face to the side. He nuzzled the side of her face and breathed in her heavenly sweet scent. Elizabeth closed her eyes and leaned back against him as he slipped his other arm around her waist and cautiously held his open palm against her abdomen. "Oh, Elizabeth," he inaudibly moaned.
"Darcy! DARCY!" Bingley yelled from atop the shale walls. "Come back up...we are FAMISHED!"
Darcy reluctantly let go of Elizabeth and she took in a breath of conscious reality. "This cannot be?" he whispered through clenched teeth. "We shall be right there!" Darcy shouted up from the gorge and his voice echoed several times as it bounced up towards where Bingley was standing. Elizabeth turned around and looked into her lover’s eyes. He whimpered as he puffed out a sigh and held her hand a moment, then helped her back up the path to the stand of aspen.
After they had all feasted on cold ham and cheeses and Darcy had consumed a glass or two of wine, he began to feel incredibly sleepy. He had only slept four hours that night and fatigue was beginning to catch up with him. He leaned against one of the trees and tried desperately not to allow his eyes to close.
Bingley stood up and reached out for Jane’s hand, "Shall we explore the sights, my dear?" Jane took his hand and they merrily went on their way down the same path that Darcy and Elizabeth had been on before.
Elizabeth glanced over at her beloved. He smiled calmly and complimented her on the superb picnic. She thanked him, then casually looked up and noticed all the puffy little clouds dotting the blue sky. She giggled in amusement and looked at him again, "Do you ever look at clouds, Fitzwilliam?" Darcy turned an eye up to the sky and shook his head. "You have never tried to see things in the clouds?" she asked him.
Darcy moved away from the tree and sat down next to her. They both looked into the sky then she exclaimed, "There...that one looks like a dog!"
Darcy leaned back on his elbows and tried to picture a dog, although he had some difficulty in seeing it.
"That one looks like a goose in flight," she pronounced.
"Where?" he asked and she pointed at it. He squinted his eyes to try to see a flying goose, however he could not imagine it. "No...it looks more like a scythe." He looked over at her and she furrowed her brow. "You know, a tool used to cut grass."
She laughed a little, thinking to herself that at least he had seen something in them. Perhaps it was best if she found another amusement, "I brought a book, if you would like to read?"
"I should like it if you would read it to me," he said, still leaning back on his elbows. Elizabeth pulled the book from the basket and began to read aloud. Darcy took off his coat, rolled it up and laid it on the blanket, then leaned his head against it. He saw no harm in getting comfortable, for this was a picnic not a formal ball. He stared up at the clouds trying to see something amusing in them, for Elizabeth’s sake. Elizabeth continued to read for some time, until she came to a part of the book which she found excessively diverting. "I do think this passage is very amusing, Fitzwilliam."
Upon not hearing a reply she looked over at him and her eyes widened in disbelief, for the proud Mr. Darcy had fallen sound asleep. She grinned at the sight, and was happy to know that he was comfortable enough in her presence to relax in this way. She took another blanket and gently covered him up and went back to silently reading her book.
Elizabeth let Darcy sleep for forty-five minutes, until he finally moaned and rolled onto his side and his head slipped off of his makeshift pillow. His eyes popped open and he sat up and blinked at Elizabeth.
"You fell asleep," she said softly.
"Good god," he said as he ran his hand through his hair. "Elizabeth, pray forgive me. I do not know how I could possibly be so inattentive and rude."
"You must have been tired, Fitzwilliam...and you needed to rest."
"Yes, I did...I was up most of the night reading the...," he stopped abruptly as he realized what he was about to disclose concerning the book. "...correspondence…reading some correspondence from my steward."
"Oh," she whispered sadly. "You have been spending all your time with me that you cannot attend to your business. I do not want to take you away from your duties, Fitzwilliam. If we cannot be together every moment, you must surely tell me, and I will occupy myself with other things."
This was something Darcy did not necessarily wish to hear for there was nothing he had rather do than be in her company. "I thank you for your concern Elizabeth, but I assure you it is something I can take care of without interrupting our time together."
She smiled a little in comfort and turned to see Bingley and Jane walking towards them. "There is a pool down there, which is simply magnificent!" Bingley rejoiced. Elizabeth could tell from the satisfied looks on both of their faces that the pool had enticed them into an embrace much like she and Darcy had been engaged in earlier, however she was positive that they had not been abruptly interrupted before the finale.
Bingley looked down at Darcy, "You look as if you have just woken up, Darcy?"
Darcy stood up and straighten his clothes with a brushing of his hands. He scowled at his friend and looked about on the blanket for his hat.
"Well, I suppose we should pack up and head back." Bingley determined. "It is almost three o’clock. We must return the phaeton and be back at Netherfield to make ready for the engagement party tonight."
Darcy had forgotten about the party at Netherfield this night. He tried not to show his displeasure at having to attend a social engagement for he would never have a chance to be alone with Elizabeth during the evening. When the phaeton was packed up and everyone was seated, Darcy climbed in. Before he turned it around to head back for the road he took another look at the glen, then at Elizabeth. They smiled at each other, however their smiles were tempered with disappointment at not having had the time that they had both wanted, and not having known the pleasures of each other’s sweet kisses.
Darcy sat in the bath, in quiet contemplation. He thought about the book and how Bingley had succeeded in demonstrating his passion to his own lover, while he had only succeeded in demonstrating his snoring abilities to Elizabeth, and occasionally breathing an inane word or two in her ear. He felt ridiculous and embarrassed at his prowess as a man, for he had certainly done nothing to recommend himself amorously to Elizabeth. He decided at this point that serious brooding was perhaps a viable course of action.
When the water in his bath began to turn cold, he stepped out of the tub and dried himself off and found his robe. He walked back into the bedchamber to sit by the fire and picked up the book, opening it to chapter four.
"Kissing-Past, Present and Future" He looked up in amazement at the title and felt completely ludicrous. "Well Darcy, take heed," he told himself as he rolled his eyes and settled in to read and to learn.
How to Kiss…
*"Kissing comes by instinct, and yet it is an art which few understand properly. A lover should not hold his bride by the ears in kissing her, as was customary in Scotland in the last century."
Darcy stopped at this point and chuckled out loud.
*"A more graceful way, and quite as effective in preventing the lady from ‘getting away’, is to put your right arm around her neck, your fingers under her chin, raise the chin, and then gently but firmly press your lips on hers. After a few repetitions she will find out it doesn’t hurt, and become gentle as a lamb."
"Good god!" he groaned as he blushed furiously. "They make it sound as if you are branding livestock!"
Darcy continued to read, however the book provided no more insight as to how one was suppose to find the appropriate place and moment to implement this instinct. As he read on he came to a part in the chapter that cautioned him as to overt displays of public affection.
*"Lovers would do well to remember that while courtship is the most absorbing of all occupations to them, it is the most insipid, and when too manifest, the most distasteful to others."
Darcy grimaced as he thought of Mr. And Mrs. Bennet devising ways to spy on him as he courted Elizabeth. His frustration with the whole affair became more than apparent to him. Darcy was not one to be easily intimidated by a man, however the presence of his fiancée’s father caused him more discomfort than he cared to admit.
He flipped a few more pages and came to chapter five, *"Sunny Sentences, To Her I Love Best."
Darcy quickly closed the book in discomfort, "Wonderful. Now I find I need contrived expressions to brighten up my own embarrassing mutterings!" he huffed. He sat in silence for a moment then his curiosity got the better of him and he again opened the book.
*"Your hair is as sunny as your heart." Darcy tried not to grin as he read the phrase out loud. When he was sure he had composed himself sufficiently, he read another:
*"Your kind, deep, dewey eyes." A snort escaped from Darcy and his face contorted in his efforts to remain calm.
*"Thy sweet dumb eloquence of beauty…commands me without authority." Darcy could maintain his composure no longer and he laughed out loud.
"Is everything alright, Mr. Darcy?" Mr. Stevens called from behind the closed door of the dressing room.
"Yes," Darcy wheezed. "Perfectly alright, Mr. Stevens!"
Darcy thought to himself, "Are we men really that sadly lacking in the art of flattery?" He supposed it to be so, since someone had actually taken the time to publish these gems in a manual, and he himself had never done anything to demonstrate his own abilities in this area. He decided to read just one more:
"My armorial bearings are the red and white rose quartered in your dear face."
The sound of the peal of Darcy’s laughter could be heard out in the hallway, and Bingley stopped and looked queerly towards Darcy’s bedchamber door as he walked up to it with a letter in his hand.
Darcy quickly closed the book and sought to compose himself at the sound of a knock on the bedchamber door. He was surprised to see his friend on the other side, and tried his best to hide his mirth as he thought of Bingley spewing forth such ridiculous compliments to Miss Jane Bennet down by the pool at Waltham Glen.
"Darcy, what do you do in here?" Bingley wondered. "I could hear you laughing all the way down the hall."
"Nothing, Bingley." Darcy said and cleared his throat. "Tell me, Charles...you are not attempting to follow all of the advice in your good book are you?"
Bingley raised his eyebrow as he contemplated Darcy’s question. "Well...no, not everything. I am trying to implement a little originality as well."
Darcy shook his head, "That is very good to know, Bingley."
Bingley dismissed any further inquiry as to Darcy’s questions and held out the letter, "This just came for you, Darcy."
Darcy took the letter and looked at the originating postmark. His good humor diminished as he saw it was from Kent, and could only be the reply to the letter which he had sent to Lady Catherine de Bourgh a few days prior announcing his engagement to Elizabeth. He dreaded opening it, but slipped his finger under the seal and began to read it.
When he finished reading, he quickly began to pace the floor as he skimmed the most insulting and infuriating portions of her detestable reply one more time. His countenance was chaffed and he crumpled up the letter and threw it into the fireplace, watching it disintegrate into a small pile of ash.
He sat back down in the chair and ran his hand across his face as he decided that he would not let his anger towards his aunt and his miserable failure as a lover ruin this evening, for Elizabeth’s sake.
Darcy stood by the front doors and looked out the windows, impatiently awaiting Elizabeth’s arrival. He wanted so desperately to see her lovely face, in hopes that she would improve his low spirits. When he saw the Bennet’s carriage pull up the drive he dashed around the corner and out the doors. It was dark and he could not see inside the carriage, however the footman opened the door and Mr. Bennet stepped out.
"Good evening, sir." Darcy gave a low bow as he honored the presence of his future father-in-law.
"Mr. Darcy," Mr. Bennet said and nodded his head at the young man. "Elizabeth will be along in a few moments. She and Jane are in the other carriage." Mr. Bennet grinned at Darcy’s impatient nod.
Darcy assisted Mrs. Bennet, Kitty and Mary out of the carriage and watched as they ascended the steps up to the house. He moved off into the shadows as he saw more guests beginning to arrive. He was in no mood to entertain them, until his lovely fiancée was by his side.
The footman opened another carriage door and Darcy nearly cringed at the sight of Mr. William Collins disembarking. He wondered what on earth the parson was doing there this evening, until he realized that the poor man probably had to flee Kent and the disapprobation of his patroness.
A few minutes later, Bingley flew down the stone steps, "Darcy! Where are you man?"
Darcy stepped from around the back of a stone lion, which guarded the entrance to the house, "Over here, Bingley."
"What are you doing out here? You should be inside, for there are plenty of people who are anxious to congratulate you!"
Darcy sighed and clasped his hands behind his back, "I am waiting for Elizabeth, Bingley. Then the both of us may greet these people, together."
"I know how you dislike being the center of attention, Darcy...but you really must overcome it." Darcy allowed Bingley’s disapprobation, however the Bennet’s other carriage mercifully pulled onto the drive.
Jane Bennet was helped from the carriage and she took her fiancé’s arm and they entered the house. Darcy peered into the carriage nervously, until he caught a glimpse of Elizabeth smiling at him. He smiled back at her with relief and helped her from the carriage.
He set her down in front of him and they silently looked into each other’s eyes without speaking. Darcy boldly bent towards Elizabeth and placed a quick and sterile kiss on the softness of her cheek while no one was looking. When he pulled back he saw her loving smile and he felt better about the social engagement, the disapproval of Lady Catherine, and about himself.
The happy couple entered the house and were immediately barraged by people wishing them well on their recent engagement. Darcy continued to smile unpretentiously, however he spoke very little and allowed Elizabeth to converse for the both of them. Elizabeth noticed Darcy’s melancholia and wondered what could affect him so. She realized his discomfort in the company of strangers, and she tried her best to keep him at ease by holding his arm as they weeded their way through the well-wishers.
When the throng died down, Darcy turned to his fiancée, "I have been remiss in telling you how beautiful you are tonight, Elizabeth." Darcy smiled and thought to himself that at least he had come up with that one on his own. "If only there were some way to be alone...I so desperately wish to show you how I feel."
Elizabeth’s temptation for a demonstration of his affection was far too great to dismiss this opportunity, "Is there not a quiet room around this corner? Perhaps if we steal away we will not be missed for some time?"
Darcy looked around for a sign of an unwelcome intruder, then grabbed her hand. Once they were inside the room, he gently turned Elizabeth around to face him.
"In the last few days I have truly come to know how much I long for you...for I cannot stand it when we are apart," he said rather breathlessly and from the heart. "I have not had the good fortune to show you the depth of my feelings...as a man ought to show a woman whom he is so helplessly in love with."
Elizabeth nearly melted with desire at his romantic speech, and she breathed in return, "I have come to love you so very much, Fitzwilliam...and I so long for you..."
The latch on the door rattled, startling Elizabeth. Darcy’s anger and frustration with the interference of others reached an all time high. At that moment he did not care who it was who had caught them together in a very delicate situation. He wheeled around to see the sweaty, beady little face of Mr. Collins devilishly smiling, and clearing his throat to speak.
"Mr. Darcy...I wonder if I might have a moment of your time?"
"Pray, what is it Mr. Collins?" Darcy heard himself whine.
"Well, sir...it is about the letter from my patroness, and her harsh words towards you and my cousin, sir." Mr. Collins respired.
Darcy frowned with contempt as he looked on his aunt’s greasy messenger. He turned to Elizabeth, but all he could see was hurt in her eyes as she fully understood Mr. Collins’ meaning. "My love...will you excuse us a moment? This will not take long."
Elizabeth silently left the room and Darcy watched her go, his heart breaking from the rejection he knew she was feeling. He turned towards Mr. Collins, "You have incredibly bad timing, sir!"
Mr. Collins bowed a nod, "Yes...well...I must tell you that your aunt is very displeased as to your unfortunate alliance to my cousin, sir."
"Unfortunate? Is that your opinion, Mr. Collins...or my aunt’s?" Darcy growled. "Actually, sir...what business is this of yours?"
"I only wanted to know of your intentions, for your aunt instructed me to make sure of your continued regard for Miss Elizabeth. She thought perhaps you may change your mind...much like I did when I made the mistake of extending my proposal to Miss Elizabeth, before my dear Charlotte finally accepted me." Mr. Collins let slip as he looked towards the heavens.
"WHAT?" Darcy bellowed, insane with rage. "You made an offer to..." Darcy gulped, but could not quite finish the sentence as the thought of his lovely Elizabeth in an alliance with Mr. Collins threw him into a nauseated frenzy. He walked over close to Mr. Collins and looked down on the man in disdain, "Sir...do not ever speak to me of my aunt again. I have no care as to the disapprobation of that woman."
Darcy felt his blood boil as he contemplated taking Mr. Collins by the cravat, "I am finding it hard enough to keep one woman happy, therefore I do not need to worry about offending a sour, disagreeable, old...bat! As far as I am concerned I have never heard of Lady Catherine de Bourgh and I beg you not to inopportune me or my fiancée any further."
Mr. Collins wiped the sweat from his brow with his handkerchief as he watched Mr. Darcy head for the door. Before Darcy exited however he turned around for a final word, "Mr. Collins...you may quote me on that!"
Elizabeth moved quickly through the crowd towards the side of the house where there was a courtyard situated outside the doors. Jane and Bingley saw her burst through the doors, and Jane excused herself from her fiancé, in order to follow her sister. When Elizabeth was safely away from the party she put her hands to her face and began to cry.
"Lizzy?" Jane’s soft voice called out.
Elizabeth turned around and removed her hands from her face, although she was still weeping.
"Oh Lizzy...what has happened? Did you and Mr. Darcy have an argument?" Jane inquired.
Elizabeth shook her head, "No Jane...I knew we would not be able to marry. There are too many differences in our lives...they cannot be overcome!" Elizabeth’s face contorted and she began to cry harder, "What is really sad is he never even got the chance to demonstrate his affections!"
Jane walked closer to Elizabeth and tried to reason with her, "Lizzy, you are not being fair."
Elizabeth sniffled, then waved her hands in the air, as if wanting to speak. "I shall certainly die an old maid who has never even been kissed!" she whined through her sobs.
Jane held her sister tightly for some minutes until she looked up to see Darcy standing next to them. "Miss Bennet, if I may speak to Elizabeth?"
Jane looked at Elizabeth to determine her will. Elizabeth nodded her consent as she wiped her tears and Jane quickly left the lovers to themselves.
Darcy was reticent as he began, "Elizabeth...I did not tell you earlier, but I have had a letter from Lady Catherine."
"She does not approve of our engagement?" Elizabeth said more than questioned.
Darcy shook his head, "No."
Elizabeth tried to maintain her composure as her face scrunched and tears welled again in her eyes, "If you wish to be released from our engagement Mr. Darcy...I shall completely understand."
Darcy clenched his teeth in anger and hurt, "Elizabeth, if I am ever to take a firm hand with you...it is now. There is no one on this earth who could persuade me from keeping my promise to you. I do not give a fig as to Lady Catherine’s opinion and unless she comes to her senses, we shall know her no more."
Elizabeth closed her eyes in utter relief at his disclosure, but Darcy was not through with his discourse.
"Is it true that Mr. Collins made you an offer of marriage?" his voice cracked with his fury.
Elizabeth’s guard went up, more with Mr. Collins for his indecent disclosure than with Darcy’s adamant question. "It is true. He made me an offer which I flatly refused to even entertain. He has never been a threat to you, Fitzwilliam. Pray, do not make it an issue now!", she begged him.
Darcy looked up to the sky, letting out a frustrated sigh then nodded his head in agreement. Before she knew what she was doing, Elizabeth ran over and flung herself into Darcy’s arms, as her emotions poured forth in more tears. Darcy held her tightly, and stroked the side of her face with his hand, as he tried to calm her and himself.
"Elizabeth...do not do this to me. I cannot stand to see you unhappy, especially when I know I am the cause of it!"
She sniffled and reached her hand up to his face and caressed his cheek. He took her hand and kissed the palm of it, "Elizabeth...I love you. Tell me you have not altered your opinion and you still wish to be my wife?"
The door to the courtyard opened and Darcy closed his eyes in defeat. He slowly turned around, fully expecting to scare off the intruder with his ill temper, but then he caught sight of the only person who could intimidate him.
"Mr. Bennet!" he said as he released his hold of Elizabeth.
"Mr. Darcy...Elizabeth, is everything all right out here?" Mr. Bennet inquired sternly.
"Yes, papa...it is now," Elizabeth reassured him. Mr. Bennet pulled out a handkerchief and handed it to his daughter, then looked at Darcy. He was concerned for Elizabeth’s apparent heartache, but he was almost positive that Darcy had nothing directly to do with it.
It was not in Mr. Bennet’s nature however, to let Darcy off the hook so easily. He frowned at the young man, exerting his authority while he still had any, "You should both come inside...we will be leaving soon, my dear."
Elizabeth wiped her face with the handkerchief and tried to compose herself enough to face their guests one more time. Darcy took her back into the house and she did a good job at hiding her distress. Darcy did not leave her side for the remainder of the evening, and he became almost obsessed in his protection of her. As far as he was concerned there would be no one who would be allowed to upset the future Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy.
At the end of the evening Darcy took Elizabeth to the carriage. "When may I see you tomorrow?" he tenderly asked her.
"Mama wishes us to go into Meryton with her in the morning," Elizabeth told him. "Will you come later in the afternoon, and stay for supper?"
Darcy held her hand and nodded his head, "Good night, Elizabeth."
Elizabeth looked at his face. The more she knew of Fitzwilliam Darcy the more she understood his looks and expressions. What he rarely ever disclosed verbally as to his feelings, he often demonstrated in a gaze or stare, or a physical action. She could see in his features that he was suppressing something, but she was not sure what. He helped her into the carriage, but she turned around to look at him once more before entering.
"Fitzwilliam...I shall never alter my opinion. You are the only man I want to marry." She did not wait for a reply, but hastily entered the carriage and left Darcy standing alone outside.
He watched until the carriage drove out of sight, then he slowly turned and entered the house. Bingley was waiting for him, however Darcy was simply not in the mood for any further conversation. "Bingley," he sighed. "I shall retire...good night."
"Good night, Darcy," his friend replied, watching curiously as Darcy slowly walked up the stairs.
Darcy crawled into bed and reached over to extinguish the candle. He stopped short of doing so as he noticed the book on the nightstand. He picked it up and opened it to chapter six, "Family intervention and confrontation." Although this chapter did not give him much solace, he finished it and began chapter seven, "The first misunderstanding."
Suddenly Darcy felt empty and alone. "What are you doing, Darcy?" he asked himself. "You should not need a manual for a subject which should be a natural course of life!"
He slammed the book shut, got out of bed and found his robe. Before he knew it he was standing in front of Bingley’s room. He rapped on the door and Bingley opened it.
"Darcy?" Bingley raised a brow.
Darcy held out his hand which contained the book. "I read some of the book, Bingley and I appreciate your kind gesture, however I believe I am no better off now than before I started reading it. I suppose I shall just have to reason this all out for myself." Bingley took the book and Darcy went back to his bedchamber without awaiting a reply.
Darcy crawled back into his bed and stared up at the ceiling in quiet reflection for some time. The smile that he had worn on his face for the last few days had momentarily disappeared before he finally fell into a fitful sleep.
Elizabeth dressed into her nightgown and dismissed her maid. She sat for some time on her bed, thinking of her lover. Her smile faded as she realized that things were not exactly going as she had planned during their engagement. The events of that evening had put a strain on her and on Darcy, and it occurred to her that perhaps the opinions of everyone else as to their engagement were simply not important. She knew the only important thing should be their own happiness, however what she did not know was how to tell Darcy this.
Elizabeth crawled into her bed and stared up at the canopy, she sighed as she saw the face of her lover in her mind. She closed her eyes trying to imagine the feel of their first kiss, until she finally fell asleep.
Bingley was up early the next morning and he hoped to entice Darcy into taking a ride or engaging in some shooting before heading for Longbourne that afternoon. He strode energetically down to Darcy’s bedchamber and rapped on the door. Mr. Stevens answered and Bingley could see the chambermaids inside the room already making up the bed.
"Mr. Stevens...will you tell Mr. Darcy I wish to speak with him?"
"I am sorry, sir. Mr. Darcy was up very early this morning and I believe he has already left the house."
Bingley furrowed his brows as he contemplated why his friend would make such a hasty departure this morning. He went to the stables and had the stable boy saddle him a horse, then took off in the direction of Longbourne. When he arrived, Jane, Elizabeth and Mrs. Bennet were just entering their carriage to depart for Meryton.
"Mr. Bingley! We are just on our way to Meryton...we were not expecting you until this afternoon?" Mrs. Bennet exclaimed.
"Yes, ma’am...I do not wish to detain you, however I wondered if you had seen Mr. Darcy this morning?" Bingley looked over at Elizabeth as he inquired.
Elizabeth shook her head, "No Mr. Bingley, I have not seen him since leaving Netherfield last night." Elizabeth began to fret. "You do not think there is anything wrong do you?"
"No, Miss Bennet...it is just that he left very early this morning, without a word as to his destination. Last night before we retired he appeared to be somewhat downcast."
Jane and her mother looked to Elizabeth, "Yes...I believe he is upset that his aunt does not favor our engagement."
Bingley felt badly for Elizabeth, "Miss Bennet, I cannot imagine what kind of a person would not welcome you into their family." He tried to give her his assurances, "Do not worry...Darcy will be back in time to see you this afternoon."
Elizabeth quietly nodded and entered the carriage. Jane turned towards Bingley, "Charles...are you sure Mr. Darcy is well?"
He nodded his head, "Yes Jane...everything will be fine. I know it will."
Darcy abruptly stopped his horse, and climbed down from the saddle. He wrapped the reins around a branch of an aspen tree and looked around him, then quickly walked down the shale path to the emerald pool. The glen was cool and calm and soothing to Darcy. He found a protrusion of shale much in the shape of a bench and sat down on it.
In his mind he could almost see his lovely Elizabeth standing before him. The billowing material of her yellow skirts and the flutter of her dark lashes on her pink cheeks. He could almost smell the sweetness of her skin, and see the curve of her lips enticing him with a sly feminine smile. He closed his eyes and tried to imagine what would have happened if he and Elizabeth had not been interrupted that day, and he could almost hear singing.
"Darcy...you are so dim-witted," he muttered to himself. "Does it really matter what anyone else thinks of my engagement? Does it matter that everyone watches our every move? It cannot be a crime for a man to want to show affection to his fiancée. There should be no good reason to hide it."
Fitzwilliam Darcy remained in Waltham Glen for some time, making resolutions and reasoning things out for himself. After a while he took out his timepiece and checked the hour. Before he left he walked to the water’s edge and threw a small flat stone into the center of the pond. When the ripples finally cleared, he saw a reflection...the image of a dark young man with a very ridiculous grin upon his face.
Elizabeth sat on the stone bench in the park in front of Longbourne house. She turned as she heard the sound of hoof beats coming up the drive, and she bolted up and ran back to the house. As she rounded the corner her features dropped in disappointment, for only Jane’s Mr. Bingley had come.
"Miss Bennet," Bingley bowed a greeting to her.
"Mr. Bingley," she curtsied then looked at him in question. "Has Mr. Darcy not returned?"
Bingley was afraid to speak for fear of upsetting her. He was angry with Darcy for having a inclination to avoid confrontations. Miss Elizabeth Bennet was a beautiful and charming young woman, and in Bingley’s opinion she deserved every attention Darcy and his family could extend to her. "Miss Bennet...I am sure he will be along at any moment."
"Yes, Mr. Bingley...I hope you are right."
Elizabeth turned around and walked back over to the stone bench, sat down and folded her hands in her lap and simply looked down the road. Bingley waited until he was sure she would be alright, then he entered the house to find Jane.
Jane and Bingley remained in the house, every once in a while peering out the windows to check on Elizabeth. Soon Mrs. Bennet came into the parlor and she pushed the curtain back and looked out the window with a sigh and a sad shake of her head at the sight of her daughter. Elizabeth continued to sit on the bench in quiet contemplation with hopes that her love would soon arrive. Mary got up from the pianoforte and as she passed by the window she took a look out and saw Elizabeth still sitting alone on the bench.
"Jane, I do not know what comes over Darcy sometimes. He would never say a word if he had a mouthful of them." Bingley huffed his disapprobation of his friend’s behavior.
After some time Kitty got up from her embroidery and glanced out the window towards the bench, however this time the bench was empty. Her eyes nervously searched around the park, until she saw her sister standing in front of the tall figure in which she recognized to be Mr. Darcy.
"He is here, mama...Mr. Darcy is here!" she exclaimed excitedly and everyone quickly left their places and looked out the windows at the lovers. They watched as Darcy handed Elizabeth a bouquet of flowers. "Do you think he will finally kiss her?," Kitty wondered aloud.
"Kitty!," Jane turned around to scold her sister.
Bingley put his hand on Jane’s arm. "I hope so Kitty...I do hope so!" he grinned.
Mr. Bennet wandered into the room and saw his entire family gathered in front of the windows, "What do you all do there?" he called out.
Everyone jumped and quickly moved away from the windows, realizing their impropriety. Mr. Bennet stepped over and took a look out the window for himself.
He silently nodded his head with an apparent look of disapprobation. "Well, I see Darcy has finally shown up," he said then turned to the rest of his family and showed his displeasure by a sad shaking of his head. As he started to walk back to his study he turned around and addressed his family once more. "Hopefully now the man will lose his inhibitions and break down and kiss the poor girl!"
Everyone looked at each other in embarrassment, but they again gathered in front of the windows. Bingley saw Darcy pull Elizabeth forward, say something and grin. "Come on Darcy," Bingley said under his breath. "Come on Darcy!" then he looked at everyone else peering out the windows and laughed. "I feel as if we should be taking odds?"
Elizabeth’s countenance brightened as Darcy handed her the bouquet of flowers, "I hope I did not keep you waiting long, my dear Elizabeth?"
Elizabeth shook her head, "Not at all...I would have waited even longer for you, Fitzwilliam."
Darcy stared at her with a beam on his features, as he did so often when his heart was full of his love for her and he could not find the eloquence to express it. "What attracts you to me, Elizabeth?" he ventured rather boldly.
She looked into his eyes, her own eyes sparkling with the love that she felt for him, "The way you say things...with only a look."
"I do?" he whispered in surprise.
"Yes, you do." she said. "You have only to stare, only to smile or to frown...it is the way you express yourself. I did not always understand it, for there was a time when I thought you used it only to demonstrate your disapproval of me. I know now that it was not true." Elizabeth lowered her eyes to the ground as a blush spread across her cheeks. "I love how you look at me Fitzwilliam, and I pray that you will look at me that way for the rest of our lives."
Darcy was overcome with love for Elizabeth, but for some reason he had an inconceivable urge to grab her by the ears and kiss her, like the Scots of yesteryear. A smile came to his face, as he tried to hold in a laugh at the thought.
Elizabeth’s eyes widened as she saw his mirth and she instinctively backed away as she believed Darcy thought her ridiculous in her musings. "Elizabeth, no..." Darcy took her hand. "I am sorry...it is only that I am..." His countenance turned serious and he shook his head in wonder. "I am so violently in love with you."
He reached out and with a hand under her chin lifted her face up to look back into his eyes. He pulled her closer to him but she faltered, "Fitzwilliam, we are in full view of the house...someone most likely is watching us!"
Darcy grinned broadly, "Elizabeth, I do not seem to be having very good luck in private. Perhaps if they can see us, they will not be tempted to interrupt us?"
The resemblance of a smile spread across her face, until Darcy pulled her to him and placed a tender kiss on her cheek. Elizabeth fell into his embrace, the forgotten bouquet of flowers pressed between their bodies. Finally, Darcy leaned in and placed a soft lingering kiss on the sweet object of his obsession. Elizabeth’s fingers moved up to the lapel of his coat as she was putty in his hands.
After a moment he gently pulled back and opened his eyes to see his lovely Elizabeth, still with her eyes closed, awaiting more. As if by reflex, she tugged on Darcy’s lapel and demanded huskily, "Kiss me again."
Darcy looked up and breathed a triumphant sigh, then kissed her lips again with more passion than anything Elizabeth could have conjured up in her dreams. The lovers remained this way for some time, until they reluctantly parted for that bothersome thing called air. Darcy kept his arms about Elizabeth, not willing to let go of the moment; for the experience had been worth every bit of torturous the wait.
Elizabeth leaned against him in complete contentment. "Oh Fitzwilliam, if you kiss me like that throughout our marriage...we shall certainly be the happiest of couples!"
Elizabeth thought she heard him whisper a definitive "Yes!" as they stood in the middle of Longbourne Park for all to see.
Their embrace was finally disturbed by Hill calling them into the house for supper. They walked arm in arm and when they reached the entrance to the dining room they very unwillingly released each other and Darcy followed Elizabeth into the crowded room.
"Mr. Darcy," Mr. Bennet greeted his daughter’s fiancée rather sternly.
"Mr. Bennet, Mrs. Bennet," Darcy bowed and helped Elizabeth to her seat. He took his seat next to her and cast his gaze down at his empty plate, hoping against hope that Mr. Bennet had no knowledge of their unsheltered intimacy. He quickly glanced over at Bingley who was grinning ridiculously back at him and he had to look away for fear of showing any kind of embarrassment on his features.
Thankfully the pressure eased when everyone began to eat their meal. Darcy finally felt at peace that perhaps his and Elizabeth’s courtship would run a smoother course. He had finally been allowed to show Elizabeth the extent of his affections, even though it had taken him five days and some odd hours to do it.
He was however, extremely relieved that Elizabeth had approved of it. Just that one kiss had done wonders for the self-esteem of the lover within Fitzwilliam Darcy not to mention the flights of fancy of Elizabeth Bennet.
"Well Mr. Darcy, I was indeed a bit worried that you and Elizabeth had a falling out last night." Mr. Bennet said sitting ominously upright and still in his chair at the head of his table.
Darcy looked at his future father-in-law with alarm. Elizabeth noticed Darcy’s dismay and turned to her father and whispered, "Papa?"
"However," Mr. Bennet continued with a smile, "...we can all see by the presence of that smudge of lipstick on your face that we have nothing to fear anymore and the wedding will go on as planned."
Darcy blushed and quickly used his cloth to remove the smudge, as he sat mortified at the thought of being caught in the act of his passions. However, when he looked over at Elizabeth and saw her laughing along with everyone else in the room, including Mr. Bennet, he broke down and laughed harder than anyone had ever seen from the proud and bashful Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy.
That evening was exceptionally warm for an autumn evening. After supper Darcy made a casual suggestion to Elizabeth that perhaps they might take a walk outdoors. The lovers managed to escape the watchful eyes of family and friends and walked out into the wilderness past the park.
They stopped in the clearing and Elizabeth coyly looked up at her fiancé, "I believe we are quite alone, sir."
"Ah, my love," Darcy whispered. "One can never be too sure."
He looked around and saw an old stone bench a ways off the path, then led Elizabeth to it. Darcy dared to tempt fate and wrapped his arms around Elizabeth as she leaned back against him.
"Fitzwilliam...are you very uncomfortable around my father?" Elizabeth questioned him.
He smiled as she snuggled into his embrace, "A little, Elizabeth...he is your father after all. He does not seem to object that much to me, especially with you being his favorite daughter. No doubt if we have a daughter, I shall feel the same way about her young man."
Elizabeth giggled at his reply, "I believe you shall, Mr. Darcy. Especially when she is in the wilderness with him, cuddled up together and he is about to kiss her again."
Darcy relied on his new found assertiveness and bestowed on Elizabeth a long lingering kiss. He was most surprised that no one had caught them, then he reached in his coat pocket and pulled out his handkerchief and handed it to Elizabeth with a grin. She laughed and with the handkerchief made sure there were no traces of a smudge on his handsome face.
"It was just as good as the first...perhaps better," she sighed.
Darcy nodded his head, "Elizabeth..." he whispered, then paused to clear his throat before continuing. "...my very being warbles into songs of thee."
Elizabeth bit her lip and tried not to smile as she turned around to face him. "Fitzwilliam...I should never wish to hurt your feelings."
"Yes?" he asked, feeling awkward that he had actually repeated one of those ridiculous phrases from the book.
"It is only that I believe you would do much better to convey your love for me through one of your passionate looks, than with eloquent words."
Darcy feigned injury. "Was it really that bad?"
Elizabeth sadly nodded her head, then a playful smile overtook her. "But...if you are truly inclined to speak words of love to me...I believe you and Mr. Bingley should not be quoting them from the same book of love."
Jane and Bingley strolled through the park arm and arm, happy to be away from the confines of Longbourne house. As they came closer to the small patch of wilderness, they abruptly stopped and grinned at each other on hearing the peals of laughter of a man and a woman from beyond the boundaries of Longbourne Park.
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