A Little More Liveliness
Charles Bingley awoke this morning, refreshed and in tremendously good spirits, despite the flutterings he felt within himself. He called for his man, and hurriedly dressed, for today he had many engagements. He skidded down the hallway, in a smart new pair of Hessians, and rapped on the doorway of his friend.
"Sir?" Mr. Stevens stared blankly at Bingley.
"Stevens, a jolly good morning to you! Is Mr. Darcy ready for the day?", the anxious young bridegroom inquired.
Mr. Stevens backed away from the door and allowed the master of Netherfield entrance into Mr. Darcy's bedchamber. Bingley bounded over to a secretary by a window, where Darcy was sitting, feverishly scribbling away onto a piece of notepaper.
"I say, Darcy. You write more letters than any person I know!" Bingley commented in vexation.
Darcy kept writing, and Bingley thought he saw his friend smiling to himself as he penned a few more words onto the paper. "A good morning to you also, Bingley," Darcy mumbled.
"Hmm, did I forget to bid you a good morning?" Bingley said. "Well, if I did, it is only that I have many other things on my mind this day. I should think you would be occupied in the same manner Darcy. Practically everyone you know is here in Hertfordshire to witness the blessed event of your nuptials tomorrow. Therefore I cannot understand why and to whom you should be writing such an amusing letter?"
Darcy continued writing and grinning, "’Tis not a letter, Bingley, but a note. A note for Miss Bennet."
"You are writing an amusing note to Jane?" Bingley inquired, somewhat confused by it all.
Darcy put the pen down into its holder with a roll of his eyes, "Not to your Miss Bennet, Charles. To my Miss Bennet."
"Oh." Bingley breathed out. "Darcy, I shall never understand, that on the day before your wedding, you should still be calling your lovely bride-to-be, Miss Bennet!"
"Bingley, you may call your intended whatever you wish." Darcy glared up at his friend, becoming annoyed with Bingley's ceaseless wondering. "Did you have a purpose for needing to see me so early this morning, or did you simply wish to ponder the imperfections of my character?"
"Not really a purpose Darcy, but a request for your company at breakfast, then perhaps a ride out in the park. I would much prefer to be with someone who knows what it is like to be in my own shoes. I have a desire to work out some of these jitters I am feeling." Bingley began twisting in his Hessians and rolling his head in one direction, then in the other.
Darcy looked sideways at his friend, as he folded the note he had penned, wrote Miss Elizabeth Bennet on the outside, and placed a seal on it. He stood up from his chair and handed the note to Mr. Stevens with instructions to have it sent to Longbourne straight away.
"I suppose there will be an opportunity to take a run through the park, Bingley. It sounds more agreeable than spending the morning entertaining my relatives," Darcy said slyly.
Bingley followed his friend out of the room, "I had not thought about it quite in that way, Darcy. Now that you mention it, it does sound more agreeable than entertaining your relatives."
Elizabeth Bennet came down from her bedchamber and entered the dining room, all smiles. "Good morning, everyone," she practically sang out in euphoria.
"Ah, good morning my dear Lizzy," Mr. Bennet rose from his seat to greet his daughter and shook his head in witness of her apparent happiness.
Everyone was already seated at the table, and Elizabeth took her place. She glanced across the table at her sister Jane and the two sister's shared a blissful smile. Mr. Gardiner laughed at his nieces. Although they had always been pleasant girls, never had he seen them more so than on this day.
"Well girls, are you ready to join the ranks of happily married women?" he inquired with a grin.
"Oh, dear brother!," Mrs. Bennet raised her eyes to the sky. "Tomorrow we are to lose two more of our dearest girls! How shall we ever manage?"
Elizabeth's eyes widened in mirth as she heard her mother's harmonious lament. Jane, in all her kindness, gave her mother a gentle smile.
"Mama, I shall be but three miles from Longbourne. I am sure that Lizzy will correspond frequently, and we may go to Pemberley to visit her."
"Yes, Mama," Elizabeth interjected. "Mr. Darcy has told me that you are welcome in our home at any time you wish it." Elizabeth looked at her Aunt Gardiner and crossed her eyes ever so slightly, so that Aunt Gardiner found it necessary to cover her mouth with her napkin to hide an inconvenient grin.
"Excuse me, Miss Elizabeth," Hill said as she scurried into the dining room. "A letter has arrived from Netherfield," she tried to whisper as she slipped the letter into Elizabeth's eager hand.
"A letter!," Mrs. Bennet was heard to exclaim from the other end of the table. "Here, let me see it and I shall read it aloud to the table!"
"Mama!," Elizabeth exclaimed at her mother's impropriety. She looked at the letter, recognizing it as having been written in Darcy's hand. "I do not believe this to be a letter in which I would take comfort in having read to the entire room." Elizabeth clutched the missive tightly in her hand as she turned to her father for some assistance.
Mr. Bennet cleared his throat, "My dear Mrs. Bennet. I believe you have far too many things to do today, without needing to read any love letters which happen to arrive for your daughter."
Mrs. Bennet pursed her lips in regret and went back to eating her breakfast. Elizabeth looked to her father, "Thank you, Papa." She then whispered under her breath, "I think."
Elizabeth managed to eat a bit of breakfast, then headed for the hallway to find her coat, gloves and a warm bonnet. She tucked the letter within the long sleeve of her frock, and quickly walked down the road away from Longbourne house, for a moment of solitude. When she believed herself far enough away and was sure she had not been followed, Elizabeth took the letter out of her sleeve and nervously opened the seal.
She leaned against an old bare tree, in the crisp air of the morning, and with a blush began to read Darcy's note.
My dearest, most beautiful and lively bride,
Elizabeth giggled at the salutation, and went on in eager anticipation.
Most worthy of admiration,
After a long consideration,
And serious meditation,
Of the great reputation
You have in this region;
I have a strong inclination
To become your relation.
I am now making preparation
To remove my habitation
To a more convenient situation,
To pay you adoration,
By more frequent visitation.
If this kind of oblation
Be but worthy of observation,
It will be an obligation
Beyond all moderation.
Believe me in every station
From generation to generation.
Playfully yours, FD
P.S. The favor of a reply is requested.
Elizabeth was bewitched by Darcy's mischievous and uncharacteristic note, and she hurried along with a skip down the road to her favorite place in all of Hertfordshire.
Darcy got a leg up from the stable hand and took the reins of his horse, waiting for Bingley to do the same. The horses were eager for a morning run, and the two men set out across the pasture. After a fashion, Darcy began to let out the reins and allow his horse a little more freedom. The horse was indeed grateful for the gesture and returned the favor by swiftly picking up his step.
Soon Bingley and his horse were galloping across the field, desperately trying to keep up with Darcy and his own mount. "Darcy, slow down!"
Darcy turned around to see his friend racing after him, "I thought you wanted to shake out some of those jitters, Bingley!"
Darcy went on a few lengths more, then slowed the animal to a walk. Bingley and his mount trotted up next to Darcy, quite a bit winded and Bingley was flushed pink in the cheeks. "Good lord, you are a lively one today, Darcy!"
Darcy nodded his head and actually laughed, "More so I think, than I have ever been, Bingley. I do feel lively, and free, and downright daft in love!" Darcy thought about what his soul had just blurted forth from his person. "Well, perhaps not daft, but fairly close to it," he offered.
Darcy turned his head at the sound of approaching hoof beats. "Hallo!" came a hail from three riders.
"Well, so much for not entertaining your relatives, Darcy," Bingley sighed.
Darcy's uncle and cousins came riding to a halt in front of the two friends. "What are you doing out and about this morning, so early?" Darcy grinned.
"We decided to ride about the countryside and have a look, young man," the Earl returned an answer. "And you, nephew? I thought you would be locked away in your chambers, writing love letters to your bride?"
"He has already done that," Bingley divulged, to the amusement of Darcy's cousins.
Darcy gave his friend a sharp stare, "We are out shaking the jitters from Bingley here."
"Jitters! Bingley my boy, you are not nervous about becoming a husband, are you?" the Earl chuckled.
"Of course he is, just look at him!" Colonel Fitzwilliam teased. "I have seen that look many time before."
Edward picked up on the merriment, "Really Bingley, take a look at Darcy there. He is not prone to the jitters at all! Straight as a board I would say! You still have not learned to partake of a little liveliness, cousin?"
Darcy laughed, "Oh no, you shall not get the better of me today. I am in far too fine a spirit to pay heed to everyone's jabs at my character."
The Colonel shook his head. "That is too bad, Darcy. You are the most entertaining, when your feathers are ruffled!"
Darcy gave his mount a sharp kick, swiftly picking up speed. He called back to his relations, "Did you want to see the countryside or not!" The party all set out at a gallop behind Darcy, as they rode across the pasture and over a low rock hedgerow, to another.
Elizabeth stood on top of the hill and watched her fiancé and his fellowship with his family and friends. She was anxious for Darcy's good company, and ever so desirous to be with him alone. She had a few jitters of her own, wondering what it would be like to be his wife. She thought perhaps, if her courage did not fail her, that she would inquire of her aunt. Aunt Gardiner would be the only matronly woman in the household that she could trust to give her a truthful and obliging answer to her questions on marriage.
The sky began to spit a few snowflakes and they fell onto Elizabeth's cheeks and lashes. She raised her hand and waved to Darcy, however she was too far away to be seen. She lowered her hand, in disappointment that he had not noticed her presence. She would have to wait patiently for his company, until earlier that evening. Elizabeth turned around, still clutching Darcy's rakish note, and with an impish beam, she ran back to Longbourne to extend the favor of a reply to her lover.
Later that day, Darcy sat quietly next to his sister Georgiana, picking at his luncheon and listening to the jocularity of his uncle and cousins as they tried to tease poor Bingley out of his jitters with some sound advice. Darcy's mind drifted to thoughts of Elizabeth. He so wanted to be alone in her company. To have her lovely smiles and playfulness all to himself.
The Colonel's eldest brother gave Fitzwilliam a slight nudge to the ribs and a smile as he nodded over in Darcy's direction. Colonel Fitzwilliam took a look and grinned at the sight. Never had they witnessed Darcy to be so inattentive to a conversation, when they were all together. The poor man was definitely head over heels in love, and it showed in every aspect of his character at present.
Darcy wondered why he had received no reply to the note he had sent Elizabeth, for he was sure she would have found it amusing in some way. It was so unlike him to author something so nonsensical and pointless. Perhaps she had thought he had gone demented, and she was having second thoughts about having him as a husband.
Surely that could not be, for she would certainly not admonish him for feeling somewhat whimsical. The only times she did criticize him was when he was completely of the opposite in attitude. Darcy shook his head slightly to clear away any thoughts he might have which placed a damper on his spirits.
A servant walked over to where Darcy was seated and handed him a folded note. He quickly looked at the handwriting and repressed a grin.
"Ah, I see the love letter has been returned!" Darcy's uncle mused aloud.
Darcy was not in the habit of betraying his thoughts to his relatives, but under the circumstances it could not be helped. He reddened uncontrollably and tucked the note into his waistcoat pocket. He felt all eyes upon him and stammered, "As you were saying uncle, before we were interrupted?"
"As I was saying, Darcy..." his uncle grimaced. "...which you were too preoccupied in your fantasies to hear—is that we are to travel back to London after the wedding, then on to Derbyshire before Christmas to bring Georgiana back to Pemberley. That is, upon your approval, nephew."
"Certainly, I have no objections. I appreciate you accompanying Georgiana all the way back to Pemberley," Darcy managed to get out. He had no other desire at the moment than to read Elizabeth's note, but he tried his best not to show it to his relations.
"Well, we would not want to inhibit newlyweds from doing the things that come naturally." Darcy's uncle chuckled, and the Colonel stifled an all out laugh.
Lady Fitzwilliam wrapped her arms about herself and gave a shiver. "Darcy, my dear. Will you go out to the carriage house and fetch the shawl that I left in our coach?"
"I shall fetch it for you, mother," Edward said and moved to stand up.
"No dear," she laid a hand on Edward's arm. "Darcy is more than able to take a few moments..." she gave her nephew a knowing look, "...and bring it back for me."
Edward raised a brow at his mother's gesture, however he sat back down and did nothing to further the embarrassment of his cousin. Darcy quickly arose from his seat, smiling his appreciation, "I shall fetch it straight away, Aunt."
"Take your time, my dear," and she turned her attention back to her husband's conversation.
Darcy made haste out of the house and down the path towards the carriage house, pulling the note out of his waistcoat pocket to inspect it. Once he had procured the shawl, he dismissed the stable hand and sat down on a bench and quickly opened the seal on the outside of the note.
My dearest, handsome, husband-to-be,
Darcy read on in delighted determination.
I received your adoration,
With much delineation,
And some consternation,
At the seeming infatuation
That seized your imagination,
When you made such a declaration,
On so slender a foundation;
But on examination,
Supposed it done from ostentation.
To display an education
Or rather multiplication
Or words of the same termination,
Though with great variation
And different signification,
Which, without disputation,
And I think imitation
A sufficient gratification.
May deserve commendation.
Yours intimately, EB
P.S. The favor of your presence is most ardently desired.
Darcy laughed at Elizabeth's clever reply, but then there had never been any doubt in his mind that she was not up to his challenge. He raised an eyebrow at the postscript, and folded the note back up. Before he placed it back in his pocket, he waved it under his nose, breathing in the wonderful fragrance that Elizabeth had so enticingly dabbed onto it. With a swaggering nod of his head, he grinned broadly and headed back to the house in manly satisfaction.
Elizabeth stood in her bedchamber and glanced between two gowns which were laid upon her bed, trying to make up her mind on which she would wear for the evening. Most of her gowns and belongings had been packed into trunks and some had been sent on already to Pemberley. She had kept out only what she thought she would need, but she could not seem to make a decision.
With a sigh she sat down at the vanity and opened Darcy's note. She gazed at his handwriting and reread his missive. Their engagement had begun on such a serious footing. Both of them had been unsure as to how to address each other, let alone partake of any nonsensical flirtation or frolicking games that were often enjoyed by lovers of their era. Elizabeth was relieved that her fiancé had placed his faith in her lively nature, and had decided to demonstrate it by composing the note.
She had hoped, as her aunt had once suggested in a letter, that Darcy would come by a little more liveliness, if it were in Elizabeth's power to show him. On the eve of her wedding, she was not at all disappointed in his change of demeanor and she could not wait to see him to tell him so. His sudden display of lively affection bolstered her belief that they would enjoy a happy and playful marriage.
Elizabeth startled at a knock on the door, and when she opened it she was happy to see the easy countenance of her Aunt Gardiner on the other side. "My dear, might I come in?," her Aunt inquired.
"Of course!," Elizabeth stood to the side, and Mrs. Gardiner entered the room, pushing the door shut behind her.
Mrs. Gardiner eyed the gowns which were laid out upon the bed. "Have you made a choice, Lizzy?"
Elizabeth looked at the gowns then back at her aunt and shook her head. "I am at a loss to know which is best, aunt." Her eyes pleaded for answers, "I am at a loss to know anything. How I wish I were not such a fanciful, innocent, girl."
"My dear," Mrs. Gardiner took a hold of Elizabeth's hand. "There is nothing wrong with being fanciful, especially on the eve of your wedding." Mrs. Gardiner gave Elizabeth a reassuring smile. "If there are things you would take comfort in knowing, I shall take relief in telling you."
Elizabeth took a deep breath and blurted out anxiously, "How do I know he will love me forever?"
"You do not," answered Mrs. Gardiner.
Elizabeth could not help but look to her aunt with some distress. Mrs. Gardiner allowed Elizabeth to ponder the question a bit more, then offered further explanation.
"Elizabeth, love grows and changes with time. What begins as mere attraction, turns into passion, hope, and understanding. What becomes of passion is up to you, but I would say in the case of Mr. Darcy and yourself, it will more than likely survive. There will be many other things in your life, Elizabeth. Many joys and some sorrows, but you shall have each other to laugh with and lean on, and to learn from. I have always believed that this is what keeps love constant."
Elizabeth's eyes betrayed her appreciation to her aunt. She ventured to ask another question. "How will I know how to satisfy his wants?"
"By asking him," answered Mrs. Gardiner. "And he shall know of yours, when you tell him. Do not keep things secret from your husband, Elizabeth. If you do, he shall have to guess at your feelings—and he may suppose wrongly."
"If I tell him that I am frightened, will he think me ridiculous, aunt?"
"No, my dear," Mrs. Gardiner answered again. "I believe if you also tell him how much you love him, it will serve to ease his own fears."
"Mr. Darcy, afraid?," Elizabeth's eyes widened in disbelief.
"Yes, dear niece. In as much as you wonder how to be a wife, he wonders how to be a husband. He questions whether you will love him forever, and what it is that you will want from him."
Elizabeth smiled as Mrs. Gardiner turned the tables on her. She had not given thought to the fact that perhaps Darcy's fears might be the same as her own. She turned back to give the gowns a last look. "The crimson one, I think," she said as she pointed to the gown. She smiled and gave her aunt a loving embrace, "It has ‘I love you, Mr. Darcy’ written all over it."
Darcy walked into Longbourne that evening, looking quite at ease and confident. His countenance had only favored him by taking an even more lively turn with the anticipation of seeing Elizabeth this last night before she would become his wife.
He caught her eye from across the room and the attraction between them was irrepressible. His eyes never left her as she made her way over to him. Her pale skin was in contrast with the crimson red of her gown, but her cheeks blushed in harmony with the cloth, and Darcy was exhilarated by the mere sight of her.
"Good evening," she said to Darcy, as her eyes danced in playfulness.
"My love," Darcy whispered, his eyes bent only on Elizabeth.
"Your note this morning was a much welcome diversion, Fitzwilliam. It has made me think of nothing but you, this entire day."
"Your reply was received with much satisfaction. I think you have very little idea Elizabeth, how much your liveliness satisfies me."
With a careless grin, Elizabeth moved closer to him, and grasped his hand in hers. She tiptoed up to whisper a response for his ears only. "You must always tell me what satisfies you, my love."
"I shall," he managed an obstructed reply.
"Mr. Darcy!," a woman's shrill voice called from behind the couple. "Come in, come in and be seen! You shall have all the time in the world to speak with Lizzy," Mrs. Bennet playfully chastised him with a giggle, as she fluttered around her future son-in-law like a moth to a flame. "There are so many others here in the drawing room awaiting an introduction to you!"
Darcy dutifully followed his mother-in-law, escorting Elizabeth on his arm. He glanced down at his bride, with crimson cheeks of his own, which matched her dress to a tee. All contact with Elizabeth so far this evening had succeeded in causing Darcy to begin a mental countdown of the time left until he said ‘I do’. According to his calculations, it was still far too long until that moment.
Darcy spent the time leading up to dinner, standing and conversing with every well-wisher who approached him. Elizabeth stood by his side, and they glanced at each other merrily, between conversations. Elizabeth was surprised by his lively manner of address this night, to each and every guest. He was almost giddy in appearance, and Elizabeth was delighted to see him so easy and pleased, and looking ever so happy.
Elizabeth made introductions to her relations, to whom Darcy was unfamiliar. "Mr. Darcy, I would like you to meet my mother's cousin, Mrs. Channing."
Darcy bowed in his most formal manner, delighting Mrs. Channing and her three giggling daughters. "Mr. Darcy! We have heard much of you!" Mrs. Channing announced with a polite curtsey and a clasp of her hands, which reminded Darcy much of Mrs. Bennet. Her three daughters continued to giggle, much to the discomfort of Elizabeth.
Darcy took it all in stride however, for there was hardly anything which could ruin his favorable mood this evening. He was even disposed to tolerate Mrs. Bennet's silly relations, as long as there was a tangible end in sight.
Mrs. Channing continued to stand before him, in admiration of his manners and person, and her three daughters continued to giggle. "Sir, my daughters wish an introduction to you, as well."
"Certainly, Madam," Darcy gallantly bowed his head then gave Elizabeth a quick smile. Elizabeth tried to be collected, smiling back at him, then biting her lip in uneasiness.
The girls lined up next to their mother, "Mr. Darcy, this is my daughter Faith, and this is my daughter Hope..."
Darcy nodded to them both and grinned delightfully, thinking to himself what predictable and quaint names Mrs. Channing had given her daughters. Elizabeth was quite lost in the wonderful sight of Darcy's dimpled facial features, when Mrs. Channing continued.
"...and this is my daughter..."
Darcy did not give Mrs. Channing an opportunity to continue, but in his new found joviality blurted out, "Charity!", and cordially bowed to the last daughter.
Elizabeth put her hand to her mouth to conceal a laugh, but Mrs. Channing cleared her throat and pursed her lips, hissing. "No sir, this is Ingrid!"
Darcy's eyes widened and he blushed furiously at the shock of discovering his haphazard mistake. "Indeed," he said, then quickly added, "It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Faith, Hope and—Ingrid."
As Mrs. Channing and her daughters mercifully passed, Darcy gave Elizabeth a confused and nettled look, to which Elizabeth simply shrugged her shoulders and smiled bashfully. She made sure from that moment on to make all introductions to her fiancé, herself.
The lovers sat next to one another at the dinner table, and they were grateful for the good company of Mrs. And Mrs. Gardiner, and Darcy's sister Georgiana to offset the pressures of entertaining the rest of the family. Sometime after dinner, as Darcy sat speaking to Mr. Gardiner across the table, he felt the warm touch of Elizabeth's hand as she adventurously grasped his own hand, underneath the table.
He took a moment to look at her, and gave a furtive sigh of approval at the daring deed. Elizabeth returned his sigh, then turned Darcy's open hand over and began to run her finger across his palm, as she continued her conversation with Georgiana.
She very distinctly began to write Darcy a secret message upon his palm. Darcy bit his bottom lip as he felt her etch the letter I, onto his hand. She then tenderly ran her palm over his to denote a new word, then began again, all the while speaking eloquently with Georgiana, never to disclose her game to anyone else.
Darcy had heard of such ‘lover's games’ being played between couples, however he had never had the good sense to participate in one. Until now, he had not possessed the fortitude to engage Elizabeth in such trivialities, especially in the looming presence of her parents. However, as he felt her soft touch, he could not understand why he had ever been so dull.
He tried to remain in conversation with Mr. Gardiner, although he found that he had far less talent for keeping his mind on his discourse than his fiancée did. He was more than conscience that his train of though kept wavering. He felt his lover delineate the letter L, then the letter O, and V, and an E.
Darcy's mind whirled and he drew in a breath, as Mrs. Gardiner asked him some question which he desperately tried to come up with an answer to. Elizabeth ran her palm over his again, and he felt weak, as the color drained from his face.
"Mr. Darcy, are you quite alright?" Mrs. Gardiner inquired of him, a bit alarmed.
Darcy heard Elizabeth giggle as she kept her conversation steady with his sister, and her palm firmly on his hidden, outstretched hand.
"Yes, Mrs. Gardiner," he said with some difficulty. "I am quite—fine." He attempted to continue his conversation, when Elizabeth moved her finger over his palm to finish her message. She scribbled the letter Y, then the letter O.
Darcy's lips tighten into a strain of a smile, just at a moment when Mr. Gardiner had finished telling him of some trivial amusement. Darcy grinned and was thankful for an opportunity to release a bit of pent-up mirth in the form of a short laugh, as Elizabeth completed the letter U. She moved her hand back and brought it above the table to grasp her glass of wine.
Elizabeth noticed Darcy's glass was empty, "Would you care for a little more, Mr. Darcy?"
Darcy nodded his head furiously, "Yes, I believe I would, Miss Bennet."
Darcy was hopelessly obsessed by Elizabeth's allure, and could not have ever imagined the breadth of her liveliness, or the extent in which he was disposed to enjoy it. He could not fathom that on this, the eve of his wedding day, when he should maintain himself in the utmost of gentlemanly behavior, that he should be engaged in forbidden whimsicality underneath the table cloth.
Darcy remained in conversation with his relations-to-be, however he kept one eye upon Elizabeth's hand. After a time he noticed that she unknowingly moved it beneath the table once again. He took a deep breath, formed a reasonable and polite approach of conversation, and covertly moved his hand over to Elizabeth's.
He grasped her delicate hand, and turned it over, running his palm over hers. He felt her shiver a little, and heard her break momentarily from her conversation with his sister. He was elated with this result and went about his ticklish retaliation.
He kept his conversation steady with the Gardiners as he moved his finger over Elizabeth's outstretched palm in the form of the letter J. He then scrolled the letter U, then the letter S, then a perfectly formed T, of the kind in which Miss Bingley would have been proud.
Elizabeth sighed and her eyes brightened with merriment, as her mother called to her from the end of the table. Darcy moved his palm over Elizabeth's, and he held it there, awaiting Mrs. Bennet's untimely interruption. "Yes, Mama?" Elizabeth's voice quivered.
"Have you told Mr. Darcy that we shall be anxious to visit you at Pemberley?"
Darcy continued his own conversation, and managed to resume their amusement, all the while listening to his mother-in-law threaten him with a visit. He moved his finger in the shape of a capital Y, then an O, and then a U.
"No, Mama," Elizabeth gulped. "I have not had the pleasure of informing him of that—yet." Elizabeth turned her conversation back to Georgiana as her mother raised an eyebrow and huffed in annoyance. Darcy moved his palm back across Elizabeth's slowly as he intentionally drew out the last word. Elizabeth's anticipation was never greater as her mind turbulently wished to know his secret thoughts. He began to move his finger again and formed a W, an A, an I, then lastly another perfectly mastered T.
Elizabeth's eyes widened, until Georgiana inquired with alarm, "Dear sister, are you unwell?"
Elizabeth shook her head resolutely, "Oh no, I am simply—in anticipation. Of the wedding that is!"
After supper the ladies removed themselves from the gentlemen and went to the parlor for tea. The men remained in the dining room, to partake of a fine bottle of port and a smoke, for those who indulged in such vices. Darcy excused himself, and made his way to the front hallway, received his hat and greatcoat from the parlor maid and stepped out into the night. There was a chill in the air, however it felt invigorating to his senses, for the dullness he felt without Elizabeth's company had begun to make him numb.
He walked down the path and around the corner of the house, when he nearly ran into a figure walking in the opposite direction. "Elizabeth!"
"Fitzwilliam!," she startled.
"Dearest, what are you doing out here in the darkness?," he inquired, quite astonished.
"It is not so very dark. There is a light from the full moon. That is the best time for walking about in the night." Elizabeth lowered her eyes to the ground and rung her hands tensely.
"Yes, that is true, but it is too cold out here for you to be walking about. I am not sure that I approve of you being out alone in the dark, either." Darcy's attentiveness took a protective turn, when it came to his future wife.
"Fitzwilliam, your concern is very dear, but I assure you, I am quite use to walking about by myself. I have been doing it all my life and have never met with a disaster!" Elizabeth could not help but give a laugh at Darcy's protection of her. She felt badly however, for mocking him in such a way. She knew he was only behaving so, because he felt it was the spousely thing to do.
"I am sorry, Elizabeth. I never meant to lord over you," he said sheepishly. "What kind of husband would I make, if I did not show you any concern?"
"A husband whom I would not want." Elizabeth moved closer to him and reached for his hand. "Oh, dearest," she sighed. "I wish I had half a crown for every time I walked out here at night, in the months before our engagement. For a very long time I thought I was never to see you again. I would pretend, that if you could have seen me out here sad and alone, you would run back to me, but then I told myself that you did not care for me, the way I cared for you."
"There is no need to remind me of those days, my love. I remember them well enough, and had I only known how you felt about me, you would never have been alone."
Darcy slipped his arms around her, cradling her gently as if she were newly born. Moments like these had been few and far between in the past weeks. They each languished in the comfort that the warmth of their bodies bestowed to the other, and had they been given more opportunities, they surely would have been content to just stand and hold each other, for hours on end.
"Fitzwilliam, I should like..." she stopped abruptly. "...I should hope that we shall always tell each other what we are thinking and feeling. For so long, I tried to guess your countenance. Now I know that what I thought you were about was wrong. I do not wish you to guess at my feelings, either. I suppose if you find that too forward for a wife, you should tell me so at once!"
"I do not find that impertinent, Elizabeth. I find it sensible and wise," Darcy smiled lovingly.
Elizabeth shivered at the coldness of the night. Darcy wrapped his arms around her tighter.
"You are cold. Let us go back inside the house."
"No!," Elizabeth pleaded. "I do not wish to go back, yet. I do not wish to give up your company—for anyone's! Please, Fitzwilliam, just a little longer?"
Darcy moved his arm through hers and his eyes brightened. He motioned towards the stables. "It should be warm enough, and quiet enough in there."
Elizabeth nodded happily and the lovers made their way to a warmer haven, for a few more moments of seclusion together. Mr. Gardiner happened by the window of the dining room and peered out. He barely made out two figures resembling his niece and Mr. Darcy, walking hand in hand towards the stable. He smiled discreetly and rejoined the rest of the gentlemen for another glass of port.
"It is much warmer in here," Elizabeth said as Darcy shut the door behind them.
"Indeed, but I still think you should not stay out here too long. Were it not for the temptation of being with you alone, I should have taken you into the house straight away." Darcy grinned at his folly, for he could never resist anything that Elizabeth had desired.
"You are very good to me, Mr. Darcy," Elizabeth teased him.
"Yes, I am very good to you, Miss Bennet. For who else do you know would write you such nonsense, at the risk of their own character?" Darcy laughed. "I am not in the habit of exposing myself to such ridicule, you know. What if that note were to fall into the wrong hands? It would get out that Fitzwilliam Darcy had gone unbalanced—over the love of a woman!"
"Not unbalanced—I would say you have just found a little more liveliness, is all!" Elizabeth played his game.
"A little more liveliness," he thought about it. "As was your design to teach me, I suppose?"
"Yes, I do admit it," she grinned. "I hope I have shown you how to laugh, and I know you have shown me how to love." Elizabeth gazed into Darcy's eyes, "Say that you will never stop loving me, Fitzwilliam!"
Darcy's grin disappeared, "Stop loving you?" He took off his hat and gloves, and walked closer to Elizabeth. "On the eve of our wedding, can you not see how I feel for you? Can you not see that I would give you anything that was in my power to give? Can you not see that I would change for you, that I would turn a deaf ear to the discontent of others, only for you?"
Darcy put his hands around Elizabeth's waist and pulled her as close to him as was possible. His heart beat strongly, and his breath quickened. "Elizabeth, I would trade a lifetime of sobriety for ten minutes of—of hand lettering with you under the table cloth."
Elizabeth breathed a quick and nervous laugh, then continued to gaze upon him with melting eyes.
"I would sell my soul..." he breathed, "...just to hear you laugh."
The lover's eyes were locked on each others, their lips but inches apart. Darcy shifted forward, and kissed Elizabeth's lips, as they had only been allowed to do on the very rarest of occasions.
"Ask me now, if I will love you forever, or do you have your answer?" Darcy did not let go of his hold on her. Elizabeth closed her eyes, prompting Darcy to whisper, "What is your reply, madam?"
To this, Elizabeth lunged forward, wrapping her arms about him and returning his kiss. The lovers remained that way for quite some time, stopping now and then to whisper a sweet word or two of love, then resuming their longed for intimacy. For the first time in Darcy's life he realized what it was to give of himself completely. He knew he loved Elizabeth in so many ways, and wondered if such a love were possible now, what it would like years from now.
A horse in a stall next to where the lovers stood, came over and nudged Darcy's back with its muzzle. Darcy left his lock on Elizabeth's lips, to see with relief that it was only the plough horse. "Mind your own business," Darcy growled at the animal and the old workhorse raised his head up and down as if to provide encouragement to the young bridegroom.
Elizabeth laughed, "It looks as though we have been caught by old Rex."
Darcy leaned forward, moving himself back into their previous embrace as he whispered, "Fortunately, old Rex tells no tales."
Darcy ceased any further engagement of Elizabeth's lips as he heard voices from outside the stable doors. He quickly looked around him for a place to hide. He spied the door to the harness room and grabbed Elizabeth's hand, practically dragging her with him.
"Fitzwilliam!," she whispered. "We were not doing anything so terribly wrong, why should we hide in here?"
"Elizabeth, trust me—I do not wish to give an explanation as to our reasons for a rendezvous in a stable!"
Darcy pulled the harness room door closed just enough so it would not shut tightly and latch itself. Elizabeth stood silently behind Darcy, and he glanced up to see that there was a small window high within the room. The light of the full moon streamed in, giving them ample illumination.
A couple strolled into the stable, in search of a little solitude, much as the previous couple had done. Elizabeth heard their voices and looked through a knot hole in one of the wood planks which served as the harness room wall.
"It is my sister and Mr. Bingley!" she whispered with astonishment.
Darcy peered through the knot. "Wedding jitters, my foot!" he grumbled quietly.
The other two lovers stood in front of the harness room door and after a few moments of careless whispers, they embraced, much as Darcy and Elizabeth had done before them. Darcy stood back away from the knot with a grimace on his face, feeling as if he were intruding in some way upon the privacy of others. Elizabeth went to peer out the knot again, but Darcy gently pulled her away. She looked up at him and tilted her head in question. Darcy shook his head, and Elizabeth understood him quite well.
Darcy and Elizabeth stood behind the harness room door for quite some time, unwilling to disclose their whereabouts to their friends, anxiously awaiting the departure of Bingley and Jane, so as to effect an escape themselves. Elizabeth was sure that by now they would be missed, and her uneasiness grew. Darcy had reoccurring visions of Mr. Bennet finding them out in the stable, and for once this day he decided that perhaps he should have kept his liveliness more in check.
"My dear, you are cold, let us go back," Bingley told Jane.
Jane consented, but before the couple turned for the door, Bingley looked over and noticed the harness room door ajar. Being unusually attentive to such details, he pushed the door closed and made sure that latch was fastened securely.
Darcy's eyes widened at the click of the latch, and he quickly turned to look at Elizabeth. Her eyes matched his and they stood there looking at each other in mortification. When Darcy was sure Bingley and Jane had left the stable, he pushed on the harness room door. The door would not budge, and after a few moments of trying to force it, he gave up, with a pounding of his fist against the wood.
"For god sake, Elizabeth. Bingley has locked us in here!"
"Fitzwilliam, we have to find a way out! We certainly shall be missed!" Elizabeth began to pace uncharacteristically back and forth within the small room.
Darcy, for lack of any better ideas, stood back then lunged forward and threw his shoulder into the door. The door did not budge, but Darcy backed up holding his shoulder and groaning.
"Really Fitzwilliam, you shall surely injure something, if you keep that up!"
Darcy bit his lip, for fear of losing his temper with his intended, and with the door. He frantically looked around the room, until he spied the small window above.
"There!," he pointed at it. "I shall just build up a platform, and hoist myself up to that window and out, then come around and unfasten the latch on the door for you."
"It is quite high up there—are you sure, Fitzwilliam?"
Darcy nodded, "I do not see that we have a choice." Elizabeth helped him gather up saddles, harnesses and crates to stand on. Darcy climbed up on top of the makeshift platform. It was completely unsteady, and as soon as he was on top, he called down to Elizabeth.
"Hold on to those crates, dearest!"
Elizabeth tried her best to steady the pile, as Darcy teetered on the top. He was about a foot away from the window. He tried to balance himself as he slipped off his overcoat and dress coat, until he was only in his waistcoat and shirtsleeves. He took in a breath and jumped up to grab the window sill. He managed to grasp it, however his hands slipped from all the dust which had settled on the ledge. When he came back down on the pile, the force of his body dislodged the unsteady platform, and harnesses, crates, saddles, and Darcy came tumbling to the ground.
Elizabeth ran over to where Darcy lay on a pile of straw. "Fitzwilliam! Goodness, are you injured?" she screeched.
Darcy laid still, trying to determine whether or not he was injured in some way. Elizabeth knelt over him and she put her warm, soft hands against his face.
"My love, tell me you are well!" she cried, patting his cheeks. "You have not injured anything important, have you?"
Darcy gazed on her frantic features, then pointed to his forehead. "I am not sure, it hurts there." Elizabeth gave a little tsking sound, and bent over and kissed the spot that he had pointed to.
Darcy reached up and grabbed Elizabeth and pulled her into a kiss, until he laughed out loud at the silliness of the whole scene. She pulled away and gave him a sharp slap on the shoulder, which brought forth another groan from his person.
"Just you wait!" she yelled, then Elizabeth began to laugh hysterically.
Elizabeth helped Darcy up from the ground and tried to brush off all the loose pieces of straw which clung to his clothes and hair. Darcy turned over two of the crates and the lovers sat down on them, and did the only thing they could do, wait for someone else to come into the stable and let them out.
Darcy covered up Elizabeth with his greatcoat, and put his arm around her shoulders. "I am sorry, Elizabeth. I should never have put you in such a position."
"My love," she smiled as she snuggled closer to him. "It is not so terribly bad, after all, we are getting married tomorrow. Then we may frolic about in as many stables as we please, and probably no one with think anything of it?"
Darcy looked at his fiancée and laughed. "I suppose, but I can just hear it all now. We shall go to London for the season and some bloke at a club will ask me what I did on the eve before my wedding." Darcy stopped to rub his aching shoulder.
"To which I will reply that I went for a stroll out in the night, met my fiancée under the stars, decided to take the little tryst into the stables, and practically got caught by my brother-in-law. I then decided it prudent to conceal ourselves in the harness room, which accidentally became locked, after which I nearly broke every bone in my body trying to effect an escape which failed miserably, and my love and I spent the rest of the eve of our wedding, curled up together on some old crates, covered with straw—but in the very good company of old Rex."
Elizabeth could not help but grin.
"On second thought," Darcy continued with a sigh. "I think I shall just tell him that I had the jitters."
"Mr. Darcy," Elizabeth said bluntly. "I love you."
Darcy smiled, "I love you, Miss Bennet."
Elizabeth heard the stable doors creak open and she stood up and peered out the knothole. "It is my Uncle Gardiner!"
Darcy stood up as well, and put his hand on Elizabeth's shoulder. She turned to him and he leaned down and kissed her for the last time, until they would be husband and wife.
"Allow me," he whispered. Darcy called out to Mr. Gardiner, who had come out to the stable to partake of a good cigar.
"Mr. Gardiner!" came a voice. The elder man looked about him, not seeing a soul. "Mr. Gardiner!"
"Mr. Darcy, is that you?"
"Yes, sir. If you would be so kind as to unfasten the latch on the harness room door, sir. I am on the other side."
Mr. Gardiner chuckled, and did as Darcy requested. As soon as the door was opened, Darcy stepped out, and looked sheepishly at Mr. Gardiner.
"Mr. Darcy, what on earth are you doing in the harness room?" Mr. Gardiner laughed.
Elizabeth came around from behind the door and blushed when she saw the astonished face of her uncle.
"Sir," Darcy said. "This is not exactly how it looks."
"Somehow, Mr. Darcy, I have an inclination to believe you." Mr. Gardiner cleared his throat, "Mr. Darcy, you are a grown man, and tomorrow you and my niece will be husband and wife. I shall not make any inquiries as to this scene, nor shall I disclose any of these particulars to another soul."
Darcy heaved a sigh of relief and Elizabeth smiled at her uncle then back at Darcy, as she took a moment to brush a few more pieces of straw from his coat and hair.
"Elizabeth, perhaps you should go back to the house now. Mr. Darcy and I will stay out here for a few moments longer, then we will join you."
Elizabeth nodded her head, and before she left she gave her uncle a kiss on the cheek. Mr. Gardiner reached inside his waistcoat pocket, pulled out another cigar, cut off the end, and handed it to Darcy.
Darcy did not partake of tobacco very often, however under the circumstances he felt as if he could withstand a bit more liveliness on this, the last night of his bachelorhood. He placed the cigar between his teeth and bent down towards the match that Mr. Gardiner extended , taking a few puffs, until the cloud of smoke was well under way.
Elizabeth had managed to slip back into the house, and no one was the wiser. It was true that Mr. Gardiner never disclosed any circumstances as to why Mr. Darcy had been out of the house for so long, or to why he and Miss Bennet had been locked in the harness room together. Darcy was eternally grateful, for he always maintained that he had a certain image to uphold, at least in the eyes of his peers, not to mention his father-in-law.
The time had come for the bridegrooms to leave Longbourne for the last time, without their ladies. Elizabeth walked with Darcy to the hallway, and he put on his coat and gloves, and tucked his hat under his arm.
Darcy did not know quite what to say to his intended. There had been so many things about their courtship that he treasured, and a few he could have done without. It had been a time of discovery, for himself especially, as he had learned that a little more liveliness in a man, was not all that undesirable. He anticipated their future together, and was convinced that if anything else, whatever they did with their lives, they would no doubt have a fine time doing it.
Finally, as he spied Bingley and the others making their way into the hallway, Darcy leaned forward and whispered, "Shall you always love me, Elizabeth?"
Elizabeth placed her soft and reassuring palm on the side of Darcy's face. "Fitzwilliam, I shall definitely honor you, and forever cherish you, and perhaps obey you at times..." she stopped and smiled, "...but most of all, I know I shall love you—always."
Darcy sighed, with the most inconceivable look of love upon his features, especially for one so proud and disobliging. "Until tomorrow?"
"Until tomorrow," Elizabeth replied.
Darcy stepped out into the cold, and put on his hat. Before he entered the carriage he stopped and nervously turned around. "You will not get yourself locked into any harness rooms or closets tomorrow morning, will you?"
Elizabeth laughed and shook her head, "I would not dream of it, Mr. Darcy!"
Fitzwilliam Darcy never forgot the day he decided to partake of a little more liveliness. He and Elizabeth lived the rest of their days by it, and through every trial and tribulation that happened to cross their path, they found that they had each other to laugh with and lean on, and to learn from, just as Mrs. Gardiner had so wisely predicted. It was in this fashion that Mr. And Mrs. Darcy loved each other, forever, wherever they found themselves to be.
Story note: Poem excerpts taken from The Farmers Almanac, 1840. This story is a continuation of a story entitled The Book of Love.
finis © 1998 Copyright held by author