This story refers back to The Painting, also by Lucie.
Darcy laid his papers on his desk, dropped into the chair in front of it, and laid his head back to look at the painting above him--a painting of a young woman on a hilltop with her hair lifting up in back of her, into the breeze. He loved this painting of his beautiful Elizabeth and had hung it here so that he could have her with him when he needed to think of something beautiful to break the monotony of his business.
He smiled in remembrance of how the picture had come into his possession. He and his bride had spent the wedding night at Netherfield and traveled to London the next day, so that he could finish some business before going to Pemberley. On the second day, he had returned home early to find that Elizabeth had not yet returned from her visit to her Aunt Gardiner. The housekeeper had informed him that a Mr. Wilking was waiting for him in the drawing room. He was puzzled indeed; what could the artist want with him. He had gone to the Gallery four times to try to buy the painting, but the artist was adamant; she was not for sale.
"She holds out her arms to embrace the wind," he had said on the second visit.
"She holds out her arms to embrace life, as you would know, if you had ever met her," replied the painter.
"Do you know her well?" asked Darcy.
"I was mostly content to watch her," replied Wilking. "I spoke to her only a few times but could scarcely hear what she said for drowning in her beautiful eyes. Her laughter was like music to my ears, and she laughed often and seems to find humor in most things and situations. She is the second daughter of a Country Gentleman. Though she is not generally considered by those in Meryton to be as beautiful as her older sister, who is a beauty, like a Greek Goddess, I found her to be the most beautiful, with her sparkling eyes and her merry heart," replied Wilking.
Darcy silently agreed and renewed his attempt to buy the painting, but in vain.
After the fourth visit, he went no more, in fear that his frequent visits would start talk that might reach the ears of Caroline Bingley or her sister Mrs. Hurst.
Why would Wilking be here now? There was only one way to find out. Darcy walked into the drawing room and shook hands with the artist. "Well, Mr. Wilking, what brings you here?" asked Darcy.
Wilking walked over and removed the cover from the painting that stood leaning against a chair. Darcy caught his breath; it was the picture he had tried so desperately to purchase.
"I told you that she was not for sale, but since you have won her heart and made her your wife, please allow me to present her to you as a wedding gift," was Wilking's reply.
Darcy was speechless for several seconds, but recovered himself to reply, "I am overwhelmed, Mr. Wilking, but you must allow me to recompense you," said Darcy.
"No," replied Wilking. "She must be a gift to you, I could not accept payment for her."
Darcy heard his wife in the hall and, excusing himself, went to greet her. Elizabeth raised her face to him, and, overcome with emotion at the sight of her loveliness and the gift just presented to him, he kissed her with unrestrained passion.
Mr. Wilking, seeing this from where he was standing in the drawing room, smiled and thought, she is in good hands, he truly loves her. Walking into the hall to take his leave, he shook hands with Darcy and congratulated Elizabeth on her marriage. The happy, loving look in her eyes as she gazed at her husband and the look he returned made Wilking feel like an intruder, so he declined their kind offer to take tea with them and took his leave. Though Elizabeth had greeted him warmly and issued the invitation, he could not accept and intrude on their privacy.
Darcy smiled at the picture remembering another day, when his wife had taken down her hair and spread it to the wind in just the way she had in the painting. They had been taking a picnic to a tall hill on the grounds of Pemberley to admire the fall colors and enjoy the warm September day. Darcy had spent his time admiring his wife instead of the leaves, and, overcome with his love for her, as he watched her enjoy the wind in her hair, he had walked up behind her and kissed her enticing neck. She turned to return his embrace, and what had started out as a simple picnic turned into an afternoon of love and passion. They had lost all track of time, and it was almost sunset before they returned to Pemberley to find a slightly worried Mrs. Reynolds awaiting them.
Elizabeth had always contended that young Fitzwilliam was conceived up there on that hilltop, and Darcy was inclined to agree with her.
Darcy smiled again, as he remembered how he had found out that his wife was with child. It was two days before Christmas, and he had come home in an angry mood after stopping to check the newborn son of one of his young tenants--only to find out that his wife had delivered the child herself after sending the farmer to fetch the midwife. Darcy had kept his countenance as pleasant as possible under the circumstances, and soon took his leave, riding quickly home. He had entered the house as angry as it was possible for him to be at Elizabeth, and upon asking Mrs. Reynolds where his wife was, strode into the morning room where Elizabeth sat sewing.
Elizabeth looked up from her work with a smile which soon faded at the anger on her husband's face.
"What were you thinking of?" asked Darcy, "Delivering a child by yourself. That is the business of the midwife not the Mistress of Pemberley," he said.
"The child did not wait for the midwife," answered Elizabeth, "and it is the duty of the Mistress of Pemberley to help the tenants, when she is needed," answered Elizabeth, her own temper rising.
"I forbid you to such a thing again!" shouted Darcy. "You are coming too close to the peasants and I will not have it."
"Peasants." answered Elizabeth. "The Wilson's are not peasants. They are good hard working farmers and should be respected as such. When I am to be delivered of this child, I will certainly accept the help of Mary Wilson, if she is the only one available, as I was to her," answered Elizabeth hotly, while placing her had on her stomach.
"Elizabeth you are being deliberately willful, when you are to be delivered, you will be--What did you say?" asked Darcy; his anger vanishing in a split second. He looked at his wife to see her with a happy smile on her face and shaking her head in the affirmative. He was across the room in a single bound, swooping his wife into his arms and kissing her, then, letting her go quickly, he said, "Oh, I didn't hurt anything did I?"
Elizabeth laughed and replied, "No, my love, Dr. James has assured me that I need not shrink from your love for some time yet. Happy Christmas, my love."
Upon hearing this, Darcy again folded his arms around his wife and buried his face in her soft sweet smelling hair, saying, "Elizabeth, Elizabeth you keep giving and giving to me, dear God, how I do love you!"
Georgiana upon entering the room to this scene blushed and said, "Oh, please excuse me."
Darcy turning to her said, "No, no Georgiana please come in and share our happy news--Aunt Georgiana."
"Aunt Georgiana?" she replied, and then, understanding, she cried, "A baby. Oh Elizabeth, a baby," as Darcy and Elizabeth included her in their embrace.
Darcy's reverie was interrupted when his valet John came to tell him that his bath was ready, but because of the late hour he could not get Darcy any hot water, but it was at least warm. It didn't signify to Darcy, all he wanted was to be rid of the dust and dirt from travel. Wearily he pulled himself out of the chair and started upstairs to his bath. He had traveled directly from London, stopping only to change horses, and he was bone tired. He had been away for more than a fortnight and had thought only of the love and warmth that awaited him at Pemberley.
Darcy slid down into the tub and leaned his head back. The water was not as hot as he would have liked, but it was warm enough, and he could not expect more since he had arrived home after the midnight hour to a silent house. While his man went to find someone to prepare his master's bath, Darcy had gone along the corridor to look in on his sleeping children.
Young Will at fifteen a tall strapping boy, who friends said was the image of himself, except that he had his mothers beautiful eyes and her lovely smile. A most satisfying heir, young Will had a deep love of the Pemberley Estates and was always eager to learn all he could of the duties and management of these large estates. He was home from school for a few days and Darcy had come home as soon as possible in the hope of spending some time with his eldest son, before he had to return to school. He was a serious young man but with a touch of his mother's mischievous nature.
Jane Anne looked so much like her mother, but had her Aunt Jane's quiet nature and her propensity to see the best in everyone and to look always for the silver lining. She had such a lovely, sweet smile and her father's dimples.
Lizzie looked like her grandmother, the Lady Anne, but with a lively wit and intelligence, like her mother. Elizabeth had not wanted the child named after her, but Darcy had held his ground; though he usually gave in to her, this time he was adamant. Lizzie at 8 was a tomboy and loved to ride, especially if she could ride with her father around the estate and visit the farmers. She was unlike her 11-year-old sister, who was content to stay home most of the time, unless it was to visit her Aunt Jane and Uncle Charles and her cousins.
Darcy reached down to tenderly touch the soft curls of his youngest son, George; a sweet loving child of 4. Though he loved all his children dearly, this child was special. He had come home that day a little early after a trying afternoon with his Aunt Catherine. It was the day of the ball to celebrate his being bestowed with the title that had been so much deserved by his family for so many years. Elizabeth had been apprehensive about it, as she said she found few of the gentry worth their salt, mostly a lazy dissident lot, but he had been so happy that she soon joined him in his planning. She had been in front of the fireplace in the final stages of drying her hair, and it lay on her shoulders in a riot of unruly curls. He stood looking at her, feeling such love and tenderness that he could scarcely breathe. Crossing the room, he had taken the brush from her and, taking her hands in his, had lifted her from her chair and taken her to the bed, where they made love with such tenderness that he wanted to stay there for the rest of the afternoon and the night.
When she had come down the stairway to him three hours later, she had looked so beautiful that he had wanted to take her back up the steps to the bedchamber. He had known from the look on her face in that moment that she knew his thoughts, and her soft smile had promised, later. She had been wearing a soft pink silk dress that gave her skin a soft glow and had her hair in the new style that he liked so well, piled high on her head and tumbling down her back in long curls. Her maid had woven pearls and roses in her hair, and across her forehead was a strand of white silk roses adorned with a single teardrop pearl in the middle bringing emphasis to her beautiful eyes. The only jewel she wore was a single strand of pearls.
He had listened with pride during the evening as friend talked of how beautiful she looked. When they were standing in the line to receive His Majesty's good wishes, he had know of her trepidation and brought her hand to his lips whispering, "I love you Lady Darcy. Her answering smile had been radiant, and the look on her face reflected those feelings as she genuflected gracefully. Darcy could hardly wait to go home, and they made their good-byes as soon as it was polite to do so.
Sometime in that afternoon or that night this child had been conceived, and his personality reflected the love and tenderness in which he had come about.
Darcy rose from his bath and, after toweling himself, donned his robe, thinking how wonderful it was to be to wrap himself around the warm soft body of his beloved wife. Upon entering the bedchamber he found it empty, no Elizabeth in the bed, no fire in the grate, just an empty unlived in look and feel. Stepping next door he thought to find her in her own room, though she rarely used this bed. This room was the same as the other and Darcy was perplexed indeed, where was Elizabeth?
Exiting the room, Darcy almost ran into Mrs. Reynolds hurrying down the hall in robe and slippers.
"Oh Master," she exclaimed, "We were not expecting you, especially at this late hour. I will have the fire lighted immediately. Would you like something to eat; you must be very hungry."
"Never mind that, where is my wife?" asked Darcy.
Mrs. Reynolds hesitated for a moment before replying, "Perhaps she is in young Georgie's room, he has had a cold these last two days," replied Mrs. Reynolds.
"She is not with any of the children, I checked on them before bathing," said Darcy. "Mrs. Reynolds, I must insist that you tell me where my wife is, and why the bedrooms are both empty and cold. Why are you so hesitant to tell me what is amiss here?"
Mrs. Reynolds stood silently for a moment before replying, "Mrs. Darcy never sleeps in either bed when you are from home sir, she says she cannot stand to enter either room if you are not there with her."
Darcy was speechless for a few seconds before saying, "Why was I never informed of this? How long has this been so?"
"It has been thus since the day you brought her to this house seventeen years ago, but she said that you would think her silly and foolish if you were to know," was the reply he received from Mrs. Reynolds.
"Mrs. Reynolds, I have never considered anything my wife does as silly or foolish. Now pray tell me where I might find her," said Darcy gently.
"She is probably in the library, that is where I usually find her," replied Mrs. Reynolds with a smile.
After sending the housekeeper back to her bed, Darcy made his way to the library, where he indeed found Elizabeth asleep on the divan, a book on the floor beside her. Smiling softly to himself, he started to waken her, but instead set his candle down on the table beside the large chair and sat down to gaze at that beloved face.
Elizabeth, Elizabeth, he thought. What a pair we are. You, sleeping here in the library and me, in London sleeping in that large chair in front of the hearth in the Master bedroom. Each of us unable to sleep in the bed without the other.
© 1998 Copyright held by author