The Improvement of Her Mind By Extensive Reading
Mr. Darcy, recognising the feeling that had come over him for what it was, had sought out his wife in the library. A terrifying sight met his eyes, turning the warm liquidity of his innards into a tight knot of anxiety. Mrs. Darcy, with not a single footman to attend her, was perched precariously on top of a ladder, brushing the dust off a slim volume bound in blue leather. She turned to him with a dazzling smile. "Dearest, see what I have found!" she exclaimed. "It is one of Papa's favourites! I knew there must be a copy somewhere here!"
Darcy quickly grabbed the bottom of the ladder as she backed into his arms. That was better. A silly reaction, really. After all, it was a perfectly ordinary library ladder, perfectly stable, perfectly sound. Nothing to get in a sweat about! He had used it himself a hundred times....... With his arm round her waist, he drew her over to the sofa, and settled them both down. There, that was...comfortable. His heart stopped pounding.... There was little to be gained from pointing out that ladies who are increasing should not climb ladders, he decided. The twinkle in her eyes was a more interesting subject. "What is it that you have discovered?" he asked.
She handed him the book: The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman.
Of the eight thousand in this room! Of course, it would be one of Mr. Bennet's favourites! And he really shouldn't be surprised that Elizabeth knew of the book! But not many fathers would encourage their daughters to read it! It would be interesting to know what she thought of it, come to that! But surely, she hadn't discussed it with her father, had she? Had she? He remembered his own father taking the same book out of his small hands. Putting it up on that same top shelf, telling him it was not to be read until it was time for him to go to university. Had there been a twinkle in his father's eye then? He couldn't remember.
Thinking of his father was painful even now, he realised. Elizabeth would have liked him. He would have been able to introduce them to each other..... Did she miss her father? She always seemed happy enough....... but she had grown up in a busy, noisy household.....what about her sisters? Was she lonely with only himself and Georgiana for company? God help him, but Pemberley was big enough to hold the whole Bennet clan if it kept her happy! No, .......not her mother! Perhaps her father would suffice, if she wished it....... He voiced the thought.
"Papa? Oh no, dearest, he was here a month ago, and he has enough to do at Longbourn! Besides, why should I need him when I have you all to myself?" She smiled, half-turned and stretched, warming her feet in the direction of the crackling grate. Leaning backwards and looking up at him, a tiny smile began playing over her mouth. "Shall I read to you, my love?"
Giving back the book, he settled himself more comfortably again, resting his chin on her head, where he could still see the tips of her soft lashes, and watch the rhythm of her breathing. That was always worth watching........... He held on to her. Better. The gentle rising and falling of her voice relaxed him, as did the feel of her back against his chest. She read the dedication, and commenced the first chapter. He breathed in the scent of her, deeply. Flowers? No, something else.... There was a rather impudent curl over her ear that might bear investigation. His mouth moved to investigate it.
As she commenced the first chapter, her voice quivered, once, twice. The words! He remembered them....... He felt his mouth smile, rather reluctantly, as it would have liked to have concentrated on her hair. He tightened his grip around her waist. Her shoulders began to shake. Keep still, Lizabeth! I want to...... An exploratory nuzzle of that same ear resulted in a bump of his nose as she exploded in a gale of laughter. He discovered that he was laughing too. A good feeling, indeed! He was a lucky man. Lillibulero!...... He so dearly loved to hear her laugh........And to hold her close.
Suddenly, she turned to face him, serious. "Do you believe that a child's future could be fixed in such a way, dearest? By his mother's thoughts?"
"Undoubtedly," he replied, smiling. "What were your thoughts at the time? They were not on the clock, I think! Were you minding what you were about?"
"No... Yes.... indeed!" she was laughing up at him, her face very close to his.
"I am sure," he said, as he gathered her to him again, "That our child had the very best of beginnings!" Why did her eyebrow do that?
He put one hand on her belly. Perhaps he needed to make sure. Or make her sure . Her eyes, so large, so gentle.... Her mouth, those little teeth...... Her breath. Just so.........,Not flowers...... Perhaps........no, that........Better.....Mmmmmm!.......Mmmmmmm.
Neither of them noticed the book slide to the floor.
finis © 1997 Copyright held by the author.