Part I--Poetic License
It was a lazy, hot July afternoon. Elizabeth and Darcy had decided a picnic would be the perfect way to spend the afternoon. Alone. Darcy found the perfect spot under an old oak tree, which provided some shelter from the heat. He had discarded his coat, waistcoat and cravat. They lunched on an excellent repast provided by Pemberley 's chef.
Afterward, Lizzy was leaning back against the oak tree using Darcy's discarded jacket for a cushion while he lay with his head in her lap, resting a book upon his bent knee. Lizzy idly ran the fingers of her left hand through his curls, as he read to her from the book of Shakespearean sonnets.* He began to read in his rich voice,
"Those lips that Love's own hand did make
Breathed forth the sound that said 'I hate'
To me that languish'd for her sake;"
"Did you languish for me?" Lizzy interrupted.
"Forever, it seemed," Darcy replied. He caught her right hand and brought it to his lips.
Lizzy gave him a smile. After locking her finger in his, he inquired "Shall I continue?" Lizzy nodded.
But when she saw my woeful state,
Straight in her heart did mercy come,
Chiding that tongue that ever sweet
Was used in giving gentle doom,
And taught it thus anew to greet:
'I hate' she alter'd with an end,
That follow'd it as gentle day
Doth follow night, who like a fiend
From heaven to hell is flown away;
'I hate' from hate away she threw,
And saved my life, saying 'not you'.
Elizabeth looked down at Darcy and smiled. "Indeed, I hate not you."
"I believe you did at one time," he reminded her.
"Yes, but that was only when I first knew you. I have for some time considered you the best gentleman of my acquaintance." At Darcy's pleased look, she added, "That is why I can forgive all your faults."
"You must be mistaken, my dear, for have on the best authority that I am a man without faults."
"Come, come, sir, this lack of modesty is quite unbecoming,"
"I only speak the absolute truth," he said solemnly. He let go her hand, and began to seek another sonnet. At last he found the one he was looking for. With a serious mien, he told Elizabeth, "This sonnet is the one that best describes you, I think--and remember, I am only speaking the truth."
He began to read,
"My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;"
Elizabeth bit her lip to keep from laughing. It was one her favorite sonnets.
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
"A trifle tan perhaps" she muttered as Darcy reached up and gently pulled one her curls.
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
He let go the curl. It bounced back into place.
I have seen roses damask'd, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
Elizabeth put her hands on her waist, the picture of (mock) indignation.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
At this point, Elizabeth pushed Darcy off her lap, then pushed herself away from the tree so that she was in a kneeling position. As Darcy sat up, he abandoned the book, turned, and pulled Elizabeth into his arms, finishing the last coupletAnd yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.
Whereupon, he kissed her ardently and they tumbled to the ground.
When they finally came up for air, Elizabeth muttered, "Teasing, teasing man. Now I know what your cousin meant when he said you were lively enough in other places."
Darcy lifted an eyebrow, and commented "But my dear, I thought you already knew that." Elizabeth just laughed, and he resumed the embrace.
Quick note: * first Sonnet is CXLV, second Sonnet is CXXXPart II--Stormy Weather
The heady effects of the combined sun, food, wine, poetry and romance had a sophorific effect. Darcy and Elizabeth feel into that dream-like state between sleep and wakefulness. So it is not surprising that they failed to notice that the sky had darkened. The first raindrops recalled Elizabeth and Darcy to their surroundings. The rain started gently at first, but soon was coming down fast and furious. The picnic was abandoned. Darcy placed his jacket over Elizabeth's shoulders (though it offered little protection against the downpour) grabbed her hand and began to run towards home.
Mrs. Reynolds has been on the look out for the Master and Mistress of Pemberley since the first dark clouds had begun to gather on the horizon. She watching from the drawing room window when she spotted them. Darcy and Elizabeth were running, hand in hand, down hill through the buttercups. Mrs. Reynolds went off to see that there were plenty of towels, and some restorative brandy for their return. She failed to notice that they had stopped at the bottom of the hill.
"I must rest a moment" gasped Elizabeth, for she was out of breath.
"But we are almost home," Darcy countered, ready to start again, "and getting wetter every moment that we stay out doors."
"Please remember, sir, that my legs are not as long as yours, nor is a damp skirt conducive to running. I am already wet, a little more water will not make a difference."
Darcy, thinking of their warm, dry bedroom, offered, "Shall I carry you?"
Elizabeth nodded, "Now that is what I call gentleman-like behavior."
Darcy gave her a wicked grin, and instead of taking her up his arms as she expected, tossed her over his shoulder, and resumed his journey toward home.
"FITZWILLIAM DARCY!" she exclaimed, but was having trouble to keep from laughing.
Darcy set Elizabeth down just outside the doorway to Pemberley. He bowed low, "I am ever at your assistance, my dear."
Elizabeth sniffed haughtily, "I believe it is customary to a thank a gentleman for such assistance, but I cannot," Elizabeth said, before entering the house in a credible performance of wounded dignity. Unfortunately, her performance was ruined as she went sliding on the newly polished floor. Darcy caught her, and picked her up in his arms (this time in a much more romantic fashion) before she could suffer a severe wound to her.....pride. During this contretemps, Darcy's jacket, which had somehow remained upon Elizabeth's shoulders during their dash home, fell off.Part III--Private Reserves
Darcy set Elizabeth down. Both were dripping water all over the floor. The footman, bringing up the restorative brandy, and the maid carrying the towels caught site of their Master and Mistress. Both were quite shocked with what they saw. The footman dropped his tray. The clang of metal, the shattering of fine crystal, and the smell of alcohol invaded the entry, startling everyone.
Mrs. Reynolds, hurrying from below stairs ran smack into the maid, who had come to a standstill, gaping in a most unseemly fashion. Mrs. Reynolds snapped "Whatever are you doing", she grabbed the towels, "get below stairs, and tell Jessup to send someone up to clean this mess, now" she added with an emphasis that finally broke through the girl's stupor. The maid turned and ran.
Darcy accepted the towel Mrs. Reynolds gave him, and gently placed it around Elizabeth's shoulders, before accepting a second towel for himself. He glanced at the footman, who was by now trying to gather the larger pieces of glass off the floor. The footman, who would have tried to apologize if could have found his voice, instead mumbled incoherently, backed up and beat a hasty retreat below stairs as the cleaners arrived.
As soon as the glass was cleared away Mrs. Reynolds shooed Darcy and Elizabeth upstairs, "I had them lay a nice fire in your rooms, you need to get out of those wet clothes, before you catch cold."
Darcy followed Elizabeth up the stairs, but instead of going to his room, followed Elizabeth into hers. He sat down before the fireplace and began to remove his boots. "These are utterly ruined," he sighed, when he noticed Elizabeth staring at him. "What is it, my dear?" he asked.
"I was just thinking that is a great pity you cannot always go about attired in such fashion," she stated, removing her own wet kid slippers.
"May I return the compliment, madam." Darcy grinned at her, removing his wet shirt, "However, I fear there will too much broken crockery about the place."
"Whatever do you mean, sir?" Lizzy asked, her mouth going dry at the sight before her.
"Take a look in the mirror," he suggested as he removed his socks. Elizabeth followed his advice, "Oh, my" she blushed, for what had been a perfectly respectable dress this morning, now was...indescent. The thin cotton of her gown and petticoat had been no match for the pouring rain.
Darcy came up behind her, and began to undo the buttons on the back of gown, "Do you see the impracticality of this attire?" he asked as he pushed the gown off her shoulders.
Lizzy turned into his embrace, "I see now that it would be impossible for either of us to go about in this rainment. What with footman dropping trays at the sight of me and maids coming to a standstill at the sight of you, the house would be a complete mess inside of a week." Her gown fell to the floor, though with a little help from Darcy.
"Exactly, it would be too great a distraction. I would prefer to keep such enticements private.
"Yes, our own private reserve," Elizabeth agreed.
© 1997 Copyright held by the author.