The summer had been long and hot. Drought was unheard of in this part of the country yet it had not rained for nearly three weeks. The thick stone walls of Pemberley retained some coolness but the days were beginning to be uncomfortable in the great house.
This was Elizabeth Darcy's first summer at her new home, her first year as a married woman. Much of the past months had been spent hosting friends and family from the south. Now August had come, the Darcys were alone again. Even her sister Georgiana had left to go to Surrey to visit cousins.
Her husband, Fitzwilliam Darcy looked pensively out the window searching for a cloud. His wife knew he was concerned about the lack of rain.
"It's the late summer crops I worry about, Elizabeth," he was explaining. "Next month would be ideal if it were dry, but it is too early and the farmers are watching their oats and barley shrivel up. If they have a bad year it will be hard on everyone, both on the tenants and the townspeople. It has not rained since..."
"Since July 23," Elizabeth said with a smile.
Her husband turned to look at her, also with a smile on his face. July 23 was the day his wife had told him they were to have a child in the new year.
"I am glad the sun has shone so considerately to celebrate our happy news," Darcy said. "I wish it would recall that rain can be considerate also."
Elizabeth rose to join Darcy at the window. She knew he was overjoyed that they were to have a child. She only wished he did not now treat her as if she were breakable or perhaps he felt uncomfortable with her maternal state. Either way, he had not touched her since the last day it rained.
"Does it not look like a cloud is forming behind that peak in the west?" Elizabeth tried to be helpful.
"Yes, they form and then they turn into nothing."
Elizabeth smiled ruefully. That described her husband's ardor exactly. She knew she could ignite his passion for her but it always turned into nothing. He was afraid he would hurt her or hurt the baby. She tried to assure him that could not happen but he was not able to get over the odd feeling that his child was somehow observing the whole act.
"Well, my dear, I have some business with Mr. Greene. He thinks I may want to lease the south pasture for farming but who would want to farm during this drought." Darcy put on his waistcoat in preparation for seeing his steward. "Sometimes in this heat I wish I could dress like a farmer and not have to wear so many clothes," he muttered, kissed his wife's forehead and left the house.
Elizabeth sighed and turned towards the stairs. She fingered an old silver locket she had meant to show her husband. It contained a few thin strands of her fine baby hair. She had packed it when she married to bring with her to her new home but had never thought about it again until she had learned about her own baby. After three weeks of searching through her trunks, she had finally found it and now she had forgotten to show it to Darcy. She decided a long cool bath would revive her tired spirits.
Elizabeth had allowed herself to drowse in the tub but was suddenly awakened by a low rumbling sound. Could that be thunder? She called for her maid who bustled in with a robe.
"Marguerite, does it look like rain?" she asked excitedly.
"Yes, madame, it has gotten darker."
Elizabeth hurried to the window and looked out. "It is darker. But it is certainly just as hot. Marguerite, I will wear my old white muslin. It is the most comfortable thing I have in this heat. And don't bother with my corset. I will put it back on when I dress for dinner. Oh, and bring me that old silver locket."
As Elizabeth dressed she felt an electricity in the air. The skies indeed looked darker. The idea of rain animated her and she longed to rush outside to see if she could feel a drop or two of blessed water from the skies. Another sound of low rumbling could be heard.
Foregoing her bonnet, Elizabeth bounced down the stairs and skipped out the front door. She turned left toward the tree-covered lane by the stream. A soft breeze had picked up. She closed her eyes and sniffed at the air. It was indeed going to rain!
As she climbed the stairs on the path towards the trees Elizabeth felt a drop, then two on her bare arm. Another sound of thunder pealed but she felt no fear. She waited for the skies to open wide upon her.
The drops increased in speed, first coming down fat and lazy, then harder and more insistent. Quickly, Elizabeth felt her skin soak up the moisture and then run off down her face and arms and through her gown. How cool, how sensual and carefree the rain made her feel. She twirled around and around with her arms outstretched.
"Lizzy!" Her husband's voice brought her back to her surroundings.
She blinked through her wet eyelashes at her husband running toward her from the path.
"Get out from the rain, Lizzy. Are you deranged?" he angrily asked. He took her elbow and guided her under some trees. The rain was still coming down, but more gently and the leaves protected them somewhat.
Elizabeth laughed. "Is this not a wonderful thing, my love? Your farmer's crops are saved. Smell the air, it smells like heaven! Oh, I never thought an English girl could welcome the rain over sun. I feel like dancing!"
Her husband smiled in spite of himself, though he shook his head.
"Oh, my dear," Elizabeth cried, "I want to show you something." She reached into her pocket to pull out her locket but stopped. "My hands are wet, let me dry them on you."
Darcy looked down as his wife unbuttoned his waistcoat.
"Oh, this is wet too," she murmured as she unbuttoned his vest. Finally, she found some dry patches on his linen shirt and she wiped her hands across his chest. Knowing full well what effect she was having on her husband, she reached back into her pocket and pulled out her locket and dried that across his shirt as well.
"Lizzy," Darcy breathed.
"Here, I found this at Longbourn and brought it with me. Look, is not that sweet? It is my hair as a baby's." She gleefully held the locket up to his face.
"Lizzy," Darcy began again.
"What do you say?"
"Lizzy, it is very sweet." He clasped her wrist and brought her hand with the locket to his lips for a kiss. He looked down at her for a long moment and then pulled her to him for an even longer kiss.
When they finally broke apart, Elizabeth looked mischievously up at him. "You know I miss you very much."
"And I miss you. If you'll let me, I'll show you how much as soon as we get back into the house."
"I am afraid we will have to steal back. Mrs. Reynolds will not let us into the house like this. She will want to have us hung on the washing line to dry first."
"Then let us steal into our own house and go directly upstairs. I want my wife back."
"She's never gone away," Elizabeth whispered. They walked hand in hand back to the house in the gentle rain.
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