Darcy strode through the front doors of Pemberley into the main entry hall. He peered around eagerly. Crossing to the doorway of the music room, he looked in. The smile on his face disappeared at his discovery of the room's emptiness. The clock on the mantel chimed once. He was early, he knew. Footsteps sounded in the hall outside and he turned to find John, his manservant, who had come to see who had arrived unannounced. His start of surprise at beholding his master before him was quickly recovered.
"Sir, may I take your riding things? I shall have a fresh set of clothes laid out immediately. Would you care for-"
Darcy shook his head and asked impatiently "Where may I find your mistress? Has she gone out?" as he shrugged out of his riding coat and handed it, his hat and gloves into John's waiting grasp.
The servant repressed a smile at his master's eagerness to see his wife. "I believe, sir, that Mrs. Darcy is in her dressing room, bathing."
A twinkle lit Darcy's eye as a smile played about his mouth. "Thank-you, John." And with the words barely out of his mouth, he bounded up the staircase to the apartments above.
He reached his wife's rooms and entered quietly. The door to the dressing room was ajar and he could hear the maid's voice in reply to Elizabeth's, though he was unable to discern the words. Another maid was just bringing in a fresh bucket of warm water, and at seeing this, Darcy strode forward and quietly relieved her of it. She looked up, startled at first, but uttered not a sound as he raised his finger to his lips and shook his head. The girl gave him a hurried curtsey and quickly left the room.
Darcy approached the doorway with the bucket and peered through. His smile widened as he perceived Elizabeth immersed in the tub with her back to him and her hair still covered in a soapy lather. A thin line of soap bubbles trailed down the back of her neck, finally disappearing behind the rim of the tub.
"Once we have rinsed your hair shall I pin it up until you have finished?" the maid, Agnes, was saying.
"Yes." Elizabeth replied. " and please, I would like you to do something special with it for dinner. Mr. Darcy is due home for dinner hour, and I would like to do honour to the occasion."
"Yes, Ma'am." Agnes looked up as the door swung open further. Her eyes opened wide at the site of her master, coatless, vestless, in his shirtsleeves, holding a bucket of water in his one hand and indicating her silence with the other. She was nothing if not astute. "Ah, here is your rinse water, Ma'am." and as Darcy slowly poured the warm water over his wife's head, Agnes quickly rinsed all of the soap out of her hair. Squeezing out the excess water, she quickly picked up a small towel and placed it into Mrs. Darcy's outstretched hand. With a curtsey to her master, who didn't seem to be paying much attention anyway, she practically ran from the room, pausing only long enough to make sure the door to the hallway was firmly closed behind her.
Elizabeth was drying her face with the towel. Darcy moved to the foot of the tub to stand where his wife could not fail to see him upon opening her eyes. The object of his attention, meanwhile, had finished her use of the towel, and, lowering it from her face, turned her gaze upward and gave a sigh. A smile spread across her face before she realized that her maids had disappeared. She sat up and suddenly caught sight of her husband standing a mere few feet away, a generous smile on his face. Her heart leaped and Elizabeth let out a cry of delight. Darcy laughed and reached out to lift her from the tub. Dripping, he lifted her up in his arms and spun her about delightedly, then carried her from the dressing room to lay her gently amidst the blankets on the bed. He leaned close as he laid her down, breathing in the fresh flowery smells that clung to her hair and skin. He kissed her gently on the mouth, then her neck, and the fresh smell of her hair filled his senses. Drawing back, he leaned over to release the ties on the bedcurtains.
The curtains gave a soft rustle as they fell closed.
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