Excerpts: Loving Mr. Darcy
When the slightly tipsy and high-spirited Darcy and Bingley returned to Netherfield, barely in time to change before needing to leave for Longbourn, they discovered Jane, Georgiana, and Mary dressed and reposing in the parlor. Darcy naturally swept the room for his wife, turning his questioning gaze to Jane.
“Is Elizabeth yet upstairs?” he asked. It was an innocent question met with an odd response. Georgiana was guiltily evading his eyes, fingers fidgeting in her lap, as his did when nervous or distressed, and flushing mildly. Jane was composed, as always, yet stammered vaguely in answer.
“She is preparing for dinner, I believe. She rested earlier when we returned.”
Darcy frowned. It was nothing he could quite put his finger on, but a shiver of unease ran up his spine nonetheless. “Jane, is she well?” His tone was brisk and without waiting for her reply, he turned to his sister. “Georgiana?”
She started and flushed deeper. “She is fine, William. The fainting is natural, they say, and Mrs. Bennet told us…” But he was gone, long strides echoing down the hall.
Elizabeth was bent over the bed, fully dressed for dinner, carefully wrapping a package when her husband lunged through the door bellowing her name. She jolted in surprise, one hand moving to her heart. “William, you frightened me half to death! What in God’s name—”
“Are you well?” he blurted, crossing hastily and clasping her hands as he stared fiercely into her eyes, brows tight and furrowed.
She frowned, honestly having forgotten the minor mishap of earlier. “I am fine.”
“They said you fainted! Why did you not call for me?”
“Oh bother! It happens to pregnant women, dearest. What were you going to do? Rush away from your game and carry me all the way back to Netherfield?”
“Perhaps!” he answered stubbornly. “You promised to not tax yourself, Elizabeth. Do I need to follow you everywhere?”
“I hardly think, Mr. Darcy, that walking through the short streets of Meryton qualifies as overly arduous. It could have happened just as easily in the halls of the house. Are you going to next lock me in my room?!”
“If I must, yes!” He glared and she glared back, hands on her hips.
“Try it and I will simply crawl out the window. Ask my father and he will tell you how capable I am at climbing!”
He stared for a moment, then threw up his hands with a growl and paced to the window.
A few moments later: “Here,” Elizabeth said as the package was thrust under his nose, “this is for you. A gift I purchased while exhausting myself shopping! Also, there is something adorable on the bed. I, too, think constantly of our child. I will meet you downstairs, hopefully in an improved humor!” And with a toss of her head she walked out of the room.
Darcy sighed, running a hand over his face, torn between frustration and shame. He walked to the bed. Lying there was the tiniest garment he had ever beheld: a gown in pale yellow with miniscule white pearl buttons down the front and a thin ribbon ruffle along the collar. Beside it sat a matching bonnet not much bigger than his palm and a pair of teensy satin booties edged in yellow. He picked up the shoes and plopped onto the edge of the bed, a huge grin spreading over his face while his hands trembled. Darcy was not a complete idiot. Rationally, he understood that newborn babies were small, yet having rarely actually seen one, or even an older baby for that matter, it unexpectedly dawned on him how miraculous it all was. His focus had been so wrapped up with Lizzy’s health that he had spared rarely a moment’s thought to the future reality. Elizabeth, as a woman, would have thought of nothing else, her symptoms mere inconveniences to endure for the greater joy.
He slipped one large finger into one of the booties, nearly filling it, and picked up the wrapped package she had given him. Inside were petits four pastries filled with lemon custard and topped with meringue. He smiled. Darcy did not generally crave sweets. Except for hot cocoa his only true dessert proclivity was anything lemon flavored. Elizabeth, amazing Elizabeth! Proving once again that she was not only continually conscious of their child but additionally of her love for him.
When he reentered the parlor he crossed the room immediately to where Elizabeth stood talking to Jane. She started at the sensation of his hand on the small of her back, turning her head as he bent to kiss her cheek. Their eyes met and all was forgiven.
* ~ * ~ *
A loud shout sounded from above and a gunshot crack rang out. The carriage stopped precipitously with a lurch as several voices erupted with yells. Lizzy released a startled squeal as Darcy’s hand flashed under the seat. She gasped and eyes widened at the sight of the pistol he retrieved and hastily tucked into the waistband of his breeches at the small of his back. Eyes yet riveted to the window, he reached behind to squeeze her leg, jerking backward in reflex when a grizzled face abruptly appeared at the window.
Lizzy clutched frantically onto Darcy’s arm, heart pounding crazily. The man outside brandished a pistol, gesturing for Darcy to exit the carriage. “Elizabeth,” Darcy’s deceptively calm and icy voice commanded, “stay inside if you are allowed; otherwise, keep close and to my left side. Do not argue or resist and keep your eyes on me.”
She nodded, not that he could see her as his focus was on the angry man outside, who was now banging on the locked door. Darcy unlocked and opened the carriage door, holding his hands up so the man could see he was unarmed.
“Get out! Now!”
Darcy complied with a quick glance at his wife. Lizzy could see the towering fury in the steeliness of his eyes and clenched jaw, but she also saw the intense fear that she knew was all for her. She kept her seat in hopes that it would be over quickly, the bandits surely wanting money which Darcy could provide, and then they could be on their way. Terror paralyzed her, rising further as the burly man grabbed her husband’s arm as he descended and yanked hard, Darcy stumbling on the steps. He righted himself, straightening to his full and impressive height, broad shoulders blocking the doorway.
“I have money,” Darcy offered in a tone of cold authority and command, “take it and be on your way.”
“Not so fast, guv’ner,” a voice answered. “We are in charge here. I reckon a smart lookin’ fella like you has got more than just a money belt.”
“Check inside, Clyde,” another voice spoke. “He ain’t alone. And you, up there, throw us the luggage and get down.”
“There is no luggage,” Lizzy heard Mr. Anders reply.
Darcy interrupted, “My wife and I are on a pleasure ride. We have nothing but the clothing on our backs. Allow me to give you…”
“Enough!” shouted the first voice. “You two, down! Clyde, move rich boy out of the way and get the wife! She probably weighs a ton with jewels.”
Darcy pivoted quickly, leaning in for Lizzy before Clyde could obey his boss. “Elizabeth, come. Stay close.”
“Out of the way!” Clyde yelled, grabbing Darcy’s arm. “I am in charge here!”
Darcy’s face was livid, Lizzy panic stricken as he turned to the highwayman with a gleam of pure murder evident. “My wife is with child. I will assist her from the carriage…”
Suddenly the pistol was pointed square at Darcy’s forehead, a mere inch away. “You will step away, hero, and do as I say.” The moment seemed to stretch, although in truth it was only a fraction of a second, as Darcy glared into the eyes of the thief.
Lizzy leapt forward. “William, it is alright. I can exit myself. Please step back as he said!” Darcy looked at her, absolute terror warring with supreme fury. He nodded brusquely and stepped away, but only a foot, his eyes never leaving Lizzy. She carefully disembarked, Clyde near with pistol waving between her and Darcy. Darcy instantly and painfully gripped her right elbow, pulling her to his left and predominantly behind his body.
* ~ * ~ *
He slowed, rising over her with arms extended. His face was flushed, skin gleaming with sweat, and eyes vivid with reverential love and fervent hunger. Lizzy caressed his solid chest, their gazes shifting from the other’s face to their bodies. Darcy spoke, voice muted and grating, “You tease, best beloved, at being a hopeless wanton, and I am overjoyed that you are! Yet, it is I who am truly wanton. Insatiable, ravenous for you, awestruck by how you move me.” He gulped, inhaling vigorously for control, arching his neck and closing his eyes in ecstasy.
Lizzy studied his perfection, teetering on the edge in her rapture yet spellbound by the vision of his masculinity coupled with his poignant words. Eventually, he opened his eyes and resumed, “In the wildest of my imaginings, both before meeting you and since, I have never remotely evoked the actuality of touching your essence while making love to you. The pleasure I derive from your body and soul melding with mine is indescribable. I cannot…have enough…of you, my wife!”
“Fitzwilliam, hold me!” Lizzy clutched his shoulders, pulling his body onto hers, Darcy succumbing with a prolonged moan. Shouts of love burst forth as they clung with limbs nearly strangling. Gasping and shivering, Darcy assaulted her mouth, plundering deeply with throaty rumbles. Broad hands secured her head, fingers laced into her hair as he rolled onto his back, Lizzy anchored against him. She withdrew from his lips with effort, needing air, but remained a scant hairbreadth away. “William,” she whispered, brushing his jaw then chin, “I love you.” Eyes met for a second, and then with a ragged breath, she dropped her head to his shoulder.
They embraced for a long while, Darcy expecting her to fall into a sated asleep as she usually did. He, too, experienced a vague guilt at waking her so early and did attempt to control his morning lust as often as possible. Fortunately, the worst of his remorse was allayed by the fact that she easily resumed her slumber. Lying in his arms, body flushed and as pliant as dough in her satiation, he patiently and blissfully awaited the rhythmic respirations indicative of sleep. Then he would kiss her gently, disentangling himself gingerly to attend to his morning routine, invigorated and abounding with love.
Today, however, they were both too excited to sleep or embark on any other activity but being together and preparing for the day’s planned excursion. Lizzy moved her head enough to see his profile, tracing one finger over his straight nose. Darcy turned toward her, avidly and adoringly looking upon her sunny visage as she commenced a delicate inspection of each perfect facial feature.
“Are you no longer sleepy, beloved?” He asked, kissing the finger resting on his lips.
“Too excited about our trip, I suppose. You know, I honestly will not be hurt if you wish to pursue some sort of manly occupation rather than trudging through fabric and ribbon stores with me. Phillips will ensure my safety and carry my burdens.”
Darcy frowned slightly. “Normally I would concur; however, I wish to be a part of all aspects of our child’s needs, Elizabeth.”
Lizzy laughed, interrupting him with a kiss to the shoulder. “William, you truly are too good for this earth! You already refinished the cradle and dresser, met with the decorator offering more opinions on the subject then I deem he wanted, and now you want to pick out endless yards of muslin, yarn, and lace? Are you next going to take up knitting needles to create little sweaters and blankets?” She tickled his ribs, Darcy chuckling as he grasped her hands.
“Very well. Point taken. Not that I would be unwilling to attempt knitting if necessary; however, I do not think you would desire to garb our son in anything constructed by me! You understand I only want to help?”
“Yes, and I love you even more for your enthusiasm.” She placed her palm flat onto one of his broad hands, long fingers extending more than an inch beyond hers, entire dainty hand engulfed. “I will utilize your larger hands to spin the yarn though. Also, you can read to me in your resonant voice while I sew, thrilling me, and keeping my mind stimulated.” She played with his fingers, caressing and lacing hers between as she spoke. “Will I shock you, husband, if I confess to not being overly fond of sewing?” Darcy chuckled and shook his head. “Knitting even less. Of course, these womanly tasks I previously have balked at are for our baby, so I am motivated as never before.” She drew his fingertips to her lips, kissing and nibbling each one. “So, you see, William, your help is necessary not in picking fabrics but in preventing my insanity and boredom!”
* ~ * ~ *
“Uncle George, may I disturb your peace for a spell?”
Dr. Darcy looked up from the enormous leather chair where he was sprawled with one leg draped over an arm into the earnest face of his nephew. George was reading in the library, escaping the picnic and festival clamoring that had invaded the hallways, reclining on Darcy’s favorite chair primarily due to the fact that it was the one most accommodating for tall frames. Darcy was holding a rather large book clasped to his chest, the title hidden although whether on purpose or accidentally George could not be sure.
“Of course, William. You are always welcome. How can I help you?”
Darcy dragged a chair close to his uncle, sitting and placing the book onto his lap, giving Dr. Darcy an opportunity to read the title. With a raised brow and crooked smile, he answered his own inquiry, “Ah, I see. Honestly, William, you are the married one not I, although I do have some limited experience and will happily assist if you need. Or is it pregnancy related concerns you have?” His grin widened at Darcy’s expression of amused disgust.
The book Darcy held was the medical text, boldly emblazoned with the title: The Compleat Cyclopaedia of Midwifery and Reproduction. “The latter, Uncle, thank you,” Darcy replied sarcastically. “Elizabeth and I were talking after the whole skin stretching scare,” he paused for a brief shudder before continuing, “and we realized that this book, which has been our primary resource for pregnancy information, may be lacking. We do not want to be unprepared for any eventuality, especially those details which are apparently so common as to not warrant entry into the text. You are our best asset.”
Dr. Darcy nodded seriously, all traces of humor receding. “This is wise. You know you can always count on me, son.” He smiled. “You know, William, I must applaud your enthusiasm and interest. It is the rare man who deigns to partake in matters generally deemed totally a female issue. It warms my heart.”
Darcy waved his hand dismissively and flushed slightly, but he met his uncle’s direct gaze with equal intensity. “Thank you, sir, but it is not a tribute to my character but rather to the rare woman I have been gifted. Someone as special as Elizabeth deserves a husband who will support her in all ways.”
“I will not argue your wife’s stellar attributes as I wholeheartedly agree with you, but do not sell yourself short.” He undraped his legs from the chair and sat up straight, leaning toward Darcy. “William, I have not been so fortunate as to find love to the degree as you have and James before you, but I do have a vast amount of experience with families and their interpersonal relationships. When one primarily encounters a family at their worst, suffering from disease or loss, one quickly notices what sets the successful, adjusted, and therefore capable of surviving trauma families apart from those who will fall to pieces. Always it is a deep devotion among the members, whether it parents or siblings or spouses. This devotion translates into the realm of childbirth as well. Those women who have strong support will manage far more capably then those who are alone or unloved. Elizabeth is blessed to have you there for her.”
“That is why it essential for me to know all I can about this process. I have seen hundreds of animal births and have a fairly firm knowledge base of human anatomy, but the books all seem vague regarding the details.”
Dr. Darcy nodded. “Yes, most would, although I daresay I could acquire a newer text than the one you hold and more comprehensive. Unfortunately, birth, as I said, is considered a female issue relegated to midwives and therefore deemed unworthy of a physician’s attention, hence the lack of textual information. Personally, I believe the tide is turning on all matters sexual and a revolution of enlightenment is approaching, but that is for another discussion. As for me, I do have superior knowledge in the field, having delivered hundreds of babies. Indian women prefer their dais, their term for midwife, but often one is not about or trouble arises and a doctor is called for. Also, the English women will not allow an Indian dai to attend their birth, usually, so if I am around, I get summoned!”
“Is birth truly as horrible as one hears? Horses, for the most part, birth so easily with rare complications. Humans seem to suffer profoundly and frequently…” He looked at his uncle with undisguised fear. “If anything happened to Elizabeth, I…”
“She is young and healthy, William, so I am sure all will be well.” He patted his nephew’s trembling knee comfortingly. “Women in childbirth seem to fall into three basic categories. There are those who pass through the entire process with ease. This seems to be a combination of an innate control and an effortless, relatively pain free labor. They are the lucky ones. The worst are the women who fight the process, scream and thrash uncontrollably no matter what we do or say. Often the labors are not actually that horrible but their lack of control and serenity create an atmosphere of intense stress, frequently leading to a negative outcome. Most fall into the middle category. Labor is so named because it is arduous and painful. There is no escaping the fact, but there are ways to control it and smooth the procedure.”
Darcy leaned forward, listening avidly. “What ways?”
“Breathing techniques, focus, meditation, positions, and the like. However, the one essential is loving support. I cannot stress enough how vital it is for the mother to be surrounded by calming, strong, devoted presences.”
Darcy sat back with a heavy sigh, mumbling sadly, “I wish I could be there with her.”
“Why can you not? You are the one she loves the greatest. You have the premiere relationship with her so should be there if she needs you.”
Darcy was staring at his uncle with stunned amazement. “You cannot be serious? Men are not allowed in birth rooms, Uncle!”
Dr. Darcy laughed, reaching into his coat pocket for a cigar. “I know you tend to be a stickler for the rules, William, but it is not a law from the Crown after all. You are the Master of the house and if your wife needs you, I judge you will rise to the occasion.” He lit the cigar, inhaling leisurely while watching Darcy’s contemplative mien. “In the meantime, let us open that book and see what wisdom is imparted. Just promise me you will not blush every time the word vagina or penis or breast appears, alright?” He grinned and Darcy blushed.