Excerpts: Mr. & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy
Next he led her to the music room. An older pianoforte sat here alongside an enormous gilded harp. A glass case housed a collection of unusual instruments. Darcy explained that many of them were ethnic musical apparatus picked up from other countries over the centuries. Propped in one corner were a beautiful cello and a violin. Lizzy asked who played them.
“Richard plays the cello and is quite talented actually. He and Georgiana have several pieces they play together beautifully. I play the violin, but not very well. Never one to practice,” he said in a perfect imitation of his aunt. “My mother insisted I study music but I could never control my clumsy fingers to even pound out my scales on the piano, so she gave up. I had limited success with the violin.”
“I would love to hear you play.”
Darcy laughed, “No, my love, you truly would not, trust me! Perhaps some evening when I have indulged in far too many brandies.” He took her hand and led her to the northern wing. They visited the conservatory and game rooms, and then he led her into the formal dining room.
Elizabeth had never imagined a single room could be so huge. A massive, sheet-draped table in the shape of a “U” filled the space. Darcy told her it could comfortably seat one hundred-fifty people. Lizzy was stunned. The room was beautiful and elegant, as all the rooms were, but there was an emptiness to it, an atmosphere of long disuse with dust thick in some areas.
“We have not opened this room since my mother died,” he remarked softly. “She loved to entertain. Here at Pemberley, that is. She did not care for Town. Twice a year, at Christmas and on the first day of summer, we hosted a feast for the tenants and community. Additional tables would be placed in the ballroom. It was a tradition for generations and quite the party, let me tell you! Christmas carols in the winter and music and dancing on the terrace in the summer.” He smiled and his eyes were far away with the memory.
“Traditions must be adhered to,” Lizzy declared briskly. “This Christmas is too soon for me to prepare a party, but by summer I will have figured my way around. We can arrange for it then, do you agree, my love?”
Darcy was smiling broadly. “Mistress of Pemberley indeed.” He placed his arm across her shoulders and drew her close to his side, kissed the top of her head, and then steered toward the next room. Lizzy quickly became lost in the long hallways and vast rooms, all of which had several doorways tucked into draped alcoves leading to more rooms. Eventually she would learn that Darcy spoke the truth: Pemberley was patterned in a clear square and hallways that seemed initially to dissect randomly did, in fact, follow a predictable scheme. However, this would take time and she was abundantly thankful he intended to stay close to her. He diverted from the sculpture gallery and portrait hall for now, stating that it would take too much time to fully appreciate.
They encountered Mrs. Reynolds as they entered the main parlor. She curtseyed and addressed them both formally, “Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, the staff will be assembled in the ballroom in one half hour. After which, luncheon will be served. Does this meet with your approval?”
“Thank you, Mrs. Reynolds. That will be fine.”
Lizzy strolled around the room, fondly remembering the miraculous days in early September when she surprised Mr. Darcy and his sister and then enjoyed luncheon and a glorious afternoon in their company. Observing him in his home had released her heart wholly. She vividly recalled sitting here transfixed by his peaceful face and demeanor and realizing that she loved him. Georgiana had played several tunes on her new pianoforte, Lizzy lifting her voice a time or two, while Darcy gazed at her with a tender expression. Naturally it had all worked out, but Lizzy could not help wondering how differently things might have transpired if they only had known the truth of the emotions behind their barely regulated features.
Now he was pointing out features and furnishings, sharing with her the memories attached. His parents had enjoyed having their children with them in the evenings, he told her, and they had generally relaxed here. He and Georgiana naturally gravitated to this parlor and spent their time together here as well. The mixture of his childhood memories, the yearlong unrelenting daydreams of Elizabeth here with their children running about their feet, and now the reality that she was his wife bathed him in contentment.
“My father would read a book or newspaper in that chair,” he pointed. “My mother would sit in the one alongside it, sewing or reading or singing to Georgiana in her lap. I was usually reading as well. Still do, actually, or I listen to Georgiana read to me. She has a sweet voice.”
“Do you sit in his chair?” Lizzy inquired, studying his luminous face.
“No, I prefer the sofa. More comfortable and I can stretch further. I am taller than my father was, so my legs get cramped by the table in front. Suppose I could simply rearrange the furniture; however I am a creature of habit so things have remained unchanged.” He smiled brightly. “Probably could use some shaking up around here, Elizabeth, so indulge yourself.”
* ~ * ~ *
The party gathered together again in the music room where Col. Fitzwilliam was induced to accompany Georgiana with the cello. Darcy stood behind the seated Lizzy with his fingers lightly resting on her neck, unaware that Mr. Lathrop stood behind his wife in the identical inadvertent pose.
“Col. Fitzwilliam,” Lizzy declared, “you play beautifully! I am tremendously impressed.”
The Colonel bowed. “Thank you, Mrs. Darcy; you are very kind. I fear I am rather out of practice. The only opportunity I have to indulge my meager musical talent is here at Pemberley.”
“My husband claims to be as poor a proficient on the violin, yet now I begin to speculate he may not have been totally forthright. How would you evaluate his skills, Colonel, as one artist assessing the other?”
Richard smugly appraised his faintly frowning cousin. “Ah, Mrs. Darcy, you place before me an interesting dilemma. If I judge his talents paltry, then we shall all take pity and not wish to embarrass him by prevailing upon him to play, thus depriving us entertainment, but he shall thank me and be in my debt. If, however, I laud his gift, extolling the unsurpassed skill he wields, then all shall beseech him to grace us with a tune to our delight but I shall likely be soundly pummeled once alone.”
They all laughed. Mr. Lathrop chimed in with his soft voice, “I shall save you, Colonel. Darcy has not seen me for many months so would not likely horsewhip me.”
“Do not be too confident, Lathrop,” Darcy interrupted with a growl.
Undeterred, Mr. Lathrop continued with a grin, “Darcy often played at Cambridge and is quite good, although he abhors performing for crowds. Except for that one time, remember, Darcy?”
All eyes were on Darcy, brows raised in question. Richard stifled a chuckle and Mr. Lathrop was grinning broadly. “This is blackmail, old friend.” Darcy said, trying not to smile.
Mr. Lathrop spread his hands innocently, “Simply a reminder of what is possible with the appropriate … influences.”
“What manner of influences, Mr. Darcy, pray tell?” asked Mrs. Lathrop with a dimpled smile. All were staring at Darcy with varying degrees of humor with the exception of Georgiana who was frankly baffled.
Darcy cleared his throat. “Very well. Georgiana, play ‘Largo’ by Handel and then ‘Minuet in G’ by Bach.” Darcy took a moment to tune his instrument, refusing to make eye contact with anyone, and then indicated to his sister that he was prepared.
Lizzy waited with bated breath, anxious to hear her husband, yet feeling tremendous remorse that her thoughtless teasing may have led him to humiliate himself. She acutely recalled her own chagrin at having been coerced by Lady Catherine to display her weak pianoforte abilities. Darcy, however, was reticent by nature and therefore more apt to embarrass.
Upon the first strains, she knew her fears were groundless. Darcy was no virtuoso but he was talented, far surpassing what she had imagined based on his assertions. He and his sister played beautifully together and the entire room was spellbound.
The applause was sincere and lengthy. Darcy bowed and then turned to his cousin. “Richard, one more with your assistance.” Colonel Fitzwilliam took his place at the cello and smiled at the sheets placed before him by Darcy. Georgiana indicated she was ready and they launched into a sterling rendition of “Ode to Joy” by Beethoven, eminently apropos for the season.
* ~ * ~ *
Lizzy sat diagonally across from her husband and between Lady Harpur and a man introduced to her as the Marquis of Orman. Lord Orman was a handsome man perhaps a year or two older than Darcy, unmarried and charming. Lady Harpur said little, whether from shyness or lack of interest in her dinner companions Lizzy could not discern. Darcy was flanked by Sir James Harpur and Mrs. Mary Vernor. Within earshot sat Lord and Lady Matlock and the remaining Vernors.
Dinner was spectacular. Conversation and laughter flowed. Lord Orman was engaging, thankfully for Lizzy, as Lady Harpur said barely two words. Darcy spoke primarily with Sir James and Mr. Vernor, joining in with Lizzy and Lord Orman on occasion.
“Mrs. Darcy,” Lord Orman said, “I understand you are from Hertfordshire?”
“Yes, My Lord, you have heard correctly. Are you familiar with the region?”
“Not much, I confess. I have traveled through on my way to London; however, I have not tarried in the area. Do you miss your home?”
Lizzy smiled. “I miss my family somewhat, but Pemberley and Derbyshire are my home.”
“Of course. Forgive me, Mrs. Darcy, I meant no offense.”
“Did you leave a large family behind?”
“Four sisters and my parents, as well as cousins. Fortunately, Meryton is not a great distance, and it is the lot of us women eventually to leave our parents for our new families. I am content.” Lizzy glanced at Darcy, who was apparently absorbed in his plate, but she noted the tiny crease between his brows and well knew what it signified.
“Of course.” Lord Orman continued. “Still it must be difficult to leave what you have always known for the unknown.”
“You would be mistaken, My Lord. It has not been difficult in the slightest. I am exceedingly comfortable here. The scenery and natural formations are widely diverse and majestic here in Derbyshire. Far more so than Hertfordshire, which is pastoral. Unfortunately the weather has not been kind enough to allow me the opportunity to explore as I would wish; however, this will be remedied in the spring.”
“Do you appreciate the out of doors then, Mrs. Darcy?”
“Oh yes, very much.”
“You ride, I presume.”
“Actually, not at all. I prefer to walk.”
He was taken aback, “How odd. A Darcy who does not ride. Who would have believed it? I would rather have imagined horsemanship a prerequisite for matrimony amongst the Darcys.” He seemed to be teasing but Lizzy found the comment a trifle rude. Apparently, her husband did as well.
“I fear you are hasty, Orman, in forming assumptions regarding the character of the Darcys.” He spoke softly but with an edge that Lizzy recognized as irritation and his eyes were a flinty blue. “A person’s caliber is not dependent on a particular accomplishment, nor can a host of accomplishments accurately illustrate one’s quality.”
It was a true statement voiced in a flat tone, but Lizzy, who knew her husband so well, understood he was casting aspersions. Orman knew it also, and there was a moment of silence before he laughed, “Touché, Darcy.”
The conversation turned then to topics more general. The men spoke of politics and resolving the crisis with France. Lizzy struck up a conversation with Mrs. Vernor and Mrs. Samantha Cole, a woman in her late twenties and the wife of the middle Cole son, Joshua. Mrs. Cole reminded Lizzy of her younger sisters, giddy and not terribly bright but humorous and entertaining. Her favorite topics were fashion and society gossip, of little interest to Lizzy; however, she did realize that a fair amount of knowledge on both subjects could be to her advantage so she joined in. She and Mrs. Vernor shared several amused glances, but Mrs. Cole’s insipid chatter did pass the time pleasantly and, oddly enough, Lizzy did like her.
As they stood to leave the table, Lord Orman leaned close to Lizzy and said softly, “I hope I did not offend, Mrs. Darcy. You appear an intelligent young woman and I enjoyed our conversation. I would like to be counted a friend.”
Lizzy was terribly uncomfortable and momentarily at a loss. Darcy, she noted quickly, was on the other side of the table speaking with his aunt, apparently unaware of Lord Orman’s attention. Lizzy took a step backwards, smiled pleasantly, and met his eyes frankly. “Thank you for the compliment, Lord Orman. I can assure you that whomever my husband counts as a friend is also a friend of mine. As I am a new inhabitant of the area, I am leaving these decisions to him. It is far too easy to arrive at swift and errant judgments.”
Lord Orman bowed and retreated slightly but continued undeterred, “Would I be too bold to ask if I may secure your hand for a dance set, Mrs. Darcy? Or does Mr. Darcy make those decisions for you as well?”
Lizzy was stunned, a ready retort on her lips, but they were both startled by Darcy’s deep voice. “Mrs. Darcy is free to fill her dance card with whomever she chooses.” He stood next to her, towering over Orman by at least five inches, calm, and impassively gazing at the Marquis as he offered his arm to Lizzy.
Lizzy smiled brightly at her husband as she placed her hand on his arm, and then turned to Orman. “Thank you, Lord Orman; however, all dances are promised to my husband, by my choice.” She curtseyed and he bowed.
“Perhaps another time then, Mrs. Darcy. Mr. Darcy.” He bowed again and moved away.
“Interesting man,” Lizzy commented sardonically.
“He is a scoundrel, Elizabeth. I cannot fathom what Sir Cole was thinking to seat him at the head table, and close to me. He knows we despise each other.”
* ~ * ~ *
“Elizabeth? Wake up, my love.” Darcy sat next to his sleeping wife, gently smoothing her hair as he whispered softly into her ear. “I cannot leave without a farewell.” He kissed behind her ear tenderly. “Lizzy? Open your eyes.”
“William?” she mumbled sleepily.
“Indeed,” he laughed softly, “who else would it be?”
She yawned and stretched, opening her eyes briefly before nestling deeper into the mattress. “Come back to bed,” she murmured. “I am cold.”
Darcy smiled and tucked the thick covers about her. “I must go, love. Mr. Keith is waiting for me. You can return to your slumber, but I had to tell you I love you before I left.” He kissed her forehead and cheek and then her lips. It was a mistake … her arms somehow freed themselves from the snugly placed covers and twined about his neck as she drowsily pulled him into her embrace, deepening the tiny kiss he meant to bestow.
He sighed and happily gave in to her demands for a moment. With regret he untangled her hands from his hair, kissing each palm. She was dazedly looking at him, still more asleep than awake. “Why are you dressed? What time is it?” She started to rise, but he restrained her.
“Remember, dearest? I need to inspect the fisheries today. I shall return for dinner, I promise.” Her hands were clasped in his and he kissed her fingers. “I shall pine for you terribly and will be thinking of you incessantly.” He chuckled mildly. “So much so that I am not sure how effectual I will actually be! It shall be a test of my fortitude.”
She was fully awake now. Aware that it was absolutely ludicrous but unable to curb her emotions, she felt tears burn her eyes and her chin beginning to quiver. In a small voice she said, “I shall be desolate without you, Fitzwilliam. Please be careful and return quickly!”
Oh, the power she had over his faculties! Why was it that every time she spoke his full name he melted? With a groan he kissed her energetically, wrapping his arms about her as best he could with blankets and a comforter in the way. He stroked her back and readjusted his body so he was lying next to her, some tiny part of his foolish brain conjecturing that as he was clothed and she under the covers, his control could be maintained. Only a few kisses, he told himself, to placate me during my separation from her.
It was some twenty minutes later before he arose from the bed. The few kisses had evolved into far greater diversions. Lizzy was akin to a slippery eel in her ability to extricate herself from swaddled covers. Darcy could not relate how it occurred, but in no time at all, she was on top of the comforter, limbs entwined with his. Thoughts of timetables, schedules, and prior commitments fled under the forces rushing through his body. Even after two weeks of marriage and the passion that had inundated his existence, he was still amazed at how rapidly he responded to her touch; nay, even her presence was enough! His arousal was immediate and marked, his need for her vehement.
Somehow his coat was discarded haphazardly, but the remainder of his clothing stayed, neither of them wishing for the delay. One would assume they had not made love in months instead of just the previous night, their hunger raging and consuming them as it did. Their lovemaking was frenzied but no less rhapsodic.
As he buttoned his breeches and straightened his waistcoat, smiling at his divine wife, his love was too profound to experience any regret. He was behind schedule now, but the memory of her and the tingling sensations coursing through his veins vastly outweighed any time concerns.
He finished adjusting his rumpled clothing as she arose from the bed, standing before him in all her glory. She buttoned his jacket and tamed his mussed hair with her fingers. “There,” she said, “you are presentable. And tremendously handsome, I daresay.” She smiled and kissed him lingeringly.
“I love you, Mrs. Darcy, and shall miss you.” His hands traveled over her body and he nuzzled her neck, planting one last kiss on her earlobe before he pulled away. As if fearful of losing his restraint yet again, he turned abruptly and strode rapidly to the door, pausing for one last look and a devastating smile as he closed the door behind him.