Posted on Saturday, 16 February 2002
A summer breeze drifted through the air, stroking the trees and rippling the water. "A wonderful beginning of summer," Elizabeth sighed, twisting her brown curls with her fingers. It was an interesting beginning, to say the least. Yet better than the previous summer. She remembered it well. Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley came to town. Yes, that's when it all began. She was happy it was over, and they were all just friends. Mr. Darcy was much less proud now, in fact, he came and visited Jane and her self almost every day that he could, along with Bingley. Lizzy was sure that Mr. Darcy's previous affections for her were entirely non-existed now, and had dissolved over their coarse of newfound friendship. She was surprised to see that Jane too had forgotten her attachments to Mr. Bingley, and had been content with friendship. They did have a good time talking together though, Jane and Mr. Bingley. They were very happy to converse with one another, even if it wasn't in an affectionate and romantic way. Mr. Darcy and herself was another story. They both jabbed and jousted at each other's expense, although Elizabeth admitted fondly that she liked to talk to him, as she found his conversations rather amusing. She didn't doubt that he found her amusing either; by the way his eyes twinkled when he teased her. She took no offence to it whatsoever. In fact, she happily teased him back. Jane and Bingley looked on this in humor, and decided the two were an interesting party to accompany, and were glad to be in their presence.
Jane looked over at her sister, who was beginning to quicken the pace. The two walked along in the gardens of Longbourn, happily enjoying the scenery and each other's company.
"Slow down, Lizzy, what is your reason for hurrying us so?" Jane asked, worriedly. She felt another breeze of wind rush by her, and held her hands to her arms. Just as soon as the breeze came, it passed, and it was beginning to get hot again.
"It's beginning to get dark, dear sister, and you know how mother worries. I shant like to hear another of her droning lectures, and I'm sure you feel the same," Elizabeth laughing, picturing her mothers insistent rambles to come in sooner.
"You are so intelligent for thinking so, Lizzy. And yes, I'm dearly glad you did. I love our mother, but she can be a pain at times," Jane moved up the steps, as Elizabeth opened the door for her.
"Oh girls, you've come in! Good ,good, take a seat, dinner will be served soon, I assure you," Mrs. Bennet said, rumbling around, fussing over every little thing. Mr. Bennet was still in the library, and Lydia and Kitty were fighting as usual.
"Mary! Mary! Go on, summon your father for dinner, Lydia, Kitty, stop that insufferable fighting this instant, you are damaging your mothers poor nerves. Oh my head! My head!" Mrs. Bennet exclaimed dramatically. She half fainted, half sat in a chair, as Elizabeth and Jane took their seats as well. Dinner was served, and was very delicious.
Although Lydia and Kitty did not cease from fighting, they lowered their voices enough so that Mrs. Bennet would be more into eating than listening to her daughters quarrel. Jane and Elizabeth embarked on an intelligent conversation over where they would take Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy tomorrow.
"I think Mr. Bingley would like to see that lake, I shall bet you that Mr. Bingley has not set foot anywhere around that lake, although its on his property," Jane chuckled as she preceded to pile some mashed potatoes on her fork.
"Truly?" Elizabeth question, astonished. Mr. Bingley seemed like the type who inspected every square inch of her land, for excitement in what new he would find.
"He's rather absent minded sometimes, I should say. I think he spends more time here than he does at Netherfield," Jane said. The two laughed. It was true. Apparently Mr. Bingley bored easily at his own home, and since Mr. Darcy accompanied almost every time, they concluded that both men were rather bored with the estate and the things it held, and actually longed for attention from the girls. They were much more interesting than looking over tax books or doing work or some such thing. Both Bingley and Darcy were incredible procrastinators.
"Well then, to the lake it is. I haven't been to anywhere but the house, but I'm sure Netherfield has very beautiful land surrounding it, and we must take the opportunity to explore it!" Elizabeth felt herself getting excited at the prospect. Ever since Jane and Lizzy were young girls they had loved adventures. Weather Jane delighted in them or not, she usually went anyway, and ended up having a rather good time. Elizabeth longed for unconquered territory and new hiding places.
After dinner, Mary had retired to her room to read. Lydia and Kitty decided to linger in the sitting room and talk. Jane and Elizabeth thought it most sensible to get some sleep, as they knew their day ahead held much for them, and they wanted to be quite rested.
"Do you think we see Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley too much?" Elizabeth asked as her sister tangled through her unruly blonde curls with a soft brush.
"What ever do you mean?" Jane asked, disturbed. The thought had never occurred to her.
"Well, I mean, we see them all the time. I wonder if any rumors have been spread that w were engaged or in love or some such nonsense with them," Elizabeth picked up her brush and brushed her hair as well.
"I highly doubt it, Lizzy. I mean, we are all just friends, why should they think differently?" That was Jane, always thinking everything was all right and nothing could go wrong. Not even rumors.
"I suppose your right," Elizabeth sighed, not wanting to keep up her rising suspicions.
"Even if it were so, we both know that we are only friends to them, and by the actions, its obvious they just consider us friends," Jane looked out her window at the black night.
"Of course. I don't suppose if Mr. Darcy were still in love with me he would mock me as he does,"
Jane giggled at Elizabeth's statement. Elizabeth joined her sister, and they laughed until their felt like two young, giggling school girls.
Finally, the two bid good night and went off to sleep.
The next morning, bright and early, Elizabeth arose from under her covers and smiled with anticipation for the day. She quickly dressed herself in a light blue, short sleeved dress, with lace rimming, and a pair of riding boots to suit her well for the ride to Netherfield as soon as the men came.
Some servants came to help her pile her curls atop her head with pins and such. Although she got up early, she was sure Jane had gotten up before her, as she usually did, and was almost defiantly waiting down stairs for her sister to join her. Elizabeth presumed right. As soon as she opened her door, she noticed her sister waiting below the stairs.
"Grab your bonnet Lizzy, and we shall eat quickly. I'm sure they will be here soon," Lizzy nodded and grabbed her blue bonnet and jumped down stairs, two steps at a time.
"Be careful Elizabeth!" Mrs. Bennet said form the other room, watching her descend the stairs, "you could hurt yourself being as careless as you are!"
"Yes, mama," Elizabeth sighed, slowing herself. She sat at the table, and quickly ate her food, as did Jane.
"Where are you both off too this morning, as if we didn't know?" Mary inquired, annoyingly.
"Mary, that's no way to talk to your elder sisters! We are very happy that Jane and Elizabeth have been spending time with these young, handsome, rich, men," Mrs. Bennet smiled.
They looked at her, still hearing the emphasis on "rich". Elizabeth looked at Jane, and Jane looked at Elizabeth. They both exchanged annoying glances, each rolling their eyes. Their mother was obsessed with finding them young, handsome rich husbands.
Mrs. Bennet looked out the window and gasped with excitement. Both Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley were gracefully making their way up the pathway.
"Come, come girls, they've come to call on you," Mrs. Bennet rejoiced.
Jane and Elizabeth settled their bonnets on their heads and opened the door.
"Hi Mr. Bingley, hi Mr. Darcy," They greeted them. Both men bowed, and kissed the girls hands. They did this because they were gentlemen, and because they knew that it would give Mrs. Bennet to excite about.
"Let us be off," Jane said, closing the door, but not before waving to her mother, peeking out the window. Her mother anxiously waved back.
The four of them laughed happily at the events they had just beheld. Every day it was the same, Mrs. Bennet excitedly bouncing with anticipation as to the future.
"Are you having a good morning, Miss Bennet?" Mr. Bingley asked Jane.
"I am indeed, Mr. Bingley, good of you to ask. And yourself?" Jane fiddled her thumbs.
"Simply grand," he said happily.
"Into what peril are you mischievous girls going to lead us blindly into today, Miss Bennet?" Mr. Darcy asked, smiling slyly. Elizabeth returned a sly smile, and looked ahead of her at the barn.
"Perhaps you should get your horses, we're riding to Netherfield," Lizzy began walking towards to barn.
Mr. Darcy looked confused. Before he could question her, she called out, "Mr. Heath, please saddle mine and Jane's horses, would you?"
"Yes ma'am, right away," Mr. Heath replied, retreating to the barn.
"Netherfield?" Mr. Darcy asked, intrigued. Jane was already explaining her plans to Mr. Bingley.
"Yes, sir, Netherfield. I'm afraid Jane seems to think neither you, nor Mr. Bingley, has really looked over Netherfield, and noticed the tiny little lake on the estate."
"Indeed? You would be wrong, Miss Bennet, I have been to the lake many times, for a ... swim, " he blushed. She noticed his face turn red, and laughed.
"Swim? Well perhaps I underestimated the sensitivity you have for beautiful waters," Lizzy smirked.
" I merely enjoy a refreshing dip and it reminds me of my lake at Pemberley," Mr. Darcy stated matter-o-factly.
"Right, Mr. Darcy, if you say so," Lizzy mocked.
"And I do, and if you contradict me again, I shall have to make sure you don't again."
"Is that a threat, Mr. Darcy?" Elizabeth asked mischievously.
Mr. Darcy chuckled, as his eyes sparkled. She looked up at him, her hands on her hips, waiting for a reply.
"Hmm ... could be," Mr. Darcy said softly, not once taking the sly smile from his face.
"Your horses, miss," Mr. Heath gestured for Lizzy to take the reins.
Elizabeth took them, and thanked him.
"Come, Mr. Darcy," she commanded. He followed obediently, but mockingly.
They joined Mr. Bingley and Jane who were already engaged in a delightful conversation over wildflowers, and the four set off.
"Jane tells me you both wish to take us to the lake. I know Darcy has been three or four times, but I myself have been too lazy to venture out there anyway. I'm actually excited to see it now," Mr. Bingley directed the conversation to Elizabeth, who graciously took the chance to talk, since they had been riding for a few minutes in silence.
"I'm glad, we are actually excited to see it ourselves. I've only been by there a few times but I haven't the chance to really see it, and I think it's the same with Jane, correct?"
"Good, then the only one who will have really seen it is Mr. Darcy, and we shall all be surprised," Mr. Bingley said.
They continued on a bit, till they came to the Netherfield estate.
"Its right here, in front of your house, covered by woods, Mr. Bingley," Jane pointed. He squinted, looking for it.
"Oh yes, I've seen the lake, although like you both, I haven't had a chance to enjoy it," Mr. Bingley kicked his horse a bit to make it go faster, and the other three did the same.
Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth rode side by side, and Mr. Bingley and Jane side by side. The rode was a tad narrow, so they either went one by one or two by two, and two by two seemed much more enjoyable.
They moved along at a good pace until they reached the lake, where they dismounted and found a spot on the bank to sit.
"Its such a nice, warm, lovely day out, don't you agree?" Jane asked to no one unparticular.
It was a very nice day, in fact. A very nice day indeed. One of the best they had had for quite some time.
Mr. Bingley and Jane found some flowers in the bushes next to the lake, while Mr. Darcy and Lizzy sat talking on the bank.
Mr. Darcy, incredibly comfortable with his hands behind his head, lying back on the bank, was happily engaged in a conversation with Miss Bennet.
"So Mr. Darcy," she said, propped up on her elbow next to him, "are you returning to Pemberley soon?"
He opened his eyes, and looked up at her.
"I should be returning in a few days or so, my sister says she misses me," Mr. Darcy sighed, "and I miss her as well."
"That's sweet," Eliza said earnestly. She knew Darcy the proud, Darcy the joker, Darcy the friend, but Darcy the sweet?
"Well, my sister and I have a very good relationship, I'd like to think," He said, turning on his elbow to face her.
"I'm sure you do."
"Hmm," Mr. Darcy flung himself back unto his back and starred at the sky. He looked straight up and closed his eyes. He then opened them, to see Miss Bennet starring right over him.
"About your little swim Mr. Darcy, why ... truly ... do you like to swim?" Miss Bennet was true in her question, so he felt he should be true in his answer.
"Well, I love the feel, honestly, of water embracing me, and floating ... floating on my back ... just to stare up at the sky and watch clouds float by," he paused, "just as I am now."
He closed his eyes again, just in time to make sure he didn't see what Elizabeth wanted him to see, her blushing.
Elizabeth smiled a shy smile. This was new as well. He hadn't really told her anything "deep" about himself since he proposed to a while ago. Perhaps telling someone you love them is as deep as you can go.
"Mr. Darcy, why aren't you this innocent ... all the time?" Elizabeth tried to be careful of her words, but this question slipped out.
"Innocent, eh?" Mr. Darcy opened his eyes and looked at her again, evilness dancing in his eyes. His smile cocked to one side and his hair pushed out of his eyes, he starred right into her eyes. Suddenly she realized what he intended to do. Her eyes pleaded and her lip quivered, and she looked as if she was in the presence of a crazy man. Perhaps she was.
"No! No! No! Mr. Darcy! Put me down this instance, I COMMAND you to PUT ME DOWN!!" Elizabeth squirmed and kicked and cried and laughed as he tickled her.
"THIS IS CERTAINLY UN-GENTALMANLY!!" Elizabeth screamed, as he carried her down the bank.
Jane looked over, worried, and Bingley, who was rather amused, watched on.
Mr. Darcy, who was having a little bit of trouble holding her tight, decided the best thing to do was ... let her go.
He walked to the waters edge, and prepared to throw her in. She grabbed his vest just as he threw her in, and he ended up coming in the water as well.
Elizabeth came up and was laughing, although she tried her best to have a stern look on her face. Mr. Darcy came up, completely surprised and gasping for air.
Lizzy jumped on top of him and sent him tumbling back into the water. He came up again, grabbed her by the waist, and pulled her down.
Jane and Bingley sat as bystanders, watching the hilarious sight before their eyes, as the two dunked and splashed each other.
Finally, out of the breath, Lizzy and Darcy stopped. Darcy, not realizing his hands were still on her waist, stood there, gasping for air. She held his forearms, also gasping for breath.
Bingley and Jane burst out laughing at the tangled hair and wet clothes hanging off their friends.
Mr. Darcy would never admit it, but he did notice how beautiful Elizabeth looked wet, especially with her wet clothes clinging to her body. Suddenly, Lizzy started laughing too, and Mr. Darcy followed. Lizzy reached out and brushed one of Mr. Darcy's wet curls from his forehead, and moved back with a smile, content with "fixing" his hair.
They proceeded to take their dripping bodies from the lake and set themselves on dry land to dry. Elizabeth glowed as the sun hit her face and warmed her body. Mr. Darcy couldn't stop looking at her.
"Is there a reason your looking at me, Mr. Darcy?" Elizabeth asked playfully.
"Hmm? Oh, no reason," Mr. Darcy said.
Elizabeth suddenly thought for a moment, "what if Mr. Darcy still loves me?"
The thought shocked her. He couldn't possibly, they were having too much fun being friends. Dear friends. The next thought was "what if I'm leading him on?"
By the time she was done, she was worried out of her mind, and completely on the edge.
"Elizabeth, what's wrong, you look horrified," Jane asked, joining them.
"Oh, I, um," she turned to her sister and mouthed, "I'll talk to you later."
Jane nodded, and looked over and Bingley.
"Will you be alright by yourself? Mr. Bingley wants to show me these wild flowers that grow near here," Jane whispered, looking at Mr. Darcy who looked completely asleep. He wasn't smiling, but wasn't frowning either.
"I'll be alright," Elizabeth sighed. Her sister thanked her, and smiled, rushing off to join Bingley.
Elizabeth sighed a loud sigh, and flopped on her back.
A few moments of silence went by, as Mr. Darcy, looking happily content with his eyes closed, and Elizabeth, eyes wide open, looking at the sky.
Finally, she saw him move a little bit.
"Where did they go?" he mumbled, eyes still closed.
"To look for wildflowers, go back to sleep, they'll be back soon," Elizabeth whispered, thinking Darcy looked incredibly vulnerable.
"Hmmm, ok," he rolled over on his stomach.
"You know, you look really cute when you're tired," Elizabeth laughed, not realizing what she said. Apparently Darcy was either too tired to notice or didn't really care about the comment she made, because he didn't seem startled at all.
Elizabeth thought it would be nice to sleep under the sun, so she snuggled up on the grass and fell asleep
Suddenly Darcy felt someone shake him.
"Darcy, man, get up," Mr. Bingley whispered in a pressured voice.
"Huh? Wha? What happened?" Mr. Darcy asked. He stood up, as Bingley helped pull him to his feet. Jane was helping Elizabeth up as well.
"How long ago did we sleep?" Elizabeth asked in a groggy voice.
"Two hours," Jane blushed.
"Two hours?! Bingley!" M. Darcy looked directly at him. Bingley pleaded with his eyes not to make a big deal out of it now.
"Come, we should bring you both back to Longbourn," Mr. Bingley suggested.
"That's a good idea," Mr. Darcy said, worried about the way Elizabeth looked. He hair was messed up, tangled and although not wet, had a ruffled appearance, and her clothes were all wrinkled.
"If mother sees me like this, I'll never live it down," Elizabeth sighed, drastically trying to brush out the wrinkles with her palms.
"You could come up to Netherfield and use a brush to comb your hair if you like, but I think your mother would get a little suspicious if you came home with a different dress on," Mr. Bingley chuckled.
"That's most gracious, Mr. Bingley, Ill accept your offer," Elizabeth addressed Mr. Bingley, thankfully.
The four rode to Netherfield, and Mr. Darcy had a servant fetch a brush.
"Some tea, ladies?" Mr. Bingley asked politely.
"Yes, please," Lizzy and Jane both said.
Mr. Bingley smiled, and came back with some tea.
"Thank you," Jane took the tea from Mr. Bingley. He winked at her.
After the girls had finished their tea, Elizabeth retreated to another room to fix her hair.
"Mr. Darcy, do you enjoy my sisters company?" Jane asked shyly.
Mr. Darcy was started at her forwardness, but decided to answer anyway.
"Yes, very much so mad' am, why do you ask?" Mr. Darcy looked at Jane, wondering what was going through her mind.
"I think you both just look sweet, that's all," Jane turned to Mr. Bingley to ask him something, but Mr. Darcy didn't seem to hear.
Sweet? Was she implying that Elizabeth and I make a good couple? Does Elizabeth think this? I like Elizabeth, this is true, and she's a very beautiful girl, but love? I've done the "love" thing, and it doesn't work for me. Especially not with Elizabeth Bennet. I think I shall retire an old bachelor. At least I won't worry about heartbreak that way. Mr. Darcy's minds was flooded with new and different thoughts, recalling past love and questioning distant future.
Elizabeth was thinking some on her own.
I'm glad Mr. Darcy and I are friends. I can't wait till I really meet the right man though. I hope Mr. Darcy and I shall stay good friends after I am married.
Suddenly the door opened and Jane came in.
"Let us be off Lizzy, mother will want us home soon."
After a few more minutes of talking and tea sipping, the girls decided to leave. Clouds were beginning to form above them, and they wanted to get home safely.
"I shall take you home," Mr. Darcy insisted.
"And I," Mr. Bingley stepped up. He set down his teacup and went to open the door for them.
"Thank you, sirs, but are you quite sure you want to risk taking us home and coming back in this weather?" Elizabeth asked. She knew they shouldn't, but she knew she couldn't stop them.
"Yes, of course, go on, mount your horses," Mr. Darcy suggested, helping Elizabeth to her horse.
She thanked him, and began off. Two by two they strode along the rode, mostly silent, with little experts on conversation here and there.
When they reached Longbourn, the men helped the women off their horses, and said goodbye. Mr. Bingley lingered, holding Jane's hand, and even gave it a little squeeze. She smiled, and they waved good-bye as the men rode off back towards Netherfield.
After a hard, long, wet ride, the men finally got back to Netherfield, soaking and tired.
The servants immediately got them into warm baths.
"I think I like Jane, a lot," M. Bingley said, relaxing in the hot tub.
"I think you do too," Mr. Darcy said, his arms around the frame of the tub and his eyes closed.
"Its obvious?" Mr. Bingley asked, worried that he might have offended Jane a bit with his forwardness of some sort.
"You were gone, sir, for two hours, while Elizabeth and I slept," Mr. Darcy sighed, recalling the moment.
"True. I caught you eyeing her a few times too, old man," Mr. Bingley gestured.
"Hmm, well, she is a very beautiful girl," Mr. Darcy said.
"I wouldn't be surprised if you still had feelings for her," Mr. Bingley laughed.
Mr. Darcy splashed Mr. Bingley with a bit of his water.
"No such thing, Charles. I am completely over her, I assure you," Mr. Darcy rested again into his water.
"Truly sir? I don't believe you,"
"Believe what you like. I am completely over her. She has no feelings or regards for me in that way, and I respect her wishes," Darcy sighed again.
"Who are you trying to fool, William? Your best friend? I know you, Fitzwilliam Darcy, and I know you have feelings for her," Mr. Bingley was a stubborn sort, Mr. Darcy thought.
"Alright, Charles, I like her, alright? But she doesn't like me, so it's out of the question."
"I wouldn't be so sure," Mr. Bingley slipped under the water and blew bubbles from his nose. When he came back up, he slipped his hair back form his eyes. Mr. Darcy followed his example.
"Look at us, Darcy. We are two bachelors with feelings for these women. Just our luck, aye, old chap?" Charles looked at his friend.
"Aye," Darcy grabbed a towel and wiped the water from his face.