Posted on Thursday, 5 June 2003
This is a short little "what if" story that I wrote. What if Lizzie had "gone for a swim" in the lake at Pemberley instead of Mr. Darcy? Scene idea was taken from the A&E version of Pride and Prejudice. Warning: this little bit of fluff is shamelessly angst-free!
After Mrs. Reynolds gave them the tour of the house, the Gardiners and Lizzie went outside to view the prospects.
"What a fine lake!" Mr. Gardiner exclaimed. "I declare I have never seen a better! I dare say there would be many fine fish in it. And it would be a good place to...well, swim."
"I know little of such things," his wife replied. "So I will have to take your word for it, my dear."
"As will I," Elizabeth added with a smile. "Swimming I have never learned, though I would have liked to, and fishing...I must say, I have never desired to learn. I always felt sorry for the fish when my father would bring one home, and always refused to eat it."
Mr. Gardiner smiled fondly at his niece, his attention already wandering from the lake to other things, such as the excellent woods and meadows, no doubt good for hunting and riding.
"Look," cried Lizzie, stepping closer to the water's edge. "What kind of fish are those?"
"Where?" Mr. Gardiner asked, walking over.
"Over there, by that rock."
"Trout, I believe. Are they not handsome fish?"
"As handsome a fish as ever I saw," Elizabeth laughed as her uncle wandered away to examine a sundial, and after sufficient admiration, disappeared round a small copse of trees. Lizzie stayed by the bank of the lake, looking deeply into the relatively clear water. Mrs. Gardiner, with a word to Lizzie, began walking after her husband, who by now was some distance away from the two.
Lizzie, upon catching sight of a particularly large trout, hiked up her white muslin skirts and stepped even closer to the bank. Suddenly, her foot slipped on a mossy rock, and she fell with a splash and an involuntary shriek.
Mrs. Gardiner, who had not gotten very far away, heard Lizzie's startled exclamation and hurried back.
"My dear, are you..." she began, then stopped and began to laugh as she saw her niece, soaking wet from bonnet to clocked stockings, standing waist-deep in the lake.
At first too startled to do anything, Lizzie soon began to see the humorous side of the situation. Letting out a musical peal of laughter, she tossed her soggy bonnet, stockings, and shoes on to the bank, and then splashed a bit of water in the general direction of her aunt. "Come on in, Aunt, the water is charming!"
Mrs. Gardiner, still smiling, backed away. "I will go and ask if the housekeeper can spare a towel or blanket for you," she said at last, and started off towards the house, if indeed the grand mansion could be called by such an ordinary name!
Elizabeth, on finding herself quite alone, soon began to try to swim, for though swimming lessons had never been part of her education, she was not at all uncomfortable in the water, for it was rather warm, and comparatively clean.
Before long, however, Lizzie heard footsteps coming from around the small grove of trees. Hurriedly, she clambered out of the water. "Aunt, is that you?" she asked, walking over, only to find herself face to face with the master of Pemberley himself, Fitzwilliam Darcy!
Silently thanking God for the corset and petticoats that kept her figure as covered as could be expected under the circumstances, Lizzie gathered her dignity around her like a cloak and stood up straight.
"I...we... that is to say...the housekeeper assured us that you would not return until tomorrow," she faltered, adding quickly. "We did not mean to impose. I assure you we will leave at once. Good day, Mr. Darcy."
"Wait!" Mr. Darcy cried, finding his voice, which had been strangely lost at the sight of a dripping wet Elizabeth. "Surely you will not travel ... in that condition. I believe there is a dress of my sister's here that may fit you, and that you can change in to." He took of his jacket and slipped it over her shoulders, his hands lingering for slightly longer then necessary.
Lizzie froze at his touch, and then slowly turned around and seemed about to protest. Instead, she said softly. "Thank you, Fitzwilliam. You are most kind."
She didn't catch the slip, but Fitzwilliam did. "Perhaps she does care for me, a little," he thought, emboldened to speak. "Eli...Miss Bennet...is it possible that you have grown to ... like me a little?" he hesitated, looking deeply into her eyes. "As for me, my feelings remain the same and always will."
Lizzie's heart beat fast and she felt unable to breathe. The coat slipped off her shoulders and on to the ground. She looked down. "My feelings...are the exact opposite...that they were then," she whispered so quietly that Mr. Darcy had to lean forward to hear. "I had scarce dared hope...that you...that..."
Mr. Darcy, who had began to smile during her faltering speech, now lifted her chin with his finger so that she had to look at him. "Are you telling me that you love me, Elizabeth?" he asked, unable to keep the delighted grin off his face.
Lizzie blushed becomingly. "Yes," she said softly. "I love you."
Mrs. Gardiner and Mrs. Reynolds were never more surprised in all of their lives when they came round the bend to see Elizabeth in Mr. Darcy's arms, drenching his shirtfront with lake water.
And they lived happily ever after.