Posted on Monday, 20 December 2004
Warm and cozy despite the wintry season, Mrs. Elizabeth Darcy sat close to the carriage window, her face filled with contentment as she took in the sparkling white snow covering the Earth. Her hands were snug inside a muff, fingers absently toying with her rings and listened to the soft snores coming from her husband of a mere three hours.
Every so often, the carriage would hit a bump and Fitzwilliam would murmur his annoyance at such a disruption, the sound bringing a humoured smile to her face at his expense. Glancing over her shoulder, Elizabeth shook her head as she watched her husband mumble something unintelligible under his breath.
A flash of black from outside caught her attention and her head quickly snapped back to the window, looking for what it might have been. Craning her neck and pressing her face right up against the glass, she strained to sate her curiosity.
Lighting up her eyes, a smile graced her face as she saw a little black cat sitting in the snow. It would do no good to leave the poor feline there, all alone and no doubt frozen. "Stop the carriage!" Elizabeth's voice echoed and startled her husband into waking from his snooze. "Please, stop the carriage"
Blinking away the fog of sleep, Fitzwilliam straightened himself up and looked at his wife, his expression one of incredulity. "My dear, must you be so shrill, for you quite remind me of your mother... As welcoming as she is" he thought to add upon seeing her forehead crinkle into a frown.
"Oh hush, William" Elizabeth waved off his irritation and prepared herself to exit the carriage, fully intent on rescuing the cat from the winter. She was out of the door before he had a chance to say or do anything and was walking at a fast pace down the road, her footprints leaving a trail in the snow.
Following his wife, Fitzwilliam remembered to grab his hat when the cold air hit. Looking up at the driver, he asked "What is the meaning of this?" They were supposed to arrive at the Town house within the next hour and with the surprise for his wife waiting, he was not willing to be late.
Scratching his balding head, the driver shrugged in confusion. "I know not sir. Your missus asked to stop, I believe it may have something to do with that..." The man pointed in the direction of Elizabeth who was trying to coax the cat into coming to her.
"My my" she cooed, her face wrinkled up in instant adoration for the cat, which turned out to be a kitten. It did not appear to have been fed a good meal in it's existence and nor did it appear to have been bathed. "But aren't you a dear little thing. Come to mummy, come on!"
Her fingers wiggled and beckoned the kitten to come hither, her lips pursed and made kissing sounds. Deciding her height was working against her, Elizabeth knelt down some and called out to the kitten once more. "Come here, come on!"
"Elizabeth, what in God's name are you doing?"
The sudden arrival of Fitzwilliam and the heavier baritone of his voice startled the young feline, forcing it to scramble towards a small nearby tree, where it sat perched on a frosty branch.
Righting herself, Elizabeth pinned her husband with accusing eyes. "Now look at what you have done" her voice petulant and her lower lip formed a pout. "It was warming to me and then you came along and scared the poor mite"
Gracing her with a tight and most definitely unimpressed smile, Fitzwilliam offered a weak apology. "I do apologise, however, we must away to Town as we are expected in less than an hour."
Raising her eyebrows, she merely stood her ground and refused to move an inch. "You shall forgive me, sir, if I think the welfare of a starving and defenceless kitten precedes our own." Her tone haughty and expression full of hellish accusations. "Just look at it my love, it is naught but skin and bone. We cannot leave Mr. Darcy here to wither and perish in this cold"
"Mr. Darcy?" Fitzwilliam quizzed, looking back and forth between his wife and the kitten sat on the branch.
"Why yes" Elizabeth replied, "He should be named after his rescuer, should he not?"
Quite clearly, she expected him to... "Elizabeth, surely you do not expect me to climb that tree to aid a feline who, might I say, is abominably filthy and is in need of a good bathing"
"Very well, I shall have to take it upon myself." Squaring her shoulders, Mrs. Darcy placed her muff on the snowy ground and took the first step towards the tree.
Closing the distance between himself and his wife, Fitzwilliam wasted no time in securing her arm in a loose hold. "You cannot be serious! That tree does not look strong enough to hold you." Off the freezing glare turned his way, he knew he had effectively ruined whatever chances of wifely duties promised later that eve.
"I had quite forgotten I was not handsome enough to tempt you" Elizabeth remarked, eyes narrowed and tone colder than the chilly air. "Now if you will kindly remove your hand, sir, I believe there is a helpless kitten in need of my assistance"
A hue of red coloured his cheeks at the stark reminder of his intolerable insult towards his wife, he went to apologise but a delicately raised hand prevented him from doing so. "If you want a kitten, my dear, then you shall have one. For I know of a very good breed..."
"A very good breed that needs no help in finding a good home. There is a perfectly delightful kitten sitting undoubtedly freezing to the bone, it is Mr. Darcy I would like." In the space of a few seconds, Fitzwilliam watched his wife's expression change from almost hateful to wide-eyed and pleading.
Popping out further, her lower pout began to wobble as her eyes seemed to glaze over with what looked to be tears. Having had the displeasure of seeing Elizabeth cry, he knew he did not want to be on the same level as the horrid Mr. Wickham in being the cause of her tears.
Tensing up, Fitzwilliam removed his hat and handed it to his wife, following with the removal of his great coat. "Very well, my dear, if it is Mr. Darcy you want, then Mr. Darcy you shall have." Pleased with her response and happy smile, he spun to face the tree and hoped his driver would not tell of this.
Striding purposefully, he approached the tree and called out to the kitten. How, exactly, did one talk to an animal with no means of replying? "Come here, kitten. I have treats awaiting you." Hoping in vain that would be enough to encourage the feline into coming down, he bit his tongue as he began to shiver. "Blasted!"
Hearing the angered tone, the kitten merely climbed onto a higher branch and further out of reach.
"William dear, try using a kinder voice" Elizabeth advised knowingly as her eyes remained on Mr. Darcy. "Call him by his name"
"It has no name" came the gruff reply.
"But of course he does, Mr. Darcy"
Gritting his teeth in frustration, Fitzwilliam vowed to have his revenge. "Come down from there this instant Mr. Darcy." Dear Lord, she had turned him into his father. "I should like to arrive in Town on time, I heartily apologise if our schedule inconveniences your habitual tree climbing"
Turning back to face Elizabeth, he helplessly gestured with hands and refused to think of what plan was being formed in her head. "I do believe your Mr. Darcy wishes to remain where he is"
It was plain to see the tiny, quiet mewl had sealed his wife's desire to take him home. "Listen to him, my love" Elizabeth begged her husband with voice and eyes. "He is but a poor, frightened kitten. Please sir, I shall ask for nothing for the duration of our marriage!"
"Very well" Fitzwilliam responded tightly. "If I should fall to my death, I will die happy in the knowledge my wife has her Mr. Darcy."
"Oh do stop talking nonsense dear, else we three will all die of pneumonia"
Why did he think she was only truly worried about her darling Mr. Darcy.
That same darling Mr. Darcy that was delaying their arrival in London, stealing his wife's heart and refusing to come down from that blasted tree.
"It might help if you were to climb the tree, William" Elizabeth suggested. "It should encourage Mr. Darcy into trusting you."
"Very well, I will adhere to your advice." Facing the tree, Fitzwilliam blew out a long breath that turned into a little white cloud when it hit the air. Carefully placing one foot on a low branch, he took hold of the one above and lifted himself off the ground. Having not attempted such a feat since he was a boy, he found himself a little unsteady but quickly recovered before he mad a mockery of himself and fell.
Soon, the kitten was within reach and Fitzwilliam got secure before holding out a hand. "There you are, Mr. Darcy. It would be most rude of you to not accept my aid when I climbed all this way. Now come hither and we can both return to the floor, safe and sound"
"Go to William, Mr. Darcy!" Elizabeth cooed.
Crouching down on his haunches, Mr. Darcy swept a clawed paw out at his rescuer.
Fitzwilliam snatched his hand back before he could sustain an injury. "That was not nice, now please come here." Tentatively reaching out once again, he spread his gloved fingers encouragingly. "Come on... Come on!"
Hissing loudly at him, the kitten clawed him and easily bounded down the tree, leaving him staring at a now empty branch.
"There you are" his wife's very happy voice sounded, clearly revealing the wretched animal had gone to her directly.
All but growling at the insanity, Fitzwilliam began the quick climb down, fully expecting his wife to be waiting for him with worry of his well-being and pleasant words for his heroism. As soon as his feet touched the ground, he spun round with a smile only to see Elizabeth halfway back to the carriage, speaking gently all the while.
Following her, he stooped to sweep up his hat which had been all but forgotten about in light of Mr. Darcy. Shaking his head and sighing in defeat, the original Mr. Darcy trudged back to the warmth of the carriage, not watching where he was walking.
The second he touched an unseen patch of ice, Fitzwilliam felt his feet go out from under him and hit the cold, wet floor with a heavy thud. The noise of his rumblings causing both his wife and driver to look upon him in amusement.
"How very happy I am to be the cause of entertainment for you" he grumbled, easing his stinging body and bruised ego off the ground. "Might I suggest, my darling wife, that we resume our travel as soon as maybe?"
"Of course, William. It would not do to be late, would it?"
Having finally arrived at the Town House some hours ago, Fitzwilliam was more than grateful to not only be warm but to finally have the pleasure of having his wife by his side. Taking a good look at himself in the mirror, he smiled in satisfaction at the reflection.
"You are a handsome fellow, if I do say so myself" he stated, checking to make absolutely sure his man was not about to hear him. "Mrs. Darcy shall not resist and she shall think you have the most pleasing appearance of all men"
Threading his fingers through the short, dark curls, he took great care into arranging them the way he wished. Rubbing his palms down each side of his face, he checked for stubble and was thankful none was felt.
Plucking a silver pocket watch from the surface of his dresser, he checked the time and noted he had another fifteen minutes before he was to show at his wife's chambers. Replacing it, Fitzwilliam began to merrily hum a few bars of a song and continued to look in the mirror, double checking his appearance.
"Indeed sir, it was no surprise Miss Bingley had designs on you." Turning his face this way and that, he studiously examined every inch of his features. His deep brown eyes had been inherited from his much missed mother, his strong jaw and pleasing physique from his equally missed father. Amongst his esteeming thoughts, he smiled at the dear memories of his parents and how they would have enjoyed seeing him rescue Mr. Darcy.
"I had no need of money or pleasantries to catch my wife, for she was surely enamoured by my handsome disposition." Fitzwilliam glanced at the pocket watch and grinned, sending the reflection a wicked wink. It was time for his wife to receive him in her chambers, though he would have found it more to his liking if he was receiving her in his chambers.
Moving towards the door of his room, he turned the handle and frowned when it wouldn't open. Another tug and it still would not abide his wishes and open. "What the devil?" Fitzwilliam stated, his voice showing his irritation. Scowling at the handle, he willed it to open with his next and much harder tug but to no avail.
"Hello there!" He called through the heavy wood with the hope of attracting assistance. Rattling the handle and knocking on the door, he called out again. "Hello, I am in need of assistance." It would not do to be late for Elizabeth, she may well think he did not want to be received.
Quickly and harshly, the heavy wooden door was opened from the outside and connected sharply with Fitzwilliam's head, easily knocking him to the floor on impact. His deep brown eyes fluttered and he was sure there were bells ringing.
"Oh! My dear, dear William, do forgive me." Through the fog of his semi-conscious state, he heard Elizabeth's voice and felt the burn of embarrassment course through him. "I heard you calling for assistance and I did not think. Allow me to fetch your man to help you too bed"
"No no, Elizabeth" Fitzwilliam slurred, trying to blink away the fog. "I am quite well..." It was all too apparent he was anything but.
"Nonsense, you have hit your head on the door, sir, you must allow me to go for help. I shall first get your man and send for the apothecary directly after. You stay there, William, and do not move"
"My dear, I have no intention of moving"
In her hurry to get her husband the aid he needed, the dry sarcasm was lost on Elizabeth as she immediately left the room.
"Wretched, wretched beginning!" Fitzwilliam glowered, his eyes unfocused on anything as he lay there, wondering what else the happiest day of his life could possibly include.