Posted on Sunday, 19 February 2006
A/N: I know when many of you write, you see your Lizzy and Darcy as Ehle and Firth. This story was written with Knightley and Macfadyen as my Lizzy and Darcy, and is begins when Lizzy runs out from the Netherfield Ball. It will require a large amount of suspension of disbelief. Please keep in mind it was written on a plane trip from Germany to Singapore - 13 hours of sitting in the same place does funny things to your head. About Cinderella - fairytales including Cinderella were not published in Britain until the Victorian Era, so Lizzy would not know it. Cendrillon, or Cinderella, was a French story, which Darcy could have learnt from a nanny or nursemaid.
She breathed deeply as she leaned against the wall in the darkened room. Cool air flowed in through the partially open window, drawing the heat away from Elizabeth’s skin caused by embarrassment, confusion and the over-crowding of the Netherfield ballroom. Drawn toward its refreshing touch, she glided to the window, twirling as she stepped into the patch of moonlight streaming in. Elizabeth stopped as she heard a low noise, like a moan, from within the room’s depths. She peered unseeing into the darkness, before turning back to the window. She jumped when she heard a weak chuckle, almost pained, but the words that followed were kind and warm.
“You look like the fair Cinderella, fleeing the ball into the moonlight – though I do not believe the midnight bell has yet tolled.”
The voice was definitely male, yet so husky she could not place it to any amongst her acquaintance.
“Who is Cinderella?” she asked softly.
“She is a princess from a children’s story. They tell it in Europe – in France, I believe. Would you like to hear it?”
“Very much.” Elizabeth sat down on the edge of the window seat, intrigued. The soft voice began, soothing her tumultuous mind and dulling the presence of her troubles.
“Cinderella was a very beautiful and well-mannered young maiden. This provoked the jealousy of her family, particularly her mother, and they treated her very poorly. On the eve of the great Royal Ball, she was forbidden to attend. Cinderella was heartbroken, but a kindly fairy came to her aid, and gave her all she required to attend the ball. A dress more beautiful than any seen before, jewelry, slippers, a coach and footmen were all created by magical. The fairy warned Cinderella, however, that the magic would only work until midnight. At the Ball, the dashing young Prince fell instantly in love with Cinderella and danced the whole night with her, but on the stroke of midnight, she disappeared.”
The voice stopped, breaking the spell that held Elizabeth entranced.
She sighed breathily. “Sir, pray, continue,” she blurted out after a pregnant silence.
The only response was a rustling of movement. Elizabeth closed her eyes as she listened to the footsteps move across the room, towards the fireplace, she fancied.
‘Closer to me’, she thought.
Out of the silence, he began again.
“All that remained of the Prince’s flown love was her slipper, which was far smaller and daintier than any shoe seen before. What was most extraordinary, though, was that the slipper was made of glass – truly a magical object. The Prince decided to set off on a great hunt to find Cinderella. Just before he reached Cinderella’s home, her cruel mother locked her away. Poor Cinderella began to cry, fearing that one of her sisters would steal away the handsome and noble man she loved. But the kind fairy heard her sobbing, and came again to her aid, allowing Cinderella to rush to the arms of her Prince. He knew her at once to be his true love, and so they were wed and lived, as they say, happily ever after.’
Elizabeth stood and gazed out the window, leaning heavily on the sill.
“Sir, you tell the tale beautifully, but I fear I must tell you I am no enchanted princess. I have not run from a handso–” She stopped abruptly.
To continue would be to lie.
She had run from Mr. Darcy, and even though she disliked him intensely, she could not deny that she found him handsome. He had strong features and deep, soulful eyes that she admired. What attracted her, however, was the darkness in his aspect. He had a character filled with layers of mystery, which fascinated Elizabeth.
Of course, she could never tell him. ‘How arrogant he is’ she thought for a least the fifth time that evening. She could not believe the manner in which he snubbed their society, a society filled with warm, welcoming and kindly people, simply because it lacked the wealth and refinement of his own.
The very thought of refinement returned her mind to the thoughts and images that had filled her head when she fled the ballroom minutes earlier. How it pained Elizabeth and Jane to watch their family act with such impropriety. A dry sob escaped her lips.
The man crossed the room, an action which earlier would have caused Elizabeth’s excitement to reach perilous new extremes, but now only heightened her embarrassment, as it afforded him a better view of her. He stopped just outside her patch of moonlight, silhouetting him, but leaving his features invisible.
“Miss Bennet, I did not mean to cause you distress. I most sincerely beg your pardon. May I fetch you anything? Or may I convey your elder sister to you?”
Elizabeth shook her head. “No, I thank you.”
The man shifted uncomfortably. “May I enquire as to the cause of your distress, Miss Bennet?”
She stared into the darkness, straining to see his face. “It is a family matter, sir, which I fear shall not end happily. I fear it may ruin my sister Jane’s happiness forever.”
His silhouette stiffened visibly at her words.
“Miss Bennet, I find myself ill-recommended to offer you any advise. I can only venture to say that anyone who is acquainted with you or Miss Bennet would know that your true worth is by no means reflected in your family and your own manners and behaviours must be allowed to speak for themselves.”
Elizabeth gasped as the man took her hand and kissed it tenderly.
“I wish you well, Miss Bennet,” he said softly.
Then he was gone through a side door. She did not move to follow, but stood still in shock. Unconsciously she curled her hand into a loose fist, and brought it up to her own lips, resting them on the very place his had been.
Her hand knew the man’s touch. She dismissed the thought as inconsequential. After all, the man seemed to be from amongst her acquaintance, and she had danced nearly every dance.
Still, the question of the man’s identity intrigued her. She was still pondering when Jane came to find her a few minutes later. Indeed, she was so rapt in her thoughts that she did not respond when Mr. Bingley enquired of them whether they had seen Mr. Darcy, as he had been missing for at least the last half hour.
8 MONTHS LATER
Elizabeth sat on the old swing and rocked back and forth gently. She wished he would come.
Now that she realized she loved him, he had become essential to her being. It wasn’t that she ceased to function without him – indeed, she probably concentrated better when he was not present. It was that without him there, she felt incomplete. They didn’t just bewitch each other. Lizzy knew that she and Mr. Darcy were joined, invisibly and eternally. They were connected by their equality of mind, their respect for the other and their shared yearning for freedom from society’s clamp and for a passionate love. They had found that in each other.
Now, she just wanted him with her.
“What are you thinking about?” asked a disembodied voice. Elizabeth jumped off the swing and glanced around.
She began to look in each direction, to find him waiting at the front of the house, leaning against the wall. She smiled as she walked up to him.
“Of you, of course.”
“Wicked sprite,” he mumbled. He placed a chaste kiss on her forehead. Grinning, she took both his hands and kissed them as she had the day they became engaged. As she did so, he glanced back at the house. As Elizabeth turned her head to follow his line of sight, she saw a flurry of movement as Mr. Bennet hurried to pick up a book and Mrs. Bennet some sewing.
“Shall we go for a walk?” Darcy asked, smiling. Lizzy nodded quickly, and took the arm he proffered.
“How did you find London?”
He sighed. “Busy. And Charles had me escort Caroline to a ball. I think he considered it part of my reparation for separating him from you sister.”
Elizabeth smiled. “And how did you find my aunt and uncle?”
“Very well.” He looked puzzled. “How did you know I visited them?”
“I didn’t. But I know you, and I know you found them agreeable in Derbyshire… I am glad you like them.”
“As I am glad that you like Georgiana. She has long been lacking proper female companionship. It will be a blessing for her to have you for a sister.” He leaned in close to speak into her ear. “Almost as much a joy as it will be for me to have you as my wife.”
Elizabeth flushed gently. Darcy raised a hand to brush her face lightly.
“I love you,” he said softly. He took her hand and grasped it firmly, before raising it to his lips.
Suddenly Lizzy gasped and pulled her hand away. “It was you!”
“Elizabeth? What is wrong?”
Her voice was slightly choked. “At the Netherfield Ball! It was you. It was you all along. You were the one who told me the story, about the princess Cinderella. You kissed my hand then, too.”
Darcy didn’t respond, causing Elizabeth to snap, “Well it was you, wasn’t it?”
He started slightly. “Yes… Yes it was.”
“Even then I loved you, Elizabeth. Did I not speak plainly enough when I told you I hoped to give you many opportunities to determine my character? And I told you after our engagement what amazing effects that dance had upon me.”
“You did,” she said shortly. “But why did you fol-? Oh! I followed you… not the other way around. You were already there.”
Darcy looked relieved at her understanding.
“Yes. I went there for solitude, to try and make sense of my feelings. Then you came in…”
“What further turmoil I must have caused you!” She looked horrified at the idea of causing him pain.
“I must admit my greatest fear was that you would recognize my voice and shun me again.”
She shook her head. “I’m so sorry.”
He grasped her chin to stop her. “Let me finish, Lizzy. I didn’t mean to say anything, but when I saw you there, so beautiful in the moonlight and so distressed, I had to say something, if only to keep you there. Then I upset you. I have never been so mortified.”
He leant close to her. “I am so sorry, Elizabeth. Please forgive me.”
Before he could kiss her, she turned away, wrapping her arms around herself.
“Will... Before you left, you said to me that no-one who knew Jane or I would judge us by our family, but you did just that… and particularly to Jane… I don’t understand!”
“I know that it makes no sense. The best explanation I can give you is that I must have thought myself above such prejudices, though you later showed me how wrong I was on that account. No wonder you thought me arrogant. To be doubly wrong about my own character makes me feel… almost lost, Lizzy.”
She turned back to him and took each of his hands in hers. “Will, that was not your fault. I was foolish enough to allow a first impression and an ill report to colour my opinion so badly, it was in fact no longer my own. I let an insult be my foundation for what I thought you character to be. With so shaky a base, I am no longer surprised it crumbled to ruin. I am glad we found our second chance, Will.”
Darcy smiled, and he again cupped her face, before gently kissing her. When he pulled back, she buried her face against his neck, as he hugged her tight.
“Will…?’ came a small voice from somewhere around his cravat.
“Tell me another story, please.”