One Fall Morning: a short story
Posted on October 9, 2008
When Lizzy found herself confused, sad, or feeling alone, there was a quiet spot she would walk to. It was a small clearing in the woods surrounding Longbourn. There was a large fallen tree to one side, and it was on this tree that Lizzy would perch and meditate on life. In the winter, the clearing was a frozen wonderland with ice-cycles hanging from the snow-laden boughs of the trees. As Lizzy sat she would watch her misty breath circle away from her and imagine she could see shapes in its cloud-like contours. As the season changed from winter to spring, the small clearing would morph, first into a muddy, brown pit, and then into a vibrant meadow, teaming with the fresh growth of spring. Lizzy would sing into the warming air and dance through the damp meadow as the joy of new life brightened her spirit. As the warmth of summer spread over the meadow, wildflowers would bloom into life. Fat bumblebees would wend their lazy way from blossom to blossom and butterflies would flutter about, fanning the warm air into Lizzy's face. Lizzy would plait wildflower wreaths, necklaces, and bracelets, adorning herself in the lovely bounty of the summer.
But fall was Lizzy's favorite time. The flowers would call out their glorious last shout before the end of the season. Each tree would blaze with fiery joy before their deep sleep. And as the bugs busily prepared themselves to weather the long winter, their happy noises would buzz through the clearing. Lizzy would lie amongst the last blossoms and watch the clouds roll by overhead. On a windy day, golden leaves would gust about her and land in her hair whilst their sweet spicy smell filled her daydreams. It was on just such a day that she met him for the first time.
She was observing her usual fall routine when the sound of horse hooves rang through the clearing. She sat up quickly, alarmed, but the rider did not come into sight and soon the sound faded away. Sighing in relief, she carefully gathered her bonnet and gloves. Then, picking the leaves out of her hair, she turned to venture back to Longbourn. She knew what awaited her there. Her mother had been crying about the eligibility of the new owner of Netherfield and lamenting her husband's cruelty in not visiting him for some days. The stress had finally become too much for Lizzy and had prompted her to escape to her favorite hide-away. Now, however, it was time to go back and brave the hyena in her den. Lizzy laughed at such a picture of her mother, but hesitated in starting down the correct path. It was this hesitation that proved most fortuitous for Lizzy. It was as she considered seriously moving forward that a flash of black and white caught her eye.
She turned back toward the clearing and saw him for the first time. He was of a tall, serious mien, with handsome dark eyes. His gait was measured and dignified. Lizzy's heart leapt as a huge, boyish smile spread across his face and he skidded to a stop in front of her. She held out her hand and he butted his huge head up against it. "Who are you, boy?" she asked with a wide smile. He did not reply, but thumped his tail against the ground and nudged the front of her dress persistently with his head. "Oh, I see," she said seriously, "you do not desire introductions. Then I suppose the proper course would be for me to flee and save my maidenly virtue." Then she laughed playfully. "But you are far too handsome and I am afraid that my heart has been swept away!" He barked in agreement and she set to giving him the best rub down of his life.
Sometime later, she lay with him on the meadow floor, lightly scratching behind his ears. "I wonder who you belong to." She sized up the large Dalmatian as she slowly sat up. "You are far to handsome, well groomed, and well mannered to be wild. Perhaps you belong to the infamous Mr. Bingley, renter of Netherfeild hall and unbeknownst victim of my mother's latest matchmaking schemes." She grasped the stem of a flower and snapped it from the plant, bringing the fragrant blossom to her nose. The dog sniffed it curiously and then, finding it en-edible and un-chase-able, laid his head in her lap. She idly played with his ears as she pondered the blossom.
"Well, despite your questionable ownership, you must have a name. You likely already own one, however, as so few have the unique gift, which I must humbly admit to possess, of picking dog names with greatest accuracy, I must endeavor to pick a better one then you have." She eyed him in a speculative manner for a moment and then continued, "You are certainly strong enough, handsome enough, and ill-mannered enough to be a Sampson. I have not entirely forgot your breach of propriety earlier, you see." The dog raised it's head and looked at her in a dubious manner for a moment. Then he snorted. Lizzy laughed. "Perhaps you are named after one of the famous painters, because you bring such joy and color to life." He barked approvingly and stuck his nose in the air. "Conceited too I see. My goodness I simply cannot seem to figure you out. Hmm..." She twirled the blossom in one hand as she softly ran her other hand through the short fur on his neck. The sound of a throat clearing brought her out of her meditation. She looked up in surprise to see a dark haired gentleman. He was tall, with an excellent figure. Lizzy had to admit that he was very handsome. She blushed and stood up quickly. "His name is Milton*," The gentleman said simply. The dog, chagrined at having been so quickly ousted from his place on Lizzy's lap, padded over to stand by the gentleman.
"I am sorry, he must belong to you," Lizzy said.
"He does." The gentleman stood awkwardly for a moment. Then bowed abruptly, "If you'll excuse me."
"Of course." Lizzy turned to the dog, "It was a pleasure to meet you Milton, I hope we may further our acquaintance at a future date." The corners of the gentleman's mouth turned up slightly as Milton loped over to Lizzy for one last brief pat. She then turned to the gentleman, "Sir," she said simply, curtsying. "Madam," he replied bowing again. He then turned and ventured into the woods, his dog at his heels.
Lizzy did not share this chance encounter with anyone else. However, when, at the Meryton assembly the gentleman was introduced as Mr. Darcy, with ten thousand a year and the pride and vanity to accompany such a sum, the fleeting smile she had seen on his face haunted her. It made it quite difficult to deem him the most hateful man in existence, but Lizzy was persevering and managed just the same. If Darcy's dog showed Lizzy more preference than others whilst she was staying at Netherfield no one was the wiser, and it wasn't until Darcy caught Lizzy and Milton romping at Pemberly during her short stay at Lambton that he found the courage to ask her to marry him again. This was delayed by a major crisis involving two indelicate acquaintances, but did, indeed come to pass.
As for Milton, he continued to be spoilt by his master. He was given all of the best treats, lounged in all of the most comfortable chairs, and enjoyed the most revered positions by the fire. Though the presence of the new mistress caused him to be ousted from the Master's bed from time to time, he had such joy in laying his head in her lap that he found he had, on the whole, no cause to repine.
*Name stolen from the excellent fic: Sirius' Intentions. Ever since reading it I can't think of Darcy's dog by any other name