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The Road Back - Chapters 40-41

January 26, 2015 01:36PM
Chapter 40

Wednesday May 19, 1813 – Longbourn


“Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join together this man and this woman in Holy matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man’s innocence, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church; which Holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought...”

The familiar words resonating in Elizabeth’s ears now had a significance as though she had not heard them a dozen times before; and she could not help looking away from the reverend and focusing on the man with whom her future was to be joined. She was surprised and pleased to see that the solemn words were affecting him as well; their familiarity in no way lessening their import. He listened in rapt fascination, his eyes fixed on Reverend Adams, but he seemed to sense Elizabeth’s gaze and his head slowly turned until his eyes fixed on hers. Elizabeth almost shivered at that moment, for she could feel the intensity of his gaze. The bond between them which had its tenuous - and unrecognized by her at least - beginnings in Hertfordshire and been almost ruptured in Hunsford had, in the last five months, grown to an almost unbearable strength. Neither knew how long that gaze lasted, in which the world only encompassed them both, but their awareness was drawn back to the ceremony only when Reverend Adams addressed Darcy.

“Fitzwilliam Darcy, wilt thou have this Woman to thy wedded wife, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honour and keep her in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both shall live?”

Darcy’s baritone was firm and echoed throughout the church, “I will.”

And then it was her turn. “Elizabeth Bennet, wilt thou have this man to thy wedded husband, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy state of Matrimony? Wilt thou obey him, and serve him, love, honour, and keep him in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?”

Elizabeth’s response was equally firm, her eyes once more fixed on Darcy, “I will.”

“Who giveth this woman to be married to this man?” asked Reverend Adams.

“I do,” said Mr. Bennet, and, releasing her hand to the reverend, he stepped back to join the others standing around Darcy and Elizabeth. Reverend Adams had Darcy and Elizabeth turn to face each other, then, taking Elizabeth’s hand, he placed it in Darcy’s and commanded Darcy to say after him:

“I, Fitzwilliam, take thee Elizabeth, to my wedded Wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth.”

Then Darcy released Elizabeth’s hand, and the Reverend took Darcy’s right hand, giving it to Elizabeth to hold in hers, while he directed her to repeat after him: “I, Elizabeth, take thee Fitzwilliam, to my wedded Husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and to obey, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I give thee my troth.”

Bingley placed the ring on the Bible held by Reverend Adams, who then gave the ring to Darcy. It had been his mother’s wedding ring; a simple gold band that had graced the hand of the Mistress of Pemberley for six generations. He lifted Elizabeth’s left hand and slid the ring onto her fourth finger. Elizabeth closed her eyes for a moment feeling the overwhelming significance of the action, so simple in execution but complex in its import, and then looking down at the ring that signified so much for her future – connecting and linking her to Pemberley’s past. She raised her eyes once more to meet those of Darcy who continued to hold the ring on her finger as he said, his eyes locked with those of Elizabeth and his voice husky with emotion, “With this ring, I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.”

Darcy released her hand but could not release his gaze from hers. Her eyes promised him all the love, devotion and passion which was hers to offer and which he would receive with the greatest joy. He could only hope that she could see the same promise in his, as Reverend Adams then said, “Let us pray. O eternal God, creator and preserver of all mankind, giver of all spiritual grace, the author of everlasting life; send thy blessing upon these thy servants, this man and this woman, whom we bless in thy Name; that, as Isaac and Rebecca lived faithfully together, so these persons may surely perform and keep the vow and covenant betwixt them made, and may ever remain in perfect love and peace together, and live according to thy laws; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Mr. Adams took the right hand of both Elizabeth and Darcy, and looking out at the assembly of family and friends, said, “Those whom God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.”

The rector released their hands, though they remained clasped together, as he continued, “For as much as Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth have consented together in Holy wedlock, and have witnessed the same before God and this company, and thereto have given and pledged their troth either to the other, and have declared the same by giving and receiving of a Ring, and by joining of hands; I pronounce that they be Man and Wife together, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.”

He concluded with the blessing, “God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost, bless, preserve, and keep you; the Lord mercifully with his favour look upon you; and so fill you with all spiritual benediction and grace, that ye may so live together in this life, that in the world to come ye may have life everlasting. Amen.”

At last the moment had arrived that Darcy had waited for over a year; Elizabeth was his wife. He stood, drawing her to her feet and smiling leant down to brush the lips that were smiling up at him. If it were not for all the eyes upon them, he would have pulled her more closely and prolonged the kiss. Instead he released her and brought her two hands to his lips to bestow a fleeting kiss before turning to face the well-wishers who thronged about them. Tears streaming down her cheeks, Georgiana embraced Elizabeth and then her brother. Mrs. Bennet could hardly restrain herself but for once was at a loss for words and simply kissed Elizabeth and hugged her new son-in-law. It was some time before Darcy and Elizabeth could make their way to the parish registry to sign their names. Elizabeth realized that it would be the last occasion in which she would sign as Elizabeth Bennet; henceforth she would be known as Elizabeth Darcy or Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy.

It took only a few minutes for their carriage to deliver them to Longbourn for the wedding breakfast. Deprived of several evenings of elaborate dinners to celebrate the engagement, Mrs. Bennet had spared no effort in preparing a wedding breakfast to celebrate the marriage. It is to be hoped that she realized a full measure of satisfaction from the compliments that were delivered by the guests; for the bridal couple, the few hours they spent there were interminably long and a source of little pleasure. Finally, after accepting the best wishes of all the guests and sampling a small portion of food, Darcy and Elizabeth announced that they were departing for London.

As they made their way through the crowd towards their carriage, Mrs. Hill bustled up to them saying, “Mr. Darcy, the hamper you requested is in the carriage.” Turning to Elizabeth she impulsively gave her a hug, “You take care of yourself now, Miss Elizabeth.”

With a catch in her voice, Elizabeth returned the hug of the woman who had been as much her friend as housekeeper for over twenty years. “I will indeed, Hill. And you take care of my sisters as you did me.”

As Darcy was about to hand Elizabeth into the carriage, her father approached for a final word, his eyes suspiciously wet. “Good-bye my child. Write to me often, please. I shall miss you sorely.”

“Oh Papa, you know I will. We will be back in the fall but, you know, you might hazard to write me a letter at least once before then.”

Turning to Darcy, Mr. Bennet extended his hand which Darcy clasped and shook, “I know you will take good care of her Mr. Darcy; however, I may just make a quick trip to make sure you are doing so – and to visit that marvellous library I have heard praised so greatly.”

“Papa!” admonished Elizabeth.

Darcy chuckled, “You will always be a welcome guest, sir. You need not wait upon an invitation.” With which he assisted Elizabeth into the coach and entered himself to sit beside her. With a final wave, they settled back as the carriage began its journey to London

Inside the carriage there were a few minutes of complete silence as neither seemed to know how to begin a conversation. For Elizabeth, this was the first time in her life she had sat beside a man in a carriage who was neither her father or uncle. After looking at her hands for several minutes in some embarrassment, she finally ventured a glance up at her husband only to find him staring at her with the most intense gaze she had yet experienced. Turning to face her more directly, he cupped her face with his hands and leaning forward, whispered, “I have wished to do this for so long, you cannot imagine…” and he kissed her. What started as a gentle pressure on her lips, quickly deepened as he allowed his passion a freer reign. Parting his lips he tasted hers until she allowed hers to open and felt his tongue enter seeking hers. Slowly following his example, she found herself welcoming his kiss and her passion rising to meet his. Without being aware of it, her hands had risen to the back of his head as she held him close. His hands had dropped and she could feel them stroking her hair, her ears, her neck and then her shoulders. Lost in his caresses, it was only when she felt him slowly easing the intensity of their kiss, that she realized that she had pressed herself so closely to him that her breasts had been flattened against him. Embarrassed, she drew back, her face a bright red, “I…I…”

Darcy stopped her words with a finger on her lips, “I love you. I love the passion that is so much a part of you. I will not apologize for kissing you but, if I have been too eager, too forceful - please tell me. I will not do anything that you would not wish. I would not have you frightened.”

“I am not frightened. Just a little nervous, and it was a mite unexpected” And with a teasing glance as her blush receded, “…and most pleasurable.”

Darcy’s mien wore a slight smile, “I should hope so.”

"You, sir, are a little smug!"

Darcy just nodded, “I should hope I am very smug. I have just married the most beautiful woman I know. If that is not a reason to be smug, I know not what is.” Drawing her close within the circle of his arms, he murmured, “I am a very lucky man, Mrs. Darcy.”

Elizabeth stroked his cheek with her hand and feathered a kiss across his lips, “and I have married the very best of men.”

They remained in this quiet embrace for some time interspersing endearments with slight caresses, neither wishing to disturb the pleasure of the closeness that hitherto they had not been permitted to enjoy. Finally, Elizabeth looked up at Darcy, “William, I have been thinking. Georgiana is to come to Pemberley in July with your cousin. Is that not so?”

“Yes, Frances and Henry plan to bring her and visit us for a fortnight.”

“I know we talked of inviting Kitty to come with them and stay for the summer until we return to London? Georgiana might enjoy the company and my sister could benefit from her company. I have yet to extend the invitation.”

“I am quite agreeable; but you will be Mistress now and I know you like company. Should you wish to invite someone, I trust your judgement on this. Shall you write to Georgiana?”

Elizabeth gazed fondly at her husband. She knew his discomfort with those not of his close acquaintance, “I shall endeavour to not discomfit you…too much, William.” She paused for several moments, “I had thought to invite Miss Thompson for a visit; but she mentioned that her family was planning a trip to The Lakes in August.”

Darcy considered her words and guessing at her thoughts, ventured, “Would you like to invite them to visit during their trip?”

A small smile graced Elizabeth’s lips, “You are getting altogether much too good at reading my thoughts, Mr. Darcy.”

“I suspect that, in this case, they mirror my own. I would like to repay their considerable kindness in hosting myself and my family for the wedding. As well, I have enjoyed their company and would like to know them better.” He chuckled, “I rather think that if we invite the Thompsons, Bingley may invite himself to visit at the same time.” At Elizabeth’s questioning gaze, he continued, “Bingley informed me, before we left, that he had been invited to stay at Netherfield until Monday next when he must return north. I venture that Miss Thompson may be the reason for his accepting.”

Elizabeth sat up, forcing Darcy to loosen his grasp of her, “Truly? I had not seen any particular interest or attentions on his part.”

“Apparently he enjoyed several talks with Miss Thompson during his stay. He said little to me about it; but I detect some interest.”

“Oh dear. Georgiana will be…disappointed.” Elizabeth was not prepared to reveal too much and, in truth, she was not sure herself of the depth of Georgiana’s interest.

Darcy was a little surprised at Elizabeth’s comment, “I was not aware …that is, she is too young to consider a serious attachment.” He thought then of the comment from Mrs. Annesley when Bingley had visited Pemberley, “however, I do remember that Mrs. Annesley had discerned some interest on his part, and perhaps on hers. Has Georgiana spoken to you on this?”

Elizabeth detected a note of concern in his voice and thought of how best to alleviate it without breaching Georgiana’s confidences too significantly, “She has spoken of him and with some interest although I cannot, at this point, say with any confidence the extent to which her affections have been engaged. I agree she is much too young, too inexperienced to consider marriage and I would not be overly concerned if she did not marry for several years. I did not see any signs that Mr. Bingley was trying to fix her interest.”

They discussed the matter for a further quarter hour and agreed to invite the Thompsons whose company, as well as that of the families of Darcy’s aunts, would see Pemberley more lively than it had been for years. However, it was decided that plans to invite the Matlocks would best be deferred until the fall. The discussion was interrupted by a low growl emanating from Elizabeth’s stomach. Trying to hide her embarrassment, she looked at Darcy with a quizzical eye, “I believe, William, that I need sustenance and I must assume that you asked Mrs. Hill to provide us with such since I see a rather largish hamper under the seat.”

“I rather thought we might not eat much at the wedding breakfast and did indeed ask Mrs. Hill to select some of those foods you particularly enjoy.” Releasing Elizabeth he straightened up and reached over to lift the basket onto the seat. Removing the cover he began to lift out the various delectables and it was not long before they both were devouring a warm meat roll, washing it down with a glass of wine. Tarts, biscuits, cheeses and sundry other items quickly followed, until they both leaned back in satisfaction. Elizabeth tidied up, returning the remains to the hamper. Once it was again stowed away beneath the seat, she turned to Darcy with a slight blush saying, “I wish to have you hold me once more.” Darcy was more than willing to oblige and they settled comfortably together, talking quietly about all manner of things for a while, until Darcy noticed that Elizabeth had fallen asleep. Placing his legs on top of the opposing seat, he turned his body slightly with his back resting against the side of the carriage – after placing a pillow betwixt himself and the wall - and settled Elizabeth against his chest. Stoking her hair and listening to her soft breathing, he let himself relax and drift into a light sleep.

It was the noise of London that eventually woke him. As he moved to sit up, he became aware that Elizabeth was looking up at him with quirked lips. “I rather like watching you sleep, husband.” He smiled and stroked her cheek once more and leaned forward to taste her lips. Feeling her immediate response, he let his tongue taste her lips once more and when he felt hers, he pulled her more closely and kissed her more strongly; however, he realized he could not let it continue and gradually lessened the pressure and began feathering kisses over her face. Leaning back, he struggled to control his breathing, “Mrs. Darcy, you test my control most seriously. We must desist for now.”

Sitting up, he opened the curtain on the window and looked out. Recognizing their location, he turned to Elizabeth saying, “We should arrive at Darcy House in a quarter hour.” Elizabeth immediately became concerned about her appearance, her hair was seriously disarranged and a search for the missing pins was undertaken. Once most had been retrieved, she attempted to fix her hair while Darcy looked on in bemused wonder. “I have never seen you with your hair down. I think I will enjoy the prospect of relieving you of those pins.” Elizabeth gave him a stern look that was offset by the twinkle in her eye. “Mr. Darcy, I must ask you to behave. This is most unseemly.” The smile that attended her words, robbed them of any offence.

At last, the carriage drew up in front of Darcy House. It was clear that their arrival had been anticipated, since the vehicle had not even come to a stop before a line of servants had formed on the steps of the entrance. The carriage door was opened and the footstep readied before either Darcy or Elizabeth could move. Darcy looked at Elizabeth and smiled, “I believe your arrival has been greatly anticipated, Mrs. Darcy.” Stepping out of the carriage, he turned to help her descend and then, with her hand on his arm, they entered Darcy House.

Once they reached the entrance, they were greeted by Mr. and Mrs. Hodgkins who made no effort to make known their appreciation for the new Mrs. Darcy. Elizabeth was formally introduced to the servants, many of whom she had already met. Upon being informed that a light meal had been prepared, Elizabeth and Darcy expressed their intention of refreshing themselves before partaking. Darcy was quick to escort his wife to her chambers where Julia awaited her. A quarter hour later, he knocked on her door and entering found her sitting in front of her mirror with Julia arranging her hair. Leaning against the doorway, he was content to watch his wife’s preparations, a quiet smile on his lips. Once Julia was finished, he moved to offer Elizabeth a hand to rise, nodding his appreciation to Julia as he did so. “Shall we venture down to eat, Mrs. Darcy?”

Elizabeth could not but smile at his formality in front of the servants - even Julia - but was not discomfited by it. “Indeed, husband. I find I am hungry once more.”

Darcy led her downstairs but not to the dining room as she expected but rather to the morning room. “I asked Mrs. Hodgkins to serve us here. I find it more comfortable for just the two of us. Do you mind?” Receiving her approval, he seated her at the table and sat beside her. As though that had been a signal, Mrs. Hodgkins appeared to direct footmen in the serving of the meal. As she had stated, it was a simple and light meal. Mrs. Hodgkins had left shortly after the last dish had been placed on the table, shooing the footmen out ahead of her since Darcy had indicated their intention to serve themselves. Once they were alone, neither Darcy nor Elizabeth could make themselves do more than nibble on the various foods. When Elizabeth looked over Darcy, he was pushing his food around on the plate and studiously not looking at her. Finally, she caught him making a quick glance up at her and knew him to be as nervous and uncertain as herself. She wiped her mouth with a napkin and stood, “I am feeling a little fatigued, shall we retire now?” It took Darcy a second or two to respond but he immediately sprang to his feet and offered her his arm, his eagerness bringing a slight tinkle of laughter from Elizabeth.

They walked in silence until they reached the door of her bedchamber where she turned to him saying, “I will come to you in a half hour.” Darcy could only nod and watched, as the door of her bedchamber closed, before hurrying to his own rooms to bathe and ready himself.

A half hour later, bathed and dressed in loose breeches and a dark green robe, he waited, sitting on the settee in front of the window that overlooked the street below. Watching the slow evening traffic, but wrapped in his thoughts, he did not hear Elizabeth enter the room. The flicker of movement on the edge of his vision alerted him to her presence and he stood so quickly as to almost fall. She stopped when she saw him rise and was only prevented from rushing to his aid by his upflung hand. “Please, Elizabeth…do not move.”

Darcy found himself short of breath. The nightgown she wore was cream coloured and diaphanous, both revealing and hiding the body it contained. Her dark hair spilled and curled over her shoulders and down her back. His concentrated gaze had brought a flush to Elizabeth’s face that spread down over her shoulders. Its further progress was obscured by her nightgown but her embarrassment was evident. With an effort he breathed in, "You are so very beautiful…Behold thou art fair, my love; behold thou art fair;” reaching out he offered her his hand which she grasped and was led to sit beside him on the settee where she smiled and said, “My beloved is mine, and I am his”

Drawing her into his embrace they began to exchange kisses and caresses with increasing boldness and fervour, until finally Elizabeth drew back and looked pointedly at Darcy, “I believe, sir, it is time for you to take me to your bed.” Darcy suddenly realized that she had taken the initiative in deciding it was time to retire and to move to the bed but that all further initiatives were his responsibility. Standing, he scooped her into his arms and carried her to the bed, depositing her gently in its centre before settling himself beside her. Elizabeth looked up at the man who now had power over her completely but knowing his kindness and gentleness she was not afraid of what was to follow. Trusting him completely she opened her arms to welcome him to her body saying, “Come husband, make me truly your wife.”

~~~

It was the urgent pressure on her bladder that woke Elizabeth the next morning. Without thinking she scooted out of bed before realizing that she was completely unclothed. Looking around she found her nightgown lying on the floor beside the bed. Reaching for it she became aware of the streaks of blood on her thighs and looking back at the bed could see blood stains there also. “That did not occur to me!” putting on her nightgown, she rushed to her dressing room to relieve her bladder and clean herself. When she returned to the bedroom it was to find Darcy gone from the bed. Putting on her robe, she sat on the settee to await his return and considered the events of the previous night. When Darcy had finally entered her body, it had been painful but not unduly so. His caresses had stirred her so as to make the joining eagerly awaited and he had been patient and careful, allowing her time for the discomfort to ease. She had been able to find pleasure in their first joining and more in the second that took place during the night.

When the door of his dressing room opened and he saw her sitting, he moved quickly to her side, “My love, are you well? I saw the blood. I did not realize…you must be in pain”

Elizabeth knew she had to relieve his distress, “Truly love, I am fine. I am well. There is no pain. Not now, at least. I did have some at first but it did not last.” She smiled at him, “the pleasure quite made me forget it all; however, I have discovered that I am most hungry. What time is it?”

“It is just past eight in the morning. Shall I have Mrs. Hodgkins arrange a breakfast for us in the morning room?”

This received Elizabeth’s approval and he opened his door to order a footman to have Mrs. Hodgkins to attend them. When the housekeeper arrived, she was requested to have the bed sheets changed and to arrange a breakfast in the morning room. After Mrs. Hodgkins had left, Elizabeth returned to her dressing room to bathe and dress. Julia was waiting for her with a very hot bath. “Mrs. Hodgkins thought you might wish to soak for a while and has sent extra hot water.”

“Thank you, Julia. That sounds delightful.”

“Ma’am, Mrs. Hodgkins asked me to find out if you were in any….discomfort.”

Elizabeth smiled up at Julia, “You may tell Mrs. Hodgkins that I am quite well.”

After soaking in the tub for near a half hour, Elizabeth allowed herself to be towelled dry and thoroughly cosseted. Dressed in one of her new morning gowns; with her hair washed and pinned up; she moved to the settee in her bed chamber to wait for her husband, who obliged her by entering the room some few minutes later to escort her to the morning room.

After a leisurely breakfast they decided, since the day was pleasantly warm, to walk in Hyde Park. It took Elizabeth but a few minutes to discover that her unaccustomed exercise the night before had caused stiffness in her thigh and hip muscles. Apprising Darcy of this elicited a warm chuckle, a somewhat salacious grin – which earned him a slap on the arm – and the recommendation that a brisk pace might ease her discomfort. So it was to be, although it took almost an hour for the last residue of discomfort to disappear. By the time they returned to Darcy House after absenting themselves for two hours, Elizabeth was feeling very much her usual self. Repairing to the library with the intention of reading, Darcy found her presence to be totally distracting, and his attempts to read quite futile. Elizabeth, observing his focus on her, began to tease him and it was not long before her kisses and caresses led them to return to his bed chamber.

Later as she lay quite comfortably enfolded in his arms, Elizabeth had a disquieting thought – one that she knew not whether she should even raise with her husband. Darcy was not insensible to the change in her mood or to the pensive expression that had laid claim to her face. “What disturbs you so, Elizabeth?”

Elizabeth found herself torn. This was a topic she felt she should not ask her husband to address and yet she yearned to know the answer. She knew enough of her nature to realize that not knowing could produce more pain than knowing. She also could not look at him while she asked. Her continuing silence began to worry Darcy, “Elizabeth, there is no question you cannot ask me. I will answer to my best ability.”

Closing her eyes Elizabeth assayed a response, “You may think…oh, I know not how to phrase this. You know my ignorance of the marriage bed, of marital intimacies. I did not expect that you would be lacking such experience and truly you gave me much pleasure but I would know…”

Whatever question Darcy had expected, this was not one of them. He stumbled for an answer – how much could or should he say. His silence which lasted for several moments only increased Elizabeth’s discomposure, and she was about to rise from the bed in some embarrassment and a fear that he was displeased, when Darcy locked her in his arms. “Please, Elizabeth, give me some time to order my thoughts. I assure you, I am not displeased or angry.” He was silent for a few more moments.

“As you can observe, your question quite caught me by surprise. It is not one, I think, that husbands expect on the day after they marry.” He smiled at her, “But given the nature of our courtship, perhaps I should have expected such a question. Nevertheless, I will tell you of my experience, as slight as it may be.”

He paused for a few seconds to organize his thoughts, “I attended Cambridge for four years. In my second year, my father paid me a visit. He took me to London and, while we were there, he brought me to a townhouse of a modest size. I was introduced to a woman some ten years my senior. My father had arranged, as something I suspect he felt to be a necessary part of my education, for her to instruct me on how to please a woman. I stayed with her for some three or four days. I learned afterwards that she did this regularly. I have not seen her since nor have I been with another woman until last night. I felt no love for her and I suppose I should be grateful for the instruction, although I know I could not do the same for a son of mine.” He paused before continuing, “You must believe me on this. What we shared last night was as new to me as it was to you.”

Elizabeth lay back and drew him down to kiss, “Thank you, William. I did not want to cause you distress but I did fear some previous attachment.” And murmuring against his lips, “Although I must commend her teaching ability.”

“I do also. In fact, she taught me this ….” And a few moments later, “…but this comes from my own fantasies…”

Soon the only sounds were the low murmurs of appreciation and enjoyment issuing from Elizabeth’s lips.


Chapter 41

Thursday May 26, 1813 – Darcy House


It had taken Elizabeth but a few days to realize that she could take as much pleasure from their intimacies as her husband. That he was pleased when the initiative came from her had been particularly gratifying, and their days in London had quickly fallen into a pattern which pleased them both. After breakfasting together, they would venture out, if the weather permitted, for a long walk or a tour of the city. When it did not, they were quite content to read together in the library.

They could not divorce themselves from the world outside completely. Nor did they want to do so. William's business affairs would intrude, and some transactions of an urgent nature had to be addressed, but he was resolute in limiting himself only to such. When he was so engaged, she met with Mrs. Hodgkins to review the household accounts and begin her role as Mistress. She was aware of a growing pile of invitations, but they had agreed to limit themselves to the ball and dinners with the Matlocks and the Gardiners. The knocker on their door would not go up until the day following the ball and they planned to depart for Pemberley a day later.

One morning, after breakfast, Darcy had to attend to some urgent business in his study. Elizabeth had been pleased to sit and read in the room with him but, after an hour had passed and it looked like he would be engaged for some time more, she had left the room. After another hour had passed, he signed the final letter and, after consigning his correspondence to the post, went in search of his wife. When the library and music room failed to disclose her, he inquired of Mr. Hodgkins where she might be found. On being told that Mrs. Darcy was last seen entering the billiard room, he made haste in that direction.

The muffled clack of billiard balls being struck could be heard through the closed door. With a grin on his face, he eased the door open to be greeted by a sight which froze him completely. Elizabeth was bent over the billiard table; lining up to strike the cue ball, her bottom - delectably clothed in a light green morning dress – was presented to his eyes. Unable to breathe, he watched her strike the cue ball. “Nice shot but I think she hit it too hard.” And so it was. The ball that was struck did indeed end in the pocket but the cue ball was struck too hard and came to rest in a poor position for the next shot. “I don’t think she can hit the cue ball – she is too short.”

“Merde”

The soft expletive from Elizabeth caught Darcy by surprise. He had just learned something new. He silently closed the door and then watched, with some amazement, as Elizabeth hitched her dress up slightly and perched her bottom on the edge of the table in order to lean forward and make the next shot. By this time Darcy’s eyebrows had virtually disappeared into his hair line. It was all he could do not to walk up behind her and plant a kiss on the back of her neck while his hands became occupied with those parts of her body that currently had attracted his attention.

After Elizabeth had taken her shot, unsuccessfully he noted, she hopped down off the edge of the table, turning as she did so, which brought her face-to-face with Darcy who had taken several quiet steps into the room. A deep blush overtook her countenance as she recognized the desire in her husband’s eyes. She skittered away from him and began to walk around the table. He followed.

“Where did you learn to play, Lizzy?”

Not looking at him, she answered, “I have watched you play on several occasions when you did not realize I was present.”

“I believe you missed your last shot, did you not? That would make it my turn.” With which his hand slid gently down her arm to grasp her hand holding the cue stick. Taking it from her, his other hand brushed across her bottom before he moved away to take his turn. Upon being successful, he glanced at Elizabeth, on whose mien had appeared a most determined look, and a small smile, as she looked at him. As he moved to position himself for his next shot he felt her presence behind him and, as he lined up the cue stick, suddenly felt her hand upon his own bottom. As he tried to concentrate on striking the cue ball her hand slid down to the inside of his thigh and then moved upwards. Unable to stop the motion of his arm, the cue ball went he knew not where.

“I believe, Mr. Darcy, that it is now my turn.”

“Minx!”

A gurgle from Elizabeth as she relieved him of the cue stick was his only consolation. She strolled around to the other side of the table and leaned forward to take her shot. He could not be sure but it did appear that she was deliberately prolonging the time that she did so. For a very obvious reason, he knew. Her dress was quite modest but the neckline did expose the upper part of her bosom and was sufficiently loose that it fell open as she leaned forward. That she was not wearing stays became immediately obvious and his breath caught in his throat once more.

Taking her shot – successfully – and acting quite oblivious to her husband - she moved to position herself for another. As she did so, Darcy found that indeed his limbs could function and almost without realizing he had done so, found himself standing behind his wife bent over the table, her bottom once more most advantageously positioned. He stepped so close that they almost touched. That she was aware of his presence he knew – he could hear her breathing quicken. His hands slid over her bottom, hips and upwards – stroking and caressing as they moved. He leaned forward to nibble on her neck, murmuring, “I believe that….”

Before he could finish, she had dropped the cue stick and turned in his arms forcing him to stand straight. Her hands came around his neck and her lips sought his. He grasped her waist in his hands and lifted her to settle on the edge of the table. Nudging her legs apart he positioned himself between them as their kiss deepened. He was about to raise her skirts when her hands grasped his hair and pulled his head firmly back to remove his lips.

Panting she gasped, “Not here….not like this.”

Realizing the impropriety, the risks attached to the position that he had placed them in, he lifted her down from the table and, taking a firm hold of her hand, practically ran towards their bedchambers dragging a laughing Elizabeth behind. Within minutes they were joined on his bed, still clothed. The ferocity of their lovemaking was surprising to them both. Afterwards, Darcy collapsed by her side and buried his face in the bed sheets. They spoke not for several minutes before Darcy could find the words he sought, “You must forgive me. I was a savage….tell me I did not hurt you.”

Elizabeth did not respond for several moments as she considered her response, “I am not hurt at all. I quite enjoyed it, you know. Could you not tell? If you are a…a savage, then so must I be.” She paused briefly before continuing, “I would not wish this every time but I quite enjoyed seeing you become so undone.” She stroked his head and forced him to look at her. Kissing him, she repeated her words, “I quite enjoyed it. You must have seen that?”

She levered herself out of his arms and swung her legs to the floor, “I think I must get out of these clothes.” Saying which, she divested herself of her clothes and slid back under the bed coverings. Darcy was not slow to follow her example and joined her there.

“Lizzy, I do have one question.”

“Hmmmm?”

“Where did you learn the word ‘merde’?”

A deep chortle came from Elizabeth, “You can place the blame directly on John Goulding.”

“How so?”

“Well, John was a playmate when I was much younger. He learned it from his father and told me what it meant.” She laughed softly, “He also learned, and told me, about when not to speak it. He used the word in the presence of his mother and sisters. Unfortunately for John, his mother knew what it meant and informed his father. As John explained it, he caught a double punishment. One for using the word and a second, for doing so in front of his sisters. John told me he had to sleep on his stomach for two nights. Needless to say, I only use it when I think I am alone.”

Darcy chuckled and propping himself up on his elbow looked down at his wife. “I suggest that is a good idea. Of course, you can use it with me. I am not likely to be too offended.” As he spoke his hands began to stroke and caress her. It was not long before they were both fully absorbed in their lovemaking and the result was as much unlike the earlier effort as was possible, being a long, slow and gentle loving.

William fulfilled his promise to instruct her in how to play billiards; unfortunately for her mastery of that game, those sessions always seemed to be concluded in his bed. She was sure that they had yet to complete a game but, as his Aunt Catherine frequently stated, with sufficient practice she was sure she could be truly proficient although, with a suppressed giggle, she thought perhaps the proficiency might not involve billiards.

~~~

Their most public outing had been to attend church on Sunday morning. St. Alban’s was a smallish local church attended by a variety of local families of disparate stations. It was not frequented by many of the ton and hence provided no opportunity to see and be seen, which may be the primary reason to attend religious services by that section of society. For the Darcys, the absence of such society enhanced the pleasure that they found in attending the service. Indeed, St. Alban’s most noteworthy feature was the presence of a vigorous and able rector who delivered moving and thoughtful sermons. That day’s lesson had been on charity and the need to consider that charity encompassed more than the simple giving of money to the poor but also included active involvement of oneself in helping others. What captured Elizabeth’s attention in particular, were his thoughts on being charitable in how one dealt with others on a daily basis. She could think of times when she had exercised her wit, albeit with no intent to hurt but with that consequence nonetheless.

Both Darcy and Elizabeth enjoyed the service and participated with enthusiasm in singing the hymns. Once the service was complete, they were welcomed by the rector and were greeted quietly, and with surprising restraint, by many of the congregation who had learned of their wedding. The Darcy family had attended St. Alban’s for several generations and, if not frequently in attendance because of their residence at Pemberley, they were well recognized and acknowledged as supporters of the church.

Their evenings, apart from the dinners with the Matlocks and Gardiners, were spent ensconced in William’s room and frequently in his bed. The staff at Darcy House had become quite used to seeing the Master and Mistress hurrying to his bed chamber and, on one or two occasions, had encountered Darcy carrying her up the stairs. Their delight in each other was obvious to all and their happiness permeated the house.


Tuesday June 1, 1813 - London

As these things must, the day of the ball hosted by the Duke and Duchess of ____ finally arrived. The dinner with the Matlocks had taken place several days previous and had proven helpful to Elizabeth in two ways. She still found it difficult to be at ease in Lord Matlock’s presence. Publicly, he had clearly welcomed her into the family; in private, his reserve was proving harder to overcome. Some of his attitudes she found to be reminiscent of those she had at one time ascribed to her husband. There was a certain disdain for those not of his station, although, in general, he appeared to be willing to ignore that difference for certain individuals. She had not been in his company enough, however, to sketch his character thoroughly. For the nonce, she intended to be civil and pleasant to avoid taking, or giving, offence. During the dinner she had been seated at his right hand and, after several attempts, had finally succeeded in engaging him in conversation about his duties and interests in the House of Lords. It became obvious from the conversation that he took these responsibilities seriously and had developed a particular interest in military issues – perhaps prompted by his son’s career. Their discussion on the role of the army had interested them both and the earl’s surprise at her understanding of the campaigns and issues was clear.

Elizabeth had admitted that her father had encouraged her to read the newspapers – particularly Wellington’s military dispatches from the Peninsular War and gazetted naval dispatches - and had discussed their content with her. He had even gone so far, she confessed, to buying her a few books written on the history of the war. She was able, with a few well directed questions, to get the earl to expound on the government’s perspective and, if she found herself in silent disagreement on some points, she confined herself to asking probing questions to elicit more information on the reasons for the position adopted.

Later, as they sipped tea, she and the countess discussed the ball. Lady Eleanor disclosed that their Graces usually limited the number of invitations to about fifty or sixty couples most of whom would be amongst the most prominent members of the ton. The countess invited Elizabeth to tea the next day to discuss the possible guest list and what she might expect. As the countess expressed, “You will be scrutinized with a critical eye! Expect that, but let us prepare for it also. I will be there to assist you; and tomorrow I can impart to you something about most of those that you will encounter.” Their subsequent meeting had been of appreciable value and, if she could not remember all that she had been told, enough had been gleaned, she thought, to allow her to appear comfortable.

Elizabeth could not but be gratified by the willingness of the countess to mentor her in the ways of society. She and her husband had indeed attended the ball and, when Darcy and Elizabeth arrived, had casually but carefully, between dance sets, introduced them to various notables. Elizabeth had found the experience both exhilarating and terrifying. All to whom she was introduced were civil and pleasant. Some were inclined to ask rather impertinent questions but she had learned long ago how to deal with such. Of particular importance was the introduction to Lady Jersey, who was one of the rulers of Almacks, the most prestigious portion of the marriage mart, to which Georgiana’s access would be most advantageous. Lady Jersey had seemed inclined to be civil and, if the conversation was, for the most part, inconsequential, Lady Matlock appeared satisfied with the encounter when discussing it later.

When she and Darcy had walked on the floor for the first dance, she had been conscious of the many eyes assessing her gown, jewels and her countenance. Her confidence in the first two was essential to the comfort and confidence she displayed. Fortunately, she also had been able to capture Darcy’s attention when they first lined up and keeping her eyes focussed on him, induced a small smile and a relaxation of his demeanour, and the occasional small smile, as they danced. As they wended their way through the various movements of the dance, it became clear even to the very least observant of those attending that the Darcys were very much in love with each other.

Since she could dance but three dances with her husband, she had been required to be partnered by other gentlemen. Most were curious as to her background and some were even mildly flirtatious, neither of which caused her any particular concern. One of her partners, unfortunately, made a slightly improper suggestion. Her quelling glare seemed to have been sufficient, since he disappeared rather rapidly after returning her to Darcy. She returned her husband’s quizzical look with the barest shrug of a shoulder. Darcy himself had danced with several ladies, one of whom was the granddaughter of their hosts.

Overall the ball appeared to have been a success for the Darcys. Their Graces, the Duke and Duchess of ______ had been most welcoming and, according to Lady Matlock, who spoke long and forcibly on the matter the next day, they had been most complimentary when speaking of Elizabeth and Darcy to their guests. Not only had their Graces been complimentary but the morning society page had featured them as well, with much approbation.

Lady Matlock revealed that the main reason for her presence that afternoon was to assist in the calls that they could expect to receive that day. In the hour before callers could be expected to arrive, she and Darcy reviewed most of the cards that had been left and recommended which callers should be admitted.

Later, as the last caller was shown out the door, Elizabeth leaned back in her chair and emitted a huge sigh of relief which as greeted by a laugh from Darcy and an understanding smile from the countess. “Elizabeth, you have done quite well,” she opined, “I thought you handled the most difficult ladies as well as could be expected, Lady Sophie was determined to find fault and would not be discouraged. Fortunately, she could not be overtly rude. You treated her quite civilly and gave her no grounds for further disparagement.” She turned to Darcy, “I did not recognize many of the callers, particularly the gentlemen.”

Darcy nodded, “You would not, I dare say. Most were friends from Cambridge with their wives and several were men I have met in my business dealings.”

The countess looked a little askance, “You meet your business associates socially?”

“Indeed I do, aunt. I count some of them amongst my closest friends.”

The countess appeared a little disconcerted at this news. Elizabeth looked at Darcy and then at his aunt, “Aunt Eleanor, I do not know if you are aware but my closest and most favoured aunt and uncle are in trade. They are estimable and genteel people of taste and discernment and will be frequent guests here and at Pemberley. You have met my Aunt Madeline. Her husband, my Uncle Edward, is her equal in every respect.” She watched the countess carefully, since this aspect of her connections had not been raised before, and she had not discussed with her aunt whether the latter had disclosed this fact to Lady Eleanor whose reaction, when it came, was cautious, “I found Mrs. Gardiner to be quite ladylike and would be interested to meet Mr. Gardiner.”

With this Elizabeth was willing to be satisfied and before long the countess called for her carriage and departed. Once she had done so, Elizabeth grinned and looking up at her husband, murmured, “I find myself slightly fatigued. Could I convince my tall, handsome husband to accompany me upstairs to our rooms and comfort me?” They were not seen downstairs again until they broke their fast the next morning.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/27/2015 05:59PM by Amy I..
SubjectAuthorPosted

The Road Back - Chapters 40-41

PeterJanuary 26, 2015 01:36PM

Re: The Road Back - Chapters 40-41

RedsonJanuary 28, 2015 09:12PM

Re: The Road Back - Chapters 40-41-question/correction?

ShannaGJanuary 27, 2015 04:52PM

Oops - Edit Please

PeterJanuary 27, 2015 05:11PM

Re: The Road Back - Chapters 40-41

ShannaGJanuary 27, 2015 04:50PM

Re: The Road Back - Chapters 40-41

LynnMJanuary 27, 2015 03:27PM

Re: The Road Back - Chapters 40-41

terrycgJanuary 27, 2015 04:36AM

Re: The Road Back - Chapters 40-41

LisetteJanuary 26, 2015 10:57PM



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