P&P200: An Enlightening Tour of Darcy House
**This P&P200 vignette is the third of several I have written for the weeks leading up to the double wedding event on Nov. 16. First was Darcy Surprises Elizabeth on 10/29, then A Most Important Dinner at Darcy House on 11/1. Read those first! All are inspired by the Darcy Saga, and may even contain small portions of “flashback” moments I wrote within my sequel. However, all of them are altered a tad to present a differing POV and contain additional information I never wrote before. So they are new material to be enjoyed as part of the awesome Austen Authors P&P200 extravaganza! Thanks for reading, Sharon Lathan
The carriage rattled along the cobblestone street passing one stunning townhouse after another. Lizzy’s eyes darted between the right and left sides of Oxford Street, much as they had all day while shopping at the finer London establishments her Aunt Gardiner insisted were required for the elevated station her nieces would soon be marrying into. Mr. Bennet had blanched at the amount of money being spent, yet each time Lizzy or Jane opened their mouth to protest, Mrs. Gardiner shook her head and smoothly interrupted. Usually by dangling a pretty pieces of merchandise before their eyes!
It had been a gratifying, and exhausting, day thus far, and Lizzy should have been yearning for an afternoon slumber as Jane was enjoying. Instead she was invigorated. And nervous.
Her excess of energy sprung from the excitement at viewing Darcy House in broad daylight. At dusk, with darkness rapidly falling and the artificial illumination from gaslight and smoldering lamps ineffective in dispelling the shadows bathing the grand townhouse, it had still taken her breath away. She could not imagine the impact on a sunny day. Then, of course, there was the vitalizing prospect of wandering through the rooms she had not yet entered, all while attempting to wrap her mind around the fact that in just over two weeks Darcy House would be home.
This unfathomable concept was partially where her anxiety germinated. Predominately her thoughts had centered on her love and happiness with Mr. Darcy. The reality of precisely how radically her life would change as his wife, and more importantly, the expectations and duties that would be thrust upon her narrow shoulders, were lightly shoved aside when in his adoring company in modest Hertfordshire. In London these serious actualities crashed over her.
As true as these concerns and their assault to her normally steady emotions, today Lizzy discovered that her trepidation arose principally from what had occurred the night before.
Not the kiss or embrace itself! Indeed she had lost count the number of times her mind, awake or asleep, had relived the delirious joy of those five minutes. She could instantly recall the taste of him on her tongue, feel the pressure of his mouth and insistent hands, hear his ragged respirations, smell the heated aroma of his cologne, and see the glaze of desire flooding his eyes. Daily her innocence receded. The escalating, fiery responses whenever they touched were enlightening, encouraging, and intoxicating. There was much to the art of lovemaking she was ignorant of. Yet there was no shame, or fear, in how William made her feel.
No, what bothered her was his reaction. The guilt and shame on his face, the wall of awkwardness, and worst of all, the apology she was certain he had started to make. What, precisely, did he need to apologize for?
“Lizzy, you have nothing to worry about. You are my clever, capable daughter. The girl who once chastised an angry bull, and memorized Act 5, Scene 2 of Love’s Labour’s Lost just because Lydia dared you, can handle any challenge set before her. Including being Mrs. Darcy.”
Mr. Bennet’s reassuring voice and humorous grin interrupted her unpleasant musings and lifted her spirits. Just in time. The carriage turned the corner off Duke Street onto Grosvenor Square and there before her eyes was Darcy House. Tiny compared to the vastness of Pemberley, it was still majestic. Constructed of polished white stone that glowed in the sunlight, each of the five bays on the lower level contained tall, multi-paned windows allowing beams of light into the house. Dozens of wide windows cut into the flat surface of the upper floors. Flowers bloomed from boxes underneath each window. Ornately wrought, iron fencing barricaded the passageway to the basement service areas, and curved elegantly up the steps before the gleaming, blue entryway doors.
“It is so beautiful,” Lizzy whispered.
“Yes,” Mr. Bennet agreed, “but it is still just a house. One with a reputed fine library, I hasten to add.”
“I have a suspicion you will enter that room and need to be physically evicted for dinner!” Lizzy teased, then squeezed his hand and kissed his cheek. “Thank you, Papa.”
Mr. Darcy greeted them formally, Georgiana at his side, and after a light repast in the parlor, they began the tour on the upper floors. Primarily consisting of uniquely decorated bedchambers and guest quarters, each were comfortable, luxurious, and modern. At the present the only occupied suite was Georgiana’s, although one with a masculine quality was revealed as belonging to Colonel Fitzwilliam.
“When in Town he usually dwells at the barracks, in an officer’s apartment. If he is forced to, that is,” Darcy explained with a short laugh. “Richard much prefers the luxury found here, or at the Matlock townhouse. It depends on who is in London at the given time, but he seems to stay here mostly. Probably due to the superior grade liquor and the dart board.”
“He shows up on our doorstep like a lost puppy,” Georgiana added with a dramatic sigh. “Tragic soul. How can we resist?”
Naturally there had to be a billiard room – a necessity in a Darcy household – this one including a host of gaming entertainments, including the aforementioned dart board. Although a fourth the size of Pemberley’s, the ballroom was stunning. Dark oak boards thickly varnished contrasted beautifully with the gold and cream walls, the sunlight shimmering on the glossy surfaces dazzling to the eye. How the shine from the three crystal chandeliers and dozen wall sconces would warm the ambience at night was a vision Lizzy longed to behold.
As if reading her thoughts, Darcy said, “Sadly this room has not been used in years. Not to it’s full purpose, that is. Family members and friends have amused themselves with casual dancing upon occasion, but not a ball since before our mother died.”
“Fitzwilliam and Cousin Richard taught me how to dance in this room.” Georgiana spoke without the hint of sadness in her brother’s tone. “And, my brother has promised that after my debut we can host a ball!”
“It was a promise extracted under duress,” he sniffed, then winked at Mr. Bennet – who nodded his head with complete understanding of how pretty young girls connived to get their way. “However, with a new mistress of Darcy House, I suppose parties and balls will become a frequent event, God help me.” His smile for Lizzy was warm, but he quickly glanced away.
The dining room and parlor they were familiar with, Darcy bypassing those rooms to head next into the library. Not nearly as large as Pemberley’s library – a fact Lizzy teasingly dangled before her father’s face, much as bait to a fish – the room was substantial, and lined ceiling to floor with shelves of books. As predicted, Mr. Bennet immediately lost himself amongst the titles.
One end of the room served as Darcy’s office. An enormous desk with a supple leather wingback chair sat near a window facing the rear garden. Additional wooden cases against the wall behind the chair held some books, but primarily objects of an obvious personal nature to Darcy. Lizzy wanted to examine each one, ask questions so as to learn more about the man she loved and was soon to marry, yet the tension between them had not disappeared. He hid it well, but Lizzy saw through his strained attempts to interject gaiety.
Upon entering the chamber once occupied by his mother, especially when Georgiana excused herself and left them alone, the situation grew worse. Darcy stood ramrod stiff by a porcelain wash basin, fidgeting and droning on to fill the silent void. Lizzy could not concentrate on a single word. Her sadness, frustration, irritation, and unrelenting desire to kiss him combined to roil inside her chest and fog her senses. She knew it was on the brink of bursting forth.
An unseen curled edge of rug became the catalyst.
In her inattentiveness, Lizzy stumbled on the rug, the fabric wrapping around her ankle making it impossible to correct her balance. A squeak of shock barely passed her lips before being muffled against the hard planes of Darcy’s chest. How he had crossed the room so fast defied logic, not that she gave the matter any thought. Every thought spiraled out of her brain, in fact! Her only awareness was that of his radiant heat, harsh breathing, wildly beating heart, and firmly muscled arms embracing her. Then he buried his face into her hair, inhaled deeply, and murmured her name.
Unquestionably there was no forethought to the exquisite interval of fierce, penetrating kisses and unrestrained, insatiable caresses that spontaneously followed. It was glorious! Lizzy felt loved and cherished. Desire thrummed through her veins – his for her and hers for him – the mutual need bonding her heart to his. It was as if she were flying, powered by an unstoppable force.
Abruptly the rapturous accord was shattered. Darcy released her, pivoted away, emitted a strangled cry, and lunged to the window. Lizzy swayed, her mind in chaos as she watched him lean onto the sill, hands balled into fists of steel.
“Elizabeth, you need to leave this room now! Please!”
She stepped to the door in hypnotic compliance, then stopped. Ten minutes of erratic breathing, trembling, and wild emotions passed before Lizzy realized she was furious. She shut the door, walked to where he stood hunched at the window, and snapped, “No, William, I will not leave. Tell me truthfully; am I to conclude that our mutual love and desire are emotions to be disdained and ashamed of? Is this contempt and repugnance to continue after we are wed? Or is it that you honestly reckon you are such an uncontainable beast that you would hurt the woman you love? Or do you have so little faith in my own self-control and decorum that you assume I would willingly allow you to ravage me like a bought woman?”
Darcy was staring at her, open-mouthed, his face pale and utterly shocked. She leaned closer, fists clenched at her waist and face a mask of monumental rage.
“No, Elizabeth,”—he swallowed—“I love you! Please… I have never wanted anything in all my life as I want you. You… are my life… you must know that? Surely…”
Elizabeth interrupted him in a voice more controlled. “Fitzwilliam, I do not believe any of the questions I asked are true of you. However, this is what I do believe: You are afraid of letting go of your emotions. You are wrapped in an inflexible cocoon of discipline and righteousness and are terrified that if you loosen one single cord you will unravel completely. You love me and desire me, yet resist showing me how much because you fear I will be disgusted or disappointed to discover you are not the towering paragon of virtue and excellence you deem yourself.”
She paused for a deep breath. His grief stricken countenance suddenly drained her anger, replacing it with a fresh rush of irrepressible love. Placing both hands about his face, she whispered, “My God, William! Do you not yet comprehend how deeply I love you? You can be free with me and I will always love you. I trust you with my life, my virtue, my body, and my heart! You have nothing to fear from me and I fear nothing from you, except this distance between us. I beg you, do not push me away!”
“Elizabeth,” he moaned, pulling her into his arms for a tender embrace. “I am so sorry. You are correct, absolutely correct. I have feared… all that you said, and more. Opening my inner being is not easy for me. Surrendering to my passionate nature after so long subduing it has been difficult, the lack of control at odds with the disciplined man I proclaimed to be. Thank you for understanding, but mostly for removing the bounds around my heart.”
He kissed her reverently, a soft, closed lip kiss that was strangely as enlivening and precious as the wild one. “I feel liberated already. And happier, and more in love with you than I was before, which is remarkable!”
A few controlled kisses later, they rejoined Mr. Bennet in the library. He had only moved deeper into the room, his duty as chaperone a dismal failure since he was ignorant that they had ever left. Darcy and Lizzy shared a private smile, neither willing to point out Mr. Bennet’s error. Instead Lizzy walked directly to the case behind Darcy’s desk and pointed to a miniature Austrian chateau.
“What is the story behind this?”
**Stay tuned for more in the days ahead!