August 10, 2011
Excerpt from one of my favorite books, "Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife" by Linda Berdoll.
The brevity of their stop was in all probability ultimately a good thing, blessedly truncating as it did the publican couple’s display. The next fit of veneration from a person of lesser birth than the Darcys (i.e., just about everyone) would not be so unexpected. Elizabeth promised herself that she would practise Darcy’s patrician inscrutability and elude the urge to tell those servile persons they had undoubtedly mistaken her for someone else.
Whilst still partaking of their meal, Darcy apologised unnecessarily upon the austere winter dressing of his county.
He said, “I am happy, Elizabeth, that you have seen Derbyshire in the summer. I fear the gloom of winter does not show it at its best.”
Such was his formality, she could not help but respond in kind, dipping her head and smiling as if she was responding to a stranger at a dinner party.
Small consolation, but at the very least he was calling her “Elizabeth” once more.
Whereupon she endeavoured in her thoughts to retrace their steps that forenoon, wondering what, if anything at all, she could have done to cause his emotional retreat from her. For had they not parted from each other’s arms reluctantly and in all good humour?
The single unseemliness bechanced in her dressing room. He was completely unaware of it. And as this impropriety was of an extremely personal nature, it was absolutely unobserved.
Her bath had been drawn before she appeared. When she saw it there, hot and inviting, she was struck by an odd caprice. With little contemplation, she took the bar of soap and dropped it in the tub, allowing it to sink to the bottom and melt. Thereupon, she wrapped herself in a towel and let the steam curl her hair into an untidy frowse. In time, a waiting woman appeared to help her dress and curl her hair into a reasonably fashionable design. Elizabeth allowed the maid to believe her bath had been compleated. All this subterfuge was to a single end. She did not want to wash her husband from her body.
It was not premeditated. The decision was not made until she looked into the clear, hot water. She did not want to be daintied. She wanted to be able to smell his aroma emanating from her own body. If it was common to want to do such a thing, so be it. She deliberated the possible unbecomingness of her conduct no further.
The second half of their journey proved vastly more rewarding than the first.
Once the impenetrable noise and slush of London had been shed, the wintry countryside for which he apologised was quite inviting. And, their re-entry into the coach allowed her to claim the pillow she had earlier refused. She attempted to place it under herself with as little notice as possible. But once the coach door had been slammed shut, Darcy made a point of helping her to situate it. As to why she was utterly mortified at his chivalry, she could only guess. For was it not his doing that she needed the pillow in the first place?
It may have been that unspoken thought that passed betwixt them when they exchanged an exceedingly explicit gaze, but it was broken as the horses lurched forward.
The team strove on. And sitting shoulder to shoulder with her new husband in the bright, very public daylight, she was visited with an unshakeable, if indecorous, recollection. As much as she endeavoured (and mightily she did endeavour), Elizabeth could not displace the image from her mind of her husband’s body. Naked as God made him. And aroused.
With all her being, she wished she had some cold water to flick upon her face, for she could feel the rush of heat building from her bosom. Her flush was so pronounced, she hypothesised that the bumping of the carriage was making her ill.
“Yes, I am feeling ill. ’Tis not my husband’s nearness. ’Tis not the thought of him naked and flesh proud. I am feeling ill. It must have been the blood-pudding.”
Silently, she fretted that the relentless throbbing in her chest might cause her permanent affliction. She did so not want to be a sickly wife. But in her heart, she knew herself not truly ill. Would she want so very much to leap into his arms had she been afflicted? As she lay her head back against the seat, quite unknowingly, she emitted a deep sigh. Regrettably, she thereby gifted herself further disconcertion by reason of his hand alighting upon her knee.
Uneasily, he queried, “Pray, are you unwell?”
It occurred to her to tell him that if he kept his hand upon her knee, he was in imminent danger of learning just how well she was, but she quashed the notion.
“I am quite well, I thank you,” she said.
That assurance evidently did not persuade him of the felicity of her health, for his hand began a small, reassuring caress. This manipulation was unsuccessfully ignored by Elizabeth. For as he gazed impassively out the window at the passing countryside, the seemingly independent action of his hand expanded to an outright stroking of the inside of her thigh.
Soundly, she clamped her hand down atop his, certain that if she did not stop him, her eyes might actually roll back in her head. This constraining grasp was largely ignored. His fingertips continued their caress. In time, the rocking of the carriage and his rhythmic stroke influenced her own hand to relinquish its grip. Lulled into a nearly trance-like state, she almost gave a start when he spoke.
“Indubitably, it will take a period of adjustment to become accustomed to each other’s all and sundry personal habits.”
She steeled herself for a reproach upon any of her more prevalent personal shortcomings. As punctilious as she knew he could be, she was determined to weather any criticism with forbearance.
“My own routine is thoroughly entrenched.”
She nodded in acceptance of this irrefutable likelihood.
“Yet, I have an admission.”