The grounds of Netherfield Park shone underneath the tepid sunshine of that November morning. The sky was bright, only few clouds fluttering about, but never obscuring the sunshine—a great improvement from the rainy days of the season.
Elizabeth had seized the opportunity to flee from the dull company in the breakfast parlour. One peek outside the window had been enough to tempt her. Much as she tried, Mr. Hurst's ramblings on gambling adventures in town were hard to bear at such early a time. As was Miss Bingley's babbling about a Miss Eldridge falling in the arms of a notorious rake.
But it was not to be. Company had, after all, reached her.
"Good morning, Mr. Darcy."
There he stood, right in the middle of the narrow path of that remote area—right in her path! "To you, ma'am." He paused, still looking slightly startled by her intrusion. "A fine weather for a stroll."
"A great walker such as yourself could not have let the opportunity to be wasted, I imagine. How unfortunate the previous days have not been as merciful."
Elizabeth's gaze fixed over Darcy's shoulder, longingly eying the grassy path. The man was terrible with idle talk. She adjusted the shawls around her shoulders, and, "A shame, yes. Especially for the shooting season."
"Bingley does not mind much. Miss Bingley, however, is quite disappointed. She has a great yearn for fresh air, yet the peril of mud prevents her from setting foot outside."
"Oh! The mud is quite unforgiving towards the hem of skirts and petticoats."
And then, his eyes dared—dared!—to fall right on the dirty splashes on her gown. His eyebrow arched, once their gazes met. "Quite."
"I cannot deny myself the pleasure of a good walk simply because the grounds are muddy, sir. You shall excuse me, but I am really eager to continue my stroll."
Darcy moved his stiff legs to stand before her, blocking any attempt of escape. "In truth, I share your opinion. What I find, however, quite improper, is how you present yourself to me. Dirty stains on your garments are highly unfitting for the intended purpose."
"Mr. Darcy! You misunderstand—I am not presenting myself to anyone, and not to you, of all people!"
After scant seconds of hesitation, he asked, "You are not?"
She huffed a firm no! "And were you a true gentleman, sir, you would not mind my looks, even if I happened to have stains of mud on my face!"
"In all honesty, Miss Bennet, I would not mind if…" and, whatever had in mind to say, he did not. He simply stared at her with wide eyes. Then, a big frown wrinkled his brow. Red in face, he stood mute.
Elizabeth, hands on hips, waited. Her booted foot tapped against the wet soil.
It seemed, Darcy had no intention of talking, regardless of her impatience. And, exactly when his lips parted to utter some syllables, his hand shot to his mouth. Swiftly, he turned his back to her.
No reply came.
It would not do! It was hopeless! Elizabeth gave a loud sigh, then cleared her throat: "You are completely right, I admit I would not mind if you happened to have stains of my seed on your face, Miss Bennet!"
He spun on his feet. "Elizabeth!"
"Have you already forgot it?" She asked, tone bordering on exasperation. "It is not a complex line, sir!"
"I cannot—I cannot speak such line," he said on a groan, hiding his eyes behind his palm, and with them, half of his red face. "I would never say that, and to a maid, of all people!"
"I do not think it is necessary to remind you I am no more a maid."
"In this silly play of yours, you are!"
"Mr. Darcy," then, she amended, "Fitzwilliam. The most amusing part of this farce is that I am a Miss Bennet whose wild ways must be tamed."
Through long fingers, he peeked at her. "Tamed! With my—my!—on your face!"
Her hands reached to pry his own from reddened cheeks. "Only because, as your wife, I like the it so much! And you know I do."
"Shall we not—er, do such thing as a married couple as we rightly are, without the necessity of playing roles in a play? You simply are a dreadful playwright, Elizabeth. This comedy is horrid."
"Indeed, sir!" Elizabeth cried, gripping his wrists tighter. "Yet, you quite liked the one we played two days ago!"
"I did," he admitted ruefully. "But you were acting as a Miss Bennet, entering in my room illicitly at night to seduce me! It was far less complex than this."
Elizabeth dearly loved Darcy, loved his stern character, his morality of iron. But she also loved his passionate side, which was now in a bad need of being enticed. He could be tender and loving, as well as playful and mischievous as she was. Having him play with her, she adored, and the times he went along with her schemes had resulted in everything exciting and amusing. However, he had the bad habit of complaining, of questioning. And, worst of all, he was an inept in keeping his own role alive—if she was a terrible playwright, he was a terrible actor.
Reaching out for him, she laid both of her palms on his cheeks. "But this play is exceedingly more exciting than that silliness! We are here, in the place we first me, with the opportunity to re-write history! It is—oh, Fitzwilliam, just say the line, please."
A couple of kisses later, and Darcy seemed persuaded enough to obey. He straightened his stiff back and stared down at her. A reinforcing breath, and, "Miss Bennet, I would not mind—yes, I would not mind your—my, pardon, my s-seed—on your face, that is. My seed. On your face—you very lovely face."
Elizabeth beamed. "Mr. Darcy! How astonishing!"
"Indeed it is. I would never say something so vulgar."
"Pardon me. Miss Bennet, what do you think of my proposition? Such practice is essential—essential to teach you the ways of true—er, to teach you the truth of wild ways," he paused, a frown plaguing him. "These lines are hard to bear in mind."
She happily ignored him. "Mr. Darcy! How dare you! Were not my dirty garments offending enough to your sensibilities? Why would you wish to add more dirty substances on my person?"
His long fingers pressed against his temple in distress, a grimace taking on his features. Dirty substances is truly an undignified term, Elizabeth. I am sure there is a lexicon in the library available to your use."
"I wanted to limit myself to proper language, Fitzwilliam," she retorted. "Mr. Darcy, I shall not get on my knees for you!"
"Very well. As you noted, the ground is muddled and wet. You would become quite dirty."
"You are not particularly charming and talented as a rake."
"I do not deny it."
Such lovely weather, Elizabeth thought, was truly a shame to waste. A fine time for amusement gone like that! "We have come all this way!—four miles, Fitzwilliam! We now must do it. Would you be so kind and say that I speak too much and need to have my mouth properly filled?"
"Oh, that line is quite clever in the context, but I think you skipped a big part of your speech."
"I did, because you are not helpful to my cause. I know you are perfectly able to speak in that irritating commanding tone of yours, but you clearly do not appreciate my efforts."
"It is not that—"
"And my fancies are clearly not of your tastes. Come, let us return."
His hand caught hers. "We may still do that, you know. Without, er, all of this. I am not unequal to the idea, you know I am not."
Elizabeth's eyes sparkled, a big grin of mischief on her mouth. "In the library, perhaps? Or in the music room?"
"Elizabeth, the house is filled with Bingleys, Bennets and Hursts. Miss Mary is always in those very rooms. You would not wish her to see…?"
And there was also Georgiana around, shying away from the overwhelming crowd. "No, no—of course, it would be better in our bedchambers," she conceded. Shoulders sagged under disappointment, she set back to on the way to Netherfield Hall.
The situation was bleak and hopeless. To think Elizabeth had been so very proud of her idea! Oh, with just how much enthusiasm had she put the lines—her most intimate fancies—on papers and had given them to her dear Mr. Darcy!
Minutes later, they still walked in that awkward silence. It was then, Elizabeth was tugged—her shawl, actually—on the side of the path. A long, loud sigh vibrated in the chilly air.
She followed Darcy.
With a deep breath and squared shoulders, Darcy began, "While I do not think you talk too much, Miss Bennet, I do think you may—er, yes, you may need to have your mouth properly filled."
"Oh?" She brightened. "Fitzwilliam?"
"Miss Bennet, it is Mr. Darcy to you. And yes, upon reflection, you do need my, er, seed—dirty substance—on your person. On your lovely face. Pray—no, pardon, kneel," he swallowed, flushed red to the tip of his ears. "Kneel at my feet, now."
It was utterly delightful! Elizabeth laughed. "Mr. Darcy! How improper!"
"Not as improper as—er, rebellion, as disobedience!" He gestured at the wet, uninviting ground. "You ought to be tamed—am I correct?—You ought to be taught the wild ways—the truth of them? And you are also in need of discipline, I think."
"Oh, I believe you are the one in acute need of discipline! You are improvising!"
"Miss Bennet, you next shall open your unabashed, er, vivacious mouth only to take my—me, to take me—in it. Is that clear enough?"
Elizabeth tossed her shawl on the ground and dropped on her knees. Her eager fingers were soon laborious on the buttons of his breeches, ready to—finally!—play. Clear enough, indeed.
Since Darcy, dear man he was, had, after all, submitted to her wishes, it was only fair she would do the same. Mouth opened wide, no more inane words escaped.