As she finished her song she held his eyes. As the applause diminished she forced her eyes away, unwilling to create too much speculation from those in the room. Her gaze fixed upon the violin in the stand. It was obviously of quality but used and loved. The stings were taut, the wood shined with oil and the bow's horse hair strings were dulled with rosin.
"Is the violin another of your talents Miss Darcy?" She asked her companion. The girl started and lowered her eyes.
"No Miss Bennet, I do not play. I have never learnt." She glanced over to her brother who was talking to the Gardiners. Then said in a timid tone "My family has always been musical" She paused. Elizabeth smiled at her new young friend hesitant attempt at conversation.
"So if it is not your instrument then…" Her surprised eyes turned toward Mr Darcy then they turned mischievous "Perhaps I should request a song."
"Oh please do not Miss Bennet." She leaned forward and pressed Elizabeth's hand. "He generally plays only for himself, occasionally when I am playing he will join me but…" Elizabeth was earnest in her reply.
"I am sorry Miss Darcy, I only mean to tease. It is my way and gets me into trouble more often than not. Though I may tease him a little perhaps." The poor girl looked both horrified and interested.
"Of what are you talking…What are you saying to Miss Darcy?" Seeing the intimate nature of their conversation Miss Bingley interrupted, wishing to break any friendship that may be forming. Darcy immediately found Elizabeth's eyes and with a grin, he surreptitiously rolled his eyes as he once had done in another drawing room. She met his eyes, her eyes sparkling with amusement but she repressed a grin, instead she turned and smiled to the questioning lady and replied.
"We speak of music, Miss Bingley and how talent is often finds itself present in more than one member of the family." She paused and her eyes lit with mischief. "Perhaps you can assist us in our discussion Miss Bingley. I know you and Mrs Hurst have a great talent with the piano forte, I wonder if your brother shares that talent."
Mrs Hurst laughed outright at the suggestion "Charles…he can barley play a simple child's tune. He always declared the piano a girl's instrument." Her brother looked a little piqued. Elizabeth stood and turned towards the gentleman asking him.
"Perhaps your talent lies in another instrument, Mr Bingley. One that is not too feminine for your sensibilities. You are a singer perhaps, a flutist, or perhaps the violin is where your talents lie." At the piano Miss Darcy fidgeted.
"I have no instrument Miss Bennet, though I do enjoy music very much I can't profess to have a talent in it."
"Your sister has privileged us with her excellent playing, Mr Darcy. Do other members of your family possess such talents?
"Colonel Fitzwilliam, whom you have met, enjoys playing the guitar."
"What of yourself Mr Darcy, do you possess a musical talent?" She was fully aware that the violin behind her in plain sight of Mr Darcy. He looked from Elizabeth Bennet's teasing face to his sisters' anxious face.
"You have found me out, Miss Bennet ...or perhaps I was exposed." He smiled at his sister who now looked quite ashamed.
"What do you play Mr Darcy, we would dearly love to hear you." Came the request from Miss Bingley.
"The violin isn't Darce? You have carrying around that thing since school. Though I've rarely had the privilege of hearing you play." His friend noted. Darcy, looked to his friend and then about the room. Gathering his courage he stood and approached the ladies.
"Since my dear sister and Miss Bennet have taken it upon themselves to given away my secrets I demand retribution." The younger women looked frightened but reconciled, the older one, amused.
"What is your punishment Sir, I am not afraid of you." She smiled but it faulted slightly at the returning grin.
"Perhaps you should be." He said to her quietly. Breaking eye contact he leafed through the sheets of music on the piano before pulling out his choice. "You know it Miss Bennet" She nodded. "Then you shall sing as my sister accompanies us on the piano." She wisely accepted her punishment and placed the music on the piano.
She then watched as he gently placed the instrument under his chin. His long elegant fingers flexed and tested their position at the neck of the instrument. He plucked one string and was answered immediately from the piano with an A. He quickly and confidently tuned each string to the correct pitch. As he reached for the bow Elizabeth saw him surreptitiously wipe his hand against the cloth that lay over it.
He brought it into position and nodded to his sister then caught Elizabeth's eye as the first note from the piano played. From that look he drew strength as they joined the piano.
Their harmony, though unpractised, was almost faultless. The quality of the two musicians blended well with the natural instinct of the singer. The audience could only listen in a reverent silence. The song told the story of a steadfast love, of a love that would endure through adversity. Elizabeth faltered for a moment when she met Mr Darcy's eye. Moving her eye back to the music she recovered well but her eyes did not stray again to the gentleman's face until the end of the song. Then as the final note passed away Elizabeth could only watch in wonder at the passion that filled this man's face. In the momentary silence that followed he raised his eyes once more to hers. The message in his eyes was unmistakable. Her surprised gasp was covered by the enthusiastic applause from the audience.
Mr Darcy took her hand and that of his sisters into the crook of his arms and moved them towards the rest of the company. She heard none of the accolades, she only felt the residual tingle of warmth of the hand that he had rested in the crook of his arm. She was moved slightly out of her daze by the request by Mr Bingley to sing again and only had enough conscious thought to reject the idea. Brother and sister performed one more song as a duo, a quick happy tune that made the company smile.
Miss Bingley was entreated to entertain the company and readily accepted, hoping, perhaps, that another duo would be performed. Disappointingly she played alone.
The party broke up soon after, Mrs Gardiner sighting an early engagement with an old friend. As the carriage pulled away Elizabeth could not help but turn. On the face of the Master of Pemberley was the same look that had stolen her breath earlier. She smiled gently in return.