Mr. Darcy was taking his afternoon tea in the grand parlour at Pemberly, staring out the window at the stormt that was brewing on the horizon.
Since he had stumbled upon Elizabeth Bennet touring the grounds of Pemberly, he could scarcely think of any other sight then her large brown eyes. He had vowed not to care for her anymore since her rejection of him at Rosings, but his amorous feelings towards the young woman had only grown in strength because of it.
"Urgent letter, Mr. Darcy." The butler said from the door, holding out a hastily addressed communiqe for him to read.
Darcy snatched the letter, seeing it addressed from Elizabeth's Aunt in town.
Elizabeth has gone missing on her morning walk. She was supposed to have been back with us for dinner, and has not been seen in town since she left this morning at eight. Please send the messenger back with word if she is lodged with you at Pemberly, we pray she is in your care and not lost in this storm.
Darcy turned back to the butler.
"Dismiss the messenger, I will go myself with all haste to aid the search for Miss Bennet."
Ten minutes later, Darcy was galloping down the road to Lambton, worry in his heart. He knew that Elizabeth was not one to get lost in the woods. Something must have happened.
Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner were pacing round their room at the inn when Mr. Darcy swept in.
"She has not returned." He stated. Mrs. Gardiner began to cry.
"We must take all haste in searching for her then, god help Lizzie in this weather." Mr. gardiner said, taking up his hat and cloak. As if in reply, a heavy crack of thunder rattled the window, and rain began to sheet down outside.
"I will assist you." Mr. Darcy said, concern evident in his voice. "I know some places of shelter where she may be waiting out the storm."
"Let's just pray we find her before this storm gets worse." Mr. Gardiner said, nodding.
"Be careful..." Mrs. Gardiner said tearfully as the men swept out the door.
Darcy held his lantern aloft as he maneuvered his horse down the most prominent of the hunting trails leading from Lambton, already soaked from the driving rain.
"Miss Bennet?" He called. "Elizabeth?" There was no answer.
He urged the horse on another few kilometers, then spied something on the path in front of him. He dismounted, sprinting to the sodden object laying on the path.
It was Elizabeth's bonnet.
Darcy picked it up, fingering one of the now muddy and ruined ribbons. He had once enjoyed the sight of the bonnet covering Lizzie's brown curls.
Stuffing the ruined bonnet into his trenchcoat pocket, Darcy resolved to find its owner and make sure the bonnet was safely in her hands once more.
Darcy left his horse and continued on foot, sure that he was on Elizabeth's path now. The path had become too muddy to see her footprints, but he continued on, worry clutching at his heart.
Darcy turned a bend in the path, and nearly tumbled down a small ravine. He stopped himself in time, and observed his surroundings.
Pemberly was surprisingly visible over the trees, not even a mile off. The part of the path he was on was sheltered on one side by and earthen overhang and several tree roots, and the other side sloped down to a small river. Part of the path had given way, tumbling down over the rocky slope to the water below.
Darcy looked down at the river, and was horrified to see a white shape laying brokenly below. Elizabeth had fallen when the path gave way, and now lay near the bank of the river, unmoving.
"Elizabeth!" He cried, leaping from the path and sliding down the muddy slope toward Lizzie's still body.
Darcy rolled her over, groaning in despair when he saw Lizzie's white pallor. He took her hands, feeling for a pulse under the cold skin. He felt nothing.
"NO!" Darcy cried, his feelings for Elizabeth welling up inside of him. How he regretted all his harsh words to her, how could he have treated her so coldly? Now she was laying here, broken and cold...
Darcy picked Elizabeth up and carried her back up the slope to where the horse was waiting. He looked once again at Pemberly in the distance. He would take her there, and his private physician would attend her. It would be safer than going all the way back to Lambton.
Taking an alternate route down to the river, Darcy crossed and made his way to the Pemberley grounds, arms held securely around Elizabeth for the entirety of the journey.