I apologize that it took so long for me to put this up. I didn't get it finished until months after the original story. I hope you enjoy it anyway!
"And so then what happened?" asked Mr. Bennet for the third time.
"Then I fell in the water."
"And that's how you got the bruise on your cheek."
"No, Papa, weren't you attending? I got that when the carriage broke down."
"Ah. When it got stuck in the mud, you mean."
"No, that was the other carriage."
"The other carriage?"
"Yes, the one in the afternoon, when it rained."
"What about the carriage in the morning?"
"It broke down."
"In the rain?"
"No, of course not. It only rained in the afternoon, when we had the second carriage. The first carriage broke an axel, and of course we could not ride with Jane and Bingley in their carriage, so we needed a second one—or a third one, I suppose. That's the one that got stuck in the mud—not Jane and Bingley's, but the third one. Or the second."
Mr. Bennet rubbed his mouth perplexedly. "Which day was this, again?"
"The day we went to the ruins."
"So it was the same day you fell in the water!"
"No, Papa, did you not hear me explain it? The carriages broke down the first day we went to the ruins, and I fell in the water the second day."
"So you went to the ruins twice?"
"No, of course not. Why would we go twice?"
Mr. Bennet opened his mouth, closed it again, and stared at her. "I thought you said you fell into a pond at the ruins."
"Was this before or after your carriage broke down?"
"Well—after, I suppose, but our carriage didn't break down at all that day."
"Which day did it break down, then?"
"The first day."
"The first day of what?"
"Of our trip to the ruins!"
He grasped the edge of his desk firmly. "Look here," he said, thrusting his finger in her face, "was the carriage you used the second day that you went to the ruins the same carriage you used the first day?"
"No, that was Mr. Darcy's carriage."
"Which one? The first carriage on the first day or the second carriage on the first day?"
"The first carriage on the second day—the only carriage on the second day. There was only one. The second carriage on the first day was Mr. Bingley's."
"You told me you couldn't ride in Mr. Bingley's carriage!"
"Only the first one he had. It wasn't really his. The second one, the one that was really his carriage, that one we all rode in. That's the one that got stuck in the mud."
"In the afternoon?"
"Yes, see, now you're starting to understand!"
"And so Mr. Darcy's carriage was the one that broke down?"
"Yes—but no. It wasn't really Mr. Darcy's carriage either. Mr. Darcy's carriage didn't break down at all. We took it to the ruins."
"It seems to me," said Mr. Bennet severely, "that it took you entirely too many carriages to get to the ruins! And none of this even explains how you came to get bruises on both your cheek and your wrist."
"Oh, that part is simple. I got the first bruise—the bruise on my cheek—when the carriage broke down—"
"The first one on the first day we went to ruins. And I got the second bruise—the bruise on my wrist—when that man attacked me and Mr. Darcy fought him off."
"And which carriage were you riding in that day?"
"Mr. Darcy's—the same one we used the second day we went to the ruins. Anyway, Mr. Darcy rescued me—"
"With his walking stick."
"With the sword in his walking stick, yes."
"That's what he hit him with?"
"No, Papa, I hit him.
"You hit him?"
"With a poker. Because he was attacking Mr. Darcy."
"I thought he was attacking you."
"He was! Did you not understand the story when I told you the first time? First he attacked me, and Mr. Darcy fought him off with his sword stick, then he attacked Mr. Darcy and I hit him with the poker. But only after he gave me my second bruise."
"On your face?"
"No, my wrist!"
"How many bruises do you have?"
He frowned at her, rubbing his mouth harder than ever. "This was before or after you went to ruins?"
"Of course," he muttered.
"It was after we went the first time—or after we tried to go but did not get there—but before we went the second time, when we actually did get there."
"And you—fell in the water?"
"Because you were attacked by geese."
"Did Mr. Darcy fight them off with his sword stick too?"
"Of course not. But I did hit one with my reticule."
"Was that as effective as the poker?"
"But when, daughter," he insisted, leaning forward, "when, in the midst of all these carriages and bruises and attacks and trips to the ruins, did Mr. Darcy make you his proposal of marriage?"
"Oh." She blushed. "That was after I fell into the water."
"After you got back to town, you mean."
"No. Just after."
His brows rose. "When you were still wet?"
"Well, yes, but he was wet too."
"Why, did he fall into the water as well?"
"No, he jumped in after me."
"I see." He sat back. "Well, it is quite of a piece with all the other proceedings. Lizzy, if Lydia had come back and told me such a tale, I would not have believed her. That you, my most sensible daughter, should come back from a mere holiday at the beach bruised and battered, with stories of attacks, dunkings, upsets, and soaking wet proposals, makes me doubt that any daughter I have should be ever allowed out of the house again."
Just at that moment, Lydia ran into the library. "Papa, Mrs. Forester has invited me to go Brighton with her!"
"Brighton?" he exclaimed. "Are you out of your senses? No, no, no, no!"
"I said no! No Brighton, no beach, no carriages or boats or ruins or attacking geese! And especially no officers! As for you, Lizzy, you may be thankful that your Mr. Darcy did propose, or we would be having a very different conversation. Now be gone from here! I have books to read."
"Yes, Papa," said a smiling Lizzy, steering her weeping sister from the room. At the last moment she paused to dart back and kiss his cheek. "Thank you," she whispered.
"Begone, before I change my mind," he insisted.
As the door closed he began to mutter to himself. "The second carriage on the first day! The first carriage on the second day! Mr. Bingley's but not Mr. Bingley's. Geese! Mud! Sword sticks! Biggest bunch of rigmarole I ever heard in my life. Hmmph!"