A/N: Those that know me well know of my deep love of the works of Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice in particular and so it might surprise even them that I have attempted my own twist on that beloved story but as I have become addicted to reading some of the fantastic stories written on this site, the thought of being able to write new scenes for some of my favourite characters in literature was too enticing to resist!
My story begins as Elizabeth makes her way to Pemberley and her fear that Darcy should discover her there is great. The twist is in how they meet…
Disclaimer: All characters belong to Jane Austen I just want to play with them for a while!
Elizabeth's feeling of apprehension did not abate as the carriage brought them closer to Pemberley. She had tried on numerous occasions the previous evening to dissuade her relations from visiting the estate but as her aunt had her heart set on going and revisiting pleasant memories from her youth Elizabeth did not have the heart to decline and so she enquired discreetly of one of the maids upon retiring whether the Darcy's were in residence at present. Pleased with the answer she resigned herself to the fact that she would see Pemberley in the morning. Even with the reassurance that Mr Darcy was not at Pemberley, Elizabeth feared he would somehow find out that she had been to the estate and she found she did not want him to think ill of her. She spent the rest of the night trying to make out her feelings towards the master of that great estate, that she was grateful was not in doubt, how could she not be sensible of such a man's interest? She had long since forgiven his arrogant assumption she would accept him as she had been entirely incorrect in her own assumptions of his character, his letter paved the way in enlightening her particularly to the discovery of his generous heart and though his words stung with regard to her family she could not deny that he was correct in all aspects except one. Dearest Jane! To know that her sister still nursed a broken heart and to know now that it was her own family to be its cause was mortifying! However, Elizabeth knew in her heart that Darcy was not privy to Jane's innermost thoughts and feelings as she was and so had to concede, grudgingly, that he must be forgiven for mistaking Jane's serenity of countenance for coldness, Darcy was after all, only seeking to help his friend. It was in this manner that she had eventually drifted off into a fitful sleep.
When Elizabeth arose the next morning her head ached, she was desirous of partaking in the fresh morning air and as she was confident her aunt and uncle would not rise for an hour or two, she grabbed her spencer and bonnet and upon leaving word with Sarah of her intentions she very nearly skipped out the door in her enthusiasm for her walk.
As she left the village of Lambton behind Elizabeth took in the splendour of the surrounding hills and peaks, never in her life had she seen such beauty and she drank it in glorying in the way the morning dew on the grass sparkled in the sunshine. By the time she returned to the Inn, Elizabeth had decided to enjoy the upcoming excursion and greeted her aunt and uncle with a smile when they said they were ready to depart.
So it was with a palpitating heart that Elizabeth took in the sights of the woodland surrounding Pemberley as the carriage wound its way towards the crest of the hill where her aunt informed her she would get her first glimpse of the house itself. Upon seeing the house for the first time Elizabeth's breath caught in her throat. It was beautiful! To think I could have been mistress of it! It was then that Elizabeth felt her first pang of regret.
Upon entering the house, they were greeted very cordially by the housekeeper, Mrs Reynolds. She graciously took them around to view the house adding little anecdotes and insights into the family that propriety deemed appropriate. That she was proud to serve Mr Darcy and his sister was clear from her very first sentence and Elizabeth listened in astonishment as she heard her say that Mr Darcy was 'the best landlord and the best master…' To hear such things and from a family servant was praise indeed and Elizabeth was suddenly very eager to hear more. She was very grateful, first to her uncle for drawing out Mrs Reynolds with his easy manners and then to her aunt for guiding her to a set of miniatures and inadvertently informing Mrs Reynolds that Elizabeth knew Mr Darcy. Mrs Reynolds impressed that the young miss knew the master, proceeded to tell Elizabeth that there was a finer, larger portrait of the master in the gallery upstairs and it was in front of the said portrait while contemplating the enigmatic smile on Mr Darcy's face that Elizabeth felt her second pang of regret. Why had she never interpreted that smile with its true intent before? For, she was often the recipient of that smile in the past, most particularly in their last 'sparring match' as she played the pianoforte for Colonel Fitzwilliam and himself at Rosings.
Lizzy was not certain how long she stood in contemplation of the portrait before her but she was roused by her uncle's outspoken desire to view the grounds. Smiling, Mrs Reynolds informed them that the head gardener would be pleased to take them round as she left them at the door. Following in the head gardener's wake, Lizzy grew quiet as she thought of all she had learned about Mr Darcy that day. It was astonishing to her to learn how much loved Mr Darcy was by his servants, that he was not a happy man had been her firmest opinion and now it seemed that opinion must be revised as well. If she could make such a basic error in judgement what did that mean for her own character flaws? Did she even know herself? It was almost frightening to think that she did not. She was so deep in thought she hardly paid any heed to the head gardener's enthusiastic rendition of the flowers and shrubs that had been planted in Mrs Darcy's time. Lizzy was once again grateful for her aunt's willingness to carry on a polite conversation by asking question after question of the older man, Lizzy's mind was too full to ask anything of him.
Entering into yet another walled garden, Lizzy spied a break in the shrubbery and on looking a little closer she made out what she thought was a small meadow. Curiosity getting the better of her, she looked around to see her aunt and uncle occupied by a small fish pond and knowing she would hardly be missed, Lizzy slipped through the shrubbery and out into the meadow. Here was a chance to think clearly for the first time that day and Elizabeth gladly availed of the opportunity. Spinning around in delight at the vast open space, Elizabeth breathed in the fresh scent of lavender. To Elizabeth, it was heaven on earth and for a moment she lay down among the lavender and gazed up at the sky. She must have dozed off for the next sound she became aware of was that of an approaching horse. In fright, Elizabeth jumped to her feet, startling the horse and in so doing dislodged the unsuspecting rider from his seat.
It was only as the gentleman's hat fell from his head that Elizabeth recognised him with a jolt. Mr Darcy! It was also then that Lizzy realised to her horror that Mr Darcy had not opened his eyes since his fall. Lizzy tried calling out to him but having failed to get his attention she knelt down beside him and gave his shoulder a gentle push. Still there was no rousing him and as the seconds ticked by, Lizzy grew more and more alarmed. What was she to do if he would not wake?! As her panic rose, Lizzy noticed a drop of blood on a nearby stone and gasped. Oh no! Lizzy recognised the significance immediately and placed her hands on either side of Mr Darcy's head gently probing for the wound she knew to be there. When she felt something warm and fluid she withdrew her hands. Her eyes widened in shock as they took in the blood that covered her hands. With tears threatening to fall, Lizzy felt blindly in her reticule for her handkerchief to stem the flow until she could get help.
Unwilling to leave Mr Darcy alone and unconscious, Lizzy first caught the reins of Mr Darcy's horse and loosely tied them to the nearest tree allowing the animal to graze. With the horse secure Lizzy could now attend to Mr Darcy. She knew that someone must come soon if Mr Darcy did not return to the stables before long. Lizzy could not help but feel uneasy – Did not Mrs Reynolds say that Mr Darcy was not expected until tomorrow?! There was nothing to be done but to stay with Mr Darcy until someone did come. Oh please someone come soon!
Elizabeth, by now, had decided to make Mr Darcy more comfortable but to do so would mean she would have to break convention, after a moment's thought she shrugged her shoulders - It is too late to be thinking of propriety now, we are already alone and besides I cannot leave him lying in a pool of his own blood, can I?! Having made up her mind, Elizabeth proceeded to kneel down and place Mr Darcy's head in her lap to comfort him. She could not help the blush that rose in her cheek as she did so. Forgive me, Mr Darcy.
Lizzy was not sure how long she sat there silently praying that help would arrive soon. Her prayers were answered in the form of a stable boy sent out in search of the master. Lizzy called out to him as he drew near. "Oh, what is your name, pray? Will you please inform Mrs Reynolds that Mr Darcy is in need of a doctor urgently, he has fallen from his horse and he is unconscious?" The boy, James, nodded his consent his eyes widening as they took in his master's current state. When the boy had gone, Lizzy breathed a sigh of relief and gently brushed a loose curl from Mr Darcy's forehead as she whispered to him, "Help shall soon be here, Mr Darcy. Have no fear, all will be well."