Rain & Rabbits
In which a rabbit or two ‘lead’ Elizabeth to Darcy
*for April, inspired by Qiong Yao’s Romance in the Rain, & Mia’s rabbit, Lord Byron
“Oh dear, Nurse, please take the children home, first. I shall look for Oscar.” Elizabeth Bennet instructed, impatiently settling the children into the carriage, at the same time keeping an eye on the troublesome rabbit, currently hiding behind the bush.
Had she known that Isabella had hidden the bunny inside the seat compartment, she would have cancelled the outing. It was not until they reached Hyde Park, however, that she learnt of the unruly animal. If she, nurse and the children chasing the rabbit around the whole morning, was not bad enough, the bright sunny sky suddenly darken, dramatically.
Few droplets of water fell, leaving damp marks on her muslin dress. The carriage took off, and she turned back in time to see the bunny leaving it hiding place and scampered to the other side of the Serpentine. Elizabeth ran across the bridge, chasing the wild animal. Rain came pouring down, as the norm of April shower. Heedless of road traffic, she flew across Park Lane and in the last second, twisted her ankle, as she avoided a moving carriage.
Hands and knees in the rainwater and her dress soaked through when the carriage wheel collided with the puddle. Elizabeth knew not how things could get any worst, began counting to cool her temper. She lifted her head and saw the rabbit hopped into the back garden of some elite’s house.
“Miss, are you well? I am very sorry; my driver did not see you.” The gentleman held an umbrella over her body; he bent down and offered his arm. Elizabeth too embarrassed, refused his help, but stood up nonetheless, and found the handsomest man watching her anxiously, but in stock.
She must have resembled some wretched creature, her muslin plastered to her body, her Spencer hardly suitable protection or coverage in this element and her hair matted to her head. She could be a wet rat. “Thank you, but it was my fault. I beg you to forgive me; I must have startled your driver.” Elizabeth began shivering, not sure what to do next. She turned to check out the house that the bunny had gone into, and debated whether she could try asking the housekeeper’s help.
“Could I offer you any assistant? Are you lost, Miss?” Whatever his feeling, he sounded sincere in his offering, but Elizabeth was not naïve to the existence of unscrupulous gentlemen. Although, could she trust her appearance to render her completely unappealing?
“I thank you, Sir, but I could not inconvenience you, for I am looking for my cousin’s rabbit. I beg you to excuse me.” A flicker of disappointment came to his face, so quick that Elizabeth nearly missed it entirely. She wrapped her hands around her shoulders, rubbed her arms up down trying to bring some heat to her body.
“Pardon my impropriety, but I am Fitzwilliam Darcy, and we are outside by my home, Miss. It would be my housekeeper’s pleasure to assist you.” Elizabeth followed his hand and found the very house that Oscar the rabbit already disappeared into. “Forgive my assumption, Miss, but you are not in the condition to go anywhere, I fear that you may catch your death.”
“You are very kind, Mr Darcy, yes, I thank you.” The two walked the short distance to his house, and up the stair, where a motherly housekeeper known as Mrs Reynolds the second, bundled her to a guestroom and striped of her wet clothes.
Fitzwilliam Darcy had sent his servant to deliver the missive over to Gracechurch Street, with invitation for Miss Bennet’s relative to visit, nearly half an hour ago. He was surprised to learn that she was staying in that side of the city.
On his way home from business, somehow Darcy heard a loud cry within the rain. The carriage stopped at the town house, and as Darcy descended, he found his footman attention distracted behind the carriage. Darcy turned and astonished in finding a lady soaked and on apparently had fallen on the sidewalk. His driver apologetically explained that she appeared out of no where in front of the carriage, and that they nearly ran over her. Darcy knew not what compelled him, but he took the umbrella from his footman and hurried to her side and offer assistance and his arm. To his disappointment, she declined.
Though her appearance was beyond appropriate, and her embarrassment must be obvious, her dignity did not falter as she returned his enquiry. She was distracted looking in the direction of his back garden, however, and Darcy learnt later that she was searching for a rabbit.
Darcy never felt an attraction as strong to any woman his entire life, and her wild appearance rendered havoc upon his body. Her eyes finest he ever seen, her purplish lips… no, he shook his head, divesting his ungentlemanly thought. He was honoured with her name, Elizabeth Bennet, as he introduced her to Mrs R2, then saw her ascended the stair and disappear down the corridor.
“Oscar!” Darcy started from the cry. He walked to the window, where the call came from. “Mrs Reynolds, please could you bring me that grey rabbit? I believe that is my cousins’ pet, there in the garden.” Darcy heard Miss Bennet distressing tone clearly, presumably her window was opened, and Darcy was tempted to order it shut when she next sneezed. The rain had thankfully lessened, and the heavy shower earlier now steadily sprinkling.
“Oh dear, if you are certain, Miss Bennet, I shall have someone fetch him for you. I recognised the fellow; he is a stray and often here to see the Master’s Lady Penelope.” Darcy’s eyes shot up at Mrs R2 reply; did his pet rabbit have a mate? A maid already making her way downstairs to fetch the animal; Darcy stepped out from his study to halt her task and let her know that he would fetch the animal himself. He collected a basket from the kitchen, and while holding an umbrella in one hand, he went to the garden, via the ballroom glass doors. Quickly he scoped both bunnies from inside Lady Penelope’s pen, into the basket before either could attack him, and Darcy returned into the house with few weather marks.
The door bell rang. His butler, Samson went to open the door, and admitted a matron, whom Darcy presumed to be Miss Bennet’s aunt. “I am here to see my niece, Elizabeth Bennet. Mr Darcy sent a letter to Gracechurch Street.” His butler nodded, and retrieved her calling card; behind her stood John, the servant who delivered his message.
Darcy called out to Samson, approached the anteroom, as the matron turned to his voice. Darcy bowed, and introduced himself, and indicated to his butler that he would show Mrs Gardiner to her niece.
Surprised, but nodded nonchalantly when he found that Mrs Gardiner was from Lambton, Darcy relayed to her that Miss Elizabeth declined seeing the doctor, but he think she may have a cold. They ascended the second floor as Mrs Gardiner remarked that the grey bunny inside his basket resembled her children’s bunny.
Darcy told her that it could be, and he was collecting the animal for Miss Bennet, just now. The two bunnies, grey and brown were all over each other, causing the humans audience to turn away blushingly. Darcy cleared his throat, and knocked on Miss Bennet’s guestroom.
Mrs R2 opened the door, and behind it was Miss Bennet sitting by the open window in her borrowed dress, possibly from Georgiana’s wardrobe. Her hair was down to the side as she ran her fingers through them; surely this was how she would look in bed, and at the moment he imagined them intimate. She appeared as flush as he, but happy on seeing her aunt next to him. Darcy gave Mrs R2 the basket, made his excuses, with assurance that they were very welcome guest, and a bow he left the room.
Some mischievous angel was probably playing games with Darcy’s emotions that day. Miss Bennet came down with a cold and a headache, and while she protested vigorously that she was well enough to take the carriage back to the Cheapside, her aunt accepted his invitation to stay till she was better. The rain possibly persuaded Mrs Gardiner also; for as the day shifted to the night, the rain turned heavily like cats and dogs, and thus it was inevitable that travelling would be unpleasant.
Dinner that evening was an odd affair; Georgiana was still at school, for she was not fourteen, and he a bachelor playing host to two women he met only that afternoon. The informal occasion also had Mrs R2 played hostess, and it turned out that she knew Mrs Gardiner when both were children, and the two exchanged pleasant memories and news of those in Lambton.
Miss Bennet refused to stay and rest in bed, sat between Mrs R2 and him and facing Mrs Gardiner. She wore the same white dress and a cream silk wrap that smugly hugged her frame. He kept his attention away from her delicate and beautiful ungloved hands, repressing the desire to kiss them attentively and place them on his heart. Occasionally she joined the conversation of the two matrons, but every moment she looked like she belonged in his home.
She spoke to him, too, and although he was sorry that he made her feel awkward when she learnt that his parents were dead, he could not but relish being with someone who knew nothing of him before this evening. She did not simper, she seemed to care nothing for his wealth, his name or his connection, and she asked after his sister, in a genuinely interested way, unlike other ladies of his acquaintance. She had four sisters, whom she loved but she was closest with Miss Jane, who sounded much like Georgiana. Miss Bennet loves reading, a habit encouraged by her father, whom had a modest library in Longbourn. She winked as she told him of her retreats, from extensive long walk, in the wood, to be reflective when her family became too energetic. They exchanged comical stories on the ‘adorable rabbits’; although she was of the opinion that like Oscar all rabbits were nuisance, especially to the garden.
Darcy never smiles or laughs so much, and only Mrs R2 knew of this, and thus resulted in the occasional puzzled looks from his housekeeper, which he ignored. With Miss Bennet he found he could tell her anything, speak to her of everything and additionally debate enjoyably. Her views were often similar to his, but Darcy purposely took the opposition side, delighted on hearing her contradictions. She spoke from her heart, which gave fire to her eyes and every second he felt even more drawn into her unconscious art and allurements.
Dinner ended too soon, thought Elizabeth, and she hope that morning would not come. She never met a man like Fitzwilliam Darcy, and for the first time in her life she truly wished to be as beautiful as Jane, as bold as Lydia or as accomplished as some unknown paragon of females. She was attracted to the Master of this house to which she was now a guest, and she felt the difference between them acutely. She dread after tomorrow when she was better, she would have to return to Gracechurch Street and she would never see him again. But even if she would, how could he possibly be thinking of her. Their first meeting was disaster, and the first impression she gave him was of herself resembling a heathen.
She twisted and turned in her bed, and her fever was not aiding the matter, thus any position she tried, she found them uncomfortable. Her body alive, hot, ached with something and finally resigned, she jumped from the bed to pace. The clock chimed one o’clock informing Elizabeth that the house must be asleep; her Aunt Gardiner, among the party, was sleeping in the guest chamber next door.
She poured herself a glass of water, and drank it in one gulp. She pulled the nightgown closer around her body to stop the draft cooling her skin. She sat on the recliner next to the fireplace, but soon stood up to walk to the window. She sat on the cill and looked outside to the rainy sky, and whatever else visible through the raindrop. Her stomach churning, her hands and fingers would not still, and unable to sit, she got up and walked to the door. One hand on the door handle, ready to turn the lever and open the door, but immediately restrained herself.
Elizabeth breathed heavily, ‘what am I doing?’ she asked herself, then cursed her foolish head, or heart, at this point one cannot tell. At length, the decision was taken from her, and however much I wish to blame those rambunctious rabbits, this time they were completely innocent. Elizabeth heard a noise from outside the door, and unthinkingly she opened it.
Mr Darcy nearly fell down to the floor; instead his hands caught her shoulders. “Miss Bennet.” “Mr Darcy.” both whispered to the others simultaneously, and both said they were sorry that they were in the other person’s way. Not knowing what more to add, Elizabeth gazed at her host pensively. She was unaware that he was starting back at her in the same manner. Finally, she became aware, hotly, that they were standing on the threshold of her guest chamber, and Mr Darcy gazed hovered between her eyes, her lips and her below.
“I was hoping to read something.” Elizabeth offered lamely, keeping one palm spread over her thundering heart and her eyes downward on the carpet.
“Perhaps I could be of help.” Elizabeth trembled, prayed he did not see her ready to swoon just from his deep voice. She nodded and found her hand rested in his arm, as they made way to his private study, which he informed her as they stepped into the room.
I must be dreaming, this is not proper and try to relax were constantly running through Elizabeth mind as they stood in his private study selecting books by candlelight. Canvassing one wall were many shelves of books, and each with a candle in their hand at opposite end of the shelves roamed the books as they moved toward the centre and each others. Elizabeth felt his heated gazes on her, and she could not deny that she had stole glances at him every other minute when she felt he was not looking. Elizabeth could hear her heart beating louder as they nearer to each other, and constantly she prayed that the sound would remain muted to him.
He asked if she likes Romeo and Juliet, for he knew from dinner that she like Shakespeare. She did not answer, but gazed at this shelf where on of this hand touched the spine of the very book, another laid over hers, both resting on the shelf low down. She wetted her lips, and breathed hard. In slow motion she saw him coming closer.
The softest pressure on her lips, the sensation completely froze her. Somewhere she registered his hands moving, one around her waist and another to her neck. Could one die from a kiss? He had stolen her breath, how was she living, how had she managed to breath? His lips so firm, so soft, she even tasted brandy and lemon and mint ice cream. Oh dear, her weak legs, her weak pathetic knees, what has he done to her? She wish for more, to taste more of him, to take his breath away like he had done to her. Oh hands, could he not move them to her breast?
No! Elizabeth pushed him away with all her might. She stared at him, equally bewildered, trying to regain her composure and strength. His eyes were torn, between guilt and desire, she could not believe in the latter, but unable to bear hearing the former, she ran out of the room and back to her bed.
Ashamed, Elizabeth left directly for Gracechurch Street the next morning, barely able to greet her host and hero goodbye as he handed her up into the carriage. She returned to Longbourn before he could call in the Cheapside. They did not meet again, until the autumn he became a guest at Netherfield Park, where his friend leased the house, and they reunited at the Meryton Assembly, only this time, Miss Darcy was of the party and Mr Darcy asked Elizabeth to dance much to her mother joy. The next morning, while Elizabeth enjoyed her morning walk, she found Miss Darcy chasing a runaway rabbit, Lady Penelope to be exact, and the animal like it one-time-mate lead her to Mr Darcy’s path.
In conclusion, they were married before the year out.
I’ll try my luck in writing comedy again next time, though at this moment it is
evidence that I have neither wit or humour genetic make-up in my body. Nonetheless,
I hope the picture of a wet Elizabeth
is a suitable read for a quickie. Leave me your thought or a bunny if you like.