Updated: Oct 10
Don't download it, read it here!
Scent of Desire Chapter 1
Autumn had draped her russet mantle upon the Hertfordshire hillsides. It was a brisk morning, perfect for a walk. A patchwork of clouds moved swiftly across the sky, the sun breaking through in bursts as Elizabeth Bennet set out from Longbourn. The path along the westernmost edge of her father’s estate had always been one of her favourites for viewing the splendours of the season. As if to repay her favour, a leaf tumbled towards the earth just ahead of her, twisting in the breeze until it came to rest amongst its fallen brethren, heralding the coming winter.
She followed the path towards a little stream her father’s tenants used for irrigation. The snapping of twigs and crunching leaves underfoot startled a bird from its lofty perch in the criss-crossed branches overhead. She stopped and craned her neck to track the bird’s flight. Just then, the kerplop of pebbles splashing into the stream alerted her to the presence of someone else on the path, and she moved forwards to investigate. Elizabeth was not surprised when she rounded the bend in the path and found her Fitzwilliam standing at the edge of the stream. Cupped in his hand was a small pile of pebbles. She paused and watched him for a time.
Unaware of her approach, he plucked a speckled pebble from his pile and then cast it into the water. Plunk. It made a small splash and a series of ripples which were quickly seized by the current. He remained oblivious to Elizabeth’s presence, entirely lost in his own thoughts.
Elizabeth noticed a dimpled smile momentarily stealing across his face. It was gone in an instant, replaced by the stoic and noble expression so many in the neighbourhood, herself included, had once taken as an outward display of his pride and conceit. Elizabeth knew better now. Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, master of Pemberley, an estate worth at least ten thousand pounds a year, was not proud and conceited. Those who had the good fortune to know him better could not deny his good, kind, and loving nature.
Her engagement to Mr. Darcy made her exceedingly happy. The last several months of their acquaintance, beginning with last spring in Hunsford, had been fraught with pain and regret from harshly spoken words—things said without full knowledge of facts and circumstances. But the pain had subsided and been replaced with a firm understanding of his character, and with that understanding came the longing. She had longed to see him again, longed to apologize.
Last summer, coming upon him so unexpectedly at Pemberley had embarrassed her, though the surprise had not been unpleasant once she’d had time enough to recover her composure. When he had talked to her, she had scarcely dared lift her eyes to his face, but then he spoke with her aunt and uncle and she had been amazed at the alteration of his manner since their last parting. He had spoken to them as equals. There was no condescension in his manner and she could not take her eyes from him. It was then when she first admitted to herself how handsome he truly was. For the first time, she had wished she could take back her previous rejection.
That was all behind them now. Coming out of her reverie, Elizabeth gazed at the noble figure of her betrothed and felt her heart begin to race. She put her cool, gloved hands to her flushed cheeks and wondered at the cause of her sudden reaction. It could not be the sight of Mr. Darcy, handsome though he was. Surely, she thought, some other explanation existed for the quickened thudding of her heart against her ribs. After all, he was just a man, and no man had ever before caused such a reaction in her.
He was the same man she had danced with at the Netherfield Ball. The same man she had walked with around Rosings Park. The same man she had met with last night in the presence of her family. It was not as if they had been parted for a long duration or he had changed in the last twelve hours. And yet it must be him. She could not otherwise account for her racing pulse.
She scolded herself for her immaturity, considering she was no better than Lydia and Kitty had been when they so exuberantly chased after the officers last winter. She ought to have the maturity to be composed in her fiancé’s presence, and yet the exhilaration of seeing him again shot straight through to her heart.
She took a step forwards and a twig snapped under her boot.
Mr. Darcy looked up and took notice of her at last. He tossed his handful of pebbles into the stream and went to her.
“Elizabeth, my dear, there you are. I had hoped I would see you this morning if I walked out this way.”
He bowed as he approached her and then took her gloved hand and raised it to his lips. As he kissed her hand, she offered him a deep curtsy. Heat surged up Elizabeth’s arm, bursting like fireworks in her breast. If this is how he affects me when my gloves are on, I have no hope of surviving if he ever touches my skin, she thought.
“How fortunate you are, Mr. Darcy, that I chanced to mention my penchant for early morning walks in this part of the neighbourhood when we spoke last night.”
“I am fortunate indeed.”
“Perhaps I should further mention I walk here every morning, when the weather permits. What about you, Mr. Darcy? Do you think you will be walking out for a morning constitutional tomorrow?”
“Fitzwilliam. Please, Elizabeth, when we are together, you must call me Fitzwilliam.”
“As you wish, Fitzwilliam,” she corrected, her voice portraying every ounce of happiness she felt in saying it.
“As for my walking out tomorrow, I shall have to consider it.”
“Fitzwilliam, I think you must be teasing me.”
An impish smile overspread his features, one Elizabeth had never before witnessed.
“Of course I am teasing you. Nothing, not even the weather, will keep me from coming in case you should be here. I would not miss one moment of privacy which we may have together.”
“I am glad to hear it, for I very much want you to come.” A flush crept up her cheeks and her toes curled in her boots. Admitting she wanted to be with him as much as he did with her was more disturbing than she had ever expected it to be. After years of self-reliance, to admit her happiness could be directly affected by another was a new sensation altogether.
Unable to meet Fitzwilliam’s intense gaze, Elizabeth looked at the ground. Though summer had passed, Lady’s Bedstraw still bloomed in the fields. She left the path to pick a sprig, bringing the small yellow blossoms to her nose to breathe in the sweet perfume. The honey-scented flowers always soothed her no matter the ailment, be it an irritating mother and sisters, or the man she loved causing her heart to leap out of her chest.
“I wish summer would remain all year,” Elizabeth sighed. “It has always been my favourite time of year, when the countryside is filled with flowers. It is a shame the flowers will all be gone soon.”
“I agree, but then again, if the flowers were always here we would take them for granted. I appreciate their return every spring because it means the close of the dreary winter.”
“Yes, you are right, I never considered it that way.”
Taking the sprig of Lady’s Bedstraw from Elizabeth, Fitzwilliam studied it and then lost himself in a memory of the past. Elizabeth touched his arm to bring his attention back to the present.
“Are you all right?”
“Yes, I was just remembering.” Fitzwilliam offered her his arm, which she accepted, and the pair began to walk while he told her his story. “Each summer, on a sunny morning in late July, my mother would take me out in her little phaeton. We would drive to one of the pastures west of Pemberley and park at the edge of the grass. From there, we only needed to take a few steps up the embankment to arrive at our sea of bright yellow flowers at the peak of their bloom. We would pick armfuls of these same flowers and take them home. Mother and I would then place a sprig or two in every vase throughout Pemberley. This annual event was always one of my favourites. Every year I would wait for my mother’s invitation with excitement. I always thought our purpose was to brighten the house, but years after her death, I learned the flowers had another purpose. They keep the bugs away in the summer.”
“That is not their only use,” Elizabeth responded without thinking.
“Really? What are their other uses?” Fitzwilliam inquired.
“Oh, ah … well … they say … that is … I understand it helps with … ah …” Elizabeth had heard the village midwife say it could help a woman through a difficult childbirth, but a lady could hardly say such things to a man, even if she was engaged to him. She ought not to have brought it up, and she cursed her tongue for sometimes being quicker than her wits. Elizabeth searched her mind for any mention of the flower’s use other than the one she had been thinking of. “It has a number of medicinal applications,” she said vaguely. By now her cheeks and neck were three shades of red and she utterly refused to look up at him.
“Medicinal applications, you say? How interesting.”
Elizabeth was inclined to think he did not believe her, but what else could she do? Tell him what the plant was really known for? No, she could not. Mr. Darcy took pity on her and continued with his story.
“Georgiana’s birthday is the middle of July. For her fifth birthday, I had the phaeton readied and took her to the place our mother took me. We picked the flowers, just as my mother had done with me. Then we brought them home and placed them in vases all around Pemberley, but it was not the same. I never took her again.”
His confession did not require a response, so Elizabeth just tightened her hold on his arm as they walked in silence for a few more paces, her free hand swinging at her side, brushing the tops of the flowers.
“I am sure your family will expect you for breakfast. Would you like me to walk you home?” Darcy asked after assessing the position of the sun and then consulting his pocket watch.
“Yes, I would like that very much.”
“Mr. Bingley mentioned we would call today around one. Perhaps then we can discuss a wedding date. Colonel Fitzwilliam will bring Georgiana, but I need to send word of the date so they can plan appropriately.”
“I am eager to see Georgiana again. I have missed her.”
“As have I.”
“I have thought a little about the date already,” Elizabeth said.
“Have you a specific date in mind?”
“No. I only know that I would not like to wait long to marry. There was a time when I thought I would never marry, yet now that we are engaged I find I would prefer to wed sooner rather than later.”
Darcy stopped on the path and drew in a deep breath. Looking deep into Elizabeth’s dark eyes, he said with a low voice, “I would marry you today if it were possible.”
“That would be nice, for then you would be the last person I saw at night and the first in the morning.” Elizabeth’s hand flew to her mouth. So long had she thought about falling to sleep and waking up next to Fitzwilliam that she was hardly aware she had spoken the words aloud until they were already said.
“Tare an’ hounds, Elizabeth, have you really had such thoughts?” His voice was husky with restrained emotion. Oh, how she loved it!
“Do you think less of me for admitting it?”
“Of course not. In fact, you will be lucky if I do not raise a breeze by hauling you off to the altar before sunset.”
“Lucky! I should say I would be unlucky if you did not. Now that we are engaged, I do not plan to be Missish.”
In an instant, Elizabeth’s hand was caught by his and he kissed her palm. Again, her heart raced and heat swept over her in waves. Drawing her close, Darcy leaned very near her mouth and whispered, “There will be the devil to pay if you keep talking like that. I must insist you say no more.”
“Very well, if you insist.”
Darcy offered Elizabeth his arm again and they continued towards Longbourn, each lost in their own thoughts, until Elizabeth spoke up again. “You are right, of course. My father would ring a fine peal over us if we were to do anything untoward. After Lydia’s near disaster, he has taken a far greater interest in all of us. What I meant to say earlier, before my mouth ran away all on its own, is that I have had a talk with Jane. If you and Mr. Bingley approve, we may share their wedding day in six weeks’ time. I do not think it is possible to arrange the event any sooner, for Mama will insist Jane marry first, her engagement being the longer.”
“A double wedding sounds an amiable enough business. Six weeks, you say? I am sure I did not expect it even that soon, but it pleases me that it will be.”
“Very well, then, it is settled. If Mr. Bingley agrees, we shall have a double wedding.”
“He will agree.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Have you ever known Mr. Bingley to disagree with an amiable suggestion? I am not certain the man is capable of dissent.”
The lovers stopped in the path as they neared Longbourn’s gate. Fitzwilliam bowed over her hand and then watched until Elizabeth made it safely to the front door. Rather than waving as she entered the house, she blew him a kiss. She knew it was not a decent thing for a young woman to do, but she did not care. She loved him and wanted the entire world to know it.