Continuing Tales

Inevitable Change

A Pride & Prejudice Story
by acuppajava

Part 14 of 21

<< Previous     Home     Next >>
Inevitable Change

The addition of the colonel and the Darcys to the plantation household set the bevy of servants to work even harder than usual to assure their English guests would feel at home. The feast provided that first evening was the most elaborate Elizabeth had enjoyed yet; it included some of the dishes familiar to her, with the addition of a few tropical fruits and curries. The heat was not familiar to the party, but as the evening wore on, the sun set and everyone enjoyed the breeze stirred by the sail cloth ceiling fans that were pulled by the house coolies.

Mr. Gardiner and Elizabeth shared their tales of their stay at the plantation, and commented on the customs they'd observed while living among the locals. Of course, there were many other British citizens in the vicinity, working for the spice trade to the west and the opium trade to the east. Captain Danbury's plantation grew mostly cotton and rice. Mr. Gardiner had arranged for a tour of the local cotton mill, where light muslin cotton was woven then shipped overseas. Georgiana and Elizabeth accompanied the men, but only so they could enjoy a stroll in the nearby pleasure garden maintained by the British women's auxiliary. "I cannot understand why they would attempt to grow English roses in a climate such as this," Georgiana commented quietly. "The heat is just too much – why not propagate the native vegetation?"

Elizabeth had her suspicions, for she had met some ladies of the Auxiliary. The Bird of Paradise plant found wild in the jungle did not seem to suit their sensibilities – perhaps its sensual shape was not within the bounds of good taste, in their opinion. Indeed, Elizabeth found that many of the British women could not abide anything found in the jungle, or Indian in general. It was all too colorful, too florid, too fragrant – too sensual. She was grateful that Georgie could appreciate the flora and fauna with the same enthusiasm as she.

Mr. Darcy was also seduced by the variety of natural wonders about him, and he had taken to rising in the cool of the dawn to ride the perimeter of the plantation to explore in solitude. It was not but a few days before he discovered another house occupant enjoyed the same pastime as he did – he noticed that the stall of a smallish chestnut mare was consistently empty each time he came to claim his mount. Of course, he thought, Elizabeth would be out and about at this hour; he recognized in her the same restless nature that he possessed, and the same natural curiosity. He inquired of the stableboy which direction the young woman rode, and he urged his horse quickly to the path.

He found her, astride her mount, leisurely picking the way through the overgrown path near the edge of the forest. The sun, completing its grand entrance to the day, cast long shadows about them. "Miss Elizabeth!" he hailed her. "Good morning!"

She twisted in her saddle and placed her slim palm across her brow, so as to make out the dark figure on the horse behind her. "Mr. Darcy, is that you? I am not able to make you out in the shadow!"

He trotted up closer to her. "'Make me out?' Are you trying to sketch my character again, Elizabeth?" He gave her a charming grin, dark eyes sparkling.

Elizabeth laughed, feeling slightly thrilled at the sight of him, dressed casually in his linen shirt, breeches and tall riding boots. "I have no need of such a rough copy, Mr. Darcy. I have long memorized the features of your character."

"Really?" He squinted towards the light of the rising sun. "I hope the image is not too rough for your liking." He caught up her hand and briefly kissed it. "My love for you is the only aspect worth capturing, in my opinion."

She withdrew her hand, and blushed a little. "A lovely sentiment, Mr. Darcy. But there we must stopper the bottle, and stop drinking the potion." She looked away, and then lifted her eyes to his. "Need I remind you, your words of love to me have lead to rather reckless behavior in the past."

Darcy dismounted, and walked to the side of Elizabeth's horse. He silently raised his arms to her, to assist her getting off the mare. He paused only briefly with his hands at her waist, then he stepped back from her and bowed. "I beg your forgiveness for my past behavior in your presence. It is not my desire to compromise your virtue, and I am acutely aware that I have pressed you with my ungentlemanly desires. My apologies, Elizabeth." He stood up with outstretched hands. "You see before you a reformed man, dedicated only to serve you as protector and advisor."

Elizabeth cocked her head to the side and pursed her lips. "My uncle has served as my protector these past months, and he also is my advisor."

"Yes, yes, I realize that. I hold great esteem for your uncle, you must know that. I have sought his advice myself, in financial matters. I would be you advisor in other areas."

She raised her brows at this, and smiled. "What advice would you give me? What are your areas of expertise? Household management? Needlecraft? Would you be willing to give me your views of the best means of preserving mango jellies?"

He laughed, and blushed, realizing he'd been caught again. Of course she would see through any excuse he made for his presence with her in this foreign land. "I know nothing of jellying mango, but I am an excellent swordsman," he quipped with a raised eyebrow.

Elizabeth smiled. "I suppose you thought it well to travel all this way so you may give me a few lessons?"

"No, my dear, your aim is too true. I could teach you nothing without it ending in my blood spilled."

"Cruel, sir! I would spare you wounds, I promise!"

Darcy became quiet suddenly. Wounded was exactly how he had felt for these many months. A wounded, dying animal…but here, with her, his spirits were revived. The long voyage at sea cleansed his soul, and she filled his soul with light and love. Would it be this way, always.

"You are suddenly solemn, Mr. Darcy – you really don't believe I would harm you, do you?" Elizabeth teased him, glancing up at him through her lashes.

"I pray not, Elizabeth. I have no right to ask it of you – to do me no harm. But I pray that you shall always be benevolent toward me."

"Always, Mr. Darcy. After all, as Georgie says, we are brother and sister!" She took his hand and squeezed it lightly, willing his seriousness to pass. "Come – let us tie the horses and walk into the trees a bit. There is a place I wish to show you."

"As you wish, 'sister,' but I will ask you to call me by my given name. We are family, after all," he replied with a slight mocking tone in his voice.

"Come with me, Mr. Dar - William," and after tethering her horse next to his, she took up his hand and led him down a well hidden path through the jungle shrub. Just as he was to ask her how she'd come to find this place, and would they find their way back, the trees opened up to reveal a natural pool, with palms and ferns set about it. The sun struggled to break through the foliage above, but where it did, it sparkled gold on the surface of the clear water. "I think it must be fed by an underground spring – the water is so pure."

Darcy gazed about the clearing, taking in the variety of plants and birds about, fruit trees with boughs bent low with their burdens, the incense sweet scent of jasmine, the chattering monkeys, far up above him. It was a primeval scene – a natural beauty so untouched, so pristine, it filled him with wonder. Elizabeth turned slightly so she could observe his reaction. "It's beautiful, is it not? It makes me wonder if this was not what Eden might have been."

"Yes," he breathed, "It's like paradise."

Elizabeth, pleased that he was enthralled by the secret pool she'd found, confessed to him: "Ashwini and I sometimes walk here – we bathe here, sometimes. She calls it a sacred place, for the waters are healing waters."

Darcy's thoughts strayed to the image of Elizabeth, unclothed, stepping delicately over the smooth rocks, breaking the shimmering surface of the water, surrounded by lily pads and water hyacinths. Her hair, loosened from its pins, would spread like a sunburst on the surface of the water. Elizabeth, bathing in Eden. He cleared his throat and willed himself to think of a less provocative image, fearful his arousal would be apparent to her. "Yes, that would be refreshing, I'm sure," he murmured in measured tones.

They stood in silence with one another, drinking in the beauty of this new land they had discovered, with only the sounds of the symphony of exotic birds and beasts about them. They mutually decided it was time to return to the plantation before they were missed, and turned to walk quietly back to their horses, their thoughts racing in their heads. Elizabeth felt his presence near her deeply, and wondered if he felt the same. She was acutely aware that despite their resolve, the drive to touch one another, to kiss and hold each other, was unbearably powerful, and she sensed it increased with each passing moment. Darcy was busily driving away thoughts of crushing her slender body to his and ravishing her in the brush.

So this is how it will be, she thought. Always wanting each other's company, but always in fear of the consequences of being near one another. She felt so alive as when she was near him. Darcy had come to the same conclusion. He would have to always be vigilant, and keep his desires in check, if he was to enjoy any part of her company, and relish those moments he had with her. It was a conundrum too tangled to set aright in the blossoming morning that lay before them.

When they returned to the plantation, the others had already assembled at the breakfast board. Mr. Gardiner was proposing that the party might consider a day trip to the local ruins, to view the old shrines. Darcy was reminded of the idyllic slice of time he'd had while Elizabeth visited Pemberley at Christmas, enjoying skating and sledding, and musical diversions. These moments in India were not so very different, if he could put aside the fact that he was now a married man, and Elizabeth was further out of his reach than ever.

Arrangements were made for the following day, with plans for a picnic luncheon to travel with the party. The men rode on horseback, while Elizabeth and Georgiana shared a draped palanquin. The group arrived at a comfortable hour, and set about their tour of the area. The temple that stood before them was indeed in ruins, though some of the walls remained intact. It was upon further exploration that they could make out the figures of the sculptures that run up the columns; Mr. Gardiner immediately advised the ladies step away, as the depictions there were of a more scandalous nature than he believed they should view. Darcy seconded the suggestion, as it was clear that this was not a Hindu temple at all, but some obscure structure from another era – the sculptures showed a great deal of nudity and some very explicit scenes of a conjugal nature.

Georgiana rolled her eyes as she and Elizabeth, accompanied by Ashwini, strolled to a shaded spot, where they would proceed to set the luncheon. "Honestly, I don't know the harm in viewing some old sculptures. It's not as if I have not seen what a man looks like naked!"

Elizabeth frowned slightly. Briefly, her thoughts turned to Georgie's indiscretions with Wickham – but surely, Georgie would've revealed to her if anything untoward had happened. The two young women had become so very close, sharing all of their secrets. Georgie must be referring to…someone else. Elizabeth could not stop herself. "Georgiana, are you talking about your brother?"

"Yes, of course! I mean, I have not seen him without – in his – we used to bathe in the lake together in the summers – well, I don't really recall seeing him without clothing, but...I've seen other sculptures before – men without their clothes, with nothing but fig leaves on their persons."

Ashwini, overhearing Miss Georgiana's complaints, stepped into the conversation. "Miss Georgiana, the sculptures at this temple show far more than naked men. The temple was dedicated to the union of the sun god to the earth, many, many centuries ago. The temple shows men and women, both without clothing – in union."

"Oh," Georgiana said simply. Oh indeed thought Elizabeth. The men soon arrived at the picnic. Little more was said about the temple art; instead, the men talked about the delicacies of the tiling and arches, and eventually could only comment upon the food set before them.

The group made their way home in time for the local village's nautch. The dancing girls, dressed in revealing saris and silks, whirled and stepped lightly in the circle, while the sitar and drum's rhythm settled deep into the hearts of the English guests. Col. Fitzwilliam sat near Georgiana and Mr. Gardiner – the three of them were enraptured by the beauty of the girls and their movements.

The sensuous dance meant little to Darcy, as he gazed across the firelight at Elizabeth, who was imperceptibly nodding her head to the beat. At one occasion, she glanced over at him, catching his eye; she favored him with a blush and smile that had him undone once again.

Later in the evening, in her bedroom and with Ashwini's assistance, Elizabeth prepared for a much needed sleep. The pulse of the day had captured her, however, and she felt restless, as if the day was incomplete. "Ashwini," she asked. "Ashwini, the dancing girls are held in high esteem among the locals, are they not?"

Ashwini nodded as she stroked a brush through Elizabeth's thick hair. "Yes. They dance for entertainment, but for spiritual expression as well. Despite what some would say, the dances are not immoral. They tell a story."

"But…their dress…the costumes they wear…they are so – revealing, are they not? They are little more than what the female sculptures at the temple wore."

"Perhaps. But the meaning behind the costumes is what matters."

Elizabeth was not certain she understood this, and tried to work it out for a few minutes, but she had more questions. "Ashwini, what happens to women in your culture when they love a married man?"

Ashwini paused, then stated, "She is killed."

Elizabeth swallowed. "I see." She clambered into the raised bed as Ashwini drew the netting about her. "Thank you, Ashwini, that will be all."

Down the hall, Darcy had been attended in silence by another servant. After such a day and evening, it would've been a welcome to have had the opportunity to converse with McAlvie or Thompson or even Mrs. Reynolds. Instead, he was left to his own ponderings, contemplating how he would maintain his vow to remain not only celibate, but sober, as a dedication to his love for Elizabeth. Her happiness, her presence in his life was all that mattered, but it did not make it easier for him knowing she desired him as well. And that she was down the hall in her bed.

His dreams that night were a blend of memories, wishes and fantasies. Elizabeth, dressed in a nautch girl's silks, breasts high and hips rounded, leading him down the jungle path to the pool, diving in, parting the lilies, and then naked in his arms, legs entwined with his, experiencing divine communion in the temple…

Day was suddenly upon the household, as a small party was spied making its way up the road to the plantation. Mr. Gardiner and Elizabeth were the first at the door to welcome the newcomers. Georgie and Col. Fitzwilliam appeared soon after. Darcy arrived at the front gate just as the palanquin was set down, and the curtain drawn aside.

"Mr. Gardiner, Col. Fitzwilliam – what a pleasure to see you both!" Caroline Darcy cautiously set a silken slippered foot upon the gravel road. Her enormous belly caused her to hesitate only briefly as she bent forward to rise from the cushions. "Miss Elizabeth, Georgiana! How well you look!" She gave a weak curtsey, then raised her gaze to her husband. "My husband! I think that you maybe well pleased with the news I come to give you!"

Inevitable Change

A Pride & Prejudice Story
by acuppajava

Part 14 of 21

<< Previous     Home     Next >>