Thursday’s 300: Darcy Comforts Elizabeth

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Today’s vignette is one I wrote for a story I abandoned. It’s about 500 words. Darcy and Elizabeth are courting and have been out for a ride in a curricle.

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Darcy pulled the curricle to a stop in front of Longbourn’s door. The groom assigned to attend visiting equipages and animals was nowhere to be seen. Darcy set the brake and wrapped the reins around the handle as Elizabeth made note of it.  

“I wonder what has happened. Jimmy never leaves his post.”  

“I do not know. Perhaps Mrs. Hill can tell us.” Darcy jumped down and turned, holding his arms up to assist Elizabeth. He had no more than set her down than a different groom ran up from the stables.  

“I am sorry no one was here to meet you, sir.” Alvin panted, his breath short after his Sprint from the far side of the paddock.  

“Where is Jimmy?” Elizabeth’s demand came with a creased brow. “I apologize.” She added with a gentle hand on Alvin’s arm. “Catch your breath first.”  

Alvin nodded, took a couple more large gulps of air, swallowed, and began again.  

“Jimmy climbed up in the loft to toss down hay for when Mr. Darcy returned. He had no problems with the task, but as he stepped onto the ladder to come back down, it came away and fell over. Jimmy has not come awake as yet, and I think you broke some bones. Mr. Jones is with him now.” Alvin tugged at the cap on his head. “We all be a might shook up, miss. There were nothing we could do.”  

Elizabeth’s hand moved to cover her mouth as Alvin told his tale. She moved it to touch the groom’s arm a second time “I know. Accidents happen. We will have someone look at that ladder before it is reattached to assure ourselves of its condition. Has my father been informed?”  

“Yes, miss. He went down straightaway to Jimmy’s parents house. He has not come back as of yet.”  

Elizabeth said nothing else. She simply nodded and patted Alvin’s arm.  

Darcy noted the distress in Elizabeth features and took over, wrapping his arm around her waist. “Thank you for telling us. If there is anything either of us can do, you are to let us know. Tell Jimmy’s parents this.”

“Yes, sir.” Alvin bowed and tugged on the horses bridle, leading it away.

Darcy looked at Elizabeth, who seemed to be struggling to control tears. She swallowed, wiping at her eyes with gloved fingers. “Jimmy is the breadwinner in his family. His father died two winters ago and his siblings are too young yet to be put to much heavy work. Papa has insisted all the tenants children learn to read, write, and do sums until they are three and ten. He does not believe young children should be put out to work at five or six.”

“I am certain everything that can be done for the family will be. Come inside and get warm. You will do no one any good if you become ill.” Darcy gently steered Elizabeth up the steps to the door. He never moved his arm from around her waist, though he knew he should. It simply felt too good, holding her like this, to stop before he was forced to do so.


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