This fall has been crazy for me! I’ve not completed stories I thought I’d have done by now but the other day I had some Christmas inspiration for a short story hit me. This story won’t finish in time for me to put it up for sale, look for it next year, but I wanted to share on my blog and a few forums.
Blurb: Groundhog Day meets Christmas Carols. Darcy, Bingley, Richard, Elizabeth, Jane, and Georgiana are stuck in a time loop; destined to repeat the same day, December 23rd, until they get it right. Each day resets with the dawning of bells at 7 o’clock. Are they going mad or are they meant to correct some wrong? Time will tell…then again, perhaps they will remain at December 23rd forever.
This will be a short story. I will try to post every day. And it’s actually scheduled to end on Christmas. We’ll see if I can keep it up!
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
“What has you two so depressed? It is two days until Christmas!” Richard Fitzwilliam asked the other occupants in the room. “Well, I cannot truly tell if Darcy is depressed. He never smiles. But Bingley, something must be wrong with you. Is it lady trouble?” Richard wagged his eyebrows hoping for a juicy tale. “So, tell me about your girl, Bingley,” Richard said with a waggling of eyebrows again.
Bingley sighed. “Miss Bennet is the most beautiful creature I have ever beheld! I thought so upon first sight, and she has only grown in beauty every time I have seen her.”
Darcy watched as Bingley made some half strangled moan and took a large gulp of port.
“Ah! That is it! I can tell by Darcy’s scowl,” Richard egged them on.
A dull ache filled Darcy’s heart. Yes, it certainly was lady trouble. For both him and Bingley. But it was done and over with and all for the best.
“Poor Bingley. Always getting hooked by the fortune hunters,” Richard continued. “Well, I suppose Darcy saved you again. Must have happened in where had you just been? Hampshire–no, Hertfordshire.”
Again, Richard looked between Darcy and Bingley hoping to glean more information, but the men were resolutely silent. At the mention of the county in which Elizabeth Bennet resided, the dull ache in Darcy’s heart turned to piercing pain.
“Come now! No one is going to tell me anything? After all I have done for King and country the least I deserve is some good gossip.” He puffed his cigar. “If you do not start talking, we will have to return to the ladies earlier, and I think the is the last any of us want.”
Darcy repressed a shudder. Bingley and his sisters had come for dinner, Richard showed up unannounced, but that was nothing new. The man paid a steep price for it, though, as Caroline Bingley had spent the evening hoping to make Darcy jealous by hanging off Richard. Of course, the joke was on her. Richard needed a well-dowered wife, and Darcy did not. If she paid Richard that much attention in front of the wrong sorts of people, she would give rise to such an expectation that Richard would be honored bound to request her hand and Bingley would have to accept it no matter how much Caroline fought it. Darcy smirked at the thought. If it was not for the fact that he would hate to saddle Richard with such a shrew and that he would hate even more having one in his family, the idea would be comical and have merit.
“I saw that, Darcy!” Richard said too happily. “What caused that smirk?”
“Do you really want to know?” Darcy said with a small smile.
“Anything! This is the dullest evening I’ve ever spent here!”
“I imagined your marriage to Miss Bingley.” Darcy’s smile widened a fraction at Richard’s reaction. He turned red, and his mouth dropped open.
“Now, see here–”
He was interrupted by Bingley. “He’s lying to you, Richard. That would never make him smile. He would never want Caroline in the family. He has unyielding views about the sorts of people you attach yourself to through marriage.”
Immediately, Richard’s face swung back to Bingley, ready to pounce on such news. “What was that? Bitter about old Darcy’s interference, are you?”
“Nevermind,” Bingley said as he peered in his now empty glass. Richard hopped to his feet to refill it.
“Chin up, boys. It is almost Christmas! There is no reason to be so glum!”
“Richard, you must marry for money but are there other things you consider?” Bingley said. His pupils dilated, and his cheeks flushed as Richard plied him with more drink. “Nevermind. You’re an earl’s son, of course, we must be different.”
“Not as you would think,” Richard said and crossed a leg over the other. “A wife’s income would make life easier, it’s true, but not impossible. And all I care about is her character. She could be born in a barn for all I care about relations and connections.”
“That is because you have both,” Darcy said. He saw Bingley’s hopeful look, but his friend had been correct earlier when he considered that his background in trade was a far cry from Richard’s family.
“Oh, yes. What excellent relations and connections they are!” Richard said in a sarcastic tone. “When did you last visit our darling aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh? Who, despite marrying only a knight, is the most pompous and condescending prat I’ve ever met, and I’ve spent years around Generals who know nothing about battlefields but were appointed because they complimented another man’s cravat.”
“It is true you cannot help relations and distance does ease some of the evil of vulgarness,” Darcy stressed the word hoping Bingley would see that the evil of marrying Jane Bennet was compounded by Netherfield’s close proximity to Longbourn. Although, he rather thought Mrs. Bennet would follow her daughter and wealthy son-in-law anywhere.
“And I hate the game of connections. That is exactly what I meant about the stupid generals. Oh, Winterbourne once had a conversation with Doncaster who dined with Brummel who was friends with Prinny. What use is the honor of your word as a gentleman if you can give it to recommend a person so freely without really knowing them at all? You should know better, Darcy.”
Bingley looked between Darcy and Richard, evidently confused, but Darcy understood Richard’s words. There were two points Richard made. One was the sore matter of his father’s godson George Wickham. Wickham had coasted through life on the recommendation of his godfather who was never close enough to see Wickham in his unguarded moments and understand the real personality of his favorite. Likewise, upon Darcy’s visit to Hertfordshire, he learned that Wickham had bought a lieutenancy in a Militia. This meant that some gentleman recommended him. Darcy knew whoever the man was, he had been duped.
“If you have so little standards,” said Darcy, “then why are you not already married?”
“I could ask you if all you need is good family and connections why you are not as well,” Richard returned.
Indeed, Darcy had thought over that question more than ever in the last several weeks. What was he waiting for if not Elizabeth Bennet’s unique mixture of wit and kindness? He had met a hundred ladies with materialistic considerations.
“I have only wanted to find someone who loved me,” Bingley said sounding like a lost, sad boy. Darcy would find it pathetic if it did not save him the problem of having to reply to his cousin.
“That can come later,” Richard said. “I would settle for me loving her.”
Darcy bit back a groan. Bingley’s head shot up from where it had been focused on his feet. A slow smile crept across it.
“If you only want character and do not care about money or standing, then Darcy and I know a whole host of women.”
Darcy had squeezed his eyes shut but could hear the smile in Bingley’s voice. No, no, no. He was about to say it…
“Yes, in Hertfordshire. Near the estate I am leasing.”
“Forgive me since I am a military man, but I would think it would be best to learn more about the estate by residing in it longer than a few weeks. Should you not go back?”
“You know, I was just thinking the same. How am I to learn how restates run in the winter if I am not there for it. I think I must return for Christmas. You’re welcome to come along, Richard. I doubt Darcy will desire to return.”
“Forgive him, he’s very busy, our Darcy,” Richard said with a smirk. Bingley was like putty in his hands. “I think you might hit it off with Miss Elizabeth Bennet, actually.”
“I will come!” Darcy said more forcefully than he intended.
Richard only raised his eyebrows. “Thank you, Bingley. I will check with Command, but I believe I can leave the area for the holidays.”
The clock in the hall chimed the time and Darcy had never been more thankful to hear bells ding in his life. He shot out of his chair intent on racing back to the drawing room to avoid conversation of Bennets and Hertfordshire. As the bells continued, however, he grew dizzy. By the time it reached seven, he felt himself falling and twisting. He braced for a hard impact and the pain that would follow.