It’s been FOREVER since I posted on this story! I did finish it and then briefly had it on sale in July. I always wanted to re-release it for Christmas this year but since July and now I’ve been inspired to write two “sequels” to the original piece. It will publish as ONE book with a new title: MR. DARCY’S MIRACLE AT LONGBOURN. I’m going to post several “chapters” a day to catch up.
December 23, 1811
Darcy stared at first his cousin’s face and then his sister’s. What they had just told him defied all belief and logic. “I believe our travel yesterday over exerted your mind, Georgiana.”
“And mine as well?” Richard asked. “Think carefully. Besides Bingley deciding to return to this house, do you recall the events of yesterday with clarity?”
Darcy took a sip of coffee to allow himself time to think over matters. “Well, nothing of significance happened. It is not so unusual to be unable to remember exact moments of nothingness. I’ve had much on my mind of late.”
“And are those things Miss Elizabeth Bennet?” Richard asked with a raised eyebrow and knowing smirk.
Levelling his cousin a glare, Darcy put his coffee cup down in a clatter. “My personal concerns are just that.”
“Dare I ask what has Darcy acting like a bear this morning?” Bingley popped his head in the breakfast room door.
“Georgiana has come up with the most fanciful tale, and Richard is indulging her. Think nothing of it, Bingley. I suspect it is all a plot to mock me.”
Bingley entered the room and shut the door behind him. “Who could resist such a temptation?” He busied himself gathering breakfast items and said over his shoulder, “I remember Miss Elizabeth never could.”
“Bingley,” Richard said when the other had sat, “what do you recall about yesterday?”
Immediately Darcy’s friend smiled. “Well, we decided to come here, of course. And Miss Darcy I cannot thank you enough for being so persuasive as to suggest we leave immediately.”
“Yes, but what else do you recall?” Richard pressed.
“Well…I…we dined at Darcy House.”
“And what did we eat?” Georgiana asked.
Bingley paused while cutting up his food. “Well, every meal there is always so good.”
Georgiana leaned forward in interest. “You do not recall a specific dish? Did I order Fitzwilliam’s favourite or your favourite for pudding?”
“I fear I do not recall,” Bingley said with an uncharacteristic furrow forming between his brow. “Quite the memory exercise. I give up. Tell me then, which was it?”
“I do not remember either,” Georgiana said gently.
“I do not understand.” Bingley looked from one person to the next. “What is the point of this questioning?”
Darcy pushed his plate aside. His appetite had vanished. “What Richard and Georgiana have proposed is that due to some strange and inexplicable reason, we have been repeating the same day for over a week now. Creating…what did you call it?” He looked at Richard.
“Alternate realities. It seems the choices we make can alter the events of the day, but we never progress to a new calendar date.”
“Except on one occasion,” Georgiana added gravely.
“What was that?” Darcy asked.
Richard frowned and looked as though he tasted something foul in his mouth. “Miss Lydia had born Wickham’s child out of wedlock.”
“Impossible,” Bingley said. “You believe you have seen the future?”
Richard held up his hands to stave off Bingley’s inquisition. “I wish I had a rational explanation, but Mary Bennet has proof in her diary. Georgiana and I have shared memories. There can be no other explanation.”
Bingley stared at his coffee for a long moment, and Darcy wondered why he was still sitting at the table and had not called a physician to examine his relatives. However, something niggled at the back of his mind. Attempts at conversations with Elizabeth that ended in an argument. He had thought it was a recurring dream.
“I think I remember,” Bingley said, at last. “I keep walking with Jane in the garden at Longbourn. I try to explain my absence and my continued affections, but we’re always interrupted. By the— ”
“Clock chiming seven,” Georgiana and Richard said in unison with Bingley.
“If…if this were somehow true,” Darcy said slowly, “how does it work? What can stop it?”
“I think we regain our memories when we have some revelation in our character,” Richard said. “I learned to take a risk on probability rather than dwell on the impossible and frivolous.”
“He means he kissed Miss Mary in front of everyone!” Georgiana declared.
“What?” Darcy cried.
“Georgie,” Richard growled.
“And I stood up to Wickham,” Georgiana said with a smile.
“What is the story there?” Bingley asked.
“Never mind,” Richard pressed on. “Thanks to Georgiana insisting we left earlier than usual yesterday. We had hoped to call on Longbourn last night but you all refused to go. Time reset. At least we now have many hours to visit before the seven o’clock deadline.”
Bingley seemed convinced, but Darcy remained sceptical.
“Come, Darcy. Go with us to Longbourn. See Miss Mary’s diary. If we are right, then you have the power to prevent a terrible travesty. If we are wrong, then you have harmed no one.”
“If I reveal the truth about Wickham to the Bennets then I could harm Georgiana’s reputation beyond repair.”
His sister raised her chin. “I do not care. What care I for the society of false friends or a gentleman that would only marry me for my acceptance in such circles?”
Darcy studied his sister. Indeed, her words and actions today and last night revealed a side to her unknown to him. Could that be the work of a mere moment or had days passed, as they said?
“Darcy,” Bingley said slowly. “I think everyone here understands how you feel about Miss Elizabeth.”
Darcy attempted to argue, but Bingley spoke over him. “Surely you could trust her with the truth. Perhaps if she did not encourage him so much, her sisters would not be endangered by him.”
It was a logical argument, even if the circumstances for the proposition made no sense. Staring at his cup, he confronted the truth of what worried him most. “What makes you think she will listen to anything I have to say?”
“It is worth the try,” Georgiana said.
Darcy gave an almost imperceptible nod of his head. Bingley called for the carriage, and on the way to Longbourn, discussion flowed around Darcy which did feel eerily familiar.
After hearing Richard and Georgiana’s stories, Darcy was relieved to see Longbourn had not changed in the least. Mrs. Bennet was loud and obnoxious. The younger daughters were rude, and Mr. Bennet was absent. Darcy allowed himself to tune out the rest of the room and rest his eyes on his sole purpose for coming. Elizabeth looked as lovely as ever. Darcy took a step toward her, but Richard pushed him toward Miss Mary.
“How do you do, Miss Mary?” Richard asked and sat next to her.
“I am well,” she said although she blushed and would not look at Richard.
Richard smiled. “Do you have your diary with you, today?”
Immediately Mary’s eyes moved to Richard’s. “You remember?” she whispered so quietly Darcy nearly missed it.
“I do.” Richard and Mary stared at each other for a long moment.
Georgiana cleared her throat. “So do I!”
“You do?” Mary asked in apparent disbelief. “And do you, Mr. Darcy?”
Richard saved him from having to answer. “Darcy would like to view your diary.”
Mary blushed again but handed over the book. Darcy leafed through it and saw pages she had to add. He also noted the repeating of December Twenty-Third, 1811. He quickly read her last entry which detailed a swift passage of time and Lydia eloping with Wickham. When he had finished, Richard looked at him expectantly.
“Very well, I will speak with Miss Elizabeth about Wickham. Although I do not see why you fear when it has apparently not come to pass.”
“Please, sir,” Miss Mary said and held out her hand for the diary. “If I may, chance or decision seems to alter our course significantly. One night all seemed normal and the next you all arrived, however, we could not receive you for our cousin Mr. Collins had just died.”
“Indeed!” Richard exclaimed.
“Yes. I presume what altered events was your choice in coming here. The next many nights did not change the timing of things, although I noted Miss Darcy one night was speaking badly and openly of Mr. Wickham. Two evenings ago, I attempted to tell Jane of matters and the next morning I awoke to Lydia having been married and becoming a mother.”
“And that is when you showed me the diary,” Richard added, causing Mary to blush.
“Yes. Both actions were quite uncharacteristic for me.”
“Me as well,” Richard said. “I hope you know I do not go around kissing ladies all the time.”
Mary turned scarlet, and her voice trembled but still she spoke. “I had meant attempting to explain my findings to Jane and to you. I hope you know not only were your actions unusual for me, but I would never go around speaking of them so openly!”
Darcy rolled his eyes as her rebuke caused Richard to blush slightly. “We have meandered from the topic. We must decipher how these loops work so we might end them.”
“Well, when I confronted Wickham I no longer lost my memories,” Georgiana said.
Richard nodded. “It seems to have worked for me just by listening to Miss Mary.”
“Yes, but life altered when Mr. Bingley chose to return to Netherfield and when I attempted to direct Jane. What do you remember about the two years that passed? Anything connected to my family?” Mary asked Richard and Georgiana.
Richard did not meet her eyes. “Little of significance.”
By the way Richard evaded Mary’s eyes, Darcy knew his cousin lied. What was more, he seemed to wish to protect Mary.
“I visited my aunt at Rosings like I do every Easter,” Richard said. “Darcy did not come, we had heard that Miss Elizabeth was residing with Mrs. Collins. To be safe, he did not return the next year either.”
“Fitzwilliam grew colder and more distant it seemed with each passing week,” Georgiana said with a remote and sad quality to her voice. “By the time we had, at last, returned here Mr. Bingley was about to give up on their friendship.”
“And neither of you had heard anything of Wickham or the Bennets in that time?” Miss Mary did not attempt to conceal her fear.
“We hardly make it a practice to follow the life of George Wickham,” Darcy said coldly.
“Perhaps you should, sir!” Mary said. “You knew his real character and never revealed it while living in the area. You tacitly agree to care for Elizabeth and still did not feel your honour called upon.”
She paused for a moment and managed to regain her composure as Richard whispered in her ear and placed a hand on hers. “For us, it was a very, very dark time. Lydia went with the Regiment to Brighton as the guest of Colonel Forster and his wife. There, she eloped with Wickham, but they never went to Scotland.
Instead, they disappeared outside of London, and we could not trace her. After several weeks, she emerged at my Uncle Gardiner’s house in little more than her petticoat and a shawl. She had traded everything else for food and lodging. She accepted Wickham did not mean to marry her and left him, at first unwilling to return to the family. A marriage was hastily arranged and with it, some respectability returned to my family, but the damage was done. There was talk of my sisters never marrying, even one as beautiful and amiable as Jane.”
By the time she had finished, Miss Mary was breathless and took a sip of water which Richard brought her. She seemed as though she had never spoken so much at one time and Darcy could well believe it. For a moment, he wished to argue back about his innocence in a hypothetical case that whether or not it seemed real, yesterday was not today. Before having a moment to reply, they were directed outside by Mrs. Bennet.
“And do not hog the Colonel, Mary. Your sisters admire a man in uniform much more than you do,” Mrs. Bennet called as they left the room. Richard immediately offered Mary his arm, and the younger sisters walked closely behind them. Jane and Bingley wandered off together, leaving Darcy, Georgiana, and Elizabeth. He walked in silence as Elizabeth and Georgiana conversed for several minutes. Passing a small bench, Georgiana seized upon the moment to sit, pressing Darcy and Elizabeth to continue without her.
After walking some yards away, Darcy turned to Elizabeth. “I apologize for my sister. Perhaps you think I should scold her, but I am only too happy to see such youthful stubbornness in her. As a child, she was just that way, but as she aged, she put it aside, and I believe that had rather disastrous consequences.”
Darcy perceived immediately, he had surprised Elizabeth with his words.
“I confess, that is not at all what I expected to hear from you,” she said in a small voice filled with wonder.
“Why should you not? She is not yet sixteen and has many years left to become wise and dull.”
“Like her brother then?” Elizabeth said, but the teasing sparkle in her eye kept it from sounding impertinent or cruel.
“I shall not claim you do not know me well enough, for you, undoubtedly have some witty retort.” Not caring about the requests of his friends, Darcy acted on the selfish desire of his heart. “In fact, I would very much wish for you to know me better. Indeed, such limited knowledge between a husband and wife would not do very well at all.”
He heard Elizabeth gasped and turned to at her.
“Pardon me?” Her eyes were now wide and her colour pale.
“You will forgive me for not knowing the usual pretty words of suitors.”
Elizabeth remained fixed in her spot and speechless. A cold sweat trickled down his spine. He had never seen her at a loss for words. “I had not thought it would come as such a surprise,” he ventured, “but surely your clever mouth can think of something to say.” He took a step forward and reached for her hand. “No witticism from you, my darling?”
Like a flame leaping from a match, Darcy witnessed Elizabeth transform. She snatched her hand away, and her eyes turned dark and fiery. She spoke through clenched teeth. “Allow me to thank you for the honour you have bestowed on me. If I rightly understood and some request was intended although unsaid. However, it is impossible for me to do otherwise than refuse it.”
Instantly, it felt as though Darcy was punched in the gut. He waited for further explanation, but it seemed none was coming. “Is that all the civility I may expect?”
“How dare you expect more! While you were talking with my sister for so long, you might have taken an interest in what your friend was saying to mine.” She shook a finger at him. “I heard it from Mr. Bingley’s own lips that you had meant to keep him away from Longbourn and my sister forever! Do you think anything could prevail upon me to marry the man who wished to separate my most beloved sister from the man she loved? Do you deny it?”
Darcy could scarcely believe his ears. First, Elizabeth refused him. Secondly, Bingley put him forward in an unfavourable light. Lastly, that Jane Bennet had felt real affection for his friend. “I do not deny it. Towards him, I have been kinder than to myself.”
He must try and explain his side of matters. He wet his lips to speak, but it was too late. The harridan had more to say.
“It is not merely this matter which formed my dislike of you. Weeks ago, your character was explained to me by Mr. Wickham. Please, tell me how you mean to acquit yourself there. Another act of imagined kindness?”
“You take an eager interest in that man’s concerns!” Darcy could barely contain the rage he felt boiling beneath his skin.
“Who that knows his afflictions can help feeling concern?”
“His afflictions? Oh, yes. They are great indeed.”
“And by your making!” she cried. “How dare you treat him so sarcastically and with derision in your voice when it is he that was slighted and misused.”
“You have said more than enough, madam!” Darcy’s chest heaved. “Perhaps if I had flattered you more, you would have accepted my suit.” Darcy knew it was untrue, but he had often noted vanity seemed her weakness.
“Do not think I reject your proposal due to your pathetic attempts! I had not known you a month before I felt you were the last man in the world I could be prevailed upon to marry! As it is, your mode of declaration only spared me concern in wounding you, but I assure you I could not be tempted to accept your suit in any circumstance.”
“Darcy?” the voice of Bingley interrupted them, and he did not know whether he hated or rejoiced in the sight of Bingley and Miss Bennet.
“Darcy, we are returning to the house now. I must speak with Mr. Bennet, but I hope you will offer me your congratulations.”
Darcy could feel Elizabeth’s eyes upon him. “Indeed, many congratulations to you and best wishes to Miss Bennet. As I do not think you want for more company while you court. I will take my leave. Shall I send back the carriage at eight o’clock?”
“Leaving? No! You cannot — must not!” Bingley’s eyes darted to Elizabeth, now at Jane’s side, whose anger for Darcy could be overcome only by her happiness for her sister.
Jane turned her pale blue eyes upon him. “Please stay, Mr. Darcy. It is no matter to have an extra guest, your presence makes our joy complete.”
Elizabeth mumbled something at her side, and Jane elbowed her. “I believe we owe our engagement all to you,” she said then coughed in an attempt to cover up Elizabeth’s audible gasp.
“Very well,” Darcy said tightly.
“Splendid!” Bingley exclaimed and extended his arm for Jane. “Darcy, you had better help Miss Elizabeth, the path is uneven here.”
The two walked off as though they had no concern in the world, and perhaps they did not. Elizabeth refused to look at Darcy and fixed her eyes toward the gate. “Expecting someone?” he asked in irritation.
“Yes! And look! He has come,” Elizabeth waved gaily and smiled before walking off to meet a uniformed man. Darcy could recognize the silhouette anywhere. Wickham.