The Secrets of Pemberley- Chapter Ten

I haven’t really put any comments before the chapters on my blog but I will on this one. Things get very angsty and seem hopeless. Hang on.

Previous Chapters: One / Two / Three / Four / Five / Six / Seven / Eight / Nine

Chapter Ten

March 15, 1837

 

Darcy left his study in search of his family. There were matters to arrange before they journeyed to London for the Season. Now that their eldest daughter had married, they should not need to spend so long a time in Town. Will did not need them and Ben would be busy with Cambridge much of the time. Their younger daughter, Betsy, would not be coming out until next year.

“Now, practice like this,” Elizabeth said, and laughter ensued.

“Did you really have to do this, Ellie?” Darcy heard Betsy ask her cousin as he stood outside the door.

Jane and some of her daughters were visiting. The Bingleys had moved to an estate only thirty miles from Pemberley within a year of their marriage. Darcy smiled as he knew the joy the cousins found in each other.

“No, silly, watch again,” Ellie said with oohs and ahhs following. “You had better learn fast for you only have a few weeks.”

Darcy opened the door with a scowl on his face. The occupants of the room immediately froze, clearly caught in the act. “Betsy will not be presented at court until next year.”

Jane quickly looked between husband and wife and stood. “My dears, let us take a walk after spending all morning in here with these dusty garments.” She curtsied to Darcy. “Come, you too, Betsy.”

Darcy did not watch them leave as his eyes remained locked with Elizabeth’s. Hearing the door close, he raised a brow.

“We have discussed this,” he folded his arms across his chest. “You know I want her to wait. Anne did not enter Society until she was nearly nineteen.”

Elizabeth shook her head. “They have very different dispositions and Anne’s birthday is in the summer. It was either enter at seventeen or wait until nearly nineteen.”

“Georgiana chose the same.”

“Again, you are not considering the difference in their personalities,” Elizabeth said and began shaking out the old court dress she had unpacked to practice curtseys with.

“She loves it too much,” Darcy said. “She loves frivolity and London.”

“That is not a crime,” Elizabeth sighed.

Darcy closed his eyes. After all these years, he still had not explained about his mother. He saw that same liveliness in Betsy. Between her beauty and her fortune, she would capture the eye of many suitors and probably make an impulsive choice. In her blood were the errors of a grandmother and two aunts.

“She will be eighteen next week,” Elizabeth said. “You cannot keep her a child forever. If we do not allow her these freedoms, she will take them anyway.”

“Why will you not bow to me in this, Elizabeth?” Darcy asked and took a step forward. “I had thought you, at least, respected me.”

“What do you mean?” she asked and lifted her chin defiantly. “Do not turn this around on me. I have been a good wife, but I will not sit by as you attempt to impose your selfish disdain for the feelings of others! Think beyond your arrogance and conceit and see that you may be wrong.”

Darcy stepped backward. Where had such a thing come from? This was the Elizabeth from his Hunsford proposal. Her eyes flashed in the same anger, which he had only seen glimpses of in their marriage. She had thought that of him, had she? All these years while he thought she cared for him, she had been concealing her implacable hate.

Grasping for his anger, just as he had lo those many years ago, he took a step forward. Elizabeth gasped and looked away, but he would not allow it.

“Look at me,” he demanded, and she obeyed. “I know you have never loved me. I know you never could in all these years, but I will not tolerate public mockery. Now, say you will tell Betsy to wait. We must be united in this no matter how much you hate me.”

A sob came from Elizabeth’s mouth, and she pulled a hand up to cover it while doubling over. Darcy stepped forward in concern, but she held her other hand up to keep him away. Straightening, she exhaled, but pain and regret lingered in her eyes.

“I cannot speak of this at present, Fitzwilliam. I am going for a walk.”

Before Darcy could say anything else, she darted from the room.

Believing it just another argument, he returned to his study and did not emerge when Jane and her daughters left. He had assumed Elizabeth returned inside with them. At tea time, she did not join him. Despite a desire to seek her out, he did not move. They did not argue frequently, but when they did, he had learned Elizabeth needed time to overcome her anger. Often, she would not intend to join him, but he would find her and apologise, earning one from her as well. Not this time. No, this time he would remain firm. He was right, and he knew it. She would come to him with her apologies first.

As he attempted to enjoy his tea and biscuits without her by his side for the first time in five and twenty years, he mulled over the services he had done her and her family. Kitty had married a Derbyshire gentleman with a small estate and Mary wed the vicar of Kympton. Only Lydia lived far away, and she visited once or twice a year. He could not stand to see Wickham, but the man had had held true to his contract. In return, Darcy assisted him in his career. Believing it better to have the man employed and in something as rigid as the army than free to make his own fortune, Darcy secured Wickham a position as adjutant to a general. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet often visited Pemberley before they passed.

Was it too much to ask that she do one thing for him? Just allow him one more year with his little girl. Scowling at the thought which proved her point, he returned to his desk. After another hour or two, his work was completed, and he rang for the butler to take the stack of letters. Half went in the mail and the other half to the land steward.

“Begging your pardon, sir,” young Reynolds, who had taken over for his father a few years before, said, “but Mrs. Darcy has not returned from her walk, and the sun will set soon.”

Darcy’s eyes slid to the clock. She had been gone six hours! It was no secret she was their favourite and no secret she was an exemplary mistress. Despite her humble origins, she managed the estate with more grace, generosity and good sense than the ladies in most of London’s oldest families. Mrs. Bennet had taught her to be an excellent hostess, and Mr. Bennet taught her insight and wisdom. Darcy knew that now, but learning to value her relations came too late in their marriage to make a difference. Elizabeth remained forever sensitive over their positions in life.

Belatedly, he realised that she must have been hurt when he insisted Betsy not come out. She must have thought he believed her as inept as her own mother was on the subject. However, it was his mother he had worried about. Shaking his head, he realised the long overdue conversation with Elizabeth could be put off no longer. He stood, pulling on his coat and forming an apology in his mind.

“I will find her. If I do not return in an hour, send others,” Darcy said as he exited the house.

After an hour, dread filled his heart. It was unlike Elizabeth to stay out after dark. He was just beginning to convince himself that she must have returned a different route when he heard a gardener calling for Mrs. Darcy and the gleam of a lantern. He jogged over.

Hearing that she had not come to the house felt like a knife in his heart. “I have not yet checked this path. Over here,” he motioned to the gardener, and they walked for several minutes before making out a figure of something in the road.

Darcy inhaled sharply as he considered it too big to be a sheep or deer. The gardener did likewise but said nothing.

“I will go,” Darcy said and held out his hand for the lantern.

A cloud rolled by, bathing the path in moonlight and Darcy screamed, then ran.

“Lizzy!”

A woman’s lifeless figure laid before him. He reached her in seconds and set the lantern down.

“Lizzy, Elizabeth, where are you hurt?”

He touched her shoulder, and her head rolled. Lifeless eyes stared up at him.

“Oh God!” Darcy sobbed and scooped her into his arms. “No, anything but this. No!”

He pressed his ear to her chest, hoping to hear a beat or feel respiration. Instead, he felt the stickiness where her blood had trickled down her head from a gash.

Tears flew from his eyes as an anguished sob roared from his throat. “Lizzy, wake up, love. Just wake up,” he cried over and over again rocking her as he clutched her tightly.

“Sir,” the gardener placed a hand on his shoulder, causing Darcy to jump and return from something near insanity.

Turning his head, he saw others slowly approach with their lanterns at their side and hats covering their chest.

“May I?” Jack, the strongest footman asked and held out his arms.

“No!” Darcy yelled and held Elizabeth closer. “No, I will take her.”

“Sir, it is some distance,” Jack said.

“She will be returned to her—” Darcy paused as his voice broke, “her home, to her bed, by me and me alone.”

He managed to stand without letting go of his precious cargo. He and the entourage walked slowly, there was no hurry to rush her into the house or seek medical attention. She was well past that. From time to time, others asked to share his load, but he refused. His arms felt no pain. His entire being was numb.

As he laid Elizabeth on her bed, he fleetingly registered Betsy screaming from the doorway where others worked to hold her back. A good man, a good father, would have strength to offer his daughter in such a situation. He was neither. He was selfish and a bastard. And while Betsy had need of him and Elizabeth could no longer draw comfort from his attention, he refused to leave her bedside. It gave him comfort.

In the morning, the housekeeper ordered him from his wife’s chamber. Jack and another footman, forcibly removed him and delivered him into the hands of his valet who shoved wine mixed with laudanum into his hands. Against his will, he slept. Charging to Elizabeth’s room, relief flooded him when her bed was empty. She lived! It had been naught but a nightmare. But no, items were covered in white linen, protected from dust until he could bear the thought of discarding them.

Never, he vowed.

He crumpled to the ground, sitting in her doorway and wept like a child. Tears he had suppressed since he was removed from his mother at the age of eight sprang forward. What had life given him but grief? Unloved by the man he called father, abandoned by the real one, rejected by the woman he had built his life with, they had all seen him for what he was. Nothing. A fraud. Not worth existing.

If he had never been born everyone’s life would have been better. Lady Anne might have learned to love the country or George Darcy to abide the city. The elder brother Darcy never knew would have lived. Georgiana would never have nearly eloped with Wickham—a fact that cost her everything. Although it remained a secret, she never trusted another man and remained unwed. She established her own home in Town. Elizabeth’s life would have been infinitely better. She would have lived.

There had been excessive amounts of rain that washed the road away some, leaving the occasional unexpected rock. Had she been walking she would have seen them, but Darcy surmised she must have been running. She clearly tripped over one rock and as she fell, struck her head on another larger one. He could not forget her lifeless eyes. Her mesmerizing eyes that always held so much emotion, all the light snuffed out. He had done this. He had driven her to vexation, pushed her to need the exercise in what she must have already viewed as more a prison sentence than a life worth living. Had she felt pain?  Had she suffered?

He was confident it was the last time he would feel anything again. As the day wore on, he was proven wrong. Servants came to him asking about funeral arrangements. Betsy pleaded with him to eat and sleep. Jane and Bingley arrived to take over decisions. Elizabeth’s other sisters and their families filled the house. Still, he remained to stare at her empty bed.

The day of the funeral, he was guided to a bath and groomed. He looked the perfect gentleman, with new mourning arm band, but in his heart he knew the truth. He was a murderer. The day he married Elizabeth he sealed her fate. Nay, the day he had kissed her.

And what did he expect? He took the name Darcy and acted like lord of the manor. In truth, he was probably nothing more than the son of a footman who might have had questionable paternity himself. Jack grew up in Newgate, where his father had been sentenced before he was even born. All the years Darcy had hated Wickham when he had done far worse.

Brought to Elizabeth’s grave, he remained rooted in front of it. The sun blinded him so he could not make out the words. What would be said? That her husband drove her to her death? That his arrogance and false conceit ruined her?

“I am sorry I was never the man you deserved,” Darcy said.

His throat aching after days of unused and parched from lack of hydration. He welcomed the sting. Would that it was a noose around his throat as he deserved.

The sun shifted, and Darcy was reminded of a day when he was still a young man and admiring Elizabeth walking in the grove at Rosings. Perhaps now she was at peace as she had been that day.

His name was called, and before turning away, he cast one long glance at the marker as he was uncertain he could ever look upon again and read it:

Elizabeth Darcy

1792-1837

Beloved wife and mother.

The Secrets of Pemberley- Chapter Two

secrets of pemberley mask

Previous Chapters: Chapter One

Chapter Two

“Fitzwilliam, Darcy,” Lady Catherine nodded as they entered her drawing room. “Kiss your cousin.”

Anne barely lifted her head for Richard to peck on her cheek but offered more of her face for Darcy. His heart sank. Had he not made his preferences regarding any possibility of their marriage clear? Perhaps she merely meant to please her mother. Darcy stifled a groan at the thought of having to discuss the matter with mother or daughter again.

“Where is Georgiana?” Lady Catherine asked.

“Do you not recall? I wrote to you over a week ago. She is recovering from a cold and preferred to remain at home.”

“I do not see why she could not come,” she frowned at him. “It is only a cold.”

“I confess I spoil her and did not wish to discomfort her with the ride.” Darcy slid his eyes to Richard. He had been correct that Lady Catherine would insist on asking about his sister.

“I should scold you for being so indulgent,” her ladyship said with a censure-less smile.

“I also considered Anne, of course.”

“That is just like you,” Lady Catherine beamed. “You think of everyone and everything.”

Darcy lightly shook his head but refrained from blushing at his aunt’s praise. Richard was correct. Aunt Catherine never saw fault in him. He could say he intended to dance barefoot on the dining table and she would find a way to praise him. Was it any wonder that all her servants were as complimentary? Take her parson, for example. How he was related to Elizabeth, Darcy could never understand.

Elizabeth.

No. No more thoughts of Elizabeth.

“Did you hear me, Darcy?” Lady Catherine, thankfully, interrupted his thoughts. “I asked how your sister liked Ramsgate. I have thought of taking Anne. Or if you still have the house perhaps we might stay with you this summer.”

“I have already told you she did not care for it, Aunt,” Richard said with a subtle nudge to Darcy’s knee.

“I do not want to hear it from you. What do you know? You spend months in mud and on horses in a Godless country.”

Darcy’s brows rose. Lady Catherine’s insults were particularly barbed today. “Thank you for your inquiry,” he attempted to smooth the situation. “Richard is correct. Georgiana did not care for Ramsgate. She mentioned the house was insufficient so I did not retain it. If you would like, I could suggest a solicitor in the area who might assist you.”

Said solicitor did not ask intrusive questions or gossip when Darcy unexpectedly showed up and whisked his sister away after firing her governess on the spot. Darcy clenched his hands at his side. Would that all men in his employ could have been so loyal. No, some attempted to seduce his sister and blackmail him for the misfortune of his birth.

“Perhaps,” Lady Catherine pursed her lips. “If Georgiana did not care for it then it may not be the best place to send Anne. I am very selective about where to spend my holidays. So is Anne.”

Darcy nodded. One reason he did favour his aunt, aside from being happy to finally have any family at all, was that she never required much input from him. His mind was free to wander and merely nod now and then. Richard, who was a regular magpie, could not conceive remaining quiet for much of an hour let alone an entire day.

“And so Georgiana has spent all her time in London since then?”

“We went to Pemberley first, but she has been in Town since September.”

“I wish you had followed my advice and kept a governess for her. They transition to companion quite nicely, as you see with Anne.” Lady Catherine nodded to her daughter.

“If she had been brought up with a governess all along, I am sure you would have been correct,” Darcy answered. “I have recently hired a companion.”

“I do not see why you needed to hire one specifically just to sit with her when she has female relations,” her ladyship frowned.

Darcy glanced at Richard. Was there any pleasing the woman? He began to understand what his cousins always complained about.

“I am feeling rather slighted, Aunt,” Richard interrupted. “You have not asked after my family or me at all.”

“I hear from the Earl often enough. What do you have to say that will interest me? I know you prefer to shock me.”

Lady Catherine shook her finger at the colonel as if she were scolding a much younger boy. Darcy bit back a chuckle.

“It is not my fault I have been deployed to the Continent a few times and have lived to tell the tale.” Richard winked, and Anne smiled. “One would think you are ungrateful that I live.”

“Ungrateful! Me?” Lady Catherine thumped her cane. “Your jesting seriously displeases me.”

“Pardon me,” Richard smirked. “I had thought it would delight you.”

Lady Catherine sniffed and cast her eyes about the room.

“You did not tell them about Mr. Collins,” Anne spoke softly.

Mention of Collins made Darcy walk to a window and look out it. Too many memories of Hertfordshire were associated with the name.

“Quite right, Anne. I have got a new parson. Old Dr. Montague retired.”

“Riveting,” Richard said in a wry voice.

“Well, he is newly married. Is that not news enough for you?”

Richard chuckled. “News of a marriage does not titillate men the way it does for women.”

“He is just the sort of rector we need in this parish. He is heir to an estate entailed on him away from five daughters. For Anne’s sake, I am glad such things were not thought necessary in Sir Lewis’ family.” Lady Catherine paused for a moment and went on. “Well, I convinced him to visit the family. There had been some kind of breach, and it was his Christian duty to heal it and marry one of the cousins.”

Dread filled Darcy’s heart. It could not be.

“Well, he did even better than I had commanded,” Lady Catherine said. Without seeing her, Darcy knew she smiled. “His cousins, judging by the one visiting, are impertinent and falsely superior. No, he did much better than marry one of them and brought back a meek and humble wife.”

Darcy let go of the breath he had been holding.

“Miss Charlotte Lucas as was. Daughter of a tradesman who was knighted. Just the sort of woman to know her place. Not too low and not too high. She manages the household and her husband perfectly. Her sister and one of his cousins are now visiting.”

Richard laughed again. “I like the image of her managing her husband. You say relatives are visiting?”

“Yes, one was a particular friend to his wife. A few weeks ago, Mrs. Collins’ father visited. He brought with them a sister and her friend, Miss Bennet. They will remain for several weeks.”

A buzzing sound filled Darcy’s ears.

“What are these young ladies like?” Richard asked.

Darcy wanted to punch his cousin. Whether it was Elizabeth or not, Richard should not take such pleasure in idle flirtation.

“Miss Lucas never speaks. She is in awe of Rosings, of course. Miss Bennet,” Lady Catherine said with a bit of contempt mixed with amusement in her voice, “has far more courage. Wit and impertinence combined. If she knew how to treat her betters, she would be perfectly charming.”

Darcy’s heart began beating loud and fast. He felt as though he were in a ring at Gentleman Jackson’s. Each word his aunt uttered was a new blow to his heart.

“She sounds like an excellent addition to our small party,” Richard said.

“Darcy!” Lady Catherine called and banged her cane. “I heard that you already know the occupants of the Parsonage.”

Darcy turned to face them, hoping he could hide his state. “I met Mr. Collins while visiting a friend in Hertfordshire. I had to good fortune to also know his wife and the family he was visiting.”

“What did you think of Miss Bennet?” she asked. “I cannot put my finger on her. Sometimes I believe she might be mocking me.”

“You?” Richard feigned disbelief. “Never!”

If it was the Miss Bennet which Darcy feared then the correct answer was “always.”

“As you say, there were five Miss Bennets, and they came with a wide variety of personalities.”

“Ah,” Richard nodded. “You must describe her—for Darcy’s sake, of course.”

So help him, if Richard would sit there and envision Elizabeth’s loveliness and fantasize about her and right in front of him!

“She has brown hair,” Lady Catherine answered.

Four of the five daughters had brown hair. Of course, Darcy would describe Elizabeth’s as mahogany. The way sun would shine on it had always fascinated him.

Lady Catherine continued, “She is medium height, I would say. Around Georgiana’s size.”

That could be three of the five. Anticipation built as his aunt continued.

“Brown eyes.”

They were down to two, although Darcy knew from the description of her personality there could only be one. His heart beat a staccato rhythm.

“Anne, do you recall what her name was?”

“Elizabeth,” her daughter replied.

Elizabeth, Darcy’s mind repeated. It felt like a cannon blast had sounded, and he fought to stay upright from the shock of it all. Elizabeth, here at Rosings. So very close. All his arguments about why she would not suit began to crumble in the face of her nearness. Lady Catherine had not been repulsed by her. She even seemed to respect and like her. She praised her.

“Darcy!” Lady Catherine called and banged her cane.

“Pardon me, ma’am, I was woolgathering.”

“Hertfordshire was quite unkind to him, we are to understand,” Richard chuckled. “It seems London does not lay claim to all the match-making mamas.”

“They dare to think their daughters worthy of Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley? Of the son of Lady Anne Fitzwilliam?”

“You cannot blame a mother for believing her daughter worthy of anything,” Darcy said. “Perhaps if it seems unrealistic it is only a mark of the ferocity of her love for the child.”

Had he just defended Mrs. Bennet?

“What you describe is grasping,” Lady Catherine frowned. “Rank ought to marry like rank, or it is a recipe for distrust and disaster. Your own parents—”

“I will thank you to not mention anything about my parents!”

Darcy fumed. He could not take more of these vacillating emotions. He needed an escape. A fast ride to the Parsonage and banging on the door, grabbing Elizabeth in his arms and kissing her senseless came to mind. He settled for retiring to his chambers.

In the calm and quiet of his room, he acknowledged that his aunt had a considerable point. His mother had been born the daughter of an earl, and she married a country gentleman. Although the Darcys were wealthy, they did not favour Town. She used to tell Darcy of her debutante days of dancing set after set in London. The faraway look in her eyes and sadness in her voice had demonstrated how much she longed for such a time again. Although he had not meant to be cruel, sending her to Scotland was the worst kind of punishment her husband could render.

Their temperaments had been too different. Mr. Darcy was lively and amiable. He welcomed everyone and counted his steward as his closest friend. Lady Anne resented it all. She longed for the aloofness of London. She enjoyed the balls and soirees where she could be above others and did not have to rub shoulders with all ranks. She had been taken from everything she knew and asked to behave differently.

If Darcy married Elizabeth, it would be much the same. Elizabeth was content and happy in her country life. Had she not defended it to him? He did not doubt she could learn, but as he had been forced into playing the role twenty years ago, he long knew there was a difference between learning the steps to the dance and enjoying it. Elizabeth was made for laughter and love. Taking her from the life she cherished would snuff the light from her eyes and he could not live with himself if he did that.

While every fibre of his body longed to race to her door and carry her away, his head cautioned to avoid the Parsonage. Lady Catherine always invited him to look over the books while he visited. He would spend as much time as he could on it. There was no need to call on the Parsonage. None at all. He could conquer this.

Coward his heart whispered to him. All his arguments against Elizabeth were not just vain pretensions but a protective choice. Marrying Elizabeth would set his love aflame, there would be no containing it. No distant and appropriate English marriage for them with separate chambers and separate lives. No, he could not bear to have her away from him for so many hours. Her passionate nature would be just the same.

Then, like his mother’s love for her husband, one day it would end. Or perhaps she could die. Then what would happen to him? He had, at last, found someone to love and love him in return. His heart would be crushed. He would become a shell of a man, unable to go on and see to his duties. Georgiana and Pemberley would be in disarray. Darcys of the future would mock his existence and laugh at his portrait in the gallery. Then, one day, one would find the truth. He was never a real Darcy. And then they would know why he had been the weak link in the family legacy. His blood would find him out.

No, marrying Elizabeth would be the ruin of him.


I’ve had to take down chapters as the book is enrolled in Kindle Unlimited. You can download it here.

Launching Jane Austen Reimaginings

A few months ago I had to update some material in my books. They had old bios, needed to have my new releases listed etc. At the same time, I had decided to write sequels for The Gentleman’s Impertinent Daughter and A Sense of Obligation. While updating the books, I decided to group my stand-alone stories which will not be a series, into one cohesive brand. I have seen other authors do similar things. They might have a “series” where each story is a stand-alone sequel to Pride and Prejudice. My imagination leans more towards variations and, who knows, one day I might branch into other Jane Austen books so I did not want to limit myself to only Pride and Prejudice.

Jane Austen Reimaginings is just that–I’ve reimagined Austen’s classic world just as I always do but the stories remain in Jane Austen’s created universe. Each book stands on its own and can be read in any order. Each book has its own departure point from Austen’s work unlike my other series: When Love Blooms and Pride & Prejudice & Bluestockings.

Additionally, I will be publishing in the Regency Romance genre in future years and those books will all be series. This way a reader can look at my book and immediately know if it is a Jane Austen book or a Regency Romance book.

To officially launch the series, I’ve put together an anthology with all my stand-alone books except my latest release (Mr. Darcy’s Miracle at Longbourn) and my upcoming release (The Secrets of Pemberley). With three novellas, two short story anthologies, and one novel it’s more than half my catalog. Currently, you can download it via Kindle Unlimited or purchase for $3.99!

imagine darcy

Download today! Kindle

The Secrets of Pemberley- Chapter One

IMG_6301.JPGBlurb: To the world, Fitzwilliam Darcy has it all. He’s the young master to one of the kingdom’s oldest and wealthiest Norman families. Through his mother, he is related to a powerful line of earls. Beneath the perfect façade lies the truth: he’s the product of his mother’s affair and the heir George Darcy never wanted.

At twenty-eight, Darcy has fought hard to put to rest the pains of the past and earn his place in Society. But can he resist the allure of ending his loneliness with the unsuitable woman who has tugged at his heartstrings? Will he tell her his secret and if he does, will she keep it? Or will someone else from the past destroy everything Darcy has worked for?

Chapter One

“You have done this, Anne, and I will never forgive you.”

A large, stern man hovered over Fitzwilliam Darcy’s sobbing mother. Her cries awoke the boy of eight from his nighttime slumber in the small Scottish cottage where he and his mother shared a room. The only light was a lantern in the man’s hand. Outside the open window, the world remained quiet except for the sound of horses snorting and stamping impatiently. A coachman attempted to calm them.

“But do not take him away from me! Do not take my boy!”

Fitzwilliam attempted to hide behind his mother who now sat on his bed.

“You have taken mine!” the man roared. “Have you no words of regret on the passing of your firstborn? My son! My heir! He needed his mother — but no, you were here.”

Lady Anne Darcy remained mute and continued her sobs. Her son peered curiously at the angry man. Mother had another child? He had a brother?

“Do not fret,” the man glared and had no sympathy for the tears he saw. “I kept your affair a secret, and he has my name. He will be accepted.”

“But he will not be loved!” Lady Anne sobbed anew, and she hugged Fitzwilliam.

“You should have thought of that before you played the harlot.”

“If you would allow me to come with you,” she pleaded.

“Absolutely not. You will remain here for your “health.” Now, pass the boy over.”

The man looked at the Fitzwilliam. He looked strange, unfamiliar and in clothing that showed no signs of wear. Mother had always said one day his father would come for him one day, but looking at this man, Fitzwilliam did not want to go.

“No, anything but that please,” Mother cried.

Large hands tried to snatch Fitzwilliam’s arm, and she threw herself in front of the child. He darted to the other side of the room.

“Anne,” George said in a warning tone. “The law is on my side.”

He sounded angry, and Fitzwilliam flinched at the voice, but his mother did not cower. Either Mother was very brave, or perhaps there was no reason to fear violence from the man.

“Allow me to say goodbye,” Mother pleaded.

At last, the towering man relented.

“Fitzwilliam, my darling son,” Mother choked out and embraced him.

He wrapped his hands tightly around her waist and pressed his head to her chest. “Mama, please do not send me away. Do not make me go with that man.” Tears streaked down his face, and he trembled in fear. Other than Cook and the maid, he had seldom known other people. He was even too shy to greet the minister they saw every Sunday.

“He is your father,” Mama said.

The man snorted, and Fitzwilliam lifted his head.

Mother turned her head to face Father. “What else is there to tell him, George?”

“Disguise of every sort is my abhorrence,” he said through gritted teeth. “Am I not lying enough as it is?”

“Please,” Mother asked as her chin trembled and tears fell down her cheeks. “Please.”

“Blast it. You always knew how to get your way,” Father whispered. “I will tell him when he is old enough.”

Fitzwilliam felt relief in his mother’s frame, and she exhaled the breath she had been holding.

“Thank you.”

Turning back to her son, she ran comforting hands over his hair and face. “Now, you will go with your Papa and learn everything you can about running a big estate. So many people will look up to you and will count on you. Do you think you can do that?”

Fitzwilliam shook his head.

“Our son was never afraid of anything,” Father said sadly. “Did you ever wonder?”

Pain and anguish flooded Mother’s eyes, and she squeezed them shut. Upon opening, determination filled them.

“You can do this! I know you can! Do you remember the name of the estate?”

“Pember…Pemberley?”

“Yes! See how smart you are already?”

Fitzwilliam did not care about praise at this moment. Why did he have to leave Mother behind? “When will I see you again?”

“Do not worry about that,” she answered with a quavering voice. “I must remain here and get healthy.”

Mother often said they lived here because of her health. She never seemed ill to him, only sad. However, he would never wish to hurt her. “Must I go?”

“Yes, it is your duty to be the heir of Pemberley.” She pulled him into a crushing hug. “Now, never forget how I love you. No one will ever love you as your mother.”

“Boy, it is time,” Father called.

After another minute, Mother released him and gave him a kiss on each cheek. He reluctantly walked to his father’s side.

“I am pleased to meet you, Father,” he said.

George Darcy harrumphed and left the sparse room. Fitzwilliam cast a parting look at his mother, who tried to smile and waved goodbye. Then, he trailed down the stairs and maintained silence until they were in the carriage. As they pulled away from the cottage which been his only home, Fitzwilliam cried.

“See here, boy,” George said sternly. “You are a Darcy. Darcy men do not cry.”

“I am sorry, Father.”

“And we never apologise for being ourselves. Hold your chin up high.”

“Like this?” his voice warbled as he held back more tears.

Father did not praise him but nodded. After a few moments, Fitzwilliam managed to control his emotions. Seeking his father’s approval, he asked about his new home.

“Mother told me so much about Pemberley. She told me about the horses. I like horses. Do you?”

Father said nothing and only looked out the carriage window. Fitzwilliam tried again.

“I like reading too. Mother says you will teach me how to run Pemberley. I am a very good student.”

“Boy, a Darcy does not chatter. I am not interested in your interests, and you are not interested in mine. Be silent until I speak to you.”

Father’s command was so harsh it rattled off the walls of the carriage, and he followed it with a harsh glare. Fitzwilliam’s lip trembled, and he sank back in his seat, remaining silent until they reached the gigantic house.

“Mr. Darcy.”

“Yes?” the now adult Fitzwilliam Darcy asked without opening his eyes as the images of his long-ago past settled into the recesses of his mind.

“You wished to arise early for your journey to Rosings.”

“Yes, thank you,” Darcy said, dismissing the valet.

The master of Pemberley rose and swung his legs out of bed. As he went through his morning ablutions, he pushed aside the thoughts of his past. The man he had thought was his father was not his father at all, of course. He was the product of an affair, and there was not one drop of Darcy blood in his veins. However, of all their worth he was now master.

His mother had told the truth on one score. She was the only one to ever love him. When his foolish heart brought up the memory of a pair of fine, dancing eyes and free laughter, he closed his eyes and gripped the dresser before him.

“Think with your head, not your heart,” he muttered through grit teeth. The mantra had been pounded into him from the man who raised him, and he would not see all that he worked for to be a true Darcy come to an end through wayward thoughts of the beguiling Elizabeth Bennet.

 

*****

“Will this be the year, Darcy?” Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam asked his cousin.

“Pardon?” The question pulled Darcy from his brooding.

“Do not play dumb. You well know Aunt Catherine has wanted you to marry Anne.”

“If I were at all likely to do that, why would I have waited so long?”

“Because you are Fitzwilliam Darcy and brood over everything and take your time with your decisions?”

“It would be ungentlemanly to make Anne wait so long.”

“She has already waited.”

“Her mother has waited. It does not follow that Anne has been left in the dark about my feelings.”

“Ah, I see,” Richard grinned. “This is the first I have heard you ever criticize Aunt Catherine.”

“It is not my fault that I am the son of her long-lost sister,” Darcy murmured.

He had not been allowed to meet his mother’s family until after George Darcy’s death. While many saw Lady Catherine de Bourgh as proud and intrusive, she had a soft spot for her youngest nephew.

“I happened to spend time in an area this autumn with a woman whose matchmaking attempts rival Aunt’s.”

“Never say you were nearly caught in her web. I thought there was not a miss alive who could ensnare you!”

“No, no. I was not her target.”

Darcy grew quiet as he recalled a ball at his friend’s house in Hertfordshire. The woman he was thinking of had five daughters, and she had selected her eldest for his friend. She had loudly extolled to any guest within earshot that she expected a wedding before the New Year.

“A friend then?”

Darcy nodded. He did not meet with Richard more than once or twice a year, and so there was always much to catch up on. Darcy would not reveal his friend’s identity, but it would take little imagination to make the correct guess. He never had made many friends.

“I had to separate him from a young lady.”

“Grasping wench, was she?”

“No,” Darcy shook his head. “I do not think so bad as that, but she was not the type to fall in love off a short acquaintance. All advantage of the match would be on her side, and she was a very dutiful daughter.”

“And so we return to Anne,” Richard said.

“There certainly were similarities,” Darcy agreed.

“And so this woman was looking for helpless, foolish sots seduced by a pretty face for her penniless but dutiful and complacent daughters. Did she have any sisters?”

Darcy laughed at the picture Richard painted. “Certainly not all complacent.” Elizabeth’s teasing words came to mind.

“Ah,” Richard smirked. “So, was this an act of friendship or self-preservation? If the eldest miss was out of the way, the mother might foist her next upon you!”

Darcy’s heart pounded at the thought. So Richard would not think him affected by the idea, Darcy chose to tease. “You sound jealous,” Darcy raised a brow. “Perhaps you would like an introduction?”

“No, no,” He waved a hand. “Harmless flirtations only for me.”

“Beware. A lady’s imagination is very rapid,” Darcy cautioned.

“I’m no green boy.” Richard then leaned forward, “She will ask about Georgiana. She will ask about your summer.”

Darcy sighed and swiped his brow. Some four years after Darcy had been separated from his mother, she had born a daughter. Once again, George Darcy concealed his wife’s adultery and paid for the child’s care and education. When he died, he named his wife’s son and her nephew as guardian rather than any Darcy relatives.

Darcy had been delighted to finally get to know his sister. She remained at school, but he visited often. When she turned sixteen, he withdrew her from the seminary and put her in the care of a companion who was meant to oversee her transition to womanhood and presentation into society. Instead, disaster struck. Missing her friends and feeling no great affection for her brother, Georgiana readily believed herself in love with an old friend and planned to elope. The merest chance interrupted their plans: Darcy had unexpectedly arrived, and Georgiana confessed all.

Even now, nearly a year later, what hurt Darcy the most was that his sister had not loved him enough to consider his feelings. Of course, that was his sentimental Fitzwilliam side talking. The man George Darcy raised him to be would worry first about the family reputation.

“She has no way of finding out the particulars. If we make it seem uninteresting, she will not care. Georgiana went to the seaside, and I was at a house party.”

“That may work,” Richard agreed. “I only have to be myself to irritate her in some way and distract her attention from you.”

“You have my thanks for that,” Darcy chuckled. Too soon, the lightness faded, and heavy loneliness weighed on him again.

“You should marry,” Richard said suddenly.

“What?” Darcy asked. Surely he hallucinated.

“A wife would ease your burdens. If you marry well, she might make you laugh and ease those worry lines on your brow. She could help with your sister since you will not allow my mother or Aunt to take her—”

“Georgiana is my responsibility,” Darcy said firmly.

Richard held his hands up again. “I only wished to express my concern.”

“Of course,” Darcy said and exhaled. Never having felt he was a true Darcy, he neither fit in with the Fitzwilliams. His insecurity over acceptance often made him push loved ones away rather than rely on anyone else. “Thank you.”

Richard stared at him for a moment and opened his mouth but then shook his head and closed it again. Whatever he was going to say, he had thought better of uttering. He turned his head to look out the window, and Darcy did likewise.

“Here we are again,” Richard sighed. “The palings of Rosings.”

“Another year older,” Darcy said. “Another year wiser.” Another year lonelier, he added to himself.

 

 

Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Carol- We Wish You a Merry Christmas

christmas carolPrevious sections: Twelve Days of Christmas / Part II

We Wish You a Merry Christmas

Pemberley

Ten years later

December 23, 1822

 

“That’s mine,” Natalie cried as she ripped a doll from her younger brother’s hands.

“I was playing with it first!” Charlie retorted and grabbed for the doll.

“But you didn’t ask! You will break her.”

“Nat, you can come play with mine,” Felicity, now tall and robust with a healthful complexion, said and offered her own dolls.

“It’s the principle of the thing.” She stomped her foot.

“Charlie, return your sister’s toy,” Jane said patiently.

Her son handed it over and ran off to play with his cousins: David, Ben, Tom, and Jack.

She sighed and shifted her newest daughter on her hip. “Girls, Olivia is going to sit with you.”

She placed the baby, just old enough to sit upright on her own, on the carpet and returned to her seat with Mary and Elizabeth.

“Remember when I said you would have a dozen?” Elizabeth asked as she stirred her tea.

“Bite your tongue.” Jane smiled wearily. “Just over half that amount will do for me, thank you.”

“Admit it,” Elizabeth teased, “you feel like Mama with five daughters underfoot.”

“I certainly understand her more than I ever did.” Jane smiled and sipped her tea. “Although I was not the one who had no compassion for her. It would be much fairer for you to be the mother of five daughters.”

“Oh no,” Elizabeth smirked. “Imagine Fitzwilliam with five girls with Bennet blood!”

“And now Papa spending so much time in the library makes sense,” Mary answered and patted little Rob on the bottom. “At least Richard has an outlet with the fencing club. The older boys ask to visit often.”

“Are there still plans to expand from Manchester to Birmingham?” Jane asked.

“Yes,” Mary laughed. “I apologise if it means you will see less of Charles when it opens.”

Jane smiled. “I do not think I will complain about some separation.”

Considering the eight children she had in ten years, some time apart might be in order.

She turned to Elizabeth. “Will you try for a boy?”

“Well, I have news,” Elizabeth said and smiled as she placed a hand on her midsection. “Obviously we cannot know yet, but there will be a new Darcy baby in the spring. Felicity and Anne would like a brother. Of course, Cate does not care yet.”

The youngest Darcy daughter, named after her great aunt as well as her maternal aunt, toddled over to her sisters and cousins.

“Honestly, though,” Elizabeth said, “Fitzwilliam says he does not care. The estate is not entailed, so he can leave it however he likes.” Of course, if no son came, they would rewrite the will to keep each well-funded while also protecting Pemberley from being sold off.

“What do we have here?” Elizabeth asked as many others entered the room.

The grown men, the boys, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, the Gardiners and their unmarried children, and the trio of unmarried aunts—Georgiana, Kitty, and Lydia—came in.

Darcy kissed Elizabeth’s cheek and sank into a chair. Cate toddled over to him, and he scooped her up to bounce on his knee, making her squeal with laughter.

“We were told to come for a concert,” Richard said.

“How delightful!” Jane beamed and applauded as some of them gathered around a makeshift stage.

“Lydia,” Georgiana called.

Kitty closed the curtains while the children lined up on stage. Georgiana dashed to the pianoforte. Playing a simple melody, she nodded as her nieces and nephews began singing.

“We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!”

Elizabeth and the adults applauded the first verse, then were treated to a second.

“Oh, bring us a figgy pudding!” the children cried in tune to the first verse.

Another one followed: “We won’t go until we get some.”

After solemn vows from the adults that they would, indeed, have figgy pudding with dinner, they gave the last verse.

“Good tidings we bring, to you and your kin, good tidings. We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!”

As the thundering herd of children clamoured to the dining room, Elizabeth smiled. Since the fateful Christmas ten years before, her heart had been full of love and joy. Each year had brought a truly merry Christmas, and each year brought more happiness.

Darcy had hung back with her and now gathered her in his arms before kissing her deeply.

“What was that for?” Elizabeth asked with a laugh.

“Do you ever wonder if we are still in an alternate reality?”

“If we are,” she said and stroked her husband’s cheek, “then I wish for no other than the one I have right now with you.”

Darcy squeezed her close again. “What if there is a version of me living without you?”

“Impossible, Fitzwilliam, impossible.” She kissed him and poured all her love for him into it. “We were meant to be, whether by Christmas magic or fortunate decisions. We were meant to be.”

“Come on,” Felicity called.

Felicity and Anne ran back to their parents and tugged on their hands. Cate half-walked, half-crawled towards them as well.

“The figgy pudding!” Anne cried.

Darcy and Elizabeth’s eyes met, and laughter filled the room and their hearts before they allowed their children to direct them to the dining-room for a shared birthday celebration and more Christmas festivities.

The End

 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Carol-

christmas carol

I joked on a forum these 4 chapters should have the subtitle, “Call the Midwife.” I hope you enjoy!

Previous chapters: Tweleve Days of Christmas

Jingle Bells

Pemberley, Derbyshire

December 23, 1812

 

“Are you certain this is safe for you, Mrs. Darcy? Lord bless me, how well that sounds!” Mrs. Bennet said with just a smidgen of her past excitement.

“I have been going out in a sleigh daily for weeks. Why would it suddenly be unsafe today?” Elizabeth propped a hand on her hip, accentuating her extremely rounded stomach.

“Mother Bennet,” Darcy said with an indulgent smile, “I would not like my wife to feel put out so close to the”—he glanced at his wife’s belly—”holiday.”

“Oh, I quite understand you,” Mrs. Bennet agreed.

“Come, Mrs. Bennet,” her husband said and led her away. “Darcy would not allow anything to harm Lizzy.”

Mrs. Bennet nodded as she watched her second-eldest daughter climb aboard the curricle with her husband. Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner boarded the other.

“I have not done this since I was a little girl,” Mrs. Gardiner laughed. The horse stepped forward, and she shrieked in surprise. “Do go slowly.” She gripped her husband’s arm.

Darcy and Gardiner shared a chuckle and then sped off, their wives crying with laughter. Mrs. Bennet watched silently but with an anxiety she had not known for a twelvemonth. Since the strange occurrences of last Christmas, she had been filled with calmness and serenity. Now, looking at the fresh blanket of snow on Pemberley’s fields, she troubled her lower lip and put a hand on the pulse beating hard at her neck.

The snowstorm came fast and hard; not something unusual in the area, she was assured. She took to her bed with a headache, something which often happened when the weather turned. Feeling restored after a night of sleep, she ate breakfast with the others. While she could well-remember the discomfort she felt in the final days of her pregnancies, she could also recall the signs of impending birth. The way Elizabeth caught her breath repeatedly and rubbed her belly could be more than kicks of an active baby. She had fidgeted in her chair, unable to find a comfortable position, and in the end insisted on walking throughout the house. New energy seemed to seize her as she insisted on decorating and greeting guests. She was positively waspish to everyone at the drop of a hat.

For several minutes, all seemed well as the Darcys and the Gardiners raced over the fields. Their laughter and the sleigh bells carried to the others watching from the house. Suddenly, Darcy stopped his carriage. He motioned and called for Mr. Gardiner. After a moment of discussion, Darcy took off again at breakneck speed for the house.

When he pulled up, he jumped out and ran to Elizabeth’s side. Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner were there a moment later. Elizabeth needed assistance getting out and then crouched low. Recognizing immediately that her daughter had gone into labour, Mrs. Bennet ran into the house.

“Reynolds, ring for your wife,” she commanded as she entered the hall. “Mrs. Darcy has gone into labour. Notify the maids. Send a boy for the midwife.”

“Yes, ma’am!”

By the time he ran off, Darcy was carrying Elizabeth into the house.

“Put me down, Fitzwilliam,” Elizabeth said. “I can walk!”

“I watched you collapse, woman.”

Mrs. Bennet gasped and drew to her daughter’s side.

“Perhaps we ought to leave this to the ladies,” Mr. Bennet said to his son-in-law as he saw his wife and an army of maids filling the corridor.

“You cannot carry me up all the stairs,” Elizabeth pleaded. “You will hurt yourself.”

“Did she really collapse?” Mrs. Bennet hovered nearby.

Elizabeth gave her husband a glare. “I did not.”

“No, she just needed to breathe during a pain,” Mrs. Gardiner said. “We will see to her from here,” she said to Darcy.

“I have called for the maids and the housekeeper, and sent a boy for Mrs. Sandrington,” Mrs. Bennet said.

“You see, everything is well in hand,” Gardiner murmured.

Slowly, Darcy nodded and put his wife down. He held her close and whispered in her ear before giving her a kiss. The scene was surprisingly intimate and touched Mrs. Bennet. She had been so fortunate with the men who loved her daughters.

“We need to get her upstairs before another pain comes,” Mrs. Bennet said gently. “Was it her waters?”

“Aye.” Mrs. Gardiner nodded.

“Go on, Fitzwilliam.” Elizabeth smiled. “All shall be well.”

“I shall run mad,” he said, not moving a muscle.

“You could write to her sisters,” Mrs. Bennet suggested.

“Yes, of course,” he agreed.

“Come along, then.” Mr. Bennet took Darcy by the elbow and pulled him aside.

The ladies went first to Elizabeth’s chamber while the birthing room was prepared. Elizabeth had seemed to be labouring all day, and Mrs. Bennet expected the babe to come fast after her waters broke, but she was proved wrong when the midwife arrived.

“This being her first one, it might be days,” Mrs. Sandrington said.

“Days!” Elizabeth cried, and then a new pain seized her.

“They’re not coming very regular,” Mrs. Bennet agreed.

It was suggested she walk, which Elizabeth eagerly consented to. Mrs. Darcy paced the halls, with her guests taking turns accompanying her.

“I am sorry for all the fuss,” Elizabeth panted. “I feel as though I am failing as a mistress to so fine an estate. Come for Christmas while I neglect you and birth an infant!”

“Hush,” Mrs. Bennet cooed. “You are the best mistress, right now. There is nothing more important than this heir, and there is nowhere we would rather be.”

“Not even with Jane?” Elizabeth asked in a small voice.

Mrs. Bennet blushed, knowing in the past she had caused Elizabeth, and one or two of her other daughters as well, to feel slighted. “I will be with Jane when her time comes. Perhaps it will even be here as they are to arrive on the morrow. I only wish Mary could be here as well.”

“Yes,” Elizabeth grunted and gripped a wall. “Send Fitzwilliam to her.”

“I do not think he would leave you now.”

“You heard Mrs. Sandrington. It could be days. He can be to Manchester and back in less than a day.”

“Lizzy…” Mrs. Bennet hardly knew what to say.

“Tell him I insist,” she huffed as she walked down the corridor. “Tell him that, or I will fetch her myself!”

The fire in her eyes made Mrs. Bennet scurry off to relay the message. At first, he adamantly refused to go.

“Shall we be witness to a showing of marital stubbornness?” Mr. Bennet asked. “Gardiner and I will go.”

Darcy shook his head. “No, we already considered that. She refused to leave the home she built with Richard.” Darcy sighed. “I hate to say it, but I fear I might be the only one to convince her.”

“She was always an obedient girl,” Mr. Bennet said.

“I am sure, but I know she has vowed to Richard that if I came, she would go.”

“Then go now,” Mrs. Bennet urged.

“You are certain Elizabeth shall be well?” Darcy hesitated at the library door.

“I spent twenty hours in labour with her,” Mrs. Bennet chuckled and shook her head. “She is well-attended, and there is nothing for a husband to do but wait.”

Darcy slowly nodded. “If anything should happen, tell her…tell her that I love her,” he whispered, then left.

“Ah, do you remember what it was like with the first one?” Gardiner asked. “Thinking of all the horrible ways it could go wrong?”

Mr. Bennet locked eyes with his wife and gave her a fond smile. “I never stopped worrying.”

Mrs. Bennet returned the smile. It was still rare for him to speak of any tenderness he felt, but learning sign language with Kitty had opened a new world to him. When her brother turned his head for a moment, Mr. Bennet signed “I love you” to her. Tears filled her eyes as she returned the gesture.

“Time for me to return upstairs,” she said. Hearing the pianoforte from the nearby drawing room, she added, “Tell the girls that they will have to continue to wait.”

Mr. Bennet sighed. “Hurry up and wait! That’s all there is to the baby business.”

Mrs. Bennet propped a hand on her hip and shook a finger at him. “I assure you there is much more to it than waiting for the mother!”

Mr. Bennet’s lips twitched.

“Oh, you were teasing!” She shook her head. “How you take delight in tormenting my poor—” She clamped a hand over her mouth. She had not uttered that phrase in nearly a year.

Muttering to herself, she hurried up the stairs to her daughter.

 

 


Away in a Manger

Belmont Hall, Northwich, Cheshire

December 23, 1812

 

“It seems Pemberley will have an heir by the time we arrive,” Charles said as he read Darcy’s quick missive. He and Jane were in the drawing room of their newly purchased estate only thirty miles from Pemberley.

“Oh my!” Jane exclaimed. “I thought she was not due until the New Year. Will the babe be well?”

“Darcy writes of no concerns.”

“We must go now.” Jane stood.

“I do not see why we must rush.” He glanced out the window. “It will be dark before we arrive, and we plan to leave in the morning as it is.”

“What is the difference if we arrive a few hours early then?” Jane said, holding up a finger. “Our items are packed. Please, I wish to be there for Lizzy.”

“Sweetheart, you have been growing so tired lately.” Charles came to her side and kissed her forehead. “The rest will do you good.”

“That will not distract me,” Jane said and shook her head. “I shall sleep on the way, but I know she would do this for me, and you know by now that I am stubborn when sure of my decision.”

Charles sighed, then walked to the bell pull. “Send for the carriage. We will leave tonight. Have Graves and Amanda pack a small valise of our necessary items for the night and morning. They may arrive by wagon as planned on the morrow.”

Jane squealed with happiness and clapped her hands. She pecked Charles on the cheek, dashed up the stairs—as best she could—helped her maid shove items in a bag, and then put on her warmest gown and coat. By the time she descended a quarter of an hour later, Charles and the coach were ready.

“I can say nothing to convince you of the foolishness of this?”

“No, nothing.” Jane shook her head. “I have not seen Lizzy in months. I wished to arrive days ago, but you said that since we live so near, we should not burden them longer than necessary.”

“I thought of your comfort, my dear,” Charles said as he assisted his round wife into the vehicle.

“I know.” Jane sighed. “Forgive me if I have been short-tempered lately.” She patted her belly, which lurched as they moved forward.

“It is nothing like what you bear.” Charles reached for her hand and kissed it. “Rest your head on my shoulder. Hopefully, the rocking sensation will help you sleep.”

Jane stifled a yawn and obeyed. Her husband wrapped a protective arm around her, and before many minutes she quietly snored.

Awaking two hours later as they changed horses, Jane felt discomfort in her back as she stretched. She walked some as they waited, believing her legs needed movement, and refused any refreshment but some wine mixed with water the cook had packed them. When she got to Pemberley, a bath and tea would restore her.

Asking Charles to rub her aching back, she dozed as he whispered loving words to her. She had not missed his lines of worry, but she was confident that she could do this. What was thirty miles of good road?

The last ray of sun was quickly leaving the sky when she awoke and sat bolt upright.

“Darling?” Charles asked.

“How far are we from Pemberley?” Jane asked as she squeezed her eyes against the pain.

Her husband scanned outside his window. “Here is the lodge house now.”

They turned onto a drive surrounded by trees and snow. Jane had little doubt it looked beautiful in the daylight, but she had much more pressing concerns.

“We must hurry,” she winced as her belly tightened.

“Are you well? Should we stop?”

Grunting through the pain, she shook her head. “No, the babe is coming.”

“Come again?”

Jane could not speak as another intense contraction gripped her. She grabbed whatever she could reach—her husband’s hand—and squeezed tight. A scream tore from her lips.

“Janie?” Charles’s voice trembled. “Jane, look at me.”

“I-I-I can’t!” Tears streaked down her face. The pains were nearly constant, and she felt the need to bear down.

“Look at me,” Charles said, in a commanding tone this time.

Pushing her chin to her chest, she glanced at her husband.

“You cannot do this here.”

“I can’t stop!” Jane grunted.

Feeling fluid trickle down her leg, she lifted her skirt to touch it. Red stained her hand.

“You will have to catch him,” Jane said.

“Pardon?”

“Your coat,” she panted and tried to breathe through the sensation of being torn in half. “Wrap him in your coat.”

She was a mix of hysterical and delirious with pain.

“We are pulling up to the house now,” Charles said.

“I cannot get out of this carriage. I cannot move!” Jane pushed her husband over so she could spread her legs. “His head is cominnnnnnng!”

Charles banged on the roof and shouted directions to pull around to the stable. “Just a minute, love. Just hold on.”

Perspiration marred his brow. The carriage stopped at the stable, and Charles yanked Jane forward as he hopped down. Before her toes touched the ground, he scooped her up and raced to a clean stall. The stable hands and his coachmen asked half-formed questions.

“Run to the house and tell them Mrs. Bingley is having the baby! Go!” Charles commanded. Then he called for a groom to fetch the gamekeeper “You have helped with animal births, correct?” he asked when the man arrived.

“Too many to count,” Mr. Statler said. “Some of my own babes, too.” He clapped Charles on the back. “Here,” he said and poured alcohol over Bingley’s hands.

“What’s that for?”

“Keeps it clean, so the mother don’t get sick.”

“Lord, I don’t know if I can do this,” Bingley half-remarked, half-prayed.

“Don’t flatter yourself.” The older man winked. “She does all the hard part.”

“Charles! I can’t wait any longer! I can’t” Jane panted as a forceful contraction brought her upright, and she gripped behind her knees, recalling something her midwife had said.

Screaming through the burning sensation, the animals around them joined in. After a minute of incredible pain, which she worried might last forever, she had a moment of respite.

“I can see his head, Janie!”

Sobs began to wrack her frame. Almost over. She was almost—another wave hit. Charles had his coat ready. Jane prayed her baby would be well. The air was so cold in the stable. Fears for her child made her focus. Get him out, get him safe, she mentally chanted. Four hard pushes later as Charles cheered her on, and she heard the cry of a baby.

“He is here?” Jane asked through tears. They were so numerous that she could barely make out her husband’s outline holding a small bundle.

“A girl, Janie. A girl.” Wonder filled his voice as Statler cut the cord.

Jane sagged in relief. “She is healthy? May I see?”

Charles brought her over and knelt down. “Look how beautiful,” he said and kissed her forehead. “Like her Mama already. Darling, you did so well.” He brushed aside sweat-soaked hair. “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” Jane whispered and lovingly stroked the cherub’s face.

For a moment, all was still and quiet. Jane could see the stars shining through a crack in the barn ceiling. Her daughter opened her eyes but did not cry. She merely looked at her mother, and love flooded Jane’s heart.

“Jane?” Mrs. Bennet’s voice rang out from the entry.

“In here, Mama,” Jane said.

Rapid footsteps sounded and then a loud gasp. “My heavens!” Mrs. Bennet said in a horrified tone.

“Everything is fine,” Charles said.

Mrs. Bennet nodded and then glanced around the stable. Mr. Statler had given them privacy. “You are fully done, then?”

“I do not know—” a contraction interrupted Jane’s sentence.

“As I thought.” Mrs. Bennet nodded. “Charles, take the baby to the house. Then return with a footman. We must get Jane into bed.” She called for Statler. “Do you have a blanket or the like? The baby must be warmed.”

He nodded, and Charles followed.

“Mama?” Jane asked as her mother knelt beside her.

“Yes, dearest?”

“I don’t understand.”

“It is the after birth,” she said and wiped her daughter’s brow. “You have already done the hard part.”

“Oh, thank goodness,” Jane laughed, and relief filled her. “I thought you were going to say there was another one!”

Mrs. Bennet chuckled as well. “No, that would be quite irregular.”

“How did you do this five times?” Jane said as she pushed.

“It may seem impossible now, but soon you will believe it was all worth it and want another one.”

Jane grunted as the last contraction came to an end. “If you say so. I must say, I am quite put out by Charles. Although he was perfectly wonderful during this, I just do not want him to be so wonderful to me for quite a while!”

Mrs. Bennet laughed again. “That is quite normal.”

“Jane?” His voice came down the corridor.

“Just a moment.” Mrs. Bennet quickly made Jane presentable. “You may come.”

Loading her back in the carriage, she sat curled on her husband’s lap, Mrs. Bennet across from them. They circled back to the house. Charles and a footman carried her to a chamber.

“Where is the baby?” Jane looked around fitfully. Anxiety filled her, although she knew it was irrational.

“Here she is, ma’am.” A maid rushed forward and placed her into Jane’s outstretched arms.

“The midwife needs to exam you and the babe,” Mrs. Bennet said.

“May I see Lizzy?”

“Perhaps in a bit,” Mrs. Bennet answered but did not meet Jane’s eyes. “Do you have a name for her?”

“Natalie,” Jane said and locked eyes with her husband. “Natalie Elizabeth.”

“Precious,” Mrs. Bennet said.

“Will you hold her?” Jane asked when Mrs. Sandrington entered.

Charles left to change and tell the men and young ladies the news. The midwife examined Jane and pronounced her strong and healthy. Jane smiled as she watched her mother walk around the room with her daughter in her arms. They had no bed for Natalie here yet, but Jane surmised that would be no problem as someone would be willing to hold her always. Before falling asleep, she grinned, thinking if that failed, they could always make a bed of hay.

 


Once in David’s Royal City

Manchester

December 23, 1812

 

Mary blinked through exhaustion when she heard the knocker. She heard voices—her maid’s and a man’s—and then steps in the hall.

“Madam, there is a Mr. Darcy here to see you,” the maid spoke quietly.

“Oh,” Mary said and slowly sat upright. Pulling her dressing gown tighter, she nodded for him to be let in.

“Mary—” He stopped short when he took in the bundle in her arms. “When?” He slowly came towards her.

“Two nights ago,” Mary said. “Just after Richard left.”

“You should have come to us,” Darcy whispered. “Is he well? It was early.”

“The midwife said early makes it easier.” Mary shrugged. “He is well. He eats constantly and has healthy lungs.”

“That is good.” He was looking at the child strangely. “And you? You are well?”

“Only tired.” Mary smiled.

Her heart skipped a nervous rhythm. Physically, she was quite well. Mentally, she was shaking herself. She had insisted on staying in the house instead of leaning on the care of her family. What had she been thinking? She could only imagine that pregnancy clouded her judgment. It all seemed entirely clear once the baby was in her arms.

“Why are you here?” she asked, wondering if he noticed the sound of hope in her voice.

“I had come to fetch you. I would have done so tomorrow, but Elizabeth has started, and she wished to have you with her.”

“Oh, dearest Lizzy.”

“Can you travel?”

Mary chewed her bottom lip. She knew there would be no small amount of discomfort, and travel with a newborn would slow their timing.

“Mary?” Richard’s voice boomed from downstairs.

Mary gasped, and Darcy jerked his head. Fluttering a hand, Mary shooed Darcy to the door. “Bring him up here.” Looking down at the baby, she added, “Only quietly!”

Darcy, clearly astonished, left her side. Mary heard muffled voices on the stairs. She could not make out the words, but Richard’s were incredulous. A moment later there were footsteps in the hall, and the door inched open. Richard, looking road-weary and dirty, peeked his head in.

“Is it true?”

Mary smiled. “Come and meet your son.”

A look of awe filled Richard’s face, and he shuffled to her side. “So small,” he said.

The baby made a gurgling sound in his sleep and smiled. “How you must hate me for missing this,” Richard said and kissed her cheek. “I am so thankful you are both well.”

“I do not hate you,” Mary said. “It could not be helped, but why are you here?”

“As I reached Liverpool, word came that there had been a victory on the coast of Spain, and we did not need to go to Falmouth. Words cannot relay my relief. I raced to you as fast as I could.”

“You left two days ago,” Mary said with tears in her eyes. “Why are you only now returning?”

Richard wrapped his arm around her. “I hope you do not mind being poor,” he said and kissed her hair. “I have sold my commission. I will find some other employment and means to care for my family, but I will not leave them.”

Laughter bubbled up from Mary’s throat, and tears streamed down her face.

“You are crying, love,” Richard said.

“Happy tears,” Mary answered. “I’m so delighted.”

“You will not miss my red coat?”

Mary shook her head. “Certainly not!”

A knock sounded on the door, and they bade Darcy enter.

“I hate to intrude,” he murmured, “but Elizabeth…”

“How do you feel?” Richard asked his wife.

“Susie was telling me how her mother was always up and running within days of bearing a child. I think I can survive a carriage ride. If you do not mind the extra delays.”

“Not at all,” Darcy said and scanned the room. “It seems you were half-packed when you had to stop!”

Mary blushed. “I did not want to go, but I also knew that Lizzy would not leave me. I wished to remain stubborn but also not be a burden.”

Darcy chuckled. “These Bennet women and their stubbornness. How will we survive?”

“At least I am adding to the number of males to offset it!”

“A fine, hearty son! My congratulations,” Darcy said. “What do you call him?”

Richard laughed, realising he had not asked. “Well?” He met his wife’s eyes.

“It is as we decided.” Mary smiled. “David Nicholas.”

“Excellent.”

“Darcy, if you help Mary down the stairs, I will throw together a trunk of some of my items. I can always fetch more or have things sent later.”

Darcy nodded. The maid came to carry the baby downstairs, and Mary leaned heavily on Darcy’s arm, but she made the journey without needing to stop due to pain or exhaustion. Happily, David was returned to her waiting arms as Susie quickly packed items for the infant. Within a quarter hour, they were in the Darcy carriage and bound for Pemberley.

 

 


Coventry Carol

Pemberley

December 23, 1812

 

As Pemberley welcomed the newest members of the extended Bennet-Fitzwilliam-Darcy family, Elizabeth slept restlessly. Her eyes fluttered open only when Darcy kissed her forehead.

“Mary?” she asked weakly.

“Settled in a guest chamber with your nephew and Richard.”

“Goodness,” Elizabeth said with far less force than she felt. “Tell me everything.”

So he did. When he finished, she marvelled. “Now, I do not think it is fair that they had such easy deliveries and are now my guests.” She frowned. “I will have to scold them when I recover.”

Darcy kissed her hand. “Nothing too strenuous, my love.”

Elizabeth nodded and rubbed her belly. Her labour had stalled, and she noticed the nervous looks her mother, aunt, and Mrs. Sandrington shared. She still felt contractions, but they no longer came at regular intervals or felt as strong. Despite assurances that this sometimes happened, Elizabeth grew afraid.

“I believe I am jealous,” Elizabeth said, resting her head against Darcy’s shoulder as he sat with her in bed.

“I know,” he said and placed a large hand on her belly. “Soon it will be over.”

“It is not that, although I would welcome it.” She tried to stretch to reach an itch on her foot but was unsuccessful. Thankfully, Darcy understood her desire. “I wanted our baby to be the first you held.”

“I held Georgiana.”

“I mean besides her,” Elizabeth pouted.

Darcy squeezed Elizabeth’s shoulders tight, having finished his task at reaching the itch. “I know, and I did not hold David or Natalie.”

“Truly?”

“Truly.” Darcy smiled. “However, my arms feel very empty despite your being in them. Perhaps our little one desires excitement?”

“What do you mean?”

“Shall I call for the sleigh again?”

Lizzy laughed. “As tempting as that is, I do not think I have the energy to go all the way down the stairs.”

“Did not Mrs. Sandrington say you need to walk?”

“Yes, but my legs feel so heavy, and it just hurts.”

“Come, walk with me,” Darcy said while standing. He held out a hand to her, smiling when she placed hers in it.

“Do you recall what we were doing this time a year ago?” she asked as they circled the halls of Pemberley.

“Which day?” Darcy chuckled.

“Any of them!”

“I didn’t know it at the time,” Darcy said, “but I was searching for you. That is how I knew I loved you.”

“It was?”

“Before Bingley and Richard told me anything, I was having dreams. In every dream, I sought you out. I wanted to look at you, to speak with you. I realised it was the same in our daytime encounters. You were who my eyes first wished to see in every room I entered.”

“Oh, Fitzwilliam,” Elizabeth sighed. “I wish I deserved you. I am so terribly unromantic compared to that!”

“When did you know you loved me?”

“When I thought I lost you forever,” Elizabeth confessed.

“So good things can come out of stressful moments.”

“Indeed.” She rubbed her belly, which had begun to contract since she started walking. This time she would not stop so early.

After several hours, Mrs. Sandrington judged it time for the birthing chair. This time, Darcy would not be removed from the room. Exhausted from an entire day of labour and then hours of walking, Elizabeth nearly fainted during the two hours of pushing. Each time she cried out in pain or that she could not continue, Darcy murmured encouragements in her ear. He rubbed her back, mopped her brow, and focused her breathing. Finally, after a herculean push, Elizabeth felt profound relief. The baby had come, but she heard no crying. Bursting into sobs, she could not manage to put her fears into words.

“Fitzwilliam, he does not cry,” she forced out, gripping his hand fiercely as they both looked over to the midwife, who was cleaning the baby and wrapping it.

“Mama,” Elizabeth sobbed as her mother came closer to Mrs. Sandrington and placed a kiss on the infant’s head. “No, Mama. No, please, no.”

Hysterics consumed her as another contraction came to deliver her placenta. She loudly cried to God for a miracle.

“Quiet,” Mrs. Sandrington soothed as she came over. “Look.” She pointed to the baby’s chest. “She breathes. She lives. A miracle.”

Relief flooded Elizabeth, and tears poured from her anew.

“What do we do?” Darcy asked.

“Pray,” she answered honestly. “A physician might be able to help, but getting good food will help the most. She came just a little too early.”

“Have you seen others like this?”

“A few,” Mrs. Sandrington said. “See how she is yellow? She will need sunlight.”

Darcy nodded as he took the tiny bundle from the midwife. Elizabeth ignored the pain in her body and leaned over to kiss her daughter. “I am sorry,” she sniffed as tears poured down her face again.

“What for?”

“Because…because we do not know if she will live. You deserve a strong heir, a son, and look at what I did.”

“Elizabeth,” Darcy said sternly, “you are exhausted and insensible. She is already my pride and joy. Do not torment yourself like this. I was sickly at birth.”

“You were?” she asked.

“For many years, I was weak. Richard still likes to tease. So did…others.”

Although he had not said the name, Elizabeth knew he meant Wickham. By agreement, they had not uttered his name since the day he boarded the ship. To speak it now at the birth of their child would be an unforgivable travesty.

“What happened?”

Darcy shrugged. “One day, I grew. It was as if all my growing caught up with me all at once. Mother was carrying Georgiana, actually. I was happy she got to see her frail son turn into a healthy boy.”

“And were you ever ill?”

“I seemed to catch every childhood disease and was in bed with colds all winter. I did not go away to school until I was sixteen.” Darcy shrugged. “By then the boys all had their own friends, except Bingley.”

“Why did you never tell me this before?” Elizabeth asked.

“I did not think about it. I am certain I do not know everything about your childhood.”

Elizabeth blushed. She meant to keep it that way.

“I suppose it has been a day of many miracles and blessings,” she said when she had been cleaned up and moved to her chamber.

“Indeed,” Darcy said as he sat on the edge of the bed and stared at his daughter.

Elizabeth looked over at the small crib her baby rested in. She had cried, eventually. Not the loud wail of her cousins, but a sound distinctly her own. Others might call it frail, but to Elizabeth, it was music to her ears.

“We never decided on a name for a girl,” Elizabeth said as she gently stroked her daughter’s soft cheek before scooping her up.

“That is because someone was convinced she was a he,” Darcy chuckled.

“My chances of being correct were just as good as yours.” She gave him a saucy look. “Anne? After your mother?”

“Elizabeth, after hers,” Darcy suggested.

“No, no.” Elizabeth shook her head. “Despite the many shortened forms available. What did you say earlier? You called her your pride and joy.”

“Surely you are not suggesting we name our daughter after my greatest flaw.” Darcy smiled.

Elizabeth smirked, knowing he could follow her train of thought but that he could never resist exchanging barbs with her. “I meant Joy, of course.”

“Joy Darcy,” he tested it out. “It feels too short.”

“You only think that because Fitzwilliam is so long.” Elizabeth yawned halfway through the name.

“Elizabeth is hardly shorter.”

“Yes, but I am called Lizzy and Eliza by many.”

“Felicity?”

A slow smile curved over Elizabeth’s lips. “Felicity Joy Darcy.”

“Perfect,” Darcy said and kissed her forehead. “I love you so very much,” he said, recalling a time when he would not even confess it in a dream.

“Oh, Fitzwilliam.” Elizabeth stroked his cheek. “I love you so very much, too. I am so thankful for the Christmas miracle which brought us together and for the one I now hold.”

“Now, get some sleep,” Darcy said as he took the baby. “I will watch over my ladies.”

Elizabeth fell asleep with a smile on her face. When she awoke to the hungry cries of Felicity, she smiled to see her husband sleeping beside her. She had chosen not to employ a wet nurse and instead provide the baby with nourishment herself. Latching was still new but going well.

As Elizabeth fed her baby at her breast, she hummed a lullaby and thought over the strangeness of the day. Instead of enduring repeating calendar days, they each had a baby. Who knew what the future held? Despite the worry directly following Felicity’s birth, Elizabeth believed her daughter had inherited her parents’ strength of spirit. She already seemed stronger.

When she finished nursing, Elizabeth continued to hold her newborn and sing:

“Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child,

Bye bye, lully, lullay.

Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child,

Bye bye, lully, lullay.

Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Carol- Twelve Days of Christmas

christmas carolTwelve Days of Christmas

 

January 30, 1812

Dearest Lizzy,

 

Can you believe we have been married nearly a month? I hope married life is finding you as well as it finds me. Charles is so kind and such a treasure to me!

We have had many conversations about our fears, and I must thank you for encouraging me to speak openly with my husband about it. A closeness I could not have imagined has formed between us.

Last week, I hosted my first dinner party. Sir William and Lady Lucas, Mr. and Mrs. Long, and Mrs. King were invited. I believe the favourites were the partridge and pears. Mama was such a help to me. I know you were worried about her change in demeanour being permanent, but she has been all I could wish for. Instead of taking control, she gave suggestions only when I asked. She has even made Lydia remain home at times, letting Kitty be the only Bennet daughter “out.”

I hope this finds you well.

Yours,

Jane Bingley

 

February 14, 1812

Dear Mary,

I hope, my sister, that your husband has been as romantic as mine on this Valentine’s Day. A pair of turtle doves arrived this morning. I can think of no better symbol for our love.

Pray, reply with haste so I may know what wretched gift Richard has procured for you. We must laugh at him when we can, you know.

Regarding your lastif Richard is deployed, of course, you are welcome at Pemberley. I could not bear the thought of my sister being all alone while her beloved faces such danger. You must come. Indeed, I would prefer a visit for less tragic reasons. We will soon be in London. Might a visit be possible then?

Yours,

Lizzy

 

March 24, 1812

Dear Jane,

Richard and I have arrived at Rosings. Richard had not expected an invitation this year as Lady Catherine still seemed irate about Darcy’s marriage to Lizzy. However, now that I have met her, I believe her bark is worse than her bite. She asked me many questions, to which Lizzy would have loved to reply with suitable impertinence. She is curious about her nephew’s wife. I thought I might encourage our sister to work on her husband and reconcile.

I have seen Mr. Collins and Charlotte as well. He echoes his patroness in everything as useful as a flock of colly birds. Meanwhile, Charlotte remains too proud of her cows and hens to display ill-humour at her husband’s embarrassing ramblings. I came prepared to hold our cousin in high regard and see him in the office of a clergyman. Now, I cannot find anything admirable. Richard is ten times the man our cousin is, and now I fully understand Elizabeth’s censure and pity for our friend.

Now, I must write our sister. Richard is teasing me and saying he shall send me a flock of hens and starlings after seeing how I “admired” Mrs. Collins’s. To think, Lizzy has turtle doves!

Your devoted sister,

Mary

 

May 15, 1812

Dear Lizzy,

We have just come from Netherfield and had the most glorious time at Jane’s birthday celebration. Mr. Bingley gave her a set of five gold rings. Sapphire, emerald, ruby, diamonds, and amethyst all splendidly arranged. Oh, they complement her gowns and complexion very well. Despite the finery and her smile, I know her joy was incomplete due to the absence of you and Mary.

You and Mr. Darcy were very kind to invite me to summer with you and Miss Darcy. I will miss Mama and Papa terribly, but they agree it will be good for me to have more experience away from Meryton. They have also said it will help Lydia to develop her own character without a sister to support her.

We look forward to your visit in June, when I hope we will hear of a blessing. Jane has told me that you know of her upcoming “Christmas gift,” as she calls it. If you and Mary have news as well, I will be busy with sewing baby things for months!

Kitty

 

July 28, 1812

Dear Mary,

 

I have had a letter from Kitty at Pemberley. She tells me of her and Georgiana swimming with geese in the lake. Can you imagine? I never would have thought stern Mr. Darcy would allow such a thing!

She also wrote of Lady Catherine visiting. Kitty says she was too afraid to say anything above one-word answers, following Georgiana’s suit. You have met the lady. Is she truly so terrible? She hired Mr. Collins, after all.

You will remember Suzy, the milkmaid, of course. She has found herself in an unfortunate situation from one of the militia who recently left for Brighton. Mama and Papa plan to help her in some way, but I can only think it might have been me. I do not believe I ever said it before, but I am sorry for not heeding your words previously.

Greet Richard for me, and please come to Pemberley for Christmas. If the babe comes early, then I am sure Pemberley can provide for two babies as well as one. It will not be Christmas if we are not all together.

Lydia

 

September 21, 1812

Dear Lizzy,

My hand can barely write for shaking. Richard has had orders and will soon be returning to the Continent. I cannot sleep. Every time I close my eyes, I see him marching with drums and fife playing. His babe moves within me, and all I can do is pray that he will not grow up without a father.

Life has changed considerably for us all in a year. Did you know I had written in my journal before last Christmas that I wished we could see the future before making a choice? It seemed some magic happened whereby we were shown many possible consequences of our decisions, and I falsely felt secure, for this was never one we faced. I do not regret marrying Richard, of course. I only wish I had another chance to alter my course, to save my love from this trial. It may be fruitless and silly, but I wish for just a bit more Christmas magic.

I write you as I believe you will not laugh at me but commiserate.

Your sister,

Mary

 

October 20, 1812

Dear Lizzy,

Can you believe nearly a year ago we all danced at Netherfield? How my life has changed! So blessed am I!

We have hosted a farewell ball, although I did not dance, before leaving for the estate in Cheshire. Lydia is a regular favourite. Replacing the brashness of last year, she is now reserved. Gentlemen seem more enamoured of her maturity and quiet words. However, she claims she will not marry before her twentieth birthday. You may not recognise her when you see her at Christmas. I daresay Kitty will have altered much as well.

I have had a letter from Mary. How startling it is to have her message devoid of scriptures while she confesses her deepest fears. I wish we could do something for her and Richard. It seems so unfair that our husbands have such independence while his very life is at stake on the whim of others.

While I enjoyed an evening of watching ladies in elegant dresses, she endured another night terrified for her husband and unborn child.

I pray all is well with you. I trust Darcy has recovered from the stress of the harvest.

Jane

 

November 30, 1812

Dear Mary,

I apologise, my dear sister, that my husband and I were unable to convince Richard to give up his commission. It appears, if my Darcy relatives are any indication, that the stubbornness and pride I have known my darling husband to have comes from the Fitzwilliam side of the family.

Come to Pemberley. We will shower you with love and affection. I am confident Richard wishes for you to be comfortable during your confinement and for the duration of his campaign.

If you do not arrive by December 23, Darcy says he will fetch you himself—loath as he would be to leave me at such a time.

 

Your scolding and emotional older sister,

Lizzy