Music Monday– All my favorites

I don’t think “normal” people can comprehend how much I love Christmas songs. To give you some idea, I made a Spotify playlist of my absolute favorites and narrowed it down to a trim 35 songs and nearly 2 hour run time. I’ve never met a Christmas song I hated.

Ok, that’s not true. I do loathe Feliz Navidad, Last Christmas, and Wonderful Christmastime. Mostly, I think I dislike them because they get over played. I’m not thrilled by a great many of other songs but I don’t hear I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus or I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas very often. What I absolutely adore are the old classics from Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams, Perry Como and so on. What speaks to my soul even more are the traditional carols. My Spotify list is a mix of several different styles. I tried organizing it but it won’t stay that way so I’m sorry if it seems jarring to switch between different styles.

I won’t get into which ones Jane Austen might have known. If you’re interested in that, here’s a good article about it: https://austenauthors.net/christmas-carols-jane-austen-might-have-sung/

Without further ado, my playlist. Enjoy!

Friday Feeling– Taking back Christmas

It’s not easy at this time of year to be focused on the reason for the season. Thanks to this new world where we have to be offended by something every other breath, this season has been even more fraught than usual. Once we’ve all taken sides and pitchforks against each other in the social media battlefield over songs, there is still all the other exhausting holiday things to do: decorating, shopping, wrapping, gifting, parties, events, traveling, cooking, baking, and more shopping. 

I’ve been out of the Christmas loop for the last few years as we are usually moving at Christmas. It’s easy to justify no need go all out with decorating when your life is in boxes. However, this year, we are staying put for once, and the kids have expectations. Adults aren’t the only ones bombarded with media telling us what the “perfect Christmas” looks like! It affects kids as well. 

I’m homeschooling this year and so I’ve bought more presents than I usually do. I’ve noticed that my daughter isn’t playing with certain toys and asks for time with others that she would find in a more traditional kindergarten classroom. Lord help me, but I’ve bought a few puzzles. They’re not the first puzzles, we’ve owned, of course. It’s just that it’s so easy to lose pieces. Sigh. I’ve bought a few other activity things for us to do, replacement supplies for her play kitchen because I guess they sprouted legs but I can’t find them anywhere. No wonder she doesn’t want to play with it! I’ve complained on Facebook that the only thing I can find for my son is Lego kits. He happens to love Legos but it seems like his gifts should be more well-rounded.

I came up with a plan to buy cookies and pass them around the neighborhood. We’ve been here 6 months and I only know the next door neighbor’s name. She has custody of her grandkids who are near in age to my daughter. However, since we are homeschooling, I rarely see them. Thank goodness my husband is on vacation this week. He can help us in the kitchen while we bake and make sure tiny hands are washed so we don’t spread salmonella or something. 

I actually don’t have to do much cooking for the big day itself. We will be traveling to visit family a few hours away. But then…well, then there’s the politics of family and in-laws. It comes with a strange house the kids don’t know and strange people and strange customs and lots and lots of opinions. I’ll be sure to take my anti-anxiety medicine that day. 

And then there’s the issue of the Ghost of Christmas Past. I’m a headcase, plain and simple. Growing up, Christmas was always a tough time. I’m full of memories of arguments and fights, fear of bills, anxiety over presents, and just a looming sense of disaster. Again, pass the anxiety meds, as I try to bottle up memories and keep them from seeping into everything in my present life. 

Through it all, I try to teach my children the true meaning of Christmas. I tell them it’s better to give than to receive when they can’t understand why we are donating new toys to Toys for Tots, donate to a charity, or give some loose change and spare cash to red Salvation Army bins. I remind them again, and again, and again, that Christmas is NOT about presents. It’s not about Santa. It’s not about all the expectations we’ve created of decorations or food or even forced cheerfulness and visiting family. I want them to know the real reason for the season because I don’t know what the future holds for them. What if they one day take a job where they have to work on Christmas? What if they live far away from us and can’t visit over the holiday? What if they just prefer a minimal existence and don’t enjoy decking the halls with holly? I want them to know that Christmas is in their hearts and can be all year long. I want them to know that they can still have a wonderful, blessed, happy Christmas even if xyz doesn’t happen. 

And just when I am feeling entirely over-exhausted from it all, one of them will say something that lets me know they get it. It makes it all worth it. This holiday season, remember the real reason for the season. Remember to give to the less fortunate. Remember to spread love and cheer. Have grace for others, you never know what battle people are going through. Have open arms and an open heart. And if that exhausts you, and it might, well, at least then it will be worth something instead of being exhausted from all the manic shopping and vainglorious display the media tells us is necessary for Christmas. Take back Christmas!

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

Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Joy- What Child is This?

Sorry I’m late posting again! I’ve been so exhausted and my son is having trouble adjusting to school. I’ve been on the phone with school several times this week and had to pick him up early twice. That means less writing time! There are 3-5 chapters left after this one (depends on if I need to round anything out or decided to do an epilogue). What Child is This is one of my favorite Christmas Songs so I’ve had the idea of this from the very beginning.

Chapter OneChapter Two and ThreeChapter FourChapter FiveChapter Six /

Chapter SevenChapter Eight Chapter NineChapter Ten 


christmas-2016-5What Child is This?

“I swear to you, I keep dreaming of Miss Bennet. It is a sign. It must be,” Bingley said as they boarded his coach again.

Out of nowhere the night before, Bingley had insisted on returning to his leased estate near Meryton, Hertfordshire. Darcy had insisted on going with him. Georgiana insisted on going with her brother. Richard insisted on going with her.

Last Darcy had heard, George Wickham was in Meryton and friendly with the Bennets. Of course, that had been two years ago. The Regiment likely was now stationed elsewhere, but with no notice, Richard had no means of finding out. However, he would never let the scoundrel near his young cousin again

“I will never understand why you renewed the lease even though you had not returned in over two years,” Darcy said coldly.

“Yes, I know all about your displeasure at my not taking your advice on the matter,” Bingley said.

Richard looked at his cousin, Georgiana. It was unlike Darcy and Bingley to have a disagreement. Darcy could be overbearing at times, but Bingley hated arguments. Wordlessly, she told him not to push the matter.

“What do you think they’re like now?” Georgiana asked.

“Ja — Miss Bennet would be as beautiful as ever,” Bingley replied instantly.

“You call it love when you only care about her looks?” Darcy asked. “What if seven years had passed instead of just two?”

Richard studied him. He expected to hear derision but instead, Darcy looked nearly as anxious as Bingley did.

“Why did you even want to come?” Bingley said in clipped tones.

“It was this or visit Aunt Catherine,” Richard said hoping humor would diffuse the tension. “You know he skipped out of going at Easter again.”

“Yes, tell us about your visit again,” Darcy said.

Richard tugged at his cravat. He did not like to speak of that time. Without Darcy’s company, Rosings was even more tedious than usual. Last year, Richard had taken to spending as much time as he could at the parsonage. Foolishly, he fell in love with a married woman. Even more foolishly, he returned to see her the following year.

Richard could guess Darcy’s reason for avoiding Rosings at Easter. Two Easters ago, Charlotte Collins had invited her dearest friend, Elizabeth Bennet to visit. As Richard’s friendship with Charlotte deepened, she confided that she was disappointed Darcy had not come as planned because she believed he was in love with her friend.

At first, Richard rejected the idea as incredulous. After observing his cousin, however, he believed it to be true. Now, Darcy sat across from him, knowing he would soon be seeing Miss Elizabeth again. He still held a torch for her. Richard could sympathize with his cousin’s pain. Darcy had been wise to avoid meeting with Miss Elizabeth, but it seemed he could no longer avoid the pull of his heart.

Richard took a sip of the flask he carried with him. Would that he and Charlotte were as free as Darcy and Elizabeth were. Darcy had ideas about rank and circumstances for marriage, but those weren’t real obstacles the way Charlotte’s marriage was. Of course, that and the fact that she had no idea of his feelings.

“Rosings was as boring as ever,” Richard said. “As you know, Darcy, there was a lively houseguest at the parsonage last year, but she was not there this year.”

“Who was the houseguest?” Bingley asked absentmindedly while looking out the window and drumming his fingers on his thigh. “At this rate, we will not get there until nearly seven!”

“The horses are tired,” Richard reasoned, “and the roads are damp.”

“Yes, well,” the usually good-natured man harrumphed. “You were saying?”

“Miss Elizabeth Bennet was a guest of my aunt’s clergyman, Mr. Collins. They are cousins, and she is his wife’s friend. I believe you met the man? His wife was the former Charlotte Lucas,” Richard addressed Bingley but directed his eyes at Darcy.

No one had asked if Richard desired to go to Netherfield. It was just assumed. Indeed, he never thought otherwise himself. His duty was to Georgiana. However, each turn of the wheel brought a piercing pain to his heart. The day before they left London, Lady Catherine had written and explained that Mrs. Collins would be visiting her parents over the Christmas holiday. Richard knew the Lucas family was good friends with the Bennets. Even now, she might be in Longbourn, and Richard would have to see her again.

Bingley suddenly leaned forward, interest burning in his eyes. “Did Mrs. Collins say anything about the Bennets? Why did Miss Elizabeth not return?”

“Mrs. Collins said something about it being an inconvenient time for her family but believing they were all well. She had no idea of when Miss Elizabeth might be able to visit again.” Richard shrugged his shoulders. He had spent little time speaking of Miss Elizabeth when Mrs. Collins was his true interest.

Bingley sat back, evidently disappointed.  At last, they reached the house and were shown in. The room went silent at their announcement. A quick scan produced the lovely Mrs. Collins. She was sitting next to a lady in glasses, who had a baby on her lap. It felt like a punch to his gut.

Was this her baby? It should come as no surprise after two years of marriage, and yet, she had shown no signs of pregnancy at Easter, and the child was no newborn. In fact, it could sit on its own. What little Richard understood of infants from his brother’s children, they could not do so until they were many months old.

Faintly, he registered the sound of voices. A stiff introduction and not the shrill voice he expected of Mrs. Bennet. His feet shuffled toward the baby, who fussed. The spectacled woman spoke to it in gentle tones. “Here, do you want to see the people?”

When she turned to face the child out on her lap, Richard felt all air leave him. The baby was the spitting image of George Wickham as a child. Behind him, he heard the gasps of Darcy and Georgiana.

“Colonel Fitzwilliam,” Mrs. Collins said, drawing his notice. “How nice to see you again.”

“Indeed. Nice…pleasant…” he trailed off as his brain could not master speech let alone polite conversation at the moment. He cleared his voice. “Excuses me, but I did not hear. Congratulations. He’s a fine lad,” Richard nodded at the baby.

Mrs. Collins shook her head. “You are mistaken, dear Colonel. My husband and I are not expecting our child until the Spring. This is Mrs. Spurlock’s baby.”

“Mrs. Spurlock?” Richard said as Darcy and Georgiana joined his side.

“My sister Lydia married Mr. Spurlock last year,” the woman in spectacles said. “She and her husband are visiting after being stationed in Newcastle. It is the first we have seen them since before the wedding.”

“You might have seen the announcement,” Mrs. Bennet said, “although it was not put in the way I had hoped.”

“No, I had not,” Darcy said.

“Oh, well. It had been August before last. No doubt so long ago it would have slipped your mind even if you had seen it,” she said.

Was it Richard’s imagination or did she look relieved they had not known of the announcement?

“Stationed in Newcastle? He must be an army man like myself!” Richard said, hoping he could learn more information from the man. There could be no coincidence in the baby looking so much like Wickham as a child.

“Indeed!” Mrs. Bennet beamed. “He’s over here. Let me introduce you,” she said, and Richard followed over.

Several minutes of stupid conversation later, and Richard guessed as much information as he thought he could glean from the man. Spurlock and Lydia met in London; the gentleman was an acquaintance of her uncle through his father who shared a business connection with Mr. Gardiner. After their marriage, he joined the Army and was stationed in Newcastle. He was just stupid enough to be the sort that was chosen to marry a ruined girl and think it lucky for him. A younger son of a tradesman suddenly an ensign in the army with more pay and where he might distinguish himself and with a pretty wife was enough to make many men satisfied. Richard wondered if he were stupid enough to believe the child was his.

“Colonel,” the spectacled miss appeared sans baby, “I am to make your tea,” she said and nodded at the table.

Richard instructed her and watched as she moved with grace. “Thank you, Miss ?”

She blushed. “Miss Mary. I know there are several of us. It must get confusing,” she said. “Although, you met Lizzy before, didn’t you?”

“Indeed,” Richard said as he took a sip of his tea and watched Mrs. Collins across the room dote on Mrs. Spurlock’s child. Motherhood suited her.

“I do not know why you are always so fascinated by her when she has always been taken,” Miss Mary huffed under her breath.

“Excuse me?”

“I uh–”

“And what do you mean by always?” he asked.

Miss Mary turned white, and her eyes darted to a bound journal on the other side of the table with writing materials nearby. It looked as though she had been adding pages to it. Richard reached for it, but she snatched it and held it close to her chest.

“May I speak with you?” she asked in a timid voice.

“You are speaking with me. Not making much sense, but speaking,” he said with a sigh.

“No, I know that,” she let out a nervous chuckle. “In a few minutes when everyone is distracted? I have to show you something.”

“Miss Mary, I think you are fatigued–”

“Listen! It concerns my family and yours too!” She dropped her voice, “And–and Mr. Wickham.”

Richard said nothing but grit his teeth and nodded. In a few minutes, the others were sufficiently distracted, and he made his way to Miss Mary.

“I am glad you trusted me, sir,” she whispered.

Richard said nothing and the lady pushed her glasses back on her nose. “This journal contains three hundred and sixty-five pages. It is meant to have one page per day of the year.” She quickly fanned through several entries. “As you can see, I always complete my entry in the allotted space.”

Richard’s quick eyes had scanned a few entries while she spoke. Most of the entries were short and seemed to contain no news. After Michaelmas, the entries grew longer.

“Do you see the date,” Mary pointed to one. “Look at the year.”

Richard furrowed his brows in confusion. This journal was two years old. Before he could formulate a question, she turned the page, and the same date was repeated. She leafed through eight pages, each with the same date, December 23, 1811.

“Now, read today’s entry.” She held it up for his inspection.

December 23, 1811

Today I learned two years have passed since last night. This is beyond anything I had guessed. Lydia is married, but there was some scandal about it. I heard Mama and Aunt Gardiner discussing it in hushed tones. Apparently our friends abandoned us during the time. They just started visiting again but now that Lydia is at Longbourn, Mama thinks she the others will avoid us. Strangely, Charlotte Collins has lent her support, although Mama insists it is so she can look around the house as her future domain. Mama has given up on any of us marrying. Her schemes are at an end, and it is so strange to see her quiet.

My heavens! Since writing the above, I have learned the most shocking news. Lydia eloped with Mr. Wickham last year! After several weeks it became clear to her, he had no intention of marrying, and she left him. Uncle Gardiner then patched up a marriage for her. They say her baby came early, but I would not be surprised at all to learn it is Wickham’s child. There is something familiar about his eyes.

I do not know how to heal this rift in time. Will I awake tomorrow in the past, or in the future. Is this reality inescapable? I do not know what to do. Was my meddling to blame for this turn of events?

“Read the other entries, if you like, but be quick!” Mary said when Richard looked at her in doubt.

Quickly, he read the other entries. They were different situations of him arriving with Darcy, Bingley, and Georgiana. Mary never had anything to record before dinner time. It was always vague explanations of how the day was spent. Then, Richard and the others would arrive and Mary’s memory became very detailed. Certain words were repeated in each circumstance, and everything seemed to shift at seven o’clock.

“Do you believe it?” She twisted her hands and nibbled a bottom lip, hoping for his approval.

“There is only one way to know,” he said and then impulsively kissed her.

“Mr. Bennet! Mr. Bennet!” he heard Mrs. Bennet shrieked. “Come, you must make him stop! You must make him marry her!”

The rest of the room was silent.

Richard pulled away and looked in Mary’s astonished eyes. “There. Now, if it is true as you say, then no one shall recall this tomorrow.”

Before he could say more, the clock struck seven. He held Mary’s eyes as the others around him clutched their heads.

“I will remember,” Mary said as her bottom lip trembled and tears filled her eyes.

“As will I,” he promised.

As the chimes continued, he felt like a cloud was lifting and he saw clearly for the first time in weeks. He could never forget. Why had he been so interested in a married lady who barely seemed to notice his existence? How had he missed the woman before him? Even as he asked himself the question, he knew the answer. It was safer to chase something that could never be a reality than be rejected as insufficient. He would fight tooth and nail for this reality to be the one worth keeping. As his own epiphany dawned, he considered Darcy and Bingley’s predicaments.  White light swirled around him as understanding became clearer.

 

Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Joy- Joy to the World

Christmas is long over and now even New Year’s has passed. I hope to finish by Twelfth Night (January 6). We’ve got a few chapters left!

In case you missed them:

Chapter OneChapter Two and ThreeChapter FourChapter Five Chapter Six /

Chapter SevenChapter EightChapter Nine

christmas-2016-5Joy to the World

“Oh good gracious!” Mrs. Bennet exclaimed from a window. “Oh my goodness! I shall faint! It’s a Christmas miracle!”

Jane hastened to her mother’s side. “Mama, what is wrong?”

Mrs. Bennet brought a fluttering hand to her chest. “Mr. Bingley has returned!”

“Mr. Bingley?” Most of the room echoed at once then looked at Jane, causing her to blush. Then there was a bit of a mad dash to the window as her sisters and several guests endeavored to peek outside.

“Mr. Darcy is with him,” groaned Elizabeth. “Who is that other gentleman? He looks familiar.”

“Allow me,” Mr. Wickham peered out the window.

“Well?” Mrs. Bennet asked.

Jane had cast her eyes down and gripped her hands but could hear her mother panting in excitement.

“That is Mr. Darcy’s cousin, a Colonel in His Majesty’s Army and the younger son of Earl Fitzwilliam.”

“The son of an earl!” Mrs. Bennet erupted so loudly that Jane jumped. “What joy!”

“Perhaps we had better leave,” Wickham said to his fellow officers.

“You are not leaving?” Elizabeth said.

“I think it would be better.”

Elizabeth became uncharacteristically quiet, and Jane would have worried more about it if the officers didn’t follow Wickham to her father’s study. Were they going to hide in there until Bingley and the others were in the drawing room and then sneak out of the house? What ridiculousness!

Mrs. Reynolds appeared, holding back a smile, and announced Mr. Bingley, Mr. Darcy, Colonel Fitzwilliam, and Miss Darcy. No one had mentioned her arrival. Jane’s heart hammered in her chest. Bingley’s sister said he would marry this young lady.

Jane ought to hate her, but a small glimmer of hope welled inside her. Why would Mr. Bingley return to Netherfield just to show off his betrothed? Why did his sisters not visit with him? Could it be that Elizabeth was correct and Bingley did love her? Jane’s eye’s followed Miss Darcy as she dragged her brother to Elizabeth’s side.

“My sisters elected to stay in London,” Mr. Bingley said.

Jane blinked. Had someone asked him a question? Was he speaking to her or the entire room? While busy watching Miss Darcy, he had sat next to her.

“Oh! I love London! It must have been very difficult to tear you away from it,” Mrs. Bennet said. “But I see Hertfordshire has its draw,” she gave a significant nod to Jane.

Heat slapped her cheeks but still her mother talked on without allowing anyone else to speak. “My brother and sister are from London. You will not meet with a finer merchant or a finer gentleman. Although they are not as lofty as some,” here she sent a scathing look to Mr. Darcy who sat next to Elizabeth and the very couple in question, “would like.”

“Mama, can we go for a walk in the garden?” Lydia interrupted her mother.

“Well, certainly but Mr. Bingley will want to stay…”

“I would love nothing more, madam.”

“But I do not think it appropriate for an earl’s son…”

“There can be nothing inappropriate by walking with such a good friend of the family,” Mr. Bingley’s eyes locked on Jane’s and felt like a caress.

Jane’s heart soared as Miss Darcy was absolutely forgotten. As they gathered in the hall to put on their outerwear, Jane noticed Mary hugging a book to her chest.

“Mary, dear, I think it might be too dark to read outside,” she said gently.

“That’s not a book. It’s her diary,” Lydia giggled. “She has been taking it with her everywhere and scribbling in it. She must have a secret beau!”

“Jane, I must speak with you,” Mary said while ignoring their youngest sister but Bingley approached. Mary thrust the diary open to its last page. “What do you see?”

“Just the date. December twenty-third.”

“Yes, but look! It is the final page! There are enough sheets for one page per day of the year in this diary.”

Jane furrowed her brow. “You must be mistaken.”

“No! See!”

Mary fumbled with the pages through her gloves and then it was knocked from her hand by Colonel Fitzwilliam accidentally knocking into her as he helped Charlotte Lucas. Bingley reached Jane’s side, and she could think of nothing else.

“Show me later tonight,” she said to Mary before taking Bingley’s arm to walk in the garden.

Walking at Bingley’s side filled Jane with peace and joy. She had never known she could miss a person’s company so acutely before. She had never traveled much, but she had often stayed in London with her aunt and uncle. During such visits, while she missed her family, Elizabeth especially, she always found pursuits to distract and cheer her. The separation from Bingley was a deep ache in her heart that nothing but his presence could fill.

Terrified that none of this was real, it was far too good to be true, Jane remained silent. She had dreams of this very thing. Bingley would show up unannounced, as was his way, and be her Christmas miracle. He would confess his love and apologize for his leaving then propose under the mistletoe. Jane blushed at the thought. Her heart longed for this very scene but was it just another dream? It felt so surreal, as though she had been through it all before, although Colonel Fitzwilliam and Miss Darcy had ever appeared in her dreams before. She still felt as though she knew this scene.

At last, Bingley broke the silence. He whispered near her ear, “I am exceedingly sorry if my sister’s mistaken impression that I would not return to Netherfield caused you any distress, Miss Bennet.”

Jane gave him a small smile and attempted to conceal a tremble in her voice. “Certainly not. A gentleman may come and go as he pleases.”

“A gentleman keeps his word.” Jane shuddered next to him, and he pulled her in closer. “Are you getting cold?”

Jane stared at her feet and whispered, “Please do not be a dream.”

“Pardon, I could not hear you. Perhaps we ought to return inside.”

Jane slowly raised her head and met his eyes. She attempted to hold her tears back. “No, I am not cold and do not wish to go inside.” The dream always ended when they went inside.

“Jane! Lizzy! We’re cold!” Lydia called from the door where three of her sisters were huddled.

“Mary says it is nearly seven o’clock. Hurry! I’m famished,” Kitty whined.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Miss Darcy speaking with Elizabeth. Mr. Darcy said something and Lizzy immediately turned red in anger and began arguing with him.

Bingley put his other hand over Jane’s and gave it a squeeze, drawing her attention back. “It seems our walk is over.” He dropped his voice and leaned closer to her her. “I will call again in a few days. Do you believe me? Will you trust me again?”

Jane shuddered and nodded but remained silent as Bingley escorted her back inside. She knew the dream would end once inside. Instead, Bingley helped her out of her pelisse. Jane breathed a sigh of relief. This was real, she did not wake up. There were no clocks and bells chiming in her dreams. She could smell the coffee and tea. Yes, her senses were never so aware in her dreams.

As the sixth bell chimed a sense of warning hummed in her body. Yet, she had lived this before. She was to beware the seventh bell, something would happen. Something terrible. Someone cried out just as her vision blurred. All around her, she was aware of others moaning in pain. Then, she saw and heard nothing, consumed in the darkness of night before dawn.