Previous Chapters: Chapter One / Chapter Two /Chapter Four / Chapter Five / Chapter Six / Chapter Seven / Chapter Eight / Chapter Nine / Chapter Ten / Chapter Eleven / Chapter Twelve / Chapter Thirteen / Chapter Fourteen / Chapter Fifteen / Chapter Sixteen
The First Noel
December 23, 1811
Elizabeth and Darcy blushed as Mrs. Bennet’s shrieks sent Mr. Bennet to the library. After he had requested a private word with Darcy, Elizabeth whispered to Darcy, “What will you tell him?”
“The truth,” he answered.
“You will tell my father we inexplicably have been repeating the same day?”
“I am not certain he would believe that. No, I intend to tell him that I love you.”
Elizabeth blushed but shyly smiled. “Very well. I will tell him the same.”
Before Darcy could tell Elizabeth to not be untruthful, her mother pulled her away, and Darcy was left with Mr. Bennet.
“Have a seat, Mr. Darcy,” the older gentleman said with deceptive calmness before taking his own on the opposite side of the desk.
“Allow me to apologise for taking liberties with your daughter,” Darcy said, hoping the smile he could not erase did not exasperate matters.
“She seemed far from offended,” Bennet observed.
For once, Darcy thought to himself. Of course, if kissing was what it took to
earn Elizabeth’s favour, he would gladly make himself a slave to the task.
Mr. Bennet cleared his throat, and Darcy realized he had been wool-gathering.
“Well, you have done it now,” Bennet said. “Her mother witnessed it, and there will be no mercy from her wailings. I am surprised a man of your worth managed to forget himself enough to be entangled so much.”
Mr. Bennet seemed to have found humour
in the situation.
“I love her,” Darcy blurted.
“I have asked her to marry me.” Darcy could hardly tell her father when he had done so. Nor would telling him that Elizabeth had refused help his cause.
“You are not asking for my blessing, so I assume she did not accept?”
Darcy remained mute.
“However, she seemed to welcome your…ahem…attentions
so not all hope is lost.”
“Sir?” Did Bennet want his daughter to marry him?
“I think my wife must have interrupted the settling of things.”
“If I am not mistaken, it has been several days in the making.”
Did Mr. Bennet also regain memory of the last fortnight?
“Now, I will call for Elizabeth. Then, we must hope your cousin does something for Mary. He is fortunate my wife will never recall a thing.”
“I do not understand…” Darcy fumbled. “How?”
“I have, at last, learned caution from your story about Wickham. I believe there must be some Christmas magic at work. Upon realizing how derelict I was in protecting my daughters, I had the most bizarre set of memories fall upon me. I can think of no way to explain your sudden arrival and Jane’s betrothal but to believe they were real, ending with an epiphany of great importance.”
Darcy blinked at the man who, he had found, acted most illogically most of his life. Mr. Bennet had married a silly wife with little fortune. He did not save for his daughters’ inheritance. He allowed them far too much liberty. However, the man had logically explained the alternate realities and time loop they inhabited for two weeks and more, believed it far easier than anyone else had. Perhaps the key lay in being both logical and ridiculous? Bennet began to laugh, interrupting Darcy’s reverie.
“Do not mind me,” the gentleman waved off Darcy’s concerned look.
“I only recalled when Collins had died. Mrs. Bennet has often wished there was no entail and I have often hoped it would not go to him. However, she did not take kindly to him keeling up before marrying one of her daughters and just after proposing to Charlotte Lucas.”
Mr. Bennet chuckled another moment. “Then you and Bingley came bounding in and immediately she turned about, elated with your return and convinced Bingley meant to offer for Jane and save us all. I daresay you will be gaining two or three very silly sisters, but your mother-in-law will always entertain.”
Darcy managed to smile at the image. At present, if he could acquire Elizabeth’s hand and if she could return his love, he would bear all things and count himself blessed. How differently he felt about any number of things in so few days!
Mr. Bennet rang for the servant and in short order, Elizabeth entered the library.
“Now, Elizabeth,” Mr. Bennet began as she sat beside Darcy. “This gentleman tells me that he loves you and has asked for your hand in marriage.”
She answered nervously. Undoubtedly, she had not meant to speak to her father with Darcy in the room.
“And do you consent?”
Elizabeth glanced at Darcy. “I do.”
If he had not insulted her so soundly in his actual proposal, he would think this arrangement the height of unromantic. Still, Darcy’s heart rate increased. She was accepting him? She had not returned her eyes to her father.
“And you are not out of your senses? Currently, I mean. It would be understandable if you are after the events of the last fortnight.”
Elizabeth gasped. “You know?” She swung her head from him to gape at Mr. Bennet.
“Yes, I do, but you have not answered my question.”
“No,” Elizabeth shook her head and returned her gaze to Darcy. “No, I am in my right mind.”
“Have you not always hated him?” Mr. Bennet said with a humorous note in his voice.
Elizabeth blushed. “No. No, I have never hated him. I love him.”
Darcy’s heart skidded to a stop and then burst. The elation overspread on his face as muscles he had long forgotten he had stretched into a grin of unfettered joy.
“You love me?” He could not keep the wonder from his voice.
“I do,” she replied in a similar voice of disbelief.
He reached for her hands and raised them to his lips. “Words
cannot contain the love I have for you.”
“I do not know,” Elizabeth smiled. “Calling it ‘ardent’ certainly seemed like a good beginning to me.”
It was not the beginning he had trouble with! No, his problem was no matter how his words of love began, in his mind, the scene ended with his capturing her mouth and not relinquishing it until she was his in every way. Still, he would do this right, for her.
Keeping her hand in his, Darcy knelt on one knee. “Elizabeth Bennet, I passionately adore you. I would lay down my life for you. I will go to the ends of the earth to make you happy. I love you as no man has ever loved a woman. Will you be my wife?”
Elizabeth smiled even as a tear trickled down her cheek. “Yes, I will! I have been stupid and blind. I have been unkind and unjust. You have seen me at my worst, and I have seen you at your best. I love you, Fitzwilliam Darcy.”
Darcy could not contain his ardour any longer and met Elizabeth’s lips. When he did not hear a reproach from Mr. Bennet, he pulled back long enough to confirm the gentleman had left the room at some point during their exchange. He met Elizabeth’s lips again.
He would never have enough of her, but when he kept her in his arms as long as he dared, they separated and returned to the drawing room. Upon Mr. Bennet announcing their betrothal, they learned Richard had also sought Mr. Bennet’s blessing to wed Mary.
Darcy gave Richard a hearty handshake and Elizabeth approached her sister.
“Are you certain of this, Mary?” Elizabeth dropped her voice. “Mama does not remember the kiss. No one will be upset if you refuse him.”
Richard cleared his throat. “I will be upset.”
“Perhaps it is a bit sudden,” Darcy cautioned.
“No,” Richard said. “In all this insanity, I admit I felt attraction for another lady. I even believed I might love her.”
Mary began to hang her head in shame.
“Richard, I do not think…”
“I was wrong,” Richard said and lifted Mary’s head by hooking his finger under her chin. “She intrigued me because she was unavailable and I was a glutton for punishment. When I considered never having her, only my pride was wounded. Then you boldly walked into my life and I instantly fell.”
“Did you really?” Mary breathed, her eyes focused on Richard.
“I did,” he nodded. “And such a sweet fall it was.”
Darcy cleared his throat. “I suppose we have established your feelings.”
Elizabeth smirked. “He is only jealous because you are out-romancing him.”
Darcy flushed and looked at his feet.
Elizabeth whispered in his ear, “I still love you.”
He would never tire of her saying it. However, at the moment, they needed to address her sister’s feelings. “What do you say, Miss Mary? I recall Richard once telling me he would settle for marrying a woman who did not love him, so long as he loved her.”
Mary gasped and a surprising fierceness flooded her eyes. Darcy laughed to himself at the familial expression she shared with Elizabeth.
“Don’t you dare let me hear such a thing said of you again.” Mary poked Richard in the chest. “Do not dare think you are not worthy of love. You deserve it more than any other man and I…” Tears flooded her eyes and she wiped at them below her glasses. “I love you. I may be small and plain but I have loved you since I first saw you and—”
Richard silenced her with a kiss which drew the attention of the room again.
“Mr. Bennet! Mr. Bennet!” Mrs. Bennet cried.
“Colonel, I was going to give you my blessing anyway. Can you not speak with a father like a civilised man?” Mr. Bennet laughed. “If any young men come for Kitty or Lydia, show them in. I am quite at my leisure,” he said and withdrew a newspaper to read by the fire.
The three betrothed couples and Georgiana could not contain their amusement while Mr. Bennet’s two youngest daughters had not spared the others more than a moment’s concern as they had instead noticed a bright star in the sky.
When she had caught her breath, Georgiana declared, “Joyeux Noel!”
“Mr. Bennet,” his wife exclaimed. “You take delight in vexing me!” She then clutched her head. “Oh, that clock! My salts! My salts!”
The others had just enough time to reach their seats before fainting.
This ends Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Joy, Part I of MR. DARCY’S MIRACLE AT LONGBOURN. I’ll be posting Parts II and III next week!