Mr. Darcy’s Compassion– Chapter Seven

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Previous Chapters: Previous Chapters: One / Two / Three / Four / Five / Six

Welcome to the new readers who have joined us from Fan Fiction dot net! I really appreciate your continued support!

In the last chapter, Darcy decided he needed to quit beating around the bush about Georgiana so Elizabeth would open up to him more. We finally get to it! I know there have been some guesses. There are worse things in the world than George Wickham.

In the first post, I warned that there was non-graphic background of sexual abuse against a child. If you have triggers, it might be possible to continue to read in a few chapters. This is not the primary conflict, it is an additional obstacle Darcy and Lizzy have to overcome. It didn’t happen to either one of them, so the healing of it is not something I attempt to handle in this story in detail.

I know some people will dislike that I bring up this subject. The fact is, 1 in 5 children under the age of 18 are sexually abused. That’s 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys. We don’t know the stats from the early 1800s, but I doubt it would be much better than today. It is something that is only now being reported and recorded. Additionally, it’s not usually a stranger. It’s typically someone who is trusted by the family and has access to the child. They spend considerable time creating a relationship with the child. This is called grooming. Those sorts of behaviors are easily hidden and probably have been part of society for time in memoriam.

To learn more about the facts about childhood sexual abuse and how you can defend the young people in your life, I suggest looking at this site: https://defendinnocence.org/get-the-facts/

Chapter Seven

 

Darcy tensed at Elizabeth’s words. He knew he must tell her the sordid truth about Georgiana but felt incapable. The only thing Elizabeth knew of his sister was Miss Bingley’s praises for her accomplishments. He could not tell her about the very worst of humanity before she knew anything else about Georgiana. After all, the trauma did not define her.

During Darcy’s panicked thoughts, Elizabeth seemed to scrutinise his expression. He supposed it was only fair after he had done the same to her. She was also hiding something, although he was at a loss on what it could be. She had already revealed far more shocking things than probably any other lady of his acquaintance ever would.

“I did not think it would be so difficult,” Elizabeth chuckled. “Perhaps that is because I have four sisters to talk about, so there is always something to say.”

Darcy smiled. “Georgiana is in nearly all of my fondest memories. She was born when I was nearly twelve. Of course, I can recall moments before. However, they are far hazier. She was the true apple of my parents’ eyes. They had long desired a sibling for me.” He paused to laugh at the ridiculousness of his youth. “I had seldom seen a baby and was certain I would not like the imposter they were bringing into our home. I only knew they cried and smelled. What use did I have for an infant? We were too far apart in age to ever be friends.”

Elizabeth nodded. “There are only seven years between the eldest and youngest of us. I confess that it is often difficult to understand the minds of my youngest sisters and there is less than half the distance you share with Miss Darcy.”

“In hindsight, I believe I was afraid she would steal all of my parents’ attention. The morning of her birth, my father called me into the nursery for a proper introduction. I peered into her cot, my hands resting over the edge. She was sleeping but suddenly awoke. Stretching and yawning, she looked positively cherubic. Then, one of her tiny fists wrapped around one of my fingers and I was utterly lost. I laughed to myself that I had feared her entry into the world.”

“How sweet,” Elizabeth sighed.

“Oh, she was still loud and stinky.” They shared a laugh. “I would visit the nursery as often as I could, impatiently expecting her to walk or talk. The nurse had to explain a dozen times that it would take a very long time before she could do more than lay let alone catch up with me.

“Georgiana was born in July, and I began attending Eton that autumn. For many years, I only saw her on holiday. Obviously traveling the distance from Pemberley to Windsor with a young child was nearly impossible. There was another motive, too. My mother’s health was ailing. I do not know if she never recovered from Georgiana’s birth or there were attempts at another child. I know it was a slow and steady decline but not an illness. When I did return to Pemberley to visit, I was instructed to be quiet and not bother my mother. I devoted hours to entertaining my sister. This was especially beneficial to me as George Wickham grew more malicious each year at school. My father discerned none of it and instead found great joy in the boy’s charming façade to ease his troubled mind and mourning heart. I am convinced it is this closeness which resulted in Georgiana telling me about her intended elopement.”

Elizabeth’s brows rose in surprise. “You mean he attempted to elope with your sister?”

“You should not be so shocked. You have witnessed his charisma and Darcys are mortal, after all.” His tease earned a slight smile from Elizabeth.

“What is her temperament like? You observed my sister Lydia. She did elope with Wickham. Are there any similarities between the two?”

“Other than their age and susceptibility to Wickham’s charm, I would not say so.” He hoped it would not grieve Elizabeth to hear it. He did not wish to talk about her sister’s failings. “Georgiana is shy. While she is not studious, as her preferences fixate on the pianoforte, she is well-educated in a variety of subjects and is adequate at them all. Is there anything else you wish to know about her?”

“Where is she now?”

“She is at Pemberley with her companion. I intended to visit her for Easter.”

“Now, I have ruined those plans!” Elizabeth cried.

“Nonsense,” Darcy waved away her concerns. “I have written to her and explained that I have been detained. Some of our relations may visit in my absence.”

Elizabeth nodded and fell into a momentary lapse of silence. He turned his attention to another book, as she still had the one he had read from earlier. She sighed and fidgeted in her seat.

“Are you unwell? Should I call in Molly?” Darcy asked after several minutes of the unusual behaviour.

“I am merely out of sorts with being laid up for so long. I cannot even look out the window.”

Without another word, Darcy stood, dwarfing the distance between them. Scooping her into his arms, he carried her to a window.

“Put me down!” she cried. “You will hurt your arm and have a relapse, and then we will never be able to leave.”

“Pardon me,” Darcy said as he held her close “I had expected your thanks. You did just say you wished to look outside.

“But I do not wish to be dropped!” She gripped tighter around his neck. “Yes, I see, it is a square just like any other town.”

Although she said she was through looking, she cast a wistful glance at the window.

“A chair,” Darcy said. “I can place a chair here for you to use.”

“It is not necessary,” Elizabeth said. “It is only a strange habit of mine that I would indulge if I could.”

“What is that?”

“I enjoy watching others. I consider what is going on in their lives, what are their reasons for buying a certain thing or moving a certain way. It is as entertaining as we can get in Meryton with no theatre.”

Darcy was unwilling to relinquish his hold on her and lingered at the window. “That man in yellow breeches. What story would you invent for him?”

Elizabeth looked at him for a moment. “Why he is courting, of course! See how he hovers at the window display? He is thinking of giving his lady love something but does not know if it will meet with her approval.”

“Maybe he does not think he can afford it.”

Elizabeth frowned. “That is far less romantic, Fitzwilliam. Common sense such as income never figure into these scenes.”

“Do they not?” he asked. “Would you marry a man with an insufficient income?”

“No,” Elizabeth agreed. “But then I would never allow myself to be courted by a gentleman who dressed as garish as he. Perhaps he would do better with Miss Bingley!”

Darcy laughed so hard at her joke that he did not notice the fatigue of his arm, at first. When he did, he realised he had mere seconds to deposit his bundle. Striding back to the settee, Darcy almost reached it, when his arm gave out. Before he knew it, Elizabeth was in a heap on the floor.

“I told you not to carry me!”

He crouched to help her up.

“I can do it!” she hissed as she gripped the nearby table for support. Her knuckles turned white. “Now, if you could assist me to the bed, I will remain there. No,” she said leaving no room for argument when he attempted to lift her once more. “Wrap your arm around my waist and help me hop.”

Darcy did so and then arranged the pillows under her injured ankle. “I am sorry, Elizabeth.”

“You should be,” she said.

He could not wonder at the change in her mood. She had confessed to feeling short-tempered and irritated. “Is there anything else I might fetch you?”

“Perhaps you could speak with your valet or with Cuthbert about something. Do you like ale? There is always plenty downstairs.”

Darcy understood her meaning. All she wanted was for him to leave. He withdrew his watch. “I will return in a few hours. You are welcome to my books. I will arrange for Molly to check on you at two.”

He brought his stack of books and left them on the table near her side of the bed. He hesitated to leave Elizabeth’s side, but it was clear that she desired some privacy and space. He wondered if it would be different if she had loved him or if she would always need some distance between them.

Darcy spent a few hours in the tavern below, watching other men grow rowdier as they consumed Cuthbert’s beverages. Men pawed at their women or a barmaid. How had Elizabeth survived in this for months? Before that, she lived at Longbourn and with all of its noise. He tried to not take it so personally that she needed some space from him. After they married, even if she deeply loved him, there would be a period of separation. During the day they would each have their tasks. There might be a time when he had to travel without her. Indeed, that she could be so independent was an asset. He would not like a wife that senselessly clung to him.

No, what gnawed at him was the way she avoided discussing what she felt about things. She had informed him of events, and while she cried, it seemed as no more emotional than a journalist reporting the news. He could guess what everything she had gone through did to her, but Elizabeth seemed entirely reluctant to voice any of it. How he wished he could knock down the walls of her heart!

Someday, he told himself. Eventually, he would her trust. One day, she would know to draw comfort from him. All he had to do was prove his loyalty and fidelity. When put that way, he was assured of success, and it would not even be difficult for him for nothing could end his love.

The sun was slipping low in the sky and dinner was being served when Darcy returned to his chamber. He found Elizabeth waiting for him at the settee, their trays already brought in. She looked refreshed and gave him a smile. He took that as a good sign.

“I hope you enjoyed your afternoon,” he said as he sat beside her and kissed her cheek.

“Indeed. I apologise for being short with you earlier. I cannot put it into words, but I have restless. I cannot abide being cooped up in a room for so long.”

“Once we leave, we could arrange a time on each day to give you a satisfactory walk.”

“You would do that?” Elizabeth asked as she prepared Darcy’s tea.

“I would do anything for you,” he said seriously. His were not the empty words of so many suitors. “You need only ask.”

Darcy watched Elizabeth’s reaction. Did she believe him? Would she ever? Suddenly, it occurred to him that if he wanted her to be more open, he ought to show the same willingness. They talked about light things while they ate. Afterward, Elizabeth read to them from the book she had discarded earlier in the day. Supper arrived around nine, and after eating, they prepared for bed. It was there, as Darcy drew Elizabeth to his side that he would tell her of Georgiana.

“You asked earlier about my sister, but I did not tell you everything.”

“Do you fear my reaction? You should not after all I have explained to you.”

“No, I do not think you will be harsh on her. First, I did not want to tell you because I did not want to sway your opinion. Then, I did not want to tell you because we seemed to have enough battles and I did not want to add to your distress.”

“Is it so upsetting then?”

Darcy’s arms reflexively tightened. “I can scarcely imagine a grimmer subject.”

For a moment, Darcy’s thoughts were pulled back to the day when he finally heard the terrible truth from his sister. It had come after he had returned from Hertfordshire. He had left her in London after weeks of her being so crippled with depression she could not leave her chamber or eat. She had refused to speak or accept visits from her friends. She shunned any mention of the pianoforte or music. It was not the tears Darcy had expected when he told her of Wickham’s abandonment. It was as though Georgiana was empty on the inside.

“You care for her very much,” Elizabeth said as she pushed a lock away from his brow. Her hand rested at his temple, and she applied gentle pressure in a circular motion.

“Before you, she was the only person I had left in my life to love. I idolized my parents. It took no sacrifice on my part to love them. Georgiana had never known our mother, and I think that is essential to understand about this story. When our father died, I became more than a brother to her.”

“Was there no one else she could look to for a father figure? That is quite a lot of responsibility for such a young man. What did you know about raising a girl her age—or any at all—while you were not more than…?”

“Two and twenty,” he supplied.

“You were not more than two and twenty. I suppose you had full guardianship over her?”

“No,” Darcy answered. “A cousin on my mother’s side was also awarded guardianship in my father’s will. However, he is currently a colonel in the Regulars and has had little time to devote to his charge. Of course, by then the damage was done. Although we did not know it. I am certain even my father did not know.”

Darcy’s throat dried as palms grew sweaty. His heart raced and his belly twisted in pain alternating between butterflies for Elizabeth’s response and the disgust such memories always provoked.

“You may tell me anything,” Elizabeth encouraged. “I have…” She trailed off as she wiped a tear, drawing Darcy’s eyes to focus on her. “Nothing can disturb me very much. I am no longer the sheltered miss you knew in Hertfordshire. I cannot explain the peace sharing my troubles with you has begun to give me. Will you not allow me to hear of your trials in exchange?”

Staring into Elizabeth’s glittering eyes, filled with remorse and pain at least partly for his sake although she did not know what it was, Darcy was more lost than ever. He could never deserve her love. He might never have it. However, she offered him this moment. A moment of reprieve and understanding. A precious, sacred moment he had prayed for in ardent longing for months. He sealed her offering with a kiss, then pulled her head to rest over his heart. For one more minute, he remained silent, drawing strength and comfort from her touch.

“Father had a friend who would visit. After Mother died, it seemed he came more often. However, he was busy with his own family in those years. When Georgiana was about five or six years old, this man became quite taken with her. I was just entering University, so I do not know how frequently he came to Pemberley. We were told his own wife had taken a lover and kept his daughter from him. He could exercise his right legally but claimed he loved her and could not dishonour her even if she did so to him. He knew, too, that it would grieve his little girl to pull her from her mother. Whatever faults the wife had, her love for their child seemed genuine. As such, he was always welcome to visit Georgiana in the nursery. He was allowed to take her on walks around the grounds. He lavished her with attention on these visits and brought gifts. I remember thinking she loved him more than us.”

If Elizabeth could sense what he was about to say, she did not react at all. Perhaps she had more innocence about her than she claimed. Perhaps her loving heart could not imagine all the horrors of the world. For a moment, Darcy hesitated. He hated having to tell her of such ugliness. However, she asked for him to be open and he now believed it a necessary part of creating trust between them.

“That man—that monster I should say—was not treating Georgiana as a daughter as we had so long believed. He treated her as a mistress.”

Treasured–Chapter Three

treasured finalIs Will going to break the engagement?

Previous Chapters: One / Two

 

Chapter Three

 

Will kissed Elizabeth once more. After facing the truth of their loved one’s demise and all the emotion it brought on, their lips frantically met, drawing a different sort of comfort from one another. They were here, they were alive, they had this moment together.

Will tore his lips from hers and dropped his forehead to her shoulder. “How can I ask it of you? How can I bear it again?”

Suddenly, Elizabeth understood what Will had meant earlier. He was speaking of giving her up! Or at the very least, of postponing their marriage. Did she mean so little to him? Registering dampness on her gown, she realized Will cried at the thought of their separation. No, it was not that he desired this.

As though she had asked her question aloud, he spoke. “I would do anything to keep you safe, Elizabeth. Perhaps we are not meant to…”

Elizabeth pressed a finger to Will’s lips to silence him. “Do not say it! We are meant to be together. I have no intention of giving you up now or ever. You are mine Will Darcy!”

She threw her arms around his neck. The unexpected movement tackled him to the ground. She leaned over Will and did not let go. In this position, they shared breath, and she could feel his heartbeat. Meeting his eyes, she considered her next words carefully. “I am not afraid at all for me. It is you that I worry about. It is you Wickham has targeted. If by some extreme misfortune, I am injured because I am with you or loved by you, it is something I will gladly bear. I would rather have one moment on this earth as your wife than live for one hundred years without you.”

Will leaned up slightly and met her lips then managed to reposition them so he had more dominance. After several minutes, Elizabeth pulled back, panting. “Love me, Will. Love me. Make me yours! No one can separate us once I am yours.”

Will groaned and rolled away from Elizabeth. The distance returned Elizabeth’s senses to her. What had she done? She had just thrown herself at Will and begged for him to defile her in the woods. She was worse than some common harlot!

Shame slapped her cheeks, but curiosity made her glace at her betrothed. He did not appear angry or displeased.

“Forgive me,” Elizabeth reached forward and touched Will’s arm.

His body jumped in response. “Leave me be, Elizabeth. Do not touch me just now.”

The last time he had spoken so coldly to her was after Apollo had nearly trampled them and she asked after the scarred flesh on his arm. She had demurred then but would not this time. She made her choice not the least because if Will deserved her anger, she had no room for feeling ashamed of her behaviour.

“Do not shut me out,” she said as she sat up. “You were willing to break our engagement—again! Are you still and that is why you do not desire my affections?”

Will rolled to face her and propped his head up with a bent arm. “I desire your touch and affection far too much. What you asked for a moment ago has been in my mind nearly unceasing since shortly after I met you. I will not take your virtue until our wedding night. I am not the rake you thought I was.”

Elizabeth huffed out a sigh and folded her arms tightly against her chest. “So we will have a wedding after all? Pray, sir, will it be before I am fifty? How shall I ever bear you a son at that age?”

“If it were legal at all, I would marry you this very minute. I would declare us wed with nothing but these trees as our witnesses. I did not want to break the engagement.”

“May I know the stupid reason you had rationalized in your head that was worth giving me up? You were very incoherent just now.”

Mischief lighted in Will’s eyes. “I think you are proof at how eloquent I was.”

His eyes raked over her and Elizabeth realised the damage to her gown and hair. She blushed and glanced around for hairpins but would not let him avoid the point. Rolling her hair up, she glared at him. “You know of what I speak!”

“You know already what thoughts were in my mind for you already argued against them. You were in the carriage! I cannot be so selfish!”

Elizabeth reached for Will’s hand, and this time he did not shake her off. “There are times when I can perceive your thoughts or emotions and times when I cannot. Either way, I think it is best for us to talk about them openly and to each other. We should not presume to know the other’s mind on such matters. It has only brought heartache too many times.”

Will stood and reached for Elizabeth’s hands, assisting her to her feet. “You are correct, Elizabeth. I will try to remember in the future. Can you forgive me?”

Elizabeth smirked as she tied the ribbons to her bonnet and dusted off her gown. “Only if you continue to kiss me like that and call me Lizzy.”

Desire flashed in Will’s eyes, and Elizabeth fought back a giggle. She had asked for him to be more open and he seemed quite willing to comply.

“Careful, minx,” he said. “Too much temptation might send me to an early grave, and you seem to want me to survive for many years.”

“For that, your penance will be—”

Will interrupted her saucy reply with more delicious kisses before tucking her hand on his arm. “We must return now, Lizzy,” he whispered in her ear before directing her to the path.

They found Mary on a stump with her book. Jane and Charles were returning from further ahead on the path, and both wore enormous smiles. Mary raised her brows at each of them but held her chastisement. In the world of sisters, secrets were closely guarded, and Elizabeth felt she would have some recompense to pay for Mary’s silence.

 

*****

 

Will and Charles sat with the Bennets for another quarter of an hour after returning to the house. However, Will was hoping to hear from Richard and needed to be at Netherfield. Soon after they had arrived, he heard a noise on the gravel. It was not the sound of a lone express rider as he had expected. Instead, Will heard the unmistakable sound of a chaise and four. Although curious, he had determined it could not be for him and continued to focus on the work at hand. The butler disturbing his solitude in the library with the announcement of his cousin, sister, and her companion exceedingly shocked him.

“Richard! Georgiana!” Will said as he glanced between the two. “I did not expect you for several days.”

“Indeed,” Richard said as he helped himself to Charles’ port. “Soon after I wrote to you, I also sent a note to your housekeeper in Town and informed her of when we would arrive. Imagine my surprise when she replied stating Georgiana had just arrived from Pemberley.”

“I see,” Will said as he considered Richard’s information. Mrs. Annesley would have requested to change the plans. Only Georgiana’s stubborn insistence would lead to the older woman disregarding his orders. However, it was unusual that she did not send a message as the journey from Pemberley to London took three days.

“You did not receive my express?” Mrs. Annesley asked.

“No. I am afraid not.”

“How curious!” Georgiana said and pulled Will’s eyes to her.

Indeed. How curious that yet another letter to him did not arrive. “And why were you in London?”

“Miss Bingley wrote that she was bored at Netherfield and expected to soon be in Town. I had messages from many friends that they were already there.”

“Did you?” Will met Mrs. Annesley’s eyes. In his correspondence with her, she had expressed concern that her charge was receiving more letters than she considered regular and Georgiana was very evasive in answering questions about them. She guarded her privacy about the letters. “I fail to see how simply because others were in one area it meant you also needed to be present.”

“Come, you cannot refuse me entrance to my own home.”

Will raised his brows. “I suppose that means if they were all in Bath or elsewhere you would not choose to go there?”

“The countryside is so dull,” Georgiana played with lint on her gown. “Although, I did come here as bidden like a good little girl.” She made a face at her final words as though she had sucked on a lemon.

“Regardless of your feelings about where you are set to reside, you should remember that you are not of age to make such decisions nor do you have access to your funds. You broke my trust at Ramsgate and again by leaving Pemberley—”

“No one has said that I left. You blame me for everything!”

“No, my dear,” Will said sternly. “It is that I know Mrs. Annesley would not leave so recklessly.”

“You trust a servant more than your sister!”

“Yes, I do!” Will stood and walked to his sister. “She has shown herself to have more honour than you at this moment.”

“Will,” Charles’ red hair emerged in the doorway. “Wilson said that—” He entered and caught sight of the ladies. “Miss Darcy! You are here!”

“Charles,” Richard raised his glass to his host.

“And Richard too! Well, now I truly feel like a host! Good day to you all,” he bowed to the room. “Welcome! If you are comfortable here for now, then I will alert the housekeeper, and we shall have rooms readied for you. Miss Darcy, I know my sisters will enjoy your visit and—”

“Thank you, Charles,” Will interrupted. “Georgiana was just saying how tired she is and so I know she will appreciate a room as quickly as possible.”

“Indeed!” Charles glanced between Will and the others and seemed to suddenly perceive the tension that had gone unnoticed before. “I will see to it immediately.”

After he left the room and the door was shut, assuring some privacy, Will turned to his sister again.

Georgiana met Will’s eyes with a mocking expression. Where was the sweet girl he once knew? Where had he gone wrong with her? What choice in his past did he make which led to this? Sighing, he decided to tell her the truth. “Georgiana, I have not asked you here to ruin any plans of yours. If you had desired to come to London, then I could have responsibly arranged such things. As it happens, I believe you must have insisted you would go without an escort, but we will address that later. First, I desired you here so you might become reacquainted with your future sister-in-law.”

Georgiana gasped, “Sister-In-Law! I had thought you never meant to marry.”

“It is true, for years I thought I never would. But I have become reacquainted with the lady that I have admired since our first meeting five years ago.”

“Who do you mean? Not Miss Bingley!”

“I should say not! Miss Elizabeth Bennet of Longbourn has accepted my proposal, and we are to wed in a fortnight.”

Will watched in consternation as Georgiana’s expression changed from repugnance to shock to something entirely unreadable. It was not the reaction had expected from sister. “I believe you quite enjoyed your time with her while she stayed at Darcy house.”

“Enjoy would be a stretch. I was a child confined to the nursery. Papa only brought me down to impress his friends. Nor could I control who came and went in my room. Yes, the Miss Bennets frequented the nursery, but do not imagine we became friends.” Georgiana raised her chin in defiance.

Will furrowed his brows and looked at Mrs. Annesley then Richard for clues as to why Georgiana would react this way. Their expressions seemed as clueless as his. “I am sorry to hear that, but I know you will not allow experiences from so long ago to cloud your vision.”

“Like you did yours? Once a fortune hunter always a fortune hunter.”

Georgiana sniffed, and her expression was far too much like Caroline Bingley for Will’s taste. “That is enough,” he said but did not raise his voice. Then, glaring at his sister, he continued, “Elizabeth Bennet was never a fortune hunter, and I have never mentioned that fear to you. I can think of only one who could have, and I wonder why he would. Georgiana, ask yourself why your friend Wickham would need to slander the name of a guest in your father’s house and a lady of whom your brother thought well.”

Georgiana looked at her nails distractedly. “I am sure he told me so I could see how your judgment is not always perfect. The blinders are off now, dear brother. You may order me about as you legally can. However, you will longer influence my mind.”

Anger clouded Will’s vision. “Mrs. Annesley, Richard, I trust you will see my sister to her room when it is provided. I have said all that is necessary and now must return to my business. Georgiana,” he looked at her. “If you can show yourself to be civil at dinner, you may accompany the Miss Bennets and Miss Bingley to the shops in Meryton tomorrow.” Will stiffly bowed and had just reached the door when Richard called after him.

“Have you not forgotten to tell her of a rather critical development?”

“Ah, yes.” Will glanced over his shoulder at his sister. “You should perhaps be forewarned that we have every reason to believe that the man who was willing to seduce you has also murdered our father, as well as Mr. Bingley’s father, and Miss Elizabeth’s brother. The fire was arson and witnesses describe a man like Wickham. There have been strange and dangerous incidents since I have been at Netherfield targeting myself and Miss Elizabeth. Besides my desire for you to reacquaint yourself my betrothed, there is a genuine fear that Wickham might try to harm you, or contact you in some way.”

Will examined his sister for a long moment. “Has he?”

“No,” she answered.

Will found he could not believe her words.

“Surely what you say is impossible. Wickham would never be—”

“He would. He would indeed” Will turned and left for his chamber.

Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Joy- The First Noel

Previous Chapters: Chapter OneChapter Two /Chapter Four Chapter FiveChapter SixChapter SevenChapter EightChapter Nine Chapter TenChapter ElevenChapter Twelve / Chapter Thirteen / Chapter Fourteen / Chapter Fifteen / Chapter Sixteen

christmas 2016 5The First Noel

Longbourn,

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.

“Ahem.”

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.

“Indeed?”

“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.”

“Well…”

“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.”

“Yes.”

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!

Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Joy- Auld Lang Syne

Previous Chapters: Chapter OneChapter Two /Chapter Four Chapter FiveChapter SixChapter SevenChapter EightChapter Nine Chapter TenChapter ElevenChapter Twelve / Chapter Thirteen / Chapter Fourteen / Chapter Fifteen

christmas 2016 5Auld Lang Syne

Longbourn

December 23, 1811

 

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?” Elizabeth asked and arched a brow.

“I’ll take a cup of kindness,” Darcy replied smiling.

“As I recall, it was your kindness that saved me.”

Darcy shook his head. “Nay, you saved me. Wickham would not have hurt you…he always meant to injure me.”

Elizabeth thought over Darcy’s words for a moment. He seemed to complacently claim Wickham would have never wounded her. However, at the time, he had desperately clung to her. More than that, he had made sure she was safe and unharmed. Even when it came to promising Wickham tens of thousands of pounds and an estate, he agreed to it without hesitation for her sake. And he would attempt to say he had done nothing heroic? That he was to blame?

Instantly, Elizabeth felt she understood more about Mr. Darcy than she would have if she had known him for a year. Perhaps it was the strangeness of the repeating days — for she recalled that as well — or the stress of being attacked by Wickham. The fact that the man before her had been abominably abused and cast aside in favour of Wickham by nearly everyone — herself included — and yet apologised for perceived weakness and inaction proved he had no improper pride. He lacked social graces. He did not know the pretty words Wickham used or all the right places to smile. Unlike Collins, he did not attempt to practice it either. He could not act differently than he was, whether the world love or despise him.

Or perhaps it was despise and love him? Were the two entirely separate? Did she not often hate her family but always love them?

“I did not mean to make you uncomfortable again,” Darcy said, beginning to approach the door. “Please forgive me.”

“Why should I?” she blurted.

He paused at the door way. “Pardon?”

“Have you said or done something to me that you regret? That you did not mean?”

Darcy paled, incredible pain filling his eyes. He approached and whispered. “Do you mean besides my ungentlemanly behaviour for weeks?
Besides my secrecy leading to Wickham attacking you? Yes, I do have other regrets. Do you not recall?” His eyes searched hers.

Elizabeth had meant his tender attention after subduing Wickham.
She had also meant his proposal — which lacked any loving words but then it seemed actions were his strong suit. “I recall, sir, but I do not have regrets.”

“How can that be? Or are you teasing me?” He shook his head. “No, you would not be so cruel. My wishes and affections are unchanged — and never will — but I grieve ever hurting you with my arrogant presumption.”

He ran a shaking hand through his hair. “When I think of the liberties I took… I am fortunate you did not slap me.”

Elizabeth’s eyes misted to hear his self-rebuke. How could he think she felt remorse for his kiss? Such tenderness and ardent desire, she had never known. At that moment, she very much needed it, and even now her lips tingled at the memory.

“Can you not imagine how grateful I am?” she asked with her voice
rising in pitch. “Can you not understand how it comforted me?”

Some of the pain in Darcy’s expression eased. “I should not have done it. I am pleased it brought you some relief, but I cannot accept your thanks.”

He was leaving again, and something in Elizabeth’s heart told her if she did not speak now she might never have another opportunity. “Pray forgive my selfishness, even as it may wound you. As we have referenced the New Year and our new beginning, should we not seal it with a kiss?”

Elizabeth repressed an urge to laugh as she could see that Darcy had never expected such words. He opened and closed his mouth without words coming several times. At last, he found his voice.

Anxiety and indecision marred his countenance. Restrained energy thrummed from his body. “By your sister’s count, it is well past New Year. It is now the fifth.”

Elizabeth gave him a saucy grin. “Then we are long overdue, do you not agree?”

All hesitation vanished, and Darcy strode to her with determined steps. He pulled her into strong arms and Elizabeth threw hers around his neck. They held each other so tightly she could feel the rapid beat of his heart through his garments.

Just before Darcy’s lips met Elizabeth’s, he rested his forehead on hers. Through laboured breaths, he said, “Will you allow me to tell you how I ardently love you?”

“Yes, but you had much better tell me more later and kiss me now,” Elizabeth demanded.

Her words were immediately heeded and none too soon for far earlier than either would have liked their bliss was interrupted by the screeching of Mrs. Bennet.

Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Joy- Angels We Have Heard on High

Previous Chapters: Chapter OneChapter Two /Chapter Four Chapter FiveChapter SixChapter SevenChapter EightChapter Nine Chapter TenChapter ElevenChapter Twelve / Chapter Thirteen / Chapter Fourteen

christmas 2016 5Angels We Have Heard on High

Darcy House, London

December 23, 1811

 

Feeling as though he had awoken from a deep slumber, Darcy resisted the urge to stretch and yawn as he looked around his dining room. Had he gone mad? A moment ago, he had Elizabeth in his arms, and now he had returned to London.

Down the table, Mr. Hurst snorted in his sleep, causing him to jump. “Pardon me! Bingley, you were…uh…saying?” He looked from one confused face to the next then shrugged and gulped the remaining port in his glass.

“I…” Bingley trailed off and blinked rapidly.

“I believe you were just saying you needed to return to Netherfield immediately,” Richard supplied.

“Yes,” Bingley’s eye’s widened, and he nodded emphatically. “Yes, I was. Thank you.”

“You want to go back to that desolation?” Hurst asked as he sloshed more port into his glass.

Richard and Bingley both swung their heads to Darcy, willing him to play along. A part of him thought he had lost his mind or dreamed. He recalled everything. Mary Bennet’s revelation of repeating December twenty-third. Wickham attacking Elizabeth. Lydia bearing his child. Collins dying. Time and time again, Darcy had found the Bennets in distress, and due to matters he could alleviate or prevent. More than this, he could still taste Elizabeth on his lips, and her perfume clung to him. As often as he had vividly imagined such an encounter, he never considered that she tasted like mulled cider or would imagine the woodsy scent of trees and dirt mixing with her usual lavender.

“What kind of master would he be if he did not attend to his house and estate?” Darcy replied to Hurst and out of the corner of his eye saw Richard and Bingley relax.

“Hurst,” Bingley said while standing, “Please see to Caroline and Louisa. You will need a hack as I’ll be leaving from Darcy House within the hour.”

“Surely it is not as urgent as that!” Mr. Hurst exclaimed and looked longingly at Darcy’s fine wine.

“Take the bottle as my thanks,” Darcy said.

Bingley’s brother-in-law instantly agreed. Bottle in hand, he left to corral his charges.

“Do you remember?” Richard asked Bingley and Darcy.

“Was it real?” Bingley asked in wonder.

“It was real,” Darcy answered. As he stood the chair scraped against the floor, echoing in the vast room. “Let us be about it, then.” He turned to leave, ever fibre in his body thrumming with the need for activity, with the need to see Elizabeth.

“What are your intentions, Darcy?” Richard called after him.

“What are yours? I am sure Miss Mary would like to know.” Darcy tempered his reply with a grin, sending Richard to laughter.

“I am going to marry Jane,” Bingley declared and walked to Darcy’s side. “With or without your blessing.”

Darcy stared his closest friend in the eye. The man he had protected like the brother he always wished he had, finally stood up to him and Darcy could not have been prouder. Extending his arm and placing a hand on one of Bingley’s shoulders, Darcy nodded. “You have it, not that you ever needed it. Can you forgive my officiousness?”

“It was kindly meant,” Bingley said with a smile. “Now, we had best be off, or I will have to interfere with your prospects.”

Darcy laughed and shook his head, his hand dropping to his side. Elizabeth may never return his affections, but he could not have Bingley play matchmaker for him. He would earn her devotion or spend his entire life striving for it. Richard approached. “What will you tell Georgie?”

“She probably has more of it figured out than we do,” Darcy said ruefully and led his friend and cousin to the drawing room.

“There you are!” Georgiana flew to his side, twisting her hands.

“Caroline and Louisa did put up some fight, but I sent them on their way. Mr. Hurst can be quite firm when motivated well enough,” she slid her brother a disapproving glare. “I have already sent for my trunk.”

This time, Darcy did not even try to argue with her. They all separated and agreed to meet in one hour. At the appointed time, they were boarding Darcy’s carriage. Bingley’s, as smaller, would follow with the luggage. The ride passed in silence, no one knowing what to feel or expect.

Arriving at Netherfield, each returned to their chambers. The sleepy looks and dark circles under each pair of eyes at the breakfast table confirmed to Darcy his supposition. No one had slept well. Before dressing this morning, Darcy had sent a message to Mr. Bennet requesting to speak with him on an urgent matter. To his surprise, and relief, the older gentleman agreed immediately and hinted that Elizabeth was behind his decision and speedy reply.

Boarding the carriage once more, they hurtled forth swaying on a bumpy road and with equally turbulent thoughts clouding their minds. At last, they arrived at Longbourn and entered, surprised when they met with a trio of blushing Bennet sisters. It seemed that the ability to remember the events of the past week transferred to the eldest three daughters as well.

“Mr. Darcy,” Mr. Bennet greeted him, “I hope you do not mind that Elizabeth will join our discussion.”

“Of course not,” Darcy said as nervousness gnawed at his belly. He ought to have explained about Wickham long ago. It was the only thing he could think of which featured at each day they had experienced. And yet, he had never told a soul all of Wickham’s evil at once. Never had he believed the good opinion of one he loved more than life depended upon accepting his presentation of the facts.

Mr. Bennet and his second daughter left the room, and Richard nudged Darcy to follow before taking a seat beside Miss Mary, who blushed and caused her mother to stammer even more than when she had seen Bingley. He was greeted favourably by Jane while Miss Lydia and Miss Kitty fawned over Georgiana. She gave him a brave smile and a shooing motion.

Taking a deep breath, Darcy quelled his courage and left for his battle. Declining, Mr. Bennet’s offer to sit, Darcy chose to pace. While he told his tale of Wickham’s years of deceit and betrayal, he fixated his eyes on various objects in the room. Now and then, something struck him as more Elizabeth-like than what he would guess her father to enjoy. How had he dared to think less of this family? They made Elizabeth who she was, kept her healthy and happy her whole life while others were so miserable they sought to compromise him. He could not always like the behaviour of the Bennets, but what flaws they had were innocent and when looked at through the eyes of love, not so unbearable.

When Darcy relayed the news of Wickham’s desired elopement with Georgiana, he heard Elizabeth gasp. Turning to look at him, he saw tears prick her eyes.

“I had hoped it was a nightmare,” she murmured.

“What was that Elizabeth?” her father asked.

She cleared her voice and spoke more distinctly. “I said, what a nightmare.”

“Indeed,” her father said.

Darcy’s eyes never left Elizabeth’s as he carefully chose his words. “Unfortunately, all of this is true. You may corroborate with my cousin if you wish. Imagine if Georgiana had eloped with him. Once he received her money, he likely would have cast her off and seen to his own pleasures regardless of any familial duties he may have incurred.”

By the widening of her eyes, Darcy presumed she understood he referenced the period of time when Wickham had fathered Lydia’s child.

“I do not think consulting your cousin will be necessary,” Mr. Bennet said. “I suppose there is a reason you have explained all this.”

“Yes,” Darcy said finally allowing his eyes to leave Elizabeth. “The area merchants and gentlemen should be warned. Richard and I will speak with his colonel.”

Before Darcy could say more, there were happy shrieks from the drawing room followed by Mrs. Bennet’s frenzied voice.

“Mr. Bennet! Mr. Bennet!” Her rapid steps were heard down the hall. She flung open the door, chest heaving as she worked for breath. “Mr. Bennet, it is the best news imaginable! Mr. Bingley has proposed to Jane! Make haste!”

Mr. Bennet rolled his eyes, but Darcy saw the pleased smile on the older man’s face as he returned to his family. Taking a moment to consider what it would be like if he had five daughters, Darcy concluded he likely would not be half as sensible as the Bennet patriarch.

Darcy could feel Elizabeth’s eyes upon him. One side of his body tingled, and he knew she approached. Did she remember everything? Did she remember their kiss? And had she felt the passion he had?

“Thank you,” she whispered. “You did not need to come.”

Heart pounding in his chest, Darcy looked down at her. He could see she had also not slept and yet she was still the most beautiful woman in the world to him. “Yes, I did. A gentleman must right his wrongs.”

Elizabeth nervously fingered her neck. “I can still feel it…” She took a deep breath. “Do all of you recall the events?”

“Yes,” Darcy nodded. “And your sisters?”

Elizabeth nodded.

“I cannot apologise enough for allowing Wickham to harm you. If I had behaved better, you might not have trusted him. If I had done my duty and exposed him, it would have been impossible. If I had not angered you—”

Elizabeth placed a hand on his arm, silencing him. “There is nothing to forgive. If it were me, I would have protected my sister as well. You are not to blame for Wickham. I, however, must beg your forgiveness. I had been so prejudiced and blind—”

Darcy now felt it necessary to interrupt her. “We have misjudged each other. Might we begin again?”

Mr. Darcys Christmas Joy- O Holy Night

Previous Chapters: Chapter OneChapter Two /Chapter Four Chapter FiveChapter SixChapter SevenChapter EightChapter Nine Chapter TenChapter ElevenChapter Twelve / Chapter Thirteen

christmas 2016 5O Holy Night

Longbourn

December 23, 1811

 

As Elizabeth left Mr. Darcy’s side and joined Wickham, something like an unpleasant memory flashed in her mind. However, it was more impression than memory, so she pushed it aside. Expecting for Darcy to leave after her refusal, she could barely contain her astonishment when he stayed for dinner. While they gathered in the drawing room before the meal, Darcy glared at her and Wickham.

The officer unabashedly enjoyed goading the arrogant gentleman. However, Wickham’s delight did not serve him well. Elizabeth’s primary interest in Wickham had been because he flattered her vanity. She was not too proud to admit that. What lady would not enjoy the attentions of a handsome man? It soon became apparent, though, that Wickham paying Elizabeth such notice flattered his ego. Out of some rivalry with Darcy — of which a valuable church living did not seem to be the motive — Wickham preyed upon her dislike of Darcy.

During the meal, Darcy sat near Mrs. Bennet. Elizabeth observed him to see how he would react to her mother’s constant raving about the good fortune of Mr. Bingley’s return and how kind he was to want to marry her eldest daughter. Soon, Mrs. Bennet hinted at Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam marrying from among her other girls. Beside her, Mary blushed scarlet. How curious. As Mrs. Bennet had not been expecting so much company, the meal had fewer courses than she would have had ordered otherwise and Elizabeth gloried in the chance to be away from the gentlemen. In fact, she felt tempted to claim illness and return to her chamber, but she did not wish to ruin the evening of Jane’s betrothal. She would not let Mr. Darcy have such a victory over her.

Surprisingly, Mary, Georgiana, and Jane had their heads together when they returned to the drawing room. Now and then they nervously glanced at the clock. Half past six.

“Lizzy,” Jane said. “Will you walk with me?”

“Jane, you cannot leave,” Mrs. Bennet screeched. “When the gentlemen return Mr. Bingley will want to sit with you!”

Elizabeth furrowed her brow as she watched alarm enter Jane’s eyes and she glanced at Mary and Georgiana.

“Mama,” Mary said suddenly, “Miss Darcy had asked to see the fountain. Jane and Lizzy know it best. We would not want to put her out, would we?”

Mrs. Bennet paused for a moment, as she had always disliked Darcy. However, seeing as he brought Bingley back as well as another single gentleman, and friendship with his sister could do wonder for her daughters, she relented. “Very well, but hurry along!”

The last rays of the sun were slipping from the horizon and dusk came closer with every passing second. Reaching the fountain, they stared at it appreciatively for a moment.

“Forgive me, but I would hate to miss Mr. Bingley’s return to the drawing room,” Jane blushed. “You cannot fault me, my dear sister, for wishing to be by his side so much after so long a separation.”

Elizabeth gave her most beloved sister an indulgent smile. “No, indeed. If Miss Darcy has no objection to staying out here with me alone, that is. Although I wonder that her brother should like it.”

“Oh, there is no worry there,” Miss Darcy said with laughter. “He often wrote of your superior intelligence and abilities.”

Before Elizabeth could do more than gape at the sister to the most complicated man in the universe, Jane excused herself.

“And what is that?” Georgiana pointed to some flowers by a copse of trees.

Elizabeth explained the species as she walked closer to gain a better view. She had assumed Georgiana followed but noticed she did not hear footsteps. Turning to see where the girl had gone, a shadow moved from a tree, catching her eye and causing her to yelp.

Immediately, Elizabeth threw an arm out to protect Georgiana from the darkened intruder. “Miss Darcy, run!”

“She has returned to the house,” Wickham said. “She never saw me. We are quite alone.”

“Mr. Wickham? Why would you scare me?” Elizabeth felt her body relax and held a hand to her chest.

“Oh, there is really nothing to fear.”

Suddenly, he grabbed her arm, holding it so tight she was certain it bruised. He pulled her hard against his chest. One arm snaked around her waist while the one that abused her limb now raked up her shoulder and neck. Taking her jaw in hand, he forcefully bent her head back to look at him. Madness shone in his eyes.

“I will finally have my revenge.”

Revenge? What revenge? What did he speak of? “Sir, if you will please come back to the house. You are unwell. We can call a physician.”

“No, no. Your words or looks will not beguile me. Tell me,” he said and thrust her chin this way and then that, “do you think you are worth thirty thousand pounds to him?”

To who? Elizabeth took a shuddering breath. She had no idea what had caused this madness or who he spoke of, but she had no time to worry about such things. She needed to be free of him. She did not think she could overpower him. Gruffly, he let go of her face and then thrust a hand into his pocket. What he withdrew flashed in the moonlight.

“I think on your knees, will be best,” he simultaneously released his hand and shoved her forward. Elizabeth stumbled to her knees. Instantly, he was beside her and gripping her around the waist again. Then, Elizabeth felt the cold, hard steel against her neck and whimpered.

“You will have to be louder than that,” he said and pressed harder against the tender skin. Elizabeth felt a trickle of blood and prayed someone might come outside.

“Look!” Wickham exclaimed, and his breath became ragged in excitement and delight. Every exhale scorched her ear. “Play nice,” he whispered harshly.

“Miss Bennet?” Elizabeth heard Darcy’s anxious tone come from the direction of the house.

He held no lantern, and it took a moment for her to make out his frame in the increasing darkness.

“Over here, Darcy,” Wickham’s foul breath flew past her ear again. “I believe we can finally talk about the matter of what you owe me.”

“Wickham,” Darcy growled out. “I owe you nothing!”

Leaves crunched signalling Darcy’s approach. Wickham tightened his hold on Elizabeth, earning a whimper from her. The shuffling of feet ceased.

“Elizabeth?” Darcy asked, fear evident in his tone.

“Go ahead, sweetheart,” Wickham commanded. “Reassure him you live.” Wickham laughed. “So long as both of you do as I say the blade will not slice her throat.”

Elizabeth remained mute. She would not let him gain anything through her. The blade cut deeper, and Elizabeth bit back on the bile rising in her throat.

“You may have anything you desire so long as you do not harm her,” Darcy said. The previous tone was gone, and he was the Master of Pemberley in command once more.

“And you?” Wickham’s hand around her waist tightened. “Do you agree as well?”

“Elizabeth,” Darcy said calmly. “Cooperate with him, and I promise you will return safely to your parents.”

How had it come to this? Wickham was crazed and threatening her life? She had been blind, so blind! No injustice he had faced in life would justify this cruelty.

“Yes,” she said firmly. “I will obey you.”

“Ah, good to see she can be biddable,” Wickham said. “Now, you may approach, Darcy.”

Darcy’s feet moved at a steady rhythm, and soon he emerged from the shadows and trees.

“Our hero,” Wickham laughed. “Or should I say our bait! You see, it was he the others intended for you to meet out here. A lover’s tryst?”

“Wickham,” Darcy said, but his eyes never left hers. His blue eyes pleaded with her to trust him. “What do you want?”

“What should have been mine! Taken from my father and raised alongside you. I should have been treated as a son!” He spat at Darcy’s boots.

“And so, you were,” Darcy said calmly. “Many younger sons enter the Church.”

Wickham shook his head. “Not a Darcy. Tell me, was your uncle expected to live off a few hundred pounds per annum.”

Elizabeth furrowed her brow. Wickham was not a Darcy, and she highly doubted he would have concealed that heritage or that Darcy would not acknowledge him. She remained mute, allowing the scene to play out.

“Would you like a house? A thousand a year?” Darcy asked and attempted to step forward.

“Get back!” Wickham barked, and Darcy complied. “Thirty thousand pounds — what I should have had from if you had not interrupted my plans with your sister and the estate in Wiltshire.”

Elizabeth bit back a gasp. That would nearly ruin Mr. Darcy. It would take all of Miss Darcy’s fortune. Suddenly, Elizabeth realized that was what Wickham meant. He had hoped to marry her? No, he could never have wanted to act so honourably nor would Darcy have allowed it. Had he planned on eloping with the young girl?

A tear trickled down Elizabeth’s face. She had been so stupid to believe in anything the man said. And based on what? Her pleased vanity?

“You are running out of time, Darcy,” Wickham said. “Others will look for her soon, and if you do not agree to my demands, they will find you…with her dead body.”

“And I have your word that you will leave me alone after this?” Darcy asked.

“What would be the fun in that?” Wickham asked.

“Very well, anything,” Darcy said. “Let her go.”

“I knew you would defend her honour. Your stupid duty guides you in everything!” Wickham released Elizabeth and kicked her forward. She landed with a groan as her head hit the ground hard. She could barely make out sounds but heard Darcy lunge for her before Wickham screamed at him to get back.

They were fighting! She could hear punches being thrown and rolling on leaves. Elizabeth struggled to stay conscious.

“This may be even more satisfying than your money,” Wickham said in laboured breaths.

Elizabeth forced her eyes open, and she saw Darcy pinned on the ground underneath Wickham who held the knife to his throat.

“No!” she screamed and threw the rock that her head had landed on.

Wickham fell over with a thud and Darcy lunged for the knife. Securing it in the waist of his breeches he ran to Elizabeth. She needed help reaching a sitting position and tears flooded her eyes. Had she killed him?

“Elizabeth, it’s going to be well,” he said. “You are safe and unharmed,” he said it even as he ran hands over her limbs to check for breaks.

“But, he could wake,” she winced when he placed a handkerchief to her throat. “Or is he — is he—?” She could not bear to say the words and sobs consumed her.

“Only unconscious, I believe.” Darcy left her side to examine Wickham. “He breathes. He will have a devil of a headache when he wakes.”

Elizabeth scarcely heard but managed to nod. Her entire body shook and tears still streaked down her face.

Darcy returned to her side and settled Elizabeth into his arms, holding her tight. “I am sorry,” he whispered into her hair. “I am so sorry. I ought to have told you about Wickham and Georgiana. I never would have thought…”

Shuddering, she looked up to see tears escaping his own eyes. “It is not your fault.” She reached up and tenderly stroked one away.

“How can you say that?” he asked. “You are too generous, much too generous!” he clutched her tightly to him again. “What would I have done without you?”

Before she could think otherwise or stop him — although she found she did not really wish it after all — his lips came crashing down on hers. The church bells rang, reminding Elizabeth of a call to celebration.

Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Joy- O Come, O Come Emmanuel

It’s been FOREVER since I posted on this story! I did finish it and then briefly had it on sale in July. I always wanted to re-release it for Christmas this year but since July and now I’ve been inspired to write two “sequels” to the original piece. It will publish as ONE book with a new title: MR. DARCY’S MIRACLE AT LONGBOURN. I’m going to post several “chapters” a day to catch up.

Previous Chapters: Chapter OneChapter Two /Chapter Four Chapter FiveChapter SixChapter SevenChapter EightChapter Nine Chapter TenChapter ElevenChapter Twelve


O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Netherfield

December 23, 1811

 

Darcy stared at first his cousin’s face and then his sister’s. What they had just told him defied all belief and logic. “I believe our travel yesterday over exerted your mind, Georgiana.”

“And mine as well?” Richard asked. “Think carefully. Besides Bingley deciding to return to this house, do you recall the events of yesterday with clarity?”

Darcy took a sip of coffee to allow himself time to think over matters. “Well, nothing of significance happened. It is not so unusual to be unable to remember exact moments of nothingness. I’ve had much on my mind of late.”

“And are those things Miss Elizabeth Bennet?” Richard asked with a raised eyebrow and knowing smirk.

Levelling his cousin a glare, Darcy put his coffee cup down in a clatter. “My personal concerns are just that.”

“Dare I ask what has Darcy acting like a bear this morning?” Bingley popped his head in the breakfast room door.

“Georgiana has come up with the most fanciful tale, and Richard is indulging her. Think nothing of it, Bingley. I suspect it is all a plot to mock me.”

Bingley entered the room and shut the door behind him. “Who could resist such a temptation?” He busied himself gathering breakfast items and said over his shoulder, “I remember Miss Elizabeth never could.”

“Bingley,” Richard said when the other had sat, “what do you recall about yesterday?”

Immediately Darcy’s friend smiled. “Well, we decided to come here, of course. And Miss Darcy I cannot thank you enough for being so persuasive as to suggest we leave immediately.”

“Yes, but what else do you recall?” Richard pressed.

“Well…I…we dined at Darcy House.”

“And what did we eat?” Georgiana asked.

Bingley paused while cutting up his food. “Well, every meal there is always so good.”

Georgiana leaned forward in interest. “You do not recall a specific dish? Did I order Fitzwilliam’s favourite or your favourite for pudding?”

“I fear I do not recall,” Bingley said with an uncharacteristic furrow forming between his brow. “Quite the memory exercise. I give up. Tell me then, which was it?”

“I do not remember either,” Georgiana said gently.

“I do not understand.” Bingley looked from one person to the next. “What is the point of this questioning?”

Darcy pushed his plate aside. His appetite had vanished. “What Richard and Georgiana have proposed is that due to some strange and inexplicable reason, we have been repeating the same day for over a week now. Creating…what did you call it?” He looked at Richard.

“Alternate realities. It seems the choices we make can alter the events of the day, but we never progress to a new calendar date.”

“Except on one occasion,” Georgiana added gravely.

“What was that?” Darcy asked.

Richard frowned and looked as though he tasted something foul in his mouth. “Miss Lydia had born Wickham’s child out of wedlock.”

“Impossible,” Bingley said. “You believe you have seen the future?”

Richard held up his hands to stave off Bingley’s inquisition. “I wish I had a rational explanation, but Mary Bennet has proof in her diary. Georgiana and I have shared memories. There can be no other explanation.”

Bingley stared at his coffee for a long moment, and Darcy wondered why he was still sitting at the table and had not called a physician to examine his relatives. However, something niggled at the back of his mind. Attempts at conversations with Elizabeth that ended in an argument. He had thought it was a recurring dream.

“I think I remember,” Bingley said, at last. “I keep walking with Jane in the garden at Longbourn. I try to explain my absence and my continued affections, but we’re always interrupted. By the— ”

“Clock chiming seven,” Georgiana and Richard said in unison with Bingley.

“If…if this were somehow true,” Darcy said slowly, “how does it work? What can stop it?”

“I think we regain our memories when we have some revelation in our character,” Richard said. “I learned to take a risk on probability rather than dwell on the impossible and frivolous.”

“He means he kissed Miss Mary in front of everyone!” Georgiana declared.

“What?” Darcy cried.

“Georgie,” Richard growled.

“And I stood up to Wickham,” Georgiana said with a smile.

“What is the story there?” Bingley asked.

“Never mind,” Richard pressed on. “Thanks to Georgiana insisting we left earlier than usual yesterday. We had hoped to call on Longbourn last night but you all refused to go. Time reset. At least we now have many hours to visit before the seven o’clock deadline.”

Bingley seemed convinced, but Darcy remained sceptical.

“Come, Darcy. Go with us to Longbourn. See Miss Mary’s diary. If we are right, then you have the power to prevent a terrible travesty. If we are wrong, then you have harmed no one.”

“If I reveal the truth about Wickham to the Bennets then I could harm Georgiana’s reputation beyond repair.”

His sister raised her chin. “I do not care. What care I for the society of false friends or a gentleman that would only marry me for my acceptance in such circles?”

Darcy studied his sister. Indeed, her words and actions today and last night revealed a side to her unknown to him. Could that be the work of a mere moment or had days passed, as they said?

“Darcy,” Bingley said slowly. “I think everyone here understands how you feel about Miss Elizabeth.”

Darcy attempted to argue, but Bingley spoke over him. “Surely you could trust her with the truth. Perhaps if she did not encourage him so much, her sisters would not be endangered by him.”

It was a logical argument, even if the circumstances for the proposition made no sense. Staring at his cup, he confronted the truth of what worried him most. “What makes you think she will listen to anything I have to say?”

“It is worth the try,” Georgiana said.

Darcy gave an almost imperceptible nod of his head. Bingley called for the carriage, and on the way to Longbourn, discussion flowed around Darcy which did feel eerily familiar.

After hearing Richard and Georgiana’s stories, Darcy was relieved to see Longbourn had not changed in the least. Mrs. Bennet was loud and obnoxious. The younger daughters were rude, and Mr. Bennet was absent. Darcy allowed himself to tune out the rest of the room and rest his eyes on his sole purpose for coming. Elizabeth looked as lovely as ever. Darcy took a step toward her, but Richard pushed him toward Miss Mary.

“How do you do, Miss Mary?” Richard asked and sat next to her.

“I am well,” she said although she blushed and would not look at Richard.

Richard smiled. “Do you have your diary with you, today?”

Immediately Mary’s eyes moved to Richard’s. “You remember?” she whispered so quietly Darcy nearly missed it.

“I do.” Richard and Mary stared at each other for a long moment.

Georgiana cleared her throat. “So do I!”

“You do?” Mary asked in apparent disbelief. “And do you, Mr. Darcy?”

Richard saved him from having to answer. “Darcy would like to view your diary.”

Mary blushed again but handed over the book. Darcy leafed through it and saw pages she had to add. He also noted the repeating of December Twenty-Third, 1811. He quickly read her last entry which detailed a swift passage of time and Lydia eloping with Wickham. When he had finished, Richard looked at him expectantly.

“Very well, I will speak with Miss Elizabeth about Wickham. Although I do not see why you fear when it has apparently not come to pass.”

“Please, sir,” Miss Mary said and held out her hand for the diary. “If I may, chance or decision seems to alter our course significantly. One night all seemed normal and the next you all arrived, however, we could not receive you for our cousin Mr. Collins had just died.”

“Indeed!” Richard exclaimed.

“Yes. I presume what altered events was your choice in coming here. The next many nights did not change the timing of things, although I noted Miss Darcy one night was speaking badly and openly of Mr. Wickham. Two evenings ago, I attempted to tell Jane of matters and the next morning I awoke to Lydia having been married and becoming a mother.”

“And that is when you showed me the diary,” Richard added, causing Mary to blush.

“Yes. Both actions were quite uncharacteristic for me.”

“Me as well,” Richard said. “I hope you know I do not go around kissing ladies all the time.”

Mary turned scarlet, and her voice trembled but still she spoke. “I had meant attempting to explain my findings to Jane and to you. I hope you know not only were your actions unusual for me, but I would never go around speaking of them so openly!”

Darcy rolled his eyes as her rebuke caused Richard to blush slightly. “We have meandered from the topic. We must decipher how these loops work so we might end them.”

“Well, when I confronted Wickham I no longer lost my memories,” Georgiana said.

Richard nodded. “It seems to have worked for me just by listening to Miss Mary.”

“Yes, but life altered when Mr. Bingley chose to return to Netherfield and when I attempted to direct Jane. What do you remember about the two years that passed? Anything connected to my family?” Mary asked Richard and Georgiana.

Richard did not meet her eyes. “Little of significance.”

By the way Richard evaded Mary’s eyes, Darcy knew his cousin lied. What was more, he seemed to wish to protect Mary.

“I visited my aunt at Rosings like I do every Easter,” Richard said. “Darcy did not come, we had heard that Miss Elizabeth was residing with Mrs. Collins. To be safe, he did not return the next year either.”

“Fitzwilliam grew colder and more distant it seemed with each passing week,” Georgiana said with a remote and sad quality to her voice. “By the time we had, at last, returned here Mr. Bingley was about to give up on their friendship.”

“And neither of you had heard anything of Wickham or the Bennets in that time?” Miss Mary did not attempt to conceal her fear.

“We hardly make it a practice to follow the life of George Wickham,” Darcy said coldly.

“Perhaps you should, sir!” Mary said. “You knew his real character and never revealed it while living in the area. You tacitly agree to care for Elizabeth and still did not feel your honour called upon.”

She paused for a moment and managed to regain her composure as Richard whispered in her ear and placed a hand on hers. “For us, it was a very, very dark time. Lydia went with the Regiment to Brighton as the guest of Colonel Forster and his wife. There, she eloped with Wickham, but they never went to Scotland.

Instead, they disappeared outside of London, and we could not trace her. After several weeks, she emerged at my Uncle Gardiner’s house in little more than her petticoat and a shawl. She had traded everything else for food and lodging. She accepted Wickham did not mean to marry her and left him, at first unwilling to return to the family. A marriage was hastily arranged and with it, some respectability returned to my family, but the damage was done. There was talk of my sisters never marrying, even one as beautiful and amiable as Jane.”

By the time she had finished, Miss Mary was breathless and took a sip of water which Richard brought her. She seemed as though she had never spoken so much at one time and Darcy could well believe it. For a moment, he wished to argue back about his innocence in a hypothetical case that whether or not it seemed real, yesterday was not today. Before having a moment to reply, they were directed outside by Mrs. Bennet.

“And do not hog the Colonel, Mary. Your sisters admire a man in uniform much more than you do,” Mrs. Bennet called as they left the room. Richard immediately offered Mary his arm, and the younger sisters walked closely behind them. Jane and Bingley wandered off together, leaving Darcy, Georgiana, and Elizabeth. He walked in silence as Elizabeth and Georgiana conversed for several minutes. Passing a small bench, Georgiana seized upon the moment to sit, pressing Darcy and Elizabeth to continue without her.

After walking some yards away, Darcy turned to Elizabeth. “I apologize for my sister. Perhaps you think I should scold her, but I am only too happy to see such youthful stubbornness in her. As a child, she was just that way, but as she aged, she put it aside, and I believe that had rather disastrous consequences.”

Darcy perceived immediately, he had surprised Elizabeth with his words.

“I confess, that is not at all what I expected to hear from you,” she said in a small voice filled with wonder.

“Why should you not? She is not yet sixteen and has many years left to become wise and dull.”

“Like her brother then?” Elizabeth said, but the teasing sparkle in her eye kept it from sounding impertinent or cruel.

“I shall not claim you do not know me well enough, for you, undoubtedly have some witty retort.” Not caring about the requests of his friends, Darcy acted on the selfish desire of his heart. “In fact, I would very much wish for you to know me better. Indeed, such limited knowledge between a husband and wife would not do very well at all.”

He heard Elizabeth gasped and turned to at her.

“Pardon me?” Her eyes were now wide and her colour pale.

“You will forgive me for not knowing the usual pretty words of suitors.”

Elizabeth remained fixed in her spot and speechless. A cold sweat trickled down his spine. He had never seen her at a loss for words. “I had not thought it would come as such a surprise,” he ventured, “but surely your clever mouth can think of something to say.” He took a step forward and reached for her hand. “No witticism from you, my darling?”

Like a flame leaping from a match, Darcy witnessed Elizabeth transform. She snatched her hand away, and her eyes turned dark and fiery. She spoke through clenched teeth. “Allow me to thank you for the honour you have bestowed on me. If I rightly understood and some request was intended although unsaid. However, it is impossible for me to do otherwise than refuse it.”

Instantly, it felt as though Darcy was punched in the gut. He waited for further explanation, but it seemed none was coming. “Is that all the civility I may expect?”

“How dare you expect more! While you were talking with my sister for so long, you might have taken an interest in what your friend was saying to mine.” She shook a finger at him. “I heard it from Mr. Bingley’s own lips that you had meant to keep him away from Longbourn and my sister forever! Do you think anything could prevail upon me to marry the man who wished to separate my most beloved sister from the man she loved? Do you deny it?”

Darcy could scarcely believe his ears. First, Elizabeth refused him. Secondly, Bingley put him forward in an unfavourable light. Lastly, that Jane Bennet had felt real affection for his friend. “I do not deny it. Towards him, I have been kinder than to myself.”

He must try and explain his side of matters. He wet his lips to speak, but it was too late. The harridan had more to say.

“It is not merely this matter which formed my dislike of you. Weeks ago, your character was explained to me by Mr. Wickham. Please, tell me how you mean to acquit yourself there. Another act of imagined kindness?”

“You take an eager interest in that man’s concerns!” Darcy could barely contain the rage he felt boiling beneath his skin.

“Who that knows his afflictions can help feeling concern?”

“His afflictions? Oh, yes. They are great indeed.”

“And by your making!” she cried. “How dare you treat him so sarcastically and with derision in your voice when it is he that was slighted and misused.”

“You have said more than enough, madam!” Darcy’s chest heaved. “Perhaps if I had flattered you more, you would have accepted my suit.” Darcy knew it was untrue, but he had often noted vanity seemed her weakness.

“Do not think I reject your proposal due to your pathetic attempts! I had not known you a month before I felt you were the last man in the world I could be prevailed upon to marry! As it is, your mode of declaration only spared me concern in wounding you, but I assure you I could not be tempted to accept your suit in any circumstance.”

“Darcy?” the voice of Bingley interrupted them, and he did not know whether he hated or rejoiced in the sight of Bingley and Miss Bennet.

“Darcy, we are returning to the house now. I must speak with Mr. Bennet, but I hope you will offer me your congratulations.”

Darcy could feel Elizabeth’s eyes upon him. “Indeed, many congratulations to you and best wishes to Miss Bennet. As I do not think you want for more company while you court. I will take my leave. Shall I send back the carriage at eight o’clock?”

“Leaving? No! You cannot — must not!” Bingley’s eyes darted to Elizabeth, now at Jane’s side, whose anger for Darcy could be overcome only by her happiness for her sister.

Jane turned her pale blue eyes upon him. “Please stay, Mr. Darcy. It is no matter to have an extra guest, your presence makes our joy complete.”

Elizabeth mumbled something at her side, and Jane elbowed her. “I believe we owe our engagement all to you,” she said then coughed in an attempt to cover up Elizabeth’s audible gasp.

“Very well,” Darcy said tightly.

“Splendid!” Bingley exclaimed and extended his arm for Jane. “Darcy, you had better help Miss Elizabeth, the path is uneven here.”

The two walked off as though they had no concern in the world, and perhaps they did not. Elizabeth refused to look at Darcy and fixed her eyes toward the gate. “Expecting someone?” he asked in irritation.

“Yes! And look! He has come,” Elizabeth waved gaily and smiled before walking off to meet a uniformed man. Darcy could recognize the silhouette anywhere. Wickham.