Lizzy, It’s Cold Outside

Due to the controversy regarding Baby, It’s Cold Outside (which I think is harmless so here’s the link to my favorite version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rpg7-ab_F7s), I can’t get the song out of my head. Mr. Darcy told me that he had a story to tell, but then Elizabeth wanted it all through her point of view. From your favorite hero who can’t make words happen, here’s what might happen if Darcy and Lizzy were singing the song. 

Elizabeth Bennet rubbed her gloved hands together in her fur muff. It was no use, however. It was simply too cold. She glanced up at the sky. And too snowy. The winter storm rolled in quickly since she left had Longbourn.

She had only intended to enjoy a walk. She needed time to herself after all the noise of Christmas the day before. Mrs. Bennet had crowed non-stop about how grand it was to have her eldest daughter established as the mistress of Netherfield Park. Elizabeth lost count after hearing it for the one hundredth time. God bless Mr. Bingley, but he did not seem to care. Indeed, his joy of having Jane as his wife was so much that nothing Mrs. Bennet could do would offend him. There was a time when Elizabeth would have applauded his amiability and think of it as the sort of behaviour which would most appeal to her in a suitor. However, that was before she met Mr. Darcy.

The Mr. Darcy who had separated Jane from her Mr. Bingley. The same Mr. Darcy who proposed to Elizabeth last Spring. A proposal she spitefully refused. Next, he wrote her a letter, illuminating all of the reasons for his insufficient manners. Over time, Elizabeth had learned to accept his words. However, she had never done any looking into her heart over the matter. She had thought him the worst man in the world when he proposed and while his character improved after she read his letter, she never expected to meet him again. 

Alas, Elizabeth visited Mr. Darcy’s estate over the summer. Confronted with all things Darcy, she soon realized hearts are treacherous things. If ever there was a man she could have loved and rejoiced in marrying, it would have been him. Her only complaint about him was that he was not friendly enough to her relations. No sooner had she made such an observation than did the master of the estate appear before her. 

Even more shocking, Mr. Darcy not only asked for an introduction to Elizabeth’s aunt and uncle who were in trade, but he called on them the next day with his sister–and Mr. Bingley. He invited them all to Pemberley to dine. However, before such a thing could occur, Elizabeth received a letter that her youngest sister had eloped with Darcy’s sworn enemy. 

How Elizabeth had grieved her chance with Darcy then! If not for Lydia’s stupidity, their second chance might have grown to more. When Elizabeth later learned that Darcy had arranged for the reckless couple to marry, she finally admitted the truth to herself. She was madly in love with Fitzwilliam Darcy.

It could never be, however. He could never become brother-in-law to Mr. Wickham. A few weeks after Lydia’s marriage, Darcy returned to Hertfordshire with his friend Bingley. Of course, Darcy disappeared just as suddenly. Bingley made quick work of his courtship this time and proposed to Jane within days of his return. 

Elizabeth counted the days to the wedding, hoping to see Darcy once more. She knew it was likely vain to hope for his continued affections or wishes. She only wished to see him, to hear his voice. Most of all, she wished she could thank him for his service to her family. Only her aunt and uncle knew the truth of Darcy’s character and what he did for the Bennets.

He came, of course. He had amended his view of Bingley’s marriage and appeared the delighted friend. However, he avoided Elizabeth’s eyes and conversation. He never approached her. He always seemed surrounded by others.

He left the next day and Elizabeth had not seen him since. Jane said he had been invited to Netherfield for Christmas but declined. Instead, the new Mr. and Mrs. Bingley spent the day at Longbourn with the Bennets, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner and their four noisy children, Elizabeth’s other aunt and uncle who were vulgar, and Mary’s suitor.

Mrs. Bennet’s victory was complete with Mary having a beau. It also made Elizabeth a target for her displeasure more than ever. Was it any wonder that Elizabeth needed a few moments to herself? Deciding that a visit with Jane was precisely what she needed, she determined to continue on to Netherfield. A broken heart cannot heal amidst the laughter and gaeity of others, but Jane and Bingley’s gentle company could restore her mood.

During Elizabeth’s walk, it had begun to flurry. Undeterred, Elizabeth pressed on to Netherfield. She needed quiet and sweet Jane to soothe her mind. A mile later, and the snow fell in earnest. As she was closer to Netherfield than Longbourn, she continued to her destination. By the time she reached it, however, her teeth chattered and the snow was above her ankles. There would be no returning to Longbourn today. She would be lucky if even a servant could be sent to inform her family where she was. 

Elizabeth rang the bell and waited several minutes but no butler opened the door. Confused, Elizabeth pushed it open herself and was stomping off the snow on her boots in the dark entry when an unexpected voice startled her. 

“Eliza–Miss Bennet!” Darcy said.

“Mr. Darcy!” Elizabeth quickly ducked her head to hide her blush. “I did not know you were visiting.”

“It was supposed to be a surprise,” he said as he hastened to her side and assisted with unwrapping her scarf.

“I thought you did not approve of surprises.” 

Darcy furrowed his brow. “When did I say that?”

“Here above a year ago. You decried Bingley’s penchant for changing his plan on a whim.”

“That is hardly the same thing. Surprising others is not the same as it being a sudden change of plans on my part.” He took her elbow and began directing her to the drawing room. “However, I am the fool after all for Bingley seems to have given the entire staff the day off and I presume has left to spend it at Longbourn.”

Elizabeth chuckled and shook her head. That was just the sort of thing he would do. He rewarded his own house while unintentionally straining another’s. Still, Elizabeth could not fault him too much–or perhaps she could not focus on it too much as Darcy’s nearness made her heart race.

Suddenly, a thought occurred to her. “If we are alone, I really cannot stay.” 

“Nonsense,” Darcy frowned. “The snow is coming far too rapidly for you to return now. I have not checked all the servant’s quarters but surely someone has remained.”

“The butler and housekeeper are gone?”

“They are not in their rooms. However, I have a fire lit in here,” Darcy said as they entered the drawing room. “You must warm yourself, at the very least.” He motioned to a chair and then took her hand to assist her in sitting. “Your hands are like ice!”

Darcy rubbed his hands over hers while staring intently into her eyes. Elizabeth felt she could say nothing. His tender care of her was everything she had ever wanted and yet it could never mean what she most desired. She both hated and loved his attention.

After a minute or two, he placed her hands on his chest. “I was hoping I would see you, Elizabeth.”

She sucked in a deep breath. He could not mean what she hoped. “I really should leave,” she murmured.

“You are still nearly frozen,” he said as he let go of her hands and led her nearer the fire. Next, he dragged the nearby settee closer. 

Unable to resist the heat’s temptation, Elizabeth sat. It felt inexplicably nice to warm herself after the freezing walk. Darcy busied himself with a decanter of wine and returned with two glasses. 

“This will help warm you,” he said when he offered one to her.

Elizabeth drank it rapidly, enjoying the flush that came to her body. Darcy reached for her glass and their fingers grazed. “I really should not have more.”

“I have seen you drink more during a dinner.” Sitting beside her, he sipped on his own glass. 

He must have seen her drinking wine while dining at Lady Catherine’s. Heaven knew one needed it there. And when alone with the man they hopelessly loved, apparently. Nervous with the silence and his nearness, Elizabeth lightly smiled. “Well, maybe just a bit more.” 

The only sound was the crackling of logs and while Elizabeth avoided looking at him, she could feel Darcy’s eyes upon her. A thousand memories washed over her. He had always watched her. At first, she had thought it was with criticism. Too late, she had realized it was in love. Now, she did not know what she would find in his eyes if she were brave enough to look upon them. After a few minutes of silence, Darcy began humming a tune. She finally turned her head to him, still averting her eyes.

“Do you recognize it?” he asked. “I believe you played it when you stayed here while your sister was ill.”

She had. Did his remembering that signify anything? Did it mean he still loved her? Or was it a reminder of the odds they were at during that time? She had thought she hated him and he had thought she was unworthy of his hand. Or maybe it all meant nothing. He never was very good at small talk.

“Thank you for the fire and the wine,” she nodded at each, “however, I must leave.” She hated the thought of leaving. Who knew when she would see him again?

“It is far too cold to be walking in all that.”

Despite her desire to stay, she felt compelled to search for every alternative. “I do not suppose you know how to prepare a carriage or drive it?”

Darcy peered at the window behind them. “Even if I did, it would not be safe.”

“Then I must walk or the neighbors might think…” 

Darcy wrapped his hand around Elizabeth’s as he took her empty wine glass. A shiver went up her spine. When had she drunk the whole glass? Her nerves must have needed the sweet wine more than she had thought.

He returned with another glass. “This wine is very good, do you not think? I was enjoying a glass when you arrived.”

Elizabeth nodded her agreement as she took another sip. Had Darcy sat closer to her this time? He felt closer. His thigh nearly touched hers. Looking up from peering at her glass, she found his eyes upon her and his head leaning down toward hers. 

“Your eyes glitter in the firelight.”

Elizabeth tried to breathe normally. She attempted to hide the shudder that coursed through her body at his words. They were unchaperoned and the worst would be thought of them. As it was, he might not have meant that he still loved her. Surely her looks had not changed very much even if everything else between them had. It would be no great thing to still admire her beauty but not wish for her hand in marriage. 

Why did she still sit here while the snow grew another inch every five minutes? Had he bewitched her somehow? Never before had she felt so incapable of doing what she had determined to do. She had determined to leave, had she not? She was almost certain she had thought it was the best decision only a few moments ago, but now…

Darcy reached forward and rubbed a curl between his thumb and forefinger. The lock grazed her cheek and his hand was so near her face that she grew dizzy. 

“I always thought you had beautiful hair. I wondered if it would feel like silk to touch.”

Was this truly happening? Perhaps she was hallucinating. A snow-induced dream. Did one dream before freezing to death? Of course, she did not feel cold. She felt warm, very warm. Had Darcy come even closer? His leg now pressed against hers.

The wind howled, causing Elizabeth to look at the window. It was useless to leave now. She should have turned back in Meryton. The most she could explain to others now was that she had gone to Netherfield in good faith and at least discussed returning to Longbourn once she realized only Darcy was in residence. 

“Mr. Darcy,” Elizabeth said and gulped as his eyes met hers. “Surely—surely you see that I cannot stay here.”

“It would be far worse for you to go.”

Was there a note of pleading in his voice? Did she wish for her to stay? He did not appear to be shunning her company and her heart rejoiced at that but to stay would tie his hands. She would be considered ruined and he would be forced to marry her or be worse than even Mr. Wickham. 

“No,” her voice faltered. “No, I cannot stay.” She would hate to be married to Darcy if he only regretted her and hated the connections she brought. “Thank you, again, for allowing me to warm myself. However, I must go.”

“I am not in control of the weather,” he said. “You can see for yourself. It is too dangerous for you to go.”

“Jane will worry and Bingley might even attempt to look for me himself.”

“They will know you had enough sense to seek shelter.”

“You may recall my aunt, Mrs. Phillips, and her unguarded tongue. It can be quite vicious…” Elizabeth took another sip of wine, willing it to give her strength and courage. 

Darcy released her tendril then took Elizabeth’s glass and took a sip from where she had placed her lips. “I believe this is the most delicious wine I have tasted.”

The action was unbearably intimate. However, he must have consumed too much for he was not thinking clearly. If she stayed much longer or indulged in what appeared to be their mutual desire, he would be attached to Wickham for the rest of his life. Deciding this might be as close to kissing Darcy as she would ever get, she retrieved her glass and copied his actions. “Just after we finish this glass, I will go.”

Darcy’s eyes never left hers as they continued to sip and exchange the glass. His free hand crept over the one which lay in her lap. He drew lazy circles before turning her hand over and repeating the action on her palm. Every touch of his skin made more her shudder. 

“I have never seen such a blizzard,” he muttered before taking the last sip of their shared glass of wine. 

“Yes, but all the same I must go,” she whispered. Her resolve had all but evaporated. She hesitated now only in deference to his feelings.

“I know what you once believed me ungentlemanly but I flatter myself that I am too much of a gentleman to allow you out in that. You would freeze before you reached Meryton.”

“If you do not need it, then I can wear your coat as well.” 

Darcy chuckled. “It would be far too large. Besides, look,” he pointed at the window. “It is likely to your knees by now.”

Elizabeth dropped her eyes to their hands. He had linked them. If he had really wanted to marry her still, he could have said so at any point. He had no reason to fear her acceptance. Why else would she have stayed unchaperoned with a bachelor for so long? Elizabeth took the interlude for all it could be. He still loved her, perhaps more than ever, but he could not marry her.

She must tell him something of what she felt. “I have enjoyed seeing you again, Mr. Darcy.” She squeezed his hand as she searched for her next words. Darcy shaprly inhaled and returned the pressure. 

“Do you know what you do to me, Elizabeth?” Darcy asked as he touched his forehead to hers.

She did know, or at least she thought she did. It was the same effect he had on hers. And it was a miserable prison of her own making. “But do you not see? There would be a world of gossip…”

Words were becoming even harder for her. She attempted to slip her hand from his. 

“I will regret it forever–“

She spoke over him. “So much would be implied.” Her heart leapt when she realized the beginning of his statement. She held her breath for him to continue.

“–If you got pneumonia and died.” 

Deflated, Elizabeth shrugged. She had hoped he would say something more. She would willingly stay if only he asked. “I am too healthy to catch such a thing. I must go…”

“You will have to think of something better to say,” Darcy laughed. “You are usually so witty.”

“I fear I have no humor about this. I cannot force your hand in such a way.”

“Is that what you are worried about?” Darcy asked with raised brows. 

“No one can know I was here with you. The expectations would be–“

“Everything I wish for,” he rushed to say. “I think you can guess that my affections are unchanged from last April but my attempts at wooing you might be as inept as my conversation. I thought the wine would ease your reserve and allow me to find the right words. Alas, it has not and I am left stumbling as best I can.” He sighed. “My wishes have not changed.”

“You cannot mean you still wish to marry me. You could never be related to Wickham, and if you still loved me you might have spoken with me at the wedding. You were so silent and grave–” Elizabeth could not continue and choked back a sob. 

Darcy placed both hands on Elizabeth’s cheeks. “I thought you did not care for me. Only a man who felt less could have risked another refusal. I will never–can never–stop loving you.”

“I would not refuse you,” Elizabeth blinked back tears. 

“I have never been so thankful for a bloody snowstorm in my life,” Darcy chuckled. “You will marry me?”

Elizabeth nodded. “I love you.”

Darcy responded with a kiss. Despite the dropping temperature and piling snow, he and Elizabeth were able to keep very warm until discovered by Netherfield’s returning servants two days later. Naturally, they used only one chamber to conserve resources. Many things were implied and Mrs. Phillips’ tongue did wag, but the couple had no mind for it at all. A couple as violently in love as they will always find a way to stay warm on a winter’s day. 

Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Joy- Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming

Forgive me for such a long delay in this story! As I believe I have mentioned before, my son has Autism. Lately he’s been having some behavior issues at school. Dealing with them took most of my writing time but I believe we have finally turned a corner and worked out a new schedule.

There’s still a few more chapters to wrap everything up but things will begin to make more sense.

Chapter OneChapter Two and ThreeChapter FourChapter FiveChapter Six /

Chapter SevenChapter EightChapter NineChapter Ten Chapter Eleven

christmas-2016-5Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming

Georgiana sat in Darcy House’s drawing room. Beside her, Caroline Bingley and Louisa Hurst rambled on with false compliments about how accomplished and lovely she was. She was not yet sixteen years old and yet, according to them, far superior most ladies with years more education and experience in the world. If only they knew the truth.

Georgiana’s eyes flitted to the clock on the mantle again. She hoped her brother and his guests would return earlier, but she knew the wish was for naught. It had been the same for six days now. She would hear their voices in the hall of Mr. Bingley and her cousin talking about plans to visit Hertfordshire and see the Miss Bennets on the morrow. Then the clock would strike seven just before they reached the drawing-room. Next, without any clear memory of the day, she would be at Mr. Bingley’s house in Hertfordshire about to call on the Bennets. However, they always arrived at nearly seven o’clock and then after a few minutes’ conversation, time would shift again.

Around her, no one else seemed to act like they knew the day was repeating continuously until two nights ago. On that night, Miss Mary Bennet had tried to show her journal to her eldest sister. Last night, the usual plans were made to leave for Hertfordshire and Georgiana did not realize at first that a grave error had been made. On the way to the Bennet estate, she learned that for everyone else, two years had passed. Arriving at Longbourn, they found the youngest Bennet daughter married and mother to George Wickham’s child. Georgiana had not learned the truth of what happened surrounding matters, but she could guess the scoundrel seduced the girl and refused to marry her.

In what looked like a desperate act, Miss Mary showed her diary to Richard, who then kissed her! Georgiana assumed it was some sort of test to see if those around them would remember the next day. It certainly did not break whatever spell or curse was upon them. In normal proceedings, Richard would have had to propose to Mary or face pistols at dawn. However, Georgiana suspected Richard’s idea was on the correct path.

She had no idea how many days her world had been repeating but knew she became aware of it after standing up to George Wickham and explaining to Elizabeth Bennet how awful the man was. It was as if she had fallen out of step with destiny and was now trying to forge a new path. Could it be the same was true with the others? If so, Georgiana dearly hoped her brother’s destiny would intertwine with Elizabeth’s.

“Pardon me,” Georgiana interrupted Caroline and bolted from her seat.

She walked at an unladylike speed back to the dining room where the men were still gathered. Glancing at the clock in the hall, it seemed she had arrived just in time. Hovering outside the door, she heard the following conversation.

Mr. Bingley chuckled. “If you only want character and do not care about money or standing, then Darcy and I know a whole host of women.”

“Indeed?” Richard asked.

“Yes, in Hertfordshire. Near the estate, I am leasing.”

“Forgive me since I am a military man, but I would think it would be best to learn more about the estate by residing in it longer than a few weeks. Should you not go back?”

“You know, I was just thinking the same.” Georgian could hear the smile in his voice. “How am I to learn how estates run in the winter if I am not there for it. I think I must return for Christmas. You’re welcome to come along, Richard. I doubt Darcy will desire to return.”

“Forgive him, he’s very busy, our Darcy.”

“I think you might hit it off with Miss Elizabeth Bennet, actually,” Bingley offered.

“I will come!” Fitzwilliam practically shouted.

“Thank you, Bingley. I will check with Command, but I believe I can leave the area for the holidays.”

Georgiana could contain herself no longer. She opened the door with so much force it slammed against the wall.

“Georgiana!” Darcy cried and put out his cigar. “Is something wrong?”

She met his eye and spoke with steely determination. “No, but I heard your conversation just now. No, do not stop to scold me. I think we ought to leave tonight and not on the morrow.”

Fitzwilliam sputtered something about her not coming, but Georgiana’s attention was focused on Mr. Bingley.

“Leave tonight?” he said.

“Yes, you could have all day tomorrow with Miss Bennet, then.”

“How quickly can you be ready, Georgiana?” Richard asked, startling her. Did he remember?

“Molly can pack my things in less than an hour. We…well, we’re well practiced at hasty packing.” For once the reminder of her near elopement with Wickham had become a positive thing.

“Excellent,” Bingley and Richard said in unison.

Richard then left to send a message to his command and Bingley to inform his sisters of the plan, leaving Georgiana alone with her brother.

“Georgie,” Fitzwilliam said quietly but forcefully, “you are not coming. I forbid it.”

At first, Georgiana stared at her feet. It had always been so difficult to stand up to her brother or pain him. Their father had been ill most of her childhood, and her mother died after her birth. Fitzwilliam was more often her parent than her brother. However, she knew she could not back down from this. The happiness of so many was held in the balance. Poor Miss Lydia might be a silly, thoughtless girl but no one deserved to be cast aside by Wickham.

Georgiana raised her head and met her brother’s eyes. “If you want to test stubbornness, I am ready for a siege. I am too old for you to carry me away to the nursery. Punish me however you like, take away my pin money if it pleases you, but you will not stop me from boarding that carriage.”

Chest heaving and face red, she turned on her heel and left the room. Richard stood just outside.

“Bravo, Georgie! Our tender rose has thorns!”

Georgiana smiled but felt her face blush harder. “I am a Darcy and a Fitzwilliam. Is it any surprise I can be obstinate?”

The clock beside her rang seven times, and she tensed, expecting the world to fade away as it had before, but it did not.

“Can it be?” she whispered to herself.

“I’m as surprised as you are,” Richard said.

“What do you mean?” Georgiana asked nervously. She did not feel prepared to attempt to explain things to another.

Richard looked incredulous. “Do you really think I go around kissing bloody maidens and not remembering it the next day?”

Georgie attempted to stammer an answer when Fitzwilliam finally exited the dining room behind them. “If you wish to leave in an hour, you had best inform your maid,” he said while walking past them.

“Do you think he knows?” she hissed to Richard.

“Not a chance,” he shook his head. “We can not talk more now, but I have a theory.”

“Perhaps we can speak when we change horses?”

“Excellent notion,” he agreed before she scampered off.

Georgiana held her breath as she boarded the coach but Fitzwilliam said nothing. For the next two hours, she twisted her hands as she attempted to recall details of the previous days. Without a doubt, something revolutionary needed to happen before seven o’clock on December Twenty-third. What precisely was needed, she was less sure. Mary changed events by showing her diary to Jane, and the repercussions were that Bingley and Fitzwilliam did not return to Longbourn for two years and Lydia bore Wickham’s child.

At last, they reached the coaching inn to change horses. Richard offered to allow her to stretch her legs.

“It is fortunate we have so much moonlight,” Georgiana observed as they walked near the inn.

“That was fast thinking to get Bingley to leave tonight. If matters went on for another few days, we’d be in New Moon territory and traveling at night would be impossible.”

“Richard, I’ve been thinking. Time did not reset at seven o’clock as usual, so I think making drastically different choices creates a divergence in time.”

Richard nodded. “Yes, I had surmised as much. Mary trying to show her sister her diary made a monumental change, however.”

“Maybe…” Georgiana trailed off. This entire situation seemed impossible how could she think she understood it.

“Do not think you are too young to share your ideas,” he said gently.

“If not young, then stupid.”

“Fitzwilliams are never stupid!”

“Just Darcys, then?” she said with a half smile.

“Your brother, maybe,” Richard nodded to where Fitzwilliam paced near the coach.

“It has to do with him, don’t you think? And Miss Elizabeth?”

“I believe you are correct,” Richard said. “Did you have something to say about Miss Mary?”

“Only that I think for her sharing her private thoughts in her diary was a monumental change. When did you become aware of our predicament?”

“Well, after she told me but I had an epiphany last night. I have lived too much by duty or frivolity. I have not lived by my own desires.”

“Ah, see. You did something so very unlike you!”

Richard chuckled. “Indeed. And for you?”

“Do you recall our other meetings with the Bennets?”

“I do,” he nodded. “It is strange having memories others do not have. For example, last night we appeared to be two years in the future, but it is not as though I lived for two years. I can only tell you events that may have happened in relation to the Bennets.”

“Precisely. Do you recall the evening we arrived while Wickham was there? Fitzwilliam, Elizabeth, and I played cards with him? I confronted Wickham in a way. I mentioned my maid who he had dallied with and hinted strongly of our relationship. It made quite an impression on Elizabeth.”

“I was at a different table. What else happened?”

“Before anything else could happen the clock struck seven and time reset again. However, my memories were restored.”

“Ah, so you think standing up to Wickham was a profound change in your character?”

“You heard how I spoke to Fitzwilliam, did you not?”

“Yes, quite true.” Richard smiled down at her. “Well, I think we have some ideas. It is time to return to the coach. With any luck, we might break this spell we are under on the morrow. We can speak more in the morning.”

Georgiana followed him to the carriage where all occupants remained silent. After a fitful night of sleep, she awoke early the next morning and was pleased to see Richard alone in the breakfast room.

“Do you have a plan?” she asked eagerly after he finished his coffee.

“I think you were correct. Miss Elizabeth needs to know about Wickham, but Darcy must be the one to tell her.”

“Who am I supposed to talk to and what am I supposed to say?”

Georgiana gasped at the sound of her brother’s voice.

 

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

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

Chapter OneChapter Two and ThreeChapter FourChapter FiveChapter Six /

Chapter SevenChapter Eight Chapter NineChapter Ten 


christmas-2016-5What Child is This?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No, I had not,” Darcy said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Excuse me?”

“I uh–”

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

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

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

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

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

“Miss Mary, I think you are fatigued–”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 23, 1811

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The rest of the room was silent.

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

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

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

“As will I,” he promised.

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

 

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

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

In case you missed them:

Chapter OneChapter Two and ThreeChapter FourChapter Five Chapter Six /

Chapter SevenChapter EightChapter Nine

christmas-2016-5Joy to the World

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Well?” Mrs. Bennet asked.

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

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

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

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

“You are not leaving?” Elizabeth said.

“I think it would be better.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I would love nothing more, madam.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Just the date. December twenty-third.”

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

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

“No! See!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Joy- O Come All Ye Faithful

I’m sorry it’s been a few days. My son is out of school this week and it’s been difficult finding time to write, edit, and post!

In case you missed the earlier chapters:

Chapter One / Chapter Two and Three / Chapter Four / Chapter Five / Chapter Six /

Chapter Seven / Chapter Eight

christmas-2016-5O Come All Ye Faithful

Bingley smiled as he headed toward his stables. He had just arrived at Netherfield but overheard a maid whisper to the housekeeper that the eldest Miss Bennet would be overjoyed to learn of his return. It was all the proof he needed to feel alive with hope that Jane Bennet returned his affections.

Anticipating the arguments of Darcy and not wishing for the competition of Richard, or having to rescue him from over-attention, Bingley chose to visit Longbourn independently. He puffed out his chest in pride. Yes, it felt good to make decisions independently. He had relied far too heavily on Caroline and Darcy’s advice for years now. He desired to marry Jane Bennet and what was to stop him but the arguments of his friends? The greatest of which had been her indifference to him, but rumor had it, she was quite in love with him.

For the first two miles of the journey from Netherfield to Longbourn, hope and satisfaction filled Bingley’s heart. Belatedly, his mind began to wonder how Jane felt about his sudden disappearance and unexpected return. Would she believe he was inconstant? How could he convince her of his faithfulness?

A dozen folk tunes about love and fidelity flitted through his mind. Bingley pulled out his pocket watch. He would arrive at Longbourn shortly before seven. If they had music after dinner, then he would insist on singing. Jane would not be left in doubt of his adoration any longer!

Finally, he reached Longbourn and called upon all his courage as he was shown to the drawing room. A glance around the place showed there were several officers, the Lucas family, and a fashionable man and woman he did not know.

“Mr. Bingley!” Mrs. Bennet’s shrill voice reached his ears just as his eyes found Jane. She had blushed upon seeing him and now stared at her hands. Why would she not look at him?

Mrs. Bennet bounced off her seat and came to his side so fast she had to catch her breath. “Well, Mr. Bingley, you are too late for dinner, but please join us for coffee and tea. Stay for supper if you can.”

“I–”

“I have not forgotten your promise to come for a family dinner. My brother and sister-in-law from London are with us now but leave after Christmas. You must come then.” Dragging him by the arm to a seat, she rambled on. “Of course, please come before then as well. You are as welcome here as at your home.”

She paused and looked around the room. “And you arrived alone? Your sisters are not with you? Then I insist you come as often as you can. A house is nothing without a woman to keep it, as my Jane knows.”

Mrs. Bennet gently pushed him on the shoulder and Bingley landed on a cushion next to Jane.

“Mama, please,” she said in an urgent whisper.

“Perhaps a walk in the garden would be refreshing,” Miss Elizabeth said from the other side of Jane.

Bingley immediately stood up again. What had he been thinking coming directly here with no plan?

“Oh, yes!” Jane’s youngest two sisters that Bingley could never differentiate between shot out of their seats.

“No, you should remain here,” Mrs. Bennet shook her finger at her second daughter. “I will not have Jane catching a cold by walking about in December! She complained of a headache only earlier today!”

“The room feels too warm to me,” Miss Lucas said as she approached them. “I would welcome a respite, and we would be well looked after.”

“Yes, surely there is nothing inappropriate about a walk in the garden with such good family friend,” Bingley said while searching over Jane’s face.

“Let them go,” Mr. Bennet said from a corner where he played a game with several gentlemen.

Mrs. Bennet capitulated, and the young people left the room to gather their outerwear. Bingley extended his arm to Jane, who blushed, but took his arm. A feeling of rightness permeated his heart. To Bingley’s surprise, it did not feel like a new sensation. It was as though he had experienced this very scenario before, and yet he had never walked with Jane in Longbourn’s garden in the evening before.

From Jane’s other side, Miss Elizabeth leaned forward. “Mr. Bingley,” she said with a smile that did not meet her eyes. “We are pleased to see you again. We had heard from your sister you never meant to return to Hertfordshire.” She then wandered off, seemingly very curious about a hedge.

Shame filled Bingley. “I am exceedingly sorry if my sister’s mistaken impression that I would not return to Netherfield caused you any distress, Miss Bennet.”

Jane gave him a small smile. “Certainly not. A gentleman may come and go as he pleases.”

Did he imagine it or did her voice tremble? “A gentleman keeps his word.” Jane shuddered next to him, and he pulled her in closer. “Are you getting cold?”

Jane whispered something while looking at her feet.

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

Jane slowly raised her head and met his eyes. Tears glimmered there. “No, I am not cold and do not wish to go inside.”

Bingley took in a deep breath of air, filling his lungs to capacity and feeling as though at last he could breathe again. Jane’s subtle rose water scent filled his breath, an innocent but heady aphrodisiac.

“Jane! Lizzy! We’re cold!” The taller of the young ladies called from the door where three of them were huddled.

“Mary says it is nearly seven o’clock and to hurry. I’m famished,” called the other one.

Something about the statement made Bingley’s heart race. Nearly seven o’clock. Hurry. Why? He shook his head to dispel the disjointed thoughts. The feeling as though he had lived this before still filled him, making his tongue feel thick and unnatural. He led Jane to the door.

“I will call again in a few days,” he managed to say as he helped Jane out of her pelisse.

The clock struck seven, and as he heard the bells chime, a strange sensation passed over him. He felt as though he had just been knocked over with a feather. Nearly seven o’clock. Hurry, echoed in his mind.

 

Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Joy- The Holly and the Ivy

Merry Christmas Eve! Originally, I had hoped to finish posting tomorrow but we still have several chapters to go. I was happy to have some time to write this today. My son woke up with a very sore throat and has strep (again). He’s not feeling too badly though and hopefully will be feeling even better tomorrow. I’m not sure if I’ll have a chapter to post tomorrow. If not, Merry Christmas!

Previous Chapters

Chapter OneChapter Two & ThreeChapter FourChapter FiveChapter SixChapter Seven 

christmas-2016-5The Holly and the Ivy

Elizabeth hummed a tune as she carried a basket through the woods. She had to escape her mother and Longbourn under the guise of needing more holly and ivy for decorations. Her aunt and uncle had arrived to spend Christmas with the family, and Mrs. Bennet had not ceased her abuse of Elizabeth.

“As if it were a crime to decline an unwanted marriage proposal,” she muttered under her breath.

In the distance, she heard a rustle and cast her eyes about to see a deer bolting from a thicket of holly. Elizabeth smiled as she paused and snipped some ivy that climbed up a tree. Recalling childhood exploits with Jane, she fashioned a ringlet and wore it as a crown. Of course, they were children then, and now life was far more complicated. To keep from melancholy thoughts, she resumed her cheerful humming.

“Blast!” she heard a masculine voice swear as she came closer to the holly thicket.

“Good day,” she called so as to not alarm whomever the gentleman was.

“Miss Elizabeth?” a familiar, and disliked, face matched the voice as Mr. Darcy straightened and appeared over the hedge.

Her anger was disarmed when she saw a handkerchief wrapped around one hand. “Having a battle, are we?”

Mr. Darcy’s eyes widened for a moment. “Oh, this?” He held up his wounded hand. “My sister declared more holly was required for Netherfield but did not desire to trouble the servants.”

Elizabeth could hardly believe her ears. Mr. Darcy would humble himself so much to attempt to gather holly, and ill-prepared at that, just for his sister? “Allow me,” she said and donned her pruning gloves then handled the shears with expert technique.

“Mr. Bingley would praise you for another accomplishment,” he said as he held his basket while she filled it.

He winced as though the words sounded as though he was aware of how awkward his words were. Yet another thing Elizabeth could not credit the man before him.

“I think you have me at a disadvantage, Mr. Darcy,” she said. “I am all astonishment to find you in a wood in Hertfordshire for we had heard Mr. Bingley never meant to return to Netherfield this year. But I will not inquire as to why you seem less surprised to see me.”

To Elizabeth’s continued astonishment, Darcy chuckled, drawing her eye. “Your wit is refreshing, Miss Elizabeth.”

He shifted the basket to another hand and tugged on his sleeve as though uncomfortable under her gaze. She rather liked discomposing him as he had done to her so many times.

“I am sorry if you were given inaccurate information. I do not believe my friend ever made his mind up definitely about his return.”

Inwardly, Elizabeth sighed. Yet another awkward turn of phrase from Mr. Darcy. Did he mean to insult his friend? For it sounded as though he disliked that quality in Mr. Bingley and yet, if he did not value it, then why be friends? She recalled Mr. Wickham’s words that Darcy could please where he wished but as of this moment, Elizabeth wondered that Darcy would ever exert himself so much as to play false to society.

“Next time you go holly picking, you should come armed,” she suggested, changing the conversation.

“Yes…well, I find myself often unprepared for battle in Hertfordshire.”

Was it her imagine or did he sound sterner than usual? “Surely you have holly in Derbyshire, Mr. Darcy,” she said.

“Yes, but I had forgotten how much Georgiana enjoys decorating for Christmas, and our arrival at Netherfield was unexpected. The staff is a bit on its ear.”

“So decorating falls to you,” she quipped. A smile formed on her lips as she wondered what Miss Bingley would have to say if she could see Mr. Darcy as decorator and gardener.

“Well, I have never understood the attraction of holly or ivy for Christmas.” He flicked a flower. “A good hot house could provide the whitest lilies.”

Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “I’m sure the appeal began long before greenhouses became vogue for the upper ten thousand. Besides,” she added as she viciously snipped more holly, “you miss the poetic purpose.”

“Well, do educate me, madam. I await your shocking opinions on poetry and Christmas ornaments.”

Expecting to see a look of censure or amusement in his eyes, Elizabeth was shocked to see something that hovered between wonder and fondness. She immediately busied herself at the bush again.

“Clearly the white flower represents Mary the Virgin. The red berry symbolizes Christ’s blood spilled for sinners. The thorns are like the crown He wore at the crucifixion. The toxic properties reference His death.”

“Indeed, I agree with the religious symbolism, but when you spoke of poetry, I had expected something else. You really do not believe poetry is the food of love then,” he said sounding a trifle disappointed.

She ceased her cutting and looked at him in confusion. “You would compare holly with love?” she asked.

“It often begins in innocence, even out of pure motives like this flower.”

Again, he flicked one and Elizabeth’s eyes darted to the graceful movement. “But then there are thorns,” she rationalized.

“Does it not wound?” Darcy’s voice grew softer.

“Surely not everyone is wounded in love,” she suggested.

“Just as not everyone is wounded reaching for holly. Some come prepared,” he pointed to her gloved hands. “A man in love’s heart will bleed for his beloved, though.”

Elizabeth’s cheeks flushed although she knew not why. It was shocking to hear such intimate words spoken by a man she had always thought of as cold and unfeeling. And yet, there was another time she heard him speak in such a way. When he praised her and Miss Bingley’s figures as they walked before a fire at Netherfield. Elizabeth noted she did not need a fire at the moment to feel warm.

“And love can grow sour and poison just as holly does?” she asked feeling the need to say something.

Darcy shook his head, and a curl fell across his brow. Elizabeth’s hand tingled in a desire to brush it back for him. “Many animals eat it without harm,” he said.

“Ah, but I thought love elevated one to a heavenly plane,” she suggested. Was it her imagination or had Mr. Darcy come closer?

“Lovers rely on primal instinct like beasts. A man in love loses his sense of intelligence and logic.”

When had his eyes become so blue and intense? Why did she not look away? Every inch of Elizabeth felt afire as she asked her next question. “And the red berry?” She held her breath awaiting his answer.

Darcy held her gaze as her heart beat rapidly in her chest. She had tilted her head back to look at him better. “A lover’s kiss.”

His voice was husky and immediately her eyes dropped to his mouth. When she returned them to him, she saw that he watched her intently, as though asking an unsaid question.

A nearby rustle disturbed the moment, and the both turned to see another deer running off. Elizabeth immediately blushed and looked at her hands.

Darcy cleared his throat. “The song you were singing earlier, it was the same one you performed at Sir William Lucas’ was it not?”

Elizabeth nearly dropped her shears at the abrupt change of topic. Although grateful, she answered guardedly, expecting his criticism. “Yes.”

“It suits you,” he said and then touched the ivy crown she had forgotten she wore. “We are in an ash grove,” he gestured to a nearby tree.

Indeed, she had taken the ivy from an ash tree, but she was astounded he recalled the song she sang weeks ago, all the while she had been convinced he was finding fault with her performance. To cover her embarrassment at her childish display, she jested. “I hope that particular song does not suit me as it ends rather sadly. Besides, I have no beau that would mourn my death.”

Darcy frowned and looked beyond her at the horizon. “Another line of the song is relevant. Twilight is fading. Allow me to escort you home.”

Surprised at the light quickly fading, she had little choice but to take his arm. A minute or two down the path and they came upon his mount tied off. As she refused to ride, he then led it by the reins. Although small talk with Mr. Darcy was always strained, they managed to talk about his sister without any disputes.

“Do come inside and refresh yourself,” Elizabeth said as they approached Longbourn. She had missed dinner, and she guessed he had as well. “My aunt and uncle are here from London, and we had guests for dinner. Tea and coffee should be out by now.”

“Thank you,” he said as he handed the reins to a stable hand.

From the side of her eye, Elizabeth thought he seemed suddenly more formal and rigid than he had in the woods. She should hardly expect any different. He never made it any secret how much he disliked her family. Adding the presence of relatives from trade who resided near Cheapside would be an insult his pride could hardly contain. “Your secret will be safe with me,” she said coldly.

“My secret?” He sounded alarmed.

“I will not tell Miss Bingley, should I ever meet her again, that you were in the company of a tradesman from London and your steward’s son.”

Immediately, he rounded on her. “Mr. Wickham is inside?”

“Yes, he has become quite a friend to our family in recent weeks with the absence of others.”

How had she forgotten her anger with Darcy about his treatment of Wickham? A flicker of memory in Jane’s voice flashed through her mind. “Do not pretend your fascination with Mr. Wickham is about anything other than your displeasure about Mr. Darcy,” Jane said with a frown. Of course, Jane had never said that. She never said anything unpleasant.

Darcy turned white and seemed to force himself to speak civilly. “I see you did not heed my warning about Mr. Wickham’s inability to keep friends,” He said with a growl.

Elizabeth gaped and then spoke in a harsh whisper lest she scream, “He has remained a more constant friend than you or Mr. Bingley have!”

Darcy looked as though her words lashed him. When he spoke, the scathing coldness caused a shiver to crawl up her spine. “You have said quite enough, madam. I perfectly comprehend your feelings, and have now only to be ashamed of what my own have been.”

He paused and brought a tightly clenched gloved hand, the same wrapped in a handkerchief from earlier in the evening, to his mouth. Taking a deep breath, he released the hand and expelled the air in one motion. Straightening his shoulders, he stiffly bent for a bow. “Forgive me for having taken up so much of your time, and accept my best wishes for your health and happiness.”

He hastily turned from her side, and Elizabeth’s notice was drawn to the sound of the front door opening.

“There you are, Elizabeth,” Mrs. Gardiner said. “I wondered what kept you so long. It is nearly seven and quite dark.”

“I am sorry,” Elizabeth said and held up her basket of holly and ivy as an explanation.

“Who is that gentleman leaving? Why did he not come inside? And did I hear you speak of Mr. Wickham?”

Elizabeth sighed. “Oh, Aunt. I think I am too exhausted for those questions.” She attempted to move past the other woman and enter the house, but her aunt forestalled her.

“I had wanted to speak to you about Mr. Wickham. He told me about how he was denied a very prosperous living. I was sorry to hear it, I knew the gentleman in question’s father by character perfectly. But you must see how imprudent a match with him would be.”

Mrs. Gardiner’s whispered so they would not be overheard and Elizabeth knew the woman offered the words truly out of consideration for Elizabeth’s happiness. Still, after everything that had happened that evening, she could not help but speak with a tone of imprudence, especially as she would have sworn they already had this conversation.

“All I see–” The chiming of the clock in the hall interrupted her speech. By the time it struck seven, Elizabeth gripped her aunt for support.

 

Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Joy- Silent Night

Are you ready for things to turn even stranger? Previous chapters:

Chapter One: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Chapter Two & Three: Ding Dong Merrily on High! and We Three Kings

Chapter Four: It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

Chapter Five: O Little Town of Bethlehem

Chapter Six: Go Tell It on the Mountain

christmas-2016-5Silent Night

Darcy heard screams of agony and pounded up the stairs. He flung upon the door to the mistress’ chamber. Some maids fussed at him and told him a birthing room was no place for a man, but he gave them his best Master of Pemberley glare and silenced them.

Stepping forward in the room things were suddenly calm as though after a violent storm. By the same pull she had always had on him, Darcy came to Elizabeth’s side. She had a soft bundle nursing at a breast. She looked exhausted but beamed at him.

“He’s perfect, Fitzwilliam,” she said.

Darcy leaned down and gave her a gentle kiss. “You’re perfect.” He trailed a finger softly over his child’s cheek. He eased down on the bed, careful to not jostle the precious cargo.

“I love you,” Elizabeth said as she leaned her head on his shoulder.

“I love — ”

Darcy’s eyes flew open. Dreams of Elizabeth Bennet were no longer rare, and each time he always awoke just before declaring his love. It was as though even his dream-self knew better than to utter the words. Netherfield was silent and still, it felt like early morning before even the servants arose.

Throwing on his dressing gown, Darcy shuffled to the fire and stoked it. He sank into a nearby chair. He could not keep going on like this. He had not slept well in weeks. Dreams now tortured him. In London, thoughts of what might have been for him and Elizabeth haunted him. Now that he foolishly returned to Netherfield, he knew it would only be worse.

When precisely did he return to Netherfield? He had the strange feeling that he had been here for many days. However, that could not be the case. His mind was being tested from lack of sleep.

As he dozed in the chair awaiting a decent hour to begin, the day images danced through his mind. Elizabeth looking grave and fearful, saying Mr. Collins was dead. Why had she looked so upset? Next, they were walking in Longbourn’s garden, and she spoke to him in angry whispers. Another image, so like a memory, flashed of Georgiana resting in the drawing room of Longbourn. Elizabeth fluttered around her, concern marred her face. A scene of Elizabeth playing cards with Wickham while Georgiana revealed the truth of the cad’s behavior to Elizabeth. Her shock was palpable.

Darcy’s conscience tried to reach out and grasp the wisps of images that swirled around him. Each had felt real, as though he had been there instead of the mere fantasies he was accustomed to. What cruel trick was his mind now playing on him?

“Mr. Darcy,” a voice said from next to him, and he startled awake.

His eyes fluttered as he took in the scene. He was in Longbourn’s drawing room, and Miss Mary Bennet had just finished performing. Beside him, Mr. Bennet looked a mixture of amused and offended. Darcy’s befuddled mind could not make sense of his surroundings. Was he dreaming now? Or had he just awoken? What was real and what was false?

Elizabeth approached the bench. When he had first heard her perform, he acknowledged she had no great skill. However, her audience was held captive by her unaffected voice and the lightness of the tunes she played. Her smiles and a saucy sway of her head added to the festive feeling of the evening. Several of the male guests were enamored with the performance, Darcy noticed with chagrin. His cousin, Richard, turned pages for her.

Darcy hardly knew if he was reliving a dream or hallucinating, but Elizabeth’s voice filled his heart with joy. She sounded positively angelic. Logically, he understood her skill could not have improved so much in a few weeks. For the first time, he consciously admitted to himself that he loved her. Love for the woman made the sound of her voice sweeter, the smile on her face brighter, and every other thing about her more beautiful.

Why was he being such a fool? He had returned to Hertfordshire at his cousin and Bingley’s goading. Elizabeth could take her pick of admirers. Would he wait and see if the dreams of their possible future would become nothing more than ashes of regret? What business did echoes of family duty have in the face of such an angel?

For just a moment, it seemed her smile fixed on him and knocked the air out of his lungs. She beamed, and radiance filled her complexion. Darcy found himself sitting a little taller in his chair. Yes, he was firming his resolve. He would put aside his pride. He wouldn’t even mention his reservations. She deserved all of his love.

Her song ended, and behind him, a well-dressed man leaned forward and spoke to Mr. Bennet. “Bennet, she’s an angel!”

“I’ve always thought so, Gardiner,” Mr. Bennet said chuckling. “Do you think so of all of your nieces?”

Darcy’s interest rose. The man’s cultured tones shocked him. This must be Mrs. Bennet’s brother, the one who resided in London and worked in trade. There was nothing vulgar about him! How had Miss Bingley misled him?

Turning a bit in his seat, Darcy addressed the gentlemen. “I do not believe I have the pleasure of your acquaintance. Could you introduce us, Mr. Bennet?”

Darcy hardly knew of the three of them who was the most surprised. Just as Bennet explaining the man’s name and relationship to him, the clock struck seven, and a white light seized Darcy’s field of vision.

He struggled to retain consciousness. Wondering if this was death, he focused on the memories, on the feelings that had passed. His resolve to court Elizabeth. He had a reason to live! He must fight it, he must! The vice around his head squeezed harder, and the pressure became too much to bear. Bells clanged in his ears and then, utter peace.