The Writer's Block
May 20, 2013, 08:12:25 PM
The Writer's Block
Teatime with Austen
Christmas at Pemberley (early draft)
Topic: Christmas at Pemberley (early draft) (Read 2026 times)
Christmas at Pemberley (early draft)
July 23, 2011, 02:09:48 PM »
From the carriage’s rear-facing seat, Darcy insisted, “Elizabeth, we cannot.”
Elizabeth Darcy clung to the coach’s strap out of necessity, but despite her husband’s
reasonableness, she objected to his order. “But, Fitzwilliam, we must be home for Christmas.”
“Christmas or not, you’re too precious for me to risk your injury under such appalling
conditions.” He eyed her expanding waistline, but he made no direct reference to the strong
possibility that she carried his heir. Darcy gestured to the icy roads they had encountered outside
With exasperation’s deep sigh, she said, “I shall bow to your wishes.”
She inherently knew him correct, but Darcy realized that even after two years of
marriage, it still hurt Elizabeth’s pride to allow him dominance over her in any way. They had
always had a friendly “contention” between them, a well-developed twisting of language and
logic. The former Elizabeth Bennet had attracted him as such. “Verbal sword play,” he had
termed it. He rapped on the roof and gave Mr. Simpson orders to find appropriate lodgings.
Through the trap, his coachman shouted over the elements. “There be a small inn slightly
off the main road. Maybe three miles, Sir.”
“Take your time, Simpson,” Darcy ordered.
* * *
“There is no need, Uncle,” Georgiana Darcy assured the Earl of Matlock. “Fitzwilliam
and Elizabeth shall be home tomorrow. My brother wouldn’t miss Pemberley’s Christmas. It’s
his favorite festivity. Fitzwilliam takes his seasonal duties quite seriously.” The girl tried not to
flinch with her Aunt Catherine’s customary snort. If Georgiana had any inclination that her
formidable aunt had called on her brother, the earl, Georgiana would never have traveled to
Matlock on a day trip. Lady Catherine De Bourgh had always frightened the girl, and recently
her mother’s older sister had all but disowned the Darcy family when Fitzwilliam had chosen
Elizabeth Bennet as his wife over Lady Catherine’s frail daughter, Anne. In fact, Lady
Catherine’s condemnation of the new Mrs. Darcy had created a permanent split in the family
tree. Darcy had refused to acknowledge the woman he once revered.
“And have we any news of the colonel?” Georgiana’s attempted nonchalance sounded
contrived even to her. Information regarding Edward Fitzwilliam’s inevitable return was the true
reason for Georgiana’s visit. The colonel had traveled to America nearly a year prior, and she
had counted the days, praying for his early return: It was her secret Christmas wish. Along with
her brother, Edward served as Georgiana’s guardian. It was he to whom she had turned when she
felt intimidated by her brother’s sense of propriety and her aunt’s demoralizing mandates. And
Georgiana cherished every moment she had spent with the man. The recent difficulties the army
had face in the Americas had brought her more than one sleepless night.
“We expect Edward’s return some time after the New Year,” the countess shared. “We
had hoped he would be able to share the festive days under our roof, but the colonel’s last letter
Georgiana let out relief’s sigh: He would return soon. “I am pleased, Countess.” She had
set her teacup on a nearby table. “Fitzwilliam shall rejoice in the news.”
Lady Catherine had held her tongue longer than anyone expected. Now, disdain laced her
words. “At least, the colonel’s return will force your brother to see to your Come Out. You’re
nineteen and haven’t made your appearance in London’s Society. It makes sense that Darcy
would need to protect you from his wife’s influence,” she said with a snarl. “I’m certain that my
nephew regrets his mate’s choice, but who am I to bring that to his attention?”
Georgiana noted that both the earl and his countess rolled their eyes. She wanted to
defend her brother’s decision, but she would not betray the fact that Pemberley had suffered with
Elizabeth’s two previous miscarriages. Lady Catherine would see Mrs. Darcy’s inability to carry
to term proof of Elizabeth Bennet’s inferiority. Her aunt would have no sympathy for the
grieving parents. “We’ve been busy at Pemberley establishing my brother’s imprint on the
estate,” Georgiana lamely offered.
“Nonsense.” Lady Catherine ignored her niece’s explanation. “Darcy’s been the Master
of Pemberley since his father’s passing.”
The earl interceded. “It takes a young man years to replace his father’s legacy. My
nephew’s marriage has opened new doors for Darcy’s separate identity. People considered the
late Mr. Darcy one of the best. It’s no fault if Darcy has taken his time in creating his own
A second contemptuous snort filled the room. “Either way, Child, you should have made
your Society entrance. Edward will see that Darcy no longer shirks his duties. The colonel may
not have been able to prevent Darcy from denying his familial duty to Anne, but Edward has the
legal right to insist upon your Presentation. Thank goodness someone in this family understands
decency and comportment.”
Georgiana wanted to scream that her aunt’s narrow view had nothing to do with
correctness and everything to do with redress. Instead, Georgiana stood to make her exit. “We
hope soon to see you at Pemberley, Your Lordship. My brother always appreciates your
pragmatic advice, and I shall look forward to a chess rematch.”
The Matlocks followed Georgiana to their feet. Lady Matlock caught Georgiana’s hand.
“We shall see each other with Edward’s return if not before then. Give Fitzwilliam and Mrs.
Darcy our affection.”
“Yes, Ma’am.” Georgiana turned to Lady Catherine. “As always, Aunt, it’s a pleasure to
see you. I pray that you have a safe return to Kent.” Out of respect, Georgiana dropped a quick
“Come,” the countess said. “I am certain that your carriage and Mrs. Annesley await.”
* * *
“It is not much, Fitzwilliam,” Elizabeth observed as her husband assisted her from his
traveling coach. The small inn on a secondary road obviously lacked the amenities to which they
had become accustomed on this journey. No one hustled forward to help Mr. Simpson or Jasper
with the coach.
Darcy followed her gaze and tried not to frown. “If the place is clean, dry, and warm, I
will be thankful.” Icy rain pelleted the umbrella he held over their heads. “Let us see what the
man has to offer weary travelers.”
They entered the building to find a small common room with a full fire in the hearth.
Darcy released Elizabeth to the blaze’s warmth while he met the jovial innkeeper who bustled in
from the kitchen. “Good day, Sir,” the man called as he approached. Glancing at Elizabeth, he
added, “I see that you and yer missus rightly decided to seek shelter from this storm. I be Josiah
Washington, and this be Prestwick’s Portal.”
“A very alliterative name.” Darcy observed the inn’s simplicity.
“Me wife’s idea–said it sounded like an expensive painting.”
“Would you have a room to let for Mrs. Darcy’s and my safe harbor?”
The man laid a book upon a tall table serving as the registry. “Darcy?” Mr. Washington
smiled merrily. “I know of the Darcys who live in Derbyshire. You be kin to them, Sir?”
Noting the man’s age, Darcy said, “Likely my parents.”
“It be a great estate. I sees it once for me self,” the man said as he handed Darcy a pen
Darcy smiled, but he preferred not to allow Pemberley define him. At least, he had not
done so since meeting and wooing Elizabeth. His wife had taught him a difficult lesson on
Elizabeth stepped beside him. “I hope Hannah and Mr. Lucas are not stranded some place
along the road.” Darcy had sent his valet and Elizabeth’s maid ahead.
“As they left a day before us, I am certain they have missed the storm’s worst. I’m sorry
that we didn’t.” He spoke softly to her alone.
“It’s five days to Christmas Eve. We shall see Pemberley for the celebration.”
Darcy thought of the surprise he had arranged for his wife for her Christmas pleasure. He
prayed it wasn’t for naught. Although she pretended otherwise, Elizabeth had suffered greatly
from her untimely births. The losses had played havoc with his wife’s normal playfulness. The
first miscarriage had come mere months into their marriage. At the time, Mrs. Reynolds, his
housekeeper, had assured Darcy that such lapses were common, and that his wife likely did not
even realize her condition until it was over.
The second had occurred nearly a half year later. With that gestation, Pemberley had
celebrated Elizabeth’s happiness, but some three and a half months into her term, the bleeding
began. Darcy had immediately summoned a physician, but the man could do nothing for the
child. Saving Elizabeth became the treatment’s focus, and although she had recovered
physically, he often saw the longing displayed in Elizabeth’s eyes For example, when her sister
Jane Bingley mentioned motherhood’s joys, his Elizabeth died a slow, lingering death.
It explained why Elizabeth had refused to acknowledge her current condition. If she
didn’t form an attachment to the child she carried, its possible loss couldn’t bring her pain. So,
they–he, his staff, and Georgiana–had participated in a silent dance–one where those who
attended his wife ordered new dresses for her quickly changing body without her approval and
who placed foot stools close to her favorite chair, as well as who catered to her cravings for
chocolate and herring, thankfully not at the same time. No one mentioned his wife’s condition,
but they all tended to it.
“If you could do something to brighten Mrs. Darcy’s spirits, it would better your wife’s
chances of carrying to term,” Doctor Palmer had suggested less than a month ago. “The more
Mrs. Darcy dwells on her losses, the more likely a repetition will occur.”
That very day, Darcy had sent a letter to Longbourn asking the Bennets to join him and
Elizabeth for Christmas. His wife hadn’t seen her parents since the day she and Darcy had left
Hertfordshire for Pemberley. Darcy had refused to allow her to travel following each of the two
prior miscarriages, and then Elizabeth had spent two months with Mrs. Bingley’s delivery of her
twins. Kitty Bennet had visited Pemberley several times, but Elizabeth had bemoaned her
father’s absence, and even her insensible mother. Therefore, he had dispatched the invitation,
and the Bennets had readily accepted. He had carefully planned his Christmas surprise, but
Darcy hadn’t considered the weather.
“If Mr. Parnell hadn’t been so obstinate, we might already be at Pemberley,” he observed.
In truth, Parnell had snubbed Darcy’s offer, claiming it was too generous to Darcy’s smaller
investors. “You are a fool, Darcy, if you think I might involve myself in such a weak scheme. You
would give away the cow before you had one drop of milk.” Darcy had refused to do business
with such a tight-fisted man. He was all for making a profit, but not at the expense of those less
fortunate than him. He had sought out Parnell because Darcy had heard that the man was an
astute businessman, and that Parnell understood what it took for success. Instead, he had found a
bitter, conniving entrepreneur, who spoke venomous words to his employees. Darcy had been
glad to leave the negotiations behind.
“I should’ve left you at Pemberley, but I was sore to spend my nights alone or my days
without the pleasure of your laughter,” he had told Elizabeth as they waited for Mr. Washington
to arrange their room. “Quite selfish, but I find myself hopelessly addicted to your closeness.”
“I thought you admired me for my impertinence.” Darcy relished the fact that she had
teased him, a welcomed change from Elizabeth’s recent melancholy. Perhaps, his taking her with
him on this journey would promote her healing.
“Impertinence was your estimation,” he murmured close to her ear.” I sought the
liveliness of your mind.” A raised eyebrow lodged her objection. “But I lied,” he said huskily. “It
was for your skin’s creamy satin and that sprinkling of freckles across your nose.”
Elizabeth flushed. “Mr. Darcy!” she protested with a gasp.
“Yes, my Elizabeth,” he whispered seductively into her hair. “I am here to please you,
my Love.” His smile became positively smug. “You should also know that I admired your easy
playfulness, the uncommonly intelligent expression of your beautiful eyes, and your light and
Although she blushed again, and her voice was tremulous, Elizabeth beamed with joy.
She laughed, genuinely and fully, and Darcy’s heart opened further to her. It was the most
delightful sound he had ever heard. “Fitzwilliam Darcy,” she began, “I cannot fathom how I ever
thought you a prig.” He recognized how Elizabeth had chosen her words to evoke a reaction
from him, so Darcy schooled his response. “You are an absolute cad!”
“True, my Dear, but I’m your cad,” he taunted.
* * *
“Welcome to Pemberley,” Georgiana greeted Elizabeth’s family. A time had existed
when the prospects of acting as her brother’s hostess would have brought her to tears, but under
Elizabeth’s tutelage as well as her companion’s, Mrs. Annesley, guidance, Georgiana had
developed more confident.
Kitty Bennet boisterously caught Georgiana in a quick embrace. “I’m so happy to return
to Pemberley. Hertfordshire is positively humdrum.”
Georgiana smiled warmly. She and Elizabeth’s sister had fashioned a companionable
relationship over the last two years. Although Kitty didn’t share Georgiana’s interest in music
and art, they both held questions about marriage and love and men, and for Georgiana, sharing
their uncertainties had a calming effect. It said that she was not an aberration. Since the weakness
she had displayed at age fifteen, she had often questioned her own curiosity. Finding Kitty
Bennet equally at a loss for what to do to find love had served as a revelation to the awkwardly
demure Georgiana. “It is always a pleasure to see you, Kitty. You’ve been sorely missed.”
Georgiana turned her attention to the Bennets. “Mr. Bennet. Mrs. Bennet. We’re pleased
you joined us in Derbyshire.”
She followed the man’s gaze as he said, “The house is all Lizzy said it was.” The man
sighed deeply. “Where is Lizzy? I expected her to greet us with opened arms. It’s not like
Elizabeth to avoid the cold. Has life at Pemberley made my daughter soft: a real lady of leisure?”
Georgiana blinked away the comment. If she had not heard her sister Elizabeth use a
similar teasing tone, she might’ve believed Mr. Bennet’s words held true censure. At first, she
had often listened with an astonishment bordering on alarm at Elizabeth’s lively, sportive manner
of talking to Fitzwilliam, but now Georgiana accepted Elizabeth’s sharp wit as the woman’s
charm. In fact, Georgiana secretly missed Elizabeth’s barbed humor. Since Elizabeth’s last
disappointment, her brother’s wife had lost her sparkle. “Fitzwilliam is away on business. He and
Elizabeth shan’t return until tomorrow. My brother had wanted your presence at Pemberley to be
Mrs. Darcy’s surprise. You shall have time to settle in before my sister arrives.”
Mrs. Bennet caught at her daughter’s hand. “Show me Pemberley’s grandeur, Kitty.
That’s all of which you’ve spoken for months. Although neither Lizzy nor Mr. Darcy saw fit to
greet us, we shall persevere. I imagine an estate as grand as Pemberley will have a fair cup of tea
to warm my bones and to settle my nerves.”
Kitty shrugged good-naturedly as she assisted her suddenly frail mother along the
“Miss Darcy,” Mr. Bennet interrupted Georgiana’s thoughts. “You remember my
Georgiana curtsied. “Of course, I do. Welcome to Pemberley, Miss Bennet.”
“Thank you, Miss Darcy, for your hospitality.”
Mr. Bennet cleared his throat. “And this young man is Mary’s intended, Mr. Robert
Grange. Mr. Grange is a clerk in my brother’s Philips’s law firm.”
Georgiana’s eyes widened. Mr. Grange was not on Darcy’s guest list. “I extend our
Pemberley welcome, Mr. Grange.”
“Thank you for receiving me, Miss Darcy.” The spindly young man with a boyish face
bowed stiffly to Georgiana before placing Mary on his arm.
Mr. Bennet bowed formally to Georgiana and then took her hand to walk with her. “Mrs.
Bennet insisted that Mr. Grange join us. After all, Robert will soon be part of the family. Is that
not right, Grange?” Mr. Bennet said jovially over his shoulder. He leaned closer to Georgiana. “I
might require something stronger than tea to warm my old bones, Miss Darcy. Besides a fair cup
of tea, I pray Mr. Darcy also serves a respectable spot of brandy.”
Mr. Bennet grinned conspiratorially at her, and all of Georgiana’s apprehension fell to the
wayside. “Mr. Bennet, a smooth brandy and my brother’s library await you.”
* * *
“Miss Darcy,” Jane Bingley apologized. “How do I express my regrets for thrusting an
uninvited guest upon Mr. Darcy’s household? I realize your brother designed this Christmas
celebration for Elizabeth’s benefit, and my sister Miss Bingley is not among Lizzy’s devotees,
but I appreciate your accepting Caroline’s presence so graciously.”
Georgiana had accommodated a second unexpected guest with as much elegance as she
could. Although her brother would have relayed his dismay about people imposing on the
Pemberley household’s goodwill, Georgiana couldn’t follow suit. For her, serving as
Fitzwilliam’s hostess spoke of how far she had come from that girl who had foolishly consented
to an elopement. “Miss Bingley has a long-standing relationship with my family. It’s not an
imposition, Mrs. Bingley.” Georgiana motioned a waiting footman forward. “Please show Mrs.
Bingley’s nurse to the children’s rooms and ask Mrs. Reynolds to prepare a room for Miss
“You’re too kind, Miss Darcy. My husband and family are in the blue drawing room.”
With a curtsy, Elizabeth’s older sister disappeared into the house’s interior.
Feeling the agitation of being Pemberley’s “mistress,” Georgiana let out a slow breath.
She would have liked to spend private time at the pianoforte–to secret herself away from the
world, but Fitzwilliam had asked her to organize Elizabeth’s surprise, and Georgiana would do
her best. So, despite wondering whether she was designed to run any man’s household,
Georgiana straightened her shoulders. She loved Elizabeth, and her sister had suffered enough.
With a deep breath to steady her resolve, she followed Mrs. Bingley toward where her brother’s
guests waited. “Does anyone require fresh tea?” she asked as she swept into the room.
* * *
“Elizabeth, may I present Sir Jonathan Padget and Mr. Horvak. Gentlemen, my wife,
Mrs. Darcy.” Both men bowed their greetings. “Sir Jonathan and Horvak are stranded also,”
Darcy explained as he possessively placed Elizabeth on his arm.
Smiling politely, she said, “I am pleased for the acquaintance, Sir Jonathan. Mr. Horvak.”
Both men possessed a strong aristocratic look about them. Besides his clothes’ fine cut, Sir
Jonathan had chiseled, square jawed features. Horvak, tawny-haired and with roguish good
looks, maintained a powerful ease, which Elizabeth recognized in her own husband. Wealthy and
titled men held many of the same qualities.
“Please join us, Mrs. Darcy.” Horvak held her chair.
“Your husband was just explaining his difficult negotiations with Mr. Parnell.” Sir
Jonathan gestured with an ale glass in his hand. “It is not surprising. Both Horvak and I have
tangled with Parnell previously. A man wishing to ship out of Newcastle or Middlesbrough has
to go through William Parnell.”
“Parnell is as tenacious as they come,” Mr. Horvak reported. “But one cannot totally
blame the man. Brought himself to prominence with hard work and diligence.”
“Does Mr. Parnell have a family?” Elizabeth asked in curiosity. When Darcy had related
conversations with the man, Elizabeth had wondered what had made Parnell so negative in his
Horvak shrugged his shoulders. “I couldn’t say for certain, Mrs. Darcy. Parnell spends
countless hours at his office or down by the docks. The man neglects his wife if he’s taken
wedding vows; that would be a fact.”
“It’s also a fact that Parnell is one of the area’s richest men. If he’s married, Parnell’s
wife wants for nothing but his company.”
* * *
“And you shall leave me stranded in Derbyshire without family with less than a week
before Christmastide?” Lady Catherine argued with her brother.
The earl expelled exasperation’s sigh; he had tried repeatedly to reason with his sister.
“Catherine, the eventual heir to this title is about to be born, and I plan to be with my son when
his child comes into this world. Rowland has sent word that it is only a matter of days before
Amelia delivers forth her first child. The countess insists that we travel to William’s Wood. You
could always journey with us. I am certain that Rowland would welcome you and Anne.”
“But not Mr. and Mrs. Collins,” she declared. “I have promised the Collinses return
transportation to Kent. Collins visits a cousin in Warrington. In fact, I have asked the Collinses
to join me here. I am ever attentive to my duties.”
The earl’s jaw set. “You invited your clergyman’s family to my home?” His voice
increased in volume. “Catherine, sometimes you forget yourself. I had thought that you simply
arranged their journey as you’re common to do,” he said through gritted teeth. “Dear Sister, you
may rule Rosings Park in lieu of Lewis De Bourgh, but Matley Manor is under my domain. I
invite the guests!”
Lady Catherine’s eyebrow rose in disbelief. “You’d deny the Collinses? This was my
childhood home, Martin,” she asserted.
“The house will be closed while the countess and I are in Lincolnshire. I planned to
release the staff on Christmas Day anyway. You may choose to accompany me and Her
Ladyship to William’s Wood, or you may return to Kent.” He slammed his fist on a nearby
table’s edge, sending china and silver to the floor.
“Well, I never!” Lady Catherine sputtered.
The earl shoved to his feet. “Never what, Catherine?” he accused. “Never considered
anyone else’s opinions? Never showed true condescension? Never offered your genuine
condolences? Never expressed love? There are so many things that you’ve never done, that I’m
at a loss as to which one you mean!” He strode from the room without looking back.
* * *
“We had planned to wait for Mr. and Mrs. Darcy’s return,” Charles Bingley announced to
those gathered in Pemberley’s small dining room, “but I cannot keep a secret.” Bingley lovingly
reached for his wife’s hand. “In June, Mrs. Bingley and I will welcome a new addition to our
The Bennets immediately congratulated their eldest, but Georgiana withheld her
felicitations. She recognized how this news would “kill” Elizabeth, especially if her brother’s
wife failed in her own delivery; and even though she desperately wished for her brother and
sister’s speedy return, Georgiana was happy that Elizabeth didn’t have to witness this display.
“Oh, Jane, how smart you are,” Mrs. Bennet declared. “You’ve already given Mr.
Bingley an heir and a daughter. “Now, you will give your dear husband his spare. Another son. I
just know it shall be another son.”
“I note your lack of enthusiasm,” Caroline Bingley whispered conspiratorially. “I
thoroughly understand your disdain. My brother has aligned our family with an inferior
bloodline, and, unfortunately, so has yours.”
Irritated that Miss Bingley had thought her so debase as to wish Elizabeth’s sister not to
know happiness, Georgiana warned, “Be careful, Miss Bingley. Your speech smacks of
disappointment.” As soon as the words escaped her lips, Georgiana would’ve taken them back.
They were uncharacteristic.
“My,” Miss Bingley began. “I see Mrs. Darcy’s lack of decorum has permeated your
normally sweet nature, Georgiana,” Caroline sweetly hissed.
Georgiana stiffened. “If I could have even half of Elizabeth’s courage or her intelligence,
I’d consider myself a fortunate being.” She shot a glance at Mrs. Annesley, who nodded her
approval. Needing to escape an embarrassing situation, Georgiana stood. “If the ladies will join
me in the music room, the gentlemen may see to their cigars. Miss Bennet has agreed to entertain
us this evening. Mr. Grange, I shall charge you with seeing that Mr. Bingley and Mr. Bennet do
Her notice brought embarrassment. “Of course, Miss Darcy.”
“Ladies,” she intoned and led the way from the room.
* * *
“If you gentlemen will excuse me,” Elizabeth said as she stood. The small inn possessed
only six rooms to let, and different gentlemen, each driven to seek shelter from the elements,
occupied four of them. Two farmers, Mr. Betts and Mr. Dylan–strangers before the storm–had
agreed to share the last available room, meaning she remained the single female. Feeling quite
conspicuous, Elizabeth had chosen to withdraw to allow the men some freedom. There was no
private room where they might take up their cards and cigars and drink. Instead, the eclectic
group shared the common room.
Darcy reached for her hand. “I will accompany you, Mrs. Darcy.”
Elizabeth smiled at him. She knew he worried for her health, and she fooled no one
regarding her condition, but it was important to her to take control of this pregnancy. She had to
deliver on her own terms. And so she had tolerated Darcy’s oscillating presence. Her husband
meant well, and she counted herself a lucky woman. What female would deny a highly
intelligent and caring man’s company? Besides, Elizabeth considered her husband more than just
a bit attractive: Fitzwilliam Darcy was a fine specimen, and she often found herself with
unladylike wanton thoughts. In fact, she considered him roughishly beautiful and heartstoppingly
seductive, and even after two years, Darcy’s charms–the same charms that she once
adamantly denied–made her vulnerable. “You may, most assuredly, escort me, but I would
encourage you to join the gentlemen in cards or talk of sport.”
“I will consider it, Mrs. Darcy.”
Elizabeth simply nodded her understanding. They had traveled together because Darcy
had refused to permit her being out of his care. Her husband had portrayed his business trip as an
opportunity for Elizabeth to see a part of England she had never experienced, as well as a means
to purchase unique Christmas gifts. He even subtly suggested that she might visit with her sister
Lydia when they stayed in Newcastle. And although she appreciated her husband’s attentiveness,
she wouldn’t believe that Darcy was unaware of the fact that Lydia and Mr. Wickham had left
Newcastle for Carlisle some three months prior. More than likely, her husband had had a hand in
Mr. Wickham’s transfer. Darcy had seen to Lydia’s marriage when no one else could assist the
Bennets in locating Mr. Wickham. Unabashedly aware of her sister Lydia’s propensity for
profligacy, Elizabeth did what she could to keep her youngest sister from the poor house. The
Wickhams were extravagant in their wants and heedless of the future. They were always
spending more than they ought. By practicing what might be called economy in her own private
expenses, Elizabeth had frequently sent her sister additional funds, but it was not enough to
prevent the Wickhams from moving from place to place in quest of a cheaper situation.
Darcy stepped into the room with her before gathering Elizabeth into his embrace.
Without prelude, he kissed her thoroughly. “I’ve been wanting to do that for the last two hours.”
He trailed a line of wet kisses down her neck. “I never tire of touching you,” he rasped.
Quickly enticed by his heat, Elizabeth’s eyes fluttered closed as she whispered huskily,
“For too long, I tried to keep my heart safe.”
He teased, “You could not. Not even when you were wretchedly blind to my finer
Elizabeth chuckled ironically and pressed herself to him. “I did once gratify my vanity in
useless mistrust. I’ve courted prepossession and ignorance, and I once drove reason away.” She
felt her husband’s deep steadying breath and his instant hardness along her thigh. I wish I’d
known before how gullible men are to words of loyalty, she thought. “In essentials, my Love, you
are very much what you ever were.”
“And you love me that way?” he rasped as his mouth slid along her collarbone.
“I love you in every way possible, Mr. Darcy.” Elizabeth snaked her arms about his neck.
Darcy kissed her deeply before reluctantly releasing her. “I shan’t tarry long.” He
straightened his coat’s lines. “I was never a card player.” He glanced about the room to see that
the maid had stoked the fire as he had instructed. “Keep the door locked,” he instructed. “I’ll
knock upon my return. One never knows how a man will act when he has nothing to do but to
“Do you expect trouble?” she said with a touch of concern.
Darcy shook his head in the negative. “Just trying to anticipate the possibilities,” he
mumbled. “Trying to protect my wife.”
“You have my permission, Mr. Darcy, to cater to my needs as often as you please.”
Elizabeth went on tiptoes to kiss his chin line while a slight smile crossed his face.
* * *
“Thank you,” Kitty whispered as Georgiana passed her in the drawing room.
Georgiana’s eyes scanned the room, making sure her brother’s guests found adequate
refreshments. “I gladly accept your gratitude, Miss Kitty,” she mumbled. “But I’m at a loss as to
what I’ve done to earn it.”
Kitty observed Georgiana’s countenance closely. She had admired Mr. Darcy’s sister
from the beginning of their acquaintance. With Lydia’s speedy marriage, Kitty had been left with
no confidant and little confidence in her own ability to attract a man. Fortunately, Jane and
Elizabeth had stepped in–had brought Kitty to Pemberley and to Mr. Bingley’s estate in
neighboring Cheshire. Her elder sisters had introduced Kitty to young women and men of
quality. While at Pemberley, Kitty had found a copemate in Georgiana Darcy. “I overheard your
conversation with Miss Bingley regarding Lizzy.”
Georgiana kept her eyes on the room, but she said softly, “Elizabeth is my sister, and as a
Darcy, her name is mine to protect. However, even if it was not so, I would defend Elizabeth. It
is the least I could do for all she’s given me: acceptance, understanding, compassion, conviction,
and you, Kitty.” She finally looked at her friend. “Yes, Kitty, Elizabeth’s gift of her own sister
was one of her greatest. I desperately needed someone with whom to share my childhood
musings. Luckily, for me, you, too, sought such consociation. We’ve done well together, and, for
that, I owe Elizabeth my allegiance.”
Kitty flushed from the notice. “You honor me, Miss Darcy.” Emotions washing through
her, Kitty’s eyes filled with tears. “Those early days were awkward for us, but our amity pleases
me. We’ve come quite adept at recognizing the best in each other.”
“That we have.” Georgiana smiled reassuringly. “As such, until Elizabeth’s return, would
you assist me in seeing to everyone’s needs. You’re familiar with Pemberley’s inner workings.”
“I’d be pleased . . . very pleased.”
* * *
“Have you recently spent time in London, Miss Bingley?” Mrs. Bennet had cornered the
woman near the pianoforte.
Caroline’s eyes hardened in disapproval. “I’m often in London, Mrs. Bennet, as well as
Edinburgh. I travel to my friends’ country seats when Society is not in Season,” she intoned
“I certainly would have no objection to time in London, but Mr. Bennet hates town.”
Mrs. Bennet announced a bit louder than necessary.
Caroline smiled mockingly. “If you were to spend time in London, Mrs. Bennet, where
might you stay? If Mr. Bennet despises London, it’s not likely that he maintains a home in the
Mrs. Bennet ignored the woman’s tone. Although she was well aware of her social abyss,
she let nothing dissuade her, and unlike those who thought themselves above her, she had
succeeded where others had failed. Despite her financial situation, she had married off three
daughters and a fourth had made a respectable match. Only Kitty remained unattached. Jane and
Elizabeth had married well, especially Elizabeth. “My brother and sister Gardiner maintain a
London home,” Mrs. Bennet declared.
Miss Bingley replied with feigned graciousness. “Oh, yes. That would be the brother in
Cheapside, would it not?”
“And you find Cheapside below you, Miss Bingley? If I recall, you once called upon my
Jane at my sister Gardiner’s home. Did you find it lacking?”
Miss Bingley said through gritted teeth, “It was a most pleasant house for that part of the
city, but you must understand, Mrs. Bennet, that the Gardiners’ home cannot be compared to
those in Mayfair. A man who lives where he might oversee his warehouses wouldn’t be accepted
in the finest homes.”
“As your father earned his money in trade, and your brother maintains those connections,
I’m surprised, Miss Bingley, that you receive invitations to ton events. Perhaps that’s why you
cling so tightly to your Pemberley association.” Having the upper hand, Mrs. Bennet strode
Claiming a cup of tea, she took a chair close to where Mary rifled through sheet music.
She would never tell anyone how out of place she felt as she took in the Pemberley’s splendor:
the spacious lobby, the elegantly decorated sitting rooms, the large, well-proportioned dining
room, and the family portrait gallery. She’d known from Jane’s and Elizabeth’s descriptions that
Mr. Darcy held extensive wealth, but even she couldn’t have conceived of the disparity between
her own existence and that of her least-favorite daughter. She loved Elizabeth, but her second
child had defied her at every turn. Elizabeth was Mr. Bennet’s daughter: Her husband and Lizzy
had shared a love for reading and a fondness for twisting the King’s English. Neither of which
she cared to think on.
Taking a sip of tea, she settled smugly into the chair’s cushions. At least, between Jane
and Elizabeth, she wouldn’t live in poverty when Mr. Bennet passed. It was that particular fear
that had driven her to beg Elizabeth to marry Mr. Collins. Longbourn was entailed upon the man,
and she’d thought it might remain in her control if the clergyman had chosen one of her
daughters. Collins had eventually proposed to Elizabeth, but her daughter had vehemently
refused the man–leaving the family in limbo. She had cajoled and threatened, but Lizzy had
persevered. Now, it seemed that her second child had proven herself most astute in her denial of
Collins. “Mr. Darcy holds Elizabeth in deepest regard,” her husband had assured her when he
had announced their daughter’s impending marriage. She hadn’t believed it, at first. Elizabeth
and Mr. Darcy had appeared to scorn each other. How was she to know that the man possessed a
tendre for Lizzy? How was she to know any of it when no one thought her worthy of his trust?
The gentlemen joined them in a timely manner, and everyone prepared to enjoy Mary’s
performance. Yet, before they could begin, Georgiana stepped forward. “By this time tomorrow,
Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth will have returned to Pemberley. My brother wished to surprise his
with your presence. Our Elizabeth has missed you deeply, and she speaks of her Hertfordshire
family with fondness. Traditionally, we decorate the Pemberley’s halls the evening before
Christmas, but I’m hoping that you’ll join me tomorrow as I undertake that task a few days early.
I wish for my family to return to a fully bedecked household–to step into a Christmastide
Jane piped up. “I love gathering greenery. Mr. Bingley and I shall join you, Miss Darcy.”
“As will I,” Kitty added.
“Miss Bennet and I are at your disposal,” Mr. Grange said from his waiting position
behind Mary. He would turn the pages for his intended.
“I’m not as young as I would like, but I can still use a saw long enough to cut evergreen
Mrs. Bennet dropped her eyes. Never very athletic nor one to enjoy the outdoors, she
didn’t want to tramp across the lawns. “Perhaps, I might better serve by adding my expertise to
your housekeeper’s efforts.”
“Of course,” Georgiana said earnestly. “Mrs. Reynolds will appreciate your ideas.”
Caroline snickered, drawing attention to the fact that she had made no commitment.
“What?” she snapped.
“Will you join us, Caroline?” Jane asked softly.
“I think not,” she said with indifference. “I rarely rise before noon, but, more importantly,
domesticity is not my forte.”
Kitty noted Georgiana’s disappointment. “As you wish, Miss Bingley,” Kitty said pertly.
“Now, Mary, what will you play for us?” She wouldn’t permit Miss Bingley to destroy
Georgiana’s plans. “Come, Miss Darcy, you’re to sit with me. When Mary finishes, we shall
make a list of what we need to give Pemberley a festive look.”
* * *
Left alone, Elizabeth instinctively sought her small traveling box. Changing into a
nightrail and dressing gown, she curled up in a chair before the fire and unwrapped a beribboned
bundle of letters. When Darcy spent the time away from the estate, she often reread his letters. It
was her way of keeping him close. Of course, the bundle held that infamous first letter, the one
he had written to Elizabeth after his Hunsford proposal. She had once promised to burn it, but
would fight anyone who thought to truly do so. It was the letter that changed her life–gave her a
true understanding of the man so necessary to her existence.
Sitting before the blaze’s warmth, Elizabeth easily remembered how with his second
proposal, Darcy had mentioned his letter. “Did it,” said he, “did it soon make you think better of
me? Did you on reading it, give any credit to its contents?”
She had tried to allay his fears. She had explained what its effect had had on her and how
gradually all her former prejudices had been removed.
“I knew,” said he, “that what I wrote must give you pain, but it was necessary. I hope
you have destroyed the letter.” Of course, she had not. Elizabeth had read and reread it so often
that she could recite it by heart. “There was one part,” Darcy had continued, “especially the
opening of it, which I should dread your having the power of reading again.” It was so typical of
her husband to worry that his words had brought her mental suffering. She loved him dearly for
his compassion. “I can remember some expressions which might justly make you hate me.” As if
she could hate a man who had unselfishly saved her family from ruin.
Elizabeth had seized the opportunity to protect him–to let Mr. Darcy know that she
welcomed his renewed attentions. “The letter shall certainly be burnt, if you believed it essential
to the preservation of my regard; but, though we have both reason to think my opinions not
entirely unalterable, they are not, I hope, quite so easily changed as that implies.” Yet, she had
not burnt that first letter or any of the others that followed. For a man who was abashedly silent
at the most social of times, her husband was absolutely eloquent when he put pen to paper.
Starting with the morning after their wedding night, Darcy had marked poignant moments with
personal notes left on her pillow. She would wake to find what he couldn’t say in person.
Tonight, she began her reading with that wedding night homage to their love: “My Dearest,
Loveliest Elizabeth,” she read aloud.
My Dearest, Loveliest Elizabeth,
As I sit at this desk in awe of the most splendid of gifts that
you have offered me this night, my heart overflows with love. The
loneliness has dissipated, and I do not speak of the physical
closeness we shared last evening–as exquisite as it was–I speak of
the happiness that you have brought to my life and to Pemberley.
From the beginning, you destroyed my hard-earned peace, and
many times I found myself spiraling out of control, but I would,
willingly, suffer the pain again to know you for one day–one hour,
even. You are everything–firmly planted are my hopes–you are the
coming chapters of my life’s book.
A tear slid down her cheek, but Elizabeth didn’t whisk it away. He had rattled her senses
that night. Rattled. Shaken. Turned her world upside down in the most tantalizing ways. Her
heart had pounded so intensely when she’d looked upon her husband for the first time: It had
mimicked the cadence of his as Darcy drew her into his embrace. Unbelievable desire had
coursed through her–ricocheted through her body and devoured her soul. Luckily, she’d spoken
quite frankly with her Aunt Gardiner prior to the wedding night. If not, his power over her might
have frightened Elizabeth. Instead, she’d viewed it as a challenge, and although she’d allowed
Darcy to lead, she’d learned to exercise her own power. Elizabeth loved it when he surrendered
to her–when he couldn’t deny her.
A smile turned up her mouth’s corners. They were good together–the absolute best. Her
hand instinctively rested on her abdomen. “Please God,” she whispered. “This time . . . please.”
She wanted so desperately to prove to Darcy and to the world that she was worthy of being the
Mistress of Pemberley–worthy of his love.
For the next hour, Elizabeth thumbed through the various notes and letters. Two of them,
she’d left folded–letters Darcy had left after each miscarriage. Ignoring them didn’t mean that
she’d never read them–quite the reverse. They were two of her favorites, but she held the strong
belief that this gestation would prove successful if she could control all the outside forces–
neither too much gaiety nor too much hardness nor too much melancholy. She would keep an
evenness–an equable, systematic, methodical order. Maybe then, God would see fit to reward her
with the child she desperately wanted.
“Maybe it’s my punishment–for pride’s sin. I once thought too highly of my own
intelligence and not enough of Fitzwilliam’s inherent goodness.” Mr. Darcy’s constancy had
never ceased to amaze her. She could not think of Darcy without feeling that she had been blind,
partial, prejudiced, and absurd. Fixed there by the keenest of all anguish and self-reproach, she
could find no interval of ease or forgetfulness. “Punish me, God,” she whispered. “Not him. My
husband is the best of men.”
Swallowing back her tears, Elizabeth put the letters away. A few moments later, Darcy’s
knock announced his return. He kissed her cheek upon his entrance. “I see you’ve managed
without my serving as your maid,” he remarked as he strode past her.
“I didn’t realize you wished to assume Hannah’s duties, Mr. Darcy,” Elizabeth said
teasingly as she closed and locked the door behind him.
Darcy turned toward her, a smug smile gracing his lips. “I’m more adept at removal of
garments, Mrs. Darcy.”
She crossed the room and crawled into the bed. “I’ll keep that in mind, Sir, in case you
ever need a reference letter.”
Darcy watched his wife carefully, trying to take his cue from her. “Did you find
something entertaining to do?” He removed his jacket and draped it over a chair’s back and then
turned his attention to his cravat.
“Just some quiet time,” she said as she draped the blanket across her lap.
Darcy continued to undress before stoking the fire again with more coal and kindling.
“We may be here a couple of days, Elizabeth,” he informed her as he joined her under the wool
blankets. “Two more gentlemen have taken shelter. They came north from Manchester. They
said it was just beginning in the south when they left, but it turned icier the further north they
traveled.” He blew out the lone candle.
“How in the world did Mr. Washington accommodate them?” she asked with some
“Mr. Horvak and Sir Jonathan graciously agreed to double up.”
Elizabeth turned into his embrace as Darcy slid his arm under her pillow. She rested her
head upon his shoulder. “Then I’m still the only female among Mr. Washington’s guests.”
Darcy heard the tentativeness in her tone. “I will protect you, Elizabeth.”
“I know, Fitzwilliam. I’m just being foolish.”
* * *
“Mother, we cannot,” Anne De Bourgh offered her weak protest. She’d have liked to say
more, but Anne had never taken a stand with Lady Catherine–with anyone, for that matter. Never
rendered formidable by silence, whatever Lady Catherine said was spoken in so authoritative a
tone as marked her self-importance. Anne often wished she could replicate even a quarter of her
mother’s unflappable nature.
“And why not, may I ask? We cannot travel to William’s Wood. Observe the roads,
Child.” Anne peered through the frosty coach window at the sand-like peppering of the ice
pellets on the roadside. A sheen of frigid crystals accumulated in every rut and opening. “Mr.
Swank’s an excellent coachman, for I’d have none without his expertise, but even he’s having
difficulty keeping the coach on the road. Martin has released the staff at Matley Manor. Where
else would you have us seek shelter?”
“An inn,” Anne rationalized.
Lady Catherine chortled. “You wish to spend Christmas in a common inn? Sometimes I
wonder if the midwife didn’t switch out my child with one of lesser born, but then I recall Sir
Lewis’s reticence, and I know you to be his. The poor man nearly had an apoplexy when he
asked my late father for my hand. As dear of a man as ever walked the earth, but he’d have
allowed the lowest laborer to walk away with Rosings Park if I hadn’t insisted otherwise.”
“Yes, Mother,” Anne said obediently.
“Yes, you wish to spend your Christmas at an inn or yes, your mother is correct about
your father’s faintheartedness.”
“Yes to the dire situation that the roads present,” Anne said–the closest she’d ever come
to defiance. Her mother’s frequent remarks about Anne’s father always irritated her. Anne’s
world of love and carefree acceptance died with the late baronet.
Lady Catherine said smugly, “Then you agree that we should seek Pemberley’s shelter?”
“What if Mr. Darcy refuses us admittance?” Anne asked apprehensively.
Lady Catherine sighed deeply. “Were you not listening to Georgiana when she
announced that Darcy and that woman he calls his wife were away from Pemberley? Even with
that touch of mettle that I noted on this last visit to Matlock, your cousin lacks neither civility nor
good manners. She’ll welcome us.”
“And when Mr. Darcy returns?”
Lady Catherine smiled knowingly. “The man’s a Darcy. Like his father, Fitzwilliam will
snidely deliver a lecture regarding my duty to his wife, and then he’ll welcome the
inconvenience. He shall wear his triumphant over me as honor’s badge.”
Still seeking a way to change her mother’s mind, Anne reasoned, “I wouldn’t wish you to
feel Mr. Darcy’s contempt, Your Ladyship. A common inn would be better than your losing face
within the family.”
Lady Catherine laughed softly. “Do you think I’d permit any man dominion over me? All
the time Darcy lords his condescion, I shall have the knowledge that I managed to walk
uninvited into his home, and there was nothing he could do about it, except to allow me the
choice of where I wish to spend the festive days. Darcy is bound to receive me by duty; I’ll stay
at Pemberley by choice.”
Anne observed, “The Mistress of Pemberley may have other plans.”
A snarl of her aristocratic nose signaled Lady Catherine’s distaste. “The former Miss
Bennet shall never defy Mr. Darcy.” Even as she said the words, Lady Catherine recalled
Elizabeth Bennet’s obstinacy. “Are you lost to every feeling of propriety and delicacy?” she had
argued with the girl. “Have you not heard me say that from his earliest hours he was destined for
And Elizabeth Bennet had stood there–defiant as ever when she said, “Yes; and I had
heard it before. But what is that to me? If there is no other objection to my marrying your
nephew, I shall certainly not be kept from it by knowing that his mother and aunt wished him to
marry Miss De Bourgh. You both did as much as you could in planning the marriage; its
completion depended on others. If Mr. Darcy is neither by honor nor inclination confined to his
cousin, why is not he to make another choice? And if I am that choice, why not I accept him?”
“Oh, yes,” Lady Catherine thought, “the girl was quite capable of defying Darcy. And what
better way to put a chink in their reportedly marital bliss?”
She’d done her best to align Anne with Darcy, but her daughter had always feigned
illness rather than to interact with the society. In the early days, she had fought her only child,
but her efforts brought Anne such physical pain that after awhile, she’d abandoned her efforts to
bring Anne to heel and had concentrated her administrations on her sister’s only son, trying to
reason with Darcy–to make him see the match’s advantage. However, her nephew foiled the best
of Lady Catherine’s plans.
“Despite her poor connections, Mrs. Darcy holds social graces. She’ll extend her
welcome to her husband’s family.”
Anne wanted to argue further. To convince her mother of how incogitant it was to impose
themselves on the Darcys, especially at Christmastide. To speak of Her Ladyship’s own poor
manners. But Anne could never find her voice when meeting her mother’s close inspection. She
truly possessed her father’s personality, and as much as Anne missed him–missed the feeling of
belonging that Sir Lewis provided his only child, moments existed when she wished more for
Mrs. Darcy’s ability to thwart Lady Catherine’s plans.
Although she desired her own home and family, Anne had understood that her marrying
Darcy was never a reality. The man intimidated her. Even as a boy, Darcy had tormented her
shyness, claiming it a weakness. Despite being more than a bit humiliating, Anne actually found
that amusing. Better than anyone else, she recognized diffidence in both Darcy and Georgiana.
She’d always thought Darcy amplified her faults in order to disguise his own tendency along
“It’ll be agreeable to spend Christ’s birthday with family,” Anne observed. “To have Mr.
Darcy’s good favor again. To know an end to this feud. I’ve truly missed Fitzwilliam and
“Do not fool yourself, Child,” Lady Catherine warned. “Mr. Darcy’s forgiveness shall be
late coming, and if you imagine that I’m of the persuasion to guard my usual frankness in
reference to my nephew’s marital nearsightedness, you’ll be sadly disappointed. Only when Mr.
Darcy admits his mistake shall I extend my forbearance.”
Silently, Anne groaned. She knew from private moments with Georgiana at Matlock that
Mr. Darcy violently loved the former Elizabeth Bennet. Add that fact to his reluctance to admit
any weakness. Therefore, it wasn’t likely that he would give Lady Catherine any satisfaction.
They’d intrude on the Darcys’ Christmas–ruining the day for everyone.
* * *
“Do you suppose that Georgiana is safe?” Elizabeth asked as she and Darcy shared
breakfast in the inn’s limited seating area.
“Georgiana is fine,” he assured. “She was to return to Pemberley two days prior, but even
if my sister was delayed, my Uncle Matlock would see to her safety.”
Elizabeth looked longingly at the snowy landscape through the icy laced windowpanes.
“Might we take a short walk, Fitzwilliam?” she asked, lost in her own world.
Darcy recognized her need for daily exercise. Traveling for two days had left Elizabeth
confined to his traveling coach. More often than he should, Darcy recalled how Charles
Bingley’s sister, Caroline, had criticized Elizabeth for his wife’s preference in walking. “To walk
three miles, or four miles, or five miles, or whatever it is, above her ankles in dirt, and alone,
quite alone! What could she mean by it? It seems to me to show an abominable sort of conceited
independence, a most country-town indifference to decorum.”
Darcy smiled knowingly. “I would love some time outdoors,” he responded genuinely.
“Especially with you.” He teasingly waggled his eyebrows.
His amusing attempt to ease her qualms spoke of Darcy’s love. Elizabeth drew in a deep–
determined–definitive breath. “Why is it?” she whispered. “Why, after two years, do I still see
you as I did on our wedding night?”
Darcy felt his groin tighten: She had that effect on him. And Elizabeth had just uttered
the most provocative thought wrapped in a cloak of sentimentality. Something else she did with
regularity. It kept him akilter–topsy-turvy. He would be going about his duties as Pemberley’s
master, and his wife would say something inviting, and his thoughts were lost to her. It had been
that way from the beginning: Elizabeth would challenge him with a pert curve turning up her
mouth’s corner. Lord, help him! The woman had no idea how crazy she drove him!
“Because I love you. From the day I met you, I saw us–Us the way life should be,” he
murmured close to her ear.
He noted the memory of heated sensations in his wife’s eyes as his breath’s warmth
caressed her neck. “I may return to my bed before the walk,” she seductively said.
Darcy warmed from the inside out. He stood slowly. “A man should see his wife to their
chamber.” He held out his hand. Elizabeth placed her fingers into his palm, and his grasp closed
tightly about them.
* * *
“Does everyone have a hat and gloves?” Bingley asked as he surveyed the group gathered
in Pemberley’s main foyer. “Last evening held an icy mix. Watch your step and stay close
“Do not forget the mistletoe,” Kitty taunted good-naturedly.
Georgiana motioned toward the house’s rear. “If we exit through the upper gardens we
can reach the woods in half the time and distance.”
“Lead on, Miss Darcy,” Mr. Bennet proposed. “You know the best way.”
* * *
Elizabeth waited patiently as Darcy spoke to Mr. Washington about the area surrounding
the inn. They had spent the last hour in bed, and now they would walk off the remainder of their
‘being stranded’ frustrations. Although the facilities were adequate, Elizabeth would prefer her
own home at Christmas. With Mrs. Reynolds’s assistance, she’d planned the decorations. Her
first Christmastide at Pemberley, she was still a bride–less than two months married, and
Elizabeth had bowed to Pemberley’s long-time housekeeper’s wishes. Having celebrated her
second wedding anniversary in November, this was to be her third Christmas as Pemberley’s
mistress and her first at planning the Tenants’ celebration. She’d hate to leave final preparations
Christmas in this dreary inn would be a sorry excuse for a holiday if the roads didn’t clear
soon. Looking about the room, Elizabeth’s eyes fell on Darcy. She sighed deeply. At least, they
were together. Being at Pemberley meant nothing if her husband was elsewhere.
“A copper for your thoughts,” Darcy said as he approached.
Elizabeth bestowed a brilliant smile upon him. “I’d just considered how fortunate I am to
be your wife. To be at Pemberley would be heavenly, but not without your presence. Though I
must admit that sometimes when we’re there, I imagine our hearts beating in tandem.” Her
frankness always appeared to have the oddest effect Darcy. His eyes devoured her.
“Even when I thought I’d lost you forever, I lived with hope. Thankfully, you became my
forever, Elizabeth,” he murmured softly.
“You have me now, Mr. Darcy,” she said, keeping her voice light.
His steely gray eyes turned onyx. “And I bless each day because of your love.”
As they stared lovingly at each other, the innkeeper’s wife hustled toward the kitchen,
and Elizabeth impulsively turned to the woman. “Mrs. Washington.”
“Yes, Mrs. Darcy?” The pleasingly plump woman brushed a hair’s strand from her
Elizabeth caught Darcy’s hand to pull him along with her as she approached the
harrowed-looking woman. “I realize you’re terribly busy and probably haven’t considered how
close Christmas Day might be.”
The woman sighed deeply. “Me and Mr. Washington planned a quiet day, but the English
weather be having other ideas.”
“Would you mind, Ma’am, if Mr. Darcy and I cut some greenery and brought it back to
the inn? A bit of the festive days?”
“Are you sure, Elizabeth?” Darcy asked. She knew he worried she might over do it.
“Please, Fitzwilliam. I want Christmas; I really want Christmas at Pemberley, but if that
proves impossible, I want Christmas here. I cannot tolerate bare rooms and nothing recognizing
the day’s meaning.”
Darcy nodded. She noted something secretive-like passed over his countenance, but
Elizabeth assumed he had bought her something expensive, and it awaited her at Pemberley. “I’ll
see if I can recruit several of the other gentlemen. We’ll cut the branches while you supervise,
Elizabeth. I’m sure Padget and Horvak will want some exercise.” He started away to where the
men sat playing cards.
“See if any of the gents be interested in some hunting,” Mrs. Washington said to Darcy’s
He turned to her. “Why is that necessary, Ma’am? Is there something we should know?”
“Well, Mr. Washington be unhappy with me mentioning it, but we didn’t plan for so
many guests for the days before Christmas. Supplies be getting’ a bit low. Feeding ten folks, yor
help, plus our workers and arn selves takes a bit of doing.”
“I will ask,” Darcy assured her. “Are there guns available if anyone is interested?”
“I sees to it, Mr. Darcy.”
* * *
“Lady Catherine!” Mr. Nathan blustered as he helped the woman with her cloak. “I was
unaware of your arrival, Ma’am.”
Lady Catherine ignored Darcy’s servant. “Where is my niece? I must speak to Miss
Darcy. Is there no one to greet me in this great house?”
A woman Her Ladyship didn’t recognize stepped into the hallway from the morning
room. “May I be of assistance, Your Ladyship?”
Lady Catherine menacingly said, “Who might you be, and why are you serving as hostess
in my niece’s stead?”
Obviously disconcerted by her question, the woman flustered. “Bingley . . . I am Miss
Bingley,” she stammered. “Charles Bingley . . . Mr. Darcy’s friend is my brother. Charles and
Mrs. Bingley have joined Miss Darcy in the nearby woods to gather greenery for the holiday
“I see,” Lady Catherine scowled. Although she was well aware that the woman standing
before her had once held aspirations of being Mrs. Darcy, Her Ladyship had never met Mr.
Darcy’s friend. Normally, Lady Catherine would consider making the woman an ally in
convincing Darcy to be civil during her intrusion; however, despite Miss Bingley’s social graces,
Lady Catherine considered the woman below the current Mrs. Darcy. Miss Bingley may have
more money and a better education than the former Elizabeth Bennet, but Mr. Bingley’s father
had dealt in trade. Miss Bingley was a Cit! Disregarding the lady’s offer of assistance, Lady
Catherine instructed Darcy’s staff. “Miss Anne and her companion shall require an adjoining
suite, and I shall have my usual chambers.”
“I have already sent word to Mrs. Reynolds, Your Ladyship. Would you care to join Miss
Bingley in the morning room?”
Lady Catherine glanced at where Miss Bingley waited patiently. “I think not, Mr. Nathan.
We had an early breakfast at my brother Matlock’s. Some tea and biscuits shall be sufficient.
Anne and I shall await Miss Darcy in the small drawing room.”
Mr. Nathan bowed obediently. “I will have someone see to the hearth and send a footman
to find Miss Darcy.” He led the way to the room. “I will serve the tea myself, Ma’am.”
Proud to a fan of Austen Authors!
Re: Christmas at Pemberley (early draft)
Reply #1 on:
August 08, 2011, 03:24:07 PM »
This is great read!! I can't wait until this book is released. I have had it on pre-order at Amazon since it became available. This small part was like just being allowed to eat only one potato chip - now I want the hole bag (book to read). Thanks!
The Writer's Block
Teatime with Austen
Christmas at Pemberley (early draft)
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