Please vote for my cover art this week on Author Shout Cover Wars. Twice Betrothed This is a fun contest and the winner becomes the featured author for one week on Author Shout. One daily vote… More
Stir-Up Sunday, November 25, 2018, is the day when the traditional Christmas pudding is made, giving it five weeks for the flavours to combine. On that day, everyone in the family takes a turn to stir the pudding and make a secret wish.
How would our favorite Pride and Prejudice characters observed that day? I explore those possibilities here.
Pride and Pudding
November 24, 1811
The holiday season had finally come! Despite the relentless rain on Sunday morning, the residents of Meryton listened with rapt attention as the vicar recited the special prayer during Sunday services:
“Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” [i]
This simple prayer, while noble in its own right, encouraging the people to do good works, was taken quite literally. On Stir-Up Sunday, the preparation of the Christmas pudding would begin throughout the kingdom. In the minds of many of the worshipers, the ‘fruit’ referred to the sweet fruits that would be mixed into the dessert. The ‘rewards’ would be the granting of their wishes, made while stirring the ingredients. For the children in attendance, the promise of a sweet treat induced happy memories. Of course, the youngsters were not alone in their anticipation of the annual dessert.
Most of Mr. Bennet’s daughters could hardly be considered children; all five had come out to society. The Bennets had observed the tradition at Longbourn every year since his own childhood and this Sunday would be no exception. He had personally instructed his girls on the significance of each aspect of this annual tradition. Once his family had arrived home from church, Mr. Bennet assembled them all in the kitchen to begin the holiday ritual.
Mrs. Hill, his loyal housekeeper, opened a box containing the small trinkets to be baked into the pudding. [ii] Finding a prize in one’s pudding would foretell the fortunes for the year ahead. She dropped them into the mixture one at a time, explaining each symbol.
“Whoever finds this silver coin will enjoy wealth in the New Year. A wishbone brings good fortune. A ring predicts marriage. A thimble for spinsterhood. An anchor for safe harbour. A bachelor finding a silver button will remain unmarried for another year.”
As he did each year, Mr. Bennet posed the first of three question to his youngest offspring. “Lydia, my love, can you tell me why we use a special wooden spoon to stir the Christmas pudding?” he inquired with no small amount of pride.
Lydia, a high-spirited girl of fifteen, clapped her hands and bounced eagerly on her toes. “Yes, Papa, the spoon represents the manger that Baby Jesus slept in.”
The next question went to the second youngest child, who was now seventeen years of age. “And how, my dearest Kitty, do we stir the Christmas pudding?”
Kitty giggled with delight. “We stir from west to east in honour of the three wise men who visited Baby Jesus.”
Finally, he posed the last question to his middle daughter. Mary, a studious girl, was nothing like her sisters. She was neither high-spirited nor prone to fits of temper; she was just Mary. “My sweet Mary, how many ingredients are in the pudding?”
“There are thirteen ingredients, to represent Jesus and his twelve disciples,” she said in a clear, steady voice.
Pleased with his daughter’s responses, Mr. Bennet took the first turn at stirring the pudding. He closed his eyes and made a silent wish for the health and happiness of all the souls under his care.
Mrs. Bennet then took her turn. “Now remember, my dear girls, you must stir in a clock-wise direction,” she said, instructing them on the proper form. No mistakes would be tolerated.
With five daughters of marriageable age, her wish was no secret. However, it would surely come true this year, with two eligible prospects in the neighbourhood. Mr. Bingley would marry Jane and Mr. Collins would marry Lizzy. These fortuitous matches would put her younger girls in the path of other wealthy men. Adding to her good fortune, the militia was stationed nearby, with several handsome officers in their midst. She fully intended to invite them to dine at her table on Christmas day. However, rather than tempting fate, she left nothing to chance. “I wish for rich husbands for each of my daughters.”
Jane Bennet, the eldest sister, took the spoon from her mama. She knew perfectly well that her mother had wished for her to marry Mr. Bingley; she had expressed that expectation as soon as she learned of his existence — before she had even met him. Jane had only known him for one month and had only been in his company on a few occasions. However, she could not deny that he was everything she could ever desire in a husband; gentle and kind, with excellent manners. As she stirred the pudding, she thought only the upcoming ball at Netherfield. “I wish to dance with Mr. Bingley.” As her mother often said, ‘to be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love’.
Elizabeth, the second-born sister, stepped forward, relieved to put some distance between her and her over-bearing cousin. Mr. Collins had been hovering near her, paying far too much attention for her comfort. Being that close to him made her skin prickle. Since he had arrived at Longbourn, her mother had made numerous hints about his excellent living and how agreeable their possible match would be to her. However, nothing would compel Elizabeth to consider that absurd creature.
Spoon in hand, she savoured the sweet aromas rising from the pudding mixture, conjuring up memories of girlish wishes in her past years. However, this last week, her mind had been full of a new acquaintance. Mr. Wickham had shared a compelling story of loss and fortitude. While she had nothing but contempt for the man who had mistreated her new friend, she closed her eyes and wished to further her acquaintance with the charming Mr. Wickham.
Proud to have a moment with all eyes on her, Mary grasped the spoon, then turned to face her family. “Thank you, Mama and Papa, for hosting this wonderful tradition for me and my sisters once again. I have fond memories of past Stir-Up Sundays and I am certain this one shall be just as memorable.”
Lydia huffed impatiently. “Oh, for Heaven’s sake, Mary. Enough of your jibber-jabber! I shall never have my turn if you go on and on!”
Kitty nodded her agreement. “Yes, Mary. Do hurry and make your wish.”
Mary truly loved her younger sisters, but sometimes they could be so irksome. Did they not know how difficult it was being the middle sister? To be a plain girl in a family of beauties? To have no witty rejoinders to impertinent criticism? Not wishing to provoke further scorn from Lydia, Mary squeezed her eyes shut, stirred three times, and wished for someone to notice her.
Kitty accepted the spoon and stepped up for her turn, entirely out of patience with her prosy sister. If Mary had been allowed to ramble on endlessly about one tiresome thing or another, she would have ruined everyone else’s fun. But just like the steam rising from the simmering pudding, Kitty’s poor spirits vanished in an instant. How could one be anything but joyous with so much to look forward to? In just two days, she would don her finest gown, adorned with pale pink ribbons, and attend the Netherfield Ball. Her most fervent wish was to dance and flirt with handsome officers.
Lydia held her head high. “Save the best for last,” she said, sneering at her sisters. While she may be the youngest, in no way did she consider herself in last place. She rather thought of herself as the best Bennet sister. Not one of her sisters could hold a candle to her. Now that she was out to society, she would prove it to everyone. She stirred the pudding from west to east and repeated her exact same wish from last year. “I wish to be married before all my other sisters.”
Mr. William Collins, a guest in the house he would one day inherit, had come to Longbourn to select a wife from his cousin’s daughters and bring her home to his parsonage in Hunsford. This past week, he had made every effort to make himself agreeable to Cousin Elizabeth, the Bennet sister he had chosen to wed. Well versed at paying elegant compliments to the fairer sex, he hoped his attentions had not gone unnoticed. The moment to address her had not yet presented itself, but he suffered no doubt that the time would soon come. A devout young man, presently serving as a parson in Kent, he saw no harm in participating in the fanciful tradition he had observed many times in his childhood home. Turning his thoughts to the future, he stirred the pudding. “I wish for the patience to endure Lady Catherine’s employ until my cousin’s unhappy demise.”
Considering herself a member of refined society, Caroline Bingley refused to take part in the old-fashioned Christmas tradition. Only rustics observed the outdated ritual or even served the inelegant dish. “Such a silly past-time,” she said at the breakfast table that morning. “We gave it up years ago,” she said to her distinguished guest, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. Her sister, Louisa Hurst nodded her head in agreement. Her brother Charles and brother-in-law Henry Hurst pouted, no doubt disappointed that the horrid pudding would not have a place on their Christmas dinner table.
To Caroline, that mattered not in the least. By no means would she allow Mr. Darcy to perceive her as some countrified mushroom clinging to outmoded customs. No, she was a modern woman, well able to entertain the most illustrious guests. A man of Mr. Darcy’s standing would require nothing less. She would play hostess to a ball at Netherfield in two days, at which time Mr. Darcy would observe how well she had prepared herself to be the mistress of a prosperous estate. Making full use of her feminine wiles these past two years, she had been subtly guiding him in her direction and fully expected to receive his address by the end of the week.
Charles Bingley, however, had his own plans. After his sisters had removed to their chambers and his brother-in-law had fallen asleep on the sitting parlour sofa, he and his friend descended the back stairs, following the heavenly scents rising from the kitchen. Having no intention of missing out on the time-honoured tradition, he had previously instructed his housekeeper to prepare the holiday pudding. Mrs. Nicholls had already assembled the ingredients, which were simmering over the fire. Using the special spoon, he closed his eyes and stirred. “I wish for an angel to love.”
There was no doubt in his mind of this particular angel; although he had just recently met Miss Jane Bennet of Longbourn, she already held a special place in his heart. Fair of face, with a pleasing form, her gentle nature suited him to perfection. He had planned a ball for Tuesday night, just so that he would have the pleasure of leading her in the dance.
Missing his younger sister, Fitzwilliam Darcy stepped forward to stir the fragrant mixture. Under normal circumstances, he and Georgiana would observe this tradition together. However, his friend Charles had needed his advice on his new estate and Darcy had been honour-bound to oblige. However, while he stirred the pudding, he thought only of his beloved sister. Although they were apart, she would be with him on Christmas. Today, his wish was for her benefit. “I wish for Georgiana’s happiness from this day forward.”
Now that he thought about it, he would rather see Georgiana sooner than later. Getting away from Hertfordshire, and a certain bewitching lady who lived nearby, seemed his only recourse. If he stayed much longer, he might lose his senses and his heart to the lady. Long pursued by heiresses and beauties of the Ton, Darcy had managed to evade their attempts to ensnare him. This alluring maiden, however, had captured his imagination like none other. Never flirtatious or coy, she had challenged him, questioned him and even mocked him. Intelligent, outspoken and impertinent, she almost behaved as though she had no interest in securing him. Fitzwilliam knew better, of course. He was, after all, one of the biggest prizes on the marriage market.
Rather than allowing her that victory, he thought it best to remove to London at the earliest opportunity. While lovely in every respect, the lady had no fortune, her family lacked propriety and her connections were highly undesirable. Any thoughts of an alliance with her must be abandoned. Of course, there could be no harm in enjoying a dance or two with the enchanting lady at the Ball this coming Tuesday. He would have one final chance to gaze into her exquisite eyes, hold her hands, and guide her around the ballroom floor. Then, once he was back in Town, he would consign those splendid memories to the past and continue his search for the perfect wife.
Meryton Militia Encampment
Although the holiday tradition was not observed in the camp, George Wickham needed a bit of enchantment to make his dreams come true. The son of a loyal but unambitious estate steward, George’s life had not progressed towards the grand style he hoped to achieve. His late godfather had not left a sizable endowment for him, as he had dearly hoped. One thousand pound plus a living in the parish church could hardly have carried him into his declining years in the style to which he deserved. After heated negotiations with his childhood nemesis, George walked away with a tidy sum; four thousand pounds. He was certain he would have no trouble whatsoever parlaying that windfall into a handsome fortune.
However, Lady Luck was a fickle mistress; four years later, his inheritance was spent. His foiled attempt to marry a woman of substance left him with no other alternative than to seek employment. Now a lieutenant in His Majesty’s Royal Militia, he suffered no fear that his luck would come about. He closed his eyes, just as he had done in his childhood, imagined that he was stirring the pudding, and wished for a beautiful heiress to come into his life. That, without question, would be the answer to his every misfortune.
Some years ago, Sir William Lucas had been bestowed with the honour of knighthood by His Majesty, King George III. Having made his fortune in trade, he now enjoyed a comfortable living and a bit of notoriety in his small community. His position of elder afforded him all the consequence he could possibly desire. This morning, he assembled his family in the kitchen to observe the honourable stir-up tradition. While he had lived a good number of years, he still enjoyed the best of health and wished the same for his family.
His wife, Lady Lucas fervently wished for her oldest daughter to find a husband.
At the age of seven and twenty, Charlotte Lucas was keenly aware of the burden her continued presence placed on her family. She had come out to society ten summers ago and had as yet failed to attract a husband. Unfortunately, eligible bachelors in this part of the world were few and far between. However, one could never be without hope. She stirred the pudding in a clockwise direction and pinched her eyes shut. “I wish for a husband by Christmas.”
Maria Lucas, younger sister to Charlotte, wished to go on a grand adventure.
Georgiana Darcy attempted to keep her spirits up. Her beloved brother Fitzwilliam was staying with friends in Hertfordshire while she and her companion kept each other company in London. She had long since recovered from disappointed hopes. Last August, she had foolishly given her heart to someone wholly undeserving of her love. She had learned a hard lesson; men did not always mean what they said. Sometimes, all they wanted was your fortune. Thankfully, Fitzwilliam had come to her rescue and had consoled her for weeks afterwards, never once reproaching her for considering something so scandalous as a border marriage. He was the best brother in the world.
Now, as she stood before the simmering pudding, she vowed to never give another thought to the man who had wilfully deceived her. Knowing Fitzwilliam’s poor opinion of the blackguard, she dared not even speak his name within his hearing.
The housekeeper dropped a thimble, a button and a coin into the pudding mixture and handed Georgiana the wooden spoon. This year, she would not mind getting the thimble. She had plenty of time to think about finding a husband. Her only wish was to be with Fitzwilliam on Christmas Day.
Lady Catherine de Bourgh never failed to observe the tradition of stirring the pudding. Her long-held memories harkened back many years to her grandfather, who learned the story at his grandfather’s knee. Lady Catherine descended from a noble line and had every reason to expect her due from those of lesser standing. Normally, she did not indulge in such childish whims as wish-making; however, extraordinary circumstances prompted her to make an exception.
Many years ago when her daughter was born, she decided that dear little Anne would marry her older cousin, Fitzwilliam Darcy, heir to the largest estate in Derbyshire. She put forth the idea to everyone within her hearing but, despite her frequent reminders, her nephew had yet to address Anne. Now at eight and twenty years of age and master of Pemberley these past four years, Darcy was still unmarried. This intolerable situation could not be permitted to continue. As she stirred the pudding, Lady Catherine wished that Darcy would finally come up to scratch so she could announce Anne’s betrothal to her friends.
Anne de Bourgh, accepted the spoon from her mother and dutifully stirred the pudding. Earlier, her mama had suggested that if she wished for her betrothal to cousin Darcy, it might very well come true. How tedious to repeatedly listen to the same tired story of her betrothal in the cradle; she had lost track of how many times she had heard it during her life. It was past all bearing. Mama insisted that she was destined to marry Darcy, but should Anne not be permitted to decide who she would marry? Her destiny need not lie with someone who was more like a brother than a suitor. “I wish to choose my own husband.” It was a secret wish, after all, and Mama need never know.
CBL © 2018
[i] Book of Common Prayer (1662)
[ii] Boiled Plum Pudding Recipe: Take a pound of suet cut in little pieces, not too fine, a pound of currants, and a pound of raisins stoned, eight eggs, half the whites, half a nutmeg grated, and a tea-spoonful of beaten ginger, a pound of flour, a pint of milk; beat the eggs first, then half the milk, beat them together, and by degrees stir in the flour, then the suet, spice, and fruit, and as much milk as will mix it well together very thick. Boil it five hours. The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, Hannah Glasse (1747)
During the editing process of my recent story, my editor suggested that I cut the last chapter of the manuscript. She reasoned that the pace had slowed way down in my draft and would need heavy edits to get it back on track. The project was already behind schedule and I was eager to get her final edits back so I agreed. I published the story without the last chapter that I had originally intended.
In the Amazon reviews, several readers expressed their disappointment with the ending, saying that it was far too abrupt. I can’t say I disagree, since I did write that chapter to address the future of our dear couple. Now I’m kicking myself for making the decision to cut it. This has been a hard lesson for me; I should always go with my first instincts.
Please understand that I am not blaming my editor. She has done an amazing job on my stories and turned them into better stories. I was the one to make the decision so the full blame rests with me.
But the book is out there now. I could revise the manuscript and reload it but that would not help the readers who have already purchased the book. I have decided to post it here instead. This chapter has not been professionally edited but I hope it improves the opinion of the readers who hated the way the book ended.
Please let me know if I have redeemed myself.
Jane Austen Quote: “But the wife of Mr. Darcy must have extraordinary sources of happiness necessarily attached to her situation that she could, upon the whole, have no cause to repine.” (Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 61)
Wednesday, 22 April, 1812
Darcy cursed under his breath as his carriage slogged through the mud. He and his wife were on the road to Hertfordshire, on an errand for his father-in-law; to bring Jane Bennet home to Longbourn. Charles Bingley had appeared in Darcy’s study on Monday evening bearing a letter from Mr. Bennet. He had agreed to allow Charles to court his daughter under one condition: Jane was to be returned to his care as soon as Darcy could make the arrangements.
Little more than having Jane’s trunk packed was needed to prepare for the short journey, however, a violent storm had prevented them from travelling on Tuesday. Even though Jane had only just moved in on Sunday, the ladies of the house were cast into gloom at the prospect of her sudden and unjustified departure. The joy of her imminent courtship had been forgotten, surpassed by the cruel edict that would sever their newfound sisterhood. Darcy had attempted to soothe their concerns by explaining that Mr. Bennet would naturally wish to have his daughter under his own roof if she was to receive a gentleman’s attentions. Unfortunately, this line of reasoning met with no success.
He had appealed to Mrs. Annesley, Georgiana’s trustworthy companion, hoping that she would offer her sage guidance; however, she too had been separated from her sister in her younger days. All she could manage was to dab her eyes and whisper, “All will be well.” The ladies had spent the rainy day sharing stories of their girlhood, which one would think balm for their wounded spirits but only served to sink them even lower.
To help ease the pain of their pending separation, Darcy had suggested that he and Elizabeth stay a few days at Longbourn. Despite this agreeable possibility, the ladies all retired to Elizabeth’s chambers, forcing him to spend the night without his bride.
Since the rain had persisted throughout the night, Darcy knew the roads would be in deplorable condition that day; their journey was sure to be prolonged. Nonetheless, he refused to delay their departure any longer, coaxed the ladies to ready themselves for travel and they set out shortly after breakfast.
Knowing that the addition of two extra guests would strain Mr. Bennet’s limited staff, he had a small contingent of his own staff follow behind in a second carriage; his valet, a maid to tend to Elizabeth, a kitchen maid, and two grooms. Within minutes of leaving the paved streets of London, Elizabeth’s and Jane’s melancholy were nothing compared to Darcy’s cantankerous mood. With the roads mired in muck, their progress was irritatingly slow. The second carriage trudged through the slog in good form but his beloved bays lagged behind at a snail’s pace. The wheels became bogged down twice and they were forced to wait while the grooms and drivers extricated the vehicle from the sludge. He scowled and grumbled in exasperation. The fear that they may become stuck again gnawed on Darcy’s last nerve.
The ladies paid little heed to his outbursts. “You may well imagine, Lizzy, that Mama will want you to take Kitty or Lydia back with you to London,” Jane said.
“Oh dear,” Elizabeth said, a crease forming in her brow. “I am sure you are right but I would much rather not; Kitty is so silly and Lydia is far too wild.”
Jane nodded her head with a beleaguered sigh. “Kitty is rather impressionable,” she said. “She would do better under your care, away from Lydia’s influence.”
Darcy agreed that, of the two girls, Kitty would cause Elizabeth the least trouble. “She would look up to you and Georgiana,” he said. “However, we need not make a decision now. Let us see how they both behave and then decide.”
The two hour trip had taken twice that time and they arrived at Longbourn hungry and irritable. “There is my dear Jane,” Mrs. Bennet said as the party entered the drawing room. Beaming with delight, she rushed to embrace her eldest daughter. “Did I not say that Mr. Bingley would come up to scratch?”
Despite his relief to be out of the mud, Darcy doubted that their stay at Longbourn would be any less wearisome. His wife’s discontent, his father-in-law’s disfavour, his mother-in-law’s unrestrained glee and his new rowdy sisters were sure to try his patience.
Thursday, 23 April, 1812
By Thursday evening, Darcy had come to an agreement with Mr. Bennet and Elizabeth; Kitty would come to live with the Darcys. For the past two days, Lydia’s behaviour had been nothing but shameful; she whined and pouted, she ignored all attempts to bring her to order and was altogether unmanageable. Darcy had never known a more thoughtless, vain and temperamental creature than she. If Kitty was ever to make a successful match, she must be separated from her younger sister.
The news was received with jubilation by Mrs. Bennet and Kitty; Lydia, however, raised a rumpus. “Why should I not go, too?” she said, stomping her foot. “I have just as much right as Kitty. What shall I do all summer if I do not go to London?”
“You will go to Bath with the family; at Mr. Darcy’s expense, I might add,” her father said. Darcy was relieved that, after spending some time in his father-in-law’s company, his disapproval had lessened to some degree.
Lydia rolled her eyes. “How dreadfully dull. I should die of boredom.”
Elizabeth narrowed her eyes at her unruly sister. “If you continue in this manner, Lydia, I will never invite you,” she said in a harsh tone. “I am embarrassed that you have become such a hoyden.”
“Just because you have a rich husband, Lizzy, you have no call to insult me,” Lydia said with a rebellious sniff.
Darcy had heard enough. “Miss Lydia Bennet,” he said in a commanding tone. “You will apologize for plaguing your parents with such impropriety. No woman of quality would conduct herself in such a deplorable manner.”
“I will not!” she said, her chin jutting out in defiance.
Since Darcy’s withering glare had no effect on her, he tried another tactic. “As you wish,” he said, as if accepting defeat, then turned to his father-in-law. “Mr. Bennet, there is a school just north of Derbyshire where young ladies who are in need of certain… refinements are accepted,” he said, using a quick wink as a signal to the older man who then nodded his head.
“I have heard of such establishments,” Mr Bennet said, a twinkle flashing in his eye for a scant second. “Perhaps Lydia might benefit from a year or two of instruction,” he said with a grave mien.
Lydia shrieked. “Two years!”
Darcy paid no heed to her protests. “With your permission, I would be happy to sponsor her.”
“She is a difficult student,” Mr. Bennet said, while his wife gaped in disbelief.
Darcy nodded and leaned in closer. “I believe that is their specialty,” he said, whispering loud enough for everyone to hear.
“No Papa, you would not send me away,” Lydia cried.
Mr. Bennet turned his head to hide his amusement. “I know not what else can be done with her. She never listens to me.”
Although Darcy was enjoying the charade, he kept a solemn expression for his new sister’s benefit. “Well then, are we decided?” he inquired.
Lydia clutched her father’s arm. “No Papa, I beg you, please don’t send me away,” she said in a state of panic. “I apologize for troubling you. I promise to be good.” Darcy had to admit, she did appear contrite in her attempt to sway Mr. Bennet’s decision.
“You will go to Bath with the family,” her father said.
“Yes, yes!” she said in earnest.
Mr. Bennet’s countenance remained severe. “You will not complain.”
“Not even once.”
The room fell silent while Mr. Bennet took a moment to consider this appeal; all eyes were fixed on him. “If you give me the least cause to regret my decision, I will send word to Mr. Darcy.” Lydia responded with a curtsy then stood in silence, staring down at her feet. “Very well, then,” Mr. Bennet said, with an air of finality.
Mrs. Bennet was overjoyed. “What an excellent father you have, my dear girls.”
Darcy detected a hint of approval from his father-in-law as he nodded his head in acknowledgement of his contribution to the family. More importantly, he was struck by Elizabeth’s quiet gaze, which held more affection than he had yet witnessed. He hoped that he had pleased her.
Friday, 24 April, 1812
Darcy’s plan was to leave Hertfordshire as soon after the morning meal as propriety would allow. Elizabeth was especially morose that morning, barely touching her breakfast. Jane, likewise was pale and sullen, regarding her sister with misty eyes. Lydia was just as affected, however, Darcy suspected the reason had more to do with her being left behind. However, the cloud of gloom oppressing Longbourn was instantly lifted upon the arrival of Mr. Charles Bingley.
“Oh Mr. Bingley, how lovely to see you again!” Mrs. Bennet said.
“Welcome back to the neighbourhood, Mr. Bingley,” Mr. Bennet said, appearing more pleased to see Charles than he had been upon Darcy’s arrival.
Even Elizabeth seemed encouraged by the return of colour to Jane’s complexion.
“Thank God you are here, Charles,” Darcy said. “Without your addition to the party, I fear we would not have survived.”
This ray of sunshine was treated to a hero’s welcome and offered every delicacy in the larder; fruit pies, lemon biscuits and butter cake with plum preserves were brought forth which Charles received with the greatest aplomb. “You must give my housekeeper your recipe, Mrs. Bennet,” he said, his eyes shining with pleasure.
Now that Charles had arrived, Darcy had no doubt that Jane’s mood would undergo a considerable improvement. If only he could say the same for Elizabeth.
The travellers took their leave with promises to write with every bit of news. The roads had improved, the weather was mild and the journey passed without incident in just over two hours. Darcy was never more relieved to be home again. Kitty and Georgiana formed an instant kinship based on their mutual interest in gothic novels, which had surprised Darcy. He knew his own sister had read them but had no idea that Kitty had ever so much as opened a book, much less read one. Obviously he had much to learn about his new sisters.
Elizabeth’s good humour returned and they settled into a comfortable routine; enjoying park outings during the day, suppers with the earl, evenings at the theatre and opera, and occasional parties and assemblies. Darcy was encouraged by Richard and Perry’s frequent visits.
Even Charles Bingley was an occasional caller, when he was in Town. Much to Darcy’s relief, he even seemed to enjoy his visits, reverting to his usual smiles and amiable demeanour. “Darcy, you are welcome at Netherfield anytime,” he said after supper one evening.
“I thank you, Charles. Perhaps we may make some stay with you when we retire to Derbyshire for the summer,” Darcy said. Charles agreed that this was an excellent notion. “I am glad you have decided to go back to Hertfordshire. Netherfield suits you, as does Jane Bennet.” There could be no doubt that Jane had had a calming effect on Charles.
“Yes, I believe they do, almost as well as Pemberley and Mrs. Darcy suit you,” Charles said. Darcy reacted with surprise to this observation. “Anyone can see how well you get on together.”
“Well then, if you and Jane were to marry, we would be brothers. I hope you will have no objection.” Darcy found himself quite pleased by the prospect.
Charles had no objections at all. “Perhaps you will offer your advice to a fledgling estate manager,” he said. Darcy assured him he would be his honour to provide any assistance he required. Of course, in the future he would take care to only provide his advice when requested; at least he had learned that valuable lesson.
Friday, 15 May, 1812
Elizabeth sent a footman to summon her husband, then paced in the portrait gallery, drawing deep breaths to calm the butterflies that teased her stomach. While her sisters were busy with their lessons, she would have a moment alone with Fitzwilliam. She thought it a fitting location to have this discussion; it was the same place where he had made his vow to her and Lady Anne. On their wedding day, he had promised to restore his mother’s faith in him and earn Elizabeth’s forgiveness.
Now that so much had changed between them, she felt obliged to set things to rights but worried just how to express herself. When she heard his steps in the hall, she ceased her pacing and smoothed the folds of her skirts, attempting to appear composed even though her heart fluttered wildly in her chest.
He entered the room wearing a smile. ‘You are a vision,” he said as he strode toward her.
He was impeccably attired, as always, and especially handsome that day in Elizabeth’s estimation. She curtsied to acknowledge his compliment, then reached out to take his hand. “I have something to tell you and I hope you will give me your full attention.
“I am at your service.”
She guided him to Lady Anne’s portrait. “You made a statement here, not long ago and I am compelled to do the same. When I made my marriage vows, I was not fully conscious of what I was saying. I was under duress and, in all reality, scarcely able to refuse. My reputation and that of my sisters depended on my acceptance of the circumstances.”
As she spoke, his smile slowly faded and his expression became grim. She pressed on. “However, my feelings have undergone a material change and are quite the opposite of what they were then. I could not allow you to harbour any mistaken impressions.”
He remained silent, his eyes searching hers.
She took a step closer and held both of his hands. “I love what you have done for my sisters. Jane has never been happier. I have every reason to believe that Mr. Bingley will do whatever he can to win her regard. Mary is enjoying her lessons and has not quoted her sermon books even once. Kitty is thriving under Georgiana’s and Mrs. Annesley’s sensible guidance. Even your threat to send Lydia away to school has done more to correct her abhorrent behaviour than my parents have been able to achieve these past few years,” she said, recalling her letters from home.
A smile crept back to his face and he released a sigh of relief. “My only thought was of you.”
This brought her to the reason for summoning him to the gallery. “As for me, I regret ever saying that you were the last man I would marry. Even though my marriage did not come about as I had once hoped, as my husband, you have answered every wish of my heart. You have been thoughtful, attentive, generous, affectionate and patient; every quality I have ever hoped for.”
“It was only through your instruction, my love, that I have become as you describe. My only purpose was to show you that your reproofs had been attended to,” he said, his face gleaming with affection.
“You have made good on every promise you have made. In return, I promise you that I will obey and serve you, love and honour you, keep you in sickness and in health; and forsake all others, keeping only unto you, so long as we both shall live.” Those marriage vows held more meaning to her now than they had on her wedding day.
“Dare I hope that you return my regard?” he said, raising her hand to his lips.
“You may dare as much as you choose,” she said without hesitation.
He cradled her face in his hands and softly kissed her lips, whispering endearments and calling her ‘my fair Eliza’.
“I love you, my dearest Fitzwilliam,” she said, joyous at her first declaration.
His kisses quickly became more ardent.
Breaking away, he pressed his lips to her ear. “Shall we repair to the master’s chambers,” he said in a husky voice.
Elizabeth had needed no further coaxing and instantly agreed.
Darcy spirited his wife away to the master’s chamber. Elizabeth’s declarations of love ignited his fervour and transported him to paradise. Replete with idyllic serenity, he held his wife in his arms and savoured the warm glow suffusing her complexion. Her fine eyes inspired him to recite poetry.
“She was a Phantom of delight
When first she gleamed upon my sight;
A lovely Apparition, sent
To be a moment’s ornament.”
“You know perfectly well, you found me merely tolerable when you first saw me.” Her teasing smile spurred him on.
“Her eyes as stars of Twilight fair;
Like Twilight’s, too, her dusky hair;
But all things else about her drawn
From May-time and the cheerful Dawn.”
She kissed his chin. “My good qualities are under your protection and you are to exaggerate them as much as possible.” [i]
“A dancing Shape, an Image gay,
To haunt, to startle, and way-lay.
I saw her upon nearer view,
A Spirit, yet a Woman too!”
“Did this haunting image occur to you the first time I refused to dance with you, or the second?” she said. However, her impertinence did not dissuade him from his purpose.
“Her household motions light and free,
And steps of virgin-liberty;
A countenance in which did meet
Sweet records, promises as sweet.”
“No doubt you had that same thought when I escaped on our wedding night.”
“Must you interrupt?” he said, to which she offered a pretty pout.
“A Creature not too bright or good
For human nature’s daily food;
For transient sorrows, simple wiles,
Praise, blame, love, kisses, tears, and smiles.”
“Finally, a fair portrayal of my incivility. As I recall, I rarely spoke to you unless it was to give you pain.”
“And now I see with eye serene
The very pulse of the machine;
A Being breathing thoughtful breath,
A Traveller between life and death.”
“I fear you have indulged your imagination, Mr. Darcy.”
“Owed only to the liveliness of your own mind, Mrs. Darcy,” he said, then continued with the final verse.
“The reason firm, the temperate will,
Endurance, foresight, strength, and skill;
A perfect Woman, nobly planned,
To warn, to comfort, and command;
And yet a Spirit still, and bright
With something of angelic light.” [ii]
“You paint a very pretty picture of me when I am mostly undeserving but I shall not complain. It is far better to receive your abundant praises than to hear the unflattering truth.”
In her state of dishabille with her hair in disarray, he found nothing unappealing about her. He could only look forward to more afternoon rendezvous with her. “My beautiful, impertinent bride, where shall we go for our wedding trip?” he inquired. He would take her anywhere in the world she wanted to go.
She considered this question for a moment before giving her answer. “To Pemberley.”
As he promised, he would deny her nothing. “As you wish.”
Friday, 14 August, 1812
Elizabeth’s husband gently caressed her rounded abdomen, and she released a contented sigh. When she had first married Fitzwilliam, she never would have predicted sharing the slightest marital felicity with him, but now that she was increasing, she could not imagine feeling otherwise.
“Are you well, my love?” He had asked her that same question every day since they had made the discovery.
“Never better,” she replied, as usual.
She knew he doubted her; she had said the same even on days when she was feeling poorly, but she had borne it without objection. Today however, she had not a single cause for complaint; in fact, she was in perfect health.
The Darcy party had travelled to Derbyshire at the end of June. Elizabeth recalled the miserable trip; she had taken ill not long after they had set off from London. Never in her life had she suffered from carriage sickness, so she could only suppose that a meal at one of the coaching inns had disagreed with her. She had attempted to carry on with the journey but was weak with fatigue. She insisted that she had no need for a doctor but when she fainted, Fitzwilliam sent for a physician who delivered the happy news that she was with child. Rather, she meant to be happy but was too exhausted to do anything but sleep.
After a gruesome journey, they finally reached her new home at Pemberley. She had complained when Fitzwilliam carried her over the threshold and up the stairs to her new chambers but secretly she doubted if she could have managed it under her own power. Fortunately, Georgiana and Mrs. Reynolds had attended to everything on her behalf until she was able to recover from her exhaustion. Although she had a sentimental fondness for Hertfordshire, now that summer had peaked at Pemberley, there was nowhere else she would rather be. Fitzwilliam had been loving and kind, deferring to her on every issue concerning the household and her sisters.
Her Bennet sisters, except for Kitty, were enjoying a holiday in Bath with her parents. Fitzwilliam had made all of the arrangements and according to Jane’s letters, they were enjoying themselves remarkably well. Mama revelled in some notoriety as the mother of five beautiful daughters, two of whom had already made successful matches.
Jane was engaged to Mr. Bingley, the wedding was to be in late September. Her trousseau was being prepared by one of Bath’s preeminent modistes; Mama frequently boasted to her new friends of her thankfulness at being blessed with such a beautiful family. Mr. Bingley had taken a room in a nearby hotel and was a frequent guest of the Bennets, escorting them to assemblies, the Pump Room, and the gardens.
Padre Snowden had travelled to Hertfordshire to request Papa’s consent to court Mary. She also had moved back home to Longbourn at Papa’s insistence and was now enjoying the padre’s attentions in Bath every weekend. Both he and Colonel Fitzwilliam were frequent visitors at Darcy House and were filled with stories of their time in Bath with the Bennets.
Kitty was living at Pemberley, enjoying the freedom from her lessons. She and Georgiana had forged a friendship that pleased Elizabeth. Kitty had captured the special attentions of the vicar at Kympton; however, she and Fitzwilliam agreed that at seventeen, she was far too young to encourage a gentleman’s affections. This in no way prevented her from regarding the vicar with longing gazes and her prettiest smiles. Elizabeth was certain that, in time, the vicar would be paying a call on Longbourn to speak to her father.
Lydia, who at first had felt ill-used for being required to join the Bath party, reveled in the attentions of several young men. She was scarcely without a partner at the assemblies and had been forced to admit that Bath was not so dull after all.
Darcy had never been happier in his life. Elizabeth was carrying his child and his household flourished under her gentle care. Pemberley was now Georgiana’s home. Her affection for her new sister grew with each passing day. She flourished under Elizabeth’s guidance and was no longer the shy, retiring girl she once was. Preparations for her come-out to society began in earnest with dance lessons. As with all her studies, she excelled at every turn. However, to Darcy’s great relief, she gave no indication that she was ready to leave the comfort of her home, now that she had the sisters she had always longed for.
Cousin Anne de Bourgh, a frequent guest at Pemberley, was living in Matlock with the earl and countess. Uncle Alexander had removed her from Rosings and submitted her to the care of his personal physician. Although she enjoyed reasonably good health, she was not well enough to attend any parties but looked forward to doing so when the season resumed. Under Aunt Eleanor’s tutelage, she was preparing to take her place as the mistress of Rosings. As Darcy had once suspected, Anne refuted the idea that she sent her mother to call on him upon the occasion of his marriage to Elizabeth.
Aunt Catherine was living at Rosings with a new companion; a widow of a Navy captain who suffered no nonsense and was not apt to be led astray by the Lady’s underhanded designs. Her former susceptible companion, Mrs. Jenkinson was pensioned off and sent to live with her son. Infuriated by the degradation of living on a stringent allowance with a stranger, Aunt Catherine penned poisonous letters to Darcy, the earl and countess. However upon being threatened with Bedlam, she discontinued all correspondence with the family. Darcy’s older cousin, Robert now served as overseer to the estate and had exclusive authority over all concerns related to the upkeep of the property.
With the threat to Darcy’s future happiness finally contained, he was free to enjoy his wife’s irresistible charms. One night after the candles had been extinguished, he asked her when she first fell in love with him. Even in the darkness of his chamber, he knew by the sound of her voice that she was smiling.
“Despite my efforts to resist, I must admit that from the moment we were married, my reserves began to melt. I was resolved to loathe you forever but you paid me every courtesy, pampered me and behaved in a way that I would have thought impossible for someone who had treated me with such callous disregard,” she said, causing him pangs of conscience. Only a man out of his senses could have claimed to love a woman while being so heartless.
“The possibility of allowing you into my heart was against my will and against my reason but, ultimately, beyond my ability to prevent,” she said, interlacing her fingers with his. “I had already released my aversion to you by the time you found me at the George but it was not until Mr. Bingley accompanied us to the park that I realized that my opinion of you had vastly improved.” He recalled those early days with great fondness and was glad that she did the same.
“It was when Padre Perry came for supper that I first came to admire you. His attentions to Mary gave her more confidence than ever before. The change in her was so pronounced, I cannot help thinking that you somehow knew they would suit. But when you admonished Lydia in your own subtle way, I was irretrievably lost,” she said, snuggling into his chest. “The improvement she has undergone, by your design, has been so great that I no longer fear for her future. That you would do so much for my sisters, just to please me, left me with no other choice than to love you.”
“I did hope to bring you some happiness after I had caused you such pain,” he said, pressing kisses to her forehead.
“Yes, that memory gives me no pleasure and it is best forgotten.”
Unfortunately, he could not do the same. “You are too kind to put aside my transgression but I shall never forget it, my dear Elizabeth. Those painful recollections will forever haunt me. That I have done something to please you at one brief moment in time is not enough to absolve me of my offences against you. Your kind and generous spirit has taught me to be ever mindful of the people beyond my own circle; that my consequence should not inspire only pride but also humility; that my actions towards the people outside my influence say more about my character than I ever imagined.”
He was constantly amazed by her devotion to her family. “You may say that I have helped your sisters by showing them kindness but if not for you, I never would have done it. I owe any improvement in my character to you. To be seen in your eyes as a good man, as a man worthy of your affection, is the only purpose of my life. Seeing the world through your eyes has been my greatest education. I shall never take your good opinion for granted.” He owed her a debt of gratitude for the lessons she had taught him.
He reached for the night stand and withdrew a small pouch from the drawer. The gift he had ordered from his jeweller had arrived that day and he could wait no longer to present it to her. “I intended to give this to you upon the birth of our first child but I want you to have it now,” he said, removing the item from the velvet pouch.
“You spoil me with your presents, Fitzwilliam.”
“You give me much more in return,” he said, sliding the gold ring onto her finger. He knew that she was unable to determine the ring’s design in the darkness.
Even so, she thanked him prodigiously. “Someday it will be an heirloom for our children and grandchildren,” she said, kissing him with all the fervour of a woman violently in love.
In the morning, she would discover that his gift was a posy ring, etched with a floral design. Inside was an inscription to his beautiful wife; My Fair Eliza.
© 2018 Cassandra B. Leigh
[i] Pride and Prejudice, (Chapter 60), Jane Austen
[ii] She Was a Phantom of Delight, William Wordsworth (1803)
What if your romantic hero turned out to be a crass creep?
In every romance story I wrote, I cast my favorite hero as the leading man in my imaginary movie. Every writer does that, don’t they? I find actors and actresses to play the roles in their stories, to help visualize the story like it was a movie.
I won’t name my movie star crush but I was constantly on the internet, searching for any news of him. Photos, old movies and TV shows, magazine articles; I drank them all in with the greatest gusto.
Until I ran across an interview where he continuously dropped the F-bomb.
Maybe I’m a bit of a prude or old-fashioned but I have little tolerance for the use of obscenities in a business setting. His job as an actor is no different from any other career. In my company, we have a policy against using offensive language in the workplace. Everyone on the job knows better than to use it around me; it’s not cool and it can get you written up or terminated if you take it too far.
But reading my hero use it freely came as a shock that I wasn’t prepared for. How could the man who had played the romantic lead in multiple movies be so vulgar? Of course, I don’t have any illusions that obscenities never passed his lips in real life. It’s pretty common, after all. But in an interview to market his work? And the interviewer was a woman. This wasn’t a script or a role he was playing. This wasn’t some locker-room discussion; it was a male actor speaking to a female journalist. That was too much for me to excuse.
What was I to do now that my romantic illusions had been shattered into tiny pieces?
Write a story about it, of course! I decided to cast him as the romantic villain. In Against Her Will, he falls in love with the girl but she hates him; so he abducts her. In a future story, he will have bad manners and a shocking past. It turned out that instead of blocking my creativity, he just channeled it in a different direction. Now the leading man has even more obstacles to overcome. He has to work harder to win the girl. He needs a gesture of epic proportions to be worthy of matrimony. I’ll probably even come up with a story where he doesn’t get the girl.
Now I have a few new crushes and I’m back to writing stories about diligent suitors trying to win the hand of the fair maiden. I’ve cast new actors in those imaginary movies and have moved on from the old guy.
Take that Mr. F-Bomb! I thank you for the stories that you’ve inspired, all with romantic leading heroes. But you have lost your job; replaced with younger, more handsome versions.
It’s a cruel imaginary world out there, isn’t it?
“Miss Bennet was the only creature who could suppose there might be any extenuating circumstances in the case, unknown to the society of Hertfordshire; her mild and stead candour always pleased for allowances, and the possibility of mistakes—but by everybody else Mr. Darcy was condemned as the worst of men.” (Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 23)
We all accept that Fitzwilliam Darcy did not start out as a romantic hero. There can be no dispute that he behaved badly while he visited Netherfield with his friends. At the Meryton Assembly, he was an entitled snob with bad manners. He kept to himself, only danced with the ladies in his party and refused all introductions. However, no one had ever had the courage to inform him of his shortcomings until Elizabeth Bennet gave him a proper set-down at the Hunsford parsonage. When she rejected his proposal, she made sure to list her complaints against him; he was arrogant, conceited, selfish and ungentlemanly.
Even when he penned his letter to Elizabeth, he still thought himself in the right and wrote it with ‘a dreadful bitterness of spirit.’ In canon, his thoughts soon turned in a proper direction and he became the hero we all love.
BUT — what if Darcy still suffered from his delusions of grandeur a bit longer? What if he was so determined to make Elizabeth his wife that he forgot his manners and did the unthinkable? What if he abducted Elizabeth from Rosings with the intention of making her his bride?
This is the inspiration for my story “Against Her Will”. Darcy thinks he is perfectly in the right and can’t understand why anyone would question his choice. Yes, he is perfectly delusional and takes a bit longer to understand that his actions were ungentlemanly and unacceptable. Unfortunately for him, his family voices their disapproval and comes to Elizabeth’s defense. He had not only injured the woman he loved, but also Jane Bennet and his own closest friend, Charles Bingley. He is forced to come to terms with his bad behavior and make amends to everyone he knows.
Are you ready for Bad Darcy? Can you handle Bad Darcy?
Is it a romance or something darker? You decide.
Available now on Amazon: Against Her Will
I have watched the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice countless times and thought I knew every frame by heart. But when I saw this photo on Pinterest, it was the first time I noticed the little dog at Caroline Bingley’s feet.
Wait — Caroline had a dog in that movie? How did I miss that?
I went back to the movie, fast forwarded to that scene and there she was; a beautiful long-haired dachshund. That pretty little doggie didn’t appear in any other scenes, so it was only a brief cameo.
Hello Inspiration! My next JAFF had to have a little dog at Netherfield and her name was to be Petunia!
After some quick research on dogs during the Regency era, I found that it was unlikely for a dachshund to be a favored pet; they were more prevalent in Germany. In England, it more likely would have been a Yorkshire terrier, King Charles Cavalier or West Highland terrier. But since I never identified Petunia’s breed in my story, I kept my own sainted Westie/Bichon in mind as she scampered through Netherfield.
She made her debut in the first chapter, making friends with Darcy in the Netherfield library after he awoke from a nap. She became his defender in one of his dreams and even accompanied him on a walk with Elizabeth.
The idea and title for this story came from this Jane Austen quote: ‘Miss Bingley immediately fixed her eyes on his face, and desired he would tell her what lady had the credit of inspiring such reflections. Mr. Darcy replied with great intrepidity: “Miss Elizabeth Bennet.”’ (Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 6) “Inspiring such reflections’ became Inspired Reflections, and a story was born.
The main theme of the story was Darcy’s dreams of his favorite, Elizabeth Bennet. She was constantly in his thoughts, waking and sleeping. He finally had to admit that she had taken hold of his psyche and the story has a much quicker resolution.
The story is now published in my collection of three short stories: Inspired Reflections.
If you enjoyed it, please leave a review on Amazon.
What is a single woman to do when the holiday blues assail her? Write a melancholy Christmas JAFF, of course. That’s where the inspiration for ‘Deck the Halls with Melancholy’ came from. Everyone I know will be celebrating the holidays with their significant others – and then there is me: no husband, no kids, and no grandkids. Just me and the cat. Pathetic, right?
No! Of course not! Lots of singles manage to survive the holidays without falling into the abyss. I hoped that my story would be cathartic and help to soothe my blue mood.
Certainly our dear couples survived the Holidays of 1811. If you recall, after the Netherfield ball, the residents of Netherfield left town, leaving our dear Bennet sisters in misery. We know from canon that Jane was devastated by Bingley’s abandonment and Elizabeth was furious that Darcy had played a part in the scheme. Miss Austen eluded to Bingley’s actions in Caroline’s letter to Jane, stating that he was ‘an inmate of Mr. Darcy’s house’, in Chapter 24, but we know very little else about what happened in London during that time. This was a perfect opportunity to add my interpretation of those missing scenes.
What if everyone was as miserable as I felt? It doesn’t make for a happy story but I believe it adheres closely to what Jane, Charles, Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth may have been thinking during that time.
Did writing the story make me feel better? Yes and no. If you don’t like being alone at Christmas, it’s still terrible. But before too long, that emotion is bound to be replaced with disappointment for failing to keep my New Year’s resolutions.
Happy New Year! Best wishes for 2018!
My first inspiration for this story came from the first Harry Potter movie, when he was at Hogwarts. In the halls and stairwells hung portraits of souls who had passed on, but those people could talk to the students and give them advice.
It seemed a perfect scenario for a Pride and Prejudice variation, where Darcy’s and Elizabeth’s sainted grandmothers could guide them through their tumultuous relationship. I imagined their portraits in the family gallery speaking directly to our favorite couple. Of course, my better judgement eventually took hold. Realizing that this was far too much of a direct rip-off of JK Rowling’s original idea, I decided to go with an internal communication instead.
I introduced the two young girls as they were both making their presentation to the queen and the story flowed naturally from there. The Heavenly Guardianship Program became the method by which the grandmothers could influence their descendants.
Of course, nothing goes smoothly for the dear ladies and they are forced to use drastic measures to help our couple realize that they were destined to be together,
Available on Amazon: Matchmaking Grandmothers
Maybe not as cute as April, but this is my latest craft project: a giraffe made from baby blankets, bibs, wash cloths, burp cloths and socks.
She’s still kind of cute, though!
The bibs, wash cloths and burp cloths are all rolled up inside the blankets to make the legs and neck. Everything is held together with rubber bands, which are hidden by bibs around the base of the neck and a giant bow. Double sticky tape holds down the loose edges.
Her face is a sock (with googly-eyes taped on) and her ears are also socks tucked into the face sock.
Please notice the pink Mary-Jane socks on her feet — too adorable!
In my story, Darcy’s Big Wish, I imagine Darcy as a ten-year-old boy.
What would he have looked like at that age? As the son of a wealthy man, he would have been dressed in the latest fashions made of the finest materials. His hair would have been worn long, in the style of the era.
(Pictured: Thomas Draddyll, 1789. Painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds.)
In my imagination, he looked more like this boy, with long curly hair.
(Pictured: Owen Best, 2010. Child actor in the movie “TRON: Legacy.”)
However, when Fitzwilliam Darcy is suddenly thrust into his ten-year-old form, he enjoys none of the privileges he had as a boy. A child of unknown parentage could easily be sent to the workhouse, where he would have been forced into hard labor.
But who could not help falling in love with a beautiful, if somewhat arrogant child? Certainly not Elizabeth Bennet, who comes to his rescue and helps him find his way back to his former life.
Read about their journey together: Here
My most recent publication is a fantasy: What if Darcy made a life-altering wish?
Being a pragmatic, serious man, Darcy held no belief in fairy tales; those were only for children or muddle-headed maidens. But when he suddenly found himself in an impossible dilemma, Elizabeth Bennet was the only person he could trust.
“Miss Elizabeth, are you unwell?”
Gasping with fright, Elizabeth jumped to her feet, whirled around and observed a small boy wearing green riding attire meant for a grown man.
“Why do you weep?” he asked.
“Who are you?” she inquired, swiftly wiping the tears from her face.
He bowed in a proper greeting and she curtsied. “It is I, Mr. Darcy,” he said.
She was startled by this obvious falsehood and narrowed her eyes. “You are not Mr. Darcy! You are just a boy!”
“While it is true that I appear to be a boy, I am indeed Fitzwilliam Darcy.” He swept the hair away from his eyes and stood with perfect posture, his coat tails touching the ground.
Of course, Elizabeth knew perfectly well that this young child was not Mr. Darcy but who could he be? She was sure that she knew all the young boys in the county and he was certainly not a child of the Longbourn tenants or neighbours. “Are you visiting someone in the area?” she asked.
“I am visiting Charles Bingley, as you very well know, Miss Elizabeth.” She detected a hint of annoyance in his voice.
“How do you know my name?” she inquired in confusion. “Have we been introduced?” She gazed around her for a glimpse of anyone who might have accompanied the child.
“I have known you these past few weeks,” he said, failing to mask his displeasure. “I danced with you last evening at the ball.”
She shook her head in disagreement. “I danced with no boys last evening,” she said. When his annoyance changed to exasperation, she continued in a gentler tone, though still sceptical of his claims. “It is no secret that I danced with Mr. Darcy last night, as any number of people observed us doing so,” she said.
“Perhaps but no one overheard our conversation.”
She folded her arms in front of her. “And did we converse during this dance, Mister Darcy?” she inquired.
He nodded the affirmative. “You tried to assess my character but you enjoyed little success. You said I puzzled you exceedingly. I said that I would by no means suspend any pleasure of yours,” he replied with the utmost determination, unlike any child she had ever encountered.
She frowned. “And do you know why Mr. Darcy puzzles me?” she asked.
“Does it have something to do with Mr. Wickham?”
She averted her eyes. “Among other things,” she said.
“Miss Elizabeth, I know you wish to know more of my history with Mr. Wickham and I promise to reveal the whole sordid truth, but first I beseech you to assist me!”
“If you are Mr. Darcy, why are you a boy?” She was still doubtful of his claims but his troubled countenance gave her pause. His haughty reserve had faded and shoulders drooped.
He shook his head and sat down on the fallen tree. “Honestly, I have no idea,” he said.
She sat next to him. “How may I help you?” She could not keep from feeling some sympathy for the poor boy, sitting there with his head in his hands. She noticed, too, that his feet were covered only with wool stockings and no small amount of debris.
He was silent for a moment, then looked up into her eyes. “I need help to determine how I came to be in my present state and how to correct it,” he said.
She shook her head. “First, we must get you some attire befitting your age. You look entirely out of place in those clothes.” How this was to be accomplished was a different matter; with five daughters, Longbourn would have no boys’ clothes stored away. She suddenly thought of her friend Charlotte Lucas, who had younger brothers. “Let us go to Lucas Lodge,” she said. “They are certain to have some clothes that will fit you.”
“Yes, that is an excellent suggestion!”
He grasped the horse’s reins and they made their way through the pines and over to the path between the two estates. “Is that Mr. Darcy’s horse?” she inquired.
“Yes, Bart is my horse,” the boy said.
He was a puzzlement indeed. “Are you really Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy?” she asked.
“I am.” He held out his hand, showing her the ring on his thumb. “I have my father’s signet ring to prove it.”
“But it is too large for you,” she said. Indeed, the boy was small; a full head shorter than she was.
“Yes, it slipped off my finger during the night and I nearly lost it,” he told her with a frown. “I would never forgive myself if I lost such a cherished heirloom.”
“No indeed, you must not lose it.” She felt still quite unsure what to make of the boy’s claims, but she dearly hoped that he had not stolen the ring from Mr. Darcy.
He stopped walking to look up at her. “Do you believe me, then? Please tell me that you do, Miss Elizabeth!” he implored her.
“Tell me something that only Mr. Darcy and I would know.”
He appeared to contemplate this for a moment. “I admire a woman who improves her mind through extensive reading.”
He mouth gaped in astonishment. “Mr. Darcy!” It was true that he had made that very same comment during their discussion at Netherfield a fortnight ago. It was impossible to believe, but somehow Mr. Darcy had turned into a boy! But how?—she wondered, although she did see the resemblance; the dark hair, the intense eyes, and the proud posture.
Available on Amazon: Link