Darcy and elizabeth, p.1

Darcy and Elizabeth, page 1

 part  #1 of  Sweet Tea Stories Series


Darcy and Elizabeth

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Darcy and Elizabeth


  Maria Grace

  Published by: White Soup Press

  Darcy and Elizabeth: Christmas 1811

  Copyright © December 1, 2017 Maria Grace

  All rights reserved including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof,

  in any format whatsoever.

  The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental and not intended by the author.

  For information address

  [email protected]

  ISBN-13: 978-0-9980937-5-8 (White Soup Press)

  Author’s Website: http://RandomBitsofFascination.com

  Email address: [email protected]

  “Grace has quickly become one of my favorite authors of Austen-inspired fiction. Her love of Austen’s characters and the Regency era shine through in all of her novels.” Diary of an Eccentric

  Darcy and Elizabeth: Christmas 1811

  Jane Austen never wrote the details of Christmastide 1811. What might have happened during those intriguing months?

  Following the Netherfield ball, Darcy persuades Bingley to leave Netherfield Park in favor of London to avoid the match-making machinations of Mrs. Bennet. Surely, the distractions of town will help Bingley forget the attractions of Miss Jane Bennet. But Bingley is not the only one who needs to forget. All Darcy wants this Christmastide is to forget another Miss Bennet.

  Can the diversions of London help Darcy overcome memories of the fine eyes and pert opinions of a certain Hertfordshire miss?

  Without the Bingleys, the Bennets are left to the company of Mr. Collins and the militia officers—entirely suitable company, according Mrs. Bennet. Elizabeth disagrees, refusing an offer of marriage from the very eligible Mr. Collins. Mama’s nerves suffer horridly until Elizabeth follows her advice to make the most of the officers’ company.

  Even Mr. Bennet seems to agree. So, whilst Jane pines for Mr. Bingley, Elizabeth admits the attentions of one agreeable Lt. Wickham. What possible harm can it cause, especially when her parents are so pleased?

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  For my husband and sons.

  You have always believed in me.

  Table of Contents


  November 24, 1811 Stir it up Sunday. Meryton

  November 27, 1811. Meryton

  November 28, 1813. Meryton

  November 30, 1811. Meryton

  December 6, 1811 St. Nicholas’ day. London

  December 16, 1811 Meryton

  December 18, 1811. London

  December 19, 1811. Meryton

  December 20, 1811 Meryton

  December 23, 1811 Meryton

  December, 24 1811 Christmas Eve. London

  December 25, 1811 Christmas morning. Meryton

  December 25, 1811 Christmas Evening. London





  December 26, 1811 Boxing Day. London

  December 28, 1811. Longbourn

  December 29, 1811. Meryton

  December 30, 1811. London


  December 31, 1811 London


  January 5, 1812. London

  January 6, 1812 Twelfth Night. Meryton

  January 7, 1812. London


  Thank you!

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  About the Author



  Jane Austen tells us almost nothing of what transpired during the Christmas Darcy and Elizabeth spent prior to their marriage near the end of 1812. What might have happened those months that Darcy spent in London whilst the militia wintered in Meryton?

  Take a peek behind the scenes Austen wrote into what might have been.

  Darcy & Elizabeth: Christmas 1811

  Next to being married, a girl likes to be crossed in love a little now and then. It is something to think of, and gives her a sort of distinction among her companions. ... Let Wickham be your man. He is a pleasant fellow, and would jilt you creditably. ~ Mr. Bennet, Pride and Prejudice

  November 24, 1811 Stir it up Sunday. Meryton

  Sunday mornings before holy services were usually a calm restful time in the Bennet household. The early-rising members of the family would gather in the parlor to read or sew, whilst the late ones—usually Lydia and Kitty—would dash in just before it was time to go, laughing and merry and gay.

  This, the last Sunday before advent, was different somehow. Was it just the presence of their uninvited and, at least in Elizabeth’s mind, unwelcome guest that changed everything? It was hard to say, but she was tempted to believe it.

  Papa proved hard to ignore as he paced along his favorite track in the parlor, back and forth in front of the fireplace whilst the rest of the family assembled. Elizabeth pressed her lips hard and turned her face aside. He would know she was trying not to laugh at his impatience if he caught sight of her.

  Jane sat near the window with her needlework. A low fire warmed the room almost as much as the sunbeams through the window that danced along the carpet and cast shadows on the yellow wall near the chair where Elizabeth sat. The sun had faded the upholstery to be sure, but it was also very warm and friendly, a necessary quality in a room where the family gathered.

  Papa passed by her again, the scent of his shaving soap reached out and tickled her nose—a funny, sneezy herbal scent. “Mrs. Bennet, we await your presence.” He stared at the doorway as though that might bring her in faster.

  “You know she always takes particular care with her Christmas pudding preparations.” Elizabeth went to him.

  He huffed and wrinkled his lips into a special frown reserved for Mama alone. “How long does it take to pour some brandy over fruit and spices?”

  She patted his arm and followed him as he tramped back along his path. “You know as well as I, it is more complex than that.”

  Jane joined them near the fireplace. “Stoning and chopping the fruit is time consuming.”

  “Is that not why we employ Hill and Cook? As I recall, she took great pride in telling Mr. Collins that you girls did not sully yourselves with toiling in the kitchen.”

  Why did Papa have to mention him? Elizabeth cringed. “Indeed she did, but Christmas pudding is no regular food stuff.”

  “You know how special Christmas pudding is to her,” Jane said.

  “Would that it be special on a day of the week with nowhere else demanding our presence.” He shook his head and rolled his eyes toward the ceiling where the maid had missed a spot in her dusting.

  Mr. Collins, Mary in his shadow, trundled in. “Good day to you, Mr. Bennet, and to you, my fair cousins.”

  Necessary pleasantries were exchanged, and Elizabeth sidled away. With a little good fortune, his attentions might continue toward Mary, and she could escape his notice.

  “I was just telling Mr. Collins about Mama’s great love of Christmas pudding, and how she loves this Sunday above all others.” Mary threw a hopeful look toward Mr. Collins.

  Mr. Collins thumbed his lapels, expression sober, almost severe. Why did he always have to take the role of the authority on nearly everything—especially when he seemed to know so little? “As a clergyman, I am not certain—”

  “Excuse me. I need to speak to Mrs. Bennet.” Papa edged past them and out of the parlor.

  Elizabeth peeked into
the corridor. He turned toward his study not the kitchen. She squeezed her eyes shut and sighed. Though she could not really blame him, it would have been more polite for him not to abandon them to his relation.

  Mr. Collins looked after him, his brows drawn tight together, as though unable to work out why Papa might have left. His shoulders twitched in a tiny shrug, and he turned back to his remaining, captive audience.

  “I am not certain how this particular Sunday holds any significance above others. Surely the Sundays of Advent—”

  “Mama finds the day has personal significance, not doctrinal importance.” Jane’s tone was so soft and reasonable. What a shame to waste it on one who was not.

  Mr. Collins formed a silent ‘o’ as if the idea of personal significance were an entirely new concept.

  Elizabeth and Jane took to the settee. Elizabeth picked up her sewing from the basket and ducked her head. Perhaps he would not take notice of her.

  Lydia and Kitty skipped in, giggling and tittering about the bonnet that Lydia had newly trimmed.

  “Why should this Sunday have such personal import that she might be at liberty to make the entire family late to holy services?” Mr. Collins clasped his hands behind his back and resumed Papa’s path, pacing before the fireplace.

  “Are you going to tell the story of Mama and Papa’s betrothal?” Lydia snickered.

  “What has that to do with this particular Sunday?”

  “The Christmas pudding that foretold their betrothal—” Kitty glanced at Lydia.

  “Was stirred up on this day—” Lydia grabbed Kitty’s hand.

  “And Mama was the one who put the ring charm in the pudding,” they finished together.

  “She looks fondly upon Christmas puddings as a result.” Mary mimicked one of Mama’s warning glances toward Kitty and Lydia, but failed to achieve the desired effect.

  “Fondly? Only fondly?” Lydia chortled. “She considers them essential and auspicious, slaving over them each year as though—”

  “Your mother declares herself ready—let us be off,” Papa called from the vestibule.

  Lydia and Kitty led the procession out. Mr. Collins lingered behind near the settee.

  The back of Elizabeth’s neck prickled. Why was he looking at her like that?

  Thankfully, the carriage was not required for the trip to church. A fine brisk walk in the morning sun and crisp breeze was exactly what Elizabeth most needed right now. More properly, it would have been what she most needed had Mr. Collins not taken the opportunity to appoint himself as her devoted escort. He immediately took to her side, rescuing her from any danger of reflection or contemplation.

  Instead, she became well acquainted with Lady Catherine’s beneficence; her prescriptions by which sermon writers might offer the most appropriate sermons for parishioners; her magnanimous assistance in reviewing the sermons he himself wrote; her generous refinements added to his preparations.

  Heavens, could the man not think nor act for himself?

  “Is it truly necessary to have her review your work, sir? Forgive me if I am incorrect in my understanding, but is not a vicar secure in his position? Why is her favor so significant?” She scuffed her toes in the dirt as she walked.

  Such a glance he cast upon her! So condescending! No one had looked at her that way since she was an overly inquisitive little girl.

  “It does you credit, dear cousin, that you would give so much consideration to my situation and welfare. You are quite correct in your understanding of the nature of my preferment. Nothing short of complete moral failure on my part can separate me from it. I flatter myself to believe it entirely avoidable on my part.”

  “I am sure you are correct. Still, I do not apprehend your most profound devotion to her opinion.” She kicked a dry clod of dirt out of the path.

  “Is it not a right and pleasing thing to be concerned for the opinion of those whom Providence has placed in superior positions? One can profit both spiritually and in more temporal ways from their beneficence.”

  “Oh, now I see.” He was a puppy, begging for crumbs at her table. To be fair, his income could not be much above a tenth of Papa’s, but still. Had he no dignity?

  She shifted her wrap to soothe the prickles across the back of her neck. What he implied was too much like a servant holding out a hand for vails from houseguests. Would he expect the same obsequiousness from a wife? No doubt he would. She swallowed hard.

  The church bells rang a final call to worship as they arrived and went directly to their worn wooden pew. The little stone and wood church brimmed with congregants. How utterly unsurprising that Mr. Collins should contrive to sit between her and Jane.

  The vicar read the day’s prayer. “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."

  Lydia elbowed Kitty and whispered, “Stir up, we beseech thee, the pudding in the pot. And when we do get home tonight, we'll eat it up hot.”

  Elizabeth stifled a laugh.

  “I suppose it is the fashion of young people today to freely parody those things considered sacred. I am pleased to see that you do not indulge in such unseemly fancies,” Mr. Collins muttered under his breath, eyes fixed on the vicar.

  Elizabeth bit her lip hard. Bother. She would have been better served laughing heartily. Perhaps that might have given him pause instead of one more thing to fuel his unseemly praise of her. What beastly luck to have herself in proper check this morning.

  Mr. Collins offered his reflections and commentary on the sermon throughout the service. In short, the vicar executed his task admirably enough, but his sermon was too modern. He would have clearly benefited from the guidance a patron like Lady Catherine could offer. It was difficult not to wonder if Mr. Collins would have appreciated such a critique from one of his own congregants.

  Her skin itched and every limb twitched. She would have gasped for breath had it not been likely to gain even more attention from him. His presence had all the appeal of a coarse wool blanket on bare skin.

  Mama glanced at them from the far end of the pew. Prim and entirely satisfied, she folded her hands in her lap and peeked first at the Bingleys across the aisle, then the Lucases to whom she offered a well-pleased smile.

  How shocking to be so self-congratulatory in church! Elizabeth’s stomach churned. It had not been a misunderstanding as Jane insisted. Mama clearly expected, even anticipated, Mr. Collins making an offer to one of her girls. Not just one of her girls, but to Elizabeth in particular.

  Surely, even Mama could see how unsuitable they were to one another. Surely he could see it, too. No man could be that insensible, could he?

  On the way home, Mary contrived to walk with Mr. Collins. How she managed—and why—were a mystery, but Elizabeth enjoyed the fruits nonetheless. She strolled beside Jane, savoring the quiet company and gentle sunshine as their half-boots crunched among the dry leaves. With Mr. Collins behind her, she could nearly block out the sound of his voice in favor of the sounds of the countryside—birds, sheep, cows and a few horses.

  Mama faded back from her place beside Papa and interposed herself between Elizabeth and Jane. How did she manage to arrange her generous rust-colored skirts to seem all fluffed and prickly like an angry hen? Even the fur on her muff seemed to be standing on end. “It is not becoming for you to roll your eyes so much, Lizzy. I have seen you do it far too often recently.”

  “Yes, Mama.”

  “And another thing. I do not much like your way of constantly escaping Mr. Collins’s most agreeable company. See there, Mary is walking with him. It should be you.” Mama glanced over her shoulder, none too discreetly.

  Jane leaned toward Mama. “I do believe Mary is partial to Mr. Collins’s society.”

  “I do not care what Mary’s preferences are. Mr. Collins deserves more than a plain middle child. Since he cannot have the eldest, his preference
falls to you.” She elbowed Elizabeth sharply.

  “Mary would much rather have it.” Elizabeth peeked over her shoulder. “And he does not seem much displeased for it.” In all likelihood, any of them would do for him; he hardly seemed to care very much which.

  “That is because he is a gentleman and does not wear his heart upon his sleeve. Do not be insensible of the great boon he seeks to be to all of us.”

  “Are you telling me—”

  “It seems I can tell you nothing, obstinate girl. I am simply reminding you of the reality of our situation, something you would be wise not to forget.” Mama waved a pointing finger just under Elizabeth’s chin and marched back to her place beside Papa.

  Elizabeth hesitated a few steps, increasing the distance between her and Mama. “Oh, Jane. What am I to do?”

  “Do not be too hard on Mama. You know her nerves.”

  “Papa’s great friend all these years? Yes, I well know her nerves.” She rolled her eyes. Perhaps Mama did have a fair point on that account.

  “Do be fair, or at least try.”

  “I try. Indeed, I do. But what sense does it make to deny Mary her preference and me mine? You and I have always agreed we should marry for love alone.”

  Jane sighed and glanced in the direction of Netherfield Park. “Yes, it is a very desirable thing. But not everyone is the same. Mr. Collins’s motivations seem very different. Not wrong, but different.”

  “So different, I do not see how I may bridge the gap—nor do I see why I should when things might very well be agreeably settled with Mary.”

  “She does seem to take great pains to seek out his company. Perhaps he and Mama may be made to see reason.”

  Hopefully Jane was correct. But what if she were not?

  Even if it were not possible to marry for love, it should not be too much to ask to be able to enjoy a friendship with the man she married, should it? How could she possibly settle for less than that?

  After a light nuncheon in the dining room, Mama called them all to the kitchen. She had done the same thing every Stir it Up Sunday since Elizabeth could remember. The large worktable in the center of the kitchen bore the fragrant makings of the pudding. The air swirled with the fragrances of brandy and spices hanging in the steam of the great roiling cauldron waiting to accept the finished pudding.

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