Christmas Eve 1810
On Christmas Eve, Mrs. Bennet had the pleasure of receiving her brother and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, who came as usual to spend the Christmas at Longbourn. The first part of Mrs. Gardiner's business on her arrival was to distribute her presents and describe the newest fashions. When this was done she had a less active part to play. It became her turn to listen. Mrs. Bennet had many grievances to relate, and much to complain of. As usual, they had all been very ill-used since she last saw her sister.
Once all the news had been exchanged and supper had been eaten, Mr. Bennet and Mr. Gardiner removed to the library for port and conversation. They often talked well into the night.
The ladies removed to the drawing room to relate Christmas stories. Mrs. Gardiner told of the old custom of girls placing their shoes, one on each side of their beds, on Christmas Eve. The girls would place a sprig of Rosemary in one shoe, and a sprig of Thyme in the other. If a girl slept on her back, she would dream of her future husband. She had always dreamt of a man with brown hair and a gentle smile, who bore a striking resemblance to Mr. Gardiner. Mrs. Gardiner had told this story every Christmas Eve for as long as Elizabeth could remember.
Much later that evening, Elizabeth was looking out the window long after Jane had fallen asleep. She glanced over at her sister's bed and saw one of her shoes on either side of the bed. Was it really possible to dream of the man you were to marry -- a man you might not have met yet? Jane and Elizabeth had placed the herbs in their shoes on Christmas Eve for many years now. Jane always dreamed of a fair haired man with very lively manners. Elizabeth had always dreamt of tall handsome man, he was dark with formal manners. He bore no resemblance to any of her acquaintance. Her father called it all nonsense and perhaps it was.
Elizabeth yawned and stretched up from her seat. She walked quietly to her own bed, carefully tucked rosemary in one shoe, thyme in the other and placed them gently on either side of her bed. That night she slept on her back and had a lovely dream. She was at a ball talking to her friend Miss Lucas when she was suddenly addressed by a tall handsome man. She accepted his application for her hand. When he claimed her for their two dances, they took their place near the head of the line. She awoke before the dance was done but it was a beautiful dream and nonsense or not she was in high spirits all of Christmas Day thinking of her dream lover.
Mr. Darcy sat alone in the library of his town house, his legs stretched out towards the fire. It was late and though he knew he would have to rise early for Christmas service the next day, he could not sleep. Georgiana had just turned sixteen and the time had come for her to have an establishment of her own. She was too old for a nurse; she needed more experience in society than she was getting at school. He had the previous week secured the services of a Mrs. Young to preside over the establishment he had formed for her in London. He hoped he and Colonel Fitzwilliam were doing well in their guardianship of Georgiana. She really needed a woman's guidance. It would be different if his mother were alive or if Darcy had a wife to guide his sister in social development.
Darcy had that evening attended the Christmas Eve Ball at Lord ___'s house. Darcy detested dancing but he had gone with Bingley to avoid being alone. He remembered the Christmas Eve balls his mother held at Pemberley and the quiet family Christmas's with his father after her passing. Would a wife fill the emptiness in his home, in his heart? There were women enough at the ball eager to try -- all of rich and well connected but they all had a sameness about them that disgusted him. He was sure he had met all the most fashionable young ladies in the country but no woman was prominent in his mind. He began considering all the eligible women of his acquaintance with very little pleasure.
Darcy awoke several hours later, the spent fire and the hands on the clock were the only indication that time had passed. Darcy decided that it was time he took himself to bed -- he also took with him the only recollection he had from his slumber by the fire -- the image of the most beautiful eyes he had ever seen.
Christmas Eve 1811
Elizabeth sat on her bed watching Jane's light slumber. Jane had once again set out her slippers on either side of her bed with herbs in each. Elizabeth was certain Jane would dream of Bingley. Indeed, Mrs. Gardiner had invited Jane to London for the winter and for Elizabeth, there was no doubt that Bingley would call as soon as he knew of her presence. It was only a matter of time before Jane's happiness was secured in the best possible manner. Of her own happiness, Elizabeth remained very much in doubt. Wickham was the pleasantest man she had ever met but Mrs. Gardiner was correct -- Darcy had ruined his prospects and fortune made it imprudent for her to become attached to him.
Elizabeth sighed. Elizabeth was tired and her thoughts were not promoting contentment. Her father was justified in calling it silliness, but she decided to set out her slippers this Christmas, anyway. The resemblance between her dream last year and her dance at the Netherfield ball disturbed her. When Mr. Darcy applied for her hand, she was so surprised by the situation's similarity to her Christmas dream that she accepted his request for a dance. They were miserable dances and the evening did not improve. Certainly she had never and would never dream of Mr. Darcy -- the similarities must be attributed to a poor memory.
Elizabeth awoke Christmas morning well rested and she felt as if she had the most beautiful dream. She did, however, find it a little annoying that the only face she remembered clearly from her dream was that of Mr. Darcy.
It had been nearly a month since that night - Since the night Darcy had been imprudent enough to engage her in a dance. Her hand felt so perfect in his as he led her to the dance floor. He dared not speak at first for fear that his voice out betray his emotion. Their conversation during the dance went badly but he continued to stay near her all evening just near enough to see her not near enough to talk. Truly, she seemed out of spirits all evening but he supposed the attentions of her bothersome cousin accounted for it.
He and Bingley had attended balls or parties nearly every evening since they arrived in London. This evening had been no different. Darcy told himself that he went out to support his friend's spirits but he knew his own heart was in Hertfordshire as well. Such connections would not be beneficial for his friend or himself so it was better to end it before they involved the ladies' hearts. In London, Darcy danced more and talked to more young ladies than he had ever done in his life. Yet, every night was still the same.
Darcy lay awake, staring at the canopy of his bed. He knew it was late but he was almost afraid to sleep. It was always her eyes, her smile, her laugh, her scent, her form that flooded his dreams -- no woman compared to her, no woman had replaced her. He would never, could never return to her -- he was certain that if he ever saw her again, he would not find the strength to leave her. But how was he to find contentment when it was Elizabeth alone who filled his thoughts?
On the eve of last Christmas, he had wished to find a woman who would fill his heart -- one year later, he prayed for the strength to forget her.
Christmas Eve 1812
Darcy gazed down at his wife -- she was beautiful. Elizabeth was sleeping with a soft smile on her face. Darcy kissed her gently and settled himself closer to her, placing an arm around her waist. She sighed softly. Within minutes, Darcy's sleeping face held the same contented smile as his wife.
Merry Christmas to all and to all sleep tight.
Author's Note: The inspiration for this story came from Father Christmas -- by Lou - as did the idea about herbs in the shoes. Many thanks to Lou for all the wonderful stories and for giving me permission to post this.