Christmas At Pemberley
Author's Note: Elizabeth and Darcy's first Christmas Together. They have been married just under one month.
Fitzwilliam Darcy awoke on Christmas morning to a delightful sight. His darling Elizabeth's head was resting on his chest. Her shiny, dark curls were cascading loosely down her back in a magnificent, chestnut-colored waterfall of loose ringlets. Some strands were resting on Darcy's shoulder. He picked up these strands, ever so gently so not to wake her, and twirled them around his fingers. As he looked down at his bride, a smile of pure happiness came across his face. He thought about Christmas last year.
He had just left Hertfordshire for London a few short weeks before, and haunting thoughts of the witty, beautiful country girl with the sparkling eyes, whose company he had enjoyed so greatly were often in his mind. If anyone, then, had have been able to predict the future, and told Darcy who he would be spending Christmas with the following year, he would have dropped through the floor. Now, his life was a wonderful dream, filled with love, and warmth. And, of course, all of this was because of Elizabeth. Oh, he loved her so! Darcy could not believe how much she had brought to his life.
Now, he looked out one of the many large windows of the bedroom. Snow blanketed the ground and the bare tree branches. The gardeners had cleared the walks, and Darcy began to make plans for taking a long walk outside with Elizabeth. He looked at the clock. It was almost seven. Elizabeth would be waking up shortly. Darcy's gaze drifted from the clock to his wife. She looked so serene and sweet lying there, like an angel, almost. Her breathing was soft and even. Darcy had been holding Elizabeth all night, and his arms were still wrapped around her. Discovering that he could fight the urge no longer, he tightened his arms around her. Elizabeth stirred, and opened her eyes to find her husband looking at her lovingly. She smiled, and snuggled closer to him.
One hour later, after Elizabeth and Darcy had both gotten dressed, they walked down the long, Grand Staircase on their way to breakfast. Darcy was having a difficult time tearing his adoring gaze from his wife. She was wearing a festive dress of dark green velvet, and she had placed a sprig of holly in her hair. About halfway down the staircase, Elizabeth stopped walking, and turning to her husband, said, "I love Christmas."
"Yes," Darcy agreed, taking her hand in his, "it has always been my favorite season, and Georgiana's." He paused, and then spoke again, in a livelier tone.
"Darling, I have a surprise for you when we get into the dining room."
Lizzie's eyes sparkled happily. She loved being surprised, and all the more so when her husband was the one to surprise her.
Still holding hands, the couple gained the dining room. There were several servants in there, already serving breakfast to Georgiana and Mrs. Annesley, who were sitting at the table. Darcy stopped under the archway, and Elizabeth waited for him, a trifle curious as to why he paused. Then, to the great amusement and delight of everyone in the room, Darcy quickly glanced upwards, and managed to flash a wicked grin at Elizabeth before pulling her to him, and passionately kissing her.
Several minutes later, a blushing Lizzie recollected herself, and pulled away from her husband, as she heard the laughter from everyone in the room. She blushed even more when, upon looking up at the ceiling with bewilderment, discovered mistletoe hanging over the entranceway into the dining room. She smilingly lead the way to the table and sat down. Mr. Darcy followed her. There was a sweet, boyish look on his face -- a mixture of slight embarrassment, good humor and a sort of sheepish triumphantness. He sat down next to Elizabeth, and smiled broadly at her.
Lizzy folded her arms across her chest and said, with a tone of mock anger and a hint of playfulness and sarcasm, "Wonderful surprise. That was very rude...you tease!"
Everyone in the room laughed again, and Darcy kissed Lizzie's hand.
Flashback: On Christmas Eve, an express came to Pemberley. As the letter-carrier drove up to the front of the house, Elizabeth, who was looking out the window with her husband, said to him,
"Who would send, or deliver a letter in such weather as this! It must be important, dear, or why else would that poor man be delivering a letter in such a snowstorm?"
"Well, Lizzie," Darcy said, "we shall soon find out."
The couple waited patiently in the hall for the butler to show the man in. Not two minutes later, the butler walked into the hall with a sodden man behind him.
"I have an express for Mrs. and Mr. Darcy," the man stated.
Lizzie and Darcy stepped forward, and before taking the letter, Elizabeth said, "Sir, thank you, but why are you traveling in this blizzard...and on Christmas Eve. You will get sick."
"Yes," stepped in Darcy, "you must dry off before you leave, Sir," he said, gesturing towards the large fire in the fireplace.
"Madam, Sir," said the man, "that is very kind of you, but I have not come far to get here. He noticed Lizzie'spuzzled face as she looked at the envelope.
"But, the return address is from Warrington's Hotel. That's at least twenty miles out of Derbyshire, and a goodtwo-hour drive from here," she said.
"Yes, Ma'am, you are right, but I have come from Lambton. Due to the snow, the man from Warrington's traveledonly a short distance to the nearest post office. The man from that post office drove a little ways more, and so on.It did take longer to reach you, but at least no one had to travel too far."
"Oh!" Lizzie and Fitzwilliam exclaimed together.
The butler tipped the man, who thanked him and the Darcys on his way out. Mr. and Mrs. Darcy called after him,
"Thank you! Merry Christmas!" Then, the two of them walked into the parlor to read the letter.
"Who could be writing us from Warrington's?" Lizzie wondered aloud. She soon found out the answer. The letter read:
Saturday, the 24th of December."That was very wise of them," Mr. Darcy interjected. Elizabeth nodded, and resumed reading,
My dear Niece and Nephew,Your uncle and cousins and I were on our way to Pemberley, as planned. Everything was going smoothly until the weather became quite inclement. The light snow that had been falling became a full-fledged blizzard. We didn't want anything to happen to the carriage, and considering that we were still quite a ways from Pemberley, we thought it best to stop at the nearest hotel.
Since the snow has not shown any signs of stopping in the near future, we will probably be here overnight. We are perfectly safe for the time being. Hopefully, the snow will stop soon. If we can, we shall depart for Pemberley at first light tomorrow morning.
Pray, do not worry about any of us. We will see you as soon as nature allows. Merry Christmas.
I am your loving aunt, etc.
Elizabeth could not help worrying a bit. "Oh, I hope that the snow will stop, soon," she said as she wrung her hands.
Mr. Darcy hated to see his beloved upset in any way, so he drew her very close to him, wrapped his arm aroundher shoulders, and said, "Do not worry, my Lizzie. They will get here. The snow is already letting up a bit."Elizabeth smiled up at him, and rested her head on his shoulder.
Note: Still a flashback. Later Christmas Eve...
Christmas Eve day had passed off pleasantly. Georgiana and Mrs. Annesley had arrived the day before from London. Both were glad to have beaten the snowstorm, but expressed sincere concern for the Gardiners. Elizabeth was no longer worried. The snow, although it was still falling, had let up considerably.
After dinner, Fitzwilliam, Elizabeth and Georgiana went into the parlor to decorate the tree. Mrs. Annesley followed, holding some needlepoint. The tree in the parlor was a green, fragrant beauty. The servants had brought several boxes of ornaments up from storage, and they were now sitting on the floor. A large job was ahead of the Darcys, but they didn't care. All three of them were more than happy to decorate the tree.
The group chatted joyfully about the ball that was to be held on New Year's Eve. It was to be Georgiana's first ball, and she was very pleased with the prospect of coming out. "I'm very excited. I just hope that I can think of adequate things to say," Georgiana said modestly. Elizabeth reassured her sister. "You'll be fine, dear. Don't worry." Elizabeth smiled at Georgiana, and squeezed her hand.
It was quite late by the time the tree was almost done. Georgiana and Mrs. Annesley retired with parting cries of "Good night!" and "Merry Christmas!"
A quarter of an hour later, the tree was completely trimmed, except for the star to go on top. Darcy reached in the box for it, but to his surprise, Elizabeth touched his hand, as though to restrain him, and said, "Wait. I have a surprise."
She hastily left the room. Several minutes later, she returned with a small bundle in her hands. It was a piece of soft, red satin. Elizabeth unwrapped the bundle very carefully to reveal a beautiful, porcelain angel with a long dress made of blue silk trimmed with lace, and a painted face. The angel had dark eyes, and long, dark curls.
She smiled anxiously at her husband. He smiled back at her warmly.
"Of course," he said, answering Elizabeth's unspoken question.
He helped her up onto the step-stool, holding one of her hands as she placed the angel on the top of the tree. Both stepped back to admire their work.
"My first Christmas at Pemberley," Elizabeth dreamily said.
"I still can't believe it," Mr. Darcy said. He looked at Elizabeth in wonderment. He led her to the couch. He sat down, and he pulled her into his lap. Then, he looked out the window.
"Lizzie, look! It has stopped snowing!"
She craned her neck. A lovely smile came over her face as she looked out at the quiet landscape.
"Then, they will get here tomorrow, and we can all have Christmas together." She looked thoughtful for a moment, and said, "You have never met my cousins!"
Mr. Darcy smiled. "No, but I will," he said.
Lizzie kissed Darcy's cheek. He held her tighter, and in the next moment, all further thoughts of house-guests were forgotten.
...and kissed Elizabeth's hand. "Merry Christmas, Georgiana, and Mrs. Annesley, of course," Elizabeth said. She smiled.
Mr. Darcy looked at her, as he was thinking, "Merry Christmas, indeed! It's certainly the merriest I've ever had. She looks quite stunning in that dress, and it brings out the color of her eyes. I hope she will like the presents I've gotten her." Mr. Darcy looked down to see Elizabeth's left hand on the corner of her chair, under the table, hidden from Georgiana's and Mrs. Annesley's view. Darcy took his hand from where it had been resting near the side of his plate, and brought it very close to Elizabeth's, and closer, and closer...
Suddenly, Elizabeth felt something touch her hand. She quickly looked down to see her husband's hand close around hers, getting shivers up and down her back as he did this. She glanced to her left, and met Mr. Darcy's eyes. He smiled secretively at her, and she smiled back, blushing at the gesture.
"Lizzie, dear," said Georgiana, "are you well? You seem flushed. Indeed, your cheeks are bright red! Do you need something to drink?"
Lizzie blushed even more, and, swallowing, said, "Oh, no! I am perfectly well. But thank you for your concern, Georgiana."
Mr. Darcy tightened his grip as she said this, and the meal continued pleasantly.
At the conclusion of breakfast, Darcy said to Elizabeth, "Dear, I am going into the library to sit, and read. Would you come with me?"
Elizabeth replied, "Yes, but I am just going to stay in the front for a few moments to await my aunt and uncle."
Mr. Darcy nodded and smiled, and then held out his arm to Elizabeth. She took it, drawing her hand through the crook of his arm. They left the room together.
When they had gained the front hall, Darcy said, "Would you like me to wait with you?"
"No, I will be meet you in the library if they do not arrive, soon."
Elizabeth sat down on a chair as Darcy walked off towards the library. He had only walked a short distance when he heard the sound of a carriage. He turned around, but did not walk towards Elizabeth. He wanted her to be able to greet her aunt, uncle and cousins privately. He planned to watch their arrival quietly, and then walk up to greet his new relatives.
Elizabeth had stood up upon hearing the carriage approaching. Soon, the butler showed in the Gardiners. Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner walked in first, one child holding on to each of their hands.
Elizabeth was smiling happily by the time the six Gardiners were inside. Mr. Gardiner and Mrs. Gardiner walked forward, and both embraced their niece. Mr. Darcy felt a warm feeling of gratitude towards them, and smiled to himself, but his smile grew bigger as the scene continued.
The four children, two girls and two younger boys came toward their cousin. They looked around the grand, large hall, and their jaws dropped. Elizabeth, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner were all looking at the children, trying not to laugh, but all their efforts failed when the youngest, a boy of about four, stepped closer to Elizabeth, bowed solemnly and said,"Good, day Mrs. Darcy."
Mr. Gardiner looked at his wife, and chuckled. Then Mrs. Gardiner began to giggle, and Elizabeth laughed as she opened her arms, and the children ran to her. They hurled themselves at their cousin, throwing their arms around her and kissing her cheeks. Mr. Darcy watched with great amusement, but then said to himself,"Where is the youngest...the one who bowed?"
He soon found out. He was on the ground, attached to her leg, hugging it, and saying,"Oh, Elizeebet! We missed you so!"
"Elizeebet," Mr. Darcy said quietly. He chuckled to himself. Obviously, this little one couldn't pronounce her name. Darcy then recollected himself, and went out to greet his guests.
Elizabeth smiled as her husband approached. He was grinning from ear to ear. The Gardiners came forth. Mrs. Gardiner gave her new nephew a kiss on the cheek. Mr. Gardiner and Mr. Darcy affectionately shook hands. Elizabeth looked at her husband, and he smiled at her.
"Merry Christmas, and welcome to Pemberley," Mr. Darcy said sincerely.
Mr. Gardiner replied, "Merry Christmas. Thank you. We are very glad to be here.²
Elizabeth was still hugging the children, and she was still, um...wearing the little boy. Mr. Darcy and the Gardiners walked towards Elizabeth and the children, who unattached themselves from their cousin on Mr. Darcy's approach. Well, all except for the boy on Lizzie's leg.
Darcy smiled at the children. "Lizzie," he asked, "won't you introduce me to our other guests?"
Elizabeth played along. "Why, of course, how rude of me! This," she said, indicating to the eldest girl with her arm, "is Becky." Becky gave a polite little curtsy. "This is Alyssa." The youngest girl smiled shyly, and blushed as pink as her gloves. "This," Elizabeth said, pointing to the older boy, "is Christopher, and this gentleman on my leg," said Elizabeth smiling down at the small boy, "is John." John then got up, shook Darcy's hand, and said, "Good day, old chap. We is most certainly having the most dreadfully ghastlyful horribly weather, isn't us?"
Elizabeth bit her lip, but Darcy managed to stay calm at this hysterical comment. He replied,"Oh, yes! Perfectly...ghastlyful, old boy!"
John turned to his parents, and said plainly, "I like this Darcy fellow, and I am very glad that he has married our dear Lee. Yes, Darcy is a wonderfully kindly man, and I hope to know him better. Perhaps later, we can shoot billiards and drink cork and tell stories."
"Oh, John!" Mrs. Gardiner said in a very good-humored tone. "I think that you meant to say 'port', not 'cork'. But, you are much too young to be drinking port. Come along."
The Darcys escorted the Gardiners to their rooms so they could settle themselves before lunch. On the way upstairs, Darcy asked Lizzie,"Lee?" referring to what John had called Lizzie earlier.
"Oh, it's just a nickname."
Directly after dinner, everyone trooped into the parlor to open presents. They spread out around the room, Mrs. Annesley in the armchair, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner on the sofa with Becky, Alyssa and Christopher nearby and the three Darcys on the floor around the tree with little John Gardiner sitting next to Elizabeth, holding her hand.
Since the children were the most excited, they were the first to receive their presents. Each child had three presents from under the tree, and a stocking filled with money, candy and small toys. After the children had thanked the adults, they began to play with their presents.
Now, everyone else opened their presents, exclaiming and kissing and thanking everyone else. Mr. and Mrs. Darcy had exchanged gifts, but they were minor gifts. Suddenly, Georgianna said,"Elizabeth, look. There are still two packages under the tree."
Everyone looked. Elizabeth said,"Yes. One of those is mine to you, dear." she said, glancing at Darcy, and smiling apprehensively.
"The other one is for you, Lizzie."
"Well, open them! Aren't you going to open them?" asked Mrs. Annesley.
Fitzwilliam handed Elizabeth one of the boxes. She opened it, and soon exclaimed,"Oh, they're lovely! Look, everyone."
Inside the box were three gowns--three beautiful new gowns. Elizabeth held one of them up to herself. She was smiling very happily.
"Thank you," she said to her husband. "I love them." She leaned forward, and kissed Fitzwilliam's cheek. He smiled. He was glad that Elizabeth had liked his present.
"Fitzwilliam, here," Elizabeth said, handing him the other box.
He opened it, and smiled instantly upon finding that the contents of the box were an extremely handsome pair of boots, and a sturdy-looking riding crop. He said,"Lizzie, dear, these are the very boots I was admiring in London with you, are they not? Right before we were married...And I have been in need of a new riding crop for a long time, but never got around to it. How did you know?"
"I asked the grooms at the stables, and they told me. And, yes, those were the same boots. I have one more thing for you. She reached into her sleeve, and pulled out a cream-colored card. She handed it to her husband, whispering to him,"Don't read this aloud."
He turned the card over, revealing a message written in Elizabeth's small, pretty, curvacious hand. The message was:
Dear Fitzwilliam,I have one more present for you, but I want to give it to you alone. After the others leave, stay in here with me.
Fitzwilliam nodded. At that same moment, the maid brought up egg nog, hot cider and Christmas cookies. Talk flourished over this snack. Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth fed each other cookies, and everyone had a marvelous time.
Later, the Gardiner children claimed to be very tired. Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner brought them upstairs, although they were planning to come back down, later. A bit later, Georgianna and Mrs. Annesley, claiming exhaustion, went upstairs to retire.
"Lizzie, I have something extra to give you also, but you go first."
Elizabeth handed him a package that had been hidden far under the tree.
He opened it. Inside, there was a 5-book volume. The books were bound handsomely in red leather. Darcy exclaimed on reading the title of the volume.
"Elizabeth! How in the world did you find this? My father never had this volume, and I have been searching for it for ages! This volume is extremely rare."
Elizabeth smiled, and said,"It was my father's. He wanted you to have it. He knew you would get good use out of it."
"Thank you, darling."
Now, Darcy reached far under the tree for a package which he handed to Elizabeth. In the package were five royal blue velvet jewelry boxes. The first box held a pair of drop pearl earrings, the second held a seed pearl necklace, the third and fourth held matching delicate rose gold bracelets, and the fifth held a beautiful, elegant diamond ring, also in rose gold. Elizabeth was absolutely stunned. She couldn't get any words out.
"Dear, they were my mother's. I know she would have liked you to have them, and they are now rightfully yours." He slipped the ring on Lizzie's finger, and clasped the necklace around Elizabeth's graceful neck.
"Thank you," Elizabeth whispered.
The couple walked towards the big, comfortable chair. Mr. Darcy sat in it, and Elizabeth sat on one of the arms. He pulled her to him. She wrapped her arms around his neck...
Meanwhile, the Gardiners had put the children to sleep, and were now coming downstairs to re-join their host and hostess. They walked into the parlor, but stopped stock-still when they beheld the sight before them, for there, not twenty feet away from them was Elizabeth sitting on Mr. Darcy's lap in the armchair. Their arms were wound tightly around each other, and they were kissing.
The Gardiner's expressions were a mixture of surprise and embarassment that quickly melted into delight and happiness as they witnessed this scene. The two of them crept quietly away, not wanting to disturb the occupants of the room.
The Gardiners walked upstairs, arm in arm.
"Dear, I'm very glad Lizzie and Darcy got married. They are perfect for each other," Mr. Gardiner said.
"Yes, dear," Mrs. Gardiner agreed, "And they are so violently in love with each other. It's quite sweet."
Mr. Gardiner continued. "Aren't Jane and Charles coming here for the ball?"
"Yes. They will arrive in two days."
So this is how Elizabeth Bennet Darcy spent her first Christmas at Pemberley...with the people who were the dearest to her in the world.