A Very Merry Christmas!
It was The Darcy's very first Christmas together.As had been agreed before their marriage, the Gardiner's were to spend Christmas at Pemberley.Elizabeth excitedly prepared to play hostess to her favorite Aunt and Uncle and their four young children.Mrs. Reynolds was beside herself in delight, for there were to be children at Pemberley again and Georgiana looked forward to entertaining the little darlings.Darcy, however, had his reservations about children in the house.He couldn't remember a time when there had been so many little ones scurrying about the place.In fact, he was sure that there never had been a time when Pemberley engaged so many children.However, he chose to keep those reservations to himself.He was glad to see the household so happy and excited.After all, it could not be all that bad, could it?
It was three days until Christmas, the morning of the Gardiner's arrival.Darcy hurried down the great hall to the stairs, late for an appointment.Elizabeth came running after him, trying desperately to keep his pace and talk to him at the same time.
"Fitzwilliam, Fitzwilliam..." she huffed and puffed."Must you walk so fast, I can barely keep up with you!"
"I told you dear I had a appointment this morning."he stopped briefly and allowed her to catch up."Once again, you have made me very late."He smiled broadly, teasing her.
She caught up with him and pretended to laugh at his wit."I just wanted to make sure I have this all straight.I do not want to forget any Darcy tradition concerning the holiday in my instructions to the staff."She took a deep breath now that they were standing still."All these family traditions, I am quite undone."
"What is wrong with tradition, Elizabeth?It is what holds a family together.Perhaps we can start our own traditions?Yes, we shall make our first tradition together...to start everyday the way we did this one!"he smiled as he kissed her, gave her a pat on the behind and began his quick pace again.
"Fitzwilliam, really!"she protested as she tried to keep pace again."Someone will see and hear you."
"Elizabeth, we are newlyweds. We are supposed to make..."he paused again to tease her."Traditions!I will only be a few hours, Good bye my love." And he was off and down the stairs before she could raise another protest.
Elizabeth stood at the top of the stairs, watching him leave."How dare he make sport of me!" she laughed to herself."He will soon get his, I believe!" as she thought of devilish things to do to pay him back for his impropriety.
Elizabeth was worried.She had not anticipated the Gardiner's to be so late in their arrival.She paced back and forth in front of a window which faced the entrance to the house.She was relieved to finally see the familiar carriage coming up the hill.She scurried to the study to collect her husband to greet their relatives together.
As the carriage pulled up, she waved excitedly to the children who were very glad to be getting out.Mr. Gardiner helped his wife out of the carriage and they both greeted Darcy and Elizabeth with affection.However, Elizabeth could tell something was wrong by their worried faces.
The four children gathered around Elizabeth, giving her excited hugs and kisses.She hugged them all in turn, laughing and smiling.The youngest girl, pulled on the youngest boy's coat and they both turned around and stood staring up at Darcy.He smiled and said "Hello, there."
The wide eyed children stared at him and the little boy gave him a bow, then nudged the little girl and she gave him a curtsy."You see, I told you he wasn't so scary." The boy said to the girl."Shhh!" she cautioned him.
"We had thought you would arrive much earlier in the day.Is everything all right, dear aunt?" Elizabeth inquired.
"Oh, my dear.Let us all go in out of the cold and settle the children, then we will tell you all about it!"
After everyone was settled, the adults sat in the parlor to talk."Dear Niece and Nephew."Mrs. Gardiner said regretfully."I am afraid we will not be able to stay for Christmas."
"What?" Elizabeth said, taken off guard."What is the matter, Aunt!"
"My dear, I have a sister some eighty miles to the north of here.I have received word from her only yesterday, that she is ill and requires my help, she also wishes for your uncle to take care of some financial arrangements for her, so we must all travel there immediately.We are so sorry,the children were looking forward to spending time with you."
Darcy saw Elizabeth's countenance change.He knew she had been looking forward to some familiar faces, since she was so recently displaced from her own home.She might find a quiet Christmas with just he and Georgiana to be much too dull.
"Mr. And Mrs. Gardiner." He said aloud."Surely, you would find it most uncomfortable caring for your sister, and having your children to entertain.Why not leave them with us for a week or two, conduct your business and come for them when all is well.We would surely love to have them here if they would not miss you too much on the holiday."Darcy heard himself say it, yet could barely believe it.
Elizabeth looked at him appreciation in her heart.What a wonder this was, never had she expected him to concede to...baby-sitting!
"Surely Mr. Darcy, you would not wish having our children to care for, alone.We employ no governess to look after them." Mr. Gardiner said quite amused by it all.
"They will not be a bother, sir.This house has seen many children in it before."He raised his eyebrow at the little lie."There is plenty for them to do here as well."
Elizabeth was still staring at him in wonderment.He nodded his head and smiled at the Gardiner's, then looked at Elizabeth and raised his brow to her in question.
"Yes, Uncle.They would be most welcome to stay.If Mr. Darcy is resigned to it..." she swallowed."I would love to have them, and there is always Mrs. Reynolds and Georgiana to help."
"Well..."Mrs. Gardiner drew out."I supposed they would enjoy Christmas more, if they were here in a happy atmosphere." She smiled and nodded at her husband.
"Mr. Darcy, you must assure me you will not let them run amok, nor take any advantage of your good nature.You have my permission to discipline them if need be." Mr. Gardiner said.
"They seem well behaved enough.Surely there would be no occasion for that!"He hoped.
"Well then, we will leave for the north tomorrow and make plans to return Friday next!" Mr. Gardiner slapped Darcy on the back."We shall turn in and get an early start.Good night and thank you both!"
The Gardiner's retired for the evening leaving Darcy and Elizabeth in the parlor alone.Darcy went to the table and poured a drink."Would you care for a drink, my love?"
"No...no thank you.I must surely keep my wits about me, if I am to play mother to four children." She whispered.
"Well, I believe I shall have one all the same." Darcy laughed lightly.
"Fitzwilliam?Are you sure you know what you are doing?I mean with the children, dear?" Elizabeth inquired of him.
"The children?" he questioned"How hard can it be to care for four children, pray?There are plenty of men who have four, five...a...a dozen children.We can look at it as mock parenthood...for a week."
"Yes, dear...but those men don't have children all at once.They usually have time to get used to one before they take on another."She tried to make sure he knew what it was he had gotten into.He did not answer her, but only stared at his cordial glass."Perhaps we should retire also.I'm sure morning comes early, when children are in the house."
"You go on ahead and I will just make a trip around, and come up shortly."He motioned to the upstairs and watched her smile and take her leave.
He stopped at the door of the Library, paused and entered it.He looked up at the thousands of books lining the walls as if searching for something."There must be something here...certainly my father would have had some book concerning parenting."Little did he know there was no manual pertaining to the subject.
The household was a buzz the next morning as The Gardiner's prepared to leave for the north.They kissed each child, and said their good-byes.The children didn't seem to mind staying at Pemberley, for Darcy had promised to take them up to the attic to unpack trunks that were filled with things Darcy and Georgiana had when they were children.The children waved to their parents and watched the carriage disappear.
"Let's get at those trucks." Darcy said with a big grin. The children squealed with delight and by the time Elizabeth turned around, the four children and Darcy had vanished.Elizabeth made her way up to the attic, although she sought out a maid for directions.When she reached the top step she could hear Darcy and Georgiana laughing and the children chattering.She laughed quietly to herself and made her way back downstairs to check on the Christmas arrangements.It appeared that everyone was doing quite well without her.
Sometime later Darcy came downstairs in search of his wife."Elizabeth?Are you in here Elizabeth?"he yelled as he came into the room next to their bedchamber.
"Yes, Fitzwilliam.In here!"
"What are you doing in here, my love?" he asked her.
"I had the attendants move the children's things into this room and the next, so we could keep a closer watch on them.They are not used to being in such a large house, so far away from their parents.Do you mind, dear?"
"No, not at all." He said amused with her special attentions to all the details.
"Did you enjoy unpacking your trunks?" she inquired of him, just as amused.
"Yes, I believe I did enjoy it...and so did the children!They are very well pleased with everything.I'm sure it will occupy them for some time."He felt very satisfied with himself at the moment.This was going to be even easier than he had thought.
The day passed quietly without incident.And as it did, Darcy's confidence in his parenting skills increased to an all time high.Darcy had given instructions to the servants that he, Elizabeth and Georgiana would dine early with the children that evening. He went to his study to complete a few business affairs before dinner.He sat down at his desk and began returning some correspondence.
"Stop it Robert, stop it!" came a shriek from out in the hallway. Then came another scream, this one more blood curdling than the last.The hair on the back of Darcy's head stood on end and he flew out of his chair and into the hallway to find the two youngest children wrestling on the floor.
Darcy picked them both up by the backs of their clothing, one in each hand.Their arms and legs still moving furiously as he dangled them off the floor.
"What on earth is going on!" he shouted as he put them back, upright on the floor.
"Robert is pulling my hair!" the little girl shrieked again.
"Please, Amy, lower your voice." As a shooting pain reached his temple. "Robert, why are you pulling Amy's hair?
"She pinched me first!" Robert yelled.
Elizabeth and the two older children, John and Beth came running into the hallway to see what all the fuss was about.
"Do you do this often?" Darcy inquired of the two youngsters.
"They fight like this all the time, Mr. Darcy." The oldest girl, Beth divulged."Papa usually gives them a swat and puts them to bed."
Darcy stood up and looked at Elizabeth with a frown as he rubbed his temple."Children, we do not fight, and we do not yell like banshees in this house!Do you understand?"
The little one's were still a little afraid of Darcy's stern appearance and height.They both nodded their heads in wide eyed silence and little Amy began to weep.Darcy looked at Elizabeth in remorse as if he had been the one to send little Amy to a school for wayward girls. Darcy was beginning to feel as if children held a doctorate in manipulation.
After supper, Elizabeth and a maid got the children ready for bed.She said good night to the boys and tucked them in.Then went into the girls room.
"Lizzy?"little Amy's voice rang out."Is Mr. Darcy very mad at us?"
"No, Amy.Mr. Darcy is not mad at you.He is just not used to having children in the house.He is barely used to having me here." She leaned over and whispered in the girls ear."I will see you in the morning, little love." And she kissed her on the forehead and left the room.
Darcy rolled onto his back and pulled the covers further up onto himself.He fully intended to stay in bed longer and fell back to sleep quickly.He felt his right eyelid pop open.
"Mr. Darcy, Mr. Darcy...are you awake?"
He could see a tiny face out of his open eye and felt short little breaths on his forehead."This is not possible." He thought."I must be dreaming."
"Mr. Darcy...it is snowing...all over!Wake up!...Mr. Daaarrrcccyyy!!!!"
"Robert, perhaps if you remove your finger from my eye...I can see the snow." Darcy said finally believing himself to be conscious.
Elizabeth sat up in bed, holding tight to little Amy."Children, what are you doing in here?" she asked uncomfortably.
Darcy sat up and groped for his robe.He was now beginning to believe he had bitten off more than he could chew.
"Robert saw the snow and came in to wake me up.He wants to know if we can go outside to play in it." Amy excitedly wiggled."And last night I saw a ghost, Lizzy!"
"Amy, there are no ghosts in this house.I assure you." Darcy said. "I have lived here all my life and not once have I ever seen a ghost."
"I think I wouldn't be so scared if I could sleep with you, Lizzy!"
Darcy groaned and fell back down on the bed with his hands on his forehead.Elizabeth gathered the children and rang for a housemaid."Children, we can go outside after breakfast.Please go and get ready."
Darcy looked out over Pemberley, all white with new fallen snow.He took a step and the snow crunched under his boot.He took a deep breath of clean, crisp air.
"Come on, Mr. Darcy!Come with us!"the boys yelled as they went running out onto the snow.Darcy walked out with the boys.
Elizabeth brought up the rear, holding onto both girls hands.The little one was so bundled up, she could barely lower her arms to her sides.She also took a look out over the landscape.It was so beautiful and still.It was so quiet.
The boys laid in the new snow and made snow angels, then started rolling a large snowball to begin a snowman.Elizabeth bent over to pick up some of the snow and rolled it in a ball.She smiled mischievously and lobbed the snowball at the boys.At that moment Darcy stepped to his side and the snowball hit him in the back of the head, sticking in his hair.
Elizabeth bit her lip and made a face.The two girls looked up at her wide eyed.Darcy turned around and she began to laugh..."I'm so...Fitzwilliam...I'm so sorry!"She couldn't control her laughter any longer for the look on his face.The girls began to giggle wildly from the site of Darcy, and from Elizabeth's infectious laughter.
Darcy looked at the two boys."Men...this is war! He grinned maniacally.The boys started rolling snowballs and Darcy reached down and scooped up a large handful of snow and headed in Elizabeth's direction.
"No...Fitzwilliam...no, you wouldn't dare!"she started running backwards as he made his assent upon her. He made sure he was close enough for the desired effect and pitched his weapon.The snowball hit it's target, that being Elizabeth's chest.The boys began lobbing snowballs at the screaming girls and Elizabeth formed another snowball as Darcy laughed and retreated.Within ten minutes all persons were soaked from head to toe and you could not tell Darcy's dark hair for all the snow stuck to it.
Mrs. Reynolds came out to call everyone in for some hot tea.She laughed as she witnessed the sight before her.She however, could not get her message across for all the shouting, so she ventured closer still.Darcy picked up another snowball and threw it at Elizabeth who ducked down to avert it.Then smack!It hit Mrs. Reynolds right on the head.
"Oh, good god!"Darcy said running over to the ladies."Mrs. Reynolds, are you all right!"he couldn't help but chuckle at the site.Elizabeth was helping Mrs. Reynolds wipe the snow from her face.
"Please, sir.The tea is hot and you will all catch your deaths if you do not come in!"she turned and marched, with what little dignity she had left, into the house.
Christmas finally arrived at Pemberley.There was a roaring fire in the Parlor and plenty of food to be had and lots of cookies, for Darcy rather had a sweet tooth.
"I can eat no more!" Darcy said patting his stomach and sitting down in a large wing backed chair.Elizabeth sat in an identical chair next to him and there were cushions all around the floor for the children.Georgiana sat on a cushion with little Amy in her lap and the children opened presents.
"Fitzwilliam, why don't you tell all the stories that papa used to tell us on Christmas Eve?That is if you remember them?"Georgiana eyed Elizabeth slyly.
"Of course I remember them, Georgiana" Darcy said to her with a humph.
The trap had been set and the bait taken.The children gathered around Darcy to hear all the stories of Christmas's when old Mr. Darcy was young.All in all, it was a very pleasant and memorable night for everyone, especially Elizabeth.Little Amy had crawled onto Darcy's lap and fallen asleep.Elizabeth got out of the chair to take Amy to bed.
"The little thing is snoring, Elizabeth."Darcy smiled down at the sleeping child.
"Yes, she has had too good a time!" Elizabeth laughed at the sight."Come on, children.Let's get ready for bed."
The children were all getting ready for bed in the dressing room."Elizabeth?"Beth said."Mr. Darcy is very handsome, is he not?"
"I will not argue that point, Beth.Yes, indeed!" Elizabeth smiled at her.
"He tells a pretty good story, too!" commented John.
"And throws and pretty mean snowball!" laughed Robert.
"Now we know just why you married him." yawned Amy.
Elizabeth laughed loudly and took the children to their rooms and put them to bed.
The Gardiner's carriage pulled out of the drive and Darcy and Elizabeth stood waving good bye.Elizabeth thought she had never had such a very Merry Christmas.
"You will make an excellent father some day, Mr. Darcy." she commented to her husband.
He blushed a little."Yes, well...perhaps we should take your advice and have them one at a time, so I will have time to perfect my skills?" he smiled still watching the carriage.
"I don't know dear..." sighed Elizabeth"Twins do run in my family!"
If she could have met his gaze, she would have seen how the look of heartfelt sympathy, diffused over his face, did not become him.
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