A Darcy Christmas

Sharon Lathan, Amanda Grange, Carolyn Eberhart

Carolyn Eberhart

Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Carol

Chapter 1

Old Mr. Darcy’s Ghost

Old Mr. Darcy was dead to begin with. There is no doubt whatsoever about that. The clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner had all signed the register of his burial. His son signed it. And Fitzwilliam Darcy’s name was as good as his father’s before him. Old Mr. Darcy was as dead as a doornail. Darcy was dreadfully cut up by the sad event.

There is no doubt that Old Mr. Darcy was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of this story.

Darcy was often proud and conceited, arrogant and disdainful to those whom he did not know. Friends, on the other hand, might stop him in the street to say, with gladsome looks, “My dear Darcy, how are you? When will you come to see me?” Children and dogs often seemed able to see beneath his exterior to the real Darcy. Yet many never saw in him that which did not appear on the surface.

Darcy’s soul and heart had sustained an injury in the spring from one who had yet to see beyond his outward façade. Elizabeth Bennet had refused his proposal of marriage—refused it in a manner that seemed as hard and sharp as flint.

“I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.”

Darcy could now admit that his offer, sincere as it was, had been given in an abominable manner, and he winced at the still vibrant memory. But her harsh words had not struck out the fire of his love. He had tried to conquer his feelings but he could not. Hope had bloomed anew for a few sunlit days last summer, when he had unexpectedly run into Elizabeth at Pemberley. She had seemed more inclined to think well of him than she ever had before. A few halcyon days had been all that had been allowed before news of Lydia Bennet’s fall from grace had separated them yet again.

Darcy had done what he could to restore respectability to the wayward girl. No, Darcy thought, he had done what he could to restore Elizabeth’s peace of mind. He cared naught of Lydia’s reputation—only that the loss of it caused pain to Elizabeth.

Darcy had seen Elizabeth perhaps a dozen times since taking care of Lydia’s folly. The most awkward was when he had accepted her thanks for his actions but could not bring himself to speak further. The most painful occasion had been when he and Elizabeth met at the altar during the nuptials of Bingley and Jane. He had been best man, while Elizabeth was maid of honor. He wanted to be the one exchanging vows before God. On both occasions, he had almost renewed his addresses to Elizabeth but he had not. The memory of the hurt and anger he experienced at her first rejection had kept him silent. And yes, his damnable pride had also held his tongue. Now, with Christmas fast approaching, his hope for a future with Elizabeth had almost withered away.

*   *   *

Christmas Eve dawned with cold, bleak, biting weather and a fog settled over the city like a gray greatcoat. The fog came pouring in at every chink and keyhole, and was so dense without that the houses opposite were mere phantoms. When the mantel clock had only just gone three, it was already quite dark, for there had barely been light all day and candles were flaring in the windows of the neighboring houses, like shining beacons upon the palpable white mist. Few people ventured into the street outside Darcy’s door, the weather keeping them inside or hurrying from warm houses to carriages where blankets and hot bricks awaited.

Darcy sat busy in his study. The door of the study was open so that he might keep his eye upon his sister, who, in a pretty little room beyond, was playing the piano. Darcy had a very good fire going, and Georgiana’s fire was also blazing merrily away—so much so that Georgiana had to put off her white shawl.

Darcy was going over his Christmas accounts. Most of the household staff would receive their usual gifts before departing to visit family in or around the city. Then he allotted funds to various benevolent organizations. In the past few years, he had continued to support those charities that his father felt were worthy of his largesse and he would continue with those obligations in the foreseeable future. Perhaps the time has come for me to take a more personal interest in such matters, he thought. His thoughts were interrupted when he recognized the tune Georgiana was playing; it was one his father had favored.

He rose from his desk and crossed the room.

“Fitzwilliam? Is my playing bothering you?” Georgiana asked.

“No, my dear, it is as delightful as always. It is just that I remember that piece. Father was quite fond of it.”

“It is this time of year that I miss Papa the most. Do you miss him too?”

“Yes, very much, and our mother too. She enjoyed the Christmas season.”

“I regret that I have few memories of her now. I do remember coming into the parlor on Christmas day and watching her play the piano. She had me sit on the bench beside her and let me play with her. It must have sounded horrible.”

Darcy smiled at the memory, “Never that, just a trifle unharmonious. It is a good remembrance to keep. It is a pity you do not have more.”

“I do have many good memories of my childhood that include you and papa,” Georgiana sought to assure him. “I remember a snowball fight between you and my Fitzwilliam cousins and the vicar was just leaving when a stray snowball hit him squarely on the back. I think father and the vicar would have laughed had it not been for Lady Catherine scolding you and saying you were all too old for such nonsense.”

“And so we were. Father enjoyed hearing you play, as I do. Please continue.”

So Georgiana played and Darcy listened as the fog and darkness thickened. The ancient tower of a church, whose gruff old bell was always peeping down at Darcy’s house out of a gothic window in the wall, became invisible and struck the hours and quarters in the clouds, with tremulous vibrations afterwards as if its teeth were chattering in its frozen head up there. The cold became intense. It became foggier yet, and colder! Piercing, searching, biting cold that chilled one to the bone. Still, there were those who chose to brave the weather.

The owner of a scant young nose, in danger of being frozen, stooped down at Darcy’s keyhole to regale him with a Christmas carol, at the first sound of God bless you, merry gentleman! May nothing you dismay! Georgiana began to accompany the caroler. Darcy gave a footman some coins to toss at the singer.

“Thank ya, guv,” was the cheery reply, as the lad went off to the next house on the square.

At length, the hour of going to church arrived. Darcy rose from behind his desk, and Georgiana instantly fetched her cloak and hat.

They entered the carriage and made their way to the Christmas Eve service. “You are looking forward to tomorrow, I suppose?” asked Darcy.

“Yes, Fitzwilliam.”

“It is not as festive here in town as at Pemberley,” Darcy warned. “You will be expecting something grand for your Christmas present, no doubt.”

Georgiana smiled faintly at this teasing. What she really wanted for Christmas was a new sister. One with laughing eyes who made her brother smile.

“And,” said Darcy, “you do not think me ill-used, that I have searched high and low for your gift.”

Georgiana observed that it was only once a year.

“A poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every twenty-fifth of December!” teased Darcy lightly, buttoning his greatcoat to the chin. “But I suppose you will find much to celebrate the whole of Christmas day and all the next too, no doubt!”

Georgiana promised that she would, and Darcy smiled at her. The church was reached in a twinkling. Darcy and Georgiana, the long ends of her white scarf dangling in the wind, went into the church. The church bells rang out twenty-four times, in honor of its being Christmas Eve. The telling of the Christmas story never failed to stir Georgiana. During the service she prayed that her Christmas wish for Darcy might be granted in some way. The choir burst into song as her prayer ended. She left the church renewed in spirit, sure that her prayer would be answered.

Darcy and Georgiana feasted on a merry meal with their uncle and aunt, newly arrived in town from Bath. After dinner, Darcy beguiled the rest of the evening with friends at his club (and partook a bit more freely of the good cheer offered by these comrades than he was used to) while his sister remained with her relations. Darcy would join them on the following day for Christmas dinner.

Eventually, Darcy went home. It was an old house, but well lived-in. The yard was so dark that even Darcy, who knew its every stone, was forced to grope about with his hands. The fog and frost hung about the old, black doorway of the house.

There was nothing at all particular about the lion-headed knocker on the door, except that it was very large. It is a fact that Darcy had seen it, night and morning, during his whole residence in that place and that he had as little of what is called fancy about him. But let it also be borne in mind that Darcy had thought much of his father on this day, since the mention of his five-years dead parent that afternoon, and that he still mourned the loss of that revered personage. It should not be so surprising then that Darcy, having his key in the lock of the door, saw in the knocker, without its undergoing any intermediate process of change became not a knocker, but his father’s face.