Summer vacations are coming to an end as school lists and clothes will soon be placed in shopping carts everywhere. This last week of July, take advantage of my End of Summer eBook Sale! All novellas are .99¢ each and all novels are $2.99 each! Get your copy now, then when the kids go back to school you can relax with a favorite drink and get lost among the pages of an eBook with our favorite characters!
It’s been a while since I posted a Saturday Sneak Peek, and, since I am currently writing a new story, I thought I would post this snippet today! **YAY!!** I can hear the applause…and the boos that it’s only a sneak peek. Tehehehehe. For those who I know will ask, no I do not kill off our favorite characters. Yes, I am a cruel author, but I am not heartless, so please believe that this will be a happily ever after…eventually. My plan is to write just a novella length, so it shouldn’t be too much for you to have to endure. Enjoy!
Compelled to Love Again
Chapter 1: Through Many Dangers
A sudden jolt made him open his weary eyes. It took him a few seconds to realize his arm had fallen off the chair causing him to awaken. He re-positioned himself, turning more into the corner of the large wing backed seat that had become his only means of any sleep these last few weeks. Even though the exhaustion was unbearable, he knew he would not sleep again soundly anytime soon.
He looked towards the bed. His wife of six years lay there, her dark brown hair splayed out on the white pillow, her bright eyes closed to all that went on around her. The crisp white sheets were pulled up to her chin and tucked in all around her still body. Even in the dim candlelight he could see how pale her features were.
With shaking fingers, he reached out to touch her hand. His heart hoped she would respond, but there was nothing. No response at all. She did not move. Her fingers lay lifeless in his hand, and his heart broke once more.
Will you ever awaken? The thought had become his constant companion over the last few weeks.
He wound their fingers together, bringing her hand up to place a kiss on it. The strained whisper he often repeated came out through parched voice. “Please, my Elizabeth, come back to me.”
A gentle knock on the door interrupted the moment, but Darcy knew it was for the best. “Enter,” he called out.
“I thought you might need to stretch.”
“No, I am well enough in here.” He gently placed his wife’s hand back on the bed. Then he stood and walked over to the window, drawing the curtains back. The sun was just beginning to come up over the horizon and the gardens and fields of Pemberley’s land—his land—would soon awaken to a new day with new opportunities. He felt his cousin’s strong hand on his shoulder as he was joined at the window.
“Will today be the day?”
“I know not—but we must be prepared for whatever is to come. What do you need, Darcy?”
“I need my wife.”
“I know,” was all Richard could quietly say to his cousin’s anguished words.
The two stood beside each other in silence and watched as the sun slowly rose into the heavens, taking the fog that had settled over the land with it and revealing the snow that had fallen overnight.
Finally, they stepped away from the window. Darcy walked slowly back to his chair while Richard strode towards the door, just as had become their custom every morning.
He turned, “Yeah, Darcy?”
Richard gave a nod and quietly stepped from the room, latching to door and leaving the couple alone once again.
Darcy stretched his arms over his head, arching his back in hopes of the kinks being released, however it did no good. His back had been sore for the last month, and he doubted very much if that would change anytime soon.
Today would at least be a change from the conventional in that his sister was to visit, along with her husband. They would only stay for a few short hours though, as they had a long journey still ahead of them to return to their home further north.
Darcy sighed heavily. Even in the midst of this tragedy his heart rejoiced with his sister’s recovery. It was at Georgiana’s bedside in London just four weeks ago that he sat when the express from Bingley had come saying Elizabeth was in an accident and he must come home. He left his sister’s side, not knowing if she would make it through the difficult delivery of her first child. He received word just four days after his return that he was now an uncle to a beautiful baby girl named Anne, named after their mother. Today he would be introduced to his new niece.
He shook his head. It was hard to believe Georgiana was now a mother. She was the same age their own mother had been when he was born. Ahhh, their mother. She was so lovely, and Georgiana was very much like her. Lady Anne Fitzwilliam fell madly in love with George Darcy during her first Season, but he wanted nothing to do with her. Instead he was seen gallivanting all around London, dancing with anyone who turned his eye for two seconds, promenading with a different lady every evening, and generally avoiding the little sister of his closest friend and neighbor.
The next year Lady Anne was determined to avoid him just as he had avoided her the previous year, but when she arrived in London everything changed.
George Darcy was visiting his friend when she arrived. He watched as the gorgeous blonde stepped down from the carriage, and Darcy elbowed his friend, asking who she was.
“That is my sister Anne,” he replied.
It was from that moment on that George Darcy gave his attentions only to her, and Anne gladly accepted this change. By the summer, the two were married and living at Pemberley, George Darcy’s family home.
While Pemberley was an enormous estate, and thus had a large income, there was one thing it had lacked in each generation of Darcys before—a longstanding mistress. That is not to say the mistresses did not care for it properly while she were able to do so. Indeed, each did their best. However, the Mistresses of Pemberley, in each generation, did not live long enough to leave many marks upon the estate.
Just as in the past, Anne Darcy died young. Fitzwilliam Darcy was only twelve years of age when his mother delivered his baby sister, giving her own life in exchange. They thought the babe would not live either, but she pulled through and began to grow strong. She was named in memory of the love her two parents held for each other, a combination of their two names, George and Anne—Georgiana.
George Darcy never fully recovered from losing his wife. He retreated into his own quiet world of grief, not going to London any longer and only receiving guests when they were his closest friends. No one else dared show up at the doors as it was known he would refuse them entrance. He had once even refused entrance to his wife’s only sister, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. George found her to be overbearing and was weary of hearing her espouse that her own daughter should be married to his son Fitzwilliam. His boy was not even out of school yet, and she was already planning their children’s names. And so, when she arrived uninvited at Pemberley, he refused to even allow her entrance into the park. When she was turned away she swore revenge upon him, but in his lifetime it never happened.
George Darcy lived only until his son came to the age of twenty-two, then his sorrow overtook him and, while taken ill, he lost the will to fight. He died, leaving his son the lands that had been in their family for generations, and leaving his precious daughter’s care to his son, Fitzwilliam Darcy, and his nephew, Richard Fitzwilliam.
So it was that the next generation of Darcys took over the vast lands and fortune of Pemberley. It was several years before he found the person he wished to marry, and the story of how it came to be was one for the books, with his insulting her upon their first meeting and her refusal of his first proposal. There were lessons of pride and prejudices to be learned by both, but eventually he won her heart and the two were joined in holy matrimony in November of 1812, right alongside his best friend, Charles Bingley, and Elizabeth’s eldest sister, Jane, who were also wed that same day.
The Darcy family was blessed with the birth of their first child—a son—during the second year of their marriage. James Bennet Darcy was the golden child of Pemberley—spoiled by his parents and the staff alike. Though the cause was unknown, it seemed the Darcy’s were not to be blessed with another child in the years since James’ birth. He was now four years of age, soon to be five in just a few short weeks.
The best doctors in all of England were called in to care for Elizabeth Darcy, but nothing they did would pull the mistress from her slumber. It was with baited breath that everyone waited to find out whether the same misery would befall this generation of Darcys just as it had the generations past.
Through it all her husband lingered at her side, refusing to let her go. He would read aloud her favorite books, talk of things the two liked to discuss, and tried to encourage her to open her eyes. Every day it became more painful for him, but he still refused to leave her side. No matter what happened, he wished to be with her when it happened.
Three weeks of this distress. Three weeks of his heart crushing within his chest at every minute that passed. Three weeks of the agony of knowing that every minute she remained asleep was one minute longer the two were held within the grasp of a chasm between life and death.
When would it end? Would it be the tragic death of another Mistress of Pemberley?
If he had anything to say about it, Fitzwilliam Darcy would give every ounce of his own strength to see that Elizabeth made it through this. Their son deserved to have his mother, and Pemberley deserved to have its mistress.
It was during this time that Fitzwilliam Darcy came to understand, more than any other time before, just why his father had given up the will to live when he became ill. George Darcy had lived with this kind of grief for years and it was too much to bear any longer. He needed to be with his Anne once again.
A soft knock at the door interrupted Darcy’s musings, and he realized it had been hours since his cousin had left him alone. The person knocked again and the familiar sound made him smile. Georgiana. He stood and quickly walked to the door, opening it and embracing his sister in a crushing hug.
Georgiana wrapped her arms around her brother’s larger frame and he clung to her in a way she never expected. Tears formed in her eyes and her heart broke. She should have come before now to be by his side, but it was simply not possible due to her own difficult confinement. Her doctor was not even certain she should be traveling such a distance now, but she insisted it was time they return home. Her husband knew it had more to do with the fact that Pemberley was on the way to their own home, and she needed to see her brother to be assured of his well-being.
During the journey she had thought of all the reasons they should remain at Pemberley, but every mention to her husband was quelled with his insistence that she needed to rest and they must return home. She knew he was right. If she remained here she would be at her brother’s side constantly worrying over him. Pemberley was not where she belonged any longer. No, she must return to Parkwell Manor with her husband and their dear, sweet, precious babe Anne.
Finally Darcy released his sister’s much smaller frame, apologizing for his actions.
She lifted her hand to cup his cheek, the rough hair from days without shaving were felt even through her glove. “Fitzwilliam, what do you need? I am here for you, so please tell me what you need.”
“I am well enough,” he replied quietly.
“Your cheeks are hollow, your eyes are sunken in and dark. Richard says you are not eating. He says even Mrs Bingley cannot convince you to take some broth.” She stepped back and looked over his body. “Your clothing is hanging off of you like they belong to someone else. You must not let yourself go like this. You must eat something. Let me call for Mrs Reynolds to have cook prepare your favorite meal.”
“No, I could not eat at this time.”
“Oh, Fitzwilliam, you know Elizabeth would not wish you to be like this. She would always wish good health upon you.”
He gave a wan smile, remembering the promise his wife had once extracted from him when she was ill a few years before and he refused any food. “I will eat, but only if you join me in here.”
Georgiana smiled, “I will.” She turned to nod at Mrs Reynolds, who awaited the signal that the Master of Pemberley would finally take a meal. The housekeeper looked relieved as she turned made her way below stairs to speak with the cook.
Georgiana entered the room and removed her spencer and gloves, laying them on the chair by the door. She walked over to the table that held a vase with Elizabeth’s favorite roses in it. They were old and the dark petals were falling off the stems, so she gathered the petals in her hand and placed them into the bowl Elizabeth kept on her dressing table just for petals such as these. She would often make scented oils and water with the flowers her husband routinely picked for her.
“Fitzwilliam?” When her brother turned towards her, she continued. “You have not kept your promise to replenish these flowers. After we eat, you must accompany me to the garden. We cannot have Elizabeth awaken to such a dreadful sight as this.”
“I… I have not left her side.”
“I know; Richard told us. We will be just outside though.” She walked over to him and wound her arm through his, leading him over to the window. “Just down there, below this window. That is all I ask you do to. We can even take the back stairs if you wish to not walk all the way around to the garden from the front entrance.”
The barren garden below reminded him of the sorrow within his chest. Then his eyes came to rest on the small greenhouse in which Elizabeth kept her favorite flowers. The hothouse would give Elizabeth just what she desired all year long, and Fitzwilliam had gifted it to her just a few years before. Since then she could often be found in the enclosure on these cold wintery days. He knew he would find the perfect flowers to brighten her face when she did awaken within the glass walls. After a large intake of breath, he finally said, “Five minutes.”
“Yes, we will quickly pick the roses and you can be back at her side in just five minutes.” When she felt his arm relax a little more, she said quietly, “Thank you.”
“For letting me care for you during the few short hours I am able to be here at Pemberley.”
He reached around her shoulders and pulled her close to his side, resting his chin on the top of her head as the siblings stood by the window looking out across the snow-covered lands below.
“You must meet my Anne as well,” Georgiana said quietly. “She is simply gorgeous; the most precious babe.”
Darcy heard in his sister’s voice that she needed him to do this for her, so he willingly gave in. “Perhaps a few minutes longer then, but we must eat in here.”
“Yes, we will eat in here first.”
Mrs Reynolds returned with their meal in record time. It was clear that the staff had the food prepared for just the opportunity when their master would agree to take sustenance.
Darcy ate what he could, but it was not much. When his sister was satisfied that he had done his best, she pulled her spencer on and picked up the basket Elizabeth often used when gathering flowers, then turned towards her brother who stood beside his wife’s bed looking down at her lifeless form. “Are you ready?”
With a heavy sigh, he lifted Elizabeth’s hand to his lips, placed a tender kiss upon it, and smoothed the blanket before he laid it back down on the bed once again. “I promise to return in just a few minutes,” he said lovingly. He then joined his sister and the two left the room, latching the door quietly and leaving Elizabeth Darcy alone in her chamber.
One of my greatest pleasures is in learning the stories of my fellow authors. What led them to begin writing, and what was the inspiration behind any of their stories. Well, this month in my newsletter I introduced y’all to a friend of mine, Barbara Goss. She is an absolutely wonderful Christian author whose goal in all of her writing is to let God use her books to touch someone’s life. What better goal is there than that?
Today Barb celebrates the release of her newest book, Shadows of Deceit, book 2 in The Shadow Series. (You can get this and all her other books at Amazon. Here is Barb’s author page.)
Here are the links to all three books:
Shadow of Deceit (book 2) – New today!!
Shadow of Shame (book 3) – now on pre-order
Please show your support of this wonderful Christian author! Purchase her books, and pass the word! And now, a guest post from Barbara Goss on the story behind one of her stories. Barbara Goss has been writing for decades, and the following post is about her book Captured Heart. Barb writes clean fiction about the American frontier around the 1880’s, and has been praised by many for her ability to show the redemptive nature of God through sometimes the most unlovable of characters.
This book has a special meaning for me. When I signed a two-book contract with Fleming Revell, I’d written Forbidden Legacy and had to come up with another book and have it finished in three months time. I started writing with an ultimate goal in mind but as usual other secondary story lines pop up as I wrote. This time; however, I boxed myself into a corner that I didn’t know how I’d write myself out of.
Amanda traveled on a wagon train to California with her family. When they all died of cholera, she became angry with God. She’d prayed for them to live, and they died. Why? That’s when I realized that I was also in that same position. My mother had passed away at age 53 of a sudden heart attack. All the way to the hospital I’d prayed for her life, but she died. I wondered if God didn’t love me as much as those whose prayers were answered. I wasn’t as angry as Amanda, but I did have those feelings in my heart. So how do I write a character out of those feelings if I didn’t know myself?
I always pray before starting to write and although I had no answer to that story line I continued. Lo and behold the answer came to me about three quarters of the way through the book… and it was not until then that I compared the situation to my own mother’s death and realized that God had listened to my prayers, but in a long-range sort of way. I can’t spoil the book by revealing it, but it really solved the dilemma for me as well as for Amanda.
In the story, two men befriend Amanda: Luke and Charles. One was a true friend and the other was an evil man disguising himself as a friend in order to use Amanda for evil purposes in San Francisco where he ran a nefarious business masked as a hotel. (I realize the subject seems inappropriate for a Christian book, but I assure you it was done tastefully and that these goings on were part of San Francisco’s history.)
Amanda has a difficult time separating her feelings of friendship and love. One man gave her goose bumps and the other a warm feeling in her chest. Which was love? When she finally figured, it out she was afraid to reveal her feelings verbally until it was almost too late.
This was my second book written for Fleming Revell, and I was then signed up for another two-book contract. I received the rights recently for everything except the cover art. I converted a paperback copy to eBook using OCR optical character recognition) but not without a few minor problems which a few reviewers mentioned as typos, but they were actually marks made in the conversion. They have since all been repaired.
You can find more information about Captured Hearts and her Shadow Series, as well as all of Barbara’s other books, on her Amazon author page.
My latest project has been a little out of my norm, and I hope y’all appreciate it. I love to color, as do so many like me, so I thought it was time I try my hand at putting together a coloring book. I know people think I am uber-creative and can do anything, but there was one flaw in my plan – I do not draw. Not even a little bit. I had to transfer out of art class when I was in high school because I couldn’t even draw a stick man straight. So I went to my plethora of collected artwork from 18th and 19th Century and made them into coloring page images. Some were easy, others were more difficult, and some did not work at all, no matter how much I wanted them to. The final pieces chosen are from post cards, magazines, or advertising labels and banners. I have combined them with twenty-five of my favorite Jane Austen quotes, because, let’s face it, she has some of the best book quotes out there!
You can order the printed and bound book version of “Coloring with Jane: A Mind Lively and at Ease” through CreateSpace right now. It will be available at Amazon in a few days (whenever they decide to list it), and I will let you know when that is available.
Or, for those who want to invest a little more into the PDF version that can be printed from your own computer as many times as you desire, I have set up my own Etsy shop!
Just click the buttons below to take you to the pages where you can buy this coloring book! I hope you will enjoy hours of fun with this new project! If it is well received I may have to do a second edition, as we all know there are plenty more Jane Austen quotes out there to use!
Links to Purchase:
“Ah! there is nothing like…”
Any true Jane Austen fan can easily finish that line with:
“…staying at home, for real comfort.”
The line comes from Jane Austen’s novel, Emma.
While you are at home, enjoying your tea and scones, what better way is there to pass the time than with coloring? This relaxing and calming pastime is making a big comeback these days, especially among adults. It is, of course, no better time than now for me to announce that April 15th I will be releasing my first Jane Austen inspired coloring book titled, Coloring with Jane: A Mind Lively and at Ease.
I would give you a sneak peek at the cover, but I have not finished it yet. So instead, I will give you:
***a printable sample page – and a chance to win a free coloring book!***
1.) Just click HERE to download and print out this page with Jane Austen’s inspiring quote.
2.) Color it and take a picture of your creation.
3.) Post that picture to your Facebook or Twitter.
4.) Don’t forget to tag me so I see it and add your name. (I will always acknowledge when I see it.)
You will then be entered to win a free copy of Coloring with Jane: A Mind Lively and at Ease.
It is that time of the year when the holidays are past, the cold is setting in, and we are all looking for a story that will chase away our wintry blues and give our hearts a bit of a pitter-patter as love conquers all. **Sigh**. What better time is there than now to have a sale! So cuddle up under your cozy blanket, get your mug of hot liquid, and go grab any, or all, of these five novellas from Sarah Johnson for only .99¢ each from January 14, 2016 through January 18, 2016.
Christmas time is right around the corner, and what better way to get into the spirit of the season than with a sweet romantic story about our favorite hero and heroine? In Blame the Mistletoe, unable to stay away from Meryton for long, Fitzwilliam Darcy and Charles Bingley return to Netherfield for Christmas, bringing with them Darcy’s sister Georgiana. Wickham has already established himself as trustworthy, especially in the eyes of Miss Elizabeth Bennet, giving Darcy an even harder time of winning her heart. Will the mistletoe boughs hung all around help in bringing these two lovers together?
It is now available on Amazon and CreateSpace in both eBook and Trade Paperback, and will be up very soon for Nook and Kobo. (I keep checking, but it isn’t listed in searches yet. In the next few days, at the latest, it should be there).
I hope you all enjoyed the chapter two sneak peek a few weeks ago! Well, I am back again to announce that this book is finally written and is now in the final stages of editing before it will be released later this month! Exciting, isn’t it? I will be starting to post this one on the two forums A Happy Assembly and Beyond Austen in the next few days.
While I am speaking of posting, if you want to join the comments as I post my Leaving Bennet Behind series, then please do! You can find the first book, Chosen, being posted at A Happy Assembly and Beyond Austen. (Those are links to the stories. Both are free forums to join.) I have just posted chapter 7, and will continue on through this first book and on through the series until they are all four up on the forums. If you comment on the Beyond Austen comment tread, each comment will be one entry into a final drawing for a free ebook or signed print copy of the book being posted. So don’t forget to comment!
I know y’all are, like me, ready for the coming Christmas Season, then hopefully this story will get you in the mood. If you missed the previous posting, an excerpt from chapter two, you can read it here. In this story, Darcy and Bingley, and Georgiana along with them, returns to Netherfield Park for the Christmas season instead of remaining in London. We will now join the party-goers who have come to Lucas Lodge for a card party (an excerpt of chapter four). I promise, mistletoe does come into play, just not in this chapter. Keep your eyes out for postings for this to start soon, and enjoy!
December 14, 1811
Nearly the last to arrive, Darcy was nervous when all the eyes of the room turned towards the three as they entered. Sir William Lucas was happy to greet them with great enthusiasm, and Darcy held tightly to his sister’s arm as they followed their host and Bingley around the room. Once the introductions were made to most of those present, he and Georgiana excused themselves from Bingley’s side to get a drink.
Georgiana held the delicate cup in her hands and gently blew on the piping hot liquid as her gaze wondered around the room. She saw her brother looking towards the dark haired young lady sitting alone at a table on the other side of the room. “Who is that, Fitzwilliam?”
He took a drink of the liquid, burning his throat in his haste. Quickly turning, he placed the cup down on the tray and answered, “That is Miss Elizabeth Bennet.”
Georgiana smiled, but knew this was no time to tease her brother, so she continued to gaze around the room until she stopped upon the blonde that now stood conversing with Mr Bingley. “And who has our host found?”
Darcy looked over and replied, “That is her older sister, Miss Jane Bennet.”
It seemed her brother was still thinking of Miss Elizabeth. The tinkling of a glass was heard and Sir William Lucas addressed his guests, stating that they awaited only a few more, but the games could begin. Georgiana knew what she must do, and with a flourish that would have impressed even Miss Bingley, she put her glass on the tray and wound her arm around her brother’s. “Come, you must introduce me.” Then she walked with a determined stride towards the table.
Darcy did not have time to gather his thoughts before they were standing before Elizabeth. He gave a short bow, “My sister wishes an introduction,” he said, his voice coming out more harshly than he had hoped because of the effects of the hot liquid just moments before.
“Certainly, sir,” Elizabeth said. Turning to the young lady on his arm she gave a nod, “Please do excuse my remaining seated, Miss Darcy.”
Georgiana smiled, “I can understand completely, Miss Elizabeth. My brother told me of your injury. May we join you at this table?”
Before Elizabeth could even answer, Georgiana was seated next to her and directed her brother to the chair directly across from Elizabeth. “I do not know if my card skills will impress, but they will certainly keep you entertained.”
Georgiana only smiled as she picked up the cards and began to shuffle them with practiced ease.
“Elizabeth looked around the room as she asked, “Will Mr Bingley not be joining you this evening?”
“He will join Sir William Lucas at his table for now,” Darcy answered, though he wondered why she would ask such a question.
Elizabeth now saw the table at which he sat, and directly across from him was Jane. Her heart sank knowing how much Jane felt for him and that he was not interested in her in return, but these were not feelings known by Sir William, so she could not fault the man for trying to further a relationship he thought to be a budding romance.
Georgiana asked of the others, “What shall we play first? Whist, or Loo, or is there another game you prefer?”
Darcy looked to Elizabeth for her answer.
“Whist will do, I suppose, though I must warn you of my lack of proficiency with card games. Perhaps, Mr Darcy,” she looked across the table at him, “you will not wish to be my partner after all.”
“I assure you, Miss Elizabeth, it is a great desire I have long possessed to be your partner.”
She chuckled, “I see we shall begin our evening with you professing opinions which are not your own.”
“A gentleman must have some great enjoyment in the evening,” he teased. “Unless, of course, you would rather sit on the sofa and speak of books?”
She laughed, though she could not determine why he teased her so this evening. The last of the guests arrived and Elizabeth looked to the doorway to see if Lieutenant Wickham was among them. He was, and he gave a small bow of his head when he saw her looking his direction. She waved him over to join her table, then turned back to the two already seated. “I hope you do not mind, but the person who was to join me at my table this evening has now arrived.”
Wickham and Darcy saw each other when Wickham arrived at the table, and for the second time one’s face turned white while the other was noticeably red. She remembered this was their individual reactions the first time they met on the road in Meryton as well and she wondered at the two gentlemen and what could have led to such a display. Mr Wickham had told her of their lack of comradery because of an inheritance dispute and Mr Darcy’s proud nature, but certainly it could not be as bad as it now appeared?
Georgiana was taken aback and felt her heart start to beat heavily and her brother’s hand came to rest on top of her own. Though she knew of Wickham’s presence in the neighborhood, she did not expect him to approach her table this evening. Georgiana looked to her brother, whose eyes silently questioned whether she was well. Yes, I am strong enough to handle this, she told herself. Then, with shoulders high and a measure of poise she knew she possessed, she looked to the gentleman and said, “Good evening, Mr Wickham. Miss Elizabeth said you are to join our table this evening, so it looks as if we shall be partners.”
Wickham knew this could not be good, especially with the lies he had already been spreading around town about the Darcys. After a cursory greeting he tried to evade joining them, but Elizabeth insisted that they had one chair left and needed a fourth, so he sat down across from Georgiana. He would have to be very particular with what he said tonight.
As Georgiana dealt the cards for their first game of Whist, Elizabeth said to the Darcys, “Mr Wickham tells me he has been an intimate friend of your family since he was very young.”
Darcy nodded and Georgiana kept her eyes down, looking intently at her cards.
“He has also told me of his attachment to your father especially,” she added when no one else spoke.
Darcy looked at Wickham then turned to answer Elizabeth, “My father was all that is good, and he provided for all those in his employ and their families, including the son of his steward.”
Wickham said quickly, “We both know I was more to him than just the steward’s son.”
Darcy looked to the cards in his hands, shuffling their order as he added, “It is true that he cared for you, paid for your education, and had high expectations for your life.”
Georgiana smiled at the memory of her father, such a good man. “He would like that you are so well established now.”
“Am I? I certainly could have had an easier life than that of the militia.”
Elizabeth could feel the tension building around them and could not help but add, “My cousin was grateful to be blessed with the patronage of your aunt, Mr Darcy, and so, I would guess, Mr Wickham could have been so blessed with the living that was meant for him, if only your father’s wishes had been fulfilled. It is a shame it could not be for Mr Wickham as it has been for my cousin.”
Darcy’s eyes flashed in anger and he looked to Wickham, then back to Elizabeth, “I know not what he has told you of our past, but if Mr Wickham feels his life in the militia is too demanding then he has only himself to blame, not my family.”
Wickham scoffed, “We all know of your family honour being upheld over everything else, Darcy. Is that not correct Miss Darcy?”
Georgiana was shocked at the way in which he drew her own past into the conversation, but she would not sit here and listen to his lies. “Everyone can be deceived, Mr Wickham, as I have been with you. I only hope those in this neighborhood will see you for what you are and not what you portray yourself to be.” With that she put her cards down and said to her brother, “I am in need of some air, Fitzwilliam.” He stood to go with her, but she stayed him with her hand. “I only need a moment.” She walked away.
Wickham looked around the now silent table and knew he had to escape as well. “I will just get some punch,” he said, then disappeared, leaving the two who remained alone.
They sat in silence looking at the cards in their hands and on the table for a full minute before Darcy finally said, “I know not what he has told you, but if you wish to know the truth then you need just ask.”
“Your truth, sir? What would make you think I wish to hear your version of events over that of what Mr Wickham has told me when I myself know you to be the proud and overbearing person he claims you to be?” With that said, she stood, and though the pain in her ankle was immense, she walked away from the table, leaving Mr Darcy alone.
I am close to having a new story ready for posting on the forum and to be published next month, so for you, my readers, that means you get another Saturday Sneak Peek!! I know y’all are all anticipation for the coming Christmas Season, so maybe this will get you in the mood with this excerpt from chapter two. In this story, Darcy, Bingley, and Georgiana along with them, returns to Netherfield Park for the Christmas season instead of remaining in London. Enjoy!
Chapter 2: Calamity
December 12, 1811
Elizabeth was glad to finally escape the confines of the dining room where her mother insisted the entire family break their fast together. It was, after all, tradition. Every December would come, and her mother would insist upon doing things the family hardly ever did together any other time of the year. Then by Twelfth Night Mrs Bennet was glad to go back to her usual ways once again.
This morning’s meal was quite the chaotic exchange. Neither Lydia nor Kitty were in good spirits, giving them both reason to argue incessantly over the proper way to hold a piece of bread over the fire. Mary, always apt to ramble on, talked this morning about the serious nature this holiday season should bring to our lives. Jane was quiet and solemn due to her heartbreak over Mr Bingley’s decision not to return to Netherfield. As indicated in the letter from his sister, she imagined the Bingleys and the Darcys were, at this time, having a grand time in London.
Ahhh, London! How she longed to see it during this wondrous time of year! Her aunt had told her stories of the parties and reverie, the shopping, and even the confections being sold on nearly every street corner of the most fashionable places in London during this season. It was something she longed to see one day, but it was not to be this year. Instead, in a few weeks, her aunt and uncle would join them here in Hertfordshire. Perhaps I can talk Father into allowing Jane to return to London with our relations? It might be just the thing she needs to boost her spirits and forget about Mr Bingley.
Before she knew it, she was atop Oakham Mount. Now this was a tradition she could enjoy! The sights from up here were breathtaking! She stepped closer to the edge of the rocky incline and lifted her chin in the air, closing her eyes as she drew in a deep breath. The smells of winter filled her with joy. This was her favorite time of year. The fallen leaves would soon be covered over with a thin layer of white, washing the ground anew with its freshness. The air would turn crisp, carrying on its wings the smells of pine trees as they rose out of the depths of white with their green branches.
Elizabeth looked around for a place to sit, and after having settled on the ground with her back against a sturdy tree trunk, she again turned her gaze out over the valley below, where, in the distance, she could see the smoke rising from the chimneys of the town of Meryton as businesses were coming to life on this crisp morning.
Though winter was not yet ready to fully descend upon Hertfordshire, it would not be long. She could feel it in the air. Perhaps even this week they would have their first snow.
Her eye caught someone on a horse riding across the fields. The rider stopped and looked up to the ridge where she sat. She smiled. It must be her friend Mr Lucas. He often saw her up here when he was out on one of his rides, and would wave. Today he was too far away though, so he only gazed in her direction, then turned his horse and rode on.
Although she did not wish her mind to go there, she was immediately brought back to the morning just two months previous when she sat just where she was now and gazed out over the lands, seeing two riders take to the fields. They were both skilled at riding, but that day her eye was drawn to the taller of the two gentlemen.
She later determined that the shorter of the two riders was Mr Bingley, who had let Netherfield, and his friend, Mr Darcy, who was visiting his friend’s estate, was the taller gentleman.
Her eyes were drawn, once again, to the rider. His shoulders were straight, his carriage strong. It was clear he was a skilled horseman. Was it Mr Lucas? If there was anything at which Charlotte’s younger brother did not excel, it was riding, so she knew it could not be him. She knew she recognized the rider, but she just could not place who it was. What she wondered even more though, was how he knew she was up here watching?
The rider no longer in her line of sight, her mind began to wonder beyond the fields and into the parlours of the neighbors she knew so well. The traditions that made each unique, and the ones that bound them together in unity as a culture, were most prominent in her thoughts.
The Lucas family would be hosting their card party in a few days, and of all the yuletide celebrations this was the one she most wished she could avoid. She dreaded the spectacle her younger sisters would inevitably make, and, more than that, she was not very good at the games chosen for the evening’s entertainments.
She would much rather spend her evening playing Snapdragon in front of a fire with her closest friends and relations, enjoying plum pudding while hoping to receive the hidden treasure baked within, or dancing long into the darkness of night to lively music. Even an evening of listening to Mrs Long’s vocalizations that were far beyond what she could actually attain was more enjoyable than playing cards.
Yet, she would attend the dreaded card party, as well as the dances, and even the musicale where many neighbors would display their severely lacking abilities. She would, herself, even contribute to this evening as well. It was, after all, tradition. She would enjoy every opportunity set before her to spend time with her best friend before Charlotte and Mr Collins were to marry next month.
There were some traditions she anticipated—such as the caroling. There was something about the thought of standing in the cold with loved ones all around and singing of the joy of the season that brought a smile to her lips even now.
The tolling of the church bells brought her mind back. As the wind began to whip around her, Elizabeth stood and pulled her shawl tightly around her shoulders. It would not be as windy once she was down the mountain. With thoughts still troubling her mind about the rider, she made her way down Oakham Mount and began down the path that would take her to her next destination—the one duty that had allowed her to escape her mother this morning. She was tasked with finding the largest bunch of mistletoe in the surrounding wood of Meryton for Mrs Bennet to hang at her Yuletide celebration in just eight days’ time.
Knowing just where she could find the perfect tree, Elizabeth wound her way through the surrounding wood with ease. For just a moment the thought ran through her mind that perhaps this might not be the best outing to go on without at least Jane, but she quickly put it behind her and pressed on.
Finding mistletoe was always a job given to Elizabeth. From an early age, she could climb to the top of the highest trees with ease where the plants would grow. Mrs Bennet was always complaining of this ability until December came, then she would encourage her daughter in these endeavors. It was always with the intention of finding the largest bunch and gaining the awe inspired gasps from the neighborhood.
Elizabeth didn’t mind. After all, when her mother received such attention from others, she often showed some small affection for her in return. Though it was not much, and though she would not dare give voice to such words, it did warm her heart slightly to know that, on some level, her mother did, indeed, care for her.
When she finally saw the sycamore she sought, Elizabeth gave a heavy sigh. Though it would be chilly, she knew from experience that it was best she leave her shawl and spencer on the ground below as they only hampered her climbing abilities. So those items, along with her gloves and bonnet, were stacked upon a nearby fallen log and she began to climb.
Higher and higher she went. The branches were just close enough to each other, and her legs just long enough, that the journey up the tree was made with relative ease. She was nearly to the top when she saw, just above her head, the large bunch of mistletoe that had attached itself to this tree years ago. This was her secret spot that no one else (except her maid, of course) knew of—the spot she had come every year since she was a child. She was never disappointed in what it would produce.
She reached up, her fingers tangling in the leaves of the mass. She knew just how to coerce the vines to let loose of the tree’s trunk just enough to not kill the entire plant. When enough of it was gathered, she began the climb down the limbs, made more precarious with the added mass of leaves and sticky berries she dared not let touch her dress.
There was a snapping sound, and suddenly she had lost her balance. The next thing she knew, Elizabeth was falling through the branches. She expected to reach the ground with a hard thud, but instead found a softer landing—right in the arms of a gentleman.
“I… you… that is…” She knew not what to say as the gentleman continued to hold her in his arms, staring intensely into her eyes. “What has brought you to our neighborhood?” she finally inquired.
A chuckle escaped his lips and he blinked heavily, breaking the moment between them.
“Is something funny sir?”
“I did not expect you to ask such a question of me, especially given that I am currently holding you in my arms as we stand beneath this tree from which you just fell.”
She looked around and smiled. “Yes, it is quite the situation, is it not? What would Miss Bingley say to such antics? Certainly one cannot count climbing trees among the accomplishments she finds so endearing in so many of the Ton.”
He looked at her oddly, but said nothing.
“What is it?”
“Certainly you owe me no explanation, but I wonder just what would bring you into my arms so suddenly, and yet here you talk of Miss Bingley and her ideas of an accomplished woman. You baffle me, madam.”
“Perhaps you should put me down, sir,” she said with embarrassment. He lowered her feet towards the ground, but as soon as her foot touched the cold earth she felt such a shooting pain that she grasped his masculine shoulders tightly again.
Lifting her again, he asked, “You are in pain?”
She bit her lip, her eyes remaining closed tightly as the pain continued. All she could do was nod her head in answer to his question.
“Is it your ankle?”
She nodded again.
Darcy looked around and saw the log upon which her bonnet and a few other items were stacked. He made his way over to it and carefully sat her down.
Elizabeth could finally open her eyes, though she could not bring herself to look into the face of the gentleman with her, so she stared forward, refusing to turn towards his direction. She felt him lift her spencer to her shoulders and she nodded her thanks as she threaded her arms through the sleeves and pulled it tight to button the front. She then felt something else warm wrap around her shoulders. Thinking it was her shawl, she wondered at its warmth. Then she looked down and realized it was, instead, the gentleman’s jacket. Her eyes darted up to see him standing before her in his shirtsleeves and waistcoat.
“Sir, it is not necessary that you remove your coat.”
He began to roll up the white sleeves, showing his muscular forearms. “My valet would not be pleased if I were to ruin it.”
“How could it be ruined?” just as the question escaped her lips, she knew the answer.
“I certainly cannot let you retrieve your prize from that tree now.”
She started to stand, “Oh, sir…” The pain made her stop and suck in a breath. She sat back down, “It is not necessary.”
He was now ready, so he turned back towards the tree, and with a small lift to his lips, he replied, “I am not so unfamiliar with the practices of Christmastide, Miss Bennet.”
Elizabeth watched as he scaled the tree to where the mass of mistletoe was left. He gathered it, and without incident was back down the tree quickly. When he was once again in front of her, she could not help but smile as he held the plant out in front of her. “Thank you, sir. You have saved me this day from a great fate.”
His eyebrows furrowed, “Just what fate is that?”
“That of my mother’s nerves.”
“Oh, is this to be used in a medicinal manner? I hoped… that is, I thought, it would be used for decorating the halls of Longbourn.” Darcy’s cheeks became pink with the thought of what he almost said to her.
Elizabeth saw his discomfort, but chose to ignore it. Certainly he was being more of a gentleman than she had ever given him credit for before today. “While my sister and I do often use the dried leaves in my mother’s smelling salts, this bunch is actually to be tied to the boughs of pine and holly for my mother’s annual yuletide party.”
“Well then I am certainly glad to have climbed the tree for you today. Perhaps this mistletoe will work some much needed magic this Christmas.” Elizabeth still had not reached for it, so he placed it with his hat and sat down on the log beside her. “May I check your ankle?”
Elizabeth’s brows furrowed. “Just what sort of magic is it you hope will come this Christmas, Mr Darcy?”
“The particulars are best left to fate, are they not, Miss Elizabeth?”
“Yes, perhaps they are, sir.”
“Now, may I check your ankle to see if it is broken?”
“It is only a sprain,” she said with confidence. “Truly, it feels much better already.” She started to stand and nearly fainted at the surge of pain that shot through her.
Darcy reached out and caught her, urging her to remain on the log while he retrieved his horse.
After a comical few minutes of the two trying to determine the best way to return Elizabeth to Longbourn, Darcy’s method of him lifting her onto his horse won out and she was finally well settled, her shawl draped over her legs and his jacket still around her shoulders.
Elizabeth was not comfortable around horses, but she was not about to let this situation get further out of hand, as she was certain the gentleman would ride with her if it came to that. So, she tried to remain calm as the horse strode along following his master through the wood and on to Longbourn.
It was fortune itself that shined upon Elizabeth when her father came to the door announcing that her mother and younger sisters were off to Meryton. What she had forgotten until that very moment was her cousin.
“Oh my dear cousin, what has happened? Mr Darcy! Why, I did not expect to see you again, sir, until you were to visit your aunt for your annual trip at Easter.” Mr Collins came upon them from the garden path, his words coming fast as he tried to walk and bow in deference to his patroness’ nephew at the same time.
Darcy helped Elizabeth down from the horse, not allowing her to place her feet upon the ground as he deftly carried her in his arms. He swept past the effusing parson with ease and addressed the father instead. “Mr Bennet, I am afraid Miss Elizabeth has injured her ankle. Perhaps the apothecary should be called.”
Mr Bennet turned to his cousin, “Mr Collins certainly can accommodate such a request.”
The parson tripped twice in trying to show his appreciation for being given such a task, but he was soon gone to find the apothecary, though he had no idea where the man would be. Having pity upon the man, Mr Bennet called for the stable boy to attend to the matter as well, then he joined his daughter and their guest in the sitting room, where Elizabeth was now seated upon the sofa insisting Mr Darcy need not bring her any more pillows.
Bennet went over to his daughter’s side and leaned down to kiss her forehead. “Just what have you done to yourself now, my girl?”
“It is only a sprain, Papa.”
He leaned down and began to remove her boot and examine the swelling as Mr Darcy looked on in silence. “And just what brings you back to our neighborhood, sir? I was under the impression that Mr Bingley was quite settled in London for the remainder of the year.”
“His sisters are settled, but he and I returned just last evening.”
He smirked while looking at Elizabeth’s face for signs of how much pain she was in. “It is a wonder I did not hear of your return immediately upon breaking my fast this morning. My congratulations to you for keeping the gossips at bay for a few more hours.”
“I doubt Mr Bingley would mind the neighborhood knowing of his plans to remain in the country.”
“And you, sir? Are you to remain with him?”
“Though Mr Bingley’s relations have remained in London, my sister has joined our party, and we are both to remain at least through Twelfth Night,” Darcy said, looking to see what Elizabeth’s reaction to such news would be. It was hard to say though as she had her eyes closed and was biting her lip because of the pain caused by her father’s examination of her ankle. “Perhaps I could call for some ice?”
“Mrs Hill is gathering some from the ice house now. Ah, here she is,” he said as the housekeeper entered with a bowl and cloths. He stepped back from the two ladies and stood beside Darcy. Quietly he said, “I am not one to speculate about the goings-on of the younger generation, however my curiosity does request satiation, especially given your state of undress, Mr Darcy.”
Darcy suddenly remembered that his jacket was still around Elizabeth’s shoulders and he immediately knew what her father must think. “It is perfectly innocent, sir. I came upon her when she was in need of assistance. In gathering mistletoe, her foot slipped on a branch, and she toppled down out of the tree. Luckily I was able to break her fall.”
“Then I must offer my sincerest gratitude and ask if you were also injured?”
Darcy shook his head, replying quietly, “I have come out of this unscathed, sir.”
“That may be true for you, but if my cousin returns with the apothecary, or my wife with our daughters, and finds you so clad, I cannot be responsible for the smelling salts that shall be needed. Certainly if you feel any concern for my peaceful abode, then you will procure your jacket with haste.” With that, he called for the housekeeper, “Mrs Hill, perhaps my wife has some potions in the stillroom that will help alleviate Elizabeth’s pain. Come, I will search my study as well.” With that he gave a slight nod to Darcy and left the two alone for what he knew would only be a few minutes.
Elizabeth saw the exchange and wondered at her father’s leaving her alone with the gentleman. “There is no need for you to remain, sir,” she said to Darcy.
The corners of his lips turned up just slightly as he said with a slight cock of his head, “It might prove to be a chilly ride back to Netherfield without my coat, madam.”
She was immediately embarrassed and looked to her shoulders, where the thick wool still sat firmly in place. She leaned forward, adjusting so she could pull it off. The chill of the room was immediately felt. She held it out to him expecting him to immediately put it back on himself, however he set it aside and lifted a large knitted blanket and draped it around her shoulders.
“It would not do for you to catch a chill on top of having a sore ankle,” he said as his fingers just grazed the tops of her shoulders.
Elizabeth reached up to grasp the material, her fingers touching, for just a second, the gentleman’s ungloved hand. He had removed his gloves to gather the mistletoe and, in an effort to keep them from the sticky white mess of the berries, had left them off. Now, as she looked at the gentleman so close to her and in such an intimate situation she was remiss to remember all she held against him only a week ago.
Assured of Miss Elizabeth’s comfort, Darcy bid her farewell and took his leave of Longbourn. However, the exchange today made him realize, more than ever before, that his sister was correct—he had been selfish in not pursuing a wife. He could not walk away from this opportunity in hopes that fate might make their paths cross again in the future. There was no certainty in that. Though he had wrestled with the decision to return since making it, he was now glad to have traveled back to Meryton with Bingley.