I went to Sainsbury's yesterday - I lead a very exciting life! - and as I walked down the aisles I saw Lindt chocolate Christmas decorations on sale. My first thought was: Christmas? Already? And my second thought was: Lindt chocolate :)) I was about to walk nobly by when I remembered how frustrating it was to go shopping for chocolate tree decorations in December last year and not find any. So I succumbed to temptation and bought a row of chocolate snowmen. It was, of course, a big mistake. This morning, half of them have already been eaten and I don't suppose the rest will last very long.
So in the same spirit I thought I would blog today about A Darcy Christmas, which is out next week (October 1). It's a collection of 3 novellas and my contribution is called Christmas Present.
When I was asked to write the novella I knew at once what I wanted to write about. I left Darcy and Elizabeth at the end of Mr Darcy's Diary with the suggestion that Elizabeth was pregnant, and as the following Christmas occurs nine months later, I think you can guess what happens!
I had such a lot of fun gathering together all my favourite characters for a large house party at Jane and Bingley's new estate. Lizzy and Darcy are there, as are Lizzy's family (minus Lydia). Lady Catherine and Mr Collins arrive unexpectedly, having been on their way north when they were cut off by heavy snow, and there are some new characters as well. But this is how it all starts:
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a married man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of an heir, and Mr Darcy of Pemberley, was soon to have that want satisfied. Elizabeth was expecting their first child and he looked at her with pride as she sat across the breakfast table from him, reading her mail. She opened another letter and her face broke into a smile.
‘Jane has had the baby!’ she said. ‘A boy!’
‘So Bingley is a father,’ said Darcy with evident pleasure.
‘And Jane is a mother. Oh, my dear Jane, how proud and pleased she must be. Bingley is besotted,’ said Elizabeth, returning to her letter. ‘Jane says she can scarcely persuade him to leave the nursery to eat and sleep. She adds, “and it is not to be wondered at, for little Charles is the most beautiful baby you have ever seen”.’ Elizabeth looked up at Darcy. ‘Jane would like us to stay with her for Christmas. She says she can wait no longer to show us the new baby, as well as the new house. I am sure I cannot wait to see them. I will give orders for the packing at once.’
‘No, we cannot go and see them just yet,’ said Darcy, looking at his wife’s full figure as she rose unsteadily to her feet. ‘You forget your condition.’
‘I never forget my condition,’ she said with a rueful smile, resting her hand on her rounded stomach.
‘We will wait a few weeks nevertheless,’ he said. ‘It will be better that way.’
‘What nonsense! I am perfectly able to climb into the carriage, and that is all I need to do,’ she said, laughing at him.
‘But you might have the baby on the way!’ he said.
‘And I might not,’ she replied.
‘We might be in a lonely spot, with no midwife to hand, and nothing but the coach to shelter you,’ he protested. ‘No hot water, no maids, no Mrs Reynolds. No, Lizzy, it will not do. I am sorry, my love, but I forbid it.’
Instead of meekly obeying her lord and master’s command, Lizzy’s eyes sparkled and she said, ‘Ah! I knew how it would be. When we were newly married, you would deny me nothing, but now that a year and more has passed you are showing your true colours and you expect me to obey you in everything!’
‘I doubt if you have ever obeyed anyone in your life,’ he returned, sitting back and looking at her with a smile playing about his lips.
‘No, indeed I have not, for I have a mind of my own and I like to use it,’ she said. ‘Otherwise, it might grow rusty with neglect.’
He laughed. But he was not to be so easily talked out of his fears.
‘Only consider —’
‘I have considered!’ she said. And then, more seriously, ‘Believe me, I have. I have scarcely ventured beyond the flower gardens these past few weeks and for the last sennight I have barely set foot out of the door, but I cannot do so forever. It is very wearing, and very tedious. Mama’s first child was three weeks late and if I am the same there will be plenty of time for us to go and see Jane’s baby, and still return to Pemberley before our baby is born. And besides, I want a family Christmas.’
‘Then let us invite your family here.’
‘No, it would not do,’ said Lizzy, sitting down again. ‘Jane and the baby cannot travel. Besides, it is already arranged that the family will visit Jane’s new residence, Lowlands Park. Jane’s housekeeper has been preparing for the event for weeks. The rooms have been aired, the larder stocked and the beds made up.’ She took pity on him and said, ‘Jane’s new house is not so very far away. If we leave Pemberley after lunch we will be there in time for dinner, scarcely time for anything to happen. I promise you, if I feel any twinges before we set out then we will delay the journey.’
‘And what if you feel a twinge when we are halfway to Jane’s?’
‘Then we will carry on our way and I will be well looked after as soon as we arrive.’ As he still looked dubious, she continued. ‘You know what the midwife said, ladies in my condition must be humoured, and my mind is made up.’
I loved writing it and I hope it will be a treat for Darcy fans everywhere this Christmas.