A Pride and Prejudice Christmas Carol
His parents were long dead by the morning of Christmas Eve that fateful year. Standing in front of a portrait taken several months before his mother died he stared into her kind eyes and wondered if they would be proud of the actions he had taken after the Netherfield ball. As Bingley's closest friend and confidante he had considered it his duty to separate him from Jane Bennet, he thought nothing bad of the woman but her indifference to his friend was clear and the resulting marriage would only lead to pain for his friend. Her indifference was the top item on a list of faults belonging to the eldest Miss Bennet, though she was surely beautiful and very kind she was not accomplished as a lady should be and her family could only bring degradation to Bingley. He thought of Mrs Bennet and her strident voice and grimaced, yes he had definitely done his friend a favour.
Standing in the hallway of his London house he could hear Georgiana practicing on the pianoforte and smiled, it was strained though, the tune was melancholy and he knew his sister was still mourning the incident that had taken place much earlier that year. Seeing Wickham in such close confidence with the Bennet's had only strengthened his resolve to keep himself and his friend away from them. No good could ever come of his being forced into the company of that rogue if he had given in to his feelings or let Bingley do the same.
Looking at the portrait he wondered briefly in his parents faces did not look just a bit disapproving, he blinked once then twice but what had originally been kind smiles were now frowns of disapproval. Rubbing his eyes he wondered if perhaps he had been trapped indoors for too long and resolved to take a long walk perhaps calling on Bingley or another of his friends.
After donning an overcoat and hat Darcy gripped his cane in a gloved hand and stared out at the steps of his house, they were covered in snow something that should have been remedied earlier by a member of his staff. Ringing for his house keeper he waited impatiently until she arrived.
"There is snow on the steps." He intoned and the woman nodded.
"Yes Sir, I'm very sorry Mr Darcy but it has been snowing constantly all day and as soon as we sweep it away it builds up again." Perhaps it was his misery at denying his heart or perhaps it was the memory of his parent's stern facades but Darcy found himself irritated by her excuses.
"I want it swept up this instant and when I return I expect the steps remain clear of this infernal snow." He snapped, his house keeper's expression of surprise at his tone only further added to his irritation, "Or shall I look to hire someone who can perform this simple task without resorting to excuses?" Mrs Rushworth whitened and apologised profusely before calling for a maid and berating the bewildered girl about the state of the steps. When the steps were cleared he stormed down them and away from the house for once in his life wondering when his staff had become so incompetent.
Back inside the house Mrs Rushworth headed to her rooms in search of a calming cup of tea and the upset house maid was left in tears to be comforted by staff members who wondered what had happened to their normally kind master.
Outside Darcy waved away his driver and resolved to walk the half mile to Bingley's London home in hopes that the cold walk would ease his temper and brighten his spirits, it would not do to present such a sore head to his friend.
It was twenty minutes later when a damp Darcy in better spirits climbed the snow covered steps of Bingley's property and rapped on the door with his cane. The door was opened by the butler who led him into the foyer and helped him out of his winter clothing. He then announced him to the residents who unfortunately turned out to be Mrs Hurst and Caroline Bingley.
"Mr Darcy it is a pleasure to have your company here, we have been very dull today. Charles left this morning and Mr Hurst has had business to attend to. We are delighted by your arrival aren't we Louisa?" Caroline said in what he supposed was meant to be a sweet but seductive voice, it sounded akin to nails being scratched down a chalk board and he had to hold back the urge to shudder.
"Mrs Hurst, Miss Bingley it is a pleasure to see you both looking in good health." Bowing Darcy sat down and faced what he knew would be the most painful hour of his life, ordinary visiting times had never mattered in the Bingley household to their dearest friend and it was rare for him to stay under an hour when visiting. Of course those visits had occurred when Bingley was home and the thought of the walk home was unappealing in such cold weather. No there was nothing to be done but take tea with the superior sisters.
"How is dear Georgiana, I long to see her again but this ghastly weather keeps us indoors." Miss Bingley said in a tone he could only assume was ingratiating.
"Georgiana is quite well I thank you, she has been enjoying the snow greatly and takes great delight in pelting me with snowballs."
"Oh how singular, it must be so refreshing to have such stamina and resilience against the cold." Darcy inclined his head slightly and Caroline continued, "It must be all those Derbyshire winters, it has given you such a strong stamina against the snow. Of course I adore the snow and long for a country winter surrounded by endless fields of snow, how wonderful it must be to spend ones time in such an enchanting way."
It amused him that she had within a few minutes described snow as both ghastly and enchanting but politeness stopped him from pointing it out.
"Yes Georgiana and I hope to spend next Christmas at Pemberley; we both miss the changing of the seasons there."
"But of course you do how could you not, Pemberley is the perfect place to spend Christmas, surrounded by such grandeur amidst the wild beauty of a Derbyshire winter, such parties you must have and sleigh rides, such elegance and fun."
"We rarely have such entertainments at Pemberley, the families in the nearby estates are rarely in Derbyshire over the winter and we prefer to spend Christmas by ourselves keeping entertained with a good book and long winter walks."
Miss Bingley's face froze on a forced smile and Darcy refrained from laughing in her face, Mrs Hurst looked openly appalled and said so before Caroline could stop her.
"No parties Mr Darcy how dreadful, how on earth can you pass a season in such a way?"
"I find Mrs Hurst that there is a charm to living a simple country life, of course you ladies have not been raised in the country."
Mrs Hurst carried on oblivious to the horrified looks she was getting from Caroline, "Of course not, I found the country manners to be so savage when Charles insisted we stay at Netherfield Park, if I were forced to spend any more time with those awful Bennet's I might scream. Country gentlemen are so inferior to the upper circles I can hardly believe they might be considered gentlemen at all." Sitting back Mrs Hurst smirked at her audience consisting of a horrified Caroline and an irritated yet amused Darcy.
"Of course your brother will be a country gentleman once he purchases an estate." Darcy pointed out and Mrs Hurst shook her head.
"Of course he won't, a true gentleman is so infinitely superior to a country gentleman; the difference will be quite obvious."
"I am a country gentleman though." Darcy reminded her, his growing irritation mingled with his desire to laugh openly at the dawning horror on her face. It seemed that his decision to escape to Bingley's home had done nothing to sooth his temper.
"Oh of course Louisa could never mean you when she talks of country gentlemen." Caroline interjected desperately nudging Louisa who could only nod a bright flush rising up her cheeks.
"Of course." Darcy ground out, standing he made his declaration to leave stating Georgiana as the excuse and left Caroline and Louisa arguing furiously in the parlour.
Outside the snow was even heavier making his journey back harder, his coat was still damp from his earlier walk and Darcy was feeling particularly cold and miserable. With his head down he didn't notice the woman until he had walked into her, looking up he was stunned to find himself looking at Miss Elizabeth Bennet and he bowed in apology. Straightening he found that the woman was not Elizabeth and he cursed himself for keeping her in his thoughts, coming to London was supposed to rid her from his thoughts and dreams not embed her even further. Apologising he walked on feeling his skin flush at the thought of the petite brunette and her fine eyes and captivating wit. It just wouldn't do to marry her though her situation was so decidedly beneath his own, how could a woman with such a family in such a low circle to his own ever hope to be mistress of an estate such as Pemberley. The very idea was laughable and the shame he would bring to his family could damage their reputation for life, Georgiana would be unable to marry suitably and they would be cast out by the ton, sneered at and mocked where once was reverence and awe.
The feeling of admiration for Elizabeth was soon replaced by shame that he had ever considered making her his wife, cursing his heart he stomped the rest of the way home arriving to his snow free steps in a worse mood than when he had left.
The staff of Darcy House were soon made aware that their master was in a foul mood and most took steps to keep out of his way, maids were seen hurrying down halls he was nearing and even his man servant took refuge in organising his masters closets.
Georgiana was soon alert to his mood and in an effort to cheer him up played Christmas carols on the pianoforte forsaking her sombre tunes in the hope it would brighten up her brother. It soon served to irritate him further and he stormed into his suite of rooms ordering that his supper should be served in them. In tears Georgiana retired early to her rooms and the house was filled with silence.
Sitting in his room in front of a bright fire Darcy held a glass of port in one hand and in the other a sketch of Lizzy that Georgiana had drawn from her description. It was a good estimation though the eyes could never be captured and he had stolen it away from her when she was not paying attention. He was still unsure as to why she had chosen to draw Elizabeth and she had merely answered cheerfully that she was practicing drawing people she did not know for fun. The incident had left him very much aware of how much he had spoken of the woman and he cursed himself for being so obvious. With one final look at the picture he cast it into the fire watching it curl and smoulder before finally bursting into flame and disintegrating. His heart wrenched and he took a large swallow of port to block his emotions.
When his supper was served by a terrified looking maid he took one look and shoved it aside suddenly not hungry, he filled his stomach with port instead and when the lights suddenly flickered and extinguished he was angry and well on his way to becoming drunk.
"Damn and blast it have the maids been stealing the candles to leave me in such a pitiable state!" He roared and moving to stand found he could not move a muscle.
"Oh Fitzwilliam, my darling Fitzwilliam what have you done." A gentle voice said.
"What is this madness, I thought I heard my mother but she has been dead for far too long." Darcy said as he attempted to move his arm.
"We have come to you in your time of need, a visit to warn you of terrible things to come if you remain on this path." Looking up Darcy found himself looking at the figure of his mother Lady Anne Darcy, she was watching him with tender sadness and he choked back tears as he looked up at her.
"Mother, you are dead, you cannot be here."
"We are both here Fitzwilliam." A gruffer voice said and his mother was joined by his deceased father a stern frown on the face Darcy loved so much.
"Father, Mother how are you here."
"You're on a path to self destruction man surely you can see this." Old Darcy intoned and Darcy shook his head desperately.
"Be kind to me parents my journey has been long and lonely without your guidance."
"We blame ourselves for your chosen path." Lady Anne said sadly and Darcy looked at her sharply, "Long have we taught you to pride your name above all others and to look at people with disdain. Our circle is an unforgiving one and you have become what we all feared to become."
"I could never blame such excellent parents, my faults are my own." Darcy said bitterly.
"Tonight you will be visited by three spirits." Old Darcy said gravely.
"Take heed of their words for if you don't your life and that of those you love will be lonely." Lady Anne said.
"Take heed." Old Darcy said.
"Speak comfort to me parents, have I not striven to maintain the name of the Darcy family, to follow societal rules and to bring only pride to our family?"
"At the cost of your soul my son, take heed, the first spirit arrives when the clock strikes one." Lady Anne said with tears streaming down her face.
"Take heed." Old Darcy echoed and the lights flickered and the candles re-lit. Blinking in the bright light Darcy cast his eyes around the room searching for the ghosts who had haunted him so. Able to stand he found himself alone in the room, the tears streaming down his face the only reminder of their visit.
Staring in horror at what he could only assume was a bad batch of port he hastily removed his clothes and donning sleepwear crawled into his bed pulling the curtains around him. Finally his shaking subsided and dismissing the visit as a product of too much port he fell into a disturbed slumber.
A/N: This is part one of five in what will be my Christmas gift to the wonderful Pride and Prejudice fiction writers who have kept me amused for so long. I hope you enjoy.
Coming next the first spirit.
Please note that the story used is the product of Charles Dickens and the characters are Jane Austen's I own nothing.