Pemberley Mistletoe; A Pride and Prejudice Sequel - Chapter 1

Updated: Oct 10



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Pemberley Mistletoe Chapter 1

 

Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy had enjoyed a fortnight of being totally irresponsible with regard to anything other than matters of the heart. They had spent the first sennight of their marriage in London at the Darcys’ townhouse. Although they left their residence rarely, they had the pleasure of enjoying an intimate family dinner with the Gardiners and some shopping on Bond Street for the Christmas season before they retired to the comforts of Pemberley, their family estate in the northern county of Derbyshire.


Since their arrival in Derbyshire, another sennight had passed. The servants were beginning to wonder if the master and his lovely new bride would ever emerge from their honeymoon chamber. Only the most trusted servants were allowed in, and then only to provide nourishment and draw the couple’s bath. The closest anyone else was allowed was the chamber door.


The newlyweds’ first venture from their room was nothing more than a walk to the Orangery. Elizabeth clung to the arm of her new husband while they walked, their heads bowed close together, sharing intimate secrets with whispered breaths.


Last summer, when Elizabeth had toured Pemberley with her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner, Mrs. Reynolds, the housekeeper, had praised the late Lady Anne Darcy’s appreciation of the place. She had explained that Lady Anne had regularly conducted her guests on tours of the Orangery where they were known to admire not only the fruits within but the architecture without; its Italian design blended well with the style of Pemberley. Lady Anne had overseen the addition of two fountains and a grotto during her life, and had often entertained in the Orangery in the event the unpredictable northern England weather turned foul. Elizabeth had been well pleased with the place. Now, as mistress of the manor, it was even pleasanter than she imagined. The Orangery could be achieved by a passage from the west wing of the manor; thus one seeking the place need not leave the house. It was perfectly situated, and a relief against the all-too-frequently inclement winter weather Elizabeth was still becoming familiar with. The weather in Hertfordshire was certainly more temperate than the wild and untamed climes of the north.


Each day thereafter, the couple walked the halls of the manor and Elizabeth gradually became comfortable in her surroundings. She developed a genuine love and appreciation of the place and even had the opportunity to meet a few of the staff, though most were advised by Mrs. Reynolds to keep their distance until the master and mistress were ready to resume their daily responsibilities. Mrs. Reynolds anticipated it would be soon, for it was only one week before Miss Darcy, Colonel Fitzwilliam, and the Bingleys were to arrive.


“Fitzwilliam,” Elizabeth said one morning before rising, “as much as I adore spending my days, and nights, here with you, I think we must emerge into the world. I have much to do, and little time to do it in.”


“Alas, you are probably right, my dear,” Fitzwilliam responded. “Mr. Carson has informed me twice that my steward is eager to discuss some small matters related to the modification of my investments now that I am married.”


“I hope all is well. I would hate to learn that taking on a wife has burdened your finances.” Elizabeth gave him a cheeky grin. “It would distress me greatly.”


“What a little tease you are.” Fitzwilliam reached for Elizabeth and drew her near, placing a tender kiss upon her lips. She accepted his sweet ministrations with pleasure.


“Come, let us face the world. Do not forget your sister and cousin are to arrive Friday, and Jane and Charles the day after. For my part, I must admit that I am excited to have them join us for our first Christmas together. I know we shall be a merry party.” She looked towards her husband and girlishly giggled. “I think this will be my favourite Christmas ever, my first in my new home,” she looked a little guilty as she leaned towards him and whispered, “and without my mother.”


Elizabeth swung her legs over the side of the bed and energetically stood up to face the day. Her chestnut braid bounced against her back as she swung open the armoire doors to choose a gown. Turning her head to glance over her shoulder at her handsome husband, still lying in bed, she caught sight of him watching her. Pursing her lips, she blew him a kiss, flashed a saucy smile, and reached for her pale pink gown. Walking across the room, Elizabeth sat at her vanity and picked up her brush. “Fitzwilliam, be a dear and ring the bell for me. I would like Gracie to come help me with my hair.”


Once Fitzwilliam rang the bell, he had no other choice; he must rise or be caught in Elizabeth’s bed when the maid arrived. He had just finished putting on his robe and slippers when Gracie arrived using the servants’ door.


Fitzwilliam had sent a message through Mr. Carson, his valet, to his steward informing him he was available to meet today. At the desired time, the man arrived with a satchel of documents in tow. Elizabeth had been sitting with Fitzwilliam in his study, occupying more of his attention than allowed him time to look over estate matters. A few months ago, the very idea of someone interrupting him would have been entirely unacceptable, but now it was an event he relished in mightily.


When Elizabeth noticed his steward arrive, she offered him a soft kiss, full of promise and enthusiasm, then rose and left the room to seek out Mrs. Reynolds. It was time the two began their preparations for the upcoming holiday festivities.


“Good morning, Mrs. Reynolds,” Elizabeth practically sang as she entered the sitting room where the kind housekeeper was straightening a statue that rested on the mantle underneath an oil painting of Pemberley adorned in autumn colours.


“Good morning to you, too, Mrs. Darcy. What can I do for you this fine day?” Mrs. Reynolds turned, offering her full attention to her new mistress.


“As you know, my dear sister Jane and her new husband Mr. Bingley are expected on Saturday. Miss Darcy and the Colonel will arrive the day before that.” Mrs. Reynolds acknowledged the information with a nod. “I would appreciate some of your time to discuss decorations we could place around the manor, as well as the menu while our guests are in residence.”


“It would be my pleasure, Mrs. Darcy.”


Elizabeth walked to the desk in the corner and took out a piece of paper, ink, and quill. Bringing them to the small table by the settee, the two sat and began planning the menu.


“I know my sister’s tastes and preferences; however, I would like to know some of Fitz …,” she paused to amend how she addressed her husband in front of Mrs. Reynolds, “Mr. and Miss Darcy’s preferred holiday dishes. After we speak about the food, I would then like to talk about the Darcy family traditions, as well as some decoration ideas.” Elizabeth looked into Mrs. Reynolds’s face and with all the seriousness she could muster she confided, “I depend upon you helping me make our first Christmas together perfect. I would be mortified if Mr. Darcy expected something and I did not provide it.”


“Yes, ma’am, I would be happy to tell you all I know.” Mrs. Reynolds smiled a warm, motherly smile as Elizabeth sat back and prepared to learn about her new family.


Mrs. Reynolds did not waste a minute, she began to speak animatedly about the Darcy siblings preferred foods and treats. The more she spoke about the Darcys, the clearer it became to Elizabeth that Mrs. Reynolds loved the Darcy siblings as if they were her own children, and it clearly gave her immense pleasure to talk about them. It was exciting for Elizabeth to learn of her love’s favourite dishes, and the more she listened, the more she understood how she could indulge her new sister’s sweet tooth. Elizabeth would have never guessed Fitzwilliam liked caramel in his hot chocolate, or that Miss Darcy preferred marzipan to macaroons, but what mesmerized her most was Mrs. Reynolds’s descriptions of their holiday traditions, so elaborate compared to anything she had ever experienced at Longbourn.


“The late Mr. and Mrs. Darcy enjoyed nothing more than a festive holiday. Many years ago, Mr. Darcy visited the Continent during Winter Solstice. He brought back with him the German tradition of a Christmas tree. He then incorporated the traditions of the Protestant reformer Martin Luther by wiring small candles to the tree. Mr. Darcy always said that the evergreen boughs reminded him of all of the green plants that would grow again once the frost was off the ground.”


Elizabeth was entranced by every word Mrs. Reynolds spoke; the tree, the candles, the decorations on the banisters, table centerpieces, and the exchange of trinkets. “This is all so fascinating. I have seen only one Christmas tree in my life. It must have been about five years ago when I visited my Aunt and Uncle Gardiner in London. One of the shops on Bond Street had a small tree sitting in the middle of a table. Though it was small, the memory of the tree has stayed with me. Where would we find a proper evergreen? Is there a tree upon the park grounds that would suffice?” Elizabeth’s questions came in rapid succession, and Mrs. Reynolds smiled at her enthusiasm. An evergreen tree had not been brought into the manor and decorated since Lady Anne Darcy’s death. The late Mr. Darcy had chosen to hide all of his emotions when his beloved wife died, to the detriment of his children, in her opinion. It was a shame because, although Fitzwilliam would remember, Georgiana would hardly recognize her family’s little tradition; she was so young when her mother died.


“As luck would have it, we do have the perfect trees here upon the Pemberley grounds. The late Mr. Darcy had a grove of trees planted of the specific variety the Germans use. It has been many years since the family has selected a tree, but the grove is still well maintained and there should be plenty to choose from.” Elizabeth’s enthusiasm was heightened with each proclamation from the beloved housekeeper. Mrs. Reynolds continued, “Her Ladyship would also decorate the most commonly used rooms and staircases with evergreen boughs lashed together. Mistletoe was hung in all the doorways, and a Yule log burned on Christmas Eve.”


“A Yule log, oh, how glorious. My family has long practiced the Yule tradition, and I am glad we can continue it here.” Elizabeth smiled sweetly and began sharing a part of her own family history with the housekeeper. “Every year my father would cut an oak branch and bore a hole in one end. My mother would make chrism by mixing wine, cooking oil, and incense. The chrism was added to the log and the hole plugged, then my sisters and I would wrap the log in the most glorious white linen and lace. On Christmas Eve, my father would say a prayer over the log and we would burn it all night. Christmas morning, all of my father’s tenants would gather, and my father would offer another prayer of blessing over every household under his care, as well as the coming year’s crops. In the spring, the ashes would be spread over the fields. It is believed that our family, the tenants, and crops will all be blessed with health and bounty.”


Mrs. Reynolds enjoyed listening to her new mistress share her family traditions. The two were nearing the end of their conversation and dividing the tasks when Fitzwilliam was noticed leaning against the doorway, watching his wife. That man will never tire of watching his wife, thought Mrs. Reynolds.


Fitzwilliam nodded a greeting to the ladies when they saw him at the door. Mrs. Reynolds stood, curtsied, and then stepped out of his way so he could take her position on the settee next to his wife.


“Nay, Mrs. Reynolds, you remain. I am just come to tell Elizabeth that I have completed my business and will await her in the library.” Fitzwilliam walked towards the settee. As he gained Elizabeth’s side he rested his hand upon her shoulder in a show of affection. Elizabeth looked up at him and, to her shock, in front of Mrs. Reynolds and without a care in the world, he bent over and kissed her sweet lips. He kissed her as a man kisses his wife, then he licked her taste from his own lips and stood erect. He straightened his vest and said, “Please join me in the library when you have completed your planning.” Fitzwilliam had started to walk away when his wife addressed him.


“Fitzwilliam, you should join us. We are almost done planning, but it would be wonderful if you would accompany me to select the Christmas tree and Yule log.”


“Very well, my dear.” He pulled a high-backed chair close to the settee so he could sit near Elizabeth without making Mrs. Reynolds abandon her position.


The actual planning only took a few more minutes, but now that the three were together much of the following hour was spent reminiscing about past holidays. Although their time together exceeded what was required to accomplish their tasks, it was to the enjoyment of them all.


 


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