A Hopeful Holiday:
A Pride and Prejudice Novella
Available November 1, 2021
available by Excessively Diverted Press
Is the holiday season a perfect setting for a second chance at love?
After secretly arranging Lydia and Wickham’s marriage, Mr Darcy encouraged Bingley to return to Jane. While his friend is now happily married, Darcy regrets not having the courage to pursue Elizabeth in the autumn. As 1812 draws to a close, Darcy rallies his spirits to spend the Christmas holiday with Lady Catherine.
Elizabeth Bennet wanted to show Darcy that her feelings for him had changed, but he never returned to Hertfordshire and she fears Darcy could never tolerate being brother-in-law to Wickham. For a change of scene and with the hope of lifting her spirits, Elizabeth accepts an invitation to visit Charlotte Collins and her new baby at Christmas.
Lady Catherine’s New Year’s Eve masquerade ball is the social event of the season and, amid the festivities and mistletoe, both Darcy and Elizabeth hope for a reason to make their affections known. But will her ladyship’s interference, the sudden appearance of her scheming nephew, and Elizabeth and Darcy’s insecurities prevent them from finding happiness during the holiday season?
This is a 31,000 word Pride and Prejudice variation.
“Fitzwilliam,” Lady Catherine called. “Come here. I want you.”
He gave a long-suffering look and crossed the room to move the fire screen for Miss de Bourgh, and she was left with Darcy. If not for the presence of the others, she would thank him for all he had done for her family. They looked at one another for a long moment, neither saying anything.
“Did you spend the day in mirth and festivity with the Collinses, Miss Bennet?” Darcy finally asked.
She smiled. “Young William is rather young for Hunt the Slipper or Blind Man’s Buff; it was a quiet day compared to what I am used to.”
“If you were at Longbourn, would brown beer have gone round the room while someone sang lively songs?”
“Yes, along with a Christmas pie and many friends.” She wondered what Christmas at Pemberley must be like. “Miss Darcy is not alone at Christmas, is she?”
“No, not at all. She is with my uncle in town; I shall see her in January.”
“I was surprised to learn that you were to come to Rosings when you had just been here at Easter. I thought you would be at Pemberley at this time of year.”
“I often am—I prefer it above all else, but—” He thought for a moment, and then took a step nearer. Elizabeth’s heart beat fast to have him so close. He lowered his voice and said, “I drew the short straw.”
“Oh!” She burst out in surprised laughter. “You do not mean it!”
He smiled, his own amusement better contained. “I do. Every December we gather to draw lots to see who shall attend her at Christmas. It is always two of us—none must suffer her alone—and Fitzwilliam and I drew the shortest.”
She was now laughing so hard it drew the attention of Lady Catherine, who demanded to know of what they were talking.
“Miss Bennet was talking of Mrs Collins’s little boy,” Darcy said, giving her a smile before turning round. “He is already a charming child.”
“That he may be, Miss Bennet, but I want to hear some music. The rest of us are to play snapdragon, but we do not need you.”
Darcy looked ashamed at this demand and, in fact, had opened his lips to protest, but Elizabeth shook her head. It is not worth it to argue with Lady Catherine. She was able to leave; Darcy would have to suffer her for the rest of his life. “I do not mind,” she said to him softly before walking to the instrument. She noticed a mistletoe bough hanging by it and wondered if Lady Catherine would force Miss de Bourgh to stand under it until Darcy passed near.
To her surprise, Darcy followed her to the pianoforte. “Shall I turn the pages?”
Elizabeth felt her heart pound. Would Darcy be solicitous if he felt nothing for me?
Darcy did not seem to notice the mistletoe hanging very near to them. It struck her forcibly how much she esteemed him now, how much she wanted to be esteemed in return by a man of such sense and virtue. She longed to know at that moment if, should she stand under a mistletoe bough, Darcy would pluck off a white berry and kiss her.
He was awaiting her answer; she smiled shyly at him and was nodding when Lady Catherine called his name.
“No, the family must play snapdragon at Christmas. Miss Bennet’s playing may not be as well as Anne’s, had she learnt, but she is a decent enough performer not to need your help.”
Elizabeth felt that Darcy’s eyes were repeatedly turned toward her, but between the games, her playing, and Lady Catherine’s conversation, they did not speak for the rest of the evening.
Their only interaction was when it was time to leave. She was in the hall awaiting his carriage when Darcy joined her. He took her cloak from the servant and put it round her shoulders, with a soft, “Merry Christmas, my dear Miss Bennet,” before returning to the drawing room.