Welcome to the first day of Jane Austen’s Advent Calendar! Click on the Advent Calendar every day to find JA related vignettes, games, puzzles, humor, videos, and more.
One of my favorite parts of the holidays is sharing meals with friends and family. I wish I could have all of you over for Christmas dinner for a traditional Regency Christmas dinner. But since that’s not possible, perhaps we can share a virtual meal as the first treat for our advent calendar!
(After the video scroll down for a second treat and a giveaway!)
Excerpt From Admiration to Love
December 6, 1813
Darcy peeked over his newspaper. Elizabeth sat across the morning room table in a happy sunbeam. The sky blue walls, white, wispy curtains and the vaseful of French marigolds from the garden made it easy to imagine she was sitting somewhere in the gardens she so loved.
She was absorbed in her sewing—what was that she was making? Another baby dress for the parish, no doubt. There had been so many babies born this year, it seemed like she was constantly sewing them.
Pemberley had an outstanding mistress in her. Mother would have been proud. She even looked just the tiniest bit like Mother, sitting in mother’s favorite spot in the room, where the light was best for sewing. The house ran smoothly under Elizabeth’s administration and, after a bit of settling in, the local matrons came to respect her even as the parish looked to her for guidance. She had been a little daunted at first, but who would not be? Even so, she had done him proud. But perhaps she was working too hard, though. She seemed tired so often, even if she never complained.
She tuned slightly toward him and lifted her eyebrow. He was staring again. He chuckled and turned his eyes back to his newspaper. Technically, staring was a bit rude, but with such an object for his attention, who could blame him? At least she took it in good humor.
Marriage—to the right woman—was a very, very good thing.
He sipped his coffee and savored the cinnamon in the air, wafting from the plate of warm Chelsea buns Mrs. Reynolds had just brought in. There was nothing to compare to Pemberley’s Chelsea buns, sweet and spicy, full of currants and sticky with sugar glaze—he licked his lips.
“Mr. Darcy!” Mrs. Reynolds dashed into the room breathless and a little wild-eyed.
Elizabeth jumped to her feet, her sewing slipping to the floor. “What has happened?”
“Callers … I mean guests … pray forgive me but the house is not ready. We had no idea …”
Darcy folded his paper and set it aside. “Who has come? We are not expecting anyone.”
“Pray tell me Lydia and her … husband … they have not arrived on our doorstep, have they?” Elizabeth clutched the back of her chair almost as though dizzy.
Darcy gritted his teeth. There was one person who was definitely not welcome under his roof, and unfortunately it was his sister’s husband. Denying him succor would be very awkward indeed, especially at Christmastide, but no one could reasonably expect him to be tolerated when Georgiana was resident in the house.
“No, Mrs. Darcy, not them. It is Lady Catherine and Miss de Bourgh!”
Elizabeth’s jaw dropped. “You did not tell me you invited her.”
“I did no such thing! I have no idea why they are here.”
“Lady Catherine is waiting for you in your study, sir. I am sorry, but she insisted and would not be stopped. Miss de Bourgh is in the ladies’ parlor. She did not say, but if I may be so forward, it seems that she would speak with you, Mrs. Darcy.” Mrs. Reynolds wrung her hands in her apron.
“Have refreshments sent to both of them, and see that the maids make up rooms for them in the family wing—the far side of the family wing.” Elizabeth glanced at Darcy.
“I suppose there is little else to do. Tell Lady Catherine that I will be with her shortly. I will have my breakfast first.”
Mrs. Reynolds shuffled away, still wringing her hands. Aunt Catherine had a way of terrorizing the staff wherever she went. Elizabeth turned to him with a very peculiar look in her eye—she was rarely caught off guard and apparently did not approve.
“I am going to enjoy my buns. There is every chance that I will be in no mood to eat once I have finished with Aunt Catherine, and I will not allow Cook’s efforts to go to waste.” He reached for a sticky bun and took a generous bite. “Not to mention you have not had your gift yet.”
“My what?” She retrieved her sewing from the floor and folded it into her sewing basket.
“It was a tradition between my parents to exchange a small gift on St. Nicholas Day.”
“Why did you not tell me? I—”
“I suppose I should, but I have been selfish this year. I wanted to have the privilege to myself just once.” He rose and opened a drawer in the sideboard, withdrawing a slim package wrapped in brown paper. “The Gardiners helped me with this, so I trust it will be to your liking.”
Her eyes glittered and she smiled: a little shy, a little delighted. Did she realize what a gift that was—to be so pleased with him?
She untied the string and unfolded the paper to reveal the blue, purple and gold silk beneath, and gasped as she held it up. The fabric cascaded from her hands to the floor, shimmering in the morning sun.
“You have spent so much time on Georgiana’s fancy dress for the ball. I thought you should have something equally special. It is a saree, from India. Your aunt will write to you with instructions on how to wear it. After the ball, if you like, you might have it made into an evening gown.”
She wrapped the saree across her chest and stared down at it. “The colors, the fabric, it is so beautiful.” She twirled in the nearest sunbeam. “I am glad Aunt Gardiner has instructions for this. I have no idea what to do with so much fabric!”
“I have seen them worn. It will suit you very well.”
She returned the saree to its wrapping. “You are so dear to think of such a thing—truly you spoil me. I had not given a thought to—”
“Exactly, my dearest.” He stood and drew her very close. “You do so much for all of Pemberley. It is a gift to be able to do something for you.” He leaned down; a kiss was definitely in order.
“Ah … Mr. Darcy …” Why did Mrs. Reynolds have to come in now? “Excuse me, sir. Lady Catherine is growing most restive.”
“I will be there, Mrs. Reynolds. You are dismissed.” So much for not growling at the staff. “Now where was I?”
Elizabeth stood on tiptoes and pressed her lips to his, warm and soft and entirely too suggestive for so early in the day, especially with company waiting. Her eyes met his, twinkling a promise that just might sustain him through what was to come.
He kissed her once more, finished his Chelsea bun and steeled himself for his unexpected company.
“I will see to Anne,” she called after him. “Perhaps, between their stories, we can get a true picture of what has brought them to Pemberley.”
He nodded, but did not look back lest he roll his eyes at her which, he was told, most considered rude.
So what do you think? Just what kind of interesting are Lady Catherine and Anne going to make Christmastide at Pemberley?
Comment below and add your share to the conversation and enter for a chance to win your choice of ebook (Darcy and Elizabeth: Christmas 1811, The Darcys’ First Christmas or From Admiration to Love)