I admit it. I love autumn. I live in North Carolina where for the past two summers we have had a string of 90+ degrees days. This year, since May 27, we have had 82 such days. The lowest temperature we have experienced in three months is 83. So, I am thankful for the latter days of September and the early days of October when the heat and the humidity take a backseat. We will still receive a few days of 85+ degrees until November, but the heat eases, and people start thinking of the upcoming holidays.
Moreover, in my family, we have a series of birthdays between now and year’s end. I turned a sweet 69 years on September 17. [There was a time I thought being 69 meant one was ANCIENT! Not so much now.] My granddaughter Annalise turns 3 in early October. My stepson Tim will be 40 on Halloween. My grandson James will be 5 in early November, and his father (my son) Josh will be 32 in mid November. We have Thanksgiving in the States at the end of November [which included my late mother’s birthday] and Christmas in December. And the much anticipated event at the beginning of January will be a new grandchild. So you can see how my heart grows lighter once the heat of summer disappears.
On one of those recent hot summer evenings, I was speaking to my long time friend Charlotte on the phone, and is customary between us, we were reminiscing about some crazy antics from our childhood. Soon, I was telling her about the year I received four Easter baskets. This was a monumental event for my parents were separated in a time when divorce was still not “accepted.” My mother did not know whether she could scrap up enough money to purchase an Easter basket, and so she had prepared me for disappointment. Then God smiled on my 10-year-old self for my grandfather bought me a basket, our neighbors, who had no children of their own, did likewise, the woman for whom my mother worked presented me with a third one, and my mother was the bearer of the fourth. It was too much chocolate for one child, but I rationed it out to last a LONG time. What was odd about each was that somehow the little note from the presenters were mixed up, and I kept thanking the wrong people for the chocolate bunnies or the jelly beans. Soon the situation became a family source of laughter.
After our conversation between Charlotte and me ended, I held that special moment with me for several hours and into my slumber. As is customary for my writing, soon the idea for a new novel took root, and I decided to write a light-hearted sweet Christmas story with Darcy and Elizabeth. In this tale of Mr. Darcy’s Present, Darcy purchases a small gift for Elizabeth, one he never expects to present her - more one to ease his troubled soul after her rejection of his hand. Unfortunately, the note he sets with the gift becomes mixed up with the ones intended for Georgiana, Anne de Bourgh, and Darcy’s long-time friend Mrs. Osborne. Each of the women receives the wrong note, which causes our favorite hero more than one embarrassing moment.
So, here is a sample of Darcy’s dilemma. I hope you enjoy it.
Read an excerpt
He set Bingley’s letter aside and quickly read through the other three. Deciding he could do no more until he summoned Shefeld to be his scribe in Bingley’s absence, he carried all four pieces to his study to search through his ledger for the necessary information for his correspondence. However, the empty table where the gifts once rested brought him up short. Swallowing hard against the realization the gift for Elizabeth was also among the missing, he turned to a passing footman to say, “Please ask Mr. Thacker and Mr. Sheffield to attend me here immediately.”
Darcy braced his weight against the doorframe for he did not think his legs would support him. “Surely there is a logical explanation,” he murmured to still the racing of his heart.
An out of breath Thacker came to a halt behind Darcy. “Is there something amiss, Mr. Darcy?”
Darcy did not look upon his servant. Thacker’s tone spoke of the butler’s concern. “May I inquire of the items that were on the table only yesterday?”
Thacker responded in uncertainty. “As Christmas Eve day is but four days hence, you instructed Mr. Sheffield to dispatch the assortment to the proper parties, sir. With the assistance of Mrs. Guthrie and one of the maids, the items were wrapped with paper and string. Mr. Sheffield made certain each parcel had the proper directions while I arranged for the various riders. Even Miss Darcy’s items were sent ahead to Rosings, sir.”
Cautiously, Darcy asked, “There were several items without a recipient’s name. What of those?”
“I cannot say, sir. But here comes Mr. Sheffield. He can speak to your concerns.”
Thinking it best that he interview his valet in private, Darcy motioned Sheffield into the room and closed the door. “Has something amiss occurred, sir?” Sheffield asked with the confidence of a long employed upper servant. Darcy walked toward the far side of the room to prevent anyone from eavesdropping at the door, and Sheffield followed with Darcy’s prompting. “Mr. Thacker informed me that you organized the distribution of the gifts you purchased in my name. Is that correct?”
“Yes, sir.” The confidence had disappeared from the valet’s features. “You presented me specific instructions last evening when you summoned me to assist with your undressing.”
“The same evening hours that, by your own words, I consumed both laudanum and brandy?”
Sheffield swallowed harder. “Yes, sir, but in my defense, at the time you did not appear unclear with your wishes. It was only after you did not wake promptly this morning and after Mrs. Guthrie mentioned your consumption of the brandy that I knew alarm. Your breathing was very shallow for several hours. I asked Thacker to place Nott on alert, but although you refused to arouse completely, Nott assured us it was only a matter of time for the dosage of laudanum to wear away.”
Darcy grumbled, “No more laudanum!”
“But Doctor Nott says...” Shef eld began.
“No more!” Darcy demanded. “Although I admire Nott’s noted knowledge, the physician is too free in dispensing the opiate, and I specifically requested that I not consume the mixture again. I do not appreciate your undermining my orders, even when you think you are serving my interests.” Darcy shot a glance again to the table, almost wishing to view the book and the pin still upon it. “So when exactly did you send out the parcels?”
“All were on their way by nine of the clock, sir.” His servant’s eyes were upon the floor.
“I thought you watched over me?” Darcy asked suspiciously.
“Last evening, after leaving your quarters, I came to your study and wrote out a list of the necessary directions for each parcel. I thought it odd that you chose to post the items for the Matlocks and the De Boughs, as you would customarily place them in your carriage, but I assumed you worried that your injuries could cause you a delay.”
Darcy asked the question to which he had no desire to know the answer for it would turn his life upside down. “And what of the book and the stick pin? The card held no recipient’s name.”
“As neither you or Mr. Bingley chose to sign the card, I assumed the items a gift for someone special. You did not use the initialed cards for that one particular gift. After Mr. Bingley’s man told Thacker that his master was to Hertfordshire, your instructions of last evening for the gift to be sent in Miss Elizabeth’s care made more sense.”
Dread settled in Darcy’s chest. “To Miss Elizabeth? I told you to have the presentation sent into Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s care?”
Confusion returned to Sheffield’s features. “Yes, sir.”
“Again,” Darcy demanded, “this occurred last evening, before I took to my bed?” Darcy did not yet know whether to sack everyone involved or to laugh at the absurdity of the situation.
Sheffield cleared his throat a second time. “Did you not assist in Mr. Bingley’s pursuit of Miss Bennet? It was all quite obvious to the gentleman’s staff in Hertfordshire that Mr. Bingley held the lady in regard. I assumed the message was on the plain card and not signed because Mr. Bingley had yet to know the lady’s heart. You instructed Mr. Bingley, did you not, sir, that a book of poetry, which women appreciate more than men, and an engagement jeweled pin, a gift ‘not too ornate,’ as you declared would be perfect to earn Miss Bennet’s regard. I supposed Mr. Bingley left instructions to send the gift to the lady’s sister, for Miss Elizabeth would have most certainly agreed to assist in Mr. Bingley’s efforts. Mr. Bingley could not offer Miss Bennet the gift until there was an understanding between him and the lady, and with Christmastide, the gentleman would not wish to risk having no gift when the lady accepted his hand. What other explanation could there be?”
About the book: Mr Darcy's Present
The Greatest Present He Would Ever Receive is the Gift of Her Love…
What if Mr. Darcy purchased a gift for Elizabeth Bennet to acknowledge the festive days even though he knows he will never present it to her? What if the gift is posted to the lady by his servants and without his knowledge? What if the enclosed card was meant for another and is more suggestive than a gentleman should share with an unmarried lady? Join Darcy and Elizabeth, for a holiday romp, loaded with delightful twists and turns no one expects, but one in which our favorite couple take a very different path in thwarting George Wickham and Lydia Bennet’s elopement. Can a simple book of poetry be Darcy’s means to win Elizabeth’s love? When we care more for another than ourselves, the seeds of love have an opportunity to blossom.
Words of Praise for Mr. Darcy’s Present…
Jeffers takes a familiar story and reinvigorates it with humor, warmth, and wisdom.
About the Author: Regina Jeffers
With 30 books to her credit, Regina Jeffers is an award-winning author of historical cozy mysteries, Austenesque sequels and retellings, as well as Regency era-based romantic suspense. A teacher for thirty-nine years, Jeffers often serves as a consultant for Language Arts and Media Literacy programs. With multiple degrees, Regina has been a Time Warner Star Teacher, Columbus (OH) Teacher of the Year, and a Martha Holden Jennings Scholar and a Smithsonian presenter. In 2016, she was a finalist for both the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense and for the Frank Yerby Award for Fiction.
You may connect with Regina at…
Regina Jeffers Website
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