Other Fiction

Twelve Days of Christmas, JA Style
(Posted 12/12/2013)

On the first day of Christmas Jane Austen gave to me Mr. Darcy in a wet tee.

On the second day of Christmas Jane Austen gave to me: two daring colonels and Mr. Darcy in a wet tee.

On the third day of Christmas Jane Austen gave to me: three Dashwood sisters, two daring colonels, and Mr. Darcy in a wet tee.

On the fourth day of Christmas Jane Austen gave to me four fallen women, three Dashwood sisters, two daring colonels, and Mr. Darcy in a wet tee.

On the fifth day of Christmas Jane Austen gave to me: LADY CATHERINE DE BOURGH! Four fallen women, three Dashwood sisters, two daring colonels, and Mr. Darcy in a wet tee.

On the sixth day of Christmas Jane Austen gave to me: six stupendous novels, LADY CATHERINE DE BOURGH! Four fallen women, three Dashwoods sisters, two daring colonels, and Mr. Darcy in a wet tee.

On the seventh day of Christmas Jane Austen gave to me: seven lovely ladies, six stupendous novels, LADY CATHERINE DE BOURGH! Four fallen women, three Dashwoods sisters, two daring colonels, and Mr. Darcy in a wet tee.

On the eighth day of Christmas Jane Austen gave to me: eight questionable gentlemen (if you include Robert Ferrars and Captain Tilney), seven lovely ladies, six stupendous novels, LADY CATHERINE DE BOURGH! Four fallen women, three Dashwoods sisters, two daring colonels, and Mr. Darcy in a wet tee.

On the ninth day of Christmas Jane Austen gave to me: nine Price progeny, eight questionable gentlemen, seven lovely ladies, six stupendous novels, LADY CATHERINE DE BOURGH! Four fallen women, three Dashwoods sisters, two daring colonels, and Mr. Darcy in a wet tee.

On the tenth day of Christmas Jane Austen gave to me: ten minor Morlands, nine Price progeny, eight questionable gentlemen, seven lovely ladies, six breathtaking novels, LADY CATHERINE DE BOURGH! Four fallen women, three widower fathers, two Dashwoods sisters, and Mr. Darcy in a wet tee.

On the eleventh day of Christmas Jane Austen gave to me: countless cups of tea, ten minor Morlands, nine Price progeny, eight dangerous gentlemen, seven lovely ladies, six stupendous novels, LADY CATHERINE DE BOURGH! Four fallen women, three Dashwoods sisters, two daring colonels, and Mr. Darcy in a wet tee.

On the twelfth day of Christmas Jane Austen gave to me: twelve noble estates (of varying size and income), countless cups of tea, ten minor Morlands, nine Price progeny, eight questionable gentlemen, seven lovely ladies, six breathtaking novels, LADY CATHERINE DE BOURGH! Four fallen women, three Dashwoods sisters, two daring colonels, and Mr. Darcy in a wet tee.

"Twas the night before Christmas, when all through Pemberley..."
(Posted 12/19/2012) 

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through Pemberley
The people were engaged in seasonal festivity.
Each hall bedecked in evergreen boughs
Muffling the echoes of footsteps oft loud.

The fires roared in joyous determination
To add to the momentous occasion,
And as for stockings from the mantels hung there
They might just get singed if no one took care.

How fortunate then for these halls reputed
To have by Bennets been thusly polluted,
That the matron of this slandered clan
Should be standing by, ready at hand. 

For action swiftly must be taken
Against an addition most mistaken,
No time to summon a footman here.
In just a moment the Darcys may appear.

No matter that the table was tall,
Nor Mr. Bennet predicting her certain fall, 
The situation must be rectified.
She could not patiently sit by.

Upon the table she determined to mount,
Decrying the servants, "Could they not count?
Why should they hang up stockings four,
When only three Darcys are here anymore?"

Her sad words were undeniably true,
For children the house was now one too few.
The baby who last year brought joy to their fireside
 Was now but a memory - a dream of eventide.

Beside Mr. Bennet, the young master stood sage,
A sturdy young man far too old for his age.
To contradict Granddad would be horribly rude,
But Grandmother's actions he wholly approved.

For it would not do to remind Mama again
Of the sweet little sister whose loss brought such pain
To his once happy family, especially his mother,
Whom he loved above and beyond any other.

The morning all had enjoyed a ride in the sleigh,
And the gathering of greenery, wherever it lay,
But though she had smiled, acting as if all were well,
Something troubled Mama. He could always tell.

"There!" cried Mrs. Bennet, flourishing her trophy,
But just at that moment, in walked Mrs. Darcy.
She looked up at her mother, perched shakily on high,
Her son studying closely, to see if she should cry.

When all of a sudden there rose such a clatter
That all felt alarm to see what was the matter.
 It was with relief they were able to discern
That Elizabeth was laughing, her face far from forlorn.

"Mama! Please tell me what on Earth you are doing,
Besides spoiling the surprise Fitzwilliam and I have been brewing."
She helped her mother step down to a chair.
"I said not to meddle," Mr. Bennet declared.

Mr. Darcy came in, and perceiving the scene,
He glanced to his wife and saw her eyes beam.
Both mother and father took their son by a hand,
And made such announcements as must always be grand. 

The springtime would see the birth of a new child.
A fitting event for a season so mild.
The wise little man knew not what to do,
But to ask once again, "Can this really be true?"

Upon much assurance he allowed himself to feel
That their trials were over: that now they might heal.
And throwing his arms round her neck oh so tight,
"Happy Christmas," he lisped, "the best of all nights!"

Mr. Bennet Visits Netherfield Park 
(Posted 8/15/2012)

"Mr. Bennet, it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance," pronounced the young man with a warm smile, his complexion ruddy from a morning in the saddle. "Do sit down, please."

"The pleasure is mine, Mr. Bingley. Thank you." Mr. Bennet chose a chintz chair that was as familiar as the man in front of him was strange, having known the set during the reign of Netherfield's former occupants, and settled himself to be amused at the newcomer's expense. If his years had taught him to trust anything implicitly, it was that the addition of a new and eligible young person to a society was sure to be excessively diverting. "I bid you welcome to the neighborhood and offer my assistance, if I can in anyway provide it, in helping you settle."

"Thank you, Mr. Bennet, that is quite kind of you, but matters are well in hand. The greatest service you might do me was already been performed when you paid me the honor of calling," he declared enthusiastically, exposing a boyish grin.

"So word of my daughters has proceeded me, has it?" Mr. Bingley crimsoned slightly, but seeing nothing but humor in his guest's face, nodded good-naturedly in agreement. "It would be astonishing to learn that it was my company so sought in this country, and not that of five pretty maids, but as we need never put the question to the test, I'm willing to concede that the honor I impart by merely calling suffices for hospitality."

Mr. Bingley laughed, "As you should, Mr. Bennet. Surely you acknowledge that a large family of ladies is always an asset to a neighborhood?"

"Oh come now, Mr. Bingley!" Mr. Bennet shrewdly replied. "I challenge you to ask the mothers of other unmarried women that question. My answer concurs with theirs."

"I suppose I need only apply to my sister, who is rather jealous of all female company," he laughingly conceeded. "Dear me! What utter nonsense have I been proposing? I certainly should have qualified my question as pertaining to the bachelor's perspective."

"My wife would have it that you move here precisely to accommodate the neighborhood by distinguishing one of its daughters with your hand. Beware, Mr. Bingley. You will certainly be the darling of every matchmaker in Hertfordshire. Though the prospect of a society teeming with young ladies might seem, on the surface, to your taste, I am not sure your lot is so very enviable."

"Yes, Mr. Darcy, a good friend, warned me that might be the case, and of all men he certainly should know. He will be joining me here when I collect my two sisters and brother from London. An excellent man, and a far more exciting prospect for scheming mamas than my insignificant self. I plan on enjoying what company the neighborhood has to offer, Mr. Bennet, both male and female, as I am of a sociable disposition, but my chief purpose in Hertfordshire is to establish the family on a country estate, as my father had planned to before his death. Therefore, you may rest assured that my conduct will always be that of the gentleman he raised."

"Your reassurance must be appreciated by a man in my position," replied an amused Mr. Bennet. "I find your affability most refreshing. You will certainly raise quite a stir in my household, never mind how grand your Mr. Darcy may be. Forgive me if I do not share the details of our meeting with their eager ears, but I shall hear of nothing else if I do."

"Not at all. I shall look forward to meeting the entire family, sir. Will you be attending the next assembly in Meryton? Sir William Lucas was so kind as to invite my party."

"Sir William is nothing but gracious, and yes, the ladies are sure to be in attendance, though I will seize the opportunity of enjoying a quiet evening alone with my books," he smiled as he rose.

"I think you and Mr. Darcy share many tastes in common. It will be a pleasure to introduce you once he arrives, as it was making your acquaintance this morning, Mr. Bennet."

"And yours, Mr. Bingley. Welcome to the neighborhood." They parted amicable, the enthusiasm of the young man and the cynicism of the elder having done little soil the appreciation of each for the other.

As Mr. Bennet rode home to Longbourn, he reflected with a wry smile on how his wife would respond were he to tell her that not one but two unmarried gentlemen were soon to be in their midst. Such good fortune was sure to completely over set a good many of the ladies in his household, and though the accompanying fervor would try his patience, he looked forward with no small degree of anticipation to the amusement such circumstances were sure to provide. After all, other than causing a great deal of commotion, the arrival of the gentlemen was highly unlikely to alter life at Longbourn, for what had such town swells to do with his brood? Lack of fortune, while leaving the future unpredictable, certainly had its compensations. How excellent to be able to sit back and observe the follies of humanity, secure in the knowledge that one is safe from their influence!

Alexa's Darcy (Based on First Impressions) - Guest Post for The Pemberley Ball 2010 (Posted on 11/19/10 at vvB32 Reads)

Once all the guests had arrived, Mr. Darcy retreated to his study for a respite. Pemberley had never looked so well, even better than he ever remembered it appearing in his childhood, when his parents had entertained on a similar scale. He used to watch the magnificently attired guests arrive, in all the splendor the last century afforded, from behind the banister on the landing of the third floor, his eyes bedazzled by brocades, jewels, and towering wigs. If Elizabeth could read his thoughts, she would surely comment on felicity of being able to accommodate at least ten more couples on the floor, ladies’ dresses taking up far less space these days. He smiled at her imagined jest and began to relax. The profusion of compliments supplied by the ball attendees had entirely overwhelmed him, causing him to seek this asylum. He felt their approbation to be highly misguided and heartily wished they would direct it to the proper quarter, leaving him to smile in agreement rather than having to thank them for their erroneous approval. It was not he who was responsible for the magnificent spectacle of candles and flowers (the quantity of which had nearly decimated his hothouse), nor he who should be congratulated on the acquisition of such a magnificent wife. All was Elizabeth’s doing. Had she not broken through his reserve, he would be neither married nor hosting this extravagant occasion. She was the one deserving of praise. He had done nothing but be sensible of her greatness.

His reverie was disrupted by the door opening and the sound of ruffling silks swooshing into his sanctuary. “Darcy!” demanded his imperious aunt. “What do you think you are doing, abandoning Elizabeth in such a fashion! The musicians cannot be kept in check much longer, and we cannot begin the dancing without you!”

“Yes, Aunt Catherine. I will come at once. I am afraid I was somewhat overcome by the sheer numbers of guests - you know how I detest a crowd, especially when I am its focus - and needed a moment to collect myself before braving more scrutiny.”

“Well, you have had more than a moment to indulge such foolishness, and now it is time for you to make your reappearance. Besides, do not be so ridiculous as to suppose it is you who are the center of attention. Elizabeth is a triumph, no little thanks to my direction, and you are yesterday’s news.”

He smiled at his aunt, again sharing a private laugh at what Elizabeth would say in response to such a declaration. Certainly, Lady Catherine’s advice had been profuse, and the new Mrs. Darcy had accepted it with all the appearance of graciousness, but he knew she needed no such assistance. She had the planning of the ball in hand from the moment she suggested it, having already thoroughly interrogated Mrs. Reynolds on what such an event would entail. When Lady Catherine stepped forward as advisor, Darcy had been amazed at his wife’s skill in allowing her to feel she was completely in charge of the affair, all while secretly managing the arrangements herself. Every day in her company reinforced the fact that Darcy had married an incomparable woman.

He offered Lady Catherine his arm, and the two swept gracefully into the ball room. There he immediately spotted Elizabeth, surrounded by a medley of admirers, laughing comfortably at what were surely outlandish compliments. For a fleeting moment, a rush of jealousy compelled him to step forward and intervene, but then he caught her eye, containing the twinkle he knew existed only for him, and he held himself at bay.

Georgiana, the picture of youth in her snowy white muslin, stepped up to her brother and aunt, the rush of excitement clearly visible in her glowing countenance. Kitty was close behind her, equally blooming in her new blue gown, a color Mr. Darcy had once complimented her on and a perpetual favorite ever since. “Well sisters,” he greeted them warmly, “how is that I find two such visions of loveliness unaccompanied by a crowd of smitten young gentlemen?”

Kitty blushed, but Georgiana reprimanded him with a tap of her fan upon his arm, “Because Colonel Fitzwilliam and Mr. Bennet have been sure to inform every man in attendance, be he age twenty or eighty, that we are to dance with none but members of the family. They make quite the formidable team, I assure you, the Colonel all intimidation in his uniform, and Mr. Bennet’s eyes glaring with the zeal of an avenging father. If one did not know him, you would be sure to think he spent his days with a his gun across his lap, rather than a favorite book.”

“Very good. I am glad to know that both men perform their duties so convincingly.”

“It will provide Lydia some comfort, I think,” offered Kitty, “to know she has not missed a dance with anyone other than our relations. She was so determined to turn the heads of all the young men!”

Darcy adopted a stern expression, “Which is precisely why, my dear Kitty, your sister in not in attendance.”

Georgiana giggled, “I do not think she will find it much comfort at all. Her anger upon being told by Elizabeth that she must remain in her quarters was quite fearsome.”

“Elizabeth was quite right to do so. The girl is incorrigible. Never have I seen such forward manners in so young a lady. You may be sure I told her so, and that she dared not put on one of her displays of temper for my sake, of that you may be certain.”

“I am sure she found it perfectly quelling, Aunt Catherine,“said Georgiana, giggling behind her fan at the memory of Lydia shock at being reprimanded so severely. Lady Catherine raised her haughty chin in gratification, convinced she had taught the young lady a lesson in comportment she would not soon forget.

It was at this juncture that Mrs. Bennet bustled forward, practically bursting with her own excitement, as blatantly apparent as the young ladies’. “Oh, Mr. Darcy! Is it not spectacular! Never have I seen such a grand event!”

“Indeed, madam,” he replied. “Your daughter has outdone herself. This evening will be the talk of Derbyshire for years to come.”

“I am sure it must be! And is my Lizzy not a vision? Those diamonds must have cost you a small fortune, Mr. Darcy!”

“Not at all. They have been in the family for generations.”

“Of course they have! But that gown she wears! Who would have thought that my Lizzy would turn so elegant?”

Seeing her nephew begin to quaver under such scrutiny from his mother-in-law, and just when she had taken pains to make him comfortable, Lady Catherine intervened. “Mrs. Bennet,” she said in a voice of perfect condescension, well-known to quail the worst tendencies of the exuberant lady before her, “have you met my dear friend, Lady Ashington? I think you will find you have much in common. Miss Bennet, I will present you as well. Come along! Darcy, it is time you sought Elizabeth’s hand.” With that she swept his entourage away, a parting roll of the eyes from Georgiana expressing exactly what she thought of Lady Ashington, whom she had known all her life to be a small minded woman of infinite gossip. Darcy had to admire his aunt’s perspicacity. His neighbor and mother-in-law were sure to become lifelong friends.

“Excuse me, sir, but have you a partner for the first dance?”

Darcy turned around to behold the beauty before him, indescribably radient in a green silk gown and a multitude of diamonds. “Is it not customary for the gentleman to seek the lady’s hand, my good woman?

“You must think me shockingly forward, kind sir, but I am afraid there in not another man in the room to tempt me. In such a predicament, can you blame me for seeking to secure my fate?”

“No blame ever attends you, Elizabeth. Your every action is perfection.”

“Such flattery! I have had my fair share of it already this evening, husband. From you, let me have truth, not gallantry.”

“But disguise of every sort is my abhorrence, madame. You shall hear nothing but facts from me.”

“Then I fear you must be blind to reality, for in no way do I merit perfection.”

“Shall you list your supposed faults in turn, so that I may dispute their existence?”

“Oh no! I am not so foolish as to subject myself to such treatment! With perfection I will just have to contend.”

While engaged in their familiar banter, Mr. and Mrs. Darcy had taken their places at the front of the set, the former completely oblivious to the eyes of his guests, as Elizabeth’s attention left him with no room for outside considerations. It was with an air of relaxed confidence that her took his wife’s hand and signalled the musicians to commence, unconsciously displaying to the residents of Derbyshire a side of himself none had ever before believed to exist. Gone was the hauteur that had so long marked his every gesture. Happiness now dominated his aspect, and the assembled guests smiled to each other in approval. Such contentment in the master of Pemberley would ensure the prosperity of the entire county.

The End

The Darcys Gift: An Austenesque Adaptation of O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi" (Posted 12/12/10)

Elizabeth Darcy woke with a start. Wrenching off her cap, she rubbed her hand through the now loosened hair, and then felt for her sleeping husband beside her before allowing reality to seep in. It was a dream. She was in the master’s bedchamber at Pemberley, surrounded by the luxury to which she had so readily become accustomed to - well-fed, well-sheltered, and secure. Again, she reassured herself that this was her reality and that of the dream world just fantasy. But it had seemed so very real! And again, was the dream so terrible? It had certainly been shocking - jarring in the extreme - but not truly the stuff of nightmares. In fact, in many ways it was a comforting vision of love. Should the walls of Pemberley crumble and all the protection of Darcy’s great fortune disappear, she would still have the man, and he was by far the most important element to her happiness. If anything, the dream proved it. She snuggle back into the down bedding, wrapping her arms around her husband, who in his sleep returned the embrace, a slight smile gracing his handsome face.

The dream remained so vivid, not slipping away with consciousness as they are so apt to do, but clearly imprinted in her mind. Like a personal theater, she could rewatch it again and again, moment by moment, with perfect clarity. It began with her alone, or, at least a thinner, more disheveled version of herself, dressed in garb far worse than any she had ever donned, even in her less prosperous days at Longbourn. She sat at a worn table in a strange, dingy apartment, the weak fire in the grate not doing its duty against the penetrating cold of the room. Before her was a box of odd coins, farthings and pennies and pence, which she counted repeatedly, her math frustratingly accurate each time. It simply would not do. A flood of memories, of a kind which her true self could never have experienced, but which her dream self recalled with painful accuracy, of scrimping and saving for months for his meager collection of funds, overcame her - bargaining with the grocer, stretching the soup, and dodging the butcher’s bills. Three times she counted the small pile, and three times she received the same result. It was not enough, and the next day would be Christmas.

Although Elizabeth had never known herself to behave thusly, she had also never known such privation, and to the Elizabeth of the dream it seemed clear that there was nothing more to be done but to flop down on a shabby little couch and howl. And so she did. The real Elizabeth reflected that, for the vast many, life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles by far predominating, and she blessed her good fortune in not being amongst them.     

But the mistress of the sad little apartment was not so lucky as that of Pemberley, and as she gradually subsided from the sobbing stage to the more common sniffling, took a critical look at her surroundings: her cheep, furnished lodgings. Though not precisely of a beggarly description, it did illustrate that the inhabitants therein were not far above the ranks of mendicants.

Despite the impermanence of appearances, the enduring presence of the residents was attested to by a card above the above the letter-box in the vestibule below, the size of which denied its practical use, as no letter would go into it, bearing the name “Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy”.

The card was a relic of of former prosperity, when more regular employment was readily available and taxes were lower. But with protracted war came an onslaught of new tariffs, while those suffering in the country fled to London for work, making jobs harder to come by. Despite the wails that had only just ceased to echo against the thin walls, Elizabeth’s spirits were generally high and inclined towards amusement and jest, and she had enjoyed a hearty (and much needed) laugh with her husband upon suggesting that they contract the title on the card to a modest and unassuming D, as befit their current circumstances. Yet whenever Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy came home to his sad quarters he was called “Will” (a name which the true Elizabeth had never thought to apply to her stately husband) and greatly hugged by Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy, which seemed a very good thing in the mind of the real-life counterpart to the dream wife.

The fantasy Elizabeth finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with her handkerchief. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray yard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had almost nothing with which to buy Will a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. So little with which to buy a present for Will. Her Will. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and splendid - something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Will.

There was a pier glass next to the window of the room. Perhaps you have seen a pier glass in poorly furnished lodgings? A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. The dream Elizabeth, far more slender than even her real self, had mastered the art.

Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass. Her fine eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.

Now, there were very few possessions of the Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcys in which they both took pride. One was Will's gold watch that had been his father's and his grandfather's. Another was Elizabeth's hair (surprisingly luscious in the dream, in stark contrast to all that was pitiful around her) which fell about her rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters. It was unnaturally long, reaching almost to the floor, making itself a garment for her. And then she did it up again nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet.

On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat, as familiar in the dream as the wedding band that graced her waking self’s finger. With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street.
Where she stopped the sign read: “Hair Goods of All Kinds”. One flight up Elizabeth ran and collected herself, panting. There stood the proprietress, large, too white, and chilly.

"Will you buy my hair?" asked Elizabeth.

"I buy hair," was the reply. "Take your hat off and let's have a sight at the looks of it."

Down rippled the brown cascade.

"Three pounds," and the too white arm lifted the mass with a practised hand.

"Give it to me quick," said Elizabeth.

Oh, and the next hours tripped by on rosy wings as she ransacked imaginary stores for Will's present.

She found it at last. It surely had been made for Will and no one else. There was no other like it in any of the stores, and she had turned all of them inside out. It was a gold fob chain simple and chaste in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone and not by meretricious ornamentation - as all good things should do. It was even worthy of The Watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be Will's. It was like him. Quietness and value - the description applied to both. With that chain on his watch, Will might be properly anxious about the time in any company. Grand as the watch was, he sometimes looked at it on the sly on account of the old leather strap that he used in place of a chain.

When Elizabeth reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She heated her curling irons and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love - a mammoth task indeed.

Soon her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like the fashionable ladies with their Grecian pretensions, but most unlike the Elizabeth Darcy of the cold and dingy apartment. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically.

"If Will doesn't kill me," she said to herself, "before he takes a second look at me, he'll say I look like a truant school boy. But what could I do - oh! what could I do with so little?"

Will was never late. Della doubled the fob chain in her hand and sat near the door. Then she heard his step on the stair away down on the first flight, and she turned white for just a moment. She had a habit for saying little, silent prayers about the simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: "Please God, make him think I am still pretty."

The door opened and Will stepped in and closed it. He looked thin and very serious. Poor fellow, he was a young man but looked far older than his years! He needed a new overcoat, and he was without gloves. The conscious Elizabeth studied the real man - whose formal bearing would undoubtedly be shattered by such a familiarity as being called “Will”, even by his wife - and seeing the perpetual prosperity written in his well-nourished checks, ran her hand lovingly through his hair.

Will stopped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail. His eyes were fixed upon Elizabeth, and there was an expression in them that she could not read, and it terrified her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had been prepared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face.

Elizabeth went towards him, crying: "Will, darling, don't look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold because I could not live through Christmas without giving you a present. It will grow out again - you won't mind, will you? I just had to do it. My hair grows awfully fast. Say `Merry Christmas!' Will, and let's be happy. You don't know what a nice - what a beautiful, nice gift I've got for you."

"You've cut off your hair?" asked Will, laboriously, as if he had not arrived at that patent fact yet, even after the hardest mental labor.

"Cut it off and sold it," said Elizabeth. "Don't you like me just as well, anyhow? I'm me without my hair, am I not?"

Will looked about the room curiously.

"You say your hair is gone?" he said, with an air almost of idiocy.

"You needn't look for it," said Elizabeth. "It's sold, I tell you - sold and gone, too. It's Christmas Eve. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered," she went on with sudden serious sweetness, "but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall we eat, Will?"

Out of his trance, Will seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded his wife in his arms before drawing a package from his overcoat pocket and throwing it upon the rickety table.

"Do not mistake me, Liz," he said, using a name as foreign to the real Elizabeth as Will would be to Darcy. "I don't think there is anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me love you any less. But if you will unwrap that package you may understand my shock."

Nimble fingers tore at the string and paper, and then came an ecstatic scream of joy, and then, alas! a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the master of the apartment.

For there lay The Combs - the set of combs that Elizabeth had long admired in a shop window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jewelled rims - just the shade to wear in the beautiful, vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession. And now, they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone.

But she hugged them to her bosom, and at length she was able to look up with dim eyes and a smile and say: "My hair grows so fast, Will!"

And then she leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, "Oh, oh!"

Will had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm. The dull, precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit.
"Is it not lovely, Will? I hunted all over town to find it. You'll have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it."

Instead of obeying, Will tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled.

"Liz," said he, "let's put our Christmas presents away to keep for awhile. They're too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose we dine?" And that’s when Elizabeth had awoken.

Not a bad dream, after all. In it she found assurance that no matter what hardships life might bring, the love she shared with Fitzwilliam would carry them through. Contented, her eyelids began to droop just when Darcy began to stir. His eyes still closed, but instinctively aware that Elizabeth slept not, he asked in the dark, “Lizzy? Are you awake?”

Smiling, she replied on the edge of sleep, “No Will. I am fast asleep.”  

The unaccustomed appellation jolted Darcy into consciousness. “Will?” he questioned, but upon receiving no response from his now unconscious wife, he let the strange incident slip from his mind and returned to his slumber.

A few weeks later, on Christmas Day, the family gathered in Pemberley’s most elegant parlor to exchange a monstrously large pile of exquisitely wrapped presents. But the greatest gift Fitzwilliam Darcy received was a new gold watch and fob from his wife. Inside was inscribed: To Will at Christmas. May you never need to sell it. Your loving wife,  Liz. He looked across the room in confusion at his mischievously grinning wife, who was surrounded by their loved ones, all joyously celebrating the holiday. The notion of ever being required to sell anything was completely foreign to both the master of the house, and to the scene of perfect opulence unfolding before him. Explanations would have to wait until later, and he expected it to be a good one.  

The End 

Note (added 6/6/21): I just reread the following story for the first time in many years, and it occurs to me I am quite uncomfortable with some of what I wrote. A lot has happened in the past 12 years. Terminology has changed, as have debates around inclusion. I now know far more transgender people than I did at the time, which has further my own understanding. I in no way intended to trivialise any struggle for equality with this piece, but I can now see how my carelessness on the subject of sexuality and gender did just that. I considered editing the offending section out, but opted instead to provide this explanation. We all continue to evolve and grow. I think it's important to acknowledge this process as we all move forward together as a society.

The Reader's Discussion Guide (Posted 12/12/09)

“O.K. class. Take your seats.”

Already being in my seat, there is no reason for me to heed Carbuncle, but I put my pen down and look up attentively anyway. Around me, my classmates settle into their desks. It is a dreary, winter morning, still quite dark out. The smell of coffee penetrates the room as students endeavor to rouse their senses into attentiveness. Many hold their mugs for additional warmth but I am amongst those who choose to employ the cup holder built into the top corner of the desk. I want my hands free to take notes.

“Today we are reviewing Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. As you only had the last fragment to read last night, you should have had ample time to consider the Reader's Discussion Guide.”

I suppress a self-satisfied grin and pick up my pen, unable to resist the urge to pull up the texts I had found. A few of my classmates omit sounds of displeasure.

“In the course of this study we have addressed the factor of duel authorship in some detail. The translation of the text you read was written sometime after Austen died. From what we understand of the era, this was a time of great collaboration between artists, regardless of their biological states. Grahame-Smith obviously had some kind of access to her notes – there are suggestions that she left behind a correspondence.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is one of the most complete texts to have survived from this era. The Reader's Discussion Guide is a subject of great debate – some scholars argue that it was a later addition to the novel, rendering its authorship questionable. They premise this assertion on the first question, now displayed in its rather mangled form before you. The first line is the point of contention: 'Many critics have addressed the dual nature of Elizabeth's personality.' If the Guide was published at the same time as the novel – if, in essence, it was written by Grahame-Smith – who are the critics he refers to? Most scholars, myself amongst them, believe that this was indeed written by Grahame-Smith and the critics are those of Austen, whose work is believed to have been widely circulated.”

Borax's pen has rolled off his desk and he doesn't bother to pick it up. I stare at him as Carbuncle begins to dissect the remainder of the question. How can he be so lazy! In disgust, I finally bend down and retrieve the pen for him. He ignores me and I have to tap him on the shoulder with the errant pen before he will take it.

“Who would like to share their thoughts?”

My hand shoots up.

“Yes, Quilted.”

I try but fail to lower my hand good naturedly. Quilted stands up and taps her pad several times with her pen before proceeding.

“My reading of question five suggests that bisexual politics motivate the plot. The two 'halves' of Elizabeth, referred to in question one, seem to illuminate not only her sexual ambiguity but also that of the authors – could Seth Grahame-Smith actually be Jane Austen after the cosmetic surgery so popular at the time? If so, it seems clear that the Zombies represent the author's internal battle for sexual identity.”

“Very good Quilted. indeed, many scholars have argued as you do. Are there any responses to Quilted's thesis?”

My hand shoots back up as Quilted retakes her seat, looking rather smug all the while.

“Yes, Lysol.”

I stand up, pad in hand and take a steadying breath.

“I disagree with Quilted's reasoning. If the critics are those of Austen, might he not be asking which is the real Elizabeth, his or hers? It feels to me like Austen's story must have functioned quite independently of Graham-Smith's. Evidence suggests that they lived hundreds of years apart, negating the transgender concept. A search of the Internet Archives revealed a lot of animosity between those who considered themselves defenders of Austen and the Grahame-Smith contingency, who seems to have been ...”

“I must interrupt you there Lysol. You know very well the Internet Archive is inadmissible evidence. A more unreliable record of information never existed. Many scholars have attempted to harness that jumble to no avail – it is forever unverifiable. We have no way of knowing which author is primarily responsible for the text. It is all conjecture. Let us move on to question two: 'Is Mr. Collins merely too fat and stupid to notice his wife's gradual transformation into a zombie?' Many have argued that this points to the physical linkage between obesity and stupidity largely subscribed to at the time, others have suggested it is merely the character's defining ...”

I tune Carbuncle out, my enthusiasm crushed. Borax is grinning at me like I am the biggest idiot on Mars. I really thought I had something – it seemed so likely that Austen was the primary author and that this classic text was more of Graham-Smith's corruption of an Austen original than the result of a collaborative effort. But we have moved on to question three: no time to mope. I hope to redeem myself in Carbuncle's eyes with my reading of the zombies as manifestations of cancer.