Over the days counting down to Christmas I will continue to share images I love, some songs, and excerpts from my novels that revolve around Christmas. It is my absolute favorite holiday of the year so being able to write several holiday segments within my series has been a joy. Especially joyous was writing a whole novella focused on Christmas! That, of course, was my short story titled “A Darcy Christmas” that was one-third of the whole anthology publication A Darcy Christmas released in 2011. I joined Amanda Grange and Carolyn Eberhart on this wonderful project for Sourcebooks and the novel is still in print and easily found at stores or online sellers. A perfect Christmas treat and/or gift! To read more about A Darcy Christmas visit my page HERE and then click the image on this post to get directly to Amazon.
This portion is from the vignette Christmas Toys where we meet Darcy and Lizzy’s son Alexander on Christmas morning. Enjoy!
* ~ * ~ *
The mid-morning sun shone brightly through the wide windows lining the west-facing wall of the huge main parlor. Dustings of snow lay upon the terrace stones, but the fair weather and unobstructed sunlight had melted the bulk of it. It was cold outside, as one expected on Christmas Day, but the combination of blazing fire for interior warmth and golden rays from without created a false summertime atmosphere. The mood amongst the Pemberley inhabitants was as gay as one might expect at a spring picnic or festival. But rather than focusing on fine finger foods or catching butterflies, the adults were cheerily focused on one thirteen-month-old infant.
A pile of presents surrounded Alexander Darcy, the heir to Pemberley, who accepted the ridiculousness with his typical stoicism and intense concentration. He did not quite seem able to grasp that something special lurked inside the package. He was perfectly content to look at, play with, or chew upon the ribbons, wrapping, or box itself. The adult assistants allowed this for about two seconds before impatiently “helping” him open the gift to reveal the treasure within. Alexander tolerated the interruption to his play with extreme forbearance, continually amazed when a new toy was miraculously revealed. Then he would squeal with glee, bouncing and waving his arms in the air, and joyfully clutch the prize to his chubby chest.
It was a lengthy process, mainly because Alexander had just recently learned how to walk proficiently. His stumbling early steps and need to hold on to a solid foundation were gone in the wake of new maturity. He was quite proud of his skill and also well aware of just how much more of the world he could explore on two legs that functioned fairly well most of the time. Suddenly sitting on his bottom confined to a small space was wholly untenable! Alexander was an oddly complacent child, but even he grew cranky and annoyed at being compelled to stay put. Luckily he was easily distracted, as most infants were, and readily calmed when a new sparkling bauble was thrust under his nose.
The loving adults thought it was the greatest fun ever.
“Here, Alexander,” Dr. George Darcy said as he loosened the ties holding the maroon and yellow cloth concealing the spongy item inside. “Jharna’s son, Nimesh, had this made for me. It is a hoolock gibbon, my favorite of all the primates in India.” George, younger brother to Darcy’s deceased father, freed the exquisitely crafted stuffed animal from its wrappings, grandly plopping it onto the toddler’s lap.
“Uncle! He is remarkable.” Darcy leaned forward from his cross-legged perch behind his son to finger the soft brownish-black fur. “This is incredible taxidermy. Are you sure you want Alexander to drool and chew on such a masterpiece?”
George waved his hand dismissively. “It is well preserved. Allow him to play with it for a while, then perhaps it can be put aside temporarily to extend its life. But I wanted it for a toy. See how the long arms wrap around you, Alexander. He is bigger than you so will be great for cuddling.”
Alexander was mesmerized. He pressed the black bead eyes, ruffled the thick white fur rings around the eye sockets, pried open the toothless mouth to peer inside, squeezed the thin arms, and wiggled the long toes. He looked up at his father, smiled widely, and released a string of nonsense intermingled with “papa” and a smattering of intelligible words as he proudly showed off his newest animal.
Darcy smiled, pulling his son onto his lap for a tight hug. “You are assuredly the only child in Derbyshire with a stuffed gibbon, my sweet.”
“Papa, see? M’key? Mine, Unc Goj?”
“Yes, he is yours and ‘monkey’ will do, I suppose. Your Uncle George spoils you.”
George snorted. “Somebody has to. Poor baby would have no toys to play with if not for his favorite uncle.”
Georgiana laughed. “Yes indeed. Nothing to play with! Poor Alexander. Now, open this one from your favorite auntie, my precious.”
“Thank goodness it is only you two here this Christmas or we not only would never get through the gift unveiling, but we would also have a brawl on our hands. Jane may take exception to the ‘favorite’ appellation.” Lizzy spoke from her lounging location on the chaise, her voice weak and rough from coughing.
Darcy had returned from an eventful visit to London several days ago and discovered his wife extremely ill with a vicious cold. Darcy was still furious over not being informed of her illness. She was gradually improving under the care of their resident physician and her diligent husband, but remained lethargic and symptomatic. Yet, as sick as she was, Lizzy refused to lie abed for her son’s first Christmas of consequence, the prior one occurring when he was not yet a month old. Darcy understood—his attempts to dissuade feebly offered—but he was worried. He directed a glare at his uncle, who ignored the not-so-subtle reminder of his nephew’s irritation at not being notified, before closely examining his wife’s face for the slightest sign of increasing distress.
“Cease staring at me, William. I am fine.”
“Drink all your tea and then I will cease staring at you.”
Lizzy lifted the cup reluctantly to her lips, grimacing with each swallow. “This is exceptionally foul.” She shuddered, it now her turn to glare at the doctor.
“If medicine was delicious, people would stay sick,” George asseverated. “It is a psychological inducement to get well if the medicine is bitter and fetid.”
“Alexander’s medicine was a sweet, berry-flavored syrup,” she grumbled sulkily, already knowing his response since they had had this argument several times, the physician always winning and the tonics suspiciously tasting worse.
“Babies must be tricked into taking their medicine. Adults apply reason.”
“Or force,” Darcy added, pointedly nodding toward the half-filled cup.
“Lizzy may be ill and you larger, but I am not so sure who would prevail in that contest of wills,” Georgiana offered. “Here, Alexander, open this one from your Aunt Giana.” She knelt onto the floor, handing her nephew the wrapped bundle and winking at Lizzy.
Darcy made no attempt to dispute Georgiana’s allegation, knowing his wife’s temper, but he held no doubts he would indeed prevail even if he had to physically restrain and pry open her jaws! Luckily that course did not appear imminent, as Lizzy finished her tea in one pained gulp.
An enthusiastic upward launch from Alexander with hard skull cracking against an equally hard, firmly set jaw effectively diverted attention from ill wife to giddy son. Wiping tears of pain from his eyes, Darcy examined the collection of sock puppets spread between the happily gibbering toddler and delighted aunt.
“Papa! Papa, see?” Alexander grabbed the top two, one in each fist, swinging them directly into Darcy’s face.
“Yes, son, I see them. No need to hit me. Let me look.”
Georgiana leaned forward. “This is a grandfather and this a grandmother. She is the pretty blonde shepherd girl and here is her sheep. This is a footman in livery, perhaps Phillips or Watson. And the soldier like Uncle Richard.” She inserted her hand into the latter, her pinkie bringing the puppet’s arm up for a salute.
“Most impressive, Georgie. A judge, a frog, an elegant lady, and a horse. Well done.” George slipped his bony hands into the frog and horse, “hopping” and “galloping” around Alexander’s head while the infant laughed and wiggled.
More in the book! Be sure to check it out, and come back daily for more seasonal excerpts. Merry Christmas!