Thursday’s 300: What’s he doing over there?

Welcome back to Austen Promises!

This is another vignette written specifically for the blog. It was inspired by my next door neighbor, who heats his house with both coal and wood, and who has spent his last couple weekends stacking a huge pile of wood from a pile in the yard into a neat stack in the small barn.

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Elizabeth Darcy stood in the window at Darcy House, craning her neck to see into the neighbor’s back garden. She had heard strange noises coming from over there and was curious about what was happening. She stood on tiptoe, trying to see over the very tall hedge that marked the property line between her house and the one next door.

“Drat. I still cannot see.” Elizabeth dropped back down to her heels and chewed her lip. She looked around the bedchamber she shared with her husband, thinking about the position of each window. Her expression brightened as a thought came to her. She turned, scurrying into the dressing room. There was a window in the back wall, but that only looked over her garden. Even scrunching herself into the right side of the frame and pressing her face to the glass, she could not see what was going on next door.

“What are you doing, Mrs. Darcy?”

Elizabeth jumped, screaming in fright at the completely unexpected sound of her husband’s loud, deep voice. She whipped around, hand on her chest, to face him. “You frightened me!”

Darcy chuckled at her outraged gasp. “I suspect you deserved it. What on earth are you doing in here?” He walked to the window and glanced out, seeing nothing out of the ordinary behind the house. “If I did not know better, I would say you were attempting to spy on the neighbors.” He gestured to their own yard. “There is no one in our garden, after all, and nothing that ought to keep your attention so raptly.”

Elizabeth flushed a fiery red and blustered at him for a moment, but when he crossed his arms, raised a single brow, and leaned back against the window frame as if he had all the time in the world to wait for an adequate reply, she deflated. “Oh, very well. I can hear some strange sound coming from next door, and I am trying to see what is going on.”

“Really,” Darcy drawled. He cocked his head with his ear toward the window. “I hear nothing.”

Elizabeth’s hands landed on her hips. “It is not happening now. It comes and goes.” She sniffed. “I suppose you think me silly, being so curious about what happens with people we barely know and do not much like.”

“I did not say I do not like Sir James. He is a pleasant, amiable fellow.” Darcy paused. “He reminds me of Bingley, to be honest. What I do not enjoy is the things he does for entertainment.”

A crease appeared between Elizabeth’s brows. “What does he do?” She leaned against the wall on the opposite side of the window, settling in to listen.

“He sets by a stock of firewood and periodically hosts a bonfire to which he invites his friends.”

“Really?” Elizabeth leaned forward, eyes riveted to her husband’s face as he told the story. “What do they do at these bonfires?”

Darcy shrugged. “Generally, they sit around it and drink ale. They talk about sport or politics, sometimes. I have heard immense amounts of laughter, so I assume they banter with each other and tell jokes.”

“And, you do not enjoy this activity?”

Darcy flushed. “Well, no, not really.”


Darcy’s skin got redder. He pressed his lips together for a long moment, and Elizabeth could tell he was marshalling his defenses and preparing a response. She patiently waited, crossing her arms to mimic his.

Finally, with a huff, Darcy answered his wife. “I do not enjoy sitting about outside on cold evenings, listening to insipid conversations. You know I dislike crowds, and Sir James always has at least a dozen gentlemen over there, few of whom I share more than a passing acquaintance with.”

Elizabeth lifted her head and opened her mouth to reply, but before she could get words out, her ear caught the strange noise again. Her attention was immediately diverted to Sir James’ back garden. “There it is! Do you hear it?”

Darcy cocked his head again, his ear near the window. “It sounds like pieces of wood being knocked together. I should imagine Sir James has one of his grooms stacking firewood. He has a shed in the back of the garden where it is kept, to keep it dry.”

“How interesting!” Elizabeth pressed her face to the window again, but as before, could see nothing. “Oh, how I wish I could witness one of these bonfires! Does he ever invite the wives of his friends?”

“Yes, but they stay in the house and,” Darcy waved his hand around to this right. “Do whatever it is ladies do when they are together.”

Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “With a wife and numerous sisters these past few months, I daresay you know very well what ladies do when we are together.”

Darcy pushed away from the wall to stand straight. He sighed. “Indeed, I do. Sewing and gossip, gossip and sewing.”

“And playing.”

“Yes, and playing.”

“I should love to be invited to such a gathering. Might you introduce me to Sir James’ wife? I would like to make friends in the area, anyway, and perhaps we will be invited to the next event.” Elizabeth approached Darcy, sliding her hands around his waist to his back. She smiled up at him and held him close, giggling when he sighed.

“You know exactly how to get your way, do you not, Wife?” With a roll of his eyes and a long-suffering sigh, Darcy wrapped his arms around Elizabeth and returned her squeeze. “Very well. I shall introduce you at the first opportunity.”

“And, if an invitation to a bonfire comes our way?” Elizabeth rested her chin on her husband’s chest, grinning up at him with twinkling eyes.

“I will accept with alacrity.” Darcy leaned down to give Elizabeth a peck on the lips. “Are you happy?”

“Very.” With a wink and a grin, Elizabeth reached up and pulled Darcy’s head down so she could kiss him.


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