He likes her. She hates him. The puppy loves them both.
Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy and Miss Elizabeth Bennet get off to a rocky start. Can three-month-old Scottish sheepdog, Henry, herd two stubborn individuals together long enough to realize they are the perfect partners for a lifetime?
Join in the frustration and fun when Mr. Darcy is forced to retrieve his errant puppy daily as Henry scampers from Netherfield Park to Elizabeth’s home of Longbourn. Told from her point of view, when she repeatedly spies haughty Mr. Darcy humbly showing affection to the puppy, Elizabeth is forced to acknowledge that first impressions might not always be accurate. Danger lurks, causing them to work together until Henry is safe.
Is Mr. Darcy’s bark worse than his bite? Will Elizabeth remain as stubborn as a dog with a bone? This 20,000-word novella is a blend of cranky personalities, blooming affection, and wagging puppy tails. Enjoy this Regency variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice—where it truly is a dog’s life.
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Elizabeth Bennet had lived twenty years believing love at first sight was a myth promoted by lonely-hearted spinsters and unsuccessful matchmaking mothers to keep their flagging hopes alive. When she entered her secret bower early that particular autumn morning to continue reading the scandalously exciting novel her aunt had sent her, she still believed the idea of love at first sight was fanciful.
She had been nonsensical.
In the privacy of the secluded woods close to the fence line a few miles east of Longbourn, she had spied the handsomest, most attractive gent she had ever seen. Nothing other than instant love—pure, unadulterated amour of the first order—described the jolt raging through her veins at the sight of him.
Elizabeth’s heart pounded in excitement, and her palms tingled to touch him. She grinned at her own vanity in ever thinking love at first sight was impossible. How humbling!
From their youth, Jane, her eldest sister, had insisted that quickly connecting with another was not only possible, it was probable. Elizabeth’s rational mind, at least until that moment in time, had railed against the likelihood of it ever happening to any one of the five Bennet daughters. In pure imitation of her father, she had insisted any excess of emotion was only a slight inclination rather than love.
How wrong she had been. In one glimpse her heart went from adoration to infatuation. From infatuation to the greatest of all afflictions of the heart, love.
In truth, Elizabeth had witnessed a hint of the raw emotion the previous evening when she watched Mr. Charles Bingley, the current lessee of Netherfield Park, catch sight of Jane. However, his reaction paled next to the powerful feelings currently flooding Elizabeth.
How could an instantaneous glance bring a joy so magnificent it shook her from her dark curls to the tips of her toes?
Oh, but he was a darling, and…he was rapidly approaching.
Excitement burst into her chest. Her breath quickened. Kneeling on the well-used path, Elizabeth was completely unaware of the dampness from the grass soaking her hem. When he came closer, she realized his excitement may have exceeded her own. For his tail waggled his hindquarters until they bounced.
The puppy stopped in front of her and dipped his head to his front paws in silent obeisance. Then, he yipped, his white-tipped tail dancing back and forth with rapidity.
She extended her hand to allow him to sniff her scent. Apparently, he liked what he smelled because the pace of his tail increased, a feat she had assumed was impossible. She scratched him under the chin, the soft, fuzzy fur tickling her fingertips.
“Oh, but you are a handsome laddie,” she giggled as he nuzzled his nose into her palm, sniffing and blowing his puppy breath on her wrist.
He barked, then turned to glance longingly at the field adjacent to the path.
Elizabeth loved the breed. Scottish sheepdog or collies were highly intelligent animals who enjoyed nothing more than clear direction from a shepherd and a flock of sheep who needed guidance. They gladly worked from sunrise to sunset, exercising their instinct to herd and run.
The puppy appeared to be about three or four months old, with a roly-poly roundness he would lose as he matured. His coat was a bold mix of black and white splotches. Whomever he belonged to took good care of the animal.
Like the majority of his ancestors, he was a happy little fellow.
Elizabeth, having been born and raised in the neighborhood, knew of no collies who had produced litters that spring. Therefore, she easily concluded the pup was supposed to be at Netherfield Park, accompanying Mr. Bingley.
Netherfield Park, Mr. Bingley’s estate, was almost one mile from where she had been sitting. The puppy had traveled far for one so young. For a certainty, Mr. Bingley must be deeply concerned. “Go, little one. Your master will be looking for you, I imagine.”
Obediently, the puppy spun to the direction from which he had arrived. Nevertheless, within seconds he was distracted by a mouse. Without any guidance, the dog attempted to herd the rodent. Unfortunately for the pup, the mouse had no desire to follow the canine’s lead.
“That’ll do,” her voice firm, the collie immediately halted his task and returned to Elizabeth’s side, dropping at her feet.
Impressed at his obedience, Elizabeth smiled to see his tail again wagging furiously.
“You are a good pup, are you not?”
Yipping in agreement, the dog lifted his brown eyes to hers. Despite his age, she saw wisdom and welcome.
Black ears hung to the side of his head while a pink tongue peeked out from under a white nose. He reminded her of her favorite of the farm dogs of her youth. Lulu, whose name Elizabeth thought was the prettiest she had ever heard, was quickly shortened to Lu. She had been a working dog. Elizabeth stood at the edge of the fields as Lu spent hours answering the call of Longbourn’s herdsman. The gent had called himself a ‘jack of all trades and master of none’ and confessed to her on one occasion that the real professional was his dog.
Lu worked the sheep all day only to run with Elizabeth until her legs collapsed in the evening. The dog never tired, though she did.
When Elizabeth and her sisters were little, her father had brought Lu and her owner home from a trip to the north. The pup immediately started herding Lydia, who at almost two years of age, wanted to run from her parents rather than be attached to them. Lu had other ideas.
Mrs. Bennet had preferred her pug lap dog. Mr. Bennet viewed animals for work, not enjoyment. Her sisters liked kittens. Therefore, Lu became Elizabeth’s—her most loyal companion.
When the puppy licked her fingers, Elizabeth’s eyes refocused on the animal at her feet. He was a beauty. Well-groomed and healthy, he displayed such a pleasing character, she was thrilled the dog belonged to Mr. Bingley. What a perfect match. An amiable man with an equally friendly animal.
“I say, what a fine gent you are,” Elizabeth glanced from nose to tail. “A pleasing attitude is always welcome in the neighborhood.”
The dog whined, pleading eyes begging Elizabeth to put him to work. Remembering the calls from the herdsman of years ago, she stood and swung her hand from her side.
The puppy bounded up and ran across the tilled earth.
Without hesitation, he turned to the left, circling around a wide swath of the field.
“Away. Let’s get away.”
Spinning in place, the dog moved quickly to the right.
His hind legs planted themselves in the loose dirt as he came to a complete stop at the far corner of the field. His tongue wagged as he panted from the exertion. The dog’s little body quivered in anticipation of the next command. His eagerness filled her heart with glee.
This animal was everything good about the world. A friendly nature coupled with a work ethic unparalleled by the majority of other animals, Elizabeth wished for a man with the same qualities. Regretfully, she doubted she would ever find one nearly as pleasing as the little Scottish collie.
Running towards her, the pup skidded, spraying dirt on the bottom of her dress, halting before he ran into her. Then, he dropped to the ground, his eyes begging for more as his tail danced a happily timed jig.
Elizabeth bent and scratched behind his ear.
The puppy moaned, closing his eyes to better enjoy the sensation.
When Elizabeth stopped, the dog barked his sharp demands for more.
“Henry!” A male’s voice floated on the breeze.
“I do believe your master is looking for you,” Elizabeth tapped the dog’s nose gently, savoring the adoration radiating from the pup. “You had best go to him before you get in more trouble than I believe you have already earned.”
The puppy did not move a muscle.
“No, young man. I believe the best course is for you to return. Mr. Bingley desires your presence.” Elizabeth stood, stepped back, and waved her hand towards where she suspected the voice originated, the path from Netherfield Park. “Get along.”
“Henry, come!” The voice was getting closer.
“Ah, Henry, that is a fine name I am sure,” Elizabeth bent and tickled under his chin.
Instead of obeying either her or his master, the canine did the one thing she least expected. He quickly scooted forward until his head and neck was under the fabric of her skirt.
“What?” Elizabeth was stunned. “What are you about?”
The hem of her dress now rested across the puppy’s back. With his nose to the ground and his hindquarters wiggling in the air, Elizabeth did the only thing she could under the circumstances. She laughed.
Looking down, she missed the man as he approached from behind her. Surprisingly, all the tolerance she had expected from Mr. Bingley was missing from his voice. Instead, his gruff tone demanded obedience with little leeway for the puppy’s tender age.
She was gobsmacked. How could she have misread Mr. Bingley’s character? He had been the consummate gentleman at the assembly, appearing to be everything he ought to be.
Turning to plead for mercy from a man she had supposed would offer it willingly, Elizabeth was horrified to see not Mr. Bingley, but Mr. Darcy.
Well, that figures!
“Henry! Remove yourself at once!” The man insisted upon an immediate response.
The puppy popped his head out from under Elizabeth’s skirt to sit alongside her, his tail stirring the dirt from the path.
She whispered, “Well, Henry, I believe there is hope for you to gain forgiveness with your charms and good looks. For me?” she harrumphed, staring directly at Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. “I have no hope of my charms working at all, do I?”
“Come!” the man barked.
“Whatever do you find to be funny, Miss Elizabeth?” he demanded.
“Mr. Darcy, I will tell you for I cannot think you would reach the correct conclusion should you ponder it for the next thousand years,” she huffed. “You ‘barked’ your order to a puppy who barks.”
“You find me to be a man given to mirth?” His chin lifted so he looked down his superior Romanesque nose at her.
“No, sir, I do not. The little I have sketched of your character has given me no indication you have any sense of humor at all,” she freely admitted. The man was a brute!
Mr. Darcy had not performed well the evening before. Acting as if the total populace of Meryton was beneath his company, he had associated solely with the Bingley party. At one point after the dancing had begun, Mr. Bingley had encouraged his guest to ask one of the ladies of the neighborhood to dance. Elizabeth, who was seated nearby, recalled their conversation with clarity.
“Come, Darcy,” said Mr. Bingley, “I must have you dance. I hate to see you standing about by yourself in this stupid manner. You had much better dance.”
“I certainly shall not. You know how I detest it, unless I am particularly acquainted with my partner. At such an assembly as this, it would be insupportable. Your sisters are engaged, and there is not another woman in the room whom it would not be a punishment to me to stand up with.”
“I would not be so fastidious as you are,” cried Bingley, “for a kingdom! Upon my honor I never met with so many pleasant girls in my life, as I have this evening; and there are several of them, you see, uncommonly pretty.”
“You are dancing with the only handsome girl in the room,” said Mr. Darcy, looking at Jane Bennet.
“Oh! she is the most beautiful creature I ever beheld! But there is one of her sisters sitting down just behind you, who is very pretty, and I dare say very agreeable. Do let me ask my partner to introduce you.”
“Which do you mean?” and turning around, he looked for a moment at her, till catching her eye, he withdrew his own and coldly said, “She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humor at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me.”
Mr. Bingley had followed his advice. Mr. Darcy walked off, and Elizabeth’s disgust at his ungentlemanly conduct and cavalier attitude sealed his reputation. He had to have known she was able to hear. The musicians had paused, and conversation had not yet blossomed to fill the room with noise. Yet, he appeared not to care about the harm or hurt his words caused. His effrontery would not be forgiven by her—ever.
“You do not know me at all,” Mr. Darcy barely glanced at her. “I am not a man to be trifled with.”
“And I am not a woman to be insulted and tossed aside as if I was of little value. I know my worth, Mr. Darcy. You showed both ignorance and poor manners last evening.” Elizabeth stepped back from the puppy, not even glancing at the dog. Even though it broke her heart, she would have nothing to do with this man, which sadly meant not having anything to do with Henry.
Under other circumstances, such as him keeping his mouth shut, Elizabeth thought Mr. Darcy an attractive man. Tall, broad-shouldered, with dark eyes and a wave to his raven hair, he was the handsomest man she had ever seen. Nevertheless, he wore his authority and wealth as a shield to separate himself from others. She despised men of his sort. They were ugly. Completely undesirable to be around.
“Come!” Darcy’s face, the same shade as a ripened tomato, turned away from her. He repeated the command to the puppy, dismissing her with a harrumph.
Looking up, the dog bounced to Mr. Darcy’s side, his tail continuing to wag without pause.
How could such a miserable man possess a friendly animal like Henry? It made no sense.Elizabeth shuddered at the idea of the intolerance Henry would face at his master’s hands.
Without another word to her, Darcy commanded, “Come away, Henry.”
Giving her one final glance, the puppy trotted alongside the contentious oaf as he briskly walked away from her.
Watching the two, Elizabeth received a final surprise. Mr. Darcy, the meanest, rudest, most arrogant man she had ever met, bent down to give Henry a scratch and a pat.
What? Where had that momentary kindness come from? Deciding she would never know, Elizabeth shrugged, gathered her book, and returned to Longbourn. The autumn sky fell heavily upon her shoulders as the pleasure of the day disappeared, one bouncy step at a time, towards Mr. Bingley’s estate.
Sweet tempered Henry and sour Mr. Darcy. Amiable Mr. Bingley and grumpy Mr. Darcy.
Shrugging at the mismatch, Elizabeth vowed to herself to think of them no more.