It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a sheep farmer in possession of a flock must be in want of a buyer.
The sheep, all prodigiously woolly and bleating at a loud volume, were currently running hither and thither across Mr. Darcy’s fields, driveway and onto the grounds of his ancestral home while he watched from the back of his horse.
“Hie, ya! Get over here!” Mr. Wentworth, his steward, was waving his hat and helping the sheep farmer prode the flock to move in the right direction. Namely off the lane and estate of Pemberley.
Mr. Darcy would not be surprised if the damnable contrary animals did not next run straight for the pond in front of his home. That was the only consistent action he had been able to deduce from the beast’s behavior. They would see a possibility of making his life more troublesome and immediately do it.
“Johnny, get the dog over here. Get them sheep out of the fields!” yelled the sheepherder, one of Mr. Darcy’s tenants.
The tenant’s son, ten years of age and old enough to help with taking the sheep to the market in Lambton. Unfortunately, Johnny was small for his age and could not see over the mounds of wool on the sheep. And their herding dog was also too short or confused to be much help either in the matter.
Mr. Darcy was stuck, unable to continue down his long driveway to his home or even ride on the grounds as the sheep were everywhere and unmovable, as only woolly sheep can be. He had ridden from London to arrive a day early, before the rest of his friends. A hot bath and good supper was all he had thought of for the last ten miles.
His horse was not enjoying the sounds or the bleating beasts rubbing up against his legs, either. Their wool looked greasy and smelled of a particular stench he never wanted to smell again. It was a wonder it ever ended up as crisp white fabric at all.
But Fitzwilliam Darcy knew his wealth was due to generations of sheep farmers and so he did not begrudge the wait. Not until his horse’s patience ran out at being so near his stall and not making any headway. His horse threw his head up repeatedly, attempted to step sideways but was trapped by ewes on all sides. When Caesar gathered himself to rear up, Mr. Darcy knew it was time to find an alternate route home. Lest he be forcefully removed from his horse’s back.
Mr. Darcy turned Caesar towards a slightly less thick portion of the flock and urged his horse forward through the dense gathering. Caesar knew the way home, but his impatience to get to the rubdown and oats awaiting was no match to the recalcitrant nature of Derbyshire sheep. Especially those laden down with wool.
The going was slow. Caesar pushed against the sheep in front of him, causing them to bleat louder. Caesar’s ears were pinned back and Mr. Darcy prepared himself as well as he could for a biting and kicking horse. The unending bleating had given him a dreadful headache. He was positive they could have made faster progress in winter. In a blizzard. On foot.
He sighed as his horse stepped forward. The number of times they had moved against the tide in the last several minutes could be counted on one hand. After what seemed like hours, he could see at last the final curve in his driveway. But the lane resembled a sheepwalk. He would ask his steward what had caused this ramification, after he had supper and a bath. Mr. Darcy would not bother the sheepherder trying to round up the rambunctious livestock.
Mr. Darcy nudged his horse towards the left of the pond, which had fewer sheep, but Caesar refused and instead pulled to the right. This was not a development he had expected, as his horse was normally a placid and well behaved gelding. But he understood why, as going around the pond to the right was by far the shorter distance to the stable yard.
With a click of teeth, he pulled the rein to the left. “Come, Caesar. We will arrive much faster if go this way and avoid the larger grouping.”
He was glad his friends had not traveled with him. Mr. Darcy had departed London a day early, to finalize preparations for the small party consisting of his sister Georgiana, Mr. Bingley, Mr. and Mrs. Hurst, and Miss Bingley. It was luck they had not accompanied him into this hubbub.
But even though Caesar had flicked an ear back, the horse refused to budge neither moving to the right or left. Mr. Darcy sighed and dismounted, pulling the reins over the horse’s head. He would have to lead his horse the rest of the distance. Hopefully, once they reached the pond, he could mount up. He did not want to arrive, leading his horse as if he had fallen and could not get up again. The news would fly around Derbyshire before he would have finished his bath.
It had been a long day, and thoughts of final preparations before his guests arrived filled his mind. They had walked past almost the entire side of the pond and were near a copse of trees when he saw a flash of white before he was hit in the legs. Thrown through the air, Mr. Darcy landed on his side and rolled, picking up speed while he desperately grabbed at the lawn before landing with a large splash in the cold pond.
Sputtering, he pushed up from the muddy bottom and stood. Wiping the sopping wet hair out of his eyes, he glared at the sheep standing staring at him from across the pond. Caesar was nowhere in sight, and most likely had galloped straight to the stable. He sighed, again. At least no one had seen his ignominous fall. But he did not place good odds on his entering Pemberley without a servant noticing him. “Damnable, blasted creatures!”
Mr. Darcy struggled to pull his booted foot out of the mud. His progress towards the nearest bank, opposite from where he had been, was quite slow. The waterlogged clothing was heavy, and he kept slipping on the mud. After just a few steps he slipped and fell landing face first in the pond. He pushed himself out of the pond, again, sputtering and pulling at his cravat.
His valet would have an apoplectic fit at the state of his clothing. None were not fit to be worn again. Yanking his cravat off, he threw it towards the bank. Followed by his jacket and waistcoat. His shirt was half out of his breeches, but surely it did not matter. No one but a servant would see him in such a state, most likely a stable lad running to determine what had happened to Caesar’s rider.
Mr. Darcy trudged slowly, determined not to slip and fall again, towards the bank nearest Pemberley. Finally out of the pond, he carefully walked up the bank towards a copse of trees, his boots squelching. Thank goodness he had seen no visitor’s carriages parked at the front steps. That would have been too much of a blow to his pride.
Hello everyone! I hope you’ve had a good holiday season and winter. After my dad died unexpectedly, 8 days after his lung cancer diagnosis, in September, I have had a horrible series of deaths. My rescue cat I tamed, Sandcat, and then my beloved corgi Munchkin had to be put down in February. Both her back legs were disabled and she could not move well anymore, and was incontinent. I was devastated, it was unexpected and it has taken me a long time to recover. I haven’t even put away her dog beds, ramp, heating pad or toys.
Here’s the eulogy I wrote for her: Munchkin was well loved. The best soccer player, even getting out of her collar to run out on the field to chase the ball at my daughter’s high school soccer game. It took two teams of players to catch her.
She had the white racing stripe on her face identifying her as the fastest corgi. She loved all people and hated all dogs. She was was the best trail dog. The best kayaking buddy and even had her own lifejacket with a handle.
She was independent with a strong personality. No dog food was good enough after she found out the Queen of England had corgis. Thankfully serving her food on the silver tea service only lasted a few days. She preferred cheese or meat lover’s pizza. The puppicino at Starbucks was her drink of choice.
Munchkin was the best protector of property and herder of cats. Anything suspicious in a 4 house radius was barked with a warning. Growls were issued at all dogs crossing the sidewalk without her permission. She was not scared of any dog bigger than her or smaller. She was proud of her tail and waved it vigorously at new people who were obviously going to be members of her fan club.
Munchkin was preceded in death by Poophead, Koko, Spot and Sandcat. (All of whom were cats.) (She had nothing to do with their deaths.)
Let me know what you think!
1 thought on “Chapter 1 of Mr. Darcy’s Sheep – JAFF Story”
I am sorry to hear of your recent deaths in your family. Our beloved ones live forever in our memories. What wonderful stories you tell of your beloved Munchkin.