The Darcys and the Bingleys had just left the church in their carriage. All the relatives, friends and well-wishers were starting to leave, and very soon all that was left was a tiny group composed of the Bennets, the Philipses and the Lucases. Julianne Philips sighed and turned towards her brother, Jeremy, who was standing beside her. The eighteen year old twins were the children of Mrs Bennet's sister, the notorious gossip. However, they had none of their mother's vulgarity, and had been away from her influence for a long time. In fact, Julianne and Jeremy had spent most of their adolescence in Scotland, living with their father's aunt, who had almost adopted them and given them the education they would have most certainly lacked had they stayed in Meryton. Jeremy was very soon to leave for Oxford, while Julianne...well Julianne's future was a bit hard to determine.
In fact, while her parents (especially her mother) wished her to follow her cousin's footsteps and get married, Julianne was in no hurry to commit herself to the duties expected from a girl of the time. She was sincerely attached to her brother, and had been influenced greatly by him and his friends in her manners and behaviours. Although she had been educated by the best governesses, she didn't really possess the demeanor that was attached to the refined ladies that were seen in society, and had shocked many of her acquaintances with her talents at billiards, with which she often beat her brother and his peers.
Now, Julianne looked at Jeremy and asked, "Shall we walk it home, Jer? I don't think I can stand any more of this!" The words "ten thousand a year" seemed to be echoing around. Jeremy rolled his eyes and gave her a small wink.
"Sure, let me just invent an excuse for mother."
Julianne sighed impatiently and gave him a small push. "Let's just go!" she exclaimed and then looked at her mother. "Mamma! Jeremy and I are going to walk it home, do not wait for us!" And they were off before the overly excited Mrs Philips could say a word.
As they walked on, Julianne suddenly started pulling off the pins and ribbons that had held her light brown hair in place! "Damn these pins!" she said crossly as she shook her unruly mane.
"Ju!" said her brother, a bit reproachful. He loved his sister's rebellious spirit, but he really wished she would be more discreet in her observations.
Julianne grinned at him good naturedly. "Sorry," she offered and they walked on, both thoroughly enjoying the company of the other. Contrary to what many though, Jeremy was the more docile of the two, while Julianne led the way with her temper and unrestrained character. "You know, I really think I should have got to know Lizzie and Jane better," she remarked. "Having such delightful cousins and not really knowing them seems such a waste!"
"You're right, but it was hard to keep contact while we were away, and remember we have only been here a week!"
"I know that! I'm sure I'll make up for the lost time with Jane, but with Lizzie...she's gone off to Derbyshire now," she said regretfully. From this last week, she had realized that she might have lots in common with Elizabeth, even more than with Jane, whose character and amiability secretly reminder her of her brother. She grinned now, remembering the rather unusual way she had met her cousins' fiances four days before.
She and Jeremy had been on one of their long rambles. It had rained the day before and the roads were muddy and full of puddles. As they walked, Julianne spotted a rather large puddle ahead of them, at the intersection that led to Netherfield, the estate owned by Jane's fiance. "Look Jer! A puddle! I have to go splash!" she exclaimed. This was a maddening habit that she had since her childhood days and was one that still appealed. In vain were Jeremy's protests; she splashed in the puddle and starting kicking the water towards her brother. So caught was she in the action that she failed to see the two most esteemed gentlemen of the county trotting slowly on their horses. They looked on, astonished at this girl who was kicking water towards another boy, and laughing helplessly at the same time. Her back was towards them, but suddenly the boy spotted them, and with discreet gestures, signalled her to look behind her. The girl stopped splashing abruptly and slowly turned around, a sheepish grin marking her embarrassment while she stood ankle deep in water and mud.
"You must be Mr Darcy and Mr Bingley," she began, trying to appear nonchalant. "I'm Julianne Philips, and very pleased to make your acquaintance"
That incident still made the twins blush, but Julianne also realized at that moment the fine men her cousins were going to marry. Mr Darcy and Mr Bingley's reaction at the time was one which for her had been wholly unexpected. Instead of looking down on her, Mr Bingley had fallen into fits of friendly laughter, while his more reserved friend had grinned and passed on a comment, which she had not understood, embarrassed as she had been. They had dismounted and walked along with them towards Longbourn. Jeremy had picked up a conversation with Mr Bingley, and she had found herself in the society of Elizabeth's fiance.
There was an awkward pause until Julianne cleared her throat and started to formulate an apology. "I guess this is not the way I would have liked to meet you, Mr Darcy," she said ruefully, although unable to repress a small smile.
"Well, I must admit I was rather surprised in seeing you and your brother so engrossed in kicking muck about," he said grinning. He had found Julianne's smile infectious.
"No! Do not blame Jeremy. I have been told by most of my governesses that I am most of the times too unruly for my own good, even when I was in Scotland," she explained.
"You lived in Scotland then?"
"Oh yes! For about eight years I think. In fact, I don't really remember much of my life in Meryton." She kicked a stone energetically. "I've been told not to whistle, to sit straight, to talk when I spoken to and to refrain from kicking stone about!" The last part of the sentence was flourished with a vicious kick to a large stone that caused her to grimace. Seeing her wince with unspoken pain, Darcy could not help laughing loud; he liked Elizabeth's cousin already. She was not really unruly, just a ... natural. She behaved in the way she wanted without really creating trouble, and her cheerful disposition made her be liked by almost everyone who knew her. With a little refining and encouragement to take more care of her appearance, Julianne Philips would undoubtedly become an educated, well-mannered and extremely attractive lady. After breaking the ice, they started a friendly argument on books (to Darcy's surprise, Julianne was an avid reader with a very good taste for books). Darcy described his library at Pemberley and Julianne contributed by telling him of the books she had read and her favourite writers.
When they reached Longbourn, they were greeted by Elizabeth and Jane, and the former joined in the conversation over dinner, making Julianne regret all the more not having got to know her cousin better. The conversation was light and pleasing, and throughout the days that preceded the wedding, Julianne passed a lot of her time with Elizabeth and Darcy, while, of course, having the decency of allowing them some privacy.
They both grew to like her immensely, and she was immensely gratified when, on their wedding day, they had graced her with a small, private wave before leaving in their carriage and turning their full attention towards each other.
The October air hung heavily on Meryton. The past week had seen a drastic change in the weather, and in Julianne's mood. This had been the last week before Jeremy's departure for Oxford University. She had tried to match her brother's enthusiasm as well as she could, but was many times caught in a melancholy that was totally new to her. The twins had been never separated from each other, and what saddened Julianne the most was the fact that she seemed to be the only one from the two to be dreading the separation.
On the day of Jeremy's departure, she entered his room and found him packing the last odds and ends in his trunks. She looked at him silently, not quite knowing what to do or say. He saw her staring and grinned. "Why Ju, you're at a loss for words. That is a surprise!" he teased. The expected (physical) retaliation did not follow, and he looked at her closely, obviously concerned and suddenly realized what was wrong with his sister. "Hey, Julianne, don't tell me you're pining for me! We can always write really often," he said trying to cheerful.
Julianne was rather startled at the accuracy with which Jeremy had read her mind. She suddenly realized that the sadness that she was feeling was mirrored in the eyes that were so like her own. How couldn't she have seen it before? She gave him a watery smile. "Will you promise me not to drink too much and not to engage in any fights?" she asked, a little hint of her old self seeping through.
Jeremy ruffled her hair affectionately, making it in more of a mess than it was before. "How can I fight if I don't have my little sister to defend?"
"Oh, that is swe---what do you mean by little sister? For your information, I was the first one to be born, at least according to Mamma!" she exclaimed.
Her brother laughed, although he could have cried at that moment. This playful banter was something he would miss dreadfully. "I will miss you Ju, you know that, don't you?"
Julianne nodded, and the twins hugged each other awkwardly. They were very close, but much more prone to tease and bicker than to show affection in such a way. They grinned at each other and Jeremy turned back to his trunks, but this time with his sister to get in the way.
The carriage left, and Jeremy with it. Mrs Philips dabbed her eyes and consoled herself in the arms of her sister, all the while crooning about her dear, dear boy, while at the same time Mrs Bennet was twittering about the advantage of having a son, and how, had her daughters not married so advantageously, she would have been sent off to live in misery by the odious Collinses. On hearing the ominous mention of marriages, Julianne hurried off to her room to get her bonnet and go out for a ramble. She finally got away from the clutches of her well wishing mother and aunt, who trotted behind her indomitably. "I'm off for a walk," she exclaimed impatiently, and opened the door, only to be faced by light yet steady drizzle of rain with grey clouds that seemed to be approaching threateningly. "Maybe not," she said, sighing deeply and slowly readjusted the route towards her bedroom.
Once inside, she threw herself on her bed and stared at the ceiling. She could hear her mother's laughter from downstairs. "Trust Mamma to get over the separation so quickly," she grumbled to herself and got up abruptly to stare out of the window. "How on earth did I usually pass the time on rainy days?" she asked no one in particular. On a sudden impulse, she went up to her writing desk and started reading the letters she had received in the last months. Most of them were from Elizabeth, who wrote to her regularly every few weeks. Julianne was also honoured in receiving some occasional letter from her esteemed husband. Though their writing styles differed greatly, the happiness and mirth seemed to overflow in their letters, both in Lizzie's lively accounts of her married life and in Darcy's more elaborate way of expressing himself, thus convincing Julianne that married bliss was not something idyllic, but fortunately experienced by two people whom she held very high in her esteem.
The more she reread their letters, the more she realized how much she yearned for their company. She was often a visitor at Netherfield and she became truly attached to the Bingleys, but it was Jeremy who had been the more comfortable of the two, finding in Mr Bingley a most appreciated equal, both in character and intelligence. Her rather unrestrained character made her often disagree with the amiable docility possessed by the other three. She was sure that she had much more in common with the Darcys.
Elizabeth's expected letter came a couple of days later. Julianne broke the seal eagerly, and her eyes scanned it rapidly. What she read filled her with incredible joy.
My dearest cousin,
I sincerely hope that this letter finds you and the family well. I expect that Jeremy has now left for Oxford, and both I, and my husband can imagine the loss you may be feeling. I know that it is very hard to be separated from a person you hold dear, but that doesn't mean that the affection has to decrease. You can surely see for yourself that Jane and I are as close as ever and are still able to discuss our present lives through other ways of communication.
However, I can hardly bear the thought of you having to pass the months preceding and following Christmas on your own, or (worse still) at the mercy of well wishing relatives (dear Julianne, I do not think I should be more explicit) and I, and of course my husband, would dearly love you to join us for a couple of months at Pemberley. Please do not disappoint us, and give us your consent as quickly as possible!
The bustle and excitement that this letter brought is not too hard to imagine, especially by the fact that Mrs Philips alternated sobs and affectionate advices to her daughter by equally passionate entreaties to hurry up and leave for Pemberley, and maybe meet "a nice young gentleman" in Derbyshire. Julianne bore this with great patience, mostly because of the reward that lay ahead. Hardly a week passed from Julianne's answer to her cousin's letter that she was safe and gratefully peaceful in a carriage that was to take her to the wonderful estate she so wished to see.
"Elizabeth! Will you please calm down? I'm sure Mrs. Reynolds will inform us of Julianne's arrival," said Darcy, as he followed his wife's impatient pacing of the drawing room floor.
"Oh! I can hardly wait dear!" she exclaimed, craning her neck to look out of the window, hoping to see the approaching carriage.
"I would never have imagined you to be so eager for your cousin's arrival," her husband replied, smiling.
"Well, Georgiana has been gone off to the Fitzwilliams for hardly a week and I already miss her terribly," admitted Elizabeth. "It will be so awfully nice to have a girl to keep me company and share secrets with!"
Darcy pretended to be offended by the remark. "What do you want a girl for when you have me? I always thought to be a good keeper of secrets!" he exclaimed.
Elizabeth smiled patiently and wrapped her arms round his neck. "Oh, I can assure that you are more than enough," she teased. "But there are some things that can only be shared between women."
She rolled her eyes. "Well, things like giggling for the most stupid things, gossiping, trying hundreds of bonnets and choosing none, you know Ò girl things! I had got used to doing them with Georgiana and now I will have Julianne!" she exclaimed happily.
Darcy tone became softer. "And I've never seen my sister so happy as she was these last months when she had you to share girl things with ," he said as he kissed her softly. "Thank you, my love."
Elizabeth smiled deeply into his eyes, happily knowing that she still had the power to bewitch him completely. "No, thank you," she whispered as she responded with a deeper kiss. "For everything," she added when she pulled away. This romantic interlude was abruptly interrupted by Mrs. Darcy herself, when she suddenly caught sight of the approaching carriage from the window and with a delighted "She's here!" ran out of the room, dragging her ever-complying husband with her.
Julianne could hardly contain her excitement as the carriage approached Pemberley. The setting sun seemed to tint the whole estate, turning everything aglow. She found the lake enchanting as it reflected the fiery colours of the sky unto the walls of the grand house. As the carriage drew nearer, she discerned the figures of her cousin and her husband, waiting for her outside, and she suddenly felt filled with happiness and anticipation for the months that were to come. The carriage finally stopped, and Julianne flew out, finding herself in the arms of Elizabeth, who embraced her tightly. "Oh Julianne! I'm so happy to have you here, you haven't changed a bit!"
Mr. Darcy's welcome was much more restrained, but the grin he gave her was enough to show her that Elizabeth was not the only one happy with her arrival. Julianne looked around questioningly. "Isn't Georgiana here?" she asked.
"My sister went to visit my cousin's family, but is to return in time for the Christmas festivities," explained Darcy.
Julianne's countenance didn't lose its usual cheerfulness and replied, "Well I guess I must wait for some weeks before making her acquaintance. I won't tire her so easily then!"
They all went inside, where Julianne was introduced to Mrs. Reynolds and taken to her room. She was amazed with the luxury with which it was furnished and the comfort it pervaded. The Darcys certainly know how to treat their guests, she thought, as she inhaled the fresh scent of flowers that had filled the whole room. "Elizabeth, this is wonderful," she said quietly, still enthralled by it all.
"I'm glad you like it," her cousin replied. "I expect you must be famished, after this long journey!" she added.
Julianne's eyes shined at the mention of food, and nodded her head unabashedly. Elizabeth laughed and held out her arm for her. "Let's go down to dinner, shall we?" Dinner with the Darcys was a jolly affair, and conversation flowed easily between them. Julianne felt extremely comfortable even in Darcy's presence, and thus confirmed her favourable opinion of his manners and disposition. After dinner, they all sat in the drawing room, where Julianne related all that was happening in Longbourn and in Meryton and the latest news she had had from her brother. Jeremy's letter had arrived to her just before her departure, and she was happy to find out that he was settling well at Oxford, and very satisfied with his new life there. After some time, she was overcome with the fatigue of the journey, and before she was able to stop herself, she gave out a huge yawn. "I'm sorry," she said sheepishly. "Do not think that I am bored or anything, but I feel suddenly incredibly sleepy."
Elizabeth found herself yawning too, and stretched her arms in front of her. "Sleep does seem appealing to me too, Fitzwilliam. Do you think we should retire?"
"Whatever you wish my dear," he replied and added with a wide grin, "As usual."
Julianne laughed at this cheerful remark and went quietly up to her room.
The next morning dawned bright and cloudless, though a little cold. Elizabeth entered Julianne's room quietly to wish her a good-morning. The curtains were still drawn, and her young cousin seemed to be peacefully sleeping. "Julianne? Are you asleep?" she called softly.
Julianne grunted and buried herself deep under the covers. "Ju zissleep," she slurred.
"Then it's time for her to wake up!" exclaimed Elizabeth, drawing back the curtains. "Come on sleepyhead, it's a wonderful day!"
Julianne sat up, and slowly clambered out of the warm bed, still clutching the blankets around her. She walked, with some difficulty, towards Elizabeth and the window, only her face and mass of tangled hair visible in the midst of bedclothes. She glanced at her and groaned. "Lizzy, how you manage to look gorgeous so early in the morning is quite beyond me," she remarked, blowing a lock of hair from her nose.
Her cousin laughed and looked out of the window, entranced. "Look at this," she whispered.
Julianne looked out, and gave a small gasp. Her bedroom overlooked the woods surrounding the house, and the glassy lake in the clearing. It seemed to her as if nature and civilization combined together, to give the Pemberley estate the beauty it was so loved for. "And you are Mistress of all this," she remarked softly.
Elizabeth looked at her, her eyes shining happily. "Sometimes I can hardly believe it, I am unable to believe that so much happiness can be found in life ..." she trailed off, but suddenly recollected herself. "Sorry, I was just blabbing," she said cheerfully. She kissed Julianne on the cheek, and gave her a small wink. "Breakfast will be served in half an hour, be ready." With that, she left the room.
Julianne turned to look at herself in the mirror, and saw the dreadful state she was in. HALF AN HOUR?
Julianne found breakfast to as entertaining as dinner the evening before. She managed to dress and look presentable in record time and was not more than a few minutes late. She was too hungry to join in much of the conversation, and Elizabeth and Darcy took the opportunity to discuss some affairs concerning the running of the estate. Julianne was surprised to find that Darcy encouraged, even asked for, his wife's opinions about the subject. Pemberley, she was pleased to note, was completely and absolutely run by the joined efforts of Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy.
After breakfast, she went out to explore the grounds that surrounded the house and left them to discuss their affairs in private. Some time later, Darcy and Elizabeth went out to the orchard to talk to the gardener about the planting of some new trees, and were surprised to find Julianne under a large apple tree, looking at the branches dismally. "What's the matter Julianne?" asked Elizabeth, puzzled.
Her cousin looked at them guiltily, but refrained from replying. Darcy looked up curiously. "Uh--isn't that your bonnet up their on that branch?" he asked.
Julianne clasped her hands behind her back helplessly and nodded, blushing furiously. Her indomitable cousin-in-law continued in his line of questioning. "And how came it to be up there?" he inquired.
"The wind...it b-blew it straight off my head," was the reply.
Elizabeth and Darcy looked around them and arched their eyebrows; the air was still and not even the lightest leaf seemed to move. "The air is uncommonly still this morning," Darcy persisted, and Elizabeth couldn't help giving him a mock glare.
Julianne cringed and dug up the earth with her toe, wishing to dig a hole large enough to give her some cover from her cousins' penetrating gaze. "I was ... tossing it about ... sir," she murmured.
Elizabeth laughed while Darcy asked "Whatever for?" in sheer astonishment.
With his tall frame, he had no real trouble in getting it from the branch, and as he calmly dusted away the dry leaves from the bonnet, he remarked calmly, "Your habits are always of a very perturbing nature Julianne. You will never refrain from amazing me." With this he handed her her bonnet, and they moved on, as if nothing happened, leaving Julianne trying to wonder whether to laugh at herself or cry with embarrassment.
That night, as she lay in bed, Julianne couldn't help laughing at the incident, and found herself all of a sudden engulfed in this aura of warmth and happiness that seemed to invade the house. This is all my cousin's doing, she thought sleepily. Will I ever be able to make someone happy, like Elizabeth did to Darcy?
Before she could formulate an answer, she fell into a deep and dreamless sleep, and thus concluded her first day at Pemberley.
An uneventful week passed since Julianne's arrival at Pemberley. The weather was still quite bright for that time of the year, but after sunset, a sudden onset of cold would remind the inhabitants of Derbyshire that November was approaching fast, and with it bring the storms and downpours which characterize the English climate. Sunset was the favourite part of Julianne's day. After a whole morning spent either walking the grounds or visiting Lambton with Elizabeth, or else even on an occasional ride with Mr Darcy (though he was very busy at this time of the year and spent most of his mornings in his study, either with his stewards or with his lawyers), she left the late afternoons all to herself. Her greatest pleasure was to sit down on the golden carpet of crackling leaves that had fallen from the large oak in a concealed part of the grounds. Julianne would sit there, at times reading Jeremy's cheerful letters, other times just sitting there, inhaling the fresh air and toss the orange leaves around, happy and at peace with all the world.
One morning, Julianne woke up to the sound of thunder, and looked out to find the dismal scene of dark clouds, flashing lightning and torrential rain. All that was gold and brown and orange was turned into dreary grey, and the leaves that had given her so much pleasure and comfort were completely washed away by the heavy downpour. This bleak weather dampened her spirits considerably and she was not able to conceal it during breakfast. The Darcys were, as usual, unaffected by their surroundings and chatted cheerfully.
"I'll take advantage of the rain to make some alterations to that vile shawl Julianne insisted on buying," Elizabeth was saying.
Julianne looked at her indignantly. "Elizabeth! We had been in that shop for well over an hour|! We couldn't just leave empty-handed could we? That would have been so embarrassing," she exclaimed.
"So you just picked up the first thing you saw, right?" remarked Darcy. "Well your shawl is a very welcome addition to the other worthless things Georgiana buys to save herself from similar embarrassment when visiting Lambton," he added with a small laugh.
"Why, I might even teach Julianne how to sew," remarked Elizabeth, with a mischievous look in her eyes. She and her husband couldn't help laughing at the horror stricken face of their young cousin.
It was still raining heavily hours later, and a very bored Julianne kept looking out of the window, while Elizabeth tried to concentrate in dissecting the unfortunate shawl that had fallen into their hands. "The rain won't end just because you want it to, Ju," she remarked, using the term of endearment that Jeremy so often addressed her with. Julianne just gave her a intelligible reply and a bored sigh. "Please do something, I can't stand seeing you walking from window to window! Why don't you come and read a book?"
"Read them all ... almost."
"Very funny. Start embroidering something then."
"You beat me Lizzie, that was "extremely" funny."
Elizabeth got fed up and sat up suddenly. "Come with me, there is something you still haven't seen in this house," she said.
Elizabeth had the satisfaction of seeing her idea work to perfection. The gallery did indeed attract her cousin's attention, and after an hour, they were still there, examining the portraits closely, while Julianne commented on the hideous clothes, the large noses and the incredible dark hair. "I must say that dark hair has been a male Darcy streak for centuries," she remarked. "Oh! You're lucky, the dignified nose has only been there for the last two generations," she teased.
Her cousin laughed. "I do believe that my husband is the first Darcy to have the soft dark eyes streak though," she said cheerfully.
Julianne arched an eyebrow. "It is up to you to start the trait," she said. Then seeing her cousin blush, she quickly changed the subject. "Who is that gentleman in the portrait next to Mr Darcy's father?"
Elizabeth looked at the portrait Julianne was pointing at. "Oh, that is Fitzwilliam's uncle. He is his father's younger brother, and he owns an estate in the north. He is a widower, and has one son, Robert, who is now about two and twenty I guess."
Darcy joined them suddenly, having finished most of his work in the study. He gave his wife and affectionate kiss, and Julianne could hardly keep from rolling her eyes at this unabashed show of love that her cousins seemed to bestow on each other ever so often.
"I was just telling her about your uncle Philip, dear," explained Elizabeth, after Darcy's enquiry as to what they had been up to.
Her husband looked surprised. "It's funny you should mention him," he replied. "For I have just received a letter from him. It seems that the old chap is going to visit the continent during the winter months and is in fact soon to leave for the South of France. It seems that the doctor advised him a change of climate. After all, he didn't come to our wedding because of the sever attack of flu he had at the time."
"Is Robert to accompany him my dear?"
"Uh no, that's what I came to tell you. I took the liberty of inviting Robert over to pass the Christmas festivities with us, I hope you do not mind," said her husband cautiously.
"Oh not at all! I'll finally get to meet this famous cousin of yours, and I'm sure Georgiana would be glad to have so many young people around her during Christmas," replied Elizabeth enthusiastically. "Why! We could even invite Jeremy too!"
Julianne's countenance lit up with this last remark, but there was still a point that had entertained her indomitable curiosity. "But tell me Mr Darcy, is your uncle to travel to the continent all alone?" she asked.
Darcy blushed. "Uh, no he is going with an ... acquaintance of his," he mumbled.
Julianne and Elizabeth simultaneously arched an eyebrow and mouthed "lover" at each other, earning a reproachful, but also embarrassed look by Mr Darcy. "Shame!" said Julianne teasingly. "He must be well near sixty now!" With that, she gave a cheerful chuckle and ran up to the comfort of the library, leaving Elizabeth and Darcy to discuss their Christmas plans, or whatever a married couple has to discuss, she chided herself wickedly.
A couple of days later, she entered from a hasty ramble she had made around the orchard (she had taken the opportunity of a brief interval of the rain), to find Elizabeth walking briskly towards the drawing room, with her husband hot on her trail. "I can't believe you could have done anything so incredibly foolish!" he cried. Elizabeth burst into the drawing room and slammed the door behind her. Darcy caught Julianne's astonished stare and snapped quickly. "Excuse us for a moment. it seems that your cousin and I are about to have a little spat. It won't take a minute I assure you." With that, he slammed the door in her face.
Julianne could hear some voices pass through the door.
"...accepting Lady Catherine's self invitation? Elizabeth how could you?"
"It is only a stop on her way to the Fitzwilliams! And anyway, she's your aunt after all!!"
"As if I ever cared about that before!"
"You did invite Robert without consulting me didn't you?"
"Oh! So that is what it is all about isn't it? Well I can assure you that Robert Darcy is much more civil than that self proclaimed ego maniac and her sniveling daughter!"
"I am only accepting her here to show her that I'm not the horrible creature she thinks you married!" And with that, Elizabeth suddenly burst into tears. "And she will only be here for three days!" she wailed.
Mrs Reynolds walked leisurely towards Julianne. "Mrs Reynolds, does this happen often?" she asked in a small voice.
"OH no Miss Philips. But do not worry yourself, Mr and Mrs Darcy never remain angry at each other for long. In fact, the Master's resolve always melts with Mrs Darcy's rare tears," she answered cheerfully.
To be sure, the only sounds that could be heard from the drawing room were Elizabeth's stifled sobs, and the Darcy speaking in a soft soothing tone. When even these noises subsided, Julianne chuckled softly and went up to her room to get ready for dinner. Peace at Pemberley had been restored, but still, she wondered, what could be so bad in a visit from Lady Catherine de Bourgh?
I'm sorry that I didn't write to you for this last week. However, I am glad to see that you are settling down so well in your new life. I am also very happy at the moment. This visit at Pemberley is going as well as I had ever hoped. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are doing their utmost to ensure that I lack absolutely no comfort or pleasure and I must say that they are exceeding extremely well! I do sometimes feel a bit lonely without you since there are some things that can't be shared with anyone else except for a well loved brother, especially if he has the extremely generous tendency of covering up for his most grateful sister! However, on the whole I am behaving really well and have not got into any real trouble. It has been raining for several days now, and I'm still waiting impatiently for the first snowfall.
We are soon to have company at Pemberley. Elizabeth has accepted a sort-of self invitation (I am wise enough not to question the habits of the people of high social standing) from Mr. Darcy's aunt, a certain Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Most surprisingly, he was quite opposed to this idea, and from what I could gather, she is somewhat connected to a time before his engagement to our cousin. Both seem very disinclined to be explicit, and I prudently decided not to pursue the subject.
The other visitor is Mr. Darcy's cousin, Robert Darcy. Elizabeth seemed very eager to favour me with any information regarding this young man and his family and it seems only natural to me to pass it on, because I must admit, I found it quite amusing. He is two and twenty, fresh from Cambridge (unfortunately the Darcys seem to have a certain partiality towards Oxford's rival university) and he's the son of the late Mr. Darcy's younger brother. The most interesting part of the history concerns his father. This esteemed old chap is now almost sixty years of age, but is at the moment touring the continent with one of his many mistresses (this information was "maliciously" bestowed to me by Elizabeth). He is in fact an awful womanizer, and after marrying late, and losing his wife with Robert's birth, he has returned to the habits of his manhood, and left his son to drift off in whatever direction he pleased. I am now impatient to meet this Robert fellow, because I have no idea what to expect. Well, to say the truth, I have this picture of a cocky, strutting flirt, but I'm trying as much as I can to be a bit more optimistic.
Well, my wait won't be too long because, unfortunately for Mr. Darcy, his cousin announced that the most convenient day for his arrival would be on the same one as his aunt's! Mr. Darcy's misfortune, according to him, has reached an insurmountable peak!
I have to leave you now; Elizabeth is calling me to help her in something or other. She is all in a flurry these days, trying to organize everything perfectly for the visitors and I can't help pitying the servants Ò and her husband.
Wishing you all my sisterly love,
The day for the arrival of Lady Catherine and Robert Darcy arrived. Elizabeth was rushing around the house making the last preparations, and making the most bizarre requests to the servants. When at last Julianne couldn't take her panic any longer, she sought refuge in the library, only to find Mr. Darcy there.
He looked up and gave her a resigned smile. "I guess we're both here for the same reasons," he remarked.
"Mr. Darcy, I seem to be always in somebody's way today!" replied Julianne, frustrated.
"Well I'm here to take care of my mental well-being," he joked.
"Would you mind terribly if I went out for a bit? I promise I'll be here in time to welcome your guests," she said, looking out of the window. The rain had finally stopped and the sun was making tentative attempts to shine behind the scurrying clouds.
"Oh not at all, Julianne, go ahead and savour the peace, for I'm afraid you'll have to do without it for quite some time!" Elizabeth suddenly called him from another room. "In fact, if I weren't already wanted, I would be very much inclined to join you!"
Julianne breathed the fresh air deeply. She hadn't been out of doors for days and she was glad for this moment of solitude. She shivered a bit when the cold wind bit into her but quickly warmed herself with a brisk pace and an occasional run. She spent some time walking about the grounds and found herself in the woods on the far end of the estate. The storms of the past days had uprooted some trees, and had left others at a precarious angle. It was the first time she had walked so far from the house and was turning to go back when she suddenly heard a scream and a crash from not very far off.
A child's voice could be heard calling for help and crying piteously. "I hear you!" Julianne shouted in reply. "Keep talking to me!" The child kept shouting and Julianne was able to trace the direction from where the voice was coming. All of a sudden she came face to face with a young girl, who was trapped under a dead, uprooted tree. She recognized the girl as being little Jenny Martin, the daughter of Pemberley's head gardener. "Jenny! It's me, Julianne, what happened to you? Tell me you're not seriously hurt!" In her panic, she hardly realized the futility of questioning a terrified screaming eight year old girl.
"I was playing, then I suddenly saw the tree swaying then--!" the girl then starting to weep hysterically again.
Julianne tried to pry off the tree but it was too heavy for her. "Jenny, listen to me." She said quickly. "I'm going to run for help, don't panic, I'll come back, and we'll take this tree off from you, do you understand?" Jenny murmured an intelligible response and Julianne ran off towards Pemberley.
On her way there she saw an approaching carriage with the Darcy crest on its side. Must be Robert Darcy.she thought. Let's hope that he has a Christian spirit. She ran to the side of the road and begged the driver to stop the carriage. The driver stopped abruptly and the carriage door opened. A young man came out to see what the commotion was and stopped abruptly at the sight of the frightened disheveled girl in front of him. "Whatever is the matter?" he asked, totally bewildered.
Julianne spoke breathlessly. "Mr. Darcy, sir, you must help me! A little girl is trapped under a tree and I can't lift it up and I don't know what to do and she is so scared ..." she trailed off, gasping to catch her breath.
"Where is she? Take me to her!" he exclaimed sharply. He turned to the driver and told him to wait for him there. He then followed Julianne, who was running towards the woods. When they arrived near the scene, Jenny had passed out from the shock and pain and Robert quickly took the matter in his own hands. "Hold the girl from under her arms, and when I tell you, drag her out!" he ordered.
Julianne did as he told her, and with some effort, he managed to raise the trunk for a few inches, enough to squeeze the girl out. Julianne quickly dragged Jenny out, but not before feeling a sharp stab of pain in her hand as Robert let go the trunk because of its weight. He wrapped Jenny, who had recovered her senses and was moaning quietly, in his discarded coat and carried her in her arms. "Do you know where she lives?" he asked quietly.
"Yes in a cottage not far from here," she replied, trying to speak calmly. They took Jenny home and stayed there till one of her siblings went looking for the village doctor. They left soon after, not before being thanked profusely by the girl's mother. As they walked towards Robert's carriage, he said. "You happen to know my name, but I don't know yours. After dragging me into such an adventure, could you please satisfy my curiosity?"
"Of course, sir. I'm Julianne Philips, Mrs. Darcy's cousin."
"I'm pleased to make your acquaintance in such unforeseen and unusually circumstances, Miss Philips," he remarked cheerfully.
"Pleasure is all mine Mr. Darcy," she replied.
"Uh ... Miss Philips, is your hand hurting you by any chance?"
"It's bleeding, Miss," he explained, pointing to a crimson cut on her hand.
"Ouch, OUCH, Ow!!" Julianne cried. She and Robert were in his carriage, and he was trying to get a splinter out of her hand.
"Miss Philips, how can I take this thing off if you keep moving and yelling in this way?" he exclaimed in exasperation.
"Well be careful can't you? OH! There you go again!"
"It wasn't hurting before!"
"Well now it is!"
"You are making more fuss than that girl, and she was trapped under a tree!" he cried.
"When you arrived, Jenny had passed out!" retorted Julianne.
"Well for goodness sake do me a favour and pass out Miss Philips," he said through clenched teeth as Julianne fidgeted again.
"And give you that satisfaction? No thanks!"
"It's not my satisfaction that is in line here but my sanity!"
Julianne couldn't help laughing. "Mr. Darcy said something to that effect just this morning," she remarked.
"Well, after all, he did marry your cousin didn't he?" he teased.
Julianne pulled a face at him. "I won't speak to you now, I'm terrible affronted," she said, pretending to be angry.
Robert heaved a sigh of relief. "Much obliged ma'am," he joked. He was surprised at how easily he found himself chatting to this stranger sitting beside him. He felt that he could be tease Julianne and be his normal self without his motives being misunderstood, as so often happened when he tried to joke with the ladies in the London society. Maybe Julianne wasn't as glamorous as the society belles, but her winning prettiness and easy ways were as fresh and natural as the country air she must so often breathe.
I like her smile
He pried out the splinter and bandaged her hand with a handkerchief. "There you go," he said. "Does it feel better now?"
"Yes, I thank you," she replied truthfully. She couldn't help looking at him closely. He possessed the dark complexion of the Darcy family but his dark hair was cut quite short, and this made him look quite different from his cousin. Also, his countenance showed that Robert Darcy was inclined to share his good humour with most of the people around him while Fitzwilliam Darcy did so only with his closest friends and relatives. His face was boyish, and his lips were almost constantly turned into a half smile. Julianne caught herself staring and averted her gaze to the window, letting out an inaudible sigh.
I like his smile.
They soon arrived at Pemberley and found another carriage standing near the entrance. Lady Catherine de Bourgh and her daughter had just arrived. Robert and Julianne alighted and hastened to go and meet the rest of the party. From the latter's astonished stares, they belatedly realized the awful state they must be in. Elizabeth gasped, Darcy gaped, and Lady Catherine looked at them scornfully. "This, Mrs. Darcy, must SURELY a relative of yours," she remarked disdainfully.
Elizabeth gave her a small nod. "That's my cousin, Miss Julianne Philips, Lady Catherine."
"Miss Philips, is that dirt I see on your shoes, your dress and your face?" she demanded. Julianne could think of no answer but she was spared when Lady Catherine continued her tirade. "I say that I was right as usual! Though I never suspected that the contamination of such an estate would be attempted even by the cousins! And Robert Darcy too, I must say, has fallen victim to it!" With that, Lady Catherine entered the house imperially, and Darcy followed, trying to keep from bursting out his annoyance towards his aunt.
Contamination? What is this hag talking about?thought Julianne and was about to laugh out loud when she suddenly saw Elizabeth walking towards her. Her cousin was blushing furiously, and tears of mortification swam in her eyes. "How could you do this to me Julianne Philips? You ruined everything!Are you satisfied now?"
Julianne looked at Elizabeth, speechless. She felt an unfamiliar surge of fury towards her cousin and tried to swallow a lump that had suddenly risen to her throat. What was wrong with Elizabeth? Why was she behaving in this way? She glanced towards Robert, who was standing near here, and started to speak before he could formulate any retort. "Elizabeth," she began, trying to speak calmly. "This is not what it seems; this has been no prank of mine."
Elizabeth arched an eyebrow and looked at her in disbelief. At that, Julianne spun round and walked briskly to the staircase. "On the other hand," she called behind her. "I do not need to explain myself! And Mrs. Darcy, please do not wait for me for dinner!"
At that moment, Darcy returned at that moment and witnessed the entire last scene. He looked at his cousin, who seemed somewhat nettled by all that happened. "With all due respect Ma'am, but I think you should have listened to Miss Philips' explanation," Robert said, with an almost imperceptible hint of reproach.
Elizabeth looked down, suddenly ashamed of her behavior, especially in front of her husband's cousin. Darcy could stand it no longer and walked briskly towards his wife. He called the butler and asked him to take Robert to his room, and then looked towards Elizabeth. "You and I have to talk, Elizabeth, and we are going to do it now!" he said sternly. She followed discreetly behind him, till they arrived to their chambers. Darcy slammed the door behind him and turned towards her to face her.
"Elizabeth, I have withstood your tantrums, your panic and unreasonable requests for the last week without a word of opposition, but this is absolutely the last straw! What on earth has happened to you?" he demanded angrily. She stood silent. "For God's sake Elizabeth, it's been like living with your mother! And don't you even dare mention nerves because I swear I don't know what I'd do if my last thread of rationality snaps!"
Elizabeth swallowed painfully and looked down. "Has it really been so bad?"
"Well, Julianne is locked up in her room, Robert is probably wondering how much it would cost for him to reach his father in France and you even ask me that?"
His wife sank down on the bed and covered her face with her hands. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," she whispered sadly. "It's just that I had hoped so much that Lady Catherine's request to visit Pemberley had been an attempt for reconciliation that I wanted everything to go well!"
Darcy softened a bit and went to sit down near her. "But why? Why should you care so much for her good opinion? Surely you don't think my love for you so fickle as to be influenced by her?"
Elizabeth looked at him sadly. "You know that before we got engaged, she had told me that if you married me, you'd be the ridicule of all high society," she began, and Darcy nodded. "Well, at the time, I had dismissed this idea as ridiculous, but when we went to London last Spring, I realized that what she said might be true! I did hear some very nasty remarks concerning you and the fact that you married a rough, country girl, and I felt so awful at the time! I couldn't bear to think that you could be subjected to anything like this just because of me! Fitzwilliam, I love you too much to do this to you, please try to understand." She turned her gaze from him, trying not to let him see her tearful eyes.
Darcy was deeply touched by her words. He would have never imagined that all that Elizabeth had done had been for him. He looked at her lovingly and took both her hands in his. "Elizabeth, when I married you, I decided to put away the superficiality and hypocrisy of the London society behind me in favour of complete happiness with you. How you could you think that Lady Catherine's opinion, or even of her sycophantic followers would affect my love for you?" he asked quietly. "The few sensible people in society admire you and respect you for your independence and for your strength of character and mind in matters concerning my aunt. The Fitzwilliams love you dearly, and you know that I can never live happily without you. I share everything with you, and no one and nothing shall ever change that!"
Elizabeth buried herself in his arms and whispered "I'm sorry," again. "I promise you, my love, I shall never behave myself like this again, oh I'm so ashamed!"
Darcy smiled at her and wiped the tears gently from her face. "Can I have my wife back now?" he joked. "I do believe that her mother has prolonged her stay!"
Elizabeth kissed him deeply, and for the first time in the last weeks, they forgot about everyone and everybody except for the warmth and the love they wanted to completely bestow to each other. When they broke off gently, Elizabeth kissed him lightly on his neck and whispered, "There is another reason for me to have wanted a reconciliation."
Julianne paced her room angrily. Not even a warm bath had soothed her wounded pride, and the pain in her hand was nothing compared to the hurt she felt when she remembered Elizabeth's words. She finally slumped herself deeply into the couch that was in the sitting area, and sat there, feeling completely miserable. The Darcy's and the de Bourghs had probably had their dinner by that time, and she suddenly felt extremely hungry. However, nothing would ever induce her to go down and face Elizabeth, or even Mr. Darcy's cousin... He had seemed to amiable, so eager to please and be helpful, but after all, she taken certain liberties with him that now appeared to be wholly inappropriate and probably subject to ridicule in his conversations with his cousin. She couldn't bear to think of that.
Julianne suddenly heard a knock at the door. "Come in!" she growled, and was amazed to find Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth entering her room. Mr. Darcy was carrying a tray of food, which he set down on a table in front of her.
"From what I know of you, at this time you must be famished," he said with some levity.
Julianne looked at Elizabeth coldly before replying, "I thought you had servants for that, sir." Seeing Darcy's surprised and rather disappointed face, she hurriedly excused herself. "I'm sorry Mr. Darcy," she said. "I have no right to be angry with you." She turned pointedly to the window. "Though there is a little matter concerning Mrs. Darcy."
Darcy patted his wife's arm affectionately and gave her an encouraging look. "I should leave you two alone," he said, and left the room.
Elizabeth walked slowly towards Julianne, who was looking at her defiantly. "Julianne, I came her to apologize. Robert told us all about Jenny and her accident. I overreacted completely and I was absolutely wrong to judge you and treat you like I did. I'm sorry Ju, please try to forgive me," she said quietly.
Her cousin looked at her closely and let out a breath. "Elizabeth, who is Lady Catherine de Bourgh? Why does she affect you in such a negative way? I am completely at a loss!" she cried, honestly bewildered.
Elizabeth then told her about Lady Catherine's opposition to their wedding, the conversation she had had with her in the Longbourn park, and all that she had told Darcy.
"I understand a bit better now," confessed Julianne. "Oh Lizzie, I wish you had told me before! I could have helped you, instead of ruining everything for you!"
Elizabeth shook her head vigorously. "No! You didn't do anything wrong, I should have never forgotten my family ties in the attempt to impress a disagreeable conceited lady such as her. I realized that whatever I do, she will never accept me as her husband's wife, and that after all, it will be her loss."
Her cousin looked at her wistfully and sighed. "Sometimes you seem so wise compared to me Lizzie. You are only three years older, but I feel that such an enormous ocean is dividing us. I am careless, clumsy and often irrational. While you, seem to be always in control, so mature!"
"Except for these last days," chuckled Elizabeth. Then seeing Julianne's serious face, she stopped laughing. "Julianne, what you are saying has nothing to do with age. I was just like you some years ago, but in a year I found myself dealing with Jane's heartbreak, Lydia's infamous elopement, and almost from on day to the next I found myself Mistress of an enormous estate, and wife to a man that needs a woman competent enough to share his life. I had to learn pretty fast, but I'm still a long way off from being an ideal wife."
"He doesn't seem to think so, and frankly neither do I," replied Julianne.
"I'm sure that this will soon happen to you, so savour these carefree days. For all you know, you may soon find yourself in my condition!" said Elizabeth.
"You are happy, are you not?"
"Immensely," she replied immediately. Then looking rather wistful, she said, "And maybe there will be an addition to my happiness very soon."
Julianne gaped. "Addition? Are you --- ?"
"I don't know yet," replied Elizabeth, giving her a radiant. "But I might be. In fact it is almost certain. Only you and Fitzwilliam know, and I should like it to be that way for a while." She sobered down. "I've been disappointed before, but I think this time it's really true."
"You can be certain of my secrecy Lizzie. Oh I'm so happy for you!" She suddenly gasped. "So that was an other reason for wanting Lady Catherine to accept you?"
Elizabeth nodded. "I don't want my children ever to feel ashamed of their mother."
The two cousins hugged each other tightly, happy for their newly found intimacy. "I will leave you now," said Elizabeth. "I have to go entertain the other guests." She kissed Julianne lightly on the cheek and smiled slyly. "Please do come down to breakfast tomorrow, Mr. Darcy seems to have suffered from your absence!"
"Which Mr. Darcy?" asked Julianne before she could help herself.
"The tall, dark handsome one," was the reply.
"That applies to both!"
Elizabeth laughed, gave her a small wink, and went out.
Julianne could hardly help grinning at herself as she recounted the events of the last days to her brother in her letter.
...And so, dear brother, after the row I had with Elizabeth, things really started to look bleak for poor Lady Catherine and her daughter! The following day she started to abuse her and Darcy for "letting the common children of the tenants scuttle about the parks of Pemberley"; Darcy started to retort something back but Elizabeth stood there calmly and with a dignity that amazed us all, she told Lady Catherine that since she was Mistress of Pemberley she was in the power to ensure that her visit would be extremely pleasant, but also to make sure that it would be of the utmost brevity! "Lady Catherine," she continued, "I do hope that you will bear this in mind when you address me in the future!" Jeremy, you should have seen the old woman's face! Darcy and his cousin could hardly suppress their laughter, and I was not nearly so lucky in doing so. Elizabeth stood silently looking at us all, and sipping her tea quietly.
Luckily, Darcy's aunt did leave after a couple of days and we were soon joined by Georgiana. Elizabeth's pregnancy has been confirmed by her doctor and we are all in excellent spirits. Our cousin and her husband seem to be continually treading on thin air and at times do not even seem to notice our presence! Thus Georgiana, Robert Darcy and I spend most of our time together, and weather permitting, go on long walks together or even to Lambton. I must admit that I like both of them exceedingly well. Mr. Darcy is wonderfully amiable, intelligent and remarkably pleasing. Georgiana is very much like her brother, shy and reserved but very sophisticated and well informed. I know that we both saw her at Lizzie's wedding, but I can assure you that that short glimpse could hardly do her justice. I must confess, Jeremy that sometimes I do feel a bit left out in their conversation. [She couldn't help sighing as she wrote this part] Since they're cousins, they have a lot of common acquaintances and experiences to discuss, and I sometimes I feel so ignorant concerning the ways of London and society. When you visit Pemberley for Christmas you must make absolutely sure that you tell me all about London and the people there, so that I don't disfigure so much in comparison to Georgiana.
I can hardly wait to see you again, brother. Please join me here soon, so that you will also be able to partake from the fun and joy that I am experiencing in this house!
I was so pleased to read you letter. You are not really behaving perfectly well I see, but I'm glad that any problems you had with Lizzie have been solved. I am also extremely happy to hear of the Darcys' impending parenthood; please wish them all my love, and tell them of my impatience to join you all.
My dear girl, did I discern a hint of jealousy in your description of the relationship between Georgiana and this Robert Darcy chap? Are you envious of their good breeding or of something else? Am I to presume that my dear sister is about to give her heart away? Julianne, I can't wait to make the acquaintance of the gentleman who has sent you into raptures with his "amiability" and "pleasing manners"! To be sure, I will inform you of all that is happening in town on my arrival to the estate, but in the meantime, why don't you entertain your friends with the tales of our life in Scotland?
On the other hand, your pranks might frighten the poor fellow away, you can never be too sure of a young rich man's heart!
Julianne, I will be leaving Oxford for Meryton in a couple of days, where I shall be joining Uncle and Aunt Gardiner and all our cousins. We shall journey together and arrive at Derbyshire most probably on the 20th of December. As you see, we shall soon meet again!
Your intrigued brother
The carriages did arrive on the 20th of December and Julianne could hardly contain her eagerness to meet her brother again. Jeremy was in a carriage with Mr. Gardiner, while Mrs. Gardiner and the children were in another one. As soon as he alighted, his sister squealed and jumped into his arms. The twins were delighted to be reunited again and hugged each other affectionately. "Where is the Darcy fellow?" Jeremy whispered in her ear.
Julianne giggled and looked at Robert. "There he is," she whispered back. "Though I can assure you that you are making a mountain out of a molehill!'
They grinned at each other in an identical way, but Julianne could not help noticing that Jeremy had changed somehow. He looked older, more genteel, and definitely good-looking. Julianne looked at him in admiration. Oxford was really making a gentleman out of her brother.
After going inside, the Gardiners and Jeremy all congratulated Elizabeth and Darcy and Jeremy was introduced to Robert and greeted Georgiana politely. They had only met once very briefly and she was a bit shy in her address. Jeremy and Robert took to each other immediately and "Mr. Philips" and "Mr. Darcy" were very soon replaced by their Christian names, and their polite greeting gave way to a friendly banter concerning the two opposing Universities they were loyal to, Oxford and Cambridge. The rest of the evening was thus passed in extremely good company.
The next day, Darcy and Elizabeth walked leisurely to the dining room for breakfast and were astonished to find that there was nobody there. Voices were coming from outside so they went to investigate. It had snowed heavily that night, but it had stopped in the morning, although the skies were gray and there was no chance of the sun coming out. The Darcys found Robert and Georgiana grinning awkwardly, while staring at the twins who were caught in a fierce, and noisy argument.
"OH Jeremy shut up! It won't topple I can assure you!"
"Julianne, can't you grow some common sense in the obstinate head of yours?"
"Do not call me obstinate! I won't have it from you!"
"Don't you get all high and mighty with me! I can call you whatever I like!"
"So that is what they are teaching you in that stupid university of yours! Why don't you go back there and do us all a favour?"
Elizabeth interrupted them before matters got too serious. She could see that brother and sister were absolutely furious at each other. "What is happening here? What are you two arguing about?"
The twins whirled around to face her and her husband, and looked at them guiltily, while Georgiana and Robert snickered. Jeremy cleared his throat, and tried to explain, after giving one last glare to his fuming sister. "We were... uh, talking about snowmen, Lizzie."
Elizabeth and Darcy burst out laughing. "Snowmen? And why should a snowman bring about such a fraternal dispute?" asked Darcy.
"Jeremy and I couldn't quite agree on the size of the snowman we were going to make. I want it to be enormous, while he opts for something smaller, for fear that it will topple over!" Julianne explained scornfully.
Darcy looked at them with a small, resigned smile. "Well, why don't you make two then?"
The twins looked at him in amazement, and then grinned at each other. "Mr. Darcy, you are a genius," said Julianne, staring at him in awe.
"That is what thinking is all about," he replied, unable to stop from teasing her.
Some time later, Pemberley had two snowmen to boast about. The Gardiners and the Darcys joined in the fun, creating a small stable figure and a large, rather tottering one, for Julianne's sake. After they accomplished their feat, they all went inside, while Robert and Julianne lingered outside to admire their work.
Robert attempted to straighten the hat of the larger one, and succeeded in nearly toppling its head. Julianne gave him an impatient look and muttered something that to his ears, greatly resembled "idiot". With some effort, they managed to put it back on again, and giving it a bit more steadiness.
Julianne gave a small happy smile as she looked at the figures again. "This reminds me so much of my childhood before leaving for Scotland," she said. She had already told Robert about her years with her Scottish relative. "I remember that Jeremy used to leave mince pies on a plate for the snowman. I can still see his happy face at finding them all gone!"
"Gone? Where did they go?"
"Why, I used to sneak and eat them of course," replied Julianne slyly.
Robert gave her a mock glare. "You cold, cruel girl!" he accused severely. "How could you abuse of your brother's naivete in this way?"
"I was only doing him a favour! Believe me, he really believed that the snowman ate his mince pies, and he would have been really disappointed in finding a full plate instead of an empty one," explained Julianne, trying to be truthful.
"I'm sure you used to do that out of your greatness of heart," he remarked arching an eyebrow. "You should dress like a man and enter politics. I'm sure your scheming mind would be greatly appreciated," he laughed.
Julianne pulled a face at him. "I was thinking of using my "scheming" mind in more advantageous circumstances, sir," she replied.
"Why, marriage of course!" A twinkle in her eye showed Robert that she was just joking.
Robert gave her a rather long look, and his half smile gave Julianne's face unfamiliar warmth. "I see that you do not have a positive outlook towards matrimony, Miss Philips," he remarked.
"Well, I never had that, sir" she replied and then looked towards Pemberley. "Until I came here, that is. Seeing Elizabeth and your cousin, their happiness and the baby that has still yet to be born; it makes me feel that marriage is not so superficial and hypocritical as I once thought. Don't you agree?' Her voice trailed off and she looked at him seriously.
Robert stared at her for a second. "Yes, I -- agree perfectly. Their marriage is definitely not a business affair," he remarked wistfully. "To be honest, this is the view of the holy union I like to keep in mind when I decide to enter it myself." There was silence for a few minutes and he suddenly resumed his old cheerful self. "Well, ma'am, shall we go in? It is getting rather cold isn't it?" He held out his hand for her, and winked at her wickedly.
Julianne let out a small breath and the voice in her mind started to nag.
Julianne, my girl, you're totally smitten! No I'm not! Yes you are! Shut up!
This was crazy. She only knew Robert Darcy for a couple of weeks; he could not affect her in such a way! She gave an involuntary shiver.
"Miss Philips, I hope that you will not catch a cold," he remarked, truly concerned.
"My constitution is strong Mr. Darcy. I never catch such things as colds!"
Less than two hours later, Julianne was firmly tucked under her blankets, sniffing dolefully as she cursed all colds and snowmen.
Continued in Part 2
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