Georgiana: Ebb and Flow
: Part I
Some of you may recall, the Darcys have returned from the Lang's ball. Elizabeth and Georgiana know Darcy is injured, but he doesn't know that they know. Got that? :) We resume with the morning after...
Ebb and Flow
Sweet Love, renew thy force: be it not said Thy edge should blunter be than appetite, Which but to-day by feeding is allay'd, To-morrow sharpen'd in his former might:
So, Love, be thou; although today thou fill Thy hungry eyes even till they wink with fullness. Tomorrow see again, and do not kill The spirit of love with a perpetual dullness.
Let this sad interim like the ocean be Which parts the shore, where two contracted new come daily to the banks, that, when they see Return of love, more blest may be the view;
Else call it winter, which being full of care makes summer's welcome thrice more wish'd, more rare.
Elizabeth's lips met lightly with the center of her husband's forehead. "Hmm,"she voiced quietly, contemplating the relative warmth of his skin as she carefully straightened. With the slight crook of her neck providing her the proper vantage from which to evaluate his coloring, she studied with affectionate concern, his countenance, now placid in his slumber.
With objection to neither of her observations, Elizabeth slipped from the one edge of the bed and moved around to the other. Cautiously lifting the bed clothes, she peered beneath hoping to see the bandage without waking its wearer. It appeared to have remained dry and well wrapped since last it was checked. However, she could feel no peace until she was able to inspect such a wound with full use of the morning's light. As she replaced the covers, the crinkle of her nose signified the sharp reminder she received of the burden one suffered in exchange for the remedy's benefits. Sealing her provisional approval of her husband's condition with a pat on the bed, Elizabeth padded from the room to retrieve what might greet her husband's awakening with a more agreeable scent.
A languid motion rolled Darcy onto his back, the ease of his movement, preserving the restfulness of his slumber. Desiring the tender comforts of his wife, Darcy continued onto his other side, so he might encircle her soft sleeping form with his arm. Meeting with an unexpected emptiness, Darcy's hand continued to slide across the space next to him. A growing sensation added to the mounting confusion of his fruitless search, gradually persuading Darcy's sleep to wend its way from his senses, until finally sending him to his back with a quiet moan as he realized an acute pain along that side of his body.
The dome of sapphire and gold, greeting him as he lifted the cover of his eyes, prompted an astonished search of his immediate surroundings. The pinnacle of the canopy's material was again his focus as he exhaled heavily. He was alone and in his own bed. But last night! The disparity between his current location and the one of his expectation fueled Darcy's vehement objection. However, the state of his halfdress, Darcy acknowledged grudgingly, the coolness of the bed's clothes under his hand's investigative touch, the undisturbed state of his chamber...A dream, He conceded dismally. Elizabeth--the flowers--the intimacy of her bed. All a dream. Darcy struggled to raise himself a little against the pillows, No! Not all. Darcy's head met smartly with the wood of the bed's board. But what must she think? Her emotions are aroused, she is lavished with flowers, and then abandoned without explanation. What was it? Three? Four? Five? He had lost count the number of circumstances over the past two days from which she might have taken offense. Closing his eyes, Darcy sank back down beneath the covers imagining all manner of expression of his wife's discontent. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The sounding of the door's latch, carefully opened, alerted him of a person's entrance. With the cadence of satin slippers lightly rustling across the floor's covering, he was informed as to the person's identity. With some trepidation, Darcy slowly opened his eyes, only to be amazed by what he found. Elizabeth was at his bed's side placing a vase of roses on its night table! Roses! The very ones he had commissioned for her and now she was bringing them to him. A magnanimous gesture, indeed, from one he presumed to feel little benevolence toward him.
Darcy discreetly turned his head to better observe his wife without her notice. With anticipation, she gently gathered the crimson petals into her, deeply inhaling their scent. Crane had certainly surpassed Darcy's expectations. The blossoms were magnificent. And to his immediate comfort, Elizabeth gave every appearance of being pleased by them. Indeed, with this expression of generous favor, she presented herself as one resenting neither her situation nor her husband. The tension drawing his mouth into a thin line eased with his sincere appreciation of her forgiving nature. Presuming himself pardoned, at least for the time, he found himself again at liberty to freely admire her image as it suspended above the flowers' heads. The tenor of his thoughts easily persuaded a small dimpling to emerge in his cheek as he watched her casually fuss over the flowers' arrangement.
With the drape of her fichu about her neck and the covering of her cap upon her head, Elizabeth was the picture of the proper English wife. He knew more than one husband who had openly lamented the object his wife had donned after their nuptials. However, Darcy found the lace a wholly pleasing crown for the features he loved so well. It was a mystery to him how an object of such simplicity and pragmatic purpose could in one instance create a look of angelic purity as it framed her countenance, securing his need to protect her, and love her with utmost honor; and yet, that very same lace, in another instance could evoke--more spirited actions.
The dimpling of Darcy's cheek deepened as he remembered the first day she had donned her cap. She had stood before him, dressed much as she was now, displaying for his approval the symbol of her newly attained consequence. The blush of her cheeks had assured him, she shared the feelings that must have been evident in his person as he had drawn near. My dearest wife, he had whispered as his fingers slipped up beneath the delicate covering, entwining themselves within the silken strands hidden within. The sigh of pleasure escaping her lips as she had yielded her head to the support of his hand, had stirred in him a need which was only to be satisfied with the feel of his lips on the warmth of hers...
Tender lips which even now captured his attention as their fulness curved sweetly. He mused appreciatively over how they expressed her good humor even in their stillness. But even more than inviting his consideration of her rosy lips, the flounce of her cap inevitably drew him to the one feature which had been the first to move him--chestnut brown pools which sparkled with sense and wit"and on occasion flashed with anger or teared from heartache. Had he not determined to apologize for the ill-affect of his earlier actions? his conscience reprimanded, challenging the sincerity of his admiration with reminder of an apology yet offered. The sign of his pleasure disappeared as he grew serious with his earnest intention of rectifying his omission.
"Good day, Mrs. Darcy,"he greeted with an irregular intonation which had settled in his voice from the night.
"Oh, Mr. Darcy, Pray forgive me. I had not wished to waken you,"Elizabeth returned with surprise as she found her husband's gaze upon her. "But I confess I am glad to find you so. Have you slept well?"
Darcy cleared his voice of its roughness, "Hrm, yes.... And you?"He immediately thought it a ridiculous question, knowing it was already middle of the morning with the entire house having been awake for some time. But it was the first to come to mind.
With a subtle glint of amusement illuminating her eyes, Elizabeth replied easily, "Yes, I thank you."When he did not continue after the pause she allowed, Elizabeth admiringly stroked the satin surface of the flowers, "I had just come to bring a vase of these most excellent roses while waiting..."She leaned in again, unable to resist the allure of their fragrance. Inhaling deeply, she closed her eyes while savoring their heady scent. Her smile was radiant as she opened her eyes, "They are so beautiful..."Then meeting her husband's gaze with a look of greater purpose, she returned to her interrupted subject and the matter of her utmost concern at that moment, "Now you are awake, though, I wonder if I might see to your arm?"
Darcy's eyes widened with the shock of her request, "My arm, madame?"
Elizabeth explained innocently as she left the bed's side to retrieve a basket which she had earlier left for just such a time. "Yes, I should very much like to know the cheese has worked its good and the flow of blood has been stemmed. I attempted to check your bandage while you were sleeping but it was too far within the covers for me to see properly. Will you allow me?"She finished expectantly as she arrived the opposite side of the bed holding a basket laden with scissors, cloth, and bottle, clearly knowing the wound lay on his left arm, rather than the right.
Darcy ackwardly raised himself in the bed using the support of his right arm. A tumult of questions battered against each other, striving to be the first voiced as he looked upon his wife with astonishment. The odor assailing him as he turned toward the bandage, though, made only one question paramount, "Cheese?"Darcy demanded as he recoiled from the stench.
Elizabeth subdued the smile threatening to betray the extent of her mirth, succeeding in containing it to only a small curve of her lips as she situated herself on the bed. Without haste, she took up her pair of scissors and relieved the bandage of its knot.
"Yes, I applied it last evening with the aid of Mr. Crane and your man."She looked only at Darcy's arm as she carefully unwound its length, despite knowing her husband's eyes were steadfastly fixed upon her.
"Crane and James?"Darcy questioned doubtfully, though as much to himself as to his wife. He knew them both to be men of discretion and loyalty. Yet, had they so boldy defied his instructions by revealing his condition to his wife?
Elizabeth mused lightly as she worked, "One might have thought me to have insisted upon amputation from Jame's stricken countenance. I would not be surprised to find he has packed his bags and only waits your dismissal, so certain did he seem of your disapprobation. I do not believe he is familiar with this remedy."She turned her face from the offensive substance as it was unwrapped, its pungency wafting uninhibited. Quickly grasping it with the used cloth and confining it within, Elizabeth excused herself and slipped from the bed to deposit the offending mass in the hall for its immediate removal.
Darcy watched her go with an unwavering gaze of perplexity as a deepening haze of confusion beset his discernment. Darcy was at a loss to understand his wife's actions and present humor. From her matter-of-fact actions, one might conclude it every day she finds her husband in a wounded state, Darcy's feelings complained a little petulantly. He had expected more of a display once his injuries were made known. Though truly, not that he wished for her alarm, but his expectation of her expressiveness was not unfounded. Once informed, he had rather anticipated her barrage of questions as to his need of aid, the cause of his injury, and perhaps even some teasing for his having been carried away by emotion during what was to have only been a match for sake of proficiency and exercise. He had even anticipated the need to brace himself against her denouncement of his concealment. Was she so unmoved as her nonchalance suggested?
Remembering the original cause for his necessary apologies, a worry took hold furrowing his brow--Does she suppress her true feelings for fear of censure were she to react and press for an explanation of something I have obviously withheld? Darcy shifted uneasily, feeling even more the burden of having squelched the very liveliness he had only the day before defended and that evening desired. It was a cruel irony. And one which he purposed to rectify.
As she inspected the wound more closely, Elizabeth did not appear entirely pleased by what she found as her finger gingerly traced the surrounding skin. The edges of the wound were swollen and red, with dried blood clogging the cut's interior.
Elizabeth commented evenly without looking up from her evaluation, "These many months, I have known you to be the object of great loyalty, sir. However, last night I was witness to what certainly must be credited as the greatest. One might have thought this merely a figment of my imagination by the way Mr. Crane and your man endeavored to pass it off when I happened upon them suddenly as they tended you..."
Darcy's eyes widened momentarily at the intelligence. But before he could form a response to it, his wife continued and in a different direction.
"Does it pain you?"
"Hrm, a little,"Darcy confessed ackwardly.
"Yes, I should think so,"Elizabeth sat back, a slight frown creasing her brow as she chewed the inside of her mouth.
"You have suffered no chills or heat in the night?"
"No, ma'am,"Darcy answered obligingly, perceiving any other posture ill-advised.
Elizabeth sighed, as though conceding improvement, but without true satisfaction. She considered aloud as she turned, gathering up a blue bottle along with a clean cloth, "One more day of cheese is prudent, though I grant you, it is not a pleasant remedy. However, your wound is not insignificant and if left unattended it will fester and become putrid."Elizabeth finally met her husband's confounded countenance, pronouncing, "I will not have you getting death's fever and leaving us wretched at your demise."Lightly saturating the cloth, Elizabeth arrived at her prognosis, "It is much improved, however. We will clean it and wrap it again. If needed, we may apply more cheese before you retire."
That Will and Reason were possessed by the body over which she deliberated was obviously incidental to his wife. His opinion on the matter was not to be considered, Darcy realized with an odd feeling of irritation and wry amusement. But he did not object to her prescription. Though not usually one to even consult a doctor for his own sake, nor to follow closely any advice given, Darcy deemed yielding to the ministrations of this physician the most politic choice. If he wished for success in his purpose, it would not do to either provoke or dishearten by rejecting her judgement in this matter.
Darcy had been endeavoring to formulate an appropriate introduction of the subject he wished to discuss as he had tended to the many implications of his present situation. With the apparent conclusion of her evaluation, he deemed this moment opportune.
"Mrs. Darcy..."He began with utmost respect.
Elizabeth interrupted, warning of the liquid's likely affect, "This may sting a little..."and applied it without waiting for his consent.
Whatever articulate thought may have existed in Darcy's mind was quickly shattered as he looked disbelievingly at his wife, flinching beneath the liquid's intrusion into the core of his wound. He hoped never again to be deemed in want of such benevolent affliction! The steel of the blade severing his skin had stung less!
With open acknowledgment of neither the liquid's effect nor her husband's words, Elizabeth made quick work of applying new strips of cloth around the wound.
Sitting back to admire her work, "There now. It is as good as can be expected I should think."She tidied the contents of her basket and turned back to her patient.
"Will you rest now, sir or shall I have a tray brought in to you?"
"Um,"Darcy muttered discomposedly as he considered the material covering his legs. Not only was she to be the judge of any physical application, but so it would seem, of the topic of their conversation as well. Was it mere weakness of character which prevailed upon him to yield, or fatigue from his fast? He had not eaten since his call at White's. Or was it sheer exhaustion from the tribulation he had endured? Glancing to the eyes resting on him, he was encouraged to find they had again assumed the aspect more of compassionate helpmate rather than dispassionate physician, though her manner remained subdued. Whatever the inducement, he would yield and break his fast. "Mrs. Darcy I would be honored if you would deign to join me for a repast?"
Elizabeth affirmed easily, "It would give me great pleasure, sir. It shall be made ready without delay."
His dimple appeared as he ran his fingers through his unruly hair, apologizing with some chagrin, "My attire is rather in want for tea though..."
The affect of her quiet appraisal diffused pleasingly over her countenance as she found her husband's appearance perhaps not proper for tea as confessed, but certainly compelling in its more natural state. With the strength of his chest exposed and his hair having the endearing quality of a night's tousling, she found his person lacking in nothing, especially not with the sheepish curve of his cheek. She would gladly have nestled in next to him, persuading his thoughts in other directions were it not for concern after the affect of his extended fast upon injuries.
Darcy continued, "Pray allow me to assume a more presentable appearance and I shall join you in your sitting room?"He could not countenance laying abed the entire day, injury or no.
"Will that not be severe upon your leg?"Elizabeth objected with surprised concern.
"My leg?!"Darcy spouted. Not only did she apparently possess some knowledge as to his health, but superior knowledge! "No, no,"he stammered, denying the sudden subject altogether, "Let us remove to the other chamber."
"As you wish, Mr. Darcy,"Elizabeth agreed without further comment. Recollecting herself from those objections which she wished to speak, she instead informed him lightly, "James only awaits your summons."Elizabeth leaned forward, allowing her lips to linger upon his. "All will be ready,"she promised with a glint in her eyes and then promptly quit him.
Again his wife had taken him by surprise. Darcy had expected only a chaste brush of her lips at best. But while her former actions had puzzled him, being not entirely certain of their source and meaning, the meaning of this action was immediately and abundantly clear. On no occasion did Darcy ever require on his part any contemplation of the fervency in her press to understand the feelings on her part. The spark he had feared extinguished had only been constrained within a form he had not expected--deference.
With the door's closing, Darcy threw back the bed's clothes and scooted to the edge, stretching the length of his legs over its side. Tugging smartly on the bell's rope, Darcy rang his man, and in his haste, met the floor with full weight without consideration of his leg. Writhing in pain, Darcy collapsed back, grasping his knee with his hands.
"Mr. Darcy!"James exclaimed frantically from the door, rushing to his master's aid.
"James, your assistance...and alacrity are required,"Darcy breathed between the spasms of pain. "I must dress without delay."Reaching for his man's hand to steady himself, Darcy rose from his undignified position. "Help me to that chair. Confound it!"Darcy swore at his knee as it again buckled beneath him, requiring the quick support of his man. But Darcy did not relent, motioning insistently toward his desired destination. "And, while I dress, pray reveal to me all which transpired without my knowledge this forenight."
For the second time in not yet as many days, James found himself hastening the master to the mistress. He hoped on this occasion, though, this worthy fellow would come to a better end than when last he tried. So it was that James applied himself to his task as though it was his own rendevous with a woman who held reign over his heart.
"No, sir,"James answered the master's direct question as he continued to help him dress. I cannot comprehend Mrs. Darcy's knowing of your leg. "As it was, you were already seated in this very chair and Mr. Crane and myself carried you to the bed."James held the morning coat for Darcy to slip on. "Mr. Darcy," James offered hesitantly, "The cheese, sir...she was not to be...that is...Mrs. Darcy..."James gave up his hapless petition for pardon, as the master did not seem to hear as he queried a distant spot on the floor.
Realizing his man had stopped talking without completing any real statement, Darcy pieced together the little he had heard as he had been reviewing the circumstances, both related and experienced, from the prior evening. In what manner had Elizabeth come to know of his leg? Darcy wondered.
"The cheese? Hm, yes of course, the cheese. Do not make yourself uneasy, James. It is most certainly the least of my concerns."Darcy eased to the chair's edge.
"Now, my cane, please."He saw no reason to deny himself the object's aid since Elizabeth knew of his need of it. And, in consideration of the authority she so easily presumed over his convalescence, he thought it prudent since he wished her to believe him in possession of at least some sense.
"Thank you James."Darcy complimented as he lifted his weight from the chair's support, "Well done."And with that, Darcy left the man to his obligations as he carried himself to his.
James gratefully received the few words, knowing high praise to inhabit their succinctness. As he busied himself with the duties of a gentleman's gentleman, he prayed the Almighty pity his master and supply him with the balm of his lady's affections.
Darcy tarried on the chamber's threshold, availing himself of the prospect it afforded of his wife as she tended to the tea service. He smiled appreciatively, knowing what she was about. Taking breakfast together their first morning as man and wife, she had declared with flirtatious enthusiasm to have then undertaken the happy mission of learning his preferences in all matters, great and small, beginning then with discovering the way he took his tea. With confidence sparkling in her eyes, she had teased him that he would soon be obliged to consult her in all matters as she would know his desires better than he. Indeed, no cup was ever so well prepared as that poured out for him by his wife. While his fellow Englishmen coveted the leaf's brew, Darcy cherished the affection carried within that delicate porcelain.
Elizabeth stiffened in momentary surprise, then relaxed in acceptance as a familiar hand slipped around the curve of her waist, gently embracing her against the one to whom it belonged. A murmur of pleasure escaped her lips as she tilted her head to the side, better exposing the nape of her neck to the warmth of Darcy's teasing lips. Elizabeth whispered, basking in the sensation, "I thought you should never return to me."The enclosure of his arms pressed more securely in silent response.
With hushed urgency, she warned, "But I must protest, sir. My husband approaches even now."
Husband?!Darcy's mind stirred, recollecting itself from the deluge of need and emotion to which he had gladly succumbed. Husband?His thoughts repeated more calmly as they quickly formed an opinion...and a plan.
"What do you care for this obstinate fool...,"Darcy derided, while using the need for speech to caress her exposed skin with the warmth of his breath. "Are you not even now victim of his indifference?"
"Obstinacy and indifference often wear the same mask,"Elizabeth countered as the sensation of his attentions raced across her skin. "Judge for yourself--Is it indifference to sacrifice one's comfort for the happiness of one's family?"
His breath swirled mischievously within her ear, "You cannot deny, though madame, he causes you vexation and grief with his taciturn ways."
"Yes, my husband consults his own counsel on that which troubles him most. But see now his love's expression."Elizabeth gestured lightly toward the small bouquet gracing the table set for tea, as she supported herself with the cart laden with its service. His powers of persuasion were affecting her ability to stand.
"HrmphDarcy disapproved. "Throw over this silent fool and I will profess my love."Holding her firmly, yet gently, he remained motionless, waiting her reply with small anxiety. Their game was one of purpose. And this reply, more than the others, would either give leave or deny what must next be said.
"Nay, sir, withhold your wooing. There is but one whose breath, when giving life to sweet words of love, shall not be in vain."
Darcy's hold varied only enough to allow Elizabeth's turn before gathering her in again.
"Dearest, Elizabeth,"Darcy voiced huskily, as his lips brushed hers. Opening his eyes, he peered needfully through those windows, now so willingly revealing the inclination of her soul. Darcy uttered humbly, "Will you forgive me?"
Mercy washed over him in the tender exertion of her silent reply, with words echoing in his mind, as he basked in the warmth of her soft lips...summer's welcome thrice more wish'd, more rare.
Darcy's hold varied only enough to allow Elizabeth's turn before gathering her in again.
"Dearest, Elizabeth," Darcy voiced huskily, as his lips brushed hers. Opening his eyes, he peered needfully through those windows, now so willingly revealing the inclination of her soul. Darcy uttered humbly, "Will you forgive me?"
Mercy washed over him in the tender exertion of her silent reply, with words echoing in his mind, as he basked in the warmth of her soft lips...'summer's welcome thrice more wish'd, more rare.'
Withdrawing moderately, Elizabeth broke from his lips³an action in which she little delighted, and yet of its necessity was greatly persuaded. While the support of Darcy's cane beneath his well arm, had been at first subtle as his injured arm had wrapped tenderly about her waist, it's increasing use was now remarkable with the obvious shift of all his weight to the support of that prop. As a wife already anxious for his well-being, Elizabeth's pragmatic sensibilities had exerted themselves beyond pleasant indulgences, acting in favor of his health, though she could not remove herself entirely from the intimacy of his embrace. The reluctance with which Darcy opened his eyes in response to her change, showed him as much ill-disposed to relinquishing the transport of their amorous lock as she, making the exertion of her selflessness all that more difficult.
Gazing lovingly upon her husband, Elizabeth persuaded mildly, "Sir, your tea grows cold. Pray, will you not take your ease?"
Darcy did not at once reply, only returning her gaze with his own. But, Elizabeth felt no impatience. His affectionate regard expressed the conviction of his contemplation as clearly as though spoken. Her husband was thinking not of his tea, nor of his leg, nor indeed of any thing of his person. He was thinking only of her. In that moment of silence, Elizabeth knew his heart and her place in it.
The fulness of feelings evoked by her understanding shone in Elizabeth's countenance as she pressed more fully against him, compelled by the softness of his features to again draw near despite her good judgment. The delicate lift of her chin prepared for that which she sensed was his to bestow. And indeed, her intuition's anticipation would have had the pleasure of reward had it not been for a pain-filled step suddenly altering her husband's position.
The lift of Darcy's brow was both confessional and apologetic as the need for her spoken invitation was now undeniable--if not also ill-timed. "I thank you, Mrs. Darcy." Good humor showed momentarily through his pain, "I should not wish cold tea."
Had Elizabeth's earlier assessment of his frailty needed any further confirmation, the brief contortion of pain closing his eyes as he removed his arm from her waist, thoroughly convinced her. Without hesitation or permission, Elizabeth carefully slipped beneath his left arm, adding her own strength to his.
Lowering himself to the chair, Darcy attempted to settle his tall frame beneath the small table's height with as little awkwardness as might be managed. With great care Darcy steadied his descent using the edge of the table with one hand and his cane with the other, while extending his leg beyond the painful confines of the table's own supports. Not knowing in what manner to aid him, Elizabeth could only hover just behind Darcy's precarious movements with hands ready to catch anyone or anything were either husband or table to upset altogether. The one's sigh of relief could not be heard for the other's as Darcy's cane came to rest against the table, finally signaling his success in alighting. It had required greater exertion and more difficulty in its accomplishment than either had supposed.
As her delicate hand set the crystal before him, Darcy cast hesitant eyes upon his wife, having expected the promised tea. "Urm, I thank you, Mrs. Darcy," he accepted a bit flustered by her quiet, yet specific attention to his weakened condition. Waiting until she turned away, Darcy unceremoniously drained the liquid from its small glass. Without a word, Elizabeth returned with the decanter, filled what had only before been full, set the remainder on the table and quit him with a smile as she left to prepare him a plate. Darcy re-filled his glass with a wry resignation playing about his mouth as he acknowledged the futility of denying his need.
While sipping at his second glass, Darcy appreciated the privacy of the setting as Elizabeth made selections from the food-laden trolleys. Though he would not have her serve as matter of course, her willingness to perform the task now afforded them the intimacy he craved without consideration of ever-present footmen. "You are most kind, my dear," Darcy complimented as she set a plate before him, possessing more content and variety than he had expected at this odd hour of day. A quiet question visited momentarily, as Darcy wondered at the pains taken by his wife and servants to provide him such a meal without ever knowing the time at which it might be required. Reaching across the table's crisp white cloth as Elizabeth took her place opposite, Darcy's hand entreated hers to accept its covering caress. He bid her eyes linger with his and was granted audience with placid pools of chestunut- colored loving-kindness.
"Mr. Darcy," Elizabeth murmured with the delicate air of romance in her tone and the sparkle of wit in her eyes, "Though mistress of this fine house, I believe not even I may direct Chef LaPierre with any authority if we return this food untouched."
Even as Darcy's contemplation lingered on the irresistible curves of her heart- shaped lips, his inward laugh creased his cheek as he gave Elizabeth's hand a quick squeeze acknowledging the humor of her jest as well as its merit.
"Pray forgive me, ma'am." Darcy withdrew his hand as he straightened. "I find I must eat then for I will not have upon my head the guilt of having undermined the mistress of Erewile. I shudder to think of the consequences!" Darcy's brow quirked in mock abhorrence.
Elizabeth chided his facetiousness with a dubious glance. Though a smart retort was quickly upon her lips, prudence warned it might just as easily be turned on herself, rather than their sometimes impudent, but talented chef. Raising the bottle which had been standing at the ready, Elizabeth altered the direction of their discourse as she offered, "Wine, sir?"
The ease of their restored relations, glimmered in Darcy's eyes as he held his glass for her. Feeling a bit waggish, Darcy raised his glass in toast, "To the loveliest "doctor" whom I have ever kissed."
"Mr. Darcy," Elizabeth objected, having apparently taken affront, "You make it your practice, to kiss your doctors, then?"
Darcy halted, eyebrows arched in affected puzzlement as he considered the depths of his goblet. "No, come to think of it, you are the first. Well then," he resolved his dilemma by proposing with a crooked grin, "To the first doctor I have ever kissed." Darcy's glass managed to meet only his lip before being stayed again by Elizabeth's interruption.
"But I am not a doctor, Mr. Darcy...,"
Darcy set down his glass with mock exasperation.
"...Nor, sir, is that a station to which I aspire." Elizabeth smiled charmingly. "However, were I to forgo any claim to that title, must I likewise relinquish the appellation, ‘loveliest'?"
"Hmm," Darcy deliberated a successful campaign to deliver him from his present predicament.
Gradually his jesting demeanor gave way to sincerity as he assumed the manner of a proper toast. "Perhaps ma'am, you will allow³To my dearest, loveliest Elizabeth."
This Elizabeth willingly accepted with complaisance.
Availing himself of his serviette, Darcy settled in to finally taste what had been tickling his nostrils with its pleasing aroma. Asking as he prepared his fork, "Pray, what of Erewile's other patient? How fairs Georgiana?"
"I believe this day finds her well." Elizabeth sipped casually from her glass.
"She suffers no lasting ill-affects then?" Darcy inquired, never actually having ever been informed of the specific symptoms she had suffered the evening before.
"No, she claims not," Elizabeth informed concentrating particularly on the bit of food she cut. Knowing her husband had presumed Georgiana to be the one unwell when quitting the Lang's, Elizabeth felt some obligation to disabuse him of the notion and yet this did not present itself as the politic moment. And, his assumptions, she rationalized, were not entirely incorrect as Georgiana had been fatigued from the disorder of so many emotions prevailing hurriedly one upon the other.
"Hm," Darcy considered as he finished the taste he had taken. He was uncommonly hungry and LaPierre had performed no little fete in summoning forth the beef's best flavor with an exceptional sauce. However even as his pangs of hunger goaded him to ignore her manner and satiate their demands, as quickly as may be, Darcy's fork remained unmoved at his plate's edge. Elizabeth was not generally one to be indefinite in her pronouncements and he suspected her of demur. "You doubt this?"
Elizabeth explained in a manner she hoped would not cause alarm, "She seemed a little out of spirits."
"Is Georgiana informed as to the particulars of my condition?" Darcy asked, the sound of regret shaping his tone.
Having finished the morsel she chewed, Elizabeth answered simply without explanation of the means of Georgiana's knowledge. "Yes she is."
"I am sorry to hear it," Darcy frowned as he forced food onto the back of his fork.
Elizabeth defended against what felt to be his reproach with small annoyance, "Do not think me so unfeeling. Georgiana has been given my assurance of your recovery and has received it with glad and unwavering acceptance." Moderating her tone, Elizabeth finished incidentally, "She bid me to express her well wishes and prayers." Taking a sip of her wine, Elizabeth inwardly chided herself for having almost let slip under provocation what she did not yet wish to divulge.
"And yet, she remains in low spirits?"
Darcy deliberately laid down his knife and fork. His wife's propensity to be restrained when he wished her openness and yet the reverse when he did not was most confounding. Elizabeth's air, as she obviously averted her eyes to her plate, signaled Darcy of trouble ahead. And had the focus of this conversation been himself rather than his sister, he might have heeded the warning. But this was to do with Georgiana and he would know what troubled her. "Pray, does your intuition not give any insight as to what may be the cause?"
Elizabeth chewed on the inner edge of her lip as she considered relating the particulars of her earlier conversation with her sister. With trepidation, Elizabeth entered into the topic she had feared would renew their argument, "She was rather quiet and pensive after settling on the nature of your condition...Then at length, she began commenting on your conduct last evening."
"Oh?" Darcy's brow arched expectantly.
Elizabeth drew breath to still the qualms she felt under his gaze. While pouring more wine into his glass, she informed him with as much confidence as she could muster and in the mildest of manner, "From her questions and observations, Georgiana seems to have undertaken the belief your change of manner toward Lang and the others last evening was wrought by rather...forceful intervention," Elizabeth spoke purposefully, carefully choosing her words. "She regrets any harm suffered in consequence."
"She confided this with you?" Darcy sounded surprised. With him, his sister was never so bold.
Darcy resumed his possession of his silverware as the flush of his countenance showed his agitation. With undue care of how he applied his fork, Darcy offered tentatively, "And on this subject, you were unable to give your assurance."
Elizabeth could not suppress a gracious smile, momentarily relieved of her anxiety by the expression of his humility. Answering kindly, "On the contrary, I disavowed any permanent damage and encouraged her to think of it no more." Having received his grateful glance, Elizabeth felt at ease, thinking herself on surer ground as he continued with his meal. But the peaceful consumption of her meal was not to be had, as the tilt of her husband's head soon showed a dawning realization of what had not yet been revealed.
Darcy disliked evasion and his wife had so far employed it most successfully. He decided a more direct approach to be in order. "Elizabeth, do you know the origin of Georgiana's ill-humor?"
Elizabeth blushed as she fixed upon a spot above her plate. Waiting for the inevitable, she answered quietly, "I believe I do." Coerced by his surprising silence, Elizabeth's eyes met Darcy's and she understood. Though she had decided not to speak of the troubling opinion she had formed from Georgiana's reluctant questions, the pertinacity of his resolve advised he would not be dissuaded from the subject until all was divulged. "Very well, Fitzwilliam," Elizabeth sighed. Confessing that which she must, Elizabeth employed what diplomacy she hoped would forestall an argument, "Georgiana is not insensible to the favor you showed last evening in your civility to Lang and the others. However... she easily perceives the feelings of others and doubt readily affects her own... I believe she perceives disharmony between your actions and your true feelings."
Darcy's brow furrowed, "My ‘true feelings'?"
Elizabeth voiced her conjecture more succinctly and with small annoyance at being forced to the directness she had sought to avoid. "She doubts your sincere approval of her being out and whether your heretofore general dislike and disapprobation of young gentlemen has been...genuinely transformed."
Darcy sat back from the table, patting his mouth with the square of cloth from his lap, more for want of something to do than actual need. Genuinely transformed? Darcy's countenance darkened as he sifted the essence of what had been layed at his door. Must I now harbor sincere affection for these young dandies in order to induce Georgiana's ease in society and happiness at home?! Darcy reached for his wine, drinking enough of the liquid to wash down the habitual sarcasm and irritation he felt when thinking of those who would court his sister.
Despite her efforts to maintain her equanimity, Elizabeth's rapid heart beat hastened away all calm as her words continued to hang in the air unanswered. Even though she had not intended it, she again found herself interceding between siblings at the risk of her own happiness. Her words had found a tender spot, of that she was certain. But would he again reject them in anger?
Darcy's hand lingered on the crystal's stem as he replaced it above his plate with a contemplative silence. "Is Georgiana eager to wed?" Darcy finally spoke, looking through the liquid's garnet glow as though viewing something beyond.
The meekness and tenor of her husband's response was altogether unexpected, giving Elizabeth pause. She ventured gently, "Shall it distress you if she is?"
"I shall miss her when she does...," Darcy uttered with the emotion of a grievous remembrance passing over his countenance.
"As will I," Elizabeth sympathized quietly. While she knew he would not delight in his sister's leaving, Darcy's turn of humor possessed a melancholy for which she could not account. He sounded as though Georgiana were to be lost to him forever. As he drank deeply of his glass, Elizabeth asked tentatively,"You do not believe her yet vulnerable to the inducement of elopement?"
Darcy regarded her quizically, as the image of his father faded from before his eyes. His thoughts had been occupied by the past recalled and he had not been entirely attentive, though he quickly understood her direction. Rejoining disbelievingly, "With Lang? I should think not. He may be impetuous, but he is not so bold. Pray tell me there is not another whom you suspect?"
"No, it is only that..." Elizabeth stopped suddenly in seeing his pain as he shifted position in his chair.
Darcy conspicuously ignored the cause of her interruption, "Good, I am glad to hear it."
"Fitzwilliam, you have sat up far too long. You need rest," Elizabeth insisted as she came around the table. "I will send for a tray if you would have more. But, pray, will you not please lie down?" Elizabeth extended a hand in hopes of his acceptance.
While Elizabeth's request was convenient relief from the present subject and the painful recollections it evoked, he welcomed it as much for the sake of his leg as for his wish to be close with her. And looking up into the expression of her heart-felt concern, he knew he could not be inured to her request even if he had intended it. "I thank you, Mrs. Darcy, a tray will not be necessary," Darcy declined evenly, as he discarded his serviette to the table. Gathering his cane, Darcy struggled to stand. Even as he grinned, Darcy suggested with the constriction of pain in his voice, "However, were I to be attended by my own personal physician, I should be happy to take to my bed."
Elizabeth readily slid beneath his injured arm,"Of course, Mr. Darcy. I should think it the duty of every good doctor to see personally to the proper convalescence of her wealthiest patient."
Elizabeth lay next to Darcy, nestling beneath the embrace of his arm, finding that particular hollow of his shoulder which God had seen fit to create just for her. With the rhythmic rise and fall of his chest, the clean masculine scent of sandalwood, and the security of his body next to her, she soon gave herself over to the experience of her senses, while allowing her thoughts to drift from all constraints.
"Elizabeth," Darcy's low voice resonated deeply in his chest, adding to the delight of her reverie.
"Hmm?" Elizabeth sang from her sweet haze.
"Should you be terribly disappointed if we were to send our regrets to the Earl?"
Elizabeth shifted to the top of his shoulder, regarding his profile questioningly, "It is not your wish to dine with your aunt and uncle?"
"I confess, the mere thought causes my leg to ache. It is ill-mannered to cancel so near to when we are expected, but Lady Matlock will not remain angry very long." Darcy offered the last lightly, knowing when next seen, his aunt would chastise him, but without harboring any genuine ill-will.
"If it is your wish" Elizabeth deferred obediently. Returning her head to her favored position, her mouth tipped in a smile, she confessed, "Though, I should not wonder at Lady Matlock being more confused than affronted...I sent our regrets at first light." Elizabeth's head bobbed up and down with the subtle "hmph" of Darcy's amused surrender.
Each fell silent again. And at length, Elizabeth's thoughts grew quiet.
"Elizabeth?" Her husband's questioning voice again roused her from the pleasant images floating before her mind's eye.
"Yes, my love?"
"Pray, how does Georgiana find Lang's society?"
Elizabeth sensed from his deliberative tone he had not been sharing in the peacefulness of the room's quiet, but had been mulling over the significance of what she had imparted over their meal. She lay still a moment, considering in his question a quality she would not have expected from him when asking after his sister and the particular regard of a gentleman. His voice lacked the usual qualities of suspicion and derision. Indeed, in his tone she heard an openness and trust which spoke of sincere purpose. He needed a forthright answer without equivocation or wit.
"She does not give the appearance of disapproval and her demeanor reflects some heightened feeling when in his society. However, whether this is the pleasant agitation a woman feels from the favor of such notice or sign of true affection emerging, I cannot say." Though her answer likely did little to satify, Elizabeth refrained from speculation, as her understanding of her sister did not so far inform her allowing her suppositions to be voiced with the confidence required by the circumstance.
When no response came, Elizabeth peered up at her husband to see the affect of her words and found him again withdrawn into the solitude of his own reflection as he lay back with his eyes closed.
As he listened to his wife's appraisal, an image abruptly rose up in his mind, mercilessly submerging him under a wave of grief from which he could not again so easily escape.
The soft knock brought Darcy's head up drowsily as he fingered the spine of the book splayed across his chest with the blurry disorientation of a sudden and deep sleep interrupted. As the manservant hurried to answer before any more noise might disturb the master, Darcy straightened his stiffened spine with the support of the chair's arm, attempting to shed the sleep from his mind. "Who is it, Carter?"
The master's valet informed him, "Miss Darcy to see the master, sir. Will I let her in?"
Darcy glanced uncertainly to the figure over whom he had maintained constant vigil for the past many days as the man had come in and out of sleep. His countenance had lost all its vibrancy with a horrid pallor now replacing it. The thought of allowing Georgiana to see him this way filled him with anxiety, but he could not refuse her. "Yes, Carter, let Miss Darcy in. And you may go. I will send for you should you be needed."
Rising from his chair, Darcy intercepted his sister's entrance near the door. "Georgiana," Darcy whispered huskily, as he placed a gentle hand on her wrist, "Our father still sleeps."
Georgiana looked past him with worried understanding. Though she made every effort to appear composed, the emotion of her tender years showed in her hands as they shook, creating subtle tremors amongst the fragile petals of the flowers she held.
In a voice so quiet, Darcy heard her question more from the movement of her lips than any sound, Georgiana requested, "May I go to him?"
Darcy nodded his assent, unable to speak for the emotion threatening to overwhelm his composure as he anticipated her reaction.
With the purpose of granting his sister a measure of privacy with her father, while yet remaining alert to their elder's condition, Darcy removed to the chamber's far windows. Though he tried to focus on Pemberley's grounds, his eyes were inexorably drawn to his sister as she placed the vase on the bed's night table and came to rest uneasily in the chair he had just vacated.
"Oh, Papa," he saw her mouth form as apprehension overspread her countenance. She appeared lost, set adrift by the terrible awkwardness of witnessing the incapacity of the one whose might she never doubted. Just as Darcy had decided the question whether to go to her, she raised herself to the bed's edge, reaching across the expanse to enfold the sleeping man's hand with her own.
Her gentle touch was soon rewarded with the fluttering of the thin folds covering the man's eyes. As he became more aware of his surroundings, George Darcy smiled weakly into the face of his beloved daughter. A rush of hope in having his father again awake, urged Darcy forward. And yet he remained--prevented from acting upon his own feelings as those of father and daughter began unfolding in intimate pantomime. Darcy's fingers soon found the familiar surface of the metal encircling his littlest finger as the press of his emotions made stillness impossible.
A enfeebled hand reached up, tenderly stroking Georgiana's cheek, but soon returned to the bed as the gesture appeared to exact too great an effort. Georgiana brought the flowers from the table for her father's appreciation which he followed with the slow turn of his head as she replaced them. Words were spoken³ones of approval and thanks, Darcy supposed though he could not hear. Even her smallest gestures of love or kindness had never suffered his indifference. His father covered his daughter's hands with his own as her chin sank under the weight of her feelings. George Darcy summoned a smile, still powerful in its sincerity though not strong enough to force the lines about his eyes which had long marked his expression of his favor. Persuasive words raised Georgiana's eyes to her father's as he brought her hand to his lips. Darcy looked away, breathing deeply as a realization wrenched from him any sense of calm³his father sealed their farewell with a finality he apparently believed not to be repeated.
Georgiana slid from the bed, her courage fading from her countenance as she subtly wiped the tear from her cheek as she turned to go. And though Darcy approached to offer his consoling embrace, Georgiana moved directly to the door. With the solace, of another glimpse of the man who she could not conceive of ever being without, Georgiana turned the handle and disappeared from the room.
Darcy lowered into the chair by his father's side, a disappointment deep within replacing his hope in having found him again overwhelmed by that cursed fatigue which had consumed all his vitality in so short a time. His head bowed down to the support of his palm.
"Son," the voice rasped, bringing Darcy's head up sharply.
Finding his father's hand hovering tremorously above the covers, Darcy balanced on the seat's edge to accept the invitation extended him. With the care one applies as a fragile and treasured possession is carried, Darcy enwrapped his father's hand. A shiver of dread sickened him as the cold of his father's skin shocked Darcy when felt against the warmth of his own.
"Father, you are chilled. I will stoke the fire." Darcy added, searching for any means to rid his father of what ailed him. "Will you also take tea to warm you?"
"No, William, I am in need of nothing... except to speak with you." Mr. Darcy's words came slowly and deliberately as each required its own precious measure of his remaining strength.
"Of course, Father," Darcy swallowed thickly, feeling the rush of his blood carry his foreboding to the core of his vitals.
"William, you are a good man. You will make Pemberley an excellent master."
All color drained from Darcy's face, sickened by his father's meaning. "Father..."
"No, William," Mr. Darcy interrupted his son's intended objection, "Though I had hoped to be so old and gray as to dandle my grandchildren on my knee and make you wonder at ever having the rule of Pemberley, I know it not to be."
Darcy's grasp tightened around his father's hand. Desperate to bolster his father's fortitude, he assured emphatically, "Father, you shall conquer this. Though a dozen doctors must be summoned, you shall be restored."
His father slowly took in his every feature with eyes seeing beyond his outward appearance. His praise and advice followed solemnly, "You are a good son, William. Though willingly and proudly I have carried it, the name of Darcy now falls to you alone to advance. Choose well, who shall bear it with you. The mistress of Pemberley must of course be of good family, but William...do not give our name to any other than whom you truly love, with complete admiration and respect. Guard yourself against the wiles women will use to procure your affections."
Darcy's brows knitted together worried for the distress his father suffered from the subject. "Pray, Father, do not make yourself uneasy. I will take a very good wife for myself--and you shall welcome her to Pemberley yourself."
"Do not dishonor me and the Almighty God with your powerless assurances," George Darcy spoke sternly.
The flinch of Darcy's eyes registered the pain of the rebuke which silenced him.
A steady pressure in the clasp of his hand compensated for the elder's impatience as he continued without irritation, "Should I be granted a reprieve, William, I should not refuse it. However, I have few regrets." His gaze fell away momentarily, as he continued, "Though one does weigh heavier than the rest, which you have the power to alleviate..."
Darcy nearly knelt beside the bed as his earnestness brought him to the very edge of his seat, "Anything Father, you have but to ask and I shall swear it."
"Of course, Father," Darcy understood immediately.
"Pray, see to her needs, William," his father implored with a vehemence of feeling little affected by the weakness of his voice, "Not as one merely discharging his duty, but with all brotherly affection and care as you have exhibited these many years. Do not be anxious for her to marry, giving your consent to merely any man who will take her. You must promise to shelter her, until such a man can be found under whose protection she will be truly happy."
His father had nearly raised himself from the bed, he held his hands so tightly as he laid open what had beset his mind with worry.
Darcy swore sincerely, laying a hand on his father's arm to comfort him as much as seal his oath, "Yes, you have my word. Georgiana will be happy."
George Darcy breathed deeply, having entrusted his greatest earthly concern to the one whom he knew to be entirely worthy of his trust. Darcy dared not break the silence which followed, observing the strain on his father from so great an exertion.
At length Darcy released his father's hand and rested back in his chair, having decided his father slumbered as his eyes remained closed and his breathing grew light. He was therefore taken by surprise when his father began to speak.
"William, there is another matter..." George Darcy whispered barely above hearing, as he appeared to will his eyes open once more.
"Yes?" Darcy quickly roused to the bed, closely attending his father's words.
"You must see that the living goes to Wickham when it is vacated."
Abhorrence of a most violent nature moved his lips in objection, yet no sound would come as he looked into the benevolence of his father's eyes. Darcy promised meekly, "As you wish it, Father."
His father intoned drowsily, "You are a good son, William." Adding with pleasant anticipation, "I shall remember you to your mama..." George Darcy's eyes slid closed as his body gradually succumbed to the sleep from which only the spirit awakens as it returns to its Maker.
Darcy stared in horror, as a shout of desolation rose in his mind, closing him off from all other sensation. He could neither breath nor move as the order of his world was thrown over into chaos. Shutting his eyes against what could not be, Darcy accepted a reviving force into his lungs. Breath forcefully exhaled over his lips as though expelling what would overcome him. Opening his eyes, grim lines of hard- wrought control hardened his countenance as he faced what must be done.
His shadow, cast by the drifting rays of light falling into the room, fell over his father's still body as Darcy came near. Darcy's lips met with the sallow skin of his father's forehead as he bid him his own final farewell, "I love you, Father. God rest your soul."
Crossing to the chamber's window, Darcy drew the draperies, clutching them desperately within his fists as he pulled them to. Burying his face within their folds, Darcy released what could no longer be restrained and wept bitterly.
Darcy's muffled cry startled Elizabeth from her contemplation as his arms suddenly squeezed tightly about her. Elizabeth soothed her husband's distress with whispered assurances even as her own heart beat in alarm. As he gradually descended into a more restful slumber within her consoling embrace, Elizabeth's thoughts stirred into sleepless agitation as she pondered her husband's peculiar reactions...
The tips of Georgiana's fingers traced lightly over the silken threads she had finished joining with the cloth's fine fibers. Such a pity, she lamented as her gaze rolled to the mew below. The melody of her discontent whispered against the window's pane as she lay her head against its support. With the completion of what was to have been a sign of celebration, but with no apparent means of bringing about that happy event, hope's confidence was waning into pessimism's doubt.
Outside, grey clouds hung low to the earth, smothering the sun's rays Îtil all that remained was a dim light cast about the sky's dusky dome. Leaves cast from the security of their branches, scurried along, tumbling here and there, in obedience to an increasing breeze.
"What are we to do, Mary?" Georgiana despaired as the melancholy settling about Erewile seeped into the defenseless vessel of her disconsolate heart.
A light rap on her sitting room's door summoned Georgiana's attention, momentarily sparing her from her gloom. "Yes, please enter..." Georgiana welcomed as she straightened from the posture of her despair.
Crane's precise bow proceeded his purpose, "Miss Darcy, the master wishes you advised of his intention to dine in the drawing room this night..."
"Oh dear, is this not ill-advised, Mr. Crane?" Georgiana interrupted, her brow creased with concern, as her mind quickened to the matter-at- hand. Though while breaking fast together, she had at once accepted Elizabeth's assurances of William's safety, her happy relief had been soon checked. With Elizabeth's obvious care to be not so long removed from her husband's side, Georgiana had wondered whether the sentiment was bestowed more than owned. And, with the progress of the day and neither relation being seen, Georgiana had come to believe William was perhaps safe, but certainly not entirely restored to health. She doubted her brother was so fit as to allow him unnecessary movement about the house.
The studied calm of his demeanor remained, though approbation softened the expression of his eyes, as Crane only answered her objection with the completion of the message, "The master also commissioned me with his sincerest hope he and the mistress will have the pleasure of your society."
"I thank you, Mr. Crane. I will come down," Georgiana informed, politely if not with the pleasure of satisfaction in her voice.
As the man took his leave, Georgiana returned to the window's aspect, feeling not at all comforted by her brother's kind invitation which necessitated his stirring from his chambers. Her brother was a man of regular habit and not easily deterred from it. If his condition had sufficiently improved over the course of the day, now warranting little reservation, dinner would be served as usualÒin a room two floors below. But he must not be so improved, Georgiana supposed from the room to which she had been invited. The drawing room was only one floorÒand only one rise of stairs below. At what price has this compromise been wrought? Surely, no need prevails so greatly for him to go below at all, unless it is in consideration of me, for he has Elizabeth's society from which to take comfort. And if he is indeed yet so unwell, I can not conceive Elizabeth approving his descent to either room.
Georgiana's teeth caught the flesh of her lower lip, as she experienced the confliction of her thoughts. The day's solitude had only facilitated the ease with which sorrow had burdened her, and she did therefore sincerely welcome the promise of being with family. However, Georgiana felt her own needs of less consequence than continuing to be the cause of what may well be more disagreement between her brother and sister.
Even as she pondered what to do, the drama intensifying in the increasing darkness captured her attention. Leaves no longer skittered about, but now were swept up in thieving swirls of dust, as winds of the looming storm stole away the innocents, dashing them against the mew's boards and stones, seeking release from that which bound it. Mean clouds loosed their own weaponry, leveling heavy drops against the wind's possessions, fastening back to the ground with sudden pools of wet-laden dirt what rightfully was the earth's. A deep and not-so- distant rumble magnified the wind's retaliation with its signal of struggle not to be easily won, nor soon to pass.
Georgiana gathered up the shawl from her lap, the weather having decided her question. Though solitude and gloom had been born meekly, the prospect of enduring alone the disturbance of the storm's commotion was intolerable. Clutching the soft cloth to her breast as the wind suddenly thrashed the rain against the pane, Georgiana fled the window to quickly ready and be in the security of her family's company.
Under the weight of astonishment, Georgiana rose slowly from her place in the drawing room's interior, as her brother and sister entered the drawing room. Even though previously subjected to the screened vision of her brother thus afflicted, the now open testimony of his injury, as he and Elizabeth entered the room, produced such agitation of thought and feeling Georgiana could neither move nor speak for the torturous length of time required by him to accomplish a mere five steps. A whispered sympathy escaped Georgiana's lips, eventually moving her toward her brother before he struggled any further in her direction.
After placing a fraternal kiss upon her cheek, Darcy greeted, "Good evening, Georgiana. I hope this day has found you well?" His pause and countenance suggested his question was more than mere politeness.
Georgiana started. Though her intention had been to utter such sympathies as to affect whatever comfort words might accomplish, this inquiry surprised Georgiana with such incongruity to his circumstance as well as the tenor of her own thoughts, she found herself unable to perform a proper response.
"I? I...am well...Brother," Georgiana answered discomposedly, glancing to Elizabeth, wishing guidance could be found in that woman's look.
"I am glad to hear it." Her brother's reply had the sound of kindness as well as that of an empathy in the awkwardness of their meeting.
Georgiana searched her brother's countenance with earnest compassion, as well as confusion. She was ill-accustomed to condoling with her brother and not at all experienced in doing so in a matter which had been afore purposefully concealed. "William, your leg...that is, are you not...ought you not to...?"
"I thank you for your concern, Georgiana," Darcy accepted graciously. Then directing without addressing the cause of her agitation, "Yes, let us to the table; we shall all be more comfortable there."
While the society of their family party was desirable, those gathered about the drawing room's table had soon lapsed into silence with the element's stormy symphony replacing what little polite conversation had been mustered. From the beginning of their dinner, it had been that both the one undertaking a subject and the one obliged to it had felt such awkwardness, born of his or her own collection of thoughts, a resulting disinclination had prevented any discourse of significance. Indeed, all those concerns which might have been most naturally confessed and investigated had been left untouched, creating a subdued and uneasy air about them. Thus it was Georgiana found herself only generally adapted to her brother's impaired state, and only little relieved of the distress which had urged her coming down, with their quiet providing no great distraction from the storm's persistent and surprising display of streaking light and disruptive insertions of thunderous claps. With the clatter of fork to plate, Georgiana started at another of the storm's reverberations echoing through the room.
"Pray, forgive me," Georgiana murmured to her sister and brother, apparently discomfited by her display.
Darcy's steady gaze acknowledged her words without censure, with his unruffled demeanor suggesting he was neither disquieted by the peal, nor surprised by her response to it.
Elizabeth offered sympathetically, "We are well to be in. I would not wish to suffer this storm."
Georgiana smiled her appreciation and agreement even as small disappointment reminded her of those whose society she had happily anticipated. She did not dwell on the feeling, however. Rather, owing to the particular vantage of her place at the table, Georgiana's thoughts were drawn to the man who had noiselessly approached and now stood by in patient silence. Looking expectantly toward her brother, Georgiana waited for him to acknowledge their butler. However, Darcy did not seem to notice. Discreetly clearing her throat to gain his attention, Georgiana caught his eye before looking meaningfully past his shoulder.
It was only with this subtle alert that Darcy was able to finish the bite he had taken and turn without obviously showing he had been taken unaware. Masking his surprise with the proper employment of his serviette, Darcy casually acknowledged his man, "Hm, yes, Mr. Crane?"
Crane informed the master quietly and with apologetic deference for the uncommon interruption, "Your pardon, sir. Colonel Fitzwilliam calls presently. Shall I show him up?"
Even as Darcy's disbelief flashed across his countenance, lightening illuminated the sky's domain--along with the imprudence of such an undertaking. "Here? Now?" Darcy's tone disapproved, though he continued without hesitation. "Yes, yes, of course show him up," Darcy agreed as he turned back to Elizabeth with a quizzical arch of his brow.
No sooner had it been instructed that man be shown up, than he was not only "up," but in, having not waited below for a reply.
Their concerned amazement, expressed in the warm declaration of his name, fell at his feet unanswered, as Colonel Fitzwilliam surveyed the room with studied leisure. Appearing to have arrived at a conclusion of some dislike, Fitzwilliam announced as if to himself, but for their hearing, "As I suspected..." Their puzzlement pleased him, but he did not yet let on. Darcy struggled to his feet as Fitzwilliam sauntered toward them. "...I battle my way through the storm to be with my dear cousin that he suffers not alone from the torture of his mortal wounds, and what do I find? He is comfortably situated with his hearth's fire warming his backside while his belly is filled with the delicacies of his well-laid table. Hmph. Sent on a fool's errand again," Fitzwilliam stated flatly to Darcy as he halted within familiar nearness of the table. Then with his characteristic cheer, he paid his respects as a gentleman ought to his hostess and lady present, "Your servant, ma'am...Cousin."
Darcy's amused acknowledgment of his cousin's contrived complaint was welcome sound to the ladies, as any sincere expression of mirth had not been heard from him in several days. Darcy's subtle motion instructed his man, who quickly set a chair at the place of Darcy's indication. "Am I to understand then, you have been dispatched here by one higher in command?"
"The highest," Fitzwilliam confirmed conspiratorially, sharing in their mutual understanding of his mother's temper and ability to direct all the men of her family. Though thankfully the woman was not of the Lady Catherine's disposition, Fitzwilliam and Darcy had learned as boys no peace was to be had if the Lady Matlock was ill-satisfied with the matters of which she was apprized.
"How fares Lady Matlock, then?" Darcy smiled wryly as he carefully resumed his place, signaling Fitzwilliam to be seated.
"Very ill, no thanks to you," Fitzwilliam readily returned, as he took his seat between Elizabeth and Georgiana, yet all the while evaluating the telling signs of Darcy's incapacity--the cane, the grimace which had momentarily pinched his cousin's countenance as he had grasped his proffered left hand in greeting, and what was more, Elizabeth's anxious attention to her husband's every movement. Fitzwilliam was quickly convinced more was the harm than he had hoped. Masking his own degree of concern, he exaggerated as he settled into his place at the table, "Upon my word, Darcy, Mama has you under already."
"As you see, the mute* is not at my door," Darcy grinned. "Now, pray will you dine? We are well into it, but you are welcome."
"Yes, if you will forgive the imposition, Darcy." A footman discreetly began laying a setting before him as another deftly filled a long-stemmed crystal for him. "So great was the Lady Matlock's agitation, no food was to be consumed until an emissary was dispatched. Of course, traveling in this beastly weather fell to the military man." Here Fitzwilliam paused with his glass raised in salute to the thunder which had just resoundingly punctuated his point. "And so, I was dismissed without so much as a bone to gnaw for my hunger."
Georgiana suppressed a smile as she looked down into her plate, amused by the picture his words conjured, but not wishing to appear unsympathetic to the difficulties he must have suffered.
Darcy easily acknowledged his cousin's claim, though he doubted its sincerity. Darcy was certain Fitzwilliam had promptly excused himself upon discovering their reason for not being to do dinner as expected. As much as his aunt's character was known to him, his cousin's was known all the more, having not only been relations, but also friends since the nursery. Indeed, Lady Matlock was formidable in her own way. However, he had observed Fitzwilliam often enough to know, had the Colonel found the mission genuinely objectionable, he would have managed his way free of it with that natural charm which left no one disappointed or feeling deprived. Further more, in considering the hour and the time which must have elapsed due to the difficulties of navigating through London's dark streets in driving rain, Darcy also supposed his cousin had departed with haste to see to his welfare without any care for his own.
"You may be assured, dear Colonel, no imposition is felt," Elizabeth welcomed hospitably as Darcy regarded that man with the confidence of his understanding. In easy performance of her role as hostess, Elizabeth promised cheerfully, "We shall see you are well rewarded for your heroism."
Having satisfied his most pressing hunger and having placated the gracious and persistent expectations of Elizabeth and Georgiana by taking several bites of every food they had seen fit to have placed before him, Fitzwilliam's countenance assumed a resolve as he launched into the inevitable. "Now Darcy, as I do not wish to spend all my nights at the barracks, pray arm me with some bit of intelligence with which to mollify Lady Matlock."
"Erm, I met with some difficulty," Darcy offered casually before conveniently filling his mouth with food.
Fitzwilliam smirked at his cousin's evasion. "This much was inferred from the message received this morning..."
Elizabeth innocently plied her fork to plate as her eyes traveled beneath the cloak of her lashes to observe her husband's reaction. Her eyes quickly lowered though, in finding him regarding her with a pensiveness, turning his mouth downward into a small frown.
"...Come now, Darcy, your reserve will not do. Out with it, man. Pray, what has befallen you?" Fitzwilliam demanded with the presumption forgiven of a proven friend.
Darcy's manner suggested the subject of his confession to be of little consequence as he appeared to dismiss its importance even as he made it, "My arm and leg are not well."
"Darcy your words are as revealing as the lips of that mute," Fitzwilliam chided laughingly, while Georgiana's reaction was more violent, having been more significantly affected by this new revelation of another injury beyond her brother's leg. No mention of it had been made by Elizabeth and certainly not by her brother.
"Very well then," Fitzwilliam continued, "if you are to leave the cause to my imagining....Your arm and leg you say?" Fitzwilliam swirled his wine within its crystal bowl as he contemplated. "Yes, I have it!" he declared with inspiration. "I shall inform Mama the fancy possessed you to resume your role as the grand out-law and you once again fell from a tree, laming your limbs.**"
Images of his youth leapt up with the vividness of reality as Darcy recalled the many hours he and his cousin had passed out-witting the evil Sheriff of Nottingham and bad Prince John, while robbing from the selfish rich and giving to the deserving poorBall of which had necessitated daring leaps, and dangerous swings and turns amongst the trees and hills of Pemberley's vast "kingdom."
And it had happened, as one might naturally suppose with boys engaged in activities of more fancy than sense, Darcy and his cousin had suffered various injuries as "Robin Hood" and his "Merry Men" while narrowly escaping the nefarious snares of their enemy. Though usually mere bruises ignored (or on occasion admired for their particular mark of bravery) or scrapes simply patched with only the fuss of his governess, one escape had been facilitated by his tumbling disastrously from a tree. The consequence, felt even more keenly with every expression of his mother's distress during his long convalescence, had convinced the young Darcy of his follyBbut not in such a way as to foreswear the adventures. Rather, he had then resolved to become so accomplished in mind and body as to perform the band's heroics while neither incurring harm, nor invoking his parent's prohibition of them.
Georgiana appraised her brother in wonder as she comprehended what his countenance affirmed, however inconceivable the vision of her brother capering amongst Pemberley's trees. Though she considered such free gambol more easily conceived if he had indeed been in company of their cousin. Even as a young child, Georgiana had appreciated the greater openness her cousin so effortlessly evoked from her brother.
"Indeed Fitzwilliam, you have guessed it," Darcy admitted with a grin both sheepish and wry in anticipation of his cousin's reaction to his acknowledgement.
The colonel nearly choked on the wine he had sipped in waiting for Darcy's reply. Fitzwilliam's head cocked back, inspecting Darcy's expression with a skeptical turn of his own. "Escaping bad Prince John and evil Sheriff of Nottingham?"
Darcy now had the unveiled audience of all his family.
"Hm, yes, you might say, but in the form of sword and beast."
The unspoken exchange between Elizabeth and Georgiana did not escape either man's notice, but each with varied interpretations inferred.
Fitzwilliam teased, "I say Darcy, bad form--dueling animals."
"Yes, there was rather bad form involved..." Darcy agreed, thinking back on the mishap in the street. A notion slipped around the edges of his consciousness as he also recalled the moment the flesh of his arm had been rent. However, not being one to indulge the vagueries of intuition, he did not allow its evolution into defined thought.
The stillness of his family informed Darcy they waited with stubborn expectancy. Giving up any hope of continuing his meal while under their quietly interrogating eyes, Darcy relented as he sat back from the table, resting his arms on the chair's supports.
"Very well, Fitzwilliam, you shall have your full report. You may inform Lady Matlock I was pinned beneath my horse yesterday in consequence of a driver's recklessness. I received no greater injury though, than a very sore leg."
Georgiana could not allow her countenance to be seen by her brother, fearing it displayed a revisitation of the shock and agitation she had felt upon first learning of the accident related in the words of the boastful Lady Thistlewaite. Rather, her now empty plate was again her focus as she bit her lower lip in regret of her earlier presumption. What suffering her brother must have endured. And to have been victim of her unjust anger and disappointment even as in his kind indulgence of her he had been depriving himself of the comfort he so desperately required! A flush of emotion colored Georgiana's cheeks as she raised her eyes again. She felt she must make her brother know her regret and appreciation. But not seeing her feelings, Darcy had already continued.
"My arm was injured during a fencing match." Darcy glanced furtively at his wife, but her emotions could not be discerned.
"Your Banes fellow is a bit over zealous," Fitzwilliam snorted.
"No, indeed. Banes is a good man," Darcy defended matter-of-factly.
"He had been called away suddenly and I found myself quite coincidentally engaged by another gentleman."
Fitzwilliam grew serious. Even the smallest of cuts could grow putrid and deadly. Leaning forward, he pressed earnestly, "Darcy, you are looking after it properly?"
"Yes." Darcy engaged Elizabeth with a subtle smile and fullness of meaning in his eyes. "Or rather, my doctor is."
"You have sent for the doctor?" Fitzwilliam doubted laughingly. But even so, the exchange between man and wife was not lost on the Colonel whose thoughts came to the easy conclusion, Ah, I see...Samson has met his Delilah. Though thankfully, this Delilah summons those who act for his good, rather than his ruin. Fitzwilliam settled back into the chair with a glimmer of satisfaction in his eye. Then with a subtle shake of his head, But Darcy submitting to a doctor? Extraordinary!
The silence lengthening between the two men gave Elizabeth the notion the Colonel was now content with the intelligence he had received and that her husband had not any intention of expounding upon it unless further pressed. More particulars relating to the fencing match and the man who had injured her husband would have been received with keen interest, but Darcy's apparent physical discomfort as he shifted in his chair brought Elizabeth's duty to the fore. Her gestures suggested the exercise of her present obligation, "Gentlemen, we shall take our leave of you now. Mr. Darcy, what is your wish? Will you have music or shall we return in time?" Elizabeth hoped her husband would not choose the former, with the latter deemed the only prudent choice.
Darcy did not hesitate, "Indeed, if you feel you must remove, Mrs. Darcy. However, the pleasure of your society uninterrupted would be more the preferred."
As Fitwilliam looked between the two, he would have been hard-pressed to pronounce who held the greater power over whom--their countenance each soft in beckoning and receiving. While their apparent intimacy, expressed across the table's divide, made sudden trespassers out of any other being in the room, Colonel Fitzwilliam could find no fault--other than perhaps that he had no one with whom to equal it. Still, 'twas altogether more to be desired than the air between them when last he dined at Erewile!
Though a small respite from the gentlemen had not been undesirable in its promise of a moment to regain a tolerable ease, Georgiana's own feelings at the moment echoed the essence of her cousins. She could not wish for anything in observing the renewed ease between her relations--save perhaps to be allowed to quit them in deference to their privacy.
Georgiana was not long left to indulge this notion however, as the pair quit the table. Colonel Fitzwilliam allowed her to suffer no neglect as he readily came round to her, extending his hand in invitation. The gentleness of his civility and the amiability she found expressed as she looked up into his face, brought her hand willingly to his and her frame lightly to bear from her chair. With his unexpected choice to protect her hand within the crook of his arm and his escort drawing her very near, a small span quickly sufficed for exchanging her earlier sources of agitation for another and accomplishing none of the placidity she supposed was proper.
To be continued.
* At least in some part of the 1700's it was customary for the wealthy to hire a mute, dressed all in black, to stand at the front entry of the newly deceased's home. My source was unclear whether this continued into the early 1800's.
** A reference to Beneath the Greenwood Trees, a story from Pemberley's "Lou," who graciously invited me to join in the fun of its writing. Thanks again, Lou.
With her cousin's momentary inattention as he tarried at the sofa's edge, distracted by the couple opposite them, an unfamiliar paradox seized upon Georgiana as her heart mourned the loss of his regard, yet while her mind equally rejoiced in its release. His eyes, having met so unaffectedly with hers, had produced such sensations, throwing her into sweet confusion! How earnestly she wished for that which might employ this exhilaration in proper purpose or expression. Regrettably, Georgiana had in her possession no such aid. Having only just completed the shawl she had worked, she had not taken up a new piece for her needle. And with her evening attire being only of that moderate formality suited for their familial party, she neither could call upon the service of a fan. Furtively she looked up at the Colonel before smoothing the drape of her gown and wishing the same could be accomplished in her feelings. He would forthwith assume his place next her, and she feared in his taking would again be all composure.
The Colonel did not alight so soon as expected, however. Rather, in consideration of the couple before himówith the one insisting no special ministration necessary and the other ignoring the protests while assisting the man's leg to the sofa and summoning for a lap blanket--Fitzwilliam instead first removed to a nearby table. Having appropriated a portion of the decanter's contents, he wordlessly delivered the dark liquid to Darcy, who showed wry gratitudeófor the libation as well as for Fitzwilliam's constraint of the humor smirking about that man's mouth.
As her cousin then showed himself to the kindness of a glass, Georgiana wished for her countenance to now reflect merely that color of general tranquility and well health, but realized its futility as she felt the glow of her cheeks only increase with his approach. How she longed for anything to properly occupy the tremors she experienced! The genuineness of his regard, as he finally assumed his place next to her, loosed such torrent of feeling, Georgiana turned from him, pressing the cool of her hand to the warmth of her cheek, lost to any other means of preserving what little equanimity she yet possessed.
The initial raise of the Colonel's glass paused, as he queried "Pray Cousin, are you unwell?" Without waiting her reply, he offered, "Here, will you not take my glass?"
Witnessing the deep shade of her disquiet, Darcy concurred, encouraging her sincerely, "I fear the storm has caused you distress, Georgiana. Do take a little for your relief."
"I thank you," Georgiana murmured perfunctorily as she obediently accepted the proffered crystal, daring only a brief glance at the one supplying it. Georgiana quietly sipped from it, indeed benefiting from the occupation and from her cousin's facility for ready conversation. Listening only distantly to the conversation which did not require her participation, Georgiana pondered the increasing susceptibility of her emotions when in the presence of that particular gentleman.
"I chanced to meet an acquaintance of ours today," Fitzwilliam informed casually, as he again poured himself a glass, smiling inwardly as he wondered if this attempt at sampling Darcy's port would be successful. "Lord Cresswell, bid me convey his greetings. He was delighted to learn of your being in Town."
Elizabeth interjected lightly, "Cresswell, is he not the gentleman reported to have a very fine gallery?"
"Indeed he is. He informs me the works of his newest protÈgÈ are ready to be unveiled. He is prepared to be affronted, Darcy, if you send your regrets," Fitzwilliam warned lightly. Adding with a gesture of his glass toward Darcy's outstretched leg, "Though perhaps when your present situation is conveyed, he may forgive your slight."
Darcy contradicted, "On the contrary, I should very much like to see Cresswell again."
"You have forgiven him then, for besting you at Christie's?" Fitzwilliam challenged amiably.
The slight change of Darcy's countenance showed the "offense" of that earlier conquering bid, while not forgotten, was not attached to any sincere resentment.
"The name is familiar, but I cannot assign a face to it. Have we been introduced?" Elizabeth pressed her husband for a better understanding of whom they spoke.
"No, I have not had the pleasure of presenting you. This is good news from Fitzwilliam for when I do, you shall know the man within his element," Darcy commended.
"And in view of one particularpainting, I might add," Fitzwilliam interjected over the lip of his glass.
Elizabeth's countenance mirrored the pleasantry of their cousin's as she turned to her husband for his reply.
Darcy continued where he might have otherwise left off were it not for his cousin's playful goad and the implicit expectation of his wife. "You will find him an excellent man, my dear. Whereas some might have squandered their wealth, Cresswell has put his to good employment. His generous patronage has seen many a man's talent succeed to the benefit of the realm rather than shrivel in the dirty hovel of want."
While the three had been thus engaged in conversation, a humble notion had begun forming within the senses of the one as of yet only mildly engaged as she quietly sipped at her glass. Could not talent be claimed by more than a painter? A sculptor, certainly, she thought. And if sculptors of great proportion then not also of diminutiveness? And yes, even of sculptures worn in adornment? The voice which had dared merely whisper inside her began to gain strength if only enough to convince Georgiana herein lay the answer to her quandary. Without exciting any particular notice, the subtle change of Georgiana's demeanor showed her emerging enthusiasm for their topic.
Elizabeth commended as well as questioned, "Your Lord Cresswell is the embodiment of philanthropy then?"
"Ah well, his character is unimpeachable, but his motives are not so wholly pure. His investment prospers his coffers," Fitzwilliam acknowledged with a reasoned tone.
Georgiana ventured quietly, "He makes the works available for purchase?"
Stirred by her meek insertion, Fitzwilliam turned more toward Georgiana, only too happy to oblige her question, "Yes indeed. Let it not be said of Cresswell that he cannot turn opinion to his advantage. No doubt a work will catch the fancy of a peer or his lady while ambling through Cresswell's gallery and will inevitably come into their possession with a transaction satisfying both their want and his need."
Inspiration gathered up these precious insights: a transaction satisfying both their want and his need--generous patronage--rather than shrivel in the dirty hovel of want, fixing them as stepping stones in a path which her heart endeavored to lay.
The pensiveness of Georgiana's countenance intrigued the Colonel as he observed her response to this unremarkable practice, but he was left to wonder as Elizabeth's light complaint forestalled any inquiry, "It is a pity then to neither become acquainted with this one who qualifies for your admiration nor witness the product of his generosity."
Darcy readily reassured her, "An invitation is certain to be extended."
"Indeed, but to no avail. Though Georgiana might be so kind as to provide me companionship, I would not wish to attend without you."
Darcy's brow creased, "I thank you for the devotion, my dear, however your presumed sacrifice is unwarranted. "
Now Elizabeth's brow returned the furrow as she pursued his meaning, "You would attend?"
"Yes," Darcy replied simply and with a tone speaking his belief no reason presented itself to the contrary.
"It is to be soon, is it not?" Elizabeth stated as much as questioned of the Colonel, looking in his direction. But before sound escaped past that man's lips which moved in intended reply, Elizabeth turned back to Darcy with an air of expectation that her warning must certainly necessitate a change in his intentions, "There will be much walking."
To the side, trolleys, laden with sweets, were quietly placed by liveried servants well trained in their duty to appear, yet without exciting any particular notice.
"Mrs. Darcy, I am well aware of what is required when one views Cresswell's gallery," Darcy informed his wife evenly, but with a gaze fixed in meaning.
As an air of unease rose up between the husband and wife, Fitzwilliam leaned in near to Georgiana, gesturing toward the trays with a small twist of his head "Shall we not see what lies in store?"
Georgiana glanced anxiously at the couple as Elizabeth's counterstatement warned their current peace to be tenuous. Georgiana rose with grateful acceptance of her cousin's arm.
A great bounty was indeed before them as the two momentarily considered the many tiers of fruits and sweets before them. "There is not so much of a storm outside now," Georgiana observed mildly, seeking safe ground as words of controlled contention could be heard between the couple behind them.
"Yes," Fitzwilliam mused smilingly, "I would say it has moved indoors. Georgiana," he began intently, but with no less affability as he regarded her directly, "All is arranged for the morrow. You remember where I shall meet you?"
"Yes I do," Georgiana breathed, "but how is this to be?" The Colonel quizzed her silently. Taking a plate, she explained as she began making selections for it, "You must know that I cannot come now... I am needed."
"Needed?" Fitzwilliam repeated searchingly, wishing Georgiana would look at him rather than the trays of food. She remained at her task however, with only the slightest inclination of her head restating her belief. "Dear Georgiana," Fitzwilliam respired softly, halting her efforts to avoid his look by reaching for her hand and cradling it within his own, "Your concern for your brother does you credit and I am certain you are a comfort to him as well as to your sister, but all is planned. A more opportune circumstance is not likely to come our way." Georgiana felt herself succumbing to his persuasion as his gentle and earnest gaze worked its powers on her. "I assure you Darcy will be well cared for," he voiced confidently.
As though seeking evidence, the Colonel turned aside to the couple whose words had been expressing in audible tones their differences, but who now whispered quietly in conciliatory address. Their concord was obvious with Elizabeth perched intimately on the edge of the sofa, receiving Darcy's caress of her cheek, as he murmured tender words. Fitzwilliam's brows lifted in triumphant confirmation as he turned back to Georgiana with this proof giving credence to his claim.
"Pray, say you will come," he beseeched.
That her brother would truly be cared for and that she would not wish to intrude upon that intimacy she observed between her brother and his bride was strong inducement--but stronger still was the hopefulness expressed in the colonel's countenance.
"Yes, I will come."
His pleasure was evident even as doubt shadowed her own.
"But what am I to say? Will Elizabeth not find me unfeeling? I do not think..."
"Leave that to me," Fitzwilliam commanded soothingly, the spark of anticipation in his eye.
Taking up the plate Georgiana had set before him, Fitzwilliam suddenly realized she had been all that while choosing for him all the sweets he favored and none of those he did not! As Georgiana accepted his arm, the colonel's appreciation washed over the profile she turned to him, for once again demure had taken her hazel-colored eyes from him.
Colonel Fitzwilliam was not mindful of the smile he wore as he led the way.
© 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 Copyright held by author