Georgiana: The Ball
Mother and Father would be pleased.' Georgiana meditated on her brother's words. Her anxiousness had returned at his reaction as she came down the stairs. Though when she could see he was pleased, she felt her calm renewed. But with the mention of their parents, images of her mother and father filled her mind. Having never really known her mother, she had only the stories told to her to create "memories" of her. But Georgiana had enjoyed at least her childhood years with her father and could see his face--the delight he always expressed when she would play a new piece she had learned on the pianoforte, or model for him a new dress he had brought as a surprise from town. She quickly pictured how this night might have been with her mother and father--looking at her proudly... Georgiana felt a sudden, gripping sorrow that this was a night she would not share with her parents... Her emotions made it nearly impossible to speak. "Thank you, William," She replied quietly. She accepted his assistance from the step, lowering her gaze, not wanting William to see the tears pooling in her eyes. She wished she could hold back her tears, but they had come before she could regain her composure. William had spoken so tenderly, from his heart. She knew he had meant his words to be reassuring, and she did not want him to regret them.
Even though she had attempted to hide them, William saw his sister's tears and knew somehow his words had upset her. Inwardly he cursed his seeming insensitivity. He had only meant for her to know how very proud their parents would have been, and how proud he was. But maybe these are tears of joy? he reflected. With Georgiana, he was not always sure--she had such a sweet, sensitive spirit--given more easily to tears than he always knew how to address. He hesitated, not knowing how to help and he certainly did not wish to make matters worse.
Before William could speak, Bingley offered, "Well Darcy, I believe your ball will be ruined."
All listeners startled at his prediction. Georgiana feared he had seen her tears or somehow sensed her sadness and thought her unable to recover. But he smiled easily and continued.
"The women shall all be instantly jealous and refuse to dance, and the men shall drown their sorrow in wine lamenting that they have escorted an ugly woman when they behold our fair ladies!" Bingley's jest instantly rescued Georgiana and therefore her brother too. Her sorrow was quickly replaced by visible mirth, leaving William free to enjoy his friend's good humor. They all laughed at the vivid picture of the portended fiasco. William, still smiling, offered Georgiana his arm which she gladly took, happy to be escorted by her dear brother. Elizabeth accepted his other arm and the three, followed by Bingley and Jane proceeded to the Hall where they would be welcoming their guests.
As they neared the entry to the drawing room, Elizabeth slowed, reaching up to speak quietly into her husband's ear. He stopped, inclining his head toward Elizabeth to hear her whisper and nodded in ascent. Releasing her husband's arm, Elizabeth took Georgiana's free hand in hers, "Georgiana, this is a very special night for you. We are so pleased to honor your coming out with a ball. You must know how much I treasure you as a sister and a friend." With a twinkle in her eye and a playful smile she added, "I believe you are more dear to me than some of my own blood relations." Then more seriously, "Fitzwilliam and I have a surprise for you to mark this occasion, but I wish for your brother to give it to you in private." Georgiana began to object, but Elizabeth continued, "So I shall take leave of you and await you in the Hall." Elizabeth kissed Georgiana on the cheek and before releasing her hand looked into her eyes with unspoken meaning, I love you. You have my utmost confidence as you enter into society this evening.
Taking Bingley's free arm, she left Georgiana alone with her brother.
Georgiana held Elizabeth's words and expression in her heart as she watched her leave. She understood their meaning and considered them carefully. She longed to have her mother here with her. But if she could not have her mother at her side, she would wish for no one other than dear, sweet Elizabeth.
"My dear, will you join me in the drawing room?" William motioned toward the doorway, his expression soft and entreating. What ever could this be?, she wondered to herself as she entered the room. The drawing room was illuminated by candles a servant was methodically lighting in preparation for the guests who had been staying over at Pemberley for the ball. The soft light began to cast shadows about the room with the half-light of the twilight sky outside, giving the room a sense of drama. Yes, William thought to himself, this will be quite a fitting atmosphere.
Darcy spoke to his servant, "John, will you leave us please? You may continue your preparations shortly."
John jumped at the sound of another's voice. He had been so intent on his work that he had not heard them enter. He turned in order to respond to his master's request, but nearly dropped his light when he saw Miss Darcy. He quickly tried to recover from his clumsiness, hoping she had not noticed the red spreading over his cheeks.
"Good evening miss." He bowed respectfully, trying not to lose his staff again, the sudden perspiration on his hands making it difficult to keep his hold. His gaze hesitated only a moment, but it was not lost on Darcy.
Clearing his throat a little, "Thank you, John. We shall not be long."
John crossed the room with alacrity, not wishing his master to be displeased. John bowed again before exiting the room.
Poor boy, Darcy thought, my sister seems to be casting a spell on all who see her this evening. Darcy mused at his thinking of John as a "boy"; he was nearly eighteen. Am I getting so old that eighteen seems so young?
Georgiana felt compassion for John, sorry that their entry had discomposed him so. She gave no further thought to the servant's behavior though. Georgiana's curiosity was piqued. She looked at her brother, as if to discern his surprise. He just smiled at her unspoken question. "Will you sit down?" William motioned her to the settee. Georgiana took her place and looked up at her brother expectantly, her eyes sparkling with anticipation. But as he looked at her, his teasing smile relaxed. He regarded her quietly, as if seeing her from a distance, a wistful look in his eyes. For the second time that evening, she was not sure what thoughts were contained in his gaze. She was not accustomed to being the recipient of his contemplation and was unsure whether to wait or speak. Silence passed between them until her discomfort was too great. She had observed Elizabeth and William together at such times when he seemed overly solemn or reflective. Did she dare?...
William loved surprising his sister. It always brought him such a feeling of satisfaction when she would look at him in wonder, her eyes wide in appreciation. If he thought something would bring her pleasure, he would see it done immediately. Nothing was too much or too good for his sister. He thought Elizabeth most gracious in allowing him to give Georgiana their present privately--after all, she had been just as delighted as he to commission the necklace. As he recalled, it had been her idea. He could feel the gift in his waistcoat pocket as Georgiana looked at him and smiled in spite of himself, a bit like the cat who swallowed the bird. He could see in her face some of the same child-like exuberance as when she would greet Father upon his return from London, knowing he had brought a surprise. Father would kneel down, arms outstretched welcoming his running daughter into his arms. He would act as though he didn't know what she was expecting, smiling all the while. And then they would laugh together as she marveled at his gift. Georgiana was her father's joy. When with his daughter, George Darcy would lose much of his reserve and become more as he had been before his wife had died. How William wished his father and mother were here now to see their beautiful daughter. He had put all his heart and soul into being the best brother possible--to be her family. But he felt his love could never really take the place of the love a father feels for a cherished daughter and certainly not that of a mother's. Although their parents had been gone for many years, he felt a sudden wave of grief. Not wanting to give way to the flow of such strong emotion, William struggled to regain control when something distant demanded his attention.
"William?" Georgiana tried again with more emphasis. He flinched slightly at the sound of her voice, waking from his reverie. What could so preoccupy his mind that he would again appear to forget where he is?
"Brother, are you quite well this evening?" The shock he received from her question, restored his complete attention. Coming from Georgiana, these words usually would have been spoken with a tone and expression of concern. But her voice and look were decidedly that of Elizabeth's teasing. William looked at Georgiana so intently she bit her lower lip, thinking she had ventured too much with her brother. But the novelty of being teased by his sister restored his good humor, completely dispelling his grief. Laughing at himself, he realized he must appear a bit addled, having been lost in his thoughts again, he smiled sheepishly.
"Your forgiveness once again. Yes, Georgiana, I am quite well. And now I suppose you have waited long enough. Elizabeth and I would be honored if you would accept this token of our esteem." William retrieved the soft, black pouch from his waistcoat pocket. Laying it in her hands, he gave her a kiss on her cheek.
Georgiana allowed her fingers to linger over the softness of the black velvet, trying to imagine what treasure lay inside. Very carefully, she loosened the golden string of the pouch, glancing at William. His expression showing his impatience, willing her to open it. She did enjoy teasing him just a bit. Finally, the pouch yielded its contents--a necklace! Pearls of exquisite quality created a lustrous strand leading to the intricately carved stone cameo, encircled by a ring of more delicate pearls. Georgiana clutched the strand in her hand, rushing to embrace her brother.
"William, you are too good to me! Thank you! Will you assist me?" Georgiana turned her back to her brother holding the necklace for him to fasten it around her neck.
As he fastened the clasp, he spoke with quiet ceremony, "The pearls have been in our family for generations. They were favorites of our mother."
Georgiana turned with alarm. "Oh no, you must not! These rightfully belong to Elizabeth then." Georgiana reached for the clasp, intending to remove the necklace. William gently lowered Georgiana's arms, taking her hands in his.
"Your sense of family and propriety do you credit, Georgiana. Indeed, I had presented Elizabeth with a strand of these very pearls months ago. When we talked of a gift for you, it was her wish to have them restrung and fashioned into this necklace, knowing of their sentimental attachment." William paused for effect, then added with special emphasis. "She insisted." William smiled. "Your sister is most generous is she not?"
Georgiana wrapped her arms around her brothers waist, resting her heard on his chest, holding him as tightly as her arms allowed.
Releasing her hold quickly, she looked at her brother, "I must go thank her without delay!" In her enthusiastic desire to find Elizabeth, Georgiana forgot herself and began leading William by the hand out of the room. In her haste, she nearly bumped into John, who was returning to finish lighting the candles.
John came to a quick stop, taking a step backward so he would not run into her.
"Ah! Miss Darcy! Your pardon, miss," he exclaimed, bowing in his embarrassment. "I thought you had retired the room. Forgive me." John fell mute in her presence, his mind frozen in his adoration of the master's sister.
Georgiana blushed, releasing her brother's hand, realizing her impetuousness had caused the incident. She smiled and replied apologetically, "No, it is I who am at fault."
Darcy had learned much from Georgiana's kind treatment of others. And he would not wish her to be severe with the servants, but her tone seemed a little too familiar. He found it unsettling. And the look on John's face...He thought it best that John get on with his work immediately and for he and his sister to join Elizabeth.
In a firm voice, "John, you may continue with your work."
John bowed hastily, leaving them for the drawing room.
Extending his arm for his sister, a residual firmness still in his voice, "Will you join me?" Recognizing her brother was mildly vexed, Georgiana curtsied politely, looking up at him contritely. He wasn't sure if he was irritated only at John or at Georgiana as well. But seeing her countenance, he could only smile. He never could be truly angry with his sister. Once again, Georgiana accepted her brother's escort to the Hall.
Sir Andrew, Lady Margaret, a pleasure to meet you," Georgiana curtsied graciously, greeting yet another guest for the evening's ball.
"Miss Darcy, please accept the apologies of our eldest son, Stuart. He was unavoidably detained in London and is not able to accompany us this evening." Lady Margaret paused, obviously taking in the appearance of the young woman in whose honor they were attending. Her eyes widened just enough to give hint of her appreciation and envy as her eyes came to rest on Georgiana's cameo necklace. But being a woman of high society, she did not wish to be vulgar and commanded her focus to return to the face before her. "When he hears of your charm and beauty he will suffer from his misfortune...You are a vision."
"You are most kind Lady Margaret." Georgiana gave a small curtsey, inclining her head slightly. Indeed, Stuart will suffer when he learns of Miss Darcy's beauty and obvious wealth. I told him it would be worth his trouble to travel here for no other reason then her brother's wealth and position in society. But to find her an elegant lady, obviously knowledgeable of high fashion, not the backward, homely girl we had reports of...Well, Stuart will most certainly regret his absence now! This lady shall not remain unmarried long I should think. Lady Margaret's thoughts brought a look of vexation to her face as she took her husband's arm to join the other guests.
As she watched the Harrells enter into the ballroom, Georgiana breathed in deeply trying to gain composure. She felt unsettled by such comments--all at once flattered and also embarrassed. She was not accustomed to being the recipient of so much attention. When in the company of Elizabeth and William, most people gravitated to speaking with Elizabeth. And if not her, then men wished to confer with her brother on matters of country and the ladies just wanted to be near him, allowing Georgiana to rest in the quiet of obscurity. But each guest seemed particularly anxious to speak with her and pay her many compliments, each time a hint of pink rising in her cheeks which she did not know made her all the more appealing, especially to the young gentlemen.
Georgiana had caught Lady Margaret's hesitation and thoughtfully fingered the pearls adorning her neck. She speculated at their value. Pearls of this quality must be highly prized. And the cameo was perfectly and intricately tooled--a necklace of great fashion. Was it any wonder then that her necklace had garnered so many admiring glances? Another lady might have reveled in its wearing, believing the worth of the object increased the worth of the person. Georgiana cherished it because it was a gift of deeper meaning--family. Darcy, a name binding together the legacies of souls past...her most excellent parents, her Uncle John...and hearts living out hopes for the future. Her own heart filled with ardent loyalty and pride. A villainous man had once persuaded her that her name was little consequence to that of his flirtatious affections. She would never again allow herself to be so deceived. If she were to love a man, she would do so only if it honored the Darcy name. Just as William had allowed himself to promise his life and love only to a most excellent woman.
She contemplated her brother and Elizabeth as they exchanged pleasantries with the latest arrivals. William appeared confident in himself and his role as host, welcoming each guest very properly. He was relaxed, yet formal, standing straight, his arms down to his sides. Elizabeth also exhibited her characteristic composure, but with greater warmth than William, often engaging their guest in conversation while he seemed content to listen. She was as equally lively as he was reserved. And yet there seemed such an easy understanding between the two, a congeniality that could only be born out of unwavering love for the other. Even in this very formal circumstance, they could not constrain their true feelings from other's view. When Elizabeth looked at William, she beamed a spontaneous smile, her eyes dancing with delight. And when he turned his eyes to hers, William's countenance lost all reserve projecting only tenderness and devotion. To Georgiana, their love made them irreproachably charming.
As the master of Pemberley turned to his sister to make the proper introductions, he realized she had been regarding him with an affectionate smile. He wondered quickly at her thoughts, but continued with his presentation.
"Mr. and Mrs. Lang, may I introduce my sister, Miss Georgiana Darcy. Georgiana, Mr. and Mrs. Lang."
"Delighted, Miss Darcy," Mr. Lang bowed in acknowledgment of the introduction. "And may I present our son. "Miss Georgiana Darcy," motioning to his son, "Mister Jonathon Lang."
Georgiana curtsied politely with a sudden sparkle in her countenance. She remembered Elizabeth's teasing of Jane, The most particular attentions of Jonathon Winthrop III. She hoped there was nothing in the name!
Master Lang bowed enjoying the brightness of her countenance, flattered that she would be so affected by the introduction. This evening would be a most pleasant diversion if she would look at him this way again! Poise, demur, wealth and certainly handsome! These attributes found in one woman left Jonathon Lang enthralled. He hoped she would not find him too bold, venturing a request barely past their introduction, but the racing of his heart urged him past the most proper etiquette.
"Miss Darcy, I would be honored if you would save me a dance this evening?"
Georgiana curtsied, inclining her head in acknowledgment. Truly, she did not know what to say. She had already received so many other kind and unexpected intentions, she could not conceive how she was to dance with all the gentlemen who desired it even if she danced until the morrow.
He grudgingly relinquished her attention, knowing another guest was waiting.
"Until our dance, then." Lang took his leave with a bow.
The newest arrival was speaking quietly with William and Elizabeth. Georgiana thought their behavior curious--her brother seemed to be intentionally obscuring her view of this guest.
"Colonel Fitzwilliam!" Georgiana exclaimed with delight and surprise as he came around her brother. "I despaired of your coming when you did not arrive the day before as we had expected." Georgiana quickly surveyed her cousin. His evening attire possessed the impeccable press of a military officer. "Forgive me cousin, you do not appear to have just arrived." Georgiana's brow furrowed slightly, making her comment into a question.
"Cousin, I hope you will not be angry with me. I arrived late last evening, having encountered some delay at the onset of my journey. Presented with the happy opportunity to surprise you, I called on your brother's and sister's indulgence and remained sequestered in my room until now." Col. Fitzwilliam raised Georgiana's hand to his lips. Smiling kindly and teasing just a little, "I hope I am not too late to request the honor of the first dance this evening? My cousin informs me you have already not lacked for attention."
Georgiana was surprised at this report of her brother. She had not perceived his taking notice of any of her conversations as she welcomed their guests. She threw a questioning glance at her brother as she smiled, about to express her relief to be able to dance with the Colonel before any gentleman new to her acquaintance.
Before she could speak, William cleared his throat and addressed Fitzwilliam formally, but with a twinkle in his eye, "I believe, sir, by right of being the elder brother, I am due the honor of the first dance."
"My good man," Fitzwilliam drew himself to his fullest height, although still no match for his cousin, "As the relation who endured the longest of journeys, I believe I ought to be bestowed with the honor." Col. Fitzwilliam matched Darcy's serious tone with his own military air and with equal humor in his eyes.
Elizabeth looped her arm around her husband's in a possessive manner as she broke in before Darcy could challenge the Colonel again.
Adding her protest with mock affront, "I believe it is customary for the hostess to have a partner for the opening dance?!"
Darcy paused momentarily, looking carefully in his wife's eyes for hint of any sincerity, but finding only that certain sparkle of jest, he continued, "Madam..." But his words were interrupted by the sweet sound of violin and flute as the chamber orchestra began to play in the ball room.
"I believe the purpose of your argument shall be rendered obsolete if we do not make haste to the ballroom," Georgiana interjected. She believed her relations to be sparring in jest, but she did not enjoy being the cause of a dispute, even a mock dispute for fear someone might be genuinely offended.
Fitzwilliam gloated, "Ah, then it is settled, Darcy. To preserve your marital bliss, I shall be awarded Georgiana's hand for the first dance."
Darcy turned to his wife who was nodding with satisfaction, "Mrs. Darcy", (Elizabeth regarded him staunchly.) "Would I be in danger of being relegated to sleeping with the hounds if I begged leave of you for the second dance? I will only do so if the honorable," (Darcy glanced at his cousin dubiously) "Colonel Fitzwilliam will consent to be your partner."
"At your service madam," Col. Fitzwilliam bowed formally.
Elizabeth could not continue her affectation. "Delighted, sir," Elizabeth curtsied, smiling in approval of her intended dance partner.
The matter decided, the host and hostess led the way to the ballroom.
The ballroom had been one room of Pemberley that had laid vacant throughout Georgiana's years. She came to understand as she grew older that while her father had managed to resume the usual activities of his life after her mother's death, he could not find reason for hosting a ball without his beloved wife. So as a small girl, Georgiana had never been treated to a secretive peek into a ballroom to steal a look at the fancy gentlemen and ladies before being ushered back to the nursery. But the lack of an example did not limit her childish imagination. When she could slip away from her nanny, Georgiana would enter into the ballroom unnoticed; the cavernous room enveloping her small delicate frame. Even as it lay lifeless, the room possessed an elegant mood--the rich hues of wood and gold, the many mirrors lining the walls, ready to reflect the images of the rooms fine inhabitants. Only the subtlest of light shone through the windows, creating an intimacy not unlike that of twilight. She was a small girl lost in a wondrous world of make-believe. Curtsying to her imaginary partner as a most proper lady, Georgiana would dance the steps her brother had practiced with her, picturing herself in a fine gown, surrounded by candles and flowers.
Once, when around five years of age, while lost in her play, she was startled by the appearance of a real gentleman. He was tall and dashing and bore a striking resemblance to her elder brother, who was home on holiday. He had approached so quietly, she had not heard him. As she glided through her dance, she collided into him. She quickly stepped back withdrawing shyly, fearing he would tease her for her silliness or chastise her for being unaccompanied in this room. Expecting to be instructed to quit the room, she waited for him to speak.
Bowing sharply from the waist, William gallantly assumed his role, choosing to ignore the abruptness of their meeting. "Miss Darcy, would you honor me with this dance?"
Georgiana did not wish to accept his hand, thinking he was only teasing. But he waited, his hand still outstretched. His patience was rewarded with the natural trust of a child's heart. Georgiana giggled and smiled as she curtsied, accepting his hand. And then, to her further amazement and delight, he began humming the music. She was too young to know of what composer he hummed or to care, she thought it beautiful because it was from him. She danced to her best ability as her gentleman led her carefully through the steps. William looked upon her kindly, but seriously, never speaking. Georgiana never uttered a sound, too much in awe of her brother. When the "music" ended, William took Georgiana's soft delicate hand in his, as if leading her from the floor.
"Miss Darcy, would you give me the great pleasure of taking tea with me?"
Georgiana giggled, but remembered the manners she had been taught and answered in the sweet tones of a girl's high-pitched voice, "Yes, thank you, sir."
William summoned Mrs. Reynolds when they were safely away from the ballroom, not wishing to betray his sister's secret diversion.
"Mrs. Reynolds, the lady will be joining me for tea. If you would be so kind as to see to its preparation."
Mrs. Reynolds watched the two Darcy children leave--Georgiana holding her brother's hand, skipping along next to his easy stride. Mrs. Reynolds clasped her hands in front, resting her elbows on her hips, nodding with maternal approval.
As she and the Colonel neared the doorway, Georgiana was aware of her heart beating at a quickened pace and of a nervousness urging her to walk more quickly than she ought. This was the moment she had been anticipating for months. She had been bolstering her courage ever since missing the ball William and Elizabeth held in late May at Pemberley--William had been most desirous of introducing his new bride within his circle. William and Elizabeth had accompanied Georgiana to London, returning for her studies....
Elizabeth sat next to Georgiana describing in detail all the arrangements for the ball. "...It will be a lovely evening. Perhaps just the occasion for your coming out?" Elizabeth smiled expressively.
Georgiana had privately allowed herself to consider the ball, but now to find such a great number of people to be invited... The thought of coming out before what might as well have been the entire kingdom was discomposing indeed! Elizabeth waited patiently for Georgiana to consider her proposal. Her countenance reflected her hopefulness at receiving an affirmative answer from Georgiana. Knowing Georgiana to be adequately instructed in all manner of social arts, Mrs. Annesley offered gentle words, adding her endorsement of the idea.
Georgiana considered quietly. Their confidence was most compelling. She wished to be brave enough to join her brother and sister in their joyous occasion...If William also believed this to be the proper time, she would accede. Georgiana looked from Elizabeth to William, expecting him to express his wishes.
William had been seated off to the side, listening to their conversation, but not participating. He seemed disquieted, holding the back of his hand over his mouth as he regarded his sister silently. William knew Elizabeth had planned to speak with Georgiana, having resigned himself to the ball being a natural entry into society. And yet, he still feared for his sister's shy nature. He did not wish her to be overwhelmed or hurt in any way. But if her desire compelled her, he would not forbid it. William suddenly wished Elizabeth had waited to speak with Georgiana at a time when he was not present. He knew his feelings would influence her decision and he did not wish her to see his apprehension. William rose and walked to the window of their London townhouse. He had perceived her inclination toward coming out and was preparing himself to hear her assent.
But with his back turned to her, William could not see Georgiana visibly withdraw, she believing his actions to show his disfavor. He must believe I am ill-prepared. She would not go against his misgivings. She searched for words through her disappointment. She begged Elizabeth and William to excuse her, preferring to stay in London to finish her studies of the piano-forte before summering at Pemberley. William turned quickly, surprise flashing through his eyes. In his relief, he misinterpreted her disappointment for diffidence. He felt his cause for caution confirmed. But he did not want her to be dismayed. Offering what encouragement he could think of, "Yes, of course Georgiana. Perhaps this fall, then."
Elizabeth exchanged a conspiratorial look with Mrs. Annesley, but said nothing.
September had finally arrived. And now Colonel Fitzwilliam was leading her to that occasion hailing her future as a woman. She was scared, but exhilarated by the realization. It was with some sense of irony that she reflected on one of the reasons she had not come out at an earlier occasion. And yet was she not to subject herself to the appraisal of as many people? Georgiana looked at Colonel Fitzwilliam. He was so kind. Having her second guardian as escort, gave her great comfort. She felt at ease with Col. Fitzwilliam, secure in knowing he cared for her welfare almost as much as her brother. Georgiana fixed her eyes on the doorway to the ballroom. She was determined to go forth.
Colonel Fitzwilliam ushered her into the ballroom. Georgiana held her breath as her eyes lingered on the detail of the ball, forever etching its detail in her memory--the gentlemen and ladies in fine raiment, the candles shimmering throughout and the sweet fragrance of fresh-cut blossoms filling the air. With one small step she had been swept into the dream world of her childhood. It was more grand than she had ever imagined!
Sensing her emotion, Col. Fitzwilliam placed his hand over hers and spoke quietly, "A ball is a wondrous world, is it not?"
Georgiana willed herself to breath again. In almost a whisper, she replied, "Wondrous and enchanting."
Observing the entrance of Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, the musicians brought the work they had been playing to an early close, pausing in preparation for the first dance.
"It would seem you were just in your reproof. Shall we take our place?"
Col. Fitzwilliam led his cousin to the floor, carefully choosing their position. As the sound of music filled the room once more, Georgiana found with a deep sense of gratitude that the Colonel had placed her between Jane and Elizabeth so at the onset she would see only the eyes of those loving and dear as she reached across the divide--William to her right, Bingley to her left and Colonel Fitzwilliam, smiling his pleasure, directly across. As she danced, appreciative comments were uttered in hushed tones. "Beautiful." "Charming." "Elegant." And some, with unmarried daughters of their own, looked on in dismay, seeing the eyes of eligible gentlemen following her graceful form.
Darcy watched with approval as Fitzwilliam led his sister to her station for the dance. Seeing that she also was satisfied, he committed her to the care of her partner and turned his gaze to his own. Elizabeth was wearing the gown he had given her on her birthday. He allowed his eyes to follow the line of the deep green gown; the way the silken material lay over her light form...Darcy breathed deeply. She was most appealing. He watched her as she expressed her assurance to Georgiana with her eyes. Her fine, dark eyes. He longed for her gaze. Elizabeth turned. She looked at him so tenderly...with such complete acceptance and trust. His soul was consumed with love...and desire. While his outward appearance was proper and restrained, she could see the strength of his emotions in his penetrating gaze. She smiled provocatively as she curtsied, enticing his passion. In their ardor for each other, the two found the dance most tantalizing. Her gloved hand met with his...A firm grasp...Release...Their eyes meeting with electricity...Release... Longing as they were separated by the steps of others...Hands clasped again as an embrace...
Elizabeth was breathless as the music ended, her cheeks pleasingly flush with emotion. Looking into his eyes as they moved from the floor, Elizabeth spoke only two words, but they were all that were required to tell of her feelings for her husband. "Mr. Darcy."
Georgiana was elated as she made her final curtsy. She had overcome her initial fear and had danced without flaw. At first she had not been listening to the music only following its rhythm, concentrating on her steps and carriage. Then Colonel Fitzwilliam looked at her so appreciatively while they danced, compelling her to actually experience the artistry and the pleasure of dancing with her cousin. Dancing under the tutelage of a master had never excited her emotions as they were now.
"You are a most graceful partner, Georgiana!" Colonel Fitzwilliam led her from the floor. "Dancing, singing, the piano-forte...You are indeed a lady of accomplishment." He laughed quickly. "I believe even our Aunt Catherine would be pressed to admit it if she were here. It is a pity she would not come. I hope you do not take offense at her refusal. Let us hope in time her curiosity will overcome her obstinacy."
His compliment of her dancing further promoted her ease and confidence. Her cousin was very kind-hearted, but she knew he would not flatter her idly. But as to her aunt...Georgiana did not know how to reply. She did not feel it proper to admit openly how relieved she had been that one of her own family would not enter the "thus polluted" Pemberley as her aunt had called it ...to not be forced to endure her constant instructions and censure of those around her. As she struggled for words, William and Elizabeth approached, averting the need for a reply.
"Ah, Darcy, prompt as always. You might have tarried longer that I might further enjoy the company of my fair cousin." Fitzwilliam was sincere in his desire to be in her presence. He had not seen his cousin for many months. He reflected that it had been since Darcy's wedding. From that time, he found Georgiana much changed. She was handsome as before, her figure having already formed at the age of 16. But there was something in her manner...He sensed an awakening in her and wished to know more.
Ignoring Fitzwilliam's complaint, Darcy bowed to his sister formally, "Miss Darcy, I believe I have the honor of dancing the next with you."
"Georgiana, it would seem I must relinquish your hand to that of your brother. (Fitzwilliam looked at Darcy with an air of superiority. Not wishing to completely give up the "dual" from earlier) Pray, may I have your assurance of another dance this evening?"
Georgiana thought his smile charming. "Yes, sir. I would be delighted."
Before letting go of his arm, Elizabeth looked up at Darcy discreetly, allowing her eyes to linger on his just long enough for him to know her desire.
Darcy and Fitzwilliam exchanged partners and moved to the floor with the other guests.
The children of George and Anne Darcy could not help making a striking couple as they walked together. Each tall and handsome with dark coloring. His strong masculine build contrasting her delicate frame. William and Georgiana found a small path created for them as guests moved aside in unconscious deference to their commanding presence. Georgiana concentrated her eyes ahead of her, still too shy to meet the gaze of so many. She allowed her thoughts to consider only that of her brother. She felt honored by her brother's attention. To be considered of sufficient maturity to come into society. It was a new experience enjoying the adult diversion of dancing with William in the presence of his wide circle of acquaintance. She felt nervous as they waited for the music to begin, a little too in awe of her brother to be at ease.
William regarded Georgiana as the musicians prepared to play. Her countenance was quite reserved; he thought perhaps also anxious. Elizabeth had teased him on occasion for being too serious when he danced. Perhaps he was causing his sister's discomfiture. This would not do! He did not wish for her to be ill-at-ease...He reached for her hand as the music began.
"It is a pleasure dancing with you again, Miss Darcy." He stated formally as they neared each other.
Again? ...This is odd, his addressing me as Miss Darcy. Thought Georgiana. William could see the quandary in her crinkled brow as they turned.
As she took his hand, walking forward with him, "Forgive me brother. I do not recall dancing with you before this evening?" He could see her searching her memory as he rounded another gentleman.
He looked disappointed. "I am sorry to hear of it. I myself found great pleasure in it."
They were standing opposite. "Sir, I..." But he broke in not wanting her to be too alarmed.
"We danced in this very room, you wore pink I think (a color she wore often as a child) and we danced to music supplied by a gentleman not nearly as talented as these present tonight." His smile slowly spread over his lips until his countenance was bright and full of good-humor.
Georgiana searched his eyes, feeling a sense of urgency in attempting to recall...then she could see he was teasing her! She began assembling the clues...The ballroom of Pemberley...pink dress...a solitary musician?. And then as he drew close again in their dance, she perceived a sound, very quiet, loud enough for only her to hear. William was humming along with the music. Her eyes widened with the recollection. She could not suppress a giggle as they drew close again.
"You, my dear brother, were the musician!"
William laughed. "And you were the graceful young lady."
Author's note: Quick acknowledgment goes to Karin for a quote from "A Dinner Party with the Earl and Countess of Matlock and of course to JA herself.
Outside the ballroom, the cloudless black sky was speckled by sparkling dots of light--some glowing brightly showing flashes of red and blue, others distant and pale giving the skies a sense of depth and reach. Elizabeth let her breath escape slowly, feeling the cool air against the warmth of her cheeks. The mirror-like surface of Pemberley's lake reflected the image of a luminescent full moon passing downward on its path in the evening sky. She had just endured a lengthy discourse from Lady Margaret on the merits of living in London and the recent exploits of her son. If it had not been for Sir Andrew requiring his wife's presence, she should still be feigning keen interest in her guest's ramblings. Elizabeth had felt a sudden urge to be alone, to be surrounded by the quiet magnificence of God's creation. She had glanced quickly about the room and then slipped out through the doors to the formal gardens outside the ballroom. She hoped her absence would not be noticed, at least long enough to recollect herself. The delicate sound of a gentle breeze rustling through the trees greeted her ears. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply, allowing the crisp night air to fill her lungs, bringing a sense of renewal and peace. As she opened her eyes, her heart whispered 'home.' She could not conceive of any other place in which she felt such all-encompassing contentment. "Mmmm," Elizabeth sighed audibly.
Darcy scanned the room more intently. He was sure Elizabeth had just been with Lady Margaret, but could no longer see her. Even though separated while attending guests as a proper host, Darcy felt compelled to remain in Elizabeth's presence if only through an exchange of glances and smiles or nods. Upon not finding her gaze to meet his, he waited for a discreet opportunity to excuse himself from his present company to seek out that of his wife's.
To his relief, a servant directed his search to the gardens. Darcy spoke with the servant about the supply of delicacies as he purposefully made his way across the room, the servant's presence allowing him to reach the verandah without becoming engaged in any conversation that would prevent him from joining his wife.
Addressing the servant, "Peter, I will rely on your discretion. I do not wish for any guests to visit the gardens at this time."
Darcy slipped quietly through the doors. Peter dutifully placed himself in front, tactfully directing guests' attention to the music or the tables of sweets so that they would not take notice of the two figures in the moonlight.
Once outside, Darcy hesitated a moment taking in the vision of his wife's dark form surrounded by the surreal world of their moonlit estate. Elizabeth turned at the sound of approaching footsteps. Recognizing her husband's silhouette, Elizabeth reached out her hand extending an unspoken invitation to join her. She was deeply moved that he would seek her out. Darcy willingly accepted her hand. Coming closer, Darcy admired Elizabeth's features bathed in moonlight. Even in the diffused light, her smile was dazzling.
Their eyes met in a longing gaze. Darcy's finger lovingly caressed the line of her face, brushing gently over her lips. Elizabeth closed her eyes, lifting her chin, her lips ready to meet his. Drawing near to her, her head cradled in his hand, his other resting gently on her side, Darcy gently pressed his lips on her forehead. Elizabeth's surprise of not meeting his lips, melted away to pure deep emotion. She wrapped her arms around his waist pressing her hands firmly against his back. She felt all at once exhilarated by his nearness--the scent of sandalwood filling her senses, the press of his body against hers--and weak from the tender expression of his love for her. Elizabeth opened her eyes, meeting his.
She could only whisper, "Fitzwilliam, I am undone."
Darcy smiled with his eyes more than his lips, replying in a husky voice, "Dearest, loveliest Elizabeth."
Returning her embrace, his lips met hers feelingly, yet tenderly. He released his embrace and moved to place his arm around her waist allowing her to nestle at his side. Elizabeth and Darcy were content to be joined this way for some time, in silence, letting the sounds of the night be their conversation.
A slight shiver brought the sudden realization of the chill growing in the night air, breaking the couple's reverie. Darcy released his hold, turning to Elizabeth.
"My dear, you are cold. Let us forsake our happiness of the moment and move you to the warmth inside."
Elizabeth envied men their warmer clothing, wishing to remain in their embrace. But she was also aware of the difficulties they would encounter if their absence grew longer. Elizabeth paused, allowing the sights and sounds of the night to fill her senses once more...and accepted Darcy's escort to the door.
Darcy stopped his approach, remaining in the shadows just outside the ballroom doors, waiting for Peter to redirect a guest. Elizabeth laughed and spoke quietly.
"Mr. Darcy, did you place a guard at our door?"
Darcy drew himself up a bit, but his tone gave away his mock indignation.
"A guard, indeed, madam."
Elizabeth returned, "Then he is merely a servant coincidentally stationed so directly before the door?"
"Yes, circumstance only. Peter is a good man, merely attending to the needs of our guests."
As the guests moved on in pursuit of sweets, Darcy led his wife through the doors. Elizabeth smiled sweetly as they came in behind the servant.
"Then I should wonder at your knowing him to be Peter, his back possessing no great discernible difference from that of many of the other servants present?"
Darcy stopped and smiled. Bowing his head to his wife, "I yield."
Elizabeth curtsied slightly in acceptance.
As they moved around Peter, Darcy paused momentarily to speak to him quietly.
"Thank you, Peter. I shall not forget your service."
Peter bowed, taking leave of his "post," happy knowing he would receive something extra in his wages. Darcy is a right good chap. The missus will have a good laugh at this one.
As they moved into the room, Elizabeth suggested slyly, "Perhaps we ought make this Peter's permanent duty."
Darcy looked meaningfully into Elizabeth's eyes then replied with an impish grin, "Yes, perhaps we shall."
Elizabeth looked across the room to Georgiana. She was standing near the dance floor surrounded by gentlemen eager for her attention.
Elizabeth commented, "It would appear Georgiana did not long for us during our absence."
Darcy surveyed the scene, thinking out loud, "Moths drawn to the flame."
Darcy looked again at his sister, observing her more closely, "She is as I remember our mother--stately, graceful and whether her present company is aware, possesses a keen mind."
"You must be very proud. You have taken prodigious care of Georgiana and she is now a fine young lady."
"Indeed, I am very proud...but not of my efforts. The fine young lady she is today is owed I believe to our most excellent father...and of course to Georgiana herself."
Elizabeth was surprised at his complete humility. He wore it well. But she felt compelled to defend him.
"Nay sir. I shall not allow so little room for your influence!" she insisted with protective kindness. "I recall hearing an account of your father being an excellent man and that you would be just like him. You are an excellent brother to Georgiana. You have guided her through what might have been troublesome years and now she is here receiving the most felicitous attentions of fine gentlemen."
"Mmm," Darcy replied thoughtfully, considering the cause of their attentiveness.
Georgiana was young, untainted yet by the mix of society, handsome and possessing three other qualities that recommended a woman to a man more highly than many others--she was a most attentive listener, spoke rarely (and when she did, she was kind and gentle) and she possessed a personal fortune of L30,000.
Darcy knew her coming out was intended to introduce her to eligible gentlemen in society...and ultimately lead to her marrying. Darcy hoped it would be some time though before that. He thought of his mother-in-law whose only purpose in life was to marry off her 5 daughters. He felt no such compunction. He hoped his sister would remain at Pemberley with he and Elizabeth for many years yet.
Of course he wished his sister to be happy. But this wealthy young woman was not necessarily in want of a husband. And certainly not if her wealth was the cause for a gentleman's regard. Darcy wondered skeptically at how many of the men swarming about her would regard her so highly without her wealth. It was not that he doubted his sister. But he had been prey to the obsequious attentions of fortune-hunting women, knowing each did not care a wit for him, but loved only his money. He was painfully aware he could not completely prevent his sister from receiving the attentions of disingenuous gentlemen now that she was in society. But of what power he did possess, he was absolutely certain. He would never give his blessing to any, except that man whom he was certain loved Georgiana for her character.
Elizabeth watched Darcy as he mused. She had been greatly diverted through the whole of the evening in observing her husband with his sister. When in the company of Georgiana, his countenance was tender and responsive. While watching her dance or participate in conversation, he appeared proud and satisfied with her accomplishment. She found him most diverting though when he was observing any gentlemen in the company of his sister. He appeared guarded, watchful. She could feel his muscles tense as if preparing for action. She had been witness to some of her husband's fencing matches and recognized the look in his eyes as being that of his assessing his opponent just as the match was about to commence.
Ah, Georgiana, what are we to do? We successfully convinced your brother you were indeed ready for society. But now, your brother's demeanor may so intimidate that gentlemen will not seek your company.
Elizabeth looked in Georgiana's direction, then smiled at Darcy with implied intrigue.
"Who shall it be first?...Mr. Lang? Mr. Hughes? Mr. Raleigh?"
Darcy laughed, knowing Elizabeth was teasing him about something.
"What is your meaning, madam? First at what?"
Elizabeth looked incredulous.
"Why meeting with your saber, sir. Will you run them through now or wait 'til they have grown fatigued from dancing?"
Without hesitation, Darcy scrutinized his suggested opponents and replied, "Mr. Hughes and Mr. Raleigh I should make quick work of, but Mr. Lang is a stout fellow. Perhaps I will allow him to tire more before finishing him." Throwing Elizabeth a chastising look, "Really Mrs. Darcy, I find your gory suggestion surprising." Darcy paused and smiled slyly. "And satisfying."
Darcy visibly relaxed and smiled at his wife.
"But the "point" of your wit is well taken. Let us engage in more agreeable thought and activity."
In only a matter of a few months, his wife's liveliness had served to enliven his own perceptions, enabling Darcy to join in Elizabeth's sport, even when at his expense.
Elizabeth thought him most amiable, You are a marvelous man, Darcy, allowing me to laugh at you while touching on a subject so near to your heart. Elizabeth knew Georgiana was very dear to her brother, second only to herself. And as such, his protection of her would be unrelenting.
Elizabeth continued her observation. "Georgiana appears to be enjoying the company of the present gentlemen, but she is saying very little. Can you discern, is it due to her reserve or to the gentlemen's eloquence?"
Darcy watched his sister's conversation from across the room. From her expression, he could see she was attending to the topic and even seemed inclined to speak. But as one gentlemen had his say, another would add his, not allowing for a response from Georgiana. So the exchange was more amongst the men without interjection from the lady.
"I believe a little of each. I do not think Georgiana would allow herself to express her views unless directly asked. And the gentlemen seem so satisfied with their own words that they do not require a response."
Elizabeth looked admiringly at Georgiana.
"Her forbearance inspires me--to be the center of regard and yet not receive the attention she is due. I do not believe I would so willingly subject myself."
Darcy laughed, picturing Elizabeth in Georgiana's place.
"No, my dearest Elizabeth you would indeed be at the center, but it would be your words evoking the rapt attention of the gentlemen."
Darcy raised Elizabeth's hand to his lips, kissing it gently, his eyes reflecting the pleasure he found in his wife's verbal adeptness. Elizabeth blushed, embarrassed by the truth of his words and changed the focus of their discourse back to Georgiana.
"I do not believe Georgiana has had any sustenance the whole of this evening. Her gentlemen seem so enraptured by her ethereal beauty they have not attended to her earthly requirements."
"Shall we provide her with relief?" Darcy smiled motioning with his hand leading the way.
He was conscious of his own feelings of relief at having excuse to create distance between Georgiana and her admirers. He could not have felt more proud of her; she exhibited more grace and ease than he had thought possible of her at a gathering such as this. But he doubted she possessed the boldness to excuse herself from her present circumstance and he did not want the attentions of so many to be too taxing.
Darcy and Elizabeth had taken two steps in Georgiana's direction when they observed Colonel Fitzwilliam approach her. He smiled at the others gathered around her then bowed to Georgiana. They were not close enough to hear his words, but understood from his gestures he meant to escort her to some refreshment. Elizabeth thought Georgiana's smile held a particular warmth as she accepted the Colonel's offer. She curtsied politely to the others then accepted her cousin's arm.
Elizabeth had watched the expressions of the gentlemen as the Colonel had approached. The disappointment of having another ego with which to compete had been evident. Flashes of envy and self-reproach crossed more than one face as the Colonel made his offer, the gentlemen apparently realizing their manners amiss. And perhaps realizing a missed opportunity to have Miss Darcy's undivided attention. But each had returned the Colonel's smile, genuinely it seemed.
Elizabeth wondered to herself what qualities a man must possess to successfully lead a regiment of men or find favor among those able to sponsor his career. Were they the same? She determined to seek Darcy's opinion.
"Do you know the Colonel to be a good leader of men?"
Darcy's mind was attending to his sister as she and the Colonel stood before a serving table. Georgiana was laughing and smiling at Col. Fitzwilliam's discourse with her own comments added. She was more lively than he had ever seen her. Their cousin appeared to have quite an affect on her. One he did not recall from prior visits.
Still dividing his attention between his wife next to him and the rest of his family across the room, Darcy answered Elizabeth's question, "I have not heard any words against him."
Not finding his reply adequate to satisfy her, she persisted.
"Gentlemen seem to find him quite amiable and yet he possesses a certain air of," Elizabeth paused to consider, "authority, I imagine, but without aggressiveness or hautiness."
"Yes, he is blessed with such happy manners as may insure his making friends and he is equally capable of retaining them."
Col. Fitzwilliam's profile was turned such that she could not make out his expression, but Georgiana's pleasure was evident as Elizabeth could look beyond the Colonel and see Georgiana's bright countenance. She showed complete composure as always, but laughter and charm appeared to have replaced her shyness and reserve. Elizabeth herself had once experienced the affects of the Colonel's happy manners and wondered privately at their affects on Georgiana. Was this ease and confidence springing from more than familial acquaintanceship?
Elizabeth smiled approvingly, "It would appear our cousin's happy manners are not lost on our fair sister?"
Darcy smiled, genuinely appreciating Georgiana's felicity. He was about to reply when he was stricken by what he saw next.
Georgiana had been speaking with the servant who was pouring wine for her and the Colonel. When she turned back to the Colonel, Darcy could see past her to the face of the servant with whom she had been conversing. It was John with that same look of adoration and awe he had possessed when John was near Georgiana in the hall. John was lost, gazing so intently at Georgiana, he did not see the wine spilling over the glass he had been filling. Had the implications of John's look not been consuming Darcy's thoughts, he might have found amusement in John's reaction upon feeling the cool liquid on his hand. But Darcy was occupied considering his course of action.
To find behavior of such impropriety in one of his servants was disconcerting. But for the impropriety to be directed toward his sister was intolerable! Darcy's immediate, unconsidered reaction was to physically remove John from the room and the estate for that matter. However, John was from a family that had served the masters of Pemberley faithfully for three generations. His family's long-standing loyalty persuaded Darcy to not act on his immediate desire. As a rational man, he did not wish to act precipitously. To his knowledge, John's indiscretion was limited only to looks and embarrassed clumsiness. His past knowledge of his servant told him John was honest and hard working. Before taking measures to correct John's lapse in discretion and certainly before disgracing John's family by removing him from his position at Pemberley, Darcy wished to be certain. He resolved to observe John carefully and to make inquiries of Mrs. Reynolds. He was uncertain whether to speak with Georgiana directly to discover if John had made any indecent advances. He did not believe John to be dangerous and did not wish to alarm her by discussing a subject of some delicacy.
Elizabeth looked to her husband when he did not immediately reply to her question. Her teasing reproach caught in her throat when she saw the turn of his countenance. Just moments before, he had been light-hearted and responsive. Now, he appeared solemn, displeased and deliberative.
In alarm, "Mr. Darcy, what is it?" Elizabeth followed her husband's piercing line of sight to discern what had so affected him. But all she could see was Georgiana speaking and laughing with the Colonel. Is Darcy displeased with his sister's behavior? With Fitzwilliam's? This does not seem possible!
Darcy was yet too preoccupied to answer his wife's question. The more he considered John, the more Darcy thought some immediate intervention might also be prudent. But he would not relieve John from his present duties himself. That would bring too much attention. Once resolved, Darcy was a man of action. Bowing sharply to his wife, Darcy gravely took his leave, "Pray, excuse me, I must attend to urgent business." Elizabeth watched as Darcy strode purposefully from the room. The suddenness of his change in temper and his abrupt departure left her shocked and confused. Elizabeth sought the support of a near by chair, pondering what she had just witnessed. If he was displeased with either of his relations, why should he quit the room? To recollect himself? She knew Darcy too well. He would not find that necessary. Again, she attempted to convince herself the urgent business could not be occasioned by either Georgiana or Colonel Fitzwilliam. No. It must be something beyond my knowledge. But, I shall not let it remain so.
"And I suppose Colonel you would have me believe you then subdued the charging tiger by wrestling it to the ground?" Georgiana chided her cousin, laughter in her voice.
Colonel Fitzwilliam laughed.
"Ah dear Georgiana. I cannot willfully deceive you. Sadly, no. I ran with the rest of my comrades. But your conclusion to the story might recommend me more, don't you think?"
A servant was extending a filled glass to Georgiana.
"Oh, John I was not aware you would be serving this evening. Thank you. Has your sister quite recovered? She has had us worried."
John swallowed hard trying to regain his composure after realizing Georgiana was approaching his table.
"Yes, thank you, Miss," was all he could harness from his whirling mind.
Georgiana replied smiling while accepting her wine, "Good, I am glad to hear of it. Please give her my regards for her continued recovery."
Fitzwilliam accepted his glass, turning back to contemplate his companion. He was most agreeably engaged with his cousin and took no particular notice of the person handing him his wine.
Georgiana was delighted with her conversation with Colonel Fitzwilliam. He had made it clear from his inquiries that he was genuinely interested in her thoughts, while expressing his own. With her cousin, she felt emboldened, unexpectedly able to shed her reserve. She found his stories of his recent encampment in India quite entertaining. She did not consider him any less heroic for having run before a Bengal tiger, but could not resist teasing him a little.
Georgiana's expression was open and bright. "Let us be thankful there are no tigers at Pemberley, so your heroism will not be tested before all society present." As she laughed freely at the Colonel's return, a figure across the room caught her attention. It was her brother's. The affect of his piercing gaze was immediate. Her laughter trailed away. She felt his disapprobation deeply, almost as a physical reprimand. She quickly lowered her eyes. She must be acting too freely. Georgiana had never questioned her brother's authority and knew she must curb her emotions. She fell silent, her complexion growing pale.
Fitzwilliam was alarmed by her sudden change. "What is it? Are you ill, Georgiana?"
Georgiana could not bring herself to reveal the true nature of her distress.
"Forgive me. Perhaps it is the lateness of the hour. I find I am suddenly fatigued."
"Yes, of course. Here, let us rest." Colonel Fitzwilliam led Georgiana to a chair. Before taking his place next to her, he scanned the room. He was certain Georgiana had been affected by something, but he could not discern any particular cause. He did observe Darcy leaving the room, but from his vantage he could not perceive any unusual emotion in him.
Perhaps if he engaged her in talking of her music, she might recover. "Pray, tell me Georgiana. What music are you endeavoring to master?"
Georgiana appeared grateful that Fitzwilliam did not press for any further explanation of her distress and she was always happy to discuss her music.
"I fear I will never master this work as you say, but I have been practicing a very challenging piano concerto by Mozart. It is little known within the country. Mrs. Annesley learned of it and secured a copy for me. I believe it was through some family living on the continent. She knows I enjoy a challenge and was very kind to trouble herself.
"Will you play it for me? I should dearly love to hear it." Fitzwilliam smiled his encouragement.
"Oh, you should be very disappointed. I have only just begun my knowledge of it. And I fear to do any justice to it, we should need the other accompaniment."
Fitzwilliam did not relent, "I must take my leave tomorrow...duty calls. Will you indulge your cousin and play before I go? I promise to be very attentive and withhold any criticism. If there be any. I suspect you are more proficient than you profess."
"You are very kind to be so confident of my abilities. I shall play for you if you like. I am very sad to learn you must depart tomorrow. When shall we see you again? Are you to return to India?"
"No. I shall be in England. I will be taking a new regiment through training. I can not say when I shall be able to return to Pemberley." Fitzwilliam paused to consider, wishing to see his cousin again very soon. "I shall be in London through the remainder of the season, though. I should be honored if you would allow me to escort you to the opera during my stay. Shall I speak to Darcy?"
Georgiana thought of experiencing the society of London, the opera, the symphony...and in the happy company of Colonel Fitzwilliam.
"Oh, yes, sir, " she replied enthusiastically.
Fitzwilliam seized the moment of her felicity. "It is settled then. Now. Do you feel sufficiently recovered to honor me with the next dance?"
Georgiana could feel heat spreading over her cheeks. The suddenness of her emotions confused her. Her heart thrilled at his animated features and his tender attentions. Her reason cautioned her to be circumspect, but her emotions urged indulgence. Georgiana smiled.
"Yes, sir. I thank you."
Mr. Lang watched with envy as Colonel Fitzwilliam and Georgiana danced together. Her countenance glowed from her pleasure. Turning to his parents, he insisted, "Father, Mother, we must have a ball--without delay!"
Darcy received neither resistance nor inquiry when he requested that John be excused from any further service that evening. As master of Pemberley, he was not expected to explain his demands. And those serving the master were not expected to question, unless for the purpose of understanding what service was to be performed. Darcy supposed there might be gossip and conjecture on the part of John's fellow servants, but that was not any of his concern. Perhaps John's peers would help him consider his actions more carefully. But Darcy was not a man given to intentionally supplying fodder for gossip, so he had merely given his directive while keeping his expression impassive--giving neither endorsement nor criticism of John's service. Darcy had every confidence his instructions would be carried out without delay and therefore relegated the matter to the back of his mind, knowing he would deal with it completely another day.
Darcy took a moment to recollect himself before a mirror hanging outside the ballroom. As he corrected a slight slant in the lay of his cravat, he found his image smiling back at him--actually at the vision he was recalling of Elizabeth's countenance as she had said with alarm, 'Mr. Darcy, what is it?' He had come to learn that his expression could appear quite severe when he was displeased and knew from Elizabeth's shock that he must have been quite a sight. He had been too absorbed then to give notice, but now he was able to see the humor in what had just transpired. Would Elizabeth find humor in it as well, he wondered. She apparently had not seen the comical appearance of John's look and the overflowing wine. Or would she be angry, having only experienced his lack of reply and his leaving her so abruptly? In the almost twelvemonth they had been married, his dearest Elizabeth had never displayed any true anger toward him. As he returned to the ballroom, he hoped for the best.
Darcy found Elizabeth and Jane engaged in intimate conversation. Mmm, she does not have the appearance of anger, but I am sure to be the object of her cleverness. She has that look. Darcy prepared himself as he approached from the side, stopping a respectful distance from their tete-a-tete. He could read Jane's lips, informing Elizabeth of his return. Elizabeth turned, showing her surprise and pleasure at seeing her husband.
"Mr. Darcy! How happy to see you returned. And Jane, he is whole! But let us check his hands."
Elizabeth took both Darcy's hands, turning them palm-side up in inspection.
"And no blood. He is masterful. Is he not?"
Darcy smiled. "Were you hoping to find my blood, Madame, or that of another?"
Jane laughed, wondering at Darcy's patience with her sister's wit.
"Why that of another, sir. I could not comprehend of any matter of such urgency other than causing the early demise of Mr. Raleigh or Mr. Hughes. Your intended target could not have been Mr. Lang for he is still standing in this room."
Darcy accepted her sarcasm with good humor.
"Be not alarmed, fair ladies. No blood has been spilt by my hand. Messieurs Raleigh, Lang and Hughes are safe...for the moment." Darcy paused, becoming more serious. "I know you are vexed with me, Elizabeth, for leaving so abruptly and not confiding in you. I do desire your opinion on the affair, but I must test your good patience a while longer. Let us not speak of it this evening. Matters are sufficiently in hand that we may wait for a more appropriate setting."
Not really satisfied, but pleased with his promise of disclosing more, Elizabeth relented. Her curiosity demanded she press, but she knew no amount of effort would produce more if he was unwilling. The look in her eyes gave Darcy to know Elizabeth would seek the first opportunity to revive the subject.
Turning to her sister, "Well, Jane, since we are not to hear from Mr. Darcy, let us hear the news you were about to announce."
"I hope you will find happiness in our decision. Bingley and I are resolved to find a new estate ... perhaps not so close to Netherfield." Jane added with particular meaning.
Elizabeth exclaimed, "Oh Jane! You must move north! This country is so beautiful and to have you and Bingley so near..." Jane was gratified by Elizabeth's enthusiastic response.
Elizabeth continued, "But have you already found a place?"
"No, we have really only just made the decision. And I must ask you to not speak of it to Mother or Father for we have not told them yet. Bingley thinks it best to wait 'til we have first located our new home."
Darcy and Elizabeth could well imagine Mrs. Bennet's clamor at losing the recipient of her officious civilities. But Elizabeth suspected, Bingley's and Jane's absence would serve to give her leave for boasting even more of his wealth and success.
Darcy was genuinely pleased with the prospect of Bingley and Jane living within a very easy distance and knew his felicity would be surpassed by Elizabeth's. While she was excessively happy at Pemberley, he knew Elizabeth missed her close attachment with Jane.
Darcy offered, "You and Bingley must stay with us when you explore this part of the country... Perhaps you would wish to extend your stay and begin your search while the weather is still accommodating? I would be happy to show you Derbyshire and the neighboring counties."
Elizabeth beamed. "Yes, Jane. Begin your search as soon as possible--the sooner I will have you close again."
Jane could not have wished for two people more accommodating. "Thank you for your kind offer. I shall speak with Bingley. I must admit, my mind is put at ease, knowing we will have your knowledge of the country to guide us."
Ah, Darcy, here you are!" Colonel Fitzwilliam addressed Darcy with his characteristic cheer while bowing his head to Elizabeth. Georgiana still held her cousin's arm, her eyes wide from the mix of jubilant emotion and fatigue from the lateness of the evening. In fact, the hour was more of early morning than of late evening. Only a few guests tarried in the entry hall to politely take leave of their hosts and begin their moonlit journey home, even Jane and Bingley had retired to the guest chambers upstairs.
"Darcy, we have hit upon a marvelous plan..."
Georgiana looked a little startled, her hand suddenly pressing on her escort's arm. She had not expected her cousin to approach her brother yet that evening. If William was still displeased with her, he might refuse and she did so desire to go to London--to be in the company of her cousin again. She wished Fitzwilliam had waited at least until after William had had some sleep. In her apprehension, Georgiana found it difficult to meet her brother's eyes, but allowed herself to glance at him to see if she could discern his emotions.
Darcy looked quickly from Fitzwilliam to his sister. Something in Fitzwilliam's tone caused him to ponder We?...Of what significance is this word? Georgiana appears ill-at-ease. Is she discomforted by his inclusive address?
Elizabeth recalled the Earl of Matlock's admonition to his son when leaving Colonel Fitzwilliam alone with her. 'Do not let your emotions run away with you,' he had said. Where are your emotions running to now? she wondered as she watched the Colonel.
"...I am to be quartered in London for the remainder of the season. I should find your company welcome relief if you would come to town. Perhaps in time for Michaelmas?" The Colonel felt Georgiana gripping his arm and wondered if she had had a change of heart. Turning to her with a questioning, yet inviting look, "Are you not most anxious to attend the opera, Georgiana?"
When Fitzwilliam looked at her, Georgiana experienced a weakness inside she had not known before. She returned his question with a spontaneous smile, "Yes, I would be happy for such an evening." She found herself pausing, becoming lost in her meditation of his features--the tenderness of his gaze, the lines of laughter etched about his eyes. But the remembrance of her brother's possible ill-favor brought her attention back to the question. She respectfully deferred to William, "If you do not object?" Georgiana's eyes could not meet that of her brother's.
Darcy's eyes narrowed only momentarily. He thought her choice of words and behavior towards him interesting. He could not think of a time he had objected to going to town, to attending the opera or to being in the company of the Colonel. Is there reason for objection? he wondered.
"I am not aware of any prior engagements," Darcy replied leisurely, despite his inner puzzlement.
Georgiana looked up quickly, studying her brother's face, with relief evident on her own. Darcy looked to Elizabeth for confirmation. Colonel Fitzwilliam took Elizabeth's smile as affirmation of the plan.
"Very well! I shall expect to spend Michaelmas with you and will make plans for our diversion whilst in town." Looking over Elizabeth's shoulder, Col. Fitzwilliam silently acknowledged a man's motioning to him. "But, if you will pardon me, I see Thorpe is preparing to leave and I must speak with him. Let us agree on our plans in more detail on the morrow." Bowing from the shoulders, "Darcy...Cousin Elizabeth, I bid you good night."
Before taking his leave, Colonel Fitzwilliam turned to Georgiana, placing his hand over hers. His expression becoming more serious as he spoke quietly, intimately, "You have made this a most memorable evening, Georgiana. You are positively captivating. Thank you." He gently unwrapped Georgiana's hand from his arm, leading her to William's. "Now, my dear cousin, I place you in your brother's care. Promise me you shall seek rest soon. There will be many more balls for your pleasure. No one will think ill of you if you retire now." Adding with a slow bow, "I look forward to our time tomorrow. Good night, Georgiana." Georgiana had never heard her name spoken so agreeably. She could feel the pink rising again in her cheeks as she watched Fitzwilliam walk energetically toward Mr. Thorpe.
Darcy and Elizabeth unknowingly shared the same thoughts as they watched Fitzwilliam take his leave, but neither was prepared to speak of his appraisal of their cousin's present emotions.
Darcy addressed his sister in a protective tone, "Yes, Georgiana. We shall say farewell to the remaining guests. Do not tire yourself further." Darcy lightly kissed Georgiana on the forehead, giving her hand a gentle squeeze.
Georgiana was grateful for his concern and welcomed the opportunity to retire to her chambers, but she was certain she would not sleep. She had much to reflect upon. The evening had been full of surpassing wonders! Georgiana curtsied gracefully, "Good night, William. Good night, Elizabeth." Just as she turned in the direction of the stairway, she hesitated and turned again to her brother and sister. With obvious emotion in her voice, she added, "Thank you. I could not have wished for a more excellent evening."
But before Georgiana could take her leave, the Langs approached. Jonathon Lang bowed to Miss Darcy while his mother addressed Mrs. Darcy.
Mrs. Lang smiled graciously, "Please forgive our forwardness, but we have just learned the happy news of your anticipated time in London. Would you and your husband, along with Miss Darcy, do us the great honor of attending a ball we shall be giving immediately following Michaelmas?"
That he had just agreed to take Georgiana to London, mixed with the Lang's immediate knowledge of their plans, brought the resounding peel of a horn to Darcy's mind. And the hunt begins, he thought cynically. Darcy left the obligatory responses to his wife while turning his attention to that of the younger Lang. Jonathon was looking with keen interest at Georgiana as his mother spoke, perhaps hoping to see pleasure at the invitation, he surmised. Darcy was interested in his sister's response as well. The radiance of her countenance gave no doubt as to the inclination of her feelings. But of its cause, Darcy was not certain. Was it conceived from her feelings toward Mr. Lang? Her desire to attend another ball? Her pleasure from the whole of the evening? Whatever its cause, though, Darcy could see Mr. Lang was well satisfied with Georgiana's complaisance.
While she was taken aback by the Lang's knowledge of their London plans, Elizabeth knew it would be improper not to accept, so she did not venture a look at Darcy before responding with polite ease, "Yes, we shall look forward to it."
"Marvelous!" Mrs. Lang looked at her husband with a smile of accomplishment. "Perhaps we shall also have the pleasure of seeing you and Miss Darcy at the theater, then, while you are in town. We shall look forward to your arrival with great anticipation. I will send you a proper invitation immediately upon our return to London." The elder Langs bid their hosts good night, leaving their son to say his farewell to Miss Darcy.
"Miss Darcy, thank you for a most pleasurable evening. I shall be quite desolate until we may dance together again. I am ever your servant. Fare well until we meet again." As he rose from his bow, Jonathon's face reflected his eager anticipation of being in Georgiana's company again. Georgiana felt embarrassed, being the object of his direct gaze, but curtsied politely. He found her form most appealing as she returned his attentions with a curtsy and would have allowed himself a moment of further appreciation had it not been for her brother. From the corner of his eye, Jonathon could see Mr. Darcy stiffening in disapproval. Mr. Lang thought it best to appreciate Miss Darcy's beauty another time. So it was with a cool return from Mr. Darcy, that Georgiana's admirer took his leave.
Looking about the hall, Darcy could see no remaining guests. Rubbing his fingers back and forth across his forehead, Darcy let out a pointed sigh. "Hmm...Elizabeth, I am tired." All he could think of was the comfort of his bed and all-encompassing sleep. Then deciding it might better his likelihood of rest if he experienced something more pleasant than thoughts of Mr. Lang before bed, looked at his wife, "But I believe I shall have a glass of sherry before retiring. Will you join me?"
Elizabeth craved to escape the confines of her evening attire and nestle in the warmth of their bed, but she could see he sincerely wished for her company. She felt a sudden compassion toward her poor Darcy. He had experienced such a torturous range of emotions through the affair. She answered him with a most loving smile. "Yes, Fitzwilliam, I would be delighted." Elizabeth entreated Georgiana, "Will you not also join us?"
Georgiana considered the invitation momentarily. She had never been invited to stay for sherry--another pleasure she had wished to experience. But the weariness William wore, urged her to be discreet. She thought it best to allow Elizabeth to minister to her husband's needs in private. Georgiana made her excuse, "No, I thank you. I am much too fatigued...But I should hope to be asked again," she added with a shy smile. Then intoning sweetly, "Good night, dear brother. Good night, dear sister."
Darcy and Elizabeth watched as Georgiana floated up the stairs as a butterfly on the breeze.
Continued in Connections
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