Situating herself within the unpretentious elegance of the carriage bearing the Darcy livery, Kitty disbelieved her good fortune. Peering eagerly through the window, she anticipated in her mind's eye the many shops and patrons of that extolled street, known as "Bond," feeling keenly the envy she knew would be Lydia's were she to know of her good fortune. Turning to Georgiana, Kitty's enthusiasm expressed itself without consideration, as she exclaimed in a manner not very unlike her younger sister, "Oh Georgiana, Bond Street. And my uncle has given me pocket money...Oh, where shall we go?"
Georgiana's own thoughts and expressions, though polished by the refinement of her education and qualified by the consequence of her family by which her needs and wishes had always been provided, were no less enthusiastic as she considered the outing before them. A morning, spent in agreeable companionship while seeking estimable purchases, would have easily excited those feelings of agreeable anticipation without further inducement. However, this morning promised even more.
It had been determined the afore evening that Georgiana ought indeed keep her prior appointment with Kitty, even though neither Elizabeth nor Mrs. Gardner could now accompany them--a decision arrived upon with such certainty as to have left Georgiana silently amazed. Her cousin, having fixed his own mind as to the irrevocableness of the arrangements he had made for the morning and likewise having convinced Georgiana of the same, had with little trouble, managed to fix her brother's mind as to the undeniable necessity of Georgiana's going out for the morning. Just as promised, Colonel Fitzwilliam had easily directed the conversation in such a way, making Elizabeth sympathetic to Georgiana's lot of remaining at home, yet without companionship or purpose as the wife tended to the husband, and making Darcy sensible of a certain indebtedness to Georgiana for having not only ruined her first London ball, but also having further injured her through an unwarranted sentence to a dull existence in the very midst of the spoils of Town.
"And," the Colonel had argued, "I must be allowed to press my own self-interest in this case. Georgiana and I have been preparing a surprise for you both and tomorrow is essential to our success." This last had finally been revealed and to Georgiana's satisfaction as now her motives for going out when she might have otherwise been of possible service to either Elizabeth or her brother were made unimpeachable.
With such a plea, one could have little argument and so Darcy's consent was readily given with wry amusement pressed between his lips and punctuated by Elizabeth's own warm expression of endorsement.
With the passing of the storm's disturbance, the only abuse of Georgiana's complaisance had then been her struggle to remain firm against her brother's and sister's artful attempts to discover the time, if not the very nature of the surprise. It had been the Colonel's good pleasure, though to protect her weakness, defending with wit and deflection to save her from her own forthrightness. And so, their surprise had been safe-guarded and was to be rehearsed in secrecy this very morning, though Georgiana knew she must take at least one person into her confidence.
As Kitty removed from the window with an expectant smile, Georgiana explained by way of answer, "Elizabeth entreated my purchase of a book with which to engage my brother's interest while he convalesces, so the bookseller might be our first stop."
Kitty tried to keep her disappointment from showing. She did not wish to insult her hostess, but books were easily the last she longed for when considering what she might gain with her pocket money. She had hoped for a new bonnet or lace or sweets at the very least!
Georgiana continued, offering tentatively, "As we are to enjoy each other's society while in London, I thought perhaps we might choose a favorite book, one for the other, that we might discuss and appreciate them together."
Kitty's disappointment was overtaken by panic could not even think of a book she had read of late, to say nothing of one she might recommend and discuss! My lovely pocket money, too, Kitty lamented peevishly to herself. It was not fair, just when she might have a little fun, it was ruined as always.
Suddenly aware of the awkwardness she had unintentionally created, Georgiana sought to relieve the distress of any financial burden she had imposed, claiming sincerely, "My brother has kindly supplemented my own pocket money this morning for our good pleasure and I believe he would be well-satisfied with this employment. And," Georgiana added with a small conspiratorial smile, "I do believe enough will remain for sweets and buns."
The pout which had begun contorting Kitty's countenance eased to a smile of her own as the genuineness of her companion influenced her feelings into a milder temper. At least their morning was not to be all of books and dry stuff, she reasoned, were she to return home with a book of her own, her father may believe she was worth some attention after all.
"Mm," Georgiana murmured so quietly as she smoothed the fingers of her glove Kitty nearly did not hear her, "There are two other places I would have us go this morning if you have no objections..."
With Georgiana's hesitancy, Kitty decided they could only be duller even than a bookseller. But pray, what could that be? Kitty lamented sourly, once again losing any favor she had mustered for the day.
"I must meet with my cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam...," Georgiana looked up briefly to see if Kitty recalled their dining together at Erewile before resuming her fingering of her reticule's ribbons, "...as well as consult with a jeweler. It is very wrong of me, Kitty, to impose upon you thus, but I must implore you reveal what I to tell you to no one...neither your Aunt nor Elizabeth, nor anyone." Georgiana looked up to see the affect of her request upon her friend.
The scintillation of Kitty's skin reawakened that hope she had lost for the day as it heralded the advent of intriguewhich she was to be a part! "Oh yes, certainly, Georgiana," Kitty's eyes widened as she eagerly agreed, "Pray, what are we to do?"
Georgiana loosened the ties of her reticule, carefully withdrawing an object wrapped in a handkerchief. Kitty's eyes darted from the cloth to the woman and back again, anxiously awaiting its unveiling. As she swayed gently with the motion of the coach, Georgiana peeled back the covering with the care one gives to a fragile and treasured possession.
"Oh, it is beautiful!" marveled Kitty upon seeing the cameo.
Georgiana brightened, visibly pleased by her exclamation, "Yes, I find it lovely as well." Returning her appreciative gaze to the delicate oval, "It is this about which I must seek the opinion of our jeweler. I wish to know if he would esteem the workmanship enough to make purchase of it." Georgiana looked up into the wondering eyes of her companion.
"I must hope for my brother's sanction and assistance for I can discern no other means for a happy end," Georgiana concluded as much to herself as to Kitty as her voice benefited not from the confidence of certitude.
With each succeeding disclosure, Kitty's amazement had grown just as her eyes had revealed her state. Now with eyes wide as ever, Kitty sputtered, "I...Georgiana...You..." Kitty had never once in her life given any thought to the affairs of their maids or other servants...Neither had she ever possessed such a sum as might be bestowed for another's benefit if she had been so bent...Nor could she imagine any of her immediate relations sanctioning any plan she contrived for much of anything. Kitty asked, hopeful to be absolved of the need to answer, "Have you not asked Lizzy, then?"
"No, I have not," Georgiana doubted as she looked away to the facades of shops, passing by the window. "I have only just determined this solution after a conversation between my brother and cousin last evening and had hoped to engage Elizabeth on the topic before leaving this morning. However I did not see her save when my brother summoned me hither to their chambers that he might wish our day well and add to my purse. His is a very generous nature, especially toward me," Georgiana inserted before concluding, "But, I know I cannot approach him with such a request until I am certain more than I find this work so agreeable..." Georgiana beheld her cameo. "...thus my purpose in seeking Mr. Theobald. He has supplied our family with adornments for as long as I can remember. My brother must value his opinion of the work...," Georgiana whispered as all the considerations of her course presented themselves, each one tenuous, each easily deterred by those whose opinions and will held sway over her own.
The carriage's motion slowed to a halt, with each woman's gaze expectantly flying to the windows. A slight movement of the coach with the footman's descent and immediate appearance at the door signaled their arrival. Georgiana hastily covered the piece and replaced it within her bag as her man opened the door.
The man handing her down might have been said by some to be well-favored, however the quality of his countenance was not what first inspired an opinion when looking upon him. Rather, one's opinion was immediately formed as to his solidity. His height equaled, if not surpassed, her brother's which was considered great and beneath his golden livery was an obvious possession of strength. As Georgiana accepted her footman's assistance from the conveyance, she did not wonder at his being assigned, but smiled to herself just the same. Though new to the Darcy employ, Caldwell had been given the creditable responsibility of seeing to her serviceable needs while on her day's excursion. And with his formidable presence, Georgiana was certain he had been entrusted with her personal safety, as well.
A particular odor met Kitty as the door to the bookseller's was opened to her. She supposed it must be the scent of the books themselves as it was not entirely unfamiliar to her; her father's library possessing some of the same, though not as strongly. And though she had not had the intention of finding this place favorable, Kitty was moved to a sense of appreciation despite herself as volume after volume lined the seller's shelves with the great stacks being made accessible by ladders positioned here and there. Many a person of fashionable dress and deportment strolled about as though perusing the stacks was a common occupation and consulting with the clerks who waited them from behind a very large counter was not a daunting prospect. To Kitty however, all this was singularly uncommon.
"Will you accompany me to the counter? I wish to know what is in new that may be of interest to my brother," Georgiana invited placidly, apparently quite at ease with her surroundings.
"No," Kitty declined more strongly than she had intended, not wishing to give her friend any indication of her ill ease. She knew assistance would be required to find the book she had read and would therefore recommend to Georgiana, but she could not ask after it while in that woman's company. Kitty could remember neither the title, nor the author and hoped desperately the clerk might recognize it from what little description she could provide. To do so within the hearing of her friend would be mortifying. Kitty recollected herself and assured more evenly, "No, I thank you, Georgiana. I would like to look around a bit just now." In truth, Kitty hoped something would yet bring the slippery title to mind!
"Oh yes, of course," Georgiana accepted graciously, showing no wonder at her friend's changeable disposition.
The women parted each to her own purpose which soon found Kitty haplessly wandering along the shelves, grasping after what little memories remained of the book she sought--It was about a woman...who left her home to work for a man...What was her name?...It was not so simple as Jane or Mary. Elizabeth? No. Fanny? No, Kitty sniggered to herself. Oh, I shall never remember! Kitty pouted as she looked to see if Georgiana remained at the counter. Finding her not there, but at the far-end of the shop, receiving the recommendations of a clerk, Kitty made her way directly to the counter. Fingering her reticule impatiently, Kitty wished the gentleman currently imposing his praises of his most recent read upon the clerk would be quick about finishing and leave that she might consult the man herself before Georgiana's return. Oh what was the name? I am certain he will know the book, if I could just remember the woman's name! Rachel. No. Ruth. No, no, I remember now it began with a "P"! Kitty recalled hopefully. Penelope, she tested. No... Kitty felt the excitement of an imminent revelation...
"Why Miss Bennet, what a pleasure to find you here," a gentleman greeted familiarly.
Kitty spun where she stood, shocked to be found of recognition by a gentleman in Town and dismayed at having been interrupted just when she felt the name was to come to mind! This last, however, was quickly relieved upon finding the source of the salutation to be a most agreeable gentleman, indeed. "Mr. Farrow! You gave me quite a fright, sir," Kitty chastised playfully as the man tipped his hat, politely.
"I hope you will allow me the pleasure of making amends then as I was merely in haste to greet you," Farrow defended as playfully, if not more so. "Lang and I were just popping in for some diversion, only to find to my delight a greater diversion was to be had, that is if you will allow," Farrow insinuated himself into Kitty's company with an expectant look of acceptance.
"May I be of service, ma'am?" the clerk queried.
Flush with the excitement of receiving such rakish attention from the gentleman, Kitty reluctantly turned from his flirtatious gaze without reply and stammered across the counter, "Yyes, I wish to make purchase of a book..." and then the mortification she had hoped to avoid gripped her much worse to be found stupid by this very fashionable gentleman. Looking beseechingly into the eyes of the man who remained innocent of the depths of her despair, Kitty voiced quietly, "I believe the title is Penelope." But the man showed no sign of recognition as he frowned slightly. No, a small voice whispered in her head, Pamela. Yes, yes! That is it! "No!" Kitty quickly decried, "I meant to say, 'Pamela'!* Do you have it?"
The clerk's frown eased into a satisfied countenance, believing himself now enabled to service the patron, but his was in no way equal to the triumphal one of the woman's. "By Samuel Richardson, yes, Miss, I believe we have the volumes. If you will wait here, I will retrieve them for you." And with that, the man excused himself, leaving Kitty in the welcome company of Mr. Felix Farrow.
"'Pamela'?" Farrow queried in a tone by which Kitty could not make out his meaning, though she found it unsettling.
The clerk had returned without delay, having the benefit of superior knowledge of the shelves' contents, "Volumes I and II, Miss. May I find anything else for you?"
Volumes I and II?! Kitty lamented inwardly, having only just remembered she had read only volume one before giving up the story. How was she to discuss the second? "No, this will be all for now. My friend is still choosing her books, so we will pay then."
"Friend? You are not here alone then I take it?" Farrow asked while looking about the shop, preparing to guess the identity of her companion. His search was neither long nor challenging as he happened upon the sight of Miss Darcy...along with that of Mr. Lang. "Ahh, yes, of course, you are here with Miss Darcyelicitous coincidence for my friend there," Farrow indicated the other man with a meaningful tip of his chin in his direction.
Georgiana scanned the pages of the volume she held unaware of the firm plant of her lower lip within the grip of her teeth. Her brother's habit of reading was of such an avid nature she could not be certain if he had already made purchase of this particular book. A sound of someone particularly clearing his throat raised Georgiana's eyes from the pages.
"Miss Darcy," the gentleman breathed admiringly, raising his hat in greeting.
"Mr. Lang," Georgiana returned with polite obeisance as heat overspread her cheeks, showing her disquiet in finding herself unexpectedly in the company of a gentleman. Willing that proper composure and ease in which she had been educated for the occasion of a happenstance meeting, Georgiana remained quiet, her eyes traveling anxiously up the length of Lang's sleeve and then down again waiting upon that conversation for which he was obliged.
"Will you allow me by, sir?" A woman of some years and air of consequence bid with vexation from behind Lang as that man remained in the middle of the row with his hat still tilted askew in his raised hand. "Yes, yes, of course," Lang moved quickly aside, reseating his hat with some chagrin, as the woman passed intoning her disapproval of his abstraction. Though the woman would never have intended it so, her insistence had the happy result of moving Lang into that very sphere he craved. Peering over her delicate arm to see what volume she held, Lang's brows arched in surprise at finding a title of great length and intellectual merit, "You are much to be commended, Miss Darcy. I would not have deemed such topic of interest to a woman."
"Mr. Lang, you find me just now seeking to fulfill a commission on my brother's behalf," Georgiana explained meekly, her gaze rising to his shoulder, but no higher before again settling to its lowered place.
"Mr. Darcy?" Lang questioned, unknowingly stepping away from that man's sister. "Yes, of course!" Lang quickly realized what must be the cause for her errand. "May I enquire after your brother's health?"
"I thank you, Mr. Lang. My brother remains at home for some time, I believe. I hope to find him topics enlightening and diverting to ease the burden of his convalescence. His is not a nature of idleness," Georgiana informed sympathetically.
"One may well imagine," Lang uttered quietly, considering the characteristics he attributed to her brother. However, the image did not trouble him long as his mind returned to the more pleasurable qualities before his eyes. Brightening, he complimented "May I commend you again, Miss Darcy, for your selection must engage him for some time, I should think."
Georgiana considered the book with a small frown, "I am uncertain. I had thought to procure several for him..." Georgiana hesitated in her quandary, unwilling to act with any impoliteness by turning her back toward the gentleman to seek the shelves' offerings, and yet equally desirous of locating just such another volume as may bring her brother pleasure.
Eager to perform any service which might be awarded her favor, Lang approached the shelves, then offered as he turned with a smile, "Perhaps together we might discover that which you seek?"
Though the words spoken were innocent enough, the hope expressed in his countenance again suffused the skin of her cheeks with that heat she lamented, causing her acceptance to escape in little more than a whisper, "You are most kind, sir."
The gentleman proved himself to be of nimble frame as he climbed the ladder with relish anytime Georgiana spied a volume perched too high for her reach, and even those within her grasp, happily retrieving and holding it for her acceptance or rejection. Several had been rejected as either having been already included in the Darcy library or having not the merit of content required by her brother.
As Lang returned one such rejected offering to its place high aloft upon the shelves, Georgiana sighed, feeling the burden of disappointment as inspiration failed her. Wondering if any might be found thither, Georgiana's attention drifted farther down the row when a small tremor disturbed her musing as her sight happened innocently upon a certain gentleman. An immediate and unwelcome impression formed that he was looking most particularly at her--watching her--over the edge of the volume he held opened in his hand. But no sooner had the sensation gripped her, than the man closed his volume indifferently, with his focus continuing on its path up to a nearby shelf where he then replaced it. Thinking her fancy to have got the best of her, Georgiana was only too happy to return her attention to her task as Lang descended, proclaiming to have located the very book for her brother. Recollecting her composure with a breath escaping Lang's notice, Georgiana gave her every attention to the pages Lang turned for her perusal, not wishing to know if the other man remained.
Rather than disappointing, the opinion expressed as to this book elicited a triumphant smile from her assistant, as Georgiana pronounced it satisfactory.
"I thank you, Mr.Lang, for troubling yourself on my brother's behalf. However, I fear this has prevented your own purpose for coming here in so much as this book has taken so long in discovery."
"Whatever I had intended, Miss Darcy, is now completely forgot, I assure you. My time has been profitably spent if I have been of some service to you...and your brother," Lang added with the admiration so evident in his eyes gaining some restraint.
"You are most kind," Georgiana accepted with a small curtsey. Expecting he must wish to take his leave, she offered, "But now, I will not impose further on your generosity as I have but one more purchase to make and of its author and content I am already decided."
"Ah, this must be for yourself then," Lang conjectured, his desire not being what Georgiana had supposed.
"No..." Georgiana began to inform him as she hesitantly accepted his silent offer to carry not only the two volumes he already possessed on her behalf, but the one she held also, "Rather, I am making purchase for a friend." Lang's apparent interest persuaded Georgiana to continue. "Miss Bennet and I have conspired to select, one for the other, a book meriting exchange and discussion. She is here now selecting one I shall read and I am to choose one for her."
"And what shall you have for her?" Lang supplied in continuance of their conversation as he followed her lead to the counter.
"I believe Miss Bennet will find pleasure in Shakespeare's sonnets," Georgiana stated simply, hoping he would not press her on the selection, fearing any further discussion of the matter may cast her friend in a poor light. As with no unkind judgment on her part, Georgiana had surmised from Kitty's general lack of recognition that she had had very little exposure to one of the country's most eloquent authors--a failing Georgiana did not easily reconcile with the accomplishments of the woman's elder sister. However, she had observed more than one difference between Elizabeth and Kitty which could not entirely be accounted for by taste or person and had come to wonder that perhaps some inequity had occurred between the rearing of the elder sisters and youngerinequity not easily comprehended, as her own father and now brother had always exerted themselves for her benefit. Georgiana wished to now do likewise for her friend and sister, sharing whatever she was able from the advantage to which she had always been privileged.
"Ah yes, Shakespeare," Lang breathed in approval, adding meaningfully as he looked directly into her eyes, "Miss Bennet is to be envied, discussing with you words which stir the soul...and heart."
Georgiana affected the only pose she supposed proper in response as she turned her face modestly away.
"Miss Darcy," Farrow exclaimed as the pair gained the book seller's counter, "I have been treated to the most delightful conversation with Miss Bennet, while you and Lang have been so industrious."
As all exchanged gestures of greeting, Georgiana appreciated the emotion effused across Kitty's face. Whatever pleasure the gentleman had derived from the exchange, the lady had not been left untouched as well.
With prompting from the gentlemen, it was soon undertaken to discover those works which were to be exchanged by the ladies, with the one easily esteemed and the other admired in obligation as its nature and outmoded style came as some surprise. Kitty directly apologized for the second volume, thinking the question she saw in Georgiana's eye's to be from the burden of such an expense, however receiving that woman's ready assurances, quit the subject quickly, feeling yet discomfited by the very proposition of recommending any material to one she presumed so well-read. With inquiry from the seller's clerk and Georgiana retrieving from her reticule the money required to complete the exchange, the matter was decided and any hope for reprieve forgotten. Kitty could only look blandly at the stack of books as Georgiana accepted the few coins handed her in return while informing the clerk her man would collect the volumes directly.
Turning from the others to summon Caldwell, Georgiana readily found her footman stationed by the door, having taken position there as his service had earlier been rendered unnecessary by Lang. Observantly waiting upon her direction, Caldwell responded with alacrity to Georgiana's motion, his measured stride expressing the dignity of his livery as he quietly passed the shop's patrons. However, it was not her footman's image which arrested Georgiana's attention as that man approached, but rather the appearance of a gentleman who just then placed himself in the foreground at such an angle as to be fully in view by her, yet without being noticed by her man. That one should so purposefully choose at that moment to position himself thusly would have elicited Georgiana's curiosity, but it was the very identity of the man which induced such shock as to cause her to blanch from her recognition. She knew not his name, but his face was indeed known to herwas the very one whom she had encountered among the many books! With eyes riveted to hers, he held her gaze--eyes so pale of hue as to pierce the distance between them with startling clarity. Before the finer details of his countenance could be discerned though, they were obscured from her as his full bow and scrape suddenly released his visual hold of her.
Her breath caught in her throat as the familiar countered the bizarre with her man's great height now completely preventing her view of her addressor.
Lang turned, expecting Georgiana to instruct her footman, but gave the orders himself as to the disposition of the books upon finding her momentarily unable. Perceiving her earnest scan of the shop as her man moved to the counter in fulfillment of his duty, Lang looked about the shop himself with curiosity lifting his brows, but finding nothing of particular note returned his gaze back to Georgiana whose pallor and rather odd behavior gave him cause for concern.
"I say, Miss Darcy, are you unwell?"
With one fleeting glance to where the man had stood but which now was inhabited by patrons disinterested in the interests of the young woman at the counter, Georgiana colored with embarrassment. "No, I thank you, Mr. Lang..."
Lang observed distractedly, unsure how to proceed as she appeared to be recollecting herself from some disturbance, "I was just lamenting our misfortune as we shall not be granted the privilege of escorting you along the shopss cursed rain and mud and all..."
Georgiana stared blankly at him a moment before truly comprehending that he had spoken, "... yes, ...the mud...we really must be going now," Georgiana announced feelingly, suddenly longing for the relative safety of her carriage. Kitty, however, appeared reluctant to quit their present company until reminded of their prior engagement. It was then that she became sensible of her friend's emotion-filled countenance and reminded of the further adventure yet in store--though she hoped this would not be her last encounter with Mr. Farrow.
"Good day, Mr. Farrow, Mr. Lang," the ladies bid politely, if not reluctantly by one, before turning for the door.
Realizing his imminent loss, Lang strode quickly after her, bypassing the book-laden footman as he moved to Georgiana's side. "Please allow me to see you to your carriage, Miss Darcy."
Farrow rolled his eye's at his friend's eagerness and followed his example with a more urbane stride.
Emerging from the shop, peering hesitantly to either side of the door as she did, Georgiana expected, though not wished to find that man which had made himself known to her in such a particular and strange manner. But only the dampness of the street air met her, bringing both discomfort as it hung close, and relief as no untoward image presented itself. Silent consternation rose within Georgiana at having suspected so much intent from what must be a figment of her imagination.
"Goodbye, Miss Darcy. I hope we shall meet again very soon," Lang bid hopefully, as he handed her up into the carriage.
"Thank you," Georgiana accepted politely as she entered that welcome sanctuary, afforded by the privacy of the coach's interior.
Reluctantly stepping back, Lang allowed Farrow to hand in Kitty, while cursing propriety's means of separating him from the object of his affections.
Farrow tortured his friend with his easy prognostication of doom as he raised his hand in the air, obliging Kitty's last farewell from the carriage window as it pulled away, "A pity your Miss Darcy is the ward of "Stoneheart?" It would be a good alliance, I grant you. Ah, more is the pity," Farrow concluded philosophically.
"Did you see how she blushes?" Lang observed incongruently to his friend's pessimism, savoring the image as his eyes yet followed the carriage's progress up the street.
Farrow decried disbelievingly, "You are mad with love, Lang. Turn your affections toward any, save Miss Darcy. Your ear will feel the scrape of cold bricks before his even begins to entertain your application."
The optimism framing Lang's visage waned as he lost sight of his object. Sighing, he conceded, "Indeed, Darcy is formidable." Then, regaining more square to his shoulders, Lang continued earnestly, if not altogether confidently, "Though I must try, Farrow. Darcy cannot wish his sister to bear the burden of spinsterhood. He must allow her to marry sometime. I am a likeable fellow; I have good prospects and I am not without connections, therefore why not sanction our alliance? Surely, he would not deny her happiness when she assures him of it."
Slapping Lang on the back, Farrow mocked smilingly, "Always optimistic, eh Lang? Perhaps founded in little substance, but optimistic just the same. What say you? Shall we to the club? Or do you intend to make your plea before "Stoneheart" now?"
Lang recalled the pain he had witnessed in Darcy's body. "No, not today," Lang chuckled, "I am not so daft as you suppose, Farrow. Perhaps on the morrow, though." Farrow looked at him askance. "Just a call," Lang explained "to express my wishes for his speedy recovery. Perhaps I will take along a bottle of father's port," Lang added smilingly.
Sharing in the humor of his friend's insinuation, Farrow returned the smile, motioning him on to their horses. Each man mounted, satisfied the one gentleman's purpose belonged rightly to another day, leaving the rest of the morning to be wiled away at the club, little suspecting another gentleman continued to apply himself to his own plan as he followed a golden liveried box.
*Pamela, by Samuel Richardson
The general commotion of the city's streets served as the only source of sound within the liveried equipage as the one occupant waited expectantly upon the other to initiate comment on their happy circumstance, however that woman exhibited little inclination toward such expression of felicity. Kitty shifted uncertainly in her place wondering how they might begin upon that topic which she so desired. Had Lydia been her companion no such burden would have befallen her. But where Kitty might have engaged in endless declarations of the gentlemen's merits with that sister, with this one, she found only anxious quiet.
The manifest agitation of Kitty's movements reminded Georgiana of her duties as hostess as she silently scolded herself for indulging her silly notions to the discomfit of her guest. Releasing the ties of her reticule she had been worrying, Georgiana closed her mind to the image of the man at the bookseller's entrance and focused her attention upon her friend.
Turning to address Kitty, Georgiana's countenance eased into complaisance as she recollected her thoughts to a more pleasant aspect of their time at the bookseller's.
"Thank you for your kind selection, Kitty. Shall we endeavor to have our first discussion on the morrow?"
Kitty's own complaisance was not so easily accomplished as disappointment passed over her countenance. Though the dullness of her reply did diminish what might otherwise have been credited to her by her restraint, it did not give voice to all her thoughts, "Yes, we might when Lizzy comes to call on my Aunt Gardiner...." Brightening at the notion of an entree into that which she wished to discuss, Kitty enquired, "Did you find the books you wanted for your brother?"
Unaware of Kitty's purpose, Georgiana replied with reasoned confidence, "Yes, I believe he will find the selection of some interest. I was not at all certain of locating something he would find agreeable."
Having succeeded thus far, Kitty ventured leadingly, "I imagine having the help of such a fine gentlemen made the search at least agreeable..."
The smallest intimation of amusement tinted Georgiana's cheeks, as she responded quietly, "Mr. Lang was most generous with his assistance."
Kitty nearly laughed outright, as she teased, "I should say! He would willingly have climbed every stack had you wished it." Adding meaningfully, "Farrow said he has never seen his friend so besotted."
The heat of a deep crimson overspread her skin as Georgiana turned her face to the coach's window as it slowed upon attaining its next destination.
As the young ladies were handed down, relief showed in one, having been delivered from an unknown response, while confusion registered in another, having received not the kind of reply to which she was accustomed.
Informing Caldwell his service would not be required within, Georgiana preceded Kitty into the shop with ease as the establishment was already known to her. It had not been her brother's habit to escort her to Wallingthorpe's upon his every stay in Town or day's excursion from ladies' college, but it had been his good pleasure to see she had enjoyed selecting several of the jeweler's creations. She unknowingly smiled to herself, realizing while she had not herself been in the establishment for many months, the cameo William and Elizabeth had presented her the night of the ball must have been fashioned by this capable jeweler. Kitty began silently admiring the samples on display, leaving Georgiana to wait patiently as Mr. Wallingthorpe concluded arrangements with the gentleman with whom he spoke from across the shop's counter. As the gentleman turned toward her, taking his leave, the distress of Georgiana's quiet exclamation became the recipient of both Kitty's and Mr. Wallingthorpe's immediate consideration as she hurriedly recollected herself from the sudden fright she had received. The sum of the man's appearance-- clothing, color and bearing were of such remarkable similarity that she mistook him for another man so recently and unhappily encountered. But as he tipped his hat in apology and politely begged her pardon for startling her, she realized he could not be the same for he had warm, kindly, chestnut colored eyes, not the clear blue which had been so striking even from a distance.
Quickly seeing to her comfort, Mr. Wallingthorpe came round the counter, bidding Georgiana and the other young lady to the stylish chairs arranged for the convenience of his most welcomed patrons. "There now, Miss Darcy..." the jeweler smiled as she visibly relaxed, "It is a pleasure to see you again...Miss.," the shop owner acknowledged Kitty with a respectful inclination of his head.
"I thank you, Mr. Wallingthorpe," Georgiana accepted yet a little discomposedly, feeling in the unnatural rhythm of her heart the effect of her error even while chastising herself. She could not comprehend that she should be so haunted by what must have merely been a mistaken acquaintanceship.
As the young lady seemed disinclined to present him to her companion, Wallingthorpe looked momentarily to the door and then back again, suggesting, "I will call for tea while we await Mr. Darcy."
"No, I thank you," Georgiana declined, while gathering her thoughts to her purpose and obligations. "Mr. Wallingthorpe, I have come on particular business and do not have long to tarry."
Though unaccustomed to dealing directly with the young lady it was not so much that which excited his attention, but also the earnestness with which she now applied to him. "Of course, Miss Darcy, pray how may I be of service to you?"
Loosening the ties of her reticule, Georgiana carefully retrieved the pouch, entrusting its contents to the hands of the elderly gentleman. "I wish to know your estimation of this piece."
The man's eyes widened though only momentarily, having had many years practice in schooling his features in response to a patron's request. "May I?" his gesture intimated a desire to remove to the counter where upon a few choice tools were meticulously positioned on a dark square of soft cloth. Receiving her silent approval, Wallingthorpe hobbled round to the other side, finally attaining the stool placed at the cloth.
A keener awareness of the man before her slowly developed as Georgiana observed Wallingthorpe as he made his appraisal of the piece. He appeared smaller to her than when last she came to his shop. Though she had always supposed one leg to be shorter than the other from his awkward gait, his movements now suggested great effort when walking or sitting. The white hair, which had once covered his crown, now lay only in thin wisps across speckled skin. As he inspected the cameo under the magnification of a special ocular glass set in a frame above the cloth, a slight tremor shook his hands and she had noticed an unsteadiness in them when he had accepted the piece from her. Georgiana regarded him with appreciative sympathy.
Mr. Wallingthorpe scrutinized the cameo, turning the piece over in his hands, feeling the surface and edges, murmuring "Hmm...mmm..." as he did so. It had not come from any with whom he was familiar. Fixing Georgiana with an evaluative eye, he asked, "Might I inquire who made this?"
Feeling such revelation premature, Georgiana evaded, "I received it from a friend."
"Hmm, yes...of course." Returning the cameo to the black cloth, Wallingthorpe regarded the young lady over the rim of his spectacles. "It is well made. Though it appears to be made of stone, it is carved from wood, but well so."
Georgiana breathed a sigh of happy relief as she exchanged smiles with Kitty. Thinking perhaps she ought to have some estimation of value to help secure her brother's assistance, she asked with evident interest, "And were this to be sold, Mr. Wallingthorpe, what would you deem to be its value?"
The elderly man answered guardedly, "You understand, Miss Darcy, a work of wood would not be found here..."
Georgiana hurried to assure him, "No, indeed, I did not mean to suggest...I merely inquire generally as to its worth.
"Generally" the jeweler vaguely conceded "perhaps __ pounds."
Their exchange of smiles once again did little to disguise the ladies' satisfaction in this expert appraisal.
"Thank you, Mr. Wallingthorpe, you have been most generous with your time." Georgiana pronounced her gratitude smilingly as she rose to retrieve her cameo. "I am very much obliged." As she placed the pouch safely within the folds of her reticule, Georgiana acknowledged the entrance of a gentleman and lady. "But I will not detain you. I thank you again, sir." Where only doubt and uncertainty had weighed before, now hope and confidence flew into her heart, leaving Georgiana almost gleeful with the renewed prospect of seeing her friend happily situated.
Finding Georgiana's enthusiasm contagious, Kitty pronounced eagerly as they made their way to the shop's door, "This is wonderful news is it not? Now, your brother shall have to listen..."
Though growing frail in many respects, diminished hearing was not a sense he regretted. Even as he turned his attention to the new patron, Wallingthorpe feared he had just somehow performed a great disservice to one of his most longstanding.
The sound of the door's latch giving-way raised the cover from Darcy's eyes as shallow slumber gave way to its intrusion. Darcy purposefully retrieved his book from where it had fallen idle on his lap as his senses had been lulled to sleep. Adjusting his position in his chair, he attempted to appear the picture of self-possession as he attended to his wife's entrance into their chambers, but found himself observing not only her, but also two who bore the weight of a sofa between them--recognizing it to be the "Holland" from her own sitting room.
"There--just next to Mr. Darcy, please" the mistress of Erewile instructed, pointing to a spot nearest the master's vicinity, "We shall move the table and the chair next to it to make a place."
Darcy's book closed as he became spectator to the play his wife directed. As his men enacted their part, Darcy supposed his wife's purpose with a mix of awkwardness and appreciation.
With the other furniture removed, Elizabeth supervised the sofa's placement immediately adjacent to her husband's chair, instructing care be taken not to place it so close as to inadvertently touch the other chair with which he propped up his injured leg lest he suffer any further injury.
"Thank you, you may continue," the mistress excused her servants appreciatively, before addressing her husband since entering the room. "You will find this much more comfortable than the chair, I am certain. Having one leg up and the other down all the time is uncomfortable," Elizabeth declared as though he was not cognizant of his own comfort or lack there of. Coming round the object to which she deemed as his destination, Elizabeth raised the blanket from his leg which she had earlier draped there and stood poised to replace it once he was situated upon the sofa.
Indulging her implied directive, Darcy obediently acquiesced, though not without a glint of amusement in his eyes, and raised from his chair to immediately lower again to the long sofa with all the awkwardness an injured leg and arm assisted by a cane implied.
As a mother tenderly nestles her child within the protection of his bedclothes' folds, Elizabeth gently tucked the blanket about her husband's legs.
"Mrs. Darcy..." he began his gentle objection.
"You may enter," Elizabeth interrupted as she responded expectantly to the knock at their door.
One of the man servants so recently relieved of his heavier burden was now laden with a silver tray which he again placed according to the mistress's choosing and just as silently quit the room with due show of respect.
"Will you take tea with me, Mr. Darcy? Or perhaps you would have sherry?" Elizabeth queried expectantly.
Darcy sighed inwardly, finding her solicitude endearing, but not all-together necessary. "Yes, my dear, I thank you. Sherry, if you please." Darcy's complaisance was rewarded with a glass, along with a plate of delectables, and his wife's loving smile as she placed the offerings upon the table next to him which had been arranged for such a purpose.
After preparing a cup of tea for herself, Elizabeth alighted upon the chair, which he had vacated, informing him easily, "When you are finished, Mr. Darcy, I should very much like to check and redress the wound on your arm."
Darcy's inward sigh became less so as he brought the crystal's edge to his lips.
It was the anticipation of the diversion to be found within which excited the feelings of the theater's patrons on any given evening, hastening them inward to the waiting delights, rather than lingering in admiration of any singular adornment of the structure's exterior, as that possessed little to recommend itself. Indeed the arched stone doorways by which one entered and stone trim about the windows and exterior boundaries were the only bit of ornamentation distinguishing the facade from the unspectacular neighboring fronts.
However, on this morning, it was anticipation of a different nature, which worked on a certain gentleman, compelling him to remain before the King's Theater. Marching over the same path in successive turns, he marked the length of the theater's front, as well as the passing of time, as he stepped out his anticipation with the stride of his polished riding boots, heedlessly overturning his now removed gloves into the palm of his hand. It was not the gentleman's nature to experience impatience as a rule, but as the span lengthened from when his cousin was to have arrived until that very moment, he found himself unable to wait near only one of the doorways and most certainly not within.
Colonel Fitzwilliam ceased his pacing, turning upon the sound of horses' hooves heralding the arrival of a carriage. Confident strides carried him from his station at the opposite end of the theater's walk, placing him at the ready to hand down its occupants even as Darcy's man had himself prepared to perform the same duty. Yielding to the gentleman's presence, Caldwell merely respectfully opened the door.
"Miss Bennett," Colonel Fitzwilliam welcomed easily, extending his hand in support.
"Colonel Fitzwilliam," Kitty returned brightly while admiring the smart cut of his blue coat, though still thinking him more handsome in his regimentals.
Before either could exchange any pleasantries, the Colonel turned, taking hold of the next hand extended to him as its owner emerged from her conveyance.
"Ah, Cousin, here you are!" He chided, absent of any discontent as she descended.
"Colonel Fitzwilliam," Georgiana greeted mildly, as she and Kitty showed their respect. Supposing some vexation from her tardiness, she offered, "Pray forgive us; we have kept you waiting."
Colonel Fitzwilliam looked expectantly from one lady to the other, querying lightly, "Pray, does your delay then signify a successful campaign this morning? You have succeeded in making all your purchases?"
Georgiana and Kitty exchanged an amused glance at the absurd notion of the pursuit of purchases being likened to that of a military strategy, while being equally pleased with the gentleman's good humor.
"Indeed, we have enjoyed a very pleasant morning together," Georgiana affirmed. "But I do hope you have not been waiting long. Our campaign required more time than I had thought."
"Do not trouble yourself on that account. However, all is ready." The Colonel extended each an arm of escort. "Shall we go in? Directing his comment to Kitty, the Colonel's tone was easy, though in his eyes was the light of purpose, "This is a happy circumstance today, Miss Bennet. With your companionship, Confidence must surely also be a sister." Turning, he did indeed find her to be so as Georgiana returned his regard, her countenance conveying appreciation of his easy conciliation as well as something more--a lack of fear, if not actual resolve, a disposition he had hoped for, but truly had not expected.
"Now, if you will kindly remove your coat, sir, I shall tend to your arm," Elizabeth instructed as she cleared their plates to the tea trolley, considerately leaving the crystal with more drink.
"It was dressed this morning; I hardly think it necessary to redress it again until I retire," Darcy objected patiently as his wife returned with a cloth-covered tray, along with a basket of clean linen bandages.
Looking down upon him, a slight tilt to her regard, she scolded playfully, "Mr. Darcy, have you always been such a difficult patient?"
Darcy looked as though deeply contemplating his answer before looking back up, replying with proud simplicity, "Yes, I believe I have."
The ease drained from her countenance, as Elizabeth sank to the sofa just perching on its edge, "Fitzwilliam, please," she pouted, "Please do not deny me the peace of knowing all has been done to make you well again."
With every intention overthrown by the glistening of unshed tears in his wife's eyes as he considered them, Darcy had only to silently yield, signifying his defeat by the showing of white with the careful removal of his coat.
Quickly placing the basket on the nearby table, Elizabeth aided Darcy in the tedious task, assuming her previous air of authority as she informed him simply, "I should think your shirt may remain if you will hold up your sleeve."
"Yes, ma'am," Darcy assumed the compliant patient as he unfastened the button at his wrist.
Apparently satisfied after several moments of gentle investigation of the skin surrounding the wound and deliberation of its appearance, Elizabeth smiled and retrieved a pot from her basket. Darcy braced himself for the bite which he had come to know with every dressing, but found a defense unnecessary as this salve merely felt...sticky. A sweet fragrance doubled the mystery as Darcy turned to discover the identity of her medicine.
"Pray, Madame Apothecary, what concoction do you apply?" Darcy queried openly.
Elizabeth returned the pot to her basket and began wrapping his arm with clean linen, "Though certainly not healed, your arm appears to be much improved."
Darcy's lips pressed thin in mild annoyance, before another attempt. "I am very much obliged, my dear...What have you in your bowl?"
Elizabeth finished off with a neat little knot, feeling rather accomplished, having performed the task now with enough regularity to acquire some proficiency. "There." She declared her satisfaction. "It will not grow putrid with care, I think, but it might have been better sewn. A scar is inevitable, I fear."
"Elizabeth," Darcy insisted meaningfully, still holding the folds of his sleeve above the bandaging, "What have you just put on my arm?"
With her eyes occupied by the work of her hands gathering up the soiled linens and replacing the items in her basket, she informed him, a small quiver to her voice betraying her unease despite her outward calm, "Its medicinal qualities have been known for years by those who have troubled themselves to understand them. Our Hill was so good as to pass along the use of it..." But she could not resist her husband's silence, sensing its command to lift her eyes to his, finding there that measured exasperation which moved her to compliance. She confessed with mustered equanimity before quitting his side, "Honey."
The sleeve, which Darcy had been withholding, slipped down to his wrist with no particular intent as that man's thoughts were on his wife who busied herself with the trolley and bell pull opposite the room. Honey?
Their man appeared with efficiency and Elizabeth lingered there as he collected the trolley, expressing her gratitude. With all settled, she returned to Darcy whose demeanor bespoke both analysis and disapproval as he appeared ready to speak. But before his lips had parted, Elizabeth offered brightly, "Will you have your coat, sir, or will you rest now?"
Darcy stared hard into her eyes, but Elizabeth did not waver under his examination. Turning his focus upon the cuff of his sleeve, he mumbled as he contemplated his apparent lack of dominion, "I will have my coat, if you please."
Seeking to stem his growing ill-humor, Darcy reached for his book which lay on the chair he had vacated. However, Elizabeth quickly made to retrieve the item for him. With the mastery of his temper not yet so well accomplished as to withstand the challenge from his solicitous wife, Darcy informed her curtly, "Madame that will not be necessary."
Leafing through to his former page, Darcy also watched his wife take up station at the window. With her back lightly supported by its frame, so that her countenance was fully in view, she appeared to be looking out, though it seemed more out of solace than any desire to take in its prospect.
Having read to the bottom of a page, Darcy glanced up to know the state of his wife and found there less tranquility than he had hoped as the line of her brow raised tautly as she chewed on the inner corner of her mouth. Darcy shifted, finding his current position uncomfortable and resumed reading.
A movement from her quarter though, soon prompted another glance from his book, as he perceived the smallest sigh from her as she adjusted the drape she wore about her shoulders. Though the window was before her, she might just as well have been staring at the wall for she was not really looking at all. Darcy closed his book upon his lap, contemplating the person before him. With a sigh of his own, his thoughts were resolved.
"Mrs. Darcy, will you oblige me with a game of cards?" Darcy invited politely.
Her discontent transformed into genuine pleasure as she readily left the support of the window for her husband's side. With delight sparkling brightly in her eyes, Elizabeth gladly allowed the clasp of his hand as he raised hers to his lips. Unspoken reparations were made as each received the regard of the other, with Darcy sealing it with a gentle squeeze before releasing the fingers he still held.
"Oh! Fitzwilliam what are you about?" Elizabeth opposed her husband's movements as he retrieved the cane resting against the sofa, making ready to remove from it.
"Are we not to play cards?" Darcy retorted, confused by her challenge.
"Why, yes, of course, but," Elizabeth conceded, concern etched in her expression as her husband interrupted.
"Then, let us remove to a table..."
It was Elizabeth's turn to stay Darcy's words, "Oh no, let us remain here..." Knowing no table, which could be moved there, would accommodate the less than usual height of the sofa, she cast about their chambers. With obvious inspiration, she left his side without pardon or excuse and made purposefully to a chair residing next to a cabinet. Though it was only a slight chair removed from the drawing room years earlier, Darcy was made uncomfortable seeing his wife carting about furniture as she began to cross the room with it.
"Elizabeth..." Darcy objected warmly.
"This will take but a moment," Elizabeth assured, ignoring his tone and its meaning. Having placed the chair so its seat opened to the sofa, she retrieved a footstool directly and settled it within reach of the chair and the sofa. No sooner had she done so than she was off again to the cabinet from which the chair had originated, retrieving the cards with which they would play.
Alighting gracefully upon the footstool, she pronounced, "There, this shall do very well. Now, what shall we play?"
Vexation and wonder played across Darcy's features as he again found himself the recipient of one of his wife's cheerily expectant smiles which both galled and disarmed him as she looked up to him with her chosen perch now placing her lower than he--a humbled station which he could not help but doubt.
As Darcy opened his mouth to let loose his annoyance, the hopefulness he saw in her eyes, drained his strength, allowing him only to concede weakly as he rested back against the sofa's support, "Whatever you wish."
As much as the exterior had disappointed, the theater's interior excited their delight as Kitty and Georgiana admired the many tiers of gilded boxes rising above the well-appointed rows between which they now walked. Observing their quiet fascination, Colonel Fitzwilliam conjured up images, within the boxes, of those either familiar or dear, indicating the preferred vantage of each as they walked, so that Georgiana at once was made at ease with her surroundings and the happy placement of his arm guiding hers. Kitty, however, remained so much in awe of that which she had never been accustomed that she remained silent as he led them toward the draped expanse dominating the far end of the theater.
This was to be their destination, as their escort showed them through an archway opening from the side which was not ordinarily used by patrons, and on through a smaller unadorned black door opening into the area to the wings of the stage. Behind the covering of the massive curtain, arranged on the stage, were stands and chairs waiting the arrival of musicians. Presently, a small number of chairs were occupied by the men they had come to meet.
A proper show of respect was made to the lady as Colonel Fitzwilliam presented them in general before showing his cousin to the piano forte. As she pulled on the tips of her gloves, removing their covering, Georgiana watched the movements of the musicians made easy and familiar to them by the frequency of their employment as they retrieved their instruments and settled into place. As she turned to the instrument before her though, the inelegance of the scratched and notched surface recalled this was neither her instrument nor was she amongst the familiar within Erewile. This place was strange...playing to the accompaniment of others was strange...that which necessitated her presence for its future purpose was strange. As she thought of people so recently named for her diversion, Confidence, so recently born from hope and anticipation of her friend's happiness, flew from her heart. Not a note could be recalled, nor fingers move as a throbbing pulsed wildly at her temples and her breath would not come with any ease. She could not do that which she had promised--not here--and certainly not in the presence of so many others.
"Of course you will wish to warm your fingers and collect yourself to the music," Fitzwilliam suggested mildly from his station in the piano's graceful bend. "These gentlemen have already prepared. Take as long you wish. They will await your convenience." Wide eyes pleaded for rescue as he continued, unshaken by their appearance. "Miss Bennett and I shall listen from here," the Colonel motioned Kitty to two chairs placed aside from the piano, but within convenient view of that instrument's musician.
Georgiana followed their removal, comprehending his intention with some irritation. Finding in his countenance only confidence and assurance as he expectantly settled into the chair's support, Georgiana silently pleaded her case to Kitty. But in that young woman, Georgiana only found her cousin's confederate as Kitty, persuaded by the kind resolve found in the gentleman's expression as she looked from one to the other, voiced enthusiastically, "Yes, please play, Georgiana."
The keys again became her focus, as Georgiana considered the choice before her, recognizing it was hers alone to make.
Georgiana drew her chair a little closer to the instrument. As she allowed a long breath calm her agitation, Georgiana invited the familiar touch of the ivory's cool surface...and began to play.
Author's note: I am deeply indebted to Tenby for her constant encouragement and editing assistance. Thank you.© 2002 Copyright held by author