By Erin H
Part 1|Part 2|Part 3
Darcy continued his story. "Georgiana, dearest, I must again warn you, this story will be distressing to you. One word from you and I will stop." Georgiana nodded
"Before I left Netherfield last November, a lieutenant was admitted to the Meryton militia. He told many untruthful things about me. He had an appearance of goodness, and all of Meryton, particularly Miss Elizabeth Bennet believed him. His name was George Wickham."
Georgiana gasped. Wickham! Lies about William! Miss Bennet believed it! Oh no! Her brother paused for a moment.
"When I proposed to Miss Bennet, one of the reasons she refused me was because I had inflicted so much pain on him. I felt so grieved for her, knowing that she too had been deceived by Wickham."
"What did you do?" Georgiana asked ever so quietly. She recalled the pain she had felt when she had found Wickham had deceived her last summer at Ramsgate. She had tried so hard over the following year to forget, but memories came flooding back.
"During the night, I was anguished, and wrote Miss Bennet a letter detailing the whole of his connection with my family. I gave the letter to her the next morning. Colonel Fitzwilliam and I left not long after. I thought I would never see her again." He sighed.
"You told her about me, didn't you." Georgiana whispered, more like a statement than a question.
"Yes, I did. I trusted Miss Bennet, and knew she would tell no-one."
"I knew that she must have found out in some way, for she was so kind to me that evening at Pemberley when Miss Bingley mentioned him. I just knew that she knew."
"I did not see Miss Bennet again until that fateful day at Pemberley. I only wish that I had resisted my urge for a dip in the pond. I most certainly was not appropriately attired."
Georgiana almost smiled as she thought of what Miss Bennet must have seen. Her heart was too heavy for any expressions of mirth to be portrayed.
"You saw all that happened up until the morning I went to see Miss Bennet alone. I had thought of proposing again, but I was too afraid of being again refused, so I went just to be in her delightful company. But when I arrived, the scene was hardly delightful. Miss Bennet was alone and was just about to leave the room when I entered. She was pale and anxious and calling out for her uncle. I called for the servant and told her to fetch her master and mistress. Miss Bennet looked so ill and distressed; I offered to fetch her some wine. She said that she was perfectly well, she was only distressed by some dreadful news she had heard from her sister at Longbourn. She burst into tears as she alluded to it. I sat by her and took her arm with both of my hands, until I recollected that there was impropriety in my actions, and so I pulled back one of them. I will not go into details with you, Georgiana, as it may affect you. Miss Bennet's youngest sister, Miss Lydia, who is but your age, had eloped with Mr. Wickham."
Georgiana felt extreme pity for Miss Bennet, and also for her younger sister. She realised that she had in all likelihood been the last young lady Mr. Wickham had fooled, and had her beloved brother not come, she would have been the unlucky woman instead of the youngest Miss Bennet. It suddenly came over her, much more than ever before, of how tragic it would have been for her, and how depressed her brother would have been. Poor Miss Lydia Bennet was not as fortunate as herself. She had ruined her reputation. Georgiana had merely almost done so. She was thankful that she had been saved from a connection imprudent as to fortune; but regretted that her salvation had claimed Lydia Bennet as a substitute.
"Poor Miss Bennet" Georgiana stifled a sob. Her face was exceedingly pale, and she was most thankful that she had been sitting down. "Did he... love her?" she heard herself ask, in one of the shyest tones ever used in her life. Georgiana felt a tear run down her cheek, and dabbed a cloth at her eyes in a bid to suppress those that threatened to follow. Just a twelvemonth ago she had been certain that he had loved her. But she had been mistaken. He had loved her money, and nothing more. Her heart had been broken when she had found out about Wickham's true character. She had loved him, and he had deceived her. Was this the same case with Miss Lydia Bennet? Did she know what Wickham was really like, or had she been gullible like Miss Elizabeth and herself (but particularly herself)?
"It didn't appear as though he did. In fact, it seemed to me that he regretted his choice to persuade her to accompany him. Miss Lydia is nothing in comparison to Elizabeth.... Miss Bennet." Fitzwilliam spoke thoughtfully, in an attempt to calm Georgiana, and was reserved, until his last sentence, when he turned dreamy.
"William, I don't understand! What did you mean when you just said 'it seemed to you' and it didn't appear.... Do you mean you saw him.... with Miss Lydia?" Georgiana asked, a little mystified.
"Miss Bennet was so distraught , that I knew something had to be done. It was my fault."
"Your fault! What ever can you mean? How could it be your fault?"
"When I told Miss Bennet about Mr. Wickham, it was in the strictest confidence. She was unable to tell her family of his character. If she had, none of this would have happened. I had thought it beneath myself to lay Wickham's private actions open to the world. It was through my pride, my reserve, that it was not told. It is entirely my fault."
"Brother, you blame yourself for too much. But still, you have not answered my question. Did you see Wickham and Miss Lydia?"
"The day Miss Bennet found out, I resolved to go to London to find them. I left, you know, the next day. I bribed Mrs. Younge to tell me where Wickham was. I went to his address, and within a few days, I had bribed him into marrying Miss Lydia Bennet. Once that was done, I informed Mr. Gardiner (who had come to London to search for them) and preparations were made for the wedding. Colonel Fitzwilliam arranged a commission for Wickham in a regiment in the North, at Newcastle. I returned to Pemberley, and left again, to attend the wedding and finish all monetary matters."
"Oh William! What mortification you must have suffered! But brother, I must confess I have a suspicion. You said you did it because it was your fault, did you not? This is not the absolute truth, I am sure; you cannot attempt to deny that you did, at least in some part, do it for Miss Bennet?"
"I must confess you are right. That the wish of giving happiness to Miss Bennet added force to other inducements which led me on I shall not attempt to deny."
"I am so glad that Miss Bennet would now be happier, and since she knows that you did it for her, I daresay she will like you much more than..."
"Miss Bennet does not know it is I who arranged this. She has been told it is her uncle's doing" Darcy interrupted.
"Her uncle! Whatever for? Why did you not..." Georgiana was extremely surprised and slightly vexed at this turn of events.
"I did this because I didn't want her to know it was me. I do not want her gratitude. I want her love. I want her to love me for who I am, not what I did. I know from past experience that she would not accept an offer if she was not in love. I do not know if she would accept for gratitude. But I do not want her to. I want her to accept for love." Darcy sighed, and was obviously meditating on the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman (a perfect description of Miss Elizabeth Bennet) could bestow.
"Given your reasons, it does seem to be a good idea, but I do wish an event occurs that will rob Mr. Gardiner of his borrowed feathers, and give praise where it is due" said she.
"Fitzwilliam, I Thank you for telling me this. I know now that I have fully got over Mr. Wickham. I have reacted better to this news than both mine and your expectations. I am full of pity for Miss Lydia, and also for Mr. Wickham, but am glad that the likelihood of my ever seeing him again is virtually nil. Thank you so much, my dear brother, for all you have done. One last thing I will say to you, well actually, I shall ask you is this. William, since you returned from the wedding in London, your mood has varied exceedingly. Why is it that sometimes you are happy and determined, but within minutes, you have become distant, downcast and glum? You are improved when compared to May and June (after you returned from Rosings), but I am still concerned about you." Georgiana pleaded for an answer, but was also simultaneously surprised at the amount of words she had spoken.
"I am glad you feel this way towards Mr. Wickham and Lydia Bennet Wickham. I had hoped your reaction would be similar to this. I will now answer this question as best I can. I love Miss Elizabeth Bennet. You know I do. I want to spend the rest of my life with her, but I do not know whether she feels the same way or not. I am saddened at the remembrance of Miss Bennet's ill opinion of me in April; but then I reminisce about the evening at Pemberley, and I think - dare I hope? Sometimes my answer differs, and therefore so does my mood."
"Poor William, but cheer up! At the end of this week you and Mr. Bingley are to return to Netherfield. I daresay you will surely see Miss Bennet, and perhaps you could ask..."
"Georgiana, I go to Netherfield to make a confession to Bingley, which is long overdue. Last November, Miss Bingley and I separated him from Miss Jane Bennet. We pointed out the evils of the match, and told him that from our keen observations, Miss Bennet was indifferent. Bingley seemed much in love with her, and since the day when I so misled him, he has not been himself. Surely you must have noticed. But since then I have found that Miss Bennet's feelings, though little displayed, were fervent, and she actually was much in love with Bingley. Since I have found this out, I have been anxious to right my wrong. When I go to Netherfield, I will tell Bingley and make my confession. He will have my blessing and go to Miss Bennet at Longbourn; and I will return to London."
"William! I am grieved, shocked. But is it certain, I mean, absolutely certain that you betrayed your friend so greatly?" Georgiana couldn't contemplate her brother behaving like that. Surely he must be mistaken.
"Yes, and I am most heartily and grievously sorry and ashamed of my past wrongs. I have been endeavouring to become a better man than I was last November; in fact, that I have been my entire life. This is another reason of my melancholy. I do not deserve her. I do not deserve to ever see her again, but cannot live if I do not. When I first met her, I thought Miss Bennet much below, but in truth, I am not even her equal; she is far better than I."
"I see" whispered Georgiana, and she stood up. "I hope, that for both you and Mr. Bingley, your quests to Hertfordshire are successful, and will bring you the love you so desire" and she quitted the room that instant, her mind too full and confused to hear more.
A week passed quickly, and Georgiana bid Mr. Bingley and her brother farewell. "Good luck in Hertfordshire! And do not forget to write to me with all your news!" she cried as the carriage drew away.
Before a week and a half had passed, she received two letters; one with two sheets of paper, written quite through, with a close hand. The other was short, and written in the most careless style imaginable. Half the words were left out, and the rest were blotted. Georgiana could see that even the direction was difficult to read, and supposed that the writer must write too quickly to have secured such an illegible print! She decided to read the first letter, as the Darcy seal and her brother's handwriting left no doubt as to the author.
Darcy Townhouse, London
My Dearest Georgiana,
I heard your last request as I was leaving, and so decided to write to you about most of the events in detail, rather than an abridged version. In this way you will hear 'all of our news'.
As you can see from my address, I have left Netherfield, but I told Bingley I would return in ten days time. Why? You may ask. I could not bear to see Miss Bennet and know that she is not mine. In ten days, I may have more hope, although I cannot see how I possibly could. Colonel Fitzwilliam is staying with me for the time being - I can't stand being alone!
Now, to my Hertfordshire news. When Bingley and I arrived, many of our neighbours came to us, but not any of the Bennets. Depending on how you see it, for three days we shunned them, or for three days they shunned us. Finally I suggested to Bingley that we go to Longbourn. His eyes lit up when I mentioned the name.
We rode up and were announced to Mrs. Bennet, Miss Bennet, Miss Elizabeth, Miss Mary and Miss Catherine (or Kitty). My motive for coming was to see if Miss Bennet's feelings for Bingley were still strong, but I couldn't help looking occasionally at Elizabeth. Mrs. Bennet, in her high-pitched wail, told us that a great many things had happened since we had left, and proceeded to tell us that her youngest daughter had been married. Both Miss Bennet and Miss Elizabeth turned down their eyes and were much embarrassed. Bingley didn't know how to look, and I turned to look out the window.
Mrs. Bennet has and displays no sense, and is exceedingly fond of Wickham. Ever since I first came she has disliked me, and so while she was talking about Wickham, that "at least he had some friends, though perhaps not so many as he deserves." I enquired after Mr. & Mrs. Gardiner to Elizabeth, and she seemed most confused in her answer. I daresay I should have been in the same state if in her shoes.
Not long after, she asked Bingley how long he would be staying. After lengthening his stay each time Miss Bennet smiled, he finally settled on staying "for quite some time, a few weeks he believed" (It was most humourous, you ought to have been there). As Mrs. Bennet is such an annoyance, and I felt I could see Miss Bennet pleased to see Bingley, I thought we should be leaving. We were invited to come to dinner on Tuesday.
Tuesday came, and as well as ourselves as guests, there was also Mrs. Long and the Gouldings (Meryton acquaintances whom we do not know a great deal). Bingley was fortunate enough to sit with Miss Bennet, while I sat on one side of Mrs. Bennet. Miss Elizabeth was almost as far from me as the table could divide us. I spoke formally and coldly to Mrs. Bennet, as she did in return, and we spoke little, as neither of us apparently wished it. I complimented her on the partridges, and she seemed greatly pleased. I could not hear a word Miss Elizabeth said; but her countenance, though still pretty, was anxious and affected.
After dinner, the gentlemen retired to Mr. Bennet's library (nothing to Pemberley, but a fine collection of books). It was most relaxing being away from Mrs. Bennet, but I was not in the company of Miss Elizabeth, and so I was pleased to rejoin the ladies. Miss Bennet was making tea, and Miss Elizabeth pouring the coffee (As you know I am normally a tea drinker, but I decided today I would have coffee). I meant to join them, until I heard one of the ladies, Miss Long, I believe, whispering 'The men shan't come and part us, I am determined. We want none of them, do we?' and so I went to another part of the room to talk with others.
Occasionally I looked up at Miss Elizabeth, and found her often glancing my way. Usually whilst she was doing this, Miss Bennet would say 'Lizzy, please pour the coffee; you're doing nowt now.' I drank my coffee faster than I normally do, and went to Miss Elizabeth for a refill. She asked me if you were at Pemberley still. I replied that you would be there until Christmas. 'And allalone? Have all her friends left her?' she asked. I think Miss Bennet quite liked you, Georgiana, and I cannot blame her, for you are so sweet. I told her you were with Mrs. Annesley and the others were gone to Scarborough (I did not mention that it was you that suggested they go there to leave you in peace!) I did not know what to say to her, but stood next to her for as long as I could, but Miss Goulding, or perhaps it was Miss Long again, began to whisper again to Elizabeth, so I felt it prudent to leave.
Then all the tea-things were removed, and I had hoped to return to Miss Elizabeth, but was instead seated by Mrs. Bennet at a game of whist. I was, most unfortunately, at a different table, and as I was frequently looking in her direction, I played most shockingly. I believe Miss Elizabeth also did not play so well as usual for often her mother would screech something like 'Do start concentrating Lizzy! What is the matter with you? Keep your eyes on the table!' I feel most sincere sympathy for all the Bennet girls (particularly Miss Elizabeth) because of the behaviour and appalling manners of Mrs. Bennet.
Bingley's carriage was ordered early and we were gone before supper. I felt it would be the last time I would see Miss Bennet before I went off to London, and was most unhappy to leave so early.
Two mornings after the Longbourn dinner party, I made my confession to Bingley, and gave him my blessing. He was angry for a minute, but then remembered what I had told him about Miss Jane Bennet, and forgave me. I left him almost immediately after that, and I am now expecting a letter from Bingley stating that he is to be wed. I envy Bingley, in a way, for he has gained someone's love before he even offered it, whereas I have not the love of the one that I want. I know not what I shall do when I return to Hertfordshire.
I hope you and Mrs. Annesley are in health. Have you learnt that symphony you were practising when I was at Pemberley? I look forward to seeing you when I return from Hertfordshire.
Your Loving Brother,
Georgiana silently reflected this letter, and then began to read the second, much shorter one.
I thought I would write to (blot) because I am so (blot) that I am (blot)ing to all my acquaintances. When we were at P(blot)ley this past summer, (blot) were introduced to Miss Eliza(blot) Bennet. She has an elder (blot), Jane, and just last week she and I have become (blot)ed. Your brother had just left for (blot)don, but he told me I had his (blot)ing. Jane is all sweetness, and I hope you can come to the (blot) in November and meet her.
Yours (blot) sincerely,
Georgiana smiled as she finally deciphered the letter. She would very much like to meet this Miss Bennet, but not with the same amount of anticipation that she had felt before meeting Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Georgiana hoped that after Bingley's marriage, her brother would still be invited to Netherfield, because the marriage of his friend to Miss Bennet's sister must bring her brother and Miss Bennet closer together.
Georgiana re-read the letters, and then set about writing replies. She then remembered that she needed to send a letter to Lady Catherine de Bourgh, accepting her aunt's invitation to visit Rosings Park in January. Anne de Bourgh was pleasant company, for she, like Georgiana, preferred to say little, and they were good friends. Unfortunately, their friendship was another one of the things that Lady Catherine pointed out to Darcy as something that would be to advantage when he married Anne.
Georgiana knew that her brother would never marry Anne, especially as she knew who he did want to marry. What would Lady Catherine say if she knew? Her idea of what was happening was totally different to the truth. She would undoubtedly be seriously displeased, but she was normally in an ill-pleased mood anyway, so it didn't much signify. Georgiana wondered how her cousin put up with a mother like Lady Catherine.
According to Anne's letters, her mother wasn't as desirous of company as she used to have been, for
'that pompous, ugly "Ick man" Mr. Collins visits us every day; his wife comes twice a week, and Mama spends all her time listening to Mr. Collins' ridiculous praises, or giving useless advice to poor Mrs. Collins, who is expecting an "olive branch", as Mr. Collins so eloquently calls it. Mrs. Collins seems to be sensible, but I have no idea how she could possibly have been so stupid as to marry him! Charlotte (I call her such for we are good friends, though not so intimate as you & I) had a pretty friend who came in April when your brother and our cousin came; a Miss Bennet. Charlotte says she refused Mr. Collins, her cousin (a very wise move indeed), and so he turned his attentions to herself. Stupid Charlotte to have accepted him! Miss Bennet seems to be the smart one. I cannot wait until you come to us, and you will be able to see the fool and his wife for yourself.'
Georgiana decided that she could wait until January, but would come to please her aunt and give some relief to her cousin. Mr. Collins sounded even worse than Fitzwilliam had described him (although she could hardly imagine anything being worse than that).
Georgiana addressed her letter to Anne saying that she was able to come for the whole of January. Towards the end of her letter, she mentioned that she had met Miss Bennet, and thought her very sensible and charming. She couldn't resist adding that her brother thought that also. Georgiana knew that Anne did not wish to marry William, so she would not be upsetting her with that last sentence. She finished the letter by writing
'please do not let Aunt Catherine see this letter, for, at a distance, you know, things are often strangely misinterpreted, and scenes might arise as unpleasant to more than myself.
Yours, Georgiana Darcy.'
Not a week after the letter was sent, in fact, just five days later, Georgiana received an express from Anne.
Rosings Park, Kent
I must write in haste, and also in secrecy, for mama is in the worst temper I have ever seen her in (and we both know how bad she normally is, but this is extreme). She is determined to go to Hertfordshire, and with myself as her only accompaniment - I do wish that Mrs. Jenkinson would come. But enough trivialities; I must give you some news.
This evening was spent (most unfortunately) in the company of Mr. & Mrs. Collins. Charlotte had received a letter from her family, and that creep got one from his cousins (the Bennet's). The eldest Miss Bennet is engaged to your brother's friend. I think that will be the second Bennet marriage. The youngest eloped with an officer called Wickley or Wardham or something.
Then, Mr. Collins told mama that "his dear Charlotte had said that Elizabeth would probably be the next one to leave the family. She said that your (mama's) most noble nephew Mr. Darcy (your own brother), had seemed to be attracted to his (Mr. Collins's) fair cousin Elizabeth, whom your Ladyship so condescendingly invited to often come to Rosings (a great honour indeed), when she stayed with us last spring. That would be such a fortunate alliance for my fair cousin, I flatter myself that Ladyship and I are of one mind?" Such a pompous fool. You ought to have seen mama's face. She began absolutely raging and shouting "it is not to be borne". The Collins's left very soon after.
My dear cousin, it pains me to tell you this, but your letter somehow came to be in my mother's possession, and she read it. Your ending mentioning Miss Bennet left her seething with rage. I believe she had almost reconciled herself to the assumption that this affection was all conjecture and nonsense, but your letter proved her theory utterly wrong. I am so sorry. I do not know how she got the letter, and I am most sincerely sorry at her reaction.
Mama has decided to go to Hertfordshire to see Miss Bennet and make her promise not to marry my cousin and your brother. I liked Miss Bennet. She would make Fitzwilliam a much better wife than I. But how is my mother to be overcome? Mama is calling me, we must leave at once. I shall keep you informed if I am able.
Your most distressed cousin,
Anne de Bourgh.
Georgiana went pale with shock. Oh no! This is dreadful! What can be done? Should I tell William? What shall he say to this? I promised I wouldn't tell a soul and now Aunt Catherine knows! She goes to Hertfordshire - to make Miss Bennet promise not to marry William. What will she think? Oh William! You said Miss Bennet had unfortunate relations, but spare a thought for ourselves! Surely Aunt Catherine is as bad, if not worse!
Georgiana's thoughts were so abrupt and distressed, and she honestly had no idea what to do. All she could think about was her letter, and the possible results. She felt total dismay, and wondered what her brother would or should hear. Would Aunt Catherine go to him? She was going to Hertfordshire, and so was he, not seven days afterward. What if they were to meet at Netherfield or Longbourn? Georgiana shuddered. She decided that she would write no letters, at least, not until she had received another from Anne.
The next letter did not arrive for two days. Georgiana was sick with worry and dread for the duration of them. As soon as the post arrived Georgiana ran into her sitting room and made haste to begin reading.
The de Bourgh Townhouse, London
My dear cousin Georgiana,
I apologise for my delay in sending you the news which I am about to relate. As you see from my address, I have been from Hertfordshire and am now in London, at this place where I have not been since my father's death. Mama has rarely ever taken me out of Kent, but that appears to have changed since 'that report of a most alarming nature' (as she calls it) was first heard.
Our barouche-box left Rosings quite soon after I wrote to you (Monday morning) , and because of my health, stopping was frequent and we did not arrive in Meryton until three o'clock. Longbourn was not a mile-and-a-half from Meryton, and while we were travelling between them, mama told me to stay with Mrs. Brown (one of our most trusted servants), and she would attend to Miss Bennet. She expected to be less than a half-hour, and I wondered at the propriety of her arriving and immediately taking Miss Bennet away from her mother and sisters and then leaving before she could even properly take her leave! Mama seems to have never acquired a sense of propriety.
We arrived at Longbourn, and mama went inside. I glanced around at the estate. It is nothing in comparison to Rosings or Pemberley, but did seem to be a nice, pretty sort of place. The house is fairly modern, and there appeared to be many walks. How I should have liked to be able to walk, rather than be one who grows weary after a few steps. I so dislike my sickly constitution.
About five minutes or so after mama had entered, she walked out with Miss Bennet and proceeded to walk along the gravel walk that looked to lead to a hermitage, which looked rather like a copse. They disappeared, and I saw nothing for a few minutes, until I perceived Miss Bennet walking quickly back towards the house. She appeared incensed, and her cheeks were red indeed. I must admit, however, that it did become her, but when you have a face as pretty as Miss Bennet's, all emotions and manner of looks would still become you.
Mama appeared from behind a stone wall and was talking rather loudly, so loudly, in fact, that I could hear her every word distinctly. I do hope Mrs. Bennet and the other Miss Bennet's didn't hear. "Not so hasty if you please;" Mama yelled " I am no stranger to your youngest sister's infamous elopement. I know it all - that the young man's marrying her was a patched up business, at the expense of your father and uncle. And is such a girl to be my nephew's sister? Is her husband, the son of his late father's steward to be his brother? Heaven and earth! Of what are you thinking? Are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted?" Mama was becoming desperate. I was most ashamed of her despicable behaviour.
Miss Bennet answered by saying "You can now have nothing further to say. You have insulted me in every possible method. I must now beg leave to return to the house." She would have recommenced walking, but mama interrupted her.
"You have no regard then, for the honour and credit of my nephew! Unfeeling, selfish girl! Do you not consider that a connection with you must disgrace him in the eyes of everybody?"
"Lady Catherine, I have nothing further to say. You know my sentiments."
"You are resolved then to have him?"
"I have said no such thing. I am only resolved to act in that manner which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to you, or to any other person so wholly unconnected with me."
"It is well. You refuse, then, to oblige me. You refuse to obey the claims of duty, honour and gratitude. You are determined to ruin him in the opinion of all his friends, and make him the contempt of the world." I was shocked at mama's language. It was unbearable. I was glad that Miss Bennet was able to hold her own, even against the worst temper of my mother! (What a valuable asset she could make to the family!)
Miss Bennet firmly replied "Neither duty, nor honour, and gratitude has any possible claim on me, in the present instance. No principle of either would be violated by my marriage with Mr. Darcy. And with regard to the resentment of his family or the indignation of the world, if the former were excited by his marrying me, it would not give me a moment's concern. The wife of Mr. Darcy must have such extraordinary sources of happiness necessarily attached to her situation, that she could have no reason to repine."
"And this is your real opinion, this is your final resolve! Very well, I shall know how to act. Do not imagine, Miss Bennet, that your ambition will ever be gratified. I take no leave of you, Miss Bennet. You deserve no such attention. I am most seriously displeased."
With this, mama stepped into the barouche-box and ordered the driver to ride on. I dared not say a word, and for a full two hours mama was ranting on about Miss Bennet, and used the most abusive language towards her. I was most shocked. And Georgiana, to think, I am her offspring! I do hope to not turn out like my mother.
Georgiana, let us reflect on something which must be more pleasant, especially to you. Miss Bennet spoke as though she wanted to marry your brother. It does so sound like she loves him! What think you? I am actually surprised. When Miss Bennet was at Hunsford, and your brother at Rosings, it did not seem as though Miss Bennet had any attachment to him; in fact, it appeared that she disliked him! Apparently much has happened since then!
I finish this letter by telling you that mama intends to go to your brother this morning to tell him what has passed, and to extract the promise that he would never marry Miss Bennet, since she had refused to agree to a similar application. O Georgiana, I do so hope that this all turns out well for yourself and Fitzwilliam. It is about time he had a wife, and I daresay you should love to have a sister. Lady Catherine must be defied!
Anne de Bourgh
Georgiana's emotions were mixed as she read the letter. For most of the duration of it, she was in dismay, shock and abhorrence of her aunt's dreadful behaviour. Miss Bingley's snide remarks and the impropriety displayed by the infamous Mrs. Bennet were nothing in comparison! Lady Catherine had been the rude person in total want of propriety. She was a disgrace to her family! Abominable behaviour! How could she? And Miss Bennet is so nice - she must have been offended frequently, tirelessly insulted and bitterly spoken to. Georgiana almost wept at the thought of Miss Bennet's ordeal at the will of Lady Catherine. Poor Miss Bennet! What must she be thinking now?
When Georgiana read Miss Bennet's responses, she was at first slightly relieved, but by the end, she had not only learnt to hope, but felt actually almost certain that Miss Bennet's ill opinion of William had vanished, and in turn was replaced with that tender emotion of love. Miss Bennet loves my brother! It is a wish come true, for both he and I. Miss Bennet had said that the wife of William would not repine her marriage, and would be very happy. She also said that no violations would be committed by her marrying him; and if she married him (and her manner of speaking did seem to suggest that it wouldn't be an 'if' if the decision had been left to her), she cared not what his family (in other words, Lady Catherine) thought. She would be so happy that she should not remember their (or her) disapproval! Miss Bennet loves William! Oh, this is wonderful!
The last paragraph lessened Georgiana's joy. What would William say to his aunt's interference? Would he believe her? What would she say to him? How would he react? Would he realise Miss Bennet loved him? Lady Catherine would have seen him yesterday. Where would he be? Georgiana hoped he would be on his way to Hertfordshire. He did say he was intending to return to Mr. Bingley in a few days. I will write him a letter - then I can set my heart at ease.
Pemberley House, Derbyshire
My dearest brother Fitzwilliam,
I hope that by the time you receive this letter of mine you have done what you have needed to do since Aunt Catherine arrived with some unexpected news. Do not worry, for I have worried enough for the both of us since I received two letters from Anne.
Anne has related to me all that she heard, and her account will certainly not be as biased as Aunt Catherine's would have been. From what I have heard, I hope you will be on your knees at Longbourn as soon as is possible. She will not refuse you again. Pray forgive me for not writing a more lengthy letter.
Yours In Earnest, Your Loving Sister,
-Dear Brother, I am regretful if I do not express myself clearly or eloquently. My manner of writing is usually most different. Pardon me, I must speak plainly - For I am so greatly in desire of a sister.
Not long after Georgiana had sealed her letter, another one arrived for her. It bore the seal of Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
A letter from Lady Catherine! What could she have to say? ~ Erin
Rosings Park, Kent
My young niece,
I bring you nothing but bad tidings and the worst news, Georgiana. At present I am displeased with your brother, but I am excessively displeased with a particular person who I now loathe to call an acquaintance.
A report of the most alarming nature reached me not ten nights ago. It said that your brother was to be united in marriage to Miss Elizabeth Bennet, a pert, ill-mannered Hertfordshire girl with no rank or connections. I could not let my nephew be further taken in by her arts and allurements, and so left for Miss Bennet's residence to get her to break off the engagement.
I found Miss Bennet most unreasonable, rude and also unwilling to act according to my wishes. Such improper behaviour! It was not to be borne! She is determined to have him, even though he is destined for my own Anne. The upstart pretensions of a young woman without connections or fortune must not be allowed to separate him from my daughter. Imagine if she were to become Mistress of Pemberley; how greatly it's shades would be polluted! Is this to be endured? It must not, it shall not be!
I then went to London to tell your brother about the mistake that he would be making if he married that girl. He was most rude and ordered me (Imagine, me!) to stop calling her 'that girl'. I tried to make him see the point, but he seemed a bit distracted. I assumed that he was thinking of the best way to quell that rumour. I saved him the trouble by telling him that I had written an advertisement to go in The Times which would announce his engagement to Anne. "That will surely stop the rumours" said I "I will place it..." but your brother interrupted me saying "Lady Catherine, I beg you do not place it. Leave the dispatching of this rumour to me. I know best how to handle it. Go back to Rosings, I will send you word of what happens." I had thought an announcement of his engagement to another woman would have been the best method, but he would not give way.
Georgiana, now my point of the letter comes out. I fear for your brother. I believe that girl's allurements have ensnared him. You must write to him bidding him come to Pemberley, where he is not near that girl, for I hear he is due in Hertfordshire again. You must save him, for he will not save himself. Make haste child, be sure you are not too late. He must marry my daughter. Poor Anne has shrunken in more since she had heard the news. I am certain she is heartbroken.
Do it for Lady Anne, Georgiana, for she also wanted an alliance between Anne & Fitzwilliam. You must do it Georgiana, before it is too late. If you do not I will be excessively displeased with you also, and will retract my invitation for you to come to Rosings in January. It is your decision - and the future happiness of your brother depends upon it.
Do not be foolish. Join with me and we shall save your brother,
Lady Catherine de Bourgh
Georgiana gasped with shock as she read the letter. She had read many letters in the recent past, but none had she read with such disdain. Aunt Catherine wants me to 'save' my brother from Miss Bennet? He needs to be saved from any further interferences of our aunt! In no way will I help her. She had done too much already. Poor Anne. How dispirited and ill she must feel hearing her mother rave on about Miss Bennet, Fitzwilliam and how he must marry Anne. Anne does not wish to wed William, and no doubt has 'shrunken in' at the thought of something so undesirable to her!
Georgiana believed that if she had been placed in the same predicament her reaction would be the same. Anne and Georgiana were both exceedingly shy and would both want to retract further into their shells if an opportunity presented itself. Georgiana had had that opportunity when she realised how foolish and trusting she had been of Wickham, and imagining how much worse her situation could have become; and now it seemed it was time for Anne to have her share.
Georgiana soon forgot a little of her disdain when she dwelt on the passage that mentioned her brother's reaction to the news. He knew how to handle the rumour, and would send word. Does this mean he will go to Miss Bennet? Would he stop the rumour by making it a rumour no longer, and instead, in all actuality, the truth? For him to send word, he would be nowhere near Lady Catherine. Would he be in Hertfordshire? Lady Catherine had said he seemed distracted. Was he thinking of Miss Bennet? Was he thinking "Perhaps she loves me?"
Georgiana hadn't known her mother, for she died several days after her christening. She did remember, though, her father saying that Lady Catherine wanted Anne and Fitzwilliam to marry, but Lady Anne and he wanted William to marry the person he loved. It was settled in Georgiana's mind. She quickly wrote a note to her aunt, using her soft, delicate cursive, which was an absolute contrast to Lady Catherine's sharp, regal style.
Pemberley House, Derbyshire
My Aunt Catherine,
Your letter reached me this morning, but I fear I cannot do as you request. My brother is down in Hertfordshire with his friend Mr. Bingley, and I see no reasons for why he should return to Pemberley, where he is not needed at present. I am glad Fitzwilliam has found such amiable friends down there, and would not wish to part him from them.
I have met Miss Bennet, and I thought she was lovely. I do not think she could be rude, I am afraid you must be mistaken. I do hope that Anne is feeling recovered now, and do tell her I am looking forward to visiting you both in January, if you so wish it.
Georgiana looked at the last few lines and smiled. She knew Anne well enough to know that she was fine, but well able to affect an illness. Going to Rosings was not something she was looking forward to; she was eagerly anticipating the visit in an attempt to soothe the anger and disapprobation which would undoubtedly be felt once her letter was read by her aunt.
Georgiana never received a response from her aunt with regards to her last letter, but she cared not. Her thoughts often turned to William. He would be in Hertfordshire now. Has he received my letter? A few days later, she found that he had, for he had sent her a response.
My Dearest Georgiana,
I am back in Hertfordshire and have just received your letter. Just how much did Anne hear? She wasn't with Lady Catherine when she came to my townhouse, but perhaps telling Anne was a way to vent her Ladyship's steam?
If you had been here while I read your letter, I would have raised my eyebrows at you. However, I must admit I am in agreement with much of what you wrote. Do not worry, I will be looking for an opportunity to get on my knees at Longbourn almost as soon as I arrive - and I hope against hope; wish against wish that my proposal is answered with a yes. I cannot live without her.
Bingley and I are to go to Longbourn this morning, and are invited for dinner. As Charles spends the entire day at Longbourn, so shall I. I will write to you again if I have any new news worth hearing.
Your Loving Brother,
Georgiana gave a huge smile of satisfaction when she had ceased her reading. There is a chance! He will ask her again! This is wonderful news! Georgiana's spirit's were heightened, and she only ended her thoughts about William and his letter when Mrs. Annesley interrupted her reverie and asked her to practise her piano-forte.
Another letter from Fitzwilliam arrived for Georgiana three days later. She read it with utter joy. It announced the news she had waited so long to hear.
My Dearest Georgiana,
My dream has come true. I am so happy. Miss Elizabeth Bennet has consented to become my wife. Will you like her for your sister? I am sure there is no better woman. I hope that you and Elizabeth can love each other as I love you both. I cannot wait to be at Pemberley again with the two dearest people in my life.
Elizabeth and I are to be wed on the same day as Mr. Bingley and Elizabeth's sister Jane. I am not intending to leave Hertfordshire at present for I would miss Elizabeth too greatly. I therefore entreat you and Mrs. Annesley to stay at Netherfield until the wedding. I wonder how Miss Bingley will react once she hears my news! One will no doubt wish to stay clear from her!
Georgiana, I have never felt so happy as I am now. I do not stop smiling night and day. I hope to see you in Hertfordshire as soon as possible. Say not a word to Mrs. Reynolds, as I wish to inform her myself by means of a letter.
Your Loving (and Blissfully Happy!) Brother,
This letter sent Georgiana Darcy into the happiest of spirits. She beamed at the prospect of having a sister and her brother's happiness. She had never felt so excited before, and was unsuccessfully attempting to quieten and calm herself down.
I must write a reply as soon as possible, she thought - I shall go and ask Mrs. Annesley when she will be able to leave Pemberley. Mrs. Annesley, on hearing the news, declared she would be able to leave directly, or as soon as Georgiana wished to go.
"Miss Bennet. Was she not that beautiful young lady that came here with her aunt and uncle last summer? The master seemed quite taken by her."
"Indeed, she is. I am so happy for William." She paused. "Mrs. Annesley, William said that we cannot tell Mrs. Reynolds just yet. How can I keep such news as this secret?"
"Perhaps you may not have to" Mrs. Annesley replied as Mrs. Reynolds hurriedly bounded into the room.
"O Miss Georgiana! Have you heard your brother's news? How wonderful. Miss Bennet was a charming girl. She will make the master happy. At last Pemberley will have a new mistress. We shall have to open up the master bedroom. O Miss, it shall be so delightful. I will wager the master will now not be as depressed as he was those few months back. 'Tis such a happy thing. Your parents would be so happy my dear Miss Georgiana" cried the ecstatic old housekeeper, while Georgiana and Mrs. Annesley looked at each other in surprise. Never before had Mrs. Reynolds said so much in such a short time.
"'Tis joyous news indeed Mrs. Reynolds. I cannot wait to see my brother. He invites me to Hertfordshire until the wedding. I am so happy for him" Georgiana replied with glee.
"When shall you leave Miss?"
"As soon as everything is arranged. I will be ready to go tomorrow. Have you ever been to Hertfordshire?" Georgiana asked.
"Not since I've been at Pemberley, Miss Georgiana. Miss Bennet lives near Meryton, does she not? It is a pretty place, with many fine walks about. It is, of course, not as beautiful as Derbyshire, but I have lived here all my life and think it the most beautiful place in the world. I trust you shall enjoy your trip, Miss."
"Thank you," Georgiana politely responded.
"I must now go and tell the servants the news about Master Darcy. What a celebration we shall have! I am so glad I have seen and spoken to Miss Bennet before, for I know the master has made a fine choice of a wife." Mrs. Reynolds curtsied to Miss Darcy and left the room. Georgiana was stunned to think that someone could say so much in such a short time without (it seemed) taking breath.
Georgiana smiled as she sat in the sitting room Darcy had decorated and fitted up just for her. She read the letter again and grinned when she thought about poor Miss Bingley. Georgiana had always known that Miss Bingley craved to be the mistress of Pemberley and the husband of William. Caroline was already insanely jealous of Elizabeth - what would happen now?
Georgiana hoped Caroline wouldn't affront or offend Elizabeth, but then she remembered how Miss Bingley had treated Elizabeth when she came to Pemberley for dinner. Miss Bennet had been polite, but Georgiana could see there was an underlying tension. All of Georgiana's acquaintances, whether they be family or not, seemed to have a 'thing' with Miss Caroline Bingley. Poor Caroline. What was it that caused these tensions? Would she find someone who could actually bear to marry her? Miss Bingley would end up a reputed fortune hunter (as if she wasn't one already), and would one day be unhappily married to a pompous fool.
Georgiana reflected on this and was even happier for her brothers choice of wife. She knew for a fact Elizabeth Bennet was no fortune hunter. Besides, she remembered what her brother had told her....
After going through the whole history of her knowledge regarding her brother and Miss Bennet's acquaintance together, Georgiana was more than absolutely certain Miss Bennet was no money-hunter. Miss Bennet was a woman that would only marry for love.
Georgiana skipped around Pemberley; and was singing, laughing and playing her piano-forte with such an energetic and exuberant force that even Mrs. Annesley was exceedingly surprised. "To be sure, I've never seen her so happy, and she is not one ounce shy! If only she had more brothers to get engaged! 'Tis quite a pleasant change. I do hope it is permanent" she said to herself.
Georgiana's happiness was beyond belief. She could not wait to go to Netherfield, where she could see Miss Bennet and her brother - together. At last.
The carriage left Pemberley the next day. Georgiana chattered away for most of the journey. Although she had been accustomed to Georgiana's reserve and preference of solitude and little or no talking, especially while travelling, Mrs. Annesley found herself easily adapting to her charge's newly discovered happiness with chatting. After all, Georgiana did not go on and on like Miss Bates (an acquaintance of Mrs. Annesley's from Highbury, where she had lived before becoming Georgiana's governess and companion); and she did not screech or purr or sound anything like that horrid Miss Bingley.
They arrived in almost record time (or perhaps the effervescent talking had made it seem so, but Georgiana and Mrs. Annesley never could decide), and Georgiana slipped out of the carriage and ran into the arms of her waiting brother.
"William!" she cried "I am so happy for you and Miss Bennet."
"Good afternoon, sir. I can assure you your sister is in earnest, for I have heard of nothing but her happiness for you and her sister-to-be since we left Pemberley" Mrs. Annesley smiled. "I must also offer my utmost congratulations to you. From what Georgiana and I have seen, we are certain you will both be exceedingly happy."
Darcy gave her a look of gratitude and grinned "Welcome to Netherfield. We must get you unpacked, and quickly, for we are expected at Longbourn this evening for dinner. Mr. Bennet says that he ought to contemplate rooms for Charles and I at the estate, because we spend more time there than we do at Netherfield!"
Georgiana nodded. "Will I be able to meet the other Miss Bennets?"
"You will be able to see three of Elizabeth's sisters; those that live at Longbourn. Lydia is in Newcastle" her brother answered.
"I am looking forward to it. But first, William, would I be able to speak to you before we leave? Do you think we could meet and walk in the gardens?"
"Yes, that sounds fine dear, but we also must give you a tour of Netherfield. Do come in" he said, taking Georgiana's arm and leading her indoors.
Georgiana had to agree that Netherfield was a fine house for Mr. Bingley, and would be for his future wife, but she thought the library was a bit small. When Darcy led her into the Billiard Room, he told her "Once when Elizabeth was staying here, she came into this room, and found me by myself, enjoying a solitary game. She looked ever so pretty that night, but then again she always does - she even especially did when she was covered in those six inches of mud. As she left the room I shot a ball in the pocket, and it seemed like a sign almost; for whenever Miss Bingley ever entered, my next shot always missed. Oh, Georgiana, Miss Bingley is due to come to visit Charles in a week or thereabouts, and she knows not about my engagement. How shall we break it to her?" he asked, and gave her a wink, which she returned with a wry smile.
"I daresay we shall find some way."
"Indeed" said he, and she started giggling.
"Poor Miss Bingley. Do you know, William, that I almost pity her?"
"As do I" he responded with his deep, throaty laugh.
"O William! I have not heard you laugh like that in an age! 'Tis wonderful to have you back" Georgiana laughed with delight, then turned slightly and addressed him with a tone of intense curiosity. "William, just then you mentioned Miss Bennet being covered in mud. Whatever could you mean?"
"When Miss Bennet (soon to be Mrs. Bingley) fell ill, she had come to be with Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst for lunch, as the men were out. When we returned, we were told Miss Bennet was here, and ill. We sent for the doctor, and Miss Bennet sent a letter to her family, saying that she was unable to leave Netherfield. That letter was sent the next morning. Not long after that, I was walking the grounds, and I turned around to see Elizabeth walking towards me. "I have come to see my sister, Mr. Darcy," she told me "On foot?" said I with a large amount of unbelief. "As you see" she retorted "Would you be so kind as to take me to her?" I did. But Georgiana, I have told you only part of the story. The day before, you see, it had rained heavily, and everything was muddy. It is three miles at least to Longbourn, and Elizabeth had walked the whole way (she is such an excellent walker), and when she arrived, her clothes and petticoat were scarce fit to be seen - she was covered in at least six inches of mud, according to Mrs. Hurst. I had only noticed the brilliancy that exercise had given to her complexion - she was truly most beautiful."
"How I should have loved to see Miss Bingley's and Mrs. Hurst's faces when Miss Bennet was announced! I suppose they held her in contempt on account of the condition of her stockings!"
"I am sure they did, but I do not remember my ever noticing their reactions. My mind was more agreeably engaged."
"When will the wedding be, I mean, what day is it?"
"Elizabeth will be at Pemberley before Christmas, for we have invited her aunt and uncle and their children to stay over the holiday period. Is that agreeable to you?"
"Yes, of course! I could not wish for anything more delightful. The Gardiner's were very nice to me. But Fitzwilliam, the date? It is early October now, and you must be married for Christmas. November is such a lovely month. Autumn coming to an end - Will you be married then?"
"We have yet to decide, but at any rate, none of us can wait, especially Elizabeth and I. We spend our entire days together..."
"You have not spent all of today; I fear my coming has prevented it. I will hurry out to the gardens to ask you the 'something' before we leave for Longbourn in half-an-hour."
"Very well, we shall go out now" he commented as they walked down the steps leading to the avenue. Georgiana walked at her usual pace, and then she slowed. Before long, she stopped and looked into her brother's eyes. "How did it happen? Where was it? What did you say? How did you feel?" she queried. "Beg my pardon, I did not mean to ask you such direct questions as these but..."
"Hush Georgie. It is fine. I will answer these questions, but I apologise now beforehand if I speak on about my dearest, loveliest Elizabeth for too long. I will tell you what happened, and incorporate as many of your questions as possible into it."
"The day that I sent you your letter, Bingley and I went to Longbourn. I had only arrived the night before. Bingley wanted to be alone with Miss Bennet, and he proposed our walking out. There was Charles, Miss Bennet, Elizabeth, myself and Elizabeth's second youngest sister, Kitty, who is just older than you. I think you may like her, she is uncommonly improved from what she was at my first arrival in Hertfordshire. Bingley and Miss Bennet lagged behind us not long after we had left, and Kitty called on Miss Maria Lucas (She is dippy-headed like her father, but is good natured and sweet). There was only Elizabeth and myself left.
I was about to say something to Miss Bennet, I cannot remember what, but she spoke before I had the chance. It turns out that Lydia Bennet Wickham had let a few words slip about my involvement at her wedding, and Elizabeth applied to Mrs. Gardiner for some knowledge. She thanked me on behalf of her family and herself. I told her I didn't need her family's thanks, for I had done it all for her. At this point I stopped walking and told her that my affections and wishes were unchanged, and I would undoubtedly be the happiest and most blessed man alive if she would relieve my suffering and consent to be my wife. I told her I wanted her, I needed her, I loved her. As I looked into here eyes I felt utterly powerless and totally weak. If she had refused me once again, I would have felt no will to keep on living." Fitzwilliam's voice was distant, but then his face brightened up as he relived some more memories.
"And then she answered. You cannot even begin to comprehend how blissful I was when Elizabeth told me that her feelings were in fact quite the opposite of what they had been last April. The sun shone down brightly, the cornfields were golden, the trees on either side of the walk glistened, and I was walking hand in hand with my beloved, who had just agreed to spend the rest of her life with me! As we walked, we knew not where, and I recalled my reading a particular sonnet of Shakespeare's, in the time following my return from Rosings, and at that time, I wished that it would not just be a dream, but come true. And it has! I shall recite it for you, dearest Georgiana. I believe that sonnet is now one of my favourites.
Those lips that loves own hand did make,
Breathed forth the sound that said 'I hate'
To me that languished for her sake;
But when she saw my woeful state,
Straight in her heart did mercy come,
Chiding that tongue ever sweet,
Was used in gentle doom,
And taught it thus anew to greet:
'I hate' she altered with an end
That followed it as gentle day
Doth follow night, who like a fiend,
From heaven to hell is flown away.
"I hate' from hate away she threw,
And saved my life, saying 'not you.' *
* Sonnet CXLV (145)
Can you not see why I like it? Now, I shall continue my narrative. Elizabeth and I knew not where we walked, for there was much to be dwelt on. We talked of many a thing, and the day seemed to pass so quickly. We found, upon examining our watches, that we ought to return to Longbourn as the inhabitants there would no doubt wonder where we had got to.
That night was one of the most glorious of my life. Elizabeth sat opposite me, and we looked at each other for most of the night; and I must confess that I found it exceedingly difficult not telling a soul. I felt like shouting for joy, but my sense of propriety forbid me. I was most grateful that my disposition was not one where happiness flows into mirth. When Bingley and I departed that evening, I told him, and Elizabeth told Jane.
The next day Mrs. Bennet told Elizabeth to 'keep me occupied today', and on our walk to Oakham Mount, we decided that that evening, I would ask for Mr. Bennet's consent, and she her mothers. Elizabeth did warn me that her father should be quite surprised at my application, for to his knowledge she still disliked me.
Mr. Bennet was indeed much surprised when I entered his library and applied for permission to marry Elizabeth. I believe he was caught fully unawares. I had to repeat almost everything just for it to sink in. He answered that he would not refuse, but needed to 'speak to Lizzy about it first'. Elizabeth was gone for a long period of time, and when she returned, it appeared as though she had been crying, but as she entered, her spirits eased up and she was cheerful. That evening, she told her mother, and she has been 'my dear Mr. Darcy-ing' me since then!
The day after that, I sent my letter to you, and here you have come. This evening Elizabeth will introduce you to her family. I believe it is time for us to collect Bingley and get to Longbourn. Will Mrs. Annesley be joining you" Darcy asked
"No, she will stay at Netherfield - If that is agreeable to you, of course" Georgiana meekly responded.
"It is well. But dearest, you need not ask for my approval with all of your decisions. You are growing into a young woman who will make her own decisions. You do not need to fearfully ask your brother if it is alright. I will agree with whatever you feel is best. Now, let us go. Our carriage awaits!"
Georgiana anticipated her seeing Miss Bennet again with delight, but was very frightened at the prospect of meeting the rest of the Bennets. Miss Jane Bennet sounded very nice, but Mrs. Bennet sounded completely the opposite. Miss Kitty was 'improved', but she had apparently chased officers like you could scarce believe. Miss Mary and Mr. Bennet she had heard very little about, but that did not lessen her dread.
Mr. Bingley and Fitzwilliam tried to ease her thoughts, but to no avail. As they approached the house, she felt like crouching up into a tiny ball and hiding away. So much for this burst of self-confidence I've been feeling lately! Georgiana was petrified and near tears "What if they do not like me?" she asked her brother.
"Hush dearest, do not go on so. Elizabeth loves you and I daresay the others will as soon as they lay eyes on you. Do not fret. It is only a family dinner; you will be fine. If it gets to be too much for you we shall leave." Darcy tried to comfort his sister.
"Miss Darcy, you need not worry. My dear Jane is quiet and docile also, and she and Elizabeth will treat you as a beloved sister. Do not fear." Even Mr. Bingley's voice was filled with concern.
"I shall try" Georgiana whispered and she looked out the window at Longbourn. It was a sweet, modern house, the gardens were quaint, and Miss Bennet and the other girls stood outside.
"Miss Darcy" called Miss Bennet's lively and cheerful voice. "It is so nice to see you here! And you Mr. Bingley, and also you, sir" she said to her fiance.
"Elizabeth, please do not call me sir" William begged, and Miss Bennet rolled her eyes and gave a slight laugh.
"As you wish, my dear Mr. Darcy. Now, is that better?" she asked.
"Indeed it is, my dearest, loveliest Elizabeth" he grinned "Georgiana, do come out. Miss Bennet is waiting to see you."
"I ...I am coming" came a shy, tiny, trembling voice.
"Georgiana is excessively frightened and shy today. We must not try to scare her in the least" Darcy whispered in Elizabeth's ear.
Georgiana's face came into view and she stepped out of the cottage. "Miss Darcy, I am so pleased to meet you again. I have missed you."
"Please, if you would Miss Bennet, call me Georgiana" Georgiana shyly responded.
"Of course, but you must call me Lizzy or Elizabeth instead of Miss Bennet, for we are to be sisters. May I introduce you to my sisters?" Georgiana nodded. "This is my sister Jane, and this is Kitty" Elizabeth's gaze and arms indicated a very beautiful, taller, plumper blonde sister to the left, and a shorter, younger looking girl with auburn hair to the right.
"It is a pleasure to finally see you, Miss Darcy. Charles and your brother have told us so much about you" Jane's voice sounded very calm, reassuring and welcoming.
"I Thank you, but I hope my brother has not overly praised me. I fear I will not be able to live up to your expectations. I am happy to meet you both, please call me Georgiana." I can't believe I spoke that much to a stranger! Very good Georgiana, just keep talking and don't retract into your shell.
"Nonsense, Georgiana. Your brother has given you as much praise as you deserve." Elizabeth took Georgiana's and her fiance's arms and led them inside.
"I hope so Lizzy. I do not wish to disappoint anyone."
"Your brother also tells us you are fond of pheasant. You will appeal no end to my mother. I am fond of it also, and we will be having it tonight."
"Are you really? That should be lovely. Before we eat, could you show me around the house?" Georgiana was becoming less scared.
"Certainly. Kitty, will you go and tell Mama our guests are here?"
Georgiana noticed that Jane and Mr. Bingley had disappeared. As there was only Elizabeth and William in the room, Georgiana went up to Elizabeth and said "I am so glad you will be becoming a Darcy, Lizzy. I could not ask for a nicer sister, and I know you have made William so happy" her eyes filled with tears and she hugged Elizabeth.
"Thank you" whispered Elizabeth, who was deeply moved.
Continued in Part 3
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