Leaving the Past Behind
It was a late summer evening in London. In the drawing room of the Darcy home, Georgiana and Fitzwilliam Darcy sat on either side of the fireplace, both occupying their time in reading. Dissatisfied with her book, Georgiana reached for the paper and turned to the Announcements page. A phrase seemed to leap up from the page and slap her: "Miss Lydia Bennet, lately of Hertfordshire, has been married to Mr. George Wickham."
It was really such a short, simple announcement. Georgiana read and reread it. She was confused by the name Lydia Bennet. Bennet, of Hertfordshire? Was this person, George's wife, a relation of Elizabeth Bennet's? She glanced up at her brother who was engrossed in a different section of the paper.
Georgiana read the announcement again. It really seemed strange that such a simple phrase carried so much strength with her. The notice was free of the pomp and circumstance she felt due the marriage of the only man she'd ever believed to love her.
She remembered their long walks by the sea at Ramsgate. She remembered his eyes looking down at her with such... love? She heard the crashing of the waves and remembered the breeze blowing over them as he kissed her passionately. Guilt and embarrassment washed over her now as she again looked at her brother.
George Wickham was married to another woman. He was married to someone who shared the same last name as the woman to whom her brother seemed attached. How strange this was! She recalled the abrupt departure of Miss Bennet and her party from Derbyshire some weeks prior. She had attributed her brother's distracted air since to his longing for Miss Bennet's company. Had he somehow known of this marriage?
George Wickham was married. He had given his name to another woman. She remembered how he had claimed that the similarity of their first names was significant. "George and Georgiana. See! I am a part of you." Her cheeks grew warmer and warmer as she felt the pain of her foolishness again. She had been so silly! She had been so fooled! The fire in his eyes had been for her money. The attempts to caress her had been driven by a desire to compromise her, not a passion for her person. All that he had said had been false, as false as their 'love.'
She blinked back tears as she read the announcement again. She stood, said, "Please excuse me," and left the room as Darcy looked after her in bewildered concern at her sudden departure. His eyes fell on the abandoned paper by her chair. He crossed the room, reached for it, quickly read it, and looked up at the empty doorway through which his sister had fled.
Georgiana quickly retreated to her room. There, she found her favorite old doll, Mrs. Moppet, sitting in a chair by the window. Though Georgiana knew she was too old for dolls, she still took comfort in holding Mrs. Moppet close to her when she was ill or sad. The well-loved doll had born all of Georgiana's confessions and sorrows over the years. "And I can trust in your discretion implicitly," laughed Georgiana wryly through her tears as she looked into Mrs. Moppet's eyes. She pulled the doll to her chest and sat on the edge of her bed to cry. After some minutes, she stopped crying and sat there with her eyes closed.
There was a soft knock at the door. "Georgiana? May I come in?" asked her brother gently.
Georgiana dried her cheeks and leapt from the bed to return Mrs. Moppet to her seat. Then, she attempted to compose herself and moved to stand by the window, one hand on the back of the chair to steady herself. Once there, she replied softly, "Yes, William."
He opened the door and tentatively entered the room. He had heard Georgiana's hasty preparations before allowing him entrance and also noticed that Mrs. Moppet was in a state of disarray, one braid of yarn hair dangling across her face and evidence of fresh tears visible on the cloth of her dress.
He was uncertain as to how to proceed as he looked at his sister. Georgiana was looking out the window, her figure stiff and straight. It occurred to him that her posture was much as he'd seen his own reflected in window glass in recent months.
"Georgiana... I'm sorry," he said as he looked down at the rug.
She turned to look at him. "What?"
He looked up into her red-rimmed eyes, "I am sorry that I did not tell you about that marriage before you found out from the newspaper. I had hoped that you would not have to hear of it at all. It was wrong of me."
She turned to look at him quizzically, "How did you know of it before it was in the papers? Is his wife related to Miss Elizabeth Bennet? Do you know her?" she asked in a tight voice.
He thought some time before making his reply. "Sadly, she is the youngest sister of Miss Bennet. I can only wish that she might be happy with her choice."
Georgiana turned back to the window and grasped the curtain as she said, "I am surprised. I did not know that the Bennets were a wealthy family. Or, does he love her?"
He winced at the pain in her voice. "The Bennets are not wealthy, Georgiana. Nor do I believe that Mr. Wickham loves his new wife. Please do not ask me to tell you any more of the circumstances. Wickham's situation is not important except as it affects those I love." He moved to her side, attempting to pull her into his embrace.
She choked back a sob and turned away from him, "Please don't! Do not be so kind, William. I do not deserve it. You do not know how little I deserve it." She covered her face with her hands to cool her fiery cheeks against her icy palms.
He pulled her into his arms. He held her tightly, rocking her back and forth. "It will be all right, my sweet one. It will be all right."
She pulled back, unable to look at him. "William, you knew that I was a fool, but I never told you how improperly I behaved. I do not deserve... I am not... sweet... not after..." she felt Darcy's grip on her tighten. She whispered miserably, "I let him kiss me." Her eyes dropped, unable to bear the disappointment she was sure would live in her brother's eyes forever.
He breathed out loudly and kissed her hard on the forehead, then squeezed her tightly. "Oh, my sweet Georgiana. Wickham is a scoundrel, skilled in ways of deception... and seduction. I only wish you had told me this sooner. I hate to think of the needless anguish you have given yourself. I do not blame you! You were deceived by him."
"I was a stupid fool!" she exclaimed.
He shook his head dissentingly, "How can anyone who wishes to be loved and valued be considered a stupid fool?" He looked down at her tenderly and caressed her cheek. She shook her head in disgust.
Unwilling to attempt to answer his question, she sighed, turned away from his gaze and asked, "Do you know where they will live?"
Darcy nodded, "He is joining a regiment far to the north. You will never see him again. I cannot pretend not to be glad to have him away from those I love most." He kissed her hand. She moved sit on the edge of her bed.
"I should be glad never to see him again. How far north?" she asked.
"Very far. Very far, indeed," replied Darcy. He sat down beside Georgiana and put an arm around her protectively. They sat together in silence for several minutes.
Georgiana spoke up, "It is strange that he is married to Miss Bennet's sister. Confused rumors must have been what caused Miss Bingley to say..." she stopped, embarrassed.
Darcy looked at her sharply, "Caused Miss Bingley to say what?"
Georgiana bit her lip. "Miss Bingley said that there was an attachment between Wickham and Miss Elizabeth Bennet. I did not know what to think then, but I should have known that she could never be taken in by him."
Darcy looked uncomfortable as he replied, "Do not forget that he is skilled in the ways of deception. He is able to make friends easily. It is only when they learn of his true character over time that he loses his power."
"Do you mean to tell me that she was taken in by him, as well?" she asked in surprise. "Didn't you warn her?"
He moved away from her slightly and played with his pinkie ring. "I have not made his bad character known in society. I did, upon closer acquaintance, make it known to Miss Bennet. I knew that I could rely upon her discretion."
Georgiana blanched, "You mean you told her about what happened between him and me, don't you?"
He looked sideways at her and recommenced twisting his ring. "I did."
Georgiana sat still for a moment. Then she said, "I am glad that you did. I should hate for so kind a person as Miss Bennet to be long deceived. Did she know before I met her in Derbyshire?" He nodded. "She was so very kind. That night in the music room..."
"That night in the music room she was heroic. Her skill in handling difficult situations is much to be admired," he replied. His eyes glowed as he remembered. Then a look at his sister's pained expression drew him back to the present. He said, "I am sorry that his marriage gives you so much pain."
She looked at him in confusion. "I don't even know why it does! I do not think I ever really loved him, William. I just wanted for him to admire me. I think I was... in love with the idea of love. I am only ashamed that I once thought I did love him. Does that make any sense?"
He smiled slightly, "I think so. I only hope that you will not blame yourself overmuch. I am no expert in matters of love, either."
"Is anyone?" she asked plaintively.
Darcy replied to her question quietly and seriously. "I don't know."
"I do not even understand what it is, Fitzwilliam," said Georgiana with a small sigh. "I sometimes think that love is like the all-consuming passion of Romeo and Juliet. At other times I wonder if it is really more like a perfect friendship in which both parties have great respect and esteem for the other. I only know that I do not know what it is."
Darcy stood and paced back and forth before Georgiana as he pondered his reply. "I imagine that the nature of love varies in accordance with the demeanor of the people involved in a relationship. I would even imagine that as people are capable of a wide variety of emotions, it could be possible for one relationship to include both of the varieties of 'love' that you mention." He walked over to her bedroom window and looked out into the moonlit night. His bleak expression was hidden from his sister's eyes.
He took a breath and squared his shoulders before turning to face her. "All that I know for certain is that love is not about concentrating on yourself or your own feelings. It is about making another person happy and taking care of them. It is about doing your best to make their life better, regardless of your own concerns." He leaned against the wall with his hands behind his back.
Georgiana looked at him strangely, quite certain that he was thinking of things she could not even begin to guess.
He moved back to the chair where Mrs. Moppet sat. He carefully straightened the braid that had gone askew. He looked at Georgiana, his eyes gently smiling at her. She held out her hands and he gave her the doll. She clasped Mrs. Moppet to her chest and looked up over the doll's head into her brother's eyes.
He said, "Leave the past behind you. Someday, you will find a man who is worthy of you. You will find a man who will love your gentle sweetness completely. Then you will have the answers to your questions." He kissed the top of her head and whispered, "Good night, sweet Georgiana."
She smiled a small smile at him as he left the room, gently closing the door behind him.
Georgiana sat on the bed holding Mrs. Moppet tightly for several moments. Then she stood and carefully returned the doll to her accustomed place. As Georgiana prepared for bed, she went to her looking glass, washed her cheeks and brushed her hair.
She stopped and looked at her face in the mirror. Her reflection showed a wiser young lady than it had the previous year, she liked to think. Georgiana looked into her own eyes and thought about her brother's assurance. She lightly touched her fingers to the mirror and said, "Leave the past behind you. You are forgiven." Then she carefully blew out the candle and went to bed.
Later that night, Darcy quietly opened the door to his sister's room. He was pleased to find her asleep. He knew that Georgiana shared his propensity towards sleepless nights when disturbed. By the light of the moon, he was able to see that she was even smiling as she slept. He breathed a sigh of relief and quietly left her to her slumber
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