Catherine: A Heart's Journey
Chapter I: Departure from Longbourn
"May God bless you through the rest of your days," the minister pronounced solemnly.
"Thank you, minister," Catherine's sister Mary said. Mary's face, usually pale from her studies, was filled with light from the joy of her wedding day.
"Who would have ever thought it?" Catherine heard the snide, unmistakable voice of Caroline Bingley say. Her voice was low but loud enough to be heard by the wedding party. "Who would have thought that blase Mary Bennet would ever be married?"
"Yes, and that teacher fellow she has married is as academic as she," Mrs. Hurst said to her sister, her voice no less guarded.
Catherine turned to her sister, Elizabeth, and grimaced. Elizabeth shrugged in reply.
"Those two never stop," Catherine whispered.
"They can not bear to see any of our family happy," Elizabeth replied. "Miss Bingley least, because she remains unmarried."
Catherine nodded but did not say more. She did not want to follow the Bingley sisters' gossipy example. The wedded couple was preparing to leave the celebration, and the day was nearly at an end. She wanted to kiss her sister one last time before the couple parted.
Catherine pushed through the crowd of neighbors, family, and dear friends--all gaily dressed in their best attire-- and reached her sister. Mary turned from her husband and grasped Catherine in a hug.
"I am sorry to leave you alone, sister dearest," Mary said, her usually even-toned voice breathy. "What a trial it will be for you to be the last unmarried daughter in Mama's house."
Catherine, tears forming in her eyes, struggled to remain composed. "I shall be fine," she said. "Lizzy has invited me to Pemberley in two days from now, and there you know is the best of company. Do not worry about me: you are a beautiful bride. How happy you will be."
"Only because of my good fortune in my husband," Mary said, her head turning toward the short man, spectacles perched on his head. He was gazing at her. Catherine squeezed her sister's hand and then pulled away from her.
The party crowded the couple as they exited the church, but Catherine remained inside. Dull light came through a stained glass window on the west of the chapel. She stepped toward the window and sat on the pew below it. Now that the day was over, she felt as melancholy as the eve. She breathed silence in and whispered a few words of prayer--ones, in fact, that Mary had taught her. Two more days and she would be free.
"Mr. Bennet, my dear, cannot you listen to me for a moment?" Catherine's mother abruptly stopped pacing the breakfast room and addressed her husband.
"My dear, I always have time for you, you know," Mr. Bennet responded, letting his book drop to his lap.
"Would not you say that Mary had the best veil of all our girls' at their weddings? Was not it the purest white and best adorned?"
"Why, my dear, you know that you are always correct in these matters, and I must tell you so."
"Mr. Bennet, are you in an ill humour today?"
"Of course not, my dear, of course not." Mr. Bennet wiped his forehead with his handkerchief. Catherine smiled from her seat, where she was stitching a pillowcase cover; indeed, the first one she had stitched for herself for these many months.
"Mama, I think Papa is trying to say that he has no notion of these matters," Catherine spoke.
"Well, then why did he not say so. It is really quite vexing."
Catherine let her needle rest on the pillowcase. She felt she should change the subject and there was a question she had to ask. "Mama, is it still the plan that I go to Derbyshire with the Smiths?"
"Yes, my dear, but I should much rather you would stay here. I cannot say how I will do without you."
Catherine bowed her head. "If you want me to remain here, Mama, I will."
Mr. Bennet joined in, "No, no my dear; Lizzy has invited you, and you must go."
"But if Mama needs--"
"Your mother can spare you, child. You know your aunt Phillips will be here to visit her every day. She will not be devoid of company. No, I insist you go."
Catherine felt the tension in her shoulders release. She had felt that she must offer to stay, but felt much relief that the offer was denied.
Though Catherine was relieved, Mrs. Bennet did not leave the subject. "I feel very ill-used," she announced, "that I am deprived of all my daughters. First Lydia, then Jane and Lizzy, and Mary, and now even Kitty is leaving me." She gave a prolonged sigh.
Catherine wrinkled her brow at the use of her childhood nickname. "Mama, you know that I am too old for that nickname," she said firmly.
That very evening Catherine's companions for the coming journey, the Smiths, arrived to dine. They were a middle-aged couple who had moved into the neighborhood a year before. Mrs. Smith reminded Catherine of her own aunt Gardiner in her solid opinions and concern for young people. Mr. Smith had a quick laugh and a temper as even as his wife's.
"My dear Miss Bennet," Mrs. Smith confided after dinner, "I cannot deny that I am very glad of your company on our journey to Derbyshire. Mr. Smith is a great companion, but I cannot under-rate the fresh conversation of young people."
"It is I who am glad of your company," Catherine said with a smile. "It would have been a lonely trip without you and Mr. Smith."
"It was indeed fortunate that our visits coincide," Mrs. Smith agreed. "I am sure you will be happy to see your sister, as we will to see my niece and nephew."
"You will have to meet John and Margaret," Mr. Smith said, turning from his conversation with Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. "Would you and your friends care to visit us after we arrive?"
"I should like nothing better," Catherine said, with real pleasure. "I shall bring Georgiana."
"Georgiana?" Mrs. Smith asked.
"Mr. Darcy's younger sister," Catherine explained. 'since my sister Elizabeth's marriage to Mr. Darcy, I have visited Pemberley often, and we have become good friends."
"Then we shall look forward to meeting her," said Mr. Smith.
The next day went slowly from sunrise to sunset. Catherine spent the day packing and conversing with her mother. She was very glad to see the end of the day.
The next morning dawned bleak and cold. Catherine rose early to be certain that her trunks were ready. The Smiths arrived before Catherine's usual waking hour and, trunks secured, they were ready to depart. With a quick embrace of her mother and father, she departed with the Smiths.
Chapter II: Arrival at Pemberley
Despite her amiable companions, the trip to Derbyshire was not entirely pleasant. The sky continued to be covered in dreary, endless gray. Catherine was inexplicably quiet, while her companions conversed cheerfully. Mr. and Mrs. Smith were too polite to question her, though she could tell they noticed her silence, with puzzlement. She wished she could explain her mood to her companions, but she could not yet explain it to herself.
As they arrived in Derbyshire, Catherine felt her mood lighten for the first time in the trip. The familiar scenery-- woods, hills, estates-- Catherine knew with some intimacy, and it gave her pleasure to see them. The drive up to Pemberley House was, as customary, a thrill to Catherine's eyes. The approach to Pemberley was a long, gradually rising hill covered with woods. At the top of the hill the forest ended and Pemberley House came in view. It was a stone house standing behind a natural stream, bordered by groves of forest.
The carriage stopped close to the house. Catherine bid a quick farewell to her friends, and they assured her of an invitation to dine at Robins Hall soon.
As she descended from the carriage, she caught sight of a young woman rushing from the massive oak doors of Pemberley.
"Georgiana!" she called out. She ran as quickly as she possibly could, ignoring her lengthy skirt and coat. Reaching Georgiana, she threw her arms around her and they embraced.
"I am so glad to see you, Catherine," Georgiana said. Georgiana's cheeks were flushed from the cold, but this only added to her beauty, Catherine thought. Georgiana had a mass of dark hair and soft hazel eyes. She was small in stature, but her figure was that of a woman. Aunt Phillips would call her a young woman in her bloom.
"I know you have heard from Lizzy and Darcy, but I insist on telling you the details of the wedding," Catherine said.
"And of your trip," Georgiana added. "I won't deny you the pleasure of telling me all the details of both. Indeed, I can never hear enough of weddings." She blushed.
Catherine grinned. "I see how it is," she said. "Tell me, have you acquired many beaux since our last visit? Yes, I am sure you have!"
Georgiana smiled. "If I were in any company but yours, I should be speechless all evening after that comment," she said.
Catherine grabbed her arm. "My trunks are being carried in and the Smiths have departed. Should we go inside?" They turned toward the house, their shoes crunching on the rocky drive. A servant opened the doors and they entered the house.
As they entered the high-ceilinged entry hall, Catherine saw that Mr. and Mrs. Darcy were standing in wait for her. Elizabeth Darcy's face lit as she rushed to Catherine.
"You are here!" Elizabeth exclaimed. She scrutinized Catherine. "None the worse for the journey, either, I see," she said.
"Just pleased to be here," Catherine admitted.
"As we are to have you," Elizabeth said, squeezing her hand.
Mr. Darcy had followed his wife. "Welcome to Pemberley," he said. "We have a dinner prepared for you, but we thought maybe you would like to partake in the privacy of your room. I know you must be tired."
Catherine nodded. "Thank you, Mr. Darcy. I must admit that I am quite exhausted."
"Then Mrs. Darcy and I will leave you until tomorrow morning."
Catherine gave her sister another quick hug, and then she and Georgiana mounted the long staircase to the second floor, arm in arm.
"You have your usual room, adjacent to mine," Georgiana said, as they headed up the stairs. "And I have a surprise for you on your night-table."
"A surprise! Indeed!" Catherine exclaimed. "Now, I wonder what it could be."
"I shall not tell you," Georgiana said, a smile playing on her lips.
Catherine giggled. "I shall force it from you, m'lady, and if you do not divulge it, you shall suffer . . . Now, what torture could be worthy of such an infraction?"
Georgiana's face took on mocked seriousness. "I am prepared to suffer death for my cause."
As they reached the second floor, they burst out in laughter. The grim-faced reaction of a servant made them laugh even louder. Finally, Georgiana managed to say, "I think we had better hurry to your room. Higgins looks like he is going to set the dogs upon us." At that, their laughter increased.
When they reached her room, Catherine collapsed into a chair, weariness overtaking her. Georgiana gave her a look of worry. "You are tired, and I am afraid my raillery has made you even more so."
"No," Catherine said. "That was the most fun I have had in weeks."
"A wedding is joyful but tiring," Georgiana said.
"Precisely," Catherine agreed. "And being the maid of honor was one of the busiest positions of all. I am glad that Mary and Mr. Weller are finally settled."
"I am sorry I could not make the wedding," Georgiana said, settling onto the edge of Catherine's four-poster bed.
"We all missed you. I hope you are feeling much improved."
"I am fully recovered. Indeed, I was already on the mend by the day of the wedding, but as Elizabeth and my brother had already departed, I decided it was best to stay."
A knock came, and Georgiana opened the door. A servant entered and placed a tray with several large covered containers on a table next to Catherine's chair. Catherine lifted the covers to find a bowl of steaming soup, a triangle-shaped sandwich, and a plate of strawberries covered in cream. The smell of the food awoke her stomach, which she realized was sharp with hunger.
"I will leave you to your dinner," Georgiana said, "and I will see you tomorrow morning."
Catherine rose and embraced her friend. "Thank you for everything," she said.
The dinner proved to be as delicious as the smells it proffered. Catherine ate the meal in a time that would have left anyone with proper sensibilities aghast. Luckily, she was on her own and had no one to answer to about her lack of appropriate dining decorum.
After the meal, she changed into her silky white nightdress and prepared for bed. As she climbed into the warm layers of her bed, she noticed some papers on her night-table. Georgiana's gift, she remembered. She reached for the papers and smiled at the realization of what they were: sheet music for the pianoforte. Ever since the two girls had become acquainted three years ago, Catherine recalled, Georgiana had been telling her of the joys she found from playing the pianoforte and trying to persuade Catherine to learn herself. Catherine had finally given way, with the stipulation that Georgiana alone would be her teacher: she could not image the mortification of having another tutor see how backward she was; telling her that she should have started when she was young, and pressing her to advance faster than was possible. And she was indeed learning, slowly, but her skills were still far below that of all her acquaintance who could play: Georgiana, Elizabeth, and even her sister Mary. Still, she occasionally had a moment of the "true joy" of playing, which Georgiana had described; the moments were brief, but enough to recommend the continuance of the endeavor.
Catherine set the music down and curled up in her blankets, anticipating the next day, especially Georgiana's music lesson. Would that the day would come already.
Chapter III: An Eventful Day
Catherine woke with the light of late morning shining into her eyes. She rose, dressing quickly, and hurried to the breakfast room. There, she found only her sister, Elizabeth, still eating.
"Good morning, sleepy," Elizabeth chided with a smile.
"I hope I am not too late for breakfast," Catherine said apologetically.
"No indeed," Elizabeth answered. "If I must be truthful, we have all been lay-a-beds today. William and Georgiana just finished their breakfast a few minutes ago. William had to hurry off on business, but Georgiana is upstairs in her music room practicing. She said something about a music lesson, when you are finished eating."
"Perfect," Catherine said, sitting down across for Elizabeth.
"If you are not adverse to it, I thought we may do some shopping after your lesson," Elizabeth said, as Catherine's breakfast tray arrived.
'shopping? What for?"
"A ball dress for yourself."
"Indeed! Is there to be a ball?" Catherine exclaimed.
"I knew you would be pleased," Elizabeth said, eyes asparkle. "Lord Devons, an friend of William's, is giving the ball in two days time, and when William told him of your upcoming arrival, he insisted on your being invited."
"But does not Georgiana need a dress, as well?"
"We purchased hers in London several months ago. It is the perfect time for her to wear it. I am certain we shall find something just right for you as well."
Catherine finished her breakfast eagerly. As she walked out of the room to go to her music lesson, a servant stopped her. "A message for you, Miss Bennet," she said, handing Catherine a letter.
"Thank you," Catherine said. She opened the letter with haste, reading,
Mr. Smith and myself hope you have had a pleasant arrival at Pemberley. We mentioned our dinner appointment with you to our hosts, and they were so pleased, that they wish your presence this very evening. We would invite everyone in your company to join us, including all of the Darcys. If this is agreeable to you, we look forward to your company again this evening.
Yours & etc.,
Mrs. Annabelle Smith
How kind of the Smiths, Catherine thought to herself. She would have to arrange the engagement with the Darcys, but she was certain that it would be agreeable. She quickly enquired of Elizabeth, who was delighted and went to her writing desk immediately to write a note of acceptance.
Thus it was quite late in the morning when Catherine finally arrived at Georgiana's music room. As she approached the room, she felt a deep, sad song reverberate in her ears. Tears came to her eyes, and she wiped them away and listened to the song as it continued; building in sorrow, and finally ending in a sad chord.
She stepped into the room and said, "That is beautiful, Georgiana."
Georgiana started, turning from the pianoforte. "I did not know anyone was listening," she said, her face flushed.
"It was only me," Catherine said, "You did tell Elizabeth that you were going to give me a music lesson."
"Yes," Georgiana said.
Catherine stood at the door, feeling awkward with her friend for the first time.
"Well," said Georgiana, standing up and moving to the side of the small instrument. "I think it is time we had that lesson." Georgiana's voice was tense, but Catherine could tell she was trying to lighten the mood.
"Yes," said Catherine. "Let us begin."
The music lesson went slowly, remedially. It was two months since Catherine had the benefit of a teacher, and she had had little time for practice, because of the preparations for Mary's wedding. Still, she had taken advantage of every spare moment she could find, and Georgiana was pleased that she had progressed as much as she had. The afternoon's shopping excursion was just as pleasant, and it ended in the purchase of a soft-shaded lilac dress for Catherine, made of silk, as well as a pair of evening gloves for both young ladies.
Evening approached, and careful dressing preparations for the dinner engagement with the Smiths began. Elizabeth suggested a lacy white dress for Georgiana and a deep blue velvet dress with silk sash for Catherine.
"The blue goes perfectly with your eyes," Elizabeth said matter-of-factly.
"Now, what to do with our hair?" Georgiana asked.
"I would say, do it simply," Elizabeth recommended. "Catherine, wear yours tied back with this ribbon." She handed Catherine a ribbon that perfectly matched her sash. "And Georgiana, tie a headband of this strip of lace."
When they had finished their hairstyles, Elizabeth said, "What a lovely pair of young ladies you are. You remind me of Jane and myself when we were younger. What a flutter we were about our dress and presentation. Of course, Jane was always much the prettier of the two of us."
"You have always been beautiful," protested Catherine.
"Yes, indeed," Georgiana agreed. "I recall my brother commenting on your lovely eyes as long as you and I have been acquainted. He said your were 'one of the most handsome women of his acquaintance.'"
"But who can ever trust a man in love?" Elizabeth said. "No, no, I see you are going to disagree, but we have not the time. We must depart, or we shall be late for our dinner engagement."
They left Georgiana's spacious room and walked down the stairs, to find Mr. Darcy was waiting in the entrance hall. He whistled at the sight of the ladies. "I can not believe it is my pleasure to escort all three of you charming ladies tonight," he said. "Elizabeth, you look stunning." His wife was dressed in a deep red silk dress, her hair was done in dark ringlets. She was indeed stunning. She smiled and took her husband's arm. She leaned against him and whispered something into his ear. He lifted her right hand and kissed it, very gently. Catherine thought, they are so much in love. I wish that I could find someone to love like that. At the thought, she felt a similar surge of the lowness she had felt at Mary's wedding and during the journey to Derbyshire. I should be happy, she thought. I am with the most wonderful people, headed for a night of entertainment with more pleasant company; but instead of being happy, I feel moody. She tried to shrug the feeling away. Georgiana taking her arm, distracting her long enough to walk to the carriage, and by the time they climbed into the carriage, they were deep in conversation.
Robins Hall was on an estate seven miles from Pemberley. Though it was small in comparison to Pemberley, it was a handsome estate in its own right. According to the Darcys, the family was new to Derbyshire: Lord and Lady Terrington had lately decided to settle their family at a country home farther away from London than their previous one. Catherine could see little of the grounds as they approached, and the Darcys had no knowledge of their appearance, as the previous owners had been an elderly couple unfavorable to having much company.
As Catherine climbed out of the carriage, her breath frosted. Fall was beginning with a vengeance, she thought. The warmth of the entry way felt hot against her chilled skin.
The company was ushered into the parlour, where they met with the other party. Mr. and Mrs. Smith rose and greeted Catherine warmly and then proceeded to make introductions. Lord and Lady Terrington were a handsome couple: Lord Terrington was quite voluble, and he insisted on firm handshakes all around. After shaking hands with him, Catherine felt unsure if she would be able to use her hand to eat dinner. Lady Terrington had a sharp, quick eye and spoke cautiously. Still, she seemed to be pleased to meet the Darcys' party.
"My niece, Margaret Terrington," said Mr. Smith, motioning to a young woman with a very pleasing countenance. Her cheeks were glowingly pink, and her hair was pale yellow. Her figure was slight, and she wore a pale green dress that perfectly complemented her eyes.
"I am so pleased to meet all of you," she said, a broad smile on her face. "And especially Miss Darcy and Miss Bennet. I have had so little chance of meeting people of my own age here in Derbyshire."
"We are glad very glad to meet you, as well, Miss Terrington." Catherine spoke for herself and Georgiana.
"And, finally, my nephew, Mr. John Terrington."
The gentleman was plainer than his sister: his hair was a darker sandy than hers, but his eyes were as green, and his smile was warm.
When introductions and conversation had finally ebbed, Lord Terrington exclaimed, "Well, well! Shall we all adjourn to the dining room?"
The party moved as a mass to the dining room, where a feast was prepared. With the food, conversation flowed easily, and it was soon as if the parties were old friends.
Catherine sat next to Georgiana and Miss Terrington, with Mr. John Terrington immediately across from her. Miss Terrington was the center figure at Catherine's end of the table, Mr. Terrington and Catherine herself joining into her conversation with fervor. Georgiana was very quiet, but that was not so unusual, as Georgiana had always been admittedly shy. Still, Catherine occasionally attempted to pull Georgiana into the talk: Georgiana, however, would in turn speak something quick and soft and then retire her words.
"It would please me if you two would call me Maggy, as my family does," Miss Terrington said, midway through the dinner. "Childish, I know, but there you are. John gave me the nickname and it stuck. I suppose I am used to it by now, though."
"I insisted my family stop calling my Kitty around two years ago," said Catherine.
"How did you manage?" asked Maggy. "My family would never submit."
"It was hard at first, but after Mr. Darcy began, Elizabeth soon followed, and then my father, and etc. Papa argued that the name sounded too like Lady Catherine's, aunt to Mr. Darcy." Catherine continued, glancing at Mr. Darcy, who she was pleased to see was not listening to her dialogue. Even though he was not a favourite of Lady Catherine, she did not wish him to overhear Catherine speaking ill of her. "I have never liked her, but, I said that as it was my Christian name, and as he and mama had given it to me, it should do well enough."
Maggy burst into laughter. "Why, you are quite cunning!" she cried. "I shall have to try a similar tactic with my family."
Catherine glanced at Georgiana and, noticing her silence, said, "Georgiana has always been called be her full Christian name. Have not you, Georgiana?"
Georgiana nodded. "Yes, I have," she said, ducking her head.
This was followed by a moment of awkward silence. Fortunately, Mr. Terrington rescued the moment by speaking. "Are you two to attend Lord Devons' ball tomorrow night?"
"Why, yes!" exclaimed Catherine. "And I take it you and Maggy are to attend as well?"
"Indeed," agreed Maggy. "And it was quite by chance that we were invited. You see, I had been at church, and I was talking to the minister about his sermon . . . oh, it was a lovely sermon that day, all about the reward for the faithful, and . . . As I was speaking to him, who should happen to come and speak to him, but Lord Devons himself. He was ever so nice and asked the minister to make the introduction: he said he was by all means pleased that we had come to Robins Hall, and as an introduction to all of Derbyshire, he wished to invite us to his ball."
"Lucky indeed," agreed Catherine, smiling at Maggy's meandering account.
The rest of the evening at Robins Hall passed very pleasantly. Lord Terrington attempted to convince all parties present into to play a game of whist. Only Mr. Darcy would agree to play, though, so the game was not held, and the time was spent in continuing the acquaintance between the two parties. Finally the evening was over, and Catherine and her party headed into the frigid night air, into the carriage, and back to Pemberley.
Chapter IV: Confessions
Music haunted Catherine's dreams. At first she was puzzled by the melody: but finally she recognized it as the song which Georgiana had been playing the day before when she had come in to the room of a sudden. The music was intensely sorrowful. She began to cry. The melody grew in fervor and then crashed to a halt.
She awoke the next morning to a wet pillow. She arose and walked to her washing table, where she splashed water from her basin onto her face and toweled it off.
The music stayed with her. Not in reality, but in the back of her mind, in her lowness of mood, as she termed it. Odd, how she had had such a pleasant evening, and now here was this lowness again. She wanted to analyze it but, somehow, she was frightened to find the reason for her mood. Was there something very wrong with her?
She dressed slowly, in much her plainest dress, and had an easy breakfast in the spacious breakfast room, on her own. The others had awoken earlier this morning, and she could hear Georgiana's practice above her, in the music room.
She walked slowly up the stairs and approached the music room. This time, rather than being greeted by the sad melody, she heard a bright song, which reminded her of clouds scurrying across the sky.
"Good morning," she said, entering the room.
"And to you," Georgiana said. She turned her head from the pianoforte and studied Catherine. Catherine stood still as Georgiana continued to gaze. Finally, ill at ease, Catherine looked to the floor.
"All right, what is it?" asked Georgiana.
Catherine looked up at Georgiana, startled. "What do you mean? You were the one gazing me! Whatever can you mean?"
Georgiana was very still. "I know you, Catherine. There is something wrong, and I can tell. I saw it the moment you arrived at Pemberley. I thought maybe it was because of Mary's being married, and you being lonely, so I tried to cheer you up, but . . . "
"I did not react to your medicine?" Catherine said teasingly.
"I am not playing at this," Georgiana said harshly. Then her tone softened, "Please, Catherine. If you can not confide in me, who can you confide in?"
Catherine's lip trembled, and a tear came down her cheek. "You do know me," she said softly.
Georgiana stood up from the pianoforte. "Here, let us sit down at the window seat," she said. Numbly, Catherine followed her, sitting down on the pillow-soft cushion, her eyes oblivious of the perfect sunshine and green trees right outside of the window.
"I have been feeling . . . dispirited, I think, for nearly three weeks now," she began slowly. "I believe it began at my birthday. I thought it was that you were not there: with your illness and all, and then I thought it was because Mary was leaving."
"And that was not it?" Georgiana asked.
"No . . . and yes. I mean, I think . . . I am twenty now, Georgiana. I am no longer a child. The rest of my family is married: Lydia has been Mrs. Wickham for three years! I have little money and few accomplishments to recommend me. I am beginning to despair of ever finding a match."
To her surprise, Georgiana laughed. The laugh began low and grew in volume. Finally, Catherine exclaimed, "What have I said? Georgiana, this is not funny; it is my future we are discussing here."
Through her laughter, Georgiana said, "It is funny, because it is such a natural worry, Catherine. I have been feeling the same way, myself, for the past few months."
Catherine was stunned. "You feel this awful as well?"
Georgiana nodded emphatically. "I may be one year your junior, but I have felt the same." Her voice became serious. "I have always been shy, Catherine, and I do not regret it. All of the friends I have are most precious, because I know them to be true friends. Still, I know that I do not put myself forward in society through reserve." She looked down at her hands. "You may have noticed my behavior last night; indeed, I am certain you did. How do I recommend myself to gentlemen, when I can not speak five words to even one of them?"
"Oh, Georgiana," Catherine said in a soft tone, "I did not know that you felt this way." How selfish I have been, Catherine chided herself. She had been picturing herself alone in her distress, when Georgiana had just as much reason to worry. She thought decisively, I shall stop worrying about myself and help Georgiana. If she tried, she was certain that she could put Georgiana forward at their social engagements. Indeed, tonight was the ball, and she decided to watch Georgiana and see which gentleman she preferred.
Chapter V: The Ball
Early that evening, the Darcy party set off to Lord Devon's neighboring estate, a short three and a half miles from Pemberley. Greenville House was alight from head to foot: illumination glowed from every window, greeting the guests, who by their number seemed to be the whole of Derbyshire. As they walked through the house, Mr. and Mrs. Darcy were constantly stopped to speak with some one or other. Elizabeth was in her element, thought Catherine. Her cheeks were aglow from the night air, and she talked animatedly, her arm always on Mr. Darcy's. Mr. Darcy talked less than Elizabeth, but Catherine could tell that he was overflowing with pride in his wife. When he did speak, his countenance was very pleasant and agreeable.
The ball room was lit, if possible, with as many lights as the remainder of the house altogether. The room had a ceiling that extended to the second story, and a floor that was broad and filled with dancers. Catherine was overwhelmed with a feeling of smallness. She pressed back toward a wall, pursing her lips together.
The next moment a tall, balding man around Mr. Darcy's age approached the party.
"Darcy," he cried. "I am so glad to see you!"
"Andrew," Mr. Darcy said, shaking the man's hand firmly. "You know my wife, Elizabeth, and Georgiana, of course. And this is Elizabeth's sister, Miss Catherine Bennet. Catherine, my friend, Lord Andrew Devons."
"A pleasure to meet you, Miss Bennet," Lord Devons said. "I am very delighted you were able to come tonight."
"As am I," said Catherine.
"Come, I must have you all dance," said Lord Devons. He called out to young man passing by, who by his face and slightly balding brown hair, Catherine could tell was Lord Devons' son. The young man approached. "James, you know Miss Darcy, of course."
"Yes, indeed," he said, smiling. "Would you care to dance, Miss Darcy?"
Georgiana nodded mutely.
"Now," said Lord Devons, "Mr. and Mrs. Darcy are a couple of course. And who would you dance with, Miss Bennet?"
Catherine cheeks flamed. "I-- I hardly know, Lord Devons," she said.
"I know," he said, snapping his fingers. "How about that Terrington chap over there? Yes, indeed, it is a perfect match." He quickly walked away from the party. Catherine, heart pounding, stood numbly. She did not like this way of getting partners, and she was sure that Mr. Terrington would decline to dance with her, and then she would have to stand on the edges of the floor, while the rest of her party danced.
A moment later, Lord Devons come back toward the company, Mr. Terrington close at hand.
"Miss Bennet," Mr. Terrington said, smiling. "Would you do me the honor of dancing the next dance with me?"
"Yes of course," Catherine said breathlessly, relief coursing through her.
The music of the previous dance came to a conclusion, and she took Mr. Terrington's arm and followed him to the floor. A lively waltz began, and Catherine joined in eagerly. She could see her sister and Mr. Darcy dancing in perfect unison across the floor. She craned her neck to find Georgiana. She could tell immediately that Georgiana was not having an enjoyable time. She was not speaking, and from an occasional grimace, Catherine gathered that James Devons was stepping on her toes.
"Miss Bennet," Mr. Terrington said, startling Catherine from her observations. She blushed a little: she was being quite an inattentive partner.
"I am sorry," she apologized. "What were you saying?"
"I was just wondering whether you are musical," he asked.
"Not very," she said. "I enjoy admiring music, but do not have much experience myself." She realized that this was the perfect moment to recommend Georgiana. "Georgiana is quite musical," she said. 'she plays the pianoforte very well, and sings and plays the harp as well. I've rarely heard anything to equal her."
"Excellent," he said. "My family and I have always been very musical. My great-grandfather sang opera." He grinned. "It is said that he paid much more attention to his singing than he did to his duties in parliament. I, for one, think music is much the more interesting than politics."
"And what then are your plans?" Catherine asked with interest.
"I love music quite as much as much as my great-grandfather, but I wish to stay away from politics. I would like to work in the church."
"Truly? But what about your family estate?"
"My elder brother, Charles, who is now in London, will inherit both the house here and in London, as well as most of the family fortune. I am only a younger son."
"No, I will not allow that," she argued. "I am sure you are quite your brother's equal."
He gave her a long look and said quietly, "Thank you, Miss Bennet."
She was oblivious of his look, as she had just discovered that Georgiana and her partner were near herself and Mr. Terrington. Georgiana gave a low gasp as the music came to end, and Catherine rushed to her. "Are you all right?" she whispered into Georgiana's ear.
"I am now," Georgiana said in a distressed tone, "but I do not believe I will be if Mr. Devons asks me to dance the next dance, which he has all but promised already."
Mr. Terrington approached Catherine, and turning to her, he said, "Miss Bennet, I would be honored if you would--"
Catherine broke in, "I must say, I am quite tired. Mr. Devons, would you mind accompanying me to get some punch?"
"Certainly, Miss Bennet," Mr. Devons said, bowing.
Mr. Terrington gave a look of slight confusion, but then he said, "In that case, Miss Darcy, would you honor me with the next dance?"
Georgiana smiled, clearly relieved. She gave Catherine a look of gratitude and then said to Mr. Terrington, "I would be delighted."
As Catherine followed Mr. Devons off the floor, she suddenly realized that she had not even been introduced to him. What could she find to talk to him about? She was relieved of that duty when he said, "Miss Darcy tells me that you are from Hertfordshire."
"Indeed," Catherine said, as he handed her a glass full of punch.
"And you live at Longbourn?"
"Yes, I do," Catherine said. "Have you heard of it?"
"A little from my father, yes. I knew that that is where Mrs. Darcy was from, but little else. I suppose I thought it inconsequential."
Catherine covered a scowl with her gloved hand. Inconsequential, indeed. Seeing Maggy across the table, sipping punch, she said, as politely as she could, "I see some one of my acquaintance, Mr. Devons. Would you excuse me?"
"Of course," he said.
She turned and walked through the crowded floor to Maggy. "How glad I am to see you, Maggy," she said.
Maggy, talking to a red-headed gentleman, looked startled at her approach. "Miss Bennet. How do you do?" Not waiting for a response, she turned to the gentleman, her back to Catherine.
Surprised by her friend's cold response, Catherine stared at her. Maggy was talking briskly, batting her fan at the gentleman.
She had been so kind last night, Catherine thought. What could have made her become so unfeeling? This ball was not turning out at all the way she had expected or wished. She wondered if Georgiana was faring any better. Returning to the floor, she scanned the entire room, finally spotting Georgiana and Mr. Terrington dancing close to the orchestra across the floor. Georgiana's cheeks were bright pink with the exertion, and she was talking animatedly. Mr. Terrington was listening attentively. Then he spoke, and Georgiana laughed. Catherine was so pleased, she almost cheered. How glad she was that Georgiana was enjoying herself. Now, if only she herself could find such an amiable partner.
"Catherine, there you are." She turned to see Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, arm in arm.
Mr. Darcy was speaking. "As Lord Devons has claimed my wife for this next dance, I wondered if you would be my partner."
"Why, that would be wonderful, Mr. Darcy," Catherine said.
The current dance drew to a conclusion, and Catherine joined Mr. Darcy on the floor. He was a very good dancer, and soon set Catherine at ease, talking about the Bennet household, particularly Mr. Bennet, who was often at Pemberley, reading from Mr. Darcy's extensive library. Catherine saw that Georgiana was again dancing with Mr. Terrington. Maggy was dancing with the red-head she had been talking to at the refreshment table, and Catherine had to admit that she was an extremely good dancer.
The dance ended, and Mr. Darcy and Catherine reunited with Elizabeth and Georgiana. Elizabeth introduced them to a Mr. Westing, who requested Georgiana dance with him. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy were a couple, so Catherine again danced with Mr. Terrington.
The ball was over, and Mr. John Terrington was watching Miss Catherine Bennet ascend into the Darcy's carriage, heard his sister saying impatiently, "John, we are waiting for you!"
Mr. Terrington climbed into the carriage, where his mother, father, and sister were sitting. Maggy, as usual after one of these dances, was talking at the speed of the carriage. 'sir Clarkson is so dashing. He danced with me twice! Goodness! But you, John, I can not believe. How could you dance with Miss Bennet twice?"
"Last night you seemed to like Miss Bennet," Mr. Terrington said, astounded.
"That was before I knew more about her. I thought, as she is Mrs. Darcy's sister, that she was as well-endowed as Mrs. Darcy, but in reality, she is practically penniless."
"Is this true, my lord?" Lady Terrington asked.
Lord Terrington sighed. "Unfortunately, yes. Son, I would warn you, in your position, to ally yourself with someone like that would be insupportable."
"But, sir, Mr. Darcy himself is married to her sister."
"Yes, but he has such wealth, he can afford it."
Maggy added, "You would do much better with Mr. Darcy's sister, Miss Georgiana Darcy. Now, she is to inherit a small fortune."
Mr. Terrington looked at his family. All three were giving him indignant looks. He leaned back into his seat. Indeed, Miss Darcy was a very pleasant young lady, he recollected, but for some reason, he could not rid himself of the thought of Miss Catherine Bennet's intelligent deep blue eyes.
Chapter VI: A Melancholy Respite
For the next three days, the Darcy's party had no engagements. The weather was perfectly warm, and walks around the grounds were welcome but seemed to grow old after three days. Catherine wondered why Mr. Terrington did not call. She could sense Georgiana's impatience, which was only betrayed to others by an occasional look or wavering of voice when she would ask, "Have any messages come yet today?" On the day after the ball, Mr. Darcy spoke of inviting the Terringtons to dinner, but unexpected business kept him busy. Even Elizabeth was growing slightly irritable, because of her husband's absence.
The third day after the ball dawned unseasonably warm. After her daily lesson on the pianoforte, Catherine wandered into the library with Georgiana. Georgiana found a book of music theory and was soon engrossed. Catherine looked slowly through the books, unsatisfied by the selection. At the sound of people approaching in the hallway, she walked to the door and, much to her surprise, saw the local apothecary walking beside Elizabeth.
"Georgiana, the apothecary is here," she said.
Georgiana looked up, her countenance falling a little. "Is he?" she asked.
"Is someone sick?" Catherine asked, walking closer to Georgiana
Georgiana dropped her book into her lap. "It's Elizabeth," she said quietly.
"Lizzy sick!" cried Catherine. "How can this be? She looked well at breakfast."
'she is not ill," Georgiana said. "Catherine, Elizabeth and my brother have been trying to have a child for the last three years. The only child Elizabeth has bourn was stillborn. Your sister Jane already has two children, and Elizabeth . . . I think she is despairing of ever having any more."
Catherine was stunned. She collapsed into a hard library chair, mind spinning. It had seemed strange that Elizabeth had had no children yet. She had wondered . . . Oh, Lizzy! The whole family had despaired when William had written about the stillborn daughter. Catherine remembered the painful week, where every moment she felt like crying. And now, not to be able to have any more children . . .
Georgiana was squeezing her hand. "I am sorry, Catherine. I should not have told you, but I think you did need to know."
"Of course," Catherine said automatically. Georgiana returned to her book, but Catherine sat, motionless, staring at nothing until the lunch bell rang.
Lunch over, Catherine begged leave of Elizabeth and Georgiana, to take a walk on the grounds of Pemberley. Both immediately agreed, wordlessly seeming to understand her need to be alone.
Catherine walked for what seemed to be hours, her destination unknown. Her mind was tumbling with thoughts on every subject. First, on Elizabeth's condition, which still seemed unreal to her. Then, on to Mr. Terrington and Georgiana's prospects, and then to Maggy's peculiar behavior at the ball. Finally, she considered her own situation. She had nothing to recommend herself to a suitor, she knew: she had no real accomplishments and little money. And although she had once been among the "reputed Bennet beauties," she had always thought that she did not deserve the title. There are worse things than being an old maid, she finally decided. The seriousness of Elizabeth's condition had made her realize that.
It was dark when Catherine finally returned to Pemberley House. Georgiana was waiting in the drawing room, a shawl in hand, brows knitted together.
"I am not ill," Catherine said, bursting out in laughter.
Georgiana raised her eyebrows.
"I am better," Catherine said. "I've had my think-through, and things look brighter now."
"I am so glad," Georgiana said. "I was very worried about you. You were gone so long, I started wondering if I should have said--"
"Never you mind that," Catherine said, throwing the shawl over her shoulders. "You were right: I needed to know."
"Well," Georgiana said, her voice lightening. "You missed a visitor."
"A visitor? And who could that be?"
"The very Mr. John Terrington. And he particularly asked for you."
"Indeed," said Georgiana. "And, he has invited us to an informal musical revue to be held at Robins Hall."
"A musical revue! So that is why he asked whether we were musical or not."
"You didn't tell him--"
"Good gracious!" cried Georgiana. "I knew he sounded mischievous. I shan't go!" she exclaimed.
"Of course you shall," said Catherine calmly. "You did accept, did you not?"
"Yes," Georgiana agreed, her voice miserable. "And now I shall have to play in front of all those people."
"At least you will have time to prepare," Catherine said.
"Yes, all of two days!"
"Oh, my," Catherine said. "That is not very long. Oh, Georgiana, I am sorry I ever mentioned it to Mr. Terrington."
"It is all right," Georgiana said, her face the face of a martyr.
Catherine giggled, the humor of the situation hitting her.
"You are laughing at me," Georgiana said stiffly.
"No, no," said Catherine. "It just hit me that you were complaining about impressing gentleman, and here is the perfect chance, and you . . . "
"Do not want to go," finished Georgiana. A smile came to her face, and she began to laugh as well. Their laughter grew in gales, until they were practically on the floor, eyes filled with tears.
Mr. Darcy entered the drawing room, top-hat in hand. "Are you ladies well?" he asked.
"Yes, William," Georgiana said, trying to suppress her laughter. "I think we are doing just fine in here!"
"Good." Mr. Darcy paused, then turned and closed the door behind him.
"I think we had better quiet down," Catherine said, between giggles.
"Agreed," said Georgiana, after a last burst of laughter.
Chapter VII: The Revue
The next two days passed quickly. Catherine's turn of mood continued, and so the days were pleasant and busy. Early on the evening of the second day, the party climbed into their carriage and were on their way to Robins Hall.
On this visit, it was light enough to see the terrain of the estate. The road was level and surrounded on both sides by thick trees. Closing in on Robins Hall, a clearing appeared, on which nothing there was nothing but grass and a meandering stream. Tastefully simple, thought Catherine.
Several other carriages were stopped in front of the hall, the passengers descending from the carriages along with the Darcys. Among the parties, the only familiar face Catherine met with was that of Mr. Devons, who was accompanied by a young lady in a dark cloak.
The doors of Robins Hall opened, and the companies were escorted into a drawing room. There, Catherine was awed by the sight of two pianofortes and a harp. One of the pianofortes was made of a soft maple wood, and Catherine longed to walk up to it and touch its lustrous keys.
Mr. Terrington walked up to her. "Are you surprised?" he asked. "The second pianoforte arrived from London yesterday. We were all holding our breath that it would arrive in time."
"It is stunning!" Catherine exclaimed. "And the harp?"
"We borrowed from a friend of Maggy's," he said. "A Miss Davies. She is the one who will be playing it, actually."
"Is she the girl in the dark cloak?" Catherine asked.
"Indeed, yes. A marvelous musician."
Catherine suddenly realized that she had been talking to Mr. Terrington with Georgiana not a step behind her. "Georgiana has prepared a song to grace us with," she said, looking to her friend.
"Excellent," said Mr. Terrington. "I was hoping I could convince her to play." He grinned. "Actually, I was going to coerce you into playing, Miss Darcy. I am glad you came prepared."
"Thank you, Mr. Terrington," Georgiana said. Then, she added hesitantly, "I am so very glad you thought of this revue. I never get enough music when I am here in Derbyshire."
"And when you are in London?" he asked.
"Oh, there even I get my fill," Georgiana said, her eyes glowing. "My brother takes me and to operas, concerts, musicals . . . "
"And have you been to the new Hunt Opera House?" Mr. Terrington asked.
"Yes, indeed! It is so beautiful."
"I was stunned by the rows of mirrors in the rear of the building," he said; his voice rapt.
"Yes! And the chandelier."
"It must be the largest one I have ever seen," he concurred. "I saw The Swan there, and I was thrilled by Miss Alisair's voice."
"Yes!" Georgiana said, leaning forward. "I saw her in La Infanta. She has such a marvelous range."
"Indeed." Mr. Terrington said. He then noticed Catherine standing quietly. "I am afraid we are boring Miss Bennet," he said.
"No, no. You are not," Catherine argued weekly.
"In any case, we should be taking our seats," said Georgiana. "I see William and Elizabeth have saved us some chairs."
They walked up the aisle and took their places. Their chairs were in the middle of the small audience, and Catherine was seated by the dark-cloaked young woman, who had cast off her cloak, revealing a womanly figure, creamy complexion, and flaxen hair. Mr. Devons, on Miss Davies' right, introduced the two. From across the room, the Smiths waved their welcome.
Mr. Terrington stood in front of the audience, waiting for them to silence. He saw the introductory exchange between Miss Davies and Miss Bennet. Miss Bennet gave Miss Davies a warm smile and then turned toward him, her blue eyes looking piercingly into his.
"Ladies and gentlemen," he said, averting his eyes from hers. "Welcome to our musical revue. I believe I have gathered some of the most talented musicians Derbyshire--nay, I will be bold and say, in all of England--for tonight's revue. First, we will hear from the talented Miss Anna Davies."
He took his seat next to Maggy, on the first row of the audience. She was pursing her lips, head turned away from him. She was still sulking because he had invited the Darcy party, he knew. It seemed that even though she had recommended Miss Darcy to him, she did not want the party near when Miss Bennet was part of it.
Miss Davies' song began: a soft lullaby. Maggy was right in recommending her for the revue, he had to admit. It seemed that she was often right in her recommendations, he thought. Then, how could she be so wrong about Miss Bennet? How can she be so mercenary? He had been gone to school for a long time, but he had always remembered her as his loving younger sister. Ever since he had been old enough to talk, he had known the rest of his family to be unfeeling, even narrow-minded. With Maggy alone he had been able to talk and to commiserate. He had been shocked on his last return from school to find that her opinions had grown closer to the rest of his family's, and that her heart was searching out only for riches. He had attempted to persuade himself that she was correct in trying to secure her happiness that way: that she would find love, but in a rich man. But he knew this was only his way of trying to convince himself that he had not lost his sister, even though, in his heart, he knew that he had.
After Miss Davies' enchanting lullaby, Maggy's pianoforte solo was a disappointment, Catherine thought. Her playing was technically accurate, but it lacked any feeling. She was like one of those wind-up dolls Catherine had seen in a window of a toy-shop when she was a child. The dolls had been so beautiful, and she and her sister Lydia had begged their parents for one, Lydia especially. When they had went into the store to play the dolls' music, all that came out was a wooden, hollow imitation of music. She and Lydia had immediately lost interest in the dolls and asked for something else.
Maggy's solo over, Mr. Terrington announced the special treat of a pianoforte number by Miss Georgiana Darcy. Catherine turned to Georgiana, who had paled at the announcement. She squeezed Georgiana's hand, and Georgiana slowly rose and walked to the lovely new pianoforte. She placed her music in front of her and poised her fingers above the keys in her starting position. Catherine held her breath. Georgiana looked frozen, her face practically porcelain.
Then she began. She was playing too quickly, Catherine knew instinctively. She had listened to Georgiana practicing, and knew that she was going much too fast. She prayed that Georgiana would notice and slow down. But she did not.
She stumbled, then she missed some notes: the music chaotic, crashing. Then a voice began to sing over the chaos. It was a sweet, strong tenor, and the words fit the melody that Georgiana was playing. The singing continued, and Catherine wondered, with the rest of the audience, where it was coming from. Then Mr. Terrington stood up from the front row of the audience, and the mystery was solved.
Georgiana's playing slowed to match the pace of Mr. Terrington's voice, complementing his voice. This was the caliber of playing Catherine had always known Georgiana to perform. Catherine was relieved and delighted. Mr. Terrington stepped forward and stood next to the pianoforte, his words slowing, with the music, and then it was over.
Applause followed. Catherine stood with the rest of the audience, cheering as loudly as anyone. Georgiana, face scarlet, stood and bowed with Mr. Terrington. Mr. Terrington squeezed her hand, giving her a look of understanding.
Georgiana was encored and played a concerto to perfection. Then followed a pianoforte duet, with Maggy on the new pianoforte and Mr. Terrington on the older one. He was as good at playing as he was singing. The night was concluded by a trio of Mr. Terrington on the one pianoforte, another gentleman on the other, Miss Davies on her harp, and Maggy singing. Punch and cakes were served, and the companies departed, all praising the Terringtons for the wonderful night of entertainment.
Chapter VIII: The Picnic
Two days later, the Darcy party was invited to a picnic, which was to be given by the Terringtons in honour of the Smith's departure back to Hertfordshire. Catherine awoke that morning with anticipation, the view out the window relieving her in having just the perfect amount of sun, with fleecy clouds giving the day coolness.
Besides the Darcys, along on the picnic were Lord Devons and his son, as well as Miss Davies and her younger sister, Elsie. Catherine was chagrined to find herself sitting next to Mr. Devons on the carriage ride to Lambton Hill. During the short ride, the unfavorable opinion she had formed of him at the ball grew. He belittled Georgiana's address and appearance, and though Georgiana was not in the carriage to hear him, Catherine flushed as though she was and fiercely defended her friend warmly.
It was with great relief that Catherine saw that they had arrived at Lambton Hill. The small hill, just outside the village of Lambton, was a favourite picnic site of locals, and Catherine had been there several times with the Darcys. She stepped out of the carriage eagerly and joined the rest of the party, which was settled on blankets beneath a large rectangular-shaped tent.
The luncheon was a delicious meal, and the conversation that went with it lively and free. After the food had been devoured, Mr. Devons announced a plan to hike the small path up to the top of the hill. All the young people except the Elsie Davies set off on the path. It had been a while since Catherine had been on the path up the hill, and she had forgotten how steep it was. Georgiana was her walking partner, and she could feel her sagging, her breath shallow and slow.
"Are you alright?" she asked. "Do you need to go back?"
"No," Georgiana said, her voice low. "The view on the summit is so lovely. I do not want to miss it."
At that moment, they topped a small rise and saw Maggy and Mr. Terrington coming back toward them. "Maggy has decided to turn back to visit with our aunt and uncle," Mr. Terrington said as Maggy continued down the path. "I wondered if I could help either of you ladies up the rest of the way. Miss Bennet, you must be tired. Please, let me assist you."
"No, I am fine," she said, "but Georgiana could use an arm stronger than my own."
Mr. Terrington bowed and then extended his arm, which Georgiana took with a grateful smile.
It was only a short walk to the end of the trail, and the view at the top of the hill was, as Georgiana had said, quite worth the walk. Catherine looked down to Lambton, spotting the inn there, and the house at which her aunt Gardiner had grown up.
"It is a picturesque view, is it not?" Mr. Terrington asked, coming up to her with Georgiana on his arm.
Georgiana said, "Thank you for your assistance up the hill, Mr. Terrington. I do not know when I have had a more pleasant walk."
"I should be happy to help you at any time," he said.
"Thank you," said Georgiana. "You have been so good to us lately, hosting my family so many times the last few weeks," Georgiana said. "I should like to return the favour. Would you and your family be able to dine at Pemberley on Friday?"
"I should like that very much," he said.
She smiled and stepped a little distance away, gazing down at Lambton.
"I hear, Miss Bennet, that you are more musical than I was first led to believe," Mr. Terrington said, breaking the easy silence.
Catherine flushed. "My own skills are rather paltry in comparison to those with real talent," she said.
"I am sure you do not give yourself enough credit," he said. "I very much wish to hear you play and sing."
His face had an look of earnestness which made Catherine believe he was telling the truth. "I thank you," she said simply. "I have had little practice, as I have only been learning for two years, but I truly enjoy my music."
"And that is the mark of true musicianship," he said. "Little practice or much, I have always noticed that those who enjoy creating music are those whose performance gives the most pleasure."
"O, yes," she agreed. "My sister Elizabeth is a much less practiced musician than my other sister Mary, but I have always found Elizabeth's playing twice as enjoyable as Mary's."
"Your sister Mary is the one who was just married?" he asked.
"Then how many sisters do you have altogether?"
"Four. First is Jane, who has a house nearby and is now in London, then Elizabeth, Mary, and Lydia."
"And where is you sister Lydia settled?"
Catherine felt pink growing in her face as she thought of Lydia, but she was freed from the difficulty of saying a reply by the arrival of Miss Davies, who was carrying a bouquet of wild flowers.
"Excuse my slowness," she apologized, "I saw so many flowers on my way up here that I had to pick some to take home. Mr. Terrington, could I beg your arm for the walk down the hill? I am afraid I overexerted myself."
Mr. Terrington graciously agreed and soon the party was headed down the hill, Catherine again at Georgiana's side, the pair making their way slowly behind the other two.
When they reached the picnic site, the entire party was preparing to leave. Catherine approached Mr. and Mrs. Smith to say her farewells.
"We are sorry we have not seen you as often as we could have during our stay here," said Mrs. Smith, "but we shall look forward to meeting with you more on your return to Hertfordshire."
"As do I," Catherine agreed, embraced the Smiths quickly, and departed with her party.
Chapter IX: Reproachment
On the morning of the dinner with the Terringtons, Catherine awoke the to the sound of light, sparkling music. At first she could not place the sound--it was not coming from the pianoforte--but she finally recognized the slow, soothing tones of the music to be that of a harp. She had almost forgotten that Georgiana could play the harp, as she had not heard her play the instrument for many months. Dressing rapidly, she stepped down the hall to the music room. The harp was newly placed by the windows opposite of the pianoforte. Georgiana was leaning into the instrument with a straight back, her hands running gently against the strings. Though she seemed to notice Catherine's entrance, she continued playing her song, until, as gently as a whisper, the tune concluded.
"How long has that been here?" Catherine asked.
'since last night," Georgiana answered. "I asked William to bring it out for me after the revue. Miss Davies' playing reminded me that I have been remiss in playing it for too long."
"You sounded very well. Perhaps you could play tonight after dinner."
"I confess that Mr. Terrington has already requested the same thing. I mentioned that I was having William bring the harp out of the attic, and he asked if I might play."
"Ah!" Catherine said, grinning. "Did he?"
"Yes. Oh, Catherine, I like him so very much. Do you think I am wrong in that?"
"No, not at all. Did he not show you marked attention at the revue when he came to your rescue? Then he helped you up Lambton Hill. No, I do not blame you: I think he is in a fair way to liking you very much indeed."
The Terringtons arrived early that evening. After dinner, Catherine watched with delight as Mr. Terrington conversed with Georgiana.
"Miss Bennet," said Maggy. Catherine turned and smiled at her.
"Hullo, Maggy, are you enjoying yourself?" Catherine asked.
"Oh, yes, it has been a delightful evening. How fortunate you are to have to employed such benefactors as Mr. and Mrs. Darcy."
"I do not quite understand your meaning," Catherine said, leaning back at the cold flash in Maggy's green eyes.
"No? I am certain you do."
"Do you mean that you think that I-- I attach myself to the Darcys because of--"
"Their fortune," Maggy concluded. "Of course. And why should not you? By having such guardians, who would not believe you equally well-endowed? What young man would not see the glint of money in you?"
"I--cannot-- Miss Terrington, can you believe me so mercenary!"
"Do not put on airs for me. I can see your true intentions, and let me tell you that my brother--"
Suddenly a man's voice interrupted them. "Your brother would be deeply ashamed of you, Miss Terrington, if he heard you just now." Mr. Darcy was standing behind Catherine, and he put his arms on her shoulders to support her. "And I would ask you never to so speak to a honored guest in my house again."
Maggy's rosy cheeks had paled as he spoke, but she was not easily chided. "Mr. Darcy, I was just having a private talk with Catherine, here. I did not say anything I need be ashamed of. I was just jesting with her."
Mr. Darcy's hands tightened on Catherine's shoulders, and Catherine could tell that he was staring at Maggy, trying to sum her up. "Miss Terrington, from what I overheard, you were not jesting with my sister. Indeed, sister she is, for she is almost as dear to me as my own Georgiana. Do not play with me. I have known pride, and I know when it is in good regulation and when it is not."
"Mr. Darcy, I--"
"Maggy?" Mr. Terrington's voice broke in. "What mischief are you making here?"
Maggy flushed and gave a nervous laugh. "Oh, nothing, John. It is just a--a misunderstanding." She stood and took her brother's arm. He gave her a serious, studying look, and she said, "I feel a little warm; shall we step outside for a moment?" As they stepped away, Catherine cringed at a look of vindictiveness flashing in Maggy's eyes. She swallowed.
"I am very sorry, Catherine," Mr. Darcy said.
"There is no cause for worry," Catherine said, her voice shaking. "I shall be fine."
'she should never have--"
"Ah, William, here you are," Elizabeth said, coming up to her husband and hooking her arm in his. "I believe Georgiana is about to play for us. Shall we join the party in the music room?"
"Of course," he said, extending his second arm to Catherine. The party, along with Lord and Lady Terrington walked up the stairs to the second floor. As they walked down the hall, they could hear that Georgiana was already playing. They walked into the room to the sight of Georgiana at the harp talking to Mr. Terrington, who was near at hand, watching her fingers as they plucked the strings.
"Had I known you played, I should have asked you to play the harp at my revue, as well as the pianoforte," he was saying.
Georgiana blushed. "I am glad you did not know, for I am sure I would have played the harp as badly as I did the pianoforte."
"You only wanted warming up," he said. "I have rarely heard such beauty as your second song. Ah, I see the rest of the party has arrived. We are ready for some more of your charming music, Miss Darcy," he said, as he joined the rest of the group, who were seating themselves in a semicircle of chairs in the center of the room. Catherine was relieved to see Maggy, who had been sitting at the window seat, sit at the end of the row next to Lord Terrington. She herself sat between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy.
Georgiana's playing was at her best that evening. At the conclusion of it, Mr. Terrington praised her performance, for which Georgiana was all smiles. As they watched the guests depart in their carriage, Georgiana looked at Catherine with a look of overwhelming happiness. Catherine squeezed her hand and they turned to go to bed.
Chapter X: An Unexpected Encounter
The next morning found the ladies of Pemberley busily occupied in the front parlour. Over their sewing, Elizabeth and Catherine discussed the success of the dinner the night before, their fingers stitching quickly. Midway through the morning, Catherine finally found a break in her sewing and decided to go on a walk.
Georgiana, would you like to take a stroll around Pemberley? she asked.
Oh, I wish I could, Georgiana said, looking up from a pile of books, but my brother needs these books catalogued by this afternoon. Im afraid I have been putting the task off since your arrival.
Catherine turned to her sister, who was sewing a button onto a dress. Lizzy?
I am sorry, but I cannot either, Elizabeth said apologetically. I am expecting the apothecary to arrive some time this morning.
Well . . . Catherine said. I suppose I shall have to walk by myself. It is such a fine day.
Yes, do go ahead, Georgiana said. I do apologize that I cannot go, but I should not like that to make you miss your walk all together.
Catherine set down the handkerchiefs she was embroidering. I will see you at luncheon, then, she said.
After retrieving her hat, Catherine was off on her walk. The day was very warm, and Pemberleys lake was shimmering with the golden glow of the sun. Catherine found herself lingering by the lake and finally deciding to sit down on a stone bench, where she laid her head back, the warmth of the sun awash on her skin.
How long she sat that way, she was not sure, but part way through the morning the crunch of shoes on gravel awoke her from her reverie. She opened her eyes and gasped at the sight of Mr. John Terrington, standing between her and the lake, smiling oddly.
Mr. Terrington! she exclaimed.
Miss Bennet! His voice was as surprised as hers.
How long have you been standing here? she asked, heat growing in her face.
Only a moment, he said apologetically. I came looking for you, but as you were dozing there, I decided it was best not to disturb you.
I . . . You she broke off, suddenly realizing what he had said. You were looking for me?
Yes, I was. Miss Darcy said you were taking a stroll.
I wanted to ask you Would you like to take a walk around the lake?
No, indeed, she said awkwardly. I do not think . . . I apologize for my discourtesy, Miss Bennet. And I really did not mean to creep up on you. He paused, then laughed awkwardly. What a beginning! He appeared to be thinking, his brow tightening, his eyes distant. Finally, he said, Well, I suppose I must start somewhere. He took a deep breath and began, Miss Bennet, I have enjoyed being in your company very much, since we first met a few weeks ago. You are the most enchanting person I have ever had the chance to know. I indeed, I must admit, I love you and admire you deeply. He concluded, his voice quite soft, I would be honoured if you would be my wife flawed and unimportant as I am and make me the happiest man upon this earth.
Catherine had been listening to Mr. Terringtons declaration, her face blank, the only emotion that registered in her being shocked surprise. Mr. Terrington! she exclaimed. How can you say these things? How can you, after you have given such marked attention to my friend, Georgiana!
Miss Darcy? he asked. How could you I never thought of her as anything but your friend. She is a lovely young lady, yes, but I do not love her.
But, your singing at the revue!
I felt sorry for her, Mr. Terrington said, and responsible, since the revue was my idea.
But, but last night when she played the harp, you were so full of praise
Because I truly enjoyed her music.
But Oh, good heavens!
You are crying, here, take my
I will not! cried Catherine. She pushed aside the proffered handkerchief. She rose, turned away from Mr. Terrington, and began to run as quickly as her legs would allow. They moved swiftly, but her heeled shoes were not made for running, and would slip, causing her to stumble. By the time she reached Pemberley House, she was breathing harshly, in between coughs. She threw open the door and stepped inside, then leaned back against the front wall, breathing quickly, wiping her eyes with her sleeves.
Then, from the direction of the parlour, she heard Elizabeth and Georgianas voices. I cannot let them see me like this! she thought. If either of them saw her, she knew she would have to tell them what had happened, and, though Georgiana would have to be told, she did not want to divulge the story to her in this state.
She breathed in deeply, then walked slowly so as not to alarm any ones suspicions through the entrance hall and up the long staircase. She tripped along the upstairs corridor, finally reaching her room. Once inside, she threw herself onto her bed, sobbing.
Chapter XI: An Invitation
"I am so sorry, Georgiana," Catherine said. They were in Georgiana's room, Georgiana sitting on her bed, with Elizabeth next to her, and Catherine in a chair close at hand. Georgiana was weeping softly, her head bowed. Catherine had Georgiana's hands clasped in her own.
"But do you not return his feelings, Catherine?" Elizabeth said softly.
She shook her head vigorously. "I could never return his feelings after the way he has treated Georgiana."
They were silent, the only sound that of the fire crackling across the room.
"I had a letter from Jane to-day," Elizabeth finally said.
"Yes. And part of it concerns you and Georgiana. She writes to invite you both to visit her at her home in London in six days from now." She touched Georgiana's cheek tenderly. "Maybe it would be best, under the circumstances, for both of you to get away."
"Yes," Georgiana said, speaking for the first time. "I should like to see Jane."
"Then it is settled: you will go."
Chapter I: London
"How glad we are to have you with us, girls," Jane Bingley said, bouncing her two-year-old daughter on her lap.
Catherine smiled. "There is no place we would rather be, Jane."
"Yes," said Georgiana, at a look from Catherine.
"I am especially glad of your company, since my husband's business delays our return to Derbyshire," Jane said. "Would you like to hold Becky?" she asked Georgiana.
Georgiana nodded and then took the peach-cheeked, curly-headed baby in her arms. Catherine smiled at the gentle look on Georgiana's face: one she had not seen for the last three weeks. Since their arrival at London over a fortnight ago, Georgiana had been exceedingly quiet, even when they had attended the opera the night before. Catherine thought it had probably reminded her of Mr. Terrington and tried to make up for her friend's low spirits. Jane, if she noticed Georgiana's demeanor, did not say anything, but tried to cheerfully entertain her guests.
"How would you two like to take a walk in the park this afternoon?" Jane asked.
"That sounds lovely. We should very much enjoy it," Catherine said.
"With my husband's sister, Caroline," Jane added.
Catherine frowned. Though Caroline Bingley was Mr. Bingley's sister, she had not forgotten her unfeeling words at Mary's wedding. She had already agreed to go on the walk, though, so she had little choice.
"I know Caroline's manners sometimes do not make her very agreeable," Jane admitted, "but she is my sister, and she has treated me well since my marriage to Charles."
"We will come if you wish," Catherine said.
"Good." She suddenly raised her hand to her lips. "Oh, I forgot! I have a letter for you, Catherine. It has been waiting for you here since before your arrival."
"Indeed! Who could it be from?"
Jane searched through the small wicker sewing basket on the floor, next to the settee she was sitting on. "There it is." She pulled out a folded letter and handed it to Catherine. "From Lydia."
How very much like Lydia to misdirect the letter, Catherine thought. She quickly opened the letter and began to read the contents:
My Poor, Dear Catherine,
I write this letter, hardly knowing why, but I might as well tell you about the glorious ball I attended yesterday. I attended with Colonel and Mrs. Kingston-- how handsome he is!-- and wore the most stunning pink gown that I bought with the last money Lizzy sent. We stayed till almost dawn, and I danced with every redcoat in my acquaintance. Catherine, why do not you come to visit me soon? There is to be a ball in two weeks and you would make the conquest of every redcoat there! If you insist on it to Mama, I am sure she will allow you to come, because I am sure I have not seen you but twice since my marriage.
Yours, & etc. Mrs. Lydia Wickham
Catherine finished the letter and perused the contents twice more before she set it down. Though most of the letter was quite vulgar, as Lydia's letters usually were, part of her was envious of the merriment Lydia was enjoying. Why should she not visit Lydia? Because Jane and Elizabeth were sure to object, she immediately answered herself. Since Lydia's marriage to Mr. Wickham, they had protested almost every visit. At first, Catherine had resented their interference, but after many invitations to visit both the Bingleys and Darcys, and her growing friendship with Georgiana, she had begun to see the evil of the relationship herself, and since then had not requested more than one visit with Lydia.
Upon mentioning the invitation to Jane, she was not surprised on her sister's answer, "If you wish it, though your visit here has scarcely begun. Perhaps you should wait until you finish your visit with us."
Part way through the afternoon, a servant announced, "Miss Caroline Bingley."
Miss Bingley entered the room, a forced smile on her handsome face. "Georgiana, Jane, how nice to see you. And Catherine Bennet--so glad you could come again."
Catherine gritted her teeth and compelled herself to reply, "Good afternoon,"
The carriage came round directly, and the four ladies hastened to meet it and depart to the park.
Upon arriving at the park, Catherine thought that the scene was almost worth the drive. It was a warm day, and the park was covered in dense green grass, shady trees, and multicolored flowers. Apparently most of London had recognized the fine day, for the park was crowded with parasoled young women, accompanied by young men of every size, gallivanting children, and older couples.
"Charming," cooed Miss Bingley, as she stepped down from the carriage.
Catherine took Georgiana's arm and walked in step with her behind Jane and Miss Bingley.
"It almost makes me think of Pemberley," Georgiana said, her voice low, for only Catherine to hear.
Catherine squeezed her hand. "But there are not so many people at Pemberley, I think," she said.
They walked in companionable silence, enjoying the warmth of the sun and the activity of the park. Up ahead, Jane and Miss Bingley had stopped and were talking to a dark-headed older woman and a young man who appeared to be a little older than Catherine.
Catherine and Georgiana reached the party, and Jane said, "This is my sister, Catherine, and her friend Georgiana Darcy. Lady Allen and her nephew, Mr. Thomas Allen."
Catherine bowed her head.
'so nice to meet you," said Lady Allen with a wide smile. "Mrs. Bingley had told us that you would arrive soon. We hope that you will all be able to dine with us on Friday."
"We would be delighted," Jane said.
Mr. Allen turned to the young ladies, as Lady Allen was speaking to Jane and Mrs. Bingley. "Would you like to walk on ahead?" he asked. "I am afraid my aunt will be forever talking, and I did so hope to see the park and make your better acquaintance."
Catherine and Georgiana assented, so the three begged their excuses and continued walking.
"Mrs. Bingley has told us that you two are quite musical," said Mr. Allen, who was walking between the two.
"I am only little," Catherine said, "but Georgiana plays the harp and pianoforte very well."
"Indeed!" he said, looking at Georgiana.
Georgiana flushed and managed to nod her head a little.
"I must admit that I myself have not had much experience in music," Mr. Allen said. "But I do very much enjoy the pleasure of hearing it."
"I am the same way," Catherine said. "I have had the pleasure of having many of my acquaintance who are very musical."
"Indeed, you are lucky," he said. Then he appeared to think of something. "My aunt and I are planning on attending an opera on Tuesday with some relations," he said. "It would very much please me if you and Miss Darcy, along with Mr. and Mrs. Bingley, would be able to join us."
"Oh! That would be wonderful!" Catherine said. She saw that Georgiana's countenance was very pleased. "I have not had much opportunity to see any opera," she said, "and we will have to ask our hosts' permission, of course, but I do not believe we have any engagements for Tuesday."
To Catherine's irritation, Caroline Bingley returned with the party to the Bingley's home after the walk in their park. Catherine had planned on reading a book her father had just sent her in the quiet of the sitting room, but instead found herself necessarily sitting in the parlour talking to Miss Bingley. While Georgiana and the Bingleys were all politeness and attentiveness, Catherine could not but let her vexation at Miss Bingley show.
'so I said to Lady Kellington that you would certainly be there, dearest Charles and Jane, for I knew if you were speaking with her, you would say the same," Miss Bingley said.
"Did you?" Jane said, glancing quickly at her husband. "Charles and I had been thinking to spend that week end at Derbyshire. But--" she gave a week smile, "we shall have to call off our plans, as we could not miss the opening of the art gallery."
"Of course not," Mr. Bingley said. "For, if we went to Derbyshire we should certainly find that we would want to stay, and I should not finish my business here in London."
"I knew you would agree with me," Miss Bingley said with a smug smile.
"But--" Catherine said, "I was looking forward to the outing to Derbyshire. We were going to drive through the countryside with Lizzy and Mr. Darcy."
"Oh, Catherine, I am sorry," Jane said, her voice worried. "Perhaps we could--" she looked at Miss Bingley and faltered, 'shall we set another time for our excursion?"
"Yes, I think that would be satisfactory," Georgiana said gently, squeezing Catherine's hand with understanding.
Catherine bit her lip to keep herself from responding in the manner she wished to. Instead, she put her mind on the more pleasant thought of the dinner with the Allens on Friday.
Continued in Part 2
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