Breakfast With Georgiana
It was late on a warm summer's morning when Fitzwilliam Darcy joined his sister and her governess for breakfast. He apologized for his tardiness, but offered no explanation as he sat down to table.
Mrs. Annesley, Georgiana's companion, smiled politely at the master and said "Good morning to you sir. I trust you slept well?"
"Eh? Oh. Thank you. I slept... I slept... well," he said quietly, avoiding Mrs. Annesley's gaze lest she detect evidence of the untruthfulness of this reply. He had slept but little owing to another of the nightmares that had plagued him so often in recent months. He did not notice as Georgiana looked up from her plate and raised her eyebrows in surprise at his response.
Mrs. Annesley finished her tea and smiled encouragingly at Georgiana. "Well, I shall be off to complete my errands now. I will be gone for only a short time. Then I shall be ready for tomorrow's journey to Pemberley. Promise me you will practice your piano-forte after breakfast, my dear." She patted Georgiana affectionately on the hand as she left table.
Georgiana nodded her agreement and said "Yes, Mrs. Annesley. I shall."
Darcy scarcely heard the exchange between Mrs. Annesley and Georgiana, but offered politely, "Thank you, Mrs. Annesley," as she departed the room. Then he returned to dully studying the swirling pattern of the cream in his tea.
"Fitzwilliam?" said Georgiana timidly.
Darcy looked up quickly from his reflections. He focused on his sister's concerned face and replied, "Is something troubling you, dearest?" with true concern. That he might neglect his sister in any way gave him pause. Her wry smile at his question puzzled him.
"Actually, I wish to inquire about you and your troubles, brother." She held up a hand to silence his protest and continued on awkwardly. "Please do not deny that something is affecting you. I am not so much of a child as..."
"Georgiana, this sounds very much like a lecture of some sort," laughed Darcy. "I am perfectly well. There is nothing wrong with me. Do not concern yourself." He endeavored as best he could to redirect Georgiana from this line of conversation.
In part, he truly did not wish her to worry for him. To his way of thinking she should be able to view him as someone she could always turn to for strength and support, not the other way around. Furthermore, he had no desire to tell her the cause of his melancholy. Thus, the frustration of her expression and her next words to him came as a great shock.
"Please do not trifle with me so. I am able to see how things are with you. If in truth nothing troubles you and all is well as you would have me believe, then why do you suffer nightmares nearly every night? Why do you cry out in your sleep? Who is this Elizabeth you cry out for?"
Georgiana had gone white from fear. Her love and concern for him was such, however, that she felt she had no other option but to open this discussion. She lay her hands flat on the table to conceal their trembling.
He flinched visibly at the name 'Elizabeth.' He pushed back his chair, moving quickly from the table to stand by the window, endeavoring to look at anything but his sister's face. Georgiana followed and placed a tentative hand on his arm. Through his own tangled emotions he felt her fear and the trembling of her fingers.
She glimpsed the pain in his eyes as he pulled her to him in a protective embrace. She returned his embrace and then gently pulled away, saying quietly, "Please do not turn from me. Allow me to help you."
He closed his eyes and sighed. Then he led her back to the table to her seat. He sat down and drank his entire cup of tea in one quick motion.
"I appreciate your kind intent," he said resolutely. He looked at her lovingly. "I am sorry to cause you concern, Georgiana, but I... It is that you are as a child to me. I do not mean to offend you by saying this. It is only that, as such, I cannot imagine laying my burdens on you. Can you not understand that?"
Georgiana's cheeks colored and she looked down at the table. "I understand that my behavior has at times given you reason to doubt me. I know that my blind trust of certain persons has given you reason to doubt my judgment." As she was no longer looking at her brother, Georgiana did not see Darcy's confusion at her words. "But, Fitzwilliam, I am becoming more aware and more discerning. I see your distress. I do not know if there is anything that I can do to offer you relief. But I wish to..."
Finally comprehending her meaning, Darcy interrupted her anxiously. "Dearest, do not go on so. Please do not think that Wickham's deceit has made me think less of you. I know very well of what deception that man is capable- only too well. I only mean that you are eleven years my junior and I have been cast into the role of guardian, almost father, to you. I, therefore, do not confide my distresses and concerns to you. It is not meant unkindly in any fashion. Please, see that."
Georgiana looked into his eyes and shook her head, brow furrowed. "Fitzwilliam, you isolate yourself. You create reasons for not confiding in me. Yet it is my belief that you also create reasons for not confiding in others. Have you shared your present troubles with anyone? Or, do you choose to hold them completely to yourself? How do you intend to overcome such melancholy when you hold yourself from those who would help you?" With this last she reached out and took his hand between her two.
Darcy looked from their hands into her pleading eyes and sighed again. "You are correct that I have isolated myself. You are more right than you know," he replied.
Encouraged, Georgiana asked, "What of Mr. Bingley? What of the Colonel? You spend much time with them. Perhaps, if you cannot confide in me you could speak with one of them."
Darcy grimaced and shook his head in dissent. "No. I cannot. I fear that my abominable pride is as great as ever. It prevents me from seeking consolation in any quarter."
"Abominable pride? Truly you are hard upon yourself. You must not be so. Please, Brother, trust in me," Georgiana implored.
Darcy gave her hand a gentle squeeze and sat back in his chair. He stared off into space, trying to decide what to say next. He began slowly. "I make mention of pride. Georgiana, I never knew how much pride and arrogance I was capable of until this past twelvemonth. I never knew just how improper my pride was. In truth, I never knew myself. Then last fall I finally met someone who made me see how abominably I have behaved. I always thought that my behavior with my particular acquaintance and my actions with my tenants and servants was enough. I failed to see that there was so much more. And then I met her." He paused, thoughtfully.
"Elizabeth?" questioned Georgiana, her voice a whisper.
"Miss Elizabeth Bennet is one of the loveliest women I have ever been fortunate enough to meet. She is in possession of keen wit and a lively spirit. She is at ease among society, yet also expands her mind through a great deal of reading. I have never had such pleasure as I experienced in listening to her play and sing..." his expression softened as he looked dreamily back into his memories.
Georgiana was surprised that she had not recognized before that her brother had fallen in love. How she should like to meet this Miss Bennet! To elicit such praise from her brother a woman would have to be special indeed.
Darcy recovered himself and continued, "Yet over time I felt a strong impropriety to my growing attachment for her. She is of, I felt, lower connection and fortune than our family. Moreover, there was a question of improper behavior among some of her family. She and her elder sister alone display a sense of propriety. I sought to separate myself from my attachment to her and... well... However, in April when I met her while visiting Rosings Park I made my feelings for her known. It was then that I discovered how she had come to view me, how much she had learned to hate me... and then that I learned to know what I truly have been. I have over time learned to admit the justice of her observations of me."
"Hate you? Her observations of you? I can not think so happily as you seem to of anyone who could speak to give you pain," said Georgiana with some anger at the thought of how her brother must have felt.
He smiled at her fondly. "No, dearest. Do not think ill of her for that. I should only hope that you would follow her example and cast down any man who acted thus to you. I asked for explanation of her feelings. I demanded it, really. I was angry and I spoke to her in a manner which caused her to speak plainly in return. I insulted her and all her family and I acted abominably. As she so aptly noted, I behaved in a manner unbefitting a gentleman." Georgiana started at these words. "In all the months since that day I have not only suffered from her refusal. I have also suffered from the knowledge of my character and the impropriety of my own behavior. To find that I have been a selfish being all my life... I confess that is hard." With this last he fell silent, staring straight ahead with the reflective gaze Georgiana had seen on his face so often of late.
Reflecting on all he had shared she began to understand his melancholy at last. That a woman would refuse him startled her not a little. The depth of his pain and remorse stunned her. She was at a loss as to what to say, but offered, "Brother, you are the best of men. Surely you are too hard on yourself. I have seen many times how kind you are to others."
Darcy smiled tightly and said, "Georgiana, I was not so kind as I should have been to people before my eyes were opened. I have endeavored to benefit from the knowledge of my ill conduct. I am endeavoring to make changes and to become the man I ought always to have been. Let me share this with you, dearest. You will be as you ought when you put effort into the assistance of others, regardless of deriving any other benefit from the relationship. Please spare me the pain of thinking that you might ever behave as badly as I have."
Georgiana smiled kindly at her brother. "If you truly feel that you behaved badly I shall try to believe you," she said lightly. Then more seriously, "Perhaps an opportunity will present itself for you to show Miss Bennet the changes you have made. Perhaps she might be persuaded..."
"I doubt I shall ever see Miss Bennet again," he replied bleakly. " Though I might wish to have a chance to at least show her that I am not without ALL proper feeling. I do not believe I will ever have that opportunity. No, no. I shall overcome this. I am truly sorry to give you worry. Do not concern yourself further. Please."
Georgiana slowly nodded her assent. "As you wish, Fitzwilliam."
"Thank you. Truly, I appreciate your concern. You are growing up--- more than I realized," he said, gently touching her cheek. "Your kindness does me good. Please be patient with me. I have learned much of myself these months."
"I will be patient so long as you are not over hard on yourself," she replied. "I am glad we go to Pemberley. I look forward to the time together. Perhaps being home will do you good."
"I hope so," he replied somewhat doubtfully. "I go today, you know. I have business with my steward and would be done with it before you and the rest of the party arrive there tomorrow. Now, the morning is passing. You should practice your piano-forte as you promised. I hope to hear you play for our company this week."
Georgiana looked startled at the idea of performing before company, but hesitantly nodded her assent, eyes wide. She kissed her brother's cheek and impulsively gave him a quick hug before leaving the room.
© 1997 Copyright held by the author.