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The Idea of Good Company

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My Idea of Good Company.

"My idea of good company, Mr Elliot, is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation, that is what I call good company."

"You are mistaken," said he gently, "that is not good company, that is the best. Good Company requires only birth, education and good manners, and with regard to education is not very nice."

Persuasion, Chapter 16.

Part I.

"There was a time when I could not dare to think I deserved to try again, indeed I still believe I do not, but I can no longer wait in silence. Would you do me the great honour of becoming my wife?" There, it was out, no going back. Now comes the agony of the waiting for an answer. Oh, please say yes.

"Mr Darcy, I am sorry, I had thought I had made my feelings perfectly clear the last time you asked. These alterations in your character appear to me only a mask. My answer is still no. I would not marry you if you were the last man upon this earth!"

"Elizabeth!" Darcy shot upright in horror. Rapidly his mind sought to comfort him from what was quite obviously a very bad dream. His eyes swept round the room, displaying to him not his bedchamber, but the principal suite that lay adjacent to it, separated only by a small, sweet anteroom.

In short it was the chamber reserved for the Mistress of Pemberley. That mistress was quietly sleeping next to him at that moment, and to his grateful relief, it was and had been for almost two years, Elizabeth Bennet, now Darcy. After assuring himself that the woman lying next to him was no figment of his imagination, Fitzwilliam Darcy rose from the bed and walked quietly over to the balcony.

The sun had just risen over his estate, casting an emerald green to the grassy prospect that the balcony looked over. Darcy stood surveying it, his arms resting upon the stone balustrade. The cure achieved its usual effects. Rationally his mind began the search for an explanation as to why that particular nightmare had chosen to fester upon his sleep on this day.

This day. Of course! Darcy could not believe he had forgotten. It had been one of the most important days of his life, however horrible it had appeared at first. This day marked the revolution of his character for the better and his reward was the hand of the lady that lay sleeping beside him when he woke.

At least, that had been her position. Now as a hand came to rest upon his own, the gold wedding band beside the ruby and sapphire betrothal ring signalling to him that she was no longer sleeping.

He chose to greet her with emotion, his lips kissing her devotedly, clasping the hand that covered his own. "Happy anniversary," he murmured.

"Anniversary?" Elizabeth queried puzzled, for theirs had passed some six months ago and he had been as prompt and as romantic as could be expected for a man devoted to his wife.

"It was exactly two years ago today, my love, that I first proposed to you."

"Hunsford!" She exclaimed in understanding. "I thought you would not look upon that with anything but sadness," She uttered.

"I have learnt to treat instead as the first day of the revolution of my character for the better, my darling," Darcy replied, his arms wrapping around her tightly. "Glorious it was not at first perhaps, but I am grateful for its passage upon me. As I am equally grateful for you giving me a second chance."

Elizabeth smiled in reply and they drifted into companionable silence for the moment. "Did something disturb you this early, Fitzwilliam?" She asked a moment later, for it was only just dawn. "I hope it was not the prospect of tonight."

Tonight? What on earth was happening tonight? Suddenly he remembered and groaned as a consequence. "Until now, my love, the ball had not crossed my mind."

Indeed there was to be a ball at Pemberley tonight. The entirety of Derbyshire's wealthy and influential populace had been invited, in order to witness Miss Georgiana Darcy's first ball. Her eighteenth had been but a week ago and now it was time to launch her into the realms of society and matchmaking.

Darcy had been dreading this night from the moment it was arranged, for it signalled only the beginning. No more would they be allowed the blissful solitude that had occupied the first twenty months of their marriage. Instead they would have to suffer the countless visitors that would no doubt flock to their doors once the news that Miss Darcy was now eligible reached them. And he would have to be on his guard so no disreputable ones encountered his sister's favour.

Elizabeth saw her husband's brownstudy1 and quickly brought his attention back to the present with a tender enticing kiss to his lips. The moment she pretended to pull back, he drew her in deeper, all thoughts of the coming ball disappearing completely from his mind.

As a consequence of such pleasures, it was well past the usual breakfast hour when they emerged from their bedchamber to partake of it.

Georgiana and Richard exchanged a mutual grin as they witnessed the couple enter the breakfast parlour in blushes of embarrassment at the late hour. It was of part amusement and part happiness at the sight, for both had witnessed some moments of their courtship and struggles that had preceded it, and now rejoiced in seeing them so content.

After sending a mock glare to his cousin, Darcy asked him what his plans were for the day. Richard smiled broadly as he replied with, "to avoid the house as much as possible. I have no desire to endure the preparations as well as the event itself."

"I do declare you are almost becoming as bad as my husband," Elizabeth remarked. "Is this hating of balls a family trait?"

"You mistake me, Elizabeth. Usually I do not hate balls. It is just that upon this particular one many superiors of mine shall be in attendance, thus I shall have to be in dress uniform, which will make me a bulls-eye for every lady there to strike a target at."

"And a colour-blind one at that," Darcy muttered, causing all to laugh, for as bespoke his regiment the 95th Rifles, his cousin would be wearing green not red.

"I have a solution," Georgiana commented, for she was also nervous about the event, "restrict yourself to dancing with relatives only."

"An excellent idea, Georgie. And I shall act upon it at once. Have I your permission, Darce, to open the ball with this delightful debutante seated opposite me?"

"Had not you better ask the lady herself?"

Richard instantly set his most pleading glance upon his cousin. "Will you let me open the ball with you, dear Georgie?"

"Yes, I shall."

Later, as Georgiana readied herself for this ball, she reflected upon the morning, finding herself blushing now at her cousin's request. Such a feeling had never come over her before and she wondered why it would now. She and Richard had known each other for as long as she could remember. He had been- and still was -her guardian in conjunction with her brother from the death of her father.

Since the age of twelve this relationship had drifted into friendship, when she would receive letters from him while he had been abroad in Spain, serving under Lord Wellington. For a long time she had regarded him as one of her heroes, often collecting parts from newspapers that detailed any battles he had been involved in, looking for his name or his battalion.

Now she blushed at the recollection of this, along with the remembrance of another, this in her youth, when he had, to the shock of her parents and brother alike, taught her sword fighting. The image of them battling with wooden swords remained to this day one of her fondest memories.

Her hero-worship of him had grown when she witnessed his vow of wishing to kill Wickham on the spot the next he saw him. She hardly thought of the latter man at all now. Her disappointment at Ramsgate had been dwelt upon frequently, until the introduction of Elizabeth into her life. Georgiana was delighted at the change her sister in law had wrought both in her and in her brother. To find that her mistake was only human had been most comforting.

She was extremely grateful for all that Elizabeth had done to prepare her for tonight. There was a time when she would have wished to never enter society, even now she felt nervous, but the prospect of opening the ball with Richard put a shine to the evening that she had not anticipated. Georgiana found herself sighing at thought of dancing with him, and was instantly driven into astonishment that, for the second time in one evening, such feelings had crossed her mind.

The quiet chiming of the mantle-clock brought her back to the present. After casting one more look at herself in the mirror, Georgiana exited her bedchamber.

When she descended the grand staircase a few minutes later, she found herself blushing once more, as her brother complimented her upon her looks, and her cousin, resplendent in his dark green and silver buttoned dress uniform, gallantly bowed before her, taking her hand and raising it to his lips, declaring that she looked beautiful.

1. Brownstudy: Gloomy meditation. Thomas Brown's Union Dictionary, circa 1810.

Part II.

The Perpetual Bachelor. That was the name and standing joke which everyone connected by family or friendship to Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam had accorded him ever since they had first made his acquaintance. Though the man himself frequently reminded them that it was not by choice, they had never bore witness to an occasion where he had ever been serious with a woman.

Yet, tonight, as Richard stood at the head of a line of dancers, waiting for the music to begin, facing his youngest cousin, he found his mind actually considering the idea of marriage. As practical as the army had made him, he had tired of war, along with the idea of spending the rest of his life alone. Witnessing the happy marriage his cousin had made only two years ago, and all the joys of fatherhood had done to alter his character for the better, had further convinced him of the wonders of eternal companionship.

The Orchestra struck up, and Richard bowed to his partner. As Georgiana took his hand to begin the first movements of the dance, she commented on his quietude.

"Do not fear Georgie," Richard replied instantly, "I am well. I was just struck by your beauty. You look really remarkable tonight."

"Am I not usually then?" Georgiana queried.

"Always," Richard assured her. "I just never fully noticed until tonight." He glanced around the room, noting the admiring glances of the several gentlemen dotted about that were directed at his cousin, his expression turning to disapproval in consequence.

Georgiana sighed. "Richard, please, you're bearing a alarming resemblance to my brother. You know I shall not dance with all of them."

"My prayer, Georgie, is that you dance with none of them," Richard replied earnestly as their position took them in front of his cousin, who was indeed bearing the very same expression. His dance partner exchanged an exasperated look with her sister in law, before they moved on.

"I cannot," Georgiana reminded him with the same earnestness. "You know I cannot. I would not have the neighbourhood think me snubbing them."

"Your brother did."

"That is different. He is a man and is entitled to such a performance. I am not. I must smile prettily, laugh when required, and show elegance and grace."

"And fortitude," Richard added, bringing a smile to her face. They passed a contingent of single ladies, who instantly ceased their chattering in order to gaze at him. As soon as they were out of sight, Richard grimaced. "I'm beginning to see the advantages of snubbing. Surely they know I am far too old for them."

"Please, Richard, desist."

He turned to her, and realised his manners. "You're entirely right, Georgie. I have been most remiss of you. You must think me a dreadful object."

"Not very dreadful," she assured him, a slight blushing coming to her countenance.

"Well, no more from now on. Instead I shall devote myself to you, and make sure you have a wonderful night."

An hour or so later and the orchestra struck up a familiar tune. The master of Pemberley turned to his wife and bowed. Smiling, she accepted his hand and they moved to the dance floor.

"I wonder why this piece is so special for Darce," Richard remarked. He and Georgiana were taking the chance to rest and observe.

"I believe this piece was played when they were at Netherfield for Mr Bingley's ball."

"You mean the famous 26th of November?" Richard confirmed, for he had heard his cousin's friend speak of it many times. Usually he would shake his head at such nonsense, but tonight, something was different. Suddenly without knowing what he did, he held out his hand to Georgiana. "Shall we, my lady?"

Looking up into his eyes, Georgiana found herself unable to refuse. The music had barely begun, and when they joined at the end of the line, it was at the perfect moment.

Part III.

"Thank you so much for having us, Jane."

Mrs Charles Bingley turned from the window to face her sister with a smile. "It was a pleasure, Lizzy, you know that."

"Admit though, that we were a wretched group when we arrived?"

"Only alittle wearied of Society." Jane turned to lookout the window once more. "Particularly Georgiana."

The young woman in question was outside at this moment, walking in the Repton gardens that surrounded Pearlcoombe Abbey. The house had been the home of the Bingleys since quitting Netherfield but a year after their marriage in 1812. Within thirty miles of Pemberley, it was where the Darcys had passed the Christmas last.

They had arrived wearied and irritable, emotions caused by attending almost every notable ball of the season. Georgiana, as the only reason for their attendance, had been the most affected. The experience had been very trying.

Faced by the company of matchmaking families and forced to dance with many a scheming gentleman, Georgie had, by end of the first month, found herself completely sickened of Society and, worse, containing no desire whatsoever to ever venture into it again. Until late November however, it had been something that must be endured, if she was to have a proper first Season.

Christmas at Pearlcoombe had been a welcome relief. Georgiana had made the most of her time; walking and riding in the grounds, playing at the harp and the pianoforte. Being situated in the base of a valley, the house had the perfect setting for peace. Charles and Jane had been all that were good, kind, amiable and tolerant, and Robert, their little son and heir, an angel who amused himself with his good friend young Lawrence Darcy, both being separated in age by only a month. All these had heaped their effects on the Darcys and all were reaping the benefits.

Most of all Georgiana had missed Richard. After the ball at Pemberley, she had only danced and talked with him once, at the Matlock's town house, the only ball she had actually enjoyed. Since then he had been detained at Horseguards and Shorncliffe, managing his regiment's accounts, and dealing with such matters that his superiors deemed were important.

His absence had left her no one to laugh or talk sensibly with, her brother having been his usual reserved self and even Elizabeth tried to the end of her patience by the social commitments. He had been a useful distraction and defence when it came to gentlemen Georgiana had not wished to acquaint herself with, and his loss had been felt keenly. She knew not when she would see him again and feared for her sanity until then.

She expressed this concern cautiously to Elizabeth and her brother that evening just after dinner. Carefully did she outline that while she realised the importance of attending such balls to her future, she also felt that she could not face any of them in the coming Season. She feared that her judgement would be impaired by the stress that last year's had caused to her, and that as a result she would not be able to display her best side of her character.

Darcy and Elizabeth, it must be said, received this with some relief. While they knew it was important for Georgiana to find her partner in life, they also knew that there were other opportunities in life to meet him. They wished Georgiana to be happy in her quest. Theirs had not been a smooth courtship and their sister was too good in both character and manner to suffer the same fate.

During the course of the next few days then, from finishing their sojourn at Pearlcoombe and returning to Pemberley, Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth raised, debated and dropped the idea of spending the next Season in town. Hertfordshire and Kent were also discounted, as well as eventually Matlock, for the Earl and Countess were to spend the majority of the next year on the continent, and the Viscount was to be with his family in the wilds of Scotland.

After also discarding the likes of Weymouth, Brighton, and Lyme, Bath was finally presented to Georgiana, and deemed acceptable. The Spa town although a popular haunt for Society, had only the Pump rooms and Assembly hall to house balls, thus lessening the stress frequent ones would produce.

Darcy also had a house there, his grandfather having brought the place in order so that he might try the cure for his gout. It was not as large as his house in London, nor was it small either, situated upon the Royal Crescent.

In February therefore, to Bath they were to go.

Part IV.

They arrived at Bath upon the second day of the month planned, Georgiana and Elizabeth viewing as strangers, even though the Darcys had owned the house in the Royal Crescent for some number of years.

The weather there was typical for the month; the buildings smoking in the rain, which did not present a very pleasing prospect to any of the four arrivals. Georgiana expressed the hope and determination to improve her opinion as soon as the weather changed for the better.

She was delighted that Richard had leave again; he had been with them since the new year, an event passed at Pemberley. There the weather had deigned to snow, causing a few days of skating together on the lake and building snow creatures for Lawrence Darcy's amusement. Richard was fast becoming a favourite honorary uncle toward the child and Georgiana had delighted in seeing his many antics for the little boy's joy.

Their second day in Bath opened slightly better; sunshine with cold breeze, and they decided to visit the Pump Rooms after breakfast. Upon entering the room Georgiana breathed a sigh of relief, it was not crowded. Staying close to Richard she glanced around the room, noting only strangers.

They had been standing in the room for some ten minutes, when, suddenly and without warning, they were accosted by a woman of the same age and standing as their aunt Lady Catherine, who claimed an acquaintance with them.

It was Lady Russell, who knew them through both that aforementioned esteemed matriarch of Rosings Park, and their late father. She commented upon how well each looked like their parents, and congratulated Darcy on his marriage. She then presented her companion, Miss Anne Elliot.

As Lady Russell was so easily commanding the conversation between the Darcys and her cousin, Georgiana was left to talk with Miss Elliot, whom she found instantly to be to her liking. The two fell into easy conversation; Georgie soon learning that Anne had been in Bath since January, and thus had become familiar with the place and who presently occupied the houses there.

She learnt of Anne's dislike of the place, and the reason for her family's stay, Georgianna's talent for drawing people out and steady assurance of an abhorrence of gossip permitting the intimacy. In return Georgie readily described her own reasons for seeking the place as a means of therapy from the pressures of debutancy. By the end of the visit, they had become firm friends.

In the afternoon Elizabeth and Darcy returned to the Crescent, leaving Georgiana and Richard to their own devices. The two cousins took a walk exploring the sites, the former describing her time at Pearlcoombe to the latter.

"It was such a relief to be there, Richard," she remarked, "I do not know when I have tired so much of London."

"It can be an exhausting place to anyone at the best of times," he agreed, having been there recently himself, orders of Horseguards. "I hope you were not an awful object to your kind hosts?"

"Oh, no... Richard! Do not tease me! We were all wearied of Society, that is all."

"I know, dearest," he replied looking at her, "you could never be an awful object to anyone."

"Georgie seems so much happier here."


Elizabeth turned from the window where she had been watching her sister and cousin in law walk out to find that her husband was more interested in kissing the skin of her neck which lay underneath her hair than focusing on the mood of his sister. "William, I am trying to have a serious conversation with you!"

Darcy presented her with his most rakish smile in the reflection on the panes, "and I am trying, my love, to persuade you to cease conversation altogether."

Elizabeth turned round in his embrace, knowing that she could not even try to rebuke him, not when he stared at her like that. "I believe you have succeeded, Fitzwilliam."

He pulled her closer to him. "I love the way you pronounce my name."

"Even though it means you have failed in halting me from speech?"

"Who says I have failed?" He kissed her adoringly, his hands sweeping from her waist up into her hair, weaving themselves through the long dark locks that only a few minutes ago he had managed to let lose out of their confinement of pins and plaits. He lost himself in the enchantment of her, until they both had to breathe.

Elizabeth allowed herself to be led across the room to the chaise long at the foot of the bed, where Darcy pulled her once more into his embrace. "Seriously, do you think it was a good idea to come here?"

"I do," he answered, his mind focused upon the matter for a brief while. "I'm beginning to regret that we ever took her to town in the first place."

"We had to, my love," Elizabeth reminded him. "We were bound by the dictates of the circle that we live in."

Darcy nodded, absently drawing circles on her arm, where the sleeve ended. "I hope we don't have to repeat the experience too soon, for both Georgianna's sake and ours." He leaned forward and kissed her once more.

Elizabeth, when they had parted to breathe, thought back to the scene she had just witness between her sister and cousin, her mind unconsciously comparing it to the many walks she and her husband had took before they were married, and replied, "for some reason, I do not think we ever will."

Part V.

When Georgiana next met Anne several days had passed. She had spent the majority of them enjoying the sights with the rest of her family present, and when she had ventured once more into the Pump Rooms, Miss Elliot had been elsewhere. Therefore, it was with great surprise that Georgiana set eyes on her when she and her family entered the Rooms for the evening concert.

She saw her new friend in conversation with a gentleman, that judging by her manners and expression meant a great deal to her. In comparison the gentlemen seemed disturbed, as if her very presence made him withdraw his ease. She, wanting to greet her friend before the concert, no other motive, stepped close enough to hear their conversation.

"Had it been the effect of gratitude, had he learnt to love her, because he believed her to be preferring him, it would have been another thing. But I have no reason to suppose it is so. It seems, on the contrary to have been a perfectly spontaneous, untaught feeling on his side, and this surprises me.

"A man like him, in his situation! With a heart perceived, wounded, almost broken! Fanny Harville was a very superior creature, and his attachment to her was indeed attachment. A man does not recover from such a devotion of the heart to such a woman! He ought not; he does not."

Either from consciousness, however, that his had friend had recovered, or from some other consciousness, he went no further; and Anne, who in spite of the agitated voice in which the latter part had been uttered, and in spite of all the various noises around the room, the almost ceaseless slam of the door, and the ceaseless buzz of persons walking through, had distinguished every word, was struck, gratified, confused, and, beginning to breath very quick, and feel a hundred things in a moment. It was impossible for her to enter on such a subject, that spoke so deeply of a reflection upon something past.

It was at this moment that Miss Darcy caught her eye. With great relief, Anne fixed on her immediately. "Georgiana, how wonderful! I had no idea you were to be here."

Georgie, having caught the last part of the gentleman's conversation, reacted quickly to providing her friend some ease, taking her hand and replying with joy, "nor I you! My brother managed to purchase admission at the last minute. Oh, I have missed talking to you, it has been nearly three weeks! So much has happened."

Indeed it has, Anne could not help to silently agree. "I had not realise it had been that long, I have been so remiss of you!"

"You are forgiven, indeed there is no fault, the weather has hardly been conducive to us meeting again."

"No it has not," Anne replied, remembering what the rainy weather had brought her. She gestured to her companion. "Georgiana, may I present Captain Wentworth, Captain, Miss Darcy. The Captain's sister is Mrs Croft."

Noticing the way her friend uttered his name Georgiana understood everything almost at once. "I am glad to meet you Captain Wentworth."

"Miss Darcy and I met here some days ago, when she and her family had just arrived in Bath," Anne explained to him. "Even though it was only one morning spent together, we know each other so well. It strange, is it not, that feeling of knowing someone from only one acquaintance, however brief?"

"Indeed it is," Georgiana remarked, "especially as that one acquaintance has the knack to remain imprinted upon the minds of the persons concerned. The meeting can have the ability to haunt them forever. Randomly a facet, word, or expression will press upon their recollection and be interpreted in so many ways. The meaning of everything learnt or gathered from that scene delves so deeply into your mind."

"Yes, haunt you it does," Captain Wentworth uttered, entering into the conversation, "even if it has been many years since that moment has passed, and your circumstances had changed so dramatically, yet one single word or expression that bring the moment back to you forever."

"Or make you wish to forget," Anne uttered with feeling, causing Wentworth to glance at her deeply.

Georgiana pretended not to notice, rejoining, "yes, I do believe my brother and his wife would wish to forget part of their first meeting. Would you believe that they hated each other upon first acquaintance?"

"No I would not," Anne replied as she looked at the couple, seeing something in them that she sometimes wished for herself.

"I was surprised as well, especially when I only heard the story after so much had passed between them as to change everything."

Anne was waiting for Georgiana to say more, but at the moment the cries of "Lady Dalrymple," accosted their senses, and the trio were obliged to part. Anne went to her family and lost sight of Wentworth, Georgiana also to her, own, but unlike her friend she did not lose sight of the gentleman, for her cousin was staring at him.

"Georgie," he began when she had rejoined him, "who is that man?"

"That is Captain Wentworth," Georgiana replied, adding the connection between him and her friend Anne.

"One begins to doubt the size of the world after such an event," Richard remarked, "for I knew him when I bore passage on his ship for Spain."

"You are quite a contrast to your friends, cousin," Georgiana commented teasingly, "they are so serious compared to you!"

"My dear cousin, I'll have you know, I can be perfectly serious when the occasion calls for it," Richard defended himself, as they followed their family into the concert room.

Georgiana searched for Anne, and saw her by another gentleman, who talked with her quite animatedly. Glancing to Captain Wentworth, she saw instantly and briefly how much this had affected him. "I was right."

"Right about what?" Richard asked as they sat down. In reply Georgiana discreetly pointed out her friend and companion, relating what she had overheard, the expressions, tone and mannerism which had accompanied it, and the suspicion that she had drawn from all.

"I see how much you have learnt from your sister in law," Richard remarked, "you caught the characters admirably. But without knowing more about the situation, there is very little you can do to help your friend, but continue to observe."

Georgiana followed her cousin's advice intermittently throughout the concert, looking at each of the persons involved in turn, drawing fresh conclusions every time. When the interval arrived and the change of seat initiated, She asked Richard to secure hers before moving in the direction of her friend.

She watched Captain Wentworth come up to her, enter into conversation, his stance reminding her much of her brother whenever he felt ill at ease in crowds and events, Eventually she saw the effects of Anne's presence on him bring out a change until the arrival of the other gentleman.

To this intervention there was a strong reaction on Captain Wentworth, he felt the intrusion deeply, Georgiana could tell. She saw him accost her friend, make a gesture as if to a hurried departure, implored by her friend to stay, but in vain.

Georgie caught up with her friend at the moment he left. She saw a multitude of emotions pass over her friend's face, realisation, gratitude, happiness, then despair. "Anne, whatever is wrong?"

"It is all for naught," her friend uttered in reply, "how will he ever learn the truth?" She glanced at Miss Darcy, and remembered. "Oh, Georgie, I forgot you do not know."

"Then tell me," Georgiana implored, "unless you do not trust my....."

"No," she interjected, guessing the next words, "nothing like that. I am just at a loss as to what there can be done to solve it."

"Tell him what you feel."

"I wish that I could. But I do not know when we shall meet."

"Let me try and arrange that."

Anne turned to her friend in surprise. "How?"

"A mutual friend. Now, my dear friend, tell me the whole."

Her friend obeyed, forgetting Mr Elliot, who was obliged to return to Miss Carteret. Georgiana took a seat beside her, and listened to the story told in quiet, hushed tones under the music of the concert.

Her feeling for Anne afterwards was everything that a friend should feel under such a circumstance, and her responses and assurances made Anne feel all the better for finally confiding in someone the whole, someone that would not be biased to any outcome other than happiness for both parties.

Author's note: For this you need to have Chapter 21 of Persuasion in your mind with possible reference as to what Chapter 22 brings to the future, as things are about to change slightly again.

Part VI.

Anne, after quitting Mrs Smith, was so deep in thought upon what had just been related to her, that she did not notice her friend until their arms had brushed each others as they passed in the street. Both immediately looked up; and exclamations did therein ensue. Miss Darcy then inquired as to where her friend had been, and Anne related briefly what she had learned as to the character of Mr Elliot that morning.

The response that Miss Darcy produced caused Anne some astonishment. Her friend looked shocked, then disappointed. Instantly she clasped her hand. "Georgie, you did not think I cared for Mr Elliot?"

"Oh, indeed no, I see quite clearly where your affections lie, I am just disappointed at the lack of good character and inability to change, which is displayed far too often by so many in this world." A pause occurred, and then Georgiana told her friend the events and circumstances surrounding herself and Mr Wickham.

"Now I understand your reaction," Anne replied when she had heard all. By this time they had reached the Pump Rooms. She gestured to her friend that they entered, and Miss Darcy accepted. As they sat down to some Welsh Rarebit1 and pastries, Anne continued the subject previously spoken between them. "I just hope Lady Russell believes what I speak of."

Georgiana, who had heard all of what the lady had done eight years ago, was highly sceptical that Lady Russell would, but chose not to comment. Instead she reflected upon the night before, which lead eventually to question from her friend, concerning the mutual friend that she had referred to when she had promised to help Anne with the Captain.

"My cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam met him during one of his passages to Spain," Georgiana began. "He and I spoke this morning and he has promised to help in what way he can. Oh, you need have no fear, I mentioned only briefly what you related to me, I broke no confidence I promise you. He and I have known each other for so long, I trust him absolutely."

Anne smiled at that, causing her to enquire as to why. "Yes, I see he means a great deal to you, Georgie."

Miss Darcy blushed and tried to deflect; "oh, he was my guardian, in conjunction with my brother after the death of our father. Besides the difference between us is so great.... he is much older than I, he would never think of me like that."

"But you hope he would?"

Georgiana sighed dreamily. "Yes, I wish that above all things. But I am uncertain. Three years ago I thought myself to be in love, and that was disproved. How do I know this is not the same feeling?"

"How do you know that it is?" Anne pointed out. "You cannot, and that is the risk. You can only trust in him, trust that he is not like Mr Wickham."

"Definitely not," Georgiana replied adamantly, "they are as different as fire and ice. Richard swore he would kill him when my brother told him of the matter."

"There you go. I'm sure he cares for you."

"Yes, but as what? Cousins? Guardian? As Siblings even? I cannot tell."

"It will come in time. You said your brother's wife hated him at first meeting?"

"Yes, unbeknownst to him."

"There, what could be a better example? We have great difficulty in determining love in others. However, once the intent is known, or even suspected, the person insensible will grow to like the other, providing there is nothing standing in the way."

"I admire your hope, Anne," Georgiana replied.

"It is far easier to be hopeful for others rather than for yourself. The temptation to think that nothing happy can happen to oneself, that it always happens to others, is often too great for us to ignore."

A few streets away, walked Richard and Wentworth. Their meeting had been conducted at the Crofts, for Colonel Fitzwilliam knew the Admiral well from the war, the Captain had remembered him well, and thus their motion to walk out and talk of old times, was easily accomplished.

Conversation begun, naturally on the war and their activities during it, before drifting to family and eventually, to settling down. Despite their different professions, both knew all too well the trials of establishing oneself in a career and the lack of fortune that could be made from either, shying away marriage prospects.

By degrees Wentworth mentioned Anne, and Richard related of Miss Elliot's acquaintance with his cousin, and how what Frederick had supposed to be existing between his lady and Mr Elliot the night of the concert, had been assured via Miss Darcy to be false. Frederick was sceptical at first, then soon slowly persuaded to hope once more that everything between him and Anne could be solved.

"Though, how I am to meet with her again? Her family disapproves of me."

"My Aunt disapproved of my cousin's wife, but somehow their meeting and romance was accomplished, and they had at times greater things to over come than you and Miss Elliot. I think that if love is meant to be, it will always find away to succeed, no matter what the situation, or the obstacles that it has to over come."

1. Welsh Rarebit was invented in the late 18th century, and is seasoned melted cheese on toast, often with other ingredients.

Part VII.

Georgiana spent most the day after in a distracted state, caught between her hopes for her friend, and her friend's words concerning her own situation. A part of her was prepared to give herself up as stupid, for the idea that Richard might return her feelings often seemed at best an improbable notion.

He was her cousin, her guardian and fourteen years her senior. Even discounting these factors, he had seen far more of the world than she, and Georgiana had learnt from bitter experience that it was not wise to be naive about the ways of the world she was now very much a part of.

With a sigh she laid aside the latest Mrs Radcliffe, a work usually guaranteed to make her laugh, rose from the recliner, and seated herself at the pianoforte. There was no musical score on the instrument, but Georgiana had long gone past the need for such reference when she played her favourite melodies.

Absently her fingers began to tap out one, as she tried to distract her mind from thinking upon the paths it had spent most of the morning. Barely had she completed the first quarter of the first movement before she felt obliged to halt as the subject of Richard's feelings crossed her mind once.

Recollections had the oft propensity to be an irksome talent at times. All too frequently did they have a powerful and generally all consuming effect on thoughts, liable to occupy them the rest of the day.

This particular incident, Georgiana was sure, would prove most troublesome, for she knew perfectly well that her emotions were trying to make something out of what was merely a usual term of endearment between her cousin and herself.

Yet she could not deny the effect that it had had upon her. My dear cousin, that was all he had said. Georgiana had never known before that three words would effect her so much. His tone of voice had not helped matters much either.

Usual teasing had disappeared, in favour of sincerity which hinted at the possibility of a far more deeper meaning. At the time of its delivery, she had remained untouched, for it was one of his usual titles for her. But now, she was most surprised that she had not blushed at its utterance.

The moment that last thought entered her head, Georgiana rebuked herself. She was being stupid. He had called her cousin after all, not Georgiana, or Georgie, and that was the distinction to concentrate on, not the tone. By the use of that word alone it was clear exactly what he thought of her.

How he regarded her. She was his cousin, nothing more. All her supposing were just part of her mind, which was obviously still prone to wilful youthful fantasies, the like of which had no basis at all in reality.

Her recollection instantly began to mount a defence, beginning with the night of her debutante ball to the Derbyshire wealth. He had greeted her hand with a lingering kiss, and called her beautiful. He had spent most of the evening by her side, fending off suspicious looking gentlemen, and any others she did not wish to dance with.

He had called her dearest, and declared that she could never be an awful object to anyone. Since then he had spent most of his time with her, and had helped with her quest for Anne and Captain Wentworth to find the happiness they should have had years ago.

All of evidence Georgiana found she could not discount immediately. She still found herself blushing over the phrasing he had used when declaring his assistance to her plan.

Though I would never do this for anyone else save you, I will agree, those had been his words, but at the time she had been too focused on his agreement the plan rather than what he meant by 'anyone else save you.'

Perhaps it had not been a good idea to vacate her family's company. With a sigh Georgiana closed the lid of the pianoforte and left her sitting room in search of them.

It did not take long.

Opening the Drawing Room day, she was instantly welcomed in by Elizabeth and William, and the happy face of her little nephew Lawrence. Eager for the welcome distraction such a child provided, Georgiana sat next to Lizzy, and gratefully accepted the offer of holding him.

"Aunt Georgie looks a little preoccupied," Darcy commented astutely.

Georgiana raised her gaze from Lawrence to admit ruefully that such was the case, adding quickly to forbid confidence on a matter she had no desire anyone to know of yet, "it nothing that a little distraction cannot cure. And Lawrence provides that amply, don't you?" This last she uttered to the happy babe in her arms, who gurgled in reply.

Her brother smiled sympathetically back at her, managing to conceal his almost perfect understanding of the matter, of which, thanks to his beautiful wife, he knew the whole of. While he approved of the idea of his cousin as Georgianna's possible partner in life, however, he had yet to learn Richard's ideas on the matter, no doubt because his cousin was worried about talking to him about it, and until he did so, Darcy could not help but worry that his sister would be disappointed.

Miss Darcy saw nothing of her brother's concern, as she focused upon her nephew until it was time for his nap. Gently she rocked to him to sleep while her brother and sister talked quietly amongst themselves. She could not help to do anything but smile as Lawrence's eyes began to close.

She truly loved being an Aunt. Lawrence possessed the perfect combination of what she could only suppose her brother and Elizabeth had been like in their youth, and she delighted in amusing him to his heart's content.

Elizabeth carefully caught her attention then, quietly taking her son into her arms and away to his cot upstairs. As Georgiana rose her gaze to observe her brother watching the duo depart, she gasped as she saw who had arrived.

"Forgive my quiet arrival Georgie, I did not wish to disturb little Lawrence," Richard replied as he came forward to greet them all.

"Of, course," Georgiana responded, trying to recover her previous equilibrium. "How long have you been here?"

"Oh, not too long," Richard replied, trying to conceal the truth that he had in fact been rooted to his previous standing spot ever since he had arrived, entranced by the picture of his cousin rocking little Lawrence Darcy to sleep.

The scene had almost persuaded him that they were in the future, where all his hopes had been realised and returned with equal feeling. "And what else have you been doing this morning?" He asked in attempt to keep his own control over his emotions.

"Just the usual, shut up in the Music Room, conducting my daily practice," Georgie replied, although in reality she had spent scarcely a minute at either of the instruments on which she was a proficient.

"Surely you know most of everything off by heart now," Richard teasingly commented in response.

"Yes, nearly all," Georgiana answered modestly, "but if one does not practice one cannot expect one's performance to remain unaffected." She paused briefly, then enquired as to his activities that morning.

"Oh, you would find it very dull, just a long conversation with a tedious Major-General on the subject of the state of Europe current treaty affairs."

"I'm sure I would not," Georgiana replied truthfully. "Pray tell me about it."

"Very well, if you are sure I won't bore you."

"I do not think you ever could," Georgiana returned with a small blush.

"Do you?" Richard could not help quietly uttering, as they drifted into silence, staring at each other. Soundlessly he began to hope that all his emotions might not entirely be in vain. Could it be possible? Had he mistaken it? Could she really care for him as much as he was beginning to realise he cared for her?

Elizabeth re-entered the room, and the moment was lost. Richard waited until she had resumed her seat by her brother, and then began to describe his morning.

Only over dinner did the hopes return to Georgianna's mind once more. For the first time her thoughts recollected Richard's expression as when she noticed his arrival.

It had only existed for the briefest of moments, but she was almost sure that she could not be mistaken. In fact, she was nearly certain that she had seen the same earnest, wistful gaze as she had frequently seen on her brother whenever he looked at Elizabeth.

Then there had been his 'Do you,' alittle while later. Had she interpreted his look correctly? Georgiana had so little experience of this to be sure. Idly she contemplated what would have happened, had Elizabeth not returned at that very moment, and had her brother not been present.

"A penny for your thoughts," a voice uttered suddenly, bringing her back to reality.

Georgie looked up to her opposite number. "I think they are too numerous and too serious a subject for the dinner table."

"Then I shall just have to save my pennies until the dinner table is no longer between us," Richard replied, "for your thoughts mean a great deal to me."

"Cousin," Georgiana blushed, "do not tease me so."

"Indeed I do not tease," Richard replied earnestly. "I would dearly love to know what you are thinking."

Georgiana quickly thought of something other than what was really occupying her mind, to which she would blush even more if she ever voiced to Richard.

"I was thinking of Anne and Captain Wentworth," she replied, "wondering if there was a possibility than by the time we next meet, things have worked out for them."

"That seems unlikely," Richard remarked, feeling somewhat disappointed, "there are so many factors that it is dependent upon."

"You surprise me, Richard. Do not you believe that love can overcome all obstacles or boundaries?"

"On the contrary, I do believe it, but I think it also depends on the scale of the obstacles and the depth of those boundaries. Sometimes things are not meant to be."

"A rather gloomy philosophy, that."

"More of a realistic one I think. Prevents disappointment."

"Does it? Surely hope is not controlled by such a thing?"

"I...." Richard trailed off, as he gazed at her. "No, you are right. Hope is uncontrollable." As I have learned all too frequently of late.