Colonel Fitzwilliam spent most the next day pondering upon his last thought above, as he reviewed all that he was about, concerning Georgiana.
He really could not account for the change of emotions and feelings concerning her that had passed through his head these past nine months. He had gone from regarding her as his cousin, sister of sorts and friend to a possible partner in life all in the space of one evening.
How such a notion had rapidly become to be an all consuming thought he had no idea. Yet he could no longer deny to himself that such was not the case.
That evening, the night of her debutante ball, still possessed a vivid memory in his mind. She had truly looked beautiful that night. Indeed, he was fast becoming to realise that she was beautiful most nights, most days as well in fact.
Nonetheless, that had been the first time he had ever regarded her as other than his cousin. Was this, he wondered, what it was like to be in love? Had Darce thought the same when he had first admitted to himself that he liked Elizabeth Bennet?
But he could not seek out his cousin and ask. Not without confessing all that he felt in the first place. It was not that he feared his cousin, but they were well matched, to the extent that Richard would recommend him as a valuable officer to any in the army, if he had not been heir to the Darcy fortunes. But Georgiana was his sister, and had been, until recently, under the guardianship of them both.
And that, was the main crux of the matter, upon which everything else depended. From the death of his Uncle George, Georgiana had been under his and Darce's care, until the day of her eighteenth birthday. Meanwhile, he was nearly three and thirty. He was also the younger son of an Earl, and a Colonel's salary, while better than most serving ranks, was paltry compared to her dowry of thirty thousand pounds.1
Not that he cared about the money. But they must have something to live on, and she deserved equal, if not superior to Pemberley. However, Richard knew perfectly well that Pemberley's equivalent was beyond his abilities to provide, unless another war occurred, and he acquired the same success as Wellington.
In conclusion therefore, he really must give up on this. If he really loved her as deeply as he supposed himself to do so, her happiness must be paramount to his own. She deserved the best, and as her cousin and late guardian, he must ensure that she would get it.
As the day turned to evening, and another dinner passed in her company, Richard found himself frequently discarding those noble notions, whenever he was rewarded with as little as a smile, or a look, or a word. Very rarely did he ever dare to entertain the idea that she might possess some of the same emotion for him that he felt for her. Yet as the evening progressed, and she spent more and more of it in close proximity, he was increasingly unable to resist such a temptation.
He sat next to her at the pianoforte, watching her as her fingers flew about the notes, and her eyes read and then carried the message through her mind as to the next keys to press. Occasionally laughing and talking with her, in between page turning and piece changing. Every now and again he would blink, convinced he had imagined the blushes that appeared on her cheeks, then later marvel at how even more beautiful she appeared with them.
Time seemed to be forever fixed at his command, as he forgot all his selfless notions and just enjoyed the pleasure of being in her company. But the clocks ticked on, and the hours passed, and his time with her ended, as she rose to retire for the night.
For many a minute did he remain at the piano after she had left, his face pensive as he thought of all that had passed. Most sternly did his conscience begin to rebuke him for being selfish, and forgetting that her happiness was before his own. Perhaps it had been a bad idea for him to come to Bath.
Just then a hand applied pressure to his shoulder, bringing him out of his thoughts and back into the reality at hand. He looked up from the white keys to face his cousin and best friend. "Sorry, Darce. Were you talking to me?"
"Only just about to do so," Darcy replied. "Elizabeth and I are retiring."
"Oh. I might stay here awhile, if you don't mind."
"I thought you might." Darcy's expression was untranslatable. "You do realise that sooner or later you will have to talk to me about this, do you not?"
"That is too dependent on other things," Richard replied gloomily.
"Such a notion is not entirely unlikely, Fitzwilliam," Darcy remarked consolingly, following with a friendly pat on his shoulder, before leaving him to solitude. "Make sure John has locked up the place before you retire."
"I will." Richard watched his cousin silently, as he and Elizabeth left the room, wishing not for the first time that he might soon be in the same happy state.
1. Pay was roughly about 120 shillings and upwards. Source is The Sharpe Companion, by Mark Adkin.