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.
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
"Am I not usually then?" Georgiana
"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.
sighed. "Richard, please, you're bearing a alarming resemblance to my brother.
You know I shall not dance with all of them."
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.
Georgiana reminded him with the same earnestness. "You know I cannot. I would
not have the neighbourhood think me snubbing them."
"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."
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."
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.
why this piece is so special for Darce," Richard remarked. He and Georgiana
were taking the chance to rest and observe.
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.