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The Idea of Good Company

Chapter Text

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.