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.
"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.
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.
"Thank you so much for having us,
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
"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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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?"
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.
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
you go. I'm sure he cares for you."
as what? Cousins? Guardian? As Siblings even? I cannot tell."
will come in time. You said your brother's wife hated him at first meeting?"
"Yes, unbeknownst to him."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The next day her cousin was required to see a General in town, and Georgiana walked with him to the house where he lived. After turning back, she had not been long alone before she encountered Anne. Instantly did she enquire as to whether anything had happened since their last encounter regarding her friend and Captain Wentworth.
"Nothing," Anne replied sadly, "I haven't seen him since the night of the concert. My family have forced me to have other engagements. My sister Mary and the Musgroves have arrived in town to prepare for the weddings of Louisa and Henrietta. They are to spend the evening of the 28th with us, along with Lady Dalrymple, Mr Elliot and Miss Carteret."
"From your expression I deduce that you think it will be a rather gloomy evening."
"By the sound of that guest list, can you doubt otherwise?" Anne replied with a small smile. "Actually, it is fortuitous that I ran into you. Will you come back with me and see if we can arrange for your family to come as well?"
Georgiana's features brightened instantly. "Yes, that would be wonderful. As far as I know I do not believe we have any fixed engagements for that night."
The two set off on their task and arrived promptly at Camden Place, where to their luck they found Miss Elliot and Sir Walter still at home. Georgiana found them to be exactly as her friend had described; for almost as soon as her name had been mentioned, and its connection to the illustrious Darcys of Derbyshire, did they begin to fawn over her every word and apply for her every need. Georgiana, being a guest, found it very taxing to keep her manners in check, but for the sake of her friend, she made her best to succeed.
All in all, the call lasted the rest of the morning, and Georgiana parted from her friend in the best of spirits, returning to the Crescent. At once, Sir Walter and Miss Elliot began talking of her.
"A sweet charming girl," Sir Walter pronounced her, "not at all in need of Gowland. She and her family have been staying since February? No wonder I did not see her during my rambles, out of the five and thirty ugly ones."
"What exactly is her family?" Elizabeth Elliot asked.
Anne briefly detailed their circumstances. When she had mentioned the income of Pemberley and their connection to the Matlocks, the decision was taken away from her and made Sir Walter's own.
"Oh we must pay call on them," cried he, "I do not think why we have not before."
"But Lady Dalrymple," Miss Elliot interjected, "Surely we should call upon her first and inform her that we will not be able to spend the afternoon with her?"
"Oh there is no need to do that," Sir Walter replied, "the call was not fixed."
Much to her relief, Anne thought to herself.
But an hour after luncheon did the Elliots arrive at the Royal Crescent, and Georgiana had the pleasure of spending time with her friend Anne. The two managed to separate themselves quite well from the main circle, where Sir Walter was trying to recollect- in vain -some vague but distant connection with her brother's ancestors.
Georgiana glanced at Richard, who had returned from the General, and his expression was such that she instantly commented, "You do not like Sir Walter?"
"What do you think?" He replied to her, coming to sit by her and her companion. "No slight to you, Miss Elliot, but......."
"It is a great pity that one cannot choose one relatives, is it not?" Anne guessed.
"Exactly. Though my own sometimes are hardly a comparison."
"Too true," Georgiana agreed, thinking of the Miramaxwells, and Lady Catherine. And Mr Collins.
The Elliots stayed till tea, and then parted. Darcy breathed a sigh of relief, and then apologised to his sister.
"Miss Anne is excellent," he remarked, "it is just the rest..."
"I know," Georgiana replied. "Have we been invited to the 28th?"
"Yes, was that your desire?"
"It is, else poor Anne might have to suffer it alone."
"Possibly," Richard mused, a significant look upon his face. "But it is a while to the actual date itself. And many things can happen."
The next day arrived at the Royal Crescent, and the Darcys realised that a return call upon the Elliots needed, out of the bounds of propriety, to be paid. Thus, after a leisurely breakfast, the quartet departed for Camden Place.
Georgiana was happy to see her friend so soon, and the two ensconced themselves within a window seat, involved in conversation.
Richard watched them from afar. After that evening at the piano, he had thought many times on whether or not he could consult his cousin, and be assured of success. However, each time he had got himself within speaking distance of the matter, his courage had failed him. It was surely a most disparaging note upon a man whom the military held within high regard, to be frightened of speaking to his own cousin about Georgiana.
Yet, sooner or later, it would need to be done, especially if he was serious about his intentions. Indeed, as he glanced at Georgie, Richard realised that he could not be otherwise. His attachment had grown since her debutante ball, and such a degree that he did not believe himself capable of living the rest of his life with her by his side. He knew the feeling to be a selfish one, but he could no longer deny its existence inside his mind.
"Your cousin has been staring at you ever since you arrived," Anne now remarked with a smile to her friend within the window seat.
Georgiana discreetly glanced in his direction, and, having received confirmation, turned back to her friend with a blush.
"See," Anne commented, "is that not a reason to hope?"
"It is. I hope that you are right," Georgiana replied. "Have you seen Captain Wentworth since?"
"No, but I hope to see him soon. And that will not make me change the subject, my friend."
Georgiana shook her head. "I do not see what can be gained by further speculation upon it. Only definite action can help now."
"And what stands in his way?" Anne questioned. "Your brother?"
"William would not mind, I do not think," Georgiana answered thoughtfully. "He and Richard have been friends for so long. His only objections, or rather, queries, would be on the state of our income and such, but that would not matter, as long as I was as happy as he had been and still is on entering the married state."
"I envy you," Anne uttered wistfully. "To have such understanding relatives."
"If I did not, I would follow my heart anyway," Georgiana replied. "But I am very grateful that I have."
"What do you think of the union, my love?"
It was late evening, and the Darcys were back at their Bath residence. Now Elizabeth, who was taking the pins out of her hair, turned to her husband with a reply. "Do you think it certain then, Fitzwilliam?"
Darcy came to stand beside her, leaning against the edge of the dressing table. "If the looks that Richard has been displaying of late are anything to go by, then yes."
"And what of Georgiana?"
"She has always adored him in some form. I remember when she was young, being shocked to discover her learning how to fence from him with wooden swords."
Elizabeth smiled. "I remember doing that with my father."
Darcy looked at her with astonishment for a moment, then shook his head. "I should not be surprised by that. It is indicative of your nature." Seeing that she was finished with her hair, he came to stand behind her, his hands caressing her smooth skin and curls. "I hope our daughters are equally tomboyish, and grow to be exactly like you."
"Daughters? You plan on more than one then?"
"Well, they shall be the same trouble as sons when they come to be of age, so how many we have will be of little consequence." He kissed her hair. "Though I admire your father for coping with five."
"Fitzwilliam! I hope that was not an implication."
"Only that you are the best of the five, my darling."
"Well, whatever happens," Elizabeth replied, as she gazed into his eyes through the reflection of the mirror before her, "we shall have at least one I believe."
Darcy stilled. "Do you mean?"
He laughed joyfully in response and helped her out of the chair. Kneeling before her, he pressed gentle soft kisses to where the nightgown covered her abdomen. Then he gazed up at her once more. "I thank everyday I am lucky enough to spend with you, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth."
When Georgiana arrived at Camden Place for the evening, she found her friend in much better spirits. And it was not difficult to determine why. For as she made her way over to where Anne was standing, she saw her friend's companion, and the particular way in which he was holding her hand.
"Georgie!" Anne cried out when she came to stand in front of them. "I have the most wonderful news."
"Congratulations!" Georgiana replied instantly, knowing all at once. Anne seemed to smile even more at that and Captain Wentworth looked similarly pleased. The latter then glanced at the two of them, and realising their need for a talk, parted reluctantly from them, with a final kiss to Anne.
When he had gone Georgiana instantly inquired as to how it had all come about. Anne was only too happy to tell her. She began with the visit to the Musgroves, and how he had been writing a letter or two the whole time. Then her conversation with Captain Harville, on how women tend to love the longest, even when all hope is gone, and how he had, unbeknownst to her at the time, heard it all while he was writing. Then his exit and sudden return, with the placing of a letter before her.
Georgiana marvelled over it all, sighing at the contents of the letter, and grinning as Anne related her meeting with Frederick afterwards, and what had occurred during their long walk back to Camden Place. "And now you are to be married," she remarked after all had been told to her. "I cannot describe how happy I am for you, Anne. Every word would be an understatement."
"I certainly could not be more happier," Anne acknowledged. "Actually, yes I could. When you are happy, then I shall be content. Frederick was much helped by your cousin."
"I knew it!" Georgiana exclaimed. "I knew Richard had done something the moment he mentioned a slight reference to it the day you came to my house. But I asked and asked and he would not tell me." She smiled at her friend. Then she recollected her own news. "Oh, I almost forgot. We shall be staying in Bath for quite awhile, longer than we originally planned."
"Elizabeth is expecting, and William, being the brother and husband that he is, insists that they will not move until it is safe to do so."
"That's wonderful news."
"I know, I am so excited to be an Aunt again."
Their conversation continued, as, unbeknownst to Miss Darcy, it was watched by Captain Wentworth and Colonel Fitzwilliam. The former now briefly took his eyes off his future bride, and turned to observe his friend. The direction in which Richard's gaze was set, was not hard to descry. Nor was the nature of the look that he was displaying.
"When are you going to ask her, Fitzwilliam?" Wentworth quietly remarked.
Richard was startled and immediately reverted his glance to his friend. "Ask who, what, Wentworth?"
Frederick sighed. "You may be adept on the battlefield, my friend, but you are a complete novice on the war of love. Deny all you want, I know where your heart lies."
Richard hesitated and then relented. "Do you really think I have a chance?"
"I'll give you the same advice you gave to me. You never know until you try." He glanced at his future once more, a smile forming over his features. "And believe me, the reward is worth the risk."
"Tell me," Georgiana paused, coming to a halt. "Is he going to propose?"
"I have no idea," Confessed Richard honestly. "That is to say he has not told me he will, but I do not see why not. They are easy in each others company and he did complain when I told him of our forthcoming departure." He vacillated, looking at her. "Georgie, what's wrong?"
"I want him to be happy, Richard. So much has happened........ he should be happy. He deserves to be happy."
"Oh, Georgie," he began, taking her hands. "I thought you had stopped thinking of him."
"I try to," she replied, her voice becoming shaky. "But I cannot always avoid it. He deserves it Richard. William has been so good to me."
"He's your brother, Georgie. You might as well ask for time to stop. And to reassure you. I have no mind to predict the future, but I think that it will happen. And I also think that you deserve it as well. There will be someone, Georgie. There always is for everyone."
Richard sat up with gasp. All thought of sleep gone, he rose from the bed and walked to the window, where he surveyed the gradual arrival of the dawn. Silently he contemplated the memory that had just been brought to his mind. It was a conversation years ago, that he had had with her, concerning the hoped for marriage of William and Elizabeth, when he had come from London to remind them about the wedding of his brother Henry to Lady Adelaide Fairchilde.
He knew not why that particular memory had come so suddenly to his mind. His dreams never seemed to have a double meaning for him, unlike others that he knew. Yet this one out of them all seemed tonight, to strike with particular reverence. Was it simply because he was thinking so much about marrying himself? Was it a sign that he and Georgiana had always been formed for each other? Or was it just due to sleep, when a mind is likely to think of the most unlikeliest things?
He had doubts that any of those were the answer. One thing however, was for certain. That it was no longer time to simply think about doing it. He had to act.
The news that every one was talking of next morning, as Georgiana discovered when she arrived down to breakfast, was not Anne and Frederick's engagement. Instead it was something quite different, and much more unwholesome to her appetite. Napoleon Bonaparte had escaped from Elba, and had raised an army, which was marching its way to France at this very moment.
Georgiana knew only too well what this meant for her. It would mean Richard going away again. She knew where his beliefs and loyalties lay regarding military matters, and if Wellington was to go up against Bonaparte, then Richard would want to be there. For the first time she feared the consequences.
Before when he had been fighting abroad, she had always assumed, perhaps rather naively, that he would come through whatever scrap he happened to find himself in, unscathed. But that had been when she had worshipped his tales of heroism with childlike wonder. Now she was in love, and with such feelings came an incessant worry of the very real possibility that he might not come back. And if, God forbid, that should happen, all her hopes and dreams would be lost forever.
So she was very quiet and subdued when she entered the dining room, taking care that when she selected her morning repast her hands did not shake as she listened to Richard's talk of his plans.
"As soon as possible I shall report to Horseguards I think," he remarked, "and then to my barracks. The Duke will want all the men he can get. This will be the most remembered thing of the age!"
Georgiana stilled as she heard his plans. She no longer knew how she was to survive in this state of unknowing if whether he felt anything for her. Not if he was to go away and never come back. She took a deep breath and turned to the table. "Anne has requested that I visit her this morning. I was hoping I could stay for afternoon tea."
"Of course you can, Georgie," her brother replied as she sat down in the seat on his left, opposite Elizabeth.
"I'll escort you," Richard volunteered.
"Really, there's no need," Georgiana tried to protest. She needed to be on her own today; to talk to Anne, seek her advice.
"Nonsense, it will be my pleasure. Besides, I believe Wentworth will be there and I wanted to talk to him about this."
Georgiana made only a murmur of agreement in reply, and returned to her meal.
"You seem distracted this morning, Georgie. Is there anything wrong?"
Richard halted, and turned to her. "Dearest, what is wrong? We used to tell each other everything."
She could not hide her tears. Not when he had called her dearest in that tone. She put her gloved fingers to her the skin below her eyes, turning away from him.
Richard stilled her, catching her arm gently with one hand, his other going to her face, where he tenderly pulled away her own. "Is it because of what you heard this morning? About me going away?" She made no answer, only looking up at him, imploring him with her eyes to pursue no further. He took hold of her hands in his own, putting their gloved fingers to his lips.
"Georgiana," he began, uttering her name as though it were the most precious thing on earth, "I would never go away until I had ascertained if you loved me as dearly and unswervingly as I love you."
She stilled and gasped. Eyes slowly brightening with faint hope, she stared solemnly into his own. "You love me?"
"Yes." He chuckled softly. "Yes, I love you. And if you will have me, I would ask you for your hand."
She smiled. "Ask away."
He was smiling now too. "Georgiana," he began, still holding her hands, "would you do me the great honour of allowing me to be your husband?"
Richard grinned and pulled her into his arms. "I had hoped, but I never believed it possible, until now."
"Why ever not?" She asked him in joyful tones.
They resumed their walking, though with less of an enthusiasm now to arrive at their destination. "I thought that a man of only a Colonel's half pay did not deserve a young woman of eighteen with thirty thousand pounds to her name."
"That has never mattered to me," Georgiana replied earnestly. "I do not need much to live on. Only a pianoforte and some music sheets."
"I think I can afford that," Richard replied laughingly. "Seriously, your brother and I always wanted you to have the best."
"You also wanted me to be happy and loved I hope."
"Well then, why should it matter that our situations in life are different?" She smiled up at him. "Ultimately, William wanted someone for me that he could trust with my life, and I know that there is no better man that he trusts like that than you."
"Thank you." He placed her hand on his arm. "You can come with me you know. To wherever I fight."
"If you want me to."
"Then I will." She leant into him, feeling safe in his arms. "You can teach me how to fence with real swords."
He laughed aloud.
Things after that seemed to come and go smoothly. When they returned to Royal Crescent, Richard parted from her to find her brother and ask his consent. Darcy was happy to give it. He cared not about the difference in circumstances, nor the disparity in their ages, only that his cousin would make her happy.
They married in March, and Georgiana did join him abroad when the time came. She waited with baited breath while he fought on the fields of Waterloo, and was there to greet him when he returned; weary, but without a single scratch.
They returned to England in time to welcome their new niece, Heloise Darcy, and then settled down in the village of Kympton, at the Manor House that Darcy had passed to his sister as a wedding present. They lived happily ever after.