I’m sorry it’s been a few days, life is getting crazy here!
In case you missed one:
Go Tell It on the Mountain
Georgiana Darcy impatiently peered out the curtained windows of Mr. Bingley’s carriage. She took a deep breath to settle her nerves, lest her brother not allow her to visit the Bennets. She had begged her brother to come with him to Netherfield so she might meet the Miss Elizabeth Bennet of which he had written.
At first, Fitzwilliam had refused. In a strange turn of fates, the man Georgiana hoped to never see again was quartered in Meryton, near the Bennet family estate. Fitzwilliam had thought Georgiana too frail to see her would be seducer again but Georgiana felt an even greater need to visit the area. She must prove to her brother, and herself, that she had put the incident with George Wickham behind her.
Additionally, she knew her brother would never risk her reputation and inform the local gentry of Wickham’s habits of persuading young ladies with money into elopements. From Fitzwilliam’s descriptions of many of the ladies in the area, they were prime targets for a cad like Wickham.
“So, this is Meryton?” Richard asked from her side. “It looks familiar.”
“Of course it looks familiar!” Fitzwilliam snapped. “It is just like every other small English town. Here’s the square, there’s the market. Down the street is the dressmaker.”
Georgiana stifled a giggle and elbowed Richard. She was of the opinion that her brother’s foul mood stemmed from his infatuation with Miss Elizabeth Bennet. His unwanted infatuation with her.
“Meryton has its own beauty to offer,” Bingley said with a nervous smile. “I’ve never been more taken with a county than I am with Hertfordshire.”
“Well, I cannot wait to meet the Miss Bennets,” Georgiana said, hoping she did not sound like an overeager child wishing for a treat.
She had averted her eyes from her brother but heard him shift in his seat. “What do you know of the Miss Bennets?”
“Do you not recall? You wrote to me of them,” Georgiana attempted to sound nonchalant about it. “ Five sisters, each pretty, the eldest two in particular.”
Bingley said with a laugh in his voice,“Ah, no complaints about the eldest smiling too much? And I’m surprised that he would admit Miss Elizabeth is pretty. He flatly refused to dance with her at a ball we attended.”
Georgiana gasped. “Impossible! You would never be so rude!” If it were true, it might ruin all her plans!
“What was that?” Richard asked when Fitzwilliam muttered something under his breath.
Fitzwilliam let out an exasperated sigh and locked eyes with her, no doubt cursing her curiosity. “I said I spent the next several weeks attempting to secure a dance with her to make up for it. Not that I got any thanks from it!”
“I can’t imagine a lady not being taken with your sweet disposition,” Richard said.
Georgiana stifled a groan. The last thing her brother needed right now was to be teased. He would feel uncomfortable, and when he felt uncomfortable he behaved badly, and that would not assist changing Miss Elizabeth’s poor opinion of him.
“She refused my hand in one place, went off to scold her ridiculous sisters, which was just as well. Later, she laughed at me for asking as though I would joke about dancing.”
Beside her, Georgiana could feel Richard’s interest rolling off him, but he restrained himself. In Georgiana’s mind, Fitzwilliam’s annoyance about the lady confirmed his interest in her. He spent most of his life avoiding dancing with ladies and generally not caring if he offended them. Granted, those were soulless fortune hunters.
“You danced with her at my ball,” Bingley said.
Hope swelled in Georgiana’s heart, only to be deflated when her brother replied.
“And she berated me the whole time,” Darcy scowled.
Richard laughed. “And now we know why Darcy hates Meryton! Is it the whole town or one lone miss who will not bow to the prestige of your name and wealth?”
Georgiana’s eyes went round and when she spoke it was in a small voice. “The lady you described in your letters would never be so…so…impertinent!” She reached forward and put a gentle hand on her brother’s arm. “You may have misunderstood her.” He often did not understand others’ joking ways.
“Impertinent is quite the word for her! For her family! For the whole town.”
Georgiana meekly withdrew her hand and shrank back into the plush cushions of Bingley’s coach.
“And yet you agreed to return readily enough,” Richard pointed out.
Darcy muttered something again, but they had turned up the lane and Netherfield appeared in the distance.
“It looks like a very nice house, Mr. Bingley,” Georgiana offered and Bingley smiled.
“Thank you. Caroline thought it would be too cold for winter and all of her friends are in town, so she refused to come but I am thankful for my guests.”
Georgiana blushed as she felt her brother examining her interaction with his friend. Did Fitzwilliam know the reasons she hoped to come to Hertfordshire? As a child, he had always been able to figure out her plots and schemes. The last one she had was hoping to elope with Wickham and her brother unexpectedly showed up and foiled that as well. This time, however, her scheme was not for herself or for anything wicked. Was it wicked to hope her brother found true love? He had looked after her for so long!
After refreshing in her room, she joined the others downstairs. Refreshments were served, and Richard proposed a walk of the grounds.
“I had hoped we could visit Longbourn,” Georgiana said. She felt each of the gentlemen startle at her unexpected request.
“A splendid idea!” Bingley, predictably, agreed. “I’ll let Jefferson know we will need the carriage brought ‘round again.” He left on his errand.
Georgiana mused to herself that she hoped Miss Bennet deserved his esteem and would not break his heart like so many others had done.
“Absolutely not,” Darcy said. “They are not expecting us. You have not been introduced to them. They likely have guests,” he emphasized the word and looked at Richard.
Georgiana held her breath. Richard could many times be counted on to choose the opposite of her brother and often sway Fitzwilliam’s opinion but if the matter turned to protecting her from Wickham then there was little hope. Richard looked at Georgiana for a long moment, seemingly assessing her strength and gumption. She raised her chin.
“I say let her come. If there are any visitors whose acquaintance you would prefer her not to have, better it happens at the Bennet’s than on the streets of Meryton.”
“Thank you!” Georgiana squealed and dashed out of the room before anything else could be said.
A few moments later they were climbing back in the carriage.
“It’s a shame we did not walk,” Richard said.
“It is three miles,” Darcy said. “Much too far for Georgiana.”
“But not for Miss Elizabeth,” Bingley said and winked at Georgiana.
She turned her face to hide her smile. Her brother had quite a lot to say about that particular day in his letter. Out the window, she saw a field of sheep and the familiar outline of a shepherd or two. She had thought her brother too unjust about Meryton, but the fact that it was similar to other parts of England had its comforts. She knew Fitzwilliam felt more at home at Pemberley and visiting the nearby market towns than he did in London, despite his protestations earlier.
“There,” Bingley pointed out the carriage window and Richard pushed aside a curtain. “Longbourn is to the west about where that star is.”
A chill ran up Georgiana’s spine, and she had the strangest feeling she had heard such words before.
Fitzwilliam tugged on his cravat. “When Mrs. Bennet invited us to dinner, I do not think she meant to arrive unexpectedly a month after the invitation was issued. Christmas is in two days; they likely have family visiting! Additionally, they have likely dined by now.”
“As if she will mind,” Richard said. “You and Bingley are as good as lords, kings even, to her, I bet!”
Bingley consulted his watch. “It is nearly seven. If that is too late for dinner, then they will probably be having coffee by then and ask us to stay for supper.”
The coach pulled up at the house, and Georgiana’s heart sped up as she saw several people peer out the window at the unexpected carriage. Several of them wore red Militia coats. She steeled her nerves to meet George Wickham face to face. She would not allow another girl’s heart broken, or worse, be confined to marriage with him. She would shout his true nature from the rooftops, on mountains, over hills, everywhere.
Fitzwilliam handed her down and placed her hand on his arm. She could feel how tense he was. “I wish you had not pushed for this,” he whispered to her, “but Richard and I will be here for you.”
Georgiana gently squeezed his arm. What brother would be so good to her? She had nearly brought ruin to the family. If she had married Wickham, she would have deserved every bit of unhappiness marriage to him would bring, and yet, Georgiana did not doubt Fitzwilliam would have risked life and limb to rescue her from such a fate.
They entered the drawing room, and she was introduced to the Bennet family, Mrs. Bennet’s brother and sister-in-law, several officers…and inevitably, her eyes landed on Wickham. He had the nerve to act pleased to see her and Fitzwilliam. He greeted them with a smile and not even a blush. Beside him, Miss Elizabeth Bennet noticed the interaction. Miss Elizabeth seemed to pay acute attention to her, but Georgiana knew Wickham would never say anything of the truth at least about his dealings with her.
“Georgie, would you like to sit here,” Fitzwilliam motioned to a chair near Mr. Bingley and a very flushed and nervous eldest Miss Bennet.
“No, thank you,” she said firmly and turned toward Wickham and Miss Elizabeth. “Would you mind if I watched the game you were playing?”
“Oh, I think we were finished,” Mr. Wickham said, and his eyes darted around the room looking for a quick escape.
“Indeed, we had found it pleasanter to play with another partner. Won’t you join us?” Miss Elizabeth said with a smile before leading the way to the table.
Wickham just barely lifted the edges of his mouth and turned to follow. Georgiana commanded herself to be calm as she joined them. Unsurprised, she heard footsteps behind her and knew they were Fitzwilliam’s.
“Darcy!” Wickham said and occupied himself with shuffling.
“How surprised we are to see you again, Mr. Darcy,” Miss Elizabeth said with an accusatory look in her eye. “I notice Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst did not join the group. Are they well?”
Georgiana replied before her brother could ruin things. “They preferred to remain in London and I desired to come to Hertfordshire. I do hate parting with my brother.”
“Yes, it was explained to me what a doting brother he is,” Miss Elizabeth said.
“I do not know that it is fair for siblings as close as you two to be on a team,” Wickham said. “Miss Darcy, will you do me the favor of joining my team?”
“Wickham,” Fitzwilliam growled.
Georgiana placed a hand on her brother’s arm. “Certainly, Mr. Wickham. We have much to discuss since the last time we met.” She extended her hand. “If you please, I will deal.”
As she handed out the cards, she could see each person at the table assessing the other. The wheels turned furiously in Wickham’s brain, but Georgiana knew that her boldness was so unexpected none of his usual charming maneuvers would work.
“Do you know Mr. Wickham well, Miss Darcy?” Elizabeth asked as she arranged her cards. “I was under the impression that Mr. Darcy had not seen much of Mr. Wickham in many years.”
“Oh, Mr. Wickham and I met again last summer and had quite an acquaintance.”
“Indeed?” Elizabeth said and frowned as Fitzwilliam threw down the wrong card.
“Do not worry about my former maid,” Georgiana said in a fake whisper to Mr. Wickham. “She and the babe are well.”
Immediately Wickham turned red, Fitzwilliam choked on his glass of wine and Miss Elizabeth’s eyebrows shot to her hairline.
“She had a message for me to deliver to you if you would be so kind as to read it later,” Georgiana said with a wink to Wickham.
“I cannot imagine what she would be saying to me,” he said and took a gulp of wine.
“Oh, I would never presume to know what lovers or former lovers would say to one another. After all, our acquaintance was never so genuine as that, was it?”
Miss Elizabeth nervously bit her lower lip. “I think I had better see if Mama needs any assistance–”
“No, do not trouble yourself, Miss Elizabeth,” Fitzwilliam said. “Georgiana, cease this. You have proved to me you can meet with him without alarm, but now you only make matters conspicuous.”
“What care I if others take notice?” Georgiana said while lifting her chin. “Others should take notice!”
Around them, she heard the whispers of others who seemed focused on their table.
“It is growing late. I think I should leave,” Wickham said and stood.
“What, do you not have charming words for the predicament you’re in?” Fitzwilliam said.
“What predicament is he in?” Elizabeth asked.
“Fitzwilliam, they cannot be left unawares,” Georgiana said even as she looked at her hands and blushed.
Her brother squeezed her hands and stood. “You are correct. Wickham, I will see you out and then I believe I should have a private conversation with Mr. Bennet. One that will be repeated with other fathers in the area after the Holiday.”
By now, Wickham was walking to the door. He did not take care to say goodbye to Mrs. Bennet or anyone else, and several people called after him.
“Miss Darcy, will you please explain to me what is going on?” Miss Elizabeth asked in a worried tone.
“Certainly, but somewhere private is best,” she suggested.
“Follow me,” Miss Elizabeth stood.
As Georgiana did likewise, she suddenly had to grip the table for support. A loud ringing sounded in her ears. The clock in the room chimed, but this was as though bells were swung in her head. Growing dizzy, she felt herself falling sidewise as the world turned white.