I’m sorry this is a bit tardy this week. My husband has been home sick today with flu like symptoms, I had a migraine most of the day, and I was ill all last weekend so I didn’t get things scheduled ahead of time. The plot thickens with this chapter!
The following morning, Elizabeth, Jane, and Mary awaited Georgiana’s arrival at Longhorn. When, at last, the carriage arrived no one got out.
After waiting several minutes, Jane broke the silence. “Perhaps she does not wish to leave the coach.”
“This most unusual,” Elizabeth said. “For I know Will desired her to come in and meet the family.”
“I can hardly blame her for not wanting to meet any of us,” Mary interjected. “What are we to the Darcy’s? We should go to her.”
“I suppose so,” said Elizabeth. “Although, Will had wanted her to come and greet the family.”
“I daresay if your Will truly wanted that to happen, he would have ridden with her,” Mary observed.
Elizabeth forced herself not to reply to her sister’s rather annoying opinion. “She was very shy as a young girl. Perhaps once we have shopped and chatted and gotten to know one other again, she shall be more willing to come inside.”
“Yes, I think you are right, Lizzy,” said Jane.
The girls collected their outerwear and walked to the coach. Once inside, conversation was nearly nonexistent. Thankfully, the journey to Meryton was a quick one. It was so short the girls often choose to walk. Elizabeth sighed to herself. This must be part of becoming Mrs. Darcy. She could not expect to have the freedom to walk to so many places any longer. As she observed Miss Darcy, it appeared to Elizabeth that an additional reason for the carriage was likely due to the younger girl’s shopping habits. They would need the space for all of her purchases.
“Here we are,” Elizabeth chirped.
“How quaint,” Georgiana said in a disapproving tone.
“I am sure it is not as sophisticated as London,” Mary said. “But it does have its charms.”
“Indeed, Elizabeth said with a smile. “I recall from Sam’s letters that the area around Pemberley was not as large and did not have as new styles. For a country town, I imagine Meryton might have more to offer in the way of shopping and people to meet than many others.”
“I hope you will not miss it too much, Miss Elizabeth. You should know that my brother does not favor town, so on your marriage, you will be spending much time in the country with far fewer shops and people to meet. I know many people are aghast when they learn my brother does not host lavish parties or run up bills at all the local shops.”
Elizabeth glanced at Jane, confused Georgiana’s annoyed tone. “I assure you, Georgiana, I quite love the country and look forward to seeing my new home.”
“I do wish for you to call me Miss Darcy. Additionally, you should know there is much more to running an estate as large as Pemberley than merely seeing all of its grand rooms and expensive furnishings.”
“Indeed,” Elizabeth said. “I did not mean to make it sound like anything else. I know Pemberley is larger than Longbourn, but I believe I am up to the task of managing it. Of course, with the help of you and the housekeeper.”
Georgiana laughed. “I am afraid I will of be no help. I shall spend most of my time in London. I take my lessons very seriously. Perhaps, I might teach you various accomplishments.” Georgiana’s eyes lingered on Mary and Jane. “If you ever invite your sisters, that his if Will ever believes they are worthy of my company, I should be happy to assist them as well.”
Elizabeth was saved from having to reply further to Georgianna by the footmen opening the door. One by one, he handed the ladies down. Once outside, Georgiana surveyed the square with a critical eye. If Elizabeth had thought Will was proud when they first met all those years ago, it was nothing compared to the expression of his sister.
“Where would you like to start, Miss Darcy?” asked Jane. “We have a milliner, a dressmaker, even a bookseller who sometimes gets music.”
“Lizzy must go to the dressmaker and milliner, and Jane prefers those as well. However,” said Mary, “if you would prefer the bookshop, I always came to visit it. I would welcome your opinion of our offerings compared to London’s shops.”
“What? Have you never been to town?
“No,” Mary answered looking at her shoes. “I have just come out, and my relations have only ever invited Jane and Lizzy.”
“You must not feel left out, Mary.” Jane put her arm around her sister. “You are out, and now that Lizzy is getting married there will be additional space in their home for you. Nor must you make it sound as though we were always visiting. There many years we could not as Aunt was too busy with the children.”
“I know,” Mary sighed.
“In that case,” Georgiana said with a smile, “I do like your suggestion, Miss Mary.”
“Really?” Mary asked in surprise.
“Indeed! Music is my greatest joy in life, and the instrument at Netherfield is quite nice. It does not compare to the one at Pemberley or even Darcy house, but it will do. However,” Georgiana rolled her eyes, “I cannot abide by Miss Bingley’s taste. I do not know that we shall find anything suitable here, but it is worth a look.”
“I also greatly enjoy playing.” Mary gave Georgiana a timid smile. “I am sure my talent is nothing to yours after training with Masters in town. If you desire to teach me, I very much would like to learn.”
“Excellent!” Georgiana linked her arm through Mary’s. “We should go to the bookshop and then meet your sisters at the dressmaker’s.” They began to step away.
Mary looked over her shoulder. “You do not mind, Lizzy, do you?
“Of course not,” Elizabeth shook her head. “It is very appropriate for you to spend time together especially as you have such similar interests. I also enjoy playing but lack the passion Mary has for it. I would love to hear you play again, Miss Darcy. I have very fond memories of it from years ago. You must be even more improved since then.”
As Elizabeth and Jane made their way to the dressmaker and the milliner, Elizabeth could not help but wonder at Georgiana changing from the girl she had known five years ago. This Elizabeth could explain to herself. Georgiana was now at the most trying years of a young lady’s life, and some alteration in mood and temperament would be expected. Her kindness to Mary would be proof that her ill-nature was not a permanent change, except that Elizabeth did not trust Georgiana was genuinely interested in Mary.
Mary was a year older, but Georgiana appeared the elder in many ways. Although she was the younger lady, Georgiana had gone to London and been in the world. She had already made the mistake of trusting George Wickham and now believed brother tore her apart from a constant lover. Mary, by contrast, was quiet. The only common interests or experiences they could have would be the pianoforte. While Mary counted it as an accomplishment, she played mostly for enjoyment and did not have the skills at seventeen that Georgiana had at twelve. Georgiana had many years worth of music masters. Mary did not usually separate from Jane and Elizabeth on their trips to Meryton, and it concerned Elizabeth how quickly Georgiana manipulated everyone around her.
Elizabeth concerns seemed for not, however, when Mary and Georgiana arrived at the dressmaker’s in due time, none the worse for the wear. “How did you find the bookshop, Miss Darcy?” Elizabeth asked.
“Mary was quite correct. It is nothing compared to the sophisticated shops of London. However, it will do, and I did find this,” she held up a package, “It is not as new as the pieces I find in Town but far better than what Miss Bingley has at Netherfield.”
“She bought me some pieces as well,” Mary said with a blush.
“That was not necessary, Miss Darcy,” Jane said. “We would have lent Mary the money if she did not have enough.”
“Think nothing of it. There is nothing I would not do for my friend.”
The expression Miss Darcy wore almost fooled Elizabeth. It likely would have convinced anyone else of her good intentions. Elizabeth wondered if Will knew how Georgiana spent her money. He was no spendthrift, and he would not approve of his sister becoming one. However, she did do something kind, and it was only music, so there is little reason to criticize.
“We wished to show you around the square, now,” Jane said.
Elizabeth had expected Georgiana to refuse, but so few could ever decline anything Jane offered. Georgiana’s lips turned up in a fake smile, and she linked her arm through Mary’s. “I see no harm. Perhaps we will meet with some new acquaintances as you seem so fond of doing Miss Elizabeth.”
Elizabeth thought she saw a look pass between Georgiana and Mary but then decided it was merely due to her annoyance at Georgiana’s behavior. They ambled along the square for some time for seeing Charlotte. Charlotte acknowledged them with a curtsy and a light blush. She looked as though she were on the verge of hastening away, but Jane called out her.
“Charlotte, how are you?” Jane asked.
“Tolerably well. I hope you and your family are you good health.” She glanced at Elizabeth. “How do the wedding plans come?”
“We are all very well. Thank you for asking. Mama is making such a fuss about the wedding, but after having to wait for so long, I fear I quite like it.”
Charlotte looked at Miss Darcy, and her eyes asked the unspoken question. Good manners dictated that Elizabeth must wait for Georgiana to request an introduction, but she doubted the girl would ask for one. The Bennet ladies continue to speak with Charlotte in stilted conversation as Elizabeth and Charlotte had not entirely repaired their friendship. At length, Charlotte turned to go and resume her activity when her eyes widened, and a new blush came to cheeks. The others could not help glancing at whatever she had seen. The only thing Elizabeth could see a note was a young man in an officer’s uniform, but he was not of the militia. He rode his mount quite well. He was no Fitzwilliam Darcy, and yet something about him reminded Elizabeth of her betrothed.
“Richard,” Georgiana said surprised.
Elizabeth looked at the man with more interest as she now understood him to be Will’s cousin. He directed his horse to their position.
“How do you do, Georgiana? Have you enjoyed your shop?”
“I have found some music that meets my standards and the ladies are showing me around the square.”
“Indeed, if I were a lady that sounds like an enjoyable morning. Would you introduce me to your new friends?”
Georgiana introduced Jane, Elizabeth, and Mary, but stumbled for a moment when she got Charlotte.
“I will introduce who I can,” Georgiana said.
One by one she introduced the Bennet sisters. After the usual civil replies, Georgiana looked expectantly at Elizabeth. The older girl sighed. She ought to have expected such behaviour from Will’s sister given her age and circumstances in life. She had built fairy tales in her head about her future with Will, and they might never become a reality. Well, difficult sisters were not the worst of her worries. Elizabeth drew her shoulders back.
“And this is our good friend Miss Charlotte Lucas.” Elizabeth felt a twinge of remorse as the statement no longer felt true. “Her father is our local knight. You are certain to meet Sir William soon and see for yourself how very friendly he is.”
“It is a pleasure to meet you, Miss Lucas,” Colonel Fitzwilliam said with a twinkle in his eye men usually held only for Jane. His words seemed to have stirred Charlotte from a blushing stupor.
“For me as well,” she said while directing her eyes past him.
“A friend to Miss Elizabeth is a friend to my cousin Will and therefore a friend to me.”
Charlotte frowned at the further mention of Will. “Likewise. Pardon me, I have forgotten that Mama needed me home by now.”
Elizabeth watched as the woman who used to be her friend scurried away but peeked over her shoulder for one more look at them. How very curious.
“If you ladies are finished shopping, I would escort you to the carriage. I could follow Georgiana back from Longbourn and then she will not have to ride unchaperoned.”
Georgiana looked displeased with the notion but took her cousin’s arm when he offered it. Between Elizabeth and Jane, they managed to chat with the Colonel until they reached the carriage. Georgiana remained resentfully silent while Mary appeared more pensive.
Gallantly, the Colonel handed each lady in. When Elizabeth placed her hand in his, she felt an object slide into her fingers. Sneaking a peek at it once in the carriage, she saw a tightly folded piece of paper with a snippet of Will’s handwriting. Her heart fluttered in her chest. How she loved notes from her betrothed. However, why did he not bring it to Longbourn? Or if he could not call, then he might have sought her out in Meryton rather than sending his cousin.
The thoughts swirled in Elizabeth’s head as the carriage began to pull away and its occupants were in discussion describing Longbourn to the Colonel. Elizabeth turned her head to view the passing scenery, and her heart nearly stuttered to a stop at what she saw. There, on the streets of Meryton, was George Wickham.