I didn’t write as much as I had planned last week because I fell into my TBR pile and could not get out for several days. 🙂 It took quite a bit of will power after four straight days of reading to resist the urge to read a sample for the next book in a series which had sucked me in. It is now taunting me as a reward if I meet my word count goal.
Oh, and if you missed my other post, I had to have a COVID-19 test last week. The only symptom I had was a fever and it only lasted for a few hours, but it was the day before I was to have an appointment with my new neurologist and their policy is to refer for screening if you have a fever. Once I talked to the doctor about screening, it was recommended I test since I’m high risk. I was relatively sure the test would be negative, and it was. However, I will admit to allowing myself be lazier than I would have been since I had to isolate from my family more.
In case you haven’t read the comments, I thought I’d explain some here. Pregnancy during this time was not as easy to diagnose as merely a missed period. In fact, doctors and midwives would not say a woman was for sure pregnant until she felt movement, known as quickening. That is, generally, in the 5th month of pregnancy. Even today, many women have to miss two or three periods in a row before they will take a pregnancy test. There are also many things which can cause a period to be absent, including anxiety which Elizabeth is certainly feeling. So far, Elizabeth has had what she believes is a period. Light bleeding in the first trimester is common. Additionally, I am unsure how much would have been taught to maidens before the wedding night. I’m sure when she started her period, she was told it was normal. But I’m less sure she would be told if she misses one it means a baby is coming because who would think their maiden daughter would be doing such things? They didn’t have sex ed classes and even in my lifetime (I’m 34) parents have proven to be reticent as well as uneducated on the topic. I think it is more likely that Elizabeth would associate pregnancy with other signs she probably saw in her mother and aunt: nausea, fatigue, maybe fainting. As Elizabeth has none of these symptoms and has had some form of bleeding, she’s convinced all is well. If one of those things changes, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to exercise caution rather than leap to the idea that she’s pregnant. She’s amenable to getting to know Darcy better, but she wouldn’t want to rush into a marriage, especially if it means she might be wrong about matters. The only thing that I think would be more awkward than the “So, I thought I wasn’t pregnant but I am,” conversation would be “So I said I was pregnant and we got married, but it turns out that I’m not.” The latter has much more room for regret and resentment too, which is something that has always been on her mind regarding marriage with Darcy.
That being said, this chapter gives us Darcy in Ireland. He may be separated from Elizabeth by a sea and many miles, but how far is she from his thoughts?
Darcy stared out at the rolling hills of the Irish countryside. Georgiana had not wanted to visit Scotland as the mere mention of that country brought back memories of her near elopement with Wickham. Darcy had been to their estate here once with his father but had not found the time since he became master to return. The vibrant and lush green was more beautiful than he remembered. Georgiana pulled up beside him on her horse.
“It is breathtaking,” she said.
“How would you like to return here every year?”
“I can think of nothing better. While everyone else goes to seaside resorts, we can come here to the wildness and solitude.”
“Do you think you would be up for the voyage across the sea so often?” Georgiana had trouble with seasickness on the journey.
“I was not so very sick. It’s very worth it. I suppose when the war with Napoleon is over, travels to the Continent will resume. I should like to visit France and maybe even as far as Italy. Our mother did, after all, and I am no more delicate than she was.”
“No, you are far more robust than I recall Mother being.” Darcy could think of another healthy young lady who would love the many journeys his sister now planned. He tucked away the thought, envisioning Elizabeth, at the moment, would not do.
“It is the price we must pay for being English, I suppose. While the seas provide a better fortification should we need it, we must traverse it to travel.”
“We could go to Wales sometime. We have an estate near the border. Or would you rather try Bath next winter?” He did not believe Elizabeth had ever been to Bath.
“Instead of London?” Georgiana thought for a moment. “It would be the ideal time, would it not. The following winter would be after my come out and should be spent in London.”
Even if Darcy did not already know the subject made his sister uneasy, he would be able to tell by the way her horse fidgeted, sensing the rider’s nerves. “We could always delay it. Or perhaps you do not need to make a debut in London at all.”
Georgiana’s eyes snapped to his. “Do you truly mean it? I would not have to be paraded around like a horse going to the highest bidder?”
“Is that what you think it is like?”
“That is what you have certainly made it sound like. I know you will say the probability of finding a well-established man as a husband would be smaller without taking part in the Season. But you are the best man I know, and you have not been ensnared by any lady during your many years in London. Neither has one ever caught your eye. I do not think it is the place to find a spouse unless all you care about is money and prestige.” She sighed. “And despite my folly from last summer, I truly wish for a love match, Fitzwilliam.”
Perhaps life would have been easier, or at least more conventional, for the Darcy siblings if their parents had not loved one another so much. It made the idea of marrying without love entirely distasteful. He said nothing to his sister, who seemed content to fill the silence for them.
“I know you must think the same, or you would have married our cousin Anne long before now.”
“Perhaps I do not think she would make a very good wife or the mistress of Pemberley.”
Georgiana cocked her head. “While it is true that she has been able to avoid learning many of the accomplishments other ladies have had to—I think because Lady Catherine has always assumed Anne already had a husband and he surely didn’t care about such stupid things—I do not doubt she has been taught something of estate management. She has been almost entirely brought up to be your wife.”
Now it was Darcy’s horse that stamped its feet as its master shifted the reins in his hands. “You are perfectly correct. I do want to marry for love, and Anne stirs nothing of that kind of emotion in me. We have discussed it, however, and we are in agreement. She does not want me as a husband, either. She only lacks the will power to stand up to her mother.”
“I suppose Anne and I are alike in some ways,” Georgiana said. “Neither of us needs a husband to find security in life. We are very fortunate, and while some might call us foolish to want a love match, I do not think so. Nor would I say we are fearless. Do you think there are ladies out there who are willing to turn down wealthy gentlemen they do not love? I should like to think so. I should hope some of my sex have some courage about them.”
Darcy made some nondescript answer affirming her hope. He could never confess to his sister that he, indeed, knew that there was at least one woman in all the world who would turn down a rich man that he did not love. He would never tell her of his experience of just such a scenario.
Almost as soon as the thought formed in his mind, the image of Elizabeth accusing him of extreme pride emerged. He had wrestled with her accusations ever since that night at Rosings. He was innocent of some of the charges she laid against him. He had not meant anything cruel by discouraging the attachment between Bingley and Miss Bennet. Indeed, he had righted that wrong and expected to hear of a betrothal soon. He had given Wickham more than was his due. While it might be natural for most men of eight and twenty to hide their failures from any sister, especially one so much younger, he thought, perhaps, this was a sign of his pride that he did not have under proper regulation. He had wondered what sort of man Elizabeth would want to marry, and here was a piece of it. She wanted a man with humility, who could bear some form of disgrace with regret and long-suffering, not a man who would boastfully declare with indignance how entitled he was.
“Are you listening to me, Fitzwilliam?”
Georgiana laid a hand on Darcy’s arm, pulling him from his thoughts. “I apologise. My mind had wandered. What did you say?”
“I had suggested a race to the house. Shall we?”
Darcy grinned. “You will never beat me.”
“Oh, I will one day. For you will be an old man long before I shall be an old lady.”
Georgiana laughed and started off at a dash, leaving Darcy behind for a moment before he urged his horse forward. A few minutes later, they had reached the stables. Darcy beat Georgiana by mere seconds. They dismounted while short of breath from the exertion and their laughter. After returning to the house, they parted to bathe and change, meeting again at dinner.
The evening passed in the usual way. Whether it was spent at London, Pemberley, or his Irish estate, there seemed little variance. That had always comforted Darcy in the past. London certainly offered the opportunity for different settings, but then each event was similar in the same tedious way. He could never enjoy whatever entertainment he desired for too many others sought his attention. Even a private dinner, soiree, or musicale involved too many unattached females on the prowl with their matchmaking mamas and eager papas and brothers. Balls were by far the worst as any opportunity for discussion was limited, and most men persuaded not to dance remained in the card room where the gambling and vulgar speech disgusted Darcy. What he and Georgiana needed was Elizabeth. She had always found a way to make the evenings at Netherfield and Rosings interesting.
The following morning, Darcy and Georgiana rode over the countryside again. Mrs. Annesley preferred to remain indoors. Darcy had always enjoyed the rides with his sister. It allowed them to talk freely. They stopped at a stream and allowed their horses to drink. Dismounting, they walked along the water, enjoying the sights nature had born.
“I wish to tell you something, Georgiana. It is challenging for me, but I think I need this lesson in humility.”
“I cannot think why you think so! You are not arrogant.”
Darcy smiled at her defense. “In certain company, I can be. I can certainly seem so. My speech is not regulated and can give offense. I do not know that I have regretted anything else more in my life.”
They came upon a tree bent in such a way as to provide seating. He motioned for his sister to sit as he paced in front of her.
“Yesterday, you had wondered if there were ladies who would refuse a wealthy man because they did not love him. I can assure you, personally, there is at least one, and I would have you follow her suit in many ways, but especially in this case.”
“Fitzwilliam,” Georgiana cried. “You cannot mean that you offered for a lady, and she rejected you! No woman of sense would—”
“The woman of which I speak is very sensible and had every right. I had given her enough cause to hate me forever. I spoke against the position of her family—even in my proposal.”
“You did not!”
“I did,” Darcy shook his head. “Your brother was an arrogant, bumbling fool. Does it shock you?”
Georgiana gave him a look of pity and shook his head. “I can see how if someone does not know you well and you are agitated or nervous, you might appear to disadvantage. But surely if you knew her well enough to propose…”
“She did not understand my character, through no fault of her own. I was very guarded in her presence, as well as nervous, as you said. She has a far more open demeanor and had no reason to inspect me closer. I had feared my admiration was too obvious, but I know now that I caught her by surprise. She had no notion of me fancying her at all.”
His sister chuckled a little. “That I have no difficulty believing. You never seem to approve of any lady and only drop your mask of inscrutable indifference with very few.”
“It was pride that was my failing. I was not proud in the ways she had imagined, but I was too proud to show my true self to her. I confess this to you in an endeavor to mend that part of me. Had she no reason to dislike me, she would have refused me because she did not love me.”
Darcy took his sister’s hands in his. “I would have you learn from my mistakes. When you find a man to love, do not hide behind the Darcy name or our position. Do not fear that you will make the same mistake you did with George Wickham—for that too is an element of pride. You do not want risk thinking any lower of yourself or exposing yourself as insufficient to another gentleman. To truly love is to lose all pride and worry about self-preservation.”
Squeezing her hands, he added with more animation. “And when you receive another offer, do not accept it if you do not love the man more than your very life. No matter what friends would say to you, no matter what you think I or the world expects of you. Any man that you love and loves you in return will be gladly accepted by me.”
When he had finished, tears glistened in Georgiana’s eyes. She flung herself in his arms, and they embraced for a short moment. Drawing back, Georgiana kissed his cheek. “Thank you. You are the dearest of brothers. I am so very sorry for you, though. I wish I could tell this woman how good you truly are.”
Darcy gave her a sad smile. “I appreciate the sentiment, but it is not such an easy step from esteeming someone to falling in love.”
They walked back to their horses, who had finished drinking and were now grazing on grass. “If you worry she hates you, then perhaps my words can offer some sway. It might not inspire love, but it could hardly hurt your case. Or have you given up?”
Darcy shook his head. “You sound like Richard. I have merely withdrawn to create a new strategy. Perhaps when you next meet her, you might offer up your praise. I am certain, however, that action speaks louder than words for her.”
“When I next meet her! Do I know the lady?”
“Indeed, and you have often heard of her in letters from me and in speech from Mr. Bingley.”
Georgiana looked thoughtful as Darcy helped her mount her horse. “Ben something…” She frowned. “Not the lady Mr. Bingley is enamoured with. Oh! But her sister! The one at the theatre. I did notice you had talked with her when you thought no one noticed. She did not appear to hate you, I think. She seemed confused.”
“That certainly made two of us,” Darcy laughed. “It might be the first time that we ever shared a similar emotion.” Well, besides unbridled passion, he thought.
“Elizabeth. Elizabeth Bennet.” Georgiana grinned as she remembered the name at last.
“Remember the name, Georgiana. For one day, I will make her my wife, and she will be your sister. I have no idea how or when I will succeed, but I will.” With such determination, he led them back to the house.