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Well, do you think Angelica is in for a tongue lashing? Who do you think is the sterner parent, Darcy or Elizabeth?
The following morning before breakfast, Angelica meekly entered her father’s study. She hoped if she spoke with him first, then he might be more lenient on her. He might even convince her mother as well. Although, too often, Mrs. Darcy did not give way, saying she well knew the manipulation of being a father’s favourite daughter. Of course, Angelica would not say she was Mr. Darcy’s favourite. He doted on all of his female offspring, though admittedly, Raphaela tried his patience more than the others.
“Good morning, dearest,” Mrs. Darcy said from one of the chairs facing the fireplace.
Angelica swallowed the cry of disappointment and frustration that nearly leapt from her mouth.
“Please sit,” Mrs. Darcy continued. “It seems we must have a serious conversation.”
“Will Papa join us?”
“Yes, he was seeing Mr. John Ward to the library and will return momentarily.”
Angelica eyed her mother warily as the matron poured tea for them. When Mrs. Darcy had it just as she liked, she brought the cup to her mouth, sighing as the delectable beverage slid down her throat.
“I remember my come out,” Mrs. Darcy said. “I was a ball of nerves. I knew I could not compare to Jane in beauty or agreeableness. Your grandmother had no compunction about reminding me. I was even younger than you are now. Mama put each of us out at sixteen.”
Angelica’s eyes widened. “I do not think I would have been ready to face the world at that age.”
“Indeed. I do not think I was either.” Mrs. Darcy put down her cup. “That is to say, I had my share of mishaps and disgraces. Part of it is merely the transition from girlhood to womanhood. Your Aunt Georgiana had similar difficulties.”
“Aunt Georgie struck her brother’s friend?”
Mrs. Darcy’s eyes widened, and she sputtered. “You did what?”
Angelica paled. It appeared her mother did not know everything about yesterday’s incident. “I…well…”
“I knew only about the torn gown sleeves. Of course, with the size of sleeves nowadays, I am surprised any of them endure. I did not know there had been an altercation with a guest!” She put a hand to her head, a motion typically reserved for Raphaela’s stunts. “Which gentleman was assaulted? The poor boys will never have any friends remaining after this.”
Intending to deflect her blame, Angelica stood to her feet. “Will you not ask why I resorted to such means?”
“You will not talk your way out of this, young lady. Sit back down. I know if you had truly needed to defend yourself, then you would tell us.”
Reluctantly, Angelica returned to her seat, folding her arms across her chest. Behind her, she heard the door’s opening and closing and then the familiar sounds of her father’s steps. Her heart slumped. They would never let her join George and Malachi now.
Mr. Darcy paused and looked between his wife and eldest daughter. “I believe I know the cause of your cross looks.”
“You knew that our daughter struck a guest and did not tell me?” Mrs. Darcy asked, her ire redirected to her husband. Angelica sucked in a breath.
“Mr. John Ward just told me about the misunderstanding he had with several of our offspring yesterday. He has said that all parties apologised to him, and he extended his as well. He desired to put it all behind him and only told me so the children would not be punished.”
“What, exactly, happened?” Mrs. Darcy’s eyes swung to Angelica. Mr. Darcy watched with interest.
“Papa, why not tell us what Mr. Ward has told you, and then I can fill in any gaps?”
“He only said that Tommy believed he was throwing apples at him, and Raphaela retaliated — but you stopped her.”
“Did he mention that Angelica struck him at some point?” Mrs. Darcy raised a brow.
Angelica’s cheeks burned.
“Well, it seems that would be a fine place to fill in the gaps, as you said,” Mr. Darcy said with a smirk.
“He mocked Rafie then insulted all of us. I lost my temper.”
“So, you hit him?” Mrs. Darcy cried.
“I tried to best him with my words, Mama, but I fear I lack some of your talent.”
That cheeky reply earned a laugh from Mr. Darcy, who received another glare from his wife. Quickly sobering, he cleared his throat before speaking. “No lasting harm has come to Mr. Ward. I suppose he knows not to insult our children, and,” he looked at Angelica with raised brows, “I believe Angelica knows to handle the situation differently if another scene ever arises.”
“Yes, Papa,” she eagerly agreed.
Mrs. Darcy was not so easily assuaged. “If you wish to join us in London this season, then you must act accordingly.”
“I promise. I will do better.” Angelica smoothed her hands over her gown. “In fact, I was hoping to speak with you. I know George and Malachi are to have a tour of Scotland—”
“They have changed their minds to Ireland,” Mr. Darcy said. “It seems Mr. Ward has put it in their heads to take the train to Liverpool and a ship from there.”
Somewhat taken aback by the sudden change in plans during a speech she had rehearsed many times, Angelica mustered her courage to continue. “Splendid. In that case, I request to join them.”
“You wish to journey with your brothers to Ireland? It would mean a sea journey.”
“But a brief one,” Angelica countered. “I can endure it — and a train ride sounds thrilling!”
Mrs. Darcy’s forehead wrinkled, and she exchanged a look with her husband. They said nothing but their unspoken conversation seemed heavy indeed. However, if Angelica read her parents’ correctly, her request did not seem unexpected.
“Why should we trust you after the incident yesterday?” Mr. Darcy asked.
Angelica winced at her father’s words. “I only came to my siblings’ defense. Surely George and Malachi will need no protection from me.”
“You will need to obey them,” Mrs. Darcy cautioned.
“I will obey their every word.” She had always got on well with her brothers. She had been a partner in their escapades as much as a younger sister could be.
“George is going to oversee the harvest at the Irish estate,” Mr. Darcy said. “Malachi goes with him for practical experience. This is not merely a pleasure tour. You might grow bored.”
“I have always occupied myself well enough with a book or a country lane.”
“That you have,” Mr. Darcy smiled. “Much like your mother that way.” He met his wife’s eyes. “I am inclined to consent. Did you not just tell me to trust her?”
“That was before yesterday morning—” Angelica attempted to interrupt, but Mrs. Darcy held up a hand. “I understand it was a rare set of circumstances. I am only being cautious by bringing it up again. However, I will concede that you have had no incidents like that in many years, and you have been most helpful with your younger siblings. You quite deserve a holiday before you must endure London.”
“Does that mean you agree to let me go?” Angelica held her excitement — and her breath.
Angelica grinned and clapped. Instantly, she jumped from her chair to kiss her mother on her cheek. “I promise I shall listen to everything Malachi and George say to me.”
“See that you do,” Mrs. Darcy chuckled.
“Do I not get any thanks?” Mr. Darcy teased. Angelica dashed to her father’s side, lifting on tiptoes to kiss him on the cheek. He laughed, dimples showing, making him appear ten years younger. “Now, go and tell your brothers the news. They are in the billiards room. You must thank them as well. They have bent our ear about it for weeks.”
“I regret every mean thing I ever said about them when I was younger,” Angelica laughed. “They are not big, stinky oafs.”
Mr. and Mrs. Darcy joined in the laughter before Angelica practically floated from the chamber. She went directly to the billiards room and opened the door without knocking. Inside, she was surprised to see other gentlemen with her brothers — but then it was a favourite place for all the men who visited Pemberley.
“I was sure you would gain Papa’s approval,” George said when she had shared her news. “However, I was less certain about Mama.”
“I had to promise to listen to every word you and Malachi told me to do.”
“Indeed?” Malachi chuckled. “We shall have fun with that, will we not, George?”
Angelica frowned. “You must not tease me too much. I am to be a proper lady.”
Malachi and George shared a look before laughing. “Of course, dear sister,” George said. “I shall rein in my brother’s desire for frivolity. I mean to be quite the taskmaster of him once we reach the estate.”
“On that note, I think I will retire to the library. I have much to read!”
Upon reaching the book room, Angelica was surprised to see John Ward sitting in a chair. She had supposed he was in the billiards room, but she had been too excited to speak with her brothers to pay attention to the others. Belatedly, she recalled her mother saying Mr. Ward was being shown something in the library.
“Good day,” Mr. Ward said after standing and bowing upon her entry.
Angelica returned the greeting. “I am surprised that you are not in the billiards room with the other young men.”
Mr. Ward shrugged. “It does not hold much interest for me. I can enjoy a few games well enough but could not while away my entire morning at it.”
“You prefer reading?”
“I prefer activity, but one does not often meet with a library as well-supplied as Pemberley’s. It would be remiss of me to not take advantage of it.”
Angelica merely nodded. She had often heard that the library was far better than most had in their homes. Her mother and father loved to read and were always adding volumes to it. She perused the shelves, looking for a work about Liverpool, but could not find it.
“We seem to have a similar interest in reading topics this morning,” Mr. Ward said. “However, as you do not appear to have found what you are looking for, I fear that I may have the book you desire.”
Angelica whirled around, her voluminous skirts swishing around her ankles. “You are reading the book about Liverpool?”
“I thought it fitting as I am to join your brothers as a bit of a guide.”
“You are coming with us to Liverpool?” Angelica’s brows rose.
“With us?” He gaped at her. “I did not know that you would be joining them.”
“It was just decided. It has been the dearest wish of mine for quite some time…” She frowned at Mr. Ward’s look of disbelief. “You do not think it appropriate for me to go?”
“I think nothing of the sort.”
“Then, do you doubt my ability in some fashion? I assure you I have read many reports of ladies travelling — even by train. I have quite enough mettle in me.”
Mr. Ward chuckled. “Of that, I unequivocally believe. I am sorry if I inadvertently gave offense with my reaction. It merely caught me by surprise.”
Angelica was not entirely sure she believed him. However, his opinion did not matter very much to her. It would be better to not pry into his reasons, lest they argue.
“Would you care for the book? It is yours, after all.”
“Nonsense. You were reading it first. I will find something else.”
“Perhaps I could read aloud?”
“That seems the perfect compromise,” Angelica said with a smile. “Please allow me one moment before you begin.” She gathered writing supplies to take notes while he read.
Soon, however, Angelica found that she was growing too distracted with the sound of Mr. Ward’s voice and the movement of his mouth. He would pause now and then to add more descriptions of various buildings. He was incredibly knowledgeable about history and technology. Before too long, he had put the book aside, and they conversed openly about the large cities of the North and even the busyness of the Irish port cities of Belfast and Londonderry. Angelica had never been so fascinated with a person’s conversation or as envious of their experiences. Typically, one to never miss a meal, she was astonished when her sister entered the room hours later to announce luncheon in the garden.
Did you guess correctly on which parent was the least indulgent? What do you think of the friendship emerging between Angelica and Mr. Ward?