Friday Feature– The Gentleman’s Impertinent Daughter SECOND EDITION (Chapter Two)

Previous Chapter: Chapter One

Darcy walked in stunned amazement, relying on his sister to guide him toward their townhouse. His head struggled to understand all that transpired, but he had no time for reflection. And reflect he surely would. That is, on the young lady’s pert opinions and the shocking connections they shared; for surely, he could think on these things without getting lost in reverie of the lady’s beauty. However, for now, the matter at hand was his sister and how these ladies made her blossom in a matter of minutes. She had, in fact, been livelier today than in recent months, perhaps years.

 “….and he thought I was an angel! Me! I know I am not so beautiful but bless him for thinking so. And I certainly am not good at all.”

Darcy placed his free hand on top of his sister’s that now clutched his arm. “Sweetling, we have talked about this. You were deceived not only by Wickham but by your governess. I also bear a great bit of fault as well. I should have known more of Mrs. Younge, and I should have foreseen Wickham’s desire for revenge. I should have explained his character to you.

“You are now a young lady, although I tend to think of you as my baby sister still. It was natural to feel attraction for Wickham; to enjoy his attentions and flattery. One must learn how to decipher a trustworthy character and in your case your protectors failed.”

“But I should have known to tell you earlier,” Georgiana insisted as she shook her head. “I should have known how improper a secret courtship and elopement was. I should have realized how imprudent a match it was at any rate. He has no real income.”

“And how do you realize these things now, Sweetling?” Darcy asked patiently. “Because it has been explained to you. You would not know intuitively what was never said.”

“But as a Darcy…”

“Stop. We have a beautiful legacy and heritage, but our forefathers were just as human and flawed as we.” Darcy shook his head at the conceited folly of it all. “A happy accident of birth does not make us superior to others. Although blessed with worldly goods and an opportunity to better ourselves morally through education, human nature is the same regardless of class.”

“I have never heard you speak so! I have not heard you profess the opposite, but Aunt Catherine has certainly said such and at school we were taught our better birth made us innately superior.” 

Georgiana paused for a moment remembering the mean and condescending treatment she received at the hands of many of her own social superiors. As a gentleman’s daughter, many at her London school took every moment they could to explain her inferiority. She often felt isolated at her school and had no genuine friends, emotions which Mrs. Younge and Wickham easily exploited.

Georgiana had also often believed she would have never succumbed to Wickham’s seduction if she had the superior birth of a lady; her faults indicated her lower birth. She welcomed the thought of being equal in nature to the ladies she had just met. Not being intrinsically inferior was a welcome respite from her dark thoughts.

She peered at her brother as a thought struck her. “We have discussed my transgressions many times this summer and this is the first you have mentioned this way of thinking. What has changed?” 

Darcy sighed. “I think perhaps I have always known this truth, but did not know how to voice it, or if I should.” He bit back a smile. “I recently overheard a very intelligent young lady point out these very things and upon reflection realized she must be right. If she had the courage to speak thusly, so must I, especially since it might do my dear sister good to hear.” Darcy looked tenderly upon Georgiana.

“Yes, I have profound relief from so astonishing a revelation. Thank you, Brother.” Georgiana grinned. “What did you think of Mrs. Gardiner and Miss Bennet? You know I have been worried about my sense of judgment since…since my holiday.”

“You were cruelly misused by two you trusted.”

“Yes, but I should have noticed the inconsistencies in their character!” Sighing, Georgiana continued. “But I do not wish to speak on that at, the moment. Perhaps if I met someone else, I would think my current feelings naive, but something deep within me tells me Mrs. Gardiner and Miss Bennet are genuine.” And the answer to my very prayers. “I feel quite at ease with them, and hope Miss Bennet and I can become great friends while I am at Netherfield.”

A few more steps brought them to their London townhouse. Georgiana left to inform their housekeeper of the planned dinner guests and her companion of the plans to accompany her brother on his travels. Mr. Darcy sent an express to Bingley informing him of two additional guests. Darcy then allowed his mind to wander over the day.

What a delightful creature she was! She seems to have done Georgiana a world of good already. They shall further their acquaintance this evening and undoubtedly in Hertfordshire. She is intelligent, beautiful and gently bred…

Darcy realized he most decidedly did not view Elizabeth Bennet as only Georgiana’s friend, nor could he perceive any glaring flaws in her person as he was apt to find with other young ladies. It dawned on him that he had never been so bewitched before.

*****

At the appropriate time the Gardiner party arrived. Darcy thought Elizabeth beautiful in muddied petticoats but found her captivating in evening wear.

Georgiana immediately came to Elizabeth’s side. “Miss Bennet, I must tell you how beautiful you are this evening. Is she not, Brother?”

Darcy looked towards Georgiana. It was not like her to bait him, though it was no trouble in this case to comply. He eyed his sister suspiciously and then graciously turned towards Elizabeth.

“Indeed, I must agree with my sister.” Darcy said nervously. How different it feels when giving a genuine compliment! Elizabeth blushed, only adding to her beauty.

“I thank you Miss Darcy and Mr. Darcy, but I worry I do your beautiful home no justice. I did not travel with much evening wear.”

“Nonsense, you honour us with your presence and your beauty is not owed to your gown. We are now friends; there is no need to feel uneasy. I prefer simple, classic cuts myself and I know my brother hates the ostentatious frippery of some of our acquaintances.” Georgiana gave Elizabeth and Darcy a knowing look and all three smiled thinking of the unflattering gowns of Caroline Bingley.

“I thank you again,” Elizabeth said with a smile free from her previous uncertainty.

In the time before dinner Darcy found the Gardiners very fashionable and pleasing company. During dinner, Darcy wanted to hear more of Elizabeth’s astute thoughts on class and tried to introduce the topic.

“It has truly been a pleasure making your acquaintance Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner. I have long enjoyed your well-known tea and believe you are acquainted with some friends of mine, Mr. and Mrs. Horace Blythe, as well as Mr. Henry Scott. Along with Mr. Bingley, these are my closest friends.”

“Oh, yes, very fine company indeed!” Mr. Gardiner confirmed the acquaintance. “I must say, Mr. Darcy, you surprise me with the company you keep. I would have expected your acquaintances to be made up of more peers than tradesmen given your lineage.”

“I find too much is made of birth. Education guides one’s behaviour, not so-called breeding. In my formal education I found tradesmen were not only just as capable of learning the strictures of society, but they could frequently afford the cost of the institutes more easily than peers.”

Darcy thought he had done quite well and expected a favourable response from Elizabeth. Instead, her response shocked him.:

“Ah, so you value wealth over birth then, Mr. Darcy?” Elizabeth asked with a raised brow. “How very liberal of you. Perhaps one day a person may be judged on their worthiness by their wealth and thus be invited to the first circles of Society by their monetary accomplishments and not merely by their birth. For why should we hope to be judged by our character?”

Have I insulted her? She has twisted my words! Darcy had placed first in debate during his time at Cambridge so instead of giving into alarm he calmly clarified. “You mistake me, Miss Bennet. Many of the peers have lost their wealth and are impoverished by their own licentious practices such as gambling and that, as much as the hard work and financial diligence of many in the merchant class, proves the general character of each.”

Before Elizabeth could reply Mr. Gardiner nervously intervened. “I fear you are in danger of becoming a casualty of my niece’s debating skills, Mr. Darcy.”

Slightly embarrassed, Elizabeth defended herself. “I was taught by my father to sometimes make arguments that are not my own and to wilfully misunderstand for the sake of debate. I pray you forgive me for my impertinence. I meant no offence.”

“No forgiveness is necessary, Miss Bennet. I dare not call impertinent what is charming outspokenness of a sound mind. I am guilty of the same for a debate.” He gave her an earnest look and friendly smile.

Elizabeth blushed, “You are too kind, Mr. Darcy. I know my thoughts are not always welcome and I shall take care to check my tongue.”

“Pray, I always wish you to speak your mind to me and your thoughts are welcome. There is a sweetness about you that cannot be mistaken for a caustic tongue.”

Seeing her blush anew — it really was a delightful shade of pink — he redirected his thoughts. “Your father taught you to debate, then? Where did he attend?”

“Cambridge, class of 1784. He placed first in debate and held the highest rank until quite recently,” Elizabeth stated with pride written all over her face.

“Indeed! Your father’s initials are TB, then?”

“For Thomas Bennet, yes, sir.”

“How astonishing! My father was George Darcy, who placed in 1780. He briefly met your father and was very impressed. You have learned from a master indeed.”

“I thank you, sir.” Then Elizabeth was struck with a realization, “How did you guess my father’s initials? Did you attend Cambridge as well, sir?”

“Yes, I did.” Darcy began to grow uncomfortable, sensing the direction of her thoughts.

“Would you be Mr. FD who broke my father’s place in 1807?”

Darcy looked away. “I am guilty of that.”

“Then I greatly look forward to our travels tomorrow!” Elizabeth’s eyes were twinkling in delight, and she smiled with enthusiasm.

“As do I, Miss Bennet,” Darcy returned the smile.

Darcy then rose and requested an adjournment to the drawing room instead of the separation of sexes. Miss Darcy invited Elizabeth and Mrs. Gardiner to perform on the pianoforte. While Mrs. Gardiner was amenable, Elizabeth attempted to decline.

Mrs. Gardiner explained to their hosts, “Lizzy plays and sings quite well, do not let her modesty mislead you.”

“Aunt Gardiner, and you call yourself a friend! You are always trying to get me to perform, even to strangers. If I drew my worth from my musical abilities, you would be invaluable.” On Mrs. Gardiner’s persevering Elizabeth acquiesced.

Darcy found Elizabeth’s performance to be quite pleasing and, though she was not an exceptional performer, her manner was easy and unaffected.

“Now, it is your turn, Miss Darcy.” Elizabeth said.

“Oh, no. I am not used to performing in front of guests.”

“Please, Miss Darcy? I simply must hear this beautiful instrument played as it was meant to be played.”

Georgiana blushed. “Very well, but please do not ask me to sing.”

“If you like.” Although Elizabeth did not know Georgiana’s true skill level, only having heard gossip from Mr. Bingley’s sisters, she chose a piece that she knew required great expression. Soon Georgiana was lost in the music and performed exquisitely.

When she finished she looked at Elizabeth with admiration. “How did you know I would be able to perform so well despite my fears?”

“You mean besides the fact that I already know your brother would not allow any harm to ever befall you?”

Her words caused Georgiana to blush. “He is the very best brother.”

Elizabeth smiled. “I knew if you could focus on the emotion of the piece, you would not worry about the mechanics. You play so beautifully. I have rarely heard anything that gave me greater pleasure.” She looked up from Georgiana just then and caught Darcy’s eye. He was drawing near to praise his sister.

“I cannot help but agree, my dear. Tonight’s performances gave me more pleasure than I have heard in London’s best concert halls.” All the ladies blushed at the praise and Darcy hoped Elizabeth accepted his genuine compliment.

Next Mr. Darcy recommended a tour of the home which ended in the library. Elizabeth gasped in delight at the largest private collection she had ever seen.

Mrs. Gardiner laughed, “Now we shall never get her to leave!”

Darcy was surprised at how well he liked the very notion but managed to push the thought aside. “I took you for a great reader, Miss Bennet. I am happy to see I was correct.”

Elizabeth replied laughingly, “I am unsure whether you mean that as censure or praise! Yes, I do enjoy reading. I have my father’s tastes.”

“It could only be praise, I assure you. Please, feel free to borrow anything you find appealing. You can see they are arranged by category.”

Surprisingly, Elizabeth browsed a shelf devoted to agricultural methods. Across the room Georgiana discussed her parents and Derbyshire with Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner. Darcy smiled to see her at perfect ease with them and was already glad to have made the acquaintance, if for no other reason than the return of his sister’s cheer. Something in the back of his mind told him there was another reason to rejoice in the acquaintance and she was walking about his library in wonder.

Darcy approached Elizabeth. “And what appeals on this subject?”

“My father and I have been searching to find a particular title on the rotation method and I wondered if you might have it. It is by Thomas Coke, have you heard of it?”

“Indeed, he is from Derby! It is in my study now, allow me to fetch it.”

“Oh, no! I would not wish to importune on something so favoured for your private use.”

“Nonsense, Miss Bennet, I shall not need it in Hertfordshire and would like to be of service.” Elizabeth nodded and Darcy quickly retrieved the book.

Upon returning he asked, “Are you very familiar with agricultural practices and theories?”

“Nearly as much as my father, I confess,” Elizabeth said with a rueful laugh and a slight blush. “You will not think me very ladylike, but I have an insatiable thirst for knowledge and a curiosity on nearly all topics. Much to my mother’s chagrin, I cannot be occupied by the pursuit of ribbons, lace, or embroidery for any length of time at all.”

“I would rather Georgiana have a more substantial education than most ladies. I often recommend that she improve her mind by extensive reading.”

“And I suppose most ladies of your acquaintance are near experts in music, singing, drawing, dancing and the modern languages? I suppose they also have supposed innate traits which cannot be taught to the lower classes such as their manner of address and her expressions. These too are considered accomplishments, yet at the same time it is said to be the mark of their birth. What irony!  Pray, how many young ladies do you know that can meet that definition?” 

Elizabeth recalled a list recited by Miss Bingley during her stay at Netherfield. Elizabeth refused to perpetuate the ridiculous standards for measuring a woman’s worth.

“I likely know fewer than six ladies who are truly accomplished.” Darcy could easily see Elizabeth felt her list of accomplishments as absurd and believed she understood he referenced his statement regarding reading.

“I am sure you know more ladies than I do. However, I doubt you know any that meet such a description,” Elizabeth said sharply.

“Do you doubt that a lady could fulfil such things?” Darcy stared at her in disbelief. She confessed to being a great reader only moments ago!

Attempting to encourage the debate, Elizabeth raised her chin in defiance. “United in one woman? No, I doubt there is such a woman. I honestly can say I have no wish to know her. She would be a formidable sight indeed.”

Realizing she had intentionally twisted his words Darcy happily clarified. “Ah, but you are the one who made the other list, mine contained only extensive reading. Allow me to add I appreciate a fine voice and skill on the pianoforte.” 

Dropping his voice to a whisper, he boldly stated, “I assure you Miss Bennet, I indeed know at least one truly accomplished young lady, though I must admit the acquaintance is only of a matter of hours.” There! Let us see if you can wilfully misunderstand that, Miss Bennet!

Elizabeth blushed again but before she could reply was called by her aunt and uncle that they must depart. During their debate, Elizabeth’s eyes held Darcy captive. The unique shade, hanging between green and brown intensified throughout their disagreement. It reminded him of a ride through the woods on a sunny day.

As the party walked to the carriage, Mrs. Gardiner turned toward her hosts. “Mr. Darcy, Miss Darcy, it was an honour to dine with you this evening. You must inform us of your return to Town so we might host you next.”

“Mrs. Gardiner, it was very pleasant to speak with you about my parents. I fear I quite neglected Miss Bennet.” Georgiana looked at Elizabeth and continued. “I truly desired to get to know you better and it would ease my mind considerably if I knew I had at least one true acquaintance in Hertfordshire when we arrive. I know this is rather forward, but might you travel with us tomorrow?”

Darcy watched in amazement as Georgiana turned her eyes upon the others of the group. He recognized the expression instantly, because he could never deny her a thing when she used it. From the looks they gave each other, the Gardiners and Elizabeth apparently found themselves just as defenceless. His guests shared a look. His lips tugged up at the obvious display from a family so close they needed no words to communicate.

Mrs. Gardiner smiled and answered, “It will save us having to send a maid and manservant to travel with her. What time shall you fetch Elizabeth tomorrow?”

Darcy replied looking at Elizabeth, “Would nine be too early? Georgiana prefers several hours of rest after travel before dinner.”

“Oh, for Elizabeth nine is mid-morning! She is quite an early riser and enjoys taking morning walks.”

“Truly, Miss Bennet?” Georgiana asked with eagerness vivid on her face. “William and I rise early and enjoy a morning walk or ride as well. Perhaps in Hertfordshire you could accompany us sometime. I am certain you must know all the best paths.” 

 “I would be delighted, Miss Darcy,” Elizabeth beamed as she spoke. “I look forward to furthering our acquaintance.” 

After the appropriate leave taking, Mr. Gardiner was about to hand the ladies in the carriage when he realized he had left his gloves in the hall. Rather than have the ladies wait out of doors, Darcy performed the civility. When his hand met Elizabeth’s, he felt a shock even through her gloves. Elizabeth blushed and seemed affected as well. Her hand lingered on his for just a moment too long until Mr. Gardiner approached.

9 thoughts on “Friday Feature– The Gentleman’s Impertinent Daughter SECOND EDITION (Chapter Two)

  1. I can hardly wait for things to develop in friendship on the journey to Netherfield/Longbourn. It’s going to be interesting when Miss Bingley finds out Elizabeth and Georgiana are friends.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love it when Darcy and Elizabeth meet before the Assembly! I’m not so sure if Miss Bingley will be as pleased? I hope she discovers that Georgiana only came to be near Elizabeth!

    Liked by 1 person

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