The Gentleman’s Impertinent Daughter was my first published work. After nearly six years, I have decided to develop it into a series: Impertinent Daughters and Headstrong Sons. I am uncertain how many books it will encompass, but each book will be a stand alone novella. The series will focus on a child of Darcy and Elizabeth’s in addition to how our dear couple handles their children coming of age. The next book in the series will be Angelica: Mr. Darcy’s Impertinent Daughter.
Below you may read the first two chapters of The Gentleman’s Impertinent Daughter for free.
September 30, 1811
“Come, Brother, let us rest ourselves for a moment,” Georgiana Darcy beseeched her elder brother. The two settled on a nearby bench.
“I am sorry Sweetling. It is very warm, and I should be more attentive to you. Would you like to go home?” Fitzwilliam Darcy looked at his sister with concern. The sun was shining unseasonably hot for late September.
“No, I am well.”
“I do wish you would come with me to Hertfordshire, or allow me to stay behind with you. I do not like leaving you after your ordeal just yet.”
They had arrived in London only two days before, after celebrating the customary Michaelmas feast at Pemberley, their country estate. After the betrayal of the summer and the hustle of the harvest, Darcy looked forward to enjoying a holiday but hated to leave his dear sister behind.
“Really, William, it was not an illness. I have simply had low spirits because of my foolishness.”
Georgiana lowered her voice. “I would enjoy the countryside, but I will take the cowardly way out and avoid Mr. Bingley’s sisters since you offered. You know how difficult it is for me to make new friends and I do not trust my judgment in regards to their sincerity anymore. Therefore I would be trapped with the ladies all day and make you feel guilty for any enjoyment you experience. No, you go. You work so hard. Mrs. Annesley and I shall see you at Christmas.”
After a short pause she added, “Now, I think I shall watch the ducks just down there.”
Mr. Darcy watched his baby sister leave. She had grown into a beautiful young lady while he was unawares. Early in the summer, she had been taken advantage of, her heart broken asunder, by his childhood best friend and very own father’s godson. Swept away by romance she believed herself in love and consented to an elopement.
Learning the man in question only desired her stout dowry of thirty thousand pounds and revenge on her brother made her feelings of guilt even worse than when she understood the gravity of the scandal her actions would have caused. She had not recovered her spirits and was still filled with shame and melancholy.
I was charged to protect her, and I have failed her.
Nearby he heard something wholly unexpected, a full, hearty laugh from a woman. It had been years since he heard a woman laugh so openly, not since his mother’s death. And the tone of this particular laugh was delightful and enchanting. Women of his circle rarely laughed unless they were belittling someone. It was a sad way to live, to be so bitter and angry.
His eyes sought out the owner of the musical laughter and saw a young woman surrounded by four children under the age of ten.
Surely she is much too young to be their mother but dressed too fine to be a governess. Though apparently, she takes little care of her wardrobe, given the way she romps with the little mites. Refreshing, a young lady not interested in fashion.
He had never seen a woman with such obvious zest for life before. This lady had an inner happiness and was unafraid for the world to see it.
“Again, Cousin Lizzy! Again!” the smallest lad cried demandingly as she took him in her arms and spun around. Setting him down in laughter, two older women approached her.
One stayed with the children, and the other walked with the young lady towards a bench near his. Darcy was shocked by the tugging in his heart. He felt regret in the assuredness of never witnessing a similar scene at his own home. Will my own children be happier than I was?
He had no intention of eavesdropping, but a very familiar name caught his attention. “All Mr. Collins could speak of was his patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh,” said the younger lady, ‘Cousin Lizzy.’
She continued, “Thankfully Mama directed him away from Jane to start with, as Mama believes Jane must be saved for an illustrious match given her beauty. Not that I feared she would accept him anyway. You know Jane and I have vowed to never marry but for love and we could barely tolerate his sycophantic ways.
“Whatever came over my friend, Charlotte, to accept him I truly will never understand. But I thank you for allowing me to visit; Mama was becoming unbearable.”
“Of course, dear. We are always happy to have you. And shall you return to us in January?” the older woman asked.
Cousin Lizzy snorted. “You know very well I never want another London Season. I do not care for Town at all but for the theatres, museums, and bookshops. After turning down Mr. Collins, Mama has despaired of me ever marrying and has decided to send Kitty in my place. I am not sure if Mary should feel disappointed at being overlooked or relieved!”
She laughed and then sobered a little. “Truly, I believe Mama is correct. No man shall have me for none respect me. I have practically no portion, a vulgar family, no connections and am certainly not handsome enough to tempt one otherwise.”
“Now, Elizabeth, you have not met very many men and are only twenty. This smacks of bitterness.”
“Oh, Aunt Gardiner, I just feel as though I do not fit in anywhere, never valued for myself. I am impertinent and wild and do not wish to change.”
“Some gentlemen prefer outspoken ladies with frankness, and you are never improper or mean; indeed there is a playful sweetness about you. And wild? I have never seen evidence of that.”
“Well, I did walk three miles to Netherfield in the mud to check on Jane last month.” Glancing down at herself she told her aunt, “I arrived looking very much like this now, and I know Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst held me in contempt for it. But Jane was ill and needed me, and the carriage was not to be had. I have yet to have the patience to truly master riding, and so I walked.”
Darcy had been fascinated by the conversation before, but he recognized the name of the estate she mentioned as the very one leased by his best friend. The very place he intended to travel to on the morrow. Hearing her care for her sister resonated with his heart.
If I ever marry, I would want her to be a true sister to Georgie, with affection like this young miss has for her sister.
He then stole a look at her, given the fact that she knew his best friend and believed his sister hated her. He had no difficulty agreeing with her assumption. Caroline Bingley hated most people.
Elizabeth’s face was bright and animated by the exercise and conversation. Her eyes were vibrant and danced in the sunlight.
Her aunt replied, “I would never call those actions wild, though perhaps unwise. As for Mr. Bingley’s sisters, I am sure you can handle them with all the grace and poise you exhibit in the hostile environment of London drawing rooms. Some of the ladies I must visit are terribly dreadful, and you are never improper.
“Additionally, you explained Mr. Bingley took the sudden lease at Netherfield instead of going to a fashionable resort for the month of August. His sisters were likely to be displeased by everything out of sheer disappointment.”
Patting her niece on the hand, she continued, “Now, let us speak of better things. Will you come with us on the lake journey next summer?”
“Yes, you know not how I anticipate it.”
“Excellent. Among other stops, we plan on visiting my childhood home in Lambton.”
Darcy could scarce believe his ears. This young lady knew his best friend, his aunt’s parson, and her aunt grew up a mere five miles from his estate. Additionally, she would be visiting the area the following summer.
“You will want to see Pemberley, I am sure. I believe Derbyshire to be the finest of all the counties and Pemberley’s house is my favourite. But the grounds! Lizzy, we will have to drag you away.”
Elizabeth laughed at this, “I do look forward to it then! Tell me more about Derbyshire. Does uncle still plan to buy an estate there soon?”
Darcy frowned; although both ladies were dressed finely, she apparently was in trade. It mattered not; surely he had no intentions towards a stranger. Though when I arrive at Netherfield, she will no longer be one…
“Yes, we could have earlier, but the continued war with Napoleon makes him want to wait so he can better manage his affairs from afar.”
“I think it so brave of you and uncle to have taken the Import/Export opportunity.”
The lady chuckled. “Not everyone agreed with us at the time! Did you ever know your great-grandfather at all? Although son to a gentleman, he disliked Town and chose to become a country lawyer. The usual lot of second sons did not appeal to him. Your uncle came so late to your grandfather’s life the law practice was already promised to Mr. Phillips after your other uncle’s unexpected death. Still, your grandfather railed at his son entering trade.”
She paused for a moment and added, “I think we both know that your uncle is far happier in his current profession than he would be as a country attorney.”
So, a second son of a second son, that is…respectable.
“And what of you? Surely the Greenes expected you to marry a gentleman,” Elizabeth asked.
“And so your uncle is! I do not hold with the belief that because he manages a business instead of land he has lost his rank due his birth.”
Elizabeth nodded. “Besides, we make too much of birth. No one is born with superior behaviour, one is taught it through education and many tradesmen these days can better afford expensive schooling than peers,” she ended with gusto.
Darcy reeled at the words: astonishing, unpopular and thought provoking. She did not sound like a revolutionary, only a pragmatist. Is not my friend Bingley proof of this? Not to mention my aunt, born daughter of an earl, can be quite vulgar.
Elizabeth began speaking again. “The world is changing. The tradesmen are propelling technology and industry which is creating capital needed to fund the constant wars and colonisation, which is not as entirely profitable as the lords would have us think. Meanwhile, people are leaving the estates, and instead of making goods in their homes, they try their luck at wealth in the cities.
Sobering a little, she added thoughtfully, “Fortunately few of our tenants have left, but I worry for those that do. The cities are cruel, and there is no one to aid them. Our estate is not vast or very profitable, although I attribute at least some of that to my father’s indolence as he hates the entailment. At any rate, what we do have we owe to our tenants, and in turn, we treat them very well.”
Darcy breathed out a sigh of relief. She was a gentleman’s daughter after all. Clearly not one of any importance, as he knew of no one noteworthy that resided near his friend’s estate, but they were…equals. Yes, equals. My relations might be nobles, but I am not.
The older woman nodded, as though this was all commonplace conversation, and stood. “Very wise, as always, my dear. But come, let us gather the children.”
Darcy was struck with their conversation and was dwelling on the prospect of a pair of very fine eyes in the face of a pretty — and very astute, intelligent — woman. All worries for his sister slipped away, for the first time in months.
Georgiana Darcy left her brother on the park bench and made her way to the pond. Watching the ducks she said a silent prayer. She desired a friend, a true confidante and perhaps a sister. A good wife for William and a sister for me.
She spied four children and their governess frolicking and tossing a ball when it went astray, near her. She bent to retrieve it and walked towards the group of children.
“Here you are dear,” she spoke to the youngest boy.
“Thank you. Are you an angel?” the little one asked.
“Master Michael!” The governess chided.
Laughing, Georgiana intervened, “No, he is charming. No, little one, I am not an angel. What makes you think so?”
“Your hair is made of gold! Even prettier than Cousin Jane! What is your name, Angel?”
“Master Michael, such poor manners!” the governess reprimanded again.
“But my name is an angel and so is Gabe’s and the girls are named after Grandmama and Grandmother and Mama says they are angels watching us from Heaven and all of our cousins are named for other angels in Heaven…”
Georgiana laughed again, “Actually, Master Michael I am named for my mother and father, George and Anne Darcy, and they are both now angels in Heaven too.”
Mrs. Gardiner and Elizabeth approached with every intention of chiding Michael as well and overheard Georgiana’s last statement. Mrs. Gardiner could not contain her delight upon hearing who conversed with her children.
“Excuse me, did I hear correctly? Are you Miss Georgiana Darcy of Pemberley?” At Mrs. Gardiner’s approach the governess walked towards the other children.
Startled and shy speaking with the ladies instead of the child, she looked at her feet and spoke softly. “Yes, I am.”
From his bench Darcy happened to view the scene and began to move in their direction.
Mrs. Gardiner tried to ease Georgiana’s embarrassment. “Forgive me, I do not mean to make you uneasy. You see I grew up near Lambton and remember meeting your family a few times.”
Georgiana’s head jerked up in delighted surprise, “Really? You met my father and mother?”
“Yes, a sweeter woman who loved her family and tenants I have yet to meet. And you, dear, are just as beautiful.”
Mr. Darcy reached Georgiana just then. “Georgiana, are you well?”
“Oh, yes, William! She was just telling me about Mother!” Georgiana beamed at her brother.
He attempted to conceal his excitement at a reason to speak with the pretty young lady. “How delightful. Could you introduce me to your new friends?” At this his sister reddened in embarrassment.
Mrs. Gardiner intervened again, “Forgive us sir. I happened upon Miss Darcy as she was speaking with my children and was too delighted to make an acquaintance from my childhood home to remember the essentials! I am Mrs. Edward Gardiner of Gracechurch Street. My husband owns the Import/Export shop on _____ Street. Perhaps you have heard of our tea?”
Quite surprised Darcy’s eyebrows rose. “Indeed, Madam, my favourite in fact.”
“I thank you sir. And this is my niece, Miss Elizabeth Bennet of Longbourn in Hertfordshire.” Darcy forgot to breathe as Elizabeth bestowed a beautiful smile, blinding him almost like the sun.
Georgiana remembered her role. “And this is my brother, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley in Derbyshire.” Darcy bowed and all the ladies curtsied.
Elizabeth replied, “A pleasure to meet you Mr. Darcy.” He broke into a wide smile as she spoke. Elizabeth felt breathless at the sight of his dimples.
“Likewise, Miss Bennet.”
Georgiana was oblivious to the tender moment. “Hertfordshire! Is your home anywhere near Netherfield Park? My brother’s best friend, Mr. Bingley, just leased it.”
“Why, yes, Longbourn is but three miles. What a coincidence! I lately had the pleasure of making Mr. Bingley’s acquaintance; he is quite popular in Hertfordshire. I will be leaving tomorrow, in fact, to return.”
“Tomorrow! What another coincidence. My brother and I,” Georgiana stressed the last two words for Darcy to catch, “will be leaving tomorrow as well, to stay several weeks at Netherfield.”
Georgiana spoke with sudden determination. “Mrs. Gardiner, we would be pleased for you and your husband and niece to dine with us this evening. I would dearly love to hear more of my mother.”
It was not the usual order to extend a dinner invitation before developing the acquaintance through standard morning calls but the young lady was so endearing and excited. Additionally, she would not have a chance, possibly for months, to speak with Mrs. Gardiner again. Exchanging glances the older ladies agreed and a time was settled upon for their next meeting.
Darcy walked in stunned amazement, his sister guiding him towards their townhouse. His head stumbled to understand all that transpired, but now was not the 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 reflect on these things without getting lost in reverie of the lady’s beauty. But 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.”
“Sweetling, we have talked about this. You were deceived not only by Wickham but by your companion, Mrs. Younge. 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. 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? 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. And we certainly are not superior to others through a happy accident of birth. We simply are blessed with more worldly goods and an opportunity to better ourselves morally through education. Human nature is the same regardless of class.”
“Brother, 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. 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 these ladies and not being intrinsically inferior was a welcome respite from her dark thoughts.
“We have discussed my transgressions many times this summer and this is the first you have mentioned this way of thinking. What has changed?”
“I think perhaps I have always known this truth, but did not know how to voice it, or if I should. 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 his sister.
“Yes, I have profound relief from so astonishing a revelation. Thank you Brother.” Georgiana smiled broadly.
“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 then 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 and 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 her 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.
“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, 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. He was surprised to hear instead: “Ah, so you value wealth over birth then, Mr. Darcy? 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 always welcome. There is a sweetness about you that cannot be mistaken for a caustic tongue.”
Seeing her blush anew, it really is a delightful shade of pink, he redirected his thoughts. “Your father taught you 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 1805?”
Darcy blushed, “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.
“Lizzy plays and sings quite well, do not let her modesty mislead you.”
“Aunt Gardiner, you really are a strange creature by way of friend! Always wanting me to play and sing before anybody and everybody! If my vanity had taken a musical turn, you would have been 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, 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.”
Darcy was surprised to see her browse a shelf devoted to agricultural methods. Across the room Georgiana engaged Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner on more discussions of her parents and Derbyshire. She was at perfect ease with them on the subject and Darcy 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. The ________, have you heard of it?”
“Indeed, 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. You will not think me very accomplished, 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 accomplishment than most ladies, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.”
“And I suppose most ladies of your acquaintance can claim a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing and the modern languages and she possesses a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions? Pray, how many truly accomplished young ladies do you know?”
Elizabeth recalled a list of accomplishments recited by Miss Bingley during her stay at Netherfield. Elizabeth firmly believed these ridiculous standards for measuring a woman’s worth.
“I cannot boast to knowing more than half-a-dozen, in the whole range of my acquaintance, that are really accomplished.” Darcy could easily see Elizabeth felt her list of accomplishments as absurd and believed she understood he referenced his own statement.
“I rather wonder at you knowing any,” Elizabeth said sharply.
“Are you so severe upon your own sex as to doubt the possibility of all this?” Darcy was incredulous and stared at her in disbelief.
She confessed to being a great reader only moments ago!
Elizabeth attempted to encourage the debate. “I never saw such a woman. I never saw such capacity, and taste, and application, and elegance, as you describe united.”
Realizing she was intentionally twisting his words Darcy happily clarified. “Ah, but you are the one who made the other list, mine was only of 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 to the carriage. Darcy was struck with the unique shade her eyes took on during their debate. They hung between green and brown. It reminded him of a ride through the woods on a sunny day.
“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, clearly the reaction was shared by the Gardiners and Elizabeth. His guests shared a look. It was obvious they were such a close family they needed no words.
Mrs. Gardiner 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? 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.” Georgiana showed her excitement over her new friendship with enthusiasm.
“I would be delighted, Miss Darcy. 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 left his gloves in the hall. Mr. Darcy assisted the ladies instead, rather than have them wait out of doors. When his hand met Elizabeth’s, he felt a shock even through her gloves. Elizabeth blushed and seemed as affected. Her hand lingered on his for just a moment too long until Mr. Gardiner approached.
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