“Almost there, now, Miss Darcy. It won’t be long,” said Mrs. Annesley, smiling as the carriage began its familiar sway and buck over the cobblestones leading out of the inn.
Everything suddenly became all too real. The thought of reaching her destination now filled Georgiana with apprehension. She shivered and drew her tippet closer around her.
Until this moment, it had all seemed like a fairy tale. She was so happy for her brother. Fitzwilliam was in love. There was a glow to him she’d never seen before, and that careworn look on his face that had been stamped there ever since their father had died was gone. His every footstep had a spring to it. There was such an eagerness to his face, such a sense of purpose and energy that it made her want to laugh and sing and play the piano as loudly as possible, which was really shocking because she’d always prided herself on the evenness of her playing.
Yes, she was very happy, not just for her brother, but for herself as well.
Her brother was to marry, and she was to have a sister. She’d dreamed of having a sister for so long, someone to keep her company during the long days at Pemberley when Darcy was busy doing accounts or attending to the estate. Someone with whom she could sit and embroider. Someone who would look over fashion plates with her and discuss menus. Someone who would share with her all the female occupations which escaped her brother’s interest. Then perhaps, too, if Darcy was married, he would spend more time at Pemberley, and she wouldn’t have to deal with long weeks of isolation in which she saw hardly anyone except for the five young ladies from neighboring families who occasionally came to call on her.
There were a thousand reasons to be happy, and none at all not to be. But still, there was that clenching feeling inside her, as if someone had tightened her stays too much. It made it hard for her to breathe. She felt guilty for feeling that way, but now that it had become rooted there was no getting rid of the anxiety.
She couldn’t help being shy around strangers. It wasn’t that she didn’t meet enough people when she went down to London, but she wasn’t always in London, and she was left to her own devices too often. The thing was, she’d spend such a large part of her life alone. Her mother had died, then later her father, and Fitzwilliam – well Fitzwilliam was a young man and a young man with means and time at his disposal who wanted to see the world. It was only natural that he would spend large amounts of time away from Pemberley – weeks at a time, even.
And then there was all that business with Wickham. Georgiana had made a terrible mistake. She’d trusted Mrs. Younge, her governess, to keep her out of harm’s way, never dreaming that there’d been an agreement between Mrs.Younge and Wickham. She never could have imagined that Wickham was using her. Well, perhaps she’d imagined it, just a little, because why else had she felt compelled to tell her brother about their secret plan to elope?
“Do you think Lady Catherine will be attending?” said Mrs. Annesley.
Oh, Lord. She hadn’t thought at all of Lady Catherine. As if it wasn’t enough to be meeting all those people without Lady Catherine there watching her like a hawk and telling her every minute to lift her chin and keep her back straight and stop simpering like a fool. She didn’t need constant reminders of how she needed to live up to the Darcy family name.
“I hope not, Mrs. Annesley,” she said. “It will all be so much easier if she didn’t come.”
“Don’t you worry about her, Miss Darcy,” said Betsy, Georgiana’s maid, rousing out of her sleep. “She won’t have much cause to chide you if the Master’s there. You know how Mr. Darcy always puts a stop to it.”
But Darcy wouldn’t always be there to protect her, especially when the ladies withdrew and left the men to their port. She’d be alone in a room full of complete strangers and Lady Catherine would make her play the piano then issue instructions while she was playing and embarrass her in front of everybody.
She tried to reassure herself that there was nothing to worry about. After all, she already knew quite a few of those who’d be there. She’d met Elizabeth and the Gardners in Pemberley, and she’d seen them a few times when they came down to London, and of course she’d known the Bingleys for years. Still, there was the whole Bennet family to meet as well as their friends.
Cousin Robert would be there. She’d already met him in London. He was kind, and he’d paid her some attention and told her stories about America, but she hardly knew him at all.
She’d be an outsider.
Her only consolation was that all eyes would be on the wedding couples, and she’d be left to her own devices.
“I do believe we’ve arrived,” said Mrs. Annesley, as the carriage turned off the main road into a lane and through a large wrought-iron gate.
“I can hardly wait, Miss Darcy,” said Betsy, her eyes shining. “You must be so excited.”
Then the carriage stopped and a footman in red livery opened the door and helped her down the step.
There was the scent of lavender water, then Georgiana was gripped in a fierce hug. Elizabeth’s laughing eyes met hers.
“There you are, Georgiana!” said Elizabeth. “What took you so long? We’ve been expecting you the last two hours, and your brother has been having dreadful thoughts of your carriage having overturned on some forsaken country lane.”
Fitzwilliam was there behind Elizabeth, laughing too.
Happiness soared inside Georgiana and she started to laugh with them. It was going to be alright. Darcy and Elizabeth would take care of her.
“Welcome to Netherfield, little sister,” said Darcy.
It was all going to be alright.
If you’d like to read more from Georgiana Darcy’s perspective, take a look at Monica Fairview’s The Darcy Cousins, which features Georgiana as the main character, along with her cousin Clarissa.