One of my favourite scenes from Pride and Prejudice is where Mr. Darcy comes to call on Elizabeth at the inn right after she reads Jane’s letter about Lydia’s elopement. Every time I read it, I am touched by Darcy’s dilemma. On the one hand, he wants to comfort Lizzy and be of service to her, and on the other hand, he is in no way connected to her and cannot claim the familiarity that would allow him to even hold her hand. And what is worse is that the news is about Wickham and puts Elizabeth and her family in a very difficult situation. Austen writes this piece beautifully. I specially love when she writes,
“Darcy, in wretched suspense, could only say something indistinctly of his concern, and observe her in compassionate silence.”
What a beautiful sentence to describe Mr. Darcy’s torment! It is the genius of Jane Austen that a single sentence is potent with so much emotion. I can clearly picture Darcy feeling agitated and concerned and yet unable to do anything to soothe her. Elizabeth is miserable because she knows Lydia’s elopement is detrimental to any chance she might have had with Mr. Darcy. And although Darcy is determined to help her, she doesn’t know that. So when he leaves, she thinks she will never see him again. That is why I cannot help but wish that Darcy would disregard propriety and would just wrap her in his arms. I am sure Lizzy would not have objected. I know I would not have 😛
Below is an excerpt from my second novel, To Love and Cherish, where Georgiana Darcy, who is happily in love with Lord Paisley, comes face to face with Mr. Wickham in London. Georgiana is torn between memories of Wickham’s betrayal, her own heartache, and most importantly, fear of losing Lord Paisley’s love and respect when he finds out about her past. Little does she know that Lord Paisley has known about her past with Mr. Wickham for years. In this scene, Lord Paisley, unlike poor Mr. Darcy who doesn’t get to soothe his beloved Lizzy, has the opportunity to comfort Georgiana and to assure her that he will protect her against Wickham. I hope you enjoy the excerpt.
Georgiana was beyond shocked, beyond shaken. Handsome as ever, George Wickham, with his cavalier smile, stood before her. At once, all her memories of him, all the pain he had caused her and all the sadness and humiliation she had endured, came rushing in, making her sick with anger. Her hands shook making her aware that she had dropped her books. The realization that even after all these years his presence had unsettled her so, mortified her greatly. Before she could manage to walk away without acknowledging him, he bowed, flashed a winning smile.
“Good morning, Georgiana,” he murmured, his presumptuous address making her furious. “Permit me to say that you look even more beautiful than I remember.”
“Did you find the books you were looking for, Miss Darcy?” Lord Paisley’s voice came from behind her. He picked up Georgiana’s books and smiled reassuringly at her. “These are rather heavy,” He continued. “Allow me.”
He offered his free arm to Georgiana, completely ignoring Mr. Wickham.
“Thank you, my lord.” Georgiana nodded, placing her hand in the crook of his arm, grateful for his presence.
“I look forward to seeing you again, Miss Darcy,” Mr. Wickham said.
“I do not believe there will be an occasion where we may meet again.” Georgiana said.
Before Mr. Wickham was able to respond, Lord Paisley said, “Shall we, Miss Darcy?”
Mr. Wickham watched the couple walk away, unaware that he himself was being observed by Mr. Brooks.
“Good heavens, Georgiana!” Lady Henrietta addressed her friend excitedly as soon as they approached her. “Who was that handsome man?”
“No one of any consequence, I assure you,” Lord Paisley said in Georgiana’s stead.
They left the store and awaited the carriage to be brought around.
Lady Henrietta observed her friend’s demeanor with no little concern. Georgiana’s pale face and her downcast eyes left Lady Henrietta in no doubt that something of a serious nature had occurred. Lady Henrietta’s initial fear was that the happy couple must have had a quarrel, however, she could see no signs of disaccord. His Lordship stood beside Georgiana, his arm still an anchor for her to lean on, and his eyes never leaving her wan face.
“Should we not wait for Mr. Brooks?” Lady Henrietta asked, suddenly reminded of their cousin.
“I dare say he will be able to find his way,” Lord Paisley said dryly.
The carriage ride was short. There was no conversation and no stolen glances between the couple. Georgiana’s eyes were fixed on her hands in her lap, while Lord Paisley’s eyes were fixed on her pained features. Lady Henrietta, feeling the awkwardness of the moment, forced herself to look out the window. When they arrived where the Darcy carriage awaited Georgiana, Lord Paisley addressed Georgiana.
“I will find Claire to accompany Henrietta home. And I will escort you home myself.”
He was gone before she could respond. How was she to face him when all she felt was shame?
“Are you well, Georgiana?” Lady Henrietta asked once her brother left the carriage. “Has something happened? What has upset you?”
“I am only suffering from a headache. I am sure I will feel much improved once I have rested.”
“I am so glad to hear that it is only a headache. I was so worried. I thought you had a quarrel with Julian. Consider how odd it would be for a newly courting couple to have a quarrel.”
Georgiana blushed crimson and her eyes grew wide at her friend’s words.
“Oh dear!” Lady Henrietta said, suddenly realizing that she had given away her knowledge of their courtship. “Forgive me. I did not mean to embarrass you, Georgiana. I overheard my mother and Julian speaking this morning.”
“You must forgive me, Henrietta. I should have told you myself. I hope you do not think I meant to keep it a secret from you.”
“Of course not. I know this is all so new. And I must say I could not be happier. Julian is so in love with you. I have never seen him behave this way. He is utterly besotted.”
Georgiana looked down, feeling undeserving of his love.
“And to know that you are to be my sister,” Lady Henrietta continued, oblivious to Georgiana’s torment. “Oh, and your children will be so beautiful.”
Lady Henrietta giggled. “I beg your pardon. I know you are not even engaged yet. But never mind that. I know it will not be long.”
Georgiana’s heart skipped a beat at the thought of becoming Lord Paisley’s wife. As quickly as the thought brought her pleasure, the fear of losing his love brought her pain. She did not have time to contemplate her feelings as His Lordship opened the carriage door and addressed his sister.
“Remain in the carriage, Henrietta,” he said. “Colonel Fitzwilliam and Claire will be here momentarily.”
Lord Paisley offered his hand to Georgiana to help her down and led her to her own carriage. His Lordship followed her in and closed the carriage door, effectively making them alone together. He sat directly across from Georgiana, his eyes once again watching her intently. The carriage began to move.
Georgiana did not respond.
“Look at me. Please.”
Mustering her strength, she forced herself to look up at him. His eyes, his confident, intelligent gray eyes bore into her soul.
“Wickham will not hurt you again,” he said stressing every word as if to ensure her understanding. She paled and then blushed and quivered with fear, embarrassment, and pain.
“You…know?” she asked, barely able to speak.
He nodded gravely.
Her eyes glistened. Her trembling hands moved to cover her face as tears rolled down her cheeks. Immediately, he moved to sit beside her and wrapped her in his arms. She cried uncontrollably. She cried for her fifteen-year-old self, whose innocent heart had been betrayed by Wickham. She cried for the years she had spent since, trying to repair her lack of trust in men. Mostly she cried for losing the love and respect of a gentleman she had come to love. Despite being consoled in said gentleman’s arms and receiving his tender attentions, she continued to fear the worst.
“My darling love,” he murmured in her ear. “Do not cry anymore.”
“What must you think of me?” she said, hiding her face in his chest.
“Surely, you must know what I think of you, my sweet.”
Georgiana continued to weep.
“Look at me,” he said, forcing her to move back slightly so that she could no longer hide her face.
She looked up at him, her lashes wet with fresh tears. He wiped her tears with his handkerchief and smiled at her.
“I love you,” he whispered.
“How can you say you love me when you know about Mr. Wickham?” Georgiana asked, sounding defeated.
“My feelings for you are entirely unrelated to what I know and think of Wickham,” Lord Paisley said, trying to conceal his anger.
“You cannot possibly respect me or trust me, let alone love me, when you know how foolish I was.”
“I respect you for your intelligent mind,” he said, holding her hands in his. “I respect you for your kind and generous nature. I even respect you for your revolutionary political views.”
Despite the tears that still lingered in her eyes, Georgiana smiled at his jest.
“I trust you with my heart,” he continued, glad to see a smile on her face. “I trust you with my happiness and my future. How can you doubt that?”
“I ought not ask you to commit to me, Julian.”
“Might I remind you, my dear girl, that contrary to your notions of equality, it is still a gentleman’s privilege to ask for a lady’s hand? Furthermore, I have not even asked you yet.”
“Well, even if you do, I cannot in good conscience accept it.”
“Oh?” Lord Paisley asked, gently caressing her face. “Why not?”
“You are kind and generous,” Georgiana said miserably, trying in vain to ignore how his touch affected her. “I do not know how you have come to know about Mr. Wickham now, but had you known about…about my past…you would never have offered for me.”
“Is that so?” he asked with an amused smile. “And you believe that now that I know about it, I should retract my proposal for courtship?”
“It would certainly be the sensible thing to do.”
“Sensible? What ridiculous notions you have in that little head of yours, my love. If you believe for one moment that my knowledge of Mr. Wickham’s past dealings with you and your family would have deterred me from pursuing you, allow me to correct you at once. I have known about Mr. Wickham for almost three years.”
“Three years?” Georgiana asked with no little astonishment. “But… How?”
“Do you remember the letter your brother wrote to Mrs. Darcy? The one that was discovered by the Sandry siblings? It contained information about Mr. Wickham’s dealings with your family. Captain Sandry, before he took his life, told me what was in the letter.”
Georgiana looked down, once again mortified by his knowledge.
“Do you not see, my sweet darling?” he murmured, raising her face to his. “Had I cared a button about that information, I would not have pined for you all this time.”
“I cannot allow Mr. Wickham’s treachery to threaten your happiness.”
“You are my happiness.”
“He will cause a scandal,” Georgiana warned, her resolve weakening at his words.
“I will not allow him,” he promised, lowering his face to hers, and gently kissing her temple.
“And if he should succeed?” she asked, unconsciously moving closer to him.
“We will weather the storm together.” He kissed her moist eyelids.
“I am afraid of what he means to do, Julian.””
“Leave him to me, my love,” he said as he cupped her face in his hands, kissing her lips, resolved to reassure her, determined to distract her, and desperate to prove his love.