As you are reading this blog, I am digging my toes in the sand and soaking up the sun in sunny Mexico. I live in Canada and having just gone through a long, snowy winter, I truly appreciate the hot days, the beautiful sun and the gorgeous ocean here in Mexico. There is something so relaxing about the sea air, and I cannot help being reminded of Mrs. Bennet’s comment about going to Brighton.
In most of Austen’s novels, the heroine gets to travel from home to visit other people or places, and in most of these novels, very important events take place during their travels. In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth travels twice; In Kent, she receives that disastrous proposal from Mr. Darcy, and in Derbyshire she gets to see a very different Mr. Darcy and experiences a change of heart toward the gentleman. In Northanger Abbey most of the events happen during Catherine’s stay at Bath and later at Northanger Abbey.
However, among Austen’s novels, Persuasion is the one that stands out the most when I think about heroines and their travels. I think Anne’s trip to Lyme is a significant turning point in the novel. Before that, she seems weak, tired and almost pitiable. But while in Lyme, we get to see her true character for the first time. We see her intelligence and empathy when she speaks with others like Captain Benwick. She has a presence of mind and a quiet confidence about her when she takes over the situation with Louisa. And she even attracts the attentions of Mr. Elliot. It is as if she truly comes to life and we, as readers, get to see why Captain Wentworth fell in love with her all those years ago and why he is still in love with her. The Anne Elliot that goes to Bath is a very different woman than the one who lived with her father and sister at Kellynch Hall. She is more confident and can stand up to others and decide and act on what makes her happy.
For this post, inspired by the notion of travelling, I have decided to share a small excerpt from my novel, To Love and Cherish, where Lord Paisley is taking leave of Georgiana Darcy. In this case, it is the gentleman, not the lady, who is travelling, but I thought you’d enjoy the sentiments shared as the two say goodbye.
“Is everything prepared to your satisfaction, my lord?” Elizabeth asked Lord Paisley when she found him waiting in the great hall the following morning.
He had left his room quite early that morning, had broken his fast with Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, and was now preparing to depart Pemberley. “The final trunks are being loaded onto my carriage,” he explained distractedly, his eyes glancing to the staircase.
Elizabeth could see the restlessness and unease in his manner. He had not been able to speak to Georgiana and he was about to depart. “Where is my husband?” Elizabeth asked. “And why has he left you alone? I do hope you do not feel neglected.”
“Not at all.” Lord Paisley smiled. “Darcy wants to go as far as the village with me. It seems he has some business to attend to. He has gone to his study to retrieve some documents.”
“I see. I am afraid I need to discuss an important matter with my husband. In the meantime, I suggest you enjoy a walk in the garden.”
Lord Paisley looked at Elizabeth with a mixture of confusion and hesitation. “The garden?”
“It is such a beautiful morning, and the flowers are in full bloom. I have sent my sister to cut some flowers for the dining room.”
“Miss Darcy is in the garden?” Lord Paisley asked, understanding finally dawning on him. Not willing to lose any time, Lord Paisley walked quickly in the direction of the garden. He did not have to walk far before he saw Georgiana. She was wearing a pale yellow dress with short sleeves and a white bonnet. There was a basket full of flowers on the ground by her foot. Her back was turned toward him, but as he grew near, she turned toward him and gasped.
“Good morning, Miss Darcy,” Lord Paisley said softly. “I am sorry to have startled you.”
Her face was flushed, but he was not certain whether he should credit himself for that or the sun. She was holding a single white flower in her hand. “Good morning, sir. I am surprised to see you here. I thought you had left Pemberley.”
“I am leaving in a few minutes,” Lord Paisley said, taking a tentative step in her direction. “But I could not possibly leave without taking my leave of you.”
Georgiana looked at him in surprise and then looked down at the basket on the ground.
“I did not have a chance to say goodbye to you last night,” Lord Paisley said, taking another step toward her.
“I am sorry for my absence,” Georgiana said, still refusing to meet his gaze. “I had the headache.”
“That is understandable. Lady Sophia has the uncanny ability to induce headache in anyone who has the misfortune to be in her company.”
He was now standing close enough to breathe in her intoxicating scent, to admire the golden locks that had escaped from under her bonnet, and to adore the blue irises that were now looking up at him. When had her presence become so essential to his happiness?
“Are you feeling better now?” He asked softly.
Georgiana took in a deep breath to steady her feelings. She was surprised by his presence, and his enquiry after her health touched her greatly. But she was resolved to remain strong. “You must be impatient to return to Paisley Court,” Georgiana said, her fingers playing with the flower in her hand.
It did not escape Lord Paisley that she had not replied to his question. “Not particularly,” Lord Paisley said. “There is nothing awaiting my return but ledgers and letters of business. But I need to tend to them as I do not plan to stay at Paisley Court above a week.”
“Oh?” Georgiana asked. “Are you going to London, then?”
“No. I am leaving England.”
“Leaving England?” Georgiana asked, no longer able to keep her eyes on anything but him. “Where are you traveling to, sir?”
“I am not sure.” Lord Paisley shrugged. “I am quite ready to go where the journey takes me.”
“How exciting!” Georgiana smiled despite herself. “I envy you your freedom.”
Lord Paisley looked down at her face. No matter where I go, I shall never be free of you.
“Will you stay away for long?” Georgiana asked, not able to hide her curiosity.
“My plans are not yet fixed. But I will certainly return in time to attend your ball.”
Georgiana’s smile faded at his reference. For a few blissful seconds, she had forgotten her sadness as she imagined traveling all those foreign lands with him. His mention of the season in London, however, brought her back to the certainty that she was never going to travel with him. He belonged to another woman.
“Will you save me a dance on your card, Miss Darcy?” Lord Paisley asked, noticing her distraction.
“Of course, sir.”
“I suppose your brother will have the honor of the first dance with you. So, I should like the pleasure of dancing the supper set with you. That way I can lead you to supper and you can tell me all about your time in London.”
“And will you tell me about your travels?”
“I will tell you anything you would like to hear, Miss Darcy,” he promised.
“Do you have any advice for my success amongst the ton, my lord?” Georgiana asked, endeavoring to overcome the sorrow that was once again looming.
“One thing, my dear girl,” Lord Paisley said, “you must remember never to give credence to what jealous gossips say. Do not be guided by their vindictive lies.”
“One hears such different reports”—her voice quivering—“one hardly knows what to believe.”
“It is to be hoped that one as sensible as you will not believe everything you hear. You must trust your own heart and judgment.”
This was too much for her to bear. Georgiana’s eyes glistened and she had to take several deep breaths to stop her tears from escaping her eyes. She would not cry in front of him again! She was suddenly reminded of his handkerchief. “I have been meaning to return your handkerchief to you, my lord,” Georgiana said, her voice still not strong enough. “The one you were kind enough to lend me upon our return from the Greens’ house. I dare say, you have been wondering why I have not returned it yet.”
“You are mistaken, Miss Darcy. I have no desire to have it returned to me.”
“But surely, I must return your handkerchief.”
“Must you?” Lord Paisley asked with raised eyebrows.
“It is not at all seemly for a young lady to keep a gentleman’s handkerchief.”
“You must be right, of course,” Lord Paisley said with a sad smile. “We must remedy that situation when we meet again. But until then, I shall entrust my handkerchief in your keeping.”
Georgiana nodded, completely confused by his words. Lord Paisley reached out and took the flower Georgiana had been holding in her hands. Georgiana watched him as he brought the flower to his face and smelled the fragrant petals and instantly smiled with recognition.
“This is your scent,” he said, surprised and pleased by the discovery.
Georgiana blushed deeply at the intimate meaning of his words. He knew her scent. “Gardenias are my favorite flowers, sir,” Georgiana explained, breathlessly watching him as he placed the blossom in the inside pocket of his coat.
“I believe it is time for me to take my leave of you, Miss Darcy,” he said taking her hand in his. “I trust you will take care of yourself until we meet again?”
“I will not be pursuing poachers, if that is what you mean, sir.” Georgiana laughed nervously, being conscious of the tightening of his fingers around hers.
“I am very glad to hear that. Although, I was not particularly thinking of poachers.”
“If it is my political views you are worried about,” Georgiana said archly, “I promise that I will not shock the ton with my liberal notions. I will be as charming as I possibly can.”
Lord Paisley smiled. “That is what worries me most.”
Raising her hand to his lips, he kissed it softly and with one final look, he walked away, leaving Georgiana more confused than she had ever been.