When I first submitted Darcy and Fitzwilliam to the publisher about a thousand years ago one of the editor’s first complaints was that the story was too long. She said new writers often can go on and on and on… well, you get the point. She told me that if I could cut about 20,000 words (insert brow raise here) she would take a closer look at the story.
I said, no problem, and then commenced to figuring out how to slice my baby apart. The easiest thing to do was delete my third or fourth epilogue (I love a good epilogue), the story to include Georgiana, whom I had neglected horribly in the rest of the book. So, I include Parts One, Two and Three here, and hope you enjoy.
Georgiana Writes to a Friend
14 April, 1818
My dearest Emily,
Not that I wish to be a burden, Emily, but oh how I pray you return from visiting your father soon; I miss you dreadfully and we have much to discuss. First of all, there is our very successful matchmaking venture – the first of many I hope (not for the same couple, of course). My cousin, Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam, and your cousin, Lady Amanda Penrod, are deliriously in love (as we knew they would be) and have purchased a home in town very near to brother’s and to Aunt Catherine’s; within a block of each, actually. Were you aware that they also await a blessed event? Twins!
Well, I fear poor Cousin Richard shall not survive this joy with his wits intact – or his hair for that matter. He drives us all wild with bizarre notions. Brother must continually tell him to ignore the tales of childbirth offered so often by our Aunt Catherine (you do remember her, do you not? Lady Catherine de Bourgh? Imperial manners, huge white wig, roaming beauty patch on her cheek). No good can come from that, surely.
And isn’t it splendid how well the shared arrangement is proceeding between the newly wedded couple, Richard and Amanda, and her former mother-in-law, the boy’s grandmamma? Are you as amazed as I at your Aunt, Lady Marguerite Penrod? I must say she is being most gracious these days, hardly seems like the same person really. She behaved so horridly at first, attempting to obtain sole custody of the child. Of course, the poor old dear was well into a fourth year of mourning for her son, the boy’s father. One can understand and be truly sympathetic… if one tries.
Well, on to my wonderful brother, Fitzwilliam Darcy, and his beautiful bride, Elizabeth, both of whom continue to be madly, truly, and deeply in love with each other and with their newborn son, my beloved nephew, Georgie. He is the most magnificent child born to woman since our dear Lord Jesus. (I do hope that is not sacrilegious! I shall have to ask the Archbishop, Uncle Chum).
Also, they are sparing no expense for my Presentation Ball and have outfitted me with more gowns, more gloves, more hats, more everything than I could ever wear in one lifetime, let alone a single social season. In fact, rather tells me they believe I won’t catch a husband in this one. Oh well…
Now for the true meaning of this letter; I must confide my most important news to someone or I shall burst. I am in love; and, as you may have guessed, it is my adorable Beverly who has captured my heart. We remain in secret about our shocking affection for each other, for how could I confess such a thing to my family now?
My dear brother and my cousin will both be traumatized, of course, but the heart is a very resolute organ, especially it seems when it determines to go where it should not.
I must end this now; please hurry back. Until we meet again in person, I remain your friend in our future First Season (and hopefully our last)
Georgiana Catherine Darcy
Growing Old is Compulsory; Growing Up is Optional
It was Springtime in the year of our Lord, 1819, and another social season of the British aristocracy was beginning its slumberous awakening, thousands of elegant households busily uncovering furniture, polishing brass, and stocking wine cellars. Society’s grandest show was about to begin.
Of course, the home of a certain Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy was no exception. On the contrary, several (but not all) of the occupants of the Darcy household were especially enthusiastic this year, what with preparations for The Social Event of the Season underway! (In truth, any home with a young woman turning ten and eight considered their Presentation Ball to be The Social Event of the Season.)
But this Presentation Ball really was special. This was Miss Georgiana Darcy, and she was finally being presented at court. The monumental event had been delayed long enough, her place in society deferred no longer.
That also meant, however, Darcy’s ordinarily calm household had suddenly gone mad with preparations, her society ball taking on epic proportions with new draperies, new furniture, decorators and seamstresses crowding the halls. Darcy found himself politely shooed from rooms, his well-regulated meals delayed or forgotten. Hopeful vendors stalked him.
And, of course, Lady Catherine wore a regular path between the two houses, dragging her indefatigable butler and his crew in her wake as she shrieked at coachman and sweep, gentleman and cobbler alike, anyone who dared obstruct her path. Coaches filled with silver services, china, and glassware careened toward the Darcy’s home. Bolts of material, boxes of wigs, hats, and shoes were carried by merchants in her wake like goslings following a mother goose who might yield them a cartload of golden eggs.
Poor Darcy. When the chaos surrounding him became unbearable, he would slip away to visit his cousin Richard Fitzwilliam’s new home to find the relief he desperately sought. After all, here was a man even more miserable than himself. The colonel had taken up Darcy’s old mantel of ‘Insane Father to Be,’ constantly fretting and arguing with his wife Amanda about her riding in carriages or walking unaided up and/or down stairs.
Her balance was ‘way off’ Fitzwilliam would whisper, comparing her to a drunken Prince Regent leaving a bordello. Already well into her fifth month and wielding her massive girth in what her husband deemed ‘a threatening manner’ she was no longer allowed outside without him. He monitored everything, not only her food but also her hands, her legs, and her feet, the latter two often resembling tree trunks impaled into melons.
For some reason seeing Fitzwilliam so out of sorts cheered Darcy immensely.
Nearly forgotten in all the commotion was Georgiana herself, the only member of the family who looked even remotely tranquil. She would wander in and out of rooms with a wistful, distant look in her eye, occasionally tumbling over chairs or colliding with door frames. All of which she found to be highly diverting before she would continue blindly on her way.
She was blissfully happy. After all, she was madly in love for both the very first and the very last time in her life.
Georgiana Pretends to Fend Off Her True Love’s Advances
Georgiana breathlessly pushed First Lieutenant Beverly John Ashcroft back two paces, believing that to be the respectable distance between unmarried people of short acquaintance. Of course, they had just spent the prior five minutes enjoying a very passionate embrace, alone together in kitchen garden far behind Pemberley House, nestled near the rutabaga and carrot compost heaps.
Heavens he was beautiful.
Georgiana had met the handsome Viscount at one of the innumerable Christmas concerts and holiday parties she attended the prior year and they had both nodded politely when introduced, exchanging small pleasantries and good wishes for the upcoming new year. Oddly enough, later that evening they happened to meet again by accident on the balcony. Twice. Georgiana had simply been returning to the party after freshening up her hair. It was all very innocent.
In any event, that would have been their story if discovered.
In truth Georgiana happily acquiesced to the assignation on the balcony with the handsome young gentleman, boldly allowing him to hold her hand and kiss her cheek. He was captivated by her beauty, her virtue, her sincerity, her modesty and her shyness; and, she – well, she’d always liked a man in uniform, and he was lovely in his, with his broad shoulders, dark blue eyes and long lashes.
Initially their acquaintance was hampered by his turn at sea duty that Christmas, limiting them to heartfelt letters passed in secret. The Lieutenant was confused by her fear their growing affection would be discovered, but he found he would do anything for her. She was so lovely, so adorable and charming.
And, once his ship returned to port the ensuing months saw their relationship blossom through more and more ‘accidental’ meetings, culminating in a passionate declaration of love for each other over afternoon ices at Gunters.
Unfortunately, they had been seated at separate tables at the time…
Sitting back to back, Georgie and Bev reached behind their chairs and clasped hands while over their shoulders they sighed vows of love and whispered pledges of lifelong devotion for each other.
The outcome had been inevitable. He begged her to marry him and she had said yes, yes, yes.
Ashcroft swore under his breath. “Explain this to me once again.” Twenty-five years of age and about to leave for a sea duty of, at the very least, seven months, Bev was more than ready to marry. He raked a hand through his dark hair and willed himself calm. “Have your feelings changed towards me? Please speak truly.”
“Never, Bev, never. Oh, never think that my love. I adore you.” Her hands squeezed his shoulders… his very large muscular shoulders. Oh my. “But you will be gone only a few months, surely we can wait.”
He narrowed his gaze at her. “Why. Wait.”
“Bev, please try to understand. I cannot ‘not’ come out!”
“Are you stammering or making a point?”
“You’re being deliberately thickheaded! My brother and cousin have expended an enormous amount of time and money for my presentation. It is something to which they have looked forward for years – you know how the very elderly dote on this sort of thing. I refuse to disappoint them, not again. Not after Wickham. I hurt them so much with that!”
Ashcroft’s jaw clenched. The mere mention of her aborted elopement with that wretched worm Wickham four years earlier was a rather sore subject for him.
What sort of man attempts the seduction of a child of fifteen, to ruin her, for the sole purpose of blackmailing money from her brother? If her guardians – if her uncle and cousin – had watched her closer and not left her in the country with an untested companion for so long a stretch, things would be very different. To his mind, that misstep was the fault of her guardians, not the fault of a fifteen-year-old child. He stared into the potato peelings, silently cursing the unfairness of the whole thing.
“My brother has been looking forward to this for years, Bev, years! Well heavens, they both have. They both promised my father – swore to him on his deathbed that I would have this!”
“I see. So, you’re telling me your father worried about your presentation on his deathbed.”
“He was a bit odd.” Her little dog trotted behind as Georgiana paced back and forth, her dainty feet viciously kicking discarded vegetation and fruit rinds from her path, only to have the delighted puppy chase them down and return them to her.
Suddenly she stopped and ran to Beverly with a cry, flung her arms around his neck and began kissing him senseless. “Oh, Bev, I love you so much, I do. Please don’t ever doubt that. I desire you as much as you desire me.”
Good lord. Feeling instant arousal he detached her hands and backed away. “Georgie, stop. We have been dancing around this for weeks now. I love you and want to marry you, however we cannot carry on like this much longer! I am not some inexperienced lad, some callow youth, and I do have limits to what I can endure. You may not understand as yet, but you will, dearest; believe me.”
“But can’t you see there has been so much turmoil in the family. Brother had to postpone my season last year because of the death of his mother-in-law, Mrs. Bennet, and then there was Elizabeth’s expectancy. You know he has been more father to me than brother.
“Then my cousin Richard had that terrible ordeal concerning custody of his wife’s child. He has been more of a brother. Oh, I cannot disappoint either of them; I simply cannot. They are my family.” She looked so forlorn and miserable that Ashcroft’s resolve soon melted. He wrapped his arms around her.
Having ushered three younger sisters through their entrance into society he had seen firsthand the pressures placed upon young females. Two had married after their first season to disreputable rakes, then bemoaned their rush to the altar. The third cried herself senseless for a year after her intended ungallantly cried off. Her virtue had survived, but not her good name, yet she somehow mourned the fact that she had not been at least as fortunate as her older sisters. Women were a complete mystery to him.
Viscount Lieutenant Ashcroft possessed little caring for the ton or it’s more dubious customs; and, in his decidedly more sensible and very male mind, could not credit that Georgiana’s brother and cousin would give a whit about her lack of a season in society. After all, Darcy was a powerful man who owned over half of Derbyshire, and Fitzwilliam had experienced eleven years of conflicts momentous enough to turn the tide of history. How could either be laid low by the fact that their favorite ward would not have her first waltz sanctioned by the Almack Amazons? He doubted it, but she did not, and in the end that was all that really mattered. She meant everything to him. He loved her more than his life.
“Please don’t cry, Georgie. I can’t abide your tears, as well you know.” He kissed the top of her head, mopped her eyes. “All right, perhaps a few weeks of a season will satisfy their desire for watered down ratafia.” Slipping a finger beneath her chin he lifted her face up to kiss her sweet lips. “However, you must not waltz with anyone except me, or I swear I will have to call out whomever he is and I am a horrendous shot.”
“I love you, Bev. And, I really wish you would not worry for me while you’re gone. After all, I will have brother and Richard guarding me. What could possibly go wrong?”
His smile could not have been more forced, since their vigilance was exactly what he doubted most.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Thanks for reading… see you next month, Karen W.
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