Anne Elliot is one of my favourite characters in all of Austen’s novels. Perhaps because Austen wrote Persuasion when she was more mature and we see this maturity in Anne’s character also. Anne is sensible and self-aware. She is gentle and quiet, but in times of need, she is the one others turn to. One of my favourite scenes in Persuasion is where Louisa Musgrove is hurt and Anne is the source of wisdom and common sense for everyone. As Captain Wentworth says, there is “no one so proper, so capable as Anne.”
I think that is when Captain Wentworth realizes how deeply he still cares about her, how much he relies on her judgement and how much he trusts her. In the end, only Anne will do. He knows that only she can be his source of comfort.
Today I want to share an excerpt from To Love and Cherish, where Georgiana Darcy becomes the source of comfort for her beloved. Lord Paisley is anxious over Georgiana’s safety, and ironically, only Georgiana can help soothe his worries. I hope you enjoy the excerpt.
Lord Paisley walked the length of his study for the hundredth time. He had gone over the plan many times in his mind. He had discussed it with Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam. Both gentlemen had approved of the plan, claiming it to be perfect. Everything seemed in order. Nothing could possibly go wrong. And yet, he could not be easy. He had stayed in his study, long after his guests had retired, unable to retire to his rooms. He could not sleep. He could not close his eyes without being tormented with images of Georgiana being torn away from him, carried away by force, and thrown into the power of Wickham. He ran his fingers through his hair in agitation.
“My lord?” came his valet’s concerned voice from the door.
Lord Paisley turned toward him. When had Wilkinson entered the study?
“Everyone has gone to bed, my lord,” he said softly. “Will you not retire?”
“Are you in charge of my sleeping habits now, Wilkinson?”
“Normally, I would not be so impertinent, my lord.” Wilkinson smiled kindly. “But tomorrow is bound to be an eventful day. You need your rest to be alert.”
Wilkinson was aware of all His Lordship’s plans. He understood the significance of the day for his master and his betrothed.
“I cannot sleep. I am too anxious. My thoughts are too disturbing.”
“But you have planned everything to perfection, sir.” Wilkinson tried to reassure his master.
Lord Paisley walked toward the fireplace. “What if I am wrong? What if I have made a mistake? What if I am trusting the wrong people?”
“You know you can trust Dickson, my lord. He will do precisely what you want him to do.”
“What about Brooks?” Lord Paisley asked. “And Miss Rochester? What if they have been feeding us misleading information?”
“But everything they have said so far matches with Dickson’s reports.”
Lord Paisley considered his valet’s words carefully, his fingers clenching and unclenching. “I am gambling with Georgiana’s well-being,” he said as if speaking to himself. “She is…. If anything happens to her—”
“No harm will come to Miss Darcy, sir,” Wilkinson said, forbidding his master to continue.
“How can you be so certain?”
“Because I know you would never let any harm come to her.”
“Thank you for your confidence in my infallibility, Wilkinson.” Lord Paisley smirked. “I wish I could feel as confident in myself.”
Wilkinson stared at his master, reflecting that this was the first time he had seen His Lordship in such state of anxiety, and that no matter what he said, he could not give the man the reassurance he needed. “Will there be anything else this evening, sir?”
Lord Paisley shook his head.
“Good night, my lord.” Wilkinson bowed and left the room, closing it softly behind him.
Lord Paisley stood thus for what seemed like hours. He stared into the fire, as he tried to regain control over his anxieties, reprimanding himself for losing concentration. He reminded himself that his plan was indeed thorough, that he had many capable people who were there to support the plan, and that his friend Mr. Audley was now in full possession of the details and had offered his aid in bringing Wickham to justice. All he needed to do now was to stay resolute in keeping Georgiana safe. The mere thought of her brought back a new wave of anxiety. What if Wickham succeeded in taking Georgiana away?
He should have taken care of the scoundrel when he first saw him in London. But Georgiana had asked him not to. And he had agreed to her request, because he was incapable of denying her anything. What if he had placed her in danger by not getting rid of Wickham sooner? What if something were to happen to her tomorrow?
The soft knock on the door snapped him back from his musings. Presuming that Wilkinson had returned, once again, to convince him to retire, he rolled his eyes in frustration and decided to ignore the knock, hoping he would go away. To his annoyance, the door opened.
“I want to be left alone,” he snapped, turning toward the door with a scowl.
To his shock, it was Georgiana who stood at the door.
“Do you?” she asked, half in earnest, half in challenge.
For the first time in his life, Lord Paisley was rendered speechless as he stared in wonder at the woman before her. Her slim form was wrapped in a white dressing gown that almost touched the floor. Her golden curls framed her face and cascaded down her neck and into the middle of her back. Her blue eyes shone against her porcelain skin. She was the most beautiful creature he had ever beheld! And he was mesmerized, besotted and, to his mortification, undeniably aroused.
“Georgiana! What are you doing here?”
“Wilkinson came to fetch me,” she replied, closing the door behind her.
“Wilkinson?” he asked, still astonished by her unexpected appearance.
“He escorted me here. He is waiting for me in the hall to escort me back to my room.”
His eyes narrowed. “Do you mean that my valet had the impertinence to come to your room, this late in the evening, and made you walk around the house in your dressing gown?”
She smiled at his protectiveness. “We did not walk around the house, Julian. He chose the shortest route to bring me here and no one has seen me in my dressing gown. But you.”
Lord Paisley stared at her.
“Mr. Wilkinson told me you are upset,” Georgiana said, taking a tentative step toward him. “What is it, my darling?”
The tenderness and concern in her voice broke his barriers. Suddenly realizing that she must be as anxious as he was, he snapped out of his own worries and rushed to reassure her.
“You have no reason for concern.” He dissembled, taking her hand in his.
“But Mr. Wilkinson said—”
“Wilkinson should not have bothered you. I will speak to him. You need not have been disturbed.”
Georgiana shook her head. “Please do not do this. Do not keep things from me. You have always been honest with me. Let me comfort you as you have comforted me.”
He smiled at her, impressed by her strength, touched by her care. “I am concerned.” He confessed and upon seeing her skeptical eyes, he smiled reluctantly.
Lord Paisley nodded gravely. She stepped closer, cupping his face with both of her hands, and stared into his eyes. “Nothing will happen to me tomorrow, Julian. I will be safe. You have taken care of everything. I have no fear, no doubts, no second thoughts. I trust you.”
She kissed his lips softly, her forehead coming to rest against his, their breaths becoming one. His hands mirrored her actions, cupping her face gently, almost worshipfully.
“I cannot lose you, Georgiana,” he whispered, desperation evident in his voice.
“You will not,” Georgiana whispered back.
Her simple words were charged with such confidence, such conviction, washing away his anxieties. Pressing her to him, he kissed her as he had never kissed her before. For the first time, he was all vulnerability, and she was his savior. He was all need and she was his comfort. He was all desire and she was what he yearned for. His fingers combed through her hair and moved down her form, caressing her curves, making her gasp in pleasure.
“Dear god in heaven, Georgiana!” He broke away from her. Feeling the intimacy and the softness of her curves, he knew that his skin was separated from hers by the sheerest of fabrics. He stilled, his gray eyes roaming over her body.
She blushed crimson. “I was about to retire. I had no time to change. I wanted to come to you without delay.”
“To drive me to distraction?” Lord Paisley asked, smiling down at her becoming blush.
“To help you steady your nerves so you might rest.”
“Do you think I can sleep after seeing you…touching you…like this?” he asked, stepping back from her. “You must not be here.”
“I am not a child, Julian.”
“Believe me,” he said, his voice low and steady, “I am painfully aware of that fact. I beg you, leave me. You are too tempting for my peace of mind.”
She laughed and the sight of her dimples nearly ruptured his control. “I have the highest respect for your honor, Georgiana, but if you do not go to your bed this very minute, I will most certainly take you to mine.”
Georgiana trembled at his words. She knew he meant every word and the need in his eyes threatened to weaken her own resolve to leave.
“Goodnight, Julian.” She caressed his face tenderly and walked away from him.
She turned to look at him. He stared at her, as if trying to commit everything about her to memory.
“Be warned. The next time you enter my study dressed like that,” he said with a roguish gleam in his eyes, “you will not be permitted to leave it so soon.”
Despite her deep blush, Georgiana managed a flirtatious smile. “Perhaps the next time I enter your study dressed like this, I will have no intention of leaving it so soon.”
Lord Paisley’s eyes grew wide at her reply. Utterly shocked by her own brazen words, Georgiana rushed out of his study, leaving His Lordship to stare after her, with the most amused smile upon his lips.
If Mr. Wilkinson had hoped to help his master find a restful sleep, he had very much mistaken the matter. For the marquess had a restless night, unable to quell his mind or his body after Georgiana’s unexpected visit. His Lordship tossed and turned all night long, trying in vain not to think about how irresistible Georgiana had looked in her dressing gown, how soft and desirable she had felt against his hands, and how much his body ached for her. One month until they were to marry seemed an eternity.