Today’s post is inspired by the National Siblings Day, which was on April 10th. I have two siblings myself; an older brother and a younger sister, and I’ve had the privilege of experiencing the special bond and affection that exists between siblings.
Austen’s stories are full of examples of sibling love. I think the best example of sibling bond is among the Bennet sisters in Pride and Prejudice. Though very different in character, Elizabeth and Jane share a special bond that keeps them grounded and strong throughout their trials and tribulations. I would even argue that despite Mary’s sour disposition and Lydia’s and Kitty’s silliness, all five sisters love each other dearly.
Mr. Darcy and his sister are another example of sibling bond and affection, though his love for her is of a protective kind, which is perhaps due to the difference in their age and gender.
But not all of siblings in Austen’s stories share such deep love for one another. I am convinced that the only reason Mr. Bingley endures his sisters is his good nature and his sense of duty toward his family. In Persuasion, Elizabeth Elliot has no affection for Anne and Mary is too self-involved to care about Anne. And in Northanger Abbey, Mr. Tilney and his brother are polar opposites in character and behaviour and I do not think any affection exists between the two.
In honor of National Siblings Day, I have decided to include a short excerpt from To Love and Cherish that hopefully captures the affection between Mr. Darcy and Georgiana. We all know how much he loves Georgiana and how protective he is of her, but I think in this particular excerpt he shows more than love and protectiveness; I think he shows her respect. And that, to me, is the beginning of a different relationship between these two. I think he now sees her as a mature and sensible young woman. I hope you will enjoy it and let me know what you think.
“Georgiana.” Her brother’s voice startled her. “I was just notified that Lord Barton was here. What has happened, my dear?”
Darcy was standing by the door, watching his sister with concern.
“I hardly know.” Georgiana shook her head, tears gathering in her eyes. “Oh, Fitzwilliam, I am so wretched!”
He walked inside and gathered her in his arms. “My darling!”
It had been years since the last time Georgiana had found refuge in her brother’s arms. She had thought herself too grown up to do so as she was used to do in her younger years. But after the day she had had, nothing was as welcome as her brother’s protective embrace. Well, almost nothing. There was one other person whose embrace she preferred above everyone else, but she had pushed him away with her hurtful accusations. The realization of what she had done hit her again, and another wave of sadness engulfed her.
“That is enough now, Georgiana,” Darcy whispered. “Nothing is so important as to make you so miserable.”
“I have ruined everything.”
“I doubt that very much, my dear,” Mr. Darcy said and, taking his sister’s hand, guided her to the sofa. “Sit with me and tell me what happened.”
And she did. For the first time in their lives, Georgiana spoke to Darcy, shared her feelings, her thoughts and her fears, not as a younger sister does to her much older brother, but as a young lady does to a trusted friend. To his credit, Darcy listened, never interrupting her, and never letting his feelings appear on his face. When she was finally finished, she looked up at him, her eyes beseeching the wisdom she knew he possessed.
“Allow me to congratulate you for how you handled Lord Barton,” Darcy said. “I am very proud of you.”
“I was uncivil to him, Brother,” Georgiana admitted, surprised by Darcy’s easy acceptance of it all.
“He deserved it. For him to have the presumption to come to you, without my permission, to show such arrogance, and to show disrespect to Julian and you! His behavior was beyond rude. You did well to send him away.”
“He said you knew of his intentions. And that you had already given your permission.”
“He spoke to me while he was staying at Pemberley. But I never gave him my permission to approach you. To be honest, not long after he arrived at Pemberley, I knew he was not worthy of you. He is too arrogant for his own good. And he could never make you happy.”
“He said that he would teach me how to be worthy of being his wife.”
“Julian was right,” Darcy said thoughtfully. “He tried to warn me about Lord Barton. He was of the opinion that he would never appreciate you. I took his warnings as the words of a jealous man. But he was right.”
“He seems to be right all the time.”
Darcy smiled. “Julian is an intelligent man. He has a talent for appraising character, and he does not suffer from the reserve that you and I have in abundance. This enables him to have an excellent judgment.”
“I know. And I… I have been proven wrong in every argument I have had with him.”
“Not in every argument, my dear,” Darcy said. “Your argument this afternoon was fair and just.”
Georgiana looked up at her brother, astonished by his words.
Darcy smiled at her surprise. “I am a proud man, Georgiana. But I hope I am not too proud to admit my mistakes. You were correct. We should have told you about Wickham as soon as we became aware of his being in Town. But, you must understand, our sole intention was to protect you against the scoundrel.”
“You made decisions on my behalf,” Georgiana said, shaking her head in disapproval. “Without consulting me.”
“It is a man’s responsibility and honor to protect those under his care. I grant you, we should have shared our information with you. But it was still mine and Richard’s responsibility as your guardians to make decisions pertaining your well-being.”
“And what about Lord Paisley?”
“He cares for you, Georgiana. I cannot fault him for wanting to protect you.”
“But do you not see how that makes me feel? Your refusal to tell me about Wickham makes me certain that you do not believe I can conduct myself in a manner befitting a lady or that you think I am so fragile that I may easily fall apart. Either way, it shows a lack of trust in my ability to think and behave as a sensible person.”
Darcy nodded and took a deep breath.
“Your arguments are fair. You are a sensible, intelligent young woman. I want you to know that I have never doubted that. I could never be prouder of you than I am at present.”
“Even after my less than ladylike display this afternoon?”
“Especially after your less than ladylike display this afternoon.” Darcy smiled. “You were very impressive, my dear. You seem to have inherited the Darcy temper after all.”
“I am afraid my Darcy temper may have cost me my happiness.”
“I would not be so hopeless if I were you, Georgiana. Julian is not so easily intimidated.”
“But he is easily disappointed. What man would want an opinionated, petulant woman like me?”
“Men of strong mettle prefer headstrong wives,” Darcy said. “And I believe it is time for me to go and apologize to my own opinionated, petulant wife.”
Georgiana smiled at her brother’s words. “Where is Richard?” she asked, suddenly remembering her cousin.
“He left a long time ago.” Darcy chuckled. “I believe he was too afraid to face you again.”
“Coward!” Georgiana shook her head in amusement.
Mr. Darcy rose from his seat and looked down at his sister lovingly. Noticing the melancholy still in her eyes, he smiled reassuringly. “All will be well, dear one. Julian will come back soon enough.”
“What if he does not?”
“Then he does not deserve you,” Darcy said as he bent down and bestowed a kiss upon his sister’s forehead.
It was at that precise moment when the door opened and Mr. Bidwell entered, making yet another unexpected announcement.
“Lord Paisley, sir,” he said and stepped aside to allow His Lordship to enter.
It was perhaps fortunate that only Darcy, Georgiana, and the old butler were present to witness Lord Paisley’s appearance as he entered the room, for he was so unlike his usual self. His coat was drenched, his hair was wet, and his cravat had unraveled.
Miraculously, however, Georgiana was oblivious to it all. All she could think about was that he had returned, and all she could see was the storm in his eyes.
“Good god, Julian!” Darcy seemed to be the only person in the room who had the ability to speak. “Did you walk here? In all that rain?”
Lord Paisley’s eyes left Georgiana’s only long enough to acknowledge her brother before they were once again fixed on her.
“I apologize for my appearance,” he finally said. “But if I may, I would like to speak to Miss Darcy. Alone.”
“Is that all right with you, my dear?” Darcy asked his sister.
Georgiana nodded her consent, her eyes still held captive by His Lordship’s.
“I will ask the housekeeper to bring you some tea. And perhaps a towel?”
Chuckling at his own little joke, Darcy left the drawing room, closing the door behind him.