Good day to you all,
I hope you and your loved ones are well during these trying times. My family and I have been staying home for the past 8 weeks and despite all the terrible news and the concerns, I have found some joy re-reading some of my favourite novels. Of course, Austen’s novels, particularly Pride and Prejudice, are amongst the books I revisited. My all-time favourite part in Pride and Prejudice is where Elizabeth visits Pemberley and finds Darcy there. He is all charming and sweet and she gets to see a side of him she has never seen before. Although their happiness is short-lived and ends terribly with the arrival of Jane’s letter, their bond has become strong enough to get them through the rough times ahead.
I am also a great fan of Georgette Heyer’s novels. If you have not had the pleasure of reading her books, I strongly recommend that you start. Trust me, you will fall in love with her writing and her characters.
Today is my birthday and I’ve decided that for my post, I will share one of my favourite excerpts from my second novel, To Love and Cherish. I like it because it has got a bit of everything; romance, drama, chivalry, lovers’ quarrel, etc. I hope you will enjoy this excerpt.
Stay safe everyone!
Georgiana knew something was amiss the moment she arrived at the Greens’ house. The youngest child, who was always playing outside was nowhere to be seen. There were no signs of the older boys or the father. No smoke was coming from the chimney. The door was ajar and old Mrs. Green, Mr. Green’s mother, did not come out to greet her.
“Mrs. Green?” Georgiana called as she entered the house hesitantly. “Are you home? It is Miss Darcy. I have brought a basket.”
The inside of the house was dark as all the curtains were drawn. Georgiana left the door open to allow some light inside the house. Once her eyes adjusted to the dim room, she saw Mrs. Green sitting on her usual chair by the fireplace. Georgiana thought it was rather odd that the old woman had not heard her. When the old woman did not move at her entrance or her voice, Georgiana assumed that she had fallen asleep in the chair.
“Mrs. Green.” Georgiana placed a hand on the old woman’s shoulder, giving her a gentle shake.
Upon Georgiana’s touch, Mrs. Green’s head leaned over, making her entire body fall forward. Georgiana gasped at the sudden realization that the old woman was not asleep and that she was in fact dead.
Suddenly she heard a soft cry from a room at the back of the house. She ran toward the sound, looking frantically inside the two small rooms. In a corner of the second room, hidden under a blanket, she found the youngest of the Green children, frightened and soiled, large eyes staring back at her.
“Good morning,” Georgiana whispered and smiled reassuringly at the girl. “Do not be afraid. I am Miss Darcy. You have seen me before, have you not?”
The little girl nodded.
“And what is your name, dear?”
“Sarah,” the small girl whispered.
“Do you know where your father and your brothers are, Sarah?”
The little girl shook her head. Suddenly, they heard footsteps and the unmistakable sound of the front door closing shut. Sarah gasped and hid under her blanket again.
“Do not be afraid, my dear,” Georgiana said and stood. “That must be your brothers or your father. Wait here. I will return for you.”
Sarah did not respond and stayed in her hiding place under the blankets. Georgiana walked toward the front of the house only to come to a halt upon seeing Mr. Green standing just inside the door. The room was once again dark, but Georgiana could see enough to conclude that Mr. Green had been drinking again. His eyes were red and unfocused and his clothes were disheveled and dirty.
“Mr. Green!” Georgiana said as she moved far away from the man. “I regret to have to tell you this but your mother has passed.”
Mr. Green stared at Georgiana as if he had not understood her. Georgiana opened one of the windows to allow air and light into the room.
“Please sit down, Mr. Green”—Georgiana pointed at a seat at the far end of the room—“I will see if there is any tea to be had.”
“Fanny?” Mr. Green asked, narrowing his eyes and taking a step toward Georgiana. “Is it really you, Fanny?”
Georgiana’s heart began pounding against her chest as she realized that Mr. Green had mistaken her for his late wife. “No. I am Miss Darcy.”
“Fanny, my love. You have returned. I knew you would.”
Georgiana knew she should leave, but the man was standing close to the door and she was too afraid to approach it. “Please, listen to me. I am not Fanny. I am not your wife. Your wife is gone.”
“Oh, Fanny,” Mr. Green said as he moved to stand directly before Georgiana.
Georgiana wanted to move, but she had no control over her legs. All she could hear was the sound of her heartbeat in her ears. “Please maintain your distance, Mr. Green,” Georgiana said, with a voice she barely recognized. “You are mistaken, confused. I am not your wife. I am—”
She was not able to finish her sentence as the man moved his hands as if to touch her. Georgiana’s only reaction was to cover her face with her shaking hands and pray that she could wake up from a most unpleasant dream. She did not wake up. Instead, she heard a yelp and a crash. Opening her eyes, she found Mr. Green on the floor, curled in a ball, holding his arm in pain. Standing before him was Lord Paisley.
Those who knew Julian Paisley would describe him as a cool, rational man. But in that moment, he was not at all rational. All he could think about was to inflict more pain on this man who dared insinuate himself on Miss Darcy. But when he moved toward the moaning man on the floor, he felt Georgiana’s hand on his wrist.
“Please, my lord,” she said with a voice that bespoke her anxiety. “Please, no more.”
Upon seeing her frightened eyes and her pallid face, he forgot about his need to punish Mr. Green. He forgot about her utter foolishness to visit the Greens on her own. He forgot about his decision from the previous night and about his resolve to leave. None of it mattered anymore.
His hand moved to cover hers that was still resting on his wrist. “Are you injured?”
“No. I am a little unsettled. That is all.”
“Come,” he said gently, taking her hand in his and leading her to a small chair by the window.
Despite the warmth of the sun that shone into the room, Georgiana shivered and wrapped her arms around her body. Lord Paisley removed his long coat and wrapped it around her. He kneeled before her to see her face once again.
“Thank you, sir. I shall be well in a moment.”
Lord Paisley was not convinced. He looked around the room. Mr. Green was still lying on the floor, groaning. Suddenly, he saw Mrs. Green in the chair.
Georgiana nodded. “She is dead. I do not know how long she has been in that chair.”
“You cannot stay here. You must return to Pemberley immediately.”
“Surely, we cannot just leave.”
“I am not leaving,” Lord Paisley said savagely as he glared at Mr. Green who seemed to have passed out. “I have further business with Mr. Green.”
“Do not hurt him anymore. He did not understand what he was about. He confused me with his late wife.”
“His late wife, indeed.”
“The late Mrs. Green was of similar coloring as I am. I may have resembled his wife in the dimness of the room.”
Georgiana stood from her chair and returned His Lordship’s coat to him.
“Are you well enough to return to Pemberley on your own?” Lord Paisley asked, fighting the urge to put his arms around her.
Hearing sounds of approaching horses, Lord Paisley stepped to the door and Georgiana followed him anxiously. They both came to a halt, seeing the master of Pemberley and his steward, Mr. Ludlow. Mr. Darcy dismounted his horse and walked toward them with his long, confident strides. Lord Paisley heard a small gasp escape Georgiana.
Lord Paisley addressed his friend first. “Darcy, I thought you were meeting with your steward this morning.”
“I was”—and he gestured to the other man.
He stood in front of his sister, his dark eyes surveying her carefully. “I understood last night that you would accompany Elizabeth to the village, Georgiana.”
“I decided to bring a basket of food for the Greens, Brother.”
“And were you helping my sister carry the basket, Julian?” Mr. Darcy asked his friend sarcastically.
“Not quite,” Lord Paisley said. “As I told the footman—”
“As you say….”
“There is much here that requires your immediate attention, Darcy.”
“Mrs. Green is dead, Fitzwilliam,” Georgiana said nervously. “And Mr. Green is…he is—”
“I can imagine what he is,” Mr. Darcy said dryly. “I will see to the situation.”
“The little girl,” Georgiana said. “Her name is Sarah. She is alone and frightened. She is hiding in the back room. I cannot leave her here.”
“I will take her to my house, Miss Darcy,” Mr. Ludlow said. “She knows my wife and my children. We will keep her with us until we know what must be done.”
Mr. Ludlow looked at Mr. Darcy for his approval.
“Please take Georgiana back to Pemberley, Julian,” Mr. Darcy said in a voice that brooked no objection. “I shall return your horse with us, if you would not mind.”
Lord Paisley nodded and offered his arm to Georgiana.
“Go home, Georgiana. We will discuss this upon my return.”
Georgiana knew enough of her brother to know she should comply with his request. She took Lord Paisley’s arm and walked toward the phaeton. Lord Paisley helped her into the carriage and climbed up, sitting beside her. He took the reins and steered the horses toward the lane. She was upset, he had no doubt. She had turned her face toward the road, flatly refusing to meet his gaze or to have conversation with him. But Lord Paisley was not easily dissuaded.
“Are you cold? May I offer you my coat?”
Georgiana shook her head. “No, my lord. I do not require your coat.”
He observed her profile from the corner of his eyes. She was indeed beautiful with her arched eyebrows, small nose, and full lips.
“Will you tell me why you are angry with me?”
“Do I really need to say it?” Georgiana asked sarcastically. “I would have thought you would know.”
“You will forgive me, Miss Darcy”—Lord Paisley smiled, seemingly unaffected by her words—”I can be quite dim-witted.”
“I highly doubt that, sir,” Georgiana hissed.
“Now, tell me why you are so upset with me.”
“Well, I hope you are satisfied, my lord. Fitzwilliam is very upset.”
“I beg your pardon?” Lord Paisley asked with no little surprise. “Are you suggesting that I am somehow responsible for today’s events?”
“I am not suggesting it, sir,” Georgiana said. “We both know that you are indeed responsible.”
Lord Paisley pulled on the reins, bringing the horses to a stop. “Do enlighten me. How am I responsible for this?”
“My brother would never have suspected a thing had you not notified him.”
“I do not know what prompted Darcy to come to the Greens’ house today,” Lord Paisley said, offended by her accusation, “but I did not tell my host anything more than I was going for a ride.”
“Then why would he interrupt his meeting and come to the Greens’ house?” Georgiana asked skeptically.
“Who can say? But I gave him no information. I kept my end of the bargain, Miss Darcy, which is more than I can say about you.”
“I am sure I do not understand what you mean, sir,” Georgiana said, looking away from him.
“You know very well what I mean. We made a bargain. I promised not to tell Darcy about the boys, and you promised to keep me informed of all your plans regarding this matter.”
“Did you really expect me to share anything with you after your behavior at dinner?”
“I meant to teach you a lesson.”
“And what might that lesson be? To never trust you again?”
“To never try to bamboozle me,” Lord Paisley corrected. “But judging from your foolish actions today, I believe you did not learn the lesson at all.”
“My foolish actions?” Georgiana asked incredulously, her eyes growing wide at his rudeness.
“Your foolish actions.”
“You should not speak to me as if I were a child.”
“Well, perhaps you should stop behaving like a child. What in the world prompted you to visit the Greens on your own?”
“I came to find some information from Mrs. Green about the boys,” Georgiana said with conviction. “I came with a basket!”
“That makes a lot more sense. A bribe.”
“Charity!” Georgiana bristled. “Will you ever cease to laugh at me?”
“I am in no humor to laugh, my girl.”
“I am most certainly not your girl,” Georgiana said defiantly, her eyes the darkest shade of blue.
“Well perhaps that is a blessing, for I would turn you over my knee if you were.”
Georgiana blushed profusely. “I wish you had never come to Pemberley.”
“Well, for once you and I are agreed. Had I known I would have to spend my time riding around the county, protecting you from poachers and drunkards, I never would have come.”
“I do not remember having asked for your protection.”
“You must indeed have a terrible memory, Miss Darcy, for as soon as you asked me to keep secrets from your brother, you made me responsible for your well-being.”
“Well, let me release you from your dreadful responsibility, my lord,” Georgiana said, her voice beginning to shake, “since Fitzwilliam knows about the Greens, you are no longer under any obligation with regards to my well-being.”
“I am very glad to hear that since I am leaving Pemberley on the morrow.”
Georgiana turned her face toward the road. “I shall like to return to Pemberley now.”
“As you wish.”
They rode in uncomfortable silence for a while.
“Fitzwilliam will be sorry when he hears about your early departure,” Georgiana said softly, breaking the silence.
“I highly doubt that, given today’s events.”
“Today’s events were not your fault,” Georgiana said.
“You confound me, Miss Darcy.” Lord Paisley chuckled. “Did you not just berate me for betraying your trust and for my behavior at dinner last evening?”
Her eyes stung with unshed tears. She took a deep breath to steady her emotions, but she was unable to control her tears. She looked away, hiding her face. He took out his handkerchief and gently tucked it inside her hand that was resting on her lap. Georgiana gasped. He pressed her hand gently before releasing it. Georgiana wiped her tears with his handkerchief and slowly managed to calm herself.
“I should not have spoken to you in that manner,” Georgiana said. “It was very wrong of me and I apologize.”
“I am sure I prompted you to say all the things you said. I know I can be provoking and trying of one’s patience.”
“No matter what you said,” Georgiana said, “there is no excuse for my behavior. I am ashamed of myself.”
“Shall we agree that we both have our share of the blame?”
Georgiana nodded. Pemberley was now in full view and they both knew that they had a difficult afternoon ahead of them.
“Please do not leave Pemberley on my account, my lord,” Georgiana said. “My brother has been looking forward to your company and I will never forgive myself if you left because I made your stay unpleasant.”
“You are taking too much upon yourself, Miss Darcy. You have done nothing to blame yourself for. And do not worry about Darcy. I will speak to him. He will not be angry with you.”
“I can brave Fitzwilliam’s anger. It is his disappointment I cannot endure.” Georgiana looked away again.
Lord Paisley did not miss her discomfort. “We all do things we are not proud of when we are very young. He will not be disappointed in you.”
“He ought to be. I am disappointed in myself. I should have been honest with him from the start. Moreover, I knew, as soon as I saw Mr. Green in his condition, that I should remove myself from his presence. But I did not. I could not. I just stood there, like a…like a coward.”
“My dear girl!” Lord Paisley said. “What did you think you were supposed to do?”
“I should have slapped him,” Georgiana whispered. “Made him come to his senses.”
You are the most adorable creature I have ever beheld. Lord Paisley’s eyes danced in amusement.
“I would not dare laugh at your attempt at defending yourself,” Lord Paisley said with a smile. “However, I caution you that a man in his cups would not be stopped by a mere slap.”
“I suppose you are right.”
“Should the situation arise again, I believe a blow to his nose with your fist would prove more effective.”
Georgiana’s beautiful lips parted in surprise. To his utter joy, she did not look away and she did not blush. Instead, she laughed and Lord Paisley’s heart skipped a beat at the sight of her dimples.
How had he missed them before? Had he never seen her laugh? She had smiled and giggled before, but her laughter had always been restrained. But this laughter was so different, so unguarded, so natural. Her face was so much more beautiful when she laughed, and he wanted so much to reach out and touch her face where the dimples had appeared.
He shook to clear his head of such thoughts. The dimples had disappeared and he was sorry for it. She was not laughing anymore. She was blushing now.
Dear God! Did I actually touch her face?
He looked down and found both his hands firmly holding the reins. He had not touched her. But he had been staring at her long enough to unnerve her.
When they finally arrived at Pemberley, Lord Paisley was grateful for the footman who handed Miss Darcy down from the phaeton. He could not wait to go to his room, where he would be able to think rationally, away from her bewitching eyes and her distracting dimples.