Georgiana's Story

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
My first novel was published February of last year - DARCY AND FITZTWILLIAM - which is a continuation of Jane Austen's wonderful PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. The publisher informed me that the original book was way too long and had me eliminate that last section involving Mr. Darcy's sister, Georgiana. Characters in this short story are Georgiana Darcy, Fitzwilliam Darcy, Elizabeth Bennet Darcy, Colonel Fitzwilliam (Mr. Darcy's cousin), Amanda Fitzwilliam (the Colonel's wife) and the constantly crabby Lady Catherine de Bourgh. This is all meant in good fun - I love Jane Austen and love to laugh.

This was my first attempt at writing anything at all, let alone a full length novel. DARCY AND FITZWILLIAM deals entirely with the two cousins and their relationship - a sort of Regency Era Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

I do have a sequel to DARCY AND FITZWILLIAM coming out October 1, 2012 titled SONS AND DAUGHTERS; this book follows the men as they deal with their wives and their children over a span of about twenty years.

I consider PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, DARCY AND FITZWILLIAM and now SONS AND DAUGHTERS to be a sort of Family Saga for Mr. Darcy and the Colonel.

You can visit my blog - THE LEAGUE OF BRITISH ARTISTS (www.britsunited.blogspot.com) to see the reviews of Darcy and Fitzwilliam and read all about the great actors who appear in the Historical movies we love. Thank you.

Submitted: September 14, 2012

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Submitted: September 14, 2012

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Georgiana’s

Story

 

(The Continuing Saga of Darcy and Fitzwilliam)

 

By

Karen V. Wasylowski


For Richie

 

 

 

“Young love is a flame; very pretty, often very hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. The love of the older and disciplined heart is as coals, deep-burning, unquenchable.”

 


Henry Ward Beecher

 


 

 

Chapter One


14 April, 1818

 

My dearest Emily, 

Not that I wish to be a burden, Emily, but oh how I hope 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.  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 new home in town very near to brother’s and to Aunt Catherine’s; within a block of each actually.  Were you aware that they are not only in the midst of moving in but also await the birth of twins?  Twins!  Poor Cousin Amanda!Of course with her impending motherhood have come the usual inanities of male behavior (usual for my family at any rate). I fear poor Cousin Richard will not survive the entire nine months with his hairline intact, and he drives us all wild with bizarre notions.Brother must tell him to discontinue discussing childbirth with Aunt Catherine (you do remember her, do you not?  Lady Catherine de Bourgh?  Imperial manners, huge white wig, roaming beauty patch around her cheek).  No good can come from that, surely.

And isn’t it splendid how well the shared custody is proceeding between the newly wedded couple and your aunt, the boy’s grandmamma? Cousin Richard sincerely dotes on Amanda’s little boy, Harry - has already accepted him not only in his home but as his true son in his heart.  Are you as amazed as I at your Aunt, Lady Marguerite Penrod?I must say she is being most gracious now, hardly seems like the same person really.  She behaved so horridly at first, when she was still Amanda’s mother-in-law, attempting to claim custody of the child.  Of course, the poor old woman was in the fourth year of mourning for her son, the boy’s father.  One can understand and sympathize. 

Well, on to my brother, Fitzwilliam Darcy, and his beautiful bride, Elizabeth.  Brother and Elizabeth are continuing to be head over heels in love with each other and with their wonderful newborn son, my beloved nephew, Georgie, as well they should be – he is the most magnificent child born to woman since our dear Lord.  (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 than I could ever wear in one lifetime, let alone one social season.  They are even redoing the ballroom at Pemberley House and there are new draperies and carpets everywhere.  Do I dare tell them how much I dread and despise the thought of the next few months?  No, I daresay I do not.

 Oh, well… I cannot hold back any further.  I must confide my most important news to someone or I shall burst.  I am in love, dearest, truly and for the first time.  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 but I know you will assist me if the need arises one day, won’t you dearest?  It is obvious that this is not the time to confess such a thing to my family. 

  My dear brother and cousin will both be greatly traumatized as well as deeply disappointed in me, letting them down like this, but the heart is a very determined organ, especially when it goes where it knows it should not.

I must end this now; please hurry back.  Until we meet again in person, I remain your friend in our First Season (and hopefully our last)

Georgiana Catherine Darcy


It was now springtime in the year of our Lord, 1819, and the social season of the British aristocracy was beginning its slumberous awakening.  Thousands of elegant households were uncovering furniture, polishing brass and stocking wine cellars.  Society’s grandest show was about to begin.

In the household of a certain Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, preparations for the social event of the season (in truth there would be a great many society events claiming this mantle over the coming months) were well underway.  Georgiana Darcy was finally “Coming Out”.The monumental event had been delayed long enough; her place in society could be deferred no longer. 

Darcy’s ordinarily calm household had suddenly gone mad, preparations for his sister’s upcoming Presentation at Court and her Society Ball had taken on epic proportions with new draperies, new furniture, decorators and seamstresses filling the halls.  Darcy was occasionally shooed from rooms, meals were delayed or forgotten, vendors stalked him. 

And, of course, Lady Catherine wore a regular track between the two houses, dragging her indefatigable butler, Jamison, and several footmen, in her wake as she shrieked to coachman and sweep, gentleman and cobbler alike, anyone who dared to 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 various merchants, following in her wake like goslings; a huge and golden mother goose that had often yielded them each a cartload of golden eggs. 

 

Irritated with the chaos surrounding him Darcy would often slip away, wandering the few blocks to visit his cousin Richard Fitzwilliam’s new home. Here was a man even more miserable than himself.  The colonel had taken up Darcy’s old mantel of ‘Insane Father To Be,’ was constantly fretting and arguing with his wife Amanda about her riding in carriages or her walking unaided up and/or down stairs and just when in bloody hell would she learn not to lock herself away in various rooms as she searched for a moment’s blessed peace.  

Her balance was way off Fitzwilliam would bellow - she resembled nothing less than a drunken one-legged lieutenant 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 always cheered Darcy up immensely.

Nearly forgotten in all the commotion was Georgiana herself and she seemed the only member of the family who looked remotely happy.  She wandered 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 a blissfully happy shade in a world gone mad; secretly confident that she was in love for both the very first and very last time in her life


 

 

Chapter Two

 

Georgiana Darcy breathlessly pushed First Lieutenant Beverly Ashcroft back two paces, believing that to be the proper and 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 the kitchen garden far behind Pemberley House, nestled near the rutabaga and carrot compost heaps.

Heavens he was beautiful.

Georgiana had met the handsome but oddly named Viscount at one of the innumerable Christmas concerts and holiday parties she had 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 by accident on the balcony.  Georgiana was returning to the concert after freshening up her hair.  It was all very innocent.

In any event, that would have been their story if discovered. 

In truth their attraction had been immediate and electric and Georgiana had snuck away to a balcony with the handsome young gentleman, boldly allowing him to hold her hand and kiss her cheek.  He was captivated by her beauty, her sincerity, her modesty and her shyness; and, she – well, she had always liked a man in uniform and he was gorgeous with his broad shoulders, dark blue eyes and long lashes.

Initially their acquaintance was hampered by his short turn at sea duty that Christmas, limiting them to heartfelt and earnest letters passed in secret.  The Lieutenant was confused at first by her terror of their growing affection being discovered but he found he would do anything for her.  She was so lovely, so adorable and charming.  Once his ship had returned to port, the ensuing months saw their relationship blossom through frequent ‘accidental’ meetings, culminating in a passionate declaration of their love for each other over afternoon ices at Gunters. 

Unfortunately, they had been forced to sit at separate tables with friends in the know for cover.  Sitting back to back at their respective tables, Georgie and Bev had reached behind their chairs and clasped hands.  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. 

However....

 

Ashcroft swore under his breath.  “But why Georgie?  Explain this to me once again.  Why is this taking so long?”Twenty-five years of age and about to leave for a sea duty of at the very least seven months he felt more than ready to marry.  He raked his hands through his curling dark hair in frustration.  “Have your feelings changed towards me?  Please speak truly.”

“Never, Bev, never.  Oh, never think that my love.  I adore you so much.”  Her hands flew up to cup 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 eyes and stared at her intensely.  “What do you mean – wait?”

“Bev, please try to understand.  I cannot ‘not’ come out!  My brother and cousin have both expended an enormous amount of money and energy on this, it is something to which they are looking forward!  You know how much the elderly admire this sort of thing.  And they  are both so proud of me – I am like their own little creation.  I refuse to fail them – not again, not after Wickham!  I hurt and disappointed them both so much with that!” 

Ashcroft’s jaw clenched. He grew angry at the mere mention of her aborted elopement with that wretched worm Wickham four years earlier.  If he ever met this rakehell he would surely beat him, he thought, and no court in the land would take offense. 

What sort of man tries to seduce 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, not left her in the country with a new untested companion for so long a stretch, things would be very different. To his mind, that one lapse of vigilance on their part, not any lapse of judgment from a fifteen year old child, was causing them both all this misery and pain.He stared into the distance, 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!”  With her little dog Rufus trotting loyally by her side she began to pace back and forth, wringing her hands in desperation, her daintily slippered feet viciously kicking aside discarded vegetation and fruit rinds which the delighted dog would chase down and return.  She stopped suddenly, ran to him and grabbed his face with her hands for the sole purpose of kissing him senseless.  “Oh, Bev, I do love you so much, please don’t ever doubt that.  I desire you as much as you desire me.”

“Georgie, stop!  We have been dancing around this for weeks now.”  He seized her hands in his; holding them gently he pressed them to his chest.  She could feel his heart beating wildly beneath.  “I love you and want to marry you now!  I am not some inexperienced lad, some callow youth, and I do have limits to what I can endure!”

“But can’t you see there has been so much turmoil in the family.  My brother had to postpone my season last year because of the death of his wife’s mother and then there was Elizabeth’s expectancy.  You know he has been more like a father to me than brother.

“Then my cousin Richard had that terrible ordeal with custody of his wife’s child.He and I are much closer than cousins; he has been more of a brother.  Oh, I cannot disappoint either of them; I simply cannot.”  She looked so forlorn and miserable that Ashcroft’s resolve soon melted.  He gently 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 sisters.  Like most men, 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 be that disappointed about her failure to have 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 little girl 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.

“There, there.  Please don’t cry, Georgie.  I can’t abide your tears, as well you know.”  He kissed the top of her head.  “All right, perhaps a few weeks of a season will satisfy their demented desire for watered down ratafia.  My ship should be returning by the end of October and then I will offer for you - all right my love?”  Slipping a finger beneath her chin he lifted her face up to his then softly kissed her lips.  “However, do not waltz with anyone except me, or I swear I will have to call out whoever it is and I am a horrendous shot.”


 

 

Chapter Three

 

“Lizzy, will this be suitable as a stand-in for my gown?”  Georgiana hesitated in the doorway as Elizabeth, holding baby Georgie in her arms, marched back and forth like a general surveying her troops.  Actually she was trying to decide among the various materials laid out before her for the last of the new draperies. 

“Georgiana? Oh wonderful, you’re ready.  Why yes, those tablecloths will be perfect for rehearsing.  Let me quickly pin them up.  Aunt Catherine is expected any moment and I am a bit anxious that she will be disappointed, limited to using only this room as we are.  Please remember we must try to make a plausible excuse for William’s absence.  Unfortunately, the activity surrounding both the redecorating of the house and the preparations for your Ball are beginning to wear very thin with your brother.”Lizzy showered her baby with kisses before reluctantly handed him over to his hovering nurse then motioned for Georgiana to walk to the middle of the room.  The furniture had long since been pushed back to the far walls by the footmen.

Georgiana, a tall quill feather pinned to her hair began a regal promenade, stumbling only once when she reached the center and turned too quickly.  The large white tablecloth acting as her train had wrapped itself around her ankles.

“When, oh when, will they deliver the gowns?’’  Lizzy fretted as she untangled the tablecloth and spread out the elaborate counterpane that formed Georgiana’s skirt.  That was when Lizzy spied the worn pink slippers.  “Aren’t you wearing your Presentation shoes?  Georgiana!” 

“Excellent, excellent!  I am pleased to see you are both ready for our rehearsal.”  Lizzy and Georgiana, as always, jumped at the very sound of Lady Catherine’s voice.  “You will never guess whom I found outside in his carriage – the Earl of Claremont’s very handsome son, Lieutenant Beverly Ashcroft.  You both remember him, surely.” 

Georgiana spun around entangling her feet once more in the table cloth and then nearly toppled over.  Her delicate face colored immediately still she beamed at the vision before her, the love of her life, looking majestic in his British Naval uniform. 

She went positively limp at the mere sight of him.

As Ashcroft beheld the outrageously pinned up outfit his beloved wore, her bedroom slippers peeking out from beneath, a feather sticking out sideways from her head, his love and natural born compassion helped him to suppress his laughter.It was a moment before he realized that Lady Catherine was speaking to him. 

 “You know, Ashcroft, your mother was one of my dearest acquaintances; I was so saddened when she passed.”  Catherine suddenly stopped speaking and turned toward him.  “She did pass, didn’t she?  Oh, good.”  She continued into the room.  “Yes, I always say the late Christina Beverly was the great beauty in her first season; I say this to everyone.  Of course there was so little to choose from that year.  She would be so very proud of you, I am sure, and your great success in the army.”

“The Royal Navy, Lady Catherine.”  Ashcroft smiled at her kindly.

“I beg your pardon?”

“I am in the Royal Navy, your ladyship.  I am a first Lieutenant on His Royal Majesty’s ship Vanguard.”

Catherine considered that for a moment and then, easily distracted as always, waved the distinction away with her fan.  “Six of one….

“Where are my wayward nephews?  Where are Darcy and Fitzwilliam?!”  Catherine’s head swiveled as she searched the reception parlor.  “How can we begin if they are not present?  Must I do everything in this family!  Does no one have a care for my nerves!?” 

Elizabeth approached her aunt hoping to placate her.  “I am afraid that William has been only recently apprised of some problems with drainage at Pemberley that needed his immediate attention.”  Possessing an unnatural fear regarding the mystery of drainage, Catherine gasped then readily nodded her agreement that her nephew would need to investigate the problem immediately. “Even as we speak he is locked in with the steward and really cannot be interrupted.”

 “Well, what of Richard then?  What excuse can you possibly provide concerning him?”

Elizabeth leaned toward her aunt and whispered.  “As you well know, Aunt Catherine, his wife has been experiencing some difficulties with her condition and he is quite concerned, as is her doctor.  Richard remains at her side almost continuously (poor woman).  She is, after all, expecting twins.”

“Yes, yes, and very conveniently so, it would appear.”  Catherine’s eyes narrowed with suspicion.  “Twins.  Harrumph.  Americans always have to do things up so much bigger, don’t they?  Such an ostentatious country.”

Ashcroft politely approached and cleared his throat.  “Could I be of assistance?”

Catherine immediately brightened. “Now this is a gentleman!  Well, evidently you will have to do Ashcroft - there is no one else.  We must practice her entrance, her bow, her demeanor, the maneuvering of her train, her retreat from the room, the deportment of her feather.  These are all gravely important.  I fear that two gentlemen I shall not name – namely Darcy and Fitzwilliam - are not giving this matter truly serious consideration.”  As she spoke she gazed suspiciously at Lizzy then, switching her attentions once again, she smiled brightly at the handsome young man to her side, patting his arm.  “You are a saint to volunteer, Ashcroft, you really are, and tremendously handsome at which to look.  Thank heavens you appear to be nothing like your father.  I must warn you however, we may need you here for several hours today.” 

“I am willing to sacrifice at least that much for my Queen,”Ashcroft’s sly glance and wink at Georgiana left her breathless.


 

 

Chapter Four

 

Darcy had slipped out the back door of his home moments before his Aunt Catherine had barged through the front, feeling only a slight twinge of guilt over his abandonment.  He needed a few moments of tranquility in his life and there was one place in London he knew with a certainty could make him feel better again.  Whistling, he turned west and leisurely strolled the five blocks to the newly purchased Fitzwilliam town home.  Gingerly threading his way among gardeners and landscapers, he jogged down to the lower servant’s door and entered, all the while sidestepping boxes and rolled carpeting, masons and plumbers.  He quickly came upon his cousin who had settled into the kitchen to discuss with the obdurate cook his wife’s lunch in detail.

“Our house is in chaos so I thought I might come here for sanctuary.”  Darcy ducked just before a ladder carried by two men swung around behind him. 

“It always saddens me that you are desperate enough to consider this is an improvement.”

“Catherine just arrived.”

“Say no more.”

“Feed me.”

“Good God, you are pathetic.”  Turning to the cook he requested an early tea be brought up to the family room.  He then turned to his cousin again.  “Let us go through the library before we are killed by a loose hammer.”  Fitzwilliam glanced over his shoulder as he heard part of a wall being destroyed.  “I will never understand women.  We purchased this house because Amanda deemed it absolutely perfect, and then she set upon changing it completely.” 

“This must be costing you a fortune, Fitz.”

“Not me.  Amanda.  She has finally obtained the inheritance she received from her father.  It had gone to her first husband and that idiot tied the money up with enough loopholes to make any solicitor salivate; it’s taken them the entire five years to untangle the unholy mess.  And then, instead of putting it aside as I recommended, she begged me to let her spend all of it on this damnable house.  Seems my father has finally condescended to meet her and she is very anxious to make a good impression, believes he will more readily accept her if the curtains are new.  Poor dear, she’s bound to be disappointed.  He promises to be here in August for her confinement but I have my doubts.  He’s been coming into town regularly for months and has never bothered to contact us.”

“I thought your father hated town.”

“So did I.  Evidently, from the rumors I’ve heard, he’s discovered opera dancers.”

 

They walked through the side door of a huge dusty library to the back servant’s stairway and then up to the second floor of the house.  There was activity here also, but the second floor was nearly finished, providing, among other areas, a large family sitting room, warm and inviting with a fireplace, overstuffed furniture in textured pastels, thick carpets and vases of flowers.  A wall length windowed balcony filled the room with sunlight and provided a view of the emerging front garden and the street beyond.Fitzwilliam’s wife Amanda was settled on the couch before the fire, her feet elevated and covered with a throw; bolsters were situated behind her and beneath her knees to help relieve the strain from her back.  She appeared very large and very uncomfortable. 

And yet surprisingly, very happy.

Amanda smiled immediately at the sight of Darcy.  “Have you come to spring me from me jailer, guv’nor.” 

“Good lord.”  Fitzwilliam walked over to a nearby table.  “That was perhaps the worst cockney accent yet that you’ve attempted.  Port or claret, Darcy?” he called over his shoulder.

“Both, Fitz, if you please.”  Smiling, he approached the sofa and clasped Amanda’s hands within his own.  “How are you feeling today my dearest?”  He kissed both her cheeks then plopped down onto the chair beside her, casting an openly admiring gaze at the new Amanda Fitzwilliam.  Even engorged with what were clearly quintuplets she looked lovely.  A knot of glossy blonde hair was tied loosely at the nape of her neck while delicate tendrils curled softly about her face.  The clothes she now wore were in soft shades of butter yellow and pale green, all trimmed becomingly in lace - a conspicuous change from the drab and ill fitting mourning gown in which he had first seen her.  Most striking of all was the joy he saw in her sparkling brown eyes.  Her face glowed with health and happiness.  She looked younger and more beautiful than ever. 

Richard, on the other hand, looked like hell.

“…like a whaling ship beached on the rocks.”  For a confused moment, Darcy forgot what he had asked.  “You asked me how I was feeling.”  He nodded quickly and she cheerfully continued.  “…like yoked oxen being dragged backward to their muddy deaths; like Cromwell midway through his execution.  By the way, I thought I was doing a Welsh accent; are you certain I had it wrong?”  She grabbed Darcy’s hand, “I have been practicing various accents to aid in my escape.”

“You’d do better to strap pontoons to your sides and let me push you off the London docks.”  Fitzwilliam chuckled at Amanda’s accusations of abuse.  His next sentence sent her howling.  “Since you are an American I am stunned and immensely proud that you don’t just point and grunt at things, Amanda.  Give up on the British dialects before you sprain your tongue.”  He handed Darcy a drink and then settled himself onto the end of the couch.  He lifted her feet up and settled them onto his lap, his hands resting protectively over the throw. “This morning she attempted a Yorkshire accent.”

“How did she do?”

“Sounded just like really bad cockney.”

“Ignore him, William. Where is Elizabeth?  I was hoping she would come over and entertain me.  Old Gloom and Doom here is driving me insane with his worrying.  He would carry me everywhere if he thought it would not cause him severe bodily harm.”

“Amanda, I enjoy you ever so much more when you’re sleeping.  Your lips take on rather an unbecoming blur when they move this rapidly.”

“You are controlling.”

“You are careless.”

 Darcy quickly interrupted the looming fight.  “I abandoned Elizabeth to the decorators and the imminent arrival of Lady Catherine and her entourage.  There are some days I am just not up to the challenge.  By the way, where is my boon companion, Sir Harry?”

“Granny Penrod’s for the entire afternoon, along with his governess, Miss Lilly, and his nurse.”  Fitzwilliam spoke to Darcy, but his eyes remained affixed to the cover over his wife’s swollen feet. “Damn it to hell, Amanda, your ankles are worse, aren’t they?  You were not supposed to be on your feet so much this morning and see what has happened!  You never listen to me…”

Darcy lifted his eyebrow at the tension rising once again between the couple.  He tried to stem the coming firestorm.  “Well, I think it is wonderful how civilized this whole custody problem is being handled between yourselves and the boy’s grandmother.  Very enlightened.”

“What?  Oh, yes.  It is amazing what a threat of social ostracizing can achieve.  Well, that plus my knighthood has again made me an acceptable member of the ton.”

“What do you mean, again?”  Darcy tossed back his drink.

Dr. Anthony Milagros came exploding into the room slapping his gloves up and down his arms and across his legs.  “Dios mio, mi vida!! When will this barbaric upheaval be completed?!”  He stood glaring at her, his dearest friend in the whole world; and, his countenance was the very picture of aggravation.  “I cannot tolerate the dust and debris downstairs a moment longer!  No!  One cannot breathe I tell you!  See how pale I look!  Whenever I come here I possess the mask of death instead of my usually striking dark Latin looks!  And my new Hessians are ruined!  Look!  Do you see?  Ruined!  And this!  My green superfine, mi vida, see how gray?  Santa Maria!  Look at me!”  He stomped his boot.  “Please cease laughing for a moment!”  Abruptly grinning he strolled over to the claret and poured himself a drink, then turned to survey the room. 

“Senor Darcy.”  Milagros greeted him with genuine warmth.  “How wonderful to see you once again.”  Next he approached Richard, formally snapped his heels, and bowed.  “Generalissimo.”  Finally he cast an affectionate gaze upon Amanda.  “It is our time now, come my little mountain.  You must take your powders and let me listen to those tiny heartbeats.”

As he approached he surreptitiously passed a doctor’s swift and assessing glance over her.  “Gentlemen, please excuse us for a moment.  Richard, some assistance, if you please; possibly a hoist of some sort...”

In the end the task required everyone; Anthony, Darcy, Fitzwilliam and a footman, all helped her to rise then Anthony alone assisted Amanda in her waddle walk from the room.  He closed the door behind them.  Darcy turned a worried eye to his cousin.  “Is something wrong?”

It was a moment before Fitzwilliam answered.  “Anthony has begun coming by daily to check on things.  We have been experiencing some new problems with our pregnancy this week.”  Fitzwilliam was no longer attempting to hide his concern.  “Heart flutters distress us most.”  Running a hand through his already disheveled hair he began to pace. “We also suddenly have numbness in one of our legs.”  He stopped at the closed door by which they had left and stared quietly for a moment.  “In a way I am glad for twins since it will be her absolutely last pregnancy as far as I am concerned.  Three children should be more than sufficient for us.  Lord, brat, my nerves are stretched to the limit.”

Darcy chuckled then downed his drink.  “Well, Richard, you did survive Waterloo.  I am nearly certain you will come through this relatively unscathed as well.”

“Go ahead and mock me, but I am deadly serious.  This had better be the heir and the spare because I have told her that there will be no more babies.”

Darcy attempted to look as if he was taking this comment seriously.“Fitz, for one thing I believe that Amanda’s Catholic religion is rather vocal on this subject.  I don’t think she will let you off the hook that easily.”

“Darcy, you and I both know that there are ways to be careful; ways to prevent this.”  He waggled a defiant eyebrow and nodded knowingly at his cousin.  “Father Riley was here yesterday to bring her the Eucharist and say the rosary with her.  Do you know that mad little dwarf had the audacity to laugh right in my face?” 

Suddenly angry, he glared at the closed door, drumming his fingers on the table beside him.  “I’ll warrant she told him my decision that this be the last pregnancy - she tells that damn elf everything!  She’ll see, and he’ll see, that I am completely serious about this!  She can live like a bloody nun if that’s what it takes!”  This last sentence was bellowed loudly enough to be heard in the next county, let alone the next room.  He suddenly shot his hands once again through his hair.  “She tells me nothing of how ill she may feel, nothing,” he muttered.  “I have to get my information from Anthony.  She claims I am overwrought.”  His hair stood in hilarious peaks.

“Richard, you drag the poor woman into the woods if she even arches her foot.  There will be more children, I would guarantee it; I don’t know, must be all those Highland warlord ancestors on your mother’s side of the family.  Admit it, you have no control over yourself in this relationship and never did – sorry to have to be the one to point that out to you, Fitz.” 

Fitzwilliam grumbled, looking defeated at last, and continued to drum his fingers on the table.“Well, shit.”


 

 

Chapter Five

 

Five blocks away and two hours later the rehearsals at Pemberley House were beginning to wind down.Lizzy could not help but notice during those long, tedious, mind-numbing hours the glow that emanated from her young sister-in-law whenever handsome Lieutenant Ashcroft took her hand to lead her through her lessons or into her procession, her bow and her exit.  Each time Georgiana became more radiant, more beautiful than ever, exuding a level of confidence and poise that had long been kept hidden from the world.  Who was this stranger and how could his mere presence suddenly have transformed Georgiana into such an elegant and graceful young woman? 

“Excellent, Georgiana!”  Lady Catherine, in raptures and already heading for the door, waved her quizzing glass above her head as she spoke.  “You are perfectly adequate, my dear.  Immensely passable.  Jamison?  Jamison! Where is that man when I need him?!”

“Your ladyship.”Jamison had been walking silently behind her the entire time, his face, as usual, schooled into an aspect of long suffering indifference. 

Shrieking from the shock, she jumped back a step and then sneezed.  “You are sneaking up behind me again, Jamison.  Mark me well, it is a behavior of which I shall not permit.  Now, we are leaving – please have the footmen gather our packages!”  At the door she swung back around to face Georgiana.  “Remember dearest – we have only one more rehearsal, day after tomorrow.”

Lizzy, Georgiana and Ashcroft collapsed, falling into three of the chairs pushed against the wall, exhausted.  As soon as the door was closed behind her they burst into laughter. 

“She’s an absolute force of nature!”  Ashcroft exclaimed.

“You are not the first to note that; but, which force has always been up for debate.”  As Lizzy was speaking a servant came in and whispered to her.  Smiling broadly she excused herself, saying she was needed in the nursery and would be just a moment.

Once they were finally alone, Ashcroft patted the object he carried in his pocket and turned to Georgiana.  “I have to speak with you in private, immediately.  Where can we meet?”

Georgiana knew that when he said ‘speak’, he often did not really mean ‘speak’ and her heart began to pound.  “I believe the servants are all in the great hall polishing every bit of silver we own, in addition to Aunt Catherine’s and the Fitzwilliam’s.  We can meet downstairs in the kitchen pantry; no one is there at this hour.  Go now and I shall meet you as soon as I am able.  When Lizzy returns I shall say that you had to leave.” 

Ashcroft nodded and, after a quick glance to the door, bent to give Georgiana a swift, deep kiss.  He then left the room.  Unable to wait a moment longer, let alone for Lizzy to return, she sought her sister-in-law out giving excuses to her about a headache and needing to retire.  In moments Georgiana was flying downstairs, following her beloved to a pantry rendezvous. 

 

The moment she saw him she ran across the huge kitchen straight into his arms and he covered her mouth hungrily with his, his body aching for every minute he was wasting being away from her.It was a dizzying few moments before they could breathe, let alone speak.

He immediately cupped her delicate face in his hands.  “I have a special license in my pocket, Georgiana.  I want us to be married tomorrow.”  When she began a protest he kissed her into silence.  “Today would be better if possible.  We don’t have to tell anyone, it will be our secret, but we cannot wait any longer.”  He touched his forehead to hers.  “I cannot wait any longer.  And I will not rest easy when I am at sea knowing you are being dangled about in that marriage mart, knowing I cannot protect you.” 

“Do you never listen to me, Bev?”  Furious with him she punched his shoulder in anger.  “It is just that thing that broke my brother’s heart four years ago; my running off without regard for his feelings, or my cousin’s!”

“Damn it, Georgie, this is not the same.  You are a grown woman now and entirely too worried about his feelings.  You are entitled to your own life!  We love each other!  Now I have agreed to allow your brother and your cousin have their supposed life’s desire with a season for you, but I worry.  What if your brother presses you to wed another?  I cannot lose you, Georgie.  I love you.”

Before Georgiana could rebuke his statement concerning her brother she heard footsteps coming down the stairs and heard Lizzy’s voice call to her. 

“Into the cupboard,” she pushed Ashcroft back to one of the pantry closets and jumped in next to him, closing the door quickly.  It was a mere second later that Lizzy opened the kitchen door, looking about her as she stood quietly in the doorway.  “Odd, I could have sworn I heard voices.”  Walking farther into the huge kitchen proper she turned, twirling around when she smelled Georgiana’s delicate perfume.That was when she saw a little piece of the tablecloth train Georgiana had been wearing, peaking through the closed pantry door.  She froze.  It was slowly being pulled from sight. 

Hesitating for just a moment, she wondered if she should speak and let it be known what she saw.  There was a slight sound, a soft movement, a groan from the pantry.  “Georgiana?” she whispered.  No response. 

“Georgiana!”  Still no response.  Turning slowly to leave she stopped again at the doorway, looking over her shoulder into the room. 

“Georgiana,” she called out a third time.  “Dear one, please be careful.”  Lizzy closed the kitchen door and left.

The door to the pantry swung open revealing that very young woman in question, with Ashcroft standing behind her, his arms encircling her waist and his head bent as he trailed kisses across the top of her shoulder. 

“You are absolutely right, Bev.”  She was in a heated daze, whispering breathlessly, her eyes half closed with desire.  “We must be married, and we must be married tomorrow.  I will contact Emily this minute and I will tell Lizzy we are to go shopping… something…we’ll meet you anywhere you want…anywhere.  Emily will be my witness.”

She turned into his arms, gazed up into his dark blue eyes that were so filled with his emotions, filled with love.

“Tomorrow,” he whispered into her hair.


 

 

Chapter Six

 

It was finally the day, Presentation Day, and Georgiana was already dressed and waiting for the others.  She checked and rechecked her feather to make sure it wouldn’t dip or bend thereby betraying her clumsiness and her naivety to the monarch.  She bowed, she dipped, she bounced up and down on her toes and her heels until she was satisfied that the Regent himself would have to run up to her and rip it forcibly from her head before it would fall; and, even then, he would need to have braced his feet against her chest for enough leverage.  She sighed and nodded.  One worry out of one thousand alleviated.

Her dress was another story.  An ornate, white, old fashioned monstrosity it extended far out on the sides upon heavy panniers yet remained flat in front and back; it also possessed a ridiculously low cut, tight fitting bodice and short puffy sleeves with ruffles everywhere.  She looked ridiculous and felt humiliated, could no longer easily pass through doorways; she had to travel sideways like a fiddler crab.  Glancing at her mirror she reddened, thinking once again how closely she resembled a busty Little Bo Peep.  Would this season ever be over? The entertainments were getting larger and the parties louder and the shyness she had hoped to have conquered was now nearly paralyzing.  Georgiana missed the warmth and privacy of family picnics and dinners, quiet strolls through Hyde Park with only her little Rufus and her lifelong lady’s maid as companions, she regretted no longer having the time to play her beautiful pianoforte, and she longed for the days when she could visit with old childhood friends, none of them socially important, who were now married and new mothers. 

And, most of all, she missed her Bev.

 

Time was dragging by slowly.  Pacing back and forth she wondered if she would see him that day.  It had been six days since their secret wedding and six days since she had been briefly alone with him, still a bride in name only.  Soon his ship would sail and she was already feeling the longing ache of missing him.  Seven months he would be gone from her and seven months may as well be an eternity when you are nineteen.  She heard a tap, something hitting her window causing her to look up briefly, but her mind had moved onto new worries:  her curtsey.  Heaven forfend but her curtsey had to be knee to floor, graceful and fluid, whatever that meant.  She resumed her practice. 

“Knee to the floor, knee to the floor, knee to the floor…,” she repeated the phrase aloud, over and over, until she had reached the acceptable bowing position, her arms gracefully loose at her sides.  Ah, well that wasn’t so difficult, not really.  She was very pleased with herself.

Next, she attempted the required graceful and fluid rise back up.  “Can’t get up, can’t get up, can’t get up…” She began to pant.  She panicked.  She was stuck.  How in the name of St. Timothy’s shin bone was she supposed to stand back up?The muscles behind her legs screamed at her as she made one or two attempts.  Nothing.  She became frozen with fear.  Immobile.  Stationary .  Suddenly another, larger, noise – a stone cracked against the window frightening her back to her senses.  She toppled back onto her bottom, her feet shooting out from beneath her.

“OOOMMMMFFF!”

Like a cockroach on its back her little arms and legs began to windmill about wildly, searching for purchase.  The worse was yet to come.  Unexpectedly, her breasts popped out from her low cut bodice.  “Oh no!”  She whimpered and quickly stuffed them back within her gown, “Oh sweet mother of God!”  What if that occurred before the monarch!  “I’ll kill myself, see if I don’t.  Yes.  Definitely.  I’ll kill myself.”

That was when a small brick crashed into the window frame.  Somehow rolling onto her knees, she staggered about until she eventually got to her feet, then she ran to the window and peered down.  It was him!  Her own sweet Beverly was standing in the bulrushes surrounding the pond beneath her window, straddling a fallen tree trunk.  “My love,” she was teary-eyed, pressing her cheek against the glass.  Seeing her there he began to wave wildly, threw her kisses, then motioned for her to come down, into the garden, meet him. 

She ran sideways down the stairs, weaving her way through the servants who where streaming upstairs and down with furniture and candles and hundreds of other unidentifiable things, yelping and dodging her as she passed.  All was in chaos, everyone busily preparing the great hall for the following day’s Ball.  She nodded her appreciation to one and all, trying not to break into a gallop.  Finally she reached the downstairs door, opened it, slipped outside and jumped into his arms.

“Oh my darling,” he whispered into her ear.  “Are you as undone as I?”  She nodded into his neck then quickly smothered his mouth with her kisses. 

“Perhaps getting married wasn’t the best idea.  All I can think of now is what we are missing.”  He crushed her closer to him and kissed her nonsensical for a few minutes.  “Do you have some time now?  Can we go somewhere to speak ?  Anywhere?  To speak dearest, I swear.  Just to speak.”  He looked so wretched that her heart swelled with desire and love for him. 

Truthfully though, he could have looked like a tomato and her heart would have swelled with desire and love for him.

“Yes, please.  I would dearly love a good conversation right now.”  Grabbing his hand she dragged him through the rear vegetable gardens to the recesses of the property, back into a section of storage sheds.  Knowing the floor would dirty the hem of her gown Ashcroft stopped her from entering then removed his coat, placing it on the ground for her to stand upon.  After a quick glimpse around them they entered the shed and closed the door behind them.  It would have taken only a moment for their eyes to adjust to the light, but in that moment they were already in another world of senses and emotions. 

“God, Georgie.  I want you so badly.”  Giving way to the madness that was overwhelming him, he crushed her to his chest and Georgiana forgot about her gown and her feather and anything else that had been important to her for the last nineteen years. 

His hands were everywhere, one finally finding her breast and cupping it above the masses of brocade and ornate beading.  Then, with amazingly little exertion on his part, the keen little mounds popped out.  It was so easily accomplished that he moaned and then she moaned, and there was so much moaning that neither of them heard the faint sound of her brother as he spoke to the gardener outside in the distance.All they were aware of were their hands roaming and their mouths kissing and their tongues caressing.  The sweet excitement of arousal was building within each of them and somehow making them both completely deaf.

Ashcroft’s hands quickly became bolder still.  Slowly, gently, he pulled the sleeves of her gown down farther.  “You are exquisite, Georgiana Ashcroft, exquisite.”  He bent to kiss and caress a snowy white mass, drawing into his mouth the pink pebbled tip.  Then, when his hand returned to cup her breast tenderly, their mouths melded, covered each other, worshipped each other. 

They were both moaning loudly so that a faint comment outside, such as, say, “are you certain you saw her come out here Peter?” and then a curious, “Heavens, what is that sound?” in a voice very similar to Darcy’s, never even registered in Georgiana’s brain.  When the door to the shed was flung open the light pouring inside immediately caused them both to pull apart and squint toward the opening. 

 

You fiend!” was only the first thing Georgiana heard Darcy shout as he leaned in to drag her husband out by his throat.  “You animal!  Get your filthy hands off my sister!  Georgiana!  Are you all right?!  Is he a footpad?!  Did he touch you?  Oh My God, he is still touching you! 

“Release her you rakehell!  You are a dead man!”

Suddenly, there were other screams and cries, other voices exclaiming outside with Darcy’s voice overwhelming them all.Peter the gardener, usually stoic and mute, a man accustomed to only responding with a gutteral “aye” or “nay” to any question, began to run around in circles wildly shrieking.  “R-r-r-rape! R-r-r-rape!”

“Brother, stop this!”  Georgiana begged, she beseeched as she yanked her sleeves back up and returned to their proper receptacle her offending appendages.  “No! Oof! Oh, please, don’t ruin his uniform; he’ll be in trouble with the Admiralty if you do!  No, don’t poke his eyes!”She sobbed dreadfully as she attempted to drag Darcy’s hands from Ashcroft’s throat and all the while her poor husband was gagging, his eyes bulging, his hands motioning wildly to Georgiana to say something, anything.

“I will annihilate you, you decadent monster!  Someone call a magistrate!  There is a rapist here! A rapist I say!”

Unable to stop Darcy Georgiana tore out of the garden and ran stumbling to Fitzwilliam’s house, screaming all the way in a pitch that had dogs answering in the distance.  When she arrived and the door was not immediately flung open at her shrieks she began banging upon it.  “Richard!” she shouted up to where she knew his one completed and finished room was located.  “Help me please!  He’s killing Beverly!”  The butler rushed to the back and opened the door a small crack, only to have Georgiana push past him.“Out of my way!  Brother is killing my Beverly!”


 

 

Chapter Seven

 

Fitzwilliam slid lower and lower in his chair; only the snores emanating from his wife keeping him conscious, certainly not the newssheet he held before him, upside down.  His head kept bobbing back as he struggled to remain awake for the exact moment to administer her medicine, but his eyes were determined to close.  At the sudden rumpus downstairs he raised his head up and stared stupidly about trying to shake off his stupor. “What did you say, Amanda?”

After a full morning of playing Pirate Marauders with stepson Harry and the blessed ending of a month long self imposed celibacy (a celibacy that was due to an absurd momentary belief that perhaps Aunt Catherine’s theory concerning marital relations during pregnancy was correct - that the sight of a penis stabbing at it would panic an unborn babe), Richard was finally able to relax.  His eyes began once again to drift shut.  But then there was that damnable noise again, like a cat howling.  Thinking that somehow his unborn children were creating the disturbance, perhaps a belated reaction to his activity with their mother only hours before, he leaned over to place an ear upon her stomach. 

All sounds there pointed strictly toward digestion.

Georgiana burst into the room.  “He’s killing Beverly!” Keening loudly, she gasped for breath and staggered into the room clutching at her chest.

“My God this is terrible!” Panic gripped Fitzwilliam as he jumped to his feet; Amanda’s head hit the cushion where he had been sitting.  “Who is this Beverly?” 

“Beverly!  My brother is in a rage and strangling Beverly!”

“Oh, don’t be ridiculous, Georgiana.  Even Darcy wouldn’t kill a woman.”

“AARGGGHH!!!First Lieutenant Beverly Ashcroft!!  Beverly!!”  Richard turned to Amanda and they both shrugged.  “My Beverly!” Georgiana whined, aggravated at their suddenly slow wits. 

In the distance they heard the back servant’s door bang open and shouting down below, then heavy footsteps pounding up the stairs.  Darcy burst into the room, his face mottled and his mouth twisted in rage.  Lizzy arrived seconds after him, cautioning him to calm himself before he succumbed to a seizure.

“I will kill him!  He escaped!  He’s an escaped rapist! I will kill him!”  Georgiana ran behind her cousin for protection.“Hopefully I will reach him before I have my heart attack!”

Frustrated beyond endurance, Fitzwilliam threw his newssheet down on the ground. “Someone please tell me what the bloody hell is going on!”

“My sister’s breast, Fitzwilliam!  Yes, it was horrible!  Hideous!  I saw my sister’s naked breast.  I am shocked that my eyes are not bleeding! It was encased in the paw of a degenerate soldier!” 

“You are so wrong, brother!”  Georgiana stomped her foot.  “If anything he’s a degenerate sailor, not soldier!  He is a First Lieutenant in the Royal Navy - now please stop!  It was not as it appeared.” 

“Get me a gun, Fitzwilliam, or a knife, a fork.  I care not which.  He escaped, he’s thin and wiry, the cad, and very young.”  Darcy gasped again for breath. “Very young - nearly prepubescent.  But I will find him and make him fight me.  I will call him out and kill him.  Perhaps I can trip him and club him to death.”

“Will you calm yourself, Darcy, and sit down before you fall down!”  As Fitzwilliam motioned for his cousin to relax, he smiled warmly.  “My God man this is not you!  Take slow breaths – that’s it.”  After assuring himself that Darcy was finally settled, Fitzwilliam turned on Georgiana and started to scream.  “What in hell are you doing dallying about half naked with some cork brained little sailor?!”

“That wasn’t very helpful, dear,” Amanda offered delicately while at the same time motioning for Lizzy to sit beside her on the couch.  They watched in dazed fascination at the three combatants before them.  Lizzy was most appreciative for the glass of wine that Amanda offered her.

“Lieutenant Ashcroft.”  The butler intoned and bowed, then backed out with a shriek as Darcy lunged for the young man.

“I won’t fight you, sir.”  Ashcroft said as he darted behind a chair.  “I never hit my elders or children.  Or the infirmed.”  Darcy was not amused.His chest heaved up and down as he attempted to speak.  It took a moment.

“Someone please find me a crutch so that I can beat this infant bloody!”  Darcy first made a feint to the right and then to the left of the chair, but the seducer was much quicker, and much younger, and much thinner.  “And please someone make the room stop spinning for a moment.”

He momentarily gave up trying to out maneuver the lad and gave himself over to his exhaustion, his hands grasping his knees, his breath coming in short raspy gasps.  “Fitzwilliam!” he pointed one quick finger to Ashcroft.  “Kill!”  His other hand went up to cover his heart.

“Mr. Darcy, please listen!  Georgiana and I are married!  We were married six days ago.”There, it was out at last. 

Georgiana’s breathing stopped; her eyes closed.  “Forgive me, Georgie, but it had to be told.”  Slowly she walked to the front of the chair that had protected her and slumped down.  Ashcroft crouched before her.  “I cannot have them thinking badly of you.”

“I beg your pardon, young man?” Darcy looked up from his bent position.  His brow was dangerously cocked.

“You married a sailor?” Fitzwilliam’s nose wrinkled up in his disbelief at her obviously lowered standards.

“He’s not just a sailor!” she cried indignantly, unable to take another insult to her beloved.  “He is First Lieutenant Beverly Ashcroft of His Britannic Majesty’s sixty-four gun ship the Vanguard, one of the youngest first lieutenant’s in His Majesty’s naval force.”  Ashcroft took her hands into his and kissed them.  “And next year he will probably have his own ship, and he will be very famous and very brave and I love him with all my heart!”

Georgiana brought his hands to her lips and returned his kiss, her two guardians staring at them in shocked silence.  The cousins then looked across at each other.  Fitzwilliam placed what he hoped was a calming hand on the other’s arm.  “Darcy, get control of yourself before you speak.”

Darcy straightened slowly.  “Do you mean to tell me,” his voice was barely recognizable, a gruff imitation of the usual civilized tone Georgiana knew so well.  “Do you mean to tell me that you have been sneaking around our house like some couple from a French bedroom farce, climbing in and out of windows and pottery sheds?”  His hands fisted on his hips in anger; he was also filled with disappointment that she had not told him about this.  She had again felt the necessity to elope rather than trust him.

Ashcroft stood up and faced Darcy.  “No sir, we have not been reenacting a French bedroom farce.  I ask your pardon,


© Copyright 2017 Karen V. All rights reserved.

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