We’re on to Chapter 3!! Thanks to everyone for the amazing compliments on the cover and taking the time to give Georgiana a chance 🙂 If you haven’t pre-ordered Particular Attachments up, don’t wait! It’s only $3.99 through release day!
December 17th 1816
Despite the innermost portion of my soul crying to return to Pemberley, we arrived in London a short time ago. Lydia immediately declared herself fagged and retired to her bedchamber, Lizzy disappeared with William into the nursery, Fitzwilliam ventured to his study, and while I write, Lucy is in my dressing room tending to my trunks.
Dinner is in less than an hour, and I am certain today’s wedding will continue to dominate our conversation as it did during our journey. I believe we were all overcome by the sincere attachment of the couple exchanging their vows as well as the expressions of pure love and joy upon their countenances. Despite its simplicity, today’s was one of the loveliest ceremonies I have witnessed. I do believe the new Mr. and Mrs. Bennet will be the happiest of couples—behind Fitzwilliam and Lizzy, of course.
Lydia continues to open my eyes to her improvements since our first acquaintance. Despite the open manner and lively spirit she displays in private, she is reserved and circumspect in company; the only hint of her true self displayed in the smile upon her countenance, which hints of the, no doubt, irreverent turn of her mind.
Unfortunately, the ladies of Meryton continue to be unkind. Today, Mrs. Long, as though I had never before met Lydia, proceeded to inform me of her former behaviour and the ills of associating with such a creature. Of course, Mrs. Long could only speak of Lydia’s brash statements and impulsive nature, yet I now understand better Lydia’s eagerness to depart Meryton. My sentiments upon returning to London would, no doubt, mirror hers upon the threat of a swift return to Hertfordshire. I am pleased she is with us for now. She will have a respite from the shrews of Meryton, and Mr. and Mrs. Bennet will have some privacy for the first months of their new marriage. I am pleased she had the Gardiners at Netherfield as they were as lovely and accepting of her as they have always been of me. I was glad to be in their company again.
A knock made her start. “Come in!”
Lizzy stepped through and closed the door behind her. “I was surprised to hear you did not spend the last hour on the pianoforte. I wanted to be certain you were merely tired after your late night with Lydia and not that you were ill.”
“I am fatigued, but my main reason for delaying my practise is my journal. I had some thoughts I wished to pen before I forgot them.” She placed her pen back upon its stand, avoiding Lizzy’s steady gaze.
“You have been quiet since you decided to spend the Season in London. Why do you not tell me what has you at sixes and sevens?”
Georgiana stepped to the window and watched the people walk along the pavement. They all bustled here and there. None appeared ill at ease or anxious, so why did the mere thought of London create such a nervous flutter within her? She had not travelled to Ramsgate for goodness’ sakes!
“Are you or Fitzwilliam concerned about the gossip from my lack of début?”
After Lizzy sat in a chair near the fire, she shrugged one shoulder. “We have told you we would support your decisions for your future—whatever they may be. You never need marry unless you find a man whom you love and who loves you in return, and if you are uncomfortable among the ton, you need never take part.” Lizzy’s head tilted as she studied her. “Have you reason to think people are speaking ill of you?”
Georgiana brought her hands up and then dropped them back to her skirts. “Oh, no. I have heard nothing in particular. I am just certain there is some rumour. After all, a lady not coming out when she is either seventeen or eighteen is uncommon. How many ladies do not seek a husband? Even Lydia was shocked at my resolve.” She put her hand upon her forehead. How it did not pain her with the worry was a mystery. “I am certain there has been gossip and conjecture and when it is bandied about that I am in town, there shall be talk again. What if it never abates? I would not want it to affect your children when they come of age.”
“We cannot dwell on what may or may not happen so far into the future. Thankfully, William has many years before he must worry about a wife, and only God knows if we will be blessed with more children. I do hope we will, but a year lapsed before we found I was with child. Two years have passed since. I hope and pray for another, yet I have no say in the matter.” Lizzy’s forehead crinkled and she shook her head. “I cannot imagine your shunning marriage will still be the tittle tattle among the ladies when our children come of age. We can consult your aunt if that would relieve your anxiety on the matter.”
“Aunt has no doubt my uncle’s position will prevent any permanent damage to the family’s name while gossip must have circulated as to why or how I am wanting to warrant such a delay.”
“Your brother and myself, as well as your aunt and uncle, have made it clear we care naught for the rumours. Your happiness is first in our minds. Should you wish to have a Season, we will be pleased to arrange matters for you, but do not make yourself uneasy. When William is old enough to wed, you will be above forty years and likely be considered eccentric. People may wonder at why you never married, but I doubt you or William will suffer for it.”
“Must I decide straight away?”
“Decide?” she asked.
“I suppose whether I want an event of some sort. I admit the thought causes me a great deal of anxiety, but I believe I would prefer the nerves to the stares and the gossip. As far as I am concerned, I am out. I want to attend the theatre and perhaps a tea or two, depending upon who is the host. I just do not know if I want the frenzy of a ball.”
Lizzy brought her legs up into the seat and curled her feet under her. “You have no set time to choose one way or the other. Should you resolve to have a début at the end of the Season, your aunt and I shall make arrangements for a ball before those we would invite depart for the country. The affair would be considerably smaller at that time as well. A number of large events to close the Season are held in those last few weeks.”
Georgiana could not help but give a weak smile. “And I am certain all believe theirs to be the affair to end the Season.”
“Of course. I do believe Viscount Turnbridge is by far the worst in regards to such an attitude.”
She crinkled her nose. “His daughter attended school with me. I have no doubt what you say is true.”
With a grin, Lizzy brushed her lap as though she had fluff or some such bit of nothing upon her gown. “I have met her. She wed the Earl of Rochford last Season if I recall correctly from the papers. Your aunt was amusing in her commentary on that match. She dislikes both parties most heartily.”
“Aunt Charlotte is rather discerning when it comes to true friends and those she tolerates for Uncle Henry’s position.” She took the seat across from Lizzy. “You have surely taken note of the difference in her manner between the two.”
“I have, but I do believe only those who know your aunt well could see the change.”
She nodded as she picked at her fingernail. “When do you plan to visit Madame Guiard’s?”
“I sent a request for an appointment upon our arrival. I hope to hear back before long. Madame does not often keep myself or your aunt waiting.”
“I was hoping to purchase several new gowns. I appreciate my aunt’s efforts, but . . .”
Lizzy’s eyes danced with amusement. “You wish for a colour other than blue?”
“Yes,” she exhaled. “I hope Aunt Charlotte does not take offence, but I have considered asking Lucy to dye several of them.”
“Do not fret. Lydia, though she does not know it yet, will have several pieces made, I require a few new gowns as well, and you shall have a good number. ‘Tis a shame you are so much taller than me. I would be happy to give you a few of mine. This notion of a new gown for each event is preposterous. Such a waste of money!”
“Did Phoebe not remake some of your gowns over the summer?”
“She did, and did a beautiful job of it. I am thankful for her experience working for Madame Guiard. Phoebe’s skill with a needle by far surpasses mine. I anticipate wearing my pearl silk gown with the sheer crimson overlay. The embroidery she added is exquisite.”
“Oh! Lucy spoke of it. You must show me when we have the opportunity.”
The door opened with a slam. “Mama?” Little feet ran further into the room and stopped when William was just behind and to one side of Lizzy’s chair. A big grin lit his face when he set eyes upon Georgiana, and her heart swelled in her chest. “Gee!”
Before she could blink he had climbed upon her lap and held a book to her face. “I want book!”
“Pray?” she prompted. He was speaking in short sentences but always required reminding of his manners.
“Pway read book.”
She bit back a giggle as she looked to Lizzy. William followed her lead. “Mama!” he cried and wiggled to the floor. With two jumps, he was before Lizzy, climbed upon her lap, and wrapped his arms about her neck.
Her sister’s eyes closed as she savoured the moment with William. He was an affectionate child, but never failed to be swift at moving to the next activity of interest. True to form, he pulled back and gave his mother a loud kiss on the cheek.
“Did you want Aunt Georgiana to read to you?”
“Yes, I want Gee to read me book.” He leaned against Lizzy’s shoulder with his eyes upon Georgiana. “Pway?”
A laugh came unbidden. He had all the appearance of her brother, but his personality was definitely Lizzy’s. Neither of the Darcy siblings had been outgoing as young children, but William would hug and kiss a stranger if he had the inclination.
“I would be pleased to read to you.” She held out her arms as he slid off the chair and ran back over to her. Once he was comfortable and settled, she opened the book as Lizzy stood.
“I am going to see what became of Mrs. Wynn.”
When Lizzy turned, the harried face of William’s nursemaid peeked into the doorway. “Thank God! I put him in his cot, read him several stories, and he closed his eyes. When I rang to the kitchen for a cup of tea, I was certain he was sound asleep. All I did was go to my room for a moment to retrieve my book, and he disappeared. The door to the corridor was open. I must have forgotten to lock it. I am so sorry, Mrs. Darcy.”
“I do understand, Mrs. Wynn. He has escaped from us all at one time or another.”
Poor Mrs. Wynn! Mrs. Reynolds’ younger sister had a brood of children in her youth, who were now all grown with little ones of their own, but she was unaccustomed to William’s propensity for eluding even the most vigilant of caregivers. Lizzy smiled as she reassured William’s nursemaid.
William tugged on her sleeve. “Gee!” He pointed to the book. “Read!”
After placing a kiss to his temple, she hugged him closer and began to recite the words upon the page. This was all she would ever require—a little one to cuddle and those who loved her. She could never want for more.
~ * ~
“You should have allowed me to purchase the blue silk this morning, Georgiana. That particular shade would have been lovely with the white overlay. Why you insisted on that pale green?” Her Aunt Charlotte huffed as she fingered the light tea green coloured fabric on the table before them.
Lydia’s lips all but disappeared as she attempted to restrain her giggles. Instead, Lydia indicated a preference for her aunt’s choice of material; she had already selected her pattern and been measured as well—much to Georgiana’s relief.
“You have been so kind as to give me several gowns in a similar colour, and I do not want people to believe I am wearing the same clothing to every event or call.”
With a sniff, Aunt Charlotte relaxed back onto the sofa. “Most ladies are discerning enough to recognise the slightest variations in patterns.”
“Unless they are looking to find fault, Aunt.”
Lydia leaned forward to pull another bit of fabric from under the offending length of material. “The green suits you, as does the blush-coloured silk. The sprigged muslins are quite pretty as well, and I just adore the pattern for the ball gown.”
Despite her hesitance towards an official Season, her aunt, Lady Fitzwilliam, insisted she would attend their annual ball. The year after Fitzwilliam and Lizzy’s marriage, the ball’s date was changed to occur during Twelfth Night and had remained as such ever since. A part of her anticipated the event with curiosity since she had never before attended, yet a part of her dreaded it.
Lizzy entered the room and exhaled. “Have we made plans for all we bought at the draper’s yesterday?”
The fabric upon the table was now sorted into four piles and had various notes pinned to each. With a nod, Georgiana stood. “I believe so. Has Madame taken the measurements she requires?”
“Yes, thank goodness. I do long for a new gown from time to time, but the process never fails to make me wonder why.” Lizzy retrieved her reticule from the midst of the silks and muslins and turned to Aunt Charlotte. “Shall we to Gunter’s then? I could use a cup of tea.”
Her shoulders dropped. “Is there not another tea shop?” Her aunt, Lizzy, and Lydia all stopped to stare. “I do enjoy Gunter’s, but they never lack for a crowd. I am also in no mood for an ice.”
“Gunter’s has pastries and tea,” placated Lizzy. “Besides, Lydia has never been.”
Lydia shook her head. “We can go another time. I have no plans to depart on the morrow.”
“Once the Season truly begins, Gunter’s will be a constant crush. Their establishment is too popular.” Her aunt tilted her head and gave her that look—the one that silently requested her compliance. “Now, before the remaining families journey to town, is the best time.”
“’Tis not necessary—”
Georgiana placed her hand on Lydia’s forearm. “No, my aunt is correct. We shall go.”
Lydia’s eyes held hers. “You are certain.”
“Yes. I am positive. I am merely being moody when I should not. Forgive me.”
A giggle came from Lydia before she wrapped her hand around Georgiana’s elbow. “There is nothing to forgive. I do understand about whims and moods as I am not immune to them.”
The four ladies made their way from the back rooms to where the Darcy carriage awaited them in front of the shop. Once they were aboard and the equipage was moving through the streets towards Berkeley Square, Aunt Charlotte took Lizzy’s hand.
“I sent a letter to Sir James and Lady Audley along with the invitation to the ball. I thought they might like to have their children at the house in order to be more at ease.”
Lizzy smiled. “Jane indicated they would arrive on Boxing Day. They are spending Christmas at the small estate he recently inherited from his cousin. The location was so close to London, they felt it was ideal. He could meet the steward and assess the situation without a great delay arriving in town.”
“I am so pleased they came to Pemberley when Papa and I journeyed from Hertfordshire.” Lydia gave a slight tug to her kid gloves as though they were slipping from her hands. “Unless they came to Longbourn on their way to and from London, we never saw them. They would only come on the return when Mama was alive.”
“I am afraid Mama never accepted Sir James as Jane’s husband. He spoke to Fitzwilliam on several occasions about Mama’s rude comments.”
Lydia’s head lifted with haste. “Do not misunderstand. I do not blame him at all. Mama was intolerable. She belittled him and his title on more than one occasion. Her criticisms and barbs were unfair. He was a splendid match for Jane in that he adores her.”
“Yes, he is,” agreed Lizzy.
They lapsed into silence as Georgiana re-situated the ribbons of her reticule on her wrist. The Bennet sisters were all fortunate in their marriages. The shame lay in Mrs. Bennet’s dogged reluctance to see the advantages to each of her daughter’s suitors.
The slowing of the carriage drew her from her thoughts as they pulled before Gunter’s. After a short wait, they were able to procure a table and ordered.
Lydia’s wide eyes studied everything and everyone around them while Lizzy and Aunt Charlotte discussed the upcoming ball. As Georgiana looked about the room, one young lady caught her eye. This woman watched Georgiana unabashedly, and leaned forward to whisper to a young lady sitting beside her, who then turned to look in their direction. Georgiana’s head dropped and she studied the tassel on the bottom of her reticule.
“Oh, he is handsome.”
Georgiana glanced up at Lydia’s whisper and leaned towards her shoulder. “Who?”
“He just stood across the room.”
She shifted forward and gasped. The dark, tousled ash brown hair and smile were the same on the grown man as they were on the impertinent boy she had known so long ago. His eyes looked up, and she jolted back in her seat. Was Lydia tall enough to hide her sufficiently?
Lydia glanced to her with her eyebrows drawn. “Do you know him?”
“Yes, our parents were friends. He is . . . insufferable to say the least.” She opened her reticule and made a point of searching for any object. If she kept her head down, perhaps he would not notice her.
“I believe I could bear with insufferable to gaze into those eyes.” Lydia opened her fan and gave a slight wicked grin as she pretended to cool herself.
She bit her lip to keep from laughing. “You are incorrigible.”
“What of you?” Lydia’s eyebrow rose in a look eerily similar to her sister’s.
“What of me?”
The bell on the door jingled and Georgiana exhaled as her entire body relaxed. He tipped his hat to a lady when she passed and began to walk in front of the window. His head turned, their eyes met, and her face heated feverishly. Had he recognised her? A slight curve to one side of his lips would indicate he had. No, no, no!
“For a lady who never hopes to marry, you certainly have an interesting reaction to that gentleman. I had no idea your face could turn the precise shade of a ripe cherry.” Lydia’s voice was soft but amused.
“I know not of what you speak.”
Lydia giggled. “I think you do, and I do expect you to tell me tonight. I have a suspicion it will be worth the effort to convince you to talk.”
“Oh no! I told you of my dismal prospects in Hertfordshire and why I was determined to leave Meryton behind. Since that night at Longbourn, you have heard a great number of my secrets, but shared none of your own. You will tell me your history with that man. I insist upon it.”
She held Lydia’s amused gaze. “I have nothing to tell.”
Any and all amusement disappeared from Lydia’s countenance. “While I may snore, you, my dear, talk in your sleep.”
Georgiana’s heart pounded furiously against her sternum as she peered around them. Lizzy was still speaking to Aunt Charlotte. She looked behind her. No one could hear them, could they?
“Do not fret. I shall not tell your secrets here, and I shall not force you to speak of your nightmares. But, should you confide in me, I swear to never tell a soul.”
“Georgiana?” Her head jerked to Lizzy who reached across the table to take her hand. “You are pale. Are you well?”
She cleared her throat. “I am.”
“I am afraid I gave Georgiana a shock a moment ago.” Lydia rolled her eyes. “Forgive me. While I try to do better, I forget at times and do not think before I speak.”
Georgiana’s eyes moved between her sister and her aunt. Both watched her as though she was fragile china that might shatter into tiny slivers at any moment. “Lydia is being kind. I thought I noticed a familiar face, but I was incorrect.”
Her aunt peered about the room. “Who could have disturbed you to such an extent?”
“No one of importance. I assure you.”
Aunt Charlotte stared at her a moment longer than Lizzy, her gaze lingering as she turned her head. When she was once again conversing with Lizzy, Lydia nudged her in the ribs. Georgiana turned and lifted her eyebrows.
“You owe me,” mouthed Lydia.