Here, as promised, is part 2 of chapter 2 of my current work-in-progress – a variation of my own popular novel The Darcys of Pemberley, this time written entirely from Georgiana’s point of view. This is a flashback scene where Georgiana remembers what happened when Elizabeth (and the Gardiners) visited Pemberley, only to be met by Miss Bingley’s mean-spirited attacks. We’re not given many details in Pride and Prejudice, so this constitutes at least a partially missing scene. If you didn’t see part 1 last week, you’ll find it here. And if you’d like to start at the very beginning (or learn more about my books), read chapter 1 here. I’m having so much fun working on this book, and I hope you enjoy this excerpt!
I was very much gratified by the kind attention Miss Bennet and her aunt showed by waiting upon me the following day at Pemberley. They were ushered into the saloon when they arrived, where I had been sitting with Miss Bingley, Mrs. Hurst, and Mrs. Annesley. Once again, although I was anxious to please, my crippling shyness prevented me from receiving my guests as graciously as my conscience told me I should have. Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst, being barely civil, were no help at all in filling the awkward silence that followed. Thank heaven for Mrs. Annesley, who by her true cordiality proved her merit. She introduced some suitable topic of discourse, in which she was immediately joined by Mrs. Gardiner.
I am afraid I contributed very little. Elizabeth was not seated near enough for me to make myself easily heard by her. And every attempt I did make at distinguishing her by venturing a comment in her direction seemed to make the situation more uncomfortable by drawing some expression of scorn from Miss Bingley.
Relief arrived in the form of new employment for the whole party when the servants brought in a variety of refreshments for us – cold meat, cake, and a beautiful pyramid of the finest fruits. As hostess, I then had a clear duty to perform and the others did as well. Though it seemed we were not all able to talk, we were all able and willing to eat.
While we were thus occupied, the gentlemen (including Mr. Gardiner and my brother) entered the room, whereupon I exerted myself to ask, “Had you good fishing, Mr. Gardiner?”
“We had! Thank you, Miss Darcy,” he replied, giving me a little bow.
“It is true,” agreed my brother, directing his address very particularly to Elizabeth. “Miss Bennet, your uncle’s presence at the stream seems to have brought us all luck. I hope you have been getting on just as well here.”
Upon this marked attention, all eyes turned to Elizabeth in a way I should have found very distressing. But she, after only a moment’s pause to collect herself, responded with an air of apparent ease. “Very well indeed, sir. As you see,” she continued, gesturing to the elegantly laid table and the airy saloon as a whole. “Miss Darcy has received us in this delightful room and provided for our every comfort. I could not be more pleased.”
“Excellent,” he said, returning her contented smile and unwavering gaze.
While the two of them seemed hardly aware of anything beyond themselves, I felt most acutely the passing of every second of silence. Before I could contrive anything to say, however, Miss Bingley jumped in to fill the void.
“Yes, Mr. Darcy,” she said, interposing herself between them with a swish of skirts and a flutter of eyelashes. “But then your sister is always such a gracious hostess, no matter who comes calling. She does everything the best in the world, and I am forever boasting over her. ‘Miss Darcy is by far the most accomplished young lady of my acquaintance,’ I always say. I care not if my friends grow weary of hearing it.”
Though far from genuinely gratified by Miss Bingley’s pretty speech, I felt compelled to make some response. “You flatter me, Caroline, but this is much more credit than I deserve.”
“No, no,” she said resolutely. “I will not be talked out of my opinion on the subject. I am quite immovable, you see.”
My brother, whose attention had thus been demanded against his will, glared at Miss Bingley and said, “Yes, I do see. But you have been much at Pemberley before, Miss Bingley, and have become accustomed to treating it as your own. I do not, therefore, fear for your comfort. It is for Miss Bennet and her friends, who are new among us, that we must endeavor to make an effort.”
“It is just as you say, Mr. Darcy. And they being so far from home too!” Facing about, she continued, “Miss Bennet, you must be missing Hertfordshire dreadfully by now and anxious to return to your family.”
“Not at all, Miss Bingley,” Elizabeth answered with a decided spark in her eye. “I find that the glories of Derbyshire quite surpass my expectations, and I should not object to remaining here a good deal longer. I certainly could not hope to be half so well entertained a home.”
“Poor Miss Eliza. I see what you are feeling, and I daresay it is true.” In a sneering civility, Miss Bingley asked, “Are not the regiment of militia now removed from Meryton? That must be a great loss to your family.”
Elizabeth looked momentarily distressed, and I was overcome with confusion. Though I did not fully comprehend Miss Bingley’s meaning at the time, I could not hear any reference to the militia without thinking of Mr. Wickham and all the alarming recollections necessarily attached to him. My brother’s heightened complexion seemed to confirm that he had the same idea in mind.
Elizabeth recovered quickly, however, and answered the ill-natured attack with composure. “As to the removal of the militia, your information is correct, Miss Bingley. But I consider it no loss at all. We shall go on very quietly and very happily without them, I assure you.”
I could not help but admire Elizabeth’s collected behavior, and I read approbation in my brother’s countenance as well. However, Miss Bingley, who apparently had no smart rejoinder at the ready, looked vexed and retired to another part of the room.
After the visitors shortly departed, Miss Bingley resumed her attacks on the now-absent Miss Bennet forthwith, criticizing nearly every feature of her face for want of character and beauty, and her air for an intolerable want of fashion. In this opinion she was joined only by her loyal sister, Mrs. Hurst. The rest of us observed a diplomatic silence.
Unsatisfied, and driven on by jealousy, Caroline pressed blindly ahead, piling high her disparaging words in her case against Elizabeth. “I remember, when we first knew her in Hertfordshire, how amazed we all were to find that she was a reputed beauty! And you yourself, Mr. Darcy, made a very droll and cutting remark to that effect, I recollect. But later she seemed to improve on you, and I believe you even thought her rather pretty at one time.”
I saw my brother’s eyes flash as he was finally moved to retaliate on Elizabeth’s behalf.
“Yes,” he replied, “but that was only when I first knew her. For it is many months since I have considered her as one of the handsomest women of my acquaintance.”
So saying, he left the room and left Miss Bingley to consider what her failed strategy has cost her. She had by her relentless provocation forced my brother into declaring what could injure no one so much as herself. Whatever hopes she had cherished with regards to him were surely put to a final death that day. I could sympathize with her to some degree, having already been made familiar with the pain of that kind of disappointment. Otherwise, I was delighted – that my brother had chosen far better than Miss Bingley for himself, and that I had been given these small glimpses into his courtship of Elizabeth.
I wish I could report that it was smooth sailing for the couple from that time on. As I now know, they had already overcome many obstacles, but there were other challenges to their happiness ahead. Miss Bingley’s interference was a mere trifle compared to Mr. Wickham’s… past, present, and possibly future.