Here’s a short excerpt from a work-in-progress that’s been sitting untouched for several years. I’m in the process of reworking it with the hope of publishing in the fall. The working title has been Please, Mr. Darcy. In this variation, which takes place after the disastrous proposal and disagreement at Rosings, Elizabeth is staying in London with the Gardiners. Darcy and Elizabeth have met again, but are still very wary of each other. With Mr. Darcy’s encouragement, Elizabeth forms a friendship with Georgiana Darcy.
Elizabeth and Georgiana continued to exchange calls frequently over the next few weeks. When Georgiana came to Gracechurch Street, she loved to play with the Gardiners’ children, who eagerly looked forward to her visits. Sometimes, she visited the nursery, or they sat outside in the small garden at the back of the house. Even Elizabeth loved to listen to her friend read to the children or tell stories. Georgiana seemed to have a gift for bringing each character to life with a different voice. In reading or telling a story, she overcame her shyness and became someone else entirely. On this particular afternoon, as they sat in the garden, Georgiana showed the children how to make the snapdragons talk by pinching the sides of the small blossoms. Using the flowers, she created a whole story for them about knights, ladies, and real dragons.
When she got to the part of the story in which the hero faces the evil dragon, the boys picked up their wooden swords and began to play at fighting.
“Do not fear, I will defend you ladies,” cried Michael, the oldest.
“So will I!” said Harry, leaping to his feet. Being the youngest, he never liked to be left out of the fun.
“Oh, do be careful!” Georgiana said. “I would feel terrible if they were injured because of my story.”
Elizabeth smiled and patted her friend’s hand. “Do not worry. They are just energetic boys. If they become too wild, I will stop them.”
After about a minute of parrying and thrusting, Mrs. Gardiner appeared at the door and called the children in to wash up for their supper.
“Oh, no, mama! We are having such fun. I am a great knight and am protecting the ladies by fighting a terrible dragon,” Michael told her.
“Me, too,” Harry chimed in.
“Even brave knights need food,” said Mrs. Gardiner. “You must come in now without delay. We have cook’s famous lemon cake for all brave knights and ladies.”
At the mention of cake, the boys dashed off abandoning their swords and the ladies.
Little Jenny suddenly threw her arms around Georgiana’s neck. “I love your stories, Miss Darcy. Please come back tomorrow.”
At first, Georgiana seemed somewhat taken aback by the little girl’s spontaneous expression of affection, but when Jenny finally released her, Georgiana was smiling warmly.
“I enjoyed your story so much, Miss Darcy,” said Elizabeth. “You have a unique ability for making the characters seem alive! Where did you learn to do that?”
As they ascended the stairs back into the house, Georgiana put a hand on Elizabeth’s arm. “Please, you must call me Georgiana.”
Elizabeth smiled. “I shall be honored but only if you will return the favor and call me Elizabeth.”
Georgiana smiled. “Very well, Elizabeth.”
“You have a wonderful talent with stories. The children were enthralled. How you learned to do those voices?” Elizabeth asked.
“When I was very young, I had a governess who read to me all the time. She had such a natural ear for voices. I suppose I just learned to imitate her.”
“You are very good at it.”
“Thank you. I am pleased you and the children like it. There are times when I think my brother does not appreciate my efforts.”
“Why is that?” Elizabeth asked furrowing her brow.
“I have been known to mimic family members, and sometimes, William tells me I am – what does he say – ‘skating dangerously close to the edge of propriety.’” As she said this, she made herself sound so much like her brother that Elizabeth had to put her fingers to her mouth to suppress a laugh. It was not the depth of Georgiana’s voice, but the quality and inflection that almost exactly replicated him.
“Oh, my, I see what you mean!” Elizabeth exclaimed in delight. “Who else do you imitate?”
Georgiana pinched her face and looked down her nose. “Now it has always been said that I have an excellent ear for music, and if I had learned to play, I am certain I would have been a true proficient.” This time there was no mistaking the voice of Lady Catherine.
Laughter continued to bubble up in Elizabeth. “I have heard your aunt say almost exactly those words. Have you ever tried doing scenes from plays as an evening’s entertainment when you are home with your brother or your family?”
“Oh, no. I do not think William would approve at all. The one time he heard me imitate Lady Catherine, he gave me his most disapproving look. I suppose he does not think it a proper activity for young ladies. He is always very concerned about my behaving like a lady – which I often find incredibly boring! Perhaps that is why I love children so much. I can throw off all the formality and have fun.”
“Did you have cousins or friends in the neighborhood to play with when you were growing up?” Elizabeth asked.
Before Georgiana could answer, they arrived at the sitting room where Mrs. Gardiner was writing letters. She looked up with a smile and set down her pen when they entered. “Come in and join me. Shall I ring for some tea?”
“Thank you, Mrs. Gardiner, but I must be on my way this afternoon. My cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam is arriving today, and I wish to be at home to receive him.”
When the carriage came to the front of the house to take Georgiana home, Elizabeth walked her friend to the door. “Please send my greetings to the Colonel. We had many enjoyable visits when I was at Rosings last spring.”
Georgiana raised an eyebrow questioningly. “And my brother? Shall I send your regards to him, too?”
Elizabeth felt her cheeks redden. “Please thank him for his generosity in the use of his carriage so you and I may visit together often while I am in town.”
“I will tell him. You will still be coming to call the day after tomorrow? I would like to show you some new music I am working on. Perhaps we could work on our duet again? That might be a enjoyable entertainment some evening when our families dine together.”
Elizabeth waved as the carriage rolled off. On her way back to the sitting room, Elizabeth thought about what Georgiana had said. Seeing him again was inevitable. Much to her surprise, Mr. Darcy had become friends with her aunt and uncle. At some point while she was visiting, Mr. Darcy might be invited to supper. What would she say to him? Apologies seemed a bit late at this point, and yet she was sorry – sorry for judging him so harshly among other things. While still embarrassed by her lack of discernment about George Wickham and the way she had spoken so boldly to Mr. Darcy, some of the sting was fading away over time.
When she returned to the sitting room, Mrs. Gardiner had picked up her pen again, so Elizabeth decided she would join her aunt and write a letter to Jane. Hesitating with her pen just hovering over the paper, she said, “Georgiana is certainly nothing like I had imagined her to be.”
“What were you expecting?”
“I had thought she would be so proper. I never imagined she would be so eager to play with the children. Sometimes I forget just how young she is.”
“I have learned over the years that people can be very surprising indeed,” Mrs. Gardiner said with a smile before returning to her work.
A Word about Snapdragons
The botanical name for snapdragons, Antirrhinum majus, comes from the Greek word anti meaning “like” and rrhinum meaning “snout” which aptly describes the flower that resembles the jaws of a dragon.
Originating in the Mediterranean region and southern Europe, snapdragons have spread around the world. Although many colors of snapdragons appear in our modern gardens, originally, they were either white or purple.
The ancient Greeks and Romans sometimes wore snapdragons around their necks as a protection from witchcraft. In medieval times, snapdragons were considered castle guardians and were planted near the castle gates for protection. By the 1700s, Thomas Jefferson was growing them in his gardens at Monticello.
In the Victorian Language of Flowers, snapdragons meant either deception or graciousness, and a bouquet of snapdragons indicated a lady could be expecting a marriage proposal soon.
— Source: gardenguides.com