Today I’m sharing the first half of chapter 2 from my current work-in-progress, an excerpt which amounts to a “missing scene” from Pride and Prejudice – when Darcy takes his sister to meet Elizabeth for the first time at the Lambton Inn. It’s told from Georgiana’s perspective because that’s what the whole book I’m writing is about. It’s Georgiana’s story as it parallels events in my most popular novel, The Darcys of Pemberley (a P&P sequel), including flashback scenes like this one. If you’d like to start at the beginning, read chapter 1 here. Hope you enjoy this! Let me know what you think.
In those days, my mind very naturally tended toward romance, and all the more so for seeing my own revered brother fall under love’s spell. Having risen to somewhat of an unassailable father figure in my sight, I suppose I had before that point unconsciously considered him immune to such things. But then the first chink in his armor appeared. I noticed it when he returned from visiting our Aunt de Bourgh at Rosings that year.
His mood was as dark as ever I had seen it, at least since the gloomy period when our father died. He was kind as always to me and to his servants – perhaps more so than usual – yet he punished himself without mercy. My brother was never one to shrink from the duties entailed with managing all the Pemberley estates, but now I noticed he pushed himself even harder, as if by diligent work he could drive off the unnamed demons haunting the corners of his mind. In whatever time remained, he doggedly pursued some physical diversion, such as riding or swordplay, to keep himself occupied – anything to avoid idleness. At least, that is the way it seemed to me.
Although now I know that an unprosperous love was to blame, I was very far from suspecting it at the time. I only knew my brother was mightily unhappy. And it went on for months without relief.
William had told me before about some people he met while staying with Mr. Bingley at Netherfield Park, just in a casual way. But the name of Bennet was not mentioned then with any particular admiration. It was only much later, shortly before he introduced Elizabeth to me at Lambton that I began to suspect the truth.
“I have an acquaintance staying nearby that I wish you to meet,” he told me privately that day as we sat together in the south drawing room.
I had only just arrived home to Pemberley with a party from town that same morning and, after taking some refreshment, I had looked forward to spending a quiet afternoon resting from the long journey.
“It is one of the Miss Bennets from Hertfordshire, of whom I told you,” he continued. “Miss Elizabeth Bennet, who is traveling with the Gardiners, her aunt and uncle. They visited here yesterday, and I promised to return the call after you arrived. We had engaged for tomorrow, but no doubt today will do as well or better. Would you mind terribly, Georgiana, spending another hour in a carriage going with me to Lambton and back?”
Although he had affected a air of nonchalance, I thought I perceived an unusual undercurrent of excitement in his voice… and in his impatience to return the call.
“Do you think it wise,” I asked with some hesitation, “coming in on people before they expect? They may not thank you for it. And neither may your guests here, for deserting them nearly as soon as they arrive.”
“Look about you, dear sister. The entire company, with the possible exception of Mr. Bingley, appears intent on sleeping the afternoon away. If we were to slip out and back quietly, I daresay not one of them will know we have ever been gone.”
It was true enough. Mr. Hurst was already snoring loudly, and the women, though their eyes were open, seemed barely more conscious of their surroundings. Since it was also true that my curiosity had been decidedly aroused to see the lady who had the power to command my brother’s earliest possible appearance, I consented to the plan. With an eager Mr. Bingley joining us, off to the inn at Lambton we drove.
“Can you tell me something about this Miss Bennet, so that I may know what I am to expect?” I asked my brother along the way, nervous as I always was to meet someone new.
He did not answer immediately but looked off into the distance. His visage took on a softened appearance while he, according to my interpretation, pictured the lady’s countenance in his mind’s eye rather than the familiar pastoral scene before him. Then he seemed to remember himself and said, almost brusquely, “She is not particularly high born, but a gentleman’s daughter and therefore a perfectly respectable person for you to have amongst your acquaintance.”
“I do not doubt it. Indeed, it never occurred to me she could be otherwise. But how well do you know her?”
My brother looked to Mr. Bingley, who quickly came to his aid.
“We were very often thrown together with the Bennet family while we were staying in Hertfordshire,” Bingley informed me. “Meryton is a small community, so we saw them at nearly every assembly – public and private. And then of course, Miss Eliza Bennet was several days at Netherfield, nursing her sister who had become ill while visiting us there.”
“Several days?” I repeated, lifting my eyebrows in question. “You must have formed some opinion of the lady in that time, Brother. Did you not?”
He gave a very unsatisfactory reply. “I suppose I did, yes.”
“And what was that opinion?” I gently prodded, when he volunteered nothing further.
“I concluded that she was a person I should not object to knowing better, and one who I hoped someday to introduce to my sister’s notice. Really, Georgiana, I think that will do. You shall judge for yourself in a few minutes when you meet the lady.”
“Only one question more. Is this Miss Bennet musical?”
William gave a tranquil smile. “You will find her very modest of her own claims, but I certainly found nothing wanting in her performance. In fact, I have rarely heard any thing that gave me more pleasure.”
We covered the remaining mile in near silence. I fancy that my brother was thinking of Elizabeth Bennet, as indeed was I, and even Mr. Bingley seemed more contemplative than usual.
Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner received us when we arrived at the inn – surprised but cordial – after which my brother turned his full attention to their niece.
“Miss Bennet, may I present my sister, Miss Georgiana Darcy? Georgiana, this is Miss Elizabeth Bennet.”
His countenance fairly glowed when he said it. If this had not been enough to give his feelings away, the alteration in his manner surely would have. I had never seen him more desirous to please, and this in a case where there could be no extraordinary advantage to doing so. The Gardiners, though highly gracious and respectable people, were not of great consequence, and neither could the Bennets be. No, I quickly confirmed it must be Elizabeth herself who was of special interest to my brother. She was the one to whom he wished to make himself agreeable. Therefore it was to her I must make myself agreeable as well, for his sake.
Being thus predisposed in her favor, and with every high expectation soon verified by my own observations, should have cleared away every obstacle. But alas, my shyness, made more profound by the apparent import of the occasion, once again arose to sink my every confidence and confound my speech.
I blushed and stammered. “I… I am very happy… happy to meet you, that is, Miss Bennet.”
“As I am to meet you, Miss Darcy,” she said, looking a little embarrassed herself and likewise anxious to please.
It was my turn to say something, and I could feel my brother, who stood at my elbow, silently urging me to do so. “I hope… I hope you have had a pleasant journey here,” I finally produced.
More standard pleasantries followed, as did Mr. Bingley’s entrance to facilitate the conversation for another half of an hour. I spoke very little, but before we took our leave, I was called on to join my brother in extending the invitation for Miss Bennet and her party to dine with us at Pemberley before they should quit the country.
This I did very willingly if not very fluently. I was already charmed by Miss Bennet – for myself, but more particularly for my brother. She was not his usual sort of female admirer, which I can only imagine he found refreshing. He clearly admired her very much indeed, and I was ready to do my best to promote his happiness, wherever it might be found.
My only concern was for how Miss Bennet and the Gardiners might be received by our other guests at Pemberley, some of whom indulged themselves in airs of superiority, and one (if she were the least bit perceptive) had even more personal reason to disapprove. Miss Bingley, I was certain, would demonstrate a fundamental dislike for the lady who so obviously threatened her long-suffering aspirations in regard to my brother. And so it proved to be…
To read the second half of this chapter, come back next Monday (March 30th).