Ever wonder how Mr. Wickham convinced Georgiana to agree to an elopement? I did. It’s one of the questions that intrigued me about the enigmatic Miss Darcy when I set out to write her story. The book (tentatively titled Miss Darcy of Pemberley) is nearly finished now, and I can tell you that it has been a pure delight getting to know my heroine better along the way. Here, then, is another excerpt (see previous excerpts here: chapter 1, part 1 of chapter 2, part 2 of chapter 2 ). In this one, Georgiana tells how she fell for the villainous Mr. Wickham and nearly came to ruin.
Mrs. Younge and her small school suited me well. She allowed her charges considerable freedom to pursue their own interests, which for me translated into more hours spent at the pianoforte and fewer with my academic studies. She also fulfilled my dearest wish by personally escorting me whenever a new concert or opera debuted. By this and by dint of other similar attentions, I soon supposed myself her favorite among the girls. And so it was no great wonder when she very particularly invited me to accompany her on her holiday to the seaside that summer.
Ramsgate. That is where I met Mr. Wickham again.
I saw him at once when he entered the dining parlor at our inn that first evening. He looked about himself, and then his eyes settled on my chaperone. With an expression of happy recognition, he approached our table, saying, “Why, Mrs. Younge, what at delightful surprise!”
She lifted her eyes and immediately offered him her hand. “Mr. Wickham! Well, I declare, this is a happy coincidence, running across you so unexpectedly in such an out-of-the-way corner of the kingdom. Allow me to introduce my friend. Mr. Wickham, may I present Miss Darcy from Derbyshire?”
Mr. Wickham turned and for the first time seemed to register my presence. “Pleased to meet you,” he said smoothly. Then he scrutinized me more closely and continued. “Can it be? No, surely not. Mrs. Younge, your fair companion cannot possibly be Miss Georgiana Darcy of Pemberley.”
“The very same, Mr. Wickham. Why? Do you know the lady?”
“I do,” he answered, never taking his eyes off me. “Perhaps I had no occasion to mention it to you before, but I grew up there. Yes, I knew that Miss Darcy very well, but as a mere child. You have presented me the woman, and a mature beauty at that.”
“Well, then, it is high time you two were reacquainted. Do sit down and join us, Mr. Wickham.”
And so it began.
If I am still painfully shy, I was more so then. Indeed, I doubt if I spoke more than two dozen words to George Wickham that evening. But my reluctance was soon overcome with the attentiveness of his repeated visits.
Although Mr. Wickham had spent all his youth at Pemberley, he was enough older that he was away at school and then at Cambridge during my own adolescence. At first he had still occasionally visited between terms, and then, after my father’s death, he stopped coming to the house at all. Thus, I had seen nothing of him in years. I still retained a strong impression of his kindness to me from those earlier days, however. This, added to the knowledge of my father’s past partiality towards him and Mrs. Younge’s obvious approbation, supported the aptness of rekindling our friendship.
As friendship it began, but it did not remain so for long. Dashing and gallant as he was, Mr. Wickham rapidly became the natural object of all my girlish ideas of romance. He was tall, mightily good looking, smartly dressed, and so well spoken. The extent of his charm and the superiority of his address were things I had never encountered before. And that such a man should be interested in me… Well, that was flattering beyond my imagination.
Therefore, winning my love on top of my already-ceded admiration, presented no very difficult challenge to a skilled operator like Mr. Wickham.
By the second day of our renewed acquaintance, I was utterly besotted. The gentleman gave the most positive proof of his feeling the same for me by proposing marriage less than a week later.
I was in a state of pure rapture. “Oh, Mr. Wickham, I am so happy…” I began as we strolled along the beach together, moments after coming to our mutual understanding.
He interrupted. “Wait. Now we are engaged, you must call me George whenever we are alone.”
I smiled shyly up at him. “If you wish it, George,” I said, delighted to try his name on my tongue for the first time.
“That sounds very well, indeed. Now, what were you saying, my dear?”
“I meant to say that I must write to my brother at once of our good news. Think how happy this will make him – to learn of an attachment between his sister and someone he knows so well.”
Wickham patted my hand, which rested on his coat sleeve, and sighed deeply. “Yes, I pray Darcy will learn to acknowledge it as good news, at least in time, but I cannot share your optimism for his immediate consent.”
Detecting the first threat to my high spirits, I paused our walk and turned my face sharply upward to view Wickham’s handsome countenance clearly, hoping to find there the reassurance I sought. “Surely my brother can have no reason to disapprove,” I said, for I had never heard him utter anything that would have caused me to suspect a prejudice against his old childhood friend.
“No valid reason, Georgiana, but that is not quite the same thing, is it? I know you are a grown woman, able to make intelligent decisions for yourself. But I doubt your brother will agree with me on that score. I would wager he still thinks of you as little more than a helpless infant – someone needing to be protected and controlled.”
I considered this. “There may be some truth in what you say, but William never can deny me anything for long. When he understands how happy you have made me, he is sure to give his blessing to our plans in a moment.”
“Are you so certain that you are willing to bet our future on it?”
“What do you mean?”
“Just this. He is your guardian and you know we cannot marry – not in the customary way, at least – without his consent. If you tell Darcy of our engagement and he, on some whim or another, should disapprove, he could refuse to allow us to marry or even to see each other until you come of age.”
“Separated and kept waiting for years? How should we endure it?”
He shook his head. “And it may be worse than that. Before then, your brother may have married you off to someone more in keeping with his high-flown ideas – probably someone with a title who is old enough to be your father.” He shrugged. “But perhaps you should like such a man as well as any other.”
“No!” I protested, close to tears by this time. “How can you say such a thing? Dear Wickham, I could never love any man but you.”
Wickham smiled wistfully at me and lifted my chin. “I’m afraid love has little to do with the matter in such cases, and I have seen the unhappy outcome time and again. Your brother will arrange the marriage as he sees fit, believing he is doing you a great kindness. And you? You, my angel, will have no way to oppose his plans until you reach your majority. Sadly, by then, it will almost certainly be too late for us. We will both have been disposed of against our wishes.”
“This must never be!” I cried. “Is there not some other way, some way we can be together now and forever?”
“It is true that you deserve a better fate, my dear. And so do I, for that matter. Perhaps…” He discontinued this thought and strode off down the beach, saying resolutely, “No, it would never do!”
Hurrying after him, I demanded, “Tell me. You have an idea for how it can be managed, and I insist on knowing what it is!”
“No, my darling,” he reiterated. “I could never allow you to make such a sacrifice for me.”
“I can think of no sacrifice that would be too great, dear George. Now tell me what I must do. Please!”
Looking back, I can scarce believe that I, in effect, begged George Wickham for the privilege of running off with him, or how easily he maneuvered me into thinking the elopement my own idea.
I thank God that my brother turned up in time to disrupt the plan. I shudder to imagine what might have happened otherwise. In any event, his arrival was enough to awaken me from my foolish delusions. I perceived how wrong I was to have trusted a comparative stranger over my faithful guardian of many years, over my own blood. And so I confessed the whole affair at once.
Forced to relinquished his claim, Mr. Wickham beat a hasty retreat from the fire of my brother’s righteous wrath. None of that anger was allowed to touch me, however; I received only gentleness and compassion. No, I paid my penance in other ways – by the humiliating knowledge that I had been duped, by the pain of my unrequited love living on longer than it had any right to do, and by the private shame I have quietly carried ever since.
To this day I cannot satisfactorily explain my conduct in the case. I wonder how I could have been so foolishly blind. Though I was very young at the time, I still cannot conceive how I saw truth and beauty where there was only vanity and guile…
Is this the way you pictured that scene playing out? How do you thinks these events influenced Georgiana’s character and behavior into the future? I hope you will enjoy my interpretation in my upcoming release!