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Chapter 22


Not long after Miss Georgiana Darcy and Mr. Charles Bingley entered into their secret engagement, Georgiana began to have some misgivings.  Her near elopement with George Wickham weighed on her mind.  Was keeping this secret from Fitzwilliam the same as with Wickham?  At length she struggled but then she thought about Charles and how kind and considerate he had been with her feelings.  Because he was willing to go to Fitzwilliam and ask for her hand, she knew this was different; Charles wanted to profess his intentions and gain her family’s approval.

Mr. Bingley had never forced her to go beyond what she was comfortable with.  In fact, she was quite astonished with herself at how bold she had been in initiating more intimate contact.  While she was sure she surprised him with her boldness, she was also sure that he delighted in those surprises and sometimes encouraged her but only if she wanted to.  Mr. Bingley was a far cry from George Wickham in that regard.  In addition, she had never felt those flutterings and tinglings that jolted through her body when she was with George as she did when Charles was near.  No! This was different she decided. She was sure that she was in love this time and to a good, decent, respectable man.

As the days of their clandestine engagement passed, they found it easy to find private time to talk about their past and their future.  Miss Darcy told her intended about the Wickham incident as she referred to it and Mr. Bingley told her about Jane Bennet and the soul searching he had recently done that had lead to his decision to court her.  They talked about their future together and found that they had similar ideas on how they wanted to live their lives as husband and wife.  In short, they both had come to the conclusion that marriage would not be a mistake; in fact, they were both quite excited and eager to reach the altar.


Georgiana Darcy paced the carpet in the front parlor of Darcy House with mixed feelings.  She was awaiting the arrival of Mr. Bingley with excitement as today they were finally going to seek her brother’s consent and blessing on their engagement. She, however, was agitated with her brother when she had been informed that he was in his chambers and did not wish to be disturbed.  How are we ever going to have a wedding if I cannot gain his approval?  This waiting is more than I can bear.

Hearing a carriage draw up in front of the house, she flew to the window.  Seeing that it was Mr. Bingley, she walked to the door that opened onto the main foyer.  Hearing Hudson answer the knocker, she opened the door and walked out to greet Mr. Bingley.

When she heard Hudson announce that Mr. Darcy was not available, she stepped forward and invited Mr. Bingley to join her in the parlor, much to Hudson’s astonishment.

Once she had escorted Mr. Bingley into the parlor, she cried, “Oh! Charles!”  Then she flung herself at him, wrapping her arms around his neck and kissing him squarely on the lips.

“Georgiana!” he exclaimed as he reluctantly withdrew from the kiss.  “Whatever is the matter?”

“Charles, William is still asleep and has left orders not to be disturbed.  How are we ever going to get married?” she decried. 

“My dear Georgiana,” he tried to calm her as he placed his arms around her and pulled her into his embrace. “It is not the end of the world.  We will be able to speak with him soon.  If not later today, then tomorrow.”

“But I want to marry you so very much.  This waiting…not knowing the outcome, it is too much,” she pouted.  They had taken their time in making sure that marriage is what they wanted. Now that the decision was firmly made, she was eager to go forward with it.

“I believe he will give his consent when all is presented to him.  He, as much, has told me of his desire for this match earlier.  Though I do not think he expected us to come to an understanding so soon.”

“Yes, but it is all so vexing,” she said with frustration.

“Patience, my sweet, all in good time,” he placated her before leaning down and kissing her pouting lips.

As their kiss deepened, Georgiana ran her fingers through Charles’ hair lightly scraping his scalp.  This sent a shudder through him that caused him to place his hands on her butt cheeks, pressing them to his growing desire.

Both were so engrossed in their activities that they failed to hear another carriage pull up.  It was not until they heard a commotion in the front foyer that they became aware of their surroundings.  Pulling apart, both straighten their clothing and hair in preparation of greeting the newly arrived guest, but the guilty look on their faces could not be hidden.

Recognizing one of the voices as her Aunt Suzan, Georgiana opened the door to greet her.

“Aunt, what a pleasant surprise!” she exclaimed.

“Not now, Georgiana,” Lady Suzan replied as she made her way to the staircase. 

Turning to General Fitzwilliam, Lady Suzan commanded, “Richard, you go up and rouse that cousin of yours and have him attend me in the Mistress’s private sitting room.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Fitzwilliam said as he hurried up the stairs.

“Lady Suzan, whatever is the matter?” Georgiana cried.  She had never seen her aunt so angry.

After climbing two steps, Lady Suzan turned and with a stern look and voice, addressed her niece, “Georgiana, it is best that you remain down here.”  Without another word, she turned and ascended the stairs.

When Georgiana turned to Mr. Bingley, she found him standing behind her. 

“Miss Darcy, maybe it would be best if I took my leave,” he stated.

Giving him a pleadingly look, she soon relented, “Yes, Mr. Bingley, I do not believe my brother will be able to see you until later.”

After escorting her, hopefully, soon-to-be fiancé to the front door, she retreated to the music room to practice.  Curious and concerned about why her aunt was so angry with her brother, she let the music soothe her disquieted spirit.


Darcy was rudely awakened by cold water being poured on his groin.  Scrambling up from his prone position, he cried, “Wha…”

Fitzwilliam stood above him holding an empty pitcher of water.  “I see that you were having a pleasant dream, but you do not have time to finish it,” he smirked at his disheveled cousin.

“Fitzwilliam, what the devil are you doing here?” Darcy asked as he tried to brush the water from him.

Throwing Darcy a towel, he stated, “I have been ordered to fetch you to her Ladyship who, I might add, awaits you in your mother’s sitting room.”

Drying himself off, he laid the towel across his lap as he rubbed his face, “Whatever for?  What have I done?”

“I believe it may have something to do with who you were dreaming about just now.  And we all can safely wager it was not Mrs. Wagstaff.”

Darcy glared at his cousin.

Grabbing his arm to pull him from the bed, Fitzwilliam commanded, “Come, get dressed.  My mother is in a foul mood and is not waiting patiently for you to grace her with your presence.”

Standing, Darcy asked, “Can I not have a bit of privacy?”

“No!  You do not have anything I have not seen before.  Besides, I have orders not to let you out of my sight until I have delivered you to her Ladyship.”

Walking to his dressing room, Darcy asked, “What is Lady Suzan so upset about?”

“I would guess it has something to do with Miss Elizabeth Bennet and her uncharacteristic behavior last night and this morning,” was Fitzwilliam’s response.

Pulling on his breeches, Darcy asked, “What did Miss Bennet say?”  He had to know what Elizabeth had said about what had transpired between them last night and again this morning to know how much he would have to admit to.

“That is the point, she has not said anything.  But Mother is quite aware of Miss Bennet’s tendency to avoid any mention of you when you are at fault for something.”

Darcy groaned as he pulled on his shirt.

“So what did happen between the two of you?” Fitzwilliam queried.

Remaining silent, Darcy finished dressing.  Pulling down his waistcoat, he asked, “So, am I presentable?”

Fitzwilliam surveyed his cousin and offered, “Other than needing a shave and brush run through your hair, I would say you are presentable.”

Darcy reached for his hair brush but was stopped by Fitzwilliam taking his arm and dragging him towards the door, “You do not have time for that!”

The cousins remained silent as they made the short walk down the hall to the Mistress’s private sitting room.  Entering the room, they were greeted by a scowling Lady Suzan sitting on the settee.  Fitzwilliam took a chair by his mother while Darcy remained standing.

“Darcy, you look at fright,” she cried.

Darcy gave his cousin a pointed look before turning to his aunt, “Fitzwilliam did not allow me much time to prepare myself to receive you, your ladyship.”

“Why were you still abed at this time of morning?  It is not like you,” she stated.

Looking down, he replied, “I did not get much rest during the night.”

“And just why was that?” she continued her interrogation.

Wanting to get to the point of this visit, he asked, “What is it that you wished to speak to me about?”

With a sobering look, she responded, “What have you done to Miss Bennet?  Have you compromised her in any way?  I have warned you about trifling with her.”

Darcy flushed as he knew his aunt would be angry if she ever found about the previous evening.  He did not even want to speculate on her reaction if she were made privy to the discussion he had had with Elizabeth this very morning.

Watching her nephew closely, she knew that he had compromised Miss Bennet. “Darcy, how could you?  You are engaged to another woman.”

“Aunt, may I explain?” he asked.

Looking at her nephew skeptically, she said, “Please do.”  Then she folded her arms across her chest.

Placing his hands on the back of a chair opposite Lady Suzan to steady himself for what he was about to say, he began his explanation,  “Last night I noticed Miss Bennet dancing with Sir Arnold Murphy, and she did not look at all comfortable with his attentions.  Knowing what a rake he is, I watched them; ready to step in if need be.  After the dance was complete, I noticed Miss Bennet leave the ball to get some air and not a moment later, Sir Arnold followed her.  I thought it prudent to also follow them, in case that gentleman had ideas of forcing himself on her.”

Both Richard and Lady Suzan nodded for him to continue.

“Before I could reach them, it seemed that Miss Bennet had been trained in the art of self defense by Fitzwilliam.”  He looked at his cousin.

“She did not!” Fitzwilliam exclaimed.

“Yes, she did,” Darcy nodded.  “Much to Sir Arnold’s shock and anger, not to mention the pain he suffered.  He was about to retaliate when I stepped forward.”

Lady Suzan was confused and asked, “What did Miss Bennet do?”  Turning to her son, “What have you been teaching her, Richard?”

Fitzwilliam lean over to his mother and in a low voice replied, “I have been instructing Miss Bennet in the art of defending herself against persistent gentlemen.”

Looking at her son, “Just what did Miss Bennet do to Sir Arnold?”

Both men winced as Darcy responded, “She kneed him in the groin area.”

Lady Suzan laughed, “Oh! Elizabeth, what a treat you are!  I am surprised she did not tell me of this last night.”  Pondering on Elizabeth’s demeanor the previous evening, Lady Suzan knew something else had happened.  She knew Elizabeth well enough to know that she would be pleased to share her exhibition of a new accomplishment, but, instead, Elizabeth was pale and did not look well on her return from the terrace.  And that only meant one thing, Darcy was involved.

Sobering, Lady Suzan looked squarely at Darcy, clearly displeased at something, and requested, “And then what happened?  And do not say ‘Nothing, Aunt’ for I know it will be a prevarication.”

Not knowing exactly what Elizabeth had told his aunt, he knew he could not lie to her.  Taking a deep breath, he tried to explain as best as he could, “Miss Bennet seemed upset about the encounter, and I wanted to console her; to take her mind off of Sir Arnold.  The moon light was shining on her and the next thing I knew I was kissing her.”

“You were kissing her…” was chorused by both mother and son.

This was what Lady Suzan had feared and wanted to get to the bottom of this travesty, “Darcy, you are an engaged man.  What is the meaning of kissing a woman who is not your intended?”

Looking out the window, Darcy said in a soft voice, “I could not help myself.  I am in love with her.”

Lady Suzan had suspected this much but had hoped it was not true.  She demanded, “How is it that you can propose to one lady one day and the next day fall in love with another?”

Staring at the floor, he stated, “My love for Elizabeth has been of a long duration.  Long before I had even thought of proposing to Mrs. Wagstaff.”

“Then why did you propose to her?”  Lady Suzan asked.

“To whom?” Darcy looked at his aunt in confusion.

Exasperated, she responded, “To Mrs. Wagstaff, of course.” 

Then it dawned on Lady Suzan exactly what might have happened three years ago in Kent.  Darcy seemed to be in a confessing mood; maybe he can solve the mystery that had been plaguing her.

“Darcy, I think you need to explain your prior relationship with Miss Bennet.” His aunt requested as she leaned back, placed her hands in her lap, and waited patiently for his reply.

“It is a long story and does not reflect well on me,” he declared.

“Be that as it may, I wish to hear it,” she stated in such a manner as to mean she would brook no opposition to getting to the truth.

Sighing, he sat in the chair opposite his aunt.

“It started three and a half years ago when I went to visit Bingley at an estate he had leased in Hertfordshire – Netherfield Park.  This estate was but three miles from Longbourn where Miss Bennet and her family resided at that time.  I will admit to being drawn to her even before making her acquaintance, but when Bingley offered to introduce her to me, I made some flippant remark about her not being tolerable enough to tempt me.” He gave a little shrug.  “Unfortunately, Elizabeth overheard my comment, and I believe that set her disapprobation against me.”

“Oh, my!” Lady Suzan raised her hand to her mouth to cover her mirth.

Fitzwilliam cleared his throat to hide his.

Looking at his cousin and aunt, Darcy continued on, “The neighborhood was small, and I was constantly thrown into her company at various gatherings.  My attraction for her grew with each encounter.  Then her sister was invited to have dinner with Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst one rainy day.  On her way over, Miss Bennet, Jane Bennet, was caught in the rain and while dining a severe cold overtook her.  The next day Elizabeth came to see after her sister and there I was stuck in the same house with her.  Though I will say it was the most entertaining time of my entire visit there; Miss Bennet was in rare form those three days she was in residence.  But when she left, I realized I was in great danger of doing something I knew I should not do.  Her wit, intelligence, and vivacity were making me forget what I had been told about my duty to the family in the choice of my marriage partner.

“It was not long after that Bingley hosted a ball for the entire neighborhood.  Against my better judgment, I singled her out as my one dance partner for the first half of the ball.  When supper was announced I was forced to view her family whom I believed to be at their worse, as they displayed such appalling manners.  The next day Bingley left for Town for a few days and the day after I followed him along with his sisters.  Once in Town, we persuaded Bingley not to return to Netherfield Park.”

“Why on earth would you do that?” Lady Suzan asked.

“Bingley was infatuated with a young lady in the area, and I knew that if he went back, he might offer for her hand in marriage, and also I did not believe myself strong enough to withstand Elizabeth’s charms,” Darcy expounded, not feeling proud of such an admission.

“Besides prying into the affairs of others, what difference did it make?” Lady Suzan queried.

“Because the young lady in question was Miss Jane Bennet, Elizabeth’s older sister,” Darcy declared.

“Oh! Darcy, how could you?” she admonished him.

“Oh! No!  Fitzwilliam cried.

Darcy looked at Fitzwilliam with a furrowed brow.

Sheepishly, Fitzwilliam explained, “I am sorry Darcy.  One day I was out walking at Rosings Park and came upon Miss Bennet.  Trying to raise her estimation of you, I related to her how well you took care of your friends by telling her about how you had recently rescued Bingley from a most imprudent match.”

“I had always wondered how she knew.  I had thought it supposition, accurate supposition, but supposition nonetheless,” Darcy countered.

“She confronted you about it,” Fitzwilliam said amazed.

“Yes, along with many other offenses,” Darcy rejoined.  “To continue on, I spent the winter after we all left Hertfordshire at Pemberley thinking that distance would erase her from my thoughts but that did not work.  When we arrived at Rosings Park to find Miss Bennet just across the lane at the parsonage, I felt that fate had played an evil trick on me.  Then I began to believe that it was some sort of divine intervention and that I could struggle no longer against it.  Therefore I decided to court her.”

Fitzwilliam rolled his eyes and chuckled, “Darcy, first of all, everyone, except you, knew that she disliked you.  And secondly, you know nothing of how to court a lady.  Ladies court you, not the other way around.”

Darcy glared at his cousin, “Yes, I know that now, but I did not know it then.  I was lost to any hope of rationality.  One day near the end of our visit, the party at the parsonage was invited to tea with Lady Catherine.  Elizabeth had begged off due to a headache.  Concerned, I went to her.  In seeing that she was well, I began to pace about the room.  Finally, I found my courage and began telling her my struggles to overcome her lack of dowry, her low connection, and the abominable manners of her family.  Then I had to add that my own family would disapprove of my decision before I admitted that I admired and loved her; then asked for her hand in marriage.”

“Oh! Darcy! You did not?” Lady Suzan exclaimed.  “Of course, she refused you.”

Darcy nodded and went on, “Yes, surprised at her response, I asked her to explain her refusal.  Then she began a litany of reasons why she did not wish to marry me, beginning with my role in separating her sister from Bingley…” he looked pointedly at his cousin, “…which I admitted to, saying something to the effect that I had been kinder to Bingley than I was to myself.  Then she went on to express her displeasure at the wrongs I had inflicted on Wickham…”

“Wickham, what does he have to do with this?” Fitzwilliam asked.

“It seems our old friend had joined the militia and his unit was stationed in the village near Elizabeth’s home.  He evidently sensed her dislike of me and proceeded to fill her mind with his poisonous lies.”

“Did you not correct her knowledge of that man?” Lady Suzan questioned.

“At the time, I was too angry to do so.  After that, she went on say that my arrogance, conceit, and selfish disdain for the feelings for others could not induce her to consider me in such a way.  Then the coup de grace was that even if I was the last man on earth, she could not be prevailed upon to marry me.  It was then that I admitted defeat and left her.  I did not see her again until I found her in your drawing room.”  Darcy looked at his aunt.

Lady Suzan found his tale both humorous and sad.  Only her nephew could be so inadequate in courting a lady but she knew his heart had been broken.  She could see why he had wanted to win Miss Bennet’s regard even after so long.  But she also knew there was more to his story, “Yes, that does explain that strange bout of apologies that abounded during that call.  But what I would like to know is how Mrs. Wagstaff fits into to all this.”

Darcy was a private man.  He kept his emotions and private dealings to himself.  While he bristled at having to reveal so much of his affairs, he was consoled that, next to Georgiana, his aunt and Fitzwilliam were the dearest members of his family to him.  Since I have revealed so much already, I might as well tell all.

“After I left Kent, I was angry and hurt.  After a month in London, I could stand it no longer and retreated to Pemberley to lick my wounds.  Once there I realized that Elizabeth had given me one of the greatest gifts one can receive – a chance to view oneself through another’s eyes.  What I saw there, I did not like and knew that I had better change my ways.  Also, I harbored that hope that if I could become a better person, I could earn a chance to improve Elizabeth’s opinion of me.  Once I felt ready, I found my avenues to contact her were blocked.  Bingley had given up his lease on Netherfield; I could not write her.  Then it dawned on me that she might again be visiting her cousins, the Collinses, so happily I went to pay my yearly respects to Lady Catherine.  Again I was met with failure as I learned about what had happened to her family and that they had apparently disappeared into thin air.  From Kent, I began a search for her and continued it once I returned to Town.  But every lead turned to a blind alley.  Finally, last summer the leads had dwindled to none, and I was forced to face the fact I would never see her again.

“When Virginia Wagstaff returned to town last autumn, I found the company of an old friend a distraction.  It took my mind off of missing Elizabeth.  While I toyed with the notion of asking her to marry me, the specter of Elizabeth held me back.  When I was in Cornwall, I thought on how lonely and empty my life was; how soon Georgiana would leave me and how much lonelier I would be in the future.  I realized that I needed to move on in my life; so when I returned, I proposed to Mrs. Wagstaff.  I knew she did not love me but, then again, I did not love her.  I only wanted a companion to ease my loneliness.”

Lady Suzan was quite moved by Darcy’s confession.  She truly felt for his position, but how was it to be resolved; she did not have an answer to that conundrum.  Then she said, “You have found yourself in quite a pickle, what do you plan to do about it?”

Darcy shook his head and replied, “I have racked my brain and have yet to find an honorable way out of this predicament.  I have convinced Mrs. Wagstaff to delay our wedding until the late autumn but I am not sure buying time will help the situation.”

“You know you cannot break your engagement with Mrs. Wagstaff.  The scandal will not help Georgiana’s chances of a good match.  Nor do I believe Miss Bennet will appreciate being cast as the other woman in such a way.”

“Yes, aunt, I cannot agree with you more.  Though I will say that I believe Georgiana’s match will soon be made.”

“Are you referring to Mr. Bingley?” she asked.

“Yes.  While others in the family may not approve, I have observed them these last weeks and feel they have developed a true affection for each other.  Their temperaments are similar, and I believe they will do well with each other.”

After a pensive reflection, Lady Suzan opined, “You might be correct there.  I do know Georgiana and do not believe she would be comfortable in the role of wife to an Earl or a Duke.  A quieter life is what she wants, and I daresay she will find that with Mr. Bingley.  But let us get back to your dilemma, Darcy. What are you going to do about Mrs. Wagstaff?  Unless you find an honorable way to get out of this engagement, I request that you keep your distance from Miss Bennet.”

Darcy looked at his aunt pleadingly.  He did not think that he could do that after what he learned today of her feelings toward him.

“Nephew, this request is for Miss Bennet’s sake, not yours.  What do you think will happen if Mrs. Wagstaff or, heaven forbid, Julia notices your attentions to her?” Lady Suzan gave Darcy a searching look.

Honestly, Darcy admitted, “I do not know.”

“Those two ladies may very well do whatever they want if they perceive a threat to your impending nuptials.  Do you wish to see Miss Bennet’s reputation harmed or her character maligned?  In addition, it is bad form for a gentleman, an engaged gentleman, to show marked preference to a lady that is not his betrothed,” Lady Suzan ventured.

“No, that is the last thing I wish to happen,” Darcy affirmed.

“Then distance will be necessary to prevent such an occurrence,” was her decree.

Darcy nodded and then added, “Aunt, I would like a favor from you, if I may?”

Smiling, Lady Suzan said, “You know that I would be hard pressed to refuse you anything.”

“I would like to have a few private words with Miss Bennet,” Darcy requested.

Frowning, she inquired, “Do you think that wise?”

“Yes,” he stated, “After last night, I would dislike it very much if I could not explain to her why I might seem distant to her.”

After thinking for a moment, Lady Suzan nodded, “Very well, come by tomorrow morning. If Miss Bennet agrees to it, I will allow you a few moments of privacy --- though I believe it highly improper.”

“Thank you, aunt,” he acknowledged.

Turning to her son, Lady Suzan commanded, “Richard, I believe it is time to take our leave.  I am sure we have hounded this poor boy long enough.”

Darcy rose from his seat and bowed to his aunt and cousin before escorting them down the stairs and to the front door. 





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