Authors: Amanda Grange
Have I done the right thing in establishing Georgiana in London, I wonder? The summer is proving to be very hot, and when I visited her this morning, I found her lacking her usual energy. I think I will send her to the coast for a holiday.
I have instructed Hargreaves to look for a suitable house in Margate, or perhaps in Ramsgate, for Georgiana. I wish I could go with her, but it is proving difficult to find a new steward to replace Wickham and I cannot spare the time.
Wickham! It is strange that one name can summon up such contradictory feelings. My father's steward was a man I admired and respected, but his son is a man I hold in contempt. I can hardly believe that George and I were friends when we were children, but George was different then.
I sometimes wonder how it is that a boy who had every advantage, who was blessed with good looks, easy manners and a good education, and who was the son of such a respectable man, could turn out so badly. When I think of the dissipation he has indulged in since his father's death â¦
I am glad I have not heard of him recently. Our business dealings last year were unpleasant. When he asked me for the presentation of the living my father had intended for him, he resented my refusal to give it to him, although he knew full well that he had relinquished all claims to it, and that his character made him entirely unsuited for the church.
Fortunately, a sum of money settled the matter. I feared he would approach me again when it ran out, but I have finally convinced him that he will get no more help from me. For the sake of the friendship we once had I have given him much, but I will not help him any more. The only man who can help George Wickham now is himself.
Hargreaves has found a house for Georgiana in Ramsgate, and Georgiana's companion, Mrs Younge, has been to inspect it. She finds it suitable, and so I have taken it. Ramsgate is not too far away, and I will be able to join Georgiana whenever my business allows. I feel sure the sea air will revive
her and she will soon be in good spirits again.
I had not realized how much I would miss my sister. I have grown used to calling on her every day. But she is in good hands, and I am persuaded she will enjoy herself.
I dined with Bingley this evening. He is still in town, but he will be travelling north to see his family next week.
âI think, you know, Darcy, that I shall take a house for the winter,' he said after dinner.
âNo. In the country. I have a mind to buy an estate. Caroline is always telling me I should have one, and I agree with her. I mean to rent a property first and, if I like it, I will buy it.'
âI think it is an excellent idea. It will stop you racketing all over the country,' I said.
âExactly what I think. If I had a house half as fine as Pemberley I would not always be going from one place to another. I could invite company to stay with me, instead of travelling the length and breadth of the country to find it,' he returned.
âWhere do you mean to look?' I asked him, as I finished my drink.
âSomewhere in the middle of the country. Not too far north, and not too far south. Caroline recommended Derbyshire, but why should I live in Derbyshire? If I want to visit that part of the country I can stay at Pemberley with you. I have told my agent to look for something in Hertfordshire, or thereabouts. I rely on you to inspect it with me when he finds me something.'
âIf you go ahead with it, then I will be glad to.'
âYou do not think I will?'
âI think you will change your mind as soon as you see a pretty face, whereupon you will decide to stay in London,' I said with a smile.
âYou paint me very fickle,' he said with a laugh. âI thought you were my friend!'
âAnd so I am.'
âAnd yet you think me capable of abandoning my plan? Upon my honour, I will not be so easily dissuaded, and nothing will stop me from taking a house in the country. You will come and visit me?'
âAnd you must bring Georgiana. How is she? I have not seen her for months. I must take Caroline and visit her.'
âShe is not in London at present. I have sent her to Ramsgate for the summer.'
âVery wise. I cannot wait to remove from town myself.'
We parted after dinner. If it was still the Season, I would not hold out much hope of him fixing on a place, whatever he protests. But as London is empty of female company, then I think he may hold true to his course â unless a young lady in the north should happen to catch his fancy, whereupon he will stay at home until Christmas!
I had a letter from Georgiana this morning. It is lively and affectionate, and I am pleased I thought of sending her to the seaside. She has arrived safely in Ramsgate and writes of her pleasure at the house:
It is small compared to my London establishment, but it is very
comfortable and it has a pretty view of the sea. Mrs Younge and I are
going down to the beach this afternoon as I am eager to make a sketch
of the coast. I will send it to you when it is finished.
Your affectionate sister, Georgiana.
I folded her letter away and I was about to put it in my desk with the others when I happened to notice the handwriting on one of her earlier letters. I took it out so that I could compare the two. She has made a great deal of progress, both in her handwriting and in the style of her letters, over the last few years. However, I confess that I find her earlier letters charming, though the handwriting is poor and the spelling atrocious.
As I reread her earlier letter, I remembered how worried I had been that she would be not be happy at the seminary, but I need not have been concerned. She liked her teachers, and made a number of good friends there. I will have to suggest that she invites one of them to stay with her in London over the autumn. If I am to help Bingley find his estate, then a friend will provide some company for Georgiana whilst I am away.
I rode in the park with Colonel Fitzwilliam this morning. He told me that he had been to Rosings and seen Lady Catherine, and that she had appointed a new rector. For a moment I feared it might be George Wickham, knowing that if he had heard of a wealthy living at Rosings he
might have tried to ingratiate himself with my aunt.
âWhat is the rector's name?' I asked.
I breathed again.
âA heavy young man with the most extraordinary manner,' went on Colonel Fitzwilliam. âA mixture of servility and conceit. He bobs about praising everything and anything. He talks endlessly but says nothing. He has no opinions of his own, except an idea of his own importance, which is as ludicrous as it is unshakeable. My aunt likes him well enough, however. He performs his duties well and he is useful to her for making up a table at cards.'
âIs he married?'
âI believe it will not be long before he takes a wife.'
âHe is betrothed, then?'
âNo, but my aunt finds it tedious at Rosings with so few people to entertain her, and I believe she will soon tell him he must marry. A new bride will make a diversion for her, and then she will have someone to â¦ help,' he said with a wry smile.
âShe likes to be of service,' I remarked, returning his look.
âAnd she is so fortunately placed that other people have little choice but to thank her for her advice,' he added.
We have both had a great deal of advice from Lady Catherine. Most of it has been very good, but all the same I have often been relieved that Rosings is not in Derbyshire, but that it is far away in Kent.
âHow is Georgiana?' he asked, as we left the park and began to ride back to my house.
âVery well. I have sent her to Ramsgate for the summer.'
âGood. It is too hot in town for her. It is too hot for anyone,' he said. âI am going to Brighton next week. It is a pity I will not be able to see her, but next time I am in town I will make sure I visit her. Will you be joining her in Ramsgate?'
âNot yet. I have too much to do.'
âBut you will be going to Pemberley?'
âLater in the year, yes.'
âI envy you Pemberley.'
âThen you should marry. It would enable you to buy a place of your own.'
âIf I find a suitable heiress, I might consider it, but at the moment I am enjoying the bachelor life.'
With this we parted, he to go to his barracks, and I to return home.
At last my business in town is done, and I am free to visit Georgiana. I mean to go first thing tomorrow, and surprise her.
I had no idea, when I set out for Ramsgate this morning, what lay in store for me. The weather was fair and everything promised an enjoyable day. I arrived at Georgiana's house and I was pleased to find it neat and well cared for. I was announced by the maid, the establishment being too small to allow of a full staff, and found Mrs Younge in the parlour. Springing up at my entrance, she looked at me in consternation.
âMr Darcy. We did not expect you today.'
âI thought I would surprise my sister. Where is she?'
âShe is â¦ out â¦ sketching.'
âOn her own?' I asked.
âOh, no, of course not, with her maid.'
âI did not hire you to sit at home whilst my sister goes out with a maid,' I said, displeased.
âI would ordinarily have accompanied her, of course, but I was forced to stay indoors this morning. I was â¦ indisposed. I â¦ ate some bad fish â¦ I was most unwell. Miss Darcy was eager to continue her sketching, however, and the weather being fine I did not like to spoil her enjoyment. She asked if she might take her maid, and I saw no harm in it. Her maid is not a young girl, but a sensible woman who will see that she comes to no harm.'
I was mollified. Mrs Younge did indeed look ill, though at the time I did not know the true cause of her pallor.
âWhich way did they go?' I asked. âI will join her. I can sit with her whilst she sketches, and we can return together.'
She hesitated for a moment before saying: âThey intended to turn right along the shore, so that Miss Darcy could finish a sketch she had already begun.'
âVery well, I will follow them and surprise her.'
I went out into the hall, but at that very same minute I saw Georgiana coming downstairs. I was startled. She was dressed for indoors and showed no signs of having been out sketching. I was about to ask Mrs Younge what she meant by such a fabrication when Mrs Younge herself spoke.
âMiss Darcy, I thought you had gone out already,' she said. âHere is your
brother come to see you.' Then she added: âRemember, a little resolution is all that is needed, and you will achieve everything your heart desires.'
I thought her speech odd, but I took it to mean that if Georgiana applied herself she would be able to finish her sketch to her satisfaction. How wrong I was!
âFitzwilliam,' said Georgiana, growing pale.
She stopped on the stair and did not come down. She looked suddenly very young, and very uncertain. I was alarmed, and thought she was unwell.
âWhat is it? Are you ill?' I asked. âThe fish â did you eat it, too?'
âFish?' she asked, bewildered.
âThe bad fish Mrs Younge ate. Did you have some as well?'
âOh, no,' she said, twisting her hands.
âYou are not well, however,' I said, noticing a sheen of perspiration on her forehead and seeing how white she had become.
I took her hand and led her into the parlour. Mrs Younge was about to follow us when I said to her: âFetch the doctor.'
âI don't thinkâ' she began, but I cut her off.
âMy sister is unwell. Send for the doctor.'
My tone left her no choice and she departed. I shut the door.
Georgiana had walked over to the window, and was looking paler by the minute.
âHere,' I said, taking a chair over to her and helping her to sit down.
But she immediately sprang up again.
âNo, I cannot,' she said unhappily. âI cannot deceive you, no matter what he says.'
I was startled. âNo matter what he says?' I repeated, at a loss.
She nodded seriously. âHe says that if you know about it you will stop us,' she went on miserably.
âGeorge,' she said, hanging her head.
âYes, George Wickham. Mrs Younge and I met him by chance on the seashore. He is holidaying here. We fell into conversation and he told me how much it grieved him that there has been some coolness between you lately. I, too, have been grieved by it. I liked it much better when you were friends. It does not seem right that there should be anything unsettled between you. I was relieved when he told me that it had just been a silly misunderstanding, and that it had all been cleared up, so that there was nothing now to prevent us being comfortable together. He reminded me of the time he sat me on my pony and led me round the yard, and of the time he brought me a pocket full of acorns,' she said with a smile. âHe
said it was fortunate that we had met as it meant we could renew our friendship. I said I no longer liked acorns, so he laughed, and said that he would bring me diamonds instead.'
âDid he indeed?' I asked. âAnd what did Mrs Younge say to this?'
âShe said it was perfectly proper for me to entertain a family friend. I would not have done so otherwise,' said my sister.
âEntertain him?' I asked, feeling more and more alarmed.
âYes. He has dined here on occasion, and joined us in the day if the weather was wet. He plays chess as well as he ever did, but I am improving and I have beaten him twice.'
There was some animation in her face as she said this, but she faltered again on seeing my expression.