Without further ado - Georgiana ~ Part One
The carriage with its three occupants bumped along the narrow road. At the sound of glass against glass Georgiana Darcy spared her maid, who clutched a basket of preserves on her lap, a glance. The trail, although rough in some places due to the spring storm which had trundled through Derbyshire last week, had dried out enough so that Georgiana could visit some long-term tenants before departing for London. The thought of leaving Pemberley and all that was familiar, in order to prepare for her first Season, caused her stomach to clench. She knew the fear and shyness was irrational, but the thought of meeting so many new people almost made her sick.
"Are you quite all right, Miss Darcy?"
The polite inquiry came from Lord Nathan, better known as Mr. Kerr to the parishioners of Kympton parish. His curly dark hair, broad shoulders and ready smile caused many a young lady to wish he belonged to her but he had no eyes other than for his wife, the former Miss Caroline Bingley.
“I am well, Lord Nathan, thank you.”
As attractive as Lord Nathan was, he didn’t make her heart race. No, that pesky organ only galloped along like a new colt around the vicar’s brother, Maxwell Kerr, the fifth Duke of Adborough. Try as she might, no amount of internal scolding changed how she felt around him.
They hit another bump and her maid straightened her straw bonnet.
“Only one more mile, Anna,” Georgiana said with a smile.
She returned her gaze to the passing scenery. The rolling grounds of Pemberley’s estate. In a few short weeks all this would become a memory. If all went as planned, she’d make her debut, meet a suitable gentleman, fall in love and get married.
Her stomach clenched again.
I have nothing to be afraid of. No one knows about my mistake.
How she longed to capture the carefree girl she’d been before that fateful summer four years ago. Elizabeth, her sister-by-love, cautioned her to move on and forgive herself as she’d been only five and ten at the time, but no one seemed to understand that she’d been more than prepared to become a wife and mother regardless of her age. They all believed her to be a silly girl who’d become caught up in the moment. He’d been a familiar face in a sea of new ones and his ultimate betrayal of her affection cut deep.
She bit back a small sigh and raised her chin, thankful she no longer held a tendré for him. That notion had been ruthlessly squashed when she overheard a conversation between him and her brother immediately following their discovery. He informed Fitzwilliam, in a condescending manner, that he’d pursued her solely for monetary gain as no man wanted such a dull flower for a wife. The utter contempt in his tone made her cringe and hang her head in shame.
“You seem rather melancholy, Miss Darcy.” Lord Nathan broke into her thoughts. “Are you sure you are up to visiting the Sprague family today?”
“I am well, truly.” She smiled to reassure him. “I have been contemplating Pemberley and how much I shall miss it.”
“Ah.” The quiet assessment in Lord Nathan’s eyes told her he doubted the veracity of her statement but wisely kept his counsel. “I see we have arrived.”
The carriage slowed to a stop in front of a small cottage. Lazy smoke drifted from the chimney and pretty rosebushes lined the walk leading to the front door, which opened as soon as they alighted from the carriage.
“Miss Darcy, Mr. Kerr. What an unexpected surprise.” A rosy faced woman hurried from the cottage and gave them each a small curtsy.
“I brought a few things from Pemberley. Mrs. Reynolds heard how Johnny was feeling poorly and she knows how much he likes peach preserves. There is also some venison and a few cakes.”
“Oh, bless her heart, he most certainly does love her preserves.” Mrs. Sprague hurried forward and took the basket from Anna, then turned toward the cottage. “Where are my manners? Come in and I’ll make tea.”
The cottage, though small, was as neat as a pin. Mrs. Sprague took pride in her home and the time spent in her company passed quickly. The physician had been to see Johnny and although still was weak from the fever’s lingering effect, he’d rallied enough to sit by the fire and enjoy his tea with them all. About to take their leave, Mrs. Sprague pressed a small token into Georgiana’s hand.
“My Henry carved this when he heard you were going to London.” Georgiana looked down at the exquisite cross. “We’ll keep you in our prayers, Miss Darcy, that God will guide your steps to a good man worthy of your regard.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Sprague.” Unbidden tears sprang into her eyes. “I shall treasure this, always.”
“You just remember to seek the Lord with all your heart and He will guide your path. That verse has kept me and Henry all these years and I like to think the Almighty knows what He’s about.”
“That He does, Mrs. Sprague,” Lord Nathan said. “Your prayers are always much appreciated. Good day.” He tipped his hat in respect and Mrs. Sprague gave them both a polite curtsy.
“Good day, Mrs. Sprague.” Georgiana joined Lord Nathan at the carriage. After handing her up, he climbed in and sat across from her and Sarah.
“That was a thoughtful gift.”
“Oh, yes.” She opened her hand and studied the cross again. “Mr. Sprague is a talented carver.”
The carriage started off with a jolt and Anna squeaked in surprise. The sound was so unexpected, Georgiana began to giggle. The more she tried to stop, the harder she laughed. Soon Lord Nathan smiled broadly and chuckled. Anna, her face red with embarrassment, apologized profusely for having cried out.
“Oh, Anna, you sounded like a little field mouse. That was such fun.” She wiped tears of laughter from the corner of her eyes. “I have not laughed that hard in such a long time.”
“I’m glad to be of service, Miss Darcy.”
Her prim response set off more peals of laughter from Georgiana and this time, even Anna joined in. All Lord Nathan did was shake his head.
“I am sorry, Lord Nathan. You must think us extremely silly.”
“Not at all,” he gallantly replied. “It has been a long time since I heard you laugh, Miss Darcy. This past year has been good for you. Having Elizabeth’s sister keep you company this past winter brought out the fun-loving girl I and my brother’s all remember from our youth.”
“True, Mary was surprisingly lively and we both shared a love of music. I recall when we first met she rarely smiled. How I wish she would come to London with me for my debut.”
“You know she is not one for fancy parties and large crowds.”
“I do know that, but she offers a most sardonic narration of the guests and what makes the commentary so funny is that she does not mean to be satirical. She is only giving an honest opinion and it is so refreshing.” Georgiana leaned forward. “She told me during one of our morning visits in London,” she choked back a giggle, “that Lady Fitzherbert’s hat looked like a peacock had nested upon her head. I had to leave the room before I laughed out loud, but it was true!”
“Poor Lady Fitzherbert.” Lord Nathan smiled in remembrance. “I am afraid her milliner informed her peacock feathers were all the rage and, well, she became quite enthusiastic about the whole ensemble.”
“Fortunately, everybody loves Lady Fitzherbert. This fashion faux pas will be overlooked because she gives so much of herself to those who need help.” The carriage slowed to a stop and Lord Nathan alighted. He turned and gave both women a polite nod. “Tell your brother I shall be over in a few days to discuss the new vicar for Kympton.”
“I will. Give my regards to Caroline.”
“I shall. She misses your company.”
For three months, during Fitz and Lizzy’s wedding trip, Caroline resided at Pemberley. Lord Nathan, her betrothed at the time, became a frequent visitor and Georgiana had watched their love deepen and grow. She hoped – no, she prayed – to find a love like that.
At one time she thought his brother the Duke might make an offer. He’d shown an uncommon interest in her each time he visited Pemberley. And, at Lord Nathan and Caroline’s pre-wedding ball they’d danced and it was as though she’d come home. The music was secondary to the feel of his strong arm around her waist, his lean fingers holding her hand. Even though she’d worn silk gloves, her skin burned as though he’d physically touched her with fire.
After the dizzying euphoria of the dance he’d bowed politely and returned her to her brother’s side. The next morning she discovered he’d left for London and she hadn’t seen him since.
She’d held onto a tenuous hope of him visiting again, but as weeks turned into months the harsh reality of his disinterest set in. She had no choice but to make a concerted effort to seek a husband from another quarter. And for that very reason, her curtsy and debut loomed before her like an executioner’s block. She did not do well with strangers. Her thoughts and tongue didn’t stay in harmony when she became nervous. It was as though she played Mozart with her left hand and Beethoven with her right. Discordant and confusing.
Aunt Lucinda, the Countess of Matlock, would have an apoplectic fit if she knew where her niece’s thoughts were headed. She anticipated Georgiana making a brilliant marriage, as did the whole Matlock/Darcy family. The invisible bonds of duty and family honor continued to spiral around Georgiana’s future and at times she felt as though they choked the very life out of her.
Her attention was drawn to the graveled drive leading up to Kympton Parish courtyard. A horse and ride thundered down the lane and pulled to stop beside their carriage. He dismounted in haste and approached Lord Nathan.
“Sir, I am looking for Lord Nathan Kerr.”
“I am Lord Nathan Kerr.” Nathan met the man who handed him a sealed letter. “Thank you. See my housekeeper for payment.”
“Not required, my lord. All of the posts were prepaid.”
“All of them? How many do you have for delivery?”
“Three in total. One for you, one for a Mr. Bingley, and I need to attend Pemberley to deliver one to Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy.”
“I can take the letter for Mr. Darcy,” Georgiana interjected, having listened to their conversation. “I am Miss Darcy of Pemberley and am on my way home.”
The rider handed her a sealed envelope and she heard Lord Nathan say when he glanced down, "Why, it's from George."