Georgiana held the sealed letter in her hand and wondered what news Lord George Kerr needed to impart to both his brother and hers that required incurring the expense of an express post. Dare she hope he’d convinced Catherine to embark on a courtship?
A soft smile formed at the thought of George and Kitty married. One had to be blind not to see how besotted he’d been with her the week leading up to Lord Nathan and Caroline Bingley’s wedding. She was fully sure in her estimation that Kitty returned his affection, but Georgiana had witnessed moments when her dear friend, and sister-by-marriage had been most despondent. She fervently hoped the missive contained good news.
She alighted from the carriage as soon as it pulled to a stop in front of Pemberley house and hurried inside.
“Is my brother here?” she asked Carson, handing her pelisse, gloves and bonnet to Sarah, who followed her inside.
“I believe Mr. Darcy is in the study.”
“Thank you, Carson. I won’t need you until later this evening, Anna.”
“Very good, Miss Darcy.” Anna bobbed a curtsy and hurried up the stairs.
Georgiana tidied her hair as she walked toward the study. The door was not fully closed, so she almost entered without knocking. A soft laugh, followed by the low rumbling of her brother’s voice, made her pause.
They’re at it again.
She couldn’t censure them. Everyone knew how much Fitz loved Lizzy and how much Lizzy loved him. They cared not that Society looked in askance at their open affection. She thought it absolutely heavenly and tiptoed back down the hall a few paces, before turning to face the study door. This time she made her tread a trifle louder than normal and cleared her throat for good measure. She was rewarded by the sound of quick whispers and a swishing of silk.
She knocked on the study door.
“Enter,” came the reply.
With a happy smile on her face, she entered the room. She noted Fitz seated at his desk, ledgers spread before him, although one was upside down and his cravat was loosely tied. His valet would be most displeased to see that his handiwork had been tampered with. She then had to bite the inside of her cheek to keep from grinning outright when she also noted his vest buttons did not line up.
Although she’d dearly love to tease her normally staid brother, she gave no evidence of seeing all this as she approached and handed him the letter.
“As I departed Kympton parish, after visiting some of the tenants, a rider delivered an Express Post to Lord Nathan. When he asked for direction to Pemberley, I offered to bring the letter myself.”
Fitz accepted the letter from her outstretched hand and turning it over, said, “It’s from Lord George.”
“Lord George!” Lizzy exclaimed from the other side of the room.
Georgiana turned to face Lizzy, who looked far more composed that her brother, although her lips were swollen and her cheeks decidedly flushed.
“Lizzy,” she exclaimed, pretending she hadn’t known her sister was in the room, “I didn’t see you there. How rude you must think me.”
“No matter, Georgie. I was reading by the fire and you had no reason to know I was here.”
Both she and Lizzy waited as Fitz broke the seal and read the express. His mouth turned up at the corners in a happy smile and his eyes twinkled when he finally glanced up.
“They are to be married,” he announced.
“Who? Lord George and Kitty?” Elizabeth asked.
“Yes.” Fitz glanced back down at the letter. “George wrote: ‘I shall have to frame the Special License I’d purchased for posterity as my Catherine insist we wait the requisite three weeks, giving her time to arrange a small trousseau and have her sisters from far flung Derbyshire attend the wedding.’ He follows with a date for the wedding and details of Kitty and Mary’s travel plans to Town.”
“Excuse me, Your Grace,” Hobson stood in the door frame to Maxwell Kerr’s study. He glanced up from his ledgers and indicated for the butler to enter. “This came by express post. As it bears Lord George’s seal, I thought you may wish to attend to it immediately.
“Thank you, Hobson.”
Hobson carefully placed the letter on the corner of Max’s desk and with a dignified bow, exited the study.
Though intrigued by what George’s news might be, Max finished the letter to his steward. One of his tenants had become increasingly difficult, almost to the point where Max considered embarking on a trip to Yorkshire to deal with him personally. However, Mr. Mason was a very competent steward and he’d had given him the latitude to deal with it as he saw fit, hoping they wouldn’t be forced to evict a tenant whose family had been with the Kerr family for generations.
At times like this, so far removed from Adborough Hall, he felt like he was losing control of his dukedom. But, there was no way to get around the fact he was required to be in the House of Lords, especially now with all the unrest in northern England. Important bills must be passed to ease the tensions, and that required him to remain in London and exert his considerable pressure on those who waffled in their votes.
The letter completed, sanded and sealed, Max turned his attention to George’s missive. He read the first few lines, then leaned back in his chair, letter still in his hand and smiled. George had proposed to Miss Catherine Bennet of Longbourn and she’d accepted. Max continued reading and chuckled when George revealed that although he had a Special License, Catherine managed to convince him to wait for the banns to be read.
Good for Catherine, he thought. She had a will of steel, evidenced at Nathan’s wedding last year when it was revealed that Viscount Stanhope had threatened her and she had protected George. Max wasn’t sure of all the complete details, but George admitted he’d been a spy for the Crown for over five years and because of Catherine’s bravery, many lives of British agents in France had been safeguarded.
How shocked everyone had been to discover Stanhope had been a traitor to England, and also, how fortuitous that the Honorable Colonel Fitzwilliam was in attendance to speak with the magistrate and keep the whole affair low key until after the wedding.
Fortunately for him, Nathan’s wedding held far more pleasant recollections than vile stories of Viscount Stanhope and his treachery. His best memory, the one he brought to mind on an almost a daily basis, was his too brief of a dance with Miss Georgiana Darcy. Although not formally out in society, she’d been allowed to partake in a few sets at Nathan’s wedding ball because it had been held at Pemberley. For a half hour they’d been able to converse without people leaning in to hear what they had to say. Or more specifically, what he had to say.
Their set had concluded far too soon for his liking and he’d returned her safely to a watchful brother. This year she would make her curtsy and he planned to court her. Not in a brash manner like most of young bucks carried away not only by a pretty face but a handsome dowry. She was far too refined for a direct approach. No, he planned to woo her gently and like a lustrous pearl, coax her out of the shell of shyness. He’d waited a long time for this. A few months would not matter.