by Anna Elliott
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Excerpt from Georgiana Darcy's Diary--one of my favorite scenes, where the man Georgiana is secretly in love with arrives at Pemberley, home from the time he's spent away at war.
April 29 , 1814
Edward is engaged.
Maybe I should write that a hundred times in a copy book, the way our schoolmistresses used to make naughty pupils copy out their faults when I was at school.
Edward is engaged. Edward is engaged. Edward is—
No, actually I don’t need to write it out. That’s just the trouble: I’m convinced enough of it already. The knowledge of it is like a black beetle in a cup of tea, completely spoiling my memory of today.
(What an elegant simile, Georgiana, I can hear my aunt saying in tones of deepest sarcasm if she were ever to read this diary. Which of course, she never will. I either carry it in my reticule or hide it in my room under the mattress on my bed, where even my Aunt de Bourgh would never bother to look.)
The trouble is that I don’t care whether he’s engaged or not to Miss Mary Graves. Or rather, I may care, but my heart apparently doesn’t. If I were being melodramatic, I would say that my heart is at this moment aching far more than my sprained ankle, which is currently wrapped up in bandages and propped on a stool in front of me.
At least my hair has finally dried.
But I had better write it all down properly.
Edward arrived today, fully four days before we expected him. He had stayed the night in Nottingham to rest and stable his horse, and then rode out for Pemberley at first light this morning. Though since he’d sent no word, we of course had no idea he was coming.
I had slipped out for a walk, because I’d overheard my aunt speaking to Mr. Folliet and telling him how much she knew I wanted him to accompany me on a ride. In company with Dawson and two of her manservants, of course. My aunt would never suggest anything so improper as my riding out alone in company with a man.
I’ve scarcely spoken to Mr. Folliet, but he seems perfectly amiable. And not at all vain, despite looking so much like Sir Lancelot. But standing there beside the french doors in the morning room and hearing my aunt speak to him, I found myself imagining exactly what the proposed ride would be like: me feeling as though I ought to be making polite conversation with Mr. Folliet, but having no idea what to say. He either bored to tears or trying to ingratiate himself.
The two serving men looking on and probably laughing silently. Poor, long-suffering Dawson taking note of every word said so that she could report it to my aunt. Not that I blame her for it. If I were my Aunt de Bourgh’s maidservant, I would probably spy for my aunt, too, just to keep the peace.
But still, I suddenly felt I absolutely couldn’t do it, couldn’t go riding or be pushed into an acquaintance with Mr. Folliet that—unless he’s in more dire financial straits than my aunt thinks—he probably wishes for no more than I do. So I slipped out the french doors and into the garden and went for a walk.
Which was very childish and cowardly, and I was properly punished for it, because I’d come out without a bonnet or a pelise, only my shawl, and the morning air was quite chilly. And even worse, I was wearing thin slippers instead of boots, and the ground was very muddy with all the recent rain. By the time I’d gone a hundred yards, my shoes were more black than pink. But even so, I kept going. And not just because I didn’t want to go back the the house and face my aunt.
The air was clear and the sun was gloriously bright, and the grounds of the park felt fairly bursting with the promise of spring: all the new leaves and buds on the trees, the shoots of daffodils just poking up from the soil.
Without thinking, I’d taken the usual path, along the river and through the woods, across the bridge that leads over the stream at one of its narrowest points. I’d just crossed the bridge when my already mud-slick slippers slid on a fresh patch of mud. I lost my footing, tried to catch hold of the railing of the bridge, but my hands only slipped off that, as well, and before I knew it, I’d tumbled the whole way down the embankment and landed with a splash in the stream itself.
The water was so cold it was like a slap in the face, and I’d had the breath completely knocked out of me. But when I tried to push myself up, I found I could, so I knew I was wasn’t really hurt. My heart was still hammering, though, and I was struggling to catch my breath, so that I’d only managed to pull myself into a sitting position when all of a sudden strong arms were lifting me up, clear of the water.
That made my heart jump again, but then I recognized the voice that spoke in my ear.
“Georgiana! Good God, are you hurt?”
I pushed the wet hair out of my face and looked up, and sure enough it was Edward who was holding me, one of his arms about my shoulders, the other under my knees so that he could carry me up the bank.
He was wearing his red army coat, and his hair was a little longer than I remembered, and there was a thin white line—a new scar—running down one of his lean brown cheeks.
I tried to speak, but I was still too much out of breath, so I could only nod.
“I was riding through the park, and saw you fall,” Edward said. I was still pressed up against him. I could feel how hard his heart was hammering in his chest. “What on earth are you doing out here all on your own?”
“Just walking,” I managed to say.
The tight line of Edward’s mouth relaxed at that. “Well, next time try to include fewer dives into freezing cold stream beds on your walks. Less dramatic, but far more comfortable.”
I would have said something indignant to that, but the stream had been freezing cold and I was drenched to the skin; even the shawl I’d had wrapped around my shoulders was soaked. I had started to shiver and my teeth were chattering so much I couldn’t make myself form the words.
Edward set me down on a dry, grassy patch beside the path and knelt beside me, shrugging out of his army coat. “Here—take this.” He wrapped it around my shoulders. “It will be yards too big on you, but at least it’s dry.”
“Th-thank you,” I managed to say.
The first time I see Edward in nearly a year, and I’d managed to go tumbling into a stream like a clumsy six year old. And now I was covered in mud and looking like a drowned rat.
Fate really does have a very peculiar sense of humor at times.
And then I saw it: a stain, bright scarlet and wet on the the shoulder of Edward’s white linen shirt.
“You’re hurt—you’re bleeding!” I said. His lifting me up the embankment must have re-opened the wound in his shoulder.
I sat up. “Take off your shirt.”
Edward’s eyebrows shot up. “What—here?”
“It’s better than bleeding to death!”
Edward glanced down at his own shoulder for the first time. The stain was at least the size of my hand, and spreading, but he shrugged and said, “It’s nothing much. I’ll have it seen to when we get to the house.”
“We’re three miles from the house at least,” I said. My teeth were still chattering, but the warmth of his coat was helping, and I didn’t feel nearly so cold. “Let me at least bind it up for you before it gets any worse.”
Edward’s jaw clamped shut. “I thought young ladies were supposed to faint at the sight of blood.”
“And I thought soldiers were supposed to know how to keep themselves alive!”
Edward’s mouth twitched again at that. He looked at me, then shook his head, and finally undid the ties on his shirt and slid it off one shoulder. “All right, if it will satisfy you. But it’s really not serious.”
The wound had been bound up with a thick linen pad, but the bandage was entirely saturated with blood. I untied the bindings, and Edward drew in breath through his teeth when I peeled the final layers back; they’d been stuck to his skin with dried blood.
I did feel a bit queasy at the sight of the bloody furrow in the muscle of his upper arm. I suppose the injury must be two or three weeks old by now, but it still looked ugly, angry and red and puckered around the edges.
“You should have a physician look at this,” I said. “It doesn’t look as though it’s healing properly to me.”
Edward looked down at me, eyebrows raised again. “You mean to tell me you don’t number doctoring among your varied accomplishments?”
I realized abruptly that I was sitting nearly in Edward’s lap, my drenched clothes plastered to me, and with one hand braced against his bare chest. I felt my cheeks start to heat up, even as the contact with Edward’s skin seemed to jolt through my every nerve.
“Do you have a handkerchief?” I asked, as matter-of-factly as I could. Because it was bad enough to have been pulled like a drowned kitten from the stream. It would be worse yet to start blushing and stammering like some silly schoolgirl.
“Your handkerchief—give it to me. Unless you’ve clean bandages about you. But I need something to pad the wound.”
I did manage to make a fresh pad for the wound from my handkerchief and his. Even if I couldn’t stop my pulse from racing every time I had to touch him.
When I’d finished, Edward unclamped his teeth. “Now will you let me get you back to the house?” He started to lift me again, but I shook my head. “I’m all right, now. I can walk.”
But when I tried to stand, my ankle gave a sharp, sudden throb and buckled under me. I’d not felt it before, but I suppose I must have twisted it when I fell. I would have fallen again if Edward hadn’t been so quick to catch me.
He is very strong; I could feel the hard muscles of his arms even through the layers of his coat. And before I could argue or pull away, he turned his head—he still had his good arm around me, supporting my weight—and whistled softly, two short trills and one long. A chestnut horse stepped out of the shading of the trees and onto the path, and Edward said, “This is King. He’ll carry you with even less trouble than I could.”
We neither of us spoke on the ride back to the house, and when we drew close to the front steps Edward pulled up on the reigns to stop the horse, then simply sat there, staring at the front door.
I suppose now that the immediate crisis was past, we neither of us knew quite what to say. In the space of half an hour, I’d been dunked in the stream, pulled out by Edward, then demanded his handkerchief to bandage a bullet wound.
Finally Edward swung himself down out of the saddle and reached up to help me down, as well. “So, Georgiana,” he said. “How have you been these last months?”
I couldn’t help it: I started to laugh, and Edward joined me, laughing so hard that we were both entirely out of breath. And then, all at once he stopped and just stood there, looking down at me.
He still had his arms round me from helping me off the horse, and we were so close that I could see the tiny flecks of gold in his brown eyes, the tiny laugh lines at the corners of his mouth. I could feel the steady beating of his heart, the warmth of his body seeping into mine.
I stopped shivering, stopped laughing, stopped even breathing. I felt as though I were a dragonfly frozen in amber, trapped by the weight of his gaze.
And then the front door opened and Elizabeth came running down the steps. “Georgiana, there you are! And Edward! But”—she looked from one of us to the other, taking in my soaking wet dress and Edward’s bloodied shoulder. “But what’s happened to you? Are you all right?”
Edward let go of me so fast I nearly fell over. He did put a hand under my elbow to steady me, but he didn’t look at me again as he said to Elizabeth, “She’s all right, just a slight fall into the stream. Though you may want to summon the local physician to look at that ankle.”
Then he tipped his hat and strode past Elizabeth into the house without once looking round.
Elizabeth wanted to summon two of the footmen to help carry me into the house, but I wouldn’t let her. My ankle wasn’t nearly as painful as it had been. And besides, I’d more than reached my limit on the number of people I wanted to see me in my drowned-rat state.
With Elizabeth’s help, I hobbled up to my room, and Elizabeth called for the servants to bring kettles for a hot bath. She stayed to help me wash the mud out of my hair. But she didn’t ask me to talk—which I was very, very grateful for—only helped me to dress and then wrap up my ankle in some clean rags. She asked if I wanted the apothecary, but I said I didn’t. It’s only a slight sprain, and he could do nothing but tell me what I already know, that it will be painful for a day or two, then gradually less so.
Elizabeth said I ought to rest and left me to sleep if I could. But I can’t, so I’ve taken up this book instead.
Would it be terribly cowardly to pretend I’ve taken a chill? Or say that my ankle is far too painful for me to go down to dinner tonight?
I’m afraid it would. Besides, I can hardly stay in my room the entire month Edward is here. I’ll have to face him again sometime.
What did he see in that frozen moment when he looked down into my eyes? I wasn’t thinking of trying to guard my feelings—I wasn’t thinking of anything. So he very likely saw little Georgiana Darcy, who he suddenly realized has a schoolgirl’s infatuation with him.
That’s probably why he left so abruptly—he realized how awkward it was going to be. My father’s will left him my co-guardian, along with my brother. And now his fond little charge fancies herself in love with him.
He’s probably even now trying to decide how to let me down gently and inform me of his engagement to Miss Graves in the kindest possible way. Because he’s fond of me. Of course he wouldn’t want to hurt my feelings.
I’ve just realized I’m grinding my teeth together so hard my jaw is aching. I have to stop. I have to stop and think how I’m going to act the next time I see Edward. I’ll have to be very polite and very cool and collected and calm. And it would help if I could convince him that he was entirely mistaken, and that I’m actually in love with someone else.
Maybe I can persuade myself to develop a violent passion for Sir John’s greasy hair and gooseberry eyes and endless talk of guns.
For one thing, I don’t want Edward feeling sorry for me.
But for another, if he truly is happy in his engagement to Miss Graves, I don’t want that shadowed by worry for me. Edward deserves better than that.
Presents for Georgiana...
I think Elizabeth would give Georgiana a book--maybe one of Fanny Burney's novels. Mr. Darcy would give her some art supplies--new paints, canvas, and pencils, because he knows how much his sister loves to paint and draw. Lady Catherine de Bourgh would surely bring something both patronizing and boring--like a book of collected sermons, something along those lines. And Colonel Fitzwilliam would bring her an amber cross necklace, just like the one that Jane Austen's brother Frank gave Jane.
Guest post created for Pemberley Ball event by Anna Elliott, author of Georgiana Darcy's Diary
© 2011. All rights reserved.
by Anna Elliott
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READ more about this DARCY world…
Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice continued
by Anna Elliott
Mr. Darcy's younger sister searches for her own happily-ever-after...
The year is 1814, and it's springtime at Pemberley. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy have married. But now a new romance is in the air, along with high fashion, elegant manners, scandal, deception, and the wonderful hope of a true and lasting love.
Shy Georgiana Darcy has been content to remain unmarried, living with her brother and his new bride. But Elizabeth and Darcy's fairy-tale love reminds Georgiana daily that she has found no true love of her own. And perhaps never will, for she is convinced the one man she secretly cares for will never love her in return. Georgiana's domineering aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, has determined that Georgiana shall marry, and has a list of eligible bachelors in mind. But which of the suitors are sincere, and which are merely interested in Georgiana's fortune? Georgiana must learn to trust her heart--and rely on her courage, for she also faces the return of the man who could ruin her reputation and spoil a happy ending, just when it finally lies within her grasp.
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