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Authors: Wendi Sotis

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BOOK: The Gypsy Blessing
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“James—there you are! You know it is naughty to run off whenever you see something that interests you! Your poor mother is frantic with worrying that Cousin Lizzy might not catch up with you.” Jane took a few steps closer to her sister, and then noticed Lizzy’s companions. A faint, “Oh! Excuse me,” escaped Jane’s lips before she threw Elizabeth a blank look and then froze, directing her eyes downward at the ground.

Elizabeth’s blush deepened. “As you see, Jane, we are safe. I am afraid I was attending James and not the walkway a few moments ago and had a slight accident. This lady and gentlemen assisted me.” She turned to the Darcys and said, “May I present my elder sister, Miss Jane Bennet, and, of course, my cousin, Master James Gardiner.” Since she did not know their names, she turned to her companions expectantly.

Georgiana looked up at her brother and noticed he was staring at Miss Elizabeth, sporting a severe expression. She slipped her hand onto his arm and squeezed slightly, watching him blink rapidly as if waking from a daydream, and then his eyes widened slightly.

Darcy bowed. “Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley, Derbyshire. May I introduce my sister, Miss Georgiana Darcy.”

All the ladies curtsied.

“It is a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Darcy, Miss Darcy,” Jane said.

Elizabeth gestured towards the coach. “I can see that you have only just arrived in Ramsgate; please forgive us for intruding. If we do not return James to our aunt soon, she will agonize excessively. I thank you again for your assistance.” She smiled politely and curtsied again.

Jane and Miss Darcy mimicked her action, and the Bennets walked in the direction from which Jane had come.

Now distracted by an entirely different matter from what he was a few minutes ago—watching Elizabeth walk away—Darcy forgot his sister’s presence entirely. It was not until Elizabeth passed out of his sight that he realized he had forgotten to bow before the Bennets had walked away. He looked down at Georgiana, who was fighting back a smile.

Darcy cleared his throat. “Shall we go in, Georgie?”

~%~

“Lizzy, you have a letter,” Mr. Gardiner called out from the doorway to the sitting room as Jane and Elizabeth were about to mount the stairs. Elizabeth looked at the handwriting on the letter and then glanced significantly at Jane. Both the young ladies were so eager to talk of meeting the Darcys and to see the new drawing that they had to consciously make an effort to slow their steps as they made their way to their bedchamber.

A moment after Jane closed the door, she was at her sister’s side. Elizabeth broke the seal.

“Well, this answers your question, Jane. The drawings
have
followed me!”

After taking a few moments to examine the new drawing, Jane asked, “Do you know who that man is speaking with Miss Darcy?”

“No, I have never seen him... but he is handsome, is he not?” Elizabeth observed, “There is something about his eyes, though. I am unsure whether I like him.”

“Perhaps it is simply a fault in the talent of the artist and not in the subject, or maybe the artist is not very fond of him.”

“Oh, Jane, you would find a way to think well of everybody.” They both examined the page a little longer. “But I do not. I have decided that I do not like the way he looks at Miss Darcy. I believe he poses a threat to her.”

“Lizzy, you cannot judge a gentleman so harshly by looking at a drawing of him.”

“It is more a feeling I have when I look at him than what the drawing depicts. Do not worry; I will not act upon my feelings unless I have good reason, but I feel it is a good idea to be on our guard when we do meet him.”

“You think we will, then?”

“After our chance meeting with the Darcys this afternoon, I am sure of it.”

“I spent so little time with them; what were your impressions of them?”

“Actually, I barely had a minute more with them than you did. Miss Darcy seemed very sweet; she did not hesitate to ask after James’s and my health after the accident. When I met Mr. Darcy in person, I certainly did not have any of the same feelings that I had looking at the drawing of him. He was extremely cold and reserved—I would call his manner almost rude. I was rather disappointed in him.”

“I have found many times in the past that others will misunderstand behaviour that I would call ‘reserved’ as ‘rude’ instead. Perhaps he was only discomfited by meeting new people who had not been rightly introduced.”

“Although
I
might not have been introduced in the usual way,
you
certainly were—or are saying that I did not make the introduction properly?” Elizabeth teased.

Jane laughed. “No, you did a lovely job of it.”

~%~

After she had finished playing for her brother’s amusement, Georgiana moved away from the pianoforte. With a particular goal in mind, Darcy asked, “What did you think of the Misses Bennet?”

“I hardly met them, but I think them both pretty and agreeable. The way Miss Elizabeth spoke so easily with those she did not know reminded me of Aunt Adelaide.”

“They are a gentleman’s daughters, for certain, but if one compared either of these ladies to our aunt, the Bennets would surely come up severely lacking. I have never heard the name ‘Bennet’ mentioned in Town. I would think their father owns an estate of no particular significance,” Darcy said, trying to convince himself more than his sister.

Georgiana seemed disappointed. “How shall I act towards them should I meet them again?”

“They are owed nothing more than common civility. If today’s events had not occurred, I doubt we would have ever met them.”

Knowing the way her brother thought, she asked, “You do not think that it was Miss Elizabeth’s intention to put herself in your way?”

Although his instincts told him that she had not done so, he answered truthfully, “It has been a long time since I have been surprised by the machinations of the female mind, especially when it comes to ensnaring a husband of superior wealth and breeding.”

Georgiana nodded and stared silently at the carpet before her. Even though she was not yet sixteen, she had already learned a painful lesson when she had overheard a group of ladies speaking of her. It was the day she discovered that most of the women of the
ton
professed an interest in her
not
because they liked her, but
only
with the hope of becoming infinitely closer to her brother. Aunt Adelaide had also warned her that even after her brother had married, due to the size of her dowry, she should be cautious. Some ladies would try to further their acquaintance with her only so they could introduce their own brothers to her.

Darcy leaned forward in his chair and took his sister’s hand. “Georgie, I do not want you to be injured.”

Georgiana whispered, “Will I never have a friend?”

Stunned by her inquiry, Darcy’s thoughts were muddied. He could think of only one lady who had truly befriended his sister. “Is not your cousin Anne a friend?”

Unwilling to answer his question, Georgiana did not look up. Although Anne de Bourgh was nine years Georgiana’s senior, she had been as much a friend to Georgiana as she could be under the circumstances—each confiding some of their most intimate thoughts through written correspondence. Most of the time, her cousin was too ill to leave her home at Rosings Park in Kent, and when she did travel to London, it was usually to see a doctor her mother had thought might be able to help her. Rarely was Anne seen at family gatherings, and she was always too weak to attend any other sort of party. For now, they were on even terms, but Georgiana knew that once she was out, Anne would never be able to accompany her to a soirée or ball as friends usually did. She meant no disrespect towards her cousin, but Georgiana longed for more than Anne was capable of giving.

Darcy’s train of thought was travelling along a similar path, and he felt ashamed of himself for not seeing it before now. He could not imagine what his life would have been like without several gentlemen that he had the pleasure of calling “friend,” especially Charles Bingley, on whom he relied for more than he liked to admit. How could he forbid her from forming a friendship with the Bennets? Charles was the son of a tradesman—lower on the social scale than two seemingly well-bred gentleman’s daughters.

“Georgie, you are an intelligent young lady and have been informed of many possibilities of what may be the ulterior motives of others. If one perseveres, one does eventually find the delicate blooms among the weeds.” Darcy hesitated, cursing the fact that this was one of those instances where he would have to make a choice without discussing it with Richard or Aunt Adelaide. “I trust that you will stay on your guard with the Misses Bennet—and any others you may meet—and that you will make the correct decision regarding the chance for any future friendship with either of them.”

Georgiana’s face lit up with a broad smile. “Then, if I do meet them again, I have your permission to invite them to tea or accept an invitation, if offered?”

He swallowed hard, and then nodded. “Use your own discretion. I shall speak to Mrs. Younge—she must be in attendance at all times.”

She launched herself at him, wrapping her arms around his neck. “Thank you, Brother!”

Darcy laughed and embraced his sister. “Now, I believe it is time to retire. It has been an arduous day.”

As she walked from the room, Georgiana turned and said, “Do not worry, Fitzwilliam. Perhaps you were not attending at the time, but I saw exactly what happened this afternoon. I do not believe that Miss Elizabeth had any hidden motives.”

I hope you are correct, Poppet.

~%~

The following afternoon, Mrs. Younge stood before the grand desk that the master of the Darcy household had been using as his own since their arrival at Ramsgate the previous day, receiving her orders for the time that he would be absent. She was thankful that he would be leaving on the morrow. Rarely had she met a man who could intimidate her, but Mr. Darcy did. Whenever she saw him, she doubted the correctness of her scheme, and she hated him for it.

Mrs. Younge had stifled her gasp when Mr. Darcy told her of giving permission to his sister to spend time with the two young ladies they had met yesterday. How could she be so unlucky? To further their plan, she and her partner had been counting on Miss Darcy’s increased feelings of loneliness and isolation here in Ramsgate!
This will not do!

“Do you understand my instructions, Mrs. Younge?” the master asked firmly.

“Of course, sir. I will follow them to the letter, as always.”
Well, perhaps not quite that closely. I will find a way to keep her from the Bennets,
she added in her thoughts.

“Very well. Mrs. Younge. You will find a little extra in your pay this month
to reimburse you for the inconvenience of having to travel so far from home.”

She waved him off, arranging her features into an expression of humility that she knew she always accomplished well. “I thank you, sir, but it is quite unnecessary. Wherever you may wish your sister to go, I will follow quite willingly. It is a pleasure to serve Miss Darcy as her companion.”
It
will
be a pleasure to lead the little mouse so easily into the trap we have set for her, using a unique variety of cheese!

“Yes, I am certain it is, but I do insist you take it.”

She curtsied. “Thank you, Mr. Darcy. I hope you have a safe journey in the morning, sir.”
Although, I cannot help but wonder how your will is made out. This all would be so much sweeter if Miss Darcy should inherit the lot in the event that you should suffer an accident!
She smiled politely.

“Thank you, Mrs. Younge. You may go now.”

~%~

July 23, 1811

Although the children wished to try the treacherous-looking stairs to descend the side of the cliff to the sands, the ladies thought better of it and took them down the road at Sion Hill to stroll the West Pier, and of course, obtain a closer view of the docked ships and lighthouse.

Luckily, as the family neared the end of the pier near the lighthouse, a ship was entering the harbour. Elizabeth’s attention was distracted for but a moment when she heard little James’s quick steps and his voice calling out, “Miz Dosee!”

Elizabeth followed the blur of brown knee breeches down the pier.

James ran up to Georgiana and pulled on her skirts. “Miz Dosee!” When she looked down at him, James attempted a bow.

Miss Darcy smiled widely. “Good morning, Master Gardiner.” She curtsied and looked around to see Elizabeth rushing towards them, still several yards away. When Elizabeth noticed he was with Georgiana, she stopped and
,
with a hand on her chest, sighed with relief and shook her head. Georgiana held out her hand to James. He took it as if it were the most natural thing in the world. “Have you been enjoying your day, sir?”

James nodded and did his best to salute.

“Are you to go out to sea soon, Admiral?”

James giggled.

Elizabeth approached. “Thank you, again, Miss Darcy.” Both ladies curtsied, and Georgiana introduced Mrs. Younge.

BOOK: The Gypsy Blessing
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