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Authors: Wendi Sotis

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BOOK: The Gypsy Blessing
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Georgiana cleared her throat. “Have you consulted an attorney about this matter, George?”

“I did not. Dearest Georgiana, you must understand that the respect and esteem I have always held for
both
your parents would prevent my doing so. I would not—
could
not—consciously do anything to spoil the noble name of
Darcy
!”

Georgiana’s eyes filled with tears. She glanced at Mrs. Younge, who wiped her eyes with a handkerchief, and then returned her gaze to Wickham. Georgiana declared, “You are truly an honourable, compassionate man, Mr. Wickham.”

~%~

July 27, 1811

Sitting before her dressing mirror the following morning as her maid arranged her hair, Georgiana sighed deeply in contentment. It was difficult to believe that it had been less than a day since she had become reacquainted with Mr. Wickham.

“Miss Darcy?”

She looked up to find her lady’s maid looking at her in a peculiar fashion. Georgiana directed her gaze towards the mirror and noticed that the styling of her hair was complete. Realizing that Marie must have been speaking to her but she had been too distracted to hear, she said, “Thank you, Marie. That will be all for now.”

“Shall I leave the tray, ma’am?” Marie gestured towards the untouched breakfast tray.

“You may take it away; I find I have no appetite this morning.” She removed the cloth that had been covering her shoulders and bodice so that her preparations and meal would not soil her clothing.

“But, Miss, Mr. Darcy told me to make sure you—”

At Marie’s worried expression, Georgiana lifted a slice of toast with marmalade to her lips and managed a few nibbles. “Does that satisfy your promise to my brother?”

Marie shook her head. “Oh, Miss Darcy, we only worry that you will become ill again if you don’t eat.”

“Truly, Marie, I am well. I am simply not hungry. I thank you for your concern.”

The maid smiled. “You
do
look very well, ma’am.”

Georgiana rose and turned towards Marie. “I
feel
well, Marie—better than I ever have, I believe!” She squeezed Marie’s hand and left the room, heading directly to the pianoforte to practice several pieces she planned to play for Mr. Wickham that evening after supper.

~%~

July 31, 1811

“Jane, I am very worried about Miss Darcy.” Elizabeth looked at the last two pictures she had received, laid out on the table before her as her sister brushed out her hair before helping her to style it. “What if Aunt Madeline’s card was misplaced?”

“If so, she might think that we have been avoiding her. If she had been tired when we called a week ago, surely she has recovered enough by now to receive visitors. Shall we speak to Aunt Madeline about calling again?”

“I would feel much better if we did.”

After speaking to their aunt, the moment it was a time acceptable for morning calls, Jane and Elizabeth stepped out to visit Georgiana. When they saw a man who looked like the one from the drawing standing by the door to Miss Darcy’s house, the two ladies quickened their pace. The door opened when the ladies were close enough to hear the butler say, “Miss Darcy is home to receive you, Mr. Wickham. You are expected.” The butler stood aside and allowed the gentleman to enter just as Jane and Elizabeth reached the bottom of the steps that led to the door.

Recognizing them from their last visit, the butler’s face blanched as they climbed the stairs.

Jane spoke when they reached the landing, “Miss Jane Bennet and Miss Elizabeth Bennet calling for Miss Darcy.”

“Please wait here,” said the butler before he closed the door.

Elizabeth raised one eyebrow as she turned to Jane. “You do not think we will be turned away, do you?”

Although she shook her head slightly, Jane’s expression was one of concern.

~

Barnes had strict instructions that Miss Darcy was “not at home” for the Misses Bennet, but how was he to say so when they had seen Mr. Wickham enter only a moment before? Working for years as a footman at Darcy House in London, Barnes had always aspired to become a butler. Grateful to Mr. Darcy for offering him this opportunity, he did not wish to let that gentleman down, but as this was his first assignment as such, he was unsure of what to do. The housekeeper had left the house on a personal errand, so he decided to speak to Mrs. Younge instead.

When he entered the drawing room, Mrs. Younge was occupied only with some sewing. She had turned to the side, seeming as if she needed more light for her delicate stitching, but to Barnes’s practiced eye, he knew she was feigning the impression to give her charge a little privacy with her beau.

Barnes crossed the room to her side. When Mrs. Younge looked up, he quietly explained his predicament. Her annoyance was clear. After thinking over the situation for a minute or two, she replied that he had best allow them in.

Barnes made his way from the room, proud that he had not disturbed his mistress and her guest with his presence, and went to carry out his instructions.

~

After several minutes, the butler returned and allowed the Misses Bennet entrance. Jane thanked him, but Elizabeth only nodded. She knew it could be said that he was only doing his job, but something was not quite right in this house. Upon their being announced to the occupants of the drawing room, Elizabeth noticed that Georgiana smiled widely and rose, but then seemed to remember something and looked at Mrs. Younge. The latter nodded. Elizabeth wondered what Mrs. Younge had said to poison the mind of her young charge against herself and Jane.

“Miss Bennet and Miss Elizabeth Bennet of Longbourn, Hertfordshire, may I present Mr. George Wickham of Derbyshire.”

All made the necessary gestures and remarks of greeting and were asked to be seated.

“I apologize for not being able to return your call as of yet. As you can see, I have been occupied with entertaining our family friend, Mr. Wickham.”

Georgiana seemed nervous, but Elizabeth could not decide if it was because she was to act as hostess or if there were another reason. Elizabeth turned to Mr. Wickham and smiled politely. “You are from Derbyshire, then, Mr. Wickham? It is a shame that my aunt is not with us this morning as she is from Lambton and would have enjoyed hearing you speak of her childhood home.”

“Lambton?” Wickham’s eyes flitted briefly to Mrs. Younge, then Georgiana, and returned to herself. “Yes, of course, I do know the place. I grew up not five miles away, at Pemberley.”

“Oh, did you? At the Darcys’ estate?

He nodded. “I am sorry that I have been monopolizing Geor—eh, Miss Darcy’s attention of late. We have not seen each other in several years and have been catching up on news.”

“How convenient that you should be visiting at Ramsgate at the same time as Miss Darcy. Were you on the continent travelling all this time, perhaps, or away at war?”

Jane’s eyes widened, and she cleared her throat in a ladylike manner to gain her sister’s attention. Elizabeth pretended she did not notice.

“No, I am afraid it was nothing so spectacular—I was simply trying to make my own way in the world. It is strange that you should mention the service, Miss Elizabeth, for I have been contemplating the purchase of a commission in the militia.”

“That is an interesting choice, sir, for a gentleman such as yourself,” Elizabeth replied.

Wickham smiled slightly, but the look in his eyes was anything but pleasant. “Yes, I think it will be a fascinating employment.”

Elizabeth could recognize a challenge when she saw one, and she did not look away.

Suddenly feeling twice as nervous, with no idea of the cause, Georgiana asked, “Miss Bennet, what has occupied your time since I saw you last?”

The conversation continued in a more usual way until the Bennets’ quarter hour was almost done. As they said their goodbyes, Elizabeth addressed Georgiana privately, “We will be taking a walk on the East Pier this afternoon with the children. Would you and Mrs. Younge like to come along? We will be passing by your road and can call for you.”

Sincerely enjoying their company, Georgiana did
wish
to join them. Although she anticipated a positive reply from her brother, she also knew that she should not accept until Mrs. Younge had received an answer to her letter. “I am sorry, but we have other plans today. It may be possible to visit another day later in the week.”

Elizabeth smiled widely. “I would like that very much, Miss Darcy.”

An idea occurred to Georgiana. She asked quietly, “Do... do you often walk in the afternoon?”

“We take the children to the sands at least once a day, weather permitting, but it is usually in the morning when it is cooler. Today we wished to visit you, so we delayed our outing.”

Georgiana only nodded and wished her a good day, but Elizabeth had a feeling they would see her the next morning.

~%~

August 1, 1811

The following morning, when Marie arrived with a tray, it held not only Georgiana’s meal, but also a missive from her brother. Georgiana simply could not do anything else before reading her letter. It was informative and enjoyable—containing much news of himself, their relatives, family friends, and even their servants—but there was no mention of the Bennets.

A while later, Georgiana went in search of her companion. “I think your letter must have been lost, Mrs. Younge. I received a note from my brother, but his further permission was neither given nor denied. I do not understand it. Are you certain
I
should not write to him of the situation?”

“Miss Darcy, I have already given my advice, but it is up to you to decide whether my counsel is sound. But please take into account that it is not acceptable for a true lady to demand anything of her guardian and protector, whether he be her father, brother, or husband. She should not harp on these things, lest she become known as a nag. Mr. Darcy tends to deliberate for some time before making some of his decisions. I am certain he will notify one of us of his choice in due time.”

“I am sure you are right, Mrs. Younge. Thank you for reminding me of my duty.”

Georgiana was now feeling quite sorry for suggesting that Mr. Wickham and she take a walk upon the sands this morning. Since it had seemed as if he were looking forward to the outing last evening, she would not change their plans and deprive him of something that would bring him pleasure. If they happened upon Mrs. Gardiner and the Misses Bennet
,
so be it; she would have to converse with them. Her brother would not approve of her behaving in a manner that was rude to anyone.

~%~

“Lizzy, is that Miss Darcy?”

Elizabeth looked in the direction that Jane indicated. It was, indeed, Miss Darcy, clinging firmly to Mr. Wickham’s arm to preserve her balance whilst walking in the sands.
Where is Mrs. Younge?

“Aunt Madeline, can you spare me for a moment? I would like to tell Miss Darcy where we are. I think she would enjoy watching the children build castles in the sand.”

“Of course, Lizzy. Miss Darcy is such a pleasant girl; I would like to see her again.”

As Elizabeth approached the pair, she experienced the now familiar sensation of time slowing. A chill ran down her spine, indicating she was about to witness for herself something that she had already seen in a drawing. She watched as Miss Darcy looked up at Mr. Wickham with a great deal of adoration in her eyes. In contrast, Mr. Wickham looked down upon Miss Darcy with an expression of what Elizabeth could name only as pure lust. Miss Darcy modestly looked away from him and time returned to normal speed.

“Good day, Miss Darcy, Mr. Wickham.” Bows and curtsies were exchanged. “Upon seeing you, we could not but wish to say hello.” Elizabeth gestured towards where the remainder of her group was gathered. “As you see, my aunt and sister could not leave the children.”

Wondering what Miss Elizabeth must be thinking to find her walking alone with Mr. Wickham, Miss Darcy blushed deeply. “Mrs. Younge twisted her ankle and is resting just there.” She moved her arm to indicate the bench where her companion was sitting, and then, after expressing some surprise, she turned around to see that they had left her far behind. “Oh, I had not realized we walked so far!”

Maybe not, but
he
did! I do not feel comfortable leaving you alone with him,
Elizabeth thought. Aloud, she said, “Would you care to join us? I am certain that James and the other children would like to show you their castles.”

Georgiana smiled widely. “Castles?”

“You will see.”

Georgiana looked up at Wickham, who replied politely, “If it is your pleasure, Miss Darcy, I would be happy to interrupt our stroll.”

When Mr. Wickham was introduced to Mrs. Gardiner, the lady inquired, “Is there any relation between you and Mr. Joshua Wickham who served as steward at Pemberley?”

Wickham seemed a bit distressed, but then schooled his features. “Yes, ma’am, he was my father.”

Mrs. Gardiner went on to speak of what she remembered about his father, how he had frequented her family’s shop, and that their fathers had become friends. Elizabeth noted that, before long, Mr. Wickham was almost squirming with discomfort. It seemed to her that he did not like to be reminded of his lineage, and he decided to throw out Mrs. Gardiner’s past before the others. In her opinion, Mr. Wickham did not count on the lady being proud of her heritage.

BOOK: The Gypsy Blessing
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