Friday, November 23, 2012

Second Glances: A Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice Continues (Chapter Three)

Mr. Simon Brooks had only been in town for a week when he ventured forth for an evening at Covent Gardens. He had expected the play to be his main source of entertainment, not being the sort of gentleman who enjoyed the theater only for the sport of socializing with and gossiping about the other members of the audience, but upon entrance of a blonde vision of loveliness, his interest in the drama was entirely overthrown.

“Who is that?” he inquired of his companion.

“Miss Georgiana Darcy. Quite a beauty, is she not? The man who claims her hand will be a lucky one, that I promise.”

“How come?”

“Why, my dear Simon, she has a fortune of no less than thirty thousand pounds, let alone a bevy of accomplishments.”

“I'm not sure I care much for the fortune, but she is scholarly, you say?”

His friend laughed. “Not so much of a blue stocking to interest you, I'm afraid, but by all means, go introduce yourself! Never any harm in testing the waters, you know!”

So it was that at intermission Mr. Brooks presented himself in Lady Catherine de Bourgh's box, the Darcy ladies' hostess for the evening. He presented his card and was gratified by a warm welcome.

“Mr. Brooks! Of course, you are Cordelia Fitzroy's son. There are few among the dead whom I miss so much!” declared the forthright Lady Catherine, who numbered her own late husband amongst those less mourned.

“It is good of you to remember me, Lady Catherine. Surely it has been at least fifteen years.”

“If not twenty, but you are the precise image of your father. I would know you anywhere. This is Mrs. Darcy, Fitzwilliam's wife, of course, and I do not believe you would have ever met Miss Darcy.”

“No, I have never before had that pleasure,” he said with a deep, particular bow. In some, such behavior might seem the practiced arts of the rogue, but Simon Brooks' every action spoke to his sincerity. Georgiana blushed deeply, while Elizabeth Darcy's eyes sparkled with amused delight, quite aware that she was witness to the possibility of romance.

“You are Sir James Stratton's neighbor, are you not?” Georgiana queried. 

“Yes! Sir James is my very dearest friend,” he enthusiastically replied.

Georgiana laughed, feeling far more at ease than she expected to, Elizabeth's approving nod giving her courage. “I remember hearing him speak of you fondly, Mr. Brooks, though it has been some time since we last saw him. Your boyhood must have always been most exciting together.”

“He never could abide a dull moment,” he nodded in agreement. “Did you ever hear tell of the time he thought he had discovered how to fly?”

“No!” she giggled. “But I am not surprised.”

“We were quite young – he was maybe seven, so I would have been five – and had just learned the story of Icarus flying too close to the sun. James said he had better have used plaster rather than wax, and we went right to work on his own version of the wings. It took us two months before they were ready. I was to be the first to try them – James said he had to make observations – and we were on the roof of Teggington, ready to take off, when our tutor discovered us. Never was I so incensed with someone for saving my neck!”

“Oh my! Your poor tutor. When Sir James would visit Pemberley, I recall him being quite the bane of our governess.”

Lady Catherine and Elizabeth exchanged knowing glances as they observed Mr. Brooks and Georgiana fall into such easy conversation, stationing themselves at the far end of the box where they could discuss the matter unheard. “He is very handsome and seems perfectly agreeable,” declared Elizabeth. “Who is he?”

“Owner of Turnley – not the greatest estate in the county, as it is right next to Teggington, but his family is one of the oldest in Cornwall. The house was remodeled not thirty years ago and is quite comfortable. I believe Cordelia's entire dowry went into it. He must have five thousand a year, perhaps a bit more if he has been an attentive landlord.”

“So he is perfectly unexceptional!” Elizabeth said with a smile, knowing that such a statement would provoke a contradiction from her companion, who obligingly frowned in response.

“It is not a great match for Georgiana. There would be those who would say she could do far better.”

“But you would not be amongst them, would you, Aunt Catherine?”

“Certainly not,” the grand lady bristled. “It would be a perfectly acceptable connection.”

“Excellent, for they do seem to like one another, do they not?”

“It is too early to say, but never mind about them, Elizabeth. I have something rather important to discuss with you, and I will not lose this opportunity while Georgiana is distracted,” she dictated, leveling an appraising eye at Elizabeth. “How are you feeling, my dear?”

Elizabeth, who was the picture of health, was a bit taken aback at the inquiry. “Perfectly well, I assure you. Do I seem ill?”                                

“No, Elizabeth. You are more plump and rosy than ever. Have you experienced a change in appetite?”

“I may have put on a few pounds,” she admitted, “but it is certainly due to Cook's chocolate souffl√©, which he has quite perfected.”

“My dear, must I be more explicit?” Lady Catherine whispered, bemused that the quick Bennet wit, which she so enjoyed, was proving so obtuse. “Is it possible that you are increasing?”

Elizabeth listened to the question in shock. For a moment or two she said nothing, considering her response. “I suppose it is possible, but I had not imagined it until now,” she blushed.

“So I see! You had best speak with Mr. Messling, if you are unsure.”

“I think that might be premature. I will wait a few weeks, and if the doubt remains I will seek his advice.”

“My dear, if I can tell, than it certainly cannot be premature,” Lady Catherine declared. “I am particularly observant of such matters. It was I who spotted your sister's condition, you know, and correctly predicted the delivery month, but even I cannot see what is not there.”

“Oh! May it only be true!” she said excitedly, the notion of having a child beginning to take hold. “Fitzwilliam would be so delighted!”

Lady Catherine smiled benignly, quite delighted in her own right. “Yet you mustn’t say a word to him until you are quite certain. There are some things gentlemen need not know. When does he return from Bath?”

“We expect him Saturday. It just gives us enough time to refresh Kitty's wardrobe before the Hamilton's ball.”

“I still do not know why he must go away, just when I am in town,” Lady Catherine grumbled. “A servant could have conducted Miss Bennet, and I will be gone before he returns! I think it vey inconsiderate of Darcy to not have considered that this was just the time I was likely to come to town.”

Elizabeth concealed her amusement. “Kitty and Fitzwilliam have developed quite the close friendship. He cares for her just as he would Georgiana,” she explained.

“So were it Miss Lydia, a servant would have sufficed!” Lady Catherine complained. “I see where I stand in my nephews affections!”

“My dear Aunt Catherine,” Elizabeth laughed, “were it my youngest sister who was coming to us, sending Mr. Darcy to retrieve her would be like sending him to the slaughter. We must be thankful that Kitty can be relied upon not to talk his head off.”                             


That she certainly could. Mr. Darcy and Miss Bennet, who was pleasantly surprised when her brother himself came to collect her, made for quite amiable companions. Kitty had spent a great deal of time at Pemberley since her sister married Mr. Darcy, and each was used to the ways of the other. It was her tendency to idolize all he did, a flattery which proved no barrier to his growing affection for her, while he steadfastly encouraged her friendship with Georgiana. It was through his suggestion that Kitty had spent the previous summer and winter holidays in their company, and it was he who had engineered her current good prospects. She would enjoy all the privileges of his house, the best attire money could buy, and have access to the best society. Furthermore, and unbeknownst to all but Mr. Bennet, Mr. Darcy had secured a small dowry on both Kitty and Lydia. Five thousand pounds would provide independence, should either lady ever require it, and the peace of mind that knowledge bought him amply justified the expense. A year of marriage to Elizabeth had taught Mr. Darcy much about the precarious situation of the impoverished gentlewoman. It was not that he did not know what hardships such a lady faced before, but Elizabeth had helped him understand the fearfulness of her predicament. The idea that Elizabeth might have been reduced to such condition was a nightmare that haunted him whenever he considered how near such a fate could have been hers. Were he ever to have a daughter of his own, he would take extra care to protect her rights. Never should she have to fear for the future. 


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First Impressions: A Tale of Less Pride & Prejudice is available on Amazon now (buy it here). Second Glances: A Tale of Less Pride & Prejudice Continues will be available soon.

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