C. Allyn Pierson
Novelist
Excerpt 


Excerpt from Mr. Darcy's Little Sister

The next two days of travel went swiftly by and, too soon for Georgiana's peace of mind, the carriage pulled up on the gravel sweep before Netherfield Hall. Georgiana received her brother's embrace and kiss on the cheek as she always did, but she kept her arms around him for a moment longer than usual and, while the colonel was greeting Mr. Bingley, she whispered in his ear:

"I am so happy for you, my dear brother."

"Thank you, Georgiana."

He smiled down at her and kept his arm around her shoulders as they mounted the steps to Netherfield.

"We are dining here tonight, my sweet. Miss Bennet and Miss Elizabeth Bennet are joining us. I thought it would be easier for you to make Miss Bennet's acquaintance and renew that of Miss Elizabeth at an intimate dinner before you meet the rest of the Bennet family. They have a very lively household compared to the solitude of Pemberley and I did not want the experience to be overwhelming for you, as it was for me the first time I was a guest at Longbourn!" He gave her a crooked smile and she was not sure if he was making a jest or trying to make her feel less of a mindless oaf. She could not imagine her mature and faultless brother overcome by a family dinner. He continued, not noticing her confusion, "We will be leaving in the morning for London as we have some pressing business to take care of before the wedding, so it may be a few days before you meet the rest of the Bennets."

She looked up at him and managed a smile. "Thank you for making things easier for me. I hope that Miss Elizabeth Bennet will be as pleased to see me as you anticipate."

"I have no doubts at all on that score, my angel." His smile was encouraging.

"Well, that is all right, then," she answered with more confidence than she felt. "What is Miss Bennet like?"

"She is very beautiful and gentle and kind."

Mr. Bingley finished giving instructions for the luggage and rejoined them as Mr. Darcy raised his voice slightly and said, "...and Bingley is the most amazingly lucky man on earth to have won her heart. I cannot imagine what Miss Bennet sees in him."

Georgiana smiled tentatively, although her brows raised in surprise at her brother's teasing of his friend, while Bingley roared with laughter and cuffed Darcy on the shoulder. "You will pay for that Darcy, my lad; you will pay." He turned to Georgiana and bowed. "However, Miss Darcy, he is quite right about my very good luck. Welcome to Netherfield. I hope you had an uneventful trip."

Georgiana twisted her gloves in her fingers as she answered, "It was quite uneventful, Mr. Bingley. I thank you."

Darcy stepped in and, looking at Mrs. Annesley and his sister in turn, said, "Are you ladies tired? There is time for a rest before we all dress for dinner, if you would like."

Mrs. Annesley smiled genially as she answered, "Miss Darcy can tell you that I have dozed for most of the past three days, but a rest still sounds delightful." She turned to Georgiana. "Do you want to lie down for a bit, or would you prefer a cup of tea?"

"I think a rest. I-I do not always sleep well while travelling."

Bingley added, "I would be happy to order tea upstairs for both of you and you can drink it while you relax a little."

Mrs. Annesley paused for a few seconds, looking expectantly at Georgiana before she turned to Mr. Bingley and said, "That would be lovely Mr. Bingley, thank you."

Georgiana added a nearly inaudible "Thank you" as she fumbled with the fastenings of her bonnet and cloak and gave them to the waiting footman.

When the housekeeper showed them to their shared sitting-room, Georgiana went straight into her bedroom and threw herself down on her bed with a frown. Why could she not find the words for even the simplest of conversations? One would think she was mentally deficient the way she fumbled through the most routine words. Her brother must find her a terrible embarrassment, in spite of his obvious affection. "How in the world will you survive your presentation?" she asked herself scornfully. "And dinner tonight. The Misses Bennet will think I am the clumsiest dullard on earth." She blinked away a few tears of frustration and realised that she was very tired. She would be better able to survive tonight's dinner if she could rest. She drew the coverlet up to her shoulders and closed her eyes.

***

Downstairs, the colonel found Darcy in the library, where he was putting away a book, and said:

"I thought I should share a few things with you, out of Georgiana's hearing."

Darcy raised his right brow in a wary look and sank into one of the leather reading chairs. "Is she having a problem of some sort?"

"Well... she seems to be very unequal in her spirits. She took me up quite sharply a couple of times while we were still at Pemberley and I have never seen her like this. Mrs. Annesley says that she is very nervous about meeting the Bennets, but even more so about her presentation and coming-out. I am afraid that I was left with my mouth hanging open like a beached fish the first time it happened. Mrs. Annesley suggested that she have Georgiana apologise, but I did not wish to give the episode too much importance. She will have a great many demands upon her in the next year."

Darcy tapped his fingers upon the desk and mused for a moment.

"She seemed happy to be here when they arrived, and her letter to Elizabeth was welcoming and affectionate."

"Oh, I do not think she is upset about your marriage; in fact that seems to be the only thing which pleases her at the moment. Her source of annoyance seems primarily to be me."

Darcy looked at his cousin in puzzlement. "You?"

"Yes. One of your neighbours from Lambton, Jonathan Walker, visited the afternoon I arrived and Georgiana seemed quite defensive about him. I do not believe I have met Walker before; he looks to be about twenty years old or so, much younger than we are."

"Yes, his father is the squire of Lambton. I do not know the son well, but his family is quite respectable."

"He also seems to be quite taken with Georgiana, although he showed appropriate restraint in his behaviour while he was visiting. Later, Mrs. Annesley mentioned to me that Walker had been very attentive during the summer and had, in fact, asked Georgiana to ride with him last month. Mrs. Annesley would not let her go without getting your explicit permission, and I reassured her that she had done right; it would not be proper for Miss Darcy to be riding with a young man when she is not yet out, no matter how well chaperoned. Georgiana apparently accepted Mrs. Annesley's stricture without protest."

Darcy nodded thoughtfully and leaned back in his chair. "Do you think that she has some affection for Walker?"

"I do not know." He raised his hands in defeat. "Possibly she just enjoys the company and the attention of a young man. She is, after all, almost seventeen years old. I simply do not know what she is thinking. I remember when she was a little girl, seeming hardly out of the nursery, and she would stoutly announce that she would play our games, whether it was racing our horses or playing cricket behind the stables."

Darcy laughed. "Yes, and only the sternest order from my father would dissuade her from following us. I had forgotten."

"Then, suddenly, her childish assurance seemed to fail her and the little lion became a terrified rabbit. I swear that sometimes I think she would turn and run if even I spoke abruptly to her." Fitzwilliam shrugged. "At any rate, I just wanted you to be aware of how unsettled her emotions have been of late."

Darcy wearily rubbed his hand over his face. "I do not feel up to this task of being a parent to my sister, Fitzwilliam. I thank God that I do not carry this burden alone."

"I hope Miss Elizabeth Bennet can help us understand what we should do for Georgiana. She, at least, has much experience with younger sisters."

"Indeed she does." Darcy finally grinned at his cousin and repeated, "Indeed she does."