Disclaimer: Though she be gone and her copyright claims too, I must give my due to the inestimable Miss Austen for her talents not a few. (Sorry in the mood for a rhyme.)

Prologue

It often happens that things are not what they seem when first viewed, that the first blush of acquaintance is colored by either rosier or darker hues than would otherwise appear on closer inspection. First impressions of people are no different. As Elizabeth stood, greeting Miss Georgiana Darcy for the first time, she instantly perceived that what others might (and very usually did) attribute to this young lady as cold arrogance was in fact nothing more than painful timidity.

"It is so good to finally make your acquaintance Miss Bennett," chimed the dulcet-toned girl, with chestnut brown hair and elegant, though slightly, awkward manners.

"The pleasure is all mine, Miss Darcy, I assure you. I have heard nothing but glowing praise about your person, and I must confess, most especially about your talents on the pianoforte and harp."

The lanky young lady blushed and demurred the compliment. Elizabeth, still secretly reeling from the shy creature before her glanced at the brother, whose soft smile curving around his normally flat mouth only spun on her masked bemusement.

"You play and sing, also, is that not so, Miss Bennett?"

"Aye," Elizabeth replied, spreading a warm laugh over her dainty features. "And since you must ask in such a manner, I assume it is your brother who has informed you of my paltry efforts that I am sure must wither in comparison to your accomplishments."

Miss Darcy's blush reddened and she cast her eyes quickly away in evident embarrassment. Elizabeth, somewhat off balance from this sudden, strange introduction to Miss Georgiana Darcy had only meant to say something light, but instantly regretted her levity. She had been sitting alone, reading her letters, when Mr. Collins had bounded in and disturbed her peace in more ways than one by announcing in panting, side-cradling gasps, that Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley and his noble sister, Miss Georgiana Darcy, were even now at the gates of the parsonage. Elizabeth had been flustered and chagrined by the news, her situation only worsened by Mrs. Collins' and her sister's absence—Charlotte and Maria having gone out to visit one of the parishioners this morning.

She had composed herself, however, even while her cousin had dissembled in dripping heaves and fled to try and track down his wife and sister. Elizabeth had known of Mr. Darcy's imminent arrival to Kent, but had heard that a male cousin would be accompanying him and thus was surprised and curious to learn that the introduction of the mysterious Miss Darcy would be thrust upon her. Her amused wondering could not last long, because as soon as she had flattened her skirts and swiped that oft-errant curl away from her forehead, Mr. Darcy, in all his stately torpor had marched in, a slender, fair shadow trailing his self-assured gait.

"Is your family well, Miss Bennett?"

Elizabeth blinked at Mr. Darcy, and dimpled a little sheepishly at his scowl. He had caught her drifting mind. She airily apologized for her distracted attention in the face of such disapproval. "I thank you they are in good health, at least as of the last letter I received from them. And my sister Jane is in London," an idea struck her and she narrowed her gaze on his inscrutable expression, "did you never happen to see her this winter?"

She thought she detected some height in color, but could not be certain. His voice was melodiously banal as he replied, "I have not had the fortune to see Miss Bennett."

"Have you other siblings, Miss Bennett?" floated Miss Darcy's whispered inquiry.

"Indeed. I have four other sisters."

"Oh, how delightful. I have always wanted a sister."

"They do make for close companions and confidants, but, it is I who must envy you. For you see, I have no brothers. And I have always wanted a brother."

Miss Darcy blushed again, and mumbled, "I did not mean to imply ingratitude for my brother. He is most excellent and kind, the dearest brother a sister could have."

"I'm sure he is," Elizabeth absently replied, watching Georgiana flick nervous eyes up at her brother, a calm warmth infusing her flushed face.

Elizabeth had heard Mr. Darcy speak well, even affectionately, of his sister during their brief interlude together at Netherfield, but until this moment she had never fully appreciated nor indeed given him credit for how tender such sentiments must be in a man as hard as he. Begrudgingly, the becoming crimson of love lighting his sister's pale face, Elizabeth conceded that Mr. Darcy did have at least one good quality. He was clearly an adored elder brother.

The gentleman's stern brow wavered under Elizabeth's scrutiny, until the latter withdrew her gaze and returned it to Miss Darcy, renewing her pleasure in meeting her and wishing to continue the acquaintance—as such an addition to the small society surrounding Rosings would be very welcome.

The two Darcys did not remain long at the parsonage, Mrs. Collins and Miss Lucas returning shortly after and filling the room anew with the formal chatter of introductions, Mr. Collins tromping in also with all the pomp of a wheezing bantam. As Elizabeth observed the departing guests through the thin drapes, smirking at her cousin's bent-over, obsequious stroll alongside them, Charlotte exclaimed at the strangeness of Mr. Darcy paying such a solicitous call, intimating that the courtesy must be for her friend's benefit. Elizabeth merely laughed at the implication, whirling away from the droll exit scene, and denied any singular attachment between herself and Mr. Darcy.

Scooping up her letters and hooking her elbow into the crook of her friend's arm, she confessed a delight in having the opportunity to mingle with a new lady for the remainder of her stay in Kent—and seeing just how the proud Mr. Darcy might react should a lady not tolerable enough to tempt him became friends with his own sister.