Thank you all for the reviews. Unfortunately, I haven't had much time to write.
By the way, I'm considering sharing a paid original story/ebook (which might take a while to finish writing :) ) in a different genre (adventure/fantasy) on a different platform... But this will probably take a while. Still pretty vague at the moment :)
Chapter 23: Grown-up Georgiana
Georgiana was impatient to tell her brother about what had happened in London. Almost as soon as the carriage pulled to a stop in front of Netherfield, she jumped out, barely waiting to be helped out. She hardly noticed the rain. She was shown into the drawing room, where the guests of Netherfield were playing cards before dinner. She was eagerly greeted by her brother and Mr. Bingley. Mrs. Hurst was more reserved, yet, surprisingly, she showed genuine pleasure at Georgiana's arrival. She gave the younger woman an affectionate smile.
Perhaps, thought Georgiana, she does not share her sister's disdain of me.
Mr. Hurst did not seem very much interested in the new arrival and resented the interruption of the card game because his fellow players' attentions were now engaged elsewhere.
"Georgiana," said Darcy in a warm voice, "I am very happy to see you."
He did not add that he was also quite curious about the enigmatic letter she had sent him.
"Miss Darcy," said Bingley in his usual joyous way, "I am very glad for your visit. Welcome to Netherfield Park."
"Thank you, you are very kind, Mr. Bingley," replied Georgiana. She was rocking back and forth on the balls of her feet in excited agitation. She wanted to tell her brother about the events in London, but she was unsure about how much ought to be revealed in front of others, especially those connected with Caroline Bingley. Despite what Miss Bingley had tried to do, Georgiana still felt a twinge uneasy at the thought of revealing her odious behaviour to her brother Mr. Bingley. However, Georgiana was not the only one bursting with news. Mr Bingley gave a large smile and said, "I have some important news, Miss Darcy. 'Tis would have been announced per letter had you not so fortuitously agreed to join us here. Miss Jane Bennet and I are engaged."
Mr. Bingley's obvious happiness distracted Georgiana from thinking about the news she wanted to tell.
"Oh!" she exclaimed, "That is great news, congratulations Mr. Bingley! I am sure Miss Bennet and you will be very happy. You have my best wishes for your health and happiness."
"Thank you," replied Bingley. He looked radiant.
"Miss Darcy, would you like to join our game?" asked Mr. Hurst in an attempt to redirect the conversation towards cards.
Georgiana did not join for it was just then announced that dinner was ready to be served.
During dinner, Mr. Darcy asked his sister if she would like to meet the two eldest Miss Bennets the next day. Georgiana acquiesced with a smile, she had already heard much about Jane and Elizabeth Bennet and looked forward to meeting them. An invitation to come to dinner at Netherfield the next day was immediately dispatched to Longbourn. Georgiana thought that meeting Mr. Bingley's fiancée was natural, meeting Miss Elizabeth a little less so. She had understood her brother's admiration for the lady through the descriptions from his letters. Now, Georgiana observed her brother shrewdly, wondering if her brother felt more than admiration. Her curiosity was piqued and tomorrow could not come fast enough. This exciting prospect almost made her forget the reason for her precipitous decision to go to Netherfield. However, after dinner, when she managed to find herself alone with her brother for a few moments, she confessed everything that had happened in town.
She told him the story in so hurried a voice that he was not sure he understood it all. In fact, he realised he missed most, if not all, of the key information.
"They blackmailed you?" Darcy asked, stunned.
"They tried. I prevented them."
"There were never any letters?"
"There were three letters. But I took them and burned them."
"They came to gloat and dangle them in front of me. They told me I was such a bad actor I could never lie convincingly. Wickham had put the letters down on the piano, so I pretended to cry and I sent all the letters and some music sheets to the floor with my arm. While I was collecting the papers on the floor, they were too busy arguing with each other to notice me tuck the letters away. I put the music sheets where the letters were and kept a low profile until they were gone."
Mr. Darcy's complexion had shown heightened surprise throughout this explanation.
"Georgiana, I don't know what to say," he said, sounding impressed, "It's great you managed to fool them. You don't need my protection anymore," he added, sounding a little wistful.
Georgiana blushed with pride. The sentiment only increased when her brother added, "I can see you're all grown up now, Georgiana."
Then, he sighed. "What Miss Bingley did is very grave. Perhaps we should tell Charles," he said thoughtfully.
Georgiana was a bit hesitant, "You may if you want, but what good can come of him knowing his sister's actions?"
"It might increase his watchfulness; his brotherly affection may lead to him to renew his trust when she does not deserve it."
When Darcy reported Georgiana's revelations, only keeping quiet on the precise subject of the attempted blackmail, Bingley blanched and apologised profusely. Darcy assured him that he was not to blame for his sister's actions. They decided that Mrs. Hurst did not need to be informed on Miss Bingley's actions and then parted for the night. Once this matter was settled, each man's thoughts became more agreeably engaged. The next day would bring both gentlemen back in the company of their beloveds.
Preview of next chapter (not yet completed):
Chapter 24: Meeting Miss Darcy
Despite her claims of looking forward to meeting Miss Darcy, as the day of her arrival drew near, Elizabeth found herself growing a bit restless. She was slightly nervous, but most of all highly curious, about meeting Miss Darcy. She had heard a lot about her from Miss Bingley – mostly lavish praise – but did not know whether that information was to be trusted. She had also heard her described by Mr. Wickham as being proud, but again, this information could hardly be trusted. Mr. Darcy had not said much on the subject due to his natural reserve, and he could hardly be considered an impartial judge on his own sister. Elizabeth had therefore very little idea of what to expect.
The very day that Miss Darcy arrived at Netherfield Park, a message was dispatched to Longbourn to invite the two eldest Miss Bennets for dinner the following day. Jane was eager to spend any time with her fiancé away from her overbearing mother, and Elizabeth was a mixture of elation and anxiety at the idea of being introduced to Mr. Darcy's sister. The day of the dinner, she went for an energetic early morning walk to help her manage her stress for the rest of the day. In the late afternoon, she retired earlier to her room than usual to have plenty of time to prepare her dress before dinner. Soon, she had to usher her fussing mother out of the room. She heard a knock at the door and dreaded that her mother was back with even more criticisms and recommendations. Elizabeth breathed a sigh of relief when Jane entered the room. Jane also readied herself for dinner; they helped each other fix their attires. Jane saw Elizabeth's agitation.
"She will love you, Lizzy," said Jane to reassure her, "How could she not?"
"I hope so," sighed Elizabeth, "It is unusual for me. I am not accustomed to vying for someone's approval but…" She trailed off.
"You like Mr. Darcy and would like to make a good impression on his dear sister?" said Jane while fixing Elizabeth's hair.
Elizabeth blushed, "Well, yes. Jane, I really think I do like him. How odd."
Jane smiled sweetly at her younger sister.