Georgiana fought to maintain a straight face as she stared at the night's entertainment. They had been invited to a musicale courtesy Lady Wesley, but few realized the she would indeed be the performer. Thus they were stuck listening to her shriek her way through what Georgiana was quite certain had been a perfectly lovely aria. She had been so excited to go with Lizzy and her brother, and had dressed in a cerulean blue silk gown with elegantly bunched puffs at her shoulders, and a low, broad V neckline that William had gaped at until Lizzy had diverted his attention. Her dear sister-in-law sat beside her in an elegant creation of white, gold and royal purple with a daring neckline. She wore a smile on her face that could be construed as pleasant but anyone who knew her would recognize it as her trying not to laugh. Lady Wesley fancied herself quite a proficient singer but those subjected to the task of listening to her generally tended to differ. Darcy was sitting next to Lizzy with a blank look on his face, but every now and then his jaw would twitch. Georgiana would bet anything that he could see Lizzy out of the corner of his eye and was trying desperately not to grin. Her eyes scanned the audience members in her line of vision and caught sight of one male in particular. He was not particularly broad shouldered or dark and handsome like her brother. Nor was he a blond Adonis. He was rather spectacularly ordinary, with pale, brown hair that was just a bit too long. What he was, was lanky. His form was slight enough to border just on the right side of slender, but he managed to keep from being labeled skinny. His expression had her biting her lip to fight a snicker and had Elizabeth elbowing her discreetly. His face spoke of bemused and awed, horrified fascination, and his eyebrows and head moved in time with every change in pitch and volume, every new note. He was enraptured, but perhaps not exactly in the way Lady Wesley had intended.
"Who are you looking at Georgie?" Lizzy whispered.
"The gentlemen over there, his expressions are rather diverting." She replied pointing him out subtly.
Lizzy looked over and smirked, before turning her attention back to their hostess.
"Diverting is not the word I fear." She replied and Georgiana found herself stifling another wave of laughter. She glanced back over at him as Lady Wesley finished with a particularly high, shrill note and his eyebrows rose so high on his forehead that they nearly touched his hair line. There was silence during which he blinked rapidly and then when the polite applause began, his eyes darted around and he straightened in his seat clapping as well.
"Who are you looking at Georgiana?" Darcy asked.
She gasped and whipped around her eyes wide. "No one."
He tilted his head to one side and then raised an eyebrow.
"The gentleman over there in the third row," Elizabeth replied. "We were finding his facial expressions to be rather amusing."
"Which one?" Darcy asked looking over their heads
"The one with the light brown hair," Georgiana replied,
"The skinny one?" Darcy asked.
"He is not skinny, he is slender!" she said sharply, "Not everyone can be a giant like yourself."
"I hardly think that-"
"You are uncommonly large William." Elizabeth cut in, and he glared at her. "Few can match your height let alone everything else."
"You are not helping." He replied dryly, as he led them into the sitting room.
"I would not lie to you dearest." She replied sweetly.
"His name is Bentley."
"No relation to Lord and Lady Bentley?" Lizzy asked.
"Their second son, he is a doctor I believe."
"Did they not supply an income for him?" Georgiana asked.
"I hear that they did and this you may like Georgie, he chose to take a profession."
"He renounced his inheritance."
"No, he simply chose not to live idly." He replied. Georgiana looked over at him with renewed consideration as he moved with the crowd, easily six feet but certainly not as tall as her brother. "Nathaniel!" Darcy called. Intelligent and rather startlingly blue eyes snapped in their direction and suddenly he was crossing over to them, a pleasant smile on his face.
"Darcy." He replied, shaking the hand offered, his eyes passing over both she and Elizabeth. Georgiana was struck immediately by his voice. It was deep, mellifluous and almost musical in its quality. Not what one would expect from such an ordinary looking man.
"You are well I trust,"
"Well enough, as always. I trust that you are perfectly delirious with such enchanting company." He commented
Darcy's mouth twitched. "My wife Mrs. Elizabeth Darcy, and my sister, Miss. Georgiana Darcy,"
His eyes rested on Lizzy and he smiled inclining his head, before looking at Georgiana and smiling.
"This is Dr. Nathaniel Bentley;" Darcy continued, "I believe that he is acquainted with Richard."
"Colonel Fitzwilliam?" Nathaniel clarified.
"The very same," Lizzy replied.
He seemed sort of dazed to Georgiana, as if his entire circle of connections had suddenly been reduced to one bloodline.
"What is the manner of your acquaintance with Richard?" Lizzy asked. He looked over at her, his eyes quiet, and kind.
"Wars love doctors; we fix broken soldiers." He replied with a slightly sardonic smile.
"You were in the war?" Georgiana inquired.
"I was." He replied lightly. "Enough about me, how did you enjoy the singing Darcy?" he asked and the look sent his way caused him to raise both eyebrows.
"Was that what I was listening to?" Darcy asked dryly and Lizzy laughed.
"William, she will hear you!" she said glancing around to see if anyone had indeed heard him.
"She should hear me! I am perfectly sure that it was a lovely piece of music before she got her hands on it"
"Not to mention vocal chords," Nathaniel cut in with sparkling eyes.
"Yes that too." Darcy said, amused.
"So you are a surgeon Dr. Bentley?" Georgiana asked. He glanced at her and shrugged.
"I am an assortment of things. For the purposes of war, yes I suppose you could call me that, but you wouldn't want me operating on your spine you can be certain of that." He replied with vague amusement. "I am flattered by the assumption mind you;" He straightened up a somber frown on his face, "Dr. Nathaniel Bentley, world class surgeon." His eyes cut to hers laughingly and he wrinkled his nose. "Lud that sounds terribly dignified does it not?" They laughed and he shook his head. "Nothing so glamorous for me I'm afraid, just your typical medical man. I have a particular interest in medicine, what works and what doesn't. There are medicines, good ones that have been simply discarded due to prejudice."
"Truly?" Lizzy asked.
"Believe it. There is nothing the English hate more than another nationality being right about something. The Romani and several other old ancient cultures have remedies that have proven to be particularly beneficial and not nearly as expensive."
"I'm sure that it would be good for others to be made aware of these things." Lizzy said.
"Precisely," His face was transformed when he spoke. It was as if there was a light within him, a passion that he seemed to radiate. "In a mad dash to pursue the new we have forgotten the old."
"Perhaps 'forgotten' is too kind a word." Georgiana replied. "We tend to take great pains to discredit and bury the past do we not?"
"Indeed." He met her eyes with what seemed like consideration. "I grow weary talking about myself; a change in subject would be welcome."
Elizabeth stared at him for a moment and shared a glance at Georgiana.
"We have been enjoying very fine weather." Georgiana said primly. He glanced at her, his eyes all but sparkling with humor and appreciation as he choked back a laugh.
"Indeed. How has the yield been this year Darcy?" he asked. Darcy glanced at him blandly.
"It is very fine, as always." He replied looking away.
"Derbyshire has always enjoyed very temperate weather." Georgiana said making sure not to look at Elizabeth.
"I find these parties excessively dreary don't you?" Nathaniel commented with a sigh. "Same silly people, same silly business,"
"Indeed." Darcy replied. There was a silence among the four companions for a moment and then Darcy glanced at Elizabeth. "It's your turn dearest." Elizabeth fought a smile and then her face turned into her 'delightfully surprised' party look.
"Elizabeth!" a woman called out and they all looked over to see Lady Wesley approaching with arms outstretched.
"My dear Constance," Lizzy said extending her arms to clasp the offered hands in hers.
"Did you enjoy my little performance?" she asked with a pretty giggle that seemed rather out of place for a woman of her age.
"Excessively," Elizabeth replied with a kind smile. "My dear Mr. Darcy was just commenting that he had never heard anything quite like it." Darcy raised an eyebrow and glanced down at his wife before looking up at the performer in question.
"It was a true experience." He said simply before engaging Nathaniel in conversation. Georgiana glanced over at Mr. Bentley who winked at her and fought a smile. Experience indeed, I'll bet that they aren't even discussing anything.
"Dear Georgiana," she said turning her attention to her. "How you are blossoming! I daresay that gown looks rather sweet on you."
"I thank you my Lady, and may I thank you for your inspiring performance this evening."
"Not at all my dear," she said batting at her arm slightly with a coquettish smile. "Why on earth have you not called on me before now Elizabeth?" she asked in mock offence.
"Forgive me, I have been quite beside myself with preparations."
"But Georgiana has been out for a year already."
"Yes but the second season is no less important than the first."
"How very true. This is the big year is it?" she asked her eyes gleaming with matchmaking glee as they turned on Georgiana. "And high time too, a pretty young thing such as yourself. I'm surprised that a young man hasn't swooped down and taken you off of you dear brother and sister-in-law's hands." In lieu of a response Georgiana simply smiled all the while wishing that she would just go away.
"I'm sure I would not want anyone taking dear Georgiana away just yet, who would do the mending?" Lizzy said. The conversation to their left ended and Georgiana glanced at Darcy to see him focus on the floor with fierce concentration. Mr. Bentley blinked and fought for a neutral expression while Elizabeth stared serenely at the simpering busybody.
"Oh, my dear!" Lady Constance's eyes widened, her face stricken with horror as she glanced between Lizzy, Darcy and Georgiana. Lizzy smiled and batted her eyelashes and finally the other woman caught on. She let out a trilling laugh that had Darcy's eyebrows lifting slightly and Lizzy covering a laugh with a broad grin. "How very clever you are Elizabeth."
"I am indeed." Lizzy replied good-naturedly.
"Well I'll leave you then," Constance said shakily. "Darcy, Bentley,"
"Good evening my Lady." Nathaniel said and Darcy nodded at her.
"Enjoy the rest of the evening." She said her smile obviously strained.
"Oh I am certain I shall." Elizabeth replied waggling her fingers prettily at the retreating simpleton. Lizzy stared at her for a moment and then shared a look with Georgiana before bursting out into laughter. Darcy shook his head and looked at his wife.
"Mending?" he asked.
"Silly woman, did you see her face?" Lizzy said smiling up at him.
"I can never take you anywhere can I?"
"You can take me anywhere dearest. Think of how dull your life was before you met me."
"Mmmm." He said shaking his head.
"And 'Dear Georgiana's'," Bentley said in amusement, "Now she has some useful employment to occupy her time. You'll never have holes in your stockings again Darcy."
"I never had holes in my stockings to begin with."
"Oh come now William, I saw your face, you were trying not to laugh just as we were." Georgiana said.
"You were mistaken Georgiana." Darcy replied.
"Indeed." Elizabeth replied seriously. "William never laughs."
"Not in public in any event." He said and Georgiana rolled her eyes. Bentley watched the exchange with raised eyebrows, saying nothing.
"Nathaniel." A man said and Bentley's eyes shot up and he blinked.
"Fredrick." He replied. The gentleman in reference was tall and handsome. His hair was the same neutral brown, his eyes the same shocking blue, but his features were sharper more distinguished. His shoulders were broader, his frame more impressive and he seemed to command respect if not attention merely by existing. "Mr. Darcy, Mrs. Darcy, Miss. Georgiana, allow me to introduce my brother, Mr. Fredrick Bentley the heir presumptive to the crown." Fredrick smirked slightly and bowed to them all in turn.
"Forgive me, good afternoon to you all." He looked over to Nathaniel with a plaintive expression. "We need to leave, now. Lady Buntling is forcing her five daughters onto me. I made the mistake of promising to dance with one at her next ball and now it will not stop."
"Surely you can handle a few young women." Nathaniel teased. "A man like you, in his prime,"
Fredrick did not share in his brother's optimism. His agitation seemed to grow as he glanced about the room. "I am in no mood for you brother, I am leaving, now. You may join me or seek alternate means of transportation."
Nathaniel raised an eyebrow and turned to them. "The situation is even more calamitous than I had anticipated. May I call on you tomorrow?"
"Of course," Elizabeth said, "we should be glad to receive you Mr. Bentley, wouldn't we Georgiana?"
"Very glad indeed sir." She said with a smile.
He looked at her with a puzzled and yet pleased smile. "Very well, I shall bid you adieu then, until tomorrow." He said with a bow.
"I do apologize." Fredrick said with a pained and yet resolute expression.
"Not at all, I know the feeling." Darcy replied.
Nathaniel smiled glanced at Georgiana one more time and then left with his brother.
"So you have your sights set on her do you?" Fredrick asked once they were safely ensconced in his carriage.
Not even a full five minutes. Nathaniel glanced over at him schooling his expression into one of vague interest. His brother had always the uncanny knack for picking up on things that one specifically didn't want him to notice. Right now, with his own thoughts and feelings in a jumble, the very last thing he needed was a British inquisition.
"Who, Mrs. Darcy?" he asked flippantly, and Fredrick smirked and shook his head. "Well I'd never thought to look in her direction; she's a bit older than me isn't she?" Nathaniel tilted his head thoughtfully to one side and continued, "Of course her husband is still alive but that can be rectified satisfactorily I trust."
"Alright then keep your secrets." Fredrick replied. "But I'll get them out of you soon enough."
Good Lord I hope not. "There are no secrets to keep, I simply do not know to whom you are referring." Nathaniel replied. Fredrick tilted his head to one side dubiously as Nathaniel gave him an exaggeratedly innocent look.
"Miss Georgiana Darcy," The elder replied. "As you well know,"
"I can assure you that I had no intention of pursuing her, brother." Nathaniel said leaning back with a sigh.
Fredrick raised his eyebrows and regarded his younger brother knowingly. "I've seen that look on your face before."
"What look?" Nathaniel demanded, more than a little shocked. Honestly, what was the man talking about?
"The look that says that you have formed an attachment,"
"I've only just met the girl, good God you speak of me as if I were some sort of leech."
"I must speak as I find."
"You are looking to deflect your negative feelings concerning your near death experience with Lady Buntling and her five daughters onto me and it is not going to work." Nathaniel replied succinctly. Fredrick shuddered and looked away, his interest in his brothers love life forgotten for the moment.
"My God that woman is persistent,"
"She is indeed the very essence of the term 'doggedly-pursuit'" Nathaniel replied.
"It's easy for you to laugh,"
"Indeed," Nathaniel said smugly, "I had the good sense to be born second."
"Sense had nothing to do with it." Fredrick grumbled.
"Mmmm, and yet…" he replied letting his voice trail off as his eyes sparkled with laughter.
When Nathaniel did pay his visit he was led into the music room. He could hear the person playing the piano from the hall and couldn't help but smile. The skill was apparent in the effortless flow of sound. He stuck his head through the open door and saw none other than Georgiana. Her eyes were on the sheet music before her but it was obvious that she was not paying attention to the notes. He allowed himself to stare at her as the sunlight streamed through the window and settled about her. She wore a simple white muslin day dress with short sleeved sur-coat made of peach linen that buckled under her breast. Her hair was up in curls, a single peach rose the only adornment other than the golden locket around her neck. She was pretty in a terribly sweet sort of way and for a moment he was struck by the emotion the sight of her inspired in him. The previous night he had found her to be sweet, intelligent and amusing. Not at all like the other fawning, giggling girls that he'd accompanied. Yet there was an innocence, an endearing sweetness in the way she seemed to stay very close to her sister in law, as if her confidence stemmed from Mrs. Darcy's. He took one more step, the floor creaked and her head came up, her expression hovering between curiosity and surprise. Slowly a smile parted her lips and lit her eyes.
"Mr. Bentley!" she cried, rising to her feet and crossing over to him.
"Miss. Darcy," he replied with a slight bow. She curtsied in return her smile undiminished.
"How good of you to stop by."
"I gave my word after all." He replied, absurdly pleased by how delighted she was to see him.
"Yes, but unfortunately my brother and sister are not here." She said.
"So I was told." He replied. "Nothing serious I hope."
"Not as much as I gathered. I believe they simply meant to pay a visit to some friends. I do not think that they anticipated you being so fantastically prompt in taking up their offer." Suddenly he felt rather foolish.
"Am I calling too early? I never know the rules."
"No! I suppose they simply assumed that you would… well seeing as you are…"
"A gentleman of leisure?" he supplied.
"Well I wouldn't call you that exactly, you are a doctor after all. You are young, it is before twelve."
"You are up and about." He replied. Her mouth twisted and she blinked. "I suppose they simply assumed you'd still be abed." She said fighting a blush. He laughed and shrugged.
"It is no matter. I confess I was looking forward to your company." He replied. Her eyes widened and he felt his cheeks tingle. "'Your' being plural not singular," He amended. She raised an eyebrow and he started to panic. "Not that I wasn't looking forward to seeing you again."
"Oh, good." He said with a sigh. She laughed her cheeks an endearing shade of pink.
"Shall I ring for some tea?" she asked walking to the bell pull.
"Yes, please." He replied. Two minutes later a maid entered the room, curtsied and looked at Georgiana expectantly.
"Some tea please, Mariah, in the sitting room."
"Will you have some cakes and sandwiches Miss?" Mariah asked. Georgiana looked over at Nathaniel who shrugged.
"I never turn down food." He replied. She laughed and nodded and Mariah curtsied again before leaving. Nathaniel followed Georgiana into the sitting room noting the elegant and simplistic décor. There was no doubt as to the wealth of their family, but it was remarkably tasteful. The walls were covered with beige silk, the curtains were made of gold brocade silk and the furniture in shades of cream and gold. She sat in a chaise and he sat beside her, leaving enough room for at least one person between them. He'd never admit it, but he had always been a little afraid of her brother and the very last thing he needed was Fitzwilliam Darcy thinking that he was trying to molest his baby sister. Although of course she was by no means still a baby, or even a child. She was by all accounts a fiery, intelligent, beautiful and witty young woman. "I am not certain whether to be impressed or alarmed by the promptness of your servants." He said and she laughed.
"Impressed I should think." She replied.
"Hmm… but they are so very timely. It gives one the impression that they are listening at doors." She laughed again and shook her head prettily.
"Not at all," she replied.
"How is it that you play the piano so well?" he asked suddenly. "It is a bit unnatural, if I do say so myself." Her eyes widened and her lips parted in mock outrage.
"I beg your pardon."
"I daresay you sold your soul to the devil for the ability to bewitch unsuspecting men into marrying you." She snorted and looked at him as if he were mad.
"Then I was utterly cheated." She replied. "It has yet to work."
"Well now, I wouldn't say that." He replied shocking himself. Was he flirting with her? It had never happened before. He was always either too afraid or too uninterested to do much of anything. He'd left that province to his brother. He'd been imposing and handsome and rich enough to actively pursue a member of the softer sex. Nathaniel had snuck into the library with punch and a plate of sandwiches to read a book. Somehow this girl/woman had managed to make him feel comfortable enough to try and be dashing. However the look on her face was rapidly making him nervous. She was not shocked, nor was she blushing overtly. Instead there was a sort of amused and flattered smile on her face, her cheeks the faintest shade of pink.
"Are you admitting to being bewitched by the devil?" she asked saucily.
"Mmmm, but it was such a pretty devil." He replied, wondering what the hell had taken over him to make him start saying things like that. She looked down at her lap and smoothed out some imaginary wrinkles, as the maid entered with the tea service.
"Thank you Mariah," Georgiana said as Mariah left with a curtsey leaving the door open. Georgiana watched her go and then looked down at her hands again for a moment before picking up a cup made of white bone china with an ornate handle and golden filigree around the edges. She placed it on a matching saucer and then looked up at him. "How do you take your tea Mr. Bentley?" she asked.
"Light and sweet thank you." He replied. She nodded and poured out a cupful of tea before adding a dash of milk and two cubes of sugar and handing it to him. It rattled slightly as their fingers brushed but he wasn't sure if it was because of her or him. He didn't try to be bold or debonair. If he were like his brother on the prowl he would keep staring at her until she blushed and, perhaps winked at her to make her giggle. Instead he stared into his tea as if it held the secrets of the universe and stirred like his life depended on it. Where on earth were the Darcy's? What the hell were they doing exactly that led them to be gone from their house? He glanced up and saw that she was offering him the plate of cakes and sandwiches. He took two of each just because and took a bite of the sandwich and a few sips of the tea. It was really quite good, smooth and rich in flavor, and she had gotten the balance of milk and sugar perfectly. After five minutes of silence she spoke up.
"Do you play an instrument Mr. Bentley?"
He fought a laugh and swallowed a mouthful of tea. "I wouldn't ream of matching wits with you on a piano Miss. Georgiana, but I daresay I could pound out a note or two under pain of death."
She laughed and shook her head, "You sound like Elizabeth,"
He shrugged. "I'm not terrible, but to follow or play beside you would put my abilities in rather harsh perspective."
"Do you know, I am not entirely sure that I am so very gifted, so much as I simply had far too much time on my hands and little to no occupation."
"Well that makes me feel better. I am not talentless so much as lacking in boredom."
She tried to stifle a rather undignified snort and he smiled. "Do you normally attend musicales?"
"Not as a rule," he replied. "I was visiting my brother and as he had promised to attend previously, apparently that meant that I was required to accompany him."
"Misery and company?" her expression was wry.
"Why is it, that men of a certain age are loathed to attend such things?"
"Perhaps it's fear of attack by young debutantes."
"But when you make yourselves so scarce you bring the desperation upon yourselves. If you made yourselves more available I'm sure the majority of the female population in London wouldn't half so interested."
"Thrill of the chase."
"And they think us ladies do no hunting." She shrugged.
He raised an eyebrow and blinked "Who on earth would think that?"
Georgiana rolled her eyes and fought another smile. She tended to do that a quite a bit around him. Plaintive wails caught her attention and she glanced up at the ceiling.
"Burglars?" Nathaniel asked glibly and she rolled her eyes.
"No, I believe that is my niece or one of them in any event."
"One of them?" he asked, looking up as well.
"Mmmm," The cries were getting louder and suddenly there was the plaintive one year old, held in the arms of one frazzled nurse.
"I'm so sorry miss," she began between gasps of air, "but Miss. Aggie wouldn't stop crying and Miss Hettie and Master Allie won't sit still, I didn't know what to do."
Nathaniel watched Georgiana assure the nurse that no harm was done and take the red faced banshee into her arms carefully. He was sure that she would have been adorable if not for the sounds coming out of her mouth. Georgiana cuddled her for a moment nuzzling her hair and the cries lessened but didn't stop. She turned her gaze upon him and smiled apologetically.
"I am so sorry about this, I know it's very untoward,"
"Not at all, besides, after Lady Wesley's efforts it could hardly be worse could it?"
She laughed and kissed the baby's head again trying to shush her. "That is a very unchristian thing to say."
"Well last night was a rather unchristian thing to subject one's friends to,"
Her mouth pursed against another laugh but the squalling enfant in her arms drew her attention again, "Oh dear, have you a handkerchief about your person Mr. Bentley?" she asked.
He pulled one out of his waist coat and handed it to her.
"Go to the side table; pour two fingers of whiskey and bring it here if you please,"
"For you or for me?" he asked. She grinned, her attention never wavering from the fussy infant.
He did as she asked and handed her the glass of whiskey. She placed it on the table and shifted Aggie to her opposite arm. Then she took the handkerchief and, dipping it in the alcohol, began to rub it gently along the baby's sore gums. Almost miraculously, the crying ceased. All the while she cooed at the exhausted child pressing kisses to her flushed brow and smoothing the tousled mat of fine, dark, hair.
"Poor little darling."
"My sympathies remain with the nurse I'm afraid." He seated himself opposite her, the coffee table between them.
"It's not her fault," Georgiana defended. "Her teeth are coming in, she doesn't understand what's happening. All she knows is that it hurts. She's been crying all night."
"Who was up with her?" he asked peering at the now sleepy little girl.
"Lizzy and Will took turns and the nurse helped too but, the poor thing must be exhausted."
"What's her name?"
"Augustina Victoria, but we call her Aggie."
"I think she's still an 'Aggie',"
"Yes, I think so too." She replied with a small smile. Aggie yawned and frowned slightly before drifting off into blessed sleep. "She truly is a rather sweet tempered child, I'm afraid you haven't found her at her best."
"I shan't judge her too harshly then."
She smiled at him and then looked back to the sleeping enfant. Now that the red was fading from her skin and her face was no longer scrunched up in a wail, he had to admit, that little Aggie truly was adorable. Her long sooty lashes fanned against her chubby cheeks and her mouth was a perfect cupid's bow. There were footsteps in the hall and Elizabeth entered in her burgundy calling dress. Nathaniel rose to his feet as she came through the door and her smile for him faded upon seeing her last child in Georgiana's arms "What's happened Georgie?" she asked as she removed her gloves.
"She was crying,"
"Oh no!" she frowned coming around to sit beside her.
"Poor Charlotte was at her wits end with the other two." Georgiana said passing the sleeping baby over carefully and Lizzy sighed laying her hand on Aggie's brow.
"That poor girl; the two of them are sweetness itself but they can be a trial. Hello again, Mr. Bentley," she looked over at him and smiled.
"Mrs. Darcy." He replied finally seating himself.
"I am sorry for that less than gracious welcome."
"Not at all," He replied. It was strange to think that the slim woman before him had already born three children. Most women tended to lose their figure after the first two, but he supposed that with the amount of energy Mrs. Darcy possessed, there wasn't much time for leisure.
Darcy entered and Nathaniel stood again executing a sharp bow which Darcy answered with a curt nod. As with his wife before him, his eyes were mostly on his child.
"What is wrong with Aggie?" he asked coming over to stand beside Georgiana.
"She was crying again." Georgiana explained. "Her gums were tender so I put some brandy on them to numb it. She fell asleep almost instantly the poor thing."
He frowned and placed his hand on her brow. Nathaniel was struck by how large his hand seemed against the little girls forehead.
"She seems warm."
"It is common for teething infants to run a slight fever," Lizzy said. "it is nothing to be worried about."
He nodded curtly. "I will take her back to the nursery, and check on the other two heathens."
Lizzy rolled her eyes and passed their sleeping child over to him before watching her husband stroll out of the room cradling her in his arms. "Honestly, the way he speaks of them you'd swear they were little devils."
Nathaniel smiled. "Little, well meaning devils tend to make the most interesting adults I find."
Lizzy smiled. "True enough. Speaking of such, my husband and I are holding a little dinner party Thursday next. My sister Mrs. Bingley will be in attendance as well as their family,"
"Is Caroline coming?" Georgiana asked, her tone displaying a certain lack of excitement for the prospect.
"Well I couldn't very well invite Charles and Jane without also inviting Caroline, now could I?"
"I suppose I was hoping she would be other wise engaged."
"I think my brother went to school with Mr. Bingley," Nathaniel mused.
"He's a few years younger than William, so you might be right. In any event I wanted to extend you and your family an invitation if you are not otherwise engaged."
"What day is this?"
"My parents may have an engagement, but I'm sure that Fred and I are free."
"How excellent! I shall, of course forward an invitation regardless, but I will be glad to see you both there."
"I am pleased to accept Mrs. Darcy." He replied shooting a brief glance at Georgiana who fought a smile and lowered her gaze to her lap. "I am sure that the benefit is entirely on my side."