Title: The Matter of Courtship
Summary: As the old cliché goes, Georgiana Darcy finds that the course of true love never runs smooth.
The Matter of Courtship
"Lizzy?" Georgiana Darcy began as she sat with her sister in Mrs Darcy's morning room at Pemberley. "I have been recently thinking upon various matters. Shortly I will be one-and-twenty and I am worried. I would like to be engaged at least before I reach that birthday."
Elizabeth laughed. "You are very direct today."
"My brother has so far been immune to my hints," she replied. Darcy tended to change the topic at his sister's mere mention of a man. Should she mention 'marriage' then he would take on his usual expression of disapproval and Georgiana found that no visitors of the unattached masculine persuasion were admitted into Pemberley for many weeks. "You are my last hope. Persuade my brother that I ready to be married."
"I shall try but you know Fitzwilliam," Elizabeth reminded her. He was excessively protective of his sister and it was only Elizabeth's influence since marriage that caused this to be lessened. "You know he only sees three men as suitably honourable and they are happily married." They, of course, were Mr Bingley, Sir Felix Calder and Mr Calder. "How do you intend to succeed in your quest for a husband?"
"I will persuade him I am to go to Town," Georgiana replied then laughed at the expression of doubt on Elizabeth's face. "I know, it will be impossible. It never was before but I was younger then and still distressed over the episode with Mr Wickham. He knew I was reluctant to speak with gentlemen. But now…" she trailed off. "It is Anne-Frances that I feel for."
"Oh, he will allow our daughter to come out," Elizabeth said. "When she is fifty years old," she finished with a smile. They all knew the battles Georgiana had with her brother would be increased many times for his daughter. "You will marry, Georgiana, I will make sure of it. There must be a respectable man somewhere in this kingdom!"
The elder branch of the Calders alighted from their carriage as it stopped in front of Pemberley. As soon as the carriage door opened a small brown-haired boy came unsteadily yet swiftly out and made a run for it. He was followed by an unusually harassed Sir Felix who barely had time to bow to the waiting Mr and Mrs Darcy before hurrying after the boy.
"Wilfrid can walk then now," Mrs Darcy commented.
"And run," Lady Calder groaned. She had made her appearance at a much slower pace. "He soon mastered running." Their nurse, Miss Taylor, appeared next to her with a guilty expression. She was still accustoming herself to her charge's increased mobility.
"Fourteen months is a good age to begin walking," Elizabeth said. "William has not yet made his first steps and he is a month older." Neither parent was concerned, however. Anne-Frances had taken to her feet three days before her first birthday and it had been stressful to say the least. They were glad their son was progressing at a slower pace. They knew their days of peace were numbered anyway; he could stand unaided very well now.
"Play!" They heard a delighted little voice say as Sir Felix came back with Wilfrid held very securely in his arms.
"No, not play," Sir Felix said in a slightly exasperated tone. He truly loved his son but parenting was requiring much more activity than he was used to, especially when it came to controlling Wilfrid. "Greet your Uncle and Aunt Darcy first."
Wilfrid smiled at them and gave a shy wave. Then he turned to his mother, "Play?"
"We shall find Cousin William. He may play with you," Mary said. Sir Felix passed his son to the nurse.
"I think William is in his nursery," Darcy said. He turned to a nearby servant. "Please take Miss Taylor and young Master Calder to Master William."
"Goodbye Wilfy," Sir Felix said as his son put his hand out. Wilfrid did not look at all upset as he was taken from his parents to find his cousin. Indeed, he gave a huge grin from over Miss Taylor's shoulder as he went.
"Try not to look too relieved, husband," Mary said.
"He is an amiable child," Darcy remarked.
"He is an energetic child," Sir Felix sighed. "I forever seem to be dashing after him. It is most inelegant. I must say I do long for the days when he was less mobile."
"How are Anne-Frances and William doing?" Mary asked as they walked to the house.
"Anne-Frances progresses well," Elizabeth replied. "She is receiving some schooling though we do not employ a governess yet. Four years is a little young. William also does well."
"He is a peaceful boy," Darcy smiled. That was proving to be a rare thing amongst Mr Bennet's grandsons. The young Bingleys were full of life, Frederick Calder was just as a child of Bertram's was imagined to be and even Wilfrid, product of such serious parentage, was lively.
"Then hopefully he will influence Wilfrid," Sir Felix said. "Grantholme rarely sees quiet now."
"Try having two," was all Darcy said to that.
"We will in the future, I suppose," Sir Felix said. Elizabeth looked slyly at her sister, wondering whether she had any special news to share.
Mary caught her glance. "No," she said. "It is only something we have considered."
"Lydia has another daughter. Did you know?" Elizabeth asked. "Marianne."
"No, I was not aware," Mary replied. "I am only surprised at the speed. Lydia junior is not yet two."
"Mr Wickham was injured around nine months ago," Darcy said as an explanation. They had received endless letters from Lydia on the subject. "I wager he was unable to make his usual 'visits' and had to survive with what was on offer at home, if you will permit me a little crudeness."
"That sounds like Wickham," Sir Felix said.
"Another girl then. Lydia will be pleased," Mary said. "It is a pity we will have nieces brought up with so little moral guidance. They will be ruined before they are sixteen. Especially as they will be always around soldiers."
"It would have been so whomever Lydia married," Elizabeth said. It was a pity, she thought. She may not approve of Mrs Wickham's decisions but they were still her nieces. She hoped to provide some assistance in the future.
"As long as they provide no future negative influence on my children I am unbothered about them," Darcy said. He could not muster up any sympathy for Mr and Mrs Wickham and would only provide assistance for their children in exceptional circumstances. It was not his duty to rear the Wickhams and Lydia would only take advantage of any kindness.
"I do not thing there will be much interaction," Elizabeth said. "Even Kitty tires of Lydia's presence quickly now."
"Miss Darcy," Sir Felix bowed as they entered a sitting room. Georgiana was already there.
"Sir Felix, Lady Calder," she stood and curtsied.
"Sir Felix, I believe there is business to attend to," Darcy said and Sir Felix nodded. "Excuse us." They bowed and left the room.
"I would like to ask you a favour," Darcy said as they sat in his study. "You have recently bought a town house in London and say you intend to use it often. Georgiana has recently expressed a desire to become married. She thinks London will increase her chances of doing so and…" Here Darcy hesitated. He knew what he was about to ask was presumptuous and very likely inappropriate but he was desperate.
"And you wish for your sister to stay with us in Town," Sir Felix finished for him after listening to what he said.
"Yes, if you would," Darcy replied. "I would not have asked but you did mention spending time in London in the near future."
"We are considering it, yes," Sir Felix said. They had come to the conclusion that little Wilfrid would benefit from spending time with his cousins in Town. It was necessary for his development. They were always aware of the fact that he may not inherit the hermit-like tendencies of his parents. "But why us? The Calders are permanently in Town and the Bingleys almost as much. Surely they would be a better choice. Miss Darcy is closer to Mrs Calder and Mrs Bingley than my wife."
"I can trust you to be prudent with any potential suitor," Darcy told him. "I am persuaded that it is now time for Georgiana to marry and I believe we share an opinion on undesirable men. I cannot rely on the Bingleys to see any bad in anyone and Mrs Calder will be too caught up in the excitement of courtship to be wary of unsuitability. I would like you to monitor the situation as Mrs Darcy and I are unable to leave Pemberley for a few months."
"We are to be Miss Darcy's nursemaid then," Sir Felix remarked.
"No, my sister is more than capable of looking after herself, I reluctantly admit that," Darcy replied. He could trust his sister. He just could not trust the suitors that would appear attracted to the Darcy fortune. "However, she is naïve and easily flattered. Although she is older now I worry that she will once again fall for the charms of a Wickham-like man. I only ask that you be vigilant." Sir Felix gave no indication of his feelings. "It is too much to ask."
"No, I can see your meaning," Sir Felix said after a momentary silence. "When Bertram was single and foolish I was tempted to ask a similar favour myself though had nobody I could trust at that time. The threat to Miss Darcy far increases that to Bertram. I suppose Lady Calder and I could be persuaded to bring forward our trip to Town. Have you spoken to Miss Darcy about your plan?"
"Not of this exactly but she knows I am almost convinced that she must marry and of her spending time in London," Darcy replied. "If you will assist me in the way I have described I will tell her and arrangements can be made."
"I will assist you," Sir Felix told him. "Lady Calder will have no objections, I know that, we both find you sister to be highly pleasant and we cannot imagine a better first guest. It appears, then, I will be taking a trip to London."
Georgiana smiled as she sat in her room composing a letter to her dear friend in London. After the Calders had left she had been summoned to her brother and he had told her of what had been arranged. It was what she had hoped. Although she loved her brother dearly he would only interfere with her choices. She wanted to meet somebody on her own (but naturally under the chaperonage of Lady Calder, Mrs Bingley and Mrs Calder) and then introduce him to Fitzwilliam. That method would prevent decent men from being scared away before they had a chance.
Soon I will be able to visit you in Town for Fitzwilliam has said I can accompany Sir Felix and Lady Calder when they journey to their townhouse in two weeks. He and Elizabeth will not leave for London until a few months so I am to stay with Sir Felix until they arrive. He has even said he has no objections to my marrying now. He has promised he will only have objections on real not imagined grounds. He is only allowed to interfere when I am to be seriously compromised. I think I am able to meet with decent, upstanding men anyway. The previous incident with Mr Wickham was because I was young and foolish and I did not know his true character. I am more than able to make a correct judgement now. I am my brother's sister after all. I suspect he will regularly write Sir Felix as he will not be able rest unless he knows that my virtue is still intact.
It will be nice to see you and Jane. I will enjoy attending assemblies and the like with you. It will be as we have often discussed in our letters. I am uncertain whether Lady Calder would accompany us though she may see it as her duty as she is entrusted with my care. I hope you have recommendation for a husband amongst your acquaintances. I should like a man that is handsome, rich, charming and possibly with a title. That is what I am supposed to aim for, is it not? No, I hope that I have the same luck in my choice of husband as my sisters. I also hope that I will marry for love though I realise that it is not always possible. I shall have to wait and see what adventures lie ahead.
I will see you soon,
She put her pen down and smiled. She was greatly anticipating her time in London. It was so long since she had spent any great amount of time outside Pemberley. It may very well be the start of a new life.