Chapter Eighteen

I had been looking for Manda for awhile but could find her nowhere. After Darcy had rejected her, I guessed that she wouldn't want to stick around and so George was preparing a carriage to take us back to the inn. I decided to wait for her instead in the room that had been prepared for her. She came running to me in floods of tears, clutching her half torn copy of Pride and Prejudice and threw herself into my arms.

'I've ruined everything with Darcy and I have absolutely nowhere to go. But that's alright; the worst that can happen is that I just… die! The worst is, I never see Darcy again, ever.' She sobbed into my shoulder. It took a while for me to calm her down enough for me to get the full story out of her. Darcy had read parts of Pride and Prejudice and thought that she was absolutely dreadful for writing a story about people who had looked after her. 'The worst part is, he doesn't even know what is going on under his nose with Georgiana and Wickham and thinks that I have just made the whole drama into a novel to profit from it'. I just held her until her tears stopped and she made herself look presentable so that we could go down to the stable and leave this place.

We were startled when we were disturbed by a small tap on the door. A young servant girl entered meekly and said 'Miss Price and Miss Price, your presences have been requested in the drawing room.'

Manda gave me a suspicious look and I couldn't help but agree that nothing good could come of this. We entered the drawing room to see that everyone on the estate seemed to have been called to this gathering. To my amazement, even George had been summoned from the stables and so I made my way to his side.

'Why does Swellerando summon his guests?' George whispered to me and Manda, making us both smile. 'Do we know?'

It was at this moment that another servant entered the room and gave a letter to Mrs Bennet. However, no one but me and Manda noticed this as Mr Darcy cleared his throat to get everyone's notice.

'Ladies and gentlemen, it is a poor host who neglects to keep his guests abreast of local news. I have asked Miss Bingley to be my wife and she has consented to the task. Thank you for your attention, dinner is at six.' Manda gasped so quietly that only George and I could hear it. I couldn't believe it, only earlier was Darcy claiming that he loved my sister and now he was engaged to Caroline! I clasped Manda's hand in mine and she looked up slightly and made herself smile, probably in an attempt to stop herself crying again.

Suddenly, Mrs Bennet wailed loudly and ran out of the room crying at the top of her lungs, leaving a startled Jane with the letter that contained whatever news in it that had made her cry. Jane quickly read the letter and seemed just as disturbed as her mother but kept it under better control. She swiftly walked to Manda, 'You must come! Come!' she said whilst pulling Manda away by her arm.

I was left with George and the other guests in the room whilst Mr Collins decided to offer his congratulations to Darcy and that bitch. George looked at me, rather concerned with the anguish on my face. He wrapped his arms around me from behind and pulled my tightly against his chest, offering me such comfort that I didn't care who saw us and what they thought.

'How could he do this to Manda? Either he's a cold-hearted bastard and he can flit between loving people, or he's even more of a cold-hearted bastard and he never loved Manda in the first place! I'm going to say something to him!' I was fully prepared to march right over to Darcy and give him a piece of my mind for hurting my sister.

However, George kept me securely against his chest. 'He's not worth it and it probably won't aid your sister. He's a cold-hearted bastard anyway, not worth your time' George said whilst stroking up and down my arms which didn't fail to calm me. I became so relaxed that I sank back into his arms and rested my head against his shoulder. He placed a kiss gently on my neck that made me sigh. However, the perfect moment was ruined by Swellerando and Caroline glaring at us.

'They glare because they envy the relationship that they will never have' George whispered in my ear, which made me giggle.

'I must go find my sister and see what afflicts Mrs Bennet now. Are you coming?' I asked over my shoulder.

'Of course, madam. I could not allow a beautiful, single young woman to wander around on her own. Who knows what sort of things may befall you? Some man may take a fancy to you and sweep you away' George mocked.

'I already have a man who does enough of that' I replied and he grinned back at me whilst entwining our hands together.

'I don't think we had to look too hard' George whispered to me, as Mrs Bennet cam running, yes running, towards us whilst shouting, 'What shoes does she have?'

'Do you think she has finally gone insane?' I asked him as she passed us, taking completely no notice of us. I was actually rather concerned, I had never seen her this happy, but what she was shouting did not seem to fit with her happiness.

We headed to another sitting room where we found Jane just leaving, looking rather close to tears and Manda stood near the window looking rather grim. Jane left and I ran to Manda. 'What's happened? What is Mrs Bennet so happy about, yet Jane so sad?'

'Lydia has run away with Mr Bingley. Jane convinced Mrs Bennet that he will marry Lydia' Manda said quickly as my mouth fell open in shock.

'No! That is not supposed to happen!' I yelled but then quickly looked at the floor as I realised that this was my entire fault. If I hadn't distracted George then he would have been free to leave with Lydia. Somehow, my heart didn't agree with this conclusion as it seemed to contract painfully. Manda and I both turned to look at George who looked confused.

'So Lydia has run away with Bingley? Where to?' he asked.

'We don't know' Manda replied.

'Why are you both looking at me like that? Please don't look at me like that, like your heart is breaking' he added, saying directly to me as he gently stroked my cheek.

I pulled away, 'This is all my fault. This never would have happened if I had never come here, if I hadn't been so selfish' I began to cry.

'You need to tell him Eli' Manda said gently as I began to cry more.

'Tell me what?' George was completely bewildered now.

Manda gave me a quick hug and then left the room. George wrapped his arms around me and comforted me until I calmed down, just how I had dealt with Manda earlier.

'Now, tell me what?' he asked. I pulled away from him in preparation for this tale.

'I know that I told you that I wouldn't tell you what happens to you in the book but I'm going to have to now. In the book, it's you who runs away with Lydia. You take her away, I can't remember where right now, but once your found, you only agree to marry Lydia for a large sum of money' I cried. I couldn't bring myself to believe that George would have done that.

'What?' he said as he took a few steps away from me, which nearly made me break down entirely. I just nodded knowing that he didn't really want an answer; he was just shocked at what I had said.

He suddenly swooped down on me and pulled me tightly into his arms as if he never wished to let go. 'You know I would never do that! I would never betray you like that! Whatever happens, was meant to happen and it will all work out fine.'

'I know' I said gently as I stroked his cheek. Just like that, he had somehow managed to reassure me that perhaps things would work out ok. 'I just can't help feeling that it's my fault everything's messed up. If I wasn't so selfish in regards to you then…' I broke off unable to finish.

'Either way, I wouldn't have run off with Lydia. She is an annoying chit and I'm far more selfish than you. I would have continued to pursue you until you gave in. One way or another, I would have made you mine' he smiled down at me. 'Now let us return to the drawing room before people believe that I have whisked you away somewhere to dishonour you.' He kissed me gently on the cheek and escorted me back to the drawing room.

As we entered the drawing room I was slightly concerned to see Manda talking to Darcy, however felt slightly better that she was clearly getting everything off her chest. She told him off about Bingley and also mildly insulted Caroline and Darcy. I wanted to laugh at the disgruntled look that Manda left on Darcy's face as she walked towards me and George.

'Eli, I've been asked to escort Mrs Bennet home, I have to go now, the carriage is prepared. Do you want to come with me or…' she trailed off clearly looking at George and asking if I wanted to stay with him.

'I'll stay here overnight. Darcy gave George his own room and I'll commandeer yours. Then I'll follow you in the morning. I'd rather not remain in a carriage with Mrs Bennet if I can help it' I laughed.

'I'll see you soon then.' She said as she gave me a hug. 'You take care of her Wickham' she glared at him playfully as she left me in George's capable hands.