The news that every one was talking of next morning, as Georgiana discovered when she arrived down to breakfast, was not Anne and Frederick's engagement. Instead it was something quite different, and much more unwholesome to her appetite. Napoleon Bonaparte had escaped from Elba, and had raised an army, which was marching its way to France at this very moment.
Georgiana knew only too well what this meant for her. It would mean Richard going away again. She knew where his beliefs and loyalties lay regarding military matters, and if Wellington was to go up against Bonaparte, then Richard would want to be there. For the first time she feared the consequences.
Before when he had been fighting abroad, she had always assumed, perhaps rather naively, that he would come through whatever scrap he happened to find himself in, unscathed. But that had been when she had worshipped his tales of heroism with childlike wonder. Now she was in love, and with such feelings came an incessant worry of the very real possibility that he might not come back. And if, God forbid, that should happen, all her hopes and dreams would be lost forever.
So she was very quiet and subdued when she entered the dining room, taking care that when she selected her morning repast her hands did not shake as she listened to Richard's talk of his plans.
"As soon as possible I shall report to Horseguards I think," he remarked, "and then to my barracks. The Duke will want all the men he can get. This will be the most remembered thing of the age!"
Georgiana stilled as she heard his plans. She no longer knew how she was to survive in this state of unknowing if whether he felt anything for her. Not if he was to go away and never come back. She took a deep breath and turned to the table. "Anne has requested that I visit her this morning. I was hoping I could stay for afternoon tea."
"Of course you can, Georgie," her brother replied as she sat down in the seat on his left, opposite Elizabeth.
"I'll escort you," Richard volunteered.
"Really, there's no need," Georgiana tried to protest. She needed to be on her own today; to talk to Anne, seek her advice.
"Nonsense, it will be my pleasure. Besides, I believe Wentworth will be there and I wanted to talk to him about this."
Georgiana made only a murmur of agreement in reply, and returned to her meal.
"You seem distracted this morning, Georgie. Is there anything wrong?"
Richard halted, and turned to her. "Dearest, what is wrong? We used to tell each other everything."
She could not hide her tears. Not when he had called her dearest in that tone. She put her gloved fingers to her the skin below her eyes, turning away from him.
Richard stilled her, catching her arm gently with one hand, his other going to her face, where he tenderly pulled away her own. "Is it because of what you heard this morning? About me going away?" She made no answer, only looking up at him, imploring him with her eyes to pursue no further. He took hold of her hands in his own, putting their gloved fingers to his lips.
"Georgiana," he began, uttering her name as though it were the most precious thing on earth, "I would never go away until I had ascertained if you loved me as dearly and unswervingly as I love you."
She stilled and gasped. Eyes slowly brightening with faint hope, she stared solemnly into his own. "You love me?"
"Yes." He chuckled softly. "Yes, I love you. And if you will have me, I would ask you for your hand."
She smiled. "Ask away."
He was smiling now too. "Georgiana," he began, still holding her hands, "would you do me the great honour of allowing me to be your husband?"
Richard grinned and pulled her into his arms. "I had hoped, but I never believed it possible, until now."
"Why ever not?" She asked him in joyful tones.
They resumed their walking, though with less of an enthusiasm now to arrive at their destination. "I thought that a man of only a Colonel's half pay did not deserve a young woman of eighteen with thirty thousand pounds to her name."
"That has never mattered to me," Georgiana replied earnestly. "I do not need much to live on. Only a pianoforte and some music sheets."
"I think I can afford that," Richard replied laughingly. "Seriously, your brother and I always wanted you to have the best."
"You also wanted me to be happy and loved I hope."
"Well then, why should it matter that our situations in life are different?" She smiled up at him. "Ultimately, William wanted someone for me that he could trust with my life, and I know that there is no better man that he trusts like that than you."
"Thank you." He placed her hand on his arm. "You can come with me you know. To wherever I fight."
"If you want me to."
"Then I will." She leant into him, feeling safe in his arms. "You can teach me how to fence with real swords."
He laughed aloud.
Things after that seemed to come and go smoothly. When they returned to Royal Crescent, Richard parted from her to find her brother and ask his consent. Darcy was happy to give it. He cared not about the difference in circumstances, nor the disparity in their ages, only that his cousin would make her happy.
They married in March, and Georgiana did join him abroad when the time came. She waited with baited breath while he fought on the fields of Waterloo, and was there to greet him when he returned; weary, but without a single scratch.
They returned to England in time to welcome their new niece, Heloise Darcy, and then settled down in the village of Kympton, at the Manor House that Darcy had passed to his sister as a wedding present. They lived happily ever after.