Recap: Charlotte and Richard reunite, Mrs. Bennet is struck with how ungentlemanly men are while Darcy shows signs of match-makerism.
Act 1: Dancing in the light
"Are you out of your mind?" Richard ranted for the second time in ten minutes; his cousin's response was to examine the structure of ice in his glass, his apparent disinterest not deterring him, "You are simply giving me permission to court Charlotte?"
"Yes. Though I would withhold the occasion until your mother and father's missive arrives, most likely tomorrow if the roads are good."
"Do you mind explaining what the cause of all this running around was?"
"Again," Richard insisted, reaching for his abandoned glass on the table.
Brow popping up to touch his hairline, Darcy indulged him, "As agreed by Lady Fitzwilliam, I was to do whatever it took to ensure your feelings as well as her character; were true. With such short time considering your impulsivity, I decided that sending her away would be the best way to determine both."
"And no one knew of this absurd plan beyond you and mother?"
"Bingley knew." To the raised brow, he explained further, "I needed to know whether sending her away would draw the same conclusion to garner an appropriate reaction from you. Granted, Bingley had no idea why beyond my suspicion of Miss Lucas' character and your genuine feeling for her."
"Utter bollocks," the man decided with a snort. "I cannot believe you tricked me."
Darcy shrugged nonchalantly.
"Honestly, I would not have taken you for someone who would. The Great Master of Pemberley would not have thought of such a deceitful thing," Richard accused good naturedly.
"Do you not believe my mischievous nature survived to adulthood?"
"Not after your parents' passing."
The reminder caused the taller man to swallow his drink as silence enveloped the room.
"You know," Richard began, "from the way I see you and Miss Elizabeth behave towards each other, I have it on good authority that your mother would approve of her."
Leaning back into his seat, he stared up at the ceiling and said, more to himself, "I hope so."
"When am I to wish you joy?"
"You have not even attended a ball yet, and you are already sounding like the matrons," he sighed.
Snickering, the older gentlemen sang, "I do not hear you denying it cousin of mine." When his companion only flushed, Richard laughed once more. "I see Georgiana is going to get what she wants. Elizabeth Bennet, and four new sisters; what a family you shall have! But come man, tell me now, am I to wish you joy before or after my parents give their consent to the union between Charlotte and I, speak now!"
The topic would not be released, even more so when Bingley joined them not five minutes later.
"A grand gesture, I insist," was the ongoing jest, "ask her to dance and then whisk her away for your proposal!"
"I do not dance."
"Darcy old man, you must dance, you cannot just stand there like a fool on your wedding day," Bingley declared. "Come, come, you know the steps." Whether from drink or simple silliness, the light haired man stood, dragging his friend to his feet and moving his arms about in a mocking position of some dance, possibly a jig.
And then the clapping began –
"One, two, three, come on man, I've seen girls younger than Miss Lydia dance better than that! Have some enthusiasm will you?" Richard barked.
A door opened and shut in the midst of their nonsense, the only time their presence was noted was when Bennet chastised, "The least you could do is lead, Darcy, for goodness' sake. Do you expect your lady to do all the work?"
"Knowing Darcy, she might have to," Bingley said with an exaggerated roll of the eyes, bursting out in a grin at the annoyed look sent his way.
Bennet rolled his eyes, draping himself on the seat Darcy had previously occupied. "A pity, my mother was convinced that no man knows how to be a gentleman anymore, and I am afraid after this display, she may be right."
"Two men brawling is hardly the death of chivalry."
"You killed Mary's favorite flowers."
"And she has our sincerest apologies."
"If you would be so kind as to extend that to both my sister Elizabeth and Jane that would be marvelous."
"Was Darcy's proposal that terrible? And Bingley's too?"
"Hardly," the latter claimed, "I was chivalrous!" The dear man was puffing his chest out like a proud rooster, no one in the room blamed him, he had gotten all he wanted out of today – an arrangement with a woman he truly loved and who loved him right back.
Richard knew the feeling, but still, he played along. "Then it was you cousin!"
"I did no such thing," Darcy answered, turning fully to ask the young man, eyes dangerously narrow, "who proposed to Miss Elizabeth?" The events in the wood previous to his cousin's rather dramatic arrival to Hertfordshire, had almost escaped him and though he remembered that the object of his affection had already been offered for, he had no recollection of who it was.
"That toad, Collins."
"Did he not propose to Jane?" Bingley asked, confused.
"To them both," his future brother replied, still looking quite miffed at the thought, "which is why all men are toads in her eyes, you are lucky Bingley, that my father informed everyone of your proper courtship of my dearest sister Jane. Otherwise my mother would have beaten you to death with the leg of lamb we partook in."
"And it was a delicious leg of lamb," Richard added, sagely.
Darcy found himself nodding in agreement. "It would be a good death."
"Yes, completely honorable."
"But what happened to the odious man? Your father begged me leave to deal with him, was he dispatched accordingly?" Bingley inquired, "I would have shot the man myself but -"
"I am afraid that honor goes to me sir," Mr. Bennet, the senior, said, going practically unnoticed since his son's announcement. The elderly man, despite having a former colonel in his wake, had managed to elude their notice – and was now making himself comfortable at a desk several paces away, busying himself with rearranging the letters littering the writing table.
"Forgive us, sir we did not see you."
"As was my desire," answered he, "but I felt that I had to answer for my nephew's presence. He is no longer residing at Longbourn Manor."
His son sat up straighter. "Is he in a ditch somewhere?"
An amused smile pulled at the corner of his lips. "Afraid not. But he is, as far as I know, en route back to Kent. Along with a very displeased note penned to his ever gracious and condescending Lady Catherine of Rosings."
Considering the elderly gentleman with his room full of books, his house filled with family, and his wealth of knowledge and understanding of the human condition and its idiosyncrasies, Darcy surmised something shocking, "That is crueler than putting him in a ditch."
"Aye," he claimed a twinkle in his eye. "But he deserved it."
"How unusual," mama uttered as she kept herself busy with her needlework.
It had become a routine in the past half an hour since their father summoned their male guests to the library, and during those precious thirty minutes, their mother speculated her husband's reasoning. It was Mary's turn to reply, "I am sure it is of no import."
They had exhausted the topic of Mr. Bennet, out of familial love (and possibly out of pity) spoke to the titled Richard Fizwilliam, future Lord Matlock, on behalf of Charlotte; and even returned to dance around in the field of flowers that was Jane's official courtship with Mr. Bingley:
"I am not even angry my dear," the matron had told her eldest, "after hearing of Mr. Collins' display as well as coming to terms with Mr. Stewart and Mr. Darcy's behavior towards you, Mr. Bingley seems like a fine young man. Five thousand a year is hardly a trifle." And as if she needed comforting for what could only be 'settling', her mother patted her hand.
"There is happiness abound," Kitty declared, beaming, "Jane is to be happy, and so is Charlotte!"
"No such thing," the lady denied.
Lydia, at her side, giggled. "I told you that red coats were the finer men, and look, you have entrapped one!"
"He does not wear one dearest," Jane corrected to the dismissive wave of her youngest sister's hand.
"Pish, he was still in the militia!"
"No longer now, a titled lord, how proud your mama will be of you Charlotte!" Mrs. Bennet said, giving the once a spinster a kind smile.
"Will you tell them Charlotte?" Miss Darcy asked carefully, knowing the circumstances of her former governess' familial situation.
"I do not know," the lady trailed before quickly adding, "there is nothing to tell!"
"Oh, come now, we are all ladies and all friends here, you are allowed to be happy sweeting," Elizabeth said pinching her friend's knee jokingly. "He will propose soon now that Mr. Darcy's trick has been unveiled."
"A clever ploy," Mary approved, "simple, but effective. He has learnt well from you all, has he not?"
"He learnt from Lizzy and she is the best of us," Kitty answered with a grin, bumping shoulders with said sister. "So thanks to them both, Charlotte and Colonel Fizwilliam shall be as happy as Jane and Mr. Bingley!"
"How do we know Colonel Fitzwilliam has not yet offered for our dear Charlotte?" Jane asked slyly to the continuous reddening of the older girl's face to the point where she hid behind her hands.
"Tell us, has he?" Kitty, Lydia and even Mary and Miss Darcy prodded at once, looking to her with pleading eyes. The horde of them was enough to get the rest of the ladies to grin.
"Oh the romanticism," Charlotte cursed with a laugh. "He has not, I assure you."
Elizabeth wiggled her brows. "That look he gave you when Mr. Darcy apologized seemed to be all the proposal you required."
The room as at an uproar of scandalized gasps and giggles, above it, Mrs. Bennet claimed, "I saw that as well, as much as I wish he could have offered for you dearest Lizzy, Charlotte deserves some happiness in her life and I have never seen such emotion present in her features as there was in that moment."
"It was better than the one on Lizzy's face when Mr. Darcy apologized to her for his duplicity," Jane said, winking at her favorite sister to more scandalized gasps amidst Elizabeth's furious denials.
"Indeed, if I had not known better, I would think he favors you Lizzy," Mrs. Bennet commented, to the continuous blossoming of color on her second eldest, before she noted everyone else's sneaky expressions and exclaimed, "My goodness, is today the day I let go of more than one daughter?"
"Well that depends on my brother," Miss Darcy said with a smile, "perhaps he shall finally admit to his emotions."
The statement put more than one smile in the room, even when Elizabeth was shaking her head violently and trying to dissuade the talk, Lydia silenced it with her own announcement, "The only thing that would make this any better is a ball; a ball to celebrate all the happiness that we have been blessed with!"
Mary snickered. "You only say that, so that you may wear your dress and dance with a gentleman of your own."
"Two couples and many more to come, I assure it! Play us a tune Mary, we must dance!" Even with the absence of the melody of the pianoforte, Lydia hopped to her feet and pulled Georgiana up to hers, insisting, "Dance with me Miss Darcy, we have much to celebrate!"
Later that evening as everyone prepared for bed, the children congregating to Jane and Elizabeth's room as always with Charlotte to join them, their parents adjoined to their own room – far more demure than their children.
Seated with her back facing her husband atop the counterpane of their bed, Mrs. Bennet fiddled with her nightcap and sighed quietly to herself. Those were the sighs not borne of her famous nerves, but rather from a worry that truly gnawed at her, and her husband knew it when he heard it.
"Fanny, is something the matter?"
"Fanny," he began, "we have been married for more years than I can remember, and I remember almost everything as you know. Come now, I know when you are upset…"
"I am not upset," she stubbornly protested.
"Then what was that sigh?"
"I did not sigh."
"Exhaled loudly then," he bargained, patient as always as he sat, facing her back, waiting for her to say something because she inevitably would. Fanny made it quite easy for him to know when she was upset, so vocal was she in her feelings on any matter that troubled and pleased her that his life was far easier than that of other gentlemen.
Fed up with restraining herself all day, she stood and turned to face him, throwing her night cap onto the bed. "Our children!" His brow raised. "They are going off and growing up, on the verge of marriage and eventually -"
Her shoulders sagged. "Yes…" She looked down for a moment, before meeting his eyes sadly. "They are growing up so quickly, one minute they were running about the house in all their glory and now look at them…"
"You did not expect anything less though, did you my dear?"
"No," she answered before shaking her head furiously. "But not this fast! One day they were all together, laughing in Jane and Lizzy's room, talking through the night – braiding each other's hairs and teasing Ben mercilessly for doing it so well….just yesterday, Ben had come home and they prattled for hours about the assembly, like they were younger and we had taken them on their first one…"
Noting her voice was trembling, her husband stood, walking around the bed to wrap his arms around her. "Dearest, it is not so bad. Soon you shall have their great fortunes in life to brag to your friends about at the ball, I know how much you enjoy that," he said teasingly.
"Soon we shall be alone in this house of ours…"
"Alone together, just like before," he reminded, kissing her hair. "Would that be so bad? Have you gotten bored of me after all these years? Are you thinking of taking a lover to give you some variety -"
"I am serious."
"As am I," he said, chuckling. "We shall only be alone for a little while, Ben will marry and he shall be here where we will be, except we have no responsibilities like he will."
"You wish to do nothing with your time once Ben becomes master of Longbourn? You wish to be an invalid," she challenged, poking his sides, "You will be old and fat with all the food you shall eat, and drunk too!"
"Of course, what is old age without the leisure?"
She smiled at him as they pulled away to hold each other's hands, but worry still appeared in her eyes. "Do you think they will be happy with their gentlemen and lady? Do you think they shall be good mothers, and a father?"
"We did raise them; I daresay we did a good job."
Laughing once more, he kissed her forehead. "You worry far too much my dear, they shall be happy because that is what we taught them to be. They are all intelligent, witty and handsome; they know what they want in the world and they know how to get it, the question is whether they will be willing to take the risk as we have."
Her expression had eased, but as a natural worrier, it did not disappear completely. As her husband, he could not be frustrated by this; instead he distracted her by taking their clasped hands and twirling them about the room, to her giggles.
"We are dancing sir?"
"We are indeed for there is much to celebrate, so come Mrs. Bennet, dance with your husband."
"What about -"
"Ah, ah, ah," he interjected, , "Right now may seem like the end is nearing - a beginning is on its way, so smile bright my dear wife, there is more adventure for us yet."
Act 2: The end in the beginning
Twenty-one years earlier
"You are nervous."
"Am I? I had not noticed," Mr. Bennet said in annoyance, still pacing the length of the hallway, his agitation growing with every shriek from down the hall. Again, when he tried to beeline for the door, Mr. Gardiner refused.
"You must relax."
"How? My wife is in pain in there, can you not hear her?" He flinched as another shout made its way through the wood, and again the urge to wretch open the door rose like bile in his throat.
"Sit down, before you wear a hole in the floor," Mr. Gardiner said, "All will be well."
"You do not know that -"
"I do," he disagreed, "my mother was much more sickly than yours, when Fanny was born, the agony, the screaming…" He shook his head. "But she survived it to have more children. My sister will survive."
"What if she does not? What if she passes and the child -"
"She will not pass, and even if she did, you would not hate the child as your father hated you. You are too good a man to do such a thing, and in anyway, Mrs. Bennet will survive this ordeal, and you shall have a happy family like you deserve. Come man, a few hours more. Your wife is working hard in there, the least you can do is not interrupt her."
. "What if I cannot be a good father? Lord knows Fanny will be a wonderful mother, but what if I am an utter pounce at it? What if I ruin that child forever?"
"The child would be ruined either way. The world is not a pleasant place."
"Dear lord you are right, what was I thinking letting another human being into a world such as this? What kind of man am I?" He was up and pacing again.
"That was not what I meant -"
"If it is a boy, he could be a cad, and do all the wrong things and get into duels of honor and die with a sword through his heart before breakfast was even served!"
"Well yes, a pity that, he should have at least had his last meal -"
"And if it were a girl! Saints' have mercy, the militia stops here regularly, who knows what might happen to her!" He was practically pulling his hair as he paced. "Why did this have to happen at all? We can leave Longbourn to that cousin of mine and whatever thing he spawns! Fanny and I were so happy before this, we do not need change; change is horrible!"
"Thomas," Mr. Gardiner called, grabbing him again to sit down, "you are overreacting man."
"What if I cannot do it Edward? With or without Fanny, what if I cannot do it?"
"I promise you when that baby arrives, you will know. You will look in their eyes, and you will know," he answered, patting him on the shoulder. "Change is an inevitable thing, what will happen will happen, all you can do is accept it as it does. Your child will need you as Fanny does."
"Lucas said," Mr. Bennet muttered, "that his wife does not love him as much as she did before Charlotte was born. I am afraid now that Fanny will be the same. That this baby's beginning will be our end."
"Every beginning starts with an end; we have no control of either, only that we must do our best with what we are given."
The advice, no matter how meager, did serve to calm Mr. Bennet down, however, before they could sit down again, a cry – the cry of a child rang through the air and the new father's eyes widened to the size of dinner plates.
"Are you ready?"
"No…not at all."
Within two days there was a flurry of activity engulfing Longbourn and Netherfield due in part to the banns being read that Charlotte Lucas of Longbourn Manor was to wed Richard Fitzwilliam of Matlock, as well as the gossip that Jane Bennet and Charles Bingley were formally courting making their rounds, as well as the accomplishment of Lydia in coercing her father to host a ball in both the couples' honor in the coming week.
"My dear, I do not know why you make me suffer so," the patriarch was saying as he waved off yet another servant asking his opinion about this linen and that linen, and for goodness' sake, he had no idea what the difference between them was!
"Oh papa, are you not happy with the outcome of this?"
"Happy enough to agree, but not happy enough to enjoy it," said he in mocking scorn, to the chuckle of his son.
"Father this is a mere formality, once Bingley proposes there will be yet a bigger ball to attend to."
"Good lord, do you wish me an early grave?"
"Where did you get that idea?" Ben asked innocently.
Lydia came to sit atop the windowsill beside the chessboard in front of the two gentlemen. Moving a pawn to take a knight, she said, "You will have to get used to us leaving sooner or later, we are growing up after all."
"I thought I specifically told you that neither you, Kitty nor Mary is allowed to."
Ben feigned disappointment. "What of me have you no desire to keep your only son?"
"Once you gather the courage to face Mr. Darcy, I gather I shall be rid of you anyway," was the reply, "do not think your mother and I have not noticed your attentions towards his sister."
"I am merely showing her around, this is the first place she has seen since Ramsgate, a little supervised exploration can hardly be disagreeable to him."
"When he finds out that you esteem her, he might be disagreeable," Lydia informed with a chuckle.
"Hardly fair," her brother responded with a pout, "I have not said a word against him for esteeming Lizzy."
Mr. Bennet dropped the chess piece he was about to move. "And why has no one told me about this before now?"
"Because I am about to win," Ben claimed, moving his bishop to take the queen. "Checkmate."
Several years before
The flowers were newly blossomed, and the sky cloudless and cheerfully blue. The country air was gloriously cool to combat the heat of the sun, as the trees provided both shade and fruit, ready to be enjoyed while green fields ran free and rampant for miles on end. If only he could do the same.
"What am I doing?"
"I am not sure."
"You are not supposed to say that," he grumbled testily as he continued to pace, touching his mouth and ruining the work of his manservant by running his hand through his hair. "You are supposed to tell me how this is all meant to be, that I am marrying the woman I love and that there is nothing I should be worried about."
"Oh but then I would be lying," his brother-in-law declared.
He chuckled. "What do you want me to say Edward?"
"Give me advice," he answered, "I did the same for you when Jane was born, and Lizzy, and the twins and -"
"My goodness, I really am a frightened fool."
Without missing a beat, Mr. Gardiner agreed in kind.
"To be fair, I have always had trouble accepting change. You, however, have gone with the wind as they say," Mr. Bennet commented, "I do not know why you worry yourself so, you are marrying someone who truly cares for you. What is there to worry about?"
"What if I am a terrible husband?"
"Dear lord above, have some creativity, I asked you the same thing when I got married."
"And look where it got you."
"A happy wife with four children and another one on the way, your point?"
He grumbled under his breath. "I should have thought better of that, why could you not be as unhappy as the rest of the married men in England?"
"Because my uncle gave me some very simple advice: "Happy wife, happy life". And then you gave me a gem that was this: Change is inevitable; the end of one thing always means the beginning of something else. Now take my uncle's advice, and your own, and strive to be as happy as I. I am obliged to tell you as well, that your wife-to-be has a very frightful brother, and I have no mind to anger him so if you plan to run away with your tail between your legs, I want no part in it."
"And there are sprites in this forest?" Georgiana asked, as she and Miss Cath - Kitty traipsed beyond the boundary of the Longbourn estate.
"Yes, normally I climb the trees to try and find them, but your dress is too fine to be ruined by such an adventure. Mama will surely have a fit and I do not think your relations will appreciate the possibility of you getting hurt accomplishing such a task."
"Next time I shall wear an ugly one, then I would not mind at all," she said to her companion's giggle.
In the two days since her arrival to the quaint county, she had found contentment in it. Georgiana had never been around so many people as she had here, and all of them were perfectly engaging and kind to her. She, along with Richard, had stayed in Lucas Lodge despite Mr. Bingley's invitation to make use of his home – Richard did not desire to be at the mercy of a fortune hunter as Miss Bingley, and her brother was disappointed at the prospect of being rid of her attentions.
Her cousin's reasoning was simple, "We all have our crosses to bear. Mine was the war. Yours is insipid fortune hunters. I wish you well in eluding her suit, write to me on how you plan to survive and at the end of it all we shall drink to either your victory in escaping her, or misery of being entrapped by her."
"Your faith in me is insulting," was her brother's response.
In the present though, Georgiana would be doing some hunting of her own.
In the mornings and afternoons, and whatever time could be spent, she joined Kitty and Elizabeth on their little hunts and adventures in the wood (Elizabeth's trail was more strenuous, but the views were incredible – and she got to join her brother as well). Other times she would play the pianoforte and read with Mary, or go into Meryton with Jane and Lydia; anytime that could be spared would be left for Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst, which were few and far between (to her suppressed joy).
She had grown close to them in her short stay which helped to calm any nervousness her brother and cousin had, and greatly agitated Miss Bingley.
"How do you go about finding sprites?"
"They are said to find us…but what I have read of them is that they attract butterflies to where they have done their magic," she stated.
"What sort of magic do they perform?"
"Miracles my dear Miss Darcy!"
Smiling, she asked, "So we shall look for butterflies then?"
"That would be a place to start," Kitty agreed, "though it will be hard since winter is fast approaching. I am not sure there will be any to be honest…"
"Have faith, we shall find them! By the by; where did you come to hear of these sprites?"
"Your brother told me of them," answered she before gasping, lightly hitting Georgiana on the shoulder in her excitement bouncing on the balls of her feet. "Look! Did you see it?"
Without reply, Kitty ran ahead, chasing some invisible creature only she saw. "Come on Georgiana, we shall lose it!"
"You saw one?"
"Aye, I think I did!"
They both ran over a hill overlooking a heavier foliage of wood, Kitty, without stopping to catch her breath declared, "After it!"
Clumsy from the impromptu exertion, Georgiana, slowed, hand at her side where a stitch was pulling, unknowingly catching her foot under a root and tumbling down after she tried to take a step – knocking Kitty off her feet in the process. Luckily the hill was not overly large, but still enough to set the two in a heap at the bottom of the hill, groaning to themselves.
When their bearings returned, they untangled themselves and looked about, it was there that they noticed, across from them and sitting beneath a tree, her brother and Elizabeth were talking, and was it her, or were they sitting closer than what was allowed?
"Georgiana," Kitty whispered, awed, "look…"
Hovering above their siblings, dancing in the sun, a butterfly flicked by.
"On your guard my friend, a miracle is about to take place and we shall witness it…"
Several years earlier
"Papa, papa, look what I can do papa!"
"Oh Jane, be careful dear," Mrs. Bennet said, holding onto little Mary and Benjamin's hand as they took their afternoon walk around Longbourn's property.
"Very good my Jane!" His father cheered, picking her up from under her arms and swinging her about to Jane's shrieks, and Elizabeth's declarations, "Me next papa, me next!"
"Thomas," his wife scolded, "stop indulging them."
"But what is a father to do without that?"
Their girls giggled and danced atop the fallen log, jumping from being on it to the ground below it, singing some song Hill had taught them to sing when they did needlework or some other needless feminine task he had no choice but to be impressed with. It was no good wanting his children to be accomplished if he had no interest in their education and abilities, a singular thing, according to his wife, who was no doubt impressed with his dedication to his children.
"Most would not even care," she reminded.
"My children are only young once, and when they grow older I do not want to be a stranger to them. Besides, if you can play games with them so can I."
"Oh, but it will make it harder for you to give them away, do you not think?"
He paused. "That is true. Your father practically threw you at me."
"Which I was grateful for by the way; I would have been a spinster without you."
"You give yourself too little credit my dear; you are a true gem indeed."
His lady blushed prettily, but she shooed him away out of embarrassment. "Still, you will be a very difficult man to please when your daughters' gentlemen come along to take them away."
"Every end has a beginning, and when that time comes, I will be ready," he stated firmly. "Luckily that is a long time from now and I am free to horde my children all I want."
The preparations for the ball was absolute chaos, and a walk around Meryton was not to be – ever since the banns had been read, the inhabitants of Hertfordshire would clamor to the Bennet girls, their mother and father as well as their brother, for news: Was it true that their charge, Charlotte Lucas, the spinster, had entrapped the titled Richard Fitzwilliam? Was it true that Jane and Mr. Bingley were formally courting? What of Mr. Stewart? Whatever happened to that cousin of theirs, Mr. Collins' was it? And this young lady, Miss Darcy, is she a single lady of large fortune? Who is courting her? What of you, Miss Elizabeth –
She shook her head, leaning it against the trunk of a tree she had found refuge sitting under.
"You look utterly exhausted."
Opening her eyes, she was not surprised at the presence of Mr. Darcy and Achilles. Both of them had been joining her in the wood for the past two days.
Despite the earlier teasing of her sisters, mother and two friends, she was determined not to place much thought in their words. Happiness for one was not always happiness for all. Surely everyone merely wanted to prolong or intensify their gratification with yet another courtship or marriage proposal, there was no need to complicate a perfectly good friendship.
He interrupted her further thoughts on the matter tentatively, "The preparations for the ball are harrowing?"
"Of course, my mother wishes everything to be perfect," she answered, squinting up at him, the sun behind him shining in her eyes and hiding his expression from her. "Will you not sit sir?"
"No, I..." He looked away. "This forest is lovely."
Her lips pulled into a half smile. The growing amount of time that they were in each other's company was enough for her to understand when he was feeling uncomfortable and for him to push past his aggression when he was embarrassed. At this point, she regrettably found his behavior charming.
"I mean, all nature is beautiful, but I…I find that this place…magnificent," he finished, his eyes landing on her, still looking up at him in mild amusement. Uncomfortably, he cleared his throat and added, "Autumn is my favorite season."
Noting the heat fanning his neck, creeping out of the intricately tied cravat, and the huff of annoyance from his horse who was shaking his head, Elizabeth offered, "It is mine too."
Her smile widened at his surprise. "People think it is a depressing time, when all things die. But nature has no time to mourn, only move forward and pave the way for the beginning of something else. You can feel it in the air. It does not just feel crisper, there is a sense of magic in it when the leaves curl gold – like something great is about to happen."
The intensity of his gaze weighed on her, as if something too was about to happen now.
However, she pushed on despite the frantic pulsations of her heart, "There is always something breathtaking about seeing something on the verge of a new beginning." Her eyes wandered a little to find a silky white cocoon hanging off the edge of a twig. "Come see." With a deft gesture his way, the man found himself following suit and coming to kneel in front of her to face the branch with the little cocoon on it.
"It is changing, as all things do…"
"When it has changed will it still be considered breathtaking?" he asked, his eyes flickering to see her face, practically at the edge of his nose.
"It will," answered she with a smile unaware of the concentration the gentleman was putting on her cheek as he continued to stare. When he did not reply, she looked to him, unmoving.
"What if it is not?"
"It will be."
They were silent, watching the little cocoon tremble.
"When my father passed away, it was the beginning of spring – a season of beginnings and life, I was mistaken," said he, and it was her turn to focus on him; drawn to the sad flicker in eyes and his clenched jaw, but his expression was not all sad, in fact, he looked determined. "He was in bed for two days before he passed; he wished to tell me all that he could since he knew time was not on his side. But he was happy, deliriously so. He was going to see my mother again."
"Georgiana told me about her, the stories you shared…"
He shook his head. "My words cannot capture how wonderful she was, truly the only way she could be described in how wholly she was loved was summed up by the look my father had every time she walked into the room." His gaze met hers again and the tiny hairs at the back of her neck stood at attention.
"My father told me that he met my mother in the summer long before he fell in love with her. They were close friends as children, they explored together and teased each other mercilessly; no one was ever as close as they were, and it was because of that that everyone assumed they would wed one day. Neither of them took it seriously, but in the autumn of his twenty-fourth, something changed like all things in nature do," he said, a half smile on his lips, and in this vulnerable moment under the canopy of bare branches and golden sunlight, Elizabeth was transfixed.
"Are you fond of change, Miss Elizabeth?"
"Even if I was not, I could not stop it," she murmured quietly. "Change is inevitable."
"Would you try to stop it though? Fight it in some way?" he asked, his voice going lower, and possibly by her own imagination, nearing her with caution, his fine blue eyes wondrously hypnotizing.
That feeling of magic in the air that autumn brought with it felt like it was bursting inside of her by the time their noses brushed, the inevitable pull of change tugging at her like she was a puppet on a string. And despite her bulwarks against any kind of romantic inclination towards the tall, handsome man, she crumbled and yielded.
The butterfly escaped its prison to join another already in the air and together they were free.
Every end meets a beginning, and every beginning starts with an end.
The second part of Sibling Intervention will involve Hunsford/Lady Catherine and Pemberley, and is written to explore the transforming relationships of the characters previously mentioned.
Reading the second part is unnecessary, but done because I love playing in the Pride and Prejudice sandbox, and also to address further possibilities. The unedited second part (still untitled) will be uploaded separately on FFN as I don't want to sacrifice the quality of Sibling Intervention by adding on fifty or so chapters when readers could be happy enough to end here.
A free download for this story is avaible on my blog if you're interested, thank you for reading, your thoughts are hugely appreciated