Georgiana was reading in the garden … or, rather she had been reading and was now daydreaming, the book lying open in her lap as she perched on the edge of the bench, looking off into the distance. Even her now-former governess's romances were less inspiring and heart-warming than the true love she was privileged to witness every day between her brother and his wife. Naturally they argued occasionally, as two such high-spirited and stubborn people were wont to do. Georgiana had even quarrelled with each of them, holding her breath afterward with worry that they would discuss her behind her back, or join with each other in opposition to her. But to her surprise and delight, both Fitzwilliam and Lizzie had chosen to settle their disagreements with her themselves, without a hint that they had consulted each other. Perhaps such idyllic behaviour would not last indefinitely, but as a start to their life together at Pemberley Georgiana had found the reactions reassuring.
For her part, she tried to spend part of each day on her own interests, in the garden or the little parlour set aside for her, so that she could allow her brother and Lizzie some privacy together.
That was what she had intended to do today, but as she sat dreamily watching the wind stir the leaves in the trees, a shadow fell over her. Looking up, she found Fitzwilliam standing there. "May I join you?"
"Of course. With pleasure." She shifted on the bench to allow him room next to her. "What is Lizzie about this morning?"
"Oh, a book, or the menus. I am not quite clear on her current pursuit."
Georgiana glanced at him, but he seemed content with Lizzie being employed elsewhere. It occurred to her that he had certainly spent longer at Pemberley than was usual for him at a stretch; wasn't he becoming anxious to return to his business affairs elsewhere? She asked him as much.
Fitzwilliam smiled. "My business affairs are well in hand. Concerned about your dowry, sister?"
"Not in the least. I trust you."
"As well you should. No, I have moved much of my work here. In previous years, I spent so much time away because the memories of Mother and Father were too strong at Pemberley."
The memories had been strong; it was one of the things Georgiana loved about her home. It helped to keep her parents alive in her memory. But being older, Fitzwilliam's memories had been too strong, it seemed, for him to bear their intensity. "But now it is different?" Georgiana asked softly.
"It is. Finding Lizzie has made a new man of me, and I have realized how foolishly stiff and prejudiced and prideful the old one was. I wasted so much time on people I thought were suitable that I never stopped to question whether they were worthy of that time."
"You are fortunate you met her when you did, then. Imagine how you might have turned out otherwise." Georgiana didn't even try to stifle her giggle, and she was pleased when he laughed with her. The old Fitzwilliam would not have. "Do you know, it was just here that we sat when you first came here from Hertfordshire, full of stories about the terrible Bennets … and their strangely bewitching daughters."
"I never used the word 'bewitching,'" he objected.
"You didn't have to."
"You predicted even then that I would not be able to give up the attachment. I had no idea I had such a wise sister, or I would have asked your advice much sooner."
"I would say 'you certainly should have', except that everything seems to have turned out for the best. As for my prediction, it was no such thing. The permanence of your feelings would have been obvious to anyone who knew you as well as I do." She glanced at him sideways. "Do you regret tying your fortunes to Lizzie's unfortunate family?" Mr. Wickham's name went unspoken, but it lay in the air between them.
"I regret nothing. I would do it all again if I had to. I'm sorry if my generosity there hurt you."
"No, no. That childish affection is long over with. But you, no doubt, will continue to hear from him for a long time to come."
"Asking for money," Fitzwilliam agreed. "Small price to pay for what I have gained in return, wouldn't you say?"
"I would, indeed." Georgiana looked up, spying a small figure coming down the steps toward them, her skirt fluttering behind her. "Here comes your bride. Shouldn't you go and meet her?"
"Let us go and meet her together."
And they did. As they took Lizzie's outstretched hands, Georgiana knew that this happiness together wouldn't last forever—she would want her own beloved, and her own home to preside over some day. But for today, the sun was shining and the breeze was warm and the very air was filled with their laughter.