Mr. Darcy was in his study reading Georgiana's last letter. He was concerned because she had not written in almost ten days. He had specifically asked her to write at least once a week to be sure everything was well.
"Darcy, why are you so serious and frowning? Although I don't know why I'm surprised, I would be shocked if I saw you smiling," Richard said with a laugh.
"You and your bad jokes, Fitzwilliam," Mr. Darcy replied angrily.
"I'm sorry, but I thought you were in a better mood. Yesterday I saw you almost conversing with a young lady, and I assumed you had changed that stern attitude with which you face life. You cannot deny that you rarely spend part of an evening showing some interest in a single woman."
"Miss Emma Morton is the granddaughter of an Earl on her mother's side, and his father is the Master of one of the most prosperous estates in Hampshire. She also has a dowry of thirty thousand pounds and is quite discreet. Although I cannot say that she is a truly accomplished woman, at least she knows when to speak and, most important, when to keep quiet."
"I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Is that your criteria for looking for a wife, Darcy?" Richard asked, surprised.
"Fitzwilliam, I'm twenty-seven years old, and I think it's time to think about getting married seriously. I need a woman who understands that I'm a busy man and doesn't get in my way, but also a good mother and role model for my children," Mr. Darcy explained.
"If I had your money, Darcy, I would marry a woman who would make me happy. One that I loved, with whom I can enjoy every second of the day."
"It's because you don't have my responsibilities that you say that. Yes, I have money and influence, and I need to work hard to keep my place in society. For a few years, I thought maybe I could find a woman who met the requirements to be Mrs. Darcy that I also might like. But since that has not happened, and I am convinced that it will not happen, it is better to choose my future wife rationally. My parent's marriage was arranged, yet they managed to be very happy."
"And what about Miss Morton? Don't you care what she thinks or feels? If you say she doesn't talk much and you aren't that talkative either, how will you get to know each other better?"
"And do you think Miss Morton and the many women who have tried to get my attention care what I think or feel? Do you think any of them would dare reject me if I proposed to them? Since I am the Pemberley Master, practically all the women I know have done everything possible to get my attention, even though I hardly talk or dance. You are much more friendly and sociable than I am, and yet none of those women show interest in you if I am present."
"How vain you are, Darcy," Richard said, rolling his eyes.
"I would love to tell you that this female attention is because these women admire me as a man. But it is in Pemberley, this mansion in the most exclusive neighborhood of London, and my supposed ten thousand a year, what really attracts them."
"You've turned into a cold and cynical man, Darce. I think it would do you good to fall in love," Richard concluded. He knew that his cousin was right and that all those women who fawned over him had no interest in him but in his money. He was the perfect man for the typical frivolous society lady because he was not only wealthy and well-connected but also handsome and honorable.
"In any case, while I think Miss Morton is a good candidate to be the future Mrs. Darcy, I am not yet decided whether I wish to court her or not. For now, I will observe her and determine if something between us is possible." The truth was that Mr. Darcy did not feel attracted to this young lady. She was the typical pretty-faced blonde who knew everything she had to say. However, he appreciated that she did not talk all the time because he didn't like women that talked too much like Caroline Bingley.
"I wish you luck, then with Miss Morton or any other lady you know who meets those special requirements to be your brand new wife."
"Anyway, I didn't ask you to come over to my house to talk about my love life," Mr. Darcy said, annoyed.
"Were we talking about your love life? Because it seemed to me that we were talking about a business that you call marriage." Richard couldn't help teasing his cousin one more time, but seeing how serious he got, he preferred not to add anything else.
"I asked you to come because I'm worried about Georgie. She hasn't written to me in over ten days, and all I hear from her is through Mrs. Younge. You know she always writes to tell me everything."
"Now that you mention it, you're right, she always writes, and I haven't heard from her in almost two weeks," Richard replied worriedly.
"In her last two letters, she mentioned that she had met a new friend, a Miss Bennet who is on vacation with an aunt. I don't know anyone by that name, so it must be someone outside our social circle. I asked Mrs. Younge about her, and she told me that this young lady was from a family in trade but gave me no further details."
"Yes, I remember she mentioned Miss Bennet in her last letter, but Georgie told me she is very nice and kind. But, Georgie is very innocent, and if that lady has double intentions, she won't notice. So, what do you plan to do, Darcy?"
"I plan to travel to Ramsgate tomorrow, and I want you to come with me, Fitzwilliam."
"I would love to spend a few days with you at the beach, but the day after tomorrow, I have to travel north, and I will be there until the month."
"I understand; I'll have to go alone then."
Richard asked his cousin to keep him up to date on everything related to Georgiana and asked him not to be so harsh with her and allow her to have a friend if the lady was friendly and was sincerely interested in his cousin.
Mr. Darcy invited Richard to dinner, and they talked about family, work, and friends they had in common for the rest of the evening.
Colonel David Smith was the son of a wealthy banker who owned the most influential bank in the north of England. He was only twenty-seven years old, and despite being a rich heir, once he finished his studies at Oxford, he decided to become a soldier to somehow atone for the sins of his family.
When he was twenty years old, he discovered that the family fortune was made on shady commercial transactions and risky speculations. Tha dishonorable behavior led to the ruin of more than one innocent investor. And although his mother sponsored more than one charity and his father tried to be a just man, in his opinion, none of that was enough to repair the damage.
He knew that people behind his back said that his grandfather Eustace Smith had been a scoundrel without class or education. So, he had promised himself that one day, the Smith family would be known for other reasons. One day everyone would talk about General David Smith, a war hero who served his majesty and the kingdom's citizens, willing to give his life for his nation in the name of duty and honor.
He was one of the youngest colonels in His Majesty's service and had been awarded the Medal of Valor for his bravery and dedication one year ago.
Despite being a young and quite attractive man, David hid his face behind a bushy beard. Although he knew that his family was influential in the north, he still didn't want anyone to recognize him and make the connection between him and his wealthy family. He did not want any special treatment or consideration because of his family's relationships.
Since David was very young, he had enjoyed reading very much, and as he grew older, he not only devoted himself to reading but also to writing. His mother and sister were the only people who had the pleasure of reading his exciting stories based on his own experiences. Although he had a busy life full of obligations, always at night and before going to sleep, he wrote the most important events of the day or some new chapter of his new story in his journal.
David was at the War Office because General Nicholson had sent him an urgent message. He was very intrigued because it was not often that a general wanted to speak personally with a lower-ranking officer. But he supposed it wasn't bad news because he was an efficient officer devoted to his work.
"Smith, what are you doing here?" Colonel Fitzwilliam asked with his usual good humor.
"Fitzwilliam, nice to see you. I came to talk to General Nicholson, but he's busy now. How have you been? Since we got back from the continent, I haven't seen you."
"You're right; you know what life is like. I've been traveling between London and Newcastle the last months, and I do not have time for anything but work."
"At the moment, I'm in Brighton, but I guess I'm here to take new orders."
The friends continued talking for almost half an hour until David was told that the General was ready to receive him.
"Then see you tonight at Fat Moe's Bar," Colonel Fitzwilliam said.
"I'll be there without fail, old friend," James said and went to General Nicholson's office.
As he had thought, the General gave him new orders, but he was displeased with the news. He was a man of action, and he would rather be in battle a thousand times than train troops full of inexperienced men.
"You will stay in Brighton until October, Smith. Then I want you to take a holiday with your family because you have been working without a break for the last two years. Finally, you will go to a place called Meryton. I have had many complaints about Colonel Forster, and I want you to see on the ground his leadership skills and the way he directs and trains his troops."
"Will I be under Forster's command?" James asked, very surprised. That man was an absolute idiot and also lazy.
"Yes, because I need to prove that he cannot be in charge of training soldiers, I need your help for that," the General explained.
"I understand, sir," David said and left the General's office. He at least knew that he had several months to adjust to the idea that she would be some kind of governess to the incompetent Forster.
Alice Russell met Elizabeth when she was five years old and immediately loved her. Madeline Gardiner was one of her most beloved nieces, and whenever she could, she visited her. She lived in Ramsgate from when she married until she was widowed when she was just twenty-eight years old. Her late husband owned a bookstore in that beautiful city. She loved books, and her husband had been a renowned collector of old books.
It was through her that her niece Madeline met her excellent husband. Edward Gardiner was just starting in his publishing house business at the time and was a good friend of Alice's late husband.
Unfortunately, when Alice was left alone, she could not continue managing her husband's business and sold it to a good friend and settled in London. She shared a small establishment with another widowed and childless woman like her and lived there for almost eight years.
Alice always dreamed of having children, but she never was blessed with children. She always thought that if she had had a daughter, she would have liked her to be like Elizabeth, and whenever that beautiful girl was in London, Alice took her for walks, to museums, and they spent a lot of time together.
When Alice was thirty-five years old, she met Reginald Goodwin, a widower with two children and a warehouse with many financial problems. Reginald and Alice established a beautiful friendship, and she fell in love with Peter and Andrew, Reginald's two sons who desperately needed a mother. So they decided to get married and emigrate to Canada in search of better opportunities. But although at first, theirs was a marriage of convenience, soon after, they fell in love establishing a beautiful family.
But fortune was not only generous to Alice, giving her a beautiful family but also financially. Her husband became a prosperous merchant, and later, he was the Governor of the province where they settled. Her sons Peter and Andrew were prominent and influential men in Canada, and both were happily married.
Despite all the years that Alice lived in Canada, she always remembered her family, especially little Elizabeth. Before traveling to the new world, Alice told Elizabeth that she would always write to her so that they could keep in touch despite the distance. And so it was, Alice witnessed how Elizabeth went from being a girl eager to learn into an intelligent and kind woman.
The reunion between them was very emotional, and Alice invited Elizabeth to spend some time with her in Ramsgate. She wanted to go back to those places where she lived with her first husband and where she was very happy.
"Aunt Alice, do you mind if I go for a walk on the beach?" Elizabeth asked.
"Not at all, my dear girl. I don't have your energy anymore, and I was just thinking about taking a nap. Tonight we are invited to dinner with the Curtis family, and I don't want to be yawning at seven."
"Thank you, aunt. See you later," Elizabeth chirped and headed off to the beach.
She loved the sea, its scent, and the sound of the waves. The ocean helped her think and put her ideas in order. The night before traveling to Ramsgate, she had inadvertently overheard a conversation between Aunt Alice and Aunt Gardiner about her and her sisters' situation. She knew very well how precarious her life would be if her father died, but she had always preferred not to think about that.
In the conversation, Aunt Alice had told Aunt Gardiner that she would invite her to come to live with her in Canada if it was necessary. Alice did not want Elizabeth to go through financial hardship.
Elizabeth was very touched to learn that her aunt loved her so much, but she wasn't sure if she could live away from all of her family. 'Why does life have to be so tricky?' Elizabeth thought as she gazed out at the vastness of the ocean.
"Miss Bennet, how nice to meet you again," Georgiana said excitedly.
"Miss Darcy, what a joy. I haven't seen you for many days. I thought you had returned to your brother's house in London."
"I have been busy because I ran into a family friend. Mr. Wickham was my father's godson, and I've known him since I was a little girl, although we haven't seen each other for a long time." Georgiana explained to Elizabeth about her casual encounter with that charming man. She did not know that everything had been meticulously planned between Mr. Wickham and Mrs. Younge.
"I'm so happy for you. It's always good to see old friends," Elizabeth chirped. She had met Miss Darcy almost a month ago, and they always saw each other in different places and spent time together.
From the beginning, Elizabeth had liked the shy Miss Darcy. Although she could tell that she was rich, she seemed to value other things and was neither conceited nor haughty like most people in her social sphere.
Elizabeth realized how lonely Georgiana was and felt sorry for her. She lost her parents when she was very young, and her brother was too busy
to realize that his sister's companion was a cold and calculating woman who seemed not to feel a drop of affection for the girl she was supposed to guide and protect.
Georgiana had never met someone like Elizabeth Bennet. She always seemed to have something interesting to say, and she knew about books, art, music, and everything anyone could imagine. She was also so pretty, with eyes full of light and contagious joy. But most of all, she seemed to be genuinely interested in her. When she told him that she had a handsome and honorable young brother, she congratulated her and hadn't asked her any prying questions about him like other ladies did.
"I think we've walked more than a mile today, Miss Darcy. My mother always says she doesn't understand my obsession with walking," Elizabeth laughed.
"It's just that you're so entertaining, Miss Bennet. I love that we can talk about the book we're both reading. I've never done it before, and I really enjoyed the experience," Georgiana replied. "Could you call me Georgiana, please?"
"Only if you call me Lizzy," Elizabeth replied happily.
"We're a block from my house. Please, Lizzy, let me invite you for tea."
Elizabeth saw Georgiana so animated that she could not refuse her invitation. "Very well, but I won't be able to stay more than half an hour."
"That is perfect," Georgiana said merrily.
When they got to the house, the maid accompanying Miss Darcy went into the kitchen. She asked the cook to prepare tea and some sandwiches because Miss Darcy had invited a friend to the house.
Elizabeth thought that Georgiana's house was too big for an alone girl who didn't receive visitors. But, she assumed that rich people like her could afford these luxuries and more.
The moment they entered the drawing-room, she was stunned because a man was alone waiting for Miss Darcy.
He didn't realize she was there, and he approached Georgiana in a totally inappropriate and even reckless way. He took her hand, kissed it, and suggestively spoke to her.
"My dear Georgiana, the minutes I've been waiting for you have seemed like hours."
"George, I'm so glad you're happy to see me. I'm happy you're here too. But let me introduce my friend. Lizzy, come here," Georgiana said and introduced her friend to the man who always said things that made her feel special.
"It is very nice to meet you, Miss Bennet," George Wickham said uncomfortably. He'd come hoping to spend some time alone with silly Georgiana, and she'd come with a friend. However, he had to admit that in other circumstances, he would have been glad to meet a woman as beautiful as Miss Bennet. Also, he thought that she was another fool trying to get closer to Darcy using her foolish sister.
"The pleasure is mine, Mr. Wickham," Elizabeth said, concerned for her friend. It was clear that something strange was happening because that man should not be there with a young lady without supervision.
Although Elizabeth had to leave soon, she did not do so until Wickham had no choice but to withdraw. When Elizabeth got home, she told Aunt Alice about Georgiana's situation, and she, too, was suspicious.
"If you ever see anything like this again, let me know because I will ask Edward to get in touch with Miss Darcy's brother and let her know what's going on. I know that family from Derbyshire, and they are good people."
After breakfast the next day, Elizabeth went to her friend's house to invite her for a walk. She planned to find out a little more about that man and why Mrs. Younge allowed him to be alone with Georgiana.
As soon as Elizabeth arrived at Georgiana's house, she immediately ushered her into her private room with an extraordinary ocean view. There Georgiana spent hours painting the beautiful landscape. "Thanks for coming, Lizzy. What did you think of George? Isn't he very handsome?" Georgiana asked excitedly.
"Yes, and he's very nice too. Does he always visit you, and you talk alone?" Elizabeth asked casually.
"Yeah, because Mrs. Younge says he's like family."
"And your brother and Mr. Wickham are friends?"
"No, unfortunately, they're not friends anymore. I know that my brother got mad at him, and he's sometimes very harsh with others. William is a perfectionist, and he never fails or makes mistakes. So he has a hard time understanding the weaknesses and shortcomings of others. But George says that their disagreement is nothing serious and will be friends again very soon."
As Georgiana spoke, Elizabeth grew more and more suspicious of the man's real motives for approaching Georgiana, especially since she realized that she was kind of under the spell of that man.
Simultaneously and after several hours of travel, Mr. Darcy arrived at the house, and a shocked Mrs. Younge received him. "Sir, what a surprise. We didn't know you were planning to spend a few days with us."
"Good morning, Mrs. Younge. Please, don't worry, I will be here just for a couple of days. Where is my sister?"
"She's in the backroom painting and with her new friend," Mrs. Younge said, and she noticed that Mr. Darcy did not like the idea that his sister spent time with that woman.
As soon as Mr. Darcy had disappeared from the room, she wrote a note to George Wickham telling him of the unexpected arrival of Georgiana's brother.
Mr. Darcy was furious and wondered what this supposed friend was doing there. It was early for a social call, and just thinking this woman was abusing her sister's trust made him want to put her in her place at once.
When he entered the room, he saw that his sister was talking animatedly and laughing very happily.
Georgina was animatedly talking when she saw her dear brother. "William, what a wonderful surprise," Georgiana exclaimed, throwing herself into her brother's arms.
Elizabeth was a little surprised, but she was glad that Mr. Darcy was there. That would solve the problem with Mr. Wickham. But she also noticed two things, how affectionate Georgiana's brother was and how handsome he was.
"William, let me introduce you to my dear friend Elizabeth Bennet. I've told you a lot about her, so you must know her a bit. Lizzy, come here so I can introduce you to my brother."
Elizabeth happily approached the siblings, but all her joy disappeared when she saw the stern, arrogant, almost contemptuous way Mr. Darcy looked at her.
"Miss..." said Mr. Darcy dismissively.
"Bennet," answered Elizabeth, trying to stay calm.
"Miss Bennet... I am Fitzwilliam Darcy."
"Delighted to meet you, sir," Elizabeth said, almost annoyed.
"The pleasure is mine," replied Mr. Darcy.
Elizabeth was sure that it was not a pleasure for him to meet her.
Thanks to all who leave supportive comments and follow the story with enthusiasm.
My dear readers, I have been extremely busy in the last few months and have not had time to write. I am aware I have three pending stories that I plan to continue writing and finish as soon as I can.
Writing has become a form of entertainment and relaxation, and when I can't write, I feel like something is missing from my day. That's why I've decided to edit this story I wrote several months ago and share this new, improved version with some new dialogues and scenes. I hope those who read it for the first time like it and those who decide to reread it enjoy it.