an excerpt from
Georgiana Darcy's Diary
Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice continued
Of all the wonderful secondary characters in Pride and Prejudice, Georgiana Darcy has always been my favorite. In Jane Austen's original text, we never actually hear her speak a single direct word; any dialogue she has is merely summarized by the narrator. But to me, that only made her more intriguing. Just who was she, this painfully shy younger sister of the famous Mr. Darcy—a girl with a large fortune of her own, who at the age of fifteen was so very nearly seduced by the wicked Mr. Wickham?
Jane Austen herself gave her own family a few tidbits about what happened to her characters after the close of Pride and Prejudice. Kitty Bennet married a clergyman near Pemberley, while Mary married one of her uncle's clerks. But so far as is known, she never hinted at what happened to Georgiana Darcy after her brother married Elizabeth. For myself, I always felt that Georgiana Darcy ought to marry Colonel Fitzwilliam.
The modern reader may object that the two of them are cousins. But in Jane Austen's world, marriage between cousins wasn't considered at all improper—it was often absolutely encouraged. Queen Victoria married her first cousin Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and theirs was one of the happiest love stories and most famously successful marriages of the age. In fact, even into the modern era, Albert Einstein married his own cousin.
Of course, you'll have to keep reading to see whether, once I started writing their story, Georgiana and Colonel Fitzwilliam agreed with me that they were meant to be together!
One further note: I can't begin to match Jane Austen's immortal writing style, and wouldn't even pretend to try. That's one reason I chose a diary format for this story. I would never aspire to imitate Jane Austen or compare my work to hers. Georgiana Darcy's Diary is meant to be an entertainment, written for those readers who, like me, simply can't get enough of Jane Austen and her world.
At least I wasn’t in love with Mr. Edgeware.
That sounds as though I am trying to salvage my pride, but I’m truly not. I hate lying—especially to myself. And there’s small point in keeping a private journal if I’m only going to fill it with lies.
So, I was flattered by Mr. Edgeware’s attentions. I liked him—or at least, I thought I did. But love? No.
Though I am sure my Aunt de Bourgh would say that is neither here nor there in considering whether Mr. Frank Edgeware and I should marry.
I don’t seem to have begun this story at all properly. I’ve been keeping a diary on and off since I was ten, but I haven’t written an entry in year or more. Maybe I’m out of practice with setting down the events of the day. I’m not even entirely sure what made me pick up this notebook—a red leather-bound book of blank pages that Elizabeth gave me for Christmas. Except that the memory of what happened today feels like a festering sore inside me—and maybe writing it all down here will let the poison out.
To explain more clearly, then, Mr. Frank Edgeware is the youngest son of Sir John Edgeware of Gossington Park. Mr. Frank has been staying here at Pemberley for the last three weeks, one of the house party my aunt has imposed upon us all. He is a handsome man—really, a very handsome man, with dark hair and melting brown eyes and a sallow, lean kind of good looks.
Aunt de Bourgh—small surprise—has thrown us together a good deal, and he has been my partner at whist, has accompanied me for walks and rides about the grounds. We seemed to have so much in common, he and I. He would ask which poets I liked best, and when I mentioned Mr. Cowper, he would wholeheartedly agree that Mr. Cowper’s poems were masterpieces of language and feeling. The same with music. I spoke of Mr. Thomas Arne’s operas, he professed himself a great lover of Artaxerxes, as well.
I can see now, of course, that I was an idiot to be so taken in. Anyone would think that after George Wickham’s courtship, I would have learned to spot a fortune hunter. But at the time I hadn’t a single suspicion that Frank Edgeware was anything but sincere.
Until this morning, when I chanced to be walking in the rose garden. I was on a path screened by a thick row of bushes and overheard Mr. Edgeware speaking to Sir John Huntington on the other side of the shrubs. They couldn’t see me, of course, but I heard every word.
Sir John—he being another member of the house party, a goggle-eyed man with plump hands and greasy hair—asked Mr. Edgeware how he was progressing with Miss Georgiana Darcy.
And Mr. Edgeware laughed and replied that he fancied he would succeed in winning my hand in marriage, all right, and confidently expected to be wedded to me by the end of three months’ time.
“And thank God that when we’re wedded,” he said, “I won’t have to listen and pretend to agree while she maunders on about poets and musicians.” He laughed again. “It’s a good thing she has a fortune of thirty thousand pounds. She’s a nice enough little thing, but ditchwater dull.”
My whole body flashed hot and cold, and just for a second I wanted to smash my way through the bushes and confront the pair of them. But I didn’t. If I haven’t yet learned to judge men’s characters, I at least know my own well enough. And I’d never in three hundred years work up the nerve for a dramatic confrontation of that kind. Or if I did, I’d stand there, red-faced and stammering trying to to think of the perfect retort. Which would probably come to me at three o’clock the following morning, but not before.
Sometimes I hate being shy.
So I simply turned and walked—very quietly—away, before the men could guess they’d been overheard.
Mr. Edgeware came to sit with me on the settee after dinner this evening, just as usual, and smiled into my eyes.
I wonder, now, that I never noticed how calculated his smile is. I can just imagine him practising it every morning in front of the mirror.
At any rate, he asked me whether I would consent to play for the party this evening. He had been dreaming all day, he said, of hearing me play again on the pianoforte.
So I said that I had been practising a waltz by Mozart, and when he replied that he was absolutely enchanted with Mozart’s waltzes, I smiled at him very sweetly. “Are you really?” I said. “They are nice enough, I suppose, but ditchwater dull.”
It was some consolation, at least, to see the smile slide off his handsome face and the way he went red right to the tips of his ears. For once he had absolutely nothing to say; he just sat there, opening and closing his mouth like a fish out of water.
My affections truly weren’t engaged. It’s only my pride that’s hurt, not my heart. And really, Mr. Edgeware’s deceit of me is incredibly petty when weighed against the other news of the day, which is that victory has been won over France at last.
Come to think of it, I really should have made that the opening of this journal entry, not the tag end; it’s far more important than my own concerns. But—peace. It’s such momentous news that I think everyone can scarcely take it in. Britain has been at war with France since before I was born—all eighteen years of my life—and I’d come almost to take it for granted. I think many people would say the same. But it’s true—the latest word is that the Emperor Napoleon has been forced from his throne and is to be exiled. Our troops will be returning home.
I got all this from the newspapers, not from any note or letter of Edward’s. I’ve not heard a single word from Edward since his regiment was called to foreign duty more than a year ago. Not since the last night I saw him, at the Pemberley Christmas ball.
But he can’t have been killed—he can’t. I’ve read the casualty lists in the papers every day, and his name has never appeared.
Still, I wish—
But I can’t write any more. It’s very late. I’m writing perched on the cushioned window seat, watching the moonlight glimmer on the lake in front of the house. My fingers are cramped with writing, and my ink is growing thin from being watered so often.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a young lady of rank and property will have packs of money- or land-hungry suitors yapping around her heels like hounds after a fox.
I said as much to Elizabeth this morning, when we were looking over my new gown for the ball next month, which had just arrived by special delivery from London.
Elizabeth laughed and said she quite liked that comparison, because she could imagine my aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, as a huntswoman, cheering on the packs of suitors with cries of Yoiks! and Tally-ho!
But then she stopped laughing and said, looking at me, her gaze serious for once, “There’s no one among the young men staying here you like, Georgiana? Truly? Mr. Folliet? Or Mr. Carter, even?”
I hung up the gown we’d been examining in the wardrobe. It’s very pretty: pale peach silk with an overdress of cream-coloured gauze, all embroidered with tiny rosebuds. And I’m sure I’d like it even more were it not further evidence that my aunt has determined to see me married within the year, it being a scandal that any niece of hers should have reached the age of eighteen—and had two Seasons in London—without being at the very least engaged.
“None,” I said. “Or rather, I like some of them. But not that way. I don’t wish to marry any of them. Unless—” I stopped as a thought struck me coldly. “Does my brother … does he wish that I should?”
“Of course not! Not unless you want to, that is.” Elizabeth tilted her head to look at me from where she was perched on the edge of my bed. “Georgiana, you cannot truly think he would allow you to be pushed into a marriage just to please your aunt?”
“Yes—I mean, no, I don’t think that.”
Elizabeth said, “Listen to me. Darcy agreed to this house party scheme of Lady Catherine’s because he worries—as I do!—that you go out too little into society. That you have small chance of meeting any nice, agreeable young men. But that is all.” She watched me for a moment, her dark eyes thoughtful. Then she said, “You could speak to him, though, if you truly hate all this so much.” She smiled. “He doesn’t bite, I promise you. He wouldn’t even be angry.”
“I know.” I do know. I think. It’s just that my brother Fitzwilliam is eleven years older than I am. And he’s been my guardian since he was ten years old.
He has been such a good brother to me. But I think I’m a little in awe of him, still.
More than a little.
And I know I have already given him far more worry than he deserves.
“But it’s all right,” I told Elizabeth. “It’s just … that I’m happy here. I love it here at Pemberley with you. Unless—” my whole body flashed hot and cold all over again. “Unless you feel I’m in the way? If you’d prefer to have the place to yourselves, without your husband’s unmarried sister—”
“Of course not!” Elizabeth said. “Of course I don’t feel that.”
It seems strange, now, to think that I almost dreaded my brother’s marrying Elizabeth. Not that I didn’t like her—because I did like her very much, right from the first time I was introduced to her. It’s just that she was a stranger, moving into our family and our home. At least, that’s how it felt to me at the time.
I’ve always hated change. I think maybe it started when my mother died—but now and for as long as I can remember, I’ve felt a sick, hollow feeling every time a round of changes comes. When I was first sent away to school—and then again when I had to leave. Even last year, when a storm blew down the oldest and tallest of the Spanish oaks on Pemberley’s lawn, I felt so grieved, silly as I knew it was.
But Elizabeth isn’t at all a stranger anymore—she feels almost like the sister I used to wish for when I was small. And—though it seems disloyal to say it—I can speak to her much more easily than I can to my brother.
“I was just saying to Darcy,” Elizabeth went on, “that it’s his responsibility to vet your potential suitors for me—no men allowed who live at more than a day’s travel from here, because if you married and went too far away, I’d break my heart missing you. I’d be perfectly happy to keep you here with us always. But—”
Elizabeth broke off. “Oh, well—haven’t you ever noticed the abominable habit newly married people have of wishing to see all their friends married, as well?” She spoke lightly. But all the same there was a look on her face that made me feel suddenly lonely. They way I feel sometimes when I see her and Fitzwilliam catch each other’s eyes and smile at each other.
They’ve been married for just over a year, now, and they’re so happy together it fairly hovers like a sunburst all around them; you can’t be in the same room with them and not realise how deeply and sincerely attached to each other they are.
Even my Aunt de Bourgh has stopped resenting my brother’s marrying Elizabeth quite so much. Though of course for my aunt, that means merely that she waits until Elizabeth is out of the room to speak of ‘my nephew’s unfortunate marriage’ in the same tones you might hear at a funeral.
Elizabeth only laughs, though, and says she’s glad, for it gives her the upper hand and makes Fitzwilliam feel he’s lucky she consented to marry him, despite his horrible relations.
“Mr. Edgeware looked quite bereft last night,” Elizabeth went on. “When you asked me to turn music pages for you at the pianoforte instead of him.”
“I imagine he did.” And then I told Elizabeth what had happened, everything of what I’d overheard Frank saying in the garden to Sir John.
Elizabeth has been looking a little pale and tired, lately. Or tired for her. But her cheeks flushed bright scarlet at that, and she looked furious. She laughed, though, when I told her of my revenge, and she said, “Oh, well done! Exactly what he deserved.” Which—almost—took the sting away from the memory.
Then she hugged me again and said, “You’re not dull—and anyone who thinks you are is a blind fool and doesn’t deserve you. But Georgiana”—she looked at me—“never mind your aunt’s contenders, are there no other young men you might like? You’re not”—all of a sudden her eyes went wide and alarmed—“You’re not still in love with Mr. Wickham, are you?”
I smiled at that. Even if the smile tasted bitter on my lips. “Good heavens, no. I promise you, whatever else I am, I’m not in love with Mr. George Wickham.”
Elizabeth let out her breath. “Well, thank goodness for that, at least. But … but there’s no one else? Truly?”
I swallowed. And then I shook my head. Perhaps if I’d grown up with four sisters as Elizabeth had I might find confidences easier.
But as it was, my throat closed up and my palms went clammy at even the thought of telling Elizabeth that there was someone else. I’ve never spoken of it to anyone, not ever. But there is Colonel Edward Fitzwilliam, the man I’ve been in love with since I was six years old.
I’m sitting-up in bed with the candle on my night table lighted and flickering beside me. It’s stopped raining at long last, but I can hear the wind outside howling in the chimneys.
All the rest of the house is asleep, even my Aunt de Bourgh. She sleeps poorly and is often wakeful until past midnight. But I’ve just heard her long-suffering maid Dawson go past my door on her way to the servants’ wing and her own bed, so my aunt must be truly settled now. My aunt keeps Dawson until late most nights, making her read from a book of sermons and rub her back until she can drop off.
Two things happened today.
The first was a letter from Edward. Though it was sent to my brother, not to me.
Fitzwilliam had been up and riding out early to consult with his farm bailiff about the spring planting. But he came in for breakfast and opened the letters piled beside his place at the table. When he got to Edward’s, I felt my heart jump, because of course I recognised the handwriting on the envelope.
It seemed an eternity before he looked up at Elizabeth and said, “It’s from Edward. He says he has been wounded and granted a leave of absence, and would like to spend it here.”
I gasped despite myself and Elizabeth gave a little cry of distress and said, “Wounded? Oh, no, poor Edward, is he seriously hurt?”
My brother glanced through the letter again and said, “He says it’s nothing much, just a musket ball in his shoulder. He took it at Toulouse, he says—just before it was announced that Napoleon had surrendered.”
And Elizabeth said, “That doesn’t mean anything. Men always lie about how badly they’re hurt, and soldiers are worst of all. But if he’s well enough to write and to travel, he can’t be too badly injured.”
I didn’t say anything. My heart was beating too quickly and too hard.
I read of the battle for Toulouse in the newspaper reports. Nearly five thousand British and allied soldiers were killed. And the French lost three thousand of their own.
And all for nothing, too—because Napoleon had abdicated four days before the battle occurred. If only word had reached Toulouse in the South, all those lives might have been spared.
Still, as Fitzwilliam spoke, I drew what felt like my first breath in all the time Edward has been gone. He may have been wounded. But his letter shows that he survived the fighting, and now he’s coming home.
The second event—
I suppose today’s second occurrence is what’s keeping me awake tonight. Even more than Edward’s letter.
A travelling band of gypsies came to the house and offered to entertain us and tell fortunes after supper.
My aunt looked as horrified as though she’d uncovered a dish at dinner and found a plate of wriggling worms instead of pork cutlets. But Elizabeth had already gone to the window and looked out and seen them grouped around the front door. They looked poor and wet and miserable and there were several little children without any shoes, their feet almost blue with the cold.
Elizabeth turned to my brother and said, “Please, Darcy.” And my brother nodded and said, “Very well, let them come.”
I truly did wish, then, that I was more like Elizabeth. I had thought of slipping up to my room when no one was watching and finding some money to give to them. But I should never have been bold enough to speak up in front of everyone as she did.
The music was beautiful in a wild, lilting way. One of the men played a fiddle and some of the women played tambourines and danced. And then one of the oldest, a little, wizened old woman with a dirty red scarf wrapped around her head and with her body swathed in so many shawls one could scarcely see her shape, offered to tell fortunes.
She turned to my cousin Anne first and asked if she’d like her fortune told, and Anne sat up and looked quite bright and interested. But then, of course, she looked at her mother. My aunt couldn’t quite bring herself to look at the old gypsy woman directly, but she sniffed through her nose and said, “Anne, you are going to have a headache. You must go up to your room at once and go to bed. I will send Dawson to you with some barley water for you to drink.”
If I am honest—which I suppose I have, after all, resolved to be—I will say that I’ve never managed to like my cousin Anne very much. No one could really like my cousin Anne. My aunt decided when she was a child that Anne was of a sickly disposition. Whether it’s true or not, I don’t know. I’ve never known Anne to be really ill—not with any identifiable malady, at least, nor even a serious one.
But Aunt de Bourgh has convinced Anne herself of her poor health so completely that Anne does nothing but sit in the warmest place in a room, smothered in lap rugs. She scarcely ever speaks, save to talk in a dull, colourless voice of the pains in her head or her eyes or her lungs—or whatever other part of her Aunt de Bourgh has decreed is feeling poorly that day.
Tonight, I stood up and said, “Anne, we could go and have our fortunes told together, if you’d like. You needn’t go alone.”
But all the life and colour had already gone out of Anne’s face as my aunt looked at her, and she only muttered something indistinguishable and drooped upstairs to bed.
So I went over on my own to the small table where the old gypsy woman had set herself up in a corner of the room.
Seen up close, the old woman’s face was wrinkled and leathery as a dried apple, and her eyes were rheumy. Her hands were big, though—gnarled with age, but almost as strong-looking as a man’s. And she took my hand in one of hers and looked into my palm.
“Ah.” She drew in her breath and looked up into my face, nodding and bobbing her head. She had a cracked voice and spoke almost in a sing-song manner. “A happy future here, no question of that. I see a man coming into your life, my dear. He will be handsome and brave and strong and kind and wealthy, very wealthy, and—”
I suppose I was still feeling angry with my aunt—and impatient with Anne for never standing up to her—because I interrupted the old woman before she could say any more. “Hadn’t you better stop while you’re ahead?” I asked. “There aren’t all that many more nice, promising-sounding adjectives you can use to describe this mysterious gentleman.”
The old gypsy blinked at me for a second. And then she threw back her head and laughed. Her speaking voice might be cracked, but she had a nice laugh, throaty and full.
“Ah,” she said again. And then she peered more closely into my face. “Most girls I give fortunes to”—she hawked and spat right onto the carpet, which I’m sure gave my aunt fits if she was watching. “Empty-headed little dolls. They want to hear nothing but that they will meet a man. A handsome man, very rich.” She closed one eye in a wink. “Usually pay extra if I tell them they’ll be married within the year.”
I laughed at that. I found myself liking the old woman despite myself.
“But you—very well, you I will give a real fortune.” She took my hand again and looked into my palm, her whole face twisted this time into a fierce scowl of concentration. “You are strong. Stronger than you think, and with more courage than you believe yourself to have.” Her voice was no longer sing-song, but somehow it still sent a trickle of cold down my spine. “I see a change ahead for you. A change in your life, in yourself.” She closed her eyes in another wink. “I will not argue if you pay me extra, you understand. But this I would tell you in any case. You do not trust or love lightly—you do not believe you can trust your own heart or your own eyes to tell you true.” She folded my fingers over my palm and squeezed my hand, her rheumy eyes still on my face. “But I think you may trust your heart from now on, for this I will say: I see love. I see an old love returning to you, and very soon.”
Thank you for reading this sample of Georgiana Darcy's Diary! The full novel is currently available in ebook or paperback at Amazon.