A Lie Universally Hidden(4)

By: Anngela Schroeder

He looked out the window at the rolling hills of the countryside. The scenery was much different from the area he had left months before. The peaks of Derbyshire were far superior in his estimations to these simple undulations, but he could not deny their beauty. He wondered what this untamed countryside held for him for the next months while he helped Charles determine if this endeavor would be profitable.

He turned at the sound of his sister stirring only to settle back into a light slumber. My dear Georgie. How this life of ours is going to change. I only hope what our mother wanted and planned for me will bring us both happiness.

“Are we there, William?” she asked, opening her blue eyes and looking out at the passing scenery. They were the same eyes as their mother’s and he believed that was one reason he loved and protected her so.

“Not quite, dear girl,” he said tenderly. “John informed me with our early departure, we should arrive at Netherfield by ten. It will not be much longer now.” He reached in his pocket and pulled out his watch to check the time.

At sixteen years of age, Georgiana Darcy had a becoming artlessness which could be attributed largely to her brother’s protective nature. Her golden curls were pinned under her bonnet and a shy smile was present at the corners of her mouth. Fitzwilliam’s worries as her guardian were seemingly unwarranted. She was a kind, gentle girl who understood her position and the necessary restraint and decorum required as a Darcy.

“This is the second time this year your holiday has been spoiled by my plans. First, you were set to go to Ramsgate when Aunt Catherine summoned us to Rosings for July and August, and now our trip to Dublin has been postponed because of my friend. I hope you do not hold it against me?”

“Wills, how can I hold anything against you? You are the best brother I could ask for, so loving and kind. I know whatever you decide is the absolute paramount for me. Like this carriage for instance. Had you chosen an inferiorly sprung transport, I would not be able to finish our gift for Mr. Bingley!” She grinned, picked up her sewing, and continued to embroider a sampler for his friend.

He smiled at her innocence and implicit trust in him and was grateful for his ability to protect her. He had only told her the partial truth about the earlier summer trip to Ramsgate. His cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam, who had shared guardianship of Georgiana with him since Darcy’s father’s death, had gained intelligence from one of his foot soldiers that someone with a close connection to the family had been awaiting her arrival in attempts to damage her reputation in a most reprehensible manner. George Wickham.

He unconsciously clenched his fists and took a deep breath at the thought of his childhood playmate and the realization of what might have occurred. Wickham had planned to abscond with his sister—and her dowry—and he would have been eternally connected to that blaggard. As disturbing, Georgiana’s then companion, Mrs. Younge, was discovered to have been a friend to Wickham and privy to the plan all along. She was immediately dismissed from Darcy’s employ and the threat of jail loomed over her head.

Colonel Fitzwilliam and he made the decision to keep their young charge in ignorance on the near catastrophe and direct blame for the missed holiday toward their Aunt Catherine instead.

“Besides, had our holiday not been cancelled, Mrs. Younge would have been unable to assist her family in their time of distress. I do hope her father has improved.”

Darcy clenched his jaw in response.

“Yet” —Georgiana glanced at the sleeping figure next to her— “Mrs. Annesley has proven to be a reliable companion whose guidance in the month since she has been with me has been all that is proper.”

“Was Mrs. Younge’s guidance not?” he asked turning to face her.

She paused seeming to search for the correct words. “Mrs. Younge chose unorthodox methods which at times made me uncomfortable. However, I am sure she always had my best interest in mind.”

Yes, I am sure she did. A scowl creased his brow before she continued along another vein, interrupting his ruminations.

“Do you think Netherfield will be as grand as Pemberley? I so want Mr. Bingley to love his home as we love ours.”

His body relaxed as he forced Wickham and Mrs. Younge from his thoughts. “I am sure he will, poppet. But nothing could be as grand as Pemberley.”

William slyly winked at his sister and turned his attention out the window and caught sight of a young woman walking along the road. Had Georgiana been paying attention, his quick intake of breath might have surprised her. There was a flush about the young woman’s cheeks from her apparent exercise, and her skin glowed with a soft radiance. A shawl was draped over her slender arms and loose brown curls spilled from her bonnet. But it was her deep brown eyes with their thick lashes which arrested attention and held his gaze. She nodded at him with a slight smile and continued walking in the opposite direction.