Posted on 2016-05-23
Amidst the still dark hours of an autumn morning, the windows of the great house on the most splendid estate in Derbyshire held in commoner hands glittered with the movement of candles being carried throughout the house. The entire establishment was a bustle of worried anticipation - for the lady of the manor was in the throes of bringing forth a long-awaited bough to a venerable family tree. Sir Decimal Pye, had been summoned away from his fashionable London practice to superintend the portentous birth. Dr. Portman, faithful family physician, stood by his side and the two conferred quietly while Mrs. Garson, a midwife, supplied direct assistance to the laboring mother-to-be. Julia Finch, her ladyship's personal maid, held her mistress's hand murmuring soothing words of encouragement while a parade of footmen and chamber maids marched up and down stairs and through the endless halls with basins of hot water and fresh linen.
All persons within had ample reason to regard Lady Anne's travails with anxiety. It had been ten long years since the birth of her first and only surviving child -- ten years of miscarriages, stillbirths, and ruined expectations. Irrespective of any body's feelings for the lady herself, all were concerned for the safe delivery of a male child. True, a male heir existed, but the acquisition of a second little boy was not considered excessive. For should a catastrophe befall the present heir without the security a younger brother would bring, this great house, its parks and streams, and the ruin of the ancient priory that lent the property such an air of history and contributed so much to its distinction, would then be passed to a branch of the family that all knew to be perfectly odious.
The howling wind which had cursed the night and ruined the sleep of any body allowed rest on this fearful occasion had finally begun to subside and the weak light of a gray dawn started to seep through the mullioned windows. The upper serving staff not directly engaged in the struggles above finished their tea and buttered toast in a small sitting room and made ready for the day ahead. They were Emerson, the butler, Mrs. Parfitt, head housekeeper and old Garvie, the master's valet, dozing in an armchair following the long tense night.
"What news from upstairs?" inquired Mr. Emerson to Finch, who had just entered to take some brief refreshment before returning to her mistress.
"I haven't the best of tidings, I'm afraid. Lady Anne has been laboring all this night and now is very tired. Mrs. Dearborn has gone to stay with her while I rest. But Mrs. Garson believes things are proceeding as they should. Perhaps in the end all will be well."
"And the great Sir Pye, what does he have to say?"
"Oh you know those important doctors from town, all they are good for is to stand aside and wisely nod their heads while someone else does all that is required. Now and again he whispers a word to Dr. Portman who approaches the bed, takes her Ladyship's pulse and puts his hand to her forehead. Then he and Sir Pye whisper together some more and stand and look vastly serious while it is Mrs. Garson that really has the managing of things. Of course, it is Mrs. Garson's opinion that I trust. She believes this time a healthy baby will arrive."
"And the mistress?"
"That is as may be."
"Oh dear, that does not sound promising. I feel terribly for the master. How does he?"
"He sits alone in his library, poor man. John brought up some refreshment some while ago, but I do not think he has touched a bite."
"I will see to him directly," said Emerson quietly. Then sighed, "this house surely needs this birth to come right. If there is another misfortune I fear that the family will think of spending all their time in town and shut up Pemberley until young master Fitzwilliam is of age. I will be all right -- I am sure the master would keep me on, and you, Finch, and you Mrs. Parfitt. Garvie too, but as for the lower staff, at least half will be in need of new places."
"Oh that is nonsense Mr. Steadman," cried Parfitt. "I have no fears of that kind at all. Her ladyship may be quite fond of London, and her concerts and lectures, but the master only goes up when Parliament is in session or he has some special business. They are not so much in company unless family visits. Otherwise he hates the noise, the stink and the low characters one meets everywhere in town."
"You are right as always Mrs. Parfitt. And I am forgetting that the master has a great sense of responsibility to this country. His family has been providing employment for the neighborhood since the time of William III. He would never be derelict in his duty to whom he owes the maintenance of all he calls his own. And I must say, it is wrong in us to be speaking thus at this particularly dangerous hour -- I should never have introduced the subject," Emerson replied. " We must keep our thoughts and prayers with Lady Anne and hope that all will turn out for the best. The situation seems so detrimental to her ladyship's health!" In his distress, he upset his teacup which smashed on the floor.
"What?? What !! Is something the matter?" Old Garvie, suddenly awakening, for although his master had sent away his valet at the usual time the previous evening, the caring retainer, plagued with worry as though he himself were the prospective father, had been unable get a decent night's rest.
"Calm yourself, Mr. Garvie. Things are well in hand, I assure you," said Emerson with a smile. The two had known one another and been friends for many years. "None of us have gotten much sleep and we must steal what respite we can."
In the servants hall, where much of the lower staff were finishing a hurried breakfast, a different sort of conversation ensued.
"If I have to run upstairs one more time, I will complain to Mr. Emerson, I will!"
This came from John, one of the under-footman, and his grievance was made to his mother, Mary Reynolds, who, recently promoted to assistant housekeeper and having worked for the family for upwards of six years, had obtained work in the family for her sixteen year old son despite the misgivings of Mr. Emerson, who did not believe that mother and son should work in service in the same house. But Mrs. Parfitt had over-ruled him with the master, who had a soft heart for local families in need of employment.
"Hold your tongue! Your thoughts should be with her ladyship. She is not strong and is no longer young. A little bit of exertion won't hurt you and is a trifle to what she goes through upstairs. If you were to complain to Mr. Emerson you would get a thrashing and you would deserve it! It is but two years since Lady Anne lost her last baby and the master was so down-hearted about it I thought he would never be seen to smile again. He so badly wants a brother for master Will. And where is the young master? -- he has not yet come down for his breakfast."
"Oh you know him, always up in the schoolroom polishin' up his Greek, or recitin' the capitals of Europe, or some nonsense. I don't reckon he's much interested in having a brother. Likes being the only polliwog in the pond and don't want the competition. Probably plottin' up there how he can throw the little creature over a cliff if he ever gets born!"
The others around the long deal table burst into laughter. The young master, was not generally known for his selflessness. Fully impressed with an early knowledge of his family's prestige in the country, already at ten years he tended to emulate the aloof superiority of some his more supercilious relations. His own parents were more democratic in attitude.
He had been promised by his father that if a child was safely born, after a suitable time he would be sent to the public school where his father had been educated before him. Aware that this was a place for future viscounts and earls, he was quite proud of himself and even more than usual had a hard time extracting his nose from his books. John Reynolds was quite wrong in thinking he did not want a brother. In general, the staff indulged the young master with amused tolerance, but John especially, took exception to being given orders by a little boy.
John's mother admonished him,
"It is not your business to criticize your betters even if this one is just a child and inclined to a bit of self-conceit. He is being raised for a difficult and important position and we must all make an allowance for that. One day it is likely he will be your master and it is well that you begin to learn to respect him now."
Emerson, having stepping in, overheard this exchange and added,
"Having lived in this house as long as I have, and known this family for several generations, I can assure you all that the superior blood that runs through Master Will's veins will show itself in due course. In any case John, you are not to spend your time criticizing the ways of those above you. I suggest you turn your attention to the master's boots which are much in need of polishing. Then go see what they may be in want of upstairs."
The clatter of knives and forks gradually ceased as one by one each chair scraped from the table and all were about to rise when suddenly and unexpectedly the master of the house arrived, with evident fatigue but smiling broadly.
"Please sit down every body as I have some very welcome intelligence to relate. All is quite well upstairs. Very well indeed. Your mistress has been safely delivered of .... a beautiful little girl. She is healthy, cries with wonderful strength, and has already taken her first nourishment. She shall be called Georgiana. Miss Georgiana Catherine Darcy. Thank you all for your assistance and concern during this trying time. I know your prayers have been with us. Steadman please instruct Mrs. Oliver that the staff shall be served a special dinner tonight followed by punch and I hope you will all drink toast to Lady Anne and our new daughter."
"Mr Wickham, Mr. Wickham! Have you heard the news?" Having espied her husband riding up the gravel walk toward their stable, his lady flung open the door of Pemberly Cottage, where they had lived these last ten years and ran to greet him in a most agitated manner.
"What news is this, my dear?" replied the weary land steward, dismounting his cob. He had spent the day attending to the business of his employer's vast estates and had ridden many miles for long hours in the endeavor. For some time he had been looking forward to his dinner.
"Why surely you must have heard of it! Lady Anne has been delivered of a girl!"
"Why yes.... of course ....most certainly. The village is full of the good tidings and so is the tenantry. There is little talk of anything else I assure you. I doubt it has escaped the notice of any body within ten miles of Pemberley."
"Just think of it Mr. Wickham, a girl! "What a fine thing for our son!"
"How so, my dear? How is this likely to positively affect our boy? I should think the opposite, quite frankly."
"How can you say such a wicked thing," demanded his wife in amazement.
"Why, my dear, think for a moment. The kindness and attention Mr. Darcy and Lady Darcy have lavished upon our son will most naturally be directed toward their new little one. Fitzwilliam will spend far less time with George as a matter of course since he will have a new little sister whom it will be his duty to amuse. Even the servants who seem to look upon George with such favor will take less notice of him as they attach themselves to the little girl. Surely you have quite mistaken the matter," the ever reasonable Thomas Wickham replied to his aggrieved wife.
"Nonsense!" replied she. "How can you be so tiresome? I intend that he shall marry her! I barely know where to put myself, I am in such a flutter!"
Mr. Wickham thought to himself that he wished his wife would put herself in the kitchen and begin the task of seeing to his dinner, but knowing her as he did he gently inquired,
"Is this not a little premature to be thinking of Miss Georgiana's marriage?"
"Premature! Of what can you be thinking? From the moment Miss Anne De Bourgh was born I would wager that Lady Anne was thinking of her for Fitzwilliam! She as much as said so to me one day, when I mentioned to her that my young cousin Rosabelle and Fitzwilliam looked so well as they played together at the harvest feast. Why should I not have the privilege of my own look out as well as she?"
"No body would deny you the right to your views, my dear, but consider the difference in their ages. By the time Miss Georgiana Darcy is of an age to marry our son is likely to be fully settled. "
"Rubbish!" snapped this conscientious and affectionate mother. "A difference in age is nothing! It is well known that marriages of this sort occur all the time. I have recently had a letter from my cousin in Surrey who tells me that a Miss Woodhouse, the principle gentlewoman of the village of Highbury is to marry a squire who is a full sixteen years her senior. A man called Knightley, I believe, whom she knew all her life. That's the ticket! Young girls are always falling in love with such people with whom they are closely connected. No young man is likely to be about her as much as George. Excepting Fitzwilliam, of course.
"And what of the difference of rank, my dear. Surely you cannot imagine that the daughter of a Darcy would accept the son of a land steward to be her partner in life?"
"How dare you say so! I am minded of that marriage that recently was heard of down in Northamptonshire. A Miss Fanny Price wasn't it, married her cousin - a Mr. Edward Bertram? And she of no consequence whatever! Her father a common seaman and without a farthing to her name! As you well know Mr. Darcy has made George his chosen godson. I have no doubt whatever that Mr. Darcy intends George to become a gentlemen and for all the world to regard him so. I simply cannot take your point!
"I assure you, my dear," continued the now nearly ravening woman, "George is in a most advantageous position. He is Mr. Darcy's god-son after all and of course the children will be much thrown together. Georgiana will fall violently in love with George and they will marry! George and Georgiana! How well that sounds!" She clapped her hands and laughed in delight.
"My dear, George is of an age where he is about to be sent to school. So he will not be thrown in her way except in rare occasions...."
"Even better!" exclaimed the eager mother. "His absence will increase her longing for him!"
"I see," Mr. Wickham responded in quiet measured tones. "My dear Mrs. Wickham let me dissuade you from supposing that Lady Darcy's design in giving birth to a daughter was to provide our son with a wealthy heiress and a handsome establishment. Whatever Mr. Darcy's kind patronage to our son has been and may continue to be, I assure you that it will not be such that will prevent our George from having to earn his bread. I fear that your views regarding our son are those which will lead him to expect far more than life is likely to offer him.
Now that we have this settled and we have the felicitous understanding we strive to achieve on points such as these, I must take off these dirty boots. After the wearisome day I have had, I am certainly hoping for a fine dinner this evening. Something special perhaps to celebrate the arrival of Will's new baby sister?"
Mrs. Wickham pressed her lips in a thin line whose meaning left no doubt in her husband's mind. A brief pause ensued followed by....
"I don't feel quite myself." she finally said in tight, measured tones. "A headache is beginning to make itself felt. I shall retire for a while to my dressing chamber. Perhaps you should consult Cook about your dinner."
It had long been a matter of contention between Mr. and Mrs. Wickham as to how to direct their son's future. Mr. Wickham desired that his son one day take his place as land steward to the Pemberley estates, the position in which he had acquired an esteem in the surrounding country from which he derived considerable pride. The work was hard, to be sure, but the respect and knowledge of his value to his employer was every thing to him.
The history of how Mr. Wickham had attained this position is worth the telling. In the first place he knew not from whence he came. He had been left as an infant at a small parsonage in the hamlet of Wickham, which origin was to give him his surname. He spent his early youth in the Lambton workhouse where he received a scant education. As soon as he had achieved an adequate height, he was hired by an elderly country attorney as a boy of all work. Fortuitously the old man detected in the boy an aptitude for letters and figures, a desire for improvement, and an appetite for hard work. He made him an office clerk, and took him to live with himself and his liberal wife, who, having no daughters of her own with which to concern herself, saw no danger in bringing a boy of dubious birth - a probable workhouse bastard -into her home.
The orphan thrived in this environment, his energies having been put to good use, and when the opportunity arose, the old gentlemen made him his bookkeeper and then apprentice, paying him forty pounds per annum- a sum beyond the young man's most extravagant hopes. It was only a matter of course, therefore, that as the old man knew himself to be dying, the work was performed more and more by the diligent assistant. And so Thomas Wickham, by luck and hard work became an established country attorney, well regarded by every body with whom he came to do business.
Situated thus, it was inevitable that he would come to the attention of Mr. George Darcy of Pemberley and hired for the management of the extensive estates of this fine old Englishman's seat. He had risen to heights he never had any reason to expect in life and was eager that his own son should learn that it was not necessary to be born with a silver spoon to partake of the good things this world had to offer and that there was satisfaction to be had in attaining these good things by the exertion of one's talents to earn them.
For Thomas Wickham, his wife's reception of the news of the birth of Georgiana Darcy was an evil he knew not how he would teach himself to bear. He was not blind to his son's advantages of person and temperament, and knew him to be an intelligent boy, but he was keenly alive to the reality that the absence of a traceable bloodline would greatly limit his son's possibilities in life -- not to mention the fact that he would have neither property nor fortune to recommend him to society.
The experience of his dear wife, alas, had taught her no such lesson. Of her lineage there could be no doubt. Miss Venetia Harker was the daughter of the family keeping the Horse and Crown, an inn which had remained in the hands of the Harker family since the time of King James II and which for generations had been known as the finest hostelry from which one could visit the wonders of the Peak District. The little innkeepers' daughter grew up observing the comings and goings of great ladies and gentlemen in their fine carriages with many attendants. She ogled trunks full of beautiful clothes and jewels. Over time she taught herself to ape the elegant air of the ladies, their habits of speech and bearing, and nurtured within herself longings far above the sphere for which she was intended by birth and tradition. As she grew, she learned much to her satisfaction, that she was held to be exceedingly beautiful, recipient as she was of various indiscreet offers made to her by the gentlemen to whose attention she came as she served them at the inn.
When she received her proposal from Mr. Wickham, who was by that time firmly established as land steward of Pemberley, she saw her chance to obtain at least some of the good things of life she saw arrayed before her daily at the inn. The duties imposed upon her thereof had long been burdensome. At Pemberley she anticipated a life of ease and grace; a life which, as it happened was beyond the means of a land steward, even a land steward charged with the management of the largest estate held in commoner hands in Derbyshire.
Thomas Wickham had regarded himself as a lucky man to have won the hand of Venetia Harker, a reputed beauty from a locally respected family. Could a workhouse foundling could hope for better? The unsuitability of the match made itself plain in due course. Thomas Wickham aspired to a modest way of life including prudence and restraint in the management of his personal affairs. Mrs. Wickham was a stranger to economy who, upon discovering her husband's lack of interest in fashion and fine things, showed herself capable of a withering sourness.
Mr. Wickham's attempts to check her were met with polite silence. She never opposed her husband directly in words. Sudden headaches such has the one with which she had just been afflicted would come upon her, often forcing her to keep to her bed for days at a time. The only cure for these was the arrival of a new bonnet or gown or if it be a truly extended invalidism, the promise of a trip to visit the London warehouses.
How Mr. Wickham could prevent the malign influence of his wife's determined advocacy of a life of splendid idleness from poisoning his boy's mind he knew not. The thought that his wife would attempt to teach his son that the hand of Georgiana Darcy should be his for the asking filled him with foreboding, but what could he do? He spent most of his day riding about on behalf of his employer's business, leaving George in the unsafe hands of his ambitious lady. Should he dare attempt to interfere, the menace of endless headaches stretching out over the years would leave him with no wife worth having.
"My love," Mr. Wickham had said to his wife many months ago. "I believe it is time to discuss a profession for our dear son. He is old enough for me to introduce to him some of the duties of a steward. Should he in time become my assistant, one day he may became steward to Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy as I have been steward to his father."
"My dear Mr. Wickham I cannot comprehend your thinking. Our George become a land steward and ride the country all day on an old horse and come home worn out with work? Why should he need to earn his bread? With his uncommon charms and connection to the Darcy family such as it his, surely he shall be able to marry his fortune! There is no doubt in my mind that George is destined to become a country gentleman. I beg you would put aside all ideas of teaching George that all he can look forward to is the life of a country attorney."
Mr. Wickham had no idea that throughout her marriage Mrs. Wickham had comforted herself with the following fairy tale -- that it was a GOOD thing that his her husband did not have any known relation for it was just as likely that he was the child of royalty as the child of paupers. She had ever instructed her son to regard himself as having noble blood flowing through his veins.
And from this idea she had constructed various fantastic possibilities: that his father was the love-child of a Polish countess, or the secret offspring of a pope who had been clandestinely married; that he was, the perfectly legitimate child of a noble family whose careless nursemaid had left him asleep in a handbag in a public place and then forgotten him. Indeed, Thomas Wickham had been left in something like a handbag, so this became the prevailing history in the mind of young George-- and he would wait for years to be apprised of the illustriousness of his father's forebears.
Mrs. Wickham's views concerning her son involved his becoming a country gentleman of prodigious means and vast consequence -- able to obtain for himself, and as a matter of course, for her, all the good things of life, which her husband was unable or unwilling to do. Any pride she may have taken in being the wife of a man held in high esteem in the neighborhood was overwhelmed by her frustration regarding the lack of certain accoutrements of living which were essential to her, such as her own carriage with crest and liveried footman driven by a team of six fine stallions. In her eyes her husband was a drudge -- a mere guardian to someone else's wealth.
"Well of course, I worship him as is my duty," she once said to her sister with whom she could be found drinking tea at Gosnold's Library many afternoons, "but one does feel so common always having to arrive to town in only a donkey-cart. And then of course he comes must mix with all the low types on the estates and must treat with men of business in the villages. I am not sure a gentleman has any right to expose his family to such elements. And to expect his son to do the same.....it is shameful, my dear...not to be countenanced." Small wonder her friends said among themselves that as soon as Venetia Harker moved within the shades of Pemberley she lost all memory of her own beginnings.
Mrs. Wickham had long subscribed to the notion that there was no road to a fortune as easy as marriage and now a wonderful event had occurred -- the Darcy family had produced not a second son, but an heiress! Such an opportunity should not be overlooked.
While his ailing wife retired to her chamber and dosed herself with Dr. Brodam's Nervous Cordial fortified with a drop or two of gin, Thomas Wickham was served a solitary dinner in his dressing room by a cheerful maid of all work, thirteen year old Jenny Reynolds. Jenny chatted merrily with her employer about the new developments in the Darcy family.
"La, sir, just think! A baby girl in the big house! How pleased her ladyship must be, for a girl can be her companion for life. Girls never want to be far from their mothers. Now the family will have to take on a nurserymaid to assist Mrs. Dearborn. How lucky she will be to feed and dress a baby just like a real live doll!"
"Perhaps you would like to leave us, Jenny and go over to the big house to care for Georgiana?"
"Oh, no, sir! There are too many Reynoldses already for the big house. I know for certain that Mr. Emerson would never hear of such a thing. No I am happy in my place just as it is."
"You are a very good girl, Jenny, I am sure," Mr. Wickham smiled.
"Now I suppose Mr. George and Master Fitzwilliam will be off to school as Mr. Darcy promised and there will only be you and Mrs Wickham at home."
"This is true, Jenny. The arrival of baby Georgiana will certainly bring some changes. Not all of them so desirable."
"Whatever do you mean, sir? Do you not wish Mr. George to go away to school with Master Fitzwilliam.?
Mr. Wickham was quiet for a bit as he considered how wise it was for him to confide in this simple girl before him, but alas, there was no one in whom he could unburden himself of his vexations.
"There are times I fear, Jenny, that my son is not being given the proper preparation for his sphere of life. At school he will meet with the sons of barons and earls and very wealthy men besides. Most of the boys he will come to know will never have to seek a living. That will not be the case for George. As it is he spends more time at the big house than he does in his own home. Mr. Darcy gives him a horse to ride, sees that he learns to hunt and shoot and allows George to enjoy all the pleasures of a wealthy gentleman's son. One day it will be a great shock to our George to discover that he is not a gentleman in the eyes of the great world and find that he belongs to another sphere of life entirely. Is this the way to bring up a young man who will inevitably have to earn his bread?"
"But sir, Mr. George shall have a living. Everybody knows that Mr. Darcy intends giving him one. And no one so deserving! My mother says he is the most amiable boy she ever did meet. We all say so. I shouldn't think you should have to worry about Mr. George, sir. He is a very good boy, sir. Why shouldn't the world be kind to him?" Jenny Reynolds, who never in her life had left the confines of the miniature world of Pemberley was sure that all a young man needed to get along in the world were a pair of merry blue eyes and a ready smile.
No master could have been more liberal toward his retainers than was Mr. George Darcy. He allowed his upper servants to marry, providing them with small apartments in the commodious servants' wing of the big house and, when they had children, found them cottages on his estate within easy distance from their duties. He believed that to promote loyalty and especially harmony among his staff, whose families had been associated with his family for many generations, that it was incumbent upon him to proffer such benefits. His father had done so before him and he intended to educate his son to do the same.
One lucky beneficiary of Mr. Darcy's largess was Mrs. Mary Reynolds. who had worked on the Pemberley estate since she was a girl of eleven, Her small apartment in the servants quarters was her refuge and delight.. Her son John shared a room with another footman up in the attic and her daughter, Jenny was not far away in Pemberley Cottage, although the poor girl sometime slept in her mother's chamber to get away from her mistress's dreadful tempers.
This day was Sunday, when all three had a half holiday, and were together drinking tea in Mrs. Reynolds' small sitting room. It was only three days since the birth of Georgiana and the house was still full of talk of the miracle.
"Have you seen her?" asked Jenny of her mother. "Does she look like Mrs. Darcy or Mr. Darcy? Is she tiny?"
"Very tiny, with a nose like the button on your shoe, a sweet little mouth and a dark fuzz all over her head - what passes for hair. Such a pretty little bundle, I never saw. Well, except you, my sweet, when you were so little your father could practically cradle you in his two hands together," she said fondly to her girl.
"And she will live?"
"Oh I do believe so. She looks perfectly formed, with all her little fingers and toes, feeds very, well, or so I hear from Mrs. Dearborn. She has no fears at all about her and says she is a proper little Darcy. Such a relief to the family to finally give Master Fitzwilliam a sister."
"But no brother," commented John.
"Well, perhaps not, but sisters are more than acceptable -- she will help master keep his house one day, perhaps, or make a brilliant marriage to add to the consequence of the family. That is very important too, you know."
"At least," said John with a laugh, "he won't have a jealous younger brother praying for him to fall off his horse and break his neck."
"Hush that mouth!" Mrs. Reynolds said. But then she laughed, "oh yes, and the young master won't have to worry about supporting a younger brother either. You see what goes on in his mother's family, what with there being three sons and only one heir. Primogeniture is so divisive -it's a wonder there aren't more murders in your great families. Well the Darcy fortune is safe as it stands."
"Oh no it isn't," said Jenny.
"Whatever can you mean, child." said Mrs. Reynolds, perplexed.
"Only that Mrs. Wickham intends George to have some of it," Jenny replied.
"Well George Wickham is Master Darcy's godson. I suppose you are speaking of an expectation of a bequest one day. That is not very surprising. But I certainly don't believe Master Darcy intends to leave his son with a damaged estate! That is unthinkable!
"Not a bequest. Mrs. Wickham has it in her mind that George should one day marry Miss Georgiana one day! She talks of it all the time."
"Marry Miss Georgiana!" Mrs. Reynolds and her son exclaimed almost in unison.
John, sprawled in a chair, began to dance in his chair with a grin stretched over a face that would have been handsome had it not been marred by a spotty complexion. "Oh, Lord," he began laughing. "this will be great fun to behold. Mrs. Wickham scheming to become the mother-in-law to a Darcy! I can just see it." John then began a poor imitation of Mrs. Wickham's shrill voice, "Georgie, take Miss Georgiana out for a game, give her a ride on your pony, give her a kiss!"
"Stop it now John. Someone may hear you!" She has always longed to live in this house, and not in the servant's wing, either, the housekeeper mused.
It was a matter of course for those below stairs, both upper and lower servants alike, to take a deep concern in matters concerning their employers. Indeed it was, aside from generals village gossip, the chief source of entertainment among them surpassing harvest feasts and country dancing. Exchanging intelligence sweetened their tea and seasoned their mutton stew. Nothing so delightful as sharing observations of the Master and Mistress -- his difficulties training his new hound -- her travails over her morning toilette, who received a letter, who penned one, agonies over design for a new carriage, blight in the greenhouse of exotic trees, the trite and the trivial all raked over by Emerson's minions.
For it was no small matter to have a position on one of the grandest estates in England. Oh the house parties Emerson had overseen! Oh the ladies Finch had helped to dress! Footmen could boast of having carried the travel cases of baronets and earls. Princes and kings!(or nearly so) Old Garvie himself could remember the occasion he had attended his master at Chatsworth House and, dining with the Duke of Devonshire's man, how they had debated the merits of Gilson's Sweet Oil or Rembrandt's 0intment in taming their masters' whiskers.
He and Julia Finch, who had gone to attend upon Lady Anne, had returned after that sojourn with many an interesting tale. The rumors were true, the Duke did indeed live with two ladies -- the Duchess and another Lady, very pretty, who had a husband somewhere else. Of the half dozen children about the house, of whose parentage it was not possible to be sure. This was of no moment to Mr. Fox or the many other politicians there in attendance. All was ease and informality among this group. And the gambling! There was nothing like it to be seen anywhere in the country outside the clubs in town. Such a peculiar circus -- it was strange that Mr. and Lady Darcy would choose to go there. Madame did appear on one occasion at least to be very uncomfortable indeed but gentlewoman she was she did not at all complain, but talked to Lady Foster just as if she had every right to sit at the same table as she.
No matter what one's place in the household -- assistant to an under-gardener, the newest dairy maid -- all took pride in their employment and a lively interest in the affairs of their master and mistress. And at the end of their day, going home to wife or family would be pleased to have an answer when they were asked,"how goes it with the mater? Did you see anything of Lady Anne today? Did she come out to see her plums and her pears or did she walk in her rose garden.
Talk of the Darcys were continually on the lips of servants -- after all it was these very employers that gave them stature. Mr. and Lady Darcy were the most celebrated personages in the neighborhood and every body wanted to know of them.
As may be appreciated by Mr. Emerson's swift admonishment of his fellows' speculations surrounding Lady Anne's lying in, the major domo did his utmost to squelch "loose talk" among those within his purview. But this was to little effect, as his minions were as human as any that could be found thereabouts and, as has been said by and oft-quoted observer of country society "every great family is surrounded by a network of willing spies." No Darcy secret would ever be safe for long and no aspect of family life could go unremarked. Surely the arrival of little Georgiana provided a new and welcome source of news and speculation. Her birth was the most interesting event in the neighborhood in anybody' memory since the King and Queen passed through the country on their way to Scotland.