Chapter 1 Posted on Tuesday, 1 August 2000
It was a glorious day, and the view from where she sat in the tree was inspiring. She was writing a letter to her eldest brother who was currently on the Continent enjoying his Grand Tour. She missed her brother terribly, as they were very close. And, he was the only member of the family who completely approved of her independent spirit. As she wrote her letter, she described the various goings on of their home, her own thoughts and feelings, and the impending visit of their uncle and his family...
"...Impending visit?" she thought. "What is the date today anyway?"
All of a sudden, the sound of an approaching carriage caught her ear. Her head snapped up, and she saw her uncle's carriage coming down the land. "Oh no! Father is going to kill me!"
The girl quickly gathered all of her writing materials together, jumped down from the tree, and ran as quickly as she could toward the house. She knew she would be dirty by the time she reached the house, but there was nothing to be done about that now.. The punishment would be far worse if she were not there to greet her relatives.
She made it to the house in good time. "Perhaps," she thought, "I may be able to get cleaned up and make my appearance with no one being the wiser."
Vain thought, indeed. As soon as she entered the house, her father stepped out of his library. The look on his face was a mixture of amusement and anger. He loved his daughter's independent spirit, yet he also believed in exercising a certain degree of propriety; especially for a girl that would occupy an important position in society.
"Child," he said patiently, "you look an absolute fright. Are you aware that your uncle and his family are arriving today?"
"Yes, sir. As a matter of fact, I saw their carriage coming down the lane. I ran as fast as I could to be here to receive them with the rest of the family. I should have just enough time to wash up and be made presentable for their arrival."
Her father smiled and told her to be quick about cleaning herself up. She ran up the stairs and quickly got to work.
Her father could never stay angry with her for long. She was lively and independent, yet she was also sweet and intelligent, and knew what was expected of her. She was also always willing to do anything to please her father.
Soon enough, the guests pulled up to the front of the house. All the family that were at home gathered to greet the new arrivals; all excepting the girl upstairs desperately trying to finish her toilet. She was squirming around so much that her maid was having a hard time finishing her hair.
"Be still for one more minute, miss, and I'll have done." said the flustered woman.
"Very well, but do please hurry! Father will be extremely vexed if I am not down to greet my uncle and his family."
"There, there, child. It will all be well. I daresay this is a record time for getting you cleaned and ready. Now, just one more pin, and...we are finished."
"Thank you," the girl almost screamed as she jumped out of the chair and ran out of her room.
When she reached the top of the staircase, she cold hear her uncle ask, "And where is our other little niece. not out climbing another tree? Or perhaps she is running through the fields again?'
From where she stood, she could see her father's face darken ever so slightly as her uncle made this little speech. So, deciding to put her father's mind at ease, the girl ran down the stairs calling out, "Here I am, Uncle."
The girl's uncle stood with outstretched arms, waiting to greet his favorite niece. She was soon jumping into those arms and giving her uncle a kiss on the cheek in greeting.
"Hello, Uncle! It is so good to see you again!"
"And you too, dear. Let me look at you. My, you have certainly grown of late. You look lovely, my dear."
"Thank you, Uncle."
The girl then turned to give her aunt and young cousin a hug and kiss in greeting. Everyone was laughing at her obvious excitement to see her relatives; that is everyone but one young man who was standing somewhat apart from the group.
The young man's uncomfortableness was noticed by the girl's father. Being very fond of the young man, and not liking to see him uncomfortable in their home, he turned to his daughter and said, "Darling, are you not going to greet your other cousin?"
The girl stopped her laughing abruptly, replacing her bright smile with a much more serious look. She turned to her other cousin and addressed him rather coolly with, "Cousin, I trust you had a pleasant journey?"
The girl got somewhat upset at the brevity of his answer. It always bothered her that he never spoke more than two words to her unless he was scolding her for something he felt was inappropriate. She tried again.
"I hope your are well, Cousin Fitzwilliam."
"I am, Elizabeth."
Chapter 2 Posted on Friday, 11 August 2000
The entire group of relatives remained silent for a few moments following this exchange. Elizabeth looked at her cousin with a mixture of amusement and frustration. Her Uncle Darcy looked at her with a large smile on his face. Her father looked on somewhat confused and upset that his daughter could be so cold to her cousin. The rest of the group merely watched, eager to see what would be said next.
Nothing explosive occurred, as Elizabeth recollected her duty to her family and said to her cousin in a lighter tone, "I am happy to see you well, cousin. It would not do for you to travel to Cambridge later this month if you were unwell."
The group soon dispersed and retired to their individual activities. The Darcys retired to their bedchambers for a rest before dinner, and the Garlands all dispersed to finish what they had been doing before the arrival of their guests.
Elizabeth ran up to her room to gather her writing materials and then took herself off to the garden to finish her letter to her brother.
"...My dear brother, I am sorry I broke off so abruptly above. The mention of our uncle's visit brought to mind that they were actually arriving today. Well, they have arrived and are now resting before dinner. I have come into the garden to finish this letter to you. I thought the garden best because I would not be tempted to climb another tree or would I be forced to cross one of the fields. I am sure that papa would absolutely kill me if I entered the house covered in mud twice in one day!
Alexander, you have no idea how much I am looking forward to your return. I miss our walks and long conversations very much. I am especially impatient to learn how to ride a horse( you know of what I speak).
Well, let me inform you of the state of our Darcy relatives. Everyone is exactly the same. While my heart rejoices in this fact with regard to three members of the family, it revolts with regard to the fourth.
Whatever happened to cousin Fitzwilliam, brother? I remember only a few years ago he was always willing to play with me, help me climb a tree, etc. In short, he used to have fun. But, in the past two years, he has turned into a proud, rude, and arrogant young man, and I cannot stand him! All he does is criticize me, brother! How am I to fein happiness at having him here when the mere thought of our dear cousin puts me in a foul temper? But, for father's sake, I will exert all of my self-control to behave like a proper young lady in Fitzwilliam's presence.
Again, dear brother, be assured that we are all well, and miss you exceedingly. We all long for your return, me especially. I hope this letter finds you in excellent health and I hope to hear from you soon.
Your devoted sister,
Elizabeth Anne Garland
After Elizabeth finished sanding and sealing her letter, she looked up and was startled to see the very cousin she had been complaining about standing over her and scowling. She arched one eyebrow and said, "Yes, cousin? What can I do for you?"
He replied in a grave tone, "Dinner is being held for you. Your father sent me to collect and usher you into dinner without further delay. Really, Elizabeth, must you always disregard the basic precepts of polite society?" He said the last statement in such a sneering tone that Elizabeth could not hold her temper in check any longer.
"Truly, cousin," said she with not a little hostility, "I was completely unaware of the lateness of the hour since I seem to have forgotten my watch. I was just ready to return to the house when you so graciously appeared to 'collect' me. And, really, Fitzwilliam, must you always be such a rude and disagreeable person?"
With that said, Elizabeth stalked off in front of him. He stood completely still for a moment, wondering what he had said or done to deserve such a vehement response from his young cousin. He could see nothing wrong in his behavior and so shook his head and walked toward the house.
Dinner passed rather quietly in the Garland household that evening. The Darcys, being still quite tired from their journey, retired early that evening, leaving the Garlands to occupy themselves in their customary manner.
Lord Arthur retired to his study to take care of estate matters, while the rest of the family remained in the drawing room. Lady Francine had taken up her needlework while Jane and Jonathan played at cards. Elizabeth, as usual, was comfortably stretched out on the sofa reading a book.
Before long, the family retired for the evening, and everyone fell into a peaceful slumber that would not be disturbed until the sun rose the next morning.
Chapter 3 Posted on Sunday, 13 August 2000
The Darcy's visit with the Garlands passed quickly and quietly. Elizabeth spent most of her time occupying her young cousin, Georgiana. And, when not playing with Georgiana, she spent her time wandering the estate in hopes of avoiding the other cousin.
Fitzwilliam, for his part, spent most of his time with the second son of the Garland family, Jonathan. The two were of the same age, and had spent a good portion of their childhood playing together. They were very close, and at the end of the Darcys' visit, they were to travel together to Cambridge, where they would begin their studies.
One day during the last week of the visit, Jonathan and Fitzwilliam were riding through the fields of the Garland estate. All of a sudden, Fitzwilliam saw a young girl, with long, dark, curly hair blowing behind her, running toward a tree. He stopped his horse and watched as the girl deftly scurried up the tree and placed herself on one of the branches. He knew the girl was his cousin Elizabeth, and wondered for the thousandth time on this visit, why she disliked him so very much.
He turned to Jonathan, who had pulled up beside him, and asked, "Jon, can you tell me why your sister despises me so?"
Jonathan, who was closest to the eldest of his two sisters, immediately thought his cousin was referring to Jane. With a rather confused look on his face, Jonathan replied, "William, what on earth are you speaking of? My sister doesn't hate you. Indeed, I don't think Jane could possibly hate anyone."
William's response was tinged with annoyance, "Not Jane, you fool! Elizabeth. What have I ever done to make her so openly hostile toward me?'
"Oh," Jonathan said. "Well, William, I don't really know. Maybe its because you scold her so much these days."
"I wouldn't scold her if she behaved as she ought."
"What, do you refer to her uncanny love of being up a tree?" Jonathan asked while chuckling.
"Yes. And not only that. She is ten years old, and yet she runs about the estate completely alone. She could be hurt and no one would know unless she was late for dinner. And, she is entirely too outspoken for one of her age, don't you think?"
By the time William finished this little speech, Jonathan was laughing so hard that it took him a few moments to recover before he could respond. When he was again master of himself, Jonathan said, "Good god, man! What has happened to you? You have certainly grown serious of late. Have you been spending time with your Aunt Catherine lately, because you sound like her."
William, visibly upset by this jab, started to protest, but Jonathan cut him off.
"Come, William, you know that Lizzy can take care of herself. Alex has certainly seen to that! And, with regard to your scolding her, it won't work. She won't listen to anyone scolding her unless it's father. Lizzy will turn out to be a perfect lady, even if some of her pursuits are, how shall I say it, a little unorthodox. She does things like climb trees, run about the fields or take walks by herself on her own time. But, when in the society of others, she is perfectly behaved, as you have no doubt witnessed. Don't trouble yourself about my little sister. Now, let's be off, because we have a lot to do before we leave for Cambridge in three days."