The Wedding Party

   As weddings go, Colonel Stephen Fitzwilliam thoroughly enjoyed the occasion. He stood up for his cousin, and was the representative of his father and brother. In fact with his young cousin Georgiana, they alone represented the family. His father, the Earl, was too ill to travel such a distance to Meryton at the time. His Aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh had made it known she was not about to condescend to recognize such an alliance, and was further put out that Stephen did.

   Stephen had called for Georgiana at Pemberley and escorted her to London, where her brother Darcy was busy with his final plans and preparations for his nuptials. Darcy and Miss Elizabeth were bound for a wedding tour to Austria, as yet unconquered by the Tyrant. The Bingleys were to travel with them, the two friends inseparable, and during that time Stephen would act the responsible guardian of Georgiana, Darcy and his’ ward. So Georgiana would live in London, and be close to his Regimental barracks, thus allowing the Colonel to be able to keep an eye upon her. He would have the aid of such fine a lady as Miss Caroline Bingley to help in this regard, and also the excellent Gardiners whose acquaintance he had made during Darcy’s engagement the prior months to Miss Elizabeth Bennet.

   The Colonel’s circle was much larger, but he and Darcy had discussed thoroughly those whom Georgiana should meet and chaperone her, and these were the names they had settled on. Colonel Fitzwilliam could smile humorously as he looked to Miss Caroline Bingley in the third row of the church at Meryton, glaring, in her finest attire, for the wedding of her brother.

   The Colonel knew that Caroline almost did not make it into the select circle of chaperones for Georgiana, but finally had because she was forever attached to Charles. Charles not only the best friend of Darcy, but also those two men’s wives, sisters. Caroline would be a fixture in the circle for a long time. Though the Colonel felt sure that Elizabeth Darcy would be sending her many invitation to visit Pemberley in the years to come, for propriety’s sake, Caroline would accept as few of them as possible.             The two women seemed to have the measure of each other. As Stephen had Miss Bingley’s as well.

  Caroline was near the end of her seasons and had not snapped up a man yet. The Colonel doubted that she would. Upon first being introduced to her, he quickly saw where her sails had been set. Now that port, Darcy, had closed to her, and Caroline deftly trimmed sheets and reset course towards himself. The Colonel was wise enough to see her intentions on her sleeve, though perhaps others could not. He extricated himself from her machinations.

   Just days before, for the wedding at Meryton, the Darcy party and the Bingley party traveled together from Town. They were joined by the Gardiners who fortunately shared the Darcy coaches. It left no room for Caroline Bingley in them for she had thought to travel in the company of the Colonel. The distribution of nine people in Darcy’s two conveyances, for the Gardiners numbered four children, allowed the Colonel to ride his horse, and that was a thing he proudly surpassed his cousin at. Darcy had many advantages, but Fitzwilliam was a better seat and his stables were better also, as the Colonel of a cavalry regiment should be.

   At the first coaching stop, the eldest Gardiner boy, Jack, implored him for a ride and while the ladies refreshed themselves, the young lad showed himself fit in the saddle. The Colonel on the spot switched places with Jack for the next leg, but six miles, and the horse, Night, was tethered to the coach and four’s team. The Colonel’s man, Private Slade was atop the carriage with the coachmen and was instructed to pay close attention to the young Gardiner boy.

   The gentlemen of the party thought the allowing of young Jack a ride grand largesse and the Colonel knew his cousin delighted in the favor shown to his future family. Mr. Hurst, Bingley’s sister’s husband, good-naturedly attempted a wager with Mr. Bingley over the lad’s keeping his seat, but Charles would have none of it. Then instead Mr. Hurst offered the boy a half crown if he did keep his seat till the next coaching stop. Mr. Hurst was soundly berated by the Bingley ladies upon their return to the courtyard.

   This however allowed Stephen to spend time with Mr. Gardiner and two of his smaller children in Darcy’s barouche. He promised each child rides when they reached Meryton. He and Mr. Gardiner spent the time in animated discussion together where he found the conversation fascinating and his interest did not wander.

   “Well sir, I do admit that the reel and the rod have held a fascination for me, though perhaps not such an attachment as you have attained. I have been more to hounds during my formative years, though these last few I have been to but three meets after the season,” Stephen recounted to Mr. Gardiner who had just described the fine time he had at Pemberley enjoying Darcy’s lake.

   “Three meets a year with your other duties does seem...” The Colonel cut off Mr. Gardiner.

   “I beg your pardon, you mistake me sir for I misspoke myself. I have been to all of three meets in the last three years after the season. Indeed I have spent more time at the streams of my Fathers’, or at Pemberley and Rosings then I have to hounds. Though I have not done so there but little more than half of a dozen.”

   “Father would fish every day if he could...” the youngest Gardiner said.


 

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