Georgiana gasped, her hand at her breast. Did Wickham love her after all? She tiptoed quickly down the back stairs and opened the door from the kitchen so Wickham could come in. He swept her up into his arms and kissed her, murmuring,

"My love...oh Georgiana I thought that I might never see you again."

She hushed him. "Please keep your voice down! My brother is home!" She pushed him ahead of her to her brother's library and shut the heavy door. "Let me light a candle, then we can talk."

Wickham stood in the dark until she was able to light the candle, then stepped forward to embrace her again.

"Please do not waste time, Wickham! My brother could awaken any time. What are you doing here?"

"I came to see if you still cared for me, or if you were completely under your brother's thumb. I do not expect a daughter of the great Darcy family to care for those who have not had her advantages, but my heart persisted in hoping that you still loved me."

Georgiana looked as if she had been slapped in the face, and her retort was sharper than she realized. "Our plans over the past two weeks have hardly been an indication that the Darcy's hold themselves above other gentry, sir."

Upstairs, Darcy heard the sound of voices and jerked awake. His room was pitch dark and it was obviously not morning. After listening for a few minutes he recognized Georgiana's voice and sat up. Who was Georgiana talking to this late at night? He quickly put on his dressing gown and slipped down the stairs, avoiding the squeaky step halfway down. There was a light under the library door. He crept to the door and threw it open.

"So, Georgiana, you still persist in creeping around making plots with this ne'er-do-well, do you?"

She gaped at him, completely overborne by her shame at his discovery. "I–I...," she stopped, unable to form the words to explain.

Wickham spoke up. "She loves me, Darcy. Is that so difficult to understand? Unlike you, she is not an iceberg who can turn off her feelings the moment that her guardian says she must."

Darcy's face froze and his gaze seemed to turn inward. "My sister is not even out of the schoolroom yet, Wickham. No...gentleman...would try to encourage her to leave the protection of her brother's home and elope with him. If either of you do have genuine feelings for each other the passage of enough time for her to be presented to society and to meet men of breeding and honor will not change those feelings. The only reason for you to push her into precipitate action is that you want to injure me by ruining my sister and to obtain her dowry to keep you out of debtor's prison."

He turned to Georgiana, who was sitting mute and mortified in an over-sized leather chair, her hand pressed together in her lap. "Georgiana, I have not wanted to sully your ears with a full disclosure of this...creature's actions, but I now have no choice. Your potential husband has left a string of ruined girls behind him in every town through which he has passed, as well as a number of illegitimate children. Up until now, these girls have been the daughters of tradesmen and public house owners...people who have no recourse against someone who is able to present himself as a gentleman. He has also left a string of debts, including debts of honor, behind him as well. It will not be long before he will make England too hot for him and he will have to spend the rest of his life in obscurity overseas...unless he can convince a wealthy woman to marry him before her family discovers his true character."

Georgiana's eyes filled with tears and she ran from the room, stumbling up the stairs to her bedroom. Now she had lost the respect of her dear brother as well as her innocent...but naive and silly... love for Wickham. She never wanted to see either of them ever again. She wanted to die, to have the earth just open up and take her. Everyone would be much happier if she was no longer an albatross around their neck. Undoubtedly her brother would tell Colonel Fitzwilliam of her stupidity, if he had not already, so both her guardians would think she was a complete lack-wit, and a tart as well, willing to run off with any man who made up to her.

When she reached her room she stumbled to the dressing-room and fumbled with a flint until she could control her shaking hands long enough to light a candle. She searched frantically through the wardrobe until she found a wrap-front gown that she could fasten without the help of a maid, then quickly, jerkily dressed herself, all the time her mind thinking over and over "I must get out of here, I must get out of here..." until the words blended together into one garbled sound. Only one thing was perfectly clear to her. She could not stay and face her brother and his righteous scorn in the morning. She had shamed him and their entire family.

A light tap sounded on her door and she froze. When it was repeated, she finally said, "What?" Her brother's voice came gently through the wood, "Georgie? Are you still up? Wickham is gone. May I come in?"

Her heart pounded at his question. "NO!...no, I am in bed." She swallowed the lump in her throat and May we talk in the morning, Fitzwilliam? I am very tired."

There was a long pause, then Darcy said, "All right, we can talk tomorrow. Sleep well, my dear."

She wanted to laugh hysterically at the idea of ever sleeping again, but managed to mumble "‘night". She held her breath until his footsteps retreated to his own room, then pulled out a bandbox and put a change of clothes and her favorite trinkets and her purse in and tied a ribbon over the top to hold it closed and provide a convenient handle. The purse was heavy, but she did not know how far she could get away on the coins she had saved. Then, after she had packed as much as she could reasonably carry, she sat down on her bed and listened to the silence of the house until she thought that everyone had settled down into sleep. During her wait, she considered where she should go.

She had a few friends in London, but how could she go to them at this time of night? The thought of walking around alone in London in the middle of the night was horrifying. Who knew what sort of evil could hide in the darkness? She shivered and pulled her cloak around her more tightly, her mind spinning faster and faster as she considered and discarded ideas.

Would you like Georgiana to:
A.) Sneak out of the house and hide in the park until day, then decide what to do?
or
B.) Go up into the attic and hide there until she can face the world?