I have never had a blog before, so this is a learning experience.  I plan to post chapters of stories I am working on, please feel free to give me you opinion.

There is the first two chapters of my newest story, Saving Elizabeth Bennet.

 

Chapter 1

The master’s study of Darcy House was in a continuous state of business.  Fitzwilliam Darcy was in the midst of several business ventures, throwing himself into work to sooth his aching heart and restless mind.

The New Year had come, and still, he could not escape the fine eyes which had bewitched him in the country neighborhood of Meryton.  Darcy had joined his closest friend, Charles Bingley, at the estate Bingley had leased.  The estate, Netherfield Park, was located a mere three miles from Meryton.  The nearest neighbor was the estate of Longbourn, home of the Bennet family.

Darcy had no intentions to find love in the small community, as there were no members of the neighborhood of high society, therefore none worthy of Darcy’s notice.  This knowledge did nothing to quell his desire for a country squire’s daughter, by the name of Miss Elizabeth Bennet.  So unlike other ladies he had known, Elizabeth Bennet was impertinent, intelligent, well read, and quite unlike any other woman he had ever met.  She did not fawn over him, in fact, she made her feelings for him quite clear.  In a conversation he overheard, when she was speaking with her close friend, Charlotte Lucas, Elizabeth stated clearly that she would only marry for the deepest sort of love.  And she was obviously not in love with Darcy.

No matter how much he worked, he could not erase her beautiful, sparkling eyes from his mind.  He caught himself woolgathering often during the daytime, and at night, his dreams were filled with Elizabeth.

Some would claim Elizabeth was not attractive, and in comparison to her elder sister, Miss Jane Bennet, she was not a classical beauty.  But, in his opinion, Elizabeth was the most handsome woman of Darcy’s acquaintance.  Her dark chocolate curls framed her face perfectly, and Darcy dreamed many a night of holding her in his arms and twirling her curls around his fingers.

Elizabeth was petite, nearly as tall as most ten year old boys, though she had the most luscious curves in all the right places, which made Darcy wild with desire.  There were times, when in her presence, Darcy would require the careful placement of a book or pillow to conceal the effect she had on his anatomy.

But it was Elizabeth Bennet’s eyes which struck deep in Darcy’s soul.  Penetrating brown eyes with flecks of gold, sparkling while she laugh or teased.

And tease, she did.  Darcy loved the debates he had shared with Elizabeth, as she gave as good as she took.  Most woman would not voice their opinions so openly.

Darcy attempted to change the course of his thoughts.  His friend, Charles Bingley, would be arriving soon.  Bingley had fallen in love with Jane Bennet, and since they had parted, he had been miserable.  The reason for his removal from Netherfield was due to his sisters and Darcy.  Miss Caroline Bingley and Mrs Louisa Hurst did not wish to see their brother married to the likes of Jane Bennet.  The aspired to have him married to a lady of the upper circle of society, which would benefit them all.  The Bingley wealth was derived from trade, which was looked down on by many of the ton.  If Bingley were to marry someone from society, it would improve the standing of the entire family, making people see beyond the taint of trade attached to them.

Assisting Miss Bingley and Mrs Hurst in persuading Bingley from remaining at Netherfield, Darcy insisted that Jane Bennet showed no attachment to his friend.  He admitted that she smiled and was kind, but Darcy was of the opinion that she felt nothing more for Bingley.  Jane’s mother was the sort of matchmaking mamma who pushed her daughters towards eligible young men, and Mrs Bennet had set her cap on Jane marrying Mr Bingley.  Darcy was able to convince his friend, though, deep in his heart, Darcy knew his own reason for escaping Netherfield was his growing attraction to Elizabeth.  If truth be told, the main reason he wished to remove his friend was for one simple fact. If Charles Bingley was to marry Jane Bennet, Darcy would often be in the presence of Elizabeth.  He could not have that.

~~ ** ~~

Elizabeth Bennet sat on the sofa in the parlor of the home of her Aunt Helen and Uncle Edward Gardiner. The past month had been the most difficult in her life.  Her mind flowed back to the end of November, a little over a month prior, when her entire family had been at the Netherfield ball.  Watching her sister dancing with Mr Bingley had been joyful, knowing Jane was quite smitten with her admirer.  Elizabeth was certain that he would ask for Jane’s hand, as it was clear he held affection for the eldest Bennet daughter.  But Mr Bingley left the following day for Town and never returned to Netherfield.  Bingley had told Jane he would return by the end of the week, as he had business in London, but it would not take him more than three days to accomplish.  Unfortunately, it was improper for an unmarried man and unmarried lady to correspond, so there was no possibility of his writing to Jane to inform her of a change in his plans.

But now it did not matter.  Now, the lives of the Bennet family had been changed forever.  The week after the Netherfield Ball, Mr and Mrs Bennet, as well as their daughters Lydia and Jane, were coming home from their neighbor’s home.  The Gouldings lived two estates away from Longbourn. Mary and Kitty Bennet, third and fourth born daughters of Thomas and Fanny Bennet, had been ill, and Elizabeth stayed home to tend to her sisters.  The carriage never arrived home.  The following morning, the overturned carriage was found, with only one survivor inside.  Jane Bennet was alive, though she was badly injured.

It was learned that the Bennets had not died as a result of the carriage accident.  They each had been shot.  A band of highwaymen had attacked the carriage, and were highly disappointed in the lack of loot to be pilfered from them.  One of the men suggested taking Jane and her youngest sister, Lydia, with them, only to be met with refusal for them to lay a finger on the girls. Mr Bennet and his carriage driver protested, attempting to protect the young ladies.  Even Mrs Bennet placed herself between the highwaymen and her daughters, in an attempt to save them.  Angry with the situation, the leader of the band of men shot Mr Bennet in the chest.  Mrs Bennet screamed, drawing attention to her and making her the next victim. The driver had pulled the weapon he kept hidden, and prepared to take aim, when he was struck by a bullet.  Realizing they would never be able to profit from this ordeal, and that Jane and Lydia would possibly be able identify the men, both of the sisters were shot.  The horses were then spooked, dragging the carriage in a dangerous manner, until it overturned.

Jane Bennet had received a bullet which ended up next to her spine.  The apothecary in Meryton had suggested Jane be seen by a physician.  The only problem was the new heir of Longbourn.  The Bennets had been unfortunate enough to have no son, and, as there was an entail on the estate which forbid the inheritance being given to a female, the estate would pass to Mr William Collins, distant cousin to Mr Bennet.

Mr Collins had recently been at Longbourn, in pursuit of finding a wife from amongst the Bennet sisters. The morning after the Netherfield Ball, Mr Collins had proposed to Elizabeth, a proposal which was quickly denied.  The greasy haired clergyman was a foolish man, filled with pomp and circumstances, but no intelligence.  He also groveled at the feet of his patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh.  Elizabeth could not see herself married to such a man, and her father had agreed with her.  So, against her mother’s wishes, Elizabeth turned down the marriage proposal. After being turned down by Elizabeth, Mr Collins refused to remain at Longbourn.  Fortunately, Charlotte Lucas had come visiting from her home of Lucas Lodge.  She offered for Mr Collins to join her family for dinner, and the clergyman quickly accepted the invitation.  Two days later, Mr Collins and Charlotte Lucas were engaged to be married.

With the death of Mr Bennet, Mr Collins became the heir.  After being turned down by Elizabeth, Mr Collins was vindictive.  He demanded the Bennet daughters removed from their family home before their loved ones were even laid to rest.  Mr Collins had even been so cruel as to insist they leave with only the personal items they could carry in their arms.  Fortunately, Charlotte was able to intervene and convince him to allow the sisters to pack their personal belongings and Sir William Lucas, Charlotte’s father, used his wagon and carriage to convey to Town, delivering the sisters and their belongings to the Gardiner home.

The journey had been difficult on Jane, jarring her about constantly.  Elizabeth swore under her breath that she would make certain Mr Collins was repaid for his “generosity”.  Arriving at Gracechurch Street, in Cheapside, the Bennet sisters were gathered into the small parlor of the Gardiner residence.

Mrs Gardiner was beside herself.  How would they be able to take care of so many people in their small home?  The Gardiners had four small children of their own, and now, they would have four nieces, one of whom would require expensive medical treatments.  But what choice did the Gardiners have.  They loved the Bennets, especially Jane and Lizzy.  And there was nowhere else for the young ladies to go, as their only other relations was Mrs Bennet’s sister, Mrs Phillips, and her home was even smaller.

Elizabeth insisted on staying in Jane’s room, allowing Kitty and Mary to share the room in the attic.  She knew her aunt and uncle would be stretched thin tending to Jane, not to mention the younger sisters.  Within days of arriving at the Gardiner home, orphaned and devastated, Elizabeth decided she would find employment, and would give the funds to her aunt and uncle, to pay for the care of her sisters.

“Lizzy, it is not necessary for you to work.” Mr Gardiner said.  “My business will pick up, and we can economize to make do until then.”

“The bill for the physician tending Jane will be extensive, Uncle.  It is within my power to aid in paying for Jane’s care, as I am able to work.” Elizabeth replied.  “It will also make it easier on you and Aunt Helen to have one less mouth to feed.  I appreciate all you have done for us, but I must do what is best for my sisters.”

“Where will you look for employment?  What sort of position will you search for?”

“I was thinking governess or companion, perhaps even a shopkeeper’s assistant.  There should be some sort of work for someone such as me.” Elizabeth was hopeful.

“Very well.” Mr Gardiner said reluctantly.  “I pray there is a situation which is proper and safe for you.  There are far too many unsavory types in Town.”

“After what we have seen in Hertfordshire, there are far too many unsavory types everywhere.”

~~ ** ~~

Elizabeth was able to locate a position as a companion to a young lady named Miss Lucy Armstrong, the daughter of an extremely wealthy tradesman.  Lucy’s mother had died when she was twelve, and now that she was preparing to come out in society, Mr Armstrong was wishing for a companion to assist his daughter.  Being the daughter of a gentleman, Elizabeth was exactly what he had wanted.

The only problem was, he wanted more than just a companion for his daughter.  He wanted a companion for his bed as well.  The weeks which followed found Elizabeth using every polite manner in refusing her employer’s advances.  Then, one day, Mr Armstrong called Elizabeth into his study.

“Miss Bennet, I am disappointed in your behavior.”

“How so, Mr Armstrong?  Have I not been diligent in keeping Miss Armstrong’s studies current?” Elizabeth asked, frowning slightly.

“Miss Bennet, you have failed to understand all your duties.  I have come to a decision that you must be informed in a more direct manner.” Mr Armstrong declared, moving closer to Elizabeth’s chair.  “So, every day, at four in the afternoon, you will come here, to my study, for your instructions.  Do you understand me?” He leered at her, his eyes focused upon her décolletage.

“Mr Armstrong, I am a proper gentlewoman.  I am not a courtesan. If you wish for someone to warm your bed, I am afraid I am not such a lady.”

“Then you will be dismissed without reference.  And I will spread the word throughout Town that it was you who attempted to compromise me into marrying you.” Mr Armstrong reached out his hand and delicately traced his fingers along her jawline.  “Come, Miss Bennet, would you not wish to be taken care of by someone who is able to pay you for your services, or would you prefer to be unable to find work?  You would be begging in the street in no time at all, and then you would beg for me to take you back.”

His hand slipped down to her shoulder, sliding downward, towards her décolletage.  Seeing the intent in his eyes, Elizabeth attempted to stand from her chair, but was held down by the pressure of his other hand wrapped around her throat.  She could barely breathe, and was desperately attempting to break his hold on her.  Her fingers dug into his arm as she prayed her would not kill her.  “You will not disobey me.  I am the Master of this house, and will not tolerate any of my servants to disobey me.”

As she continued to claw at his arms, pushing with all her might to release the pressure from her throat, Mr Armstrong reached up with one hand, bringing it down hard to backhand Elizabeth’s face.  His ring cut a deep gouge on Elizabeth’s right cheek.

There was a knock on the door of his study, and Mr Armstrong called out to be left alone.  The footman on the other side stated that Mr Armstrong’s business partner had arrived and wished to speak with him on a matter of utmost importance.  “Take him to the blue drawing room.” Mr Armstrong growled.

Just then, Elizabeth became daring enough to bring her knee upwards, making contact with Mr Armstrong’s private and most sensitive area.  Howling from pain, Mr Armstrong continued to choke Elizabeth, smacking her face over and over again.

Suddenly, someone was pulling Mr Armstrong away from Elizabeth, shouting at him to refrain, and then scooped Elizabeth into his arms, carrying her from the room.  Elizabeth could keep her eyes open no longer, succumbing to blackness as she lost consciousness.

~~ ** ~~

Knocking on the door of the elegant townhouse, Bingley begged to know if Darcy or his sister, Miss Georgiana, were at home.

The butler, Mr Jarvis, replied that Miss Darcy was in residence, though Mr Darcy had left that very morning for Pemberley and would not be returning for several weeks.  “Would you ask Miss Darcy if she would see me?  It is a matter of utmost urgency.” Bingley declared.

Moments later, Georgiana Darcy entered the foyer.  “Mr Bingley, it is a pleasure to see you. I am afraid my brother has left for Pemberley.”

“Mr Jarvis already informed me of such.  I have a delicate matter to discuss with you and it must be done quickly.  I have just come from the home of one of my business partners.  He will soon be my former business partner, for his behavior today.  I was forced to intervene on the behalf of a young lady who was employed by him as a companion for his daughter.  It seems the man felt the young lady was to be his companion as well.  Forgive me, I know it is an impolite subject to discuss with a young lady, such as yourself.  But the young lady is in terrible shape.  She could not even tell me her name, and is in need of medical attention.  I cannot take her to my home, as Caroline and Louisa are in Scarborough.  Would you allow me to bring her inside, and send for a physician to tend to her?  I will pay for all her care, it is only a place for her to stay that is needed.”

“Of course, Mr Bingley, bring her in at once.  Brother might not approve, but I am acting as the Mistress of Darcy House, therefore I will make the decision.” Georgiana had recently taken on some of the duties of Mistress, to prepare for her future and to be of assistance to her brother.

Bingley hurried out to his carriage, taking his great coat and wrapping it around the young lady, before lifting her into his arms and carrying her inside the townhouse.  Georgiana called out to the housekeeper, Mrs Jarvis, to bring water, cloths and her bag of medicines, as well as send for the physician.  She then led Bingley up the stairs and into one of the guest rooms.

Carefully, Bingley placed the injured young lady on the bed, pulling back the coat to allow her face to be seen.  Georgiana gasped at the sight.  Both of the young lady’s eyes were swollen shut, and there was bruising nearly covering her entire face.  A cut below her right eye was still bleeding.  As Georgiana reached to pull the coat back from the rest of the young lady, Bingley’s hand took hold of hers and staid it.

“Miss Darcy, perhaps it would be best if you were to step from the room.  Some of her injuries are not proper for a gentle born lady to witness.”

Frightened, Georgiana could not imagine why someone could be so cruel to another human, especially a young lady.  Nodding her head in agreement, she stepped back from the bed.  Mrs Jarvis entered the room with two maids, and shooed Bingley and Georgiana from the room.

“Forgive me for bringing you such a fright, Miss Darcy.  I just did not know where else to take her.”

“Fear not, Mr Bingley.  After all that young lady has endured, I believe she is deserving of compassion and care.”

“You are so like your brother.  Should I send him an express, informing of my imposing upon your kindness?” Bingley inquired.

“I will write to him, though it does not need to be an express.  He will be quite busy, as his steward informed him of three tenant houses which collapsed under the heavy snow Derbyshire has accumulated in the past week.  By the time he returns, hopefully, this young lady will be recovered.”

“I can only pray you are correct.  I plan to return to the house where this happened, collect her belongings and bring them here.  I doubt very much that she will ever wish to be in that house again.” Bingley spat his words, furious at what had occurred.

“Do you know what the young lady’s name is? Perhaps she has family we should contact.” Georgiana was concerned.

“I will see what I can learn from my former business partner.”

~~~~~~~ ** ~~~~~~~

 

Chapter 2

Bingley arrived at the Armstrong home, but was denied entrance.  The butler stated his master was not receiving anyone.  “I wish to collect the belongings of the young lady who I removed from here.  I will deliver them to her.”

“Mr Armstrong was furious when you removed her, and had all her belongings tossed into the rubbish bin.  My wife had no alternative but to do as instructed.”  The butler disapproved of his master’s behavior and was appalled by what had happened, but feared for his own position.  Leaning carefully, he whispered to Bingley. “My wife placed them in a trunk near the mews.  We thought someone would come for them.  Please know, there was nothing either of us could do to protect the young lady.  If we had, we would have lost our positions here.”

“I understand, truly I do.  I am in business with Mr Armstrong, but, after seeing what he was doing to her, I could not stand by and allow it.  Do you know the young lady’s name?”

“Miss Benson, I believe.  She is orphaned and supporting her sisters, though I known not where they are.”

Bingley shook his head.  “Hopefully, I will learn more when the young lady wakes.”

“We will pray for her, Sir.”

Bingley nodded his head and motioned for his men to collect the trunk which had been deposited behind the townhouse.  With the trunk secured on his carriage, Bingley requested his driver to return them to the Darcy townhouse.

~~ ** ~~

Mr Gardiner entered his home to find his wife in a worried state.  “What is wrong, dearest?  Has Jane taken a turn for the worse?”

“No, Jane is holding her own.  It is Lizzy.  She was to come today to visit her sisters, and we have not seen or heard from her.  It is not like Lizzy to not let us know if her plans are changed.  She knows Jane looks forward to her visits.”

“I should never have allowed her to find work.  We could have made do, we have done so before.” Mr Gardiner declared.

“I understand Lizzy’s desire to be of assistance to our family.  Mary and Kitty are too young to find work, and Jane is unable to do much of anything.”

“What did the physician have to say today?”

“The paralysis is most likely permanent.  The bullet cannot be removed, being so close to the spine.  If they were to dig around for the bullet, they could do more damage than is already done.”

Mr Gardiner shook his head.  “I wish we could learn who those men were, bring them to justice.  My dear sister, her husband and their youngest child slain in such a manner.  I could never feel safe traveling in Hertfordshire again.  Jane said there were five or six men, you would think that a group that large would come to the notice of someone.”

“What disturbs me more is Mr Collins’ behavior.  To throw the girls out of their home before the funeral could even be arranged, how truly shocking.  Not to mention forcing Jane to travel in her condition.”

“I am pleased that Charlotte Lucas had the decency to intervene on their behalf.  She also collected locks of hair, to have rings and lockets made in memory of Fanny, Thomas and Lydia.” Mr Gardiner informed his wife.     “Charlotte was disturbed by her betrothed’s behavior towards the girls.  She had her father write to me, informing me that she would have the rings and lockets prepared for the girls.  It will be expensive, but I will send her the funds to cover the purchase.  Lizzy, Jane, Mary and Kitty deserve to have the remembrance pieces.”

“I will take in some sewing from Mrs Hasting’s shop.  She is always in need of an extra pair of hands, and I can work from home.” Mrs Gardiner announced.

“You have so much to do as it is, Helen.  I could not stand to see you do more.  I have a meeting next month with Mr Darcy.  He is looking to invest in a venture and was directed to contact me.  If we can make ends meet for another month or two, perhaps all will be well.  We can only hope and pray.”

“You are a good man, Edward.  Though it is a strain on our family, I cannot imagine not having the girls here.  Kitty is being helpful with children, and Mary is so good with tending to Jane’s needs with Lizzy away.  They have helped me tremendously, which is why I felt I could take in the sewing for Mrs Hastings.  Mary is also becoming quite proficient at her stitch work, so she would be able to assist me while she is sitting with Jane.”

“Well, I am going to my study and work on my books.  I will see you at dinner.  And do not fret over Lizzy.  I am certain she will send a message later or come by tomorrow.”

Mrs Gardiner sighed.  “I will pray she does.”

~~ ** ~~

Bingley arrived at Darcy House as the physician was preparing to leave.  Mr Johnston was an elderly man, and had known the Darcy family for many years.  After becoming close friends with Darcy, Bingley began utilizing Mr Johnston’s services as well.

“Ah, Bingley, I am glad you are here.  I was informed that it was you who rescued the young lady upstairs.”

“I did.  How is she?” Bingley asked.

“Perhaps we should step into the drawing room.” Mr Johnston’s expression was extremely concerned.  Once inside the nearby drawing room, and the door was shut, Mr Johnston described what he found.

“The young lady was beaten severely.  I believe her right cheekbone was fractured, and both of her eyes are swollen to the point she cannot open them.  Her jaw appears to be broken as well, so she cannot open her mouth.  I have bandaged her head to keep her jaw in place.  It will need to be kept so for at least six weeks.  She will only be able to partake of broths and liquids.  Her right hand was injured as well, so I have it bandaged.  Her throat is tender, and she cannot speak.  The monster who did this should be hung.  To treat a young lady in such a manner is contemptible.  Have you notified the authorities of this matter?”

Bingley shook his head.  “I have not, as I went back to confront the man who was responsible.  I was only able to recover the young lady’s belongings. The man refused to allow me into his home.  Do we know if he…if he…”

“His intent was clear, but she still has her virtue.  The coward.  He should be made to pay for his crime.  Do you know the young lady’s name?”

“The butler told me her name is Miss Benson.  He knew she has sisters, and she is orphaned.  He did not know where her sisters are to be found.” Bingley was distressed.  “I can imagine they will be worried, when do not hear from her.  I had hoped that Miss Benson could tell us more, but if she cannot speak and her hand is injured, how is she to tell us where her family is?”

~~ ** ~~

All she could hear was the voices of a man and at least two ladies, all mumbling.  She could not make out what they were saying.  All Elizabeth knew was the severe pain she felt.  How could she possibly be alive, for she felt as if her head had been trampled under a stampede of horses?

Every movement made her wish to cry out in pain, but the act of crying out was far too painful to do.  Where was she?  What had happened?  She remembered being in Mr Armstrong’s study, and his attack on her person.  Then everything went black.  All she wished for was to see her family once again.  What would they do with her, for there was no room at the Gardiner house for another invalid?  She could feel tears building at the thought of the expense she would bring to her uncle and aunt.

A glass was held to her lips, and she was encouraged to drink.  Painfully, she was able to take the liquid in and swallow.  The taste was vile, but she soon felt drowsy.  Soon, everything was lost to the relief the laudanum allowed her to find.

~~ ** ~~

Two days had gone by, and still the Gardiners had received no word from Elizabeth.  Mr Gardiner decided to visit the Armstrong home, wishing to speak with his niece.  The butler answered the door, and informed Mr Gardiner that his niece no longer worked for the Armstrongs. When Mr Gardiner asked where she had gone, the butler looked around, frightened to be found speaking to this man.

“Sir, if Mr Armstrong learns I have spoken to you, I will be terminated without reference.  He is a harsh man.”

“Please, we have had no word from my niece and are concerned.  Can you tell me nothing?”

The butler shook his head.  “All I know is that one of Mr Armstrong’s business associates removed your niece from here.  I do not know his name or where he lives.  All I know is what I saw.”

Mr Gardiner was devastated.  Handing the butler his card, Mr Gardiner spoke.  “If you learn anything of the man or my niece, would you please contact me?  I am quite concerned.”

Nodding, the butler insisted that was all he could do.

Many thoughts ran through Mr Gardiner’s mind, so many terrible things which could have befallen his niece.  How was he to ever tell his wife the news he had?  It would only bring her more anguish.  And Jane, poor Jane, would be devastated.  She was in such a delicate condition as it was, and felt responsible for her sister finding work.  News of Lizzy’s disappearance would be damaging to Jane’s frail health.

~~ ** ~~

Fitzwilliam Darcy was exhausted.  It had been several days of hard work, as he stood side by side with his men, rebuilding the homes which were damaged by the heavy, wet snow.  Fortunately there had only been a few minor injuries.  After the rebuilding was complete, he had several other issues to contend with, before he could return to London.

Having just finished bathing, Darcy was sitting in a chair by the fireplace in his room.  The book in his hand was unable to hold his interest, as thoughts of his beautiful vixen from Longbourn continued to plague his thoughts.

Finally giving up on the words he was trying to read, Darcy sat the book on a nearby table.  Standing, Darcy found himself drawn to the room which connected to his bedchamber.  Opening the door, Darcy stepped inside.  The Mistress’ chambers had been unused since his mother died, shortly after Georgiana’s birth.  The room was decorated in pastel colors, making the room feel as if it were a meadow on a spring day.  Darcy could imagine Elizabeth in the room, as she was fond of spending time outdoors.  How he wished he could bring her to Pemberley.  He dearly wished he could marry her and bring her to his beloved estate.  But he knew his family would never approve of such a marriage.

Though she was beautiful and intelligent, Elizabeth Bennet had no dowry or connections to make such a marriage possible.  In the upper circle of society, one did not marry someone who was so far beneath themselves. Marriages amongst the ton were mostly business transactions.  A merger of land and wealth, and the begetting of heirs to carry on.  Love matches were few and far between.

Darcy could understand marriages of convenience, as his parents had married to form an alliance between Matlock and Pemberley.  The Fitzwilliam family held a title, as Darcy’s grandfather was the Earl of Matlock.  His mother was thought to have married beneath her station, for the Darcy family was untitled, though an ancient lineage with deep pockets.  The Earl of Matlock was in need of financial assistance, so what could he do, but marry his daughters to wealthy men.  Anne Fitzwilliam Darcy never approved of her husband, though she tolerated him.  When her son was born, she could see the similarity in him to his father and it repulsed Anne.  She rarely spent time with him, constantly declaring that he was his father’s child, therefore his father should be the one to spend time with him.  Anne did not wish for more children, and she found ways to stay away from him as much as possible.  When Gerald Darcy was at Pemberley, Anne was found at her sister’s estate in Kent.  When Gerald was in Town, Anne was at her father’s estate in Derbyshire.  During the Season, Anne insisted she would be in London, and she made it clear that she did not wish for her husband to be in attendance with her.

Darcy grew up lonely, as his father was busy with his work and his mistress.  The lady who became a mother figure to the young boy was the housekeeper at Pemberley, Mrs Agatha Reynolds.  She had become the housekeeper when Fitzwilliam was only four years old.  Knowing he was ignored by both of his parents, Mrs Reynolds showed him as much love and comfort as she could.  She was proud of the young man he had grown into, and Mrs Reynolds was not shy about telling everyone of what a wonderful man he had become.

I should have these rooms re-decorated, refreshed and new furnishings.  Just as I did when Father died, I made his rooms my own.  It is time to prepare the rooms for the lady I take as a bride.  I know it would be best to leave the changes to the decision of the next Mistress, but I cannot stand to be in this room, seeing it as I did as a child.  Far too many terrible memories associated with these rooms.  Time to start anew.

            If I am to choose a wife from society, I must socialize more.  There are so many young ladies to choose from.  I must begin to accept invitations to social events when I return to Town.  Perhaps I should send a message to Georgiana and have her make a list of some of the gatherings which will be happening after my return. 

            Oh, Elizabeth, why could you not be born of a wealthy family?  Why did you have to be the daughter of a matchmaking mamma, and a vulgar one at that?  I could even tolerate the mother, if only she had something to bring to the marriage. 

            But I have to put her out of my mind.  I have to find someone who is appropriate to be my wife.  Perhaps it would be wise to speak with Lady Matlock, as she knows all the eligible young ladies to choose from.  Yes, when I return to Town, I will take the time to speak with my aunt.

~~ ** ~~

The following morning, a letter from Georgiana arrived at Pemberley.

Dearest Brother,

         You would not believe what has happened since you left.  The day you left, Mr Bingley arrived at the house with a request for assistance.  Knowing your kindness in allowing our tenants at Pemberley to stay at the main house while their homes were being rebuilt, I felt sure you would approve of my assisting Mr Bingley.

         His request was to allow him to bring a young lady to the house, as his sisters were away, making it improper for him to take her to his townhouse.  He had rescued her from a man who had attacked her.  No, it was not someone on the street, it was in the house of one of his business partners. He is severing all business with this man, as he was appalled by what he witnessed.

         Seeing the end result, I can do nothing but agree.  The young lady, Miss Benson, was battered severely.  She still cannot open her eyes, as they are swollen shut.  Her jaw is broken, her throat was nearly strangled.  It is horrible, what that man did to her.

         Have no fear, the man who did this will not be able to find her here.  And I have made sure that Mr and Mrs Jarvis do not allow anyone they do not know inside the house.  I am safe, there is no risk to me.  I am pleased I can provide anything for the young lady’s comfort and care.  And Mr Bingley calls daily to check on Miss Benson’s condition.

         I pray that all is going well at Pemberley.  Please give Mrs Reynolds my love and tell Sarah that I miss her lemon biscuits.  We look forward to your return.  Cousin Richard is on leave from his duties with the army until the middle of March. He looks forward to your return to Town.  He insists I tell you that if you do not return soon, he will be making good use of your study, which leads me to believe you will need to restock your supplies of brandy and cigars. He is currently staying at Matlock House, though is desiring to stay with us soon.

With love, your devoted sister, Georgiana

 

Though Darcy was pleased to know his sister was coming out of her shell.  Georgiana had been shy all of her life, but after the previous summer, his young sister had all but withdrawn from life.

Thinking back on the day when he stepped down from his carriage in Ramsgate, in front of the house he had leased for his sister and her companion.  Georgiana had been pleased to see him, though her companion, Mrs Younge, was quite nervous.  Later it was revealed that Mrs Younge had conspired with George Wickham to trick Georgiana into an elopement, for the sole purpose of obtaining the girl’s dowry of thirty thousand pounds.  George Wickham was well known to Darcy, but Georgiana had been too young to remember anything beyond Wickham treating her kindly.

Wickham was the son of Darcy’s father’s steward.  Old Wickham had been loyal and dedicated to Pemberley.  As a reward, Gerald Darcy paid for Wickham’s education and granted him the sum of one thousand pounds in his will.  If Wickham had taken orders, Darcy was to grant him the valuable living of Kympton.  Wickham had refused to take orders, claiming he preferred to study law.  Darcy decided to give his childhood friend the sum of three thousand pounds in lieu of the living.  Papers were signed and Wickham was not heard from again until a month prior to Georgiana traveling to Ramsgate.  Wickham wished for more funds, and when he was denied, became hostile.

It was difficult to think of the boy that had been his friend, realizing the man he turned out to be.  When they were both at the university, Wickham became a gambler and expected everything to be handed to him on a silver platter.  He seduced ladies and young girls alike, bedding as many as possible.  Darcy did not wish to have his father learn of the behaviors, and, many times, paid from his own money to cover debts to merchants and to the young ladies who ended up carrying Wickham’s unwanted offspring.

Before leaving Netherfield, Darcy had, again, been forced to deal with Wickham.  The scoundrel had taken a commission in the militia unit which was encamped at Meryton.  As he was fond of doing, Wickham had quickly spread his tale of woe, how he was denied his rightful inheritance and treated ill by Darcy.  When Darcy left Netherfield, he had not shared the true nature of his interactions with Wickham, for fear of Wickham making claims which would injure Georgiana’s reputation.  Darcy was willing to endure the injury to his own reputation to protect that of his beloved sister.

His thoughts returned to the letter.  Perhaps it would be better to return to Town sooner than expected.  The thought of his sister being exposed to a young lady, who had most likely been violated by her employer, was more than he could tolerate.  What was Bingley thinking, bringing some governess or companion to Darcy House, expecting his family to see to her needs?  It is not uncommon for the men in society to expect more from the young ladies who serve their families.  Maids, governesses, companions, and more were prime targets for their employer’s advances.  The threat of being fired without reference was common.  Most of these ladies have no choice or protection, and are forced to submit to the men.  But I do not wish for my sister to be exposed to such a lady.  It is not proper.  Yes, I should finish here and make my way back to Town.

~~ ** ~~

The constable had been to Darcy House, taking Bingley’s statement and witnessed the wrath Armstrong had unleashed upon his daughter’s companion.  The matter was then taken to the local magistrate, Lord Bentley.  Armstrong denied the charges against him, claiming the young lady had taken a fall down a flight of stairs and was in his office to inform him of her accident.  In his club, Armstrong told a different story of his daughter’s companion.  Two days after the attack, Armstrong was overheard speaking of his attempts to enjoy the favors of the young lady, when he was interrupted by a young whelp who should have kept his nose out of Armstrong’s business.  Rumors began to flow through Town.

So disgusted with Armstrong, Bingley had spoken with his solicitors to dissolve any business dealings he had with the man.  Fortunately, his dealings were minor, and Bingley was prepared to take a loss from his decision.  To Bingley’s way of thinking, if a man could treat his employee so appallingly, what else was he capable of doing?

The papers soon relayed the news of the rumors surrounding Armstrong.  Though they did not print the name of the young lady, Edward Gardiner knew it had to be his niece.  He was beside himself with worry, as he could not locate where Elizabeth was.  Armstrong had refused to speak with Mr Gardiner, forcing the man to seek the information he required from the constable.

After a full week, Mr Gardiner finally learned that it had been Mr Bingley who had rescued his niece.  Arriving at Bingley’s townhouse, Mr Gardiner gave the butler his card.

Bingley was astonished to learn Mr Gardiner was at his door.  He welcomed the elder man into his study and ordered refreshments to be brought for them.

“Mr Gardiner, it is a pleasure to meet you.  I have heard from my friend, Mr Darcy, of a business venture he is considering with you.”

“Yes, um…well, it is another matter which brings me to your door this day.”

“Speak freely, Sir.  What is this matter you wish to discuss?”

Mr Gardiner was nervous.  “I read in the papers about an incident with Mr Armstrong.  My niece was employed by him, as his daughter’s companion.  We have not heard from her since last week, and have been quite concerned.  I have been searching for her, and finally learned of your involvement.  Can you tell me where my niece is to be found?”

“As she was in need of medical attention, and unable to speak, I took her to the home of a friend.  My sisters are away from Town, so it would have been improper for me to bring her here.  My friend’s sister was at their townhouse, and she graciously welcomed your niece there.”

“Can you tell me…was she…what is her condition?”

Seeing Mr Gardiner’s nervousness, Bingley realized what the man was most likely thinking.  “Mr Gardiner, fear not.  Her virtue was not taken, as I interrupted Armstrong.  She was badly beaten though, and he held her by the throat, causing her injury. The poor girl, she still cannot open her eyes, for they are still quite swollen. Her jaw was broken, so her head has been wrapped to prevent her from opening her mouth.  We have been fortunate, she has not developed a fever.  Had I not arrived when I did, I am sure he would have beaten her to death.  Poor Miss Benson, she did not deserve such brutal treatment.”

“Miss Benson? Perhaps we are speaking of another young lady, not my niece.” Mr Gardiner was confused.

“She has dark brown hair which has unruly curls, and is small build.  As I said, she has not been able to open her eyes, so I do not know their color.”

“But my niece’s name is not Benson.  It is Bennet.”

Bingley’s jaw nearly hit his desk.  “Miss Bennet? What is her first name?”

“Elizabeth.  Elizabeth Bennet.”

“Of Longbourn?”

“Until recently, yes.”

“Good God, it cannot be.  Why would Miss Elizabeth be a paid companion?  She is the daughter of a gentleman, how can it be her?”

“You know my niece?” Mr Gardiner was shocked.

“Indeed.  I leased Netherfield Park last fall.  I know the Bennet family, especially Miss Bennet.” Bingley was nearly as amazed as Mr Gardiner.

“Then you have not heard of the tragedy which befell the Bennet family?” Mr Gardiner asked. Seeing Bingley shake his head, Mr Gardiner went on to explain.  “Mr and Mrs Bennet had taken their daughter, Jane and Lydia, to dine at one of their neighbors.  Lizzy stayed at Longbourn, as Mary and Kitty had been ill.  A group of highwaymen descended upon the carriage, and, in the end, there was only one survivor, though she was critically injured.”

~~~~~~~ ** ~~~~~~~

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