Word of warning, there is need of the blue couches to hide behind in parts of these chapters. Confrontations and more are to be found.
Darcy escorted his sister into their box at the theater. Joining them were Colonel Fitzwilliam and Charles Bingley, who was in need of some cheering up. He had spent many hours of late with the Gardiner family and was saddened to see his beloved angel in such low spirits. Bingley had seen her several times, having dined with the Gardiners twice, and paid visits nearly every day for the past fortnight.
It was clear to everyone that Jane Bennet was not pleased with being forced into the new routine. Though Bingley knew it was for her own good, he was pained by the displeasure it brought her. Mrs Gardiner had borne the brunt of Jane’s frustrations, never allowing her niece to dissuade her from continuing forward. Mr Johnston was pleased with the improvement he could see in his patient, and Jane appeared, at least to everyone else, to being stronger.
Darcy was also frustrated. To know that Elizabeth was in danger, and so near, yet he had not seen her even once, was driving him to distraction. Georgiana and Colonel Fitzwilliam realized the true reason for Darcy’s dark mood. Georgiana had even thought to suggest to her brother that he accompany her to visit Elizabeth in a few days.
The first act of the play was over soon enough, and Darcy suggested they make their way to find refreshments in the lobby. As they approached to purchase drinks, they were to encounter none other than Mr Armstrong and his daughter.
Bingley turned red, his mind instantly returning to his last encounter with the man. Seeing his friend becoming uncommonly angry, Darcy turned his attention towards the direction Bingley was glaring. Colonel Fitzwilliam realized what was happening, and moved to take hold of his cousin’s arm, holding him in place.
“Darce, this is not the time or place to confront him. It will do no good.” Richard whispered to his cousin.
Georgiana was frightened by the fury which was building in her brother and his friend. She took hold of Bingley’s arm, and spoke softly. “Mr Bingley, would you care for a glass of punch or lemonade?”
Reality settled in on Bingley and he realized he was in a public location. Turning his head to look at the young girl, Bingley gave her a halfhearted smile. “Punch would be wonderful, Miss Darcy. Thank you for asking me.”
Bingley was shocked to see how furious his friend was. He had not come to realize Darcy’s affection for Elizabeth Bennet, therefore, he had no way of knowing the level of Darcy’s anger was even greater than his own.
Seething at the sight of the young man who had brought on his current aggravation, Armstrong could not allow the moment to pass by peacefully. “Ah, Bingley, such a pleasure to see you again. The last time you were near me, you brought shame to your family’s name.”
Colonel Fitzwilliam knew there was true danger building. He pulled Bingley backwards and stepped between him and Armstrong. “Sir, I believe it would be wise for you to return to your seats and drop this matter for the time being. This is not the appropriate location for such a conversation. I would not wish your daughter to be embarrassed by what she would learn of you.”
“You had best stay out of this matter, Colonel. Before you stick your nose into this situation, you had best speak with your father to learn his opinion on which side of this war you should throw your hat.”
“My father and I do not agree on our opinions frequently. I know the truth of the matter and I am here to say, there will be no battle here. As I stated, I would not wish to see your daughter embarrassed.”
“My daughter has already been humiliated by the lies being spread by this whelp. His allegations have no truth to them, yet he continues to inform the world. What a pathetic fool, too jealous over seeing his favorite with another man. He most likely beat her himself and puts the blame off on me.”
Darcy’s anger could no longer be contained. “You are a scoundrel and should be brought down for your treatment of such a fine young lady. You attempt to force yourself on her and then lied when you are found out. Elizabeth was nearly killed at your hand. If Bingley had not stepped in, you would be facing murder charges. And I would have seen to it that you hanged for it. I pity your daughter, having a monster for a father.”
“You had best speak to your uncle before you address me in such a manner, Darcy. It would be better for you and your cousin to denounce your friendship with Bingley. It might be dangerous to remain friends with him.”
“Is that a threat?” Colonel Fitzwilliam drew himself to his full stature and commanding officer stance. “For if that is a threat, we had best take this matter outside. I, for one, would love to repay you for the injuries I witnessed on the young lady in question.” The colonel turned his face towards his cousin. “Darce, we need to remove Georgiana from here, immediately.”
Richard’s words had the desired result. Darcy turned his attention to his sister, who was still holding tightly to Bingley’s arm. “Georgiana, Bingley, my cousin is correct. Let us leave, as I could not remain in such close proximity to such rubbish as they allow in this building.”
As the others made their way to the entrance doors, Richard returned his gaze to Armstrong. “Do not provoke my cousin again, for he is not one to back down from protecting those he deems to be friends and family. Bingley and Miss Bennet are among those close to him. And, I might add, my cousin is very talented with a blade and a top notch marksman. You start something, it will not end the way you wish.”
Colonel Fitzwilliam then followed his companions outside, waiting for their carriage to be brought up for them. “It appears we need to have a discussion with my father, sooner rather than later.”
~~ ** ~~
Returning home, Armstrong was fuming from the confrontation which he had provoked. He wished nothing more than to squash the young pup, Bingley, and teach his friend that it was not wise to back such a man. How dare they speak to me, in front of my daughter, and in public? I will ruin them both.
Pouring himself a glass of port, Armstrong walked over to the fireplace in his study. Staring at the crackling fire, he thought back at the encounter and what was said. Darcy referred to her as Elizabeth. Not Miss Elizabeth or Miss Bennet, but Elizabeth. Does he hold a tender regard for her? Could the Master of Pemberley be in love with the lowly paid companion who now had a ruined reputation? Lord Matlock would be highly disappointed in his nephew, as he would never approve of such a low born woman to be his niece. She would be acceptable as Darcy’s mistress, but not his wife. Perhaps I should change my plans, and concentrate on Fitzwilliam Darcy rather than Bingley. It would also increase Lord Matlock’s desire to assist in finding the whore.
Once I have her, what should I do with her? Should I kill her outright or should I have her taken to my other house, locked away, for my private entertainment? She is a delightful morsel, and I do believe I deserve a chance to taste what she chose to deny me. Yes, I believe Elizabeth Bennet will rue the day that she refused me. But she will give me what I wanted that day.
~~ ** ~~
Colonel Fitzwilliam and his cousin entered Matlock House, fueled by their anger over their encounter at the theater.
“Richard, I thought you and Darcy were taking Georgiana to see a play tonight. What are you doing here?” Lord Matlock inquired. He and his wife were relaxing for the evening in their private sitting room.
“We ran into a friend of yours and the conversation we had made it necessary for us to come here. We need to have a talk with you, Father.”
Seeing his nephew in such a state, Lord Matlock was afraid of what the conversation would be about. “It is rather late, perhaps we could meet tomorrow. I was just about to retire for the evening.”
“No, Uncle, we need to speak with you this evening. It is a matter of extreme importance.” Darcy stood tall and stern. “It cannot be delayed, as it is a dangerous situation which could lead to someone dying.”
“Surely you could not be involved in anything so drastic, William.” Lady Matlock declared. “Your uncle has suggested meeting tomorrow, as it is late. It would be better if you did as he asked.”
“I will not be denied, Aunt. We were unfortunate enough to encounter Armstrong at the theater tonight. His words to Richard and myself have made it clear that he has an understanding with you of some sorts, Uncle. I demand you tell me, at once, what the understanding is?”
“I do not know what you mean, Darcy. I have business dealings with Armstrong, as you well know. But I cannot think of anything which could lead you to behave in such a manner.”
“Father, you know I have always been able to tell when you are lying to me, and, right now, I am certain you are lying. Something has you frightened. Has Armstrong threatened you or our family? I cannot imagine what he could be holding over you to command any sort of loyalty from you.”
“Why should I take the word of that young tradesman’s son over someone I have done business with for several years now? You are a fool to side with Bingley, believing his tales when, I have it on good authority, he was the one to beat the whore who had thrown herself on Armstrong. The poor man has suffered from his association with the chit and it is quite unfair.”
“DO NOT EVER REFER TO ELIZABETH BENNET IN SUCH A MANNER AGAIN!” Darcy roared. “If you do, so help me, it will be the last I will tolerate you as my family. I will cut all ties with you.”
“William, your uncle is your blood relations. Why would you treat him so horrendously over some country nobody? She was a paid servant in Mr Armstrong’s home, and attempted to take advantage of the situation. The poor man has been humiliated and so has his daughter.” Lady Matlock was quite upset with Darcy’s behavior.
Richard was enraged. “Mother, I saw Miss Elizabeth after she was beaten. She was nearly killed, by Armstrong. Bingley rescued her, saved her life. It was days before he even knew who she was, the beating had disfigured her face with swelling and bruising, and her broken jaw and crushed throat made it impossible to speak. She is a fine young lady, who has endured more tragedy in the past half year than you could ever imagine.”
“And Armstrong was heard by many at the club, as he bragged about what he did to her, including things he did not do.” Darcy added. “The thought of it makes me quite ill. Armstrong is a coward and a beast. If he cannot have what he wants, he forces his will on others. Is that what he has done to you, Uncle? Has he made threats against you? I promised you my assistance with the financial burden which you would find by abandoning your dealings with Armstrong. Why would you now change your mind?”
“I believe Armstrong’s version of the event, as I cannot imagine him behaving in the manner your friend accused. He is a man of honor, and I will not sever my business dealings with him.” Lord Matlock attempted to sound stronger than he felt.
“Where is Anthony?” Richard asked his mother. “I wish to speak with him.”
“Your brother is out, as usual.” Lady Matlock responded. “I have not seen him for more than a few moments at a time for the past few weeks.”
Richard looked at Darcy, and the two silently agreed. Anthony was the reason for Lord Matlock’s behavior. It would not be hard to locate the heir to Matlock, as his taste for gambling was well known. And the fact that Armstrong owned two gambling halls was even more telling of where the threat had be placed. Though Anthony was not impressed with his duties as the heir, and he cared nothing for his family’s estate, he was still Lord Matlock’s first born and would always take precedence over all others.
“Darcy, you had best rid yourself of Bingley and the Bennet family. Their family is also in trade. And it is high time you settled down and did your duty to our family. If you will not marry your cousin, Anne de Bourgh, then it is time you chose from the many young ladies who constantly beg for your attention. Lady Penelope, for one, would be an excellent match for you.”
“I will marry, only it will be when I am set to do so. Not a moment sooner. And it will not be the likes of Lady Penelope or Cousin Anne. I will marry for love, unlike most of society marriages. I am finished with you Uncle. You are no longer a part of my life.”
Turning, Darcy marched from the room and straight out of the house, ignoring the commotion from the sitting room. He was pleased to see Richard was just a few steps behind him.
“Richard, we must move Miss Elizabeth, as soon as possible. And it would be wise to move her family and Bingley as well. Perhaps we should all make plans to journey to Pemberley.”
~~ ** ~~
“Anthony, I insist you sit there and listen to what I have to say. Your life depends upon it.” Lord Matlock demanded.
“Please, Father, you have lectured me time and again. I will do as I please, and you will mind your own business. I intend to enjoy my life as long as I can, before you die and leave me to manage the estate, as Darcy was forced to do at such a young age. Look at where it has gotten him. He is boring and aged far beyond his years. That will not be my life.”
“And, because of you, I am forced to endure the wrath of Mr Armstrong. How could you gamble away twenty thousand pounds? I am being threatened by that man, if I do not do as commanded by Armstrong, you will be sent to debtor’s prison or even have you killed. Do you understand me? You are my son and heir. But due to your behavior, I am forced to do the bidding of an evil man.”
“Calm yourself, Father. Do whatever Armstrong wishes and there will be no further problems. It is not like he would ask you to kill someone. Just do as he asks.”
“And what if he does ask me to kill someone? Or if what he asks of me leads to another’s death? Do you understand what I am telling you? Because of your foolish gambling, I may be responsible for someone else dying.” Lord Matlock was displeased with his son’s behavior.
“Then there is no option, as you must protect me. If you were to allow me to be sent to debtor’s prison, it would bring shame on our family. And you would never allow me to be killed. If Armstrong requires the death of someone, they are most likely someone far beneath our society. I am a viscount, heir to an earldom.”
“When did you turn into such a waste of a man? You care nothing for anyone but yourself, and throw away your inheritance in your carefree lifestyle. The way you are behaving, there may be no inheritance left when I die. We could lose Matlock and all of our fortune.”
“Speak to Darcy, he has more than enough to spare. As you are the head of the Fitzwilliam family, you can insist on his complying and giving you whatever you need to keep us afloat.”
“Darcy has cut ties with me due to this situation with Armstrong. The young lady who was assaulted by your friend is an acquaintance of Darcy’s, not to mention Bingley being his closest friend. Darcy is standing firm on his support of Bingley and that little chit. Why did she not just submit to Armstrong? We would have no problems if it were not for that nobody.”
“Is Darcy sweet on the little whore? Oh, what a surprise.” Anthony Fitzwilliam perked up. “So the proud and mighty Fitzwilliam Darcy feels his baser needs awaken and he wishes for the whore for himself? This is perfect. Perhaps he wishes to make her his mistress.”
“ENOUGH!” Lord Matlock bellowed. “I wish Armstrong could just forget the chit or she just disappear. Though I do not like the thought of harming or condoning the death of a young lady, this is one situation which has well exploded into scandal. It will make reconciling with Darcy difficult, but, in time, we should be able to convince him it was all for the best.”
“Good luck with that, Father. He is just as stubborn as his father was. I am off to the Lucky Lady. Have a good day.”
“Anthony, please, refrain from Armstrong’s establishments until we can resolve this situation. It is for your own safety that I beg you.” Lord Matlock pleaded with his eldest son.
“I will be fine. Have no fear, Father.”
~~ ** ~~
Mr Gardiner entered his home to find his wife highly agitated. “What is wrong, Helen? Is Jane well?”
“Edward, the men watching our home are becoming bold in their actions. When Kitty accompanied Mrs Josephson to shop for supplies, one of the men approached them, leering at Kitty and making comments which were highly inappropriate. Mrs Josephson was scandalized by the men, and poor Kitty was terrified. It is becoming dangerous for all of us.”
“One approached my assistant and threatened his family. I planned to speak with Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy when they come this evening for dinner. Armstrong must be desperate, he is willing to cause more harm to force us to tell him where Lizzy is.”
The housekeeper announced the arrival of their guests. Mrs Gardiner walked over to welcome Georgiana. “It is a pleasure to see you, Miss Darcy.”
“Thank you, Mrs Gardiner, for inviting us to your home. After last night, it is a welcomed opportunity to be with pleasant people.”
Mrs Gardiner was curious. “What happened last night?”
Darcy stood behind his sister, a hand on her shoulder. “It is a long story, but suffice it to say, Mr Armstrong and his daughter were at the theater last night, as were we. He made statements which were barely concealed threats.”
“Good God, has the man lost his mind completely?” Mr Gardiner was shocked.
“It would appear so. It is my opinion we need to discuss the safety of everyone concerned. Armstrong is the sort to use us to draw Miss Elizabeth from where we have her hidden. If she thought one of her friends or family were in danger due to her, Miss Elizabeth would not hesitate to turn herself over to him. And he would kill her. I am certain of that.” Darcy’s emotions were barely contained.
“I was just telling my wife that one of my employees was threatened today, and she said the men watching the house are growing daring enough to approach our cook while she was shopping with Kitty.”
Colonel Fitzwilliam had accompanied his cousins and Bingley, as he had determined which side of the battle he would be on. “I believe Bingley is in as much danger as Miss Elizabeth. He has provoked Armstrong’s ire to a near boiling point. As the one man who is spreading the truth, from first-hand knowledge, Bingley has a bull’s eye painted on his back. I would feel better if we could move everyone to a secure location.”
“But, if we leave our home and my business, would Armstrong send his men to ruin them in our absence?” Mr Gardiner asked from his frustration. “I cannot afford to lose my business or our home, not to mention the potential harm which could be done to our servants.”
Darcy held up a hand to protest. “Mr Gardiner, as a new partner in Gardiner Consulting and Imports, I believe I can afford to invest further funds in your business, in case any damages are done. We will give your employees paid holidays. If I am correct, Armstrong will strike within the next few weeks. He is angered, and losing control of his fury. This will lead him to make mistakes.”
Mr Gardiner looked at his wife. Not seeing any alternative, the Gardiners agreed to the necessity. “When should we be prepared to leave?”
“I would say a quick removal would be the best, as it would not give Armstrong time to act. Perhaps we should prepare this evening to leave bright and early tomorrow morning. I have two carriages available, Bingley has one, and I have horses to transport the men if need be.” Darcy began to take charge.
“We have a carriage as well.” Mr Gardiner replied. “Will we be safe on the roads? Would we not be more vulnerable? After what happened a few months ago, to my sister’s family, what is to stop Armstrong from sending a large group of men on horseback to ambush us?”
Colonel Fitzwilliam knew Mr Gardiner was correct. “They would expect to find us on the road to Pemberley. But they would not realize if we were to take a detour. We could make it appear as if we were traveling north to Pemberley only to divert to a different location.”
Darcy frowned. “What are you suggesting, Richard?”
“Darcy, your townhouse is a veritable fortress. You have a garden behind it as well, and your servants are devoted to you. What if we made it appear that we were moving everyone to Pemberley, only bring them to Darcy House? You have more than enough room for everyone, for the third floor has not been used in the past few years. We can have the guards who are currently protecting Bingley and Miss Elizabeth combine with the ones at Darcy House, leaving others to watch over the Gardiner property.”
Bingley nodded his head. “It would be far safer than attempting to move such a distance with so many people, especially with Miss Bennet. I cannot imagine her traveling well, after all that she has been through.”
“I agree with Mr Bingley. It would be easier on everyone’s nerves, especially those of my nieces.” Mrs Gardiner gave her opinion. “I know it would not be wise to move Jane so far, as she would be hysterical at such a venture.”
Looking at Georgiana, Darcy smiled. “Then it is settled. Tomorrow, we will have our carriages prepared and come to meet you here. We will transport all of you to Darcy House, and collect Miss Elizabeth as well.”
“It will be a relief to have Lizzy with us.” Mr Gardiner nodded his head. “I have had fear growing in me, not being able to see her.”
“Well, let us enjoy our meal and then finish making arrangements for the move.” Mrs Gardiner smiled.
~~~~~~~ ** ~~~~~~~
A man entered Armstrong’s house, demanding to see his employer quickly. The butler knew the man was a thug, he had seen and heard enough of the burly man to know there was danger wherever he went.
The man, Roberts, was shown into Armstrong’s study. “Mr Armstrong, we had a report of a possible location of that chit you was lookin’ for. One of the seamstresses at the shop Miss Darcy has visited told me men of the young lady sneakin’ out the back and down the alley. When we checked, we saw men who looked to be guards.”
“Where is she? Let us leave immediately, I wish this to be over now. If we attack now, in the dark, there is a greater chance of success.” Armstrong was making his way towards the door of his study, stopping only to open a cabinet and withdrawing several weapons.
The men left the house, meeting a group of men who were assembled outside the house. Seeing his employer leaving, carrying weapons, the butler, Mr Lars, knew something was wrong. He knew enough about Armstrong, and the situation with Miss Armstrong’s companion, to realize what was most likely to happen. Mr Lars had also overheard enough of recent conversations his employer had with others to know just who to contact. He went to the nearby drawing room, taking out paper, ink and a quill, Mr Lars wrote a quick note, then sealed it. He sent one of the footmen to find his son, who also worked as a footman for the Armstrong house.
The younger Mr Lars found his father in the drawing room, and closed the door behind him when his father directed him to do so. “Andrew, you must carefully make your way to this address to deliver this message. It is vital to do so quickly, to use caution not to be recognized. Make certain they know it is urgent for the master of the house to receive the message. Then come back here and straight to your rooms. Do not speak to anyone with regards to this task.”
Knowing his father’s fear of Mr Armstrong was warranted, Andrew realized something horrible was in the works or his father would never be taking such a risk. “I will be careful, Father.”
~~ ** ~~
Something was troubling Elizabeth as she attempted to retire for the night. A feeling of unrest and nervousness filled her and she finally abandoned her bed, walking over to the fireplace in her room, and taking a seat in the chair next to the warmth. Lighting a candle on the nearby table, Elizabeth picked up the book of poetry, running her fingers lightly over the embossed letters on the cover. She opened the front, taking hold of the letter she had read over and over again, until she had memorized the words.
Elizabeth had spent many hours going over the memories she had of Darcy, the times they had been in each other’s company, what he had said and how he had acted. Realization had finally begun to sink in her mind, the truth that she had completely misunderstood Darcy and had been blinded to his true feelings for her.
Using the information she had garnered from his cousin and sister, Elizabeth had begun to appreciate the man who had contemplated risking his life to protect her and her honor. A sense of warmth wrapped around her, thinking that a man such as Fitzwilliam Darcy could care for her. Though she felt nothing could come from it, as she was ruined in the eyes of society, Elizabeth was able to find comfort in being cared for.
As her mind wandered, her ire grew again at the thought of her ruination. Why is it that the men commit the foul acts, while the women bear the shame of it? It is unfair. No matter what had happened in Mr Armstrong’s study, she was thought guilty of improper behavior. If I had allowed him to act as he wished, I would be his mistress. Yet, even when I fought to protect myself, I am just as guilty. As if I led him to behave in such a manner. It is ridiculous to treat women with such a double standard, yet men are allowed to brag of their prowess with the ladies. How is a lady to fend off such vile behavior and keep her reputation? And how are they to recover from the feelings which occur from such behavior by men? They are shunned by society and their families. There must be something which can be done for the ladies. If only I had the funds to purchase a house for ladies, such as myself, to come for assistance. I would have a purpose, if I could help others move forward in their lives. Perhaps then, I would not feel so empty inside.
A sudden noise drew her attention. Walking to the window, she peered outside. In a distance, behind one of the neighboring houses, there were men creeping towards the townhouse where Elizabeth was staying. She quickly moved to pull the bell cord, calling for someone to join her. Raymond, the head guard, had been in the hallway, making rounds when he heard Elizabeth moving about. Knocking on the door, he was surprised when the door was yanked open and Elizabeth took hold of his sleeve, pulling him towards the window. Pointing at the men who were continuing towards them, Elizabeth alerted him to the danger they were facing. Raymond quickly left the room, calling to the other guards to inform them of the impending danger.
Grabbing her dressing gown, as well as the book containing the letter, Elizabeth rushed to the hallway. Her nurse and maid had joined her, waiting on word from Raymond and his men as to what they should do.
At the sound of breaking glass, the maid began to shake with fear. “We will be killed, I know it. I should never have taken the position. I will die here.”
“Rosie, calm yourself. The men will protect us. Everything will be fine.” Mrs Albright, the housekeeper, said as joined the other ladies, all the while she attempted to quell her own fears.
Sounds of men fighting were heard, and the sound of gun fire. Rosie began to scream, and Elizabeth’s heart was pounding from fear. Mrs Albright was petrified from shock of the obvious violence occurring one floor below them. The fighting felt as it had gone on for hours, the men yelling and sounds of fisticuffs being thrown and received. More gunfire was heard, as well as doors being kicked in. There were sounds of men crying out in pain, and furniture being broken.
Then Elizabeth heard the voice of the man responsible for her situation. Armstrong was here, inside the house, coming for her. The people who had been taking care of her were in jeopardy and possibly being killed because of her. If Armstrong would leave them alone, guarantee her that he would not harm another living being, she would go with him. But she knew the monster, he would kill them all. What were they to do? The stairs were blocked, there was no possibility for them to escape.
Forgive me, God. I do not wish for others to be harmed to save me. Please, stop Mr Armstrong. Take my life instead of theirs. They are dying to save me. I cannot live with such a burden. Elizabeth gave a silent prayer.
There was more commotion, now coming from the front entrance of the townhouse. More fighting was heard, though Elizabeth thought she recognized some of the voices. There was one man barking orders to some others, a very strong voice with the precision commands of an officer. Colonel Fitzwilliam is here. A moment later, she was certain that she heard Mr Darcy’s voice. He came for me. He is here to save me.
Hearing footsteps racing up the stairs, Elizabeth backed the other ladies into a room until they were sure it was safe for them. Mr Bingley came into view, a gun in his hand. “Miss Elizabeth, ladies, come quickly. We need to take you from here immediately.” He reached out with his empty hand, pulling Elizabeth behind him.
They cautiously, but quickly, made their way down the stairs and towards the front entrance door, which was now in splinters from being forced open. There was no time to look for Darcy or his cousin, as Bingley was bent on his mission to bring the ladies out of the house and to safety. There was a carriage nearby, and Bingley herded the ladies in to it and motioned to the driver to make haste.
Bingley looked at the ladies as the carriage traveled quickly. “Are you ladies well? Were any of you injured?”
“No, I believe we escaped without injuries, Mr Bingley.” Mrs Albright announced. “Frightened out of our wits, but well otherwise.”
“Miss Elizabeth, are you well?” Bingley asked, taking her hand in his own as he searched her eyes.
Nodding her head, she lost control of the tears which had been threatening to pour from her eyes. Realizing how frightened she must have been, Bingley wrapped his arm around her. “Have no fear, Miss Elizabeth. Colonel Fitzwilliam and Darcy had everything in hand, and we will arrive at Darcy House in a moment. Then we will all be safe. Darcy sent a footman to your uncle’s home, and insisted they move to Darcy House immediately, before Armstrong has a chance to regroup.”
Sobs were wracking through her body as she broke down. Bingley continued to awkwardly pat her on the back as he held her to him. Though he knew it was improper, but he cared for the young lady as if she were his family. And, if he was successful, one day, Elizabeth could be his sister, if he was able to convince Jane to marry him.
Arriving at Darcy House, Bingley quickly ushered the ladies inside. Georgiana Darcy was awake and waiting for the new arrivals, having been told by Mrs Jarvis of the men leaving to rescue Elizabeth.
“Lizzy, oh, my dear Lizzy, are you injured?” She asked as she rushed forward, wrapping her arms around Elizabeth. “I have been so worried since we received word there was a plan to attack the townhouse.”
Mrs Albright was relieved to be safe in the fine house. “You received word of the attack? From who?”
“I am not certain, but my brother received a message and the men quickly left with some of the men from the mews.” Georgiana led the ladies up the stairs and showed them into the sitting room attached to her own bedchamber. “We will stay here for the time being, until William and Richard return with the other men. I have asked Mrs Jarvis to have some tea sent up, as well as some brandy. I believe we could all enjoy something to calm our nerves.”
Nodding her head, Mrs Albright agreed. “It has been a very trying night. Fortunately, it appears that we were all awake. I had just climbed into my bed when I heard sounds and Miss Elizabeth’s bell. Rosie had just finished her work and was on her way to her rooms, and Mrs Owens had gone to bed early. Fortunately, Cook had stayed at her sister’s home tonight, as her sister was birthing her babe this afternoon.”
“Fortune was watching over all of us this night.” Bingley stated as he entered the room with a decanter of brandy and several glasses. “Mrs Jarvis sent these up, and the tea will arrive shortly. Miss Elizabeth, would you care for a glass?”
Elizabeth nodded her head. Taking the glass, all could see how the night had troubled her, as her hands shook violently. Georgiana took the glass in her own hand, holding it to her friend’s lips. Once Elizabeth had taken several sip, Georgiana placed the glass on the table and wrapped her arms around her friend. “All will be well, Lizzy. We just received word from your uncle. He is bringing his family and your sisters as we speak. They will all be here, safe and sound. And you will be with them. Will that not be wonderful? I know you have been missing them.”
Tears continued to flow freely, though the sobs had ceased.
Soon there was a sound of the men returning, and a moment later, Darcy and Richard had entered Georgiana’s sitting room. As soon as Darcy’s eyes located the woman who held his heart, he rushed to kneel before her. “I pray they did not harm you, Elizabeth. Are you well? Should I send for Mr Johnston?”
Elizabeth attempted to speak, whispering “I am well” to him. Darcy took hold of her hands, kissing them repeatedly. “I am so grateful. I was so afraid you would be harmed again, or worse, killed. My dearest Elizabeth, I cannot tell you how grateful I am at this moment.”
Elizabeth stared into his eyes, seeing the truth of his devotion in their depths. She took one of her hands from his, placing it gently against his cheek. No words were needed between them at that moment, each was lost in the emotions they each held for each other. Though, unlike Darcy, the sensation was new to Elizabeth. Though frightened at first by the intensity, Elizabeth quickly calmed with the warmth the look in his eyes brought her.
Darcy took a seat in the chair near Elizabeth, keeping hold of one of her hands. Colonel Fitzwilliam explained to the ladies how a message had arrived at Darcy House, with the young man who delivered it stating it was urgent. The missive was simple. It stated “They know where she is and are on their way now. Save her.”
Her forehead furrowed with confusion. Darcy could understand her thoughts without words. “I am not certain who sent it, but it appears that someone on Armstrong’s staff did not agree with his master and made certain to warn us.”
Bingley nodded his head. “If I were a betting man, I would put money on it being the butler. When I went there to retrieve Miss Elizabeth’s belongings, the man was apologetic and informed me that, though her items had been removed from the house, he had them stashed so they could be returned to her. He is in a difficult position, needing employment, and yet, not approving of his employer’s action.”
Within half of an hour, the Gardiners and Bennets were announced to the group. Mrs Gardiner made her way quickly to her second eldest niece. “Oh, Lizzy, are you well? They did not harm you again, did they?”
As her aunt enveloped her in warmth and security, Elizabeth began to sob again. “Shush, dear girl, all is well. We are all together, and safe. The men will discover a way to stop Mr Armstrong from bringing further harm. Have no fear, my sweet girl. You are with your family and we love you so much.”
Several moments flowed by before Elizabeth was able to whisper to her aunt. “Jane?”
“Yes, dear girl, your sisters are all here. Jane is being settled into a bed, and then I will take you to see her. She has been so worried for you.”
Darcy had remained near Elizabeth as she was sobbing in her aunt’s embrace. “Mrs Gardiner, Miss Elizabeth, once you have visited with Miss Bennet, I am afraid Miss Elizabeth’s presence will be required in the drawing room. We should find you something more appropriate to wear though. The constable was sent for and will, most likely, arrive soon. I am not certain what you saw or heard, Miss Elizabeth, but the constable will have questions for you.”
“And who is the magistrate for this area of Town?” Mr Gardiner asked.
“Lord Bentley. I sent a footman to his townhouse with a message as well.”
“Write.” Elizabeth whispered, motioning her hand as if writing. Georgiana was quickest to catch her meaning.
“I will bring the writing table Brother purchased for me last year when I was forced to remain in bed after I broke my leg.” Georgiana smiled. “It is perfect to sit across your lap with all the supplies you will need. I will also gather some clothes together for you, so you will have something to wear.”
“Come, Lizzy, let us see Jane, and then you can return to Miss Darcy’s care to dress you. I know that none of us is dressed for a ball, but we, at least, had time to put some clothes on before fleeing our home. My poor girl.”
Darcy smiled at the affection being shown by Elizabeth’s aunt. “Have no fear, Mrs Gardiner. Tomorrow, in the light of day, we will have someone gather Miss Elizabeth’s belongings and bring them here. If there is any need for additional items, they will be provided. And if you or anyone in your family have any needs, please, inform myself or Georgiana. She will be acting as your hostess while you remain with us. I am certain you will find her up to the task.”
“I have no doubt at that, Mr Darcy, and I am grateful for all you and your family have done for us. I will never be able to thank you enough for all you have done.”
“There is no need to thank me, Mrs Gardiner. It pleases me that I am able to come to your aid. I only wish it had not been necessary and that we could have met under pleasant circumstances.”
~~ ** ~~
Lord Bentley entered the drawing room of Darcy House to find a gathering of people awaiting him. The constable, Mr Hawkins, was taking statements from Darcy.
“Good God, what has happened? All the message said was that there had been an assault. From the looks of this house, it was not here. This is a fortress, from all the guards you have.”
“Lord Bentley, welcome to our nightmare.” Colonel Fitzwilliam stated as he greeted his friend. Lord Bentley had always taken a shine to the younger Fitzwilliam son, and, at one time, had hope of having him for a son in law.
“Richard, what is all this?”
“We received word that Armstrong had discovered where Miss Elizabeth Bennet was hiding. We had placed her in a townhouse nearby, with guards and servants, in a plan to keep her safe. Armstrong has been searching for her, as he wishes to silence her, once and for all. When we arrived at the townhouse, there was a battle being fought between our guards and men attempting to force their way inside.”
Lord Bentley sat in a nearby chair, shaken by the violence which had occurred. “Do we know Armstrong was behind the attack? Can we prove it?”
“Miss Elizabeth heard his voice. She has written out her statement, as she still cannot speak very well. She wrote that she heard his voice as he neared the stairwell leading upstairs, where she was standing with her nurse, the housekeeper, and maid. Having never heard the man, and with all the commotion, the other ladies do not know Armstrong from anyone else. It was just moments before we arrived, and after she heard us, Armstrong must have scurried out the back like the rat he is.”
“But none of you saw him in the residence or on the grounds outside the building? We need a witness to prove he was there. He would hire the best solicitor to defend him, and they could say that Miss Elizabeth was slandering him in retribution. I know…I know…he should not be allowed to be free on the streets. It is clear that he is bent on causing her more harm. Do you know any of the men who were in the townhouse? Did you recognize anyone?”
“I did not, though there were two men captured when we wounded them. My guards have them in the cellar, in separate rooms. I have sent for Mr Johnston.” Darcy informed Lord Bentley and Mr Hawkins.
“Mr Hawkins, you should take the men into custody after they have been seen by the physician. And perhaps we should inspect the townhouse tomorrow morning, so we can attest to the damage done. When we are finally able to arrest Armstrong, I intend to have all the information wrapped with a bow to present to the world.”
Mr Hawkins nodded his head. “After this attack, I am sure you all agree there will most likely be another attempt to reach Miss Elizabeth. Would it not be better to remove her from Town?”
Lord Bentley shook his head. “No, no, Hawkins, it would not be safe. As a matter of fact, I am certain the colonel here could tell you that it would not be a battle plan he would use. Carriages would be far too vulnerable, there are many locations to ambush the carriages between here and Pemberley, which is where Armstrong would imagine them taking her. No, this is most likely the safest townhouse in all of London. The royals could learn a thing or two from these young men on securing a location.”
“We have moved the Gardiners and Bennets here, and Mr Bingley as well.” Darcy stated. “Richard suggested it would be easier to protect us all here, under one roof.”
“That is why Richard is a colonel, so young in his career. He has earned each promotion he has received, not purchased a commission like some of the dandies in our society.” Lord Bentley was proud of his young friend.
“If you gentlemen are finished with Miss Elizabeth for tonight, would you mind if I escort her to her rooms?” Darcy inquired, noting Elizabeth’s eyelids growing heavy. “She has been through quite an ordeal tonight, and needs to rest.”
“Of course, Miss Elizabeth. I pray you find some peace in your sleep. We will talk again tomorrow.” Lord Bentley stated clearly, making it obvious to Mr Hawkins that further questions could wait.
Darcy assisted Elizabeth to her feet, then wrapped her fingers around his arm. He then led her down the hall, placing her in the room directly across the hall from his own. “This is the door to my rooms.” Darcy pointed out. “If you need anything, please, do not hesitate to ask. Feel safe, I will not allow any harm to come to you or your family.”
Seeing the devotion in his eyes, Elizabeth nodded her head. “Thank you.” She whispered.
“You never need to thank me, Elizabeth. I will always be here for you.” He lifted her hand to his lips, placing a gentle kiss on back of it. “Rest well, you are safe.”
Inside her rooms was a maid, waiting to assist her. “Miss Georgiana asked me to see to you. My name is Abby. She gave me a nightgown for you to wear, as well as a morning gown for you to wear when you wake for the day.”
Elizabeth nodded her head in approval. Once prepared for bed, Elizabeth sank into the comfort of the bed, succumbing to sleep, secure in the knowledge that she was safe and loved.
~~ ** ~~
“The whore has escaped me once again.” Armstrong roared as his physician treated a wound to his left shoulder. “How did Darcy and his cousin come to be there? And Bingley, too. If it were not for them, we would have the whore. We had almost made it to the stairs when they arrived. I will tolerate no more interference. This must come to an end. And there will be retribution for Matlock’s relations crossing me.”
The physician was nervous, as he heard Armstrong’s words. It was obvious, from the bullet wound in his shoulder, the man had been in some sort of fight. From his words, the fight was instigated by Armstrong and his men.
“The men sent word from Cheapside. When they returned to watch the Gardiner home, they learned the family was gone and the servants are on holiday.” James informed his employer.
“That means Darcy has gathered them in his protection. Would he take them to Pemberley?”
“The men asked around, and it appears that Darcy House is still occupied by the family. And it appears Mr Bingley has moved there. That must be where the Gardiner family must have gone.”
Armstrong cursed as the physician cleaned the wound. “I want you to take some men and pay a call on my establishments. Find Lord Matlock’s eldest son. Give him a message to relay to his father.”
James nodded his head and left the room. Armstrong turned to the physician. “You will not tell anyone of my wound. Do you understand? Not one word, or you will regret it.”
The physician nodded his head and continued to tend the wound, trying not to cause further fury from his patient.