“Who did they haul inside Darcy House?” Armstrong shouted. “I demand to know who it was. If the person was bound, it was someone being taken there against their will. They must think they have someone who will give them information against me, but they must know that none of you would turn against me. You all know the penalty of such treasonous acts against me.”
“Yes, Mr Armstrong.” The taller man stated. “Perhaps they are making us believe they have someone, but it was really one of their own men trussed up.”
“Darcy is intelligent, but I cannot see him making such a move. No, I believe he has something up his sleeve. And the men said Lord Bentley was at Darcy House as well?” Seeing the men nod their heads, Armstrong began to consider his options. “The old man has announced his relationship to the Bennet family, making it publically known his connection as their cousin. What an old fool he is. I will not be stopped, I will put an end to Miss Elizabeth Bennet. I care not what anyone says, she has humiliated me far too much. The end must come soon.”
“You have said you wanted the Bingley man to pay, along with Miss Elizabeth. I have an idea which will get everyone out of Darcy House, and easy pickings for our men.”
“I am all ears, Jess. What do you have to suggest?”
“If the entire townhouse is on fire, they would be forced to vacate the building.”
Armstrong sat, pondering this suggestion. Slowly, an evil grin grew on his lips. “I like that notion. But it would take multiple fires coming from different areas of the house at the same time, as one location could easily be contained.”
“With archers shooting flaming arrows, we can make multiple attacks easily. The townhouse to the north of Darcy House is vacant at the moment, as the owners are in Bath. We could place men on the front and rear sections of the roof of that house, making the upper levels accessible to set on fire, at the same time as the lower level.”
“You have been thinking of this for some time.” Armstrong chuckled. “Very well, make the preparations. I want it done quickly. By tomorrow evening, at the latest. In the dark, in the middle of the night. Yes, in the middle of the night.”
~~ ** ~~
The Darcys spent most of their first day of marriage together with their family. After taking Sam Butler and his wife to a secure room in the cellar, and guards posted to keep them safe, the family wished to discuss the news.
Lord Bentley was prepared to issue a warrant for Armstrong’s arrest, charging the man with conspiracy to commit murder. Richard asked that the arrest be postponed for a day, as he was hoping for more information on the raid of Bingley’s aunt’s townhouse. He had received word of Armstrong being at the raid, and had been wounded. One of Richard’s army friends had learned of a physician who was said to have treated Armstrong, and it was hoped that they would be able to convince him to speak. If they could prove the information, it would seal Armstrong’s guilt and lead him to the gallows.
A letter arrived in the late afternoon, addressed to Elizabeth. It was a letter she had never expected to receive.
Miss Elizabeth Bennet,
I find I need to write to you, to apologize for all that has happened to you. At first, all the allegations I heard of my father’s behavior were unbelievable to me. How could the man I have always known and loved, my father, behave in such a manner to the daughter of a gentleman, a young lady who was hired to be my companion? It was not possible for him to be the scoundrel everyone said he was.
Recently, I learned the truth of my father’s behavior, not only towards you, but of other instances. It was made known to me of my siblings, or, I should say, my half siblings. My father has had many liaisons, even before my mother’s death. I was shocked, to say the least, to hear of his lack of morals.
Mr Bingley’s rescue of you is to be commended. I am grateful you were removed before my father could harm you further. My heart breaks with the knowledge of how severe the injuries were.
I will tell you now, I have left my father’s home. He believes I am simply visiting my aunt. But I have no intention of ever returning to my father’s home or be in his presence again. My aunt and I have decided to travel, and so we shall. There are many lovely locations we have always wished to visit, and, I believe, we shall visit as many as possible.
Please know you are in my prayers, and that my father will be brought to justice for his crimes. He has lost the love of his family, and the respect of all civilized society, which will make him furious. As you are well aware, when he is furious, he becomes more dangerous than ever. Take care, Miss Elizabeth. Though part of me would believe my father incapable of bringing harm to you, the truth is, he is most likely plotting for worse things than before. Keep those you love close and protected, as he will do anything to get to you.
Thank you for the time we shared with one another. You are a wonderful lady, who has had far too much happen in such a short time. I will hold you with the greatest regard, and hope that one day, we will meet again.
May God watch over you,
Miss Lucy Armstrong
“I am speechless.” Elizabeth said, after reading the letter. “Armstrong’s daughter has deserted him, and is warning me, as she feels her father will strike again. But, from the letter, it sounds as if Armstrong is not aware of her plans, so we should be safe for a few days. Once he learns of her leaving England, his fury will be difficult to contain.”
“When was she leaving England?” Richard inquired.
“She does not say for certain, but from the sounds of it, Lucy and her aunt were planning to leave soon. I wish her safe travel and a happy life. Her father hid many of his…unique behaviors…from her. To learn of them must be painful.”
“Well, I am certain Armstrong will not be pleased with the announcement in the papers tomorrow.” Darcy said with a satisfied look. “I sent the announcement of our wedding, just before the ceremony. I, for one, would love to witness the look on Armstrong’s face when he reads the news.”
“Perhaps it would have been wiser to have waited.” Elizabeth stated, nervously. “Antagonizing him at this point might hold dangerous consequences.”
“All will be well, my dearest. Have no fear.” Darcy said as he leaned towards her, holding her close to his side.
~~ ** ~~
Though many would like to see the inner dealings inside the Master’s bedchamber for the wedding night of Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy, it will remain to the imagination of each reader to fill in their fantasy. Whether Darcy and Elizabeth came together in a frenzied moment of passion or coupled in a tender, shared pleasure, all will depend on the reader. All that the author of this tale is willing to share is Darcy and Elizabeth were quite late arriving in the drawing room the following day, and both wore smiles which could not be destroyed.
~~ ** ~~
After luncheon, Lady Catherine asked to speak with the newlyweds.
“William, I will come to the point. When I spoke with Anne, she was adamant that she did not wish to marry, to anyone. She knew she could never be a wife completely, and never bear a child. So she is determined to remain unwed. Her health is growing considerably worse this past year. Our physician is not certain she will live more than a year.”
“Aunt Catherine, why had you not told us how poorly Anne’s health was?”
“I still held in my heart that you would do as I wished and marry her. If for no other reason, to protect her when I am gone. To be honest, I must have believed the truth, years ago. I will most likely outlive Anne. As difficult as it is for me to say, I know it is true. My heart breaks at the thought of outliving my child. But I must look towards Rosings Park’s future. So, I have already sent word to my solicitor as to my will. Anne and I spoke of the matter before I came here, and we were settled on Richard before I arrived. I have decided to name Georgiana as our heir. There are no de Bourghs left, Anne is the last of their line. So the only member of the family with no estate to inherit is Georgiana, now that it is for certain Richard will have Drummond. I was certain Lord Bentley would have left the estate to Richard, even before the knowledge of the Bennet family being related, and Richard falling in love with Miss Mary Bennet. Bentley never trusted his son in law, which was clear when he did not allow the fiend to inherit anything after Bentley’s daughter died. He tied his legacy up tight before her marriage, as he disapproved of the man.”
“Georgiana is still quite young, Aunt.”
Lady Catherine smiled. “Which is why you are to act as executor of the estate until Georgiana has reached her majority. You know Rosings nearly as well as Pemberley. You will be able to guide her along and make Rosings as profitable as Pemberley.”
“I am certain Georgiana will be grateful for your kindness, Aunt Catherine. I pray that she will not take possession of the estate for many years to come.”
Lady Catherine stood and walked to where her nephew and his new wife were sitting, side by side. “If I can give you a piece of advice which you would actually appreciate, it would be this. Love each other, completely and without reserve. Do not live like my generation, in marriages which held no love or respect for one’s partner. I was miserable for more years than I can count. Henry is miserable as well, though he was able to be friends with his wife. Anne and Gerald, they never loved each other. So much anger and discord, for money and status. We were fools, as is society.”
Elizabeth smiled. “I appreciate you generosity, Aunt Catherine. My promise to you is to always love my husband.”
“Very good. Now, I must have my say on Georgiana’s practicing on her pianoforte. Darcy, you know I have told you time and again, she will never become truly proficient unless she practices often. Had I learnt to play, I know I would have been quite proficient, for no one has more love of music than me.”
Darcy chuckled, hearing his aunt’s constant reminders of how accomplished she would have been, had she been taught.
“I plan to leave Monday morning, as I do not approve of traveling on God’s holy day. Keep that in mind, when you travel. You should always refrain from traveling on Sundays.”
“Yes, Aunt Catherine.” Elizabeth laughed. “We will remember your wisdom.”
~~ ** ~~
“NO!” Armstrong banged his hands upon his desk. “This cannot be true. How were they able to manage such an event and no word of it reached us until now?”
“What is wrong, Mr Armstrong?” The young man standing before his desk asked.
“The announcement in the papers, claiming Fitzwilliam Darcy has married that chit, Elizabeth Bennet. This cannot be happening. She was to be dead, long before now. But, instead, she is married to Darcy. They must believe they have won the war, but they have not. Is all ready for tonight?”
The young man was nervous. “Yes, Mr Armstrong. We will take our positions near midnight. If we wait until two or three in the morning, most everyone will be asleep. This will keep them confused, and unable to battle the fire.”
“Very good. And I will be there, waiting for my chance to finish that whore with my own two hands.” Armstrong declared in a voice which boomed throughout the room.
~~ ** ~~
As the family gathered together to dine, announcements were made. Charles and Jane smiled brilliantly as he asked for everyone’s attention.
“I am sure everyone is aware of what I have to say, but Jane and I wish to make it official. I asked my beloved Jane to make me the happiest of men, and she has agreed. We will wait until the half mourning period for Caroline is over, as Jane wishes to keep the gossip to a minimum. With all the talk about town, it would be better to allow time to settle some of the tongues before we wed.”
“Well, I for one do not intend to wait so long.” Richard said as he stood up. “I have been granted permission by my dear Mary, to announce our engagement. She wishes to marry in a month, though I do not wish to wait so long. I believe a fortnight would be long enough to wait.”
Darcy smiled. “Always the regimental soldier, charging head first into battle.”
“Some battle, William.” Elizabeth laughed as she slapped her husband’s arm playfully. “Mary, Jane, I am so happy for both of you.” She embraced her sisters, placing a kiss on each of their cheeks. “And Mary, if Richard does not behave himself, make him wait longer. Wedding dates can always be postponed.”
Richard nearly choked on the sip of wine he had just taken. “I will be on my best behavior, dearest Mary. I promise, there will be no need to delay the wedding longer than a month.”
Everyone in the room laughed at the Colonel’s response. Mrs Jarvis entered the drawing room to announce dinner was served, smiling at all joy which was filling the once empty house, making it more of a home.
As they reached the dining room, a servant approached Richard with a letter. Taking the letter to the table, Richard broke the seal and read the missive quickly. “Good news. My informant has information on a witness who can place Armstrong at the attack on the townhouse. It appears Armstrong received a nasty wound, and the witness is the physician who patched him up. Since the injury, Armstrong has been medicating himself to overcome the pain. The physician has stated he is concerned with the combination of medicines and heavy drinking, which has made Armstrong even more volatile than usual.”
“We should send a message to Lord Bentley.” Darcy stated. “If he is available, we can have him come tomorrow morning to discuss the situation, and send someone to secure the physician and his family. It will need to be done quickly, especially to keep Armstrong from learning what we are up to.”
“Fitzwilliam Darcy, tomorrow is the Lord’s day.” Lady Catherine admonished. “I am certain there is no reason you cannot wait until Monday to have the scoundrel taken into custody.”
“Aunt Catherine, I wish that we could wait, but I am concerned for the safety of our family. With Armstrong becoming more volatile, it is best to see to it in the morning. If it were not so late tonight, I would suggest we apprehend him now, but I know Lord Bentley was planning to retire early tonight, as he has not slept well lately.” Darcy explained. “I am certain the Lord will forgive us for behaving so on Sunday, as it will be securing an evil man from committing further harm.” Lady Catherine huffed, though kept silent.
“Once we have the physician’s statement, there should be no trouble in prosecuting Armstrong.” Bingley nodded his head. “I would love to see his face when he is taken into custody.”
“As would we all.” Mr Gardiner added. “Though it has been pleasant to visit your fine home, and be treated as wonderfully as we all have, there is no place like home. I am looking forward to working on my plans to expand my business.”
“William has promised to take me on a wedding trip. It is possible we could make contacts for your business, Uncle.” Elizabeth smiled.
“What a wonderful suggestion, dearest.” Darcy was pleased with his wife’s idea. “We could find items which would add to the import business. Yes, I like the idea.”
~~ ** ~~
After the meal was over, the men separated from the ladies to enjoy their cigars and port. The ladies made their way into the drawing room, as Georgiana looked through the sheets of music to decide what she wished to play for her family. A year prior, Georgiana would have hid in the shadows, hoping no one would notice her and ask her to play the pianoforte. After the short time in Elizabeth’s presence, the young lady had gleaned confidence from her new sister. Georgiana looked forward to being able to bring pleasure to her loved ones.
The men soon joined their ladies, and enjoyed the entertainment offered by Georgiana, followed by Elizabeth, and finally, by Mary.
Once the music was done, the conversation turned to plans for weddings. Hearing all that would need to be accomplished for Mary and Richard’s wedding made Elizabeth glad she and Darcy had simply married at their home. Finally, it was late, and everyone bid goodnight to each other, making their way to their rooms.
~~ ** ~~
Armstrong was found behind the neighboring townhouse, north of Darcy House. He was waiting until his men gave him the sign that all was clear to move inside the house.
The townhouse in question was owned by Lord Hamilton, who disliked being in Town, so the townhouse was frequently empty. The minimal staff in the townhouse consisted of a butler, housekeeper, cook, two maids and a footman. When the family came to Town, they brought staff with them from their estate.
Armstrong knew it would be simple enough to contain the servants. His men had been watching the Hamilton townhouse for days. The servants had set routines, and none of them ever altered from them. The cook was usually the first to bed, as she was one of the first to wake in the morning, preparing meals for the other servants. The butler was usually the last to bed, but rarely was seen outside his rooms after ten each evening. The staff had learned Lord Hamilton’s preference of early rising, and lived by his standards, no matter if he was in residence or not.
Taking out his pocket watch, Armstrong looked at the face, illuminated in the moonlight. Eleven o’clock. Another hour and they would be able to take their places. Two of his men were stationed near the front corner on the south side of Darcy House, keeping out of sight of Darcy’s guards. There were four men behind the mews, ready to move forward during the confusion which would come during the blaze. And Armstrong would be prepared on the second floor of the Hamilton house, waiting for his chance to kill Elizabeth.
Another swig from his flask was needed by Armstrong. He was becoming addicted to the brew which was inside the flask. A combination of opiates and alcohol. Believing that he would no longer require the concoction after ridding himself of Elizabeth Bennet, Armstrong took yet another swig.
Keeping hidden amongst the bushes and buildings, Armstrong’s men prepared to move forward with the plan. They had identified where several of Darcy’s guards were to be found, though they were certain there were others hiding, blending in with the surroundings. It would not matter. The plan was well planned and thought through. Once Elizabeth Bennet was eliminated, Charles Bingley would be second. Armstrong cared not for any of the others in Darcy House, and had granted his men permission to kill anyone who exited the burning townhouse.
The men were growing restless, as the minutes ticked by slowly. Each was nervous at the thought of an assault against an entire townhouse, in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Town. A robbery was one thing, but they were not there to rob the family. They were there to commit murder. Arson, murder, and who knew what else would come soon, and each of Armstrong’s men were wondering how well thought out the plan truly was.
Though Armstrong had offered to pay high wages, was it worth the possibilities of what they faced? Each man went over the list of possibilities in their head. Prison, hanging, transportation, or dying during the assault. They knew there were many guards, and some had heard of Colonel Fitzwilliam, his reputation was well known to those who had served in the army. Only two of Armstrong’s men had been present the night of the raid on the other townhouse, the night Armstrong had been injured. Some had been captured, and others had disappeared, wishing to escape rather than deal with the insane man again. One of the men who stormed the townhouse with Armstrong had become so frightened of his employer, the man turned himself in to the authorities on another crime he had committed, begging to be transported to Australia as soon as possible.
Finally a signal was given. Those who were to enter the Hamilton townhouse began to move. They would secure the rooms where servants were known to be sleeping, then take positions where they could cause the most damage with fire. Two of Armstrong’s men made their way to the rooftop, finding a perfect location to launch their fire bombs, bottles of kerosene which had strips of cloth secured in the opening which would be lit, before launching them inside the upper levels of Darcy House. Three more men were in the top floor of the Hamilton townhouse, preparing fires in the fireplaces to set arrows aflame. And Armstrong had a dozen men on the second level of the townhouse, prepared to take aim at anyone as they exit Darcy House. The deranged man cared not as to the number of lives which could be lost that night. All that mattered was that Elizabeth Bennet and Charles Bingley were amongst them.
The clock finally struck two, and Armstrong could wait no longer. He motioned for his men to prepare the attack. The men on the rooftop had bottles of kerosene ready to light, and prepared to propel them through the windows of the upper level. The fires were stoked in the fireplaces. It was now time to strike.
~~~~~~~ ** ~~~~~~~
Elizabeth was lying in bed, her husband’s arms wrapped tightly around her, holding her to his chest. The peaceful feeling she had come to enjoy in only a few days of being married surprised her. How did I live before marrying William? He has completed my life, filled me with love and security. I never knew love could be so fulfilling, so consuming, yet so very pleasant.
Feeling the need to relieve herself, Elizabeth carefully extricated herself from her husband’s grasp, feeling cold outside the warmth of his embrace. Grabbing her dressing gown, she quickly donned the garment as she made her way to her dressing room. Using the necessary room attached to the dressing room, Elizabeth, soon, had refreshed herself. Looking in the peer glass at her dressing table, Elizabeth smiled at the glow of happiness which had come over her since her marriage.
Returning to the Master’s bedchamber, Elizabeth sat on the side of the bed, looking at the man sleeping there. How handsome her husband was, and how caring he was to her. Not only to her, but to everyone he felt was under his protection. If Fitzwilliam Darcy felt someone was important, no matter their station in life, he would move mountains to protect them. And yet, seeing him sleep, Elizabeth could see the young boy inside of him. The boy who had wished to be loved, the boy who had needed his parents to care for him as much as the servants did. The boy who had grown into a most amazing man, and had won her heart.
As she prepared to remove her dressing gown, something caught her attention outside the window. Being in the family wing on the second floor, she had no fear of any danger, she felt they were safe. But that thought changed in a matter of moments.
“William, wake up!” Elizabeth screamed as bottles broke through the windows of their rooms, bursting into flames, instantly lapping at anything to devour in its path.
“William, we have to get out of the house. Fire, William, we have to get out.” Elizabeth screamed, pulling at her husband’s arm. “Hurry, Will, we have to get the others out.”
Darcy woke with a start. The heat of the fire was intense, and growing. Picking up a coverlet from the end of their bed, Darcy began beat at the flames.
“Will, it is no use. The fire is everywhere.” Elizabeth announced. “It is coming through the windows. Someone has set fire to the house. The bottles came through the windows.” Elizabeth was as near to the windows as she could get, and could see men throwing the bottles through other windows. Flaming arrows were also being shot at the townhouse. “We have to get everyone out. Our family, the staff, we have to get them all to safety.”
“Start pounding on doors, make sure everyone gets out. With the broken windows, the smoke will be pulled partially outside, which is in our favor. We will be able to breathe and see a little better.” Darcy pulled on his dressing gown and followed his wife out their door and into the hall.
They began to pound on every door, shouting to everyone to wake up and leave their rooms. The chaos seemed to last an eternity. People screaming, running about, searching for their loved ones or something to wear. Soon, everyone had been evacuated from their rooms and were herded down the stairs of the burning building. Fortunately, the grand staircase was located on the south side of the townhouse, farther from the flames which were threatening the safety of all inside.
Reaching the main level, Darcy called out to one of the guards. “Where are they?”
“It appears they have taken over Hamilton’s house, as well as behind the mews. A few were caught out front, though they are not the only ones. There are some on the roof of Hamilton’s house, and inside the house.”
“Are all the servants accounted for?” Elizabeth asked.
“They are, Mrs Darcy.” Called out Mrs Jarvis. “Mr Darcy, should we take everyone down to the tunnel?”
Elizabeth looked at her husband, confused by their housekeeper’s statement. “Tunnel?”
“Yes, I never thought we would have need of the tunnel. Richard and I used to play in the tunnel when we were boys. My grandfather had it built to allow the family to make their way from Darcy House to Matlock House, which abuts our property in the back. Grandfather did not wish to have to travel around the block to come here, nor did he wish for anyone to see the Earl of Matlock entering his daughter’s home from the rear. The tunnel allowed him the convenience to not having to go outdoors and a quicker route to Darcy House. My grandfather was a strange man, though at this moment, I am pleased for his eccentric desires.”
Darcy led everyone to the rear of the main level. By the time they reached the kitchen area, the flames had engulfed the entire north side of the building.
As her husband pushed forward, leading the way through the debris and burning pieces of their home, Elizabeth assisted the moving everyone and begging for them to stay together. Richard was carrying an injured servant while Mary held the hand of Georgiana. Bingley carried Jane. Mr Gardiner had his arms filled with two of his children, while his wife held fast to the elder two.
Lady Catherine was bringing up the rear, assisting Kitty, who was scared beyond belief. Standing amongst the pieces of burning debris, Kitty began screaming from fear. “Come, girl, we must stay with the others.”
Kitty could not move, frozen in place. Lady Catherine pulled back her hand, bringing it down just hard enough against the girl’s cheek to gain Kitty’s attention. The young girl looked at Lady Catherine, unable to understand what was happening. “Come, we must move forward. If we do not, we will perish in the flames. Move, girl. There is no time for fear now.”
Finally coming out of her trance like state, Kitty nodded her head and moved forward.
~~ ** ~~
“The house is engulfed in flames, yet no one is coming out.” Cried Armstrong. “Where is everyone? They would not all remain inside, some have to come out. What is happening?”
“Sir, one of the men saw inside the house. It appears that the people inside are moving towards the kitchen area.” One of the men called out.
“They must have some way of escaping Darcy House, some way of not being seen.” Another man shouted.
“Quick, we need to find them.” Armstrong was on the move. He would not allow his prey to escape, not this time. Running down the stairs of the Hamilton townhouse, he was soon outside the house and making his way around the wall which separated the two properties. The flames were hot on his skin as he made his way towards the rear of Darcy House. Momentarily, Armstrong would glance inside the burning townhouse, desperately trying to find any view of Elizabeth or Bingley. Finally, he reached the entrance door located on the rear north corner of the townhouse, the entrance used by servants.
Kicking at the door, Armstrong was unable to force it open. Calling for assistance, two other men moved towards the door. After several attempts, the door was finally pushed inward, moving rubble along with it. Armstrong climbed through the rubble, and finally reached the dining room. He could see people moving in the hallway outside the dining room. Dodging the bits of burning debris falling all about him, Armstrong moved forward, his pistol in one hand and a dagger in the other.
He heard her voice in the hallway, calling out to others to keep moving towards the kitchen. Moving forward, Armstrong motioned his men to follow.
Elizabeth was gathering some of the last of the servants to move them forward. One of the maids had fallen, a piece of the ceiling pinning her to the floor. Calling out to one of the other maids who was nearby, Elizabeth was desperately attempting to move the debris from the young maid.
Seeing her back towards him, Armstrong moved forward to take his revenge. Bringing his pistol up and taking aim, Armstrong squeezed the trigger, firing his weapon, aimed at his prey’s back.
Suddenly, there was another lady who had moved in the path of the oncoming bullet. An elderly lady, who had moved towards Elizabeth with a younger girl. To Armstrong’s astonishment, the elderly lady had seen him and moved forward, pushing Elizabeth out of the way. The lady slumped, landing hard on the floor.
Sprawled on the floor, where she landed from Lady Catherine pushing her, Elizabeth was shocked to see her new aunt falling to the floor. “Aunt Catherine, are you injured?”
Kitty stood nearby, staring not at the form of Lady Catherine, but at the man standing nearby. Elizabeth followed her sister’s eyes, seeing Armstrong standing before her.
Tossing his pistol to the side, Armstrong moved towards Elizabeth, dagger in hand, scowling at the young lady who had defied him. This was the end, no one would stand between him and his goal now. He would take delight in killing her, cutting her flesh with his blade. It would be his pleasure to do the act himself, rather than relying on one of his men to commit the deed. Let his men kill Bingley, he would relish in finally showing Elizabeth Bennet who was in control. She may have escaped him before, but she would never do so again. He circled around her, as she desperately looked about for something to use to protect herself.
Seeing Kitty still standing, staring at Armstrong, Elizabeth screamed at her young sister to run. But Kitty was traumatized, unable to move. “Kitty, leave, please, run.”
Kitty did not move. Armstrong wore a sneer of pure evil as he looked from one sister to another. Moving towards the younger, intending to bring Elizabeth greater pain by killing her sister before killing her, Armstrong was unaware of movement nearby.
Lady Catherine de Bourgh was wounded, but not dead. And she would not allow this man to harm anyone else. Grabbing hold of a large shard of glass, she moved carefully across the floor, until she was close enough. With all her might, she shoved the glass upward, reaching her intended goal.
Armstrong howled in pain as his hand reached down towards his manhood. Dropping to his knees, the man continued to shout out, now insisting his men kill all of the ladies.
“Kill them! Kill all of these whores!” Armstrong screamed as he writhed in pain, the glass deeply embedded in his privates.
Elizabeth grabbed hold of Lady Catherine’s arm pulling her out of Armstrong’s reach. As his hired hands came forward to follow their employer’s commands, a large beam fell from the ceiling, crushing Armstrong beneath it.
The men decided it was too dangerous to remain inside the burning townhouse, and retreated back the way they had entered. As they were sounding a hasty retreat, Darcy and Richard had returned to the burning room to find the missing ladies. Richard pulled the debris from on top of the maid, lifting her into his arms. Darcy scooped his aunt into his arms, as Elizabeth grabbed hold of Kitty’s arm, pulling her behind her as they all hurried from the blazing room.
Only moments after they had exited the area, the entire ceiling collapsed upon the floor, further burying Armstrong’s body under the rubble he had caused.
Darcy and Richard took the ladies down the stairs on the south side of the kitchen, leading them to the cellar and to the tunnel. “Hurry Richard, I doubt we have much time left before more of the house crumbles down.” Darcy called forward to his cousin.
The men kept moving everyone forward, with Elizabeth pulling Kitty, sandwiched between the men.
Reaching the end of the tunnel, Richard led the way up the stairs and into the nearest drawing room. Placing the maid on one of the sofas, Richard turned to see Darcy lay their aunt on another.
Darcy took hold of his aunt’s hand. “Aunt Catherine, hold on. We have sent for a surgeon.”
“Have no fear, William. I am beyond a surgeon’s care. Now, do not cry. I will not have such a show in front of servants. Men do not cry in public.” Pain coursed through her and she grimaced. “I have only one regret. I would have loved to see your children.” Lady Catherine placed her hand gently against her nephew’s cheek. “Elizabeth, where are you girl?”
Elizabeth released her hold on Kitty, leaving her in Mary’s care. Kneeling beside the sofa, Elizabeth took Lady Catherine’s hand in her own. “You saved my life. There is no way I can ever be able to thank you properly?”
“Live a long and happy life, Elizabeth. Be good to my dear boy. He deserves to be loved. If you can do this, it will be thanks enough.” Lady Catherine smiled, her eyelids growing heavy. “Everyone has always thought me wicked, but all I ever wanted was to be loved. Have lots of children, fill Pemberley with laughter. And, if you can find it in your heart, name one of your daughters after me.”
Nodding her head, Elizabeth agreed. Lady Catherine opened her eyes as wide as she could. “Georgiana, come here.”
Georgiana moved forward, kneeling beside her sister. “Yes, Aunt Catherine?”
“You are my heir. Your brother will explain. But I have one thing to tell you. You will never be proficient if you do not practice. That pertains to everything in life, not just the pianoforte.” A small smile crept on her lips. Only a moment later, Lady Catherine’s heart ceased beating.
Elizabeth wrapped her arms around Georgiana, holding her tightly as they wept beside Lady Catherine’s still form.
Darcy and Richard had moved towards the two young ladies. Taking his wife in his arms, Darcy kissed her on the temple. “What happened, my love? One of the maids came rushing to us, telling us that one of the other maids was trapped by debris. She said nothing of anyone else being in the house.”
“Armstrong had found a way inside the house with some of his men. They moved towards us, and, as he took aim and fired his weapon at my back, Lady Catherine pushed me away and was struck by the bullet. When Armstrong moved towards Kitty, he did not realize that Lady Catherine was still alive. She found a jagged piece of glass on the floor, a rather large piece. She shoved it…into…”
Kitty finally came out of her trance like state. “She shoved the glass into that man’s privates. He was in so much pain, crying out for his men to kill us all. That is when the beam fell, landing on top of that man.”
Darcy pulled back from his wife to see her face. “Armstrong was under the beam? He is dead?”
“I am sure he is, as the beam was large and heavy. His men retreated from the house, so I doubt any of them went back in to retrieve him. Especially if the house was collapsing, as it sounded like it was.” Elizabeth stated.
Pulling her back to his chest, Darcy began to cry. Holding his beloved wife tightly to him, he gave thanks to the heavens for watching over her, keeping her safe.
“Darce, I know my father is not here, but we had best figure out where we are going to move everyone to. I am sure my father will return, once he learns of his sister’s death. And he will most likely bring Anne with him.”
“We can move everyone to my warehouse for the time being. There is enough space for everyone, until we can find adequate housing.” Mr Gardiner stated. “We have a few rooms in our house available as well.”
“The first thing needed would be to arrange transportation to the warehouse.” Richard took charge. “Those who are unharmed should be moved there first, as the surgeon will need to tend to those who are injured.”
“We can move everyone to my townhouse.” Bingley stated as he moved forward through the crowd. “It is not as large as Darcy House, but it would work. Louisa and Hurst are not due back to Town for another month, if not longer.”
“Good thinking, Bingley.” Darcy exclaimed. “Your townhouse is closer, only five blocks away. Richard, would you and Mary assist Bingley in moving people to his townhouse? Hire any hackney carriages you need, I will see they are all compensated. Anyone who can walk, lead them there.”
Richard nodded his head. “I will send some of your men to check the mews, as I am sure Father has at least one wagon here. And I will send someone to see if your carriages and wagon are safe. If they are, and the horses are unharmed, I will have them brought here to transport the injured, and Aunt Catherine.”
“Thank you, Richard. I should send someone to the townhouse, in case the fire brigade has arrived. I do not wish to have anyone else injured, thinking they need to rescue us.”
One of the guards moved forward. “Mr Darcy, I have already sent two men there, and was planning to go there in a few minutes. With their employer dead, I am sure Armstrong’s men disbanded quickly. No profit in working for a dead man.”
Darcy nodded his head. “Send word to Mr Bingley’s townhouse as to what is happening. And if any officials show up, send them down to Bingley’s as well.”
“Yes, Sir. And Sir, may I extend my deepest regrets for what happened tonight. We were prepared for an attack on the main level, even from the mews, but the fire from above surprised us. The battle came from all sides.”
“Geoffrey, your men held them off for a long time. The quick thinking of the men helped save many lives tonight, especially in getting the servants out of their rooms and down to the tunnel. The building and the items inside can be replaced. The people were the treasures, and you should all be proud you were able to save so many tonight.”
“You are too kind Sir. Especially in light of your aunt’s demise.”
“Not at all. You did what you could. Having only one death is amazing, after the night we just experienced.” Richard stated. “There were nearly sixty people inside Darcy House tonight, with the family and their guests, as well as the staff and the guards. And only one death, and a few injured. In all my years of military campaigns, I consider this night to have been a miracle. And Armstrong is dealt with.”
“Colonel, I appreciate your words.” Geoffrey said as he prepared to leave. “I will have men moved over to Mr Bingley’s townhouse, to keep watch over everyone. Just in case some of Armstrong’s men are foolish enough to retaliate.”
Richard nodded his head. “Bingley, shall we gather our ladies and make our way to your home?”
Bingley nodded his head. Gathering Jane in his arms, he called out to the Darcy House occupants to follow him. As they reached the front door to make their exit, it was discovered that the sky had opened up, sending a downpour of rain to the neighborhood.
“Well, I guess someone in heaven decided the fire brigade needed some assistance.” Richard said with a smile.
~~ ** ~~
Lord Bentley was awake before sunrise that morning, hearing all the commotion on the streets of the neighborhood. Dressing quickly, he followed everyone as they quickly gathered in front of Darcy House. The fire was burning brightly, the damage was severe. Suddenly, rain began to sprinkle, then increased. Before long, the fire was being doused by the pouring rain which refused to relent.
Looking about the people gathered, Lord Bentley could not find any of the family members. Good God, were they all killed in the flames? Did I gain a family, only to lose them all so quickly? This cannot be true, someone had to have escaped the blaze.
Suddenly, Lord Bentley remembered the tunnel which ran beneath Darcy House and to Matlock House. Being one of the few people outside the family who knew of the tunnel, Lord Bentley prayed he would find everyone safe and secure at Matlock House. He quickly made his way around the block, to the other townhouse, pounding on the front door. Richard opened the door, finding his old friend out of breath from his frenzied walk.
“Richard, thank God, you are alive. Is everyone else here?”
“Yes, yes, come in out of the rain. How did you know we would be here?” Richard asked.
“I remembered you speaking of playing in the tunnel with Darcy when you were boys. You laughed that it was an easy way for your nannies to keep track of you both, and never have to worry of you running off.” Lord Bentley smiled at the memory. “Was anyone injured?”
“A few injuries, and only two fatalities. Aunt Catherine saved Elizabeth, at the cost of her own life. And Armstrong is dead.”
“Are we sure? Armstrong is truly dead?”
Richard nodded his head. “Elizabeth and Kitty saw him crushed under a beam which fell from the ceiling. His men all fled, deserting their master. Armstrong was also dealt a painful blow by Aunt Catherine. She stabbed him in his…manhood, with a large piece of sharp glass.”
“Ah, Catherine, feisty to the end. God bless that woman for her sacrifice.”
Laughing Richard slapped a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “That is one statement I never thought I would ever hear in regards to my Aunt Catherine.”
Chuckling, Lord Bentley agreed. Lady Catherine had always been out spoken in her opinions, but she knew where to place her energy. “No, Catherine de Bourgh was far from sainthood, but she came through in the end. I will be forever grateful to her for saving my cousin.”
“Come, I am sure you wish to see your cousins, and make certain they are all well.” Richard led Lord Bentley into the drawing room.
“Elizabeth, Darcy, you cannot know how it does my heart good to see you.” Lord Bentley looked around the room, seeing the Gardiner family, Mary, Kitty, Jane, and Bingley, all gathered together. “When I saw the house aflame, and could not find any of you in the crowd in front of Darcy House, my heart nearly broke. Thank heavens I remembered how Darcy and Richard loved to play in the tunnel when they were boys.”
“Bentley, it is good to see you.” Darcy stepped closer to the gentleman, holding out a hand to him.
“Richard told me of Catherine’s death. I extend my deepest regrets to all of you.” Lord Bentley looked into Darcy’s eyes. “She was a spitfire, Catherine was. And I never wished to be in her way when she got up a head of steam. But she was protective of those she loved, and that sort of dedication is worthy of respect, especially when it pertains to members of my own family.”
“Thank you, Bentley. Your words are gratefully accepted.”
Lord Bentley looked around the room. “Where are you going to stay? I am sure that Richard’s father is not going to allow you to remain here, when he learns what happened.”
“We were planning to move everyone to Bingley’s townhouse. You know Claymore.” Darcy replied.
“There is no need for that. My townhouse is right across the street from here. Just a stone’s throw away. Come, everyone must come there, and stay as long as needed. You are my family, it is only fitting. After all, the townhouse will belong to my cousins when I am gone. I would love to have everyone there.”
Darcy looked around the room, and, with the approval of those gathered, accepted Lord Bentley’s generous offer.
~~~~~~~ ** ~~~~~~~