Wickham had joined several of the officers from the militia, visiting some of the estate homes in the neighborhood of Meryton. They had just arrived at Longbourn, and were taking tea, when they heard a horse coming towards the house.
Thinking nothing of the arrival, as the person was not shown to the drawing room, Wickham was shocked to have Mr Bennet come to the drawing room, requesting him to step down the hall to the gentleman’s study.
Once inside the room, the door closed behind him. Darcy had been standing to the side, where Wickham could not see him, until he closed the door, blocking the scoundrel from leaving.
“Mr Bennet, what is the meaning of this?” Wickham attempted to look surprised. “I came to your study in good faith, yet you have this man lurking in the shadows. He has no good intentions towards me, I can guarantee you of that. With what lies has he filled your head?”
“As the young man is my nephew, and proven himself a respectable and trustworthy man, I cannot think of any lies he has given me with which to fill my head. As for the reason you were requested to join us, it is simple. Since your arrival in Meryton, there have been incidents which come to our attention. The incidents range from attempted theft from my brother in law’s office to the seduction of several girls in the village. One of the girls is with child. I learned this information yesterday, before Mr Darcy came here to speak with me. Mr Phillips informed me of the break in of his law office, as he is a creature of habit when he leaves the office every day. The lock was forced with a lock pick. According to Mr Darcy, you have such a tool which you carry with you at all times. I wish to see the tool. If you do not show it to me voluntarily, I will be forced to call for men to search you for it.”
“Just because I may have such a tool, it does not instantly prove my guilt to the crimes. As for the young ladies, it is not my fault if they give up their favors so easily. Any regrets they might have are theirs and theirs alone. I will not be held responsible for their foolishness.”
“I have also learned of the large number of debts you have in the village. It appears you have accumulated enough debt that it will take you at least half a year of your pay to make good on them, and that is if you paid every last coin of your pay towards the debts. Since we both know that it would be impossible, and the militia will only be here until March, it is easy to assume you have no intention of paying your debts.” Mr Bennet continued.
“How would you know of my debts? Has Darcy been speaking ill of me to all the merchants in the village?” Wickham was angry.
“No, as a matter of fact, my nephew did not know you were in the neighborhood until last night. By the time he came to inform me of his previous dealings with you, I had already learned from Mr Phillips and Sir William Lucas of the complaints which have been registered with them. Colonel Forester has also been notified, though he insists that you have a good nature and will make good on your debts. I sent an express to London, to the war office. If you will speak honestly of your crimes, I will see what can be done to lighten the punishment. Otherwise, I believe it will be debtor’s prison at the very least.”
Wickham thought for a few moments before opening his mouth again. “I admit to having relations with two young ladies in the neighborhood, though I am not the only one. If one is with child, it is not for certain that the babe is mine. And I will confess that I entered Mr Phillips’ office, as I was looking for any money. I am desperate to leave this life, a life forced upon me by this man.” Wickham flung his hand in Darcy’s direction in a dramatic fashion. “Had this man lived up to his responsibility, or had my real father publically claimed me, I would not be living in such a manner.”
“Mr Wickham, what does William have to do with your father claiming you?” Mr Bennet asked.
“Because we share the same father. And I am the eldest, so Pemberley should be mine. Our father loved me better than him, wished for me to have the inheritance. But my brother was jealous and denied me my birthright.”
Darcy shook his head. “You are no more a Darcy than I am a Wickham. My father knew you believed this falsehood, and he gave me the documentation as to who your father is. Do you wish to know the truth? You are the natural child of Sir Lewis de Bourgh. To escape my aunt’s tirades, my uncle would visit Pemberley often. He had a liaison with your mother, which left her with you. Sir Lewis gave my father the funds which you received as an inheritance, and my father invested the original sum, which built to the sum you were given. I have signed documents from your mother and Sir Lewis, verifying this information. My aunt knows of the infidelity, and of your existence. But she will never allow you to claim your father’s name or any further inheritance.”
“That viper, that evil shrew. She sends me here to find the documents she wished to have to have your marriage annulled, paying me as a servant, when all the while, she knew I was her stepson, half-brother to her daughter. I was a fool to trust her, as I was when I came to Ramsgate at Lady Catherine’s request. She believed that if your sister was ruined, you would be forced into marrying Miss de Bourgh. Lady Catherine has been furious, as her daughter has been hounding her of when you will come to Rosings to marry her.” Wickham could not care what he said, as he had been made a fool by the great and powerful Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
“My aunt set in motion for you to ruin my sister?” Darcy’s fury was growing by the moment. “My sister, who is still a child, was to be ruined to satisfy my aunt’s plan for her daughter?”
“Yes. I was to receive twenty thousand, in addition to Georgiana’s dowry, when I had succeeded in eloping with her. Lady Catherine is desperate, she offered even more for me to be here. I am sure that she would not have come through with the funds, knowing now what she is capable of. She would have betrayed me, I am certain. Why did I ever trust her?” Wickham was beginning to piece parts of his life together in a way he had never done before. So many unanswered questions began to fall into place. Whenever Sir Lewis arrived to visit at Pemberley, he spent time with young George Wickham. Sir Lewis died when Wickham was near his fifteenth birthday. Gerald Darcy had been Wickham’s uncle and godfather, not his birth father. All the years of hating Darcy, blaming him for his perceived transgressions, were for naught.
Darcy spoke again. “Wickham, I will not lie to you. I despise you. Your treatment of my family, especially towards my mother and Georgiana, has been appalling, not to mention all the cruelty towards myself. You believed you were my father’s child, yet you attempted to seduce her and elope with her. I cannot think of enough words to properly describe how utterly repulsed I am at this moment. But I have a proposition for you.”
Wickham looked at Darcy with skeptical eyes. “What do you propose?”
“I wish for you to put in writing what you have told us of my aunt’s behavior. I want you to write her plans against Georgiana at Ramsgate, and of her plot to obtain my wedding certificate. It will be witnessed by Mr Phillips and Mr Bennet. Afterwards, I will see to it that you resign from the militia, and are taken to board a ship. You may choose the destination, the continent or the Americas, and I will pay for your journey. I will also give you the sum of five thousand pounds. We will have a contract drawn up, and once signed, you will receive your funds. Then you will leave England for the rest of your life.”
“Five thousand pounds, far less than Lady Catherine offered. But then again, I know you well enough to know you will stand behind your offer. No matter what I have done to you in the past, you have always been honorable. You never reached out with vengeance against me. I will accept your offer.” Wickham knew he was defeated. He could have further betrayed Darcy, and he knew he could find a way to escape from Darcy’s plan to have him exiled, but, in truth, George Wickham was worn thin. All his anger and hatred had fueled him for so many years. Now, deflated upon hearing the truth of his parentage, he was left empty.
Mr Phillips was sent for, and arrived shortly before Colonel Forester. Darcy purchased the commission from the militia, and gifted it to one of the sons of a Longbourn tenant. The paperwork was written, in Wickham’s hand, and was witnessed by Mr Phillips, Mr Bennet, Colonel Forester, and Darcy. Wickham signed the contract stating he would leave England, receiving the sum promised by Darcy, and, if he broke the contract, would be sent to debtor’s prison for the debts which Darcy had purchased.
Finally, Wickham was packed into a carriage, along with three men from Longbourn and Willows, to ensure he was placed on a ship bound for the Continent.
Taking a deep breath, Darcy was pleased to be rid of Wickham, and he prayed it was forever. Darcy had been fond of his uncle, and could not blame the man for wishing to escape Lady Catherine’s wrath. The fact that Sir Lewis found comfort in the arms of another woman, Darcy could not find it in his heart to condemn him.
Once everything was concluded and Wickham on his way, Darcy made his way home to the Willows, and to his family. How truly blessed he felt, knowing that his wife was a woman he had fallen in love, and he was certain she loved him in return. What had started as a marriage of convenience to protect Elizabeth and her children, had quickly turned into the sort of marriage he had wished for.
~~ ** ~~
The night of the harvest ball had arrived, and Willows had never shone so perfectly. The staff had outdone themselves, pleased to see their Mistress recovering and the infants thriving. And the staff was pleased to witness the love growing between their Mistress and her husband. The Blaines were thrilled to have so many living at Willows, between the sounds of the babes and of Georgiana’s practice on the pianoforte, and activity in the house. The large house had become a home.
As per Mr Herbert’s expressed commands, Elizabeth rested most of the afternoon, before eating a hearty meal. After bathing and washing her hair, Lucy took considerable time to prepare Elizabeth for the evening. The gown she was to wear was wine colored silk, with matching colored lace at the décolletage. The sleeves were short, as the weather was still somewhat warm. And the dress had been recently altered, as her body had been through many changes since giving birth to her twins. The month had seen her lose weight while she was so ill, and had begun to return to her natural condition only in the last week. Her bosom, which had increased in size in preparation for nursing the children, was still larger than she had been before the pregnancy. This caused Elizabeth some discomfort, for she had never been so well endowed before. She was certain that everyone would be staring at her chest.
Darcy stood at the door of her dressing chamber, watching her looking at herself in the peer glass. It was clear that she was concerned with her looks, though he found her quite intoxicatingly beautiful. To think, only a month before he had not thought of Elizabeth in such a manner. But now, she filled his mind and his senses. He was grateful for the change in his life, grateful for the blessings he had been given.
“You look incredibly beautiful, my dearest.” He stated as he stepped further into the room. “And I will be envied by all the men tonight. I am quite pleased you will only be dancing with me, for I am a jealous sort.”
“William, how did you know what I needed? I was feeling nervous, as I know my figure has changed so much in the past months.” Elizabeth looked in his eyes, finding the reassurance she needed.
“I find you to be irresistible. My only wish is that we could remain here, in our rooms, for that gown has me thinking of how much my hands wish to roam over your figure and lose myself in loving you.”
“Just for that, you will be rewarded at the end of the night. Until then, you will have to be satisfied with a kiss.” She smiled as she lifted up on her toes to place a kiss on his lips. Her lips were as eager as his, and each set was reluctant to part from the other.
~~ ** ~~
The Bennets arrived early for the ball, as they were to stand with the Darcys in a receiving line. Georgiana was to keep upstairs with Kitty and Lydia, as they were all too young to participate in a ball. It was easy to discern from Jacob’s behavior that he was nervously awaiting Charlotte’s arrival. The family was well aware that he was planning on announcing his engagement that night. He had proposed to Charlotte the day before, receiving her father’s blessing. Since returning from Lucas Lodge, Jacob had worn a silly grin on his face, causing his relatives to tease him relentlessly.
The entire neighborhood was in attendance that night, the tenants and the landowners alike. It was the grandest event in the neighborhood, and everyone was glad to be there. Willows was the finest estate in the area, shadowing Longbourn and even Netherfield. Darcy and Elizabeth carried their role as hosts to perfection, though Darcy insisted his wife sit most of the time during the receiving line. Though it was not proper etiquette, Darcy insisted his wife do so, or he would not allow her to dance the first dance with him. It was not considered a slight by any of those in attendance, as they were well aware of the trying delivery she had endured. Her being in attendance was pleasing enough to most everyone, allowing them to extend their congratulations for the birth of the twins and on her marriage.
Darcy began teasing Jacob as soon as Charlotte and the rest of the Lucas family arrived. It was difficult for the poor young man to remain in the receiving line, for he deeply desired to go directly to his betrothed. Mr Bennet continually coughed if his son acted as if he were going to dash to Charlotte’s side.
Once the music sounded, announcing the first set to begin, Darcy led his wife into the ballroom, taking their place at the top of the line of dancers. As the song began and the dancers began the steps, Darcy and Elizabeth entered a world of their own. Lost in the movements, seeing only each other, the couple seemed to float through the dance as if they were on a cloud.
Mr Bennet was standing to the side of the ballroom, watching his family and friends, smiling as he saw how close his niece and her husband had become. He had prayed their marriage would take such a turn, as he cared for his brother’s only child and wished for her to be happy.
When the set’s final notes were played, and the dancers left the floor, Darcy steered his wife to the side of the room where there were chairs available. After seeing her seated, Darcy made his way to retrieve drinks for them. Mrs Bennet never danced, as her weak heart would not allow for such exertion, so she took a seat beside Elizabeth.
“Is Jane not the most beautiful young lady?” Mrs Bennet beamed. “And she has caught the eye of Mr Bingley. I knew she could not be so beautiful for nothing. She will marry well. Just as you have, my dear niece.”
“I am pleased for Jane. She deserves to be happy.” Elizabeth replied. “And you are correct, Aunt Fanny, Jane is quite beautiful. The gown she is wearing flatters her blue eyes and fair hair. Mr Bingley will most likely be calling on Uncle soon.”
Darcy smiled as he handed the glass of punch to his wife. “Bingley has frequently claimed he was in love, but he has never been as enraptured by any lady as he is now. Do you believe she returns his regard?”
Fanny Bennet nodded her head. “My dear Jane is shy and reserved, but those of us who know her well can tell you, her feelings are attached to your friend.”
“Then they both deserve to be happy in such an attachment. I was uncertain of Jane’s regard, and was prepared to protect her from Bingley if she were only being kind to him.”
“William, you are so kind, acting in Jane’s best interest. I thank you for your protection.” Mrs Bennet smiled and placed a hand gently on his arm. “And how are the twins fairing? I was planning to come over the day after tomorrow to visit them. It has always amazed me how quickly they grow and change. One moment they are a babe in your arms, and in a blink of an eye, they are running about and getting into mischief. Then they are off to school and falling in love, ready to begin their own lives and have their own children.”
“Aunt Fanny, please do not have them married off before they even turn a year old.” Elizabeth laughed.
“You laugh now, but you mark my word, Elizabeth. The day will come all too soon when Ari and Tom will be off in their own lives.”
“You are being melancholic, Aunt. Your son is preparing for his marriage to Charlotte. So it brings you back to the days when you and Uncle were young and starting your own married life.” Elizabeth wrapped her arm gently about her aunt’s shoulders, squeezing the elder lady slightly. “Remember, you have many years to come before you will have an empty house. Lydia is still quite young.”
“My grandmother always told me that when you are young, time seems to drag on slowly and you cannot stand to wait for it to pass by. But when you are older, time flies by quickly, and you wish you could slow it down and enjoy it longer.” Mrs Bennet smiled at the memory. “When I was your age, I thought her advice was nonsense. But now, I agree with her wisdom completely.”
~~ ** ~~
The ball was a complete success, and everyone was pleased with the care the Master and Mistress of Longbourn and Willows had taken. The gifts to the tenants and staff of both estates was welcomed and the grateful families could not thank the Bennets and the Darcys enough.
The news at dinner, of the engagement of Jacob Bennet and Charlotte Lucas was met with cheers, though many laughed and teased Jacob that it was about time he proposed. Most of the neighbors knew ever since they had been young, that the couple was meant to be together. Sir William Lucas was puffed up when he and Mr Bennet stood to make the announcement, both fathers making a toast to their children.
At the end of the evening, all had seemed to be perfect. Though it was unknown to all in attendance, there were two people watching the ball with disdain and fury. The thought of so many enjoying the evening made matters worse for the one. As the ball had gone until the wee hours of the morn, no one would be expected to go up the stairs, to the private section of the house. Unfortunately, the pair were able to gain access to the house and stole their way up the stairs. They headed up the stairs, looking inside each room as they searched for the nursery. After many doors opened, the nursery was located. The pair snuck inside the room, each going to one of the cradles.
It was at that moment when the nursemaid entered the room to check on the sleeping infants. Seeing the two people in the room, people she had never met before, the maid cried out.
“Hush, you pathetic vermin. If you do not, I will see you are silenced permanently.” The one person hissed.
“You are not to be in here.” The young maid stated, her bravado was an act, one she wished to be believed.
“We are here at your Mistress’ request. She wishes the infants brought downstairs.” The other person said, in a hushed voice.
“My Mistress would not ask someone unknown to come for the babes. Only one of the family or one of the trusted servants is allowed to take them from this room. Thems is me orders.”
“What is your name?” The first of the invaders asked.
“Tis none of your concerns. Now leave this room before I calls for help.”
“I asked you what your name is. I do not accept your disrespect. You are a servant and must abide by my demands. I will be taking the children, and you will not do anything to stop me. If you make any attempt, I will see you pay for your interference.”
Though the room was somewhat dark, the glow of the fireplace showed that the two uninvited people were women. And, fortunate for the young maid, Jessie, she knew her way about the room in the dark. The other two could not know that there was a bell sitting on a nearby table, which was placed below the pull cord to summon assistance. In a swift move, Jessie reached out her hand and grabbed the cord, pulling it hard and fast, while her other hand grabbed hold of the bell on the table. Ringing the bell and screaming, with all her might, woke the babes and caused them to cry. Even with the music coming from the main level of the house, there were people about on the second floor to hear the commotion.
One of the people who came running towards the Master of the house. Darcy had just left the ballroom to retrieve his wife’s shawl, for he felt she would take a chill without it. Hearing the commotion, his heart nearly stopped when he realized it was coming from the nursery. As he entered the room, he witnessed one of the intruders pulling a knife and move towards Jessie.
“See here, what are you doing?” He shouted at the person. Grabbing on to the person’s arm, he pulled hard, turning her from Jessie. The knife plunged into his abdomen, though it was not intended for him. The woman holding the knife screamed, realizing what she had done.
“No, no, it cannot be. You, are not to be up here. You are supposed to be in the ball room. Why would you be up here? We were to be long gone before you came up here.” The woman cried out.
Darcy recognized the voice. “What the bloody hell are you doing here? What are you doing in my home, and in this room?”
“You have refused to do what was right and proper, so you forced us to take matter into our own hands. It is all your own fault. You forced us.” The woman cried out.
Darcy could see Jessie picking up one of the infants, while one of the other maids had arrived and was picking up the other babe. Jessie’s eyes met her master’s, and with a move of his head, she knew she had to take the children from the danger. While Darcy distracted the intruders, Jessie and Susan quietly removed the children towards the servants’ entrance.
~~~~~~~ ** ~~~~~~~
Mrs Blaine searched the ballroom for Elizabeth. She found her seated near her aunt and uncle, and quickly made her way to her mistress. “Mrs Elizabeth, you are needed upstairs. You as well, Mr and Mrs Bennet. And Mr Herbert is needed as well.”
Seeing the fear registered in the housekeeper’s expression, Elizabeth’s heart nearly stopped. Thoughts of her children being ill or harmed flowed through her mind.
Mrs Bennet offered to fetch Mr Herbert from across the room, while Mr Bennet escorted his niece upstairs, following Mrs Blaine. Seeing they were heading for the nursery, Elizabeth was certain she would not survive if anything had happened to the children.
Entering the room, Elizabeth was shocked to see the scene before her. The babes were not in the room, but her husband was, and he was prone, on the floor, bleeding. There were two ladies in the room who were unknown to Elizabeth, and they were being detained by two footmen who had responded to the call for assistance which Jessie had sounded.
“What has happened? Where are the children?” Elizabeth screamed. “What has brought harm to my husband?”
Mrs Blaine took control of the situation. “Mrs Elizabeth, these ladies had snuck into the house and into the nursery, with the intent to take the babes. Jessie found them in here, and, even though her life was threatened, she sounded the call for aid. Mr Darcy enter the room, and ended up being stabbed with the knife which was being used to threaten Jessie. As Mr Darcy fell to the floor, Jessie and Susan removed the children to the servant hall and down to the kitchen. They are safe there, unharmed. One of the footmen, Harold, entered the nursery from the hallway, disarming the intruders.”
“Who are these women? Who dare threaten my children and injure my husband?”
“Your husband? You are not worthy of being married to Fitzwilliam Darcy. You should have remained in your native lands, and left our family alone. My brother did not deserve to die, it is all your fault that he died so young. If you had not kept him in Belgium, he would have been safe here, in England, with his family. We loved Richard. You took him from us.” Agatha declared.
“You are Richard’s sister? Then I imagine you to be Lady Matlock.” Elizabeth stated, looking at the elder lady.
“I am. And the children belong with our family, being raised properly. Your servants are not of proper quality to take care of the grandchildren of an earl. They belong at Matlock, where they will be taught proper manners and take their place in society. You deprived us of Richard, you will not deprive us of his children. My daughter was correct, you kept Richard from us. He would be home now, if not for your forcing him to remain in a war-torn country.”
“Richard was serving his country, proudly. He was planning to return to England, but he was killed. It was due to your failure to accept our marriage which kept him in Belgium, your refusal to accept our happiness. And now, you attempt to kill William? Why would you do such a thing? He is your cousin and your nephew.”
Agatha shook her head. “I did not mean to injure him. He entered the room and pulled me around. I was surprised and did not realize what had happened until I pulled back my hand, with the knife, and found blood on it.”
Elizabeth was bent over her husband, holding some cloth, which had been handed to her, to Darcy’s wound. She saw the knife, now on the floor, some distance from the villains. Harold explained he had unarmed the woman and kicked the knife across the room.
Mrs Bennet and Mr Herbert arrived in the nursery, and the physician went to work immediately on Darcy’s injury. “We need to move him to his bed.” The man said. “I can work on him better there.”
Mr Bennet turned to his wife. “Fanny, would you ask Jacob, Mr Bingley and Sir William Lucas to come up here? Do not tell them what has happened, as we need to keep the situation from reaching the ballroom.”
Fanny nodded her head, looking somewhat shaken. When her husband took hold of her hand, she smiled. “I am well, Thomas. Have no fear. I will have Jane come as well.”
Mr Bennet nodded his head. He knew he would have to keep a close watch over his wife, as she was not as strong as she led many to believe. She did not like to be fussed over, yet he could always tell when her strength waned.
Harold and the other footman kept a tight grip on the intruders, much to the disapproval of Lady Matlock and her daughter. Neither were showing any true concern for Darcy’s injury, which furthered Elizabeth’s fury towards them. They continued to blame Elizabeth for Richard’s death and insisted they had a right to take the children away from her.
With the assistance of Bingley and Jacob, Darcy was carried down the hall, into his own rooms and placed on the bed. As soon as her husband was being tended to by Mr Herbert, Elizabeth begged Mrs Blaine to bring the children to the Mistress’ chambers. She was overwhelmed with the need to see her children, to make certain they were safe and sound, and to keep them close to her while there was a threat of harm. Obviously Richard’s sister and mother would sink to levels unbelievable before this event, and Elizabeth had an uncontrollable need to hold her babes.
Once the children were in her brought to the Mistress’ bedchamber, she ran her hands over each, assuring herself that they were safe and sound. Tears streamed down her cheeks as Elizabeth turned to the young lady who had protected her children from being abducted. “Jessie, there are no words to tell you how grateful I am at this moment. You saved my children and called for assistance. It could have been you who was injured. I was told that those women were threatening you with the knife. But you did not back down. And Susan, you came to Jessie’s aid. Both of you, you will always have employment in my home, and you will be rewards amply for your courage and valor. My husband will most likely echo my sentiments. And I am certain that Colonel Fitzwilliam is in heaven, thanking God for giving you the strength to protect the children from his relations.”
“Mistress, you owe me no reward. I was doing my duty.” Jessie stated clearly. “If it had not been for your generosity, when my pa died, my ma and the lil uns would have no home or food. You took such care of them, so I could do no less for the babes.”
“I intend to see that you have a home for the rest of your life, and that your family is always taken care of. And Susan, your family will be taken care of as well. Your loyalty to us is commendable and I am so proud to have you as part of our staff.” Elizabeth wiped the tears from her cheeks with a handkerchief.
Mr Bennet entered his niece’s chambers from the Master’s bedchamber. “Elizabeth, your husband’s injury is not as severe as it appeared. As long as he does not take a fever, Mr Herbert is certain that he will recover without difficulty. William is already making it known that he has no intentions in being bedridden for long. We had to threaten him to keep him lying down.”
“Oh, he will follow the physician’s orders, or he will feel my wrath. I have had to behave myself, and he will do the same.” Elizabeth felt her courage rising, as she held her children close to her.
Mrs Bennet was sitting next to Elizabeth on the bed. “What has Sir William determined?” She inquired.
“He has sent an express to London. As magistrate, Sir William has ability to hold court, but where the charges are held against two ladies of the peerage, they must be treated differently than if it were by someone of lower birth. Most likely they will be taken to Town to face charges. It will be quite the scandal.”
“I am certain that Richard is turning in his grave from his family’s behavior. How can they believe themselves so far above us?” Elizabeth began to weep again.
“I know you have been through so much with the Fitzwilliam family, Lizzy.” Mr Bennet stated as he sat on the side of the bed, next to his niece, wrapping his arms in a soothing, fatherly manner, pulling Elizabeth’s head to his shoulder. “We have all been proud of the manner in which you have dealt with them. And I am certain your father and Richard are watching over you, and are proud of you as well. I know you have endured so much from them, and they need to be taught a lesson. They attempted to abduct your children, threatened the life of your servant, and could have killed William with the knife. They have not lied, they proudly declare what they have done.”
“And we do not know how Lord Matlock, or his sister and her daughter will react. William has been waiting for Lady Catherine and her daughter to retaliate, since we dealt with Wickham and sent him off. Though Wickham has only been gone a short while, so they may still be waiting to hear from them.” Elizabeth sighed. “Why is there so much hatred in this world? Why can people be kinder? My staff is more loving and kind to my family than those who share Richard and William’s bloodlines. Look at what Jessie and Susan did tonight to protect my children, and it was not part of their job description. It was their love for my children which led them to protect them from those horrid ladies, protected them even though their own safety was in jeopardy.”
Mrs Blaine was still in the room, keeping back as she waited to see if there was anything she could do for any of the family. Hearing Elizabeth’s words, Mrs Blaine’s own tears began to flow. “How could we not hold you and your family with the highest esteem, Mistress? You and Master William are the kindest and most caring family I have ever worked for. Those little ones are dear to all of us, as if they were our own flesh and blood.”
Elizabeth held out a hand to the housekeeper who was like a mother to her. “Mrs Blaine, we will always be grateful to you and your staff. I believe my parents and Richard were sending people into our lives to watch over us, as they are from heaven. The party we held tonight is nothing in comparison to what we will be holding for Christmas. You will all be treated like royalty… though, maybe it would be wiser to not be like some of the peerage. We have seen that bloodlines do not make a person good.”
The room filled with laughter. Mr Herbert knocked on the door and was called to enter the Mistress bedchambers. “Mrs Darcy, I do not like the situation. I no sooner get you better than your husband becomes injured. Please tell me this is not going to be an ongoing cycle for you two.”
Elizabeth smiled as she shook her head. “I have no intentions of being a patient anytime soon, and if I am not mistaken, my husband is most likely disliking his confinement to bed.”
“He is grumbling quite ferociously. If I had not known better, I would have thought he was part lion.” Mr Herbert smiled. “I have given him something to help him rest and aid him with the pain. Sir William has gone downstairs with Mr Bingley, Miss Bennet and Master Jacob, to make your excuses to those guests who are still here. They stated that you became fatigued and your husband wishes to ensure you are well and had me come up to tend to you. I know the truth will come out, especially as the perpetrators are of such a station in life.”
“William will not be pleased with his family. He had already cut ties with Lord and Lady Matlock, and had planned to send Lady Catherine and her daughter a letter cutting ties with them. I feel for Richard’s brother, James, and Martha, their sister. They wish to have a connection to their niece and nephew, and with William and Georgiana. James is in a difficult position, as he is the heir to Matlock and the earldom. Martha has made to sever ties with her parents, as she does not approve of what they have threatened. She also keeps her children away from them. Her in laws are kind to the children and she prefers to stay at their estate.”
“He is a duke, is he not?” Mr Bennet asked.
“Yes, he is. From what Martha has told me, he does not approve of his own son’s rakish behavior, and has disinherited him, leaving the title and his fortune to Martha’s son.”
“We should send word to Martha, informing her of what has happened. It would be horrible for her to learn of her mother and sister being held on these charges.” Mrs Bennet stated.
“I do not think I could write a legible word at the moment.” Elizabeth said. Her hands were shaking from all the strain put on her.
“Do not fret, Lizzy.” Mr Bennet stated. “I will write to her. Do you have her address?”
“Yes, it is in the ledger on top of my desk in my study. Mrs Blaine, would you be kind enough to assist my uncle?”
“Of course, Mistress. If you require anything else, please send word to me.”
“Thank you, Mrs Blaine. You are heaven sent.”
~~ ** ~~
There were loud knocks on the door to the Master’s bedchamber door, disturbing the gentleman slumbering in his bed. It was several moments before the man was able to wake enough to realize what was happening. Finally, he called out for the person to come in.
“Lord Matlock, you just received an express from somewhere called The Willows. The rider is waiting downstairs, in case you wish to send a return message.”
Lord Matlock ordered candles lit as he grabbed the message from the butler’s hand. Breaking the seal, he read it.
Forgive me for writing this letter to you, as we have not been introduced. I remember seeing you at the court of St James, several years ago, when I was visiting Town.
I have the unfortunate task of informing you of your wife and one of your daughters having been arrested in my jurisdiction this very evening. The charges are as follows: attempted abduction of two infants, the children of Mr and Mrs Darcy of The Willows, threats to cause injury or death to one of the maids who was protecting said children, and aggravated assault on Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy, who was stabbed by your daughter, Agatha. From what we have learned, Mr Darcy is quite fortunate that his injury was not worse, and it is hopeful that he will recover. But your daughter was holding the knife and stabbed it into Mr Darcy. The charges against her could be changed to murder, if Mr Darcy takes a turn for the worst.
Your wife and daughter are being held under guard until we hear from the court in Town. As a member of the peerage, we must treat your wife respectfully, though it will not prevent her being tried for her crimes. Your daughter, though also a member of the peerage, has the most severe crimes levied against her.
Mr Darcy has declared you to be forbidden to step foot on his and his wife’s property, stating he will have you arrested if you violate his rule. As the magistrate in this neighborhood, I must tell you that I will be forced to try you if you violate this. There are accommodations in the village of Meryton, at the inn, if you plan to come to the neighborhood. Once we have heard from London, we will know if we are to bring the ladies to Town, or hold a trial here.
With all due apologies for having to bring such news to you,
Sir William Lucas
“Good God, what were they thinking of?” Lord Matlock declared loudly. “Lincoln, have my carriage prepared and my trunk packed immediately.”
The butler nodded his head. “And will there be any message to send?”
“Yes, give me a moment. And I will need to send word to my son. He will be needed to make the journey to this wretched neighborhood. And I will need to send word to Agatha’s husband. What a mess.” Lord Matlock shook his head. “Lord Farnsworth will be furious.”
“I will have the young man wait for the return message and prepare someone to take your message to Matlock and to Lord Farnsworth.” The butler stated as he left the room. Silently, Lincoln wondered what had happened to cause such a flurry of haste. He was aware that Lady Matlock and her daughter, Agatha, had left Matlock House midday, but had not been told where they had gone or when to expect their return. Lord Matlock had dined alone, though he did not seem to be put out over the situation.
Once alone, Lord Matlock ran his fingers through his hair in disgust. “Why did they have to behave so? I told them to hire someone to abduct the children. There was no need for them to do it themselves.”
~~ ** ~~
The following day, in Sussex, Martha received the news of the charges against her mother and sister, and the condition of her cousin and the children. She was relieved to know the children had not been stolen from Darcy and Elizabeth, though was concerned for Darcy’s injury. She knew his condition could become life threatening if he took a fever. Martha called for her father in law, to inform him of the situation. The Duke of Winston was well versed in law, as he had been magistrate in his neighborhood for many years.
As Martha predicted, the Duke was willing to make the journey to Meryton, and would remain at Willows with her, while the situation was determined.
Being the Lord Chancellor of the House of Lords, Duke of Winston would be called to deal with the matter if taken to the House of Lords to be tried. As the situation would bring much scandal to the Fitzwilliam family, the Duke, Howard Winston, prayed they could find a compromise to resolve the matter with the least amount of scandal.
~~ ** ~~
“I demand to know where my wife and daughter are being held. It is unforgivable for you, a country nobody, to have them arrested. You are no more important than the harlot who is responsible for this entire fiasco.” Lord Matlock was bellowing at Sir William Lucas.
“I understand your opinion, Lord Matlock, but we needed to contain the situation, as there were injuries and an attempted kidnapping. The children who were involved in this matter are members of the Darcy family, who are a part of the first circles of society. Had it been some farm hand’s babe, the situation would have been far different.”
“Those children are no more Darcys than you are. They are of Fitzwilliam blood, my relations, and the relations of my wife and daughter. How can it be criminal to take custody of our grandchildren? Their mother is unfit. You should know how unfit that whore is, you have been her neighbor for many months now.”
“Sir, I beg of you to refrain from speaking of my neighbor in such a fashion. I have known the Bennet family for many years, having grown up with Mr Thomas Bennet, and his younger brother, Robert. Mrs Darcy is a kind, generous and decent lady, and she deserves to be treated better than you are doing at the moment. As to your assumption, Lord Matlock, you cannot be further from the truth. Mrs Darcy is quite fit and devoted to her children.”
“She must have bribed you in some manner to have you speak so highly of her. We will be taking this matter to the House of Lords, where it will be handled properly. I predict that by the end of the week, we will have my grandchildren turned over to us and the harlot will be locked away in some asylum. Darcy can get an annulment and do his duty to my niece, Miss Anne de Bourgh. Then all will be right again.”
“Mr Darcy is not one to do as demanded by others. From what I know of the gentleman, he will refuse to follow your advice.” Sir William was becoming quite offended by the rude behavior of Lord Matlock. What a pompous, arrogant jackass! I am grateful the Duke of Winston sent me an express, informing me to keep the ladies, involved in the matter, secured and under arrest.
“My nephew is an idiot, which he proved when he married that chit. It is up to his family to protect him from further harm. And we must do what is necessary to protect his sister. If he will not do his duty to the family, he must do what is best to protect Georgiana.” Lord Matlock continued.
Lord Farnsworth was announced as he entered the drawing room of Lucas Lodge. Looking around the room with disdain, Farnsworth strode to Lord Matlock’s side. “What is this foolishness? Why was I summoned to come here? All you told me, in your letter, was that there was a problem with my wife. What has that fool done this time?”
“Farnsworth, how dare you speak of my daughter in such a manner? Agatha was assisting my wife in a matter of family honor. They had come to this neighborhood to retrieve my grandchildren.”
“Those offspring of your deceased son? Why would my wife be involved in such a matter? It has no importance, and now, there will be a scandal. I am telling you now, if there is one hint of disgrace from this situation, I will divorce Agatha and throw her to the hedgerow.”
“You took her dowry and married her, now you plan to rid yourself of her?” Lord Matlock was shocked to hear this news.
“I will do just so. Your daughter has been a disgrace to me since our marriage began. It will be a pleasure to rid myself of her, so I can find another to fill my bed. One who will do as she is told, rather than the upstart with which you and my father saddled on me.”