Mr Bennet was pleased to find his daughter sleeping when he returned to the bedchamber. Jane had gone downstairs with the Gardiners to have something to eat. As he stepped to the side of the bed, Mr Bennet noticed beads of perspiration forming on his daughter’s forehead. He reached out his hand, gently touching Elizabeth’s face. Finding her to be extremely warm, Mr Bennet left the room, searching for the innkeeper. The physician was required, as Elizabeth had developed a fever.
Once the innkeeper sent his son for the physician, Mr Bennet returned to the bedchamber, carrying a pitcher of cool water and some bits of cloth. He began dipping the cloths in the water, wringing the excess water from them, before placing them on Elizabeth’s face. Fevers had not been uncommon to Mr Bennet, as over the years, he had sat at the bedside of many relations. It was important to bring the fever down. It was difficult to watch loved ones when they were ill, and Mr Bennet had never been comfortable when it was his beloved first born. Any suffering she had to endure was pure torment to him.
Jane and the Gardiners returned to the room, and Jane took over rinsing the cloths in cool water as needed. “Papa, you and Uncle should wait in the sitting room. I have asked for a tray to be brought up, for you must eat.”
“I cannot even think of food, Jane. I am too worried for Lizzy, food is not important.”
“Papa, Lizzy would be furious if she were to learn you were not taking care of yourself. You do not wish her to worry over you, do you?”
“I will be fine, Jane. It is Lizzy with whom we must be concerned.”
There was a knock on the door. Mr Gardiner opened it, finding the physician had arrived. Finally convincing his brother in law to leave Elizabeth’s bedside, Mr Gardiner led him to the sitting room. The food had arrived, yet Mr Bennet could do nothing but pace the floor.
Richard Fitzwilliam joined the men, having learned of Elizabeth’s condition. “My cousin will be difficult to keep in his bed, once he learns of her fever.”
“And how is your cousin recovering? He has not taken a fever, has he?” Mr Gardiner inquired.
“No, but he is easily aggravated, as his wish is to see Miss Elizabeth for himself. It is my belief that he feels I am keeping the truth from him.”
Richard attempted small talk with the men, though he was not surprised to find Mr Bennet unwilling to speak. Mr Gardiner informed Richard of what had been decided with regards to Mrs Bennet.
After what seemed to be hours, the physician joined the men in the sitting room. “The fever is a bit lower, and we have applied a poultice to the wound. The wound is extremely red and hot to touch. There was some pus, but we were able to drain the pus before we put on the poultice. The herbs will aid in drawing out any infection in the wound. And your other daughter has been able to encourage her sister in taking some broth and weak tea. Miss Elizabeth will need all the nourishment she can get to give her the strength she requires to recover.”
Mr Bennet nodded his head. “I am grateful for your arriving as quickly as you did.”
“I was preparing to come to check on both of my patients, so I was just leaving my office as the boy came for me. I will now check on Mr Darcy. There are some other patients I need to pay calls on, before I return home for dinner. If there are any problems, after I leave, send word to my home. Otherwise, I will return first thing in the morning.”
~~ ** ~~
Darcy was becoming agitated, wishing to see for himself if Elizabeth was improving. Richard came back with the report that she was neither better nor worse, and to Richard, that was a good sign. To Darcy, it was agonizing to wait for reports. Richard wished to keep his cousin calm and in his bed, for the physician was concerned with Darcy’s wound opening up. If that were to happen, there was a chance of Darcy taking a fever as well.
Well after midnight, Darcy was still awake. He can hear someone in the hallway, and then the door down the hall opened and closed. Darcy was certain that the person had entered the room where Elizabeth was located. It was pure agony, waiting and praying. Sleep refused to come to Darcy, as he continued to fret over her well-being.
By morning, Darcy was frustrated to the point of causing him to lose control of his tongue. Though he knew his cousin and the staff of the inn were doing all they could to bring comfort to Darcy, the Master of Pemberley could not find a civil word for anyone.
~~ ** ~~
Mr Gardiner decided it would be best if he were to make the journey to London with his sister and youngest niece. Fanny Bennet would be introduced to several of his friends, in hopes that a job would be found for her, while Lydia would be taken to a school on the outskirts of Town. Mr Bennet had written letters, one to be sent express to Longbourn to alert Mr and Mrs Hill, the housekeeper and steward, informing them of the situation and of Mrs Bennet’s removal from his home. Another was to the solicitor Mr Bennet used and one to the head mistress at the school for Lydia. He also authorized Mr Gardiner to access his bank account for the ten pounds to give Fanny, and to pay for Lydia’s tuition.
Mrs Gardiner would remain in Liverpool, to be of assistance to her nieces and Mr Bennet. It was decided that Mr Gardiner would remain in Town for a month, seeing to business and making certain Fanny did not cause further problems, and would bring their children to Pemberley at the end of the month.
Having already arranged with Colonel Fitzwilliam for transportation to Pemberley for the remaining Bennets and Mrs Gardiner, Edward Gardiner decided to utilize his carriage rather than hiring one.
Mr Bennet felt it futile for any attempt of civility towards Fanny or Lydia. He knew they would beg and plead to remain in their lifestyle at Longbourn. Knowing it was time to stand his ground, Thomas Bennet remained in the bedchamber, seeing to his Lizzy’s care.
Fanny entered the carriage, complaining of how ill-treated she was, being cast from her home and family, and separated from her beloved Lydia. In her mind, Fanny felt she had done no wrong to her husband, and that she had treated Elizabeth kindly. After twenty years of enduring her foolishness, no one had any sympathy for her lot in life.
~~ ** ~~
Elizabeth’s fever continued for two more days. It would lessen slightly, before climbing high by the end of the day. The discharge from the wound was disgusting and smelly, causing Jane to have to leave her sister’s side when the bandages and poultices were changed. Finally, the wound began to improve. The pus became less and the color of the wound improved to a natural light pink, rather than the harsh, angry red.
A week passed by before the physician felt she was on the road to recovery. He suggested that she remain where she was for another week, before making the journey to Pemberley. Even then, he suggested she wear a sling, relieving her shoulder of having to support her arm, until the wound was completely healed. The physician stated that, in his opinion, it would allow a better chance for complete recovery if the muscles and nerves were not taxed for at least a month.
Darcy was well on his way to recovery, and the physician chuckled as his patient declared he was fit enough to travel as soon as Elizabeth was. There was no question or asking permission, Darcy stated the fact and that was how it was going to be. Fortunately, the Master of Pemberley was fit enough.
Finally, Darcy was allowed to visit Elizabeth, the day before they were to leave for Pemberley. Mr Bennet had assisted his daughter into the sitting room, and left Mrs Gardiner as chaperone, while he took Jane to do some shopping.
Elizabeth’s eyes were lowered as she spoke to her protector. “Mr Darcy, I cannot begin to thank you for your assistance. I am deeply grieved you were injured in your attempt to protect me.”
“I would gladly take such an injury again to protect you, Miss Elizabeth. My main concern was for your safe recovery to your family.” Darcy was surprised at Elizabeth’s subdued demeanor.
“My family is extremely grateful for your intervention. Papa says he cannot thank you enough for all you have done for us.”
Darcy looked at Elizabeth, then turned his puzzled expression towards Mrs Gardiner. The lady was kind enough to take pity on the young man. “I am looking forward to visiting Pemberley, Mr Darcy. I can remember touring the grounds when I was younger.”
“Ah, yes, you are from Lambton. I hope the estate meets with your memories. We have had to make some changes with the gardens, though I made certain my mother’s rose garden was not altered. We have a grove of apple trees which was added last year. Though it will be another year before we can expect a good yield, the trees have been thriving.”
“I remember your mother’s rose garden. I have never seen so many colors of roses in my life. Your gardener was proud of some of the new varieties he had a hand in creating.”
“Mr Howard has always been proud of the roses. Though he is head gardener, his true passion is the roses. He has even won a ribbon at the fair for the Lady Anne red rose which he and my mother nursed. It has the most beautiful deep red tips on the ruby red petals. They are my sister’s favorites.”
Elizabeth was surprised at the conversation, and the ease in which Darcy was conversing with her aunt. But she still could not bring herself to raise her eyes to look in his. Her life was so confusing, she had no notion of who she truly was. To learn the truth of her birth, and how Fanny Bennet was not her mother, the fact that her mother had died at Elizabeth’s birth, and that Elizabeth and Jane were not only not twins, but they were only half sisters, Elizabeth’s view of herself was at an all-time low. She could not even begin to comprehend what Darcy’s reasons were for following Elizabeth and coming to her rescue. To Elizabeth, it was best to believe Darcy’s kindness was out of a sense of gratitude for her assistance in Hyde Park.
Darcy continued to speak with Mrs Gardiner of people they both knew from Lambton and the neighborhood. Mrs Gardiner was pleased to see Darcy’s comfort and kindness, even his inquiry as to the health of the maid who had been with Elizabeth when abducted.
“Lucy traveled with my husband and his sister when they journeyed to Town. Lucy’s family is near London, and it was decided she deserved an extended holiday with them. We pray she will return to us, though, after all which has happened, I can understand if she desires to find employment elsewhere.”
“If she desires a change in employment, I would be pleased to see she finds a suitable position.” Darcy stated.
Elizabeth’s eyes dart upwards, finally meeting his. She is shocked at his willingness to be involved in such matters of someone else’s home. Quickly though, her eyes turn down towards her lap. She was confused by his behavior, as it was not like the man she had met at Netherfield.
“Miss Elizabeth, I have not yet thanked you for your kindness to me when we met in London. I am grateful for your rescuing me, for you most likely saved my life.”
“There is no need to thank me, Mr Darcy. I am pleased to see you were not severely harmed.”
“Well, if my cousin was here, at the moment, he would most likely tell you it was due to the robbers striking my head, which protected me. He has often times declared that I have a hard head.” Darcy smiled. “My only wish was that I had been able to thank you before now. My sister is wishing to thank you as well.”
“You need not have put yourself out so much to thank me, Mr Darcy. You were injured, and could have been killed. I am certain your sister will not wish to meet me, let alone thank me, for being responsible for your being wounded.”
Darcy frowned. “Miss Elizabeth, I did not come here out of a sense of appreciation for your rescuing me. After speaking with my sister and cousin, I realized the feelings I have towards you deserved to be spoken and experienced. You are an amazing young lady, and I find that my love and admiration for you has only grown.”
Tears began to fill Elizabeth’s eyes. Looking at the man before her, Elizabeth was at a loss for understanding his words. “Mr Darcy, you declared me not handsome enough to tempt you into dancing, yet now, now you state you love and admire me. This cannot be true.” Elizabeth stood quickly, leaving the room before Darcy could react.
Mrs Gardiner knew part of her niece’s behavior was due to the many changes in her life in the past fortnight. Though Elizabeth had always been strong and able to cope, there had been so many changes piled upon each other.
“Forgive me, Mr Darcy, but if you would not mind, perhaps I could clarify some problems.”
Darcy nodded his head.
“My niece is experiencing insecurity at the moment, Mr Darcy. Not only has she been abducted, she learned the truth of her heritage and why the woman, whom she has thought of as her mother, has always hated her. She needs time to determine who she is and what all of this means to her. Everything she has known is now changed.”
“None of the changes make any difference to me, she is the same young lady who took hold of my heart.”
“I understand your words, but you need to realize how Elizabeth is struggling. All of her life, she has endured Fanny’s treatment of her, telling her time and again that she was not as good as Jane or Lydia. She has taken all the hateful comments from Fanny and kept positive. Elizabeth has always accepted that her mother did not like her, presuming that it was due to Elizabeth being her father’s favorite. She now knows that she was not Fanny’s child, that Jane is not her twin sister, and that she is the natural child of Thomas and the woman who should have been his wife. And then to know that her mother was royalty, though minor royalty, is difficult as well. She has relations she has never known, and who would love to meet her. And Elizabeth is angry over Fanny’s behavior which destroyed Thomas’ chance of marrying for love. But, Elizabeth told me, if Fanny had not married Thomas as they did, Jane would not be here. And Jane has been Elizabeth’s dearest friend and beloved sister. Lizzy could not imagine life without Jane.”
“I must admit that I was shocked when I learned the truth from Mr Bennet. My cousin was certain of the emblem, on the back of Miss Elizabeth’s cross, being a royal seal. I could not imagine how it could have been. But it does not change how I feel towards her. It never will. You have my promise, I will not cause her any harm. While everyone is visiting Pemberley, I only wish for Miss Elizabeth to come to know me better. I realize we have not had much time to court, and that is what I wish to do. But I will take my time, give her all the support she needs.”
“It might take quite some time. Are you willing to allow her all the time she needs to feel confident once again?”
Darcy nodded again. “As long as she will allow me to be there for her, should she need me, I can wait for her as long as she needs.”
~~~~~~~ ** ~~~~~~~
Every few moments, Georgiana Darcy walked over to the window which overlooked the road leading to the front of the main house of Pemberley. She had received a missive from her brother, stating they would be arriving by the afternoon, and it was nearly dark outside.
Having checked the details for the guest rooms and meals with the housekeeper, Mrs Reynolds, Georgiana practiced on the pianoforte, until she grew so nervous, she could no longer sit still. Then she paced about the room, and attempting to conjure her brother and his party in front of her.
Georgiana was nervous. She was excited to finally meet Elizabeth Bennet, the lady who had won her brother’s heart, yet she was nervous that she would lose her place in Darcy’s heart when he married. Georgiana had never really known her mother, and she was a child when their father died. Her beloved brother was more like a parent than he was a brother, as he was much older than she. What would she do if her brother were to change, and not wish to share his time with her? Her heart was pulled in different directions. But her greatest wish was for her brother to be happy.
Finally, she heard the sounds of carriages on the front road. Georgiana hurried to the window to confirm what she had heard, and then raced down the stairs and out the front door. By then, the carriage had come to a complete stop. Richard exited the first, standing aside as Darcy made his way down from the carriage. As Elizabeth stepped down, Richard and Darcy were on either side of her, assisting her. Mrs Gardiner stepped down, with assistance from Richard. Elizabeth waited for her father and sister to exit the second carriage and join the party. Taking her aunt’s arm, Elizabeth nervously walked towards the house.
As the carriages had entered the park, Darcy had the drivers stop at the top of one of the hills, allowing the Bennets and Mrs Gardiner one of the best views of the estate. Elizabeth gasped at the size of the estate and the beauty of it. It was as if the estate had materialized from one of her dreams. There were woods and a river, a small lake, and many wonderful gardens. Far from being ornate and showy, the main house appeared to be functional and well designed. The gardens blended in with the natural beauty of the land, making them appear to have developed naturally. To Elizabeth, she had died and gone to heaven. Her only problem would be in choosing which area to discover first.
Now, standing before the stairs leading into the grand house, Elizabeth was nervous. She had never visited inside such a grand house, let alone stay in one. How was she to behave in such wealth and beauty?
Georgiana came hurrying towards her brother and cousin. “Wills, you are well. I have prayed for all of you every day you have been away. And Richard, you are well?” She turned from embracing Darcy and found herself wrapped in Richard’s arms. In Georgiana’s opinion, there was no one who made her feel as safe and secure as Richard did when he embraced her. His arms held her to his chest, and a warmth flowed through her.
Darcy smiled at his sister’s sweet smile as Richard held her. It was clear, from the smile and her closed eyes, Georgiana was pleased to have them home. “Georgie, please allow me to introduce you to our guests.” He took her hand and led her to the others in the group. “Georgiana, this is Mr Thomas Bennet of Longbourn, Mrs Helen Gardiner of London, Miss Jane Bennet and Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Mr Bennet, Mrs Gardiner, Miss Bennet and Miss Elizabeth, this is my beloved sister, Miss Georgiana Darcy.”
It was clear to everyone that the Darcy siblings were close. The smile Darcy wore when looking at his sister was genuine and even showed that the man had dimples.
Nervously, Georgiana went about her duties as the hostess for her brother. “Mr Bennet, ladies, it is my pleasure to welcome you to Pemberley. I have requested refreshments, or, would you prefer to retire to your rooms to refresh first?”
Mrs Gardiner stepped closer to Georgiana. “Miss Darcy, it is a pleasure to meet you. I believe some refreshments would be delightful, would you not agree, Mr Bennet?”
“Ah, yes, I know something to drink would be perfect at the moment.” Mr Bennet said, smiling at the girl. He wished to make her comfortable, for it was obvious she was shy.
Georgiana found it difficult to be as outgoing as she was being, as her natural shyness begged to retreat behind her brother and Richard, allowing them to do all the talking. But she knew the men would be proud of her for making such an effort. She looked at Elizabeth Bennet, and was surprised to see a similar sense of shyness coming from her. From what Darcy had told his sister, she had gathered that Elizabeth was outgoing and easily comfortable with others. Had something happened during her situation which led to the young lady before her to be uncomfortable?
Jane and Elizabeth entered the grand house, arm in arm, and both wearing identical expressions of awe. Yet, as grand as the house was, it was quality, not ornate. The furnishings and décor were tasteful and comfortable, welcoming the people into the rooms and to sit upon the chairs and sofa. The furnishings showed signs of wear, as if they were used frequently over some time, which spoke volumes. Obviously, the family enjoyed these rooms and used them frequently, preferring the comfort rather than showing off their wealth by having the latest style in décor and furnishings. Elizabeth was pleased to see she had judged Darcy wrong in this matter. During the trip to Pemberley, Elizabeth had imagined all sorts of expensive and uncomfortable furniture and hideous designs in the décor.
After taking some tea and biscuits in the drawing room, the group then retired to the rooms they were assigned, to refresh and relax until dinner. Hot water had been made ready for the guests, which was accepted by all, allowing them to wash up before dressing for dinner.
The room Elizabeth was given was near the family wing. It was the largest bedroom Elizabeth had ever seen, and it was for her alone to use. Never in her life had Elizabeth had such a luxury. The room was pale yellow, with flowers decorating the wall fabric. The bed was made of mahogany, deep and rich color and texture was delightful. The bed clothes were pale yellow as well, plump down pillows and blanket were calling for her to sink into their depths.
Attached to the bedchamber was a dressing room, unlike anything Elizabeth had seen before. It was divided into two sections, with an area to place her clothing on one side, a table with a peer glass at the end, and on the other half, a bathing chamber. There was a fireplace near the bathing tub, with hooks to hang the kettle to heat water. There would be no need for anyone to haul heated water from the kitchen, the water was heated in the very room it was to be used in. It had always worried Elizabeth to have people carry steaming hot water up stairs, as, when she was a child, she witnessed a maid slip and fall, scalding herself terribly with the water. The maid was left with scars from the burns.
In the corner of the bedchamber was a desk, with a bookcase built on top of it. Inside the bookcase were several books, including some of Elizabeth’s favorites. Did Mr Darcy plan such a treat for her? How would he know her favorite books and authors? Finally, Elizabeth convinced herself that it was a coincidence and thought no more of the matter. Beside the desk was a door, which lead to a balcony. Opening the door, Elizabeth stepped outside to take in the view. It was magnificent. Though it was cold and becoming dark, the smell of the air and what she could see of the gardens delighted Elizabeth tremendously.
A knock on the door brought Elizabeth back from her thoughts. A young lady entered the room by way of the dressing chamber. “Forgive me, Miss, but Miss Darcy requested I be your personal maid while you visit. My name is Rose.”
Elizabeth blushed. She had never had a maid before, as Jane had always assisted her in dressing and pinning up her hair. “That is not necessary, Rose. My sister will be able to assist me.”
“Oh, but Miss Darcy has made arrangements for all three of you ladies to have maids of your own. My sister is to tend your sister, and Maggie is to tend your aunt.”
Again, Elizabeth was amazed at the generosity of the Darcys. “I have never had a maid before.” She said softly. “We had one maid to assist my sisters and me, and my youngest sister always monopolized the maid’s time.”
“Well, you shall have a treat then. Now, I was told you were injured, and that you are to keep your arm in a sling at all times. Mrs Reynolds gave me some different pieces of cloth which we can use to make slings, some will match with the colors of the gowns you have. Would you prefer to take a bath tonight, or wait until tomorrow? As you have been on the road all day, I thought you might wish to wash all the dirt off tonight.”
“Will we have time to do so before dinner?” Elizabeth asked.
“Oh, surely we will. I have water steaming already, and have buckets of water waiting in the servant’s room behind the dressing chamber. Dinner will not be for two hours, so there should be plenty of time to bathe and dress.”
Elizabeth smiled at the girl’s preparedness. “Very well, I will take a bath.”
“And what is your preference for scent, Miss? From the clothes I unpacked, it appears you like orange blossom and lavender.”
This amazed Elizabeth. “But the clothes we brought with us were new, and I have not had any of my scent bottles with me.”
“Oh, no, Miss. The trunk which was sent from Lambton. Miss Georgiana said the seamstress in the village had your trunk sent here after she learned of your friendship with the family, and that you were coming here.”
“Mrs Lackney sent my belongings here? How kind of her to do so.”
“She is a right fine lady. My ma knew her and stated she was always the kindest of ladies.” Rose assisted Elizabeth in removing her gown and stays, placing the items to the side so she could have them cleaned. Once the remaining clothing was removed, Rose poured a few drops of scent into the water she had prepared.
Elizabeth sank into the water, allowing the warmth to envelop her. She felt a sense of joy flow through her, being able to finally take a full bath. In Liverpool, she was unable to bathe in a tub, as she was required to wait until the wound was completely healed. Now that it was, it was a true blessing submerge in the warmth and her favorite scent. She closed her eyes, relishing in the comfort it brought her.
Rose assisted her charge in washing her hair, using a scented soap which Georgiana had given the maid to use. Once it was rinsed, the girl assisted Elizabeth with the rest of her bath, and then carefully aided Elizabeth to her feet and out of the tub. She dried her with the soft towels, wrapping Elizabeth’s long, dark chocolate curls in one towel, while drying her with another.
Elizabeth chose to wear one of her favorite gowns, a mint green silk with which her aunt and uncle had gifted her. Rose set about drying Elizabeth’s hair, commenting on how beautiful the curls were. Once dried, she pinned the hair in an elegant style upon her head. Looking in the peer glass, Elizabeth hardly recognized herself. “Rose, you are a miracle worker. I cannot believe how beautiful I look.”
“Miss, if you can pardon me for saying so, I did nothing to make you beautiful. You are naturally beautiful, one of the most becoming ladies I have ever seen. It is simple to do your hair and dress you in a gown, the true beauty comes from deep inside and shows in everything you do.”
“My mother would disagree with you.” Elizabeth smiled half-heartedly. Then she thought about her words. It was time to be honest. “Well, as she is not truly my mother, her hateful words should mean nothing to me.”
“Someone spoke hatefully to you, and she was supposed to be your mother? Goodness, what a foolish woman she must be. I cannot think of any mother who would treat their daughter in such a manner.” Rose added a finishing touch to Elizabeth, her garnet cross.
Her eyes grew wide when she saw the necklace. “I thought I would never see this again.”
“Mr Darcy had it repaired while in Liverpool, that is what Mrs Reynolds told me. She gave it to me just before you came up.”
Tears were forming in Elizabeth’s eyes. “I have worn this necklace since I was a little girl. It has always been precious to me.”
“Well, it is right nice, and seeing the joy in your eyes, I am pleased it is returned to you.” Rose said, finding the joy the young lady found in something so simple endured her to the maid.
~~ ** ~~
As Elizabeth stepped out of her chambers, Darcy was walking nearby. “Miss Elizabeth, might I escort you down to dinner? It is easy to become lost in the house, until you are familiar with it.”
Smiling, Elizabeth placed her hand on his arm. “Thank you, Mr Darcy.” Her hand reached up and lightly fingered the cherished necklace she wore. “And thank you, for the return of my cross. Papa gave it to me when I was a child. It broke my heart when it was snatched from me.”
“When I saw it, it made it easier to find you. The man who had it was part of the highwaymen gang. He was able to tell us which direction those scoundrels took you and your maid.”
“I rarely ever took it off, so I have felt quite lost without it. Papa told me, when he gave it to me, that it was meant for me.”
“My cousin noticed the emblem etched into the back of the setting. It was the royal seal of Brunswick. I assume it was a piece from your mother.”
Her cheeks flushed bright red. Darcy realized she must be uncomfortable with him knowing the truth of her birth. “Miss Elizabeth, you have nothing to be ashamed of with me. To be honest, I am pleased that Mrs Bennet is not truly your mother. The woman is vulgar and cruel, not to mention, an idiot. Knowing she will never be able to cause you harm again brings me joy.”
“It is difficult to speak of, Mr Darcy. Especially to someone such as yourself. It would be simple enough for you, being of the upper circle of society, to refuse to have anything to do with me and my family.”
“You had no choice as to who your parents are, Miss Elizabeth. And, in all honesty, you are a member of royalty. That places you above the wealthy, untitled land owner, as far as society is concerned.” Darcy stated as he smiled.
“I could never face society, not after all that has happened. I would be horrified to deal with all of it.” Elizabeth suddenly paled.
“Though I am sure your mother’s family will wish for some sort of presentation, I believe they will allow you to make up your own mind as to your frequency in society.”
“It is difficult for me to think of some unknown lady being my mother. Papa has sent to Mrs Hill, our housekeeper, asking for a box, which he has kept hidden all these years, to be sent here. He says there is a portrait of my mother. Constance, her name was Constance.”
“Has he discussed her family with you? Do they wish to be a part of your life?” Darcy asked.
“I have an aunt, Margaret, who is married and lives in Scotland. She writes to Papa every year, on my birthday, and he sends a reply. Papa says she will wish to know me better, as she has always wished to be a part of my life. He promised me to tell me more of my mother’s family while we are here. But it is difficult to think of all I will learn. I have cousins, aunts, and uncles who I have never met, never even knew existed. But they know of me, and have cared for me from afar.”
“You are welcome to invite any of your relations to come here, away from the rest of the world. Pemberley is located in such a way to make it private.”
“Your generosity has been tremendous, Mr Darcy. I am grateful for all you have done for my family.”
“I must admit, Miss Elizabeth, I thought only of you. My only wish is to be of service to you, in your time of confusion.”
Elizabeth was shocked at his confession. Fortunately, they had reached the dining room, where the rest of their party were waiting for them.
The group dined quietly, as most of the party were fatigued from the journey. It was decided to end the evening early, just after dining, so everyone could have time to themselves and retire to their beds. There were no plans for the following day, as Darcy and Georgiana wished to allow their guests to have a relaxing day.
~~ ** ~~
As the sun began to rise, Elizabeth woke with the desire to start exploring the wonderful estate she was visiting. She dressed, with the assistance of Rose, and made her way downstairs. The smell coming from the kitchen was heavenly, and Elizabeth found herself drawn towards the breakfast room. There were rolls and preserves on the sideboard, the rolls still warm from baking. Elizabeth took two rolls with her, after cutting them open and smearing the berry preserves on the interior. She then gathered her delicious morsels and made her way outdoors.
She was only planning to take a walk about the gardens, not being familiar with the area, but there seemed to be more areas beckoning her to come further and further away from the house. Finding the stream, Elizabeth took a seat on the side of an overturned tree and brought out her rolls. She had finished the first roll when she saw something moving in the bush nearby. For a moment, Elizabeth held her breath, not knowing what would come out from the lush green foliage.
Suddenly, a dog jumped out of the bush. It was a beautiful dog, multicolored with long fur. The dog appeared to be one of the herding dogs which Elizabeth assumed were used to keep the sheep on the estate in line. Elizabeth had always been fond of dogs, though her father had never allowed their family to have a dog. Mr Bennet had always told his daughters that dogs were meant to work, and only working dogs were allowed to live at Longbourn.
The dog watched Elizabeth carefully, cocking its head to the side, taking in everything she saw of the young lady. Finally, with a little coaxing, the dog moved forward, sniffing Elizabeth’s outstretched hand.
“It is alright, girl. I will not harm you.” Elizabeth said as she encouraged the dog to come to her. Finally, Elizabeth held out a piece of roll to the dog. There was no need for further encouragement, as the dog instantly moved closer and took the offered treat.
“There, now, I promised you would not be harmed. What a pretty girl you are. And your fur is soft. Someone must take good care of you.” Elizabeth ran her fingers through the long fur. As she continued to pet the dog, Elizabeth felt a calming effect course through her. It gave her a sense of contentment she had not felt since her world became a chaotic mess. “What a sweet nature you have. I wish I knew your name. You are filled with love and compassion, I can sense how caring you are.”
Elizabeth continued to break off small pieces of the roll and giving them to the dog, who, in return, licked any remaining preserves from Elizabeth’s fingertips. “Ah, so you like the sweets goodness. I must thank you for your kindness in cleaning my fingers.”
For over half an hour, Elizabeth lost herself petting the dog, and discussing her tormented mind with her new friend. The dog placed her head on Elizabeth’s lap, soaking in the devotion she was receiving from the human.
The sound of a horse could be heard riding towards the pair. The dog suddenly stood, and with a grumbled bark, left her new friend to return to the bush. Finally turning her full attention to the rider, Elizabeth realized the rider was none other than Mr Darcy.
“Miss Elizabeth, you are awake early this morning. I would have thought you would sleep in today, after all the traveling you have done of late.”
“I have always been an early riser, Mr Darcy. As soon as the sun comes up, it cries out to me to come outside.” Elizabeth smiled.
“Did I see a dog with you as I rode up?”
“Indeed you did. Is it one of your dogs?” Elizabeth asked.
“No, I have never owned a dog such as that one. It looked like Old Jameson’s dog. She was devoted to her master until he died last autumn. Since then, she has kept her distance from people.”
“She was timid at first, but quickly came to me and accepted my attention to her. Do you know her name?”
Darcy thought for a few moments before he recalled the name. “I believe she is called Sadie. Mr Jameson’s wife was named Sadie, and she had died more than twenty years ago. I can remember him saying his life was empty since losing his beloved Sadie, so he decided to have another loving Sadie in his life. She worked the sheep with him.”
“What sort of breed is she? I have never seen the likes.”
“She is a collie. Mr Jameson’s brother lives in Scotland and he brought Jameson the dog when she was a pup. I love watching Sadie work the sheep. She runs faster than any other dog I have seen, and she is agile. She can actually cut one particular sheep from the fold upon command. Jameson never would tell me how he trained her, he claimed it was a secret and he could not tell it to anyone.” Darcy laughed at the memory.
Elizabeth looked at the man as he took his seat beside her on the log. It amazed her to hear Darcy speaking so much, let alone his vast knowledge of his tenant and the tenant’s dog. She was impressed with the way he spoke, caring for the now deceased man and the dog which had been devoted to its master. This was not the Darcy she was used to.
After a little more conversation, Darcy walked Elizabeth back to the house. Elizabeth decided then and there that she wished to know more of Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy.