Thomas Bennet sat in the saddle of his horse, pointing out different aspects of the estate. They had been riding for about two hours, and were nearly finished.
“Do you have any questions, Mr Bingley?”
“I am impressed with the condition of the estate. I expected things to be in worse condition.” Bingley stated.
“We spent all of our savings the past year, so that is why we have been struggling. It has taken almost everything we had to keep everything maintained to the standard it was before the drought. Our family preferred to ensure our staff and tenants were taken care of properly, which is proper, but we have no more in reserve. Which is why my daughters decided to open their shop. They would rather become shopkeepers, and potentially lower their chances of marrying well, than allow the tenants and staff here suffer. They have also sent funds to assist some of our neighbors. Elizabeth has sent medicinal herbs to the apothecary to give to those in need who cannot afford to purchase them.” Mr Bennet was proud of his girls.
Darcy was impressed. He knew that if faced with a similar situation, he would see that his staff and tenants were taken care of above his own needs. Knowing all that Elizabeth and Jane Bennet had done to protect, not only their family, but others who were in worse condition than they were, the young ladies grew even higher in Darcy’s estimation.
“The house is sound, I did not see any cracks or damaged areas.” Darcy commented. “Is the roof sound?”
“Yes. It was repaired three years ago, and I had the workers completely replace it rather than fix the two holes we found. The work was well done, so there should be no problem for some time to come. I can give you the name of the man who did the work.”
“From what I have seen, I feel as if the asking price is lower than I would think. I do not wish to cause my friend any difficulty in paying more, but I am curious as to why you would value it as low as you have.”
“To be honest, I lowered the price for Mr Bingley. If he does not purchase it, I will take the price back to where it was originally, which was ten thousand higher. After speaking with my brother in law, Mr Gardiner, I knew that Mr Bingley would treat the land and the people in a manner that is similar to how my family has for over one hundred years. It is worth the lower price to see care given to them. My family has all agreed.”
Bingley swallowed at the kindness of the entire Bennet family. “Mr Bennet, I can promise you that I will treat the people of Longbourn with the respect and decency that you and your family has done, though I insist on your accepting the full amount. I am able to pay the full price, and potentially purchase some more land to enlarge the estate.”
Darcy nodded. “We have heard that Netherfield Park’s owner is selling at a reduced rate, as he does not wish to rebuild the house. Bingley and I have spoken about potentially purchasing that estate together, and I would not be living here, so the house would not matter.”
“So, you are interested in purchasing Longbourn?” Bennet asked.
Bingley turned to his friend before turning back to Mr Bennet. “Indeed. I have already spoken with my solicitors, and we can meet in Town next week to finalize the paperwork, if that suits you.”
“It does. We will be moving to Town on Saturday. The house is not far from the Boutique. I have the address at the house. Now, my wife will never forgive me if you do not come back to the house to taken tea with us, before you return to Town. And, if you do not mind, we will send a message to our daughters, if you would deliver it.”
Both of the young men smiled at the thought of having a reason to visit the Bennet sisters once again. In unison, they spoke. “I will be happy to deliver your message.”
~~ ** ~~
“So, Catherine is threatening to have William declared incompetent, and that she should have control over his holdings. I told her there is nothing which could be used to have him declared incompetent, and she started spouting that he had a high fever a few months ago. Her claim is that the fever did damage to his mind, which is why he is behaving in such an odd manner. She is furious over the article in the papers. And Catherine is furious that William has not come to Rosings for some time. She demanded he come and do his duty to Anne. If he refuses to marry Anne, she will move forward to having him locked away. Unfortunately, William’s behavior was extremely unusual. For him to go against his nature in such a manner, in public, does not help the situation.”
“But there is nothing wrong with my brother. He found a young lady he admired and wished to know better. Why can Aunt Catherine not understand and be happy for him?” Georgiana said with a slight sob.
“Because Catherine has never been happy in her own life, so she cannot allow anyone else to be happy. I also discovered the reason she wishes William to marry Anne. In Sir Lewis de Bourgh’s will, he made a change the year before he died. He was not pleased with his wife, and he made a stipulation in his will that I was unaware of. If Anne turns thirty and is not married, William inherits Rosings. He can turn Catherine out immediately. If she is married, then Catherine can remain at Rosings, and William inherits if there is no heir born to Anne’s marriage. If Anne is married to William, then there will be no question of Catherine being thrown out of her home. She can continue to rule over Rosings, as William would prefer to live at Pemberley.”
“Good God, Catherine is desperate to resort to such measures.” Anthony said. “She is so afraid of losing her power over Rosings that she is willing to ruin the lives of others?”
“You know my sister. She will do whatever she can to protect her style of living. And she is furious. Seeing William’s name in the paper, connected to some country miss who is unknown in our society, has added to her fury. I thought I would be able to calm her down, but I discovered that she has already contacted a physician and is willing to pay him handsomely to support her claims.”
Lady Matlock folded her hands in her lap. “What can be done?”
“I have signed papers stating that William is sane and capable of fulfilling his obligations as usual. I have also had papers drawn up stating that if, for any reason, William is unable to fulfill his duties, the control of Pemberley and all business affairs he controls, and guardianship of Georgiana, will be moved to the control of a board of directors for a foundation. We have now formed the Fitzwilliam Foundation. On the board are myself and you, Rebecca, Anthony, Richard, Angelina, Georgiana, and William. I have also spoken to Edwin Gardiner to be on the board, to assist in our investing. The board will be responsible for all charitable contributions our family makes. In forming the foundation, we will be able to move forward in protecting William, and protecting all of the Darcy assets and even you, Georgiana. And each of us has a vote on decisions. With Mr Gardiner involved, he will be our outside of the family member, who will have nothing to gain from any of the decisions. He will be on the board on a volunteer basis. That will protect him from accusations of being bribed for his vote.”
Everyone sat in silence for several moments. “Will my brother approve of this?” Georgiana asked. “He is used to having to make all decisions on his own.”
“As it is set up, William will continue as he has unless there is a question of his ability to perform. Once there is any official question into his ability, then the board will step in and take control, until we can prove that the claims are unfounded. Then everything will revert back to him.”
“This will prevent Catherine from getting her hands on Pemberley and any of the Darcy holdings? What will she do if she cannot hold this threat over William’s head? You know she will not stop there.” Lady Matlock said, her concern was clearly written in her voice.
“I cannot say what her next threat is. But I know what we will need to do. We will need to find a way to fight fire with fire. We will have to find a way to threaten Catherine if she does not relent her behavior. Can you think of anything we can hold against her?”
Anthony shook his head. “I will speak to my friend, Joseph Phinney. His father has an estate a few miles from Ramsgate, and he can do some investigating. Joseph’s father has had some problems with Aunt Catherine in the past, so I am certain they would be willing to help us out.”
“Then contact your friend.”
~~ ** ~~
The door’s bell jingling announced someone had entered the front door of the shop. Jane was upstairs and Hannah had left to do the shopping for food, leaving Elizabeth to come from the back of the shop to tend the needs of their customer.
Finding the handsome young man who had filled her mind the past two days, Elizabeth smiled. “Mr Darcy, you have returned so soon. How was your trip to Longbourn?”
“We had a pleasant journey, Miss Elizabeth. My friend was pleased with your family’s estate. As a matter of fact, he will be purchasing the estate next week. And the two of us are planning to purchase Netherfield Park.”
“I am pleased. Knowing that the estate will be well looked after and the people will be cared for is important to our family.”
Darcy nodded his head. “You may rely on Bingley to treat the estate and its people as your family would. I came to deliver a message from your father.” He reached his hand into his pocket, pulling out the letter he had been given to hand to the young lady.
“I thank you Sir. How may I show my gratitude for your postal deliveries? Might a glass of lemonade or a cup of tea pay for your services?” She teased.
“I would love a glass of lemonade, Miss Elizabeth. And I would have to add that it would only pay for my delivery one way, so I will have to start an account which I will have to bill you.” He smiled at her, causing her heart to beat rapidly.
She led Darcy to the table in the corner of the room. “I will return in a moment.”
When she returned, Elizabeth carried a tray with a glass of lemonade and some biscuits on it. “Hannah is famous for her biscuits. I swear we have some customers come in just to enjoy the biscuits and tartlets.”
“Well, that is a creative way to drum up business.” Darcy smiled as he reached for the plate, taking one of the biscuits and the glass. Taking a bite, Darcy’s eyebrows lifted in surprise. “And now, I can understand why you say such words. The biscuits are delicious. Not to undervalue the products that you and your sister make for the shop, but I would be greatly tempted to come here for such treats.”
A small chuckle escaped Elizabeth. “With your friend purchasing the estate, my father is planning to purchase this building. Once that is done, we are thinking of making some changes. We can turn the basement into our work area, and we can enlarge the shop. When we do, we would be able to add a few more tables and make it into a bakery and tea shop as well as the boutique. It will take us a little while to do all the changes, but by the end of the year we should be able to do so.”
“Why would it take so long?” Darcy asked. “And, rather than rearranging everything to make it all fit in this building, why do you not purchase the small lot next to this? You could expand the building, giving you more room. I am certain you will require more room for your work area, as you must be cramped in the back room.”
“But it would cost more to be able to expand in that manner. We could not ask Papa to put up more, as he needs to save money for our sisters’ futures.”
Darcy sat for a few moments, thinking of the matter. “I have a simple solution, Miss Elizabeth. You can take an investor. I would be willing to invest in your business, pay for the purchase of the lot and for the enlargement of the building. In that way, your business will continue to grow. You will need an oven and work space for Hannah to make her delicious treats. I assume she uses the stove in the apartment upstairs.”
“She does. I have been trying to figure a way to purchase a stove for downstairs. I feel guilty making her go up and down the stairs constantly throughout the day, bringing tea and treats.” Elizabeth said. “But I would feel guilty in accepting funds from you.”
Darcy frowned. “Why ever would you feel guilty? I made the offer freely. I can see a good investment with people who have sound business minds. It would not be throwing my funds away, it would be a proper investment. You are doing the work, I would be reaping the rewards.”
She chuckled. “I will speak with my sister of your suggestion. Once we have made a decision, I will see you are informed. Now, we have plenty of Hannah’s biscuits. Would you like for me to put some in a bag for you to take to Miss Darcy?”
Darcy’s smile showed dimples, which left Elizabeth weak in the knees. “That would be wonderful, Miss Elizabeth.”
~~ ** ~~
After Darcy left, Elizabeth opened the message that he had delivered from her family. In reading her father’s words, Elizabeth smiled.
“Jane, we have a message from Papa.” She said as she climbed the stairs.
Jane was waiting for her at the top of the staircase. “What did he have to say?”
“They have told everyone they will be moving to Town on Saturday. They will actually arrive on Friday, and will send the carriage to collect us after we close. Then we can work some magic on fixing the place to a more livable manner.” Elizabeth was pleased. It was not often she was allowed to use her magic freely, even in the country. But in a house which required a lot of work, and no one outside the family present, Elizabeth would be able to spread her wings, so to speak.
“Wonderful. Did he say if Mr Bingley is to purchase the estate?”
Elizabeth nodded eagerly. “Mr Darcy informed me, as he was the one to deliver the message.”
Jane knew her sister was taken with the young Master of Pemberley. “Well, that was kind of Mr Darcy. Did he have anything to say of their trip to Longbourn?”
“They were pleased to see how well the estate had been maintained. It pleases me that we did without to keep the estate up to the standards to which it was always run.”
“It was difficult, but necessary.” Jane agreed. “It will be nice to see our sisters be able to have masters to teach them and some new gowns. Pour Kitty, she has grown so much and there is only so much the hems can be let out.”
“And Mamma will not have to do as much of the sewing she has done. She will be able to pay for a dressmaker. And she will be able to purchase candles again, rather than making her own.” Elizabeth said. “Papa will be able to purchase new books. It broke his heart when he had to sell part of his collection last year.”
“I told him we would be able to come up with the funds to pay debts at the general store, but he felt it was his duty to do.” Jane remembered the previous year, when there was high demand for food for their family and the people of Longbourn. The estate was beginning to recover, but no crops were ready to be harvested and the animals were becoming sparse. As it was, there was only two cows and six hens left for milk and eggs.
Mr Bennet could have managed for his family, but he knew it was not fair to the rest of the people who made the estate run. He could not think of eating a meal while his tenants starved. So he sold nearly half of his book collection to purchase supplies to feed everyone. That was the reason behind the elder Bennet sisters selling their products through Mr Gardiner.
~~ ** ~~
The young man stood in the shadows, watching the Boutique closely. He had watched Darcy arrive, just before the shop closed for the day, and had witnessed, through the window, Darcy smiling. He knew that it was rare for Darcy to smile, the gentleman from Derbyshire was well known for being taciturn and withdrawn.
Staying outside the shop until late in the evening, the man then made his way to the inn where he had been staying. Once in his room, he crossed to the small writing desk in the corner, pulling out a sheet of parchment, ink and quill. When he finished the letter, he sanded it, then sealed it. He would see that it was delivered in the morning.
~~ ** ~~
Friday evening was celebrated at Chatham House, the house which was the home for the Bennet family. The Gardiners joined the Bennets, and for the first time in their lives, Mr Bennet, Mr Gardiner and Elizabeth combined their magic. Mr Gardiner was strongest as a shield, being able to block the view and sound reaching others when he wished. He blanketed the exterior of Chatham House with his power, allowing his brother in law and niece to work their wonders inside the house, undetected by the outside world. Mr Bennet was strongest working with water, so he directed the water from the pails, scrubbing the floors, walls, ceilings and windows of each room, after Elizabeth had used the power of wind to blow all the dirt and debris from them. Once the rooms had been scrubbed clean, Elizabeth used her ability to create fire to warm the air, blowing all the rooms dry. The younger family members watched carefully as the elder members used magic to prepare the house to be lived in.
“It is not fair that Lizzy inherited magic, and I did not.” Lydia said with a pout. “I would love to be able to use magic.”
“That would be a problem, Lydia, as it cannot be used whenever you wish.” Her father said. “We have to keep our powers secret. You have no idea of the trouble we would have if others discovered the truth.”
“It would still be fun, Papa. Just watching you and Lizzy, I wish I could do the same. Then I would never have to work hard on my chores again.”
Elizabeth laughed. “Lydia, I still do my chores in the regular way. I do not use my magic to make my bed or clean my areas of the shop or our living area. The only time I use my magic at the shop is to ensure the herbs are quality needed for medicinal products we make. I refuse to sell products with weak or useless herbs.”
“And this is the first time we have all three worked together. I cannot remember the last time I did any true magic.” Mr Gardiner said.
Lydia still had a pout, but she accepted the answer she had been given. Kitty and Mary were proud of their relations, especially of their elder sister, for she used her magic to ensure the ointments, elixirs and medicinal products were quality for the care of others.
“Well, as the house is clean, shall we enjoy the delicious repast that Mrs Gardiner had cooked for us?” Mrs Bennet asked.
As the meal was enjoyed, Elizabeth brought out a wooden box. “I have some stones to help protect the house.” She said, looking at her father. “I know Mamma does not trust in them, but I have placed them around the shop to protect us, and I wish to do the same here.”
Mr Bennet looked across the room at his wife, who was speaking with her sister in law. Turning his attention back to his daughter, he asked, “What stones did you bring?”
“Smoky quartz, to keep negative energy from entering the house. I have some at our front and rear doors, and at the door to our apartment. Some clear quartz, which can draw and send energy, not to mention that it is one of the best for healing purposes. I also brought some amethyst, to reduce anger and impatience. There is some black tourmaline which is good at blocking negativity too. And some rose quartz, to promote love.”
Mr Bennet smiled. “I would be pleased to have you bless the house with your stones. I know they will protect us.”
Elizabeth placed a kiss on her father’s forehead. “Thank you, Papa. I will feel better knowing they are in place. And you will be able to draw on their energy, to make you stronger.”
~~ ** ~~
The following morning, Elizabeth was in the back room when Jane opened the shop. “Lizzy, there is a message which was slipped under the front door. It has your name on it.”
Elizabeth took the message, breaking the seal and began to read.
Miss Elizabeth Bennet,
I have been watching you. Why do you give your smiles and laughter to those who are undeserving? You are mine, and I do not approve of you lavishing your smiles on other men. It must stop immediately. If you do not behave properly, I will have to take matters into my own hands.
You are warned. Take caution on your actions.
Elizabeth dropped the message to the floor, running to the door and looking out at the people moving about on the street. Fear was rising inside her, and for the first time in her life, Elizabeth felt a lack of control over her life.
“Lizzy, what is wrong?” Jane asked as she reached for the letter.
“Jane, leave it. It is not important. I will speak with Papa later today.”
“But you are frightened. This is not like you.” Jane scooped up the parchment from the floor and began to read. She gasped loudly, bringing Hannah scurrying to the shop. “Lizzy, I am sending a message to Papa immediately. This is serious. Someone has been watching you, watching our shop. Who is he speaking of? Who did you smile at?”
“The only one I can think of is Mr Darcy. He has been here several times of late, and I do find Mr Darcy to be a pleasant gentleman. We have spoken each time, and I am sure I smiled during his visits. But a smile is a smile. I did nothing inappropriate. Why is someone threatening me over my smiling?”
“Hannah, will you take a message to Chatham House for us? Ask my father to come here as soon as possible, as there is a problem.” Jane their maid.
“Yes, Miss. I suggest you keep the back door locked. I will bring your father back as quick as can be. Maybe you should keep the shop closed today. Just until we can have Mr Bennet’s opinion on the matter.” Hannah suggested.
“No, I will not allow some unknown man frighten me into not opening our shop. I agree with keeping the rear door locked, but there is no need to fear for me. Besides, I have placed stones about the shop, and I can use them to protect us. I can feel the stones pulsate when someone approaches that is a potential thief. I am sure that the negative energy someone who wishes to cause harm will also be easy to detect.”
“This is one of those times I am grateful for your abilities, especially with the stones. My mother always said that your ability to use their energy to know what was happening was a blessing.” Hannah said.
Elizabeth laughed. “Mamma would not agree with your mother, Hannah, but I am pleased that Mrs Hill understood my abilities. Now, let us make everything appear as normal as possible.”
~~~~~~~ ** ~~~~~~~
Darcy and Georgiana arrived at the Boutique at the same time as Mr Bennet. “It is good to see you, Mr Bennet. I did not expect to see you in Town this early. Were you not moving here today?”
“Yes, well, we decided to make the move yesterday. Lizzy and Jane joined us last night, and between them and the Gardiners, and my other daughters, we have most everything situated tolerable for the moment. It will take some time to unpack everything, but we at least have the beds and our clothing ready for us, and Mrs Hill was able to find our dishes. Mrs Gardiner sent over some food to get us by until Hill can shop today.”
“Well, it is a pleasure to see you. Might I take a moment to introduce you to my sister, Miss Georgiana Darcy?”
Mr Bennet smiled. “I have actually met Miss Darcy before, though it is a pleasure to meet again. My wife and I were here on the day our girls opened the shop, and your aunt brought Miss Darcy with her.”
Georgiana glanced at her brother. “Mrs Bennet was very sweet to me, and Mr Bennet informed me of his love of reading. I informed him he would be jealous of our library at Pemberley.”
“Indeed. It is one of the largest, private owned libraries in the country.” Darcy said with some pride. “It has taken many generations to acquire.”
“Well, I must go inside, to speak to my daughters.” Mr Bennet said nervously. Hannah had not informed him of the nature of the problem, and he was concerned.
“Mr Bennet, is something a matter? You appear to be upset.” Darcy inquired.
“No, nothing. My daughters asked that I come to consult on a matter. I am certain that it is nothing of consequence.”
Darcy suddenly became concerned. Had something happened to frighten the young ladies? He would not stand for any harm to come to them. He followed Mr Bennet inside the shop, his eyes searching until they came to rest on the sight of Elizabeth Bennet. There was something bothering her. That much was apparent in her expression.
Jane quickly moved her father towards the back room of the shop as Elizabeth attempted to greet the Darcys as if nothing was wrong.
“Miss Darcy, it is a pleasure to see you again. And you brought your brother with you. Did you require his opinion on purchases, or his strong arms to carry the crates of items to the carriage?” Elizabeth smiled, but suddenly caught herself and looked around at the windows. Darcy turned his attention towards the windows as well, frowning at her behavior.
“Miss Elizabeth, is something wrong? Your father said that you had sent for him to come due to a problem. You are behaving as if something is upsetting you. What has happened?”
Just then, Mr Bennet returned to the shop. “Lizzy, we are closing the shop for the rest of the day. You and Jane will come with me back to Chatham House. I will send word to your uncle to join us. Hannah should come with us as well.”
Darcy was concerned. “What has happened?”
Mr Bennet looked at his daughters. Elizabeth’s gaze was lowered, unable to look at any other the others in the room. “Mr Darcy, my daughter received a message which was slipped under the door this morning. It contained threats against Elizabeth.”
Reaching out, Darcy snatched the letter which Mr Bennet held in his hand. Elizabeth attempted to prevent the gentleman from reading the words, but her father took hold of her hands. “Lizzy, allow him to know what was written. Perhaps he has some suggestions to protect you.”
Georgiana watched her brother’s face grow red with anger. Suddenly, he exclaimed loudly, “Good God. Miss Elizabeth, is this the same person who sent you the flowers the other day?”
“The writing appears the same.” She replied.
Mr Bennet had no knowledge of the flowers. “What is this about flowers? You received flowers from some man?”
“The note had no name on it. I thought it was a friend or even a joke.” Elizabeth said. “I did not take it serious.”
“What did it say? Do you still have the note?” Mr Bennet demanded.
“Yes, it is upstairs, in my desk drawer.” Elizabeth turned to go retrieve it. Mr Bennet took hold of her arm.
“Hannah, would you please retrieve the message. I wish to keep my daughter here.”
Hannah quickly made her way upstairs and returned, holding the note. Darcy looked over Mr Bennet’s shoulder at the two notes, side by side. “It certainly looks like they were written by the same person.” Darcy said. Mr Bennet nodded in agreement.
“We need to set up some sort of security to watch over the building. Perhaps it would be best if you girls moved into Chatham House for now.” Mr Bennet stated.
“We will be fine, Papa. I cannot believe someone would cause any problems here. Mr Robbins lives above the book shop, and Mrs Pendleton lives above her dress shop. There are people nearby who would hear us call out if we needed assistance.” Elizabeth said.
“Lizzy, perhaps Papa is correct. We should stay at the house with our family.”
“But Jane, we need to keep a watch over our shop. If we are not here, will the person find it tempting to break into the shop and destroy our hard work?” Elizabeth was determined. “I will not allow some unknown person to determine my life.”
“Then I will hire some security guards to watch over the building and you ladies.” Darcy insisted. “I cannot imagine leaving the two of you here without someone to protect you.”
Mr Bennet shook his head. “It is my responsibility, Mr Darcy. If you can recommend someone to me, I will contact them immediately.”
“As you are in the process of hiring your own staff, I am more than willing to take this duty on myself. I can send for two of my footmen from Darcy House, until I can hire some men. I have a friend who is retired from the army, and he will be able to assist me in hiring the needed men.”
“Lizzy, I think it would be better if we were to move to Chatham House. We can have guards watch over the building when the shop is closed.” Jane pleaded with her sister.
“If you wish to remove to Chatham House, I will think no less of you. But I refuse to run from here. Hannah, you are welcome to do as you please.” Elizabeth stated.
Hannah decided that she would remain at the Boutique if Elizabeth was staying. Jane was uncomfortable with remaining, but she did not wish to leave her sister. Mr Bennet decided to trust Darcy to hire the guards, as he would have no knowledge as to where to look to hire such staff. A message was sent to Mr Gardiner, informing him of the situation.
Before Darcy and Georgiana left, he stationed one of his postilions inside the shop, instructing the young man to keep watch over the ladies and keep them from harm. Darcy then walked over to Elizabeth, taking her hand.
“I will return after I make the arrangements. Please, do not leave the shop on your own, and be careful.”
“I will, Mr Darcy. Thank you for your generosity.” Elizabeth blushed as she thanked him. “And it was a pleasure to see you today, Miss Darcy. Forgive the confusion we are suffering.”
“I will keep you in my prayers, Miss Elizabeth. All of you, please keep safe.” Georgiana said as she prepared to follow her brother from the shop.
Once the Darcys had left, Mr Bennet looked at his daughters. He led them in the back room, after asking the footman, Robby, to watch the front while he spoke with his daughters.
“Lizzy, did you sense anyone nearby? Are you feeling negative energy?”
“Not at the moment.” Elizabeth said. “I have stones in place, but I will put some more around. Perhaps even around the windows. I have been using them to watch for thieves. This is one of those times I wish I had Uncle’s shield. Not only can he hide from view, but he can keep people away if he wishes.”
“You are more powerful than your uncle and myself combined, Lizzy. Perhaps your uncle can work with you on advancing your own shielding. I am certain you can do enough to protect yourself, I am worried it will cause you to use magic in front of people. If you are discovered, it could be just as dangerous as this unknown man.” Mr Bennet said. “But, if you have no other options, use your strengths. We can always find a way to hide you, in another country if necessary.”
Elizabeth nodded her head as she leaned into her father’s embrace. “I will be careful, Papa. And I will make certain Jane and Hannah are safe as well.”
~~ ** ~~
Darcy made arrangements for guards to arrive at the Boutique, after sending two footmen to relieve Robby. The guards would arrive prior to the Bennet sisters closing up for the night.
After the arrangements were made, Darcy made his way to Matlock House. He had promised his uncle he would return to meet with him, having yet to discuss Lady Catherine’s demands.
“Welcome, my boy. How are you this morning?” Lord Matlock asked.
“Concerned. Someone is threatening Miss Elizabeth. She received a message this morning, under the front door of the Boutique.”
“Good God. Are the young ladies safe? Does Gardiner know of the situation?”
Darcy nodded his head. “I have hired guards to watch over the building and the sisters. Mr Bennet was at the Boutique when Georgiana and I were there, and he was sending word to Mr Gardiner.”
“I will send word to Gardiner, lending our support as well. The Bennet sisters do not deserve to be ill-treated.” Lord Matlock stated. “Now, shall we speak on the matter of importance, concerning our family?”
“I presume this has to do with Aunt Catherine.”
“That is correct. Do you know what she is plotting?”
Darcy sighed. “No, but I am certain it has something to do with her insistence that I marry Anne. How many times do I have to tell her that I will not be marrying my cousin? Why can she not accept my answer?”
“I wish it could be simple, William, but what I have to tell you will answer some of your questions. Did you know about Sir Lewis’ will?”
The men discussed the matter for an hour. Darcy was amazed at the information he had been given, especially at the lengths Lady Catherine would go to force the marriage.
Lord Matlock spoke softly. “I have requested our family physician to join us. I wish for you to have a thorough check, so we have proof that you are well and sound. My sister thinks I will sit back and allow her to behave as she wishes. I must admit, I did not put up much of a front when she was wailing the other day. While she laid out her plan, in my mind, I was planning how to protect you.”
“I am so disgusted by Aunt Catherine’s behavior. And Anne, I have never been even remotely fond of Anne, let alone desire to marry her. I plan to cut all ties with Lady Catherine and Anne. I want nothing further to do with them, and will not allow them near Georgiana.” Darcy finally lost his temper.
“Your sentiments are understandable, William. And I agree with you. Rebecca and I are planning to cut ties with Catherine and Anne as well. But I needed to put my plan into action before doing so, as Catherine will strike back with vengeance. Now, let me explain all there is to know of the plan.”
~~ ** ~~
Darcy had returned to his townhouse, as he was required to work with his solicitors, making certain all of his interests were protected from his mother’s sister. Lady Catherine had always been a bitter woman, and he disliked having to spend time with her, even when he was a small child.
After the solicitors left his study, Darcy sat back in his chair and allowed his mind to wander. No matter what he started to think of, his mind would always make its way back to Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Finally, he dozed off in his chair, his feet propped on the corner of his desk.
Elizabeth Bennet was sitting on a horse, on the path of the hill to the north of the main house of Pemberley. Darcy rode his horse up to be beside her. “Dearest, I thought you were supposed to be resting.” He stated.
“It is too nice a day to be spent in one’s bed. I could feel nature calling out to me.” She said, with a sparkle dancing in her eyes.
“But you should not ride out by yourself, my love. What if something were to happen to you? In your condition, I could not stand the thought of you being injured.”
Elizabeth’s hand flowed over her swollen belly. “Your child wished to go for a ride as well. He is anxious to be out of me and running wild over our estate. If you do not believe me, allow me to hold your hand over him. He is constantly moving and kicking.”
“My love, what if you were to begin your labors while you were out here, all alone? It is not safe. Besides, the physician said you should rest more.”
“After I give birth, I will be forced to rest constantly. Until then, I plan to enjoy our home. Forgive me for causing you worry, I will see that someone is with me in the future. But I had to come here today. Something was calling for me to be here.” Elizabeth said, looking out at the vast lands of the estate.
“It is where my mother was when her labors began. My father found her here, and, between the two of them, they delivered me. I do not remember telling you of this location before.” Darcy was perplexed.
“You have not. I did not know of the story. But it makes sense to me, knowing you were born on the lands you love so dearly.” She reached out her hand to take hold of his. Suddenly, a pain shot through her. As she cried out, Darcy dismounted his horse and reached up to pull his wife into his arms. He laid his coat on the ground, then placed Elizabeth on top of it. Her pains continued to grow, and finally, as she screamed out, she called his name. “FITZWILLIAM”
“FITZWILLIAM, will you answer me? What is wrong with you?” Lady Catherine de Bourgh was standing at the side of his desk, speaking in a voice that had always grated on his nerves.
“Forgive me, Lady Catherine, I had dozed off. What are you doing in my study? You were not announced.” Darcy attempted to right himself.
“I do not need to be announced. I am nearly your closest relations, therefore I should have no need to be announced when entering your home or your study.” Lady Catherine stated clearly. “Why have you not come to my townhouse to speak with me? I have sent you several messages stating I wished to speak with you, and you have not responded to me.”
“I have been busy, Lady Catherine. And, after speaking with your brother, the earl, I have no doubt of with what regards you wish to speak. I will save you the effort. Lady Catherine, I will not ever marry your daughter, Anne de Bourgh. I do not like her, or love her, and could never find happiness in being married to the likes of her. So, was there anything else of which you wish to speak?”
“I will have you committed. I have already spoken with a physician. Your mind is addled. You are not thinking straight. So I know how to behave. You will regret your actions.” Lady Catherine stepped towards the door of the study, motioning for someone outside the room to enter. “This is my nephew. He is to be taken to Mr Johnston’s medical center, as was discussed.”
Two large men stepped into the room and began approaching where Darcy sat. Darcy called out to his butler, who was stationed in the hall. Mr Bartholomew had been with the Darcy family for many years, and had been included in the meeting with the solicitors. The butler entered the room, with three large footmen, armed with a pistol each, at his side.
“Yes, Mr Darcy?” Mr Bartholomew asked.
“Would you escort these people from my home, and see that they are not allowed to enter again?”
“Of course, Sir. Lady Catherine, if you and your henchmen would be so kind as to leave on your own accord, I would be grateful. But you will leave, even if we have to carry you out.” Mr Bartholomew said, motioning for the lady and her hired help to move towards the door.
“I will be back, Darcy. And I will make certain that the chit is taken care of as well.” Lady Catherine spat the words of hatred at her nephew.
Darcy was quickly on his feet. “If you do anything to harm Miss Elizabeth Bennet, you will be the one who ends up in Bedlam. Do you understand me?”
“I know what I need to do.” Lady Catherine glared at Darcy for a moment, then turned and stomped from the room.
Darcy sat down and penned several quick messages, before preparing to leave the house. He would take the footmen with him, not allowing his aunt a chance to kidnap him outside his home. He sent a young man from the stables to deliver the messages, one to his uncle, one to Mr Bennet, and the final one to Mr Gardiner. Then Darcy made his way to the Bennet Sisters Boutique.
~~ ** ~~
Elizabeth was awash with a flood of emotions. She was frustrated with not knowing who had sent the letter and was watching her. She was angry at not being able to release her abilities to keep her family and home safe, having to pretend she was a defenseless young lady. And she was confused as to her feelings for Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy. Part of her was wishing he would ignore the perceived danger attached to the warning in the letter, while the other part wished for him to be near, watching over her.
Mr Gardiner had come during the early afternoon, taking Elizabeth upstairs for some training. They worked on Elizabeth’s skills to project her power, amplified and powered by her stones and crystals, to shield herself from harm. “When you use the shield to protect yourself or a building, if anyone comes with the intent to enter the building or speak with you, they will find a sudden need to be elsewhere.” He explained.
“I plan to keep the shield partially up during the day, though I doubt very much that anyone would attach us here in the shop, especially during business hours. If anyone is planning to bring harm to us, it will most likely be at night. Perhaps it would be safe to have Jane and Hannah run the shop, and I will remain awake at night to protect them.”
“No, Lizzy, it would be best to keep your life as normal as possible. I brought extra smoky quartz, which we can place at all entrances, including windows. Before you go to bed, give the crystals a boost from your shield. It should be enough to keep anyone with evil intent from entering the building.”
“Thank you, Uncle.” Elizabeth said. “Uncle, do you know much about Mr Darcy? I mean, from when you were in Derbyshire? Could he know of the magical families? There were two strong, magical families living close to his estate.”
“We have tried to keep the knowledge of magic from most people. Even though there were two strong families near Pemberley, it was kept as quiet as possible. His family would never have approved of our kind. Why do you ask?”
“Mr Darcy has been spending a lot of time with us. How did you determine that Aunt Helen could handle being involved in our world? How do you find someone to love you, all of you?”
“Helen is a rare woman, and I was extremely fortunate to find her. To be honest, I do not know how to find someone, as Helen found me. It was her nature to accept the wonders of our magic, and she has never questioned her decision to love and marry me.” Mr Gardiner knew that his niece wished to know more, but he was unable to give her the answers she desired. “I do not know what to tell you, Lizzy, but I am certain that you should use caution when around Mr Darcy and his family. Our kind have never mixed well with their society, other than business.”
“Thank you, Uncle. We had best return downstairs. Jane and Hannah will require assistance so they can take a rest.”