“Welcome back, Mr Darcy.” Jane announced when Darcy entered the shop.
Darcy frowned when he did not notice Elizabeth in the shop. “Is your sister well?”
“She is upstairs, speaking with our uncle and father. If you would like, I can send Hannah up to inform them of your arrival.”
With a nod from his head, Jane asked her maid to inform her sister of Mr Darcy desiring to speak with her. Hannah quickly returned, announcing Mr Darcy’s presence being welcomed in the residence of the building.
Darcy walked up the stairs, surprised at the quality of the furnishings which were tastefully placed in the living area. He had expected far less quality, though he remembered his visit to Longbourn had also surprised him.
He entered the parlor, finding Mr Bennet, Mr Gardiner and Elizabeth enjoying a cup of tea. All three rose when Darcy entered, welcoming Darcy.
“Would you care for a cup of tea, Mr Darcy?” Elizabeth asked.
“That would be delightful, Miss Elizabeth.” Darcy smiled. Once he accepted the cup, he took his seat in a chair near Elizabeth’s. “Has there been any further difficulties since this morning?”
“None, Mr Darcy.” Elizabeth responded. “I doubt that there will be any problems. With my father and uncle, not to mention yourself and your men, being here all day, I am sure the person who wrote the letter has realized that it is a fool’s errand to behave in such a manner. He will, most likely, be on his way and we will hear no more from him.”
“I believe you will, as I believe the person was hired by my aunt.”
Elizabeth gasped, while Mr Bennet and Mr Gardiner became outraged. “Why would your aunt hire someone to terrorize my daughters? Lady Matlock has been supportive of their shop, why would she behave in such a manner?”
“Forgive me, but I speak of my other aunt, Lord Matlock’s elder sister, Lady Catherine de Bourgh of Rosings Park, in Kent. I had an unpleasant visit from my aunt this afternoon, and she made it quite clear that she would not accept my decision to refuse to marry her daughter. My refusal has infuriated Lady Catherine, and she threatened that she knew how to act to make me see my choice being wrong.”
“My daughters are placed in jeopardy due to your refusal to marry your cousin?” Mr Bennet asked, anger nearly screaming from the man’s voice.
“Papa, please calm yourself. I am certain Mr Darcy has done nothing to purposely bring this woman’s wrath down upon us. It sounds as if she is unbalanced.”
Darcy nodded his head. “Unbalanced and selfish, as she is doing all of this to be able to retain her home, rather than relinquish it to the rightful heir. Her daughter’s age forces the estate to be handed either to Miss de Bourgh, if she is married, or to me, as was written in Sir Lewis de Bourgh’s will. Lady Catherine refuses to release control of the estate to anyone. And her daughter is spoilt, a more repulsive lady I cannot imagine.”
“So why would she wish you to be the one to marry the daughter?” Mr Gardiner asked. “Would it not be easier to marry the daughter to some man who is easier to control?”
“Ah, but then she would lose control of Rosings. If I were the one Anne was married to, there would be no question of our living at Rosings, as Pemberley is my home. I would not trade my home for theirs, which would allow Lady Catherine to continue ruling over the estate as she has all these years.” Darcy was disgusted.
“No one should be forced into marrying against their wishes.” Elizabeth said with compassion. “Especially to someone who is repulsive.”
“I wish to marry for love, Miss Elizabeth. I do not desire a marriage of convenience, one which is a business venture rather than a combination of two souls.” Darcy looked lost in thought as he spoke. Part of him wished to pull Elizabeth Bennet into his arms and find comfort in her embrace.
“But why would this woman be vengeful over my daughter?” Mr Bennet demanded.
“Due to my dancing with Miss Elizabeth at the ball we attended. I rarely dance, especially with someone who is outside my family and close acquaintances. I danced with Miss Elizabeth, not once, but twice in one night. It is so unusual, which made my aunt suspicious.”
Elizabeth blushed scarlet. “Oh, my.”
Darcy had a difficult time looking up, keeping his eyes focused on the floor. “Miss Elizabeth, I know we have only known each other for a short time. But there is something about you which has captured my heart and begged to know more. Before I learned of my aunt’s intention, I had spoken with my other aunt, Lady Matlock, of my feelings towards you. I had planned to ask you for a courtship. But I can understand if you would not wish for such, as I have brought so much chaos into your life.”
Elizabeth gasped at his words. “Mr Darcy, I do not know what to say. As much as I would like to know you better, I am afraid I am not the proper young lady for a gentleman to even consider marrying. You have our own reputation to consider, not to mention that of your sister. I am in trade now, and am known to many ladies of the ton. You would not be able to hide my inferior position from them.”
“It does not matter, Miss Elizabeth. Lady Matlock even stated that it should not matter to me. With my wealth and connections, I should be able to decide who makes me happy. I do not require added wealth or connections with the most influential people of the world. Your connections with your uncle are more than enough for me. His brilliant mind for business is priceless.”
Mr Gardiner chuckled at the announcement. “I thank you for the compliment, Mr Darcy.”
Darcy smiled. Finally, he was able to look into Elizabeth’s eyes, searching for the answer he sought. “I wish to know you better, and for you to know me better. Please, Miss Elizabeth, allow me the opportunity.”
Elizabeth looked at her father and uncle. “Mr Darcy, I would like to know you better.”
~~ ** ~~
While his friend was upstairs, speaking with Elizabeth and the men in her family, Charles Bingley arrived and was attempting to assist Jane Bennet in the shop.
“Where did you say you wished these bottles to be placed?” He asked, as he walked forward, carrying a crate of filled bottles from the workbench in the back room.
“If you would place the crate on the counter over there.” She pointed towards the counter. “I will be able to put the bottles on the shelves when I finish assisting Mrs Raleigh.”
“I can put the bottles on the shelf. In the area which is void of bottles, I assume?”
Jane laughed. “Yes, Mr Bingley. And I thank you for your assistance.”
As Bingley moved the crate, he bumped into the display table. Something fell from underneath the table. Bingley reached under the table and pulled a crystal from the floor. “Miss Bennet, would you like me to toss this into the rubbish bin?”
Jane looked at what Bingley held in his hand. Seeing one of her sister’s crystals, she shook her head. “No, Mr Bingley. It is one of my sister’s. She must have misplaced it. Elizabeth has been collecting stones and crystals from all over the world, as she is fond of them. If you would be so kind as to place it on the work bench in the back room, I will return it to my sister.”
Though he thought it was foolish to collect such an item, Bingley carried the crystal into the back room. Before he sat it on the work bench, Bingley looked at it carefully. It was a clear crystal, fairly large, and nearly flawless. The point of the tip appeared to be sharp, so Bingley avoided touching it.
After he sat the crystal on the work bench, Bingley returned to the shop and continued to assist Jane. She had finished assisting the customer, who had happily left the shop with her purchases in hand.
“When do you plan to take possession of Longbourn?” Jane inquired.
“I plan to travel there next week. I sent word to have the sheep moved, and will begin purchasing the horses I wish to add to my stock. But I have been reluctant to leave Town just now.”
“And why is that? I would have thought you to be excited to begin your new life at your estate. Have you found a new housekeeper or cook?”
“Miss Bennet, I am loathed to leave London at the moment, for I am enjoying spending time with you. If I am at Longbourn, I will not be able to visit you.” Bingley turned red at his words.
Jane quickly glanced at the man standing near her. “Mr Bingley, perhaps now is not the time for you to be thinking in such a direction. You have much to accomplish, now that you are a member of the landed gentry. I am sure that you will be extremely busy, setting up your staff and establishing your animals on the estate. Perhaps, once you have settled into your position as Master of Longbourn, you can begin to think towards other pursuits.”
“I know I have much to deal with, but I do not wish to lose the chance at finding happiness, especially with you.”
Turning away, Jane walked behind the counter. “Mr Bingley, I am not in any position to think of romance at the moment. There have been so many changes in my life, and the lives of my family. But I can promise you this, I am not running off with the first available man I meet. So you should work on your estate, and prepare your home. Once you are comfortable, then you can spend time in Town, socializing.”
“You are correct, Miss Bennet. I know I should become established at my estate. You promise me that you will not run off with anyone while I do what I need to at the estate?”
The warm smile on Jane Bennet’s lips gave Bingley hope. “I make you this promise, Mr Bingley. I will still be here, unmarried.”
Bingley took hold of Jane’s hands and placed gentle kisses on the back of each one. “For that, I will be eternally grateful. I will leave on Monday of next week. And I will keep in contact with your uncle, so I know what is going on with you and your family.”
“I look forward to learning from my uncle how you are faring.” Jane replied, attempting to keep her tears at bay.
“I had best go now, as there is much to do before next week. Please, take care of yourself and think of me often. You will never be far from my mind.”
~~ ** ~~
For the rest of the week, there were no letters or gifts of flowers left at the shop. Darcy continued to visit, and he had guards around the clock to watch over the shop and the ladies.
Bingley left for Longbourn the following week. Mr Gardiner received a letter by the end of the week, describing the work he had accomplished in the days he had been at his new estate. Mr Gardiner wrote back to the young man, giving him news of their business dealings, and of his beloved eldest niece.
Lady Matlock frequently visited the Bennet sisters, as she had become fond of them and their shop. Her daughter came with her a few times, and Georgiana came other times.
Nearly a fortnight after the threatening letter, Lady Matlock informed Elizabeth of the news she had received, concerning her younger son.
“Richard was wounded on the battlefield. They did not tell us how severe his wounds are, all they said is that he will arrive in London on Tuesday.” Lady Matlock pulled a handkerchief from her reticule to dab at her eyes. “I pray that his wounds are not life-threatening. But I am afraid of losing my dear boy.”
“I am certain that he will be fine, Lady Matlock. From what you have told me, he is a strong, healthy man. No matter what his injuries, I am certain he will pull through fine.”
“I pray we will be able to convince him to resign from the army. I cannot take the fear which controls my life whenever he is sent into battle. He needs to be here, safe and sound, where I can see him.”
Elizabeth held the countess’ hand, squeezing it lightly. “From what you have told me, he is very independent and strong willed. I am sure he will be difficult to convince him to give up his career.”
“I know. He has always been proud of the accomplishments he has done. He made colonel on his own, without his commission being purchased for him. Richard has always been responsible and dedicated, when he wished to be.” Lady Matlock smiled. “Will you come to the house, when Richard arrives? I wish for you to meet Richard.”
“When he is recovered enough to receive guests, I will be pleased to visit.” Elizabeth said. “Now, allow me to prepare you some tea to calm your nerves. And some of Hannah’s tarts. We will send over a batch of tarts and biscuits next week, so your son can enjoy them.”
Lady Matlock patted Elizabeth’s hand. “Thank you so much, Elizabeth. You are so kind to us.”
~~ ** ~~
“Lizzy, we are out of eggs.” Jane said to her sister. “We need eggs for the biscuits Hannah is planning to make for the morning. Would you mind going to Mr Grover’s shop to purchase some more?”
“Certainly, Jane. How many do we need for tomorrow?” Elizabeth asked.
Jane inquired the information from Hannah, then returned to her sister, holding the funds in her hand. “Hannah says two dozen will be enough to get us through. She is making several different types of biscuits, and large batches. We do not seem to be able to make enough of them.”
Elizabeth smiled. “Word of Hannah’s delicious treats has spread. Her mother will be proud of her, as are we.”
“Well, here is enough to cover the cost. And if you can order some more cups and plates, we will be needing more of them, unless we wish to hire someone else to do nothing but washing dishes all day. I cannot believe how popular our shop has become, and we have not even begun to open the tea shop area.”
Taking the funds, Elizabeth made her way down the block to Mr Grover’s shop. She placed an order for two dozen more cups and saucers, and three dozen small plates, all of which matched the sets they had previously purchased from him. Then she purchased the eggs they would need for the baking. As she exited the shop, Elizabeth had a feeling that something was not right.
There was an alley between the dressmaker’s shop and the bookshop, and Elizabeth could hear the sounds of someone crying near the back of the alley. She looked around, and could not find anyone nearby.
“Hello? Are you injured?” She called out to the person, though she could not see them. The crying sounded like childlike. “Hello, can you hear me?”
The crying sound came out as sobs, and Elizabeth took steps in the direction of the sound. Along the sides of the alley were empty crates and barrels, and Elizabeth looked behind each of them to find from where the sound was coming.
Suddenly, something large and dark jumped out from behind one of the barrels. It was a large man, dressed in black clothing, and he held a metal bar which he brought down hard, striking Elizabeth on the side of her head.
Confusion took control of her mind, unable to focus on what was happening to her. She knew she should use her magic to protect herself, but she could not remember how to do so. Her arms flailed about, as if she thought she would be able to swat the man away from her. Then she felt a sharp sting on her left forearm.
Knowing she was bleeding, both from her head wound and what felt like a cut on her arm, Elizabeth became frightened. What did Uncle tell me to do? How was I to use my powers to protect myself? I cannot remember what I am supposed to do. Please, I cannot die like this. Help me, somebody, help me.
Suddenly, Elizabeth was stumbling free, as she felt a jerk on the man’s arm and sounds of a scuffle were filling the alley. Elizabeth could not see, as it had become dark, and blood was flowing from her head wound, over one of her eyes, making it difficult to function.
Then, the strong hands of a man took hold of her, and began to escort her out of the alley. Afraid of the hands belonging to the attacker, Elizabeth struggled against them, until she heard the tender voice of Fitzwilliam Darcy.
“You are safe, Miss Elizabeth. All will be well. Let us get you inside the shop, so your sister can tend you until a physician can be summoned. After I turn you over to your sister, I will bring the guards back to collect the scoundrel who has harmed you.”
“Mr Darcy, what happened?” She could not think straight.
“You were assaulted by a man in the alley. It is most likely the same man who sent you the letter.”
“My head hurts.”
“I do not doubt it. You have quite a wound on it. And a cut on your arm. He had a knife, and I saw it as it sliced across your arm. I have never been so frightened in all my life.” Darcy said, as he wrapped his arm more securely around her, holding her body close to his own.
He pulled her into the front door of the shop, calling out to Jane and Hannah to come to Elizabeth’s aid. Darcy also shouted to the guards who were working, calling them to check the alley for the man who had attacked Elizabeth.
“Mr Darcy, what happened to my sister?” Jane asked, tears flowing down her cheeks.
“A man, in the alley. He assaulted her. It appears that he struck her over the head with something, and he had a knife, which he used to cut her arm. Do you wish me to carry her upstairs?” Darcy asked.
“No, leave her here, in the chair.” Jane said, as she had led Darcy into the back room of the shop. She knew that Elizabeth would want her crystals to use to heal herself, and the greatest majority of them were on the main level of the building. “Head injuries bleed bad, but turn out to be nothing serious. I am certain that she will be well.”
“I will send for a physician, as soon as we have the man in custody. I will be back in a few moments.” Darcy said as he gave her a look which spoke clearly of his desire to split into two people, one to stay with Elizabeth and the other to chase after the man who had injured the young lady who held his heart.
“I am certain that there will be no need, Mr Darcy. Lizzy is strong, she will be fine. You go and make certain that the guards have secured the man in the alley. I will see to my sister.”
Darcy dashed out of the shop, walking at a fast pace. As soon as he was out of sight, Jane turned her attention to her sister. “Lizzy, what do you need?”
“My quartz and amethyst crystals. They are in the drawer of my work bench.” Elizabeth said, her pain was etched in her voice.
Jane quickly procured the crystals her sister had asked for and placed them in Elizabeth’s hand. Taking a deep breath, Elizabeth focused her energy on the crystals. Jane had witnessed her sister use the crystals to heal before, though nothing as severe as the injuries that she had sustained.
After several moments, it was clear that Elizabeth was able to think clearer, and that her head wound had begun to knit itself closed. Elizabeth looked into her sister’s eyes and was able to smile. “I think the eggs are broken. I dropped them in the alley.”
“Oh, Lizzy, I could shake you for your scaring me like that. I was afraid I lost you. Are you well?”
“I will be, Jane. Allow me to work on my arm, and then we can clean off all the blood.” Elizabeth patted her sister on her cheek. “All will be well, Jane.”
As Elizabeth ran her crystals over the cut on her arm, she heard someone take a deep gulp of air. She looked up to find Darcy standing before her. He had seen her using her magic.
~~~~~~~ ** ~~~~~~~
Darcy had quickly and quietly returned to the back room of the Boutique. As he entered the doorway, he watched as Elizabeth was holding a crystal to her wounds. Before his eyes, the wounds were disappearing.
When Elizabeth looked up, she held fear in her eyes. That look reflected in the eyes of Mr Darcy.
“Wha…what are you? How did you do that?” He asked, frozen in place.
“Mr Darcy, please, allow me to explain.” Elizabeth pleaded with him to take a seat. Darcy refused.
“Have you put some sort of spell on me? Have you bewitched me, body and soul, forcing me to fall in love with you against all I know? Your situation in life should have kept me from declaring a desire to court you, but I could not control myself. You have done that to me, making me bend to your desires.”
“Mr Darcy, I do not have the power to do such things. I have no control over peoples’ emotions or desires. Please, sit down and allow me to explain.”
Darcy ran his fingers through his dark brown, wavy hair. “I do not trust you, Miss Elizabeth. Not now, after what I watched. How can you do such a thing? You are evil. This shop is built on your evil ways. No wonder you are doing such business. You are bewitching everyone to purchase your potions.”
“Please, Mr Darcy, allow me to explain. It is not what you think. I cannot bewitch anyone. I am not evil. Please, let me tell you the truth.” Elizabeth’s eyes welled with tears as her fears filled her.
“No, never again will I speak with you. Nor will anyone in my family.” Darcy turned and nearly ran from the shop, not stopping until he arrived at his townhouse. Once there, Darcy marched into his study, slamming the door behind him and made his way to the sideboard to fill a glass with port, drinking it down quickly, and refilled the glass.
How could I have been fooled by such a woman? She must have done something to me. I must speak with my aunt and sister, they should never enter that shop again. Georgiana should come with me. We can leave tomorrow for Pemberley. I need to remove my sister from such influences.
But what do I tell them? They would think that I should be locked away in an asylum if I speak of spells and enchantments. I can never tell them of what I witnessed.
Who was the man who attacked that…woman? Was he one of her minions? Was her fear all an act to endear me to her? I have been a fool. I must leave Town, right away. I must take Georgiana with me, to protect her.
Darcy poured himself another glass of port, and quickly drained the glass again. He picked up the decanter and carried it with his glass, taking a seat at the chair nearest the fireplace. The decanter was quickly emptied, and Darcy switched to another bottle of spirits on the sideboard.
By the end of the night, Darcy had collapsed in the chair, and four empty bottles were on the floor beside him. His butler was confused as to what had caused such behavior, as Darcy had always been a social drinker, though rarely ever drank to excess. A message was sent to Matlock House, to Lady Matlock, informing her of her nephew’s condition.
~~ ** ~~
“Jane, I have no alternative. I must leave Town immediately. I cannot remain here. As it is, you and our family will be in terrible danger, once Mr Darcy tells everyone of the truth. Oh, what a wretched person I am. All of my life, Papa and Mamma, not to mention our aunt and uncle, have instilled in me that it was dangerous to allow anyone to learn of my abilities. We are all in danger now, because of my foolishness.”
“Lizzy, you must calm yourself. You have been injured and were healing yourself. You had no way of knowing that Mr Darcy had returned. We will speak with him, explain that you are not evil. Papa and Uncle can speak with him. He trusts them.”
“Jane, did you not hear him? Did you not see the fear in Mr Darcy’s eyes? He will never trust anyone in our family. I have to leave Town, move far away.”
“I will send for Papa and Uncle to come immediately. They need to be informed of the attack, not to mention what happened with Mr Darcy. I wonder where the other men have gone. Did Mr Darcy take them away, leaving the scoundrel in the alley?” Jane was becoming afraid as she thought of her sister’s attacker possibly outside their home.
Elizabeth fled up the stairs, slamming the door shut and pulling out her trunk and valise. She began throwing her belongings on the bed, tossing her clothes and personal items to be packed within.
Hannah knocked on the door, informing Elizabeth that she had water and toweling. Only then did Elizabeth remember the blood which coated parts of her face and arm. Not wishing to frighten anyone with her appearance, Elizabeth accepted the items from Hannah before closing the door once again.
Stepping to her wash stand, Elizabeth sat the ewer of water on the stand. She looked at her arm, realizing she had not completed the healing and the wound was still bleeding. Part of her wished to never touch her crystals again, while another part of her knew she needed to finish the healing process. She did not wish to take a fever from the wound. But Elizabeth knew what she stood to lose from using her magic.
Elizabeth plopped herself on the floor, tears streaming down her face, as she recalled the look on Darcy’s countenance. The anger, fear, and disdain were all clearly written there, all directed at Elizabeth. How could he believe she was capable of forcing him to love her? But then again, after what he witnessed, how could he not believe it?
After what felt like forever, there was a knock on the door. She heard her father’s gentle voice from the other side. “Lizzy, my dear girl, please open the door. I wish to speak to you. Jane has told me what happened. Please, my dear girl, unlock the door.”
Elizabeth had not realized she had locked the door, nor did she wish to move from her location to open the door. “Go away, Papa. You do not wish to see me.”
“I do, Lizzy. Please open the door. Do not force me to use magic to gain entry to your room.”
A bitter chuckle escaped her. “Do as you wish, but I will never use my magic again. I wish to disappear from the world.”
She heard a click from the door, and a moment later, she felt her father’s presence beside her. Gently, he scooped her from the floor and carried her to her bed. Jane had entered the room behind her father, and she removed all the items from her sister’s bed, allowing her father to deposit her sister on the bed.
“Lizzy, your arm is still bleeding. You must finish the healing process.” Mr Bennet stated.
“I will never touch the crystals or stones again.” Elizabeth said in a dull, lifeless tone.
“It has to be tended, or you could take an infection. Please, Elizabeth, do as I ask and finish the healing. If I could do so myself, I would. But I have never been good with healing.”
“If I take ill, I deserve it. I have destroyed our family and ruined our friendship with Mr Darcy. What will happen when he tells everyone what he witnessed? All of you will be in great danger. I must leave immediately for the continent or the Americas.”
“No, Lizzy. When your uncle arrives, we will make our way to Darcy House to speak with Mr Darcy. We may be able to convince him to keep our secret.” Mr Bennet more hoped than believed in that statement.
“You did not see the look in his eyes. No, he will not keep our secret. He was disgusted and frightened by what he saw. I have ruined everything for our family.” The tears streaming from Elizabeth’s eyes were endless.
“Let us get you cleaned up, and your injury healed. By then, your uncle should be here. Then he and I can make our way to speak with Mr Darcy. And while we are gone, I wish for you to rest. You have been through something frightening tonight. You need to rest and recover your strength.”
Elizabeth shook her head. She would do nothing which involved using her magic. Mr Bennet took some cloth and dipped it into the water, which Jane had brought to her sister’s bedside. He began to cleanse the blood from her arm, then wrapped it in some clean cloths Jane had brought to use as bandaging. Then Mr Bennet asked Hannah to clean the blood from Elizabeth’s face and head, including washing her hair.
Mr Bennet and Jane went out into the parlor of the living area. Mr Gardiner came hurrying up the stairs, nearly breathless. “What has happened? Where is Lizzy? Is she well?”
“She is extremely upset. I have never seen her behave in such a manner. She will not even finish healing her wounds.” Mr Bennet said, shaking his head in disbelief.
“What exactly happened?” Mr Gardiner asked.
Jane began to cry. “Lizzy went to get eggs for Hannah to do her baking. The next thing I knew, Mr Darcy was carrying Lizzy into the shop, bleeding from her head and arm. Mr Darcy stated that Lizzy had been attacked in the alley, and he left with the guards to apprehend the attacker. After he left, Lizzy used some of her crystals to heal her head wound. When she began to heal the cut on her arm, Mr Darcy returned, and he saw what she was doing. He said things, accused her of bewitching him to force him to have feelings for her. It was awful. Then he left.”
“Where is the person who attacked Lizzy?” Mr Gardiner asked.
“We do not know. The guards told Jane that when they arrived at the alley with Mr Darcy, the person was gone. They do not know what happened. And then Mr Darcy left, without saying a word to them. So it appears the person escaped while Mr Darcy brought Lizzy here.” Mr Bennet replied.
“Do you think we should make our way to speak with Mr Darcy?” Mr Gardiner knew it would not be a pleasant discussion.
“Yes. The sooner the better. Then we will take the girls to our townhouse. Jane, while we are gone, I will have the guards remain inside the building, downstairs. The doors are to remain locked until your uncle and I return. Pack some of your belongings and some of your sister’s as well. Hannah, you will also come with us.”
“Thank you, Mr Bennet.” Hannah said, having just come from Elizabeth’s room. “Miss Lizzy is not speaking. She is just curled up on the bed, weeping.”
“If you would assist Jane in packing some of Lizzy’s belongings, including some of her crystals and stones, we will return for all of you soon.”
~~ ** ~~
Mr Gardiner and Mr Bennet arrived at Darcy House, and knocked on the door. The butler took their cards and asked the men to step into the foyer while he announced them to his master.
Mr Bartholomew knocked on the door of Darcy’s study, knowing the master was inside. When he received no response, the butler knocked again.
From inside the room, Bartholomew heard Darcy growl “GO AWAY!”
“Master William, Mr Bennet and Mr Gardiner are here to speak with you. May I show them in?”
“Tell them to go away. I will not speak with them.”
This confused the butler, for he was well aware of Darcy’s dealings with the families. He returned to the foyer, sadly announcing to the men that his master was unavailable to speak with them.
“Would you please ask him again? It is urgent that we discuss a matter of great importance.” Mr Gardiner stated.
“I am afraid that Mr Darcy was adamant. He is not available.”
Mr Bennet shook his head. He had expected the young gentleman to refuse to speak with them. All he could do was pray that Darcy would not spread the truth about Lizzy’s abilities.
~~ ** ~~
When the men returned to collect the sisters, they found Elizabeth was not speaking to anyone. She laid on her bed, curled up as she had when she was a newborn babe, with her eyes wide open, yet not acknowledging anyone.
After several attempts to reach his daughter’s mind, Mr Bennet finally gave up and collected her in his arms, carrying her down the stairs and to his awaiting carriage. Hopefully, after some sleep, she will be strong enough to face what has happened.
The guards were made aware of where the Bennets would be found, if anything else were to happen. The shop would remain closed the following day, until they knew more of Elizabeth’s condition. It tore at her loved ones’ hearts to see the normally strong and independent young lady become so fragile.
Mrs Bennet was distraught to see her daughter in such a condition. Though Elizabeth had always been closest to her father, Mrs Bennet was proud of all of her daughters, and loved them each for the young ladies they were. With no heir to inherit, and the estate sold, Mrs Bennet, and any daughters still living at home when their father died, would have a home and comfortable living.
And Mrs Bennet was always proud of her Elizabeth, as Lizzy was so filled with life. Once placed on the bed, Elizabeth curled back into the position of a small child, her eyes staring blankly at nothing particular. Between Mrs Bennet, Jane, and Hannah, Elizabeth had her clothes changed so she was wearing a nightgown. Then Mrs Bennet looked at her daughter’s arm.
“Thomas, I am concerned. Look at the wound. It appears as if it were refusing to heal.” Mrs Bennet declared. “It looks as if it is horribly infected. There is pus oozing from it.”
“This is not good. Her body is fighting itself. It is warring against the magic which is a part of her entire being. If we cannot break through and convince her to accept her magical side, she could make herself very ill.” Mr Gardiner said. “We had a great aunt who refused to accept her magic and it lead to her death.”
“Brother, I do not need to be reminded of our aunt. Our dear Lizzy is ill. What can we do for her?”
“I will write to Mr Whitaker at Thorn Park. Perhaps he will know of a way to resolve the problem without Lizzy becoming too ill.” Mr Bennet suggested.
~~ ** ~~
Darcy announced to Georgiana that she had two hours to prepare to leave for Pemberley. No amount of begging or pleading could convince her brother to remain in Town as they had discussed previously. Nor could she convince him to tell her why they had to leave so quickly.
A note was penned to Lord and Lady Matlock, announcing that there was some difficulties at Pemberley which required his attention immediately and that he was taking Georgiana with him. Another note was written and sent to Bingley, informing him of the Darcys leaving for Pemberley.
Looking at the two cards which were on the salver placed on the sideboard, Darcy knew he could not speak with Elizabeth’s family. His emotions were too raw, and he could not control what he felt. In his mind, it was best to leave the Bennets and Gardiners behind him and forget they ever existed.
But Darcy knew it would be difficult to ever forget Elizabeth Bennet. He had convinced himself that she had done something to him, some sort of witchcraft to force him to have tender feelings for her. And Darcy was certain that, with time and distance, he would be able to conquer his attraction to the young lady with dark chocolate curls and sparkling eyes. At least, that is what he told himself. Over…and over…and over again.
~~ ** ~~
Darcy’s note arrived at Matlock House just as Anthony arrived in the dining room with the news that Elizabeth Bennet had been assaulted.
Lady Matlock was concerned for the young lady she was fond of, and then wondered if Darcy was aware of the assault. She was certain that her nephew was falling in love with Elizabeth, and she whole heartedly approved of the match.
“Henry, could you go to Darcy House and see if you can catch our nephew before they leave town? I am certain that he and Georgiana would wish to know of Miss Elizabeth’s injury.” Lady Matlock asked.
“I am sure they have already left Town, if the message arrived just a little while ago. You know that boy, when he puts his mind to doing something, he does so in short time. Poor Georgiana. I know she will be terribly upset to learn of her friend’s situation.”
“I will keep her updated on Elizabeth’s condition, though I know she will wish she could do something for the poor girl. I hope Miss Elizabeth was not harmed too terribly bad. Perhaps it would be best for me to go to the Boutique and check on her. Poor Miss Bennet, she must have been so frightened for her sister.” Lady Matlock was deeply concerned.
Anthony knew his mother was upset. “Would you like me to go with you, Mother?”
“Thank you, dear, but I will not be gone too long. If Miss Elizabeth is upstairs, in her bedchambers, you could hardly visit her.”
“Give her my wishes for a swift recovery.” Anthony said.
Lord Matlock nodded his head. “And my wishes for the same.”
“I am certain that she will be pleased to receive them from both of you.” Lady Matlock rang for the butler and asked him to send word for her carriage to be prepared.