“We should arrive in Ramsgate in a few more hours.” Mr Thomas Bennet stated to his daughter, Elizabeth. They were on their way to meet his wife’s brother and his family, who were visiting the seaside town. The past hour had seen a light rain begin, and it was now raining harder. “As soon as we arrive, I am going to order a bath drawn and something warm to drink. This weather has me chilled to the bones.”
“You must be miserable, being so far from your book room.” Elizabeth teased. Her father was well known for his hunger for a good book and remaining home, in his study, to enjoy his books. Elizabeth, his second eldest of five daughters, was very much like her father in her thirst for knowledge, and they had spent many hours debating the many books they had read. At the age of nineteen, she was extremely well read on many topics that were not considered appropriate for young ladies, but her father rarely curtailed her choices in reading material. To Thomas Bennet, Elizabeth was the son he never had, so she was taught the same as a son would have been.
“My poor bones were not made for long journeys. Especially in such poor weather. If only the rain could have waited to fall until we were safe and secure inside the house you uncle has leased.”
“Yes, Mother Nature has been extremely cruel to you, Papa. I am certain that the rain came on just to delay our journey and make you miserable.”
Mr Bennet smiled. “Well, she is a lady, after all. Is that not the job of every woman, to make the lives of men miserable?”
“So you say, Papa. But Mamma is well versed in making miserable the lives of all she comes in contact with, no matter what gender they might be.”
“This holiday will be well enjoyed, even after the days of torture we were subjected to while your mother attempted to persuade me into bringing her and your sisters with us. I would have brought Jane with us, but then there would be no sense left at Longbourn to see to its daily running.”
“Jane was happy to remain home with Mamma and our younger sisters. She did not enjoy visiting the sea when she went with Uncle Edwin and Aunt Helen two years ago. She told me that even watching the waves coming in made her queasy.” Elizabeth related her elder sister’s words.
“It would not be very enjoyable, is she was always looking for somewhere to vacate her stomach contents constantly. Perhaps she will enjoy accompanying the Gardiners when they make the journey next year, as they are planning to visit the Peaks.”
“You know Jane, Papa. She prefers to enjoy the great outdoors in a nice garden. Anything more, she is uncomfortable.” Elizabeth chuckled.
Mr Bennet smiled. The difference in his two eldest daughters was extreme. Jane was fair haired, blue eyes, sweet disposition which did not allow her to think ill of anyone, where Elizabeth had dark chocolate curls, brown eyes with golden flecks, and very outgoing personality. Elizabeth was also an avid admirer of nature, spending as much time outside as possible.
The other three Bennet daughters were considered, by Mr Bennet, to be the silliest in all of Hertfordshire, where his estate, Longbourn, was located near the village of Meryton, and was the second largest estate in the area. The middle daughter, Mary, was extremely pious. If she had taken the time, she could look just as pretty as her other sisters, but Mary felt that vanity was a sin and therefore did nothing to make her appearance better.
Next came Katherine, or Kitty, as her family referred to her. Kitty was a sweet natured girl, not as extreme as Jane, but still kind hearted. But she was often forgotten, so she soon learned to follow her youngest sister about, her way of garnering attention from others.
The youngest of the Bennet daughters was Lydia. Lydia was much like her mother, high spirited, crass, and an extreme flirt. She was not reprimanded for her inappropriate behavior, allowed to run free at the age of fifteen. Mr Bennet had long given up hope of his wife ever curtailing her favorite daughter’s antics.
“Did I tell you about the letter I received on Tuesday of last week?” Mr Bennet asked.
“You said that you had received a letter, though not what it contained.” Elizabeth replied.
“It was from my cousin, William Collins. He is the young man who will inherit Longbourn when I am gone.”
“Ah, Mamma’s least favorite person. And what did Mr Collins have to say?”
Mr Bennet chuckled. It was known throughout the neighborhood that Fanny Bennet deplored the fact that Longbourn was entailed away from the female line, and, having never produced a son, would be forced from her home upon her husband’s demise. “Well, I can understand her frustration, but there is nothing to be done about it. Mr Collins was wishing to repair the rift in our family which was caused by his late father. A more despicable man you should never meet. Mr Collins wishes to pay a visit to Longbourn next month.”
“May I stay in Ramsgate until after his visit? I do not know if I could tolerate Mamma’s behavior towards Mr Collins.”
“Especially when your mother learns that the young man is betrothed to a young lady from his current parish. Your mother would dearly love to have one of you girls married to the heir, so she would not have to give up her home when I am gone.” Mr Bennet smiled at his daughter.
“That will only mean Mamma will double her methods of trying to marry all of us off quickly.” Elizabeth shook her head. Mrs Bennet had taken matchmaking to the extreme when it came to her daughters, causing her eldest daughters many instances of embarrassment.
A strong wind caused the carriage to rock back and forth. A chill ran through Elizabeth’s body. “It is difficult to believe that it is summer. The wind feels like it is the middle of winter.”
“Indeed. I am missing my warm study more and more. If it were not for your uncle’s promise of a pleasant visit to a book shop which just received a shipment of rare books, I would be snug in my chair, a book in hand, and a fire keeping me warm.”
Elizabeth smiled. “Yes, Papa.”
~~ ** ~~
Fitzwilliam Darcy had returned to his carriage immediately after learning of his sister’s disappearance from the house he had leased for her in Ramsgate. As his carriage quickly made its way through the streets of the seaside town, Darcy returned to the conversation he had just had with the housekeeper, Mrs Lowe.
“Mr Darcy, we did not expect you to be here.” Mrs Lowe announced as she stepped closer to the gentleman. “Your sister did not say you would be coming, especially as she departed just this morning.”
“Departed? Where was she heading to?” Darcy was shocked, as his sister, Georgiana, was to remain at Ramsgate for another fortnight, when he was to come to collect her.
“She and Mrs Younge left with a gentleman. They stated they were to journey north, so I assumed they were going to Pemberley. Is your estate not in the north, in Derbyshire?”
“Yes, it is. Who was the gentleman they were traveling with?” Darcy asked, confused with what was being said.
“Mr Walker…no, that is not correct. Wilson? No, Wilkens, I think.” The housekeeper had not been introduced to the man, only heard Miss Darcy and her companion, Mrs Younge, speak of the young man.
“Could it be Wickham?” Darcy felt an icy chill take hold of his heart.
“Yes, that is the name. George Wickham. He came in a carriage to collect the ladies. I believe your sister declared him to be a long time family friend.”
“Good God, this is beyond belief. How long ago did they leave?”
Mrs Lowe was surprised at the gentleman’s behavior. “They left near nine this morning.”
Darcy looked at the pocket watch he had pulled from his vest pocket. It was now almost four in the afternoon. “Have my carriage ready to leave as soon as possible. I need to check my sister’s rooms and then I will be leaving.” He shouted his orders as he headed up the stairs to the rooms Georgiana had used while she stayed in Ramsgate.
Darcy was well acquainted with George Wickham. And he knew of what his former friend was capable.
George Wickham was the son of Darcy’s father’s steward. Mr Gerald Darcy had been pleased with his steward’s years of dedicated service to Pemberley, and had been named the god father George when he was born. Mr Darcy was saddened when the steward had died suddenly from what was later learned to be a heart condition he had refused to be treated for. The physician had insisted that Mr Wickham take medication to treat the condition, but the steward stated that he did not wish to appear weak. He died when George was only ten years old.
Mr Darcy had been fond of George, and paid for the boy to be educated alongside his son. By the time George was in school, his true nature was clear to young Darcy.
George had a passion for gambling, and it did not matter to him that he did not have the finances to live the lifestyle he desired. George was also fond of the ladies. He had ruined many a lady, no matter if she were young or old, servant or wealthy, rich or poor. The man had an insatiable hunger for bedding the ladies. Mr Darcy was kept in the dark of his godson’s behavior, as his son wished to protect the Master of Pemberley from the pain which would be inflicted.
When Mr Darcy died, only five years previously, he had left an inheritance of one thousand pounds and the living at Kympton parish, should George take orders to become a parson. Fortunately, George declined to take orders, stating a preference for the law. Darcy was pleased to see George’s decision, as he did not believe the reprobate to be a proper candidate to lead a parish. Darcy agreed to pay George three thousand pound in addition to the one thousand bequeathed him, after George signed papers releasing Darcy from any further claims.
With the papers signed and the funds given to Wickham, Darcy prayed that there would never be a reason to cross paths with the man again. Unfortunately, only a year previous, Wickham darkened Darcy’s doorstep again. He declared himself a changed man and was ready to take orders, wishing the living he had signed away claim to. At first, Wickham put on a mask of sincerity, though it quickly dissolved. When Darcy stated he would not give the living to Wickham, the scoundrel began making all sorts of threats against him. After Wickham was dragged from Darcy House by servants, Darcy hired a man from Bow Street Runners to investigate Wickham. It was learned that Wickham had accumulated extensive debts, totaling over five thousand pounds. He was on the run from some of the men he owed money to, as they had placed a price on his head. It appeared that Wickham wished to have the living so he would have somewhere to lay low from his creditors.
Again, Darcy prayed it would be the last time their paths would cross. But it was not to be. Now, Wickham had abducted Georgiana. Darcy cursed to himself for leaving Georgiana with only her companion, and for not telling Georgiana the truth of George Wickham’s nature.
Darcy knew his cousin, Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam, was currently staying in London, so he would go there first. Richard shared guardianship over Georgiana with Darcy, and the military man despised Wickham. With Richard’s skills, they should be able to locate Georgiana quickly. At least, that it was what Darcy hoped.
The weather was matching Darcy’s mood, as the rainstorm grew in intensity. The wind began to blow, rocking the carriage, and the rain was making the road difficult for the wheels, sliding in the mud.
There was a loud shout from the top of the carriage, just before the carriage turned sharply. Then there was a crash, as if something had struck the carriage. Darcy was thrown across the carriage, before it began to tip over. Over and over it went, flipping more times than Darcy could count. Then the carriage came to an abrupt stop, flinging Darcy head first into one of its corners. The world turned black and cold as Darcy slipped into a world of unconsciousness.
~~ ** ~~
“Papa.” Elizabeth screamed as their carriage lost control, sliding until it struck something hard. It continued to slide, as Elizabeth attempted to hold on to her father.
“Hold tight my dear girl.” Mr Bennet said, attempting, but failing, to keep his voice calm.
It seemed like the carriage slide forever, before it slid into another hard object, bringing the carriage to a complete halt as it broke into pieces. All Elizabeth could remember was her hand being pulled from her father’s, as she was thrown from the splintered side of what had been their carriage. She was lying on her back in mud, as the rain pummeled her.
She attempted to stand, crying out as she fell back to the ground. Stabbing pain shot through her from her left leg. “Papa, where are you?” Elizabeth called out. “Please, Papa, where are you?”
There was no answer. “Papa, I cannot stand. My leg is injured. Please, I need you Papa.”
“Miss Elizabeth.” The voice came from several feet to her right. She was dazed at first, but realized it was the voice of their driver.
“Matthew, are you injured?”
“My arm, I believe I broke it when I fell off the carriage.”
“Where is my father?” Elizabeth asked frantically.
“I have not seen him. He might still be inside the carriage.”
Elizabeth made another attempt to stand, only to cry out and fall down again. “Please, Matthew, look for him.”
The driver went to the carriage’s remains and looked inside. He could see Mr Bennet, and it was obvious that his employer was no longer living.
~~~~~~~ ** ~~~~~~~
“Miss Elizabeth, I found your father.” Matthew stated as he returned to her.
“Is he injured? Is he in the carriage?”
The look on the driver’s face spoke volumes. Elizabeth knew what he was telling her, but she refused to accept it. “Help me go to him, please.” She begged.
“Miss Elizabeth, it would be best if you did not see him. You should remember him before, not like he is now.”
Tears mixed with the rain streaming down her face. “What happened?”
“We slid into another carriage, and then into a tree.”
“Where is the other carriage? Was anyone injured in it?”
“I have not gone that far to see. With your permission, I will aid you to the other side of the carriage, and then I will go to the other carriage.”
Elizabeth nodded her head. Matthew assisted her to the other side of the carriage, lowering her to the ground, so that he could check the other carriage. She dearly wished to see her father, see for herself that the driver was correct, but she determined it was not wise for her to do so. Matthew was the son of Longbourn’s housekeeper and butler, and had lived all his life at the estate. He knew how dear Elizabeth was to her father, and how Elizabeth loved her father in return. If Matthew stated it was not a sight for her, it was obvious to Elizabeth that her father’s body was horrible.
Time seemed to stand still, taking an eternity before Matthew returned. The rain continued to pour down from the sky, making it difficult for her to see far ahead. When Matthew returned, he startled Elizabeth.
“Sorry, Miss. I did not mean to frighten you.”
“No, I should not be so jumpy. Did you find anyone in the other carriage?”
“It overturned. I found the driver and two postilions dead. There is a gentleman inside the carriage. He is alive, though unconscious. There is blood on his face.”
“Are we near anywhere that could give us shelter?” Elizabeth asked.
“I saw some light coming from down the road. With the rain, I cannot see far, so the light must be close.” Matthew stated. “I will take you there. Hopefully there is someone who can tend our needs. Once you are there, I will come back for the gentleman in the carriage.”
“We should take him with us.”
“Miss Elizabeth, you cannot walk, and my arm will not allow me to assist you and the gentleman at the same time. Let us get you to shelter.”
She realized the truth in Matthew’s words. Reluctant as she was to leave her father’s body, and leave the unconscious man in the other carriage, there was nothing she could do for them in her condition. Carefully, Matthew assisted her up from the ground, and they made their way towards the light.
The mud on the road, the pouring rain and their injuries made the journey seem to take forever. Finally, they arrived at what appeared to be an inn. They opened the door and entered, finding a roaring fire burning in the fireplace.
“Goodness, what a fright you have given me.” Came the voice of an elderly lady. She hurried forward. “You poor dears, you are drenched. Come, sit here, by the fire. I will bring you some dry blankets in which to wrap you.”
“T…T…Thank you.” Elizabeth said, her teeth chattering as she was bitterly cold in her sopping wet clothes.
The lady returned quickly, holding a blanket for each of them. “I am Mrs Carridan. My husband is at the barn, as one of the horses was acting up.”
“I…I am Elizabeth B…B…Bennet. We have b…been in an a…a…accident.”
“My name is Matthew Hill. I am the driver for Miss Bennet’s family. We were in an accident down the road. Miss Elizabeth’s father has been killed. There was another carriage involved, and only one man was alive when we started to come here. As Miss Elizabeth is injured and could not walk on her own, I was unable to bring the gentleman with us.”
Mrs Carridan nodded her head. “My husband will be able to assist in fetching the man. Our son is in the barn as well. We have plenty of rooms available, as we only have a young man staying with us tonight.”
“Is there a physician or apothecary nearby?” Matthew asked. “Miss Elizabeth will require medical care, and I am certain the gentleman will also need tending.”
“And Mr Hill has a broken arm. He will require care as well.” Elizabeth said. “And we will need to bring the bodies of my father and the other men from where they are.”
It was clear to Mrs Carridan that the young lady before her was close to breaking down in tears. Not only was she in pain from her injuries, but she was in pain from losing a beloved father. “Well, we will see that everything is taken care of. There is no physician or apothecary for miles. The nearest one is in Ramsgate. There is no possible way of making the journey there tonight. The weather has most likely washed out the bridge, and the rain does not seem to be letting up any time soon.”
The lady walked to the door at the rear of the main building, opening it up. She called out to her husband and son. “Albert, Jonathon, we have guests and we need your assistance.”
The father and son made their way to the inn. Mr Carridan was much like his wife, in their late forties, greying hair, and a bit of a paunch about the middle. Mr Carridan had held a coat above his head, attempting to protect himself from the rain. Their son, Jonathon, was in his mid-twenties, tall and thin. He had light brown hair when he lifted his cap from his head.
“What a night to be on the road.” Mr Carridan said. “Where be your carriage?”
“My dear, there was an accident down the road. This young lady and her father were in one carriage, and this man is her driver. There was another carriage involved, and there was only one gentleman survived. The young lady and her driver are injured, and could not bring the gentleman, as he is unconscious. We will need to bring him here to be tended, and the bodies of the other men brought to the stable for now.”
“Forgive me Miss, you have my sympathies for your loss.” Mr Carridan stated. Turning his attention to the driver, he inquired as to how far away the accident had occurred.
“Less than a mile from here.” Matthew replied. “I injured my arm, and Miss Elizabeth has injured her leg. Between us, we were able to make our way here, but we could not bring the gent. Miss Elizabeth’s father, well, he is no longer feeling any pain. The driver and postilions from the other carriage were killed as well. The gent had blood on his face, but he was alive, as I felt his breath and his heartbeat.”
Jonathon nodded to his father, and, without a word, he made his way back out the door. Mr Carridan looked at the others. “Jonathon will bring the wagon around. We will bring the gent back, then go back for the others and the luggage. It will take some time, Martha, so perhaps you should keep some water heating, as we will need hot drink and hot water to bath in afterwards. Now, Miss, if you will allow me to assist you up the stairs, my missus can tend to your needs while we fetch the gent.”
Elizabeth nodded her head, then looked at Matthew. “Please see that my driver has a room as well. I will pay for his room and food, whatever he requires.”
“I will be fine, Miss Elizabeth.” Matthew replied. He had always known Elizabeth to be the dearest of the Bennet sisters, and his parents felt the same. He would do anything to protect her from harm. The deepest pain Matthew felt was knowing he was unable to protect her from experiencing the loss of her father.
Mrs Carridan led the way up the stairs, with her husband assisting Elizabeth, and Matthew following them. She motioned to a room at the top of the stairs, on the right side of the hallway. “Miss Elizabeth, this room will be good for you. Your driver can have the room next to yours. When the men bring the gent from the wreck, we can place him in the room across from Miss Elizabeth.”
Once Elizabeth was in the room, Mr Carridan set a fire in the fireplace, then moved to the other rooms to prepare them for occupancy. Alone, Mrs Carridan began assisting Elizabeth from her sopping wet clothes.
“Goodness, you are soaked to the bones. I will go fetch you something dry to wear. It will be too big, mind you, but it will be warm and dry. When the men bring your belongings back, I will have your trunk brought up, so we can dry out some of your clothing.”
“You are so kind, Mrs Carridan. I am grateful for all that you and your family are doing for us.”
“Tis nothing, dear girl. I am grateful we are able to do what we can.” Mrs Carridan left the room with a promise that she would soon return.
Elizabeth sat on the chair near the fireplace. She felt a numbness that was far beyond being wet and cold. She felt a numbness which had gripped her heart. Tears began to openly flow. She had been able to control them when in the presence of others, but being alone, there was no holding back the flood.
When Mrs Carridan returned, she found the young lady sobbing violently. “There, there. I know you have been through a terrible time. You must have been close to your father.”
Elizabeth nodded her head. “He…he…was very…dear…to me. He…loved me…and…” She could not speak any longer.
“Such a sad day, indeed. And only your driver who is here with you. Do you have other family? To where were you traveling?”
After a few moments, Elizabeth was able to control herself enough to speak. “My mother and four sisters are at our estate in Hertfordshire. Papa and I were on our way to Ramsgate to visit with my aunt and uncle, who are on holiday there. Matthew, my driver, has been with our family most of his life, as his parents are our housekeeper and butler.”
“Goodness, me, I just realized I have not asked your name. Your driver referred to you as Miss Elizabeth, but what is your last name?”
Elizabeth gave a weak smile. “Bennet. My father’s estate is called Longbourn, near the market village of Meryton.”
“Well, tomorrow we will have you write a message to your aunt and uncle. Your driver has the address where they be staying, I suppose.” Seeing Elizabeth’s nod, Mrs Carridan continued. “We will send my boy to Ramsgate as soon as the roads are ready. He will bring back the physician as well. Can I bring you some nice hot tea? Or I can make up some broth in short time.”
“Some tea would be wonderful.” Elizabeth replied. “And I am sure that Matthew will wish for something to eat and drink when he returns. I wish it had not been necessary for him to return outdoors, as he is in much pain from his arm.”
“My husband and son will watch over him and bring him back as soon as they have the gent loaded on the wagon. Then the young man can borrow some of my husband’s clothes until we get some of his own dried for him.”
“You are kinder than we could have hoped for.”
Mrs Carridan gave a weak smile. “My own father died in a carriage accident, some thirty years ago. My husband lived with his family, near where the accident happened. My mother and I were unharmed in the accident, though we were quite shaken. The Carridan family took us in, fed us and took care of us for a fortnight, while we determined where we would go. We had no other family, so it was up to my mother and me to make our way. My husband’s mother found work for mine at the nearby village. Mother worked for the general store and took in sewing and mending. It was nearly five miles from the Carridan farm, but my husband made his way to the village at least once a week to court me. So, you can see, something good did come out of the accident, though it was difficult to lose my father.”
“I cannot think of anything coming out of this being good. Our estate is entailed to a distant cousin, because my parents never had a son. With my father’s death, we will have very little to live on, and my father’s cousin can throw us from the estate. And I cannot even tell them what has happened. None of them will know until this storm lets up and the roads are dried enough for us to journey home.”
“I believe it will be some time before you are able to journey far from this room.” Mrs Carridan said as she assisted Elizabeth into a nightgown. “I have a notion that your leg is broken. If you do not mind, I can check the bones. If it is broken, you will need to stay in bed and we will need to fashion a splint for you.”
Elizabeth agreed to allow the motherly lady to check her leg. Near halfway between her ankle and knee, Elizabeth hissed at the stab of pain which struck her.
“Yes, it is indeed broken.” Mrs Carridan said as she pulled the bedding over Elizabeth’s legs. “I will have Albert cut some boards to make a splint. I have some willow bark tea, which should give you some comfort from the pain.”
“Thank you, Mrs Carridan.” Elizabeth laid her head back on the pillows, exhaustion beginning to take hold of her.
“You rest now, dear. I will check back on you in a little while.”
~~ ** ~~
“Where could your brother be?” George Wickham had arrived in London, with Georgiana Darcy and her companion, Mrs Younge. Upon their arrival, Wickham had left Georgiana with her companion at a rundown boarding house, while he made his way across town to Darcy House. Once there, he learned that Darcy was not only not home, but was away from London as well.
Georgiana’s eyes were red from the hours of crying that she had done. “William was to remain in Town until next month, when he was to come to Ramsgate to fetch me. I do not know where he could be.”
“Stop your blubbering about, or I will give you something to cry about.” Wickham said, pull his arm back in a manner which was threatening to strike the girl.
“George, let her be. She is just a foolish child. So we have to wait a day or two to get the money from Mr Darcy.” Mrs Younge said. She had been Wickham’s lover for several years, since the death of her husband left her penniless and forced her to a life of service. She had worked in a tavern when she met George Wickham.
“We cannot wait, for the ship sails the day after tomorrow. If we are not on it, all of our plans are for naught. And if my creditors find us, I will be killed. We planned this so carefully, how could it go wrong now?”
The young Miss Darcy was distraught. She had thought Wickham loved her and that Mrs Younge was her dear and trusted friend. Georgiana had left Ramsgate with the duo as she believed she was eloping with Wickham. How romantic it had all sounded, Wickham professed his ardent love for her and begged her to elope with him. He had claimed they needed to keep everything secret, as he was the son of her father’s steward and many would frown on such an attachment. And Wickham had claimed their need to stop in Town on their way to Gretna Green was to collect some funds from a man who owed Wickham.
Little did she realize at the time that it was all a sham? Wickham had only brought Georgiana with him as a hostage, to ransom her to her brother. All he wished for was wealth, and he had been spouting lies to her since their supposed chance meeting on the beach at Ramsgate.
Wickham stormed about the room, attempting to determine the next course of action. Suddenly he came to an alternative. “I will write a message to Colonel Fitzwilliam. He will wish to keep this a secret, and he would have access to this chit’s dowry. Or he will know where his cousin has gone to.”
“Richard has no authority over my dowry.” Georgiana said softly, afraid of receiving another blow from her captor’s hand.
“You had best be wrong on that matter. If we do not receive the funds, you will be a very sad girl. For if I do not receive the money required from your family, then I will sell you to one of the courtesan houses, after I introduce you to your duties.”
Since their arrival in Town, Wickham had been completely different from before. Georgiana had a difficult time realizing that the man who stood before her was the same man who had made her fall in love with him. At least, she thought she was in love with him. But she was young, and the notions of romance were in her mind. Making the journey to Gretna Green to elope had been such a romantic idea, something she had read of in one of her novels.
Wickham left the room for a short time, returning with writing supplies. He sat in the chair beside a small table and began to write. It did not take long for him to finish his letter, and soon he left again, making his way down the stairs of the boarding house.
When Wickham returned, he carried with him a canvas bag. Tossing it on the table, Wickham turned his attentions to Mrs Younge. “There is some rope in the bag. Tie that bit of fluff’s hands and feet. Then find something to gag her with. I need to leave for a bit, but when I return, I will bring something for us to eat.”
“Where are you going?” Mrs Younge inquired as she took the rope and wrapped it around Georgiana’s wrists.
“I sent a message to Colonel Fitzwilliam. If he responds to it, I will meet him several blocks from here.”
“What if he were to harm you, or worse yet, kill you?” Mrs Young wore a horrified look.
“I will tell him at the start that someone else would be with Miss Darcy, someone who was not afraid to harm the brat if he does not comply with my instructions or if he were to injure me.” Wickham said simply. “He will do nothing which could bring harm to her.”
“Very well. I do not approve of it though. So many things could happen.”
“If I do not return by three this afternoon, you are free to do whatever you wish with your charge.”
~~ ** ~~
Elizabeth woke with a start. The room was unfamiliar to her and she felt pain shooting up her leg. It took her several moments before she realized where she was and what had happened.
Hearing a commotion outside her room, Elizabeth called out.
Mr Carridan opened the door slightly, though he did not poke his head inside. “Pardon me, Miss, you be needin somethun?”
“Is there a problem?” Elizabeth asked. “I heard noise.”
“That was just my missus. She is exhausted and she fell down. I be trying to get her to take some rest, but she says she needs to tend the gent.”
“If someone could assist me, I could tend the gentleman. How is he?”
“Ah, Miss, it would not be fitting for a young miss to tend a man.”
Elizabeth chuckled grimly. “Unfortunately, we find ourselves in a situation which is far from being fitting. I will not faint, I am not delicate. Please, assist me to his room. Then your wife can rest.”
Mr Carridan entered the room, though he was keeping his eyes averted from the bed. “Would you prefer to be carried or for me to hold you up so you can hop on your good leg?”
“If I am not too heavy, would you mind carrying me? I am not sure how steady I am with the other leg, as it is aching a bit today.”
“You may have bruised it or strained the muscles. Not unexpected, after what you went through. Sure am surprised you and the gent survived, after seeing the remains of the carriages.”
Mr Carridan lifted Elizabeth carefully, noting how she winced in pain.
To take her mind off of the pain, she asked him if her father and the other men had been brought to the barn.
“Yes, Miss. And your luggage is in the room with your driver. He did not wish to wake you when we returned from the carriages, so he has hung up some of your clothes in his room, so they could dry out. Fortunately, your belongings were not in as bad a shape as the gents. His trunks were thrown all over, since his carriage rolled over. I think we found most of his stuff. The papers we found say his name is Mr Darcy.”
“Mr Darcy. Does it say where he is from?” Elizabeth frowned. She knew she had family to notify of her injury and her father’s death, but to not know if the gentleman had loved ones who would be looking for him, worried for him when he does not arrive wherever he was going. “Hopefully he will recover soon so that we can send word to his family.”
“It will be another day at least. The rain still be coming down. We had a difficult time bringing the wagon back the second time.” Mr Carridan stated as he opened the door to Mr Darcy’s room.
Mrs Carridan turned to see who was entering. “Miss, you should be in bed. It is not fitting for you to be here.”
“Mrs Carridan, you need some rest. I can easily sit beside him and tend to his needs. Please, allow me to be of some assistance.”
Seeing the need in Elizabeth’s eyes, pleading to have something to do to keep her mind from dwelling on the death of her father, Mrs Carridan nodded her head.
“It would be best if you sat on the bed, on this side. That way you can keep your leg still while you look after him. He has not been awake, and has a rather nasty cut on the side of his head. So the bandages need to be changed often, and we need to watch for signs of a fever. He is a little warm at the moment, but it could grow bad. It is best to keep cool cloths on his face to keep the fever from building.”
“I can do that. And perhaps, I could read to him. Are there any books? I know, when my sister was ill, she stated hearing my voice reading to her brought her comfort.” Elizabeth said as she settled herself on the bed. Though she was uncomfortable sitting on a bed with a young man she did not know, and who was most likely dressed in only a nightshirt, she tried not to think of it. This would be like the time she assisted her friend Charlotte Lucas, when the entire Lucas family took ill. Elizabeth tended her friend’s brother and father, along with the ladies of the family.
Mr Carridan brought a fresh bowl of cool water and some cloths. “I will leave the door open, Miss. If you need anything, just holler out and me or my son will come assist you. Your driver is resting, and when he wakes, I am sure he will wish to join you in tending the gent.”