Chapter 7

The door to the ballroom opened, as Charles Bingley, who was late to arrive, entered with his sister in tow.

Realizing what was happening, Caroline stopped in her tracks.  “No, this cannot be happening.  I am to marry Fitzwilliam Darcy.” She said, in a desperate voice.

Bingley looked at his sister.  “Caroline, hush.  This is my friend’s wedding, a wedding you knew was to take place.  Let us take our seats.”

Tears were welling in Caroline’s eyes as she watched the young lady standing beside the younger Mr Darcy, taking vows which Caroline had hoped to take with the young man.  She was frozen in place, unable to move, watching the scene before her.

Darcy was unaware of the Bingleys entrance, as the only thing he saw or heard was Elizabeth Bennet.  But Elizabeth heard the cries of the unknown lady.

Standing beside his cousin, Richard had a difficult time not laughing at the love struck man, especially when Richard had to smack Fitzwilliam in the shoulder to get his attention when the clergyman spoke to the bridegroom.

“And this is the same Fitzwilliam Darcy who swore he would never have feelings for his wife, and would never have more than a passing friendship with any woman.  Look at him, he is besotted.”

Soon the ceremony was over, and the newlyweds walked to the table, where the register was ready for them to sign their names.  With the paperwork finished, Gerald Darcy invited everyone to the dining room for the wedding breakfast.

Fitzwilliam offered his arm to his bride, then placed one of his hands to cover hers.  His eyes were fixed on her face, and he had to be reminded that they were expected to make their way to the dining room.

Everyone else had left the ballroom, except the newlyweds, and as the door closed behind the last person to leave the room, Fitzwilliam felt it was the best time to begin making amends to his new wife.

“I know I do not deserve your kindness, but I would ask if we could take some time later, just the two of us, so we can discuss the future.  I have been a complete and utter arse, and I would like to know you better.”

Elizabeth eyed him carefully.  “What has changed your mind about me, Mr Darcy?  Is it that you truly feel remorse for your behavior, or is it due to the way I look in this gown that has made you wish to spend time with me?”

“I admit that you look remarkable, and that the gown shows you to your best, but several things have happened recently which have made me think of my behavior over the past years.  Please, Mrs Darcy?  Will you allow me a chance to make amends?”

“Only if you stop referring to me as Mrs Darcy.” Elizabeth smiled.  “What happened to calling me Lizzy?”

“You are not a child any longer.  I was not certain you would appreciate being called by the same name as when you were seven.”

“I do not mind.”  Elizabeth looked down at her hand, resting on his arm.  “After the wedding breakfast, perhaps we can spend some time speaking.  Shall we plan on using our private sitting room for the first time?”

Fitzwilliam smiled.  “I would enjoy that immensely.  Let us join our wedding breakfast, before Richard comes looking for us.”

~~ ** ~~

The food was consumed, and many toasts were given to the health and prosperity of the newlyweds.  Mr and Mrs Bennet had planned to take Mary and Gerald Bennet to Cheapside, to spend the rest of the day with the Gardiner family.  Jane was to remain at Darcy House to spend time with Georgianna.  Richard was planning to remain, as he was unsure of his cousin’s state of mind.  If Fitzwilliam continued to refuse interaction with his wife, Richard would attempt to encourage him to spend time with his bride, even if Richard had to get his cousin drunk accomplish the task.

As soon as Charles Bingley’s eyes took in the vision of Miss Jane Bennet, he was lost.  He sat next to her during the wedding breakfast, asking her many questions with regard to Netherfield and the neighborhood.  Caroline was displeased with everything which had occurred that day, and it irritated her that her brother was enjoying himself.

“Charles, I am certain we need to leave.  Our sister is expecting us.”

“Caroline, Louisa knew we would be gone for some time.  I plan to remain here for a while, as I wish to know more of the neighborhood to which I will be moving.  Miss Bennet has lived there all of her life, and can give me insights of the people I will meet.  Miss Darcy is likely wishing to have someone to speak with.  You could make yourself available to her.”

“Our friend is not fond of his sister, therefore I do not feel it would be wise to form any sort of attachment to the girl.  Besides, she is a child.  I have no connection to such a young child.”

“Then you should return home, alone, Caroline.  I am not planning to leave here.”

Miss Bingley walked across the room, taking her seat on a chair near the pianoforte.

After bidding farewell to the Matlock and Bennet family members, Gerald Darcy returned to the ballroom.  “Richard, would you, Mr Bingley, Miss Bingley, Jane and Georgianna care to join me in the drawing room.  I believe I would enjoy hearing my daughter play for us.”

Caroline looked at the newlywed couple, seeing they were not objecting to the change of location, nor did they seem to be making an attempt to move with the others.  She huffed as she stood and followed her brother, who had offered his arm to Jane Bennet.

Once the others had left the room, Fitzwilliam Darcy spoke to his wife. “Miss Eliz…excuse me, Elizabeth, would you mind if we were to remove to our private sitting room.  I believe there is much we need to discuss.”

Elizabeth nodded her head, and accepted her husband’s arm as she rose from her seat.  They were silent as they walked up the stairs, and down the hall to their suite of rooms.  There was a sitting room which was attached to both of their bedchamber, which was for their private use.

Once inside, Fitzwilliam was nervous.  “Elizabeth, I…I…please forgive me, I am not sure where to begin.”

“Why do we not begin with you calling me Lizzy, as you did when we were younger?  Do you approve?” Elizabeth asked.

Fitzwilliam chuckled lightly.  “Yes, I approve.  I assume you still think of me as William, as does the family.”

Elizabeth smiled.  “I never stopped thinking of you as William.”

“I have done you a disservice, Lizzy.  And I am not certain how to correct the mistake I have made.”

A frown grew on her expression.  “Do you mean to say that you made a mistake in marrying me, just hours ago?”

“Dear God, no.  I do not regret our marrying.  It is…the way I have treated you over the past years.  Richard told me a few days ago that it is time I told you the truth.  When I saw you enter the ballroom, I was awestruck at the incredible young lady you have become.  It was then that I realized the truth of my cousin’s words.”

“I am listening.” Elizabeth encouraged.

Taking her hand in his own, Fitzwilliam brought it to his lips.  “From the moment my mother died, I formed a cocoon around my heart.  The pain I felt at losing Mother was more than I could bear.  I did not wish to ever feel such pain again.  In allowing anyone near me, I was potentially facing pain again, if something were to happen to them.”

“You were just a boy when you lost Lady Anne.  She was an important part of your life, and she loved you dearly.  It is to be expected that you would have a difficult time losing your mother.  But is it not better to allow love to be the balm to sooth the pain?”

“I was afraid.  And I knew not how to deal with the fear and pain.”

Elizabeth’s hand squeezed his.  “These years since your mother’s death, we have not been able to speak as we once did.  Will you allow me to be a part of your life?  Not just as your wife, but as your dearest friend, as we once were?  Will you tell me your thoughts and feelings, as you did when we were younger?”

Fitzwilliam smiled.  “It will take time to become accustomed to being open, but I wish to try.  Are you willing to assist me in my efforts?”

“I am, William.  I always have been.”

Gathering her in his arms, Fitzwilliam began to release the tears which had been struggling to surface for so long.  Holding Elizabeth in his arms, the girl that he had always loved, was indeed the balm his heart needed.  Elizabeth allowed him to grieve, for the first time truly grieve, for his loss.  She stroked his hair as he buried his face in her shoulder.  Speaking softly, she encouraged her new husband to let go of the pain and welcome in the love she had to give him.

Finally, the tears were spent.  He was exhausted, but felt purged of all the pain he had kept close for years.  Taking a deep breath, he smelled the scent of lavender, which was soothing to him.  “You smell as wonderful as you look.”

Elizabeth laughed.  “Thank you, Sir.  Would you care to freshen up, and then we can join the others in the drawing room?”

Fitzwilliam nodded his head.  “That is a wonderful idea.”  He stood to walk to his rooms, yet paused.  “Lizzy, would you assist me in knowing my s…s…sister?  I need to apologize to her, for never accepting her as my family.”

“I know Georgianna would love to have her big brother at her side.” Elizabeth’s hand moved a lock of hair which had fallen out of place on his forehead.

~~ ** ~~

The couple entered the drawing room to find Georgianna playing a beautiful song on the pianoforte.  Gerald was watching his daughter, delighted with the progress the girl had made in her lessons.

Caroline was the first to notice the newlyweds enter the room.  “Mr Darcy, are you well?  Your eyes seem slightly swollen.  Did this chit strike you?”

Fitzwilliam was shocked at his friend’s sister behaving in such a manner.  He had never liked Caroline Bingley, only tolerated the obnoxious lady for Charles’ sake.  “What right do you have to refer to my wife in such a manner?  She is a lady, madam, and as such, knows how to behave properly.  She does not make ill-advised statements at a wedding of a long betrothed couple, not does she rudely defame another’s character after just meeting her.”

“Mr Darcy, I understood that you had not wished for the marriage, that you had attempted to break off the betrothal.  When I heard of this, I was certain that it was due to our having met.  You must have felt the same as I, after our first meeting.  It was as if fate had brought us together.”

“Miss Bingley, I may have had my doubts and worries before the wedding, but I am very pleased that I married this wonderful lady.  She has been my dearest friend, all of my life.  I have never had any feelings for you.”

Caroline’s eyes grew round.  “But…but you invited me to several parties.  Why would you do so if you were not in love with me?”

“Miss Bingley, I invited your brother, and as his relations, I invited you, your sister and her husband.  That is the only reason I have ever had any dealings with you, as a favor to your brother.  It is time you realize that you are not someone I would ever have married.  Your behavior is rude and disgusting.  Now, as much as I dislike having your brother leave, I believe it is time that he escorts you to Mr Hurst’s townhouse.” Fitzwilliam announced.  “Though, Charles, you are welcome to return, your sister is not welcome.”

Bingley had already stood and walked over to his sister.  Hearing that she would be refused to return to Darcy House, Caroline was angered.  How could this day have been worse?

“Please, Mr Darcy, I know you prefer me to this country nobody.  She will never make you happy, not like I can.  I will fit into Society, as I have been to the best schools, and know how to conduct myself at gatherings.” Caroline was nearly shouting at the younger Mr Darcy.

“Obviously, Miss Bingley, you do not know how to conduct yourself, as you have demonstrated with your outlandish behavior.” Gerald advised.  “I agree with my son, you will no longer be welcomed in any of our homes.”

Charles took a strong hold of his sister’s arm and pulled her from the room, all the while she was pleading with the man she had placed all her hopes and dreams on marrying.

After the Bingleys had left, Gerald turned his attention to his son and new daughter.  “Well, it appears your friend will have his hands full with his sister.”

“Indeed.” Fitzwilliam replied.  “I never knew Miss Bingley was so deluded.”

Richard smiled.  “It appears that your eyes are a little swollen, William.  Is there anything you wish to discuss with your wise old cousin?”

Fitzwilliam laughed.  “Wise and old are not words I would use to describe you, Richard.  But I admit, you were correct.  Lizzy and I have discussed the situation, and I have asked her to forgive my abominable behavior.  Graciously, my wife has forgiven me.  And, yes, my eyes are a bit swollen, though it has nothing negative to do with my wife.”

Georgianna was looking at her brother with curiosity.  She had never seen William so altered.  Noticing his sister’s expression, Fitzwilliam made a move towards her.

“Georgianna, would you allow me to express my apologies to you?”

“For what, Fitzwilliam?”

“For treating you so poorly all of your life.  My wife and I have spoken, and I have come to the conclusion that it is time to stop living my life filled with pain and loss, and time I accept the love in my life, the love I have been refusing.  The only thing you ever did to me was being born.  It was not your fault that our mother died.  At least I had time with her, memories of her.  You have none, and it is not fair.  Our mother wished to have a daughter.  She loved you, before you were born.  You are a part of our mother, and it is time I realized what I have been wasting by pushing you away.  Will you allow me to know you better?”

Tears were flowing openly from the eyes of almost everyone in the room.  Georgianna hesitated momentarily, looking at her father, before she flung herself into the arms of her brother.  “I have always wished to have you in my life, Fitzwilliam.  And I have always wanted to know you better.”

It took Fitzwilliam a moment to know what to do.  Finally, he lifted his hand to stroke his sister’s back.  “Were you playing the pianoforte before we entered the room?”

Georgianna nodded her head.

“You play beautifully.  You must practice many hours to be so proficient at such a young age.”

The girl’s cheeks turned a bright shade of pink with the compliment.  Gerald Darcy smiled at his children.  This is how it is supposed to be.  Thank you, God, for sending Lizzy to us.  She has worked a miracle.

~~ ** ~~

“Caroline, I cannot believe you would embarrass me in such a manner.  How dare you humiliate me?”

“Humiliate you?  How dare that chit take my future from me?  That wedding has cost me dearly, and I will be the laughingstock of all society.  It was expected I would marry Fitzwilliam Darcy.”

“Only you believed there to be an understanding between the two of you.  And now you are refused entrance to any of the Darcy homes.  And you will no longer be able to obtain invitations to parties and balls, using the Darcy name to procure them.”

“How can I convince Fitzwilliam to see the truth?” Caroline said as she began pacing in the drawing room.  Her attitude spoke of her not having paid any attention to what her brother had said.  “He must annul the marriage immediately.  We cannot have Society know of the marriage, not until he has righted the wrong.  And once we are married, everything will be fine.”

Bingley was concerned.  “Caroline, have you heard a word of what I said?”

“Charles, you must return to Darcy House immediately.  Explain to Fitzwilliam that I understand that he was following his family’s decision, but it is not too late.  He and I can still be together.  Hurry, you must not waste a moment.”

“No, Sister, I will not do your bidding.  You are not well.  Please, Caroline, I beg you to allow me to send for the physician.”

Fury was clearly written on Caroline’s expression as she turned suddenly, glaring at her brother.  “There is nothing wrong with me.  It is you who are ill.  You are weak and care little for the welfare of others.  Rather than assist me to marry the man I love, a man who is your dearest friend, you would prefer to claim me as ill and in need of a physician’s care?  You are as worthless as our sister.  Is it up to me to take care of everything?  Do I have to teach you the same lesson I taught Louisa?”

Fear was taking hold of Bingley’s heart.  Louisa was recovering from an accident, or was it really an accident?  “What did you do to our sister?  Did you harm Louisa?”

“I taught her what would happen if she were to go against me.  She understands me perfectly.  Do you require the same demonstration?” Caroline’s eyes were wild with her delusions.  She turned and walked to the nearby window, glaring out at the street.  “I need to speak with Fitzwilliam immediately.  He needs to know that I understand and will be at his side when he needs me.”

Bingley walked towards the door, planning to have a physician summoned to tend his sister.  Unfortunately, before he was able to open the door to the hall, he felt a sharp, tearing pain shoot through his back.  The pain was intense, and it happened twice more.  Falling to the floor, Bingley’s head turned to the side, allowing him to see his sister opening the door as she dropped the knife, with which she had attacked him.  The knife clanged against the polished marble flooring, ringing in his mind as he thought he would die.

Caroline did not bother to close the door, as she stepped past her injured brother, and out of the drawing room.  She went upstairs, to her rooms, to gather her reticule with what funds she had available to her.  Then Caroline Bingley left the townhouse, slamming the front door behind her.

Charles Bingley laid on the floor of the drawing room for nearly an hour before a servant found him and called for assistance.  As the young man was carried up to his bedchamber, Bingley whispered, “Send word to Darcy House. My sister has gone mad.  They should fear her.”

The housekeeper was hurrying beside the men as Bingley was placed, face down, on the bed.  “Master Charles, did your sister do this to you?”

“Yes, she has gone mad.  Tell Darcy, please.”

“I will send a footman immediately.  And Albert has been sent for the physician.  Rest, Master Charles.  You will need your strength.”

Bingley was unconscious before the housekeeper finished her words.

~~ ** ~~

Ford had been the butler at Darcy House for many years.  When the pounding began on the front door, the man hurried to see what was wrong.

“Please, I must speak with Mr Darcy.  It is important.”  An out of breath young man in a footman’s uniform said.

“Of what do you need to speak with my master?”

“I was just sent from the townhouse of Mr Bingley.  Something terrible has happened.  I have a message to relay.”

Ford nodded his head and led the young man towards the drawing room.  Knocking on the open door, Ford announced that a young man from Mr Bingley’s townhouse had an important message to deliver to Mr Darcy.

Realizing the message was most likely for Fitzwilliam, Gerald did not reply, though he paid close attention.  Fitzwilliam stated for the butler to show the young man in to the drawing room.

Recognizing the footman, Fitzwilliam stepped closer to him.  “Bellows, is it not?  What is wrong?”

“Mr Bingley insisted you be notified at once.  He has been attacked, stabbed several times.  The physician was sent for, but Mr Bingley is in a bad way.”

“Dear God, what happened?  Did someone break into the house?”

“It twas his sister, Mr Darcy.”

~~~~~~~ ** ~~~~~~~

Chapter 8

“It twas his sister, Mr Darcy.  Miss Bingley.  She is mad.  She used a knife and stabbed her own brother in the back.  I helped carry him to his bed, and he kept saying he was afraid for you.  I believe he thinks his sister will come after you.”

“Good God!” was cried out in unison by the two Darcy men and Richard Fitzwilliam.  With the reflex of a young man preparing to enter the army, Richard began making suggestions on how they should secure Darcy House.  Gerald called for Mrs Murphy.

“Mrs Murphy, Ford, all of the servants need to be on the watch for Miss Caroline Bingley.  If she comes here, use caution, but do not allow her inside the house.  She has assaulted her own brother, stabbing him.  The footman who brought the news says that Mr Bingley is badly wounded and Miss Bingley has disappeared.  The servant also stated that she is insane and may come here.”

“I always knew that one was touched in the head.” Mrs Murphy declared.  She always acted like she was the Queen herself and this was to be her castle.”

“And after her outburst today, she was informed she would no longer be permitted inside Darcy House, or any other of our homes.  I fear she will target Elizabeth, as Miss Bingley thought she would be the next Mrs Darcy.”

“I will pass the word with the kitchen staff.” Mrs Murphy stated to Ford.  “You have two of your biggest footmen stand guard down here, while you go upstairs to speak with all the servants on the upper levels.  And we should send someone out to the mews.  Who knows what that woman will try?”

“Have the servant entrance locked, and see that all the windows are secured.” Richard said as he moved to stand next to his uncle.  And have the footmen and maids keep a watch for any broken windows or sounds that are suspicious.”

Jane, Georgianna and Elizabeth gathered together, the two elder ladies taking a protective stance around the girl.

Elizabeth was concerned.  “William, we should go to Mr Bingley’s home.  We need to know how he is and see that he has all the proper care he needs.”

“We cannot take the chance of you being injured.” Fitzwilliam came to his wife and wrapped his arms around her.  “You are in the most danger from Miss Bingley.  She is envious of you, and would stop at nothing to inflict harm on you.”

“But Mr Bingley needs to have someone there for him, not just servants.  He needs his dearest friend.” Tears were welling up in Elizabeth’s eyes.  “We do not know if he is…if he is…”

“William, I will remain here with the ladies.” Gerald said.  “We have enough protection to keep Lizzy safe.  She is correct, Bingley is in need of his friends.  You and Richard should go to the Bingley townhouse.  See that his sister can cause no further problems for him and that he is tended.  If necessary, bring Bingley here, so we may look after him.”

Jane wiped tears which had streaked down her cheeks.  “If there is anything I can do to be of comfort to Mr Bingley, please allow me.  I enjoyed meeting your friend, as he is very amiable.”

Fitzwilliam looked at his cousin, and seeing him nod, glanced back at Jane.  “I will see that word is sent as soon as know.  Bingley is the most amiable man I have ever known.  Keep my friend in your prayers.”

The two young men made their way out of the house and they hailed a hackney carriage passing by.  Soon they were at Rutherford House, the Bingley family townhouse.  They were admitted into the house by a frightened footman.

“Mr Darcy, Mr Fitzwilliam, I am glad it be you and not that mad woman.  We have locked the house up as tight as possible, but it would be like her to knock on the door and expect to be allowed inside.”

“Where is your master?  Is he alive?”

“Yes, Sir, but only just.  The physician sent for the surgeon, as it is far worse than Mr Easton could manage himself.  We expect the surgeon any moment.”

Richard asked where Bingley was being treated, and was informed that Bingley was in the Master’s bedchamber.  Both of the men made their way towards the stairs.  The footman decided to inform them of someone else for whom had been sent.

“A lad from the stables was sent to fetch the constable.  We have not moved anything from where Mr Bingley was attacked.  Mr and Mrs Kline, the housekeeper and butler, they say we should keep everything as is, so the constable can see the scene.”

“Where did the assault occur?” Richard asked.

“In the drawing room.” The footman pointed towards the open door.

Richard turned to his cousin.  “I wish to take a look at the room, then I will be up.”

Fitzwilliam nodded his head.

~~ ** ~~

There is so much blood, how could Bingley possibly be alive? Good God, the knife she stabbed him with has at least a six inch blade.  Why was such a knife in the drawing room?  I pray that he survives, but I will be shocked if he does.

Richard stood at the doorway, not daring to enter further into the room.  Hearing the knock on the front door, Richard turned his attention towards the nervous footman as the young man carefully looked out the window to see who wished entrance to the house.

When the young man opened the door, the constable and surgeon had arrived at the same time.

The constable was motioned towards Richard, while the footman escorted the surgeon up the stairs to the Master’s rooms.

“Where you here when the assault occurred?” The constable asked Richard.

“No.  Mr Bingley is friends with my cousin and myself.  I am Richard Fitzwilliam, son of Lord and Lady Matlock.  My cousin, Fitzwilliam Darcy, is upstairs.  We had been with Bingley until about an hour before he was attacked.”

“Where were you earlier?” The constable asked, as he busied himself writing what he was being told.

“My cousin was married today, and we were in attendance at Darcy House for the ceremony.  Mr Bingley and his sister were there, until Miss Bingley became agitated with the fact that she was not the new Mrs Darcy.  She was asked to leave, and she did so with assistance of her brother.  From what we have been told, Miss Bingley has lost her mind and attacked her brother from behind.  You can see the bloody knife, there, on the floor.  The pool of blood shows how much Mr Bingley bleed from his wounds.  From what I know of anatomy, I am surprised that Bingley was not found dead.”

“And his sister, does anyone know where the lady is to be found?”

“We know not.  All we were told was that she left the house moments after she left the drawing room.”

“Thank you, Mr Fitzwilliam.  I will speak with the servants to obtain more information.  Then I will speak with the local magistrate.  Lord Wentworth will wish to visit the scene, so we will need to keep everyone from the room.”

The young footman was coming down the stairs just then.  “Will you see that the drawing room is protected from anyone entering?” Richard asked.  “We will need to send someone for Lord Wentworth, who is the magistrate.”

“Of course, Sir.  I will have one of the lads from the mews take a message to Lord Wentworth, if that is what you wish.”

“The constable will write the message and give directions to his lordship’s home.”

~~ ** ~~

Richard found his cousin in the hall outside Bingley’s bedchambers.  “Have we heard any news?” He asked.

Fitzwilliam shook his head.  “All I know is that he is still alive, but the physician was not sure why.  He said that the wounds were extensive.”

“From the looks of it, Bingley nearly bled out on the floor.  I am shocked he has made it this far.  The knife was a kitchen one, near six inches to the blade.”

“Do you remember where his elder sister and her husband are staying?  We need to send an express to them.” Fitzwilliam asked.

“I believe they were going to be in Bath for some time.  Mrs Hurst had an accident, and was recovering.”

“I will double check with the housekeeper, she must know something.”

The door of Bingley’s bedchamber opened and the physician stepped out.  “Mr Darcy?”  When Fitzwilliam nodded his head, the physician continued.  “You had best come inside.  Mr Bingley is calling for you, but he is weak.  I do not know if he will last much longer.”

Shocked, Fitzwilliam moved into the room.  The bedding and towels which were about the bed were covered in blood.  With what Richard had said about the quantity of blood on the downstairs floor, and what was soaked up in the linens, it amazed the young men that Bingley would have any blood left inside him.

Fitzwilliam stepped to the side of the bed, taking the chair which had been placed there for him.  Bingley opened his eyes slightly, taking in the view of his friends.  “Darce, you must take care.  She is insane.  Talking about you, that she would still be your wife.”

“Calm yourself, Charles.  You need to take care, as your injuries are severe.  Do not fret for me or my family.  We have Darcy House locked up and secure.”

“Please, take care of your family.  Especially your wife.  I…(cough) was glad to be…there today.”

“As I said, calm yourself.  My wife will not forgive you if you did not get better.  She wishes to invite you to dine with us, as it was clear that her elder sister was enjoying her time with you today.”

“Miss Bennet…(cough, cough)…she is an angel…so delightful…(cough)”

Fear was gripping Fitzwilliam’s heart.  Fear of losing another important person in his life, of losing his dear friend.  Bingley was the opposite of Fitzwilliam, outgoing, friendly, never knew a stranger as he always made friends wherever he went.  And he had always treated Fitzwilliam with kindness and compassion.  Having been orphaned at a young age, it was easy for him to understand the pain that Fitzwilliam Darcy had endured after his mother died.

“You have to be strong, Charles.  Do not give up.  You will tell Miss Bennet how much you adore her.  Do you understand me?  You must be the one to tell her that she is an angel.  I will not tell her for you.  Fight, Charles.  Stay with us.”

“Cannot…wish could…my angel”  Bingley’s eyes closed for the last time.  Fitzwilliam looked at his friend in disbelief.  It could not be possible that this day, his wedding day, had started out so well, only to end up in such tragedy.  One moment, they were celebrating the wedding of Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth, with Bingley flirting with Jane Bennet.  Now the day would end with Charles being murdered by his own sister.  And she was still at large.  Would she attack Darcy House?

Richard placed a hand on his cousin’s shoulder.  “He is gone, William.”

“I know.  It is just so unbelievable.  How could this have happened?”

“We need to have people searching for Miss Bingley.  Who knows what else she will do.  And we need to send word to Mr and Mrs Hurst.” Richard was hiding his emotions by looking at what needed to be done.  He had always been the strong, take charge sort of person, even as a child.

His cousin nodded his head.  “Charles has a likeness of his sister in his study.  We should have copies made, to circulate.  And arrangements will need to be made for Charles.”

“We will allow the servants to clean up in here, and clean his body as well.  While they are doing their jobs, we will begin by learning where the Hursts are staying and writing an express to them. We will send word to the undertaker, and have him prepare the body for his family and friends.”

“The body?  The body?” Fitzwilliam turned towards his cousin.  “That is Charles Bingley, our friend, who lies there on the bed.  His spirit was still with him just moments ago.  And now, he is simply a body?”

“Of course not, William.  Do you not think this is tearing at my heart as well?  But I have always been expected to look after everyone.  My father always referred to me as his little Colonel.  Charles has been my friend just as long as he has been yours.  He was dear to me, so do not forget with whom you are speaking.”

Tears streamed from Fitzwilliam’s eyes.  “Forgive me, Richard.  This is all too much.  Far too much to accept.”

“Come, William.  Let us go to Bingley’s study.  We should send word to your father as well.”

~~ ** ~~

Jane and Georgianna were in the music room of Darcy House, while Gerald was in his study.  He was writing a message to Mr Bennet, and would send it to Gracechurch Street, where the Gardiner home was located.

Elizabeth had planned on remaining in her gown until retiring for the night, but decided to change into a simpler gown since her husband had gone to the Bingley townhouse.

Hannah entered the room to assist her mistress.  “Mrs Darcy, would you care to have a bath drawn?  It would be no problem.  With all that has happened today, it might be relaxing to soak in the hot water.”

“That does sound delightful, Hannah.  I believe I would enjoy a bath.”

“Very good, Mrs Darcy.  I will notify the men to fill the tub.  I had already seen to water being heated.”

“You are too good to me, Hannah.” Elizabeth laughed.  “And please, I told you I did not wish for such formality between us.”

“It would not be proper to refer to you as I did before, Mistress.  Besides, you were Miss Elizabeth before today.  Now you are a married lady.”

Elizabeth shook her head.  “How about a compromise?  Mrs Elizabeth? Would that be formal enough for you, yet relaxed enough for me?”

Hannah smiled at her mistress.  She was pleased to have such a kind lady to tend.  “Very well, Mrs Elizabeth.  Now, you sit here and relax, and I will return in a moment.”

~~ ** ~~

Caroline Bingley had walked a block from her brother’s townhouse when she decided on the plan she would use to free the man for which she cared.  Since Charles is too weak to protect his friend from that country chit, it is up to me to see that matters are handled.  My dear Fitzwilliam needs me to come to his aid.

She knew Darcy House well, as she had spent much time memorizing the building and the grounds surrounding.  She had even come to know the mews, as she knew Fitzwilliam loved horses.

One of the maids came out of the rear entrance of Darcy House, as Caroline stood behind a tree, watching every movement.  The maid was carrying a basket and walked to the mews.  Clearly she was tasked with taking food to the stable hands.  With her basket delivered, the maid turned back towards the townhouse.

Caroline’s eyes darted about, making sure that no one saw her.  As the maid passed by the tree, Caroline took hold of the girl’s arm, pulling her behind the tree, and placing a hand over the girl’s mouth.  She pulled the cap from the girl’s head, before slamming the maid’s head against the tree trunk.  The girl went limp, falling to the ground.  Then Caroline stripped the maid’s uniform from the lifeless girl, and quickly donned the uniform.

Fortunately for Caroline, the girl had a similar build and blonde hair, and the sky was becoming dark as the sun slowly sank.  This would aid Caroline in making her way inside the townhouse.  She walked to the servant’s entrance and was permitted entrance.

Hearing Hannah speaking with Mrs Murphy, Caroline crept closer.

“The Mistress has bathed and her hair is washed.  She asked to have some time alone to soak before the water turns cold.” Hannah stated.

“Perhaps we should have another bucket of hot water ready, in case she wishes to soak longer.  With all that has happened today, I am certain she has been in a state of unrest.  It is best she calms, after all, it is her wedding night.”

“Which is another reason she is nervous, I am sure.  Not knowing what has happened with Mr Bingley, whether her husband will remain at the Bingley townhouse, or will he return and wish to return to celebrating his wedding, has to be frustrating.”

“Well, the tea will be ready soon, and when you take it up to her, ask if she wishes for more hot water.  We will have it ready, just in case she does.”

Caroline knew her way around Darcy House, having been there several times in the past few years.  One of the visits, Caroline feigned fatigue and was allowed to rest in one of the guest rooms.  After the servant had left her, Caroline explored the townhouse, slipping through servants’ corridors and the many rooms within.

Having overheard Gerald Darcy and his daughter speaking of the improvements to the suite of rooms the newlyweds would have as their own, Caroline knew where the rooms were located.

She moved quickly and quietly, staying hidden from the servants as she made her way to the chambers where the country nobody was ensconced.

How dare this chit, this country upstart, dare to presume she is worthy of living here, with my future husband?  How dare she think she is good enough to warrant being the Mistress of Darcy House and Pemberley? They are mine to command, my homes to be improved, so that my husband will be proud of having me as his wife.  He will be grateful that I have saved him from his father’s foolishness.  How is such a man able to keep the estate and the townhouse in good condition, with such poor judgment as the wife he chose for his heir?

Well, once the chit is dealt with, and Fitzwilliam and I are wed, there will be many changes made to our homes.  Why, the furnishing are not impressive at all.  They show no real wealth, and are quite dull in comparison to many of the homes of Society members I have seen.  There is no elegance or opulence to the Darcy homes.  That is will one of my first projects, decorating these dull homes.  Lady Anne’s tastes were boorish.  And she was the daughter of an Earl.  Fitzwilliam will appreciate my attention to his home, I am certain.

As she approached the door to the bathing chamber connected to Elizabeth’s rooms, Caroline could hear the soft singing of the woman she considered an interloper.

Quietly, she crept in the room, unbeknownst to Elizabeth.  Caroline looked about the room for a weapon she could use to rid herself of the country chit she so hated.

Seeing a cast iron fire poker, Caroline moved silently towards the fireplace.  Just as she wrapped her fingers around the handle, a noise alerted the young lady in the bathing tub.

Elizabeth thought the sound was that of Hannah returning with tea.  “Hannah, I believe I am ready to dry off, then I can sit by the fire and dry my hair.  Is there any word yet from my husband?”

Hearing Elizabeth speak of her husband infuriated Caroline.  “He is not your husband.” She screeched.  “He is meant to be my husband, and once you are gone, Fitzwilliam will be pleased and will be able to marry me.”

Elizabeth turned about as she quickly stood up from the water.  “What are you doing here?  You should not be here.”

“This is my rightful place.  Where should I be if not here?” Caroline gripped the poker tighter in her hand.

“Please, Miss Bingley, you must leave my rooms.”

“These are not your rooms.  They are the rooms of the next Mrs Darcy, Mrs Fitzwilliam Darcy, and that makes them my rooms.  We only need to rid ourselves of you, and then all will be well.”

Elizabeth had eased herself from the tub, grabbing hold of her dressing gown.  Fortunately, the dressing gown was open down the front, allowing Elizabeth to put her arms inside it without losing sight of her adversary.

Just then, the sound came from the servants’ corridor, as Hannah returned to the room. Suddenly, everything happened at once.

Caroline lunged at Elizabeth, the poker raised over her head, as she brought it down to strike Elizabeth.  Hannah screamed as she witnessed the attack on her Mistress.  And the fight for life was waged.

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