Gerald Darcy had heard the screams coming from upstairs, and he demanded that Mrs Williams keep Georgianna and Jane inside the drawing room, locking the door after he left. The elderly lady nodded her head, well aware of the potential of danger which could be lurking about.
The Master of Darcy House ran up the stairs, as the cries for help had continued. Several of the footmen and a few of the maids hurried towards the suite they knew were for the newlyweds. Knowing that Master Darcy was not at home, and the new Mistress was bathing, they were certain that something was definitely wrong.
Gerald reached the door first, calling out to his new daughter. He could hear sounds of a scuffle occurring inside the room, but the door was locked. Fearing for Elizabeth’s safety, Gerald stepped back, then kicked the door with all his might. The door flew open, crashing against the wall inside the room. Following the screams, Gerald and his staff moved to the door of the bathing chamber. They suddenly heard a loud thud, water splashing about, and then silence.
Opening the door, Gerald found Hannah holding the cast iron ash shovel. She was silent, motionless, as she stared at Caroline Bingley, who was lying on the floor, blood oozing from a wound on her forehead.
Elizabeth was in the tub, dressed in her dressing gown, her head just below the surface of the water.
“Lizzy!” he cried out, rushing forward to pull his new daughter from the water.
Once out of the water, Gerald moved Elizabeth face down and swatted her back, attempting to dispel any water which might have been inhaled. Only when he heard her sputter and cough, did Gerald give thanks for his dear Lizzy’s survival.
He turned her back towards him, coaxing her to open her eyes. “Lizzy, my dear girl, please open you beautiful brown eyes. Please, dear one. Can you speak to me, Lizzy? Give me a sign that you will be well, my dear girl.”
“Papa Gerald?” Elizabeth said softly. “Where am I?”
“You are in your rooms at Darcy House. Are you injured?”
“Sleepy.” Elizabeth replied. As Gerald began to lift her, Elizabeth cried out in pain.
“Where do you hurt, Lizzy?”
“All over. Like I was trampled by a herd of horses.”
“Mrs Murphy and the maids are going to help you change into some dry clothing, and then we will put you to bed. While they are assisting you, I will send word to William and to a physician.”
“William…our wedding day…such a day.” Elizabeth attempted to smile, but it was more of a grimace.
~~ ** ~~
Hannah was led down the hall to one of the guest rooms. It was clear that she was in shock, and obvious that she had swung the shovel, striking Caroline Bingley’s head. From the evidence on Miss Bingley’s head, the strike was to the back of her head, forcing the forehead to come roughly in contact with the ridge of the copper bathing tub. There was a large dent in the tub’s side. Miss Bingley’s body was left on the floor, beside the tub, as the constable would need to be called.
Gerald hurried down the hall to his rooms, where he quickly wrote a message to his son. Finding one of the footmen in the hall, waiting for his Master to command him, Gerald smiled. His staff was the best, in his opinion. Loyal and caring for the Darcy family. If it had not been for Hannah, Lizzy would likely have been killed. He would see that the maid was amply rewarded for her courage and loyalty to Elizabeth.
~~ ** ~~
“William, we need to leave here immediately.” Richard called out as he stepped closer to Bingley’s study.
Fitzwilliam stood and moved towards the door, as his cousin approached. “What is wrong?”
“Your father sent a message. Caroline Bingley is at Darcy House. She attacked Elizabeth. Elizabeth’s maid stopped Miss Bingley, but your father has sent for a physician to attend your wife.”
“Bloody Hell!” Fitzwilliam shouted as he ran from the room. Fortunately, the surgeon had yet to take his leave of the townhouse, and neither had the constable. They followed Darcy the three blocks to Darcy House.
Fitzwilliam threw the door open and ran towards the stairs leading to his chambers. What a fool I have been, all the wasted time, pushing Lizzy away, when I should have been loving her and thanking God that she was in my life. I had such a gift before me and failed to accept it into my life. I cannot lose her now. Not after I realized the love I have for her. Please, God, do not take my wife from me. Allow us to have many years together.”
Hearing the sounds of the men coming up the stairs, Gerald stood from the chair he had been occupying, beside Elizabeth’s bedchamber door. “William, she is here. She is alive.”
Fitzwilliam nodded his head as he continue towards the door. Just as he placed his hand on the doorknob, Mrs Murphy opened the door from within. “Master William, you may enter. Your wife is in bed, and we are waiting for the physician to arrive.”
The young man took long strides to cross the room, dropping to his knees beside his wife’s bed. “I am here, Lizzy. My dearest, are you awake?”
Elizabeth’s eyes began to flutter open. “William, what of Mr Bingley?”
“Do not concern yourself with Mr Bingley. I am worried for you, my dearest. What did that woman do to you?”
“There is no need to fret. I will be fine in a day or two, and she will never harm another person. Hannah saved me. I am worried, as Hannah was unwell after the attack. Can you make certain that she is unharmed?”
“You calm yourself. The surgeon came with me from Bingley’s and he will examine you for injuries. I will step in the hall to speak with my father. When the surgeon is finished with his examination, I will return to you.” He lifted her hand to his lips, placing a gentle kiss on its back.
~~ ** ~~
The surgeon came from the bedchamber of Elizabeth Darcy, finding her husband and father in law in the hall.
“She has many bruises and abrasions. It appears she was struck multiple times with a fire poker. There are bruises in lines from the poker. She also has a cut on the back of her left shoulder. A couple of stitches should close it up nicely. My main concern is the fluid she inhaled. She is coughing some, especially when moved. I fear she may develop pneumonia.”
“I removed her from the water quickly, and attempted to dislodge as much of the water as possible.” Gerald stated.
“It is a good thing you did. We will need to keep her warm, have her drink fluids and eat, for she will need her strength to fight off any infection. And, though I know it will be painful, we need to make certain she gets some exercise, to keep her strong. Exercise will require her to use the muscles in her chest, which will assist, especially if she does develop pneumonia.”
“We will do whatever is necessary for my wife.” Fitzwilliam declared. “Whatever is needed, we will make certain. We were just married today. I cannot lose her.”
“I will do what I can to ensure you share anniversaries in the years to come.” The surgeon, Mr Hanson acknowledged. Now, your wife was concerned with her maid. She said the girl was extremely upset with what happened.”
Gerald nodded his head. “Hannah is in a state of shock, as she was the one who used an ash shovel to strike Miss Bingley, which led to Miss Bingley’s demise. I would be grateful if you were to check on Hannah.”
“Of course. Where is the girl?”
Mrs Murphy was nearby. “I can take you to the room.”
“I am returning to my wife.” Fitzwilliam said as he headed towards the door. “Father, can we prepare another suite of rooms that Lizzy and I can occupy from now on. I do not wish for Lizzy to have nightmares having to stay in these rooms.”
“I have already made arrangements to move you both. Perhaps it is time I gave up the Master’s suite, so that you and Elizabeth can share what would have been yours when I am gone.”
“Father, I cannot ask you to give up your rooms. It would not be fair to you.”
Gerald placed a hand gently on his son’s shoulder. “William, it will make me proud to see you and Lizzy in the rooms I shared with your mother. We can have the rooms changed to meet with your tastes, but that can wait for the moment. I have already asked my valet to move my belongings to the blue rooms in the family wing.”
“Thank you, Father. I am forever in your debt.”
~~ ** ~~
A slight moan escaped Elizabeth when she attempted to move. Fitzwilliam was instantly moving forward in the seat he had been in all night.
“Lizzy, are you well? Can I get something for your relief? A glass of water, perhaps?”
“I pray you caught the team of horses who trampled me.” She stated, with the corners of her lips attempting to rise.
“No, as it was a herd of cows. Much heavier than horses, which is why you ache so much.”
Elizabeth started to chuckle, but it gave her more pain. “Do not make me laugh, sir, or I will think my husband to be a cruel man.”
“Never that, my dearest. Though I must inform you that this was not what I had in mind for our wedding night.”
“Please…I told you…not to make…me laugh.” Elizabeth gasped as she attempted to contain her humor.
“Forgive me, Lizzy. I was cruel to bring you more pain. The surgeon said you need to take nourishment and drink fluids. Then we should move you from bed for a short walk. I know it will be painful, but he wishes to keep you strong, so you do not develop pneumonia.”
“I will do my best, William. But first, I insist you tell me what happened at Mr Bingley’s home. Is he well?”
Instantly, she was able to see the pain in her husband’s eyes. “I am afraid that Charles succumbed to his wounds. His sister had stabbed him multiple times in the back, and he bled to death. There was no way to save him. I have sent an express to his eldest sister, Mrs Louisa Hurst. Now she will be quite alone, as their parents are long dead, and she has lost her brother and sister.”
Tears leaked from the corners of Elizabeth’s eyes, though she made no effort to wipe them away. “And Hannah. Is Hannah alive?”
“Hannah is alive, though she has been in shock from witnessing the attack on you. She actually saved your life, my love. When Miss Bingley was attempting to drown you in the tub, Hannah used the ash shovel to strike Miss Bingley in the head. Miss Bingley fell forward, striking her forehead on the tub. Between the two injuries, Miss Bingley died.”
“She was a cruel and heartless woman. Such a woman could not have been sister to the amiable and kind man Mr Bingley appeared to be.”
“There was something wrong with Miss Bingley. But she will not be able to harm anyone else. I only wish she had not been able to end Charles’ life.” Fitwilliam’s tears began to stream down his cheeks. “He was a dear friend, and life will not be the same without him.”
Lightly, Elizabeth squeezed his hand. “I wish I could hold you, William. I wish I could kiss you, and help you see that even though you have lost one of your closest friends, you cannot give up on life. From what Papa Gerald has told me of your friend, Mr Bingley would not have wished for you to wallow in your grief. Please do not give up hope on the world.”
“I will not. I am so very grateful that you were spared. I do not believe I could have survived losing you, especially not after all these years of trying to deny you. I cannot promise that I can completely change, but I wish to try.”
“Where is everyone? Please tell me no one else was injured.”
“A maid was found near the mews. Miss Bingley must have killed her to obtain the maid uniform, making her entrance to the house simpler.” Fitzwilliam stated. “Our sisters are well, Mrs Williams kept them safely locked in the drawing room while Father came to investigate Hannah’s screams. When Father and other members of the staff located you and Hannah, Miss Bingley was already dead. Father was frightened, as he pulled you from the water. Your head was underwater, and you were not breathing for a short period. He was able to dispel some of the water, but you must have inhaled some of the water into your lungs. That is why the surgeon is concerned with you developing pneumonia.”
“I am so sleepy.” Elizabeth responded.
“I know, Lizzy. But I will be here with you, every step of the way. I will not lose you. It is difficult enough that I lost Charles, I refuse to allow you to leave me too.”
“I will be fine, William. I promise you.”
“And you had best keep that promise.”
~~ ** ~~
Thomas and Fanny Bennet left their young two children and hurried across London after receiving the message from Gerald of the attacks. Jane was found in the sitting room connected to Georgianna’s bedchamber. As soon as she saw her parents enter the room, Jane ran to her father open arms.
“My sweet girl, what is wrong? Is your sister worse?”
“No, Papa. Mr Bingley…William’s friend…he…he is…dead. His sister murdered him. He was here, talking with me, and then his sister killed him.” Jane was sobbing. “He was…just what…every…young man…should be. And now…now he is…gone. Gone forever.”
Mr Bennet had noticed his eldest’s interest in the young man, but he had not expected such an attachment in so short a time of knowing each other. “My poor girl. This is dreadful. Where they here when it happened? You did not witness the attack?”
“No, no. They left, after Miss Bingley was rude to Lizzy. She began saying the cruelest things, saying that she was to marry William, not Lizzy. Mr Bingley took her to his townhouse, and she…she…” the sobbing grew stronger.
“There, there. I know you are upset. And then, for her to attack your sister, it makes everything worse. How is Lizzy?”
Richard entered the room. “From what the surgeon says, your daughter will be sore for some time. Miss Bingley used a fire poker to beat Elizabeth with, before she tried to drown her. Thank the heavens for Elizabeth’s maid. She used the ash shovel from the fireplace to stop the insane woman. Struck her in on the back of her head. Miss Bingley fell forward, striking her forehead on the edge of the bathing tub. Her head hit hard, as there is a tremendous dent in the tub.”
“Good God.” Mr Bennet stated. “We must find a way to thank Hannah for the care she took of Lizzy. And how is William? I know they were finally speaking. Please tell me that he has not closed himself off as he did when his mother died.”
Gerald entered the room, hearing his friend’s words. “Fortunately, he has not. Thomas, I am glad to have you here. It is devastating that such events happened today, of all days. But I am grateful Miss Bingley’s intentions did not come to pass.”
Mrs Bennet had taken her eldest into her embrace. “Is Lizzy truly alive? She will be well?”
“Indeed. We will need to watch for signs of pneumonia, and she will have pain from the beating and struggle, but it is relatively minor compared to what it could have been. William is in the room with her, he refuses to leave her for more than a few moments at a time.”
“Then we have another prayer to give, that William has found his way back to Lizzy.” Thomas Bennet said. “You have not said, but from the description of her injuries, I presume Miss Bingley is deceased.”
“She is. They only just removed her body, as the constable and magistrate came to inspect the scene. They were involved with the Bingley townhouse, so they were well versed in what happened today. We are having rooms prepared for William and Lizzy, as my son did not wish for his wife to be forced to endure staying in the rooms where she was attacked. Once they have Lizzy settled, you are welcome to see her.”
Mrs Bennet took her daughter to the sofa, where they both took their seat. Richard came to kneel before them, wishing to speak with Jane. “Miss Bennet, please forgive me for not seeing that Darcy House was secure before my cousin and I left. I wish we could turn back the hands of time and today have a better outturn. Mr Bingley was a dear friend of William’s and mine. Though you had known him a short time, it was clear that the two of you were enjoying the time together.”
Jane used her handkerchief to dab her eyes. “I feel foolish, being so distraught over a man I met today. But I felt he was a wonderful man, the sort of young man I would have liked to know better.”
“It is a testament to the sort of man Bingley was that he can command tears from a young lady. He will be missed.”
“He spoke of another sister, one who is married. Was she at the townhouse when Miss Bingley… when…?”
“No. Mrs Hurst is in Bath, with her husband. We sent an express to her, before learning of Miss Bingley’s being here. I just sent another express, informing her of her sister’s death.” Richard replied. “I just finished sending word to my parents. They had gone to Lord and Lady Wigley’s dinner party.”
As if summoned by his words, Lord and Lady Matlock were announced. Lady Rebecca gave Fanny an embrace as she asked of Lizzy’s well-being. Lord Matlock spoke with Gerald, Richard and Mr Bennet, learning all of the evening’s events.
“Lizzy, please tell me our dear girl is to survive.” Lady Matlock begged. “Where is Fitzwilliam?”
“He is at her side.” Richard told his mother. “Just as I predicted. I have been saying for years that all William needed was to have him face reality. The moment he saw Lizzy walking towards him, to be his wife, he could no longer deny that he loved her. For all these years, he built a wall of ice around his heart, but it melted instantly when he witnessed the one young lady, the only one who he could ever love, preparing to pledge her life to his.”
Lady Matlock sighed. “Thank the heavens he has finally admitted the truth. I have been tempted to smack some sense into his thick skull.”
Gerald smiled. “I was concerned, after finally opening his heart, only hours later he loses one of his closest friends and then Lizzy is injured. I feared that he would revert back to closing off his heart. Fortunately, he is too concerned with his wife’s recovery.”
Mrs Murphy knocked on the door of the sitting room. “Mr Darcy, the rooms are prepared, and we have a stretcher to move the Mistress with.”
Thomas Bennet chuckled. “I have a feeling the stretcher will not be necessary, as I have a sneaking suspicion that my new son will demand he carry my daughter to her new rooms.”
Everyone else joined Mr Bennet in his humor. Gerald turned to his housekeeper. “Would you let us know when they have my new daughter settled? And inform the newlyweds that there are some family members who wish to see her, to assure themselves of her condition.”
“I will inform them, Sir.”
~~~~~~~ ** ~~~~~~~
Fitzwilliam slept little, as he kept watch over Elizabeth. As she slept, he traced her face with his eyes. There was a small scar near her hairline in the upper left corner of her forehead. He could remember when she received the wound, as he was with her when she fell from one of the horses they were riding on together. Thinking back on the incident, and the young girl she was, Fitzwilliam smiled. His memories were treasures from his childhood.
Seeing the beautiful young lady she had grown into was not surprising to him. Though Mrs Bennet had always claimed that Jane was the beauty in the Bennet family, Fitzwilliam preferred Lizzy. Her beauty was not the stunning and ethereal look of her elder sisters, but Elizabeth Bennet glowed with beauty. Her fine eyes sparkled with life, her chocolate curls were enticing. Her cheeks usually had a warmth to them from all her exercise outdoors. And her figure was far more pleasing to her husband, as he preferred curves rather than slim, which was considered the height of fashion.
Then Fitzwilliam stared at her lips. The same lips he had kissed so many years ago. The same lips which could smile in a manner to make his heart nearly stop, or could show her fury as she was condemning his behavior only months before their wedding. He had never kissed another lady’s lips, never thought of another young lady in the way he had his Lizzy. And now, she was his.
What a fool I have been for allowing my fears to keep me from being a part of Lizzy’s life these past years. I kept her at a distance, thinking I was protecting myself. But when I learned of her being assaulted, I knew that I regretted every wasted moment that I pushed her away. I could have enjoyed her laughter, her wit, her compassion, and her lips. Instead, I hid from her. If I had lost her today, I would have no one to blame but myself for the wasted time.
I promise you, Lizzy, I will never push you away again. God has given me a chance to correct my mistakes, and I will not waste this chance. No matter how fearful I become, I must learn to speak of my feelings and work through them, rather than shutting myself off from my family, especially Lizzy.
Elizabeth began to stir. It was simple to see that she was in pain, as she was grimacing as she moved. Suddenly, she cried out “NO!” as she sat straight up, frightened from an invisible attacker. Fitzwilliam was certain she was having a nightmare from the assault.
“Lizzy, dearest, you are well. Do not fret. You are safe. No one will harm you.” He carefully pulled her into his arms.
Tears were free-falling from her eyes and her speech came in gasps. “Where…is she? She…she…I could not…breathe…”
“I know. You are safe, dearest. Miss Bingley will never harm you again. Have no fear. I am staying by your side, so sleep, my love. No one will harm you.”
Fitzwilliam placed a gentle kiss on the top of his wife’s head. “She is dead, Lizzy. She can cause no more harm. See, you are safe. And I will be with you, so I insist you sleep.”
Though she was in pain, Elizabeth could not deny the warmth she felt with her husband’s arms surrounding her. “William, would you stay here, all night? Having you hold me…I am…not as frightened.”
“After all the adventures you have had over the years, I am surprised to hear you admit to ever feeling fear.” Fitzwilliam said as he laid his wife back on the bed. He walked around to the other side of the bed, all the while he was leaving pieces of his clothing on the floor by the bed. Once he was stripped of his boots, coat and short coat, Fitzwilliam carefully climbed into the bed, and while lying on his side, pulled his wife to his chest. “Am I hurting you, Lizzy? I wish for you to be comfortable.”
Elizabeth inhaled the scent of her husband, a combination of sandalwood and lemongrass. She felt comforted by the fragrance, and her fears began to ebb from her.
“I am well, thanks to you. I remember Papa Gerald telling me your preference for scents. The scent of sandalwood and lemongrass has always brought me comfort.”
“Then I will order more bottles of the scent, for I wish you to always be comforted in my presence.” Fitzwilliam smiled. “Now, dearest, sleep. You need your rest.”
~~ ** ~~
Gerald Darcy woke early the following morning, and went down the hall to his wife’s former rooms. He knocked lightly, though there was no sound from within the room. Carefully, he opened the door just enough to peek inside. The sight he found was the dream he had for his son coming true.
Elizabeth was sleeping on her side, with Fitzwilliam spooned against her back, his arms wrapped around her. The pair appeared to be comfortable, as if they were meant to be together. He was pleased with himself, having denied his son the chance to break off the engagement. Gerald had questioned his own sanity on the decision, but now, seeing how the first test they would have to endure brought the newlyweds closer.
Closing the door, Gerald made his way downstairs, to the breakfast room. He was greeted by his daughter and Mrs Williams. “Good morning, ladies. How are you this fine morning?”
Georgianna looked at her father with confusion. “After all that happened yesterday, how can you consider this to be a fine morning?”
“Georgie, though we lost Mr Bingley, his sister can no longer harm anyone, and Lizzy will recover soon enough. And when I just checked on your new sister, she and your brother were nestled together, sound asleep. They looked so peaceful and content, being together. I know we will have things to contend with, such as Mr Bingley’s elder sister, and the funeral, but I can feel there are also wondrous things ahead.”
Georgianna rose from her seat and walked over to her father, embracing him. “I pray you are correct, Father.”
“Now, after we break our fast, how about we go out do a little shopping? I believe we should go to the confectioners to purchase some treats for Lizzy.”
“Father, you know how you are at the confectioners. We will come home with half the shop.” The trio began laughing.
~~ ** ~~
“Out of my way.” The elderly woman said as she pushed her way passed the butler.
“Madam, you must wait. The Master is not at home.”
“I am here to see his son. Where is my nephew?”
“Lady Catherine, please, if you would follow me to the drawing room, I can have refreshments brought to you. I can send a servant to find Mr Darcy.”
“Do you have a hearing problem? I wish to see my nephew. Where is he?”
“Master Fitzwilliam is still in his rooms. Yesterday was a busy day, with his friend being killed.”
“His friend? Of which friend do you speak? Someone of the ton, and it was not in the paper this morning?” Lady Catherine was surprised.
“His friend from school. Mr Charles Bingley.”
“The tradesman’s son? Well, my nephew is better off without friends of that sort of society. I will go up to Fitzwilliam’s rooms, as what I have to say will not keep.”
“Lady Catherine, your nephew is still in his bed. It would not be proper for you to enter his bedchambers while he is still in bed.” The butler knew what would happen if Lady Catherine were to learn of the new Mrs Darcy.
“I am almost his nearest relations. There is no impropriety in my entering his bedchambers, especially since I am to be his mother in law. Now, step out of my way.”
Mrs Murphy heard the commotion and came to see what she could do to assist the elderly butler. “Lady Catherine, it is a pleasure to see you. I am afraid that Mr Darcy took his daughter and her governess to the confectioners. After the unfortunate happenings of last night, he felt it would cheer everyone to have some sweets. Your nephew was up quite late last night, as so much has happened and he was busy tending to matters until the middle of the night. Lord and Lady Matlock are planning to visit tonight, with their son, Mr Richard Fitzwilliam. Perhaps you could speak with your brother, and when they come here tonight, they can speak with Mr Darcy and Master Fitzwilliam.”
“I am not speaking to my nephew in such a roundabout way. I will speak with him directly, so move out of my way.”
Mrs Murphy decided to allow the elderly, pompous woman to make her way to the rooms Lady Catherine would have thought were Fitzwilliam Darcy’s, not informing her of the change in rooms the night before. Once Lady Catherine was out of hearing range, Mrs Murphy summoned a footman and had him hurry to the servants’ hall and to the Master’s suite to inform Fitzwilliam of his aunt’s arrival and refusal to leave without speaking with him.
Without knocking, Lady Catherine opened the door to the rooms which had been Fitzwilliam’s until the night before. Finding no one inside the room, she went from door to door, inside the suite, in search for him. Still finding no one, Lady Catherine walked out to the hall and cried out. “Where is my nephew? I demand someone tell me immediately, or you will all be thrown from the house with no references.”
The staff at Darcy House had heard the threats from Lady Catherine in the past, therefore had no fear of anyone losing their position. The one time when she had sacked all the staff and insisted they leave Darcy House, they had all gone to the mews to wait for the Master to return. Once he was home, everyone was welcomed back to their positions and were even a bonus for having to deal with the Mistress of Rosings Park.
The door to the Master’s suite opened and a disheveled Fitzwilliam stepped into the hallway. “Lady Catherine, what is the problem? Why are you shouting and threatening my father’s staff?”
“What are you doing in your father’s rooms? Oh, that is of no concern, especially when you hear the news I have to share. There are rumors that you are to marry that Bennet girl, the one your father attempted to betroth you to years ago. Well, I informed everyone that it could not be possible, and that you were to marry my Anne as soon as the banns could be called.”
“Lady Catherine, you have been told time and again that I have no desire to marry Anne. You know I have been arranged to marry Elizabeth for many years. Nothing has changed.”
“Ah, but I learned recently you had decided to take Anne as your wife, rather than that chit. You even wrote to your father, informing him of your decision.”
This shocked Fitzwilliam, as very few people knew of the letter he wrote to his father. He knew that his father would never have spoken with Lady Catherine of the contents of the letter, and he would have trusted Richard to keep the secret. That left only one person, the one person who had taunted him for years. Wickham.
“So, you believe the words of the son of my father’s steward? He has always been jealous of me and felt he deserves more than he has been given.”
“I believe him, as he would not lie to me. Needless to say, I have sent notice to the papers announcing the betrothal to Anne. And I have instructed my clergyman to have the banns called beginning this Sunday. We will have the wedding within a month, and it will be done.”
“YOU DID WHAT? HOW DARE YOU BEHAVE IN SUCH A MANNER?” Fitzwilliam shouted. “I will have to speak with my father, as he had already sent notice to the papers, informing them of my wedding yesterday.”
“Of what are you speaking? Your wedding? Yesterday? Anne has been with me, so you could not have married yesterday.”
“You foolish woman, I married Elizabeth Bennet yesterday. My father gave us the Master and Mistress suites, which is why you found me coming from those rooms. Now, your stupidity and pompous behavior is going to be scandalous. You had no right to post notices, regarding my future, in the papers.”
“You could not marry that country nobody. I would have known about a wedding, as I am the nearest relations you have.”
Fitzwilliam marched to mere inches from his aunt’s face, standing his full height, forcing his aunt to look up to see his face. “I am going to tell you this once. You are not now or ever will be, my nearest relations. The arrangement between Elizabeth and myself was made to protect me from your machinations in trying to force a marriage to Anne. I despise Anne, and have since we were children. You have spoiled her to the point I cannot stand the thought of being in the same room with her. I refuse to be one of her toys that she demanded until you gave into her. What Wickham told you was the thoughts of a nervous young man. My father knew what I was feeling, and he pushed me to see the truth. I will be forever grateful to him, for I love Elizabeth. She is my wife and I am grateful.”
“So, that harlot is in my sister’s rooms.” Lady Catherine moved quickly towards the door to the Mistress’ chambers. She was so quick, her nephew only caught her after she had opened the door.
“I insist you leave this house immediately.” Fitzwilliam demanded. “You have no rights in this house.”
“These were my sister’s rooms. You are my sister’s son. We share blood. That gives me rights to be here.” Lady Catherine pulled her arm from Fitzwilliam’s grasp. She meant to tell the interloper what she thought of her. “The one who has no right to be here is that chit, who refuses to stand before her betters. Lying there in bed, like a common whore. I am sure you were well satisfied with the favors she shared with you.”
A moment later, Lady Catherine felt something she had never known before, the cold, hard smack of her nephew’s hand striking her cheek. Stunned by the sensation of Fitzwilliam’s hand leaving a red mark on her cheek, Lady Catherine stumbled back.
Fitzwilliam was furious. “My wife is in bed due to injuries she received when Miss Bingley assaulted her last night. Elizabeth is a proper young lady, and not a whore. DO…NOT…EVER…SPEAK…OF…MY… WIFE…IN…SUCH… A…MANNER…AGAIN!”
“How dare you? How dare you injure me, your blood relation, while protecting that chit? This is not to be born. Are the shades of Pemberley to be so polluted, with such a woman as its Mistress? She would have been more appropriately fit to be your mistress, after you had married Anne.”
Pain was felt by Lady Catherine as her nephew smacked her other cheek. This time, she staggered backwards, dazed by the strength of the assault.
“William, what is going on? Catherine, what are you doing here?” Gerald Darcy was surprised to find his wife’s sister in his house, not to mention the bedchamber of the Mistress. He turned his attention to his new daughter. “Lizzy, my dear girl, are you well? My sister in law did not harm you, did she?”
Lady Catherine was furious with her brother in law. “How could you condone this sham of a marriage? It was the favorite desire of my dear sister, that her namesake to be the future Mrs Darcy, married to your son.”
“You are a liar, Catherine. Anne knew of the arrangement, and she agreed with me that our son would never be happy married to your daughter. To protect him from little Anne, my wife and I agreed with the arrangement for William to marry Elizabeth. Our son, even at eleven years of age, detested the thought of having to marry your daughter.”
“Father, Lady Catherine has posted a notice to the papers, claiming that the banns were to be called and I would be marrying Anne within a month.”
“Yes, I am well aware of the notice. Fortunately, I am friends with Mr Frederick Caston, and he knew that Catherine’s notice had to be false. When I came to his office this morning, with my own post, Mr Caston was pleased that he had held Catherine’s notice until he could have it verified.” Gerald smiled at his furious sister in law. “And, Catherine, your brother and his wife were at the wedding yesterday. As head of the Fitzwilliam family, Henry supported my son’s marriage to Elizabeth. Since your own husband is dead, Catherine, you are under your brother’s protection, as he is the Earl of Matlock.”
“No, I will not stand for any man telling me what I will do. My husband was a cruel and stupid man. The only good thing he ever did was leaving Rosings without an entail.” Lady Catherine was still furious. Seeing Elizabeth move slightly on the bed, and Fitzwilliam stepping over to his wife, tending to her needs, Lady Catherine’s ire grew.
“Fitzwilliam Darcy, get away from that chit. I am not going to be ignored. You will marry my daughter, I demand you do as I say.”
“Catherine, it is time you leave my home.” Gerald said, as he took hold of his sister in law’s arm, pulling her from the room. Fitzwilliam walked behind his father, closing the door after the elder pair were in the hall.
“I am not finished with this matter, Gerald. Mark my words. I will know how to deal with this situation.” Lady Catherine jerked her arm from her brother in law’s grip, marching towards the stairs.
“You will leave my son and his new wife alone, Catherine. If you do not, I will tell everyone the truth about your husband’s will. Do you wish for the world to know the truth?”
“You would not dare.” Lady Catherine turned her attention back to Gerald. “I…I…I will find some way to destroy you, if you breathe one word against me, declaring it to be my husband’s claims.”
“Do not threaten me, Catherine de Bourgh. Do not force me to tell the world the truth. It would make you the laughingstock of England, and Anne would be ruined. And you should know, if anything were to happen to me, there are letters for your brother, both of his sons, and my son, telling the truth. At this moment, only you and I know the truth. Do you wish for others to learn your most embarrassing truth?”
With a huff, Lady Catherine stomped down the stairs, muttering under her breath. As she approached the front door of the townhouse, the butler held the door open for her, and once she was on the front steps, the door slammed shut behind her.
“I am not through with, Gerald Darcy. I will see my daughter has what she desires.”
~~ ** ~~
Elizabeth was shocked at the elderly lady’s behavior. She had only briefly met Lady Catherine over the years, and it had been many years since the last encounter. Lady Catherine had always disliked Elizabeth, especially after Lady Anne Darcy had died, and Lady Catherine learned of the arrangement for Fitzwilliam to marry Elizabeth Bennet. And Anne de Bourgh refused to even acknowledge or speak with Elizabeth.
As a child, Elizabeth had found humor in the situation, as Anne was a spoiled child who could not have what she wished. Now, after the assault she had withstood the night before, Elizabeth was concerned with the threats that Lady Catherine had laid at her doorstep.
It was unlike Elizabeth to be afraid of anything, especially the likes of Lady Catherine de Bourgh and her daughter. Fitzwilliam noticed his wife’s behavior and how she cringed from his aunt’s words. This was not the same Lizzy he had known, but he expected things would be temporarily different, after what she had survived. As her husband, it would be his duty to coax her back to the Lizzy they all loved.
“Dearest, I know you are in pain. It has been some time since you took any of the laudanum the surgeon left for you. Perhaps we should have a light meal and then you can take a dose, so you can rest comfortably.” Fitzwilliam suggested.
“Will you stay with me?” Elizabeth asked, fear was clear for all to see.
“Of course, my Lizzy. I promise I will be at your side.” He looked at his father. “Sir, would you have a tray sent up for my wife and me to share? Something light. If I remember correctly, Lizzy prefers chicken to duck and ham to lamb. And she adores the pastries with the jam topping.”
It was pleasing to see his son taking such care of Elizabeth. “I will see to the request myself. And, Lizzy, if you eat all of your meal, Georgianna and I have a special treat for you later.” Gerald gently picked up his daughter in law’s hand and placed a light kiss on the back of it. “You rest until the tray comes up. Perhaps you can convince your husband to read to you.”