Chapter 15

“Lizzy, Mrs Williams is finished with my lesson, and Mrs Younge says she would enjoy taking a walk along the shore.  Would you care to join us?” Georgianna asked.

“I am not feeling well, Georgie.  My stomach is upset, and I have a headache.  It would be better if I were to rest.”

“I have noticed you have not eaten much lately.  Should I have the physician fetched?” Georgianna was concerned.

“No, no, I am certain I will be well.  A rest and some tea later will be sure to bring me back to perfect condition.” Elizabeth smiled as she lightly moved the lock of hair which was on her sister’s forehead.  “Now, you and Mrs Younge enjoy yourselves.  Tomorrow we will take a walk to the shops.”

“They you had best feel better for tomorrow.”

Mrs Younge entered the drawing room.  “Mrs Darcy, is there anything you require before Miss Darcy and I take our walk?”

“As I just told my sister, I will be resting while you are gone.  Enjoy the fresh air.  Oh, and you will have tomorrow afternoon off, as I will be taking my sister shopping.”

“Yes, Mrs Darcy.  Come now, Miss Darcy.  Let your sister have her rest.”

The two left the house, walking the short distance to the shoreline.  Georgianna was much like her brother, shy with strangers, and even though Mrs Younge had been with the Darcys for nearly three weeks, there was something cold about the woman.  No matter how hard Georgianna tried to like the woman, she could not help but feel as if she was in a freezing cold room with nothing but icicles around her whenever Mrs Younge was in the room with her.

“Miss Darcy, why do we not walk this direction?  Towards the stones over there.  I would love to see the view from there.” Mrs Younge pointed towards an outcropping of stones.

Georgianna nodded her head, not wishing to offend her governess.  The pair wandered to the stones, climbing up on the larger stones and gazed out over the ocean view.

“Mrs Younge, what a pleasure to see you, here of all places.” A man’s voice came from behind them.

“Mr Wickham, it is a pleasure indeed.  What brings you here?”

“I came to discuss a matter of business with a gentleman. Unfortunately, he was called away to his estate before our business could be conducted, and now, I must wait for his return.” George Wickham figured he was not lying, as he planned to have business with Gerald Darcy, when he ransomed his daughter to the Master of Pemberley.  “And what brings you to Ramsgate?”

“My cousin was injured, and I have been hired to fill her position with her employers, temporarily, until she recovers.  My cousin, Mrs Williams, is the governess to Miss Darcy, and I am assisting.”

“Miss Darcy, you say?  Miss Georgianna Darcy, of Pemberley?” Wickham feigned surprise.

“Y…yes, I am.”

“You might not remember me, as it has been years since we last met, but my father is your father’s steward.  I am George Wickham.  Your father is my godfather, and paid for me to attend school with your brother.”

Though she was nervous, Georgianna felt secure in the knowledge that this man had connections to her family and her home.  “M…Mr Wickham, of course.  I know your father well.  He is very important to my father and our estate.”

“He speaks highly of your family, Miss Darcy.  Our family would not be where we are if it had not been for the Darcys.  It is wonderful to see you again.  Might I escort you ladies to the tea shop, so I might have a chance to chat longer with both of you?”

Georgianna did not feel comfortable with such a notion.  “My sister is not feeling well, and I would not wish to be gone too long from the house.  Perhaps another time.”

“Ah, so your brother married Miss Elizabeth Bennet.  I know that he was nervous, before graduation.  I had hoped he would realize how fortunate he was in finding such a fine young lady as Miss Elizabeth.” Wickham stated, hoping to put the girl at ease.

“Y…yes, they married almost two months ago.  They have been very happy together.”

“Is your brother here as well?  I cannot imagine him wishing to be apart from his wife so soon in their marriage.”

Georgianna shook her head.  “There was a problem at Pemberley, and William went with Father to take care of the situation.  They should be joining us soon.  If you are still in Ramsgate, when they arrive, I am certain they will be pleased to see you.”

“As I would be to see them.  Well, as you have declined my offer, I must be off.  I hope to see you again soon.” Wickham tipped his hat, as he bid the pair goodbye.

On their walk back to the house, Mrs Younge commented to Georgianna on how nice it was to see George Wickham and that she thought him to be one of the best men of her acquaintance.

~~ ** ~~

Fitzwilliam Darcy was becoming frustrated.  Never had he desired being with anyone as much as he wished to be with his wife, and yet, so many obstacles continued to delay his reunion.  Slamming his book shut, Fitzwilliam blew out his breath loudly.

Gerald chuckled.  “Relax son.  I am sure that all will be resolved soon.  With the difficulties between Hoffman and Jackson has been resolved, and the new roof is being constructed, there are only a few small matters which we are waiting on, and then we can make the journey to Ramsgate.”

“It cannot be soon enough, if you ask me.” Fitzwilliam said.

“My heart is overjoyed at hearing your misery, Son.”

“Father, that is cruel.” Fitzwilliam looked appalled at his father’s statement.

Gerald laughed.  “Not cruel, my dear boy, pleased to see you realize what a wonderful lady you have married and how precious she is to you.  I had the same relationship with your mother, and though I miss her terribly, I have the memories of her in my heart.  Seeing you and your sister, keeps Anne alive in my life.  When Georgianna is excited, I can see your mother in the girl’s eyes.  When you smile, the smile which shows your dimples, it is your mother’s smile.  She is always with us, in all that we do, so even though I cannot hold her in my arms or make love to her, she is still with me.”

“I do not wish to lose Lizzy, I do not know that I could survive as you have.”

“It was not a choice for me.  I had to survive, for you and for Georgianna.  Your mother would have haunted every moment of my life if I had given up on life.”

Fitzwilliam laughed.  “I can see Mother pestering you, keeping after you from heaven.”

“As can I, my dear boy.  And that is what keeps me moving forward each and every day.  Now, let us finish what needs to be done and prepare to journey to Ramsgate.  Our ladies are waiting for us.”

~~ ** ~~

“Father, an express just arrived.  It is from Uncle Henry.” It was late in the day, and the express was delivered just as Fitzwilliam was making his way towards the dining room.

“I hope all is well with Henry and Rebecca.” Gerald said as he took the message and opened it.  His face paled as he read the words, alerting his son that something was wrong.  “We will leave in the morning for Ramsgate.”

“What has happened?” Fitzwilliam asked, fear creeping up inside him.

“Lady Catherine and her daughter might not be done with us, and I would feel more comfortable if we were with our ladies.  I do not trust Catherine or Anne, and this letter only compounded my concerns.” Gerald handed his son the letter.

“Good God, Lady Catherine has always been difficult, but to think she purposely injured her children, causing the elder ones to die, this is too much to believe.  It explains a good deal, except why she would insist Anne and I marry.”

“If Anne was appeased by obtaining what she wanted, you as her husband, then Catherine would not have to contend with her child.  And, she would not be forced from Rosings, as she will be when Henry and I are through with her.  It is Anne that concerns me the most.  If she is violent, we must take measures to protect Lizzy and Georgianna.”

“I wish it was not such a long journey to Ramsgate.  I want my wife and sister safe and secure, at my side.”

“They will be, William.  Have faith.”

~~ ** ~~

“Lizzy, are you well?  It appears you have not slept at all.” Georgianna was concerned with her sister.  “Should I send for the physician?”

“No, Georgianna, I will be fine.  It seems like all I do lately is sleep.  I cannot understand it, I have never been so sleepy before.  And my headache never seems to go completely away.  I am sure it is just a trifling cold or something minor.  A few days from now, I will be fine.  There will be no need for the physician.”

“I am worried, Lizzy.  It is not like you to be ill.  I am certain that Father and William would want me to ensure you were taken care of properly.”

Elizabeth could not keep the smile from her lips.  “My, you are the Mistress in the making.  Mrs Williams and Mrs Younge have taught you well.  Have no fear, I will be well.  Now, where is Mrs Younge?  I was going to ask her to take you shopping, as I am not up to taking you myself.”

“She has already left, saying she would not be back until later this afternoon.  Do not worry, I will be fine.  I wish to practice the pianoforte some more.  The new sheets of music when Father sent me are complicated and I want to be able to play the song for him when they arrive.”

“Very well.  And Mrs Williams is well enough, she can be moved to the music room to listen to you. I am sure she will be pleased.”

Georgianna clapped her hands together enthusiastically.  “I will have the men assist her to the music room.”

~~ ** ~~

“I have been adding the arsenic to her drink each day, just as you said.  Tomorrow, I will add the large dose.  It will appear as if she was slowly being poisoned by something, rather than a sudden lethal dose.” Mrs Younge said to her employer.

“You have done well.  I will remember you when I am the new Mistress of Pemberley.  You will have a permanent position on my staff.”

“But you promised, you said I would never have to work again.  You promised me ten thousand to remove that woman from your betrothed’s life.  I plan to leave England, not remain here, as a servant.”

“You will do as I tell you or I will see that you are eliminated.  Do you understand me?  I have no difficulty hiring someone to kill you, as you are no one of importance.  So you will do as I say and be pleased to have the employment as my maid.”

“Y…yes, Miss de Bourgh.”  Mrs Younge realized she had been a fool to enter into such an agreement with Anne de Bourgh.  It was obvious the lady was not mentally stable.  She would have to find another way to escape England.  Perhaps Wickham was correct in ransoming Miss Darcy to her father.

“Return here tomorrow, after that chit is dead.  I only wish something could be done to rid myself of Fitzwilliam’s little sister.  She will be a problem, and I do not wish for problems.”

“My friend, Mr Wickham, he could help us rid you of Miss Darcy.  He could kidnap her, ask for ransom.  When Mr Darcy pays the ransom, Mr Wickham can do away with Miss Darcy.  Then we would all have what we wish. You would be rid of Miss Darcy and Mrs…I mean, the interloper, and Mr Wickham and I would have the funds to leave England.”

“I would have to look for a maid.” Anne fumed like a petulant child.

“But you must see, Miss de Bourgh, it would be best for all of us if I were to disappear.  If I remained in England, I would surely be tied to the crimes.  Then it would reflect poorly on you.  We cannot have you appear guilty, can we?”

Anne paced about for a moment.  “You are correct, Mrs Younge.  Very well, see that it is done, and done quickly.  I wish for all of it to be complete by the time my betrothed arrives.”

~~ ** ~~

“George, it has to be tomorrow.  We cannot wait another day.”

“Harriett, why the rush?  I have it on good authority that the Darcy men will not be leaving Pemberley for at least another week.  We can wait a few more days.”

No…it has to be tomorrow.  I cannot wait any longer.” Mrs Younge was nervous.  She had kept her arrangement with Anne de Bourgh a secret from him, and did not wish to anger the deranged lady by not accomplishing the job for which she had been hired.

“What are you not telling me, Harriett?” Wickham was suspicious of his cohort’s behavior.

“George, it just has to be tomorrow.  I am certain the men will be arriving sooner than we expect and we have to take steps now or give up the plan altogether.”

“Has there been word from Pemberley?”

“Nothing particular, but I am certain they will be here soon.  And my cousin is recovering enough that she can be moved about in the house, so I will not be needed much longer.  Please, let us strike while the iron is hot and take Miss Darcy tomorrow.”

Though he was still suspicious, Wickham agreed to the plan.

“And Mrs Darcy has been ill, so there will be no chance of her spoiling our plan.”

“Ill?  What is wrong with her?”

“I have been giving her small doses of arsenic to keep her from feeling well enough to leave the house.  After tomorrow, I will no longer need to put the poison in her drinks.”

“Clever of you, Harriett.  I never would have thought you to behave in such a manner.”

~~ ** ~~

Dinner that evening was a quiet affair at the rented house at number 22 Post Street, in Ramsgate.  Elizabeth had requested a tray sent to her rooms, while Georgianna dined with Mrs Williams and Mrs Younge.  The physician had come to examine Mrs Williams and had declared it safe for her to move about on her own, with the assistance of a cane, as long as she did not over use her leg.  After examining Mrs Williams, he examined Elizabeth.  He was perplexed by her symptoms.  Part of him wondered if she were with child, while another part wondered if she had contracted some illness.

“I will be dining with a friend of mine from medical school tonight.  I will discuss your symptoms with him and come by tomorrow with our conclusion, if you are willing.”

“Of course.  You are always welcome.” Elizabeth replied.

While Elizabeth was in her rooms, Georgianna was nervous about her sister’s condition.  No matter what Mrs Williams said to the girl, Georgianna could not shake the feeling of dread coming towards them.

And while everyone was concerned with Elizabeth’s health and Miss Darcy’s fears, Mrs Younge was plotting the coming day’s events.

~~ ** ~~

The morning began beautifully in Ramsgate, the sun shining brilliantly and there was a light breeze blowing across the ocean.  Elizabeth could hear the birds chirping, making her smile as she woke.

Georgianna knocked lightly on Elizabeth’s door and peeked inside.  “Lizzy, may I enter?”

“Of course, Georgie, good morning.  How are you today?”

“It is I who should be asking you that question.” Georgianna declared.  “How are you, Lizzy?”

“I am feeling better at the moment.  As a matter of fact, I believe a walk along the shore would do me some good today.  What do you think?”

“Oh, yes, that would be wonderful, Lizzy.  I could show you the shop where I found the most wonderful boots which would be perfect for William for his birthday.”

“Wonderful.  I have been trying to decide what would be best for a gift for him.  Thank you, Georgie.  Now, let us go downstairs.  From the smell wafting up the stairs, the cook has something delicious underway.”

Once dressed, Elizabeth and Georgianna made their way down the stairs and into the dining room.  Already seated at the table was Mrs Williams.  “Good morning ladies.  You both look well this morning.” The governess declared.

“We are ready for a day filled with adventure, especially shopping for my husband’s upcoming birthday.” Elizabeth said, as she filled her plate from the delicious morsels on the sideboard.

“What a wonderful notion.  It will be good for you to take in some fresh air, Mrs Darcy.”  Mrs Williams stated.

Mrs Younge had just entered the room.  “Going out?  Mrs Darcy, I thought you were too ill to leave the house.”

“I am feeling much better, Mrs Younge.  My sister wishes to show me a potential gift for us to purchase for my husband, so we will do some shopping today.” Elizabeth said as she took a bite of her muffin.

“But the physician is due to arrive this morning to examine you, and you would not wish to over tax yourself.” Mrs Younge was nervous, if the Darcy ladies left the house, her plans would be ruined.

“I have already penned a message to send to the physician, and Georgianna will keep me from over taxing myself.  There is no need to worry, Mrs Younge.  And it gives you the morning off from any duties.  With Mrs Williams recovering so quickly, she will be able and ready to return to her duties, full time, soon.”

Mrs Younge poured a cup of tea, adding the contents of the vial she had secretly removed from her pocket.  Stirring the tea Mrs Younge moved towards the table.

“Here is a cup of tea, Mrs Darcy.  I prepared it as my aunt use to, when she felt poorly.  She stated the blend always gave her strength.”

“I have a cup of tea, Mrs Younge, though I thank you for your kindness.”

Mrs Williams frowned.  “Your aunt, Harriett?  Which aunt would that be?”

“My father’s sister.  You never met her.” Mrs Younge thought quickly.  “Aunt Agatha.  She lived in Sussex until three years ago, when she passed away.”

“Your father never had siblings.” Mrs Williams was surprised at her cousin.  “I remember my mother telling me that we were the only family you had, as your father was an only child and my mother was your mother’s only sibling.”

“Barbara, you should keep your opinions to yourself.  You know not everything about my family.  Your mother was confused.”  Mrs Younge said, sitting the cup of tea on the table, next to Elizabeth’s plate.  “Mrs Darcy, I fixed the tea just for you.  Please, I would appreciate your trying a sip or two.”

Mrs Williams knew something was wrong.  “What have you put in the tea, Harriett?”

Several things happened at the same time.  The door to the dining room opened, with the butler announcing Mr George Wickham to see the ladies, while Harriett Younge pulled out a small pistol from her pocket.  Mrs Younge grabbed hold of Elizabeth by the bun her hair was pinned in on the back of her head, placing the barrel of the pistol against Elizabeth’s temple.

“This would have all been simple if you had just drank the tea, Mrs Darcy.  After being ill, your death would have been attributed to the illness.  But it does not matter.  Drink the tea.”

“I will not drink it.  You have obviously put some sort of poison in the tea.” Elizabeth said defiantly.

“I will not repeat myself, Mrs Darcy.  Drink the bloody tea.”

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

Chapter 16

“Harriett, stop this insanity.” Mrs Williams said.  “Please, whatever the problem is, we can work it out together.”

“Oh, yes, my dear cousin, you will come to my aid.” Sarcasm dripped from Mrs Younge’s words.  “The only reason you came to see me was due to your mother, otherwise you would have ignored me completely.  You, who have never known a truly difficult day in your life, will come to my aid.  What do you know of the hardships I have endured?  Having to sell my very soul to be able to survive, that is what I have done, and you would never be able to understand for a moment.”

Wickham knew his partner had lost her mind.  “Harriett, we should stick to the plan.  We were to kidnap Miss Darcy and ransom her for the funds to take us away from England.”

“I had a better offer, though the employer is far from dependable.  She wishes this woman dead.  She promised me ten thousand pounds to remove this nobody from the Darcy family.  But yesterday, she told me the truth.  She will keep me as a servant.  The good for nothing woman expects me to be her maid, for she knows I will do as she asks and she has this murder to hold over me.  That is why I decided we could go through with the kidnapping.  We could get the money and flee England forever.”

“Who is the woman who wishes me dead?” Elizabeth asked in a soft voice.

“Take a wild guess, Mrs Darcy.  Who would want you out of the way, so she could marry your husband?  Who is completely insane enough to insist on my ridding the world of not only you, but your sister as well?  Yes, Wickham, that is right.  The woman has no problem with our kidnapping Georgianna Darcy, as long as we make certain the girl is not returned.”

“Harriett, this is insane.  We cannot commit murder.  We would be hunted down and hanged.” Wickham pleaded.

“It is clear that we will have to kill my cousin as well.  And the rest of the household.  We cannot trust any of them to keep quiet.” Mrs Younge looked about the room, a wild frenzy had taken over her mind.

Georgianna sat still in her chair, as if frozen in place, tears streaming down her cheeks, as she watched in silence.  Mrs Williams attempted to move to the girl’s side, only to garner her cousin’s attention.

“Barbara, stay put.  Miss Darcy does not require your assistance.” Mrs Younge glared at the elder lady.  “Now, Mrs Darcy, drink the tea.  If you do not, I will shoot your little sister.  Do as you are told, now!”

Elizabeth looked across the table at Georgianna.  She knew she had to protect the girl, the only question was how.  Picking up the cup of tea, Elizabeth made it look as if she was complying with Mrs Younge’s demands.  Seeing the smirk on Mrs Younge’s face infuriated Elizabeth.  Looking at Mrs Williams, the younger lady motioned with her eyes towards Georgianna.  An almost undetectable nod came from the governess, acknowledging the Mistress’ instruction to protect the girl.

The contents of the tea cup were thrown upwards into the face of Harriett Younge.  As Elizabeth threw the poisoned drink, everything happened quickly.  Mrs Williams threw herself towards Georgianna, while Mrs Younge reacted to the assault with firing the pistol.  George Wickham lunged forward, attempting to reach Mrs Younge, his arms flailing as they tried to stop her.

Wiping the fluid from her face, Mrs Younge was screaming at Elizabeth.  With her single shot fired, the only thing the pistol was good for was to wield it as a club.  She struck Elizabeth over and over, moving around the table as her prey attempted to crawl away.  Mrs Younge saw a large knife on the sideboard and grabbed hold of the handle.

“No, Harriett, for the love of God, do not kill her.” Wickham said as he came closer towards her.

Mrs Younge turned, knife in hand, to face her cohort.  Seeing that he aimed to stop her, she pointed the knife in his direction, plunging it into his chest.  Wickham dropped to the floor, blood flowing from his wound.

Turning back to her original target, Mrs Younge did not realize, until it was too late, that Elizabeth had picked up another knife and plunged it into her foe’s neck.  Blood was spurting out all over the Elizabeth and the room, as Mrs Younge staggered about, one hand attempting to hold her wound while the other savagely swung about with her knife still in hand.  Finally, the woman had lost enough blood, and she dropped to the floor, her eyes closing for the last time.

Elizabeth could hear screams and cries from all about the house.  Though her mind was foggy, and she was about to lose consciousness, she made her way to her sister and Mrs Williams.  The governess was cradling her charge in her arms, whispering to the girl that all would be well.  Seeing blood flowing on the back of Mrs Williams’ gown, Elizabeth was certain that the bullet Mrs Younge had fired from the pistol had struck the elder woman, and would have struck Georgianna, had her governess not protected her.

“Mrs Darcy, you are bleeding.” Mrs Burke stated as she held a handkerchief to Elizabeth’s head.

“I will be fine.  Mrs Williams requires a surgeon, as she has been shot.”

“I have sent James for Mr Cartwright already, Mrs Darcy.  I was certain we would be needing his services, with all the blood in this room.”  The housekeeper knew that it would be a long day of seeing to the injured and cleaning up the mess, after the constable was called to witness what had happened.  “Mrs Younge was out of her mind.  Attacking you ladies as she did, and planning to kill all in the house.  I heard her say so, I did.  The nerve of her, after the kindness you showed to her.”

“Is my sister unharmed?” Elizabeth asked the ladies.

“I…I am…unharmed…Elizabeth.” Georgianna sobbed, still holding tight to Mrs Williams.

“And Mrs Williams, how is she?”

“Mrs Darcy, do not fret over the likes of me.  I am a tough old bird, I will be well.” Mrs Williams said, still attempting to sooth Georgianna’s nerves.

Elizabeth looked around, and noticed Wickham sprawled on the floor, motionless.  “Does anyone know who Mr Wickham is?  Is he a relation to Mr Wickham, the steward of Pemberley?”

Georgianna found her courage.  “I met him a few days ago, with Mrs Younge.  He is Mr Wickham’s son, my father’s godson.  He has been attending school with William, which explains why you have not seen him before.  I had vague memories of him from when I was little, but nothing more until I met him the other day.  But I do not understand why he came here.”

“It matters not, Georgianna.  Now, let us have the men take Mrs Williams upstairs.  Mr Cartwright will not be pleased if she re-injured her leg and was shot.” Elizabeth said, trying to lighten the mood.

~~ ** ~~

The Darcy carriage arrived at number twenty two Post, late in the afternoon.  Seeing all the commotion of people coming and going from the house concerned both of the Darcy men.  They quickly entered the house to find a horrible scene of blood in the hall and, with the doors standing open, the dining room.

“What has happened?” Gerald demanded in a loud voice, garnering the attention of those nearby.

Mrs Burke stepped from a room down the hall.  “Mr Darcy, do not fret.  Your ladies are upstairs.  Miss Darcy is fine, she was not harmed, thanks to the quick thinking of Mrs Williams.  Mrs Darcy’s injuries are not severe, though she will require time to heal.  Mrs Williams’ wound was grievous, but the surgeon was able to remove the bullet.”

“Where is my wife?” Fitzwilliam asked, already heading for the stairs leading up to the next floor.

“She is in the rooms to the right at the top of the stairs.  She is sleeping, as the physician gave her a powder.”

After his son raced upstairs to find Elizabeth, Gerald demanded an explanation from the housekeeper.

“Sir, it would be best if we were to step into the drawing room.  The constable is there, and, between the two of us, we will be able to fill you in on all that has happened.”

~~ ** ~~

The maid was just coming out of Elizabeth’s rooms when Fitzwilliam raced towards her.  “Is my wife in these rooms?  Mrs Darcy, she is my wife.”

“Yes, Mr Darcy.  She is sleeping at the moment.  That wicked woman put the poor lady through much suffering.  I know it is evil to think such thoughts, but I am glad that woman is dead.  Mrs Darcy is a great lady, one of the best I have ever known.”  The maid stepped back from the door to allow Fitzwilliam to enter the room.

Fitzwilliam moved closer to the bed.  There was a bandage wrapped around her head, and blood could be seen on the white, where it had seeped into the cloth.  A gasp escaped from Fitzwilliam, and he dropped to the side of the bed.  “My love, how can you ever forgive me for not being here?  Twice now, since our wedding, I have failed you.”

Elizabeth’s eyes fluttered open.  “William, you are here?”

“I am, dearest.  Go back to sleep.  You need your rest.”

“Georgianna, see to her.” Elizabeth said sleepily.

“Father is with her.  I am where I need to be.  Sleep, for I will be here when you wake.”

“Missed you, husband.” She gave a weak smile as she drifted back to sleep.

Fitzwilliam kissed her hand, of which he had taken hold.  “I missed you as well, my dearest Lizzy.”

As his wife slept, Fitzwilliam examined her for injuries.  Her face had bruises and an abrasion, in addition to the injury on the side of her head which was bleeding.  There was a bandage wrapped around her left hand and her fingers were swollen.  He could not imagine what had happened to cause her injuries.

Never again, my love.  I will never leave you again.  I will not lose you.  We will have a long life together.  Please, God, I know I was a fool to keep my heart closed for so long.  Do not punish me by taking my wife from me.  She is the best person I know.  Please, allow her to live.  Give us a chance to have a family, to share our love with others.  I promise to never close off my heart again.

~~ ** ~~

“Father, you are here.” Georgianna said as she ran into his open arms.  “It…it has been…horrible.” She sobbed.

“I know, dearest, I know.” He said as he patted her back and laid his cheek against the top of her head.  “My dear Georgie, you have endured more than you should have.  I was told by Mrs Burke how well you did in speaking with the constable.”

“Mrs Burke stayed at my side.  Mrs Williams…the physician was with her.  And Lizzy, she was…”

“Yes, I know.  But they will be well.  Mrs Williams deserves my greatest thanks for saving you.  I cannot thank the lady enough for what she did.  Mrs Burke said that the bullet would have struck you, had Mrs Williams not moved in front of you.”

“She threw herself between me and the bullet.  I could not move, I was so frightened.  Mrs Younge…she was insane…threatening Lizzy.  And Mr Wickham…”

“Why was George Wickham here?  When I learned he was killed, I was shocked.”

Georgianna sobbed harder.  “He was with Mrs Younge.  They were planning… kidnap me.  But he…wanted nothing…to do with killing…Lizzy.  Mrs Younge…she said she was hired…a lady hired her…to kill Lizzy.  The woman wanted…to marry William.  Mr Wickham…only wanted money…”

Gerald Darcy was amazed.  He never would have expected his godson to attempt to kidnap Georgianna.  But it appeared the young man had acquitted himself in trying to protect Elizabeth from being killed.  But who was the woman who hired Mrs Younge to kill Elizabeth?  Could Anne be involved in this situation?  I need to send an express to Henry and Richard.  They need to journey to Rosings immediately.

“Georgianna, is there anything more that you can tell me of what Mrs Younge said?  Did she give any indication as to who had hired her?”

“I can only remember her stating the lady wished to be Mrs Darcy and would marry my brother, as soon as Lizzy was dead.  Why would someone wish to murder Lizzy?  Lizzy is the very best lady I know.”

“Do not fret, my sweet girl.  We will find the woman behind this attack on our family.  And I doubt we will have to worry about Lizzy.  Your brother will likely refuse to leave her side.”

Georgianna looked into her father’s eyes.  “She will be well, will she not?”

“I am certain that her injuries will heal and she will be our dear Lizzy again in no time at all.”

~~ ** ~~

A scream pierced the quiet of the night.  Elizabeth sat straight up in her bed, screaming, as she covered her head with her arms.

“Lizzy, you are safe.  Have no fear.” Fitzwilliam was holding her, attempting to pull her arms down from her head.  She struggled against his efforts, unable to comprehend it was her husband, not Mrs Younge.

“Georgianna, run.  Get away.  Mrs Williams, protect Georgianna.”

“Lizzy, my love, wake up.  It is me, William, and you are safe.”

Elizabeth’s hand pulled free from his, and she reached out, smacking the side of his face.  All the while, she was screaming out against the invisible attack.

Gerald and Georgianna were soon in the room, watching as Fitzwilliam attempted to calm his wife.  Mrs Burke came in the room, a bottle of laudanum in hand.  She quickly poured out a dose and, with help from Fitzwilliam, was able to force the spoon in Elizabeth’s mouth.  This worked, until suddenly, Elizabeth spat the liquid out.

“Mr Darcy, that woman, she tried to force your wife to drink poisoned tea.  We need to find a way to wake her, so that she can take the medicine herself.”

Fitzwilliam nodded his head.  He gathered her arms in his hands and pinned them behind her.  Leaning close to her ear, he spoke gently to his beloved Lizzy.  “Wake up, my love.  Wake, please, dearest.  You will see, no one here wishes to harm you.  I am here, Lizzy.  Your William is with you.  Father and I arrived, please wake so you might greet us.”

Elizabeth continued to struggle, her eyes closed tight and she fought against her husband’s hold, even though it brought tremendous pain from her injured hand.

Finally, after what seemed to be forever, Elizabeth began to realize where she was and who was holding her.  She suddenly cried out, in pain, as her hand was jostled about.

“Dear God, my hand, please release it, William.” She gasped.

“Yes, my love.” He said as his hold opened and freed her hand.  “Forgive me, Lizzy, but you were not yourself.  You would have done yourself or others harm if I had not taken hold of you.”

“I saw her, she was threatening Georgianna.  She was going to kill Georgie, if I did not do as she said.  The tea, she was going to make me drink it, or kill Georgianna if I refused.”

“Do not fret, dearest.  You are safe.  Mrs Younge is dead, she cannot harm anyone else.”

“No, William, not Mrs Younge.  Your cousin, Anne de Bourgh.  I know it was she who was behind all of this.  She hired Mrs Younge, I am sure.  Mrs Younge stated that her employer wished me out of the way, so she could marry you.  It has to be Anne.  And I know she will keep coming for me, until I am dead.”  Elizabeth was sobbing as she spoke, her body wracked with pain and sorrow.

Gerald moved forward, his arm around Georgianna’s shoulders as he pulled her with him.  “Lizzy, I sent word to Lord Matlock and Richard.  I had a feeling that Anne was behind this, and I sent the express, asking them to investigate the matter.  I am certain that they will be on the way to Rosings in the next day.  Have no fear, we will make certain that you are protected.”

“If she can convince one of our servants to kill us, she can do anything she wants.” Elizabeth’s voice was still shaky.  “How do I know what can be trusted and who I will be safe with?  Mrs Younge was the cousin of Mrs Williams.  The man she was working with was the son of Pemberley’s steward.  How can I trust anyone?”

“You can start by trusting me, my love.” Fitzwilliam said, cradling his wife protectively in his arms.  “You trust me, my father, Georgianna, your family.  You trust Uncle Henry, Aunt Rebecca, and their children.  And we will help you learn to trust further.  You know that Mrs Williams and Mrs Burke are worthy of your trust.  And we will take each day as it comes.  Now, would you take some of the medicine, so that you will be able to rest?  You need to rest, my love.”

Elizabeth nodded her head slightly.  “My hand hurts.”

“Forgive me, I did not know what else to do to stop you from hurting yourself or me.” Fitzwilliam smiled.  “You are very strong when you are angry.”

Gerald chuckled.  “You had best keep that in mind for the future, Son.  Do not make your wife angry.”

~~ ** ~~

“Father, there is an express that just arrived for each of us.  From Uncle Gerald.” Richard said to his father.  He had been awakened by his butler after midnight, when the expresses had been delivered.  Knowing that expresses which arrive in the middle of the night was never good news, the butler decided it was best if he were the one to wake the master.

“Good God, what has happened?” Lord Matlock asked, pulling on his dressing robe.  Lady Matlock was reaching for her own robe as she prepared to rise from her bed.  Unlike many couples of the ton, Lord and Lady Matlock shared the same bed each and every night.

“Forgive me, Mother, I did not mean to disturb you as well.” Richard said, before returning his attention to his father.  “There has been another attack on Elizabeth.  The governess they hired temporarily had been hired by a lady to kill Elizabeth.  Uncle Gerald believes it was Anne who hired the woman.”

“Good God, was Lizzy harmed?” Lady Matlock asked.

“She was injured, though she will survive.  Georgianna was there, and she saw the attack.  And George Wickham was involved.”

“We must leave immediately.” Lord Matlock declared.  “Rebecca, you and Ruth remain here.  As guests were to arrive in a fortnight, perhaps you should postpone the ball for some time.  Richard and I will begin at Rosings, and then go to Ramsgate.  I will send you updates as we learn them.”

“Wait until morning, Henry.  It is too dangerous to make such a journey in the middle of the night.  The last thing we need is for you to end up in an accident or robbed by highwaymen.” Lady Matlock stated.

“Very well, my love.  Richard, inform the stable to have the carriage ready and in front of the house by sunrise.  Then have your valet pack for the journey.  We should bring a couple of horses with us, in case we need to move quickly.”

“I will have all ready, Father.  What will we do if we discover that Lady Catherine or Anne are responsible for this attack?

“I am not sure.  I will not protect either of them from facing the consequences for their actions.  But it will all depend on just what they have done.”

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