“Lady Catherine, you have visitors. Lord Matlock and his son, Richard Fitzwilliam, are here.” The butler of Rosings Park announced.
“I have no reason to visit with them. Send them on their way.” Lady Catherine spat out the words. The last thing she wished for was to answer questions her brother would have. She needed to find her daughter and protect her from facing charges of murder of her companion.
“No, Sister, you are not turning me away. We need to have a serious discussion.”
“Henry, be off. I am still angry with you for not protecting my daughter’s future. You should have spoken with Gerald Darcy, influenced him to see that Anne was a much better choice for Fitzwilliam’s wife. Instead, you approved of that country chit becoming the next Mistress of Pemberley. How could you treat your niece in such a way?” Lady Catherine was furious. “You have broken Anne’s heart, as she had planned her life around marrying Fitzwilliam.”
“Where is my niece? I must speak with her.” Lord Matlock demanded.
“Anne has been ill. She is sleeping.” Lady Catherine lied.
“As I said, I must speak with her. Where is her companion? Have the woman wake Anne and prepare herself so I may speak with her.”
“I will not allow you to disturb my daughter’s rest. Her health is frail, so I will not risk her becoming worse by your upsetting her.”
“Catherine, I will not tell you again. Have Anne’s companion prepare my niece or I will go to Anne’s room and wake her myself.”
“Mrs Jenkinson is no longer with us. She did not perform her duties as she was told, so her employment was terminated. The news was difficult for Anne to accept, and she took ill from the news.” Lady Catherine sniffed, her disapproval of the companion being unable to control Anne was high. In her mind, if the woman had been able to keep Anne medicated, everything would have been fine.
“Then I will go to Anne’s rooms myself. Richard, come with me.” Lord Matlock turned and walked towards the door of the drawing room.
“You will not!” Lady Catherine demanded. “You will both leave my home immediately. This is not to be borne, disturbing my daughter, when she is ill. Leave my home and never return.” She had stood and was chasing after her brother and nephew. Lady Catherine grabbed hold of her nephew’s arm. “Richard, I insist you come back to the drawing room this instant.”
“We are going to speak with Anne. Your behavior is telling me that you know very well what is happening. Now, stay out of the way. Father and I will see Anne and speak to her.”
“You cannot.” Lady Catherine shouted. “She is not here.”
Lord Matlock gave his sister a suspicious look. “Do not lie to me, Catherine. I am not in the mood for your foolishness.”
“She is not here. She ran away several days ago. Anne has been upset with all that has happened, and she is not willing to accept Fitzwilliam’s marriage to that nobody.”
“Why did you not inform me of Anne’s disappearance?” Lord Matlock demanded.
“I could not tell anyone, as her reputation might be damaged. It was my hope that she would return home without anyone noticing.” Lady Catherine said. “I was trying to protect my daughter, Henry. You cannot blame me for wishing to protect my daughter.”
“What are you not telling us?” Richard said. “We will find out, so you had best tell us.”
“There is nothing else to tell.” Lady Catherine stuck her nose in the air, attempting to be offended by the accusation.
Richard saw one of the maids walking near the stairs. “You, come here.”
The maid was nervous. She feared the wrath of Lady Catherine, but she could not refuse to speak to the Earl and his son. The woman stepped closer to the group. “Yes, Sir, how might I help you?”
“Do you know what has been happening here?” Richard asked. Seeing the woman’s eyes dart to Lady Catherine and back, Richard was sure there was some sort of secret going on at Rosings.
“W…what do you mean, Sir?”
“I mean, what has been happening here? Where is Mrs Jenkinson? Where is Miss de Bourgh?”
“I…I…do not know, Sir.” The maid said, anxious at angering anyone.
“I believe you do know.” Lord Matlock said. “Have no fear, my sister will do nothing to you. If need be, I will employ you at one of my estates. Now, tell us the truth. Where is Mrs Jenkinson, and where is my niece?”
The maid looked briefly at the fury building in Lady Catherine’s expression. Looking back at the Earl, the maid finally spoke. “Mrs Jenkinson is dead. She was murdered several days ago. Miss de Bourgh disappeared the same time. The physician wished to have Miss de Bourgh moved to a sanitarium, but her mother would not allow such. The physician has been refused to return since just before Mrs Jenkinson was found, as her ladyship was afraid he would call the constable to come and investigate.”
“How dare you speak of my family and home in such a manner?” Lady Catherine attempted to intimidate the maid. “You no longer work here, I will not have you spreading lies about my daughter.”
“Catherine, I will tell you this once, and only once. Shut your mouth and do not say another word. I have had my fill of you.” Lord Matlock was livid with what they had just heard. “A woman is murdered in your home and you do everything possible to prevent the truth from being known. You are just as responsible for her murder as Anne. If your daughter was so ill, why did you refuse to heed the advice of the physician?”
“You do not know what you are talking about!” Lady Catherine shouted. “Anne is delicate, fragile. She always has been. And then, Fitzwilliam married that Bennet girl, ruining Anne’s future. How can she be blamed for reacting poorly, when her dreams were shattered?”
“Reacting poorly?” Richard asked. “My God, Anne murdering someone is not reacting poorly. Anne has been troubled all of her life. And we recently discovered the reason. From what we learned, you are the reason for Anne’s instability. You beat your daughter. You nearly killed her when she was a child. Did you kill your other children?”
“I would never do such a thing.” Lady Catherine was offended. “My husband was abusive. He killed my children, and he would have killed Anne if it were not for me.”
“Sir Lewis de Bourgh was one of the gentlest men I ever knew, Catherine.” Lord Matlock stated. “He was no more violent than a newborn kitten. I knew the man most of my life, and you will never convince me differently. You, on the other hand, were always cruel, especially when you did not have your way.”
“How dare you, Henry? How dare you?”
“If our sister were still alive, she would attest to your cruelty. I remember you smacking her frequently when she was a child, any time her governess was out of the room. You did everything possible to get the attention of our parents, and when they showed our sister the attention you craved, you punished her.”
“I would never harm her. Our sister was dear to me. I even named my daughter after our Anne.”
Lord Matlock had heard enough. “Catherine, you will remain in your rooms. I will have men guard the doors, to ensure you do not leave. Your meals will be brought to you, and you will have no contact with anyone outside of your maid. And she will not be allowed to sneak letters in or out for you.”
“You cannot force me to obey you, Henry. This is my home, you have no authority over my home.”
“It is not your home, Catherine. As your daughter is not competent to take possession, nor will she ever be able to marry someone with her mental condition, so the inheritance reverts to the de Bourgh family. Lewis’ cousin will inherit the estate. You will be fortunate if you are allowed to keep the dower’s house. As far as I am concerned, you deserve to rot in a prison cell.”
“You will not take my home from me, I will not allow it to happen.” Lady Catherine’s anger was growing by leaps and bounds. She moved closer to her brother, her hands balled into fists. Pulling back her arm, Lady Catherine prepared to strike her brother.
Richard was faster, as he took hold of his aunt’s wrist. “No, Lady Catherine, your days of beating others to get your way are over. You will do as Father says, or I will lock you in the basement storeroom. But you will not have your way in this matter.”
“Let go of me, Richard Fitzwilliam.” Lady Catherine brought her other hand forward and clawed at her nephew’s grip on her arm. “Do you hear me? I am Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and I will not be treated in such a manner. Unhand me this instance or I will see you horsewhipped for your behavior.”
“Richard, I leave it to you to see that my sister is locked in a room somewhere. It matters not to me where you put her. I do not care if you bind her hands and feet, she deserves no better.” Lord Matlock said, disgusted with his sister’s behavior. “I will see what more I can learn of the situation.”
Richard called for something with which to bind his aunt, as he was in no mood to allow his aunt an opportunity to cause further harm. Once the men carried Lady Catherine from the hall, where the encounter had played out, Lord Matlock turned his attention to the butler. “Foster, I wish to speak with you, the housekeeper, my niece’s maid, my sister’s maid, and I wish to have someone send for the physician. Have everyone brought to the drawing room, as soon as possible. I need to learn as much as possible before I set out for Ramsgate.”
“Yes, my lord. I will have the maids and Mrs Rupert join us momentarily, and have the physician shown to us the moment he arrives.” Foster said, motioning to one of the footmen who was standing near the front entrance door of the house.
~~ ** ~~
When the servants had gathered in the drawing room with Lord Matlock, the Earl began. “I know that you have all done your jobs according to the dictates of my sister. Out of fear of losing your employment, you have likely kept silent of things that have happened here. But I need to know the truth. My niece has killed her companion, and it is believed that she has hired someone to kill the wife of my nephew, Fitzwilliam Darcy, so that Anne can marry him. I need to learn as much as possible, to find my niece quickly, before she has a chance to harm anyone else.”
The servants nodded their heads. “Mrs Rupert, you have been here the longest. What can you tell me about my sister’s behavior? Has she been violent with my niece, striking her or hitting her with objects?”
The housekeeper looked down at her hands. “Well, um…Sir, your sister has always been quick to anger. She usually calms down soon enough to keep from any real harm, but she has been known to strike many here at Rosings. Miss Anne has been victim of her mother’s tirades often, especially when she was very young. Lady Catherine has no tolerance for crying infants or little children. Miss Anne was a fussy child, which would infuriate her mother.”
“My sister had other children, before Anne. Did she have anything to do with those infants dying?”
Mrs Rupert hesitated for a moment. “It is believed so, Lord Matlock. Sir Lewis came to me, just before Miss Anne’s birth, and begged me to do all I could to protect the babe from Lady Catherine. He believed she was responsible as well.”
Lord Matlock shook his head. “If only Sir Lewis had spoken to me, told me the truth of the situation. Perhaps we could have protected Anne and the other children from my sister. Is it true that Anne suffered a severe head injury as a child?”
“Y…yes. She was…just a small child. The injury nearly killed her. The child was unconscious for nearly a fortnight before she woke. Sir Lewis told his wife that if Miss Anne were to die, he would divorce her and leave her penniless and on the streets.”
Foster spoke. “Lord Matlock, it is believed, by Mrs Rupert and myself, that Sir Lewis’ death was not an accident, as we were told at the time. It is believed he was killed.”
“Good God, why would everyone keep this from me? We would have had my sister locked away in a sanitarium. She is obviously insane.”
“But we did not know if you were to be trusted.” Mrs Rupert said, her eyes pleading with Lord Matlock. “We feared we would face further problems, be dismissed from our work without reference, or worse, injured ourselves. We knew very little about you or your family, how were we to know if you were the same as Lady Catherine?”
“I understand, Mrs Rupert, truly I do. I only wish we could have done something to have prevented all this…this senseless violence. My own brother in law did nothing to stop it, how can you be expected to do what he was not willing?” Lord Matlock was saddened by the situation. “Of late, what has been happening with my niece? How has she been acting?”
Anne’s maid, Molly, spoke. “Miss Anne has been in quite a fit of late. She has been angry, and refuses to take the medicine the physician insists she takes to keep her calm. Like her mother, she lashes out at anyone near her, whenever she is angry.” The maid rolled up her sleeve to show a long burn scar on her upper arm. “She did not think I was working fast enough at styling her hair, so she grabbed the hot curling iron and held it against my arm until I promised to work faster.”
Emmy, Lady Catherine’s maid, had scars as well. A knock on the door announced Mr Jameson. Lord Matlock had met the physician a few times over the years, when he had visited Rosings Park.
“Mr Jameson, we would like to hear your opinion of what is happening with my sister and my niece.”
The physician looked confused. “What has happened? Lady Catherine has refused to allow me to see Miss Anne for some time now. She did not approve of my diagnosis for her daughter and sent me packing.”
“My niece has strangled her companion and disappeared. It seems that she has also been behind an attempt made against my nephew’s new wife.”
“Mrs Darcy? Please tell me that the young lady is well.”
“She is recovering. We fear Anne will make another attempt.”
Mr Jameson was furious. “I blame the mother. Lady Catherine knew how dangerous her daughter could be, yet she refused to do what was necessary to protect others from Miss Anne’s violence. Mrs Jenkinson, she was a kind lady. She did not deserve such an end.”
“What had you suggested my sister do for Anne?”
“Miss Anne should have been placed in an asylum for her own protection, and that of others. The young lady has damage to her mind, caused years ago by abuse she received. Though Lady Catherine claimed it was done by her husband, I have always suspected the culprit to be the grand lady herself.” Mr Jameson spat the words of contempt for Lady Catherine.
“Does anyone know how we will find Anne? Any place she would go? Does she have access to funds?” Lord Matlock asked.
“She has some pin money, but I am not certain how much. Lady Catherine has always been tight fisted when it comes to money.” Foster stated. “But Miss de Bourgh is also sneaky, so she could have gained access to your sister’s study and taken some of the money Lady Catherine keeps there.”
“Very well, we must find a way to discover where Anne is hiding. She must be found before she can cause any further harm.”
~~ ** ~~
Two days had passed since Mrs Younge attacked Elizabeth. Two days of the young Mrs Darcy waking from terrifying dreams. Two days of her being nervous about eating or drinking anything. Two days of pure hell for Fitzwilliam, watching his strong and independent wife in such turmoil.
“Lizzy, you must eat. You will make yourself ill if you do not. Here, I will show you, the food is safe.” Fitzwilliam took a bite of the eggs, followed by a sip of the juice in her glass. “Pleases, my love, eat some of the food.”
“I cannot.” Elizabeth said as tears pooled in her eyes. “Each time I even think of eating, my stomach turns over and I feel as if I will be sick. I do not know why, but even the smell of the food is making me ill.”
“Perhaps some simple toast and tea. Mrs Burke says this tea has chamomile and peppermint. It will be soothing to your stomach. We will take this one step at a time.”
Elizabeth finally made an effort, eating two pieces of toast and drinking a full cup of tea. “No more, William, please. I cannot eat anymore.”
Fitzwilliam leaned forward, placing a kiss on her forehead. “Very well, my dearest. But I will expect you to eat some more, later in the day.”
“I will try.”
~~ ** ~~
Anne de Bourgh was furious. She had heard the news of Mrs Younge’s demise, along with George Wickham. She had heard the details, telling of Mrs Younge being hired to kill Elizabeth Darcy.
“What am I to do now? How am I to get close enough to do the deed myself? And with Uncle Gerald and Fitzwilliam here, they will protect that whore so I will not be able to get near her. How am I going to get rid of her?”
Anne was pacing about the rented rooms she occupied. Her funds were running low, as she had given Mrs Younge part of the money she promised her. She thought of how fortuitous she had felt when she saw Mrs Younge exiting the rented house where Elizabeth and Georgianna were staying. In speaking with the servant, it was clear to see that Mrs Younge was desperate for financial assistance, having debts from her late husband.
Mrs Younge had been willing to commit the murder, so desperate was her situation. So Anne had procured a bottle of arsenic from a man she had met near one of the shadier taverns. She gave the bottle to Mrs Younge, who had stated that Elizabeth began feeling ill. Anne was certain all would be done quickly, and Fitzwilliam would be a widower, available to marry her, as she had planned for many years. Now the plan was ruined, leaving Anne the desperate one. She would have to find the man from the tavern, perhaps she could hire him to do the deed.
~~ ** ~~
“Mr Darcy, I have some news for you.” Mr Cartwright stated, after taking his seat in the chair before the desk in the study of the leased house in Ramsgate.
“Is there something wrong with my daughter? Is she worsened?” Gerald was worried. His son had informed him of Elizabeth’s difficulties in eating and her exhaustion.
“No, Mrs Darcy is recovering from the attack. No, I have news on the vial of poison which was found on Mrs Younge’s person. I had a friend of mine, who is an apothecary, test the contents of the vial. It is his belief that the vial contained nothing more than sugar water with some vanilla added to it for color and fragrance. The person who gave the vial to Mrs Younge was either fooled or did the fooling.”
“Then why has my daughter been ill? She is nauseous, fatigued, and has had headaches.”
“How long have your son and daughter in law been married?” Mr Cartwright asked.
“Over two months.” Gerald said, frowning. Suddenly, the physician’s meaning was clear. “You believe…you are saying…”
“Your daughter in law might be with child? Yes, I believe she might be. I will know more if I can examine her. But I would prefer your son not be in the room. I know he is concerned, and Miss Darcy informed me that he had a difficult time when your wife died in childbirth. If he is in the room, I am afraid Mrs Darcy will not feel free to speak openly with me.”
“I can have my son meet with me, allowing you the time you need with Elizabeth.” Gerald said. “I need to inform him of an express which just arrived before you, which is in regards to the person responsible for all of this.”
~~ ** ~~
“William, would you come to the study? I just received an express from your uncle.” Gerald said after he entered Elizabeth’s bedchamber. “I wish for Lizzy to rest while we discuss the news.”
“I do not wish to leave my wife. I am certain Lizzy will wish to hear the news as well.” Fitzwilliam replied.
“William, you have been at my side long enough. Please, go with your father. I will be here when you return.” Elizabeth said, with a weak smile.
There was a knock on the door. Gerald pretended not to know that it was Mr Cartwright. “Ah, Mr Cartwright, how good to see you. Please, enter.”
“I have come to check on my patients. How are you today, Mrs Darcy?”
“She still has difficulty eating.” Fitzwilliam replied, before his wife could say anything.
“Well, let us see what can be done. Would you gentlemen mind giving Mrs Darcy and me a few moments?” Mr Cartwright asked.
“Yes, yes, I was just asking my son to meet with me in my study. Now that you are here, I believe he will feel more comfortable leaving her, with you at her side.”
Fitzwilliam agreed to accompany his father, and left the bedchamber, after giving his wife a kiss on the cheek. “I will be back in a few moments.”
“William, take your time. I do not wish for you to become ill for tending me and ignoring your own needs.”
“I will be back in a few moments, so accept that fact.” He said, as he lightly tapped the tip of her nose with his finger.
~~~~~~~ ** ~~~~~~~
Mr Cartwright waited until Fitzwilliam had left the room to sit in the chair which was beside the bed. “Mrs Darcy, how are you today?”
“Still queasy. Certain smells make my stomach turn. And I am still fatigued. How long does it take for the poison to work its way out of the body?”
“Well, after consulting with a friend of mine, an apothecary of whom I have the highest respect, I do not believe you were poisoned. He examined the few drops which remained in the vial which was found in Mrs Younge’s possession. My friend believes the vial contained sugar water and vanilla.”
“But why would I be ill?” Elizabeth was concerned.
“I have a few questions for you. First, when did you have your last courses?”
Elizabeth’s eyes grew wide. “You do not think…do you?”
“That is what I wish to discover. Can you tell me when you had your last courses?”
Thinking for a few moments, it dawned on her that she had not had her courses since her wedding. She informed the physician of the information. “I have always been very punctual with when my courses come.”
“Have you noticed any other changes in your body? Any changes in sensitivity to your…your breasts? Many ladies claim they feel extremely sensitive in that area, as your body begins making changes to prepare you for motherhood.”
“I have noticed some changes, but thought it was just…just because…”
“Because you were a new bride?” Mr Cartwright asked. When she nodded her head, he continued. “I believe we may be on the correct path, as you are showing all the signs of being with child. Of course we will not know for certain until there is a quickening, when you feel the babe move inside you, but I believe you are on your way with the next generation of Darcys.”
“Oh, my. So much has happened since our wedding, but we have not had a chance to discuss children. My husband, he…”
“Will be nervous, due to his mother’s death?”
“How did you know?”
“Your sister told me. Have no fear, I will keep the information private. Especially since you have been ill, your husband will be even more concerned. Perhaps we should claim you have contracted a simple illness, which will pass soon enough. And I suggest you drink a tea blend which has mint and some other herbs blended in, to aid your stomach to calm. It will most likely be that some smells will continue to affect you. I suggest you speak with your housekeepers about serving some bland foods that would be easier to tolerate. They should be able to keep your secret from your husband. And your father in law, he will be of assistance with your husband.”
Elizabeth looked questioningly towards the physician. “My father in law? Is he aware…of what we…just discussed?”
“I spoke with him briefly before we came upstairs. He came to my aid in removing your husband so I could speak openly with you.”
“It will be nice to have someone with whom to speak. He will be able to assist me in finding the best way to discuss the matter with William.” Elizabeth bit her bottom lip, unsure of whether she should be happy or worried. The thought of their child, William’s child, growing inside her was thrilling. But the fear of his reaction tempered her enthusiasm.
“Your mother has given birth to how many children?”
“Four. Three daughters and a son.”
Mr Cartwright felt a bit of relief. “Did she have any difficulties with her confinements? Anything of which you are aware?”
“No, but I am certain she would be happy to discuss the situation. She cannot wait to be a grandmother. The only problem is that she will not be able to contain her excitement once she learns of a grandchild on its way.”
“What of your father? Can he be trusted to keep a secret?”
Elizabeth nodded her head. “He would know if Mamma had any difficulties. I will write to him.”
“Very well. Now, your wrist is going to take some time to heal, as will the bruising and the cut on your head. We should be able to remove the stitches next week, as the wound is knitting nicely. The splint will need to remain on the wrist for at least a month, if not six weeks.”
“It is frustrating.” Elizabeth said. “I broke my arm when I was a child, and I could not tolerate a week of my arm being splinted, let alone six weeks. Only the threat of being cut off from my father’s books convinced me to behave myself.” She laughed at the memory.
“I will have to make a similar suggestion to your husband then, Mrs Darcy.”
“What sort of suggestion?” Came the voice of Fitzwilliam Darcy, as he opened the door.
“To force your wife’s cooperation in leaving the splint on her wrist by restricting her access to reading materials if she does not behave.” Mr Cartwright announced. “She said that is how her father controlled her when she broke her arm as a child.”
Fitzwilliam laughed. “Yes, that would force compliance on Lizzy’s part, as she is addicted to reading. How is she, Mr Cartwright?”
“Doing better. We were just discussing that it appears she was not poisoned. My apothecary friend believes the vial contained simple sugar water and vanilla. Whoever gave the mixture to Mrs Younge was a fool, thank the heavens.”
“But what of her symptoms?”
“I believe she has a simple illness. I treated another patient with similar symptoms, and the lady was ill for about a week. Bland foods would be best, and I have suggested a special blend of tea which will help with the nausea. I will have some of the tea sent over, to see if it helps.”
“Thank you, Mr Cartwright. This is wonderful news. What a relief, to know that she is not suffering from poison.” Fitzwilliam said, as he took hold of the physician’s hand and shook it eagerly.
“Indeed. Now, I will check on Mrs Williams. She seems to be coming along nicely.”
~~ ** ~~
“You, yes you, come here.” Anne said to a man who came from a seedy tavern. “I need to hire someone to do a job for me, and wish to know if you would be willing.”
“What be the job? My missus be harpin’ we needin’ funds.” The man stated. Little did Anne de Bourgh know, but she was speaking to a detective who was searching Ramsgate on behalf of a wealthy duke. The duke’s niece had been ruined by a young man, before the man ran off, leaving the girl in a family way. Seeing the lady before him, the detective, Albert Moreland, could tell she was quality by the cut of her gown. Something was suspicious, and Moreland decided to see what it was.
“I need someone to eliminate a problem which is restricting my betrothed from marrying me. The problem is a harlot who has attached herself to my betrothed, forcing him to marry her. The poor man is miserable and has begged for my assistance to rid himself of her, so we can be wed.”
“So you be wishin a bit o’ fluff killed? It’ll cost ya extra, bein a woman.”
Anne smiled. “The price is no problem. But this has to be done soon.”
“And who be the chit? Where she be found?” Moreland played the part well as he extracted the information needed to protect the lady he was being asked to murder.
“My betrothed is Fitzwilliam Darcy. He is married to an Elizabeth Bennet. They are staying at a leased house, at 22 Post Street. I will give you two hundred pounds up front, and another five thousand pounds when the job is complete, so long as it is done within the next week. If not done in one week’s time, I will deduct from the final payment.”
“And how do I finds ya, when I’s done the deed?”
Anne reached in her reticule and removed the funds and a slip of paper with the inn where she was staying written down. “You can leave a message for me here. Leave word where I can meet you and when, after you have done the job.”
“I be checkin out the doin’s on Post Street. Many thanks for the work, milady.” Moreland took the funds and the slip of paper, putting them in his pocket, before leaving.
Once he was certain that Anne had left, Moreland set off to the boarding house where he was staying. He would change into his normal attire before making his way to speak with the Darcys.
~~ ** ~~
Mrs Burke knocked on the door to the study, where Gerald Darcy was rereading his brother in law’s letter which had arrived just an hour previous. “Sir, there is a Mr Moreland here to speak with you. He is a detective, and has come across some information which he claims is of vital importance to you.”
Gerald stood, as he requested the man be shown to him. As Moreland entered the room, Gerald reached out his hand to him, shaking Moreland’s hand in greeting. “My housekeeper says you have important information for me. What might that be?”
“I was searching for a scoundrel for my current employer, and had dressed down, allowing me easier access to some of the seedier locations in the areas. As I was exiting a tavern, I had a lady approach me with an offer of work.”
Gerald had motioned to the bottle of port, and Moreland nodded his head. As Gerald handed the glass of amber liquid to the man, he asked. “And the work was?”
“To murder your son’s wife.”
Swallowing his drink in one gulp, Gerald refilled his glass. “The lady who approached you, what did she say was her reason for wishing my daughter in law dead?”
“That your son was her betrothed and that the death would release him from the unwanted marriage, so he could marry her.”
“Good God, she will stop at nothing. And what did you say to her?”
Moreland took a drink from his glass. “I took the job. It was best that she thought I would perform the deed rather than her attempting to hire someone who would actually carry out the request.”
“I thank you for that, Mr Moreland. And you will be amply rewarded. Did the lady give you a way to contact her? I assume she did not pay you in advance.”
“I received a down payment, but, yes, she gave a location where I am to leave word for her. Once the murder is committed, I am to leave a message with a location and time to meet. She is to bring the money to me then.”
“Good, good. Then we will have a way of capturing her. Either at the location or at her rooms. I will send word to my brother in law, Lord Matlock. He is at Rosings Park, so he and his son can arrive quickly. Did the lady give you a deadline?”
Moreland nodded his head. “Yes, within a week. Forgive me for asking, Mr Darcy, but do you know who the lady is, without seeing her?”
“I believe it is my niece, Anne de Bourgh. We believe she has already made one attempt on my daughter in law, and will not stop until she achieves her goal. She is deranged, as my son was never betrothed to her and has no desire to change wives.”
“I had heard there was a commotion involving your family recently. Might I ask what happened?”
“An employee attempted to poison my daughter in law, and when that did not succeed, she planned to shoot her. Originally, she was involved with a young man in a plot to kidnap my young daughter. Who knew there would be so much to fear in this world? The young man was the son of my steward.” Gerald drained his glass and placed it on the desktop. “Might I ask the name of the man for which you are searching?”
“The scoundrel’s name is George Wickham.” Moreland stated. “He ruined a young lady, and her relations wish to have a…conversation with the man.”
“Well, you will need a shovel, as Wickham is buried in the cemetery near the church. He was the man involved in the plot to kidnap Miss Darcy.” Gerald shook his head. “Another blow that will tear at his father’s heart. Is the girl he ruined with child?”
“Yes, it is my understanding that she is carrying his child.”
“Would you notify your employer that I am willing to make arrangements for the child, if that meets with his approval? It would give some peace to my steward, to know his grandchild is given a proper home.”
“I will send a letter to my employer today, and inform him of your generous offer. If you wish, I will remain here, to assist you in capturing your niece.”
“It would be my wish to employ you to aid us. My thanks to God for sending you to us when he did.”
~~ ** ~~
“I want to know the next ship leaving for Australia.” Lord Matlock stated to the postilion who had arrived with Lady Matlock. “Find the scheduled departures for the next fortnight, so we can make arrangements to send my sister.”
After the young man left, Lady Matlock moved towards her husband. “I do not know why I am surprised by all that has happened. Your sister has always been cruel, but to learn she injured her child, a helpless child…forgive me, but I wish that woman all the agony she has inflicted be returned to her.”
“She will know agony when she is sent on a ship to Australia. My sister will no longer be the pampered royalty she has thought herself, but a prisoner serving her sentence. No one will give her the respect she demands.”
“It is still too good for Catherine. She deserves to be tortured and beaten, as she has done to others. And she should suffer the consequences for what her daughter has done, as she is responsible for Anne’s instability. When are we to go to Ramsgate? I wish to be there, to see Lizzy for myself. And I wish to hold Georgianna in my arms and give her the comfort only a mother can give.”
“As soon as we have the situation with Catherine managed, I will take us to Ramsgate.” Lord Matlock said, embracing his wife and gently caressing her back with his hand gliding over the smooth fabric of her gown.
“Can we not take Catherine with us to Ramsgate, send her on a ship from there? There must be some ship making the journey from Ramsgate.”
“The magistrate will arrive shortly. Once we explain that we will pay the fees to have my sister transported, so that we can keep the situation quiet, I am certain he will be able to tell us what we can do with her. If possible, I would like to hand her over to Lord Percy and be done with the matter.”
Their attention was diverted to the sound of someone walking towards the room. Foster announced that Lord Percy had arrived.
“Percy, though I am glad to see you, I am sorry that I had to send for you.” Lord Matlock said as he shook hands with his school mate.
“Henry, I was shocked to receive a summons to come here at your request. Has something happened to your sister or her daughter?”
“This is a sad and frustrating situation, my friend. Please have a seat. Might I offer you a glass of port?”
“Yes, I would accept a glass. Now, what is happening?”
Lord and Lady Matlock explained the situation to Lord Percy, explaining Lady Catherine’s abuse of her daughter, the physical abuse of the servants, and Anne’s killing of her companion. Lord Percy shook his head as he listened to the details of suffering that had been happening for years.
“We believe Anne is in Ramsgate, as an attempt was made on the life of my nephew’s wife. Fitzwilliam Darcy married a few months ago, and Anne is adamant that she is betrothed to Fitzwilliam. She is attempting to remove his wife from his life, thinking she would then be able to wed him.”
“Henry, I am amazed that this has happened. I dined with Catherine just a few months ago. She said that Anne was not feeling well, and had requested a tray sent to her rooms. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary.”
“My sister has covered her deeds for so long, now everything is coming to light. And, though my niece has suffered, she is committing crimes that must be stopped.”
Foster came to the door and knocked. “Lord Matlock, an express just arrived for you.”
Lord Matlock accepted the message and broke the seal. “It is from Gerald Darcy. He is in Ramsgate. They have found where Anne is staying and they know how to trap her. She approached someone in an attempt to hire them to kill Elizabeth, only she did not know the man she approached was a detective who was dressed to be able to fit in a questionable area where he was searching for a man on another case.”
“You will want to leave to join Gerald.” Lord Percy stated. “I know that there is a transport ship, the Fortune, which will leave England on the third of December, for Australia. In the meantime, there is a prison hulk just outside of Chatham, the HMS Fortitude. I will personally see that Catherine is taken to Chatham and that she is housed on the prison hulk. Then, in December, I will see that she is transported to Australia. You must know, the chances of your sister arriving in Australia alive, at her age, are not good.”
Lord Matlock nodded his head. “I am aware. Catherine deserves whatever she gets, after all she has done to others. She is responsible for what Anne has done and is doing. So, I will leave the situation in your hands. My sister is already dead, so far as I am concerned. And here are the funds to pay for her keep until she is transported to Australia.” Lord Matlock reached into his pocket and withdrew some money.
“Good luck, Henry. I pray that you find your niece without further problems and no one else is harmed.” Lord Percy shook hands with his friend, then requested pen, ink, and paper. He would write to the constable to assist in taking Lady Catherine to Chatham.
~~ ** ~~
“Henry, Richard, I am glad you have arrived. We are going over the plans for luring Anne to a meeting place.” Gerald said to his brother in law and nephew. “I have hired more men to help us contain the situation, so no one else is injured.”
“Good. Rebecca is upstairs, with Lizzy and Georgianna.” Lord Matlock stated. “She could not stand to remain at Netherfield with Ruth, so she made the journey to Rosings to join us.”
“The girls can stand some mothering from Rebecca.” Gerald said with a smile. “It pleases me that Rebecca cares for them as much as she does.”
The men discussed the plan they had concocted for capturing Anne. Mr Cartwright was involved in the plan, as he would be summoned to the house, to make it appear that there was an urgent need for medical attention. They were sure that Anne was watching the house, or had hired someone to watch it for her, so they had been careful sneaking the hired men into the house.
When the plan was put into motion, there would be shouting inside the house, to make it appear that something had happened. There would be calls for someone to fetch Mr Cartwright immediately, loud enough that anyone in the area would hear the commotion. After Mr Cartwright was at the house, there would be wailing from inside, as if some tragedy had befallen the family. When the physician left the house, he would appear to be grief-stricken.
Then Moreland would deliver the message to the inn where Anne was staying. There would be some men who would wait outside the inn, watching for Anne. It was decided that Richard would wait with those men, and follow Anne to the meeting place.
The location that was chosen was a stable behind a small tavern, in an area which would easily be contained. There, Gerald and his men, along with Lord Matlock, would be hidden and await Anne’s arrival. Due to his extreme anger, it was decided that Fitzwilliam would remain at the house. It was feared what he would do to Anne if he were to get his hands on her.
Once Anne was captured, they would have Mr Cartwright return to the house. They were certain that she would need to be sedated. And Mr Cartwright had sent word to a colleague who ran a sanitarium. Anne would be taken there, once she was sedated.
All the preparations were in place. Three of the hired men left the house, to find places they could blend in and watch the inn. Due to the lateness of the day, the plan was to be put into place the following morning.
The Darcys and Fitzwilliams enjoyed a pleasant dinner that evening, before all retired early for the evening. The following day was going to be eventful and full of stress, and everyone would need to be at their best.