Chapter 13

Elizabeth had tried to calm her son, but he had wet his nappy and was in need of changing.  “Please, Papa, I need to find some cloth that I can use for my son’s bottom.  He is wet, and uncomfortable.”

“Fanny, he will be fine.  When Wickham returns, I will have him ask my mother for some cloths. He most likely needs to be fed.  And the wet nurse is nowhere to be found.  I do not know what to do to feed him.”

“If we had some porridge, he might be satisfied for a bit.  Or some soft bread.  I believe he is teething, and chews on everything.”

Mr Bennet walked closer to her.  “He takes after the Gardiner side, rather than mine.  I cannot see a resemblance to me at all.”

Realizing that her father was delusional, Elizabeth attempted to find something she claim.  “But look, his chin.  He has the Bennet chin.  Strong, noble, very handsome.  He will make all the girls swoon over him one day.”

“As long as he does not fall in with the wrong people, like that man, Darcy.  We must keep a close watch over our son, Fanny.  I wish to protect my children from being ruined by the likes of such an evil person.”

Elizabeth had to bite her tongue.  “I will make sure that my son is protected from evil, I promise you.”

“I pray that Wickham can bring our girls here, safe and sound.  I am worried that something will happen to them.  Mother said that it is vital that a daughter is kept safe, for one could never be too careful.”

“Of course.  Your mother has always been wise.”  Elizabeth replied, remembering her grandmother.

“And Jacob must be taught to respect ladies.  I will not have my son bedding maids and tavern girls.  He must save himself for marriage.  But I know he will be fortunate, as all the girls will wish to be his wife.  With his handsome looks and heir to the estate, he will be swarmed with many ladies to choose from.”

“Of course.  Jacob is a handsome young man.” She thought of her brother, fighting for his life.  Elizabeth prayed that he would live, to one day marry and have a family of his own.

“Where is Wickham?  He should have returned by now.  There was firewood stacked by the door to the kitchen.” Mr Bennet paced about.  “I pray he has not been captured by Darcy.  I cannot lose my only assistance.  How will I reclaim the girls if I have no one to aid me?”

“You could speak with Mr Darcy, come to some sort of understanding.  I am certain he would allow the girls to return home.”

Mr Bennet shook his head.  “You are a foolish woman, and do not understand the ways of some men.  Your life has been sheltered, you have not seen the cruelty and heartlessness some men have inside them.”

“Of course, you would know more than I on the matter.”  Elizabeth attempted to appease her father.  Ben continued to fuss, unhappy with his condition.

“Please, do something for our son, Fanny.  Do not allow him to be so ill natured.  Make him behave.  I cannot tolerate the squalling.”

“The only way I can stop his fussing is to change his nappy, and feed him.  I cannot do that down here.  Perhaps we could go up, I am certain I could find some cloth to use and I could fix something for him to eat.”

“I have already told you, it is not safe for us to go up.  If Darcy finds us, he could kill us.  Do you want him to take our son from us?  Do you wish to be murdered by such a cruel man?”  Mr Bennet nearly shouted.  “Wickham will bring the supplies, when he returns.”

“Then we will have to wait, and you will have to be patient with the cries.” Elizabeth said as she started singing softly to her son.

~~ ** ~~

Mr Phillips sent word to Netherfield for his wife to come to Longbourn. They had a plan that the men prayed would keep Mr Bennet off balanced enough to come up from the cellar, and allow the men to capture him without further difficulties.

When Mrs Phillips arrived, she was told the plan.  The men wished for her to enter the dower house, calling out her sister’s name.  They wanted her to convince Thomas Bennet that she came to offer assistance, and even attempt to convince him she could help in bringing the girls home.  It brought Mrs Phillips pain, pretending her sister and her nieces were still alive, but she would do what she could to save Elizabeth and Ben.

“Mr Darcy, Lizzy is dear to us.  So is Ben.  My sister would wish me to do everything possible to protect them.”  Mrs Phillips leaned forward and embraced the young man who had won Elizabeth’s heart.

Unfamiliar with such a show of emotions from someone he barely knew, Darcy was at first reluctant, yet was extremely grateful for his wife’s family.  “You have my undying gratitude, Mrs Phillips.”

“I believe it is time you called me Aunt Phillips.  Now, you men will be close?”

Mr Phillips nodded his head.  “I will follow you inside, and keep out of sight.  Once you convince him to come up from the cellar, try to move him away from the bookcase.  He will most likely be hesitant to go to the door, but if he thinks Wickham is in need of his assistance, perhaps he will be more willing.”

The couple moved to the cottage, with Darcy and Mr Gardiner close behind them.  The men stationed around the cottage moved closer and prepared themselves.

Mrs Phillips entered the cottage, followed by her husband, who had taken his shoes off and was being careful to not make a sound.  Once he was hidden, Mrs Phillips began her task.

“Mr Bennet, are you here?  I am looking for my sister.  I must speak with Fanny quickly, as it is a matter of great importance.”  Mrs Phillips walked a little closer to the bookcase.  “Fanny, are you here?  Please, I must speak with my sister immediately.  Mr Bennet, please, may I speak with Fanny?”

There was no response.  Mrs Phillips spoke a little louder.  “Mr Bennet, I must speak with Fanny.  I know how to find the girls, and bring them home.  But I must speak with Fanny.  We have to act quickly, before the girls are moved to a different location.  If we hurry, we will be able to free them.”

Slowly, the bookcase inched forward.  “Are you alone?” Mr Bennet asked.

“Yes, Thomas, I am.  I came as soon as I learned where the girls are being held, so I could help you and Fanny recover them.” Mrs Phillips stated.  “My poor sister must be distraught with her daughters missing.  I came to be of assistance to you both.”

“How do I know you are not aiding that blackguard, Darcy?  How do I know he has not paid you to betray us?”

“Thomas Bennet, how could you think I would betray my beloved sister?  She is dear to me, and you well know it.  And your daughters and Jacob are as dear to me as if they were my own.  I would do anything I could to protect your family.”

Mr Bennet thought for a few moments.  Mrs Phillips could hear Ben fussing from the basement.

“Is something wrong with B…baby Jacob?” She asked.

“He is wet and hungry.  I would not allow Fanny to come up, told her we had to wait for Wickham to return.”  Mr Bennet glanced behind him at the cellar.  “Can you find us some cloth and make something for the lad to eat?  Fanny said some porridge might do the trick.”

“Why do you not have Fanny come up?  I will make some porridge, while Fanny finds a cloth to use for the poor boy.  He must be very uncomfortable.”

“He has been fussing for some time now.  I cannot remember his ever being so ill tempered.” Mr Bennet stated.  “But I should check outside, make certain no one else is about.  If anyone were to see smoke coming from the chimney, they might investigate.”

“I did not see anyone, but you are correct, you can never be too careful.  While you are checking outside, I will check to see if we have everything needed to feed the babe.”  After stumbling over Ben’s identity before, she decided to refer to him as the babe.

Mr Bennet nodded his head.  “Mother should have everything you need.  She keeps the pans in the cupboard next to the stove.”

“Thank you, Thomas.  Now let us get a move on.  We need to tend the babe in a hurry, so we can fetch the girls.  They will not be there forever.”

Mr Bennet headed slowly towards the door, looking back at his sister in law carefully.  “How did you know where to find us?”

Mrs Phillips had to think quickly.  “I saw Mr Wickham.  He knew that I am Fanny’s sister, and I told him how worried I have been for her safety.  He told me of your location.  It was he who told me where to find the girls, and he went ahead of us to keep watch, so they do not leave before we arrive to return them home.”

“Wickham told you?  So he is watching over my girls?”

“Yes, but we must hurry.  If we take too long, the girls might be moved somewhere we are unable to get to them.”  Mrs Phillips stated.  “Go, check outside, and make sure it is safe for my sister and nephew to come up.”

Mr Bennet was satisfied with her answer.  He moved to the door, opening it, and stepped outside.  As soon as he did, Mr Phillips came out of his hiding place and slammed the door shut, locking it against Mr Bennet re-entering the cottage.

“Mrs Phillips, what is the meaning of this?  Open the door this minute.  I demand you open the door.”  Mr Bennet beat on the door.  The man began attempting to force the door open, breaking the glass window with his elbow.

As Mr Bennet was struggling to open the door and return inside, Darcy and Mr Gardiner led the other men forward and surrounded the gentleman.

Mr Bennet recognized Darcy, and became enraged.  “You…you have turned my sister in law against her own flesh and blood?  You stole my wife and children, took them from me.  Now you come to take back my wife and son?  I will see them dead before I allow you to take them from me.”

“Mr Bennet, the young lady inside this house is not your wife, she is your daughter, Elizabeth.  Elizabeth is my wife.  The babe is my son, your grandson.  His name is Bennet Gerald Darcy.”

“You lie. Elizabeth is a child, a girl.  She is not a mother or a wife.  That is Fanny, my wife.  Do not attempt to trick me into believing your lies.  I want my daughters returned to me.  I want you to go away and leave us be.”  Mr Bennet held a piece of broken glass as if it were a knife.

“Mr Bennet, I have not taken your daughters or your wife from you.  Mrs Bennet died, as did your youngest three daughters.  Mary, Kitty, and Lydia died. By your own hand.”

Mr Bennet was wild.  “It is not possible.  I love my wife and children.  I would never harm them.  Fanny and my son are inside this cottage.  How can you tell me she is dead?  You are a cruel man, attempting to convince me of something so terrible.  I could never harm my family.  Where is my mother?  She will tell you.  I have never been a violent man.”

Mr Gardiner stepped forward.  “Bennet, your mother died many years ago.  You suffered a head injury, and it has played tricks with your mind.  I am not lying to you.  My sister, my dear sister, Fanny, is dead.  Mary, Kitty, and Lydia are gone as well.  You did not mean to hurt them, I am certain, but you killed them.  Jacob and Jane are fighting for their lives.  You stabbed them, repeatedly.  Do you remember?”

“You are lying, Gardiner.  Why are you trying to hurt me?”  Mr Bennet had tears of anguish streaming from his eyes.  “You know how much I love my family, why would you tell me such lies?”

“Because you need to know the truth.  You are not in your right mind.  We know that.  We want to get you some help.” Mr Gardiner stated carefully.  “My sister would want us to aid you.”

Mr Bennet thought for a few moments.  “I do not believe you.  I could not behave in such a manner.  It is this man…this evil man, Darcy, who has made you all lie.  Why would you turn against me?  Why would you attempt to hurt me so dearly?  We are family.  You are my wife’s brother.”  The man was near sobbing from pain.

Turning slightly, he saw Wickham being restrained by two men.  “Wickham, tell them the truth.  Tell them that Darcy is not to be trusted.  Tell them how he treated you poorly, cheating you from your inheritance.”  Mr Bennet turned his attention back to his brother in law.  “Gardiner, listen to what Mr Wickham has to tell you.  You will see the truth in his words.  You will see that Darcy is evil.”

The door of the cottage opened carefully.  Elizabeth was standing there, having handed her son to her aunt.  “Papa, please, I am your daughter.  I am Lizzy.  You must believe me, I am not Mamma.  I am your daughter.  Mr Wickham is the liar.  He has deceived you, knowing you were not at your best.  You had an accident, when your horse threw you to the ground.  You hit your head.  It did damage to your mind.”

Mr Bennet stared at Elizabeth, trying desperately to understand what was being told to him.  He could not believe what was being said, especially that his beloved Lizzy was now a grown young lady, a wife and mother.

He bit his lower lip between his teeth, a nervous habit he and Elizabeth had both shared.

Elizabeth tried to smile.  “You always told me not to bite my lip, as one day I might bite too hard and cut my lip.”

“Fanny does not bite her lip…she is not…you are not…you…you are Lizzy?”  Mr Bennet was deeply confused.  “Not your mother?”

“I am Lizzy, Papa.  I am your Lizzy.”

Just then, Wickham broke free of the men holding on to him, grabbing the knife from the boot sheath of the militia officer.  He lunged towards Elizabeth, planning to take away Darcy’s wife before his eyes.

Mr Bennet heard the scuffle and turned, seeing Wickham approaching rapidly, knife in hand, and his eyes fixed on Elizabeth.  The Master of Longbourn made a quick movement, blocking Wickham’s advancement while plunging his shard of glass into Wickham’s chest.

Darcy and Mr Gardiner moved forward, with the former taking hold of his wife, holding her tight against his chest.  Mr Gardiner went to his brother in law, who was now lying on the ground, partially draped over Wickham’s lifeless body.

When Mr Bennet was turned, the knife Wickham had been holding was embedded in Mr Bennet’s chest.

“My Lizzy…my little…Lizzy…all grown up…”

Elizabeth pulled back from her husband and knelt at her father’s side.  Picking up his hand, she placed a gentle kiss on its back.  “Yes, Papa, I am your Lizzy.  Not so little anymore, but I am still Lizzy.”

“Forgive…me…so confused…so confused…love you…my Lizzy.  Love my…family…dearly.  So confused…so…”

With one last breath, Mr Thomas Bennet died, looking into the eyes of his beloved daughter.  Tears were flowing freely down Elizabeth’s cheeks.  “I forgive you Papa.  You would never have done what you did, if you were in your right mind.  I understand, and I forgive you.  Be at peace, Papa.”

Darcy leaned over and assisted his wife to stand.  “Are you well, my love?  You and Ben, you were not harmed, were you?”

Elizabeth shook her head.  “We are well.  Ben is in need of his nanny, but otherwise, we are well.  Papa thought I was my mother when she was younger.  He thought Ben was Jacob.  He thought he was protecting us.”

“He gave his life to protect you, in the end.” Mr Gardiner stated, as he stood nearby.

Mr and Mrs Phillips exited the cottage, with Mrs Phillips holding the still fussy Ben.

Darcy placed a kiss on his wife’s forehead, before taking hold of his son.  “Let us take you to Netherfield.  You both need to be tended.  Hot baths, food, and rest.”

“But my father…his body…”

“Do not fret, my love.  The men will bring him to Netherfield.  We will prepare him to be buried beside your mother.”

Elizabeth nodded her head.  “Before Papa became so delusional, he and Mamma did care for each other.  She would want him at her side.”

“The man who committed the murders was not your father.” Darcy declared.  “The man who died saving your life was your father.  That is what you need to remember.  Your father loved you dearly, and he saved you from Wickham.  The other man, was formed from the accident.  Now, let us return to Netherfield.”

~~ ** ~~

On the way to Netherfield, Elizabeth learned that Jane had been conscious and spoken with her aunt and Charles Bingley.  This sent Elizabeth’s heart into joy, as she prayed it meant Jane would be recovering.

“And Jacob, is he…”

“When I left the house, Jacob was still alive, and still fighting a fever.  The physicians are doing all they can.”  Mrs Phillips stated.  “I believe Jacob will recover.  I do not know how I know this, it is just a feeling I have.  Like when Fanny was carrying him.  She was so nervous that he would be another daughter, but I knew that Jacob was going to be the long awaited heir.  I now feel strongly that he will recover.”

“I pray you are correct, Aunt.”  Elizabeth said.  It was clear that she was exhausted, as she leaned against her husband, as his strong arms her close.

~~ ** ~~

Elizabeth had to be carried inside when the carriage reached Netherfield’s main house.  She was exhausted, and in need of as much rest as possible.  She stirred when her husband placed her on top of the bed.  “William, I must check on Jane, and Jacob.”

“My dear wife, you are going nowhere until you have rested, eaten a meal, and taken a bath, and not necessarily in that order.  You have been through a terrible ordeal, and have not slept in days.  If you do not take care of yourself, you will end up ill, and having to stay in bed.  I know you would hate such, and therefore you need to do as I say.”  Darcy held her to the bed for a moment.  “The maids are preparing a bath for you, and the kitchen will send up a meal for the both of us after your bath.  While you are bathing, I will check on your brother and sister, so we can speak while we dine.”

“Ben…I need…”

“Elizabeth Darcy, what do I need to do to see that you obey my commands?” He smiled as he spoke.  They had often teased about her being unable to repeat that particular statement in their wedding vows.  Elizabeth had stated she would love, honor, and attempt to obey her husband.

“I will attempt to obey you, William.  Will you check on our son?  Poor thing, he was miserable.”  Elizabeth said, with a small smile on her lips.

“I promise to check on our son, and to tell him that he is loved by his most cherished and wonderful mother, who will see him on the morrow.” Darcy placed a kiss on her lips.  “And he will be content to know his Mamma is safe and sound.”

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

Chapter 14

The following morning, Elizabeth woke later than her like.  She found her bed exceedingly warm and comforting, wrapped in her husband’s strong arms.  Turning her head, she was rewarded with the sight of her husband’s sleeping face.

Over the previous year, there were many changes in her life.  It had been difficult learning to be a wife, mistress of such a grand estate as Pemberley, especially during the aftermath of the earthquake.  Elizabeth had become friends with her husband, and their romance grew from the friendship.

Remembering the first time her husband showed a romantic side of his personality, she could remember how shocked she was with his actions.  Fitzwilliam Darcy was a shy man, who did not usually do well in large groups or with people he did not know.  Having everyone in the neighborhood turning to him for answers after the earthquake had been trying for him.  Darcy thanked his wife many times for her support, but had done so as a friend.  Then, in the spring, Darcy surprised her.

He came to Elizabeth’s sitting room, where she was reading.  She had just come to realize that she was with child, and had yet to inform her husband.  As he entered the room, he spoke.

“It is such a beautiful day, I am surprised to find you indoors.”

“My uncle sent this book to me, and I have wished to read it so much that I remained here to do so.  I should have taken it with me outdoors, and gone to the gardens.”

“Well, why do you not take a turn in the gardens with me?  I find myself itching to be in the sunshine, enjoying the warmth, and could not think of anyone else I would prefer to be with than you.”

Elizabeth smiled.  “Very well, William.  I will retrieve my bonnet and pelisse and meet you downstairs.”

“What would you say if I were to tell you I have already taken the liberty of doing so for you?” Darcy asked sheepishly.

“I would say that you are up to something, Husband.”

“Come, Elizabeth, let us take in the gardens and enjoy the lovely weather.”

The couple walked for a little while, chatting about nothing of importance.  When they came around the edge of some hedges, Elizabeth gasped.  There, in the gardens, was an elaborate picnic set up for the couple.

“William, did you plan all of this?”

Darcy was proud of his ingenuity.  “I most certainly did.  Nothing is too good for my wife, who has been the strength behind me, so I thought I would show you how important you are to me.”

Darcy aided her to sit on the ground, then acted as if he were a servant, preparing everything for her enjoyment.  “Elizabeth, I know you did not come to be my wife willingly, but you have shown strength and grace every step of the way.  Even when given a way out of the marriage, when your father came, you stayed at my side, giving all of yourself to me.  You will never know how dear you are to me, for there are no words to adequately explain how much you have come to mean.  Not just for what you have done for the estate and the neighbors in Lambton and the surrounding area.”  He opened the bottle of champagne and poured a glass for his wife.

“You could have easily abandoned me, but you did not.  You give me the strength and courage to face whatever the world has in store for me, each and every day.  And you have shown me what it is like to be loved, to share everything, good or bad, and know you are always with me.  I want you to know how ardently I love and admire you.  Your sparkling eyes, the bounce of your curls, the way you smile, even the way you hold your lower lip between your teeth while you are reading.  I love you, my dearest Elizabeth.  And I will be forever grateful for your giving me the chance to be your husband.”

Elizabeth had tears welling in her eyes.  “William, I know not what to say.  You are the most incredible man I know.  Waking up in your arms each morning has brought me a fulfillment I never knew could exist.  Watching you work, the care you show to everyone, makes me proud to be your wife.  And seeing the tenderness in your eyes when we are alone is pure joy.  There is only one thing that I believe will make things even better.”  She reached over and took hold of his hand, tugging it towards her body.  “At the moment, you will not be able to feel anything, but it will not be long before you will.”

Darcy sat before his wife, his hand on her belly.  “Are you…are you telling me…you are…with child?”

Nodding her head, she chuckled when her husband jumped to his feet, scooping her in his arms, and twirled around several times.  Suddenly he stopped and stood her on her feet.  “Forgive me, my love, did I harm you?”

She laughed.  “I am not that delicate, William.  Have no fear, I am well.”

“A babe…my babe, growing inside you.  This is the most wonderful picnic I have ever had.  To be with the woman I love and learning I am to be a father, the world cannot be brighter.”

~~ ** ~~

There had been many changes in their lives, but Elizabeth and Darcy had managed to weather the bad as well as enjoy the good.

The village of Lambton had gone through many changes, and was finally functioning again.  The tenant homes at Pemberley had been replaced with new ones, and repairs made to the damaged areas of the main house.

Georgiana spent time with them, and time with the Fitzwilliam family.  Plans were being made for her to attend school.

Ben’s birth had been the highlight of their first year, and they had cherished everything about their son.  The only sad part was that none of the child’s grandparents or aunts and uncles, aside from Georgiana, had met him.

Elizabeth had delighted with each letter she received from her Aunt Helen and Aunt Phillips, savoring every delightful bit of news she received about her family.  She especially missed Jane, and the sisters had been so close.  It thrilled her when she learned that Charles Bingley had fallen in love with her dearest sister, for she thought them to be perfect for each other.  Both were amiable, kind, and caring, and they would be happy together.

Now, Elizabeth prayed they would have a future.  She prayed for Jane and Jacob to recover.  It was difficult enough to know that her parents were dead, and that Mary, Kitty and Lydia would never grow up to have families of their own.  Elizabeth even felt the loss of the servants who died at Longbourn.  Mrs Hill had been dear to Elizabeth, protecting her from some of Mrs Bennet’s fits of nerves.

The previous day was still fresh in Elizabeth’s mind.  The start of the day was her mother and younger sisters being buried.  Then she was kidnapped by her father, who was out of his mind.  And the day ended with yet another member of her family dead.  As deranged as Thomas Bennet had become, and even after all he had done, Elizabeth knew that her father did not commit the murders out of anger or pettiness, he did not know what he was doing.  In the end, he had sacrificed his life to save his daughter’s, giving himself to protect her from Wickham.  She was glad that his suffering was ended, yet she missed the gentle man he had been, before the accident which corrupted his mind.

Darcy began to stir as his wife kept her eyes fixed on his features.  He was truly a handsome man.  Taller than most of the men Elizabeth knew, with broad shoulders, muscles rippling from his hard work and exercise, brilliant blue eyes which were like the summer sky, and black wavy hair which gave his valet fits when it did not lay as it should, all combined to make Fitzwilliam Darcy irresistible.  That was not including what the man could do to her during their intimate times.  She was pleased to learn that he did not wish to have separate beds to sleep in.  Unlike many marriages of the ton, theirs was one that was built on affection and love, which meant they shared a bed every night since Mr Bennet had been at Pemberley.

“Elizabeth, are you staring at me?” Darcy asked.

“How could you not, my dearest husband?”

“I am supposed to be the one staring at you, even from across the room at a gathering.  I cannot keep my eyes from you.”

Elizabeth placed a kiss on his lips.  “And you think it is simple for me to keep from watching you?  I have come to believe you to be the most handsome man of my acquaintance, and I cannot believe my good fortune that I am married to you.”

“And I am the one truly blessed to have the most beautiful and delightful lady as my wife and mistress of my heart.  Shall we go down to dine, or should we send for trays to be brought up?”

“We should leave our rooms, as I wish to check on Jane and Jacob, and make sure Ben is well.”  Elizabeth replied.

“I had the feeling that you would respond in such a way.  I believe your sister will make a full recovery.  And your brother was still holding his own.  Once our son had his belly filled and a dry bottom, he settled in his bed and was sleeping soundly when I last checked on him.”

“You are wonderful, my love, but you know me well enough to know I will need to see them for myself.” Elizabeth smiled.

Darcy chuckled.  “Yes, my dearest love, I do know you well enough to realize that you will not be satisfied with my report alone.  Let us dress for the day and make our rounds quickly, then break our fast.”

Another kiss was placed on her husband’s lips, in appreciation of his generosity.

~~ ** ~~

The couple made their first stop to see their son.  Elizabeth scooped her cherished child into her arms, kissing his cheek.  “My sweet boy, I am so pleased to see you smiling today.  Are you being a good boy for your nanny?”

Nanny Jessie smiled.  “He is the best babe, Mrs Darcy.  He just finished feeding, and we were going to play with some of his blocks, as they are his favorite toys.”

“Do you love to play with blocks, my dear Ben?  Are you planning to build houses for our tenants that are as beautiful as our house?”  Elizabeth gave Ben another kiss.  “I will return later to read to you, my little love.”

Darcy leaned over and placed a kiss on the top of his son’s head.  “Perhaps I will do the reading to my wife and child, with the two of you curled up on the bed, snug as bugs.  It has been a while since we have had the chance for just the three of us to spend time together.”

Elizabeth handed her son back to his nanny, then took her husband’s arm.  “I would be pleased to obey such a command from my husband, Mr Darcy.”

~~ ** ~~

When the couple entered Jane’s room, Elizabeth was delighted to see her dearest sister’s eyes open.  “Jane, oh my dearest Jane, you have returned to us.” Elizabeth quickly made her way across the room, taking hold of her sister’s hand, bringing it to her lips to kiss it.  “You have given us quite a scare, Jane.  You are not allowed to do such a thing ever again.”

“Lizzy, I promise to behave myself from now on.  Poor Charles has been frightened I would leave him, and I cannot do such a thing.  I cannot tell you how grateful I am to see you, Lizzy.  And you, as well, Mr Darcy.”

“Please, we are brother and sister, you must call me William, as my family does.”

“Thank you, William.  And I am Jane to you.  Soon you and Charles will be brothers.  We are to wed, once I am recovered.  And once we have observed the mourning period for our family.”

Seeing her sister’s eyes filling with tears, Elizabeth squeezed Jane’s hand.  “We have lost much, yet we still have you, and Jacob is still fighting.  That was more than we would have hoped for when we first entered Longbourn.”

“Charles told me of Papa’s accident.  I am not angry at him for what he did, it was not his fault that his mind was injured in the fall.  I only wish we would have known, so we could have had a physician examine him.”

Elizabeth shook her head.  “You know how Papa always refused to see Mr Jones, and would not even think of going to Town to see a physician.  The only thing that could have been done different was if we had put Papa in an asylum.  But we did not know, and blaming ourselves will do no good.  We must ensure you recover, so you can marry this fine man, and start a family of your own.  And we must see that Jacob stays with us, and has a future.”

“Of course.  Charles told me…about yesterday…about Papa…” Tears were building in Jane’s eyes once again.

“You helped to save me, Jane.  You returned to us just in time to give the needed information about Grandma Bennet’s cellar.  I had no idea that it was there.  If you had not told of its location, they might not have found us.  Ben and I are safe because of you, my dearest sister.”

“Papa…he is dead?”

Elizabeth nodded.  “He is at peace.  Just before he died, he spoke to me as he had before his accident.  It gave me peace to know that he died with some of himself returned.  I pray that in heaven, he is as he always was when we were younger, and that he, and Mamma, are reunited and together with our sisters.”

“I pray the same, Lizzy.”  Jane said, as her strength began to ebb.

“Now, you rest.  I am going to check on our brother, and will return to see you later.  You sleep, so that you can continue to recover.  I look forward to having Charles Bingley as my brother.”

After giving her sister a kiss on the cheek, Elizabeth followed her husband from the room.

~~ ** ~~

The next visit Elizabeth made was to her brother.  She looked at the young boy, lying on the bed, covered in bandages, still covered in beads of perspiration from his fever.  Mr Dunn was tending to the boy, feeding spoonful after spoonful of broth to his mouth.  “There we go, Jacob.  What a good lad.  You need the nourishment to be able to fight the fever.”

The physician looked up to see Elizabeth and Darcy.  “You have guests, Jacob.  Your sister, Elizabeth, and her husband have come to visit with you.  Is that not wonderful.”

Elizabeth walked to the side of the bed, looking carefully at her brother’s face.  “Has he been awake?”

“No, though I have noted that when he is spoken to as if he is awake, his breathing and heart beat are calmer, and he does not seem to be as agitated.  There is no harm in speaking to him, and perhaps he can hear us, just cannot respond.”

Picking up her brother’s hand and holding it tightly in her own, Elizabeth began talking to him.  “Jacob, I have missed you.  Please come back to us.  We have lost so much, do not leave us.  I wish you to meet my husband and my son.  You are an uncle, and Ben will need you to teach him how to fish, skip stones in the pond, and tease the girls.  Do not think I have forgotten how good you are at teasing.  Putting a frog in Lydia’s bed and a snake in Mary’s.  I will never forget the screams they let out upon discovering your special gifts.”  Elizabeth was now sitting on the side of her brother’s bed.  “Jane is awake, and she is growing stronger.  We need our little brother to be with us.  You know that we love you, that you are dear to us.”

Darcy stepped closer, taking sitting in the chair next to the bed.  “I look forward to meeting you, Master Bennet.  We have not been formally introduced, but you are my brother.  Your sister has told me many tales of your adventures, and I am not certain I believe her.  You must recover, so you can tell me some tales about her youth, so I will be able to tell our son.”

A smile grew on Elizabeth’s lips.  “I believe you will like your brother, Jacob.  He is a good man, and has taken very good care of me and your nephew.  And you will soon have another brother, and Jane is to marry Mr Charles Bingley.  So you will need to recover, as you are the man in the family now, and Jane will require you to give her away at the wedding.”

Tears were streaming down Elizabeth’s cheeks as she spoke.  The knowledge that their father never gave any of his daughters away in marriage, something they all thought would happen, as tradition stated, the fact that Jacob was now the male of the Bennet family, was difficult for her to accept.  Mary, Kitty, and Lydia would never grow up and marry, have children of their own, live full lives.  Her parents only met their grandson briefly, and would never see him grown or see any of their other grandchildren.  And they would never witness Jacob going to school, grow up and marry, and raise the next generation of Bennets.

“L…L…L…zy…” came a whisper from the bed.

“Jacob, it is me, it is Lizzy.  Can you hear me?”

The hand she held squeezed lightly.  “Izzy…”

“Yes, Jacob, Lizzy.  I am here with you.  I love you, Jacob.  Can you hear me?”  Tears turned to ones of joy, hearing her brother attempting to speak.

“L…iz…zy…my…sis…ter.”

“Yes, your sister, your Lizzy.  I cannot tell you how pleased I am to hear your voice.  Our aunts and uncles are here, and Jane is down the hall, sleeping.  My husband and son are here, too.  You will get to meet your nephew.”

“Wh…wh…where…” Jacob asked, still not opening his eyes.

“You are at Netherfield Park.  Mr Bingley and his family have welcomed all of us to stay here as long as needed.  Charles Bingley and Jane are to marry.”

“Ma…ma…mamma?  Mary? Oth…ers…”

“I am sorry, Jacob, they are with God.  We were not in time to save them.”

A single tear formed in the corner of the boy’s closed eye, then trickled down his cheek.  “Pa…pa…he…”

“I know, Jacob.  Papa hurt you and Jane, and killed the rest.  He is with God now, too.  We learned that Papa had had an accident, he had been thrown from his horse.  We think it did some damage to his mind, causing him to behave the way he did.  We must forgive him, Jacob, as he was not in his right mind.”

“Begged…him…not…”

“All will be well now, Jacob.  You and Jane survived.  You must do as the physician tells you, and become stronger.  We need you to be with us, Jacob.”

The boy squeezed his sister’s hand again.  “Tr…try…”

“That is the best I can ask of you, my dear boy.  You sleep now.  I will be back later to visit with you.  And, if you would like, I can bring one of your favorite book to read aloud.”

Elizabeth was rewarded with a slight grin on her brother’s lips.

Standing, Darcy pulled his wife into his arms.  Relief washed over the young Mrs Darcy as she had the strongest belief that her brother would survive.

~~ ** ~~

Once she was in the hall, Elizabeth ran to the drawing room, where she knew her aunts and uncles had planned to be, so they could discuss the arrangements for Mr Bennet.

“Jacob spoke to me…he spoke to me.  Aunt Phillips, you said he would recover, and I believe you.  I know he is still very weak, but I believe he will recover.” Elizabeth was engulfed in the embraces of her relations.

Mr Gardiner was thrilled.  “He actually spoke?  The Lord has blessed us.  This is another miracle.”

Mr Phillips looked concerned.  “Does he know, about Fanny and the girls?”

“He does.  And I explained to him of Papa’s accident.  He knows that Jane is alive, and that we are all here with him.”  Elizabeth replied.

“I shall go and sit with him.” Mrs Phillips said, wiping the tears from her cheeks.  “I do not wish for him to be alone.”

“Very well, my dear.” Mr Phillips replied.  “I will join you shortly.  There are a few things I need to discuss with William and your brother.”

Once Mrs Phillips had left the room, Elizabeth and Mrs Gardiner sat on one sofa to speak with each other, while the men discussed matters of importance.

“A letter was received from Mr Bennet’s cousin, Mr William Collins.  He is the parson at Hunsford Parish, in Kent.  He recently learned of the deaths of Mrs Bennet and the younger girls, and that Jacob was in dire condition.  The man plans to make the journey here.”

Mr Gardiner frowned.  “Why would he come here?  He had never met the family, and at the time he wrote the letter, Thomas was still living.  What could the man want, coming here at such a time?”

Darcy stood and walked to a nearby window.  Elizabeth watched her husband carefully, and could see he was distressed.

“You stated he was the parson at Hunsford, in Kent?  I knew my aunt had been too quiet this past year.”

“I do not understand, William.” Mr Phillips stated.

“The living at Hunsford was given by none other than my aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, of Rosings Park.” Darcy replied.

“How would she know of what happened?” Elizabeth asked.  “You have not had contact with her since shortly after our wedding.”

“I did send word to Town, to Lord and Lady Matlock.  I thought it prudent to keep them updated on what had happened, and ask that Georgiana be told.  For some time now, my aunt, Lady Matlock, has believed that someone in her townhouse is informing Lady Catherine of anything going on with the family.  Lady Catherine is far too well informed for her to be receiving her information from just anyone.  Someone close to the family has been spying for her.”  Darcy announced.  “She has most likely informed her parson, and is insisting he come here to make some sort of trouble over the estate.”

“But he has no claim to Longbourn.” Mr Gardiner stated.  “The property belongs to Jacob, and Jacob is alive.”

“Mr Collins might try to enforce the fact that Jacob is a child, too young to run the estate.  He might try to claim guardianship over the child, as the only other Bennet family male.  Though guardianship should go to one of us three males, none of us are of the Bennet blood line.”  Mr Phillips shook his head as he spoke.  “Well, the man will not be welcome to stay at Longbourn, and I doubt that the Bingleys will welcome him here.  My wife and I will not allow him in our home, so he will have to pay for a room at the inn in Meryton.  That should limit how long a stay he will be here.”

“Unless my aunt is striking back at me through Elizabeth’s family.  If so, she might be financing this Collins fellow to do her work for her.”

Elizabeth was shocked.  “I cannot believe that your aunt could be so cruel as to send my father’s cousin here to cause such trouble for us.”

“You do not understand or know my aunt like I do.  She will stop at nothing to get what she wants.  She has been telling everyone, since my mother’s death, that it had been my mother and Lady Catherine’s joint decision that I would marry my cousin, Anne de Bourgh.  It was not true, my mother never wished me to marry my cousin.  My father frequently insisted my aunt stop speaking of such an arrangement, as he steadfastly refused to acknowledge my aunt’s prattling.  But Lady Cathering was adamant about my marrying Anne.  When she learned of our wedding, Lady Catherine was furious, and I should have realized that she gave up far too quickly with her fury.  I should have known she was plotting some way of seeking revenge.  We were just so busy with the aftermath of the earthquake and Father’s death, then your confinement and Ben’s birth, and now, your family situation, I never gave Lady Catherine a second thought.”

“You should send word to Matlock House, to inform your aunt and uncle of Lady Catherine’s parson coming here.  They should be made aware of the possibility of Lady Catherine trying to do something else, such as take Georgiana to Rosings.” Elizabeth stated.

“She would not dare.” Darcy’s eyes grew cold with anger.  “If she attempted to take my sister from me, she would regret the very thought entering her mind.”

“With Richard at war and you here, it makes perfect sense for her to strike against us in other ways, not just through my cousin.  We must cover all potential avenues of her retaliation.”

Darcy nodded his head.  “You are correct, my love.  I will send an express to my uncle.”  He turned towards Mr Phillips.  “When is this parson due to arrive?”

“Tomorrow.  I would place some men at Longbourn, to refuse him permission to enter the house.  They can inform him to contact me in Meryton or you and Gardiner here.” Mr Phillips stated.  “We will have the service for Thomas tomorrow morning, if that suits you.”

Darcy nodded his head.  “I will be ready.  We have most everything ready, and can quiet everything quicker by handling it swiftly.”

“I will send word to Mr Long and Sir William.  There were a few other men in the neighborhood, though I doubt many will wish to pay respects to Thomas.” Mr Phillips said, looking sadly at his niece.  “Forgive me, Lizzy, but most people will remember your father for the tragedy which has happened at Longbourn, not the man he was before his accident.”

“I understand, Uncle.  Fortunately, I was able to see both sides of him, and at the end, I saw my Papa returned to bid me farewell.  Even though he did some of the most horrible deeds imaginable in committing murder, I wish to remember Papa as the loving and caring father, the man who taught me to read and allowed me to expand my knowledge in his books.  I cannot change what others think of Papa, but I know how I feel towards him.  Though furious that he took the lives of Mamma, Mary, Kitty, Lydia, and the servants, and I was scared when he took me and my son from Netherfield, I remember the look in his eyes as he died.  The look that was Papa, the man I knew all my life at Longbourn.”

“And that is what will be remembered tomorrow, when we say our farewells to him.” Mr Gardiner stated.  “Thomas Bennet was a good man, before the accident.  And that is the man who will be buried tomorrow.”

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