Chapter 15

The services for Mr Bennet were short and to the point.  The only men who attended were the ones staying at Netherfield, Mr Phillips, Sir William Lucas, and Mr Long.  The other men in the neighborhood refused to acknowledge the man, refusing to accept that the accident had been responsible for his behavior altering so drastically.

The rumors going around Meryton and the surrounding neighborhood were ranging from a curse placed on Longbourn and the Bennet family, to Mr Bennet becoming a raging maniac who slaughtered everyone for fun.  No one was willing to acknowledge that he had sustained a head injury which had caused the change in him, as it was more exciting to claim that they all knew he would commit murder.  Some even declared that he had shown signs of being a murderer when he was a small child.

Lady Lucas was the strongest of the supporters for the Bennet family.  She had been close friends with Mrs Bennet, even before Sir William had been knighted for service to His Majesty.  Prior to knighthood, William Lucas had been a shopkeeper in Meryton.  Lady Lucas could still remember how her family was treated when they went from trade to Sir William and Lady Lucas of Lucas Lodge, purchasing the estate, and becoming a part of the landed gentry.  Many of those who had inherited their estates looked down upon the Lucas family, but Fanny Bennet remembered her family roots in trade, and welcomed Lady Lucas the same as she had Mrs Lucas.

Entering the mercantile the morning before the services for Mr Bennet, Lady Lucas overheard Mrs Goulding chatting to Mrs Turnsby.  “And they said that the entire family were mutilated, body parts found throughout the house.”

“I heard there was blood still dripping from the ceiling.”

Lady Lucas walked up to the counter.  “There was no blood dripping from any ceilings, and the bodies were intact.  I ought to know, as Charlotte and I went to Netherfield to dress Fanny and her girls for their funeral.” A tear trickled from the corner of her eye.  “They were stabbed, that is all.  There was not mutilation.  If you must speak of the horrible event, at least know of what you are speaking.”

Mrs Goulding was itching for gossip.  “I heard that Fanny’s throat was cut.”

“Her throat was not cut.  She was able to speak to Lizzy, met her grandson and son in law, and even gave young Ben a kiss before she died.  Her wounds were in the belly.  I dressed Fanny myself.  And I was pleased that she was able to meet her grandson.  She had so wished to meet the child, meet Lizzy’s husband.”

“My husband said that he always knew Mr Bennet would murder.” Mrs Turnsby stated.

“Thomas Bennet was a gentle and kind man, caring towards everyone, especially to his family and his servants.  Good God, the man was thrown from his horse, causing a head injury.  The injury to his head caused the change in his personality, not some defect that had always been a part of the man.” Lady Lucas’ voice became loud and angered.  “He did not know what he was doing.  And in the end, he sacrificed his own life to save Lizzy, protecting her from that scoundrel, Wickham.  Lizzy has forgiven him for his actions, as she knows that it was not her father’s fault.  He was injured in an accident, which caused the change in him.”

Mrs Goulding was skeptical.  “I knew Thomas Bennet all of his life.  He had a shifty quality that I never did like.  And then, when he married the daughter of a tradesman, rather than someone of the gentry, well, I know his father must still be turning in his grave.”

Lady Lucas knew the history of Annabeth Goulding, nee Wilkenson.  Her father owned the estate which was left to Annabeth and her husband upon his death.  Annabeth had her cap set to marry Thomas Bennet from the time she was ten years old.  When Thomas was courting the daughter of the local solicitor, Annabeth did everything but compromise herself to obtain her goal of being Mrs Thomas Bennet.

“Well, Mrs Goulding, it was a blessing in disguise that he did not settle for you, as I remember you had sworn that you were going to be the next Mistress of Longbourn, before Thomas Bennet married.  If you had succeeded in your goal, you might be the one in the grave, rather than Fanny.”  With that, Lady Lucas turned to leave the shop.  She spoke to the owner.  “I will send my daughter to your establishment with our order.  I find the air in here to be intolerable.”  Then she walked out of the shop, leaving behind a very disturbed Mrs Goulding.

~~ ** ~~

William Collins arrived at Longbourn late in the afternoon.  He was faced with two men who met him at the front door of the house.

“I am here to see my relations, the Bennets.” Mr Collins announced.

One of the men was a footman of the Darcy staff, Robert Johnson.  He stepped forward.  “I am not to allow anyone to enter the house.  None of the Bennet family are here.  You may speak to Mr Phillips, the Bennet family solicitor, at his office in Meryton.”

“Why am I being treated as if I am some nobody?  I am Mr Bennet’s cousin, and I wish to enter Longbourn, as I will be staying here.” Mr Collins attempted to push past the men.

“You will not be staying at Longbourn, Mr Collins.  My employer is Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy, husband of the former Elizabeth Bennet.  He has stated that no one is to enter Longbourn without his approval, or the approval of any of the other members of the family.  They are residing at Netherfield Park, three miles in that direction.” Robert pointed.

“I will leave my bags here, as I will be returning after I speak with Mr Darcy.  As Mr Bennet’s relation, I have the right to stay in my cousin’s home.”

“You do not have any rights here, Mr Collins.” Came a voice from behind the parson.  Mr Phillips had just arrived on foot, surprising Collins.

“And who are you to tell me I have no rights here?  I have come with the express approval of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, to claim what is rightfully mine.”

Mr Phillips was prepared for the confrontation.  “What does Lady Catherine de Bourgh have to do with the property belonging to the Bennet family?”

“She is my patroness, and, as such, has taken an interest in my claims for the property.  As my cousin is to be declared insane, and his son not expected to survive, I will be the next in line to inherit the estate.” Mr Collins puffed himself up as if he were the prince himself.

“Well, as I am the solicitor for the Bennet family, I hold all the papers for the estate.  And I am pleased to announce that my nephew, Master Jacob Bennet, is very much alive, and only yesterday was able to talk for the first time.”

“Your nephew?  I thought you said you were the solicitor for the family.”

Mr Phillips smiled.  “I am both.  My wife was Mrs Bennet’s sister.  And I must inform you that my brother in law, your cousin, Mr Thomas Bennet, died the night before last.”

“Then it is my place, as the only other male member of the Bennet family, to take guardianship of the boy.  He will need guidance, as he is not of age to take control of the estate.”

“I beg to differ with you, Mr Collins.  Oh, yes, you are the only remaining male member of the Bennet family, but you will not be taking guardianship of him.  Jacob’s birth negated the will from your great grandfather, passing the estate from only the male family members.  Once his son was born, Mr Bennet rewrote his will.  Since the entail was ended, the estate is now available to be left to anyone other than Jacob, if the boy did not survive.  And Thomas added a contingency plan, so if Jacob died, the estate could be transferred to another family member, and he named Elizabeth, his second born daughter.  He also gave guardianship of his children to the siblings of Fanny Bennet, nee Gardiner.  Therefore, my wife and her brother have guardianship over Jacob.  Elizabeth has the right to speak for her brother with regards to the estate.  And her husband can speak for her in denying you access to stay here.  Now, if you are staying in the neighborhood, you are welcome to take a room at the inn, which is in Meryton.  You will only have to walk a mile in that direction.” Mr Phillips pointed.

“How dare you treat me in such a manner?  My patroness will be quite displeased when she learns of this…this…disregard for my rights and duties to my family.”

“And what is your patroness to me or my family?  She has no power over us, and is wholly unrelated to any of us.”

“She is Mr Darcy’s aunt, therefore she has power over him and his family.  And she will enforce her will when she learns of my being denied the comforts of my cousin’s home in which to stay while I am here.” Mr Collins stated.  “I will send her an express to inform her how ill I am being treated.”

“Do as you wish, Mr Collins, but do so elsewhere.  You are not welcome at Longbourn, and will be removed physically if necessary.” Mr Phillips declared.  “So you will need to leave now.  As I said before, you are welcome to take a room in Meryton, at the inn.”

“And there is no carriage to convey me to this inn?  You expect me to walk?”

“Indeed.  You came here without invitation, with the intention of taking something that is not yours and never will be yours.  You are a grown man, and appear to be healthy enough to walk a mile to the village.  The inn can be found on the south side of the village, or, in this case, the far end.”  Mr Phillips then walked past the men, opening the door to the house, and entered.

A red faced Mr Collins gathered his trunk and satchel, dragging them behind him, as he grudgingly marched towards Meryton.

After the man was out of sight, Mr Phillips returned outside, carrying several glasses and a bottle of port.  “Men, you have done a good day’s work.  You deserve a reward.” Each of the men were handed a glass and a generous portion of the liquid was poured.  “Now, we will have other men coming to relieve you in an hour, so you can get some rest and have some dinner.  We will keep rotating men, and keep someone here for the days to come.”

“We can make sleeping arrangements here, Mr Phillips.” Robert stated.

“I know that this house is full of the horrifying truth of what happened.  To be honest, I could not think of sleeping inside, nor in the stables, after the murders.”

“The murders be nuffin, Sir.” The other man exclaimed.  “Sad, they be, but them not sturb my slumber.”

“My nephew, Mr Darcy, will be over shortly to speak with you.  Along with arrangements for men to guard the house, we will need to pack some of the items inside the house, and remove some of the items, such as beds.  We can build a bonfire and burn the beds, bedclothes, and any other item which cannot be cleaned.”

“We will be ready to do as Mr Darcy bids.” Robert exclaimed.

~~ ** ~~

Entering the drawing room, Lord Matlock was holding a letter he had just received.  “My dearest wife, I believe we should make our way to Netherfield.”

Lady Matlock knew of the murders and the search for Mr Bennet, so she was not comfortable with the thought of making the journey to such a location.  “What does our nephew write which has you making such a statement?”

“Part of the situation has been resolved, but then my sister decided to complicate matters.”

“What is Catherine doing becoming involved in the matters in Hertfordshire?  Has she lost her mind?”

“She is supporting her parson in his pursuit to take Longbourn from the Bennet family.  William writes that he feels Catherine is planning to repay Elizabeth for capturing William, when my sister had plotted to have him marry Anne.”

Shaking her head, Lady Matlock was furious.  She had never been fond of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and the foolishness that the Mistress of Rosings had bantered about for years, that Fitzwilliam Darcy and Anne de Bourgh would one day be wed, was more than Lady Matlock could endure.  “How dare she become involved in such matters that are none of her business?  She knows that William was not arranged to marry Anne, and that he is happily married to Elizabeth.  But is it safe to journey there?”

Lord Matlock nodded his head.  “There was an incident, and, in the end, Mr Bennet gave his life to protect Elizabeth from none other than George Wickham.”

“Wickham?  That steward’s son that was always cruel to William?  What the devil was he doing there?”

“Seems he had joined the militia that was quartered in the nearby village.  He used Mr Bennet’s mixed mind to his advantage, and they abducted Elizabeth and Ben.”

A loud gasp came from his wife.

“Do not fret, my dear, Elizabeth and Ben are both safe and unharmed.  But as they were capturing the two men, Wickham was set on hurting William permanently and lunged at Elizabeth with a knife.  Mr Bennet was holding a shard of glass, and he plunged it in Wickham’s chest as Wickham stabbed him.  Both are no longer a problem.”

“My dear Elizabeth and William…and poor Ben.  This has all been terrible.  And now they are having to contend with Catherine and her parson?  When do you wish to leave?  I will not allow Catherine to harm my loved ones.”

“We will take Georgiana and Richard with us.  Let us plan on leaving first thing tomorrow morning.”

“It is a shame that Richard just arrived home two days ago, and is in need of recovery.  This will only inflame his anger.”

“The fresh air of the country will do the boy more good than staying here in the city.  Have no fear, my love.  Our son is strong.”

Lady Matlock nodded.  “Very well, I will have things prepared for our departure.”

“And I will make a trip to speak with our family attorney, to gather all the ammunition we can find to use against my sister.”

~~ ** ~~

Lady Catherine de Bourgh was staying in an inn just north of Town.  She knew her parson would meet with problems at Longbourn, and he would send word to her, requesting her assistance.  The solicitor she had hired had already drawn up papers for her.  Lady Catherine intended to make the country chit pay dearly for marrying Fitzwilliam Darcy.  If they wished to keep Longbourn from Mr Collins, Darcy would have to sign over guardianship of Georgiana to her.

Never liking Gerald Darcy, since he chose her sister over her, and his refusal to make official any arrangement for Fitzwilliam and Anne to wed, Lady Catherine was not devastated when she had learned of Gerald’s death.  She had gathered her daughter and hurried to Pemberley, set to insist on Fitzwilliam fulfilling his duty to his family by marrying Anne, only to arrive on the doorstep of Pemberley and find Fitzwilliam already married.

“It will not do…you are arranged to marry your mother’s namesake. We must have this marriage annulled.”

“The marriage will not be annulled, and I will remain married to Elizabeth.” Darcy had exclaimed.

“Your father should have made you marry Anne as soon as you became of age, rather than leave you to the whims of some fortune hunter who pounces on you the moment you are vulnerable from the death of your father and the disaster that has struck Pemberley.”

“If it makes any difference to you, my father is the one who insisted on the wedding.  We were wed, in his presence, just before he died.  He wished for Elizabeth to be my wife, not my cousin.  As a matter of fact, Father told me the wish for the union had been yours, and yours alone. Mother never wished for Anne and me to marry, she wanted me to be happy in my marriage.  Your daughter is frail and ill at health.  She would never be able to bear children, which would do me no good in the way of having heirs for the future of Pemberley.”

“Anne is frail, but her physician has declared her sound enough to perform her wifely duties. But you know nothing of Anne’s health, as you have not come to visit her in over a year.  In the past year, my daughter has been tended by a different physician, one who has studied in Italy, and his remedies have worked wonders for my daughter.  Just look at her, vibrant and glowing, the very picture of health.”

Lady Catherine looked at her daughter for a moment, ignoring the truth, as Anne de Bourgh was the picture of anything but health.

“Anne, forgive me if I have caused you any heartbreak, but I have never given you any indication that I would marry you.” Darcy stated to his cousin, ignoring his aunt.

“I am not heartbroken, Fitzwilliam.  I had no desire to marry you, and only went along with Mother, because I knew you would not bow down to her.  You never showed any sort of desire to be my husband, so I counted on you to stand up to Mother.”

“Anne, go to the carriage.  I will not tolerate disrespect from you, as well as your cousin.”

Anne left the room, making her way to the carriage.

Lady Catherine turned her ire on her nephew.  “You will rue the day that you turned your back on your family, marrying some nobody.  She will be the cause of great pain and humiliation, and you will wish you had listened to me.  Mark my words, Fitzwilliam Darcy, you will regret the day you married that chit.”

Now, Lady Catherine waited to receive word from her parson, so she could finally exact her revenge.

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

Chapter 16

“Sir, there is a Mr Collins here to see Mr Darcy.” The butler of Netherfield Park announced to Mr Bingley.

Mr Bingley was in his study at the time, going over matters for the estate.  “I believe Mr and Mrs Darcy are with their son at the moment.  Have Mr Collins wait in the drawing room downstairs, and inform the Darcys of his arrival.  And you should also inform Mr Gardiner.”

“Very good, Sir.”

Standing, Mr Bingley made his way up to Jane Bennet’s room.  He felt his son should be involved in the discussion that would be held in the drawing room, since he was soon to become a part of the Bennet family.

He knocked on the door, and the maid who opened announced Mr Bingley to his son.

Charles hurried to the door.  “Has something happened to Jacob?  Has he taken a turn?”

“No, no, do not fret.  I wished to inform you of Mr Collins’ arrival to speak with Darcy about Longbourn.  You might wish to be involved, as you are betrothed to Jane.”

“Thank you, Father.  I will speak with Jane, as she is awake.” Charles replied.

“If you wish, I could remain with her while you join Darcy.”

Charles smiled.  His father had accepted the engagement between his son and Jane, as he believed in marrying for love.  Mr Bingley would withstand the gossip and ridicule surrounding the Bennet family for the sake of his son’s love of Jane Bennet.

Several moments later, Charles was on his way to the drawing room, arriving just after Darcy and Elizabeth.

“Ah, yes, Charles, I am pleased you can join us.  I am certain Uncle Edward will be arriving any moment.” Darcy said as he looked at his friend with a smile.  Turning his attention towards the man before them, Darcy took on a stern expression.

“I am Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley, and this is my wife, Elizabeth Darcy, nee Bennet.  Am I to understand you are Mr Collins, the distant cousin of Mr Thomas Bennet?”

“Indeed, Sir, I am William Collins, parson of your most gracious aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, the most benevolent and kind patroness I could have ever hoped to have.  She is the most generous of ladies, as she knew of my relations with the Bennet family, and she insisted that I come here, to ensure my interests are best served.  Lady Catherine was kind enough to advance me the funds to afford to come here, as she is concerned with my welfare.”

“Forgive me for being blunt, Mr Collins, but my aunt and I are estranged.  I have not spoken with her in over a year, and she was angry with me when I last saw her.  So telling me of her kindness and benevolence is of no matter to me.  Her real reason for aiding you in this matter is to retaliate against my wife, who is the daughter of your distant cousin.”

“I…I…am certain you will find your aunt is only concerned with my welfare and my interests.”

“Mr Collins, what interests could you have here?  You were not close to Mr Bennet or any member of his family, you had never even met them.  The heir is Master Jacob Bennet, who is recovering from his injuries.  Mr Bennet left instructions in his will as to the guardianship of Jacob, and it is not you.  What could possibly be your interests here?”

“My most gracious patroness has employed a solicitor, who has stated that I should inherit Longbourn, as Master Jacob was not expected to live, and even if he were to survive the horrible assault by his father, the boy is too young to be the Master of an estate.   Your wife and her sister have no claim, as our great great grandfather had deemed it inappropriate for women to inherit the estate.  It would go against our ancestors to break with their decision.  If Master Jacob survives his wounds, which I have been told are extensive, the poor boy had not had a chance to learn of his Bennet history and that he will need to live up to the expectations of being a Bennet.”

“Mr Collins, first, you are a Collins.  Your grandmother was a Bennet, so how would you know what it takes to live up to being a Bennet?  My wife and her sister were raised as Bennets, as was Jacob.  He most likely knows more about the family history than do you.  So, tell me again, what are your interests here?”

“Well, I am afraid…well, the solicitor will be filing an appeal on my behalf.  Between my cousin’s … condition and murdering of his family, it stands that he was not fit to make any decisions with regard to the estate or his family.  It is best that I take over the running of the estate.  I will be moving my belongings into the house there, and insist you remove the men that are there, refusing my admittance.” Mr Collins said as he attempted to make himself larger, standing as tall as he could.

Unfortunately, Mr Collins was larger around than he was tall, and nothing intimidating, especially in comparison to Darcy.  Darcy was used to using his height and build to intimidate when he needed to, and there was no difficulty in intimidating a toady such as his aunt’s parson.

Standing his full height, he leaned forward, invading the sniveling man’s personal space, and began speaking in a soft, yet deep voice.  “Allow me to make myself perfectly clear, Mr Collins.  Until the court hands you papers declaring you the Master of Longbourn or guardian of Jacob Bennet, I will continue to act in the best interest of my family.  And it is in their best interest to keep a low life, worthless creature like yourself away from the estate.  You will not be allowed to enter the house, or any other buildings on the estate.  And if you decide to ignore my advice, and you are found on the estate, my men will physically remove you.  Do…I…Make…Myself…Perfectly…Clear?”

“Sir…um…your aunt…I have…sent for her…and we will…contact… the solicitor.  This is not over…I will have my rightful inheritance.”

“You have no inheritance in this matter.  Now, leave here and do not return.”  Darcy spoke in a deafening bellow.  This made the parson quiver in his boots.  The fat, greasy man could not move fast enough, tripping and stuttering all the way out of the room and to the front door.”

After they heard the front door close behind the disgusting man, Darcy wrapped his arms around his wife, placing a kiss on her head.  “We will have a battle, as it is obvious that Lady Catherine is funding that worthless toady.  She will find any solicitor who will find a loophole to exploit.”

“He cannot take Jacob from us, can he?”

Mr Gardiner had been silent, standing in the back of the room, during the confrontation with Collins.  “Lizzy, there is no possible way that he can take Jacob from any of us, but especially from you and William.  You have the means to see to the boy’s care, his education, and all his needs.  You are his sister, and your father left the estate to you, if Jacob was unable to inherit.”

“But he will drag Papa’s name through the mud, not to mention all of us in the family.  William, I cannot do that to you.  The fact that your father in law was injured and went on a murder spree, killing eleven people, this is bad enough.  What if they claim I will be like Papa, and will murder, as he did?  How can you weather such ruination?”

“My dearest love, we have plenty of people to prove the change in your father’s behavior was due to the fall.”

“But they will find more people who will claim that the entire family are insane?  You know your aunt, she has the finances to purchase the statements from people.  She will stop at nothing to avenge herself on me, for having the audacity to marry you.” Elizabeth had tears welling in her eyes.

“No one who truly knows the family can believe such tales.” Darcy stated.

“Lady Lucas sent word that she has tried to quell the comments being made in Meryton.  All Lady Catherine would have to do is offer some coins, and she would find many people willing to testify that Papa had always been ill.”

Darcy pulled back and looked into his wife’s eyes.  “What did Lady Lucas say?”

“When she went to the mercantile, she overheard Mrs Goulding and another woman speaking.  We all know that Mrs Goulding had set her sights on marrying Papa, when they were younger, and she was furious when he decided to marry my mother.  But there are so many people claiming that Papa had never been right in his mind.  Your aunt will have no troubles finding people to testify for her.”

“We will deal with everything as it comes.” Mr Gardiner said.  “Our family must stand together, which will show a united front.”

Mr Phillips arrived at the drawing room just then.  “I did not wish to alarm anyone, but when I received word that Mr Collins was coming, and knowing he might cause some trouble, I had Mr Hoyt and Mr Dunn, along with Mr Jones, examine Thomas’ body.  Forgive me, Lizzy, I should have told you, but I felt it was necessary to prove that he had suffered from an injury, just in case we needed the truth in court.”

Elizabeth turned to her uncle and nodded.  “I understand, Uncle.  To be honest, it was probably wiser that you did not tell me at the time, as it would have likely upset me.  What did they find?”

The country solicitor walked forward with papers in his hand.  “They found there had been breakage in the skull, over the right ear.  The bone had several breaks, as if it was somewhat crushed, when he fell.  There was some healing, but there was also pieces of the bone that had entered the brain.  Their conclusion was that the small pieces of bone caused the damage to his mind, and that the injury was from striking something very hard against his head, such as a fall from a horse onto a stone.  And it is Mr Dunn’s opinion that it happened within the last two years.  He said that, in his opinion, the amount of healing showed him the time frame.  He has worked with many bodies over the years, and trained with some of the best medical minds that Britain and the Continent have to offer.”

“That is good news.” Charles finally spoke.  “It will be a relief to Jane to know that there was nothing she could have done to prevent what happened with her father. She has already stated she should have known something was terribly wrong, that she should have done something to help him.”

“The only thing that could have been done was impossible, and that was to be able to look inside Papa’s mind, see his injury and what it was doing to his mind, and if we had had him placed in a sanitarium.” Elizabeth spoke.  “But Jane has always taken the blame for things on herself, though they were not hers to claim.”

The butler entered the room, carrying a silver salver with a message on it.  “Mr Darcy, an express just arrived for you.”

“Thank you.” Darcy said as he took the message.  Opening it, he read it quickly.  “It is from my uncle, Lord Matlock.  He is coming, bringing my aunt, my sister, and my cousin, Richard.”

“Richard?  He is returned and well?” Elizabeth was amazed at the news.

“He is.” Looking at the questioning faces in the room, Darcy continued.  “My cousin, Richard, was recently wounded in France.  He is part of the regulars, and is now on leave to recover.”

“This is the uncle who is brother of Lady Catherine?” Mr Phillips inquired.

“He is.  And he states he has something to use against his sister.  They will all arrive tomorrow, shortly after midday.”

“I will inform my father, and have the rooms prepared.” Charles stated.

“If you require more rooms, I can move my belongings from the dressing chamber of the room you assigned me.” Darcy said softly.  “I am sure my wife will be generous enough to allow me to utilize her dressing chamber, and I have no need to have a bedchamber of my own.”

The men all chuckled, with Mr Gardiner patting his nephew on the back.  “Well done, my boy.  I never did understand the need of having a separate bedchamber from my wife, but then again, I have a love match, just as you.”

“I pray I will be as fortunate as you, Darcy.” Charles said with a smile.

~~ ** ~~

The following day, Mr Collins waited on the road, near the entrance to the estate of Longbourn.  He had received word that his patroness would be arriving and demanded he meet her at the estate.

The imbecile had attempted to make entry into the house, and had even succeeded in coming within ten yards of the house, before the hired men, employed by Darcy, turned him back.  Robert was there, and could tell that something was going on, for Collins remained as close as he could to the house, without their being able to send him on his way.

“Go to Netherfield, and inform Mr Darcy that the parson is keeping watch on the house, as if he is waiting for something or someone.” Robert instructed one of the men, sending the man on his way.

While keeping an eye on Mr Collins, Robert was also supervising the removal of the beds, bedding, and other items which had been ruined by the murders.  A fire had been built between the house and the stables, on the dirt drive.  The mattresses, frames, sheets, blankets and more were brought out and piled on the flames, removing the bloody remains of what had happened in the house.  Mr Collins craned his neck, watching all that was going on, noting something in a small book he had pulled from his pocket, along with a pencil.

The parson was seen pacing, marking more items in his book, muttering to himself, until suddenly, he became animated with joy.  Nearly jumping up and down in excitement, the man waved vigorously at an approaching carriage.  The carriage did not stop for him, pulling into the drive and stopping before the house of Longbourn.  A young man jumped down from the top of the carriage, opening the door and placing a step in place for his Mistress, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, to exit the equipage.

“Out of my way.” The woman barked her orders at the men on guard.  “I am to enter this house, to inspect it for my parson, Mr Collins.  I must make certain that all is in good order before he moves into the house.”

“Forgive me, Ma’am, but we are under orders not to allow anyone into the house.” Robert stated as he stood before the door.

“Move out of my way.  I will not be forbidden, as the house and property rightfully belong to Mr Collins.  As I am his patroness, I have all the rights to enter.  Now move, before I have my driver throw me his whip.”

“As I said, Ma’am, we have our orders.  If you have something from the courts showing you have the authority, I will be forced to step aside.  Iffin you don’, I must beg you to be on your way.”

Lady Catherine could not tolerate the young man treating her in such a manner.  “How dare you?  I will have you whipped, and then I will make certain that you never find work again.  Do I make myself clear?”

“As you have no part in Mr Darcy’s hiring of staff, your threat means nothin’ to me.  You may threaten all you like, I answer to Mr Darcy.  And he says no one enters.  Now, it is my turn to say move out of the way.  Your carriage is blocking the path the men are using to take items to the fire.”

Mr Collins finally came forward to grovel at Lady Catherine’s side.  “I have been keeping a tally of all the items that those men have removed from the house.  They are destroying my property, without my approval, your ladyship.”

“How dare you men destroy possessions of Mr Collins’?  I should call for the constable to come and arrest you all.  Who is the local magistrate?  I will have him notified of this thievery.”

“Sir William Lucas, of Lucas Lodge, is the local magistrate.” Robert announced as he crossed his arms across his chest.  “And he is already aware of what we are doing.  He even gave us his blessing to do so, as Mr Darcy made him aware of Mr Collins’ claims.  The items that are being burned were ruined and could never be repaired, so we were told to destroy them.”

“More likely you are destroying the evidence which shows the years of abuse that Mr Bennet had committed in this house.” Lady Catherine stamped her foot as she spoke.  “It is tampering with evidence, and I am a witness for Mr Collins.  You men are instructed to desist this moment.  Do not destroy another item.”

“I am afraid you have no authority here, Madam.” Came Sir William’s voice.  He had just ridden over, after receiving word of Mr Collins’ stalking the estate.  “I am the magistrate in this area, and you have no rights here.  Mr Collins, I believe you have been instructed, many times, to stay off this property.  Do I need to have you arrested to keep you off this estate?”

“B…but…it is my estate…mine.  You have no rights to run me off of my own land.”  Mr Collins simpered.

“I am the magistrate, did you not hear what I said?  Are you too foolish to understand what I am telling you?”

“That is enough.  This is rightfully my parson’s estate.  The boy child is too young to inherit, and there are no other males in the Bennet family line.  Mr Collins was the only other male in the Bennet family, as his mother was a Bennet.  Therefore, he has claim to the estate.  Besides, the boy was injured severely, and will most likely die from his wounds.  And the entail forbids one of the females in the family to inherit.”

“Madam, I will not stand here and argue the facts.  You do not know all of the dealings, nor do you practice the law.  I would suggest you return to your own home, and leave this matter where it belongs.”

“I have my solicitor joining us here.  He will file for guardianship of the boy be turned over to Mr Collins.”  Lady Catherine declared.

“You are welcome to try, Madam.  I would suggest you make your way to Netherfield, to speak with Mr Darcy and Mr Phillips.  Good day, Madam.” Sir William stood beside the guards, sending a clear message to the Mistress of Rosings.

“And where is this Netherfield Park?” Lady Catherine asked, her irritation etched in every word.

“Netherfield is three miles in that direction.” Sir William stated, pointing towards where the estate was located.  “You can follow the road as it takes a turn just past the grove of trees.”

“Mr Collins, come with me.  We will put an end to this foolishness, once and for all.” The grand lady returned to her carriage, followed closely by her parson.

As the carriage rolled away, Sir William patted Robert on the shoulder.  “You did a good job.  I will make sure that Mr Darcy is aware of your diligence in the face of that lady’s threats.”

“I believe I would enjoy being a mouse, listening in on the conversation that is soon to happen at Netherfield.” Robert said with a smile.

Sir William laughed.  “I believe I will make my way there, so I do not miss the…conversation.  I might be needed in a professional capacity, before they are through.”

Robert found the statement close to being possible.  With a chuckle, he nodded.  “It is a good thing that there are many strong men at Netherfield, ready to do as Mr Darcy and Mr Bingley request.”

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