Sorry for the delay. Between holidays, spending time with my new granddaughter, and taking a fall, everything was insane.
“Elizabeth, I wish for you to rest. I am well, my love.” Darcy said, brushing a strand of her hair from her face.
“You could have been killed, William. I nearly lost you. I cannot sleep, not until we learn of everyone involved in this attack.” Elizabeth reached her fingers lightly over her husband’s injured arm. “If you had not awakened when you did, we might both have been killed.”
“But we were not. We are safe, and I will take steps to make certain nothing else happens to us. Here, I have a glass of brandy for you. Take a few sips, to calm your nerves.”
This caused Elizabeth to chuckle slightly. “I am not my mother, William. I do not have fits of nerves, as Mamma does.”
Realizing what he had said, Darcy, too, chuckled. “Heavens, I am eternally grateful for such wonders. I do wish for you to rest, for you did not sleep much.”
“Once we learn of anyone else involved, I will rest.”
Mr Burnside closed his bag of remedies. “I believe your young man will be fine in a day or two. The cut was not deep, though it would have been, had he not had the forethought to hold onto the book he had been reading when he fell asleep. That book may have saved your life.”
Mr Bennet walked over to where the book laid on the floor, reaching down to pick it up. “Much Ado About Nothing… interesting choice of weapons, William. I will have to remember to keep a copy nearby at all times.”
Richard knocked on the door. “Mr Bennet, the constable has arrived. I thought you might wish to speak with him before he speaks with Mrs Younge.”
“Indeed. Thank you, Colonel.”
Darcy stood and made to follow the men from the room. “William, there is no need to bother yourself. We will be able to handle the matter.” His cousin stated.
“I wish to be involved in the decision of what happens to that woman. She does not deserve any leniency.” Darcy stated. “They plotted to murder my wife, and it is only by the grace of God that we thwarted the plan with our marriage. This entire situation could have had ghastly results, if I had not been in this room.”
Mr Hill came up the stairs. “Sirs, Mr Bingley has arrived. He stated that you requested him to come immediately.”
Richard nodded his head. “Have him wait with the constable. Bingley will wish to be involved in the discussion.”
A frown came over Darcy. “Why would Bingley wish to be involved? What does it have to do with him?”
“I will explain when we go downstairs. Your wife should rest.” Richard looked at Elizabeth, who was listening to the conversation.
Darcy turned his attention to his wife. “Do not fret, my love. I will tell you all, when I return.”
“Very well, I will rest while you are gone. Please take care, William. You require rest as well.”
~~ ** ~~
Bingley was pacing about in Mr Bennet’s study. The constable, Mr Belkins, watched the young man, slightly amused. When the door opened, and the three men entered, Bingley hurried towards his friend.
“Is Mrs Darcy well? Has she had a setback?”
“No, Bingley, Elizabeth is well. Though, not from lack of trying. We have a conspiracy with which to contend.”
Looking from one man to the other, Bingley was confused. “What sort of conspiracy?”
“An attempt was made on the life of my wife.” Darcy replied.
Mr Belkins stepped closer. “Forgive me, Mr Darcy, but did I hear you correctly? Miss Elizabeth, not only is she married to you, but someone has made an attempt on her life?”
“Indeed. The man was thwarted, and he paid with his own life. He was George Wickham, who had recently been attached to the militia.” Darcy declared. “He broke into the bedchambers where my wife and I were sleeping. I woke, and was able to defend us against his attack. Fortunately, Elizabeth had a knife stowed behind her nightstand. With it, I was able to stop Wickham permanently.”
“Good God.” Bingley stated. “The man has always been of questionable behavior, but to kill a young lady, to commit murder?”
“Yes, and it was a conspiracy.” Richard declared. “Mrs Younge was involved, as she was waiting for Wickham to return to her. When she spotted the men carrying Wickham out of the house, she ran towards us. At first, she alleged that she had come to speak with Darcy about regaining her position as Georgiana’s companion. She finally accepted that the lies would do her no good, and she slipped up, beginning to tell me who had hired Wickham to kill Elizabeth.”
Bingley shook his head. “Do not tell me…I am certain I know where this conversation is heading.”
Darcy was confused. “Of what are you speaking, Bingley?”
“My sister…was she involved in the attempt on Mrs Darcy’s life?” Bingley’s eyes pleaded for the answer to be negative, though he was certain that Caroline had been involved.
Richard nodded his head. “Mrs Younge slipped and began to speak of Miss B, then realized what she had said. The only Miss B I know who would conspire with Mrs Younge and Wickham, wishing to remove Elizabeth from Darcy, permanently.”
“That is the reason she asked for her allowance in coin. She was claiming her desire to make purchases, using my birthday as an excuse for wishing to keep her purchases secret. I should have known better. Why did I give her the funds?”
“Bingley, you had no way of knowing what she was planning. Who would have thought that Miss Bingley would behave in such a manner? She is obviously deranged.” Richard responded.
Mr Belkins added his opinion. “Mr Bingley, I do not know how you wish to proceed with your sister. I assume you would prefer to handle her differently than I do this Mrs Younge, but I do not know how to keep your sister’s name from becoming known.”
Darcy stood and began to pace. Stopping in front of a window, he stared out at the land. No one had spoken, and they were all deep in thought. Mrs Younge would have to pay for her crimes, but how to do so, without ruining Charles Bingley and his elder sister, Mrs Hurst? Once it was learned that Caroline was involved in the attempted murder, that she was likely guilty of conspiracy to commit murder, the entire family would be ruined. With Bingley planning to marry Jane Bennet, it would bring the Bennet family shame as well.
Finally, Darcy turned around to speak with the men. “I will pay to have both of the ladies transported to another country. They can be taken to Australia, Scotland, or even the Americas. But they must be made to understand that they cannot return to England. If they step foot on English soil, they will be charged with conspiracy and tried for their crimes. If they agree to be transported, I will give each one hundred pounds as they board the ship, on top of paying for their passage. This will give them a start on their new lives.”
“It should not be for you to pay to remove these women from good society.” Richard stated his opinion. “They do not deserve your generosity.”
Darcy shook his head. “We are not certain of Miss Bingley’s participation, but, even if she is guilty, we need to protect the family. It is not Charles or Mrs Hurst who committed any crime, but that will not matter. They will be tainted by scandal if word spreads. Paying for the women to be removed from society is to protect our family, not the women. I will not allow them to bring any further harm to Elizabeth, our family, or our future family. Charles, you love Jane. I cannot see your chances of happiness with her ruined by your sister’s foolishness.”
Bingley had turned white as a ghost. He knew, in his heart, that Caroline had facilitated the attempt against Elizabeth. The greatest pain was wondering what Jane would feel, when she learned the truth. Would she abandon the man, due to his sister’s attempt to have her dearest sister killed?
“No, Darcy, it is not for you to have to pay. Caroline is my sister. She is my responsibility. I will see that the funds come from me, as it will be taken from Caroline’s funds. She will be granted a portion of her dowry if she goes willingly to another country. If she balks, she will be given a pittance and shipped off to find her own way.”
“Would you wish to have reinforcements when you confront your sister?” Richard asked. “I would be willing to assist you.”
“And I can come along, to impose the threat of possible arrest.” Mr Belkins stated. “We can take Mrs Younge with us, and if your sister decides to deny involvement, we can bring Mrs Younge into the room. Let the two of them realize they are in the same boat, so to speak.”
“It is best I do not attend, as I am certain that Miss Bingley will attempt to blame everything on Elizabeth. I would not be able to contain my fury at your sister, Charles, and I would likely attempt to end her life.” Darcy explained. “But please, inform her of my wedding, my wife being unharmed in this attack, and that I have never, and I do mean never, had any desires for an arrangement with Miss Bingley. Any belief that I wished to have a connection with her, other than the fact that she is your sister, were in Miss Bingley’s mind, and there is no truth to her imagination.”
Richard gave his cousin a wicked smile. “I will see that Miss Bingley is well aware of the situation, William. Have no fear.”
~~ ** ~~
Having slept little, Caroline remained in her rooms later than usual, as she did not wish to give away her excitement over the news she would soon hear. She wondered how early the news would arrive, declaring her nemesis’ demise.
Caroline took her time preparing for the day. She wished to look her best, as she expected to spend many hours consoling the man of her dreams, making him see that she was the best choice for the next Mistress of Pemberley. With Elizabeth Bennet out of the way, and after a shortened mourning period, as Caroline did not wish to garner suspicion, she would be wed to Fitzwilliam Darcy. All of her dreams would come true.
When her maid entered, stating that Mr Bingley wished to speak with his sister in his study, Caroline had to take a few moments to practice her shocked look.
“Charles, you sent for me?” Caroline said, as she entered the study. She was suddenly surprised to see Colonel Fitzwilliam and another man in the room. Then her eyes lit upon the woman in the room. “Whatever is she doing here?”
“Sister, please take a seat. We have many things to discuss.” Bingley sat in the chair behind the desk, refusing to give his sister any curtesy by rising to greet her.
“I am extremely busy, Charles. Can we speak later?”
“No, Caroline, it cannot wait. You will take your seat immediately.” Charles Bingley stated in a voice that had never been heard coming from him. His sister was shocked, and quickly made her way to the nearest chair. She heard someone else enter the study, turning slightly, she found Louisa and her husband had joined the group. Mr Hurst had closed the door behind him.
“There was an attack at Longbourn last night, and it is what we are to discuss.” Bingley declared.
“Why should an attack against the Bennets involve us? Unless it is some band of gypsies, and we must be on alert.”
“You know very well, Sister, it was not a band of gypsies. And you are well aware who performed the attack, as you hired him to commit the act.”
Caroline gave a gasp, attempting to act surprised at the information. “I do not understand of what you are speaking, Charles. This is ludicrous. Why would I hire someone to attack Longbourn?”
“In an attempt to kill Elizabeth Darcy.” Mr Belkins stated. “And the man did not succeed, as he was killed by Mr Darcy.”
“Eliza’s name is Bennet, not Darcy.” Caroline spat the words. She was furious.
Richard spoke. “No, Miss Bingley, Elizabeth is Mrs Darcy, as they were married yesterday morning. When you visited, my cousins were spending some time alone, to enjoy the fact that they were wed. We kept the news secret, as they wished to have privacy, before the neighbors began calling to wish them joy. It was due to their marriage, and Darcy sleeping in the room with his wife, that Elizabeth was not murdered.”
“I am shocked at the news, as I did not believe Mr Darcy to wish to continue the engagement. But I do not understand how this is connected to me.”
Mrs Younge’s fury could not be contained. “How dare you? How dare you? Because of you, the man I love is dead. He died, with a knife plunged in his chest, all because you desired to remove the Bennet chit from Mr Darcy. Like you would ever stand a chance to become Mrs Darcy.”
“Shut your mouth, you harlot.” Caroline screamed at the former companion. “You were furious with that chit for having your sacked.”
“But you paid Wickham for his services, keeping Colonel Fitzwilliam and Miss Darcy in the neighborhood. And you paid him to end Miss Eliza’s life.”
“I would never do such a thing. How dare you spread such lies?”
“You got my lover killed…all because you were jealous. Like you would ever stand a chance at turning Mr Darcy’s head. He cannot stand to be in the same room as you, you are so revolting to him.” Mrs Younge was in pain, and wished to dole it out to others. “If you had faced the truth, Wickham would be alive.”
“You did not have to take my offer of employment, but Wickham has so many debts, and he needed funds. And Miss Eliza knew the sort of woman you were, and made certain that you could no longer influence Miss Darcy.” Caroline countered, not realizing what she had said implicated her in the conspiracy.
Mrs Younge leapt from her chair and threw herself at Caroline Bingley. The two women began fighting; pulling chunks of hair and scratching everywhere. Unfortunately for Caroline, Mrs Younge was a far more experienced fighter. Caroline cried out in pain, as the former companion’s fingers gouged her right eye. Blood spurted from the eye, as the men were attempting to disentangle the women.
Richard restrained Mrs Younge, while Mr Belkins positioned himself between the two ladies. Bingley took hold of his sister, as Louisa moved to tend Caroline. Hurst moved quickly to the door, calling for the housekeeper to bring her bag of medicinals. He also requested someone be sent to Longbourn to fetch Mr Burnside.
In all of the confusion, no one realized that Caroline, who was leaning over her brother’s desk, blood flowing from her eye, reached over and grasped the metal letter opener which was near her hand. She moved quickly, before the men could react. Before the men could register what was happening, Caroline plunged the letter opener into Mrs Younge’s chest.
Chaos erupted. Richard pulled Mrs Younge back and into a far corner of the room, removing the object protruding from her chest. After years of being on the battlefield, Richard was certain the wound was fatal. He knew she would not live long.
Bingley pulled his sister towards the corner of the room nearest the back of his desk. Mr Belkins collected the letter opener, wrapping it in a handkerchief and placing it inside his coat. He would see that no one else was injured by the piece of metal.
Caroline was scooped in her brother’s arms and carried upstairs, to her rooms. Removing the handkerchief that he had placed over the wound, Bingley was appalled at the sight. His sister’s eye was damaged, beyond repair. She was permanently disfigured, and would be blind on that side. Though his heart went out to her, for the pain she was suffering, he could not rid himself of the pain she had brought to others.
What if Wickham had succeeded in murdering Elizabeth? Jane loved her sister dearly, and she would have been devastated by the loss. So would Darcy, as he was deeply in love with his wife. And Darcy could have been injured worse than he was, or even killed. Others could have been killed, if they had discovered Wickham in the Bennet home. So many potential victims, so many lives which could have been ruined, all because Caroline demanded her own way. And Mrs Younge was dying in his study, from a wound which she received from Caroline’s own hand. The entire day was filled with pain and sorrow, and the majority of it was directly related to Caroline’s doing.
Louisa was at her sister’s side, with cloth and water, attempting to clean the wounded area. The blood had flowed heavily, covering the lady’s face in blood.
“That woman had long fingernails. Caroline’s eye will be forever ruined. Most likely it will need to be removed. She will then need a glass eye.” The elder sister spoke, not really caring who heard her.
“I want Mr Darcy to come…I need to speak with him.” Caroline cried out. “Please, Charles, he must come here, so I can explain everything to him.”
“Darcy does not wish to speak with you or see you. Not ever again. You hired someone to murder his wife. He will never forgive you, especially as he never cared about you. Caroline, why would you do such? Why would you hire someone to commit murder for you?”
“The chit was standing in my way. Mr Darcy would have come to me, with the country nobody removed from his life. He loves me, I know he does.”
“My friend has never loved you, Sister. He tolerated you for my sake. If not for our friendship, he never would have allowed you in his homes. His heart belongs to his wife, to Elizabeth. You never stood a chance, for he would never have recovered if he had lost her.”
“No, it is not true. I know that he loves me. I know his time away would open his eyes to the truth. He could never have wished for a wife of such inferior birth. She is nothing…he knows that she is inappropriate.” Caroline said, as she writhed from the pain she was suffering.
“Enough, Caroline. We will no longer discuss the issue. As soon as you are recovered, you will be sent away. It is the only way I can protect your life.”
“I have done nothing to deserve being sent away.”
“You just admitted that you conspired with Mrs Younge and Wickham to murder Elizabeth Darcy. You just plunged an object into Mrs Younge’s chest. You could hang for these offenses.”
“No court would convict me. Not once they hear the truth. When they know of Mr Darcy’s love for me, they will understand why. Please, Charles, send word to Mr Darcy. He will wish to come, to be at my side. When he learns the truth, how I tried to protect him, he will rush to me.”
“Enough of your foolishness, Caroline. I will no longer discuss this with you. You refuse to see the truth, and have committed horrible crimes. When the physician arrives, I will have him come to you.” With that, Bingley walked out of the room, all the while, his sister was crying to him to send for Darcy.
~~~~~~~ ** ~~~~~~~
As if the day had not started off badly enough, things continued to worsen, as a carriage bringing an ill wind pulled up in front of Longbourn’s house. Darcy heard the voice he did not wish to hear, and decided it was best to stop the person immediately.
“Out of my way…I am here to deal with that upstart who refuses to allow me to see my niece.” Lady Catherine forced her way inside the house. “Tell the chit I demand to see her immediately.”
Darcy stepped out from the breakfast room. “I am afraid that Elizabeth is unavailable at the moment, Aunt. You will have to speak with me.”
“D…Darcy. I thought you…you…were dead.”
“Rumors of my death have been exaggerated. As you see, I am alive and well. And I have been informed of your demands when I was gone. How dare you, Lady Catherine? Go against my expressed demands, and attempt to take my sister, by force, from her legal guardians?”
“I…I was doing w…what was best for Georgiana. She deserved to be raised in a proper environment, not with the likes of that country nobody. How could you leave my niece, a granddaughter of the former Earl of Matlock, to be raised by someone of such low birth?”
He clasped his hands behind his back, to prevent himself from strangling his aunt. “Georgiana was left in the care of my betrothed.”
“Ha, your betrothed. You are engaged to my daughter. And it is time you took your rightful place as her husband. I insist you join me in returning to Rosings, and we will have you married in no time at all.”
“Lady Catherine, you are aware of my decision to not marry Anne. You have been told many times.”
“But it was…”
“No, it was never the greatest wish of my dear mother, as Mother never spoke to me of marrying Anne. She wished for me to be happy, and to marry for love. I have never loved Anne, nor has she ever felt love for me.”
“Anne will do her duty and marry where I tell her. You were made for each other, formed from birth to be married and unite the estates of Pemberley and Rosings. We will be powerful…”
“NO! Even if I were to believe you and married your daughter, you would not be powerful. I would not allow you to be in control of anything, except the dower house at Rosings. You have no control over my life, the life of my sister, Pemberley, or any of my holdings. As it is, Anne should have taken control of Rosings, two years ago, when she came of age. But you have kept the news from your daughter, I am certain.”
“Rosings is mine. I earned it by being married to Lewis de Bourgh. The man was a sniveling, worthless excuse of a man, who loved another. But he could not marry her, so he was forced to marry me. And he made me miserable. I rejoiced at his death, as it gave me freedom. I no longer had to live under his rules, I could do as I pleased. Anne will not take Rosings away from me.”
“It is hers by birth, as she is the heir to Sir Lewis’ estate.” Darcy stated. “And I plan on speaking to my uncle when he arrives from Ireland. I am certain he will wish to see his niece in control of her birthright. Now, while you are here, I have an announcement to make. I cannot marry Anne, as I am already married.”
“It cannot be. You must have recently arrived, as you were not here when I last came for Georgiana.”
“Ah, yes, another strike against you. But I am married, as yesterday I was wed, by special license, to Elizabeth Darcy, nee Bennet. Now, I will ask you to leave the home of my father in law, and do so immediately.” Darcy’s voice held a steel edge, ready to slice his opponent to shreds.
“This cannot be. You must have suffered a head injury during the shipwreck. Where is your cousin? Fitzwilliam will assist me in taking you for medical care. We will have the marriage annulled. Come, let us collect Fitzwilliam and Georgiana, and we will stop in Town to have everything fixed to proper order.”
“If you do not leave immediately, I will have my family physician check on asylums to have you locked away. You have lost your mind if you believe I will allow you to have any say over my life.”
“I insist you…”
“YOU WILL NOT INSIST ANYTHING TO DO WITH MY LIFE!” Darcy roared. “You have until I count to five to remove yourself from this house, and never return. If you remain, when I reach five, I will send for the physician and have you taken away.” He had stepped close enough that he was towering over his aunt, his frame making her shrink back with intimidation.
With a huff, Lady Catherine glared at her nephew. By the time he said two, she was heading for the door of the house, and made her way to the waiting carriage.
When Mr Bennet joined his son in law in the parlor, he clapped a hand on the younger man’s shoulder. “My dear boy, you can be quite intimidating. I found it humorous to watch your aunt’s departure. And I am so grateful she did not bring that fool of a cousin of mine with her this time.”
“I have heard of his insistence that he was to marry Elizabeth. One thing I will never forgive Mrs Bennet for is giving approval for that man to marry my wife.”
“That marriage would never have happened, as I would never have allowed Lizzy to be shackled to such an obnoxious toad of a man.” Mr Bennet said. “There was no need to worry about the future, as Lizzy was well situated to care for our family, and Bingley would take care of the ladies, if anything happened to me.”
Just then, a rider came quickly towards the house.
“Oh, no. Now what has happened?” Darcy asked to no one. The two men made their way to the front door and Mr Bennet opened it as the rider came to a halt.
“Mr Bennet, Colonel Fitzwilliam sent me to tell you that Mrs Younge is dead. Miss Bingley is wounded. They request the physician come to Netherfield.”
“Good God, what happened?” Darcy asked.
“All I knows is the two bits had a go at each other. They say Miss Bingley’s eye was nearly plucked from her face. Mrs Younge be stabbed. The colonel, he was with her as she died. Stabbed in the chest, she was.”
“We should join Mr Burnside, and learn what has happened.” Darcy stated to Mr Bennet. “As much as I do not wish to deal with the situation, I should not turn it over to my cousin.”
“William, I insist you go upstairs and hold my daughter in your arms. You spend time with her, and rest. After all you went through during the night, and just contending with your aunt, the last thing you need to deal with is Caroline Bingley. I will go to Netherfield. If there is truly a need for you, I will send word. Otherwise, between the colonel, Bingley, and I, we will be able to act in your stead. When we return, your cousin and I will come to tell you all that has happened.”
“No buts, William. Now, up the stairs and into your wife’s room. I am your father in law, you had best listen to me. Do not make me tell your wife what has happened and that you insist on accompanying me. Lizzy would be quite worried, as she is already concerned with your health.”
“You do not play fair, Mr Bennet.” Darcy said, biting his lip as he attempted to keep from smiling.
~~ ** ~~
“It was the most repulsive thing I have ever witnessed.” Richard stated, as he began the tale to his cousin and his wife. “The two flung themselves at each other, and began pulling hair and scratching at the other. Mrs Younge’s finger went into Miss Bingley’s eye, and blood spewed from her face. Forgive me, Elizabeth, I forget the sensibilities of a young lady. Perhaps it would be best for me to speak to Darcy downstairs.”
“You will not.” Elizabeth declared. “If you try leaving this room, without telling me the rest of the story, I will hobble down the stairs to listen.”
Darcy gave a small chuckle. “Do not underestimate my wife, Richard. She is strong willed.”
“She would have to be to agree to marry you. Very well. As we watched, all of us shocked at what had happened, Miss Bingley grabbed the letter opener which was on the top of the desk, and stabbed Mrs Younge in the chest. It was a ghastly scene. Mrs Younge bled to death in my arms. Her dying words told me how much Miss Bingley paid Wickham to kill Elizabeth, and that Wickham was the one who tied the cord across the path, causing the fall. Miss Bingley was furious, as her plan was to make Georgiana and me think that Elizabeth was having a secret relationship with Wickham. With Elizabeth laid up in her rooms, Wickham could not cause the compromise of your wife.”
“Dear God, the lengths that woman went to in an attempt to have power and prestige. What will happen to her? Will Belkins still agree to transportation?”
Richard gave his cousin a sad look. “The chances of Miss Bingley surviving long enough to be transported are very slim. Mr Burnside stated that infection will likely set in, even though they removed the damaged eye. Forgive my bluntness, as what I have to say is disgusting, but Mrs Younge’s fingers were not clean, and she scratched deep inside the eye. There is no way to clean the wound properly, so it is inevitable that an infection will develop. And it will likely go straight to the brain. On an off chance that she survives, it is highly probable that she will have severe damage to her brain.”
Darcy looked at his wife, lifting her hand to his lips. He placed several kisses on her hand, then looked deep into her eyes. “She has made her own bed, so it is fair to say she deserves what she now has to endure. My only regret is with what her brother and sister are to contend. How is Charles?
“Conflicted. He is furious with what his sister has wrought, yet, she is his sister. He does not wish for her death, but he wishes to have her removed from his care.”
“William, you must go to him. He is your closest friend, and will be our brother, when he marries Jane. If ever he needed your friendship and advice, now would be the time.” Elizabeth encouraged her husband. “I am safe, and Georgiana can remain here, with me. She is beside herself with worry, and could use some private time with her sister, according to what Jane told me. With all that has happened, I can understand. We have all been busy dealing with the tragic events, leaving Georgiana to the care of my sisters.”
“I do not wish to leave your side.” Darcy replied. “I do not wish for us to be separated. We are supposed to be rejoicing in the fact we were married yesterday. Instead, we have had an attempt on our lives, very little sleep, a conspiracy uncovered, my aunt pay call on us, and now this. Can we not have peace? Can we not have time, alone, to enjoy peace and calm?”
“Speak with your friend, then return to me, my sweet William. I love you, the caring man that is Fitzwilliam Darcy. Go to your friend, and give him comfort, let him know you still value his friendship. Then we will lock the door and keep out the world for a few days.”
Darcy laughed. “Very well, my love. I will do as you wish. And the door will remain locked, except for provisions being delivered, for several days.”
~~ ** ~~
“My nerves are still fluttering, Mr Bennet. To think, so much has happened. All while I was in my bed. To think, we could have all been murdered in our beds.”
“My dear wife, I have already told you. Mr Wickham came only to kill our Lizzy. Thankfully, he was unsuccessful.”
“And to think, he was such a handsome young man, and so nice when he took tea here. And Lydia found him to be the most charming, and he looks so well in his regimentals.”
“Not every man in a uniform can be trusted, Mrs Bennet.” Richard stated. “I have had many young man discredit the uniform he wore. Wickham was a menace before he tried to murder your daughter. He has been evil for many years.”
“But it is sad to think that he could be evil, yet so handsome.” Mrs Bennet said. “I once lost my heart to a man in a red coat. But he died before he could make me an offer. So I married Mr Bennet.”
Having heard the tale many times over the years, Mr Bennet waved it away. “Burnside is still at Netherfield?”
Richard nodded his head. “He is attempting to keep Miss Bingley as calm as possible. Her fever has already grown, and she is in severe pain.”
“Such wickedness, from someone with such taste.” Mrs Bennet stated. “I thought she would be an excellent guide for my girls, as they made their debut in society. What a shame, especially for Jane, as she would have been Miss Bingley’s sister.”
“Mamma, please.” Elizabeth stated. “Jane is suffering enough, without your making such comments. I am pleased that William was able to talk Jane into going to Netherfield, as I am certain Mr Bingley will need her strength.”
“And now, with the delay of their wedding, I can plan a better one. More elaborate, as is befitting someone of Mr Bingley’s station in life, not to mention, Jane being the sister of Mr Darcy.”
Elizabeth allowed her eyes to roll, as she could not believe her mother’s foolishness. “Mamma, if Miss Bingley dies, it will be proper for Mr Bingley to mourn his sister. A wedding would have to be delayed, until after a mourning period has taken place.”
“And the extra time would be perfect to allow me to plan the best wedding the neighborhood has ever seen. Flowers, lace, ribbons, and the most elaborate wedding breakfast the county has ever seen. Certainly, whatever we cannot find here, in Hertfordshire, Mr Darcy will assist us in purchasing.”
Mr Bennet realized it was time to set his foot down with his wife. “Fanny, I will hear no more of your plans for our eldest’s wedding. The last thing that should be on our minds at this moment is planning an elaborate wedding. Our two eldest daughters have been through tremendous problems over the past few months, our new son was nearly killed twice, and our future son has had many problems with which to deal. I do not wish to hear of lace and ribbons. And, if you raise the subject of Jane’s wedding in the next fortnight, I will see that you have no funds to purchase a single item for a year. Do I make myself clear?”
“Mr Bennet, how could you be so cruel?” Mrs Bennet’s handkerchief was in her hand, flitting about as if it had wings. “You will be the death of me, speaking with such cruelty. Do you not wish to see our daughters all settled and on their own, before you die?”
“I plan to live for many years to come, so I do not see the urgency in marrying all five of my daughters within the next month. Darcy has already promised to protect you all, should my death come sooner than I wish.” Mr Bennet declared. “So, I believe that I deserve some peace and calm in my home.”
As she flapped her handkerchief about, Mrs Bennet made a quick departure from her daughter’s bedchamber, slamming the door of her own room, once she was inside. Wails of despair were heard from her room for some time to come.
~~ ** ~~
Lifting the glass of port to his lips, Bingley took a long draw from the amber liquid. “I appreciate your coming, Darcy, but it is not necessary for you to remain. You have a new wife waiting for you at Longbourn, and after all you have endured, you require rest.”
“Bingley, you have always been a good friend to me. I could not imagine not being here for you, especially with all you are experiencing. What has Burnside to say of your sister’s condition?”
“She lost the eye, there was no possibility of its being saved. And the fever has taken hold. She is in severe pain, and Mr Burnside has had to give her laudanum. But Caroline continues to thrash about, even being sedated. Louisa is at her side, though I know she is devastated by all that has happened. Hurst has attempted to force Louisa to rest, for her own health, but she is the eldest, so she believes it is her duty to stand watch over Caroline. I know not what to say to her.”
“Have you been in the room, since…”
Bingley took another drink from his glass. “I cannot enter the room. The creature who lies on the bed is not my sister. Caroline Bingley died long ago. Our mother spoiled my younger sister, coddled her to a point of ruining her for fit society. Louisa was able to survive the treatment and remain being human. Caroline could not manage to be decent. So, no, I have no desire to enter the room, and see the pitiful creature who is there.”
“Is there anything I can do to be of assistance?” Darcy asked, as he lifted the decanter and refilled Bingley’s glass.
“Nothing, my friend. Your coming here has been more than I deserve. How you can bear to speak with me, after all my sister has done to harm your wife.”
“I do not blame you for your sister’s cruelty. It is not as if you put your sister up to her schemes.” Darcy stated as a matter of fact. “We have been close friends for many years, Bingley. When you marry Jane, you will be my brother.”
“If I marry Jane. I cannot see her family wishing a connection with me. Not after what Caroline has done. Perhaps it is best that I release M…Miss Bennet. Allow her to find someone who is not tainted by scandal.”
“We can purchase silence of the servants, and no one needs know all that has happened. With Wickham and Mrs Younge dead, only your sister remains, which allows us to devise a tale to explain all that happened. Scandal is the last thing over which you should be concerned. And Jane is upstairs, at your sister’s side. Not because of her innate goodness, or her desire to be at Miss Bingley’s side, but because of her love for you. She knows the pain you are suffering, and her love insists on doing all she can to alleviate your anguish. So, there will be no more talk of releasing her from your engagement.”
“I do not deserve her love. Due to my sister, her own was nearly killed.”
“You are not your sister, Charles. Now, enough. I will hear no more of this pity.” Darcy leaned forward, in a position of superiority over his friend. He deepened his voice, hoping to make his point. “You are to marry my sister, Jane, and live a happy life, filled with love. If you do anything to disappoint or cause one tear from my sister, or my wife, I will call you out as a cad. Jane deserves happiness and to be loved, and so do you. Do not allow your sister’s evil to destroy your future, or you will face my sword at sunrise.”
Bingley shrank back in his chair, not wishing to antagonize his friend. “Of…of course, I…I…I will marry Jane.”
“And you will love her, care for her as the devoted husband she deserves?”
“And you will marry soon, no matter what happens with your sister?”
“Y…yes. Of course…”
“Good.” Darcy smiled. “I am pleased you were intelligent enough to see my way is the best way.”
As his friend took his seat, Bingley shook his head. “You are quite the fearsome adversary, when you wish. Remind me to never actually garner your fury, as I would be skewered before I could even pull my blade.”
“It is wise of you to see the truth, Charles. And, as our ladies are beloved sisters, it is wise to not bring any pain to them.” Darcy gave his friend a pat on the shoulder, smiling.