Elizabeth fell asleep, leaning against Darcy’s shoulder, with Thomas on her lap. Though the child had been awake for short periods, they were all certain that the boy had likely been given some spirits to keep him calm. He spent most of the night sleeping, waking only once.
Darcy was exhausted, but he remained awake, watching over the passengers of the wagon. Richard had moved to the wagon bed, dozing off for a while, as he would take over driving when Trich was ready to sleep. The men were adamant that they should only stop for short periods, and keep moving, through the night and most of the following day. Each man would take a turn driving, allowing them to put as much distance between them and the invading army.
Klarissa smiled at the vision of her nephew, with Elizabeth and Thomas at his side. She could not wait for her boys, including her nephew, to find wives and have children. If there was one thing that Klarissa made clear to the men in her life, it was that she wished for grandchildren. As Darcy’s mother had died many years before, Klarissa had declared it her duty to act as grandmother for Darcy’s children.
Darcy looked up, noticing his aunt’s expression. “What are you smiling at, Aunt?”
“You, my dear William. I am thinking of how I look forward to seeing you married and a father. I plan on spoiling your children, just as I will my grandchildren.”
His eyes rolled, as he had heard his aunt’s constant badgering of her sons when it came to their settling down. “We have the French army attacking, and we are fleeing for our lives, and you are dreaming of the day I am married and a father. Aunt Klarissa, you astound me.”
“I am a mother, what do you expect from me? I need children to indulge and love. When you are facing the worst times in your life, you must concentrate on the good things to come. And grandchildren will be the best things to come to my life. So you remember, as soon as we are safe and returned to England, I will not rest until you are married and children on their way.”
Darcy chuckled. “You are relentless, Aunt. We have nothing to fear from the French, you are determined enough to keep them away from us just because it is your wish. A wall will spring up from the ground to block the army from finding us.”
“Well, I was going to keep that a secret until it was absolutely necessary for you to know. I am quite powerful, you know.” Klarissa gave a smile, reminding her nephew of the term, a cat that ate the canary.
The wagon rolled on, passing through the town of Schweinfurt. The area had suffered considerable damage over the past years, as Napoleon’s army attempted to control the area. The damage was clear to see, as was the poverty of those who lived there.
Emily shared some of the history of the town, speaking of a friend who had died when the fighting had last been in the area. “Marcus and his family owned a confectionary shop. He was defending his shop from the invaders, who were stealing everything he owned. His wife, Margrit, survived, though they and beaten her…violating her. She told me that she wished she had died with her husband.”
“It amazes me; the way men behave during war.” Klarissa stated. “Were these men the sort who would violate a woman, before the war? Did the battle make the men feel free to commit such acts? What if it were their women, how would they feel about someone committing such acts on them?”
Darcy shook his head. “One of our professors at the university discussed such phenomenon. How a man of honor can be caught up in the whirlwind of behavior during war time, behaving in a manner he would never have done before. He questioned many soldiers who had been in battle, and used their answers in his research.”
“Professor Monteford?” Richard asked.
“Yes. It was interesting, some of the men were horribly ashamed of their behavior, surprised that they had participated in such atrocities. Professor Monteford told of on man, who had been married and a father, had participated in beating a man to death, after raping his wife and daughter. The soldier felt so guilty after the event, and after years of being home, with his own family, he took his life. He could no longer live with what he had done.”
Elizabeth spoke. “My father had been on holiday from the university, when he learned of some classmates who had gone on a drunk. The group terrorized several of the local businesses, and took advantage of several young ladies. One of my father’s dearest friends was in the group, and, after he sobered, he was appalled at his own behavior. He fled England, and is living in Canada. The man never married, as he told my father that he felt he did not deserve to be loved.”
“Where did your father attend?” Darcy asked.
“Oxford. He considered it a bit of heaven, as he has a great fondness for books. Papa has always teased that if he had a library as large as the university, he would never leave the room.” A small smile crept out of Elizabeth. “My brother just graduated from Oxford.”
“You were visiting a relative in Vienna?”
“My mother’s elder brother. He has lived in Vienna for many years, and Papa felt it would be like a grand tour for Alex. And my brother knew how dear the journey would be to me, so he begged Papa to allow me to join him.”
Klarissa joined in the conversation. “Did your father not wish to make the journey? Why did neither of your parents join you?”
“Papa does not like to be away from home, and especially his book room. Mamma would have come, but she was needed to be home with my sisters. My elder sister, Jane, was being courted by a young man who is visiting our neighborhood. Jane does not believe anything will come of the situation, but Mamma is firm in her belief that the young man will propose. He wrote some very…sad…poems. Mamma felt that it was declaring himself and his desire to marry my sister. Personally, I believe that one poor sonnet can drive love away.”
This caused Darcy to chuckle. “I thought poetry was the food of love.”
“If it is a strong, devoted sort, it may feed the love, though I believe that if it is a weak sort of relationship, one poor line can smother any spark completely.”
This brought forth laughs from Klarissa and Darcy. The elder lady inquired about the other members of the Bennet family.
“Alex was the eldest, which was of great relief to my mother. The estate was entailed away from the female line, and Mamma has often stated that if it had not been for Alex, we would have faced living in the hedgerow if the estate had been inherited by my father’s distant cousin. But Alex’s birth broke the entail. After Alex is Jane. She is the perfect daughter, as my mother has been quoted many times. There is no one in the world as beautiful and as sweet as my dearest sister. Jane is truly an angel on earth.”
“If she is anything as pretty as you, she must be beautiful.” Klarissa said.
“Oh, no, Mamma has told me many times that I am in no way as beautiful as Jane. My sister has golden hair, crystal blue eyes, and has never said a cross word to or about anyone.”
“Impossible.” Darcy declared. “It is not possible to never say a cross word. My sister is good natured, but she has even held ill thoughts of others.”
“Not Jane. No matter how odious the person behaves, Jane will find something good to say about them.” Elizabeth smiled. “I am next in line, followed by Mary. Mary is … well, Mary is … very studious in all things religious. She has memorized Fordyce Sermons and any theological books she can find. Papa has stated many times that it was a shame that Mary was born a female, for she would have been a perfect clergyman.”
Everyone chuckled at this declaration. Richard inquired to the remaining sisters.
“The last two were twins. Katherine, who we call Kitty, and Lydia. And they are always together. Mamma says that she is surprised they were not born stuck together. They are silly girls, only fourteen years old. Their fondest joys are found dreaming of flirting with the militia that are camped in the market town of Meryton. They both have declared their desire to marry a man in a red coat. According to my sisters, they are the only men worth marrying.”
“Do you have any other relations? Aunts or uncles?” Darcy inquired. He did not understand why he found himself interested in the young lady’s family. There was something about Elizabeth that drew him to her.
“My father has a sister, she is a widow and lives in Ireland with her husband’s sister. My mother has a sister who is married to a solicitor in Meryton and her younger brother who lives in Cheapside with his wife and their two children. Uncle Edward and Aunt Helen are very kind to us. They have welcomed Alex, Jane and me to visit them every year. Uncle owns a successful import business, Gardiner Imports. I love exploring the warehouse, to see the items that come from all over the world.”
“You seem to be content with life, Elizabeth. Do you not wish to live in a grand house and be one of the grand ladies of the ton?” Klarissa inquired.
Elizabeth looked at Thomas, sleeping in her lap. “I would be happy with a comfortable home, a husband who loved me, and several children to keep me young. I have no need for riches.”
“I am certain you will find your desire, Elizabeth. You are a rare and wonderful breath of fresh air.” Darcy spoke softly.
After several moments of silence, Elizabeth determined it was time to learn more of her companions. “William, how is it that you are here with your aunt and cousin? Where are your parents or siblings?”
Klarissa listened to the conversation with a spark of hope taking light in her chest. She had already come to admire the young lady who was traveling with them.
Darcy smiled. “Aunt Klarissa was born and lived her youth in Vienna. She then married my mother’s brother, Henry Fitzwilliam. They have two sons; which Richard is the second born. My uncle’s estate is Matlock, in northern Derbyshire. As for me, my mother died a little more than fourteen years ago, with the birth of my sister. My father is still living, though his health did not allow him to make such a journey. Now, with all that has happened, I am grateful Father did not come on this holiday.”
“And are there other relations?” Elizabeth teased.
“Oh, you do not wish to know his other aunt.” Klarissa boldly announced. “She makes Napoleon’s army look mild, as she is a force with which to be reckoned.”
Elizabeth’s brow lifted as she took in the information. “A force with which to be reckoned? My goodness, I must learn more of this lady.”
Richard snorted. “Aunt Catherine is no lady. She is one of the most obnoxious, opinionated women in all of England.”
“Richard…Catherine is still your elder, show some respect.” Klarissa bit her bottom lip between her teeth to keep herself from laughing. “Elizabeth, believe me, my sister in law is…unique.”
“And she is adamant that I marry her only child. Aunt Catherine named her daughter after my mother, and has told me for years that it was my mother’s greatest desire that Anne and I wed.” Darcy shook his head as he spoke. “It was one of the reasons I was anxious to come on this holiday. If I had not, Father said I would have to join him in visiting Aunt Catherine and Anne.”
“And I thought you wished to be with us because you were devastated to be separated from me.” Richard laughed.
Klarissa smiled. “As you can likely surmise, Elizabeth, Richard and William have always been the best of friends. They are more brothers than cousins.”
A bit of melancholy swept over Elizabeth’s expression. “My family will be devastated when they learn of Alex’s death. Especially Mamma, as she has always doted on him. She will likely be furious with me.”
“Why would she be furious with you?” Darcy asked. He could not keep a frown from developing.
“It is my fault that Alex was killed. He was behind me, protecting me, when he was shot. And I was unable to keep him from falling in the river, so I cannot even take his body home to be buried in the family plot. Mamma will place the blame on me, as she knows that my brother would do anything he could to protect me.”
This caused Darcy to become protective of the young lady beside him. “How could anyone blame you for what happened? Especially a mother, who should be grateful for your survival. She could have lost two children rather than one.”
“I have never been a favorite of my mother’s.” Elizabeth felt tears beginning to sting her eyes. “I am my father’s favorite, and Mamma does not approve of my behavior. She constantly informs me that young ladies will not attract a husband if she is constantly reading books that are meant for men. And men do not appreciate an impertinent young lady who is not demure and ladylike at all times.”
Darcy’s arm wrapped around Elizabeth’s shoulders, pulling her closer to his body. “Your mother is a fool, if she does not approve of you. In the short time I have known you, I have found you to be all that a young lady should be, especially given the situation in which we find ourselves. How many young ladies of the ton would have been able to keep their wits about them while attempting to escape a war?”
The warmth and comfort Elizabeth was deriving from the actions and words from Darcy outweighed the improper nature of his embrace. Lady Matlock could see that her nephew was taken by this young lady, for she was unusual from other young ladies. Rather than simpering and agreeing with everything that Darcy said, Elizabeth spoke her mind. She gave no pretense, she did not agree with what was said, simply to garner someone’s good opinion.
~~ ** ~~
The group had traveled throughout the night, taking small breaks to keep from overworking the horses. Finally, they came to the city of Fulda. Near the edge of the city, they came across a stable. Trich stated he would check with the owner, to see if they could exchange the horses, or, at the least, they could rest in the stable for a few hours.
Everyone held their breath as Trich went inside the stable, speaking with the owner. When he came back to the wagon, he looked around, as if making sure no one was watching.
“The owner is willing to allow us to rest in the hayloft. He said that there have been soldiers through the area for several days, but there are not any now. We can rest a few hours, as he has no horses to spare. The soldiers took all he had, and if they return, they will likely take ours. It would be best if Richard and I rested, if you would keep a watch, William.”
It was agreed, and Lady Matlock remained awake with her nephew. She watched the way Darcy’s eyes continued to return to the sleeping form of Elizabeth. Whether Darcy realized his feelings or not, his aunt was well aware of his growing attachment to the young lady. Speaking softly, she captured his attention.
“Elizabeth is quite a young lady.”
“William, I have watched you all of your life. You have never allowed any young lady to grow so close to you, with the exception of your sister. You cannot fool me, my dear boy. It is clear to see that you care about Elizabeth.”
“Aunt, with all that is happening, this conversation is inappropriate. I find Elizabeth to be a remarkable young lady, who has endured a terrible tragedy. I do not know if I would have been able to cope as well, if I were her.”
“Fitzwilliam Darcy, you care for her. Admit the truth, my dear boy.”
Darcy was frustrated. “Aunt, I will do no such thing. Miss Bennet is under our protection, and I would not wish for her to suffer any harm. It is my intention to see her reunited with her family.”
“I find her refreshing. Can you imagine Miss Foster, or Lady Susan, if they had been forced into such a situation?” Lady Matlock smiled mischievously. “Or that sister of your friend…what is his name? Bingley?”
“Miss Caroline Bingley?” Darcy chuckled. “Heaven forbid she be forced to dress in such clothing and travel in such a manner. She would be a torture with which to make such a journey.”
“To think her family is new money, and come from trade, that woman puts on airs as if she were a member of the royal family.” Lady Matlock shook her head. “Did I tell you that she was appalled to learn that she would not be invited to the ball at Fern Hall? When she approached Lady Benedict, at the modiste, she had the audacity to declare being an intimate friend of yours, not realizing I was there, and that I am your aunt.”
“And what was your response to her statement?”
“Lady Benedict turned towards me, asking me if it was true, that my nephew would sink so low as to be intimate friends with such persons. I laughed lightly, and stated that you were acquainted with her, as you had attended university with her brother, but there was no intimate connection with you, as you had better taste than to align with a crass tradesman’s daughter. Miss Bingley gaped like a fish on land, and it was only due to her sister taking hold of her arm, pulling her from the shop, that saved her from further embarrassment.”
“I have asked Bingley to take a firm hand with his sisters, as they are both eager for Miss Bingley to make an advantageous match. For the sister, Mrs Hurst, it would relieve her from having to contend with Miss Bingley’s behavior. My friend has stated that his younger sister has caused a tremendous amount of anxiety for the elder sister. Mr Hurst is displeased with Miss Bingley’s behavior, so displeased that he drinks in excess to be able to be in the same room with her.”
“If I were you, I would take steps to always have someone with you, when Miss Bingley is near. She is the sort who would compromise you to obtain her goal.” Lady Matlock stated.
“Aunt, have no fear of anyone compromising me. From the first dance I attended, I have known the behavior of women. Not only the young ladies wishing for a wealthy husband, but their mothers who wish to have their daughters be so advantageously settled, and even the married women who wish to have a dalliance. There is always someone to avoid, and my instincts are always heightened around females.”
This struck Lady Matlock as funny. Her nephew had no notion of his heart already being in danger of surrendering to the young lady with chocolate brown curls, sleeping beside him.
~~ ** ~~
“Elizabeth, we must leave.” A voice spoke to her, as dreams floated at the edge of her consciousness. She was at Longbourn, with her brother and eldest sister, planning a surprise for their father’s birthday.
“Not yet, Alex. We are not ready.”
“Elizabeth, it is me, William. We must leave, you must come with us.”
Elizabeth’s eyes opened. It was not a nightmare, she was really in a barn, with people she had never met a week ago, running for her life. “What is happening?” She inquired, sleepily.
“A man was just here, speaking with the owner. He told the man that soldiers were heading this way, and they are looking for horses. We must leave now, before they arrive.”
She nodded her head and began to stand, only to find his hands taking hold of her arms, pulling her lightly as he aided her to her feet. Elizabeth noticed everyone hurrying about, preparing to depart.
“We will eat on the way.” Klarissa was speaking with her son, as Darcy and Elizabeth approached. “We have enough food, though we will need to purchase more when we reach Giessen.”
“Mr Acker, the owner, said we should be careful, and avoid Wetzlar.” Trich announced. “He said that the arch chancellor who rules there is close friends with Napoleon. We would be in extreme danger if we went to Wetzlar.”
Lady Matlock turned to the man who was motioning for them to hurry, as he checked outside the door of the stables, ensuring that no soldiers were about.
They loaded the wagon and were quickly on their way, but not before Lady Matlock shook hands with the man, placing a pair of her earrings in his hands. They would give the man something to trade for whatever he needed to survive. The earrings were valuable, but not as valuable as the information that he had supplied to them.
~~~~~~~ ** ~~~~~~~
Over the next two days, the wagon slowly crept across the land. The horses were tired, and would have to be traded before they reached Cologne. With soldiers about, and their desire to appropriate horses, it would be difficult to find another team.
To give the horses a bit of relief, Richard and Trich split the horses into teams. Instead of having all four horses pulling at one time, they would have one pair pulling, while the other pair walked behind the wagon. It was slower, as they did not push the horses, and, at times, the people walked beside the wagon, to lighten the load.
For Elizabeth, this was a balm to her soul. Ever since she was old enough to walk, it had been Elizabeth’s way of being free from all worries. At home, she knew every inch of her father’s estate by heart. Every path had been walked, every tree climbed, every stream crossed. Nothing stood in her way. The start of each day, weather permitting, was spent traipsing about the estate of Longbourn, walking to the market village of Meryton, walking to the home of her closest friend, Charlotte Lucas of Lucas Lodge.
Her favorite place to go was to the top of Oakham Mount. From there, Elizabeth could see for miles in any direction. Alex had made it a special place for his sister, building a small bench underneath the mighty oak tree which stood alone on the hill. That had been her birthday gift, he had given her before they had left on their holiday. The memory of how happy Alex had been, when he and Jane showed it to her, was now bittersweet. Her brother had given her a treasure, a constant reminder of his love for her. There would never be a moment that she would sit on the bench and not remember his love.
Walking beside the wagon also gave her a chance to think of how she would inform her family of her brother’s death. Elizabeth was certain that her mother would blame her for Alex dying. No matter what was said, Fanny Bennet would be devastated, as Alex was the heir to Longbourn. There had been talk a few years previous, when Lydia had asked what would have happened if Alex had not been born. The next male in line would be a distant cousin, a man who had had a bitter argument with Mr Bennet when they were younger, causing a rift to develop between the two families. Would this man now stand to inherit the estate, when Mr Bennet left the world behind?
Besides their parents, Jane would feel the loss of Alex greatly. She never though ill of anyone, so how could she think ill of anyone for killing her beloved elder brother? It would be difficult for Jane, especially since she did not share her true feelings to anyone, with the exception of Alex and Elizabeth.
Their middle sister, Mary, would likely speak of their brother being in God’s care. But Elizabeth did not wish to hear such words, not when the pain was so fresh.
The twins, Elizabeth had no doubts that Kitty would miss Alex, but Lydia would likely be pleased not to have their elder brother tattling on her misdeeds. Every time she got into mischief, Alex would reprimand her or take the matter to their parents. Lydia was overheard many times speaking of how angry she was with their brother. And there were even times that Lydia had shouted that she would have been happier if she did not have a brother.
“Elizabeth, are you well?” Darcy asked. He had been watching her carefully, and noticed her vacant expression.
She turned her face towards him. “I…I am fine. Forgive me. I have been woolgathering.”
“If you care to share, I am happy to listen.”
He was rewarded with a smile. Elizabeth thought for a moment before she spoke. “I was thinking about my family. I can picture how each are going to react to Alex’s death.”
“I wish we could have saved him. Losing someone you hold dear can cause a hole in one’s life. Would it comfort you to speak of your brother?”
After a few moments of silence, Elizabeth glanced ahead at the path they were taking. “Alex was dear to me, as we were much alike. He preferred to be outdoors, spending as much time outside at home. I can remember Alex telling me that the only thing he disliked about going to school was not being able to enjoy the grounds like he did when he was at home. It was never a shock to find my brother reading a book while he was perched in a tree, or lying on the grass beside the river. Just before we left for Vienna, my brother gifted me with my present. My favorite place to go is the top of Oakham Mount. It is situated near two miles from our home, and from the top, I can look out over our neighborhood. The world has always looked so comforting and beautiful from the top. Alex built a bench for me, so I can sit up there, under the tree, and read. Mamma always chastises me when I sit on the ground and my dress would get dirtied.”
Darcy smiled at the memory she was sharing. “I have had many lectures from my valet about grass stains on my breeches. He does not appreciate my desire to sit on the ground and enjoy the day.”
“Ah, a man who would have been a like mind with Alex.” Elizabeth chuckled. “I will have the bench to remind me of my dear brother. He was always thinking of me.”
“Tell me about your father’s estate. Is it large?”
“One of the largest in the neighborhood. The only estate larger is the one to the east of Longbourn. It is called Netherfield Park. The owners have not lived there for several years now, as Sir Henry Dempsey is elderly, and moved to York to live with his daughter’s family. Our estate shares the village of Karpton, where most of our tenants live. Then the market town of Meryton, and Longbourn village, where most of our servants live. Longbourn brings in slightly over three thousand per annum. And Papa has invested with my uncle’s business in Town.”
“Do you know the tenants well?” Lady Matlock asked, as she decided to join the discussion. She wished to know all there was about the young lady and her family.
“Indeed. Papa and Mamma have always believed that we treat our tenants and servants with respect and dignity. My sisters and me assist Mamma in making clothes for the children, we visit the homes every week. Many of the visits include us taking items to them, such as food, or medicine. And we do what we can to assist them.”
“Your parents are wise. My husband and I believe the same, and have taught our sons the same.” Klarissa spoke with pride. “William’s father also believes the same. Before his mother’s death, Lady Anne was frequently visiting the tenants and the village. Unfortunately, my husband’s elder sister, Catherine, does not agree with such standards. It is her belief that her tenants and servants are fortunate enough to be under her protection, therefore she need not do anything further for them.”
Darcy nodded in agreement with his aunt. “Mother always stated she did not know how Aunt Catherine ended up as she did, for our grandparents taught her to respect those who work to make our lives better.”
“My husband has teased many times that Catherine was dropped on her head when she was an infant. It must have caused permanent damage.” Klarissa teased.
Richard chimed in with his opinion, declaring that if his father was correct, his aunt must have fallen from quite some height. The conversation lightened the mood of the weary travelers, making them forget, even if only for a moment, the situation they were facing.
~~ ** ~~
Emily noticed that Thomas was somewhat warm when she tended his needs. They had been resting beneath some trees in an area where they were somewhat hidden from the world. Thomas had been fussy earlier, but he was easily soothed by Elizabeth holding him in her arms and singing softly to him. The two little girls were becoming fussy as well, so it had been accepted that the children were ready for the journey to be at an end. It was a sentiment that was shared by the adults, though they were not permitted to behave as the children did.
The decision had been made to remain hidden away until the following morning. They were nearly halfway to Giessen, and the horses would not be able to survive if they were not rested.
“What do you know of Giessen?” Elizabeth asked, trying to learn more of the area as they made their escape.
Emily had always wished to visit the city, as she wished to visit the botanical gardens that were found there. “Their botanical gardens are the oldest known, and have been kept beautiful, no matter what has happed in the area. A friend of mine told me of seeing the variety of flowers and plants they have there. She said her father would have loved to sneak in and collect cuttings from many of their plants, so he could make his own gardens.”
“Is it not a part of the University of Giessen?” Klarissa asked.
“Yes, Akademischer Forstgarten GieBen is part of the Univeristy, though there is also Botanischer Garten der Justus-Liebig-Universitat GieBen, which was the oldest gardens.” Trich answered. “I know of a family who used to live there, as the husband was a professor at the university.”
“Would they still be there? Do you know how to find them?” Richard asked. They had been fortunate so far in the journey, though knowing someone might give them some added protection in the days ahead.
“The husband died, two years ago. The wife moved with her son’s family, near our farm. They can do nothing for us.”
All were saddened by the news. Klarissa packed most of their belongings back on the wagon, before settling down beside Elizabeth, who had rolled out her bedding on the ground. The two ladies had decided to share their bedding, placing one blanket on the ground, and using one to cover them. Though there was a slight chill in the air, the two were able to keep warm as they snuggled close, with Thomas between them. There would be no campfire, such would give away their location.
Near the ladies were Richard and William on one side, and Emily, Trich and their children on the other. Each of the men took turns watching over their makeshift family. And each of the men were able to sleep several hours, giving them all renewed energy.
~~ ** ~~
When everyone woke in the morning, Elizabeth was surprised to find Thomas running a fever. The child was lethargic, sweat beading on his forehead. With water that the men had brought from a nearby stream, Elizabeth used cloths to bathe the small boy, in attempt to lower his fever.
The wagon was prepared, and everyone climbed on, ready for another day of journey. Thomas continued to burn, and a cough developed by midday. Effort was made to keep Thomas separate from the other children, though it was no surprise when Gretchen became feverish later in the day. Brigit began coughing by the end of the day, just as they arrived at Giessen.
It was decided to drive the wagon around to the north side of the city, looking for a barn or stable where they could hide for the night. They hoped there would be other horses, as one of the team was beginning to limp slightly.
Finding a house with a barn, Trich and Klarissa were able to convince the family to allow them to stay. The cost was high, but they all knew how dangerous it would be, especially if soldiers found them.
The house was big enough to encompass the family of eight who lived there. The husband, Erik, worked for the blacksmith, while his wife, Margit, took in laundry for the nearby inn. Their five children, and Margit’s sickly grandmother lived in the house, doing what they could to assist with the work.
“Do you know anyone who has horses for sale?” Trich inquired. “We are on our way to Cologne, and our horses need to be exchanged.”
“I can ask about in the morning.” Erik stated. “There is a stable about a mile from here, they may have some to sell. With everyone needing horses, they may come at a high price.”
“We will take each step as it comes.” Klarissa said. “Is there somewhere I can purchase supplies? We need food and such, for the remainder of the journey.”
“There is a mercantile two blocks from here. My eldest son can take you there in the morning. He can carry your purchases back for you.” Erik stated, placing his hands on the shoulder of his ten-year-old son. “This is Liam. He is strong, and a good boy. He will help you.”
Margit walked over towards Elizabeth, who was still sitting on the bed of the wagon, holding Thomas in her arms, attempting to soothe the child. “The child, is ill?”
Elizabeth nodded her head. “We will keep him from your family. Please, do not ask us to leave.” Tears were beginning to flow down her cheek.
“No, no, we not make you go. The child has fever? Any spots?”
“No spots. Cough, fever.”
Margit nodded her head. “I have medicine. I bring it to you.”
Before Elizabeth could utter another word, Margit hurried to her house. Several moments passed before the door opened again, and the lady was returning, with a bottle of elixir in her hand.
“This will help, works good. My children, they were sick not long ago. This made them better.”
“I cannot tell you how grateful I am.” Elizabeth said, taking the bottle from Margit’s hands.
“You take some too, so you do not become sick. Taking care of child, you make yourself sick if not careful.”
Elizabeth gave each of the children a dose of the medication. She knew they would have to use the medication sparingly, as the bottle was only partially filled. “Perhaps we should see if another bottle of the medicine can be purchased. We would not like to run out of the medicine while we are away from any apothecary.”
Darcy agreed. They gave Margit the funds to purchase another bottle, suggesting she tell the physician that she wished to be prepared.
That night, the group remained in the barn, though they enjoyed their first cooked meal since they left Vienna. They enjoyed the speaking with the family, as Erik and Margit were able to speak openly of their neighborhood.
It was learned that the French army had been in the area periodically, and when they were, the citizens were treated poorly. The main problem was that the Archchancellor ruling Wetzlar gave the French army preference over the citizens of the city, and the army took advantage of the fact. Those who lived in Wetzlar were fearful of being murdered or that the army would confiscate everything they owned, leaving the citizens with nothing.
Richard was thinking with military precision. He had studied to take his place with the British army, which he was scheduled to do within a month of returning from the continent. “Who is the ruler in Wetzlar”
“The Archchancellor Karl Theodor Anton Maria von Dalberg. He is also known as the Prince Bishop of Worms and Bishop of Konstanz. It is well known that he is close friends with Napoleon. You must stay away from Wetzlar.” Erik warned.
Margit was concerned. “Would it be better to journey further north, rather than go to Cologne?”
The men spoke openly, and Trich went to the barn, returning with his map. Erik was showing some options they would have to avoid the French army.
“You could go through Marburg, then to Dortmund. This would put you on the path to Muster or Osnabruck. To be honest, I would go by way of Hannover. I have two brothers who were in Hannover. The people there have not been as accepting of Napoleon’s ways and his army. There are more who are sympathetic to the English.” Erik stated.
“Are they part of the King’s German Legion?” Richard asked, causing curious looks from his family and friends, and surprise from Erik and Margit.
“You know of the Legion?” Erik asked.
“I join the regulars upon my return from this holiday. I will be a captain. And I have been taught by some of the best minds when it comes to the military.” Richard announced proudly.
“Yes, my brothers are part of the Legion. We must keep their whereabouts secret, or we would be condemned as traitors.” Erik said.
Trich was uncertain of what they were speaking. “Are there forces here, who are fighting against Napoleon? I did not think there was any resistance to the French.”
“They are Germans who fled to England, and are feeding information to His Majesty’s army. With their knowledge of this area, and of the soldiers, they are assisting the British army.” Margit stated, showing a bit of fear, mixed with great pride. “Erik’s brothers are brave to join the Legion.”
“If it is unsafe for you here, you should join us.” Klarissa remarked. “You could travel with us. Between you and Trich, we would be safer, as you could speak for us. Though I am fluent, and my children can speak the language enough to get by as tourists, we are easily detected as foreigners.”
Erik and Margit looked at each other. With tears in her eyes, Margit shook her head. “My grandmother, she would be unable to make such a journey. And the children, we would have a difficult time taking all of us. We do not even own a wagon that would be large enough to carry us.”
“Margit…I wish to speak to you.” Her grandmother, Hilda, announced.
“Oma, you should be resting.” Margit said, walking over to the doorway, where her grandmother was standing.
“Margit, you must go with these people. You, your children, the last of our blood line. You must do this for me, for your parents. I will be able to make the journey. I am a tough old woman.”
“It would kill you Oma. You know the journey would be too difficult for you.”
Hilda reached over and wiped the tears with her thumbs. “I promised your grossvater that you would have a good life. After your parents died from the fever, there was only you to carry on our family. He would be disappointed in me if I kept you from flourishing. And he would be disappointed if I did not do all I could to make the journey. We will go. God has sent us angels to help us to freedom, it would be of no good to turn away from them.”
And so the plans were once again altered. And more people were to join in the journey. The men continued to discuss the plans throughout the evenings, even after the women and children had retired. The decision was made for Erik and Trich to make the purchases that would be needed to supply the convoy, including a wagon and horses that would be required. The two men were gone for several hours, having gone to several places, to keep from appearing suspicious.
They returned to the house in the afternoon, with not one, but two wagons and teams to pull them both. Another team of horses had been purchased in the morning, in trade for the team that had served loyally from Bamberg.
With the extra wagon, they would be able to carry some trunks, giving the appearance of a family moving from one city to another. And it would give enough room for all of the travelers to sit, especially for the children, who would easily become restless.
Fortunately, Thomas and Gretchen had begun to improve, thanks to the medicine they had been given. Margit had purchased another bottle of the concoction from the apothecary, stating she preferred to keep a bottle on hand. With five children, it was not uncommon for one child to be recovering, only to have another become ill.
That night, discussions were had for the route, where they would stop each day, possible assistance for any needs they would have. The decision was made to leave before sunrise the following morning. Trunks were packed with bedding, some keepsakes, and cooking supplies. Water was gathered in canteens, flasks, and bottles. Food was loaded on the wagon in crates and cloth sacks.
At five the following morning, three wagons left the neighborhood, taking with them seventeen people who were looking to escape the grasp of Napoleon and his army.
Very good Mel! Can’t wait to read more.
But wasn’t it Adam Bennet in the first chapters..not Alex?
Tense story, just ahead of the invaders, and now with so many others to care for and some so young and weak…enthralling.