Chapter 9

The butler of Netherfield Park was not amused when he went to the Master’s study.  “Mr Bingley, Mrs Bennet and Mr Collins are here to see the Bennet sisters.  Mr Darcy informed me that the young misses were not to be disturbed, though I am unable to locate him at the moment.”

“Escort them here, then search for Darcy.  Under no reason should Mrs Bennet or Mr Collins be allowed upstairs to disturb the ladies.” Bingley sighed as his butler left the room.  Out of the blue, shouting could be heard from the upper floor.

Bingley raced up the stairs to find Mrs Bennet in the hallway, with a pudgy man who’s few remaining hairs were oily and matted to the top of his head.  Mrs Bennet had been bellowing out Jane’s and Elizabeth’s names, demanding they show themselves to her immediately.

The door to the sitting room were Jane and Elizabeth were located opened, with Elizabeth poking her head out to see what was happening.  “Mother, please, keep your voice down.  Jane is resting and I do not wish her to be disturbed.”

“You are the one to whom I wish to speak.” Fanny Bennet announced.  “We must have you return this moment to the house.  There are plans to make for your wedding.”

“I am not betrothed, Mother.” Elizabeth gave her stepmother a look of confusion.

Mrs Bennet took hold of Collins’ arm and pushed him forward.  “This is your betrothed.  Mr Collins has come here to offer for you.  As he is the heir and inherits the estate, the marriage will ensure the protection of your family.”

“Mother, as I stated, I am not betrothed, nor will I marry this man.  My father has just left us, there is nothing that could compel me to marry against my wishes.”

“As the new head of the family, Mr Collins has the authority over the unmarried young ladies of our family.  Why would you wish to deny protection for your sisters and for me?  You are being an ungrateful child, spoiled by your father for too many years.  I insist you do your duty and marry Mr Collins.”

Elizabeth was not ready to contend with her stepmother’s rudeness.  “The only concern you have is for yourself.  But you have the dower house in which to live.  Though it is smaller than the manor house, it is still a comfortable home.  There is no need to fear being thrown to the hedgerows.”

“The dower house is in desperate need of repair.” Fanny huffed.  “With your marriage to Mr Collins, we need not move from the manor house.”

“And I can guarantee you a delightful life, as I have been under the patronage of the grand Lady Catherine de Bourgh.  She has instructed me on the proper ways to set up a home, and I am certain she will share her advice to you, after we are wed.” Mr Collins had puffed up his chest as he spoke.

Shaking her head, Elizabeth began to turn away from the pair.  Mrs Bennet was not finished with her stepdaughter.  “You will return to Longbourn immediately.  Jane is fine to remain here, as she will desire time to be with Mr Bingley.  The young man will make a fine husband for Jane, as she is so beautiful, unlike you, Elizabeth.  There is no possibility of your ever receiving another offer.  Do you wish to be a burden to your family?”

“You have not authority to force me to marry this man.” Elizabeth declared.  “My suggestion is for you to leave here now.”

“As the new head of the Bennet family, it is my duty to my dear cousins to protect you from harm.  Our union would give your sisters and mother the security of remaining in their home, and, as your mother has stated, the chances of you receiving another offer of marriage is slim.  What a blessed union we will enjoy.” The parson stepped closer to Elizabeth, reaching out to take her hand in his own.

His actions made Elizabeth recoil and move back, away from the toad of a man.

Footsteps were heard hurrying towards the commotion.  “What is the meaning of this ruckus?” Darcy asked, his voice raised.

“Who are you?” Mrs Bennet demanded.  “This can be no concern of yours.”

“These two young ladies are my relations, and I I have every intention to protect them.” 

Mr Collins could not determine what was going on.  “Forgive me, Sir, but I would appreciate your giving your name.  I am Mr William Collins, the new Master of Longbourn and I am betrothed to my dearest cousin, Miss Elizabeth Bennet.”

Darcy looked at Elizabeth, he inquired. “Are you betrothed to this man?”

A quick, yet firm shake of her head.  “I have never even met this man, much less received an offer of marriage by him.  As for my stepmother, she has no right to decide my life, when I have my mother’s nephew here to speak for Jane and myself.”

“But…you must see, I am the better choice to be in control of your dear father’s dependents.  My relationship may be lesser, but it is on your father’s side.  Being a member of the Bennet family makes my claims stronger than some cousin on your mother’s side of the family.”

“Mr…” Darcy could not remember the man’s name.

“Collins, Sir.  And you are?”

“I am Fitzwilliam Darcy of Derbyshire.  Mrs Olivia Bennet was my father’s cherished sister.  She was the mother of these two young ladies.  It has been years since I have seen them, but they are closer to me in relations than to you.  Their inheritance is also under my control.”

Mrs Bennet glared at Darcy.  “What inheritance?  The only thing I know of is my ungrateful stepdaughters inheriting my late husband’s aunt’s estate.  Is there more that they will inherit?  From their mother’s family?  If so, I should have a say in how it is used, as they will remain living with me.”

A loud snort and a laugh was heard from Elizabeth.  “That is all we are to you, a roof over your head as you look for a way of taking our inheritance and keeping it for yourself.  Even if we had nothing to inherit from either side of the family, you would do all you could to ensure you got something out of us, even if it meant making us your servants.  Papa knew that our inheriting our aunt’s estate would infuriate you.  But it was our aunt’s desire, and she insisted we have somewhere to live if need arose.”

“That old woman was senile and never treated my girls properly.” Fanny sniffed.  “It is not fair, and my daughters have the right to inherit from the old hag.”

Hearing footsteps on the staircase, Darcy saw a man hurrying towards the group.  Mrs Bennet smiled impishly.  

“Ahh, here is my brother in law, Mr Phillips.  He will have you straightened out in no time.  Mr Phillips, Mr Phillips, we require your sage advice on a matter.”

“Fanny, I shall ask you to calm yourself.  There is much to be discussed.  Why are you here, rather than at Longbourn?  I just came from there, and was told you were here.”

“Mr Collins had arrived at the manor house, and then Mr Bennet died.  Jane and Lizzy were here, visiting here, while everything was happening.  So I thought it was best to have Mr Collins meet his betrothed, as we will need to hurry the wedding, since Mr Collins is to inherit the estate.”

“To whom is Mr Collins betrothed?  I have heard of no betrothal.  As Thomas Bennet’s solicitor, I am privy to all his personal and business dealings.  And which Collins is this?  I doubt you are old enough to be Mr Patrick Collins, as he was said to be five years older than Mr Bennet.”

“Patrick Collins was my father, who died two years ago.  My name is William Robert Collins, ordained clergyman, and I have recently come into possession of the living at Hunsford parsonage, in Kent.” The man puffed up his chest.  “With such impressive credentials, and the favor of my gracious benefactress, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, what woman would turn down an offer of marriage?  It is likely no other offer will ever be made to her, as she is not as beautiful as her elder sister.”

Elizabeth was furious.  “I would rather spend the rest of my life as a spinster than marry the likes of you.  How could you believe I would be willing to accept an offer, even if you had given one?”

“Your mother has been speaking highly of your accomplishments, and has told me that you have had no suitors wishing to even court you.  As the heir to your father’s estate, I can offer you so much.  A home for you, your mother, and your sisters, stability of working hard to make a proper home for your husband and children, and the sage advice of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, as I know she will be generous in advising you on proper ways to manage the house on a small budget.  She has already sent a letter with me for you, explaining what would be needed of you as a wife of her parson.  What kindness she has bestowed upon you.”

Elizabeth’s eyes glared at the self righteous windbag.  “She is not our mother, she is our stepmother.  And she has no say in who we marry or what we do with our lives.”

“My aunt is pompous and rude, as she insists on telling everyone how to live their lives, yet she rarely attends any dinners, balls, teas, or anything else that is part of the ton.  Aunt Catherine does not leave Rosings Park, and her daughter has not even been presented at court.  Catherine and Anne de Bourgh are the last people I would rely on for advice.” Darcy was beyond angry at the toad of a man.  

Suddenly, a door down the hall opened and Georgiana came out of her chambers.  “How dare you say such things, Fitzwilliam?  Lady Catherine is our aunt, and Anne is our cousin.  Anne is your betrothed, as has been in the plans since Anne’s birth.  Our mother has wished for the union.  But instead of your being at Anne’s side, making preparations for the wedding, you are here, with the daughters of a country squire.  A country squire who was fortunate to convince a Darcy to forget herself and marry beneath her.”

“Georgiana, enough.  I demand you apologize to our cousins.”

“If you try to force me, I will have Uncle Henry come immediately to take me away from you.  We will have you put in an asylum, where you belong.” Georgiana was red from head to toe, her anger making her lose control.

Darcy walked over to his sister, placing a hand on her arm.  He tugged on her arm, though it was a gentle tug.  “You had best retire to your rooms and remain there, or it will be you who is punished for improper behavior. Do…I…Make…Myself…Clear?”

If it had been possible, flames would have shot out of Georgiana’s eyes and scorched Darcy.  “Uncle Henry will see you pay for your behavior.  You will lose Pemberley, you will be locked away for the rest of your life.  And you deserve no less.”

“Stay in your room and do not, for any reason, leave there. After I have concluded dealing with the matter of our cousins, I will return to have a talk with you.”

“Do as you wish, for I will do as I wish.” Georgiana pulled away from her brother and stormed into her rooms, slamming the door behind her.

Turning his attention back to the group in the hallway, Darcy looked towards the solicitor.  “Mr Phillips, we require your interpretation of legal standing.  I am Mr Bennet’s nephew, Fitzwilliam Darcy.  The first Mrs Bennet, who was the mother of Miss Jane and Miss Elizabeth, was the sister of my father.  Am I not the closest male relations that these two young ladies have?  Mr Collins, who is a distant cousin of Mr Bennets, claims that he has authority over the young ladies, and insists on Miss Elizabeth marrying him.”

Mr Phillips knew his brother in law’s behavior when it came to both the Collins and the Darcy family names. But he also knew what was best for the situation.  Mr Phillips had grown up with Thomas Bennet, and knew Olivia.  He knew the love the Darcy family had for Olivia and her family.  The bitterness Mr Bennet held for the Darcys was due to his beloved wife’s death, that she was taken from him, though it was irrational for him to blame the Darcy family for the attempted robbery.

“Legally, the fact that there are relations on both sides of the family is unique.  Admittedly, the courts usually turn to the heir or the male from the father’s side of the family.  In this case, being a distant cousin, rather than first cousin, as is Mr Darcy, would negate Mr Collins’ claim to be over Jane and Lizzy.  The magistrate can be called to make a judgment, though I must inform you, he has been ill and has not been able to leave his home.  If he is forced to come here, Mr Downing will be displeased.”

“Mr Phillips, you are supposed to do what is best for our family.” Mrs Bennet balled her hands and placed them on her hips.  “I insist that you call for the magistrate.  Mr Downing must come here and settle the matter immediately.  My husband’s heir was promised Elizabeth’s hand, and if we have to have a ruling from Mr Downing, than that is what should be done immediately.” 

“Fanny, I would think twice before making such demands. I know that Thomas did not promise any of his daughters to Mr Collins. The chances of Mr Downing making a ruling in your favor are extremely slim.  Do you wish to anger the man further by making him come out here when he is ill?”

“The magistrate must make a ruling, so I insist he comes here immediately.  He will see the right of the matter.  Those two should be under the authority of Mr Collins, and Elizabeth must be made to marry Mr Collins immediately.  Our home will not be secured until the wedding has happened.”

Knowing his sister in law as he did, Mr Phillips knew that she would continue in such a fashion.  A footman was sent to fetch Mr Downing.

After the footman left, Mr Bingley offered refreshments in one of the nearby sitting rooms.  Darcy had taken the young ladies to the sitting room, as they desired a bit of privacy to collect themselves.  He would have his valet stand watch in the hall to ensure that Georgiana remained in her rooms.  

~~ ** ~~

Unknown to her brother, Georgiana had plans of her own.  Her daily meetings with Wickham had been her only source of joy, as she found herself falling under his spell.  Sweet words and small tokens had won her affection, especially when he spoke of her parents, reminding her that her father had been his godfather.  Wickham often declared he would do nothing against the current Master of Pemberley, out of respect for his godfather.  

And Wickham had spoken of marriage.  Only he would tell Georgiana that he could not take her as his wife, due to her brother’s refusal to give Wickham his proper inheritance.  Not that Georgiana would believe her brother, if Darcy was to inform the girl of the document in the safe at Pemberley, a document which bore the signature of George Wickham, accepting the one thousand pounds left by Gerald Darcy to his godson, and an additional three thousand pounds as compensation of signing away any rights to the living at Kympton parish, as Wickham had declared a preference to study law than take holy orders.

Wickham could not wait until he was able to access Georgiana’s dowry.  The memory of the day he learned the extent of the girl’s dowry was vivid.  Thirty thousand pounds…what he could do with thirty thousand pounds.  And he was certain that Darcy would never allow his sister to go without, so there would always be more funds available.  

The lieutenant was surprised to find a missive delivered to him by Georgiana’s maid.  

My dearest George,

Something has happened and I cannot remain at Netherfield Park any longer.  Please, my dearest, rescue me and take me away from here.  If you do not, I am certain I will perish from my brother’s foolishness.

My maid can be trusted to bring messages to me without William discovering.  Do I ask too much?  Will you come for me?  You are all I have thought of the past few days, and it is my fervent desire to be your wife now, no more waiting.  Father informed me years ago that my dowry is thirty thousand pounds, enough for us to have a fine home and a comfortable life.

Everything will be prepared for our escape from this horrid place.  Save me, George.  You are my only chance.

With love, 

Georgiana Darcy.

Wickham could not believe his good fortune.  Georgiana was willing to come with him, to marry him.  Once wed, he would demand her dowry. And hopefully, Darcy would have a severe accident shortly there after.

Walking over to the makeshift desk, Wickham pulled out parchment, ink, and quill.

My Dearest Love,

As soon as you can, meet me at our private place.  I will wait for you there.  Please use caution, as I would hate to see what your brother would do to you if he learned of our meeting.  Once I have you in my arms, we will run away to Gretna Green to be wed.  Only when we are married can I protect you from your brother. Do not take long, or I will go mad with fear for your safety.  

My heart is with you, my love.

GW

Wickham sanded the parchment, then placed sealing wax after folding the missive.  Just the thought of the girl being his property when they were wed made Wickham sneer.  By the end of the week, I will have all of which I have wished for.  And there is nothing that Darcy can do to stop me.  With Georgiana standing at my side, Darcy will be forced to do as we demand. 

~~~~~~~ ** ~~~~~~~ 
Chapter 10

Mr Phillips was between a rock and a hard place as he spoke of the legalities and guardianship. He knew he had an obligation to his wife’s sister, though he felt his friendship with Thomas Bennet was more important.  And, in protecting the eldest Bennet daughters, Mr Phillips could also pay Olivia Bennet, nee Darcy the debt he had held for nearly twenty years.

No one knew of Olivia providing funds for Mr Phillips to attend school and apprentice, before setting up his practice in Meryton.  Olivia was close friends to Mr Phillips’ sister, closer than sisters.  When Mr Phillips’ sister, Alexandria, took ill, she begged Olivia to look after her brother.  The young man was alone in the world, having lost his parents in a carriage accident.  Alexandria knew her brother would require someone to be a true friend.  And Olivia had no difficulty in the task, as Mr Phillips had introduced her to his dearest friend, Thomas Bennet. The funds she loaned him were from her trust fund, and Olivia never ask for the funds to be returned to her.  She knew that her daughters would be well taken care of with their inheritance, so Olivia was pleased to carry out her dear friend’s request, especially as it was her final one.  Two hours after pleading on her brother’s behalf, Alexandria died from her fever.

Now Mr Phillips had a good business, and was able to keep his wife in comfort. Their house was modest, yet it was extremely popular for all the dinners and card parties Mrs Phillips had hosted. 

Though his wife was sister to Fanny Bennet, Mr Phillips knew what was correct in the matter.  “Fanny, please calm yourself.  Mr Darcy has the stronger claim on family, being first cousins.  And the girls have no other family beyond the Darcys and Mr Collins.  So it is my opinion that a magistrate would side with Mr Darcy, placing the young ladies under the guardianship of Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy.”

“How could that be possible?” Mrs Bennet was furious.  “If I cannot secure my home due to their selfish behavior, then I should be compensated for my poor nerves.  They have an estate that their father’s aunt left them, I demand they deed the property to me and my daughters.”

“Mrs Bennet, the inheritance you speak of came directly from Mrs Bilcher.  Her will was specific.  If Jane and Elizabeth were unable to inherit, the estate and all income since her death would be given to three charities.  She refused to allow you any chance to claim her estate.  For years, you have wondered why you and the younger three daughters did not inherit.  Notice, Thomas never received a single shilling in the inheritance.  All of Mrs Bilcher’s properties and income were set in trust for Miss Jane and Miss Elizabeth Bennet.  There is nothing you can do to change the fact that you failed to inherit from Mrs Bilcher.”

“Oh, my nerves, this cannot be happening.  My nerves, oh, my.  Hill…Hill, where are my salts?”

Jane looked at her sister before commenting.  “Mother, we are at Netherfield.  Mrs Hill is at Longbourn.”

“Of course she is there.  What sort of fool do you take me for?  It was only my wish that she were here, to assist me.” Mrs Bennet’s cheeks were red from embarrassment.  

Mr Collins was highly disappointed in the decision, and decided to attempt one last effort to gain control of Elizabeth Bennet for his wife.  The parson was not prepared relinquish the potential of having such a tasty morsel as his wife.  “Mr Darcy, do you not wish to confer with your betrothed, as I doubt very much if Miss de Bourgh would be happy with two more young ladies under your guardianship.  The situation would not be proper, and Miss de Bourgh would not wish for these two young ladies and you sister to tend during this most difficult time.  Your aunt would caution your commitment to your extended family, as she would find them far beneath you socially.  No, it is best if you were to wash your hands of these two and make your way to Kent, and finalize the date for your wedding.”

“Sir, I do not recall making you my secretary, in charge of arranging my appointments.  I believe you would find that I am not betrothed to my cousin, just as you are not betrothed to Miss Elizabeth.  I would appreciate you refraining from spouting your opinions of how I should live my life, especially since you know nothing about me or my life.”

“But…but…your aunt, the revered Lady Catherine de Bourgh told me of your plans to wed.  The wisdom of Lady Catherine is superior, and I am afraid the coarse manners of these young ladies would be unacceptable in her presence.” Mr Collins spoke of Lady Catherine with the admiration that would be reserved for royalty.

“I will say this once more, and then I do not wish to hear such from you again.  My aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, is the only one who has wished for the match.  My parents did not wish for such a marriage, as they wished for me to marry for love, as did they.  Do not speak of Lady Catherine’s opinion of there being an arrangement, for there never has been and never will be a betrothal or agreement for a betrothal, between my cousin, Anne de Bourgh, and me.”

Collins began to speak again, only to be silenced by the glare he received from Mr Darcy.  The toad slunk back in an attempt to blend in with the wall.

Darcy then returned his glare towards Mrs Bennet.  “Miss Jane and Miss Elizabeth are remaining here, at Netherfield, until arrangements can be made for me to take them to Pemberley.  Their trunks are being packed and will be brought here today.  If you make any attempt to waylay the trunks from arriving, or any of their belongings are missing, I will have my solicitor file a claim against you.  What you are entitled to, due to your marriage agreement is all you will receive, so do not make the mistake of stealing anything from my cousins.  You, Mrs Bennet, are of no relation to Jane and Lizzy.  I share blood with them, Darcy blood.  Do I make myself clear?”

Though she was obviously angry over what had been said, Mrs Bennet gave one quick nod.  As Mrs Bennet prepared to leave, she was overheard saying, “You have not heard the last of this.”

~~ ** ~~

Not until Mrs Bennet and Mr Collins left, and the trunks arrived containing Elizabeth’s and Jane’s belongings, did the reality begin to sink in upon the young ladies.  Opening the first trunk, Elizabeth found several of her favorite books from her father’s library.  Through her tears, Elizabeth read the note that was on top of the books.  It was from Mrs Hill.
Miss Elizabeth and Miss Jane,

I wished to tell you both how precious you girls are to my husband and me.  We will always hold a special place in our hearts.

The loss of your father will be difficult, I do not doubt the depths of your pain.

In these trunks, we have placed items that you did not know existed, along with your belongings. Unknown to Mrs Bennet, I relieved the study of some of the books that I know were your favorites, Miss Lizzy.  Your father would have wanted them to be yours, rather than Mr Collins.

Now, to tell you of the wrapped packages.  The year Miss Jane was born, your mother began sewing quilts she planned to give each of you for your weddings. Fortunately, she finished them both before her death. All of the clothes that Mrs Olivia made for you girls are saved here as well.  You will have treasured gifts from your beloved mother to give your future children.

Also, in this trunk, are two wooden boxes that are engraved.  Inside each box is a necklace and earbobs that had been Mrs Olivia’s.  Her mother gave them to her, as had been done from mother to daughter, for three generations.  One set is sapphires, the other is emeralds.  Your mother thought the sapphires would be perfect with Jane’s blue eyes, while the emeralds would be perfect with Lizzy’s dark curls and chocolate eyes.  

We wish you good fortune and pray you will find men who will love and treat you as the gems you are.  Thank your cousin, Mr Darcy, for his assistance to you. If, in the future, you need anything from us, please know that we will aid you in any way we can.

Fondly, 

Mrs Hill

 

Elizabeth wiped at the tears wetting her cheeks.  She held the Shakespeare collection, which had been her father’s treasures, along with several other books that the father and daughter had enjoyed and debated over since she was old enough to read.  To have these precious tomes in her possession, bringing memories of joyous times she spent with her father, brought the realization that her father was truly gone.  She would never see him again, never talk with him or play chess with him.  The weight of her sorrow threatened to overwhelm her.  

Only the arms of her sister could console Elizabeth, and, as expected, they were wrapped around the younger sister, as Jane whispered comforting words in Elizabeth’s ear.  

Stepping out of the room, to give the sisters some privacy, Darcy instructed Mrs Nichols to send tea and refreshments to his cousins’ sitting room.

The Master of Pemberley entered his rooms, walking to the desk near the window.  Pulling out the supplies, Darcy began penning letters to his solicitor in Town, and to his housekeepers at Pemberley and Darcy House.  Wishing to make his cousins feel welcome and cared for, Darcy instructed each housekeeper to prepare apartments for Elizabeth and Jane, and for Mrs Reynolds, the housekeeper of Pemberley, to locate and interview potential lady’s maids for his cousins.  Mrs Reynolds had been with the Darcy family since Fitzwilliam Darcy was only a toddler.  She knew Olivia Bennet, and knew the two daughters.  Placing faith in Mrs Reynolds was a simple enough task.

He would now have to contend with his sister.  Georgiana Darcy would not be pleased when the day was through.  A letter would have to be sent to Colonel Fitzwilliam, keeping him aware of the situation.  Poor Richard, I believe it is safer on the battlefields of Europe than in England, especially from their relations. 

The distance between his rooms and his sister’s was not particularly long, though, with what was coming, Darcy felt the steps to take an eternity.  Well, there is nothing to delay this meeting. I had best be done with it so I can be available to aid my cousins.

Raising his hand, Darcy knocked on his sister’s bedchamber door.  Finding no response, Darcy knocked again.  Still no response.  Trying the doorknob, he found the door to be unlocked.  Doom began to seize his heart, as Darcy entered the room, and finding no Georgiana within. Searching the room, the dressing chamber, the sitting room attached, Darcy felt that his sister was behaving like a head strong child.  He was well on his way to deciding the source of punishment for Georgiana, when he saw one of the maids.

“Do you know where I might find my sister?”

“Why no, Sir.  Last I saw, the Miss was going out for a ride.  Tis a bit odd, as she normally rides early in the morning.  Always the same direction.”

    “Towards which direction was she riding?”

“From my view, I am certain that Miss Darcy was heading towards Meryton, but she will likely arrive at the militia’s camp before, seeing as the camp is not far from the road to Meryton.”

This information was confusing.  If Richard had been at the camp, it would be understandable for Georgiana to want to visit with him.  After all, Richard was the second guardian for the girl.

Mr Darcy thanked the maid and decided he should have a look around his sister’s rooms, in an attempt to discover what Georgiana was planning.  In his mind, it was obvious that the girl was devising something to escape her brother.  Georgiana had no qualms with voicing her disapproval, though she had never disobeyed his direct orders.  

As Darcy opened drawers and looked through the books his sister read, he noticed a piece of parchment peeking out from beneath the edge of the bed.  The book in his hand was replaced to the top of desk in the corner of the room, and Darcy stepped quickly to the bedside.  His fingers quickly pulled the parchment from the floor, and he began to read.  From the looks of it, Georgiana was writing a letter to Lady Matlock.  
You know how dear you are to me, so I cannot keep this secret any longer.  I am leaving this loathsome estate and making my way to be married.  He told me how much he loves me, and his desire to have the living Father had promised him.  If only my brother had not abused him and refused to honor our father’s last request.

Once we are wed, we will make our way to meet you, so you can become better acquainted with my husband.  You will surely approve, as he was Father’s godson.

Wish me joy, and we will see you soon.

Your niece, Georgiana

There could only be one person of which she was speaking.  George Wickham.  Could he never be rid of the man?  What lies had his own sister been told to make Georgiana become so closed minded against her brother over Wickham?  But then again, the rouge was notorious for winning sympathy from the fairer sex.

What was Darcy to do?  He could not leave the neighborhood, not before the Bennet sisters were prepared to remove to Pemberley.  But there was no one to chase after Georgiana and Wickham.  

There is nothing to do for it at the moment.  Wickham is only chasing after Georgiana for her dowry.  Certainly, once the man had access to the forty thousand pounds, Wickham would disappear, leaving Georgiana penniless, and likely with child.  Little do they know.

Darcy took the partial letter to his rooms, placing it in the drawer with his personal correspondence.  He would not leave Elizabeth and Jane alone with all they were facing, just to chase down his wayward and foolish sister.  

A grin began to curl the corner of his lips.  Georgiana and George were unaware of Gerald Darcy’s will, and the stipulations placed on the youngest Darcy’s future.  When they came to him, declaring their marriage, they would both be unpleasantly surprised.

~~ ** ~~

“George, how long will it take for us to reach Gretna Green?” Georgiana Darcy whined.  “It is so far away.”

“The journey will take four full days in the carriage.  Please forgive me, my love, I could only afford this old carriage.  Perhaps we could stop at Pemberley and exchange it for one of the Darcy carriages.  You would enjoy the journey if riding in one of your brother’s well sprung transports.”

“This is the worst carriage in which I have ever ridden.  And my brother’s carriage would make the journey quicker, especially if we were to use Pemberley horses.  The nags you were forced to accept are horrible.”

Wickham had difficulty in keeping his eyes from rolling back in his head.  The pampered child was unaware of what life was like for the majority of the population.  “I wish only for your comfort, my dearest Georgiana.”

“Where will we stay tonight?” Georgiana inquired.

“I have only enough coin to keep us in limited comfort.  Did you bring any of your pin money?”

“Fitzwilliam did not give me my monthly allotment, as he said it was time I learned how others worked to care for us. But of course they care for us, without our employing them, they would be in the hedgerow.  They should be grateful to us for hiring them.” The girl’s nose was up in the air.

“Do you have any jewels we can sell for funds?  Or perhaps you know where your brother hides money at Pemberley.”

“I am certain Mrs Reynolds would be able to assist us.  She keeps extra funds for the household account, in case of emergencies.”

“As much as I dislike anyone from Pemberley to know where we are heading, I can see no other alternative for us to acquire the funds.” Wickham was disappointed.  “We will not be able to remain longer than it will take to hitch up the carriage and for you to obtain the funds.  Your brother may be searching for us already.”

“Very well.  Mrs Reynolds could also have a basket prepared with food, as I am certain the quality at the stops along the way will be beneath what we are accustomed.”

“Then let us plan for those to be done quickly, and our journey resumed without delay.  In four days, we should be in Gretna Green, and I will be able to call you my wife.”

Georgiana snuggled into Wickham’s embrace, thinking of the joy she would have to be announced as Mrs Wickham, rather than Mr Darcy’s younger sister.  She could not wait to introduce him to her aunts and uncle.  

While his intended drifted off to sleep, dreaming of her perfect life, Wickham stared out the window, wondering how quickly they would have access to Georgiana’s dowry.  

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

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