Chapter 15

“I will find a way to ruin that country nobody!” Screamed Anne de Bourgh, as she hurled another figurine across the room, smashing it against the wall.

“Anne, I wish you would not destroy my home and belongings.” Lady Matlock stated to her niece.  “I know you are unhappy, but my figurine did nothing to harm you.”

Anne turned to glare at her aunt.  “Then bring me the head of Miss Elizabeth Bennet and I will take my temper on her.”

Lady Catherine huffed.  “If only we could rid ourselves of that chit.  But then, no one would have Fitzwilliam now.  Not with his sister’s elopement to the son of his father’s steward.  Marrying him is out of the question, Anne.  I will not allow his ruin touch you.”

“He is my betrothed, and I insist on the marriage I was promised all of my life.”  Anne glared at her mother.  “You promised me that he would come around, that he would marry me after he had sowed his oats.  Well now he is determined to sow those oats with that chit.  He is mine, and I refuse to release him from the betrothal.”

“You do not wish to bear his children, or live at Pemberley, so why is it so important to be his wife?” Lord Matlock inquired.  “It would be a perfect match, uniting the two estates, but from what you have said, you would not be pleased with Fitzwilliam as your husband.”

Anne looked shocked at her uncle’s questions.  “I am supposed to be the next Mrs Darcy, Mistress of Pemberley and Darcy House.  Do you expect me to be Miss de Bourgh for the rest of my life?  Oh, no, I will be Mrs Anne Darcy, as I was promised since childhood.  And if you will not assist me, then I will find others who will.  The solicitors must see that I have been wronged by Fitzwilliam.  They will assist in forcing Fitzwilliam to honor the agreement.”

Henry Fitzwilliam had been careful in speaking of the financial situation of his sister and niece.  The ladies had always been foolish in their spending, insisting on being showy in all things surrounding them.  Their furniture was painfully gaudy, most of it uncomfortable for anyone to sit on for any length of time.  Due to their high spending, and not modernizing the estate’s farm lands, Rosings Park was suffering in finances.  Crops were poor, as there had been no rotation in years.  The tenant homes were in disrepair, and several families had left their farms for a better situation.  This was the biggest reason Lord Matlock had for supporting the union of his niece and nephew.  The business of keeping Rosings in the family would then fall to Darcy and the bountiful coffers that his nephew held.

“My dear girl, you must be careful in making threats.  As I told you, on our journey here, we do have to consider all aspects of the situation.  And financially, we need you to marry Fitzwilliam before he learns of the state of your wealth.  You have been warned many times to control your impulses to buy more items.  How many new gowns have you ordered since arriving here?  And how many gowns did you order two months ago from the seamstress in Hunsford?  If you were participating in society, I can understand the need to impress others, but you do not.  Until now, you have not been to Town for several years.  Fitzwilliam was correct, you are not prepared to be Mistress of Pemberley and Darcy House.”

“You are supposed to be on our side, Henry.” Lady Catherine was furious.  “Anne is a delicate young lady, and has been unable to participate in any society activities.  Do not be unfair to her, it is not her fault that she was born so frail.”

“For years, all we have heard was that Anne was delicate.  But she has made no effort to improve her life.  The physician we sent to examine her just last year told us that Anne could be stronger, if she would follow the treatment that he suggested.  Some exercise, a change in her diet, doing other tasks which would not be a problem for her health.  Sewing, playing the pianoforte, painting screens.  So many things from which to choose.  But she has refused to make an attempt, pleading that they were all too difficult for her, due to her health.”  Lord Matlock had never spoken of his niece in such a manner, and once the flood gates were opened, he found the release to be comforting.

“You are being unfair to my daughter.” Lady Catherine shrieked.  “My dear girl has improved enough to be Fitzwilliam’s wife. He will find nothing of which to complain by marrying Anne.”

Lady Matlock was in agreement with her husband on the matter of Anne’s health.  “Forgive me, Catherine, but Anne has already declared she has no intention of bearing a child, if she even could.  It has been my concern for many years, seeing Anne refuse to attempt anything as she spouts that she is frail.  If Fitzwilliam is to ever regain his place in society, after what Georgiana has done, he will require a strong lady at his side.”

“I am strong enough to be his wife.”  Anne hissed through her teeth.  “There is no question of my being able to be Mrs Darcy.”

“You may believe such, Anne, but we are concerned for your wellbeing.  Do not take offense.” Lady Matlock stated.

“If you do not support me, then there is nothing left for us to discuss.” Anne marched from the room, leaving her mother alone with her aunt and uncle.

~~ ** ~~

Darcy had sent for his housekeeper to meet him in his study.  “Mrs Reynolds, I wished to ask you of my cousins.  Do they feel comfortable in their rooms?  Is there anything they require?”

“The young misses have had a difficult time, with the loss of their father and their home.  But they seem to be settling in fine.  They are kind girls, much like their mother, and they are never any bother.  As a matter of fact, I wished to speak with you about their needs for some clothing for their mourning period.  Miss Elizabeth stated you had a few gown made for them, but it would be nice for them to have a few more gowns, and they will need to have a new wardrobe made before winter sets in, as you are well aware how much colder it is here in Derbyshire than it is in Hertfordshire.”

A smile was clearly showing on Darcy’s face.  “I was certain you would know the needs they would have.  Jane and Lizzy would never come to me with any requests, they are reluctant to spend any of the pin money I have set for them.  It will take some time for them to become accustomed to living here, though I wish to do all I can to make them comfortable.  Would you send word to Lambton, to the dressmaker, and set a date I can bring my cousins to place an order?”

“Of course, Master William.  And I highly approve of your taking them, as they would refuse to purchase even half of what they will require if you were not with them.”

“My thoughts exactly.”  Darcy nodded his head.  “Are the rooms well suited for each of them?  Should we have them freshened up a bit?”

“I will speak with them, though I doubt they will wish to have changes made.”

“My thanks, Mrs Reynolds.  I am not certain how we would handled the situation if not for you.”

As the housekeeper reached the door, she turned her attention back to the young man she had watched grow to the Master.  “Sir, I was wondering, should we freshen up your mother’s study, for Miss Bennet and Miss Elizabeth to use?”

Darcy pondered the question for a moment.  His mother’s study was across the hall from his, and near the library.  He could picture Elizabeth in the study, curled up on the chaise with a book.  The pleasant thought made Darcy nod his head.  “That would be perfect, Mrs Reynolds.  Thank you for making such a suggestion.”

After Mrs Reynolds left the room, Darcy walked over to the bookcase, pulling on a lever that was hidden by books.  The bookcase moved outward, revealing the large safe which was installed there.  He turned the dial, this way, then that.  Clicking on the last number, Darcy pulled the handle down and opened the safe’s door.

Inside the safe were most of the Darcy family jewels, important papers, and cash which Darcy kept on hand for emergencies.  He searched through several boxes until he located the box he desired.  Opening it, Darcy looked at the ring his father had given his mother on their wedding day.  After his mother’s death, Gerald Darcy had informed him of the ring, and the story that went with.  Gerald’s grandmother, Diana, had been with her father on the continent, visiting Italy.  One day, while she walked along the shops, she spotted a delicate ring in the window display of a jewelry shop.  The ring was silver, with small diamonds and pearls surrounding the band.  In the center of the ring was a larger stone, which was extremely unique.

The larger stone was called mookaite, and it was multicolored, with soft cream to a deep burgandy.  The man at the jewelry store had informed Diana that the stone symbolized flexibility, seeing many possibilities and aided in choosing the most suitable for the wearer.  Diana had joked that it would be the perfect stone for her when she was ready to decide her future.  Unknown to Diana, her father had gone back to the shop and purchased the ring, intending to hold it until his daughter became engaged.

When Gerald’s grandfather decided to ask for Diana’s hand, her father presented the ring.  “My daughter knows not that I purchased the ring, but she loved the colors of the stone and what the stone symbolized.  As this is the most important decision my daughter has to make, I pray that the stone will remind her of our journey, and assist her with the many possibilities ahead of her.”

Gerald’s grandfather, Robert, was pleased to have such a meaningful ring to present to his bride at their wedding.  And the ring had been passed down, to the next Mrs Darcy, ever since.  Now Darcy would present it to his future wife, if she will accept him.

~~ ** ~~

Georgiana was led into the drawing room of Matlock House, where her relations were gathered together.  She moved quickly across the room, expecting her aunt, Lady Matlock, to welcome her into her embrace.  Instead, Lady Matlock folded her arms across her chest and glared at the girl.

“What are you doing here?” Lady Matlock demanded in a harsh voice.

“Aunt…”

“Do not refer to me in such a manner.  I am Lady Matlock, and you will address me as such.”

The girl was shocked.  “But, why should I…”

“You should not have come here.” Lord Matlock stated.  “As you have determined to ruin yourself in society, we can no longer associate with you or your brother.”

“I…I…thought you would be pleased.  My marriage was a means to be out of my brother’s control.”

Lady Catherine walked over to her niece, delivering a smack across the young lady’s face.  “Because of you, my Anne’s chances at a marriage to your brother is near impossible.  How can she marry someone who was the guardian of an irresponsible child who would ruin herself?”

Reaching her hand to her cheek, Georgiana was devastated.  Never had she expected her relations to turn their backs on her.  “What am I to do?”

“That is not our concern.” Anne said, as she stepped to her mother’s side.  “We will no longer have any connection with you, and, if you approach us in public, we will give you the cut direct.”

A gasp escaped from Georgiana.  “I…I thought…”

“You did not think, and that is what has lead you to ruin.  How dare you run off and elope?  You knew that society would not accept such behavior.  You knew, and yet,  you did as you pleased.  No thought as to how it would affect your family.  So now, you will have to live with the consequences of your actions.” Lady Matlock turned her back on her niece and walked away, taking her seat on the sofa.

Tears were pouring from Georgiana’s eyes.  “What am I to do?  My brother showed us the papers, I cannot receive any of my dowry for ten years.  He has declared that he will not allow me to return to Darcy House or Pemberley, and that I am to live in Scotland.  George only married me for my dowry, so he has run off, leaving me alone.  I have nothing, and now you have turned your back on me.”

Anne looked at the girl with disdain.  “You selfish, headstrong girl.  You ruined our family, and you expect us to welcome you with open arms?  Now your brother is at Pemberley, with those Bennet chits, and he had the audacity to state he was planning to marry one of them.  It is all your fault, and you deserve what you get.”

“It is best you leave, Georgiana.” Lord Matlock announced.  “Do not return here.  We have already informed our staff that you are not to be admitted after today.”

Reluctantly, Georgiana made her way from the room and to the entrance door of the townhouse.  Her brother’s carriage was still waiting to have her trunks unloaded.  The driver had been told by his employer that if his sister was turned away from Matlock House, he should inform her that he was authorized to take the girl to Scotland.  Seeing her face as she descended the stairs, it was obvious that they would be making the journey north.

Georgiana stepped to the carriage, unsure of how she would be received.  Would she be left on the streets, alone with her trunks?  Her vision was becoming blurred from all the tears.

The driver took pity on his Master’s sister.  “Miss, your brother assumed that you would be refused by your relations.  He gave me instructions to take you to Scotland if you so wish to make your way there.  I have the funds for food and lodging for the journey.”

“M…my…brother…he knew?”

“Indeed, Miss.  He is a kind man, and knew your reception would be questionable.  They came to Hertfordshire, while the Master was there.  I hear they were hateful and cruel to your brother.   But Mr Darcy, he would never behave in such a manner.  Though he be angry, he still cares.”

“T…t…thank you.  Yes…please take me to Scotland.”  Georgiana entered the carriage, alone and with much to think of during the days of travel ahead of her.

~~ ** ~~

Elizabeth was surprised to have her cousin, the Master of Pemberley, accompany her and her sister to the dressmaker’s shop in Lambton.  She had been surprised when he informed them the previous day, stating that they were to purchase new wardrobes.

“But we are in mourning, William.  We have enough for now, and the other gowns we brought with us will be sufficient.”

“You have a few gowns, and you believe they will suffice?  Remember, Derbyshire has much harsher weather than Hertfordshire.  You will require warmer clothing for autumn and winter, and those will take time to make.  If we begin now, by the time the weather changes, you will be completely outfitted.”

Jane gave her opinion.  “William, that is far too much.  Lizzy and I do not require much.  Your bringing us here was generous, we could not impose upon you to pay for such an expense.”

“My dear cousins, you are part of the Darcy family.  You have wealth of your own, from your father’s relations, but you also have funds from the Darcy family.  And I have set aside an amount for your monthly pin money.  You may purchase whatever you wish with the funds.  But the new clothing and such are a gift from me.  Consider it to be years of missed birthday and Christmas gifts from me.”  Darcy grinned at the idea he had just come up with.  “As I think of the matter, Father would have wished to purchase gifts for all the missed birthdays and Christmas as well.  So part of the shopping excursion will be from him.  You would not wish to deny a gift from your late uncle, would you?”

Elizabeth began laughing.  “My goodness, Jane, we had best give in to his whim, before he begins claiming gifts from our grandparents and great grandparents.”

“What a pleasant idea, Lizzy.” Darcy gave a simple bow to her.  “If necessary, I will even add gifts from your beloved mother, and my mother.  So, you see, you are never going to win this argument.  It would be wise to capitulate to my… what did you call it?  Whim…yes, you had best capitulate to my whims.”

The sisters nodded their head in agreement, and the outing was arranged.  Not only did Darcy plan to visit the dressmaker, he planned to visit the milliner, the cobbler, the mercantile, and even the book shop.  As he planned to make a day of shopping, Darcy planned to take the young ladies to enjoy a repast at the confectionery shop.

As the items ordered grew, so did the eyes of his younger cousins.  “William, that is far too much.  We have no need for so much.” Jane said.  “Please, no more.”

“Now Jane, do I need to invoke the gifts theory once again?” Darcy replied, a mischievous grin pasted on his face.  It was a look that Jane had witnessed many times, as her younger sister was infamous at giving a similar look.

Jane knew better than to argue with what she had decided was the Darcy look.  “Very well, we will not force you to further use the gifts theory.  But remember, we do not require so much.”

Darcy nodded his head and continued to order more items.

By the end of the day, Elizabeth and Jane were supplied with everything a young lady could want or need.  Day gowns, evening gowns, night shifts, undergarments, outer wear, slippers, boots, bonnets, ribbons, and even stationary, journals, hair adornments, brushes, hair pins, bath products and more.  The young ladies were exhausted when they arrived at Pemberley.

Fitzwilliam Darcy was energized by the shopping excursion.  He had been thrilled at being able to provide for his cousins, especially since they had not insisted on items as his sister had always done in the past.  The Master of Pemberley could not believe how pleasant a day he could have with such perfect company.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 16

“Henry, have you seen Anne this morning?  I cannot find her anywhere.” Lady Catherine announced as she entered her brother’s study.

“I have not, Catherine.  Have you spoken to Rebecca?”

“She has not seen her either.  I am concerned, it is unlike Anne to be somewhere other than her rooms or with me.  With all that has happened, I am concerned for her health.”

“Perhaps she is outside, enjoying the fresh air in the private gardens.” Lord Matlock knew that his niece disliked nature, but he wished to be rid of his sister.

“Do not be foolish, Henry.  You know Anne is to frail to spend time outdoors.”

“Then I am at a loss, Catherine.  And if my wife is unable to assist you, then there is no possibility of my knowing Anne’s whereabouts.  Household affairs are my wife’s domain.”

“Your wife is nearly as incompetent as our nephew.  Had Rebecca done what she could to bring Georgiana to Rosings before Darcy left for the wilds of Hertfordshire, we would not be in such a state.  It is not to be born.  My poor Anne, she suffers so dearly.”

“Anne could use some time outdoors.  The physician told you the very same thing two years past.  But you never follow the directions of the physicians.  Why is that, Catherine?  Why have you never followed the physician’s recommendations?”

Lady Catherine gave her brother a shocked look.  “And why is it your business what I do with regards to my daughter?”

“As head of the Fitzwilliam family, it is my right to be involved in all the matters pertaining to the family members.  Our nephew is the head of the Darcy family, and therefore, does not fall under my authority.  But you, Catherine, you and your daughter do fall under my protection.”  Lord Matlock had always been timid and allowed his elder sister to rule over him.  Just airing his opinion to her, in such a mild way, gave him courage.

“What has happened to this family?  Fitzwilliam refuses to marry Anne and takes his Bennet relations with him to Pemberley, Georgiana runs off with a steward’s son and elopes.  Now you dare to question my judgment with concerns to my daughter’s health?  Do not push my limits, Henry. You know I am not one with which to trifle.  Father always told you that I should have been the head of the family.”

“But, unfortunately for you, I was the heir and you were just the first born daughter.  You could not become the earl, or the head of the Fitzwilliam family.”  Lord Matlock’s voice trembled at first, then grew stronger, as he rose from his chair.  “So do not forget to whom you are speaking.  I am the Earl of Matlock, not you.  From this day forward, you will speak to me with respect.  If I make a decision, you will follow my dictates to the letter, or suffer my wrath.  Do I make myself clearly understood?”

Her brother’s voice was growing louder with each word, until he was bellowing.  “Y…y…yes, Henry.  Of course.” Lady Catherine’s eyes squinted as she took in this new side of her brother.  She was not certain she liked this Henry Fitzwilliam.  But she was shrewd enough to know she should pick her battles.

“Then off with you.  I have business to handle.  Do not disturb me until after tea.”

Lady Catherine nodded her head and left the study.  She was beginning to wonder about the sanity of her relations.

~~ ** ~~

“And you will see that the situation is handled, I can rely on you to do the job?”

“It is as good as done.  I wish for some payback to Darcy, and from what you have just informed me, this will be the perfect.  He should have approved of my marriage to his sister, releasing the dowry to me.  Now he will know what it is to suffer.”

“Good.  I want that chit taken care of, and her sister removed from Pemberley as well.  Here is enough coin to cover your expenses to perform the task.  After the deed is done, return to me and I will give you the ten thousand I promised you.”

“My honor, Miss.  My very great honor.”

~~ ** ~~

As the days came and went, Elizabeth and Jane settled into Pemberley as if they had lived there for years.  Jane was the unofficial hostess for Darcy, though she did little more than approve menus for the week.  There was no socializing with anyone, as Darcy saw himself mourning along with his cousin.  Thomas Bennet had been his uncle, whether they were on speaking terms at the time of the elder man’s death.

Elizabeth enjoyed as much time outside as she could.  Never in her life had she found the perfect blend of man made and nature.  The paths about the estate were fast becoming old friends to the young lady, and she was pleased to walk them often.

Darcy had a difficult time convincing Elizabeth to ride horses with him, but once he did achieve her agreement to learn, he lost no time in determining the best mount and location for the lessons.  Jane had always been comfortable on horses, though she rode little, due to her father not having a horse for her to ride, so she decided to join her sister and their cousin in the riding lessons.

The third week they were at Pemberley, the trio was enjoying a comfortable ride along the side of the lake, as they were planning to take a picnic by the water, then ride back to the house.  Darcy had dismounted and was assisting Jane down, when a shot rang out.  Looking at his cousin, he saw that she was looking towards her sister.  Following her view, Darcy could see Elizabeth beginning to double over, slipping from the saddle of her horse.  Forgetting his elder cousin for her sister, the Master of Pemberley ran to catch Elizabeth before she fell to the ground.

“Lizzy, good God, what has happened?  Lizzy, speak to me.” Darcy scooped his dearest lady love into his arms before she landed in the dirt.

He could see blood beginning to form around a hole on the left shoulder of her habit.  “Jane, ride fast to the house.  Send help, but remain at the house.  Have them bring a wagon.”

“But Lizzy, is she…she…”

“She is alive, Jane.  But we need to take her back to the house and send for the physician.  Be careful, we do not know who fired the shot.”

Jane nodded her head, and swiped harshly at the tears that had developed.  She urged her horse in the direction of the manor house, and pushed forward as quickly as possible.  Darcy’s eyes searched the area, attempting to discover from where the shot had come.  There was a wooded area that would have given perfect cover to the shooter, and would make sense as Elizabeth’s wound was to her left side.

“Dearest, do not leave me.  Not now.  I cannot live without you.”

Elizabeth’s eyes began to flutter.  “William…Jane…”

“I sent Jane for assistance.  We will take you home, and have the physician examine you.”

“Hurts…”

Darcy nodded his head.  “I wish I could take the pain into myself and relieve your suffering.”

“Must tell you…must…”

“What, my love?  Did you see who fired the shot?”

“No…must tell you…how much…I have come…”

“Shush, my dearest.  Do not fret.  Rest for now, we will talk later, when we get you settled at the house.”

“Must tell you…in case…”

“Do not think like that, my love.  You will be fine.” Darcy leaned closer to her, placing a kiss on her forehead.  “Stay with me, my dearest Lizzy.”

“I…I love you…have always loved you… I missed you…after Mamma died… Had always thought of…the man you would be…the sort of husband…you would be.”

A tear dripped from Darcy’s chin to her cheek.  “I love you, Elizabeth.  Seeing you in Hertfordshire only made me realize that I have been waiting for you, rather than settling for some lady of the ton.  You were meant to be my wife.  This is not a romantic setting I would have wished for, but I wait for you to make me the happiest of men, and accept my hand in marriage.”

A grin developed on Elizabeth’s lips, as her eyes closed, and she whispered one word, yes.  Darcy held her close to his chest, praying that help would arrive quickly and Elizabeth would be well.  He could not begin to think of losing his Lizzy, not now.

~~ ** ~~

Wickham cursed as he realized his shot was off target enough that the bullet had not pierced the heart of the young lady his nemesis loved dearly.  How was he going to be able to finish the deed?  Anne de Bourgh would not pay for a deed half done, a wounded Elizabeth Bennet was not for what the woman would pay Wickham.

He would have to remain close to Pemberley, waiting for a chance to finish what he had started.  George Wickham was determined to have his hands on the funds promised him by Anne de Bourgh.

Making his way to an abandoned shack on the west side of the grounds, Wickham took up the bottle he had brought with him.  Without bothering with a glass, Wickham guzzled down a large portion of the amber liquid, then carried the bottle towards the camp bed that was situated in one of the corners.  Not wishing to be discovered, he had not lit a fire in the fireplace.  It would take careful consideration for the former steward’s son to not be discovered, as he was certain Darcy would send out men to scour the area, in an attempt to discover who had shot his beloved cousin.

Before the sky grew dark, Wickham had consumed the majority of the bottle, and was unconscious on the cot.  No thoughts of food or warmth invaded the thoughts of the man, only oblivion brought on by the drink.

~~ ** ~~

“Has someone been sent for the physician?” Darcy shouted out his question to his housekeeper.

Mrs Reynolds ran to keep up with the Master, as he raced up the stairs, two at a time, all the while carrying Elizabeth Bennet in his arms.  He had refused to release her from his grasp, as fear of losing her gripped his heart.

“Yes, I sent Jeffers to fetch Mr Freemont.  Miss Bennet is preparing her sister’s room.”

“Good, good.  We will need plenty of hot water, bandaging, towels.  And bring your medicine bag.  She is bleeding from a wound near her shoulder.”

“Miss Bennet stated she thought someone had shot her sister.” Mrs Reynolds could not believe someone would deliberately shoot such a wonderful young lady.

“Someone, I believe in the woods.  Possibly someone out hunting, but I want Martins to gather men and search for the shooter.  Even if it was an accident, I want the person found.”

The housekeeper nodded her head.  “Of course.  Mr Martins has already sent for men and is waiting for word from you.”

“Give it to him, as I will not be moved from Elizabeth’s side.” Darcy had reached Elizabeth’s room, and, finding the door opened, entered.  Jane was pulling back the counterpane and looked up at Darcy.  “Is she…is she…”

“She is alive.  Her wound is bleeding and she is unconscious, but she lives.”

“Thanks be to God.  Place her on the bed, then Mrs Reynolds and I will take care of cleaning her wound and dressing her in something suitable for the physician to tend her wound.”

Darcy placed Elizabeth on the bed gently, then moved back slightly, allowing the ladies to move towards the bed.

“Master William, it is improper for you to remain in this room.  Go out, into the hall if you wish to remain close, but out of this room.”

“She accepted my proposal…she smiled.”

Jane glanced at the young man.  “William, I understand, and I know how much you love Lizzy.  But you need to allow us to undress her, clean her wound, and then dress her in a night shift.  Please, William, we will keep you updated on her condition.”

Darcy’s eyes met with his cousin’s, and he knew that Jane felt his pain.  She loved her dearest sister, they had always been closer than just sisters.  They were the closest of friends.

Reluctantly, Darcy left the room, with a final glance back at the bed, seeing Elizabeth so still upon the bed.  “I will be just outside the door.”

As soon as the door closed behind him, Darcy realized that his steward was standing there, waiting for him.  “Mr Martins, the shot appears to have come from the woods.  Perhaps someone was hunting and the shot went off target.  But I wish for the person to be found and brought to me.”

“Of course, Mr Darcy.  The men are prepared to begin immediately.  We had heard Miss Bennet’s cries and came running to the house to discover what had happened.”

Darcy nodded his head.  “Thank you, Mr Martins.  I will remain here, until I am certain that my cousin is out of danger.  If you have news for me, you know where to find me.”

“Of course.  And Mr Darcy, we will all be praying for Miss Elizabeth.  She is well thought of by all here at Pemberley.”

~~ ** ~~

Mr Freemont had been in Elizabeth’s room for more than half an hour and Darcy was becoming anxious.  Just as he prepared to enter the chambers without permission, the door opened and Mrs Reynolds stepped out into the hall.

“What is taking so long?” Darcy asked, his voice filled with anxiety.

“He is removing the threads from the wound. When the bullet struck her, some threads were embedded in the wound. If not cleaned out properly, they will lead to infection.”

“Is there much damage done from the wound?”

Mrs Reynolds shook her head. “Fortunately, nothing vital was injured.  If no infection sets in, Miss Elizabeth should be fine.”

“Thanks the heavens.” Darcy said, placing a hand on Mrs Reynolds’ shoulder. “May I come in to see her?”

“She is unconscious, as Mr Freemont gave her laudanum. Allow him to finish his task and dress the wound before you come in, so that we can have her properly covered.”

“It matters not to me. I only wish to ensure myself that she is breathing.”

“I understand, Master William. I would be surprised to hear you say anything else. Be patient, Sir.  I will keep you informed and you will be able to see Miss Elizabeth as soon as possible.”

A simple nod was the response from the Master of Pemberley.  He would wait, though he would not be patient.  For the next hour, he paced in the hall, back and forth, until finally, the door opened and Mrs Reynolds poked her head outside.

“Master William, you may come in now.”

The gentleman needed no further encouragement and was quickly striding towards the bed which held his beloved.

“Mr Darcy, I was just informing Miss Bennet of what to expect over the following days.  I believe I was able to remove the bullet and all the strands of fabric, and cleaned the wound thoroughly.  The wound has been stitched and salve has been applied.  The  bandage should be changed three times a day, following a half hour of this poultice being applied.  When bandaging, more salve should be placed on the wound.  If any red streaks appear, or Miss Elizabeth develops a fever, send for me immediately.  I have left a bottle of laudanum, as I am certain that the young lady will have pain.  With the other patients I have at the moment, I will make my rounds to check on my patient in the mornings.”

Darcy had stopped listening to everyone as they chattered about Elizabeth’s condition.  His eyes were focused on his beloved, watching her breathing, confirming that Elizabeth was alive.  She was pale, most likely from the lack of blood.  But it was the curls of her long dark hair that were draped across her pillow.  Many dreams of late had included him desiring to see her hair unpinned.  He had wanted to run his fingers through her locks, but this was the way he wished to fulfill his desire.

The coverlet had been pulled up past Elizabeth’s shoulders, though Darcy could easily see the slight bulge in the bedding where the physician had bandaged her wound.  A shudder coursed through him, as he thought of how close he had come to losing her.

Darcy knelt beside the bed, taking her right hand in his own.  “You will recover completely, and we will be married.  We have a long and happy life before us.”  He brought her hand to his lips, gently kissing the back several times.

Mrs Reynolds left, showing Mr Freemont downstairs.  Only Jane and Darcy remained with Elizabeth, one seated on each side of the bed.

“William, did you say you had asked Lizzy to marry you?”

Darcy wiped at the tears forming in his eyes.  “I did, just after you left us.  She said yes.”

“Did you have any doubt?  Lizzy has loved you since she was a small child, and, after your surprising statement to your Fitzwilliam relations, my sister has been waiting for you to speak with her.  She was beginning to think it was just a statement made to rid yourself of Miss de Bourgh, and that you did not wish to be attached to my sister.  But I believed you cared for her and would come around to asking Lizzy to be your wife.”

A small chuckle escaped Darcy.  “I shocked myself when I made the declaration, and I was surprised that the words came out of my mouth.  I felt you truly love my sister, though Lizzy had her doubts that you care more than just being cousins.”

“My fondest wish is to marry Lizzy and spend the rest of my life devoted to loving her.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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