Darcy and Geoffrey arrived at the manor house of Rosings Park, both of them capturing the notice of the staff there. Darcy led the way to the family wing, where Anne’s suite of rooms was found. One of the rooms connected to the suite was the chambers of Mrs Jenkins. The men entered the room, as Geoffrey pointed to the far corner of the room.
“Mother’s satchel is over there, in the closet. She has a large collection of items that Lady Catherine has given me as tokens of her admiration. And all the funds that Mother could come by. Miss de Bourgh did not care about money, and she left her allowance in her desk drawer. Fortunately, she never counted the funds, and rarely ever uses any of the coins. I am pleased that we will be able to live comfortable, though, if your aunt was here, I am certain she would see my loyalty be rewarded.”
“You are a fool if you believe my aunt would do anything to reward you.” Darcy gave a bitter laugh. “Lady Catherine de Bourgh cares nothing for anyone but herself. She is willing to destroy my life to take possession of my wealth. Her own nephew, and she is willing to destroy my life. Do you truly believe she will care at all about you?”
“Lady Catherine has told me that she is fond of our time together. Of course, she would wish for me to be well cared for, as repayment for the way I take care of her. When it came to my wedding, Lady Catherine assured me that our arrangement would continue, and my wife would be made to understand her place. I was not pleased to have to settle for Charlotte Lucas, as I was born to greater things. Miss Elizabeth Bennet should have been my wife. Her father ruined everything, and I will never forgive him for his refusal of my offer for her hand. Thomas Bennet is an old fool, allowing the chit to do as she pleased. He has learned his lesson, though. And, before we are through, he might be taught another one.”
Darcy turned his eyes towards the toad of a man. “What do you mean, Sir?”
“Do you honestly believe my mother would leave here without taking a plaything for me? If I can no longer have Lady Catherine to do my bidding, why should I give up a such a temptation as Elizabeth Bennet? Have no doubt, my mother will do as I demand, she will have no alternative.” Geoffrey gloated, his smile too grotesque to be viewed.
The thought of this man placing his hands upon the body of the young lady he loved was more than Darcy could tolerate. “You will never be allowed to lay a finger on Elizabeth. I will protect her with my final breath.”
“Ah, but you are to wed your cousin.
“Never I have told you that you not lay a finger on Elizabeth Bennet.” Darcy stepped closer, his eyes filled with fury. “And I promise you, there is nowhere you can hide from me if you do anything to Elizabeth.”
“Do not threaten me. My mother is holding your mistress, with a knife to her throat. You have everything to lose, if anything happens to me.” The disgusting man sneered at Darcy as he leaned over and picked up his mother’s satchel. “Now, place the funds you have in the bag. Then we can return to Mother.”
“I do not have a large quantity on my person. You do remember that I have been in hiding from my aunt and cousin? But we can move down the hall, to my rooms, and I will give you all that I have there.”
Geoffrey’s eyes narrowed, questioning if the man before him was attempting to trick him. “Very well, but remember, my mother’s hand is holding a knife to your whore’s pretty little neck. She will have no difficulty punishing Miss Elizabeth, if any harm comes to me.”
“How could I forget? I am telling you the truth. When I escaped my aunt’s trap, I had no time to gather my belongings. Not only do I have funds, I have items that can be easily turned into cash, such as a pocket watch. There should be plenty to keep you and your mother comfortable for some time to come.”
Geoffrey motioned for Darcy to lead the way, holding tightly to the satchel. As the men moved past the door to Anne de Bourgh’s sitting room, the door flung open, striking the false parson in the face. Staggering backwards, and blood flowing from a gash above his eyebrow, Geoffrey was dazed. The man stumbled, coming too close to the stairs. Before Darcy could reach across and take hold of Geoffrey’s arm, the fake Mr Collins tripped and went tumbling down the stairs.
Looking at the door, Darcy discovered Miss Pertwhistle holding the doorknob. “Miss Pertwhistle, please send for a physician.”
The woman stood still, staring at the body of the pretend clergyman. She appeared to be in shock of what happened. She did not move when Darcy spoke to her, she simply stood and watched as the Master of Pemberley hurried down the steps to where Geoffrey’s body was misshapen.
Two maids and a footman came hurrying to the staircase. Darcy turned his attention back up the stairs, where Miss Gertrude Pertwhistle continued to stand, still holding the doorknob. Anne de Bourgh had moved to stand beside Miss Pertwhistle, looking towards her cousin.
Anne surprised Darcy, when she spoke. “Tell me he is dead.”
Darcy nodded his head, shocked at Anne’s response. “He is dead.”
“He will never again be able to bring harm to another. May the devil take his soul.” Anne declared, before she turned and walked back into her rooms, pulling her friend behind her.
“Anne, his mother is waiting for him to return, and she is holding Miss Elizabeth at knife point until I return with him.”
“Mrs Jenkins is still in the neighborhood? I am surprised she did not take her satchel and flee as soon as my mother left Rosings. Though what she will find inside the satchel is not what she was expecting. Knowing that she would be determining when to make her escape, I have been removing the items she stole from me and putting in worthless items to make it feel the same weight.” Anne could have been speaking of the sunrise, her lack of emotions as obvious.
“You knew they were related?”
“Of course. Everyone thinks me an idiot. But I have done all I could to keep from learning the truth. If my mother knew I was not empty headed, she would have found a way to compromise us, forcing you to marry me. I have no desire to marry you. I have met a young man who treats me kind and I enjoy spending time with him. It is my desire to marry him, to have a quiet life. As long as Mother is alive, she will do everything she can to ruin my plans. So I asked my dear friend, Trudy, to assist me. Several months ago, Trudy overheard Mrs Jenkins and that fool. We have kept what we knew secret, as Mother would never believe her little pet to be lying to her.”
Darcy was amazed at his cousin’s pronouncements. He had never heard her speak so much in all of the years of her life. Realization of how greatly he had underestimated Anne.
“And today? Why did Miss Pertwhistle come here at this time?”
Trudy stood beside her friend. “I went by Mrs Howard’s earlier today. When I saw what had been done to Mrs Collins, I knew that he needed to be stopped. Anne and I have been close friends for years, though we had to deny our friendship to everyone else. After leaving Mrs Howard’s home, I was on my way to speak with Anne about what I had witnessed, when I saw you and Mr Collins walking towards the manor house. I used the servants’ passages to gain access to Anne’s rooms, where I informed her of the situation. We overheard the two of you enter Mrs Jenkins’ room. When you prepared to leave, I took the door, praying that I would strike the correct man. He stepped on the loose floor board, so I knew where he was, and put all my strength into pushing the door into him. It was not my intent to kill him, but to knock him to the floor to make it easy to secure him for the constable.”
“You realize there will need to have the magistrate investigate the matter? But I will do what I can to assist you. For now, I must find a way to secure Miss Elizabeth’s freedom from Mrs Jenkins.”
Anne looked at her friend, then back to her cousin. “You should take Trudy with you. She has a talent that would come handy with what you need to accomplish.”
Darcy’s brows knit as he attempted to understand Anne’s words. “And how can she assist me?”
“I have long been able to mimic voices, Mr Darcy.” Gertie stated. A moment later, she spoke with a masculine tone to her voice, a tone that was eerily similar to the voice of the man who was dead on the stairs. “And I can assist you with Mrs Jenkins.”
“Then let us be off. The stable should have the carriage ready for my return to the shack where Mrs Jenkins is holding Elizabeth.”
Darcy turned to go down the stairs, and only returned his attention to his cousin when she spoke. “Have no further thought of Mr Collins. I will send for the constable. And William, bring Miss Elizabeth back safely. There will be rooms prepared for her and her family upon your return.”
“Thank you, Anne. We will speak more when she is safe.”
~~ ** ~~
“What is taking so long? Where could they be” Mrs Jenkins was becoming irritated with her son’s delay.
“I am certain they will return soon.” Mr Bennet stated. “Might you permit my daughter to sit on the floor. She appears to be weak, and I would not wish her to collapse while you are holding her.”
“She had best keep where she is or she will feel the blade of my knife.” Mrs Jenkins stated, adjusting her hold on her captive. “And if my son does not return soon, you should prepare for your daughter’s funeral.”
“Mr Darcy has proper motivation to return. He is in love with my daughter.”
Elizabeth’s eyes grew round with her father’s words. Could he be certain of his words? But it could not be, for Mr Darcy has found me to be not handsome enough to tempt him to even dance. Papa must be tricking Mrs Jenkins, in attempt to free her from the companion’s hands.
“What a foolish man.” Mrs Jenkins huffed. “I believed myself in love with Geoffrey’s father. And look at where such a sentiment has gotten me. I took his wrath, I survived, and he was struck down. Only due to my strength has my son grown and made a life for himself. So do not speak to me of love. It is a weakness, not a strength.”
“You have my deepest sympathies for what you endured, Mrs Jenkins. No woman should have to accept cruelty. Though I do not love my wife, I respect her and care for her well-being. She gave me five daughters and has kept my house for more than twenty years. And she has tolerated my foibles as I tolerate hers. No man has the right to raise his fists, in anger, against any woman, let alone the one to whom they are wed.”
“Easy for someone like you to say. How do I know you do not beat your wife daily? Men speak sweetly in public, and speak with their fists in private.” Mrs Jenkins stated. “Perhaps I should protect your daughter from men, send her to heaven before she can be mistreated.”
“Please, Madam, I beg you to show my daughter mercy. She is a good girl, one of the kindest girls in the country. I could tell you all sorts of examples of her kindness. Lizzy has been devoted to our tenants and our servants, seeing to their needs and their comforts. She has even seen to the care of a family who are tenants of our neighbor’s estate, when the mother died in childbirth. My Lizzy did all she could to see the children were taken care of while the father worked, and found someone to help take care of the family’s cottage, as the wife had done. As they were not from our estate, Lizzy was under no obligation to see to their needs, but the owner of Netherfield has not lived there for more than ten years. I was so proud of my daughter for her generosity and kindness.”
Before she could say another word, Mrs Jenkins heard a carriage coming close to the shack. “That had best be Geoffrey and Darcy.”
Mr Grant looked outside the shack’s door. “It is. Mr Darcy is driving the carriage.” Fortunately, Mr Grant was not in the line of sight of the companion, as he realized that the person seated beside Mr Darcy was not the sycophantic parson. Seeing the man’s reaction, Mr Bennet schooled his features to keep the woman from noticing anything being wrong.
“As soon as Darcy enters, I ask that you release my daughter. Your son will remain outside. Mr Darcy can hand you the satchel you have been waiting for, and you can turn Elizabeth over to me.”
“I wish to hear from my son before I release the chit.” Mrs Jenkins stated, pulling her victim closer and ensuring the knife was placed against the smooth skin of Elizabeth’s throat.
Darcy had come to a stop beside the carriage, and had moved quickly towards the shack. He nodded to the men inside the small structure, and made his way to the small room.
“Here is your satchel, Mrs Jenkins. I have added my funds and other items you could sell. I ask you to step away from Miss Elizabeth and allow her to come from the room.”
“Where is my son? Where is Geoffrey?”
“I…I am here, Mother.” Trudy called out, her voice taking a close resemblance to that of the now deceased man.
“Is all well? Are you safe?”
“Indeed. Mr Darcy has behaved appropriately. I even have his pocket watch.”
“I will have the men come into the room, then I will back out with this trollop. Once we are on our way, I will release the woman.”
“When the men are in the room, close the door. Then leave Miss Elizabeth in the outer room. Lock the door. We will be long gone before they are able to break free from the shack.”
“You heard my son.” Mrs Jenkins stated, moving to one side of the small room, allowing the men to enter and cross to the far corner. The woman kept her face forward, with Elizabeth held between herself and the men. Once she had pulled Elizabeth backwards into the main room of the building, she commanded the men to close the door between the two rooms.
Only after she heard the latch click, assuring the door was closed, Mrs Jenkins moved quickly towards the door leading to the outside. Reaching the exterior door, she pushed Elizabeth inwards, cutting the younger lady’s shoulder as Mrs Jenkins pulled the knife towards herself. Elizabeth cried out in pain, crumpling to the ground from weakness.
Mrs Jenkins took only a moment to relish in the pain she had brought upon Elizabeth Bennet, locking the door from the outside. Only, when she turned to greet her son, did she realize something was not right. There was no one in the carriage. No one near the carriage either.
“Geoffrey, we must leave. Where are you?”
A voice came from beyond the trees surrounding the shack. “Forgive me Mother, but you will need to leave without me.”
“What is this nonsense? Come, we must be on our way immediately.”
“It is too late for me. You must go alone.”
Mrs Jenkins was leery. “Where are you? I will only leave when I see you for myself.”
“You cannot see me, Mother. You would be broken hearted to see me.”
“Of what are you speaking? Come, we do not have much time before they will come after us.”
“Unfortunately, your son will be going nowhere but a pine box in the ground.” Trudy said in her own voice. “Your evil child will hurt no one ever again.”
“What are you doing here? Where is my son?”
Trudy spoke again, using her imitation of the false Mr Collins. “Your son is in hell, where he belongs. And you will be joining him soon.”
“No, this cannot be true. I heard my son. Where is he?”
Taking a step from behind one of the many trees, Trudy’s expression was cold and hard. Changing her voice to mimic Geoffrey’s, she spoke. “Your son is where he belongs. He is dead. He can never bring harm to another person. You are alone. No one will come to your aid. And you cannot reach Miss Elizabeth, as, by now, the men are at her side.”
“I knew you had been sneaking in to the house to visit Miss Anne, only it was my belief you were bringing her tittle tattle from the village. You are not the meek little mouse you pretend to be.” Mrs Jenkins sneered. “So, you have taken everything from me. Do you expect me to give up? Should I drop to the ground and allow you to kill me?”
“I did not kill your son. The only thing I did was open a door at the proper moment. The door struck your son in the face, causing him to stumble about, tumbling down the stairs. I have no regret for opening the door as I did. Your son deserved what he got.”
“You have the nerve to call my son evil? How dare you?” Mrs Jenkins dropped her satchel, yet held tight to the knife in her other hand. She began moving towards the young lady who was responsible for her losses.
Trudy made no attempt to flee, standing beside the tree in an easy attitude.
As Mrs Jenkins closed the distance between her and Trudy, she heard someone come from the door of the shack. She turned to the sound of Darcy’s voice, demanding she stop. The elder woman knew that her life was coming to its end, and she would move heaven and earth to take Trudy with her, so she continued to move forward.
“Mrs Jenkins, stay where you are. Do not take another step, or I will be forced to stop you.” Darcy called out.
The fury did not allow Mrs Jenkins to use common sense. Only a few more steps and she would be able to sink her knife into Trudy’s heart. As she lifted her arm to strike her foe, there was a crackling explosion behind her. A force struck Mrs Jenkins, spinning her body about. As she began to collapse to the ground, the former companion witnessed the smoke emitting from the end of the barrel of a pistol. A pistol that was held in the hand of Fitzwilliam Darcy.
As Darcy stepped closer to the slumped body, Mrs Jenkins was gasping as blood trickled from her lips.
“I…I will see…you both… in hell…”
Trudy stepped around the woman’s body, moving to stand next to Darcy. “Is Miss Elizabeth well?” the young lady asked, witnessing the final breath exiting Mrs Jenkins’ body.
“We need to transport her to the house, so the physician can tend to her wounds.” Darcy replied, his eyes fixed on the older woman’s lifeless form. “There is not enough room in the carriage, but I will send it back for you as soon as I see to Miss Elizabeth.”
“Have no fear. Mr Grant and I will remain here. Send someone from the stables with a wagon for the body.”
Darcy nodded his head. “Of course. I cannot say that I understand what has happened here today, but I am truly grateful that you are not what I assumed you to be.”
This caused Trudy to laugh. “Very few people know who I really am. Your cousin is one of those few, as we both needed a friend when we first met. She is one of the best people I have ever known.”
~~ ** ~~
The carriage arrived at the front of Rosings Park’s manor house, conveying Darcy, Mr Bennet, and Elizabeth. Mr Bennet had held his daughter on his lap on the journey from the shack, though when they arrived at the grand house, he allowed Darcy to take hold of his beloved daughter.
Anne de Bourgh was standing near the entrance door of the house, along with the head maid, Maggie Porter. As Darcy approached, carrying Elizabeth in her arm, he was directed to the rooms across the hall from the apartment Darcy used when visiting the estate. A fire had been lit in the bedchamber, water was heating, and the room was prepared for the injured woman. Towels, bandages, and a satchel of medicinals were found on the top of the chest of drawers.
Darcy placed Elizabeth on the bed, then stepped back two steps. Another maid, Rose, moved forward to assist the young lady.
“Mr Darcy, you need to remove from the room. We need to assist Miss Elizabeth from her clothes and clean her before the physician arrives.” Maggie informed Darcy in a polite, yet firm voice.
Realizing his behavior was inappropriate, being in a lady’s bedchamber, staring at her while the maids prepared to aid her in changing from her gown, Darcy’s cheeks flamed with embarrassment. “Forgive me, I will be in the hall with Mr Bennet.”
The gentleman pulled the door closed behind him, afraid to look into the eyes of the older gentleman. It would not be good for Mr Bennet to realize Darcy’s desire to remain in the room with Elizabeth. Being there, wishing to know that she would be fine, felt natural. In his dreams, he had Elizabeth at his side, in his bed, Mistress of his estate. He would have to be on guard so as not to make the mistake again.
Hearing people entering the house, Darcy stepped over to the staircase to see what was happening. He witnessed Jane Bennet, Charlotte Collins, and Mrs Howard being shown to the staircase by one of the footmen. Anne was nowhere to be seen.
Mr Bennet came to Darcy’s side. “Your cousin has opened her home to all of us. She even sent someone to Mrs Howard’s home for Jane and Charlotte. Miss de Bourgh is extremely kind and generous.”
Darcy had never thought of his cousin, as he preferred not to think of her, since his aunt would have taken any sign of caring for his cousin as his acceptance of Lady Catherine’s plans for the marriage. But in just a few hours, he had been surprised and pleased with what he had witnessed in Anne’s behavior.
“I have never had a chance to actually gotten to know my cousin, as her mother made every attempt to insist that Anne and I be married. Perhaps I should have taken a moment to know Anne.”
“Have no fear, Cousin, I know why you kept your distance. I did the same.” Anne had just come from her rooms to join the men. “Ah, good, Mrs Collins came with the other ladies. Trudy was furious when she witnessed the injuries to the lady. I can understand why, now that I see the wounds.”
“Technically, she would not be Mrs Collins, as the man she married was not William Collins.” Mr Bennet said. “I wonder what we can do to protect her from what is bound to be said when the truth comes out.”
“I am certain that we can find a way to take care of our Charlotte.” Anne said with a smile. “She is part of Rosings and Hunsford, and from this day forward, we will protect our people.”
“What will you do when your mother and Richard return?”
“Trudy posted a letter express to Uncle Henry, shortly before Mother and Richard left for London. I expected to hear back from him, but can only assume he has been kept busy with their antics. Hopefully Uncle Henry will make the journey here before I have to deal with them.”
“Anne, forgive me for never standing up for you in all the times I have come to Rosings. If you will allow me, I would gladly be at your side when your mother returns.”
“I would appreciate your assistance. My solicitor will be here, as I have sent word to him.”
“In London? Will he not take your mother’s side on the matter?”
Anne smiled. “Mother does not realize I know, but I came into my inheritance two years ago. At that time, I hired a solicitor of my own. He has been working with Uncle Henry for me to take over the estate. We decided it would be easiest if we informed Mother of the change after she had left the estate. I am so grateful to you and Miss Elizabeth for giving my mother a reason to leave the estate, you have come to my aid without knowing what was happening.”
“For me, I am glad to be of assistance. My only regret is that Miss Elizabeth has had to suffer for days. But I am certain Miss Elizabeth would be pleased to learn that what she went through aided you to gain control of Rosings from your mother.”
“Thank you, William. How is Miss Elizabeth? Will she recover?”
“I believe so, though she has been through a terrible ordeal.” Darcy stated, his eyes wandering back to the door to the room where Elizabeth was being tended.
“My daughter is strong. I have no doubt that Lizzy will recover fully.”
Darcy remembered there were others with him. “Forgive me, Mr Bennet. I forgot you were here. Anne, please allow me to introduce you to Mr Thomas Bennet, Miss Elizabeth’s father. Mr Bennet, this is my cousin, Miss Anne de Bourgh.” At that moment, the other ladies arrived next to them. “And this is Miss Jane Bennet, Mr Bennet’s eldest daughter.”
“Mr Bennet, it is an honor to meet you, though I wish it were due to pleasanter reasons. Miss Bennet, I am pleased to offer you the comforts of Rosings. Mrs Howard, and Charlotte, welcome. We have rooms prepared for all of you.”
The two elder ladies were surprised to be given such treatment by Anne de Bourgh. She had always been quiet and reserved. Anne had the maids show the ladies where their rooms were, and then the Mistress of Rosings left the men to see that all was prepared for the battle she knew was coming.
~~ ** ~~
Henry Fitzwilliam did not know whether to find piece in what he had to do or if he felt pain. His elder sister was dead. So was his younger son. His nephew was in trouble, due to a young lady he was in love with being missing. His elder niece was now able to take command of her estate without problems from her mother. Everything felt as if it were a reason to rejoice and a reason for sorrow.
The carriage was nearing Rosings Park when the silence that had been throughout the journey came to an end. “Henry, how do you think Anne will handle the news?” Lady Matlock asked.
“I am certain part of her will grieve in some fashion, but it will be a weight off Anne’s shoulders. She did not wish to have a confrontation with Catherine, especially as Anne did not know who she could have to back her up. So, she continued to play the fool, not allowing her mother to know the truth.”
Georgiana looked at her uncle. “Will Brother be angry that I have come with you?”
“No, poppet. You are with us, and there is no longer a threat. Once he learns the truth, I believe your brother will be pleased to have you at his side. My hope is that he has found the young lady who was missing. From what I gathered from his letter, William is in love with this Miss Bennet.”
“I look forward to meeting anyone who has won William’s heart.” Georgiana said. “Do you think she might like me?”
Lady Matlock smiled. “What reason would she have not to like you? You are a kind, caring young lady, beautiful of heart and face. Anyone who loves William will love you, Georgie.”
“I pray she does. I have wished for a sister all of my life.” The girl looked out the window of the carriage. “It has been many years since I was last here, but it looks just as cold and daunting as I remember.”
“There are some big changes coming this way, Poppet. Anne will turn it into a home, rather than a house. Anne prefers comfort and subtle elegance, unlike her mother. Catherine’s choice of décor was always a vulgar display of her wealth. Even when she had financial problems, Catherine insisted on making the appearance that she was extremely wealthy.”
“How will Anne survive the financial situation that Catherine caused? Will Anne have to sell the estate?” Lady Matlock inquired.
This brought a smile to the gentleman’s expression. “I will wait to inform you of all the particulars when we are with Anne and William. For it is quite a story, and would prefer to only have to tell it once.”
Georgiana and Lady Matlock shared a glance. Both were excited to learn what Lord Matlock had to tell.