As Darcy entered his sister’s bedchamber, he was met by her companion.
“Miss Darcy, did you forget we are to go to Meryton today? Your friend will be waiting for your arrival at the tea shop.”
“You still have not informed me of whom I am to meet.” Darcy was trying to determine who could possibly be in the neighborhood who was friends with his sister. “I know of no one in the area with whom I am acquainted.”
Mrs Younge wore a sly grin. “I cannot ruin the surprise, Miss, but can guarantee you will be very pleased.”
Darcy gave into Mrs Younge and the pair left the manor house, taking the curricle to the merchant village which was 2 miles away. The curricle came to a stop in front of the stable at the south side of Meryton.
“I thought you said we were to meet my friend at the tea shop. Why are we here?”
“Forgive me Miss Darcy, but I said the tea shop, so no one would be curious. No, it is best if you meet this friend here, where you will not be as noticed. Come now, you will be happy with what I have done for you.” The companion motioned for the young lady to follow her.
Goosebumps began to rise on Darcy’s arms. Something was seriously wrong. There was something telling Darcy that the situation was not good. He followed the companion yet kept a tight hold on the reticule he was carrying. Inside, there was a knife that Darcy had carried for years.
Coming around the rear corner of the stable, Darcy was shocked to see who was standing before him. “George Wickham, what are you doing here?”
Wickham smiled and stepped closer, taking one of the delicate female hands between his own. “Dearest Georgiana, you must have known I would come. The very thought of being away is unacceptable.”
Realization was setting in to Darcy. Obviously, Georgiana had been in contact with Wickham, and the scoundrel felt he had the right to act so informally with her. “How is it that you came to be here?”
“Mrs Younge was kind enough to inform me where your brother forced you to come. I was excited to learn the militia was staying here, so I purchased a commission with the last of the funds you loaned me. With employment, I will be able to repay your generosity.”
“Of course, I will be grateful for the repayment. So you know I am staying at Netherfield Park, with my brother.” Darcy needed not ask, it was obvious that the companion was supplying all the information Wickham needed.
“Indeed, staying with Bingley and his family. How your brother could believe it to be proper to make you stay in the home of the children of a tradesman, I will never understand. I questioned his mind when he befriended Bingley while we were at university. The man and his family are of no importance. You are the granddaughter of an earl, and your rank in society is significantly higher than that of the children of a tradesman.”
Darcy was seething. He had come to dislike the young man before him, the way Wickham had taken advantage of Gerard Darcy’s generosity. Darcy had kept secret many of the misdeeds of the man who had been his childhood friend. The master of Pemberley had even paid Wickham to sign away his inheritance that the previous Mr Darcy had left in his will. Wickham was furious to learn that he would not be inheriting a large fortune, as he had expected from the man who had been his godfather. Instead, Gerard Darcy had left the living at the village of Kympton, if Wickham was willing to take orders and become an upstanding clergyman. Knowing that having Wickham as the spiritual leader of his tenants would be a terrible notion, Darcy offered him the total of four thousand pounds. His former friend was desperate for the funds, and accepted Darcy’s offer.
Only a few months ago, when the living at Kympton was made vacant due to the elder vicar’s death, Wickham had come to Darcy, stating that he was prepared to take orders and accept the living that his godfather had left him. When Darcy informed him that it was not to be, as Wickham had signed papers giving up the right to the living, the man became irate with Darcy. Wickham had threatened his nemesis, vowing to have his revenge. Obviously, he had decided to seek his revenge through Georgiana.
“And it is your opinion that you are better than Mr Bingley and his sisters? The eldest sister is married to a gentleman from Essex, and he is heir to his father’s estate. From what I was told, the estate is worth two thousand per annum. Have you some inheritance that I have not heard of that has elevated you to a higher position in society?”
Wickham was confused. He had never experienced such behavior from Georgiana, she was in awe of him. Perhaps she was disappointed that it had been some time since he had last seen him. “My dearest, you know your father had me attend school and the university alongside your brother. As your father’s godson, he wished the best for me, and wanted me to take over Pemberley when he was gone. Your brother refused to honor your father’s last wishes, as were listed in my benevolent godfather’s will. Being stripped of my inheritance, I could not afford to fight against Fitzwilliam and the solicitors he had at his command.”
The lies the man was spreading with such ease made Darcy wish to bark out in laughter. “If you do not have funds, it is your own fault. You were given funds in exchange for the living my father had left you. The living at Kympton, when it became available, and only if you took orders, did not suit you. From what I learned, you accepted four thousand pounds, as you did not feel being a clergyman would be the life for you.”
“How…how did you come to know such information?”
“My brother and I are very close. I have seen the papers you signed. Are you denying the facts?”
Wickham was in a sheer panic. What was he to do if Georgiana was no longer believing his lies? He had hoped that he would be able to persuade the young lady to elope with him, but now, what would he do? Without her dowry of forty thousand pounds, Wickham would never be able to live comfortably as he felt he deserved.
“Forgive me, Georgiana, my beloved, but I must tell you that your brother has lied to you. He must have had his solicitors forge papers to discredit me. Please, do not tell me that you believe his lies. I could not survive with you believing your brother’s lies. My love for you is far more important to me than the living your father left for me.”
“Tell me, when did you decide my love was more important? How long ago? Was it weeks, months, years? How long have you felt such intense love for me?” Darcy questioned.
“I have always cherished our time spent together, even when you were a child. Do you remember the hours I spent with you, holding tea parties and playing with your dolls? Even then, when you were so young, I could see that you would grow into a wonderful young lady. But it was not until two months ago, when I saw you near the book shop, that my heart was struck by what a phenomenal woman you have turned into. It was then that I knew you had always been perfect for me.”
Mrs Younge was far enough away from the pair as to not be able to overhear what was being said, but she could tell that something was wrong. Could she have been wrong in trusting her lover in being able to seduce the child before him?
The companion kept a close watch on the pair, straining to hear any of their conversation.
Wickham was finding it difficult to understand the change in Georgiana. If he had not known better, he would have sworn that the girl before him had become the twin to her boorish elder brother, as she mimicked his mannerisms and language, even her tone was eerily similar to her brother’s.
“Georgiana, I beg of you to tell me what has happened. Just last month you were glad to receive my attention. Have you decided against me? Have you determined that your father’s godson is not worthy of you? If you can tell me that you honestly have no love in your heart for me, I will leave and never return. Perhaps I will join the regulars and ship off to battle in France.”
Darcy gave a hearty laugh. “If you were to go to the continent, you would likely cross paths with Richard, and I am well aware of his desire to run you through with his blade, after what you attempted to do with his younger sister. My cousin swore if he ever saw you again, he would break every bone in your body.”
A shudder coursed through Wickham at the thought of meeting with Richard Fitzwilliam. The man was only a few years older than Wickham, but he was in top physical condition, compare with Wickham who rarely took care of his physical state, other than to dress in the finest clothing he could acquire.
“Georgiana, precious, why are you tormenting me in such a manner? The last time we were together, you professed your love for me. Have you such a fickle heart, leaving you to torment an eligible suitor?”
“Eligible suitor? You could never be eligible enough to deserve me. Certainly, you are only concerned with finding a way to gain my dowry. I would suggest you give up your plot and leave here immediately.”
Seeing no other option, Wickham stepped closer to the person he believed to be Georgiana Darcy. Placing a hand on her right upper arm, he grasped her and yanked her towards his body. “If that is the way you wish to play this game, that is the way you will be treated.” Dragging the girl, he made his way towards a carriage that was already prepared with a team of four mismatched horses. The door on the left side of the carriage was already opened, and two men were seated on top of the vessel meant to convey Wickham, Georgiana, and Mrs Younge north.
“Unhand me. I have no desire to remain in your presence any longer. Leave me be.”
Wickham growled. “I had hoped we would do this willingly, but I continue with my plans, with or without your cooperation. We will make the journey to Scotland, and you can choose to make the trip a pleasant one or one of misery.”
Darcy’s ire was now growing out of proportion. “I will not go anywhere with you, especially not to Scotland. If you release me immediately, I will not speak of this attempt to anyone until you are well on your way.”
The sneer Wickham wore said all Darcy needed to know. His childhood playmate would have his way, no matter what he had to do to achieve his goal. Unfortunately, in his sister’s form, he was not strong enough to overtake Wickham, and Wickham was prepared to us force to make certain that his prize was in the carriage. The scoundrel reached forward, grasping Darcy’s arm, and twisted it. Darcy could feel the pain as his arm was ratcheted behind his back.
Once they were inside the carriage, with Mrs Younge joining them, the carriage lurched forward and was on its way north.
~~~~~~~ ** ~~~~~~~
“Darcy, Darcy, open the door. There is an urgent matter we must discuss.” Bingley pounded on the door of the bedchamber which had been assigned to his friend. “Open the door, it concerns your sister.”
The door was yanked open just as Bingley was about to knock again. Georgiana looked at her host, a worried look on her face. “What has happened?” she demanded.
“I just received word that your sister and her companion were seen in Meryton, with none other than Wickham. One of the officers witnessed a tense conversation between Georgiana and Wickham, just before the barbarian forced her into a nearby carriage. Mrs Younge was also with them, and the carriage left Meryton, heading north. The officer went directly to Colonel Forester, as Wickham left without permission from the colonel. What should we do? I can have horses prepared or a carriage. And the militia is at our disposal if we wish them to join the search. As Wickham faces charges for leaving without permission, the militia will be searching for him no matter if with us or on their own.”
“We can have them search with us. I would prefer to travel by carriage, as my health is still suffering. If you will make the arrangements, I will prepare myself.”
Bingley nodded his head and headed down the stairs. Georgiana was certain she knew what Wickham had planned, as sure as she knew that a week ago, she would have gladly gone with him. Now that she knew the truth, knew that Wickham was not the man she had believed him to be, Georgiana could not tolerate even the thought of him. Whether she wished to or not, Georgiana Darcy would have to stand tall and protect herself from the rake. Even though she was not in her own body, the thought of his fingers caressing her skin made the young lady nauseous. And she knew that her body did not have the strength to fight Wickham, no matter how skilled her brother was in defending himself.
Georgiana was ready and made her way down the stairs just as the carriage was pulled in front of the entrance of the main house. She entered the carriage, along with Bingley, only to find Miss Elizabeth Bennet hurrying towards them, a maid trailing close behind.
Seeing the quizzical look on Georgiana’s face, Bingley responded. “I asked Miss Elizabeth to join us, in case your sister requires a female after what has happened. Men are not always good at consoling our women in times of great trials, so I felt having another female would be appropriate. Especially since it appears that Mrs Younge cannot be trusted.”
“My sister insisted I assist, after all your sister has done for Jane. Without Miss Darcy’s advice, I am not certain Jane would be nearly recovered. And I have come to think of your sister with fondness. She is a kind and caring young lady.”
A nod of Georgiana’s head acknowledged Elizabeth’s words. How strange it was that her brother had felt comfortable enough to spend time with someone who would have been considered beneath them.
Georgiana would like to learn more of what they had discussed. Miss Elizabeth spoke of Darcy being kind and caring. Those were not the words that came to mind as describing Fitzwilliam Darcy, at least not to the mind of his sister.
The carriage was on its way and was met on the road by the militia members who were joining the hunt. The militia, led by Colonel Forester, would ride ahead, searching all villages along the way. They hoped they would come across the carriage containing the wayward lieutenant and the ladies he had with him. Then the officers would keep Wickham restrained until they could hold a military court. Wickham’s fate had been sealed the moment he stepped inside the carriage and fled Meryton, there would be no need to bring up Miss Darcy’s abduction. Since the girl’s companion was with them, Colonel Forester was certain he could protect Georgiana Darcy’s reputation.
~~ ** ~~
Darcy sat as far away from Wickham as the confines of the carriage would allow. Furious at the scoundrel, and the defection of Mrs Younge, aiding in the abduction, Darcy did not wish to speak with either of them. He would see that they were both punished for their crimes, as he could not allow such betrayal to stand. Obviously, from what had been said, Mrs Younge had been assisting Georgiana to spend time with Wickham. Now his sister’s demands to go to Ramsgate were seen with different eyes. Had Georgiana planned to run away with their father’s godson? And how long had this secret relationship been going on? Would his sister have thrown everything in her life away for Wickham?
Georgiana had no notion of what George Wickham was truly like. All the cruel tricks the young boy had played on the heir to Pemberley, all the times Darcy took responsibility to protect his father from Wickham’s baser needs. And all the debts that Darcy had purchased, protecting the Darcy name, which Wickham used all too frequently to gain credit. How would Georgiana feel if she was to learn of the females who had been ruined by Wickham, not to mention the number of natural children that had been begotten by the man’s behavior. Darcy was grateful that the kindly elder Mr Wickham, never knew of George’s depravity.
“We must have some conversation, Georgiana, or this will be a long and miserable journey. I thought you would be thrilled to become my wife. We spoke of it often, during our walks in London.”
“I have changed my mind, and do not wish to be married. I…I am too young to marry, as I have just recently turned six and ten. It would be wiser if I were at least eight and ten, or even twenty. There is still much I will need to learn about running a house and staff.” Darcy grasped at any reason to portray his sister’s youth and lack of training.
“As we spoke on our last walk, you will be fine. We will not be able to afford a large home at first. After we receive your dowry, we can find a more suitable home. That will also give you time to learn what you prefer in a home, how you wish to decorate, and how many staff members you will require. And your aunt will be willing to assist you in learning all that is required. You said so yourself, as Lady Matlock has no daughter of her own, she will wish to be a mother figure to you at this time.”
“I doubt my aunt will approve of an elopement. It would be frowned upon by society. Aunt Rebecca is very particular when it comes to such matters.” Darcy stated.
“It will not matter. You will have your dowry and we will be happy, what more could we desire?” Wickham tried to make light of the situation. He needed Georgiana’s cooperation.
“Mr Wickham, it would be better if we were to become betrothed. Then we can do everything properly.”
Wickham laughed. “Why are you being so formal, Georgie? Only a fortnight ago you were calling me your dearest love.”
“Please, it would be wrong to be so informal. I wish to do things properly.” Darcy tried to sound convincing, all the while he was seething that his little sister had behaved in such a manner.
Leaning forward, Wickham attempted to take hold of Darcy’s hands. Unwilling to allow his nemeses any such liberties, Darcy pulled his hands back as if he had been touched by hot coals.
Growing irritated by the girl’s change of mind, Wickham gave a slight growl. He knew he had to keep his anger at check, for he did not want to drag a girl to the anvil to force her into marriage. The cooperation of the child before him was necessary, or he could forget her dowry. And Wickham needed the dowry money.
What was unknown to either of the females accompanying him to Scotland, Wickham was being pursued by two different men. One was the father of a girl who had been ruined by Wickham. The girl and the child that resulted from the ruination were living in Ireland, after being sent there to live with a distant aunt when it was discovered the girl was with child.
The other person who was pursuing Wickham was a money lender. Wickham had hoped to receive funds from Darcy, as he had used the Darcy name to obtain the loan. When the money lender approached Darcy for the repayment, the master of Pemberley refused to cover the debt, which was substantial. The man was not known for kindness, he was ruthless and did not refrain from making an example out of anyone who did not repay their loan. Wickham feared him more than the father that pursued him, as that man would likely demand the scoundrel to marry his daughter.
And now, having deserted his post in the militia, Wickham had to obtain Georgiana’s dowry, so he could pay his way out of all his troubles. Desertion was not a matter taken lightly. But if he could pay someone to take his commission, all could be overlooked. As with many problems, money could always smooth over the wrong doings.
“Georgie, when we last spoke, you were thrilled with the suggestion of eloping. You declared it to be such a romantic idea. Why have you changed your mind? Have you decided you cannot love me? Do you not believe in my love for you?”
Darcy was having a struggle to not roll his eyes. Wickham’s sweet talk might persuade an innocent girl like Georgiana, but Darcy knew what the man was attempting. “I do not believe I was ever truly in love with you, Mr Wickham. To tell you the truth, I was being foolish when I agreed to even take walks with you. Marriage is far more serious and should not be rushed into.”
George Wickham changed before Darcy’s eyes. Fury took hold of the man, and he reached forward, yanking Darcy forward by the forearm. “You promised me that we would marry. You cannot take back your word, it would be very bad if you were to do such. We will make the journey to Gretna Green, and we will me married. Do you understand me?”
“You cannot force me to marry you. I will not cooperate, no matter what you do.” Darcy said defiantly.
Wickham reached out his hand in a quick motion, striking Darcy’s face. “You will do as you are told. If you defy me, I will make you wish you had never met me. And do not forget, I know how to get to your brother. I could have him killed, leaving you the heir to the Darcy fortune. Which do you prefer, marry me willingly and keep your brother safe, or marry me by force and lose your precious brother? It is your choice, Georgiana.”
“You are a heartless rake, Wickham. I will never allow you to bring harm to my brother. But you will regret this day, fore I am no longer the innocent girl you believe me to be.”
~~~~~~~ ** ~~~~~~~