Sorry for not posting last week. I realized I had to redo some of the story, as I had left some important parts out. So, I have fixed it so that things should (crossing fingers) flow better. Thank you for reading my story.
The week after the assembly, a letter arrived in Meryton at the solicitor office of James Phillips. The letter was addressed to his father in law, which was not completely unusual, even though Mr Gardiner had died many years previously. When he opened the letter, Mr Phillips was shocked to learn its contents.
I am one of the men who assisted the late Duke George Augustus in escaping from the continent and return to his wife. I have kept silent, as the duke saved my life on the battlefield. But something of an alarming nature has come to be known to me.
It seems that the duke had made an enemy of Emperor Joseph II. The emperor had desired a union between the duke and his favorite niece. The duke declined the offer, which infuriated the emperor. He sent an assassin to kill the duke. We were able to protect the duke, and making it appear that he had died from his wounds.
The niece took her own life, despondent after being rejected. Her brother became insane with desire for revenge against the duke and anyone close to him. He captured one of our group, who served under the duke and had aided in the removal of our commander from the continent. The brother had our fellow soldier tortured. That was how the emperor’s nephew, Frances, discovered that the duke had survived.
The duke’s murder was not an accident. He was murdered by an assassin. They had planned to kill the duchess, though by the time they had found her, she and her child had died. At least that was what Frances and his family believed. Recently, we learned that Frances was still furious, demanding further blood for his dead sister.
We learned that Frances was attempting to locate the midwife who delivered the babe. Mrs Timmons died several years ago, though her daughter, Mrs Dunn, who assisted her mother at the birth of the duke’s child, still lives in Ramsgate. One of my men spoke with Mrs Dunn and will watch over her. The daughter did not remember much about the family who were with the duchess at the time of her labors. She knew of the duchess’ death but knew nothing about the babe. We have informed her that the babe died,
I am concerned with your granddaughter’s safety. If you are willing, we have three men who will come to Meryton to aid in protecting the girl. I will be making the journey to speak with you in person, and plan to arrive within two days of your receiving this letter.
Lieutenant Jonathon Frederick
Mr Phillips knew he needed to speak with Mr Bennet. Though Elizabeth’s twentieth birthday was fast approaching, the solicitor wondered if his niece should learn the truth immediately.
Making his way to Longbourn, Mr Phillips was admitted to Mr Bennet’s study.
“James, what brings you here so early in the day?” Bennet asked as he motioned to Mr Phillips to sit in the chair in front of the desk.
Mr Phillips held out the letter. “You had best read this.”
Mr Bennet read the letter, then read it again. “This Frances knows that Elizabeth might be alive?”
“It appears so. You were planning to inform Lizzy next month, at her birthday, but it would most likely be better to tell her now. She must use caution so that she is not harmed.”
Nodding in agreement, Mr Bennet stepped to the door of his study. Mrs Hill was walking past and was requested to find Mrs Gardiner and Elizabeth, asking for both to join him.
While the men waited, Mr Bennet opened a cabinet and brought out a bottle. “I was saving this bottle of French brandy for a special occasion. Revealing the truth is definitely a special occasion.”
Soon the ladies entered the study and took the other chairs. Mrs Gardiner had a sinking feeling that something had happened, and she was nervous of what was about to be brought out of the darkness.
Mr Bennet cleared his throat before he spoke. “My dear Lizzy, there is some information we had planned to tell you after your twentieth birthday, but we can no longer wait.”
Elizabeth looked around at the others in the room, frowning at their inability to meet her eyes. “What could be so serious, Papa?”
“It is just that…I am not your Papa.”
A gasp escaped from the young lady. “But you and Mamma were married when I was born. You already had Jane.”
“My wife was not your mother. No, that is not correct. My wife and I loved you from the moment we saw you and you have been raised as our daughter. In truth, your parents were my sister in law, Amelia, and her husband, Duke George Augustus of Mecklenburg.”
“Were…my parents were?”
Mrs Gardiner nodded her head. “My daughter, Amelia, was your mother. She died just after your birth. Fanny had just miscarried prior to coming to your parents’ cottage, so it was simple enough for you to be passed as a Bennet daughter.”
“My father did not wish me to stay with him?”
“Your father died prior to your birth. The duke had made an enemy by refusing to marry the niece of Emperor Joseph II. The girl’s brother vowed revenge after she took her own life. There was an attempt on the duke while he was on the battlefield, and he was nearly killed. Some of the men who were loyal to the duke were able to remove him and bring him to England. Your mother nursed him back to health. He had gone into Ramsgate to purchase a gift for your mother only to have an assassin locate and kill him. Amelia was devastated, which most likely led to her death after giving birth.”
Elizabeth was having a difficult time accepting what she was being told. “Why did you keep the news from me all my life?”
“Lizzy, your father was the younger brother of Queen Charlotte. You are the niece of the queen. But the royals do not know of you. If we acknowledged who your father was, you would be in danger of being killed. You see, the royal family believed your father died on the battlefield. They had no knowledge that he had been brought to England, and they did not know of your parents being married. That was the reason he had to refuse the emperor’s niece, as he was secretly married to your mother. The royal family did not approve of her.”
“So, now my life is in danger?” Elizabeth’s complexion was extremely pale as she took in the information.
“Yes, my dear girl. We will do all we can to protect you. But now it is important for you to remember when you go anywhere, please have someone with you. If not your sisters, take a maid or footman with you. I could not bare it if we were to lose you because of the hatred of a man who is a stranger to us.”
Mrs Gardiner reached over and took hold of her granddaughter’s hand, giving it a squeeze. “We love you, Lizzy. Nothing changes that fact. Your parents loved you dearly. They wanted you and were so pleased when they learned your mother was with child.”
“What can you tell me about my mother? All I have ever known of her was that she died the year I was born.”
“Amelia was a beautiful lady, filled with joy. You remind me of her in your appearance and personality. She was always reading and learning about the world. That is how she met your father. At Hatchard’s in London. Amelia was looking for a book for her father’s birthday when she met the duke. George was a kind and caring man. He fell instantly in love with Amelia. It was love at first sight.”
“How is it that no one seems to know about her marriage?”
“They owned a small estate outside Ramsgate. They lived in their cottage, away from everyone. Amelia and George did not return to Meryton after they married. While he was on the continent, she stayed in London with Edwin. We told everyone that she was taking lessons in art from several masters, so it was simpler for her to be in London. Everyone believed us. It was a secret we kept to protect Amelia and George, and then to protect you.” Mrs Gardiner reminisced.
“We were afraid of what would happen with the royal family, as their disapproval of Amelia was extreme. George’s father was furious, as were his siblings. Then to know that someone was trying to kill George placed all of you in danger. It was not until today that we learned the identity of the man behind the attempts on George’s life, and we know who was behind George wa murdered. We only knew that we had to hide you from the danger.” Mr Bennet added.
“If you do not mind, I wish to go to my room. There is much over which I need to think.” Elizabeth stood.
“Of course, my dear girl. Please know that you may speak with any of us, ask us any questions you might have.” Mrs Gardiner gave her granddaughter a smile that spoke of the love she had for the girl.
Caroline Bingley was determined to remain at Netherfield until the Darcys arrived. Having delayed her journey to the north for nearly a week, she was grasping for other reasons to remain. She was certain that the Darcys would come to remove their son from the clutches of a fortune hunter. But how to convince her brother she could not leave immediately, as he had declared the night before. Charles had had continued to insist that Darcy would never marry Caroline, but she would not accept his words. Once the Darcys arrived and learned the truth, they would want their son to wed quickly, to keep any rumors at bay. With Caroline present, and her superior qualities over the Bennets, it would only be natural for her to be chosen as his bride.
The only solution was to feign an injury or illness. A twisted ankle or a back injury would require her to rest comfortably rather than journey north in a carriage for several days. She could make it appear that she had slipped and fallen, causing the injury. Yes, that would be perfect. Certainly, she could make her brother believe her pain and suffering.
Planning to stage her accident was simple enough. The floors of the hallway were being mopped; she could claim that she had slipped on a wet spot. The maid who was mopping the floor had been rude to Caroline, which would make the supposed accident extra satisfying to Miss Bingley, as she would insist that the maid had acted irresponsibly and should be fired.
As soon as the maid had finished and left the hallway, Miss Bingley poked her head out from her rooms, ensuring that no one was about to witness her actions.
Once she was assured that no one was nearby, Caroline placed herself on the floor, positioning her body as if she had slipped and fallen. Then, gathering her breath, she let out a curdling scream.
Hearing footsteps rushing in her direction, Caroline forced tears to come to her eyes.
Charles was the first to arrive at his sister’s side. “Caroline, what has happened?”
“I came out of my rooms and next thing I knew I was on the floor. It is wet, as if it was just mopped.”
Mrs Nichols, the housekeeper, came hurrying towards them. “Mr Bingley, is your sister well?”
“No, I am most decidedly not well. Your maid was careless and left the floor wet. Because of her foolishness, I fell and injured my back. I am in such agony. I want that maid dismissed without reference.” Caroline shrieked; her acting was good enough if she wished for a career on stage.
“Should I send for the physician?” Mrs Nichols inquired of Mr Bingley.
“Yes, that would be wise. Caroline, I will assist you to your bed. Can you walk, or should I carry you?”
“I cannot be expected to walk, the pain is horrible.” Caroline whined. “You must carry me.”
“I will make my best effort, though you know I am not very strong.”
“Then you should fetch Mr Darcy. He will be able to assist me.” Caroline demanded.
“Unfortunately, he has gone for a ride. I will have one of the footmen come and assist me in carrying you to the bed.” Bingley was catching on to his sister’s actions. He was willing to believe she had slipped, but as soon as she asked for Darcy to carry her, Bingley knew that something was not quite right. He asked Mrs Nichols to send up one of the footmen, while sending another to Meryton for the physician.”
Caroline was obviously frustrated with not being able to impose upon Darcy to come to her aid. She realized that she would be unable to see him if she were trapped in her bedchambers pretending to be injured. Her only prayer was that the Darcys would arrive quickly to protect their son.
The physician arrived after Bingley and one of the footmen carried Caroline to her bed. Her maid declared she would aid Miss Bingley in preparing for the physician. When the door closed behind the men, Betsy was not surprised with Caroline’s suddenly able to stand on her own and with no pain. Nothing Caroline did surprised her maid.
With the physician’s arrival, he declared that there was no visible injury, though back injuries could be difficult to diagnose and could take a long recovery time. Bingley was suspicious of his sister’s lack of visible injury and decided he would keep a close eye on Caroline.
Darcy returned from his ride to find the house in chaos. Finding his friend in the hallway, Darcy asked what had happened.
“My sister claims to have slipped on a wet floor and injured her back. The physician cannot find any obvious signs of injury, but he did not say it was impossible for her to have suffered a strained muscle in the back. One positive side is that Caroline will need to remain in her bed until she has recovered. We will not have to contend with her.”
“What of the dinner at the Bennets’ home tonight?”
“We had planned to attend without Caroline, as she was to leave today. As we had to delay the invitation from last week, I do not wish to have another problem. There is no reason for us to alter our plans.” Bingley was proud of himself for his decision. For the first time in his life, Charles Bingley was not giving in to his sister’s commands.
Darcy clapped a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “I cannot believe the change in you since you have been in Hertfordshire. To see you make decisions that are contrary to Miss Bingley makes me proud to be your friend.”
Any since of doubt left the young man. Aunt Ethel came up the stairs, having returned from Meryton. “Charles, Mrs Nichols informed me that Caroline was injured. Is she well?”
“She claims her back is injured. The physician recommended some treatments to aid in relieving the pain that Caroline says she is experiencing.”
His aunt looked at her nephew, surprised at his comments. “You do not trust what she has said, do you?”
“To be honest, I do not. She has wished to remain here as her goal is to capture Darcy as her husband. As I told you last night, we have spoken with her, informing her that she would never be Mrs Darcy, no matter what happens. Caroline refuses to accept the truth and I am certain that she is not injured at all. The only question I have is why she would do so in a way that will prevent her from being in the same room as Darcy. If her goal is to be near Darcy, why would she claim an injury which would keep her to her bed?”
“I agree with you that it is most likely she would do anything to remain at Netherfield. It is almost as if she was waiting for something or someone. I should check on her.” Ethel moved towards the door, knocking lightly as she opened it. As she did not wait for Caroline to call out or the maid to respond to the knock, the elderly lady was not shocked to find Caroline standing up and looking out the window.
“Aunt, what are you doing, coming into my rooms without permission.”
“I wished to come to your aid as quick as possible. Your brother informed me of the injury. It appears that you have made a miraculous recovery.”
“You are mistaken, as I am in severe pain. My maid has gone to retrieve bricks to heat to aid in easing the pain.”
“Caroline, I do not believe you for a moment.” Ethel declared. The door was standing open, and Charles entered the room. Darcy remained in the hallway, not wishing to enter the room where Caroline was dressed in her night shift and dressing gown.
Bingley was angered with his sister. “You are not injured. I knew you were up to something, and this goes to prove it. How dare you attempt to fool me?”
“Charles, I am injured. The pain is severe, and I am only standing until my maid returns with the warming bricks.”
“You do not act as if you are injured or in pain. I do not believe you. Your maid is to pack your belongings immediately and you will be leaving for the north as soon as I can purchase your passage on the post.”
“The post? How dare you consider sending me anywhere by post? You are supposed to take care of me, until I marry. Our parents insisted on you protecting me and seeing to my care. But you are neglecting our parents’ instruction. You would prefer to see me without any protection, alone and vulnerable.”
“No, you are wrong. I care for you, Caroline. You are my sister. It is due to your behavior that you have destroyed my faith and trust. As such, I will relinquish authority over your money. The solicitor will be in charge, and I will no longer cover any overspending you do every quarter. You deserve no further connection with me.”
Darcy called out from the hall. “You will not be able to use my name to gain access to functions of the ton. A letter will be sent to my mother and my aunt, Lady Matlock. Between them, their connections will not tolerate you claiming a close relationship with me to garner invitations.”
Caroline was horrified. “Mr Darcy, can you not see that I would be the perfect wife for you? I attended the finest seminary, have been taught the ways to manage a grand home, to be the perfect hostess. You would become brothers with your dearest friend.”
“Miss Bingley, you are all that I despise in the ton. Gossip and fashion are all that is important to you. Never would you be acceptable in my family, nor would I ever wish to be married to you. That is enough, I will not discuss this any further. Bingley, I will be in my rooms, writing letters. Once your sister is gone, I will join you.”
Bingley nodded his head. He could not tolerate his sister any further. “Call for your maid to start packing. You have one hour to be ready to leave. I will also warn you that if you begin breaking items, the cost will be taken from your quarterly income, so it might be wise for you to think before throwing a fit.”
As Charles turned to leave the room, his sister screeched. “I hate you! You are worthless as a brother! How dare you behave against our parents? They expected you to do your duty to me, yet you refuse to assist me in making a match which would make you and Mr Darcy brothers! I would have expected you to do your duty, as Mother and Father instructed you!”
“Our parents would be ashamed to see what you have become. You were spoiled and I believe they would regret having allowed you to believe yourself superior to everyone. If they were still alive, I doubt Father would have tolerated your behavior.” With that, Bingley turned and left the room, his aunt waiting for him in the hallway.
“Charles Rupert Bingley, I have never been prouder of you.” Ethel said as she stepped closer, placing a kiss on his cheek.