Hope you all had a great Mother’s Day weekend. Even if you don’t have human children, if you have pets, or have been a parental figure in someone’s life, you still deserve to be acknowledged.

Chapter 17

            Mr Phillips was quite concerned when he arrived at Longbourn. His expression was grim when he was shown into his brother in law’s study.

            “Phillips, what has happened?” Mr Bennet stood, looking at the solicitor with concern.

            “They know that Lizzy is alive. They are trying to locate her.”

            Mr Bennet sunk into his chair. “Perhaps we should have the family gather and send for the Darcys to join us. It is a conversation that involves all of us.”

            Mr Phillips nodded his head. “I brought Edith with me. She is with her mother, discussing wedding plans.”

            Mr Bennet quickly wrote a message to William to bring his family and the Bingleys to Longbourn as soon as possible. He had one of the footmen take the message to Netherfield Park.

            The men joined the rest of the family in the parlor. Elizabeth could sense something was wrong by her father’s expression. “Papa, has something happened?”

            “Yes, my dear girl. But let us wait until your intended and his family arrive. It is a discussion for all of us to be involved.”

            Fear was creeping up Elizabeth’s spine. Fear of losing her family, of what the Baron had planned if he found her. Would he kill her or her loved ones?

            Less than an hour passed before they heard the carriage coming to stop in front of the manor house. Mr Hill answered the door, escorting those who had arrived into the parlor.

            William scanned the room until his eyes locked with Elizabeth’s. He crossed the room in three long strides. “What has happened? Are you well?”

            “Papa wished for all of you to arrive before he spoke. Have no fear, I am well.” Elizabeth gave a weak smile.

            “Yes, if everyone will take a seat, Mr Phillips will enlighten us as to what has happened.” Mr Bennet stated as he motioned to the many chairs and the two sofas in the room.

            Once everyone was seated, Mr Phillips began.

            “I received a letter from the solicitor in Ramsgate who oversees the property that is Elizabeth’s when she comes of age. A group of men have been in the area attempting to discover Lizzy’s whereabouts. They dug up Amelia’s grave and now know that Lizzy did not die with her mother. Then the men went to the cottage. They threatened the couple, ransacked the solicitor’s office, and have been asking for information everywhere. Now that they know Lizzy is alive, I am afraid they will stop at nothing to find her.”

            William had been sitting beside Elizabeth on one of the sofas, holding her hand in his. At the news, his arm wrapped around her, pulling her into his embrace.

            “Do no worry, my love. There is nothing they can do to harm you, as I will see to your security.”

            Gerald Darcy turned his attention to Mr Bennet. “Should we remove Elizabeth from the area? Hire more guards?”

            “Lizzy, it is my opinion that we hire more guards until after the wedding. Then, rather than taking a wedding trip, you remain here or, perhaps, Pemberley. Somewhere you can be protected.” Mr Bennet suggested. “We can send to London today for more guards. Your uncle Gardiner is sure to be able to hire men and send them to us.”

            “We can send to Matlock House for some of the men who work there. I can send word to my wife’s brother. His second son is in the dragoons. Richard might be able to suggest some men he has served with who have retired from the military. After the wedding, we will have guards protecting you.  Have no fear, we will see you are safe.”

            Mr Bennet was grateful for the assistance in protecting Lizzy. “I would appreciate your assistance. Shall you men accompany me to my study, and we can begin making plans?”

            William was torn between his desire to continue holding his betrothed and comforting her, and the need to participate in her protection. “My dearest, I will join our fathers in making plans. Please remain inside, with the ladies. As soon as we are done, I will return to you.”

            Elizabeth smiled as best she could. “I promise. Thank you, William.”

            Mrs Gardiner moved to sit beside her granddaughter. “All will be well, Lizzy. The men will see that you are protected and soon you will be happily married.”

            “Until the baron has his way, I will never be safe. It would be safer if I were to leave here and journey far away. If you or Papa, or my sisters were injured or worse, I would never forgive myself.”

            “You know my son would never allow you to leave him. William loves you and would search the world to find you.” Lady Anne stated. “Do not fear, my dear. William, his father, your father, Mr Phillips, even Mr Bingley, are making a plan to see that you are safe at all times. Allow the men to do all they can. They all love you and could not imagine losing you. They also know that if they do not, they will also suffer the wrath of all of us ladies. No man wishes such a threat.” Lady Anne said with a smile, hoping to lighten the mood in the room.

            A true smile spread on Lizzy’s lips. “Thank you, Lady Anne.”

            “I have told you, Lady Anne is too formal. Perhaps you could refer to me as Mother, as William does.”

            “Thank you, Mother.” Elizabeth allowed her future mother to embrace her. “Promise me that you will all keep me informed as to what is decided. It is me for whom the men are searching. If there are decisions to be made, I insist on being involved.”

            “Of course. I will promise, if you make me the promise that you will not run off in a foolish effort to protect us.” Lady Anne said as she looked directly in Elizabeth’s eyes.

            Several moments passed as the two ladies were determined. Finally, Elizabeth agreed. Mrs Gardiner chuckled lightly.

            “It is a pleasure to see someone else who is as strong willed as my granddaughter. Lady Anne, thank you for making Lizzy promise the same thing I would have insisted. Lizzy, you are not alone. We love you and it is our honor to protect you.”

            “If you were killed, I do not know if my heart could take the agony. My parents were taken from me before I could even know them. My aunt, who raised me as one of her own children, was taken from me as well. To lose you, Papa, my siblings, William, and his family, it would be my fault.”

            “No, Lizzy. You cannot take the blame for what is happening. Your father unknowingly made a girl sad, and she took her own life. It was not your father’s fault, he was in love with Amelia, and he refused to marry someone for convenience. Do not misunderstand me, I do not blame the girl for what happened. Her melancholy was severe. Her family did not see the need to tend to her, to aid her in recovering from the melancholy. I blame her brother for his cruelty to our family. He is a ruthless, uncaring man who is caught in his pain and wishing to inflict the same pain on others. If not for him, you would have been raised by your birth parents. Your mother was a strong lady, but learning of George being murdered stole her strength. If George had not been killed, and Amelia had not lost her will to fight for life, you would have known their love for you.”

            Elizabeth’s tears were flowing as she sobbed as her grandmother wrapped her arms around her, pulling Elizabeth to her in an embrace.

            “I wish I had been able to have known them for myself. You have told me of them, but it is not the same. I never heard their voices, saw their faces, felt their embrace. Grandmamma, it is not right. They should be here for my wedding. They were stolen from me. The baron had no right to steal them from me.”

            “You cry, my dear girl. You have been strong through all the news. Allow yourself to grieve for those who loved you but were taken from you. It is your right to grieve for your parents. They were so happy when they learned that Amelia was expecting you. George could not have been happier. The joy was so clear in everything they did in preparations for your arrival. George hoped for a daughter. He stated he wished a daughter who was just like Amelia. As most everyone thought he was dead, it was not as if he had a title or such to hand down to a son. No, your father wished for a daughter. Funny thing was he declared he would require a mote around the cottage to keep the young men at bay.”

            Elizabeth leaned back from her grandmother’s shoulder, unsurprised to find Lady Anne had placed a handkerchief in the sobbing lady’s hand. “A mote. Would there be some sort of hideous creature living in the mote, ready to devour anyone who attempted to cross the waters?”

            “As they were near the ocean, I believe he thought some sea creature would do nicely.” Mrs Gardiner took the cloth from her granddaughter’s hand and dabbed at the tears staining her cheeks. “Lizzy, you have been loved and wanted from the moment you were conceived. You will always be loved, as you are a kind, caring, loving young lady who amazes me each and every day. Your parents would be so proud of you.”

            “I am grateful to them for giving me life. I only wish to have had a chance to know them.” Elizabeth was beginning to control her emotions.

            “Let us return to discussing the wedding. There is much to do if we are to have everything prepared in time.” Lady Anne placed a hand gently on her soon to be daughter’s arm. “I believe we should send for the seamstress in Meryton to come here. We will be placing a large order between your trousseau and the gowns I will likely order. She will be well compensated, especially as she will likely be required to hire assistants. Your wedding gown is the first to be made. You were thinking of the cream colored fabric with the lace overlay. It is most flattering with your dark hair.”

            The ladies continued to discuss fabrics and styles that would be best for the next Mrs Darcy of Pemberley. They sent word to the seamstress in Meryton and asked for her to attend them the following day.

            “If the gown can be made by the end of the week, the other items can be made even after you are married.  I will send word to my brother to invite them to come to Netherfield this weekend. Hopefully we can keep the news from my sister, at least until after the wedding is over.” Lady Anne shook her head at the thought of her elder sister, Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

            “Is your sister truly so bad?” Elizabeth inquired.

            “Allow me to tell you about my sister. Lady Catherine de Bourgh is not a pleasant person.” Lady Anne went on to inform Elizabeth of her sister’s behavior and beliefs. It was a long discussion on how a person should not behave.

Chapter 18

            Felix was watching the bank in Ramsgate. Turning his attention to his men, he motioned towards a nearby alley. When the men were all far enough away from the people coming and going from the businesses along the busy street, Felix explained what they were going to do.

            “The banker leaves the bank each day at three. His home is five streets from here. Between the bank and his house, we will snatch him and take the man to where we are staying.” Felix and the men had acquired the rental of a house on the edge of the town.

            “What will we do with him?” One of the men inquired.

            “We will question him. He will know how to contact those who handle the account that pays for the duke’s property. Someone knows how the funds are handled and who handles everything. The solicitor has been too protected to get near him. He would have been the best person to question. But he has someone who is representing the family of the whore who married to the duke. We will find out where the money comes from to pay the servants, as that will bring us closer to the family, and will allow us to find the girl.”

            “When will we take the banker?”

            “Tomorrow afternoon. We need to prepare, having rope and cloths to restrain and keep him from shouting. There are a few items I will need to gather, to use to…encourage the banker to give us the information.”

            The other men snickered as they knew the sort of encouragement their leader would use on the banker. Felix made his way to the shops to prepare, while his men returned to their rented home. The sister of one of the men served as their cook at the house, and she had prepared stew and some fresh bread for them when they returned. The men were pleased to have such meals, as it was far grander than what they had eaten when following Felix on the battlefield, as they had in the past.

            Each of the men expected to be rewarded by the baron when they had found the young lady and taken her to the man. Being as wealthy as he was, and what he had promised Felix in compensation, the former military unit was willing to do what was necessary to accomplish their goal.

            The food nourished them, and they retired in early that night. All knew that the coming day would be busy, and they would need their wits about them. Abducting a man in broad daylight off a busy street in Ramsgate was not to be taken lightly. Anything could go wrong, so everyone had agreed not to partake in spirits.

            The following morning, after breaking their fast, the gang of men sat down at the table to discuss what they were about to do.

            Each man gave Felix their attention. “Joe, Lukas, Fynn, you will assist Liam in capturing the banker. His name is Burrows. You will each carry a pistol and a knife. Burrows will be more agreeable to accompany you once you tell him that if he does not, we will visit his house. He has a son and two daughters, as well as his wife, Carrie. The rest of you men will be with me. The woman at the cottage is likely to be in town, so I must keep myself hidden as much as possible. Liam, you know which man to bring. Once here, I will take control of the interrogation. The rest of you will remain here with me.”

            Everyone agreed and it was not long before it was time for the four who would approach the banker.

            Liam walked up behind Mr Burrows, while the other men moved in from his sides.

            “Mr Burrows, we would like a moment of your time.” Liam leaned close to speak.

            “Forgive me, but I am expected at home. If you wish to speak of business, please come to the bank tomorrow and I will assist you.” Mr Burrows continued walking, paying no attention to the others.

            “Tomorrow will not do. Our leader needs to speak with you immediately and we are here to ensure you arrive safely. If you refuse to join us, we will pay a visit at your home. Your wife is Carrie, is that not correct? You have a son and two daughters. We would not wish to have anything happen to you or your family. Please, accompany us and your family will be safe.”

            At the mention of his family, Mr Burrows turned around and noticed the men were armed, and the man who had spoken was pointing a pistol at him.

            “What is the meaning of this? I do not have much money on me, only a few coins. Most of the money in the bank is locked away in the safe.”

            “We need information, Mr Burrows, not your money. If you will join us, answer a few questions, you will be able to join your family within an hour.”

            “Please, I will come with you. Do not harm my family.”

            “With your cooperation, your family will be unharmed. Come, the house is not far from here.”

            Nervously, Mr Burrows accompanied the men to the house a short distance away from where he had been taken.

            “Mr Burrows, welcome. We hope you will be able to answer our questions. Once we have the information, we will be on our way and you can return to your family.”

            “I am a simple banker. We do not keep large sums of money in the bank. Our main bank keeps the large sums, and we send someone to fetch it from them. My office only deals in small quantities at a time.”

            Felix shook his head. “We do not wish for your money. Our employer desires information and we believe you might be able to assist us. Mr Thompson is one of your clients, if I am not mistaken.”

            “Martin Thompson? The solicitor? Y…yes, he is a client of ours.” Mr Burrows was confused.

            “Mr Thompson is responsible for the cottage west of the city. The cottage on the estate belonging to the late Mr Augustine. We are attempting to locate the family of Mr Augustine, as my employer has a gift to bestow on his child.”

            “The Augustine family are all dead. Mr Augustine was killed, then his wife and newborn child died in childbirth. Their graves are in the cemetery.”

            “The father and mother are buried there, but the child survived. We dug up the grave to confirm that their daughter was not buried there with her mother. Our employer wishes to meet the daughter, as he wishes to bestow a generous gift on her.”

            “I did not know that she survived. Mr Thompson has never spoken of her being alive. The money in their account was transferred to London shortly after Mrs Augustine’s death.” Mr Burrows looked about at the men, pleading with them to believe him.

            “Our employer believes that the girl is a relation of his and he wishes to make her his heir. We require information to find her, so she can be given her inheritance.”

            “I have no contact information, as it was many years ago when Mrs Augustine died and the funds were transferred. I do not remember her family name.”

            “If you wish to return to your family, you had best remember who the family is and where they can be found. My employer is not a patient man. He has waited for nearly twenty years to meet the child of the Augustines, and he demands the meeting to be soon.”

            “Why did you not speak with Mr Thompson? He would have more information than I would, as he handled the legal papers for the family and saw to the care of the estate.”

            Felix shook his head again. “We cannot, as Mr Thompson has too many men protecting him. We paid a visit to the cottage the other day, and since then, Mr Thompson has been guarded.”

            Mr Burrows’ eyes bulged. “I heard of the men who threatened Mrs Dunn. She was frightened, as was her husband.”

            “We did not harm either of them, but I cannot promise the same for your family if you do not assist us in locating the family. Now, will you cooperate and give me the information or do I have to send my men to visit your wife and children?”

            “If I had the information, I would give it to you. Please, do not harm my family. I do not have knowledge of Mrs Augustine’s family, or I would give it to you.”

            “It is vital we locate the Augustine daughter. Our employer is extremely wealthy and has the girl’s best interest in mind. If you give us the information we require, you will be amply rewarded.” Felix was growing restless with the banker.

            “Please, I do not know who the family could be. Thompson has always sent his man of business to me when there is anything to do with the cottage and estate. The bills were paid from his account, then he sends word to London for reimbursement. The bank in London sends the funds to be deposited in Thompson’s account, so I have no notion as to the family information. Thompson knows everything to do with the Augustine family.”

            Felix went to the fireplace and used the poker to move the burning logs about. He left the poker sitting in the flames and he turned his attention back to the banker. “In all the time since the couple died, you have never known anything with regards to the Augustine family? When Mrs Augustine died, I believe her parents and siblings were at her side. That is what the housekeeper told her daughter.  I am going to ask you one final time before I begin using more…shall we say painful methods of obtaining the information from you. Do not mistake me, I will do whatever is necessary to discover the daughter, as I will not fail my employer.”  

             Burrows was afraid and shaking. Sweat was beading on his brow as he pleaded with his captors to believe him. Desperately, Burrows searched his mind to find some sort of information to give to the men.

            Suddenly, a memory came to mind. “One time, Thompson brought a colleague to the bank. The men had known each quite some time, and they were conducting some business. The man was a solicitor as well, so I never thought about it as unusual. If memory serves, there was something said about an estate and that it would need to be kept up until the owner was able to take possession. There was no mention of which estate, and as it did not matter to me, I did not think about it again. Perhaps that is who you are looking for to assist in finding the heir.”

            “Do you remember the solicitor’s name?” Felix asked as he turned his attention back to the poker that was becoming hot in the flames.

            Mr Burrows was wracking his memories, desperate to remember the man’s name. Was it Phelps? No, that did not sound right. Phinney? No, that was not it. His eyes noticed the way Felix was turning the poker around in the flames, showing no signs of reluctance to violence.

            As Felix turned back towards the banker, poker in hand, ready to begin torturing the man, Mr Burrows suddenly jolted from a memory. “Phillips… I believe the solicitor’s name was Mr Phillips.”

            “Do you remember where this Phillips is from?”

            “Please, I cannot remember any more information. All I can remember is Mr Phillips.”

            “Does Thompson receive money on a regular basis from someone for the cottage’s upkeep?”

            “He receives an amount each quarter to the same bank in London.” Mr Burrows answered quickly. “Once, I remember Thompson requesting me to send a bank draft to an import and export business in London.”

            “What is the name of the business?

            “Garden Import and Export. I am certain. Garden Import and Export.”

            Felix dipped the poker in a bucket of water, watching the steam come from the bucket. The sound of the red hot poker as it entered the cool water made a sizzling noise that made the banker nearly soil himself.

            “If we find out you have lied to us, we will return. You do not want for us to return, as we will not be pleased.”