It has been a while since I last posted and I hope you can forgive the delay. Life has been a rollercoaster the past few months. Now I need to get my life back on track. I hope you are enjoying the story. Here are the next chapters for you.
The newlyweds had entered the carriage to make the short journey to London. William waited until they were on their way before gathering his bride into his arms. “Lizzy, when I saw you coming towards me, there are no words to describe how beautiful you looked. I have found you to be beautiful previously, but today, there was something ethereal about you. If not for Bingley, I would have run down the aisle to claim you immediately.”
Elizabeth chuckled. “All I could see was your eyes and the love that were in them. Never have I felt so complete. The love I have known all my life from my family has always made me feel so fortunate. It is nothing in comparison to how you have filled my life with love.”
“For the rest of our lives, I promise to show you daily that you are my heart and soul. You are my life, Lizzy. Now and forever. Since meeting you, I cannot imagine my life without you. The love you give me has been like the sun, filling me with a warmth and light I have never known before.”
His index finger traced the line of her jaw, coming to her chin. The sparkle in her eyes drew William closer, until his lips met with her perfect, sweet lips. Gentle at first, soon grew stronger and stronger, as each matched the other in exploring and discovering. Only when they found themselves breathless did they part, then settling in each other’s arms. The contentment and comfort the newlyweds felt calmed them. Soon, the swaying of the carriage had relaxed them into sleep.
The change of road made William realize they were close to Darcy House. “My love, we are nearly home.”
Slowly, Elizabeth opened her eyes. “We are there already? It has not been so long since we left Netherfield.”
“I believe we both fell asleep. Last night, I was too anxious to sleep. Might that not be the same for you?”
A nod confirmed his suspicions. “It was pleasant to wake with you in my arms. Never have I had such delights.”
A blush spread over Elizabeth’s cheeks, as she looked at her husband. “Being held by you was so calming, I cannot imagine a more loving way to spend my life.”
“There is something we have not discussed. Most married couples of the ton have separate bedchambers. It is my desire that we share the same bed, each and every night. Our marriage is a love match, not a union of convenience. Do you agree?”
Elizabeth nodded. “Waking up in your arms just now was delightful. Knowing I will wake each day in your arms would be heaven.”
William pulled Elizabeth into his arms once again. “You are the most amazing lady, Lizzy. Thank you for loving me.”
“What will happen when we arrive at Darcy House?”
“Have no fear, my love. The townhouse has been closed while the family was away, and I do not believe we will be requiring a full staff for the week we will be alone. I will introduce you to Mrs Brosnan and Mr Brown. They are the housekeeper and butler, and have been with the family for many years. Did I tell you that Mother wrote to Mrs Brosnan and informed her that we would only require a few servants? She also asked for her to find a few potential lady’s maids for you to make your choice.”
“I have never had a maid of my own. We shared a lady’s maid between Jane and Grandmamma.”
“We will find you a maid with whom you are comfortable. There is no rush for you to acquire one. Until you do, one of the maids at the townhouse will assist you with whatever needs you have.”
“Have I told you that you are spoiling me? You do not need to give me things.”
William’s dimple showed with his smile. “It is my pleasure to do things for those I love. It would be my suggestion that you become accustomed to receiving gifts, as you are the dearest love in my life.” He placed a kiss on her nose, causing his wife to chuckle.
The carriage came to a halt and the door was soon opened to allow the couple to exit. William stepped out first, turning to take hold of Elizabeth’s hand to assist her down. As the pair made their way up the steps of the townhouse, the door opened.
“Master William, it is a pleasure to see you again. Welcome, welcome. All has been prepared as your mother requested.” The Darcy House butler greeted.
“Brown, you are looking well. How is your wife?”
“My dear wife is well and plans to serve all of your favorites while you are here.”
William turned to his bride. “Mrs Brown is our cook. She has a reputation of being one of the best cooks in England. My aunt, Lady Matlock, has attempted to convince her to join the staff of Matlock House, though her ladyship has been unable to change Mrs Brown’s mind.”
“Why would she wish to leave the best employers we have ever known? When you have the best situation, nothing else will do.” The butler smiled at what he was witnessing. Seeing the smile the younger Mr Darcy wore was priceless, and was proof that the marriage was one of love.
The sound of someone hurrying towards them made William turn to see the housekeeper.
“Ah, there she is. Mrs Brosnan, I was surprised not to see you when the door opened.” William teased.
“I was upstairs placing the final touches in the rooms you and your wife will be using. As you are aware, Lady Anne wishes for you to decide which rooms you wish to use for the future so that any improvements can be made to your liking.” The housekeeper could see a sparkle in the eyes of the young man she had known since he was a small child. Never had she witnessed Fitzwilliam Darcy his expression, knowing that the change was due to the young lady at his side.
“Elizabeth, allow me to introduce you to Mrs Brosnan, our wonderful housekeeper, and Mr Brown, our indispensable butler. Mrs Brosnan, Mr Brown, allow me to introduce my wife, Mrs Elizabeth Darcy.” William patted his hand on top of Elizabeth’s, which was holding onto his arm.
“William has spoken highly of you both, as have his parents. Thank you for your warm welcome.” Elizabeth was genuine in her words. Without devoted servants, their lives would not be as comfortable as they were. Treating those who made their lives better should be valued and treated with care.
“Would you prefer to have water brought up for you to bathe, or refreshments? Mrs Brown has been busy in the kitchen.” Mrs Brosnan inquired.
William looked to his wife. “Which would your prefer, my dear?”
“Perhaps some refreshment first. To be honest, I have been too nervous today to have eaten much at breakfast and the wedding breakfast, though do not tell my grandmother that she was correct.” Elizabeth blushed as she exposed her nervousness.
“Very well. Mrs Brosnan, would you have Mrs Brown’s repast sent to the sitting room which is attached to the suite of rooms we will be using this week?”
“Of course, Master William. We have you in the green suite on the third floor, west wing.”
“Thank you, Mrs Brosnan. Did you arrange for a maid to assist my wife until she chooses one?”
“Susan will be acting as lady’s maid. I have set up interviews with three other maids for the end of the week.”
Elizabeth was pleased. “Thank you Mrs Brosnan. Please thank Mrs Brown for us as well.”
As the newlyweds made their way up the stairs, Mrs Brosnan placed a hand on Brown’s upper arm. “A love match, just as Lady Anne had written. Just seeing the young master smile speaks of his love for his bride. She seems to be perfectly kind and caring, not like his friend’s sister. The new Mrs Darcy is in love with our dear boy. I must write to Mrs Reynolds tonight. She was nervous over how quickly the marriage came about and feared Master William had been forced into marrying the young lady.”
“I will speak with my wife and have the trays prepared. If I am not mistaken, we will be blessed with the next generation of Darcys by this time next year.”
~~ ** ~~
Felix and Liam were having a bit of soup and bread when one of their men entered the pub, carrying a sealed letter. “This just arrived.” The man stated as he handed the letter to Felix.
Breaking the seal, Felix began to read. “The young lady had been in Hertfordshire until today. Mr Phillips is a solicitor in Meryton, near his brother in law, Thomas Bennet. Phillips’ wife was the sister of the duke’s wife. The girl was raised by the Bennet family, her relatives. Today, she married a young man named Darcy.”
“How do we know that for certain?”
“The man who was sent to warn the family by the solicitor in Ramsgate. He was deceptive, but he was followed by one of our men.”
“Does it say where they are to be found?”
Felix looked at his man. “We are in luck. They have come to us. The couple have come to Darcy House, in the Mayfair area of London. We will be able to break in and take the young lady, put her on a ship quickly.”
“What do we do with her husband?”
“He will be dealt with as is necessary. If we are able to take her without disturbing the man, we will leave him unharmed. If he fights to keep her, he will need to be killed. Any servants as well. The only one who is not to be harmed is the Baron’s niece.”
Liam shook his head. “We are going to have to bind her and keep her quiet. If she is harmed, the Baron will not be pleased.”
“Perhaps we could find some laudanum or something to make her sleep. That would keep her from fighting us and we would not have to bind her. Then there would be no injuries from bindings.”
“After we finish this task, I am taking my reward and finding me a place to live and start a family. The time has come to leave Baron’s employ.”
Felix agreed. “This has been difficult. I was the one who discovered the duke was still alive, and was sent to finish him off. For all these years, I have been devoted to the baron, but it is time for me to return to my home.”
“Do you believe the baron will allow you to leave him? He is fond of having you doing his bidding. You are important to Baron Frances.”
“Baron Frances will have to learn to do without me. I tire of killing and hurting others. I wish to have my wife at my side and watch my children grow.”
“So, how will we capture the young lady?”
“We will need a few days to learn what we can of the house. Then, late at night, we will enter.”
~~ ** ~~
The first few days of married bliss, the newlyweds did not leave their suite. The servants all wore smiles at the couple keeping to themselves, only requiring food, water, and wood for the fire.
The knocker had not been placed on the door, so no one came to call on the newlyweds. Lady Anne had her husband send notice to the London papers announcing the marriage of their son, which he did, giving the announcement to Lord Matlock to take with him to town. The Matlocks would remain in London overnight, before making the journey to Kent. Then there would be less chance of Lady Catherine of learning the news before his lordship arrived to discuss it with her.
Colonel Fitzwilliam would remain in London, as he was required to return to duty. He had not discussed the assignment he had been given, as he was uncertain of what was happening when he was on leave for his cousin’s wedding. All his superiors had told him was that there were spies in England, searching for someone important. He had been informed of a ship that was docked near the East India Docks at the Isle of Dogs. There had been reports of the men from the ship spending a time in the tavern, grouped together most of the time, speaking in a foreign language. This would not have raised suspicions, but the owner of the tavern overheard some of their conversation. He was certain they were discussing a kidnapping.
The conversation would not have drawn the attention of the army if not for the fact that another person had overheard the men returning to the ship. The men, speaking in German, were saying they would have her soon and they should be set to said as soon as they had her. Unfortunately for them, one of the men working on a nearby ship was from Austria and understood what they were saying.
Colonel Fitzwilliam and one of his soldiers were dressed to blend in with others working in the docks. The ship captain of the nearby ship allowed his man from Austria to assist the Colonel, as he was suspicious of the mysterious ship. The captain had seen the ship previously and had heard from a friend that the ship was owned by a wealthy Austrian who was living in Germany and was related to nobility.
Not certain that the mystery ship had anything to do with the colonel’s new cousin, Richard kept the news to himself. He would allow the Darcys enjoy their privacy but would protect them if needed.
“Miss Bingley, I have your paper.” Betsy said, handing it to her mistress.
The desperate woman took hold of the paper, turning directly to the notices. Finally, she smiled. “They are here, in London. They were married two days ago. Now, I need to obtain the poison. We need to purchase some belladonna. It would be the easiest to find.”
Caroline went to the table where her reticule was located. Opening it, she took some coins out. “You will need to make the purchase, as I cannot be discovered buying the belladonna. Go to the apothecary and say that your mistress requires it, as I am going on a ship and the motion makes me ill.”
Betsy nodded her head. She was hopeful that Miss Bingley would remember her devoted servant when the lady married well. It was the only reason Betsy remained with her employ.
Not more than an hour later, the maid returned, bottle in hand. The plan was made and would take place the following night.
~~ ** ~~
Mrs Brosnan’s son, Pierce had taken up a watch on the third floor each night. One of the footmen took the day shift, both men making sure the newlyweds were safe. Pierce kept coffee and food in the sitting room across the hall from the suite of rooms William and Elizabeth had found to be their sanctuary. Usually his mother would check on him before going to her room in the servant area of Darcy House. Mr Brown would deliver a hot pot of coffee before midnight, and Mrs Brown always made sure to send up a tray with cold meat, bread, cheese, and some of her biscuits. Each hour, the man made rounds of the wing of the house, keeping watch over the third floor.
As Darcy House was large, even by London standards, It would be difficult for one man to make the rounds of the entire house on his own and still be able to secure the safety of the new Mr and Mrs Darcy.
Being in the opposite area of the townhouse where they were, no one heard the sound of Caroline Bingley entering through the breakfast room window. Betsy had assisted her in climbing inside, then remained outside.
Not finding anyone on duty in the halls, Caroline made her way up the stairs. When she arrived at the door of the bedchamber next to the bedchamber she knew to belong to Fitzwilliam, she opened the door carefully and slipped inside. Surprisingly, Miss Eliza Bennet was not in the room, nor did it appear she was using the room. Frustration began building. Where could the chit be? Had Fitzwilliam already abandoned his bride, insisting she occupy rooms far from his rooms?
Miss Bingley went to the door that connected to Fitzwilliam’s chambers. Silently, she made her way inside his room and to the side of his bed. Where could he be? This is his room, his belongings. Would he be visiting the whore in her distant rooms and would return to his own rooms soon?
Caroline sat on the side of the bed, smoothing her hand over the top of the coverlet. So consumed with her thoughts, she did not realize there was no fire burning in the hearth. All she could think of was the man that should be hers. His masculine build, his handsome mien, Caroline was certain being married to him would make the marriage bed tolerable. Once she gave him an heir and a spare, she would not have to worry about his visits. Perhaps she would suggest he have a mistress, to contend with his baser needs.
The longer she sat there, the more she desired being Mrs Darcy. Having heard from some of her friends that there were women who enjoyed marital relations, which to Caroline, was difficult to believe, though she wondered if she would be such a woman. A new thought entered her mind. What if she were to be his mistress? Such a woman would be amply repaid, as Fitzwilliam Darcy would wish for his mistress to be well dressed and living in fashion. Then she could have it all, giving her time to eliminate Eliza Bennet from Darcy’s mind. Yes, this could be the perfect solution.
Caroline took her gown off, leaving herself in her chemise and unmentionables. Then she slid under the bedding, curled up so she could see the door when Darcy returned. As her mind considered all the facets of possibility, Caroline soon drifted off to sleep.
Suddenly, she was awaken to the feeling of rough hands grabbing hold of her arms, while something liquid and foul tasting was forced in her mouth, with a large hand covering to keep her from spitting it out or scream. Before she knew what was happening, she was being thrown over a man’s shoulder and being taken from the room. She could see three men besides the one carrying her, and they were soon down the stairs and outside, where Caroline saw Betsy being held by several other men. The maid had her hands secured with rope, a gag in her mouth. Fear was palpable as the two women looked into each other’s eyes.
The voices of the men made Caroline realize they were not from England. She and Betsy were tossed into a carriage, with one man entering behind them and the others climbing on top and the back of the conveyance. The driver smacked the reins against the rumps of the horses, causing them to lurch forward.
Feeling drowsy, Caroline had difficulty keeping her eyes open. “What are you doing? Do you know…”
Felix looked at the maid, motioning to her employer. “You are not who we came for, so if you want to live, you will do as you are told.”
Betsy nodded her head frantically.
“You have nothing to fear if you cooperate. Where you will be going, this young lady will be treated as if she were royalty. The gentleman who wants her will give her the sort of life to which she should have been born. Her father should have married the baron’s sister, as was expected. The whore who took the duke away from the baron’s sister should never have married him. This should be the baron’s niece, and he intends on giving her the life she should have known. From now on, you will be living in one of the homes of the baron, which is in Dusseldorf. It will be good that she will have a maid she is familiar with, so she will have someone to speak with in your language.”
Certain that the man had mistaken Miss Bingley for someone else, Betsy was not in a hurry to inform the man different. If he knew the truth, would he kill both the women and go back to find the woman for whom he was seeking? She would not risk her own life to inform the man if Miss Bingley’s identity.
Their journey seemed to take hours, though it was not that long before they came to a stop. The men opened the door and assisted Betsy down. Then they carried Caroline from the carriage and over to the edge of the Thames. Betsy nearly fainted from the thought of being murdered and dumped in the river. To her relief, the men took them aboard a boat. They rowed out, making their way to a ship near the docks. There was activity as they approached, and it was not long until the women were taken into a cabin on board. One of the men came towards Betsy, a knife in his hand.
The knife came towards the maid, only to slice the rope that bound her hands. “Keep quiet and stay in here. Keep yours missus quiet when she wakes.”
Betsy’s head bobbed up and down. When the man had left the cabin, Betsy pulled the gag from her mouth. She could not believe the situation in which she found herself. Tempted to find an escape for herself, the maid knew the men would kill her. For the first time, Betsy was furious with how Miss Bingley had led her to this folly.
Hours later, Caroline began to stir. When she sat up on the bed, her right hand rose to her temple. “Where are we? What has happened?”
“The men believe you are someone else. I was afraid to tell them the truth.”
“What do you mean, they thought me to be someone else? Who else could they have been searching for in the Darcy townhouse?”
“The man in the carriage, he was speaking of a baron and a duke, and how the duke was supposed to marry his sister.”
“This makes no sense. The only woman in the townhouse besides the servants was Eliza Bennet. She is not the daughter of a duke, her father is a country squire.”
“It made no sense to me, Miss Bingley, but it might be wise to go along with them. These are not the sort of men who would find it difficult to kill us if they thought there is no reason to keep us alive.”
Caroline stood and made her way to the porthole. She could see no signs of land. “How long has it been?”
“Hours. I have no way of knowing exactly how many hours.”
“I will demand they return us to England immediately.”
“Miss Bingley, if I were you, I would not tell them who you really be. If you are not the woman they came for, you have no value to them. The bloke in the carriage made it clear to me that I was not necessary and could be replaced.”
The thought had not entered Caroline’s mind until her maid spoke. Was the servant correct? Would Caroline’s safety be at risk if she told them they had kidnapped the wrong person?
Only then did Caroline realize that she was in her underclothing. “Where is my gown?”
Betsy pointed to the gown, lying on the end of the bed. The maid assisted Caroline dress. Sitting down on the bed, Miss Bingley contemplated her future. What was she to do?
“Did they say where we are sailing to?”