Chapter 3

            “MR COLLINS, ENOUGH!”

            A strong male voice struck the parson as forcefully as if he had been punched in the chest. He turned to the man in question and responded.

            “Mr Darcy, forgive me, but this is none of your concern. It would be best if you return to the ballroom. I will be taking my betrothed to her father’s home. I would be grateful if you were to inform your most gracious aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who would be displeased with my young cousin’s behavior, that I will take matters into my own hands and teach her what is to be expected. My late father was a firm believer in Samuel Butler’s writing of sparing the rod, spoiled the child.  He believed it pertained to women as well. My mother was trained to do as she was told, or she would be rightly punished. As my cousin’s betrothed, it is my place to correct her behavior which was overlooked by her father. Had Mr Bennet taught his wife and daughters proper behavior, my betrothed would not have behaved so improper with you.”

            Collins turned his body back towards Elizabeth, who was desperately attempting to cover herself with the tattered pieces of her torn gown.

            Darcy’s hand grasped Collins’ shoulder, turning the man around. “I said ENOUGH! Keep your hands off Miss Elizabeth. Do I make myself clear?”

            “Your aunt will be disappointed, taking a mistress before you were wed. It is understandable, as you have urges, like any other man. You would be better served to visit the establishes in London which cater to gentlemen. My cousin is to be my wife. Just this morning, her dear mother gave me permission to marry her, and I am the happiness of men. We will marry and return to Hunsford, where your aunt will visit us and aid in training my wife in proper comportment. With her vast knowledge of all things proper, your aunt will be the best at teaching Cousin Elizabeth the proper way to behave as a wife of a parson. Lady Catherine is the wisest lady I have ever known; she will know how to turn my intended into one who has proper respect for her betters. Such a noble lady, and she has discussed the need for a parson to set a proper example for his congregation, and she agreed with the view my father had instilled in me.”

            “Miss Elizabeth, are you engaged to this man?” Darcy looked over at the lady with whom he had fallen in love.  He could feel her embarrassment, as she could not raise her eyes to look at him.

            All she could do was shake her head. Mortification had stolen her ability to speak.

            “As Miss Elizabeth has just confirmed that she is not engaged to you, perhaps you should remove yourself from her presence. I am certain her father will wish to have words with you, but my primary concern is with the wellbeing of Miss Elizabeth. You have injured her and torn her gown. If I was not so concerned with her wellbeing, I would call you out for the scoundrel you are.”

            “Have no fear, Mr Darcy, I will see that my cousin faces the consequence of his actions.” Mr Bennet said, as he came out on the balcony. He had heard enough of the conversation to know what was happening. One look at his daughter told of the damage from his imbecilic idiot, with blood coming from her swollen lips and from under her left eye, where a cut had been caused by the ring Mr Collins wore. Bruising was already beginning to show on her cheeks and chin, and her dress was in tatters. The master of Longbourn was furious, more than he had ever been before. “Mr Collins, I knew your father to be a brutal man, which is one of the reasons I refused to communicate with him. He threatened my life because he was furious when he did not inherit Longbourn when my grandfather died. If I had known you to be a violent as him, you would never have been allowed to step foot on my estate while I live.”

            Mr Bennet stepped to his cherished daughter’s side and looked closer at her injuries. “Lizzy, perhaps Mr Darcy can escort you into the library, through the door over there.” Mr Bennet suggested as he pointed towards the doorway near the bottom of the staircase that led from the balcony to the gardens outside the library. “Mr Darcy, once you have my daughter securely placed, would you be so kind as to ask the apothecary, Mr Jones, to tend her. Please be discreet, as I do not wish to be forced to protect all my daughters by marrying my dear girl to this despicable man.”

            “There is no need for her to ever marry him. I was planning on asking Miss Elizabeth for a courtship. It is not necessary for me, as I know my heart is hers. If you and your daughter would agree, it would be my honor to marry Miss Elizabeth.” Darcy declared.

            All eyes were on Darcy. Miss Elizabeth was shocked, as was her father. Mr Collins could not believe what he was hearing.

            “You are engaged to your cousin. You cannot ask for Miss Elizabeth’s hand, as you are to wed Miss de Bourgh. Miss Elizabeth is to be my wife, not your mistress, which is all you can offer her. You can only offer her to become your mistress.” Collins was furious.

            Mr Bennet turned his attention to Darcy. “Are you already engaged, Mr Darcy? Are you suggesting that my daughter become your mistress?”

            “No, I am not engaged. My aunt has spread such lies since my parents died. My mother did not wish for me to marry my cousin, as Mother wished for me to find love. I do not love my cousin in such a way, only as my cousin. Miss de Bourgh feels the same towards me. We have spoken with Lady Catherine, informed her that we will not be marrying each other, yet my aunt refuses to accept the truth. I would never dishonor Miss Elizabeth by suggesting anything less than marriage, and I never plan to have a mistress. It is my firm belief that a man should be faithful to his wife, which is why it is important to marry someone you love and with whom you wish to spend the rest of your life. My parents had a love match, and I wish that for myself.”

            Mr Collins could not understand what was being said. His patroness would be furious and he had to put a stop to Mr Darcy’s foolishness. “But…but your aunt has told me. You would not wish to go against your dearest relations by marrying so far beneath you. The grandson of an earl is far superior to a country squire. Besides, my cousin is engaged to me. Lady Catherine would be most displeased with your decision. She would see that my cousin has used her arts and allurement to capture your attention away from Miss de Bourgh. Poor Miss de Bourgh would be devastated, and rightfully so.”

            “Mr Collins, keep your ridiculous remarks to yourself.” Darcy stated. “You are spouting nonsense. How many times do you need to be told before you accept the truth? What you have been told by my aunt is just her desires, not what will happen. If you state one more thing about me being engaged to my cousin, or that you are to marry Miss Elizabeth, I will teach you to understand the truth. If you refuse to obey what I have told you, I will call you out.”

            “I…I am not able to fire a weapon. Besides, it is illegal to duel. You would be guilty of murder.” Collins prayed that it would be enough to dissuade the gentleman.            

            “If you do not wish to be called out, then I suggest you stop with your ridiculous caterwauling. It is bad enough that you have disgraced your family with your treatment of Miss Elizabeth. That alone would be cause for me to call you out. Then you had to make accusations against me and my honor. Honor demands justice, Mr Collins. It is your decision. Either quit your lies and do as Mr Bennet instructs you, or we will meet on a field of honor.”

            “I am a man of God; everyone will understand that I was trying to correct my betrothed’s behavior. She requires a firm hand as she learns how to be a proper wife to a parson.” Collins had yet to listen to what he had been told.

            A resounding smack was heard from Mr Bennet’s hand striking his cousin’s face. The result caused Collins to stumble away from the man. “How dare you? How dare you raise your hand to me? I am your heir. When you die, I will inherit all your belongings. After the way I have been treated by you and your family, the first thing I do when I take over Longbourn is have your wife and daughters thrown to the hedgerow. They will be penniless and have no home.”

            “You do not know this, but my wife will have the dower house on Longbourn property. There is nothing you can do to deny my wife and daughters from living there, as it is part of the entail and in my will. My brother Phillips has ensured everything is in order to protect my wife and daughters from you. I have also made a separate account which I have placed any income from investments. The investments are separate from the estate’s income, as it came from my mother’s uncle; therefore, you have no control over those monies. My brother-in-law, Gardiner, manages the investments for me.” Mr Bennet hissed his words, his anger with his cousin was extreme. “I will tell you now, you will never be welcome to cross the threshold of my home while I am alive. Your belongings will be packed and taken to the Meryton Inn. I will even pay for your night’s lodging. Then you will be expected to leave the area, return to your patroness, and do not contact us ever again. If you say one word of what you did to my daughter, I will see you are arrested and tried for your crime against her. Never will you be allowed to speak with my daughter, let alone marry her. Do I make myself clear?”

            “How dare you treat me in such a manner? Do you not realize who I am? When my patroness learns of your ill treatment of me, she will see that you are punished.” Collins claims of protection did nothing to provoke fear in those near him. “When she learns of how your daughter has led her nephew astray with her feminine arts, Lady Catherine will make the journey here to demand justice for her daughter.”

            Darcy had assisted Elizabeth towards the stairs, only to stop and turn his attention to the sniveling coward behind them. “Mr Collins, I will tell you this once, and only one final time. My cousin and I are not now or ever shall be, engaged. My aunt has no right to make decisions in my life, especially when it comes to whom I marry. Do not threaten me or the Bennets with my aunt’s foolishness.”

            Turning towards Mr Bennet, Darcy continued to speak. “Sir, if you wish to send a message to your housekeeper, I would be happy to send a footman to Longbourn. Then Mr Collins’ belongings can be packed and brought here. With his attack on Miss Elizabeth, it is best if we remove him from public, until the footman returns, and we can have several of the largest, strongest footmen to keep him isolated in one of the guest rooms upstairs. Allowing him freedom of the village would likely lead to his vulgar lies being spread, which would cause damage to your family. I am even willing to purchase passage on the post carriage leaving tomorrow. Anything to remove this beast from the area.”

            “You are wise, Mr Darcy. It would not do to allow him to return to the ball, spreading his lies.” Mr Bennet agreed. “Would you return here after delivering my daughter indoors, so that I can search out your friend and request his assistance in the matter?”

            Darcy turned his attention towards Elizabeth, as she was shaking from the events that had happened. The gentleman knew she must be cold, with her gown torn and the injuries to her face. He wished to remove her from being near Collins, take her away from his presence and request the apothecary to tend her wounds. But they must see to dealing with Collins immediately. Offering to fetch Bingley would not be wise, as Collins would likely resort to further violence, most likely towards Mr Bennet. The gentleman was half the size of his cousin, and Mr Bennet did not appear the sort to resort to physical violence as Collins had already proven he could.

            Taking off his coat, Darcy draped it over Elizabeth’s shoulders, wrapping the front of it to cover the torn gown. Elizabeth looked up, unshed tears building up in her eyes. Her gratitude was apparent, even as her wounds were in need of care. She must be in so much pain, the swelling is worsening. The cut on her cheek is still bleeding, as is the cut on her lip.

            “I will remain here, though I would ask if Miss Elizabeth can tolerate remaining with me. Leaving her alone in the library would not be my first choice, neither does keeping her here, but it will allow me to keep watch over her as well as prevent Mr Collins from causing further harm. Once you have directed my friend and the apothecary to the library, you could return to aid me in taking the scoundrel there.”

            “I will stay with Mr Darcy, Papa. Find Mr Bingley and let us finish this horrible night by being rid of Mr Collins.” Elizabeth tried to remain strong. Each movement of her lips must have been agony, and the cut bled from her words.

            Mr Bennet quickly handed his most cherished daughter his handkerchief. “My dear girl, I will return as quick as possible. Remain here, so no one will see your injuries.”

            Elizabeth nodded her head.

            As soon as Mr Bennet left, Collins turned his fury back towards the young lady he felt had caused all the problems of the evening.

            “You are a temptress, destroying the lives of good folks. What you have done to your entire family, your father, Mr Darcy, my patroness and her daughter, you are crushing the lives of all those good people. Not to mention what you are doing to me. You were promised to me, yet you could not obey your mother. You could not accept your future as a parson’s wife, so you are determined to make the lives of everyone else miserable. Know this, the devil is leading you towards a life of shame. Repenting is the only hope for your salvation.”

            Darcy turned his attention away from Elizabeth, glaring at the repugnant man. “It would be wise for you to be quiet, Mr Collins. Do not make me take measures to keep your mouth closed.”

Chapter 4

            Mr Bingley was devastated to discover what had been happening while he was enjoying the ball and watching Miss Bennet. When Mr Bennet approached him, Bingley was about to fetch some more punch to have ready when Jane left the dance floor once again.

            “Mr Bingley, there is a situation which has happened that requires your assistance. Mr Darcy is handling the matter at the moment, though he requires your aid in the matter. If you can bring a couple footmen to the library, as well as Mr Jones, I would be grateful.”

            “What has happened?” Bingley searched the room with his eyes, trying to find his friend in the crush. Not seeing Darcy, Bingley nodded his head. “I will meet you in the library shortly. How many footmen should I bring?”

            “Three or four would suffice.”

            Bingley was shocked at the calm Mr Bennet requiring so many footmen, the apothecary, and himself to assist in the situation. He was even more amazed when he noticed Mr Bennet approach Sir William Lucas, whispering to the man, who was also the magistrate, and the pair moved towards the door leading to the balcony. Realizing the situation had to be critical, Bingley hurried to find Mr Jones and several footmen, leading them to the library. As they closed the door of the library behind them, Bingley noted that Darcy was opening the exterior door, allowing Sir William, Mr Bennet, Mr Collins, and Miss Elizabeth to enter before following them inside. Once the door to the outside was closed, Mr Bennet requested Darcy begin with what he had heard when he stepped out on the balcony. Neither of the men wished to force Elizabeth to speak, as they were certain the pain of her wounds, especially her lips, would prevent her ability.

            Darcy described what he witnessed, including the beating which Collins had inflicted on Elizabeth. Mr Jones quickly moved around the other men, coming to the young lady’s side so he could inspect her wounds. Between Mr Jones and Darcy, they were able to move Elizabeth to a nearby sofa, while one of the footmen prepared the fireplace and lighting the fire.

            Bingley had a difficult time turning away from the vision of Elizabeth, still wrapped in Darcy’s coat, with her face bruised and cut. To think all this was happening while I was in the ballroom.

            Mr Bennet began describing what had happened on the balcony after he had arrived. Had it only been half an hour since Collins had struck Elizabeth? Had so much happened in such a short period of time? Most of the men could not bring themselves to look at Elizabeth’s marred face.

            “Sir William, what is your opinion of how this should be handled?” Mr Bingley asked.

            “If we make the situation a legal matter, we can arrest Mr Collins immediately and it would not be difficult to convict the man. But in doing so, it will drag the entire Bennet family, not just Miss Elizabeth, through more trouble than they already have. Miss Elizabeth will be considered ruined, as would the family. It would damage the ability of any of the girls from finding suitable marriages.”

            “There is no need to worry about their being considered ruined. As I told Mr Bennet, I would be honored to marry Miss Elizabeth.” Darcy announced. “If Mr Bennet would allow me, I can add to the dowries of his other daughters, which will go a long way to contradict any rumors of ruin.”

            “Time to discuss such matters is later, after we decide what we will do with this villain.” Mr Bennet stated.

            Sir William moved before Collins, glaring at the man. “Mr Collins, as magistrate of this community, it is my decision as to your outcome for your behavior tonight. I will give you two options. You can give up your living at Hunsford and devote your life to being a missionary in a country such as India or Australia, or we will take the matter to court. If you decide to have a trial, know that you could likely hang for your crimes.”

            “How dare you speak to me as if I am a lowly farm hand? I have the living of Hunsford Parish, bestowed upon me by the great Lady Catherine de Bourgh. She is the daughter of an earl, sister to the current Earl of Matlock. If you do not release me immediately, Lady Catherine will see that you are punished for your disgusting treatment of her parson.” Collins demanded.

            “Did you not hear me, Mr Collins? You will either remove from England as a missionary or you will be taken to trial for your assaulting Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Between what you have stated and the statements from witnesses, you will be convicted. Convicted, you will likely receive a sentence of death.”

            “All I have admitted to was correcting my betrothed’s atrocious behavior tonight. She has made Mr Darcy forget his obligations to his family, to his betrothed. Miss de Bourgh will be devastated when she learns of her future husband’s infidelity in cavorting with such a loose woman. Miss Elizabeth is acting no less than a harlot, enticing Mr Darcy by using her feminine ways. It is to be expected for a man to fall prey to such a woman. Such women demand to be corrected, which is what I was doing.”

            “Perhaps it would be better to have you committed to an asylum, as you obviously cannot be trusted with the truth. Being unable to accept reality can be grounds to commit.” Sir William insisted.

            Mr Jones had sent for ice to apply to Elizabeth’s wounds. “Sir William, I believe it would be wise for Miss Elizabeth to return to her home. Her injuries are severe enough I wish to give her some laudanum. Also, in your deliberation on Mr Collins’ behavior, I would say that the man is dangerous and not in control of his mind. As you can see, Miss Elizabeth has a cut under her eye from his ring, her eye is nearly swollen shut, her lips are cut and swollen, and there is bruising on both sides of her face. There is something else to keep in mind, he…when he…when Collins tore the front of Miss Elizabeth’s gown, he left scratches on her body, just below her throat. The scratches are extensive and require treatment to keep them from becoming infected. Any dirt Collins had under his nails when he scratched her could be in the marks, which could cause an infection. As hard as it appears he struck her, I would not be surprised if she suffers from headaches. Only an abominable monster would treat a lady in ”

            The men were all appalled by this latest news, most of all, Mr Darcy. The gentleman from Derbyshire was losing his battle over his control, as he only wished to throttle the life from the beast who continued to believe he was within his rights to treat anyone in such a manner, let alone a gentlewoman. A woman who deserved to be loved and cherished for all her wonderful qualities. How dare he believe Elizabeth deserved such a heartless beating? The only person who should be beaten was Collins.

            “Bingley, would you be kind enough to allow us a room here at Netherfield to hold Mr Collins in until tomorrow. That way we can send out inquiries for a ship leaving for the penal colony in Australia. We will place guards to keep the man locked in the room.” Darcy suggested.

            “Of course.” Bingley nodded in agreement. “Whatever is required, you can count on me and my staff.”

            Mr Jones and Mr Bennet decided to take Elizabeth to Longbourn while the other men dealt with Collins. Mr Bennet turned to Darcy and Bingley. “We will see to Elizabeth’s care and return as soon as possible. If we do not arrive before the end of the ball, would you be so good as to provide transportation for my wife and daughters to Longbourn?”

            Darcy nodded his head. “I will have my carriage prepared and brought around, so that there is no need to worry.”

            “If you do not mind, I will take a moment to speak with Miss Bennet to inform her of what has happened, so she will be better able to calm Mrs Bennet.” Bingley offered.

            “Please tell them only that Lizzy has taken ill and required being taken home early, with Mr Jones accompanying us to see to her wellbeing.” Bennet said.

            “Of course. Being close with her sister, Miss Bennet would be devastated if she knew the entire situation.”

            Mr Collins turned his anger towards their host. “It is all your fault that this happened, Mr Bingley. I wished for Miss Bennet to be my wife, but her mother insisted that you would soon have an understanding with Miss Bennet. Because of you, I had to settle for her sister, who is nothing in comparison. Jane Bennet is the most beautiful, most sweet natured, kindest lady and it would have been a privilege to have her as my wife. She would have known her place and how to behave properly, unlike her sister. So, if anyone is to blame for all that has happened, it is you, Mr Bingley. You took my choice from me, and I was forced to settle for her inferior sister.”

            An uncommon thing happened because of those words. Charles Bingley, who was normally a mild-mannered young man, curled up his fist and planted it into Mr Collins’ face, knocking out one of the parson’s teeth and sent the man backwards in the chair he was seated in, causing Collins to be splayed across the floor.

            “I am grateful Miss Bennet will never have to be placed in a position to have to marry you.” Bingley spat the words at the man who was sprawled on the floor. “Miss Bennet and her sister are two of the finest ladies I have ever known. They deserve far better than a brute for a husband. You are not fit to be in the same room with them, let alone married to one of them.”

            Darcy had never seen his friend perform any sort of violence, therefore witnessing Bingley do what all the other men in the room wished to do had felt good.

            Mr Jones decided to ignore the parson’s cries of pain and demands for medical care. “Come, Bennet. Let us take Miss Lizzy to her bed so she can be treated for her injuries.”

            Attempting to restrain from laughing at his ridiculous cousin sprawled out on the floor, crying like a babe, Bennet went to his daughter, assisting her to stand. Elizabeth had been holding Darcy’s coat closely surrounding her. With her eyes looking down in shame, she began to remove the coat, only to have her hand stopped by the gentleman.

            “Miss Elizabeth, it would be best if you kept the coat until you arrive home. I will call on you tomorrow to ensure you are recovering. My coat will be in safe hands until then, as will my heart. You will be in my thoughts until I am again in your presence.”   

Without looking at him, Elizabeth nodded her head gently. She allowed her father and the apothecary to lead her from the library and through a hallway in the servant area. Just as they were to leave the room, Elizabeth allowed herself to look back at the man who had saved her life, while stealing her heart.