Hi there. Hope everyone is staying safe from the weather and all the illnesses going round. Not the sort of Christmas presents that are meant to be shared. We are having a white pre Christmas, getting snowed on this week. It is definitely cuddle up in nice snuggly blankets with your favorite munchies and a cup of chocolate (or spiced cider), reading a good book. Here are the next chapters of the story.
Collins was taken upstairs where he was placed in one of the guest rooms in a wing far from all others. There would be three footmen guarding the room at all times, ensuring Collins remained inside. The parson continued demanding his release, claiming over and over that he was granted permission by Mrs Bennet to marry Miss Elizabeth. Darcy was furious, though he refused to be near the sniveling blackguard, as the gentleman desired nothing more than to return each blow Collins had perpetrated on Elizabeth. But he knew that Elizabeth needed him to be strong. Only the thought of marrying the beautiful young lady, seeing her fine eyes each day as they shared their future, debating books they had read or playing chess with her, sharing his home with him and their future children, kept him from pummeling her cousin until he could never harm another person.
With Collins secure, Darcy returned to the ballroom after retrieving another coat from his rooms. Bingley had returned to Jane Bennet’s side, though he was clearly out of sorts. Jane seemed to notice as well, for she was making every effort to cheer the young man who owned her heart.
“Miss Bennet, forgive me for not stating so earlier, but you appear more beautiful than usual tonight. My friend is a fortunate man to have captured your attention.” Darcy attempted to turn her attention from worrying over Bingley.
“My thanks, Mr Darcy. Pray, have you seen my sister, Elizabeth? I haven’t seen her since you were together at supper yet cannot seem to find her now.”
“She was not feeling well, after supper, and your father decided to take her home. As it is getting late, and he feared he would not return before the ball ended, I offered the use of my carriage to convey the rest of your party to Longbourn when you are ready.”
Though Darcy was speaking calmly, Jane was extremely talented with reading people and their body language. The eldest Bennet sister knew something was not right, and she did not accept the tale she had been given.
“Forgive me, Mr Darcy, but if Lizzy was ill, she would have told me. For her and Papa to leave so suddenly, something must be terribly wrong.” Jane’s eyes searched the room. “Where is Mr Jones? I do not see him.”
The two men shared a glance, before Bingley decided to speak. “Miss Bennet, perhaps we can step over to a secluded spot, as I would not wish to be overheard.”
If Jane had been concerned before, she was terrified now. Nodding her head in agreement, she followed the two men to the corner where there was some privacy.
“Miss Bennet, I am afraid something happened on the balcony tonight. Your father wished for you to learn the truth from him when you arrive home, but I know you are Miss Elizabeth’s dearest friend and sister. Mr Collins was disturbed with your sister dancing with Mr Darcy, then when she was with my partner for supper. It appears he believed he was engaged to Miss Elizabeth, as your mother had promised him that your sister would accept his offer of marriage. Mr Collins became enraged with your sister and struck Miss Elizabeth, several times. Your father and Mr Jones have taken Miss Elizabeth home, as her gown was torn, and she had some injuries. We have the blackguard secured and will be dealing with him on the morrow.”
Tears welled in Jane’s eyes. “How badly was Lizzy injured?” She turned towards Darcy, believing the gentleman would tell her the truth rather than making it sound lighthearted as Bingley was attempting.
Darcy took a deep breath, then looked at Jane. “Your sister was beaten severely. Her lips were split, a cut below her eye which caused the cheek and eye to swell. She has bruising already starting on the other side of her face. When Collins tore her gown, he left scratches on her decolletage, just below her throat. Mr Jones accompanied your father and sister to Longbourn, as he wished to attend her there. Bingley has sent ice with them to aid your sister in reducing the swelling. My friend has allowed Mr Collins be placed in one of the guest rooms, and placed guards.”
The tears Jane had felt welling in her eyes overflowed, streaming down her cheeks. “I thank you, Mr Darcy, for your honesty. Mr Collins is secure? There is no chance of his escaping from where he is?”
“Indeed. The scoundrel is locked in a room with several footmen standing guard.”
“With what he has done, we are ruined. Lizzy will be forced to marry him to keep from gossip running rampant. My poor sister, it will crush her to be married to such a wicked man.”
Darcy shook his head. “I have offered to marry your sister. There is no compromise, I was witness to part of the assault on her and will not allow the abuse by my aunt’s parson to harm your family, especially Elizabeth. My only regret is that she is suffering from his beating.”
“I cannot thank you enough for all you are doing for my dearest sister.” Jane was grateful enough to overlook the fact that Darcy had used her sister’s name informally. “You must have prevented him… Mr Collins… from further harming Lizzy.”
“If only I had arrived a moment or two earlier.” Darcy was frustrated with himself.
Reaching over, Jane placed a hand on Darcy’s arm. “Mr Darcy, there is no doubt in my mind that you would move heaven and earth to protect Lizzy. Had you not arrived when you did, mayhap Mr Collins would have continued to harm her, perhaps even k…killed her. I will be forever grateful that you saved Lizzy.”
“Gratitude is not necessary, as I could no more stand to lose Miss Elizabeth than you could.”
Jane looked deeply into the gentleman’s eyes. “You truly care for her. Are you in love with her?”
“Y…Yes. I realized this evening, even before Collins, that I could not imagine loving anyone as much as I love her. Elizabeth is unlike any other lady I have ever known. Her intelligence, her beauty, everything about her draws me to her.”
A smile grew on Jane’s lips. “I will do all that I can to aid you and Lizzy. She deserves to be loved and cherished for the incredible lady she is. Most men do not appreciate her knowledge, you value what makes Lizzy so precious. I might be a bit prejudice in my opinion, but my sister is a remarkable lady.”
“The fools do not know what true wealth is until they find a lady such as your sister. Their loss is my gain.” Darcy returned the smile. Jane could see a sparkle in the man’s eyes when he spoke of Elizabeth.
Looking about, Jane spied her mother and her youngest three sisters. “Perhaps it would be best that we leave sooner than later. As much as I wish to remain, I wish to see Lizzy immediately.”
Bingley nodded his head. “I will go with you to speak with your mother. Darcy, would you have the carriage brought forward?”
Less than half of an hour later, the Bennet ladies were loaded in Darcy’s carriage.
“I do not understand why we had to leave early.” Mrs Bennet sniffed disapprovingly during the carriage ride home. “Why did your father and Lizzy go to Longbourn without us? Did Mr Collins wish to speak with your father about marrying Lizzy? We could have waited until tomorrow for that to be announced, or we could have made the announcement at the ball.”
“Mamma, Lizzy will not be marrying Mr Collins. She detests the man, and he has behaved poorly.”
Mrs Bennet turned her attention to her eldest. “Behaved poorly, you say. How has he behaved? Lizzy barely spent any time with him tonight, which I am certain irritated the poor man. Your sister will be made to accept Mr Collins, or I will demand your father send her away. If she is unwilling to protect us from the hedgerow when your father is in his grave, she should not live under my roof.”
In a behavior unlike any Jane had ever displayed, she rounded on her mother. “Mr Collins is a heartless, cruel and vile man. He beat Lizzy while on the terrace tonight. My sister had to leave because she was injured. Our father and Mr Jones took Lizzy home, so she could be tended. Mr Collins is locked in a room at Netherfield, under guard, because of his actions. From what I was told, Mr Collins could have killed Lizzy, had Mr Darcy not stepped in to protect her.”
“Mr Collins…he injured Lizzy? What did she do to provoke him?”
“The brute nearly kills your daughter and all you can think of is that she provoked him? You care so little about Lizzy that you place the blame of being attacked at her feet? I will hear no more of this nonsense. Lizzy is the victim of a heartless man’s cruelty.”
Having never heard her first born daughter angry, Mrs Bennet was stunned into silence for the remainder of the journey to their home. As soon as they entered the house, Mr Bennet met them in the entryway. Instantly recognizing that Jane knew the truth, Bennet looked at her, then tipped his head towards the stairs. Jane knew her father was sending her to Lizzy’s room.
As their daughters made to go up the stairs, Mr Bennet took hold of his wife’s arm to stop her. “I wish to speak with you in my study.”
“Jane said that Lizzy was injured. I wish to see for myself if she is really injured or if she is pretending.” Mrs Bennet insisted.
“My daughter is not pretending.” Mr Bennet held out his hand with his handkerchief, covered in blood.
Mrs Bennet looked at the cloth and swallowed.
“This is Lizzy’s blood. She was bleeding from her cheek, her lips, and her chest. The blackguard nearly beat her to death, and you dare to say she might be pretending. If you do not wish for the entire estate to hear what I have to say to you, you will join me in my study immediately.” Mr Bennet’s voice was low and menacing.
With that, Mrs Bennet accepted that she should follow her husband to his private sanctuary.
As soon as the door closed behind her, Thomas Bennet released his fury. “Why would you think you have the authority to decide who will marry any of our daughters? Mr Collins believes he had your blessing to marry Lizzy, though you are not the head of our family. It is for the male head of the family to make such decisions, and I do not believe you are a man.”
“He spoke to me of his desire to marry one of our daughters, to give us the protection of shelter when you are gone, and he inherits the estate. First, he wished to marry Jane, though I informed him of the expectation we have that Mr Bingley would be asking for her hand. Then Mr Collins decided that Lizzy would be his next choice. He asked if she had any claims for her hand, and I declared that she would be pleased to accept him. She is nearing twenty and has no other suitors, so it is only natural to believe she would never receive a better offer.”
“A better offer? A man who brutalized her is the best suitor you can think of for our daughter?”
“I do not believe he was as brutal as you are making it out to be. Perhaps it is all a misunderstanding.”
“Mr Darcy witnessed my cousin beating Lizzy. There was no misunderstanding, Mrs Bennet. If Mr Darcy had not stepped in to protect Elizabeth, it is likely she could have been killed. As it is, she will require tending for some days before she will be able to leave her bed. Mr Jones is concerned with some of the wounds.”
“She must have said something horrible to the man, something which caused Mr Collins to become angered beyond control.” Mrs Bennet could not believe the parson would behave so inappropriately.
“ENOUGH! You have proven yourself to be a foolish woman. I would never have expected you to be so uncaring towards your own child, but then again, you have proven you care little for anyone but yourself. Mr Collins has beaten our daughter. Mr Collins is being held until we determine what will happen to him. It is likely he will be transported to Australia or, if it becomes a court case, he can hang. Either way, the man will never be welcome in our home or near any of our daughters again. Good God, the man ripped the front of her gown. Tore it apart, leaving scratch marks on Lizzy’s chest. This is the sort of man you wish to have as a son in law?”
Mrs Bennet was silent, though her mouth kept opening and shutting. She did not believe her salvation of never having to leave her home was now taken away from her.
Realizing that he would not break through the walls his wife had built around her mind, Mr Bennet shook his head. “I cannot abide looking at you for another moment. Go to your rooms and remain there. You are not to come downstairs until I tell you otherwise.”
Mrs Bennet gasped. “Then we are ruined. Poor Jane, Mr Bingley will likely abandon her, and no decent man will ever offer for any of our girls. We will never be welcomed into society, even my sister will shun us. You must send Lizzy away immediately. Or we could speak with one of the tenants, surely one of them would be willing to marry Lizzy if we pay him enough.”
“Lizzy already has a proposal of marriage from a respectable gentleman who cares for her. Do not become excited. They will have the wedding they desire, without any demands from you. After this conversation, I am tempted to see you have nothing to do with any of our daughters when it comes to any matrimonial issues. You cannot be trusted to see to their welfare, as you seem to only care about what is best for yourself.”
“Our daughters will not allow me to be kept from assisting them find proper situations. They will require a mother’s knowledge and care to make good matches. You must see that Mr Bingley is made to understand that we can send Lizzy away, so her ruination does not harm Jane. Perhaps Mr Collins would be willing to settle for Mary rather than Lizzy. Mary would make a perfect parson’s wife. We must promise Mr Collins that Lizzy will be punished for her disobedience.”
“Can you not hear the words I have said? Lizzy has a proper suitor in Mr Darcy.”
Mrs Bennet turned her attention to what such a wealthy man could do for the rest of her family. “Mr Darcy could not possibly wish to marry Lizzy. She is such selfish girl, always thinking of herself rather than the family. No, Mr Darcy should marry Lydia, as she is much prettier and livelier. Far better choice for a wealthy gentleman. Can you imagine the jewels and carriages she would have as Mrs Darcy? Ten thousand per annum, what pin money she will be given. Only the finest gowns made by the most exclusive modiste. Yes, far better for Mr Darcy to marry Lydia than Elizabeth.”
“Just when I think you have reached the height of foolishness, you open your mouth and show how utterly disgusting you can be. I will give you the night to think about what I have told you. If you continue on this path in the morning, there will be consequences for your actions.”
“How dare you treat me in such a manner? I am your wife, the mistress of Longbourn. You have no right to treat me so cruelly.”
“I am your husband. That gives me the right to treat you whatever way I choose. Do I make myself clear? When it comes to my daughters, you will not be making any decisions for any of them. Do I make myself clear?”
Mrs Bennet was furious but decided to refrain from further comments.
“Go to your room and remain there until morning, when I call for you. We will speak then.” Mr Bennet pointed at the door of his study. Mrs Bennet was soon out of the room and marching up the stairs to her chambers. As tempted as she was to chastise her second born, the woman decided against confronting her until the following day.
Jane heard her mother’s footsteps in the hall and prayed that she would continue to her room. Elizabeth’s condition did not need any further confrontations for the evening.
Holding Lizzy’s hand in her own, Jane felt tears streaming down her cheeks. “Oh, Lizzy, forgive me for not being with you. If I had been, perhaps Mr Collins would have been thwarted. How I wish this had never happened. My dearest Lizzy, how I wish I could take away your pain.”
She felt a gentle squeeze on her hand. “Not…your…fault…” Lizzy whispered.
“Hush now, you should not attempt to speak.” Jane wiped the tears from her face. “I am to comfort you, not the other way around.”
“Downstairs. He will likely be here to check on you before retiring. Mamma just went to her rooms, so they have finished their discussion.”
“She will…be angry…with me.”
“It is hardly your fault. Mr Collins is a beast. He is to blame, not you.” Jane stated defiantly. “How do you feel?”
“As if…my…face…is going…to…burst.”
“There is quite a bit of swelling. We can have more ice brought up. Or I can give you some more laudanum for the pain.”
“Do not like.” Elizabeth replied. “Fuzzy.”
“It makes you feel fuzzy in your mind?”
“But it will aid your rest, which will allow you to recover.” Jane said firmly. “Mr Jones said rest is the best thing for you.”
“Mr Bingley…please…tell him…you…not…to blame.”
“Mr Bingley is the kindest, most amiable man I know. He feels most disgusted with Mr Collins’ behavior. He would never hold you responsible for what happened. Especially as his closest friend wishes to marry you.”
“Cannot…marry…ruined…” Elizabeth’s voice was tinged with heartbreak as well as pain.
“No, Lizzy. You are not ruined, at least in Mr Darcy’s mind. His love and devotion are refreshing, after seeing what Mr Collins did. Mr Bingley is furious with what happened.”
Elizabeth had kept both of her eyes closed, one because the swelling kept it closed and the other to hold back her tears. She did not wish to see the disappointment in her elder sister’s expression. “It… not… Mr Bingley’s… fault.”
“But it happened in his home, during the ball he hosted. He asked me to tell you how deeply regretful he is that you were injured. I believe Charles would have challenged Mr Collins to a duel if he could.”
“No!” Elizabeth cried out. The last thing she wished for was any of the men to duel Mr Collins. The law forbade such acts, and she would not wish anyone to go to prison for her sake.
“Never fear, Lizzy. Mr Darcy talked with him, convincing Charles that it was best to leave the matter to Sir William Lucas.” Jane reassured her sister. “They will decide Mr Collins’ fate after the physician arrives. It is my belief they should place him in an asylum. It is obvious that he is deranged.”
Elizabeth was weary from her ordeal. Seeing that her sister needed rest, Jane decided to leave her sister for her own bed. “I will be at your side in the morning. If you should need me, ring the bell I have placed on the table beside your bed.”
Once her sister was gone, Elizabeth drifted off in a restless sleep. Just before sunrise, screams came from her bedchambers, waking several in the family.
Mr Bennet, who had only left Elizabeth’s room an hour previously, rushed into his favorite daughter’s bedchambers. “Lizzy, what is wrong? Are you in pain?”
Sobbing and unable to sit up, the young lady was hysterical. “Mr Collins…”
“He cannot harm you any longer, my dear girl. You are safe.”
“Hit me…over and over…kept hitting…until…Mr Darcy…” She said between sobs.
“The scoundrel will pay for what he has done to you, sweet girl. Have no fear. Mr Collins will never harm you or any other lady again.”
Mr Bennet was not surprised that Elizabeth would fret for others. “Do not worry, Lizzy. None of us will duel the fool. We will do all we can to either have him transported to Australia. Sir William will determine Collins’ fate after speaking with him again today. If he does not agree to being transported, he will face the gallows for his crimes. It is my belief that he accept transportation over death.”
Seeing the swelling had gotten worse, as had the bruising, Mr Bennet requested Mrs Hill, who had hurried to Elizabeth’s room when she heard the screams, to send for ice.
“Lizzy, you need to take some laudanum. It will assist with the pain. Do not try to argue with me, I can see for myself that your injuries are worse than they were last night.” Mr Bennet spoke with gentle strength, impressing his authority as her father.
When Elizabeth had returned from the ball battered and bruised, Mrs Hill had given instructions to one of the stable hands to bring ice to the house immediately and again by sunrise.
“Mr Bennet, if you would allow, Sarah and I will tend to Miss Lizzy’s injuries. Mr Jones left a salve to put on her cuts and scratches. I have honey to put on her lips to aid in healing them. I added some lavender in the honey. Will not only help her lips but is good for calming the entire body. Cook is making some chicken broth. She knows how much Miss Lizzy prefers it to other types.”
A weak voice spoke. “Thank you…Mrs Hill.”
“You rest, dear girl. I will return shortly with all the supplies with which to tend you. We will have you righted in no time at all.”
“Hill, many thanks to you. Tell Cook we are grateful for her kindness to Lizzy as well.”
“It is our pleasure to be able to care for her, as she has always seen fit to care for others. No one has a more generous heart than Miss Lizzy.”