As promised, here is your Christmas post. Hope you enjoy.
All the men jumped to their feet. Mr Hammond demanded Darcy remain, as he had more questions for the gentleman.
“Mr Hammond, I am not going anywhere other than Longbourn. You have my word. Miss Elizabeth needs me and as her betrothed, I must do all I can for her care. We must send to London for my physician immediately.”
“Mr Darcy, you are to be held on suspicion of having killed Mr Collins.” Hammond demanded. “You cannot be released to do as you wish. I would lose my position if you were to escape justice.”
“As he is my future son in law, I guarantee that Mr Darcy will remain at Longbourn.” Mr Bennet nearly shouted. “Now, we must see to my daughter, as she is the true victim in this horrible situation. She is the one who was originally harmed, by Mr Collins. You cannot believe Mr Darcy would leave Lizzy’s side while she is in such a condition.”
“Mr Hammond, you are welcome to shackle me to anything in Longbourn, as long as I am able to do what I can for my betrothed.” There was a pleading to Darcy’s voice that had never been heard by those who knew him. Darcy was afraid of losing the lady he loved dearly, and the fear was horrifying to the gentleman who had always been in control.
Sir William nodded his head in agreement. “I cannot imagine Mr Darcy would abandon Miss Elizabeth. Mr Darcy, we will station two men to take turns guarding you at Longbourn. Any attempt to escape will be met with drastic consequences. Do I make myself understood?”
“Of course, Sir William. Whatever you wish, as long as I am able to be with Elizabeth.” Darcy wished the men would stop speaking so he could get to Longbourn immediately.
“Can we leave now?” Mr Bennet asked impatiently.
“We will visit you there soon, as I am certain my girls will wish to visit your daughters. You have our prayers for Miss Elizabeth’s recovery.” Sir William stated.
The men nearly bolted out the door to the awaiting carriage. All the way to Longbourn, Darcy could say nothing, his mind going over and over the possible difficulties that Elizabeth had caused herself, all out of concern for him. What would he do if she died from the further injury? How could he go on in life without her?
“Mr Darcy, you must not consider all that could go wrong. Lizzy is strong, she has overcome everything life has thrown at her. Nothing has ever kept her down for long. Have faith.”
“I cannot lose her. She is my life, the air that I breathe. How could she have gotten out of bed? As weak as she must be, from the beating, she should have been resting.”
“My daughter hates taking laudanum, so she would not be weakened by the medication. As I have said, she is a strong girl. She has always been strong. When Lizzy was younger, she fell from a tree and broke her arm, and we nearly had to tie her to the bed to keep her there for two days. Within a fortnight she was trying to climb the same tree, though John Lucas was able to prevent that from happening, throwing her over his shoulder and carrying her back to the house. The only way we were able to keep her indoors was if she were in the study with me. We played so many games of chess, discussed books, and discussed the estate. That was the longest two months of my life. Never once did she allow any doses of laudanum, even when we tried to hide it in her tea or cider. Lizzy could always tell and would refuse to drink it.” Mr Bennet was attempting to keep his thoughts positive, hoping desperately that his most cherished daughter would be fine.
“Mr Bennet, I hope you meant what you said, that you will allow me to remain at your home until Elizabeth is recovered.” Darcy had a lost look about his eyes that spoke of his desire to be near her.
“Of course, you may stay at Longbourn. I will have Hill prepare a guest room for you. As we are to have a family connection soon enough, you may call me Bennet. I would accept being called Papa or Father a well, though I believe that would be more appropriate later.”
“Thank you, Bennet. My family calls me William or Wills, or Darcy is what my friends call me.”
“Before last night, I would have believed Mr Bingley to have been the young man to capture the first of my daughters.” Mr Bennet attempted to ease the tension felt by all three of the men.
“Leave it to my friend to have beat me to the alter.” Bingley gave Darcy a nervous glance as he spoke. “When we know Miss Elizabeth is recovering, I would like to speak with you in private.”
“Of course. I will look forward to speaking with you. Hopefully it will be soon, as that will mean Lizzy is recovering.”
Bingley continued to look at his friend, who was staring out the window. It was obvious to Bennet and Bingley that Darcy desired to hurry the horses, to arrive at Longbourn quicker.
When the carriage approached the front of the manor house, Darcy opened the door and jumped out before the carriage had even come to a stop. Mr Hill was standing with the door open for the gentlemen.
“Mr Jones just arrived a few minutes before you. He is upstairs with Miss Lizzy.”
Darcy noted the comfortable way the Longbourn servants spoke of Elizabeth with affection, much like his own staff at Pemberley and Darcy House. His housekeepers and butlers had been with the Darcy family for more than twenty years and had watched him and Georgiana grow up. They were more like family than servants. This brought some comfort to Darcy, as it would be painfully clear by Mr Hill’s behavior if Elizabeth had taken a turn for the worst or even died.
Knowing the way to his beloved’s room, Darcy did not wait to be given permission or be escorted. Taking the stairs two at a time, he found himself at Elizabeth’s room just as the door opened for Jane to step out.
“Mr Darcy, you are back. Is all resolved with Mr Hammond?”
“For the moment, though that is not important. How is your sister?”
“Mr Jones has asked me to fetch some more water. Did Papa return with you?”
“Yes, I expect him to be coming up any moment.”
As if conjured from air, Mr Bennet stepped around the corner and into the hallway. “Did you need something, Jane?”
“We need some more ice. We will need to reduce the swelling as much as possible.” Jane said, keeping her eyes directed at her father rather than the man who was in love with her sister.
“I will send Frank for some more.”
“You can ask Bingley if he could spare some from Netherfield. He had extra brought in for the ball.” Darcy recommended.
“Jane, why do you not speak with Mr Bingley about ice. Tell him I will reimburse him the cost. If he could be so kind as to pack Mr Darcy’s belongings to be brought here as well, we would appreciate his assistance immensely. William, would you wish for your valet to come as well? We have room for him in a servant’s room near the nursery.”
“Yes, thank you. I appreciate all you are doing for me.”
“We will be family soon enough, so there is no need to thank me.” Bennet smiled. He was certain that Lizzy would have a wonderful life with the young man before him. Darcy’s devotion was a true blessing. How he wished for all his daughters to find their perfect matches.
Jane was pleased that her father had taken mercy on Mr Darcy. Mr Bennet’s teasing ways were well known amongst those who spent time with him. She had thought her father would use the chance to torment the gentleman who had fallen in love with Elizabeth. With his sympathies allowing Darcy to escape from his teasing ways, Jane wondered if her father would be doubly difficult with Mr Bingley when he came to speak of his hopes of securing Jane’s hand.
The water was fetched, and Bingley took his leave to return to Netherfield. He promised to return in time to take supper with the family.
Darcy and Bennet made their way inside Elizabeth’s room. Mr Jones was grateful for their arrival. “Gentlemen, I am pleased to see you returned.”
“How is Lizzy?” Mr Bennet was anxious.
“We will know more when she wakes. She has a knot behind her left ear, presumably where her head struck the step. Her breathing and heart beats are normal, which is a good sign. No blood coming from the ear or mouth, which are also good signs. If she wakes in a short time, I doubt there will be lasting damage. The longer she is unconscious, the worse the damage might be.”
Darcy was becoming ill as he listened to the apothecary speak. He must send for his personal physician from London. “I have asked Mr Bingley to send an express to my physician in London. Forgive me, I did not mean to overstep in her care. Might I see her? I wish to be able to see for myself that she is still breathing.”
“Of course, with Mr Bennet’s approval. Do not fret over sending for your physician, as I would be grateful for his opinion. Miss Lizzy is dear to me and my family, I would do anything I can for her.” The apothecary turned his eyes towards Bennet.
“Indeed, Mr Darcy is my daughter’s betrothed. I hold with no reason to bar him from seeing her. He will be remaining here at Longbourn for the time being.”
“Please enter, Mr Darcy. You are welcome to the chair on the far side of the bed. I will return shortly.” Mr Jones stated.
For three hours, Darcy sat beside the bed, holding Elizabeth’s hand in his, praying for her to be returned to him. He wanted nothing more than to have her as his wife, to share a future with him, to be the mother of his children, and to cherish until his death of old age.
Jane had returned to her sister’s room, sitting quietly and working on her stitchwork. She had so much of which to think, as Bingley had proposed to his beloved angel. How could she enjoy so much happiness when her sister was suffering so much? It was difficult to determine how she should act. As much as she wished to shout out her joy for the world to hear, Jane could not truly be happy until Elizabeth was recovered.
There was finally some movement from Elizabeth. Her eyes fluttered slightly. The pressure of Darcy’s hand increased, giving her hand a squeeze. “Elizabeth, can you hear me? We are waiting for you to recover, dearest.”
Elizabeth opened her eye momentarily, squinting in pain. “My ears…there is a loud ringing. So painful.”
“Allow me to speak with Papa so he can send word to Mr Jones.” Jane said as she rose from her seat and left the room.
A tear trailed down the side of Elizabeth’s face as the pain was extreme. “What…what happened?”
Darcy lifted her hand to his lips. “You were a foolish lady and left this bed when you should not have. My dearest, you must not do something like that again. When Bingley told me what happened, my heart nearly stopped.”
“They arrested…you…” Elizabeth’s head turned slightly so she could see his face.
“They released me as there is no real evidence against me. Your father verified that I would not leave Longbourn while you are recovering. My belongings and valet have been brought here, in accordance with Mr Bennet’s request.”
“A knife was found in my dressing chamber that is unknown to my valet or myself. There was no blood on it, so it is unknown if it is even the knife used to kill Mr Collins.”
“He is…truly dead?”
Darcy smiled at her. “You need never fear the man again. He can do nothing more to you.”
A sigh escaped Elizabeth. The pain of her face and head were difficult for her to accept, but she was at peace with the knowledge that Darcy was not being taken to the gaol and Mr Collins was dead.
Mr Jones had just returned to Longbourn as Jane came downstairs. The apothecary was pleased to see his patient awake. “Miss Lizzy, you have caused quite a bit of worry for us all. To see your eyes open once again is a joy.”
“She spoke of a ringing in her ears and her pain is excruciating.” Darcy interpreted for his betrothed.
“That is not uncommon for a concussion. It should subside in a day or two.” Mr Jones explained as he looked into her eyes. “When you struck your head against the stairs, you caused a knot on the side of your head which is causing pressure.”
“My family’s physician should be arriving in the morning. I sent an express to him, though I doubt he would risk traveling in the dark of tonight.”
“It will be an honor to assist the gentleman. Now, my best advice is that Miss Lizzy has peace and calm about her until she has recovered. Loud noises could cause her extreme pain. As to you, young lady, if necessary, I will have you tied to your bed, so you do not rise and cause yourself further harm. I also recommend you take some laudanum. You may not like it, but it will aid in relieving the pain. That will allow you to rest properly, which will allow you to recover faster. Do not argue with me.”
Elizabeth reluctantly decided to agree with Mr Jones, taking a dose of the foul tasting liquid. After taking the laudanum, Darcy held a glass of cool water to her lips to aid in washing the taste from her mouth. Jane came to the other side of the bed and applied the honey and lavender mixture to Elizabeth’s lips.
The effects of the medication worked quickly, as Elizabeth drifted off to sleep.
~~ ** ~~
Caroline Bingley was furious. No, that is not strong enough to describe the lady. If it was possible, smoke would be coming from her ears and nostrils, she was that angry. Each hour that went by without word from her brother or Darcy, the worse her anger increased.
By the time Bingley finally returned to Netherfield, it was late in the afternoon.
“Where have you been? No, do not tell me. You were at the Bennets. Why would you be there when Mr Darcy requires your assistance?”
“Darcy was also at Longbourn.”
Her eyes rounded in horror. “Why would Mr Darcy be at Longbourn? Did not Sir William and the constable take him into custody?”
“Sort of, as they came to Longbourn and insisted on speaking with Darcy. They spoke of arresting him, but the evidence they have is not strong enough and Mr Bennet spoke on his behalf. Darcy will be staying at Longbourn.”
“Then why did they send for Mr Darcy’s belongings and valet? I was there when they loaded his trunks on the carriage.” Caroline could not fathom what was happening. In her mind, even if Mr Darcy was at Longbourn during the day, he would have returned to Netherfield in the evenings. If Darcy could not be locked away from Eliza Bennet, at least Caroline would have the nights to make him see that she would make him the better wife.
“He will be staying at Longbourn. As he is betrothed to Miss Elizabeth, he wishes to be near her as she recovers from her injuries.” Bingley was displeased with his sister’s behavior.
“No, he cannot remain at Longbourn. His family…they will not approve of the Bennets. It will be improper for him to remain there. He will be considered compromised. They were supposed to hold him away from Longbourn, not at Longbourn. All of this was for nothing.” Caroline was not thinking clearly as she spoke.
“What do you mean, all of this was for nothing? What did you do?” Bingley was growing angry at the thought of his sister being involved with the murder. “Did you have a hand in Collins’ murder?”
Realizing that she had made a mess of things, Caroline attempted to redirect her brother’s thoughts. “Of course, I did not. How could you think so low of me as to believe I would be involved in a murder? I meant that all my hard work to show Mr Darcy what a perfect choice I would be for him, with my taste and style, he would realize the truth and wish me to be his wife.”
“That is not what you meant. You had something to do with the knife, did you not?” Bingley had never lost his temper with his sister, but he was ready to toss her from his home. “Did you place the knife in Darcy’s dressing chamber? Or did you have someone place it there? Is it the knife that killed Collins? Mr Hammond stated you allowed him to inspect Darcy’s rooms, why did you do so? For him to discover what you had planted as evidence?”
Flustered with her brother’s behavior and words, Caroline could not think straight. “I would never do anything to harm Mr Darcy. The knife was not the murder weapon, it was one that was purchased by my maid. It would be a means to keep Mr Darcy away from that chit, as the magistrate would wish for him to be secured somewhere other than where Eliza Bennet was. I was attempting to protect Mr Darcy. The poor man requires his friends to watch over him while a fortune huntress is using her arts and allurements, making your dearest friend unable to think for himself. If we protect him, he will be forever grateful to us.”
Bingley stepped closer to his sister, flexing his fists as he attempted to control his anger. “You purposely called Darcy’s character into question to having him locked away from Miss Elizabeth? Why would you be so cruel? Darcy has tolerated much from you over the years, but this will be too much for him to accept. You will be fortunate if he does not give you the cut direct. I will not stop him from whatever he wishes to do to you, as you deserve whatever vengeance he decides for such betrayal. Have your belongings packed immediately, as you will be leaving within an hour for Scarborough.”
“No, Charles, you cannot send me to Aunt Aggie. She is cruel and harsh. How will Mr Darcy see that I am perfect for him?”
“Caroline, Darcy has tried to be polite to you for my sake, but you are everything in society that he hates. You care nothing for the gentleman, only what he can do for you. His wealth, his connections, his fine homes, these are the only things that matter to you. My friend wishes to be loved for who he is, not what he can provide. What you have done is far worse. Go and pack your belongings. I will not have you in my home any longer. I will be sending an express to our aunt to tell her what has happened, and that I will not oversee your accounts any longer. From now on, you will have to live within your allowance, not charging everything to the family accounts for me to pay the balance.”
“How can you be so cruel? Would you truly damage my reputation, making it impossible to find a good match? If you refuse to assist in my desire to marry Mr Darcy, it is imperative that I make a good match elsewhere. Your abandonment of me will destroy my future.” Caroline was weeping, hoping that her tears would cause her brother’s harshness to be softened. She had always been able to manipulate her brother and sister.
“To be honest, Caroline, I could not care one bit what happens to you at this point. I am furious and want nothing more to do with you. Whether Louisa and Hurst will want to associate with you is their choice. But you will never be allowed in my home again.” Bingley went to his study, slamming the door behind him.
Taking out parchment and his writing supplies, Bingley wrote a letter to their aunt, his father’s sister. She still lived near the mills that had made the Bingley family’s fortune, and Agatha Bingley was a strict woman, never tolerating Caroline’s foolhardy ways in the past. If anyone could make Caroline see how bad her behavior was, it would be their Aunt Aggie.
After the letter was written, the young man went in search of the butler. He asked that the letter be taken to Meryton to be sent by express to Scarborough.
When Bingley went upstairs to check on the packing of his sister’s belongings, he found Caroline in the drawing room with their sister and her husband.
“If memory serves me, Caroline, you were told to pack your belongings. You have less than an hour, as I have already called for the carriage to be prepared.”
“Charles, you cannot be serious. Who would be your hostess if I were not here?”
Louisa Hurst was certain that her sister had committed some hideous mistake, seeing that her brother never exhibited such anger. It was time for Louisa to decide, side with her sister and support her foolishness, or side with Charles, who had always been the kindest of brothers.
“Charles, I will act as your hostess. Hurst and I will do whatever we can to assist you.” Louisa stated boldly, knowing her words would infuriate their sister.
“Louisa, how can you turn on me? You stated I would be a perfect match for Mr Darcy. Why would you withdraw your support from me? Just think of what my being Mrs Fitzwilliam Darcy can mean for all of you. Think of the invitations we will receive and the events we would be welcome to attend. All these things can only be accomplished if I marry Mr Darcy.”
“As much as I wish you to be happy, Caroline, I will not do so at the expense of someone like Mr Darcy. He does not love you. Mr Darcy is in love with Miss Elizabeth Bennet. It is time to accept the truth.” Louisa was growing stronger as she spoke. The truth was liberating, and the men in her life were pleased to see the elder sister taking her sister to task.
Seeing no aid from her family, Caroline marched from the room, heading straight to her bedchambers. The sounds of breaking glass and porcelain were heard coming from the rooms.