Sorry for the delay in posting. I have finished writing the story and was dealing with editing and formatting, then published it. My least favorite part of writing. It was a great deal of fun to write this story, as I kept the identity of the killer til near the end. So far, no one had thought of the killer and the reason. I loved the twist. This post is about half way through the story. More craziness to come.

Chapter 11

            After an hour had passed, Bingley made his way to Caroline’s chambers. There was no response when he knocked on the door of her bedchambers, so he tried to open the door, only to find it to be locked. The gentleman knocked louder on the door, calling out to his sister to open it immediately.

            Still there was no response. Miss Bingley’s maid, Alice, came from the servant’s hall and was surprised to see her employer in such an ill temper.

            “Mr Bingley, is there something I can do for you?”

            “Where is my sister? Have her trunks been packed? The carriage is ready to leave.”

            The maid was confused. “Miss Bingley said nothing of packing her trunks. I was not aware she was leaving Netherfield.”

            “Unlock this door so I may speak with my sister.” Bingley was livid. Then he realized that the maid had no control over Caroline’s behavior. “Please, Alice, if you would be kind enough to unlock the door.”

            “Miss Bingley is not there. She said that she was to meet someone in Meryton. I thought it was odd, but is not mine to question what my mistress says.”

            “Did she state who the person was?” Fear was fast replacing anger as Bingley realized what his sister likely doing.

            “She did not, though I believe it has something to do with Mr Darcy. Your sister has stated that they are to wed after you all return to London.”

            Bingley knew where his sister had gone. She would be at Longbourn, attempting to cause some sort of compromise so that she could claim Darcy as a husband. He hurried downstairs, calling out for someone to quickly fetch his horse.

            Hearing Charles in the hall, Hurst and Louisa decided to join him. “You ordered the carriage be ready to take Caroline to Scarborough. What is happening? Shall we accompany you to wherever you are going?”

            “Longbourn. Caroline is not in the house, having told her maid that she was meeting someone in Meryton. Most likely, our sister has gone to Longbourn to attempt to secure Darcy for herself.”

            Louisa gasped. “Oh, that foolish, foolish sister of ours. Mr Darcy would never offer for her.”

            “Exactly. Now is the time for the nonsense to end.”

            The trio entered the carriage and were soon at Longbourn.

            Mrs Bennet was pleased to see the gentleman, as she was certain that he would only come to visit them again so soon for the purpose of proposing to Jane.  “Allow me to have Jane come down. She is sitting with Lizzy at the moment, while Mr Darcy is in the back parlor, speaking with Miss Bingley. I insisted on the door remain open and a maid is in the hall outside the room.”

            “We are unfortunately not here to speak with Miss Bennet, but with my sister.”

            There was a loud crashing noise and louder shouting coming from the rear area of the house. Bingley and the Hursts stepped into the hall in time to see Darcy backing out of a room near the end of the hall, his hands held up in defense, as Caroline leapt at her prey.  There was obvious damage to her gown, with the tear nearly exposing her bossom.

            “You have compromised me, Mr Darcy. You must marry me.” Caroline demanded, her face red and tear stained.

            “I have done no such thing, Miss Bingley. You know I have no intention of ever offering for you.    I despise everything you stand for as a woman. Your brother has likely informed you of my betrothal to Miss Elizabeth. Nothing you can do will change my mind.”

            “What can she do for you that I cannot? I have been trained to be the perfect mistress of your home, able to host dinners and balls. Your sister will need someone to guide her through her first season. Miss Eliza has never attended an event in London, let alone had a season. The ton will laugh at you if you marry such a disgraceful chit. What of your family? The earl and countess will frown upon such a connection. The Bennets’ connections are to a tradesman in Cheapside and a country solicitor. Miss Eliza is unfit to become Mrs Darcy.”

            “Enough, Caroline!” Bingley was amazed that the words did not come from him, but from his brother in law. Hurst had had enough, after years of witnessing his wife and her brother being bullied by Caroline. “Mr Darcy has told you many times that he would never offer for you. If you were discovered with no clothing, in his bed, for a hundred people to witness, I would not demand Darcy to marry you. How can you bring our family so low, attempting to force a compromise of a gentleman who is betrothed to another? It is time you looked elsewhere for a husband, or we will set up an establishment for you to live out your days. Your Aunt Agatha would appropriate alternative, and would allow you to save some of your money. She could offer you shelter and food and assist in correcting your deficiencies.”

            Caroline was embarrassed at the scene before her. How had her family turned against her? “Mr Darcy compromised me. Look at my gown. He tore it while we were alone. Charles, Louisa, you must make Mr Darcy marry me, or we will be ruined.”

            Louisa stepped forward. “Caro, my husband is correct, as is our brother. You must give up this foolishness. Just look at what you are doing. Throwing yourself at a man who not only does not want you but is engaged to another. We should allow the Bennets to have some privacy. Mr Darcy, please forgive us for not keeping Caroline at Netherfield. She will be leaving shortly for Scarborough.”

            “I will not go. There is nothing you can do to make me go to Aunt Aggie’s house. She is cruel and heartless. I will remain here, to continue as Charles’ hostess.”

            “No, you will not. Never again. I wash my hands of you, Caroline.” Bingley declared as he grabbed her arm and pulled her out of the Bennet home. As they walked past the front parlor, Bingley noted the Bennet ladies, except Elizabeth and Jane, were watching what was happening.

            Darcy decided to leave Caroline Bingley in the hands of her siblings. He quickly made his way upstairs, while Caroline cried out for him not to abandon her.

            Entering Elizabeth’s chambers, Darcy noticed that Jane had a concerned look. “Miss Bingley attempted to sway my choice and still refuses to accept that I am betrothed to your sister. Charles and the Hursts have finally had enough of her behavior and are sending her to Scarborough to live with an aunt. Needless to say, Miss Bingley is displeased.”

            “I cannot say I am surprised. Miss Bingley has treated her brother and sister ill to achieve her goals, no matter who it might harm.” Jane stated, shocking Darcy with her less than kind words.

            “Well said, Miss Bennet. If you do not mind me saying, when you and my friend wed, do not allow Miss Bingley a chance to cause any more harm. Forbid her from staying in your home. Bingley might weaken and acquiesce; he will require your strength to keep his resolve.”

            “Thank you Mr Darcy, though I am not engaged to Mr Bingley. I am grateful that you will soon be my brother. Lizzy deserves all the happiness you can bring one another.” A smile graced her lips.

            “I have no doubt that my friend is going to make a request. If all of this had not happened, I am certain he would have already.”

            Elizabeth began to stir. “Is…a problem?”

            “No, dearest, all is well. Miss Bingley was downstairs having a…discussion with Mr Darcy. She was not pleased with your betrothal, as you must already know. The lady has caused her brother to choose to send her to live with an aunt, in Scarborough.” It was difficult for Jane to keep from chuckling.

            “Not taking…Mr Darcy?”

            “Unfortunately, Elizabeth, you are stuck with me. I will not give you up for all the Caroline Bingleys in the world.” Darcy leaned over and gently placed a kiss on the top of her head.

            Drifting back to sleep, Elizabeth smiled contentedly.

            “Thank you, Mr Darcy.” Jane declared.

            Darcy was confused. “I have done nothing for which to be thanked.”

            Patting Darcy’s hand, Jane could not help but care for him. He was so in love with her dearest sister. “Thank you for loving Lizzy. She deserves to be treated with love. I know that you will cherish her for the precious lady Lizzy is.”

            A blush tinted Darcy’s cheek. “It is a blessing to me that she has accepted me. I count myself to be the most fortunate man in all England, if not the world.”

            Before too late in the night, Darcy excused himself to his bedchamber. Once dressed in his nightshirt and robe, he took a glass of brandy to the chair near the fireplace. On the table next to the chair was the book he had been attempting to read. Looking at the pages he had last read, the gentleman shook his head. He had not changed pages in a few days.

Fitzwilliam Darcy’s attention was taken completely by the young lady who had stolen his heart. After the horrifying events that had occurred with Miss Bingley, the gentleman was pleased to know he would not be forced to spend the rest of his life tied to such a disgusting female who would ruin herself to become his wife. Miss Bingley would do anything she could to marry him, including destroying her reputation to force her brother to insist on Darcy marrying her. Little did the woman know that her brother would never force his friend to marry her, no matter what happened. Darcy and Bingley had agreed on the matter after the first time Miss Bingley learned of her brother’s friend.

Shudders coursed through his body at the thought of the fawning, insipid woman as his wife. As he walked to his bed, the image of Elizabeth in his arms came to his mind. The smile that took hold of his expression froze in place as he fell asleep. With dreams of the lady he loved, Darcy had the best night of sleep he had in weeks.

Chapter 12

“Be certain that all your belongings are packed. I will not have further contact with you.” Bingley fumed as he escorted his sister to her chambers. “You will remain here, in your rooms, until I receive word from Aunt Aggie. There will be footmen guarding the doors, so make no attempt to leave the your chambers. Once our aunt has replied to my express, we will have footmen escort you to Scarborough.”

            “You cannot force me to go to Aunt Aggie’s. I will not live with her.” Caroline crossed her thin arms over her chest as she huffed her response.

            “Then you will have an establishment formed for you. Hurst, will you take Caroline to wherever she wishes to live the rest of her life?”

            “Of course. Perhaps she would like to have her home in one of the seaside towns. Ramsgate or Brighton would do nicely.”

            “I want to live in London. Why can I not live with you and Louisa at your townhouse?”

            Both the men threw up their hands and left the room, frustrated with the harpy who would not accept the truth.

            Louisa was finally finding her courage to put her sister in her place. “Because you have made my marriage trying on our nerves. Have you been so selfish to realize that we do not visit my husband’s family at their estate? It is due to your behavior when you joined us the last time. Gilbert’s parents have given us strict orders when it comes to visiting them…you are not welcome to join us. After what you did today, all invitations to the balls and dinner parties you covet, will be denied to you due to Mr Darcy’s fury. He will never accept you being near him, and I am certain he will notify his aunt, Lady Matlock, that you will no longer be tolerated using his name to garner invitations. Lady Matlock will have all of society aware of your misdeeds within a week. What you have done has destroyed any future as you desire.”

            “Mr Darcy will come to his senses and realize the truth. Miss Eliza is not fit for such society. She should never leave her country origins and choose to marry some country nobody, never trying to excel past her station in life. Who knows for certain what she did to injure herself? Most likely she did something foolish and is attempting to cover her behavior by blaming Mr Collins.”

            “Enough, Caroline! You realize that our father and grandfathers came into their wealth by trade? Miss Elizabeth, and all her sisters, are gentlewomen. They are above us in society. If Charles marries Miss Bennet, it will raise him higher, just as Gilbert did for me when we married. Your opinion of my husband has never been high, but you have been the cause of any difficulties we have in our marriage.”

            “Your husband is a disgrace. He is a drunk and worthless except when it comes to hunting, eating and drinking. When I marry Mr Darcy, we will not be extending invitations for you and Hurst to come to Pemberley or Darcy House.”

            “Are you daft? Have you not heard a word any of us have told you? Mr Darcy will never marry you, and no matter what you try, Charles and Gilbert will not demand him to marry you, as they knew that any ruination of your reputation would be of your own making.”

            “I only needed to keep Mr Darcy here, away from that chit. If only my plan had worked, the constable would have insisted on Mr Darcy staying here or somewhere guarded, so he could not be with Miss Eliza.”

            Louisa could not believe what she was hearing. Had her sister tried having Mr Darcy blamed for the murder? “Caroline, what did you do? Did you place the knife in Mr Darcy’s dressing room?”

            “I had to do something. He cannot marry that…that harlot. She has bewitched his mind with her arts and allurements. He will regret being with her, as all his family and friends will refuse to have anything to do with him. Mr Darcy will be an outcast if he marries her.”

            “It is not your decision to make for Mr Darcy. The gentleman made his choice. You must respect his decision and move on with your life. Find someone for yourself and make a life of your own.”

            “You are of no use to me.” Caroline huffed as she stomped from the room.

            Louisa knew that she had to speak with her husband and her brother. They needed to know what Caroline admitted to doing with the knife and that their sister was showing the same sort of behaviors that their mother had just before her death. It was not a topic Louisa wished to ever speak of, but she knew more of their mother’s death and the behavior that had led up to the terrible day. Charles had been only two years old, and Caroline was nearly six. Louisa had been twelve, and she had heard the whispers and tittle tattle from their family and servants.

            Making her way to the study, Louisa found both the men who were important to her. “Charles, Gilbert, we need to have a discussion.”

            Hurst could see that something drastic must have happened. “Of course, my dear. What has happened?” he made his way across the floor, taking her by the arm and leading her to the nearby sofa. “Do you wish for some wine or sherry?”

            A smile graced Louisa’s lips as she gazed at her husband. “Perhaps a sherry would be nice. You and Charles might wish a glass for yourselves, as I have a difficult tale to tell.”

            Over the next hour, Louisa described to her brother and husband all she knew of their mother. She told of the first time she knew something was wrong with their mother, which was when Louisa was only four.

One night, the child Louisa was awakened by the sound of screaming. It was loud and disconcerting. The little girl snuck out of her bed and down the hall to their mother’s chamber.

            The door was open slightly, and Louisa peaked inside the room. Her father was attempting to call her mother, who was screeching when she spoke. “It was another girl. Another girl. I am cursed, as I did everything the midwife suggested and am still without giving you an heir. I blame that brat. Her birth has cursed me. Why was I able to birth her and not a son? A girl is a waste for you. What will happen if you were to die? “

            “Do not fret so, my dear. I am certain we will have a son.” Her husband attempted to soothe his wife.

            “No, no, that girl has ruined my chances of having a son.”

            “My dear, you are only distraught because of the loss of our newest daughter. Her death is difficult for all of us.”

            Mrs Bingley shook her head. “That demon girl caused me to lose the babe. It is all her fault.”

            “Perhaps we should have a holiday. We could go to take the waters at Ramsgate. A little sea bathing could set up nicely.” Peter Bingley attempted to find any way to calm his wife. It was difficult when she was in such a mood.

            “Do you believe it will aid me? Could my sister accompany us?” the first hint of a smile formed on Ethel Bingley’s lips.

            “If that is your desire, your sister is welcome to join us.” Peter stated, hoping that this would have the desired change in his wife’s thinking. Her sister, Edith Cromwell, was a wise woman. She would assist her family towards recovery. Edith Cromwell was married to a captain on one of the naval frigates on the sea, protecting the British lands from being attacked. 

            Even years later, after giving birth to a son, Mrs Bingley treated her second daughter ill. Caroline attempted to gain her mother’s approval, desperately doing what she could to appear deserving of the love Mrs Bingley had refused to give her. All Caroline ever heard was how money would always gain their access to the first circle, money, and connections.

            “I believe our mother was ill, and I can see some of the same traits in Caroline. She is determined that she will be the next Mrs Darcy, no matter what happens or who gets in her way.”

            “Do you believe she could be dangerous? Would she cause harm to another person?” Bingley asked, after taking a few moments to gather is wits.

            “I doubt she would have committed the murder of Mr Collins, but I would not doubt her ability to harm someone she sees as a rival for Mr Darcy’s hand. Miss Elizabeth could be in danger. We will need to keep a watchful eye on Caroline, especially if she were left alone with Miss Elizabeth.”

            “Perhaps it would be wise for us to send for our physician in town. He has taken care of our family since your were a small child. Matthews knew mother and has been familiar with Caroline since she was a babe.” Bingley made to move towards his desk.

            Before he was able to move far, Louisa reached over and took hold of her brother’s arm.

            “There is one more thing I must tell you. If Caroline is following in Mother’s footsteps, you must know a truth that has been kept secret.” Louisa took a deep breath before she continued. “I wish I did not have to speak of this, but it is time you know the truth. Mother did not die from an illness, as we were told. You were so young at the time, your memories of her the final year of her life are innocent. Our mother suffered terribly from her nerves. In the end, she would not leave her bedchamber, then Mother ended her own life. She used a knife to cut her arms while she was in the bathing tub.”

            The news was unlike anything Charles would have expected to hear. “Mother took her own life? Why did I never know about this?”

            “How does one tell an innocent child that their mother died by her own hand? Father was working long hours at the mills, leaving us in the care of the governess and the nursery maid. Caroline was difficult as she had dedicated her life to win our mother’s approval, and when Mother was gone, Caroline did not know how to change.  In her mind, our sister is still attempting to please our mother.”

            “Mother was impressed with society, wishing to be part of the upper circle. I can remember overhearing Father speaking with our uncle. Father stated that Mother was never satisfied and always wished to be an influential member of the ton. With Caroline’s behavior, it is clear to see she is following what she thinks will gain her attention and praise.”

            “Perhaps it would be best if you were to write the message to our physician. With my poor penmanship, not to mention my mind being torn at the moment, I would be unable to make a legible missive.”

            “Of course, Charles. Know that I will do whatever I can to assist you.”

            Hurst joined his wife, voicing his support. “You will have both of us to lean on through this time.”

            Bingley nodded his head. “I am grateful to you both. More than words can say.”