Sorry for the delay on posting. Here are the next chapters.
The next afternoon, more trouble arrived on the doorstep of Longbourn.
“Where is my nephew? I demand to speak to him immediately.” Came the strong and demanding voice that was unfamiliar to the Bennet family. Mrs Hill attempted to contain the lady, insisting that she wait to be announced to the family. The grand lady refused to be delayed a moment longer. “Out of my way. I insist on speaking to my nephew.”
“Forgive me, I do not know who your nephew is. If you would allow me to locate my master, Mr Bennet, perhaps he will be able to assist you.” The housekeeper was flummoxed with the woman’s rudeness.
Refusing to accept what a servant had told her, the lady forced her way past Mrs Hill. At each door along the hallway, the lady opened the door and looked inside. Finally, Mr Bennet, who had just left his daughter’s room to check on her, came down the stairs to discover what the commotion was about.
“Mrs Hill, who is this person?”
“She did not say her name, though I asked for it more than once. The lady claims to be searching for her nephew, though she has refused to give me the nephew’s name.”
Sounds of footsteps were heard coming from the stairs. “Lady Catherine, what are you doing here, disturbing everyone and making such a ruckus?” Darcy demanded.
“There you are Darcy. Gather your belongings and we will leave here with all due haste. Anne is in the carriage, waiting for us to join her. We will go to London, staying at the townhouse while we sort this mess out.”
“No, Lady Catherine, I am not leaving here. My betrothed was injured and I will be staying at her side until she is recovered.”
Lady Catherine de Bourgh refused to accept his response. “You will come with me, or I will have you declared incompetent and take over running Pemberley. You are engaged to Anne, and you will be marrying her before the week is over. We need to quash the talk about you marrying another. I will not allow you to ruin your life over some trollop.”
Anger built inside Darcy. Never had he wished to strike a woman as he did that moment. “I have told you many times, as has Anne and Uncle Henry, that I will not be marrying Anne. We do not wish for such a union, which we have all informed you. This is the home of my betrothed and I will not have you disrespect her family.”
“If you do not leave with me right now, I will speak to our solicitor,”
Mr Bennet decided to assist his future son. “Forgive me, but Mr Darcy cannot leave the area. The constable and the magistrate are investigating a murder and they informed Mr Darcy that he would need to remain here or in the gaol. He promised he would stay here.”
“How dare you speak to me in such a manner? Do you not understand I am his nearest relations? Darcy will not be arrested, no one would dare go against the de Bourgh or Fitzwilliam names. My brother is Lord Matlock, he will be displeased with how you and others of this wretched place have treated me.” The woman’s voice grew in volume. “Darcy, we need to remove from here immediately. Forget your belongings, we will send word to your valet to bring your items and meet us at Darcy House in London.”
“No, Aunt. I am not going anywhere. I am remaining here.”
“I came to retrieve you from this obvious attempt to compromise you into a marriage. Just look, my parson came here and then vanished. He wrote to me that he was to marry Miss Elizabeth Bennet. When he did not write again, as he was expected to do, I knew that something evil had happened. When I received a letter informing me of Mr Collins being murdered, I had to come. My word, the things that are being said in the village about Mr Collins and the Bennets. There were some things said about you, but I knew them to be falsehoods.”
“That you were to marry the very same Elizabeth Bennet as my parson had informed me was to be his bride. That some believe you killed Mr Collins out of a jealous rage. As you are to marry Anne, I cannot imagine any such statements. You would never renounce your betrothal to her.”
Darcy was on edge of raging at his aunt. There had been no betrothal between himself and his cousin. He had no betrothal with anyone prior to Elizabeth Bennet. Anne de Bourgh understood that her frail health would never allow her to carry a child. Without an heir, Pemberley would be in jeopardy. She had informed her mother many times that there would never be a marriage between the two cousins, though Lady Catherine refused to accept the truth. The gentleman took several deep breaths before speaking.
“How did you come to be here? What made you leave Rosings and come all this way? Collins did not know of my desire to marry Elizabeth, so he cannot have written to you.”
Lady Catherine attempted to be imperial, straightening up and lifting her chin. “Someone who knew of your engagement to my daughter sent an express informing me of my parson’s death and stated that you were in danger. As your nearest relations, I hurried here to protect you from harm and assist you in refuting the lies.”
“I will hear this no more. I suggest you make your way to Meryton and take rooms at the inn. Tomorrow, I will send word as to the time I will come to speak with you.” Darcy had had his fill of his aunt’s nonsense.
“You would repay my devotion by forcing me to take rooms in some country inn which probably never gets cleaned properly. It would be best for us to stay where you are.”
“That will not be possible. There are no more rooms to spare and you would not like the people who live there.” Darcy knew she would have a fit, shouting and waving her cane as a weapon.
“I remember your friend comes from trade. It is still better than an inn.”
“No, your ladyship, I am not staying with my friends. I am staying here, at Longbourn, to assist in caring for my fiancé.”
“But…but…Surely you are aware that someone in her family is a murderer. You cannot remain here, as it will mean your demise. This chit and her family are grasping fortune hunters.” Lady Catherine demanded.
“Miss Elizabeth is bedridden after being beaten by your parson. The man you gave the living at Hunsford, he was a brute who would have beaten Elizabeth to death if I had not stopped him. I was witness to what he did, and I will shed not one tear for him dying.” Darcy’s temper was beginning to boil. “If I ever hear any lies about my betrothal to Elizabeth, I will speak with your brother about your capacity to control Rosings. Anne should have inherited the estate two years ago, but she has allowed you to make the decisions. Perhaps it is time that Uncle Henry assists Anne in taking her inheritance and send you to the dower house.” Darcy glared at his aunt, standing his full height, and because he was much taller than she, Lady Catherine was required to step back to be able to look up at her nephew, making her ladyship extremely uncomfortable.
“But you are the one in danger. Perhaps it was one of her parents or her sisters? Maybe it was a jealous lover she jilted. They could kill you next. Besides, how do we know what occurred between her and Collins? I find it ridiculous that such anyone would dare to disparage Mr Collins’ reputation. When I gave him the living at Hunsford, I did a thorough investigation into his worthiness. Mr Collins wrote to me declaring the eldest Miss Bennet to be far superior in her beauty and serenity, so it is more likely this younger sister attempted to compromise my parson, to force him to marry her rather than her elder sister.”
“DO . NOT . EVER . SAY . SUCH . AGAIN! I was witness to what happened. Do not ever say anything about Elizabeth again.” Darcy had reached the end of his patience with his mother’s sister. “You will leave here immediately, and never disparage my fiancé again! You will never be allowed entrance into any of my homes.”
Fury darted from Lady Catherine’s eyes. “You are a disgrace to our family. I will make you regret your choice. You will see. My brother will be ashamed of you, and he will agree with me to remove Georgiana from your care. Henry will see that the best place for Georgiana is for her to live with me, especially as she prepares for her coming out.”
“You will never see my sister again. On that I can promise. Uncle Henry will stand with me, as he and I have spoken of your threats previously. Now, leave here.” Darcy stepped closer to his aunt, making it difficult for her to look at his face. As Darcy escorted her from the house, the gentleman hissed to his aunt. “Just so you are aware, as I was witness, I can testify to anyone of Mr Collins’ depravity. The man was evil, completely evil. He felt it within his rights to abuse a gentlewoman because she would not agree with him. Collins thought the agreement with Mrs Bennet of his choice of bride made it official, though he had never spoken to either Miss Elizabeth or her father. Her father refused to agree with Mr Collins, and he would never have forced his daughter into such a match. That was before witnessing the injuries from the attack on a most beloved daughter.” Then the gentleman closed the door behind him, ignoring his aunt standing on the doorstep, then he made his way back up the stairs. He felt wise at having already sent a message to the earl earlier that day, as Darcy was certain his aunt’s next stop would be London.
On his way to return upstairs to check on Elizabeth, Darcy noticed Mr Bennet and Mary Bennet peeking out from the parlor door. A chuckle escaped the younger man.
“Please forgive me for all the difficulties that I have brought to your doorstep.”
“Mr Darcy, I do not hold you responsible for their foolishness. Just as I would hope that no one holds me responsible for Mr Collins’ behavior.”
The two men laughed as Mary covered her mouth with her hand.
“Mary, child, one day you will understand that being a parson does not necessarily make the man a good person. He was a man first. His behavior was wrong, bringing harm to anyone goes against the teachings of the church.”
“He seemed to be wise and forthright. It is difficult to know that he was cruel and heartless. There are always serpents ready to lead us astray.” Mary returned to the parlor while Mr Bennet walked the younger man back up the stairs.
“Darcy, do not, for even a moment, think I believed anything your aunt was spouting. I know you to be an honest man and devoted to my girl. You have given your heart to Lizzy, it is plain to see. Besides, anyone who thinks my cousin was a good man is not worth listening to.”
“Thank you, Bennet. I am grateful for all you have done for me, allowing me to be with Elizabeth, which is something most fathers would not have considered, let alone allowing it.”
Placing a hand gently on Darcy’s shoulder, Mr Bennet smiled. “I could not have let her go to a lesser man.”
“Lizzy, Lady Lucas was just here. She asked after you, and wanted me to tell you that everyone at Lucas Lodge send their best wishes for your recovery.”
“Thank you, Jane… Was Charlotte… with her mother? I would love… to have her visit… as she is always a… balm to my soul.”
“No, Lady Lucas stated that Charlotte is unwell. A slight cold, but she felt it was best to stay away, as she would not wish for you to take ill while recovering from your injuries.”
“Have they come any… closer to discovering… who killed Mr Collins?”
“According to what everyone is saying, it has been difficult to determine. Most everyone who had a reason to see our cousin avenged for what happened at the ball have been cleared of suspicion. Fortunately, those who would be the top of the list of suspects, such as your betrothed and our father, have been cleared. We learned that Miss Bingley placed the knife in Mr Darcy’s chambers to place suspicion on him, so he would be kept away from you. Papa was here, spending most of the night either in your room or in his study. As you are aware, Papa would not walk to Netherfield when his gout is acting up, and Mr Jones was with Papa most of the night. Charles would never harm anyone, even as evil as Mr Collins was.”
“Where is Mr Darcy?” Elizabeth inquired.
“Resting. After all that has happened, the poor man has had very little sleep. Especially after Miss Bingley’s attempt to compromise him yesterday, and his aunt arrived earlier today, demanding he leave with her immediately.” Jane gasped as she realized what she had divulged.
“Do not fret, Jane… Mr Darcy told me… of Miss Bingley’s efforts… to force him into… offering for her.”
“Be grateful that you were not downstairs when Mr Darcy’s aunt arrived.”
Elizabeth chuckled softly. “If Mr Collins is an example… of those with which… Lady Catherine de Bourgh… surrounds herself, I… can only imagine what… the grand lady is… like. When was she here?”
“Over an hour ago. Mr Darcy sent her on her way, after they argued. Lady Catherine demanded him leave with her, and he refused. When she insisted on being allowed rooms at Netherfield, Mr Darcy told her to stay at the inn. Her ladyship did not appreciate such treatment and left for London.”
Panic came over Elizabeth’s expression. “Will she cause problems… for him with his family?”
“Fear not, Lizzy. Mr Darcy had already sent an express to his uncle, the earl of Matlock. He stated that the earl is the head of the Fitzwilliam family and will keep Lady Catherine from causing too much trouble.”
Tears were beginning to streak down Elizabeth’s cheeks. “He must despise me… for bringing such problems to his life.”
“No, my dearest. According to Mr Darcy, it is time for his aunt to understand the truth. Miss Anne de Bourgh does not wish for the match, and their entire family have informed Lady Catherine of the truth.”
Jane made her way across the room to pour her sister a glass of water. When she returned, she aided her sister in drinking some of the cool liquid. “Mr Jones has left some powders for the pain you must be feeling. Would you like me to prepare one of them?”
Though she preferred to speak with Darcy, she did not wish to disturb his rest. After all he had had to endure, Elizabeth knew he deserved to slumber peacefully. Elizabeth also knew that if she did not sleep, she would be limited in seeing her beloved. “Yes, I should take… something for the pain. Thank you so… much, Jane. I am so… grateful to have… such a perfect sister.”
Jane smiled at the tease that her sister had used since they were young children. “Not perfect, as you are well aware, though I am closer to perfection than a certain sister who was born after me.”
“You must be speaking… of Mary. Or perhaps Lydia.” Elizabeth was grateful to her older sister, who she also loved as her dearest friend.
Once the powder had been added to the glass of water, Jane assisted her dear sister to drink the foul tasting concoction. When the glass was empty, Jane made certain Elizabeth was comfortable on her pillow. “Shall I remain with you?”
“I promise to remain… in my bed and sleep. You should rest… as you will want… to look your best for… your gentleman when he… calls on you tomorrow.”
A blush crept upon Jane Bennet’s cheeks, bringing a smile on Elizabeth’s lips. The sisters were certain they would have the future lives of which they had always dreamed. Bidding her sister goodnight, Jane made her way down the hall to her own room.
The two elder Bennet sisters had shared their hopes and dreams for their futures. To have fallen in love with men who were the closest of friends was more than they could have asked for in husbands.
Before long, both sisters were peacefully sleeping, smiling as they dreamed of their beloveds, allowing their dreams to show them their desires.
The following morning brought another unexpected visitor to Longbourn’s manor house. When Mr Hill opened the door, an officer in his military uniform stood before him. “I was told that Mr Darcy was residing here. If he is, could you ask him to speak with me?”
Mr Hill was about to inquire to the man’s name when he heard footsteps coming from behind him.
“Richard, what are you doing here?” Mr Darcy asked of his cousin, Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam. “I had not heard you were returned from the continent.”
The two cousins shook hands. “You did not expect that our aunt to remain silent after her attempt to steal you away from the area?”
“Your parents are in London?”
“Yes. Father was required to arrive early for meetings before the House of Lords is in session, so he had been busy, though he received your express. It was a wise idea to prepare him for when Aunt Catherine showed up. My parents were on their way to dine with Lord and Lady Abercrombie when Lady Catherine arrived on their doorstep. You know how fond Father is of the Abercrombie’s cook, he has tried to bribe her to come to work at Matlock House for years. Having to send his regrets to his friends was difficult enough, but had to remain in the house with his sister and Mother, and only having a cold supper, the poor man was ready for Bedlam.”
“Your mother and Aunt Catherine have always disliked each other. It surprises me that Uncle Henry does not escape to my townhouse.”
“He tried. Mother caught him attempting to flee. She told him that if he left her alone with our aunt, she would not be accountable for her behavior. Once Aunt Catherine leaves, I believe my father will be owing Mother a very nice holiday or an expensive gift.”
“Most likely will depend on how long Lady Catherine remains in London.”
“To hasten our aunt’s departure, Father sent me to find what was happening, so he can placate her by telling her you would attend her at Rosings soon to assist with her books. He did not wish to wait for the post to come to you and you write in return and why pay for a courier when he can send his dearest son. It has the added bonus of calming her ladyship, her thinking I am coming here to convince you to her way of thinking.”
“How many bottles of my port did he promise to give you?” Darcy knew his uncle and cousin raided his cellar, as he had a better stock than the earl had.
“Is it my fault that your father had an extensive stock of some of the finest spirits to be found, even before the little Frenchman began his campaign on the continent.”
“Come, I am certain that the Longbourn cook will have food ready to break our fast.”
The men made their way to the breakfast room, finding Mr Bennet enjoying a cup of coffee in peace, before his silly daughters came down to break their fast.
“Mr Bennet, might I introduce my cousin to you?” Seeing Mr Bennet nod his head, Darcy continued. “Mr Thomas Bennet, this is Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam. Richard, this is Mr Bennet, my future father in law.”
“It is a pleasure to meet you, Mr Bennet. On behalf of our family, allow me to apologize for our aunt’s behavior when she recently came to your home.”
“It is not your apology to make, as you did nothing for which to apologize. To be honest, with all that has happened the last few days, I found it humorous to listen to your aunt rant.” Mr Bennet smiled. “Have you come here to assist in changing Darcy’s mind in regards to marrying my daughter?”
“On the contrary, I am here to make certain my cousin plans to see the marriage go through. My father even assisted my cousin’s wedding. William, Father called in some favors from your godfather, the archbishop, and was able to obtain a special license for you. He wished to make it simplified for you to marry as soon as you wish, avoiding the need for the banns to be read. He did not wish for our aunt to have any time to interrupt your plans.”
Darcy was in shock. “I cannot thank you and your father enough. It has been a difficult time and I must say that I have thought of making a trip to London to obtain a license. With Elizabeth’s injuries, I did not wish to leave her as yet, then the murder of Mr Collins, of which I am still a suspect, I cannot leave the area.”
The colonel frowned. “Why would you be a suspect?”
“I was the one who saw the brutal assault on my betrothed and stepped to her protection. The blackguard was being kept secured in a room at Netherfield, where I was a guest. Then Miss Bingley, in an attempt to keep me away from Elizabeth, planted a knife in my dressing chamber.”
Mr Bennet chuckled. “That woman is determined to become your wife. After her behavior yesterday, nothing she does will be shocking to me.”
“What happened yesterday?” Colonel Fitzwilliam’s eyes darted from Mr Bennet to Darcy and back again.
“For that tale, we will require fortification.” Darcy stated. The men finished their repast and adjourned to Mr Bennet’s study.