Mr Bennet enjoyed the discussion that took place in his study with the men. It was obvious to anyone with eyes to see the closeness of the cousins. They were more like brothers and the best of friends. Colonel Fitzwilliams was a wise man, having risen through the ranks on his own merits rather than by purchasing the position outright. Mr Bennet could estimate the respect that the men under his command had for the man.
Not an hour had passed before a knock was heard at the door of the study. Upon Mr Bennet’s call of enter, Mrs Hill opened the door slightly.
“Sir, Mr Bingley is here.”
“Show the man in, Mrs Hill, and send in some refreshments.”
Bingley entered the room, surprised to see the colonel. “Colonel, a pleasure to see you again. Darcy did not inform me you would be joining him. What brings you here?”
“William had no notion of my having returned from the continent, which I arrived only two days ago. Then my aunt arrived late last night at my parents’ townhouse in London, after being here, demanding my cousin to due his duty to our cousin. My father sent me to assist in whatever way I could so our Darcy is not forced into any marriage he does not wish.”
“Ah, yes, speaking of people attempting to force his hand, my sister is temporarily being kept at Netherfield. Louisa and Hurst are doing everything possible to keep her contained while we await the arrival of our family physician.”
Darcy frowned. “Has something happened?”
“Louisa informed me and her husband of a difficulty with our mother when Caroline was born. It appears that Mother had been furious that Caroline was not the son she demanded and refused to have anything to do with my younger sister. Caroline tried desperately to gain Mother’s approval, and Father always did what he could to calm her, which usually came to being giving Caroline trinkets and other gifts. In Caroline’s mind, she deserves to be part of the first circles, no matter what it took to get there.”
“The physician is coming?” Mr Bennet inquired.
“Yes, I received word this morning that he will be here around one. I apologize Mr Bennet, as I asked him to meet me here, so we can discuss the matter before we make our way to Netherfield. Caroline will not be pleased, so I wish to be prepared for what is to come.”
Mr Bennet nodded his head. “After all you have done for my family, I have no difficulty in your having your meeting here at Longbourn. You are always welcome. When he arrives, you and he are welcome to use my study.”
“Oh, do not feel you need to give us privacy. I wish for you to be involved in the discussion. Darcy and you have been witnessed to my sister’s atrocious behavior and it is better to have all of us give the complete description of her actions, so we do not miss anything.”
All the men nodded their heads and agreed to be at Bingley’s back through what was to come. Knowing that the physician would likely find Miss Bingley ill of mind, the man would require all the support he could get. They were all of the same mind, Miss Bingley would not accept what was to come.
Darcy excused himself from the study and made his way up to check on Elizabeth’s wellbeing. As soon as he left the room, Colonel Fitzwilliam decided to learn more about the Bennet family, and, in particular, Miss Elizabeth Bennet.
“I have never seen my cousin so taken with a young lady. For most of his life, since he reached his majority, he has been sought after for his wealth and connections. Though he has no title of his own, our grandfather was an earl, and my father is the current earl. None have ever engaged him in a conversation of any substance, let alone to touch his heart. When I learned he had engaged himself to a Miss Elizabeth Bennet of Longbourn, someone of whom none in my family has ever heard mentioned, it was shocking.”
“Lizzy is a unique young lady. She is intelligent and kind, devoted to those she cares about, and a joy to be around.” Mr Bennet declared. “Of all my daughters, Jane and Lizzy are the greatest delight of my life. The younger girls are still young and silly, and my wife has been concerned of getting them all married as soon as possible, as Mr Collins was to inherit the estate. My grandfather had placed an entail on the estate to the male line of the family. With his death, we are searching for who will inherit now. But my wife has feared for what was to come if I were to die and she would end in the hedgerows. Unfortunately, my wife has never paid attention to what I have told her, as she would never be thrown off Longbourn property.”
The colonel’s eyebrows rose on his forehead. “Is your eldest in an understanding?”
Bingley sat up straight and tall. “You are too late, Colonel. I plan to wed Miss Bennet. We, Miss Bennet and I, felt it important to wait until Miss Elizabeth recovers before we discussed our future.”
Seeing the young man puffed up as if he were a peacock, Colonel Fitzwilliam chuckled. “Have no fear, Bingley. I would never stand in your way to happiness. As Mr Bennet has declared the younger sisters as silly, I will have to settle for looking elsewhere for my future wife.”
“Did I understand that you brought a special license for Darcy to wed? How were you able to achieve such in so short of time?” Bingley was curious.
“You did not know that William’s godfather is the archbishop? My father went to his home, told him that William had found a lady and wished to wed. The archbishop was more than happy for his godson and was more than willing to assist William.” Colonel Fitzwilliam stated with a smile. “We had all come to the belief that no one would ever win my cousin’s heart. As you are aware, he does not care about those empty head women of the ton. No, William has always wished for a wife who would be able to carry a conversation on more than the latest fashions or gossip.”
“He has superior tastes, and I can agree with him. Miss Bennet might be demure and some might misunderstand her quiet, shy manners as being a weak. Once you come to know her, she is extremely intelligent, loyal to her loved ones, and kind to everyone. Though she appears calm, she is fierce when someone she cares about is harmed.” Bingley spoke with admiration of his angel.
“You have seen nothing. When she was young, Jane found Lizzy crying because John Lucas had thrown a mudball at her, causing Lizzy to fall and twist her ankle. Once Jane ensured her sister was safely in the house and cared for, my eldest daughter made her way to Lucas Lodge and confronted John. From what I was told by Sir William, Jane smacked John’s cheek and threw the largest mudball, striking him in his face. I never would have believed her capable of such behavior, and Sir William was shocked. He gave her a ride back to Longbourn, and when he joined me in my study, Sir William told me he didn’t know how to react, as he wanted desperately to laugh.”
Darcy returned to the study, surprised at the jovial atmosphere in the room. “What have I missed?”
“We just learned that your intended is not the only one who has strong emotions when necessary. From what Mr Bennet just told us, Bingley will not be safe if he crosses Miss Bennet.” The colonel laughed as he told his cousin of the tale the gentleman had told of the eldest sister.
Mr Bennet rang for his housekeeper to bring more refreshments. “Mrs Hill, there will be a physician arriving to speak with Mr Bingley. Please escort him here when he arrives.”
“There is a physician just arrived, stating he was sent for by Mr Darcy. I had my husband take him to Miss Lizzy’s room.” The housekeeper was confused.
Jumping to his feet, Darcy made his way out of the room. Once again, he returned upstairs to his beloved’s room.
Mr Bennet rose from his chair, excusing himself to the other men. “Please feel free to stay here. When your family physician arrives, he will be brought to you.”
The master of Longbourn arrived at his cherished daughter’s bedchamber as Darcy knocked on the door. Jane peeked out before opening the door wider for both the gentlemen to enter. The physician turned to see his friend.
“Darcy, sorry I was delayed leaving town. Had an emergency that took longer than I would have liked.” He held his hand out to Darcy.
Darcy shook the hand offered him. “Danville, I am grateful you were able to come. This young lady is my betrothed, Miss Elizabeth Bennet. She has suffered from an unfortunate incident, then she foolishly attempted to leave the house. As she arrived at the bottom of the stairs, she collapsed, striking her head. You will find a knot on the side of her head. This is her elder sister, Miss Jane Bennet, and their father, Mr Thomas Bennet.”
Danville turned to his patient. “Well, let us see the damage. Gentlemen, if you could give us a few minutes. Miss Bennet, if you would remain with me, I would be grateful.”
Mr Bennet and Darcy stepped outside in the room and waited patiently…if that is what one could call endless pacing. After what seemed to be hours, the door opened again, and Danville removed from the room.
“Where could we go to speak?”
Neither of the other men could speak, dread was felt by each. Mr Bennet motioned towards his own chambers, as he had a sitting room attached to it. Once the men sat down and the door was closed, Danville spoke.
“I did not wish to cause Miss Elizabeth further pain by asking her to speak too much. Miss Bennet suggested you would have more information as to what happened to her.”
Darcy felt himself becoming angered at the memory of what had occurred the night of the ball. Having known the physician for many years, Darcy was certain that the man could be trusted with the truth of what had occurred. “Miss Elizabeth was assaulted by her father’s cousin. He was the heir to this estate and believed Mrs Bennet had given him permission for him to marry Miss Elizabeth. He became angry with his suit being declined and began striking her face and left scratch marks on her chest while tearing her gown.”
“Dear God, such a brute should be locked up. How did she come by the lump on her head?”
“Mr Collins, who attacked my betrothed, was found murdered the following morning. When I was taken by the constable to speak with the magistrate, Elizabeth feared for my being blamed for the murder. She left her bed and nearly made it to the bottom step when she collapsed and struck her head. When she woke, several hours later, she had ringing in her ears and a severe headache.”
“We will need to keep her in her bed for now. If she will not abide by this, I suggest a rope to tie her down. It would not be good for her to have further injury.” Danville stated.
Mr Bennet chuckled lightly. “I have threatened such whenever she has been ill or injured, since she was a small child.”
Danville explained his plans for Elizabeth’s treatment. Besides remaining in bed, he suggested adding feverfew and ginger to the willow bark tea that was being given Elizabeth. “They are well known for their benefits for headache and swelling. It should aid in relieving the pain for her. I wish I had some butterbur, as it has healing properties for headaches as well.”
“How long do you think she should remain in bed?” Darcy asked. “My uncle secured a special license for us to marry and we would prefer to wed as soon as possible, as my Aunt Catherine will try to prevent the marriage.”
“If you were to carry her to the room you will wed from, I see no reason she could tolerate a short time out of her bed. After speaking with her, I do not fear any permanent damage to her mind. The lump on her head will decrease, and when it is gone, I feel safe in saying she will be fine.”
Darcy and his future father in law let out sighs of relief.
“How soon do you wish to marry my daughter? I am certain the parson from Meryton would be willing to perform the ceremony at a moment’s notice.”
“I wish to speak with Elizabeth, but I hope she will see the need to marry soon, so that my aunt cannot do anything. Having my cousin here will add the family support to the marriage. As he brought the license, which my uncle obtained from my godfather, it will add support as well. The last thing I wish for is my aunt to return and declaring her lies of an engagement to her daughter.”
“If you do not mind, Darcy, I would be pleased to remain until your betrothed and you are wed. As I am the second son of an earl, and have known your family since you were young, being friends with your parents and your Matlock relations, I am willing to add my name to strengthen your marriage so that Lady Catherine can do nothing to dissolve your union. It would also give you peace of mind to have your soon to be wife checked after the wedding when she is returned to her bed.”
“Danville, I would be grateful for your assistance. Allow me a moment to speak with Elizabeth.” Darcy said, standing and making his way from the room.
Mr Danville smiled. “I have known the man since he was just a babe. His father and I were close friends. We attended Oxford together, as did Lord Matlock. My wife is a distant cousin of the Fitzwilliam family. Our son went to Oxford with the young man you know. To say he is one of the finest men I know is an understatement.”
“Though I have only known him a short time, I could not have let my dearest daughter marry a lesser man. He has my respect.”
While the men were discussing him, Darcy was entering his beloved’s chamber. He was pleased to see Elizabeth was awake.
“Miss Bennet, would you mind giving your sister and I a moment to speak?”
Jane chuckled softly. “Only if you call me Jane. My family calls me Jane, and you will soon be my brother.”
A smile came over Darcy’s lips. “Thank you, Jane.”
Jane left the room, leaving the door open slightly for propriety sake.
Sitting on the side of Elizabeth’s bed, Darcy lifted her hand to his lips. “Dearest, my physician has stated your injuries should heal soon, though you will need to do as you are told. That means no removing from this bed until you are allowed.”
Elizabeth gave a slight laugh. “I have learned… my lesson, William.”
“Thank the heavens. You father and I were prepared to send for some rope to secure you to the bed. He stated that you have tested his patience when you have been ill or injured in the past. I cannot lose you, my dearest. You would take my heart with you.”
“Will behave.” Elizabeth squeezed his hand. “You have my heart.”
“My cousin arrived earlier. He was at Matlock House in London when our aunt, Lady Catherine, arrived. As I had sent an express to my uncle prior to Lady Catherine coming here, Uncle Henry knew of my feelings and plans to marry you. After hearing his sister ranting, and she had retired to her chambers, he went to my godfather. As my godfather is the archbishop, Uncle Henry convinced him to issue a special license. Colonel Fitzwilliam brought it to me. It is your father’s and my opinion we marry sooner rather than later. That way my aunt cannot disturb our wedding and cause any problems for us.”
Elizabeth gasped. “I must look…a fright.”
“My dearest love, no matter what has happened, you are the most beautiful lady of my acquaintance. What you have endured is of a temporary nature. It is my desire that you are my wife as soon as possible, though if you wish for more time, I will respect your decision. My aunt is not the only reason for my opinion. I love you and want to be your husband, so no one and nothing can separate us ever. Your father has been kind, but I prefer to have you secure as my wife.”
“When do you wish?”
“Would today be too soon?” Darcy placed another kiss on the back of her hand.
“Yes, my love. Today. Your father has stated he could request the parson come and we can marry from the drawing room. You will be carried there, not make any attempt to walk anywhere. Danville will remain, so that we have medical care for you, just in case it is required.”
Looking into his eyes, Elizabeth knew what her own heart desired. “Yes, I will marry…you today.”
Darcy could not be happier than he was at that moment. His dimples were on display as his smile was nearly spread from ear to ear. “I will inform your father and I am certain you will wish for Jane to attend you. It will be my honor to meet you shortly in the parlor.” He placed a kiss gently on her forehead.
Mr Bennet was not surprised that his daughter agreed to the wedding. So sure of her decision he was, he sent a footman to Meryton with a note for Parson Miller to come to Longbourn as soon as he could. Once the note was sent, Mr Bennet spoke with Mrs Hill and the Longbourn cook to fix a small celebration for the family and few friends.
When everything was in place, Mr Bennet approached the one disagreeable aspect of the day. He knew he would have to speak with his wife. Mrs Bennet was found in the parlor, displeased with the fact that Colonel Fitzwilliam was ignoring Lydia and Kitty.
“Mrs Bennet, we will be having a wedding here as soon as the parson arrives.”
“No, you must be teasing me. Oh, my nerves. How cruel you are to me.” Mrs Bennet glared at her husband.
“I have no intent to tease you, Mrs Bennet. You heard me correctly, there will be a wedding here soon.”
“Oh, Mr Bingley is to wed Jane. Why did you not tell me before? How can we have a proper wedding with no time to call the banns or have a wedding gown made? It will need to be delayed for at least three weeks, so the banns to be read, giving us time to have her trousseau made.”
“It is not Jane who is to marry. Though I know Mr Bingley has strong feelings for Jane, but it will be Elizabeth who will be marrying Mr Darcy.”
“It cannot be. Mr Darcy, he must marry Lydia, not Lizzy. She does not deserve such a man. Refusing Mr Collins, she should be sent away from here, not rewarded with a man worth ten thousand per annum. Lydia would be a better bride for such a man as Mr Darcy.”
“Mrs Bennet, we have discussed this previously. Mr Darcy is engaged to Lizzy. If you cannot accept that, you may remain in your chambers during the ceremony. He does not wish to marry a silly girl who should not even be out, as Lydia does not behave properly. It is time to put my foot down and correct the behavior of our younger daughters. Kitty does whatever Lydia does, and Mary is ignored by both of us. Enough is enough. I will not allow this to continue.”
“Lydia is a good girl; she is so lively and attractive. All the officers enjoy dancing with her. Mr Darcy would find Lydia to be a better choice for wife.”
“Lydia only thinks of flirting, dancing, and fashion. All the things Mr Darcy finds repulsive. If he wanted such a wife, he could find plenty such females in London. He desires a lady who he can respect and rely on for intelligent conversation. The gentleman desires Lizzy for his bride.”
“If he is such a fool to choose that bookish girl, he does not deserve the happiness he would have with someone like my dear Lydia. The wedding will take at least a month. The banns must be read, and we must wait for Lizzy’s injuries to fade. A man of such wealth will require a grand wedding.”
“It will be a quiet ceremony and will be held either today or tomorrow. They do not wish to wait, and Mr Darcy has a special license, as the archbishop is his godfather. Mr Darcy’s uncle is the Earl of Matlock, and he is supporting the marriage, which is why the colonel is here.”
“The nephew of an earl and you are accepting a patched up marriage? Mr Bennet, how can you think such is acceptable. You will ruin our family’s reputation. How will we find proper husbands for the rest of our daughters if you will allow such a marriage? It will appear that your daughter was ruined, which you have declared she was not. No, it cannot be done.”
“This is the final time I am going to tell you, Mrs Bennet. Mr Darcy and Lizzy will be marrying either today or tomorrow. If you cannot contain yourself, you will remain in your room. You will not ruin our daughter’s day. Do I make myself clear?”
“I would not wish for anyone to think I had anything to do with such an event. As you are well aware, I am known for my hostess abilities. To be involved with such a wedding would ruin my reputation.”
A knock on the parl–;p+-‘y5++++++or door alerted Mr Bennet that someone had arrived. It was the physician sent for by Mr Bingley. The gentleman showed the physician to his study, where Bingley and Colonel Fitzwilliam had remained.
Shortly after Mr Bennet took his seat behind his desk, there was a knock on the door. When the master of Longbourn called for the person to enter, it was the footman with word that the parson, Mr Miller, would arrive in two hours. Mr Bennet requested the footman to take the message up to Darcy, and ask the gentleman to join the other men in the study.
Poor Mary put in the same group as her stupid younger sisters. Such a pity the Colonel is not interested in her – they are my favourite couple to read about