Here is the newest story. Used a real event in history, an earthquake which happened in Derbyshire.
Mrs Helen Gardiner was visiting her parents, the owners of Thompson’s Mercantile, in Lambton, Derbyshire. Her mother had been ill and Mrs Gardiner had made the journey from her home, in London, to tend her mother and assist her father in his store. With her, she brought her sixteen year old niece, Elizabeth Bennet.
Elizabeth was the second eldest daughter of Thomas and Fanny Bennet. Thomas was the owner of Longbourn, an estate of mediocre size, located in Hertfordshire. The Bennet family was comprised of five daughters and a son and heir. Elizabeth was the favorite of her father, as both were fond of reading, extremely intelligent, and had very sharp senses of humor.
The eldest of the Bennet daughters was Miss Jane Bennet, two years Elizabeth’s senior, and one of the most beautiful young ladies in the neighborhood surrounding their home. She was also one of the sweetest natured people to be found, never thinking ill of anyone. Jane and Elizabeth were the closest of friends and confidants.
When the Bennet sisters were young, Mrs Bennet was fretting the possibility of not having a son. As the estate was entailed along the male line, if there had been no son, when Mr Bennet died, the estate would be inherited by a distant cousin. Mrs Bennet’s nerves were in a constant state of frazzle, and she was in a constant state of needing her aromatic vinegars. Then, after her third daughter, Mrs Bennet was blessed with a son. Her nerves settled somewhat, though she would have preferred to have another son, just in case. Instead, she gave birth to two more daughters. So Mrs Bennet doted on her son, protecting him and seeing to his needs at all times, even to the detriment of her daughters when necessary.
So Elizabeth and Jane spent a much time with the Gardiner family. While Elizabeth traveled with Mrs Gardiner to Lambton, Jane remained in Town to care for the three Gardiner children, so that Mr Gardiner could focus his attention on his business, Gardiner Imports.
~~ ** ~~
Near Lambton was one of the largest estates in the county. Pemberley. It was owned by the Darcy family. Widower Gerald Darcy was the Master of the estate, with his son, Fitzwilliam, who had just turned twenty, and daughter, Georgiana, who was eleven. The late Lady Anne Fitzwilliam Darcy had died when Georgiana was two years old, leaving her husband heartbroken and her children lonely for their mother.
Pemberley was well known for miles around. It was one of the best kept estates, as the Darcys had always been fair to their tenants and servants. Gerald Darcy had been taught the philosophy that for the Master to expect respect and loyalty, he must be fair and generous to those who worked for him.
The housekeeper of the grand house was Mrs Geraldine Reynolds. She had been at Pemberley since before Fitzwilliam was born, and had moved to the position of housekeeper when he was near four years of age. When Lady Anne died, Mrs Reynolds took over the running of the house, and overseeing the two children the Mistress had left behind.
“Good morning, Master William, how are you this morning?” Mrs Reynolds asked as Fitzwilliam entered the breakfast room. “Have you taken your ride this morning?”
“Yes, thank you Mrs Reynolds. I have gone on my ride. Father wishes me to join him when he goes into Lambton today. He is meeting with his solicitor on the purchase of some property from Lord Hemsley, and Father desires I be there to learn.”
“Your father was planning to stop at Thompson’s, as we have items which were ordered and have arrived.” Mrs Reynolds reached into the pocket of her day dress and retrieved a piece of paper. “If you would not mind, here are some items which need to be ordered from Thompson’s. I know your father is planning on visiting the bookshop, and we both know that he forgets most everything else when he is thinking of new books.”
Fitzwilliam chuckled. “Yes, he does. But, then again, I have the same affliction. Do you trust me with the list?”
“Yes, dear boy, I do. I know you will see the list is taken care of before you go to the bookshop.” Mrs Reynolds patted the young man on the cheek. “You may lose yourself in books, but you are very responsible. Bless your father, the thought of looking through books sets his mind into another world.”
“Is my name being used in vain?” Mr Darcy asked as he entered the room, a smile on his lips.
“Indeed, Father. We were just discussing your tendency to forget all the world when thinking of entering a bookshop.”
Mr Darcy chuckled. “Yes, my mind goes blank with anticipation of expanding my knowledge through extensive reading. I assume Mrs Reynolds has given you a task, as my reliability would be questionable.”
“She has. A list to be given to Mr Thompson to order.” Fitzwilliam showed the paper to his father, before folding it and depositing it into his pocket.
“Well, allow me to have a bite to eat and then we will be off. Have you broken your fast or did you ride first?”
Fitzwilliam smiled. “I rode first. I had just arrived here a few moments prior to you.”
“Good, good. Now, today is November eighteenth. That means your cousin, Richard, will arrive in ten days. Well, we will see that all the work is finished before his arrival, so you may spend his leave from the military with him, enjoying your time.”
~~ ** ~~
The Darcy men entered Thompson’s shortly before noon. The proprietor welcomed them into the shop. “Mr Darcy, Master Darcy, welcome. It is a pleasure to see both of you.”
Mr Darcy responded. “Mr Thompson, it is always a delight to see you. And where is your dear wife?”
“She is still ill, Mr Darcy. Our daughter, Helen, and her niece have come to tend Alice and assist me in the shop.” Mr Thompson motioned for Elizabeth to join him. “This is Miss Elizabeth Bennet. She is the daughter of Mr and Mrs Thomas Bennet of Longbourn. Mrs Bennet is the eldest sister of my son in law. Elizabeth is one of the kindest young ladies of my acquaintance, and has been of great aid to me. Elizabeth, this is Mr Darcy and his son, Master Fitzwilliam Darcy, of Pemberley.”
“My aunt has told me of your estate. It sounds as if it is a piece of heaven on earth.” Elizabeth declared her aunt’s praise.
“Then you have not come to the estate?” Mr Darcy asked. When Elizabeth shook her head, he continued. “Well, you must come out to visit. Our housekeeper, Mrs Reynolds, would be pleased to give you a tour of the house. How long do you intend to be in the neighborhood, Miss Bennet?”
“I will remain here as long as needed. Mrs Thompson has been quite ill, and is only now beginning to recover. My aunt is of the mind that we will remain here for at least another fortnight, if not longer. I would not dream of leaving Mr Thompson without assistance, as he is one of my favorite people in my life.” Elizabeth gently placed her hand on the arm of the father of her favorite aunt.
“He is indeed. Thompson, my son has a list from Mrs Reynolds. My housekeeper could not trust me to remember to deliver it to you.”
Mr Thompson laughed openly. “You are planning to visit Mr Dawson’s bookshop, I assume.”
This brought laughs from the Master of Pemberley. “I am known far too well. Yes, we are planning to stop there. Now, before I forget, we had items to collect to take home. Mrs Reynolds stated that some items that were ordered have arrived.”
“The items are in the back. I will gather them for you.” Mr Thompson left the room.
As the trio remaining chatted, a sudden shaking could be felt. The shaking grew, knocking items from the shelves. As the intensity continued to grow, cracking could be heard. Suddenly, the floor gave way, plunging the Darcy men and Elizabeth into the basement, as pieces of the walls and ceiling of the building collapsed down on top of them, trapping the trio underneath the shop.
~~ ** ~~
Several moments passed before Fitzwilliam realized what was going on around him. Coughing from all the dust, he sat up and took in his surroundings. Seeing the debris all around him, and very little light coming from the bright daytime sun, Fitzwilliam realized that the building had collapsed, and they would need assistance in digging themselves out of the basement.
He began to look around for his father and the young lady they had been speaking with, just moments before the earth swallowed them. “Father… Father, can you hear me?”
Hearing a gasp of air, he turned in the direction. “Here, William.” Came a whispered voice. Fitzwilliam made his way, crawling over the debris, to gain his father’s side. A large beam laid across Mr Darcy’s chest, pinning the man to the ground. Fitzwilliam attempted to move the beam, though it would not budge.
“I will require assistance to move this beam, Father. Are you injured? Are you in pain?”
“No, no, I will be well. What of you? Are you well? And where is Miss Bennet?”
“I am well, Father. I have no knowledge where Miss Bennet could be. It is difficult to see much, as it is so dark down here.”
“You need to search for her. She may be injured.” Mr Darcy declared, patting his son’s arm. “I am fine, look for Miss Bennet.”
Fitzwilliam moved carefully, calling out to Elizabeth. “Miss Bennet? Miss Bennet? Can you hear me? Please call out if you can hear me, Miss Bennet.”
After several moments, he heard a moan coming from several feet away. He moved towards the sound, moving debris which was covering her. “Miss Bennet, are you well?”
“Bumps and bruises, and my ankle is painful, but I believe that is the worst of it. Are you well?”
“I am. My father is trapped under a beam. I cannot move it.”
Elizabeth gasped, looking in the direction Fitzwilliam pointed. “Can I be of assistance?”
“I am grateful, Miss Bennet, but it will take several men to move the beam. And my father would not wish to cause you further injury in an attempt to aid him. But he would be grateful for your kindness, if you were to move closer to him and speak with him to keep his mind from the pain he is most assuredly experiencing.”
“I would be honored to be of some assistance to him, Mr Darcy.” Elizabeth stated. Trying to move on her own, she discovered the pain from her ankle was too much for her to use it.
Fitzwilliam gathered her to him, carrying her to his father’s side.
“Miss Bennet, where are you injured?” Mr Darcy spoke softly, though he was unable to hide his pain.
“My ankle is injured, but it is not severe. Just painful. It is you whom I am concerned for.”
“Nonsense, I am fine. Only trapped by this silly piece of wood, though uninjured.” Mr Darcy lied.
“Now, Mr Darcy, there is no need to tell falsehoods. I am well aware that you are in pain. It is clear to hear the pain in your voice. Where is your pain the worst?”
A slight chuckle escaped Mr Darcy. “You remind me of my dear wife.”
“And is Mrs Darcy going to scold you for your foolish attempt to hide your injuries?”
Both of the Darcy men became somber. “Unfortunately, Miss Bennet, my beloved Anne left our world many years ago. If she were here, she would scold me, as you are now doing.”
“Forgive me, Mr Darcy. I did not know.” Elizabeth said, taking hold of Mr Darcy’s hand and squeezing it lightly.
Mr Darcy coughed. “No need to forgive you, Miss Bennet. You are new to the area and had no way of knowing of my wife. Now, would you do me a favor, and tell me more about yourself?”
“I am afraid that you would be quite bored with my life, as I have done very little in comparison to you and your son. This is the furthest I have ever been from my home.”
“Where is your home?” Mr Darcy asked.
“Longbourn is my father’s estate. It is located in Hertfordshire, near the village of Meryton. It is a beautiful neighborhood, with most pleasant parks surrounding our house. I have a great love for walking in nature.”
“You and my son would get along. He loves being in the country over Town, and spends many hours riding about the wilderness surrounding our home.”
“Father, you act as if it is something evil to enjoy nature.” Fitzwilliam teased.
“You have a love for the land that makes our lives what they are. Without Pemberley, and the people who work the lands, we would be poor as church mice. It pleases me that you care so deeply for the lands of our forefathers.”
“I inherited the love of our estate from you, Father. And, of course, the love of reading.”
A slight chuckle was heard from Mr Darcy. “I believe our love of reading is far greater than a mere love. More of an obsession. What of you, Miss Bennet? Do you enjoy reading?”
“I do, Sir. In fact, I have spent a few hours at Mr Dawson’s shop in the days that I have been in Lambton.” Elizabeth’s smile grew at the thought of the books in the shop.
“And what sort of books do you prefer? Novels? Poetry?”
“I prefer poetry, histories, sciences, and, once in a while, I have indulged in a novel or two.”
Fitzwilliam was surprised. “A young lady who prefers histories over novels? Quite unusual.”
“My father raised me as he would a son, as I had no brother until I was near six. Even after my brother’s birth, it was years before Papa could begin teaching him to read. So I had my father’s teaching solely to myself until I was nearly ten years of age. By then, my thirst for knowledge was instilled in me and I could not satisfy my desire for more to read. Papa has always allowed me freedom to read whatever I wish from his bookroom, which is far too small for the number of tomes he has there.”
“She would love the libraries at Pemberley and Darcy House.” Fitzwilliam said thoughtfully. “Perhaps you should visit Pemberley frequently while you are in the neighborhood, so you might enjoy the library.”
There was the sound of people moving in the wreckage above them, and dust began falling from the debris. Fitzwilliam shouted out, “We are here, we are here.”
Sounding as if it were miles away, the voice of Mr Thompson could be heard. “Mr Darcy, is everyone well?”
“Mr Thompson, my father is trapped under a wooden beam. It is too heavy for me to move it on my own. Miss Bennet has an injured ankle.”
“Master Fitzwilliam, I will find help to dig you out. The shop is nearly destroyed, as well as the attic and roof have collapsed on top of you. I will have Mr Grant ready to tend you as soon as you are removed.”
Mr Darcy called out, as loud as he could. “The village, how badly is it damaged?”
There was silence. Finally, Mr Thompson spoke. “Lambton is in a terrible way, Mr Darcy. Most of the buildings are damaged, many beyond occupation. We are attempting to find shelter for the injured.”
“Send to Pemberley, and have them send wagons. Take the injured to our house, the ballroom can be made into an infirmary.”
“Sir, it is not known if the quake damaged Pemberley. We could not trespass upon your home, especially if it is in similar condition as Lambton.”
“It is winter, Thompson, the people have to have shelter. Unless Pemberley has been totally destroyed, we will have some sort of shelter for them. Send someone out to learn of its condition and bring back wagons. If there are men available to come and assist with clearing the debris, bring them. And tell Mrs Reynolds to prepare for everyone coming.”
“Very well, Mr Darcy. You rest, we will have men here to begin moving the pieces from here, so we can get you out. Miss Elizabeth, I will tell my daughter you are well.”
“Is Aunt Helen fine? And Mrs Thompson?” Elizabeth called out.
“They are well. All of you rest, we will be with you shortly.”
~~~~~~~ ** ~~~~~~~
“Mrs Reynolds, what should we do?” Mrs Annesley asked. “Miss Darcy is well, but there are injured servants. I am afraid there will be more brought in from the tenants as well. If we are damaged, I wonder what condition Lambton is in, and if the physician will be able to come tend our wounded.”
“We will make the ballroom a makeshift hospital. We need to gather all the bedding we can, and we can use the guest rooms if needed, as I am certain Mr Darcy will approve. I only wish Mr Darcy were here.”
“I am certain he will approve, Mrs Reynolds. You have managed his home for many years now.”
“I still would feel better if he were making decisions. We will have to take care of many, and it is a daunting task.”
Mr Lewis, the butler, came hurrying towards the ladies. “Mrs Reynolds, word was sent from Lambton. The village has been nearly destroyed. Mr Darcy and Master William are trapped in the basement of the mercantile. I have sent some of the footmen and stable hands to assist in digging the Darcy men out, and to transport the injured from Lambton here, as Mr Darcy requested to be done.”
“Well, it will allow Mr Grant to tend everyone in one location. Now, we will need to keep the fires built up in the ballrooms and any other rooms used. We will need to keep coffee, tea, and food prepared at all hours, as those tending the injured will require nourishment day and night. All bedding and towels, bandaging, and medical supplies should be brought to the dining room, where we will station all the supplies. We will need any of the maids available to assist in washing the items as necessary. In the attic, there are three trunks of sheets and towels which can be brought down.” Mrs Reynolds showed that she was the daughter of a captain from the regular army, with her take charge demeanor.
Everyone began working at the projects she assigned. Those not injured were either assisting those who were, preparing for the coming intrusion of injured from Lambton, or preparing food and drink for those in need.
People continued to arrive at Pemberley’s doorstep. Tenant homes had been damaged, tenants were in need of shelter and medical care. Wagons began to arrive from Lambton, carrying wounded and the now homeless occupants of the village.
All were received at Pemberley. All were assigned an area of the ballroom, or bedchambers in the guest wing of the third floor. Children were gathered into the large drawing room, allowing two of the mothers to watch over all the children together, while other mothers were able to tend to injured or assist with other chores.
~~ ** ~~
Five hours had passed since the earthquake. Mr Darcy and his son were still in the basement of the mercantile, trapped with Elizabeth Bennet. She had finally convinced them to refer to her as Miss Elizabeth, rather than Miss Bennet. “In my way of thinking, as we are forced to be together in this manner, it is only fitting that we be less formal.”
“Miss Elizabeth, I appreciate your kindness to my son and myself. You are quite the young lady. Well read, intelligent, with humor and kindness all wrapped together. Any young man would be fortunate to have you as their wife.”
Elizabeth blushed. “My mother has declared that no man would ever wish for a wife such as me. I am not pretty, and she says I am far too impertinent to catch a husband.”
Fitzwilliam was shocked at her words. “I must disagree with your mother, Miss Elizabeth. If she believes you are not pretty, your mother is in need of spectacles.”
Mr Darcy could see something he never had before…his son’s heart had begun to awaken to a young lady.
She is not from the first circles, that is true, but she is the daughter of a gentleman, as he is a gentleman. This makes them equals. She is intelligent, and would not give in to William, as she has not cowered to his opinion in our discussions here. From her behavior, she is a kind and caring person, which Pemberley will need to recover, as will William.
I know I am not long for this world, though I do not wish to worry William. There is nothing he can do, and I will not have him risk himself in some foolish attempt to move the beam by himself. All I can do is pray I will survive until I can convince the parson to marry William and Miss Elizabeth. Being trapped down here will ruin her reputation, or at least that is what I will use to convince them that they must marry. My son needs someone of Miss Elizabeth’s caliber, someone who will be at his side, rebuilding the neighborhood, rather than being one of the simpering fortune hunters from the ton who attempt to capture him.
“William, you should examine Miss Elizabeth’s ankle. Is it swelling?” Mr Darcy asked.
“Father, it would not be proper for me to examine her ankle. She is a gentlewoman.”
“Fitzwilliam Darcy, do you think that Miss Elizabeth’s reputation will be any worse than it already is? She has been trapped down here with two men, not of her relation. Her dress is torn, and you have taken your coat off for her to cover the tears. What more could examining her injured ankle do to ruin her reputation?”
Elizabeth gasped at his words. “Mr Darcy, I have no intention of forcing your son into marriage. It is not his fault that a quake has left us trapped down here. I am certain that no one will say anything about my reputation.”
Mr Darcy shook his head. “Miss Elizabeth, I will not have my son shirk his responsibility. From what I have come to know of you, stuck here as we are, you are a good girl. You would be a good match for my son. And I do not wish for you to suffer from a ruined reputation. You deserve much better than such. As soon as we are out of here, I am speaking to the parson. I want you married immediately. A common license can be purchased, it will protect both of you.”
“Father, do not concern yourself with such at the moment. You are just worried, but you will see, all will be well. Once we have you home, and some of Cook’s good food in you, all will be made right.”
“No, William, you must promise me that you will marry Miss Elizabeth, immediately, when we reach Pemberley. Promise me that you will protect her from any gossip which might come from her being trapped with us. Care for her, as she has done for me. Please, my son, give me your word that you will marry her as soon as we reach Pemberley.” Mr Darcy pleaded with his son.
“Calm yourself, Father. I will do as you ask, though I believe all will be well without having to make such a step. I will send for Mr Horton as soon as we are removed from here, and ask him to meet us at the house.” Fitzwilliam said as he patted his father on the shoulder. After a few moments of hesitation, the younger man turned his attention to Elizabeth. He began lifting the hem of her dress, until he could see her lower leg and her half boots. “I am afraid to take the boot off her left foot, as it appears to be swelling. If I remove the boot, the swelling could become far worse. Once we are out of here, the boot can be removed, but, until we are, I am not certain what we should do. Is it causing you pain.”
“Nothing unbearable, Mr Darcy…I mean, Master Fitzwilliam.” Elizabeth replied.
“Are you certain? It is discoloring above the boot.” Fitzwilliam’s concern was growing.
“William, remove her boot. If it is discoloring, I fear she might lose circulation from the swelling. If you need to, cut the boot so it will come off her foot easier.”
“Please, these are my best boots. It would be best if you did not cut them.” Elizabeth cried as Fitzwilliam began unlacing the boot.
“Do not fret, Miss Elizabeth. More boots can be ordered. Besides, if it comes to losing your foot from lack of circulation or cutting a boot from your foot, the boot goes first.” Mr Darcy declared. “It will be some time before you are able to walk on your foot, and new boots will be made before then.”
As the boot refused to give, Fitzwilliam pulled a hunting knife from a sheath which was hidden in his own boot. He began cutting slits in the side of the leather, releasing some of the pressure which had built from the swelling. Finally, the boot came off Elizabeth’s injured foot. Placing the remains of her boot to the side, Fitzwilliam ran his hands gently over her lower leg and foot, ascertaining that there was nothing apparently broken. His hands flowed smoothly and carefully over the swelling, as he stared at the usually delicate foot.
After a few moments, he placed her foot so that it was elevated on some of the debris. “I have read that keeping the injured limb higher than usual will aid with diminishing the swelling. Too bad we do not have any ice, as it would also aid.”
“Once we are free from the rubble, and at Pemberley, we will have some ice put on her ankle.” Mr Darcy stated.
“But there will be no need for me to go to Pemberley.” Elizabeth stated.
“Miss Elizabeth, I am serious about you and my son marrying as soon as possible. You will soon be a Darcy, so that we might protect your reputation. And if Lambton is in as bad shape as I fear, it will be some time before anyone is able to live in the houses here. I know my son will require your aid to contend with all that will need to be done in the coming months. With snow soon upon us, it may take longer than expected to make the repairs needed. I fear that it will be the longest winter in our neighborhood’s history.”
~~ ** ~~
“Father, I cannot leave until Lizzy has been rescued from the rubble.” Mrs Gardiner stated. “Mother is already safe at Pemberley. I must make certain that my niece is safe as well.”
“We have talked to her, and I am certain she will be fine. Our only problem is the fact that she has been alone with two unmarried men for hours. We may have to send her home quickly, before anyone says anything.” Mr Thompson said softly. “It would be best if we sent someone as an express to inform Mr Bennet of the situation. Perhaps he will come to retrieve her.”
“He will be so angry with me, as Lizzy is his dearest daughter.”
“We must do what we can to protect her reputation. If not, then we will suffer far worse, as Mr Darcy will not appreciate his son being entangled in such a mess.”
“Surely it can be overlooked, as Mr Darcy can attest to nothing untoward happening. He is well respected and will protect Lizzy, I am certain.”
“I do not wish to take such a chance. My livelihood depends on business with Pemberley, and I must protect our family.”
Mrs Gardiner shook her head. “I cannot imagine Mr Darcy leaving Lizzy to the wolves, which gossips are just as deadly as wolves.”
A young man came hurrying towards the pair. “Mr Thompson, we have opened the hole, and they will be bringin’ the people up shortly.”
“Thank you Teddy. Come, Helen, let us retrieve Elizabeth.”
The pair walked over to the hole, watching carefully as Elizabeth was handed up first. Several men had jumped down into the hole, assisting in removing the beam from Mr Darcy’s chest. Once he was lifted from the hole, Fitzwilliam climbed up next. The trio, along with Mrs Gardiner and Mr Thompson, loaded on a wagon from Pemberley, and were on their way to the grand house.
As the wagon arrived, Mr Darcy looked at his beloved home. “There are some windows broken, and the stables appear to be damaged. Those will be some of the first issues which will require your attention. Fortunately, the house was well built, and it does not appear to be major damage. The tenant cottages will not have stood up to the quake as the main house has. Like Lambton, they will most likely need to be rebuilt.”
“I will see to the damage, Father. You need to rest, so you can recover.”
“William, remember your promise to me. Mr Thompson, as Miss Elizabeth has no male members of her family here to represent her best interests, I am asking you to stand in their place. I made my son promise that he would marry Miss Elizabeth as soon as we could reach Pemberley. I sent one of the young men for the parson, telling him a common license would be required and a wedding to be performed. Mr Horton should be at the main house already. Miss Elizabeth’s reputation is ruined, being with myself and my unmarried son, all alone in the basement. Her dress is in tatters, which is why she wears my son’s coat. My son witnessed her in such a state, seeing her dress top nearly falling from her chest. It is not her fault, she has been a good girl, but she is ruined. Fitzwilliam must and will marry her this very day. Thompson, do you agree with me?”
“Indeed, Mr Darcy, though I had no expectations of your son being made to marry her. We will be able to find someone else to marry her, someone more fitting for her station in life. There is no need to force your son against his wishes.” Mr Thompson stated, fearful of the younger Darcy’s possible retaliation for being forced into the situation.
“No, my son is to marry Miss Elizabeth. He has promised me, and he will do as I asked. Do you act in place of her father and uncle? Do you give authorization for Miss Elizabeth to become my daughter?”
Reluctantly, Mr Thompson nodded his head. “Very well. I will see that Miss Elizabeth is well situated. She will be treated properly, have no fear.”
“Let us take you into the house, and to your bedchamber, so the physician can examine your injuries.” Fitzwilliam stated to his father. He knew what his father was doing, the two men were close. He knew that his father believed he would die from his injuries, and he wished to protect Fitzwilliam by giving him a wife.
“As soon as I am in my bed, find Mr Horton and bring him, yourself, Miss Elizabeth, and your sister to me. Mrs Gardiner and Mr Thompson, I wish for you to attend as well. It is vitally important this is done quickly. Forgive me, Miss Elizabeth, but I do not wish for you to take the time to change clothes. After the ceremony, there will be time to bathe and we will find you something to wear. And you will also require tending by the physician.”
Everyone nodded in understanding. As Mr Darcy was taken up the grand staircase, located near the inside of the front entrance door, Fitzwilliam instructed one of the footmen to carry Elizabeth up to the chair outside the Master’s suite. Then Fitzwilliam turned to Mrs Reynolds.
“Is Mr Horton here? Father wishes him to attend him immediately. And Mr Grant, as Father is injured.”
“Mr Grant is tending other injuries, but I will fetch him. Mr Horton just arrived a few moments ago and was in the dining room, as he required some water to drink.”
“Please have Mr Grant come to Father’s bedchamber. I will find Mr Horton.”
As Fitzwilliam stepped towards the dining room, Mr Horton exited the room. “Master Darcy, I am pleased you are alive and seemingly well. I received a message about a wedding and your father wishing to purchase a common license.”
“He has decided I should marry immediately. In the quake, we were trapped in the basement of the mercantile with a young lady. Father feels the young lady’s reputation is ruined and that I must marry her, and he feels it must be done immediately.”
“Does the young lady have family here to approve the wedding, or is she of age?”
Fitzwilliam was certain Elizabeth was not of age, but he was uncertain of her age. “She has someone representing her family. She is the niece of Mr Thompson’s daughter. Mr Thompson will stand as her family.”
“Very well, let us satisfy your father, that is, if you are willing.”
“If it makes my father more at ease, then I will do as he asked. The young lady is a gentleman’s daughter, and it would not be a hardship to have her as a wife.” Fitzwilliam realized for the first time that it truly would not be difficult to be married to the beautiful Elizabeth Bennet.
~~ ** ~~
Mr Grant was examining Gerald Darcy as the younger Darcys entered the room. Georgiana was cleaning to her brother’s arm as they entered the room. Upon seeing her father, lying on his bed, the girl released her brother and ran to the bedside of her devoted father.
“I have been so worried for you and William. Father, I am so pleased you are home.”
“Georgiana, it pleases me to see you safe. How is Pemberley?”
“Some damage, but you will see things put to right soon enough.” Georgiana said as she held her father’s hand.
“William, where is Miss Elizabeth?”
“She is sitting outside the door. She said she did not wish to intrude.”
Mr Darcy chuckled lightly. “She is to be my daughter, I do not think she can intrude when she is welcome.”
Georgiana’s eyes grew round. “Your daughter?”
“Your brother is to marry Miss Elizabeth. They are to marry as soon as possible. Mr Horton is here, is he not?”
Fitzwilliam nodded his head. “He is in the hall, speaking with Miss Elizabeth.”
“Please ask them to enter. I wish to have the wedding done and then she can be seen by Mr Grant. She has an injured ankle. William removed her boot, as the leg was beginning to discolor above the boot, the swelling was so tight.” Mr Darcy said.
“Then let us get the wedding started, so we can quickly tend to other matters.”
The wedding was held in the bedchambers of Gerald Darcy, who smiled as he watched his beloved son marry Elizabeth Bennet. He knew he was doing the right thing for his son, and for Elizabeth as well. She would be protected, cared for, and would have all she needed. Gerald knew his son would one day realize that she was perfect for him, and grow to love her.
Just as Mr Horton declared the couple man and wife, Georgiana looked down at her father. His face was turned towards the newlyweds, his eyes fixed on them, yet unseeing. “Father…Father…” The girl cried, shaking him gently.
Mr Grant returned to Gerald Darcy’s bedside, lifting his hand and feeling for a pulse. Finding none, the physician leaned over to listen for sounds from his chest, of heartbeat or breathing. Still, there was nothing to find. Elizabeth gasped, realizing her father in law of only a moment was gone. Her husband went to his father’s side, taking hold of the hand Mr Grant hand returned to the bed.
“Father, you cannot leave me. I cannot do this without you. Please, Father, do not leave me.”
Mr Grant placed a hand gently on Fitzwilliam’s shoulder. “He was most likely bleeding internally. The beam must have done injury to his internal organs, and it was too much to repair. Just before you entered, he whispered that he knew he was dying. He wanted to see you married to a good lady, who would be at your side and help you through the struggles ahead of you.”
“I cannot do this alone. I do not know all that he did.”
Elizabeth had Mr Thompson assist her to her husband’s side. “I made the vows to be your wife, Master Fitzwilliam. As your wife, I promise to do whatever I can to aid you. You will not be alone. I promise you, you will never be alone.”