Thursday’s Three Hundred: With the Colonel’s Help, Part 11

Previous parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10,

A/N: If you don’t wish to see a grown man cry, you should probably look away before you get to the last paragraph of this installment.

Chapter 6A

Lydia did not wake when Colonel Fitzwilliam lifted her from Elizabeth’s arms, nor did she wake when she was settled in the carriage beside her sister.  In fact, for the remaining forty-five minutes of the journey to London and then through the streets to Gracechurch Street, she did not wake — not even when a pause was made to send a footman in search of Darcy’s physician.

Lydia simply would not wake.

In fact, Lydia had still not woken when Darcy and Richard left the Gardener’s home some two hours after arriving.  The physician had come and gone. Mr. Bennet, who had arrived with Sir William, had been advised of what had happened.  Tea and brandy had been shared as well as tales of Wickham’s previous treachery.

Darcy paced the length of the passageway at Darcy House. Thankfully, his sister was with their aunt, the Countess of Matlock. He would not have been able to see her and hide his agony.  Miss Lydia lay lifeless in a bed, watched over by her relatives, and he was to blame.

If only he had he spoken to anyone of Wickham. If only he had at least told Sir William of Wickham’s penchant for gambling and seducing young maids.  He shook his head and leaned heavily on the wall next to Richard’s bedroom door and covered his face with his hands.  His hope was gone.  Elizabeth would never be his.

“You look like the devil, Darcy,” said Richard as he approached him.  Richard had gone out to visit a few friends, who he thought might be of use in ferreting out if Wickham were away from his unit with or without permission. Continue reading Thursday’s Three Hundred: With the Colonel’s Help, Part 11

Thursday’s Three Hundred: With the Colonel’s Help, Part 10

Previous parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6Part 7, Part 8, Part 9,

A/N: This week, we step off of that cliff I left you on last week and begin our descent into the more dismal section of this story.  This is where the shift in tone that I mentioned in comment threads begins. 

Chapter 5B

“Lydia?”  Surely it must be someone who looked like Lydia.  Lydia was at home in Meryton, not wandering along the London Road thought Elizabeth as she leaned toward the window and looked where Maria had pointed.  She gasped.  “It is! But what is she doing here?”

She sat back and shook her head, looking in bewilderment from one gentleman across from her to the other.

Darcy rapped on the roof of the coach, and the carriage slowed and then stopped.  “I am certain we have room for one more,” he offered with as smile.

“Thank you,” Elizabeth replied before leaning forward to look out the window again.

“Her sleeve is torn,” said Maria, who was still watching through the window.  “It looks like she has injured herself.  See.  Is that not blood?”

Indeed, Elizabeth could see that Lydia’s arm bore a bright patch of red below a tear in the material.  Lydia’s hair was also disheveled, and she seemed to stumble as she moved.

Darcy jumped down from the carriage and lifted Elizabeth to the ground so that neither would have to wait for the steps to be put in place.  If his sister were injured, he knew that he would not wish to wait for such a thing, and he assumed from the distraught look on Elizabeth’s face that she felt the same.

Elizabeth thanked him once again and then hurried toward Lydia calling her name.  Lydia jumped at her name, and Elizabeth thought for a moment she would run away.  “Lydia,” she called again. Continue reading Thursday’s Three Hundred: With the Colonel’s Help, Part 10

Thursday’s Three Hundred: With the Colonel’s Help, Part 9

Previous parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6Part 7, Part 8

Chapter 5A

(Warning: This week’s excerpt ends on the edge of a story cliff…a nice steep cliff.)

Early Monday morning, shortly after Elizabeth and Maria had finished breakfast, Darcy’s carriage arrived at the parsonage.  A sense of anticipation had settled in Elizabeth’s stomach as soon as she had risen this morning, and now, seeing Mr. Darcy climbing out of such a fine vehicle and knowing that she would spend the next several hours riding in it with him, her anticipation grew to a flutter of excitement.

She stopped at the mirror in the hall before she exited, pretending to fix her hat. However,  in reality, she wished to see for herself that she was indeed herself, for she had not felt herself since Friday evening at Rosings.  It was an odd feeling of unease that had gripped her heart — it was not unpleasant or a feeling that one might wish away.  No, this was a flutter of nerves that brought a smile to a lady’s lips and caused one’s feet to pace the length of one’s bedroom as if waiting for some important and pleasurable event to take place.  However, there were no soirees or fetes to be attended.

It must be the anticipation of seeing Jane, Elizabeth had reasoned until this moment when that flutter of nerves had risen in her chest as it often did before stepping into a ballroom.  But Jane was not here.  Mr. Darcy was.  She shook her head. Obviously, these strange sensations were caused by the thought of soon being with Jane. The arrival of the carriage signalled the beginning of her journey.  Satisfied that she had deciphered the cause of her delight, she picked up Mr. Darcy’s book from the table in front of the mirror and proceeded outside where everyone else was gathered as trunks were made secure.

Darcy stood so that he could both watch as the carriage was made ready and the door to the parsonage as his cousin ushered Mr. Collins around the carriage, speaking of the horses and the fittings as well as the length of time the driver had been employed by the Darcy family.

Mrs. Collins whispered final instructions to her younger sister and glanced nervously toward the door of the house.  “I am certain Elizabeth will be along shortly, Mr. Darcy,” she assured him twice before the very person each had been eagerly waiting for appeared.

Darcy turned from the carriage.  His men would see that all was well.

“That shade of blue is becoming on her, is it not?”  Charlotte asked Mr. Darcy with a knowing smile. Continue reading Thursday’s Three Hundred: With the Colonel’s Help, Part 9

Thursday’s Three Hundred: With the Colonel’s Help, Part 8

Previous parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6Part 7

Chapter 4B

Darcy noted how Elizabeth’s posture became noticeably more rigid and knew that the topic he had introduced was one that was, as he had feared it might be, fraught with unpleasant emotions.  However, it could not be helped.  The subject must be broached. His guilt in having committed a grievous wrong must be either confirmed, as he very much suspected it would be, and felt more fully or denied and, therefore, allayed.

“My sister, much like yours, is not herself at the moment, I am afraid.”  Elizabeth gave him a tight smile.

Scenes of the tears of anguish that he had witnessed from his sister upon her first discovering of Wickham’s perfidy and the sorrow that followed and still played with his sister’s heart rose unbidden in Darcy’s mind, and he steeled himself before continuing.  That he could be the cause of such suffering was not easily faced, but it was necessary that it was, for there could be no correction of an error if the wrongdoing was not first recognized.  “Is this due to the defection of Bingley from Netherfield?”

“Yes,”  was her only response.

Darcy waited to see if she would say anything further on the subject, but after a minute or two of listening only to their footfalls on the path, he pushed on.

“Why has Bingley’s departure affected her so?”  It was a rather forward and prying question he knew, and he attempted to ask it as gently as he could.  However, he needed to know how much damage his actions might have caused.

“Because she is heartbroken, sir,” Elizabeth’s reply was barely above a whisper, and though the thought of her sister’s unhappiness pierced her heart, to Elizabeth’s surprise, she felt no anger.

“So she had formed an attachment to my friend?”  It was as Bingley had claimed, and Darcy had refused to accept.  Silently, he rebuked himself for his arrogant assumption that Bingley was merely caught in a moment of infatuation and thus unable to see the situation for what it was. Continue reading Thursday’s Three Hundred: With the Colonel’s Help, Part 8

Thursday’s Three Hundred: With the Colonel’s Help, Part 7

Previous parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6

Chapter 4A

The sun was just stretching its fingers above the horizon, poking them into windows, waggling them under noses and across eyes, stirring the occupants within when Elizabeth stretched and yawned as she rose.  Her sleep had not been sound, and her body wished for her to pull the blankets up to ward off the advances of the day continue its repose.  However, Elizabeth could not indulge in such luxuries if she wished to have a cup of tea before her walk. If she lounged in bed for too long, she would doubtlessly meet with either Charlotte or Mr. Collins, and she felt prepared to meet neither this morning.  The information contained within the letter under her pillow still weighed heavily upon her mind, and she wished for some fresh air in which to think before she met with the colonel and Mr. Darcy.

She paused in her morning rituals and ran a hand over the book of verse that sat on her dressing table.  She flipped it open to the place that was held by a length of material stitched with several small flowers and a heart.  At the bottom of the bookmark was a single elegant G.  It was obviously made for him by his sister.

She read the poem on the marked page and wondered again at Mr. Darcy’s having given the book to her before he had even finished reading it.  She knew he had not completed it, not only because of the marker but also because this was a book they had discussed wishing to read when at Netherfield but at that time neither of them owned it.

She closed the book and hurried through the rest of her preparations, slipping into a green day dress and styling her hair simply. Then, she tucked his letter into her pocket and, taking up her bonnet and his book, slipped out of the room and down the stairs.

She was just finishing her tea when Charlotte arrived in the morning room.  “Good morning,” Elizabeth greeted as she rose to leave.  “I was just on my way for a walk.”

“Are you planning to spend some time reading?” asked Charlotte, noting the book Elizabeth carried.

“Yes, it is a book I have not yet read.”

Charlotte raised a questioning brow.

“Mr. Darcy loaned it to me,” Elizabeth explained, “and I would like to return it to him before he leaves for town.”

Charlotte’s eyes grew wide.  “Is he not leaving today? I know you read quickly, but surely even you could not be finished in time to return it to him before he departs.”

Elizabeth sighed and stood impatiently at the door. She did not wish to answer questions. She wished to be outdoors alone with her thoughts.   “Colonel Fitzwilliam said they may not leave until tomorrow or Monday.”

“Interesting,” said Charlotte, the corners of her mouth turning up ever so slightly.  “It seems their departure will coincide with yours.  I wonder…” her voice trailed off as Elizabeth gave an exasperated sigh.

Elizabeth did not wish to hear Charlotte’s theories on Mr. Darcy’s actions, for Elizabeth was no longer certain how to interpret that gentleman.  She had thought she knew him, but after having read that letter — the letter that shared all the details Mr. Wickham had neatly left out of his tales, the letter that told how Mr. Darcy’s sister had fallen prey to the schemes of Mr. Wickham –, she knew that whatever she had thought Mr. Darcy to be was completely and utterly wrong.

Seeing that her friend was not going to provide any further information or argument, Charlotte sighed in resignation. “Very well,” she said, “I shall wonder on my own until you return.”

Elizabeth nearly flew out of the room and the house, desperate to be away and alone for the time it would take her to walk to the grove and meet the gentlemen.

Darcy and Richard were waiting on a bench under a large tree in the grove.  As Elizabeth approached, they both rose to greet her and then joined her.  Together, they walked in silence for a short distance.  Elizabeth knew what must be done, but an admission of errors was never easy.  Eventually, she spoke.

“I must apologize, Mr. Darcy” she began the small speech she had practiced.  “I should not have listened to Mr. Wickham, and I should not have been so critical of your behaviour when you were in Hertfordshire.” She drew a quick breath and hurried on, hoping that haste would make the shame of her previous actions more bearable.  “You may find it interesting to know that Jane told me not to listen to Mr. Wickham.  She also scolded me about my criticism of you and insisted there must be a reason for your behaviour, for a gentleman could not be friends with Mr. Bingley and be anything less than perfect in her eyes. However,  I chose not to listen and allowed my pride rule my actions.  For that, I am truly sorry.” She studied the ground in front of her.  Her cheeks burned, and tears stung her eyes.

Richard gave Darcy a surprised look which was returned in kind.  An apology was not at all what either gentleman had expected. However, it was a fortuitous advance in their position for which Richard was glad.  However, he also did not want Miss Bennet thinking herself unworthy of a man such as Darcy and once self-depreciation began, some individuals fell prey to its destruction more quickly than others.  He did not know if Miss Bennet was one of those sorts of people, but he was not willing to accept the risk.

“Do not regret listening to Wickham,” Richard said in an attempt to mitigate the damage over-blown guilt might wreak. “You must remember he is a practiced liar of the worst sort.  Many, many people have fallen victim to his lies.”

“I appreciate your words, Colonel Fitzwilliam, but the fact that Mr. Wickham is a practiced deceiver does not negate the fact that I failed to listen to sound reason and chose to disparage your cousin because of my wounded pride.  I will not so quickly place my responsibility beside the road.  It is mine to own.”

“As you wish, Miss Bennett,” conceded Richard.  He had heard similar comments all his life from Darcy and knew that argument was useless.  “Do you have any questions regarding what you read last night?”

She shrugged.  “The letter was so very thorough and clear that I do not find I have any issues with the content.  I do, however, wish to ask you how you feel I should use this information to protect myself as well as my friends and family from Mr. Wickham.”  She attempted to brush a wayward tear away unnoticed. However, she was not successful and soon found herself in possession of Mr. Darcy’s handkerchief.  It was difficult in and of itself to consider the way in which she had been fooled, and how foolishly she had acted without her emotions being stirred, but when one added to that the knowledge of how perilously close Miss Darcy had come to ruin, the task became insurmountable.

“His tales are convincing. They contain just enough truth to be believed.” Darcy smiled at her, hoping she understood that he did not blame her for being drawn in by Wickham.  “Sharing the information regarding the living at Kympton, and the money that was given and squandered should do some good in discrediting Mr. Wickham.”  He paused.  “As to my sister.  Her ordeal may be spoken of in generalities — a young lady of means was deceived, he sought not her heart but her fortune, that sort of thing.  Your father must know of any danger Wickham might pose to your sisters.”

Elizabeth stopped and looked up at him. Could she trust another with such information about one of her sisters as he was willingly placing in her hand? He must think very highly of her to do so.  The small furrow between his eyes and the set of his mouth spoke let her know that it was not easily done.  It was a decision to trust — a decision he needed to know had not been made in error.  “I will share what I know of Mr. Wickham’s true nature,” she said, “but please know that I will protect your sister.”

“Thank you, Miss Elizabeth.”

His reply was little more than a whisper, and she was startled by the glistening she saw in his eyes before he quickly looked away.  How he must have suffered!

“Was there anything else you wished to know?” Richard asked.  Elizabeth was as fine a lady as he had met.  Her willingness to admit her wrong and to not excuse it when given a chance as well as the fierceness with which she pledged to protect Georgiana stood as a testament to that fact. Darcy would do very well with this woman at his side.

Elizabeth’s brows furrowed as she thought. “No,” she said slowly drawing out the word as her head began shaking from side to side and then stopped, “actually, yes.  There is one thing I would like to ask.”

“Go on,” Richard encouraged.

“How is Miss Darcy?”

Her question touched the hearts of both men, one perhaps more than the other.  Richard was able to speak first, “She is not quite herself yet.  She is making improvements, but the process is slow.”

They walked in silence for a while before Elizabeth spoke again. “She will never be herself again, you know.  Every experience changes us to some extent, and the greater the emotional drain, whether happy or sad, the greater the change.  When she recovers, for how can she not with such good guardians, she will be stronger, but she will not be the young girl she was before the incident. And, you gentlemen will no doubt experience a period of mourning as a result.  Have you prepared yourself for that?”

“I had not thought of it in such a way,” Darcy admitted, looking at Richard.

“Nor had I,” Richard agreed, “although it makes perfect sense.”

“It does take a woman to make sense of things, you know,” teased Elizabeth in an attempt to lighten the mood.  Thankfully, it worked, and both men chuckled.

“While we are on the topic of sisters,” Darcy’s heart beat a loud rhythm in his chest.  He hoped that the discussion he was about to begin would not end in disaster.  “Might I inquire as to how your eldest sister fares?”

(I know, not fair, leaving you hanging like that, but I wanted you to know these three will be completing their discussion next week. 🙂 There is a little over 1000 words of this stroll through the grove left.)

~*~*~

Leenie B Books

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Thursday’s Three Hundred: With the Colonel’s Help, Part 6

Previous parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

Chapter 3B

“May I tell her you read and insist upon showing you her library?” Richard suggested.

“That you may do,” Elizabeth replied.

“Miss Elizabeth is a great reader. It was rare to see her without a book in her hand when she was at Netherfield.”

“I would not say I am a great reader,” Elizabeth protested softly, her cheeks growing rosy.  This complimentary Mr. Darcy was rather unsettling.

“What do you read?” Richard asked. He was enjoying watching the effect Darcy was having on Miss Bennet.  The lady was not unaffected by his cousin, this was good.

“Whatever I can find,” Elizabeth said with a laugh.  “My father’s library has books on medicine and science as well as history, philosophy, and agriculture.  As you can imagine, some have been more enjoyable than others.  I also read poetry, and,” she lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper, “do not let my cousin know, since he has already lectured me at great lengths on this, I quite enjoy novels.”

“Your cousin has lectured you about reading novels?” Darcy asked incredulously.

“Most assuredly he has.  They are highly inappropriate for young ladies.  It would be far better to read a book of sermons.”  Elizabeth chuckled. “I have no need to read sermons since my sister Mary reads only sermons and insists on sharing what she has read with us on a regular basis.”

“Pray tell, Miss Bennet,” Richard’s tone was light and teasing, “which novels have you read that cause such censure?”

“Oh, I dare not say lest my reputation be ruined,” Elizabeth returned with a smile.  “I will tell you, however, that it did make Mr. Collins much relieved that I had turned down his offer as he could not have had a wife who read such books.”

“No!” exclaimed Darcy and Richard in unison, drawing the attention of their aunt.

“Yes,” whispered Elizabeth with a twinkle in her eye, “three days before he made an offer and was accepted by Charlotte.”

“Colonel Fitzwilliam, of what are you speaking?  I must know of what you are speaking,” demanded Lady Catherine.

“Books, my lady.  I was telling Miss Bennet about the excellent library you have here at Rosings. May I have your leave to show it to Miss Bennet?”  He rose in anticipation of his aunt’s approval.  She was always willing to show guest all the best parts of her estate, and even some of the less impressive parts if it would duly impress upon the observer how much they lacked compared to her.

“Most certainly, you must!” Lady Catherine answered.  “I should think that anyone would be fascinated to see its scope … ”

“Thank you, my lady,” Richard interrupted. His aunt continued on with her comments about the importance of a well-stocked library but turned them toward Mr. Collins, who was always eager to hear her opinions and agree with them.  “Miss Bennet, may I escort you to the library?  Darcy, you will join us, will you not?”

Elizabeth took Richard’s proffered arm, and Darcy rose to follow. However, upon reaching the hall, Darcy stopped. “I will join you in a minute.  I have a book in my room that I think Miss Elizabeth will enjoy. I will fetch it and return directly.” Continue reading Thursday’s Three Hundred: With the Colonel’s Help, Part 6

Thursday’s Three Hundred: With the Colonel’s Help, Part 5

Previous parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Chapter 3A

Richard leaned toward his cousin as the Collins’s and their guests entered the drawing room at Rosings.  “Wait to see how she acts. Then we will know how to proceed.”

Darcy raised a brow and rolled his eyes.  He had heard Richard say the exact same thing three times earlier this evening.  He was not likely to forget the instructions so quickly.

Richard scowled lightly.  “I have seen how you lose the ability to form words in her presence.”

“I will do better this evening,” Darcy reassured him.

“Try to look pleasant, and treat her how you would treat Georgiana or me,” Richard advised.  He raised an impertinent brow.  A bit of a tease might keep his cousin’s mind from becoming a pile of unusable mush — a very likely possibility based on how Darcy was fidgeting at Miss Bennet’s approach.

Richard leaned a bit closer to Darcy’s ear and lowered his voice.  “She is not Caroline Bingley.  You do not need to protect yourself from her, unless you no longer wish to take her as a wife, in which case, I am certain Miss Bingley would step in and fill the role whether you asked her to or not. Ooof!”  A smirking Richard let out a loud burst of air as his cousin’s elbow made solid contact with his gut.

“Are you well, Colonel?”  Elizabeth had just reached where they were standing.

“I am well, thank you, Miss Bennet.  Darcy was just showing his pleasure with my teasing — something we have done since we were children.”

Elizabeth tilted her head as a small smile crept across her lips.  She glanced at Mr. Darcy, who was looking a trifle flushed, before directing her comment to the colonel.  “I am all astonishment, sir.  I have it on very good authority that Mr. Darcy is not to be teased.”

Richard’s eyes grew wide, and he could not help his small laugh of disbelief.  “I fear your source, whomever that may be, was not correct.”

Elizabeth’s eyes twinkled, and her smile grew.  “Oh, I am certain there is no better source.  Miss Bingley is very knowledgeable about Mr. Darcy.”

At this, Richard let out a loud guffaw.

Elizabeth paused, lips parted as if to speak.  Had she seen what she thought she had seen?  Had the dour and serious Mr. Darcy just rolled his eyes? So startling was the thought that whatever Elizabeth was going to add to the conversation flew completely out of her head. Continue reading Thursday’s Three Hundred: With the Colonel’s Help, Part 5