Thursday’s Three Hundred: With the Colonel’s Help, Part 15

Previous parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14,

A/N: Just to keep us on track as far as the timeline goes, this is the morning after Elizabeth’s arrival in town with Lydia and the morning after both Darcy and Elizabeth have learned of Mr. Bennet cutting ties with Darcy.  I know the time has been spread out over many words and weeks of posts, so thought it feels like this break between families has been ongoing for some time, it is fresh for our characters.

Chapter 8A

Richard rode up Gracechurch Street and then down.  In front of the Gardiner’s home, there was a carriage being made ready for travel, but he had not seen more than one small truck and a bag being loaded.  Surely, if the Bennets were travelling, there would be more luggage than that.  He took one more tour of Gracechurch Street before determining that he was not going to be able to speak to Mr. Bennet on the road as he thought he might be able to.  He would have to knock and ask for a conference despite the early hour. So, that is what he did.  He knocked; he requested; and now, he waited.

There was scurrying to and fro above him.  Doors opened and closed.  Heavy feet hurried up the stairs and down a hall, while at least one other set of feet descended the stairs and passed through the hall just outside the closed door to the room in which Richard paced.

Richard took one more turn around the small sitting room, pausing at the window long enough to see Sir William and Maria entering the carriage.  Sir William agreed to something Mr. Bennet was saying, and then the door was closed and the carriage moved away. As Mr. Bennet turned to enter the house, Richard took a seat and waited for the man to enter the sitting room, which he did.

“Colonel Fitzwilliam, I had not thought to see you again,” Mr. Bennet began, giving only a small tip of his head in greeting.  He lowered himself into a chair slowly as if he were a man twice his age and weary to the bone.

Richard imagined Mr. Bennet was exhausted.  Worry could do that.  If Richard were to pause and recall his own concern for his cousin, he would likely yawn and scrub his face.  He had slept very ill, and he suspected the same was true of the man sitting across from him.

“I told you yesterday that I would see the matter regarding Mr. Wickham through.  I will not go back on my word, no matter how you have treated my family.”  He pitied the man’s having to worry for his daughter, but he was not going to take a gentle approach.  Mr. Bennet needed to feel the weight of his responsibility in this matter.

“Your family?” Mr. Bennet’s eyes grew wide as his face reddened.  “It is your family, who has endangered mine.”

Colonel Fitzwilliam raised a brow.  “I disagree,” he said before adding, “How is Miss Lydia this morning?”

Mr. Bennet’s eyes narrowed. “Feverish. Mr. Graham is with her now.”

“It grieves me to hear that, although I cannot say I am surprised.  It has been my experience that exposure to the elements after an injury often leads to fever.”  He was glad to hear that Mr. Bennet had at least called for Mr. Graham, Darcy’s physician.  It was likely due to the man having already been made familiar with the case, but Richard did not care the reason.  He only cared that Lydia was being given the best chance for recovery.  “I will not take too much of your time as I am certain you are as anxious to return to your daughter as I am to return to my cousin.”

Mr. Bennet blinked as if startled by such as statement.

Richard pulled at his sleeve. Darcy would likely not thank him for this, but then, Darcy would likely never know he had spoken about him to Mr. Bennet.  “Suffice it to say, your letter was not well received. I fear you have misjudged my cousin most severely, but that is not the purpose of my call today.  Today, I am here to inform you that I have located Mr. Wickham, and he has been detained until it is determined what is the best course of action regarding his fate.”

He leaned forward slightly.  “There is no gentle way to say this, and quite frankly, when it comes to business matters such as this, I am not currently feeling any more inclined to gentleness than you are.  Wickham has bandied about the tale of a young lady who stole his purse.”

Mr. Bennet sank back in his chair as if overwhelmed, and Richard could not blame him for such a response. To be accused of theft was no small thing. It carried with it a hefty price for those found guilty of such an accusation.  He paused for a moment, allowing Mr. Bennet time to recover slightly. Then he continued.

“The good news, if there can be any in this ordeal, is that Wickham is not in a position to follow through on such a claim, nor will he ever be in such a position.  I shall see to that.  However, you needed to be made aware of the fact.”  He stood.  “I shall return when I have any further news to share.”

“A letter would suffice,” said Mr. Bennet, pushing slowly to his feet.

“No, it will not.”  Richard held Mr. Bennet’s gaze.  “You may have severed your connections with my cousin, but until the matter at hand has been resolved, you will continue to see me.  I, like my cousin, am a man of my word.  We do not take honour lightly.”  He paused at the door to the room.  “I assume you will not travel to Hertfordshire today.”

He tipped his head and studied Mr. Bennet.  “Mr. Graham is excellent at his job. I have great faith in him. He has seen me through some rather difficult times.” He put on his hat in preparation to leave.  “If there is anything you need, do not hesitate to send word to Darcy House. I will be there for the next two weeks.”   He gave a nod and departed before Mr. Bennet had a chance to reply.

“Colonel,” Elizabeth said in surprise as Richard exited the sitting room. “I had not thought to see you.”

“You did not?”

Her smile was sad.  “My father…”

He nodded.  “I know.”

Elizabeth drew a calming breath. “He is wrong,” she whispered.

“That I also know,” said Richard.  “How is your sister?  I understand Mr. Graham is here.”

Elizabeth looked back toward the stairs.  “She is so very warm.”

“Has she woken?”

“Once last night,” Elizabeth replied.  “She was distressed that she would have to leave town before seeing Mr. Bingley.”

“I shall see that he knows.” Richard took a step toward the door.  “I must be leaving, but I shall repeat to you what I have said to your father.  If you need anything, I am at Darcy House. You have only to send word.”

Elizabeth thanked him and then as he turned to leave, she called him back.  “Would you deliver a message to your cousin for me?”

“Of course.”

“I do not know what my father has said to Mr. Darcy, but would you tell him that I do not agree with my father and that I shall miss him.”  She blinked against the tears that formed at the thought of not seeing Mr. Darcy again.

Richard grasped her hand.  “I shall deliver your message, but you must not give up hope that this separation can be resolved and your friendship can be restored.”

She nodded, not trusting her voice.

He bid her farewell once more and left the house.  As he rode back to Darcy House, he could not rid his mind of her tear-filled eyes and slightly trembling lips as they had parted.  He shook his head. Things could not remain as they were, for if they did, not only would his cousin’s heart remain broken, he suspected, so would Miss Elizabeth’s.

~*~*~

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Leenie Brown

Leenie Brown fell in love with Jane Austen's works when she first read Sense and Sensibility followed immediately by Pride and Prejudice in her early teens. As the second of five daughters and an avid reader, she has always loved to see where her imagination takes her and to play with and write about the characters she meets along the way. In 2013, these two loves collided when she stumbled upon the world of Jane Austen Fan Fiction. A year later, in 2014, she began writing her own Austen-inspired stories and began publishing them in 2015. Leenie lives in Nova Scotia, Canada with her two teenage boys and her very own Mr. Brown (a wonderful mix of all the best of Darcy, Bingley and Edmund with healthy dose of the teasing Mr. Tillney and just a dash of the scolding Mr. Knightley).

14 thoughts on “Thursday’s Three Hundred: With the Colonel’s Help, Part 15”

  1. I love this Colonel, and I love the way that he confronted Elizabeth’s father! The Colonel in no uncertain terms let Mr. Bennet know what he thought of his decision. He also understood that Mr. Bennet relied upon Darcy’s doctor to improve if not heal Lydia’s condition. Interesting since Mr. Darcy will likely pay the bill instead of Mr. Bennet. As Elizabeth always knew, her father would always leave the unpleasantness to others to handle, which included the payment of bills as well. Elizabeth’s sadness touched his heart as much as the sadness of his cousin. However, her message should give Darcy hope. After all, she will eventually turn 21 and make her own choice without her father’s blessing, and I think that Elizabeth loves Darcy enough to do just that! I wonder what the Colonel’s next move will be?

    1. I don’t think we can assume that Mr. Bennet will leave the bill to Darcy. He has called on Darcy’s doctor because it is a man he is now familiar with in town (this is not Mr. Bennet’s neighborhood), and it is a man who is familiar with the situation that Lydia is in. It would be far better to keep the news of Lydia’s condition confined to as few people as possible. I think Mr. Bennet is intelligent enough to know that. Mr. Bennet is in the processing all that is happening stage of life. He is feeling the weight of the situation greatly as the colonel noted on seeing him. The man is not outside of the realm of waking up to his own culpability — especially if he has a few nudges to help him along. 🙂 Yes, Elizabeth’s message should bring at least a bit of hope to Darcy — although knowing she is grieving might also add a new dimension to his own sorrow. We shall see.

  2. Our knight in shining armor !
    So, how will Bennett be made to listen, to home to his senses? He is blaming Darcy for his win failures as a father.
    Loving these!

    1. Here’s something to think about. When Mr. Bennet replies to Lizzy “She wouldn’t have had to think” about Lydia’s ordeal, is he actually denying his responsibility or is he attempting to put the blame of someone else’s actions above his own guilt — an attempt to make his failure look like it is less because someone else’s is “greater”? If he feels his own guilt — which might be part of the reason for him looking and moving like an older man than he is, it would certainly make it a greater possibility that he could be made to accept that guilt. Richard has some insights into the possibilities of what Mr. Bennet is thinking. The colonel is a wise and compassionate man for a reason.

  3. An excellent installment. I like that Colonel Fitzwilliam did not treat Mr. Bennet with kid gloves. I imagine Mr. Bennet knows deep down inside that he is as much, if not more, to blame than Darcy. Coddling him will allow him to fall back into his old ways. Forcing him to face what happened and his actions is the only way to move him forward. I look forward to seeing what Darcy’s response to Elizabeth’s message will be!

    1. I would say you are right about Mr. Bennet knowing he is at fault and not wanting to accept it. While the colonel has compassion for the man’s situation, he is not willing to assuage any of Mr. Bennet’s unease.

  4. I love this Colonel. Hopefully he will convince Mr Bennet to accept his own failures as a parent and to stop blaming Darcy.
    Thank goodness Elizabeth saw him and was able to give him a message for Darcy. I imagine he will be pleased to get it 😁. Can’t wait to see what happens next.

    1. I am sure that Darcy will be at least a little bit relieved to know more of how Elizabeth feels about him. However, knowing she is grieving might also deepen his own morose. We shall have to see what happens in regard to that 😉

      This Colonel is not going to rest until things have been thoroughly dealt with. Of course, he cannot force Mr. Bennet to see his errors, but he will do his best to point them out.

  5. I want to hug Colonel Fitzwilliam! I’m glad he didn’t try to sugarcoat his words to Mr. Bennet. Although Mr. Bennet has not yet displayed any remorse for his own paltry childrearing talents, I hope that he will eventually come to realize the full extent of his own culpability in the Lydia debacle. So far all Mr. Bennet has done is make a bad situation worse — someone else rescued Lydia (Mr. Bennet then decided to cut that person), someone else provided the doctor (Mr. Bennet wanted to make her travel instead), someone else has found and detained Wickham (Mr. Bennet sat in a room and felt sorry for himself), and it has been someone else who has remained with Lydia during her excessive fever (Mr. Bennet left to the womenfolk the tending of his very ill daughter). Soon someone else will take his favorite daughter away from him and if he does not change his ways their relationship will forever be strained if not irreparably damaged.

    1. The colonel is pretty awesome! (and wise and compassionate and forceful…just fantastic)

      “Soon someone else will take his favorite daughter away from him and if he does not change his ways their relationship will forever be strained if not irreparably damaged.” Now, would I (or the colonel) let that happen? 😉 I think Mr. Bennet is doing more than feeling sorry for himself, although he is doing some of that for sure. His bones are creaking and his energy is flagging from not just worry but also internal conflict. He’s just too stubborn (obstinate and headstrong like his daughter perhaps but in a masculine way) to admit his error (just yet?). 🙂 I think he has to leave the care of his daughter to his other daughters and their aunt — it would be rather awkward, I would think for him to be in there, changing Lydia’s sweat covered gown and such. 🙂 He might have been sitting up all night in the sitting room. I doubt he was sleeping in his bed. He’s not the best parent to be certain, but he’s not lost to all feeling. We just need someone (um, maybe the colonel? or perhaps some others? 🙂 ) to help him face things as he should. 🙂 His realizing his errors, at least in part if not the whole, is key to a HEA in this story. I can’t imagine Elizabeth completely happy without her father at least to write to from Pemberley. [But then, I know what is coming, so I can see the whole story not just this portion. 😉 ]

  6. Mr Bennet wants to transfer responsibility for failing Lydia on to Mr Darcy…. hmmmm. I think it’s healing space, he needs to assess himself but he can’t while his hands are full, and he knows he will have to deal with Mrs Bennet who will blame everyone except Lydia. I think when he’s ensconced back in his library and the door is closed he’ll begin to have second thoughts. At least I hope he will.

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