The sun beamed through the gap in the curtains and trailed a line of fiery light across the wooden floor and up onto the bed. The brightness played about on the face of Fitzwilliam Darcy slowly waking him from a deep slumber. As the light gently teased him into the land of day, he was amazed to find that he was feeling better than he had in a long time. He managed to get a full nights sleep without being disturbed by bad dreams followed shortly afterwards with intense insomnia. He was feeling very good indeed.
As he opened his eyes and looked towards the window he remembered the visitor who had called the day before. Little did his guest know that the bad news she was giving, was in itself very good news to him. Sitting up he recalled the conversation which filled him with a hope that he had scarcely dared to let himself hope before. Lady Catherine had indeed done him a favour yesterday afternoon. He recalled the event with a smile on his face.
*The previous afternoon*
He was sat at writing desk composing a letter to his steward at Pemberley (such is the job of owning a large estate). A knock at the door announced a visitor; he called for them to enter. As the maid opened the door, she was pushed away by none other than his Aunt. Lady Catherine de Bourgh announced herself in her haughtiest manner - silent but deafening.
"Aunt Catherine, what a surprise. What brings you here at such short notice?" he was attempting to sound more civil than he was feeling.
He walked from behind his desk to greet her but she turned her back on him and angrily walked towards the window. Facing him, she began her attack."I have just come from Longbourn house. I went there to question a report I have heard of a most alarming nature. That you, YOU my dear nephew are engaged to that country snit, Miss Elizabeth Bennet." Her gaze held Darcy's for a long while before continuing; waiting for any response to what she had said.
"She dared to say that she cared not about marrying you and bringing her low connections into the family. She said that whoever married you would have such an extraordinary source of happiness that she would have no cause to repine. What have you to say about that?" She glared at him from across the room. This time he did react. Fleetingly she detected disbelief flash across his features.
Had she really said those things? He was all astonishment, not knowing what to say. He stammered when he eventually spoke.
"No such arrangement has been made yet..."
"And will no such arrangement ever be made. I asked her to promise never to enter into an engagement with you as you are already promised to MY daughter, Anne. She refused flatly and I took my leave to talk some sense into you."
"She refused to make that promise? Could it be that...?" He was unsure what to think. She had not refused him completely. A small smile spread across his face momentarily but soon his thoughts returned from Hertfordshire as his Aunt's shrill voice cut through his reverie.
"Yes she refused and now I am here to get that same promise out of you. You are already engaged to Anne, it was your mother's wish as well as my own that you two should get married. Unite the two greatest houses in the country; that is what you have to do Fitzwilliam."
She began to stride across the room, her arms outstretched as if to welcome him into her side of the family. He abruptly took a step away.
"I am not engaged to Anne and I never sought to become engaged to my own cousin. I wanted to marry for something greater than money." He looked directly into her eyes as he said this, every fibre in his body believing this statement.
"You went to Longbourn? What else did you say to her?" His voice was icy cold as he said the last question; he knew full well that she may have said something bad. Something that could ruin his chance of happiness forever.
"What do you mean, you will not marry Anne? She is meant for you. More than money indeed, what an extremely foolish notion you hold Fitzwilliam. Wealth and familial connections are everything in your position. Anyway, I said nothing to that fortune seeking hussy that she did not deserve. She has NO connections, Fitzwilliam She will disgrace Pemberley and all your family. Would you have Georgiana's happiness also ruined because of your lack of taste and low expectations? You are no proper guardian for your sister. I shall have her removed from your custody if you do not comply with my wishes. No one will want her when you have disgraced the Darcy name."
"You CANNOT take her from me, Fitzwilliam and I are her guardians, and she can only be relinquished from this promise when she is of age. As for Miss Bennet, she is not a fortune seeker; she is of better breeding than most members of your acquaintance. Now if you do not mind, please remove yourself from my property. Making false threats is not an option. I will marry whom ever I want." And with that he turned on his heel and left the room and a dumbfounded Lady Catherine behind him.
She left shortly afterwards. He couldn't believe he had said such things to his aunt. He had even shocked himself but it was of short duration. He thought quickly of what she had said and made his plans for the following day.
As he climbed out of bed and walked towards his dressing room, he had made up his mind. He would go to Longbourn today and talk to Elizabeth . He had to know what she though of him. Did he stand a chance as his hope was leading him to believe, or was he just grabbing at straws and the wrong idea all over again?
Within the hour he was walking downstairs ready to summon his groom to have his horse saddled ready for the ride to Netherfield. He would make the journey on horseback and have his things transported up separately. He had to get there fast; he was losing his mind as to whether his suspicions were true. Had he finally earned the love of his dearest Elizabeth ? He knew that if she refused him once more it would never again be mentioned. He doubted as to whether he would be able to survive his heart breaking a third time.
Having ordered his horse to be readied, he entered the breakfast room. Georgiana was already seated at the table. He walked to the sideboard and partook of some toast and tea before taking his place at the head of the table. Georgiana was to his right as usual when there were no guests.
"I shall be travelling to Netherfield today on some important business. I do not know when I shall return to town or even Pemberley." He took a drink of his tea and awaited his sister's reply.
"You are going to see Miss Bennet are you not?" She paused, her gaze never leaving the plate in front of her. "I overheard our Aunt yesterday."
"Yes, I am going to see Miss Bennet. I am going to ask if she will be my wife." He stood and walked slowly over to the window before continuing. "Miss Bennet is very dear to me Georgie, I love her. She will be perfect at running Pemberley, and looking after you and I. She always asks about you, an obvious sign of her care ad devotion." He looked at his sister only to find an angry countenance looking back at him.
She stood up and walked towards him. He could tell she was upset about something and she was just about to let him know.
"Aunt Catherine told me of her inferior connections as she calls them. How they will damage my chances of finding a good husband. She says that you don't care about ruining the family name because you are selfish and are only thinking of yourself. Is this true?"
"Georgie, you know that isn't true. This is my chance to make us both happy again. She will bring laughter to Pemberley; it has been gone so long now. You have never known it as alive as when our Mother was well. I thought you liked Miss Bennet, you seemed to get on with her very well during summer. She won't damage your chances; I think she will increase them by being someone to guide you. She can teach you all that I cannot, I have gone as far as I can Georgiana, I am out of my depths with your education now. Do not listen to what our Aunt has said. Elizabeth is perfect in every way. She actually sees through all the wealth and obstacles and sees the real person. She saw the real me and changed me so much. I need her. Please, do not start denying me my happiness now dear sister." He took her hand and hugged her close for a few minutes before she began to respond. It was the longest few moments of his life. He could not bear to choose between his sister and his lover.
"Then perhaps you had better be off and talk to the lady that you need so much. I hope you are right. If you suspicions regards her feelings are true, Lady Catherine will not have caused much damage." She stood back from him and smiled, her face bore a look of dejection.
"Good luck, William," She kissed his cheek and walked from the room. If she had looked back, she would have seen his smiling countenance return to the usual saturnine expression
He quickly took his leave from the room and collected his great coat and top hat. Striding out in the courtyard, he saw his horse stood waiting. Mounting the animal unaided, he kicked it into a fierce gallop. He had to get there fast, talking to Elizabeth was the only thing that mattered to him at that moment and he would move mountains to do it.
~ * ~
As the day wore on, he could see the black clouds begin to gather above and sure enough, the heavens opened soaking him to the bone. But still, on he rode. He hardly noticed the rain and the thunder, just the thought of Elizabeth kept him going. He should have noticed the roads turning to mud and given up until the rain had died down. Before he could, however, this was decided for him. It was at some speed that his horse lost its footing and threw him off before falling itself.
He hardly knew he had been dismounted until he hit the ground, hard. His head struck on something solid and unconsciousness claimed him. He did not know how long he had lain their but as his brain began to function again, he felt a searing pain. Starting in his head, it shot down his back, right to the tips of his toes. He was hurt but how badly he could not ascertain. He tried to sit up, but dizziness washed over him and he slumped back against the ground. This was going to take some time.
Slowly, he pulled himself upright. He hurt all over. Not thinking to check for injury, he tried to stand up but his left leg collapsed from beneath him, once again depositing him hard onto the floor. He suddenly recalled his left leg making contact with the ground first, and with some force. The pain in his leg told him of the consequences and it was rapidly getting worse.
Looking round he saw his stallion standing nearby, obviously unharmed during the fall. He knew he wasn't far from Netherfield but he wouldn't be able to get there very quickly and riding was going to be difficult with only one leg. Longbourn was nearest but still posed a challenge on his strength. There was one good side to all of this, it had stopped raining. The sun started to shine once more.
"Do you think you can get us to Longbourn?" He asked the horse hopefully, wishing it to understand him.
He looked up towards the sky and ran his hands through his wet hair. He noticed it was covered in blood, each small movement resulting in agony.
"Could my day possibly get any worse?" It started to rain again.
The horse walked over to him and nudged Darcy with its nose. Without being instructed, the horse knelt down by his side, allowing Darcy to scrabble atop the horse slowly and painfully. The horse then resumed the journey and began a slow walk to Longbourn.
Darcy had one last though before the world became black again. "Thank God it was a Pemberley horse".
~ * ~
Lizzy was bored. She had been inside all day as it had been raining and now she had nothing that could hold her interest. She was pining for the loss of Mr Darcy. He had only been gone a few days; urgent business in town. They were not even engaged. He could go, never come back and it would mean nothing to anyone but her. She desperately needed to talk to him. First the letter from her Aunt telling her about how he had found Wickham and then Lady Catherine paying a very rude visit. There was one person to whom she could talk about this and he was fifty miles away.
She loved him, she knew it now. Her life wasn't complete without him. She only hoped he felt the same way. Her family name had been sullied with Lydia 's behaviour and she wondered if it had been the reason for his sudden departure. He had barely looked at her. She had just wanted to say a few words to him, tell him how she felt. Formulating those few words had proved impossible. Then he was gone.
Looking out of the window again, she saw the sun shine for a few minutes before it was quickly replaced by the ever continuing rain. This was unbearable. Jane was at Netherfield with her new fiancée, Mr Bingley, her mother was still flapping around in shock at having her eldest married to someone with five thousand a year. Mary was studying and Kitty was just as bored as Lizzy. Her father had gone to the farm and had not returned, probably due to the bad weather that followed him from the door.
She sighed slowly and looked towards the window. At that moment, something caught her eye behind the trees that lined the road up to the house. Moving closer to the glass, she could see that it was a horse, walking very slowly. She could not see who was riding until... She screamed in panic and ran from the room. She jumped down the steps calling to Mrs. Hill to help her. Running from the front door, she saw the groomsman also moving towards the horse as it neared the house.
"William." She ran to him. He was slumped on the back of the horse, unconsciousness nearly taking over. He opened his eyes slowly and looked into the worried eyes of his beloved Elizabeth . His eyes were dulled with pain. Today was not going according to plan.
She could see he was badly hurt with the blood running down his forehead. The groomsman carefully pulled Darcy off the back of his trusty steed and lay him on the ground to assess his injuries. Lizzy knelt and took his hand in hers. Gently she brushed a stray lock of hair from his forehead and saw the deep gash above his right eye.
"William, can you hear me?" She didn't care about propriety, just that he was going to be okay.
He nodded slightly in response. He winced slightly as the pain pulsed through him again.
" Elizabeth, I thought I'd never get here. I think my leg is broken. I was thrown off Lysanda when it was raining." His voice was unsteady, barely a whisper. Darkness was descending upon him, clawing at his vision.
"You should have stopped riding..."
"I had to see you, Elizabeth. I had to tell you..." He slipped into the darkness, letting its comforting silence surround him. He had found her.
"Help me get him inside and into the spare room. And get the doctor quickly, his head is quite badly hurt and I think he was right about his leg." She glanced at the awkward angle it had assumed and then looked upon his face. Even unconscious and covered with blood and mud, he was as handsome as ever. Vulnerability suited him quite well. Affectionately, she took his hand as he was carried into the house.
Slowly Mr Darcy was lowered into the bed in the guest room. Lizzy made sure that he was comfortable and stayed with him until the doctor arrived. She sponged the blood away from his face and carefully cleaned the wound on his forehead. When the physician entered the room she was holding his hand in hers. Darcy was out cold, his forehead still bleeding profusely.
"Miss Bennet, I must ask you to leave whilst I examine him." At seeing the distraught look upon her face he immediately added "You may remain with him once I have had a look at his injuries, I won't be too long." Doctor Grant and his family had been attending the Bennets for a long time. He knew that when Lizzy looked like that, she was even *more* worried inside. He could tell she cared deeply for this man.
"I shall wait outside then doctor. If you need any help, I shall get anything you require. His leg appears to be broken and his forehead is bleeding quite a lot. He passed out just after he got here." She looked at Darcy all the time. She rose to leave and gently laid his hand down. Walking from the room, she smiled a weak smile at the doctor and left him to his job.
~ * ~
It was about an hour later when the doctor finally reappeared. The expression of his face made Lizzy start immediately.
"What is it? Will he be alright? Please tell me." She stood right in front of him, needing to go see to William and make sure that he was going to be alright.
"His leg is badly fractured and will require many weeks to heal. Even then, it might not heal fully. The wound on his head is also quite severe, but nothing to cause alarm. He should make a reasonable if not full recovery in time. He will need patience Elizabeth . I am also worried about the slight fever. I shall leave instructions with your father and will send word to Netherfield. I think he would prefer it if you stayed with him. You seem to be willing to undertake the caring of the young gentleman." He smiled at her and opened the door to admit her into the bed chamber where Darcy lay.
When she entered she noticed that Darcy was now dry and had been cleaned up fully. He looked so peaceful laying there, the shallow rising and falling of his chest indicating that he was unconscious. She turned towards the doctor with worried eyes and then moved to the other side of the bed. Pulling a chair so that she could sit near him she listened to the doctor's instructions.
"I have banded his leg and attached a splint. His forehead has been stitched and has now ceased to bleed. If he becomes more feverish, apply a cold compress to his forehead and have me sent for straight away. If he becomes restless, try to calm him and keep his leg still. I think that should be it. If he should wake before I return, which is unlikely, talk to him but encourage him to rest. He may be disoriented but that is to be expected. I believe Mr Darcy to be in safe hands." He looked at the way she had taken Darcy's hand again and was stroking his knuckles lightly.
"Miss Darcy should be informed as well. Thank-you for everything doctor. I shall have you informed when he does regain consciousness. I think he should be all right for now." She looked at his pale face and wondered when she had come to love him this much. She felt so strongly when she had first spotted him outside the window.
"I shall leave you alone then Miss Bennet. Good Day." With that he left the room. She brushed a stray curl from Darcy's injured forehead and winced when she saw how deep the cut really was. She was certain it would leave a permanent scar, although it will suit his terrible well, she though. Pondering the complexities of the man who lay prone before her, she knew that she truly could not live without him.
~ * ~
A few hours later saw the fluttering open of Mr Darcy's eyes. He was dizzy and it took a few moments for the room to come into focus. Not knowing where he was exactly, he tried scanning the room for clues. Nothing made sense, until he saw Elizabeth sitting in the chair looking at him. The smile on her face told him that he was safe, and with his beloved. Resting his head on the pillow so he could see her clearly, he smiled back.
"Welcome back, William." Her smile grew bigger as she took hold of his hand. He could barely think straight, had she really just called him William? She was holding hand, of that he was certain. He smiled at her again, a sharp pain up the side of his face making him wince slightly.
"Are you all right? You have a bad cut on your forehead. Try not to move too much." She moved closer and gripped his hand tighter, as if she was lending her strength to him.
"You called me William." She blushed but he was just grinning, what a way to wake up. "You know not how long I have wanted to hear you call me that." He gently squeezed her hand in return, his diminished strength making it very hard indeed.
"Yes, I'm sorry Mr Darcy..."
"No I don't mind. I would like you to call me that."
"Then you may call me Lizzy, I am sure that you have wanted to do that as well." She smiled the most beautiful smile he had ever seen. His enjoyment was short lived as a wave of nausea waved over him. His head began to thump and before he knew it, darkness was claiming him once again.
"Lizzy..." He whispered just before he fell unconscious again.
Elizabeth ran from the room calling for the doctor to be called immediately. She returned after a moment and felt his forehead for any signs of fever. He was burning up, how had she missed this earlier? He had been distant when talking to her and she berated herself for not detecting the fire that was consuming him before.
Applying a cold cloth to his forehead, she wished that it would soon cool him down; hope had little to do with it. She knew that he had most likely become ill with being drenched in the rain. All she could do was try and lower his temperature and calmly wait for the doctor. He should be here soon enough she kept telling herself. The doctor will come and make him well again. It was hard to imagine Darcy sitting astride Lysanda, looking so proud and indestructible, when he was lying before her in the throes of fever.
She kept holding his hand and wiping his brow. He had dislodged some of the stitches in his forehead and the wound began to bleed once more. He was becoming more restless by the second. She knew that this would be a long night and only wished that it would be over with the best possible outcome. His body was weakened by the fall and trying to repair itself. Elizabeth fought to try and stop him moving too much but she was beginning to lose the battle when the doctor arrived.
"How long has he been like this?" Doctor Grant took Darcy's pulse quickly and looked worriedly at Elizabeth .
"About half an hour. He woke and spoke to me. I did not notice his burning until he passed out again. If only I'd noticed sooner." She looked away, blaming herself.
"You were not to know. If Darcy had spoken to me, I'd be surprised by his coming down with a fever. His head will need cleaning up again but I cannot do that until he has calmed down. This is exactly what I hoped would not happen. In his weakened state this will just rage through him. I fear this could be quite bad for him. It will be a long night, Elizabeth . His strength will be lagging when the fever breaks."
"He shall be all right. He is strong, he got here with a broken leg. He will be fine."
She spoke more confidently than she thought possible. The doctor left the room to order some water be brought up and to talk to Mr Bennet. Leaning over his body she whispered in Darcy's ear, hoping that he would be able to hear her.
"Please be all right, William, I beg of you to be all right. I find that I need you by my side. This world would be unbearable without you. I love you." She gripped his hand and stroked his cheek with the back of her fingers. All through the night she kept wondering to herself, how was it that feelings as deep as this could ever exist?
~ * ~
Jane was the happiest person alive, or so she thought. She was engaged to the person she loved more than anything and this was the perfect end to her despondency. There had been times when she thought that talking to her beloved Charles once more would be out of the question. The emotional shun she had received only the spring before in London was almost enough to prevent her from loving anyone again. No matter how much she told herself that she was over him, she found that she was no where near. Her life had started to mean nothing to her. If it hadn't been for Lizzy and the rest of her family she believed that she would have just given up on life. Opening her eyes to the morning sun and finding the inclination to get out of bed were just getting too hard. When her sister had told her Mr Darcy had proposed during her time in Kent , she could not believe it. She had begun to wonder if Lizzy had purposely not accepted Mr Darcy so as not to leave her alone. She would rather have died than ruined Lizzy's hopes of happiness as well.
When Lydia eloped, that was it. The turning point of her life. That was the day she resigned herself to the fact that nobody she could ever love would want her now, let alone her beloved Bingley. Her depression seemed to increase even further but she would never have let anybody know about it. She had to be strong for her family, anything short of that would have been unforgivable. But Bingley had returned and made everything all right again. Now, her only hope was that perhaps his friend could see the light and take the risk of proposing once again. She had known about Lizzy's feelings for Darcy as soon as she had returned from Derbyshire whilst touring with their Aunt and Uncle. The visit from Darcy's aunt the previous day had unsettled Lizzy, and Jane was worried about her.
As she sat in the sitting room at Netherfield with her fiancé, Charles, she began to think of ways she could help in ensuring her sister's happiness. The invitation to afternoon tea had to be accepted but she really just wished to be alone with her betrothed. Coping with his sisters was becoming increasingly difficult. They had arrived at Netherfield from Scarborough the day before and had obviously not taken the news of Charles' engagement well. They had been attempting to be nice but for Caroline that was pushing it. Always looking down her nose condescendingly, it was a trial to Jane to be civil to them. Why had she never listened to Lizzy when she had tried to warn her about them? She could then have been a little more prepared for this cold reception.
Just as the tea was about to be served, Doctor Grant appeared at the door and was shown in. The look on his face told everyone in the room that something of a grave nature had taken place. Caroline offered him some tea but he graciously declined, and taking a seat, he told the room what had happened.
"I have just been at Longbourn house." At this Jane started but he quickly calmed her slightly. "Your family are well, Miss Bennet. The news I have to deliver is about Mr Darcy." There was an audible gasp from the room, most prominently from Caroline Bingley.
"He was riding up from London , I gather, when it began to rain. He obviously came off his horse quite badly. His injuries are quite severe but I think he should make a reasonable recovery." He turned to look at his audience. It was Caroline who spoke her mind first.
"What on Earth is he doing at Longbourn? He should be brought here where he can be properly looked after."
"I do not think that is a good idea. He seems to be comfortable there and I do not think moving him would be wise in his current state of unconsciousness. I gathered that he rode to Longbourn as it was nearer to his position than Netherfield. Miss Elizabeth has been put in charge of tending to him. He also seems slightly calmer when she is in the room. She will aid his recovery quite well, Miss Bingley." He stood and began to make his farewells but was interrupted again by Caroline.
"What do you mean? That common nobody, Elizabeth Bennet, tending the most illustrious man in the country? He must be moved here at once. His Aunt shall be most seriously displeased when she hears how he is being treated." Her voice was becoming high pitched. What could he have meant by putting *her* Mr Darcy in the care of that *girl*?
"His aunt will hear of no such thing, Caroline. If Darcy is all right there then we shall aid his recovery also by not interfering. Do you understand?" Charles Bingley rarely ever dared standing up to his older sister but today he made an exception. Insulting his fiancé's family in such a manner was not to be borne. The inferred threat to tell Lady Catherine was more than he could handle. He would be having words with his sister as soon as his guests had removed.
Whilst Bingley was glaring at Caroline, Jane walked over to the doctor. She was worried about how Lizzy's emotions were bearing up after seeing the man she loved arriving injured on the doorstep.
"Doctor Grant? May I ask how Mr Darcy is? In more detail, if you would. I think I should help Lizzy as much as possible." She looked concerned and so the doctor answered her directly.
"I'm afraid his leg is broken and his head is badly cut. He should be all right eventually. His leg will take quite some time to heal but Lizzy seems to know what she is doing. She had already cleaned up his head and made him comfortable by the time I arrived at Longbourn. She seems to care for him and I have to admit, he became restless when she left the room. Is there something between them that I should know about? Tell me, Jane, as I don't want to make any false assumptions."
"I do not know for sure, doctor. She saw him when she was touring Derbyshire, that is all I know. I believe that they had developed quite a strong friendship from what Mr Bingley has told me." Just as she finished her sentence, Caroline walked over and with as much civility as she could muster, apologised to Jane for the slurs about her sister and asked the doctor if they could see Mr Darcy at all. She looked superior to everyone all the time and this unnerved the doctor.
"I'm afraid that it would delay his recovery if he was surrounded by people. Until he becomes stronger I think it would be best if you leave it to me and Miss Elizabeth." And with that he bid his farewells and left Netherfield.
Jane had to get home as soon as possible and help Lizzy with Mr Darcy. She was just about to ask Charles if he would call the carriage, when a horse and rider skidded up to the doorway. Jane instantly recognised it as one of the stable hands from Longbourn. The doctor had not yet left and was talking to the groom that had ridden up to him. He suddenly ran into his carriage and pulled off at considerable speed. She knew that something bad must have happened.
"Charles, I have to go home. I have to help Lizzy, please would you call the carriage."
"Yes, of course, I shall come with you and see how Darcy is." He walked out of the door, leaving Jane to get ready for the ride home.
~ * ~
When Jane entered Longbourn that evening she could sense how subdued the atmosphere had become. Charles had accompanied her home, he was very worried about his friend. He had only known him come off his horse a couple of times, and each time, Darcy had fallen hard. He rode fast and recklessly; he could get away with it. Darcy had been riding almost before he could walk and as such, had become one of the best horsemen in England . His stables at Pemberley comprised of horses with the best possible lineage and all were the fastest around. When Darcy fell last time, he had been unconscious for days and had dislocated his shoulder. This time, it was far worse.
Mrs Bennet ran out of the sitting room to Jane and Mr Bingley. She looked almost upset over Mr Darcy's injuries. Bingley was taken in by Mrs Bennet's false concern. Jane knew better. Quickly embracing her mother she asked where Mr Darcy was and how he was faring.
"Oh Jane, Mr Bingley. Mr Darcy has come down with the most terrible fever after being caught out in the rain. The doctor and Lizzy are with him but Doctor Grant holds out little hope for him. They are in the largest guest room but I wouldn't go up there. Our Lizzy will take care of him by herself. Would you like some refreshment, Mr Bingley?" She smiled at her soon to be son-in-law and tried to usher him into the sitting room.
"Actually, Mrs Bennet, I would very much like to see Darcy if that is not too much trouble. I am sure Jane would like to talk to Miss Elizabeth as well." He tried to smile, but if what Mrs Bennet had said was accurate (and that can sometimes be not at all), the predicament of his best friend wasn't very good.
"Of course, Mr Bingley, Jane will show you up. But beware, according to Doctor Grant he is not well at all." And with that, Mrs Bennet disappeared back into the room, all the time her handkerchief fluttering nervously.
Jane led Mr Bingley up the stairs and to the guest room door. She looked over her shoulder at him and smiled weakly. He smiled reassuringly back at her, more calmly than he felt in fact. Jane gently knocked on the door and turned the handle to enter the room. On entering the couple had to wait for their eyes to adjust to the poor light. They both turned to the bed where they were met with an eerie sight. There lay Darcy, perfectly white and still. Beads of sweat were running down his forehead, his shallow breathing the only sure sign of life. Lizzy was seated at the side of the bed, holding his hand tightly, willing the fever to break. The doctor was at the other side taking his pulse. Shaking his head slightly, he looked towards the door and noticed Jane and Bingley.
"Jane, Mr Bingley." Lizzy looked up from Darcy and glanced at Jane. The strain of the last few hours was showing on her face. She looked drawn and so incredibly worried. It wasn't meant to be this way. She couldn't fall in love with someone and then have him die. Jane felt Bingley grasp her hand to comfort her as much as himself.
"How is he, Doctor Grant? Has there been any improvement at all?"
"No, I'm afraid not. Although his head has stopped bleeding and he has calmed down a little thanks to some persuasion from Lizzy." The group looked at Elizabeth just to find her holding his limp hand in both of hers. She took a cloth from the basin at her side and tenderly wiped his forehead. Darcy mumbled something incoherent. Lizzy took his hand in both of hers again and whispered to him. He quieted once more.
"Lizzy seems to have found a way to talk to him. I think he can recognise the sound of her voice and it has a significant calming effect."
"I just think he feels safe when he hears my voice. He has been feverish for a good few hours now, and it just seems to be getting worse. I could not have believed a fever would consume him this quickly." The strain was apparent in her voice and she spoke. Jane walked to her side and put her hand on her shoulder. Bingley just stood firm staring at his friend. He had to get out of there but knew he had to stay for Jane and Lizzy. In all honesty, the sight was beginning to make him retch.
"I think that you should both go. I believe Mr Bingley is turning green, Jane. Perhaps papa could offer him something a little stronger than tea." Lizzy grinned up at Jane and then smiled warmly at Bingley.
"Yes, perhaps. Is there anything you would like me to do, Lizzy?" Bingley was serious in his offer, as long as it meant he could remove himself from the room.
"His sister needs to be informed. I have met her, of course, but I think it would be more appropriate if you wrote to her. I have heard all about your handwriting, Mr Bingley, so please do try and make it readable." Bingley was astounded, even when Darcy was so ill, she could still tease mercilessly.
"Of course, Miss Bennet. I shall do it directly. She can stay at Netherfield if she wishes to visit him." He smiled the best he could muster under the circumstances. He didn't know what to make of the way Lizzy kept looking at Darcy. Could she have fallen in love with him? He hoped that if she had indeed given him her heart, Darcy would have the chance to tell her that she had been given his such a long time ago. Every time he saw his friend look at Elizabeth Bennet he knew, Darcy was madly in love.
"I shall take leave of you Elizabeth, Doctor Grant. Please do everything for him and if I can be of any assistance, please do not hesitate." He turned and left the room quickly, Jane followed him after giving her sister's shoulder a light squeeze. Lizzy just smiled weakly up at her, a worried expression taking over her face.
As soon as Jane had left, Elizabeth turned her attentions to Darcy once again. If only he knew how much she loved him. Would she be able to tell him when he finally awoke? What if he didn't feel the same way? No, that wasn't possible, he had to still care about her. Elizabeth thought that she may just be content to have him survive the ordeal and be her friend. No, that wouldn't have been enough, not with feelings so strong she could hardly breathe.
She looked at the face of the man she loved. His skin was pale and grey, black circled his eyes and his hair lay limp against his damp forehead. His breathing was so shallow she had to listen carefully to check its existence. He looked so small and vulnerable, his strong features reduced to that of young man. He looked so youthful yet so much older at the same time. The gouge on his forehead had stopped bleeding some time ago and had been re-stitched. Luckily, she had been able to soothe him before he damaged his leg further. More injury and he may never have been able to walk on it again. According to Dr Grant, it was a serious fracture, almost compound. Walking on it would not be taking place for some considerable time, let alone riding. She knew that Darcy would take that news quite badly, knowing how fond he was of riding. Stroking the back of his knuckles with her thumb, she thought she saw his eyes flicker. Not trusting herself to be sure, she called the doctor from the other side of the room.
"I think I just saw his eyes open slightly." She looked hopefully at him while the doctor felt his forehead for any signs of the fever breaking.
At that moment, Darcy's eyes opened wide and he stared at Elizabeth . He looked terrified. His eyes were agitated as they stared. They seemed to look deep into her soul. She gripped his hand and he gripped back. He started to murmur something but she could not tell what it was. Just then he sat straight up and yelled. He was screaming with terror.
"William, calm down. You're here with me, Elizabeth." She couldn't get through to him, she was shouting at him, trying to be heard over his voice. She grabbed hold of his face and turned it to her. His skin was so cold. "STOP!" He ceased mid-yell. He was trembling with fear, his breathing quick and heavy. "It's all right William, I'm here, I'm here." She stroked his cheek with her fingers as his eyes began to soften slightly. He was still trembling when the doctor took his pulse and temperature.
" Elizabeth , I fear that this may be the calm before the storm. His body is burning up slowly, I think that's why he's terrified." He turned to get a cold cloth when the door burst open. Jane and Bingley appeared in the doorway. Jane rushed over to the basin to get more cold water. Bingley stood perfectly still as he took in the sight.
"L...li...Lizzy?" Stammered Darcy. "Lizzy?" The fear began to build in his eyes once more, his body shaking. He couldn't see her, he was looking straight through her, his eyes glazed yet terrified. "LIZZY?" He fell back against the mattress heavily, his eyes still open wide. He began to push Lizzy away. Jane put the cold cloth against his forehead in a last attempt to cool him.
"This won't work, this won't work." The doctor kept muttering to himself as he thought of what else he could do apart from restrain him. Everyone felt so hopeless.
Darcy made one last attempt to shove Lizzy and Jane away and fiercely flung his arms in the air, as if trying to reach something far away. He was trying to sit up but Jane and Lizzy held him down firm. With his last ounce of strength he reared up and shouted.
"HELP!" His eyes rolled back and he slumped back against Lizzy. She hugged him close and then she noticed.
"WILLIAM!" He had stopped breathing.
"WILLIAM!" He had stopped breathing.
Lizzy shook him carefully as if trying to wake him from a dream. His eyes were shut and his body was lying limp in her arms. The doctor grabbed his hand and quickly checked his pulse. He shook his head slightly, delivering the bad news. Laying Darcy's lifeless hand back onto the bed, Grant checked the temperature of his forehead. There was nothing, no sign of life at all. The fever had claimed Darcy's life.
Tears began to fall down Lizzy's face as she held her beloved William tightly to her. This could not be happening, she kept telling herself. It was not meant end this way. He was supposed to live and then they could be together forever, happily. Suddenly she placed him down on the mattress beside her and began to fiercely pound his chest with her clenched fists.
"WAKE UP! YOU CAN'T DIE, NOT YET." Tears were rolling freely down her face but she didn't care. She refused to believe that he would just die like that. He had spoken to her before the fever claimed him, he had smiled at her. He could not be dead. Jane pulled Lizzy away from him, but she refused to stay still.
"Wait, get off me, Jane!" She wrenched herself free from her sister's grip and put her ear next to his mouth.
"He's breathing, listen." The doctor strained to listen and took his pulse again. Sure enough, Darcy was alive.
"His pulse is very weak but steady. His temperature is lower too. I think the fever may have broken. Just in time, if it hadn't he may never have started breathing again." Grant wiped the sweat off his brow with his handkerchief and smiled weakly at Lizzy. Bingley sank into a chair, shocked and grateful at the same time. Jane walked away to the window.
As soon as Darcy had been pronounced living once more she had knelt by the side of the bed, holding Darcy's hand tightly, praying silently for the saving of her beloved's life. She didn't dare look up at everyone at that moment. The torrent of emotions flowing through her body was just too much to handle. She just sat there, gripping her love's hand with all her might. Her heart had just nearly been rent in two with the realisation that she had almost lost him. She knew that if his heart had stopped forever, so to would hers. Strangely, she felt connected to him. The way she had been able to talk to him while he was unconscious, and he would listen and calm down. She knew that they were meant to be together and could only wait until he recovered sufficiently to let her feelings be known to him.
"He will be alright now then, Doctor Grant?" Lizzy could barely whisper, the amount of feeling in her choking her words.
"I think he stands a good chance of surviving now. His breathing seems to be more regular and his pulse is certainly getting stronger. Perhaps you should go to bed, Elizabeth . He is safe now and I think he should be fine just resting..."
"No, I shall stay with him. I cannot leave him, not now, not after all that has happened today. I will be fine staying here watching over him. But if you three want to get some rest, Mr. Darcy and I should be fine, I think." She slowly stood up and turned to face Grant, Bingley and Jane. Bingley spoke first.
"I think I should like to stay as well. I have to admit, I would feel better making sure he is all right." He looked at the doctor who just nodded.
"I would also stay, if I may. I may be of use should anything occur in the night." Jane spoke very softly and stared at Elizabeth all the while. She tried to convey some of her strength to her sister, just wanting to make it easier for Lizzy to bear.
"Well that settles it then, we are all going to look after Mr Darcy because I don't think I should leave him either." The doctor pulled up a chair near to the bed and sat down as well. All seated near to the bed, all watching Mr Darcy closely for any sign of change, they waited.
~ * ~
Morning came and the light beamed through the curtains, trickling over the five sleeping forms in the room. It had been an emotionally taxing night for all the occupants and physically exerting for at least two of them. They had just fallen into slumber, at peace with the fact that Darcy was going to be well again. Bingley and Jane were asleep by the window, in separate chairs but holding hands. The Doctor and Lizzy had fallen asleep at either side of the bed; she was still gripping her Darcy's hand for dear life.
She stirred first, the light gently opening her eyes to the new day ahead of her. Slowly, she sat up and rubbed her neck trying to get the crick out that had appeared from sleeping in a chair. She looked towards the unconscious form of her beloved William and caressed the back of his hand with her fingers. He was so still but looked more at peace than she had ever seen him. The rise and fall of his chest and the colour in his face let her know that everything was going to be right once more, she would have the chance to tell him just how much she loved him. Releasing the grip on his hand, she stood and walked to the window. Glancing down at Jane and Bingley, she saw that the previous night had also taken a toll on their nerves. Yet they both looked so serene just sitting there, holding hands, fast asleep. Propriety could be damned, she would let them have their comfort. After all, she could hardly uphold the laws after her performance yesterday. Tentatively she pulled one of the curtains back to let just a fraction of the intense sunlight bleed through into the room.
The morning was hazy, giving the promise of a warmer day. It was strange how in the middle of autumn the weather could still surprise her this much. All she could think of was how it should have been like this yesterday. How none of this would have happened if the clouds had not intervened. He would have been well and they might have been together. Instead he was lying in bed, his leg very badly fractured and a cut on his head that would definitely leave a scar.
Tears crept into her eyes as she thought about what happened last night. She had nearly lost him forever. He had stopped breathing, stopped living for what seemed like an eternity, reminding her that nothing lasted forever and the life was indeed, so very precious. She would never forget the lesson she had been taught last night.
Lizzy had never before known the happiness she had experienced yesterday evening when he began to breathe once more, started taking in the vital air needed for life. She had nearly died with him at that moment. Just thinking about losing him had crippled her beyond belief, but he was back. This morning she was sure of it. Even though he had been so weak last night after the fever broke, his breathing had been irregular and painfully shallow. The fire burning through him has taken all his strength. This morning he looked well again. Rest was all he needed now and then he would come back to her.
Strange, she thought that earlier in the year she had hated him. Was it hate? No, it was a serious dislike. She hated herself for being so blind and allowing herself to be prejudiced against him. The truth was she had forced herself to. She hated the emotions this man could bring out in her. All she wanted to do was tease him mercilessly and laugh at his disposition. She just wanted to see him smile, to get him back for his comments at the Meryton assembly when they had first met. She wanted to make him laugh at himself. She hated the feelings she had inside and so directed the opposite at him. She was so sorry for what she had done for so long. She thought she would get the chance to repent her sins and be able to make him happy. Then this had happened.
Letting the curtain fall back into place she looked around the room once again. They were all exhausted. She knew she should wake everyone up in the vain hope that they may actually get some real sleep. Staying here all day would be pointless. She could manage to look after him herself now. He appeared to be in no danger. She walked over to where Doctor Grant was waking up and shook him lightly so that he would come round fully. He looked at Lizzy and then at Darcy and then back to Lizzy.
"He certainly looks a lot better this morning. He should be alright now for a few hours at least. I cannot see him waking up anytime soon. But at least, I am confident he *will* wake up now. I have never seen a fever take such a hold so fast before. It is a good thing that he is strong and healthy else I do not think he would have survived the night."
"For that we certainly have to be grateful. His strength seems to be returning slowly. Pray, tell me Doctor Grant. Will his stopping breathing have, will it have caused..."
"I do not know Elizabeth , I just do not know. All we can do is see what happens when he comes round. Hopefully he will be fine but you are right, sometimes damage to the brain can be caused. Do not distress yourself, Elizabeth, he will be fine. No matter what, he will still be alive and well. You care a great deal about this young man, do you not?" He affectionately put his hand on her shoulder, waiting for her to answer.
"I do care for him. He is the best man I have ever known. He has no improper pride as Meryton has been lead to believe. He is perfectly amiable. When I met him in Derbyshire, he was so changed, so perfect. I do not know what to think anymore. Last night has shaken me to the core." She never took her eyes away from Darcy while the doctor led her to the door.
"You need some rest, Elizabeth, he shall be fine. I will make sure of it." He opened the door for her.
"I shall not be gone long, only to freshen up. I refuse to leave him." The doctor smiled at her and she walked to her room. That was the end of the longest night of her life.
~ * ~
An hour later saw the return of Elizabeth to the room where Darcy lay, still unconscious. She had had time to bathe, change and partake in a small amount of breakfast. After last night, her appetite seemed to have totally disappeared. As she walked back into the room, she saw that Jane and Bingley were stood talking to Doctor Grant. As soon as Jane noticed her standing there, she moved across the room to talk to her.
"How are you? You must be exhausted, I know I am." Jane held Lizzy's hand and smiled slightly.
"I am fine, Jane, exhaustion has nothing to do with it anymore. You should go to bed and Bingley should return to Netherfield lest Miss Bingley come and search him out." Lizzy smiled properly for the first time since Darcy was brought in.
"I think I shall go to bed, and Charles was just going to request the carriage be brought round to take him home. I shall come and talk to you later, Lizzy, I think we need to discuss what happened last night. I can scarcely believe what occurred myself." Bingley walked up to them and smiled reassuringly at Lizzy.
"I think I should make my exit now, Miss Elizabeth. I trust my friend to your capable hands. You seem to know how to care for him so he shall most certainly be safe. I will come back later this afternoon to check up on him if that is acceptable." Lizzy and Jane both nodded in the affirmative.
"Good, I shall also write to Miss Darcy and tell her that he is being looked after. I do not think I should tell her about last night, not yet anyway." His smile waned slightly and Jane led him from the room. With one last look at Darcy and Lizzy, she closed the door behind them.
Lizzy crossed the room to be with Darcy once more. Sitting in the chair she had occupied all night, she took his hand in hers again. The doctor watched her. Yes, there had to be something between them. The way she looked at him...she had cried over him, screamed at him to breathe again and she was always holding his hand. They had become almost inseparable, that was clear.
He had been checking Darcy's pulse and temperature every ten minutes since he awoke and was pleased with his findings. Darcy was indeed getting stronger. He would be happy to see his favourite Bennet girl married to a perfectly healthy Mr Darcy. He had been a little unnerved when she had asked her earlier question, of the damage that may have been caused. He hoped that it was not so. Only time would be able to tell. How could he tell Lizzy that Darcy wouldn't be himself anymore, that the fever may have well killed him instead? No, Darcy had to be unharmed. After everything she had been through, that young man would have to make her happy.
" Elizabeth , I think I should go downstairs and talk to your father for a while. He will want to know what has happened. Plus I am quite hungry and the smell of breakfast through that door has made me realise I have not eaten for quite some time." He smiled at her and made for the door.
"Yes, Doctor Grant. Thank you for everything you have done for him. I hope he will be perfectly well again in time. After last night it can only get better." Lizzy smiled at him and then looked down at Darcy once more. Grant opened the door and after taking one last look at the love between patient and nurse, left the room.
~ * ~
On the way back to Netherfield, Bingley had never felt so wretched in his life. Thinking back on the night before and all that had happened had worked its way right into the fibre of his being. He was disturbed so much by the events that he barely knew what to think. Watching your best friend die right in front of you was one thing he never thought he would experience. But low and behold, he saw it last night. Could he really say that he had seen Darcy die? He had stopped breathing and his heartbeat had ceased, but only for a few moments. Whatever had happened, it had scared the living daylights out of him.
Darcy had always been there. They had been friends for what seemed like forever. They had met at Cambridge . Darcy was in the final year, three above him. Their friendship just happened. As soon as they had met they had become friends. It was a sobering thought to consider that it could just as quickly be irreparably severed.
Bingley and Darcy had spent a lot of time together. He knew that Darcy never got ill, was never weakened by anything, never intimidated and rarely scared. That was until Darcy had fallen head over heals in love with Elizabeth Bennet. He had seen the signs between the two, although, for long enough it had just been one-sided. Now he was sure she returned his affections and last night would only serve to strengthen that bond. Bingley was happy for them both, knowing that if they only had half the joy he had, they would never be wanting. But would that ever happen? Even though Dr Grant had said Darcy would wake up, he wasn't sure that a full recovery would be made. Not having his best friend be his normal self worried Bingley like nothing else.
The carriage made its way along the road that took them to Meryton and then onto Netherfield. Bingley could not wait to get home but he tasks he had been set prayed on his mind. Writing a letter to Miss Darcy being the least pleasant task imaginable. Dealing with Caroline's pining and queries about his friend as well did nothing to ease his nerves. All he wanted to do was sneak into the house without being noticed and quietly slip into bed. This was not to be, however. As the carriage entered the long drive up to the house, he saw what he dreaded the most. Caroline and Louisa, waiting in the doorway.
As the carriage came to a halt and he climbed out, he was bombarded by questions. "How is Mr Darcy?", "Will he be alright?", "Why did you have to stay the night?"... Most of the queries were in this vein, until Caroline opened her mind to the possible snide remarks and as always, they just came pouring out.
"Tell me, is Miss Eliza still looking after him? No wonder his recovery may be slow. He needs somebody strong yet feminine to take care of him. Not some country upstart." She smiled her best evil grin. Bingley wiped it of her face with just three words.
"Not you, then." He walked off and left the bewildered sisters standing at the doorway. He didn't care what he had just said. All that mattered was that they were out of his sight. His best friend had almost died and his sisters were making snide remarks about the family that had done so much for him. He had had just about enough of his sisters to last a lifetime.
He made his way to the study on the first floor. It was near his bed chambers and had a pleasing prospect of the surrounding countryside. Sitting down at his writing desk, he reached for a piece of paper and mended his pen. How was he ever to tell Georgiana about her beloved brother being ill? What should he say? "Sorry, Georgiana, but your brother fell off his horse and nearly died"?
Charles Bingley knew that he was completely word-ignorant and now it was a real annoyance. Staring out of the window for a short while, he thought about everything that had happened once more. There was just no way to stop thinking about it really. Once he had formulated the words to use in his head he began to write."Dear Georgiana,
I hope that this letter finds you well. I am afraid that something of a serious nature has occurred. Your brother was riding up to Netherfield and he came off his horse in a storm. He is unconscious but I fear I may be alarming you. He is in safe hands and is staying at Longbourn House with the Bennet family. He has been seen to and should recover fully. If you would like to see him, you are more than welcome to stay at Netherfield.
Do not worry, Georgiana, he is well looked after by someone who cares for him. I think you know of whom I speak.
He placed the pen back in the inkwell and looked at the letter in front of him. What would he have done if he had received such a letter about one of his sisters, or even worse, Jane? He would ride straight up and see for himself, would make sure that what the letter said was true and if not, be worried indeed. He knew Georgiana would come as soon as possible. How could she not see her brother? She doted on him, he had taken over the role as her father and she esteemed him so highly because of that. She would be distraught, as he himself had been. Just thinking back to how terrified he had looked sent shivers down his spine. At least Georgiana had been spared that. Bingley knew he would never forget the intense dread that encompassed him when Darcy stopped living for those few short moments.
He neatly folded the letter and, sealing it with blood red wax, stamped the Bingley crest onto it. Addressing the front to the Darcy London townhouse where he knew she would be, he stood it against the inkwell, ready to be posted. Leaning back in his chair, he ran his hand through his hair. The look on Elizabeth 's face when Darcy began to breathe once more was unbelievable, the love was so great. He knew that she would have given her life to save that man. Whilst talking to Jane that morning, she had discovered the very same suspicions. All he hoped was that everything would turn out well.
It was still early and so he decided to go to bed for a while. He would ride up to Longbourn in the afternoon to see Darcy and of course, his angel Jane. He thought back over what Darcy had told him before he headed to London , that his best friend had separated Jane from him. It was most unjust and he was angry when Darcy had told him of the deception. Now he understood slightly more. Darcy wanted to get away from Lizzy too. Bingley knew that his best friend would not choose to fall in love with someone as low in connections as Elizabeth , but he had done, so completely. Darcy had confessed more than he had wished to but to Bingley, it made the task of forgiving far easier. Now he had Jane and was so happy, until last night.
He went to his bed chambers and just lay atop the bed, far too exhausted to change and climb under the covers. Closing his eyes, he slowly drifted into a restless sleep.
~ * ~
Jane was lying in bed. She had tried to get to sleep for the better part of an hour now and all she wanted to do was rest. It was eluding her quite well, she thought. Realising that it was a hopeless cause, she rose from the bed and got dressed. Today was going to be a hard day but nothing could compare to last night. Her heart went out to her sister and Charles. They both cared about the man that lay in the room down the corridor.
She pulled the curtains back from the window and let the warm sunlight cover and surround her completely. She, like her sister, loved the sun. Everything seemed more alive and real when the rays of golden light coursed over them. Her sister would normally have gone out walking on a day as beautiful as this. Instead she stayed with the man she cared about.
Turning from the window, she wondered if she should go downstairs while it was still early. Breakfast sounded tempting. She had eaten every little since she received the news yesterday afternoon. Walking towards the door, she began to wonder what she would have done if Bingley had been brought in instead of Darcy. She would never have been as strong as her sister, but then again, Lizzy had always been far stronger than she. Lizzy climbed trees and walked miles every day. Her sister had beaten illness in the space of an hour and could take everything in her stride. Of course, Jane had the quieter disposition and was far more caring. That was until she saw the way Lizzy had tended Mr. Darcy all night.
Walking along the hallway from her room and down towards the breakfast room below, she couldn't help but think if Mr Darcy would indeed be alright. Doctor Grant had been unable to say whether he would recover properly after the trauma of last night. This worried her a great deal, mainly because of what it would do to Lizzy. She quietly walked downstairs and managed to see Doctor Grant taking leave for the morning. She walked into the room where her parents were sitting at opposite ends of the table. She pulled out her usual chair, the one to the left of her father and sat down. She would get something to eat in a minute, she told herself, she just needed to sit for a few moments.
"Jane, how is Lizzy?" Her father's soft voice was full of concern for his second eldest. The doctor had told him the basic gist of what had happened but nothing more. He took hold of Jane's hand across the table.
"She is fine I think, papa, better than she was last night. She is quite exhausted but refuses to leave Mr Darcy's side. She is better being near him though. It was very hard for all of us. I do not think I shall ever forget it as long as I live." She looked towards the window with tears in her eyes. She was so sad for Lizzy yet relieved at the same time.
"The doctor said something about his being quite ill last night and almost dying in Lizzy's arms. Is that true Jane? I could not bear to see Lizzy hurt anymore. Doctor Grant also told us that we shall have to wait for the young man to come round before he could tell anymore." He squeezed her hand gently, knowing how hard it was for Jane.
"That is true, there may have been some damage or there may have been none. We'll know the extent of it when he wakes up. Lizzy is dreading and hoping for his awakening. I think I can say for Mr Bingley and Miss Darcy as well as Lizzy, that if such damage has been caused, it would almost cripple them totally. Lizzy was beside herself last night. She wouldn't let him go, she kept pounding his chest, trying to wake him up. It was so horrible, papa. I felt so helpless yet Lizzy needed only one thing, and she got it. I only hope that Mr. Darcy is going to be fine. I hope he wakes up better than is to be hoped." Tears were rolling freely down her cheeks as she cried for her sister's private anguish. Her father stood and pulled her into his arms as she sobbed uncontrollably.
"I never knew it would be so hard for Elizabeth , she cares so deeply about this young man. This time last year she despised him and now, now she can no longer live without him. What a sorry state of affairs, eh, Mrs Bennet?" He looked towards his wife at the other end of the table.
She had been totally subdued since Doctor Grant had told them of what happened. The loss of a suitor worth ten thousand a year was grievous indeed, and it would have to have been under her own roof.
"Indeed it is, Mr. Bennet. I wonder how Lizzy will be able to cope if he doesn't awaken?"
No, Mrs Bennet was truly upset. Elizabeth had always been her least favourite daughter, too much like her father. Yet, she felt sorry for her. Nothing was worse than watching the person you love the most fade away in front of your eyes. She had seen that happen herself, with a death so completely different. She had watched her husband's love for her die, his passion for her fade, his regard for her diminish. Yes, she knew what Lizzy was going through. In a way she had been there herself.
All of a sudden, Kitty came running into the breakfast room at high speed. She was smiling brightly and ran up to Jane. Looking straight at her, she spoke.
"Lizzy says for you to come quickly, something has happened." They all filed out of the room and quickly went to see what had taken place.
As Jane, Mr. and Mrs Bennet and Kitty ran up the stairs to the guest bedroom and went straight into the room, they were met by the most pleasing sight.
~ * ~
Lizzy sat by the bed holding Darcy's hand in hers, gently stroking his knuckles with her fingers. It was a featherlike touch, yet she knew he could feel it. Nothing had ever felt like this before, she was perfectly attuned to everything he felt. When he had stopped breathing, her chest had constricted, she had felt the air rush out of her lungs. She struggled to breathe when he did, when his heart stopped, she felt sure that so did hers. Was this what love was, where you knew someone so well that you could be together with them in such a way?
She felt linked, bonded to him. She knew that should he die, she would too. All night she had sat by his side and watched the rise and fall of his chest as he struggled to take a breath of air. She had watched him in the throes of fever and she had seen the terror in his eyes. She knew this man so intimately just from this one night. This was going to change her life.
She leant closer to him. She could sense the normal heat rise from his body when she brushed her arm lightly against his. He was so beautiful, so serene, so peaceful compared to the night before. The cut on his forehead seemed to be healing quite well but his leg was still the greatest worry. She really didn't want to be there when told he wouldn't be able to ride for months. He loved riding. She had gathered that from their time in Derbyshire. Just seeing all the wonderful horses he kept and how he always cared for Lysanda, the trusty steed that had delivered him here.
She gently swept away the stray lock of hair that had fallen over his forehead and wondered what he would think when he found out she had nursed him back to health. Would he be angry or happy? She hoped it would be the latter. She disliked the idea of falling out just because of the rules of society.
"I hope you don't mind, William, but I think propriety can be damned. I love you. I wish you could hear me." She whispered in his ear.
She drew back slightly and noticed that his breathing rhythm had changed. It had become quicker and shallower. She felt his hand gently squeeze hers. Looking into his face, his eyes flickered open. His deep brown eyes were staring straight at her. None of the terror was there, none of the distance she had seen yesterday, only her beloved William, looking straight back at her.
"William? Can you hear me?" He nodded slightly at her question and a smile lit up his face, running straight into his deep eyes.
"Oh thank god, William, you're going to be fine."
Tears of joy were rolling down her face. She raised and kissed the back of his hand, she was completely lost in his eyes. He stroked her hands so lightly with his fingers. He reached out with his other hand and so tenderly wiped her tears away.
"Do not cry, Elizabeth ." His voice was hoarse and barely above a whisper. His throat was dry and scratchy. She poured him a glass of water and helped him to take a sip.
I must send for Doctor Grant, he was to be informed as soon as you awoke. I shall be not a second." She smiled and disappeared for a moment. She was back again and by his side before he had noticed her gone. His head ached but nothing mattered apart from his Lizzy.
"You should rest some more. You have been through a lot." She placed her hand on his cheek and he turned to kiss her palm.
"I will rest, as soon as I've said what I came here to say." He smiled again but fatigue was already claiming him once more.
"I think you should sleep, William. I can wait until a bit later, surely." He shook his head slightly and kissed the back of her hand.
"I shall be able to rest once I have said four words, Elizabeth ." He looked straight into her eyes. Neither noticed the four members of her family walk into the room, they were so lost in each other.
"I love you, Elizabeth." His voice was heavy and his eyes almost closing.
"I love you too, William." He was going to recover, she knew it. She smiled the most wonderful smile, and with that image, he fell fast asleep once again.
The days continued to be glorious. The sun poured through the windows into the guest room casting its light over the oft sleeping form. The colour was slowly returning to his features but he was still constantly drowsy. The fever had taken a lot of the strength he had and now, now it was just a matter of time. Every time he did awaken, though, he was met by the most welcome sight; Lizzy smiling and holding his hand.
When he opened his eyes to this perfect vision he had to smile back. His head hurt and all he wanted to do was crawl into a dark corner to return into the surrounding blackness. Not when his Elizabeth looked at him like that, not when she smiled her love and tenderness. Life would be perfect if she just had that expression every time he glanced in her direction. The light played like fire in her eyes. He could see right into the depths of her soul and he knew that she could see right into his. Ever since his accident, he made no attempt to hide the feelings he felt for her. He would not make the same mistakes again.
Lizzy had always been there, he knew that. He could sense her when he was unconscious; hear her talking to him, holding his hand. He had felt so safe and secure in the knowledge that she was with him, taking care of him. The only time that Lizzy had left him was when the doctor came to tell him about his injuries. Soon after the conversation began, he knew why she had disappeared. He knew that not many people who would stick around to hear the bad news.
"How are you feeling today, Mr Darcy? Better I hope." Doctor Grant was smiling at him, already knowing that the information he had to tell his patient was not going to go down well.
"My head hurts, a lot. My leg is aching as well. I have hardly been awake though so I have no idea what has happened." Darcy's eyes were weary and he spoke so quietly. He had only awoken from his fever the day before. Strength was still eluding him.
"Yes, your head will hurt for quite some time. It has been badly cut and it knocked you unconscious for a long while. Your leg on the other hand...that is very badly injured. When you fell your full weight went onto it. It will be about six weeks before you can walk on it, let alone ride." This got Darcy's attention straight away.
"What? When will I be able to ride, then? Surely it won't be long afterwards." The anger showing in his voice. Riding was his only way to escape the commanding position he had held for so long. He loved to escape on horseback, feel the wind beating at his face when he kicked Lysanda into a fierce gallop. This was important to him.
"Mr Darcy, please calm down. You have broken the lower half of your leg. The muscles rely on the two bones being strong for you to be able to walk again. The fracture is very serious. I hold out little hope of you riding in six months, if ever again. Walking is the first bridge to cross, and I guarantee, you will find it hard enough as it is."
Darcy looked as if his world had collapsed. He had never been this bad when he had fallen before. The weight of his fall was great, he could remember that. He had felt his leg snap from under him but he had never thought it would be this bad. Not being able to ride again would be crippling to him.
"Six months at least? Surely not. It cannot be as bad as all that. I want a second opinion. I have ridden all my life, I cannot be expected to stop just like that." He was worried now; just one fall might have cost him the ability to ride again. He tried to imagine life without being able to walk and ride properly again when Lizzy walked into the room. Darcy had not noticed Doctor Grant walk over to the door and summon her.
"Mr Darcy, I shall leave now. If you still wish to seek a second opinion I will be gladly be proven wrong. As it stands, I think you should concentrate on just being well again. This bridge will be crossed when we arrive at it. Good day, Mr Darcy, Miss Elizabeth." He nodded in both their directions and exited the room.
Lizzy walked over to where her beloved lay, visibly shocked and upset.
"What is it, William?" She laid her hand on his arm to console him. She knew what had been said had seriously affected him.
"Nothing of import. Doctor Grant was just letting me know what happened, tis' all. I shall be well again and we can live happily ever after. How is that for an ending?" He looked up and smiled at her but the smile never reached his eyes, betraying the inner turmoil that lurked beneath.
"I know what he said. He told me while you were ill that you may never ride again." He winced as the words he from his Lizzy's lips. This would be hard but he knew he would prevail.
"He only says maybe. I would like to think he is wrong and that my leg shall heal perfectly. Riding is my favourite way to relax and I shall be damned if a minor leg wound will stop me."
The hurt look upon her face at his defiance of the inevitable broke his heart in two.
"I am sorry, Elizabeth . I am just finding it hard to accept, that is all. This time a few days ago I would never have thought anything like this would happen. My head is constantly pounding, which makes it worse. I do not mean to snap, especially not at you."
He took her hand in his and stroked her knuckles gently. He knew that she had done this to him as he had been able to feel the featherlike touch of her fingers caressing the back of his hand. He would never forget that small touch, and how she screamed at him when he knew he was at death's door. She would have fought for him and he loved her even more for that fact. He pulled her down to sit beside him on the bed. He was propped against a pile of pillows. They were so close that he could feel the heat emanating from her body through the sheets against his good leg.
"It is fine. I know you shall ride again and I also know how stubborn you can be. I think we shall live happily ever after. I for one shall be happy to spend every day waking up to the sun... and the person I care more about than anything, just the way he is."
Darcy was touched by her words. Nothing ever said had meant so much to him. He had known for such a long time that she looked completely past his wealth and station, and now she would look past his injuries and still love him. He reached out and stroked her cheek with his fingers. She pressed his hand against her face and kissed his palm. A tear slipped down her face as she looked at him. Love and adoration was evident in her eyes as she stared at him.
He pulled her closer to him. They became so near he could feel her breath on his face. He looked into her eyes and saw the consent he needed. Their lips were barely touching as he slowly brushed his against hers. Pulling her closer to him, he captured her mouth with his and kissed her gently and lovingly. He ignored the spark of pain he felt as his lips caressed hers... nothing else mattered. The pleasant sensations running through them did not last long however.
That precious moment was interrupted by Jane walking into the room. Neither heard her knock or even enter. The second they realised was when Jane coughed slightly to alert them, so lost they were in each other. They pulled away slowly, neither wanting it to end. They had been through too much to just leap apart when they were caught. Lizzy looked towards her sister while Darcy just stared at Elizabeth .
"Lizzy, papa would like to have a word with you. I think it would be best if you let Mr Darcy get some rest."
Jane looked at Darcy and saw his eyes close for a few seconds. Fatigue was claiming him as it usually did after a few minutes. She couldn't help but think he would have been awake a while longer if he had not have been kissing her sister. The shock she had received when she entered the room to find the two of them in such an embrace was great. She would be talking to Lizzy later about it, she was sure.
"Yes, I think he requires some sleep as well. Tell papa I shall be down shortly. I have to retrieve a book from my room and then I shall go to his study." She smiled at Jane as her sister left the room, leaving Elizabeth and Darcy alone once again. Jane continued to listen to the conversation through the door, however.
"I think Jane was right, you should rest more. You only awoke from your fever yesterday. I promise I shall come and see you later on. When I have seen my father, I will be back here before you will have noticed me gone." She smiled reassuringly and tightened the grip on his hand before letting go, and rose from the bed.
"Lizzy, thank-you for everything you have done for me. I have no idea how I shall ever repay your generosity. I know how you cared for me while I was unconscious. There is something I need to tell you, though." He grabbed her hand to stop her walking away. He had to tell her, she had helped him so much. She needed to know.
"What is it?" She stood looking into his deep brown eyes.
"I heard everything. All the things you said while I was ill, I know them. I could hear you tell me you love me, I could hear all the words of kindness you spoke to me, I heard you scream at me. You pulled me back, Elizabeth, You. Nothing else." She sat back down on the bed.
"You heard everything? I thought you might, you reacted so much when I spoke to you. It felt as if we were..."
"...Connected. I know. I felt lost when you were not there by my side. I knew I had to go on because you held my hand so tightly. Nothing else mattered apart you. I have come so far to tell you what you mean to me. All the words I have ever hoped to hear you say you whispered to me when I needed them most. God, Lizzy, you will never know how much you really mean to me."
"Nor you to me. So much has happened these past couple of days. First your Aunt pays me a visit, then you arrive half dead on my doorstep. Then you nearly die in my arms and now...now we just have to be with each other. Talk about emotionally stressful. I hope these weeks do not happen too often, I feel my strong disposition has taken quite a hammering this week." She smiled teasingly at him and he returned the gesture in kind.
"You should go to your father. You should have been there quite a while ago, I fear, and, as always I am exceedingly tired. I hope my strength returns before long. We can then resume our battle of wits, Miss Bennet." He squeezed her hand once more as she left the room to seek her family. Darcy began to drift off to sleep, content in the knowledge that everything was going to be all right.
~ * ~
Caroline Bingley was most seriously displeased. Not only was her brother, Charles, no longer telling her anything of Darcy's condition, but he was ignoring her as well. To add to this familial dispute, the man she wanted to get her hands on was still in the care of that nobody. All the hard work she had been putting into getting Darcy for herself was being undone by a person of not the slightest consequence.
Oh yes, injured and could only make it to Longbourn before he collapsed. A likely story. He could have been sent here to receive superior treatment but oh no. Charles wouldn't let him and that doctor...Doctor Grant probably had not even been trained properly, and to think, he was treating the master of one of the greatest estates in the land!
Jane Bennet had most definitely been behind this heinous scheme as well. Of course, she would want her sister to marry well, and why not set her up with her fiancé's best friend? Everything was just a little too convenient for Caroline's liking.
Elizabeth Bennet had obviously flaunted her way into Darcy's mind so he would become besotted with her. When finally they would be married what a fool that little chit would make of him and his family. To think that one of the Bennet girls (reputed beauties, hah!) would have free reign over Pemberley made Caroline's skin crawl. No, this could not be allowed to happen. She refused to let this stupid plot of that Bennet girl to go any further and she knew just the way to stop the whole thing. Lady Catherine would be most displeased when she found out about how her nephew was being treated by that country slip of a girl.
Yes, the plan was formulated in her mind already. All she had to do was write it down on paper and wait for the day of reckoning to arrive. She walked over to the writing desk in the small morning parlour and drew out a sheet of paper from the drawer. Taking the seat and picking up her favourite pen, she began to formulate the words in her mind. They came all too easily as she dipped the nib of the pen into the black ink and started to write.
"To Lady Catherine de Bourgh
I have some information on which you may wish to act directly. I have been reliably informed that your nephew, Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy, is being looked after by none other than Miss Elizabeth Bennet. It is in my knowledge that he became injured whilst riding up from London roughly two days previous. He went straight to Longbourn and is being taken care of by the above mentioned person.
The conditions in which he has been placed are most unfortunate. The doctor who has been appointed to his health is a country surgeon who knows nothing of how to treat a man of Mr Darcy's station. I fear that Miss Bennet and her scheming family have taken it upon themselves to secure the favour of your nephew in the hope that he may marry Miss Bennet.
I trust you will be wanting to act on this straight away and I advise that you do. The circumstances are degrading rapidly, I fear, and a quick course of action may be necessary to remove him from that household. His social standing and his health are greatly endangered whilst he remains there.
There, that was it. She had foiled that foolish girl's ideas and the fortune hunters plans for Darcy. Not as hard as she thought, all in all. Soon after receiving this, Lady Catherine would arrive and remove Darcy from that household to a place far away from Hertfordshire. She folded the missive and sealed it, resting it on the silver tray by her side where the completed messages were placed to be delivered. This was one time in which she could not wait to see the reply. This would be worth all the effort in the end. Get rid of that recalcitrant girl and then have Darcy all to herself. Everything was going to plan.
Georgiana Darcy sat in the breakfast room of the Darcy London townhouse. She had felt lonely ever since the slight difference of opinion she had with her brother. She did want him to be happy. It was just that she doubted he was thinking straight. He was never one to become infatuated with anyone; if anything, he steered well clear of women, full stop. She understood his need to find an equal, somebody who would
The things that Lady Catherine had said to her had sunk in deep. She could hear every word spoken with the maliciousness intended. Her aunt had always wanted her brother to marry Anne, but he would never have had her, and Georgiana was happy about that. Anne would never be able to equal him and he would be alone and despondent for the rest of his life. When he had been with Miss Bennet that summer, he had seemed more alive, more the way he used to be. The weight of looking after the whole of the estate had been great on his mind. Having taken care of it from such a young age, he had forgotten to live these past few years.
Elizabeth Bennet gave him his lost time back. He looked younger and more at ease. She would make him a wonderful wife. They looked up to each other. He worshipped her and Georgiana was sure that Miss Bennet was in love with him also. She had seen the way her brother had looked at Elizabeth across the pianoforte that evening, and the fond farewell they bid each other that night. Miss Elizabeth Bennet was the right person for her brother. She was sure of that now.
The footman entered the room holding a silver platter on his hand. He lowered the tray so that she could remove the letter and looked at the handwriting on the front. Dismissing the servant she tore open the note. She had been able to tell from the front of the missive that it was Charles Bingley. She was curious as to what he was writing to her about, especially by express. She read the letter twice, unable to believe its contents.
She ran from the room asking that her things be packed for the trip to Hertfordshire. She had to get there as quickly as possible to be with her brother. Even if he was being well taken care of, she needed to be by his side whilst he recovered. According to the housekeeper and Mrs Annesley, they would be off within the hour. How had he fallen? How badly was he injured? How long would he take to recover? Questions flooded her mind as she prepared to depart.
"Poor William." She walked up the grand staircase to her chambers to oversee her packing. She would answer them for herself in a few short hours.
When Lizzy went to her father's study shortly after her conversation with Mr Darcy, she was surprised to see Jane there also. Both looked grave. She looked at them both with questioning eyes, desperate to know what had caused such looks of disapprobation. Mr Bennet motioned for her to take her favourite seat by the window and he and Jane walked towards their respective chairs also. Nothing had yet been said and this unnerved Lizzy no end.
"You wanted to see me." She smiled hesitantly at her father. He looked almost angry. Something bad must have happened to make him look as he did. She dared not think that her sister Jane had betrayed her confidence and told their father about the kiss she had witnessed.
"Yes, Elizabeth , I did wish to see you. I am afraid Mr Darcy will have to be removed to Netherfield as soon as he is recovered enough. According to Jane, that shall hopefully not be long." Lizzy just looked at her father and sister. What could they mean by doing this? She stared in open-mouthed fury for a few moments before venturing for a reason.
"I think it is best if he is allowed to recover elsewhere. I am assured it will be of some duration before he will be walking again. He would be better off among his own people, Lizzy. I know you enjoy his company and I am convinced he enjoys yours. That is what I am worried about." He took his daughter's hand and squeezed it lightly, a small smile playing about his lips.
"I also think that you should spend less time with him. I can see how looking after him constantly is affecting you. It is in your best interests to make sure no rumours can be spread. It will not only affect you but his social standing as well. We have had more than enough scandal this year without you helping with it. I am sorry, Elizabeth , but it has to be so. You shall be the one to tell him when the time comes. It would be best to hear it from you, I think. I have not told your mother yet for I fear she will make a very big fuss over this whole incident."
There was nothing more to be said. Her father was more worried about rumours that about her beloved William's health.
"I see." She rose to leave the room and spend as much time with Darcy as possible before he was unceremoniously shipped to Netherfield.
"Lizzy," Jane called after her and rose to leave as well. They exited the room together without a word. Lizzy went straight to her room, the tears of anger in her eyes threatening to spill down her face. On entering the room, she went to her window and opened it to breathe in the calming fresh air. Jane moved behind her and put a hand on Lizzy's shoulder.
"I am sorry."
"You're sorry? What have you told him, Jane? What did you say to make him kick the only man I can ever love out as soon as he is well enough? Don't you see how much I care about him? I love him, Jane. I love him." The pent up tears cascaded down her face as she looked at her sister. Never had she felt such betrayal before. Her dearest sister had made a big mistake.
"I did not say much. I only thought it was a bad idea him staying here too long. I know you care, Elizabeth , but think about him. What will happen when his aunt finds out? It can only be a matter of time before she hears about this. Then what will he do?"
"I do not know. Mr Bingley says that he will never tell her and neither will anyone he knows. You said that he had told his sisters not to. They are the only people I can imagine spiteful enough to tell her of these events. All I know, Jane, is that I want to spend time with him, get to know him better. I cannot do this if he is at Netherfield, or worse, taken to London ." Why could nothing ever go right for a change?
"He will be better taken care of there. When did you know you cared for him?"
"I do not know. It has been coming on so gradually. I knew that life without him was almost unbearable after I came back from Derbyshire. I am such a foolish romantic. I am sure I was never like this before this accident. I know why." She walked to her bed and sat on the edge. Jane joined her.
"When he gave up, when he almost disappeared from my life forever, I knew that I could not live without him. I feel him everywhere in this house when he is here. When he stopped breathing, I couldn't feel it anymore and it scared me so much. A void opened up inside me, only for a few seconds, but it was there."
"Lizzy, it must have been terrible. Why have you not told me this before?"
"I did not think about it much until just now. The thought of being away from him for just a few minutes after that night is almost crippling. I knew how precious life was and how so short it was that night. I want to spend every last breathing second with him. I do not know where feelings as strong as this have emerged from. They are nearly ripping me apart and I cannot control them. It worries me, Jane. Neither of us can live without the other"
"I have heard of such bonds between two people, but are you sure? I didn't mean to barge in earlier, by the way. I knocked." This brought a smile of remembrance to Lizzy's lips.
"I was afraid for a few minutes that you had told papa about that. I was about to never talk to you again; for the rest of the day, at least. You are too good, Jane, but this time, I hope you are right about him going away." Lizzy smiled forlornly for a second and stood up.
"I would never tell him anything like that. You always have my full confidence, you know. It's just that I think you should let him rest occasionally as I know how you two like to talk. He hasn't been awake very long now, has he?" Jane, the mother of everybody. So caring and thoughtful over all that she knew.
"I just thought that papa would be more understanding. That is all. I should go and see Mr Darcy. I said I would go back to him when I had seen papa."
"Just be careful, Lizzy. Promise me you will remember what papa said."
"I will. There is nothing to worry about, Jane. He will get well again and we will go from there." Lizzy smiled properly now and left the room to go and see Darcy.
Darcy never got to sleep again. As soon as Lizzy had left the room he became wide awake. She had given him a lot to think about just by being there. His mind was going to be engaged for quite some time and he really was tired. He looked around the room and spotted the book Lizzy had been reading when he awoke earlier that day. He could just about reach it from the confines of his bed and took it in his hands. He opened the front dust cover and saw Elizabeth 's perfectly formed handwriting inside.
"Elizabeth Bennet 21st February 1810" Her eighteenth birthday.
It was a beautiful book of sonnets. He thought that a little strange, considering Lizzy was of the opinion that poetry starved love. He opened the book to the page marked by her exquisitely embroidered bookmark. It was turned to sonnet 116.
"When in the chronicle of wasted time
I see descriptions of the fairest wights,
And beauty making beautiful old rime,
In praise of ladies dead and lovely knights,
Then, in the blazon of sweet beauty's best,
Of hand, of foot, of lip, of eye, of brow,
I see their antique pen would have express'd
Even such a beauty as you master now.
So all their praises are but prophecies
Of this our time, all you prefiguring;
And, for they look'd but with divining eyes,
They had not skill enough your worth to sing:
For we, which now behold these present days, Have eyes to wonder, but lack tongues to praise."
He read the words silently to himself, the meaning hitting him full on. Such a hypocrite she was, thinking that poetry starved love when she read about the perfect definition of love. He would teach her a lesson. He flicked the pages of the book back to sonnet 17, his personal favourite.
When she walked back into the room about an hour later he was still reading her book. She walked over to the bed to see what book held his concentration and realised that it was hers. "Caught out," she thought to herself. They each knew what the other was thinking and so he looked up at her and attempted a smile. It was getting easier to do but each time it almost turned into a grimace of pain. The gash on his forehead made even the most basic of facial expressions painful.
"This is a very fine book, Miss Bennet. It looks quite well read from my vantage point. There was me thinking you didn't much like poetry, especially of the love variety." He grinned slightly at her cornered form.
"I do appreciate poetry. The writing of Shakespeare has always captured my imagination and his sonnets are quite superb." She sat beside the bed in a chair and looked at him questioningly. "What do you find amusing, sir?" She shot him an arch look and he very nearly lost his countenance.
"Nothing in particular. Listen to this.
Who will believe my verse in time to come,
If it were fill'd with your most high deserts?
Though yet, heaven knows, it is but as a tomb
Which hides your life and shows not half your parts.
If I could write the beauty of your eyes
And in fresh numbers number all your graces,
The age to come would say, 'This poet lies;
Such heavenly touches ne'er touch'd earthly faces.'
So should my papers, yellow'd with their age,
Be scorn'd, like old men of less truth than tongue,
And your true rights be term'd a poet's rage
And stretched metre of an antique song:
But were some child of yours alive that time, You should live twice,-in it and in my rime."
"That was very beautiful. You read very well, I always imagined you would. Why did you choose to read seventeen?"
"Because it could almost be about you. I read this for the first time when I was about fifteen and I wanted to meet somebody who could inspire such a poem to be written. Then, at the grand old age of eight and twenty, I met you. At heart I have always been a hopeless romantic, I fear. I think the future Mrs Darcy will have to learn to put up with that. Do you know anyone who will be able to do that, Elizabeth ?" He looked at her, his eyes begging her to say the words he most wanted to hear pass from her lips.
"I..." She was cut off with the announcement of somebody at the door. Looking at Darcy longingly, she called for them to enter. If she was expecting anybody, it was most certainly not Caroline Bingley.
She was wearing that god awful orange dress as usual. It would not have suited anyone, let alone a woman over six foot tall. The feather plumes she had attached to the oversized head dress did not help to maintain a serious composure. Lizzy and Darcy just shared a look of surprise and dismay. She walked straight to the foot of Darcy's bed and looked down upon him.
"Mr Darcy, I hope you are feeling well?" It was obvious to anybody that no, Darcy wasn't in the best of health but to Caroline, he was well enough to listen to what she had to say. He wished he wasn't.
"I am slightly better, it can be said. What a pleasant surprise to see you, Miss Bingley. Is your brother with you?"
"No. What I have to say only involves you, sir, my brother has naught to do with it." She walked towards the window and looked out for a few moments, leaving Lizzy and Darcy to guess what on Earth she was on about. She turned back to face them both and took a seat where she could have the condescending upper hand.
"I have something to tell you, sir. I thought it wise of me to inform certain members of your family of your current condition."
"What? Who did you tell?" He knew the answer before he asked the question. This was going to be bad news.
"Your cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam and...your aunt Lady Catherine de Bourgh were informed."
Darcy was livid. She could read it in his face. His jaw was set in grim lines and his eyes were stone cold. Miss Bingley almost fled the room in terror. She had heard of his temper but this...this made her blood run colder than before.
"I gave strict orders for only my sister to be informed." His voice was emotionless as he spoke. Lizzy knew the wrath that Miss Bingley would face. She herself had heard this tone of voice before at Hunsford.
"I am aware of that, sir, but your aunt has a right to know. After all, you were very ill only yesterday. I am sure she would want you to receive the correct treatment." She didn't know where her courage poured from. She could not move yet she kept digging herself deeper.
"I am receiving the treatment required here without the aid of my aunt. What else would you like to do for me, Miss Bingley? You obviously know what is best for me without asking. Never do anything for me again. Do you know the trouble you have just caused? This could be the last mistake you ever make. Do you understand me?" His voice began to escalate as he unleashed the fury contained within him.
"I think you should go, Miss Bingley, so that we may sort out this mess you have caused." Lizzy was almost as mad as Darcy. She had to get her out of here quickly as Darcy was seriously losing colour.
"I shall leave dire..." She stopped mid sentence as she watched Darcy's face become enveloped in a wave of pain.
"Get her out." His voice was rough as the pain in his forehead pulsed once again. Miss Bingley just stood transfixed. What had she done? First she had called his aunt and now she had caused this...this...what was it?
Spots began to float in his field of vision. The sound of Lizzy's voice started to fade, everything seemed so far away. The pain in his head pulsated wildly against his skull. This was far more painful than when he first hit it. This was damn near unbearable. All he could see was Lizzy talking to him, Jane appeared by her side. And then they were gone.
Blackness surrounded him once again as he slumped back onto the pillows. He could feel nothing, the pain had disappeared. The last coherent thought in his misfiring brain was asking what was happening to him. Then nothingness encompassed him, and he knew no more. He succumbed willingly to the darkness as it led him to a temporary peace. At least he wouldn't have to deal with Lady Catherine for a while longer.
The journey to Hertfordshire seemed to be the longest she had ever taken. The worry she was gong through was almost too much to bear as Georgiana Darcy sat and stared out of the carriage window. The hill and tress just seemed to blur into one and the same. The scenery of the trip really did not matter to her. Her mind was employed with different feelings.
He had been going back to ask Miss Elizabeth Bennet for her hand in marriage. She wondered if he would be as he is now if he had not have done. So much had changed in the past few days. These injuries would make his decision fall to two ways and, she knew he would make the right one. He had always made the right choice. All his life he had made very few mistakes. Not that she knew of anyhow.
The road was drying but still made the journey slightly bumpy. She knew that she had to be close to the house where her brother's best friend lived. Netherfield was not as pretty as Pemberley she had been told, but was a noble house all the same. She just wanted to get there to see her brother. It was coming dark and she had no idea how much longer they were to take. She might have to wait until the morrow to check on how her beloved brother was.
The coach ambled along until it turned off the road to enter a private road, a sign at the end saying 'Netherfield'. She had arrived finally, not much longer to be cooped up inside the carriage. As it came to a halt outside the house, Charles Bingley appeared at the door ready to welcome her in. The footman jumped down from the back of the coach and six to open the door for Miss Darcy. She descended the steps and was eagerly pounced upon by Mr. Bingley offering his condolences on her brother's accident.
"There is no need to worry yourself too much though, he is in very capable hands, I assure you. Darcy is a strong man and will be able to get through all of this without too much bother I hope."
Bingley rambled on ceaselessly until they reached the door to the sitting room. Georgiana decided she'd had enough and asked her question at the first pause for breath.
"What exactly are his injuries Mr Bingley and how did he obtain them? You were very sketchy in your missive." She sat on one of the sofas attempting to look as calm and collected as she sounded.
"Yes, I apologise about the briefness of my letter. I was considerably more worried about Darcy then than I am now. He has broken his leg quite badly I fear. He also hit his head but Doctor Grant says it should be no more than just a scar when he is fully healed. Miss Bennet has been quite attentive to the instructions given. He should be on the long road to a successful recovery."
Charles Bingley was always the optimist, nothing ever got him down. Apart from the whole Jane Bennet incidence he had been happy all his life. His best friend was seriously ill and yet he was perfectly cheerful, this got on Georgiana's nerves somewhat.
"A long road to recovery? Why will it take so long. A broken leg is not that much of a problem is it? And what kind of scar will it leave? I think I should go and see him, make sure that he will be all right by myself." She rose from the sofa and started towards the door, Bingley close on her heals.
"Miss Darcy, I think we should wait until I hear word from the Bennet's. They have been so kind as to take Darcy in while he is ill. He only just managed to get to Longbourn, their family home, before he collapsed."
"I just want to make sure..." She was cut off by a blur of orange appearing before her.
Caroline Bingley had just gotten back from Longbourn. Tears were streaming uncontrollably down her face; her rouge now streaked from the salt water pouring from her eyes. She turned and looked towards her brother and his guest. Not registering who he was with, she carried on regardless. It was only when Charles called for her to stop, that she turned and looked closely. Standing there next to him was the sister of the man she had killed. Or so she thought.
"Caroline, what on Earth is the matter? Why are you so upset?" He was genuinely concerned for her health. He had never seen her so upset since she was a small girl.
"Oh Charles, I have done something terrible. I have just been to Longbourn to see Mr Darcy. I know we were told not to visit but I felt I should. I wish I had listened to Doctor Grant's advice. I fear I have...I have... Oh I cannot go on." She stopped as more sobs wracked her body. She looked at Georgiana and whispered, "I am so sorry." Before running off to her rooms to pack her belongings.
Bingley ran after her and stopped to look at her in the doorway to her chambers. She was furiously throwing things into a trunk; evidently in a rush to get as far away from here as possible.
"What has happened Caroline? What have you done? Tell me at once." He was worried now, what had she done to his best friend.
"I wrote to his aunt, such a spiteful thing to do. I went to tell him and his county nothing about what I had done, to boast in their faces at ruining their possible happiness. Oh Charles, he got so mad that he... he passed out. I think I might have helped kill him. Oh God, what have I done?" She began to mutter to herself whilst chucking gowns across the room.
"Please stop it for a minute Caroline, he will surely be well. I do believe he shall be fine but what did you think you were doing by writing to his aunt. Do you realise the mess you have just caused? Stop packing and let us see how we can rectify this dreadful situation." She looked at him for a short moment and resumed packing. She would not be moved from her present goal, removing herself from Hertfordshire.
As Bingley walked back to the stairs he was met by a very worried looking Georgiana. He got his hat and great coat and ordered a carriage to be readied immediately. They would have to get to Longbourn soon, see if they could repair some of damage caused.
What had she done? Coming in here and acting as if she owned the estate, talking to them as if they meant nothing and spreading malicious news all over the room. She realised her mistake when Darcy passed out though. The look that spread across her face was a picture. Lizzy knew that Darcy would survive, he had been very weak as it was. The pain in his head just overtook him as the darkness blocked out the sunlight pouring through the windows.
The doctor had arrived shortly after Caroline Bingley had fled the room in a fit of guilty tears. He had been close by luckily when the stable boy had found him, telling him it was urgent. When Doctor Grant arrived he looked at Darcy quickly and seeing the worried expression on Lizzy's countenance he told her straight away that there was nothing to worry about.
"The headache must have caused him to pass out. Nothing else. Obviously Miss Bingley caused some distress to him that he could not take it in his weakened state. He will be fine in a few hours. I doubt this will have any adverse affect on his health." The look on Lizzy's face softened as she took in the new information.
"That is good news Doctor Grant. Yes, Miss Bingley's message was quite distressing but should not put undue strain on him in the foreseeable future." She looked at Darcy a lot he noticed, concern visible around her eyes, he knew something worse was about to happen.
"I am glad to hear that Miss Elizabeth, I shall leave him to rest now, he will be recovered in no time." He bowed in front of Lizzy and left the room. She took up her usual place at the side of his bed holding Darcy's hand tightly in hers, hoping that this was not going to be a regular occurrence.
Jane popped her head around the door to see if Mr Darcy was going to be all right and also was hoping for an explanation. Walking further into the room when Lizzy did not notice her, she looked at Darcy and saw he was once again out cold. She couldn't help but think this had something to do with her soon to be sister in-law.
"Lizzy? Lizzy? What has happened?" She sat in the chair across the other side of the bed from her sister. Looking straight into her face, she could see the concern etched into her features.
"Caroline Bingley paid us a visit. That spiteful woman has made him ill once again. How is he ever to get better when so much goes wrong?" Tears began to trickle down her face as she looked at Darcy's unconscious form.
"What did she say Lizzy? What is wrong with Mr Darcy?" The concern has spread to Jane's countenance now, something terrible had happened.
"She has written to his Aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. She hopes that she will come and take him away to London . Miss Bingley hates us that much that she has done such a malicious thing. I know his aunt will come and he shall have to go with her. He is in no fit state to see his aunt...he passed out when he got mad at Miss Bingley. What am I to do Jane? I cannot let the man I love disappear forever. So much has happened to keep us apart. We seem fated to be separated at every turn." Lizzy began to sob as Jane walked round the bed and hugged her sister.
"He shan't be moved Lizzy. I have just seen Doctor Grant when he was leaving. He said that under no circumstances was he to be moved, she cannot take him without risking his life. She will see he is too weak to even stay awake for a few minutes. Surely she will be able to see sense? I have not met her but surely, Lizzy, she cannot be all that bad."
"Oh Jane, you have no idea. She is fiercely protective of him as she wants him to marry her daughter. She will do anything at all to take him away from me, risking his life or not."
Lizzy stood and walked over to the window, the day was beautiful again. The birds were singing even though the leaves on the trees had begun to brown and decay. The sun shone hot through the windows and she could feel the powerful rays caress her face. She could imagine herself standing in the grounds at Pemberley with William next to her, holding each other, just soaking up the sun. That would be perfect. The image had altered to include the fine scar above his left eye and a slight limp. The image was still perfection itself. This would never happen though. Caroline Bingley had seen to that herself.
"At least you and Papa will get you own way. You want Mr Darcy to leave, my word, what a scandal would be caused if he remained. If he should become worse due to his removal what will you do then?" She turned to Jane, anger flared in her eyes. Her own family was also against her.
"You know that is not true Lizzy. I am sure Papa will not let him leave now that this has happened. Papa wants you to be happy Lizzy, nothing else."
"And making me happy involves endangering William's life does it?"
"Lizzy, listen, you must talk to Papa, he will understand. I am sure..." Jane was interrupted by the sound of a carriage pulling up outside. She immediately recognised the livery, it was Charles.
Lizzy went to sit next to Darcy once again, refusing to leave his side until he awoke. Jane ran down the stairs to see her fiancé. He was not alone however.
As Jane entered the sitting room to see to the newly arrived guests, she noticed a young woman she had never met before. She seemed strangely familiar in the way she stood near to the window just staring out into nothing. Charles walked over to Jane and kissed the back of her hand lovingly. He looked worried, she could guess why.
"Miss Bennet, I have just rushed over from Netherfield. I hear something has happened." Jane looked towards the young woman at the window, she had turned at was looking at Jane with a similar expression to the one Charles was wearing.
"Excuse me, Jane, this is Miss Georgiana Darcy, Miss Darcy, this is Miss Jane Bennet." They curtsied to each other and Jane asked them to sit. Luckily Mrs Bennet was in her room and the younger Bennet girls had walked in Meryton. Miss Darcy was safe from the rest of the family for the moment.
Jane noticed that she did not look a lot like her brother. She was as fair as her brother was dark, her eyes blue where his were brown. She had a very womanly figure for her age and would be very beautiful if her face didn't hold the look of worry it carried at the moment.
"Miss Darcy, welcome to Longbourn. I assume Mr Bingley has told you most of what he knows concerning your brother?"
The girl was very quiet and shy, much like Mr Darcy in that respect. Jane had never thought him proud, just reserved around people he did not know. An easy mistake to make and her sisters had all made that same assumption. At least Lizzy had been able to see through it. Jane knew quite a lot about Miss Darcy after Lizzy had spoken of her when visiting in Derbyshire. This was not the creature she has expected though.
"Miss Bennet, Mr Bingley has told me a little of what has happened but not everything. Is he well now? Miss Bingley looked very worried when she came back from here." He voice was barely a whisper and her eyes were glued to the floor.
"Miss Darcy, I think it would be best for you to hear everything from my sister, Elizabeth. She has been taking care of him ever since he arrived and knows all there is to know about his injuries. I shall take you to her." Jane stood as did Miss Darcy.
Georgiana knew Elizabeth quite well and seemed to get on whilst they were in Derbyshire. She knew that Elizabeth would take good care of her brother while he was ill but knew that something was wrong about the whole situation. As Georgiana let herself be lead to the room where her brother lay, a rising worry began to settle. She had no idea what to expect? What would he look like? Was he very ill or just weak from the fall? No amount of preparation could make her feel any less ill when she walked into the room.
As the door opened and she slowly walked in, turning to the bed in the room, she let out a shriek. There he was, pale and sickly looking. His chest was barely moving as he breathed gently in and out. She couldn't see the cut on his head, or the heavy bruising on his leg where the bone had damaged the muscles. She could see Lizzy holding his hand and staring at him.
"Miss Bennet?" She could barely speak, so in shock she was. Even though she was hardly audible, Lizzy looked round to see her in the doorway. She stood and walked over to where she stood.
"Miss Darcy, please sit down, you look as if you're about to faint. I could not deal with both Darcy's collapsed in my house now, could I?" She smiled reassuringly at Georgiana as she led her to the chair at the side of the bed. Lizzy poured her a glass of water as she stared at her brother, shock etched in her face.
"I know he doesn't look too good now, but when he is awake he looks just like he always did. I fear he smiles a lot more now though." Handing the glass of water to Georgiana, she took her seat at the other side of the bed and continued to hold his hand. This seemed odd to Georgiana, how Lizzy just ignored all rules of propriety and cared from William like they were already married.
"He looks so weak. What are his injuries Miss Bennet, please tell me everything." Her eyes pleaded with Lizzy and so, she acquiesced to the request.
"Very well. Mr Darcy came off his horse, whilst riding up to Netherfield. He must have landed heavily on his leg as it is badly broken, the fractured bone has also severely damaged the muscles around it. This could mean a struggle when trying to walk again."
Lizzy swallowed hard at the thought of him never walking or riding again. "He also hit his head and has a large cut above his eye." Lizzy traced her fingers along the length of the deep wound to show Miss Darcy.
"He has been quite ill as well, has he not Miss Bennet?" Panic was starting to rise in Georgiana's voice.
"Yes, he has. Tis nothing to worry about now. He shall be well..."
"I need to know what happened."
"Very well. On the first night he developed a high fever that so very quickly raged through him. It just got worse and worse as the night wore on. Nothing could cool him and it refused to break. He...he stopped breathing for a few minutes, there was nothing. He died for a few short moments and then he came back. The fever broke, thankfully. I have never been so worried in my life as I was that short time. I stayed with him all night and all day. Then he woke up that afternoon. He sleeps a lot now. That was until today when Miss Bingley arrived at gave him some bad news. He passed out once again."
Georgiana released an audible gasp at the sound of Miss Bingley making her brother ill once again. She looked at Elizabeth who was once again looking at Darcy. Elizabeth Bennet was in love with her brother. She could see it in her eyes while she looked at him. The worry in her voice as she told her about that night, how she must have felt.
" Elizabeth , may I call you that?" Lizzy looked towards her smiling and nodded. "You may call me Georgiana then. I have no idea what it must have been like that night. You care about my brother a lot do you not?"
"I do, that night was dreadful. I was so happy when he awoke the next day. Today when he fell unconscious again, I had no idea what to do. I just hope he awakens soon. He would love to see you as you would him no doubt."
At that moment, he gripped Lizzy's hand in his gently. Lizzy knew he must be regaining consciousness and so squeezed back. She looked to Georgiana who knew he must also be wakening. His eyes fluttered open and let out a slight groan as the sunlight pierced the darkness. He tried to focus when he felt a hand rest on his forehead.
"Lizzy," He croaked out. His throat was rough and it was hard to talk.
"I'm here, I shall get you some water." He just nodded gently and closed his eyes once again. "Here, drink this." He raised his head and drank the icy liquid, its coolness soothing the burning sensations down his neck.
He opened his eyes once again, this time trying to focus on one object alone, his Lizzy. Slowly, the fuzziness abated at he could see her smiling at him, her fine eyes staring into his. He smiled back weakly.
"William, are you alright?" Georgiana spoke softly and took his other hand in hers.
As soon as he heard his little sister's voice he turned to look at her. Once again, his vision cleared to show her smiling at him, tears streaming down her face.
"Georgie! Don't cry. I'm back." He could barely whisper as she wrapped her arms about his neck and hugged him tight. His strength had once again diminished, all he could do was hold her limply with one arm. His other hand still clutching Lizzy's.
Georgiana released him once again and sat down. Darcy had an expression of sheer happiness on his face as he looked at the two women he loved most in the world. He began to feel drowsy as his sister told him how happy she was he would be well again. Looking towards Lizzy he mouthed the words 'I love you'. She smiled and seeing he was tired, decided to talk Georgiana into leaving him to rest for a while.
"I shall be back tomorrow William, I am staying at Netherfield so you shall not get out of seeing me." He smiled at her teasing as she walked from the room.
"I look forward to it dear sister." And with the closure of the door, he fell fast asleep.
Darcy slept the rest of the night and most of the next day. When he did awaken for a few minutes, Lizzy encouraged him to eat a little for him to regain his strength. The pain in his head seemed to be abating slightly thankfully. His lack of improvement was a constant worry to Lizzy and she found herself staring at him rather than reading her book when he was asleep. She hoped more than anything that he would get better soon.
"Will you please stop packing and listen to me for a minute Caroline?" Louisa Hurst had taken about as much of her sister as she could manage. She had been inconsolable ever since she had returned from Longbourn the previous day. She had been packing furiously and kept muttering to herself about having gone somewhere and what had she done. Louisa was becoming quite unnerved.
"Caroline, STOP!" She grabbed her sister by the arms and shouted in her face. Caroline stopped dead in her tracks and looked at her sister.
"What have you done? Why are you packing? Charles said that you had been to Longbourn to see Darcy and that something happened, now tell me what it is." Louisa sat Caroline down on the bed and put her arm around her shoulder. This would be painful.
"I went to see Darcy yesterday to tell him about something I did. It was so horrible and spiteful of me Louisa; I never thought I would get this bad. I wrote to his Aunt Catherine about him being taken care of by that wanton hussy. He was so mad. I have never seen so much anger before in my life. I could have sworn he would have half killed me if he was not quite so ill. He was telling me to go when he just passed out right in front of my eyes. I thought he had died, I have almost killed him. What have I done?" The tears that had been welling in her eyes spilled over and ran down her cheeks. She didn't think she had any tears left but they just kept coming.
Louisa hugged her close and made soothing noises. Charles and Georgiana hadn't seemed too worried when they got back the night previous, in fact, Georgiana seemed quite happy.
"I can't be as bad as all this Caroline, Darcy must be healthy for Georgiana and Charles looked so happy last night. Surely they would have told us if something bad had happened. Darcy will be all right so why are you packing still?" Louisa knew the answer even before her sister had opened her mouth.
"Because he hates me, I have done something so bad. What will happen when his Aunt arrives and takes him away with her? He will curse my very name for ruining his happiness. I saw the way they looked at each other. They are in love and I only saw this after I ruined their chances. I cannot bear to be near them when this happens." With that, she jumped off the bed and resumed her packing. Louisa could just sit there and watch helplessly.
"I shall leave as well then, you have nowhere to go. I shall send an express and have the townhouse readied. We shall all go to London for the season early." Louisa walked from the room and went to find her husband. There was packing to be done and arrangements to be made.
Darcy was asleep again as usual. Elizabeth had just managed to get him to eat something and to drink some water but he was still so very ill. Nothing seemed to be working. The sleeping he was doing seemed to be sapping his strength somehow and couldn't keep him awake for very long. Her only hope would be for Georgiana to come and keep him from sleep a while longer. That would be what would happen when she arrived. It wouldn't be very long so she decided to wait in her fathers study. He was away at the farm for the morning leaving the room all to herself. .Randomly, she selected a book from the shelves and commenced reading, the words never sinking in.
The sound of a carriage pulling up to the front of the house could be heard. Placing her book on the small table to the side of the chair, she walked from the room to greet her guests. The entrance hall saw the welcoming of Mr Bingley and Miss Darcy once again. Lizzy tried to smile reassuringly to Miss Darcy, her worries about his lack of strength she would keep to herself for the time being. Bingley saw straight through it but said nothing; he would question Jane about it later.
"Georgiana and Mr Bingley. How glad I am to see you."
"As I you Elizabeth. How is my brother? May I see him right away?" The look of concern and worry on Miss Darcy's face was mixed with eager anticipation to see her beloved brother again; how could Lizzy have said no.
"Yes you may, he is sleeping though and it may be a while before he awakens. Be patient with him, he is still quite weak." She smiled at Georgiana as she walked up the stairs to his room.
As they opened the door, Georgiana, followed by Lizzy and Bingley, entered the darkened room. Elizabeth opened the curtains slightly so that some light could run free around the room. All three looked towards Darcy. He was as Lizzy had said, still asleep; the black around his eyes and the paleness of his complexion had not improved at all. Bingley knew at that point, he would not need to question Jane over Lizzy's worry. He had seen it for himself.
Georgiana walked over to the bed and took her brothers hand in hers; he was cold, all his remaining energy had been put into the repair of his broken body. As the tears crept down her face, one landed on the back of his hand. It was with this, the smallest of sensations, that he opened his eyes and looked around the room. There was none of the disorientation there anymore; he knew exactly where he was and it caused him to smile. He knew Lizzy would be here and he was safe from everything. Looking towards his sister who was sobbing gently, he put his free hand on her shoulder making her look towards him.
"Oh William, when will you be well again? I have never seen you look so ill?" He felt the pain his sister was going through. He remembered how he felt when he saw his own mother lying there, as white as a sheet. There was no happy ending there, his sister would definitely find one here, of that he was certain.
"I will be well again, do not worry. It will not be long before you see me riding off on Lysanda at Pemberley without a care in the world."
She smiled at this.
"You will always have something on your mind, you always did have." It was his turn to smile. He looked about the room and saw Lizzy standing by the window, looking at him with concern. He held out his hand to her and without hesitation, she walked over and took it. He kissed the back of her hand and squeezed in gently.
"I shall leave you two alone for a while. My father has returned I think, I have something I would wish to talk with him about. I shall be back presently though." She smiled at him and he smiled back; conveying his thanks for letting him and Georgiana have chance to talk.
As Lizzy and a relived Bingley left the room, Darcy sat up slowly and turned towards his sister. She had stopped crying now but was still clutching his hand for dear life.
"I want to know what happened William, I want to know how all this occurred, I need to know." She surprised herself with the forcefulness of her words. She had never felt this strongly about anything in her life.
"After breakfast that morning, I tried riding up here to see Bingley and see Elizabeth . I told you that morning what my intentions were and I intended to carry them out to the latter. I had just ridden into Hertfordshire when the sun disappeared and the clouds intervened. I should have stopped but all I could think about was getting here to see Lizzy. The rain poured and the ground beneath me turned to mud. Lysanda lost his footing down an embankment and threw me to a slightly safer option than my being crushed beneath him. I can remember my leg hitting the ground and feeling it collapse from beneath me; I hit the ground harder because of that and so hit my head on a rock I suppose.
"When I woke up, the sun was shining down on me. I did not remember my injuries and tried to stand up. Of course, my leg collapsed again and I can still feel the searing pain running up it. I noticed that my head was bleeding. I managed to get back atop Lysanda and he brought me here. That is about all I can remember. I have the image of Elizabeth looking at and then I passed out. And that is that. Not very imaginative or exciting. I thought it would be more that just falling off my horse that would reduce me to bed rest." He smiled as he remembered his cousin Richard laughing at him the first time he fell off his horse, he vowed it would never happen again.
"You make it sound as if it were nothing, how can you be so blasé about this? As soon as I heard all I could think of was the argument we had that morning, I thought those would be my last words to you; ones of unhappiness. How do you think I felt?"
The tears began to cascade down her face once again. He pulled her up from the chair to sit on her bed and hugged her to him. This was the strongest he had felt in days and she needed it.
"I'm sorry that I argued with you, I know you were right in choosing Elizabeth . She is so wonderful and she cares about you so much, I can see it in her eyes. Please forgive me," Sobs coursed through her body, he rubbed her back reassuringly.
"It's all right, we shall be fine. I will get better and everything will be good again, I promise."
"But it cannot be the same, you shall get married and it will all change, my last memories of what it used to be like will be ones of fighting."
"It will be better when I marry Elizabeth , she will bring laughter back to Pemberley and make it the home we grew up with..."
"It's the home you grew up with, not me. I never knew our mother. I never heard her laugh or cry. You want to make it like you knew; my childhood was so different William. I like Elizabeth , she will make you so happy and make Pemberley what it was like for you. I shall never be a part of that." She had pulled away to look at him, tears welling in his eyes as he took in all she said. Nothing ever went the way it was meant to.
Georgiana turned and walked away to the window, staring at the sun as it slowly descended in the sky. She had not meant to argue again, to tell him everything that she felt, but she had. It was all done, she could not live with him whilst Elizabeth was there; it was his choice now.
She saw a carriage pull into the long drive to Longbourn, something seemed familiar in the coloured livery of the coachman; she could not think what at the moment. As it drew nearer though, her worst fears and best hopes appeared at the same time. As she saw the guest enter the house she smiled hopefully and turned towards her brother. The shouting downstairs carried up to his ears, bad news always came in pairs.
Lizzy ran down the stairs to her fathers study when she had left William to his sister's care. Bingley had followed her but went straight into the drawing room to be with his beloved Jane. She felt so happy for them, hoping that she would soon find her own happiness with Fitzwilliam Darcy. She had to talk to her father about him being moved. If what Jane had told her was true, then he would be forced to stay much longer, this filled her heart with joy. Nothing would be worse that having him removed to Netherfield, or worse, London .
As she appeared in front of the door to his study, she knocked quietly. When he called for her to enter, she was met with her father's smiling face. He motioned for her to take her favourite leather seat by the window and then joined her. He smiled at her for he knew exactly why she was here. Doctor Grant had spoken to him the previous evening.
"Lizzy, you seem happy. I take it there is an improvement in your Mr Darcy." He raised an eyebrow at her and then saw her worried countenance surface once again.
"I am afraid very little if one at all. It will be a long time before he is strong enough to be removed from Longbourn. I was wondering if you would..."
"...Change my mind about sending him to Netherfield. Yes, I was beginning to wonder myself when you would come to ask. The answer is yes, he may stay if it is the best interests of his health. I would hate to endanger someone you care about so much. Tell me what happened last night, I saw Miss Bingley leave in a terrible hurry yesterday afternoon."
"She has written to his aunt, our humble cousin's noble patroness. When she finds out that he is here under my care, she will have him removed. He is not strong enough to take her on, I do not know what I shall do. He passed out when he became angry at Miss Bingley's spiteful trick. Imagine what a confrontation with Lady Catherine would do to him." She looked expectantly at her father, he was deep in thought.
"She will not be allowed to see him, I am sure you can make sure of that. You are a strong girl Elizabeth and fiercely protective of your Mr. Darcy. I am sure you will be able to dissuade her from seeing him. If not, I shall have her publicly escorted from this estate. While he is under my roof, he is under my care. I'm ashamed to admit that I did not see it that way before. I am sorry for my suggestion yesterday Lizzy, please forgive me for being so foolish."
"How could I not forgive you? You and Jane were thinking about Mr Darcy and myself. A scandal on top of Lydia 's mistakes could ruin him. Your thoughts were justified, I see that now." She smiled at her father and took his hand, he smiled back.
"I think that you two will be very happy Elizabeth , so perfect for each other. I did have my reservations about him but not anymore. I wish you both all the happiness in the world." She laughed at this.
"That is if we ever..." A carriage pulled up outside the house interrupting her well timed observation. Standing to look at the livery, she recognised it at once; Lady Catherine de Bourgh had arrived full force. Mr. Bennet squeezed Lizzy's hand in reassurance.
"Be strong Lizzy, stand up to her for your Mr Darcy's sake." She smiled weakly and walked from the room to greet Darcy's aunt.
And there she was, standing in the small hallway to Longbourn, the opposition. The extra height given by the dead pheasant on her bonnet made her seem intimidating; Lizzy knew better than that. Pleasantness was the key.
"Lady Catherine, how nice of you to pay a visit while your nephew..."
"How dare you speak to me you insolent girl? How dare you even mention my nephew you uncaring, selfish gal? What are you doing to him? If he is ill, he needs the proper care; not some foolish country upstart with not familial connections or status in life. Where is he? I must see him at once to take him away from such a place." Lady Catherine all but shouted at Elizabeth , but still, she stood her ground.
"I am afraid you cannot be allowed to see him. He is under strict orders to be allowed to rest and not to be overexerted. He must not be removed from the house either." Elizabeth set her jaw and folded her arms. She would never allow Lady Catherine to get past.
"You foolish girl, you think you can stop me from seeing my own blood? I think not, out of my way you little chit." Lady Catherine made a move towards Elizabeth but she still stood her ground, effectively blocking the stairway.
"You shall not see him, I forbid it. He is under my care now, I am thinking of his well-being. That has nothing to do with you at present." Elizabeth could feel her anger rising as Lady Catherine continued in her attempts to intimidate her.
"GET OUT OF MY WAY!" With one last attempt, Lady Catherine barged straight into Elizabeth and knocked her off balance. Throwing her to one side, Lady Catherine climbed the stairs. Elizabeth jumped up and followed her. Elizabeth knew that his aunt has no idea where Darcy was and she would refuse to say anything. She did not have to.
Georgiana stepped out of the room alerting her aunt to where her brother was. Elizabeth could hear him calling her back but it was too late. Lady Catherine stormed into the room and stared at her nephew. He had become deathly pale by the time Lizzy had entered the room, she rushed straight to his side. Nothing could prepare them for what was about to happen.
"There you are nephew. You shall be removed from this house straight away. I shall have you taken to London where you shall receive proper treatment and you shall never return here again. Georgiana, gather his things together."
"You have NO control over me at all. I demand to know why you have wrongly assumed that you have." Darcy was getting mad, Lizzy began to worry. Matters had the potential to go horrible wrong.
"I have control over you as your nearest living relative and whilst you are ill, you shall take heed of everything I say..."
"I shall not, I will not be removed from here to London and I shall remain in Hertfordshire for as long as I wish." She moved closer to him and looked into his eyes, the determination she saw there startled her.
"You would wish to stay here with your country WHORE? Then so be it." Darcy was incensed, how dare she talk about Elizabeth like that?
"She is not a whore, she is better than you will ever be, and your daughter. You think Anne would honestly make a suitable mistress for Pemberley; ha, what a thought." He hit a nerve.
"At least by marrying her you wouldn't have ruined your sister's chances of marrying well. She will be ruined by your mistakes. You will be cast out from the family, left to stand by yourself. Your name will cease to be mentioned by anyone. You have made a mess of your own life but I refuse to see you harm your sister. She will be taken away from you. Unless you forfeit this stupidity with that Bennet girl, you shall never see Georgiana again."
"NO! You CANNOT take her away from me!" He tried to move towards his sister but she moved and he almost fell.
"Georgiana?". His voice trembled as he already knew the answer. Uncertainty settled in
"I want to go. I am sorry Fitzwilliam." She walked from the room without looking behind her once. Now he would choose and Pemberley would be the way she liked it once again. Just her and William, nobody else.
"Now you see nephew, she has made up her mind. You have only yourself to blame." Lady Catherine followed Georgiana out of the door leaving Darcy staring after them in shock. This was not meant to happen.
He began to tremble all over, his breathing deepening, his eyes becoming as cold as stone. Lizzy walked over to him and put her hand on his shoulder. He jerked it away, breaking the contact. How could he let her touch him after all that had happened?
"William?" Her voice was weak as the tears began to well in her eyes. He just looked towards her, nothing.
"What have I done?"
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