I'd like to replace the version of this story I did some time ago, with this one that I have altered. My sincerest thanks to Cathy W for making such a delightful suggestion about Darcy's signet. I think it added so much more. ~ Lou
The mornings were beginning to cool and autumn was in the air. All of Pemberley's inhabitants were still in bed, taking advantage of the glorious change in the weather. It had been a very hot summer that year, but the seasons had begun to turn and relief was in sight. Elizabeth Darcy began to stir and crept to her husband's side of the bed to take advantage of the warmth of his body. She slid her hand across his chest and took his left hand into hers, touching the ring he always wore upon it.
"My love," she whispered. "What does the signet on this ring imply?"
"It is the Darcy family crest, the symbol of my ancestry," he replied drowsily, then folded his arms about her. "It was given to me by my father, as it was given to him by his father, and so on. I believe it has seen four generations now."
"Shall you give it to your son one day?"
"Yes," Darcy smiled down at Elizabeth and stroked her hair gently with his hand. "Our family's honor and pride is an attitude passed from generation to generation. I will be proud to give it to my son one day."
"I am proud to be a part of your family's heritage, Fitzwilliam," she sighed. "My family has never known anything like it, and with my parents having only daughters¸" her voice trailed off to nothing. Elizabeth sat up and looked to her husband with great determination. "I had hoped to give you a child by now, Fitzwilliam."
"And you will my love," he reassured her. "I have held dear this time together, to love each other freely before we have another to account for. Do not make yourself too anxious. What will happen, will happen in its time, Elizabeth."
Elizabeth sat in silent contemplation. A whole family's history was kept under one roof, and the continuation of it was now resting upon her shoulders. She tried to ease her mind as she lay back down in her husband's arms, for she had awoken with a dreadful headache, and she could not be a proper hostess to their guests if she were feeling so ill.
Autumn was always a time Elizabeth treasured most. It brought to mind her first meeting with her husband and the renewal of his passionate addresses again the next year. The landscape around Pemberley was magnificent with color and Elizabeth enjoyed the harvest festivities that went on about the estate.
Colonel Fitzwilliam was always a guest at Pemberley at this time of year and the Bingleys were visitors for a few weeks. Charles and Jane had chosen to move from Netherfield to an estate some thirty miles from Pemberley. Elizabeth would be able to see Jane more often and she was happy for it.
Elizabeth walked along the gallery on her way down to supper that evening, looking up at the many portraits lining the walls along the way. She came to the likenesses of Darcy's parents, hung side by side, and those of his grandparents to the right. She stopped to look at them and wondered what these people had been like in their time. All those proud Darcy men, and the women who loved and lived by them. This most definitely was a family of tradition, and of honor, and Elizabeth wanted nothing but to be a part of it.
Everyone had gathered in the dining room for supper, and the conversation was lively, with recounts of the day's sport to further amuse the men, and news of family and friends from Hertfordshire to entertain the women. Jane had been sitting to Elizabeth's side and chattering all about the latest news of Mary and Kitty and their latest trials, tribulations, and beaus. Darcy's sister Georgiana was listening intently to Jane's accounts, smiling and laughing, but Elizabeth seemed unmoved and unsettled.
"Are you not well, Lizzy?" Jane asked her quietly.
"I am very well, dear sister, although I do have a bit of a headache remaining from this morning, is all. Pray continue," Elizabeth smiled at her.
A household servant came to Darcy and whispered something near his ear. He immediately stood up and excused himself from Elizabeth and their guests and followed the servant out of the dining room. Elizabeth wondered what was so important that her husband would interrupt his supper to attend to, but she politely continued to listen to Jane and Georgiana.
"You are sure of your information, sir? There can be no mistake?" Darcy questioned the officer who nodded in confirmation. "You are welcome to take refuge in the guest quarters until your return to London on the morrow. My man will show you the way."
"You are very kind, sir," the officer bowed and took his leave.
Darcy stood gazing out into the dusky light over Pemberley, carefully considering his prerogative. He had very little time to act; very little time to think of what was best for his family and friends.
He said not a word as he rejoined the party in the dining room and took his seat. He glanced at Elizabeth, and as she caught his gaze, she questioned him silently with her affected expression. He managed to give her a serene smile, and she sighed more comfortably and settled back into her conversations with the ladies.
"Darcy, you are most uncharacteristically dull at this moment, what is afoot?" the Colonel replied in a waggish manner.
Darcy lay his cloth upon the table, unable to eat another bite of food for his worrying. "Fitzwilliam, Charles, I have had a communication from London brought by an officer of the law." He gave a troubled sigh, searching for diplomatic words. "It has been confirmed that a man has run off from a stockade outside of London. He apparently was acquainted with my father some years ago, before his imprisonment. It would seem he holds my father accountable for his imprisonment and it is believed he travels this way to take up his grievance with him."
"That is ludicrous, Darcy," the Colonel commented, somewhat taken aback. "Your father has been gone now for some years."
"True, but the authorities believe that once the man discovers this, he will attempt to satisfy himself upon me and perhaps even my family." As quickly as Darcy spoke, he shuddered at the thought of any harm coming to his beloved wife and sister.
Colonel Fitzwilliam looked mortified. "What are your plans, Darcy? You may count on my allegiance."
"And mine," Bingley said resoundly.
Elizabeth felt the color drain away from her face, and she tried to clear her mind and take in all that she had heard to this point, but her head and vision began to spin. She looked to her husband, awaiting his answer to the colonel's question.
"Thank you, both. I admit I was counting upon your assistance." Darcy looked back at Elizabeth as if wanting to comfort her noticeably growing fears. "Charles, I must ask you to take Elizabeth and Georgiana away from here█to Longbourne I think. The farther away the better and where there is no chance of this scoundrel knowing their whereabouts."
"And you Darcy?" Bingley asked.
"I will not leave this place now," his reply was definite. "I will not be driven from my own home. It is my duty to defend it and those who depend upon it for their living."
Elizabeth simply could not believe her ears. "Fitzwilliam!" she elevated her voice in a panic. "You do not believe we would leave you here?"
"Elizabeth, I cannot protect our home and be assured of your safety as well. I will not compromise your security or Georgiana's."
"What of your own?" she became incensed at his unswerving loyalty. "You would grant concessions for yourself█for your property?"
"Not my property, Elizabeth," he shook his head trying to make her see his dilemma. "Our heritage, our future, and that of our children depend on the prosperity of this place."
"Absolutely not! What heir should there be if you are not on this earth?" Elizabeth cried hastily. "I will not leave you here, to all the while wonder if I am to be a widow because a lunatic has convinced his jailers he means to do you harm!"
Darcy was on the verge of losing his forbearance with his wife. There was no time to argue, and he would not see her put in harms way.
"Elizabeth, you will do as I ask," he voiced sternly. "You cannot change my mind. Go and pack your things█you as well, Georgiana."
Elizabeth glared at him, her mind determinedly set, even though she felt tears welling up within the corners of her eyes. She stood up from the table, and clenched the back of her chair with knuckles that were white.
"Damn your pride, Mr. Darcy!" she cried out, then immediately did as her husband bid, without speaking another word.
Darcy rapped on the door of Elizabeth's dressing chamber and her maid scurried forth to let him in. Elizabeth paid him no attentions, as she continued to point to the things that she thought she would need, and Frances hurried to pack them. Darcy glanced at the signet ring upon his hand as he waited silently, and gave it a turn. He wished he could find the right thing to say to Elizabeth, to make her see the importance of such a decision as this. He had thought her reactions fairly bold and rather irrational, but this was definitely not a common circumstance and he himself was under much tension and stress.
"Elizabeth?" he spoke softly.
She turned to look at him yet he could not make out her emotions, one way or the other. He moved toward her and laid his hands upon her cheeks, feeling the softness of her skin against the coarser flesh of his palms.
"Everything will be for the best Elizabeth, you must believe it. Fitzwilliam is to stay here with me and there will be sentinels at every entrance to the house. I will take great care," his hoarse voice and doleful eyes pleaded with her to accept his words. "Your safety is all that matters to me at this moment and I will be able to secure my own protection, should I know that you are safe with your family."
Elizabeth closed her eyes, then silently turned back around to continue her packing. Darcy sighed, wondering whether or not he had made any sensible impression upon his wife at all.
Jane knocked upon the door, "Excuse me brother, I came to see if Lizzy required any assistance."
Darcy stepped out into the hall and closed the door behind him to speak with his sister-in-law. "You will take care of her for me?" his voice shook, out of his grave concern.
"Of course, there is no need to worry," she replied, looking up at Darcy's anxiety-ridden face. "Elizabeth is upset and confused. She loves and honors you, and she has a difficult time thinking of leaving such a beloved husband."
Darcy nodded his head in silence, then opened the door behind him to allow Jane to enter the room. As he made his way outdoors he encountered Bingley in the courtyard making preparations with the stable master to leave immediately.
"Charles," Darcy grasped Bingley's arm tightly, "you do know the whereabouts of my attorney in London?"
Bingley bowed his head, "Yes, Darcy."
"He is in possession of my decree and has the power of attorney over my estate if something should¸" he could not finish, but pierced Bingley's soul with the intensity of his gaze. "I leave the job to you, if you accept it."
"If you wish it Darcy, I will honor it."
Darcy was made to smile, and then an emotion filled frown crept into its place. "I am proud to call you a friend and a brother Bingley, and I entrust you with the two people I love most in all the world. I will not send any communications to Longbourne and you cannot forward any here. I shall meet you in Hertfordshire when this whole business can be resolved."
The traveling party's belongings were finally loaded onto the carriage and Jane and Georgiana brought Elizabeth out of the house. The ladies and Bingley entered the carriage leaving Elizabeth behind to bid her husband a bittersweet goodbye.
Elizabeth looked up at Darcy with her dark pleading eyes swollen and red, and she slowly came toward him, to kiss his lips, then the outline of his face. He held her securely for a moment then carefully moved her away and lifted her into the carriage. Before she could enter however, Darcy slipped the signet ring from his finger and placed it into Elizabeth's hands.
"Never forget what it means," he said, then he promptly secured the carriage door. "Do not stop the carriage for anyone!" he yelled at the coachman. "Not anyone!"
The carriage jolted away and Darcy watched as Elizabeth turned about, put her hands upon the windows, and sobbed out his name. It took everything Darcy had to remain where he was, and not dash after the speeding coach. Colonel Fitzwilliam came up behind him with a musket and a pistol. He handed the pistol to Darcy, and Darcy looked at it in great disgust.
"This man is determined to hunt my family, Fitzwilliam," he spoke through clenched teeth, as if he still did not believe a word of it. "We shall see just who has the gall to hunt who."
The Bingley's carriage arrived at Longbourne late in the evening. The Bennet Family hurried outside to receive it, not knowing exactly who occupied it. Bingley jumped out before it had come to a full halt, and took Mr. Bennet's hand to convey to him a furtive look of concern. Jane and Georgiana helped Elizabeth's tired and overwrought body from the carriage.
"Jane, Lizzy! What on earth are you doing here Lizzy? Where is your husband?" Mrs. Bennet exclaimed in her climactic fashion.
"Mrs. Bennet, will you help Elizabeth into the house and make her comfortable?" Bingley gestured toward the door. "Mr. Bennet, I should like to see you in your study, sir."
Charles Bingley explained all to the Bennets, and Hill and the other housemaids scurried about to make preparations for the guests. Mr. Bennet bent over his Lizzy and placed a hand to her shoulder. She looked quite pale and weak, and she had not spoken two words together since she had arrived at Longbourne.
"Lizzy, my dear, you do not look well. I have sent for Mr. Jones and I insist you go lie down and rest," he spoke to her softly. "Mr. Darcy should not forgive me, I think, if you were poorly."
She nodded her head amicably and the ladies took her to bed to await the good physician. After a time, he was shown into the room where Elizabeth rested and the others waited downstairs and took some refreshment. The physician descended into the parlor some twenty minutes later, looking to Mr. Bennet and smiling.
"Sir, your daughter will be well. She is very distraught and the long fast journey has taken a toll on her. She will require a few days bed rest, light nourishment, and plenty of clear liquids. It would be best to keep her mind off her troubles now, if at all possible."
"We shall all do our best, Mr. Jones. Thank you," Mr. Bennet replied.
"If you need me sir¸" The physician bowed.
"Yes, yes█very good. We will send you word of her progress in a day or so."
Darcy paced back and forth in the library with his hands behind his back. He felt as if every nerve had come to the surface of his skin and his eyes looked dark, sunken, and weary. Colonel Fitzwilliam sat back in a large chair watching his cousin's infuriating pacing before him.
"Darcy, perhaps the authorities have discovered this man's whereabouts by now. Surely there will be a messenger sent to convey his capture."
Darcy stopped pacing and stood in front of his cousin with an empty stare. He ran his fingers through his hair and down the back of his tense neck to loosen his neck cloth.
"We cannot be assured of it, Fitzwilliam. I am afraid I am losing my edge and fatigue is catching up with me." Darcy began pacing again, "Damn!"
"We do need to get some rest. There are several men posted at every entrance. There would be no possible way into the house. Let us get a good nights sleep and go about this again in the morning."
"Just the same, I would keep this with you at all times." Darcy handed Fitzwilliam one of two pistols and took the other one for himself.
Colonel Fitzwilliam took his leave and went to his bedchamber, leaving Darcy in the library alone. The master of Pemberley thought of his dearest, loveliest wife. He assumed that the party would be safely at Longbourne by now and that thought alone was of great comfort to him, yet he still felt an uneasiness he could not readily explain. How glad he would be when Elizabeth would be with him again. He tilted his head back and closed his eyes for a moment to clear his mind, then left the library for his own chambers.
Elizabeth began to feel some vitality return to her body as she rested. She moved herself to a sitting position in her bed as Georgiana entered her room.
"Dear sister, you are looking much better. I am so relieved, for you were giving me quite a fright. The maid is bringing some broth and toast. Will you oblige us and eat it?" Georgiana sweetly pleaded with her sister.
"Yes, Georgiana. I believe it would be best if I did try to eat something." She smiled at her young sister's concern; "Did your brother wish you to mother me so?"
"I believe he would want me to pay every attention to you, although it is my pleasure to do so. We cannot have a Darcy feeling ill, can we?"
"No, I believe we cannot," Elizabeth leaned forward and winked an eye. "I believe it is not in the Darcy tradition." She paused for a while and they both sat in silence. "I wonder how things are at Pemberley?" Elizabeth spoke to no one in particular, then looked melancholy once again.
Hill brought in a tray of food and Georgiana undertook the task of making sure Elizabeth ate a little of it. She removed the tray when Elizabeth had finished and tucked the covers in around her sister's shoulders. "Good night, Elizabeth," she said softly, but Elizabeth did not answer for she was finally asleep.
Colonel Fitzwilliam rounded the corner of the hallway as he caught a movement in the study out of the corner of his eye. He put down the candle he held in his hand, and ever so slowly cocked back the hammer of the pistol. Quietly he entered the study, which was extremely dark and ominous. He finally reached the imposing desk and was satisfied that the room was empty. He let down his guard for a moment and lowered the pistol to his side.
"If ye knows whats good for ye, drop the pistol to the floor and put yer hands in back a yer head," a gruff voice commanded.
The colonel swallowed hard and did as the voice commanded, putting the gun at his feet and letting his hands rest behind his head.
"Am I addressin' Mr. Darcy, master a Pemberley?" the voice commanded again.
"You are sir█I█I am Darcy."
"Turn round so's I may sees yer face█slowly!"
The colonel did as the voice suggested. It was still dark in the room, but his eyes adjusted to the darkness and a faint light from the moon illuminated a portion of the room enough to see a figure. A hardened man holding a pistol stepped away from the shadows into the moonlight and the colonel blinked with difficulty in an anxious attempt to focus.
"I sees no likeness of yer father in ya."
"'Tis true, I bear more of a resemblance to my mother's relations. Do you know my father, sir?"
"I did. I can't forget his face, though. I sees it in my sleep█for twenty long years, I sees it!"
"You must know my father has been dead for some time. I am the only one left, my family is all gone," Fitzwilliam tried to lead the scoundrel astray.
"The son must beg pardon for the sins of his father!" the intruder shouted.
"Just what am I to ask pardon for, sir? Whom am I to apologize to?" Fitzwilliam inquired of the wretch carefully.
"Your father done put me in that hell and left me there to rot!" the man waved his pistol in the air and Fitzwilliam moved back a step to lean against the desk. "They called me Simeon Tucker█they did twenty years back."
"What reasons did my father have for imprisoning you?" Fitzwilliam had to know.
"He did say I killed a girl in the village," the man spat out. "Nobody could prove it or they would a hanged me on the spot, damme!"
"I have never known my father to accuse unjustly, sir."
"She deserved it█she deserved it, for lyin' with another, making me out to be a cuckold she did!" Tucker yelled, all the while waving the pistol in the air, then pointing it back at Fitzwilliam when he realized his vulnerability.
The colonel tried to lower his body slowly, closer to the floor where his own pistol lay. "If I can get him to display another outburst I could grab it," he thought as his heart pounded wildly within his breast.
"It is a mortal sin to take another's life, Tucker!" he raised his voice to a shout.
"Mortal sin! You are the sinner█the fine, honorable Darcys! It all comes to an end, you and yer kind!" Tucker yelled insanely and cocked his pistol, pointing it at Fitzwilliam's chest.
In a split second the colonel dropped to the floor and grabbed his pistol, trying to cock it. A shot rang out in the stillness, and thick, choking smoke and powder filled the air of the room.
Colonel Fitzwilliam sat on the floor propped up by the desk behind him. He slowly closed his eyes, then opened them again abruptly, in disbelief. He looked at Simeon Tucker, who lay upon the floor motionless. A tall, dark figure stood in the doorway, then the shape moved into the room, coming into the moonlight.
"Darcy!" the colonel let out a gasp, his heart still racing in fear.
"Fitzwilliam, are you injured?" Darcy stepped over the man lying on the floor and bent down to help his cousin to his feet. The two men stood looking at each other, not sure what to do. Fitzwilliam tugged on his coat tails and sleeves, smoothing himself out in his shock. "That was very foolish, Fitzwilliam. Very courageous and very foolish."
"Yes, well you heard his tale, about his hatred for your family█about the girl." Fitzwilliam replied, his voice still shaking.
"Yes, almost every word. I now recall some sort of incident to the affect, although my parents did not make me privy to the details at the time." Darcy looked at his cousin and smiled in comfort. "Fitzwilliam, I shall never forget this."
"It is because of you Darcy that I am standing upon this spot and not down there with poor Simeon Tucker," Fitzwilliam nodded over at the body.
Darcy grinned, although he felt very little joy. "It is about time you proved your bravery, after all the money the country has spent on your training."
Both men laughed█almost cried really, more out of relief than out of anything else, and Darcy sat down on the desk and laid the pistol beside him. Servants and guards ran into the room and a lieutenant entered as well. Everyone within stared at the body of the man who meant to end the Darcy family name, and everyone in the room felt sorrow that any life at all had been lost through abhorrence.
Elizabeth was feeling well enough to join her family for supper that evening. She took up a vigil at the windows and constantly searched the entrance to Longbourne for any sign of a rider, a carriage, or a message.
"Come and sit down, Lizzy," her father spoke to her gently and led her away from the windows toward the table. Elizabeth laid her cloth upon her lap, and looked at the food on her plate, then pushed it about with her fork. She simply could not touch a bite of it.
His daughter's pitiful countenance touched Mr. Bennet's heart greatly. He had always wondered if her life with her husband would truly be a happy one. He had never imagined that Mr. Darcy would cause her pain in exactly this way, and he never thought he would find himself longing to see any one of his sons-in-law so desperately.
A commotion was heard outside the dining room at the front door, and Bingley and Mr. Bennet got up to see what was causing it. Before they reached the door Hill ran into the room, breathless and beaming, "Mrs. Elizabeth, it is Mr. Darcy!"
Elizabeth flew up from the table so quickly that her head felt as if it was spinning, but she continued out into the hallway anxious to see for herself. She caught sight of her husband removing his coat and gloves. "Fitzwilliam!" she cried and ran to him, throwing her arms about him tightly.
"My dearest, beautiful wife," he said, kissing her tear stained face. "Do not cry█pray, do not cry. All is well."
"Oh, Fitzwilliam, is it safe to go home now? I want to go home!" she was frantic in her request.
"Yes, it is secure. The man was sent away and he cannot harm us now." Darcy held Elizabeth's face in his hands as he explained to her some of what had happened.
"You were not harmed?" she looked him over. "You are well█tell me you are well?"
"I was not harmed my love, and I am well," he chuckled in relief and gave her a smile, delighted to be back in her good company.
"That is very good█very good, indeed!" Elizabeth reached behind her and unclasped the chain around her neck, which held Darcy's signet ring. She took the ring, and upon holding his left hand placed it back onto his finger.
"Thank you for keeping it," he whispered.
"Oh, how I need you," she sighed. "How we need you. A baby needs his father," Elizabeth divulged, laying a hand upon herself and smiling. "You must give the ring to him one day, Fitzwilliam█not I."
Darcy was dumbstruck at such astonishing news, and then weary yet prideful tears welled within his eyes. He could do nothing but conceal his face in his wife's lovely locks of hair and hold her delicate frame to his breast, thinking of how close he had come to never knowing such joy.
"I do love you, Elizabeth Darcy," he cried as softly as a child into her ear. "Shall we go home?"
"Home," Elizabeth sighed, realizing that as of now, Pemberley truly was her home and that she truly was a Darcy. She held her husband's hand and ran her fingers over the ridges in the emblem of the token. "Oh yes my dearest love, I want to go home."
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