As Elizabeth lie dying of cold and hunger in the filthy streets of London her mind wandered far away to a different time and place and the sad circumstances that had brought to her current pitiful state of existence. After giving up the fruitless search for Wickham and Lydia, both her poor father and dearest Jane had fallen ill and departed this earth for something far better on that sad October a little over a year ago. Her mother, unable to face reality had committed suicide the following February. Kitty had accepted the offer of their Aunt and Uncle Gardiner to stay with them, while Mary had decided to give her life to God and joined the convent. Elizabeth felt awkward having to rely on the charity of the Gardiners and found a position as a governess of three young children. She had enjoyed the occupation at first until her employer began to make unwanted advances toward her. One day while she was alone in the Library the man had attempted to force himself upon her. She had struggled and was able to escape without injury to her maidenhood. Elizabeth gathered what few possessions that she owned and left the house without further delay. She had search several months for a new position but, without a good reference was unable to find one. What little money she had had eventually run out. She had searched for her Aunt and Uncle but, they had suddenly moved and she was unabled to locate them. Elizabeth, too proud to beg and with too much virtue to sale her own body, spent her nights cold, unsheltered, and hungry on some of the worst streets of London. Her only comfort was in her memory of the man she had once refused and now loved with all of her heart. She had last seen him in the inn at Lambton before reading those two awful letters that had informed her of the situation with Lydia If only she could have the pleasure of seeing him again just once more but, she knew now that it could never be. She was suddenly brought back to reality as she felt her mind slowly slipping from consciousness and into a blissful dream state filled with images of her love.
Mr. Knightley entered the house in an hurried state. "Emma darling have the servants prepare the sick room." he called to his young wife.
Emma was thoroughly confused.
"What is the matter dear? Who is ill?" She cried
"I do not know. The servants are bringing her in at this very moment. We found her unconscious in the street this very morning. She is a genteel woman . Her clothes were torn and dirty but, I noticed that they were once of fine quality. I have already sent one of my men to find the doctor." he replied
The men carried her into the house and place her on the settee. Emma full of curiosity drew close to get a good look at the mysterious young woman and instantly her heart was filled with warm sort of sympathy for the poor girl.
"Oh, she really is a very pretty sort of girl, isn't she. We must find out who she is. But How? I know. I shall look through her pack for something that may help us to identify her." exclaimed Emma,
Several hours later Emma had gone through all of the young Lady's belongings only to discover one object, a single letter, that might hold a clue to her identity. Though she did not want to open the letter, she knew that she must in order to help the dear girl. She read only the Lady's name, "Miss Elizabeth Bennet" and the name of the gentleman who wrote the letter " Fitzwilliam Darcy".
It had been nearly a week since Knightley had rescued Elizabeth, yet she showed no signs of improvement. Emma was afraid that the poor girl wouldn't pull through. Her fever had been steadily rising, both her days and nights were filled with terrible nightmares and during her few waking moments she had become delusional. The entire house had been thrown into a complete uproar the previous night when she had nearly fallen down the staircase while sleepwalking and calling out for Mr. Darcy in terror. The poor girl was so weak that Emma was amazed that she was even able to get out of bed much less to actually walk down the hall. There was a small bit of hope however in the fact that through much dedication to the patient her nurse was able to get at least a small amount of food into her famished body. Emma had made it her personal business to ensure the girl's well-being and had vowed that she would see her returned to health.
The following afternoon Mr. Knightley had returned home from another fruitless search for Miss Bennet's relations. He was unable to find even the slightest trace of the young woman's former life. She truly seemed to be a mystery. Indeed he was beginning to lose all hope of finding anyone with a connection to the poor girl.
"How went your search this morning darling? Were you able to make any new discovery regarding her relations?" asked Emma hopefully.
"Not even a trace; I fear that they will not be found until Miss Bennet has recovered enough for conversation. That is if she recovers." he stated sadly
"If we cannot find her family then perhaps we can locate this Mr. Darcy who wrote the letter which I have found among her possessions."
"Fitzwilliam Darcy? I believe that I have heard my old friend Bingley mention the name on more than one occasion."
"Oh, I remember him. He certainly seemed to be a very agreeable sort of man. I am sure that he will be willing to help us. You should call on him at once without delay."
"Yes, I believe that he has been staying in town these last few months. I shall call on him directly".
Not a day went by that Mr. Darcy had not thought of his dear Elizabeth. He had spent many months in his relentless search of her but, it was of no use. He had this horrible sinking feeling in the depth of his heart that something dreadful had happened to his love. There were times when he seemed to hear her calling out to him in despair: "Please, please, help me. I am so cold, so hungry so alone. I need you," over and over again, and there was nothing that he could do to help her . He felt that his sanity might give way. He told himself that it was only a nightmare, a horrible wretched dream. He knew that it had to be so, God would not allow his beloved to suffer so, or would he? She had already endured the death of her father, mother and most beloved sister, all within a few short months. He could still invision her sparkling eyes and the soft curls of her dark drown hair. He could hear her laughter and smell her sweet scent of lavender even in his darkest moments. Oh, how he was tormented by those precious memories and what sweet torment they brought him each night. He knew that he must find her, even if she refused his love once again . If not, he would never feel peace within his soul again.
He was suddenly interrupted from his thoughts as Mr. Bingley burst into the room.
"Darcy, we have been asked to join the Knightleys for dinner tonight. Mr. Knightley has some important information which he must relate to you directly."
"What Bingley? I do not understand . Who is this Mr. Knightley? Why didn't he come to my residence to speak with me directly?"
Mr. Knightley had made it known to Bingley only that the information concerned a Miss Elizabeth Bennet. The matter was quite complex and Mr. Knightley didn't have the time to relate the details of it in full. They agreed that it would be best for Darcy not to be made aware of the topic of their conversation until it could be more thoroughly explained.
"I am sorry Darcy. I have known Mr. Knightley for some years now. He is man of upstanding character. He said that he was unable to relate the details of the situation but, that it is most urgent. I believe him Darcy. You must come."
Darcy went to meet this Mr. Knightley fellow only because he felt an obligation toward his friend Bingley. He knew that if he had never interfered with his relationship with Jane, that she would have been married to him and away from Longbourn when the illness had struck her father, and thus would have never contracted the disease. He knew that he would be forever in Bingley's debt for the unhappiness which he had caused him. Poor Bingley's entire character had altered after he had been informed of Miss Bennet's death. He was thrown into months of bitter depression. It had been Darcy who had fought to bring him out of such a pitiful state. Finally after much struggle Bingley had managed to pull through his solemn depression, though he had lost much of his former joviality. It was replace by the same caring sensitivity that reminded Darcy of Jane. Bingley was now resolved to spend his life in a much more useful manner, caring for others who were less fortunate. The chief amount of his time was now spent conducting charity work. He had told Darcy often that Jane would have wanted it that way. Darcy knew that she would have been proud. Both Bingley and Darcy knew now that he was a better man.
They had arrived at the Knightley's residence at seven o'clock as expected. It seemed to Darcy to be a rather well kept and pleasant household. Both Mr. Knightley and Emma had greeted the gentlemen with a warm sincerity. Mr. Darcy took an instant liking to the young couple. Mr. Knightley was indeed a very polite gentleman just as Bingley had described him. Mrs. Knightley had a natural spunk and energy about her that in a way reminded him of his own dear Elizabeth. They all talked for a few minutes and then went for supper in the dining room. Afterwards they were to discuss the rather urgent matter that had called Darcy there.
Half way through dinner the party was interrupted by an distressed young servant.
"Excuse me please. Mrs. Knightley, I am afraid that Miss Bennet's condition has taken a sudden turn for the worse. I believe that the Doctor should be called as soon as possible." cried the servant almost in tears.
"Yes, have Mr. Finely find the doctor and bring him here at once" ordered Mr. Knightley
All eyes were suddenly turned toward Mr. Darcy who had suddenly turned pale and had the most indescribable look of shock upon his face.
"Miss Bennet who?" he asked in a totally confused state.
"Mr. Darcy I believe that we should have our talk now, in private. I will show you to my office."
"Yes, of course," replied Darcy still utterly confused.
Mr. Knightley escorted Darcy to his office and asked him to be seated.
"I would much rather stand thank you. Miss Bennet who? " he asked again anxiously .
"Mr. Darcy Please calm yourself"
There was an awkward pause and he continued .
"You see a week ago I found this mysterious young lady lying unconscious in the street. I took her here where she could receive proper care. We have tried unsuccessfully to contact her relations. The only clue that we have as to her identity is this letter addressed to Miss Elizabeth Bennet from you Fitzwilliam Darcy.
He then handed the letter to Darcy who was by this time trembling in shock and had lost all gentlemanly composure.
Darcy listened as Mr. Knightley had detailed all that he knew concerning Elizabeth's situation. Darcy felt as if his most dreaded nightmares had truly turned into a reality. His darling alone, cold, hungry, shelterless with no one to help her. Now she was in this very house broken from an illness that might end her very life. It was worse than horrible. He wished that he could have somehow suffered in her place.
"I must be allowed to see her now."
"Mr. Darcy before you do, I must warn you that she is in very ill health. You may be shocked when you first look upon her."
"There is something else as well."
"What is it."
"She is delusional from the fever and she calls out for you."
With that Knightley showed Darcy to the sick room where Elizabeth was kept.
Darcy went in alone. It was dark, and he could her whimpering in pain. He looked upon his beloved's malnourished form. She looked so pale and lifeless. He knew that he must be strong for her sake. She needed him. He took her fragile hand in his own and whispered sweet words soothingly to her.
"Elizabeth, I know now that I have failed you, but I never gave up in my search for you, never. Please forgive me. I promise that you will never be cold, hungry, or alone again. I will always take care of you. I will not allow you to refuse my help. I can't let you suffer like this again. Oh, darling why didn't you come to me and ask for my help: none of this would have ever happened." he almost choked as he spoke the words but, forced himself to remain strong instead.
Still in a half delusional state weekly she cried out, "Fitzwilliam you have come back to me at last. I thought that I would never see you again."
"Elizabeth, I will never leave you again. I swear it." he said as he raised her hand to his cheek and then kissed it.
After a few hours Mrs. Knightley entered the room with the Doctor.
"Mr. Darcy, the doctor is here to check upon Miss Bennet's condition. We will give you a few moment alone with to say your good-byes for the night."
"No, I will not leave her."
"Of course you are welcome to stay the night. I will have the maid prepare a room for your stay."
"You do not understand. I will not leave her side."
"But Mr. Darcy you cannot stay the night here in this room with her. It would be most improper."
"Mrs. Knightley, I love her and she needs me. I cannot go; I made a promise to her that I would stay."
Seeing the love in his eyes, and being the true romantic that she was, and noticing the chance to make a very good match; Mrs. Knightley's heart won out over her need for prudence.
"Though this goes against my better judgment, I will allow you to stay with her the night, but you must leave the room during the doctor's examination. Oh, how will I ever explain this to my husband. I fear that he will not approve."
"Thank you Mrs. Knightley," he said. He then turned to Elizabeth and whispered that he would be back in just a few minutes.
The doctor found Miss Bennet better than expected. Her fever was high, and she was still in danger, but she now seemed calmer and more rested. There was a renewed hope now for her recovery.
Elizabeth was having the most delightful dream. In it Mr. Darcy was there asleep at her bedside. She sat up and reached over to touch his cheek and running her hand through his hair, she kissed him on his handsome mouth again and again while whispering I love yous. This dream is so lovely she thought; I hope to never awaken as she continued her caresses. Suddenly he moved and she realized that this was no dream. It was real.
Oh no, what will he think of me, she thought. Her mouth was pressed firmly against his own. She tried to back away from him but was unable to move, frozen from the sheer mortification of her own actions. By the time she had calmed herself enough to move he had thrown his arms around her in a passionate embrace.
"Oh, Elizabeth" he moaned huskily still half asleep.
"Mr. Darcy! Please forgive me. I didn't mean to umm uh... I thought that I was merely dreaming. If had known that you were real I would have never... Oh what must you think of me now. You must think that I am some kind of a loose woman." she stumbled over the words in absolute confusion and embarrassment while extracting herself from his embrace.
Darcy was merely pleasantly mystified by what had just transpired. He tried not to for Elizabeth's sake but couldn't help himself he laughed. It was the first time he had done so since their meeting at Pemberley. It was a soft gentle laugh filled with joy.
His laughter only threw Elizabeth into a further state of confusion and mortification. She slid back down onto the bed, threw the covers up over her head and started to cry not just because of current predicament but for everything that had happened in the last year and half.
"Oh dear, I believe that I shall suffer from a case of nerves!" She declared and then paused. " Well, at least my dearly departed mother would have been proud."
"I am sorry Elizabeth. I didn't mean to upset you," he said softly. " Don't you know that I love you."
Elizabeth then pulled the covers down from off her head, blushed, and gave him the queerest look. "Mr. Darcy will you please tell to me where I am and how you found me?"
"I will do that later but, at this moment you need to rest." He said with a look of concern as he began tucking the covers in around her. He then gently placed one hand on her forehead. "You still have a slight fever. I fear that you are not yet out of danger. Rest now."
"But I am so hungry."
"Oh G_d, I should have thought of that. I will have a maid prepare you something at once but please rest now." He said and then placed a kiss upon forehead as she drifted off to sleep.
As Darcy gazed lovingly upon Elizabeth's sleeping form he whispered yet another prayer thanking the Lord for bringing her to this safe haven and begging him to make her well again. Even now in such ill health she looked more beautiful to him than ever. He wondered silently of what she had been through these past few months. In all of his searching he hadn't been able to trace her steps past that of her occupation as governess for a family of six or seven thousand a year. By the time he had discovered that she had been working there she had left the position. Her former employer had refused to tell him why she had left and claimed not to know where she had gone off too. All of that no longer matter though at this moment. He is only concern now should be nursing her back to health.
The maid had just entered the room. "I have breakfast ready sir. Here is yours and I shall feed the miss."
"No no, I shall feed her myself. You may go."
The maid simply looked at him in disbelief and then left the room. "Elizabeth you need to waken. Breakfast is here," he said as he gently nudged her. She stretched, yawned, sat up, looked up at him, and smiled. His hair was a mess and his clothing was in disarray. Oh, he was the handsomest man that she had ever seen. He had been here all this time watching over her as if he were her very own guardian angel. She felt as if she were the luckiest of women.
"Where is the maid Mr. Darcy?" she asked him.
"I told her that she could go; I will feed you myself. Now I would like it very much if you would call me by my Christian name. After all you did kiss me, remember?" he said with a mischievous grin.
"I cannot believe it, the proud Mr. Darcy performing the duties of a mere nurse maid!" She cried teasingly. "I think that I shall faint from the shock of it."
"Now, you must eat Elizabeth. Here take a bite," he said holding a spoon full of food out to her which she quickly devoured. She took several bites and then gave up.
"I am sorry Fitzwilliam but I believe that is all the food that I will be able to keep down for now."
"I wish that you would try to take just a few more bites. It grieves me to see you so malnourished."
"I cannot, I am sorry."
"Elizabeth why didn't you come to me when you needed help? I would have done anything for you. I shudder to think of how you must have suffered. You very nearly died."
"It wasn't that bad, really," she lied." I had several adventures."
"You don't need to lie to me, Elizabeth. Mr. Knightley informed me how and where he had found you. It had to have been horrible for you. What did you do all of those months; how did you live?"
Elizabeth then related everything that had happened to her those miserable months. She left out only the details of her former employer's behavior and the fact that he had tried to force himself upon her the night that she had left. "I fear that there is something that you are keeping from me. You called out to me all of those lonely months. That is how I knew that you were in pain and that is why I couldn't stop searching for you. I know you Elizabeth. Please, tell me what it is. There is nothing that you ever have to hide me. I need your trust."
Elizabeth grasped her side and began to cry out in agony as a wave of pain went soaring through her body. Knowing its cause she had hoped to hide its existence from Darcy but it was too late now. He had already risen from his seat and was staring at her with an intense look of concern. The pain was too much for her to manage. A doctor must be sent for without delay.
"Good G-d, what is the matter?" his voiced trembled with fear as he spoke.
"Please send for the doctor. Oh G-d, it hurts."
"Yes, at once."
With that Darcy hurriedly left the room in search of help for Elizabeth.
An hour later the doctor arrived to examine Elizabeth. Who the maid had already undressed in preparation for his visit.
"Miss Bennett, can you show me where you have been feeling the pain?"
As the doctor began to attend to Miss Bennett his astonishment was indeed great. There was not only the one injury but several other bruises covered her body as well. This young lady had obviously been attacked.
After attending to Elizabeth's injuries the doctor meet Mr. Darcy in the drawing room to discuss her condition.
"How is she doctor?"
"She has two broken ribs and several bruises scattered through out her body which have not healed due to the malnutrition that she has suffered."
Darcy was shocked. "I do not understand. How did she acquire these injuries? What happened to her?"
"Mr. Darcy, I am afraid that your fiancÚ has been attacked." Stated the doctor in the mistaken belief that they were engaged.
Mr. Darcy too fraught with anger to bother with correcting the good doctor asked "Who, who did it to her? Why?" Darcy asked practically yelling at the poor man. He had never in the whole of his life felt such anger and was unsuccessfully struggling to control it.
"She wouldn't tell me. She only made some lame excuse trying to convince me that she had fallen down some stairs. I do know one thing; her injuries are in no way caused from a fall. Someone has attacked her. I have given the maid instruction for the proper care of her injuries which though very painful should now heal with the proper rest and diet."
A dreadful thought suddenly occurred to Darcy, "Did her attacker attempt to.... I mean was she... Did he molest her?" Darcy asked now almost in tears.
"No, I checked for that. Her virginity is still intact but I believe that may have been the reason for the attack."
"Thank you doctor. You may go now."
With that Darcy left for the sickroom to confront and draw the truth from Elizabeth. Someone had to pay for this abuse of his beloved.
Elizabeth lay in bed trying to frantically come up with an excuse to give Darcy. The doctor knew what had happen to her; she was sure of it. She saw the disbelief in his eyes when she had lied to him. Why else would he have checked her in the most shameful of places. She only hoped that he would choose not to reveal his suspicions to the others.
Darcy didn't bother to knock before he entered the room. The look of hurt and anger upon his face was frightening, leaving her with no doubt as to what the doctor had informed him. She only hoped that his anger was not directed toward herself. If she told him the truth would he believe that she was not at fault? She knew that in most cases such as these that society blamed the woman for provoking such attacks. After all that she had been through, the only thing that she could not survive would be the loss of his regard, admiration or worst of all his respect for her.
"Elizabeth, I know the truth; someone attacked you. You must tell me exactly what happened and who did this. Don't give me any excuses. I will know if you are telling the truth." He said in the most authoritative of tones.
She knew that she must be completely truthful with him. He was right; he would know if she were lying. So she told him everything and then began to cry.
"It's alright darling . It's not your fault. You didn't do anything wrong. He will be made to regret the harm he has inflicted upon you, I promise." He whispered as he went to hold her.
"No, it would be to dangerous. What if you are harmed. I cannot bear the thought of anything bad happening to you"
"I cannot allow him to get away with it. I must do all that is within my power to make him see the error of what he has done."
"Fitzwilliam, I will not allow it."
"You cannot stop me Elizabeth."
Darcy was resolved to set out in search of Mr. Seeton, Elizabeth's former employer and the man who had attempted to force himself upon her, the next morning. Elizabeth had convinced him that he should sleep in the bed that been prepared for him in the room down the hall rather than in the uncomfortable chair at her bedside. He had only agreed because he knew that Elizabeth had recovered from the illness and all that remained were for the injuries inflicted upon her by Mr. Seeton to heal.
Elizabeth had awakened from a deep sleep with a strange feeling that she was being watched. Suddenly a figure emerged from the far corner of the room. It was that of a tall well-built man, which Elizabeth recognized to be that of Mr. Seeton. "OH G-d," she thought, "What does he want from me?"
"What's the matter Miss Bennett. Did you think that I would let you get away from me so easily? You know what I want from you, my little @##$% and as I told you once before I always get what want."
"He's insane," was her only thought
"Please, Please, Please don't......" she cried.
"Now if you are a good girl and promise to stay quite and to keep this our little secret once I am done with you I may decide to let you live. But, if you breathe a word of this to anyone I promise that I will find you and shut you up for good." He said as he lunged toward her with knife in hand.
Elizabeth finally found her voice and screamed with all her might as he reached to grab her and a struggle ensued.
Darcy had bolted through the door within seconds of hearing her scream. In horror he saw Mr. Seeton about to strike at Elizabeth with the knife.
"Get away from her, you #@$#$!" He yelled as he grabbed the man, pushing him away from Elizabeth.
The rage which surged through Darcy was so powerful that it overtook his entire being. He had totally lost all sense of rationality and was running on pure animal instinct. He was quickly able to wrestle the knife away from Mr. Seeton and threw it to the floor. Elizabeth who was severely shaken from the whole ordeal could only watch as the two locked in combat exchanging violent blows. Darcy was the quicker and more intelligent of the two while Mr. Seeton being taller and more muscular clearly had the physical advantage. It did not take long for the battle to become bloody; it was clear that least one of the two men would not escape the brawl without severe injury or death.
Never had Darcy felt such an overwhelming desire to crush one of his fellow man. Not even Wickham had been able to inspire such hate within his heart. He wanted to rip this man's very soul apart. It was this rage that drove him to victory over Seeton.
Seeton found the knife and went for Darcy's throat. Darcy jerked back just in time and lunged for the weapon. He secured the knife and plunged it deep into Seeton's chest who died almost instantly.
He turned to Elizabeth who was sobbing uncontrollably. He quickly walked over to her and gathered her in his a
"Fi...Fitzwilliam....I...was ...so afraid........that that that ......"
"Shhhh, shh, it all over now darling. I'm here."
The whole house soon entered the room seeking the cause of the commotion.
"Oh my G-d, what happened here?" cried Knightley
Darcy then explained the whole of it all to the party while Knightley had a servant leave to gather the authorities.
When Mrs. Knightley had recovered from the shock she realized that both Mr. Darcy and Miss Bennett were dressed only in their nightclothes which were both stained with blood.
"Sir, I think that you should change into something more suitable as we wait for the proper authorities. Elizabeth I will have the maid help you into a fresh nightdress," she said in embarrassment.
Both blushed crimson red as they realized their state of dress. It had all happened so suddenly and with such emotion that need for propriety had been totally forgotten.
"Yes Madam, I shall change right away." Said Darcy as they he quitted the room.
During the weeks of Elizabeth's recovery she and Emma Knightley became fast friends. It was no great surprise considering that both were of a naturally cheerful disposition. The two could literally spend hours engaged in the liveliest of conversation. Emma would come up with some idea to help a friend while Lizzie would come up with the plan. These grand schemes slightly annoyed Knightley and Darcy but they both knew that there was nothing that they could do to stop them. Indeed Elizabeth's wit coupled with Emma's curiosity was a powerful in which to reckon.
Darcy and Knightley soon developed a close friendship. They were alike in many ways. Both were highly respectable and intelligent men with a strong sense of propriety. Most important was the trust that each had developed of the other. They often spent their time together discussing estate management or playing chess. They enjoyed the kind of male bonding that was a rarity among many men of the time.
The doctor completed Elizabeth's final examination and declared that her injuries had officially healed. Afterwards she met with Emma in the drawing room.
"Lizzie, I am so glad that your recovery is complete."
"As am I. I can hardly wait to go for walk a around the neighbourhood."
"Oh Lizzie, I hope that you will stay with us a bit longer. I have so enjoyed your company."
"I wish that I could but I must soon find employment."
"What? I thought that you had become in engaged to Mr. Darcy."
"No, he hasn't proposed. I suspect that he doesn't love me after all, at least in that way. I believe that he has come to think of me as a sister really."
"Now Lizzie you must know that is not true. He visits you daily and has taken very good care of you. He has led everyone to believe that you are engaged. Besides I have seen the "Look" that he gives you."
"Please let us not dwell on this matter. Would you like to take a walk with me Emma?"
"I would like to but I promised Mrs. Barkley that I would join her for tea."
"That alright, I often enjoy solitary walks."
During her walk Elizabeth literally bumped into a young gentleman of about twenty-five.
"Forgive me sir I am so sorry."
"There is no need for you to be so. The fault is just as much mine as yours. May I introduce myself to you madam? I am Gregory Thomas," he said in hopes of becoming acquainted with this rather pretty young lady with bright eyes.
"My name is Elizabeth Bennett. It is a pleasure to meet you sir."
"I have heard your name mentioned once before. Are you the young Lady who has been staying with the Knightley's?"
"Yes sir I am."
"Well, I am a friend of Mr. Knightley's. It is really too dangerous for a young Lady to walk the streets of London alone. May I escort you on your walk?"
"Yes I would like that very much."
Elizabeth found Mr. Thomas to be a very pleasant walking companion. He has quite handsome and his manner and disposition reminded her of Colonel Fitzwilliam. It was nice get out of the house and speak with someone new for a change. They had become so engrossed in conversation that it was sometime before they realized they had been out much too late.
"Oh no, I must get back at once. I am sure that my friends are already worried."
"You are right, it is getting dark. I shall walk you back to the Knightley's residence."
It was nearly six o'clock and Elizabeth had not yet returned from her afternoon walk. It was already dark. The Knightleys were growing concerned for Elizabeth's safety .Though he did not voice the opinion, Mr. Darcy was upset that the Knightley's had even allowed Elizabeth to go off on her own in the first place. He began to pace the room in agitation as they considered whether they should fetch a servant to find Elizabeth.
"No, No, I will go in search of her myself." Stated Darcy as headed for door with coat and hat in hand.
Just as Darcy was about to leave the house in walked his Elizabeth on the arm of another man.
"Elizabeth we have been worried sick about you. Where have you been? "asked Darcy
"I did not know that you were engaged Miss Bennett" said Mr. Thomas with a look of disappointment.
"No, this is my good friend Mr. Darcy . We are like brother and sister." She said then turned to Mr. Darcy whose face was beginning to change color "Mr. Darcy, may I introduce you to Mr. Thomas."
"Mr. Thomas, how good it is to see you here. I didn't know that you were in town. Would you like to join us for supper?" said Knightley.
"Actually I just arrived in town this morning. Yes, I have run up quite an appetite. I met Miss Bennett while walking through __ton Street this afternoon and we haven't stop talking yet. She is such a delightful creature. I fear that I was completely taken in by her charms and lost track of time."
"Darcy, I am sure that you and Thomas will enjoy each other's company. He is master of the Lockton, a rather large estate in ____shire. He is really a very pleasant gentleman."
"What sort of gentleman waits until dark to escort a lady home?" thought Darcy to himself.
"Yes, I am sure that he is," said Darcy with a glare.
"Shall we go into the dining room; supper is waiting," said Knightley
Mr. Thomas had trouble concentrating on the conversation and meal placed before him. His mind was more agreeably engaged on Miss Elizabeth Bennett. She was the most intriguing woman that he had ever met. She was so witty and full of life. Her eyes twinkled with amusement. When the meal was finished he stared at her longingly wishing that he could see her again soon.
"Miss Bennett would you object to accompanying me on another walk again tomorrow?"
"I would be delighted Mr. Thomas."
"Would two o'clock be convenient?"
"Yes, two o'clock would be fine."
"I will see then" he said before kissing her hand and taking his leave.
Darcy merely rolled his eyes and turned to face the window.
"I suppose that I should be leaving now as well," said Darcy in a rather snobbish tone as he quitted the house.
After supper Elizabeth slipped away to a small sitting room where she hoped that no one would find her and began to weep. Darcy had acted so boorish in her company the last couple of weeks. At supper when she announced that she had found a position as governess, he seemed totally unaffected. Elizabeth was beginning to lose all hope of his ever renewing his attentions. She knew the reason for his indifferent behaviour; he only felt a brotherly affection for her and did not want to encourage her regard. She had loved him for so long. She could never love another man. She had given her heart to him long ago and there was no retrieving it.
Emma felt a growing concern for Elizabeth as she searched the house for her. She had become quite melancholy lately. She hardly seemed like the same girl that she had befriended less then two months ago. When Emma finally found her in the sitting room it was clear that she had been crying.
"Elizabeth, why won't you talk to me about it? I know that you have been very depressed lately. It has to do with Mr. Darcy doesn't it?"
"Oh Emma, there is nothing really to be done."
"Why don't you talk to him about it."
"No Emma, I am resolved to think of him as nothing more than a brother."
Emma paused for a moment to deliberate. She had tried to speak with both Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy but to no avail. She was at a loss as too exactly how to bring them together. They were both hopelessly in love, that much was clear to everyone. The only thing lacking was communication, but they were both so stubborn. Emma had thought of a plan that might just succeed but it was terribly unscrupulous. She ran back over the idea one more time. If she could only get Elizabeth slightly intoxicated; she might loosen up and recount the whole of her feelings to Mr. Darcy. Normally she would have never entertained such a notion but, she understood without a doubt that Darcy was a completely honorable man and would never take advantage of Elizabeth. It was the only plan that stood a chance of bringing the two back together. She had decided it would be done and done for the best.
"Elizabeth, here let me have the servant get you a hot toddy. It will lift your spirits considerably."
"But Emma, I had two glasses of wine at dinner."
"I insist, surely another drink or two will do you no harm and will make you feel much better."
"Well, if you insist."
Knightley knew that he could have never bested Darcy in three rounds of chess if he had been sober. As it was Darcy had already drunken four glasses of gin and three of scotch. Darcy had hoped that the weather would have cleared up enough by this time for him to take his leave but Knightley knew that it was hopeless. The storm was dreadful and would last all night. Darcy was pathetic in his current state of inebriation. He kept rambling on and on about his love for Elizabeth Bennet. Knightley was becoming annoyed and knew that he had to get Darcy to bed upstairs before he made a fool out of himself.
"Darcy, I know that you wanted to return home tonight but that doesn't seem possible. I have already had a servant prepare a room for you. I suggest that you retire now as you will have an awful hangover in the morning."
"I think that yooou are right Knightley my fend," said Darcy as he struggled to gain control of his tongue.
Elizabeth was far more intoxicated than Emma had planned. Though Emma wanted to go through with her plot, she realized that it would impossible at this stage. Scenes might arise unpleasant to everyone in the house. She would have to send Lizzie to her bed and think up some other plan later.
"Lizzie I think that we should retire for the night."
"All wight, Good night."
As she nearly stumbled toward her room Lizzie bumped directly into Darcy.
They paused for a moment. Both looked at the other longingly hoping for something more. A mixture of love, lust, and shear passion overtook them. At that moment both knew their own heart better than they ever could while sober. It was as if the bonds of pride had been lifted and their hearts opened revealing those feelings that each had tried so desperately to deny. All that really matter was this brief moment of recognition.
"In here," said Darcy as he took her by the hand and led her to his room.
"Mr. Darcy, what do you think your doing. We can't be seen here in your room. It's possily indecent."
"It's too late now. We are already in here."
"I have never been seen the inside of a gentlemen's room before. If anyone discovers that I am here my reputation will be ruined."
"Elizabeth I must speak to you, sit down." Darcy said sternly trying to sober up a little.
"What could you possibly have to say? It is obvious that you have been avoiding me," said Elizabeth as she plopped down in a prone position onto his bed.
"I am tired of your games. I insist that you never see him again." He said as he lay down next to her.
"Mr. Thomas, the man who is falling in love with you of course. You are mine not his."
"My only intentions were to match him with Georgianna. Who are you to demand who I can and can not speak with any way Mister high and mighty Darcy?"
"Your future husband, that's who."
"Ha, is that supposed to be an offer of marriage? I thought that your last one was brilliant but this beats out even Mr. Collin's proposal."
"Yes," she turned to look her head to look at him lying next to her.
"I love you", he said solemnly in the softest of tones.
"I love you too." Whispered Elizabeth as he gently kissed he lips.
"Give yourself to me Elizabeth." He implored as he deepened his kisses.
"Fitzwilliam, we can't do this. We must stop." Her protest was weak.
"Elizabeth my soul is forever bound to yours. I beg you, please end this torment and let them become one."
Elizabeth knew that she would soon let go of her virtue as she felt the weight of his body press against hers .His caresses moved past her lips and onto her neck while his hands stroked the soft curls of her dark brown hair. Her senses were overwhelmed; it was as if her whole being was plunging head on into another world where only they existed, man and woman. She felt as if her spirit was melting into his own in perfect harmony. She was no longer able to discern where her soul ended and his began. This moment meant more to her than eternity, consequences no longer mattered. There was no turning back.
Elizabeth slowly roused from sleep in a state of utter tranquillity. Never in her life had she experienced such contentment. The loneliness within herself had vanished and she now for the first time she felt whole.
She opened her eyes to see her beloved gentleman propped up on hi elbows gazing down upon her. His eyes beheld an expression of warmth and goodness. She was consumed by her love for him. His happiness meant everything to her.
Darcy love for her was overwhelming. He stared at her waking form in awe. Not even in his dreams had he thought such happiness possible. The night of love-making which they had shared filled his soul with bliss. They were now forever bound; never again could she deny him.
"Elizabeth we must go now before we are discovered."
"Gretna Green, we must be married without delay"
"No, Fitzwilliam I know that you feel bound by duty to marry me after our indiscretion last night. When a gentleman marries a woman out of obligation resentment begins to replace the love in his heart. I could not bear being a source of your regret. "
"Elizabeth," his voice was filled with hurt, "How can you doubt my love so? Do you not remember the words of love that I spoke to you last night. They were all true; you must believe that. I would never lie to you in such a cruel way. What of my heart? Have you never stopped to think that by refusing to marry me that you are the one breaking my heart." He said as tears filled his eyes.
Elizabeth suddenly realized the truth of his words and felt ashamed. He had always remained faithful to her even after her refusal at Hunsford . He had spent over a year in search of her. Like an angel he cared and watched over her. There was nothing that he wouldn't do for her . She was so wrapped up in her own pain that she had never stopped to consider his emotional distress . How could she have been so selfish?
"Oh Fitzwilliam, I am so sorry. I am a selfish, selfish woman. It never occurred to me that you to were suffering."
"It's all right Elizabeth. I forgive you. Now I will ask properly this time. Elizabeth, I both love and need you. Without you by my side my life would forever be unfulfilled. Will you consent to be my wife"
"Yes Fitzwilliam, I will. Nothing would give me more pleasure than spending the rest of my life you."
He then placed upon her lips the most passionate of kisses.
"I have written a letter to the Knightleys informing them that we have left for Gretna Greene. Go to your room and get dressed as quickly as possible. Do not bother packing you things; we will worry about that later. As soon as you are dressed meet knock upon the door. We will then make our escape."
One Year Later
Many happy events and discoveries took place in the Darcy's first year of marriage. The Gardiners and Kitty had finally returned to London. They had tried repeatedly to contact Elizabeth before they left London for America on urgent business concerning the Wickams but, Mr. Seeton had seen to it that their letters never reached her. Mr. Wickham had found a new life as a man of God. He married Lydia and vowed to spend the rest of his life as a respectable man. His resolve to pay off all of his previous debts was great. He had written Mr. Gardiner for help in starting a business of his own and in teaching financial management skills to him. Kitty had grown into a fine and sensible young lady and had accepted a proposal of marriage from Mr. Bingley. The successful match of Georgiana with the amiable Mr. Thomas was finally made by Emma Knightley . The most joyful of all was the birth of Frederick Darcy, the Heir of Pemberley. The Darcy's indeed lead a very fortunate life; never again would they lose their hope for the future.