February 17, 2023 10:59AM
Chapter 11

That night in Brighton, a distraught Lydia was telling Mr Wickham she could not run away with him as she had to return the next day to Longbourn, and she now had to wear mourning dresses which really did nothing for her complexion at all.

Mr Wickham assured her of his affection and that he would be there at Longbourn offering for her at the end of her mourning period. He had a little debt though, that he needed to settle and if she could be so kind as to loan him a mere twenty pounds, it should be enough to see him through till they met again.

In London, the Gardiner’s staff had received the express and were sad at the loss of an exceptional mistress which they all cherished. They were getting the house ready for mourning and standing by for further instructions.

At Longbourn, Jane had retreated to her father's study to ‘go over the books’. Jane was not one to lie, but she needed to be alone. Mrs Phillip’s had been a godsend, as she’d helped to organise the seamstress and had sat with Mrs Bennet, calming her down and keeping her out of the way.

She had spent as much of her time as possible trying to comfort the Gardiner children. The elder children understood the concept of death. The youngest did not understand but became upset as the elder ones were crying.

Mary had taken responsibility for fielding all questions from the servants and greeting and then quickly dismissing any callers, including Lady Lucas and Maria.

Jane sat at Mr Bennet’s desk with her head in her hands and cried. How she needed her Lizzy with her now! But she did not know how Lizzy was.

Mary knocked lightly on the door and without waiting for a response entered. “Papa already did the books for the week.“

“I know,” said Jane between sobs.

Mary came and put a hand on Jane’s shoulder. “Have faith that Lizzy is safe.”

“We've not heard yet that they've found her. That means she was left alone all last night. Even if they had found her this morning, an express should have reached us by now.”

“I have to view that as good news. The longer and further she ran would imply that she was not critically injured. She has probably been found and is with Uncle. I'm certain we'll receive the express by tomorrow morning.”

“I wish to think like that so much, Mary. But I have this horrible fear inside.”

“Come,” said Mary, taking Jane’s hand and taking her to the couch in their father's study. “There is only one thing we can do for Lizzy and that is to pray and hope that God is listening.” Mary sat with Jane and led her in prayer.

In Lutterworth, a worried Mr Bennet pushed his dinner around the plate, before tossing and turning in his bed when he attempted to go to sleep. Kitty, try as she might, tried to be sad, but she was not familiar enough with her aunt, and she honestly did not believe that Lizzy could be in any form of danger. The trip was too novel, and she fell asleep within moments.

In Matlock, Darcy overheard an argument in the hall. “Dr Brown, Mr Gardiner requires some laudanum for his pain, else he won't be able to sleep.”

“Mr Mortimer, you know the risks of laudanum use, especially for one such as him. I'm not surprised that you want to sell more of your wares.”

“The risk of not using it may result in his death through pneumonia. You can hear his breathing. The man is struggling.”

“With what has occurred he’s at high risk of developing an addiction. Think of it, man. In his sleep, his wife will be smiling and alive. And when he wakes up it's to the reality that she’s dead, every time. The temptation to use even when there is no more physical pain is too great.”

“I can keep the dose as low as possible to take the edge off the pain. But he needs to be able to breath without pain.”

The doctor calmed down and Darcy could no longer hear their discussion.

Lizzy had woken up from an afternoon nap. She had not thought it possible to feel worse, but her body was sore everywhere and her head ached worse than before. To top it off, she was shivering from cold.

The maid came in and brought in some dinner. She had had a filling lunch which had removed the pain in her stomach and now she was ready to eat more. “I’m glad you’re awake, Miss. The doctor is in with your Uncle at the moment. He'll be in to see you next.”

“Thank you,” said Elizabeth.

The maid continued pointing to a pile of black fabric on the dresser. “The Countess has sent some mourning dresses for you to wear.”

Elizabeth went to prop herself up, but pain filled her head immediately. She tried to raise her left hand to press her head, before remembering it was in a cast.

Whilst she was eating dinner, Dr Brown entered. “How are you feeling tonight, Miss Bennet?”

“Terrible. The only part of me that doesn't hurt is my stomach.”

“You'll feel worse tomorrow as the pain from all your bruises and muscle tears set in, but I can only hope you'll start feeling somewhat better the day after. Let me look at the wound.”

The doctor inspected the wound, then rolled the bandage back over it. “It is currently looking good. I'll be back tomorrow morning to inspect it again.”

“Is there anything you can provide for the headache?”

The doctor shook his head. “Due to the blood loss, it would be dangerous for me to prescribe laudanum. In fact, by the time it is safe for me to give it to you, you won't need it. The best I can recommend is that you drink the tea’s that Mr Mortimer has already provided.”

The doctor paused as he took a seat in her room. “I've reluctantly given your uncle laudanum. He needs it to be able to breathe easy whilst he sleeps, else he won’t be able to rest. If he doesn't rest, he'll develop pneumonia.” He sighed. “You need to understand your uncle is exactly the kind of person who could develop a dependence on laudanum as an escape. Did he love your aunt?”

“Very much so. They were very happy together,” said Lizzy with her throat tightening.

“You see, your uncle is in great pain, both physically and mentally. He has the laudanum and his pain goes away and he is happy. In his mind, his wife is probably still alive and talking to him. Then it wears off and he wakes, everything hurts and he realises his wife is gone. I've seen many a man succumb to the temptation to keep using well after the physical pain is gone. Are you close with your Uncle?”

“Yes, my eldest sister and I often stayed with them in London,” said Elizabeth with a tear escaping at the thought of her aunt.

“He will need a lot of support. He'll need people to be there for him and he'll need to be watched to make sure he doesn't develop a dependence.”

“I understand, doctor.”

The maid walked in. “The sheriff and his men are here to interview Miss Bennet.”

“You can tell them to go away,“ said the doctor.

Lizzy put up her right hand. “No, I will talk with them now. I want these men caught.. If my evidence helps...I want to do all I can to help catch these men whilst I still remember what happened.”

“Are you sure you are up to it? I can make them go away if you'd prefer it to happen another day?”

“I’d like to talk with them now. Thankyou doctor.”

The maid let the men inside. Sir Riley and Colonel Fitzwilliam entered. “Miss Elizabeth, how are you feeling?” asked Sir Riley.

“My head feels as though it will split open and spill out.”

“I'm not surprised by that. I must tell you your exploits of the last couple of days is spreading. You are the talk of Derby. I've come across at least one reporter outside asking after you. At this very moment, poets are writing poems about you...that is bad poets,” said Richard.

Elizabeth started to laugh, then stopped as she realised how painful it was. “Don't make me laugh, Colonel, it hurts too much. But I thank you for trying to lighten my mood.”

“Not only that, Miss Elizabeth, but your adventure has inspired the imaginations of romantics to improve upon your rescue. Stories are swirling of you being rescued solely by your lover, rather than a search party. I’m mostly offended as I’m not getting a mention at all.”

Richard had thought this would raise a smile in Miss Elizabeth, but instead she slightly blushed, or at least her pale white face gained a slight tinge of pink. Interesting, thought Richard. There might be some truth to this.

“I know these events must lay heavy on you, Miss Bennet. We are deeply sorry for the loss of your Aunt,” said Sir Riley. “We thank you for seeing us despite the pain you are in. You are a remarkable young woman. There are few who would have the presence of mind to run and hide like you did, fewer still who would think to write down all they overheard. Getting the names of two of these thieves was quite remarkable. I would like to go through everything you remember of yesterday. We would like nothing more than to catch the men responsible for your aunt’s death. Can you start with what you recall of the holdup?”

Lizzy closed her eyes, running the scenes through her head. She could remember laughing with her aunt; was that only yesterday? “We were riding towards Matlock when all of a sudden, two riders appeared on the road in front of us.”

“What can you tell me about them? Everything you can think of, every detail no matter how small.” Sir Riley took out a notebook and had a pencil at the ready.

“The leader sat on a black horse, white star running half way down its nose.”

“Do you remember it's feet and if it had white socks?” asked Sir Riley.

Lizzy tried to focus her mind on the moment Bob had tried to grab the carriage horses halter. “I think there was at least one, but I can't recall which one it was. Bob, the man who shot our driver, his horse was brown with no white.”

“Can you tell us what the men looked like?. What were they wearing?”

“The all wore leather hats on their heads. They had handkerchiefs covering their noses and mouths. They all wore brown tweed coats with brown pants.”

“Is there anything else you can remember about the men? Age, hair colour, scars, eye colour?” asked Sir Riley.

Lizzy tried hard to recall. “They were both too far away for me to see their eye colour, and once our driver was shot and the horses ran away, those men were not our top concern.”

She tried to focus her memory on the two men who appeared in front of them. “The man who shot the driver was a big man. His horse was taller than our carriage horses. When he got up, he was as tall as his horse. He was broad, barrel chested. His voice was deep, gruff. The leader, I think he was in his fifties, maybe early sixties. The leader’s voice was deep, but not as deep as Bob’s. He wasn't a small man, probably of average size. Neither lean nor fat.” Lizzy ran the events over in her head, then shook her head. “Sorry, I can't recall any further details on the men.”

“Can you recall anything else when you overheard the men talking? Anything additional in the men’s voices?” asked Sir Riley.

She shook her head. “I wrote down all the useful information at the time. I was hiding, so I didn't see them at all. I only heard them.”

“What of the other two men?”

“All I can say is that their voices weren't as deep. I got the impression they were younger than their leader and Bob. One, I sense, to be quite young, possibly only a teenager.”

“They said they intended to travel to Sherwood forest to hide,” said Richard.

“Yes, but I imagine that was before they had counted their takings. I presume they waited to get back to their camp before assessing their take. My uncle had several hundred pounds. Split four ways, they could live off it for several months without having to trouble themselves,” said Elizabeth.

Richard looked at Sir Riley. “That's a valid conjecture. We didn't think that they would change the plans you overheard.”

“It all depends on their motive. Have they been forced to conduct these attacks as a short term measure to resolve current financial difficulties, or are they thugs who have changed their tactics to highway robbery?” said Sir Riley, tapping a finger on his chin as he thought out loud. “This makes the search more difficult, as they may split up and each go their own ways. Colonel, we need to go over all the evidence.”

“Yes, Sir,” replied Richard. They took their leave of Elizabeth, wishing her a speedy recovery.

“Is my uncle awake?” Lizzy asked the maid.

The maid disappeared, returning soon after. “No, Miss, he’s fast asleep. The laudanum worked on him already. Pity the doc won’t give you some.”

“I'll survive,” said Lizzy as she felt her head thumping.

Meanwhile, whilst the doctor and Richard and Sir Riley were with Lizzy, outside Bingley had met with Darcy. Bingley initiated the discussion. “We should continue our earlier discussion,” he said stiffly.

Darcy and Bingley took a seat in an empty parlour. Bingley continued. “What did Miss Elizabeth tell you when you were at Rosings? Richard told me that he’d told her that you had separated me from Miss Bennet.”

“I came across her and we fought over that. Miss Elizabeth implied that her sister’s affections had been engaged and that is how I know. Hell hath no fury like Miss Elizabeth when her sister has been scorned.”

“Why didn't you tell me in London that you were wrong? Were you ever going to tell me?”

Darcy was silent and he looked down at his hands. He didn't know how to answer Bingley in any suitable manner. He could not defend himself without revealing his own failed proposal.

“Did you really believe Miss Bennet indifferent when you convinced me, or did you merely want to get away from Miss Elizabeth?”

“I honestly believed her indifferent at the time. I was wrong, and for that I am sorry for the pain I've caused both of you. I, in hindsight, shouldn't have advised you at all.”

“I've sent a letter to my housekeeper at Netherfield to open up the house.”

“You do realise you can't pursue Miss Bennet whilst she is in mourning.”

“Of course I know that. I'm going there to offer my support to the family in their time of need like a friend should, and to demonstrate my constancy to Jane.”

“When will you leave?” asked Darcy.

“I'll go after Mr Bennet arrives. I'll see if there are any messages that he wants to send back.”

“Are you also waiting to see if he brings Miss Bennet with him?”

At that point, Richard came out with Sir Riley. “Are the two of you coming back with me to Sir Riley’s? We've got to work out where the search will go tomorrow.”

Bingley rose but Darcy shook his head. “I'll stay here until Mr Bennet arrives to help Miss Elizabeth and her uncle in any way they need.”

Richard nodded. “That's a good idea. It hasn't been said, but Miss Elizabeth is the only witness that can convict the man who killed the driver. If something happens to her, or if the thieves find out that she’s alive...”

“I'll keep a watch on them.”

Action Lizzy and the Four Thieves Chapters 11

Anne VFebruary 17, 2023 10:59AM

Re: Action Lizzy and the Four Thieves Chapters 11

EvelynJeanFebruary 18, 2023 05:56AM

Re: Action Lizzy and the Four Thieves Chapters 11

Maria VFebruary 19, 2023 10:38AM

Re: Action Lizzy and the Four Thieves Chapters 11

MichaFebruary 17, 2023 04:21PM


Your Email:


Spam prevention:
Please, solve the mathematical question and enter the answer in the input field below. This is for blocking bots that try to post this form automatically.
Question: how much is 3 plus 3?