All the comments to Chapter One were begging for Will to talk to Elizabeth and not to leave. Well, we have an answer to part of that…
Previous Chapter: One
Elizabeth smiled as she rose for the day and went through her morning ablutions. Since the incident with Collins several weeks ago, she and Will had never been closer. The time of their wedding was rapidly approaching, and soon his family would arrive. Will had been circumspect regarding his sister. He had told Elizabeth about Georgiana’s intended elopement and that she continued to hold Wickham in high regard. What they had barely discussed was how Will felt about it all and how his relationship with his sister stood. From what Elizabeth gathered, however, it was very strained. Just after the incident, Georgiana spent time at Pemberley, and Will stayed in London. Then, he came to Hertfordshire. It seemed there had been no time for the two to mend broken bridges and address old hurts.
It was hardly surprising. After all, there were more than ten years between the two. There had been only seven years between Elizabeth and Sam, but he would not reveal much to her either. In the same way, Elizabeth was no more open to her youngest sisters. Even Mary, so newly out in society, she did not spend much time with.
Tying her hair up with cheerful ribbons, Elizabeth pushed worries about Georgiana’s arrival aside. Will would be calling soon, and the weather looked very fine. She hoped they would have some time to walk in privacy. In the weeks of their courtship, there was much they discussed which had never been canvassed before. Excitement filled her heart at the idea of learning more and more about Will Darcy for the rest of her life.
Elizabeth entered the breakfast room and greeted her family. Upon sitting, she and Jane immediately began whispering about possible contrivances for solitude with their suitors.
Mary peered at them from across the table. “I hope you are not expecting me to chaperone you forever.” She slathered jam on her toast.
“Forever?” Elizabeth laughed. “Certainly not! I will soon wed.” She looked at Jane with dancing eyes. “It is Jane who will need the chaperone.”
“I thank you not to tease your sister, Miss Lizzy,” Mrs. Bennet said. “You may work the fastest at ensnaring a husband, but we will see if he can come to the point at last. Mark my words, Jane has a far better chance of catching Mr. Bingley than you do of getting Mr. Darcy to the altar.”
Elizabeth repressed the urge to roll her eyes. Her mother and Charlotte had not relented in their opinion that Will should not be trusted and would find some way to throw her over before the wedding. How they thought that would be possible when the settlement had been signed in addition to the engagement being announced and well known in the neighborhood, she did not know.
As often was the case with her step-mother’s anxieties, Elizabeth pretended they did not exist. There was no use in arguing about it. She no longer barred Will from entry into the house and once they were married, her argument would have no legs to stand on. As it was, she did everything a mother should when their daughter was engaged. Despite Mrs. Bennet’s rejection of her future son, Elizabeth did not feel slighted in the least.
“This afternoon, after the gentlemen have called, we must go into Meryton and begin shopping for your wedding clothes. Jane and Mary shall accompany us.”
“Mama,” Mary whined. “I will come, but only because I desired to stop at the bookstore as well.”
“Of course, you may select a new book, my dear,” Mrs. Bennet answered. “However, you will join us at the dressmakers and the milliner. It is good for you to be seen with your betrothed sister and for you to witness the goings-on before a lady marries. Your sisters accompanied and Charlotte Lucas when she was selecting her things for Sam.”
For a moment, no one spoke. Elizabeth had shared with Jane the truth about Sam’s behavior towards Charlotte. No one had told Mary. However, she was deeply her reflective, and so Elizabeth would not be surprised to hear that the girl suspected much of the truth.
Breakfast passed in the usual way. Then Mrs. Bennet went upstairs to see to Kitty and Lydia’s lessons. Mary took the pianoforte, leaving Jane Elizabeth to each other.
“Mr. Bingley has been calling at Longhorn nearly as much as Will,” Elizabeth said while sneaking a slight glance at Jane. “I wonder why?”
“Lizzy, do not tease me so.” Jane blushed, but she smiled. “You must know my hopes by now.”
“How can I know them when you have never said them?” Elizabeth batted her eyes at her elder sister, hoping she would fully and openly state her feelings.
“I never met such a man…that is no one else has seemed…” Jane trailed off before gripping her hands and shaking her head. “Oh, how do you do this so much?”
“Speak of your feelings so freely!”
Elizabeth straightened in her seat. She had not thought that she spoke so freely of her feelings. It is not as though she told anybody but Jane that she loved Will. She informed Mr. Collins that she was engaged to Will only as the most desperate measure.
Jane looked at her. “I do not mean only about Will. You speak freely about any number of things.”
Elizabeth nodded in understanding. “I suppose it is that I have a very irreverent attitude towards the world in general. I do not care what they think of me very much.” Troubled lines threatened to mar her countenance and Elizabeth struggled to keep her face neutral. The fact was she worried very much that her attitude would not be welcomed in London society as Mrs. Darcy.
“It is not as though I fear what people will think. I simply hate for them to know.”
“Dearest Jane, that is not a wrong sentiment. You are reserved, and I am not.”
“I wish I could be more open,” Jane said while staring at her hands. “I sense Mr. Bingley waits for some sign for me. It is as though he is dependent upon me declaring myself. I question how to reassure him of my interest.”
“Perhaps all you need is time.” Elizabeth laughed. “I know I should hardly be the one giving such advice given the nature of my romance. However, it may be that Mr. Bingley needs time to know his own feelings and to be sure that he sees yours. Trust me, words come very easily to some and actions are much harder to prove.”
“That is quite correct,” Jane agreed. “Here they come now.” She nodded to the window as they heard horses arrive on the drive.
Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley were announced into the room and Mary came to sit with them. After the usual pleasantries, Charles asked if they could go on a walk.
Mary let out a long-suffering sigh. “If you will wait in the hall and allow me time together a book I would be most happy.”
Elizabeth gave her sister a guilty smile. She could hardly suppose Mary very much enjoyed chaperoning her older sisters. It disrupted her usual routine, and with two couples she was nearly always excluded. At least when Elizabeth would chaperone Charlotte and her brother, Jane would go with her.
At first, the five young people walked together. Soon Will whispered to Elizabeth. He needed to speak with her in private. Elizabeth signaled to Jane, and their previously thought out plan was put into place. Mary had brought a book with her and did not seem to care or notice that her charges were dividing up in addition to putting considerable distance between her and them.
Will slowed his walk and nodded to a copse of trees next to the path. Elizabeth grinned in response and soon Will lead them to the privacy of the forest.
Elizabeth could feel, however, that something weighed on Will’s mind. He did not appear at ease when he had spoken earlier. More than this, he held her hand tighter than usual and pulled them to greater isolation than he usually would.
“Will, Elizabeth said as she tugged on his hand.
Will look back at her, taking in her flushed cheeks and how she panted from the exertion. He suddenly stopped and pulled Elizabeth into his arms in a crushing embrace.
Elizabeth said nothing. She merely allowed Will to draw the comfort he so obviously needed from her. He tugged on her bonnet strings. In the last several weeks, had become more adept at untying them. Elizabeth removed the hat from her head, and it tumbled from her hands when he captured her lips.
The kiss was not as passionate or crazed as she had expected from his demeanour. However, there appeared to be a desperation about him. He tenderly kissed every inch of her face and seemed to memorize the shape and feel of her lips before letting go and resting his head atop hers.
“I love you,” Elizabeth sighed, and Will’s arms tightened around her further. She pulled back to look at him, for he said nothing return. She heard a crinkling sound from his pocket.
“Tell me what worries you,” Elizabeth said, and pushed a stray lock out of Will’s eye. For a fleeting moment, it looked as though her movement brought Will pain. She pulled her hand back in concern and confusion.
“I cannot do it, Lizzy. I cannot. Not again.” He squeezed her tightly once more.
Elizabeth hardly knew what think. He had never called her Lizzy before, but now was not the correct time to worry about it. “I would counsel you if that is what you desire. However, I do not know what concerns afflict you.”
Will remained mute, but his expression spoke for him. Everything about him appeared more rigid and austere. She recognized it as the same expression he wore when his father had reminded him of his duty all those years ago. He was afraid of something; he was scared of failing. He was torn and conflicted. She hardly why, but felt her own anxiety rise in response to his. “Was it a letter? Is that what it is in your pocket?”
Will nodded and squeezed his eyes shut in what looked like resignation. Withdrawing the letter, he held it out to her. Elizabeth took it with trembling hands. What could it say that would upset him so? Dread filled her as she unfolded the paper. Whatever it was, it would likely affect them both.
Her eyes fell on the paper, as she greedily read every line. There were many which required multiple viewings. Her voice caught in her throat and tears welled in her eyes. “Do I do understand this correctly? Sam did not die in an accident? He was killed!”
“Yes,” Will answered and his voice broke.
Elizabeth looked up to see tears in his eyes as well. “Your father, Mr. Bingley’s father, and Sam. They were…they were killed! Why? Who would do such a thing?”
Elizabeth crumpled in a heap on the ground. Will dropped to his knees and held her to his chest as she sobbed. Since Will’s return, Elizabeth had not missed Sam as much. However, she had kept her grief for his death so firmly over the years, mere weeks could not reset it. Now, the pain came back with a vengeance.
Will said nothing as Elizabeth cried and took consolation. As she did, a part of her healed unexpectedly. This was what she had needed when she had first heard of Sam’s death. She had long for Will’s embrace and expected his support. When they met again, she never thought she would have a chance to relive those feelings once more. However, that did not mean she was thankful he finally fulfilled the role of comforter.
Beginning to calm, she thought over the letter once more. Will’s reaction was different from hers. It was not a concern of reliving the anguish of losing his father and friend that brought him pain. Unable to discern his feelings, Elizabeth turned her mind to other matters.
The post office clerk mentioned witnesses had seen a man with sandy blonde hair. Could it have been Wickham? He had traveled with them, and they already knew that he took Will’s letters. They could discern no motive for him to steal the mail. However, Elizabeth could not understand why he would want to kill Mr. Darcy.
In the weeks since the incident, Elizabeth had not forgotten about the carriage axle which broke her way to Netherfield. Someone had designed to kill Will. Was this related? If so, why wait so long before attempting to murder the son?
Elizabeth drew back and met Will’s eyes, brushing away the tears that had fallen on his cheeks. “Do you have a suspect?”
Will’s arms tightened around Elizabeth. “Wickham,” Will said the word and a dark expression crossed face. “Who else? Who else is been such a bane to my very existence?”
“I am scared,” Elizabeth admitted. Throughout her life, she had relied on her courage. She could confess her fears only to Will.
“I am very sorry, love. I do not wish it…” His voice broke, and after a moment he attempted to speak again. “Perhaps it would be for the best…” He trailed off.