J. Dawn King

Bestselling author of Jane Austen variations

Letter of the Law – Chapter 16

Chapter 16


“Officers!” Kitty and Lydia swooned in tandem, completely ignoring Lady Matlock’s fine counsel.

“Welcome to Netherfield Park, gentlemen.” Bingley moved forward with his arm outstretched, intending to welcome Colonel Forster and his men to his home.

“Wickham, you scoundrel. What are you doing with the militia?” Lord Matlock had finally looked closer at those newly arrived and identified the rascal who had caused his nephew and son a lifetime of grief and misery. “The last I heard you were hiding from debt collectors and several angry fathers who would see you dead or, even worse, married to their ruined daughters.” To the butler, he demanded, “Have footmen bring my son downstairs—now!”

“Colonel Forster,” Mrs. Bennet, slyly added her voice to the fray. “Did you bring your wife to Hertfordshire?”

“Richard is here? At Netherfield Park?” Wickham retreated quickly. “Excuse me, Colonel Forster. I suddenly recalled a pressing matter needing completion before I am free to enlist in the militia. If you do not mind, I will make my own way back to Meryton.” Bowing to the room in general, he fled.

“Well, I never…,” Colonel Forster huffed to no one in particular.

In the confusion, Elizabeth first felt Darcy’s tension radiating from his person and then sweet relief once Mr. Wickham left the room. As the others settled, she turned her attention to Jane and Mary. Jane was trying to ignore Mr. Bingley’s presence while surreptitiously studying his every gesture and expression, while Mary separated herself from Kitty and Lydia, moving to a distant part of the room.

When the footmen arrived with the Colonel, the mood of the room briskly transformed into order. No introductions were needed between the two colonels as they had known each other for almost a decade. Mr. Bingley provided the necessary protocol for the rest of the men. At Kitty and Lydia arguing over who would tend the needs of the wounded soldier, Mr. Bennet finally roused himself to act.

“Kitty, Lydia, do leave the poor man alone.” Their father looked at his wife. “Come, Mrs. Bennet, let us take these two misfits to the nursery where they belong.”

With three complaining females in tow, he retired upstairs, reducing the noise level exponentially.

“Well, well, well, who have we here?”

Elizabeth recalled a similar greeting when she met Colonel Fitzwilliam upon his arrival in Hertfordshire. She glanced to see who had captured his attention and was surprised to find, not Jane, but Mary as the focus of his address.

Her sister’s hesitant blushes were appealing as Mary wavered between basking in the unexpected attentions of a worthy gentleman and the reticence inherent to her nature.

Richard Fitzwilliam had the skills of a soldier determined to gather necessary information. Ignoring the other men in the room, he asked, “Miss Mary, by chance do you read German?”

“I do.” Closing her eyes and dipping her head, Elizabeth sensed her sister’s discomfort. Yet, she overcame her shyness long enough to have given a reply. Good for Mary!

“Might I have someone fetch the book Miss Elizabeth left on my side table carefully wrapped in a leather portfolio? If so, would you be willing to read a chapter to me? I would deeply appreciate the entertainment.”

The Colonel’s eyes pleaded for…for what, exactly? Whatever it was, Elizabeth was pleased for Mary. Already, Elizabeth knew him to be a good and honorable man.

Der Schweizerische Robinson! Relief rushed from Elizabeth’s head to her slipper-covered toes. When the maid entered the room to hand the book to the Colonel, Elizabeth almost burst into tears. Something precious survived the carnage at Longbourn.

“Are you well, Elizabeth?” Mr. Darcy whispered.

“I am merely overcome with the notion of what surprisingly had the strength to survive and grow and what I had assumed to be strong turning out to be weak.”

“You are speaking of people, not the book?” He asked.

Elizabeth looked at him, truly gazed upon the man who would soon be her husband. Weary lines and dark circles surrounded his eyes. His furrowed brow revealed his concerns, the utmost of which was her. That he endeavored to discern her meaning was worth more to her than diamonds.

“I am, sir.” Turning slightly towards him, their conversation would be unheard by others. “Mary is a mystery to most outside the family as she is, by far, the most complex of all of the Bennet girls. She can appear inconsequential as her tendency is to hide from a conversation. Yet, at a moment’s notice from your cousin, I see her step outside her inclination. I am very proud of her.”

“As you should be.” He agreed. “And the one who turned out to be weak?”

“Mr. Collins.” Elizabeth had no reason not to reveal her disapprobation. “He had everything to gain by helping quench the fire at Longbourn, yet he chose to pace under the tree, complain about the efforts of others to save his future house, and flap his worthless arms as he berated his lot in life. My sex could not possibly respect a man who does nothing for himself. For, how would we expect him to put himself forward on behalf of others if he does not do so for himself? I cannot imagine he would be a good spiritual shepherd to the flock under his care at Hunsford, can you?”

“Unfortunately, he is exactly as you have described. Nonetheless, you should know my aunt would expect him to be no different. It speaks to the negative aspects of her character that she willingly chose to gift him with the living and thus, the care for the needs of those in the parish.”

“Do you fear her coming to Hertfordshire?” The woman sounded as if she would be as uncaring of common sense as either Lydia or Kitty. The thought of having them all under one roof caused a shudder to race through her body.

“I am my own man, Elizabeth, and am beholden to no one on earth other than my sister and now you. Should she make the fifty-mile journey she shall meet with an immovable brick wall in the form of my uncle, my cousin, and myself.”

“Me too, I suppose.” Grinning at the metaphor, she knew where her position would be—at his side.

“Yes, dearest. You too.”

Her breath caught while inhaling. “I am your dearest?”

“You are.” His corresponding grin left her breathless. Where she had thought him handsome before, the glimpse of a dimple to the side of his mouth on his right cheek was endearing.

“You two need to recall there are others in the room.” Lady Matlock had approached unseen. Her whispered remonstration was well-deserved.

Time had passed while Elizabeth was enraptured by the man alongside her. Tea had been procured and served, Mr. Bingley and Jane were in cautious conversation, Lord Matlock and his son were sharing tales with the militia, and Mary was quietly sitting next to Mr. Darcy’s cousin, the retrieved book clutched to her chest. After Colonel Forster and his men departed, it was agreed to reconvene in the Colonel’s bedchamber for the reading of chapter three of Swiss Family Robinson.


By week’s end, Mr. Bennet had Darcy’s agreement he would establish the two youngest Bennets with the same headmistress used by several young ladies known to Lady Matlock who had gone into school as rebellious girls and departed the same classrooms as accomplished debutantes.

The depression that had started to settle on Richard’s shoulders was responding well to the comfort peculiar to Miss Mary Bennet. The two spent hours together, her sitting by his bedside with either his aunt or uncle as a chaperone. Within days, progress had been made with the story of the tropical adventure and how the Robinson family overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles. It appeared, from casual observation, that Richard Malcolm Fitzwilliam, soon-to-be Esquire, with his constant companion, was overcoming some mountain-like obstacles of his own.

“Darcy, how did you know you loved Elizabeth?” His cousin asked him when they had a moment of privacy. “Do not tell me you do not for it is as evident as the nose on your face that you see only her when she is in a room. You hear only her words, and you care for no one’s good opinion but hers.”

“I have no reason to deny your charge.” Darcy easily agreed. “I do love her with a depth I never thought possible.” Darcy sat back in the chair. “How did I know it was love? In truth, I was completely unaware. In fact, I was in the middle before I knew I had even begun.”

“You have no doubts? No fears?”

“I do not.” Darcy suspected his cousin was developing strong feelings for the middle Bennet girl. “I will confess, only to you, that I was at first determined to be displeased with everyone in Meryton society, including Elizabeth.” He chuckled. “Especially, Elizabeth. I attempted to place her so far below my rank that she would disappear from my view and my thoughts.”

“How did that work for you, Darce?” Now, it was his cousin’s turn to mock him.

“Not well at all.” He confessed. “With only a few conversational exchanges, she intrigued me and entrapped me until I was in her web, captive. However, before you think I am accusing her of trickery or using the mean arts we know females are capable of, she innocently curried my favor until I believe I am stating the God’s honest truth, I would have rushed into her trap even if she had not pointed the direction to go. My heart is her willing slave.”

“Do you not feel weaker for giving her this level of control?”

“Not at all.” Darcy mused. “I give her my heart and devotion most willingly. In doing so, in attaching myself to her, we, together, become a force I could never accomplish on my own. Rich, she makes me feel taller, stronger. I sense a fullness of myself, a completion if you will.”

“Then, you cannot believe you will have regrets for marrying so quickly?”

“I do not.”

“Pray, do not be angered by my next questions as I mean no harm. I merely seek knowledge to help me better understand my own situation.” The Colonel seriously pleaded.

“Do ask. I will not be angry, I promise.”

Richard cleared his throat. Then he looked his cousin directly in the eye. His voice never wavered.

“There are just over seventy days left until Georgie reaches the seventeenth anniversary of her birth. Might you be rushing into this marriage to satisfy your father’s requirements that one of us marry prior to that time? Might the thought of the loss of your beloved sister to Aunt Catherine have motivated you to become emotionally tied-up with Elizabeth quicker than you would have done without the codicil? Are you rushing to the altar, blinding yourself to the areas that concerned you when you first met her? Are you truly in love with her or are you telling yourself you are because she is the means to keep Georgiana with you?”

Darcy paused to give consideration to his cousin’s concerns. He was known to be a meticulous man who, as his uncle often accused him, thought over every decision to death. Had he done this with Elizabeth?

While the Colonel waited, Darcy carefully examined his own heart in light of Richard’s concerns. Eventually, he spoke.

“I see her flaws, and when I have not she has freely pointed them out to me. Yet, I do not want her to change. I can live with and adapt as I believe she can with me. I find I want to be a better man for her, although she has not once requested I change before she can be happy. Some of her sisters are uncommonly beautiful, as I know from you and Bingley. Nevertheless, I already feel a sense of loyalty to Elizabeth and have from the earliest moments of our acquaintance. I do not see other ladies. I see her. I do not want other ladies. I want her. I do not want to listen to the opinions of other ladies. I only want hers. I long to be in her company each minute of the day, Richard. I do not want to be left alone but I would rather be alone than lose her.”

“Then this is no infatuation?”

“I love her. I believe I always will.” Convinced of his own arguments, he excused himself. Desperate to find his beloved, he rushed from the room.

This time, instead of knocking her to the floor, his momentum caused her to drop the basket she was carrying. Immediately, she dropped to the floor as wiggling, complaining masses of fur emerged from the spilled wicker container.

“Puppies?” He was so stunned he forgot his purpose. “You are…hiding a litter from Bingley or you are putting them back?”

Her eyes, so overwhelmingly beautiful, sparkled with mirth blended with concern.

“I am not pilfering pups, no matter how it appears to your jaded eyes, sir.” Attempting to corral the three squirming whelps, she smiled. “Papa’s book was not the only survivor of the fire. Kitty had brought them to her bedchamber when she found out they were destined for other estates once they were weaned. Papa was insistent while Kitty was determined the three stays together. She may be silly, but her heart has a special tenderness for anything with four legs and a tail.” Halting her efforts, she placed a plump little boy in her hands while she plopped another boy into the basket and grabbed the little girl trying to make a run for it down the hall. “Can I keep them?”

“Yes.” What? Pemberley had more dogs than they needed because his sister was very much like hers. They also had a plethora of kids, calves, and lambs who grew into adulthood bearing odd names with a guarantee they would never grace anyone’s table as the main course. Before he could clarify his need to change his mind, she threw her free arm around him and squeezed, with puppies and all.

“This is exactly why I will adore you, sir.” Briefly, she rested her head on his chest. “I see your heart clearly and I love everything I see.”

“You love? Me?” He just had to ask. The puppies in his arm, along with the one currently pressed against his middle, were forgotten.

“Yes, I love you. I would not have agreed to marry you if I did not.” Lifting the wicker container, she shifted her puppy to its interior. Dropping a quick kiss to his cheek, she plucked his puppy from him and dropped it back into the basket as well. Elizabeth gave him no more notice as she sauntered down the staircase to take their new charges to the barn.

Elizabeth loved him! She wanted puppies, she could have puppies.

Letter of the Law – Chapter 15

Please keep up! I’m going to delete this story before I publish which will be soon after I post my final chapter.

Tomorrow we leave for the US. My heart is bleeding profusely. Yes, we are both pleased to return to English being spoken, clean water we don’t have to boil, and food safe for eating. But, we do adore the simplicity of life here in the Andes Mountains. We had a small earthquake on Thursday that was centered very close to our apartment so we all felt it except for John. He was busy watching car races with the headphones plugged in and completely missed it. How does that happen?

If you are just starting, here’s the link to Chapter One: Chapter 1

Chapter 15


Her response took him by surprise.

“You are bartering for me?” She pulled her hand from his clasp then fisted it at her side, poised to strike.

He had no doubt who would be her victim.

“For what purpose, Mr. Darcy?” Her voice mimicked her father’s sarcastic tone. “Am I to be set up as mistress to watch as you marry a woman more deserving than me to grace your home? Am I to be a companion to your sister as a replacement for the four I will be losing? Tell me, sir, what gentleman of good sense would bargain with a father without first declaring your purpose to the lady in question?”

Did she question his honor? How could she impugn improper motives to him, a man who had fought the fire at her home with his whole being? A man whom she had kissed seemingly willingly and eagerly? How dare she!

He stomped towards her, his stride purposeful. Leaning over Elizabeth, he knew his position was intimidating. He cared not! She deserved his anger.

“You are quick to vilify me, Miss Elizabeth, and I am now ashamed of what my feelings have been.” He waved towards the men in the room. “In front of friends and family, you accuse me of immoral plans for your person?

“Wait! What feelings?” She demanded.

“What feelings? You truly do not know?” Flummoxed, he threw his hands into the air, then endeavored to rub the confused expression that was surely covering his face.

“Tell me.” Her words were for his ears alone.

Unable to contain himself, his tone still held the surprised annoyance threatening to overrun the emotional barriers he was trying to erect.

“I love you, Elizabeth Bennet…” Dropping his hands, he tipped his head back as if beseeching the heavens for a measure of patience he had never before received. “and I fear I always will.” Turning from her, he returned to the sofa and sat. Putting his elbows on his knees, his weary body seemed to collapse into itself. Ignoring the burns on his cheeks, he yielded to the weakness in his neck and held his face between his palms, his eyes staring unseeingly at the pattern on the carpet below. “I would never degrade a woman to make her my mistress. Never!”

She approached, giving him the boldness to continue.

“I would have asked you to be my wife, the mistress of our estates, and the mother of our children.”

“Oh!” Her hand on his shoulder was gentle. “Well then, yes.”

He glanced up in time to see her curtsey. Her eyes avoided his as she scanned the room. “Gentlemen. Papa.”

Without any other acknowledgment, she left.

What on earth had happened?


“She is tired, Nephew, and so are you. So are all of us.” Uncle Hugh was the first to react after Elizabeth vacated the room. He snorted. “Lord, but if she does not remind me of your mother, Darcy.”

His attention was fully engaged. His mother? Lady Anne Darcy was a paragon of womanly charm. She was a lady in every sense of the word. “How do you mean?”

“I was almost your age when Anne came to me demanding my approval for her to marry George Darcy.” Lord Matlock poured himself a brandy and took a sip before continuing. “Personally, I could not see her attachment to your father. He was, much as you are, a quiet, somber man weighed down by his responsibilities. Anne was as impertinent and lively as your Miss Elizabeth.”

His uncle shook his head. “I was wrong to think she could find a better man amongst my peers who would keep her in the society of which she was accustomed.” Sipping again, he continued, “She cared not for the trappings of the ton. Nor was Pemberley what drew her to your father. She took one look at him and saw the gold buried in the stone. Anne loved him dearly.” He sighed. “They had a wonderful union. She lightened every aspect of his life until his burdens became, not only bearable but almost refreshing. She challenged him to simplify so they could spend more time together. At the same time, he grounded her and gave her purpose.

“Your father told me almost a year after her passing what he missed more than anything was the way Anne looked at matters. She pondered situations deeply and gave her opinions freely on the human aspect of any situation. George said she enriched his life more than he thought was possible.” His uncle set his glass on a side table, then looked directly at him. “I believe Miss Elizabeth will do the same for you.”

Darcy had thought the same. Did he still?

“Ask yourself, was your parent’s union always peaceful? Did you ever doubt their love for one another? Then, when you have your answers, go to Miss Elizabeth and offer your humblest apology.”

“Whatever for? She is the one who badly misjudged me.” Darcy insisted, unable to comprehend what exactly had happened.

“Nephew, you will learn, as I did with your Aunt Helen and your father did your mother, that a woman yearns to have peace while at the same time she delights in keeping her mate unsettled. It is a lady’s joy, for some odd reason.” Hugh Fitzwilliam snickered. “However, know the rewards of pleasing a woman willing to be pleased is worth begging for her approval fairly regularly. Apologizing dignifies her value in her own eyes and shows her more than actions that you value her as well. Trust me, Darcy, the first admission of wrong is the most difficult. Yet, once done and the gift received, you will soon look for opportunities to repeat yourself because there comes a rich bounty. There always does.”

Darcy did not understand and doubted he would until he had slept a day away. Nonetheless, his uncle was not a fool. He and his aunt got on fairly well.

“Mr. Darcy,” Mr. Bennet addressed him as he tried to formulate a response to Lord Matlock. “I would not have thought it after the comment you made at the assembly about my daughter’s undesirability, but I do believe you might be tempted after all.”

Bingley’s laughter bounced off each wall. “I will say so.”

“Therefore, as the father to Elizabeth, I both accept your offer of aid and extend my blessing and consent for your betrothal.” Placing both hands on the arm of the sofa, he stood and offered his hand.

Seeing the inflamed skin, Darcy adjusted his grip accordingly.

“I am betrothed?”

“You are.” At that, Mr. Bennet took a page from his daughter and left the room.

“I am betrothed.” If he repeated himself often enough he might start to believe in the truth of what he was saying. He hoped!

“Indeed, you are.” Replied his uncle and Bingley in unison.

This time it was he who retired from the library. He was betrothed to Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Never could he have imagined at the start of the day how it would end.

Betrothed. To Miss Elizabeth.

The world could not contain his smile.


Elizabeth woke to the sound of movement next to the bed. The sunlight filtering through the curtains and her eyelids indicated the day was far along. Surprised she had slept that soundly when her mind was in turmoil, she pictured the expression on Mr. Darcy’s face when she told him ‘yes’.

“You are giggling with your eyes shut, Lizzy Bennet. Would you be dreaming of your Mr. Darcy?” Jane tugged on the end of her sister’s braid. “Wake up. Lady Matlock returned from Meryton with an armload of garments that need fitted for our use. Poor Mama is beside herself to have a countess shopping for her daughters, although she did bemoan the lack of lace and ribbons.”

“I imagine so.” Elizabeth sat us and rubbed her eyes to clear the fog. “What has happened, Jane? Oh, you sound much improved.”

“I am. My throat is without pain and the stuffiness is almost gone. Perhaps standing in the cool air was more beneficial to me than I imagined.” Jane chose a yellow dress with green stripes from a small pile draped over a chair. “I believe this one will do for you.”

At that point, Elizabeth noted the details of the room. Luxuriously outfitted to reflect the beauty of a rose garden, the pink flowers on green vines creeping around the room on ivory wallpaper was lovely. Jane, in her robin’s egg blue dress with snippets of white lace at the color and the sleeves looked right at home.

“Mama was unable to contain the ire of Kitty and Lydia when they realized Lady Matlock had only procured undergarments and nightgowns for them. The Countess had been surprised to discover they were out in society so chose dresses for you, me, and Mary.” Jane’s eyes sparkled. “Oh, Lizzy, you cannot imagine how Mary looks.”

“Whatever can you mean? I am familiar with my sister from every angle.” Elizabeth teased.

“Just you wait, Lizzy Bennet.” Jane selected stockings and a new chemise from the pile. “Lady Matlock selected a dress of pale pink with petite white daisies embroidered at the collar, sleeves, waist, and hem. I swear our shy sister stood three inches taller when she was finally dressed. The Countess’ maid restyled her hair and pinched some color into her cheeks before Mary was turned to see her reflection in the mirror. Her blush was most becoming.”

Elizabeth’s chest hurt, her heart was so full. Mary was practically invisible to their parents. She often hid behind books of sermons in an effort to remain such. However, Elizabeth had long suspected she used Fordyce’s words instead of her own out of trepidation rather than piety. Perhaps, with Lady Matlock’s assistance, she could be aided to step out from behind boring tomes and antiquated opinions. We shall see!


The noise from the drawing room was deafening. As Elizabeth descended the stairs with Jane on one side and Mary, who indeed was captivating, on the other, they easily heard Lydia’s complaints before they had reached the ground floor.

“Lady Matlock, you simply do not understand. My own parents have allowed me to participate in society since the day I became fifteen. My Mama thinks I will be the first of her daughters to marry and I cannot think her words to be untrue. Why, how ashamed I would be to not be married by three and twenty like Jane.” Lydia was undoubtedly preening, a practiced pose she believed made her look more mature. “With the militia’s arrival, I am sure to catch the eye of many officers. I shall be wed before the holiday season, you mark my words.”

“Why on earth would an officer want you for a bride, Miss Lydia? What accomplishments have you? What experience do you have managing a home? Can you live on a much smaller income than what you are accustomed? Can you care for children?” Elizabeth could almost see Lady Matlock shaking her head, or her finger at the young girl. “What have you to recommend yourself other than your youthful vitality?”

“Why, cannot you see it?” Lydia asked, puzzled.

Oh, no! Keep your mouth shut, Lydia Marie Bennet. Elizabeth’s wish was in vain.

“Though I am the youngest, I am the tallest.” Lydia stated matter-of-factly, as if the Countess was missing the obvious.

Glancing at each of the sisters at her side, Elizabeth saw their mortification and knew her face reflected the same. While very little penetrated Jane’s mask, hearing their youngest sister express shame at being unattached at Jane’s age was brutally painful.

“Enough, Lydia.” Elizabeth marched her sisters into the fray. Disappointment with their father, who reclined in his chair with a smirk upon his face as he looked at his youngest, and their mother who saw nothing wrong with the vulgar conduct of her baby, shook her. It was agonizing to see her family as others saw them. She looked to Mr. Darcy, had been standing with his back to the group until he heard her voice.

Gratefully, his eyes were only towards her. Curtseying, she moved to stand alongside him.

“Miss Elizabeth. Elizabeth,” he whispered, testing the address as if he was afraid she would object. When she did not, he continued. “you will marry me?”

She wanted to chuckle aloud, glorying in having unsettled him. “Yes, Mr. Darcy.”


The tender moment was shattered by Lydia’s whine. Almost immediately, she was joined by Kitty.

“I have not said enough, Lizzy. This woman,” she rudely pointed to Lady Matlock, “is determined to ruin my fun and I will not have a person wholly unconnected to me changing my future on a whim. Mama said you will be able to throw me in front of rich men when you marry Mr. Darcy and I want an officer who will keep me in style, who will jealously watch me dance every dance at every society ball, and who will see I am cherished as the daughter of a gentleman. I will have my way!”

The chortle coming from the Countess said more than words. “Little Miss, should your sister throw you in front of rich men, they would simply throw you right back.” Being finished with the conversation, Lady Matlock stood and walked to where her husband was hiding himself behind a newspaper. “Hugh, would you please help this child see reason?”

Lord Matlock folded the paper carefully before looking up at his wife. Surveying the room, Elizabeth noted his eyes lingering upon her father.

“I will not.” Placing the circular upon a side table, he rose. “It is easy to see she is unreasonable as is her sister. They are lacking the firm hand and guidance of their parents. Therefore, I suspect nothing I say or do would affect them in the slightest.”

Reaching over to clasp his nephew on the shoulder, he said, “Darcy, I would insist as part of your settlement that you provide funds for schooling for those two before they cause an upset to society and embarrass the Darcy name. I also suggest they be removed to the nursery immediately. No harm will come while the militia are here.”

“But…but…” Mrs. Bennet saw her dreams of riding herself of two more children disappearing before her eyes.

Mr. Bennet, to Elizabeth’s keen shame, nodded his head, undoubtedly grateful to have someone else make his decisions for him.

“I would also suggest you marry as soon as you can obtain a license. There is no reason to wait. Miss Elizabeth’s wedding clothes can be obtained after the wedding as all of her garments will need replaced anyway.” Hugh Fitzwilliam nodded to himself. “Yes, this will also accomplish the feat of keeping Miss Lydia from being the first to the altar, or the anvil.”

Before Mr. Darcy or her father could make a reply, the butler came to the doorway of the drawing room to announce visitors.

“Mr. Bingley, I would like to present a delegation from the newly arrived militia. “Colonel Henry Forster, Captain Robert Carter, Mr. Alistair Chamberlayne, Mr. Matthew Denny, and Mr. George Wickham.”

Mrs. Bennet, Kitty, and Lydia squealed their delight. Mr. Bennet growled. Mr. Bingley smiled in welcome, Lord and Lady Matlock glared at the interruption, Jane and Mary looked at the newcomers curiously, and Mr. Darcy…well, Mr. Darcy was positively livid.

Elizabeth wondered why.

Letter of the Law – Chapter 14

I caught that nasty cold/flu going around and the medicine made my head fuzzy. I tried writing but, I’ll be honest, the results were horrible. We leave for the US one week from today. My heart is aching. These grandkids are so wonderful and we have enjoyed our time immensely.

For those who are reading along, please know that I’m only going to leave this story up for one week after I finish. The edits will be quick and I can’t have it posted anywhere so the book can be placed in Kindle Unlimited. (Amazon’s rules) So, please keep up.

If you are just starting, here’s the link to chapter one: Chapter 1

Chapter 14


She had waited up for him.

Standing at the foot of the grand staircase, her gaze met his as her shoulders lifted. He admired her bravery. Candlelight from the wall sconces highlighted her cheekbones but left the upper portion of her face in the shadows. He desperately needed to see her eyes—to see if they reflected welcome or disappointment at his inability to make her world right again.

Exhaustion and smoke seeped into every single pore of his weary body. The entrance hall clock chimed once to announce the change to a new day. What should have been a fresh start, a beginning, was lost to him…and to her.

Surveying her slowly from the bottom of her hem to the simple hairstyle she seemed to wear for every day, her presence, her existence soothed him, gifting him with balm for his aching heart.

He had no doubt she desperately desired hope. He had none. With one foolish gesture on the part of her father’s cousin, the Bennet family’s lives altered beyond recognition.

“I hit him.” Darcy blurted. “Mr. Collins.”

“I am pleased to hear it, sir.” She took one step towards him.

“Horseflies from the barn would have been more welcomed at Longbourn than he was.”

Her chuckle, though soft, reached beyond his tight chest to his heart.

“I fear his inclination to increase his presence in company by waving his arms about not only knocked over a candle in your father’s library, starting the fire, it caught me unawares when I was running from the house to refill my bucket. The movement, his movement, out of the corner of my eye appeared aggressive…”

“So, you struck him?” she asked, as she stepped even closer.

He nodded, deeply embarrassed to admit his lack of self-control.


Elizabeth, his Elizabeth, was standing directly in front of him. A twitch of his hand would be all it took to touch her. How badly he wanted to touch her.

“Where?” In his tiredness, his confusion was understandable. “I am sorry, but where what?”

She pointed to her face. “Where did you strike him?”

He should have tapped the side of his own chin. Instead, his fingers softly brushed hers.

“Did you hit him hard?”

He nodded again, momentarily forgetting the thread of their conversation.

“With all my might,” he confessed.

Leaning forward, her lips brushed his chin. “Thank you.” Her whispered words danced across his skin, sending a shiver down his spine.

Her invitation was clear. The longing in this kiss surpassed the three the day prior. This time, I was her fingers in his hair as she rose to meet him. Succor came before passion, but when it flared, the heat rose to brand this woman into his soul.

He loved her. What had been want and need now were replaced with a desire previously unknown to him.

The acrid scent of smoke from her dress reached his nostrils, a reminder of what she had gone through. She had no clothes to replace what she had on. None of her family did. The devastation was complete.

A tendril of doubt started to waft between them, breaking the link binding them together. Could she love him when she learned he had been unable to save her family home, her cherished memories? Would she be able to leave off her care and stewardship of her sisters to someone less capable if he were to take her away? So many questions filtered into his brain, he stepped back away from her, dropping his arms to his sides. He was undeserving.

“Elizabeth. Miss Elizabeth,” he corrected himself. “The fire…”

“I know,” she tenderly reassured him. “I was in the room with Papa when Mr. Bingley and Lord Matlock returned from Longbourn almost two hours ago.”

“Then you know the extent…” he hated to say the words.

“Yes, I do.” She reached for his hand.

He could not stop the flinch when she inadvertently brushed her fingers over a burn.

“Sir, pray accept my humblest apologies for giving you injury with the pot and…” Elizabeth she caressed the back of his hand with her own. “…for the injuries you sustained on our behalf. We shall never be able to repay you for what you have done.”

When he felt her tears hit his palm, he was completely undone. “If you will thank me,” he replied, “let it be for yourself alone. That the wish of giving happiness to you might add force to the other inducements which led me on, I shall not attempt to deny. But your family owes me nothing. Much as I respect them, I believe I thought only of you.”

This kiss was gentle and sweet, born of tender affection and care.

He was exhausted and was losing control by the second. Needing to re-establish his self-control, he changed the subject quickly.

“Your father?”

“He…” Elizabeth faltered. Clearing her throat, she continued, “he is both grieving and berating himself for the position he finds himself in.”

“I understand.”

“Do you?” A masculine voice preceded the heavy steps of a man coming slowly down the staircase. “For if you do, then you are a much wiser man than I am.”

“Papa, should you be up from your bed?” Elizabeth left him to hurry to her father. “Dr. Stevenson will not be pleased.”

“I am well enough, Lizzy.” Shrugging, he asked, “Mr. Darcy, might you come into the room Mr. Bingley has christened a library?”

Darcy heard the sarcasm but overlooked it due to the stress the man had undergone. Elizabeth did not.

“Papa, our host kindly offered his home.”

“Yes, yes,” Mr. Bennet waved off his daughter’s attempts to adjust a poor attitude. “I know. I know. Your mother will not cease proclaiming the blessings of being housed in the finest estate in Hertfordshire.” Under his breath, he muttered, “as if Longbourn was a pig sty she was forced to inhabit for the past four and twenty years.”

He followed father and daughter into the room. The footman who had undoubtedly observed all that had happened in the entrance hall immediately tended the fire and offered a tray. Once his services were complete, he shut the door behind him as he left the room. Within seconds, he rapped softly and announced his uncle and Bingley.

“Lizzy, perhaps it is best you retire to your room,” her father suggested.

Darcy wanted to scoff. As little as he knew of her character, she would be most unwilling to depart the discussion they were soon to have. Her immediate denial proved him correct. When she seated herself across from the sofa where Mr. Bennet now perched, her father raised his brows but said nothing.

Darcy made his choice. When Bingley took the seat next to Elizabeth’s father, Darcy sat next to her. His uncle stood with his back to the fire. Mr. Bennet looked between his daughter and Darcy yet said nothing.

Lord Matlock broke the silence. “In the distress of the day, many decisions were made that will have an impact on the residents of Meryton and Hertfordshire. Mr. Bingley, might we start with you?”

Charles Bingley shrugged his acceptance.

“Despite the size of Netherfield Park, we had not the rooms we needed to house everyone. Thus, once Dr. Stevenson treated Mr. Bennet’s burns and tended to Colonel Fitzwilliam, he accepted the offer from Sir William to stay at Lucas Lodge.”

Darcy was grateful the man was no longer in close proximity to his Elizabeth.

“Approximately one-hour past, Mr. Collins applied to the house for a room. Since we were unable to provide according to all he seemed to require, my carriage took him to the Rose and Crown where the footman made sure he obtained a bed.”

All the men nodded with pleasure while Elizabeth could not contain a small grin. It was more than the man deserved.

“When Caroline and Louisa realized all the Bennet family would be in residence for an extended period of time, they chose to return post-haste to London, which freed enough chambers for the whole of the Bennet family plus their senior staff.”

Darcy wanted to jump up and click his heels. Caroline Bingley gone! Surely, it was the best news of the day.

“In whole unrelated news, it was reported to me by Sir William that a militia will arrive on the morrow to encamp outside Meryton. As well, Miss Lydia and Miss Kitty have requested the carriage be readied first thing to take them shopping for clothing and items needed by young ladies to replace what was lost in the fire. When told my carriage had not yet returned from delivering my sisters and Mr. Hurst to London, they were saddened to realize they would be welcoming the officers in soiled garments.”

When Bingley looked back to Lord Matlock, Darcy knew he was finished.

“Because Mr. Collins will surely run back to Rosings Park, I have no doubt my sister, Cathy, will rush to Hertfordshire to oversee restoration efforts or whatever tasks will need undertaken at this juncture.” Darcy’s Uncle Hugh scoffed. “Would she remain in Kent!”

Darcy did not doubt his assumption, both that Mr. Collins no longer felt welcome and that his Aunt Catherine would believe she alone had the knowledge and insight to determine what needed done.

“Would this be the inestimable Lady Catherine de Bourgh?” Mr. Bennet inquired, the acrimony dripping from his tongue.

“Yes, it would be.” Lord Matlock confirmed. “Do not be concerned that you shall have to turn her away, Mr. Bingley. She is a hard woman to convince to bend to someone else’s will. Nonetheless, I have had decades of practice.” He turned to his host. “Bingley, Lady Matlock will act has hostess in the absence of your sister. She, too, is well qualified to see Lady Catherine does not meddle where she is not wanted or needed.”

Bingley’s relief was intense. Darcy had shared a little of his aunt’s habits and desires over the years. With his kindly nature, she would eat the younger man alive.

“Mr. Bennet,” Uncle Hugh addressed the man at the root of all the drama. “Does Longbourn have a dower house and is it ready to be inhabited?”

“I…no, the dower house has not been used for over twenty years.” The sharp edges to Elizabeth’s father melted away. Left behind was a man lost. “We are a family of seven with a household staff of six. We have no place to go, nowhere to turn.”

When Elizabeth’s eyes filled with tears and her chin sank to her chest, all became clear. Visions of her standing with the estate accounts book tightly squeezed in her arms told a story that would not have a happy ending. If Darcy’s guess what correct, there would be no money to rebuild and no inclination on Mr. Bennet’s part to do so now that his golden treasure room was gone.

“Is there unused land to sell which could add to the funds needed to buy materials?” He suggested?

Elizabeth looked up sharply as her father shook his head.

“Papa, the east field bordering Netherfield Park has been dormant for as long as I can remember.” Elizabeth suggested, hopefully.

“And it will remain so unless Mr. Bingley’s steward suggests it be planted.” With one sentence, her father dashed the light in his daughter’s eyes. “The land was purchased by Mr. Morris for inclusion in the Netherfield estate two years ago, so I could purchase the complete works of the Bard when they came up for auction. Now, they are gone. All gone.”

Her hands went to her chest. Darcy was immediately concerned.

“Papa!” Her hushed whisper was pained. “That was our only…”

“Yes, Lizzy, I know.” Mr. Bennet rested his head against the back of the chair, staring at the ceiling. “I have been a selfish man, looking after my own comforts and pleasures rather than that of my family. I have not taken charge of our finances. Your worst fears, expressed only days ago have come to fruition.”

“Papa, do not…” she started, only to be interrupted.

“No, Lizzy, let me once in my life feel how much I have been to blame. I am not afraid of being overpowered by the impression. It will pass away soon enough.”

Anger rose in Darcy’s chest until he could no longer contain his words. With his last words, Mr. Bennet willingly abdicated the future of his family to his second daughter. Easily foreseen would be his Elizabeth working herself to an early grave to provide somehow for her ungrateful parents, becoming a slave to the whims of the children who gave birth to all five children.


“Mr. Bennet, if I may be so bold, I have a solution to offer.” Darcy spoke up after clasping Elizabeth’s hand in his.

“Yes, young man? I find I am at my leisure.”

His reply served to increase Darcy’s ire. With it, the terms of his offer became crystal clear.

“Sir, I will take on the expense of purchasing a home sizeable enough for the seven Bennets and your six household servants. I will include enough funds, to be spent at the discretion of both Miss Jane Bennet and Miss Elizabeth, to replace the personal items destroyed. I will hire a steward for Longbourn to oversee the crops and tenants with all funds except the minimum to be added to the portions already existing for your five daughters.” Darcy stood, pulling Elizabeth up alongside him. “Furthermore, I will hire works to raze Longbourn to the ground since all that will be left standing by morning will be the stone casing. I will not rebuild only to have that fool Collins inhabit a house he does not deserve to live in. When he inherits, he can see to the expense.”

Mr. Bennet put his hand to his chin before quickly pulling it away from the painful blisters.

“And, what do you get for your generosity, young man?”

Only what he wanted more than anything upon earth.


Letter of the Law – Chapter 13

Please keep up! I’m going to delete this story before I publish which will be soon after I post my final chapter.

The story is moving fast. Things are about to take a drastic change (as you will see by the end of this chapter). What will it mean? I’m starting chapter 14 as soon as I post this chapter. Please remember that I’m not proofreading it. I post as soon as I finish typing. All the best to all of you!

Chapter 13


Grateful to see the approach to Longbourn, Elizabeth reflected on all that had happened since she left her home earlier that day. By the time the carriage pulled to a stop, she had determined not to return to Netherfield Park. Ever! Someone else could finish the story.

Before the footman could help her from the conveyance, an unknown man burst through the front door of her house, almost ripping it off the hinges. He was a heavyset man dressed completely in black with a narrow white collar pressed between the folds of his garment and his neck. His age was indeterminable as his head was tipped downward to check his steps on the cobblestones and avoid as much of the rainfall as possible.

What a curious fellow.

He passed her by as if she was invisible only to step into the carriage unassisted. Elizabeth wondered if he was an acquaintance of Mr. Darcy as it was the gentleman’s coach. Almost before she concluded her thought, the man disembarked to return to the house, completely ignoring her presence.

“Mrs. Bennet! Mr. Bennet!” The man yelled, his nasal voice traveling easily through the door he had left open. “Mr. Darcy’s carriage has graced your humble home with its presence. I need to know now how this has come to pass. Mrs. Bennet! Mr. Bennet!”

As Elizabeth wandered up the pathway, she concluded the only person expected that day was her father’s cousin, Mr. Collins. In all honesty, the first impression he gave was not good. Unbeknownst to her, a fleeting desire to share her first reaction to the man with Mr. Darcy popped up and almost moved her back into the coach. She quickly squelched the yearning to share. No doubt, Mr. Darcy would believe her to be the last person on the planet he would want to encounter.

Her mother glanced through the opened doorway. “Oh, it is only you, Lizzy.” At that, she stepped back inside the house to calm their guest.

This was to be her future husband? She shuddered. Never!


“Lizzy, what has happened?”

Elizabeth wrung her hands as she paced back and forth from the window in their bedroom to the door and back again.

“I hardly know where to begin.” Exhaling quickly, she seated herself across from Jane. “Colonel Fitzwilliam asked for privacy to speak with me.”

“Oh, Lizzy, he is a genial man who appears to handle responsibility well.” Jane swallowed, and Elizabeth knew she was thinking of her disappointment with Mr. Bingley’s inability to take charge of his household. “Do you love him?”

“It matters not as he used the time to praise his cousin, Mr. Darcy.” At the lift of Jane’s brow in puzzlement, she continued. “Oddly enough, Mr. Darcy had done the same about his cousin when we spoke on the way to Netherfield Park. It was as if both men were attempting to convince me that the other is one I should consider. I do not know what these men are about. I do know, with confidence, that I do not love Colonel Fitzwilliam.”

“And, Mr. Darcy?”

“I do not know that what I am feeling is even closely related to love.” Elizabeth attempted to arrange her thoughts in order. “He kissed me.”

“Mr. Darcy? What did you do?” Jane leaned forward to not miss a word of her sister’s reply.

Shrugging her shoulders nonchalantly, she blandly stated, “I kissed him back.”

“Elizabeth Margaret Bennet!” Jane’s blush was as brilliant as hers surely was. “What was it like?”

“Heart-stopping. Stunning. Wonderful. Magnificent. Frightening. Worrying.”


Elizabeth dropped her chin. Speaking quietly, she said, “Jane, I do not know what he meant by it. He immediately backed away from me and apologized. He acted like he would rather forget it had happened.”

“Did anyone witness your first kiss?”

“Do you mean my first, second, and third kiss?” Elizabeth saw the humor and chuckled. “His uncle, Lord Matlock, came upon us as we were sprawled on the floor in the upstairs hallway, our mouths pressed together where not a breath could pass between us from our lips to our toes. I cannot imagine the thoughts running through the poor man’s mind. After all, his son had just requested a private conversation.”

“Oh, no. Will he claim compromise?”

“I cannot imagine he would be desirous of his nephew becoming attached to the second daughter of an insignificant landowner. He is an earl who exudes authority. I cannot see it happening.” A compromise had not occurred to her. “I am sure he has a bevy of society maidens he would rather see attached to his son and his nephew than me.”

“Do not diminish your beauty or your appeal, Lizzy. Mr. Darcy sees no one else when you are in the room. I have yet to meet the Colonel, but do not doubt he also finds your charms to be sufficient.”

“Thus, speaks a beloved sister!”

“He kissed you, Lizzy. Repeatedly.” Jane’s smile lit her face. “I cannot imagine a man being so overcome with passion he resorted to the only action crossing his mind. I certainly have never inspired strong enough feelings to move a gentleman to act…ungentlemanly. You cannot be steadfast in your claims.”

“Jane, men are strange creatures. If Mr. Darcy cared, why did he spend what little time we had alone to convince me his cousin was the better man. If the Colonel cared, why did he do the same with Mr. Darcy? And, why would Lord Matlock find humor in discovering his nephew and me entangled on the floor? And, why would Mr. Collins greet Mr. Darcy’s carriage like it was an extension of the man? I simply cannot figure out the male species. They are odd.”

Jane chuckled. “Our father’s cousin is a much different representative of their sex than the gentlemen of Netherfield Park, is he not? He spent his first minutes inside Longbourn admiring the furnishings and inquiring as to their cost. He draws out each syllable of speech until I wondered if he assumed we were simple. And, Lizzy, wait until you see him engaged in conversation. He flaps his arms in the same manner a bird does when taking flight against a strong wind.”

By then, Elizabeth had tears of mirth flowing down her cheeks.

“Oh, how I needed you, Jane dear.” Wiping her eyes, she vowed, “I believe the course of wisdom for us Bennet females is to remain unwed. After all, who could possibly appeal after what we have seen this past fortnight?”

Jane was quick to agree. “Now, tell me, did you happen to get a glimpse of Mr. Darcy’s and Mr. Bingley’s feet?”


“I shall leave you two boys alone. This way I can enjoy the quiet of the drawing room for some reading. Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst appear to be avoiding my company.” Aunt Helen grinned.

“Sulking, most likely.”

“You are undoubtedly correct, Richie.” Lady Matlock patted her son’s hand before leaving the room. Turning to her nephew, she addressed him directly, “I cannot pretend to guess what happened outside this door, but you are wearing your guilt like your best coat, Will. Do you need my attention or is the sole company of your cousin what is necessary to ease your mind?”

Darcy marveled at her discernment.

“Richard, please.”

Nodding, she turned to leave the room, stopping at the doorway long enough to note, “Whatever Hugh witnessed that stirred his humor, the footman also saw. I expect you to accept, with dignity, any accountability for what transpired, Nephew. We could hear the firm tone of Miss Elizabeth, although we did not hear the words.”

Darcy gulped, then gave a brief tip of his head in agreement. Once she was gone from the room and the door firmly closed, he realized he did not know how to begin. How do you confess to being a traitor to someone you hold in high esteem? Darcy had not a clue.

“Out with it, Darcy. Your pacing is making me nervous enough I long to jump from this bed and shake you until your tongue wags.” Richard gave him the opening he needed.

“What I have to share, Rich, will be more difficult than any conversation we have had before.” Darcy considered it a good start.

“Harder than when I had to tell you it was me who put mud in your new boots, not Wickham?” Richard smiled at the memory. “Or, that same summer, what was it, my ninth?”

“Yes. I was newly turned seven. Those boots were handmade to match my father’s. They were my first grownup apparel and I treasured them.”

“Or, harder than when I confessed it was me who hid your garments while you were swimming at the pond? What, was that the same summer?”

“It was. You were full of mischief. If I recall correctly, you first attempted to blame Wickham that time as well.”

“I did. He was an easy target for blame.”

Inhaling deeply, he took a seat next to the bed, dropping his folded hands between his legs as his chin hit his chest. Looking back to his cousin, he despised himself for the hurt he was going to cause. He knew no way to make the task any easier.

“I kissed Elizabeth.”

“Elizabeth? You kissed her? That is what she was yelling about?” Richard’s mouth dropped open, such was his surprise.

“Miss Elizabeth. And, yes, I kissed her three times in fairly quick succession.” Fear gripped him as he waited for judgment. “Pray, know that it was not planned. It was the actions of a moment with no forethought.”

“You had not thought of kissing her? I have!”

Warmth flooded Darcy’s cheeks as he whispered as if to himself, “Indeed, I have.”

Then, there was silence, a quiet stillness of the room broken by the sound of his breathing ringing loudly in his ears. When Richard’s chest moved, Darcy became aware he was not the only one taking in air. He was grateful he had not stunned his cousin to the extent he should concern himself with his continued health.

“You kissed Miss Elizabeth three times?” Richard mused. “Hmmm.”

Darcy still said nothing.

“Did she willingly return the kiss?”

Clearing his throat, Darcy replied, trying to calm himself, “not the first kiss. She instigated the second and I have no idea who was responsible for the third.”

The Colonel repeated the string of words and phrases he had used upon his injury. Darcy chose not to interrupt him. He was clearly in the wrong. When his cousin ceased speaking, he glanced at him to see if he could read any clues as to his thinking.


Finally, he could stand the silence no more.

“Rich, if you feel the need to box my ears or run me through, I will gladly stand close enough for you to do so. I will even provide the sword.” His words sounded rushed. “Should you be willing to continue with your plans, despite knowing I took advantage of Miss Elizabeth, I will remove myself from the competition. I will pack and leave within the hour.”

“You would, would you?”

His cousin continued to refuse to look at him. Darcy felt worse with each passing second. Deciding the best move would be to leave, he stood to go.

“What plans?” The Colonel interrupted his movement.

What did he mean, what plans? Darcy looked at the decanter next to the bed. Water, not whisky or brandy. Shaking his head, he replied, “your betrothal.”

“I am betrothed?” Richard tilted his head whereupon his eyes landed on his cousin. “I think not unless my father has gone behind my back and arranged something of which I am not aware.”

“To Miss Elizabeth. You must know as you yourself requested a private conversation with her. Right after she concluded her reading. Do you not remember?”

“Oh, I clearly recall asking for the private moment and I recollect every word spoken between the two of us. However, I do not remember asking for her hand nor do I believe she gave me a reply. I have no idea at all of what you are speaking.”

It was then Darcy spied the twinkle. To him, this was not a subject for jest.

“You are not betrothed to Miss Elizabeth?” He needed to hear the declaration with his own ears.

“I am not.”

“Thank the Lord in heaven!” With that, he fled the room yelling for his horse. He had an important question to ask the woman whose heart filled his own. He barely heard Richard’s laughter as he ran the length of the hallway to his room.


“No, Papa, no!” Elizabeth grabbed her father’s arm, attempting to keep him from running back inside Longbourn. “It is too late.”

Her father shook off her hands and headed back into the smoke and destruction of their beloved home. Surveying the others, family and the older servants alike standing under the heavy branches of the old oak tree situated to the side of the house, she realized, to her relief, none had been harmed. Jane was busy tending the small burns incurred from the flying embers as they all ran from the building.

How she wished she could cause harm to Mr. Collins. Despite the fire, which started in her father’s library, being the result of his actions, he offered no apology—only pithy comments about the loss of his inheritance and what a regret that was. Elizabeth wanted to take one of the buckets being filled from the pond by the rest of the staff and hit the man over the head with it. The clergyman made no offer of assistance or even a sympathetic word to those who would soon be homeless.

Grabbing a large pot that had been thrown out of the kitchen, she ran to the pond. Even with the pouring rain she knew their efforts would be in vain. With the sheer volume of books and papers in her father’s bookroom adding fuel to the flames and the fabrics draped on every surface by her lace-addicted mother, there was little hope much could be saved. Nonetheless, she needed to make an effort.

Francine Bennet wailed in chorus with her three youngest daughters. Finally, the groom had the nervous horses hitched to the carriage which would carry them to her sister’s house in Meryton. They added nothing but distress to a horrid situation. Her relief was great to have them off the estate property.

Running back and forth, she missed the arrival of Mr. Darcy. When someone strong grabbed her arms on her way by, she swung the empty pot at the person who dared to keep her from her task. His grunt let her know she had hit her target.

“Miss Elizabeth!”

Surprised at Mr. Darcy’s presence, she stopped long enough to beg him to rescue her father. Rushing her words so he could attend to the task, she beseeched him, “Pray help my father. In vain he is striving to rescue his books. Yet, the fire started in the room. I worry…please…help him.”

Before she finished he was rushing inside Longbourn.

Within minutes, although it felt like hours, he dragged a coughing Mr. Bennet from the residence. Elizabeth could see her father fighting Mr. Darcy’s efforts to save and protect him. Foolish man! Two of the estate’s tenants diverted to pour their buckets over the Master’s charred clothing. Only then did she become aware of the burns.

Large inflamed blisters covered the backs of his hands, his face, and his neck. The smell of the burnt portions of his hair and eyebrows turned her stomach. Of all that had happened, this, by far, was the most devastating.

Her Papa. Her beloved father was severely injured. Keeping him in the rain may have eased the pain of his burns, but the quaking of his shoulders and quivering of his hands motivated her to instruct the men to help him to shelter with the others under the tree.

Once relieved of his burden, Mr. Darcy, without seeking her out, quickly mounted his horse and raced towards Netherfield Park.

What? She needed him beside her? Who would help her be strong? Who would help her care for those displaced? Who would…who would…?

Salt from one of the raindrops slid down her cheek to the corner of her mouth. Only then did she acknowledge her tears. Standing alone in front of Longbourn she felt the foundation of everything she had known shift, leaving her off-balance.

What on earth was she supposed to do?

Letter of the Law – Chapter 12

Please keep up! I’m going to delete this story before I publish which will be soon after I post my final chapter.

I thank all of you for your patience. I am too easily distracted by my grandchildren. And, we have a young friend visiting from Oregon for two weeks. It’s her first time out of the country so her first time visiting Ecuador. Yesterday we climbed (in a taxi) to 11,741 feet to shop for leather goods in a small community called Quisapincha. She bought cute boots suitable for an 18-year-old (she is 18) and I bought wonderfully comfortable boots that fit like a glove. Then the altitude got to me so we hurried back down to a more reasonable 9,000 ft. Phew!

This chapter is about 800 words shorter than the others but I think you will agree it’s full of action and definitely moves the story forward. Did you see this coming? Chapter 13 starts with Elizabeth revealing to Jane her conversation with Colonel Fitzwilliam. Are you curious? Me too!!!!! I’m going to rest a bit and type some more. This is getting EXCITING!!!

If you are just starting, here is the link to Chapter One: Chapter One

Chapter 12


“I have called my carriage for you, Miss Elizabeth.” Darcy had enjoyed her reading and translation as much as he had the day prior. Fleeting images of her in his home solidified his goal of making her his bride.

How foolish he had been to think her below him. She had kindly welcomed his aunt and uncle, in addition to Dr. Stevenson, into Richard’s chambers as if they were her own domain. She would be the queen of any castle she presided over. Any man would be proud to have her bear his name. He would be proud.

She looked out the window as the heavy mist turned into drops of rain. Tucking the book into her satchel, she curtseyed her approval of his plans.

“Miss Elizabeth,” his cousin caught her attention. “You honor me with your presence.”

“Thank you, kind sir.” Leaving the leather bundle on the table next to the door, she returned to his bedside.

Darcy was stunned when Richard reached over to clasp her hand in his. What was his cousin up to? What plans or schemes did he have in mind? Panic rushed through Darcy’s chest.

“Might I have a moment, Miss Elizabeth.” The Colonel glanced around the room. “In private?”

“No!” It was out of his mouth before he could stop it. Where was his self-control? Where was the stern Master of Pemberley who could ignore company and keep himself restrained?

All attention from the occupants of the room now focused solely on him. Clearing his throat, he blurted, “I cannot imagine her father would approve of Miss Elizabeth being alone with you here. Might one of your parents remain? Or, myself?” He heard the desperation in his voice.

Richard grinned, aware of his plight.

“You stay, Darce, if you would.”

No! Oh, no! What? Me? Stay and hear his declaration of devotion to the woman I long to have as my wife? Impossible!

“Yes, Mr. Darcy,” Elizabeth added. “Pray, stay.”

He looked from one to the other, their hands joined as if an offer had already been made and accepted.

“I cannot.” He left.


“Please, be seated.” Richard released her fingers and straightened the top blanket despite it not having moved a smidgen. “Mother, would you please attend us? I have something of vital importance to address with the young lady.”

As the ladies sat, Richard could no longer contain his smile.


“What are your intentions, Darcy.”

His uncle, every inch the Earl of Matlock, had captured his attention as soon as he stepped outside Richard’s bedchamber. Now ensconced in Bingley’s library where they would not be disturbed, Darcy never wavered as he endeavored to discern his Uncle Hugh’s viewpoint on the subject.

“Has Richard spoke to you, then?”

“He has.”

“What is your opinion?” Darcy was being evasive, not out of fear, but to determine how best to address matters of the heart, something he had never done before.

“Knowing a woman for, what has it been, a fortnight?” At Darcy’s nod, he continued. “What can you truly know of a woman’s character in such a short period of time? They are, at the same time, the world’s greatest treasure and the most confounding puzzle. Rules of propriety do not allow for lengthy conversations nor the privacy to engage each other so you can understand whether or not she would be a fitting mate.”

“I agree.” Nodding his head, he added, “At first, I overlooked her as being worthy of consideration. Upon my second glance, I found a lady steeped in kindness and consideration who sought, not her own pleasure, but that of others. She has done nothing to attract my attention and has, in fact, agreed to assist me in finding a wife.”

“What is this?”

Darcy chuckled at his uncle’s shock. He understood his confusion.

“When I explained the details of the codicil in my father’s will, she quickly recognized my loving concern for Georgianna and the need for not just any female to become my bride, but one who would tenderly care for a sister much younger and inexperienced than myself.”

“And, you say she did not offer herself, even knowing your desperate circumstances?”

“She did not.”

“Richard said her father is an educated gentleman with an estate nearby that has been in the family for two centuries.”

“This is true. However, you should know the property is entailed upon Aunt Catherine’s parson, Mr. Collins, who arrives today to secure Miss Elizabeth’s hand in marriage to provide a home for the Bennet ladies should Mr. Bennet die.”

“What!” Lord Matlock sputtered. “I was given to believe that you and Richard were competing for the lady’s heart and hand.”

“You are forgetting Dr. Stevenson, Uncle. Despite bowing out of the running, he still considers Miss Elizabeth the perfect wife for a physician with a growing practice.”

“Pshaw! Who are he and this Mr. Collins to you and my son?” Uncle Hugh flicked his hand as if disposing of the gentlemen as unworthy of consideration. “Hmmm.” Rubbing his chin, he considered, “Is Miss Elizabeth aware she is the object of so many men’s interest?”

“I believe she is completely unaware.” Darcy was finally on solid ground. “She scorns her father’s cousin based on the ridiculous letter of introduction he sent ahead of his arrival. When she is in the same room with Dr. Stevenson, she politely enters into discourse when appropriate, but their interchanges are based on mundane topics.”

“With you?”

“Hah!” He smiled. “Since meeting Miss Elizabeth we have engaged in a verbal battle of wills on more than one occasion. Trust me, Uncle, she is more than capable of holding her own and carrying her point. She fears not the strong opinions of others and does not hesitate to share her version of sensitive subject matter. Rather, she tends to approach a topic with reason unless the subject is someone she loves and admires, such as her eldest sister. Then, she becomes fierce, a warrior queen. I cannot imagine spending wasted minutes discussing the weather or the roads. Her mind is active, alive.”

“Hmmm.” His uncle rested his head against the back of the chair, his vision somewhere distant. “You are saying she acts appropriately in company, she is an engaging conversationalist, and loyal to her family. Will she marry this man…this Collins…to protect her family?”

“She will not.”

“How can you be sure, Darcy? I know of no woman who does not give consideration to their own future security. If offered without the hope from anyone else, which would be how she would see things if she is, as you state, truly unaware, a wise woman would leap at the chance to become the mistress of her own home. You are a fool to believe otherwise.”

“I cannot agree, Uncle.” Darcy leaned forward in his chair, his hands gripping both arms. “Twice I have asked Miss Elizabeth if she could see herself as my bride. Twice she laughed at me, believing I was in jest. Her conviction is that matters of the heart will determine whether or not she marries rather than matters of financial gain. Unless her father refuses to stand behind her, she will not accept anyone she does not admire and respect.”

“Where I understand your confidence in the daughter, can you feel the same about the father?”

Anxiety swirled through his chest until it reached its ugly tentacles down his extremities, making his hands shake. Why had he not thought of that? He guessed Miss Elizabeth to be close to her majority but was not confident she had yet reached the age of one and twenty. Could she escape bending to her father’s will should he exercise his right to determine her future? What options would she have?

“Oh, Lord.” Now, it was Darcy rubbing his chin.

“You will offer for her?”

“I would if I could. However, I cannot.” Frustration at the situation gripped him. His love for his cousin overrode the growing affection he was feeling for Miss Elizabeth Bennet. He would do the honorable thing, despite feeling like his heart was being ripped from his chest.

“Cannot or will not?”

He sighed. “Uncle, she is a wonderful young woman full of life. While I desire her alongside me for the rest of my years, I cannot deny how these changed circumstances will require Richard to have a loyal mate who cares not for the trappings of society. She would bring happiness to a well-deserving man, one who has sacrificed for others at the risk of his own life. I know of no other female who could aid his transformation from an active officer to a sedentary landowner.”


“Yes, I have offered him Alderwood as a gift. His first instinct was refusal. Yet, it would allow him to marry quickly and have a home to take his bride.” He almost choked on the words.

“I see.” Lord Matlock pondered. “Then, what happens after they marry? They will be living close to Pemberley. How will you feel when you see them together? When you see her increasing with their first child? When you think of Richard taking her to his bed?”

“Stop!” Darcy jumped from the chair. “I will not allow my mind to travel that road, Uncle.” Closing his eyes to the words swirling in his brain, he shuddered briefly before gaining control. “Pray, excuse me. My horse is in need of a gallop.”

Ignoring the pouring rain outside the window, he left the room, rushing upstairs to changing into his riding clothes. It was a cowardly move to ride from his problems, but he was out of options.

Mrs. Elizabeth Fitzwilliam, carrying Richard’s child resulting in the activities from their private bedchamber…

Taking two stairs at a time, he reached the landing at almost a run. Unable to avoid the collision when he realized he was moving too quickly and someone was just approaching the stairs to descend, he grabbed Miss Elizabeth around the waist and twisted so she fell on top of him while his back landed against the floor.

His head thumped against the carpeted hallway. Her elbow jabbed him in his side while her forehead rapped his chin. Like before, his arms instinctively wrapped around her waist. Her hands landed on his chest.

Dazed, he did the only thing filling his mind. Lifting his head from the floor, he kissed her.

She smelled like heaven.

Briefly, she pushed against him and pulled away from him. He was bereft. His eyes shot open in time to see hers close as she lowered her mouth to his. This kiss was mutual, startlingly sweet.

One hand moved from her waist to the back of her neck where he tenderly threaded his fingers into her hair. Hers caressed the sides of his face.

Their third kiss escalated past wonderful to breathtakingly magnificent. She tasted like…heaven…and sweet honey…and wonderous…something. His brain no longer functioned.

His uncle cleared his throat for the third time before the sound filtered into his consciousness. Awareness of his circumstances battled with the perfection of his situation, immediately followed by horror. He was kissing his cousin’s betrothed!

Shame filled him from head to toe. What had he done.

Scrambling to set Miss Elizabeth aside, he offered his most sincere apology.

“Forgive me, I pray you.” As Lord Matlock assisted her to stand, he backed up against the wall, his eyes unable to meet the accusation he knew he would find in hers. “I was not thinking…I only…I only…” He glanced to his uncle. “Pardon me.” Without looking back, he walked to his rooms, castigating him for his egregious error with each step.

“Mr. Darcy,” she demanded. “Do not take one more step away from me.”

He stopped in place, suddenly aware of her intense anger. Spinning, he looked at her, truly looked. Had he thought her fierce before, he had clearly understated matters. This was a woman angered beyond male comprehension.

Walking slowly towards him, uncaring of her hair cascading down her back where he had loosened her pins, she stopped within an easy hand reach of him.

“How dare you!” Her breathing was quick. Her coloring a fiery red. “How dare you kiss me and then apologize. You, sir, are no gentleman.”

With those few words she turned, walked down the hallway barely acknowledging his uncle, descended the stairs, and left Netherfield Park with such grace and command that he felt he should offer a courtly bow.

Uncle Hugh snorted. Then, he laughed. Darcy saw nothing funny in all that had happened. Disgusted with himself he, instead of going to his own room, stood outside his cousin’s chamber. Miss Elizabeth was not the only one he owed an apology. Single-handedly he had injured a man he admired, betraying his closest friend.

Blast! What a mess he had made of things. He deserved no forgiveness, no mercy.

Gripping the handle, he stepped inside.

New Release – Friends and Enemies on Audiobook

This week some exciting things happened with Audible and iTunes. I reached my 4,000+ sale of audiobooks and launched “Friends & Enemies” on audio. Stevie Zimmerman is my narrator/producer and she is AMAZING!!! Here is the link should you want to listen to a sample: Friends and Enemies

This story was particularly challenging as it is Darcy’s point-of-view and there are many, many character voices Stevie had to make come alive. She’s brilliant. Plus, the emotions Darcy goes through in this story range from the depth of despair to pure joy. I’m gobsmacked by the talent of my narrator.

I do hope you give it a listen.  (The audio sample is below the cover photo on the above link.) Enjoy!

Letter of the Law – Chapter 11

Please keep up! I’m going to delete this story before I publish which will be soon after I post my final chapter.

I’m typing fast and furiously. If you are just starting, here’s the link to Chapter One: Chapter One

Chapter 11


Darcy had no idea of the turmoil he was walking into when he descended the stairs. Richard had fallen asleep as his mother caressed his hand while his father paced and worried. Dr. Stevenson had returned to the drawing room moments before.

Six Bennet females and one Miss Lucas along with her father were being assisted by numerous maid and footmen as they sorted through coats, pelisses, scarves, and gloves. Dr. Stevenson’s full attention was devoted to Miss Jane Bennet.

Glancing back towards Bingley’s study, Darcy caught his friend’s eyes, only to observe him shake his head and shrug his shoulders.

Miss Bennet was practically swaying on her feet as she assured the physician she was more than able to make the journey home. Miss Elizabeth failed to look Darcy’s way at all. Mrs. Bennet and her other daughters hesitated as long as possible in donning their outerwear, possibly in hopes of spending more time with his aunt and uncle. However, a quick whisper from Miss Elizabeth to her mother had them scurrying outside. Sir William and Miss Lucas were right behind them.

He failed completely to understand what was happening. Neither of Bingley’s sisters had deigned to see their guests from the house. Instead, he could see Miss Bingley’s tall feathers bobbing back and forth where she sat on the sofa gesturing a good riddance, in the manner of Patroclus from Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida.

Hoping to gain some insight, he entered Bingley’s study, closing the door behind him.

“She refused me.” Bingley dropped his head into his palms, elbows firmly planted on the desk.

“Pardon me? Who refused you? Miss Bennet?” Darcy was flummoxed. “When did you have a chance to offer for her? Has she not been in her room for the past few days?”

“No, not Miss Bennet.” Sighing, Bingley finally raised his head. “You were correct in everything you said about me. I have been a flirt.”

“I fail to understand.”

“You warned me several times about the danger of being overly friendly with ladies who were unattached. Specifically, you noted my expressions of affection to Miss Lucas.” Bingley rubbed his hand over his face. Before he set them on the desk, Darcy noted they quivered. “I have erred most grievously. Sir William asked me about my intentions. I felt like he was pressing me into a corner where the only way out was to offer for his daughter.”

“And, she said ‘no’,” Darcy surmised, saving his young friend from having to say it again.

“She did.” Slapping his palms flat on the desktop, Bingley continued, “She stood before me a dignified woman. She allowed me to say the words and told me she had never hoped to hear them so well-delivered to her. Then she explained how marrying a flirt, a man without honor and loyalty, would cause her immense pain and suffering over the lifetime of a marriage. She would rather remain a spinster…” When Darcy started to interrupt, incensed Bingley had chosen to use such a horrible word, Bingley raised his hand to stop him. “Yes, she used the word in describing herself, Darcy as she delineated why she would rather remain unwed than be joined to me. Me!”

“Charles, I do not know what to say.” Indeed, Darcy was at a loss.

“If only this was the only matter she addressed.” Bingley huffed. “Miss Lucas outlined several powerful reasons why an intelligent female would not want to remain in a house, even as the mistress, with my sisters present. Evidently, the blatant rudeness and arrogance at the assembly and upon further association have given warning to the unmarried ladies of the shire, including Miss Bennet, of my not taking Caroline to task for her poor behavior. The general opinion of my character is one of weakness.”

“I see.”

“I know. I know. You have spoken to me of this before.” Bingley sat back in his chair, gazing unseeingly at the ceiling. “The wise Miss Lucas briefly instructed me on the proper role of a man in the household. How he is to take the lead by making the tough decisions after listening to the opinion of his wife. How he should put his wife ahead of all others as they become, in the Biblical sense, one flesh.”

Darcy knew not what to say to offer comfort to his friend, nor whether it was wise to do so. These were hard lessons to be learned. “What will you do?”

Bingley threw his hands into the air. “What can I do? While I would love to blame these faults on the ignorance of youth, I cannot. I have been warned but I chose to ignore those words of caution. Where I would greatly desire to run from Netherfield Park and start anew, I have an injured man under my care who will remain here for several months. I have his family here to see to his needs and you, my closest friend, as my guest.” Again, he slammed his palms against the hardwood surface of the desk. “I cannot quit, Darcy. I, to my eternal embarrassment, will need to take myself and my sisters to task if I am ever to have any hope of being a man worthy of a woman like Miss Lucas or Miss Bennet. I will need to adjust so the good people of Hertfordshire will find a reason to respect me. I shall earn their approbation, or I will die trying.”

He was exceedingly proud of Charles Bingley. “Then, I wish you success.”

“Darcy, you should know that I am not angry with Miss Lucas. In fact, I am grateful. I will become a better man because of her.”

Thinking back to the conversation with Miss Elizabeth in the glen and how she called him to task for his ill-favored comments at the assembly, Darcy balanced the value of a wise woman and the betterment of a man with the silly, self-serving females like Caroline Bingley and what they would do to a man.

“I understand.” And, he did. Correction at the hands of a caring, wise female was priceless.


Tension surrounded the table at the evening meal as Miss Bingley vied for the attention and approval of Lord and Lady Matlock. Either Bingley had said nothing to his sister, or she had chosen to ignore him.

“Like you, Lady Matlock, I take charge of my own household.” Miss Bingley boasted.

“You do? Just like me?” His Aunt Helen had played this game many times before. As the daughter of a duke, she was born knowing her position in society and well-trained to recognize parasitic leeches who sought her favor for the sole purpose of advancing their own standing. “Then I must ask, Miss Bingley, who it is within your household who directs you?”

“Directs me?” Caroline Bingley’s disdain dripped from her tongue. “Why, no one.”

“I see,” Aunt Helen sipped her wine before continuing. “This is your household then?”

Confusion settled as Miss Bingley struggled to see where she had gone wrong. It was apparent to all at the table that this was not how she had planned things to progress. “I am sure I do not know what you mean?”

“My position in the home is to elevate my husband’s status amongst his peers, Miss Bingley. In doing so, not only is he well-thought of, my own capabilities are praised. Should I strive to usurp him in his authority, he would be considered a fop by these same close associates and would be pitied for having a wife who single-handedly robbed our home of peace.” Again, she sipped. “A man with an estate has plenty to do without needing to apologize for a wife who makes them both look poorly in the eyes of those whose respect should be due them.”

“Oh!” Miss Bingley did not look pleased.

“Might I remind you, Miss Bingley, that this property is leased by your brother, not you. Although he may give you the freedom to rule this particular roost, I would remind you that the hen who makes the most noise is the one often found first in the stew pot.” At that, she suggested the ladies remove to the drawing room, so the men would be left to their own company.

He was exceedingly proud of his aunt. These were hard lessons his hosts were learning but necessary if they were to continue their climb up society’s ranks.


“Miss Elizabeth is gone?” Richard was stunned and slightly petulant. “Who is to finish translating the story? Dr. Stevenson said I was to be read to each day.”

“I will send to London for a copy of the book and read it to you myself.”

His cousin snorted. “While I have no doubt your German is sufficient, you could never do justice to the character voices like Miss Elizabeth. And you are far less attractive to gaze at as well.”

Now it was Darcy’s turn to snort. The night was late, and the majority of the house was already abed. After sharing the events of the day, all that happened to the Bingleys to have his cousin focus solely upon Miss Elizabeth? Pshaw!

“I am well-aware of that fact, Rich.”

“Well, this puts us both between the horns of a dilemma, does it not? How are either of us to woo our fair lady when she is not here?”

Darcy had wondered the same. He had a plan, one which did not involve his cousin. Excusing himself, he went to his own room to prepare.


Lord Matlock’s morning plans were in direct conflict with his own. He wanted privacy. His uncle wanted to discuss the situation at Netherfield Park.

“William, while I freely admit my son could have had an accident anywhere—God forbid it would have taken place on the field of battle—the simple fact is he was injured here in Hertfordshire.”

“I am aware.”

“This begs the question, why are you here? More specifically, why are you continuing in Bingley’s company?”

“We have had this discussion before, Uncle. Bingley is a good friend.” Ire at the subject threatened to choke him.

“I will agree he is a friendly sort of young man. Personally, I understand why his character appeals to you. If my guess is correct, he has never asked anything of you other than advice.”

“You would be correct.”

Uncle Hugh nodded. “As before, I will not demand you give up the association.”

Darcy felt the tension leech from his bones.

“However,” his uncle cleared his throat, drawing out the process until Darcy’s nerves were set on edge. The tension poured back into each cell.

“However, you must admit this friendship comes with some risks. For example,” The questions came rapidly, like gunfire. “…how does Georgiana respond when in their company. Does Bingley flirt with her? Do you and my son allow this? Does Miss Bingley overpower my niece or set an example which would hinder Georgiana’s when she enters society? Are you attracted to the woman? Do you plan to make her Mistress of Pemberley, for I have no doubt it is her greatest desire?”

“Uncle, I have given consideration to each of these questions since Bingley left university and attached himself and his family to me.” Darcy tapped his knuckles against his chin. “He is a good man who has never shown any affection towards Georgiana other than as a sister. I strive to keep Miss Bingley away from my homes. On occasion when I am unable, Georgiana is dismissed from company as she is not yet out. I have absolutely no intention of marrying Miss Bingley. As a matter of fact, I spoke with Bingley yesterday about restraining her. With this latest fiasco within their household, I will not be inviting them to Pemberley or Darcy House until Bingley takes control of himself and Caroline.” Darcy sighed. “Uncle, he is a man without guile who is honest to a fault. Orphaned at a young age, he had no male guidance. I look at him and see the potential for a great man.”

“Just be cautious, William.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Do you ride out this morning?”

He had been caught by his uncle on his way out the door. He was dressed in his riding clothes. “My horse has been ready these fifteen minutes.”

“The horse can wait for I need to speak with you about Richard.”

“Yes, sir.”


He saw her about half a mile from the house. Clutching a leather-wrapped packet, Miss Elizabeth strolled through the fields as if she was at total peace with her surroundings. Never had he known someone so at one with the natural world. It was a unique gift for a young woman as most were required by mothers to remain indoors to protect their complexion and spend hours learning skills to make them a desirable mate. Miss Elizabeth appeared to march to her own rhythm.

Dismounting quickly, he waited for her to approach.

“Miss Elizabeth.”

“Mr. Darcy.”

He waited for her smile of greeting only to suffer disappointment.

“You are upset with me.” He concluded.

“Am I?” He glimpsed a minute movement of her lips. Her full lips.

“Are you not?”

“In truth, I am not.” She huffed, then walked to a nearby stile and seated herself on the top step. “The events of yesterday were upsetting. My sweet sister, Jane, had her heart crushed by Mr. Bingley. Though she claims she only had a slight inclination towards him, her tears were vivid proof of her heart’s involvement. My closest friend outside of Jane, Charlotte, was placed in an untenable position by your friend. She showed her value by refusing Mr. Bingley, despite her father claiming, loudly I might add, that this might be the only offer she would ever receive.”

“I am sorely vexed.”

“Why? Was any of this your doing? Were you encouraging Mr. Bingley on this foolish course?”

“Not at all.”

“I thought not, Mr. Darcy.” Smoothing her skirts, Miss Elizabeth continued, “When we returned home my father announced an unexpected visitor will be arriving this afternoon. Mr. Collins holds the living at Hunsford Parsonage in Kent and is the heir to Longbourn through an entail. His purpose in calling, as stated clearly in his letter, is to extend an olive branch by marrying a Bennet daughter so the estate will remain in our family line.”

“I know this man. He is a buffoon.”

“You know him?” Elizabeth clasped her hands to her chest. “He is, then, as his letter indicated, a sycophant?”

“Very much so.” Darcy wondered how much to share. “Do you recall when I mentioned a relative who would make my sister’s life one of constant misery should Richard and I lose guardianship?” At her nod, he continued, “My aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh is his patroness. She is strong of opinions and uncaring of whether they are correct or not. Rarely does she bend to anyone’s will. Therefore, she surrounds herself with toadeaters who bow and scrape to her. This accurately describes Mr. Collins. For confirmation you can ask Richard as he also has met the man.”

She flung her hands to the side. “This is everything terrible. While my mother was upset at Mr. Bingley for breaking Jane’s heart and offering for Charlotte yesterday, today she is in a much different frame of mind. Determined that your friend will come to his senses and court Jane, my Mama has decided I am to be the sacrificial Bennet to marry Mr. Collins and secure our family home.”

“What! How can she do this to you?” He was incensed.

“Sir, the love my father has for me will see him standing behind me, supporting me in whatever choice I make. I only wish…” She shook her head. “No, I will not consider what might have been.”

“Miss Elizabeth, you may share your worries with impunity. Should I have the power to help, pray believe that I am at your service.”

“I thank you, sir. I find you have enough problems of your own to take on the struggles of the Bennet family’s future.” Elizabeth considered, then spoke. “Since we have been unafraid to canvas difficult subjects, might I ask, were you at all drawn to Charlotte upon learning she wisely rejected Mr. Bingley? She is approximately your age and would make a wonderful companion for your future?”

“Not at all!” Despite Miss Lucas being a fine woman, he was repulsed at the thought. “Although I have only eighty-two days remaining to find a wife, I cannot consider Miss Lucas for the role. In spite of her hair being brown, I find it is the wrong shade to what I desire. Her eyes? If I recall properly, they are a mixture of grey and green. While pretty, they do not sparkle with life like the dark brown most appealing to me.”

Miss Elizabeth’s laughter rang across the meadows. “You, sir, are single-minded.”

“That I am.”

“You have now rejected my three greatest prospects for a bride. Jane, Miss King, and Charlotte. I am afraid you shall need to search farther afield.”

“I cannot.” Should he tell her he was unwilling to look elsewhere? Not yet. “My cousin’s recovery will be long. He is a patient man under good circumstances. Under adverse conditions? Impatience eats at him until he wants to burst. I simply cannot imagine being anywhere else until he is able to walk away from Netherfield Park.”

“Does he have prospects for marriage?”

“Why? Are you interested in him?” Darcy was stunned. Surely, she was not. Was she? Gulping, he finally admitted the truth. Miss Elizabeth would be the perfect bride for his cousin. They would have a lively house. He, himself was a quiet man. Bringing her to Pemberley might be a punishment. The isolation. The long distance from her family in Hertfordshire. His quiet demeanor.

He wanted to hit something. Instead, he spoke to her at length of Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam, magnificent man that he was.


As the stories flowed from him, Elizabeth was struck by both his honesty and his humility. Many times, the words highlighted the superiority of the Colonel in comparison to his younger cousin, Mr. Darcy. Some of the tales were told with such wit, they brought a smile to their faces. Never had she seen a more handsome, elegant man than the one standing in front of her.

When his narrative changed from concern over the Colonel’s injuries to his worries over the maturity of Mr. Bingley, she knew deep in her heart, that this man, Mr. Darcy, would not be an excellent match for Jane, Charlotte, or Mary King. He was perfect, but only for her.

Letter of the Law – Chapter 10

Please keep up! I’m going to delete this story before I publish which will be soon after I post my final chapter.

I am having a ball playing with the grandkids. On Saturday, we went to the jungle (yes, the Amazon jungle). It was warm and lovely and the altitude was much easier for me. I get light-headed in our apartment because we are so high up. Good man that he is, John moved my desk into our room so I can get up and type for a while and then lay down to get my body’s bearings again. It’s still worth it.

Here is chapter 10. I think you may be surprised by what happens. From now until the end each chapter will be jam-packed with action. If you just started reading, here is the link to chapter one: Chapter One

Chapter 10


“She is delightful.” Dr. Stevenson shared with the two men remaining in Richard’s chambers. “Her translation was magnificent and the voices she gave the characters made the parents and their sons come alive, almost as if they were in the room reciting their own story.”

Easily, Darcy could imagine quiet evenings at Pemberley with her entertaining a house full of young children. The hallways would ring with laughter. The thought brought comfort and peace to a life constantly in turmoil since inheriting from his father. He smiled.

“She would be an asset to any man’s home.” Richard agreed to his musings.

“Have you been introduced to the eldest Miss Bennet?” The doctor queried. “She is a lovely woman of exceptional beauty. Why, even with a red nose and a fevered brow, her elegant good looks almost robbed me of my breath.” He paused in contemplation of Miss Jane Bennet.

“I have not had the privilege.” Richard turned to his cousin. “Do you find Miss Elizabeth’s sister to be superior in appearance to Miss Elizabeth?”

“Not at all!” There was no hesitation. “Although Miss Bennet has the fair coloring of the classic style claimed by the ton as being the epitome of charm and desirability, I find she pales next to her sister.”

Darcy then directed his focus on Dr. Stevenson. “You are inclined to pursue the elder sister then?” He hoped.

“No, I am not.” The surgeon sighed. “Bingley’s interest is apparent, and I would not risk the loss of a pleasant acquaintance by giving pursuit to a lady he holds in esteem.”

“Yet, you feel no such compulsion to expressing interest in Miss Elizabeth when the both of us have clearly expressed our intentions.” Richard pointed at his chest and then at Darcy. His brow lifted. Darcy knew that look. It was his cousin’s way of getting a man to rethink his position, to come to the conclusion Richard wanted him to reach.

“I apologize, sirs.” The doctor tipped his head to them both. “I assumed you were speaking of a friendly competition and were joking when you shared your intentions.” He looked from one man to the other. “You were not in jest?”

“Not at all.” Darcy’s firm reply would have left no misunderstanding in the doctor’s mind.

“Then I will bow out of the competition and wish both of you gentlemen well in your pursuit. As mentioned before, she is a remarkable young woman who would enhance your happiness, I have no doubt.” At that, he rose to join the company downstairs, leaving the cousins alone.

When the door closed behind the surgeon, Richard inquired, “Was Stevenson correct about Miss Bennet?”

“Bingley believes so.”

“Is she as lovely as his other ‘angels’?

“More so, I believe.”

“Hmmm.” The Colonel pondered, then shook his head slowly.

Darcy’s hopes in his cousin’s lack of attachment to one Bennet sister in possible favor of the other burst with Richard’s next comment.

“Then I am pleased for Bingley.”



Within an hour the drawing room of Netherfield Park started filling. The first arrivals were his aunt and uncle, Lord and Lady Matlock. Aunt Helen had barely greeted her hosts before moving quickly up the stairs to attend Richard. Uncle Hugh received a report from both Darcy and Dr. Stevenson. The news was a heavy burden for a father who loved his son.

The next to arrive was Mrs. Bennet, accompanied by her three youngest daughters. Upon their entrance into the room, the noise level increased exponentially.

While Miss Bingley ignored the Bennet females, she fawned over his uncle.

Darcy had no clue who disgusted him more. His hostess, who placed rank over manners, or Mrs. Bennet, who declared her youngest, Miss Lydia, to be the perfect match for a military man, especially one who was the son of an earl.

When Sir William and his eldest, Charlotte, joined the fray, Darcy invited his uncle to join Richard and Aunt Helen in the upstairs bedchamber, far away from the noise.


“Charlotte,” Elizabeth was pleasantly surprised to see her good friend outside Jane’s doorway. “Welcome.” She stepped back to allow Charlotte to enter. Before the door closed, she easily heard her mother’s loud exclamations of glee at having two daughters already ensconced at Netherfield with an offer of leaving Lydia to care for Colonel Fitzwilliam.

Turning back to the room, Jane asked, “Are you well, Lizzy?”

“I am well.” Elizabeth felt the warmth of humiliation rise from her chest. She only hoped the gentlemen were not witnesses to her mother and youngest sister’s inappropriate conduct. They had little to recommend themselves…Elizabeth shuttered upon realizing how many times over the past week the same thought had crossed her mind, always in reference to herself and Mr. Darcy. Get control of yourself, Lizzy Bennet!

“Charlotte, I am pleased you have come.” Jane, flushed with the remnants of a fever, graciously offered the chair next to the bed to Miss Lucas.

“How could I not come, Jane? I have such happy news to share.”

At this, Elizabeth pulled another chair close. “Do tell, my friend.”

A becoming blush covered Charlotte’s cheeks. “As you are aware, Mr. Bingley paid particular attention to me both at the assembly and the evening we hosted the Netherfield party at Lucas Lodge. My father is downstairs inquiring as to the gentleman’s intentions. Holding my hand and embracing me surely means Mr. Bingley has decided to pursue me for a courtship and marriage. I have never been this pleased.”

How could this be?

Elizabeth could not speak. Jane said not one word. The red hue to Jane’s face and neck was replaced with a pasty white color. Elizabeth was distraught and angry at the truth of her words. Mr. Bingley had done exactly as she stated. However, both sister’s assumed it was a reflection of his friendly nature rather than genuine interest.

“Did you not notice how he gave equal attention to Jane?” Elizabeth had to ask. Her beloved sister’s heart was breaking in front of them both.

“Indeed, I did, at the assembly.” Charlotte nodded. “Nonetheless, he singled me out for particular notice during the treasure hunt. A gentleman of good reputation would not have done so unless his affections were engaged.”

Jane whimpered, cupping her hand over her mouth to stop the noise.

Immediately distressed, Charlotte begged for understanding. “I am exceedingly sorry, Jane. I had no idea your heart was fully engaged. I saw nothing in your approach to indicate you were in any way helping Mr. Bingley along.”

Covering her eyes, Jane swallowed. Inhaling deeply, she dropped her hand to her side and looked directly at her friend.

“I am pleased for you.” Her smile was tremulous. “There is no one other than Lizzy I would wish more joy than you, dear Charlotte. I am not at all surprised at Mr. Bingley finding you to be anything other than what you are, an exceedingly lovely woman who would grace his home.”

“I thank you for your kindness, Jane.” Charlotte admitted, “I will confess to being surprised at his attention. In looks, I pale to your beauty and I am far more pragmatic than kind. I am also, I believe, Mr. Bingley’s elder by several years. In this, I find I would be far more qualified to marry Mr. Darcy than his friend as we are closer in age and character.”

What? Marry Mr. Darcy? How could this be? Elizabeth fretted. Surely not!

“Yet, Mr. Darcy has shown no interest at all to any of the young ladies here in Hertfordshire,” Charlotte continued. “I fear he will soon depart for greener pastures where the company meets his exalted standards. He would have no interest in the likes of us.”

Jane glanced at Elizabeth, who turned her head away.

“You will accept Mr. Bingley then?” Jane whispered.

“I would be foolish if I did not.” Charlotte harrumphed. “And, I doubt my father would ever forgive me if I refused him. He has, not so gently, been pushing me to put myself out there for any man’s notice. He even suggested I flirt with Mr. Martin within weeks of him losing his wife in childbirth. He would be impossible to live with if I chose not to become Mistress of Netherfield Park.”

Elizabeth nodded. Sir William was a jovial man who thrilled to repetitiously boast of his short time at St. James Court in London. Having a daughter residing in the grandest house in Hertfordshire, especially one exceeding the influence of Longbourn, would be a topic he could brag upon for decades to come. He was not a malicious man, at all. He was a father who wanted the best for his children, especially if it reflected well upon himself.

“But, do you love him?” Elizabeth was moved to ask.

Charlotte pondered at length. Finally, she responded.

“I do not believe so, Lizzy. I have never been romantic, nor can I imagine my becoming so. I should think I have as good a chance of happiness as if I studied his character for a twelvemonth. Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. If the dispositions of the parties are ever so well known to each other, or ever so similar beforehand, it does not advance their felicity in the least. They always contrive to grow sufficiently unlike afterward to have their share of vexation. And, it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life.”

“Charlotte! You cannot believe this to be true.”

“I can, Lizzy.” Clasping her hands together on her lap, Charlotte continued, “You see, I have studied the disparate relationship between each of your parents and mine. Both husbands and wives have little in common after several decades together, yet they continue on as contented as they can be under their circumstances. With Mr. Bingley’s amiability and the evidence that he easily bends to his sister’s will, I have no reason to doubt we will have a measure of upbuilding interchange during our marriage.”

“This is not sound,” Elizabeth exclaimed, ever aware of her sister’s pained countenance. “I will confess to having reservations after seeing Mr. Bingley’s conduct towards you both at the assembly. He acted the flirt. Nevertheless, I was willing to overlook his attitude since it appeared to come to no harm. Now? I wish I had said something to you and to Jane.” She rubbed her palms on the fabric covering her legs, knowing this was dangerous territory to venture into. “Can you trust a man to remain loyal? What if you wed and he continues his overly friendly overtures to other females? Could you keep from resentment should you witness his familiarity with a woman who is everything lovely? What happens when you have birthed your fifth child, you are closer to five and thirty than the days of your youth, you have softened around the middle, and no longer give evidence of the vitality of youth? At that point, Mr. Bingley continues his habits of holding a young woman’s hand, embracing her in front of your friends and family, and paying particular attention to a debutante who is fresh on the marriage mart with more accomplishments than the three of us added together? How contented would you be then?”

Before Charlotte could respond, a maid rapped on the door requesting Charlotte’s presence in Mr. Bingley’s study for a private audience.

Shrugging her shoulders, their friend walked from the room, not looking back.

Jane burst into tears.

Moving into the chair closest to her sister, Elizabeth sought to provide comfort. When the sobbing finally abated, Elizabeth was shocked at the first words from her sister’s mouth.

“I would not accept Mr. Bingley if he had offered and I pray Charlotte does not as well.”

“What? How could you…?” Perplexed, Elizabeth sought to understand.

“Lizzy, I allowed myself to be blinded by his smile to a flaw I despise. Charm with no honor is false and will only lead to far more pain than I am feeling now.”

“Will you be well, dearest?”

“I would far rather find out now when my feelings are new than to discover later when I have no way out of a terrible marriage.” Jane swallowed. “Pray request a carriage for our immediate removal.” She threw back the bed clothes and moved to stand. “Despite what our mother desires, I am done with Netherfield Park.”

Elizabeth wanted to cheer. Pieces had fallen into place and she now understood what had made her uncomfortable from the beginning of their acquaintance with the Netherfield occupants. They would return to Longbourn where she would continue to nurse Jane. This would keep them from company until, hopefully, Mr. Bingley’s future with Charlotte was sealed.

Netherfield was a leased property. Possibly, Mr. Darcy or his family would encourage Mr. Bingley to take a more permanent estate in the north. The far north.

Stepping outside the room, Elizabeth called to the maid to deliver a message to her mother to await her two eldest daughters. She could take all five of her children home with her when she departed.

Elizabeth could not help thinking of Miss Bingley’s shear delight at having them gone.


By the time Elizabeth and Jane reached the bottom of the stairs, Charlotte entered the hallway from Mr. Bingley’s study. Her countenance was solemn, opposite of what it had been when she had first arrived in Jane’s chambers. Mr. Bingley remained at his desk, a stunned look upon his face.

“I refused him.”

With those three words, Charlotte determined her fate as well as Mr. Bingley’s. She would be the spinster who foolishly turned down an amazing offer of marriage, and he would be proclaimed a flirt in the worst and meanest degree of flirtation.

“Are you well, my friend?” whispered Elizabeth.

Leaning closer, she spoke softly so only Elizabeth could hear. “While I am pleased to have been asked, I could not choose a future with a dishonorable man.” Charlotte took Elizabeth’s hand. “Although my father will be displeased, I find myself standing a little taller than when I marched into his study. I am a worthy woman.”


With as much bustle as when they had arrived, the Bennets and Lucas’s departed the company of Mr. Bingley, his family, and his friends. None of the females looked back as the carriage made its way towards Meryton. As far as they were all concerned, though it remained unspoken, they were finished with their newest neighbors.

Except, the deep, black void settling in the pit of Elizabeth’s stomach ached with unfulfilled yearning. Yearning for what, she wondered.

Dark eyes, wavy dark curls, broad shoulders, and gleaming white teeth when he smiled.

She sighed. It was too bad, she would not be able to complete her task. With his time taken by his care for his cousin and no desire to again be in the company of his hosts, Elizabeth decided her best course was to put him out of her mind. Far, far away.

Letter of the Law – Chapter 9

Please keep up! I’m going to delete this story before I publish which will be soon after I post my final chapter.

I’m having a ball with the grandchildren. They are so awesome that I’m not typing as much as I should or as much as my daughter demands. However, as soon as I post this I’m going to start on Chapter 10. This chapter is a bit of filler but it sets the scene for what’s to come. Caroline Bingley is a stinker. Ack!!! But I need her to be this way for later. Without further ado, here’s the chapter.

If you are starting at the beginning, here is the link to Chapter 1: Chapter One

Chapter 9


While Jane continued to sleep peacefully, Elizabeth felt anything but peace. Mr. Darcy could stir her ire faster than any man alive. One moment he acted the gentleman and she was pleased with his company, finding much to desire in this persona. When his words became presumptuous and his manner arrogant, she despised the ground he walked upon. How one man could inspire such disparate feelings puzzled her exceedingly.

The colonel? He was exceptionally brave. And, extremely creative with his use of invectives. She chuckled to herself. Never before had she seen a man’s bare leg and feet. Upon reflection, she could not recall ever spying her father without stockings. Why were they so hairy? The colonel even had a patch of the dark sprigs on the top of his big toe. His feet were long and narrow. His toes were long and jointed, similar to an old man’s fingers. Truly, they were not a thing of beauty. Yet, overall, the pleasantness of his character made her easily overlook any physical flaws. Of course, perhaps all men had long, skinny, hairy feet.

She stuck her own stockinged foot in front of her. Certainly, it was much shorter than the Colonel’s. It was wider as well. Should the fabric be suddenly removed, as his had been, there would be no thick dark hairs on her toes.

Chuckling to herself so as to not wake her sister, she contemplated the difference in the appendages of her sisters. Jane, Mary, and Lydia were all taller than she. Each had longer slimmer feet, with Lydia’s being the longest. The other sisters had all rejoiced as this kept their youngest sister from ‘borrowing’ their shoes without asking. Elizabeth and Kitty were about the same height. Where her curves were rounded, and her legs were more muscled, Kitty’s feet were wider, giving her the impression of being more solidly founded. Of them all, it was their mother who had the tiniest feet, giving a clue as to her petite form prior to having given birth to five healthy daughters.

Unable to contain her laughter, Elizabeth promised to study the boots of Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley. Would they be longer or shorter than the Colonel’s? Skinnier or fatter? Would Mr. Bingley have red hair on his legs to match his head? Perhaps not, as the colonel’s hair was a much lighter color than on his legs.

What a silly subject to consider, Elizabeth Bennet!

Jane stirred at the unexpected noise in the bedchamber.

“Lizzy?” Her voice sounded like the bullfrogs around the rim of Longbourn’s pond. “Are you well?”

Elizabeth smiled. How like Jane to be concerned over someone’s health other than her own.

“Do not be concerned, sister. I was pondering the differences in male and female feet, which caused my burst of humor.”

“Feet?” Jane’s brow furrowed. “What could possibly have happened to have caused this particular line of thought?”

“Jane,” she whispered. “I witnessed something scandalous today.” Both girls looked at the corners of the room as if there was someone in hiding eager to hear their conversation. “Mr. Darcy pulled off his cousin’s stocking after removing his boot. I will tell you now, the sight of his barefoot has been the subject of my contemplation since. Are you shocked at my lack of decorum for letting my eyes travel to such a place?”

Jane giggled. “Only you, Lizzy dear.” She lay back on the mattress, resting the back of her hand against her forehead. “Oh, no! Now, I am curious. What sort of feet does a man have?”

Elizabeth’s mirth could not be contained. “Be prepared to be surprised. If you will drink this cool water to soothe your throat, I will tell you every aspect of the gentleman’s lowest portion in specific detail.”

Jane’s eagerness to drink from the glass gave Elizabeth no clue as to her motive. Was it thirst or curiosity? Her blush provided the answer Elizabeth sought. Smiling from ear to ear at her shy sister’s burning desire to know, she began her narrative.


With eagerness, Darcy descended the stairs to break his fast. He could not recall sleeping even one wink the whole of the night. It was not hunger causing him to move his valet along, but the need to see Miss Elizabeth.

Some females were drawn to an injured man, their sympathetic heartstrings pulled by being needed to provide care. He also understood some ladies were drawn to a uniform. None looked finer in a blue or red coat of the military than his cousin. Blast the man!

Meeting Bingley at the foot of the staircase, they entered the room together, stunned to be met with Miss Elizabeth’s noisy hiccup.

Slapping her hand over her mouth, she raised her eyes from her brief perusal of the gentlemen’s Hessians to look slightly behind their shoulders. Both Darcy and Bingley looked to the floor to see if they had inadvertently stepped into something that should not have been inside Netherfield Park. No, the floor was bare. What was she about?

“Miss Elizabeth,” Bingley greeted his guest with his typical enthusiasm. “I hope your being downstairs is an indication of Miss Bennet’s improved health?”

As his friend and host moved to fill his plate, Darcy listened carefully to her reply. It would not do for the Bennet sisters to remove themselves to Longbourn while he was glued to his cousin’s side. Of course, should they do so, he would have the advantage as Richard would not be leaving his bed for a long while.

“I thank you for your inquiry, sir.” She patted her lips with her napkin before placing it back on her lap. “I was hoping to request the presence of the apothecary or surgeon when they came to examine the Colonel. Jane’s cough has not abated, and her throat is raw.”

“Good. Good.” Bingley distractedly proclaimed as he took the seat across from her. At their glances, he quickly amended his response. “No, I do not mean her being ill is good, for that could never be so. What I mean, or rather, what I meant, was that it was good I can be of service by contacting Mr. Jones. Dr. Stevenson is already upstairs with the colonel.”

Unknown to the other dining companions, Darcy had initially responded the same as Bingley. It was good the Miss Bennets would be remaining at Netherfield for his own purposes to bear fruition—as long as he could keep her away from Richard.

“I would ask, if I may, that a note be delivered to Longbourn. With the Colonel needing intensive care, I think the wise course for Jane and me would be to remove ourselves to our home. She could recover in a familiar room with familiar company, while you tend to a more important guest.”

“No!” Darcy could not wait for Bingley to respond. What if he agreed with Miss Elizabeth? That simply would not do.

Now, it was both eyes staring at him.

“Pray, do not think my cousin would wish Miss Bennet’s removal at the expense of his own care,” he said. “Richard would feel worse, and so would we, should your sister get a chill from the three-mile journey. My belief is that you both should remain until she has improved considerably.”

“Was anyone going to ask my opinion?” Caroline Bingley stood just inside the doorway, her sister and brother-in-law shadowing behind her.

Darcy could hear the venom in her voice. Bingley really needed to take control of his sister. She acted a fishwife, only better dressed.

“Caroline, I only stated what I knew you would offer should you have been in the room.” Her brother responded.

“Really, Charles.” With a target in mind, she approached the table. Turning her attention to the only female already seated, she maliciously purred, “Miss Elizabeth, you are still here? I am all astonishment.”

“Caroline!” It was all the warning Miss Bingley got for not minding her tongue. Bingley’s countenance was more embarrassed than furious, which disappointed Darcy.

“Why, Charles.” Her tone changed but not the vitriol of her words. “With the dear Colonel above stairs on the brink of death, you cannot expect the staff to care for someone with a paltry illness who would be better off at home, would you? After all, our newest patient is family to our invited guest, is he not?”

“Miss Bingley, I apologize for my sister and me being a burden by stretching your limits as hostess of your brother’s home. We shall leave as soon as Mr. Jones declares Jane fit for travel.” Setting her fork aside, Miss Elizabeth stood, causing Darcy and Bingley to stand at attention as well. “Pray, excuse me.”

“Caroline Bingley!” Charles hissed. “Your insult to our guest was poorly done.”

“Humph!” Taking her seat, Miss Bingley ignored her brother. Instead, she nodded to the footman to prepare a plate and serve her.

Darcy was appalled at her rudeness.

“Mr. Darcy, have you heard whether your aunt and uncle, the earl and countess, will be arriving today? I cannot imagine them not coming to Hertfordshire to see to their son’s care.” Miss Bingley placed a spoonful of jam on her toast. “Once we are rid of the Bennets, I can devote my full attention to them, as is their due.”

He knew what she was about. Attempting to garner favor from someone of elevated rank and title at the expense of other guests was the sign of a neglectful hostess. Darcy despised her dream of being mistress of his estates.

“I have not yet heard, Miss Bingley.” Darcy contemplated whether or not to speak his mind. What had been easily done with Miss Elizabeth was uncomfortable with his host’s sister. Swallowing, he decided to commit himself to his usual behavior. If Bingley would not remonstrate his sister, it was not his business.

“I shall have the best rooms prepared. They shall have every comfort.” She looked at her brother. “Charles, we will recommend Netherfield Park as the scion of propriety and good manners in this country hamlet. Thus, we will be well-spoken of when the Fitzwilliams return to town.”

“Somehow, I cannot consider denigrating a guest nor our place of residence as being the epitome of good manners, Caroline. Therefore, I would recommend you not speak as long as the Colonel’s family is in residence. Darcy, I know,” Bingley looked to his friend, “has learned to overlook your bad behavior. The others will not.”

“Charles Bingley! Of what are you speaking?” Miss Bingley’s affront appeared genuine. “I have been taught at the finest academy in London and regularly associate with the elite of society.” Suddenly, she pierced him with her sharp eyes. “Why are you speaking this way now? Is it the influence of those Bennets who have made you forget yourself, treating your beloved sister as an outcast? All the more reason to send them home.”

Turning to Darcy, she continued her rant. “Sir, you cannot agree with my silly brother. He knows not of what he is speaking. Surely, you have observed our superiority over local society. In fact, was it not you, yourself, who proclaimed none in Meryton were fit to stand up with at a dance? Did you not prove your point by dancing solely with me and my sister? How could you possibly find fault with my desires to remove Miss Bennet and Miss Elizabeth from our house before the arrival of Lord and Lady Matlock?”

It galled him to have her toss his character alongside hers. Apparently, Miss Elizabeth was not the only one to hear his horrid comments at the assembly. He was shamed. But, so should she be abashed by her own conduct.

“My mother and my Aunt Helen would never turn a guest out in favor of someone of elevated rank. Good manners would, and has, prohibited them from doing so.” Darcy set down his utensils indicating he was finished. Standing, he hovered over her, reminding Miss Bingley of her relative position in society compared to his. “I have apologized for my words and conduct at the assembly, Miss Bingley. I erred grievously. You have done the same.” Bowing to his host, he excused himself.

Rushing up the staircase, he returned to his cousin’s room. He felt in desperate need of common sense and peace. The only sources in Netherfield Park that he was aware of were either Richard or Miss Elizabeth. Since she would be caring for her sister, the Colonel would do.

“What has lit a fire under you?” His cousin asked.

Darcy was relieved to see his Richard sitting up in bed, his injured leg propped upon a carefully arranged pile of pillows. The surgeon stood from the chair next to the bed when he had burst through the doorway. He reseated himself as soon as Darcy joined them.

“I am happy you are here, Mr. Darcy.” Dr. Stevenson was a young physician who took his career choice seriously. Like Richard, he was the second son with a healthy older brother. The likelihood of either of the two men in front of him inheriting was slim to none. Nevertheless, neither man bore resentment.

“How might I help you, Doctor?” Glancing at his cousin, Darcy found him relaxed and seemingly unconcerned.

“The truth is, my patient has already expressed a desire to stand and join the company downstairs. Since you appear to know your cousin well, you will not be shocked when I opine that he will do all he can to see to his desires as soon as I turn my back. Therefore, Mr. Darcy, I am charging you with keeping him in place.”

“An impossible task.” Richard chuckled loudly at Darcy’s comment.

“Unfortunately, knowing the Colonel as I do, I had surmised this to be his attitude as soon as I heard of his injury. Because of this, I had my assistant deliver a mobility device to Lord and Lady Matlock to deliver when they arrive today. I merely require as much time to pass as possible before he starts using the crutch, that is all.”

“You are a wise man,” Darcy observed. He, personally, had never sustained such an injury. However, it was easy to speculate how frustrating Richard’s position was. Like him, Darcy would be pulling against the bit for as much freedom as was possible.

“Also,” the surgeon continued. “I asked the young lady I met yesterday who is currently caring for her sister if she would come and read to your cousin, who, I might add, was exceedingly happy at the arrangement.” Without realizing the surprised glee of both gentlemen, he continued, “She is a lovely young lady with a charming character. Do either of you know her circumstances?”

Darcy wanted to growl. Richard’s eyes twinkled in merriment.

“As I understand it,” his cousin said. “She is the second of five daughters who have little in the way of assets other than themselves to bring to a marriage. Upon observation, she is a devoted caregiver, as evidenced by her care of Miss Bennet and the fact she walked three miles to attend her.”

“Then she would be an ideal wife for a surgeon, I believe.” Dr. Stevenson mused, much to the consternation of both men. “My practice has grown to the extent I no longer am concerned about income so her small portion means nothing,” he muttered, as if to himself. Making a decision, he declared to the room at large, “I would enjoy having a helping hand in my practice who can also tend to my needs, someone bright, lively, and wise. Would this be the way either of you would describe Miss Elizabeth?”

Richard was far too quick to reply. “Absolutely! As a matter of honor, I will inform you that both my cousin and I are determined to make Miss Elizabeth our bride. What have you to say to this?” His challenge was clear. Step away, Dr. Stevenson!

However, the good doctor was undeterred.

“She will be here soon. Then we shall see.” The doctor paused. “I was surprised to find no maid had been assigned to help with their care, so I inquired of Miss Bingley as she was on her way to break her fast if one could accompany Miss Elizabeth to the sickroom.”

Darcy shook his head as Richard demanded, “what is this?”

A soft tap on the door ended their mental castigation of Miss Bingley.

Since he was closest to the entryway, Darcy answered. He was delighted to be the recipient of her smile. As she stepped inside the room, a maid followed closely.

Good! Miss Bingley finally did something right.

Curtseying to the gentlemen alongside and upon the bed, Miss Elizabeth observed, “Colonel, I am sorry to share that the selections of reading material from the Netherfield Park library is rather sparse. Knowing this, my father secreted two volumes, recently arrived from Hatchards in London, for me to devour with the small trunk they sent for our care.” Holding up the two tomes, she offered a choice. “The first is my personal favorite, Der Schweizerische Robinson by Johann David Wyss, and the second is Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage by Lord Byron.”

“You read German?” Asked the doctor at the same time Darcy blurted, “You read Lord Byron?”

Without answering either question directly, Miss Elizabeth looked at the Colonel as she approached the two chairs on the near side of the bed. “Sir, if you do not understand the language, I will be pleased to translate.”

He laughed boisterously as Darcy and Dr. Stevenson hurried to take the remaining chair after she was seated. The doctor won.

Undeterred, Darcy requested an additional chair for himself and the maid from a footman located in the hallway.

As the servant placed a tall wooden chair in the corner for the maid, he had the man put the other directly across from Miss Elizabeth. He could observe her lovely face while the surgeon could not. He wanted to laugh aloud at the brilliance of his plan.

Then, Miss Elizabeth shifted her chair so she looked directly at Richard, placing her shoulder to Dr. Stevenson, and her profile to Darcy. He wanted to kick the bed. Apparently, he was not nearly as intelligent as he had thought he was.

Letter of the Law – Chapter 8

Please keep up! I’m going to delete this story before I publish which will be soon after I post my final chapter.

The past few weeks have been hectic. We moved the contents of our house into storage, took care of some medical needs, and headed to South America. We will be in Ecuador for two months. The elevation is about 9,000 ft. so I’m still adjusting to the altitude. But, we have our grandchildren here so every breath I struggle to take is worth it.  Needless to say, Jennifer is after me to keep my focus and get busy writing so you should expect chapters fairly frequently.

I owe a huge shout of gratitude to Dr. Russell of the Urgent Care clinic in Roseburg and Dr. Susan Williams, my orthopedic surgeon. They both confirmed I was crazy for having a compound fracture in Colonel Fitzwilliam’s leg. So, you will note a change at the beginning of chapter eight. As they each graphically explained where the break should and should not be along with explicit impacts on a person’s body, I truly wanted to faint. Thus, you will read about the injury but it will not be as detailed. Phew!

Without further ado, here is chapter eight. If you are just starting to read, here is the link to the beginning: Chapter One

Chapter 8


Elizabeth ran as if her life depended upon it. Her house shoes provided little protection against the rocks and sticks in the field. When she approached the carnage, the sights and the sounds brought bile to her throat. She should not be here.

The stream of words erupting from the colonel, the air blowing from the horse’s nostrils, the ensuing boom of the pistol held tightly in the grip of the older groom, the motion of Mr. Darcy sawing the shaft of the colonel’s boot with a knife blade, the smell of blood and fear served to punish her impulsiveness.

Mr. Darcy looked up and caught her eye. Surprise, or was it disgust at her boldness, covered his face making her wish even more that she had remained firmly in place at Netherfield.

This was the carnage of warfare. A sight the colonel had undoubtedly witnessed on a much grander scale. A sight no lady should witness.

“Might I be of service, sir?” She asked no one in particular as her feet brought her to a stop. Elizabeth desperately wanted to look away. Her eyes refused to obey.

She had never seen death. Nor had she heard it.

The final exhale from the grey animal wrenched her gut until she feared her stomach would empty upon the ground.

Mr. Darcy ripped off the colonel’s stocking, exposing his lower leg to the cold air. Her gaze fixed upon his injured limb. Against Bingley’s declaration, there was no bone emerging through the dark hairs curling from the pale skin. The colonel’s calf did not lay straight on the ground. About mid-way up, there was an unnatural bend, evidence the leg was, indeed, broken.

Elizabeth closed her eyes as Mr. Darcy began to unknot his cravat. She knew his intent. He would wrap the leg to offer whatever stability and cushioning could be provided.

“Ye be wantin’ ‘is, sir.” It was the voice of the aged groom.

Raising her eyelids, she saw him hand a straight piece of wood to Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth, grateful the cool temperatures necessitated a shawl inside the sprawling house, removed it from her shoulders and held it in front of her—a gift offering on the altar of compassion.

However, her feet refused to move her closer as her eyes again focused on the injury.

The groom approached her in the same manner as Mr. Darcy had done the wild stallion. Calm. His steps evenly paced. Without a word, he took the fabric from her hands and returned to kneel across from the gentleman.

With her view of the colonel’s leg blocked, Elizabeth came to her senses. “Pardon me, gentlemen.”

She turned to leave when the colonel’s voice stopped her.

“Miss Elizabeth, I thank you for your kindness and aid. Tis what every wounded soldier longs for.” He said through gritted teeth, his breaths coming in gasps.

Glancing first at the officer and then Mr. Darcy, she nodded. Then she returned to Netherfield Park.


Darcy counted the chimes from the clock on the mantle—three. The room was pitch dark except for the lone candle casting shadows over his sleeping cousin’s face. Richard had readily consumed a fair amount of Bingley’s brandy by the time the surgeon had arrived from town. The pain had been far easier to deal with than the news. Not only would the injury end his active military service, it would leave his lower leg bent for the rest of his life. Richard, whose joy had been dancing with the ladies as well as gentlemen’s activities such as boxing and fencing, would have a decided limp. According to Dr. Stevenson, it may also necessitate the permanent use of a walking cane.

Memories of the cousins romping through Pemberley or Matlock woods, running across fields, and racing to see who could climb a tree fastest flitted through Darcy’s mind as he felt Richard’s loss in his own heart. His cousin was an energetic man, always on the move. The doctor had been blunt, which had been his cousin’s request.

Dead silence had been Richard’s response until the doctor walked from the room. Only then had he allowed his devastation to show. When Bingley had stopped by the bed chamber, the colonel’s apology for the loss of a fine animal had been sincere. When it was, again, just the two of them, his elder cousin proceeded to drink himself into an inebriation that would have impressed the man had he not been so overcome.

Chuckling softly to himself, Darcy had to admit that among the sterling qualities his cousin possessed, singing well while drunk was not one of them. However, what he lacked in melody, he made up for with enthusiasm. Darcy was eternally grateful none of the women, including the maids, had witnessed Richard’s lack of skill or overheard the words to his selection of songs.

Richard was a fine man, the finest in all of Darcy’s acquaintance. His refusal of laudanum had not surprised the physician. Many patients who had witnessed the destruction caused when a person became dependent upon the drug would not touch the substance. As an officer in the army, Richard had seen his fair share.

The clock struck the half hour. Straightening in the chair positioned next to the bed, Darcy stretched his arms to the ceiling and yawned. He needed coffee—hot, strong, and black. Shaking the stiffness from his limbs as he stood, he decided that rather than disturbing a servant to provide the beverage, he could do with a walk downstairs and back. A quick glance at his cousin found him to be sleeping just as soundly as he had been the past hours.

In his shirtsleeves with no cravat, he stepped outside the room, confident he would meet none of the other residents. His confidence was severely misplaced.

Her body was warm and surprisingly solid.

Miss Elizabeth’s effort to jump back to avoid him barreling into her was in vain. Instinctively, his arms surrounded her, pulling her close as he stepped to the side to regain his footing and regain his balance.

“Sir!” Her hands automatically grabbed at his waist to keep from falling backward.

It was over in seconds. Yet, his arms tightened rather than relaxed their hold her as a hint of honeysuckle ensnared him in the moment. When she stepped back, his hands fell to his side.

“Pray, accept my apology…” They both began, their voices soft in the hallway.


“You will not accept my apology? I would not have thought it of you, Mr. Darcy.”

He stammered. “No, you…yes, I…” Could a man be more embarrassed? “I gladly accept your apology, but you were not responsible for our collision. The fault is solely mine.”

Tilting her head, she grinned. “I see the situation clearly now. You were waiting behind the door until an unsuspecting person walked by, thereby pouncing to catch them by surprise, is that correct? Tell me, sir, since you and your cousin and my sister and I are the only residents of the guest wing, were you hoping to frighten me into revealing my choice of possible bride, so you would have to wait no longer?”


He adored her smile. He shook off the thought. She would never be accepted by his peers or his family. However, his imagination quickly went from friendship to marriage where she was concerned. Emotions shot through him bringing clarity. He was in serious danger of falling in like with Miss Elizabeth Bennet.

“No, not me.” She huffed. “My choice is Miss Mary King, a lovely young lady with a dowry of ten-thousand to bring to the marriage. She is, much as you are, reserved in company.” Again, Elizabeth tilted her head. This time she rested her finger on her cheek. “No, I should rather compare her to Jane, both in looks and character. Her quiet comportment and sweet temperament would be a lovely addition to any gentleman’s home.”

He could see she was pleased with herself. On one hand, it pleased him as well that she had taken the time to give consideration to his requirements. On the other, how in the world could she recommend someone who was the complete opposite of what he truly needed? He was quiet. Imagine having a wife who rarely spoke. The walls of Pemberley would suffer for the silence. In addition, he did not need to add to his fortune. Also, he despised sweets. Rather, he savored rich, bold flavors, brilliant colors rather than pale hues, and lively conversation rather than the mere exchange of polite inanities. No, Miss King would never do, not when Miss Elizabeth was standing less than two feet in front of him.

He shook his head, leaning closer so she could hear every word. “Although I appreciate your effort, I cannot see how Miss King would be an appropriate bride for me.”

“Why ever not?”

He knew to speak carefully when her hands flew to her hips, her shoulders went back, and her eyes flashed.

“Miss Elizabeth, in canvassing the quality of marriage I would like to achieve as we discussed in the field, I failed to mention one specific area of critical importance.”

“And that might be?”

Her eyebrow arched.

He smiled. “I favor dark hair and dark eyes.”

Her mouth formed into an ‘O’ as her eyes opened wide. Not to be outdone by his shocking claim, she rapidly recovered.

“How dark?”

He craved her impertinence. “I would say about like yours.” It was boldly done, almost a declaration of his intentions. Had he intentions? In the middle of the night after hours of worried vigil, he cared not.

“I see.” Her finger went back up to her cheek. The twinkle came back to her eyes. “Then I believe you may need to leave our corner of Hertfordshire to seek a wife elsewhere.”

“You do, do you?” He stepped closer, thinking Bingley might be on to something with his flirting. Somewhere, somehow, his common sense had left him. “Wait, pray do not answer.” He stepped back. Fitzwilliam Darcy was an honorable man. Sudden disgust at his conduct shamed him.

“You have been the model of kindness to both your sister and my cousin, Miss Elizabeth, and I am repaying you by placing you in a compromising position, something I had vowed to myself and my father I would never do to a lady.” He ran his hand over his mouth and took another step away from her, putting his back against the bedchamber door. “I beg you accept my apology and my promise that I will never dishonor you again.”

“Mr. Darcy, I am not an ignorant miss. I, too, am aware of the danger.” She stepped towards him, her hands gripping each side of her waist. “Nevertheless, might I point out that this meeting was accidental, and that we have, in fact, been standing alone for mere minutes. There has been no improper behavior, at least no more than our meeting on the pathway to Oakham Mount. Neither of our reputations were marred then and I have no doubt this impromptu meeting will be the same. With that said, sir, pray excuse me.”

He understood her ire. Accepting she had the right of it, he clasped and turned the door handle behind him, deciding he no longer had the need for coffee. Unfortunately, at that particular moment, his cousin roused enough to launch into a repeat performance of his earlier entertainment.

“Drink, my boys, and ne’er give o’er,

Drink until you can’t drink no more,

For the Frenchmen are coming for a fresh supply,

And they swear they’ll drink little England dry.

Paddie, widdie, waddle, widdie, bow, wow, wow,

Paddle, widdie, waddie, widdie, bow, wow, wow,

For the Frenchmen are coming with a fresh supply,

And they swear they’ll drink little England dry.”

In his mortification, he never lost his focus on the swaying of her hips as her skirts swished in time with the tavern shanty. Gulping at his sudden loss of composure, he hurried into the room to find Richard sitting up, sipping on the glass of water left on the table next to the bed.

“Who were you talking to, Darce? Was that a feminine voice I heard?” His cousin belched, then wiped his chin despite it being dry. “Perhaps, you were discussing my condition with the lovely Miss Elizabeth? Had she come to check on me? Such a kind woman, Darcy. And, she is beautiful, is she not?”

Darcy pressed his eyelids closed, somehow hoping his cousin was talking in his sleep and would not remember the conversation in the light of the morning.

“Oh, my Lord!” Richard proclaimed to the room. “I will not be leaving for the continent. Do you know what this means?” He finally looked directly at his cousin.

Darcy had no clue what Richard had in mind. In truth, this injury would forever change the soon-to-be former colonel. But, they had discussed this earlier, well after the doctor and Bingley left.

While his cousin had slept, Darcy pondered the ramifications of the accident. He knew his Uncle Hugh had set aside little monies for his second son. While Richard was fairly frugal, he was the son of an earl with a lifestyle that cost money to maintain. His prospects outside the military were not good.

Contemplating how he could help his cousin without offending Richard’s pride, Darcy reviewed his assets for a property easy to manage that could sustain his cousin for his lifetime. Briarwood, a small estate near Pemberley, earned two-thousand a year. The buildings were well-kempt and the ground fertile.

“I will gladly gift you Briarwood for your lifetime,” he offered.

“Do not be daft, my man.” Richard took another sip, the look on his face was entirely too smug. “Since I will be remaining in England, I can join in your pursuit of a bride.”

“You want to help me find a wife?” The idea was good. He trusted his cousin’s judgment more than any other man.

“Not at all.” Again, Richard drank from the glass. “My good man, should I marry instead, you can go back to standing in corners avoiding the active pursuit of maidens and their mothers.”

He was correct. The codicil stated that one or the other of them needed to be wed. Richard finding a bride would satisfy the terms. The lives of Fitzwilliam and Georgiana Darcy would be relatively unchanged if his cousin succeeded.

“Do you have someone in mind? One of Bingley’s discarded ‘angels’ we discussed while we were at Darcy house?”

The smirk on Richard’s face was the first clue that Darcy was not going to like what would next come from his cousin’s mouth.

“Oh, yes, I do have someone in mind. Someone who lights up a room by her mere presence. Someone witty, passionate about those she cares for, and compassionate for all others.”

Darcy gulped again. No, it could not be.

“I will offer for Miss Elizabeth as soon as I am able. We will marry as soon as I can stand at the altar.”

“The doctor said the soonest you could hope for would be three months. We have eighty-eight days.” Relief flooded him from head to toe. Miss Elizabeth Bennet would not become Mrs. Richard Fitzwilliam.

“I can see your relief, Cousin.” Richard set the empty glass on the table. “No, you will not need to rush into matrimony. By my taking on a capable wife, my future will be settled. As far as walking to the chapel, I can apply for a special license for the ceremony to be held here, if Bingley would allow. Thus, I could be a married man within a week.”

His head was spinning. Things were moving too fast. Richard and Elizabeth? No!

“But, you do not know her.” Darcy urged his cousin to sense, while at the same time protecting his own interests. “You have had too much drink to make a decision you will have to live with for a lifetime.”

“Ah, I see what you are about.” Richard wagged his finger at him. “You disapprove because she is not of the first circles nor, I would guess, is she the daughter of a wealthy landowner who could cushion Pemberley’s coffers. Well, pray be reassured that I have no care for the opinions of others. As far as wealth is concerned, I have saved almost everything I have earned by discretely benefitting from the hospitality of both Matlock House and yours, Darcy. My mother set aside part of what she brought to their marriage for me should I ever leave the army. I am convinced she would gratefully release those funds. I can, then, set myself up as a gentleman landowner. Who better to bring to my home as a bride than a young lady raised on a country estate similar to her future husband’s?” Richard barely took in a breath before he continued. “Cannot you see that she would be perfect as a wife?”

Darcy hated disappointing his cousin. He answered honestly. “I cannot approve of Miss Elizabeth as a wife for you, Richard.” He held up his hand when his cousin started to object. “She is an excellent woman. I understand fully why you have chosen her. Nonetheless, you should know that I have chosen her as well.”

Not a sound was heard. Not a breath. Not a whisper. Darcy waited.

His cousin’s reply was not unexpected. “We shall allow Miss Elizabeth to choose.”

Bile shot up from his gut. If only he had not barged into her in the hallway. If only he had kept himself under good regulation. Then, she would view as an exemplary gentleman. Reviewing their short history, Darcy was aware he had a lot to repair in her opinion of his character. He vowed to himself, then and there, that he would begin immediately.

Walking to his cousin, his hand outstretched, the men shook on their gentleman’s agreement. Richard’s parting shot as he walked out of the room was, “may she choose me.”

Not while I can still draw a breath!

The door closed a bit more forcefully than he had intended. This was war. The battle was on.

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