Friday, July 25, 2014

A Bedlam Escapee - Complete, NB, PG

Did you notice that I set up a guest book? I tend to lose the comment pages in the blog so hopefully from now on, I can find your comments easier. Your encouragement is most welcomed. Here is part 2 of the NB, unbeta'd.

Part 2

“Finally you are awake!”

Elizabeth stared at the handsome young girl sitting by her bed for a moment. She then scanned the room. “Good morning, Miss Darcy. Did I sleep for very long?”

“It is almost time for lunch. So you still remember me?”

Elizabeth sat up on the bed. “Yes, I do. I hope you do not find me fit for bedlam.” She sighed.

Miss Darcy’s face turned a shade of pink.

“Ah, your brother or the good doctor did consider I could be a candidate for such an establishment?”

“Oh no, Miss Bennam, you should not be over concern about what they think. I shall not let them send you away!”

Elizabeth viewed the determined tilt of the young girl’s chin with interest. “Why is that so? Not that I am not grateful. For I do not think I shall behave as generously as you do if I am presented with such wild story as my own.”

“May I call you Elizabeth?”

“Certainly.”

“You can call me Georgie, short for Georgiana. And may I sit on the bed? It is so much more comfortable than the chair.”

“Come, Georgie.”

Elizabeth moved slightly to the right. Georgiana climbed onto the bed and sat by her side, not giving a care to the pretty day dress she was wearing.

“Brother had a fall from the horse about three months ago, right after he took me out of the school. It really gave me a fright!”

“I am sorry to hear about it. Has he much recovered?”

“I thought he would die like mother and father, and left me all alone in the world.”

“Oh! Georgie!” Elizabeth took Georgiana’s hand and gave it a squeeze. “I am really sad that you lost your parents at such a young age. Did you miss them often?”

Georgiana nodded. “It is funny that you are the first one to ask me about this.”

“Is that so?”

“I do not have a lot of friends.”

“But you said you were in school. Did you not make any friends there?”

Georgiana shook her head. “Most of them are not very nice. They either envy or despise the Darcy names.”

“That is a sad burden.”

“It is true. Even the lady,” Georgiana hesitated. “A Miss O, for I shall not reveal her identity. You may meet her in future. This lady, whom I have been urging my brother to take on as his wife, also only wants our wealth.”

“If that is the case, why do you encourage your brother to consider the match?”

“I was really really shaken. For nearly two weeks, Doctor Dickson was not hopeful, my cousin Richard and Uncle and Aunt Matlock thought brother was in his death bed. And then after brother became better, he did not take the doctor’s instruction to stay in bed well. He still had dizziness and headache from time to time. He would limp suddenly because of the pain in his back. And he would not allow me to take care of him. Said he is a grown man. Miss...O has visited me very often during brother’s illness. She said men would take more kindly to a wife taking care of them, instead of a younger sister. I do not want brother to die, so I try to promote the match. Brother got very angry with me.”

“Poor Georgie! You have been through quite a lot. Who is taking care of you?”

“It is kind of you to say so but I am a grown woman now. I do not need taken care of. And now that you are here, I can see how silly I have been to promote the match between Miss...O and brother.”

“I am confused. What did my presence have to do with that?”

“Brother said Miss O only cares about our wealth and not about him as a person. He said he will not discourage her friendship with me as her brother is his best friend. But he wants me to be on guard about her fake regards. I catch glimpse of Miss O being mean to our servants. And I have caught the impatient countenance behind the mask when she talks to me, like she is truly pretending to be my best friend. I am not a simpleton. But what am I to do? I do not want brother to neglect his health and die on me. Now that I saw brother brought you back yesterday, I can see the genuine concern he had over you, the remorse he felt in injuring you and the sadness he displayed when you could not remember where you came from…”

“Please Georgie, I do not think you should be thinking in this direction.”

“No, Elizabeth, I am not trying to match make you with brother. I can see you are not feeling well either; or you may not recover from your memory loss and find your family. What I am saying is, brother deserves so much better than Miss O. He is the best brother any girl can want. When father died five years ago, I was only eleven years of age. My two aunts wanted me to live with them, so brother could be free to live his gentleman life, carefree. But he refused. He said father made him and Richard, my guardian, father would not have wanted him to send me away. Brother felt this sadness and concerns all the time. I could see that in his eyes those days. But he would always try to cheer me up and play with me, even though heaps of servants asked him for directions and instructions in Pemberley and here. He shouldered all the responsibility, stayed with me most of the time, when he could have gone away to enjoy his single and unattached life in London. Even when I went to school, he visited me often, said he missed me and wanted to make sure I felt happy in school.”

“Mr. Darcy does sound like a wonderful brother.”

Georgiana nodded. “That is why I am thankful for your timely appearance, to make me see senses. For I would have bored brother into giving in. Then I shall be burden with a horrible sister in Miss O.”

“Surely you jest! Miss O cannot be that bad.”

Georgiana shuddered in exaggeration. “Brother taught me not to gossip and talk ill of others. So I shall not go into this. How about you tell me more about yourself so I can help you start the search for your family?”

Elizabeth thus told Georgiana what she could remember about herself. She had good memory of her childhood, frolicking in the wood and groves with friends. Besides Jane, she had two younger sisters, Mary and Catherine. Her father was called Thomas and she adored her uncle and aunt.  When it came to her mother, her mind turned blank. The two new friends could not take the search far though as Elizabeth could not remember any names of places.

Despite Elizabeth's worries of not remembering more, she forged a steady friendship with Georgiana. Elizabeth was well read, intelligent and witty while the younger girl was a keen learner. As Elizabeth's stay in Darcy House stretched from days to weeks, the townhouse was filled with smile, laughter, music and good conversation.

Darcy behaved awkwardly in front of Elizabeth at first. After apologising to her for aggravating her injury, he usually stayed quiet and observed the guest's interaction with his sister. He originally did not find Elizabeth very pretty. But soon, he found her  teasing smile and ease with Georgiana captivating. One moment, he decided that her form lacked elegance, nothing as compared to those of the handsome ladies in London. Another moment, he would find himself staring at her light and pleasing figure. He particularly found her distracting when she sang. His mind often wandered off as his eyes glued to her rosy cheeks, lovely lips and delightful bosom. He felt the full force of the emotion she displayed through her face and body.

This evening was no exception.

After Elizabeth completed the rendition of an Italian love song, Georgiana asked him a question. But his mind was still inhabited in the Italian paradise with Elizabeth and failed to answer his sister.

“Should I summon Doctor Dickson?” Georgiana's cries startled Darcy.

“Is Miss Bennam ill? Miss Bennam, would you like a glass of wine or water?”

“I am very well, thank you.”

“Brother, the doctor is for you!”

“Why? I feel fine. I have no headache for some weeks now.”

“But you did not hear me.”

“Perhaps the fall from the horse has a delayed reaction on your brother, Georgiana. His hearing is affected.” Elizabeth's lips curled up teasingly, making Darcy's heart raced.

“I can hear very clearly I have been teased.”

“Hmm, Mr. Darcy's smile is very strange. Georgiana, you must record all these peculiar reaction and report to Doctor Dickson.”

“If I cannot ponder and smile at my leisure in my own home on a Sunday evening, Miss Bennam, what do you suggest me to do?”

“I remember,” Elizabeth smiled. But she stopped suddenly. She panted and raised her fingers to rub her forehead. “I...remember...”

On hearing the shortness of her breath, Darcy forgot about proprietary, rushed to her side and held her hand. “Miss Bennam. You look very ill. Should I call for Doctor Dickson immediately?”

Georgiana dashed to sit by Elizabeth's other side too. “Do you remember something?”

“Georgiana, let us not rush her. She looks quite pale.”

“I am...fine, Mr. Darcy.” Elizabeth drew in a deep breath. “I just...remember that I knew about you from Mr. Bingley.”

“Bingley? Are you a friend of him?”

Elizabeth frowned for a moment. “I do not know.”

Darcy brushed his thumb along Elizabeth's palm. Georgiana tried to suppress her smile. She could see that her brother had grown very attracted to Elizabeth lately. He stared at Elizabeth a lot and listened to her witty conversation.  Recently, he no long sat quietly to observe but enjoyed bantering with Elizabeth. Since Elizabeth was clearly a gentleman's daughter, Georgiana was certain that once Elizabeth regained her memory and that there was not a betroth at home, her brother would not hesitate to propose, fortune or no fortune. She was ecstatic that her brother held Elizabeth's hand and that Elizabeth seemed to welcome his touch as well.

“Bingley is my best friend. Pray tell me what you remember about him.” He urged softly, still not relinquish Elizabeth's hand.

“He was teasing his sister, who has been waxing eloquence about your delightful Pemberley and library,” Elizabeth said, her face turned pink. “Mr. Bingley said that you are an... awful object at your own house, on a...Sunday evening, when you have nothing to do.”

Darcy laughed out loud. “I must thank Bingley tomorrow, for sending you my way.”

“Tomorrow?” Georgiana asked. “Are you going to visit Mr. Bingley at Netherfield to ask about Elizabeth?”

“Netherfield?” Elizabeth gasped. She stood up abruptly and then swayed. Luckily Darcy was by her side. He prevented her fall, scooped her up and took her to the bedchamber immediately.

Elizabeth prevented Darcy from calling for the doctor, once she regained some colour on her bed.

“I am really...fine, Mr. Darcy. I just have a slight headache. But I remember... everything now.” Her voice trembled.

Darcy gazed at her and bid her to continue with his eyes. Georgiana observed her brother. He forgot all about proprietary and did not think of leaving Elizabeth's chamber for a moment. Though he did not take Elizabeth's hand this time, now that she was lying on the bed. He sat on a chair, entirely closer to the bed than necessary.

Georgiana went to sit down by Elizabeth's side on the bed. “Do you want to tell brother and I now? Or do you want to rest and tell us tomorrow?”

“Mr. Darcy and you have been so good to me during the time I lost my memory. I should tell you immediately.”

“But if you are unwell...” Darcy murmured.

“I am Elizabeth Bennet of Longbourn, Hertfordshire. I was on my way to Meryton, via Mount Oakham when I injured myself.”

“Hertfordshire, but that is where Netherfield is. Mr. Bingley leased the estate there.” Georgiana exclaimed.

“Yes, my father's estate is about three miles from his. Jane, my sister visited Miss Bingley and fell ill. I visited Jane then and the Bingleys invited me to stay on to take care of Jane. That was when I heard the Bingleys talking about you, Mr. Darcy and your estate Pemberley.”

Darcy nodded. She did not look like a fortune hunter, who remembered his great estate in time of her memory lost, just to ensnare him. But he had an uneasy feeling, from the guarded way Elizabeth was relating the story, he felt something was wrong with the Bingleys.

“You mentioned you were angry with your father...”

Elizabeth bit her lips. “Yes, our estate is entailed away to our cousin, Mr. Collins. A very foolish and self important man, I must say. He is the parson of Lady Catherine de Bourgh...”

“But she is our aunt, what a coincidence!” Georgiana cried out.

“Ah, I have the misfortune of meeting this Mr. Collins,” Darcy shook his head. “Your description of him is most accurate, Miss Bennet.  You are unhappy about your father...”

“For not protecting Jane.”

“What happened?”

“The second day I stayed in Netherfield, my mother came to visit us with Mr. Collins who was visiting Longbourn. It would appear Mr. Bingley favours my sister. My mother who has five daughters to marry...”

“But you only have three sisters,” Georgiana interrupted.

“I forgot my youngest sister Lydia, during my memory loss.” Elizabeth blushed. “Lydia is not my favourite sister. She usually behaves in a silly manner and does not listen to Jane and my censure.”

“Pray continue, Miss Bennet.” Darcy said.

“My mother was giddy about the prospect of Mr. Bingley and Jane's engagement. She is not a sensible woman,” Elizabeth lowered her eyes in embarrassment. “she boasted as much when we were left alone with Mr. Bingley's sisters. Not only that, she said Mr. Collins will offer an olive branch and soon ask me for a hand in marriage.” She sighed.

Darcy and Georgiana gasped out loud.

“I could see the anger in Miss Bingley's eyes.”

“She did not approve of your sister Jane?” Georgiana asked.

Elizabeth shook her head. “We have neither fortune nor connection. Although Jane is the sweetest, kindest and prettiest of all, she does not win Miss Bingley's approval.”

“But surely if Mr. Bingley loves your sister...” Georgiana's voice trailed off, on seeing her brother's frown.

“I did not foresee Miss Bingley's determination in preventing the match,” Elizabeth said, her voice trembled again. “On the last day before we were due to leave Netherfield, Miss Bingley invited our mother, sisters and our cousin back to Netherfield for breakfast. She said to celebrate Jane's recovery and for the party to fetch us back to Longbourn afterwards.”

“What happened?” Georgiana urged keenly.

“Miss Bingley must have written the invitation for a much earlier time. She must have separated Mr. Collins from my sisters and mother, doused his clothes wet or something and steered him into a room to change.  It was where Jane stayed, and she was still abed.”

“Oh my goodness!” Georgiana exclaimed while Darcy kept silent and his face was grim.

“Mr. Collins was in a state of undress while Jane was still in bed in her night dress. Amid Jane's scream, Miss Bingley, her brother, my mother and sisters, the servants and I appeared in the room, Jane's fate was sealed.”

“But your mother favours Mr. Bingley as her son-in-law!” Georgiana said.

Darcy shook his head. “Too many people have seen the impropriety.”

“Yes, and father could do nothing but sanction the marriage.”

“What did Miss Bennet say?”

“Jane is resigned to her fate. She does not find Mr. Collins as unbearable as I do. I am just so angry for the injustice. Jane and I always want to marry for love. We often joke that we do not mind a penniless soldier, an impoverished pastor or a struggling artist.  We will work hard if we can find love in our marriage.  Why does the kindest and sweetest person in the world have to suffer in marriage, all because of the arrogance of a woman?  Are we to be treated lesser persons just because we do not have fortune or connection? Do our character and nature not count? Even if Miss Bingley has to protect her brother, she does not have to sacrifice Jane's future to do that.” Elizabeth cried out and broke down in tears.

Darcy clenched his fist. He thought about if Elizabeth was being compromised, he would be furious for her fate. And all of Miss Bingley's doing. She was the worse fortune hunter in the whole of England. How could she so conveniently forget about her family fortune coming from trade and used such dirty tactics to ruin the life of a kind gentlewoman. What could be done? He wondered why Bingley still stayed in Netherfield. If Darcy was in love and his love was to marry another man, he would hide away to the other side of the world, nursing a broken heart. From Miss Bennet's horrible fate, Darcy's thoughts turned to Elizabeth. Seeing her tears and wretched feelings, he vowed to protect his Elizabeth and all those she loved! Suddenly he remembered something. He stood up abruptly and paced around the room, gathering his thoughts.

“Miss Bennet,” Darcy said. “Perhaps we can help to extract your sister from such a cruel fate and reunite her with my friend.”

“How?” Elizabeth raised her tear-stricken face and looked at Darcy eagerly. Darcy felt an enormous urge to embrace her and promise her everything. He would be her protector and partner for the rest of his life. He vowed that once the situation was resolved with her sister, he would ask her to marry him. Elizabeth continued: “I remember the wedding is set for 26th November. It is only one week away.”

“I remember a letter from Bingley. He said a neighbour of his is sick, since her sister's disappearance. And that her betrothal seems to be delaying his return from Kent due to this disappearance. I felt strange that Bingley is so eager to talk about this neighbour at that time. I think that is why Bingley stays in Hertfordshire. He still holds out hope, as long as your sister is not yet married.”

“Mr. Bingley really cares about Jane?”

“I believe so.”

“About your plan to resolve Jane's situation...”

“What I am about to disclose may not be right for the sensibility of you, Georgiana...”

“Brother! I am not a girl any more, especially since your fall. I have grown up a lot. I shall not leave the room now, when Elizabeth is in distress.”

Darcy thought for a second and nodded. He then turned to Elizabeth. “I must apologies first for causing the difficult situation your sister is facing.”

“That is not possible. You have never set foot in Hertfordshire and you do not even know Jane.”

“You see...I urged Bingley to go away to Netherfield and tried to keep his sister there because I found Miss Bingley paying too much attention to Georgiana and myself after my fall.”

Elizabeth gasped.

“In one of his letters, Bingley inadvertently disclosed that he used an incident happened in Ramsgate to 'threaten' his sister, to get her go to Netherfield with him and stay there.”

“What happened to Miss Bingley in Ramsgate?” Georgiana asked eagerly.

“When Miss Bingley was sixteen, she was taken out from school and stayed with an older friend in Ramsgate one summer. She seemed to have fallen in love with a most unsuitable man. Luckily her mother happened to arrive early and nipped the romance.”

Elizabeth and Georgiana looked at Darcy with wide eyes.

“But if the romance was stopped, how could Mr. Bingley used it to 'threaten' Miss Bingley?”

“That was exactly what I thought. And during my idle time in recovery from my fall, and it was a...Sunday evening,” Darcy's face turned pink. “I had nothing to do, I sent someone to check on the fact in Kent the next day.”

Both ladies stared at Darcy with disbelief. “Would it not be easier just to ask Mr. Bingley?” Georgiana said.

“I do not wish to force Charles to disclose anything he does not wish to but I am just too curious...or too bored.”

“What did you uncover?” Elizabeth probed.

“Miss Bingley was about to elope with the man when her mother arrived, according to one of servants in Ramsgate.”

Elizabeth and Georgiana were lost for words for a moment.

“But how can this help Jane?” Elizabeth said. “We cannot revert Jane's compromise by 'threatening' Miss Bingley about her indiscretion during her youth.”

Darcy stated: “I am now quite convinced that the person Miss Bingley wanted to elope with all these years ago was Mr. Collins.”

“What?!” Elizabeth and Georgian exclaimed.

“My man reported that Miss Bingley was seen with a theology student quite often. They met in church.”

“But what made you think he was Mr. Collins?” Elizabeth shook her head. “I cannot believe it.”

“I met Mr. Collins just this Easter. He was newly appointed by my aunt. Lady Catherine told me about his background, growing up in Exmouth, studying in Canterbury, spent several years before to further his study in Ireland. His overseas trip was all thanks to some inheritance he had received from another uncle in Ramsgate.”

“But there is no other relative in our family, and none hail from Ramsgate.” Elizabeth murmured. “Unless Mr. Collins referred to his maternal side.”

“At the time, I thought it was quite convenient for Mr. Collins to have an uncle who gave him an inheritance to advance in church and another uncle to leave him an estate. But when you talked about the entail, marrying for love, even to an impoverished pastor and how Miss Bingley got angry when your mother talked about Mr. Collins would offer for you. I joined the dot together.”

“You think...Miss Bingley was angry about this, not about her brother and Jane? But if she still has feelings for Mr. Collins, what does she hope to achieve by compromising him with Jane?”

 “I think the 'inheritance' Mr. Collins received was from Miss Bingley's mother.”

“He was paid off to leave young Miss Bingley?”

“I believe so.”

“Miss Bingley was angry with Mr. Collins, for accepting the money and leaving her? But why did she stage the compromise of Jane?”

“I believe Miss Bingley separated Mr. Collins from the Longbourn party...for her own sake.”

“You mean...Miss Bingley and Mr. Collins...that was why he was most improperly...attired...”

Darcy nodded. “He could have wandered off to the wrong room...”

“It is impossible,” Elizabeth murmured. “Too much coincidence. Too fanciful. But if that is the case, what can Jane do now?”

“I have influence in the Church. I can force him to resign and leave, for his indiscreet affairs with Miss Bingley. Then Bingley must save Miss Bennet's reputation by marrying her quickly. There may still be talk but after some time, people will forget about the incident that morning in Netherfield. But when Bingley move to Derbyshire to be near us...me, I meant. He always talks about buying an estate in Derbyshire, the talk will be forgotten.”

Elizabeth and Darcy's face turned scarlet. They gazed at each other with a passionate silent emotion.

Georgiana was glad of their mutual attachment but she was an impatient young woman. “Brother, quick! We need to confirm about Mr. Collins and Miss Bingley.”

“True! I will summon my man. He told me the maid from Ramsgate who had talked to him has recently moved to London to find work.”

Soon after questioning the maid, Darcy bound for Kent while he sent Georgiana to accompany Elizabeth back to Hertfordshire.

Before they parted company, Darcy pulled Elizabeth aside in the front parlour. “Miss Bennet, although we have known each other for a very short time and under uncertain circumstances, I have come to admire and love you very much. You are witty, handsome and caring. The best woman I have ever known. Would you do me the greatest honour and consent to be my wife?”

“Are you sure this is what you want, Mr. Darcy?” Elizabeth's bright eyes pierced his soul. “I have no fortune and connection. My mother and younger sisters are quite silly. I have a uncle in trade and I am very impertinent.”

“I care none of those, except for your heart.” He said tenderly.

“My heart...has been stolen by a tall handsome gentleman.” She replied softly. “who knocked me down in a park and thought I was an escapee from bedlam.”

Darcy grasped her hand and raised it up for a kiss. “Impertinent woman! Is that the only answer I shall get, by requesting your hand so seriously and respectfully?”

She smiled and stood on tiptoes to whisper to his ear. “I love you very much, dearest and wonderful Fitzwilliam. It is a definite yes.” With that last word, she bit his earlobe gently and turned to dash out of the door.

Darcy stood there with heart bumping, body flushed with heat and breath shortened. He spent the journey to Kent and most of the months until his marriage to Elizabeth daydreaming about her bites.

What happened to the other couples?

From Darcy's investigation and confrontation in Kent, he discovered that Mr. Collins had in fact eloped with Miss Bingley to Scotland before her mother could interfere. Mrs. Bingley paid him to disappear from England for ever. But Collins returned this year. He was bidding his time, wanting to claim back Miss Bingley, who was still legally married to him. Mr. Collins never talked of an olive branch, of marrying one of the Bennet sisters. That was only Mrs. Bennet's imagination. Mrs. Bennet's talk led to Miss Bingley's anger. Miss Bingley sent for Mr. Collins early that fateful morning to discuss. But Mr. Collins hoped for a warm reunion with his wife but he had wandered off to the wrong guest chamber in Netherfield.

Jane and Bingley married quickly after Collins resigned from the church and left with Miss Bingley to Ireland. Mrs. Collins's marriage was not a happy one. She soon got tired of Ireland's savage community. They returned to London after a few months and lived far beyond their means. While Mr. Bennet remained healthy, the fortune of the Collins dwindled rapidly. The Collins constantly argued about money.  One day they bashed each other's head so badly that both of them had to be committed to bedlam.

It was sad for Bingley to see his sister with such a fate. But his loving wife helped him through the ordeal. The Bingleys moved to Derbyshire and lived within 10 miles of Pemberley. They lived happily afterwards.

And Darcy was not disappointed by Elizabeth's bites. She loved to bestow them all over his body, especially on Sunday evening when they had nothing better to do.

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Bedlam Escapee - NB, PG

Dear readers, my Muse has deserted me. There is no update for Darcy's Chilling Proposal yet. But I try to get back into writing by posting this short NB which I haven't posted here before. It's unbeta'd. Happy reading! Part 2 will be up tomorrow. If you have been to Austen Underground, you would have read it.

A Bedlam Escapee - Part 1

Mr. Darcy marched out of Darcy House towards Hyde Park direction in quick strides, ignoring the following footman sent by Georgiana. He was frustrated by his sister’s ridiculous suggestion, begging him to marry Caroline Bingley so the fawning woman could take care of his failing health. As if he needed taken care of! He was no invalid. He only bumped his head when he fell from the horse three months ago.

A few moments after he walked into a quiet corner of Hyde Park, a young woman approached him. The setting sun glowed on her dark hair and painted her cheeks into lovely rosy complexion.

“Excuse me, Sir. Can you point me to the direction of…Mr. Darcy’s residence? The coachman assured me it is quite near here.”

Surprised, Darcy stared at the woman he did not know. “Why?” The word came out harsher than he would have liked. The woman winched and took a step back.

“I need to…see Mr. Darcy.” She murmured in low voice.

“Why?” With a deep scowl, Darcy repeated the question, this time in more controlled manner.

“I have a matter that cannot be…delayed to discuss with Mr. Darcy.” Her face turned red and a cloud of uncertainty filled her fine eyes. “It seems you do not know the way. Sorry for interrupting your walk.” She curtseyed and turned to leave.

“Are you an acquaintance of Mr. Darcy?”

She stopped. “I cannot…divulge that.”

Darcy drew in a deep breath, to suppress his anger. “What is your name?”

She bit her lips.

“Surely you do not expect me to direct you to the residence of an honorable man without asking more detail.”

“Oh, so you know Mr. Darcy!”

He nodded.

“And he is an honorable man?”

Darcy stared at the woman. “What is your name?”

“Miss Elizabeth…Ben..hmm,” The woman raised her hand to rub her temple.

“Miss Bennam, I do not know what you are getting at but I do not know you.”

Her mouth gaped for a second, as if to protest, but then thought of something else. Her eyes rounded as she said, “You are Mr. Darcy?”

Darcy turned to leave but she grabbed his arm. He shivered, a sense of shrilling sensation cruised through his body, jotted by her touch. But he turned a cold stare at her.

She withdrew her hand immediately. “Please, sir, I can explain.”

He wanted to walk away but something in her eyes made him stop.

“I suffered a fall during a walk,” she swallowed. “and cannot remember where I live, except your name, Pemberley and your…delightful library.”

Anger brew in Darcy’s chest. How could this young woman who looked innocent and fetching, invented such a silly scheme to try to make his acquaintance! Perhaps she was an escapee from the bedlam. He turned to walk away again but the woman grasped his arm. With some strength not too gentle, he struggled to free his arms of her hand and pushed her away. She winched as the back of her head hit the tree nearby. She swayed. Her knee buckled and she slid down the ground, like a lump by the tree.

Darcy swore and was sure she pretended to swoon. But after two steps away from the woman, he glanced back and she was still lying there motionless, leaning on the tree. He darted to her side. “Miss Bennam!”

Her eyes remained closed and did not flutter. He touched her shoulders and shook her lightly but she lay limp. With more force, he jolted her again. Her head lolled forward.

Darcy gasped on seeing blood sipping from the back of her head. Drawing in a deep breath, he took off his greatcoat, wrapped it around her and picked her up.

“Send for the doctor!” He called out to the footman who were a few steps away and carried the young woman to Darcy House quickly.

Darcy took a breath of relief when he put the woman down in one of his guest chambers. He called for warm water and some clothes to clean up the wound on the lady’s head, while he waited for the doctor to arrive.

“Brother, are you hurt?” Georgiana rushed into the room with worrying words. “I heard the doctor is being sent for.”

“No, Miss Bennam hurt her head in the park.”

“Miss Bennam?”

He shook his head, signaling for Georgiana to hold off her questions until he tended to the patient. Once he had done so and instructed the maid to watch over Elizabeth, he took his sister to a private room.

“What is the matter, Fitzwilliam? And who is this Miss Bennam?”

Darcy brushed his hand over his hair and shrugged his shoulders. “I do not know.”

“What do you mean?”

“I met the lady in Hyde Park. She asked me direction to here.”

“Here? Did you know her?”

“No.”

“Why does she want to come to Darcy House?”

“She said she wanted to see me.”

Georgiana scowled. “But you do not know her. How did she come to be injured?”

Darcy felt heat on his face. “I pushed her away and she hit her head on the tree.”

She gasped. “Brother! What did she do, to make you do so?”

He shifted his weight from one foot to next. “She said she had suffered a fall during a walk and cannot remember where she lives, except my name, Pemberley and my library.”

“That is absurd!”

“My thoughts indeed.”

“But why did you push her away?”

“She grabbed my arm, twice,” Darcy said. “I was afraid she wanted to compromise me, in the park.”

“But you are a grown man, almost a head taller than she!”

The heat on his face turned up a notch. He should not have let his sister’s over protective behaviour and the ridiculous suggestion about Miss Bingley got the better of him. He over-reacted when Miss Bennam had grabbed his arm. He had no words to retort.

“What are we going to tell the doctor?” Georgiana’s words startled him.

“The truth. Or Doctor Dickson cannot give Miss Bennam the right treatment.”

Georgiana nodded. The sibling returned to the guest room and dismissed the maid when the doctor arrived.

“What can you tell me about the patient?” The doctor glanced from the brother to sister with interest. He was the Darcy’s family doctor since they were babies. He had never seen them so uncomfortable in his presence.

After Darcy explained the circumstances, in more detail, the doctor understood why they attended to the patient themselves. “Miss Bennam has not woken up since she knocked her head on the tree?”

Darcy shook his head.

The doctor examined Elizabeth. “She needs some stitches. There was a long gush here.”

Darcy turned pale and remorseful.

The doctor added, “It is unlikely that your push has caused it, as I can see a more recent lump above it. The gush probably gapes open when she hit the tree.”

“It is still my fault. I am sorry.” Darcy said in a low voice, to no one in particular, while Georgiana stood by the bed to assist the doctor.

Once the stitching and the bandage were done, the doctor tried to wake Elizabeth with some smelling salt.  After a few attempts, she stuttered and coughed. Georgiana sat on the bed and held her, preventing her to move violently to hurt herself.

When Elizabeth finally opened her eyes, the doctor said, “I am Doctor Dickson. How are you feeling, Miss?”

Elizabeth winched. “It hurts.” Darcy stared at her fine eyes. They were in dark green, resembling the lush foliage of a mystery forest. They were expressive, conveying her pain right to Darcy’s heart. His remorse increased, without even needing her to prove her sanity.

“That is understandable,” the elderly doctor said softly. “your head suffers two traumas.”

“Two?” she looked from the doctor, the other persons in the room to the interior of the chamber. “Where am I?”

“Darcy House.”

“Oh, I finally found it!”

“Why are you in search of Darcy House?” Doctor Dickson said.

Elizabeth darted her eyes to Georgiana, then to Darcy by the door. “I cannot divulge…” She stopped mid sentence and sighed. “In fact I do not know.”

“Tell me what you know.” The doctor said kindly.

Her eyes turned back to Darcy again. He was not sure if the depth of her eyes spoke of confusion, fear or anger? “Forget about Mr. Darcy, and his sister.” The doctor said.

“Oh, he is Mr. Darcy?” Elizabeth exclaimed. Darcy could see her eyes sparkled, with excitement. But then they dimmed almost immediately.

The doctor nodded. “Just tell me what you remember.”

She licked her lip and said in a pleasant soft voice. Her eyes darted towards the windows. “I remember…running up the hill…to Mount Oak..hmm. Then I tripped on some rocks and rolled down a slope. When I woke up, I could not remember where I live or where I came from. I walked aimlessly for a while, and walked again. I met a farmer and he asked me if I was injured. I did not feel any pain on my body except a headache. He kindly agreed to take me to the nearest town and dropped me by an inn. It was a coaching inn. I still could not remember where I live, except about a Mr. Darcy, Pemberley and his…delightful library. The inn keeper asked me if I wanted to stay the night. I have my reticule with me but I am afraid I may not have enough money to last long. When a coach pulled in for a change of horses, I bought a ticket to London. I thought…with Mr. Darcy always buying books…his Pemberley must be a large house…in London.”

Darcy stared at the woman with wide eyes. Was she really from bedlam? Or was her story real? She could make a decision about not staying in an inn, bought a coach ticket to London instead and yet she could not remember where she came from. And she thought Pemberley was in London. Where did she hear about his estate?

“What did you do when you arrive in London?” The doctor continued to probe.

“I enquire at the coaching station, about how much it cost to hire a hackney to Mr. Darcy’s residence. I was relieved that there was really a Mr. Darcy in London, for I do not wish to stay a night alone in London. The cost seems expensive, thus I asked for the direction and walk. And then I met…,” she looked to Darcy with a frown. “…Mr. Darcy, after I walked the park for some time.”

Did she not see the danger she put herself in? Coming to London without knowing her destination? Walking across the park near sunset when it was quiet and getting dark?

“Can you remember what happened after you met Mr. Darcy?” The doctor continued. Darcy raised his hand to pull at the ever tightening neck cloth.

Elizabeth nodded and repeated the incident to the doctor, but saying Mr. Darcy knocking her aside accidentally. Darcy did not know if he should thank her for being kind in protecting his boorish behaviour in front of the doctor and his sister.

“Would you give me permission to check on your reticule?” The doctor asked.

She nodded. “You want to see if there is any clue about who I am? I have done that already but there is only one note from Jane and a handkerchief with the initial EB, besides the money.”

“Who is Jane?”

Elizabeth’s frown deepened for a moment. “My sister. Yes, Jane is my sister. She is very sweet and kind, like an angel.”

“May I?” The doctor read the letter and then asked for permission to read it out to the Darcys. She nodded.

"MY DEAREST LIZZY,--

"I find myself very unwell this morning, which, I suppose, is to be imputed to my getting wet through yesterday.  My kind friends will not hear of my returning till I am better.  They insist also on my seeing Mr. Jones--therefore do not be alarmed if you should hear of his having been to me--and, excepting a sore throat and headache, there is not much the matter with me.--Yours, etc."

“Do you know who her kind friends are?” Darcy asked.

Elizabeth thought for a few moments and shook her head.

Georgiana also jumped in. “Were you visiting Miss Jane? When you ran up Mount Oaknam?”

Elizabeth scowled for a few moments. “No, Jane is back at home. I am sure. She is going to marry, soon. I think I was angry, when I ran to Mount Oak…hmm.”

“Who is Miss Jane going to marry to?” Georgiana continued.

Another minute past. Elizabeth shook her head. “I cannot remember.”

Darcy added, “Who were you angry with?”

“Hmm…Mr…Collins…no, Papa. I was angry with Papa and Miss...I cannot remember.”

“Why are you angry with your father? Who are the other person you are angry with?” Doctor Dickson joined in.

She shook her head, winced, shut her eyes and bit her lip.

“You are in pain. We shall leave the questions until later,” the doctor stated. “Here is some sleeping draught to help you with it.”

Elizabeth opened her eyes and swallowed the medicine from the doctor willingly. Darcy stared at her fine eyes, filled with frustration and confusion.

When the patient drifted off to sleep, the three retreated to Darcy’s study.

“What do you think, Doctor?” Darcy asked.

“She suffered a concussion. The memory loss may be short term.”

“You believe she will recover to remember where she comes from?”

“There is a high likelihood, as she remembers her sister, father and this Mr. Collins already. Did you know any of them, Darcy?”

“Me?”

“Yes, she heard about you, Pemberley and your library. Perhaps she knew them from her sister, father or this Collins.”

Darcy racked his brain for a few minutes. “I truly cannot see the connections of a Miss Jane Bennam and Mr. Collins I know about. What if she did not regain her memory? She seems to be quite sensible, with regards to other things. Could she have invented the whole thing?”

The doctor thought for a minute. “I have seen such cases before. The patients shied away from some traumatic experience and that memory just would not return. They have their sense and wit with them, otherwise.”

“Poor Miss Bennam!” Georgiana exclaimed.

“What can we do, in such a case?” Darcy murmured.

The doctor raised his eyebrows. “Would you like to send her to a bedlam, since you do not know her at all?”

“No!” Georgiana cried out.

“No!” Darcy echoed. “Miss Bennam seems to be a gentleman’s daughter, judging by her clothes. I hate to commit her to a bedlam, without trying to find her family, if she is telling the true. And my action contributed further to her injury. I feel…responsible for her welfare.”

“I believe her,” Georgiana said. “She does not look like someone who can make up of such fanciful story.”

“Me too,” Dr. Dickson added. “As you said, you contributed to her injury, Darcy. It is right that you take care of her.”

“Yes, brother!” Georgiana agreed with a smile. Her eyes brightened and made Darcy suspicious of what his sister was thinking. “You need to take care of Elizabeth, at least for a little while.”

Darcy could not figure out what Georgiana was about right this moment, he was too full of the stranger sleeping in the guest chamber. Elizabeth showed sense, determination and wit, despite the strange circumstances she found herself in. He could not get her fine eyes from his thought. He nodded absently to his sister, bid the doctor goodbye and stalked out of the study, to his delightful library.


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Monday, January 20, 2014

Tempt me with your kisses

“I meant what are you doing here in Southampton? Did you follow me here? Did you want to tempt me with your kisses and body?”

Claire blushed bright red. She was fuming that he would think of her like this. “Me? Follow you? You are the one who followed me here. I have had this visit planned since November last year. I heard from your uncle that you came here two weeks early. And you are the one who keeps kissing me every time we meet!”

“I came here earlier to get away… You begged to be kissed!” Mr. Davies was red with anger too.

“You kissed me in Madley Lodge’s library when I felt faint, and then forced your kisses on me at the ball and in your townhouse. I should have believed Mr. Vickers when he said your manner towards women was most dissolute.”

“Vickers? You took an eager interest in that scoundrel! And what were you doing in my bedchamber if you were not trying to seduce me? Do not tell me I forced my kisses on you! You enjoyed them as much as I did.”

“We did not discuss you. He just mentioned that he had known you since childhood but he distanced himself from you because of your womanising ways. I told you I took a wrong turn when I entered your bedroom.” No way would Claire confess she had spied on his private room, trying to confirm the scene she had seen in the crystal ball, or that she had enjoyed his kisses.

“Womanising ways? How can you believe him? He is the one who seduced innocent maids, who went whoring, gambling and drinking in Cambridge. If you need proof, just ask anyone in Warwick Abbey and the neighbouring villages.”

“I did not believe him until recently, until you started kissing me whenever you liked.”

“I only kissed you because you provoked me. And who was the one who pretended to be a fortune teller? You lied to many people, including my sister.”

“I am a fortune teller, with talent you would not understand. Anyway, I do not have to stay here and listen to you.”



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