Welcome back to my blog!
This post is brought to you by Promises Kept. (affiliate link; free to click on but may result in me earning a few pennies)
This chapter actually has a couple added sentences and deleted phrases. Can you identify where? Leave me a comment if you find them! <3
Want to go back and read the previous chapters?
You can find the first one here. The second one is here. Chapter 3 is here.
Chapter 4 can be found here. This is Chapter 5. This one is Chapter 6.
Chapter 7 is here. Chapter 8 is here.
“Fitzwilliam, I need to ride out to visit Mr. Barton today. Wickham has told me the roof of their house is leaking. I wish to see the damage myself and ensure we get everything repaired. I would not put it past Barton to fail to report something, so as not to be a bother to anyone. Far too self-effacing, that one. It would not do for him to try to make those repairs with his own funds, not with four children to raise.”
“You are correct. It would not do. I do not understand such behavior. Surely he would rather not use his own money to repair a home he does not own?”
“One would think not; however, he has done so in the past. I recall his father being a harsh man, always chastising his wife and children for being an impediment to him. He was not happy with his life, I think. Perhaps that is why his son is this way. At any rate, would you ride with me? I should like to get your opinion of the matter.”
From the bedroom attached to the sitting room they were in, the gentlemen heard a series of harsh coughs. They looked at the door, then back to each other.
“If you do not mind, Father, I would much rather stay here and tend to Elizabeth. She woke in the night with that terrible cough and a sniffling nose. I am concerned about her.”
“I had not realized she was ill! Certainly you should stay with her,” Mr. Darcy replied. “Does she need the doctor? I can send him a note when I go downstairs.”
“She does not show signs of a fever yet. I would prefer waiting until that happens. You know how she can be if she feels she is being fussed over unnecessarily.” Fitzwilliam rolled his eyes as his father chuckled.
“Indeed I do.” He slapped his hands on his knees as he rose, adding, “Well, then, I will leave you to comfort and coddle your wife. But promise me that if she begins to become fevered, you will send for the physician.”
Fitzwilliam had risen along with his parent. “I promise. I will see you upon your return. Please be careful.”
Waving his son’s concerns away, Darcy headed down the grand staircase and out the door to mount his waiting horse for the ride to the Barton farm.
He had not been gone an hour when the wind began to pick up and a light rain to fall. By the time he had thoroughly inspected the tenant house, spoken with both Mr. and Mrs. Barton, admired the children, and consulted with Mr. Wickham to give specific instructions as to repairs, the rain was coming down in sheets. Turning down an offer to wait out the storm with the Bartons, citing the closeness of Pemberley House to their own, he mounted once again and began the trek back. Moving more slowly than he had earlier, due to the reduced visibility caused by the weather, he turned his collar up in hopes of preventing any more rain from sliding down inside his coat. Suddenly, what had been a simple downpour became much more dangerous.
Darcy heard the thunder rolling in seconds before he saw the lightning. His horse moved uneasily beneath him, and every ounce of focus and skill he had was required to keep the animal under control. When the next blast of thunder sounded loudly in his ears followed by an even closer crack of lightning, the horse began to rear. Darcy fought to regain the upper hand, but when it began to buck, he lost his seat, landing on his back with a thud, his head slamming into the hard-packed earth of the path.
Out of breath and woozy, he laid on the ground for a few minutes, rain soaking and pooling around him. After a few minutes, he tried to rise. Pain in his leg and head stopped him, and he lay back down in the hopes it would recede once again. Next he tried to peer through the storm to locate his horse, but was unsuccessful. Hopefully, the silly thing returned to the stables, he thought. That one will need some additional training.
He attempted to move once or twice more before giving up. He knew an alarm would be raised if his horse appeared without him. Even if it remained nearby, when he failed to come to supper, Fitzwilliam would know something was wrong. He’s a good boy. I am so glad he did not fight me about Elizabeth. She was just what he needed. Darcy’s thoughts continued on until, exhausted and in pain, his unconscious took over and allowed his mind to rest.
At the house, his son was trying to entice his wife to take some tea laced with honey, for her throat. She had not eaten much that day, and Fitzwilliam was anxious that she take some nourishment, even if it was of the liquid variety. He had begun to threaten her with honey-laced Scottish whiskey if she did not take the tea. Stubborn woman that she was, Elizabeth argued with him, which, of course, made her throat hurt worse.
“Sweetheart, did you not just recently chastise Georgiana for being so impatient for her lessons to be complete so she could attend our picnic? And did you not tell her that the quicker she worked, the sooner she could play?” At her nod and before she could begin to speak, he continued, “Do you not see the similarity in your situations? The quicker you drink this tea, the sooner I will stop fussing at you about it and threatening you with stronger remedies.” He hid a smirk at the roll of her eyes and twitch of her head. “Drink this tea, my love, and I shall leave you be about it for a few hours.”
With a loud sigh, followed by another harsh bout of coughing, Elizabeth drank the tea. It did feel good on her throat, though she was not about to tell her husband that. He was correct entirely too often; she must do her best to ensure his understanding that this was not allowed. She opened her mouth to say so when a knock came upon the dressing room door.
Entering at Fitzwilliam’s bidding was his valet. “Pardon me, sir. I have an urgent message for you.” He threw a quick glance at the mistress, telling his master without words that it was serious and that perhaps she did not need to hear.
Turning to his wife, Fitzwilliam stroked her face, saying, “Let me go listen to what Smith has to say. I shall return shortly.” He leaned toward her, giving her a quick kiss on the forehead, then stood and left the room, gesturing for his valet to follow him. Upon gaining his dressing room and shutting the door behind them, he asked, “What is it?”
“Sir, word has just come from the stables. Your father’s horse has returned without him. Mr. Wickham has been notified, and search parties are being organized. Wickham felt you would wish to take part. I was not as certain, knowing Mrs. Darcy to be ill, but I promised to tell you straight away.”
Fitzwilliam was, for a few seconds, panic-stricken. He looked to the window, seeing the rain beating on the glass and the lightning illuminating the sky, and hearing the accompanying thunder. “I should have gone with him,” he muttered, guilt winding its way into his heart. Now was not the time for recriminations, however, so he shoved his feelings aside and focused on those actions that urgently needed to be taken.
To Smith he said, “Yes, I wish to help with the search. Give me time to inform Mrs. Darcy and change my clothes and I will be down. Send word to the physician in Lambton that he may be needed.” His eyes slid once more to the window, thoughts of his father out in the rain, possibly hurt, causing dread in his heart. “Hopefully we find him right away. He only went to the Bartons’. Also, please send Mrs. Darcy’s maid up to sit with her. She is still very ill, and I do not like to leave her alone.”
“Yes, sir. Is there anything else? Shall I have more tea sent up for the mistress?”
“She has just now taken a cup; perhaps in an hour or so, she might take some soup. Please see to that, as well. Thank you, Smith.”
Knowing he was now dismissed, the valet left to quickly lay out riding clothes for Master Fitzwilliam before seeing to the other tasks laid before him. After dismissing Mr. Smith, Fitzwilliam went back into the bedchamber to apprise his wife of the situation. Elizabeth loved her father-in-law deeply, and, despite the valet’s reservations about it, would be resentful if left unaware and the worst happened. He quickly related to her the facts as he knew them before informing her that he intended to join the search. She had no objections; instead she was quite insistent that he do so. He would not leave, however, without gaining her promise to stay abed, drink the tea and honey, and eat some soup when it was sent up. Her pledge made, Fitzwilliam hurried to his dressing room to change before going downstairs and out to the stables, where the search parties were being organized.
It was not above an hour later when the master of Pemberley was found unconscious. The grooms who found him fired the gun they carried to alert the remaining searchers and then set to work. One evaluated the master and made him comfortable while the other rode back to the stables to get a wagon. Soon everyone involved had gathered around him to help load him into the cart. Fitzwilliam was terrified to see his father so lifeless on the ground. He urged his workers to move faster, sending one ahead to the house to alert Mrs. Reynolds of their coming.
Not soon enough to please him, the men were carrying his father into Pemberley House and up the stairs to his chambers. Fitzwilliam was shouting orders right and left, commanding the waiting doctor to follow him upstairs, and sending a maid to inform his wife that they were returned.
Mr. Reeves, his father’s valet, was waiting in his room to wait on Mr. Darcy, and help Fitzwilliam and the doctor remove his master’s soaked clothing. While the doctor conducted his examination with Reeves’ assistance, Fitzwilliam walked down the hall to change his own attire. Smith was waiting for him, with warm water in the ewer for washing and a dry set of breeches, shirt, waistcoat, and tailcoat. Having seen to his own needs and aware that the doctor required more time, Fitzwilliam went into the bedroom he shared with his wife, dismissing her maid with a glance.
“Fitzwilliam! They told me you had returned; how is Papa George? Is he well? The maid knew no details, and Jenny forced me to keep my promise to you to stay abed. Sometimes I do not know who is mistress, she or I,” she huffed.
As she had been speaking, her husband had settled on the bed beside her, leaning against the headboard. Now he gathered her close, hoping to soothe her fears rather than increase them. “Jenny wants to keep her mistress well, thereby making her mistress’ husband happy and her employment secure.” He chuckled. “She does not lack in intelligence. Besides, did you not make me a solemn promise to stay in bed and eat some soup and rest so I could assist in the search for Papa without the added distraction of worrying about you?”
Another huff from his wife was followed by, “You know I did. Still, it would not have gone amiss for me to be up to assist when Papa George was brought into the house.”
“We managed quite well, my love. You need to take care of yourself even more now, because he may require some nursing.” He sighed, hating to have to tell her, “He was unconscious, Sweetheart. I suspect he was thrown from his horse and hit his head. That path is quite hard, even in wet weather such as this. There is a base of rock under a top layer of dirt.” He paused, tightening his hold on her as if he could shield her from the words he must say. “I also believe his leg is broken. The doctor is with him now. We will know nothing more until his examination is complete.”
Elizabeth, whose worry was only slightly eased with the knowledge that her beloved father-in-law was in the house and not out in the storm, quietly spoke. “I feel so guilty. If I had not been ill, you would not have needed to stay with me. You would have been with him, and he would not have lain out in the rain for who knows how long. I am sorry!” With that, she began sobbing into Fitzwilliam’s shoulder.
“Shhh, Sweetheart. Shhhh. I feel guilt, as well. However, it was my choice to stay with you. Mine,” he declared, lifting her face with his hand under her chin. “I could have gone with him, but I chose you. I will always choose you,” he finished, hovering over her lips until the words faded away, then covering them with his own. Their kiss was long and sweet, feeling as though it would never end. When they needed to catch their breath, he moved his hand from her chin, pushing her head into his body and laying his cheek on it. They remained in this comforting embrace for a long time, each gaining strength from the other’s presence and reassurance from the other’s touch. Too soon, their interlude was interrupted by a knock on the door.
Smith appeared just inside the room, eyes averted from the bed. “The doctor is finished treating the master and asks to speak with you, sir.”
“Thank you, Smith; I shall be down shortly. Please put him in my father’s study and have refreshments sent in to him.”
Smith nodded his acknowledgement and left to carry out his instructions.
With a final cuddle and kiss, Fitzwilliam rose from the bed, tucked his wife back in, and descended the stairs to hear what the doctor had to say. He paused at the door, hand on the latch, to mentally prepare himself for whatever he might hear. Taking a deep breath, he opened the panel and stepped into the room.
“Mr. Stone, thank you for coming so late and in such terrible weather. How is my father?”
“He is still unconscious; he has a lump on the back of his head that I believe indicates the cause. He was thrown from his horse, I understand?” At Fitzwilliam’s nod, he continued. “I would guess he hit his head rather forcefully on the ground when he fell. Such injuries are always tricky. One never knows what the end result will be; he could wake in a few hours or never awaken again. If he does …”
“When he does.”
The doctor cleared his throat. “Indeed. When he does.” He nodded to Fitzwilliam. “He could be perfectly normal or be left with a permanent injury. We know so little of these things; only time will tell.”
“And, is that his only injury?” “His leg is broken, just above his ankle. I have set the bone and splinted it. Should he wake, he will need to remain abed for two months. He has no other injuries that I can see; however, fever is always a risk. Someone must sit with him constantly to monitor him.”
“Of course.” Glancing out the window, Fitzwilliam said, “The storm continues to rage. May I offer you accommodations for the night?”
“Thank you, Mr. Darcy; I accept your offer with appreciation. I will look in on your father again before I retire. And, perhaps a visit to Mrs. Darcy might not be amiss? I gathered from your staff that she has been ill today?”
“She has. No fever as of yet, but a cough and sore throat. It would ease my mind if you would examine her, though I must warn you that she is not an easy patient. Stubborn, that one,” he replied with a twinkle in his eye and his lips twisted into a smirk.
Laughing, the doctor arose, saying, “Stubborn, eh? Been giving you a hard time, has she? She is a fiery one!”
Fitzwilliam joined in the laughter as he led the physician into the hall. Gesturing to the footman on duty, he requested the doctor be shown to a room before walking up to his father’s bedchamber. As he approached the bed, he indicated to Reeves that he should take some time to rest himself. He stood beside his father, observing him, until he heard the door shut as the other man’s personal servant left the room. Only then did he sit, pulling the chair beside the bed as near as he could get it. His father’s hand lay close, and he held it in both of his, leaning over as near as he could to whisper, “Come back to us, Papa. We need you, all of us. I need you! I am not prepared to run Pemberley alone; my education is incomplete. I am sorry that I stayed behind today. I should have been with you; please, forgive me!”
Quietly, he sobbed at his father’s bedside. Despite his words to Elizabeth and hers to him, the guilt he felt was tremendous. Yet, he knew that, had he accompanied his father this day and Elizabeth took a turn for the worst, he would feel guilty for that, as well. He was correct when he told his beloved wife that he chose to stay with her. He could easily have left her, but one thing his father had stressed to him shortly after his marriage was that his priority must now be his wife. Not his father or his sister, not his friends or his business, but his wife. A true gentleman kept his priorities in order: God, then family, then business; he also left his mother and father and cleaved to his spouse. As he sat there, crying and contemplating all these things, he prayed. He prayed for his father’s restoration to health, forgiveness for his own confusion, and for peace about his decision and its aftermath. Soon, Reeves returned, and Fitzwilliam went back to his chambers to check on Elizabeth.
Once her husband had left to talk with the doctor, Elizabeth realized that Georgiana might not know about her father’s accident. She thought for a while, not knowing how much the girl needed to know, but in the end, decided honesty was best. She knew that she herself, at Georgiana’s age, would have insisted on having all the facts. It was much better to be aware of events and have time to prepare than to be taken by surprise should the worst happen. Therefore, she asked her maid to have her sister sent in to her. Once Georgiana arrived and settled on the bed with her, she used the gentlest terms possible to explain that Papa George had an accident, that Fitzwilliam had gone down to speak to the doctor, and that all she knew of his condition was that he was not awake.
Georgiana was frightened by this information, asking many questions, most of which Elizabeth did not have answers for. Finally, she simply asked to stay there, with her sister, and wait her brother’s return, a request Elizabeth was glad to grant. So it was that Fitzwilliam entered the bedchamber he shared with his wife, to find his sister cuddled beside her, held tight in her embrace.
Smiling at the sight they made, he settled on the bed on his wife’s other side. “Georgiana, I assume by your presence here, you are aware of Papa’s accident?”
Elizabeth reached for his hand. “I am sorry, my darling. I should have consulted you before telling her, but I know that were I in her shoes, I would not want to be left in the dark about such an incident.”
He kissed her hair. “I agree. I apologize, Sister, for not thinking to inform you myself.”
“It is well, Brother. I am glad my sister told me, but I understand that you had responsibilities to Papa that needed to be taken care of first. How is he?” Georgiana’s question was tentatively put forward, her browed creased.
“He is still unconscious. It appears he struck his head rather forcefully on the ground when his horse threw him; he has a large lump on the back of it. He has bruises, of course, and a broken leg. He will need us to take turns sitting with him; do you think you will be able to do that, or will it upset you too much?”
“I should like to try,” Georgiana said with determination. “Part of becoming a lady and mistress of a house is taking care of others, is it not?” She looked to her brother and sister in turn. When both had nodded their agreement, she continued. “Then, since I want to learn to be a good mistress, I think my education should begin now. I also desperately want to be near Papa and talk to him and assure him that I need him.”
Seeing that she had turned back into the little girl she still was, Fitzwilliam agreed. “Why do I not take you down now to visit him for a few minutes? Tomorrow, we can set a schedule of visits around your lessons. You must not neglect those just because Papa is abed. You know that is what he would tell you.”
Georgiana sighed. “Lessons. Yes, Brother, I can hear Papa saying those exact words. Apparently, nothing but death comes between a young lady and her lessons.” Shaking her head, she left the room, her brother following. Behind her, Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth did all they could to hold in their laughter, but once he had shut the wooden panel after entering the hall, Elizabeth could no longer control hers. It rang out through the door and the hallway and into his ears, causing him to smile and cough to cover his own chuckle.
That night, as the couple prepared for bed, they discussed their sister’s visit to her father.
“She was distraught; it was plain to see.” Fitzwilliam’s voice rang with pride for Georgiana. “Yet, she worked hard to control herself. There was no dramatic throwing herself across him on the bed. She sat beside him, holding his hand and talking to him for a good quarter hour. I was quite amused at the peevishness in her voice as she assured him that I was well in control of things, and that I had promised her that her education would continue while he was laid up. Truly, my love, it was a struggle to pretend I did not hear and was not amused by her words.”
Laughing, his wife responded, “I know, darling. We really should not encourage such behavior, but she is still very young. She will learn. And I confess to enjoying her outspokenness.”
“Indeed.” Though she could not see his face, Elizabeth could hear the smile in her Fitzwilliam’s voice.
“Did she assure him of her love and devotion? She was quite distressed earlier at the thought of never saying those words to him again. She asked if I thought he would hear if she told him while he was not yet awake. I told her I did not know, but it would not hurt to say them, regardless.”
“I am glad you did. You handled her very well, my love. Thank you for taking care of that for me. I cannot imagine how I would have alone. It is just one more reason for me to be grateful for my father’s interference in my love life.”
“Love life! What love life? I know for a fact that you never looked at a woman but to find fault before you married me,” she teased.
Fitzwilliam laughed, “Once again, you are correct, my dear little wife.” He paused to give her a kiss, then climbed into the bed with her and gathered her close. “That is because none were you.”
“Such a flatterer you are, Mr. Darcy! Do you think those pretty words will earn you a reward of some sort?”
With a huge smile at her teasing flirt, he responded, “I do indeed, my love,” before kissing her passionately and demonstrating just what kind of reward he expected.
Mr. Darcy awakened late the next morning. With him at the time was the doctor, who was in the midst of examining him again, and Fitzwilliam. Hovering behind them was Mr. Reeves. Darcy moaned at the pain the doctor’s poking produced, not to mention that caused by the bright light. He felt as though he had been hit by a runaway team of horses. After asking for a drink of water, he inquired of his son, “What happened?”
Holding tightly to his father’s hand, Fitzwilliam responded. “Your horse threw you, we believe. He appeared at the stables without you late yesterday afternoon, in the height of the storm. Wickham immediately organized a search, and thankfully you were found quickly.”
“He threw me? I do not remember. What was I doing out in bad weather?”
“You had gone to the Bartons’ house to inspect for repairs. Do you remember that?”
Darcy closed his eyes tightly and tried to think. In his mind’s eye, he could see himself speaking to his steward and the tenant in question.
“Yes, I believe I do, but I think Wickham was with me. Did he not leave with me also?”
“I asked him that, Father. After you left Barton’s, Wickham rode to the Milton house to deal with a problem there. He returned another way. He expected you to already be at home when he got back, but instead found the grooms and coachmen in an uproar. I believe he feels a fair amount of guilt, as do Elizabeth and I, for your accident. I have told him, though, that none of us could have expected a Pemberley-trained animal to spook as yours apparently did.”
“None of you are to feel guilty. My accident was my own fault. From what I am hearing, I knowingly went out into a storm. I should have taken refuge at Barton’s. I am certain they would have welcomed me to stay.”
“Yes, sir. Wickham told me they offered but that you were eager to return home.” He paused, then added, “I am sorry that I did not accompany you myself. I know I chose rightly to stay with my wife, and I was not able to be in both places at once, but I cannot help thinking that had I gone with you, you would not have lain in the rain as you did for hours before we found you.” By now, Fitzwilliam was up, pacing the room as he always did when agitated.
“Son, come.” Darcy gestured to the open spot on the bed beside him. “Sit down here with me. My head aches enough without watching you wear holes in the floor. I am going to cast my accounts all over this bed if I have to see it much longer.”
Immediately, Fitzwilliam stopped walking and sat on the bed where his father indicated. “I am sorry, sir. I was not thinking properly.”
“Do not fret. I am fine, or I will be. Son, I meant it when I said no one should feel guilty for my accident. I alone am responsible for the actions that led to it. And, I never want to hear you express regret for putting the wife of your heart first in your life. You know what you were taught about being a gentleman; I have no need of repeating it. You made the correct choice. Make sure Elizabeth understands this, as well. I know her well enough to know she will take the blame on her small shoulders if she can. You must not allow her.”
“I will not.” Fitzwilliam could see his father was tiring. “I will go now and let you rest. I am sure Georgiana would like to see you again, now that you are awake; I will bring her in later. I love you, Papa.”
“Thank you, Son; I love you, too.” Darcy fell asleep as his son left the room.
To be continued …
2 thoughts on “Thursday’s 300: Promises Kept, Chapter 9”