Thursday’s 300: To Save Elizabeth Re-edit, Chapter 11: The Rescue

Welcome back to Thursday’s 300!

Today’s post is brought to you by To Save Elizabeth! (This is an affiliate link. It’s free to click on and no purchase is required. However, I may earn a tiny commission from your click.)

Today, Darcy rides to the rescue. Yay! #GoDarcy

If you missed the first chapter, you can find it here. The second chapter is here.

Chapter 3 is here. Chapter 4 is here. Chapter 5 is here. Chapter 6 is here.

Chapter 7 is here. Chapter 8 is here. Chapter 9 is here. Chapter 10 is here.

Enjoy!

The Rescue

Darcy had received word the day before that Foxglove had been caught. Haynes had interrogated the man and discovered that he had been hired by one William Collins, formerly of Hunsford in Kent, to kill a family named Bennet and that Collins was insistent he “finish the job” now.

Having taken this information to Gracechurch Street, it was agreed that Elizabeth would continue to try to lure the man out. Gardiner and Darcy were agreed that, if Collins were as violent as Foxglove implied he was, the man would certainly continue with his plan on his own.

Now Darcy was on the street with Elizabeth’s guards, dressed as a shopkeeper so as to blend in with the crowd. He followed several feet behind her and saw the large group of people that had gained her attention and distracted her from her purpose. “Pay attention, love,” he murmured under his breath. Just then, his worst fear and the weakness in his plan manifested itself. Elizabeth was snatched by a tall, large man as she passed an alley between two buildings.

Darcy ran after them, shoving people out of his way and ignoring their outraged cries. By the time he reached the alley, Collins, for that is who Darcy was certain it was, had Elizabeth near the other end. Darcy raced toward them, followed by one of the guards. A drunken man stumbled out of a doorway into Darcy’s path, and by the time he untangled himself and reached the end of the alley, Collins had gotten Elizabeth into the carriage, and it was driving away. Darcy saw it turn a corner and, realizing he could not follow on foot, frantically searched the area. Seeing a well-dressed gentleman dismount a horse, Darcy sprinted to him, pulling out a wad of cash and shoving it at him before leaping on the animal’s back and, wheeling it around, spurring it into motion with his heels.

Darcy was well behind the carriage containing his beloved and Collins, but kept as close as he could, given the amount of traffic and the head start the carriage had. He could hear faint screams and knew instinctively that they were Elizabeth’s. His worry, paired with the anger he felt that Collins had gotten away with her, made Darcy impatient and he found himself yelling at pedestrians and carriages alike to move out of the way. He pushed onward, ignoring the looks, the shouts, and the shaking fists that followed his progress. Looking over his shoulder, he saw one guard following on horse and, further back, the other three running after them.

Finally, the carriage stopped in a wooded area at the outskirts of town. As the population had thinned, Darcy had hung back more, not wishing to be seen. He knew it would be much easier to rescue Elizabeth from a stationary position, rather than from a moving equipage. Arriving at the end of the lane that led into the woods, Darcy dismounted, leading the mare into the trees and tying her off where she would not be seen. He was soon joined by the four guards. Having seen him leading the horse into the woods, they pulled up and followed suit, joining Darcy where he was hiding behind a clump of trees that were growing together.

The carriage could be seen sitting in a clearing a short distance away. The group watched as two men, one covered in blood, talked beside the carriage. When the clean one began to unhook the horse, Darcy gestured for his men to gather around. Once they were all huddled close to him, Darcy whispered directions, and two of the guards crept back to their horses, mounting them in preparation for chasing the stranger down.

Darcy and his remaining men waited silently as the unknown man, who Darcy supposed was the driver, awkwardly mounted the carriage horse and kicked it into motion. When the horse and rider were out of sight, Darcy’s men spread out while Darcy remained in position. He was angered to see Elizabeth dragged unceremoniously out of the carriage and dropped on the ground. Seeing the blood-covered man sink to the ground beside the carriage, Darcy signaled to his men, and they converged quietly upon the clearing.

Collins breathed hard and his face contorted in pain as he rubbed his numerous injuries. Looking at her, as she lay unconscious in the dirt, he muttered, “Ungrateful, vicious, unholy wench. If I could, I would kick you in the head. Give me a few moments to gather myself, and I will do just that. Then, I intend to finish what that useless sot could not.”

Closing his eyes, he leaned his head back, resting it on the carriage wheel. Hearing a loud “click,” he opened them again to find a tall man with a forbidding mien aiming a pistol at him.

“I dare you to try,” Darcy growled, eyes narrowed and jaw clenched. “You will not live to see the magistrate if you touch her again.”

Collins began to rise from his place on the ground. He instantly subsided when two more pistol-wielding men joined the first. With a sour look, Collins spoke his mind.

“Who do you think you are to be pointing your firearms at me? Do you know who I am?”

“I believe I do,” Darcy replied in a tone of indifference, masking the rage that flowed through his brain and threatened to make his head explode.

“I doubt that,” Collins sneered, ignoring the deep red face and narrowed eyes of his accoster. “I am William Collins, rector of the Hunsford church in Kent, and servant to the great Lady Catherine de Bourgh of Rosings. I have the backing of my patroness and the authority given to me by the Church of England to return this heathen chit to where she belongs. You are interfering with the work of a clergyman!”

“I assure you that my aunt would not condone your actions, sir. You may leave off your posturing.” The gun in Darcy’s hand never wavered as he aimed it at Collins’ heart.

Collins looked Darcy up and down, disdain written across his features. “Your aunt.” Collins snorted in disgust. “Lady Catherine’s nephews are sons of an earl and the wealthiest gentleman in Derbyshire, not a tradesman dressed in rags.”

Darcy shrugged, his face impassive, though still red with anger. “Suit yourself. I shall not attempt to change your mind.” He gestured to one of the men with him. “Search the carriage. If he kidnapped Miss Bennet, perhaps he brought rope to tie her up with. It would be fitting if we used it on him, instead.”

A quick check of the interior of the equipage showed that Collins had, indeed, packed a length of rope in the storage area under the seat. Under Darcy’s direction, the guard trussed Collins up, tying the rector’s hands together behind his back, then binding his arms to his torso and his legs and feet together.

Collins shouted invectives and thrashed and Darcy could see why. He grinned at the damage and pain Elizabeth had inflicted upon her attacker. It took both guards to subdue him and in the end, tired of the clergyman’s tirade and his threats of retribution, one of them removed his own cravat and used it to gag the prisoner.

“I shall replace it, Conner.” Darcy’s lips quirked upward at one corner at the inventiveness of his employee.

“Thank ye, sir.” Conner winked at Darcy as he moved away.

Once his men had Collins under control, Darcy knelt beside Elizabeth, wincing at the bruises forming on her face and neck. Tucking his pistol in his waistband, he turned her to her back and carefully felt her limbs and jaw, checking for broken bones. When she stirred, he caressed her cheek with his fingers, whispering, “Elizabeth.”

Darcy’s smile when her eyes opened wavered across his lips. He felt as though a weight had lifted off his shoulders. He brought her hand to his mouth and kissed her fingers. A little more loudly than before, he spoke her name again, then quickly urged her to settle when she tensed and began to move.

Elizabeth’s eyes darted to and fro as she came to realize her position. At first, she seemed comforted by Darcy’s presence but began to panic.

Before she could speak, Darcy spoke in a deep, soothing voice. “All is well, Elizabeth. Do not move until I can ascertain what injuries you might have.” Darcy waited for her to nod and relax once more before he spoke again. “Do you feel any pain?”

Darcy watched as a crease appeared between Elizabeth’s brows as she thought and evaluated herself.

“No,” she said. “Parts of me ache, but nothing hurts.”

“Good,” Darcy nodded once. “I took the liberty of feeling your limbs while you were still unconscious, and felt nothing broken. Would you like to try to sit up?”

“Yes,” Elizabeth croaked. She swallowed, wincing at the raw soreness she felt. She took Darcy’s extended hands, allowing him to assist her in sitting.

“Are you well?” Darcy asked at her moan. He had moved a hand around Elizabeth’s back and pulled her close to his side. He closed his eyes, sending up a prayer of thankfulness that she seemed to be uninjured. Darcy wished for nothing more at this moment than to lift her onto his horse, take her to Darcy House, and care for her. He tenderly kissed her hair, finally giving in to one of his desires and wrapping his other arm around her, as well, and holding her close.

“I was so frightened for you.” Darcy rocked Elizabeth gently back and forth, an action that soothed both of them.

Closing her eyes, Elizabeth leaned her head on his shoulder. “I was, as well. I fought him as hard as I could.” She began to cry. “I tried so hard to get away.”

“Shhh. All is well. I know you did. If his injuries are anything to go by, you struck him often and with force.” Darcy laid his head against hers, kissing her hair once more. “I am proud of you. You did well.”

Elizabeth sniffed and wiped at her tears. She sighed and nestled quietly against him for a moment. Suddenly, her head popped up, and she looked around.

“Where is he?” Elizabeth’s voice vibrated with anxiety.

Darcy edged away from her a few inches, allowing Elizabeth to see around him to where Collins lay, still vocalizing his displeasure, despite the gag. Her eyes grew large in her face at the sight of him, covered in blood as he was.

“I did that?”

“Yes, you did. His nose appears to be broken.”

“I bit his hand. I grabbed it with my teeth and would not let go.”

“Did you?” Darcy’s admiration for Elizabeth’s resourcefulness was clear in his words.

“I did. I bit down and refused to stop.” Her still-hoarse voice reflected her pride in defending herself.

Darcy smiled at Elizabeth’s fierce demeanor. Hugging her, he reiterated his pride in her clear thinking and decisive actions. Before he could say anything else, Conner called to him.

“Dawson is back, Mr. Darcy. He has someone with him. I don’t see Blatch, though.”

“Hopefully, Dawson has the other conspirator with him, and Blatch has gone for the magistrate.” Darcy rose, helping Elizabeth to stand and supporting her when she leaned on him.

“I am sorry. I feel so weak, so tired.”

“Come, then. There is a dead tree that seems to have blown over at some point, just inside the tree line. You can sit there and rest while I deal with Mr. Collins.” Darcy found that he enjoyed having an excuse to hold Elizabeth close. Her independent nature did not usually allow for such things, and he was determined to take full advantage of her temporary weakness. He held her close to his side as he walked her over to the tree line and settled her. When he was certain of her relative comfort, he returned to the men.

The man with Dawson was, indeed, Collins’s driver, and he was quickly restrained in a similar manner to his employer. He refused to speak, however, and Darcy could clearly see the menace in the rector’s expression when he looked at the driver.

“Where is Blatch? Did he go for the magistrate?”

“Yes, sir. We caught our man here,” Dawson gestured to the men seated on the ground, “right quick. We doubled back to see if ye needed help, but it was clear even from a distance that ye did not need us, so I sent Blatch for the magistrate and brought this one here back to ye.”

“Excellent. Good work, Dawson. You, as well, Conner and Bowles. I could not have done this without the four of you.”

The men thanked him for his compliments, but kept their attention on the prisoners.  Just a few short minutes later, Blatch returned, leading the magistrate and Mr. Gardiner into the clearing.

“Mr. Darcy, sir.” The magistrate, Mr. John Litwin bowed a greeting. “I see your plan worked! Who have we here?”

Darcy gestured to the bound men. “We have Mr. William Collins and Mr. Matthew Cox, his accomplice in a kidnapping scheme, among other nefarious enterprises.”

Darcy continued. “I have evidence forwarded to me by my investigator, Mr. Haynes, that Collins and a Mr. Timothy Foxglove conspired together to cause the deaths of a family from Hertfordshire named Bennet, which allowed Collins to come into his inheritance—the Bennet family’s estate—sooner.” Darcy’s formal mode of speech and serious demeanour became even graver as he gestured to Elizabeth, sitting on her log a few feet away. “Miss Bennet is the only survivor of the accident caused by Collins and Foxglove. As you are aware, Haynes took Foxglove into custody yesterday; he was rather forthcoming with his information.”

“He was, indeed.”

Darcy could see the magistrate was eager to please him, but he took his office very seriously.

“I will not interrogate them here, I think. It will be better to separate them and speak to them individually, and, to prevent any misbehavior or intimidation of one by the other, I will keep them tied as you have them. Perhaps you will allow me the use of your men to assist me in transporting the prisoners?” Litwin indicated the guards Darcy had stationed around the area, and Mr. Blatch, who had remained beside his employer.

“Certainly. You may use Collins’s carriage, though I am certain it was hired out. I will expect a report from you tomorrow.” Darcy nodded to his men, who, in pairs, hauled Collins and Cox up and roughly shoved them into the equipage. Within a quarter hour, the clearing was empty of everyone except Elizabeth, her uncle, and Darcy.

~~~***~~~

Later that day, having bathed and been seen by a physician, Elizabeth sat in the drawing room, ensconced in the most comfortable chair available and with Brutus sitting on her feet in front of her. Darcy was at her side, making certain she had everything she needed, and her aunt and uncle sat just a few feet away on a settee. Though her voice remained hoarse, Elizabeth recounted her harrowing ride in Collins’s carriage, answering questions and relating her feelings as she went.

“I am so sorry, Miss Bennet, that we were not able to intervene before Collins could get away with you.” Darcy had tortured himself all afternoon with what-ifs. He felt a tremendous amount of guilt that he had failed to protect Elizabeth from being kidnapped in the first place, despite his success in following the carriage and rescuing her within a short period of time.

Elizabeth rested her hand on his arm. “You are forgiven, sir. There was nothing anyone could do. Had you been any closer, Mr. Collins might have been made aware of your presence, and our charade might have had to continue indefinitely. You did the best you could under the circumstances. I would be a poor excuse for a woman if I were outraged. In any case, I knew it could happen. Though I was frightened, it was caused more by the carriage than anything else.”

Darcy lifted the corners of his lips into a small smile. “You are very kind.”

“What I am is truthful.” Elizabeth’s voice dropped to a whisper as she stared into Darcy’s eyes. “Do not make yourself uneasy on my behalf.”

In the end, after searching her face and recognizing her determination to allow him no blame, Darcy gave her what she wished for, although he could not force the frown from his face. “Very well, Miss Bennet. I concede the field. It was not my fault, I did all that I could do, and nothing could have changed.”

“I am happy to hear you agree with me.” Elizabeth paused, raising a brow and allowing a twinkle to appear in her eyes. “If you had not, I should have been required to banish you to the drawing room of your cousin Anne.”

Darcy’s eyes widened in alarm, but he soon came to understand that Elizabeth was teasing him. He grinned, shaking his head and rolling his eyes. “You almost had me there, Miss Bennet.”

To be continued …

 

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