Thursday’s 300: To Save Elizabeth Re-edit, Chapter 13: Justice is Served

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.)

This is the last chapter of this book. There was an embarrassing number of errors in it. I’m glad I went through this process and fixed things. It’s probably still not perfect, but it’s much better than it was before! <3

I don’t know when I’ll do another of these. I got a part-time job that requires some things to be dropped off my list of things to do, or at least lowered nearer to the bottom than the top.

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.

Chapter 11 is here. Chapter 12 is here.

Enjoy!

Justice Is Served

The following Wednesday, Darcy and Gardiner attended the hanging. Elizabeth and her aunt stayed home with the children. Though her uncle had granted her permission to attend, Elizabeth said she was uncomfortable with the idea of watching men die. She did, however, ask if it were possible for some proof of the men’s deaths, especially Collins’s, could be brought to her.

When the gentlemen returned to the Gardiner house, Maddie and Elizabeth were in the drawing room, talking quietly. They rose as Gardiner entered the room, followed by Darcy. Elizabeth said nothing as Maddie greeted her husband. Her eyes moved from her uncle to her betrothed, knowing they would have granted her request.

“We have some items for you, Lizzy,” Gardiner explained, his voice soft and gentle, not fooled by the serene quietness Elizabeth displayed. “Why do you not sit down, and Darcy will share them with you.”

Nodding once, Elizabeth did as requested, sitting on the edge of one end of the settee behind her. Her betrothed placed himself at the other end, to her right, with a small space about a foot long between them. Turning slightly so that she could clearly see him, Elizabeth waited. She did not speak.

Darcy could see by the way she held herself that Elizabeth was on edge, and chose not to draw things out. Instead, he pulled things out of his pocket, gently explaining from whom each item came.

“We retrieved this from Mr. Collins’s effects.” Darcy laid a gold pocket watch between himself and Elizabeth and carefully examined her response.

Elizabeth’s eyes watched his hand as it moved from his pocket to the seat. She stared at the watch for a long moment, swallowing hard. Slowly, her hand moved toward the timepiece, hovering over it before picking it gently up and bringing it closer, turning it over in her hand and examining it closely. Finally, she pressed the button that sprung it open. A miniature of her, her sisters, and her mother rested inside the cover. Reverently, Elizabeth ran her finger over the images. Her hand shaking and lip quivering, she closed the watch and placed it in her lap, swallowing hard once more. Drawing a deep breath, she looked at Darcy again.

This time, Darcy produced out of his pocket a knot of ribbons tied around a wad of cloth. “This we retrieved from Mr. Foxglove.”

Darcy was hesitant to continue until Elizabeth had a chance to express her feelings about the watch, but her expectant look urged him on.

Again, Elizabeth took her time touching the evidence. Her breath had hitched as she recognized two of the ribbons.

“Those were yours and Jane’s, were they not?” Maddie placed a hand on Elizabeth’s shoulder. “Jane loved pink.” Maddie sniffed. “And you loved the green so much you matched it with almost every gown. See where it has been poked through again and again?”

Elizabeth mutely nodded, but her hands trembled as she picked up the bundle. Untying the knot, the cloth inside unfolded. In the corner of the square of white was a set of initials, simply embroidered: “MCB.” “Mary,” she whispered.

“Are you well? Do you wish to continue?” Darcy was worried. He was not certain Elizabeth should be holding all this in, emotions that were clearly troubling her. He sighed when she insisted on seeing the next item. His eyes followed her movements as she tied the ribbons and handkerchief back up and gently placed them in her lap, beside the watch.

“Yes, I am well, and I do wish to continue.”

Elizabeth’s eyes contained determination along with pain and a healthy dose of fury. Darcy nodded, reaching into his pocket a final time. The item he now laid between them elicited a gasp from his betrothed, and he quickly looked up.

Mr. Gardiner had intently watched the events unfold. Hearing her gasp, and seeing her hand cover her mouth, her uncle asked, “Is that what I think it is, Lizzy?”

“Mama’s emeralds.” Elizabeth picked the necklace up and turned it over. Engraved on the back was a set of initials – FJB – and the words “My Beloved Wife.”

“I thought as much. I remember that your mother rarely left those off.” Gardiner leaned back in his seat and reached for his wife’s hand, holding it tightly.

“Papa purchased that for her when Lydia was born. He said Mama had such a hard time with that birth that the midwife said she would probably not be able to bear more. He wanted to console her, both for the pain and for not having a son.” Elizabeth pointed to the large cluster of emeralds that made up the center of the necklace. “There is one here for each daughter, and the largest, in the center, represents Mama. The gold holds it all together, as he said she did with our family.

“Mama adored it. She told me once that it made her think of happier times.” Clasping the necklace to her chest, Elizabeth began to sob.

Darcy was immediately there, before Brutus, who had strangely remained in front of the window in the sun until he heard Elizabeth cry. Wrapping his arms around her, Darcy held her until she had shed all the tears she could.

When her sobs had receded to mere sniffles, Elizabeth snuggled into Darcy’s embrace. His arms tightened around her as she clung to him even as her tears slowed. He never wanted her to leave the safety of his arms. Pressing a kiss to her head, he whispered endearments and apologies to her. He wished he could comfort her in other ways—perhaps kiss her, or more—but he could not and so chose to savor the embrace they could share.

When he felt her head lift, he moved his back and looked into her eyes, his arms still wrapped around her. “Are you well?”

“Yes,” Elizabeth nodded, “I am, or will be soon. Thank you for bringing these things to me.”

“I am happy to do so, my love.” With reluctance he let her go.

Brutus, who had sat at Elizabeth’s feet, licked Darcy’s hand and then his mistress’s face. Elizabeth smiled at his gesture, stroking the sides of his face with her hands. “I am well, Sweetie.” She gave his neck a quick hug, kissed his head, and ordered him back to his place. With another “kiss” to Elizabeth’s cheek and swipe at Darcy’s hand, Brutus trotted back to his patch of sunlight, scratched the carpet there, turned around three times, and curled into a ball. Before he laid his head down, Brutus took a long look at Darcy and Elizabeth, seated together, and then settled his head down for a nap.

Gardiner chuckled to see the dog so unconcerned about Elizabeth. “I do believe we have seen a changing of the guard here today.”

“I do, as well.” Maddie rose and crossed to Elizabeth. “Come, Lizzy, let us go and wash your face, and then you can come back and we can discuss things.”

Elizabeth rose and followed her aunt out of the room, pausing in the doorway to gaze lingeringly at Darcy. A quarter hour later, she returned, the evidence of her tears washed away except for a little redness to her eyes, and her composure serene once more. As she seated herself on the settee, she assured everyone that she was well.

“I was shocked, horrified even, at the items you brought back to me. I can only imagine one way Mr. Foxworth could have had such items in his possession as the ribbons from my sisters’ hair and gowns. The thought of him ripping ribbons off their dead bodies makes me feel … violated.”

“How he did not discover that you were alive astounds me.” Gardiner’s expression was one of amazement. “He must have simply assumed you were, took his trophy, and left the area.”

“Why would he do that?” Elizabeth shivered, disgust whirling through her.

“From what Foxglove told the magistrate, Collins demanded proof of the deaths. He took a few extra ribbons and things and kept them back from Collins, in case additional proof was needed in the future.”

“Papa had that watch with him always.” Elizabeth turned red and clenched her fists. “It must have been one of the things that man took from us.”

“Yes, I believe you are correct.”

The discussion continued for several more minutes. Soon, Mr. Gardiner was called away, and Mrs. Gardiner went to check on the children. While Darcy and Elizabeth sat alone in the drawing room, with the door left ajar, Elizabeth grew silent.

“What are you thinking, love?” Darcy asked her.

“I will not lie,” she answered. “Anger courses through me when I think of the actions of my cousin and the two men he hired. Bitterness threatens to take hold and consume me.” Elizabeth shuddered. “It frightens me, for I know that forgiveness is necessary if one wishes for entrance to heaven. However, my mind relives the unfairness of my experiences.” Tears began to stream down her face. “I do not wish to offend you, but might I be alone for a while?”

“Certainly,” Darcy nodded. It pained him that he could not give her further comfort. Elizabeth excused herself and returned to her chamber. Darcy waited in the drawing room, with Brutus choosing to rest at his feet rather than follow his mistress.

“I know,” Darcy said as he pet the dog’s head. “I worry for her too.”

For a full hour, Darcy waited for Elizabeth, sometimes with the company of her aunt and uncle. Finally, she emerged again, with red eyes but a peaceful countenance.

“I need to rest, but I wished for you to know,” Elizabeth said to her relatives and Darcy, “that I have chosen to forgive these men for my own sake. I do not feel very forgiving as of yet,” she shrugged, “but it is a choice, and I am making it. I will say it to myself each day until it is true just as we practiced my riding in carriages until I overcame my fear.”

As Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner praised Elizabeth for her decision, Darcy marveled at her strength and goodness once more. This time, when she went above stairs, he breathed a sigh of relief knowing she would overcome this as she had everything else.

~~~***~~~

A few days later, they were all dining at Gracechurch Street when Elizabeth took a sip of wine then cleared her throat after the servants left.

“I have been meaning to ask something. What happens with Longbourn now?”

Mr. Gardiner answered, “The matter must be researched to determine if there is another heir, since Collins died without issue. We all know there is not one, but the courts must be satisfied.”

“And in the meantime? I worry about the tenants and would not want my childhood home to fall into disrepair.”

“Mr. Darcy has assured us that he would oversee Longbourn, if you are agreeable,” Gardiner responded.

Elizabeth turned to her betrothed. “I am; I thank you.”

The grateful look on his beloved’s face was more than enough thanks for Darcy. “It is nothing. I thought, since you will likely be granted possession of it in the end, that I ought to assist in the running of the place. We can save it for a third or fourth son, since we have Pemberley for our first and a smaller estate in Sussex for a second.” He paused to take a bite of pheasant and then, swallowing, he continued before anyone else could speak. “I have written to the steward. He seems capable and willing to work under my direction.”

Nodding, Elizabeth finished the bite she was chewing. “He good at his duty. Papa relied on him for years.”

“I hesitate to ask, because I am not certain how you feel, Lizzy, but will you stop in Meryton on your way north after the wedding?” Mrs. Gardiner asked.

Elizabeth took a sip of wine as she thought. She turned to Darcy. “We will be back in a month or two, will we not? How long will this search take?”

“We will return in late February or early March, depending on the weather.” Darcy turned to Gardiner. “I doubt the court will move that quickly.”

“No,” Gardiner said, “My brother Phillips writes that it might take a year or more before we know for certain. Every possibility must be looked into, though as I said, we already know there is no one. The courts move slowly, however, and there is no guarantee.”

Nodding, Darcy looked back at Elizabeth. “What do you think, my love? Would you like to stop in to visit your family and friends?”

Elizabeth paused before she answered, staring at her plate. Finally, having stirred the remaining contents of her meal into an indistinguishable pile, she looked up and answered his question.

“It will be difficult to pass the place where the accident occurred. I suppose, though, that we need not go to Longbourn right away, unless you need to speak to the steward in person.” She paused once more then nodded. “I would like to see my aunt and uncle and my friends, so, yes, I should like to visit Meryton on the way back to London, if we can.”

“I will do my best to make it happen,” Darcy vowed. “You will not be filled with sadness and regret at all the things you lost?”

“A part of me will always feel regret at what has occurred, but it has made me who I am today. I used to say my courage rose at every hint of intimidation, but now I have faced real danger and overcome it. I know my strength, and I never would have if not for the accident.” She smiled at Darcy. “I also met you and, as you tell me, you were attracted to that strength. I am no longer Lizzy Bennet of Longbourn but am proud to soon become Elizabeth Darcy of Pemberley. I have a place to belong in the world and family and friends who will support me through life. I am strong, and I am not alone. I will miss my family every day for the rest of my life, but I have much to be thankful for, as well.”

Darcy smiled at Elizabeth’s passionate speech and raised a glass. “To your strength, my love.”

Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner also raised their glasses and repeated his toast.

Elizabeth blushed. “Now, do hurry. I believe you have promised me a drive around the streets,” she smirked.

Darcy laughed. “As always, your wish is my command.”

~~~***~~~

The following month dragged on endlessly for Darcy. His craving for Elizabeth’s company was overwhelming, and every day saw him spending hours at the house on Gracechurch Street. Sometimes, he brought Georgiana with him, and at other times, he came alone.

He did have time alone with his betrothed. Usually, it was either riding, walking, or in his curricle, and almost always, it was chaperoned. He took every opportunity to touch her, even if it was only his hand over hers on his arm.

~~~***~~~

Finally, the day of the wedding arrived. The vows were spoken and the wedding breakfast served. Not long after they had eaten and enjoyed a piece of cake, Elizabeth and Darcy boarded the carriage. Brutus jumped in after, stretching himself out on the rear-facing seat and promptly falling asleep.

Though Elizabeth tensed as she always did once the carriage began to move, Darcy’s solid presence beside her, not to mention his breathtaking kiss, soon helped her to relax. They cuddled together, watching out the windows as the people of London went by outside. As they left the city behind, Elizabeth tipped her head up and smiled at Darcy. When he looked down and saw his bride’s grin, Darcy could not help himself. He lowered his lips to hers for a second, gentler kiss.

“I love you, Mrs. Darcy.”

“I love you, as well.”

The End

 

 

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