Hi, everybody! Welcome back for Chapter Ten! In case you are only just joining us, or have missed a part, never fear. Chapter 1 is here. Just follow the “Next Chapter” links at the bottom to read it as a serial. If you only missed last week’s chapter, then just click for Chapter 9.
When we last left Ellie she was at the Inn, in Elizabeth’s body, trying to fend off the dubious treatments of the quack doctor. She was calling out for Mr Darcy, but has he come charging to the rescue? Let’s find out what is going on with Ellie 🙂 Where is she, and more importantly, “when” is she?
Ellie finally managed to pry her eyes open again, but everything around her was fuzzy and not quite in focus. She blinked and shifted, gasping at the pain she felt in too many places to count. At least it wasn’t as terrible as before. One more closing and opening of her eyes cleared things a little, but the light was too bright. The glare made it difficult to keep her eyes open and her head throbbed.
“Miss Bennet?” The voice was a man’s, but not one she recognised. “There are many people who will be pleased to find you awake, young lady.”
“I am Elizabeth Bennet. I am still her and I am still here.”
The man chuckled as he straightened to stand. “Indeed.”
“The light,” she whispered in a raspy voice.
“Does it pain you?” He made a motion with his hand, and a sound like the shifting of fabric came from nearby as the room became a little dimmer. “Is that better?”
She gasped when she tried to nod. Movement definitely didn’t help! Her head already felt as though someone was playing the drums in a constant beat against her skull. She needed to stay still as much as possible.
“Drink this.” A cup was placed to her lips but Ellie kept them firmly shut, remembering the previous doctor and his little bottle of strychnine. “Come on now, it is only willow bark. The taste is not pleasant, but the extract will help with the pain. I would like to give you less laudanum. I have seen my fair share of patients who cannot stop when they have taken it for too long, and Mr Darcy has given me specific instructions for your care. I do not plan to disappoint him.”
In the darkened room, Ellie’s vision began to clear while he patiently waited for her to follow his order. When she could finally focus properly, she took a long look at the man. He had long sideburns peppered with grey, a moustache, and a friendly smile with eyes that crinkled at the edges. He looked kindly and claimed to be acting upon Mr Darcy’s orders, so he could be trusted, couldn’t he? She ignored the stinging in her ribs as she inhaled deeply, then opened her lips and allowed the liquid to be tipped into her mouth. A bitter taste hit her tongue and she swallowed the vile liquid quickly, trying not to gag or choke on it.
“Now, since we have that unpleasantness behind us, please allow me to be completely uncouth and introduce myself. After all, no one else is about to do so.” He laughed and gave a slight bow. “I am Mr Newnham, Mr Darcy’s physician. He sent for me not long after your accident, and I have been in charge of your treatment since. I pray you will forgive me, but I do hope you are a better behaved patient than Mr Darcy. When he is ill, he is too eager to return to his duties and never rests as he ought.”
A door latch clicked and footsteps rushed closer. “Lizzy! Oh, Lizzy, I am so pleased to see you awake. You do not know what a fright you gave me and your uncle.” Elizabeth’s aunt, Mrs Gardiner, wiped tears from her cheeks and took Ellie’s hand.
“I’m sorry,” rasped Ellie. Her chest wasn’t as heavy as before, though it still smarted whenever she took a breath. “I shouldn’t have…”
Mrs Gardiner shook her head. “We shall not think of that now. You are awake and will be well.”
“Perhaps Miss Bennet would like to sit up?” suggested Mr Newnham.
Elizabeth’s aunt spluttered and adamantly shook her head. “I do not believe she is ready for such a step.”
“Yes. I want to.” Ellie pushed her voice so it was a little stronger this time and not as rough. Anything had to be better than lying there staring at the ornate canopy above her. Hang on, ornate canopy, where was she? The last she remembered was calling for Mr Darcy. She assumed she was at the inn at Lambton when that happened, but from what little she could see, everything now appeared a lot grander.
“Very well,” said the doctor. “We shall need to be careful of her ribs and the bruising.”
A maid came over and placed a hand behind Ellie’s back while Mrs Gardiner did the same. Ellie flinched at the pain when they lifted her and placed pillows behind her to prop her up, then gasped at her first proper sight of the room. It was larger than her flat! She pressed her lips together to prevent an exclamation of “holy crap.” Fortunately, she stopped herself in time.
“Where am I?”
“I wondered if you would remember.” Mrs Gardiner tucked and straightened the linens, took Ellie’s hand, and sat on the edge of the bed. “Do you remember how you were injured?”
“Yes, a post coach.”
The maid set a tray on the table, and this time, Mrs Gardiner raised a cup of something to Ellie’s lips, pausing before she administered it. “Mr Darcy, who happened to be riding by at that very moment, witnessed the accident and immediately offered his assistance. Your uncle refused his requests to be of aid more than once, but Mr Darcy was insistent—especially after you called for him.” Mrs Gardiner’s lip curved into a mischievous smile. “You have been very sly, Lizzy. You never once told us your feelings for the man had changed.”
Ellie braced herself when Mrs Gardiner encouraged her to drink. She expected something as nasty as the willow bark, but was relieved when what was in the cup tasted like thick beef broth.
“He persuaded us to dismiss the first physician who attended you and had you moved here to Pemberley. You were feverish and asleep. I don’t suppose you remember much of the journey?”
Ellie shook her head. “No, nothing.”
“He has stood vigil outside your door since since we arrived,” Mrs Gardiner went on. He sent for Mr Newnham and ensured you had any treatment you required.” She bent closer. “I know I said I wished to see Pemberley, but I had not meant in this fashion.” A girlish giggle came from the older lady and Ellie started to laugh, but instantly regretted it.
When she hissed at the sharp twinge in her ribs, Mrs Gardiner squeezed her hand. “Forgive me. I promise I shall not make you laugh, not until you are well again. I am simply relieved to see you on the mend, and resembling your usual self.”
Mrs Gardiner fed Ellie the remainder of the broth, placed the cup back on the tray, and looked at her with pleading, hopeful eyes. “I know it is not entirely proper, but would you allow Mr Darcy to attend you for a time? He has been beside himself with worry, and I believe it would do him good to see you so improved. I declare the man would not have slept a wink last night if Mr Newnham had not ordered him to his own bedchamber.” She smiled and brushed a few stray curls from Ellie’s face. “I must say I like him very much. He is quite reserved, but I believe your liveliness will suit him well.”
Her teeth latched on to the inside of her cheek to stop herself from saying a word. Elizabeth would be horribly embarrassed by Mrs Gardiner’s assumptions, but she wasn’t here, Ellie was. And while she was in her shoes—well, she wasn’t wearing shoes—but even so, she needed to do whatever she could to make things right again. She started to wonder where Elizabeth was. The last time she had seen her they had been in Mildred, crashing through a fence. Was she okay or deserted by the roadside, injured, hurt, or stranded out of time? Oh, this was all so wrong, but the best Ellie could do for her now was not to make any more horrible mistakes.
“Of course,” she replied in a cool a voice, hoping she sounded like Elizabeth. She couldn’t make anyone suspicious. “I should be… pleased to see Mr Darcy.”
Okay, that worked, didn’t it? She felt quite impressed with herself.
Mrs Gardiner patted her hand. “We shall put your dressing gown on you for a little modesty.” The robe was slid down Ellie’s back and wrapped around her with hardly any effort on her part. She barely had to move.
When Mrs. Gardiner opened the door, Mr Darcy stood outside, just as she said he would be. He was leaning on the wall opposite but straightened abruptly when he noticed Elizabeth’s aunt. Then, he looked behind her, at the doctor, and finally at Ellie. His intent gaze seemed to drink her in, like a thirsty man who’d been deprived of water for days. “She is awake?” he asked, astonished.
“Yes, sir, and sitting up as you can see. We cannot begin to thank you for all you have done,” exclaimed Mrs Gardiner. “Would you like to speak with my niece for a time? She has said she would welcome your company.”
His eyes widened and he took a hesitant step forward, pausing to look at Mrs Gardiner. “You have no objections?”
“No, sir,” replied Mrs Gardiner. “After all you have done and your obvious worry, I could not allow you to continue on as you have without some reassurance of her well-being.”
Mr Darcy clasped his hands together behind his back, drew in a deep breath, and stepped into the room. Ellie tried to not to gawk at him. His portrait didn’t do the man justice! It was as though Tom Darcy—without the black plastic framed glasses and slightly geeky manner—had strode into the room, except this Mr Darcy wore in a stuffy cravat, too tight breeches, and tall black boots. It was easy to see, however, why Elizabeth might have thought him proud when she first met him. He stood before her with one boot slightly in front of the other, his hands clasped behind his back, and his nose slightly in the air, but Ellie could tell he was nervous. His hands shook as he unclasped them from behind his back to bow deeply. The poor man was a nervous wreck. Elizabeth said she had argued with Mr Darcy when they had last met, after his proposal. He obviously wasn’t sure what to expect from her now.
“Miss Bennet, ‘tis a great relief to see you awake,” he said, awkwardly.
What would Elizabeth say or do? How many times had Ellie seen the girl try not to curtsey when she met someone in twenty-seventeen? Ellie chuckled and then clutched her side as a fresh, new pain hit her. “Sorry I can’t, you know, return… can’t curtsey.”
Mrs Gardiner passed behind him with a sly grin and seated herself on a sofa by the fireplace, reading a small book she picked up along the way. Ellie supposed she wasn’t allowed to leave them alone. She must be acting as a chaperone.
“I would not expect you to even attempt such a thing. I am merely happy to see you awake, here, at Pemberley—recovering at Pemberley, and awake.”
The poor man was babbling, repeating himself and blushing. He put a hand to his mouth and had to look away for a few moments to compose himself. “Is there anything I can bring you for your present relief? Or to help you pass the time? A book perhaps? We have a large library at Pemberley, which I hope you will take advantage of while you recover. We have many books at Pemberley.”
“Am I at Pemberley, by any chance?” she asked.
He looked confused for a moment before his face split into a wide smile. “If you are teasing me already, Miss Bennet. I have high hopes of you making a full and rapid recovery.”
Oh, he was sweet. He might look a bit pompous, but he was so eager to please and he stared at her with such intensity. No, Ellie reminded herself—he was staring at Elizabeth with such intensity. It gave her a heady, fluffy feeling though. Greg barely even noticed her most of the time. Why the hell had she put up with him for so long?
“Thank you for your kind offer,” she said slowly and carefully. Her voice wasn’t strong and her speech was slow, but she wasn’t used to speaking so formally. “Indeedy, perchance my aunt might require a tome or two to read to me thither. Pray, I don’t know if I will be up for any novel perusing on my own anytime soon.”
Mr Darcy frowned, his head tilted to the side, and he watched her for a moment. He turned and motioned to the doctor, who stepped forward at his request. “A little less laudanum, I think,” he said quietly. The doctor nodded while Ellie berated herself. It was probably best if she spoke as little as possible.
“I would be pleased to read to you while you rest if you like—and if your aunt and uncle do not object.” He was so shy and his voice broke when he asked. If only Elizabeth was here to see this side of him.
“That would be kindly of you, good sir. I don’t know how long I can loll about reposing here without something to do. I’ll run mad after a few days.”
He stared at her again. “Yes, well, you seem in need of more rest at the present time. I hope when you are a little better… I hope I do not ask too much, but I hope you will do me the honour of allowing me to introduce you to my sister. She has joined me here at Pemberley and is desirous of making your acquaintance. I am certain she would enjoy keeping you occupied.”
“She sounds sweet. I would like to meet her.”
Her eyes fluttered closed for a moment.
“Miss Bennet?” His warm hand covered hers, and she jolted awake at the sound of his worried voice.
“I’m sorry. I must have dozed off for a sec.” No! More formal! She needed to sound like Elizabeth! “I am having great difficulty remaining awake.” Was that better?
“I certainly understand. You have endured quite an ordeal. Your aunt, your uncle, my sister, the Bingleys, and myself—we have all been exceedingly worried.”
“The Bingleys?” She knew that name. She’d read it in Elizabeth’s letters. Wasn’t Elizabeth’s sister Jane Bingley? Oh, no! If Jane was here, she’d ruin everything. Ellie couldn’t pretend well enough to fool the sister Elizabeth was closest to.
“Yes,” he responded, his brows drawn down in the middle. “Do you not recall Mr Bingley who leased Netherfield Park last autumn? He, his sister Miss Bingley, and his eldest sister Mrs Hurst, along with Mr Hurst are here. They travelled with my sister, Georgiana.”
“Oh,” she mumbled. “No Jane then.”
“Should you like your sister here? I could send for her if it would put you at ease. Anything that will make your stay here more comfortable shall be done.” Without waiting for her reply, he continued, “Yes, ‘tis only right. She ought to be the one to nurse you, and I ought to have thought of it sooner. I shall send a note by express tonight.” His manner was determined and wonderfully masterful. He was a real man of action, but perhaps a little too used to being in charge and having his own way. Elizabeth was going to have her hands full with him when she finally got back to eighteen-thirteen!
There was another cry of “Lizzy,” and Mr Gardiner walked through the open door. “I came as soon as the maid told me you were awake. How are you, my dear girl?” Before she could answer, he clapped Mr Darcy on the shoulder. “I can see you are better, and I am certain this gentleman is pleased beyond measure. I must say that nothing was done that he did not do himself. He had you moved to his home, he sent for Mr Newnham, and anything the physician said would bring you relief, he has made available to us.”
Mr Darcy turned really red again and walked over to the window. He was so uncomfortable and awkward, but his love for Elizabeth obvious.
Ellie thought hard, trying to find something to say that might give him a bit of hope, because there was hope. They were destined for each other weren’t they, Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy? “I am appreciative of Mr Darcy’s efforts on my behalf. He’s very kind. I didn’t realise just how kind he was—until now.” Mr Darcy turned and smiled softly at her and Ellie smiled back.
Mr Gardiner coughed. “I need to speak to my wife.” Without any explanation, he then urged a confused Mrs Gardiner quickly from the room. The doctor left them, too, muttering something about an ointment.
“You might believe my interference was officious, but I could not stand idly by and watch you die,” confessed Mr Darcy, when they were alone.
Why had they been left alone? Wasn’t that some sort of taboo? Did Mr Gardiner think they were already engaged? Or was he expecting Mr Darcy to propose? Ellie sincerely hoped he wouldn’t, not when Elizabeth wasn’t actually able to hear it and answer for herself. “No, not interfering at all. I’m very grateful.”
“I do not want or require your gratitude—I do not want you to feel obliged to me.” He spat the words out, as though they tasted of something disgusting.
“Eliz…” She stopped and took a deep breath. “I don’t think I am someone who would pretend to feel something I didn’t.” Ellie hadn’t known Elizabeth long, but was certain her new friend was nothing if not honest and straightforward. He looked miserable as he moved closer to the bed, and Ellie, out of sympathy, instinctively held out her hand to him.
Mr Darcy’s mouth went slack in disbelief. She had probably broken some stupid, ridiculous rule they had in Regency times. Nevertheless, he grasped at her hand, squeezed her fingers tightly, and looked as if he wanted to raise them to his mouth and kiss them. Before he did, however, he seemed to change his mind and put her hand carefully back on top of the covers instead.
“You must be very tired. Sleep will be your best medicine, though I look forward to the time when you are well enough to join us downstairs. Perhaps one evening we could arrange for you to be brought down, so you do not over-exert yourself.
“Brought down?” Ellie asked. She was starting to feel hot and very uncomfortable again. “How?”
“On a chair,” Mr Darcy replied.
She grinned as her mind conjured up an image of herself being held aloft on a chaise lounge by several half-naked and incredibly fit men. “Like an Egyptian queen? Will someone feed me grapes?”
Mr Darcy smiled but shook his head. “You are looking flushed and are obviously light-headed. ‘Tis an effect of the laudanum, and I suspect I have taxed your strength. In my joy at finding you well enough to receive me, I have tarried longer than I ought. You must have long been desiring my absence. I thank you for your tolerance.”
“Oh, no problem. You’re very, you know, tolerable.” His head shot up, and he inhaled sharply.
What had she said? She was certain it was something terrible, but it was becoming harder to concentrate. Ellie blinked, struggling to keep her eyes open.
There was a knock on the door, which had been left slightly open, and a small woman in a dark black gown bobbed a curtsey at Mr Darcy. She kept her eyes politely averted from Ellie. “Sir, Mr Randall is here to see you.”
Mr Darcy let out a big sigh. “Mrs Reynolds, I am in no mood for business today, send him away.”
“I did instruct the butler to say as much to him, sir, but Mr Randall says it is a matter of urgency. A matter concerning Mr Wickham.” Ms Reynolds finished in a whisper, as if “Wickham” was a dirty word.
“Send him away. I have more important matters to attend. At the moment, I am concerned only with Miss Bennet’s recovery.”
Wickham! So many familiar names. Reynolds and “Wickham,” why did those ring a bell? Remembering suddenly, Ellie shot up straight and cried out when her ribs painfully protested against the swift movement. “No, don’t send him away. You must go and see him. ‘Tis, indeedy, too important.” Ellie sank back against the pillow, feeling very woozy. It was getting difficult keep things straight in her head. “I remember now,” she mumbled. “Her biggest regret was something Mr Wickham did. That’s how she described it in one of her letters, anyway. You must meet him, Mr Darcy. Do not send him away!”
“Elizabeth,” soothed Mr Darcy, who reddened again. “Forgive my impertinence—I mean Miss Bennet. You are feverish. This will not do. Please lie down and do not distress yourself. Fetch the Mr Newnham immediately, Mrs Reynolds.”
The servant left to do as he asked while Ellie had no choice but to lie down. The room spun wildly, and she found it difficult to draw breath. “You must go and find out what’s happening with Mr Wickham, Mr Darcy. I think it’s important,” she managed to whisper, before shutting her eyes. As soon as they closed, Morpehus instantly carried her away into the land of dreams with her shaking and shivering as she went.
Thanks for reading everyone. Let us know what you think will happen next? And what do we think Elizabeth is up to in 2017 while Ellie is fighting to stay conscious in her sickbed.
All comments, suggestions, opinions are welcome.
Caitlin and Leslie X