"Shut up!" David dug his head under his pillow and tried to block out the noise of his brother.
"Poor little Davie-wavie."
"Oh go away Freddie!" David caught his bedclothes only just in time before Frederick stripped them off his bed. "I'm trying to sleep."
"Why?" Frederick arrived on the end of his brother's bed with a mighty leap which caused David to sail up into the air slightly and introduced a large number of cold draughts into his warm bed.
"Because I didn't sleep last night. Now do go away before I kick you off." David growled in annoyance.
"Poor little Davie-wavie." Frederick started digging around at the foot of David's bed.
"Do that at your own peril."
"Do what?" Frederick looked up with a mockingly innocent expression on his face.
"You know exactly what I mean, now do buzz off before we both get in trouble."
"We won't. Father went fishing with dear little George Arthur and Mrs. Reynold's would never interrupt us."
"Just leave me alone Death." David was annoyed because Frederick's last sentence had been the truth.
"Maybe if I set fire to your bed clothes?"
"Maybe if I throw you out the window!"
"Okay, okay." Frederick gave a grin and slipped off the end of his brother's bed, taking David's bedding with him.
"You BLIGHTER!" David kicked out of his bed and dove head long after his brother. They made contact in the doorway and it quickly degenerated into a brawl.
"FITZWILLIAM! DEATH! GET TO YOUR FEET IMMEDIATELY!" Mr. Darcy's furious tones had both boys to their feet in a flash and standing either side of the doorway to David's room.
"What kind of behaviour is that for a Darcy to use?" Neither Frederick nor David answered, they had long since learnt that silence was the best response, since defending yourself only made punishments worse. David reached a exploratory hand around into his room and snagged his bathrobe which hung just inside the doorway and hurriedly donned it. The hallways at Pemberley were draughty, and besides which David had just seen George Arthur's grinning face at the far end of the hallway. There was no question as to why their father had come up here, and someone was going to pay for it.
"Now the pair of you into your rooms, I don't want to see either of you out of your rooms."
"Yes sir." David turned and walked back into his room, aware without even seeing it that Frederick was repeating his performance a few yards further down the hall. David checked his door was secure before he stripped off his pajamas and hustled into a shirt and a pair of trousers, shoes and socks soon followed and then a window swung open.
"I observe that great minds think alike." Frederick was grinning up from the ivy under his brother's window.
"Get in." David stepped back so Frederick could scramble into his room. "George Arthur was at the end of the hall."
"I know, I saw him." Frederick brushed the ivy out of his hair and took a flying leap onto his brother's bed. "Jelly won't be enough for him, and neither will a ducking."
"Geez you'd get in trouble if your father were to come in now." George Arthur's face was looking around the door with a mischievous grin.
"No we wouldn't." David grinned slightly, aware of Frederick coiling up his long legs on the bed. "More likely you'd be in trouble for coming into our rooms uninvited."
"Awww, shucks. Don't be stupid Fitzwilliam, we both know perfectly well that he'd just happen to walk past."
"No he won't." David let out the cheerful howl as his brother sailed across the room, slamming the door open onto George Arthur, he lifted his arms in celebration. While George Arthur tried to untangle himself from the doorknob and the sheet Frederick had dumped on his head, Frederick had sprinted for his room.
"What in hell do you want Nickel?" Seymour spat the words as he backed into the small dirt hut, his arms lifted high.
"A scalp I think." Nickel discarded the ground sheet which had covered him and came calmly through the doorway.
"Not from me you won't get one."
"Won't I?" Nickel tilted his head curiously. Then smiled faintly. "We'll see about that Captain Seymour. You've caused me rather a lot of annoyance lately."
"Obviously not enough." Seymour frowned, with Nash gone south he might be in for even more trouble than he had bargained for, and had someone told Seymour that such a thing existed he would have laughed in scorn.
"And don't even consider your police friends, they won't help you now."
"My police friends?" Seymour blinked in total astonishment, never had he been so comprehensively handed his freedom on a platter, and this made him rather suspicious.
"Yes, the friends you sent Nash after. I'm afraid it will be a while before you see Mr. Nash again."
"I wouldn't be so sure." Seymour shrugged, very conscious of the bullet hole in his shoulder which was only now starting to stiffen, it cracked with the move and sent a blast of pain through his back and neck. Seymour felt more blood trickle down his back and into the waist of his trousers with the move, obviously the binding was starting to work loose.
"Now why do you say that?" Nickel frowned at Seymour and carried out an extensive and thoughtful study.
"Because Nash was not after any police friends, he was after no friends at all. He was after the blasted leech."
"Don't try to kid me Seymour."
"I'm not." Seymour shifted his shoulders again to the accompaniment of another wave of pain. "Do you think I would joke about sending for a leech when I can't remove my own shirt?"
"Then why are your arms up now?"
"Because a Mauser is most persuasive and more blood in my shirt is much preferable to being shot...AGAIN!"
"Search him Hanz." Nickel stepped slightly back and let one of his henchmen into the small room. The search was brief, rough, and very complete.
"Nothing." Hanz stepped back and out of the room.
"You can lower your arms then Seymour, but no funny business."
"Funny business is not a priority at the present moment in time." Seymour lowered his arms with relief and cautiously felt around his back with his left hand. His shirt was decidedly damp and Seymour was beginning to wonder how much blood he could lose before he became totally divorced from the world and general proceedings.
"Care to explain how you got shot?"
"We're on Magreeta's territory. One of his thugs shot at Nash and I just happened to get in the way." Seymour glanced around the room in an abstract manner, well aware that he was starting to drift badly. At a guess he decided he had a few hours left before the darkness would come.
"Hanz, get Fritz in here."
"Yes, sir." There was a brief scuffle outside and a burly and bald headed man came into the room.
"See to him, he's been shot." Nickel rolled his eyes in response to the accusatory look. "And no don't look like that, I did not do it...this time."
"Very good, sir." Fritz approached Seymour and found himself being eyed in an intently abstract manner, or to be more accurate, as intently as someone suffering from blood loss could eye anything. "If you please sir?"
"Whatever." Seymour shrugged as best he could. "Either way I'll probably die, but please avoid Magreeta's remedies, they make me feel rather ill."
"Sir?" Fritz glanced nervously at Nickel.
"See to him, I'll bash him over the head if he makes too much trouble."
"How kind of you Georg, such a nice person." Seymour's face convulsed as Fritz prided the shirt from his back.
The door slammed in the distance, echoing hollowly through the long hallways and passageways. That single slam carried all the unspoken words, voiced all the unasked questions, answered all the unanswered questions, and issued the utter condemnation of the one who slammed it. Darcy stared silently at the open door of the study, in his line of gaze there was a full length portrait of both his parents, dark paneling and a small posy of flowers which had fallen to the ground. With out even blinking Darcy rose to his feet and slowly crossed to the door. The small posy of flowers went into the fire and the door was closed quietly, yet firmly, then Darcy returned to his seat and once more picked up the sheet of Estate papers he had been inspecting when the interruption had occurred. But the papers now did not have the power to hold his attention, and once more Darcy was staring blindly in the direction of the door.
"Hello Fitzwilliam, when did you return?" Colonel Edward Fitzwilliam's voice caught Darcy by surprise and dragged his eyes away from the door.
"Oh, hello Ned. Take a seat if you want. I got back two days ago." Darcy gave a small shrug and pushed the mass of papers aside.
"Why do you ask?" Darcy looked up sharply from the pile of paper.
"You appear to be a trifle off colour."
"Don't be daft." Darcy abruptly stood up and pulled open a nearby file box.
"I don't know...upstairs I think...she's not particularly happy right now."
"So my daft guess was accurate...How the devil did you do it Dave?" Fitzwilliam's face had tightened somewhat and the usually cheerful glimmer in his eyes had died away.
"Ask Georgiana, not me." Darcy responded curtly and left the room.
"David!" Fitzwilliam gave the yell in exasperation and caught Darcy by the shoulder just as he reached the lawn.
"What Edward?" Darcy turned to face Fitzwilliam, and his expression was totally blank.
"Okay, I take the hint. You don't want to talk about it."
"It is not a matter of not wanting to talk about it, I'm not GOING to talk about it." Darcy shook his cousin's grip off and continued walking, leaving a stunned Fitzwilliam to stare after him.
"How could you David!" Fitzwilliam's exclamation stopped Darcy just before he re-entered the study the next morning.
"Still here are you?" Darcy abruptly turned left again, leaving a furious Fitzwilliam to glare after him. Fitzwilliam was not a fan of not sleeping and he had just past a night without any waiting for Darcy's return.
"Don't even think about it!" Fitzwilliam grabbed Darcy's arm as soon as he entered the house two days later.
"Think about what?" Darcy calmly shook Fitzwilliam's grip off his arm and headed for the study.
"Leaving again. You're staying put until you explain."
"Explain what?" Darcy picked up a pile of papers and started filing them.
"Why in HELL you broke off that engagement!"
"I would have thought that Georgiana more then explained the matter to you." Darcy frowned down at his desk for a minute then went digging after another folder.
"Georgiana was about as communicative as you on the subject. In fact I didn't get more then two words out of Georgiana, and they were only expressing her wonderment that you were even related."
"Then where did you hear it from? The staff here wouldn't talk." Darcy stopped sharply and looked hard at Fitzwilliam.
"I didn't get it from the staff, and I didn't get it from Georgiana...I got it from Peter himself, and frankly Darcy I really don't know what has got into you."
"Where did you see him?" Darcy had dropped the folder onto his desk.
"Who?...Peter?...I met him here yesterday." Fitzwilliam frowned at Darcy's stiffness.
"He was here?"
"Yes, he came to see Georgiana...is that surprising?" Fitzwilliam was puzzled by the look of near horror on Darcy's face.
"Yes, it has me surprised. Get Nash Ned, I need to speak to Georgiana." And with that Darcy had left the study.
"She's not here." The dull words greeted Fitzwilliam on his return with Nash.
"What?" Fitzwilliam stared at Darcy in bewilderment.
"She's gone Ned."
"'As 'e got 'er?" Nash put in his query from the doorway.
"That's what I'm afraid of. Get packed Nash, we're leaving tonight no matter where she is."
"Darcy will you explain!" Fitzwilliam exploded as Nash left the room.
"No." Darcy stared shoving papers into folders as quickly as possible.
"Well let me assure you that Georgiana is not with Peter...does that make you happier?"
"No." Darcy started locking draws. "In fact that remark just makes things worse." Darcy gave one final look at the room he threw the bunch of keys across to Fitzwilliam. "Return 'em to your father, I'll come when I need them again." Darcy started to the door, then stopped as the telephone rang. "Pemberley House." Darcy spoke curtly.
"That you?...fear not my old friend, your sister is quite safe." The voice was soft, accented, and almost laughing.
"Wha..." Darcy sank limply into his chair as the girl from the Lambton exchange announced that the call had been ended.
"Darcy!" Fitzwilliam jerked forward as Darcy slumped slowly forward onto his desk and grabbed his shoulder.
"Go away Fitzwilliam." The eyes which turned and looked up at Fitzwilliam had Fitzwilliam jumping backwards as if he had been burnt and Darcy came out of his chair and headed for the door, slamming it hard behind himself. "I gave permission for Peter Fitzwilliam to marry her, that MAN is not Peter Fitzwilliam!"
The mud was thick and goopy, and Darcy emitted a growl as once more he lost his footing and came to his knees, the thunder of shells overhead made his head ring and Darcy was rapidly coming to the conclusion that he should never have enlisted.
"You alright sir?" Lieutenant Bennet suddenly appeared beside him.
"Fine thanks Bennie, just slipped, then paused to consider what insanity possessed me that I bothered enlisting."
"As do we all. Bing wanted to see you concerning some matter of the eastern observation post. He wouldn't actually say any more."
"Thanks Bennie, I'll stand you a drink next time we're back."
"No thanks sir, I'd much prefer a comfortable bed and a trip home."
"Well take the drink and dream of them both."
"You couldn't stand me that drink now could you?" Bennet gave a grin through his layer of grime and headed off down the trench, leaving Darcy to scramble to his feet and go find out what Lieutenant Bingley wanted.
"Sounds like he's currently near the beginning of Loos. I can remember Bennie commenting on that drink the Major promised to stand him." Bingley shifted uncomfortably.
"Never occurred did it?" Fitzwilliam's question was barely a question as he studied the young Lieutenant, there was a curious tenseness to Bingley's face.
"No sir, we opened our bit of the offensive about three hours later and Bennie didn't return."
"I see." Fitzwilliam slumped his spine a bit further, he saw a lot more then Bingley could possibly realise. "Looks like Darcy's settling. Best get back to your platoon Bingley."
"Yes sir." Bingley scurried from the room with a relieved expression, leaving Colonel Fitzwilliam to his thoughts. What had Darcy meant by that remark 'I gave permission for Peter Fitzwilliam to marry her. That MAN is not Peter Fitzwilliam.'? The words rang through Fitzwilliam's head as he studied his blackened and cracked nails. This was the last time he was going to be too near
an Archie Battery when it went into action, it was going to take months before his hands would be respectable again, if they ever were.
"Who in hell's going to believe it Freddie?" By the sounds Darcy's meanderings had taken a turn, and with the mention of his brother's name Fitzwilliam felt like moaning for Darcy was worst when his brother was 'around'.
"And how am I meant to do that? You know I'm tied under a mountain of red tape...yes I know, I should tell Georgiana, but then what excuse do I have for not telling Ned? After all he is also her guardian. And if I tell Ned what excuse do I have for not telling aunt Amabel. It's totally illogical either I have to tell the whole world or I tell no one, there is no clear line where I can stop telling once I start." It sounded like Death was taking Darcy to task once again for his high-handedness, and frankly Fitzwilliam was hoping that Darcy would ramble in more depth so he could have an idea of what this problem was.
"Not half. I said it before Death and I'll say it again. WHO would believe it? If I didn't know it for the truth I certainly wouldn't, so what right have I to expect others to believe such an outrageously improbable story."
"Oh definitely." Darcy's tone was sarcastic and he hunched his shoulders in an annoyed movement. "What do I do? Say 'Georgiana', using the nice bright tone George Arthur was so good with, 'wouldn't you like to know that it was not Peter Fitzwilliam you were engaged to over the summer of '14. In actual fact it is a man who tried to murder me five years ago in South Africa'. Get out of it Death, who's going to believe that?" There was a brief pause. "Oh definitely." Darcy's tone fairly dripped with sarcasm. "With the opinion of one single doctor I'm going to be able to prove that Peter was dead six months BEFORE his recorded death. Don't be stupid Death, think about it, who would believe it." Darcy suddenly shook his head. "Even the fact that it was Alastair who stated the opinion isn't going to be strong enough evidence, be reasonable."
Colonel Fitzwilliam was staring at the bed with a sort of stunned horror, this couldn't be true, this couldn't be real, this had to be the delusions of delirium. And yet Edward Fitzwilliam knew that Darcy's words were truth, someone was going to do some talking real soon, there was no way he was going to let this just fall. Especially since it seemed that, as with many other occasions, the family had taken the wrong track with the available information. Well could Fitzwilliam remember the day when it had occurred. It was the first time that Fitzwilliam had had the experience of seeing Darcy's devil, though the Lambton blacksmith was very well acquainted with it. WHO was Nickel? 'Georg, Graf von Nickel...you nearly met him two years ago.' The words echoed around through Fitzwilliam's head, he could remember Darcy saying them once, but where and when had it been.
Colonel Edward Fitzwilliam paced restlessly up and down the wall of the hospital, it had now been a week since he had been initially called in to control his immense cousin, and for the past four days he had been on official leave. Darcy had only been delirious for a day and a half, he had then sunk totally out of the conscious world and for four days now he had just lain there, pulse irregular and thready, cold to touch, and in the doctors opinion, dead. But Darcy was not dead, and everyone knew he wasn't, this immense mountain of very ill humanity was hanging on to life by his eyelashes and comprehensively defying medical opinion and prediction.
"Colonel." The doctor's curt tone stopped Fitzwilliam's perambulation abruptly.
"We need to talk about this damn cousin of yours."
"Still alive is he?" Fitzwilliam wasn't about to protest at the doctor's calling of his cousin, this was not the first time Fitzwilliam had felt like calling his cousin every name under the sun. Fitzwilliam hated being made to feel vulnerable, and vulnerable was one feeling he was becoming very well acquainted with. Damn his cousin, damn both of them, damn the entire blasted family. Fitzwilliam did not know what he'd do if Darcy did actually snuff it after defying the medics, but he had the feeling that it wouldn't be pretty, and it might just start with wringing the neck of one Georgiana Darcy. Fitzwilliam bit back on his annoyance and deliberately forced it all from his mind, Georgiana was not solely to blame and now was certainly not the time to think about it.
"Yes, we're expecting the crisis to come tonight, but don't count on it."
"I'm not, Alastair made a large number of predictions nearly a year ago and most were wrong."
"Dr Jermyn of that name, that repair job on my cousin comes courtesy of the same man."
"Well if Alastair has fouled up his predictions than I needn't feel negligent. Colonel, your cousin's chance of survival was very remote to begin with, and it has only become more remote since. But assuming that it does occur to him to open his damn eyes and start living again, there is about a ninety percent probability that he will be temporarily, if not permanently, blinded."
"Get him alive, then we'll consider what else may be wrong with him." Fitzwilliam snapped curtly.
"Sorry sir." The doctor withdrew, leaving Fitzwilliam to pace for a few minutes, before turning and stumping into the hospital again. To his surprise Fitzwilliam did not recognise the nurse who sat outside Darcy's room, it was with a concerned frown that he realised that the woman was not actually in a condition which was considered appropriate for duty.
"Please be quiet sir, there is a man dying in here." She reproved him in a quiet voice.
"Listen to me Sister, that man is damn well not dying, and hasn't been dying for four days now, I'll stamp as much as I like." Fitzwilliam turned abruptly and left again.
"Well it would appear that I am not the only one the Colonel gets naggish at. Sure you want to continue with this Sister?" The doctor stuck a rueful head out of Darcy's room.
"Quite sure." There was a decidedly militant gleam in Nelli's eye. "This hospital is still overloaded and I'm not going to leave until numbers are back to what the staff can cope with."
"You're a good soul sister."
"No I'm not, I'm a very bad tempered person who has just been informed that they've been made inactive. And if that Colonel thinks he can be rude to me, I have another thing coming."
"That is his cousin in there Sister, make some allowances."
"Well he should make allowances for the fact that this is an overworked and exhausted hospital and any pair of hands are used, even a pair of hands in my condition so Sister Ridley could help in surgery."
"I'll be back to check again in a couple of hours, see you Sister."
Darcy was actually finding things comfortable for the first time in a long time, his head did not ache, it was not a trial to breathe anymore, his leg was not aching, and in fact he felt rather as if he didn't have a body at all. Through a chink in the ceiling Darcy was of the opinion he could see a star. Children of the stars...'I am a child of the stars.' Who had made that remark and in what context? Darcy would have scratched his head, but the effort was too great, even considering the effort seemed too great for him. Children of the stars...who had it been? Darcy gave a mental sigh, he couldn't track the memory, and actually he didn't care about it. Darcy stared silently up at the star which winked through the ceiling at him, for some reason he felt totally contented and safe. All he had to do was relax backwards and all would be well. Darcy blinked, where had that come from? Not that he was against following the advice, in fact Darcy found it by far the nicest option and he found he was just doing it, gently sinking down, drifting out on the faint gleam of the star.
"Please be quiet sir, there is a man dying in here." The voice was soft and Darcy hadn't the faintest idea of who the voice was talking to, but it stopped him dead in his drift. Dying? He wasn't dying! Or was he? Darcy realised with an abrupt jolt that that was precisely what he had been doing. He had been dying, and frankly Darcy had no wish to die, in fact he was damned if he was going to die. With that decision, the pain returned, his leg ached, his head pounded, and it felt like an elephant was sitting on his chest every time he tried to breathe.
"Can you take the pain?" Nickel suddenly appeared at the foot of the bed.
"Pain is a state of mind. Now go away Nickel."
"Why should you want to live? No one wants you."
"That is irrelevant, I have duties to attend to." Darcy rasped out his response, irritated that he was unable to leave his bed, what he wouldn't give for the strength to wring Nickel's neck.
"Oooh, duties are so feeling. You are a fool Darcy, your sister hates you."
"That is beside the point." Darcy clamped his mouth shut.
"Is it?" Nickel's head tilted and his smile became jeering. "Is it beside the point? I'd have thought it had everything to do with the point. None of your relatives like you Darcy, your sister hates you, and so might I add does Miss Elizabeth. Why should you go on living? What is there to keep you alive? What makes you think yourself so important?" There was a slight pause. "So superior are you? Ex-policeman, prospector, and guard...My, these really do display your noble lineage...why, of course, you have every reason to be cold, aloof and arrogant. What an upstanding chap you are."
"I'm going to live Nickel, if only for the joy of knowing that one day you will be dead and unable to hurt anyone again."
"What a kind and happy thought to live for. Is that really what your schooling taught you? I'm starting to have my doubts about how good your schooling is." It was Elizabeth's voice and she was standing at the foot of the bed.
"No." Darcy could have howled, but as it was he could only whisper.
"What a sorry reason to be alive for."
"Wait!" Darcy shivered because the room was empty, everyone had left, there was nothing, no one. Lying there Darcy could see his life ahead unending like a straight road, empty, lonely, and worst of all filled with bitter hatred. Darcy flinched back at that last part, surely not, never, could his life be so filled with bitter hatred? But then Darcy paused again and took another look at the scene, bitter hatred of what? And of who? Bitter hatred of EVERYONE! It struck him like a blow in the face and Darcy flinched again, all so easy to fail to and yet Darcy knew he could not stand the idea. The hatred spread like a vicious disease through this view of his life, contaminating everyone and everything he came in contact with...unfocussed and malignant, hating the world. Darcy drew back sickened by the thoughts and this possible view. Was this unavoidable? Was this his destiny? From this view Darcy had no difficulty in seeing why Miss Elizabeth had refused him, what he did have difficulty in seeing was why he had been so certain of a positive response. Was life worth continuing?
"See, so much easier to die." Nickel's voice echoed hauntingly through his mind, and Darcy felt a wave of stubbornness rise, he damn well was not going to die.....not to oblige anyone, not to please anyone, and certainly not so Nickel could be satisfied. The past was past, but the future was not definite, and no Darcy had turned tail yet because the going got difficult and Darcy wasn't about to start changing the trend now.
Now a full seven days had passed since Darcy had been brought in and Colonel Fitzwilliam, slumped in his corner, was coming to the conclusion that he might as well return to work. Since the doctor had made mention of the fact Darcy might be blind, there had been a brief spell of delirium which had lasted only a couple of minutes and other than that there had been essentially no signs of life at all. Yesterday the doctor had given a shrug, his opinion was clear, there was nothing to do except sit back and wait for Darcy to die and so for a day and a half now Fitzwilliam and the nurse, whom Fitzwilliam had later appologised to for his rudeness, had sat there and watched in silence.
"Hello Ned, you must really wish to murder me." Darcy's voice caught Fitzwilliam by surprise.
"Yes, I most certainly do. Now, are you delirious?" Fitzwilliam glanced up and saw that Darcy had rolled his head to one side so he could look.
"I don't think so." Darcy's voice had a meditative note and when Fitzwilliam inspected his cousin he really had to agree, for the first time Darcy's eyes were clear and most certainly focussed.
"Doctor seemed to think you'd be blind."
"The leech is a bloody fool. One blind person is sufficient for one family."
"Y-e-s." Fitzwilliam's response was hesitant. "Darcy..."
"Not now Ned." Darcy lifted a finger, and Fitzwilliam was pretty sure that Darcy would have lifted his whole hand if he could.
"Abominably weak Darcy? And how did you know what I was going to ask?" Fitzwilliam moved from his corner onto the foot of the bed.
"I knew what you were going to ask because last October that nosey blighter Alastair met my first conscious moments with a very similar question. And yes I do feel abominably weak, but I also know that I won't get anything but slosh for the next week and a half, so I will have to acquire some patience and something to think of fast."
"So true, I do not envy you cousin and feel that this will be my just reward for receiving a black eye and a sore jaw from you..." Fitzwilliam died off, for Darcy had quite simply fallen unconscious again, it took Fitzwilliam a nervous minute to discover that his cousin was merely asleep, not back in the stupor which he had been in for the past week.
"Something the matter Colonel?" Nelli stuck her head through the doorway.
"You should be in bed nurse, and no, there is no problem."
"I thought I heard talking." Nelli calmly disregarded the accusation.
"Quite true. You may tell the doctor that my cousin has defied him again and is currently sleeping."
"That is very nice to hear." Nelli withdrew her head and went in search of the doctor.
Author's Note: Just a bit of information. A Ramp was a fairly common stunt back then, only reason it isn't common today is because you get jailed for it...not that that stops it. A Ramp is basically when you circulate information that such and so a mine has found diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, etc. what ever took your fancy (the reality is of course that there is nothing there). People hearing that the place actually had stuff proceed to buy the stock up, forcing the price way up. At which point primary share holders sell out and the price crashes and the major shareholders come out with an immense profit and there are a large number of bankruptcies.
Darcy frowned darkly down at his feet, then glanced back over his shoulder at the couple of hundred yards which separated him from the hospital. Try as he might, Darcy knew he was going to have to wait a few minutes before he was going to even consider journeying back. Darcy, in fact, found the entire situation nearly nauseating that he could not walk more then a hundred yards without nearly falling on his face and expiring.
"Darcy!" It was a stentorian yell, and wearily Darcy turned his head in the direction of it.
"Over here." Darcy shifted on his rock and experimentally tried to get back to his feet, an experiment which failed miserably and Darcy resumed glaring at his feet.
"What the devil are you doing out here Darcy?" Colonel Fitzwilliam sank down and perched on one heel.
"I was just seeing how far I could walk...unfortunately having got out here I am currently unable to even stand, let alone return."
"Maybe that will teach you to leave your bed before the doctor permits."
"Don't be stupid Ned, it's summer, the air's warm, I won't kill myself by getting out of that hell hole."
"True." Fitzwilliam paused. "Darcy..." Fitzwilliam didn't bother to adding to it.
"Okay, okay." Darcy leant forward, then twisted his head around to take a quick look in every direction. "But note, you're going to have to take my word for this as Parker will deny knowledge of it to any questioners."
"Alright." Fitzwilliam settled down with crossed legs. "Please start at the complete beginning."
"Complete beginning." Darcy gave a sigh. "I hope you're not in any hurry to return to HQ because this could take a while." Darcy then shifted on his rock and stared out across the grass. "This whole mess started more or less with the invasion through Northern India where Death died. The man who was leading that invasion was a certain General Prince Mikhail Dmitrivich Golgerov, Mikhail was discharged from the army as a result. I do not know why he was not stripped of his title, but he manage to retain the title being exiled from the country instead. Exiled from his homeland Mikhail went to South Africa...quite a change in climate for a man who spent most of his life in Siberia." Darcy paused and rubbed his head gently. "I first met Mikhail in the summer of 1912, that was just after I had left the Mounted Police. Nash and I were camped some fifty miles out from Jo'burg, returning from a blown prospecting attempt. We were actually camped on the very edge of Magreeta's land so both Nash and I were not sleeping particularly heavily. I think it must have been about two in the morning when Mikhail stumbled over my feet. At that stage I had not worked out that he was Mikhail, he was just a fugitive. Nash and I got the story out of this man, a minor affair which I told you about, and left him with Magreeta before we headed north again. It took us a bit over a week to cross back the way Mikhail had come, but as soon as we verified his information we headed back for Jo'burg as fast as we could. Unfortunately that particular track took us straight through the middle of Magreeta's territory and his thugs weren't above taking a shot at Nash. Nash actually escaped that debacle unscathed but I was at the receiving end of a lump of shot. Nash and I then headed for the nearest border, where Nash and I separated. Nash went to inform the authorities of what was happening, and to get hold of a doctor to deal with the bullet hole in my shoulder. This was the first time I actually met Georg, Graf von Nickel, and unfortunately it was not the last time. I had often heard of Nickel, he arrived in the German South-West about a year before I arrived in Cape Town for the first time, he is one of those men who makes waves just by walking into a room. The Nickel I had heard of, and the Nickel nearly everyone else heard of was a society leader, he hunted the Big Game, he could dance and make love with the best of them, and he could talk politics with anyone. That evening I met the real Georg, Graf von Nickel, and to be frank he is a man I doubt I will ever understand, but I suspect we might have been friends had our meeting been otherwise. Nickel took me a prisoner that night, having first had some doctor bird see to my shoulder, and for the next week my life was not particularly comfortable since I did not know whether Nash had got through or not. This was the main meeting I had with Nickel in Africa, we met a few other times and once he had a very good try to murder me, unfortunately he chose to try and strangle me and the attempt was not successful." Darcy rubbed his chin.
"Did Nickel only try the once to murder you?"
"Good lord no, he's tried every time we've met...but may I add that I've repaid the compliment more then once myself, and one time it was only foiled by the arrival of your brother." Darcy gave a yawn. "In the earlier part of 1912...I think it was about January, Nickel abruptly left South Africa and the German South-West, you heard no more about him, just the old stories and scandals."
"Any circling about you?" Fitzwilliam lifted a brow.
"Shouldn't think so, I never had much to do with the social side of all the place, Nash and I were pretty much backwood lurkers, never had the funds to launch ourselves into society until right near the end, and then we didn't want to. I don't know where Nickel went after he left Africa, but another face in another place, it made no difference to the man, he had no real personality and character to begin with. Consummate actor if I've ever seen one, he could be anyone you named. In fact I suspect the only reason that he never tried to impersonate me was because I was just too damn large." Darcy yawned again. "'Bout a year and a half or so after that I got Peter's letter. I had no problem with that, though I might have liked both of them to be a bit older, so I gave my consent and went to work closing up my affairs in Jo'burg and other places in preparation of coming home. The day I got home I discovered where Nickel had gone. It was not Lieutenant Peter Fitzwilliam who greeted me that day, it was Graf von Nickel perfectly at home in the role of Lieutenant Peter Fitzwilliam. I am not certain, but I suspect I would have known him even if he had not given himself away. It took me two days to come to my decision for there were many aspects to consider. I then order the engagement terminated. Admittedly I can say now that that was a very stupid move because it made Nickel think I was wise to his game, when I was nothing of the sort. Nickel then abducted Georgiana to cover his back, his aim was to prevent me from interfering with him until his work was done."
"Why was Nickel going to such lengths, one could hardly consider someone like Georgiana an optimal hostage subject."
"Well I think that Nickel found her to be unsatisfactory. Nickel knew that he had to take desperate measures to stop me from following him, and the job he was working on certainly was serious enough to warrant such action as he took. Had he not touched Georgiana I suspect his job would have come off without a hitch, unfortunately he thought I understood more than I really did of the type of life he lived." Darcy stopped again and shook his head. "After leaving Pemberley House with Georgiana, Nickel had gone south to London. He stayed in London for three days, then headed north again and into Hertfordshire. But during those three days he had actually seen Georgiana sent off to Wales, it was with some female accomplice which he headed north again. Nickel stopped in Meryton, Hertfordshire. It was five days after they left Pemberley that I finally managed to catch up with them." Darcy paused and stared silently out across the grass as he sorted through his thoughts. "Now I'm going to have to seemingly digress, in early June of '14...and I mean very early June...about the 2nd or 3rd, three events occured. The first was the arrival of a Greek called Andrea aboard a steamer. Andrea arrived at Liverpool, and had the customs officials been at all acquainted with him they would most certainly have prevented him from landing. The second event was the arrival of a relatively wealthy man and his valet in Dover, normally such an arrival would not warrant comment, but these two arrived on a tramp steamer...which makes it worthy of note. The third incidence was that the first Lord was five minutes late for an importnant meeting at the house of one Parker, Earl of Dellingham. These three events, which seem totally unrelated are infact very closely related...though the first event was more distance in relationship then either of the others, it was still related.
We will follow the man and his valet who landed at Dover. If you ask the man why he came by tramp steamer, possibly one of the most uncomfortable forms of travel known to us, he will answer that it was the quickest trip. If you were to ask the valet why they took that particular boat, the valet would answer that the boat was chosen because no other boat would take him, the valet that is. If you were to ask anyone in South Africa, they would merely respond by shrugging and saying that the man was a trifle queer...but a good prospector. If you were to ask anyone in England they would just look very blankly at you. Our man landed in Dover and journeyed straight to London without break. In London the man went to the house of one Parker Delligham. Parker Dellingham was an acquaintance of this man's, stemming back to some two years earlier when the man had helped Parker out of some minor difficulties with some locals in Rhodesia."
"Just as an interruption Darcy...are you the man who arrived by tramp steamer?" Fitzwilliam frowned thoughtfully.
"Yes." Darcy answered briefly. "The man had called to just say that he had finally returned to England, for Parker had promised him some deer hunting on his return. But when he arrived at Parker's house the master was otherwise occupied with an important meeting, so the man made himself comfortable in the telephone nook under the front stairs and waited. Some two minutes after the man arrived, another man arrived. The second man to arrive was the First Sea Lord, and he was five minutes late for the meeting. Had he been five minutes earlier an large misunderstanding would never have arisen and Georgiana would not now be blind." Darcy paused again and this time it was a weary hand which he ran through his hair. "When I think of how easily all this might have been avoided I feel like I'm a thousand years old."
"What would have happened if it hadn't happened as it did?"
"Well Georgiana would probably still be herself...but I will admit that Nickel's plan would have gone according to plan and instead our current trench deadlock the British Navy would no longer be in existance and the war would long since have finished." Darcy sighed. "True, I think I much prefer this trench deadlock...Or do I? Sometimes I feel like I don't give a damn what happens, just as long as this damn war ends! It was not the First Lord who walked past me that evening, but if you asked anyone, inclusive of the First Lord himself, you would be assured that he turned up to the meeting on time. The planning required for such a stunt is absolutely mind-boggling, they had a five minute gap...and in that gap every single number between one and forty-two was shifted one door to the left in Queen Anne's gate. Months of planning went into this job, finite attention was given to detail. Seven men were needed, six to be the 'other' meeting people and one person to be the substitute for the First Lord. They scoured the globe for their first six men, the seventh man was the manipulator of this entire event. Call me insane if you like but it is the truth. The First Lord went to a meeting on the 3rd of June, he met with members of parliament and the war office, what was discussed was the placement of the Grand Fleet if a war was to occur. But the First Lord was not speaking with who he thought he was speaking, instead, only ten feet away in the next house Nickel was gravely studying the pages he was meant to be studying and Nickel was talking gravely to the men whom the First Lord was meant to speaking with." Darcy paused again. "This is worse then a shilling shocker, but the fact remains that Nickel left nothing to chance, and he never will, if the First Lord had become suspicious of whom he was speaking with the First Lord would have met with an accident while returning home. Fortunately for the First Lord he never considered that such a daring stunt might succeed, he never even considered whether the men seated around him weren't the men they said they were." Darcy paused again and rubbed his head then yawned widely. "I saw Nickel on his way in, but did not recognise him. I saw him leave and I did recognise him...but he also recognised me for I was still dressed as David Seymour from Jo'burgh, though it is entirely possible that that had little to do with it. I didn't really think much of it, for I was at that stage unfamiliar with the names in politics and I had actually assumed that the meeting was just a social get together, but Nickel thought I knew."
"Can anyone back this up Darcy?"
"No." Darcy shook his head wearily. "Nothing could back it up then, and only one thing backs it up now. The only reason Parker accepts that it is truth is because he was there for the end, and this point if the only point where the impersonation could have occured. At that stage I was still just Captain David Seymour of the South African Mounted Police, to Nickel, but the next day he found out who I really was. There are times when having a well-known and long family history is a curse, and this was one of those times. As David Seymour he was willing to leave me alone, after all David Seymour was an unknown, but as Mr. Darcy...that was entirely another matter, Mr. Darcy after all has pull in the parliament, has pull in the police force and has pull with the populace at large. Infact Mr. Darcy could seriously inconvenience if not prevent this plan from occuring. So Nickel sought to put Darcy out of action. First came a bit of skillful talk, and suddenly the police became very interested in the Darcy accounts and the actions of one David Seymour in South Africa. The result of all this is that Mr. Darcy abruptly lost his pull with the police, and infact was a source of interest for the police. At the same time Nickel also abducted Georgiana. After all what reasonable man is going to just drop everything and, completely ignoring the fact that he will be imprisoned if caught...possibly even executed, go after his sister."
"Are you serious?"
"What about?" Darcy finally turned his head away from the view and looked at Fitzwilliam.
"About that forgery charge, is it just trumped up?"
"Not totally." Darcy shrugged.
"What do you mean, not totally?" Fitzwilliam frowned darkly.
"Well, no I didn't actually sit down and copy out page after page of fake money, and no, I did not trade in forged money either."
"Then what do you mean by not totally?"
"No, I had nothing to do with forgery, but having two accounts...plus Nash's accounts, we did more than a little bit of fund juggling, and then I most daftly did a lump transfer of a quarter of a million pounds when I returned to England...I don't care what you say, but you can't transfer that much in a single shot without lifting eyebrows."
"Where did you get a quarter of a million from?" Fitzwilliam had to make quite a conscious effort to stop his jaw from falling open.
"Well most of it came from the vein we hit up in Rhodesia. There's nothing like buying 10,000 shares at 5 pence a share and selling them a week later at 18, 19 pounds a share."
"What the..." Fitzwilliam frowned and hoped he didn't appear as shocked as he felt. "What made that type of rise?"
"Caloridiga, Sapphire mining company."
"But Caloridiga is down at about 8 pence a share." Colonel Fitzwilliam frowned. "It wasn't a ramp was it?"
"What do you take me for!?" Darcy's frown darkened considerably. "No, it wasn't a ramp. There're sapphires up there like nobodies business, but they're hellish to get at. Cost an absolute fortune to get them out, possibly more then they'd sell for, the natives won't go within spitting distance, they say there's devils up there."
"Sorry." Fitzwilliam raised his hands defensively. "Don't get all het up, I'm sorry I questioned the reliability, but you have to admit it sounds suspicious."
"Not if you spent five years studying the South African share market. Shares go up and down there like...like...like the land around Kilimanjero."
"That's an odd comparison."
"Not really, Kilimanjero either goes straight up or it's coming nearly straight down. The South African market could wreck you...or it could make you filthy rich."
"Are you still dealing in it?" Fitzwilliam glanced curiously at Darcy.
"Hell no, I haven't the time to play such a risky game." Darcy gave a quick grin. "You make a fortune down there and pull out as quickly as you can."
"Where'd you get 500 pounds from?"
"Credit, mon cousin, credit. Fortunately it paid off before too much interest accumulated."
"Someone down there would let you have that much on credit?"
"No fear, we had to use all our available accounts."
"Surely Nash's accounts as you call them weren't worth much?" Fitzwilliam was finding this hard going.
"Ned...Nash can get tens more credit than I can get. Down there they don't care how they get their money back, just as long as they get it back. As the good, law abiding Seymour I could get a few tens of pounds of credit...Nash could get a few hundred pounds. You know you'd get it back...and it would probably be some fool who dealt in with one of his salted mines who paid the sum."
"What's the difference between salting a mine, and ramps?"
"Salted mines never reach the market, they're set up to cheese the rich nabob out of his cash...or for the most part they don't reach the market...mostly you just try to persuade him he's getting an early dip into a big deal."
"Oh." Fitzwilliam blinked. "Now back to where we were before this distraction occured, I think Nickel had just tried to get you out of the way."
"True. Until Nickel actually took me a prisoner I didn't even have the faintest idea what was going on. Then I made my first escape and had the confounded idiocy to take the wrong coat. And well you might look like that Ned, I still haven't worked out how I got the wrong coat, but most certainly I got the wrong coat, a fact I didn't wise up to until I was installed for the night at the local inn and wanting to smoke my pipe."
"You racked up at the local inn?"
"Well would you look for your prisoner at the local inn?"
"No, I don't think I would."
"So, the reason for why I racked up at the local inn. Unfortunately Nickel happened to wise up to that idea and he recaught me the next day, he was more than a little desperate to retrieve that book. Nickel entertained one unfriendly streak after he recaught me." Darcy thoughtlessly rubbed a narrow scar which stretched from his ear around to the back of his neck, a scar which was usually concealed by his hair.
"Where does Mr. Haldy come into this?" Fitzwilliam lifted an enquiring eyebrow.
"Oh, Haldy was Nickel. After being Peter, Haldy would have been a holiday performance for the man. Nickel was trying to cause me as much trouble as possible and what better way than to have one of my best friends abduct Georgiana?"
"But...surely Haldy has had something to say on the matter?"
"A bit hard to say something when you're a resident on a North Scotland island which gets visited about once a month. You seem to forget that Haldy had taken the craze for ornithology that year."
"Oh." Fitzwilliam paused, then waved his hand. "We left off this time when Nickel was being somewhat unfriendly."
"Hmmm." Darcy nodded slowly his eyes staring in an unfocussed manner at a nearby hedgegrow. "Owl Close Meryton, that was the place. Until my second imprisonment that had been Nickel's main base...I sort of made it impractical as a base in my escape. After leaving Meryton I was somewhat fortunate in getting on the trail of where Georgiana had been sent." Darcy paused and wearily rubbed his head. "I was about half a minute to late Ned, given that extra half minute I could have stopped Nickel before he struck, but as it was I just had the joy of driving from Wales into Kent at two in the morning and waking up one irrascible doctor." Darcy paused.
"Why did you leave Darcy? It was only four days after she regained consciousness. How could you just leave like that?"
"I had to catch Nickel." Darcy's response was flat.
"Georgiana seemed somewhat excited and irritated when she heard you left."
"Not surprising, she had requested my presence the next day. I chose to leave instead."
"Blast it Darcy that is scundgy. How could you just leave like that?" Fitzwilliam jerked back in suprise as he saw anger flare in Darcy's eyes.
"How could I leave like that? Why don't you also ask why I didn't remain so she could spend another three hours screaming herself into a fever at me. Why don't you ask why I chose to leave and catch Nickel instead of..." Darcy abruptly bit his lip and stood up. "Forget it Ned, you don't believe me...you could hardly expect her to. I need to get back." Darcy moved off jerkily, leaving a stunned Fitzwilliam to stare after him. Fitzwilliam had never considered that side of it before, and he doubted anyone else had, for had not Darcy said that business called him away and had Darcy ever been known to lie? Not that it had been a lie, for Darcy had had work to do, he had had one Nickel to chase. Fitzwilliam frowned at Darcy's figure which was now ducking into the hospital, Devil take the man and his insanities. Fitzwilliam rose stiffly to his feet and looked around the hospital grounds, he guessed that in three days he'd be able to depart, then given good luck he might manage to fit in a trip to Camthorne Hospital and Derbyshire as well as getting back to the hospital in time for Darcy's discharge. Not that Fitzwilliam didn't suspect that Darcy might discharge himself early, he had done it before.
Colonel Edward Fitzwilliam gave a sigh as he topped the hill and saw the primary grounds of Pemberley House spread out below his feet. Without doubt Fitzwilliam was relieved that he had finally made it, for even if Georgiana would not see him, he could be certain of getting a drink. Not that Fitzwilliam had any intention of leaving without seeing Georgiana, infact Fitzwilliam knew for a fact he would not be leaving until this whole muddle was straightened up. Damn Darcy! Damn his sister! and Damn the fact that they were such stubborn and certain people.
Fitzwilliam shook his head and started down the hill, he had to admit that he had never envied Darcy, and of late he had been deeply thankful that he was not Darcy. Sure, it might be nice to not be dependant on an elder brother and an army salary, but Fitzwilliam much preferred the dependancy to the idea of having a younger sister living on his primary estate swearing to kill him if she ever heard his voice again, or saw him. Fitzwilliam shook his head again as he reached the bottom of the slope and jogged swiftly across the formal gardens until he came to a stop by a small side door which was only ever used by the family and was currently badly overgrown by ivy. This also meant that it hadn't been used in two years. Fitzwilliam hesitated briefly before he pushed the key into the stiff lock, but after the hesitation and a brief tustle with the lock the door opened and he was into the house. But as soon as Fitzwilliam entered the house he stopped dead and considered retreating again. There was absolutely no sound to be heard on the ground floor, but there was plenty of noise from upstairs. Fitzwilliam frowned, then shrugged and headed for the stairs. He found at the foot of the stairs a huddle which was made up of the Pemberley House house staff, it was without surprise that he noted all were either well over fifty, if not sixty, or were disabled. Very like Darcy to re-instate all the old staff to free up the younger generation to enlist if they felt so inclined....and very unsurprisingly all had left and enlisted into all manner of occupations.
"What's going on?"
"Oh Master Edward." Mrs Reynolds, the elderly housekeeper came nervously forward. "I really don't think you should have come."
"So I gather, but what's going on? It sounds like someone's trying to rip the house apart." Fitzwilliam thought nothing of the sound, it actually sounded like an elephant was on the loose.
"Miss Georgiana is a bit upset, perhaps if you come back tomorrow...." Mrs Reynold's proffered the idea cautiously.
"Not even open for consideration, I'm back to France this evening and I need to see Georgiana before I go."
"Well, we won't stop you going up, but I doubt you'll get a word said."
"We'll see." Fitzwilliam shrugged and went jumping up the stairs, he was here for a reason and he wouldn't leave 'til it was done.
"Colonel Fitzwilliam." Mrs Annesley was leaning against the wall of the passage and watched his approach gravely.
"I take it Georgiana is not happy."
"Just a bad day, that's all."
"Well it's just about to cease being bad....either that or it's going to get worse and I'll take her away with me."
"Very good sir." Mrs Annesley nodded briefly and headed for the stairs, she did not know why the Colonel had come without any warning, but if she knew anything of him the matter was probably both private and important.
Colonel Fitzwilliam watched Mrs Annesley go, before turning and facing the door with a sigh. The banging was starting to fade away, but Fitzwilliam was well enough acquainted with Georgiana to know that this was probably the worst possible sign.
"Hello Georgiana." Fitzwilliam came strolling through the doorway in a lazy manner, but his hands were ready and his eyes were watching for anything that might come flying towards him.
"Edward?" Georgiana's head appeared from her wardrobe.
"No. Do come out Georgiana, I'm in a hurry."
"Then why stop to see me?" Georgiana's head vanished again, her voice had a petulent note.
"Because I have my reasons. Now come out, sit down, and be reasonable before you wreck this place completely."
"Why shouldn't I? The brother can more than afford to repair it all." Georgiana's tone was now disgusted.
"He's more likely to be dead. Now come out and sit down before I drag you out." Colonel Fitzwilliam was swiftly losing patience with Georgiana.
"Were you serious?" Georgiana looked out of the wardrobe.
"About what? Dragging you out? I can assure you that I was."
"No I was referring to the other matter." Georgiana felt around cautiously as she slowly crossed the room until she finally sat down on the bed.
"Why do you so dislike your brother?" Fitzwilliam didn't feel like making this kind, Georgiana was definitely having one of her bad days. Infact he hadn't seen her this upset since the very early days after the whole affair had occured. Fitzwilliam had thought the matter painful when the order came from Darcy that Peter was to break off the engagement, but that had been a very pale affair to what followed.....and Fitzwilliam was now of the opinion that what he thought had followed must have been pale compared to what really followed.
"I would have thought the matter was plainly obvious." Georgiana had risen to her feet again.
"Sit down Georgiana."
"Georgiana sit before I tie you into a damn chair."
"What's got into you? You used to like me. Why are you treating me like this?" Tears started into Georgiana's eyes.
"Georgiana, sit down." Fitzwilliam was going no further until Georgiana sat down, and her tears only exasperated him further.
"Of all spoilt brats you are by far the worst Georgiana Marie Darcy. It appears that my trip here was totally wasted, I am sorry to see that a cousin of mine and a Darcy could have become so utterly selfish and badly behaved. My mother will indeed be sorry to hear this." Fitzwilliam rose abruptly to his feet and walked back towards the doorway. His disappointment in her was not totally feigned, infact most of it was real, the Georgiana of old most certainly would not have behaved like that.
"No Edward, don't go, I'll be good. I've been having a bad day, it's so hard sometimes...."
"Don't say that Georgiana, that does you absolutely no credit at all." Fitzwilliam spun on his heel, for the first time in his life he totally lost his temper with Georgiana.
"But...." Georgiana stopped as Fitzwilliam interrupted her.
"Yes I know, you're blind and you can no longer do what you used to do. Everyone around here knows that, you make very sure that they all know it. Try growing past it Georgiana, learn how to be useful to the world as you are, stop being a burden to the staff here."
"Georgiana there is not a single retainer here who isn't over the conscription age or crippled in some way. Sammy who looks after the chooks is blind as well. He has been blind from birth, he never saw how beautiful this world was and he never will, be thankful for the seventeen years you had. I have seen men who have been blinded, and their last sights were not of a beautiful and peaceful world, it was a blood soaked and war torn battle field, surrounded by the corpses of their best friends and most trusted comrades. Count your blessings Georgiana and stop trying to ruin this house. I never realised how spoilt you had become, obviously Uncle George made a mistake when he left you to the guardianship of two commissioned officers and your eldest brother. You probably should have been left to Aunt Catherine and Aunt Helena....or perhaps there is someone else you would have prefered."
"But Edward, that's not fair. Fitzwilliam doesn't even like me, Death died within less then six months of my father and you were in India."
"You think Fitzwilliam doesn't like you?" The Colonel sank almost bonelessly back into his seat, this was an unexpected developement. Sure, he had known that Georgiana hated her brother, but he had never realised that she thought Darcy hated her.
"Well he obviously doesn't, first he goes away and doesn't reappear for five years, then when he does he broke off my engagement and causes my former fiancee to suicide, and finally some friend of his abducts me and tries to kill me. Oh yes, indeed Fitzwilliam does like me." Georgiana sneered bitterly.
"Georgiana do you know where Darcy currently is?"
"No, but somewhere in France I guess." Georgiana shrugged, but her expression did not change.
"Correct, he is currently in hospital recovering from a serious attack of Typhoid Fever. I suggest you keep a closer eye on where he is and what he does, Georgiana, he is your only remaining family member and though you probably won't believe me he would willingly give his life to save you from harm......infact he has very nearly done it once already."
"He would give his life?" Georgiana pulled a disgusted face. "You're right, I don't believe you."
"What would you say if I said your brother had blown himself up with lentonite in an effort to save you?"
"I wouldn't believe you in the slightest. Fitzwilliam would never do anything so degrading as get himself in a position where he might even be near lentonite....whatever lentonite is."
"Lentonite is a fairly general explosive, used extensively in the South African mining industry......Didn't Darcy ever tell you why he went to South Africa?"
"No, why should he? He just wanted to get away from it all." Georgiana shrugged.
"Just wanted to get away from it? Trust me Georgiana, a man does not leave his home country with less than enough money to last six months just because he wants to get away from it. Why have you never questioned why he has such an uncultured and clearly backwood individual as Nash?"
"Is Nash backwood?"
"Good grief Georgiana. The man forms less than half his aitches and knows more about breaking the law then he knows about keeping it. Maybe you should just sit up and for once in your damn life look beyond your own precious personal opinion. You're full ready to say that Fitzwilliam hates you, but how about you take a look around yourself Georgiana. How do you think someone like Mrs Annesley happened to be here waiting for your return from hospital? How do you think the direction boards which let you know where you are around the house arrived and were set up? Did you think that sharp corners and low shelves just magically disappeared so you didn't bump into them? Have you ever questioned why you were not installed into an institution as our dear Aunt Catherine so strongly pressured for to happen? Has it ever occured to you to stop being so bloody selfish Georgiana and actually consider whether there might be more sides to this then you thought? Have you ever even asked Darcy why he terminated your engagement, since it initially happened? Have you ever asked him what action he took against the supposed Mr Haldy? Have you ever questioned why your elder brother who never hesitated when it came to abusing the current military system actually enlisted at the first available opportunity into that very system? Has it ever occured to you that that very brother who is the only remaining member of your family is actually trying to oblige you and get himself killed? Think about it Georgiana, you know Fitzwilliam as well as I do, and I will admit that that is not very well. What effect do you think this entire affair has on him? He blames himself Georgiana, he won't even let me take a whisker of the blame. Sure, Darcy is to blame, but you're not perfect yourself Georgiana and you had enough gall to let our entire family believe that Darcy had just walked out on you while you were in hospital..."
"But he did!"
"No he didn't Georgiana, you ordered him away. Do you really think that Fitzwilliam would casually employ himself as the doormat for you to stomp on. You screamed at him for three hours Georgiana and hospitals are not sound proof, have you ever considered what sort of talk that would make? Darcy has just as much pride as you have Georgiana, what would you do if I were to now proceed to scream and yell at you for three hours? You'd probably walk out on me."
"What happened?" Georgiana abruptly tucked her legs up.
"What?" Fitzwilliam eyed Georgiana suspiciously.
"What happened? You obviously know else you would not have come, so what happened?"
"Okay...but this will take a while."
"Doesn't matter, I don't do anything."
"Why don't you play the piano?"
"I can't read the music, how can I play the piano?"
"I don't think......I know. Now, before I get distracted again." Fitzwilliam settled down on a small chair and proceed to recount the story as he had heard it from Darcy, also adding a few minor details which he had picked up from Alastair concerning some aspects of how much difficulty Darcy had gone to in ensuring that Mrs Annesley was appropriate as a companion, and in obtaining the direction boards.
"What happened after he left the hospital?" Georgiana creased up her forehead.
"I honestly don't know, but I do know that Nickel evaded execution after he was captured, and is making things somewhat uncomfortable for many people." Fitzwilliam shrugged.
"I'm going to see Dr Alastair." Georgiana got up with decision, then stopped and stared at the floor. "Where's David?"
"Uhh." Fitzwilliam stopped, Georgiana's use of Darcy's actual first name caught him by surprise. "He's currently in France by what I last heard but he should be returning any day now."
"Well go find him and tell him to come to Pemberley." Georgiana walked to her wardrobe. "Tell Mrs Annesley I wish to speak to her when you leave. Also tell her I want to know when the next train leaves for London and ask whether she is willing to accompany me."
"Georgiana, you are braver then all of us." Fitzwilliam suddenly pulled her into a tight embrace. "This has taken a lot of weight off my mind." Fitzwilliam had not expected Georgiana to take such quick action, but as he thought about it he had to admit that it was not at all out of character with the old Georgiana.
"I'm not brave Edward, I have cold feet, I'm scared out of my wits, but I know he won't come unless ordered to show up."
"Georgiana, you haven't left Pemberley in two years.......that you are even considering to leave now I consider heroic enough to pin a medal on you."
"Save it until after David's returned to the front knowing that he no longer has two prices on his head." Georgiana vanished into her wardrobe, then suddenly came out again. "Is this my blue travelling dress?"
"Umm, no." Fitzwilliam was hard pressed to contain his laughter as Georgiana held out some pale underclothing. "Perhaps if you go in search of some heavier material."
"Oh dear." Georgiana turned pink and hastily vanished back into her wardrobe. She emerged slightly there after with two travelling dresses. One was a navy blue and the the other was emerald green.
"Navy blue travelling dress is in your right hand. Perhaps if I send Mrs Annesley in, she is much more likely to be able to help you."
"No, she'll need to pack and I need to learn how to look after my bedroom at least." Georgiana nodded firmly, and in the next hour Colonel Fitzwilliam found many scenes hysterical and slightly embarrassing as Georgiana worked through her wardrobe deciding what she needed and didn't need and where to put what she didn't actually need. But eventually the job was done and a flustered and dusty Georgiana sat down on her bed.
"Perhaps if I go and see whether Mrs Annesley is willing to accompany you?" Fitzwilliam rose to his feet, slightly unnerved by Georgiana's silence.
"Please do." Georgiana's voice was slightly husky and Fitzwilliam hurriedly quit the room feeling quite unable to cope with the situation. He found Mrs Annesley and the rest of the staff waiting at the foot of the stairs.
"Mrs Annesley, could I have a word with you in private?"
"Thankyou." Fitzwilliam paused. "Mrs Reynolds, when does the next train leave for London?"
"In an hour and a half master Edward."
"Thankyou." Fitzwilliam smiled slightly, then turned and followed Mrs Annesley into a side room. "Georgiana wants to know whether you are willing to accompany her on a journey?"
"Then I suggest you get packing." Colonel Fitzwilliam walked to the door, then stopped. "Georgiana has already packed herself. I'll leave it to her to say where she's going and why." Colonel Fitzwilliam left the room, then after a moments hesitation he turned and swiftly mounted the stairs, pausing briefly outside Georgiana's room, he could hear no sounds and after a second he knocked softly.
"Mrs Annesley has agreed quite willingly to accompany you. The next London train leaves in an hour and a half. You'll have to tell Mrs Annesley where you are going as I don't know. I'm now saying goodbye as Jermyn will be getting impatient."
"Goodbye Edward. Say hello to Jermyn from me."
"I will Georgiana. Say hello to Darcy from me when you see him."
"It will probably give me something to say." Georgiana's tone was subdued.
"Cheer up." Colonel Fitzwilliam took the stairs at a run and was soon heading for the edge of the Pemberley Estate where he most expected to find his elder brother leaning heavily on the car horn. His expectations were not wrong and within a very few minutes the plaintive wailing of the car horn was clearly audible. "Sorry, took longer then expected." Fitzwilliam didn't bother opening the door as he entered the car, choosing instead to vault over the door.
"So I gathered." Jermyn Fitzwilliam put his car into gear with a jerk and grind of gears. "Should be more careful doing that, someday you'll go through the floor."
"I'll worry about that when it happens." Fitzwilliam settled back with a yawn.
"You might call it that. I left Georgiana packed and waiting to catch the train to London."
"I might call it that?" Jermyn turned his head to stare at his brother in amazement. "I call it a bloody miracle Ned. Had anyone told me a month ago that Georgiana would even dream of forgiving Fitzwilliam I'd have laughed in their face." Jermyn sobered quickly. "I just hope this isn't preparing Darcy for a harder fall."
"It won't. Georgiana may have her bad days, but she's even more stubborn then either of her brothers and she's decided to forgive Darcy. It will have to take Darcy some really scundgy behaviour for her to get truly angry with him again."
"Not that Peter wasn't unscundgy behaviour."
"Peter wasn't what he appeared to be, infact someday our family might owe Darcy an appology over that matter."
"You're hiding something Ned."
"No, I have been told nothing."
"Damn you." Jermyn's response was good humoured as he realised the unspoken information behind the words. As was always the way, one of the Darcy brothers was up to his neck in mischief of a kind which got tightly packed in beauracratical redtape. "Likewise damn him. So annoying my leave has terminated, I would have liked to have delved a little further into the matter."
"Don't bother, I got my information during a week of delirium and I think Darcy will be mighty prickly if you stick your nose in."
"Never understood why you're so hard on Darcy and yet won't let any of the rest of us make fun of him."
"Call it a right I gave myself and don't you DARE drive me into the ditch!"
"Sorry, sir." With a sickening swerve Jermyn avoided the ditch and the trip to London continued.
"Not now." Senator George Knightley from Minnesota banged the receiver home and once more picked up the file which was attempting to interest him. But as with every other time the Trade Unionist Act failed to keep his attention.
"Knock, knock." The voice on the other side of the door was very familiar to Knightley.
"Come in John......Why do you persist in not knocking?"
"Because you'd tell me to go away if I just knocked, assuming me to be your beastly secretary." John took an appreciative glance around his brother's office. "You know this almost persuades me to become a Senator, your offices are so much larger and less crowded."
"Well here, see whether you can read this 'request' from the Trade Unionists."
"No thanks, writing about Archeological finds are quite bad enough." John swept a pile of red taped papers onto the floor and took a seat, carefully straightening his grey trousers.
"Try switching to Society Columns, I'm sure Emma would enjoy the change."
"Oh what fun, I get to chase after my own brother for the inside information." John dusted his vest and then leant forward.
"Why an emerald green shirt, a dark blue vest and grey flannel trousers?" Knightley had been eyeing his brother's attire with a pained expression. "You look like some escapee from Hollywood."
"Well I like that!" John sniffed, but he then laughed. "Brother, if you don't remember, this was literary week at the office."
"Oh, and who are you meant to be imitating?"
"George Knightley, author extroadinaire and Minnesotan Senator." John paused. "Maybe I should have worn those pink flannel pants Emma gave me last year." John then handed across a voluminous purple and pink handkerchief, which had been serving as a scarfe for the better part of the day, so Knightley could mop up the coffee he had spat out.
"Truth please brother." Knightley gingerly handed the handkerchief back to his brother, John eyed it for a moment and then wrapped it in the plain white handkerchief he had been using for the day.
"Okay, I was pretending to be.......oh help I've forgotten the old buzzard's name......well I know he didn't write the Little House books." John settled back. "You should actually thank me for the sobriety of my attire, that handkerchief was around my neck until I left the office."
"Right, I'm changing my name." Knightley shoved the Trade Unionist Act to one side and took a sharp look at his brother. "Literary weeks aside, what has bitten you John? It's never got you so thrilled before to dress up like an escapee from a Hollywood Studio."
"Hah! That's my secret.....actually I had come here for a very good reason." John rubbed his hand and gave a grin at his elder brother. "You are going to have a few days off next week aren't you?"
"Oh no, what now?" Knightley gave his brother a look of deep foreboding. "Did that London job come through?"
"Well yes." John looked briefly appologetic. "But that's not why you're going to be free next week."
"Then why am I wanted to be free for a few days next week?" Knightley frowned with even greater darkness at his brother.
"Well..." John paused, looking very uncomfortable. "You know......"
"No I don't know, and vague wrigglings aren't going to make me know. Out with it John." Knightley hadn't seen his brother this uncomfortable in years.
"Well, the fact of the matter is I need a Best Man and I really don't want to have one of the boys from the paper for they'll let everyone know."
"Intending to make a discreet announcement as you take leave from work?" Knightley's brows rose in amusement.
"Well you might say that.....there are times when it is truly foul being both a Knightley and having a brother as a Senator."
"Well you can become the Senator if you like. When do you go to England?"
"Well Sitters is due back February-March and as I understand it I'm meant to meet him in London before he sails to get introduced and what-not."
"Terrifying thought. So we'll wave you off with damp handkerchiefs in February then." Knightley gave a yawn. "Right-ho, I'll dig out the sunday best and make sure I'm free on the appointed day......will your proposal have met Emma's exacting standards?"
"I doubt it." John gave a yawn. "I'd just fallen into the river, and I asked her to marry me as she fished me out. She said yes and we fell straight back in and had to be retrieved by some generous fisherman."
"Don't tell me Emma's here as well?" Knightley suddenly realised that John was refering to the Mississippi, not to the Potomac.
"Yeah, we came up on the train yesterday and while Emma went shopping Izzy and I went swimming."
"You certainly don't waste time, you propose in the last two days and intend to marry her by the end of next week?" Knightley's brows rose in surprise.
"Well..." John shrug. "Does sound somewhat hasty when you put it that way, but in reality I've been an awful long time over it. I mean a five year wait......and you expect me to wait longer?"
"You could have asked earlier."
"True, but I didn't realise I wanted to marry her until she was fishing me out of the river."
"Does she object to marrying that soon?"
"No." John answered simply. "Infact she was the one to suggest it. Her theory being that if we marry before we return to D.C. than the press will probably leave us alone."
"You're hopeful....though I have no objections. Do you want me to get the license or are you going to be fearsomely independant and do it all yourself?"
"Much as I'd like you to do it I suspect that they'll get wind of it if you go digging around for a special license." John responded with frankness.
"Have fun then, and do send me a card of which day I'm to show up in coat and tails on, which church I'm to go to, and what time I'm to arrive there at."
"Will do." John hauled himself up from the chair and headed for the door, only to be stopped by his brother's voice.
"Tell Emma that if she's tired of lovebirds that I've got a formal dinner tonight and she's quite welcome to accompany me."
"We haven't got a rag up here suitable for a formal dinner." John had no difficulty in deciphering the remark as an invitation for Emma to come to dinner. John likewise knew that Emma would also know what was meant, but the clothes were a definite bar.
"Joy Street, Stephanie, tell her to charge it to mother's old account."
"You mean mama's account is still open?" John was honestly startled, for their mother had been dead for twenty-five years now.
"Emma knows the details." Knightley frowned at the Trade Act and then looked up. "Congratulate Izzy for me will you."
"Right." John gave a nod and finally removed his somewhat colourful presence from his brother's office.
"Hello John." Emma was perched on a small chair in the outer office.
"Emma, when did you get here?" John was surprised to see Emma perched there, he would have thought this was the last place she'd turn up.
"Well Izzy went to the hotel and wanted me to tell you so, and besides which there was something I wanted to ask Mr Knightley."
"Well he's currently trying to read some Unionist Trade.....Trade Unionist Act or other, so you'd probably be a welcome interruption...and that ensemble certainly won't give him a headache."
"You should have brought more than the single change of clothes." Emma sniffed.
"Which reminds me, Knightley has a formal dinner or something this evening and requires a companion to ward off the ravening matchmakers."
"I haven't a dress for it......and besides I don't believe he said anything of the sort."
"True." John gave a nod. "He said something along the lines that if you were sick of love birds then he had a formal dinner you were welcome to accompany him to."
"That still doesn't get me a dress."
"True." John gave another nod. "I pointed that out to him and he said something about Joy Street, Stephanie, and charging it too mama's account."
"Heavens, it must be formal." Emma's eyes had widened in astonishment, unlike John Stephanie on Joy Street was a name she knew. Stephanie's prices were undoubtedly exorbitant, but the result was certainly worth it.
"Well go in, thank him and don't even consider your sister for the evening." John gave a wave and headed for the door leaving Emma to smile quietly to herself before she finally rose and went to knock on the office door.