y dear Watson," said Sherlock Holmes, "life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind could invent."
"Of course, as the unofficial advisor and helper to everybody who is absolutely puzzled, throughout three continents, you are brought in contact with all that is strange and bizarre," replied the doctor.
Sherlock Holmes had been standing between the parted blinds gazing at the dull, neutral-tinted London street when a carriage stopped at his door. There she was, elegantly dressed, wearing a hat which was tilted in a coquettish Duchess-of-Derbyshire fashion over her ear, and clutching an envelope in her hands. He turned towards the door, "It seems we are to have a visitor."
"Are you expecting any?"
"No one in particular, but an intriguing new case may be preferable to the insufferable weather we've had for weeks."
"And to the morphine you have been injecting in your veins," Dr. Watson added, but not aloud.
"Come in, Mrs. Stevens," he said before she even had a chance to knock.
"Mr. Holmes, Mrs. Elizabeth Darcy of Pemberley," she announced as she placed her visiting card on the tray.
Holmes welcomed her with a bow as he directed her to sit down and asked if she would take tea.
"No thank you, I am here on a most urgent matter and have not an instant to lose."
"Allow me to introduce my friend and associate Doctor Watson, before whom you can speak as freely as before myself."
"Doctor Watson, of course, I am delighted to meet you. My husband and I are most fond of your articles. That is how I happen to know of you, Mr. Holmes."
"And to what do we owe the honour of your visit, Mrs. Darcy?"
"My sister Lydia Wickham has been found dead and I believe her -husband murdered her. You see, I have been doing some investigating of my own." Elizabeth now looked straight at Holmes and saw him looking at her intrigued, the way her husband had done years back when they had become acquainted.
"Women should leave murder investigations to the police, madam; -remember, curiosity killed the cat."
Elizabeth ignored the remark, for she would soon have to leave not to be missed at home, and was looking for help, not for an argument. "Yes, well, I have been to Scotland Yard to see inspector Lestrade, and he's convinced it is a clear case of suicide--—but he is wrong, Mr. Holmes. She was murdered!" Her eyes filled with tears.
"I see. You have my attention, madam."
"The last time I saw my sister, six months ago, she was in a very bad state. I suspected her husband's cruelty, but she denied it. She had bruises all over her face and cuts on her hands; yet, she seemed happy. She was with child and did not intend to lose this one after the last two miscarriages. She was taking a potion called "liquid of life", that her husband had insisted she take everyday. I myself was with child back then and asked her for some. She was hesitant but before I left she put a little bottle in my hand. We left London for Derbyshire immediately after I saw her for my twins were to be born at Pemberley Manor. Alas, she lost her child once more, and I resolved to have the potion analysed by a chemist as soon as we returned to London. That I did. Three days after my arrival, she was found dead by my aunt Mrs. Gardiner. Mr. Wickham, the perfect picture of everything that is false and superficial, was beside himself with grief. I'll never forget his words, "She killed herself because she felt incomplete as a woman since she could not be a mother."
Holding back tears, she continued: "The chemist has just confirmed my fears--that liquid of life was her liquid of death. The poison is of an exotic variety he was not familiar with. I do not know how Mr. Wickham could have obtained it. That is why I have collected and brought with me the calling cards of all who came to my poor sister's burial and were unknown to my family. I am hoping that you may shed some light, Mr. Holmes, as to who might be responsible for supplying Mr. Wickham with this poison. Will you help me, Mr. Holmes?"
"I must say, Mrs. Darcy, that your discoveries make this a mystery. And I am inclined to solve it."
"I am glad to hear it. You will be justly rewarded, I assure you. I will leave with you all the calling cards, and a copy of the chemist's report. I must ask that you keep my visit here a secret since, apart from my sister Mrs. Bingley, no one knows that I have come to you. If you need to see me, you may call at the house between ten and eleven in the morning. My husband is at his club then, and my acquaintances usually call later in the day. Thank you, and good day to you gentlemen."
Whilst Holmes was going through the calling cards, Watson said: "What a remarkable woman, Holmes! Her husband may as well be the luckiest man in all of England."
Suddenly, Holmes turned to him, and let out:
"Aha! Professor Moriarty's card."
"Moriarty? What was your archenemy doing at Mrs. Wickham's burial, Holmes?"
"That, my dear Watson, is for me to discover."
Elizabeth returned to the Bingley's town house on ....Street. Fearing the arrival of Charles and Fitzwilliam from the club at any time, Jane had been waiting most anxiously for her to return. Elizabeth had hired a cab to the her to Baker Street and back, for she did not want anyone to recognize the Darcy coat of arms on their carriage. Their coachman Horace would certainly gossip, so she sent him on an errand before she left. He did notice her return, though, as did Lady Hampton, who had come to call on Jane, but would not leave until she had a chance to see Elizabeth. That was odd, she thought, since Caroline had always tried to avoid her.
"Eliza, how good it is to see you finally, where on earth have you been? We have been waiting over an hour for you, have we not, Jane? I have come from the dress maker and know you already have your gown for tonight's piano recital."
"If you must know, I was at my jeweler's! I have a brooch that is in need of repair."
"Ladies shall we have tea?" said Jane.
Caroline left shortly after, and Elizabeth was finally able to share with Jane her impressions of the famous Sherlock Holmes. His willingness to help was indeed a great comfort. Now they could really look forward to an evening's entertainment. She knew that Caroline would inform Lord Hampton of her long absence this morning and of whatever gossip she might be speculating on, because she always did, but now her mind was more agreeably engaged, as she thought of her favorite Brahms, the Balladen opus 10, which she would hear at the recital. Her reverie was interrupted by her husband, who had just arrived with Bingley.
The men had excused themselves for their late arrival, but knew the ladies would be quite pleased when they learnt that they had been visiting their favorite jeweler's shop. They each presented their spouses with earrings for them to wear tonight with their new gowns. The gifts were acknowledged with a kiss and much admiration. Elizabeth's thought was quite tormented: "Of all the shops in London I could have picked from, why did I have to tell Caroline I was at the jeweler's?"
"Well dearest, what do you say if we go home and play with the twins?"
Upon their arrival home, they had a telegram waiting from Lady Whitfield. Georgiana had married Lord John Whitfield on a glorious spring day in Pemberley before the Darcy's return to town. They had left for a tour of Italy after their wedding and were to stay away at least a month. Elizabeth had tried to reach her with the sad news of Lydia's death, first on Lake Como, where she later learnt she had missed her, then in Florence, whence her reply.
My dear sister,
John and I wish to express our most sincere condolences for the death of your sister. I know my brother's love is a great comfort to you and upon my return next month you may also count on my support.
Know that we are well and having a splendid time. Italy is indeed the most beautiful country I have ever seen. You must both plan a trip here soon. We had the honor of meeting Mark Twain at the Uffizi Museum yesterday, and even though he is quite old now, he is a remarkable conversationalist. We sometimes had a hard time understanding him, though, as his American accent is very strong indeed. I thought it might amuse you to know that we have invited him to dine with us whenever he may be in town, and he promised he would! Next week we shall be in Venice, where I will finally get to see Turner's Venetian paintings, as well as my favorite Titian. I am so lucky to have a husband who shares my love for art.
We are filling out trunks with objects and lots of gifts too, quite shamelessly. I miss you all dearly, and send you all the love that can be spared from my darling John.
"When Georgiana and John return, we shall leave the twins and nanny with them at Winchester Park. I will then take you to Italy, Elizabeth, I promise. So, you had better start practicing your Italian."
"Oh yes, I do so wish to see Verdi at La Scala in Milan."
"Then we shall. Let us go to the children now, I miss them."
"Yes, for we do not wish to be late for the concert."
Upon entering the foyer at the Royal Albert Hall, Elizabeth thought she had seen Wickham in the crowd, but quickly lost him. She did not wish to give the impression that her husband held no interest for her with her "wondering eyes", as he justly reprimanded her. She had no intention of ruining his evening by mentioning Wickham's name. Turning towards her husband, however, she did see another man who piqued her interest. Darcy sensed it.
"Elizabeth, you seem to have an eager interest in that gentleman!"
"Why, it's Oscar Wilde! You know how much I loved his book 'The Picture of Dorian Grey', and you, who went to Oxford with him, refuse to introduce me."
"You see that he is surrounded by his ever present entourage Elizabeth; he does not want to be disturbed."
"I do not see how two more would disturb. Oh, never mind, I would not want you to agree with me. To quote Mr. Wilde, "When people agree with me, I always feel that I must be wrong."
Darcy was now debating whether he should introduce Elizabeth to Mr. Wilde, when she grated his am and insisted they hurry to their seats. Elizabeth was grateful that he did not notice the entrance of two other gentlemen. She had seen Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson arrive. Mr. Holmes, true to his promise, had turned away, but for a moment she thought Dr. Watson was coming to greet her, and that would not do. She did want to tell Mr. Holmes that she had seen Wickham here, but that would be impossible. It would have to wait. Maybe tomorrow. Right now, she just wanted to be filled with all the joy Brahms would bring her.
The next morning, promptly at ten, Mr. Holmes with Dr. Watson came to call on Mrs. Darcy. She received them in the library, where she had been attending to her daily correspondence.
"Good morning, gentlemen. I am so glad you have come. I wish to apologise to you, Dr. Watson, for not greeting you last night, but, I hope you… "
"No apologies necessary, Mrs. Darcy. We had promised to keep your visit a secret, and that would have been most indiscreet of me. After all these years of taking clues from Holmes, I should have known better when I saw him look away."
"I wish we could have spoken last night, Mr. Holmes. Mr. Wickham was there, but I do not think he saw me."
"Do not presume, Mrs. Darcy," said Holmes. "I did espy a man watching you. He was with a group of people which gathered round that satirist, Oscar Wilde I believe is his name."
"They might have been together at Oxford, for my husband knows him too. But Lydia never mentioned him as an acquaintance, and I assure you, Mr. Holmes, she would have."
"I have an idea as to where they might have recently met. Perhaps Mr. Wickham did not wish to inform your sister." Holmes now stared at her: "Have you ever heard of a Mrs. Younge?"
"Indeed I have. She was once hired as a companion for my husband's sister, years ago when she was sixteen. Suffice it to say, Mr. Holmes, that the Darcy family was deceived by her and her connection to Wickham. She is supposed to run a boarding house near the river."
"That has changed. Now she runs a house of disrepute and opium den, which are quite popular. It would be against his interest to mention it to his wife."
Elizabeth's thoughts now were on her marriage, and how lucky she was to have a loving and trusting relationship with Fitzwilliam, one based on truth and honour. But wait, had she not been deceiving him by hiding her visit to Holmes? What if he heard from James or Caroline that she was supposed to have been at the jeweler's shop at the same time as he? What if he ever kept a secret from her, would he? She was so preoccupied with her thoughts, she barely heard Holmes' next words.
"Mrs. Darcy, Dr. Watson and I called on the chemist earlier this morning."
"Yes, Mrs. Darcy, you must know that Mr. Holmes is possessed of a profound knowledge of chemistry," said Watson, who had kept busy taking notes.
Holmes continued: "I believe that the poison comes from the Amazon jungle. Do you happen to know anyone who has traveled there recently?"
"The chemist had analysed this poison once before for one Dr. Jeckyl. Have you ever heard his name?"
"No, but if you think that my sister went to him for some assistance, perhaps I should feign an illness and go see him?"
"Perhaps. But first, I would like to speak to your aunt Mrs. Gardiner."
They would all meet at Gracechurch Street tomorrow morning.
Elizabeth had spent a sleepless night in anticipation of her meeting at Gracechurch Street. Her aunt will now know about Mr. Holmes' investigation, and she feared that soon she would have to let her husband know. Ever since the wedding, she had been successful in keeping his pride in check but this certainly would be too much for him. "He would not understand my traveling incognito to seek Mr. Holmes' assistance but, I owe this to Lydia. I will deal with his wrath when the time comes," she thought.
"Elizabeth, you're not eating your breakfast. Are you ill?"
"I am very well, I was just thinking about the marvelous time we had at the concert."
"Yes, and at our little private dinner afterwards," he smiled, "I hear Puccini is in town rehearsing his opera, 'La Bohème', and I thought, if you wish, we could attend its opening night."
"Oh, Fitzwilliam," she got up, put her arms around him and kissed him passionately. At that moment they were interrupted by the butler announcing the arrival of Mrs. Darcy's carriage.
"Must you run off Elizabeth? I'm sure Aunt Gardiner will not mind if you arrive little late."
"You are mistaken, for she has specifically asked me not to arrive late."
"You are not still discussing Lydia's death are you?"
"I have to go now Fitzwilliam, or I'll be late. I will not be long."
He knew he could not forbid her from going, and he did not wish to place too much attention on Lydia's death. Elizabeth might become suspicious and discover his secret.
Elizabeth arrived at Gracechurch Street sometime before the scheduled arrival of Mr. Holmes. She would have to explain to her aunt the reason for this urgent meeting. After all the particulars were explained, Mrs. Gardiner in disbelief asked: "So, Lydia was poisoned by her husband?"
At that moment, Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson were announced and led into the drawing room. After their introduction and offerings of something to drink, Mr. Holmes said:
"Mrs. Gardiner, we have come because I need to know all the particulars of your visit to Mrs. Wickham, the day you found her dead."
"My husband had some business to attend to near Wickham's house, and he took me. Lydia had not been herself since her last miscarriage and so I decided to call on her. She was not expecting me and I certainly did not expect to find her dead." She paused to drink some water.
"But did you notice anything else?" Holmes insisted.
"The smaller table used for tea was beautifully set for two people. Lydia was wearing her best gown, and her hair was nicely done up. She had been expecting someone but no one arrived while I was there."
"Where there any bottles like these there?" He took a little bottle out of his pocket and showed her.
"The 'Liquid of Life' you mean? Yes, there was one by her bed."
"That is why Inspector Lestrade assumed it was a suicide Watson." Turning back to her, "Mr. Wickham, I take, it was away."
"Yes, he had gone to Bath, for his usual gambling," answered Mrs. Darcy.
"And you and your sister Mrs. Bingley gave them financial support."
"So what would be his motive to want to kill her?"
Elizabeth explained the story of her infamous elopement, and how he was made to marry her even though he did not love her.
"That still does not explain it. He is cunning enough to know that his livelihood would end with her death. He did not wish for her to have children because they would be extra mouths to feed."
"But then, who—"
"—That is a good question, Mrs. Darcy," Holmes interrupted; "perhaps you care to ask your husband why he went to see Mrs. Wickham the day she was murdered?"
Dr. Watson, Mrs. Gardiner and Elizabeth were trying to overcome their shock, when in walked Mr. Darcy.
Never in his life had Darcy experienced such a cold greeting. No one spoke, they were frozen in place with ghastly expressions on their faces, all except Sherlock Holmes:
"Mr. Darcy, I presume?"
"Yes, and you are, sir?"
"Sherlock Holmes, and this is my associate, Dr. Watson."
"I see," said Darcy, looking over at Elizabeth, "so that is what you are up to."
Elizabeth, feeling his anger, chose not to argue with him, instead she said, "Mr. Holmes wishes to ask you a question."
"Mr. Darcy, why did you call on Mrs. Wickham the day she was murdered?"
"I see my wife has convinced you, Mr. Holmes, that her sister was murdered. Nevertheless, I shall answer your question. I was hoping to spare my wife as it was the wish of her poor sister as well."
Elizabeth now unable to remain seated started pacing the floor. Did she really wish to hear her husband's confession? No, this would be too much for her, she thought, and went to pour herself a brandy. She needed something, anything, to calm down, then turning to him, "Yes Fitzwilliam, I would like to know as well."
"Upon our return from Pemberley, I had a letter waiting from Mrs. Wickham. She asked me to call on her as soon as it were possible, for she had a very urgent, private matter to discuss with me, and, she begged me not to mention it to Mrs. Darcy. We had been away for months, so naturally, I had much to do. I was not able to call on her until three days later. You see, Lydia wanted my help, she was planning to leave her husband and needed money to run away." Turning to Elizabeth, "She did not want you to know because you had helped her so much already, and was ashamed that he took the money to gamble with, the money you and Jane sent her."
"If he knew that she wanted to leave him, well, would that not give him a motive to want her dead?" said Watson to Holmes who had been watching Darcy intently.
"She seemed tired and scared. She kept calling for Mrs. Stevens, her maid, to keep looking out for her husband."
Elizabeth surprised, "But, he was supposed to be in Bath!"
"She did not seem to think so. She mentioned that ever since he had met a Mr. Hyde, he had changed. She could no longer believe anything he said. She seemed terrified of Mr. Hyde, 'an evil man,' that's what she called him. He had even made advances to her and Wickham had done nothing to prevent them."
"Poor, poor Lydia," said Mrs. Gardiner, "Mr. Wickham was not worthy... I am sorry, I did not mean to interrupt."
"I assured her of my assistance and she seemed serene. She asked me to stay for tea, but I excused myself, for I would have to see my solicitor to make all the arrangements. What happened next, I do not know. She must have died shortly after I left, and then Mrs. Gardiner found her dead."
Elizabeth went to stand next to Darcy. She needed to be near him. Darcy took her glass of brandy and drank from it, his nerves, now appeased after the confession.
"Mrs. Darcy, two days ago when you came to call on Baker Street, you knew Mrs. Stevens, who let you in, did you not?" Asked Holmes.
Dr. Watson confused, "Holmes, are you implying—"
"—Yes, Watson. Mrs. Stevens, who came as a replacement for a week to Baker Street, while our Mrs. Hudson visited with her sick sister, is the same Mrs. Stevens who worked for Mrs. Wickham."
"And, who first worked for us Mr. Holmes. It was I who sent her to Lydia. She needed someone to help her in her weakened state."
"Yes, Mrs. Darcy, and of course, you did not know that she was Mrs. Younge's sister?"
Mr. Darcy held her arm and said, "How do you mean, was?"
"She has been found dead this morning, left in an alleyway, brutally mutilated."
"Not another one Holmes?" said Watson softly, not wanting to alarm anyone in the room.
"Yes Watson, her death seems to be connected with that of the other two women."
"What a shame, Holmes! We needed to talk to her."
"Yes, which brings to mind Mr. Wickham: we need to find him."
"No one seems to know his whereabouts, but you may get your answer from Mrs. Younge, for a fee, I am sure," said Darcy.
"Let us go pay her a visit Watson." Then turning to the Darcy's, "We may need to call on you tomorrow."
"Then we shall expect you. Good day gentlemen."
In the cab, Watson asked: "Holmes how did you know Mrs. Darcy knew Mrs. Stevens?"
"Elementary, my dear Watson: she was the only person she announced also with her Christian name, which gave me a clue as to a previous acquaintance."
Author's Note: I would like to thank fellow Pemberlians: Isabella Rose for Mrs. Whitfield, Lou for the twins: Andrew and Hannah, Ann2 for Mrs. Tuddle, Mary Kate for Erin and CK for Lord Wallingford (whom I have married off to a lady he affectionately calls Cindy). How is that for a dream CK?
The Darcys left shortly after Holmes and Watson.
Darcy had given orders to Percy to return with his carriage back to Portsman Square. Elizabeth's carriage would take them both home.
"Well Mr. Darcy it seems as if we have both been keeping secrets. I do hope you're not terribly angry with me."
"Elizabeth, you do not know how tortured I have been, not being able to confide in you. I know how much you have been affected by Lydia's death and I did not wish to—" -
"—Oh, Fitzwilliam, you are so good to me. Rest assured that I will never keep another secret from you."
"There is no need to keep secrets from each other my love."
After the events of the morning, they were happy to be back home with the twins, this was true happiness; playing and laughing together. The mirth was momentarily interrupted by Mrs. Tuddle, the housekeeper, who entered carrying a telegram with news from Ireland:
"My dear cousins,
I am happy to announce the birth of our daughter, Enya Victoria. She has beautiful red hair and green eyes just like her mother. Erin is doing well, she did not suffer much in childbirth. I, of course, ascribe it to her strong Irish stock. You will be pleased to hear that as soon as we are able to travel, we will come to London for the Christening. It is our most heartfelt wish to have you and Elizabeth as Enya's godparents.
In the future, we will expect you to visit us here at Tara with Andrew and Hannah. I want our children to learn to be as close as we have always been. I look forward to the day when we shall all meet again.
"What splendid news! Lord and Lady Matlock must be so happy. We shall have a party for them as soon as they arrive."
"Indeed, I am truly happy for them, Elizabeth. I will send Richard and Erin a telegram at once with our congratulations. Then, we'd better make haste, we are expected tonight at Hampton Court and you know how punctual James and Caroline are."
Lady Hampton had lately become involved with many different charities, owing primarily to her husband's insistence, as it was a tradition in his family. She had found them all rather tedious and uninspiring but one: helping to raise funds for the Lyceum Theatre. Sir Henry Irving, its director, was an eloquent man. He had recently been fortunate enough in choosing as his personal assistant a man whom she considered just as engaging, Mr. Bram Stoker. She was in a most animated conversation with him when the Darcys arrived.
"Eliza, Fitzwilliam, how very nice to see you. Mr. Stoker, allow me to introduce to you two great readers, Mr. and Mrs. Darcy. Mr. Stoker was just telling me the fascinating plot of the book he is writing entitled 'Dracula'. This Count Dracula grows fangs like bats and goes round biting people on the neck, sucking all their blood and turning them into creatures of the night. And this goes on and on, am I right, Mr. Stoker?"
"Well until someone discovers that the only way to kill them is by either exposing them to daylight or driving a pointed stake through their hearts whilst they sleep in their coffins," he said laughing lightly. "Of course, wearing a cross will protect you ladies."
"I am not wearing my cross tonight, and I dare say, I might find the experience quite draining," said Elizabeth with a wicked grin.
"Well, Mrs. Darcy, I am fortunate enough to be staying with one of the most renown experts in the field of blood infirmities, Dr. Jekyll. If indeed my book has such an effect on you. Do you happen to know him?"
Darcy was growing annoyed by his tone when to his surprise, Elizabeth answered:
"No, but one of my sisters, I believe, did require his services once."
"Then I'm sure he was able to help her. I was just telling his friend, Mr. Hyde, the other day that I have never seen so many female patients as Dr. Jekyll seems to have."
"If the need arises, I shall not hesitate to see him myself."
Darcy took Elizabeth's arm and excused themselves. As he poured a brandy, he asked:
"What was that all about?"
"Did you not hear him? He knows Mr. Hyde, who is supposed to be a friend of Dr. Jekyll. Lydia went to see Dr. Jekyll and he may as well be responsible for giving her the poison. But what would be his motive?"
"Elizabeth, I forbid you to make any accusations. You're starting to sound like Emma Knightley, or do you not remember that fine mess she got herself into last summer?"
"Oh, please, I'd rather not."
"We'd best let Mr. Holmes handle it."
Not uncharacteristically belatedly, Lord and Lady Wallingford had finally arrived. With the other guests, they adjourned to the dining room.
At dinner, Elizabeth's thoughts distressed her: "What if I went to see this Dr. Jekyll? But I promised: no more secrets."
Mr. Holmes arrived shortly after breakfast the next day, the Darcys were reading the morning paper in the library.
"Any news, Mr. Holmes?" asked Mrs. Darcy, "Or shall we wait for Dr. Watson?"
"Dr. Watson has gone to Derbyshire this morning to check information on Wickham."
"What information! Have you found him?"
"Not yet, Mr. Darcy. Mrs. Younge believes he has been staying at Dr. Jekyll's house."
"We met someone last night who is also staying with Dr. Jekyll: Mr. Bram Stoker. He says that Mr. Hyde and Dr. Jekyll are friends."
"Mrs. Darcy, I spent all day yesterday observing what goes on at Dr. Jekyll's house. There was much movement. I saw them all, but for Mr. Wickham. There was another man there, a man, who also attended Mrs. Wickham burial, Professor Moriarty. Do you know him, Mr. Darcy?"
"Perhaps, his brother, Col. James Moriarty?"
"No. But Wickham might have met him while he was in service."
"Mr. Holmes, what does this all have to do with my sister's death?"
"Mrs. Darcy, Professor Moriarty is a diabolical genius! He organises half of what is evil and nearly all the crime that is undetected in this great city. He does little himself. He only plans. But his agents are numerous and well organised. I have felt the presence of his force in many crimes and I fear the death of your sister might be one."
"But she was of so little consequence," said Mrs. Darcy, quite distraught, "why would he want her dead?"
"We will have to find Mr. Wickham to discover it."
"Mr. Holmes, what if I were to feign a sickness and pay a visit to Dr. Jekyll?"
"Elizabeth, you will not become involved. He is not to be trusted. I forbid it!"
"Very well, what if you went to call on Mr. Stoker there? He would certainly introduce you. You might even meet Mr. Hyde."
Darcy, by now lost in his thoughts, "I would do anything for you Elizabeth, perhaps I shall pay him a call. But we promised: no more secrets."
"This is a dangerous business, Mrs. Darcy. Do not underestimate the criminal mind."
After Holmes took his leave, Elizabeth went over to Darcy and reminded him that the twins were waiting for them in the nursery. They both desperately needed the morning's diversion, and happily went to play.
The Bingleys had made a short two-day visit to Longbourn on Mrs. Bennet's insistence. After Lydia's death, Jane had once more become her favourite daughter, the only one that could truly comfort her in her time of mourning. Both Jane and Bingley knew that their going to Hertfordshire for a few days was better than the prospect of having Mrs. Bennet come to stay with them in London, her nerves being in such a state. Upon their return to town, they had accepted to dine at Portsman Square with the Darcys.
"Oh, Jane, I have so much to acquaint you with. But first tell me, how is mother?"
"Mother is tolerably well, though her spirits are greatly shaken, and she rarely leaves her rooms. Father finds much to occupy himself with in his library. Kitty has decided to read all of your old books and seems quite taken with them too, and Mary, not surprisingly, has been spending all her time at the Rectory with Dr. Grant, the new clergyman."
"Has Wickham been to Longbourn? Have they seen him?"
"No, not since the burial."
"And, you did not mentioned Sherlock Holmes to them?"
Jane was surprised by that question. She had not even mentioned Mr. Holmes to her husband, let alone the family. By now Charles wanted to know everything and Darcy began to relate the events of the previous days. Jane was pleased; she no longer had to keep any secret.
Dinner was served, and the rest of the evening was spent conversing gaily about Italy and all its beauties, and the trip that they would take, as soon as Georgiana and John returned. Darcy and Elizabeth had enjoyed themselves, unlike the previous night, when thoughts of keeping secrets from each other had kept them from partaking of the evening's pleasantries.
The next morning found Darcy and Elizabeth in the nursery playing with Andrew and Hannah, as was their usual. Suddenly, they were interrupted:
"Mr. Darcy, this letter was left on the front steps by the door."
"Was there no messenger?"
"Very well, thank you, Mrs. Tuddle."
Darcy opened the letter whilst Elizabeth went to get Nanny, who customarily left them alone to play with the twins. When they returned, she found Darcy as white as a ghost.
"Fitzwilliam, what's wrong?"
"Come with me, Elizabeth."
She quickly followed him to their rooms. He motioned her to sit down and gave her the letter. The words in it were composed of single letters cut out from newspapers in all different sizes, and pasted together. It read:
"Your children are in very great danger"
She went to him, and they held each other in a strong embrace, until he said:
"I will call a general staff meeting at once, and see to it that the whole household in a state of alert. The windows will be sealed and everyone will have to use the main entrance. I will keep two men there at all times."
"Will you tell them the reason for this? Someone is warning us, but who? What if it's someone who works here?"
"I have had the same staff now for at least ten years, Elizabeth. I know them all well, we can trust them. After the meeting, I will go and seek Mr. Holmes' help. Now go and tell Nanny about the letter and by no means should she take the twins out to the park today. I will be waiting for you in the drawing room."
After the meeting, the servants began to set up the fortress. Darcy had just left to call on Sherlock Holmes, when Elizabeth summoned Horace to bring round the carriage. She was quite desperate for the safety of her children, and had decided: she would meet Dr. Jekyll.
When Darcy arrived at Baker Street, he found Holmes reading a telegram:
"Ah, Mr. Darcy, Dr. Watson will be arriving tomorrow and he has some news of Wickham."
"Mr. Holmes, I am here on another matter."
After reading the letter, Holmes decided to return with Darcy. He wanted to check the house for himself and speak with the servant who had found the letter. Upon their arrival, Darcy inquired after his wife.
"Mrs. Darcy has gone out, and did not leave word as to where she might be going or, when to expect her," replied Mrs. Tuttle.
He felt a sharp pain in his heart. He could not explain it, but he felt her to be in danger. His worried face gave it away to Holmes, who suspected where she might be, and said:
"I will look for Mrs. Darcy. You are needed here."
"Take my carriage, it is waiting out front."
"Thank you, but I prefer a cab, it will not arouse any suspicions."
"Bring her back to me, Mr. Holmes."
He bowed and left.
Arriving at Dr. Jekyll's house, he noticed her carriage waiting outside. Mrs. Darcy was certainly a brave woman, he thought, even with all her fears, she still had to come and call on Dr. Jekyll. She reminded him of someone who had been dear to his heart, a very long time ago.
Rang a woman's scream; unhesitatingly, he dashed to the house.
Mrs. Darcy had been waiting to see Dr. Jekyll for over an hour. She had arrived without and appointment and had decided to wait for him to return. She had to see him. Even the threat on her children's lives could not keep her at home. She felt strongly that he would tell her something about Wickham; after all, Wickham has been staying here with him. " Where could Wickham be? Could he have planned to take my children for ransom? Surely, he must be short of money, since Lydia's death. But how could he do this to me? We had been friends once; did that not count for anything?" Such thoughts had kept her in a trance-like state as she waited; utterly unaware of the presence of a certain gentleman who sat across from her, fountain pen in hand, writing quite furiously on his cahier, pausing only when a coughing fit overtook him. At one such pause, he looked up to her.
"Madam," he said, "I need to ask you a question, so do please allow me to introduce myself, Robert Louis Stevenson, at your service."
"Mrs. Darcy. But sir, this is most irregular". She stood up hoping to calm herself.
"I understand. You see, I have been coming here for quite some time now and well, what I would like to ask is good God, who screamed?"
Elizabeth froze; the scream had come from the rooms above. "What has happened? I should not have come." She thought.
"Mr. Stevenson, shall we have a look?"
They both started towards the hall, when she spotted Mr. Holmes entering the house. His eyes looked almost wild, she thought, and did not know quite how to greet him.
"Mrs. Darcy, go home immediately!" Holmes urged, ushering her out. "You should not be here!"
She turned round to say something, but he was gone; and all she saw was Mr. Stevenson stepping briskly up the stairs. She quickly made her way to her carriage and went home.
Darcy had been going out of his wits without Elizabeth at home. The house was now secured. He had even found the time to write letters which bespoke their unfortunate situation to the Bingleys, the Gardiners, and Lord Matlock, warning them as well. He did not wish any harm to come to any member of his family, because of the infamous threat to his. His only comfort was in knowing that he would not have to involve Georgiana. Luckily, she was still in Italy. He suspected Wickham to be the cause of his present misery and swore that he would bring him to justice; even if that meant taking justice in his own hands.
Mrs. Tuttle interrupted his thoughts at tea-time, which he gladly accepted. He picked up the book he had been reading everyday with Elizabeth precisely at this time. It had become a tradition with them since the birth of the twins to read poetry to each other. They were now enjoying a book by the thirteenth century Afghan poet Rumi, one he had lately added to his collection. It had been recently translated into English, and was the rage in London's literary circles. He read:
Secrets try to enter our ears
Don't prevent them.
Don't let us be without
Music and wine.
Don't let us breathe once
Without being where you are.
He was so taken by these words, he did not hear Elizabeth's steps in the hall. She knew where to find him, and entered the library.
"Elizabeth!" He quickly went to her and held her so tight as to make her feel uncomfortable.
"Is this an embrace, Fitzwilliam, or are you trying to suffocate me for having left the house earlier without any notice?"
"Oh, Elizabeth, I've never been so happy to see anybody as I am now."
Darcy had decided not to mention her escapade. He would let her bring up the subject, if she wished to, and wisely offered her tea. He was content to just look at her. This she sensed, and made her feel quite wretched.
"Fitzwilliam, I am a very selfish creature; and for the sake of giving relief to my own feelings, cared not how much I wounded yours, by going to see Dr. Jekyll against your wishes. I am exceedingly sorry."
He kissed her hand and then pressed it against his heart. She understood; he had forgiven her.
"And what was your success?"
Just as she was about to explain, there was a knock on the door, and the butler announcing:
"Inspector Lestrade, sir, is here to see you."
Darcy nodded. He wondered if Mr. Holmes had sent him, and, if he knew anything about the threat made to his children.
"What can we do for you inspector?"
"I regret to inform you that, Mr. George Wickham has been found dead. Murdered."
"Where? We have been trying to locate him for days."
"At an opium den by the river. One Mrs. Younge found him there. I know from our meeting after your sister's death, Mrs. Darcy, that you suspected Mr. Wickham of having murdered her. Now, I must ask you both, if you know anyone who would want Mr. Wickham dead?"
"Perhaps you could ask Mr. Holmes. I believe Dr. Watson is arriving from Derbyshire with some news of Wickham."
"So Mr. Darcy, you have consulted Mr. Sherlock Holmes?"
"Yes, we have," replied Mrs. Darcy, "I believe you may find him at Dr. Jekyll's house this evening."
Their words had so far led Lestrade to believe that the Darcys certainly had more knowledge regarding this affair than they were willing to share. Nevertheless, Mrs. Darcy's intelligence as to Mr. Holmes' whereabouts had been useful. Yes, he would pay a call on Dr. Jekyll and see if he could be of any assistance to Mr. Holmes.
Having decided that it was best to confer with Holmes before answering any of the inspector's questions, Darcy said:
"Now you must excuse us inspector, but we have a dinner engagement to prepare for. You may call on us at another time."
As soon as the inspector had left, Darcy turned to Elizabeth, now sitting next to him, rubbing her forehead with her fingertips, eyes closed. He could not bare to see her suffer, how he longed to take her away to Italy as they had planned.
"I beg you, Elizabeth, do not let this unfortunate affair distress you."
"How could it not? I truly believed Wickham to be the one; the only one who would deliberately cause us pain. But now, what am I to believe?"
They sat quietly still in each other's comforting arms, until they were called to dinner. Then it arrived. A post from Sherlock Holmes which read: "The mystery is solved! Dr. Watson and I will call on you tomorrow."
The next morning found the Darcys eagerly awaiting their expected visitors. They were indeed distracted, and not even playing with the twins seemed to take their minds off the fact that Mr. Holmes had solved the mystery. It would not be long now before they'd know who killed Lydia, and why. Perhaps, Holmes also knew who had killed Wickham. And, what news could Dr. Watson have brought back from Derbyshire? Without exchanging a word, their thoughts seemed to tally in every respect. The children would have to wait till later.
The morning post had arrived. Letters from the Bingleys, the Gardiners and Lord Matlock expressing their deep concern for the safety of the twins, as well as gratitude for their forewarning, which they would all heed. The fourth letter was from Col. Fitzwilliam; Darcy read it aloud as he had done with the previous ones.
"My dear cousins,
We regret to inform you that our return to town is delayed owing to the unexpected death of Miss Molly Moriarty. Miss Moriarty was engaged to be married to Erin's cousin, Mr. Sean Fitzgerald. There seems to be a mystery surrounding her death, and both Erin and I think it best if we stayed and helped Sean at this time. Her brother Col. Moriarty, an old acquaintance of mine from the academy, is also quite overtaken with grief. As you see, we are needed in Ireland for now.
As always, I look forward to the time when we shall be in each other's company again.
Darcy placed the letter on his desk, and with disbelief looked at Elizabeth, who had lost all colour from her face.
"Could there be any connection between Prof. Moriarty and Molly Moriarty's death? And, why does Holmes suspect Prof. Moriarty of having something to do with Lydia's death?"
"I don't know, Elizabeth, but I fear I must also warn Richard and Erin."
Tactfully, she poured him his favourite brandy whilst he sat down to write. He did not sip it, but rather gulp it in one shot. At length, she wondered:
"Where could Mr. Holmes be? It's getting late, and he is yet to arrive."
The doorbell rang. "Alas, they have arrived!" said Darcy as he stood up to greet them, waiting for the butler to show them in.
"Mr. Bram Stoker to see you, sir."
He tried to hide his disappointment when Mr. Stoker was lead into the library and, after welcoming him, asked: "To what do we owe the honour of your visit, Mr. Stoker?"
After a formal greeting, he answered: "I have a letter for Mrs. Darcy from Mr. Wickham." Elizabeth took the letter from his hand and listened as he explained. "This letter was entrusted to me two days ago at the theatre where I work. He made me swear personally to deliver it to you, Mrs. Darcy, on the event of his death. And now, you must excuse me, but, I must take my leave; I'm expected at Scotland Yard." He sensed their curiosity and added: "It is a most unfortunate affair. Mr. Wickham's blood was completely drained from his body. You may recall from our conversation at Lady Hampton's dinner party the other evening; the central character in the book I'm writing might incriminate me." He did not wish to leave them in such low spirits and cheerfully added, "I'd be delighted to see you both again, at the theatre, perhaps, on Oscar Wilde's opening night. He shall be joining us at a small gathering afterwards, which I hope you will also attend."
"You may count on us." Replied Darcy, knowing how much it would mean to Elizabeth to meet Mr. Wilde. After Mr. Stoker left, Darcy went to sit next to Elizabeth. She had just opened the letter.
"Dear sister Elizabeth,
I can no longer go on without trying to redeem myself with you. There was a time when we were friends, and I sincerely hope that you will not think too ill of me in the future.
I want you to know that I did not kill Lydia. The 'Liquid of Life' I made her drink was meant only for her to miscarry, not kill her!
Her death I blame on a horrible acquaintance of mine, Mr. Hyde. He was the one who brought her the last phial of the 'Liquid' she drank. Why he would want her dead, I do not know. I had not suspected anything until he started to talk about a scheme that would procure me much money--a big ransom for the safe return home of your children. But that, I could not allow. The letter you received came from me. Consequently, ever since I dropped it on the front steps at Portsman Square, I've been hiding from Hyde.
I hope that my warning has been of some assistance to you and Darcy, and that you can forgive me, for some of the pain which I have caused. I am with Lydia now.
"I will never forgive him, never! cried, Darcy as he stood up to pour himself and Elizabeth a brandy. Handing her a glass, he said, "It is just as I thought."
"Poor, poor Lydia, she took the 'Liquid of Life' for her babies. Surely he must have known that Jane and I would have helped in raising their children. But why? What made him do this? How could he do this?" She could no longer hold back her tears and went to him in search of comforting words.
"We must find this Mr. Hyde, Elizabeth. Holmes will find him. We must be sure that the threat to our children's lives is over. Something must have happened to delay Holmes, or he would have been here by now."
Mrs. Tuddle entered the library to remove the tea tray and brought with her an urgent post which had just arrived for Mr. Darcy. He could see that Elizabeth was not well. The events of the morning had been a shock to her and, so as to protect her, he decided not to read it aloud.
"The note is from Holmes. He appears to be detained at Scotland Yard with Inspector Lestrade and will not be able to call on us today. He will be here early tomorrow with Dr. Watson, as planned, and offers his sincere apologies to you Mrs. Darcy, for any inconvenience he might have caused." He took this moment to bring her out of her present gloom, and teasingly said, "It looks as if Mr. Holmes has fallen for you fine eyes, my loveliest Elizabeth."
She looked up and smiled broadly.
He omitted to tell her that Holmes had also written not to warn Col. Fitzwilliam. He put away the note he planned to cable, turned to her and said, "I think we need some playtime, Elizabeth. Shall we go to the twins and see what mischief they're up to?
They had informed Mrs. Tuddle before retiring to their rooms the night before, that under no circumstances were they to be disturbed this morning. Any visitors would be told that the master and mistress were not at home. This message should be conveyed to all except Mr. Sherlock Holmes.
Lady Hampton and Mrs. Hurst had called very early and were most disappointed not to have found her at home. They had just come from the jeweller's shop, and whilst there, Lady Hampton thought to inquire after Mrs. Darcy's brooch, the one she had left to be repaired the day she had mysteriously abandoned her carriage at Jane's house, and returned so late as to arise suspicion. Naturally, the ladies were quite shocked to find that, indeed, it had been a few months since Mrs. Darcy had been to the shop at all! "I wonder what Mr. Darcy would think if he knew? What is Eliza up to? I must go to James and tell him." And with those happy thoughts, Lady Hampton went home in search of her husband.
Had Caroline's mind not been so engrossed in conjuring up the latest gossip with her sister, she would have noticed two gentlemen leaving a cab, and entering the Darcy household, not to be turned away.
Elizabeth and Darcy had been in the library for quite some time this morning, reading the dailies. The article on Wickham's murder took most of their attention. There was another death they had been reading about with interest, when the butler ushered their expected visitors in. Darcy welcomed them.
"Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson, we are delighted to see you."
"Indeed we are," said Elizabeth. "Do sit down and tell us of your discoveries. For my part, I have had a letter from Wickham."
"Yes, the 'confessional' letter you received from Mr. Stoker. I spoke to him at Scotland Yard. Wickham knew he had met you at Lady Hampton's. He had become acquainted with Mr. Stoker at Dr. Jekyll's house where he had been a guest since Mrs. Wickham's death. They had adjacent rooms. Consequently, that's where he met Mr. Hyde too."
"How did you know it was confessional?" Darcy asked.
"At Dr. Jekyll's house, I searched his room and found all I needed in the top drawer of his desk. Letter cut-outs from the newspaper, paste and writing paper. He did not have much time and did everything in a rush. He did not even have time to get rid of the evidence. He had no will to write, so, naturally, he would try to redeem himself to your family for all the help rendered. It was, you could say, a dead man's wish. He knew then to be in mortal danger. He did not kill your sister, Mrs. Darcy; but he is responsible for the deaths of their unborn children. Now, Watson, be so kind as to explain why."
They all turned to face Watson who had been taking notes until then.
"On my recent trip to Derbyshire, in Lambton, specifically, I discovered that Mr. Wickham had already fathered three illegitimate children. The families had recently become aware of each other and were threatening Wickham with public exposure unless they were handsomely paid."
"That is why he did not wish to have anymore children." Added Holmes.
"None that he would legally have to support," Darcy snapped.
Elizabeth couldn't sit still, a myriad questions occupied her mind, debating which one to ask first. Then, unhesitatingly:
"But Mr. Holmes, what about Dr. Jekyll? What happened at his house?"
"When I left you at the entrance, I quickly made my way up to his chambers where a maid had found him not two minutes earlier, crouched over on the floor of his laboratory, his face and limbs deformed beyond recognition. After a few moments, it happened." Holmes paused, perhaps artfully.
"What? What happened?" Elizabeth cried.
"Oh, the most amazing thing. Do not be shocked by my revelation, fantastic though it may sound. The body started metamorphosing before us, and his features changed from Mr. Hyde's to Dr. Jekyll's." Holmes swirled round the room to emphasise the dramatics of the moment and take in the horror-stricken expressions of his audience. He continued: "There was also Mr. Stevenson in the room, oddly taking notes, quite as you do, my dear Watson. You remember him, Mrs. Darcy, he was in the hallway with you when we met."
"Yes, he was."
Darcy glanced at Elizabeth, his eyes jealously inquiring, "Why did you not mention Mr. Stevenson to me?"
"In the end, Jekyll and Hyde were one and the same. Then Dr. Jekyll died."
Darcy, incredulous, did not speak. Elizabeth did. "How could that happen? It is simple enough as you recount it. I had no idea that such individuals could exist outside of stories. This appears to be like that book you're reading, Fitzwilliam, 'The Island of Dr. Moreau', by H.G. Wells."
"But this was quite real, I assure you, Mrs. Darcy. Now please, this is not a trivial matter! Do oblige me, and permit me to continue."
Darcy saw his wife's countenance change. She had been reprimanded and it had not been him, her husband, to do so. Still, he could not help but hide a smile and bit his lip in an effort to contain his amusement.
Watson knew his friend well enough to realise that Holmes had meant no disrespect. The trouble was, Holmes hated to be interrupted; once he started something, he had to finish it. That was how his mind worked. In a bid to defuse tension, he said: "Mr. and Mrs. Darcy do not know of our imminent departure for the Continent this evening, Holmes. I'm sure they wish you to continue."
Fearful now that they would take their leave before all was revealed, Darcy said, "Pray continue, Mr. Holmes."
"Wickham was killed by Mr. Hyde. After he wrote to warn you about Hyde's plan to take your children, he went to stay with Mrs. Younge. That was his mistake, for Hyde knew he would find him at the opium den she runs, a place Wickham lately had difficulty keeping away from."
Watson's mind was drifting. He stopped writing, looked at his friend and wondered: "How long will it be before you take up your habit again, Holmes?"
"Wickham was found in the private rooms. First, he was strangled; then, his blood drained. Inspector Lestrade, that miserable bungler, would naturally suspect Mr. Stoker. All his acquaintances in town are familiar with the subject matter of the book he's writing. Being a medical man, Dr. Jekyll was quite knowledgeable in this 'bloodletting' procedure. But, something unexpected happened to Hyde after his last slaying. I say 'last slaying' because he had slain several women, including Mrs. Stevens, whom you knew. Hyde was an evil man, and therefore easily lured by London's underworld. I am glad to report that with professor Moriarty's evil agent dead, your children are no longer in danger."
Darcy, who had been standing listening attentively, was overwhelmed with happiness, and instinctively went to sit by his wife. Weeping with joy, Elizabeth held his hands tightly and they shared a deep sigh of relief. Holmes gave them a private moment, then continued:
"In Dr. Jekyll's laboratory, I found the 'poison arrow dart frog', indeed several of them. This rare species comes from the Amazon Jungle, where the indigenous population use it for hunting. With it, they poison the tips of the arrows, as the name implies. It is a lethal poison, that is quickly absorbed and leaves no trace. Dr. Jekyll used it personally in his metamorphosing potion, and for his female patients, to make them miscarry. He called it, the 'Liquid of Life'."
Elizabeth recalled the conversation she had had with Mr. Stoker at the Hamptons where they had met, above all his remark about the extraordinary number of female patients Dr. Jekyll had. Suddenly, she was taken ill. Darcy brought her a brandy and, after having offered the same to the gentlemen in the room, sat next to her.
"Professor Moriarty had the frogs smuggled in for one purpose only-to get to Wickham. His first victim in this affair, I regret to say, was your sister, Mrs. Darcy. His second victim was his own sister Molly Moriarty."
"He killed his own sister? But, I don't understand, how are Miss Moriarty and Lydia connected?" Elizabeth asked.
"He wanted to avoid a family scandal. He had arranged a very good match for his sister Molly in Ireland, indeed the man even loved her; but, something went awry. His sister met Wickham whilst visiting her brother Col. Moriarty in London. A secret affair ensued. As a result, Molly was with child. Later, she discovered that he was married. I found two letters in Wickham's room from her. One was addressed to him, the other to your sister. Mrs. Wickham had read the letter and chose not to confront him; instead, she chose to leave him. She needed money and begged Mr. Darcy for his assistance. Why did he not destroy the letters after her death? They were proofs of a crime, professor Moriarty's crime."
"Is that why you asked me not to warn my cousin Col. Fitzwilliam in Ireland? You knew him to be an acquaintance of Col. Moriarty."
"I suspected as much. By warning your cousin, Mr. Darcy, you would have put their lives in danger."
"Are they in danger?"
"No. My street urchins have informed me that the Professor has headed for the Continent. No doubt he has gone to Switzerland, where he has a chalet. Watson and I are leaving this evening. I plan to catch up with him very soon."
"So, in the end: Wickham was ultimately responsible for my sister's death. It is just as I had suspected," Elizabeth remarked to Darcy, who agreed.
"I must thank you, Mrs. Darcy, for having engaged me in what I would call my strangest case." He took her hand and kissed it, much to Dr. Watson's surprise who knew it was much unlike Holmes to be ostensibly gallant.
"My regret is that I was not there with you, Holmes, to take notes."
"My dear Watson, I believe we shall all be surprised by Mr. Robert Louis Stevenson."
Mr. Darcy rewarded Holmes handsomely. As they exited the library, he turned, "There is something I have been meaning to ask you, Mr. Holmes: How did you know Mrs. Wickham expected me the day she died?"
"Elementary, Mr. Darcy. If you recall, the tea-table was beautifully set up and she was elegantly dressed. I deduced that she wanted to impress a male acquaintance who should be treated as a noble guest-who else but yourself?"
After they left, Elizabeth put her arms round him and happily went in search their children.
Afterword Should you be curious as to what happens to Sherlock Holmes after he leaves the Darcys, I refer you to Conan Doyle's The Final Problem.
Robert Louis Stevenson went on to write The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Bram Stoker left his post at the Lyceum Theatre after his book Dracula became a huge success.