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Action Lizzy and the Four Thieves Chapter 34

April 28, 2023 12:04PM
Chapter 34

Mr Bennet was uneasy. He was riding in the carriage with Mrs Bennet, Mr and Mrs Philips, Mary, Kitty and Lydia. They were driving first to the Fitzwilliam’s to go in a convoy to the funeral.

The previous days, whilst the women were going over all of the details for the funeral and wake, he was ensuring all was in readiness for transportation of Mrs Gardiner’s body to London. With that done, he had spent the rest of the day at Matlock estate.

Not that there was peace to be had there. Whilst there, an express rider had arrived to say there had been more holdups in Sherwood, with another attack on the day the Sheriff had left and another one that very morning.

Jane and Lizzy had told him of Lydia’s intended elopement. From learning of his youngest's foolish mistake, Lizzy was immediately asking what he would do about it. Lydia’s stupidity, though, was nowhere near the top of his worries or priorities. His response to Lizzy had been brusque. “I will think on it. Now is not the time to deal with it.“

Yesterday Kitty had presented the Gardiners her portrait of Mrs Gardiner. It had been a good likeness, and showed that Kitty did have some natural talent as an artist. As the Countess had observed, she would need to nurture and encourage that talent, and it would give her something useful to concentrate on to occupy her time. The Gardiners had been moved by the gift and it would take pride of place on display at the wake. It was possibly the most thoughtful thing that Kitty had ever done.

Everyone had dinner at Matlock. Mrs Bennet and Mrs Philips had been so awed by the grace of the Countess, they had been so busy agreeing to everything she had said. Her praise of Kitty’s painting had been noticed along with her praise of Lizzy’s abilities, from her intelligence, resilience and calm in the face of adversity. Mrs Bennet was incredibly satisfied by such attention.

The events at Sherwood weighed heavily on Mr Bennet's mind. As they were leaving, even Lizzy commented on it quietly to him. “It makes no sense for them to escalate in such away. They must know that the Sheriff’s of both Nottingham and Derby would throw everything they have into searching them out. It is almost like they want to draw the law there. But for what purpose, unless they have already made good their escape?”

The more he thought of it, the more he agreed with Lizzy’s assessment. These thieves would be long gone, but the question is where? Their attacks made no sense. From their second they only scored twenty pounds which would hardly have been worth the risk.

They arrived at the Matlock estate and descended, where the others were waiting. Security was tight. The Gardiners would be in one carriage, with the Bennets all in the next carriage. Two armed guards would proceed them, with two guards at the rear.

Whilst he waited for everyone to re-enter the carriage, the Earl quietly drew him aside.

“What news do you have?” asked Mr Bennet.

“Nothing from Sir Riley. However, one of my men thought he saw movement in the woods this morning.” The Earl pointed to the woods in the distance. “He went to investigate and clearly saw a depression in the grass where someone had knelt to watch the house. I didn't want to alarm the ladies with this information, but thought you should know.”

“This is worrying. What is being planned?”

“I don't like it either. I've added some extra guards for the wake and to watch the house,” said the Earl.

The ride to the church was sombre. No one felt like talking. On arriving and descending from the carriage, Mr Bennet could see that there was a guard at each entrance point to the church. As soon as they had all descended, they were all quickly ushered into the church. Inside the church vestibule, the pastor greeted them.
Soon, the carriage conveying Mrs Gardiner’s brother and sister, and their families from Lambton arrived, followed by a carriage with Mrs Gardiner’s friends. They all came to convey their condolences to Mr Gardiner and the children.

It wasn't long before they moved to take their places inside the church. The Gardiners sat in the front row, with the Bennets sitting behind. “We are gathered here today to pay tribute to the life of Madeleine Alice Gardiner,” started the pastor.

Mr Bennet's attention drifted as he thought again about what he had learnt. His eyes clicked constantly to the doors into the church, and he resisted the urge to look behind for the duration of the service. He knew there were multiple guards guarding the church.

Meanwhile, in Sherwood forest, Richard also had a bad feeling. These attacks made no sense at all. They had investigated each attack site, questioning the victims, all whom were reporting seeing only three thieves. The descriptions of the thieves was in line with description they had for Samuel John, Robert Blackwell and William Spencer.

Now Richard, Darcy, Andrew and the Sheriff plus a few officers were following the hoof tracks, but Richard felt uneasy. From the last robbery yesterday and the day before, the thieves had stolen the horses, leaving the victims to walk to the nearest town to report the crime and helping them to get a head start.

The tracks crossed a road, and had continued on the other side. They had not yet encountered a camp site, which meant they were still a day behind the thieves. After crossing the road, the tracks meandered, but still the horses stayed together. Their tracker pointed out “it doesn’t look like anyone is riding these horses.” Still they followed the tracks.

After a few hours following the tracks it became clear that they were closing in. Richard’s unease grew. Why three attacks in close succession? It was almost like they wanted everyone to follow them. He was certain that they were long gone. The thieves wanted them to follow these tracks.
The horse tracks went towards a creek where it was clear they had had a drink. The horses had grazed, but at no point did they see a camp site or footprints.

“I think we are on a wild horse chase,” said Richard.

They continued on to soon find fresh horse manure. Their tracker said “we are only a few hours behind.”

The horses seemed to be in no hurry, mostly grazing. These horses were not being riden. There was no indication that these thieves wanted to get away.

The tracker put up his hand to get them to pause. They all huddled together as he came to whisper to them. “Manure, very fresh. These horses are just up ahead.”

They all drew their pistols, ready to confront the thieves, but it did not feel right. Richard knew they would not find the thieves ahead. The Sheriff took the lead, with Richard and the officers fanning out on either side to approach.

Slowly, and as quietly as possible, they crept through the forest to approach....

To find three horses grazing, tied together from their halters, so they stayed together. Their saddles had been removed. They barely bothered to look up from their grazing at the approach of the men.

“This was a distraction!” exclaimed the Sheriff with frustration.

“So where are they now?” asked Darcy.

“Long gone in the opposite direction,” said Richard.

“These were the thieves’ horses,” said Officer Johnson. He pointed to the black horse with a star on its face and one white sock. “There's the leader’s horse.” He then pointed to two plain brown horses. “And one of those belonged to the other two.”

“So they've taken the carriage horses, leading us to chase their horses. They must have parted ways and released their horses when we crossed the road. But where are they now?” asked the Sheriff.

“They've deliberately drawn us all here, knowing that the law of two shires would come to track them down. This was to draw us away,” said Richard. With dreaded certainty he continued. “From Matlock.”

Action Lizzy and the Four Thieves Chapter 34

Anne VApril 28, 2023 12:04PM

Re: Action Lizzy and the Four Thieves Chapter 34

Maria Teresa CApril 28, 2023 10:34PM

Re: Action Lizzy and the Four Thieves Chapter 34

MichaApril 28, 2023 09:14PM



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