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Action Lizzy and the Four Thieves Chapter 49

July 07, 2023 12:01PM
Chapter 49

Lizzy sunk into the couch at the Darcy residence. Lizzy had spent nearly two weeks in London now and it had been filled with dinners and balls, concerts and plays, being called upon by many people she had barely met and being dragged to call on the Countess’s friends, along with intimate visits and dinners at the Gardiner and Darcy residences. “I think I am ready to go home and never leave. I would be happy to never visit anyone again. I am full of tea and cake. I'll be lucky to fit into my dresses by the time I return home. ”

Georgiana smiled at Lizzy. “I take it you do not want me to call for tea and refreshments.”

Lizzy grimaced and shook her head. “I am glad to be here though. I feel I can relax here.” Lady Matlock also indicated no interest in refreshments.

Darcy came and took a seat next to Lizzy, taking her hand in his and giving it a squeeze. “Are your engagements over now for the day?”

Lizzy smiled. “Yes, I can now enjoy your company for the remainder of the afternoon, until it is time for me to return to Matlock house for dinner.”

Lady Matlock, who had been mostly watching in silent amusement, spoke up. “You make it sound like being so very popular in the Ton is so very tedious. Young people these days have no stamina.”

“Meeting so many new people in a short period of time is tiring. And I do not want to tell my story about the attack or that night at Matlock one more time! I do not want to hear another ‘you are so brave, I would have been terrified!’”.

“The repetitive conversation may not be interesting, but you are currently an inspiration to the young women of the Ton. Use it to your best advantage whilst it lasts. You are doing very well so far.”

They spoke of general matters before Georgiana invited them to listen to her play the latest piece she had lately mastered. This was the cue for them to move to the music room, and where Darcy and Lizzy had some private moments to make their way there slowly.

“I had a letter from Bingley. They have settled on a wedding date in early November.”

“I received a letter from Jane which said the same.”

Darcy turned to her. “I'm keen for us to have Christmas at Pemberley. We wouldn't be able to organise a wedding a month earlier, and I'm certain you want your sister there. Would you be open to sharing a wedding with your sister and Bingley?”

Lizzy smiled at the thought. “I hadn't yet thought of the logistics of the dates, however, now that I think on it, nothing would give me greater joy than to share a wedding with Jane.”

Darcy smiled and squeezed her hand. “We’ll be married in early November.”

Lizzy looked up the hall. Georgiana and the Countess had already disappeared into the music room and there were no servants in the hall. She looked at Darcy and went and wrapped her arms around his neck, surprising him with a kiss on the cheek.

Darcy was surprised, but pleased. He answered by pulling her to him and giving her a deeper and longer kiss on the lips.

They broke away after hearing footsteps approaching, and finished making their way to the music room.

They had a pleasant afternoon together before Lizzy and the Countess left to return to Matlock house to prepare for dinner. Mr Gardiner and Mary were set to join the Fitzwilliam’s and Darcy’s for dinner.

Darcy and Georgiana arrived on time, and the party were waiting for the Gardiner carriage to arrive when a note arrived from Mary saying Mr Gardiner had been delayed and they were unable to join them that night. Despite the reassurance in the note, Lizzy felt a sense of disquiet which kept her unsettled throughout the dinner, even though she tried her best to enjoy it.

The next day, that sense of disquiet proved correct, as whilst she ate her breakfast, Mary sent a note requesting her presence at Mr Gardiner’s house. It had no details as to why.

“Lady Eleanor, I'm sorry but I won't be able to join you in your visits today. Mary has requested my presence today.”

“Did she say why?” asked the Countess.

“No, which concerns me. It must be a delicate situation for her to not give a reason. Can you give my apologies to William and Georgiana for me, please?”

“Of course, Elizabeth. Give our best to your sister,” said the Countess.

Elizabeth got herself ready and was in the carriage within half an hour. Worry ate at her and she descended the carriage as soon as it arrived at her uncle’s home without waiting for the footman to open the door.

Mary awaited her immediately in the foyer, wringing her hands. “I'm glad you're here. I don't know what to do.“

Lizzy took Mary’s hands in hers. “Tell me what's happened? Are uncle and the children well?”

“They are all well, but...” Mary looked uncertain. “Let's sit down.” Mary led Lizzy to the small parlour where their aunt had liked to sew. Lizzy could still picture her aunt sitting in the sunlight near the window. Once they were seated and there was no servant in the room, Mary started. “Last night uncle came back late from the warehouse, without advising us first. We became concerned and we sent someone to the warehouse to find it all closed and everyone gone home. You can imagine our worry. When he finally came home, he seemed happy. It was like he had forgotten that our Aunt was dead. He was calling to her, and it was like he was talking to her.”

“Was he drunk?” asked Lizzy.

“If he was, I could not smell it on him, “ replied Mary. “The housekeeper tried to limit how many of the servants saw him last night. He had no interest in dinner. He was bundled off to bed as quickly as possible. I...I don't know what is wrong. I don't know how to help him.”

“How was he this morning?” asked Lizzy.

“Sullen and withdrawn. I don't think he recalled last night at all. He made no mention of it. He also didn't act as though our Aunt was still alive.”

Lizzy bit her lip. “I wonder if he is using laudanum again? The doctor at Matlock did say he could develop a dependence. ” Lizzy got up and asked for the housekeeper to come in, where Lizzy asked the housekeeper for her version of events, and whether from her experience Mr Gardiner’s symptoms aligned with laudanum use.

“We should send a note to our uncle’s doctor asking for his advice and if he had prescribed anything for our Uncle. We also need to ask the carriage driver where they stopped yesterday.”

Mary seemed relieved to have a plan of action as she jumped up to organise the notes to be sent out. Lizzy stared at the empty doorway, deeply worried. How on earth would she be able to address this with someone she looked up to and respected as much as her Uncle?

She stood and followed Mary. “Mary, how often has Uncle spoken with the local pastor? Maybe we should consult with him for some advice?”

“The local pastor only came around twice, both times soon after we arrived. Pastor Roberts did say we could call on him at any time. That is a good idea, Lizzy.”

The carriage driver was the first to come to the girls for questioning. “Yes, Miss Bennet, how can I help? Did you want to go somewhere?”

“No, thank you, Summers. We just want to know what route you took my Uncle yesterday and whether he made any stops on his way home? Was he behaving...normally?” asked Mary.

“We left at the normal time from the warehouse, but he asked me to take him to an address several blocks away from his warehouse and he was there for some time before coming out. It... wasn't a reputable location.”

“How did he behave when he came out?” asked Lizzy.

“Happy...giddy really. Certainly not normal,” answered the driver.

“Thankyou, Summers,” said Mary, dismissing him.

The pastor came and Mary and Lizzy discussed their concerns. He agreed that Mr Gardiner needed help, and promised to think on it and return that evening.

They had another knock on the door, and the sisters expected the doctor to enter, but Darcy entered instead. “Aunt Eleanor told me that something unexpected had come up and you were spending the day here instead?” asked Darcy, with a questioning look after greeting Lizzy and Mary.

Lizzy told him of their concerns. Darcy patiently listened, holding Lizzy’s hand throughout. “You can express your concerns, but he is the one who needs to find the strength inside to resist the urge. I don't think I'm the one best qualified to help you, “ said Darcy, feeling helpless.

“I hope he can resist, because I don't think any of us have the strength to watch him go down this destructive path. I don't know how to approach him,” said Lizzy with a sense of despair. Mary nodded in agreement.

They were interrupted by the announcement of the doctor’s arrival. The doctor told them that he had not prescribed any laudanum for Mr Gardiner, as he no longer needed it. He agreed that the symptoms exhibited by Mr Gardiner the previous evening was consistent with laudanum use. Lizzy gave the address that Mr Gardiner had gone to and the doctor told them that he knew of it as a place to source laudanum and other substances from.

Darcy promised to see her tomorrow and departed to complete other business.

Lizzy and Mary tried to keep themselves busy throughout the day. They spent time with the children, helping with lessons and taking the children on an excursion to the local park.

At last evening fell. The pastor returned accompanied by the previous pastor. Pastor Roberts started. “I've only been a pastor here for the last three years, and though I've helped people with loss, I've never experienced the loss of a spouse. It occurred to me that the old pastor, Mr Edwards could help. He lost his wife in the childbirth of his third child, so I think Mr Gardiner might be able to better relate to him. Not to mention he has known Mr Gardiner for well over a decade.”

“I feel sorry for Mr Gardiner and I can understand his sense of loss. Mrs Gardiner was a fine woman, “ said Mr Edwards, shaking his head sadly. “I would do anything to help, if I can.”

They waited and eventually Mr Gardiner returned home, thankfully without stopping elsewhere on his way home. He looked surprised entering the house to see Mr Roberts and Edwards. “I didn't realise we were expecting guests this evening.” He quickly covered up his frown. He shook hands with Pastor Roberts and Mr Edwards.

“Uncle, we invited them over as we were concerned about you, “ stated Lizzy.

“Concerned,” repeated Mr Gardiner with a quizzical look.

“Uncle, do you recall last night? You came home late and I had to cancel our dinner with the Earl,” asked Mary.

“Everyday is much the same. In truth I can't really recall yesterday at all. With all the time away from the business, I've had to work late to catch up, “ said Mr Gardiner defensively.

“Uncle, when you returned home last night, you were acting like our Aunt was still here. You were talking to her,” said Mary gently.

“We asked your driver where you stopped last night, and he gave us the address. Uncle, did you use laudanum last night, or something else?” asked Lizzy as gently as possible.

With the truth clearly out and it clear there was no point in lying, Mr Gardiner’s shoulders slumped. “I just miss her so much. Everywhere in the house reminds me of her. I can't stand going to bed and not having her there with me; waking to find it empty every morning. “ He started to sob.

The old Pastor Edwards spoke up, going to put a hand on his shoulder. “I know it's hard. But you can understand how worried your nieces are?”

“I know, I know. I wish I was stronger, but I'm not. It just hurts so much.”

Mary and Lizzy also teared up. “It scares me to see you like this, Uncle. I have dreamt of Aunt Madelein and she told me I need to look out for you, but I don't know how,” choked out Lizzy. “I wish I can pull you out of this blackness, for the sake of the children. They need you more than ever before.”

“Frances, she looks and acts so like her mother. Henry, too, the way he looks at the world, is so like her,” cried Mr Gardiner. “I feel a pain in my chest when I look at them. I can't let them see me that way.”

“She still lives through the four precious gifts she left in your care,” said Pastor Roberts.

“Miss Mary, it must be coming up to dinner. Maybe it would be best if we talk with you Uncle in his study and you send dinner in there and we'll let you rejoin with the rest of the household?” suggested the old Pastor Edwards.

“Yes, thankyou. That is a very good suggestion,” said Mary, happy that the two pastors would continue to provide help to her Uncle. There was no doubt this had been the most uncomfortable situation she had been in.

The men rose and went to the study. Mary gave the directions to the servants to send the men's dinner to the study and Lizzy and Mary then went and had dinner with the children, their nurse and governess.

It was well after the children had been put to bed when the men emerged from the study. There was something a little lighter in Mr Gardiner’s look, like a burden had been lifted from him. Mr Gardiner announced “Mr Edwards will be joining us for dinner every second or third night, and Pastor Roberts will join us once a week for dinner. Mary, can you be sure to set a place for them.”

“Of course, Uncle,” replied Mary.

“Also, tomorrow I'll go through Mrs Gardiner’s clothes. Lizzy, can I importune you to come and help Mary and I with that tomorrow?”

“Of course, Uncle. It won't be an issue.”

They talked for a while longer before the men left and before the carriage was called for Lizzy to return to Matlock house. Lizzy returned feeling relieved. Her Uncle, she hoped, had turned a corner with his grief.
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Action Lizzy and the Four Thieves Chapter 49

Anne VJuly 07, 2023 12:01PM

Re: Action Lizzy and the Four Thieves Chapter 49

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Re: Action Lizzy and the Four Thieves Chapter 49

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Re: Action Lizzy and the Four Thieves Chapter 49

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