For some reason, I don't think my update yesterday showed as having happened - but the previous chapter to this one begins the new ending of my story. If that makes any sense.
I hope you like it :)
Georgiana could hardly believe that she had sent the letter she had. She was regretting it almost moments after she had sent the servant away with it. At least, she hadn't thought to send it express. She knew it was an insignificant thing, on the scale of it all, and yet she had to think of something. She had checked her post every morning and evening - indeed, that very morning she had been informed that she had received no message before she had even attempted to ask about them.
So she had continued her own quiet vigil, sitting beside her brother's bed, telling him that he must rise and continuing her needlework - for she had to be productive; And then speaking with the housekeeper and the butler, ensuring the household continued to run with all of its expected efficiencies; Mrs Annesley has insisted that Georgiana continue with her lessons as well - but she was also helping Georgiana sort through the many invitations and correspondences they received - Georgiana had never realised how much work her brother did.
"Excuse me, Miss." The quiet voice of the servant - Annie? Georgiana couldn't remember the girl's name in truth - drew her from her thoughts. "We didn't want to distract you, but there are some visitors downstairs who wouldn't go away. They said that you would be glad to see them, so we put them in the small receiving room." Georgiana had risen to her feet and offered the servant a reassuring smile, hoping she might continue. "Tis a Mr Bennet, a Miss Bennet and a Miss Bennet..."
And with that knowledge, Georgiana practically flew down the stairs.
Jane sat patiently, as soon as they had been shown in; Lizzy was pacing anxiously back and forward and their father had slumped forwards upon his seat, staring into the fire which had been lit in the room. There journey had been a rush to be sure - they had set off for Ramsgate almost as soon as it could have been arranged; her father had already inquired into lodgings in the place, on receipt of Mr Darcy's delayed letter - and he had been considering leaving, although their mother had not been best pleased by the idea. Georgiana's news of their illnesses or injuries - for Jane had to admit that Miss Darcy had not been entirely clear - had been all the incentive he had needed to actually set off, and it had taken very little effort on behalf of Lizzy and Jane to persuade him to take them with him - no matter what exactly had happened, they both felt desperately that they must be there to witness it.
"Lizzy!" Georgiana burst into the room and spoke with more haste and feeling than decorum. Lizzy, for her part, was beside the younger girl in moments; Jane was not so far behind, but she hesitated, not wanting to intrude, and let her sister draw Miss Darcy into a short, but reassuring, hug.
"And Jane!" Georgiana smiled just as broadly at the second Bennet sister as she had at the first. "Oh! It is such a relief to find you here! - only I hadn't heard that you were coming..."
"We came with great haste - I shouldn't be surprised if we outpaced our letter informing you of our coming." Mr Bennet smiled kindly at Miss Darcy, clearly suppressing his amusement as she startled at his presence. As soon as Georgiana had carried out the necessary politeness, he continued. "Now, is there any way I might be of help? If I have the right of it Mr Darcy and Mr Bingley are both unfit to be seen, and Colonel Fitzwilliam is currently not at home?"
"Yes, indeed..." Georgiana smiled slightly - almost ruefully, although Jane rather thought that expression looked out of place upon the girl. "My cousin has been constantly away on business since we arrived here in Ramsgate - I expect he would appreciate your help however, if you were able to give it. You might be able to determine which way he headed from Mr Potts - our butler."
That was all the encouragement Mr Bennet needed to head out once more. Georgiana then turned back to the Bennet girls as she took a seat. Lizzy seemed to take that as reason enough for her to sit herself down as well; Jane could only be relieved at such a sign of serenity within her sister.
"I have asked Mr Bingley to come downstairs - but I do not know if he shall. He has been most unlike himself; he barely speaks, and although he always comes down for meals, he barely eats anything. Otherwise he seems to have taken to keeping himself in his rooms. I believe Richard has spoken to him a time or two - but Richard has not confided anything in me - only that Mr Bingley needs time or some such." Jane, who was the principle recipient of that information, only nodded solemnly - much as she might have wished to interrogate Georgiana further, she knew Lizzy would want to hear of her Mr Darcy first. "As for my brother, he still has not woken - at times he has seemed to move as though he might be only dreaming - but the episodes have never lasted long, and he has always then slipped back into his stillness. The doctor has been coming around daily - sometimes more, and has bid me summon him at any inconsistency - in fact he should arrive soon. We've had someone sat with my brother almost constantly - Doctor Wilson has said that other people, especially those who he knows, should try to talk to him as it might help to draw him back out again. But, at least, Doctor Wilson says that he is healing well - and should be perfectly well when he awakes." Georgiana hesitated for a second, her eyes filling with moisture before she noticeably pulled herself back together again. "Richard wrote to our Doctor in London, and although he cannot make the journey here - he has agreed that Doctor Wilson should be sufficient, and that he knows of no other method which should help my brother to wake..." Jane couldn't help but reach out to hold the girl's hand, even as she saw Lizzy do the same on Georgiana's other side.
"Excuse me, Miss," The maid sounded so hesitant that Jane couldn't help but smile reassuringly at her as well. "But me Mr Bingley has said he is not able to attend to you now."
Jane forced her expression to remain constant at that news - it was not the young servants fault that she was required to pass on such news.
"Did you tell him of the arrival of the Miss Bennets?" Georgiana spoke as sharply as Jane had ever heard her.
"Yes Miss." She hesitated before adding. "He did apologise to me that I must carry such bad news..."
"So he appeared well?" Jane found herself speaking quite without ever intending to - only she had to know. He couldn't be well entirely, or else he wouldn't be acting as he was - Jane knew him well enough for that - but she had to know if this was more than that. "He spoke and not his Valet...?"
"To be sure," the girl finally smiled a little in return to Jane's attempts at cheer. "He seemed as well as he has been since coming here."
"Well then..." Jane wasn't entirely sure where her resolve came from, but she could feel it rushing through her. "Miss Darcy, do you suppose if he feels unequal to come to us, we might go to him?"
When he heard the second knock on his door, Bingley assumed that it was the maid sent back to retrieve him - he had to own he wasn't entirely surprised by that. He was being incredibly rude by remaining away when they had guests - especially when those guests were the Bennets - if there was any family in England he should respect it was them - and yet...
How could he socialise - force easiness - pretend that he deserved their attention and friendship when he was holding back such information? Richard had sworn him to secrecy - told him that he couldn't tell anyone - or not, at least, until Darcy woke and could give his opinion. Bingley hadn't truly been able to argue with that - Darcy would know what was best - Darcy always did. And until Darcy woke, Bingley could only do the best he could.
He opened the door slowly, trying to decide whether it was more blameworthy to ignore their guests, or deceive them - he would blame that preoccupation for the time it took him to realise who it was who lay on the other side.
"Jane!" The word was more of a gasp than speech, but she didn't seem to notice. Nor did she seem to notice his lack of formality; instead she was just looking at him in her piercing way - as though she could see right through him and could see exactly what he wanted to hide. It was one of the things he loved most about her - how she seemed to see the true measure of everyone, and still could think so well of them all.
Then suddenly she was beside him, her arms wrapped around him and her face pushed against his shoulder. He pulled her close to him, as much in surprise as in true desire to have her near him - to have her calm comfort and kindness.
"Oh Charles..." Her words were so quiet, but they cut him to the core. "I've been so worried..."
He couldn't do this - it was so cruel. How could he abuse her goodness in such a way? He tried to move her away, but she barely reacted, only pulling back to look at him more - still far too close, still breaking the propriety she held so dear.
"I... Killed a man." He could barely speak the words - he was surprised she could even hear the words. But she had stiffened, her face frozen into confusion. "I..." He shook his head. He couldn't out this on her - she should live her life without such cruelty.
But somehow she was holding his hands in his, and looking at him in such a way.
How could he refuse?
Richard marched through the doors as purposefully as he possibly could, even with Mr Bennet shadowing him mere steps behind. Mr Bennet and he had had a remarkably long conversation when Mr Bennet had found him - Mr Bennet had needed catching up on everything that had happened - everything that Richard had done. Richard hadn't found it a huge chore, it was easy enough to talk about that - to detail his meetings with the magistrate to get the claims against Bingley waived, and the accumulation of Wickham's debt - for Wickham in his usual fashion had gathered a great many more than one would normally imagine possible. Richard could even easily speak of the attempts that he had made to stop any of Wickham's back up plans coming into effect - that hadn't been too much of a hardship after all - he had spoken to all of Wickham's friends who were all happy enough to speak, given a suitable encouragement and the knowledge of Wickham's death.
He'd even managed to get one of his more discreet friends in London to speak to Mrs Younge on his behalf.
And the magistrate had given him permission to search through Wickham's rented room - although he'd have likely done that even without that permission. He had found a handful of letters Georgiana had written to Wickham - presumably while they had been in Ramsgate, Richard hadn't looked at them in detail - that had felt too intrusive. He'd placed them safely in the house, not wanting to return them to Georgiana without having Darcy's thoughts.
Of course, he'd no sooner finished telling Bennet all of that when the older man had asked the single question that he had been failing to answer for so long.
"Well then, what else is there to do?" When Richard hadn't replied, he'd continued, his voice so reasonable that Richard couldn't help but feel moderately ashamed. "Why have you not been helping Miss Darcy and Mr Bingley?"
Richard, entering the house, almost wondered why himself. The gentle hum of conversation flowed through the hall for the first time since he and Georgie had arrived - he couldn't make out the voices, but he assumed that at least one of them was one of the Bennet sisters. The trouble had been that it had all seemed so strange with Darcy's injury. There had been nothing Richard could do for Darcy, no comfort he could provide Georgie, and nothing he could say to relieve Bingley's guilt.
It was so difficult to see Bingley and not remember how he had found them. He had heard the gunshot, and run to its source - and found Bingley hovering over both men - Wickham and Darcy - frantically trying to stop both of their bleeding. At the time, Richard had only thought that Darcy was injured in his arm - he hadn't realised about the head injury - but Bingley couldn't have either. And Bingley had begged him to help him save them - both of them.
Richard had tried to save Wickham's life.
He should have helped Darcy - he should have done more. He couldn't do half as much as Darcy could - he couldn't protect everyone as Darcy did...
What could he do?