Welcome back to
A Swan In Hiding
Wow all I can say is a resounding thank you to one and all who have taken the time to read and review this story through the years, thank you for all the encouragement along the way.
As most of you might know this will be my last fanfic update as I have decided to retire at the end of the month. As happened with my other fics for the moment my muse has run dry and I had to make a choice as my life is heading in another direction.
As promised this chapter is dedicated to lover-of black nailpolish who granted this story its 385th review
In keeping with the last few chapter this has not yet been edited so any and all errors you may find are entirely my own doing
I own nothing recognizable save the plot twists on this story but you already knew that.
Now with the formalities concluded I bring you the last installment of our tale.
Chapter 31 Wedding bells part 2
"A lady's imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment."
Looking back on this special day, Mary would laugh.
She would remember the flutter of spirits and nerves that accompanied their journey the fingers of her right hand playing now again with a single dark curl of her hair. The soothing voice of her good friend keeping her firmly on the here and now spiced with the gentle well wishes that the people they passed voiced as their carriage proceeded. The entire village it seemed had turned out to a man. Women children and man it seemed had set life aside to see the earl wed.
Music greeted her ear as the carriage pulled to a stop and inhaling deeply Mary swallowed her fears and squared her shoulders yes it was true in moments she would be leaving the world she knew as a gentleman's daughter of a small town and that many a family would look to them for support and a future but with a man like Richard standing by her side what trouble could they not weather?
"That's it my dear girl now do remember to take a breath between brave thoughts and let's go inside before my good son expires from sheer nerves"
Laughing the signal was given and the door of the carriage was flung open and Mary stepped into the bright sunshine her gown gleamed bright and pure. A cheer rose from the assembled crowed on the steps and she blushed prettily as she nodded to the few she recognized from her shopping trips to the village. Then Cynthia was there her mother following in the wake blessing the weather the people and her nerves all in turns and many had to turn away to hide a smile as she finally found her seat next to her siblings.
Then they were inside and Mary had to blink as her eyes adjusted to the light of the many candles here and there about the room. A rustling of feet and all their guest were on their feet, familiar organ music began to play and with a gasp Mary recognised the figure waiting just out of her sight range.
His smile was answer enough as he wreathed her face in his hand gently brushing away the single pair of tears of joy that had escaped her lashes.
"Oh my little bird, it feels as if I only just got to know you and now I must set you free. Know I am very proud of you my dear"
Soaking in his praise she accepted his arm as he stepped back and led her up the short walk to where Richard stood looking resplendent in rich tones of green. His eyes never once moved from her form as she approached. Her heart was in her throat as she gifted him with the brightest smile she could muster as they heard the pastor begin his good office. Answering the questions and minding the warnings of the good man of the cloth at last they came to the best part. Gentle hands covered her own as it was lifted and the ring found its place cool and slighty weighted on her finger.
Meeting his eye Mary was amazed and moved to see the sheen of happy tears welling behind his eyes as the vows left his lips she heard only part of it as she watched him swallow back his emotions with a powerful effort.
"...and with all my worldly goods i thee endow as with this ring I thee wed"
Smiling the vicar allowed himself a low chuckle as he met Richards eye for a moment before mouthing a single word that might have been "finally!" which brought a welcomed smile to his lips as the vicar returned to the business at hand.
"Do you Miss Bennet take this man as your husband?"
"And do you take this women as your lawful wife?"
"Then by the power of my office and by the will of God I declare thee to be husband and wife!, you may kiss your bride"
The resounding cheer at these words seemed to shake the very dust from the rafters as it was proclaimed to the waiting crowd outside the muted roar of joy was echoed with great vigor spooking more than one passing horse in the process. Yet Mary heard none of it. On the suggestion of the vicar Richard had pulled her close and they shared their first kiss as husband and wife. Pulling back her laugh was pure joy as they linked armed to leave. He sporting a smile that threatened to set a record for its joyful mein.
Despite the season the happy couple found themselves showered with flower petals as they scampered into the waiting carriage, Cynthia it must be said had the best aim, covering her son liberally with the colored petals. Claiming this was a sign of good luck. Mary might have believed her but for the twinkle in her eyes as she bid them a safe journey. The wedding breakfast being a good distance from the church held in the manors front garden.
"So what happened then Mama?"
Sophia sat cradled in her mother's lap, the crackling fire in the grate the only sound as her mother took a long drink from a cup on the nightstand. Her smile was warm as she held her firstborn who was wriggling impatient for the end of the story while her two siblings slept on heedless of the storm blowing in or the rain that pelted again the windows as her mother continued.
"Well little love, then things got... rather exciting"
"Oh Richard I can't remember ever being so happy!"
A mile outside town and Mary was comfortably settled in her husbands loving arms drowsy from the mornings excitement. Who would have thought getting married would cause one to become so weary? She was just on the point of dosing off when the thunder of approaching hooves roused her. A frown marring her features as she spoke sleepily
"Richard what on earth..."
All at once her world went topsy-turvy as the carriage struck a rut attempting to get out-of-the-way of a rider coming at them full tilt. A screaming horse a familiar roar of anger and everything went black as the carriage toppled over.
"Did you die Mama?"
A horrified voice sounded from the darkness and with a smile Mary welcomed her youngest into her arms as the thunder began to roll in. Cuddling into her shoulder the boy sniffled fearfully as his sister rebuked him soundly for interrupting her favorite part of the story
"Of course not Bennet! If she died who would be telling us this story i'd like to know?"
Some time later Mary awoke, with bound limbs and a thunderstruck expression worthy of her mother. Two redcoats stood at the door of a grubby little inn watching the coming and going outside. Turning one noticed her state and spoke. It was Denny! A young officer that had always followed her sister about like a young eager pup when the family went into the village.
"Ah your awake Miss, good, now listen closely I was hired by someone to keep you quite safe and comfortable until your ransom arrives, with which myself and my charming companion mean to make a new start somewhere"
He gently removed her gag and as she caught her breath narrowed her eyes. The other figure had yet to turn and she wondered who it was but for the moment she turned her attention on the young officer, for the love of porridge in the morning it was her wedding day! What else could go wrong?!.
"That's a dangerous gamble, Denny...your risking your very life"
"Richard is going to find me and when he does...I don't fancy your odds of freedom of any kind"
A laugh rent the air as the companion turned and Mary was shocked into silence. There dressed as an officer right down to the buckled shoes stood her sister Lydia! Armed with a cruel smile gracing her lips and a wild almost manic gleam in her eyes.
"Oh and how long do you think it will take him to find you? Dear soul that he was, to end my dear Wickham. you see Mary I cannot return the favor the way I wished, that would have been unfair as you have just wed. So I shall return his bride to him with a proper price and we shall disappear into the wilds of the new world..poof"
Mary muttered gently to herself. Indeed the signs where all there, how she had escaped the watchful eye of their house keeper arrived here or much less into officers dress were problems she did not wish to contemplate as they made her head ache. She sore from being tossed about but luckily otherwise uninjured.
An hour dragged by and though food and refreshment were offered by turns she refused them least anything they gave might have been tampered with. Waiting with bated breath, that her Richard would find her she had no doubt, how they where to explain their sudden disappearance to the waiting guests was another matter entirely.
Her sister had it was sad to take utterly taken leave of her senses, now humming a lively tune or dancing a jig to no music at all before stalking to the door like an angry cat to glower at the empty road before settling on the stool by the table to nibble at some cheese and cold meat Denny had brought them.
rescue when it did come was a nosy confused affair, caught completely unawares her sister had turned once more into a frightened girl screaming bloody murder when Richard came bursting into the room with a roar and a smoking pistol in his hands followed closely by their brave driver and coachmen on his heels. Denny merely shrank against the wall like a cornered rat a horrified expression on his features.
"Mary my Swan are you injured?"
His question was warmly spoken but his eyes were chilled steel, here was Richard the commanding officer, the war hero and solider not the gentlemen and she was mightily happy to be on the right side of his temper for it was both wonderful and terrible to behold.
"Nay Richard I am shaken and hungry but...well"
"You two drag these two to the closest magistrate, the young women will be confined to a more watchful guardian until her parents and a good doctor arrive. He is to be reported to his commanding officer for desertion and seduction"
Orders given and executed to the letter despite the protests from the pair Richard released his grip on the weapon and put out the charge before holstering it once more. Then with a great exhale of breath swept across the room and lifted her into his arms as if she weighed no more than a feather he did not speak until both were comfortably settled in the carriage provided by the good house and they where off he nestling his chin against her shoulder .
"Oh my dear, when i woke and found you missing, in company with that feather brained attempt at a ransom note...I feared the worst, my mother only should be made aware of this event in total..to the rest of our guests a rut an accident and a broken wheel shall be explanation enough i think"
Mary heartily agreed.
So it was only their parents and Cynthia ever learned the truth of the events that followed their wedding. The family physician had at Richards insistence checked the bride over discretely and declared her no worse for her adventure of being tossed about before releasing her to the good wedding breakfast laid before them on the lawn. Her mother greeting her in characteristic fashion
"Oh my dear girl! the wife of an Earl, and such a grand home too, oh bless me Kitty fetch me my salts!"
Lady Catherine had always attended but had become so involved with a certain Charles Bingley on the best ways to invest and use his inheritance to best advantage she was only a glimpse in the sea of faces that wished them well, eat heartily and lamented the accident with good cheer before departing as the shadows of evening fell. Ann being the last to leave embracing them both most tenderly with the most heartfelt wishes of their happiness before leaving with her mother. As they entered the house and Mary heard the door close behind her she smiled as Richard swept her into his arms.
Her new life was about to begin.
What became of Richard and his little Swan you might ask? Well with the timely blessings of three children who did their best to best Minerva for mischief, a comfortable estate and a mother that brought good cheer and sense to their lives for the rest of her own one could very readily call their marriage a true happily ever after. Mary for her part would always hold Catherine and Ann in highest regard as being the means of uniting them. the two family growing closer with the passing years. As for who won the bet?, Cynthia never said but that telling twinkle in her eye was something to ponder.
Ann did marry much to her mother delight and found great happiness in being the Mistress of Rosings. Catherine having moved gracefully aside after a time and devoted the rest of her life to helping the less fortunate with the assistance of Mr. Collins and his wife.
As for Lydia?, her fate was sadly sealed. Before she could be called to account for her schemes she passed away two weeks later of the pox. Denny followed in turn a month later. Stripped of his rank and looks in a lowly sea-side inn with his brother by his side.
Mr and Mrs Bennet also had joys enough. Jane and Bingley where wed that very next fall in a joint ceremony with Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth! Though much surprised by the match the family was delighted. Miss Kitty Bennet is not forgotten in this tale three years later she also wed a young rector of the family parish and through a legal negation became the new Mistress of the family home when the Collins accepted ample compensation for their lot. Ensuring her parents where comfortable and well cared for to the end of their days.
Not bad for a story the began with a shy Swan, an honorable gentlemen and a necklace,
wouldn't you agree?
So ends our tale of Mary and her love. Its been a long ride and I hope this last update wraps up most of those pesky loose ends for you my readers.
Please take a moment to let me know your thoughts on the ending, lol I did wonder if it if was everything you hoped for.
I can't thank you enough for the support and feedback during the penning of this tale.
For those wondering yes this story will be available for purchase in the future I just need editing help and the finances to do so.
So as this is my last update I wish you all a wonderful holiday season and a Merry Christmas,
God bless and best wishes.