Hello again, everyone! It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted. This year, has been worse and better than last year. Worse is that my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer and died 8 days later. His funeral was October 1st, so I’m still grieving. I hope you and you friends and relatives you like are all healthy and happy.
Mr. Darcy pulled the reins, bringing his horse to a standstill from cantering, and looked around the Hertfordshire countryside. He thought he had heard yelling. But all he saw was an open field, crops in rows, with no one in sight. Fox pranced forward skittishly, no doubt unnerved by her rider’s stillness.
“Miss Elizabeth Bennet?”
He had definitely heard it this time, over the sound of the horse’s hooves being churned into the damp earth underfoot. He had not imagined the voices calling for the desirable yet impertinent Elizabeth Bennet. Though she had believed Wickham’s stories about him, and questioned him at the Netherfield ball, he still admired her intelligence and beauty. But he could not have what he wanted as her social connections and her family’s impropriety would never allow him to be with her in society or to even call on her in Hertfordshire.
He fingered the smooth leather reins as he decided whether to give in to his desire to find the cause of the servants yelling for the Bennet girl, or if he should avoid temptation. The more he was close to her, the harder it was to not speak to her, to make her notice him, to have her admire him.
“Miss Elizabeth Bennet?”
Mr. Darcy nudged his chestnut stallion Fox with his heels and headed towards the figures near the forest. Any gentleman would offer assistance in this situation. And Miss Bingley was not here to tease him for paying too much attention to Elizabeth’s fine eyes.
“You there!” He spied a servant walking at the edge of the woodland. “What is the matter?”
The man pulled at his forelock with a bow. “Miss Elizabeth Bennet has not returned from her walk.”
Mr. Darcy had heard of her odd habit of lengthy daily walks and had indeed seen it for himself when she had hiked three miles to Netherfield to care for her sister. “Surely she could not be lost? Has she not walked all over this countryside?”
The older man nodded. “Yes sir, but she —“
“How long has she been missing? What is being done to find her?” Mr. Darcy’s horse shook his head and pawed at the ground, eager to return to cantering.
“Miss Elizabeth has been gone since right after the noon meal, sir. Mr. Bennet has all the servants out looking for her.”
Mr. Darcy frowned. That was nearly five hours ago. Even a country girl with a fondness for countryside rambles would have returned by now. His chest clenched at the thought of her injured on the ground, somewhere at the mercy of the local wildlife. “How many are searching for Miss Bennet? Is anyone on horseback? What is her usual walking path?”
The servant looked back towards Longbourn, the home of the Bennet family. “I do not know, sir. Mr. Bennet is at Longbourn and would answer your questions.”
Mr. Darcy spun his horse and kicked him into a canter. He searched the ground for a beautiful young woman lying injured as he rode. She must have twisted her ankle and was too far away to be heard yelling for help.
It was unconscionable that the Bennet girl was allowed to walk without a maid. Never would he have approved his sister Georgiana to do the same. Perhaps Mr. Bennet would be more circumspect after this, however, Mr. Darcy doubted it. Control over his family was not one of Mr. Bennet’s strong suits, not with the way his younger daughters behaved at the assemblies, and in town flirting with the officers.
Mr. Darcy guided his horse down the short driveway of Longbourn. Mr. Bennet looked up at the sound of Fox’s hooves clattering on the gravel path. The family’s patriarch stood in front of the house, directing searchers in his greatcoat and hat. Mr. Bennet turned in Mr. Darcy’s direction. “Mr. Bennet, I came across one of your servants looking for Miss Elizabeth. May I offer my assistance?”
Mr. Bennet grimaced. “It would be much appreciated Mr. Darcy, however I am sure my dear Lizzy has just lost track of the time. I have tried to curtail her long walks but she will not listen to me.”
He chuckled, most likely expecting Mr. Darcy to join in. However, Mr. Darcy’s thoughts were far from amused as his opinion of the Bennet patriarch dropped lower. “Men on horseback could cover a greater distance. I am certain Mr. Bingley would provide his servants to help with the search.”
Mr. Bennet widened his stance as he looked up at the younger man who outranked him in every manner. “I think you for your offer, however, I am sure we will find her quite soon. There is no need to cause alarm among our friends and neighbors.”
Mr. Darcy gathered the reins biting back the desire to tell Mr. Bennet that a proper search had not been done. He turned, giving his horse the signal to move away from the man and his doddering ways. The eldest two Bennet girls deserved all the credit for their characters. It was a shame they came from such a family.
A young maid darted out from behind the hedgerows lining the lane. Fox reared back in surprise, but Mr. Darcy quickly brought him under control. He turned to the girl, ready to lecture her on not startling horses.
“Oh, Mr. Darcy! I have a note for you. I was going to give it to Mr. Bennet but since you are here…” She held the stationary up to him.
He flattened his lips and plucked it out of her hand with a scowl. It could not be a message from Netherfield. Mr. Bingley would not have sent a young maid alone to find him. “Who is this from?”
“A man in Meryton asked me to give this to you.” The girl gripped her waist, breathing heavily.
He unfolded and read the note, his heart stopping. Mr. Darcy pinned the servant girl with his stare. “How long ago did you receive this? Did you recognize the man that gave it to you?”
“No, sir, but he had a red coat on. He must be one of the militia.”
Mr. Darcy turned his head away to think. The maid curtsied and started towards the house.
She stopped and looked back clutching her apron.
“Do not tell anyone. Miss Elizabeth’s reputation is at stake.”
The servant assured him of her silence and continued down the driveway to Longbourn. Mr. Darcy lifted the reins, intending to race to Netherfield and round up his friend Mr. Bingley and servants but stopped. It was his fault entirely that the honor of Elizabeth Bennet was at risk. The fewer people that knew of this situation, the better.
But he needed to move quickly because Mr. Wickham had abducted Elizabeth Bennet.