Thanks for stopping by for chapter 3 of Mr. Darcy’s Enchantment, a Pride & Prejudice variation where the magic is real! The Kindle ebook is now available for preorder and will be released December 4. If you’re new to the story, here are links to Chapter 1 and Chapter 2. And here’s the newly released cover and blurb:
Fitzwilliam Darcy is a powerful magician who controls fire, water, and wind. What he cannot control is his growing feelings for Miss Elizabeth Bennet. But Darcy is also sworn to uphold the laws which forbid women to use magic, and Elizabeth knows it.
Elizabeth’s sentiments towards Darcy are quite different. She detests his arrogance, and she fears he will expose her use of forbidden magic. He is the last man in the world she would choose to help her on a difficult and dangerous task.
But when a magical war looms between the land of Faerie and their world, a Lord of Faerie demands that Darcy and Elizabeth serve together as his emissaries to make peace with the other mortals. That mission throws them into the middle of a chaotic power struggle between magicians whose power dwarfs their own, and everything Elizabeth has ever believed about her family, her friends, and her enemies will be called into question.
The tingling sensation from crossing the Rosings wards only worsened Elizabeth’s queasiness. Darcy was somewhere in the house. She would have to see him and converse with him. Perhaps she could hide behind Charlotte and leave her to do all the speaking. That way she could concentrate on being ready to run away if he spoke even one word in Latin.
Fortunately Darcy did not keep them waiting long, appearing in the drawing room not five minutes after the butler had showed them in. “I thank you for coming so promptly, Mrs. Collins.”
“I am happy to be of service,” said Charlotte demurely.
Darcy looked past Charlotte, his lips tightening. “Miss Elizabeth, may I speak freely in front of Mrs. Collins?” he asked abruptly.
Elizabeth inhaled sharply. What in heaven’s name was he thinking? “I have not discussed, er, recent events with her.” The disaster of Mr. Darcy’s proposal was none of Charlotte’s business.
He shook his head impatiently. “Not that. I speak of your activities in visiting the sick.”
Relief rushed through her. “Charlotte knows I do the work of a wisewoman, if that is what you mean.”
“Good. Lady Catherine’s illness appears to be otherworldly. She was found unconscious in the garden. Nothing I have attempted has had any effect.” He bit the words out, as if he hated admitting to any weakness.
Was it possible his summons had nothing to do with his offer of marriage or her magic? Elizabeth said cautiously, “If you would like me to see if there is anything I can do, I would be happy to do so. However, there are much more experienced wisewomen available.”
“No. We must keep this private.”
Elizabeth glanced at Charlotte. “Very well. Could someone be sent to the parsonage to collect my satchel? There are supplies in it I may need.”
It was hardly surprising that Miss Elizabeth hesitated just inside Lady Catherine’s bedroom. Lady Catherine lay pallid and utterly without motion, looking more dead than alive.
Elizabeth asked him, “Are you certain this is not an apoplexy?”
“It stinks of fay mischief.” He lowered himself into a chair, watching her intently as she approached Lady Catherine and felt her wrist. He should be worried about his aunt, but the sight of Elizabeth brought back too many painful memories.
Richard looked in the door questioningly. Darcy waved him inside.
Elizabeth did not seem taken aback by how Lady Catherine’s eyes stared straight up, regardless of the movement around her. She laid the back of her hand on her forehead. “No fever. This illness is different from the redcap bites I have been seeing. Charlotte, would you assist me in examining her clothing? I am looking for a small tear or cut in the fabric.”
“Elfshot?” Darcy asked harshly. Elfshot was a death sentence.
“It is too soon to say.” Elizabeth ran her fingers up and down the fabric of Lady Catherine’s dress.
“There is a small rip here,” Charlotte pointed to Lady Catherine’s forearm. “I see no blood, though.”
“Elfshot does not cause bleeding, although no one knows why.” Elizabeth hurried to the opposite side of the bed. She pressed her fingers into Lady Catherine’s arm beneath the shoulder and began to palpate her flesh. She moved her hands along her arm until her fingers halted just above the elbow.
“There,” she murmured as if to herself. Straightening, she brushed back a stray lock of her hair and looked up at Darcy. “I am sorry to say it does appear to be elfshot, but it is still in her arm, so all is not yet lost. I can attempt to remove it if you wish, but it is a difficult process which may well not succeed.”
“And if we do nothing?” asked Richard.
“The elfshot will continue its journey to her heart and kill her.”
Richard turned to him. “Darcy? What do you think?”
Why did it have to be his decision? It was hard enough just to look at Elizabeth, much less speak to her on such matters. Darcy cleared his throat experimentally. Good; his voice still worked. “We would be most appreciative for whatever you can do.”
She hesitated, biting her lip. “It might be a wise precaution to fetch a surgeon. If my attempt to remove the elfshot fails, the next choice would be to amputate her arm, and time is of the essence.”
“Will that save her?”
“Logic says it should do so, but elfshot does not always follow the laws of logic.”
Darcy nodded to Richard, who left the room. He did not even want to think about how his aunt would react if she awoke without an arm. She might prefer to be dead.
Elizabeth glanced down at Lady Catherine and then back at Darcy. “If I am able to remove the elfshot, do you have the ability to destroy it? Otherwise it will seek her out again.”
“Of course I can,” he said, stung by the doubt in her voice. “What else will you need?”
“Everything I need is in my satchel, but perhaps I can start without it. A sharp knife and a tourniquet to begin with. An unstarched cravat and a stick will serve admirably as a tourniquet. Forceps, if there are any to hand. Rags for when the bleeding starts. Perhaps her maid could cut away the sleeve of her dress.”
“No servants.” If word got out that he had employed a wisewoman, he would lose the last vestiges of trust from the Collegium. Of course, the same would be true if Lady Catherine died suspiciously in his presence, or he would never have resorted to this. “I will fetch what you require.”
Elizabeth looked surprised. “Very well. Charlotte, dear, will the sight of Lady Catherine’s blood trouble you?”
By the time Richard returned with word that the surgeon had been sent for, Elizabeth’s satchel had arrived, and she had set the tourniquet in place on Lady Catherine’s upper arm. She rummaged through the satchel and removed several objects, including a small metal tin. Her movements were efficient and competent.
Despite himself, Darcy could not take his eyes from her. This was a side of Elizabeth he had never seen before and hardly even guessed at. The stories he had been told of wisewomen always portrayed them as crones who were more than half lunatic, scattering herbs and drawing signs in the air. No one had ever mentioned they could be bewitchingly beautiful with fine eyes. Standing beside her was torture.
Elizabeth stripped off the wire holding the tin closed. Could that thick lining inside the tin be iron? She gingerly lifted out a stone arrowhead. Perhaps this was the start of the lunatic bit.
“What is that?” Darcy asked.
“Inert elfshot.” She did not look at him.
He reached past her. The stone tingled at his touch, and he snatched his hand away.
“Mostly inert,” she said with a slight smile. “Otherwise it would not help me.” She slid the arrowhead along Lady Catherine’s arm until it abruptly stopped as if of its own accord. “Yes, definitely elfshot. It seeks out its own kind. But I suppose you know that.”
He could almost hear the echo of her voice. I resolved long ago never to marry a mage, and nothing will induce me to change my mind. “No. We learn other things in the Collegium.”
She raised her eyebrows at him and then returned the arrowhead to its iron box. She took up her scalpel and wrapped the handle in a scrap of cloth, but then stopped short. She held out the candlestick from the bedside table to Mrs. Collins. “Charlotte, could you light this, if you please?” Her voice was oddly flat.
Darcy flicked a finger. “Ardescas.” The wick caught with a steady flame.
“Thank you.” The words sounded forced. Elizabeth held the scalpel in the flame until the tip of it glowed.
“Why do you –”
“Elfshot dislikes fire,” she snapped. “It is difficult enough doing this with a mage in the room without having to explain everything.”
Mrs. Collins asked timidly, “Should I hold her arm down?”
Elizabeth shook her head. “No need. She can feel nothing while she is under the influence of elfshot.”
Darcy sucked in his breath as Elizabeth made a deep slice in his aunt’s arm. She did not hesitate, though, poking deeper with the scalpel as blood welled around it.
“There,” she murmured. She held out her hand. “The inert elfshot, if you please. Mind the edges of it.”
Darcy hastened to obey. Elizabeth took it without a word and set it directly in the wound. Could that possibly be safe? But there was nothing safe about any of this.
What was happening? She did not seem to be doing anything. But suddenly she had two arrowheads in her hand. She pulled the second one off using the forceps and held it out in his direction. “Do it.”
He murmured the words of unmaking, and the elfshot dissolved into ashes. “Is she safe now?”
Elizabeth shook her head. “There are still traces I must remove.” She leaned over the wound and covered it with both her hands, one on top of the other. Mrs. Collins wiped away the oozing blood.
Since it seemed there was nothing further he could do to assist her, Darcy stepped back. It was safer that way. The immediate crisis was over, and being near her just reminded him of all he had lost. He had offered her everything he possessed, and she had disdained it. He was the last man in the world she could be prevailed upon to marry. And while he might be seeing a new side of her today, his desire for her was unchanged. He ached for her, and she wanted nothing to do with him.
But he could not stop watching her. He settled in a chair where he could see her face. Her fingers were moving near the wound, but her eyes were closed. It must be part of the wisewoman show, but he was surprised Elizabeth would indulge in such theatrics.
As silent minutes passed, a look of strain came over Elizabeth’s face. Her body grew rigid and beads of perspiration began to form on her forehead. Her eyes were tightly shut.
Could something have gone amiss? Were the traces of elfshot affecting Elizabeth? Dear God, he could not bear it if something happened to her! Perhaps he should put a stop to this.
Mrs. Collins asked, “Lizzy, are you unwell?”
Elizabeth shook her head almost imperceptibly but remained silent.
Finally, after what felt like hours, she lifted her hands and opened her eyes. “Charlotte, would you bandage the wound? I am too…” Her voice trailed off, and she collapsed into a nearby chair, her hands still covered with blood. She sighed heavily and looked straight at Darcy. “You might have warned me she had magic of her own.” Her voice was accusing. “She fought me every inch of the way.”
“Magic?” Darcy bristled at the implication. “My aunt has no magical abilities.”
“You may believe that if it gives you comfort.” She sounded exhausted. It was unlike Elizabeth to give in so easily.
Richard frowned and laid his fingertips on Lady Catherine’s throat. Surely he was not taking this ridiculous allegation seriously! He straightened, his face losing its color. “Miss Bennet is correct. Ice cold Fitzwilliam power.”
How could it be?
His cousin shook his head in disbelief. “I apologize, Miss Bennet. We had no idea. Either she herself is unaware of it, or she disguised it very well.” He crossed to the side table, poured water from the ewer into the basin, and carried the basin and towel to Elizabeth.
She seemed confused by his offering. Richard knelt beside her, dipped the towel in the water, and began washing the blood from her hands.
“Thank you,” she murmured, as if too tired to speak aloud.
Richard was staring at her hand. “Darcy,” he said evenly. “I don’t suppose you can do anything for burns.”
That was enough to rouse Darcy from his stunned state. He hurried to her side. Her fingers, her beautiful fingers that he had admired as they moved across the keyboard, were covered with red, angry blisters. Gently, reverently, he took her hand in his own, careful to touch only where the skin was intact.
“What are you going to do?” she asked wearily.
He could not give the answer that sprang immediately to his mind, so instead he said, “I cannot heal the burns, but I can encourage your skin to grow quickly.” Taking her lack of protest as consent, he muttered the words to spur healthy growth. It made no visible difference, but he could feel it working, the throb of growth, the rush of healing blood under her skin. It was dizzyingly intimate.
“That does feel better.” She sounded surprised – and more alert. How had she recovered so quickly?
Of course. He should have known. Richard was on her other side, his fingertips on the inside of her wrist. He must be feeding her power, replenishing what she had exhausted.
Mrs. Collins said, “Lady Catherine is stirring!”
Elizabeth’s expression brightened. “Good. That means all the elfshot is gone.”
“She will be well again?” asked Richard.
“Eventually. The other person I know of who survived elfshot babbled meaningless nonsense when he first awoke, and it was more than a week before he was himself again. Some residual influence of the elfshot, I assume.”
Richard’s lips quirked. “But how will we know if she is babbling meaningless nonsense or is merely being her usual self?”
Elizabeth started to laugh and covered it with a cough, but her eyes sparkled.
And Darcy still cupped her hand in his. He said huskily, “That is the limit of my ability to help. I am sorry I can do no more.”
Elizabeth tentatively stretched her fingers and then closed her hand. “It hardly hurts now, and I feel much better. I thank you.”
Darcy looked away, already missing the touch of her hand. “That is Richard’s doing, not mine. Restoring strength is his gift.”
Richard took his fingers from Elizabeth’s wrist and straightened. “You seemed in need of it.” His cheeks bore a telltale flush. “And now we should feed you. Between what you did and Darcy’s healing, you must be hungry enough to eat the counterpane.”
Elizabeth gave a half smile. “I was thinking of starting with the bed curtains, actually. They look more appetizing.”
What had she done?
The colonel had been correct when he said she would be hungry. Elizabeth had never been so famished in her life. Of course, she had never used so much magic at once, either. It was all she could do not to attack the tray of pastries and cold meats with both hands. Picking delicately at her food like a lady was out of the question, so she settled for eating at a steady pace, even if in an unladylike amount. The colonel ate just as heartily. Fortunately Elizabeth could leave the care of Lady Catherine to Charlotte for the moment.
Colonel Fitzwilliam kept up a steady stream of conversation between bites, but Mr. Darcy had excused himself as soon as the food arrived. At first it was a relief not to have to worry what he thought of her at every moment, but now she feared where he might have gone. Was his willingness to tolerate women with magic not as great as his letter had implied? Perhaps Colonel Fitzwilliam was merely keeping her here while Darcy took steps to prepare a binding spell. Oh, she could not bear it, especially not from him!
Why, oh, why had she done it? She could not have exposed herself more completely if she had made a deliberate attempt. He already had reason to believe she might have magic, but now she had shown it without a shadow of a doubt. Why had she not told Mr. Darcy there was nothing she could do? She could have stopped her efforts rather than use her powers when Lady Catherine’s magic had attacked her. Lady Catherine might have lost her arm or even her life, but Elizabeth would not be at risk of losing everything she cared about. If she had stopped, Darcy would have thought her no more than another harmless wisewomen employing charms she did not understand.
And to expose herself to Mr. Darcy, of all people! The man she had insulted gravely only two days ago, the man who had no reason to think kindly of her or to protect her. She might as well have thrown herself off a cliff.
To make it worse, she could not even claim that the cause of her downfall had been a desire to heal Lady Catherine. It had been her pride, her ridiculous, dangerous pride. Mr. Darcy had insulted her abilities, her family, and herself. When he had needed her help, she could not resist the chance to show him her skills were not useless. And then, after it was too late, she had not known when to stop.
But Colonel Fitzwilliam had been so kind to her. He had shown no shock or dismay and had treated her as if it were a natural thing for a woman to have magic. Was there a chance he would defend her?
She swallowed down a bite of pastry. “Colonel, you do not seem troubled by what I did.”
“Saving Lady Catherine?” he teased. “No doubt I will regret it someday when she is chastising me for breathing improperly or some other sin, but I could not have left her to die.”
“But you did not expect how I would do it, and I am a woman.”
“A very lovely one at that!”
She hesitated. “The Collegium of Mages takes the position that women cannot be trusted with magic because their weaker characters and lack of reason would make them too susceptible to the temptations of sorcery.”
The colonel’s lips twitched with amusement. “I believe there is also something in there about women’s poor moral judgment and inability to tell right from wrong, but you are in general correct. As for your use of magic, well, I have a sister. I am aware many women have the ability. It appears you use your powers for healing. Why should I object?”
“Many mages would already have put a binding spell on me.”
He shook his head. “Many mages still have their heads in the Middle Ages. I take a more scientific view. All the Fitzwilliams do. We have seen how power so often goes from parent to child. It does not favor the eldest son nor the youngest daughter.”
Relief trickled through her. “That is indeed modern thinking. I had not realized anyone held such views.”
“If you look at the evidence, it is clear. Your father is a mage, is he not?”
“Yes,” she admitted. “He rarely uses his powers, though.”
“Even so, as soon as I knew that, I assumed you were likely to be gifted with magic. Darcy confirmed it when I asked him after our first visit.”
Shock riveted her in place. “Mr. Darcy knew?”
Colonel Fitzwilliam chuckled. “You thought he did not?”
“I was terrified he would guess! How did he find out?” And he had proposed to her anyway!
“Something about your effect on his elemental magic. I do not remember the details.”
Her magic affected him? Then he must have known all along, all those months when she had been so frantically worried he would discover her secret! “I had no idea.”
“Even without that, he knows magic is often inherited. My grandfather noted the pattern, and when he realized my father had unusually strong abilities, he made a point of marrying his other children into families with powerful mages. Darcy’s father was an expert at manipulating the elements, and my grandfather hoped his daughter would produce a son with both elemental powers and the ability to create spells. Alas for Darcy, he got only the elemental powers, but with the strength of the Fitzwilliam magic. The poor fellow cannot create even the most basic spell, but he always has to be careful not to inadvertently cause a flood or set a fire. Lady Catherine denied having any magic, but my grandfather married her off to a strong mage anyway. Perhaps he knew she was not telling the truth. I myself have only the abilities that run in my mother’s family, not my father’s.”
Elizabeth’s tea had cooled. But now that there was no need for secrecy, she might as well have hot tea. She wrapped her hand around her teacup and willed the temperature to rise. “If Mr. Darcy cannot use spells, how did he heal my hands?”
“He can employ spells designed by another mage. He simply cannot create his own.”
“If it is not improper to ask – if he can heal, why did he not offer to mend Lady Catherine’s wound?”
The colonel shook his head. “Healing a blood relative is dangerous. Too often it turns out badly, usually in some unexpected way.”
Was that why her remedies always seemed to make Jane sicker instead of restoring her health? If only she had known! “What sort of power did you inherit from your mother?”
“Me? I am a source. I can provide power to another mage. I can sense spells – what they are, who made them, that sort of thing. Most mages can do a bit of that, but not as easily as a source. Nothing dramatic, I fear.”
“But very useful on occasion, I imagine. I certainly appreciated your confirmation about Lady Catherine’s magic.”
“Yes, there was that.” He tapped his finger on the side of the table. “What troubles me is how it has gone unnoticed for so long in a family like mine. Why have I never sensed it from her before?”
Elizabeth considered. “Might she have a way of covering it up? She was unconscious when you checked her. Perhaps if she had been awake, you would have found nothing.”
“That, my dear, is an interesting thought. I must ask my father about it. Lady Catherine’s hatred of being touched may play a role. I cannot remember the last time she offered me her hand.”
“Truly? She does it frequently with Mr. Collins.”
The colonel’s eyebrows shot up. “Does she, indeed? She allows non-mages to touch her, knowing they will learn nothing from it. How deviously clever she is! Still, it is a good thing you saved her. If she had died magically when Darcy was here, some people might have suspected he had a hand in it.”
“Mr. Darcy? Why would he want her to die? He tried to save her.”
“I know, I know. But some people might suspect he wanted Lady Catherine out of the way, so he could marry Anne and have complete control of all the Rosings assets without interference. But, as you may know, Darcy has no interest in marrying Anne, even with Rosings as her dowry.”
Elizabeth smothered an urge to laugh. So Colonel Fitzwilliam did not know Darcy had offered for her. That was a relief. “I have never seen him show an interest in her, despite all of Lady Catherine’s hints.”
“And my father’s. He is even more set on Darcy marrying Anne than Lady Catherine is. Poor Darcy. But that reminds me – might I examine that inert elfshot of yours?”
“Of course. Here it is.” She paused eating just long enough to remove the tin from her satchel.
“Thank you. I have never seen such a thing before.” He opened the box and set his fingertips on it, his eyes taking on a distant look.
“Really? Every wisewoman has one.”
He raised his eyebrows. “The procedure you did today is common, then?”
“No, not at all. If elfshot hits anywhere but the arm, it reaches the heart too quickly for any hope of stopping it.”
“Yet all wisewomen carry these?”
Elizabeth smiled. “Not for that reason. We use them to determine if someone’s death was caused by elfshot. That way we know whether to bury them with iron over their heart to prevent it from escaping and seeking a new target.”
“Interesting. I should talk to wisewomen more often.”
She was tempted to laugh. “Good luck. It is unlikely they will want to talk to you. Wisewomen have good reason to fear mages.”
“I suppose so. But how did you become one? I was under the impression wisewomen were usually, er, older.”
“They are. It is considered ill luck for a woman with young children to do this sort of work, so mostly it is spinsters or women whose children are grown.”
“So how did a marriageable young lady like you become one?”
She laughed. “I am a fraud. I am not really a wisewoman. I have just been present when wisewomen were working often enough to have learned their ways. The local wisewoman sought me out when I was twelve because she thought I could be of help to her.”
He raised an eyebrow. “With things like lighting candles and destroying elfshot?”
“You saw through my deception! Yes, that sort of thing. She had lost her vision, and with it her ability to do magic. I went with her whenever she was called to see someone, and I paid attention.”
“Your parents permitted it?”
Elizabeth flushed. “They did not know. They thought I just liked to take long walks alone. But I would have had to stop when I turned eighteen because the wisewoman said it was unsuitable work for a marriageable gentlewoman, but then there was a rash of fay-borne illnesses this last year and the work was too much for her. I saw the easier cases myself, the ones where a half-trained student is better than no wisewoman at all.” She paused and said ruefully, “Your aunt was not an easy case. I am surprised I succeeded.”
“But you did succeed,” the colonel said with a smile. “How did you learn to light candles and destroy elfshot?”
“By experimentation. When I was a child, my father amused himself by making illusions for me, and one time he showed me how he did it. I could not remember the spell, but once I knew it was possible, I somehow found my own way to cast illusions, little ones, mostly so I could hide things from my mother. When my father caught me doing it, he refused to show me anything more. I learned a few more things by watching him. I was determined to master unmaking so I would never be made to eat food I did not like. I detested fish, you see. I can unmake small objects, but I never became quite good enough to unmake fish.”
He chuckled. “Living things and things that have been alive resist unmaking. It would take a powerful mage to unmake a fish.”
“Is that why it did not work? I was so frustrated by it. Fortunately, our cook eventually left us and I liked the new cook’s fish dishes much better.”
“What else can you do besides unmaking and illusions?”
“Mostly healing, since I try to avoid doing unnecessary spells for fear of being caught. I can heat up lukewarm tea. I can see fay folk and tell when they have been present, like finding the elfshot traces, and I can perform a few fay spells – how to make milk curdle and that sort of thing.”
Colonel Fitzwilliam straightened abruptly. “Good Lord! You are full of surprises. How on earth did you learn fay magic?”
“When I was small, a fay child befriended me. Well, not exactly a child, because they do not have children as we know it. Just a very new one who had only recently come into being and had little experience of the world. She said she would be a dryad when she was ready, but she was very mischievous. I never knew what to believe because she could make up elaborate stories.” Elizabeth smiled in recollection. “She tried to teach me to shape-change, but needless to say that was not a success.”
“Good Lord. But I just said that, did I not? Well, it deserves saying again. Do you have any idea how rare that is?”
Elizabeth shrugged. “I have no idea. My friend took me to Faerie a time or two, so it seemed natural to me.”
The colonel’s jaw dropped. “You have been to Faerie, too? Astonishing! Does your friend still visit you?”
“No. Even though I can still see fay folk, my friend and I drifted apart. She would visit me from time to time until about two years ago. The last time she told me she could not come again because their king was declaring war on all mortals and had forbidden any fay folk to aid mortals on pain of banishment. And she gave me a cat to remember her by – the white cat named Pepper, if you recall.”
He held up his hands. “Wait, wait! Their king has declared war on us? Are you certain of this?”
Taken aback by his intensity, she said slowly, “That is what she said. Whether it is true or not I cannot tell you. She is fay, after all, and she had named herself Bluebird because she was neither blue nor a bird, so I would not put much credence in anything she said. Except that it does rather feel as if Faerie is at war with us, with all these attacks by the fay.”
“But why? Why would they be at war with us?”
Elizabeth shrugged. “Bluebird said it was because of the trees. She was never particularly literal, so she might have meant anything by it.”
“The trees? That makes no sense.”
Before he could continue, Darcy returned, looking frustrated. “I have been trying to explain to Anne what has happened to her mother. I cannot tell if she simply does not understand what I am saying or whether she is refusing to listen. In the end she just stared at me as if she had no idea who I was. Perhaps she is upset about her mother, but I have never seen her so confused. Richard, perhaps if you –”
“Oh, no, not me. She is terrified of me. You know what will happen. I will walk in and say ‘Cousin Anne’ and she will swoon. Or run away. Or run away and then swoon. Perhaps Miss Bennet…” The colonel turned hopefully to her.
“I barely know her,” protested Elizabeth, her self-consciousness returning with Darcy’s presence. “We have scarcely exchanged a dozen words. Oh, very well, I will try, but I have little expectation of success. Perhaps Mrs. Collins can join me. Miss de Bourgh knows her better.” She paused. “Colonel, is it possible Miss de Bourgh is afraid that you might touch her?”
“I would never hurt her! Or do you mean….Hmm. What do you think, Darcy?”
Darcy eyed him thoughtfully. “If she will not permit you to touch her, we are unlikely to find out if she has reason to avoid you.”
“I am not surprised Miss de Bourgh did not understand Mr. Darcy’s explanations,” said Charlotte. “Unless one is very patient with her, she becomes confused.”
“I am unsurprised as well,” Elizabeth replied. “But my reasoning is different. Have you noticed that Miss de Bourgh’s spells of confusion and swoons usually occur when the subject of magic arises?”
“How odd. I had not made that connection. What could have made her so frightened of magic?”
“Perhaps she is not frightened of it at all,” said Elizabeth darkly. “The only reason I can think of for someone to grow confused when magic is mentioned is more magic.”
Charlotte caught at her arm. “Surely you cannot think she is under a spell?”
“That is precisely what I think, and knowing that Lady Catherine has magic, it is not difficult to guess why her daughter is bespelled.”
“A binding spell,” Charlotte breathed.
“And now you can see why I fear them. I would rather die than be like her.”
Miss de Bourgh was in her sitting room, looking distractedly out the window while Mrs. Jenkinson read to her. She stopped at the sight of them.
Charlotte nodded to her. “Mr. Darcy asked us to explain Lady Catherine’s indisposition to Miss de Bourgh.”
“Oh!” exclaimed Mrs. Jenkinson. She lowered her voice to a whisper. “You must be very gentle. Miss de Bourgh is not having a good day. Not a good day at all.”
“Of course,” said Charlotte soothingly. “Miss de Bourgh, did Mr. Darcy explain to you that your mother has been injured?”
Miss de Bourgh rose to her feet. “Injured? I must go to her. She will expect it.”
“It will be better if you wait. Lady Catherine is unconscious and is likely to remain so for some time.”
“She swooned?” She smiled unexpectedly, a mischievous smile. “She swooned!”
“Er, yes,” said Charlotte. “She is in no danger at present.”
“Oh.” Miss de Bourgh looked back out the window, her fingers picking at the fringe of her shawl.
“We believe she was attacked by one of the fay folk. She was struck by elfshot, but it has been removed.”
Miss de Bourgh’s brow creased. “Fay folk? There are no fay folk at Rosings. I…” Her forehead suddenly smoothed. “What was I saying?”
“Your mother’s injury was caused by elfshot,” prompted Charlotte.
“Elfshot? How odd.” She paused. “The sun has come out, I see.”
Elizabeth leaned forward to be ready to catch Miss de Bourgh. “We believe Lady Catherine’s injury is magical in nature.”
As she had expected, Miss de Bourgh’s eyes turned up, and her head fell to the side. Elizabeth eased her back into her chair.
As Mrs. Jenkinson bustled around Miss de Bourgh with vinaigrette and pillows, Elizabeth laid a hand on the young woman’s wrist and extended her senses. Yes, there was a spell, no question, but it did not have the same flavor as either Mr. Darcy’s magic or Colonel Fitzwilliam’s. It was a relief to know neither of them were responsible for it.
The plot thickens! Did you suspect that Darcy already knew about Elizabeth’s magic? Who put the spell on Anne de Bourgh? Come back next Monday, when things start to get exciting!
I’d love to hear what you think!