A Letter from Lady Catherine de Bourgh
As soon as she was alone, Anne went to a secluded corner, where there stood a writing table, with a comfortable chair placed beside it. Set beside a window, it commanded a fine view over the park and stream, and in the past couple of weeks she had taken to using it every day. Whatever books she was reading, the writing she was engaged on, always lay there undisturbed, and she had come almost to regard it as her own. Here she sat, waiting for her cousin to return, and trying to understand what had happened. Her mind was in turmoil.
She had defied her mother; she had disregarded her expressed wishes.
She hoped her cousin would return soon, she needed to talk to him, or rather she needed him to talk to her, to explain, to tell her that she had not done something wicked. How strange that she, who had feared and disliked her cousin, should now be regarding him as a protector! He had changed so much, since his marriage; a happy husband, and soon to be a father. But he could not protect her from her motherís anger. She had accepted her cousin as her authority, rather than her mother -- and Lady Catherine was already angry with Darcy, so angry that, as Anne knew, she had not wanted to come to Pemberley at all, and only desperation had driven her to it. Yes, thought Anne, desperation to get me married -- not to someone who would love me and cherish me -- but to someone who would be useful to her! But one could not hate a parent -- one could not disobey; affection, obedience were owed to a parent. Even, thought Anne, if that parent had no knowledge, no understanding of oneís needs?
But before Darcy came, there had been Edmund Caldwell. She could not have stood up to Mr Colby, she would simply have done as she was bid, if he had not been there. How kind he had been, how steady! Edmund was no hero; stocky, by no means handsome, never well dressed, he cut no figure beside the elegant Darcy, or the soldierly Colonel Fitzwilliam. Yet when he had entered the room, she had immediately had the sense, in the middle of her confusion, that here was someone with whom she was safe. And she had been; she must thank him; but he could not keep her mother away from her. She remembered with a shudder her motherís rage, when she discovered that Cousin Darcy was indeed going to marry Elizabeth; her furious ill-temper with her household; how she had railed at Mr and Mrs Collins; and then had learned, to her fury, that Mr Collins could not be put out of his living.
Then she thought "But I then was ill. Then I had no money. And Mr Collins could not be put out." It had all died down, and between the lady of the manor and the parish priest, an uneasy peace had descended. Civility, if not friendship, had been restored. When people must live together, she thought, they do.
Now she was well. Now, suddenly, she had money. How miserable could her mother make her, when she could still learn to play the piano, for now she could pay for a master? When she could hire a maid for herself? I will buy myself some new dresses, of my own choosing, she thought. I will buy myself a horse, and ride it!
But I do not want to go back to Rosings. Oh, why does my cousin not come?
In the end, it was Georgiana who came to find her. The walking party had returned, she said "and there is a cold collation in the dining room, and there is a visitor as well, whom I think you will like."
"Is it Lady Louisa Benton?" Anne asked, for she knew her motherís friend was expected that day.
"No, she is not here yet, but it is Elizabethís papa, Mr Bennet. I do not like her mama so very much, but he is the greatest dear, so droll. He always turns up when we do not expect him. And Anne, he has come from Longbourn, to give us the news that Elizabethís sister, Mrs Bingley, has been brought to bed, and she has a little girl. Come, you must come!"
They found the party in the dining room gathered round the table, and with them a small, elderly, bright-eyed gentleman in a long grey traveling coat. Elizabeth was happily perusing a letter, apparently from her mother: "Jane is well, very well, and the baby is to be called Elizabeth Caroline. Caroline Bingley and I are asked to stand godmothers, and the godfather will be a Mr Robinson, a school friend of dear Bingley."
"Oh, why not my brother?" cried Georgiana.
"They are saving him for a boy," said Mr Bennet.
"But tell us more, papa! What does it look like? Whom does it resemble? Mama says it looks like dear Bingley, but do you think so?"
"Oh, I do not know. It is either a boy, or a girl, and it looks like a baby; that is, there are a great many long clothes, and nothing much else. Netherfield is sold, you know; and Bingley thought they would be in the new home long before the child was born. He would, he always expects that things will be for the best; but it was not so; and the new people wanted to get in, so they came to stay with us. I do not know when we will get them out. I came away because the women were making such a cackle, you could get no sense from any of them."
"You mean, you could get no attention, sir," said his son-in-law, laughing. "But things will be no better here, you know, within a few weeks."
"Well, well, I think, my dear sir, that you will retain a few shreds of good sense; and my daughter Elizabeth has more of quickness about her than my other girls. Whatever happens, your library is bigger than mine, I shall be able to retire into my own small corner, and get away from the noise."
"Come to us, sir," said Mr Caldwell, "We will take you walking in the hills, and tell you all about our fossils, and our remarkable curiosities."
"But it will be such a happy event!" said Mrs Caldwell, not quite understanding.
They were all talking, they were all laughing. She could not get to her cousin; she could not get to Edmund. Anne's head ached, she could eat nothing, she could feel sickness coming on. Suddenly she heard kind Mrs Annesley's quiet voice: "Miss de Bourgh, I think you are not quite well. Come, let me take you upstairs, you should lie down on your bed." Georgiana jumped up immediately, and insisted on taking her to her room, and got her maid. The housekeeper herself brought her up some lime leaf tea. She lay down; she slept.
Later that afternoon, Mr Darcy took her on one side, and told her that everything was decided, and that he would be her banker until an account was arranged for her. "Would you like to have something now, to be going on with?" he asked. "Would twenty pounds suffice?" Twenty pounds! It was more money than she had ever seen. "That would be.. let me see, that would be my income for.. about three and a half weeks, would it not?" "Very good! Yes, indeed it would."
"What I think I should do, cousin, is write down a sort of list, of the things I would like to buy, and how much I think they will cost me; I must learn to keep track of my money. If I do that, will you look it over for me?"
"Certainly. And when you have your bank account, you can write me your first draft, to repay me. One other matter: Edmund Caldwell must go home tomorrow, his business does not allow him to be longer away. I have arranged for Fitzwilliam to ride with him, and go into Burley to visit your mother. It is time one of us went, and enquired after her health. While he is there, he will talk to her about this business. Trust me, he will get her approval. She likes him, and he can usually get her to see things from his point of view. But for now, this must wait. I see a carriage coming up the drive."Chapter 11
Lady Louisa was a kind and sensible, woman. She had been a close friend of Lady Anne Darcy, and for her sake, held her son and daughter in affection. She had never been as fond of Lady Catherine, though she corresponded with her regularly; and Anne she hardly remembered. She had come to Pemberley, out of concern for Georgiana. Mr Darcy, in his letter of invitation, had hinted that it was time Georgiana was thinking of a husband, and that there seemed to be few suitable young men available. Lady Louisa, from a wealth of experience, wondered if an unsuitable one were in the picture.
Now, she realized, the picture was complex. It did not take her five minutes to recognize Georgiana's admiration for Colonel Fitzwilliam, and to discount it; the colonel had been a bachelor too long. She would get over it; but another admirer or two would certainly help. And, if she were in the habit of falling in love (there had been rumours), it would be as well to get her suitably married as soon as might be.
Anne was another matter; her mother had described her as sickly and frail, but she was nothing of the kind. However, she was five and twenty if she was a day; Catherine was a great fool, Lady Louisa thought, to let her hang around all those years after Darcy, who anybody could see would only marry a woman of the greatest charm and beauty, a woman to sweep him off his feet. This was not such a girl, though she would not make a bad wife, either. Edmund Caldwell obviously thought so, but that was no use; he could not aspire to the heiress of Rosings, and thirty thousand pounds. Lady Louisa began making a list of the men she knew -- not too young -- deserving of Anne and thirty thousand pounds. It was a quite encouraging list, and she decided to give a ball within the next few weeks.
The evening was warm and sultry. Dinner was late, and afterwards, everyone was too hot for dancing. The doors of the drawing-room opened on the terrace, and at first everybody strolled about, feeling listless; presently they were all assembled inside. "Would Miss Georgiana play for them?"
Georgiana played two or three pieces, but seemed disinclined for more. Then Mr Bennet quietly said "If the company would like it, I will read to you." Everyone expressed an inclination -- to be read to was the very thing, for all they need do was sit, and listen.
Mr Bennet began, reading from some papers in his lap. It was a historic tale -- a prose story, written in such a poetic vein as to be almost poetry; a tale of a castle by moonlight, and a young girl waiting, sadly, for someone who did not return. The water fell plashing into the fountain, the white roses bloomed, the young girl wept -- and at the end, Georgiana drew a deep breath, and Mrs Caldwell wiped away a tear.
"Who wrote it?" was the question on everybody's lips, and "was there more?" "Papa," said Elizabeth, "you do not usually read romantic tales - where had you such a story?"
"Why, my dear," said Mr Bennet, "did you not write it? I found it on my table in the library, and thought that you had put it there for me to see."
"No indeed," said Elizabeth, "I never wrote anything in my life, longer than a letter; and surely the handwriting is not mine."
"All women," said her father, "write the same hand."
"The story is mine," Anne said. "I left the sheets on a table in the library; I did not know, sir that the table was yours."
There was immediate clamour. They had an authoress in their midst -- how long had she been writing? Why had she said nothing? How did the story continue? And how did it end?
"I have written for years," said Anne. "I had a governess who recommended to me the copying of extracts, to improve my handwriting. I found it very dull copying other people's writings, and began to invent my own; little stories, poems, essays. Then I read a couple of novels, and thought them rather silly. I thought I could do as well, and just to amuse myself, I began that story. "
"And how does it go on?"
"Oh, she runs away to the Crusades, and has all kind of adventures. It is all nonsense."
"But, we must hear it!"
"One moment," said Mr Bennet. "Miss de Bourgh has been imposed on; I would not have read these pages, if I had known whose work they were. Only she can decide, whether to allow us to hear more."
What authoress is really reluctant to have her story read to an admiring, encouraging crowd? Anne took the manuscript, and began to read. It was a strange feeling to be reading what she had written. All eyes were upon her; but her confidence increased as she read. After three or four chapters, her voice grew thick. "Come," said Mrs Darcy, "the rest must be for other evenings, it is too late now; the Lambton assembly is tomorrow," and the party broke up. She was thanked and praised; everyone wanted to hear more; only Edmund Caldwell was silent.
But it was hard for Anne to sleep. Mr Caldwell and the Colonel were to leave the house as soon as they had breakfasted, the next morning. She felt an urgent need to thank him for his kindness to her the previous day; she could not let him go without thanking him; and yet she dared not ask him for an interview -- it would look so particular! As far as she knew, her cousin had told nobody the story, except the Colonel, who after all was also a cousin; and somehow she knew that Edmund had not mentioned it to anybody. Suppose she were to sleep late, and he were to leave before she could speak to him? The maid who waited on her had been told to call her, but maids were often unreliable.. Anne tossed and turned until it seemed to her that dawn was breaking, and then suddenly there was a voice calling her, and the maid had remembered after all.
There was, in fact, no difficulty; he was standing on the terrace, looking at the view. She tried to put her thanks into words; he cut her short.
"What I did was nothing; and I have no right to assist you; I wish I had. But there is something I wish to say to you," he said.
"Your cousin will have told you this already, but I will repeat it. I read that document; you have every right to your own money, and your mother, however good her intentions, was wrong to withhold it. The matter would be different, of course, if your mother were in any danger of financial hardship; but that is certainly not the case; and even then, she should not have withheld, without asking, money which belongs to you. We all have obligations to a parent, but as we grow into adulthood, our responsibilities change; we owe respect, affection, but not blind, unthinking obedience. We have duties, which a parent cannot forbid us to perform. You are responsible for your money, and it is your task to decide how it should be used. Do not ever allow anyone to tell you, as that man did, that "young ladies" have no need to think, or no right to learn. Never allow anyone to do your thinking for you."
"No.. no.. I will remember. But.."
"I do not know.. Will you be at the Assembly tonight?"
"No. I cannot."
"And you do not much care to dance, do you?"
"Not much. I can understand why people like to dance, but I am clumsy; the music does not speak to me as it does to some. I am not made for mirth. But you love to dance, do you not?"
"Not as much as Georgiana; I like it, but I am soon tired."
"You must exercise more, then you will not get tired."
"But I am learning to ride."
"That is very good," said he, smiling, "but you must walk a little, too, every day."
"Very well, I will try."
"Now I must be on my way. I must be about my business. I know, why cannot I stay - you must think me a money-grubbing fellow, and that is what I am.
You see, Miss de Bourgh, there is something I must tell you. My parents had a good fortune, but some years ago, I persuaded them to enter into a doubtful speculation. I was young, I was foolish, I was misled by dishonest people, and they lost a great deal of money. It was my fault, and I must ensure that their fortune is restored. They are all goodness, they have never asked for anything or spoken a word of blame, but that is my responsibility. Our land is not profitable for farming, but the quarry has opened up a very good way of making money, and it gives employment to people, who would not otherwise have work. I chose to employ local men, rather than bring in outsiders, but they are not used to the work, and they require constant attention and supervision. This is why I must go, when I would much rather stay. It will be many years, before I have the money to be leisured."
"Goodbye, sir.. Mr Caldwell!"
"Thank you for telling me about.. about.. I understand your situation, and I honour you for it."
He turned to go; turned back; he raised her hand to his lips, and kissed it. Then he was gone.Chapter 12
Mrs Darcy, used to living among a large number of sisters, was really rejoiced to have Anne staying with her, and equally glad to have Lady Louisa and the Caldwells in her home for the night of the Lambton Assembly. She was used to the happy bustle of the day before a ball.
"The Assembly Rooms are almost outside our gates," she told her husband. "You can have no fears for me. I shall not dance, but I do wish to go."
"I only wondered," he said, "if you and Mrs Annesley would like to stay behind. I will tell you what I do fear, and that is, bringing six women to an Assembly, and only one man. I have only Caldwell. Fitzwilliam and Edmund Caldwell have left us, and your father refuses to go."
"I know; he never would go to the dances at Meryton. But my mother brought all five of us, and there was always a shortage of gentlemen as a result. Do you remember the evening that we met? I could not get a partner, and was sitting down. That is why I overheard you, when you were so ungallant as to refuse to dance with me. I know now, of course, the reason for your bad temper: you were just come from dealing with the wretched Wickham."
"If you remind me of that, I can refuse you nothing. In any case, poor Mrs Annesley should not be required to forgo an evening's enjoyment, merely to suit my requirements."
"She is an excellent person, is she not? I thought that we would not need her, but she is so good-tempered, so useful. Georgiana still needs a music instructress, and Anne is enjoying her lessons, too."
"Yes indeed. In any case, I do not like to dismiss a person who has given us such good service, for who knows whether she would get another post? And besides, my love, in a very few years' time, we will need a governess, will we not?"
In view of her husband's anxiety, however, Mrs Darcy agreed to stay quietly at home for the morning, and allow Mrs Annesley and Georgiana to take Anne into Lambton, to buy a new pair of dancing sandals, and a few other necessities for the evening.
This was enough to spread the news around the town, that a large party from Pemberley would be at the assembly. Some said Mr and Mrs Darcy would bring ten women, and eight men; others said there would be six women and five men, but it was generally known that an heiress would be among the party; and someone pointed out that it was twice as good as the first report, for, if one counted Miss Georgiana Darcy, that made two.
Lambton had some excellent shops, and what with the buying of new gloves, and inspecting Georgiana's purchases, and approving of them, the morning flew away. It was just as well, thought Anne, for she had not time to think, and she was not sure that she wanted it.
But a mind like hers, used to solitude, must and will find it. In the course of the afternoon, she found herself at the table in the corner of the library, that she had come to regard as hers. Mr Bennet had categorically refused to take it, saying that authors were privileged people, and that all the reward he claimed was the pleasure of hearing more of her story: "The place is enormous, and there are at least half a dozen very comfortable armchairs, where I can sleep in peace," he told her; and he told his daughter "I would even let Miss de Bourgh into my own library at home, for I will guarantee that she does not chatter, or disturb one by wanting a pen mended, or an argument settled. She is a very uncommon young woman."
"There is more to her than any of us thought," Elizabeth replied. "Who would have thought, that she had such an imagination? such a power of telling a story?"
But this afternoon her mind seemed empty. She could not write a line; she could not review what she had written previously; she could not even read. All she could think of, was Edmund's words, Edmund's look, Edmund's gesture.
He had kissed her hand. Men did not commonly kiss a woman's hand; she had never known such a thing. Taken in conjunction with what he had told her, it was as if he were saying goodbye. A farewell. She knew it, and she knew why: he loves me; and I love him.
It would never do. She knew it; and, she understood, it was his way of telling her that he knew it too. His lack of rank, his restricted means, his occupation, not to mention his egalitarian ideas, all would make him unacceptable to her mother. Lady Catherine would refuse even to be introduced to him. Darcy too, she thought: even though he had married a penniless woman, of lower rank, and liked Edmund as a friend, he would not welcome him as a cousin. It was very well for a woman to marry above her station, but for a man to seek to wed a woman of higher rank, and great wealth, with nothing to offer in return, would be regarded as fortune-hunting of the meanest description. Edmund would never do it. Rosings was hung around her neck, a burden she could never escape. Her wealth, instead of giving her freedom, would for ever imprison her.
Musings like this kept her miserably occupied, until Mrs Annesley came to find her. "My dear Miss de Bourgh," she cried, "What is the matter? You are quite pale. And the assembly tonight! You have the head-ache; you have been reading, you have been writing too long!" Anne had no wish to explain the real reason for her wan looks, and allowed Mrs Annesley to persuade her to take a gentle turn around the grounds, and even to walk as far as the stream, which made her feel much better.
The evening was fine, and the drive pleasant. As they went down the hill through the little town, Mrs Darcy exclaimed "Oh, my dear, we forgot to find a tenant for the White Cottage."
"I did not forget," Darcy said, "but I like to rent it to someone connected with the family, and there is no-one, at the moment, answering that description. I want a good tenant, for it is a pretty place." The carriage was stopped so that they could see it. It was, indeed, pretty. It stood a little back from the street, separated from it by a small garden, with a good-looking orchard behind.
"Rent it to me," Anne suddenly said. "It is just the sort of little place I should like. I will live there, cousin, and write books." Everyone laughed.
By the time they got there, the rooms were beginning to fill. It was pleasant to see the kind of stir, the whispering, the smiles of gratification, as the word spread through the room that the party from Pemberley was come. Anne, who had been used to stiffness, embarrassment, and forced cordiality, suddenly realized that her dress was pretty, her jewels exquisite and her hair very well dressed, and that these people were pleased to meet her. She was introduced here and there; she was asked to dance again and again, and greatest of wonders, she had no difficulty in dancing, for her partners were so kind and forbearing! She hardly had time to think, and her spirits lifted, in spite of her distress. A ball was indeed delightful!
She soon noticed that Georgiana was not enjoying herself. At first, Anne thought she was missing Colonel Fitzwilliam, but she quickly realized that Georgiana was simply shy. She did not know how to reply to well-meant commonplaces, and was uncomfortable with those of lower rank. Her manner was stiff, she looked haughty; even plain. Anne remembered what it was like to be young, and trying to make a good appearance to strangers. There was something to be said, she thought, for being five-and-twenty years old.
After several dances, Anne found herself without a partner, and felt tired. Mrs Darcy was sitting at the side, talking comfortably to her neighbours. Seeing an empty chair beside her, Anne went to sit down. Elizabeth said "We miss Colonel Fitzwilliam, do we not?"
"Indeed, cousin," Anne said. She realized that she had not given him a thought; nor had she thought of his errand to her mother. The whole day, in every leisured moment, her thoughts had been with Edmund Caldwell: He cannot marry -- he meant to tell me that he cannot marry, not for many years; that he cannot marry me... I will live there, and write books..
"Anne, I have made three unexceptionable remarks, and you have not answered," Mrs Darcy said. "I admit that they were all three very dull -- but is something amiss?"
"Oh, no," Anne said. "No, not at all...Oh, Elizabeth, who is that girl that Georgiana is talking to? Do but look at her!"
Both looked. Miss Darcy was standing talking to a pretty girl, and the change in her manner was remarkable. They were too far away to hear any thing, but she was smiling, she was laughing, she was clasping the other girl by the hand, and the flush on her cheeks spoke of happiness.
Elizabeth turned to her neighbour. "Who is that, Mrs Hatherley, the young lady in the blue muslin?"
"It is Miss Rackham, ma'am; that is her brother, dancing with Mrs Shipton. His mama is sitting down, over there; she is a widow."
"Of course, we were introduced just now," said Mrs Darcy. "So those are her children."
"They are but just come into the country. His uncle was old Sir William, a sad invalid, at Wharton Place, you know, ma'am; he died a few weeks ago, and this young man has inherited the title and the property, but they say it is in a terrible state, for the old gentleman did nothing to it. He is not at all handsome, but a very pleasant, well-spoken young man."
But she had not time to say more, for Georgiana came over to them, bringing the pretty girl, and introduced her.
"She was at school with me," she explained, "I was homesick, and she was so kind to me. It was the horridest place you can think of. I was sick, and then my dear brother came and took me away, but Mary was sick, too, at the same time, and I never got her direction -- and here she is!"
Arrangements were rapidly made; they were to ride together, to draw together, and as soon as the weather should be wet, to play the pianoforte together. As they drove away, Georgiana seemed a different girl; and Lady Louisa made up her mind, when she gave her own ball, to include the young Rackhams in her invitations.Chapter 13
The next day, Colonel Fitzwilliam returned. Lady Catherine, he said, was well and in good spirits, and sent proper messages to everyone. Sitting beside Anne, at their midday cold collation, he quietly told her "I had no trouble in bringing her round, cousin, over the matter of your inheritance."
"I thought she would be very angry. How did you do it?"
"I told her how wise she was, to do as she has done. I told her that she had shown very good judgment in entrusting you with the bequest, for she obviously knew the difficulties that young women, with no experience in handling money, often have when they marry; and I reminded her that at that point there will be a large fortune to be managed. I happened to mention this in the Pump Room, in the company of her friends, who smiled, and agreed, and mentioned several instances of young married women of very good families who had run into debt. She could hardly admit, in front of them, that she had been forced into doing what she did; and she did not at all object to their being reminded that she is a very wealthy woman. Now she regards it, first, as a settled thing, second, as a thing admired by people she respects, and third, as something she thought of herself. I am an army man, remember," he said, smiling, "There are tricks that work very well when one is dealing with senior officers."
The conversation became general, and he explained that he had staid overnight, in order to dine, at his aunt's invitation, with the Duchess of Stilberry, and her son, Lord Francis Meaburn. Lady Catherine, he said, was in very good spirits; and, he added, was dressed exactly like the Duchess, that is, in the very latest fashion. He thought her petticoats might be a little thicker than was generally worn; but she had a huge poke bonnet. She and the Duchess were the best of friends, and the rest of the town, both visitors and residents, looked up to them with awe. "I should like to know what Meaburn thinks of it all, though," he said. "He is not the kind of man to sit down in a small spa town, drinking the waters and going to bed at eleven, because he loves his sister; he is more of a Brighton man."
"I fancy," Darcy said, "that money might have something to do with it."
"I think it has everything to do with it," said Fitzwilliam, "He was a Colonel in the -- th, you know. I know some of the officers in that regiment, and I remember they told me that his extravagance was unbelievable. Eventually he was forced to sell out, because his gaming debts were so huge."
"Did he not marry Lord W... - 's daughter?"
"He did. They say he had run through all her money by the time she died. But tell me, cousin, what has become of Dawson? There was a sour-faced woman, in her place. Did she leave your mother's employment?"
"Yes indeed; if you remember, whenever we went anywhere, my mother would have her sit on the box, and she was always quite willing. As it turned out, she was in love with the coachman. Then he left, and she eloped with him. My mother does not like to have new people around her, so she promoted Mullins, who was the sewing maid before. I was sorry, for Dawson was very good-natured, and Mullins is not."
The languor of the day after a ball was being felt; Lady Louisa had left, and no-one wanted to walk. They were sitting on the terrace, when a servant came and said that Mrs Caldwell was wanted. She returned looking rather flustered.
"My dear," she said to Anne, "there is something -- I do not know what you will think, but my son has sent a gift for you. But he says that if you do not like it, it is to be sent back."
"A gift for Anne?" said Georgiana. "But what is it? And where is it?" and they looked round, expecting to see a parcel.
"It must be a book," said Anne, trying to speak calmly. "We were speaking of several titles that -- but he offered to lend them, there is no need, Mrs Caldwell, I will return it."
"No," said Mrs Caldwell, "it is not a book. It is -- it is in the stableyard. And if -- if Mr and Mrs Darcy do not quite like it, it is to be sent back."
By this time, the curiosity of the rest of the party had been thoroughly aroused, and everyone wanted to see the mysterious object. They all accompanied Anne to the stableyard, Mr Darcy enquiring rather anxiously if his friend had given his cousin a horse? A groom was standing there, holding a swathed bundle.
"Are you not Mr Caldwell's servant?" Mr Darcy asked, "Hinkins, is it not?"
"Well, Hinkins, what have you got for us?"
The groom knelt down, opened the bundle, and put a small, white and brown puppy on the ground.
"Oh!" screamed Georgiana. "Oh! Anne!"
Anne fell on her knees. The little creature wagged its tail, and licked her hand. All the women made the kind of noises that ladies make, confronted with anything small and endearing. She patted it, and bent over it, trying to hide her face, for tears had sprung to her eyes.
"It be what they call a King Charles, sir," the groom said.
"It will not grow very large, will it?" Darcy asked.
"No, sir. Quite small, they are. Not near so big as a regular spaniel."
"And quite useless, I suspect."
"No good for hunting, sir, they be a ladies' dog, like; a pet."
"A letter came, too, "Mrs Caldwell said. "My son says "Tell Miss de Bourgh that she does not walk enough, and Minette will see to it that she takes a walk every day."
"But.." said Mrs Darcy, doubtfully. "I do not know whether.."
Anne, still kneeling, looked up at her, over the little creature's head. Elizabeth saw her face, saw her tears, and read the whole story in her eyes.
"I know about it," her husband said to her privately, later. "Caldwell came to me the morning he left. He has behaved very well. But I did not know, and neither, I think, did he, that it had gone so far with her."
"We can not do other," Elizabeth said, "than let her keep the dog. It is the saddest thing!"
"I hate small dogs," Darcy said. "How could this happen? They have only known each other a week or so."
"I saw his face last night, while she was reading. And how long did it take you, to make up your mind about me?"
"I do not know. But I am sure that, after the ball at Netherfield, if I had not seen you again, it would all have been over. If you had not come to Hunsford while I was staying with my aunt.."
"So do you think," said Elizabeth, "that if they do not meet again, it will be forgotten?"
"Caldwell knows that it would be a most unsuitable match. If he has made up his mind, he will make no attempt to see her. As for her, I do not know."
"Nor I," said Elizabeth, "I think she is a girl who feels things very deeply; I think none of us knows her. But I know that this business has hurt her."
"I am sorry for it. But who could have known? I know one thing: I do not like the idea of sending her back to Rosings, to pine. Perhaps her mother, even after she goes home, would allow Anne to make her home with us for a while. Meanwhile, this makes it all the more necessary to find someone suitable to marry her. A man of character would certainly not agree to go and live at Rosings, and Anne would have her own home, which is what she needs. Let me see; did not Sir Matthew Brocklebank dance with her, the other night? He has no money, but there is the title, and he is a pleasant-looking fellow."
"But he can talk of nothing but horses," Elizabeth protested. "He never opens a book. If he knew that Anne is writing one, he would be too frightened to speak to her, let alone ask her to marry him."
"There was Mr Kirkman; he is bookish enough. A widower; but that might suit Anne very well; she is not so young, now. There are few men of five and twenty still unmarried."
"But she is becoming quite pretty, I think, with those large dark eyes and her chestnut hair. There is a bronze-green silk being made up for her, for the ball; I think she will look quite lovely in it."
"How about that older brother, who is staying with Mr Granby? He will inherit the baronetcy, one day."
"Yes, and it would be pleasant, to have her married to the Rector's brother," said Elizabeth. "But although Anne danced with all three of them, I do not believe she even noticed them. And meanwhile I think we must let her keep the dog, for she needs something to love."
"I can see very well that Georgiana will want one too. It is very unjust, that a man should have his house filled with small animals, only because his cousin is crossed in love."
In view of the size of Pemberley, Elizabeth thought this something of an exaggeration, and said so.
"Oh, very well, very well; since she and Georgiana have been playing with the creature all evening, I suppose it must stay," Darcy said, resignedly, "It could be worse; at least he had the sense not to give her a pug."Chapter 14
Now that she had some money, Anne was able to fee the servants, and it was not hard to find a footman, who liked dogs, and was happy to care for Minette. Anne quickly learned the advantage of having a dog; she must walk now, whether she would or no; if the little creature did not have its exercise, it would not be healthy. Three days later, it was wet and showery; they did not ride, but Minette must have her walk. She came in, a little damp but smiling. Miss Rackham had arrived to spend the day with Georgiana, and the Caldwells were making ready to depart.
"My dear," Mrs Caldwell said, "would you do us a very great favour? Would you lend us the sheets of your story, as far as has been read to this point? We will take very great care of them, and return them in a short while; but we would so much like to read them again."
Anne agreed readily, delighted to find that her story had such a power of commanding interest, and knowing that with such people as these, her precious manuscript would be safe. She would have liked to ask if Edmund might be interested to read it, but could not trust her voice in asking. She bade them farewell with real regret: "These people," she thought "would have been my family."
Scarcely had the sound of their carriage ceased to be heard down the avenue, than the noise of another could be heard approaching. Anne, feeling that she wanted solitude, instantly resolved to take refuge in the library. Soon she was at her table, and Minette, dry and warm, was in the basket provided for her. Mr Bennet, with the same instinct, had made for his armchair; they never disturbed each other; but Minette would not stay in the basket, and whined to be picked up. Only to keep her quiet, Anne took the little dog onto her knee, and sat, stroking its warm, silky coat. She had seldom held a little creature like this before, and never for very long. The sensation was delightful. And Minette was her own, her very own! Only Edmund, she thought, could have made her such a perfect gift. Only Edmund... but her thoughts were interrupted. The butler approached: "If you please, miss, there are some visitors here, who are asking for you."
"Who is it, Bentley?"
"The Duchess of Stilbury, miss, and Lord Francis Meaburn. Mr and Mrs Darcy are with them, and Miss Georgiana, but they have asked for you especially."
"Of course, they are acquainted with my mother. I will come at once."
It was strange, but she felt perfectly capable now, of meeting with complete strangers. Since she was the granddaughter of a nobleman, and the daughter of a Baronet, rank in itself did not particularly frighten her; and her improved health and looks had given her a confidence she had never previously known.
The Duchess at least was not the kind of person to inspire alarm, being merely a tall, large, silly-looking woman, dressed rather too fashionably for a visit to a country house in the daytime. But her brother was a different matter. Likewise tall, but much younger, fair-haired and handsome, he exuded an air of self-confidence, that it might not be out of place to call arrogance; and also a slight, but detectable air of dissipation and boredom. His sister obviously adored him.
Anne wondered if this was why Colonel Fitzwilliam, at least, looked uneasy; this was not the kind of man, she guessed, whom he liked to present to his female cousins. Colonel Fitzwilliam, she thought, having dined with them in Burley, has been forced into making the introduction. Georgiana and Miss Rackham looked frightened out of their wits. Elizabeth merely looked amused: Anne remembered that she had never, for a moment, shown awe, or even respect, for Lady Catherine; if the Duchess had tried to patronize Elizabeth, she had wasted her time. Cousin Darcy merely looked politely bored. After the introductions had been made in form, they all sat and looked at each other.
"You were in the library when we arrived, I believe, Miss de Bourgh," the Duchess said. "Are you a great reader? Are you a reader of novels, or do you despise them?"
"No indeed, I enjoy them very much," said Anne; she had a feeling that the Duchess would not like to hear that she was writing one. "But Mr Darcy has an excellent library on general topics as well, and I have been reading about the curious rocks and minerals of Derbyshire."
"Dear me! That sounds very serious. I never think that we poor women should tax our intellects too hard."
"It always seems very unfair to me," said Elizabeth, "that if a woman reads novels, she is called frivolous; and if she reads more serious works, she runs the risk of being called a blue-stocking."
"And if she reads nothing at all," said Darcy, "she will certainly be called very stupid indeed." Anne had to bend her head to hide a smile.
After this, the conversation ranged, with amazing insipidity, from the weather, to the countryside, to the amenities of Burley, and Anne wondered why they had been so anxious to meet her. Perhaps they had brought a letter, from her mother? But none was produced. Lord Francis, the introduction once made, barely spoke again. They moved into an adjoining saloon, where refreshments had been laid out; the refreshments were praised; the room was praised, the pictures on the wall were praised.
Eventually they got up to leave, and the Duchess, smiling graciously, said "You will see us again, you know, at Lady Louisa's ball, we shall be pleased to see you. She has not yet sent out her invitations, but do not be afraid, you are all asked, and we are very pleased. But your mother tells me you do not dance, Miss de Bourgh? Is that so?"
"No, madam," Anne replied. "It is not the case any more. There was a time, when I was in poor health, when dancing was too much for me; but I am recovered."
"I am afraid I may not be able to give you the meeting," Colonel Fitzwilliam said. "I am being recalled, I have had letters this morning."
"Well, we shall see the rest of you there. Goodbye," and she graciously held out her hand.
"Haw," said Lord Francis, speaking to her for the first time. "Haw. Dog. Little dog. You like dogs, Miss de Bourgh?"
Trying not to laugh, Anne said "I like this one, sir."
"Haw. So do I. Nice little creature."
"Thank you, sir."
"Glad you dance. Must dance with me, at the ball."
"Certainly, sir. Goodbye."
"Well," said Georgiana as soon as they had gone, "what was all that about? I was never so frightened in my life; and they did not seem to like us one bit; why did they come? Cousin Fitzwilliam, are you really being recalled?"
"Certainly I am; did you think I would tell a lie? The Army has decided, that it must take a look at me, and decide whether I am fit to go back and be shot at again, though they have not yet told me, when they will send for me. I am quite ready, and I think I shall do very well. I need action. You have all been very good to me, but it is time to be gone. But tell me, Darcy: why do you think the Duchess and her precious brother came here? For I have a very good idea that they came without Lady Catherine's knowledge."
"A thirty-mile drive, for the sake of an hour's visit," Darcy said. "Is our society really so desirable?"
"I am afraid that I may have done harm there; I think my little stratagem, for avoiding Lady Catherine's anger, awakened these people to the fact that her daughter was staying in the neighbourhood. I think they knew before, that Anne is a rich heiress, but did not know how rich; and in any case, assumed her to be sick, and at Rosings. I think they came here, on what we would call in the Army a reconnaissance expedition; I think they came to take a look at you, Anne."
"Why Anne?" Mrs Darcy asked. "Why not Georgiana, too? She is just as much an heiress as Anne; they could see two of them, for the price of one."
"It could be a very good match," Darcy said. "Lord Francis has rank, good looks and a splendid position in society; and he appeared good-natured. He would do for either of you."
"But he is stupid," said Georgiana. "And he is old."
"I do not think him at all clever," said her brother, "but many well educated women marry stupid men, and are quite happy with them. His lack of money alone must make either of you acceptable to him; he could not do better. I shall not flatter your vanity by telling you that you are both pretty girls."
"And if he needs money as badly as they say," Elizabeth added, "he would probably be quite willing to marry both of you, if he were allowed."
"Well," said Georgiana, "I am glad that I do not have to dance with Lord Francis. What shall you say to him, Anne? Haw? Haw?" and they all began to laugh.Chapter 15
This attention from Lady Catherine's acquaintances brought something to Darcy's mind; he and Elizabeth both thought that it was time Anne paid a visit to her mother. Anne could not but agree with them; for a daughter to neglect her mother for any longer length of time would be unacceptable; the only wonder was, that Lady Catherine had not written, to request her presence.
"I think the reason is," said Colonel Fitzwilliam, "that she is really very happy in Burley. She is the most admired woman in the place."
"She was used to be a handsome woman, I remember," Darcy said.
"Well, she looks splendid now that she is fashionably dressed; the Duchess and Lord Francis spend part of every day with her; the baths are doing wonders for her; and remember, she has not seen, as we have, the improvement in Anne's health; she thinks of her as a sickly, timid, creature, who would find life at Burley too much, and be a disadvantage to her."
"Well, we must go; we cannot s end Anne alone; some of us must go and see her," and the end of the week was quickly fixed upon, for the expedition.
It only remained to decide who should go with Anne, to settle details of carriages, etc, and to write to the hotel to bespeak rooms for them all, for a fifteen-mile drive, each way, would consume far too much of the day. It must be an overnight stay at Burley; nay, two nights, for Saturday would be an Assembly night, which would allow them the pleasure of attending the dance, and then they would stay over Sunday, and return on Monday.
Georgiana and Colonel Fitzwilliam said they would go, but Darcy felt he must stay at Pemberley with his wife. Mrs Annesley said she would stay too, knowing that Lady Catherine would not have the slightest wish to meet her; but to everyone's surprise, Mr Bennet announced that he would accompany them. Of course, he said to his daughter, he was very much alarmed, but he could not resist the opportunity to write to Mr Collins, and tell him that he had met Lady Catherine, and give him his impressions of her. Another consideration, he admitted to Anne, was that Darcy had told him that Burley possessed a book store, which was held to be remarkably well stocked.
They started early, and well before noon, were actually promenading round the Pump Room with Lady Catherine. She was, indeed, dressed in the height of the fashion, and in as good a mood as Anne had ever known, delighted with the attention, and strongly approving of Georgiana's looks, and quiet, ladylike demeanor. But her highest praise was reserved for her daughter. "I never saw you in better looks," she said, "and your health seems much improved, too."
"It is, indeed, madam."
"Well, now we must drink the water, for it does a great deal of good."
Anne had tasted the water already, and disliked it. She had hoped to do a little shopping, for, like Mr Bennet, she had her eyes on the famous bookstore. But Lady Catherine was already heading over to the pump. However, the plan of drinking the water was quickly overthrown, for at this moment the Duchess and her brother came into sight. If Lady Catherine had been genial before, she was effusive now; and so was the Duchess in her turn. "We seem to be witnessing a great meeting of minds," Mr Bennet observed, quietly, to Colonel Fitzwilliam.
"I think it is rather a great meeting of interests," the Colonel replied.
It had to be made clear, with a great deal of repetitious detail, that there was no need of introductions, for they had all met each other; and then the Duchess proposed a country walk. None of the other ladies had shoes for such an undertaking, but Her Grace's word was enough for Lady Catherine. She immediately agreed, and no opportunity being given to anybody else to give an opinion, or ask to do anything different, they all presently found themselves walking up the main street, in the direction of the open country.
As they got into the older part of the town, the streets became narrow, and instead of stone pavements, there were old-fashioned cobblestones. The others were a little ahead, with Lady Catherine and the Duchess arm in arm. Turning around, the Duchess said "Take my brother's arm, Miss de Bourgh, the pavement is very uneven. Francis, give her your arm." Lord Francis seemed to have very little will-power of his own, but to leave every decision to his sister. He obediently extended an arm, and Anne took it, with Minette's leash on her left hand. What on earth shall we talk about? Anne wondered. But Lord Francis was equal to the challenge.
"Dog likes a walk," he said.
"Yes, she does."
"Nice little thing. Like bigger dogs, myself."
"Gentlemen mostly do, I believe, sir."
"Ha. Like a dog that can do something useful."
"I think you mean hunting, sir, do you not?"
"Ha. This little thing wouldn't be much use after a fox, heh?"
"I think the fox would chase her, sir."
"Haw, haw! Very good, Miss de Bourgh! The fox would chase her! Very good!" and Lord Francis threw back his head, and gave a loud, braying laugh. Anne, relieved at finding conversation so easy, looked up at him and laughed too.
At that very moment, Edmund Caldwell came out of a side street, turned, and almost walked into them.
It was over in a flash. Anne had barely time for a startled glance, barely time to take her hand from Lord Francis' arm, and try to hold it out, but already he had sketched a bow, was past them, and gone down the street.
"Friend of yours?" Lord Francis said.
"A... an acquaintance sir."
"Seems to be in the devil of a hurry."
"Yes.. yes.. I think he did not see me."
"I tell you what, Miss de Bourgh, if I saw you in the street, I wouldn't run by you in such a hurry, by Jove, no, I would not."
Anne could have screamed with vexation!
That they should have met by such a chance, that they should have met at all -- and then, not to be able to speak to him, to greet him, even! And that she should have been arm in arm with another gentleman -- and this particular gentleman, as well - laughing with him, as though there were an understanding between them! Nothing could have been more unfortunate! Lord Francis went on talking, about what, she really had no idea, for she was saying "Yes," and "No, indeed," almost at random. They walked quite far into the countryside, far enough to return with weary ancles and spoiled shoes, but the magnificent scenery was wasted on Anne; she saw nothing, and it took her the rest of the day to recover her composure, and to reflect that, in the course of the next day, she might well meet him, and would surely be able to rectify the misunderstanding.
If she had thought that Edmund might be there, the prospect of the Assembly that evening would have held a good deal of suspense for her, but she knew that he would not be. Her best chance must be at Church, on the following day -- but then, what was she to say to him? "I do not really like Lord Francis, it was all a mistake"? Still, she would be at least able to greet him, to enquire after him, and of course his parents would probably be there, too, she could certainly talk to them... she must take care to come out of the church well behind her mother, she must dally a little, look at a tombstone or some such thing, so that with a little good luck, she might be able to greet him, to talk to him, to show him that she was still his friend!
This thought enabled Anne to enjoy the Assembly. It was a far different affair from the Lambton assembly, where everybody knew everybody else, and many of those attending came from a quite modest sphere in life. Here, at a spa town, the company consisted, for the most part, of those wanting to make an impression on people they had, for the most part, never met before. Here, clothes were everything, for the eye is the easiest to impress; and many of those present had certainly spent more than they ought, in the shops around the Promenade.
Happy was Lady Catherine, as she proceeded into the room, resplendent, nay, refulgent in yellow satin, lace, and diamonds, and followed by two handsome young ladies, and two gentlemen. Mr Bennet had withstood, for twenty years, the arguments, the sighs, the pleadings of his wife, and never attended an Assembly, but he was no match for Lady Catherine; she had forced him to attend. The Master of Ceremonies almost fell over himself in his deference, and his eagerness to greet them all. Even the Duchess and her brother did not command more attention. Lady Catherine did not dance, but she sate at the top of the room with the dancers circling below her, like the Presence itself. Anne danced a great deal, and Lord Francis danced with her twice, but she scarce noticed her partners; she could only think of what the morrow might bring.
But all her conjecture was wasted: she did not see him at church. Arriving early, they were shown to a pew almost at the front. It was impossible to turn around, and look behind, and by the time they emerged, slowed up by the crush of people in front of them, most of the congregation had left. She tried to go to the evening service: Mrs Caldwell, she thought, might very probably be there; but she was prevented. "What are you thinking of, Anne?" her mother said. "You know that we are to drink tea with the Duchess," and she was obliged to sit there, for hours, and endure all the insipidity of the Duchess' conversation, and Lord Francis' near-silence.
The next morning, no-one seemed to be in a hurry to leave. At breakfast, Mr Bennet said "If none of you object to waiting a little, I would be very glad to visit the famous bookstore." Anne, ready to leave, and wishing for some fresh air, said she would go with him: "They would only take a few minutes, they would be back almost at once," and on this understanding, the carriage was ordered, and Georgiana and the Colonel were happy to stroll around the Promenade with Lady Catherine. But who can take only a few minutes, in a bookstore? Anne was trying to decide which, of three beguiling new novels, she wished to buy, when she found herself addressed: "My dear Miss de Bourgh, how very pleasant to meet you here!" It was Mr Caldwell, it was Edmund's father.
She was delighted, and stammered a greeting and an enquiry after his family. Now she would hear, at least, how Edmund was. "We are all well, my dear, very well, and we have some news, that I am sure will interest you," Mr Caldwell said. "We are losing Edmund; he is going away."
"Away? Why... how is this? Where? When? " Anne realized that she was stammering, and tried to bring her words into order. "You will certainly miss him... is it business that takes him? And when will he leave?"
"He is to set out for Barbados, in a month or so; I am not precisely sure, he will go to Liverpool shortly, to enquire about a passage."
"Barbados? But that is..."
"It is in the West Indies. Yes, an island in the West Indies. Does that not sound interesting, Miss de Bourgh? He has been thinking about it for some time, and did not seem sure, but yesterday -- no, yesterday was Sunday, it was Saturday, it was the day before yesterday, he came to us and said that he had made up his mind, he should go."
Mr Caldwell was delighted to tell her the particulars: the family had unexpectedly received word that they had inherited, from a distant kinsman, a property on the island, of which little was known, except that it had been abandoned on the owner's death, and left unclaimed for some years. Edmund believed that something might be made of it; that he might live out there, and operate it; that, at least, it would pay him to go out there, see it, and if nothing could be done, make arrangements to sell it. His careful work on the quarry, he believed, had paid off; he could leave it under the control of a manager in whom he had confidence.
"His greatest concern, " Mr Caldwell said, "is that, with his views, he could not contemplate the operation of the place by the use of slave labour, for it still goes on, you know, though it should not; the trade still continues, though there are laws against it. But Edmund wants to discover, if he might not run the place, using paid workers. It seems there are many white men there, who lost their employment years ago when the plantation owners went over to owning slaves, and have been living in poverty ever since. Is not that a dreadful thing, Miss de Bourgh?"
Alas! Anne could learn very little, of all she wanted to know; Mr Caldwell was far more interested in the burning issue of slavery, than in the material business of his son's journey; she was able to learn the approximate date of his departure, but then her companion called to her; even Mr Bennet was aware that they had spent too much time, and must leave. Taking a rapid farewell of Mr Caldwell, with only just enough time to send her warmest wishes to Mrs Caldwell "and my... my compliments to your son, if you please," she was forced to hurry away.Chapter 16
The farewells were cordial, promises were made, to come back soon, it was a fine breezy day and the journey back was a pleasant one. Anne heard nothing, saw nothing, and could not remember, later, in what terms she had taken leave of her mother. All the way back, she could think of nothing but what she had heard, and was trying to recall every word that Mr Caldwell had said, in case she forgot some circumstance, however trivial.
Edmund was leaving, Edmund was going away!
If only she had had more time, to question Mr Caldwell, or even better, to go and see Mrs Caldwell, she could surely have found out more. He had decided, his father said, suddenly -- and on the Saturday, the very day that he had met her, arm in arm with Lord Francis! But was that mere coincidence? Was she refining too much on her impressions? After all, she had no real proof of his affection for her; only that one conversation, that one gesture... it was very natural that a man, an ambitious man, should, on learning of such a bequest, decide on such an adventure.
Barbados! The word had a terrifying ring in her ears. Anne knew very little of the West Indies, but she knew that there were tropical diseases, there were hurricanes, and she was very sure that there were poisonous snakes. He might die before he even arrived there, swept overboard by a storm. If not, he would die of bad food, or be captured by a French privateer, or shot by angry sugar planters for trying to abolish slavery. He would marry a Creole beauty and stay there, and be lost to her for ever. But he was already lost to her. How could she have married him? When her mother would certainly refuse to meet either him or his parents!
All she could think was, that she must get to Burley again; she must find out more. She might say that she wanted to buy more books; she might say she wanted to see her mother again; Lady Catherine had, after all, been very happy to see her, and the visit had been an enjoyable one. Yes! she would do so, she would go there again, as soon as possible. If she were quick, she might even see him; he was going, Mr Caldwell had said "in a month or so.î Oh! how long was that? It could mean almost any thing. She would certainly go back to Burley! Perhaps she could persuade Mr Bennet to make the expedition with her, with the promise of spending more time in the fascinating bookstore; after all, she had been so overwhelmed with the hurry of the last few minutes, and the news she had received, that she had not bought one single book!
But this resolution was not carried into effect. The next morning, when Anne was awakened as usual, by her maid, the girl told her that the whole household was in confusion, for Mrs Darcy had been taken ill in the night, four weeks or more before her time, and the month nurse not yet arrived, and nobody dared speak to the master, and Mrs Reynolds was in such a state as never was.
"Mrs Reynolds?î Anne asked. "Why, what has she to do with any thing?î
"Well, nothing, miss, as you might say, but there she is, crying and taking on, and it seems she had a sister what died, of a baby, excuse me, miss; and she thinks that Mrs Darcy will die too, because of its being too soon-like.î
Anne dressed hurriedly, and went downstairs. There were only Mrs Annesley and Georgiana in the breakfast room, where the meal seemed much less carefully laid than was usual at Pemberley. However, since nobody was eating, this did not seem to be of much moment. Mrs Annesley, looking as composed as usual, told her that, since the month nurse was at a house ten miles away, and was known to have a very sick patient, she would probably not be able to come.
"But Georgiana's old nurse is here,î she said. "Since her retirement, she quite often goes to help with the village births, and she is a gentle, clean, sensible creature. Mrs Darcy knows Mrs Grainger well, and likes her so much!î and she smiled at Georgiana, who was looking very white and anxious, and tried in vain to smile back.
The nurse, she said, had already been with Mrs Darcy, and talked ominously of a possible cross-birth, saying that a doctor should be sent for. Mrs Darcy had been seen once by Dr Turley, who was the Lambton practitioner, but she had very much disliked him, had thought him pretentious and vain. Mrs Annesley did not know what to do. She had sent a servant to fetch the two gentlemen, who were walking in the gardens, for, she said, Darcy could neither sit, nor eat, nor speak, and his cousin, not liking to leave him alone, had gone with him.
"Would not Dr Lawson be a better choice?î Anne asked. "He has such good sense, and is so kind; there is no nonsense about him.î
At that moment her two cousins entered, and Mrs Annesley repeated the nurse's opinion, and Anne's suggestion to them.
"Lawson!î Darcy said. "He struck me as a sensible fellow. I wish he could be got here. But it is fifteen miles to Burley. It would take a carriage, or even a horse, several hours to cover the distance, and by that time...î and he sat down at the table, and buried his head in his hands.
"Excuse me,î said Anne, "but if I recall correctly, cousin, I remember it was mentioned, that Mr.. Mr Edmund Caldwell's house is but five miles from here; and Mrs Caldwell told me he lived less than a half hour's ride from Burley. I understand that it is not a carriage road, but could the two of you not ride there by that road, and bring Dr Lawson back on horseback? I remember he mentioned that he quite often rides, when he goes to see his patients, for the countryside is so rough.î
Darcy looked up. "You are right!î he said. "The track is hilly and steep, it has never been made up for carriage traffic, in bad weather it cannot be used, for so much water comes down; but it cuts off a huge swath of country. Yes, in this weather it will certainly be passable, and we might ride there in an hour, or a little more. Fitzwilliam, will you come with me?î
"Of course,î said his cousin. Servants were called, grooms were sent for, all was hurry, bustle and purpose.
"Stay a moment,î Mrs Annesley said "hard riding uphill will tire your horses. I will tell the grooms to bring extra horses up, slowly, behind you, and they can meet you as you return. That way you will get back sooner.î
"Mrs Annesley, you should be a campaigner,î Fitzwilliam exclaimed. "Well thought of, indeed!î
"My husband was a military man,î Mrs Annesley said, smiling. "Do you go on your way; I will see to it.î
After that, things happened as they will, when gentlemen have made up their minds, and wish to be gone; and within a very short time they were on their way.
"Now,î said Mrs Annesley, firmly, "I think we should all three sit down, and eat this quite dreadful breakfast. Come, my dears, you must eat something, it will not help Mrs Darcy to have you starve yourselves.î
They both tried, but made a poor showing. As they were still at the table, the sound of a horse approaching was heard. Instructions had been given, that visitors were to be denied, but the butler entered, and asked if someone would speak briefly with Mr Rackham, who had brought a letter from his mother, which, he said, wanted an answer.
The letter was simple and very kind. Mrs Rackham, had heard already, in the mysterious way that every thing is known, in the country, of Mrs Darcy's situation, and wrote to suggest that Miss Darcy, and if she wished, Miss de Bourgh as well, might like to spend the day with Mary; they would do everything in their power to alleviate the distress of a day as anxious as this one must be, and would send regularly, to ask for any news.
"Oh no!î said Georgiana, faintly. "I cannot leave.î But Mrs Annesley thought otherwise. "I shall be very much occupied, my dear Miss Darcy,î she said. "The very best thing you can do would be to go. Then I shall have the comfort of knowing that you are in good hands. I assure you, it would help me very much.î
Anne was amused to see, with what tact Mrs Annesley dealt with Georgiana. As she had already observed, Georgiana was high-strung, and she could see that the prospect of calming her nervous fears, with no idea how long matters might go on, was not an agreeable one. Eventually, Georgiana agreed to go; she would ride in the pony carriage, with Mr Rackham escorting her. "Miss Rackham is one of those people who naturally protect and cherish others,î Mrs Annesley observed. "She will look after her friend very well. Now, Miss de Bourgh, I must go and speak to Mrs Reynolds. The household has rapidly fallen into the sort of disorder that all households do, when unexpected things happen. I think you refused to go to the Rackhams' because you have a purpose; am I right?î
"Yes indeed,î said Anne. "I am going to the library. We have forgotten Mr Bennet. I think I should go to him.î
Sure enough, there, in his usual chair, sat Elizabeth's father. He was neither reading, nor writing, and seemed hunched over, as if he had somehow shrunk. Anne had the idea that, if nothing were done, he would sit there all day. Suddenly she wished very much that her mother were there. Lady Catherine would perhaps not understand his misery, or have any sympathy for it; but she would know what to do. She would scold, Anne thought. I cannot. But he is suffering dreadfully; I must do something.
"Mr Bennet!î she said, as firmly and loudly as she could. He looked up, startled.
"Come, sir,î she said. "Minette needs her walk, and we need you to come with us. You must, indeed you must,î and putting her hand on his arm, she tried to make him get up. The only thing that will get him up, she thought is if someone needs him. "I cannot go without you, sir. I am alone, and I need you. I am frightened, too.î
Whether he were too startled, or too apathetic to resist, she did not know; but he got up; he went with her to the door; the footman was there, with Minette. "Thank you, Thomas,î and she took the dog's leash, guided them both outside, and they went along the terrace, past the formal gardens, until they reached the woodland path that followed the stream.Chapter 17
They seated themselves on a rustic bench, with a view of the beautiful stream and the surrounding countryside. Now that he had a companion, Mr Bennet seemed more at ease, and only wanted to talk, and to talk of Elizabeth. He told Anne of her childhood, of her early promise, and childish achievements in talking, in reading, in memory, and what a delightful companion she had proved for him, even as a small girl. Their mother, never averse to expenditure on finery, had thought it not worth the cost of sending them to school "and indeed, my dear, I think schools for girls do little more, than screw the girls out of health and into vanity." He talked of his other daughters, and it was clear to Anne, that none of them had the hold on his heart that this child had. It was evident that Jane's outstanding beauty, her mother's pride, seemed insipid to him, beside Elizabeth's wit and cleverness; and though Mary shared some of his love of books, he had not thought it worth while to cultivate her mind, for she was serious and a little slow. I might get on well with Mary, Anne thought.
Then, to Anne's surprise, he spoke of "Miss Lucas." It was a few moments before Anne realised that he was speaking of Mrs Collins. "I do not know her well," she said, timidly; for she had always avoided entering the Parsonage, whenever the carriage stopt there, disliking Mr Collins' servile and ingratiating ways.
"She is a very brave and sensible woman," Mr Bennet said, abruptly. "Did you know that my Lizzie was supposed to marry that fool, Collins?" Anne did indeed know; she had heard her mother speak on the subject, many times, and ask, why had not the presumptuous Miss Bennet become the parson's wife, and stayed within her station in life, where she belonged?
"But she turned him down, thank God," said her father, "and then poor Miss Lucas turned round, in the twinkling of an eye, and snapped him up. She had not a hope of marriage, but was all set to die an old maid; she may be said to have got him, as they vulgarly say, on the rebound, but she got him. And she has made something of it; that is the remarkable thing; my daughter tells me that she writes with pleasure and enthusiasm of her home, her garden, her occupations, and now her child; and then, too, she has made Collins a happy man, or as happy as such a stupid fellow can be. That, Miss de Bourgh, is what I call courage. We most of us have to make some sort of adjustment to our lot in life; we mostly have to cut our coat to suit the cloth. But for my Lizzie it has not been so; they have found each other, and it is truly a marriage of true minds. He understands her worth. But oh, can you not see, what a ruin, what a desolation it would be, if Elizabeth were lost to us?"
Anne was horrified. She took a deep breath: "Come, sir, there is no need at all to be thinking of such a contingency. Your daughter is a strong, healthy young woman, this is her first child, and she is receiving the best attention that it is possible to have. Daughters often resemble their mothers in these matters; you have just told me that her mother had five children, and, if I understand you aright, is still in very good health. There is no reason at all for imagining such a thing. There may be some anxiety about the child, but many eight-month, and even seven-month babies live, and do well. Truly, my dear Mr Bennet, I cannot allow you to think of such a thing. Your concern is due to your affection for her, and does you credit, but forgive me, are you not allowing your imagination to run away with you?"
"Well, you may be right, I hope you are right."
"Of course I am right! Come, Minette is trying to chase the squirrels again; come and watch her, foolish little thing."
Back at the house, Mrs Annesley had gone to see Mrs Reynolds, who had somehow convinced herself that both mother and child would die, and was sitting weeping in her room. Mrs Annesley told her firmly to stop crying, for she was needed; and asked her, whether anybody had considered that a wet nurse might be wanted.
"Oh no, madam, Mrs Darcy would not think of such a thing, she said she wanted to nurse the child herself, they do nowadays. Lady Anne Darcy always had one, and Lady Catherine too; but times have changed, madam, have they not?"
"Yes indeed, but I think that it should be thought of, for Mrs Darcy may not be well, things are not just as they ought to be, she may be very exhausted after the child's birth. Tell me, Mrs Reynolds, you know most of the people in Lambton, do you not?"
"Oh, yes, madam, I have lived here all my life."
"Well, I want you to consider, and to ask the other servants as well, whether there is any young woman, who could come, for I think someone may be needed."
Mrs Annesley's conviction, that mother and child were expected to live, and the thought that she herself was wanted and could be useful, worked powerfully on Mrs Reynolds. She dried her eyes, and set to thinking: She knew of the very person! a young woman living only three miles away, very clean, healthy "and she is a Methody, all the family are, and go to the chapel, which I cannot like, but it is all for the best, for they never touch liquor, or even beer." She would at once send to Torgates Farm, and set about making the necessary arrangements; oh yes! the young woman would come if she were needed, anybody would come, to help Pemberley.
Mrs Reynolds' restoration to her usual self quickly restored the spirits of the other servants. "Servants always go to pieces," Mrs Annesley said, "if the person in command is suddenly removed. I told them that Mrs Darcy, when she is up and about again ñ when, not if ñ will expect to find that everybody has done their duty, just as if she were there. They are all very fond of her, which helps, and everything was right, once the cook knew what was wanted for dinner, which he could perfectly well have thought of for himself."
Shortly before midday, the gentlemen returned with Dr Lawson. Darcy looked better for his ride, and everyone felt convinced that now things would soon be right. But there was no news, and the afternoon seemed very long. The Rector of the parish came to visit, and was admitted. He was an intelligent, gentlemanly, serious-minded man, to whom Darcy had recently presented the living, saying that did not want a man who would flatter and obey him, but one who would take care of the people. He sat with them quietly, for some time, and then left. Anne did not think that his presence had helped anyone very much, for he was not a man of optimistic mind, and could not hide the fact that he did not know, if he would next be called upon to baptize, or to bury.
A little later, Anne proposed that they might attend the evening service, at the church. Mrs Annesley said she would go; Colonel Fitzwilliam wanted to go with them, but did not know whether he should leave Darcy; however, Mr Bennet quietly offered to take Darcy on at a game of chess, or walk with him, whichever he might prefer.
When they got to the church, it was surprisingly full. It seemed that many of the people of Lambton had had the same thought, and as they entered, there was a murmur of quiet sympathy. As they made their way forward to the Darcy pew, Anne saw Georgiana, and with her, Mr Rackham, his mother, and Mary. The ancient words of the Prayer Book were comforting. Anne felt sorry that it was not the day or time for the Litany, for one phrase was certainly in everyone's mind: the words "for all women labouring of child.". As they left, people crowded round in silence; some pressed Mrs Annesley's hand. Anne felt glad of their kindness, but understood why Darcy had not wanted to come.
Georgiana returned with them. Dinner was a miserable affair; the cook might as well not have troubled himself, for very little was eaten. When it ended, the gentlemen did not stay behind, but went straight to the drawing room with the ladies. Darcy made for an armchair and sat, his head in his hands.
"I will ring for tea," Mrs Annesley said. "It will do us good. Oh, Forrest, there you are, I was just going to ring.."
But it was not the butler. Dr Lawson stood in the doorway.
"Mr Darcy," he said. Darcy looked up at him. Anne thought, this is how my cousin will look, when he is old. "Mr Darcy; sir, you have a son."Chapter 18
"He is a fine young fellow," Dr Lawson said. "A little small, but that was only to be expected; however, there is nothing to worry about, he has every intention of living; and so has his mother. She is sleeping; you may go to her, sir, but you must not speak to her, do not be trying to wake her up. You will have all the time in the world, to talk to her, later."
Elizabeth was safe; and she had a son! Anne thought that she had never before experienced such felicity. She and Georgiana threw their arms around each other. She saw tears running down Mr Bennet's face; she thought she saw Colonel Fitzwilliam kiss Mrs Annesley; then she burst into tears herself. Darcy disappeared upstairs. They had recovered their composure somewhat, by the time he came down, accompanied by the nurse. She was carrying a swaddled bundle, which contained Lewis Bennet Fitzwilliam Darcy. Her father's name! They had given him her father's name!
Mr Bennet, now quite himself again, looked cautiously at the infant, and observed that he looked very small for such a colossal collection of names. Then Georgiana said "Oh, my goodness, I am an aunt!" With the child's birth, she had become that happiest and most useful of human beings, an aunt! After the tears, there was laughter; the butler brought wine, and the cook sent up sandwiches and soup, for everybody was suddenly very hungry. Then someone ñ she thought it was Mrs Annesley - said "Oh, listen!" They all went to the French windows of the drawing room, which were open, for it was a fine, warm night. The church bells were ringing.
The next few days passed in a happy blur of visitors, letters, messages and congratulations. However, they also brought two things to Anne herself, that were very welcome. First of all, three new dresses were delivered; three dresses that she had decided on, and ordered, and paid for herself. Hardly had she recovered from the pleasure of trying them on, and finding that she looked delightfully in them, than her cousin came to find her; there was a letter for her.
"It must be from my mother," she thought. But it was not; it was from Mrs Endicott. Mrs Caldwell, it appeared, had read Anne's manuscript to her and her husband, and they were much impressed with it. They both believed that the story, entertaining and lively, would appeal strongly to the public. They hoped very much that Anne would finish the story; and if she were to think of publication, would she do them the favour of discussing the matter with them, before approaching anyone else?
Here was material for delighted reflection! No-one else was interested; everyone was busy, everyone was happy; but Anne carried the letter around with her all day, took it out from time to time, and read it again. No letter from a lover is every more welcome, brings more joy, than a publisher's expression of interest does to a new author! In the midst of her satisfaction, however, Anne had time to wonder: did Edmund he know about it? had he been there, when the story was being read? had he been the one to read it? had he thought of her? Was he still at home? The date Mr Caldwell had mentioned was still ahead, but any thing could have happened, to hasten his journey.
This led to other thoughts: she began reflecting on what Mr Bennet had said to her, while they sat by the stream; that most people have to cut their coat according to their cloth; and that people like Mrs Collins could still have a happy life, or at least, a life of small, quiet satisfactions. He had not said a word about himself, but she suspected, more from what had not been said, that this might be his own situation; and that this was why Elizabeth's marriage was such an especial source of joy to him. Elizabeth, she thought, had taken a great risk, in refusing Mr Collins. Her family was not rich, and she might never have got another offer of marriage. As it turned out, she had been right; but what a risk she had taken!
But what did all this mean for her? What bearing did it have on her own situation? Ought she, like Mrs Collins, to find a suitable, good-natured husband, and make what she could of a less rapturous, but possibly quite happy marriage? Ought she to forget her love? Forget Edmund? Never! She could think of no-one, among her circle of acquaintances, who might replace Edmund in her heart. No! she could not do it; like Elizabeth, she could not make do, with someone else. There was to be no second-best, for her.
But since he could not marry her? Well, possibly friendship could take the place of love; when he came back, or if he came back, he would have forgotten her, and would marry someone else (if he did not bring back the Creole beauty); and sitting alone, thinking along these melancholy lines, she had been present at his wedding, stood godmother to several of his children, and would shortly have attended his funeral, had not Georgiana come to the library, to call her to go riding.
Pretty soon, however, all these reflections were thrust into the background, for Lady Catherine came to Pemberley.
She was just as cheerful as she had been at Burley: just as smiling, just as fashionably clad; Anne had never seen her so much the great lady; her very hat gave out intimations of splendour. She patted Georgiana's cheek, and remarked that she had been much admired at the ball; she was civil to Mr Bennet, and even Mrs Annesley got two fingers, and a gracious nod. Although visitors were not yet allowed into Elizabeth's bedroom, she must of course be admitted; and the experience was very satisfactory, for she observed at once that young Lewis Bennet Fitzwilliam was occupying the magnificent cradle that had been a gift to Lady Anne Darcy from her father, Lord Waterson. To Elizabeth, she was extremely gracious; there was little to say, once the infant had been admired, and his astonishing resemblance to her late father remarked upon (which resemblance might be said to consist in the fact, that each had a nose, and two eyes) and she had the good sense, which more affectionate visitors often lack, to bring her visit to a rapid conclusion. She emerged from the visit smiling cheerfully.
The reason was soon to become apparent; she had lost nothing; she was no longer interested in the reversion of Pemberley. As soon as she had left Elizabeth's bedchamber, she requested a private interview with her daughter. Anne took her to a small salon, seldom used.
"My dear Anne, I am very happy to see you still looking so remarkably well," her mother said. "The Duchess complimented me on your looks, only yesterday. I would never have thought, that your health could have improved so much. The air of Pemberley agrees with you, it seems."
"It does, indeed, madam."
"Well, it could not have happened at a better time, for now I have something to tell you, that will do you more good still. I am happy to felicitate you on your approaching marriage. Lord Francis Meaburn has requested my permission to pay his addresses to you. I need hardly tell you, with what happiness I have given my consent."
"Lord Francis?" said Anne, stupidly. "But he--but I.."
"I.. I had no idea, that he.. it cannot be, I have only had the briefest of conversations with him. There must be some mistake."
"On the contrary, there is no mistake. The Duchess tells me that he is very much taken with you."
"And what did he say?"
"He? Nothing. His sister has arranged it all, with his agreement, and I may say, you are in high luck to meet with the approval of such a family. Their rank is lofty, and their connections.."
"One moment, madam, I pray you," said Anne. "The matter is not so simple. If rank were all that were needed in a husband, I might have no objection. His father is a Duke, and his brother is a Duke, and they are all Dukes together. But I do not want a Duke. I want a husband; and I would like one who began by doing his proposing for himself; and who would propose to me, not to my mother."
"Really, Anne! There is no occasion to speak in such a disrespectful manner! Lord Francis has behaved very correctly."
"Then I will refuse him with equal correctness. I have walked with him once and danced with him twice, I did not like him, and I am not minded to marry him."
"I agree, it is a little sudden. Had things been otherwise, I would not have acceded to this proposal at this time. I was waiting to be sure that a more splendid position was not open to you; in other words, had matters here turned out as they might well have done, I would have been the first to urge you to stay here, and wait for a few months, to see how matters turned out then."
"I do not understand."
"As it happens, things have gone well, your cousin has an heir, and his wife is safe. While not wishing for a different outcome, it was only prudent to be prepared for it; a man of his standing, should he lose his wife, must marry again, and soon: he has his inheritance to think of, and he is not getting any younger. Had things transpired that way, I think there is little doubt that you would have been the next mistress of Pemberley; for he would not be likely to look further for a second wife, than a cousin, living already in the house, known and liked by him. But all that is at an end, not to be thought of."
Anne could hardly believe her ears. Her mother had actually been - no, not scheming, not even wishing for, but certainly, in the vulgar phrase, hedging her bets, on the terrible possibility of Elizabeth's death! That anyone should think of such a melancholy and shocking extremity as something to be anticipated, seemed to her so horrifying, that she could hardly believe that she was hearing it. But it was so; her mother had said it.
"I cannot believe, madam, for one moment, that you were hoping for such a terrible eventuality."
"Of course not, that would be very wrong; but why else should we set forth for Pemberley, at the time we did? Come, Anne, do not be so nice, is not the position of mistress of Pemberley one that is worth struggling, conspiring, even fighting for? Would it not have been worth it, had you been here, at the right time?"
"No! No! I cannot even think of such a terrible possibility. As for Lord Francis, ma'am, if he will come here, I will consider him, I will listen to what he has to say, but I must warn you... I am sure he is very good-natured, but it needs more than that to make a marriage. There -- there must be, if not love, at least affection and respect; and I think there should be some community of interest. He is a man of fashion; my interests are centered in a quiet life in the country. I am not beautiful, I am not lively; I should be very unhappy in a fashionable drawing room. I love to write; do you think Lord Francis wants a wife, who is writing a book?"
"Writing a book? Why, what nonsense is this? Do you mean ñ a novel? Do you intend to publish such a thing? to put our family name on the cover of a vulgar work of fiction, like some parson's daughter who is glad to make twenty pounds, or thirty, out of publishing her work?"
Anne's heart was hammering against her ribs, but she must not give up; she must not give in to her mother.
"Setting that aside for the moment, I am not a parson's daughter; I am your daughter, madam. Would you allow others to tell you to marry a man, whom you did not want to marry?"
Lady Catherine was not a loving mother, but she was not an unnatural one either. She genuinely believed that, by encouraging Anne to this marriage, she was promoting her best interests and doing what would make her happy; most of us think that what is good for us must be right for others, and at Anne's age, such a marriage would have made her very happy. With her improved health had come an improvement in temper, and she had no intention of alarming or distressing her daughter. But she could not understand: "Why? What is this? How comes this about? You have barely met him, and yet you are sure that you do not want to marry him? How is this possible?"
"It is very simple, madam; I believe his only reason, in wanting to marry me, is his lack of money. I have money, but he has nothing to offer me except his rank. You are interested in rank; I am not."
Lady Catherine had every wish to be affectionate, to be conciliating; but this was too much for her. "So! Are you one of these people, who wish to overturn the way our world is run? Do you wish to do away with all the distinctions of rank, and have every ploughman the equal of a lord? Unhappy girl! You are being offered a position that anyone in the kingdom might envy. We have never been ennobled; the Stilbury connection would put all of us at the centre of influence and power. Do you realize what it might mean for your family? for Darcy's boy? For any children you might have? And you turn this down, on a whim? Is this some theory that your stonemason has taught you? Do you still cherish the desire to lower yourself by associating with such people?"
As she spoke, Lady Catherine rose from her seat, and stood over Anne. Anne tried to rise, but as she did so, Minette, sensing Anne's distress, began barking and growling, clearly terrified, backing and showing her teeth. Anne stood up, turned away, caught her skirts in the little dog's leash, tried to right herself, fell, and knew no more.
Continued in Part 3© 2007 Copyright held by author