A Letter from Lady Catherine de Bourgh
Lady Catherine felt no inclination to blame herself, on seeing her daughter unconscious on the floor; after all, the accident was caused by that ridiculous little dog: it was not her fault. She did as much as she felt any mother ought to do, by ringing the bell, and sending the butler for help; and she would undoubtedly have dashed a glass of water onto Anne's face, if such a thing had been available. In spite of these attentions, it was known to every servant in Pemberley, house, gardens and stables, in the space of a quarter of an hour, that Miss de Bourgh was dead, and that her mother had murdered her. It was even the subject of speculation, whether she would be hanged, or whether, as some opined, being such a great lady, they could never stick it to her in a trial.
Anne recovered consciousness almost at once, and found that her mother was nowhere in sight, but that her maid, Georgiana's maid, Georgiana, the housekeeper, and Mrs Annesley were all hovering over her, and trying to attend to her. She declared that she was well, very well, so foolish of her! Nothing had happened, she had tripped; there was nothing the matter, only a slight bump on her head. However, when she tried to walk, she felt so faint and dizzy that she was obliged to sit down at once, and Mrs Annesley had no hesitation in directing that she was to be taken upstairs, and put to bed. "But Minette; let me take Minette with me." "No, my dear," said Mrs Annesley. "Minette must stay; see, Miss Darcy will look after her, will you not, Miss Darcy?" "Of course," said Georgiana. "No, no," said poor Anne. "Someone may hurt her; it was not her fault," and nothing would persuade her that the dog was safe with them. She became so agitated that, in the end, Mrs Annesley, who was pretty sure that she had a concussion, and that she should be kept quiet, herself carried Minette up to her bedchamber.
Meanwhile it fell to her Cousin Darcy's lot to deal with Lady Catherine. As they paced the terrace, and entered the formal gardens, his aunt made the full situation pretty clear. While not knowing precisely what had happened, he understood that Anne had received an offer of marriage, that there had been some kind of altercation, which did not surprise him in the least, and that in spite of her wish to be ingratiating, his aunt's temper had got the better of her. She was angry, but even more she was surprised.
"Such a marriage as she could never have dreamed of! For even now, and I must say her looks have much improved, she is not remarkable au fait de beaute, but the Duchess is very much impressed with her; and so is he; and you know, nephew, he could look for a wife in the highest circles in the land. I am very much shocked, I am very much disappointed. Think what it could mean to the whole family, to your son, when he is grown, to have relatives in such a lofty position!"
"That is possibly true, but I do not think it would much gratify Lewis or myself, to have his elevation due to his cousin's marriage, rather than to his own character and efforts."
"Nonsense! Everybody uses family connections to their advantage, it is the way things are done; families rise or fall together. The gravel on these paths is very coarse; we use a finer one, at Rosings."
"This gravel dries better, when it has been raining."
"When it rains, we stay indoors. And I wish to know, for one thing, who has been encouraging Anne in these revolutionary opinions she seems to have adopted. For I am sure that she has not learned them from you?"
"She reads too much; that is what has done the damage. By the way, that topiary; how often do you have it cut back?"
"About every six weeks."
"If you get them to do it once a month, you will get a better result. No, I am very disappointed. If you had some other suitor to propose.."
Darcy mentioned Sir Matthew, Mr Granby, and Mr Kirkman, but in vain; his aunt was clearly familiar with the old saying about the "bird in the hand."
"Yes, but that is not the same as an offer, a direct offer of marriage; their attentions may mean nothing; and as for taking this Mr Kirkman, an elderly widower, with no title, instead of Lord Francis Meaburn! Certainly not!"
"Dare I mention, aunt, that Lord Francis is a widower, and by no means young?''
"Nonsense, he is hardly more than forty. Your father brought that marble figure from Italy; we have a far finer one at Rosings. You would do well to cut back those laurels; you would get a better view of it from the wilderness."
"I think there is one thing I must make clear to you, ma'am; my cousin is five and twenty years old, and she knows her own mind. She dislikes Lord Francis, as she has made abundantly clear; and for my part, given the differences between them, I can not believe that it would be a happy marriage."
"Pooh! Nonsense; he is as good-natured a man as ever lived. There is no reason why he would not make a perfectly amiable husband. If she is so foolish as to wish to write books, he is not likely to raise any objection."
"No, as long as he has money to spend on his gambling and profligacies. I am surprised, ma'am, that you would wish to see the resources you have husbanded so well, at risk of being wasted."
"Oh! He has given up his gambling; all that is at an end. Of course Anne's money would be tied up, in some way. The lawyers would see to it. In any case, she cannot stay here for the rest of her life. Well! She must come back to Rosings with me. We will have the Duchess and her brother down to visit, for she has several times said that she would like to see the place; and we will see if Anne cannot be persuaded. But she is not to bring that detestable little dog with her; I cannot abide it. It is savage, and should be shot."
"I beg you, madam, do not attempt to persuade her into an unhappy marriage."
"You married to please yourself, and it has turned out well; now you think that every marriage, made for family reasons rather than love, must be unhappy. It is not so. And Anne is not the girl to choose well, left to herself. Stay - she has not done so? Is that the reason for all this high-flown sentiment? Has she said anything to lead you to think that she has some person in mind?"
"Then answer me: who gave her the dog?"
"I could not lie to her," Darcy told his wife, later. "I made it clear that Caldwell had abandoned all pretension to her hand, and is leaving the country besides, and that she has said nothing as to any attachment; but I could not lie."
And Lady Catherine marched back to the house, to speak to her daughter. When she went to climb the stairs, however, she found herself confronted by Dr Lawson. He had ridden over, to take a look at Mrs Darcy, and found that she was very well. But Anne was a different matter. He remembered Lady Catherine, and waited for no greeting.
"If you are thinking of seeing your daughter, madam," he said, "it is impossible; you must wait."
"Must? Must? Nonsense, man! It cannot hurt her to see her mother. Stand aside."
Dr Lawson was a large man, and his bulk effectively blocked the stairway. He did not budge.
"Do you want to kill her, madam?"
"Out of my way, sir!"
Dr Lawson repeated "Do you want to kill her, madam? She has had a severe concussion; she is sleeping; she must not be disturbed."
"Oh, very well. But I cannot be hanging about here all day, I wish to be on my way. I will write to her. Darcy, I must ask you for the use of your writing desk."
"Very well, ma'am. But my cousin is not well, I beg you not to write what will distress her."
"I think, nephew, a mother is the best judge of what she may write to her daughter." And Lady Catherine sat down to write.
When Anne read the letter, it threw her into a fever. Her worst terror was the threat to Minette. She could even bear to go back to Rosings, she thought, but she would rather die than go there, and risk her dog's life. No, she did not trust anyone. Her mother might promise to spare Minette, but then if she so much as growled at some servant or keeper, there would be the excuse to get rid of her. If Minette died, she would die too; or, if worst came to worst, rather than die, she would marry Lord Francis, at least he had said that he liked the dog -- but would she be able to keep Minette alive until the wedding day? Perhaps she could leave Minette at Pemberley for a while - but the idea threw her into a passion of tears. Dr Lawson became anxious.
Anne was ill with misery all that day and the next. Then something strange happened. At some time, in the middle of a sleepless night, she began, instead of suffering, to think. It was not good enough to cry; crying would not save her or Minette; she must do something. It was never of any use to appeal to her mother's sympathy; she never felt sorry for anyone; nor was maternal affection a powerful impulse with her. She got her way by being forceful, by being determined, by always being sure that she was right. Well! She was her mother's daughter; she would use her mother's weapons; supposing her to be in this situation, what would Lady Catherine do?
She could not refuse to go to Rosings; no young woman could do such a thing; it was beyond the bounds of possibility. Nor could she ask her cousins at Pemberley to house her, in defiance of her mother's expressed wish; such a request would place them in a position of great embarrassment. However, suppose she could make it clear to Lady Catherine that she was a different person now, that living at Rosings would be a different experience for both of them?
As soon as it was light, Anne rang for her maid, got herself put into a dressing gown, and writing materials brought, and wrote a letter. It took her several hours, and we will not enquire, how many sheets were left torn up on the floor; but the letter was eventually written:
The respect due to a parent makes it impossible for me to propose disobeying your commands; but I do request you to reflect. You wish me to come to Rosings with you, and I have no intention of refusing, although because of the injury to my head, it will not be possible for me to travel, probably for many weeks.
You wish me to accept Lord Francis' offer of marriage, and out of respect for your wishes, I will re-consider his offer, but only when he comes to me, and makes it himself. He can do so, if he wishes, more expeditiously from Burley, than by going into Kent. That is, I will consider it, I do not say that I will accept it. My wealth and rank have, as you know, prevented my thinking of marriage with a man with whom I believe I could have been happy. Wealth and rank are not going to force me into marrying a man whom I do not love, and who does not love me.
You wish me to reside with you at Rosings: you have yourself acknowledged that my improvement in health dates from my leaving Rosings. The location does not agree with me, I have never been well there, and I do not wish to return to a state of sickness. If, in deference to your wishes, I must reside there, I will not have Dr Fillgrave as my medical advisor. I will choose my own doctor, and pay him myself. I must have a horse to ride. I must have a personal maid-companion of my own; I will not be attended by Mullins. Above all, I will not be carried here and there to seek a husband; I shall spend my time in the library, writing. I intend to publish my writing; however, in deference to your views, I will publish under a pseudonym.
I think we are both agreed that it is high time for me to find an establishment in life, but are disagreed on what that establishment should be. I am of full age and know what I want. I require a similarity of interests; I require a situation of mutual respect and affection, and if such a situation is not available, I am resigned to spending the rest of my life as an unmarried woman. We left Rosings because there were no prospects of marriage for me in such a restricted society. I believe my chances of finding the establishment I need are far better here than at Rosings, and this is where I wish to remain. I beg you, madam, to return to Rosings and leave me here.
As for the dog, she is not dangerous, and I will not allow her to be destroyed. She has never bitten or snapped, and did not do so yesterday; raised voices frighten her and she growled and barked, that is all. I will not come to Rosings, or go anywhere else, without her, and she will never leave my side. If you refuse to allow her to enter your drawing-room, I will not enter it, either.
Believe me, madam
Yours very sincerely
A. de Bourgh.
As soon as the letter was written, Anne had breakfast brought to her. Then she decided to try to get dressed. She found to her surprise that she had much more strength than she had expected. To all enquiries, she caused the reply to be given "she was better, and would be downstairs shortly."
About mid-morning she went downstairs, saw to the letter's being dispatched, and herself walked Minette. Then she went to the drawing room. There was a visitor there: Lady Louisa. And more than that; her cousin Elizabeth was there as well. She had made a rapid recovery, due, Dr Lawson said, to her youth, a good constitution, and happiness. Mrs Grainger's predictions had not been realized. The obliging young woman from Torgates had not been needed, either; and a very few days after her child's birth, Mrs Darcy had announced that she was bored with her bedroom and did not wish to stay there. Sitting on the sofa, with her baby in her arms, she looked more lovely than Anne had ever seen her.
A conference had been going on, and Anne herself was its subject. The unknown, disregarded cousin had become a loved and valued citizen of Pemberley; she who had been thought of as a burden was now an asset; and everyone was there, including Mr Bennet, to discuss her situation, and what they might do to help her. Lady Louisa had arrived with a scheme of her own, but heard it all out in her usual alert, kindly manner, saying nothing until everyone had spoken, and she had the full history of Lady Catherine's visit.
Mr Darcy had alluded, as he thought, very delicately to the subject of Lady Catherine's disagreement with Anne, but Lady Louisa had no time for delicacy.
"In love with somebody else, is she?" she said. "Well, I am not surprised, it always happens so with your lonely, cloistered girls, who cannot tell anybody about their feelings, and keep things to themselves. Give me a girl who cries, and writes love-letters, and keeps her sisters awake at night; she will grow out of it. Miss de Bourgh has been kept too close, she has had nobody to confide in; girls like her always fall in love with the first man who is kind to them, and then they never get over it. And her family can think themselves lucky if it's not a dancing-master, or a groom of the chambers, or some such thing."
There was a kind of sudden stillness in the room, and Lady Louisa saw that Georgiana's face was scarlet. "SoÖ there was something!" she thought. "I'll wager fifty sovereigns, she was in love with that handsome scamp, what was his name, Wigby or Wilson -- the steward's son. It seems to run in the family. Now what is to be done?"
It was at this point, fortunately, that Anne entered the room. There was a general expression of delight on seeing her, and in the middle of the exclamations, and enquiries as to her health, and finding her a comfortable chair, and Anne being allowed to take little Lewis in her arms and admire him, Georgiana's complexion had a chance to recover.
However, at this point, there was another interruption. Mr Lewis Bennet Fitzwilliam de Bourgh, having been disturbed, and picked up, and kissed, chose this moment to demand attentions from his mother, that only she could provide; and Elizabeth was obliged to leave them. "But," she said "you have matters well in hand, and you have my full approbation, for whatever you may decide, and any assistance that Lewis and I can give."
As soon as they were all settled, Lady Louisa brought up the reason why she had come to Pemberley; she was going to London in a few weeks, and wished to invite Georgiana to go with her, and have a season in town. She was of the opinion that Georgiana needed the society of more young people, "and not young men," she said, "so much as young girls; she needs to spend more time with young women of her own age. Look how happy she is, when she is with Miss Rackham. You need to laugh with other girls, Georgiana, to be foolish if you will; you need to be young."
"You are right," said Darcy. "She must leave us old married people to themselves."
"Well, I see no reason why Miss de Bourgh, if she is well enough by then, should not come too," Lady Louisa said. "It would be far better for you, my dear, than going back to Rosings; yes, yes, Minette would be welcome. If she comes to London," she pointed out, "Miss de Bourgh will certainly meet Lord Francis, for he is sure to be there for the season; but she will also meet other eligible gentlemen. After all, with thirty thousand pounds, why should the heiress of Rosings be limited to considering one elderly suitor, whom she does not like? She might do far better."
"But supposing Lady Catherine decides to go to London?" Mr Bennet asked.
"She will not do so," said Lady Louisa. "I have known her for five and thirty years, and she will never go anywhere that she is not first in importance. That is why she has been so happy at Rosings, where she rules; that is why she likes Burley, where she is outdone only by the Duchess, who treats her as an equal because she hopes for a rich wife for her brother. She will not go to London. But she may well let Miss de Bourgh go; believe me, she sincerely desires what is best for her daughter."
Anne could only listen, and thank her, and hope.
On this basis, a plan was concocted. Lady Louisa's ball was to take place within a few days; everyone should go, except Anne. Mrs Darcy, of course, was not able to go, and Mr Bennet, who did not like balls, would stay to bear them company. They should all insist to Lady Catherine that Anne was really unwell, and must stay for the time being at Pemberley. At the ball, or more probably the next day (for they must stay the night), they would mention the plan of Georgiana's going to London. Lady Catherine, it was felt, would certainly approve of Georgiana's having a London season, since it would materially increase her chances of getting an eligible husband. Georgiana would then beg as a favour that Anne should join her and Lady Louisa for the season, and Lady Louisa would put forward every argument in her power to persuade Lady Catherine of the eligibility of the plan.
"I am sorry," Mr Bennet said, "to be of so little use to Miss de Bourgh, that I can only assist her by not being present; but it is just as well. I have had letters from home, and I must leave you all pretty soon. My new granddaughter, little Miss Bingley, is to be christened next week, and they seem to think the child cannot become a Christian unless I am there to witness the proceedings."
There were exclamations of regret, but everyone must acknowledge that it was, indeed, time for him to rejoin his wife and daughters. In addition, he would be able to describe in person all the perfections of little Lewis, "but nobody shall make plans for their marriage," Darcy said. "Look what a bad thing it is, to decide these matters on behalf of two people, while they are still in the cradle."
"I have something to tell you, too," said Colonel Fitzwilliam. "and perhaps it might be as well not to mention this to Lady Catherine, as we do not want to make her angry. I have been recalled, I must return to my regiment in a very few days; and I find that I do not like the idea of being parted from Mrs Annesley. So I have asked her to marry me, and she has said yes. She has been a soldier's wife before and likes the idea of being one again. We plan to marry very quietly, a couple of days after the ball, and we will leave together immediately after the ceremony."
There was no-one who was not surprised on hearing the news; there was no-one who was not delighted. But as for marrying quietly! They were not to think of it, for everyone wished to be there, and as for leaving right after! No! no! there must be a breakfast. Mrs Annesley hastily explained that "quietly" of course meant "only their friends," and "immediately after" meant "after the breakfast." In response to a discreet question from Darcy, Colonel Fitzwilliam explained in an undertone that his godfather, who had recently died, had left him a sum of money quite sufficient, with care and good sense, to support the expense of a family.
Anne could only be happy for them, though when she was alone, it must be a subject for melancholy reflection, to contrast their happiness, and perfect suitability for each other, with her own situation. She grudged them nothing; she could only long for such felicity for herself, and fear that it was not to be.
Anne enjoyed dancing now, so much, that she was very sorry not to go to Lady Louisa's ball; but it could not be. Her head was still tender, and the very thought of an evening of noise, activity and music made her feel ill. In any case, her mother was hardly likely to believe her still unwell, if she were there. She saw the others on their way, and spent a quiet afternoon and evening with Elizabeth and her father. The dancing party would not return, until the next day.
She awaited their return with some confidence. Given their activities and her own letter, she thought her mother might be quite happy to renounce her company at Rosings, and see what London could do for her. What it could do, she was not quite certain; but at least, it would offer her more choices, more possibilities, than life at Rosings. In London, Lady Louisa said, there were groups of people who loved the world of letters; perhaps, among them, she would find a congenial marriage. At the very least, Lord Francis might very likely marry somebody else by the time the season was over.
But all these conjectures were wasted. When they returned the next day, Georgiana almost tumbled out of the carriage, in her haste to tell the news: "Lady Catherine was not at the ball! Neither was the Duchess, nor Lord Francis. No one can imagine what has happened. For the whole of the early part of the evening, they were expected, and with every carriage that was heard to draw up, the news flew round the room, and everyone said They have arrived!" But it was not so; they never came.
What had happened? Had some sickness laid them all low? Speculation had run high amongst those attending, Georgiana said, but nobody knew any thing, and at last everyone forgot about them, and fell to enjoying themselves. "My brother and the Colonel have ridden into Burley, to make enquiries; so we shall soon know more." But Darcy and the Colonel returned, and all that they had discovered, was that all three had gone; they had left Burley the previous day. No messages had been left; no letter was received at Pemberley; they seemed to have vanished into thin air.
Well! at least, her mother was not about to descend, as Anne had occasionally feared, and require her to jump into the carriage, and be carried away to Rosings. Presumably her mother had gone back thither. "Surely she has!" said Elizabeth, "for there certainly must be matters to attend to, farms to visit, tenants to be scolded, after an interval of so many weeks. Think of the number of people, who need new shelves in their closets!
Undoubtedly they would hear from her in due course, but for now the whole matter was forgotten, as the time rapidly approached for the marriage of Mrs. Annesley and Colonel Fitzwilliam. There was no making of bride-clothes, there were no lace veils or bevy of bridesmaids, no display of costly gifts. A special license having, by Darcy's activity, been obtained, they all went down to the church in the early morning, and the marriage took place at the conclusion of the morning service. How quiet the ceremony was! And how significant! For the first time, Anne found herself reflecting, that in this most important of ceremonies, only Christian names are used: John marries Mary; it matters not whether the groom be an Earl, or the bride, a princess; and again she must think "why could I not marry him; what does rank matter?" But in the everyday business of life, she knew, it did.
Mr Bennet left with the married couple, to share the first part of their journey, until their ways should divide.
Their society was now much restricted, and life at Pemberley became very quiet, but it was a busy, happy quiet. A new master was found, to give Anne her piano lessons; and her riding had improved so much, that Georgiana, and the groom, were the only companions she needed. The English summer followed its usual pattern, and a spell of bad weather set in, with rain and cold. It sent Anne to the library, to work steadily on her book. She read it aloud, every evening, and it was almost concluded. None of the Darcys saw any reason why she should not publish it, and various absurd pseudonyms were, at one time or another, suggested.
Then there was an Assembly at Lambton, at which Anne, wearing the bronze-green silk, danced almost every dance. Sir Matthew danced with her twice.
A few days later, his mother, together with her younger daughter, Miss Zara Brocklebank, visited Pemberley and, while the girls were strolling about the gardens, had a quiet discussion with Mr. Darcy, as to Anne's exact prospects. "She did it very well, and one can not blame them," Darcy said. "The family have no money, and he must marry well as to fortune. He is a pleasant fellow, and if you liked him, cousin, you could do much worse. Truly, we will not urge you. But I thought it right to drop you a hint, so that you may think it over, and know your own mind."
Anne thought about it. The date set for the departure of Edmund must have passed; although she had heard nothing, she must assume that he was gone. Even as a beloved guest at Pemberley, she was heartily tired of her single state, which reduced her to the status of a girl, though she was a woman grown. Marriage with Sir Matthew would in many ways be entirely suitable. He was very good-natured; he would be a good steward of Rosings, making few demands for money, as long as he had his horses and his hunting, which the estate could well provide. His rank, his good looks and his youth would make him acceptable to her mother; and he would not antagonize Lady Catherine with his opinions, for he had none. Alas, Anne could only recall the wedding service she had so recently attended, and "the mutual society, help and comfort the one should have of the other" would not go out of her mind. It would be a marriage with a man with whom she hardly shared a thought; she could not contemplate it.
Little Lewis continued to thrive, and it was now almost certain that the entire Bennet family, as well as the Bingleys, would come north for the child's christening, in a few weeks, as soon as Mrs. Bingley was considered well enough to travel. The question being urgently canvassed by the family was, what should be done about the Bennet sister known as "Lydia." Should she be invited? Would it be possible to invite her, and not include her husband? Anne felt she would quite like to meet the obviously fascinating Mr. Wickham. Surely his eloping with Lydia should be overlooked; they were, after all, married now? But there was something unsaid, some reason why he was not an acceptable visitor at Pemberley; and it was clear in any case that Lydia herself was not much liked. Elizabeth described her as noisy, silly and indiscreet, and said that Darcy disliked her almost as much as her husband.
One morning, while they were all having breakfast, Darcy was reading the newspaper. Suddenly he exclaimed "Good G..!" and carelessly setting down his cup, spilt coffee all over the table.
"Whatever is it, my love?" his wife asked.
"When gentlemen are reading the newspaper," she said to Anne, "expletives are to be expected, but usually it is only some promotion at the Admiralty or some squabble at a Ministry, or some such thing. When it comes to spilling coffee, it is rather more serious. What is it, my love?" but Darcy seemed almost unable to speak.
"She has married him! She has married him!" was all that he could say; and crushing the paper together, he said to his wife "It concerns Anne; I do not know how to tell her; we should speak together alone."
"Come, my dear," Elizabeth said. "Anne is not a child; she can hear it, whatever it is."
"Indeed I can," Anne said. "Come, cousin, who has married whom? I hope," she added, laughing, "that it is Lord Francis, then I should be rid of him."
"It is indeed Lord Francis," Darcy said, "but he has married..."
"He has married your mother."
There it was, in all the awful certainty of print, and all the clarity of black and white: On the --th, at Stilbury Castle, in a private ceremony, the Lady Catherine, relict of Sir Lewis de Bourgh, to Lord Francis Meaburn, second son of the Duke of H---
The news struck them speechless. The awesome Lady Catherine was a widow no more! Come to that, she was "Lady Catherine" no more; and indeed, for the first few startled moments, Anne wondered if she were still her mother.
This was the reason for her disappearance! This was the reason for her silence! Once they could speak, everyone had a question, everyone had a conjecture. Elizabeth wondered whose idea the match had been; it must, she thought, be the Duchess who had thought of it. Darcy wanted to know what kind of bargain Lord Francis had driven: "My aunt talked of money being tied up," he said, "but it is not so easy to tie up the income of a married woman, who is unlikely to have any children." Georgiana wondered how two such old people could get married.
"How old are they?" Elizabeth asked. "I do not think that there is so great a disparity," Darcy said. "I found out the other day, when we thought he might marry Anne, I looked him up in the Peerage, that Lord Francis is three-and-forty; and I believe my aunt is not yet fifty." "She is eight-and-forty," Anne said. "She is closer in age to him than I am, though of course she is older, not younger."
What could have driven them to such a match? "I think the reason is obvious," Darcy said. "On his side, money; he needs money very badly. On her side, rank; she has become the sister of a Duchess and, since Meaburn's father is still alive, the daughter of a Duke. She will stay at Stilbury, indeed, clearly, she is already there; she will visit at Deepcombe, the Meaburn estate."
"But how will she like it, associating with such great people?" Elizabeth asked. "She will not be able to scold and manage them, as she does her tenants at Rosings."
"Could she get a post at the court?" Georgiana asked.
"I imagine so," said her brother, "if she wished it, and would be happy to stand, wearing all her diamonds, in silence, for three hours together."
"Might she be a Duchess, one day?"
"No," said Darcy. "There are two older brothers, each with several children. A half-dozen people would have to die, before she became a Duchess."
Eliazbeth caught her breath on the observation that things often turned out the way Lady Catherine wanted them to, and only thought to herself that she would not wager a great deal of money, on the lives of the little Meaburns.
At that moment, the butler entered. "Excuse me, madam, sir; the post has arrived, and there is a packet of letters for Mr. Darcy, which must be paid for, and will be quite costly, but I do not know the sender. Should it be returned, or do you know a person named Lady Francis Meaburn?"
"No, I do not..." Darcy began. "Yes, of course I do. Yes, Forrest, yes! Pay; and bring it here as fast as you can. It is my aunt! That is her married name!"
The packet was brought, and was almost torn open, in the hurry of everyone to satisfy their curiosity. Clearly, it should have been delivered earlier, but the newspaper had arrived first. It might be some vagary of the post office, "but I wonder if they waited, in the hope of getting a frank," Darcy said. "I think that the Duke of Stilbury is seldom at home. They may have waited a day or so, and then sent it."
There were two letters, one for Darcy, and one for Anne, and two legal-looking documents, which turned out to be a copy of Lady Catherine's marriage lines, and a copy of Sir Lewis de Bourgh's Will. "That was what they were waiting for," said Darcy. "Colby must have had to hurry from Rosings to Stilbury with it."
The sum of the letters was that, "according to established usage" Lady Catherine's entire assets had been made over to her new husband, as it would all be needed to keep the newly married couple in their station in life. This meant that no provision would in future be made for Anne, "in view of her recalcitrance in the matter of a suitable marriage," beyond the income she was already receiving from the estate of Sir Lewis de Bourgh. Further, she should not expect the property known as Rosings Park, in Kent, to be bequeathed to her, for, as the Will clearly showed, it was the unentailed property of her mother.
"Established usage, indeed?" said Darcy, "to deprive a daughter of her entire dowry? Lord Francis has driven a hard bargain."
"More probably his sister," Elizabeth said.
"However," her mother's letter informed Anne, "in order to create a proper provision for you, the Duchess has a cousin, the Reverend and Honourable Septimus Whiley, who is willing to marry you. Upon your acceptance, a provision of ten thousand pounds will be made for you. He is currently the incumbent of Munge Parva, near Stilbury Castle, with a stipend of six hundred pounds a year. He should be a highly suitable husband for you, as his tastes are literary and his habits scholarly. He has been for the past ten years engaged on a learned commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, and will be glad to have an amanuensis to copy out his manuscript in a fair hand, and prepare an Index.
In addition, on the demise of Mr. Bennet, Mr. and Mrs. Collins will vacate the living of Hunsford, by previous arrangement with me, and remove to Longbourn. At that time I shall present the living to Mr. Whiley, and you will remove to Hunsford Parsonage, and live near, though not at Rosings."
"Oh, he sounds dreadful!" Georgiana cried. "Anne, you must not marry him! Brother, tell her she must not!"
But Darcy appeared to be in a brown study. "What?" he said, after a moment. "No, of course she must not, that is; no, nothing must be done."
"I will not!" Anne exclaimed. "No-one shall tell me whom to marry, ever again. I shall live by myself, and write books. Cousin, will you rent the little White Cottage to me, and I will live there?"
"Certainly not," said her cousin. "My dear (turning to his wife), "I must go out; I forgot, I have not put on riding clothes, I must change, for I have business."
"But it rains."
"Only a little, and it will clear up."
"Will you not go in the carriage?"
"No, it would not do. I must speak to you before I leave, come with me but one moment," and grasping his wife's hand, he almost dragged her out of the room.
Anne and Georgiana were left, to look at one another in stupefaction. "But, Anne," Georgiana almost whispered, "she is your mother." This was the thought that had been in Anne's mind, since she had heard the news, this was the realization that gave her pain; that a mother should forget, should ignore her feelings for a daughter, so far, as to marry, to take on new responsibilities, new duties, and even to have the name of de Bourgh subsumed into a new one, without any discussion, any warning, even!
But as she thought of it, it seemed very much in her mother's character: that decided, impulsive nature; that high opinion of her prestige and powers, that believed she could not be wrong: that indisposition, ever to consult, or to ask for advice: that love -- to put it vulgarly -- of having her own way. Anne could well believe that, once the idea was suggested to her, and she had seen its advantages to herself, nothing would prevent her, nothing would stand in her way; and she would be convinced, that her daughter, and her family, would view the matter exactly as she did: Anne had had her chance, she had refused it. No consideration of such a thing as waiting for a handsome wedding, or fear of what others would think, would come between her and her ambition. Indeed, she would probably feel that "if it were done, it were well done quickly," for clearly she could place no reliance on Lord Francis' affection, should someone else come along, with a better house, and a few more thousand pounds.
Elizabeth came back into the room, looking flustered. "We are to look after you," she said. "Georgiana and I are to keep you from feeling sad. Come, let us remove to my own room, so that Forrest can clear the breakfast things away, and we can take another look at these papers, perhaps there is some way that you can go to law, and get your fortune back. We will go out as soon as the rain stops; I feel I need a walk, to clear my head. Come, my dear; be assured, we will always look after you; whatever happens, Pemberley will be your home."
"I must go out," Anne said. "Forgive me, I must walk now, I must think, I will walk Minette."
"But your piano lesson," Georgiana said. "Mr. Lempriere will be here in half an hour, we cannot put the poor man off."
"I will come back; no, do not put him off, but I need this half hour: I pray you, forgive me; no, do not come with me, you are very good, but I must go alone," and waiting only for a warm pelisse, for the weather was chilly, she hastened from the house, and made, as always when her mind needed repose, for the stream.
She went there in sorrow, in distress. Yet walking there, following the sweet curves of the landscape, as Anne reflected, something like a curtain seemed to fall away, and she saw a new prospect. She was free! She was rich no longer; Rosings was not to be hers. Walls and pediments fell away, expensive chimney pieces crashed in ruin, formal gardens dissolved, as though she saw them collapsing before her eyes. As for rank, what was it? Rank was nothing without money! "I will not do for poor Sir Matthew, now," she thought. She had disinherited herself; for she could not for a moment doubt that her letter had helped to influence her mother to such an unexpected decision. She had set herself free!
Running back into the house, she saw Elizabeth. "I will not need Pemberley as a home. I am so happy! Oh, Elizabeth! Do you but persuade my cousin to rent me the little White Cottage, and I will live there and write books!" and she ran off, laughing, to meet her teacher.
All morning, they could do nothing with her. She would have her piano lesson; she played very loud, and the music rang out through Pemberley like a paeon of triumph, however many wrong notes she played, and there were a good number.
She would not budge from her position. She loved them all, but she wanted to live alone, and make money by writing. Elizabeth tried hard to reason with her. It was all very well to talk of living alone, she said, but Anne had spent all her life in a great house; she had no idea of the business of housekeeping in a small one. She did not know what any thing cost; she did not know the price of sugar, or of beef. "I can learn," said Anne. Three hundred and eighty pounds a year was very little, and would she not need a person to cook for her, and someone to do the washing, and someone to clean the little house? She could not do those things for herself. "Yes," said Anne, "But I should not need a carriage, or a butler, or a footman in livery; think how cheap I could live! And I ought to be able to earn a little money by writing, some people earn a great deal."
"You do not know that."
"Only think, dearest Elizabeth, every guest outstays their welcome in the end, everyone becomes tiresome after a while. You do not want me living at Pemberley for the rest of your lives. I am sure my cousin will still allow me the use of his library, and that is all I should ask ñ that, and to be an aunt to Lewis."
"Lewis will be very fortunate to have such an aunt, but I do not see why you should not still go to London. Seven thousand pounds is a very reasonable dowry, you are very pretty, and pretty girls often marry with nothing, or next to nothing."
"Yes, look at your sister and yourself. But consider, Elizabeth, what a huge sum it would cost me, to equip myself with gowns, and pelisses, hats, gloves, and stockings, and dancing shoes, all the things that girls' families fit them out with, when they go to London! for my mother would give me nothing, now. I must use up a year's income, nay, a great deal more. My cousin has taught me well; I understand what income is, and interest, and capital, and I know that one should never make inroads into one's capital. If it were all for nothing, if I did not find someone I liked for a husband, I should have so much the less to live on. I do not know," she said musingly "whether I could sell my jewellery, or whether it belongs to my mother. I think the pearls must be mine, for my father gave them to me, when I was quite small, but for the rest, truly I do not know. The lawyers might well write, and tell me to give them back."
"But why could she not do it? Why can she not live alone?" Georgiana asked, while Anne was out of hearing. "I would not stop loving her, whatever home I had, she would be welcome there."
"I know she would," Elizabeth said, "and she would be welcome here, because we know her; but it would not be well for her, to flout society's usages in such a way. She would have no other friends, no society; people would not receive her. Our house would always be open to her, but people would not wish to meet her here. You know eccentrics are only acceptable, if they are exceedingly rich. Think of Lady Louisa; what would she say?"
"She would not be pleased, she would say that poor Anne had run mad."
"Exactly. And Georgiana, it is one thing for a woman to write fiction, for pleasure, and have her stories enjoyed by her immediate family and acquaintance. But if she be known to make money, real money, by it, she immediately loses some of the character of a gentlewoman, and declines into the number of those who must work for a living: governesses, and paid companions, and such. Yes, there are such people as Miss Burney, and Mrs Thrale, but they are a distinguished minority, and until Anne gained such eminence, she would be shunned and slighted."
"But," said Georgiana, "by making her mother disown her, Anne has achieved something she has always wanted, and that is independence; and I do not believe she will give it up."
"I know, but oh! Georgiana, I do not want to see her wither into an old maid. She should be married, she should have a husband and children to love. I cannot bear the thought of her living alone, with only her dog for company. Think of poor old Mrs Burniside, who talks to her cat, when we go to visit her, as though it were another human being."
"Oh, yes! she says "Tibby and I are feeling the cold very much," and "Miss Darcy is a kind young lady, is she not, Tibby? to enquire after us." And if you ask her a question, she says "What do you think, Tibby?" Oh! I should not mock her. But poor Mrs Burniside is a little eccentric; surely Anne would not become like that?"
"I hope not, indeed; no! I am sure that she would not. But loneliness is very bad for people; Anne already begins to regard Minette as a friend, almost human, rather than a pet, and if she were to be too much alone...." Georgiana was so much overcome by such a lamentable prospect, that she could not keep the tears from her eyes, and had to hide her face, so that Anne, coming into the room at that moment, should not see.
A little after noon, when Darcy came back, Anne was in the library, writing. The news was all over the country, he said, for everyone had seen the newspaper, and everyone wanted to know whether Miss de Bourgh would stay at Pemberley, or go to live with Dukes and Duchesses, and marry a Lord, at the very least.
His wife told him of Anne's ambition; could they rent her the cottage? Could she live in it, alone? "Certainly not, impossible," he said.
"Well, I do not know," Elizabeth said. "With any other young woman, I would say so. But it is a very unusual situation, and she is a very unusual girl."
"All will be well, you will see; only wait a few days." And he would say no more.
But once she was alone in the library, Anne had to give way to the question that was uppermost in her mind, all the time. What would Edmund think about it? Would his mother write and tell him? How long did it take for a letter to get to the West Indies? if indeed he were there, and she did not even know whether he had arrived.
If only she could get on her horse, and ride, ride straight up the hillside, to his home, and find out! But that was impossible. Could she, on some excuse, go into Burley, and perhaps visit his parents? Every kind of fantastic idea presented itself: she should make believe that she was ill, and must go to the warm bath; perhaps there was some shopping, that could only be done in Burley; the bookshop; maybe there was an Assembly ñ but no! he never went to Assemblies. Oh, but of course ñ he was not there! She was becoming foolish! Well, she would not wait until he came back; she would sell her pearls and get on a ship, and go to Barbados! But she did not know what he thought, or how he felt, it was all conjecture; one could not ask a man a question, on a conjecture: "I am free of my wealth; will you marry me, here or in Barbados?" the very thought made her blush. Indeed, no woman could ask a man any question; women must wait, in silence, to be sought out, to be asked.
In short, the confusion of her thoughts echoed the confusion of her feelings. All she could do, she decided, was to provide herself with a way of living, and wait: If Edmund never came back, if he did not want her, she would marry no-one.
In the end, she thought that to do nothing would be cowardly. She took the best alternative that had occurred to her, in an hour of hard thinking. She packed up the manuscript of her novel; it was not nearly finished, the end was merely sketched, but this was not the time to quibble. She addressed it to Mrs Caldwell, and wrote a letter:
She had already been planning, she said, to publish her work, but her situation had changed, as they would probably have realized on seeing the notice of her mother's re-marriage. Her circumstances were much reduced, she was planning to live independently, and she wanted to know whether some money could be made from publication of her writing. Would Mr and Mrs Caldwell "and any other interested person" oblige her by reading the manuscript, and giving their opinion, as to whether it would appeal to the reading public; and if so, whether there were any changes that ought to be made?
It was the best she could think of, it must do; and after all it was perfectly true, she did need to find out, whether anyone would pay money for her book, for her cousin Darcy had warned her, when she mentioned Mrs Endicott's letter to him, that sometimes publishers paid very little, or wanted the author to pay the costs of printing.
Mrs Caldwell would certainly write to her son, some time or other: Edmund would know of her situation. She would not feel comfortable until Edmund knew. Why? What did it matter to her? She did not know. Whether he would do anything, what he might do, or how long it would take him, she could not imagine. All that mattered was that she had done all that she could.
The package was made up, she took it to the butler, and arranged for it to be sent. It struck her that, in the future, in the little cottage, there would be no Forrest, and no servant to take things to the post for her. Well! She had done it, when she was first in Burley with her mother; she had got to the post office, and then she was ill and alone. She could do it again; and she would.
"Come, Minette!" and she was off again, along the end of the terrace, past the formal grounds, and toward the stream. Edmund had been right about Minette: in the past few weeks since she had owned the dog, Anne had become a very good walker. She was healthier, and stronger, and now she seemed impelled by some new energy. The little dog, released from its leash, ran ahead of her. The path climbed, she went up, past pools and waterfalls, past rowan trees and limestone rocks, up and further up; she had never climbed so high! The ground grew steep, she had reached a dark, cavernous place, where the stream fell off a high rock, almost a cliff. Moss and delicate ferns grew there, the ground was always damp; the path went no higher; she turned back, and saw the whole of the valley spread out before her in a blaze of sunshine.
As she began to make her way down, stepping carefully on the wet ground, she saw that someone was coming up the path toward her. It was a man, she thought - yes! it was certainly a man. Visitors never came so far; it might be one of the gardeners; but she could see a gentleman's hat, and a brown coat; it must be her cousin, or a visitor. She came further down; the unknown man came up; a turn of the path revealed him to her. It was Edmund Caldwell.
When people as much in love as these two, meet in such scenery and such circumstances, they cannot be long in reaching an understanding. Before a quarter of an hour had passed, Edmund had asked Anne to marry him, and she had said "yes."
It was exactly as she had thought: he had fallen as deeply in love with her as she with him, and, they were delighted to discover, at precisely the same moment; when they smiled together, over the little blue dish.
"But I did not know it," she said.
"Neither did I. I thought it only friendship, and admiration, until I found you in distress over the money from your father's will. Then I knew. But what could I do, other than what I did? I could not allow myself to see you again, until today."
And why had he decided to leave for Barbados? Again, it was as Anne had suspected. Even before the Duchess and her brother visited Pemberley, they had been discussing the possibility of a marriage with Lady Catherine's unknown daughter. Lord Francis' voice was extremely loud, and the Duchess' hardly less so. Naturally, in their hired lodgings, every thing they said was overheard. They were interested, yet puzzled; Lady Catherine seemed to be half eager for the match, and yet in no hurry; there seemed to be some hesitation. They thought Anne might be ugly, or deformed, or stupid. As soon as they had been to Pemberley, and had seen her, and knew that she was a pretty, lively young woman, his only question was, how much money he might obtain with her.
The Duchess urged her brother to press on, and marry Anne, for she was bound to have thirty thousand pounds, let alone what she would eventually inherit. He objected that his debts were so large, and his way of life so expensive, thirty thousand pounds would hardly be enough, and the mother would give her no more, and might live for ever. But she persisted, and got him to agree. Every servant in the place knew about it; and soon the whole of Burley knew that Lord Francis was to marry the young lady who was staying at Pemberley. Then Edmund had met them in the street: "I know, we were arm in arm, and laughing," said Anne. "I was never so mortified in the whole of my life; and you cannot imagine how stupid his conversation was."
"That settled it for me," said Edmund. "Gossip I could ignore, at least, I could try, I could remind myself that it was only rumour; but this seemed like proof, irrefutable proof. All I wanted was to be gone, to be out of England before your marriage took place. But somehow I delayed, and waited, for what, I did not know. Twice I told myself that I could not leave; I turned back because there was some question at work, something only I could deal with. Then I was advised not to go, for the ship would run directly into the hurricane season. This week, I was really going. Tomorrow was the date set for me to leave; and the end of the week for the ship to depart."
"But how did you come here? Did you know about all this? Or did you come to say farewell?" was Anne's next question. The answer astonished her. It was her cousin Darcy who, on leaving Pemberley that morning, had ridden directly to his friend's home, and told him of Lady Catherine's marriage, and Anne's changed circumstances. Darcy knew that Edmund's journey had been twice delayed, but understood that now he was really on the point of leaving; that his passage was taken, that by the following day, or the day after, he would be gone.
Her cousin had made it clear that, for his part, he considered Anne released from every obligation to a parent who had rejected, abandoned and insulted her. For him, the offer of the Rev. Mr Whiley was the final straw, an insult to a woman of Anne's rank, abilities and talents. He knew that his friend was a far better match for her. He felt that there was now no bar to their marriage, if Edmund still wished it. He was to feel under no obligation, however; Anne would always have a home at Pemberley; he and his wife regarded her as a beloved sister. Hearing that his departure was not imminent, he had urged him to take the rest of the day, and consider.
"Then he left. I had hardly taken it in, except that they had offered you some ancient clergyman to marry, and you were to copy out his manuscripts, and that you had said no. I should think so indeed! But as soon as he had gone, I found that I did not need a day to think it over, or even an hour. You were no longer the wealthy heiress of Rosings; you were the woman I love, you had been hurt, you were in trouble. There was nothing to think about." (At this point the relation of the story was somewhat interrupted, as Anne responded to this wonderful declaration). He resumed: He had called for his horse, and arrived barely a half hour behind Darcy. "Then," he said, "when I arrived at the house, I found your cousin and Mrs Darcy in a terrible state, for, they told me, Anne would talk of nothing but living on her own in a cottage, and writing books. And I told them that that was nonsense, for you are going to live with me, and write books."
"Oh!" thought Anne, "I must rescue my package, from Forrest," and she wondered whether she could tell him of her desperate, foolish stratagem, but just at that moment Edmund began saying such very affectionate things to her, that she could not do any thing, except smile up at him, with tears in her eyes, and assure him that she felt just the same!
Some people might have been surprised at the length of time it took for the two of them to return from what had been, really, a quite short walk; but Elizabeth and Darcy were not of their number. They had too recently been in a similar situation themselves. "You are going to be as happy as we are." Elizabeth said. "I did not think it possible, but I believe you will manage it."
But, as she later told her husband, even she had not such reasons for delight, as Anne had, in the contrast between her earlier life, and the life that lay ahead of her. "If my mother was sometimes peevish, and my father occasionally morose, I had all the cheerful society of my sisters, especially dear Jane," she said.
"And the reassurance of your mirror, to tell you how beautiful you were," said her husband, fondly. "Poor Anne spent so many years as a sickly, plain, lonely girl, that she deserves every day, every hour of the happiness that will be hers."
"And how good it is to think," Elizabeth said, "that we shall not lose her, for she will be only five miles away."
The rest of the day was not enough, for the expression of everybody's satisfaction, and happy as Anne was, in the delight of her relatives, it required several walks in the gardens, alone with Edmund, to establish her composure of mind, and assure her that she really was, not only going to be married to the man she loved, but totally and completely loved by him.
"And are you really happy, that I should write, and write novels?" Anne asked. "Yes indeed," he said, firmly. "To my mind, it is a wicked thing for any person who has talent or ability, not to be allowed to develop it. I shall insist on your continuing, I shall read all your drafts, and I shall insist that household cares never prevent you from having all the time you need."
That evening, she thought, was the happiest of her life, and she would al ways remember it. In retrospect she could not, in fact, remember anything very clearly. Seated beside Edmund, Minette by her side, surrounded as she was by the dear cousins who rejoiced with her, it seemed to pass in a daze, a glow of joy. The only dissatisfaction Anne felt, as she went to dress for dinner, was that she had really spent so very little time alone with Edmund!
The next day brought her another source of joy, in the arrival of the Caldwells, who were invited to spend several days with them, and whose delight could barely be expressed. Mrs Caldwell, in the course of a long conversation with Anne, admitted that she had known about the matter for some time. Her son had not intended to burden either of his parents with the knowledge of his situation, but knowing him as she did, it was impossible for her not to be aware of his unhappiness, and to guess at its cause, and on her applying to him to tell her the truth, he had done so. She had mourned, thinking there was nothing to be done "and now, my dear, I could not be happier, and neither could my husband, for you are exactly the daughter we would have wished for." Her only cause for concern was, that, as she said, they must wait a few months to be married "for, dearest Anne, you cannot imagine what kind of a state the house is in, for gentlemen, as I am sure you know, have no idea when anything is dirty, or shabby. But we will see all put to rights."
"And I think," said Elizabeth, privately, to her husband, "that very few young women have gained a husband, by losing a fortune, but that is exactly what Anne has done. Who ever heard of such a thing?"
"You are right," her husband said "But I only fear, that she may have done it very thoroughly."
"Why, what do you mean?"
"I scarcely know; but I am not certain, how secure her inheritance is. I shall not be comfortable, until we have heard from Lady Catherine. Think how angry she will be."
Mr Darcy's fears proved correct. They soon learned, from a second lawyer's letter, that Sir Lewis de Bourgh had left the five thousand pounds, which his daughter was enjoying, in trust "until such time as she should marry," at which time, of course, he had assumed that a proper provision would be made for her. It has been said that what always happens, after legal provisions have been made, is the unexpected; no-one could have envisaged that Anne would marry without her mother's consent or approval. Such, however, was the case: her mother was very angry, and with the entire estate at her discretion, was not prepared to allow Anne anything at all.
Suits and counter-suits were discussed at considerable length, for clearly it had been Sir Lewis' intention that she should have, not less money, but more, on her marriage. However, it was finally the opinion of Mr Darcy's lawyer that unless both sides were feeling charitable, and wanted to provide a good living, for some years, for several lawyers and their wives and children, no-one should go to law, for nothing else would be gained by it.
Anne and Edmund were distressed, but willing to risk everything, and marry; indeed, Edmund would not hear of breaking the engagement, or even putting off the wedding: they were sure they could manage! Darcy and Elizabeth were more worried than they; Edmund's house, as well as being historic and beautiful, needed a good deal of money spent: Elizabeth was concerned for the furnishing, and Darcy for the roof, "And Anne has had no experience of running a house," she said.
"But you knew very little," her husband said. "Do you not recall your mother saying that only Miss Lucas knew how to cook, that you and your sisters had nothing to do with housekeeping?"
"That is true; but even so, I know more than Anne, for she has always lived either at Rosings, or here, great houses with butlers and housekeepers; as far as she knows, dinner comes to the table, and washing gets done by itself. She must have a capable housekeeper, at least, or she will have a terrible struggle, and it is all very well to say that she can earn some money by writing, but how is she to find the time to write? Especially if they have some children, as I hope she will, but where there are little children to care for, and very little money, a woman has no spare time at all; she is fortunate if she gets a few hours' sleep at night."
Strangely, it was Lord Francis who saved the situation. He was not a clever man, nor a particularly generous man, but he was not unkind, he knew the world, and he had received a quiet visit from Lady Louisa Benton. He told his bride that it was a d... d shame if they were to pauperize the poor girl, only because they didn't like her choice of a husband. "And don't think it won't be talked of," he added. "People always know; everything gets known. Girl marries a quarryman, they talk about her. You cut her off without a shilling, they talk about us. Sort of thing that gets in the papers. Don't want that. D... it, ma'am, I won't have it. Let the girl have ten thousand. I'll see Colby about it tomorrow. " Lady Catherine, on both occasions of her marriage, had thought nothing, standing beside her bridegroom, of promising to "honour and obey" with no intention of doing any such thing. Now, for the first time in her life, she actually found herself in a position of being obliged to do something, whether she wanted to, or no.
The marriage did not take place quite as rapidly as Lady Catherine's. In fact, it coincided with the christening of Lewis Darcy, and was witnessed by a happy group of Bennets and Bingleys.
Anne's impression, that she might like Mary Bennet, was well-founded. Mary, who had never received much affection from either her two silly sisters or her two clever ones, found a friend in Anne. By suggesting books that she herself liked, exchanging letters, and receiving Mary for the occasional visit, Anne was able to direct her mind, and actually persuaded her, rather than collecting extracts, to try a little writing. Mary wrote some pretty verses, and became more self-confident, and much happier. Her looks improved with the improvement in her spirits, with the result that she and her mother actually began to enjoy each other's company. They lived together with much more of mutual cheerfulness, and Mary, having got a few of her verses published in the kind of periodicals that ladies read, became something of a star in Meryton society, and received the admiration she had always craved.
The little white cottage became the home of Georgiana's old nurse, Mrs Grainger. Anne went to live at the house on the hillside, and the room with the wide-sweeping views was the beloved haven where she wrote her books.
The quarry prospered, and in a very short time Edmund had a quite sufficient income to support a wife. Although she never made a large amount of money, the series of historic novels by "A. Caldwell" (publisher: John Endicott) enjoyed a good success with the more discerning members of the reading public.
Darcy and Elizabeth continued as happy as they had always been. Lewis Bennet Fitzwilliam Darcy grew up a beautiful, clever and sweet-natured child, and had several brothers and sisters, all as delightful as he. Their favourite excursion was to ride their ponies up the track to see Cousin Anne, who read them the most wonderful stories, and spoiled them, their father said, quite dreadfully. The road to Pemberley was never made up for carriages, but that deterred none of them from making the journey very frequently, for Anne regarded Darcy and Elizabeth as a brother and sister, and Pemberley as her second home.
Georgiana had one season in London, enjoyed it very much, came home and married Mr Rackham; thus becoming happily settled within two miles of Pemberley; and when Minette had a litter, Anne gave her a puppy.
Mrs Annesley, now Mrs Fitzwilliam, was, as her husband had suspected, a perfect soldier's wife. She went with him to every place that he was sent to, could make a home anywhere, in any circumstances, was never dismayed by bad weather, supply problems, or the sound of cannon fire, and was beloved by everyone in the regiment.
As to the happiness of Lady Catherine and her husband, it may be assumed that she reaped the reward of her marriage, in the opportunity it gave her to associate with those of the very highest rank. The advantage Lord Francis acquired may be inferred from the fact that, soon after they were married, he spent forty thousand pounds of her money, to purchase the command of a regiment of cavalry.
LADY FRANCIS MEABURN (FORMERLY LADY CATHERINE DE BOURGH) TO MR FITZWILLIAM DARCY
Rosings Park, Kent
My dear Nephew
I was extremely pleased to receive your letter, for it has been quite a period since we corresponded. However, I cannot accede to your request to forgive my daughter, come to Pemberley, and be reconciled, merely because she has given birth to her second child. Nor can I do so for the other reason you mention, to celebrate the publication of her new book, since I cannot regard this as a fortunate circumstance, much less a cause for congratulation.
Nothing on earth will ever induce me to countenance her marriage to that stonemason, and I absolutely refuse to meet him. You tell me he is becoming very rich, and is to be the Mayor of the town, and in a fair way to being knighted, some day. What good is a knighthood, pray? it will not pass on to his children. Families like ours do not admit people to our circle of acquaintances merely because they are respected and successful. Anne betrayed her family by her actions, and she does not deserve to be received or acknowledged. If you choose to do so, I cannot prevent you, but I shall always look upon it as the lamentable result of your own marriage to a woman with no rank and no money.
As for Anne's writing, I suppose I must be thankful that she publishes under her married name, and has not disgraced the ancient and honoured name of de Bourgh. I have not read any of her books, and do not intend to. If she had published a book of elegant extracts it would have been perfectly acceptable; or she might have written pleasant little verses, like the Duchess' sister, Lady Grace, does. But ladies of quality should not write works of fiction, to amuse the idle and the unlearned. Novels ought to be forbidden, for they are only read by women who spend their time uselessly and neglect their duties. I never read, except for the newspaper; I have better things to do, unless for any reason I am not able to go to church, when I read from a collection of sermons by the late Reverend Dr William Grisby, a friend of my late father's. When I have come to the end of the volume, I begin again at the beginning. This has been my practice for thirty years, and I see no reason to change it.
I am presently at Rosings, as you see; and the poor dear Duchess is with me. The Duke's behaviour is becoming very strange, and she is afraid to be alone with him. I am not betraying a confidence in revealing this to you: everyone knows about it since the incident in Piccadilly, but he cannot be shut up, not yet, anyway. I can manage him, but I cannot go with her to Stilbury, for if I am away from Rosings, things become wretchedly lax, and the rents do not come in as they should. A position such as ours cannot be maintained, as you well know, without a great deal of money. The house here begins to cost us far more than it is worth, and I do not know how long we shall maintain it; for as Lord Francis says, what good does it do for one's standing in the world, to be shut away in the country? We would be better off to sell it, and I could live at Stilbury, with the Duke and Duchess.
I dare say you saw the announcement in the newspaper, of Lord Francis' appointment to the command of the ñ th cavalry regiment. It is the finest regiment in the Army, and the appointment cost forty thousand pounds. It is a great deal of money, but no other regiment, and no other command, would do for a person of such lofty rank and distinguished family.
Since he was gazetted, Lord Francis has been continuously in London, working very hard in the service of his country. I expect you have seen those disgraceful articles in the newspapers, casting aspersions on his way of life. The wretched people who write these things should be arrested and punished, but it seems they cannot be stopped. Everyone knows that it was purely by chance that Lord Francis did not enter the Army until after the war was ended; he was engaged in negotiations over the purchase, with a very highly placed Personage indeed. Of course he has to spend a great deal of time in London, for the War Office is there. He is not a spendthrift, as they say; military life is very expensive; you should see the bills I have had, for hundreds of pounds, and a note with them saying that they are for his uniforms.
He has spent a great deal on uniforms for the men, too, for he likes his troops to look smart, which is very unselfish of him, for if they have to go and get killed, the uniforms will not be returned, and we shall be out of pocket.
It is certainly not true that he drinks three bottles of champagne in an evening; he never drinks more than two, and he quite often visits the troops, or at least the officers, though of course if there is a war, he will not risk his life in the line of battle; why should he? The soldiers do that sort of thing; he will stand on a hill, with a telescope, and direct things. After all, they have not paid for their employment; and if he were killed, forty thousand pounds would be lost.
Things go on much as usual at Rosings. The wretched Collinses are still here. I have his promise, that when he inherits Longbourn, he will resign the living and go to live there; but there seems to be no prospect of Mr Bennet ever dying, and now they have five children. I have even offered them the living of Hillsden Wyngates, which is in my gift, and brings in fifty pounds more a year. It is more than ten miles away, which would suit me, but Mrs Collins says they do not want to move, only because the fruit trees that Mr Collins has planted are beginning to bear! It does not distress her at all that I want them to go. You would think that, after all that happened, he would want to leave. But people of that class are extremely insensitive.
Believe me, nephew, I am not dead to all family feeling, and there is nothing I would like better than to come to Pemberley again. If ever you come to your senses, regain the consciousness of your rank, and give Anne's acquaintance up, I shall be delighted to visit you. Until then, I remain, believe me
Your affectionate aunt
C. de Bourgh Meaburn.
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