Lady Matlock Musings
Mr Collins was beside himself with excitement as he rushed into the house shouting, "Charlotte my dear, Lady DeBourg has commanded me to accompany her to London to visit The Earl and Countess Matlock, she is sure that after a chat with me about cousin Elizabeth they will see that the marriage between her and Mr. Darcy is most unsuitable and will not make her welcome into the family as they say that they intend to do at this time. Make haste, make haste, we must be packed and ready to leave early in the morning as Lady DeBourg is most anxious to have this business done with, she will be here for us with the carriage at 7:00 o'clock.
"I have no intention of going to town to discourage Elizabeth's acceptance into the Fitzwilliam family." replied Charlotte.
"But you must do as her Ladyship commands, you must be reasonable" whined her husband.
"I am being most reasonable, if you wish to go you are welcome to, but don't expect me to accompany you," she replied in that voice that let him know that argument was useless. He would have to find a reasonable excuse to give Lady Catherine for her refusal to accompany them but the fact that she was with child would be enough to satisfy her Ladyship he was sure.
Lady Matlock had no intentions of having a private talk with Catherine's lackey clergyman as she told her husband and he agreed wholeheartedly. Instead she asked a large party of friends to the house at the time she had set up her appointment with her dreaded sister-in-law. Their son Edward had given them a thorough description of Mr. Collins and they were both anxious to see if he was as bad as Col. Fitzwilliam had said, they had laughed uproariously at his tales of Mr. Collins.
At her first sight of the gentleman in question Lady Matlock declare that he was even worse than she had thought, with his oily smirk and sweaty brow he immediately trailed her saying in a whining voice that grated greatly on her nerves, "Your Ladyship, Lady Catherine has commissioned me to warn you of the unsuitability of Miss Elizabeth Bennet as a wife for your esteemed nephew and ask for your assurances that you will not make her welcome into you home and your circle of friends as you seem to be planning to do at the present time."
"Mr Collins this is neither the time nor the place for your warnings, how much does the fact that she refused your offer of marriage have to do with your feelings about her marriage to Darcy."
"But your Ladyship, Lady Catherine has commanded me to"
"Mr Collins as I have told you, not now." replied Lady Rebecca sternly,"
Mr. Collins wiped his brow with his large handkerchief and agreed to drop the subject until later he thought to himself.
With an obeisant bow as he back away from Lady Matlock he failed to notice that the door behind him was opening, until it hit him in the behind catapulting him forward into the lap of the rather large Lady Smith-Ashton his face pushed into her ample bosom, the lady in question leapt from her chair with a shriek tossing the hapless clergyman into the footman who was crossing the room with a fresh bowl of punch sending the bowl and it's contents flying over Mr. Collins and the closest guests including both of the Bingley sisters, who happened to be in the most direct range of fire, and the bowl into the lap of the sleeping Mr. Hurst, who awakened with a "What, what."
As he stood there dripping punch and trying to pull the fruit and leaves from the contents of the bowl out of his hair he heard the roar of his noble patroness's voice. "MR COLLINS"
Lady Matlock swore he leapt a foot in the air and spun around to face the lady while he was airborne.
Coming down the poor man landed on a piece of fruit on the floor which sent him skating past his employer with flailing arms, one of which caught Lady Catherine on the side of the head turning her wig askew so that only one beady eye glared out at him. He finally came to rest on his bottom in front of the door just as the butler announced, "Miss Jane Bennet and Mr. Charles Bingley, then to add to his mortification Miss Elizabeth Bennet, Miss Georgiana Darcy and Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy"
They stood there staring at the sight that greeted them before the roar of Lady Catherine's voice was heard.
"Miss Elizabeth Bennet, you have invited that woman to this house when you knew that I did not wish to see her ever again, this is unsupportable, come Mr. Collins we must leave at once I will not stay in the same room with these people another moment." and so saying she stormed out dragging her clergyman with her, followed by the Bingley sister who protested that they must go home to change out of their ruined frocks.
"I can see evidence of our cousins presence," said Elizabeth dryly as she surveyed the mess before them and watched the departing guest drip away.
Lady Rebecca and Lady Sophia who had been standing aside supporting each other while they nearly collapsed with laughter stepped forward to welcome the five who had just enter and proceeded to tell them with much laughter from themselves and the rest of the guests about Catherine's folly as her Ladyship expressed it. All the guests retired to the music room so that the servants could clean up the mess but everyone agreed that it so far had been a jolly evening indeed.
"I had no idea that Catherine wore a wig'" exclaimed Lady Sophia
"Oh yes she has a much hair as a newborn chick'" laughed Lady Rebecca.
The guests assured Lady Matlock that that this was the most delightful party in some time and the entertainment was most enjoyable, as Lady Sophia remarked.
It seemed that almost all had enjoyed Lady Catherine's disaster of a clergyman, but most just enjoyed a laugh at her expense, there was not a person in the room that she had not offended at one time or another.
The Bingley sisters however, on their return, though Lady Matlock regretted the fact that they had come back at all were sympathetic with Lady Catherine for have to endure such a man' and were as always critical of the Bennet girls. Caroline was especially catty in her remarks with Louisa concurring with her at all times.
She never gives up, I believe she still thinks that Darcy will wake up some morning to find that it is her he loves and will abandon Elizabeth to marry her so that she can be mistress of Pemberley, thought Lady Rebecca.
As she watched her nephew and his betrothed she felt a warmth each time they looked at one another, which was most of the evening. How could anyone not know that they loved each other dearly and were meant to be together, but she was certain that Caroline was blind to the looks and saw only what she wished to see.
As she watched them Lady Rebecca hit on a plan and asked the betrothed couples to stay for a few minutes after the rest had departed, what a delightful plan she had come up with, and her husband approved wholeheartedly.
As they sat down in front to the fireplace to chat she explained to Elizabeth and Jane.
"Could you please come to stay with us here at least until Catherine and her lackey depart, that way we could become better acquainted and I could keep Catherine at bay, she asked with a laugh, I am sure your Aunt and Uncle would approve and I could see more of her too, I do so enjoy her company more too"
Lady Matlock and their aunt had become fast friends and she understood fully Sophia's fondness for her all these years that they had spent working together on different charities, her only regret was that she hadn't met Ellen Gardiner years before.
The two sisters agreed that with the consent of their Aunt and Uncle they would come and departed to return early the next morning with their bags.
They had no more than settled themselves in when they were summoned to the morning room.
As they entered the room they were greeted by the sight of their disaster prone cousin and Lady Catherine DeBourg, who turned white, then red, then purple with rage at finding them there.
Poor Mr. Collins jumped high at the sound of her roar, spilling his coffee over the both of them and sending the plate of muffins he was holding flying. Lady Matlock had been sitting watching in amazement as he slurped and grunted his way through what he had already eaten and drunk wondering how Catherine, the model of decorum all times, and the watchdog of the manners of all she knew, could put up with this, he sounded like a pig at a trough, she thought.
"What are they doing here," shouted Lady Catherine.
"Why they are my guests while they are here in town," replied Lady Rebecca in an innocent voice, it gives me the chance to know them better and I am so enjoying their company."
Lady DeBourg rose to her full height and declaring that she would never enter this house again swept away with the hapless Mr. Collins following, bowing all the way until she smacked him with her fan say "Never mind that we must be back to Rosings, I can see that we are not welcome here in this polluted house.
"I do hope our presence has not made for a permanent breech said Jane quietly, I would hate to be the cause of a family breakdown," as they watched with amazement the departure.
"Don't worry my dear she will be back in a year or two when she thinks that we need her advise on something," sighed Lady Matlock
I am only grateful that we should be spared her visits for some time and we have you to thank for this respite, it has been perhaps cruel of me to use you for my own ends, but I was desperate, she said as she hugged the two of them before the butler announced Miss Bingley wished to speak to her and would she see her.
Lady Rebecca agreed with a big smile and asked Roberts to show the lady in.
"My, we do have some early guests today, this one especially surprises me, she never rises before noon" said her ladyship with a laugh.
As Caroline swept into the room she stopped short at the sight of the Bennet sisters.
"Miss Bingley you are out calling most early this morning, would you join me and my guests in some tea or perhaps you would prefer coffee at this early hour," said Lady Rebecca with a sweet smile.
"Your guests, I thought that you told me you were staying with your aunt and uncle in Gracechurch Street," she squeaked.
"They were but I begged them to remove here that I might become better acquainted with them in a homey atmosphere, where we could all be at ease," replied her ladyship.
"Oh, how delightful, you must keep me posted of your movements dear Jane, but I cannot stay long I merely wanted to thank you for you hospitality last night," and with that she departed with fire in her eyes, Lady Matlock had welcomed them into her home, she must tell Louisa of this development at once and she was sure with what she had to tell her , her sister would forgive the early hour.
"What an insufferable woman, I am sorry to say such of your soon to be sister, Jane, but I cannot abide her or her sister and her drunken husband."
"Mrs Gardiner," announced the butler.
"Ahh, at last we are to have some pleasant company, yes, girls I asked your aunt to join us this morning, I do so enjoy her company and now we shall have a jolly time discussing your wedding plans."
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