For Love or Money
Never let it be said that a cry of anguish goes unheeded within the walls of the Regents Guards quarters. The doors of all the chambers will be thrown open, nearly in unison, to find what in the world is the matter. The officers came in powdering gown, full uniform or nightdress to find Colonel James Fitzwilliam's (Jim in the mess among his peers) man Gibb standing stark still, his face a grimace of horror as his master cried out as if in pain. "Oh no!" he repeated, "Not again, I will not go, I must not." A young ensign inquired, after the display some moments, "Sir, are you well?" Fitzwilliam grew quieter then turned to the very young man, "Well enough. I have had rather distressing news. I am sorry to have disturbed all of you. Leave me now, we will assemble in the mess in ten minutes' time."
As he closed the door he heard he heard the corps' ensigns giggle and whisper of news from a lady. As if they knew a thing about such matters. They, however, were not far from wrong. Fitzwilliam turned to Gibb, "Leave me, and take that, " he pointed to the unwelcome letter, "with you and burn it."
A call to Rosings Park, the home of his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh always sent his stomach to his feet despite his one and thirty years. He crossed to the door in time to catch Gibb before he descended the stairs. "Oh, give the thing to me, I must answer it in any case," His eyes passed over the elegant script until he found the offending passage.
Due to recent circumstances, it is no longer incumbent on me to invite Darcy to Rosings this Easter. I will, in any case expect you to keep your usual appointment. Anne looks forward...
Another dreary Easter with Lady Catherine and Anne de Bourgh. Fitzwilliam had hoped to share the holiday with his cousins the Darcys due to the recent circumstances and his support of them. At least Easter was late this year and Kent would be in good weather. As he turned to adjust his neckcloth a new thought occurred to him: in all likelihood lady Catherine considered him to be the new suitor for the hand of her daughter, the heiress of Rosings Park. He cried out again before mounting the stairs to give his men their orders. The poor men nearly died of sore feet and cleaning that day.
About a month later while he was ensconced in his brother, the Viscount of Mortimer's, carriage, his heart was lightened by the antics of his young nephews, Robert and Edward. The boys kept him amused with their lead soldiers and the new toy canon he had found in a shop near his Bond street lodgings. His brother, John slept heavily. He had brought the boys down alone from Northampton the day before, as his wife could not be spared from her duties with their new daughters. The carriage sank into a rut and the resulting jolt nearly threw young Teddy to the floor. It also awakened his father, "By the way," the viscount yawned, "She's invited young Arthur as well." and promptly returned to his nap. The viscount had the pallour and demeanour of a man with five children all under the age of six. Nothing save hellfire itself could keep him from his sleep and his fond dreams of the day when all of his children would be gone from home.
After four hours of muddy roads and jostling the party descended from the carriage a little crumpled but no worse for wear. Arthur, their younger brother, walked out to great them in full naval regalia. He was a young man of some four or five and twenty years with the quick step and sure movements of one who free of extraordinary vexation and in possession of good fortune and a light heart; as well as a nearly empty head. "Mortimer, James, it is good to see you. How are the new babies, I heard you have daughters this time, must be a pleasure for your lady wife."
"As if that made the slightest bit of difference. When I left the house they were screaming their heads off in the same ways the boys did at that age. Glad to be away, to tell the truth. La, I am beginning to loathe babies." Arthur laughed. "Chloe sends you her regards," the viscount continued.
"What are the darling girls called?"
"One of them is Penelope, the other something else. I suggested they be called the same thing but Chloe wouldn't hear of it. I can barely tell them apart in any case."
The little boys, annoyed with being ignored, began to hit their uncle about the knees. Arthur, pretending annoyance, swept them under his arms and carried them up the stair like baggage to the nursery where they'd be in no body's way.
Fitzwilliam made his way to the drawing room. Anne, as usual, was seated in the corner of the sofa being attended by Mrs. Jenkinson, while her mother sat in all of her regal splendour on her armchair. "Fitzwilliam," she cried out, "You have arrived at last, and you are behind your time."
"I apologise, Madame. Mortimer was forced to include his two eldest sons at the last moment when their nursemaid was taken ill. They delayed us. I bring good news, Lady Chloe was delivered of twin girls. She hadn't expected to be confined for another month at least."
"I suppose it could not be avoided but it is very vexing. I've had your rattle of a younger brother with me all morning. These naval officers are so very loud, must come from being caught in all those storms at sea. Come, Anne, greet your cousin."
Anne de Bourgh stood and curtsied, her eyes never leaving the rug, "You had a good journey, I hope, " she asked in her small, breathy voice.
"Quite well, and how have you been keeping?" Mrs. Jenkinson pressed her hand, "Very well. Mama has engaged a master to teach me to play the pianoforte now that the doctors say I am so much stronger." A fortnight of conversations like this, Fitzwilliam thought and I will be ready to ride a few storms myself.
At dinner Fitzwilliam found that his brothers had conspired to leave the whole evening's entertainment of Lady Catherine to him! As the first course was laid, he paid little attention to the conversation going on around him until he heard something completely foreign to his ears, Anne de Bourgh was laughing. Not a tittering giggle either but a laugh so hard she nearly rolled from her seat. Fitzwilliam looked up from his place to see Anne and Arthur with their heads together sharing a smile. He could not make out what was being said beyond the word, "platypus". Arthur was no longer the gangling youth he had been when their parents packed him off to the Naval Academy. The years at sea had served him well; he had grown into a personable young man.
The next morning after taking his breakfast with the boys, Fitzwilliam went to pay his respects at Hunsford Parsonage. To his great fortune he found that Mr. Collins was out calling on an elderly parishioner, leaving Charlotte Collins alone. He was struck by the change in Charlotte's face from the year before. No longer was it long and thin. There was a plumpness in her cheeks and the hair peeking out from beneath her cap, shone.
"Colonel, you find me at a disadvantage, my dear girl had me up before the birds."
"Your look no less for the strain, Mrs. Collins."
"Have you brought news of the Darcy and Eliza?"
"Only that they are well and send your their affections. They have also sent a small gift for your daughter." He took a small box from his pocket and sat it on the table, "Will you not open it?"
"Oh, I would have thought that a bachelor like yourself would not care for children's' gifts."
"I love toys and children, what is your daughter called, may I see her?"
Charlotte smiled when she saw his interest was genuine, "Of course, I'm always happy to display her to all and sundry. I am so glad we decided not to send her out to be nursed, I could not bear to have her away from me for a moment longer than absolutely necessary." As they climbed the stairs to the nursery, Charlotte hummed.
That evening the Collinses arrived to make up the table at loo. Anne, instead of taking her usual place beside Mrs. Jenkinson, hurried to join the Viscount and Arthur at their table, inviting Mrs. Collins to join them. Fitzwilliam was left to the company of a very dull table indeed: Lady Catherine, Mrs. Jenkinson and Mr. Collins were to be his partners. The year and the growth of his family was not paralleled by any growth in the clergyman's sense, and Mr. Collins spent the evening underbidding his hand as not to overbid Lady Catherine and losing tricks he had bid. Mrs. Jenkinson eyes were more often upon her charge than upon her cards, and therefore Lady Catherine won nearly every point simply by attending what was in her hand while the majority of her table's minds wandered elsewhere.
The colonel's eyes were drawn to the other table frequently. Arthur was still working the trick of creating gales of laughter from Anne de Bourgh's throat. Even Mortimer seemed awake for the first time that day. What struck him most, however was the light in Charlotte Collins' eye. When he had seen her a twelvemonth before, he'd found her a very pleasant, clever and steady sort of woman; now she seemed to laugh at the silliest of his younger brothers jokes like the silliest flirt a musical evening in Town could offer. He noticed a dimple on her cheek; he would have sworn had not been there the day before.
"Anne, Arthur, of what are you speaking in such loud tones? You are disrupting my table." "Sorry, Mama," the hapless girl replied a moment before collapsing into laughter again.
When the tables were finally withdrawn for the evening Lady Catherine and Mr. Collins retired to another room for sometime to discuss parish business. Anne and Arthur sat at the pianoforte where he picked out a rather bawdy tune very badly, while Mrs. Collins and Mortimer were deep in discussion.
"Do the two of you speak of children, Mortimer."
"Heavens no," he exclaimed his brother, "I never speak of our to children unless necessary when I am away from home. You will find it out, Mrs. Collins, when you have more of your own, the first is all joy but the fifth!" he laughed. "Mrs. Collins was amusing me with tales of Mrs. Darcy's girlhood. I never knew that people hereabouts expected you to make her an offer yourself. How sly and silent you have been."
"Considering how the matter turned out it would have been indiscreet of me to have mentioned it. I find Mrs. Darcy charming but I never thought of her for myself."
"Come now, James, I have seen the lady myself, she's the most charming creature."
"And she suits Darcy very well."
"I would believe the colonel, my lord. I believe he and I share a more practical view of marriage."
"You, as an elder son, will always be valued in marriage; you have your title with the promise of an even grander one someday, your house is a large one, though a cottage compared to your father's, your carriages and all for an accident of birth. While younger sons have their careers and mothers who flee in terror lest their daughters catch the fancy of one of them. So you see, the case is only a straw or two more tenable than that of a spinster with only a small dowry to recommend her."
"Do mothers flee you, James?" the Viscount asked, his face a mask of earnestness.
"Frequently dragging their daughters behind them." smiled the colonel.
"If I were you, I would have married long ago just to be saved the mortification."
"What would we live on, Mortimer? At least now I can scrape by in my bachelor quarter, a wife would soon reduce me to penury."
"Money is not the only thing in marriage."
"Thus speaks a man whose wife brought him, what was it Fitzwilliam, forty thousand or fifty thousand pounds, I can't recall what the newspapers said?"
"Fifty thousand and a small property near Shrewsbury."
"My point exactly. The rich never have to think of money, so they attract it all of the time; while the rest of us are lucky if we have sixpence left after settling the monthly accounts." They all laughed until Lady Catherine and Mr. Collins returned.
The next morning arrived to find the Parsonage all in uproar. Mr. Collins was due to meet with the newly installed bishop at Tunbridge Well at noon and was to stay away for a fortnight discussing matters ecclesiastical. Charlotte was caught up in a flurry of activity making ready for his departure and the arrival of her younger sister, Susan who was to provide Charlotte with company and assistance. Also to keep the strain from the Lucas purse-strings. With two middle brothers at Oxford, as well as the two eldest sons to set up in trade, the relief was welcome both to Susan and her parents. The Colonel arrived just as Mr. Collins was delaying his departure for the third time with instructions to Charlotte as to the care of his garden:
"The raised beds will need to have the compost removed, if the warm days continue. My dear, remember to call upon Lady Catherine daily to find what is required of the parish in my absence. Give old Peabody the rough woolen blankets not the smooth, Lady Catherine will be most displeased if she hears that you have done otherwise. She believes he deserves no assistance from the parish at but for his rheumatism."
He climbed into the gig, then turned to Charlotte once again. "Get the blacksmith to see to my horse. He seems to go lame at the most inappropriate times. Once when I was in the village--"
Charlotte signaled to the driver to walk on. "Hurry, you must not risk being late for the bishop." "Good-bye to you, my dear--"
Charlotte walked to the gate to admit the Colonel. "I am glad that you did not arrive ten minutes sooner, you would have been subject to a quarter hour's worth of all the compliments befitting a nephew of Lady Catherine's."
The Colonel laughed, "I am fortunate indeed. I dare say the effusions of your husband are most gratifying after a year's absence but not more than that."
"I am well aware of my husband faults, sir, still he is my husband and I am glad of him." She paused a moment, "Please come inside, you must meet my sister, who is always happy to make a new acquaintance."
At fourteen Susan Lucas was a well grown girl a little shorter than her sister with her dark hair still done up in plaits. She had high spirits yet unchecked by experience in the world and a high pitched giggle, also unchecked. She was the handsomest of all the Lucases and could barely wait the three years she knew would have to pass before her mother would permit her to come out. She'd arrived soon after breakfast with her eldest brother, who was on his way to Eastbourne to take on a shipment of goods. The sisters had barely had time to embrace when Mr. Collins began his intricate inquiries of the health and welfare of all of their family. Susan curtsied to the Colonel then took her seat.
"Mrs. Collins, I am come to invite your sister and yourself to dine tonight at Rosings. My aunt is most anxious to make the acquaintance of your sister and she wishes to discuss the disposal of last year's dried fish."
"Truly Colonel, you need not have come all this way to tell me this, a note by a servant would have sufficed."
"Oh, it was no trouble. I needed to get away from the house. My younger brother can be taxing at the best of times, he has been nearly insufferable since he's been made a Commander."
"Three sons, your father must have been very well pleased."
Fitzwilliam laughed, "Yes, my father would have been well pleased with three sons. The problem is he has twice that number. I am the fifth son."
"The fifth. Your parents went well beyond the usual assurances. Are they all settled?"
"The four eldest are; Mortimer is, of course, the heir; Thomas is a judge in Town, George has a great living at my father's gift, which suits him very well as he spends most of the year at York in the Archbishop's service. He can stay there as far as I am concerned."
Charlotte turned to Susan, "You must be tired after your journey. Please go up to rest."
Susan stood with profound unhappiness, "I am always sent away when the conversation becomes amusing. You would not sent Maria or Jemima away."
"Jemima or Maria would not argue with my decision. Pray leave now or you will stay at home this evening."
The girl left the room in a sulk, "How am I to learn a thing of life, if everyone sends me away?"
Charlotte laughed, "A truly trying child. I wonder that my mother chose to send her instead of one of the other girls."
"I am quite aware of the problems with younger members of the family. My brother Arthur was packed off to the navy as soon as he was eligible. He nearly burnt down his house at school when he was twelve, he decided that the potatoes would cook faster with the inclusion of fireworks. Very unpromising, yet, he's a commander now and all the naval fellows of my acquaintance believe he will be an admiral one day, with or without my father's benefice."
"He is certainly a lively fellow."
"I have always found him to be feckless. He cares nothing for rules or caution."
"Perhaps that is the very thing which makes him so suitable in battle. And the youngest of all, does he follow one of his brothers' professions?"
"Augustus is still at Cambridge, as he never keeps the terms, he'll mostly stay there forever."
"When you were talking of your brother, George, earlier, the remark spoke of some bitterness."
"Yes, " the Colonel helped himself to some wine, "He has not a scruple to his name when it comes to getting something he wants for himself. Many believe he will be a bishop someday."
"Forgive my curiosity, why do you say that?"
"When I was first made captain, about ten years ago, I invited a lovely young lady I hoped to marry home to meet my parents. After a fortnight's stay, she no longer wished to marry me but would have my bother, George instead."
"What shocking behavior. Was the young lady much attached to you?"
"Very much so, I am certain, unfortunately her mama was not. A son who might be called 'Your Grace' one day was much preferable in her eyes to one who might only be called 'General'." he smiled. "There you have it Mrs. Collins. I stand before you a most unworthy participant in the sport of wooing. At least in the eyes of mothers."
"It is not so in the eyes of daughters, sir, as you well know."
He laughed, "With them I stand well enough until I disclose that I have no intentions."
"And the particular young lady of whom you spoke earlier, do you still wish she had chosen differently?"
"Not at all, she has grown quite dull since her marriage. I do, however, miss her twenty thousand pounds."
Charlotte laughed, "You are disgraceful, sir, you nearly speak as a cad."
"Not at all, I merely speak as one who has attained one and thirty years and still depends on his brother to pay his bills at the wine merchant's."
Susan appeared at the door, still in her sulk, "Charlotte, the baby has awakened and neither Suky or I can get her to settle."
Charlotte's smile faded as she stood, "I must go to her. You will show yourself out Colonel?"
Fitzwilliam stood and took up his hat, "As I said Mrs. Collins, I am completely at your service while your husband is away. Perhaps I can persuade Lady Catherine to offer you the loan of one of the farm wagons to make the deliveries."
"That would be good."
"The Colonel followed Susan and Charlotte into the hall. As she walked up the stairs, his eyes were caught by the smoothness of a lock of hair which had escaped her cap.
The Colonel passed the morning walking through the park at Rosings. He wandered down the paths his head full of the times he's shared there with Darcy. As he strolled, he spotted Anne's phaeton as it rounded a turning at a rapid pace. He soon was able to distinguish the figures of not only Miss Anne de Bourgh and Mrs. Jenkinson, but Arthur at the reins. The ponies strained to keep the pace Arthur was setting. As they neared, the phaeton was up on two wheels.
"Arthur, what on earth are you thinking of? You'll frighten the ladies."
"Lor! The ladies are perfectly well. I was showing Anne how to keep the fat from her ponies. You must admit they look a fright. Have you ever seen such in your life? Disgraceful."
"What if you were to over turn? Help would be a long time coming in this part of the park."
Arthur's face was full of fury, "I did not upset. There was never any danger of my upsetting, I am an excellent driver. You do not take Anne's full measure, if you believe she would be frightened of such a thing. If I upset, she would get up and right herself, would you not Anne?"
"I am sure I could, " she replied in her high breathy pitch, "Truly, James, I haven't had as much fun, since Arthur has been at Rosings."
"What would Lady Catherine say, if she should hear of this?"
"She shall not, for who would tell her? I'm not afraid of the old lady the way the rest of you are."
The Colonel could only shake his head, "There are times I feel you can be as badly behaved as the boys."
"Will you drive back with us?" Anne asked, "You know how much Mama hates to delay her dinner." The carriage proceeded at a more reasonable pace to the house.
Later at dinner the party was deeply divided; Arthur, Anne and the Colonel refused to say one word more to one another than was necessary; Lady Catherine made her usual inquiries of Susan, who, being very young, had no idea of how to answer them; Mortimer yawned and spoke of the new intelligence he's gleaned from the newspaper. When the second course had been cleared, Mortimer excused himself, saying that he must talk to the boys before the were sent to bed. "Apparently some bother at the stables."
"I would not call grievously injuring the groom's son, some bother," replied Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
"They are, after all aunt, small boys and very likely to get into scrapes. I have always envied your good fortune in producing an only girl, much less noise that way."
Lady Catherine was not all satisfied with his reply. She turned to her daughter, "Anne, I hope Arthur did not make you overtired this afternoon."
"Oh Mama, I am perfectly well." This was precisely what Lady Catherine did not want to hear, she had no use for spirit and independence in a daughter.
Fitzwilliam spent his afternoons with his nephews in the park but every evening he took care to call on Charlotte at the rectory, even when he was invited to dine at one of the other houses in the neighborhood. Susan was always sent from the room; a situation she protested loudly and with great energy. So passed away ten days.
One morning, as to the Colonel request, one of the farm wagons was loaded with dried fish and woolen blankets as it drew up to the gate of the parsonage. Charlotte met Fitzwilliam at the gate before taking his arm to escort him indoors. "I must owe this kindness to you, Colonel, last year Lady Catherine had us do this all on foot."
"My aunt wishes to be kind and just, " he said, "Although she has never quite got the knack of it. May I accompany you this morning?"
"Please do, I am always glad of your society."
"Then you are pleased with me, Charlotte?" She turned away, avoiding his eyes.
"You are the most amiable man I have seen in a good many months. Let us say no more of the matter."
"No, if you continue in this vein, I shall have to ask you to leave. Would you have me disgraced?" Charlotte said as she placed her bonnet on her head. "I can offer you my companionship and my good wishes and that is all. I am a married woman, I owe my husband my loyalty."
"You can be certain of his loyalty even when he is not here>
"It is of no consequence. I will be frank, I do not have the best or the most pleasing of husband, that I grant you, but he would have me when no other in the world would. Do you comprehend me?"
"Madame, I comprehend you completely. I only hope I have in no way offended you."
"How could I be offended? You have offered me romance when I believed that all hope of it had gone. I have always known practicality. It has been a lively change and if circumstances had been different, a complete one." Charlotte smiled, "There's an end to it. You bear me no resentment?"
"Not at all, I chose to resent the circumstances." The afternoon passed without further incident.
A few days later Fitzwilliam called to take his leave. "I have been called to Town. I am not used to being unhappy to leave Rosings Park."
"You promised me not to speak of it."
"And I will not. I would say I wish to leave you to the pleasanter society than this neighborhood can supply."
"You forget I will have my sister and daughter when I am in need of pleasant society. I wish to say that when I see you next year I hope to find you settled with a family of your own."
"It is my fondest wish. I would say that I hope your family will increase in my absence." With that he picked up his hat and left.
Fitzwilliam took the path that encircled the park back to Rosings. He had not been inside the door five minutes when a footman sought him out, "Lady Catherine requires you in the rose garden, sir."
Lady Catherine strolled slowly among the lifeless branches up the path to join him, her expression somewhat distracted, "Before you leave for Town we have business to conclude: I must have Anne settled before it is too late. I always used to believe Anne and Darcy would unite the estates, owing to recent events this most desirable outcome is no longer possible. I call upon you, Fitzwilliam, to take your cousin's place as Anne's groom. I will settle twenty thousand pounds on you for your personal use at your marriage, as well as a life interest in the Rosings estates, but I would like to settle the larger part of my estate on Anne's children, if there are any. Lady Catherine eyes remained steadily on the colonel's face, she could have been discussing the disposal of a prime pullets instead of a daughter.
Shock would not be a word to describe Fitzwilliam's emotions, shock he had faced a month earlier. Bewilderment at the brutal way his aunt had told the business grew in his face. "I cannot refuse you, aunt. Have you consulted Anne as to her wishes?"
"Not at all. Anne has become almost wild as of late. I had always believed her to be a good, steady sort of girl, She cackles like a hen these days, which is why I wish her settled. I will not have my daughter, my only child behave as if her mother were the village washerwoman. You will take Commander Fitzwilliam with you when you take leave. That young man is far too tiring for a woman of my years to endure."
"Mortimer is to remain, then?"
Lady Catherine strolled down the path to the bench and took her seat,
"The countess wrote that the new girls are quite well and she could spare the boys very well. I do so like to have the boys here, especially now that we have the new nursemaid, Nancy to supervise them." Lady Catherine raised her eyes to Colonel Fitzwilliam's face, "Are you attempting to avoid the issue with these questions? Are you attached to another?"
The colonel's voice was very small as the words nearly caught in his throat, "I am not, madam."
"Tell me, then, will you have Anne or not?"
"I have no objection to Anne," was all he could bring himself to say.
"In that case, I will order the wedding clothes and speak to Anne. I am sure she can have no objection."
The loan of Mortimer's carriage allowed Colonel Fitzwilliam and his younger brother to take their leave soon after noon. As they drove, they discussed the arrangements; Arthur was to take lodgings near the Guards until Mortimer joined them in a week's time.
"Lady Catherine damme near threw me out of the house, I had planned to stay another fortnight at least at Rosings."
"You are too...lively, Arthur, and you make her ladyship come down with nervous attacks. You have gotten Anne stirred up as well."
Arthur snorted a laugh, "Anne needed stirring. You should have seen her when I arrived a fortnight ago, so pale her skin could pass as paper. She barely said a word to me for three days after I arrived. I thought the girl had no voice until I chanced upon her whispering to old Jenky one evening at dinner. She seemed frightened out of her wits to look at me. Of what mortal use is a girl like that to anyone? A girl needs a voice that can yell at a man when he needs it. I know I am on old sailor but I am no beast, I took it upon myself to get to know her better."
"Anne and Lady Catherine have had more disputes this past week than the whole of their lives together," the colonel said, "Even when we were children there was always a row on when you were near."
Arthur looked abashed, "I never mean to cause muddles, they follow me wherever I go, when I am not at sea. I've become a true sailor, Jim, not of much use on dry land. I do not think I will ever have the knack of being a true gentlemen, perhaps if my father had sent me into the army, like you."
"You were too young for the army. No need to be a gentleman, simply leave Anne de Bourgh be. Did you ever stop to think of the difficulty you've made for her?"
"Do you believe the old lady will be cruel to Anne now that I've gone away? I will never allow any harm to come to Anne, I quite like her."
"I do not believe Lady Catherine to be cruel, she simply wants to have a quiet home."
"People place far too much value on quiet. I have been in battle with cannonballs exploding all around me and I never felt of more use to the world than at those moments. I can live no other way."
"I fear that you will never again be welcome at Rosings Park. Arthur, you are a good sort of man; if you could be a bit more steady in your character you will be a great man. You do not want for talent, you have even become clever, but you must have restraint."
"Perhaps," Arthur pulled off his hat and went to sleep. His snores were nearly identical to those of his older brother, Viscount Mortimer.
With the new officer and men off to France, Fitzwilliam was able to join his brothers for dinner at the house in _______ Street. As the gentlemen were alone, the evening passed quietly. A single course composed the meal but the gentlemen chose to linger at the table with their wine. Arthur, pleading pressing correspondence from the admiralty, left his elder brothers to the pleasures of the chessboard. Neither Fitzwilliam was interested in the game and both played badly, falling into traps barely half laid out and losing most of their pawns. "Your thoughts are elsewhere this evening, James. "
"I wonder what Arthur is doing, there was no letter from the admiralty. I am to go to Rosings on Monday to make an offer of marriage to Anne de Bourgh."
"Everyone, Lady Catherine, my father is happy with the match. My aunt has even offered me twenty thousand pounds at my disposal."
"Is that the cost of an earl's younger son these days? Seems a paltry sum to me to marry someone you do not truly like."
"What choice do I have? I am certain I can offer Anne as much happiness as any other man in the world."
"There you are quite wrong. Anne is quite taken with our younger brother."
"You can not mean Arthur."
"Who else could I be speaking of? While I may have five younger brothers, you have but one. You would know what I say is true, if you had spent as much time in their company rather than at the parsonage you might have found it out for yourself."
"He has no mind to marry, he said he is only good on the sea."
"What good is a fellow having no mind to marry when a girl decides she will have him? Anne means to have Arthur, she just has not come out and said it yet."
"Arthur behaves, at times like one of your boys."
Arthur may be a great noisome bore to you or me, my dear brother, but to a young lady brought up like Anne, in the country, with very few friends of her own age for company, in a house so quiet the dead might be at home in it, he's amusing and worldly. Lady Catherine has sheltered the girl more than what was good for her, he seems exciting instead of muddle headed."
"I am sure her preference will be no impediment. I have had preference of my own in the past, they are soon put aside, when weighed against the independence and security of marriage they pale."
"Especially when your preference is a married woman, a rectors' wife," the Viscount avoided his brother's eyes, "Don't worry, you were most discrete, no one could charge you with impropriety. No hint of scandal will follow."
Colonel Fitzwilliam leaned across the table towards his brother, "Truly, Mortimer, I am old enough to take care of my own affairs. It was a preference, that is all. Nothing can come of it. The lady had found compensations in her marriage, though she finds her husband neither amiable or amusing. We are both too prudent and too poor to make elopement an option.
I believe I grew nearly as attached to her daughter as I am to the lady herself. It made me realise I wish to be settled. As often as I have heard you complain of your children, I know you adore them. I will make a good father, Lady Catherine has offered me that at least."
"Even when what is offered costs you all hope for happiness for yourself and for Anne?"
"Why are you so convinced we would be unhappy?"
The Viscount shook his head, "You are not well suited. You would soon be escaping to Town pleading appointments with your tailor."
"At least I would be able to purchase my own wine. It will not do to depend on you for it for the rest of my life."
"Still, you have made no definite plan with Lady Catherine?"
"I gave her my word."
"Then there is nothing to be done about it. Another game?"
The next week the marriage of James Fitzwilliam, the fifth son of the fifth Earl of ____________, to the Honourable Miss Anne de Bourgh, daughter of the late Sir Lewis de Bourgh, and Lady Catherine de Bourgh of Rosings Park in the county of Kent, was announced, though the young lady had never made an answer. The colonel soon received many a letter wishing him happy, including one from Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwillam Darcy of Pemberley.
The Rosings ladies journeyed to Town to make their purchases of wedding clothes; the marriage articles were written and signed; the matter seemed settled until one morning when Gibb brought in the post. Colonel Fitzwilliam noticed a letter in a familiar hand. Removing it from the pile, he opened it. It was a note from Anne de Bourgh stating her intention to seek shelter with her uncle the Earl of ________ in the company of his brother Commander Arthur Fitzwilliam. The two of them hoped to spend the night at an inn near ______-___ where they were to be married by a naval chaplain the following morning.
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