Anne's Share in the Conversation
Chapter 1 - Rosings Park
Rosings was a modern, well-built house located near the village of Hunsford in Kent. The stately manor was situated in a large park which afforded many natural delights in addition to a planned shrubbery and garden.
The house was constructed for Sir Lewis deBourgh who was tirelessly active in the building of his house. He spent a good part of every day at the site and was dogged in his pursuit of the handsomest materials, the most skilled craftsmen, and the most expensive fittings. No price was too steep, no fee was unaffordable and, when completed, Rosings was the very model of a fine country estate. When it was done, he brought his new bride, Lady Catherine, there.
Unfortunately, Sir Lewis was not long in his enjoyment of Rosings Park. Even before the shrubbery had grown up, he developed a putrid sore throat. It was the result of having spent the day riding to hounds in a damp, cold rain. He languished in a feverish state for several days and then died leaving his wife a widow and leaving his estate with only one heir, a tiny daughter named Anne. Anne had almost succumbed to the same ailment which took her father having caught it not long after he had been taken to his bed.
Lady Catherine was left bereft. To lose a husband at such a young age was unthinkable and to have that husband taken away before fathering a son was painful beyond expression. She did, however, take great consolation in the fact that her daughter's life had been spared and pledged herself to the attentive protection of Anne's health. To this end, she hired a nursemaid whose character was almost as scrupulous and constant as her own. Mrs. Jenkinson, a widow with no children of her own, arrived not two months after little Anne's recovery and immediately undertook the task of bringing the the ailing toddler back to health.
This goal was not easily achieved. Anne's constitution seemed to rebuff every attempt to strengthen it. Mrs. Jenkinson at times became quite desperate and feared for the life of her young charge. Anne, however, did manage to grow into a young girl and, eventually, into a young woman.
Mrs. Jenkinson remained at her side, first as a governess and then as a companion. With Anne's health, she took no chances. At the first sign of illness, she would encourage her to go to bed. If Anne had a cough, she would send for the apothecary. If Anne sneezed, she would have the maid build a larger fire. She cautioned Anne against exertion of any kind. Walks were never prolonged, conversations were never extended, and serious study was absolutely prohibited.
Under the watchful eye of Mrs. Jenkinson, Anne did grow up, but grew up pale and sickly, with little intelligence, no talent, and hardly any conversation. She also grew up quite spoiled and was more inclined to think of herself before anyone else, a view that Mrs. Jenkinson unfortunately encouraged.
Lady Catherine, however, when not primarily concerned with the health of her daughter, was very attentive to the needs of others and managed to do a great deal of good in the country. Indeed, she was the very model of compassion and generosity. There were few people living in the vicinity who escaped her notice.
But no one is destined to live on this earth for an eternity, no matter how imperatively they are needed by others. And so, it was on a wet September day that the parishoners of Hunsford committed Lady Catherine to the ground. There were many mourners in attendance at the graveside ceremony which was officiated by the Reverend Mr. Collins, a very great admirer of the Lady. He was quite affected by the event and was hardly able to make it through the scripture reading.
After the members of her family who came for the funeral had departed for their own homes, Anne was encouraged by Mrs. Jenkinson to take to her bed and rest.
One month later, Charlotte Collins, wife of the parson, and nearest neighbor to Rosings Park walked down the lane towards the house in an attempt to call on the mourning daughter and her companion.
Chapter 2 - A Visit From Mrs.Collins
Charlotte stopped in her progress and sighed at the thought of the daunting task in front of her. She rearranged her shawl and bonnet as a method of mustering up her own courage and continued on with resolution in her step. "It must be done," she whispered to herself. "She can't go on like this."
From an upper story window, Mrs Jenkinson watched Mrs. Collins' determined progress up the walk. She sighed and turned away from the window and directed her attention to the figure in the bed. "She's coming again. I think that you will be forced to meet her soon. I can't put her off much longer."
Miss Anne deBourgh turned her gaze to the brightening October light. The figure of Mrs. Jenkinson stood there expectantly.
"You have been indisposed since your mother died last month. She has been to visit every day for the last two weeks. She is extremely eager to see you for herself and gauge how you are doing. Yesterday I was barely able to keep her from coming upstairs without an invitation. It must be some great errand that forces her to risk such impertinence. Yes, I really think that you must see her. If not today, then perhaps tomorrow. What do you think, Miss Anne."
Anne looked at the figure approaching her bed. Turning away, she spoke, "Yes, you are right. I believe I must. Send my maid up to me. I must dress.
"As you wish." said she as she walked out of the door to call Smith.
One hour later, Anne was escorted into the morning room by Mrs. Jenkinson. Her visitor had been waiting there some time.
"Mrs. Collins, you are looking well. I trust that Mr. Collins is in good health." Anne greeted her.
"Thank you, Miss Anne, we are both quite well." Mrs. Collins responded pleasantly as she took the seat nearest to the young lady who had moved towards the large chair drawn up to the fire. Miss Anne sat down and laid her thin hands unmovingly on the blanket placed in her lap. Mrs. Jenkinson was quite attentive and insisted that she be guarded from any possible drafts by taking the chair nearest the fire and by having a blanket tucked in around her. The invalid felt herself to be quite warm as she summoned the maid for tea.
The fact that she was sitting in her mother's favorite chair was not lost on either of the women attending her. It seemed only fitting thought Mrs Jenkinson, that she inherit that comfortable seat as well as the entire estate and consequence.
Mrs. Collins glanced at the young lady sitting so limply by the fire and questioned herself and her motives for coming. "Just look at her sitting there, her colorless limp hair pulled back from her wan little face. Her features as pale as if they were carved out of wax. I don't think I've ever seen anyone sit so still. When I was twenty..."
"It's so good of you to call, Mrs. Collins," said Mrs. Jenkinson from her own seat on the other side of Anne. "Miss Anne has not had any visitors since her dear Mamma's passing. I'm sure that you would not want to tire her out by staying too long." she hinted baldly.
"Oh, no indeed," countered Mrs. Collins, "In fact I would not have come so early in her mourning period if there weren't some of her villagers that are in dire need of her attention and charity.
"Her attention! Charity? Mrs. Collins have you taken leave of your senses? Miss Anne has just lost her mother. How can she be expected to dispense charity at a time like this?" Mrs Jenkinson looked stunned.
"Mrs. Jenkinson I can assure you that I would not have bothered Miss Anne if their circumstances were not very bad. Their need is acute. Mr. Collins and I have done what we could to relieve their suffering, but they really need the attention of Miss deBourgh. I think that you will recall all that Lady Catherine used to do to assist the people living near her. Indeed she was quite liberal. They have not had that assistance for a month now and they are feeling that absence quite painfully.
"Miss Anne, I think that you will remember how good so many of the parishoners were on the day of your mother's funeral." Mrs. Collins directed herself towards the young woman, "Indeed they all came out to pay their respects and some were quite overcome with grief."
"Now really, Mrs. Collins this is quite enough!" Mrs. Jenkinson silenced her.
Mrs. Collins sat back, considering how to proceed. She looked from the young woman made smaller by the contrast of her overly large seat to Mrs. Jenkinson, Anne's former governess and nursemaid. The latter was looking daggers at her. She turned back to Anne.
"Miss Anne, please forgive my impertinence, but I must speak plainly to you....and in private" she added, glancing meaningfully at Mrs. Jenkinson.
Anne had known Charlotte Collins for more than three years now and considered her to be a intelligent and well-meaning sort of person. Indeed she had watched Mrs. Collins deal with the attentions of her overbearing mother with patience and deference and had also noticed her forbearance when dealing with her own boorish and silly husband. She was a woman not prone to over emotion or trifling requests. Anne considered her entreaty gravely.
"Mrs. Jenkinson, you may leave us now." Anne's directive was given in a voice that was raised barely above a whisper.
Mrs. Collins was surprised at the former pupil's ability to dismiss her companion. Judging from her many encounters with the two women, she wondered if Anne would be capable of it at all and as the lady left the room, Mrs. Collins took heart and launched into her speech.
"Miss Anne, I feel that I must speak to you as a friend. I have been quite worried over you, fearful for your future. Your mother did not prepare you for her eventual death. She taught you nothing about how to run such a large estate. You are a very rich woman, but you have no idea how to take care of that wealth or yourself for that matter."
Miss Anne stared at her guest in amazement.
"It has been over a month since your mother died and no one has expected you to even exert yourself enough to get out of bed. There are people, workers on your estate who are starving for your attention. But that is only one of the matters that used to concern your mother. Have the servants been able to run Rosings Park in their own fashion without any person checking to see if things have been done well? Who is managing the money? How can you be sure that this person is of a scrupulous character? You are in the very great danger of being taken advantage by almost everyone in your acquaintance!
"No I don't have any suspicions," Mrs. Collins quickly countered seeing the look of disbelief crossing Miss Anne's face. "But it never happened to your mother because she was always watchful over the estate's affairs. Why she did not teach you to do the same is a mystery to me, but you must now learn some of her technique, although I do not know from whom you will model it."
Mrs. Collins was silent. Exhausted by her outburst.
Miss Anne opened her mouth as if to speak, but couldn't find words.
Mrs. Collins went on in a more controlled manner. "Miss Anne, you have had so many more advantages than most girls your age. You are independently wealthy, at least your mother did see to it that your fortune did not leave your hands, and you are have attained a degree of intelligence having been tutored by Mrs. Jenkinson for most of your natural life.
"Also, your figure is quite good, although a little thin and your features would only require a little filling out to be declared pretty. When I was your age, I was quite plain and virtually penniless. If Mr. Collins hadn't addressed me, I would be an old maid living off the charity of my brothers.
"It's true that you cannot play or sing,..." here she stopped, fearing that she had gone to far.
"What are you trying to tell me, Mrs. Collins?" Anne questioned in a dull voice.
"I'm trying to tell you that you would be able to make an excellent match if you could find a man that you could love and esteem. There would be no impediments to a marriage with almost anyone, if you would just exert yourself."
"Exert myself?" Anne repeated incredulously. "Why, I'm quite ill!"
"I really think that you imagine yourself unwell more than you actually are." Mrs. Collins rejoined. "Mrs. Jenkinson and your mother have allowed you to consider yourself sick, but I have watched you closely over the four years of our acquaintance and see nothing that could not be cured with a little exercise and better appetite."
"So, what are you expecting of me?"
"I expect a young woman of sense and breeding to be able to secure her own happiness considering that you have no true impediments to that state."
"This is coming from a woman who married one of the most ridiculous clergymen in England!" Anne stated cruelly.
Mrs. Collins was shocked into silence. She did not think that the young woman had that much nerve.
"After all that I have said to you, I am surprised that you still wonder about my marrying Mr. Collins. He is, as you put it, one of the most ridiculous men in England, but I was not blessed with the same advantages that you are. I was lucky to make any match at all and, under the circumstances, find myself to be quite content with my lot in life." said Mrs. Collins, with resolution.
She then looked pointedly at Anne. "But you can do better."
The two ladies looked at one another, neither knowing how to respond to the other. At last Mrs. Collins spoke. "If I were your age, with your wealth and family connections, I would not be wasting my time alone on an estate that I don't know how to run, with a governess that I have long since outgrown!"
There was a sharp gasp from the other side of the door and both ladies knew that their conversation had been overheard by Mrs. Jenkinson. It brought Mrs. Collins to her senses and she decided that now was the time to take her leave. She stood up.
"Miss Anne, I have probably offended you quite enough and should be going. But, believe me, what I said was meant in friendship and with only your good in mind. Forgive me."
With that apology, she turned and walked to the door. It opened and she was forced to meet with Mrs. Jenkinson's red, angry face.
"I think that you have said quite enough," Mrs. Jenkinson seethed. "Forgive me if I don't show you out." and with that she turned and hurried to Miss Anne, who still sat motionless in her chair by the fire
Chapter 3 - Anne Considers The Situation
That night as Anne lay in bed, she recalled Mrs. Collins' arguments. Mrs. Jenkinson had done her best to soothe the young woman's wounded feelings since the morning's upheaval, but Anne could not be unaffected by her neighbor's speech. Anne, after giving it much thought, had to agree with what she had said.
She had never been concerned with what would happen to her after her mother died or who she would marry, because she believed herself destined for her cousin, her mother's nephew, Mr. Darcy, who had a large estate in Derbyshire and quite a fortune himself. She knew him from his visits and had never liked him much, he being to given to dark moods which sent him glaring about the house, in no humor to trifle with anyone, much less his sickly younger cousin; but since her mother was determined to see the two of them married, she had gotten quite used to the idea and supposed that they wouldn't have to see that much of one another when they were actually married. His house was quite as large as her own and they might not even need to spend much time in the same part of the country together. She could stay at her house and he at his.
But he would have dealt with the management of both and, for that reason, Anne deeply regretted the fact that he had married someone else three years ago.
She had to admit to herself that she admired his new wife somewhat. The new Mrs. Darcy was actually a friend of her neighbor Mrs. Collins, the two of them having grown up together in Hertfordshire. Miss Elizabeth Bennet, as she was known before her marriage, had visited her friend at Hunsford, called at Rosings Park and had been convinced on several occasions to play and sing at the house. Anne respected Elizabeth's ability to charm men with her music and her lively conversation. These were qualities that she found herself lacking and she remembered with some embarrassment the behavior of her other cousin, Edward Fitzwilliam, and his marked preference for Miss Bennet's company over her own during his visit.
She did not mind Miss Bennet's presence at the time because she thought that nothing would come to it. Regardless of how nettled Mr. Darcy or Colonel Fitzwilliam looked by the bewitching Miss Elizabeth, Mr. Darcy was already attached to herself and Miss Bennet was excessively poor.
Anne threw off the heavy counterpane that covered her bed. Mrs. Jenkinson always insisted on the additional coverlet. The room was overly hot as it was, the fire being banked into its customary blaze. With some impatience, she sat up and kicked the rest of the covers back. She found her slippers next to the bed, just where Mrs. Jenkinson had left them and located her dressing gown tossed over the chair. Putting both on, she walked over to her dressing table and sat down in front of the large mirror.
She studied her face. Mrs. Collins was right. Her features were perfectly regular if a little thin and pale. Her large green eyes stared out from the center of her face. Her hair was neither brown nor blond, but a shade in between. If there had been more of it, it might have been compared to honey pouring slowly off of a teaspoon. Smith, her maid had combed it back from her high forehead and braided it expertly. The style did nothing to compliment her face and it was not much better during the day. Each morning, the same maid fashioned it into a bun which was fastened on the top of Anne's head.
Anne remembered the profusion of curls which clustered around Miss Bennet's forehead and wondered if the same attempt couldn't be made on her own brow.
Quickly, before she could give much thought to what she was contemplating, she unbraided her hair and brushed out the front section. Taking the scissors in hand, she started to snip away at the lengths, attempting to frame her face evenly with a fringe of hair.
After she was done, she collected up all of the severed locks and found a ribbon with which to tie them. She wasn't quite sure why she felt the need to save them. Among the collection of ribbons, she found the papers that her maid sometimes used to create a single curl in front of each ear. She inexpertly attempted to tie them into their hair.
When finished, she stared at her reflection in the mirror and had to force down a giggle. Is this what women with ringlets around their face in the morning look like at night? She wondered if any man would address them if he knew how ridiculous they looked in their attempt to achieve such a style.
Her mirth soon gave way to trepidation. What would Mrs. Jenkinson and Smith say in the morning. She prayed that the effect would be worth the recklessness with the shears.
Chapter 4 - A Visit To Hunsford
Mrs. Collins could often be found reading or sewing in the small sitting room that overlooked Mr. Collins' garden at the back of the house. Mr. Collins could be found in his library, which was situated at the front of their parsonage. His room afforded a view of the road so it was Mr. Collins who first spied the figure of a woman walking purposefully down the road that led to Rosings Park. He watched the progress of this solitary person with some interest for he could not imagine who would be walking from that direction. He quickly ruled out the servants of that great household from the elegant black dress of the walker, who even now was spoiling her hem with mud.
"My dear, come quickly, you must see this!" he cried out to Mrs. Collins, opening the doors between their two rooms. Charlotte put down her sewing and walked to where he was standing at the window.
"Can it be?" she asked in amazement.
"I can scarcely imagine it!" he responded. "To come so far on foot, why did she not use her carriage? It is most unseemly that Miss Anne deBourgh should walk so far. I must counsel her against it!" and with that he ran for the door.
Charlotte watched him run towards the approaching figure with a hint of a smile playing on her face. "This is most promising," she thought to herself and went to the door to greet her young guest.
"Miss deBourgh it is an honor, won't you come in and refresh yourself." Charlotte called graciously as Miss deBourgh walked through the parsonage gate. "You must be fatigued after your long journey."
Indeed, Miss deBourgh seemed quite spent. Her face was red and she was breathing at a considerably fast rate. She was barely able to speak the words, "yes, thank you" to Mrs. Collins' kind invitation.
"Miss deBourgh, you must not do this again. Such a long walk on a cold day, with your health..." Mr. Collins' thought trailed off. He was beside himself and almost apoplectic from worry about his new patroness.
"You are mistaken Mr. Collins, I'm sure that it is very good for me. I mean to do it every day in the future." Anne gasped out between breaths. She mounted the stairs and began to climb with a little smile towards Charlotte.
And with that smile, Charlotte saw how it was to be. Anne was determined never to think herself unwell again and she saw something of a proud spirit in the girl's eyes. There was a light in them that she had never seen before.
"What else seems different about her?" Charlotte wondered to herself as she helped the young woman off with her hooded cape and bonnet. She didn't have to wait long to find her question answered. Miss deBourgh turned around and presented Charlotte with the results of last night's moment of abandon with the scissors.
"Oh, your hair! It looks very well indeed. Did Smith contrive it?" Charlotte questioned. It truly did look well. The fringe around her face had curled becomingly, framing her features and softening them.
"Oh, you do like it! I was not so sure myself. I didn't know what to think this morning...No, Smith didn't do it. I cut it myself last night and rolled it up in curl papers. She did help me style it and it needed some evening out."
"Well, I like it very much. It is very attractive. And I must say that this little walk of yours has given your cheeks some color, now that you have caught your breath." Charlotte praised. "But I really must offer you some refreshment and a place to sit in my little room," and with that she led her guest into the back parlor, shutting the door behind her in a way that she hoped would indicate to Mr. Collins that his presence was not wanted.
Mrs. Collins rang the bell for tea, and after ordering it from her maid-of-all-work, a stout girl from the village named Ruth, she sat down on the sofa next to her visitor and pressed Anne's hand with her own. "I was afraid that you meant never to speak to me again after I spoke so ridiculously to you yesterday morning. I am glad to see that this is not the case."
"Oh, no," Anne responded, "In fact, I feel only gratitude to you. What did you say that was not the truth. I am resolved to act on your advice beginning today." and Anne went on to speak the real purpose for her visit to the parsonage. "I recall your mentioning to me that there were many in need of my mother's charity and assistance that have gone wanting in the last month. I would like to see them today and make amends for my neglect."
Anne pulled open her little bag and showed Charlotte a large profusion of coins. "Do you think this will satisfy?"
"My word! I don't know what to say!" Charlotte drew in her breath in astonishment.
"There are quite a few, aren't there!" Anne went on.
"Well, yes," Charlotte agreed.
"Then, shouldn't we set off?"
"Are you sure that you want to do this today? Surely they can wait one more..."
"Oh no!" Anne looked shocked.
"Wouldn't you at least want to call your carriage. I could send John over to Rosings to fetch..."
"No!" Anne interrupted imperiously, "I mean to walk! I don't want to ride around town in my phaeton any longer."
Charlotte saw that it was pointless to argue with her any further and proceeded to gather her things. Tea was sent back, untouched. Miss Anne could not be swayed from her present course and did not want to lose an instant. Charlotte wondered about the change her speech had made in the mind of her young neighbor and was a little put out. She herself would have preferred to drink tea while waiting for Miss deBourgh's carriage to be brought around. She did not relish the idea of so much walking. But it was to be done and would be done directly. John, Mr. Collins' servant, was sent for. He could attend them through town as Charlotte thought that two ladies traveling alone with that much money would make them an easy target for any unscrupulous people.
Later, Charlotte would try to make her see how reasonable it was to use her carriage for these trips of beneficence. The equipage included a place for the driver and a footman. The addition of two men to the party would afford ample protection from the hazards of daylight travel.
In high spirits, Anne was ready to set off convinced of her ability to do good in her little world when she noticed Mrs. Collins gathering a basket of foodstuffs from her larder.
"Mrs. Collins, what is it that you are doing?" she inquired somewhat impatiently.
"Sometimes, Miss Anne, it is easier to receive a handout that is of a more nourishing nature than coin. I'm simply procuring a few things from my own pantry to go along with your generous gifts." Mrs. Collins explained.
"The money won't be welcome?" Anne asked with some confusion.
"Oh, it will be welcome enough. But in the case of a sick mother who has many mouths to feed, it is more expedient to bring vegetables or flour or even broth. She won't have to waste the energy she doesn't have by procuring them. Or, in the case of a family that happens to have a drunkard for a provider,..."
"He might use this money for spirits..." Anne concluded, shocked.
"Well," Anne started after some moments of thought. "What would be the best way to proceed?"
"Let us set off today as we have planned, so that you can see for yourself the circumstances of those who would ask for your charity. The money will never go wanting.
Chapter 5 - Blistered Feet
Anne returned home late, almost past her normal dinner hour. Mrs. Jenkinson was beside herself with worry and had already called the carriage so that she could set off in search of Anne. The carriage had just come round to the front when the figure of Anne could be seen walking up the drive.
Mrs. Jenkinson dismissed the coachman, who looked his disapproval at having had to hitch up the horses for no reason. She then went inside to wait by the door.
"Oh, what a day!" Anne exclaimed as she walked in and plopped down onto the bench nearest the door. "I must have a blister on every toe of my foot." She leaned down towards her slippers and examined them for wear. "I really must locate some boots or clogs for walking around the grounds. I wonder if Mrs. Collins can assist me in procuring some."
"And exactly where have you been, Miss?" inquired Mrs. Jenkinson, struggling to control her temper.
"Mrs. Collins and I went visiting some of the more unfortunate people in the area. They have been greatly needing my attention. They have been greatly missing my mother's visits this past month. Really, Mrs. Jenkinson, I wish that you had told me about my mother's generosity. I had no idea of what was due to them."
"Due to them? They have been sponging off your mother for all of their lives. It would do them good to live without the Family of deBourgh for a time."
"How can you speak so? Have you no compassion for what they suffer? I saw so many unfortunate children lately. Some of them quite ill and in need of nourishing broth and medicine."
"These people should learn to fend for themselves" Mrs. Jenkinson interrupted.
Anne stared at her former governess for some time. "How unfortunate that we are not of the same opinion," she returned.
Mrs. Jenkinson drew in her breath quickly. That Anne would speak to her in that way was shocking. She had never uttered an opinion on anything before, much less a contrary one. Mrs. Jenkinson chose to attribute it to the poor influence that Mrs. Collins must have had on her all day.
"We should go into dinner," she said, wanting to end their difficult exchange. I am going to assume that you are not well and your illness has made you utter words."
"Mrs. Jenkinson, I am not ill. I have had a wonderful, yet exhausting day. I will go into dinner with you and then to bed, for I find that I am a little fatigued and would like to retire early."
Anne stood up and, with as much poise as she could muster on her rapidly swelling feet, limped into the dining room.
Dinner was a cold affair. Mrs. Jenkinson and Anne found that, not only did they have nothing to say to one another, the silence that ensued was oppressive. Anne had never been a good conversationalist and, when Lady Catherine was alive, neither had to say much at all. Lady Catherine did talk a great deal, but seldom required a response. So it was that on this night, both ladies kept their own counsel. Mrs. Jenkinson was attempting to figure out how best to keep her charge away from the disturbing influence of Mrs. Collins. Anne's thoughts was more agreeably settled: she was recalling images from her long day and planning how to spend tomorrow.
Both ladies went off to their rooms at the close of dinner, neither more enlightened about the other's feelings as when they went in.
That night, as Anne soaked her feet, which was a very good suggestion from Smith, she considered her place as the patroness of the village and the head of the house.
"Mrs. Collins is right. I have absolutely no idea how to run Rosings. I do not even know how to order dinner, although I did see my mother do it often enough." Anne wondered how the house was being run without her mother's management of it. She had contact with none of the servants, save for her own maid.
She resolved on finding the housekeeper tomorrow morning and having a discussion with her. "I can at least start with her." she thought to herself.
She also considered the problem of Mrs. Jenkinson. She was surprised at her speaking so unfeelingly about the people of the village. She recalled that her own mother would have never spoken that way. She remembered Mrs. Jenkinson's harsh words with pain. She truly loved the woman who had been her governess, but realized that she had kept Anne from doing her required duty to the people of the village.
Chapter 6--Anne's Dinner Party
Anne visited Mrs. Collins the next morning, but chose to take her phaeton to the parsonage's gate. Her feet hurt from the excessive amount of walking that she did the day before and she was determined to see herself properly equipped for such roaming around before the day was done.
Mrs. Collins was delighted to see her friend, and not at all surprised that she came in her carriage rather than on foot. She expressed her concern for Miss Anne's poor feet and readily agreed to escort her on her shopping expedition. Mrs. Collins grabbed her coat and bonnet and the carriage was soon on its way to the village with both women settled.
"And how was your dinner last night." inquired Charlotte.
"Horrible. Mrs. Jenkinson was very disagreeable!"
"Well, you did worry her a great deal. I should have persuaded you to turn back sooner, both for her peace of mind and your health. I blame myself." Mrs. Collins said, contritely.
"Oh, no don't. You wouldn't have been able to carry your point with me. I was too determined."
"Well, you were quite set on having your way." Mrs. Collins agreed.
"I simply need to be more prepared for such journeys."
"I had a conversation with my housekeeper this morning," said Anne, after some time.
"Oh?" questioned Mrs. Collins.
"It seems that Mrs. Jenkinson has been giving the orders around the house for the last month, ever since my mother died."
"I thought as much." said Mrs. Collins.
"I think that she was greatly relieved to be talking to me about it." said Anne.
"I don't doubt it. Your housekeeper is a wonderful woman. She was truly devoted to your mother. She must feel better taking orders from the lady of the house."
"Mrs. Jenkinson has been taking too much on herself. I found out this morning, after I talked to my steward, that she has been giving orders around the estate as well. She stepped in for my mother when I didn't, but I need to assume control now."
"That won't be easy to do, will it." Mrs. Collins asked, gently.
"No, it won't. I don't know the first thing about this estate! Mrs. Jenkinson is also quite used to having her own way, especially when it involves me. She was very upset when I ordered my phaeton to take me to your home. I do think that she did not want me to visit you again. She kept on talking about how pale and tired I looked. She did everything in her power to get me back into my room and into bed!"
"I don't doubt it."
"So, what is there to do?"
Their conversation was cut short as they were stopping in front of the cobbler's shop. The two ladies stepped out of the phaeton, and walked in together.
That a deBourgh had never entered this shop before on business was evident. The shopkeeper snatched off his hat and looked down, bowing in front of Anne.
Anne swept her eyes around the store, and, spying a pair of boots that she thought might suit, walked over to them and picked them up.
"Could these be made in my size?" she asked.
"Oh, most certainly, Miss. But they aren't generally chosen by ladies." He added, somewhat delicately.
"What is generally chosen by ladies is not acceptable for long walks around the country," she retorted. "I need a pair of stout boots for walking. I can keep my slippers for other occasions."
The cobbler offered no argument to this plan.
After the boots were ordered, paid for, and promised to be delivered on a certain date, Anne and her friend walked out and through the rest of the village towards the butcher's shop.
"My housekeeper told me that we need to order a leg of lamb if I am to have you and Mr. Collins over for dinner tonight. " Anne said by way of explanation.
"Oh, well that is most kind. But you don't have to do so." Mrs. Collins said.
"I believe that I must. I can't have another dinner like the one I had last night with Mrs. Jenkinson. I must have some other people around or the two of us are too apt to fall into an unbearable silence. I am intending to send the carriage around for you at seven. Would that suit you and Mr. Collins?"
"Oh, Miss de Bourgh We can walk!"
"Nonsense! And, please, will you call me Anne? It would do me a world of good to be on a first name basis with someone."
"Of course, if that is what you would wish." Mrs. Collins agreed. "And you must always call me Charlotte."
Anne had every reason to think that dinner with Mrs. Jenkinson was going to be as difficult as last night's silent affair. Mrs. Jenkinson was in a very bad humor. She did not like Mrs. Collins' interference in what she had always considered to be her provenance. She had never liked Mr. Collins and saw through his ridiculous flattery of Lady Catherine. It took all the self-control she had left to herself not to speak very badly about the pair when Anne told her about her invitation of them for dinner.
Anne went to her room to dress for dinner after returning from the village and having her conversations with her housekeeper and Mrs. Jenkinson. Smith had laid out a pale ivory frock, with pearl ornaments around the neckline. It was one of Anne's favorite gowns Her black shawl would look very fine over it. She called Smith to help her dress her hair. She wanted to be downstairs when the Collinses arrived, fearing any discourse they might have with Mrs. Jenkinson if she were kept too long at her dressing table.
The appointed hour arrived and Mr. and Mrs. Collins were led into the drawing room where Mrs. Jenkinson and Anne were waiting. Anne felt relieved to see her friend and greeted her happily.
Mrs. Jenkinson's welcome was not at all cheerful. The older lady looked quite unwell as she said hello to Mr. and Mrs. Collins.
Mr. Collins, upon seeing Anne look so well, immediately undertook to inform her of his great joy in witnessing her improved health. He further went on to express his profound regrets at the passing of her mother and even revealed some of his own grief on that subject. Anne, remembering her friend's forbearance when it came to the frivolity of her own husband, managed to thank him for his attention with very good grace. She then marshaled the small party, and led them into dinner.
Dinner, Anne had to admit to herself, was very good. The leg of lamb that she had ordered from the butcher was especially pleasing. Anne couldn't have been prouder of having ordered the dinner if she had cooked it herself, which would certainly never be the case. Her mother had taught her that ladies did not have any business in the kitchen, except for administrative duties.
Mr. Collins was excessive in his praise of the meal and was heard to exclaim that he had never tasted lamb as well seasoned as what had been set before him. Mr. Collins was excessive in all of his conversation during the meal, having no Lady Catherine to monopolize the conversation, he was allowed the very welcome opportunity of sharing all his views.
Anne was quite grateful for his noise on this occasion, as it kept her mind from turning towards Mrs. Jenkinson and the difficulties that she was having with this lady.
Anne, remembering her place after dinner, stood up and led the party back into the drawing room for coffee. She asked her guests if they would not like to play at a card game to pass their time, a proposal that was greeted by Mr. and Mrs. Collins with some willingness and none at all from Mrs. Jenkinson. Anne ordered the card table to be placed and a game of whist was commenced by all.
Anne could not turn her attention from the figure of her governess. Mrs. Jenkinson had scarcely spoke two words together since that afternoon's converse. It was distressing to Anne to see her looking so ill and out of spirits.
Finally, Anne could stand it no longer. "Mrs. Jenkinson, perhaps you would like to retire? You do look quite ill. Perhaps you are catching a cold."
All pairs of eyes turned towards the lady. Mrs. Jenkinson sighed heavily. "Perhaps you are right, Anne. I think that I will retire if you have no need of me tonight."
"I think that I can manage well without you tonight." Anne said quietly. "If you are not feeling in better spirits in the morning, we should call the apothecary. Perhaps he could administer a draught..." Here she left off, hearing her words as an echo of all that Mrs. Jenkinson used to say to her.
"Yes, perhaps, goodnight." said Mrs. Jenkinson as she stood up from the table and walked towards the door.
Mr. and Mrs. Collins chose to leave not long after Mrs. Jenkinson went upstairs. Charlotte could perceive that her husband's excessive compliments and flattery were beginning to wear on Anne. She did admire the amount of forbearance the young lady had been able to show during the long dinner and was pleased by her attempt.
Chapter 7 - What To Do About Mrs. Jenkinson
The Autumn days swept by while Anne took every opportunity of enjoying the fine weather. She walked around the grounds of Rosings nearly every day. She discovered new aspects to the Park which must have escaped her notice during childhood. She delighted in the rusticity of the groves of trees and the small stream that ran across one corner of the grounds.
Mrs. Jenkinson frequently chastised her for not covering up sufficiently. If she forgot to wear her warmest cape and wrap a scarf around her neck, Anne was sure to have Mrs. Jenkinson reminding her about her health for the rest of the day. Once, after she actually forgot her gloves in her hurry to be out of doors, Mrs. Jenkinson lectured her on how young ladies should never allow their hands to become rough. Another day, she forgot her parasol, and Mrs. Jenkinson reminded her that young ladies never allowed their faces to become tanned. Mrs. Jenkinson was appalled at the amount of mud Anne had allowed to gather at her hem on yet another day and tried to instruct her in that as well.
Mrs. Jenkinson's interest in the mode of her dress during her walks only made Anne more determined to take them. She did learn, however, to always wear her gloves and bonnet and bring along her parasol, whether she put it up or not. It was easier to obey her former governess' small requests rather than listen to a nightly sermon on appropriate behavior.
Anne, during the course of these walks, found herself steadily becoming stronger. She was no longer so fatigued after she had spent a great time touring the Park. A journey to her friend Charlotte's house at the edge of the grounds was hardly a distance to her at all. Anne found herself walking there almost every other day. The friendship of the two ladies grew, much to the amazement and consternation of Mrs. Jenkinson.
If one looked underneath the surface of Mrs. Jenkinson's frustration and anger, one might see the injured feelings of a woman replaced by another. Anne had been her life's devotion. Her days were spent caring for that young lady and she recalled with great heartache the many moments spent by Anne's bedside, singing softly to her, reading to her, listening to her prayers. And Anne had responded to all this diligence with a love for her governess that was tender and real. During moments of private reflection, Mrs. Jenkinson even allowed herself to believe that the girl loved her like a mother. Not that she would ever want to replace Lady Catherine in Anne's heart, she would never wish that; but she did like to believe that Anne's affection for her was just as deep as her respect for her mother.
And now to have all of that affection taken away from her by Mrs. Collins! Mrs. Jenkinson could have cried with frustration. Instead of weeping, however, she employed other strategies to separate the two.
First she tried influencing Anne. She reminded the young lady of her station in society and that, while it was good to be on friendly terms with the wife of the parish parson, there was no need to be intimate. A cordial greeting after church was really all that was required. An occasional dinner invitation was exceedingly considerate, but not necessary. Anne really should remember to keep Mrs. Collins in her place by not encouraging her with frequent visits and invitations.
When that didn't work, she attempted to malign Mrs. Collins' character. She mentioned to Anne that she had seen her gathering eggs in her bare feet last summer. She had actually slept in church on one occasion. Her newest dress was far too expensive for a woman of her rank. She ordered beef for her table often. She was a terrible card player. She married a man who was a terrible card player. The list of offenses went on and on, but not a one seemed to have any real power over Anne's affection for her.
As Anne's respect for and friendship with Mrs. Collins grew, Mrs. Jenkinson's fear of losing Anne became overwhelming. She found herself quite desperate to say or do anything that would remove Anne from Mrs. Collins' company and was resolved upon forbidding it.
That morning Mrs. Jenkinson met Anne at the breakfast table. As she sat down, she noticed that Anne was wearing her now scuffed and nearly unpresentable pair of boots that she had ordered from the cobbler's in the village. Anne always wore them when she was embarking on a long walk. Anne was also engaged in a conversation with her housekeeper on the gathering of a basket of food from the kitchen garden. The last of the harvest had just been picked and Anne wished to share some of her produce with the poorer villagers. The housekeeper left Anne with the assurance that she would have one of the kitchen maids prepare the offering for her and place it in her carriage.
As the housekeeper closed the door behind her, Mrs. Jenkinson launched into her speech. "I see that you are planning to go parading about the village with that woman again," she stated bitterly.
"I am going to visit a certain family in town to bring them some of our vegetables for their children and Mrs. Collins was kind enough to agree to accompany me. Is that what you mean, Mrs. Jenkinson?" Anne asked evenly.
"Well, I am sorry but you simply cannot do this any longer, I forbid it!" Mrs. Jenkinson said loudly.
Anne's eyes opened in shock. She had never heard her companion take that tone of voice. She stared at the other woman in surprise.
Mrs. Jenkinson stared back and set her features in what she hoped would be taken for the imperiousness of Lady Catherine issuing an edict. "I must insist on this. Your mother would have never stood for this kind of behavior!" she said.
"I believe that my mother would approve of my charitable behavior since it does mirror her own." Anne managed to reply.
"Your mother would never approve of you running through town with such a woman..." Mrs. Jenkinson began.
"Such a woman?" Anne interrupted her.
"Yes, such a woman," she spat out.
Anne raised her eyebrows and nodded in comprehension "I think I understand you. Your issue is not my goodness to the villagers, but my friendship with Mrs. Collins, isn't it?"
Mrs. Jenkinson attempted to continue her fierce look of rigidity as Anne went on. "That has been an issue with you for the last month, hasn't it? Well, I am sick of your attempts to remove me from the company of Charlotte. I am certainly going to visit whomever I want without asking for your approval! I have absolutely no idea what grudge you hold against her, but I can assure you that it will have no bearing on me!"
Anne stood up from the table and walked out of the door. Mrs. Jenkinson followed. "Not so hasty, miss! You'll not dismiss me so quickly!" She called.
"Mrs. Jenkinson, I have no desire to continue this wretched conversation at this time." Anne returned as she gathered up her bonnet and began to tie the ribbon with shaking hands. "I am going out with Mrs. Collins and will return in an hour. Perhaps we shall both be in better spirits by then." Then, gathering up her gloves she stalked out of the house and stepped into the carriage waiting for her at the door.
Mrs. Jenkinson, though quite upset, was not about to allow her quarrel continue into the driveway where all of the outside servants could witness it as well as the inside. She controlled herself and kept to the hall. The carriage drove off, she turned away from the door and began to walk, with as much composure as possible to her sitting room.
Luckily for Anne, she did not need to keep up the appearance of composure in the privacy which her carriage afforded. Anne found herself quite shaken by her argument with Mrs. Jenkinson. Indeed she had always counted on Mrs. Jenkinson for support and affection, something that her more distant mother Lady Catherine had not been as able to give. Now to have that support turn on her so violently. She couldn't bear the thought of Mrs. Jenkinson thinking ill of her; but she also could not bear the thought of living under any more of Mrs. Jenkinson's tyranny.
"Perhaps she is overtired and in need of a long vacation," mused Anne. "I wonder how she would react if I suggested that she visit her sister on the coast. She always goes there for a stay at Christmas. She would simply be going there a bit sooner than usual," Anne considered her idea as her carriage drew up beside the Collins' gate. "I must get her away from Rosings for some time. She hasn't been herself since my mother died; first taking on too much responsibility for running the estate and now this ridiculous quarrel over Charlotte."
Charlotte walked out of her door carrying her own basket for the family in the village. "I don't think that I should say anything to Charlotte about this. I don't want her to think ill of Mrs. Jenkinson or be hurt." She was resolved to put on a more cheerful face and enjoy today's outing. After their visit together, Anne would have to talk to Mrs. Jenkinson.
That evening Anne met Mrs. Jenkinson in the drawing room. Anne began as soon as the lady sat down next to her. "Mrs. Jenkinson, I am quite worried about you," she said with real concern. "You haven't been yourself since my Mamma died and I really believe that the strain of assisting me through this difficult period has been too much." This was a large stretch of the truth and Anne knew that, but thought that it would allow her companion to save face. "You must not neglect your own health in your concern for mine. I won't allow you to do that."
Mrs. Jenkinson looked at the younger woman. Anne was smiling at her with such sweetness and loving concern. The older woman could not help but be touched by it. Mrs. Jenkinson sighed, "It is kind of you to concern yourself about me but..."
"Oh no it is not kind, I really should be more attentive towards your well-being since you were always so considerate of mine." Anne looked down humbly.
"Well of course, I was your governess..."
"And that is why I wish to do the same for you!" Anne interrupted earnestly. "I believe that you need to be with your sister for a little longer vacation from your duties at Rosings. The brisk sea air will soon set you to rights and your dear sister is always so considerate, have you not often told me of her kind consideration of your health and happiness?"
"Well of course, but I couldn't leave..." Mrs. Jenkinson began to exclaim.
"Only for a little while," Anne soothed sweetly. "Just a longer vacation than usual. I shall count on you returning at the first of the year."
By the time the two ladies went into dinner, Anne had persuaded Mrs. Jenkinson to write to her sister about a visit. The de Bourgh carriage would, as always, convey her there and return for her after she had vacationed for a good, long time.
Chapter 8 - A Rainy Day In Which Anne Has Nothing To Do....
The day in which Mrs. Jenkinson chose to leave Rosings dawned cold and rainy. Anne almost asked her to postpone her trip until the coachman assured her that they could make the journey very easily, the roads to the sea being very good and sturdy. The journey was also not long and could easily be done in a day.
Anne saw Mrs. Jenkinson off very cheerfully. She had personally made sure that the carriage was packed with blankets and a foot warmer as well as a box of delightful treats for the road ahead: bread, fruit, and chocolate. She had also hidden a little surprise for Mrs. Jenkinson in that lady's trunk. It was a book of poetry of which she knew Mrs. Jenkinson was particularly fond.
For all the difficulty her companion had given her in the past two months, Anne really knew that she would miss her. She would have to breakfast alone and, unless she invited the Collins' to dinner, she would have to dine alone as well. After the carriage rolled out of view, she decided to ask her nearest neighbors at the parsonage for that very evening and walked towards the Morning Room where the stationery was kept in a little desk by the window.
Anne sat down at the desk and took out a piece of paper. She located a pen and uncapped the bottle of ink and dashed off a brief note asking her friend to join her for dinner. After sealing it with wax, she called for the footman who would make sure that it was sent over to them.
Sitting back in the chair, she contemplated her new-found solitude. "What am I going to do with myself?" she questioned as she looked out at the rain swept grounds. Even Anne did not relish a walk on such a day. She realized that she would need to speak with her housekeeper about the dinner for that evening, but would not have to do so for another few hours. She also remembered that she had made an appointment to speak with her steward after lunch. She had been meeting with this man on a twice weekly basis to learn more about the management of Rosings.
The hours stretched before Anne like an endless void and her choice of diversions for filling up that emptiness were few. She considered going to the library and selecting a book to read. Anne herself was not a great reader, but had always enjoyed having Mrs. Jenkinson read to her of an evening. Perhaps she would be able to find a good novel.
She wished that she had learnt how to embroider cushions or cover screens or anything that would at least keep her fingers moving. But those skills had always seemed so tedious. In her childhood, she had always managed to avoid the study of these occupations by telling her governess that she felt too ill to concentrate.
She turned back to the desk and idly started to flip through her mother's address book. She had some knowledge of the families contained within the book, but had met very few of them. Her mother had always been an excellent correspondent; her interest in the condition of her neighbors had always included those further away.
She stopped at the "D" section and saw the names of her cousins Fitzwilliam and Georgiana Darcy listed as well as the name of their home, Pemberley in Derbyshire. Her mother had chosen not to include the name of Fitzwilliam's wife Elizabeth in the book. Anne remembered her mother's cruel words about that lady with embarrassment. Lady Catherine considered their marriage to be a disgrace, a blight on his good family name and had even resolved on never speaking to him ever again. This resolution, luckily, did not carry beyond a year, and Anne's mother had visited them for a short time earlier that spring. Anne stayed at home at her mother's suggestion. Lady Catherine did not want to injure the feelings of her jilted daughter by exposing her to their felicity in marriage. Anne recalled that she did not truly care one way or the other, but was glad not to be traveling during the pollen season.
After more consideration, Anne decided to rectify her mother's mistake and took up her pen. She wrote Elizabeth's name in very handsomely after that of her husband's and new sister's, smiling to herself as she blotted the ink. "I must remember that this is my book now. I may update it as I wish."
She flipped further on and stopped at the names of her other cousins, George Fitzwilliam, the Earl of Arundel and his brother Edward Fitzwilliam. Augusta, The name of George's wife, was included. Her mother had approved of that marriage from very beginning and was a frequent visitor to their castle in neighboring Sussex. Younger brother Edward had no wife as of yet, even though he was a few months short of his thirtieth birthday. She wondered at his extended bachelorhood. "Perhaps he has not found the right woman yet," she thought to herself. It was difficult to do so when one was a colonel in the Army. His first duty, of course, would always be to his regiment. Anne wondered if the Fitzwilliams were at their estate in Sussex or if they had already traveled to their house in London. She believed that they almost always were in town for the season.
As she considered their names further, she wondered if she shouldn't write them a letter. She believed that her mother sent one to that family almost every other week. Not that there was any great news to tell, but her mother had almost never had great news to relate either. She could, at least, tell them that Mrs. Jenkinson was away.
She sighed deeply as she thought again of her self-imposed solitude. She wondered if she wasn't being a little too hasty when she convinced Mrs. Jenkinson to visit her sister. She almost wished the lady back by her side at that moment.
She pushed those thoughts away and decided to attempt a letter. Her penmanship, if nothing else, could do with an improvement and she didn't have to actually send the letter if it turned out to be too insipid.
Forty-five minutes later, she read over her work. It was actually very short and only related the fact that Mrs. Jenkinson had left, that she herself was attempting to learn how to manage the estate from her steward. She also mentioned that any book suggestions that they would like send her would be gratefully received as it was going to be a long, lonely winter.
Anne had just resolved upon actually sending the letter and was beginning to seal it when her butler opened the door and announced Mrs. Collins. Anne was extremely glad to see her. "Charlotte! Have you actually walked over to me in all this weather? I am thrilled to see you, but you must be freezing!"
She made her friend take off her cape and sit down in the closest chair to the fire. "It was not as wet as it appears, Anne. I had just received your dinner invitation and I had to come see you. Mr. Collins is feeling very ill and, even though he really insisted that he was well enough to travel to Rosings, I really think that he had better not. I hope that you don't mind too much if we decline your dinner engagement?"
"Not at all," said Anne amiably, "But you must come very soon, because I really don't know what I am going to do with myself. I am already missing Mrs. Jenkinson's somewhat disagreeable companionship"
"That is my other reason for calling. I wished to see how you were doing now that Mrs. Jenkinson has left." Charlotte confessed.
"Oh!" exclaimed Anne, "I shall probably run mad by the end of the week for lack of an occupation." She smiled ruefully, "I was just finishing a letter to my cousins in Sussex. I hope that they receive it before they travel into town."
"Oh Anne that is a wonderful idea!" approved Charlotte. "I am sure that they would be more than willing to escort you to town."
"Charlotte, what do you mean?" Anne asked, puzzled.
"Didn't you ask them to take you to London?" Charlotte returned.
"No, of course not! Where would you get an idea like that?" Anne was incredulous at the thought that she would boldly ask for an invitation of that kind.
Charlotte sat back, somewhat embarrassed by the rapidity of her thought. "I'm sorry Anne, I must have assumed more than was there. You had just been talking of being without companionship and so I thought that you would have asked..."
"Certainly not," Anne interrupted. "I could have never... It is only a short letter, here you can read it for yourself." She handed the unsealed letter to Charlotte who read it quickly.
"Well, I am sorry if I upset you." Charlotte apologized.
The ladies sat in silence for a time, Charlotte with the letter on her lap and Anne gazing into the fire. After a moment, Charlotte spoke. "But, it would be a wonderful idea. Why shouldn't you go to London?"
"London? I'm not sure, Charlotte, it would seem so overwhelming to me. You know, I've never been to London for a season. I don't think I would be comfortable there." Anne squirmed slightly in her chair.
"Are you going to be comfortable here in this empty house with only the servants to keep you company?" Charlotte questioned wisely.
"No, I'm sure that I won't," Anne admitted after a moment of thought. "But I believe that I would be much more uncomfortable in London!"
"But there would be a larger society ..."
"I don't do well in society..." Anne stated.
"I think that you would be quite happy there. You would be the toast of the town!" Charlotte said enthusiastically.
"Oh, how do you figure that?"
"You are quite attractive and very charming!" Charlotte affirmed.
"To you, perhaps..."
"You would have men dropping at your feet," Charlotte went on.
"Oh don't sport with me!" Anne looked away, embarrassed.
"The more I think of it, this would be a very good idea!" Charlotte was enchanted by the thought and decided that she would not relent until her friend agreed. She would use every trick in her power to convince Anne that she would enjoy London. Privately, she would hope for something more... that Anne would actually fall in love with someone worthy of her.
"Enough! Let's speak no more of it!" Anne announced, holding out her hand for the letter which was given to her. She stood up and threw the letter onto the desk. She then turned back to her visitor.
"Shall we walk into the Music Room, Charlotte? I should really love to hear you play for me" Anne invited. Charlotte agreed and the two friends made their way to the Music Room where Charlotte seated herself at the pianoforte and began playing an air. Anne recalled it as one of her favorite childhood melodies, but could not remember the words. She walked slowly over to the instrument humming the tune to herself.
Charlotte looked up and Anne stopped. "No, don't stop, Anne. Do you know this song?"
"Yes, I seem to remember it. I don't know the words." she admitted.
"Well, come around here so that you can see the music," Charlotte said as she gestured towards a seat on the bench next to her.
Anne sat down and Charlotte pointed towards the page. She began again and they sang together for some time, Anne's voice becoming stronger as she found the words in her memory.
Charlotte dropped off and Anne continued on alone. Charlotte was amazed. Anne's voice was sweet and clear and she had a wonderful sense of pitch. She sang the song with something more than precision, though. She sang with a sense of joy in the melody that was wonderfully guileless. Charlotte had to admit that her mother was right when she said that Anne had a natural taste in music and would have been a true proficient if her health had ever allowed her to apply.
She stopped playing as the realization spread over her.
"Charlotte, why did you stop? You were playing that song so beautifully!"
"And you were singing it beautifully!" Charlotte said, with some surprise in her voice.
"Oh, I was not." Anne negatived, looking away.
"No, you were! I think your mother might have been right about your talent. You would have been a wonderful musician!"
Anne continued to look away, regretfully. She felt like sighing over all she had lost by being sick for most of her youth. "If only..."
"Well, maybe it's not too late. What if you were to engage a master to teach you when you go to London. I'm sure that if you practiced every day, you might become good."
"Oh, I'm sure that it is all too late for that," said Anne, "But I believe that I would enjoy occupying my time with practice. Perhaps you are right. I'll give it some more thought."
Charlotte promised to come and teach her frequently in the month ahead. Anne did not notice Charlotte's knowing smile. "I think we shall get her to London after all," she thought to herself.
Chapter 9 - A Letter From The Fitzwilliams And A Visit From The Solicitor
Anne successfully passed a week without Mrs. Jenkinson, but it was not without having to employ a great deal of ingenuity in order to keep herself from becoming too bored. She took several walks in weather that would have driven hardier souls indoors. Anne now wore her warmest cape and gloves out of necessity on these tours of the grounds. Mrs. Jenkinson would have never approved of the duration of these chilly walks.
The Collins' did share dinner with her after Mr. Collins had recovered. Anne also managed to have her steward and his wife over for one dinner and discovered that they were a delightful couple with wonderful stories to relate about their charming children. Anne had met with her steward on several occasions and was becoming more proficient at the management of Rosings. She even attempted to balance the books.
With the assistance of Charlotte, Anne did find a novel and was quickly becoming engrossed in the trials and tribulations of Evelina, the book's heroine. Anne had given some consideration to the idea that Charlotte chose Mrs. Fanny Burney's "History of a Young Lady's Entrance into the World," as Evelina was subtitled, in order to further persuade her to consider a London visit. In the book, young Evelina spent her first season in town with friends after being raised in the quiet solitude of Kent. Anne could not overlook the certain parallels between Evelina's story and her own. Evelina's London season, however, was fraught with mishaps. This young lady had even managed to insult a young gentleman at her first assembly ball by refusing to dance with him only to accept a more desirable partner! She also exposed herself to ridicule by not being able to converse with another one of her dancing partners, a gentleman named Lord Orville. Then there were the disagreeable cousins who always managed to ruin every scheme of pleasure for Evelina. Anne had not yet finished the first volume, though, and she sincerely hoped that Evelina would soon have some measure of good fortune while in London.
Charlotte was also kind enough to visit every other day to give her a pianoforte lesson. Anne, Charlotte realized, was approaching the study of the piano with enjoyment and diligence. Charlotte had also asked her to sing several times, but had not been able to persuade her in that regard.
It was during one of these music lessons that Anne received a response to her letter to the Fitzwilliams. Eager to hear the news about her cousins, she asked Charlotte if she wouldn't mind postponing the remainder of their duet practice until she had finished her letter. Charlotte agreed to wait and took up the practice of her part of the song as Anne went over to the window seat in the Music Room to take advantage of the afternoon light.
She tore open the letter's seal and began to read:
My dear Anne,
How lovely it was to receive your letter. We are glad to hear that you are recovering from your dear Mamma's death but are sorry to learn that Mrs. Jenkinson is not with you at present. Both your cousin and I wonder if that is wise. You need to be with people at this time and that is why we would like to invite you to take our London house this season. We, unfortunately, will not be there as we are expecting our first child and I do not feel well enough to travel at present. Your cousin Edward, however, is stationed in London and will be more than able to look after you and escort you around town. As for a suitable chaperon, we believe that your dear Mrs. Collins could easily be persuaded to accompany you.
Please consider our suggestion, Anne. Both George and I have long thought that you should come to London and be more in society. Our only reservation is that we will not be there to support you. Please write back as soon as you have reached a decision and I will then send you all of the particulars.
I remain, etc.
Anne stared at the letter in her hand. How was it that Augusta and George were of the same opinion as Charlotte? She glanced over at her friend currently engrossed in practice. If she didn't know better, she would have thought that Charlotte had written a letter to her cousins. Could Charlotte have done such a thing? She decided to boldly ask her friend this question.
"Charlotte," she inquired innocently, "Augusta has invited me to their house in London. Isn't it odd that they would be of the same opinion as yourself?"
"London!" Charlotte exclaimed, as she stood up from the bench and quickly crossed the room to Anne. "How wonderful of your cousins to suggest it! When can they receive you?"
"They cannot receive me in London," Anne revealed while handing Charlotte the letter, "since they will remain in Sussex."
"But they must chaperon you!" exclaimed Charlotte, shocked as she began to study the letter's contents."
"They suggested that you chaperon me. Augusta went so far to say that you would be more than willing to do so. Now how might they know that?" Anne asked boldly.
Charlotte finished reading the letter. "You don't suspect me of writing to them, do you?" Charlotte asked, incredulously.
"I am afraid that I do," Anne returned. "Isn't it simply too much of a coincidence that Augusta would suggest the same scheme?"
"Absolutely not!" Charlotte negatived, loudly. "This does not surprise me one bit. It is evident to those who really love you that you should be in London this season. Augusta and I are of the same opinion because we both see the rightness of it. You simply must go to London and I am more than willing to accompany you."
"But what about Mr. Collins?" Anne asked.
"He seemed to do quite well without me before he married. I believe that he would be very amenable to any scheme that would benefit you, his new patroness. Ruth will take care of him very well. She knows how to see to his needs as well as myself." Charlotte handed her back the letter.
Anne was at a complete loss for words. She turned away from Charlotte and stared out of the window towards the shrubbery. Her father had designed this part of the garden as a small maze. The bushes that comprised it had grown up to a admirable height and lately Anne had enjoyed becoming lost in its green walls which were now much taller than she. She often went there when she needed some distraction from the problem of Mrs. Jenkinson. There was nothing like a maze to clear your mind of all other thoughts and she desperately wished that it was warm enough to go walking in there now. But she could see the frost covering the tips of the branches and knew that it was too cold of a day for getting lost in a maze.
She turned back to her friend who was still standing next to her with the letter from the Fitzwilliams in her hand. Anne smiled sadly and accepted the letter. "Charlotte, I'm really not sure that I could manage London. Forgive me for being a coward, but I believe that I will be much better off here.
"And, you know that I have many new duties that are occupying my time," Anne went on, trying to add more force to her argument. "Why even now I am expecting my solicitor! He said that he had some very particular business to discuss with me. No, I had better not leave Rosings."
"Very well, Anne. I must admit to some disappointment, but..." Charlotte trailed off.
"And we will have such fun here at Rosings, won't we?" Anne went on cheerfully. Why, I am just becoming good at the pianoforte. We shall play duets and have a wonderful time!"
Anne jumped up from the window seat and escorted her friend back to the instrument. There the two ladies remained until Anne's solicitor was announced.
Anne called the carriage to convey her friend back to the parsonage and then walked into the Morning Room where her solicitor was waiting. Anne had only met the man, a Mr. Percival Thornton, once. Lady Catherine absolutely swore by him. She recommended his services to all her friends and, as Anne entered the room, it was not difficult to discern why. He was all unctuous servility, bowing and scraping. He complimented Anne's consideration at seeing him so promptly no less than three times before she had even managed to take a seat by the fire.
Mr. Thornton joined Anne by the hearth, trailing papers flowing out of a overstuffed portfolio that he was carrying. He sat the portfolio on his lap and attempted to locate the document that he wished to show Anne, all the while keeping up a conversation that was barely intelligible and meant absolutely nothing to her.
"And at your own decease, the antecedent would come into receivership...." Mr. Thornton mumbled on, "Ah yes, there it is..." He pulled out a document and squinted at it through his spectacles. "If you would be so good as to sign...." He indicated a line at the end of the paper.
"Sign?" Anne questioned.
"Yes, of course you must sign it! It is, after all, your own will! It must be signed by you." Mr. Thornton smiled at his own joke.
"My will!" Anne almost shouted in astonishment.
"Well you can't leave these things until the last minute, especially with your health," Mr. Thornton retorted.
"I am not dying!" Anne screamed.
"No, of course not yet, but considering that you have no heir to naturally inherit the property, you must designate...."
"Yes designate a benefactor," Mr. Thornton explained.
Anne sat, stunned.
"So, you see, how important it is to get these things in writing." he went on. "If you were to die tomorrow, your estate would be held up in the most awful way... The courts, legalities.... in the end...."
"So, who am I designating in this document?" Anne asked, gesturing to the paper that he still held in his hand.
"The church, of course."
"The church," Anne repeated, dully.
"Well, who else?" Mr. Thornton threw up his hands.
Anne stood up and walked away from Mr. Thornton. To say that she was offended by Mr. Thornton's business with her was a great understatement. Yet, the longer she considered it, the less impertinent it became. Here she was, the heiress of a large estate with absolutely no prospects for an heir of her own in sight. Death does occur, even to young people. It could happen to her, even with her great improvement in health. But, she just couldn't bring herself to sign that will. She couldn't bring herself to make the church her heir.
Through the window, she saw the carriage that was to take Charlotte back to the parsonage coming up the drive. Charlotte left the front door and began to walk towards it. "Charlotte!" Anne began to call as she ran out of the Morning Room and towards the front door.
"Charlotte!" she shouted as she opened the door.
Charlotte turned towards Anne, one foot on the carriage stool. She looked at her questioningly.
"Maybe..." Anne started. "Perhaps we should go to London after all."
Chapter 10 - The Evening Before Anne's Journey...
Anne found herself ready to embark on the journey towards London in less than a week. All of the details that were part of traveling to town were dealt with very quickly. Charlotte was an indispensable help when it came to figuring out what to pack, what instructions were to be given to the servants that were to travel with them, what orders were to be given to the servants that would remain at Rosings, and which relatives needed to be informed about their journey.
Anne's letter to the Fitzwilliams accepting the kind offer of their London house was quickly responded to by that couple, who sent an express to Anne conveying all of the necessary details. Augusta again mentioned her deep regret at not being able to chaperon Anne herself and how glad she was to hear of Mrs. Collins' willingness to do the honors. Augusta also promised that she would tell Edward of Anne's being in London in her next letter.
The Darcy's sent a response to Anne's letter saying that they all would regret not being able to see her in London either as they had just fixed on taking Georgiana to the Continent for her Grand Tour. But they would most definitely come to Kent for a visit in the Spring. Elizabeth Darcy was quite friendly in her letter and mentioned that she was very glad to hear that Anne was going to London.
Mr. Collins couldn't be happier to part with his wife for a short time. He mentioned how pleased he was that they were able to be of service to Miss de Bourgh. Indeed, he elaborated on this theme for some twenty minutes during one dinner eaten at Rosings.
The night before their departure, Anne sat in her room and wondered how she was ever going to get any sleep that night. While Charlotte was excited and even somewhat giddy about the idea of traveling to London, Anne was anxious and worried. She found the idea of leaving the relative security or Rosings daunting to say the least and sincerely believed that she would have never even considered it further had not her solicitor's visit pushed her into thinking about the future of Rosings. Anne had to marry and provide her estate with an heir and she was not going to be able to do that by staying at home in Kent.
Anne sighed heavily and wished that she felt sleepy. Her bed, not yet turned down, was not inviting at all. A knock on the door heralded the entrance of her maid, Smith, who was coming to help her mistress prepare for bed.
"Begging your pardon, miss, but I took the liberty of..." Smith proferred a small jewelry box that Anne remembered from her mother's dressing room. Anne looked at her maid quizzically. "I just remembered your mother's necklace. It is so beautiful. I thought that you might wish to take it to London." Smith held the box out to Anne who took it and opened the lid.
The necklace was as exquisite as Anne had remembered it. A large garnet surrounded by small diamonds fixed onto three ropes of pearls. It was a wedding gift from her father to her mother and her mother had worn it often in memory of him. Anne touched a strand of pearls as she remembered the last time she had seen it worn by her mother.
"I hope that you don't mind. I helped my Lady take it off that night so I did know where she kept it." Smith said, by way of explanation. "It would look so lovely on you!"
Anne smiled at the young woman's kind words. She looked up from the necklace at Smith. She had been with Anne for three years now and Anne was pleased with her sense of taste and helpfulness. "This is just the type of thing that Smith would do," mused Anne. "She is always thinking of me." Anne was very glad that Smith would be traveling with her to London. She would need the young woman's kind manner and wonderful sense of fashion.
"You are right Smith, I'm so glad that you thought of it." Anne affirmed, making the young girl smile.
"Why don't you put it on now, miss. Just to see what it looks like." Smith suggested.
Anne walked over to her dressing table and allowed her maid to place the ropes of pearls around her neck. Anne touched the garnet and centered it. "It's perfect!" Smith said breathlessly.
Anne had to admit that it did look very well. The garnet complimented the color of her lips, which Anne had been absentmindedly biting anxiously for the last day and a half, a reflex that she couldn't seem to get the better of.
Anne gazed at her reflection further and was almost ready to admit to being pleased with what she saw. She hadn't truly looked at herself for quite some time and discovered that she had missed the changes that had taken place in her countenance. Her cheeks were definitely fuller and they seemed to have some color to them. The color deepened as she felt her face become flushed with embarrassment.
But it was her hair that seemed to have made the most remarkable transformation. How could it be that there seemed to be more of it? Anne reached up to her forehead and ran her fingers through some of the curls.
"I'm so glad that you decided to let me style it this way, Miss." Smith said, looking at Anne in the mirror "I always knew that tight bun Mrs. Jenkinson suggested I make pulled all the curl right out of your hair and probably more than a few strands out of your head! But it did manage to bounce right back, didn't it?" Smith smiled as she took up the brush and prepared to take Anne's hair down for the night.
"Yes," Anne admitted. "You have done wonders, Smith." She reached to the clasp at the back of the necklace and undid it. As Smith began to brush her hair, Anne admired her mother's necklace and noticed that there was one stone, one of the diamonds, that seemed loose in its setting.
"Oh! Look at this!" Anne held up the necklace for Smith to see.
"It is a bit loose," Smith said as she studied it. "But you can get a jeweler to fix it right up once you get to London. Do take it with you," Smith soothed.
"I will," Anne said, "And thank you for thinking of it. It was very good of you."
"Just doing my job, Miss," said her maid, more than a little pleased by her mistresses notice.
Anne looked at her reflection in the mirror once again and wondered if she could now call herself pretty, something that she had never been able to do before, no matter how many times Charlotte told her that she was.
Smith turned down the bed, built up the fire, and wished Anne a very good night. Anne climbed under the covers and prayed that sleep would take her soon, as she was quite tired from worrying over what London had in store for her.
Chapter 11 - London
The morning arrived and with it a flurry of activity. Breakfast was a hurried affair and Anne's attention was quickly consumed by the necessity of giving last minute instructions to her housekeeper and steward. There were so many people to attend to at the Park and in Hunsford and Anne wanted to make sure that everyone would be looked after in her absence. Later, when she and Charlotte were on the road towards London, Anne would look back and be glad for all of the rush; it kept her from really thinking about leaving Rosings. If she had really been able to reflect upon it before they departed, she wondered if she would ever have had the nerve to step into the carriage.
Anne found herself attempting to read once the carriage was underway. She had not yet finished Evelina, the book Charlotte had suggested to her. Those disagreeable cousins of Evelina's had managed to put her in a very compromising position; she was left alone in Vauxhall Gardens during a twilight walk and was actually accosted by a gang of men! Fortunately a gentleman did come to her aid and she was escorted to safety. Anne decided that she herself would never visit Vauxhall without more scrupulous chaperones and would never go after dusk.
Becoming so engrossed in the book allowed the journey to pass quickly for Anne and it was with some surprise that Charlotte roused her from the page of her book. They were entering the outskirts of town!
Anne had, of course, been through London before, but had never stopped in that grand city for more than a night. The idea of living in so much bustle and commotion both thrilled and frightened her. Anne looked at Charlotte, who smiled at her confidently and squeezed her hand.
The carriage driver was surprisingly adept at maneuvering through the crowded city streets and Anne and Charlotte found themselves drawing up in front of the Fitzwilliam town house. It was a handsome, well-kept building amongst many of its kind. The door to the house was immediately thrown open and several footmen were dispatched to help the two ladies from the carriage as well as gather up their trunks and boxes.
In a moment, Anne was in the hall being greeted by an attractive older woman who announced that she was Mrs. Flynn, the housekeeper. Mrs. Flynn was very concerned that Anne was not fatigued from her long journey and escorted the pair upstairs and into Anne's bedchamber.
The room designated for Anne was very light and pleasing, with a large wardrobe placed between two windows. The windows, Anne noticed, fronted the street and gave her a wonderful vantage point for watching the London traffic. Charlotte's room was next her to her own and there was an adjoining door between the two. Mrs. Flynn mentioned to Anne that the room was redecorated just last year to Lady Fitzwilliam's exacting specifications. She liked to use this room herself when in London and had written to her housekeeper stipulating that Anne be given it.
Anne was grateful for Augusta's overwhelming kindness and told Mrs. Flynn how pleased she was with the room.
Dinner was to be ordered for the two travelers, who were given a few moments to freshen up and look about themselves.
"Well Anne, what do you think?" Charlotte asked her friend.
"Oh, its so lovely!" cooed Anne, looking out the window at the street below. "But I have to confess to being a bit tired from the journey." She walked back to her friend. "What do you say to retiring after dinner?"
"That would be very welcome, Anne." Charlotte admitted. "We shall be able to make an early start tomorrow, then."
Charlotte then went on to remind Anne about tomorrow morning's appointment with a dressmaker that Augusta had recommended. Charlotte, never one to leave things until the last, had written and secured an appointment while still in Hunsford. She wanted to ensure that Anne looked and felt her best.
Anne thought about exciting, yet fatiguing prospect of looking at style patterns and examining new fabrics and was very glad to be turning in early.
© 1997 Copyright held by author