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After this, I only have three more chapters. I anticipate having this re-edit complete before Easter (April 9). I’ll likely take a couple weeks off for a final read-through and a format and to make a cover before I begin the next project.
Today I present to you chapter 9.
If you missed chapter 1, you can find it here.
Chapter 2 is here. Chapter 3 is here. Chapter 4 is here.
Chapter 5 is here. Chapter 6 is here. Chapter 7 is here.
Chapter 8 is here.
Did you know that Patreon patrons who pledge $2 per month or more get to read these posts an entire week early? Also, patrons at all levels get to read my current work-in-progress as I write it.
By the time Lady Catherine arrived from Longbourn to her brother’s home in London, she had worked herself up into an impressive state of agitation. An average person would have been left exhausted after experiencing such an excess of emotion over such a long period of time as fifteen hours. Lady Catherine, however, was not an average person, not in her own mind and in truth, not in the mind of anyone who knew her. When she arrived at Lord Matlock’s home, such was her anger that she ignored all proper behavior, opening his door without knocking, showing herself to his study, and pushing out of the way any servant trying to do his job.
Throwing the wooden panel open so hard it banged against the wall and flew back at her, she strode into the room, only to be brought up short before she could utter a single word to her brother. He was not there.
“What is the meaning of this? Where is Lord Matlock? Why did you not tell me he was not in his study?” She berated the hapless butler, Winslow, completely ignoring the fact that she had not given him a chance to inform her of her brother’s whereabouts.
“I apologize, madam.” He bowed before continuing. “The family is at dinner. This way, please.”
Winslow turned away and began walking towards the dining room. Outwardly he was stoic, as was expected of a man in his position. Inwardly, he was seething. Pretentious, arrogant, stupid woman, he thought. Such were his ponderings that he arrived at his destination without having heard Lady Catherine and her continuous comments and complaints behind him.
Having walked quickly in his anger and therefore arriving at the room before the lady, he opened the doors, stepped just inside, and announced her in his most somber tone before bowing and exiting. The earl and the countess looked up in surprise. They could tell from Winslow’s voice that he was unhappy. That it was Lord Matlock’s sister caused no amazement; she frequently caused distress in those lower in consequence than she. Quickly, the earl rose from his seat as she entered the room.
“Henry, you must do something about Darcy! This cannot be allowed to go on! I demand you go to his house right now and put a stop to this ridiculous engagement! What are you doing?” she asked as she watched him sit back down. “Go now! This must be dealt with immediately!”
“I am eating dinner – a very late dinner. I am hungry. Nothing going on with Darcy or Anne or any of my children is dire enough that I need to interrupt a meal to deal with it. Sit and eat, and afterwards we can discuss your concerns.” Lord Matlock was not at all happy to have such a pleasant meal interrupted by his harridan of a sister, and his tone of voice gave her notice that her concerns would wait until he was at leisure to consider them.
As independent and vociferous as she was, Lady Catherine was a product of her society. Ladies were subject to their male relations, in general, and her brother had been earl long enough to have gotten used to being master of his domain. She knew him well enough to know that he would refuse to hear her concerns until he was ready to do so, and all the pushing, prodding, and loudly demanding she could do would be for naught. So, the great lady sat down and ate.
After the meal, the group retired to the drawing room to discuss Lady Catherine’s concerns. After her enforced period of relative silence during the meal, much of her violent anger had dissipated, but she was still determined to have her way. Lord Matlock, knowing that his sister required a firm hand, decided to make her wait a few minutes longer before taking on the issue of Darcy and his engagement. The express he had received from his second son the day before was somewhat reassuring. The young lady to whom Darcy was attached was at least a gentlewoman, and while it would have been preferable for him to marry someone with an excellent dowry, he certainly did not require one. Darcy had more money than he himself did, and a talent for earning more. A wife with no dowry would not be a hardship. However, Matlock knew that his sister’s concern was less with this Miss Bennet’s dowry and more with her own daughter, Anne. As he listened to his wife play the pianoforte, he contemplated his course of action. He believed it was wiser to let Catherine vent her spleen first. Once she had exhausted her arguments, they could be addressed one by one. He would not, however, dismiss Miss Bennet on the basis of his sister’s opinion alone, which is what she was going to demand of him. As Lady Matlock finished her song and moved to re-join them, he sighed to himself and turned to his sibling.
“Well then, Catherine, tell me what it is that has you so upset today.”
“Darcy, of course! Were you not listening, earlier?” Lady Catherine may be required to be respectful of her brother and his station, but that did not mean she must do it meekly.
“Indeed, Sister. I do recall you interrupting a relaxing meal with my lovely spouse with some nonsense about our nephew.” His tone turned hard. “Do not play games. Explain yourself and your behavior. I do not appreciate my butler being treated in so infamous a manner as you did today. Servant he may be, but he has been well-trained and does his job in an exceptional manner. Now, tell me about Darcy and what he has done that has upset you so.”
Lady Catherine swallowed. She had obviously pushed too hard, too soon. However, this was important – too important to be dealt with lightly. In a calmer tone, she began again.
“Darcy informed me yesterday morning that he has engaged himself to a woman of inferior birth with no dowry and poor connections. She is a fortune hunter! My rector is cousin of some sort or other to her, and the rest of her relatives are in trade. Trade!” Lady Catherine was beginning to get worked up all over again. “She has seduced him with her arts and allurements, and made him forget what he owes to his family, what he owes to my daughter! He has been engaged to Anne since she was in her cradle, and he knows this! I remind him of it every year when he visits, and in every letter. What is he thinking?”
Lord Matlock allowed his sister to go on in this vein for a few more minutes before an expressive look from his wife gave him to understand that her patience was at an end and he should do something about his sibling.
“Enough!” He spoke sharply. “Stop at once this insistence that Darcy and Anne were meant for each other. You know very well that our sister never said any such thing. That is a fabrication that you came up with after her death, for reasons unknown to any but yourself.” He raised his hand to stop Lady Catherine when she tried to interrupt. “You have always been known in the family for creating stories and swearing they were true so you could have your way. It did not work with Father and Mother, it did not work with Sir Lewis. Why you would think it would work with me is beyond my comprehension.
“I have heard from Richard; he sent me an express yesterday describing Miss Bennet to me and exclaiming over the love he sees in his cousin for this young lady. You know as well as I that Darcy does nothing, makes no decision, without careful consideration. His attachment to this Bennet girl is not the result of an impulse. I might believe that of Richard, but not Darcy.” He nodded to his wife. “I intend to ask for an introduction for Audra and me to the lady. We will speak with her as well as our nephew and make our decision from there as to our support or lack thereof. Though,” he added, looking to his boots, “really, if he is firm in his decision there is little we can do but support them. It would not do for Society to discern a rift in the family.
“That being said,” he stated, looking his sister directly in the eyes, “you will not cause either of them trouble. You will be polite in public to both of them. Welcoming, even. You will not speak of this fantasy of an engagement with Anne to anyone. Not to your closest friends, not to family, and definitely not to Darcy or Miss Bennet. Am I clear?”
Suddenly, a thought came to his mind. “And you are not, under any circumstances to visit the young lady’s family home and cause trouble there.” When his sister startled and began to turn red, he knew it was too late for that warning. “What have you done?” he roared.
“I did what any concerned mother of a jilted daughter would do. I went to that insignificant estate she grew up on, and asked her father to force her to give Darcy up.”
“And?” Lord Matlock prompted, knowing there was going to be more to the story, and that he was not going to be made happy by the revelation.
“And the man refused to listen to reason. He declined fifteen thousand pounds, saying that his widow would be well cared for should he pass before her. Fifteen thousand pounds! I know from Mr. Collins that the estate brings in very little. What man in his right mind would turn that amount of money down if he were not every bit as much a fortune hunter as his daughter?”
“Oh, I do not know, Sister. Perhaps a man who cared about his daughter’s happiness? Who do you think you are to do such a thing? How would you feel if Anne had engaged herself to a member of the royal family, and one of his aunts came to you and offered money to break the betrothal?”
He paused when he saw her start, but continued before she could speak. “Do not tell me that would never happen. Anything is possible. I am ashamed of you, Catherine. You have sullied the names of Fitzwilliam, Matlock, and de Bourgh with your thoughtless words and actions. At your age, one would have thought you would have learned to consider the feelings of others. It disgusts me that you are still as selfish now as you were when we were children.
“Go home to Rosings. I do not want to see or hear from you until you are ready to give up this fantasy of Darcy and Anne marrying and extend an apology to Miss Bennet’s family. Honestly, at this point I am half-inclined to approve the match just to spite you.” He rose, ringing the bell for a servant. When the housekeeper appeared, he asked that Lady Catherine be shown to the room kept ready for her.
“It is in your favor that you did not drag your daughter all over England with you on this misguided venture. Go upstairs and rest tonight. You will leave first thing in the morning. You will go directly home and you will stay there. Think about what you have done, Catherine, and how it reflects on yourself and your family. Think about the limitations you have placed on your daughter against all advice to the contrary. When you have come to your senses, write to me and I will visit. We will then discuss how this can be made right. Good night, Sister.” With that, he rose and, extending his arm to his lady, who had risen with him, left the room to retire to the master’s chambers.
Lady Catherine, having no choice but to obey, rose also and found her way to her suite of rooms.
To be continued …