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I actually have the last chapter of this story scheduled to post next Thursday. I’m on the ball today! LOL I’ll be taking a break from posting for a few weeks while I prepare the new Lilacs & Lavender files for upload to the vendor sites and then finish up a couple other projects.
Today I present to you chapter 11.
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. Chapter 9 is here. Chapter 10 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.
Lady Catherine had never been so angry in her life. Even hours after reaching her home estate of Rosings, she seethed. Her brother, her very own brother, had ejected her from his home. He had accused her of shaming the family name. Her! Lady Catherine Fitzwilliam de Bourgh! Who did he think he was? She was trying to prevent Darcy from shaming them! She continued to rant in this manner, sometimes silently, sometimes loudly. Her servants and daughter tiptoed around her, fearful of her actions should they receive undue notice from her. It was not until dinner that she noticed them flinching when she spoke and serving her from further away than was usual. However, it was Anne who finally gathered up enough courage to speak to her.
“Mama, what has you so flustered? I have never seen you in such a high state of agitation! Whatever can be the matter?” She spoke quietly but firmly. Her mother in this condition was a frightening thing, and while she did not want to worsen the situation, if she could amend it, she would.
“Your uncle is the matter! He told me he is ashamed of me, and sent me home like an errant schoolgirl!”
Anne’s mouth fell open in shock. Shutting it up again quickly, she replied, “Ashamed? What could you have possibly done to make Uncle ashamed?”
At her daughter’s question, Lady Catherine suddenly saw the events of the previous day in a new light. How was she to tell her only living child what she had done? Anne expected her mother to behave as a gentlewoman at all times, and she had not. Still, she tried to reason with herself, it was done for her protection. Drawing herself up, she replied, “I went to Hertfordshire and offered Miss Bennet’s father money to break her engagement to Darcy so that he would offer for you.”
Anne was astounded. “Mother! Tell me you did not! Did my cousin not tell you that I do not wish to marry him?” She could see the guilt mixed with anger on her only parent’s face.
“You do not know what is best for you. I do. You will do as I say.” Suddenly, Lady Catherine threw her napkin down beside her plate and stood up from the table. “Not that it matters now. Your uncle has refused to back me up. No one will force Mr. Bennet to do anything, and Darcy will marry the girl. I, however, refuse to acknowledge her. The pair of them have used us ill, Anne. They have used us very ill.”
“No, they have not. I would have refused to marry my cousin, regardless of Mr. Bennet’s acceptance of your bribe. Mama,” she pleaded, “please listen to me. I do not want to marry Darcy. I do not want to marry anyone.”
“Well, you must marry, and I do not want to lose the life I have now when you do!” Suddenly, the fears that she had not even admitted to herself came pouring out in an angry torrent. “I have no intention of living in the dower house on one thousand pounds per year. I will not lose control of this estate, nor the funds to which I am accustomed!” She stopped, appalled at her own words.
Anne pleaded with her mother, tears beginning to overflow her eyes. “I would never force you to live anywhere but here. I do not need to marry. Even were I to meet someone and fall in love, I would not push you out of my life in that manner.”
Suddenly, Lady Catherine slumped a bit, the fight going out of her for the first time since hearing of her nephew’s engagement.
“You would not have a choice, my child,” she stated softly. “Your father’s will specifies that upon your marriage, I must move to the dower house and live off the interest from what is left of my dowry. I wanted you to marry Darcy because my sister and I agreed to it, but also because I did not want to lose my home and my income, and the benefits that come with them.”
“Does the will indicate that I must marry? What happens if I do not? I know that I have inherited, as you have often said the de Bourghs did not think it necessary to entail the estate to the male line. May I not leave it to anyone I choose? And should I not marry, why can I not leave it to you, Mama, if I were to leave this mortal coil before you do? Do you not think I would assure your health and happiness? You are my mother; I love you!”
As she spoke, Anne had crept closer to her mother, reaching out her hand, and finally grasping the one that had held hers through many a trial and tribulation. Lady Catherine squeezed her daughter’s fingers tightly. Finally letting go and heaving a huge sob, she broke down in tears. Anne helped her back into her seat before sitting on the arm of the chair and wrapping her own arms around her parent. She held her mother close while Lady Catherine cried out all her pain and sorrow.
When the tears let up, Anne tightened her hold and spoke softly into her mother’s hair. “It will be alright, Mama. We will ask the attorney to come to Rosings. He can explain things to us more fully. Regardless of what the will says,” she finished softly, “I cannot imagine forcing my dearest mother to live somewhere she is not happy and on little income. I trust that you will have trained me to be mistress well enough that you will be able to step back from your place and allow me mine.” Letting go a little bit, she leaned back and looked her mother in the eye and smiled. “I love you, Mama.”
“I love you too, Anne. Thank you for reassuring me. I am proud of you for forcing me to have this conversation. I think I needed to express my fears.” She chortled. “I did not realize I felt some of those things. I needed you to draw them out of me. Thank you, Daughter.”
“You are welcome. Come; let us get you upstairs. I think you could do with a long, relaxing bath. What say you?”
And so, the Mistress of Rosings and her beloved daughter went upstairs together after their very trying discussion, each with a better understanding of the other and of themselves. In her bath a little while later, Lady Catherine reflected on the events leading up to that conversation. She felt an incredible amount of shame for the manner in which she behaved, starting with her angry words to her nephew when he spoke of his engagement to Miss Bennet. Her brother was correct. She had shamed the family and cast a slur upon its name. She must make amends.
Dressing in a nightgown and robe after leaving the tub, she sat down at the table in her bedchamber and opened the small portable writing desk she kept there. She would start with letters of apology to Darcy and to her brother. Those would not be easy to write, she knew, but harder would be the ones her conscience dictated she write to Miss Bennet and her father. Some would argue that she did not directly insult the young lady, and therefore no apology was necessary. However, Lady Catherine felt convicted to write them. She had directly insulted Mr. Bennet in any case, and she had roundly derided his daughter in every conversation, not to mention attempting to interrupt the young lady’s wedding.
In an effort to heal the breach between herself and Darcy and his betrothed, she issued an invitation to the pair to visit Rosings after they were married. Time would tell if this olive branch was accepted. In the meantime, Lady Catherine vowed to herself to spend part of each day reflecting on the feelings that led to her actions, in an effort to identify and conquer her remaining fears.
To be continued …
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