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Darcy and Anne

BOOK: Darcy and Anne

Copyright © 2009 by Judith Brocklehurst

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Brocklehurst, Judith.

Darcy and Anne / Judith Brocklehurst.

p. cm.

1. Darcy, Fitzwilliam (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 2. Bennet, Elizabeth (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 3. England—Social life and customs—19th century—Fiction. I. Austen, Jane, 1775-1817. Pride and prejudice. II. Title.

PS3602.R626D37 2009



Printed and bound in the United States of America

CHG 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

For Brian with love

Lady Catherine de Bourgh to Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy

My dear Nephew,

The disagreement between us regarding your marriage has gone on long enough. I disapproved; but that is in the past.

I am convinced that, after two years at Pemberley, your wife has become a worthy representative of our family. I am supported in this view by a letter from my old friend, Lady Louisa Benton, who lives, as you know, in your part of the world. Lady Louisa tells me that at a reception she recently attended, “your pretty niece, Mrs Darcy” was dressed with taste and elegance, and much admired for her ease of manner and witty conversation.

Let us let bygones be bygones. Her want of family connections is no longer a consideration; a wife, after all, takes the rank of her husband. The fact of her sister's disgraceful elopement with the son of your father's steward is known to no one in our set, except myself, and I shall never mention it outside the family. I have re-considered; I have made my resolution; I shall visit you.

Our visit will take place very soon, for another circumstance has arisen: Mrs Jenkinson, Anne's companion, has left us. She has actually taken a position as a governess, in the family of a rich manufacturer with three small children, and they say she receives twice the salary that I was paying her, has a fire in her bedroom, and dines with the family every day! They are lowborn, and I suppose they like to say that their governess has been in a nobleman's family. Be that as it may, we can find no one to replace her. I have decided: Anne must marry. She is full old enough; she mopes here, and marriage will lift her spirits and give her an interest. I shall expect her husband to live with us here; indeed I shall insist on it; and we shall go on exactly as we do now, except that we will not need a paid companion.

However, I can find no young man, nor indeed any man, in this neighbourhood, to marry her. I am acquainted with several families of sufficient station who have sons, but whenever I invite them here, they are already engaged, or just going to town, or there is sickness in the family. When we pay a morning visit, the young men are always out about the place, or riding, or hunting; we visit with the mother and father, and it gets us nowhere. As for billiard rooms, they should be banned by law; the young men get into them, and cannot be got out. We need a larger neighbourhood; we need new acquaintances. I think you will admit, my dear nephew, that by marrying as you did, you have put me in the position, which I did not expect, of having to find a husband for my daughter, and you ought to assist us by every means in your power. We shall visit you and stay until Anne has formed an eligible connection.

You will know which men, among your acquaintance, are fit to marry the daughter of Sir Lewis de Bourgh, and your wife will easily be able to arrange a series of pleasant little entertainments to get them to the house. I do not object to an older man, or to a widower, and I do not insist on a title, provided he be of sufficient rank and means, and cognizant, of course, of the honour of marrying into a family such as ours. Once matters are satisfactorily arranged, we shall all remove to Rosings for the wedding; and—I am quite determined, it is time—your wife shall be of the party.

We start from here the day after tomorrow, and will be on the road by the time this letter reaches you. I do not know when we shall reach Pemberley; we must travel slowly, as Anne gets queasy after an hour or two in the chaise.

Believe me still to be, my dear Nephew,

Your affectionate Aunt,

C. de Bourgh.

By the by, Mrs Collins was brought to bed three days ago. The child is a boy, and Mr Collins is half killed with delight, so that he makes even less sense than usual. It is very inconvenient for me, for they cannot come to dinner, and with Mrs Jenkinson gone, we have been obliged to sit down alone. However, I visited and was shown the infant. It is a very ugly child, but then Mrs Collins has no pretension to beauty. As for Mr Collins, when I sought an incumbent for the living of Hunsford, I made sure not to get a good-looking man, for a handsome parson is fit for nothing but to put ideas into the young women's heads.

C de B.

N A FINE DAY, IN AN OPEN CARRIAGE, TRAVELLING IS ONE OF life's most pleasant experiences. But if the day be hot, the carriage closed, and the traveller crowded, the pleasure is much diminished. And should the traveller be not at all eager to arrive at the destination, the journey is misery indeed.

On a warm day of early summer, a post-chaise was proceeding at a good pace towards Pemberley, in derbyshire. The bulky dress of Lady Catherine de Bourgh took up most of the seat, for Lady Catherine did not approve of the modern fashions, so that Anne de Bourgh was obliged to share rather less than half of the space with her mother's maid. She wondered if Mullins was feeling as hot and wretched as she was, but for half a lifetime Mullins had been Lady Catherine's sewing maid, and, recently promoted to be her personal maid, she never ventured any opinion. She was vinegar-faced, dour, and silent. You would never know what Mullins thought, or felt.

But there was no doubt as to Lady Catherine's mood. At the posting-house where they had stayed the night before, a violent illness, probably from bad meat, had laid low several people, mostly servants, and including their coachman and both of the footmen. Lady Catherine was very angry, and had refused to spend another night in the inn. She would go on without her servants, she said; they were within twenty miles of Pemberley, and would arrive there well within the day. The servants should bring the coach on when they were recovered.

A post-chaise was hired. It was the handsomest that could be obtained, and actually was travelling much faster than the family carriage, but a hired post-chaise is not a barouche. Even had one been available for hire, nothing could make up for the fact that they must arrive at Pemberley, they must drive through Lambton and up the approach, in a vehicle that did not carry the de Bourgh family crest on its panels, and no one would know who was arriving. Lady Catherine was not in a good temper.

Anne, on the other hand, in spite of her discomfort, was by no means in a hurry to arrive at Pemberley. She did not think she could ever be comfortable there. Anne had a pretty good idea of the content of her mother's letter, and could well imagine the feelings of its recipient. Her mother, she knew, could not imagine herself unwelcome anywhere, but Anne could anticipate the forced smiles, the resigned attitude, the careful attentions, all the more careful because unfelt, that would greet the arrival of such unwanted guests as they would be! Her distress was compounded by the thought that, wanted or unwanted, they must stay, and stay until a husband had been found for her! The thought of the stratagems her mother might employ to achieve such an end made her shudder.

And this must happen at Pemberley, where her hostess would be Mrs Darcy, the brilliant young woman who had snatched the great matrimonial prize, Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy, from Lady Catherine's grasp.

Anne was quite certain that Mrs Darcy despised her. She could never forget the very first evening they had met, when Mr and Mrs Collins had brought their pretty, quick-tongued friend, Miss Elizabeth Bennet, to dinner at Rosings. Anne, who seldom felt well, had been bilious all day. By the evening, she had a severe headache, but neither she nor Mrs Jenkinson had said anything about it, for Lady Catherine disliked being reminded that her daughter was sickly—though she frequently alluded to the fact herself.

Poor Mrs Jenkinson, always afraid of losing her post, had fidgeted desperately all through dinner, pressing Anne to take every dish, though she knew perfectly well that she could not eat anything. From time to time, Anne had tried to eat, but every mouthful, as soon as she had swallowed it, turned out to be exactly what was most likely to make her sick.

Dinner had seemed endless; and after dinner, Anne had been made to say what card game she would like to play. At random, her head throbbing, she had said, “Cassino"; she did not know why, for she did not like it. They had sat all evening playing, hardly speaking a word except as it affected the game. Miss Elizabeth Bennet, sitting there in the pretty white muslin dress that Lady Catherine said could not have cost more than six shillings the yard, had been perfectly polite, but she had clearly been very bored, and it was clear that she regarded it as Anne's fault—or so it seemed to poor Anne. Anne had never felt so plain, so sickly and stupid. She was sure that when she met Mrs Darcy again, she would feel exactly the same.

Life at Rosings had not been happy for Anne in recent years. She had loved her gentle, scholarly father. When she was a child, he had spent a great deal of time with her, telling her stories, and later he had formed her taste for reading, sharing with her the books he loved. She still grieved over his sudden, early death. Her mother had seen to it that his obsequies were magnificent, had paid for a very handsome monument, and had forgotten him.

Her happiest times were when she was alone, in her father's library, among the fossil curiosities and outdated books. She did not blame Mrs Jenkinson for leaving Rosings. In fact, though nobody knew it (and Anne shuddered, when she thought what her mother would say), she had encouraged her companion to apply for the post of governess in a rich family. Mrs Jenkinson was timid and kindly. She had been an excellent governess when Anne was a child, but she had no talent for instructing a grown woman, and for a couple of years, in fact, had been filling the post of a personal maid.

Anne had hoped that, if Mrs Jenkinson left, her mother would engage somebody who might take her a little further in piano and in French, and help her to read the more advanced authors, the geography and natural sciences that she loved. She did not think of asking to ride, to dance, or to sing, for she had always been told that her health did not permit these activities.

However, her mother had decided not to engage another companion for her, or even a maid: “Mullins will look after you. She has very little to do.” Mullins had not been pleased. Almost all that Anne had heard from her, since Mrs Jenkinson left, was “I take my orders from Lady Catherine, miss,” and “My lady has given no orders for that, miss.” It was all Anne could do to get her clothes taken care of and her dress unlaced at the inns where they had stayed along the road.

Anne was constantly ill, and the medication provided by her mother's doctor did little to relieve, and nothing to cure her. It might have been assumed that her health would be found too poor for her to think of marriage, with its attendant dangers. But she was always told that her health was no cause for concern, she would soon be better, and then she was to marry her cousin Darcy. She was never asked whether she wanted to marry him, and her mother would have been astonished to know that, had she been asked, the answer would have been a frightened, but definite, “No.”

Anne was afraid of him: his cold manner, his heavy silences, his sardonic looks, his dismissive remarks, above all the occasional witticisms, subtle and derogatory, that hurt her, but that her mother did not understand, or seem to notice.

He had been a splendid young man when she was scarcely more than a child; her mother's assertion that they had been in the cradle together was a myth of her mother's creating; he was the older by five years. He was handsome, he was rich, he was clever; but he had never paid any attention to her, and she knew that he did not want to marry her.

What a relief, when she heard he was to marry Miss Bennet! And what a surprise: for she was neither rich nor well connected. However, on thinking it over, Anne remembered not only how pretty Miss Bennet was, but how lively, how confident, and altogether charming!

When cousin Darcy was there, she had watched the two of them talk together—the enjoyment that had flashed like lightning between them. No stale, awkward nothings for them, no heavy silences! They had seemed almost to fence, like two swordsmen, but yet it was play. The bright-eyed young woman seemed never to be afraid, always on the verge of laughter.

Then there had been a strange evening, when the Collinses had come to drink tea, but Miss Bennet had not come with them, because, they said, she had the head-ache; Mrs Collins said she was very bad. “It must be bad indeed,” Mr Collins had said, “to compel her to forgo the pleasure of drinking tea with the ladies of Rosings,” as he bowed to Anne, in his usual ingratiating way.

Cousin Darcy had seemed unable to give his attention to anything. He was not speaking, walking up and down, in a restless, uncomfortable way that was not at all like him. Her mother, as usual, had noticed nothing; but then he had suddenly excused himself, and left the room, saying he must have some fresh air. “You have been out in the air all day, Darcy,” her mother had called—but he was gone.

He had come back, an hour or so later, looking like thunder; no, worse than that—as if he had been hit over the head. He had taken no part in any conversation, seemed not to know that they were there, even, and left them very early, saying he must go to bed.

Early the next day, “Your cousin has gone,” her mother had said. “I really began to think he could not bear to leave, he put it off so often. I am sure he will want to be a great deal at Rosings, when you are married.” She had given no thought to his exit the previous evening, and had certainly not connected it to his sudden departure. But Mrs Collins's maid was the niece of Lady Catherine's cook at Rosings; indeed, the great lady herself had commanded Mrs Collins to employ her; and did she not think that tidings from the one household must perforce arrive at the other? Indeed, did she not know it? Had she herself not made use of the fact, many times, to keep the Parsonage under her all-seeing eye? By noon of that day, everyone in Hunsford knew that Mr Darcy, when he had left his aunt's house the evening before, had gone to the Parsonage. The sole exception was Lady Catherine, for nobody had dared to tell her.

They had not seen Cousin Darcy again. Then they heard that Miss Bennet was to marry him! Lady Catherine called her a vulgar, lowborn, hurly-burly village girl, who had schemed to entrap a wealthy man into marriage, and who had refused, even when Lady Catherine herself had reasoned with her, to give him up! Anne could only feel gratitude, and admiration for Miss Bennet, who had not only accepted her terrifying cousin but had actually resisted Lady Catherine's bullying. Her mother's temper was frightening for several weeks, and Anne was on the receiving end of a good many unpleasant tirades. But most of her mother's anger was directed at the Collinses, and anything was better than the prospect of marrying Cousin Darcy.

Then Mrs Jenkinson had left, and Lady Catherine had discovered that it was not easy to hire a new companion. She needed somebody not too young—but not too old. It must be somebody presentable enough to dine with them, when there was no other company, or when a woman was needed to balance the table, but not a female relation, who would object to being banished to the schoolroom when she was not wanted, as if she were a servant. An extra woman, on the days when they dined alone, was no asset at all!

In short, what Lady Catherine needed was not a gentlewoman, but a gentleman. Anne must marry. Since Cousin Darcy was unavailable, she must marry somebody else.

So had begun a new and humiliating period, as Anne was dragged to balls and assemblies in outmoded dresses with large thick skirts, for Lady Catherine called the new high-waisted styles immodest: the Queen, she pointed out, did not allow the Royal Princesses to wear them. Anne longed to mention that of the six Princesses, not one was married, or even engaged to be married. But argument with Lady Catherine on any point was futile.

She could not dance, and knew none of the unmarried men, most of whom were much younger than she, for she was five-and-twenty. There were no offers of marriage. They had waited too long for Mr Darcy.

Then followed a series of unprofitable visits to every country house within reach of a carriage drive. She still remembered with pain the last visit they had made. It had been a long drive, and she had arrived feeling unwell, as she often did, from the motion of the carriage. Her kind hostess had directed the housekeeper to take her upstairs, so that she might lie down. As they were going up the stairs, she heard a flurry of footsteps, a suppressed laugh, and the words, in a girl's voice “Oh dear! Robert, Peter, be quick!” She caught a glimpse of a masculine coattail, just disappearing at the far end of the landing. The young sons and daughter of the house had fled, on hearing the noise of their arrival, and were making their escape down another set of stairs.

A few days later, her mother had announced that they were going to Pemberley, where the new Mrs Darcy was to find a husband for her! Mr and Mrs Darcy, Lady Catherine had explained, owed it to them, after the disgraceful way Anne had been treated, to find her a husband.

“Whom will they find?” she asked. “Who will want to marry me?” she did not like to say “as plain and stupid as I am.” Her mother had replied, “Really, Anne, I wish you will not talk such nonsense. Of course you will get a husband. You will have thirty thousand pounds.”

So thirty thousand pounds was to be spent. The money would be paid over, and she would never see it. I wish, she thought desperately, they would just give me the money and let me live alone. But of course, the money was not only buying her a husband, it was going to provide a companion for her mother.

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