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Authors: Rebecca Ann Collins

Recollections of Rosings

BOOK: Recollections of Rosings
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Table of Contents

Copyright

Dedication

An Introduction…

Prologue

Part One

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Part Two

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Part Three

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Part Four

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Part Five

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-three

An Epilogue…

Postscript

Appendix

Acknowledgements

About the Author

Copyright © 2010 by Rebecca Ann Collins
Cover and internal design © 2010 by Sourcebooks, Inc. Cover Photo © Adrien Moreau/Fine Art Photographic/Getty Images
Sourcebooks and the colophon are registered trademarks of Sourcebooks, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems— except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews—without permission in writing from its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
Published by Sourcebooks Landmark, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc.
P.O. Box 4410, Naperville, Illinois 60567-4410
(630) 961-3900
FAX: (630) 961-2168
www.sourcebooks.com
Originally printed and bound in Australia by Print Plus, Sydney, NSW, September 2003. Reprinted October 2004.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Collins, Rebecca Ann.
Recollections of Rosings / devised and compiled by Rebecca Ann Collins.
    p. cm. — (The Pemberley chronicles ; bk. 8) "The acclaimed Pride and Prejudice sequel series."
1. Sisters—England—Fiction. 2. England—Social life and customs—19th century— Fiction. 3. Gentry—England—Fiction. I. Austen, Jane, 1775–1817. Pride and prejudice. II. Title. PR9619.4.C65R43 2010 823'.92—dc22
2009046822

To Helen,
With many thanks for affording me the opportu
nity in July 1996 to begin work on the Pemberley
series.

An Introduction…

It might appear a little odd that in this modern age, with its quick and easy marriages and even quicker and easier divorces, one could be preoccupied with the marital situations of women in Victorian England.
    Yet I have always been intrigued by them.
    Their capacity for endurance and generosity was quite remarkable. Many women married early, bore several children, found themselves widowed by disease or war, and usually married again to escape the indignity of dependence upon the charity of relatives or the dreaded workhouse. Doubtless, some did so for convenience or simple survival, having no means of support for themselves or their children in a world without welfare. But others found genuine love—not fleeting, romantic rapture, but deeper feelings shared with mature men, whom they came to esteem and cherish and with whom they enjoyed enduring and often passionate relationships.
    Many women left diaries and letters containing moving personal testimony to this phenomenon, in an age that paid little attention to the emotional needs of married women. Once she had raised a family, a woman's satisfaction was supposed to be complete. That she would yearn for the warmth of romance or passion was almost unimaginable.
    In
Recollections of Rosings
, I chose to explore the lives of two sisters— Catherine and Becky Collins—their aspirations and experience of love and marriage. Because they were my own rather than Jane Austen's characters, I was less constrained and even as I retained the ambience of traditional stability implied by Rosings and Pemberley, it was possible to follow their lives down very different paths than those of, say, Elizabeth and Jane Bennet. Both sisters have had their share of the slings and arrows of life, but neither is ready to retire into comfortable middle-age or the pointless social round of gossip and matchmaking that was supposed to occupy the time of older women of the day.
    For many of us, a sudden change in circumstances or the return of someone from the past can pose an unforeseen dilemma or throw up a new opportunity.
    Both Catherine and Becky must face such situations and deal with them alone. As mature women, with the capacity to enjoy rewarding relationships, they confront the consequences of decisions made in youth and draw upon their inner resources as they search for deeper meaning and greater satisfaction in their lives.
    The generous warmth of one sister and the resilient determination of the other made the telling of their stories worthwhile and particularly pleasurable for me.
    I hope my readers will agree.

For the benefit of those readers who wish to be reminded of the characters and their relationships to one another, an
aide-memoire
is provided in the appendix.

Prologue
It was the morning after the wedding of Darcy Gardiner and Kathryn O'Hare. At Pemberley, where some of the guests had stayed the night, almost everyone had risen late and, having made very leisurely preparations, processed downstairs where breakfast was being served.
    Only Mr Darcy had risen earlier than most, taken his usual ride around the park, breakfasted, and collected his mail from the footman. Taking it into the morning room, where he read his newspapers at his usual table beside a window overlooking the terrace, now bathed in warm sunlight, he opened his letters, methodically sorting out the personal from the business communications as he did so.
    One in particular puzzled him.
    He did not recognise the hand, nor when he turned it over to read the sender's name, did he immediately recall the face of a Mr John Adams.
    But, a moment or two later, he had it.
    Mr Adams was the curator at Rosings Park, the late Lady Catherine de Bourgh's estate, which was now managed by a trust for the National Estate. Mr Darcy was a member of the trust, though he did not attend every meeting. His nephew Jonathan Bingley represented him, and he did now remember that a Mr Adams had been appointed to the position of curator a year or more ago.
    He was, Mr Darcy recalled, absurdly young to be so well qualified, but came very well recommended and was engaged to catalogue and document the many priceless treasures of Lady Catherine's great estate. Jonathan had had no doubt at all Mr Adams was the right man for the job.
    
He is better educated than most and has a fine understanding of Art, having studied
in Europe. He dined with us at Netherfield last week and my dear wife, whose knowledge
of these matters far exceeds my own, having had the opportunity to converse extensively
with him, has pronounced him suitable. I think we need have no further concerns,
Jonathan had written, and Mr Darcy had concurred. On these matters, he trusted his nephew's judgment implicitly.
    Besides, Jonathan Bingley had himself been the manager of the Rosings estate for some years and would be well able to judge Mr Adams's qualifications for the tasks he was to perform.
    Assuming Mr Adams's letter contained matters relating to the Rosings Park trust, Mr Darcy put it aside and returned to it only after he had finished reading an entertaining letter from a favourite correspondent—Dr Charles Bingley, Jonathan's eldest son.
    He wrote to apologise for his non-attendance at Darcy Gardiner's wedding, due to urgent and unavoidable matters arising at his hospital in Hertfordshire. Written some days ago and unusually delayed in the post, the letter proceeded to give Mr Darcy a detailed and hilarious account of an incident concerning a local dignitary, who had attempted to force his way into a meeting of the hospital board, to protest their objection to his plan to extend his railroad through vacant land adjacent to the hospital.
    Charles wrote:
Quite clearly, he assumed that his wealth and standing in the community
gave him the right to do as he pleased with the route of his railroad. He was
outraged that the Hospital Board should have objected on the grounds that a
railroad running alongside Bells Field, in such close proximity to the hospital,
would disrupt the work of the hospital and disturb the patients.
You will be happy to hear, Sir, that he was given short shrift by the board
and urged to find some other field through which to run his trains. He left in
such an explosive state of rage that we expected to see him return e'er long as a
patient himself. I have not seen such infernal arrogance in all my years in this
profession, nor have I witnessed it so well put down!
    Mr Darcy was still chuckling when he put it away and returned to the letter from Mr John Adams.
    On opening it, however, and reading the first few lines, he fell silent and his countenance altered so radically as to be quite extraordinary. As he continued reading, so shocked was he at the news it contained that he rose to his feet, scattering the rest of his unopened correspondence on the floor, and hurried out of the room and up the stairs with unusual urgency.
    At the top of the stairs, he met Elizabeth, who, on seeing her husband's face, knew at once that something was very wrong. So pale and shaken was he, she was very afraid that he had been taken ill.
    "Darcy, what is it? What has happened? Tell me, are you unwell?" she asked and he answered her quickly, "No, no, Elizabeth, I am perfectly well, but something quite catastrophic has occurred."
    So saying, he took her arm and returned with her to their private sitting room, knowing they would not be disturbed there. Seating her down upon the sofa, he handed her the letter from Mr Adams.
    Elizabeth, somewhat bewildered, read it quickly and as she did so, looked across at her husband, understanding now his extraordinary demeanour.
    Mr Adams was writing to inform Mr Darcy that, on the Friday night, a fire had erupted in one of the rooms below stairs at Rosings. Undetected, it had spread through the lower floors of the building and most of the West Wing before it broke through into the main hall and was discovered by the caretaker, who had raised the alarm.
    Despite the best efforts of the staff and many people on the estate who had rushed to assist, much of the impressive mansion that had been part of Lady Catherine de Bourgh's domain had been destroyed.
    There was no mistaking John Adams's despondency, as he wrote:
Little remains undamaged, save for the chapel, the library, and school room,
as well as the music room with its collection of manuscripts, all of which, being
situated in the East Wing and separated from the path of the fire by the main
courtyard, were able to be saved. So also were some of the private apartments
and guest rooms on the floors above. The rest, it is my melancholy duty to
report, is for the most part beyond reclamation.
    There was more detail of some of the treasures lost and other valuable items fortuitously recovered from the ashes of one or other of the great rooms of her Ladyship's mansion and, in conclusion, there was a request for instructions as to how he was to proceed, but Elizabeth had stopped reading.
    Going to her husband's side, as he remained still shocked, speechless, she sat beside him.
    "It is impossible to imagine such a disaster at Rosings. How could it happen? Surely, it cannot have been an accident?" she asked.
    Mr Darcy shook his head.
    "It is entirely possible, Lizzie. My aunt had been urged often enough to have certain alterations made, especially below stairs, to improve the heating in the staff quarters and be rid of log fires and wood-burning stoves, but she would not hear of it. Rosings, despite its apparent opulence, was in reality an old-fashioned edifice, with few concessions to modern living, especially where the staff were concerned," he explained. "Since my aunt's death, when the house was no longer a family residence, the trust has been unwilling to spend money on such things, preferring instead to maintain the areas that visitors see, enhancing the grounds and reception rooms and protecting the rich accessories. Jonathan has tried to advise them, but on matters pertaining to expenditure, the lawyers are not easily persuaded."
BOOK: Recollections of Rosings
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