Judith Brocklehurst

Darcy and Anne

For Brian with love

Chapter 1

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.

Chapter 2

On 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.