Excerpt from Chapter Four
Elizabeth’s solitude was soon broken, when Kitty came running down the path, frantically calling her name.
“You are to come at once, Lizzy,” she said breathlessly. “There is such a to-do in the house. Lady Catherine is demanding to see you.”
“Me?” Elizabeth questioned. “Why would Mr Darcy’s aunt come to see me?”
Together they hurried back to the house, and before she had even removed her cloak, Elizabeth could hear raised voices.
“No, I do not want any tea, and I do not want to sit down either. I want to speak to the hussy who has entrapped my nephew. Where is she? I will not leave until the matter is resolved to my complete satisfaction,” she boomed.
Elizabeth opened the door nervously. Standing with her back to her, was a middle-aged woman dressed from head to toe in black, all except for two burnt orange feathers attached to her hat at a precarious angle.
Realising someone had entered behind her, Lady Catherine spun around to confront them. Finally, face to face with the woman who had dashed Anne’s chance of marrying Darcy, she eyed Elizabeth with contempt. Of average height and build, she was not unattractive.
Mr Bennet stepped forward to execute the introductions.
“Lady Catherine, may I present my daughter Eliz …”
“I know who she is, sir, and she can be in no doubt as to whom I am. Miss Bennet, a report of an alarming nature has been relayed to me by my parson, Mr Collins. I have come to hear you declare it a falsehood to my face.”
Elizabeth mentally cursed her interfering cousin, who had obviously run straight to Lady Catherine with the news of her engagement.
“I am at a loss as to what you are referring to, Lady Catherine. Perhaps you could elaborate?”
Elizabeth’s words only fuelled Lady Catherine’s anger, and her voice rose to an even greater level.
“You know perfectly well to what I am referring, young lady. Do not toy with me. I am here to insist you refute the scandalous lie circulating society that you are engaged to my nephew, Darcy!”
“I am afraid she cannot do that, Aunt Catherine,” said a familiar voice.
All eyes turned towards Darcy as he stepped through the garden doors and into the room.
During the stunned silence that followed, Mr Bennet took the opportunity to steer his family out of the room, all except for Elizabeth. He would have liked to stay and watch the impending showdown between Darcy and his aunt, but, on the other hand, he did not relish the prospect of having to join in the debate. Therefore, he also left.
“Explain yourself, Darcy,” said her ladyship.
“It’s quite simple, Aunt. I asked Miss Bennet to marry me, and she has accepted.” Darcy made his way to Elizabeth’s side.
“But you are engaged to Anne,” she expelled with indignation. “I admit the arrangement is of a peculiar nature, but it was the dearest wish of your mother as well as mine.”
“That is not true, as well you know. My supposed engagement to Anne has grown out of your wish to see our two estates united, nothing more.”
“So, after all we have been to you, you now abandon your cousin Anne with no prospect of marriage. You selfish, unfeeling boy, I am ashamed of you.”
Then, trying a different tactic, she softened her tone.
“But come, kiss me and tell me you have changed your mind, and we will say no more of it.”
“But I have not had a change of heart, Lady Catherine,” Darcy replied.
Darcy never acted on impulse, and Lady Catherine knew that. Once he had made a decision, he could never be swayed from his course.
“If you go ahead with this marriage, I will sever all contact with you,” she stated and then turned her back on the young couple.
“I’m sorry you feel like that, Lady Catherine. I have enjoyed many stays at Rosings Park. But, I intend to marry Miss Bennet in three weeks, and nothing you say will prevent it,” Darcy informed her sternly.
Lady Catherine looked thoughtful for a moment and then drew herself up to her full height.
“And is that your final word on the matter?”
“It is,” replied Darcy.
“Very well, I know what must be done.” With that, she swept past them and out of the house.
Elizabeth and Darcy both let out a sigh of relief. A smiled played on her lips before she turned to him and said,
“It appears I am not the only one with relations who are lacking in the social graces.”
He gave her a sideways glance and returned her smiled.
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