A Love Most Ardent Chapter 24

A.N.

Hi everyone,

Well, here is the next instalment of A Love Most Ardent.

I bet there is at least one twist in this chapter that you won’t see coming.

Leave a comment and let me know if I’m right. Enjoy 🙂

 

 

Chapter Twenty-Four

 

Pandemonium broke out in the usually tranquil parish church of Meryton that morning.

Mr Bennet, who had managed to catch Mrs Bennet as she swooned away when she heard Mr Collins voice, now frantically waved his Bible in her face; a desperate but futile attempt to revive her.

The bridesmaids, who were unanimously mortified with embarrassment, bowed their heads and hoped no-one would remember that Mr Collins was related to them.

Mr Bingley remained with the ladies, but he did stand up and attempt to peer around the other guests that were also standing as he tried to see what was going on.

Angus had instantly put a consoling arm around Anne’s shoulder, and in his soft Scottish brogue, tried to reassure her that it must be a dreadful mistake.

Poor Mr Muir had not moved from the spot. In all the marriages he had performed, he had never had a single objection raised. Indeed, he wondered, do people actually wait until this late stage to raise an objection? He thought not.

Finally, Mr Darcy rose. Straightening his back and tugged down his waistcoat. He exited the pew and made his way to the rear of the church, stopping in the aisle next to Mr Collins position. He looked down at the little man, who was literally shaking in his boots.

In an unmistakably hostile tone, Darcy hissed, “What is the meaning of this, Collins? On what authority do you come here and disrupt the marriage of a woman who is ten times your superior?”

Mr Collins pointed a shaking finger at the person sitting next to him.

“On her authority, sir,” he said his voice quivering with fear.

Mr Collins then slumped down in the pew, relieved that his part in this matter seemed over.

Darcy looked at the figure Mr Collins had pointed at. It was indeed a lady, also dressed completely in black. Her hands were folded atop a stout walking stick which rested on the floor in front of her, and a thick veil of black lace cascaded down from the brim of her hat and covered her face entirely.

“Then I direct my question to you, madam. On what authority do you disrupt this couple’s wedding?”

The booming voice from beneath the veil made everything clear.

“On my own authority, sir. Now,” she said as she lifted the veil. “If you will kindly stand aside, I wish to speak to my daughter.”

Lady Catherine De Bough. He should have known. Without a doubt, she was the only person he knew spiteful enough to disrupt her own daughter’s wedding day.

Darcy did indeed step aside, but he then followed his aunt as she clomped up the aisle, until she stood at the front of the church.

Seeing a formidable looking woman striding directly towards him, Reverend Muir took several steps backwards, leaving plenty of room for a small group to form around the bride and groom.

“Now look here, Aunt Catherine,” started Colonel Fitzwilliam, but she brushed him aside with a wave of her stick.

“You, sir,” Lady Catherine boomed at Angus, “Take your hands off my daughter this instant.”

Angus loosened his grip slightly, but he had no intention of releasing Anne completely.

Anne clung to Angus’ jacket, tears rolling down her face.

She turned to her mother, and in a voice full of reproach, said, “You have no right mother. I am of age, and there is nothing you can do to stop me from marrying Angus.”

“Angus is it? Well, we will soon see about that. I can disinherit you. See how much that foreigner wants to marry you when there is no money to be had.”

“He is Scottish, mother, not a foreigner, and Angus does not care if I have any money or not. We are in love.”

“Love, what do you know about love, child? You’ve not met above half a dozen men in your entire life.”

Angus, who had known and worked for Lady Catherine for a few years, was not afraid of defending his bride. Had she forgotten that debating and disputing was the bread and butter of his profession?

“Lady Catherine, I love Anne, and I would take her with only the clothes on her back. I am not asking for a dowry, it is Anne I want, not your money or your property or any of your material trappings. I just want to marry Anne and make her happy.”

“You say that now, but before the year’s end, you would be at my door with your begging bowl.” Scoffed her ladyship.

Darcy listened to their exchange and realised that he had at his disposal the means to quieten his aunt’s concerns.

“I think you are mistaken regarding Mr Galbraith’s financial position, Lady Catherine. Not only have I recently invested in his new business, but I have also presented Anne with a wedding gift of five thousand pounds. So, you see, they are not as penniless as you would suppose.”

Unable to contain her rage at being bested by Darcy, Lady Catherine turned to vent her ire on him face to face.

“You, sir, are a disgrace to our family. Not only have you aided Anne in this reckless and ill-fated elopement, which has caused me untold distress, but I had to find out from someone whom I have no acquaintance with. It is unforgivable!”

“Are you telling me that it was not Mr Collins we have to thank for your timely arrival,” Darcy asked as he gave the cowering Parson a glare of contempt.

“Mr Collins had nothing to do with it. In fact, I had to threaten to dismiss the impertinent fool before he would agree to come with me today. No, my informant was Miss Mary Bennet.”

The entire congregation first gasped, and then turned to stare at Mary. The silence that followed was total.

Mrs Bennet, who had just begun to come around, immediately fainted away again.

Mr Bennet, who disliked being in the public eye at the best of times, leant over his prostrate wife and remonstrated with his middle child.

“What have you been about now child? Meddling in affairs that do not concern you!”

Mary, as the third of five children, had spent her entire life being invisible and overlooked. No-one sought her out to ask for her advice or her opinion. No-one took any interest in her hobbies or requested her company. No-one showed any concern for her feelings or cared if she was sad or lonely. Often, she would go for days without speaking to a single member of her family. She felt unloved. She was not as pretty as her sisters, nor did she dance as well, but she sewed and played the pianoforte to an acceptable level. Possessing some accomplishments should have gone in her favour, yet it did not. She was just Mary Bennet, sister to Jane, Lizzy, Kitty, and Lydia.

Rising to her feet, Mary tilted her chin up and stared back at the party gathered around the alter steps.

“Yes, it was me. Miss De Bourgh and Mr Galbraith were concerned only with their own happiness, and what would give them pleasure. But what about Anne’s mother, who had fed and clothed her, provided a home for her and,” then her voice faltered “…and who loved her unconditionally just because she was her child?”

“Good grief, Mary! Sit down, girl! No-one wants to listen to your sermon. Have you not done enough damage already today?” Mr Bennet growled.

Mary knew she had revealed the real reason behind her letter to Lady Catherine, but it was too late to try and hide the part she played in it. In hindsight, she realised she should have left the letter unsigned.

“Is Lady Catherine not also entitled to some respect? The good Lord commands that we respect our father and our mother.”

As a tear threatened to breach her lower eyelid, she sat back down. She would not give the hungry gossip mongers the satisfaction of seeing her cry. In her heart of hearts, she knew she had done the right thing.

Lady Catherine had not yet finished with her nephew, Darcy. She rounded on him again, as though Mary had never spoken.

“Darcy, you should be standing at the altar with Anne. It is you who is betrothed to her, not this young upstart.”

God’s teeth, not this ridiculous story again!

“I am not now, nor have I ever been engaged to my cousin!” Darcy forced through his gritted teeth.

“Nonsense, it was your late mother’s sincerest wish as much as it is mine, to see our two families united. When Mrs Jenkins discovered Anne was gone and reported it to me, I was pleased – at first. I thought you two had eloped to avoid any fuss. Only when I received Miss Bennet’s express did I realise the ugly truth. That you had both turned your back on your family, honour, duty, and expectations. This is something neither of you would have dared to do if you had not been led astray by that young woman!” Lady Catherine spun around with surprising agility and raised her stick to single out the culprit.

Darcy followed the direction of her cane and was shocked when he realised Lady Catherine was pointing at…Elizabeth.

Elizabeth would not cower; she had done no wrong. Raising her chin defiantly, she stared back at Lady Catherine.

“You see, she does not deny my accusation. To think I welcomed that viper into my own nest.”

A ripple of noise rose as the guests began to either agree or defend the Bennet family.

Mr Bennet handed Mrs Bennet’s care over to Jane, who held the slumped form of her mother in her arms and tried to gently apply the smelling salts under her nose. The acrid smell soon saw Mrs Bennet open her eyes and push the foul-smelling vial away from her face.

After clearing his throat several times, Mr Bennet finally managed to get everyone’s attention.

“I think we can safely say that there will be no marriage today. So,” he paused to let the rabble of noise subside again, “I would kindly thank you to all make your way to your own homes.” Then, unable to restrain himself, he added, “I have no doubt that the gossips among you will keep the rest of the town informed if any developments should arise.”

As the north transit door was inaccessible due to the crowd that was gathered there, the general members of the congregation filed out of the west door, mumbling as they went. Some said there was no smoke without fire and looked towards Elizabeth, while others blamed Lady Catherine for trying to stop her daughter from marrying when she was of an age to decide for herself. Though, these people were quickly condemned by their friends for their forward-thinking, saying the status quo must be preserved, less England be thrown into a revolution like France.

Eventually, the only people remaining in the church were the ones involved, who then made their way back to Longbourn.

Mr Bennet took charge for once, sending Mary, Kitty, and Lydia upstairs, ordering them to remain with their mother who had already retired to her bed with a fit of the vapours.

Mr Bennet herded the remaining guests and family into the morning room, pausing to take stock before he followed them in. Bingley and Jane stood side by side, while Anne and Galbraith remained together. Angus had his arm firmly wrapped around Anne’s waist. Meanwhile, Lady Catherine had seated herself in the centre most chair, with Mr Collins standing by her side like a dutiful lap dog. Colonel Fitzwilliam and Reverend Muir had positioned themselves by the French doors, which only left Darcy and Elizabeth. They had made their way to stand at Mr Bennet’s side. Everyone who needed to be present was present, and with no audience to entertain, perhaps things could be sorted out in a mature and civilised fashion.

Mr Bennet called everyone to order.

“May I have your attention, please? Thank you. Now, I am sure that we can sort this matter out to everyone’s satisfaction.”

The derisory huff expelled by Lady Catherine was ignored by all.

“As I was saying, I am sure that between ourselves we can clear this misunderstanding up.” Mr Bennet then looked at Anne. “My dear, without being indelicate, can we assume you are more than one and twenty?”

Anne lifted her chin, stared at her mother and replied, “I am six and twenty, sir.”

“And Mr Galbraith, you are more than one and twenty?”

“That I am, sir. I will be thirty years old next birthday.” Angus replied.

Mr Bennet turned to Lady Catherine and with as much forbearance as he could muster, said, “It appears that this young couple has reached the age where the law states that they may marry, rightly or wrongly, whoever they please. Your consent is not needed, Lady Catherine.”

Lady Catherine resented Mr Bennet’s tone and reminded him that he should address her by her correct title.

“My apologies, your ladyship,” he said, very much tongue in cheek.

“Yes, yes, that is all very well, but you have only taken into consideration Anne’s anatomical age. I assure you, she is much younger in the mind that her six and twenty years. It is on these ground that I make my objection. Anne is too mentally immature to enter into a marriage. This, together with her constant ill health is the reason her father left me in charge of the estate. Not until Anne marries does she come into her inheritance.”

The implication that Anne was of unsound mind and mentally feeble saw several gentlemen rise to their feet and jump to her defence.

“That is utter rubbish, and you know it, Aunt Catherine,” said Richard.

“What piffle, Anne is as cognizant as you or me. And I resent your implication that I would take advantage of a deranged woman,” Angus said sternly.

But it was the quietly spoken observation of Mr Darcy that rendered the room silent once more.

“And yet, Lady Catherine, you were more than happy to have Anne married to me. Indeed, you even said as much this very morning.”

Lady Catherine looked at Darcy, her eyes open as wide as her mouth. There was not a single rebuff she could counter his observation with. She had made that comment only half an hour ago, and there was an entire congregation who would no doubt be willing to testify to it.

Lady Catherine blustered through her reply.

“I…well…you twist my meaning, Darcy. Anne has known you all her life. She is comfortable in your presence, you played together as children…”

“Exactly! Anne is like a sister to me, and yet you would have us joined together in some kind of incestuous marriage.”

“No…for you are not brother and sister but cousins, and cousins often marry to unite estates and fortunes.”

“Not Anne, and definitely not me. Anne is to marry Mr Galbraith and me,” Darcy looked searchingly at Elizabeth and was rewarded when she linked her arm through his and smiled at him acceptingly. “And I am to marry Miss Elizabeth Bennet.”

Mr Bennet smiled and held his hand out. Darcy clasped his future father-in-law’s hand and accepted his unspoken congratulations. Straight after, Colonel Fitzwilliam and Mr Bingley walked over and offered their felicitations.

Mr Galbraith waited to catch Darcy’s attention, and then merely smiled and nodded. He could not risk letting go of his bride lest her mother steal her away from him.

“I forbid it!” boomed Lady Catherine, simultaneously rapping her stick on the floor.

Everyone, as Lady Catherine had expected, stopped with their congratulations and felicitations and turned their focus once more on her.

“I forbid you to marry that woman, Darcy,” she said.

“You hold no power over me, Aunt Catherine. I will marry who I want when I want.”

“I am your nearest relation, Darcy and in the absence of your mother must speak as she would have. Elizabeth Bennet is not your equal, Darcy. What possible advantages could she bring to your name? She has no connections, no fortune, and from my own observations, very little in the way of accomplishments. The only things that matter in life are land, blood, wealth, and connections, all of which we possess. The needs of the body can be accommodated, but the needs of the heart are expendable. It would be a degradation for the Darcy name to be inter-bred with a woman such as her. Quit this house Darcy, marry Anne, and all will be forgiven.”

Affronted by this verbal attack on his favourite child, Mr Bennet made to step forward and reply, but Darcy pre-empted him.

“Your observations are quite right Lady Catherine, Miss Elizabeth is not well connected, and can expect only a small dowry.” Darcy turned to give Elizabeth a warm smile, then he bowed his head and pressed a meaningful kiss on her hand. “But the facts that you choose to ignore are these. I have no need for more friends or acquaintances, I can scarcely keep up with the ones that I already have. I am, fortunately, in the position to take a wife with no dowry whatsoever. Her accomplishments are underdeveloped compared to some, but for myself, I find them perfectly charming. And as for our union being a degradation to the Darcy name, nothing could be further from the truth. Elizabeth is a gentleman’s daughter, ergo, we are equals. And before you say what I know you are thinking, Elizabeth is not a gold digger. In fact, she has refused me at least five times in the last six months. Only now has she accepted me, and I have you to thank for that.”

Of the eleven people present, only one was not smiling. When Lady Catherine noticed the broad grin on Mr Collins’ face, she prodded him in the ribs with her cane.

“Take that ridiculous grin off your face at once, Mr Collins, or I will dispense with your services forthwith.”

With a wife waiting for him back in Hunsford, and a child on the way, Mr Collins knew he could not afford to lose such a lucrative position.

Many of the group caught sight of his rueful pout as he made his apologies to his patroness, but only one man was in the position to aid him.

“Mr Collins, there is a parish soon vacant on my father’s estate. Do you think Mrs Collins would prefer Matlock to Kent?” Colonel Fitzwilliam asked.

“You will rescind that offer immediately Richard. My brother would not dare employ a person I have discharged!”

“I will do nothing of the sort, Aunt Catherine.” He looked back at Mr Collins. “Come, man, what do you say?”

Mr Collins, a man who had often been called indecisive, found that for once in his life, the answer seemed remarkably simple.

“Thank you, Colonel Fitzwilliam, I do believe Mrs Collins would benefit from taking the waters at this delicate time.”

Lady Catherine fumed at her nephew but knew she held no sway over the Colonel. Too long he had been his own man, a leader of men and a decorated hero. But her most profound disappointment of the day was that Darcy was lost to her as a son-in-law. Bitterly, she realised she had not just lost a battle, but the entire war. Now, her only option was to retreat with as much dignity as possible.

“Very well. As you do not feel the bonds of family are worth fighting for, I wash my hands of you, all of you! I no longer have any family, no daughter, no nephews…and thanks to you, sir,” she glared at Richard, “I now no longer have a spiritual advisor.” Turning to look at Mr Bennet, she demanded, “You, sir, will have my carriage brought round immediately. I intend to leave this place at once.”

Mr Bingley, who had felt most uncomfortable during such inharmonious goings on, hurried out to ask for her ladyship’s carriage to be brought round.

Anne felt both relief and regret. She had never wanted to break with her mother, she had hoped that once married to Angus, her mother would come around. Oh, not that she expected her to dote on Angus as she did Darcy, but to at least accept him as her son-in-law. Any such resolution now seemed impossible. But, at least with her cousin’s generous gift, they would be able to manage until Angus’ new business became established.

It pained Mr Galbraith to see her so distressed. Though he thought the breach between them insurmountable, he decided to try one last time, if only for Anne’s sake.

“Lady Catherine, will you not reconsider?” he coaxed in his soft Scottish lilt. “Can you not see the pain your harsh words have caused your daughter? I can bear your displeasure, but Anne is your only child, your flesh and blood. For her sake, will you not at least wish us well?”

His words fell on deaf ears. Anne had made her choice, and now she must stand by it. There was no room for forgiveness in Lady Catherine’s heart. Too long she had deluded herself that the Darcy fortune and estates would be joined with those of the De Bourgh’s. Joining together their lands and wealth in a new dynasty. In her mind, it was to be the beginning of an empire to rival even the Dukes of Devonshire.

“I shall do no such thing!”

There was a nervous tap at the door, and then Mrs Hill entered and informed Mr Bennet that her ladyship’s carriage was waiting.

Drawing herself up, Lady Catherine stood with her back ramrod straight.

“Fitzwilliam, your arm if you please.”

Stepping forward, Colonel Fitzwilliam held out his arm as requested, then waited until his aunt had placed her wrinkled hand on it. With her head held uncommonly high, she let her nephew escort her to her carriage.

Aside from Lady Catherine’s servants, they were alone. Richard decided to try one last time to soften his aunt’s opinion on the events of the day.

“Aunt Catherine, whether you want to hear it or not, I must have my say. You have, indeed, treated Darcy and me as your own, and it is exactly for this reason he cannot marry Anne.”

“Nonsense!” she interjected.

“No, it is not nonsense, Aunt, it is the truth. We both look on Anne as our sister. It is a testament to how kind you were to Darcy when he was left motherless all those years ago.”

“And yourself?”

“I think you just took pity on me as the younger son. Now, be honest, could you bear to never see either of us again? To live out your life at Rosings with no-one by your side?”

“You do not speak of Anne?”

“If you cannot see the changes in your own daughter since she met Angus Galbraith, then you are blind.”

Richard could almost see her opinion softening. To further aid his cause, he delivered what he hoped would be the piece de resistance.

“And what if Anne has a child, a son? Would you disown your own grandchild? Disinherit Anne, and you deny them of their birthright. You may be stubborn, Aunt Catherine, but no-one would call you stupid.”

Taking his hand, she climbed into her carriage and pulled the door shut.

Staring straight ahead, her final reply was, “I will give your comments further consideration, Fitzwilliam.” With that, she rapped her cane on the inside of the coach roof and moved with the carriage as it lurched into motion.

Richard was quietly hopeful that she would heed his advice.

Back in the morning room, a decision had been made. Though an hour late, the marriage of Anne De Bourgh and Angus Galbraith would go ahead as planned. There would be fewer guests, but after the events of the morning, the bride and groom just wanted to be married.

Everyone gathered back in the church – the Bennet family, Mr Bingley Colonel Fitzwilliam, Darcy, and of course, the happy couple.

Reverend Muir, with the grateful agreement of the bride and groom, decided to pick up the wedding ceremony where they left off, with the assumption that no-one else was going to object.

Mr Collins, who had not known whether to wait at Longbourn or go to the church, decided on neither. Instead, he walked to Lucas Lodge, and with very little prompting, revealed all that had occurred back at Longbourn.

The Lucas’, his extended family by marriage, listened spellbound, while secretly relishing every detail.

 

Well, did I surprise you, lol?

Till next time,

Martine xx

 

A Love Most Ardent. Chapter 23

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If you wish to leave a comment please do so, but be respectful. Or, you can message me directly or via FF. Thank you.

 

Chapter Twenty-Three

 

Mrs Bennet stood behind Anne and admired how beautiful she looked. Though not as pretty as Jane, nor even as passable as Lizzy, but Anne did have the glow of a bride about her. An inner radiance that shone out, letting the world know she was in love and loved in return.

“You look very pretty child. If only your poor dear mother could see you now,” Mrs Bennet sniffed back a tear. Every mother dreamed of seeing their daughter as a bride.

Anne wanted to turn to Mrs Bennet and tell her that there was nothing poor, nor dear about her mother when she was not getting her own way. Indeed, there would have been no need for an elopement had her ‘poor dear mother’ not forbidden her to have any contact with Mr Galbraith! She would, forever, be indebted to Charlotte Collins for helping them in their courtship, and to Elizabeth Bennet for giving her the strength to defy her mother. Mother’s did not always know best, and daughters did not always need to be submissive to their mother’s, especially when you were six and twenty. Instead, she looked up at Mrs Bennet’s reflection in the mirror and told her most sincerely, how very grateful she was for all that she had done.

“Mamma,” Kitty called, “Lizzy and Jane are back, and they have brought Maria with them. Lady Lucas and Sir William will meet us at the church.”

Mrs Bennet went out to the stairwell, leaned over the railing, and shouted,

“What have I told you about shouting to me when I am upstairs, child? You are not the daughter of a fishwife, but the daughter of a gentleman! Now, tell your sisters to hurry upstairs and change their dresses.”

Only Mrs Bennet did not see the irony of her statement, but her two eldest daughters felt it keenly as they looked at the gentlemen standing with them. Exchanging a weak smile, Jane asked if they would like to stay for coffee, but both declined. Having seen the ladies safely home, Mr Bingley declared he was off to check that the church was prepared, while Mr Darcy explained that he must hurry back to Netherfield and collect the bridegroom.

“I thought I would never see this day, me, marrying Miss De Bourgh,” Angas Galbraith confided to Darcy as they shared a small brandy to toast the bride.

“I must confess, neither did I,” replied Darcy. “I knew I would never marry Anne, and the feeling was mutual. But I always thought her too…delicate, to enjoy a full marriage.”

“Aye, she is a different girl all right, to when I first met her. All the time stuck indoors, with no sunlight on her pale skin. It was no wonder she looked ill and wasted. If you do no exercise, then your muscles wither.” Angus said, the soft lilt of his accent rising to stress his point.

“Anne is almost unrecognisable since last I saw her. I believe we have you to thank for her transformation, Angus.”

Angus blushed. He was a Scotsman, where men were raised tough, and compliments were few. Yet he acknowledged the truth in Darcy’s words.

“Aye, she was not interested in going outside at first, but when I described how beautiful and full of flowers the meadows were, she wanted to see for herself. But I flat refused to take her out in the adult perambulator that Mrs Jenkins pushed her around in. It was walking or nothing! From there, it was all Anne’s doing. Every day, she took a few more steps, and as a result, her appetite got better, her muscles grew stronger and…well, you see the results yourself, Mr Darcy.”

Galbraith was a good match for Anne. He was kind and considerate of her needs and her limitations while encouraging her to strive for more. Plus, he seemed unintimidated by Anne’s mother, which was monumental in itself. When Anne was only seventeen, the son of a neighbouring gentleman wanted to court her, but Lady Catherine soon frightened him off. Anne deserved a chance at life, to see more and experience more than the four walls of her gilded cage.

“Well, I think it is time we made our move. Heaven helps us if we are late after all Mrs Bennet had arranged,” Darcy said as he put his glass on the tray and walked over to relieve Mr Galbraith of his.

“Och, she seemed fine to me. A very charming and accommodating woman.”

Darcy raised his eyebrows.

“Clearly, you have never received the sharp end of Mrs Bennet’s tongue, my friend. But that is a pleasure I would not wish on anyone.”

Darcy gave a wry smile and then clapped his hand on Galbraith’s shoulder and ushered him out into the atrium.

Waiting by the front door was the butler, who proffered the gentlemen a boutonniere each. A red one for the bridegroom, and a white one for Mr Darcy. Now correctly attired, they picked up their hats and gloves and made their way down the steps and into the carriage.

The small church that had enjoyed the patronage of the Bennet family for generations was divided from Longbourn by only a small lane. It looked resplendent as the summer sun streamed in through its stained-glass windows. The plethora of brightly coloured figure’s that made up the biblical scenes cast rainbow patterns on the whitewashed walls. Small bouquets of wildflowers hung from the end of each wooden pews, filling the chapel with a sweet-smelling scent. Resting on the crisp white linen cloth that covered the altar, were two gleaming brass candlesticks with a simple mounted cross standing between them. Resting on the lectern was the sizeable leather-bound Bible, which had been gifted to the parish over one hundred years ago.

Mr Bingley and Reverend Muir had walked around the chapel together making a final check that all was ready. A stack of Bibles and hymn books waited on the table at the entrance portal, which was guarded by a vast wooden door, four inches thick and studded with metal rivets in a design of a rose. All was ready for the arrival of the congregations, the groom, and lastly the bride.

Mrs Bennet hurried down the stairs and opened the door as wide as it could go.

“Come, girls, you walk to the church and wait in the porchway for Anne and Colonel Fitzwilliam. Only then, should you take your place in front of the bride.”

Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia, all filed out of the front door. Though not before Lydia made a protest that as a married woman, and the matron of honour, she should be allowed to arrive in the carriage with Anne.

Mrs Bennet had pulled her to one side and given her a sound scolding.

“This is not your wedding, my girl. No, you saw fit to run off with Wickham and get yourself married. Now, you will walk with the others and be content to do so.”

Lydia knew from her mother’s tone that her plea had fallen on deaf ears; there was no point in arguing.

Anne slowly descended the stairs, stopping a few steps from the bottom where Colonel Fitzwilliam waited for her.

“You look beautiful, Cousin. Galbraith is a lucky man,” Richard said as he reached up and kissed her on the cheek.

“You must not make me cry, Richard, not on my wedding day.” Anne scolded playfully.

“Well, my dear,” said Mr Bennet, “it is time for us to go. Now, come, Mrs Bennet, let us make haste to the church or the bride will get there before us.” Proffering his arm, Mrs Bennet gave Anne a lingering last look as she dabbed at her eyes, and then leant heavily on Mr Bennet as they made their way to the church.

It took only two minutes for the barouche to drive from Longbourn to the church via the road and the timing was perfect. Mrs Bennet was standing with all her daughters in the porch, waiting to fuss over the bride.

Mr Bennet went to the Bennet family pew, acknowledging the guests with a nod of his head as he went. Waiting there was Mr Bingley, and sitting in the opposite front seat, was Mr Darcy and the bridegroom.

Richard waited until the bridesmaids and Lydia were in position, then held out his arm to Anne.

Anne was not nervous at all. She felt unexpectedly calm. This was it; she was getting married.

Peering inside, she saw that almost every pew was filled. It did not matter that she knew only a handful of these people, it just mattered that she was finally going to be with the man that she loved and be free of her mother’s influence.

The organ began to play a simple tune as she placed her small, pale hand on Richards’ arm. She started to walk down the aisle, keeping her focus on Reverend Muir, who now stood facing the congregation.

Darcy glanced over his shoulder at the congregation. It was good to see so many people in attendance. Many of the faces he recognised, but only a few could he name.

Seeing Anne about to start up the aisle, Darcy stood. Some people realised this was a sign that the bride was coming and a few of them turned to watch her progress, and one even let out a gasp.

The bridesmaids filed along in front of Anne and then moved to take the seats they occupied every Sunday. Lydia waited to relieve Anne of her bouquet and then joined her sister’s. Colonel Fitzwilliam stepped to the side as he waited to play his part by giving his cousin away.

Mr Galbraith stood up, gave Darcy a firm handshake and then took his rightful place beside the bride.

The music stopped, and Reverend Muir began the service.

 

“Dearly beloved, we gathered together here in the sight of God,

and in the face of this congregation, to join together this Man

and this Woman, in Holy Matrimony…”

 

For some unknown reason, the hairs on the back of Darcy’s neck lifted from their resting place, causing an unpleasant sensation. He turned and glanced towards the end of the church, but the verger was just shutting the door. Perhaps a gust of wind, he thought. Shrugging it off, he turned back towards the Parson and again focused on the words of the service.

 

“First, it was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought

up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy

Name…”

 

Darcy looked over to the reserved area, a place of prime seats used by the leading family, and in Meryton, that family was the Bennet’s. He could see Jane was trying to listen to the ceremony, but a movement from Charles distracted her. He was beaming at her like a love-sick puppy, and Jane shyly returned his. Smile.

“…prosperity and adversity. Into which holy estate these two persons

present come now to be joined. Therefore, if any man can shew any just

cause, why they may not be lawfully joined together, let him now

speak, or else hereafter forever hold his peace.”

 

His words were met with silence, though several of the congregation looked at each other.

Richard smiled reassuringly at Anne, and she breathed a sigh of relief. Reverend Muir looked around and then put his head down to continue.

“Err, excuse me, I wish to raise an objection.”

It was said quietly, but in the silence of the church, it resounded like a boom. Every set of eyes swivelled around and looked at the man standing at the back of the church.

The man was small in stature and dressed from head to toe in black, and by the way he fed his wide-brimmed hat through his fingers, he was also a nervous man.

Darcy was motionless and still sat facing the front of the church. He was rigid with anger. He knew that man. He knew that voice. It was…Mr Collins!

 

In the Footsteps of Pride & Prejudice (1) Sudbury Hall

I have decided to repost these for anyone who missed them the first time around.

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First posted in 2015

As you can see from the title of this post, I am going to be doing a series of articles about the locations used to film Pride & Prejudice. Not only the 1995 TV series, but also the 2005 film, Lost in Austen and Death Comes to Pemberley. Where possible, I will also add some comparison picture.

I recently visited the Grade I listed building of Sudbury Hall. This is where the internal shots of Pemberley were filmed for the 1995 BBC dramatization of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.

The house was built between 1660 and 1680 by George Vernon, and boasts a superb Great Staircase, fine Long Gallery, and elaborate plasterwork and carvings. To the rear there are formal gardens with a tree-fringed lake.

After the 9th Lord Vernon died in 1963 his son offered Sudbury Hall to the Treasury in lieu of the crippling death duties. Then in 1967 the Treasury, realising that it would cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to restore and maintain, passed it on to the National Trust. After extensive renovations and conservation work, it was opened to the public in the 1970’s

Pride & Prejudice.

We start with the scene where George Wickham waits for Mr Darcy to pay him off, a handsome cheque for £3000 in lieu of the living at Kympton. Wickham tells Darcy he is inclined to study the law instead. When Mr Darcy recalls this events in his letter to Elizabeth, he writes one of the most telling lines in the book. ” I rather wished than believed him to be sincere”

CIMG8781Wickham waits for Darcy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next two pictures are of when Elizabeth and the Gardiners are being shown around Pemberley by Mr Darcy’s housekeeper, Mrs Reynolds. As you can see, there is no longer access to the beautiful Grand Staircase, but I was still  able to match a picture of them about to ascend it. Note the wonderful basket carving on the end of the balustrade rail. The conservators had to clean off centuries of paint and varnish to restore it back to its former glory. Well worth it too.

CIMG8787Beautiful staircase

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next room was where Mr Darcy writes Wickham his cheque. Mrs Reynolds also describes it as Mrs Darcy’s (Darcy’s mother) favourite room in the house. However, the desk used during filming is no longer there, and you are again have limited due to barriers.p1090215[1]

Wickham getting his money

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This room is where Caroline Bingley tells Mr Darcy how ill Miss Eliza looks. As you can see, there is no longer any furniture in it, but its outstanding feature, the fireplace, is worth a picture alone.

DSC02942Sitting rom, look at the Fireplace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we are in the Long Gallery, which is just over 138 feet in length. In this scene we see Elizabeth and the Gardiners, escorted by Mrs Reynolds, view the ‘finer, larger’ portrait of Mr Darcy in the Long Gallery. Elizabeth stands before the painting of Darcy, her admiration and budding feelings are clearly visible in her countenance, (I love using old fashioned words).

DSC02981

Elizabeth in the long gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

We stay in the Long Gallery for the next set of pictures. This time it is where Mr Darcy walks through with his dogs after Elizabeth has left. He goes back to the salon and remembers the look they exchanged, when she hurried to Georgiana’s side after Caroline’s carless remark about George Wickham. Encouraged by her actions, and full of hope, he decides to propose to her the next morning.

If you look to the right of the fire place you can see the same painting in both pictures. It is of Margaret Onley, who married George Vernon in 1660 aged 18. She died when she was only 33.

DSC02983Sudbury Hall Pride and Prejudice (2) Pemberley 10[1]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next we see Mr Darcy getting dressed for that very important meeting with Elizabeth. You can clearly see the fire place mouldings and the distinctive red embossed wall paper.

Darcys Bedroom

p1090253[1]

And finally, no post would be complete without that famous portrait of Darcy.

Sudbury Hall Pride and Prejudice (2) Pemberley 8[1]

Sudbury Hall is well worth a visit. It has been restored beautifully and in many of the rooms you can walk around freely. We found the room attendants to be extremely knowledgeable and willing to share the house history and more unusual stories of the Hall.

Please press the Follow Me button so you do not miss the next installment of, In the Footsteps of Pride & Prejudice.

Martine x

 

*****BREAKING NEWS!*****

ITV are making a new TV adaptation of Jane Austen’s unfinished work, Sanditon.

It will consist of 8, one hour episodes to be shown over consecutive weeks.

It has been adapted for television by Andrew Davis, who also wrote the screen version of the BAFTA award-winning BBC series, Pride & Prejudice. Aired in 1995 it starred Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle as the main characters, Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet.

1995 Pride & Prejudice.

Davies also wrote the screenplays for War & Peace, Little Dorrit, Bleak House and Vanity Fair.

War & Peace.

ITV are producing the lavish series in conjunction with Red Planet Pictures and Masterpiece, with Georgian Lowe as the producer. Filming is expected to begin in spring 2019.

It will be distributed internationally by the BBC Studios.

Polly Hill, Head of Drama for ITV, said: “It’s a rich, romantic, family saga built upon the foundations Jane Austen laid. There is no one better to adapt her unfinished novel than Andrew Davis, who has an incredible track record for bold and original adaptations.”

ITV has previously produced Mansfield Park, staring Billie Piper, and Persuasion staring Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones.

Mansfield Park

Persuasion

Originally titled, The Brothers, Austen only completed eleven chapters of the book before her death in 1817. Miss Austen died in Winchester  at the age of 41.

The novel, the last Austen wrote before her death, tells the story of unconventional and impulsive Charlotte Heywood and her relationship with the humorous and slightly wild, Sidney Parker.

When an accident results in Charlotte moving from her rural hometown of Willingden to the coastal resort of Sanditon, Charlotte is exposed to the intrigues and dalliances of the seaside and its characters depending on its commercial success.

Screenwriter and executive producer Andrew Davies spoke about his excitement of the new ITV series.

“Jane Austen managed to write only a fragment of her last novel before she died – but what a fragment! Sanditon tells the story of the transformation of a sleepy fishing village into a fashionable seaside resort, with a spirited young heroine, a couple of entrepreneurial brothers, some dodgy financial dealings, a West Indian heiress, and quite a bit of nude bathing.”

“It’s been a privilege and a thrill for me to develop Sanditon into a TV drama for a modern audience.”

Casting has not yet been confirmed.

ITV has previously adapted four of Austen’s novels in the past. In 2007, Persuasion, Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey aired on TV, while Emma, starring Kate Beckinsale, was released in 1996.

Northanger Abbey

Emma

So, while we wait for it to hit our screens, who would you like to see in the lead roles?

I would like Gemma Arterton and Orlando Bloom, but I think they are too bigger stars for a UK production!

 

Martine x

Pride & Prejudice 20 Years On

Hi Everyone,

I have been asked several times over the last couple of years, if I would repost this. It was such a fantastic time, how can I refuse to share it with my friends and followers.

Enjoy, xx.

ps. If you sign up to follow my blog you can have access to all my posts whenever you want.

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One week ago today, (Friday 5th September 2015) I booked myself into a hotel in Alton and tried to get an early night. The only problem with that was that I was too excited to sleep. So, a very weary me got up at 6.30am and began to get ready for what I can describe as one of the best days of my life. I was going to Chawton House Library for the BBC Pride & Prejudice Reflections Around a Much-Loved Production event.

But as if that was exciting enough, there was also going to be a cast reunion, yay!!
DSC02629
On arrival, everyone was given a name badge and then we all gathered in the old kitchen for tea/coffee and biscuits.  It was a lovely to chat like-minded fans and put names and faces together.
The morning session, and the first portion of the afternoon session, were spent listened to some very informative and entertaining speakers. (left to right)

Nora Nachumi (Yeshiva University, New York, final speaker), Juliette Wells (Goucher College, Baltimore, 2nd speaker), Sayre Greenfield (The University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg) and Linda V Troost (Washington & Jefferson College, Pennsylvania, joint 3rd speakers), Simon Langton (Director), Devoney Looser (Arizona State University, 1st speaker), and finally on the far right is Gillian Dow, Executive Director at Chawton House Library and Associate Professor at the University of Southampton

Their talks were packed full of interesting facts and information that they had painstakingly researched, including snippets like,

Most editions of Pride & Prejudice prior to the Peacock Edition of 1894 contained no images of Mr Darcy. The few that could be found were either only a half view, or very unflattering. (Darcy with a paunch, never!) This was because he was not considered a central character, and even Jane Austen herself only described him as, a fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien.
We also discovered that the character of Colonel Fitzwilliam was named Guy in early stage productions, and not Richard as we have all come to know him. Guy just doesn’t suit him at all.

I was first introduced to Pride & Prejudice with the 1940 film starring Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson. What I did not know until last week, was that Clark Gable had been shortlisted for the role first, who knew?

Now there have been many incarnation of Pride & Prejudice via the stage, TV and movie, but it is the BBC 1995 production that has earned a place in TV history and our hearts. So much so it now has a cult status with millions of fans worldwide.

So when the director, Simon Langton took to the floor, the room fell silent. We were not disappointed.
He regaled us with tales and secrets from the production set and we sat spellbound. For instance, did you know that for insurance and H+S reasons, Colin’s pond scene was actually filmed in a tank at Ealing. However, with hindsight it might have been safer to film it in the pond. Due to a decision made by the first assistant, the last section of the metal lid that covered the tank was not removed. This meant that when Mr Darcy (Colin Firth) resurfaced from his dive, his nose collided with the rim of the cover, ouch! Fortunately, there was no lasting damage and Simon was able to work around Colin’s injury.
Another interesting fact Simon revealed was that Colin was a dyslexic dancer. Luckily Jane Gibson was on hand to teach him and choreographed the dance sequences. Yet when you watch him and Jennifer Ehle dancing to Mr Beveridge’s Maggot, he looks at ease and totally professional. Well done Jane!

 

One final secret, they had considered using Chatsworth as Pemberley, but the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire insisted that no area was to be closed to the public during filming. This would render it impossible to use as a location. Therefore, Simon looked for a more suitable place to use. When he found Lyme House, he knew he had found the perfect home for Mr Darcy.

 

Also, Huw Prall, one of the dance extras attended. Huw told me that they had a whole week of rehearsals before shooting the dance scenes for the  Meryton Assembly, which were actually filmed at Ealing Studios. He has a wonderful collection of memorabilia relating to the show and was kind enough to let the delegates pore over it, literally. Huw was bombarded with an array of questions about Regency Era dancing. Some from ladies attending the Bath Regency Festival, and some from the scholars. How wonderful, that after 200 years, there are still people like Huw and Jane to pass on these dying traditions.

Finally, we came to the moment we had all been waiting for, the introduction of the cast. Almost every person present held up their camera, and the stars must have felt transported back to 1995. Though they need no introduction, I have added their names in case you are new to Pride & Prejudice

Benjamin Whitrow (Mr Bennet), Susannah Harker (Jane Bennet), Crispin Bonham-Carter (Mr Bingley), Simon Langton, Director, Jane Gibson, Choreographer, Polly Maberly (Kitty Bennet), and Joanna David (Mrs Gardiner

Oh, where to start? Ok, I will move around in order of appearance.

 

Ben was charming, a perfect gentleman. He revealed that he had based his character, Mr Bennet, on his own father, who, he said, totally adored his mother. Unfortunately, he also loved to tease her. We see this clearly in his portrayal of Mr Bennet and his constant ribbing of Mrs Bennet. Sadly a few of the cast, including Ben found it hard to get work for a period of time after the phenomenal success of P & P.

 

 

 

Susannah is as lovely today as she was in 1995, both in looks and personality. She happily signed autographs and posed for pictures for all who wanted a souvenir of the day. (Including me)

Crispin, well, first of all, be still my beating heart. Crispin has improved with age, and although handsome as Mr Bingley, he is now quite the show stopper in my humble opinion. Crispin admitted that he is not a great horseman, and during the opening sequence of the first episode, it was a stunt double who galloped across the field. He also revealed he had been asked, some years later, to play Mr Darcy in a stage  adaptation of P & P. Wisely he turned it down. Crispin in now the Head of Department and teachers English in a London school.


Polly was lovely. She has blossomed into a beautiful and charming woman, with no sign of the awkward, snivelling Kitty, who we all remember. She was only 17 when she won the part of Kitty, but I personally think she did a wonderful job. Polly now does a lot of voice-over work, and will start shooting her first film part in the new year.

 

 

Joanna doesn’t seem to have aged a day, and talks in the quiet voice of Mrs Gardiner. She confided that she hated wearing the corsets and would happily never wear one again. Over a coffee, Joanna also  confirmed that her daughter, Emilia Fox, had stepped in to play Georgiana at the last minute. This was because Simon had been unable to finding an actress that matched his image of Georgiana. Also, it was actually Emilia playing the piano in her scenes. Wow, to be so young, so beautiful and so talented.   

It was most rewarding to see Jane and Mr Bingley reunited after 20 years.
In the world of any Pride & Prejudice  fan, Jane and Charles Bingley could do nothing but live happily ever after. So it was lovely to see Crispin and Susannah laughing together, confirming the imaginary outcome for two of our favourite characters. Ben and Crispin were as charming as their characters, and the highlight of my day was meeting them both. Gentlemen are a dying bread in the world, but today I have met two.

On a sadder note, David Bamber, (Mr Collins) was unable to attend. His loss was keenly felt.:-)

 

 

Also, Mr Darcy, (Colin Firth) was not in attendance BUT, the shirt was. I happily posed along side it, imagining Mr Darcy emerging from the lake.

 

 

MY BOOK WITH EVERYONES AUTOGRAPH 1995 REUNION 5.9.2015

On a more personal note and for those who do not know, I am a writer, and I took along a copy of the  first novel I wrote, a Pride & Prejudice ‘what if’ variation called Mr Darcy’s Struggle. Happily, I managed to get all the attending casts autographs. It is something I will treasure forever, along with my memories of this wonderful day.

This celebration of twenty years passing since the release of Pride & Prejudice was a ticketed event, and only 60 seats were available. I feel immensely proud to have been one of the lucky few to attend. I hope this Blog Post has passed on a little of the excitement we experienced and the secrets we were privileged to learn, from both the academics and the cast. With special thanks to Simon, Jane, Huw, The Chawton House Library, and of course Miss Jane Austen, whom without, none of this would have been possible. M xx

Our very best wishes

Our very best

Lizzie and Darcy x

To Live Next Door To Jane Austen’s House In Chawton? Yes or No?

Now here is an interesting article from my paper this morning.

 

 

For only £450,000, you can purchase Pond Cottage, which is next door to the house that Jane Austen lived in for eight years.

If you are a true Janeite, and I know there are many hundreds of thousands of you out there, myself included, this must seem like a dream come true. To live this close to the property where Jane created many of the characters we all love so much? Such opportunities are few and far between, so who would not be interested and excited at such a fair prospect?

Picturesque Pond Cottage

Well, lets look a little closer.

Yes, to live adjacent to the house of your idol could be rewarding, magical, and certainly inspiring for a true JA fan.

BUT, lets not forget that the actual house that Jane lived in with her sister Cassandra and her mother, (also Cassandra) is now a museum, dedicated to her life, her works and the regency way living.

I have visited the museum  myself a few times and thoroughly enjoyed it. But visiting and living next door to are two very different things.

The Jane Austen House Museum, (https://www.jane-austens-house-museum.org.uk/) attracts upwards of 100,000 visitors every year from all corners of the world.

Jane Austen House Museum

From China to Alaska, and New Zealand to Norway. The pull for Jane Austen fans to visit the place where Jane lived and dreamt up Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet is a magnet of astronomical proportions.

And rightly so. Jane is, in my humble opinion, the worlds greatest female author. Who knows what other delights she might have regaled us with had she lived beyond her 41 years.

And lets not forget that a mere half a mile up the road is the world renown Chawton Library, (https://chawtonhouse.org/).

Chawton Library

This was Edward Austen Knights house, and somewhere Jane would visited often. It was owned and lived in by Edwards descendants right up until 1992 when it was sold. This is also another hugely popular tourist spot for visiting Janeites.

So, with this number of visitors in mind as they hit the Jane trail, the additional traffic through the small and yet still surprisingly  quaint village, finding somewhere to park, the noise from said visitors, the constant taking of selfies and panoramic pictures, makes me ask; would you actually be able to enjoy your country idyll?

My answer would be this;

If you are a true Jane fan, then a resounding YES!.

There would be countless opportunities to join in with the enthusiastic visitors, or you could volunteer at the museum. You would need to offer no excuse to dress up and wear your very best regency clothes, (yes I have them too) or maybe you could open a tea room.

Mr & Mrs Regency Dress

There might also be a steady trade if you invested in a regency clothes shop or perhaps a photographic studio where you could take memorable pictures of men, women and even children in period clothes from a dressing up wardrobe. There is a wealth of opportunity if you have a mind to act upon it.

However, if Jane is not your cup of tea, then steer clear of Chawton village altogether, especially in June when the nearby town of Alton hold a week long festival celebrating everything Regency.

And also in December, when people flock to visit the museum on Janes birthday, (16th December 1775).

If I had the resources and was perhaps 20 years younger, I would be putting in an offer tomorrow.

Love as always

MJR

 

Link to Hampton International

(https://www.hamptons.co.uk/buy/property/2-bedroom-end-of-terrace-house-in-chawton,gu34-ref-4578430/)