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Dearest Anne Book 2 Chapter 1

September 14, 2020 06:04PM
Dearest Anne Book 2
Chapter One

After months of anxious waiting, the opportunity presented itself rather suddenly. Lady Catherine became afflicted with a severe chest cold and was too feverish to leave her bed just at the time that Mrs. Jenkinson was away visiting her sister. The servants, both male and female, were being run ragged by her Ladyship’s demands and had precious little time or energy to notice a change in Anne’s demeanor or activities. It was, therefore, the perfect time for her to begin to put her plan into action.

For the past few days she had spent a few hours at her mother’s bedside each morning—reading to her, listening to her complaints and doing her best to make her comfortable. Yet all the while her mind was preoccupied with the necessary preliminaries that would make her escape possible. The various letters she had written were ready to be mailed; she only needed the opportunity to go to the post unobserved. Her conversation with Mr. Calder, her mother’s solicitor, was well rehearsed. What had been lacking, till now, was a plausible excuse to leave the house on her own. Anne had never been allowed to go to Huntsford Village without a companion, of course, but the situation that now presented itself thankfully made it possible.

“Mary,” said Anne to her mother’s maid as she was about to enter her mistress’s bedchamber, “James will be taking me into the village to purchase some new books to keep Mama entertained. We just finished the novel we were reading and you know that her Ladyship does not care for poetry. I shall not be gone long. Is there anything that I can get for the household while I am there? Do we have enough of the eucalyptus oil the doctor recommended?”

“Yes, Miss Anne, we have a plentiful supply. But do you think you should be going on your own, Miss? Would you like Meg to go with you? She is working in the laundry at the moment, but…”

“No, no! Truly, there is no need. James will drop me off at the booksellers, and all my other errands are just steps away. You needn’t worry. And,” said Anne, her lips curling into a mischievous grin, “I am looking forward to dropping into Hartley’s and looking for some new lace without Mrs. Jenkinson peering over my shoulder and imposing her taste on me.” Her smile broadened and she raised her brows to imply that she was sharing a most significant confidence.

Though feeling a bit uneasy, Mary knew it was not her place to further question the young lady of the house. She nodded, curtsied, and hurried to answer her Ladyship’s bell, which had been ringing incessantly all the while they had been talking.

“Oh, Mary,” said Anne, calling her back with a trusting smile, “there is no need to mention this little excursion to Mama. We don’t want her to fret unnecessarily, do we?” Again, she gave the young woman a look that needed no translation.

*****

Having made her purchases at Bentley’s bookshop, Anne quietly left by the rear door and made her way around to post her letters. Even there she had to dissemble. These were not her correspondences, she offered, when Mr. Finesdale raised his brows; her mother had asked her to post them. It was evident that his suspicion was aroused, but he smiled kindly as he took them from her. If he noted the youthful flourish of the hand, his countenance did not betray it. A gentleman of his profession knew when discretion was called for.

Anne quickly continued on to Mr. Calder’s office at the end of the street, hoping that no one would see her enter. It would be nice to avoid having to answer the questions of curious neighbors, but she was not terribly concerned. If the need arose, she had answers well prepared.


*****


Mr. Calder’s son, who was being groomed to take his father’s place when the elder gentleman retired, was at the front desk and very surprised to see her.

“Miss de Bourgh, how good to see you. But I hope that nothing serious has brought you here today? Is her Ladyship’s health not improving? I thought I heard that she was a little better yesterday.”

“Indeed, she is a bit stronger, Mr. Calder. Thank you for asking after her. Is your father in? I have no appointment, but need only a few minutes of his time.”

“I will let him know that you are here, Miss de Bourgh. I know he will wish to make time for you,” Reginald Calder replied as he bowed politely and retreated into the back office.

Once seated before her mother’s loyal and highly protective solicitor, Anne’s anxiety was such that she thought she might forget all that she had rehearsed for so long. His cooperation in this scheme was crucial, though hopefully, he would not understand the full impact of what he was being asked to do until she was long gone and hidden away. In an attempt to look more confident, she pulled back her shoulders, cocked her head playfully to the side and gazed intently at the gentleman before her.

“Mr. Calder,” she began, a winsome smile playing about the corners of her mouth, “it is imperative that I make you my co-conspirator … my very trustworthy accomplice in the deliciously secretive scheme I am plotting!” She watched as Mr. Calder’s eyes widened and his face paled. The poor man was squirming uncomfortably in his chair.

“My dear Miss de Bourgh,” he began to mumble, “you know that I am always at your service, but your mother…”

“Yes, I know, Mr. Calder. You would never wish to deceive her or keep anything from her. You are a steadfast and faithful servant and that is precisely why I know I can count on you to keep my secret.”

Mr. Calder’s posture relaxed a bit as he allowed himself to settle more comfortably in his chair. Clasping his hands together on the desk before him, he gave her his full attention.

“My mother will be celebrating a rather special birthday next month and I wish to honor her with a gift that truly reflects my appreciation of her devotion to me. She has always been so good and has had to sacrifice so much of her own happiness and independence for the sake of my health. I am painfully aware of how I have restricted her life.”

Mr. Calder nodded sympathetically but added, “I am sure that her Ladyship does not consider her devotion to you a burden of any kind, Miss de Bourgh.”

“Yes, perhaps, Mr. Calder. But the opportunity now presents itself for me to express my appreciation and give her a much-deserved holiday. You see my aunt and uncle, Lord and Lady Matlock are planning a trip to Venice next month and I wish to make it possible for Mama to join them. I know she would never agree to go — feeling obliged to remain at home with me. But if I pay for the voyage and her accommodations ahead of time, and present the entire package to her as a gift, she will not be able to refuse. I know how dearly she would like to go, for her countenance betrayed her feelings when my aunt spoke of it.”

“What a thoughtful and generous scheme, Miss de Bourgh. But pray, how do I fit into all of this?”

“Well, the small allowance that I draw from the monies my father left me and the pocket money my mother provides certainly will not cover such a gift. Therefore, I wish to withdraw five hundred pounds of my inheritance and use it for this purpose. Surely, my father would approve and feel that I was putting his money to good use. Of course, your role in this is vital – keeping it all secret until the happy day.”

Once again, the color drained from Mr. Calder’s face. “But…but Miss de Bourgh, I have strict instructions from your mother to let her know about every financial transaction concerning her accounts. She trusts me to follow her instructions to the letter. And despite the reason for keeping it from her, I’m afraid she may not look kindly on my having conspired with you in the removal of such a large sum.”

Anne maintained the sweetest of expressions though her heart was beating wildly. “May I remind you, Mr. Calder, that the account of which we speak and the money in it … is mine … inherited from my dear father upon his death. I am not asking you to pillage my mother’s account. I only ask for what is rightfully mine.”

“Indeed, I do understand that, Miss de Bourgh, but as you know, your mother is the custodian of that account. It is held in trust for you of course, but legally under your mother’s control due to your ill health. I’m afraid I cannot, in good conscience, remove such a sum without consulting her.”

“But that would defeat the purpose altogether!” cried Anne.

“I am sorry, Miss. But I cannot and will not go against your mother’s clear and exacting wishes.”

Anne felt her face flush with humiliation and breathed in deeply to enable her to continue. To be eight and twenty and the heiress of a great fortune, and to have to beg for the use of her own money was beyond humiliating. Yet she had foreseen this ugly scenario and was equally prepared for it. Nevertheless, she was truly shocked at how it unraveled her.

“Mr. Calder,” she began slowly and calmly, “your loyalty to my mother does you credit, and that is precisely why I have never envisioned any other firm holding the financial accounts of Rosings Park.”

Mr. Calder suddenly straightened—his eyes widening in nervous anticipation.

“My mother tells me that you plan to retire next year and that you are grooming your son to take your place. Is that not so?”

He swallowed hard and nodded.

“Well…just as your son will be filling your shoes, Mr. Calder, I will, G-d willing, be the Mistress of Rosings Park one day. I have not been blessed with the energy of some, but my doctors tell me that as long as I take my medication and follow their instructions I can expect to live a relatively long and comfortable life. My mother, of course, is still very vigorous, but she is of a certain age, sir.” Anne lowered her eyes.

“When I am the Mistress of Rosings I will feel the same need for a truly trusted solicitor and will expect him to have my best interests and wishes at heart. If I cannot persuade you to turn over a small fraction of my own inheritance to me, Mr. Calder, how can I look forward to such a close and trusting relationship with your firm in the future? I’m afraid this would taint our association forever.”

Her countenance showed no sign of anger or resentment. Indeed, she gazed at him with artless wonder, as if she had just asked him a perfectly innocent question and was simply waiting for a response. Yet her words had had their desired effect. Samuel Calder was about to have an attack of nerves.

Rosings Park had been his largest account for more than thirty years now and was, in effect, responsible for his family’s very comfortable mode of living. It was inconceivable that this major portion of his income could be snatched away by the timid and unassuming Miss de Bourgh! But what she said was all too true! Lady Catherine was getting on in years and more significantly, was becoming more and more eccentric. Since her return from Scotland many townspeople had thought her verging on the point of madness. Her temper, her increasingly outlandish demands for attention and respect made everyone wonder about her sanity. Even if Lady Catherine were to live for a long, long time, her daughter might be burdened with the responsibility of the estate sooner than later. He had to think of his son, of his own retirement and of the well being of his entire family! Attempting to regulate his breathing and the panic that was welling in his chest, he smiled sheepishly at Anne de Bourgh.

*****

Fitzwilliam Darcy pushed his right arm through the sleeve of his waistcoat, adjusted its collar and proceeded to pull his cuffs comfortably out from beneath the edge of his sleeves. Thus elegantly prepared to face the day, he lingered yet another moment over the tantalizing form stretched out before him. The beautiful line that swelled at her hip and sloped sensuously down along her thighs still made his heart quiver. He bent to kiss her, nuzzling the nape of her neck where those exquisite little curls caressed her skin.

“Do you really want me to entice you out of this warm bed for the pleasure of roaming the shops with your aunt Gardiner, my love? Edward allowed you not four hours of sleep together last night! Perhaps you should postpone your outing,” he whispered between kisses on and about her ear.

“No, nooooooo,” she murmured sleepily. “I’ve been looking forward to this for so long. It is a rite of passage, you know … my very first real outing without Edward. If I postpone it now, it may take me another month to get up the courage to leave him with Nanny and the other servants.”

“Good G-d, Elizabeth, you finally found the perfect Nanny and even brought Mrs. Reynolds from Pemberley to keep a watchful eye on him…and still you worry about spending a few hours away from home? I hope you don’t intend to follow our son to Oxford when he goes. It would be damned embarrassing for the poor boy.”

Elizabeth turned and raised her head to meet her husband’s waiting lips. “Don’t tease me so, Fitzwilliam,” she chided. “It is not easy being a new mother … especially when almost everyone disapproves of those things that seem only natural and right to me. Nanny Henderson is wonderful in many ways, but she is far from perfect. Do you not hear her tsk, tsking every morning when we insist on letting Edward snuggle in our bed for but an hour?”

“Well, you have Doctor Morrison’s blessings and that should be enough for you, my sweet. He is both delighted and impressed that you have managed to nurse Edward these six months. He holds you in very high esteem, I dare say, and is extremely pleased with the boy’s progress. You have every reason to be proud, my love.”

Before Elizabeth could respond, Darcy lowered his mouth onto hers for the deep and satisfying kiss he had been longing for. He would not allow this rather well-worn conversation to keep him from his goal. After all, he needed another kiss to help him through a stressful morning with his bankers.

Edward thrust his little fist out towards his father’s face as if startled by some surprising dream, his sweet little lips puckering and sucking in his sleep. Darcy moved from his wife’s mouth to the downy softness of his son’s head and nuzzled him. “Lucky boy,” he whispered, rubbing his lips against his son’s hair.

“Well, if you insist on your little shopping expedition, you had best get up, Elizabeth. Unfortunately, I have no time to breakfast with you, my love, but have a lovely time and give my best to Aunt Gardiner. I shall see you late this afternoon.”

After placing another tender kiss on his wife’s brow, he swept his precious son up into his arms and delivered him to Nanny Henderson, whom he knew to be waiting rather irritably and impatiently for him in the nursery.



It was bad enough, thought Nanny Henderson, that the mistress insisted on nursing the child herself, but the way both parents spoiled him was truly shocking! What mother on earth would give up the London season to be at her infant’s beck and call? And when the Darcys did entertain, which was rather frequently now that they did not go out in the evenings, Mrs. Darcy thought nothing of excusing herself during dinner to tend to the child’s needs. Nanny often wondered why she had been hired at all! But perhaps now that Edward had begun eating solid food, some things would change. Why, had not the mistress informed her that Edward would be left to her care today while she spent several hours with Mrs. Gardiner? Humph! Well, she would believe it only when the great, miraculous event had actually come to pass!

*****

“And are you quite sure that we are not sending you out of your way, Anne-Marie?” asked Winifred Tilson, tying the ribbons of Anne’s bonnet and then searching round for her gloves.

“It might be a rather heavy package to carry all the way home from the fish market. I ordered three pounds of carp, you know,” added her twin sister, Eugenie. Both elderly ladies fussed and fluttered around their new and most beloved tenant, smoothing her hair under her bonnet and brushing lint from her pelisse.

Anne laughed to herself. With all her servants and paid companions at Rosings Park, she had never felt so loved and cared for. And all this affection came from two of the most terrifying old biddies she had ever chanced to meet!

Anne had been surprised to see the same advertisement for a room to let, month after month, in the London Gazette. Obviously, there had to be something wrong with the arrangement or the people leasing it, for no one seemed to want to live there. Yet the neighborhood suited her, being neither a place so fine that her mother would think of looking for her there, nor so poor as to be dangerous or unpleasant. What was equally important was that her beloved cousins would have no reason to frequent such a place, making a chance meeting very unlikely. And so it was with great trepidation that she had sent off her letter so many months ago from Huntsford Village asking for further details as to the accommodations.

For the next two weeks Anne nervously waited for the post to be delivered each morning so that she could retrieve her letter without anyone else being aware of it. When it finally came, she understood only too well why the room was still vacant. The list of restrictions pertaining to its lease was long indeed.

*No food other than fruit or biscuits could be brought into the house — though the making of tea in the tenant’s own fireplace would be permissible;

*No visitors of either sex would be allowed or pets. No pets of any kind (not even a canary);

*The tenant would not have the use of any of the common rooms in the house and under no circumstances would the tenant touch the pianoforte;

*The tenant would be responsible for paying the house servants separately for the cleaning of her room;

*The tenant could leave and enter only through the servants’ entrance and would be in by eight o’clock in the evening when the house would be securely locked.”

It was perfect!

Well, the food restrictions were outrageous, of course. Imagine having to eat every meal of every day at one eating establishment or another! But oddly enough the other restrictions would make it easy for her to live a safe and quiet life, undisturbed and unobserved. Why, in a normal situation, among normal people, it would appear odd for her not to have any friends or relations at all. People would inquire into her past, forcing her to lie and to entangle herself in dangerous ways. No, this was an almost ideal situation for her — a quiet cave in which to hide for the year. She would have to go by a different name, of course, but one that she would respond to. How comical it would be to introduce oneself as Martha Dobbs and never turn your head when you were called. Anne-Marie Burton! That would do. Just similar enough to remind her of who she really was.

Of course the most difficult part of all would be to keep herself hidden from her family when she longed so very much to see them! How she would love the comforting companionship of Fitzwilliam, Georgiana and Elizabeth. And Edward…little Edward! What would she give to hold him in her arms? But that would not be possible for now – not if she was to win her independence from her mother.

More than anything, this would be the test of her fortitude. If she could prove to a court of law that she was well enough and capable enough to survive on her own — without the financial help or emotional support of friends or relations, she might succeed in convincing a magistrate that her mother’s restrictive hold on her and her finances were unnecessary and therefore, unlawful. She was of age, and she was of means — if only she had access to the fifteen thousand pounds her father had left her!

Oddly enough, the biggest threat to her plan would more than likely come from a most benevolent source – her dear cousin Darcy. He would never allow her to live in this way if he knew her whereabouts and her situation. He would pressure her with every conceivable argument, insisting that he could easily secure her freedom, that he could arrange for it all without her having to suffer any hardship at all. But Anne knew that her mother would put up a noble fight to protect her own interests— especially her honor — and that Darcy’s involvement would only make her more ruthless and determined. Lady Catherine would not release her control over her only child ,and the finances that would enable her to be independent, without an ugly, public display in the courts. And that, Anne was determined to prevent, if she could. She would not subject the names of Darcy, Fitzwilliam and de Bourgh to gossip and ridicule in the local papers. Besides, if she allowed Fitzwilliam to help her, she would only be trading one kind of dependence for another. That was not what she had envisioned for herself. She needed and wanted a home of her own. If she were ever to shed the yoke of being poor little Anne de Bourgh, she would have to do it by the power of her own strength and resolve.


Through much introspection Anne had come to understand that her mother had always used the excuse of her delicate health to make her more of an invalid than she really was. How awful to think that one’s own mother could receive some sort of perverse pleasure from keeping you sickly! Yet, of late, that was precisely what Anne had been thinking. It was a way of keeping her tied to her mother forever. Mama, it would seem, needed her company far more than she needed hers. The gilded tower her Ladyship had built for herself at Rosings was a lonely one, and now that she had disowned half her family, her situation was dire indeed.

Being her own mistress for the very first time, Anne now looked to herself for the answers to the questions that had been nagging at her for years. Would a more demanding regimen really weaken her heart? Would eating citrus fruits or sweets destroy her delicate stomach? Anne began to experiment little by little. She found that as she lengthened her walk each day, even by only a minute or two, she gained strength and stamina. Her diet, now less restricted, did not play havoc with her digestion.

How many things had she been denied for the sake of her “delicate health”? She remembered the tears she had shed when her mother had flatly refused to allow her to learn to play the pianoforte. Really now, how much strength would it have taken to sit and practice for a half hour each day? Perhaps it was her Ladyship’s fear that a child of hers would not excel that prompted her to deny the lessons? A de Bourgh would have to be a true proficient or nothing at all.

All these things considered, Anne knew that it would have been best for her to avoid London altogether. But London was precisely where she had wanted to be. Here she would find innumerable sources of pleasure and entertainment. And as she would have to keep to her own company, the museums, libraries and charitable organizations of the town would provide her the opportunity to be among people, to be intellectually stimulated and amused, and…best of all, to be kept busy.
SubjectAuthorPosted

Dearest Anne Book 2 Chapter 1

Gaby A.September 14, 2020 06:04PM

Re: Dearest Anne Book 2 Chapter 1

Gaby aSeptember 20, 2020 08:54PM

That was me, sorry!

AntonellaMTCSeptember 20, 2020 09:13PM

Re: That was me, sorry!

Gaby A.September 21, 2020 04:31AM

Re: That was me, sorry!

AntonellaMTCSeptember 22, 2020 06:48PM

Thanks!

AntonellaMTCSeptember 22, 2020 06:52PM

Re: Dearest Anne Book 2 Chapter 1

SaraleeSeptember 18, 2020 05:43PM

Re: Dearest Anne Book 2 Chapter 1

kath-jSeptember 18, 2020 05:12AM

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Gaby A.September 18, 2020 01:15PM

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AlidaSeptember 15, 2020 12:31PM

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Gaby A.September 15, 2020 01:17PM

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LisaYSeptember 15, 2020 03:29PM

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AlidaSeptember 15, 2020 09:46PM

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