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Action Lizzy and the Four Thieves Chapter 29-30

April 14, 2023 11:06AM
Chapter 29

The Countess had just entered her room, the maid following her, to change our of her dress. She could not believe she had managed to drop the scone with jam and cream all over herself. She glanced out the window to see a carriage making its way down the drive. The Countess groaned inwardly.

“Lucy, can you please tell someone to fetch the Earl immediately.”

“Yes, my Lady. I believe he was visiting some tenants today.”

“Tell him his sister is here.”

Meanwhile, Mr Bennet was sitting reading the letter from his cousin, trying to determine if it was worth responding or not. He had shown it to Lizzy, but she had been rather missish about it. He decided against responding yet.

They had fallen into a pattern since Darcy’s departure. After breakfast, they would all visit Mr Gardiner, and he and Kitty would help him to stand and walk a few laps of the upstairs hall. The first two days had been quite painful for his brother-in-law, but today it had seemed a little easier, though he certainly could not go far or fast, and the effort pained his chest. They would then spend time with him, as he spent more time sitting up, reading, answering correspondence or planning for the funeral and post-funeral arrangements. When it was time for Mr Gardiner to rest, Mr Bennet would take a stroll through the gardens with his daughters.

The guard who had been put on to ensure Lizzy’s safety was certainly unobtrusive, staying well back to survey any threats. Lizzy had not even noticed him until the previous day.

The previous day had been the first day that Lizzy had not felt the need for a midday nap, though she had been more tired on this day. During the early afternoon period, Kitty would go to visit the Riley’s to discuss preparations for the wake.

They spent the later part of the afternoon with Mr Gardiner again, helping him with another lap or two of their floor, before preparing for dinner. Mr Bennet would then spend the evening with Mr Gardiner, sometimes in the company of the Earl and sometimes with his daughters as well.

Mr Bennet watched as a fine carriage trundled down the drive. As he was seated on a seat near the front door, he rose as a large woman dressed in fine clothes and with an imperious air descended from the carriage. She saw him and mistaking him for an employee of the house, demanded to be taken in to see Miss Bennet.

“If you are looking for Miss Bennet, you've come to the wrong location. She is at home.”

“I've come to see the Miss Bennet that I've heard is staying here.”

From the resemblance to the Earl and from the descriptions from Lizzy’s letters, he had gathered that he was speaking with THE Lady Catherine de Bourgh. He had high hopes that this could potentially be his most amusing conversation of the year, and was not going to give up vexing the woman as far a possible. “You will need to be more specific. There are two staying here.”

“Miss Elizabeth Bennet. I demand to be taken to see her immediately.”

“She’s resting at the moment. I can convey any message you might have, if I think it worth conveying.”

The lady looked him up and down with disdain. “I presume you are the father?”

Mr Bennet had wondered how long it would take her to work it out. “And I presume I'm talking with Lady Catherine de Bourgh. It is a good thing my daughter provided a good description. I can't say the description from Mr Collins was very accurate. You really should advise him for more precision on his descriptions in future.”

“I'm certain you can be at no loss, Mr Bennet, to understand the reason of my journey thither,” said the Lady, sniffing.

“I can only presume you are here to visit your brother,” said Mr Bennet. “Considering we are in mourning, the only thing you could have to say to us is your commiserations for our loss, and I doubt you travelled that far for that purpose.”

“Mr Bennet,” replied her Ladyship, in an angry tone, “you ought to know, that I am not to be trifled with. But however insincere you may choose to be, you shall not find me so. My character has ever been celebrated for its sincerity and frankness, and in a cause of such moment as this, I shall not depart from it. A report of the most alarming nature reached me. I have read in the newspaper that your daughter and my nephew have an arrangement and are to be joined in marriage. Though I know it to be a scandalous falsehood; though I would not injure him so much as to suppose the truth of it possible, I instantly resolved on setting off for this place that I could make my sentiments known.”

“If you believe it to be impossible to be true, “ said Mr Bennet, “I wonder you took the trouble of coming so far. Such a trip would do naught other than confirm the rumour.”

“At once to insist upon such a report to be universally contradicted.”

Mr Bennet considered toying with her, however, that would go against what he had agreed and insisted upon with the Earl and Countess. “There I can satisfy you. There is no current arrangement in place, nor will any such arrangement exist for the mourning period.”

“Was the report not industriously circulated by your daughter?”

“Considering she was unconscious during the period the rumour started circulating, I can safely say it was not of her doing.”

“And can you likewise declare, that there is no foundation for it?”

“The blame for that lies squarely upon the impropriety displayed by your nephew, which was the tiny spark that started this rumour. That is the foundation this story is built upon.”

“Your daughter's arts and allurements seem to have made my nephew forget what he owes to himself and to his family. She must have drawn him in. His infatuation with her has driven away his reason.”

“If that is the case, he is a grown man and whom he decides to make offers to is his own choice.”

“Mr Bennet, do you know who I am? I have not been accustomed to such language as this. I am the nearest relation he has in the world, and am entitled to know all his dearest concerns.”

“Then I wonder why you have come here rather than going to the source, if you are entitled to know all of his concerns? Though I'm not certain why a man would allow his Aunt free rein in interfering with his affairs.”

“Let me be rightly understood. This match, to which your daughter has the presumption to aspire, can never take place. No, never. Mr Darcy is engaged to my daughter. Now what have you to say?”

“Only this; that if he is so, you can have no reason to suppose he will make an offer to my daughter,“ said Mr Bennet, perplexed and amused by Lady Catherine’s lack of logical argument.

Lady Catherine hesitated for a moment and then replied. “The engagement between them is of a peculiar kind. From his infancy, they have been intended for each other. It was the favourite wish of his mother, as well as of hers. While in their cradle, we planned the union: and now, at the moment when the wishes of both sisters would be accomplished, in their marriage, to be perverted by a young woman of inferior birth, of no importance in the world, and wholly unallied to the family! Do you pay no regard to the wishes of his friends? To his tacit engagement with Miss de Bourgh? Are you lost to every feeling of propriety and delicacy?”

“By that logic, poor Mr Darcy will never marry, as he will always upset someone who had rather hoped, maybe even wished aloud, that he would be engaged to their daughter. Any engagement between your daughter and nephew was no more than a wish. Its completion depended on others. If Mr Darcy is neither by honour nor inclination confined to his cousin, why is not he to make another choice? And so be it if he chooses my daughter. I will certainly not prevent it, and to attempt it would be pointless.”

“Because honour, decorum, prudence, nay, interest, forbid it. Yes, Mr Bennet, interest; for do not expect their marriage to be noticed by his family or friends, if she wilfully acts against the inclinations of all. She will be censured, slighted and despised, by everyone connected with him. Her alliance will be a disgrace; her name will never even be mentioned by any of us.”

“I'm unable to see the misfortune of the loss of your company, “ replied Mr Bennet. “Your brother and his wife certainly have not indicated any disinclination towards a match and I must say they have been extremely hospitable. But if my daughter becomes Mrs Darcy, I don't think that with a home at Pemberley and all it entails, that I doubt she will have a case to repine.”

“Obstinate, headstrong old man! I can see where your daughter gets it. Is this your gratitude for my attentions to your daughter last spring? Is nothing due to me on that score? You are to understand, Mr Bennet, that I came here with the determined resolution of carrying my purpose; nor shall I be dissuaded from it. I have not been used to submit to any person's whims. I have not been in the habit of brooking disappointment .”

“That will make your Ladyship’s situation at present more pitiable. If your disappointment will make life uncomfortable for my cousin, I will be quite satisfied.” Mr Bennet tried to look serious, but was unsuccessful at hiding his smirk.

“I will not be interrupted. Hear me in silence. My daughter and nephew are formed for each other. They are descended on the maternal side, from the same noble line; and, on the father's, from respectable, honourable, and ancient, though untitled families. Their fortune on both sides is splendid. They are destined for each other by the voice of every member of their respective houses; and what is to divide them? The upstart pretensions of a young woman without family, connections, or fortune. Is this to be endured! But it must not, shall not be. If you were sensible of her own good, she would not quit the sphere in which she was brought up.”

“In marrying your nephew, I should not consider that she is quitting that sphere. He is a gentleman, she is a gentleman's daughter; so far they are equal.”

“True, you are a gentleman. But who is your wife? Who are your brothers and sisters-in-law? Do not imagine me ignorant of their condition.“

“Whatever the connections are,” said Mr Bennet, “they are more polite and gracious than you are.”

“How dare you insult me! I demand that you promise not to approve any such engagement.”

“Absolutely not! Also, considering that my daughter will be off age upon her exit of mourning, my permission for any engagement is a polite formality. If they are determined, and your nephew appears the type to not give up easily, they do not require my permission.”

“Do not deceive yourself into a belief that I will ever recede. I shall not go away until you have given me the assurance I require.”

“And I certainly never shall give it. I am not to be intimidated into anything so wholly unreasonable. Your Ladyship wants Mr Darcy to marry your daughter; but would my giving you that wished for promise make their marriage any more probable? Supposing him to be attached to my daughter, would my refusal of her hand make him wish to bestow it on his cousin? Allow me to say, Lady Catherine, that the arguments with which you have supported this extraordinary application, have been as frivolous as the application was ill-judged. How far your nephew might tolerate of your interference in his affairs, I cannot tell, but if he is happy to have his aunt interfere, then I'm not certain he is suitable or worthy enough for my daughter.“

Her Ladyship was highly incensed. “Have you no regard, then, for the honour and credit of my nephew! Do you not consider a connection with her, must disgrace him in the eyes of everybody? You are determined to ruin him in the opinion of his friends, and make him the contempt of the world.”

“I will respond to that with the advice I gave my daughters. If he is that squeamish to care, he is not worth the regret. If he has any friends like such, they too, are not worth the regret and I imagine the both of them will be better off without such friends. But, in truth, the world in general would have too much sense to join in the scorn.”

“And this is your real opinion! This is the final resolve! Very well. I shall know how to act. I came to try you. I hoped to find you reasonable; but depend upon it I will carry my point.”

It was at this point, the Countess reached them. She had been amused to listen to Mr Bennet infuriating her dear sister-in-law. “Sister, what a surprise! We had not expected you at all – why did you not send word that you were coming? I see you have met our guest, Mr Bennet?”

And so Lady Eleanor led Lady Catherine away, straight to her husband's study, whilst Lady Catherine indignantly ranted the whole way.

They waited no more than five minutes before the Earl entered. Before getting out a greeting, Lady Catherine interrupted. “Brother, have you heard these scandalous rumours about Darcy! I demand we put an end to it by announcing his engagement to Anne.”

The Earl stood behind his desk, incredulous. “You seriously do not expect Darcy to marry Anne, do you? How many times has Darcy told you that he will not marry her, or were you not listening?”

“That's preposterous. He knows his obligation to this family.”

Now the Earl was furious. “His obligation to this family, or to your selfish needs?”

“How dare you accuse me of being selfish. I'm thinking of what is best for this family and Anne! A match between the two will be splendid and keeps the fortune in the family.”

“Have you no understanding? What Darcy owes to the family and to Pemberley is to find a wife that will give him a family. Darcy wants to be a father. Now tell me, how many children can Anne bare safely?”

Lady Catherine sat storming silently across from the Earl. “How many children did the doctor say that Anne can have?”

“She can't have children,” said Lady Catherine softly, stiltingly.

“How will Darcy father an heir? Have you thought of that, sister?”

“He never seemed interested.”

“Why on earth would he tell you whether he is interested or not? It is not the sort of conversation a man has with his Aunt, let alone one who wouldn't listen to him. To put this bluntly and in terms you understand, I forbid any match between Darcy and Anne. I will not have you sprouting this nonsense of an engagement between the two of them any longer.”

“Further to that, are you unaware of the terms of the will? Anne inherits, married or not, everything in four months time. However, that is dependent on her remaining a de Bourgh. The terms of the will state only a de Bourgh can own the estate. So if she married, her husband has to change his name. There is no such restriction on Pemberley. Can you really see Darcy changing his name for a woman who will never bare him any children? It is a preposterous notion.”

“Then how will Anne be looked after?” asked Lady Catherine.

“Have you ever considered Richard, who would have always been a more sensible choice?”

Lady Catherine scowled.

”Or did you dislike the choice of Richard because he doesn't have his own estate, so he would actually have to live at Rosings and take it over from you?”

“This is outrageous. Are you insinuating...”

“Yes I am Catherine. The estate belongs to your daughter, not to you.”

“You don't need to worry about these things. You get to be Earl of your estate until you die. You won't get asked to leave your home.”

“What do you need to worry about, Catherine? You own apartments in London, a townhouse in Bath and one at the seaside, not to mention use of the dower house. You just don't want to give up the power and income of controlling an estate.”

”Why should I give it up? I can look after an estate as well as any man.”

“So this rubbish of Anne marrying Darcy has been for your own selfish benefit, never thinking of what those two want, just what is best for you. Have you ever thought to ask your daughter what she would like? Whatever you might want or attempt to arrange, she has no obligation to follow through with it.”

They were silent, each silently raging. Lady Catherine swallowed uncomfortably. “Can you broach the subject with Richard to see if he is interested in marrying Anne?”

“We can broach it, but we can give you no guarantees,” said the Countess, before the Earl could speak, as he was still too furious with his sister. The Countess has been quietly watching ready to act the peacemaker, and not wanting to interfere in the row between siblings.

“But we must still stop the marriage of Darcy to this Bennet chit.”

“We will absolutely not interfere in any such thing. She has been staying here, and we are very impressed with the girl. If Darcy chooses to offer for her, we will be delighted to have her in the family. She is a strong, resilient sort. I think she will do very well amongst the Ton and will only bring credit to the Darcy name,” said the Countess. “I plan on having her with me during the Season as she is quite the talk of London. I cannot have some other lady taking that honour from me.”

Lady Catherine was about to splutter. The Earl raised a hand. “If you cannot support whomever Darcy chooses, then you will be silent and have no comment on it. Do I make myself clear, Catherine?”

She looked away and eventually gave a small nod, with a face that looked like she had swallowed a bitter pill. “Can I refresh myself here?”

The Earl was apoplectic again. “You came here and insulted my guests arguing with Miss Elizabeth’s father in full sight and hearing of the staff. Oh yes, they told me all. How dare you come onto my land and insult my guests! Have you no sense of decorum! No, I absolutely will not let you refresh yourself here after the scene you caused. And do not try me, I’d be delighted to call the guards and have them forcibly take you out. I suggest you gather what dignity you have left, and walk out of here with your head held high, and head back to Rosings.”

Lady Catherine, and without a word to either the Earl or Countess, walked out, head held high but in high dudgeon.

She entered her carriage and the surprised driver, who had been expecting to unharness the horses, mounted and turned the carriage around.

Mr Bennet watched the carriage leave and pleasantly waved at Lady Catherine, who pretended not to see. The encounter had been everything he had expected, and he thoroughly enjoyed it. He hoped to see her often in future after Lizzy’s probable marriage to keep frustrating her.

Mr Bennet had become quite fast friends with the Earl. They had started playing chess in the evenings when the others had gone to bed, and they had developed some unique tactics. Mr Bennet had started by declaring outrageous opinions of books he had read, thus distracting the Earl from his moves. The Earl had caught on, and you could hear their voices at night, arguing over the ridiculous whilst playing chess. It was almost as fun as arguing with Lady Catherine. And it was after these games that the two would bond, so he already knew of the Earl’s frustrations with his sister.

With the carriage now past, it was time to return inside. He reflected that Lady Catherine had nothing sensible to say that needed to be passed on to Lizzy.

Chapter 30

Whilst Lady Catherine argued with her brother, Jane had received a letter from her father. Mrs Bennet, Mary and Lydia looked expectantly at Jane, wanting to know what news Mr Bennet had written.

“Papa wants me to read out the following,” said Jane.

“Regarding the rumours that have been published on Lizzy and Mr Darcy, understand that that is exactly what they are. I have interviewed them both and am satisfied that no agreement of any nature existed between the two, and their meeting was purely coincidental. These rumours appear to stem purely from the romantic imagination of gossips, seeking to improve the rescue story. There is no truth to these rumours and I see no occasion to insist upon an engagement during the mourning period.

I know Mrs Bennet may be disappointed. Understand that if I had agreed to any announcement of an engagement, it would make it appear that some form of impropriety had occurred between the two of them. Despite Mr Darcy’s vast fortune, this would reflect poorly on ourselves as a family and would likely affect the marriage prospects of our girls and Mr Darcy’s sister to their detriment. Looking out for this family, I cannot allow for that to occur.”

Later, in her own room, Jane read the letter that Lizzy had sent.

“If I use my left arm to weigh down my paper, it will hopefully not move as I write. It would not do to have my letter illegible.....

Regarding those rumours, please rest easy and do not think that they distress me in any way. I do not dislike Mr Darcy at all anymore and we do get on quite well with each other. I cannot say all that I would like here, but I believe that I would be quite content if a marriage between myself and Mr Darcy were forced to occur. How I long for your presence so that I can tell you all!”

Kitty’s letter to Lydia was much less restrained or circumspect.

“I find it hard to believe that we had such a poor opinion of Mr Darcy. He is actually quite nice, just quiet. But he does spend a lot of time mooning over Lizzy. He can't stop looking at her or staring, and is always trying to get her attention in some way. Lizzy certainly does not seem to mind in the least. I think she quite likes Mr Darcy.”

Action Lizzy and the Four Thieves Chapter 29-30

Anne VApril 14, 2023 11:06AM

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