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Here is an excerpt from Chapter 2 of Lady Catherine Impedes. This scene takes place at the beginning of the chapter, after Collins has written an express to his esteemed patroness. Enjoy! 😀
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The next day
Rosings Park, Kent
Lady Catherine de Bourgh was just finishing her tea when her butler entered, carrying a silver salver. Setting her cup back on its saucer, the mistress of Rosings picked up the single letter it held, dismissing the head servant with a nod. Looking at the markings on the front, she exclaimed, “Why, it was mailed express.”
“Who is it from?” Lady Catherine’s only child, Anne, was curious. They received few letters in any case, but she could not remember the last time one came via an express carrier.
“Mr. Collins. I cannot imagine what he could have to say to me that was so important.” Breaking open the seal, Lady Catherine started reading. She gasped before she got very far down the page, then began to read more quickly. Reaching the bottom, her eyes moved back to the top of the page and she read again.
“What is it, Mama?”
“My rector informs me that he met Darcy in Hertfordshire, and that he is married!”
“What? That is not possible. He is engaged to me!” Anne did not know which to express first, her shock or her outrage.
“Blast it all! I knew I should have pushed for a formal arrangement!” Lady Catherine lowered the hand holding the letter to her lap, turning toward her daughter. “I am so sorry, Anne; I never thought he would defy my wishes, so I did not insist on it.”
“Well,” Anne snapped, “now you can fix it!”
“There is nothing that can be done. Unless one of them was incompetent or underage and without a parent’s permission, there is no grounds for an annulment. Divorce would damage the entire family, even if it did not take years to achieve.”
“That means nothing to me. You promised him to me, Mother, and I intend to have him. You had best think of something, and do it quickly. You are the daughter and sister of an earl and the widow of a baronet. You have run this estate single-handedly for a decade. You have a reputation for getting what you want.” Anne stood, hands fisted at her sides. “I do not know how you are going to get him back for me, but be assured, you will. I will see to it.”
Lady Catherine sat silently as her only child marched from the room, trailed by her companion, Mrs. Jenkinson. Though she herself was known for her ability to intimidate and order the lives of others, she quivered inside at what Anne might do. Though appearing to others as weak and sickly, when the two of them were without guests, Anne was a force to be reckoned with.
As a child, Lady Catherine’s daughter had indeed been sickly. She had caught a fever at the age of ten that had left her with a weakened constitution and prone to other illnesses. Her parents had worried about every sniffle, fearing that one would take her life. Lady Catherine and Sir Lewis had coddled Anne, spoiling her and doing everything they could to make her happy.
As she grew, Anne’s personality began to increasingly demonstrate her Fitzwilliam roots. Lady Catherine’s family members, as peers of the realm, were an exceedingly proud and demanding lot. Their expectations of what was their due were high. Anne displayed these same characteristics; added to them, however, was a tendency toward maliciousness. When she did not get her way, the girl became violently angry, often throwing figurines or striking anyone unlucky enough to be near. She used words as weapons, as well. Her father had been the only person able to control her, but he had passed away when Anne was fifteen. She had become increasingly difficult in the intervening ten years. On several occasions, people had been injured, either directly or indirectly, during Anne’s episodes of anger, including Lady Catherine herself. Everyone in the Rosings household feared another outburst, most especially the mistress.
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