Content Harry Potter Jane Austen by Pamela St Vines
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From Chapter Two: Since Lady Catherine was still quite put out, dinner at Rosings was a relatively silent affair that evening. Neither of her nephews minded. In fact, Darcy found himself wishing he had managed to silence her years ago.

Chapter Three

Surprisingly Lady Catherine made it through dinner without letting her tongue and her temper fly, but even a very unwise woman will sometimes recognize her own limitations. Realizing her self-restraint was nearing its end, Lady Catherine complained of a headache and retired to her room as soon as the meal was concluded. All in all, Darcy thought she was taking the news of his engagement rather well. He was mistaken.

The three cousins decided to eschew the formal drawing room and withdrew to the library after dinner. It was easily the most comfortable room in the house, possibly because Lady Catherine did not care for books and had, therefore, never taken an active interest in the library's furnishings. Feeling it was her duty to attend her mother, Anne soon bid Darcy and Fitzwilliam a good night, promising to see them off in the morning.

As she was leaving the room Darcy said, "Anne, if you should ever have a desire to alter your circumstances, you would be more than welcome in our home--for as long as you would wish."

She gave him a wry smile. "Thank you, Darcy. I appreciate your offer of 'sanctuary,' but at present I will remain with Mama."

"The offer stands," Darcy insisted. "You will always be welcome."

Once the gentlemen had the library all to themselves, Fitzwilliam poured them each a brandy and they sat in companionable silence for several minutes before the colonel broached what was on his mind.

"I must admit, Darcy, it is difficult to adjust to all of this--"

"To all of what, Fitzwilliam?"

"To your getting married and so quickly, too--but even more surprising than your taking a wife is the thought of you so deeply in love, Cousin."

"Do you think me so cold as to make that impossible, Fitzwilliam?"

"No, I have never thought of you as cold or hard hearted, Darcy," the colonel answered with a smile, "but you are very reserved. It is, therefore, surprising that you would allow anyone to make such inroads into your affections."

"I think 'allowed' would not be an accurate description," Darcy responded. "If you must know, I foolishly spent a great deal of time trying to ignore my feelings for Miss Bennet. You might say I finally succumbed, but I do not think I consciously 'allowed' myself to care for her."

"To your succumbing then," the colonel proposed as he lifted his glass to his cousin.

Both gentlemen started when the library door was suddenly flung open and Anne bolted into the room, flushed and gasping for breath. Her expression was stricken as she whispered to Darcy, "She's gone--Mama has gone to the parsonage."

Darcy murmured his thanks as he rushed past her into the hall. It was a short walk to the parsonage and Darcy sped up the path.

Although he could not distinguish her words, Darcy could hear Lady Catherine as he drew near the house. Her voice was unmistakable even when muffled. Maria's relief was visible when she answered Darcy's knock.

"Mr. Darcy, thank goodness you have come--"

Following the sound of Lady Catherine's voice Darcy rushed past Maria, taking the stairs two at a time.

Charlotte, who was pacing and ringing her hands on the landing, stepped aside without a word and Darcy sped down the hall. Charlotte knew that there would be time for apologies and explanations later. Right now she was as eager for Lady Catherine's removal from her home, as Darcy was to accomplish it. Knowing that Mr. Darcy was by far the most proper person to deal with his aunt, Charlotte withdrew to the parlor. Unlike her husband, she was not afraid of Lady Catherine; however, Charlotte had proved to be no match for the irate, ill-mannered woman. She had attempted to protect Elizabeth by blocking the stairway, but Lady Catherine had roughly shoved her aside.

Charlotte had, of course, sped up the stairs after Lady Catherine, ready to intervene should she become violent with Elizabeth. Thus far, it had been a war of words, and Charlotte had remained in the hallway knowing that Elizabeth was more than capable of defending herself from a verbal assault. Now that Darcy had come, Charlotte wisely decided she could best assist him by staying out of the way until all was resolved.

Darcy had begun to make out what his aunt was saying as he neared the top of the stairs.

"You are a selfish girl--thinking only of yourself. I cannot believe that you refuse to oblige me."

"Lady Catherine, you have insulted me and my family whom you do not even know. I have not refused to oblige you. I have refused to accept your bribes or to bow to your threats."

Darcy was livid when he reached the door to Elizabeth's room. It was ajar which saved him the trouble of knocking. Elizabeth's fury appeared to match his own. She had somehow managed to rise and was standing on her injured ankle as she faced Lady Catherine. Darcy knew Elizabeth must be in considerable pain from the effort, but he admired her determination to demonstrate no weakness before his aunt. Elizabeth was relieved to see Darcy in the doorway, but Lady Catherine stood with her back to the door and did not realize he had come. She stiffened when she heard Darcy's voice behind her.

Feeling there had already been far too much shouting this evening, Darcy spoke very quietly. "Aunt, I believe I made my position clear this morning. Miss Bennet will be my wife."

Hearing the chill in his voice, Lady Catherine realized she might have gone too far. "But Darcy, she-- "

"Refused to accept your money, refused to break her word to me-- And pray, what is the price of a spurned nephew? Perhaps you should have doubled your offer with the stipulation that Miss Bennet not marry Colonel Fitzwilliam either. No, you have said quite enough. I suggest you return home now, Aunt. I will be leaving in the morning, but I will see your steward first to advise him of our new arrangement."

"Darcy, I--"

"Goodnight, Lady Catherine. If you wish to see me again, I would suggest you rise in time to join us for breakfast."

Lady Catherine managed to flounce from the room but her hands were trembling. Darcy immediately stepped to Elizabeth's side.

"Here, dearest, allow me to help you."

Her ankle was throbbing and Elizabeth thought she would have fallen if Darcy's arms had not been there to support her. His face was stricken as Darcy attempted to apologize for his aunt's bad behavior.

"I beg your pardon, Elizabeth. This was my fault. She seemed rather calm this evening, but I know my aunt. I should have expected something like this. I deeply regret that you--"

Elizabeth stopped him with a gentle kiss and then whispered, "It is not your fault, Fitzwilliam. I knew Lady Catherine would not be pleased. I was only surprised by the degree of her displeasure."

"But I should have--"

"Fitzwilliam, you know my family. They are, after all, one of the considerations that enabled you to resist my charms," she teased him, but her mien grew quite serious as Elizabeth continued. "Do you intend to blame me for every silly thing that my mother and younger sisters may do in the future?"

"Of course not, Eliza--"

"Neither do I blame you for your aunt's conduct. I must ask though, are you certain you still want to marry me?"

"Do you doubt me, Elizabeth?"

"No, Fitzwilliam, I do not doubt your integrity or your affections, but it is a very bad match for you nonetheless. I am certain that your aunt will not be the only one to think less of you for marrying me."

Darcy kissed her hand. "Elizabeth, I have never been more certain of anything in my life."

"Then I am satisfied--" Elizabeth's smile faded as she suddenly remembered her friend. "Oh no, poor Charlotte. I had quite forgotten her. She must be beside herself with worry."

"Of course, shall I summon her or shall I carry you downstairs?"

"Downstairs, I think," Elizabeth replied, "if you do not mind bringing me back up before you leave."

Delighted by any opportunity to take Elizabeth in his arms Darcy smiled. "As you wish, my love."

They found Charlotte and Maria waiting in the parlor. Maria appeared to be frightened out of her wits and Charlotte was anxious pacing the floor. She immediately began her apologies.

"Oh, Elizabeth, Mr. Darcy, I must apologize to you both. I tried to stop Lady Catherine. I told her Elizabeth was indisposed but-- "

Darcy interrupted her as he moved to place Elizabeth on the sofa. "Please, Mrs. Collins, I know all too well the futility of trying to stop my aunt from speaking her piece about anything."

Darcy's first priority was seeing Elizabeth comfortably situated. Charlotte fluttered about trying to assist him and Maria slipped from the room with a whispered good night.

Once he was assured that the pain in Elizabeth's ankle had begun to lessen, Darcy turned his attention to her friend. "Mrs. Collins, I must apologize for my aunt. She--"

"No, Mr. Darcy," Charlotte stopped him, "it is certainly not your fault, sir. Elizabeth is our guest and I--we should have prevented this unfortunate altercation."

"You are too hard upon yourself, Mrs. Collins. My aunt is not easily dissuaded from any course of action she has decided upon. I also understand that there are extenuating circumstances-- Please think no more on it. I hope that Lady Catherine will not punish you for her unhappiness after we are gone."

Charlotte flushed as she offered further apologies on behalf of her husband. All present knew that Mr. Collins would never dare refuse Lady Catherine anything. Still the forms must be preserved. "--it is most unfortunate that Mr. Collins was called away to visit an ill neighbor--just before Lady Catherine arrived."

Darcy nodded his understanding although he thought it more likely that the man had run out the back door as Lady Catherine was storming in the front. His guess was not far from the truth. Mr. Collins had heard Lady Catherine's approach while enjoying a stroll in the garden. In a blind panic, he had hastened away without a word to his wife. Even the unperceptive Mr. Collins had realized that this would not be a social call.

Darcy remained at the parsonage with the ladies for some time to assure himself that all was truly well with Elizabeth and her friend. When he did return to Rosings, Darcy found Fitzwilliam waiting for him in the library.

"I will not ask what Aunt Catherine was doing at the parsonage," the colonel began, "as even I can make that out, but how is your fair lady? I trust our aunt did no lasting harm."

"Miss Bennet is well able to defend herself against Lady Catherine's vitriol, and she most generously refused to blame me for not posting a watch upon our hostess. I fear the only lasting damage that was done tonight was to my relationship with our aunt."

"Does this mean no more annual pilgrimages to Rosings?" Fitzwilliam asked hopefully.

"Yes," Darcy answered dryly, "among other things. Actually I was hoping you would still be up and about, Fitzwilliam. I have sent a message to Anne asking that she join me here."

"Anne? What is so important that it cannot wait until tomorrow? I know that she is planning to see us off, Darcy."

"I am still hoping to persuade Anne to join us tomorrow."

"You seriously expect Anne to leave Rosings?"

"I have no such expectations, but I do hope that she will agree. I am prepared to offer Anne my protection and a permanent home if need be, for I think she has suffered under her mother's sway long enough. Tonight's episode clearly demonstrates how inconsiderate and selfish Lady Catherine is. Do you know that she actually had the effrontery to offer Elizabeth monetary remuneration to break our engagement?"

Fitzwilliam's laughter died on his lips when he saw the twitch in his cousin's jaw. "But surely you jest, Darcy. Even Lady Catherine--"

"I am quite serious, Fitzwilliam. I plan to have nothing more to do with our aunt and I hate the thought of Anne languishing in this mausoleum. I would have offered her a home years ago, but I feared Lady Catherine would use that assistance to manipulate the pair of us into matrimony. Now that I am betrothed, I can aid my cousin without any such entanglements if she will accept my assistance."

"I accept, Darcy."

The two gentlemen started. Neither had heard Anne enter the room.

"You accept--" Darcy quickly recovered from his surprise and crossed to take her hand. "That is good news, Cousin. I was prepared to spend some time in persuading you to come. Leaving you behind would be my only regret in severing my ties to your mother."

Anne sighed. "If you are sincere, I will put myself under your protection most willingly, Darcy. I hate the thought of being dependent on you, but after tonight I do not think I can continue here."

"Do not worry, Anne. You will not be a burden to us in any event, but I think it highly unlikely that your dependency will be of a long duration."

"How so, Cousin?" Fitzwilliam asked.

"I think it is possible that Lady Catherine has been skirting the terms of our uncle's will to maintain control of Anne's fortune as well as her own. With your permission, Anne, I would like to have my solicitor investigate the matter."

"Yes, of course, Darcy. To be independent and free is my greatest wish."

"Then I will endeavor to make that a reality for you. Do you wish to bring Mrs. Jenkins or one of the maids with you tomorrow?"

"No, Darcy, I think I would prefer to have nothing and no one along that will remind me of Mama."

"I understand," Darcy answered. "I am sorry it has come to this, Cousin, but you have lifted a great burden from me by agreeing to leave with us. Do you require any assistance with your preparations?"

"Perhaps you would have your man retrieve a trunk from the attic for me, Darcy. If he could deliver it to my chambers discretely, I will be able to pack what I need myself."

"Certainly, Anne, Hawkins is quite gifted at subterfuge. If anyone asks about it, he will gladly say that he is fetching the trunk for me."

The three cousins soon retired to their respective rooms. Darcy was still furious with Lady Catherine, but knowing Anne would now be freed from her manipulations was most gratifying. His glow of satisfaction quickly gave way to remorse when Darcy was thunderstruck by his own grievous error in this. He had offered a home--their home--to Anne without consulting Elizabeth. Darcy was appalled by his own lack of consideration for her feelings, but his grief was quickly compounded by a growing apprehension regarding Elizabeth's response to his transgression. Elizabeth was soon to be his partner in life and the Mistress of Pemberley. As such, she had every right to be furious with him. Darcy knew that he deserved her wrath and determined that he could bear it, if she would but forgive him in the end. However, the prospect that his thoughtlessness might decimate Elizabeth's burgeoning trust and affection unnerved him. Darcy did not think he could endure it. He had felt utterly wretched after Elizabeth rejected his first proposal, but to lose her now after experiencing the joy of having his affections reciprocated would be far worse.

Your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others--Elizabeth had said that when she refused his first offer of marriage. How those words tortured him now.

Darcy determined that he must see Elizabeth at the earliest opportunity to apologize and entreat her forgiveness. He slept little that night, and arrived at the parsonage just after daybreak. It was far too early to announce his presence, so Darcy settled for walking up and down in front of the house as he awaited signs of life from its occupants.

When Charlotte opened the drapes that morning, she was astonished to see Mr. Darcy pacing the lane. He was clearly deep in thought and Charlotte naturally assumed those thoughts centered on Elizabeth. She opened the casement and leaned out to greet him.

"Good morning, Mr. Darcy. Would you care to join us for breakfast, sir?"

"Thank you, Mrs. Collins, but no, I cannot stay," Darcy replied. "I am expected at Rosings for breakfast this morning. I realize it is far too early for a morning visit, but there is a matter I must discuss with Miss. Bennet. Would you be so kind as to tell her I am here?"

Darcy declined Charlotte's invitation to come inside and resumed his pacing. Elizabeth soon hobbled from the house, drawing a heavy shawl about her in the morning air.

"Dearest, I do apologize," Darcy began as he rushed to assist her. "In my abstraction, I completely forgot your injured ankle."

"Do not fret on my account. It is somewhat better this morning," Elizabeth reassured him with a smile. "Perhaps you would lend me your arm so that we might walk into Mr. Collins' garden. We can speak there without being overheard."

"Nonsense," Darcy said as he swept Elizabeth up into his arms and carried her into the garden, experiencing considerable relief in the occupation. The reality of Elizabeth in his arms confirmed that she was or soon would be his; however, the curiosity and concern reflected in her eyes reminded Darcy of why he had come.

When they were seated on the bench farthest from the house, Elizabeth gazed at him expectantly, but Darcy sat silently at her side with his eyes closed and his fists tightly clinched. As anxious as he had been speak to Elizabeth, now that she was beside him, Darcy did not know how to begin.

Elizabeth had easily discerned his distress, but she could not imagine what might be its cause. After some time of sitting together in silence, Elizabeth wearied of waiting for Darcy to begin and reached for his hand. She was somewhat reassured by his response to her touch for Darcy immediately clasped her hand as if it were his tether to life itself.

"Fitzwilliam," she began, "please tell me what calamity has occurred to distress you so? Please-- Will you not look at me?"

With a sigh Darcy opened his eyes and turned to face her. "Elizabeth, words are inadequate to express the depth of my ardor and affection for you. I love you, dearest, and I am here to beg your mercy. It grieves me to think that you may have been right about me, for I am a selfish being and I fear that--"

"Fitzwilliam, you are alarming me. Please tell me what this is about and quickly."

Darcy took a deep breath before answering, "I am afraid I have committed us both to a course of action without consulting you, and that was very wrong of me. That is what has me in such a state. I deeply regret my thoughtlessness, Elizabeth, and hope that you will be able to forgive me in time. I have been alone for a long time, and I did not even realize--"

"Fitzwilliam," Elizabeth interrupted him again, "please tell me what you have done."

Darcy hung his head as he murmured, "I offered my cousin Anne a home with us and she has accepted."

"Your cousin Anne is going to live with us?"

Darcy nodded miserably, and Elizabeth now began to understand him. He was worried that she would be angry and rightfully so. Were he not so genuinely contrite, she would be livid.

Misinterpreting her silence, Darcy hastened to make amends. "As much as I rejoice in her liberation, I wish it were not so. I will begin immediately to make other arrangements for Anne's protection and provision, but it would be difficult to completely withdraw my offer now. Please forgive me, Elizabeth."

She had not the heart to chastise him further when Darcy had obviously whipped himself soundly over his impetuous good deed--especially since it proved the depth of his kindness and generosity. Eager to relieve Darcy's distress and suspecting him to have strong inclination to brood, Elizabeth decided drastic measures were justified in the circumstance.

"It actually works out quite well, dearest," she said, "for I have decided to invite my younger sisters to live with us as well. They will be wonderful company for Georgiana and I am certain that it will be beneficial for them, particularly Lydia, and now what lively company they will be for your cousin."

Darcy was momentarily aghast and then he saw the gleam of mischief in her eyes. Elizabeth received her reward--gone was the face of abject misery and despair and Darcy actually smiled.

Elizabeth laughed aloud. "Oh, Fitzwilliam, I apologize for frightening you so, but I could not bear that stricken look another moment. You are forgiven this time, but I trust that in the future, you will discuss such things with me before you obligate us."

"I am truly sorry, Elizabeth," Darcy apologized once more. "I hope this will not make you terribly unhappy--that you do not regret our engagement."

"No, Fitzwilliam, I do not regret you. Everything has come about so quickly," she confessed, "that I am still at a loss to comprehend it all myself. Your lapse is understandable under the circumstances and I would hope that once we are wed I will not be so quickly forgotten."

"No, Elizabeth," he whispered hoarsely, "I could never forget you. Even last night, I had not forgotten you, but in the blush of my own happiness and relief, I forgot myself."

Darcy gazed upon her earnestly and was almost overcome by the light of affection still shining in her eyes. Hoping to divert himself from the overwhelming urge to kiss her, Darcy forced his attention to the matter of his cousin.

"But what of Anne, dearest? What are your thoughts? Should we allow her to remain with us indefinitely or would you prefer that I explore other possibilities immediately?"

"You need not renege on your promise to your cousin to appease me, dearest," she began. "In fact, had you consulted me, I would have readily agreed. I do not know Miss de Bourgh very well, but I understand your concern over leaving her here. I must confess that I have wondered how she bears the isolation and oppressive atmosphere. Perhaps her health will improve in a more cheerful environment."

Darcy lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it. "I do adore you, Elizabeth. Thank you for being so understanding of me and so generous to my cousin. I am very happy to know that we will soon be man and wife." Darcy was sorely tempted to take her in his arms upon hearing the words "man and wife" from his own lips. Striving to regain his composure he forced himself to think on other things.

"Anne will be traveling with us today," he continued. "I hope that is agreeable to you."

"I think it a fine idea," Elizabeth said with a smile. "It will be an excellent opportunity to further our acquaintance. Now as for you, Mr. Darcy, you are forgiven for the moment, but I shall be thinking of a suitable way for you expiate this offense."

"I am delighted to be at your mercy, dearest."


Hawkins had surreptitiously removed the now packed trunk from Anne's dressing room in the middle of the night so that it would be loaded on the luggage cart along with the rest of his master's baggage. By so doing they succeeded in keeping Anne's imminent departure a secret.

Feeling it was his duty, Darcy went in to bid Lady Catherine farewell just before they left. He informed her that Anne would be accompanying him to London and planned to remain as a guest in his home for the foreseeable future. Lady Catherine squawked in protest but Darcy cut her off.

"--I am sorry that you will not be able to visit her there, Lady Catherine. You may, of course, write to Anne and she is certainly free to see you when you come to town if she chooses to do so. You will not, however, be welcome in our home in town or at Pemberley until you make the appropriate apologies to Miss Bennet. I have already seen Mr. Harris this morning and informed him that I no longer bear any responsibility for the management of Rosings. He knows that he is to consult you directly on all matters that are beyond his purview. Goodbye, Aunt. I wish you well."

"Darcy, you cannot marry--"

"I can and I will marry Elizabeth Bennet. I will convey your adieus to my cousins, but now I must take my leave of you, Lady Catherine. I would be delighted to hear from you when you have a change of heart and are willing to make amends to Miss Bennet."

Lady Catherine was astonished. It seemed impossible that Darcy would so completely distance himself from her, but she would not apologize--not to Darcy and certainly not to the likes of Elizabeth Bennet.

If Lady Catherine thought to punish Anne by remaining in her rooms and ignoring her daughter's departure, she erred. Anne was relieved to be spared a final scene with her mother and did not look back as the coach pulled away from Rosings.

It was a rather quiet group that left Hunsford that day. Anne was overwhelmed by the enormity of what she had done in leaving home, and Maria was simply overwhelmed by the prospect of traveling with Miss Anne de Bourgh and in Mr. Darcy's coach, too. Elizabeth was very grateful for the colonel's company as they must have some conversation during their journey and he was extremely useful in that regard.

Darcy, for his part, was content to watch Elizabeth from across the coach. He said little but communicated much. Elizabeth was surprised and pleased by how quickly she had learned to comprehend the previously unfathomable Mr. Darcy. A certain restlessness about his person now screamed to her that Darcy was aching to touch her and his eyes communicated his affection and concern for her comfort. In fact, Elizabeth had never traveled in such comfort. Darcy's coach was luxurious, indeed, and the gentleman himself had secured a small trunk inside the coach so that Elizabeth might elevate her injured ankle during their journey.

Although she tried to converse normally, Elizabeth herself lapsed into silence occasionally, content to simply return Darcy's gaze. It was her hope that he could perceive her thoughts, even as she understood his. The colonel enjoyed the ride immensely. Every mile offered further confirmation that his cousin's affections were indeed returned and that pleased him enormously.

Copyright 2007 Pamela St Vines
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Author Notes:

Thank you, Aaran, for your constant encouragement.