AN: I'm back!
First of all, I am honestly amazed by the number of positive reviews my first story received and I really want to thank you for this!
Now, this one was a way for me to rant (indirectly) against one of the most annoying literature characters, aka Lady Catherine de Bourgh: seriously, I'd probably strangle her if she ever appeared in front of me!
It's shorter than the other one-shot I published, but I hope that reading it for you will be as cathartic as writing it was for me!
I don't own Pride and Prejudice, which I slightly quoted in a sentence.
Celebrated For Their Frankness
Lady Catherine de Bourgh, née Fitzwilliam, had been used to speaking her opinions since she were a child. Being the eldest daughter of an Earl, wife of a baronet and mistress of the grand estate of Rosings Park since her husband's death, she felt even more entitled to tell anyone what went through her mind without thinking whether she may be offending the receiver of her speech or if someone had even asked her opinion.
This was one of the reasons why, after hearing Mr Collins's worried (and dreadfully long) speech about an imminent marriage between her nephew Darcy and Miss Elizabeth Bennet, she had rushed towards Hertfordshire, fuming with rage and with every intention of putting the little chit back in her place and to save the family from such a scandal.
She never expected someone to actually answer back with the same forcefulness she was using.
"You have no regard, then, for the honour and credit of my nephew! Unfeeling, selfish girl! Do you not consider that a connection with you, must disgrace him in the eyes of everybody?" Lady Catherine spat, her ice blue eyes narrowed in outrage and distaste.
Elizabeth, having long lost her patience, hearing this last insult, which she felt hurled not only at her, but also at Mr Darcy, the man she loved, jumped to her feet and hissed: "Do you have any regard for Mr Darcy's honour and credit, Lady Catherine?! Are you really so self-absorbed, arrogant and cruel to believe him incapable of choosing his own future, of choosing his own way to happiness? It is a strange way you take care of him!"
Having been taken aback by the younger woman's outburst, Lady Catherine regained her speech: "How dare you question my motives? You ensnared him, he is not able to think clearly if he even thinks of you as a suitable wife!"
Elizabeth laughed bitterly: "It seems that any person who doesn't behave as you want them to is not able to think clearly! Mr Darcy is of age, has been caring for his sister, his tenants and his lands alone for the last five years and you believe him incapable of being rational? Had he wanted to marry for convenience and connections, wouldn't he have done it already? And what about his supposed engagement to your daughter? One of the few things I know about Mr Darcy, it's that he is a man of honour: if he were really engaged to Miss de Bourgh, he wouldn't have left her waiting for years...Instead, they are both single and, when I saw him in Kent, he didn't show any kind of attachment to your daughter, not even the one I would have expected from a cousin!"
Lady Catherine paled, then reddened, outraged and speechless. After a few moments of opening and closing her mouth silently like a fish, she sputtered: "How-how dare you...you little...Do you know who you're talking to?"
Elizabeth raised her hand, interrupting the older lady before she started another rant. "I'm talking with a person who, though not having any kind of relation with me, has come to my home, uninvited, and has insulted me and my family in every way possible! I'm not a servant at your beck and call, Your Ladyship: I'm a free gentlewoman and I have a dignity, that you seem to have disregarded the moment you thought you could impose your wishes upon me! You showed no respect nor good manners worthy of your title. I will ask you to leave my home, and to stop berating me on this matter, which I feel no need to discuss with you!" Then, she curtsied briefly, before turning her back to the lady and walking towards Longbourn.
It took a few moments for Lady Catherine to recover from the surprise of being treated this way from someone she considered so inferior to her. She blinked a few times, then shook her head, and finally stormed back to her carriage, barely suppressing an outraged shriek, when Miss Elizabeth's words registered completely in her mind.
Seeing his Mistress so angry and flustered, the driver was almost worried of what the old lady would do next. Thankfully, she didn't acknowledge him, as usual, but simply barked: "To London, Park Lane, NOW!"
Darcy had been pretending to write a business letter while not thinking of Elizabeth when his butler entered in the study, looking quite agitated, telling him that Lady Catherine was at the door, demanding to talk with him, immediately.
Surprised and worried, Darcy told Wilson to show his aunt inside the blue parlour and to call for some refreshments. Then, he put down the pen, rose and went to discover what was so serious to make his Aunt leave Rosings so hurriedly.
He found his Aunt sitting on the biggest chair, the one his father used to sit on, as if she owned the house; this strangely irritated him. She didn't look that flustered, until he saw her knuckles, white as a pristine sheet while she clutched her walking cane. "Ah, you're here, finally! I must speak with you on an issue of the utmost importance, Darcy!" She declared, waving her hand towards a seat near her.
"Well, madam, if it made you leave Rosings Park during the harvest, it surely must be grave! Tell me, what is it that has agitated you so?" He asked, still standing.
Her face reddened in indignation, before she started relating him about the rumour she had heard from Collins, about him being engaged with Miss Elizabeth Bennet (she almost spout her name, speaking it with as much venom as she could put in her voice), and her subsequent action to "repair the damage before the situation got out of control"; she even told him of that chit's impertinence in speaking to her with no respect for her elders and superiors in station.
She was so wrapped up in her tale that she didn't notice that Darcy had grown deadly silent and his expression was a mixture of astonishment, horror, rage and a flicker of hope. Elizabeth had refused to promise to never enter in an engagement with him...Could he dare to believe she may love him too?
Then, he remembered how his Aunt had behaved towards the woman he had loved for almost a year: she had heard a rumour regarding him and, instead of coming to him to discover whether it was true or not, she had simply assumed it was and had gone to Hertfordshire, to Elizabeth, who knew nothing of it and had insulted her in the worst way possible. A blinding fury rose in his chest, crushing whatever affection he had held for his Aunt, ready to explode. Lady Catherine had hurt Elizabeth, and this he could not forgive.
His voice was eerily calm when he interrupted his older relation. "Lady Catherine, whatever possessed your mind to travel all the way to Hertfordshire on the base of a rumour of almost no importance, barging into the house of a gentleman you had no sort of connection with, uninvited, and insult a young woman who you barely know, disregarding any rule of propriety and good manners? You thought nothing of the fact that she may not know about such gossip, or that it could have affected her reputation as well as mine, and for what? Because she comes from a poorer family than ours? Would you have treated her this way had she been the daughter of an Earl?"
Lady Catherine sniffed in disdain and replied: "So, you defend her? Ungrateful boy, I am trying to save this family from the scandal that an association with that girl and her relations would bring! Have you no thought for the reputation of the Darcy name, or of the dignity of Pemberley?!"
At this point, Darcy decided that being a gentleman would be useless. She needed to hear it the rough way.
"Do not even dare to tell me how to keep Pemberley and my name safe from scandal! I'd like to remind you, Aunt, that you are not a Darcy, and your opinions regarding my business have no weight on my decisions! I am the head of the Darcy family, and if I choose Miss Elizabeth over any other woman, it is nothing of your concern!"
"But what of Anne?! You are engaged, what about your Mother's wishes-?" Lady Catherine cried out.
Darcy exploded: "My mother's wishes! What do you know about what my mother wanted for me? She told me nothing about an engagement between me and cousin Anne, and if I remember correctly, you had no contact with her after she married, apart from the Easter visit, when you only demanded things from her! I was but a child, but I could still hear your arguments, madam! And even if she wanted it, I am of age and I can take my own resolutions about my life and my happiness! No matter what you think, Anne is weak and ill, and Pemberley needs a strong mistress, one who could give it heirs...Your daughter would barely survive the travel north! Georgiana needs a guide for when she will have to enter Society, and Anne has never seen anything farther than the parsonage! And what about Anne's feelings? Have you ever stopped to hear what she thought of it? No, of course...You love the sound of your voice too much to actually listen to others!" A bitter laugh escaped his mouth.
Lady Catherine paled, before speaking with a shaking voice: "She truly has made you go mad! If you choose her, I will never speak your name again, you will be banned from my house, as she will!"
Darcy smirked, then looked at her with something similar to pity in his eyes. "It seems, madam, that the people you ban from your house are the ones worthy of being known and admired. Especially the ladies!"
In a last attempt to regain control of the situation, Lady Catherine spat: "You would enter such a family?"
Her nephew narrowed his eyes and his voice became steely: "I would be surprised if, after your behaviour, Miss Elizabeth would enter a family such as mine! I would be glad if you'd leave my house willingly; I will have you removed if you don't. Goodbye, Lady Catherine." That said, he rang for the butler, briskly told him that their guest was departing, and left the room.
Never, in her life, had Lady Catherine been rendered speechless two times in a day, about the same issue, by two different people. Whatever had happened to her celebrated frankness? It seemed to have been beaten by her nephew's and Miss Elizabeth's less flaunted, more subtle, and surely more effective, one.
AN 2: Read, Review and Rant, ladies and gentlemen!