Anne sat in her crumpled heap for some time, the fabric of her skirts gathered around her like a great winter cloak. She pressed her face within the bend of her elbow in an attempt to muffle her continued sobs. The pain in her chest was beginning to ease, she was over the initial shock. She continued to cry because she could simply not bring herself to stop. It had been a long time since Anne had allowed herself such a selfish indulgence. All the upset she had held hidden inside her for the best part of five years was bubbling to the surface. Five years of heartache and tears cascading down her cheeks with great abandon. She had cried more this evening than she had perhaps ever done in her whole lifetime. For so long she had believed herself foolish, that the pain she felt was entirely the result of a lonely girls misguided imagination. She had convinced herself that she felt too much where Richard felt only too little. She now knew this was not the case. She now knew he felt... "Oh, he felt!" she cried into the damp fabric of her elbow. It was all but a misunderstanding.
She suddenly sat bolt upright. It was all but a misunderstanding she repeated to herself. Could she dare hope? He thought she had abandoned him but had she not simply thought the same? Exciting pounded in her ears as the realisation of what could be about to occur flooded her senses. She felt positively giddy. Hugging her knees tightly to her chest she began to run through their earlier conversation. He loved her, or at least he had loved her: but what did he mean he had offered her his heart only for her to reject it? She chewed her lip as her mind jumped about at great speed; trying to recall every look, every word from the evening before. Her head became so full she could no longer think; words became jumbled, looks affected by over examination. Only one thing was certain, she must speak to Richard this very moment.
She got up and walked across the room in order to summon Hennie. She pulled on the cord, waited but a moment, then pulled at it again with great impatience. There was a small creak from the hallway beyond her bedroom door. A young chamber maid, of around eleven, timidly entered the room. The young girl bowed her head low, a mass of dark blonde hair escaping from her white cap, then hurried forward to attend the almost extinguished fire as it glowed low on the grate.
"Oh, never mind the fire child," Anne called to the girl. "Please make haste and find the location of my ladies' maid. Could you go and fetch Hennie at once." The young girl left the room in such a hurry Anne felt a stab of guilt at her quick dismissal towards the poor wee lass. She would make amends to the child later for she had too much to consider at this moment. What was taking Hennie so long, where ever could she be? With a slight knock, Hennie entered the room, rather surprised by her early summons.
"Ah, Hennie there you are," cried Anne, practically dragging the poor girl through the doorway and across the length of the room towards her vanity. "Where have you been, I rang the bell what feels like a fortnight ago. You must help me dress and quickly; pray has anyone descended the stairs this morning? I do not suppose anyone would be up and dressed this early, but Hennie tell me, has anyone been downstairs and broken their fast?" Anne looked at her maid with such curiosity, taking a deep breath for she had spoken so quick and at such speed she felt breathless. The young maid glanced at her mistress with wide eyes, unsure how to respond to such a verbal onslaught. It was far too early to expect anyone to be awake, let alone dressed; surely her mistress was aware of this. Hennie herself had been about to partake in her morning meal, which now was left forgot in the kitchen following her unusually early summons. She knew her mistress did not like to sleep as late as her mother, but this was an uncharacteristically early hour. Hennie was sure Lady Catherine would find such an early hour almost indecent and entirely unladylike.
"No miss," she replied taking in Anne's pale appearance and crumpled dress from the evening before. She glanced from the corner of her eye towards the still made bed. "Are you quite well miss," Hennie asked taking her mistress by the elbow and guiding her towards a small chaise lounge and encouraging Anne to take a seat.
"I am quite well Hennie, I assure you. Are you sure no one is at breakfast?" Anne asked again with agitation in her voice. "Are you quite sure you have not seen my cousin? Are you certain not a soul, not even Fitzwilliam?"
Hennie tried hard not to smile. It was common gossip amongst the staff of Anne's intended betrothal to her cousin, Master Darcy of Pemberley. Anne's sudden return from Elgin shortly followed by the gentleman's arrival at Rosings only added flame to the fire of the already wagging household tongues. Lady Catherine herself was also exceedingly vocal on the matter, "Fitzwilliam Darcy will make a fine master of Rosings," her Ladyship repeated to her staff on an almost daily occurrence. Hennie had never before considered Anne to be particularly partial to the gentleman, believing it more to a marriage of convenience. She assumed her sweet-tempered mistress would simply undertake her role as mistress of Pemberley as part of her role as the dutiful daughter. Though Anne's overly intimate use of the gentleman's first name perhaps suggested otherwise. Hennie was pleased to know that there was some sort of attachment on her mistresses' part toward Mr Darcy. It was just a shame the gentleman seemed so serious and proud like his aunt. Hennie much preferred the appearance of the other gentleman. Hennie along with Mary and several of the chambermaids were all rather taken with the dashing Colonel Fitzwilliam; men in red coats were far superior in looks to men lacking in regimentals.
"I am quite certain Miss, no one was in attendance in the morning room upon my coming to see you. Now;" she said softly resting a hand on Anne's shoulder, "should we perhaps get you out of this old dress and into something anew?"
"Oh, yes please do so," said Anne rising to her feet and turning to allow Hennie easier access to the back of her dress. "Hennie, I think I would like you to help me wash and style my hair, but we must be quick about it. Perhaps I could wear the mauve morning dress, you know the one with the cream satin trim to neckline?" Hennie simply nodded as she undid the final fastenings and allowed the dress to fall heavy to the floor. Anne stepped out of the mass of fabric as Hennie whisked it away ready for the laundry maids. Hennie had not ever seen Anne so flustered and agitated. She helped bathe her mistress as swiftly as possible, though this in itself was never a quick task. Once seated at her vanity, Hennie swept Anne's hair into a simple chignon, capturing the mass of unruly dark curls. While Anne pinched her pale cheeks, staring intently into the looking glass, Hennie went in search of the afore mentioned mauve dress. The dress was simple, modest in style but with a deep scoop at the bust with rich cream satin layered upon itself high towards the neckline. Hennie teased a couple of Anne's dark mahogany curls from the confine of the chignon so that they fell in a most pleasing display about her shoulders. The dark of her hair contrasting in a very pretty manner against the pale dusky fabric.
With her dress now complete Anne smiled at her reflection in the mirror. Though her complexion was a little dull due to lack to lack of sleep; the anxious excitement she felt brightened her eyes in a rather pleasing manner. Anne left her rooms and once upon the landing hesitated, listening. It was unlikely her mother would rise for a few good hours yet. This was a comforting thought indeed. Anne wished to speak to Richard privately. She began to walk along the corridor towards the grand staircase which would take her down to the entrance foyer. She intended to wait their which would allow her to could catch Richard before he headed towards the morning room to break his fast. She had just started her descent when she paused. Something Richard had said last night had been bothering her in the back of her mind. It began again to echo within her head, something regarding her mother.
"to leave me pleading at the mercy of your mother. How could you do that to me Anne?"
She gripped the wooden banister and worried her bottom lip as she repeated his words. What did her mother have to do with anything? The remark puzzled her greatly, for she knew her mother was exceedingly fond of Richard and was unlikely to have been overly unkind towards him. No, thought Anne with a sigh as she considered her own dealings with her mother; her mother's sharp tongue was often spared when in the presence of her two favourite nephews. Anne often wondered if her mother's temperament would have been altered if she had been blessed with a son. Anne would speak to Richard immediately, tell him how she felt and ask if he still felt anything towards her. There would be plenty time afterwards to enquire as to his meaning with regards to her mother. She continued down the marble staircase and upon reaching the end, paced back and forth across the foyer, glancing repeatedly in the direction of the guest wing. She spent several minutes thus occupied, pacing back and forth, worrying her hands as she tried to practise what she might say. How does one tell another that they love them, that no other could even compare, but do so in a charming manner? For Anne so desperately wanted to appear charming and attractive in Richards eyes. The hurt in Richards words last night gave hope that he still cared for her, but how deep and true those emotions were, well Anne would only know for certain once they had spoken.
She paced back and forth, rehearsing what she intended to say, trying to get the wording perfect. She felt as though hours had passed. Where was everyone? It was unusual for both Richard and Darcy to stay to their rooms so late. Deciding she had best be certain she had not somehow missed them, she walked quickly towards the breakfast room. Opening the door, she glanced inside, no one was there. She looked towards the large ornate gold clock on the mantle, the time was now fast approaching ten. How very odd, her cousins were always at breakfast by this hour. Wherever could they be. Perhaps Darcy had already left for the parsonage to call on Elizabeth. Maybe Richard had gone with Darcy? She found herself back pacing the entrance foyer unsure of what to do. She didn't feel particularly hungry and she had no desire to be the only one present to entertain her mother upon her arrival downstairs. Her excited anticipation which had been building at the prospect of speaking to Richard was beginning to waver. Suddenly she felt a wave of fatigue wash over her. The gentleman could already have left the house in pursuit of outdoor activities. They could be gone hours if they had gone shooting, even longer if fishing was their activity of choice. If this was the case it was silly for Anne to wait about any longer. Deciding that the likelihood of catching Richard alone was past, Anne felt it would be best for her to return to her room for a short nap. She walked back to the foyer and was just about to ascend the stairs when the large front door opened loudly behind her. She turned to be met with the sombre face of Darcy, dressed in his long outdoor coat. It appeared he had been out walking. He scowled in her direction before turning to close the door behind him.
"Good morning," he said dryly his back facing her. His shoulders slumped, he did not wish to see or speak to anyone this morning. He had just returned from delivering a letter to Elizabeth. How dare she lay charges at his door which were false and undermined his character. After their conversation, following his disastrous attempt at offering for her hand, he felt duty bound to tell her the truth. This had meant revealing parts of his private business and dealings with Mr Wickham which he would normally never divulge. However, the thought of leaving her to believe such false accusations, such lies against his person, well it could not be borne. He had been kinder to Bingley than he had been to himself, he could see that in all clarity now. If Jane had been hurt by his actions it had been an unforeseen error; yet the fact remained, the Bennet family simply did not belong in their social circle. How could he have been so foolish to believe Elizabeth Bennet ever could? He felt angry, livid in all honestly, that he could be so easily dismissed by a lady of such standing. His was exceedingly vexed. His anger however was nothing compared to the foreign pain in his chest and hollowness of his stomach; he felt entirely dreadful. His attachment towards Miss Elizabeth Bennet had been growing so steadily since their introduction in Hertfordshire, he was in the middle before he knew it had begun.
"Have you been to the Parsonage? Anne asked. "Fitz did Richard happen to go with you..." her voice trailed off as she perceived Darcy's mood. "Fitz whatever is the matter," she asked, worry creeping into her voice. "Oh no, is it Miss Bennet? Is she not feeling better? How careless of me not to enquire as to her health. I assume you and she spoke in private last evening? I must admit I was half expecting for you to return with the happy news during dinner."
Darcy stood looking down at Anne, a grim expression across his face. His eyes narrowed, deep in thought, which caused a deep crease to mark his forehead.
"I am afraid I do not possess the happy news you were expecting to hear. It would seem the offer, which you yourself found so unacceptable, was also considered as unwelcome by Miss Bennet." He fell silent. Neither of them spoke, he could almost feel the pity radiating from Anne, it was most distasteful. "If you will excuse me," he finally continued. "I am afraid I am in little mood for company. I think on greater reflection that I too have perhaps stayed longer at Rosings Park than I had intended. I think it is time for me to return to town for the remainder of the season. I too should have left this morning also in hindsight, but I had an urgent matter to attend to which could not be delayed. If you will excuse me Anne, I must go and write to my man of business before I plan for my departure."
He walked briskly past Anne and headed up the flight of stairs. He was half way up the staircase before Anne called out, "Darcy, what do you mean you should have left this morning also?"
He turned to look at Anne as she stood at the foot of the stairs. "Richard left for Portsmouth first thing this morning; did he not inform you? An acquaintance of his has just made port from Europe and requested Richards company for the next fortnight. I think, between you and I, he will be glad to be back in the company of the militia. Country living was always a tad too slow for Richards tastes; he will likely join me later in London if I can convince him to stay." He gave Anne a small nod of the head to indicate he was finished speaking and turned to continue to his rooms. He had only taken a few steps before adding: "That is another very fetching dress Anne, you really should come to London and help pick out some items for Georgiana, we both know she would approve of such a scheme very much."
Anne gave Darcy a small smile in response. She stood rooted to the spot until Darcy was atop the stairs and out of sight. Elizabeth had refused him? This she found shocking indeed, should she speak to Elizabeth on behalf of her cousin? She felt awful for encouraging him, however she had been so sure that Miss Bennet would have welcomed such attention. She focused on Darcy and Elizabeth, not wanting to let her mind wander to the subject which mattered most. Richard was gone. He had left without a word to her. What did it mean? How could he simply leave without so much as a goodbye, especially after what had occurred between them the night before? Anne clenched her hands at her side, an odd sensation was filling Anne's senses. A warm heat was rising from within her and flushing warmly at her cheeks. She was mad, she was furious. How dare he decide that he could just leave and not face her. Well she was not about to sit around and wait for another five years. Her heart pounding, she headed up the stairs in the direction of her room. Upon reaching her chambers she continued walking, further down the corridor and along to the Eastern wing of the house. Anne had not been in this part of the house for several years; this was her mother's private chambers. She came upon the large ornately carved double doors and knocked hard against the wood. Before anyone within had time to respond, Anne flung the heavy door open and came face to face with a most displeased Lady Catherine de Bourgh.