This chapter, if it ever existed, is supposed to occur after the 56th chapter, where Lady Catherine confronts Elizabeth. I hope this humble effort of mine is believable enough- obviously it won't be exactly like Jane Austen because, frankly, NO ONE can write like her. Period.
Disclaimer: Unfortunately, I don't own Fitzwilliam Darcy. Or the others.
We now take leave of our understandably distraught heroine for a brief glimpse into the fashionable London establishment of the Darcys, where we shall see the aftermath of this unsavoury clash of wills; we shall thus see how the events proceeding will serve to alter and set the course of the twisted journey of love, pride, and prejudice whose protagonists are our Miss Eliza Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy.
It was the very hour of dinner, that sacred time of repose and entertainment which is invariably spent indoors sans outside disturbances, that Lady Catherine de Bourgh arrived at –Square in London to vent her spleen on her comparatively satisfactory nephew. Great indeed was Mr. Darcy and his sister's surprise when the footman arrived bearing news of their redoubtable aunt's sudden arrival.
Apprehensive and curious in equal measures, the gentleman rose obediently from the table, with a quiet request to his sister to remain. "I shall go directly; pray stay, Georgiana."
Miss Darcy, who was never quite at ease in Lady Catherine's presence, agreed readily.
Mr. Darcy then hastened to his study whither the lady had been shewn, and found her pacing the room in front of the handsome fireplace with great agitation. Mr. Darcy, who had never seen the ladyship in such a state, was stunned into silence. Lady Catherine seemed to have heard him approaching, for she turned around and said, "Ah, there you are, Darcy. I was wondering how much longer you would dare to make me wait."
Good manners reasserted themselves in Mr. Darcy, and he said with great civility, "Pray seat yourself, Madam. You seem… distressed. Is anything the matter?"
"Distressed? My word, that is the least of all that I am at the moment! But yes, nephew, I am very much distressed, indeed."
Mr. Darcy's noble brow rose. "If I could be of any assistance?"
"Yes, yes, of course- only you can be of any assistance; I see that now. Now for heaven's sake stop blathering about and listen to what I say."
Much used as he was to his aunt's ungracious airs, Mr. Darcy thus let himself be silenced with equanimity.
"I come to the matter directly. I have just heard a most nasty, vile rumour; a rumour so foul, so impossible that I simply had to set out from Rosings and determine if there was any truth in it." The lady paused for breath when Mr. Darcy interjected, "Surely if you deem it impossible you would not let the rumour merit any doubts on your part."
"Good heavens, Darcy, you sound just like her! That low-born, impertinent, miserable girl!" Lady Catherine's voice rose in anger; her face convulsed with indignation. Mr. Darcy was taken by surprise at the sudden mention of a girl and wondered, not without some resentment at his aunt's impolite remarks, if it was the same girl that so dominated his dreams.
"Whom do you mean?" said he with careful politeness.
"Why, that country upstart- Mrs. Collins' bosom friend, the obstinate Elizabeth Bennet!"
The effect this pronouncement produced on Mr. Darcy was as expected.
"What of her?" he asked with some confusion, apart from the rising flare of resentment against his aunt's blunt, crass remarks.
Lady Catherine seemed not to have heard her nephew. "And they say her elder sister is engaged to your friend, that Mr. Bingley! Is this true?"
"That shows the depth of mercenary interests these Bennet girls harbour in their unworthy minds! Hankering after riches shamelessly, not content to remain in the social strata they have been obliged to! And there is the youngest- a shameless, patched-up marriage several days after an elopement- the horror!"
Mr. Darcy, who could only bear with calmness a bare minimum of slanderings against the worthy elder Miss Bennets, said with some asperity, "I beg of you, Madam, do not digress from the matter. Pray tell me in detail what it is that has caused you such distress."
Lady Catherine was taken aback at her nephew's sudden coolness; she, however, quickly relegated it to his usual prideful demeanour.
"I shall tell you, Darcy, and you shall put my fears at rest."
"I hope to be as serviceable as can be possible."
"Very well. I have had a letter- I shall not tell you from whom, there is no need to- that warned me of an impending marriage in my family. A marriage between you and this Miss Elizabeth Bennet."
It is hardly to be imagined how Mr. Darcy took in this statement from such an avenue as least-expected as his Aunt. Several emotions ranging from hope and wonder to fear and despair rose in quick succession within his breast. Lady Catherine swept on, disregarding her nephew's silence.
"Of course, I have never had a correspondence more blasphemous in my life. My first instinct was to disregard it, impossible as it seemed. But then it happened to me that if such a rumour was indeed touring all of England's drawing rooms, I must do something about it. Thus I hastened to curb this unthankful piece of gossip from the very source."
At this point, Mr. Darcy seemed to regain his voice.
"Elizabeth Bennet, of course. To whom else would this disgraceful rumour benefit? None other than that Miss Bennet! Upon my word, I have never in my life seen such a sly, cunning-"
"Lady Catherine!" Mr. Darcy interrupted with some anger. "Pray control yourself!"
"Do you dare silence me?"
"When it is a question of crass vulgarity on your part, yes, I do dare," said he coolly. "Now what did you tell Miss Bennet?" Lady Catherine was silent with indignation for a moment, however, she deigned to answer her nephew's question.
"I charged her with the rumour, seeking to put it to rest with no lack of politeness on my part. The girl went as far as to pretend not to have heard of it at all!"
"And then she trotted out that nonsense you just flung on me- that 'why do you chuse to doubt an impossibility' nonsense!"
"It appears we think alike."
"Nonsense!" Her ladyship repeated with more forceful insistence. "And then she absolutely refused to answer any of my queries, pertinent as they were!"
"Very distressing, indeed," Mr. Darcy said in a low voice- any amusement or sarcasm in his words were lost on his aunt.
"I explained to her, in perfectly amiable terms, her situation in the world and the expectations and limitations of a girl in that situation. I explained to her about Anne and your Mother; about duty and honour. She chose to deliberately ignore and challenge every word I said with impunity! Heavens, the nerve of her, speaking to me like she did!"
"I can imagine." Here the amusement was more clearly defined, but Lady Catherine seemed not have heard it.
"I had to ask, ask, and ask again. I had to threaten her, order her, cajole her, until she finally admitted the non-existence of an engagement between the two of you. Pertinacious girl! And then, when I began to feel some complacence, the girl turns around and refuses to not marry you! The nerve!"
It is to be safely said that Mr. Darcy was, at that moment, stunned into speechlessness for the first time in his life.
"I asked her, very nicely indeed, to promise me that she would never accept any proposal forthcoming from you; with no pretence of any manners, she denied to make such a promise. And no matter what I said to her after that, she refused to change her stance and give in to righteousness, to duty, to propriety!"
There was a long pause in which Lady Catherine glared at her nephew with mute anger, while he remained still, his eyes motionless on the fire, his hand resting on the mantelpiece as though for support.
"And so," Lady Catherine recommenced purposefully, "I came here, Darcy, although it seemed ridiculously unnecessary, to put my doubts to rest. Forgive me for the impertinence of such a thought- but you do not happen to care for the girl, do you?"
Mr. Darcy turned to his aunt with the air of one waking from a dream. "Forgive you? Why, Madam, there is nothing here to forgive at all. As for the lady; yes, I do care for Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Very much, indeed."
A new determination seemed to have struck him; he had the air and the eyes of a man with purpose- a man with hope.
"Fitzwilliam Darcy!" her Ladyship's voice rose to uncomfortable shrillness. "Do not trifle with me!"
"I am perfectly serious."
"This is madness! An infatuation based on the cunning, calculated wiles of a mannerless country girl!"
"Madam, pray control yourself."
"Do not dare patronize me, Darcy; me, of the illustrious line of Fitzwilliam and de Bourgh, the sister of your dead mother, the mother of your bride-to-be!"
"Lady Catherine," said he with an air approaching weariness. "I am not engaged to Anne de Bourgh."
"You were promised! You were promised, betrothed to each other in your cradles! The happy wish of two sisters!"
"A wish that has to remain unfulfilled, I'm afraid," said Mr. Darcy, and rang the bell on his desk. His manservant appeared at the door instantly.
"Pack my bags, James, I leave for Hertfordshire within the hour."
"Very good, sir."
"Where are you going?" his aunt demanded with some apprehension as soon as the manservant withdrew.
"Longbourn. To ask Miss Elizabeth Bennet to be my wife, if she will have me."
"So she has indeed cast a spell on you, the wicked witch that she is!"
"As you say, Lady Catherine, she has indeed… bewitched me."
"This is what she has wanted all along! You have fallen for her trap! Her mercenary dreams to grab you and Pemberly and ten thousand a year as soon as it is offered to her!"
"On the contrary, she refused when I proposed to her last."
"You- you have already asked her to marry you?"
"Yes, and as I mentioned to Your Ladyship, she rejected me."
"And you will propose to her again? A second time?"
"It would appear so."
"You are mad! Insane. This is blasphemy!"
"Pray keep your voice down."
"I shall not stand this, this outrage!"
"I am very sorry you do not have a more yielding nature."
"You will be cut off, Darcy! No one will care for you! No one will have a good opinion of you. You will be a scandal, a disgrace!"
"There are only two people in England whose opinion matters to me- my sister's and Elizabeth Bennet's."
"Georgiana!" Lady Catherine said with renewed vigour. "Think of Georgiana, and the kind of society she will be thrust into- the cheap vulgarity and the base connections! That her sister is also sister to her own estate's steward's son. Sacrilege!"
At the mention of the steward's son, Mr. Darcy face became stonily expressionless.
"No," said he slowly. "Not the steward's son."
"Exactly," Lady Catherine agreed with an air of triumph.
With sudden briskness, Mr. Darcy turned to his aunt.
"Well, Lady Catherine, I take leave of you. I am sorry that we do not see eye to eye in this matter, but I refuse to be swayed. By God's grace, if she will accept, I will dispatch you the good news directly. Good night." Saying so, and abandoning all traces of etiquette, he left his surprised aunt in his study and hastened to his rooms to arrange for his speedy departure.
He was met in his private room by his sister. Although Miss Darcy knew well enough not to enter a gentleman's bedroom, extenuating circumstances forgave this little boldness on her part.
"You return to Hertfordshire, I believe, brother."
"That is so."
"To talk to Miss Bennet, I assume?"
Her brother turned to her and asked with a rare display of humour, "Which Miss Bennet do you suppose, Georgiana?"
The young lady's gracious features spread into a gleeful smile. "Why, the only Miss Bennet I have met so far, and the one who will appeal to me the most, I'm sure!"
"I hope you do mean Miss Elizabeth Bennet, because if you do, then you assume correctly."
Miss Darcy clapped her hands in rapture. "Oh, brother, I am so happy indeed!"
"Tarry a little, my dear, I am yet to ask her."
"And you doubt her answer?"
"I have every reason to."
"But I do not."
"You, little one, are innocence personified."
"Not any more." The subject turned dark in an instant and both brother and sister's brows were clouded.
"Georgiana, I must ask you something." said he after a moment of solemn contemplation.
"Of course, brother."
"I must ask you for your permission."
"My permission? But you already have it! You do not even require it!"
"Attend a moment, and you shall see."
"Very well. You have my attention."
"You remember, I suppose, the sudden disruption of Miss Bennet's stay in Derbyshire."
Miss Darcy turned pale, but said with forced calmness, "Yes, you said it was something to do with- Wickham."
"Yes," he said with deliberate gentleness. "It was everything to do with him. The incident was not very well concealed- the scandal had spread everywhere, it is only a matter of time that you yourself will know the story in its entirety."
"I am more curious by the moment."
"George Wickham eloped with Elizabeth Bennet's youngest sister. There were missing for nigh on two weeks before they were found and married off."
"Well, that is all."
Miss Darcy said with some confusion, "I cannot conceive the remotest reason for you to tell me with this sad and painful story, brother. I do not see how this entitles me to give or deny you my permission for your nuptials."
"Do you not see, Georgiana?" –said he gently. "He married Elizabeth's sister. If Elizabeth accepts my hand, that will make him my brother- and yours as well."
Miss Darcy's eyes gleamed with comprehension. "I see."
"That is why I need your permission, Georgiana, to form an alliance between us and the Bennets, whose family includes him. Could you- can you live with the knowledge that that man is your brother?"
Miss Darcy answered without hesitation. "Of course I can. You underestimate me, brother. Especially since he will be my brother through two marriages, I hardly believe he will be a part of our intimate family circle. I think I am safe to believe that you would never allow it. Brother," said she, taking another liberty when she took his hand in hers and pressed it with gentle warmth, a smile on her noble face, "With all good intentions, I shall have to remind you that you are going to marry Elizabeth Bennet- not her family."
The mirth and the happiness that this statement produced served to form a cheerful scene of departure for Mr. Darcy, before he hurried post-haste to claim the woman he loved for his own before her mother should find her another Mr. Collins.