AN: These characters, sadly, aren't mine.
This was written to be a missing scene for the novel, but also works with the 1995 and 2005 movies. If you want my personal opinion, Judi Dench did a masterful job portraying Lady Catherine, it's exactly how I imagined her when I first read the book, especially during the argument with Elizabeth. If I could choose someone to be my Lady Catherine, it'd be her.
A huge thanks to Jannet doe, ILoveHarryPotterForever and R. Grace for their help polishing this story and convincing me it was okay to publish.
I have a little game for you, my readers! Fifteen brownie points to anyone who can guess what movie I was watching when I started writing this. I left three clues in here, can you find them all? Hint: it has nothing at all to do with Jane Austen.
Fitzwilliam Darcy sat in his study looking out the window. It was not the first time in recent months that he sat alone seemingly contemplating the silence. In fact, it was a rather common occurrence of late. It was a beautiful day—the sky was bright and the mugginess of summer had passed—but he took no notice of the weather; he was too focused on his own despair. He truly believed all hope of winning Elizabeth's love was lost. His only consolation was that he had been able to protect her reputation; she and her family would not be lost to disgrace and ruin. He would take comfort in the fact that he had secured her future happiness, even if eventually it would be with another man. He found it a bit disconcerting to feel relief and agony at the same time.
He was pulled from his thoughts by a disturbance outside his door. He heard raised voices that seemed to be coming from the stairs and were rapidly approaching. Soon enough, the door was opened by his housekeeper, who hurriedly tried to announce the arrival of a guest. However, the indignant shouts of his aunt and his butler's polite but determined attempts to stall her progress drowned out all else.
"I will not wait. Stand aside! I will see my nephew this instant!" Lady Catherine yelled at the poor man before her.
"Lady Catherine, please. If you could just—"
"Be silent and stop that prattling at once," she snapped. "You will not keep him from me. I am one of his nearest relations, and as such I am entitled to see him without any interference from impertinent servants like you! I will not be treated in this infamous manner! I know he is here and I will not be delayed. Darcy!" she exclaimed as she entered the study, "Darcy, I would speak to you this instant!" She turned to the butler and housekeeper before her and barked, "Don't just stand there, begone!"
The two looked at their employer, who, understanding the need for privacy, nodded to them and said, "Thank you, Westley, Mrs. Humperdink," and they immediately left him and the great lady to themselves.
Once they had quit the room, Darcy watched as his aunt paced back and forth, clearly agitated. After a short time he noticed that she had begun muttering to herself, but he could not discern what she was saying. Occasionally he could make out a word or two, but it made little sense to him.
"the nerve of … favour I showed … inconceivable … upstart .. shall see her ruined … mercenary … how dare …"
When he believed himself to have heard the name Bennet, the blood drained from his face and his heart threatened to stop beating. He was aware of only one Bennet in his aunt's acquaintance, but he had no idea what she would have to do with his aunt's current temper. He knew he would have to calm her down a bit if he was going to get any information out of her, but he didn't know how to keep himself calm enough to accomplish that when he was so anxious to know more.
"Aunt Catherine, perhaps—"
She turned to him and cut him off in a voice quivering with rage, "Darcy, I am just arrived from Hertfordshire, on an errand of a most serious nature. Indeed, the fact that I was obliged to go at all is extremely vexing to me, and I feel it most exceedingly. Whilst I was there, I was met with such unpardonable and shocking behavior that I am still in a state of disbelief over such treatment. That woman has absolutely no respect for society or my position in it. Why that impertinent little chit treated me as though I was no better than a recalcitrant child."
Chit. 'That impertinent little chit,' she had said. Darcy was rather shocked that his aunt would use such a word; a small, childish part of him still believed that she had banned such language from the King's English long ago, as she had claimed when he was a lad. It was quite obvious to him that she had lost all composure. Whatever happened had her so infuriated that she had completely disregarded all rules of propriety and polite society, however few of them she observed normally.
"This would never have happened if not for your indecent friendship with that son of a tradesman," she snapped. "That is at an end, you have been slumming long enough! It is not proper for a man of your station. Once you cut ties with that Bingley fellow then no one of consequence will give credence to these lies spread by that harpy," she spat. Darcy opened his mouth to cut her off, but her words had shocked and angered him so much that he could not find the words to express his indignation at his aunt's officiousness.
"She will see you ruined, nephew!" she fumed. "We must act now and prevent this vicious slander from spreading. As if you would attach yourself to such a person. My nephew, husband to Elizabeth Bennet?"
She continued railing her displeasure, but it was all lost to Darcy. The moment he heard the words 'husband to Elizabeth Bennet,' he felt like his heart dropped out of his chest, and when he felt it had returned to its proper place it seemed to be beating harder and faster than it ever had before. To hear his aunt speak his heart's greatest desire shocked him to the core, but it also allowed the smallest amount of hope to blossom in his chest.
Alongside the hope that had returned, a burning anger flared up within him as the full implications of her words sunk in. She had been to Hertfordshire. The only thing in that county that could possibly have induced his aunt into such a rage would have been a direct confrontation with Elizabeth Bennet, apparently concerning stories about an engagement. He was painfully aware of his aunt's disposition towards those who would not bend to her will, and having been on the wrong end of Elizabeth's temper he could well believe that she was the reason for his aunt's displeasure. He could only imagine how a battle between the two would have turned out. He absently wondered whether the house at Longbourn was still standing. He dismissed that thought as another part of his brain registered the great insult she had leveled at his closest friend, and the very suggestion that he should put an end to such a valued friendship. He had never been so offended in all his life. The insipid nonsense that he had constantly heard from Mrs. Bennet, especially at the Netherfield Ball, was nothing compared to the vile things that spewed out of his aunt's mouth.
Darcy was infuriated. He was so angry he didn't know which point to address first. He took a deep breath to calm himself, and reasoned that he would be unable to get to the bottom of this nonsense by instigating a shouting match. He regained control of his emotions and arranged his face into the emotionless mask he typically used to defend himself when in the company of England's elite, remembering that a calm and rational approach to the situation was most likely to get him the answers he needed. Despite his outward appearance of calm, however, inside he was seething with indignation on behalf of Bingley, Elizabeth, and himself.
"Darcy! Are you listening to me?" His aunt's shout pulled him out of his thoughts. "This rumor must be stopped at once! I will not have you name bandied about in such a manner. We must do something!"
The only thing I'm going to do, he thought, is get some answers. "Aunt Catherine," he said calmly, "perhaps if you started from the beginning, I might have a better chance of understanding you. What exactly happened in Hertfordshire?"
"It is Elizabeth Bennet!" she said angrily. "That no good spawn of a country pauper has been spreading lies about you! I have heard directly from the source and I know it to be true! I have heard, though a letter from my rector's wife's family, that on the heels of the most advantageous engagement of a Miss Jane Bennet, the eldest Bennet daughter, there would be another announcement of the engagement of the second eldest, Elizabeth Bennet," she spat, "to you, my own nephew! A little country nobody who cannot hold her tongue, wed to Fitzwilliam Darcy? I think not, and I told her so. She tried to cover her deceit by denying any knowledge of it, but I was not fooled. Why, not moments after stating that she had no knowledge of any engagement to you, she made it perfectly clear that she was determined to have you. She freely admitted her mercenary motivations for pursuing such an abominable union!"
Not bloody likely, he thought. Darcy held back a snort at the very idea of his Elizabeth being mercenary. If she had been anything of the sort then they would have already been married for some time. Such a ludicrous concept was unequivocally proven impossible by the fact that she had already refused him once. No, his aunt was sorely mistaken. But what parts of her tale were true, and which were false suppositions? It was maddening to enforce in himself the calm and patience necessary for extracting information from the woman in front of him.
The lady in question, however, needed no encouragement to continue her tirade. "I believe her exact words were that 'the wife of Mr. Darcy must have such extraordinary sources of happiness necessarily attached to her situation that she could, upon the whole, have no cause to repine.' Yes, I am sure those were her words; and I am never wrong about such things, for I have an exceedingly good memory. Indeed, her position in life would in fact be so elevated that the little strumpet would be able to take great delight in abusing the privileges attached to your good name and squandering the wealth of the Darcy family while parading around in your carriages and my sister's jewels in a most unbecoming and pretentious manner. Inconceivable!"
Extraordinary sources of happiness? Did she really say that? He knew Elizabeth's habit of making sport of the ridiculous, and Lady Catherine was absurd indeed. Was it possible that she could have been toying with his aunt? With him? He despised this constant uncertainty he felt when it came to the woman who stole his heart. She was rather infuriating at times. But he needed to know.
"Aunt Catherine, did she seem happy when she said this, or was she angry?" he asked.
"That is exactly what I have been trying to say Darcy! Never in my life have I been subject to such treatment. She did not even try to reign in her indignation at my 'interference' in her plans! The girl actually yelled at me! After all the attention I showed her last spring! She threw it in my face like it was nothing at all and spoke to me in a manner befitting a man training his dogs rather than an exalted member of England's elite, and insisted that I had insulted her. The very cheek! After all this she practically threw me out of their pathetic excuse for a garden! It is not to be borne!"
Darcy felt as though his brain had ceased functioning. He thought his heart would surely burst out of his chest. Elizabeth had been angry. Furious even! He was practically giddy at the thought. If she had been toying with his aunt, she would have delivered her speech in a calm manner with a hint of amusement in her voice and facial expressions. But he was well acquainted with the power of her anger. She would hold none of her thoughts and emotions back when angry. It was, in his experience, one of the purest forms of communication she possessed. She could not and would not lie in such a state. And she believed that being united with him in marriage would bring her bliss. 'Extraordinary sources of happiness,' she had said. He nearly sighed in contentment at the thought, and had to catch himself before entering a most pleasant daydream in the presence of his still incensed aunt, who had not ceased her diatribe.
"…though you had not offered marriage to her, she would not give me her promise never to enter into such an engagement…"
What? How could she say that? "That's not true," he said, not realizing that he had begun to mutter his thoughts aloud. His contradiction managed to silence Lady Catherine better than anything else had thus far. "It's not possible that she wouldn't remember my proposal; why would she say I made her no offer? After such a refusal to me why would she not…," he paused as another thought seized him. "But she wouldn't give her promise; does that mean she could possibly accept me now?" For the first time in weeks, he was filled with hope.
Pulling himself out of his thoughts, he returned his attention to his aunt, who stood gaping before him like some sort of fish. He might have laughed if he hadn't realized the position he had just put himself in.
"What was that Darcy?" she asked. "Are you saying that you have indeed made her an offer of marriage? That you would willingly make such a woman Mistress of Pemberley? How could you even consider such an ill-conceived idea! Have you no honor? What of your duty to your family, to me, to Anne? What of… Do you mean to tell me that she refused you? Fitzwilliam Darcy? No one, especially not some impertinent country nobody, refuses a man of your station anything. Is there any sense in her head? I should—No matter, it is all for the best. She, obviously, knew better than you that your positions in society are so far removed from each other as to be completely unsuitable for marriage. But why would she not give me her promise? Indeed, it must be that she has repented her error and is now trying to further herself by spreading these vicious lies of your supposed engagement."
Darcy was on the verge of collapsing in a fit of laughter, and it took all of his formidable self-control to maintain his composure. Lady Catherine's behavior was indeed ridiculous, and he briefly wondered what Elizabeth would have said about this little speech. He would have to tell her about it if he ever had a chance. His aunt must have contradicted herself at least five times in the last minute alone. First Elizabeth was mercenary, then she's an idiot for not accepting him. She was railing on him for even considering making such an offer, then was irate that he was refused. Elizabeth was a fool for her refusal, and yet she had more sense than Darcy by supposedly respecting the restrictions placed on her by society, which he knew perfectly well had nothing to do with her refusal. She had no respect for society by treating the great lady with none of the respect she felt due to her position and title, but Elizabeth was spreading lies in a desperate attempt to raise her station. He wondered if Lady Catherine even remembered why she was angry in the first place.
Lady Catherine returned her attention to her nephew. "This is all irrelevant though. I may not have been able to extract a promise from her, but I certainly shall from you. You, sir, shall denounce all ties to the Bennet family, including that Bingley friend of yours. You shall have no contact with any of those despicable social climbers again. Furthermore, I demand that you formally announce your engagement to my Anne at once. You shall also—"
"ENOUGH MADAM!" Darcy thundered. He finally reached the point where he could take no more, and his aunt stopped short at his outburst.
"I cannot believe you would overstep your bounds in such a manner," he said. "You have no right to impose yourself in my affairs, no matter how close a relation of mine you may be. I am my own man and my business is no one's concern but mine.
"I understand your concern for Anne's future, but if you had given up the idea that we would wed, which no one believes but you, then you would have had ample time to seek out suitable prospects for her. It's been ten years since I've informed you of Anne's and my intentions regarding marriage, and still you foolishly try to promote a union that will never take place. Hear me now Aunt. You will find another suitor for your daughter or you will make whatever arrangements are necessary to provide for her after your death, but I will not be held responsible for her future because you neglect your duties as her mother."
Lady Catherine was in a state of shock and slight fear. Never had she seen Darcy so angry. Her face grew paler with every word her enraged nephew said, yet she could not bring herself to react to his words in any way except to stare at him with wide eyes and an open mouth. She would have been unable to stop him had she tried, however, because once he had started upbraiding his aunt, nothing would stop him until he gave her exactly what she had coming to her.
"As for your ideas concerning the proper behavior for a man of my station: as a gentleman there would be no disgrace if I chose to marry a gentleman's daughter. The connections and fortune I already have allow me great freedom in choosing a bride, so there is no need for any worry on that account. Perhaps instead of trying to interfere in my affairs, you could give greater attention to yourself. Frankly, I am appalled by what I've heard of your manners in this senseless venture of yours. You showed up to a household you've never been to before, the home of a gentleman no less, without so much as an invitation or prior announcement, and demanded an audience with the only member of your acquaintance. I wouldn't be surprised if you denied them an opportunity to make proper introductions. Then, after achieving some form of privacy with Miss Bennet, you proceeded to abuse and insult the lady in her own home, yet you expected her cooperate with your outrageous demands despite your diatribe. That, Aunt, displays arrogance, conceit, and a selfish disdain for the feelings of others," he said, choosing the harshest words he could think of, though he very much doubted they would torture her the way they had tortured him. "Your character has always been marred by these flaws, which is the reason many people actively avoid your presence. Your own relations find it difficult to stomach your company for very long. Yet you stand there and think you can dictate which kind of people I choose as friends. That, Lady Catherine, is what shall not be borne. Charles Bingley is a good and kind man, with the best manners of anyone I have ever met at any level of society. I would sooner cut my connection with you than I would with him.
"As for Miss Bennet, she is—"
Upon hearing the name of the woman she had come to detest, Lady Catherine regained her powers of speech, and again sought to point out the evils of such a match. "She is completely unsuitable, Fitzwilliam!" she said, making him fully aware of how strongly she felt about the matter, not that he had had any doubts before. She hadn't called him by his first name since he was a lad. "Even if she wasn't a penniless girl from the country, she will never be accepted by our circles. She has no connections or accomplishments, no sense of decorum, she shows no deference to her betters, and she wilfully professes her opinions in a most unladylike fashion. She would be shunned by all the people who matter, and she will take you down with her! And let's not forget about Georgiana. Have you thought about your sister in all this? This will ruin her chances for a bright future, and under such an influence as Miss Bennet, she will turn out like a wild animal. Have you heard of the youngest Bennet sister? Running around, uncontrolled like a rabid creature, then eloping with an officer from the militia, the very son of your father's steward? It was a scandalous patched-up affair that only took place at the expense of her uncle, a man from Cheapside. Are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted?"
"Will you cease this nonsense, woman!" Darcy shouted. "I will not have you spouting this vitriol a moment longer. You will not think to dictate which people are good influences on Georgiana, nor those I choose to bring into my home. Elizabeth Bennet would provide a far better example of how to be a lady than any other woman of my acquaintance, far better than you ever have or ever could. Charles Bingley is the best man I know, and I am honored to have his friendship. Fitzwilliam Darcy, and no other, controls Pemberley and the people welcome there. Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam, Georgiana Darcy, and myself are the only people involved in making decisions about Georgiana's life, and I do not welcome outside suggestions. You have seriously misjudged your place in my life, madam, and overstepped you boundaries in a most grievous manner. Never do so again. I will not tolerate such interference in my private matters, and I shall hear nothing further about it. You, however, Lady Catherine DeBourgh, must leave my house at once. I find I have an urgent and unexpected matter to attend to in Hertfordshire and I must depart immediately. I shall call someone to attend you to your carriage," he said as he pulled a rope to call the butler back.
He turned back to his aunt and was rather surprised and amused by the picture she presented. She stood perfectly still in shocked silence. Slowly her face began to flush and contort, and a tremor overtook her body. After a full minute without a whisper, she had turned a rather alarming shade of purple. Darcy absentmindedly wondered if she would combust under the strain of containing her rage. After another moment the door opened to admit the butler, whom Darcy looked at and said, "Westley, Lady Catherine was just leaving. Please see her to her carriage, then prepare my own; I wish to leave for Hertfordshire as soon as it can be accomplished."
"As you wish," Westley said as he turned to the furious lady beside him, who immediately turned and stormed out of the room, down the grand staircase and out of the door without so much as a word.
And there, standing alone in his study once again, a feeling of elation welled up within him. He, Fitzwilliam Darcy, had finally achieved the impossible. He had somehow managed to improve Elizabeth's opinion of him enough that, if his aunt's account held any truth, there was a chance that she could love him and possibly agree to marry him. And, in some ways even more astonishing, he had well and truly rendered Lady Catherine DeBourgh speechless. He savored the exquisite satisfaction for a few moments, then hurriedly set off to prepare for his departure to Hertfordshire.
I had a lot of fun writing this, and I hope you enjoyed reading it as well. If you loved it or hated, please tell me what you thought.
So…. who knows what movie I was watching? ;-)