The word lady is a term of respect for a girl or woman, the equivalent of lord. Once used to describe only women of a high social class or status, now it may refer to any adult woman. Informal use of this word is sometimes euphemistic or, in American slang, condescending. Wikipedia
When growing up, I was taught that a lady was also a well-mannered woman, courteous in her words and actions.
Lady Catherine de Bourgh was a lady in title only. She was also a woman whom I would never respect nor befriend because of her lack of courtesy, her lack of concern for others, and her determination that people kowtow to her wishes because she thought of herself as a know-it-all and demanded everyone agree with her. Of all the characters in Pride and Prejudice, she is the one I like the least. However, she did make a fool of herself with her choice of Mr. Collins as her parson.
When I began thinking about a story that would show how despicable a character Lady Catherine could be, the original title was Warring with Lady Catherine. In speaking with Joy King one day, she and I both realized, at the same time, that it should be a part of a Darcy Vs Series and be entitled Darcy Vs Lady Catherine. Thus, the second in that series came to be born, and I had the pleasure of bringing out just how badly I could picture Lady Catherine acting…even to family.
Enjoy an excerpt that involves Darcy confronting his aunt, Lady Catherine, after she has shown her true colors.
When the Colonel and Darcy arrived at Rosings, they were not surprised to find Lady Catherine seated on her thronelike chair ordering a maid to bring refreshments.
“Fitzwilliam, and Darcy. So good to have you here again.”
“Anne?” Anne was in her usual place with Mrs. Jenkinson by her side.
“Darcy,” she replied.
“Is there a problem?”
Anne just hmphed.
“Will you tell me about it?”
Anne looked at him for a moment, then said, “Yes. You and Richard follow me to the library.”
“Anne, you will not have a discussion with your cousins without me present.”
“Oh, yes, I will, Mother. I am of age, and you cannot tell me what to do anymore.”
With that proclamation, Anne swept out the parlor door and headed toward the library in the west wing of Rosings. Richard and Darcy followed in her wake.
On their arrival, Anne ordered Richard to make sure they were not interrupted nor spied upon. A small reading area behind the shelves and against a wall with no windows was chosen.
Once settled, Darcy and Richard waited patiently to hear what Anne would say and were shocked by her opening words.
“I am a prisoner in my own home.”
“What has your mother done?”
“She has most of the servants on her side, and she has ordered them to ensure I am watched. She will not move to the dower house. She claims Rosings is hers, and she is not leaving. When I told the servants that I had inherited Rosings, they believed my mother when she said it was a lie. Since then, I have not been able to leave to contact my father’s solicitor and set matters straight. I am not allowed to even drive my phaeton around the park anymore.”
Darcy was livid, and Richard was astounded their aunt had had the temerity to do what she had done to keep control of Rosings. Rising to his feet, he took his cousin’s hand in his. “Anne, I’m ending this travesty today. Come, Richard.”
Darcy stalked out of the library almost at a run. When he found the housekeeper, he commanded her to gather all the servants, including the gardeners, grooms and stable hands, and have them meet him in Rosings’ ballroom.
Within a quarter hour, all had nervously appeared wondering if they were to be let go. Some were loyal to Anne but feared Lady Catherine’s reprisals if she knew, so they had remained silent and did what they could for Anne on the side.
“Is everyone here?”
“Yes, Mr. Darcy.”
By this time, even Mrs. Grant, the housekeeper, was wondering if she would lose her position. She had been with the household for fifteen years and was totally on Lady Catherine’s side. She sympathized with Anne and her poor health but would do nothing to cross her mistress.
Darcy and Anne took their places on the small dais at the end of the room, so they could be seen and heard. More than one servant quaked in their shoes when his voice boomed out over the room.
“Lady Catherine is a tyrant.”
“I am not.”
Darcy glared at his aunt and nodded at Richard who took her by the arm and escorted her out of the room. With a mild oath, Richard exclaimed, “He’s going to make me miss the best part.”
But he stopped just a little way down the corridor from the ballroom and kept his aunt by his side. Fortunately, Darcy’s voice carried quite well.
“By a show of hands, I want to know all who are loyal to Lady Catherine.”
Almost the entire staff of Rosings raised their hands.
“And who would be willing to serve Miss de Bourgh?”
Only five servants, including Anne’s Abigail, indicated their willingness.
Darcy frowned at the crowd of servants and waited a full two minutes until many were shifting in discomfort. Then he continued.
“Lady Catherine has told you she is the owner of Rosings. That is the lie. Anne de Bourgh is the owner of Rosings due to her inheritance at age twenty-five. She is nearly twenty-seven years of age. Sir Lewis de Bourgh stipulated in his will that Anne was to have Rosings, and her mother the dower house until her death. An allowance of an adequate amount to keep Lady Catherine comfortable for the rest of her life was also included. But…the majority of Rosings’ holdings belong to Miss de Bourgh.”
A voice out of the crowd asked, “How do you know this?”
“I saw Sir Lewis’ will shortly after his death. My uncle, Lord Matlock, apprised me and Colonel Fitzwilliam of his bequests. I wondered at the time why he did so, but, perhaps, it was to forestall an occasion such as this.”
Darcy paused again. When the entire group was quite discomposed and beginning to whisper among themselves, he boomed out, “Quiet,” startling everyone. Even Lady Catherine in the hallway jumped in shock.
Looking around the room, Darcy made sure all were paying attention. “Those of you who said you would serve Miss de Bourgh, please stand over to my right.”
With trepidation, the small number of servants followed his instructions.
“Are there any others who would be willing to serve Miss de Bourgh…loyally?”
Four others, impressed by Darcy taking command of the situation, joined the small group.
“This is the way it will be, and Miss de Bourgh’s solicitor will verify it and make sure that her rights are protected. The ones who pledged loyalty to Miss de Bourgh will be retained. The rest will be replaced.”
“Who are ye to let Lady Catherine’s servants go? Ye are just her nephew and ’ere showing great disrespect for her ladyship.”
“Her ladyship has shown great disrespect for many people for far too long. It ends today. Anyone who objects to what follows will be let go without references or severance pay. Those who are no longer welcome here but accept that this is what will take place will be given generous severance and proper references. Footman, I suggest you refrain from further comments if you want to be part of the latter group.”
Darcy was satisfied when the man dropped his eyes and stared at the floor. He noted that the rest of the servants seemed to be in shock.
“All of you can continue to serve until we find replacements. But, know this, that if anyone complains or balks at Miss de Bourgh’s orders, they will be dismissed immediately and left with nothing. Am I clear?” He nodded in satisfaction as most of the servants nodded. “Raise your hand if you understand what is expected of you.”
This time, all the hands appeared.
Turning to Anne, he inquired, “Is this agreeable to you, cousin?”
“Most agreeable, cousin,” said she, with a smile.
“Do you wish to add anything?”
“Just a thank you. I very much appreciate your efforts, Darcy.”
Nodding in satisfaction, he turned to the servants and told them they were dismissed back to their duties, and the crowd dispersed with very little murmuring.
“Anne, will you join Richard and me in the parlor? I need to speak with your mother.”
“Of course, but may I join you in a few minutes? I wish to give mother’s Abigail instructions to pack her things.”
Darcy nodded in agreement.
A short while later, Lady Catherine, Anne, Richard, and Darcy met in the large parlor.
“Lady Catherine, I believe that chair is now reserved for Anne.”
“This is my chair.”
“No, it belongs to Anne. Perhaps, you could trade places with her.”
Although his cousin looked almost like a child sitting in an adult’s chair, Anne followed his lead thinking that she would have the chair either removed or destroyed. She was not sure she ever wanted to see it again.
Once Lady Catherine was sitting on the settee that had been the usual place for Anne and Mrs. Jenkinson, Darcy stood silently in front of her with his arms crossed before saying anything.
“Well, get on with it, nephew.”
Looking down at his aunt, he said, “Through the years and with my visits to Rosings, your manners have impressed me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others whether family or not. Those of mankind who have wealth and station are in a position to help those not so disposed. Instead, you take advantage of those of a lower station, disdain all who disagree with your pompous assertions, demand recognition you are not worthy of, slander those you do not know, and abuse your servants. Madam, I am done with you. I am ashamed to call you a relation and want no part of you.”
“How dare you speak to me in such a manner. I am your aunt.”
“And I wish you weren’t. I’m ashamed of you and your actions. Especially those you took with hiring Mr. Collins to kidnap Miss Elizabeth.”
“Of course, I did. You have been committed to marry Anne from the cradle. Although a peculiar kind of engagement, it was what I and your dear mother always wanted.”
“No, it’s what you always wanted. My mother nor my father ever mentioned such an arrangement. And your Mr. Collins failed.”
“Failed? What do you mean failed? Did you and Fitzwilliam rescue that harlot?”
“Call Elizabeth a harlot again, and I personally will throw you out the front door.”
“Darcy.” Richard’s touch on Darcy’s shoulder was a warning to not lose his temper.
“I am well, Richard.” And he loosened his tightly clenched fists that were at his side.
“Lady Catherine, we not only rescued my love, we also killed Collins.”
Both Anne’s and her mother’s jaws dropped at that statement.
With a small voice, Lady Catherine asked, “Why did you kill him?”
I hope you do forgive me. I do love cliffhangers. 🙂
Darcy Vs Lady Catherine, American and British editions, are available for $2.99 through January 1, 2022, or can be read in Kindle Unlimited. Enjoy!