Categories > Books > Pride and Prejudice

A Dreadful Bitterness of Spirit

by dansemacabre 3 reviews

It was a point of pride that Lady Catherine de Bourgh rarely reflected upon the injuries inflicted upon her by those of a less sympathetic temperament. Oneshot. COMPLETE.

Category: Pride and Prejudice - Rating: G - Genres: Humor,Romance - Warnings: [!] - Published: 2007-06-03 - Updated: 2007-09-10 - 1390 words - Complete

Lady Catherine de Bourgh considered herself the most fortunate of women, for she had but two regrets in her august lifetime. The former she did not often deign to contemplate, firstly because it was not of her own making, and secondly, because she was possessed of a singularly forgiving nature.

It was a point of pride that Lady Catherine rarely reflected upon the injuries inflicted upon her by those of a less sympathetic temperment.

But even those who command the patience of saints must occasionally acquiesce to such ruminations, and it was in this frame of mind that she pondered the the second regret of her life, namely, the celebrated marriage of her nephew Fitzwilliam Darcy to a young woman without family, connections, or fortune.

The unhappy thought occupied her as she sipped her consummé and looked around the table at the regrettable collection of acquaintances now darkening the hallowed halls of Pemberley. To be sure, Lady Catherine acknowledged, not all of the guests were objectionable. To her left at the foot of the table was her own nephew, looking distracted. She saw that he too, pushed aside his soup as if he had little appetite.

"Your dining room is very plain and the arrangement ill-advised," she said, voice loud enough to carry to the other end of the table. "If you will but send to me at Rosings, I shall be happy to consult with your steward about the best way to arrange the candles and afford a little more light to the company."

"I thank you, aunt," replied Darcy, absent-mindedly sipping his claret. "I am certain the steward would be most grateful. Will you not take a cutlet, or perhaps a slice of roast beef?"

Lady Catherine nodded in stiff approval. Though the fare was not as fine as dinners at Rosings, the cook served a proper joint and all manner of delightful salads. She accepted a small helping of celery and condescended to no one in particular that in certain company, a little dimness to the room was a fault that could be forgiven.

Mr. Darcy was most assiduous at filling her plate with choice tidbits. As a distinguished guest, Lady Catherine welcomed the burdensome obligation of having every attention and honour paid to her person. In this, her nephew could not be faulted, though his demeanor seemed a trifle anxious and she hastened to reassure him.

"Do not trouble yourself, Darcy. Though the paté was undersalted, I see your cook is well acquainted with plover's eggs in aspic."

They were her favourite dish, and she was not insensible to the delicate compliment they made to her in serving it, nor to the inclusion of the sterling silver salt-cellar at the table that was an heirloom of her family and her wedding present to her nephew and his bride. As for Mr. Darcy, doubtless her examplary forbearance would soon have a calming effect upon his nerves.

Further down the table was her niece Georgiana, looking as well as ever, though pale and a bit peaked. Lady Catherine resolved to take aside Georgiana's maid and instruct her upon the preparation of certain cordials and restoratives for her charge.

Colonel Fitzwilliam was chatting amiably with her while the ever agreeable Mr. Bingley did his best to entertain Mrs. Darcy's tongue-tied younger sister, Kitty. Lady Catherine found herself in the most unusual and therefore unpleasant throes of indecision, for she did not know whether to deplore the use of such a frivolous sobriquet or to be grateful she was not pressed to the indignity of sharing her name with this pallid creature.

The appearance of the peas, asparagus and most excellent roast fowl and watercress was a barely adequate consolation, and Lady Catherine could not be persuaded to take more than a bite of each despite the cajolings of gentle Jane, seated across from her. Though the newly married Mrs. Bingley was lovely to look upon, she awoke in Lady Catherine a curious sense of dissatisfaction and disapproval that would not be pinned down even by her sharp sense of propriety.

"Lady Catherine, it is most delightful to see you once again," said Jane. "May I inquire after the health of your daughter?"

"Anne is quite well, thank you. Her health would not permit her to travel such long distances, and I was forced to undertake the difficult journey alone."

Lady Catherine's beringed fingers drummed briefly on the damask tabletop in remembered irritation.

"But she has great hopes that Mr. and Mrs. Darcy will grace Rosings Park with a visit this fall or winter."

The fact that Miss Anne de Bourgh had said no such thing was little deterrence to her mother, who reasoned that she would have extended the invitation had her daughter been inclined to do more than read and sniffle quietly into a handkerchief as of late.

"Mr. and Mrs. Darcy would be quite welcome, of course. The winds this far north must be dreadfully inconveniencing come November."

Civilities aside, Lady Catherine could now dispense with the conversation and instead relished with triumph the realization of that which so unsettled her about the beautiful Mrs. Bingley.

She smiles too much.

Mr. Bennet, who was seated by his eldest daughter, spoke little, but his few words were polite enough. He ate moderately, sipped his wine and studied all the company with a mild expression, offering the occasional innocent inquiry or observation.

Lady Catherine's eyes narrowed and she set aside her fish fork. If she were the type of woman inclined to indulge a suspicious nature, she would speculate that Mr. Bennet's chance remarks were not always of an entirely innocuous bent, for one or two of them had bordered upon impertinence.

More shockingly, he did not seem to feel the restraint of limiting one's remarks to the weather and flower arrangements inbetween courses, and engaged her nephew's attention most outrageously in the discussion of books.

But the evening's greatest trial was the woman seated at her right, the voluable and ill-bred Mrs. Bennet. If one were to suspect a collaboration as would never occur between a couple so long married, one might conclude that for every social nicety Mr. Bennet did not voice, his lady wife was determined to recompense tenfold.

"Does not my Jane look well? La, how marriage does become her! Three daughters married within a single year..."

Mrs. Bennet could not quite bring herself to address Lady Catherine directly, but rather directed her remarks to Georgiana, who murmured genteel, but unintelligble responses, to her husband, who ignored her, or to the table at large.

"As I was just saying to Lady Lucas last week, it does Kitty so much good to be in such company. Mary would not be persuaded to come, of course. She would insist upon being dull and remaining at Longbourn, though I told her that is no way to get a husband now that the regiment has left Meryton."

Waving away the dish of fruit, Mrs. Bennet dug heartily into the cup of cherry water ice set before her, beaming.

"And Lizzy looks well, too. Though she has never been as pretty as my Jane, being married does suit her, and to be mistress of Pemberley is a fine thing, indeed."

Lady Catherine cast a sharp glance at the head of the table, where the lady of the house sat, laughing at some remark of Mr. Bingley's.


For her own part, Mrs. Darcy took no notice of her aunt-by-marriage's dark looks. She was far too busy putting Georgiana at ease and deftly blocking Mrs. Bennet's attempts to engage Colonel Fitzwilliam's attentions on behalf of her youngest daughter. From time to time, Elizabeth would look up and smile at Mr. Darcy as if to say, "There, is this so very bad?"

Though they sat at opposite ends of the table, Lady Catherine believed she could detect an almost unseemly affection between the newlyweds, already four months married. Her nephew was all too prone to dropping the thread of discussion in an uncharacteristically clumsy fashion, in favor of gazing across the room at his new bride.

Little wonder, for Mrs. Darcy in particular boasted bright eyes and a sufficient rosiness of cheek that Lady Catherine found most alarming.

"Tell me," she interrupted Mrs. Bennet, "Does your family have a history of consumption?"
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