Charles Bingley was exceedingly frustrated. He desperately wanted to see his angel again. The only way to do that was to go downstairs, as she would not be allowed in his room until they were married. He was finding the crutches rather difficult though. He persevered and with Louisa and Hurst's help was indeed able to make it down the stairs to dinner the next day. Everyone was pleased to see him and he rather enjoyed the fussing. He was introduced to the Earl and the Viscount and found them to be interesting men with plenty to speak about.
He noticed Caroline was doing her best to be pleasant to Darcy's family. Now that she'd pointed it out he did see some of the ladies giving her looks of disapproval. Like her, he could not account for it, as she had not done anything to deserve it that he could see. He did notice that she was treating the Viscount in the same way that she usually treated Darcy -- proof that she was not throwing herself at Darcy and treated him as she would any friend -- and that she was almost cold to Darcy -- obviously in response to the admonishments of Louisa.
The angelic Miss Bennet had smiled brightly at him and said how pleased she was to see him up and about. They were not seated near each other, but he had a clear view of her face as she spoke quietly with her friends. He was rather jealous of Colonel Brandon, who had her undivided attention and was telling her what appeared to be an extremely engrossing story. She had asked him how he had been wounded in the war. She rather thought he was downplaying the danger he had been in, but as he was now retired she did not feel the need to question it. He was safe now. The Viscount, seated near them, was interested in what the Colonel had to say, though his attention was continually drawn away by Caroline, who felt the need to address all her comments to him, completely ignoring Mr Gardiner on her other side. That gentleman felt rather sorry for the Viscount and did his best to divert Caroline's attention, and was amused by her single-mindedness.
Louisa, at the other end of the table blushed continually for Caroline, but knew better than to shout down the table at her. She felt slightly better after the Earl patted her hand and told her not to worry, "You have not met my sister, Mrs Hurst, and I hope for your sake you are lucky enough that you never do. We cannot help our relations and once they're grown up we have to let them make their own mistakes." She agreed, but she still tried to have a quiet word with Caroline once the ladies retired to the drawing room. She was, of course, ignored and told to mind her own business.
Caroline had determined that, as the Countess was clearly threatened by her, the way to ingratiate herself was to impress the older woman with her deference. Caroline was sure that she would soon be Lady Matlock's favourite, as none of the other ladies treated her with the respect she deserved. Why, Mrs Gardiner treated her as if they were equal, despite the fact that she was nothing but a tradesman's wife. As annoying as she considered the girl, Lady Matlock was also able to derive amusement from her single-mindedness and could not help but think of how well her antics would be appreciated by Lady Catherine. She supposed that she would need to go to Rosings when the time came. Poor Anne would need the support.
A moment later she resolved never to think of Lady Catherine again, as she stormed into the drawing room with Anne and Mrs Jenkinson trailing in her wake.
"Helena! What is this scandalous rumour that you think I've gone daft?"
"I do not know, Catherine. I have not heard such a rumour. Shall I introduce you to Georgiana's guests?"
Lady Catherine looked around the room imperiously and sniffed. "Certainly not. I have no desire to encourage her association with impoverished gentry and tradespeople. I demand to see Henry at once! You will put it about that this rumour is a scandalous falsehood and finalise the arrangements for Anne and Darcy's marriage."
She was met with stony silence. Georgiana was the one to break it. "Perhaps, Aunt Helena, we should take Lady Catherine and Anne to my brother's study. Mrs Jenkinson will be quite comfortable here with the ladies."
Lady Matlock agreed that it was a good idea and the four of them left. A footman was sent to summon the gentlemen to the confrontation.
"I really don't think the entire family need be here for this," Lady Catherine began.
"But I do," her brother said. "What brings you to Pemberley?"
"There's a ridiculous rumour in town that you think I've gone senile. You will write to your friends and set them straight."
"Is that all?"
"No. It is high time Anne and Darcy's marriage was finalised. I've brought the settlements. Once he's signed them we may begin the wedding plans. I've obtained a special licence as well."
Darcy laughed and the others soon joined him. Anne merely looked confused, but Lady Catherine reddened alarmingly. "This is not a laughing matter!" she expostulated, but stopped when her brother held up his hand.
"Lady Catherine, as you were once my sister, I will inform you of what is happening. First, Darcy will not be marrying Anne. He is his own master and may marry where he chooses. Even if I had any say in the matter, I would not use it to force such a marriage."
"Nonsense. This marriage has been planned since they were children."
"No, it hasn't. And even if it had, he is not bound by it. This is one of the reasons we've undertaken to have you declared mentally incompetent."
"What?" There is nothing wrong with me!"
"If there weren't you would not persist in this nonsensical fantasy. If there were nothing wrong with you, you would never have paid Wickham to ruin Georgiana, all to forward your desire to control Pemberley."
She paled dramatically. "That is a vicious lie! I would never do such a thing! How can you believe that ingrate over your own sister?"
"Then why would you say such a thing?"
"Because George Wickham is dead. We have the letters you wrote to him."
She glared angrily at her brother,
"Come now, Lady Catherine," Richard said happily. "Aren't you going to explain how the letters were fabricated? I'm sure one as mentally stable as you claim to be would have thought of how to explain this all away in advance."
She turned her head to glare at him. "I suppose you expect Rosings out of all this. You think my Anne will be forced to marry you, but I will never allow her to shackle herself to someone as penniless as you!"
"You are mistaken there. Not only have I recently come into an inheritance, I have another woman in mind for my wife."
She was utterly enraged and moved to attack Richard. Darcy and the Viscount restrained her, while the Earl summoned the butler.
"Mr Moore, Lady Catherine is in need of restraining. I'm afraid she's lost what little grip on reality she had left. Her maid is welcome to tend her, but ensure there are always two footmen at hand in case she becomes violent."
Lady Catherine was manhandled upstairs, screaming imprecations all the way. The guests in the drawing room were drawn out by the racket. Only Miss Bingley was concerned.
"How dare they lay hands on Mr Darcy's aunt! He must be informed at once!"
The other ladies were incredulous, as she strode over to the gentleman's study. Without knocking she flung the door wide open and went in.
"Mr Darcy! You must come and reprimand your men at once! They dared to lay hands on your aunt's person!"
The General sniggered as Darcy regarded her wearily. "I told them to, Miss Bingley. And I'll thank you to keep your nose out of my family's business."
"If only we could lock you up as well, Miss Bingley," Richard said. "It would make this visit a great deal more pleasant."
Caroline was irate to see both Darcy and the Viscount smirking at her. She turned on her heel and returned to the drawing room, where she was met with knowing grins that only served to upset her further. Her only ally, her brother, had retired immediately after dinner to rest his leg.
In the study, Lady Matlock went to sit beside Anne and took hold of her hands. "I'm sorry you had to witness that, Anne, but you are a part of this family and so we felt it best you were here."
"Do I really not have to marry Darcy?"
"I fully intend to marry someone else entirely, Anne, so there is no danger of that."
"Now, Anne, you are the legal owner and mistress of Rosings. With your mother out of the way you will be able to take your proper place."
"Are you sure? Will she not return?"
Darcy snorted. "If I have to lock her in an attic for the rest of her life, she will not be able to importune us any longer."
Anne seemed relieved at this.
"There is certainly no need to make any decisions now, Anne," her aunt told her. "For now, I think you're in need of a rest. Tomorrow you can enjoy yourself with the other ladies and we'll deal with things as they come."
Georgiana took Anne to the drawing room, introduced her to the ladies, and then escorted she and Mrs Jenkinson upstairs where they could rest.
Unlike Caroline, Anne came to breakfast with the rest of the party and so was taken under their wing. She remembered Miss Elizabeth, and had enjoyed listening to her conversations at Rosings. The one she was having with Darcy was over books she'd never read, though, so she found it rather hard to follow. Miss Marianne tried to discuss music with her, but she knew nothing of it and left it to Georgiana. Miss Dashwood and Miss Bennet were the ladies she ended up speaking the most to. They made every effort to include her in the conversation, asking her opinions on the matters they were discussing.
After breakfast they asked her to join them in the rose garden, if she felt up to it. Elinor planned to draw some roses and Jane was going to read to her. Anne very much wanted to join them and said so. They matched their pace to hers without complaint, though she could tell they usually walked faster. It was a warm, sunny day, but the heat was not oppressive. Anne felt a sense of glorious freedom. Her mother would never have allowed her to walk so far, and certainly not to sit in the sun for any length of time -- what if her skin browned? She watched Miss Dashwood's drawing with interest and some jealousy. She had always wanted to draw -- she even remembered having a few lessons as a child -- but her mother had declared her constitution unfit for it, and stopped her. Miss Bennet was reading Scott's Waverley and she enjoyed the sound of her voice as the story washed over her.
Most of the gentlemen had gone riding after breakfast. They all rode over to Kympton to see how things were progressing after the fire. Only Darcy stayed, however. The Earl and Viscount had letters to write to the lawyers, explaining the latest matters concerning Lady Catherine. The military men had women to woo, and fully intended to get down to business. They were happy to join the ladies in the rose garden and Colonel Brandon offered to read, if Miss Bennet was tired. Knowing how men hated to be idle and thinking that the Colonel read particularly well with his particularly lovely voice, she was quick to hand the book over and took up her work.
She had asked Elinor to sketch a scene on the fabric and was slowly bringing it to life in silk threads. Anne was fascinated by this. Her mother had never allowed her to touch a needle and thread, fearing infection and death if she should prick herself, and she envied Miss Bennet's deftness. Most of the General's attention was on Elinor, but he noticed the wistful way that Anne watched the other ladies. When the Colonel came to the end of a chapter, he asked her if she'd like to learn either skill.
"I should like to learn both, if possible. Mother would never allow me."
"Of course you wish to learn, I don't know why we did not think of it ourselves," Elinor said.
"Which would you like to start with?" Jane asked. "I'm sure I have a sampler in my basket, and I know Elinor has paper and pencils."
"I do, but I have brought only one board, unfortunately. I'm sure, however, your cousin would be happy to retrieve another from the house."
Despite having had a few drawing lessons when young, Anne thought that perhaps embroidery would be easier. Sewing was a far more widespread occupation than drawing, after all. Having made her choice, Jane set about teaching her the basics. She found it both easier and more difficult than she had expected.
When the party went in for tea they found Miss Bingley installed in the drawing room.
"Why, Miss de Bourgh, I thought you would be resting or with your mother. If I'd known you weren't I would have come to see you."
"That's very kind of you, Miss Bingley, but I enjoyed my time in the rose garden very much."
"I'm pleased to hear it. I do hope, however, that you won't allow the ladies to exhaust you with their outdoor expeditions. They seem to believe that everyone is a robust country girl."
"Don't worry yourself, Miss Bingley," the General said. "I was there to keep an eye on my cousin."
"Were you? I thought all the gentlemen had ridden over to that burnt village."
"Oh, we did. There was plenty of time for us to do both after breakfast."
Anne did go to rest after tea, and was pleased when Georgiana asked if she and Miss Marianne could join her to read together. Miss Bingley remained in the drawing room as Lady Matlock had come in with the other married ladies. She wished to continue her campaign of winning the Countess over, but found it rather difficult as they insisted on discussing what could be done for the Kympton villagers. Caroline did not see the point -- if those people suffered it was obviously their own fault.
Fanny had been overjoyed when, having received word that William was home, Sir Thomas instructed her to invite him to visit. The evening before he arrived she tried to compose herself, but Mr Ferrars kept returning to the subject. Mr Crawford was also happy to keep her talking on the matter and she had never found him as pleasant as she did that night.
The gentlemen, however, had very different motives. Henry had not thought her capable of such effusiveness and wanted to know as much as possible about this favourite brother so that he could enlist his assistance in conquering Fanny’s heart. Edward, who already knew a great deal about William, was pleased for her and looking forward to meeting the young man. Knowing that she would be able to think of little else until he arrived, Edward chose to indulge her by speaking of her brother’s enjoyments and the pleasures he would experience on his visit.
Edmund was also pleased that William was able to visit, he liked his young cousin immensely, and was telling Miss Crawford about him. She was not particularly interested in what he had to say, giving more attention to the other three. As much as she loved her brother, she was rather enjoying the fact that he had some very strong competition. Usually he had no trouble getting girls to fall in love with him, Fanny’s indifference was what had caught his attention in the first place, after all. She did not understand how the awkward Mr Ferrars could possibly compete with her brother, but the fact was that he had never before been so challenged. Yes, she was enjoying her brother’s difficulties very much. It was all very amusing.
Lady Bertram was dozing on the sofa with her pug, leaving poor Sir Thomas entirely to the tender mercies of Mrs Norris. That lady was commending his kindness towards those undeserving Prices, while commenting on Fanny’s vulgar forwardness in commandeering two young men so. It was clear to Sir Thomas, at least, that the two young men were the ones who were instigating it all. He rather thought that Edmund’s friend was displaying a marked interest in his niece and she certainly received his attentions with pleasure. Perhaps there would soon be another wedding at Mansfield.