The Memory Series #4
Moments of Moments Infinite:
A Pride & Prejudice Reimagining
by Ney Mitch
The past, present, and future are now colliding on top of each other as all things are culminating. Mr. Darcy has to face his imposing Aunt Catherine de Bourgh as she insists that he is engaged to her daughter, Anne. Elizabeth Bennet stands by him as this continues, but there is another crisis. As they present their arguments, they find themselves hearing a clock and they know that they shall be taken away from the past. Yet where do they end up?
Release Date: May 26, 2020
Genre: Time Slip Romance
The moment continued with a series of stares.
I stared at Lady Catherine in disdain, still holding my face from where she had slapped me.
She looked at me as if I was an ant that she wished to crush under her shoe.
Darcy looked at her as well.
And everyone else in the room was looking at me!
Then Darcy and I turned to each other.
“I’m engaged?” Darcy asked me.
“Why the devil are you asking her if you are engaged?” Lady Catherine bellowed. “You very well know that you are.”
Then Earl Fitzwilliam came forward.
“Oh, for goodness sakes, Catherine!” Earl Fitzwilliam said. “First, I will not have that behavior in my home, so you will desist immediately. And second, you know that is not valid.”
“Of course, it is valid,” Lady Catherine cried. “It is ironclad as if Darcy here had scribbled his signature on the wedding papers. Is that not so, Fitzwilliam?”
“But—” Darcy began, and then he closed his mouth and so I decided to do what he loved best: let me speak for him.
“If he is engaged to your daughter, then where has she been for the last few months?” I asked. “For in the time I have known Darcy, he has spoken not a word about her, and I doubt that if he were to be engaged, he would forget that he had a fiancée.”
“Well, he does have one.”
“And yet it sounds like he doesn’t.”
“Truly, it sounds like I don’t,” Darcy added, “for where is my fiancée?”
“Where you left her,” Lady Catherine argued. “At her home, Rosings Park.”
“Then why aren’t we married yet?”
“Because you are taking a long time.”
“I wonder why that is,” he replied, sarcastic.
“Catherine,” Lady Fitzwilliam interrupted, “this is not the time to do this now.”
“Thank you, Lady Fitzwilliam,” Aunt Gardiner said, stepping near me, protective, “but I am wondering, Lady Catherine. Your daughter is not here with you to fight for her fiancé, yet you are here claiming something that Mr. Darcy does not know of. Then you lay violent hands on my niece, and you think yourself justified to do it. I will not stand for this.”
“And nor shall I,” Lady Catherine replied, turning back to Darcy. “You are engaged to my daughter, now what have you to say?”
“He need not say anything,” I interrupted, “for only that if he were engaged to her, then he would not have made an offer to me.”
“Their engagement is of a peculiar kind. They have been attached to one another, intended for one another, since their infancy.”
“Are you speaking of an arranged marriage?” Kitty gasped. “Is that what that means?”
“Yes, it does,” Colonel Fitzwilliam answered with a sigh. “Aunt Catherine, you planned their marriage, and not they themselves.”
“It was every day implied, just never fully declared. It was the dearest wish of your mother, Darcy, and of me.”
“But not of me, then?” Darcy refuted. “You’re telling me that I’ve been engaged to a woman since before I could even walk? All because you and my mother wanted it?”
“It was her dearest wish! Do you now think yourself so proud, and in fact are so inconsiderate that you forget what she wanted?”
“If she loved me, then she would not have ordered me around in that way.”
“Besides,” Aunt Gardiner continued, “by the sounds of it, your schemes and machinations are simply the results of two women being romantic when they became mothers. I have children myself, madam, and I know the way our minds work. We wish for them to grow up and become the best or marry the best. Could it be that you had the best example in front of you, when Mr. Darcy’s late mother had a child around the time you did, your imaginations ran wild, and now you slap my niece all because your dreams did not come true?”
“Precisely,” Mary supported. “Your resolutions seem to be the work of a mind being fanciful, and no more.”
“It was true! Darcy, you are engaged to Anne, and that is final.”
“Aunt, please...” Zachary Fitzwilliam sighed.
“No, I will be heard.”
“Miss Bennet,” replied her ladyship, looking back to me, “you ought to know, that I am not to be trifled with. But however insincere you may choose to be, you shall not find me so. My character has ever been celebrated for its sincerity and frankness, and in a cause of such moment as this, I shall certainly not depart from it.”
She took a deep breath, which made her jowls wobble. “My nephew is already engaged to my daughter. While in their cradles, his mother and I planned the union, and now, at the moment when the wishes of both sisters would be accomplished in their marriage, to be prevented by a young woman of inferior birth, of no importance in the world, and wholly unallied to the family!
“Do you pay no regard to the wishes of his friends? To his tacit engagement with Miss de Bourgh? Are you lost to every feeling of propriety and delicacy? Have you not heard me say that from his earliest hours he was destined for his cousin?” High color rose in her normally pallid cheeks.
“If he were destined for his cousin, then he would not make an offer to me,” I countered.
“It ought to be so. It must be so, while he retains the use of his reason. But your arts and allurements may, in a moment of infatuation, have made him forget what he owes to himself and to all his family. You may have drawn him in.”
I stood firm. “If I have, I shall be the last person to confess it.”
“Miss Bennet, do you know who I am? I am not accustomed to such language as this. I am almost the nearest relation he has in the world and am entitled to know all his dearest concerns.”
“But you are not entitled to know mine, nor will such behavior as this, ever induce me to be explicit.”
She poked an arthritic finger at me. “Let me be rightly understood. This match, to which you have the presumption to aspire, can never take place.”
“But it has taken place,” Jane answered for me, and I was surprised at how firm she sounded, for indeed, she had never done so before. “And that will not be denied, nor shall it be. My sister is engaged to your nephew, and I will not allow you to trouble her any further. You have laid violent hands on my sister, and I will not allow it.
“I am Jane Bennet, the eldest daughter of Longbourn, and I have four sisters whom I care for deeply. So, this I say, and this I vow. You will cease and desist from any verbal attacks on her, you will apologize for your disturbing behavior which is very much unlike how any great lady should act, and then you shall quit this house immediately. However, if you continue in this manner, then I can assure you, lay one more hand on her, and I will... I will...” Her color was high and her eyes blazing. “I will throw you out that window with extreme enthusiasm!”
Lady Catherine looked at Jane in shock, as did all of us.
“Oh, Jane.” I sighed, half-smiling, but I could not say more for I was very much in awe. Lady Catherine then turned to my sister, flushed and red in the face.
“What did you say to me?”
“What any older sister would say to the woman who slapped her sister for no reason.”
Lady Catherine turned back to me.
“And you still have not apologized for your disgusting display of violence upon her,” Mary added. “We are waiting for your words of repentance.”
Lady Catherine ignored her. “Miss Elizabeth, you will hear me.”
“Yes, and I had heard it before. But what is that to me? If there is no other objection to my marrying your nephew, I shall certainly not be kept from it by knowing that his mother and aunt wished him to marry Miss de Bourgh. You both did as much as you could in planning the marriage. Its completion depended on others. If Mr. Darcy is neither by honor nor inclination confined to his cousin, why is not he to make another choice? And if I am that choice, why may not I accept him?”
“Because honor, decorum, prudence, nay, interest, forbid it. Yes, Miss Bennet, interest, for do not expect to be noticed by his family or friends, if you willfully act against the inclinations of all. You will be censured, slighted, and despised, by everyone connected with him. Your alliance will be a disgrace; your name will never even be mentioned by any of us.”
“These are heavy misfortunes, but 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.”
“Obstinate, headstrong girl! I am ashamed of you! You are to understand, Miss Elizabeth, that I came here with the determined resolution of carrying my purpose, nor will I be dissuaded from it. I have not been used to submit to any person's whims.”
She paced back and forth. “I have not been in the habit of brooking disappointment. My daughter and my nephew are formed for each other. They are descended, on the maternal side, from the same noble line; and, on the father's, from respectable, honorable, and ancient, though untitled, families. Their fortune on both sides is splendid. They are destined for each other by the voice of every member of their respective houses, and what is to divide them? The upstart pretensions of a young woman without family, connections, or fortune.”
She whirled around and faced me, her expression grim. “Is this to be endured? But it must not, shall not be. If you were sensible of your own good, you would not wish to quit the sphere in which you have been brought up.”
“Lady Catherine,” Jane interrupted, “in marrying your nephew, she should not consider herself as quitting that sphere. He is a gentleman; we are a gentleman's daughters. So far we are equal.”
“True. You are a gentleman's daughter. But who was your mother? Who are your uncles and aunts? Do not imagine me ignorant of their condition.”
“We are right here,” Uncle Gardiner said, “and we are the working class of London. Never shall I deny this, but my trade has given me wealth and as much consequence in the world as many in the landed gentry. Therefore what is occurring, Lady Catherine, but the beginning of a great change, where you and your pride shall give way to us who are new and whom you need. The society of our country is bought by the labor of others; therefore to look down at my nieces because of us is futile and foolish.”
“And whatever my connections may be,” I argued, “if your nephew does not object to them, they can be nothing to you. You wish of us not to be married, you have stated this eight times at least since you have entered your brother’s home. But I am not to be intimidated into anything so wholly unreasonable. Your ladyship wants Mr. Darcy to marry your daughter, but would my giving you the wished-for promise make their marriage at all more probable?”
I linked my arm through Darcy’s. “Supposing him to be attached to me, would my refusing to accept his hand make him wish to bestow it on his cousin? Allow me to say, Lady Catherine, that the arguments with which you have supported this extraordinary application have been as frivolous as the application was ill-judged. You have widely mistaken my character, if you think I can be worked on by such persuasions as these. And I believe that you have mistaken your nephew as well. But you have certainly no right to concern yourself in mine. I must beg, therefore, to be importuned no farther on the subject.”
“Will you have done, madam!” Kitty protested. “For that is quite enough.”
“Quite enough indeed,” Jane added. “You have your answer.”
“Not so hasty, if you please. I have by no means done. To all the objections I have already urged, I have still another to add. I am no stranger to the particulars of your youngest sister's infamous elopement. And she is here now, isn’t she?”
Instinctively, we all turned to Lydia, who flinched.
* * *
“Ah.” Lady Catherine smiled wickedly. “Yes, it is you then, is it not?”
Lydia looked down for a second and we all buckled under the weight of the truth. Yet Lady Catherine, who had been saving this all for the opportune moment, felt our resolve weakening as she had reached an ideal point in the argument, a chink in our armor, if that was the correct term for it. This would weaken us, invariably, and she was prepared to win due to it.
“I know it all,” Lady Catherine boomed, then turned to Earl and Lady Fitzwilliam. “And now it is time that you did. For when you do, you shall have this family removed from your home, and see them as nothing short of a tumor on Matlock’s side that ought to be removed. I heard it all, from my reverend at Hunsford, Mr. William Collins, who is their cousin.”
I closed my eyes at this news, for all things considered, we had for a brief time, believed the scandal to be quite over and done with, but the world was too small, too miniscule for the shame to disappear. At least where men such as Mr. Collins were involved.
Of course he would be the reverend to Lady Catherine.
Of course he would be our cousin.
Of course he would propose to Mary, and then drop her at the merest hint of the word ‘scandal’.
And of course he would tell Lady Catherine, not feeling any remorse or sensitivity to the woman he once was engaged to.
We had never outraced the scandal, but rather we had only postponed the result of it.
“Lady Catherine,” Mary interrupted, “I offer advice of you exercising moderation. There are some things that you need to allow someone to leave in their own past.”
Lady Catherine ignored her and continued.
“This creature,” Lady Catherine said, pointing her walking stick at Lydia, “has a sordid history that is meant for the worst of gossip columns in the papers, making her the worst woman to be mistress of Matlock. Indeed, I know not what you were thinking, Zachary!”
“She loves me!” Zachary thundered.
“She loves that she can use you to hide that she is no longer a maid!”
“What?” Earl Fitzwilliam said, turning to Lydia.
“Yes, all true it is!” Lady Catherine bellowed. “This selfish girl, hedonistic to a fault, eloped with a man, and what man would it be? But the son of the late Mr. Darcy’s steward! Mr. George Wickham himself! Yes, she eloped with him to London, where the only reason that she is not married to him is simply because he must not have wanted her.”
“That is not true!” I declared.
“Which part of it? The elopement part or the whole ‘how dare she even show her face here’ part? And is such a girl to be my nephew's sister? Heaven and earth! Of what are you thinking? Are the shades of Matlock to be thus polluted?”
“You can now have nothing further to say,” Jane resentfully answered. “You have insulted my sisters in every possible method. I threatened you once, and I hold to it still.”
“And this one has the impertinence to threaten me!”
“You struck her sister and insulted the rest,” Aunt Gardiner cried.
“Wait!” Earl Fitzwilliam shouted, and we all turned to him. “What is this business of an elopement?”
When he asked this, we all kept our mouths closed, all but Lady Catherine of course!
“Indeed, Miss Lydia, how can you account for it yourself? Tell us, am I lying, because I have it on good account. Try and lie, I beg of you.” She looked down her pointed nose at my sister, her eyes angry and forbidding.
“Lydia,” Jane said, “it is fine, you do not have to—”
“But I must,” Lydia said. “Thank you, Jane, but I must. Or perhaps, I ought to.”
“Yes, you ought to,” Lady Catherine said, and then she turned to Darcy. “And now you shall see the sort of people that you shall gain by agreeing to a connection with this sordid family.”
“I know the connections that I am gaining, aunt,” Darcy replied stubbornly, taking my hand, “and I shall not waver now.”
Lady Catherine turned to me, venomous.
“What did you do to him!”
“I accepted the man he was, rather than what you have done.”
“Enough,” Lydia declared, then she turned to Earl and Lady Fitzwilliam. “I wish not to have everything fall apart because of me but being honest is a virtue on its own. Ask me of my past, and I shall tell you everything.”