Posted on 2020-01-30
I, of course, do not own Ms. System's work on which this story is based.
The Hunsford party had again been invited to take tea at Rosings. After routine compliments and expressions of appreciation from one side, and condescension toward such company from the other, the occasion had settled into a familiar pattern. Elizabeth's enjoyment of the spectacle was not lessened by the comparison to previous, similar events.
At one point, as the group descended into a momentary silence, Lady Catherine regaled her company for some minutes with the expectation her nephews, Colonel Fitzwilliam and Mr. Darcy, would arrive for a most eagerly awaited visit the next afternoon.
Lady Catherine looked around with sublime assurance that all those present must share her delight in this news and show their awe of the exalted visitors. After taking a settling breath, Elizabeth turned to her hostess. "Lady Catherine, I must profess my most sincere gratitude and appreciation for your hospitality and gracious attention during the recent days of my visit." She noticed the smug satisfaction on the faces of both the Lady and her cousin, which she knew must be affected by her next words.
"With utmost regret, I must apologize as I will be unable to visit Rosings as long as Mr. Darcy is present."
"Cousin Elizabeth!" "Eliza!" "Miss Bennet! Explain yourself!"
The last, and definitely loudest, voice being that of Lady Catherine it was natural for the others to defer to that lady and remain silent.
With a calm smile, Elizabeth explained, "I expect it will be best for me to conclude my visit and return expeditiously to London, but I am certainly willing to explain my decision now. Mr. Darcy recently visited Hertfordshire as a guest of Mr. Bingley, who leased an estate only three miles from my father's estate, Longborn.
He was in our area for a number of weeks and proved on multiple occasions to have a character both unpleasant and despicable. I will not address the many instances in which Mr. Darcy earned, in my opinion, the label unpleasant as there was no true harm done thereby. It is his demonstration of a despicable nature which compels me to avoid him most determinedly."
Her statements, of course, triggered an explosion of gasps and expostulations of shock and disbelief. Lady Catherine was, as was to be expected, outraged and demanded evidence to justify such condemnation of her nephew.
"Simply put, Your Ladyship, a man intimately known to Mr. Darcy came into our community and made statements which, if true, would have painted Mr. Darcy to be despicable indeed. When I alluded to those comments seeking clarification, Mr. Darcy uttered a few cryptic words and refused to say more. Mr. Darcy soon left our community, but fortunately I have a connection which allowed me to obtain accurate information about both gentlemen. I learned the other gentleman is a known gambler, liar, debtor, and seducer of very young females and ladies.
My point, Your Ladyship, is that Mr. Darcy knew very well that this man posed an immediate threat to our entire community--the livelihoods of our shopkeepers, the virtues of young females, and particularly the innocence of my youngest two sisters. In the short period that passed while I sought information, several honest merchants lost money and at least one young woman was left in disgrace.
Mr. Darcy chose to leave the area without warning us, no doubt considering us too unimportant to be worthy of protection.
This, in my opinion, marks him as no gentleman at all. I consider him no better than he who could have harmed us most grievously, had we not questioned the circumstances on our own initiative. I will not willingly share the company of such a man."
As Lady Catherine and the others gaped at her, at that moment speechless, Elizabeth curtseyed and left. <