Part I: The birth and first few years
Sah ein Knab ein Röslein stehn,
Röslein auf der Heiden,
War so jung und morgenschön,
Lief er schnell, es nah zu sehn,
Sah's mit vielen Freuden.
Röslein, Röslein, Röslein rot,
Röslein auf der Heiden.
Knabe sprach: Ich breche dich,
Röslein auf der Heiden!
Röslein sprach: Ich steche dich,
Daß du ewig denkst an mich,
Und ich will's nicht leiden.
Röslein, Röslein, Röslein rot,
Röslein auf der Heiden.
Und der wilde Knabe brach
's Röslein auf der Heiden;
Röslein wehrte sich und stach,
Half ihm doch kein Weh und Ach,
Mußt es eben leiden,
Röslein, Röslein, Röslein rot,
Röslein auf der Heiden.
Once a boy a Rosebud spied,
Heathrose fair and tender,
All array'd in youthful pride,
Quickly to the spot he hied,
Ravished by her splendour.
Rosebud, rosebud, rosebud red,
Heathrose fair and tender!
Said the boy, "I'll now pick thee,
Heathrose fair and tender!"
Said the rosebud, "I'll prick thee,
So that thou'lt remember me,
Ne'er will I surrender!"
Rosebud, rosebud, rosebud red,
Heathrose fair and tender!
Now the cruel boy must pick
Heathrose fair and tender;
Rosebud did her best to prick,
Vain 'twas 'gainst her fate to kick
She must needs surrender.
Rosebud, rosebud, rosebud red,
Heathrose fair and tender!
It was a dark night, in which the first child of the Earl of Matlock was to be borne. The moon concealed its face, depriving the earth from its borrowed light, a faint imitation of the day's bright sun, in which all life blossoms and fads away. Yet even the creatures of darkness were in hiding, so that neither an owl's shriek did penetrate the touchable silence nor a bat's wing move the air, which had sunk down, wrapping nature up in humidity and motionlessness. Everything was waiting, yearning for a summer thunderstorm bringing relief to he suffering beings, rescuing them out of the merciless hands of heat.
Or was this depression nature's way of sympathizing with the inhabitants of Matlock House? All the servants in attendance awaiting the first rumours to spread from her ladyship's quarters down to kitchen, allowing them finally to get a rest after a long and taxing vigilance. Yet, nothing moved. Not even a small branch rocked by the soft wind stirred, nor did the heir, who was yet to be borne. All where united in one occupation, hoping for relief and waiting for a change.
The Earl, sitting in his study, had already succumbed to the benefits of the brown liquid in the decanter next to him and was out of reach of the turmoil of the world or of his wife, who was fighting a battle for her life to fulfill her duty to the noble line of the Earls of Matlock. Being of a rather sickly and weak constitution, she had always been warned not to enter into motherhood and endanger the only remnants of beauty she had had at birth, but it was the price she had to pay for having been chosen to marry into the honourable family, she being a woman of little charm and of small dowry with only her origin to recommend her. Fearing to end her days as an old maid, she had not refused her parents' pressing and agreed to marry the much older Earl, for it was the only hope she had to leave her cold home. Though her understanding corresponded to her appearance, she possessed at least enough wit to comprehend that the only chance she had to gain some influence and importance in her husband's life was in her capability of producing a heir. Thus, she endured her connubial duties as faithfully as she could and was very relieved that her husband decided to occupy his attentions elsewhere, as soon as he learned she as with a child. Naivety is never rewarded and now she was fighting a painful and wearing battle to justify her existence and status in life.
The midwife and the doctor had already given up on the mother and the unborn child, when it miraculously turned itself into the right position and entered into the world without any help, accompanied my her ladyships triumphant weak scream. Examining the new inhabitant of the earth carefully, the doctor faltered when simultaneously to the infant's first scream a powerful thunderstorm broke out and nearly dropped the baby, which protested loudly with its dominant voice, expressing all its disgust at such a welcome after its long journey. "At least it is stubborn," the doctor mumbled to himself, worried by the fragile being in his arms. It was indeed no beauty, still marked by its strenuous fight and the face bright red from his demanding screaming. Bending closer, the physician had to suppress a surprised intake of breath, before he turned to her ladyship who had summoned all her strength and elevated her arms to welcome her guarantee of a better life. Giving her voice all the arrogance which she believed to owe her station in life, she demanded in a rather feeble voice, "Hand me my son, doctor!"
The doctor shifted awkwardly in his position, before he cleared his throat, "Your ladyship, I congratulate you most sincerely on your first child. Yet it is no boy, but ...", here he interrupted himself, being unable to find something praiseworthy in the little girl. So, mumbling into his beard, he was excused by her ladyships protesting scream and her demand to examine the newborn herself to contradict his diagnosis. Yet, ugliness and a loud demanding voice did not endear her offspring to her and she turned her head disgustedly away, as soon as she had received the confirmation of her greatest disappointment. "Take it away", was the only thing she had further to say and then buried her head into her pillow, sobbing.
The Earl, capable once again of understanding the spoken word, threw his glass at the bearer of the bad news and left the house to find pity elsewhere, after he had visited his wife and told her very explicitly that he considered her as being good for nothing. While riding away, he thought that it was a pity that no illegitimate child could preserve the family line.
Thus, the newborn spent her first months in the nursery with a maid, who was more or less interested in the welfare of her charge because none had told her to be very careful or attentive. Her ladyship was far too disappointed, disgusted and self-centred to give any special advice. As society and tradition demanded it, the parents had to give the baby a name and christen it. It received the name Catherine, after a very much hated aunt of the Earl's. So, the baby made at least one progress in its station of life, besides being a legitimate child of a nobleman, it had now a name to be scolded and reprimanded instead of constantly being referred to as "it".
Little Catherine achieved at least one thing in the first two years of her life: she united her parents for the first time in their marriage in a common feeling, the dislike of their child, who did unfortunately not develop any quality which might have endeared it to the adults or at least arouse their pride. Catherine remained ugly, bland and unspectacular. Her only quality indeed was her loud voice and her bright complexion, reddened by her constant screaming which no one seemed to hear. Growing up, perceiving her environment and learning from her experience, she soon realized that this powerful organ was the only instrument she had to gain attention and she became quite accomplished in using it to fulfill her purposes.
Yet the only person she could not reach was her ever absent father, to whom she had taken a strange liking and from whom she tried to receive a reaction, which was usually nothing more but a rough order or a clap, which delighted the young innocent creature, searching for affection, where there was none to be had. Gladly, Catherine had inherited her father's cleverness and did not try to win over her mother, a fruitless enterprise which she never attempted in her hunt for her father's approval. To her mother, she remained indifferent and this saved her a lot of trouble and her mother additional turmoil.
Part II: Childhood
Her ladyship had to endure her husband's unceasing attention for another four years before she was again with child and which didn't miscarry. Happy was the day when all her hopes came true and she delivered a healthy baby boy, who was welcomed that day with much more satisfaction than his older sister, though he did not arouse any kinder feelings in both of his parents than pride and complacency. For the Earl, the new-born baby meant that his family's honour and still more important, its propriety and wealth would not go to the second, poorer line of the Fitzwilliams, out of which his much hated aunt Lady Catherine stemmed. Being worn out by her numerous births, fed up with her husband's attention and mentally exhausted, her ladyship hoped that she had finally reached the day when her bedroom door would not open in the middle of the night and allow an unwelcome intruder into her nightly privacy.
The first thing Catherine learnt about her new sibling, was that is was pushing her out of her territory, for the big nursery was now dedicated to the residence of the heir of the title and therefore, his sister had to move into a another wing, in which only guestrooms were situated. It was difficult to say whether the loneliness and strange noises in the uninhabited complex frightened the young girl, but she never cried. At the tender age of three, Catherine had already understood that soft female sobbing did not attract any reactions from her environment. One day, following her father around, who was in a generous mood and could endure her company, they went through his beloved stables, she slipped on the uneven stone and trying to steady herself, she reached for her father's hand, which he withdrew at the very moment, turning worriedly to one of his dogs. Thus, Catherine learnt that falling onto stone is not a wise thing to do and expressed her displeasure in sobbing vehemently, upon which her father only addressed a stable hand without turning around to her, "Take her to the house. What a sissy, like her mother, indeed!" As soon as she heard these words from her father, Catherine forgot about her pain and the blood streaming down her little cheeks, so frightened by the disgust displayed in his voice. At this moment, she learnt a very important lesson, firstly, that being like her mother was bad and secondly, that crying drove her father away from her. Though she might not have been able to understand the full impact of his words, she could feel the message conveyed by his tone. Since this occasion, she never cried again. Therefore, the only reaction concerning her moving which could be perceived was that the odd expression on her face was intensified and a little gap developed between her eyes.
Yet the day on which her eternal hostility and dislike towards her younger brother were manifested, had not yet arrived. It was on a fine sunny morning in late September, when Catherine awoke with the feeling that something special was to happen. The day before, the whole household had been in an uproar and words like baptizing and feast were repeated over and over, but the little girl could not understand all the excitement, until she overheard that the Earl would arrive with a large part of friends. Hearing that her beloved father would come was enough for the little girl to understand all the buzz and look forward to this event. When her new good-natured nanny arrived to dress her, she did not offer any resistance and did even not try to scratch her, for the young woman's rambling raised some hope in her, "There, we can even behave if we want to. No, be a could girl, we have to hurry or papa is waiting for you". When she was dressed in a new white dress and her hair decorated with a huge bow, Catherine saw her suspicions confirmed and looked forward to her day of honour. Her mood even changed from truculence to simply being miffed when her mother arrived personally to pick her up and grabbed her hand, something Catherine would have never allowed to happen if she had not been in such a good mood and in which the prospect of seeing her father and being celebrated had put her. They reached the little indoor chapel without any delay, nervous breakdowns and hysteric sobbing on her mother's side, for due to the importance of the day, little Catherine had decided to hurry instead of throwing herself on the floor and screaming loudly. This spectacle was not necessary today, for she was sure that she would receive her share of attention today. Walking down the aisle towards their family's pew, she beamed because she saw her father looking at her with a kind of grin, which appeared to her as the most radiant smile, directed at her.
He was in deep conversation with his best friend, Sir Lewis de Bourgh, whom he did not esteem because of any character qualities, but because of his wealth, which made him a perfect and audacious gambling partner. This honourable gentleman was to be godfather to the heir of Matlock, a plan which was developed in an hour when both men had consumed too much sumptuous whisky. Pacified by this noble gesture and by the honour which was bestowed upon him by a peer, the knight was quite happy to forget about the Earl's gambling debts. Though her ladyship might have preferred another godfather for her son, she did not contradict her husband too vehemently, for the matter was not one of her greatest concerns and she was much too petrified by his lordship's verbal and physical means of persuasion. Not wishing to keep her father waiting, little Catherine removed her hand out of her mother's and was about to throw herself against her father when she collided with a body behind her and heard a deafening roar. Wheeling around, she saw the nanny sitting on the floor, yet the old woman was not the source of this noise, it was the little bundle her father was about to pick up. Reaching for his hand and trying to pull him to herself, Catherine turned to stone, when he pushed her roughly away, piercing her with his stern gaze, "Get out of here, girl, you try to ruin your brother's day of honour, you nothing!"
The next few moments passed like walking through fog, a curtain which prevented her from seeing clearly. She felt that she was pulled away, out of the chapel and her feet started walking automatically. Her brother had worn a white dress like herself, with much more lace than her own. And then, suddenly, the realization struck her that this was not her day of honour and she was being blamed for her father's anger. Why did he have to yell? Her indignation rose and she decided to hate her sibling and everyone else was trying to get between her and her father.
The next two years of Catherine's life passed rather unspectacularly despite the arrival of a third sibling, another girl. Soon, Catherine was very determined to hate this new-born as well because her father was quite fond of this Anne in his own odd way because she was indeed a sweet little baby, with blond curly hair and huge big blue eyes. Her ladyship, finally having received the confirmation that her husband would never pester her again, could feel at least to some degree affection for her third child because it flattered her vanity. During the morning visits, she was usually congratulated on the baby's good looks, its charm and friendly nature and by some very amiable and rather short-sighted older ladies, it was implied that little Anne was a perfect miniature of her mother. These comments and her ladyship's preference would not have bothered Catherine, if they had not been mirrored and repeated by her father himself, though in his case, affection did not raise from his flattered vanity, but from the prospect that at least one of his daughters would marry well. She was quite used to being referred to as "nice" or "wanting in looks", but the fact that her father always demanded to see Anne, when he dropped in after a very long absence, persuaded Catherine that this tiny little baby was an enemy as well.
When Catherine had finally completed her sixth year, it was decided by the Earl that any cheap governess should be hired to take care of his eldest daughter's education as to provide her with enough knowledge to hopefully attract an eligible bachelor. His lordship did not have high hopes on that account and therefore did not wish to waste too much from his rather diminished fortune and better save some for the more promising of his offspring. Her ladyship did neither object to this economy nor welcome it, for she was simply not asked.
For Catherine herself, the arrival of her governess presented a huge change, for now for the first time in her life, she was faced with a person, whose attention she had not struggle for and who sought hers instead. This was a novelty she had to get used to and after a bit of time, she came very much to like it. Her governess, Mrs. Jenkins, widowed at the tender age of eighteen, was a rather meek and devoted creature in all her thankfulness to have received a post in such a noble family. She was always in awe because of rank, title and fortune she herself lacked and was very ready to worship those who possessed it, therefore, she succumbed most willingly and happily to the tyranny of a seven year old child.
Though not being described as being really intelligent or presenting a genuine understanding, Catherine possessed a rather strong sense of what was positive for her and served her purposes. This drive was furthered by keen observation and a cleverness, which enabled her to survive and learn from experience. One of the first things she learnt between the ages of seven and ten, was that her origin made her special. People curtsied and bowed everywhere, where the arrival of her ladyship and her children was announced. Catherine understood quite soon that with her position in life, certain advantages were connected, for instance she could walk into a shop and take as many sweets as she wanted and no one would dare to complain, though many a shop-owner shot angry glances at her. This and other experiences taught Catherine to rate her family name very highly and she slowly started to develop her own imagination of how the world worked, a very simple and still efficient model: Her family was on top of a pyramid and all people below them, existed only to serve her needs. This imagination received its sanction and became a fixed idea, when her father congratulated her on her strong sense of rank, when he was rather drunk and watched her treat the a maid badly.
The other thing, Catherine learnt to enjoy, was having control of everything and anyone. The first object of her studies in this respect was her governess, who flattered her ceaselessly and agreed with everything she did. This gave Catherine over the years a kind of compensation for real self-confidence, which was most efficiently replaced by a strong sense of self-worth. She received confirmation for her deeds and attitudes from everywhere despite her indifferent parents, e.g. by interacting with the servants. Catherine perceived quite early her power and the means to make them execute all her wishes, by threatening to report anything to the Earl and she was not humble in this respect and did not mind even inventing stories. In reference to her siblings, she learnt that she might not be able to surpass them in their claim of their parents attention, but she figured out that fear gave her a very ample tool to control them, with a rough push or pinch when the adults where absent. She was convinced if she tried to behave in every regard like her father, she would someday win his attention.
Her relationship to her mother did not change very much in the following years; it only became more impersonal on the only day of her life, on which her ladyship put her food down and had some influence on her husband. Matlock Hall held only one very valuable piano forte, which had come as a part of her dowry and her ladyship feared of its safety when Catherine was near it. During one of her wild lonely games in the music room, the little girl had picked a candleholder and tried to defend herself against one of the Earl's dogs, who tried to get hold of her leg. Not knowing how to rid herself from the huge monster, when no one reacted to her screaming, she threw the heavy thing at the dog, which was too quick for her. With a loud bang, it landed on the piano forte and at least managed to scare the dog away and summon her ladyship and some servants. Seeing the candleholder laying on her pianoforte, the lady rushed towards it instead to her daughter and saw one of the keys being slightly damaged and started sobbing. Being disturbed by this uproar out of his sleep, the Earl arrived from his study, summoned by his favourite dog's howling. Without a look to Catherine, he ran towards and perceived that one of its ears was bleeding from of a little injury. Soon, Catherine was detected as being the culprit, and the Earl was beside himself with rage, for the dogs were the most beloved creatures in his life. In his anger and fed up with his wife's complains, the Earl gave her the promise that Catherine would never be allowed to learn any instrument because of her wilderness. Although, the gentleman was usually quite good at neglecting promises, he never broke that one, for his dogs were too important to him.
When everybody had left the room, Catherine stood there motionless, still hiding her bleeding hand, which the dog had marked with its teeth, behind her back. She felt as if a door had been shut right in front of her, for she knew how fond her father was of music, the only thing which he really enjoyed besides his more immoral favourite pastimes. The only thing which had induced him to marry her ladyship besides her youth, suitability and origin had been her superior performance on the piano, for it built a refuge for him, away from himself and his reality; it allowed him to dream and be innocent once again. These had been the only opportunities, when Catherine had seen her parents together in her own room without any arguments, therefore, she had looked forward to the time when she would been the one to delight her papa. Yet, her mother had denied her this happiness and consequently, she intensified her daughter's dislike of her. Despite this disappointment, Catherine was from now on convinced that she was very talented and would have been the only one to bring her father all the joy music could.
Part III: Puberty
Nothing of great importance happened in the years before Catherine's debut in society which would be worth mentioning, but a fragmentary picture is perhaps more annoying than nothing at all and so a deeper insight into the time, in which the young girl was supposed to bloom, is inevitable. Yet, nothing happened, no miracle occurred and the fat, little caterpillar was not miraculously transformed into a beautiful butterfly. Of course, Catherine gained some height. In fact she grew so tall that it was unacceptable for a girl, who wants to be a lady someday, her mother snapped very disgustedly.
Receiving this renewed sample of her eldest daughter's obstinacy, none can blame her ladyship when she left Matlock Hall just as soon as her other two more promising children were old enough to be sent to famous educational institutes. Not seeing any reasons why she should be doomed to such a dull life on the secluded estate, her ladyship decided to leave the confines behind her and follow the example of her husband, by being constantly absent. Ridding herself of all hindrances and unimportant trifles such as maternal duties, she set off for Bath, where she rented a house in an upscale neighbourhood and indulged in her popularity and large number of important acquaintances, who were especially attracted by her title and tried to take advantage of her. Her ladyship's happiness was harmoniously brought to sheer blissfulness when she was able to conquer a paramour, who, being rather myopic, exploited her financially as much as he could; compensation for his unbiased devotion. The Earl himself never complained about his wife's increased expenses, for he was far to preoccupied by his gentlemanly pursuits such as gambling, which kept him constantly in London. Thus, the two of them were both rather satisfied with their fates and lived all too happily beyond their income.
Catherine never regretted the absence of the other family members from Matlock Hall, for she was, despite the constantly drunkenness of the housekeeper, the ruler in the house; the servants had learnt to fear her and soon figured out that she was not as weak as her mother. Having none with which to compare herself to, Catherine's self-confidence developed in abundance, although she refrained tactfully from looking into a mirror. This was a wise decision for a young and inexperienced girl, for it spared her a sorrowful process of recognition. Indeed, nature had not bestowed upon her too many, or rather no advantages of outward beauty, for being as headstrong as Catherine and growing without gaining the weight or curves of a feminine figure, she had to be punished somehow. At the age of fourteen, she did not fit anymore into her body, being spindle-legged and as thin as a rake. She resembled a beanpole more than a human being, her proportions being so unbalanced in every respect. Being, thus, lanky and a little hydrocephalus, her appearance was not even slightly improved by her long thin hair, which had inspired her father one day to the witty remark that the cook could use his daughter's hair instead of wasting money for chives. This lovely picture of maidenly beauty and grace was completed by two huge watery murky green eyes, constantly starring at something which did not agree with her rather yellowish complexion. Yet the most significant parts of Catherine were her long thin mouth, which usually displayed the hint of a pout of disgust, complimented by her enormous, hooked nose.
With all her family members being gone, Catherine almost forgot about her mother and siblings and took great pleasure in indulging in the fantasy of being a half-orphan. This imagination could not even be pretended to be true in her daily life, due to her father's constant absence and not being attracted by the idea of feeling totally like a deprived child, she sometimes longed for her father and wrote him long letters, which were never answered.
Thus were the circumstances and the base, from which Catherine set off to explore herself and the world, and being the only inhabitant of Matlock Hall whose opinion mattered to her, she was her own lawgiver. Guided by Mrs. Jenkins' constant flattery and praise, Catherine developed a perfect heliocentric understanding of the world with herself as the sun. She learnt her lessons as well as it can be expected from a person like herself and in such situations, not displaying any interest in a particular subject besides calculating. Numbers held a strange fascination for her and she never grew tired of adding sums or subtracting, for they obeyed her biding and never tried to leave their proper place. Writing an essay or a story never equally agreed with Catherine or gave her the slightest feeling of pleasure, for her imagination preferred to indulge clear and predicable fields, which did not demand any special attention or efforts. Yet, Catherine understood enough about the ways of the world to accept her fate without complaint and tried to learn what was expected of young lady. Instead of being allowed to investigate further into mathematics, she was plagued with incomprehensible and useless things like foreign languages, drawing and history, whereas the last was her least favourite; she had clearly no interest in hearing about other people's lives, which were so wholly unconnected to her own.
The only person who managed to stir a sparkle of interest in Catherine was Elizabeth I of England, in whom the young girl saw the real extent of what true power meant. Realising the need to know every little detail of what was going on and every task, which had to be accomplished, she followed both the steward and the housekeeper around and tried to learn through observation, though she would never have admitted it, perhaps even to herself. When this practise did not bestow her with much information, she condescended to talk to the servants so decidedly her inferior and developed a real obsession with details. After a bit of time, the servants got used to the constant inquisition and supplied the girl with the knowledge she demanded. Still, being her father's child, Catherine never forgot her the dignity in her interactions with those below; she owned her station in life and so developed an air of condescension when addressing her inferiors. She would often take such a position before a maid or servant, who, being confronted with this display of premature arrogance and haughty, laughed aloud or the pretended to ignore her, when they would invariably be pestered a number of trifles including the most mundane of how to fold linen or hold a tray. Yet, one maid had made the mistake of underestimating the precocious person, who belonged to that recognizable shrill voice, which could ascend to a true crescendo of indignation. Indeed, Catherine looked red when she realized her own weakness, readjusted the rags of her self-esteem and slapped the girl across her face. It is impossible to describe who was more surprised, the maid, the housekeeper alerted by the uproar, or Catherine herself. Being afraid of any consequences, the old woman ushered the crying and astonished servant girl towards the kitchen, leaving Catherine alone in the hallway. With disgust, she looked at her hand and robbed it against her gown.
From this day on, Catherine decided never to ask any question again which could bring her into such an embarrassing situation or lure attackers to her weaknesses. This experience taught the girl that you have to have an opinion about everything and never to ask any questions again which could bring her into such an embarrassing.
Yet, how should a young girl set off to explore the world in the confines of Matlock Hall? This hindrance did not discourage the determined young lady, for she believed herself to be already quite accomplished and wise. She simply had to have a high opinion of herself because none else had one. Mrs. Jenkins did not count in that respect and furthermore, she would have never contradicted her young mistress, as she was far too happy to have a home and someone to take care of after the sudden death of her husband, which now left her lonely, unprotected and widowed at the tender age of eighteen. Being rather lazy and not deeming too much effort necessary to improve her mind, Catherine was very satisfied with what Matlock Hall had to offer her and so decided upon the library as the field of her exploration. Not wishing for too much trouble, Catherine scorned the big heavy leather volumes containing the knowledge and wisdom of many clever men and focused her attention on the much smaller and more handy copies of the most recent novels someone had left there. As Catherine never remembered having seen her father seen reading, she could not take him as her model in this respect and had to trust her own good sense. Flipping through different oeuvres, her mind was soon settled on the novels, for they were easier to read and definitely shorter. Mrs. Jenkins shuddered in seeing them in her protégée's hand. Thus, the thought of doing something which weak women like her governess and her mother did not dare do added to the temptation of reading those books, for she admired herself in doing something which would demand bravery, a character trait which her father would surely praise in his daughter. This was her great act of rebellion as a teenager.
As soon as she had rid herself of her governess, she seated herself comfortably in an armchair and eagerly opened the first page. Yet reading awhile, she felt rather bored and annoyed by the ever-fainting heroines who reminded her very distastefully of her mother.
About a hundred novels and two years later, her disgust of this feeble women was firmly settled upon in her mind as much as an ardent admiration for the male heroes, who all resembled her dear papa. All of them were good-looking, intelligent, spirited, courageous and daring, altogether knights in shining armour, which were perfectly suited to conquer a girl's heart and establish an ideal picture of manhood, which no living young man despite her father could have fulfilled. To her great delight, Catherine found an old likeness of her youthful father with a curly black mane and treasured it as her most precious possession, carrying it constantly in her pocket. Even such a brittle and self-centred person as Catherine is prone to daydreaming provided with such food for her imagination, therefore she took great pleasure in putting herself in the place of Elizabeth I, condescending gracefully to listen to his raptures about her being a lovely creature and the queen of her heart. She would accept her lover's proposal only after a long period of consideration and probation, for it was very clear to her that giving her hand to any man was a great concession on her side. She was very convinced that not even the most appealing hero of a novel could be worthy of her. From what she had seen in her parents' marriage and learnt in novels, she was persuaded that one had to have the leading part and control in a relationship, consisting of a superior and an inferior participant. For her, it was without question, which her part would belong to her.
Now, nearly aged sixteen, Catherine had reached a stage in her life, when she longed for more than the confines of Matlock Hall could offer and she yearned for a more suiting frame for herself, for Mrs. Jenkins could not bestow her with all the attention and admiration she needed to preserve her precarious self-esteem. Therefore, Catherine could hardly wait for her debut, though she was aware that she was not yet old enough. A constant feeling of discontent deepened the frown on her forehead and the pouted expression never left her face. Having understood early that to be able to come out, she had to learn to live up to everything which society demanded from a young lady, though she disliked most of them and scorned them in her heart. That she lacked any real grace or talent at everything, especially dancing, must not be mentioned here.
The appropriate occasion seemed to present itself, when her father, pressed by his debts and wishing to throw dirt at his creditors, decided to host a very informal gathering at Matlock Hall which was supposed to serve as proof of undiminished wealth by presenting all the grandeur left not destroyed by the mismanagement of impoverished condition. Of course, neither the Earl nor his family had to suffer from the expenses, only the tenants and other unimportant inferiors.
One pleasant summer night, which helpfully concealed all the signs of a building in decay and connived deceit, an illustrious circle of people assembled on the terraces of the old mansion to indulge themselves in a garden party, where the celebration had been transferred to because the interior was in an unpresentable state. Wine and oeur d'oeuvres were exquisite, the guests in state of gaiety, which alcohol had furthered to the host's delight. All seemed quite ready to deceive themselves that the Earl's charm was proof of his continued fortune and accept that the facts about his bankruptcy were only bad rumours, spread by envious people to bring the most celebrated dandy of London society into disrepute. Yet, some were stirred out of their illusion when they became aware of the children standing in a far corner of the terrace, among them the heir of the earldom, a good-looking twelve-year-old boy, holding his youngest sister's hand, a very charming girl with blond curls and huge blue eyes. A few meters away from them stood a girl, about fifteen years old, who alerted all the people around her with her striking appearance, a very grotesque prospect to be true. Standing there, with her hands outstretched, her mouth open, she starred at a young man with curly dark hair about her age. Suddenly, as if a bee stung her, she leapt forward and tried to crab the young man's coattail, screaming, "You are suitable. You have to propose now!" Yet, in her zeal, she knocked her little sister Anne down, to whom the young man, George Darcy rushed and helped tenderly up, throwing a disgusted look at Catherine.
Catherine's immediate removal from the feast was accompanied by a roar of laughter and her father's angry voice, who feared a disaster. After this night, Catherine never read any more novels, disliked her younger sister and her beau passionately and burned her cherished likeness.
Part IV: Adolescence
Nothing had changed much at Matlock Hall when the eighteenth return of the most unhappy day in the earl's wife's life returned, for no one seemed to remember its significance but a young woman standing at a window gazing out in the black dark night. Although the estate itself fought a fruitless battle against the ravages of time and the greedy little teeth of decay, the only current inhabitant of the owner family was filled, or rather choked up, with the dignity and self-worth of a noble line for which this old house stood.
Turning around to the bustle and noise in her room, Catherine instructed the maids to pack her trunks to the minute detail and supervised all their efforts without lifting a single finger; her watery eagle eyes followed the smallest movement. Her scrutiny did not escape the smallest aberration from her orders and she could suddenly breakout of her lethargy, like a furtive bird-of-prey, condemning the culprit, a maid who had thoughtlessly folded her gowns into less than a perfect square. This was followed by assaulting her verbally, leaving the frightened little creature not knowing in which direction to flee. Though used to the ways of their mistress, the servants could not explain the new increase in her oddity, an observation which leads to the inevitable conclusion that a change must have taken place at Matlock Hall, though unnoticed by the public. Though it may have been considered by many as being of minor importance, Catherine herself contradicted this view by uncharacteristic busyness.
The Earl of Matlock, occupied by his gentlemanly pursuits in London, conducting the life of man of fortune, a title he could no longer truly claim, happily threw all his money out the window. Yet, in a rare moment of clarity, strolling through the town after a night of gambling and alcohol, he wasted a lone thought on his eldest daughter upon seeing a very ugly cat. Of course she could not live forever at Matlock Hall with her old spinster governess. He feared that her additional demands on his purse would prevent his buying the new stallion he so particularly desired, which meant he needed to buy it. Yet, the only way of getting rid of his most worthy daughter was arranging a marriage, charging her husband for all the costs and entrusting him with her future financial needs. Though this plan was particularly appealing, the earl was a man of calculation and he knew the chances Catherine had on the wedding market. The only positive aspect he could recall about her person were neither advantages of appearance nor character, for his fatherly love did not conceal her numerous deficits in the light of his scrutiny. Furthermore, his indifference made him the most rigorous and impartial judge and thus, the only bright and important fact of his eldest daughter's existence was her being his daughter, the descendent of a noble line, as much as her whole being might have brought disgrace to their name. Still, he was aware of the truth and even his vanity could not deny him that even this quality could persuade any suitable young gentleman to marry her, for it simply did not outweigh the faults of a dowerless and ugly young woman. Having reached this point, the earl was about to develop his justified anger at his eldest daughter, who might prevent him from buying the much needed stallion by her becoming an old maid and forcing him to pay for her all her life long. Notions crossed the earl's train of thoughts, but the fact that Catherine was his daughter made it impossible for him to demand that she provided for herself. His name and ancestry forbade it. Thus, marriage presented itself as the only possible and legal way of putting an end to her demand on his constantly shrinking fortune.
All this consideration led the earl to the inevitable conclusion that Catherine had to come out and catch a husband as soon as possible, though he profoundly refused to bear expenses of it, for his eldest daughter had never been a promising investment unlike his other two children. Nearly entering a state of despair because he feared that he might have to deny himself a wish, the earl was very relieved when his cleverness provided him with a solution to his dilemma, which from now on was considered as having been non-existent. An elderly relation of his gave a yearly masque-ball in London and had always begged him to send his eldest daughter to her and allow her to chaperone her at her first ball. Having always declined this offer because of deeming the old lady not worthy of hosting a ball for an earl's, he was now very ready to pay a visit to his great admirer, favour her with his charm and talking her into bearing all the costs and making her think he did her a great favour. Thus, a too wonderful gown for Catherine was ordered, her departure form Matlock Hall scheduled, and the earl praised himself and smiled complacently. A mask ball and the lime light of the evening would prevent any interested young man from being driven away by his daughter's striking appearance on their first encounter. The noble sound of his name and the official prospect of her large dowry might be enough he persuaded himself to marry her off within the next two months. The other positive effect of his decision was that he did not have to take the trouble of begging his wife to leave Bath and her myopic paramour to chaperone her least favourite child. Little did he know that his wishes would remain only pleasant dreams.
Catherine arrived at London and was received very warmly by the widow, whose delight of being chosen as the chaperone for the debut of the charming earl's eldest daughter changed to a sense of obligation after a closer acquaintance. The girl did not resemble her father at all. To both ladies' satisfaction the social and polite intercourse was limited to a minimum, for Catherine preferred to remain in her rooms instead of being continuously contradicted and criticised.
The evening of the mask ball finally arrived and Catherine walked down the staircase to attend the social gathering, which she believed to be held in her honour. Many admiring eyes followed her on her way down, for an expensive gown and a handy hairdresser can even bestow on Catherine the presence of beauty, especially as a huge feather mask covered all of her face, a treat provided by the thoughtful hostess herself. Indeed, the evening could have been a success, for many a man was attracted to the earl's daughter by her title, connections and especially her officially large dowry, but Catherine had to dance and speak. Though some might interject that these occupations are common on an occasion and that it would appear strange to stand somewhere in a corner motionless and silent like a statue, the latter would have been the better way for Catherine to present herself to a world, which did not know about her geocentric understanding of the world. Her whole conduct was not looked upon favourably and after one dance, her partners excused themselves to protect their poor toes from being. None took a second look of Catherine to get a glimpse on her inner beauty, for her conceit, being opinionated and self-centred made them believe that there was none.
After her disastrous debut, Catherine's life did not change much, for her father made her return to Matlock Hall as soon as possible to spare his name further disgrace. Almost ten years passed, of which none was willing to bestow an improvement on Catherine and had she been addressed on that possibility, she would have been deeply offended, for she continued to be very fond of herself. Nothing could change this belief. Time seemed not to move on at all. Catherine looked older and older and the only charm which might have been given to her by her youth was totally gone. Like the old mansion itself, she suffered from decay and bore its scars. Despite her devotion to her father, the relationship to her family was still marked by indifference and the sudden mysterious death of her mother had left her wholly untouched. Her brother's marriage to a young lady of fortune, whom he dearly loved and admired, did not interest her at all, for the young couple preferred to reside in London instead of Matlock Hall. Catherine felt really disgusted by their mutual attachment, which rendered their behaviour ridiculous and reminded her too strongly of the hated novels. The only change in her family circle which disturbed her at all was her younger sister's marriage to George Darcy soon after her debut. She begrudged Lady Anne the passionate regard and devotion of her husband, Catherine's former object of admiration. It was her greatest embarrassment. Catherine felt as if being stabbed by the praise and attention her father bestowed on his youngest daughter upon her marrying one of the richest men in the country. This wound never healed and the more Catherine's own attempts of receiving such a positive reaction from her father failed, the more her complexion became sullen and yellow.
Yet, when Catherine had nearly reach her twenty-eighth birthday, she believed that her hour had finally arrived. Having fallen asleep in the library on a huge sofa, she was startled out of her slumber by her father's angry voice. She suppressed the reflex to jump up and greet him happily, when she perceived another man speaking. "Well, Fitzwilliam, I demand at least a compensation for the fortune you owe me. I know pretty well that you can persuade others to believe in the fairy tale of your abundant wealth, but I am not the simpleton for whom you have always mistaken me, I can distinguish between truth and fiction." - Here a nasty laugh followed, before the voice, which Catherine identified as the one of Sir Lewis de Bourgh, resumed without the earl's retort. "The only thing you still possess and I lack completely are connections and title. With the prospect of an alliance between our families, which could be even sweetened by the charms of your beautiful Anne, I could possibly be persuaded to partake in your comedy and help you to keep up your show of...". His voice trailed off and Catherine, feeling anger raise within her, which reddened her cheeks and made her sweat, waited for her father's answer, a few words to deny these insults and show this upstart, where his rightful place was. To talk in such an infamous way to someone so much higher in rank than himself! Catherine, was steaming with wrath, but was startled by the gleeful and resigned tone of her father's voice, "At least Anne is safe from you! It must have missed your notice that she is married to Darcy. If things were not as desperate as they are, I would challenge you to a duel, for you dared to even think about an alliance between my family and your new money, but ..." Sir Lewis de Bourgh interrupted the earl, rubbing his hands, "... but things are as they are and you are in my hands. Such pride as yours must have an especially high fall and I will ensure that it will be very painful if my wishes are not fulfilled!" Never had Catherine seen her father give in and she was tempted to accuse him of treason in allowing to see their noble name such disgraced, when she was strangely touched by his burying his head in his hands. Without pause, she jumped up from her sofa and, like the angel of revenge in a crumbled dress, charged towards the astonished Sir Lewis de Bourgh, erecting herself to her full height - she was about a head taller than he- and addressed him thus, "I am as well a daughter of the Earl ..."
Both men, especially Sir Lewis de Bourgh, were rather intimidated and starred long at Catherine, before the implication of her words sunk in. Seeing light at the end of a tunnel, the earl pulled himself together and soon gained the upper-hand over his frightened opponent. Throughout their conversation and while an agreement was signed, Catherine stood next to her father like a bodyguard and was satisfied and filled with hopes as everything happened according to her wishes.
Her fate was settled.
Part IV: Adulthood
Indeed, there is not much left to add to Lady Catherine's story. Her husband's expectations in his bride and marriage were greatly deceived. Where he had been sure to find a meek and docile creature, he encountered an iron-will, to which he had to succumb to on the first day of their married life. The wedding night was the longest time they ever spent in each other's company and they made sure that is was the first and last time. The only issue on which they actually agreed was their mutual dislike. Fortunately, Sir Lewis was not obliged to endure such homely felicity any longer because he left earth quite timely for his wife's taste shortly after the birth of their sickly baby daughter.
Lady Catherine wore her black mourning attire quite joyfully in the prospect of inheriting her husband's money, yet as soon as the attorney informed her that everything would go to her daughter, she dressed in bright colours again. Nonetheless, Lady Catherine would not be Lady Catherine if her heliocentric view of the world and Mrs. Jenkin's appraisal had not restored her to her usual cheerfulness. Another black cloud in her grey sky was the marriage of her youngest sister to George Darcy, for her ladyship could never understand why such a model man wasted himself on her undeserving younger sibling, whereas she was available. Admitting to herself that she suffered from severe jealousy was impossible, so she blamed everyone but herself and concentrated on assuming her new role of queen of the great kingdom of Rosings. The petty detail that she only adorned this title on behalf of her daughter simply escaped her mind. How much pleasure and benefit her new subjects deprived from her constant guidance and supervision the author leaves for the reader to determine.
At least in motherhood Lady Catherine found some contentedness, for her daughter was so sickly, meek and colourless that she was never likely to develop any kind of personality of her own. She was no competition to her mother and that is the only reason why she was tolerated. Furthermore, her lack of any particular talent or accomplishment gave he mother a great opportunity to improve her fictional skills, for there was not enough substance in her child so that Lady Catherine had to make up the deficit with what one would call exaggeration. Moreover, the proud and devouted mother could not even mask the truth to her own eyes that her offspring would never turn into a true asset, for the ungrateful little darling even failed to gain her grandfather's attention at the tender age of four and half months. All the efforts of appeasing the Earl, who was disgusted by his eldest daughter's choice of a husband, did not result in anything because he simply died to early in a duel to learn that his grandchild received his favourite daughter's name, Anne. The Earl had had a very selective memory indeed, for he simply chose to forget why he had to accept such a son-in-law into his family. He never actually acknowledged her ladyship's only heroic deed. Understandably, Lady Catherine held a lifelong grudge against little Anne and the only way, in which the unfortunate girl could have redeemed herself fully in her mother's eye and change the status quo from a mere existence as a shadow to an independent life would have been to marry her aunt's, Lady Anne Darcy's, only son Fitzwilliam. Yet, as we know, this was never to happen and therefore there is not much more to be said about the relationship between mother and daughter. Anne would never be more than an afterthought for Lady Catherine, for she was destined to fail to avenge her mother and punish the flesh and blood of the only man, who had the audacity to neglect Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Indeed, the only trait of her daughter's personality the mother considered with some degree of strange satisfaction was her weak disposition. Lady Catherine thought would guarantee an unhappy marriage for any husband.
For the author, it remains only to add that Anne eventually managed to fight off her mother's loving care with the help of another cousin of hers. After their return from Gretna Green it was his firm hand and iron will to force the mother to leave Rosings for another establishment in Bath and allow her daughter to breath freely for the first time in her life. Lady Catherine's heliocentric perspective was not touched by this change and she continued as she had always done before.
Yet, most of the events leading to this surprising turning point have been described by a much greater author and would expand the limits of this analysis. Therefore, I can only conclude that I no longer question Lady Catherine's personality, for she was what she was.