Mrs. Jenkinson and Anne were together in the garden when the servant arrived. The former had just finished arranging Miss de Bourgh’s footstool and had begun arranging a soft blanket across the younger woman’s lap, despite the pleasant weather that day. She did not want to chance Anne’s catching a chill. How she doted on Anne and what great satisfaction she derived in so doing.
“Pardon me, Miss de Bourgh,” the tall, lanky man uttered.
Mrs. Jenkinson ceased fussing with the blanket. Speaking in Anne’s stead, she asked, “What is it, Mr. Thomas?”
“Lady Catherine has requested Miss de Bourgh's presence in the drawing room.”
The elderly woman peered affectionately at Anne, whose countenance now showed a peculiar shade of dismay.
“Do you have any idea what her ladyship wants?”
“I can't say that I do,” he humbly replied. “However, Lady Catherine is not alone,” he offered.
Her brow arched, Mrs. Jenkinson asked, “Who is with her?”
“Her ladyship's nephew Mr. Darcy is also present in the drawing room.”
“Very well,” she said, effectively dismissing the footman.
When they were alone, Anne said, “If my mother wants to see me and she is with my cousin Darcy then there is no doubt of the reason for her summons.” She took a series of calming breaths. “Oh! Mrs. Jenkinson, what am I to do? I have but one of two choices, either of which will lead to disappointment for one of the two people in the world who mean the most to me.” Casting the blanket aside, Anne rose from her seat and drifted towards a small pond. “I feel my situation is hopeless.”
“Miss Anne, my dear, you and I have discussed this matter at length, have we not?”
Anne nodded. “Indeed, we have. I have always known this day would come, but that does not make the prospect less daunting.”
Mrs. Jenkinson went to Anne and took her by the hand. She gave it a gentle squeeze. “I shall be happy to accompany you if you think it will help make things easier.”
“Oh! I am certain that you being there will be a great deal of comfort to me. You know how much I depend on you.”
“Indeed. Now let us go to the drawing room. You know how Lady Catherine does not like to be kept waiting.”
Anne hesitated a bit as though she was not quite ready to face her relations. In seeing this, the caring companion placed her arm about the younger woman’s waist and commenced gently coaxing her along. “Come, Miss Anne, you must not be afraid to speak your mind. The time to do so is long overdue.”
After waiting quietly for what seemed like an hour, but was actually no longer than fifteen minutes judging by the ticking clock, the only sound in the room, Darcy sighed in relief when Anne and her companion walked into the room.
“Mother,” Anne said in a voice barely above a whisper. “You wanted to see me.”
“Indeed I do. Mrs. Jenkinson, I am pleased that you attended my daughter as well. The more witnesses there are to my daughter’s testimony, the better for everyone concerned.”
The elderly companion smiled in acknowledgment of her welcome and chose a seat by the wall, away from the others.
“Might I suggest we all have a seat?” Lady Catherine said, silently directing her daughter to sit next to her cousin on the sofa. At length, her ladyship said, “Anne, your cousin has informed me that you have no wish for a union with him—that the favorite wish of your dearly departed aunt, Lady Anne, whose name you were christened with, means nothing to you. Is that true?”
Anne turned and studied Darcy’s expression, but only for a second or two before diverting her eyes away. Biting her lower lip, she said, “No, Mother.”
“Speak up, my child. Is it true that you do not desire this union?”
In a clearer voice, Anne said, “No, Mother, it is not true.”
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