A bright but windy morning, Catherine ran (in an unladylike manner) down the stairs from her room and into the breakfast room. Anne was still grooming- she always took longer than Catherine, but was never unladylike or disheveled, so her parents excused the amount of time her grooming required.
"Father, father, its been a fortnight- have you decided-whether we are to go to London or not?!", she eagerly inquired of Mr.Collins, as he sat placidly eating his meats.
"My dear, more ladylike behavior would be appropriate. I'm sure Lady Catherine would not approve.", he reprimanded, with a deeply disappointed nod.
"Never mind what Lady Catherine de Bourgh thinks- it is simply unacceptable in the house, my dear.", her mother stated with a look at her father and a slight smile at Catherine.
Anne walked in at this moment, and bidding her family members, "Good morning" with a smile, sat down and began to help herself to breakfast. She was as anxious as Catherine, but thought it best to allow her father to inform them of his decision in his timing.Catherine was now seated, and both girls looked almost impatiently at their father now and then. He deliberately ate his meal, but eventually placed his napkin on the table and leaned back.
"My dear daughters, my thought process, when considering whether we should reside in London for a time or no, was very-complex. As you must know, there are many aspects to be taking into consideration. Your mother's health, the parsonage keeping, if the man who is to take my place is of reputable character and competence, expenses, and the fact that the length of our journey may tax Lady Catherine de Bourgh's loneliness and opinion..."
" Mr.Collins, I hardly think Lady Catherine would mind- I'm sure she would not have recommended us to go if she were against it- she will not be lonely without us, I am sure.", Mrs.Collins said softly, looking down at her plate.
"Oh, uh, um, well, my dear, I disagree. But, nonetheless, I have thought deeply about this, and am convinced that we should go. As a minister, I feel it is my responsibility to take the place of another minister- and to give the young man that is taking my place some experience as a clergyman, as he so desires.", he replied. As he concluded, he smiled and his face beamed.
"I think that is very sensible, my dear. And I think my health, and our daughter's manners in society, would be improved by this trip." Mrs.Collins looked satisfied, and rose to leave the table. " Shall we talk privately about arrangements, Mr.Collins? We shall have to visit Lady Catherine this evening."
"Oh Catherine! I am so pleased about father's decision! Are you not simply delighted?!", asked Anne, as they began their usual walk directly after breakfast.
"I don't find so much pleasure in these things as you do, but yes, I am pleased. Father's reason's for going impressed me very much. Were they not godly?"
"Yes. But I must confess, mother's health has worried me-", she began, but paused, as they came face to face with a young gentleman, also walking in the woods.
"Oh, Mr.Reading, how are you?", inquired Anne (with a curtsy) of the pleasant and plain looking young man,as the sisters stopped in front of him.
He bowed and smiled at both of them. "Miss Collins, Miss Catherine! I am so pleased to run into you.I am very well, thank you. And how are you both?"
"Very well, thank you Mr.Reading. Anne, I am going to pick some wildflowers by that rock- will you excuse me, Mr.Reading?", Catherine said. Anne looked at her with a reluctant expression, her face shielded by her bonnet when she turned sideways.
"Of course", Anne and Mr.Reading replied at once. They laughed, and the slightest hint of a blush could be found on Anne's fair face.
" So, Miss Collins, are your parents in good health? I was just on my way to your house to reply to the note your father sent me this morning."
"Oh, yes, they are quite well. I-I was just saying to my sister that I am worried about my mother's health, though she is fine. You see, as you probably know, we are going to London, and I hope the trip will benefit her.", replied Anne,with nothing more than politeness and a slight smile. He noticed her attitude, and said
"Well, I must meet your father. Please excuse me.", and he bowed and walked past her. She looked behind her with a raised brow, and then turned and joined her sister. She was surprised he took her hints.
"Anne, whatever is the matter with you?", asked Catherine, as her sister knelt beside her.
"Whatever is the matter with you? Leaving me alone with Mr.Reading!?", Anne replied with indignation.
"I thought I was being considerate. I thought you liked Mr.Reading?"
"I do, but not in the way you think."
"But why ever not? He is very nice, and admires you. He is quite eligible."
"I am not interested in marrying a clergyman, not to mention one below middle class."
"You always have thought too much of material things, father says so. Truly, what are your prospects of finding a man above middle class?"
"Well, perhaps, if we socialize in London..."
"Ah, so you are changing your behavior towards Mr.Reading because you don't want him to have "false hopes", just in case you meet someone in London? Someone as good, but more wealthy?"
"No, not at all-", she thought for a moment, then sighed. "I suppose that is what I am doing. I don't want to be cruel, or caniving, but I must do it. Do you think I am wrong?"
"Yes, I suppose so- as long as you don't accept Mr.Reading (if he ever asks you after your behavior today) when we come back from London, just because no one better came along and asked you.", Catherune replied, with a warning look.
"I hope I would not be so base- three things would keep me from doing such a thing- integrity,consistency, and whether or not I love him. Which I do not, of course.", she said with a blush at the latter statement and anxious look at the first.
"That is wise and well said.You may not think I know of human dynamics, because I spend so much time "pouring over theology", as you and mother say, but within the human spirit is an instinct for these things, if we would only hold on to it from birth."
"You are right, Catherine.And this situation is the perfect example.", Anne smiled and took her sister's arm as they stood up and began their walk home. "I hope Mr.Reading is gone by now."
Catherine looked at her teasingly, and leaned her head on her sister's shoulder. The two sister's sauntered along, partly to enjoy the lovely weather, and to give Mr.Reading enough time to walk home.
To be continued....