"William, your uncle and I," began Mrs.Fitzwilliam, turning to her nephew at the dinner table the next evening, "have decided that, if it is agreeable to you, you must stay here until your parent's and sister's leave." She looked up into his face (he was decidedly taller than everyone except his uncle Fitzwilliam) with pleasant expectation of his delight.
"Well, um, aunt, that is most kind of you, but I think I must remain where I am- it is better to stay as close to my studying quarters." He looked down with unpleasant expectation of their disappointment.
"That is very wise," began Mr.Collins, beaming with pride at his son's dedication. His wife, on the other hand, was obviously disappointed, and Anne was on the point of exclaiming her protestations. Catherine was still and quiet. She feared her brother would always keep a distance.William looked at her questioningly.
"I understand," Colonel Fitzwilliam said in his usual agreeableness. "A young man must be dedicated to his work! Yes, indeed." They all smiled and nodded in agreement.
Later that day Anne and Catherine were busy at the piano,waiting for William to arrive after his study hours. Their parent's soon came in and listened to their playing. Some of their little cousins were about as well, amusing themselves with books and dolls.
"Mr.Hamlington and Miss Hamlington!" announced the doorman with a bang of the door. Anne blushed slightly-Catherine, noticing it, thought that her sister had been thinking too much about a certain person. Their aunt swiftly came in ushering the guests. Greetings were exchanged, and then Miss Isabella Hamlington took a seat close to Anne and Catherine.
"I am so pleased to meet you!" she exclaimed, looking from Catherine to Anne. "My brother seemed to be very impressed with you and your parent's." Isabella smiled sweetly.
"Thank you, your brother is very kind," Cathy replied."We did not know he had a sister until our brother, William Collins, mentioned it." Anne thought she saw Isabella blush faintly.
"Your brother is too kind. Yes, he and my cousin are good friends."
"I see," Anne said graciously, not wishing her to be uncomfortable."And your mother, I hope she is well?"
"Yes, thank you. We have a country seat, but my mother thought that the business of London would rouse her from her complaints."
"I hope it does," said Catherine kindly."We are returning to Hunsford at the end of the month."
"Ah, yes! You live in Lady Catherine De Burgh's parish, do you not? I think my brother mentioned it-yes, he said your father was very-enthusiastic about his Lady's generosity." Isabella looked down smiling. Catherine was not pleased with this last remark.
"Their are few people as grateful as my father," she said, looking down as well, but without a smile. Anne looked with surprise at her sister, and attempted to excuse her by saying,
"Lady Catherine is very kind to us. Are you acquainted with the Darcy family?"
"Yes! I am. Well, that is to say, I have heard of them, but have never been introduced. But, I think they are in town, that is, I think some of the family is. You see, Mr.Darcy's sister, Georgianna is to be married, and they are arranging her trousseau." Miss Hamlington looked proud of her knowledge of affairs.
Anne smiled with excitement. "How pleasant! I do hope we are able to see them. My mother and Mrs.Darcy were close friends-" At this moment, Mr.Collins came up to them hastily.
"My dears, did I hear the name of Darcy mentioned?" he inquired of Anne.
"Yes, you did father. Miss Hamlington was just informing us that some of the family are in town, preparing for Miss Georgianna's marriage."
"I see, I see. This is some news. Miss Hamlington, you will understand that Mr.Darcy is the nephew of the generous Lady Catherine De Burgh, upon whose beneficiary kindness my family and I depend. My dear sister in law Maria is married to Mr.Darcy's cousin as well, so we are quite closely connected," he concluded with benevolent smile.
"Indeed, that must be pleasant indeed," Isabella replied graciously. Mr.Collins walked away with a bow, and Isabella turned to Anne. "I had the impression that you had never met the Darcy's?"
"No, um, we have not. You see, we cannot often get away, and Mr.Darcy, when he does visit his aunt, it is usually briefly, and without his family."
"Yes," Catherine agreed."Though our parent's have met, the offspring has never, but we are quite anxious to. Are the Miss Darcy's very accomplished?"
"I must suppose they are, very. But they are not much talked of in London. They are more of rich country person's-they are not often in the city."
"I see," replied Anne and Catherine, nodding.
"Mr.William Collins!" announced the doorman, once again startling everyone in the room.
To be continued...