Mr. Simon Carithers could not help but smile as he disembarked the ship in Southampton and set foot on English soil for the first time in seven years. He was home. He had mixed feelings; there were some unhappy recollections that would intrude, but he was happy to be in England again. He had been in America for the last seven years, having sold his estate in England to fund his endeavors, and had almost tripled his fortune. He now returned to England to purchase a new estate, reclaim his place in society, and make his wealth known to all his prior acquaintance, or specifically to one.
His agent met him on the pier. "Mr. Carithers, what a pleasure to see you again after so many years. I trust your voyage was comfortable."
"I have arrived safely, Mr. Sheffield, that will have to be sufficient. Is all arranged for my journey to London?"
"Yes, sir. All has been readied, as you directed. The coach will depart at eight tomorrow morning. I have secured lodgings for you at the hotel for the night."
"And my house in town?"
"The house is fully staffed and awaits your arrival. I have taken no tenants this season."
"That is just as well. I no longer intend to let my town home."
"There is no question as to that, sir, I assure you; now you have arrived no one thinks you will do anything but live there yourself. And, Mrs. Blakely is very much looking forward to seeing you again. I'm afraid she is all that remains of the household as it was before you went away, but I think you will be very pleased with how well she has looked after the place."
They made their way to the hotel and exchanged news and information over a quiet dinner. The next day in the coach, the two men pored over maps and letters and drawings related to several country estates that were for sale, and made a plan for touring them in the coming weeks. Mr. Carithers had but one caveat, he would not consider any property in Kent.
They arrived in London late in the evening. The next morning Mr. Carithers sent around the cards Mr. Sheffield had undertaken to have printed for him to all his former acquaintance. Within a fortnight of his being in London, he had met with half a dozen of his friends from Oxford and through this means his acquaintance was speedily expanded.
He was reading the paper one morning when an old friend, Mr. Arthur Robinson, called on him. "You have been away so long," said Mr. Robinson, "I do not know that you can make out anything reported in the newspaper."
"I have to start re-acquainting myself with the state of things somewhere."
"And do you see anything of interest?"
Mr. Carithers was perusing the society page as he replied, "I hardly recognize any of the names mentioned here. Is seven years such a length of time?"
"Come now, there must be someone you know," said Mr. Robinson.
"The Thorpes have removed to Bath," said Mr. Carithers.
"That is no great loss to London society."
"And a Mrs. Ferrars has died."
"I am afraid I have no different answer to that piece of news."
"Here is a name I recognize. Mr. Darcy of Pemberley is lately married."
"Yes so he is, to a girl from the country. Hearts are breaking all over London. But I did not know you were acquainted with him."
"No, indeed, I never met him. I only knew of him."
"Perhaps you shall meet him by and by; he has a house in town."
"I have no wish to meet him, I assure you," replied Mr. Carithers, tossing the paper aside.
"What have you against Mr. Darcy?"
"Nothing whatever," then smiling he added, "other than that he attended Cambridge."
Mr. Carithers and Mr. Sheffield embarked on their first tour of country estates soon after and were away from London almost a month. Upon returning to town, Mr. Carithers received an invitation to join Mr. Robinson and his family at Weymouth, which he happily accepted.
During an evening party at the Robinson home in Weymouth, Mr. Carithers was surprised to meet with Colonel Fitwilliam, another former acquaintance. "Carithers!" exclaimed he, "I had no notion of you being back in England! And how did you fare in America? Is it truly as wild as they say?"
"No indeed, not in Boston, where I was living. It is as civilized as any city in England."
This began a conversation in which Mr. Carithers satisfied his friend's curiosity as to the state of things across the ocean. During this exchange, Mrs. Robinson approached Colonel Fitzwilliam to inquire as to his cousin's happiness since his marriage. "I have had very few letters from Pemberley," he replied, "but I have every reason to believe he is very happy."
"And are you at all acquainted with Mrs. Darcy?"
"Yes I met her before they were married. She is a very pretty, very clever girl. My cousin has been fortunate in his choice of wife." He added the last almost wistfully.
"I beg your pardon," said Mrs. Robinson, "but I would say Mrs. Darcy has been the more fortunate of the two. What did she bring to the union besides being very pretty and very clever? I know no evil of her, of course, but he must have been very much taken with her beauty and cleverness to marry a young lady with no fortune and no family."
"And what should he care?" said Colonel Fitzwilliam. "He is rich and independent, and therefore free to do as he pleases. Not everyone has the luxury of choosing a wife with no other recommendation than being very pretty and very clever."
Mrs. Robinson laughed, "I daresay it is too much to hope to find a lady who is handsome, clever, and rich."
"I have encountered one or two," said Colonel Fitzwilliam, "but they tend to hope to elevate themselves by marriage rather than their husbands."
"It sounds as if your cousin is very attached to this young lady," observed Mr. Carithers, "that is far too uncommon I think, and even more so among those who have suffered a prior disappointment."
"A disappointment?" asked Colonel Fitzwilliam, surprised. "I know of no prior attachment on the part of my cousin."
"Indeed? I had thought from something I heard many years ago that he meant to marry one of his cousins."
"You must mean my cousin Miss Anne De Bourgh. Darcy had no thought of it, I assure you. It was always a notion of my aunt's."
"I see," said Mr. Carithers, "well I certainly wish him every happiness."
“You may be able to do so in person very soon. I expect them by the end of the week. I have been looking out a house for them and have found something very suitable. Mrs. Darcy brings one of her sisters.”
“Another pretty, clever girl with no fortune?” asked Mrs. Robinson.
“I have not met her,” replied Colonel Fitzwilliam.
“She will not do for a man who is holding out for a fortune; but,” turning to Mr. Carithers, “she may do very well for one who is rich himself.”
Mr. Carithers only smiled politely at his hostess, “I beg you would not make any matches on my behalf.”
“Let the man choose his own wife,” said her husband.
The next morning at breakfast, Mrs. Robinson mentioned the conversation again to Mr. Carithers for the pleasure of making a joke of telling him, "You must not tease the poor colonel about his cousin."
"I do not take your meaning, ma'am."
"The truth is, now that Mr. Darcy has married against Lady Catherine's wishes, she is determined to have the colonel for her daughter, but ..."
She would have continued but Mr. Carithers stopped her suddenly by exclaiming, "Her daughter? How can that be? You must be mistaken ma'am."
"Mistaken? No I assure you. Colonel Fitzwilliam confided to me himself that his aunt has expressed an expectation that he should marry Miss De Bourgh."
"My dear Mrs. Robinson, I beg you to check your information. Miss Anne De Bourgh has been dead these seven years."
"Dead?" exclaimed Mrs. Robinson. “My dear sir, how can you say so? I saw her myself not six months ago when I visited Lady Metcalfe. She is not perfectly well; she is in fact in very poor health and has been for some years; but she is certainly very much alive."
Mr. Carithers was shocked into silence. Mr. Robinson interjected, "Carithers, are you unwell? What is the matter? Why should you believe Miss De Bourgh was dead?"
Mr. Carithers simply shook his head. "Alive? No, it cannot be." He paused, then rising from his seat said, "Where is Colonel Fitzwilliam lodging?"
Anne De Bourgh sat next to Mrs. Jenkinson listening to her mother drone on to Mr. Collins about the insolence of her nephew in having married the woman he loved. The Collinses had recently returned from an extended visit to Mrs. Collins' family in Hertfordshire and Lady Catherine was determined they should now hear every thought she had had on the subject in their absence.
"When I think of the attention I showed her while she was staying at Hunsford! Mrs. Darcy indeed! How could my own nephew be taken in? I daresay if his poor mother had been alive she would never have permitted this to happen."
Anne had a headache. She always had a headache. She had been exceedingly ill these past seven years. She tired of listening to her mother and Mr. Collins. The only one in the room who ever had anything sensible to say, Mrs. Collins, wisely spoke the least.
"Colonel Fitzwilliam comes at Easter," continued Lady Catherine glancing at Anne. "He has always been a dutiful young man. Darcy, I think, was ruined by early independence."
"I am fatigued and unwell," said Anne, standing up. "I shall retire. Good night."
When alone in her room, she opened a small box she kept locked away in her trunk. She touched a lock of hair bound by a ribbon then took up a letter and, unfolding it, began reading, "My dearest Anne ...." It was stained with tears; but on this night, Anne did not cry herself to sleep.
The next morning was her twenty-fifth birthday. She dressed and ordered her phaeton to the door after breakfast. Lady Catherine asked where she deigned to go. "I am going into the village to meet with Mr. Webster."
"What are you speaking of? We do not have an appointment with Mr. Webster today."
"We do not. I do."
Lady Catherine turned abruptly to Mrs. Jenkinson and both ladies sprung to their feet.
"You cannot go out alone," said Lady Catherine.
"I do not care whether either of you comes with me." Lady Catherine nudged Mrs. Jenkinson who barely had time to pull on her bonnet and a shawl before stepping into the conveyance with Anne. Lady Catherine ordered her own carriage and followed with a little more dignity.
Mr. Webster was prepared for Miss De Bourgh. He invited her to sit and showed her some documents he had been keeping for her. By the time Lady Catherine entered the room, he was saying, "I have secured passage for you from Southampton as you requested ...."
"Passage to where?" demanded her mother.
"To America," replied Anne.
"Have you lost your mind? You are not going to America."
"Have you forgotten the day, ma'am? I have come into my fortune; but have no fear, I give you leave to remain at Rosings as long as you like."
"You give me leave?" cried Lady Catherine with great self-importance.
"Do not pretend indignation, Mother, you know very well how things stand now."
Lady Catherine held her head a little higher, "And who, pray, is to accompany you to America?"
"My cousin, Charles De Bourgh and his wife.”
“This is absurd."
"I am sorry, Mother. I wish it did not have to be this way, I assure you, but you have left me no choice."
"I have done nothing but promote your happiness and welfare.”
“Perhaps your maternal solicitude was well-meaning, but it has done nothing but make me ill.”
“How dare you speak to me in this insolent way! I will not tolerate such defiance. You will desist in this madness at once.”
“I have no wish to defy you, I assure you.” Lady Catherine seemed mollified for a moment. “My only wish is to act in a manner which I believe will result in my own happiness. If that constitutes defiance, then so be it.”
“You cannot possibly believe you will find happiness in America. It is clear you wish to punish me by saying so, but I cannot believe that to really be your intent.”
“It is my intent to sail to America as soon as may be, I assure you.”
“But why should you go so far away? Do you wish so fervently to escape me?"
Anne laughed, "My dear Mother, it has nothing to do with you."
Anne could scarcely conclude her business with Mr. Webster which, due to the presence of Lady Catherine, took twice as long. She was, in accordance with her late father's will, now placed in full possession of the entirety of her fortune. She had been preparing for this day for a long time, writing to her cousins, communicating her wishes to Mr. Webster, and setting in motion the plan she had formed years ago. The plan had required some modifications along the way, but she had long been packed and ready for her journey. Everything was in place, as a result of her careful arrangements.
Before departing on the first stage of her journey, she paid a farewell visit to Mrs. Collins who had been a good friend to her. Lady Catherine, having followed her daughter from Mr. Webster's office to Hunsford parsonage, had gone to Mr. Collins' study to vent her feelings to a willing listener, while Anne sat with Mrs. Collins, who was quicker than her husband to discern the state of things between mother and daughter on their entering the house.
“We shall miss you, of course,” said Mrs. Collins, “but must you indeed go so far away?”
“Yes. My mind has been quite made up for some years now. Mr. Webster has already secured passage for myself and my companions. It is all settled. The coachman will take me so far as Bromley, where my cousins have promised to meet me.”
Mrs. Collins took her hand. “I sincerely wish you every happiness, Miss De Bourgh, and I hope you find whatever it is you are seeking in America.”
“Thank you,” replied Miss De Bourgh, smiling, “I believe I shall.”
Mr. Collins now entered the room with Lady Catherine. “My dear Miss De Bourgh,” said he, “let me, as your moral adviser, beg you to think about what you are doing. No one can have a better idea of what is best for you than your own mother. Let her wisdom and experience be your guide. Do not allow yourself to be run away with by the impetuosity of youth. It is as likely as anything to lead you astray. You can only find real happiness through humility and obedience. ...”
Lady Catherine was nodding vigorously in agreement, but Anne had stopped listening. “Mr. Collins, my mother's care has never brought me a moment of real happiness in twenty-five years. I am convinced that if I do not act in my own best interest, then no one will.” Turning back to his wife she added, “Goodbye Mrs. Collins. You have been a good friend. I will write once I am settled.”
“Stay this madness,” cried Lady Catherine again. “I declare you are not going anywhere.”
Anne walked past her mother and out the parsonage door. She had intended to walk back to Rosings, having sent her phaeton ahead to be loaded with her trunks; but her mother ordered her into her own carriage. Anne was not too proud to obey one final directive from Lady Catherine; given the delicate state of her health, she thought it better to conserve her energy for the journey ahead.
Mrs. Jenkinson, having returned to the house in Anne's carriage, had found in her room a letter in Anne's hand giving her a very good recommendation. She wisely took that as a hint that she should perhaps prepare for her own departure from Rosings and acted accordingly.
The ladies De Bourgh traveled back from Hunsford in silence on Anne's side and the utter absence of it on Lady Catherine's. Upon their arrival, the preparations for Anne's departure were so forward that she had nothing to do but step out of her mother's carriage and into her own. Lady Catherine tried to prevent her by standing in her way.
“Mother, do not do this,” she said quietly. “Do not make a scene. I do not wish to part with you in this way. Let us part on friendly terms.”
“We shall not part at all.”
Anne shook her head and said, "So be it," as she swept past her mother and stepped into the carriage with the old coachman who was sitting in his place waiting for her. She had taken pains to win his favor for this very moment, for he would need to return and face the wrath of Lady Catherine. But he did not flinch and readily did his duty when she quietly ordered him to, “drive on,” leaving Lady Catherine standing in the front sweep.
Anne knew her mother would follow her. Her carriage was at the ready but she was not prepared for a journey and her coachman was on his way to Bromley. Anne had at least an hour or two head start. Once her trunks were unloaded, Anne bade the coachman farewell, but he was hesitant to leave her alone until Mr. Charles De Bourgh stepped out of the posting inn. The old coachman was then content to return to Rosings knowing he would be making the journey a second time before the end of the day.
When Anne entered the posting inn at Bromley with her cousin, she found Mrs. Charles De Bourgh and Miss Pope waiting inside. The latter had been a recent addition to Anne's plan. She embraced her cousin's wife affectionately and asked Miss Pope how she had left things with Lady Metcalfe.
“I told her I had taken a position with a family in Cheshire to be closer to a sickly aunt, who is my only remaining family; and that my aunt had arranged for my journey with friends who were traveling back from a visit to Ramsgate. When Mr. De Bourgh's carriage pulled up to the house, she did not even look inside it. I assure you, I shall not be missed.”
Anne smiled. “Are you quite certain then that you wish to go so far from home?”
“I was quite certain the last time you asked me,” replied Miss Pope returning her smile. “My aunt in Cheshire was indeed my last remaining family but she has been dead these six months. I have been dreaming of nothing but America since we finalized our arrangement.”
“Then we had better leave at once,” said Anne.
Their party received prompt attendance at the Bell, notwithstanding their not having mentioned Lady Catherine's name. The four entered a post carriage and set off together for Southampton. Anne began to feel better already.
Mr. Carithers traveled towards Rosings in a state of nervous anticipation. He wondered whether he would even be admitted to the house; but now that he knew Anne was alive, he was determined that nothing would stop him from seeing her himself. He had to see her, come what may.
He pulled into the front sweep and a very surprised housekeeper exited the house. No one was at home. The family were away. He had not expected that. He had been preparing himself for any eventuality but it had not occurred to him that they would all be away from home. Colonel Fitzwilliam should certainly know if his aunt was expected to be away and he had not said anything to that effect.
Mr. Carithers now directed his coachman towards Hunsford. As he passed through the village, he ordered the driver to stop at the church where he alighted to walk through the churchyard. He did not doubt Colonel Fitzwilliam's good information, but he had to check for himself. He found the grave of Sir Lewis De Bourgh, but there were no other family graves within the past twenty years.
He walked on to Hunsford Parsonage, where he had the good luck to find Mrs. Collins at home alone. “Forgive me, Mrs. Collins, for imposing on you in this way," he said to her. "I am Simon Carithers, a friend of Colonel Fitzwilliam. I have here a note of introduction from him, if you would be so kind as to accept it.”
He handed her the note and she read it quickly. “Any friend of Colonel Fitzwilliam is welcome here,” she replied.
“Thank you. Colonel Fitzwilliam felt you would be the best person for me to speak to. He suggested that I call on you first, but I confess I have already been to Rosings and discovered that the family are away. And now I come before you seeking information as to their whereabouts and perhaps, the current situation with … “ he could scarcely speak the words, “... with Miss De Bourgh and her mother.”
“I am afraid matters between them are not at all well, at present. Miss De Bourgh declared her intent of traveling to America, ....”
“Yes. Lady Catherine was very distraught and has gone to try to stop her.”
“For once I hope she shall be successful!” he cried. “But when does she sail?”
“Good God,” he cried. “Tomorrow? Are you quite certain?” He was putting on his hat even while asking these questions.
“Yes. She left Rosings for Southampton on Tuesday with the intent of departing for America on Friday, which is tomorrow.”
He shook his head in disbelief. “I might have passed her on the road hither from Weymouth.” Collecting himself as well as he could, he looked at his companion and said, “Thank you Mrs. Collins." He made his way to the door as he continued, “I beg you would forgive my abrupt departure but I must be off. I am indebted to you for your kind reception and for the very valuable intelligence you have provided.” With that he left her. He would have to travel all night to make it to Southampton by the morning.
He arrived by noon on Friday and quickly made inquiries which led him to the pier he had walked off of only two months before. There was no ship docked there. He had missed her. He entered the office and waited to speak to the clerk who was engaged with a very well dressed lady. He grew impatient and walked closer to them.
“I must see the ship's manifest for myself,” he heard the lady announce.
He looked at her as the clerk fetched the document; she was too preoccupied to notice him. She searched the list of names breathlessly then stopped suddenly and collapsed into a chair. “There it is,” she said, reading, “Miss Anne De Bourgh and there are her cousins, Mr. and Mrs. Charles De Bourgh. She has really gone.”
“I must see it for myself,” said Mr. Carithers reaching for the document. Now the lady looked at him for the first time and an expression of recognition crossed her features. She would not admit to knowing him and instead arose from her seat and, throwing the ship's manifest aside, stormed out of the office.
Mr. Carithers picked up the papers himself and looked at the names. Then waving the list at the clerk he asked “How long ago did this ship sail?”
“Not an hour, sir. The lady there watched it off; demanded that it be stopped, but there was nothing to be done. She went away but came back again to ask about the manifest.”
“When does the next ship sail for America?” he asked the clerk.
“Not for three weeks.”
“Is there a boat I can hire?” He reasoned that if the ship had been gone only an hour perhaps it could be caught.
“Don't know the answer to that, sir. You can try asking at the dockyard. Sometimes there are some smaller private yachts, but they are not usually for hire. And all the fishing boats won't be in till later in the day.”
Mr. Carithers thanked the clerk and left the office. He crossed the lane towards the direction the clerk had pointed and walked towards a cluster of men to again inquire about hiring a boat. None of them knew of any boats that had arrived in port lately, but suggested he inquire in the pub of any local residents who might have a boat for hire.
When Mr. Carithers entered the pub, he immediately perceived he was not the only one with the idea. Lady Catherine was demanding that the proprietor supply her with a boat and crew immediately. The poor man had no idea what to tell her. It was evident that anything of the kind was completely out of his power and Mr. Carithers heard enough to feel sure that he was not likely to find a boat for hire, or if he did that it would not likely catch the ship.
Lady Catherine barked at the proprietor to order her carriage to the door, turning abruptly away from him and almost into Mr. Carithers. When she saw him she stood a little taller. Unable to help herself she said, “And what is your business here?”
“To find Miss De Bourgh as soon as may be,” he answered coldly.
“You are too late,” she replied. “I suppose that must be my only comfort, that she remains divided from you.”
“Only because of your deception,” he replied.
“I did what I had to do.”
“I will find her.”
“To what purpose? Do you think she will return to you after you abandoned her?”
“I did not abandon her.”
“But she believes that you did.”
He paused for a moment as the import of her words sunk in. “I think not,” he finally replied. “She knows that you lied to both of us.”
“I would not be so sure. Do you think she would sail all the way to America if she had any thought of you?” asked the lady haughtily.
Mr. Carithers smiled. “Where do you think I have been these past seven years?”
As he turned to leave the place she stepped in his way to say, “I will get to her before you do, of that you may be certain. I have already discovered a ship departing from … but I will not tell you which port. You need only know that I shall be on a ship that departs for America within the week. I doubt you will be able to arrange passage so quickly.”
Her carriage was announced and she hastily left the place. Mr. Carithers was about to return to his own carriage when the proprietor stepped towards him to disclose, “She goes to Sidmouth, I'd wager.”
“What do you know?”
“Only that she came in here earlier to inquire as to any ships sailing to America sooner than the next one out of Southampton in three weeks. I showed her The List and she saw the earliest ship to America is sailing on Tuesday out of Sidmouth. She asked to use my office to write a letter to a Colonel Fitzwilliam in Weymouth to make arrangements for her passage. I had my boy run her letter up to the post with orders to send it express, just before she marched back into the office across the lane there ranting on about the manifest.”
“Pray, may I look at The List?”
“Certainly,” replied the man, handing him the publication. “You see the ship out of Sidmouth leaves on Tuesday,” he continued, pointing to the document, “but will stop in Liverpool and Belfast before making the crossing. She would have been better off sailing out of Deal on Thursday. You see, it arrives a full three days sooner.”
Mr. Carithers smiled to himself. “Yes, I see that. I thank you, sir,” he said, returning the document. Then after a sudden thought he asked, “The ship that departed an hour or so ago, will it stop again in England before crossing?”
“I am afraid not. It goes direct to Philadelphia.”
Mr. Carithers was a little disappointed by the loss of this last hope of intercepting Anne's ship, but was pleased to be able to arrive in America before Lady Catherine. He knew he was in a race to find Anne first. There was no telling what lies Lady Catherine might contrive to tell her, and she had a long ocean voyage ahead with nothing to do but scheme and plan her deception. No, he must get to Anne first. As he left the place to return to his carriage, all he could think of was Anne's ship sailing further and further away from him. He stopped briefly at the pier from where the ship had departed and looked towards the sea. Anne was gone. Alive, but gone; out of his reach. But only for the time being.
When Lady Catherine arrived at Colonel Fitzwilliam's hotel in Weymouth, she learned that he had removed to a house which had been taken by her other nephew, Mr. Darcy. She scoffed at the idea of Darcy being in Weymouth without her knowing of it and put it all down to the machinations of his upstart wife. Upon receiving the forwarding address for Colonel Fitzwilliam from the hotel, she made her way to the house.
Lady Catherine disdained seeking admission to any house presided over by her new niece. Indeed, nothing short of the urgency of her present circumstance would induce her to ring the bell. She was soon thereafter shown into the drawing room where she saw Mr. Darcy, Miss Darcy, Mrs. Darcy, and another young lady who must be one of the latter's sisters. Without so much as looking at the other ladies, she greeted Miss Darcy then addressed herself to her nephew saying, “Where is Colonel Fitzwilliam?”
Darcy was a little angry at the slight to his wife who now said, “Lady Catherine, what a pleasure to see you again. Perhaps you remember my sister, Miss Catherine Bennet. I hope you will be seated and take some refreshment.” She nodded to the housekeeper who was still standing at the door behind the visitor.
Lady Catherine refused to sit, requiring everyone else to remain standing. She looked at her nephew expectantly. He looked at his wife who smiled at him.
“Colonel Fitzwilliam,” he finally said, “is at Sidmouth on your orders.” He left unsaid the alacrity with which his cousin had undertaken to secure their aunt's passage to America upon receipt of her express.
“Excellent,” replied Lady Catherine. “But I had thought he could handle the business by letter. Well, he has gone in person then. So much the better.”
“May I inquire as to why you are determined to travel to America?”
“I ought not to indulge your impertinent questions since it is all your doing.”
“Yes. Your cousin, Miss De Bourgh, has left England and it is your fault.”
“What do you mean she has left England? With whom is she traveling?”
“She seems to think she does not require the protection of anybody, but she is with her cousin, Mr. Charles De Bourgh and his wife.”
Darcy seemed relieved. “Mr. De Bourgh is perfectly capable of taking care of her; and with Mrs. Jenkinson ...”
“Oh no, Mrs. Jenkinson has been dismissed; she was packing her trunks when I left Rosings; and good riddance!”
“Well that is a pity, but my cousin will have the companionship of Mrs. De Bourgh, who is a very pleasant and sensible woman.”
“That lady is no companion for my daughter,” replied Lady Catherine.
“It seems that your daughter disagrees with you,” he responded pointedly; but on receiving an arch look from his wife, he continued, “Though I wonder that Miss De Bourgh would wish to travel so far, especially in her delicate state of health.”
“You may very well wonder!” replied Lady Catherine angrily. “This could not have happened if you had done your duty by Anne; and how she is to endure an ocean voyage I cannot say.”
“Georgiana,” said Mrs. Darcy, “I believe you were about to show me the new music you were able to acquire yesterday.” Then turning to her sister she added, "Kitty will you accompany us to the music room?"
The three ladies left the room. Darcy said calmly to his aunt, “I understand you are distraught about Anne, but that does not give you leave to come into my home and insult my wife.”
“Your wife!” she scoffed. “My daughter is missing. She is sailing across the ocean to the wilds of America. If you had married her as you should this would not have happened.”
"We do not know that for certain, do we?" he retorted. A servant walked in with a tray. “Please sit down and take some tea. It will calm your nerves,” added Mr. Darcy.
“My nerves do not need calming,” she exclaimed.
“Perhaps not,” he replied, “but mine do.” He looked at the tea tray, then poured himself a cordial instead. “Do you know what part of America she is going to?”
“The ship was bound for Philadelphia. And who knows how I shall find her when I arrive. It would have been much easier indeed, if they were still British colonies! Who knows how to get anything done in such a place.”
“I trust you will be able to find her,” he replied. “Philadelphia is quite a modern city, I understand.”
“What do you know about it?” she asked indignantly.
“I have read a great deal on the subject, but if you wish for a more recent and more personal testimonial, Mr. Robinson was just telling us of his friend, Mr. Carithers who arrived from America not two months ago and reports that the place is as civilized as any city in England.”
The name Carithers caught her attention. “What do I care for the testimony of such a man?” she said angrily. Mr. Darcy said nothing in reply and they sat together in silence until Mrs. Darcy and her sisters returned.
Upon entering the room, Mrs. Darcy said, “I hope you will stay for dinner, Lady Catherine. The Robinsons are to dine with us and I am sure they would be very happy to see you again.”
“And pray, where else would I dine?” replied Lady Catherine. “I certainly cannot travel to Sidmouth tonight! Indeed, I need not depart until Monday. Now, who will show me to my room?”
Mr. Carithers arrived at his London townhouse with a purpose. He was pleased to have enough time to arrange his affairs before traveling to Deal. As soon as he entered the house he summoned Mr. Sheffield, who, when he arrived, immediately expressed his surprise that Mr. Carithers was back in London so soon. “I had thought you would stay longer in Weymouth. But it is well, for I have compiled a list of estates for our next tour.”
Mr. Carithers waved his hand at the idea. “Forget it. I must return to America as soon as possible.”
“Return to America?” replied Mr. Sheffield, surprised.
"Yes. I have just come from the shipping company's London office where I secured passage from Deal on Thursday."
“I had thought you meant to remain in England.”
“I had, but circumstances have changed. If all goes well, I will return to England to stay.”
They spent an hour or so going over matters of business, with Mr. Carithers giving Mr. Sheffield directives on things to be handled in his absence. Mr. Sheffield left for a dinner engagement and Mr. Carithers dined alone.
Afterwards, he went into the attic where his personal things had been stored while his house was let in his absence. He walked directly to an old chest in the corner and pulled at the bottom drawer. It would not open. After searching around for several minutes, he found the key and was able to open it. He pulled out a small linen parcel and unwrapping it found inside a letter and a lock of hair tied with a ribbon. "Anne," he whispered to himself.
He carried these treasures to his study where he sat alone at his desk staring at them and thinking through all that had happened in the past few days. But the one thought that he kept returning to was that Anne was alive. So many people had confirmed it, yet until he saw her with his own eyes he would never be content.
He sat with his head in his hands for he knew not how long. Suddenly there was a knock at the door. Mrs. Blakely entered and announced, “A Miss Pope to see you in the drawing room, sir.”
He looked surprised. “I do not know a Miss Pope,” he replied. “Nor should any young woman be calling alone at this hour.”
“She said she is a friend of Miss Sheffield's sir.”
“That is odd. Mr. Sheffield just told me his daughter is staying in Surrey with the Staffords.”
“Shall I send her away, sir?”
Mr. Carithers stood thoughtfully and after a moment's reflection said, “No. I will see her.”
He walked to the drawing room in confusion. Mrs. Stafford was the youngest sister of Sir Lewis De Bourgh, and her daughter, Miss Stafford, and Miss Sheffield had been schoolfellows. The connection to the De Bourgh family, tenuous though it was, gave him enough curiosity to see the mysterious lady who had come to call.
He walked into the drawing room with Mrs. Blakely, who left him and closed the door. Therein, Mr. Carithers saw a young lady standing alone. She was turned away from him in the darkness, looking out the window at the street below.
“Miss Pope?” he said.
“No,” she replied, turning from the window into the candlelight. It was Anne De Bourgh.
He rushed towards her. “My dearest Anne,” he cried, taking her in his arms.
She threw her arms around him. “Simon! How I have missed you.”
After embracing for a few moments he pulled away to look at her again. “Oh my love,” he said, “let me look at you. You are alive!”
“I have not felt alive these seven years,” she said.
“Your mother told me that you were dead.”
“What? Did she really? I knew she must have lied to you but, I had no idea! You believed me to be dead all these years?”
“Nothing else could have kept me away.”
“I was very ill and was very close to death, but I recovered; though I have never been the same since.” He embraced her again. “You are really here,” she whispered, as he kissed the tears that had begun flowing down her cheeks.
“Yes, and we shall never be parted again.”
It was a long time before either of them could say anything of a different character, and they repeated the same sentiments many times over.
At last, he looked at her again and observed, “You do not look well.”
“I am only a little fatigued from the exertions of the past few days.”
He led her to the sofa, where they sat down. “Is there anything I can get for you? Some tea or a glass of wine?”
“No, I have everything I require, now,” she replied, taking his hand.
He smiled and kissed her hand. “You must tell me everything of your adventures, and then I shall tell you mine.”
“Have you been having an adventure as well?”
“Indeed, I have. But I want to hear about yours first, Miss Pope.”
Anne laughed. “Miss Pope is on her way to America traveling under the name of Anne De Bourgh; and in exchange for enough of my money to start a new life there, she has agreed to use the name far and wide to keep Lady Catherine on the chase for as long as possible.”
“But what shall she do when Lady Catherine finally catches up to her?”
“That is a problem that she has been paid handsomely to solve on her own.”
“And I take it you learned I was in England from Miss Sheffield's connection to your cousin, Miss Stafford.”
“Yes. I was all set to travel to America myself until I received a letter from Miss Stafford informing me that Miss Sheffield's last letter to her contained the news that her father was touring the country with you in search of an estate. I could not help but wonder why you did not seek me out immediately upon your return to England.”
“You must know that I would have if I had known that you were not … Indeed, I would not have gone away in the first place.”
“I was tempted to find you right away if for no other reason than to satisfy my curiosity on that point, but I thought I had better wait until my birthday, as planned. Everything was already in place for me to travel to America as soon as I came into possession of my fortune and my independence. And, I had been long puzzling over the question of how to keep my mother from knowing where I was going or from following me there and interfering in my plans. But you solved my problem by returning to England. With you here, there could be no reason for me to go to America or to prevent my mother from doing so.”
“But how did you convince this Miss Pope to go in your place?”
“Miss Pope had nothing to keep her in England. She had a position in Lady Metcalfe's household and was miserable there. She grew to resent my mother for recommending her for it and then constantly expecting abject gratitude thereafter; her resentment has given her an inducement to keep up the ruse for as long as possible.”
“It is very cruel,” he observed.
“Much less so than allowing you to believe me to be dead for seven years.”
“I cannot argue with you there, and I have no wish to. How soon can we be married?”
Anne laughed. “As soon as we can procure a license, I suppose.”
“I do not think I could marry in this parish, I was only in London a fortnight before touring the country for a month and then going to Weymouth.”
“We could return to Hunsford, but I hardly think Mr. Collins could bring himself to perform the service.”
”I do not wish to wait the length of time required for either method.”
“No, we have waited quite long enough, I think.”
“To Scotland, then?”
“If you wish,” replied Anne.
“Did you travel here from Southampton alone?”
“Quite alone,” she replied. “Have I shocked you?”
“That is the least shocking discovery I have made of late,” he replied. “Where are you staying?”
"I only arrived in London today,”
“Did you spend the night in Southampton?” he asked wondering if she had been there at the same time as himself.
“No. I left Southampton after seeing my cousins and myself securely aboard; I was on the road long before the ship sailed – in order to avoid meeting my mother, who I knew would be in pursuit. I spent the night at a quiet inn in a small country village in Hampshire. I paid the innkeeper a great deal of money and she asked me very few questions. I wanted to get away from the seaside, as I suspected Lady Catherine would be looking for a ship to board or a boat to row to America!”
“I believe she is at Sidmouth.” Anne looked surprised. “I ran into her at Southampton and discovered that she has made arrangements to travel out of Sidmouth on Tuesday. I was to depart from Deal on Thursday,” he added, showing her the paperwork from the shipping company that was still in his jacket pocket and then tossing it on the table.
“I can well understand your not wanting to be on the same ship with Lady Catherine, but how is it that you met with her in Southampton?”
“Her presence on the same ship would not have deterred me, but the ship from Deal arrives in Philadelphia three days earlier,” he replied. “My meeting with Lady Catherine was but a small part of my adventure, which you shall hear everything about. But first, tell me what you shall do tonight. What arrangements have you made? Where are your things?”
“I have made no arrangements. I have been traveling with very little. Miss Pope has taken all of my gowns and hats, and I left her small trunk of clothes at the posting inn when I arrived in London. My most personal treasures – two letters and a lock of hair," at this her companion smiled, "I have been carrying with me at all times, tucked away in my reticule," she pointed to a small handbag sitting on a chair in the corner, "along with a few other essentials. All of my other possessions are still locked up safely at Rosings. I shall collect them after we return from Scotland and bring them here, to my new home, before my mother returns to Rosings. So you see, you have only myself to contend with."
“Then shall you stay here tonight, in one of the guest rooms? I am loath to let you out of my sight."
"There is no reason that you should. No one has any idea of me, or even Miss Pope, being here, other than your housekeeper. I surrender myself entirely to your protection."
He held her close to him as she leaned into his embrace on the sofa and they talked long into the night, each telling the other of all that had led to their reunion. The next morning they awoke still lying on the sofa in each other's arms.
Mr. Carithers rang for Mrs. Blakely who entered the drawing room looking very uneasy. "Who else knows that ... Miss Pope is in the house?" he asked.
"No one, sir. I ordered the maid not to enter this room, even to make a fire."
"Well done. Please attend personally to the lady's needs and show her to the breakfast room where I will meet her once I am dressed; then order the carriage to the door after breakfast.” Seeing her discomfort, he added, “You may rest easy, Mrs. Blakely, we are going away to be married."
"But it is traveling on a Sunday, sir."
"So it is; but that cannot be avoided. It is certainly preferable to having Miss Pope remain in the house another night without us being married."
Mrs. Blakely had no choice but to be satisfied with this answer, though she was certain other accommodations could be made for the lady. Mr. Carithers and Miss De Bourgh departed London alone in a post-chaise, without even a servant to attend them. Once away from the city's prying eyes they were able to travel as husband and wife; and after a few days, it was no longer a deception.
A few months after their marriage, Mrs. Darcy called at their home in London to read aloud to them from a scathing letter that her husband had received from Lady Catherine in America. She had finally caught up with Miss Pope and discovered the cruel deception that had been practiced on her. She had already secured her own passage back to England and was probably at sea even as they read her letter.
Neither Mrs. Carithers nor Mrs. Darcy was looking forward to witnessing Lady Catherine's wrath first hand, but they were reconciled to the inevitability of her return. In one thing they could not help but agree with her: Miss Pope had indeed proven herself to be a treasure.