The Sixth Sense- A Lady Catherine Christmas Carol

Lady Catherine deBourgh was even more incensed than usual.  “How dare that ill-bred, impertinent country chit continue in her attempt to sway me. Have I not made it plain that I will not recognize nor give notice to her as long as she persists in her sham of a marriage to my nephew?  Will she not give over?”

Mrs. Watley, her ladyship’s personal attendant, watched as Lady Catherine waved the letter at Ballard, the ancient butler who still held the salver on which the letter from Mrs. Darcy, the Miss Bennet as was, had been delivered.  It had become routine for Ballard to retrieve the shredded pieces of the post after the mistress finished reading and then muttering her displeasure over the contents, any letters from her nephew’s bride.  Today she did not tear the letter from her nephew’s wife whom Lady Catherine refused to address as Mrs. Darcy.   “Shall I continue to read, your Ladyship? “ 

Ignoring the question from her companion, Lady Catherine continued in her abuse of Mrs. Darcy.  “What is she about engaging in this constant invitation for Anne and I to come to Pemberley?  Have I not advised time and again that while the shades of Pemberley are thus polluted, I shall not set foot in that county?” 

Lady Catherine worked herself into the indignation to which she was surely entitled in light of the situation.  “That hoyden usurped Anne’s position as Darcy’s wife”, she muttered.

Mrs. Watley masked a sigh as she laid down the book that had been her employer’s pleasure before the arrival of the letter.

“A glass of sherry, Watley.  I feel quite parched.”

Mrs. Watley filled the snifter with an abundance of the liqueur, knowing her mistress to be even more agitated than her normal wont.  With the advance of Miss DeBourgh’s illness and Mrs. Darcy’s increased pleas for the two ladies to call upon the Darcys with all possible haste and comfort--for Mrs. Darcy was uniform in her offer to send the plushest of the Darcy carriages to retrieve Mr. Darcy’s aunt and cousin, Lady Catherine’s level of irritation and aggravation increased accordingly. 

Though Lady Catherine touted the superior skills of her personal physician and proclaimed to anyone within hearing, that Miss DeBourgh would recover herself directly, Mrs. Watley could hardly countenance it.  Such rapid decline in the case of the young heiress put paid to the opinion of Miss DeBourgh’s dire straits.  All of the servants could see this and Mrs. Watley feared that Lady Catherine did as well, but refused to acknowledge the truth of the matter, believing that her will would be bent to as usual.

“I shall retire as soon as I bid a good night to Anne, Watley.  You may retire as well.”  Lady Catherine finished her sherry, stood and leaned heavily on her cane.  She waved away Mrs. Watley’s assistance as she departed the salon.


“Catherine.  Catherine, I would speak with you.”

Lady Catherine moaned as she turned over to escape the dream where she heard the   sound of a familiar male voice.  She must have been dreaming because it had been these many years since a male voice echoed within her chamber.

“Milady, attend please.”  That voice could only belong to one man and now Lady Catherine was certain that she was dreaming. 

“How could you?  Have you no compassion?  Had I known this would be the path you would tread with my dearest Anne, I would have left your brother in charge of her.”   

Now fully awake, Lady Catherine smoothed her sleep cap, rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand and sat up.  There near the door to her chambers stood Sir Lewis DeBourgh, nattily turned out in velvet breeches, colored stockings and a bright-colored waistcoat and jacket.   The lace at his throat and cuff would have been the envy of any drawing room.  But how could this be?  Perhaps Watley had poured a finger too much of that sherry.   And who pulled back those bed curtains?

“Sir, you dare to…”  The spirit moved from his place near the door to the foot of the bed, cutting off the beginnings of Lady Catherine’s tirade.

“Silence.   You will listen to what I have come to say because I will show you the consequences of using my daughter to achieve your own thwarted wishes.  Rise up out of that bed and come with me.”   Lady Catherine renewed her abuse of the apparition.

“I will not be spoken to in such a manner, no matter whom you think you are…or were.  This is not to be borne.  You will leave me this instant.” 

“Catherine, I speak the truth when I tell you that should you pay no heed to the message I have come to deliver and continue in your ways, then when next I visit Rosings Park, I will not be alone when I take my leave.”

Lady Catherine drew a sharp breath, but did as Sir Lewis instructed and heaved herself from the bed.  She took in Sir Lewis’ face, which had seemed so old, all those years ago but now was younger than her own.  “What is this message that you feel compelled to rouse me from my bed to deliver?  Could it not have waited until a decent hour?”

The apparition sneered.  “Your hours will wax or wane dependent entirely upon your actions, milady.  I come because Anne’s spirit leaves her daily.  And yes, I know that all mortal beings die a little with each passing day, but Anne is rapidly descending—all because of your pride and that incompetent milksop of a physician.  I say your pride because you hide your own disappointed hopes behind the wall of infallibility that you think bends all to your will.  Come, touch my sleeve and I will shew it all to you.  When we are done this night, there will be no escape of accountability. “ 

Lady Catherine hesitated, still convinced that she was asleep and that the sherry must have gone off to cause such vivid dreams, but then reached out and lightly grasped the lace cuff of his sleeve.  Instantly, she felt a swish of wind and a bright light that blinded her for a moment.  When her eyes adjusted to the light, she saw a gazebo.  This gazeb  bore an uncanny resemblance to the one on her father’s estate where she and her sister Anne used to share their secrets—all but one secret. 

“Come on Cathy.  Hurry up, I have much to tell you.”

But how could this be?  It was her sister Anne, beautiful, smiling and seventeen years old.  Anne rushed toward the structure and behind her another girl huffed along, holding onto her skirts and being careful not to scuff her slippers.

“Yes, Anne.  I too saw George Darcy ask for the audience with our father.   But I wonder if Papa will give his consent.  George Darcy is without a title, you know.”

Lady Catherine gasped and then whispered.  “But how can this be?”

Sir Lewis leaned closer.  “They are but shades of what has happened.  But this is where your long season of discontent began.  You secretly coveted your sister’s husband.  Oh do not deny it, and even though you lamented the propriety of the younger sister marrying prior to the elder, your father would not be swayed.  It was Anne that George wanted and not you.”  Lady Catherine wrinkled her brow at the harsh words, but continued to watch the scene unfold where her sister exclaimed her happiness at the match with George Darcy.

“Yes, Cathy.  I know he doesn’t have a title, but his family is very well respected and there is no question of their fortune.  It does no harm that he is very easy upon the eyes as well.”  Here Lady Anne Fitzwilliam smiled and embraced her elder sister, who stiffly returned that embrace.  “Oh, do not worry dearest sister.   Derbyshire is not so far away and I am certain that Lord Pembroke will offer for you soon.  But Cathy, you must give him some encouragement, you know.”

Lady Catherine turned away, unable to watch the scene where her bitterness of spirit threatened to overwhelm the happiness of her sister’s situation, all because she had wanted George Darcy for herself.  “Please, show me no more.”

Sir Lewis spoke sharply.  “Did you think that I did not know I was not your choice?  Did you never wonder why I had waited for so long before taking a bride?  I indulged you because for me, ours was a love match—a very one-sided one but still.”
“Why show me this?  What good can come of this?  And sir, why are your garments so garish?  Could you not have found a more suitable mode of dress or is the afterlife run by the master of the revels?” 

The apparition chuckled.  “No, milady.  ‘Tis my punishment for my selfish and indifference to the plight of others while I was alive, I fear.  You should see the garb that awaits you.  You will be the envy of every bawdy house in the kingdom.  There are plumes and powders and such things I never did see.”    Sir Lewis indulged for a moment in his glee but then turned a jaundiced eye upon the lady.

“We are yet to be done, so on we go.”  In an instant, they were then in the gardens at Rosings where ten year old Richard Fitzwilliam yelled for his other two cousins to hurry up.  Fitzwilliam Darcy, seven years old, held his hand out for five-year old Anne DeBourgh.

“Come along Anne.  You know that if we do not hurry, Richard will find the best hiding spot.”  Lady Catherine paled as she watched her precious daughter huffing as she struggled to keep up with her male cousins, but Anne’s eyes shone bright.  “You go on without me cousin.  I do not wish to be a burden.”  Young Darcy screwed up his face before replying to his cousin.

“Anne, Richard and I are already in danger of being tanned when Aunt Catherine realizes that we are going against her wishes and bringing you along on our explorations.  The least you could do is to show some appreciation for our daring.”

“Yes cousin, Mama says that it is unseemly for young ladies to be scampering about the countryside.”

“Why should young ladies not enjoy the fresh air and sunshine just as anyone else?  Is it not fun for you Anne?   Shall we take you back?”

“Yes, I do not wish to make Mama cross.”  Fitzwilliam stopped, took Anne’s hand and turned back towards the house.

Lady Catherine smiled.  This was a pleasant memory, showing how much her nephew esteemed his cousin.  But like a dark cloud and as if he knew her thoughts, Sir Lewis intruded with further discourse.  “There is more to see.”

Twenty- year old Fitzwilliam Darcy, handsome and elegant, looked distinctly uncomfortable sitting in the parlor of Rosings Park with his cousin Anne and her companion.  Anne spoke softly, barely audible.

“Did you enjoy the season this year, Cousin?   Were there many balls to attend?”

“I would not say that there was much enjoyment to be had, Anne.  I am not fond of dancing, as you know.”  Darcy adjusted his cravat and fidgeted in his seat before speaking again.  “Anne, have you noticed that my Aunt speaks of a betrothal between us almost exclusively upon my visits here.  Is that your wish?  That we would become betrothed?”

Anne lowered her eyes and quietly said, “no.”    “I know that it is my mother’s wish that our estates be united but I have always looked upon you as a brother and further, I have no wish to marry and I know that you feel the same about me. “

“What do you wish for, Anne?”  Darcy looked faintly relieved.

“I wish for the freedom to live my life as I see fit—to read the books I choose, to eat the foods that please me and to enjoy the things that interest me.  Also, were I ever to marry, I would so enjoy making a match for love, such as Aunt Anne and Uncle Darcy did.”

“Have you spoken of these things with my Aunt? “ 

Anne’s sickly pallor bore a slight blush.  “My mother is unwilling or unable to entertain any idea which contradicts her own.”

“Would you have me speak to Aunt Catherine on your behalf, Cousin?  To disabuse her of this notion of our uniting our estates through marriage?”

“No, cousin.  The favor that I would ask of you, is that you continue to allow her delusion by making your annual visit, duty bound or not.” 

Darcy turned a brotherly smile upon Anne.  “Of course.”

Lady Catherine looked stricken.  Sir Lewis was silent, allowing her to take it all in.

“I only wanted what was best for Anne.”

“You only wanted Anne to get what you could not have for yourself.  You laid the groundwork for that plot the minute Anne was born and you saw a way to keep close to Darcy.”

“Why show me all of this?  To what purpose does it serve?” she cried.

“The purpose it to show you the folly of your ways, Catherine.  Even now, Darcy and his bride invite you and Anne into their family circle, for the love and concern that Darcy holds for his cousin.  And your continued tyrannical ways impact Anne even more now that she grows weary and her hope fades.  But we are not done yet, I have one last shadow to reveal.  Come.” 

Sir Lewis pointed his finger towards the horizon and suddenly they were at the churchyard, in the private DeBourgh family section of the graveyard.  The tombstone was aged but Sir Lewis’ name was discernable.  A new grave had been dug next to it.    A line of mourners including the Earl, the male Fitzwilliam cousins and Darcy, could be seen trailing a casket, draped in black.

Lady Catherine’s voice was full of ice and steel.  “You would show me my own death, sir?  You would show me that I will die and leave Anne to the mercy of her relations?”

Sir Lewis glowered before answering.  “No, Catherine.  I show you Anne’s end which is not long in coming if you do not mend your ways.”

Lady Catherine cried out in anguish.  “Anne, oh Anne my dear.  Can you forgive me? “  She then turned to Sir Lewis, her eyes wild with fear.  “What must I do?  What is to be done?”

Sir Lewis bristled.   “As if you do not know what you must do.  As if you do not know what you have done, already.  Anne has been cut off from her family, nay, the world, for so long to indulge your fantasy of her life as it ought to be.  Well, the consequences are on your head, Catherine and the tawdry exterior that you have scorned all your life will be your cloak soon enough.  You know what you must do.”

Lady Catherine closed her eyes tightly and grasped at the apparition’s waistcoat but could not gain purchase as she pleaded with him to spare Anne, for her sake.   She experienced a spinning, disorienting feeling that reached all through her body and she thought, to her very soul.   Her attempts to clutch Sir Lewis’ coat seemed successful and she opened her eyes.   Her hands were full of the bed curtains in her chambers at Rosings Park and for a second, she breathed a sigh of relief.  It was only a nightmare evidently brought about by the spoiled sherry.  Lady Catherine prepared to climb back into bed but something on her night table caught her eye.  It was a red plume lying next to the letter from her nephew’s wife.  A plume that a woman who had worn widows weeds for as long as she had , would never dare entertain wearing.

 Lady Catherine considered for a moment, the ridiculous journey she had been on that night and almost discounted it, but then she remembered the sight of her Anne’s face and how unhappy she looked.  Anne looked just like she herself, did on that fateful day that her sister had become betrothed to the man she wanted and it was entirely her fault that her daughter bore that pain.  She was determined that she would do better.

Lady Catherine pulled the cord next to her bed to call for her maid, before sitting down to her writing desk.


The carriage rumbled along the winding road leading up to the great stone house, past the lake and through the park.  When they arrived at last, her nephew, his wife and sister stood waiting for them.  The dark-haired young woman came forward to greet them as her nephew handed down first Anne, then herself.

“We are so very glad that you are come, Lady Catherine, Miss DeBourgh.   Welcome to Pemberley.”

Did you like Lady Catherine’s sixth sense?

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