Elizabeth laughed with her sister Jane as they walked down the driveway towards the house.
“You have to admit Lizzy, that it is not difficult having Lady Catherine recover here. She stays in her room and we do not have to see her but once a day when we call upon her.”
Elizabeth’s lips turned down. “Poor Fitzwilliam though is called to attend her several times a day. He is out of sorts and his mood is getting worse with each day. I worry about what he will be like if we do not leave soon.”
Jane looked at her sister. “But you cannot leave while his aunt convalesces with us.”
“I know, and that is why he is fit to be tied.” Elizabeth turned to her sister. “I am not sure there is any injury to her ankle. But she refuses to stand or do any motions to test the ankle. I think she is determined to stay here until Fitzwilliam is driven mad. I think she plans to get him to divorce me.”
Jane gasped. “She would not. That is horrible!”
“It is.” Elizabeth gazed at the window on the upper floor where the woman in question resided. “But Fitzwilliam said she has been saying rude things about me. He demands she stop, but she does it again the next day.”
“I am sorry, Lizzy. It is a shame she dislikes you so much. I do not know why though as —”
Elizabeth laughed and stopped walking.
Jane stopped and turned around to look at her sister with concern.
“You gave me a perfect idea.” Elizabeth hooked her arm through Jane’s and pulled her forward towards Netherfield.
“I do not remember suggesting anything?”
Elizabeth beamed. “Lady Catherine dislikes me strongly. Do not worry, Jane, if all goes to plan we shall be out of your home very soon.”
Elizabeth walked into the bedroom she shared with her husband. Mr. Darcy paced about the room running his fingers through his hair.
“What has happened now?” She asked.
He looked as if he was ready to burst. “She will not leave and she will not stop insulting you. I am continually called to attend her yet she does nothing but complains.”
Elizabeth stepped closer. “I think I have a way to help your aunt quit Netherfield.”
“Tell me.” Mr. Darcy placed his hands on her arms. “I dare say she is trying my patience as a gentleman.”
Elizabeth bit her lip so she did not laugh at his expression. “Lady Catherine does not like me one whit. Therefore, I shall call on her and attend her as much as I possibly can every day.”
A gleam lit Mr. Darcy’s eyes and a smile grew on his handsome face. He pulled her close and kissed her passionately. His hand slid down her back to hold her derriere. That warm tingly feeling flooded her body. Her breath hitched and he pulled back breathing heavily.
“What would you say, Mrs. Darcy,” his eyes darkened, “to my exploration of your beautiful –“
Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s distinctive voice interrupted from the next room. Her words could not be made out, but her voice was enough to rapidly cool their ardor.
Mr. Darcy leaned his forehead on hers and groaned. “I pray, that your plan works.”
Elizabeth sighed. She did not know who had alerted Lady Catherine to their wedding in Meryton, but she strongly suspected Mr. Collins. He would get an earful the next time she saw him.
Mr. Darcy smiled ruefully as they pulled away. “I apologize, Elizabeth. I should not have let my ire at my aunt affect me so much.”
“I am glad you shared with me.” Elizabeth turned and walked to the wardrobe. “I need to change for supper. I shall not be but a moment.”
Mr. Darcy sat down at the desk to continue his letter to his cousin, Col. Fitzwilliam, as Elizabeth rang for the maid.
The next day Elizabeth called on Lady Catherine de Bourgh with Jane. She forced herself to share information about herself no matter what that woman would say.
“— lake or lavender may be my favorite flower though I think I do like lavender better. However, roses never fail to bring a smile to my face and the scent –“
“Have you lost your senses? Did you hit your head? You have never spoken this way before.” Lady Catherine stared at Elizabeth.
Elizabeth looked down at the screen she was embroidering that was full of knots. She would have to cut and unravel everything she had done that day.
“Your Ladyship, I am doing my Christian duty of visiting the ill.” She looked up at the formidable woman. “I also thought you would like to know me better as I am a member of the family now.”
Lady Catherine narrowed her eyes. Then she turned her head to Jane who sat on her other side. “You embroider very well. That screen is nearly passable.”
Jane looked up with her placid smile. “Thank you, your Ladyship. How is your ankle? I hope it does not pain you as much today.”
Lady Catherine looked away. “It pains me.”
Elizabeth and Jane shared a look. Elizabeth turned back to Mr. Darcy’s aunt who rubbed her fingers over the arm of the chair just like she had done at Rosings Park.
The plan to aggravate Lady Catherine had not achieved anything resembling success. Elizabeth struggled to find a topic to discuss and looked out the window behind Lady Catherine.
“If you would like to go outside,” she turned her head to the great woman, “I am sure a pony cart could be found as you must be tired of being in the same room.”
Mr. Darcy’s aunt slowly turned her head to face Elizabeth. “I see through your attempts to ingratiate yourself with me. They have not succeeded nor will they.”
Elizabeth and Jane shared another look, this one of dismay. Jane stood and Elizabeth followed. “We must leave you now, your Ladyship. We have promised our mother to accompany her to Meryton.”
Lady Catherine looked off to the side and barely nodded her head.
The sisters did not speak until they had walked down the upstairs hallway, far from Lady Catherine’s room. “What are we going to do, Jane? She is not in any hurry to leave. I think she is going to stay here until she gets Mr. Darcy to divorce me or die trying!”
“Do not be so extreme, Lizzy. Mr. Darcy would never divorce you. It would also hurt the reputation of the Darcy name. His aunt would not want that.”
“She has to realize that an annulment is out of the question as well.” Elizabeth turned and paced. “Why is she staying here then? I want to go to Pemberley to see my new home. To have Georgiana return to her home.” She stopped and faced Jane. “The poor girl has been away from her home for a month already. And we cannot leave until her Ladyship does.”
Jane had no idea or even a cheery platitude.
Later that evening, after she had changed for bed, Elizabeth confessed her frustrations to her husband. “I do not think my idea is working. I have not seen any signs that she is impatient to return or even misses her home. She is not frustrated at all.”
Mr. Darcy pulled back the covers and climbed into bed. “Perhaps your mother could entice her to leave.”
Her eyes gleamed and she jumped out of the bed to retrieve the writing desk. “That is a brilliant idea. Mama will drive her to distraction.”
Mr. Darcy sighed and muttered something but Elizabeth did not pay attention as she pulled out a sheet of laid writing paper, much smoother and more expensive than she had ever used before. She dipped the quill, blotted it, and wrote Mrs. Bennet an invitation for her family and the Phillips to call upon Lady Catherine de Bourgh. New faces would do the infirm woman well.
The letter was sent out with a servant and reply that they would call the next morning delivered to Elizabeth within an hour. Elizabeth went to sleep with a smile. Mr. Darcy’s aunt would not depart tomorrow but the day after. Within a few days, she was sure she would be traveling on her way to Pemberley.