As with every previous Friday, Charlotte waited for Mr. Collins to breakfast, pull on his gardening trousers, and head out in the tangled web of cucumber vines and cabbages. Today’s letter promised to be particularly promising since it was in Lady Catherine’s hand. Who would the old rich hag have had such a need to write in secret? After hearing a soft click of the back door and Mr. Collins voice greeting or rather terrifying the local songbirds, Charlotte retrieved the letter and read thus:
The hour is late as I pen this epistle, mere request from your most devoted woman. At dinner this evening, I watched as you supped so courtly and gentlemanly. Your finely tailored suit never once brushed the soup bowl or spilled the sherry ever so sloppily as other men in our presence have the want to do. In the elegance of your table manners, I felt a warmth of affection rise up from my inner soul, and I knew I could not rest tonight if I did not make you this offer.
Darcy, dearest nephew, please unite our families together, our best qualities bound up and made one, never to be parted in the bed that we shall make between our two houses. I hope you understand my intentions, and I can safely assume that this offer of union will be pleasant to you as well. But I shall not be so coy with you. I beg that you and I be forever united in the holiest of unions–matrimony of our great wealth and fortune. I, your Lady Catherine, request that you marry me so that our riches may forever be blessed in the bed of their own making.
Ours would most be an unusual marriage. For I have no desire to function as your wife in the basest of duties, you may surely outsource those duties to our staff. There’s a lovely red head whose vigor and mutism makes her the ideal choice for your manhood needs. I understand that you desire an heir to the Darcy/de Bourgh fortune, and I have no objections to confinement for myself to perpetuate the idiocy of me carrying your child. The maid is more than willing and able to do such things.
Our union would help us secure our truest love–our wealth. I’ve seen you when you go over the accounting books with your steward. Your eyes bright and lucid and lovely, oh to have you look at our money in such a way!
Mr. Darcy, pray join our dearest love, our bank accounts in holy matrimony.
Yours etc., Lady Catherine de Bourgh
Charlotte was all astonishment and ever so slightly ill. Marry her own nephew? For his money? She glanced toward the garden and momentarily felt what must have been pity for the poor man. Once the moment had finished its course, she sat down to write a letter of her own. She would present her terms for silence, and they would all feel the full force of her new power.