“Capricious” excerpt

Lady Catherine sipped her tea taking little notice of the hushed fretting Mrs. Jenkinson poured over Anne’s poor eating habits at breakfast. Her mind was occupied with a far more pressing matter. Mr. Dawlish’s sudden quitting of the parsonage marked the third such quitting since its original occupant Mr. Eddleton had retired to live with some far off relations. In truth, Mr. Eddleton had gone as close to madness as anyone could politely ignore, and it was only due to her ladyship’s intervention that had located relations willing to take in the elderly man, facilitating his removal before any truly unpleasant rumors could take hold.

Once again she had to exert herself to stem yet more nonsense. Anyone who breathed a word that contradicted the explanations she had put forth found themselves without her gracious condescension, and as she had contrived to make life in the surrounding area of her parish near impossible without her generosity, silence on the queer matter was easily enough managed. However, she once again found herself in search of a clergyman suitable to both the needs of the parish and her disposition.

“Please, Miss De Bourgh,” Mrs. Jenkinson implored quietly. “Your strength is so little improved as is. You must eat.”

Anne had eaten a few grapes, ignoring the scones and soft boiled egg that Mrs. Jenkinson kept fussing at her to eat. She had no stomach for breads, and even less so for eggs or meat of any kind. She much preferred her tea without the cream Mrs. Jenkinson was constantly pouring in it against her protests.

“Anne,” Lady Catherine finally said in a tone that spoke of reprimand and displeasure without actually sounding harsh to the ears of Mrs. Jenkinson.

Anne glanced at Lady Catherine nodding in acquiescence as she picked up her knife to spread fruit on a scone, which pleased Mrs. Jenkinson. The fruit was the only thing that made the scone remotely palatable. It was no wonder she was so ill with the near poisonous diet she was forced to endure every day in their care.

“We shall be leaving for town to stay a fortnight or more. Mrs. Jenkinson, see that arrangements are made for my daughter’s comfort. I have business, and should think that a visit with my nephew and niece will prove advantageous as well,” Lady Catherine said, her schemes for the union of her estate with that of Pemberley never far from her mind regardless of other concerns.

“I should like to see my cousin Georgiana. It has been so long since last we sat together,” Anne spoke softly.

“Yes, well we would have had the pleasure of their company after their visit to Ramsgate had not my nephew wrote to cancel their visit claiming some illness that overcame her. I should not have thought that possible. Georgiana has always been in remarkable health, having a stronger constitution then many young ladies.”

Anne frowned slightly, unnoticed by either Lady Catherine or Mrs. Jenkinson, as the former continued on.

“I had written him directly advising he secure the best physician to tend to her, of course. Had he followed my advice without delay I am sure we should have seen them within a few days. I am given to understand that he did dismiss Mrs. Younge whose delinquency in attention, I am sure, led to the illness. I never much cared for her. She did not demonstrate the presence of mind that would lead one to trust her with the care of a young lady. Whatever the case, I am sure it is all cleared up now. We shall pay them a visit soon enough as there can be no risk in it at this time to you, Anne.”

“Oh! Are you sure that is wise, Lady Catherine? Miss De Bourgh is so delicate, and travel to town has never seemed to improve her,” Mrs. Jenkinson asked fretfully.

“Nonsense! A visit with her cousin is just what is needed,” Lady Catherine said dismissively bringing an end to the conversation and to breakfast, for which Anne was particularly grateful.

While Lady Catherine and Mrs. Jenkinson saw to the necessary preparations of a visit to London, Anne sat in her dressing room reading. Mrs. Jenkinson was directing the maid while constantly sparing a few moments to fuss over her, making sure that she reclined comfortably upon the chaise, that the blanket covered her just so, that the lighting was sufficient, and so on. All of which Anne was forced to endure without complaint or betraying her complete distain for such treatment.

During a moment when Mrs. Jenkinson was completely distracted with preparations, Anne slipped out of the dressing room unnoticed. She walked silently to the library. There she replaced the volume she had been reading to exchange it for the next. The effort of the whole had predictably exhausted her, and she was forced to sit in order to regain any amount of strength. She chose a seat near the large window to stare out at the grand landscape wistfully. She was not seated long before Mrs. Jenkinson appeared to fuss over her once again.

“Miss De Bourgh, you need not have troubled yourself,” Mrs. Jenkinson said noticing the book in Anne’s lap, guessing rightly what had brought her to the library.

“I wanted to,” Anne replied softly.

“Well, everything is all settled. The carriage has just been ordered, and will be loaded directly. We must get you into your traveling clothes. Bring the book if you like, but we must not delay,” Mrs. Jenkins said as she helped Anne stand, giving her arm.

Anne hated having to use it, but in her weakened state she had no choice. Even the book seemed to weigh her down. Was it any wonder she had not prospered? She always felt weakest in the daytime, but was scarcely allowed to rest with Mrs. Jenkinson fussing about her and Lady Catherine expecting her to keep to a lady’s schedule as much as possible. She was never allowed to eat as she chose, always being attended by Mrs. Jenkinson who insisted on forcing the revolting concoctions from the kitchen upon her.

Anne knew that she would have surely faded by now had she not discovered how best to sustain herself in the intervals of night. Visiting her cousins in London would make even that mode of survival difficult, but as with so much of her existence Anne had little choice.

“Did you pack my poppet?” Anne asked just above a whisper.

“Of course, Miss De Bourgh,” Mrs. Jenkinson whispered affectionately. “It won’t due for your mother to know that you still sleep with it, but I made sure to secret it in with your things.”

“Thank you,” Anne said.

It was the only confidence she had with Mrs. Jenkinson who thought the doll of particular sentimental value to Anne for it had been a gift from the late Sir Lewis de Bourgh. Anne chose to allow her governess to attribute whatever meaning she would so long as it was packed and would be accompanying her on the journey. Without the contents contained within the doll Anne had little hope of lasting away from the countryside as she could not count on finding what she needed in town.