This is a bit of goofy fun I wrote a long time ago. Once upon a time, when one of the JAFF sites had a chat page, a friend of mine and I began joking around about Lady Catherine as a child, which I wrote and posted in a shorts forum there. I took it out and gave it a quick once over and refresh so I could share it with you here. Happy Reading!
Tea with Lady Catherine
Lady Catherine Fitzwilliam studied those assembled at the table for tea. To her left, her younger sister Anne sat forward in her small, plush chair, an eager smile and her favourite doll clutched in her arms.
The remainder of her exalted guests were two of Catherine’s own dolls, the nursery’s rocking horse at the other end of the table, and lastly the rabbit her mother had crafted from a bit of soft, ivory muslin, left over from one of her mother’s best day gowns.
Mr. Collins had grown rather shabby over the last few years. How could he not since he was dragged everywhere Catherine travelled? One of his ears was frayed at the end, one button eye, salvaged from one of her father’s old topcoats, was missing, but despite his imperfections, he wore a tiny new suit her mother made from her father’s cast-offs. Today, Mr. Collins was bent at the waist in an undignified manner, his forehead resting on the table.
“Are we ready for tea, Catherine?”
She turned her gaze to Anne and straightened as tall as a girl of seven years was capable. “Has everyone a cup?”
Anne glanced around the table and nodded. “Yes, Sister.”
Catherine reached for the pot of tea the maid had delivered a short time ago. After she poured everyone a cup, Anne passed the tea to their guests then placed a cup before herself.
“Anne, be certain all have a piece of cake—Mr. Collins should have two since he is so fond of sweets. I am particularly attentive to such matters just as you should be when you are older and host your own tea.”
Her sister nodded with wide eyes. Dear Anne was two years her junior and followed Catherine everywhere, which was often a nuisance, but quite endearing as well. Catherine did take great pleasure in those who paid her the proper deference her position as the eldest deserved. Of course, Mr. Collins always flattered her and paid her such compliments, but he hardly counted.
Once the refreshments had been doled out as was proper, Catherine took a dainty sip of her tea. “Mr. Collins, I have decided it is time for you to take a wife.” Anne giggled, but Catherine paid her no heed. “I expect you to choose properly, choose a gentlewoman for my sake; and for your own, let her be an active, useful sort of person, not brought up high. This is my advice. Find such a woman as soon as you can, bring her to Matlock, and I will visit her.”
With a huff, she set down her cup and attempted to prop Mr. Collins so he was not leaning against the table, but it was of no use, he plopped right back against the table as though he were bowing in subservience.
“How does one know if she is useful?” asked Anne. “What sort of woman is a good wife to a clergyman?”
Catherine rolled her eyes. “I would not want my parson to choose someone who puts on airs as Mrs. Elton does. How could a parson’s wife think herself above us? Us, the daughters of an earl! It is intolerable!”
Anne sipped her tea as she thought. When she had swallowed, she tilted her head. “Yet she is an adult. Father and Mother insist we should have respect for Mrs. Graham as well, and she is the housekeeper. Should a clergyman’s wife not deserve more consideration than a servant?”
Her teeth dug into her cheek. Why did she include Anne? Her younger sister never failed to sour whatever game Catherine wished to play. She reached over and thrust Mr. Collins into his seat in one last attempt to forcibly straighten him. When she released the worn rabbit, he appeared as though he would finally sit, but once she returned to her chair, he began to inch forward until he fell face first from his perch.
She grabbed Mr. Collins, plunked him back in his chair, and sat back, to cast a critical eye upon her sister. “Have you practised the pianoforte since you last worked with Miss Hartley?”
Anne’s cheeks pinked while she placed her cup in its saucer. “I can now perform the piece if asked.” Her tiny pale palms pressed together. “I hope she will give me a new song at my next lesson.”
“I am pleased.” Catherine gave a nod as she had often seen her mother do when the ladies of the Ton paid their calls. “I expect you to apply yourself diligently. You cannot expect to excel if you do not practise a great deal. No excellence in music is to be gained without constant practise. Should I have the opportunity to learn, I would be a true proficient.”
Anne’s brow furrowed. “If you wished to learn, then why did you fly into such a temper when my father suggested you learn the pianoforte?”
Catherine’s cheeks burned as she placed another cake on Mr. Collins plate. “I do not want to.”
Anne started at her snappish tone. “I like the pianoforte. You would too if you tried.”
Catherine turned her attention to her cake. The pianoforte was a useless endeavour!
“How are my two favourite ladies diverting themselves this afternoon?”
Catherine’s eyes darted to where her father stood in the doorway.
Anne perked and bounced in her chair. “Tea, father!”
He gave a wide grin as he approached and kneeled between Anne and her. “And may I request an introduction to your guests?
“Emma did not want to sit in her chair,” said Anne, holding up her doll. “She preferred my lap.” She gestured towards the rocking horse. “You know Horsey of course.”
He nodded. “I am quite familiar with Horsey—”
“Mr. Collins has joined us as well,” interrupted Catherine. Her sister always tried to take all of their father’s attention!
Her father laughed when he looked in the rabbit’s direction. “Mr. Collins appears in his cups.”
Catherine glanced to her beloved toy and frowned. “He is very well, I assure you.”
“I am certain he is.” He placed a kiss upon her forehead. “I heard mention of the pianoforte. I hope you have changed your mind about learning, Catherine. I would dearly love for both my ladies to entertain me in the evenings after dinner.”
“I have not.” She turned and faced Mr. Collins as her father gave a weary sigh.
“Are you prepared for your lesson, Sweetling?” Anne was probably nodding and doing her utmost to impress her father. Catherine drew her lips into a thin line.
“I have practised. Would you care to hear?”
“I would. Why do we not go down to the music room, and you can perform for me there? We can fetch your mother from her sitting room on our way.” At the sound of Anne’s little feet upon the floor, Catherine turned.
Anne paused before the door and looked over her shoulder. “Would you like to join us?”
“Yes, Catherine, do join us,” said her father with a warm smile.
She surveyed the table. “We have not finished our tea.”
His shoulders dropped a bit. “Very well. I do hope you will have Miss Carter escort you to the music room once you have finished tea.”
She gave a slight nod and watched as her father took her sister’s hand and strode through the door. Then she turned to Mr. Collins and returned him with rough hands into his chair. “Drink your tea, Mr. Collins! I will not tolerate your poor manners any longer!”
Mr. Collins lurched to one side and once again fell off his chair.
Catherine rose and stomped her foot so hard it smarted. “I am most seriously displeased!”