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Echoes of Narcissus Pride and Prejudice Fanfiction

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                         Echoes of Narcissus
                                   By JaneGS

                                 Prologue
                             Posted on Friday, 25 May 2001
 Echo was a beautiful nymph, fond of the woods and hills and a favorite of Artemis. She
was known for being a great talker-a spinner of tales who could enchant listeners with her
words. She also liked to have the last word, and would argue and banter all the live-long
  day. As is common knowledge, Zeus liked to while away the time and amuse himself
with Echo's sister nymphs. One day while Zeus's jealous wife, Hera, was trying to spy on
the nymphs and catch her husband in a compromising position, she stumbled upon Echo
          who was acting as lookout for the nymphs and their immortal visitor.
  Echo knew that Hera would punish the nymphs for her husband's transgressions if they
 were discovered and so she talked to Hera and distracted her with stories until Zeus and
    the nymphs escaped to another part of Elysia. When Hera discovered that Echo had
 helped Zeus elude her, she made it so the lovely nymph would never again speak except
 to repeat what was said to her. Said Hera, "Foolish Echo, you shall forfeit the use of that
tongue with which you have cheated me, except for that one purpose you are so fond of--
           reply. You shall still have the last word, but no power to speak first."
 Though Echo's original voice was gone, her eyes and heart were still her own. Like the
    other nymphs, Echo fell in love with Narcissus, the beautiful son of the river god
   Cephissus. Narcissus had been granted eternal youth and beauty as long as he never
 gazed upon himself. Being a fairly typical teenage boy, this was not a problem because
  he preferred Elysian sports to grooming anyway. However, one day as Narcissus was
walking in the woods with a group of friends, he became separated from his companions.
   When he shouted, "Is anyone here?" the woodland nymph Echo joyfully answered,
                                    "Here, here."
   Unable to see her hidden among the trees, Narcissus cried "Come!" Back came the
                               answer, "Come, come."
   As no one came, Narcissus called again, "Why do you shun me?" Echo echoed his
                                      question.
  "Let us join one another," said the youth. The maid answered with all her heart in the
 same words and then stepped forth from the woods with arms outstretched and love in
   her eyes. Narcissus was embarrassed and thought Echo was mocking him-he was a
 typical teenage boy and didn't really know how to deal with nymphs. He refused to see
                                   that her love was real.
 He started back, exclaiming, "Hands off! I would rather die than you should have me!"
                           "Have me," said she, but in vain.
He left her, and she went to hide her blushes in the recesses of the woods. Poor Echo was
so humiliated by this rejection that she lived in caves till at last all her flesh shrank away.
Her bones were changed into rocks and there was nothing left of her but her voice. With
     that, she still replies to anyone who calls her, and she always has the last word.
Artemis grieved that her favorite nymph was reduced by unrequited love to a mere voice,
   and she asked her goddess friend Nemesis to punish Narcissus for shaming Echo and
  refusing to accept the love she offered. One day when Narcissus was relaxing beside a
clear pool cooling off from a rigorous game of thunderbolt toss, Nemesis tricked him into
 looking at his reflected image in the water. Narcissus had never seen himself before and
   became transfixed. Caught in the spell of his own beauty, Narcissus fell hopelessly in
     love with his own beautiful face as he saw it reflected in the pool. As he gazed in
  fascination, unable to remove himself from his image, he gradually pined away. Where
                  his body had lain grew a beautiful flower, the Narcissus.



                                      Part 1
   Lady Catherine De Bourgh was a monarch in her mind. The tiny realm of Hunsford
  offered her ample opportunity to rule and until the past winter she had been relatively
   happy doing so. But now the ancient shades of Rosings seemed oppressive, the park
  seemed cramped, and the air seemed still and stale. Though Catherine's queenly mien
gave countenance to all the little doings of her kingdom, the lady herself felt oddly out of
  sorts. Village squabbles ceased to spark her interest, poachers ceased to raise her ire,
servants ceased to aggravate and irritate. Must be spring fever, she thought. Been cooped
  up inside too long. A vigorous person like me requires fresh air and exercise-always
                                     have, always will.
   The gray Kent January dissolved into a grayer, more Kentish February. Not even her
ridiculous clergyman, Mr. Collins, with his odd mixture of pride and obsequiousness, and
   his serious, sensible bride could wile her ladyship out of her ill humor. Catherine had
 fostered high hopes when Mr. Collins had sallied forth in search of a helpmate and life's
  companion. She had eagerly looked forward to seeing what manner of creature would
  accept so loathsome a husband as her newly-ordained clergyman. Catherine had been
    delighted with Mr. Collins thus far. He took his position seriously and tended to the
christenings and burials and the general welfare of the souls under his care. On that score,
  Catherine need not chide herself. In addition, he provided endless amusement with his
  practiced compliments and fawning manners. Every court needs its fool and Catherine
found that Mr. Collins was hers to perfection. And yet he returned with a serious, sensible
                                            bride!
At first, Catherine was very disappointed but slowly she came round as she watched Mrs.
    Collins maneuver and manage her husband. It was a thing of beauty, and Catherine
 admired the woman more each day. Too bad sensible women must marry idiots in order
to remain gentlewomen, she thought. Nevertheless, Catherine put Mrs. Collins to the test-
prying into her affairs, dictating how she must instruct her servants to perform their tasks,
  ordering their meat from the butcher and their wine from the merchant. Mrs. Collins
 quietly and modestly took her medicine and turned the other cheek. A home in a manse
   with a husband she can control must seem like a good bargain in the end, Catherine
concluded. What did I trade when I tacked De Bourgh to the end of my name? she mused.
   Nothing. I did right in the end, she insisted to herself. Except I do wish it would stop
 raining and the sun would come out. It's almost March and life has become unbearably
 dull. Anne pines. Mrs. Jenkinson mithers. Mr. Collins fawns and Mrs. Collins manages.
                                    Been there, done that.
As the weather warmed, Catherine sought comfort in touring the grounds in her phaeton.
 Often she would order the driver to stop and she would walk to the top of a nearby hill,
scanning the horizon, in search of she knew not what. She returned home after each ride
 more despondent than when she had left. Flowers bloomed, trees blossomed, the earth
awoke, and still Catherine grieved. She couldn't name it, but she felt as if some light that
   had burned inside her since girlhood had died and she had only just discovered its
  absence. She tried to shake off the feeling. Perhaps I shall go up to London after the
dreaded Nephew visit. Sister and I need to start looking for a mate for young Georgiana.
 Darcy won't be any help on that score. The man's hopeless, and that's a fact. He won't
just marry Anne and be done with it. Once he's married, he can have all the actresses in
        London that he fancies them, but he must marry first. He knows he must.
  March brought visitors to the parsonage at Hunsford. Catherine had known that Mrs.
Collins's father and sister would be visiting, and she was pleased to hear that one of Mr.
 Collins's cousins would also be one of the party. Mr. Collins had barely mentioned the
Bennet family after his return home, and so Catherine instinctively knew that there was
  probably an interesting story behind his visit to Longbourn. That he did not marry a
    Bennet girl was highly suspicious and she meant to find out why. At any rate, the
  Collinses and their guests would provide quiet amusement until Catherine's nephews
arrived, and then after that duty was done she would take Anne to Bath to try the waters
 again. Bath was always amusing, and there were doctors by the score there to tend to
                                           Anne.
     Catherine sighed. The trip to Bath was still more than a month away, and quiet
amusement was all Rosings could manage with Anne in such a sorry state. Although the
  neighborhood was filled with many families that Catherine had dined with and called
 upon since she had come to Rosings as a bride, she had been forced to shun virtually all
  society except the Collinses over the winter. Anne was failing rapidly, and Catherine
could no more bear to see her suffer quietly in the homes of her neighbors than she could
leave her behind while she herself went out in search of amusement. It seemed that each
 day Anne grew weaker and less interested in getting well-and with each day, Catherine
           worked harder to mask her own despair over her daughter's health.
   The more the daughter declined, the more the mother sought to make her shine, as if
 sheer effort would bring Anne out of illness and into herself. Only in the privacy of her
 bedchamber, long after she had kissed Anne's pale brow as the young woman tossed in
  fitful sleep, did Catherine acknowledge the certainty that Anne was not getting better.
She's so like her namesake. I blame myself for insisting that we name her Anne, but Annie
     didn't go into a serious decline until after Georgiana was born. And then she had
 George-twelve glorious years of love she had. My poor dear girl will never have a love
like that. I blame myself for that too. I barely let her have a season, but she was so frail
    and those horrid men were like vultures, preying on a dying heiress. It turned my
stomach to see them fawn about her as if she were a flirt. Darcy is the only one I'd trust
 her to-he may not love her, but he will be kind to her. Giving me her son was the least
Annie could do after all I did for her. Darcy doesn't love Anne, but he will be kind. I ask
                         nothing more. It's more than what I got.


Catherine, Bertram, Anne, and Edward-young lords and ladies all-were the liveliest set of
children to grace the ancient walls of Matlock Manor. Cate and Bertie, Annie and Neddie
 amused themselves and their neighbors with their balls and hunts, plays and escapades.
Perhaps it was the age-the king was robust, the empire expanding, and the people, that is
   the people who counted, were alive with fun and frolic, good humor and delightful
  intrigue. Catherine, the oldest, led the most balls; Annie, the prettiest, broke the most
                                           hearts.
And then one day while the madcap Matlock set were entertaining themselves in London,
  a young man crossed their path and changed their lives forever. Young George Darcy,
    heir to a great estate that bordered their own, returned from France and spied Annie
across a crowded room. He hadn't seen her in years. She had grown up. And as he looked
 at her, sweet as a primrose and perfect as a daffodil, he promised himself he'd marry her
before a twelvemonth had passed. Much to her family's surprise, Annie Fitzwilliam-Lady
     Anne that is-discovered that she was almost as mad for him as he for her and she
  encouraged his attentions and accepted his proposals. But alas, the old Earl, usually so
indulgent of his children and their whims, declared that Lady Anne could not marry until
   Lady Catherine led the way. "We shall do this right," he declared. The problem was,
Catherine had no interest in marriage. No desire for babies. No inclination to play second
fiddle in some man's concerto. Annie cried herself to sleep. Catherine agreed to marry Sir
                                       Lewis De Bourgh.
 "Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance," Catherine had blithely declared
when her sister questioned her choice. "Besides," she went on reassuringly, "I like to ride;
    he keeps a good stable. I like to hunt; he has some of the best hunting grounds in
 England. I like to manage, and he dearly needs to be managed," she ended with a laugh.
"Don't worry, Annie, it's as fine as match as I could want." But it wasn't. Sir Lewis took a
               page from Petruchio's book and set out to tame his wild Cate.
    He chided her for the quality of the soup and the paucity of the table, but gave the
 servants orders behind her back that undermined her efforts to please him. He put down
Cate's favorite mare and fed her to the hounds when she became lame after he had ridden
  her into the ground. He contradicted her publicly and dared her to defy him. Catherine
 learned to hold her head very straight and bite her tongue and refused to let a single tear
  well up. She learned to take his blows and powder her nose, and she never let her sister
  and brothers see her humiliated. They must not see that she was caught in a trap of her
own making and was unable to extricate herself. She wanted them to remember her as the
 girl she had been-sure-footed and confident with glossy black hair blowing freely in the
                       wind not the caged creature she had become.
 And so Catherine rarely stirred from Rosings the year she was a bride. While Sir Lewis
   visited London and Brighton when he grew weary of the docile wife he had created,
  Catherine sought refuge in the beauty of the grounds. The woods and grassy hollows,
  brimming with wild flowers, the brooks and meadows of Rosings filled her world and
  gave her the strength to face Sir Lewis whenever he remembered to return home. And
   then one day she discovered she was pregnant. She thought that surely her condition
  would soften her husband's treatment and deepen his regard, after all she was now no
longer 'a waspish shrew,' as he often called her, she was to be a mother. He did soften, to
a degree, until the girl-child was born. Sickly, small, and peaked, Anne was ill from birth.
Catherine looked into her baby's face and fell in love. Sir Lewis looked into the same face
 and never forgave Catherine for what he saw. She had not given him a son - the Darcys
  had a strapping little boy, well-favored and eager; the Fitzwilliams had a mess of fine
         boys; but Sir Lewis was the end of his line, and Catherine was to blame.
 On the day Sir Lewis fell from his horse and broke his neck, requiring his Lady to dress
  in black, the elation Catherine felt was tempered only by the guilt that accompanied it.
And so, Lady Catherine with her little daughter in tow tentatively stepped from her cage
and saw the world anew. During the long years in which she had been trapped in a brutal
  marriage, Catherine had fought to preserve her sense of who she was. In her mind she
 always remained a high-spirited girl with raven hair who loved to run and ramble in the
   woods-she just had to be very, very careful that no one ever got the upper hand of her
                          again and tricked her back into the cage.


                                           "Stop!"
 Horace reined the horses and held them still while Jimmy helped her ladyship out of the
phaeton. It was her favorite place in all of Rosings. A gravel path led from the main road
 through the woods and then opened onto a broad meadow that stretched down and away
from the forest. From the top of the meadow, Catherine could see for miles if she looked
straight out, and she could see masses of flowers in a glacial hollow if she looked straight
                                            down.
  Catherine strode along the path eagerly. The March breeze was cool against her cheek,
  but the sun was warm as it filtered through the trees, bringing life and color to her pale
skin and a spring to her step. She clutched at the ties on her bonnet and deftly untied them
  and then pulled off the bonnet itself. She was of half a mind to loosen her hair and run
   down the path when she heard someone singing. She stopped short. She suddenly felt
 vulnerable and self-conscious. She felt her face flush with anxiety. Hardly behaving like
 mistress of the manor, are we? The singing continued, drifting out of the forest, swirling
  on the light wind. Catherine ducked behind a tree, panting heavily. Like a fugitive, she
 crept to the edge of the forest, tree by tree. And there sitting in a hollow of flowers was a
young woman, barely more than a girl. Her book was lying open on a rock, abandoned as
 the girl picked flowers and wove them into a chain. Catherine watched transfixed as the
    girl then loosened her hair and set the flower wreath on top and then jumped up and
                whirled and danced and sang as if she were a daughter of Pan.
 "Lizzy! Lizzy, where are you?" The girl stopped dancing as she heard the calls coming
 from the lower meadow. Catherine watched as the girl tossed her wreath aside, quickly
 gathered her long curls and wound them up and under and pinned them tight-she's had
plenty of practice at that!-grabbed her book and skipped down the hill to join the voices
that had beckoned to her. Catherine watched until the girl and her two companions, one
  of which she now recognized as Mrs. Collins, were out of sight, and then she slowly
                            made her way back to her carriage.
  Later that day, after Catherine had sat with Anne and quietly read to her from a new
volume of poetry that had just arrived from London, she sent word to the parsonage that
       she wished the Collinses and their guests to dine with her on the morrow.

                                        ...
                                     gaspwill

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