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CHAPTER 26
Mrs. Gardiner's caution to Elizabeth was punctually and kindly given on the first
favourable opportunity of speaking to her alone; after honestly telling her what she
thought, she thus went on:
"You are too sensible a girl, Lizzy, to fall in love merely because you are warned
against it; and, therefore, I am not afraid of speaking openly.
Seriously, I would have you be on your guard.
Do not involve yourself or endeavour to involve him in an affection which the want
of fortune would make so very imprudent.
I have nothing to say against him; he is a most interesting young man; and if he had
the fortune he ought to have, I should think you could not do better.
But as it is, you must not let your fancy run away with you.
You have sense, and we all expect you to use it.
Your father would depend on your resolution and good conduct, I am sure.
You must not disappoint your father." "My dear aunt, this is being serious
indeed."
"Yes, and I hope to engage you to be serious likewise."
"Well, then, you need not be under any alarm.
I will take care of myself, and of Mr. Wickham too.
He shall not be in love with me, if I can prevent it."
"Elizabeth, you are not serious now."
"I beg your pardon, I will try again. At present I am not in love with Mr.
Wickham; no, I certainly am not.
But he is, beyond all comparison, the most agreeable man I ever saw--and if he becomes
really attached to me--I believe it will be better that he should not.
I see the imprudence of it.
Oh! that abominable Mr. Darcy! My father's opinion of me does me the
greatest honour, and I should be miserable to forfeit it.
My father, however, is partial to Mr. Wickham.
In short, my dear aunt, I should be very sorry to be the means of making any of you
unhappy; but since we see every day that where there is affection, young people are
seldom withheld by immediate want of
fortune from entering into engagements with each other, how can I promise to be wiser
than so many of my fellow-creatures if I am tempted, or how am I even to know that it
would be wisdom to resist?
All that I can promise you, therefore, is not to be in a hurry.
I will not be in a hurry to believe myself his first object.
When I am in company with him, I will not be wishing.
In short, I will do my best." "Perhaps it will be as well if you
discourage his coming here so very often.
At least, you should not remind your mother of inviting him."
"As I did the other day," said Elizabeth with a conscious smile: "very true, it will
be wise in me to refrain from that.
But do not imagine that he is always here so often.
It is on your account that he has been so frequently invited this week.
You know my mother's ideas as to the necessity of constant company for her
friends.
But really, and upon my honour, I will try to do what I think to be the wisest; and
now I hope you are satisfied."
Her aunt assured her that she was, and Elizabeth having thanked her for the
kindness of her hints, they parted; a wonderful instance of advice being given on
such a point, without being resented.
Mr. Collins returned into Hertfordshire soon after it had been quitted by the
Gardiners and Jane; but as he took up his abode with the Lucases, his arrival was no
great inconvenience to Mrs. Bennet.
His marriage was now fast approaching, and she was at length so far resigned as to
think it inevitable, and even repeatedly to say, in an ill-natured tone, that she
"wished they might be happy."
Thursday was to be the wedding day, and on Wednesday Miss Lucas paid her farewell
visit; and when she rose to take leave, Elizabeth, ashamed of her mother's
ungracious and reluctant good wishes, and
sincerely affected herself, accompanied her out of the room.
As they went downstairs together, Charlotte said:
"I shall depend on hearing from you very often, Eliza."
"That you certainly shall." "And I have another favour to ask you.
Will you come and see me?"
"We shall often meet, I hope, in Hertfordshire."
"I am not likely to leave Kent for some time.
Promise me, therefore, to come to Hunsford."
Elizabeth could not refuse, though she foresaw little pleasure in the visit.
"My father and Maria are coming to me in March," added Charlotte, "and I hope you
will consent to be of the party. Indeed, Eliza, you will be as welcome as
either of them."
The wedding took place; the bride and bridegroom set off for Kent from the church
door, and everybody had as much to say, or to hear, on the subject as usual.
Elizabeth soon heard from her friend; and their correspondence was as regular and
frequent as it had ever been; that it should be equally unreserved was
impossible.
Elizabeth could never address her without feeling that all the comfort of intimacy
was over, and though determined not to slacken as a correspondent, it was for the
sake of what had been, rather than what was.
Charlotte's first letters were received with a good deal of eagerness; there could
not but be curiosity to know how she would speak of her new home, how she would like
Lady Catherine, and how happy she would
dare pronounce herself to be; though, when the letters were read, Elizabeth felt that
Charlotte expressed herself on every point exactly as she might have foreseen.
She wrote cheerfully, seemed surrounded with comforts, and mentioned nothing which
she could not praise.
The house, furniture, neighbourhood, and roads, were all to her taste, and Lady
Catherine's behaviour was most friendly and obliging.
It was Mr. Collins's picture of Hunsford and Rosings rationally softened; and
Elizabeth perceived that she must wait for her own visit there to know the rest.
Jane had already written a few lines to her sister to announce their safe arrival in
London; and when she wrote again, Elizabeth hoped it would be in her power to say
something of the Bingleys.
Her impatience for this second letter was as well rewarded as impatience generally
is. Jane had been a week in town without either
seeing or hearing from Caroline.
She accounted for it, however, by supposing that her last letter to her friend from
Longbourn had by some accident been lost.
"My aunt," she continued, "is going to- morrow into that part of the town, and I
shall take the opportunity of calling in Grosvenor Street."
She wrote again when the visit was paid, and she had seen Miss Bingley.
"I did not think Caroline in spirits," were her words, "but she was very glad to see
me, and reproached me for giving her no notice of my coming to London.
I was right, therefore, my last letter had never reached her.
I inquired after their brother, of course. He was well, but so much engaged with Mr.
Darcy that they scarcely ever saw him.
I found that Miss Darcy was expected to dinner.
I wish I could see her. My visit was not long, as Caroline and Mrs.
Hurst were going out.
I dare say I shall see them soon here." Elizabeth shook her head over this letter.
It convinced her that accident only could discover to Mr. Bingley her sister's being
in town.
Four weeks passed away, and Jane saw nothing of him.
She endeavoured to persuade herself that she did not regret it; but she could no
longer be blind to Miss Bingley's inattention.
After waiting at home every morning for a fortnight, and inventing every evening a
fresh excuse for her, the visitor did at last appear; but the shortness of her stay,
and yet more, the alteration of her manner
would allow Jane to deceive herself no longer.
The letter which she wrote on this occasion to her sister will prove what she felt.
"My dearest Lizzy will, I am sure, be incapable of triumphing in her better
judgement, at my expense, when I confess myself to have been entirely deceived in
Miss Bingley's regard for me.
But, my dear sister, though the event has proved you right, do not think me obstinate
if I still assert that, considering what her behaviour was, my confidence was as
natural as your suspicion.
I do not at all comprehend her reason for wishing to be intimate with me; but if the
same circumstances were to happen again, I am sure I should be deceived again.
Caroline did not return my visit till yesterday; and not a note, not a line, did
I receive in the meantime.
When she did come, it was very evident that she had no pleasure in it; she made a
slight, formal apology, for not calling before, said not a word of wishing to see
me again, and was in every respect so
altered a creature, that when she went away I was perfectly resolved to continue the
acquaintance no longer. I pity, though I cannot help blaming her.
She was very wrong in singling me out as she did; I can safely say that every
advance to intimacy began on her side.
But I pity her, because she must feel that she has been acting wrong, and because I am
very sure that anxiety for her brother is the cause of it.
I need not explain myself farther; and though we know this anxiety to be quite
needless, yet if she feels it, it will easily account for her behaviour to me; and
so deservedly dear as he is to his sister,
whatever anxiety she must feel on his behalf is natural and amiable.
I cannot but wonder, however, at her having any such fears now, because, if he had at
all cared about me, we must have met, long ago.
He knows of my being in town, I am certain, from something she said herself; and yet it
would seem, by her manner of talking, as if she wanted to persuade herself that he is
really partial to Miss Darcy.
I cannot understand it. If I were not afraid of judging harshly, I
should be almost tempted to say that there is a strong appearance of duplicity in all
this.
But I will endeavour to banish every painful thought, and think only of what
will make me happy--your affection, and the invariable kindness of my dear uncle and
aunt.
Let me hear from you very soon. Miss Bingley said something of his never
returning to Netherfield again, of giving up the house, but not with any certainty.
We had better not mention it.
I am extremely glad that you have such pleasant accounts from our friends at
Hunsford. Pray go to see them, with Sir William and
Maria.
I am sure you will be very comfortable there.--Yours, etc."
This letter gave Elizabeth some pain; but her spirits returned as she considered that
Jane would no longer be duped, by the sister at least.
All expectation from the brother was now absolutely over.
She would not even wish for a renewal of his attentions.
His character sunk on every review of it; and as a punishment for him, as well as a
possible advantage to Jane, she seriously hoped he might really soon marry Mr.
Darcy's sister, as by Wickham's account,
she would make him abundantly regret what he had thrown away.
Mrs. Gardiner about this time reminded Elizabeth of her promise concerning that
gentleman, and required information; and Elizabeth had such to send as might rather
give contentment to her aunt than to herself.
His apparent partiality had subsided, his attentions were over, he was the admirer of
some one else.
Elizabeth was watchful enough to see it all, but she could see it and write of it
without material pain.
Her heart had been but slightly touched, and her vanity was satisfied with believing
that she would have been his only choice, had fortune permitted it.
The sudden acquisition of ten thousand pounds was the most remarkable charm of the
young lady to whom he was now rendering himself agreeable; but Elizabeth, less
clear-sighted perhaps in this case than in
Charlotte's, did not quarrel with him for his wish of independence.
Nothing, on the contrary, could be more natural; and while able to suppose that it
cost him a few struggles to relinquish her, she was ready to allow it a wise and
desirable measure for both, and could very sincerely wish him happy.
All this was acknowledged to Mrs. Gardiner; and after relating the circumstances, she
thus went on: "I am now convinced, my dear aunt, that I have never been much in love;
for had I really experienced that pure and
elevating passion, I should at present detest his very name, and wish him all
manner of evil.
But my feelings are not only cordial towards him; they are even impartial
towards Miss King.
I cannot find out that I hate her at all, or that I am in the least unwilling to
think her a very good sort of girl. There can be no love in all this.
My watchfulness has been effectual; and though I certainly should be a more
interesting object to all my acquaintances were I distractedly in love with him, I
cannot say that I regret my comparative insignificance.
Importance may sometimes be purchased too dearly.
Kitty and Lydia take his defection much more to heart than I do.
They are young in the ways of the world, and not yet open to the mortifying
conviction that handsome young men must have something to live on as well as the
plain."
>
CHAPTER 27
With no greater events than these in the Longbourn family, and otherwise diversified
by little beyond the walks to Meryton, sometimes dirty and sometimes cold, did
January and February pass away.
March was to take Elizabeth to Hunsford.
She had not at first thought very seriously of going thither; but Charlotte, she soon
found, was depending on the plan and she gradually learned to consider it herself
with greater pleasure as well as greater certainty.
Absence had increased her desire of seeing Charlotte again, and weakened her disgust
of Mr. Collins.
There was novelty in the scheme, and as, with such a mother and such uncompanionable
sisters, home could not be faultless, a little change was not unwelcome for its own
sake.
The journey would moreover give her a peep at Jane; and, in short, as the time drew
near, she would have been very sorry for any delay.
Everything, however, went on smoothly, and was finally settled according to
Charlotte's first sketch. She was to accompany Sir William and his
second daughter.
The improvement of spending a night in London was added in time, and the plan
became perfect as plan could be.
The only pain was in leaving her father, who would certainly miss her, and who, when
it came to the point, so little liked her going, that he told her to write to him,
and almost promised to answer her letter.
The farewell between herself and Mr. Wickham was perfectly friendly; on his side
even more.
His present pursuit could not make him forget that Elizabeth had been the first to
excite and to deserve his attention, the first to listen and to pity, the first to
be admired; and in his manner of bidding
her adieu, wishing her every enjoyment, reminding her of what she was to expect in
Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and trusting their opinion of her--their opinion of
everybody--would always coincide, there was
a solicitude, an interest which she felt must ever attach her to him with a most
sincere regard; and she parted from him convinced that, whether married or single,
he must always be her model of the amiable and pleasing.
Her fellow-travellers the next day were not of a kind to make her think him less
agreeable.
Sir William Lucas, and his daughter Maria, a good-humoured girl, but as empty-headed
as himself, had nothing to say that could be worth hearing, and were listened to with
about as much delight as the rattle of the chaise.
Elizabeth loved absurdities, but she had known Sir William's too long.
He could tell her nothing new of the wonders of his presentation and knighthood;
and his civilities were worn out, like his information.
It was a journey of only twenty-four miles, and they began it so early as to be in
Gracechurch Street by noon.
As they drove to Mr. Gardiner's door, Jane was at a drawing-room window watching their
arrival; when they entered the passage she was there to welcome them, and Elizabeth,
looking earnestly in her face, was pleased to see it healthful and lovely as ever.
On the stairs were a troop of little boys and girls, whose eagerness for their
cousin's appearance would not allow them to wait in the drawing-room, and whose
shyness, as they had not seen her for a twelvemonth, prevented their coming lower.
All was joy and kindness.
The day passed most pleasantly away; the morning in bustle and shopping, and the
evening at one of the theatres. Elizabeth then contrived to sit by her
aunt.
Their first object was her sister; and she was more grieved than astonished to hear,
in reply to her minute inquiries, that though Jane always struggled to support her
spirits, there were periods of dejection.
It was reasonable, however, to hope that they would not continue long.
Mrs. Gardiner gave her the particulars also of Miss Bingley's visit in Gracechurch
Street, and repeated conversations occurring at different times between Jane
and herself, which proved that the former
had, from her heart, given up the acquaintance.
Mrs. Gardiner then rallied her niece on Wickham's desertion, and complimented her
on bearing it so well.
"But my dear Elizabeth," she added, "what sort of girl is Miss King?
I should be sorry to think our friend mercenary."
"Pray, my dear aunt, what is the difference in matrimonial affairs, between the
mercenary and the prudent motive? Where does discretion end, and avarice
begin?
Last Christmas you were afraid of his marrying me, because it would be imprudent;
and now, because he is trying to get a girl with only ten thousand pounds, you want to
find out that he is mercenary."
"If you will only tell me what sort of girl Miss King is, I shall know what to think."
"She is a very good kind of girl, I believe.
I know no harm of her."
"But he paid her not the smallest attention till her grandfather's death made her
mistress of this fortune." "No--what should he?
If it were not allowable for him to gain my affections because I had no money, what
occasion could there be for making love to a girl whom he did not care about, and who
was equally poor?"
"But there seems an indelicacy in directing his attentions towards her so soon after
this event."
"A man in distressed circumstances has not time for all those elegant decorums which
other people may observe. If she does not object to it, why should
we?"
"Her not objecting does not justify him. It only shows her being deficient in
something herself--sense or feeling." "Well," cried Elizabeth, "have it as you
choose.
He shall be mercenary, and she shall be foolish."
"No, Lizzy, that is what I do not choose.
I should be sorry, you know, to think ill of a young man who has lived so long in
Derbyshire."
"Oh! if that is all, I have a very poor opinion of young men who live in
Derbyshire; and their intimate friends who live in Hertfordshire are not much better.
I am sick of them all.
Thank Heaven! I am going to-morrow where I shall find a
man who has not one agreeable quality, who has neither manner nor sense to recommend
him.
Stupid men are the only ones worth knowing, after all."
"Take care, Lizzy; that speech savours strongly of disappointment."
Before they were separated by the conclusion of the play, she had the
unexpected happiness of an invitation to accompany her uncle and aunt in a tour of
pleasure which they proposed taking in the summer.
"We have not determined how far it shall carry us," said Mrs. Gardiner, "but,
perhaps, to the Lakes."
No scheme could have been more agreeable to Elizabeth, and her acceptance of the
invitation was most ready and grateful. "Oh, my dear, dear aunt," she rapturously
cried, "what delight! what felicity!
You give me fresh life and vigour. Adieu to disappointment and spleen.
What are young men to rocks and mountains? Oh! what hours of transport we shall spend!
And when we do return, it shall not be like other travellers, without being able to
give one accurate idea of anything. We will know where we have gone--we will
recollect what we have seen.
Lakes, mountains, and rivers shall not be jumbled together in our imaginations; nor
when we attempt to describe any particular scene, will we begin quarreling about its
relative situation.
Let our first effusions be less insupportable than those of the generality
of travellers."
>
CHAPTER 28
Every object in the next day's journey was new and interesting to Elizabeth; and her
spirits were in a state of enjoyment; for she had seen her sister looking so well as
to banish all fear for her health, and the
prospect of her northern tour was a constant source of delight.
When they left the high road for the lane to Hunsford, every eye was in search of the
Parsonage, and every turning expected to bring it in view.
The palings of Rosings Park was their boundary on one side.
Elizabeth smiled at the recollection of all that she had heard of its inhabitants.
At length the Parsonage was discernible.
The garden sloping to the road, the house standing in it, the green pales, and the
laurel hedge, everything declared they were arriving.
Mr. Collins and Charlotte appeared at the door, and the carriage stopped at the small
gate which led by a short gravel walk to the house, amidst the nods and smiles of
the whole party.
In a moment they were all out of the chaise, rejoicing at the sight of each
other.
Mrs. Collins welcomed her friend with the liveliest pleasure, and Elizabeth was more
and more satisfied with coming when she found herself so affectionately received.
She saw instantly that her cousin's manners were not altered by his marriage; his
formal civility was just what it had been, and he detained her some minutes at the
gate to hear and satisfy his inquiries after all her family.
They were then, with no other delay than his pointing out the neatness of the
entrance, taken into the house; and as soon as they were in the parlour, he welcomed
them a second time, with ostentatious
formality to his humble abode, and punctually repeated all his wife's offers
of refreshment.
Elizabeth was prepared to see him in his glory; and she could not help in fancying
that in displaying the good proportion of the room, its aspect and its furniture, he
addressed himself particularly to her, as
if wishing to make her feel what she had lost in refusing him.
But though everything seemed neat and comfortable, she was not able to gratify
him by any sigh of repentance, and rather looked with wonder at her friend that she
could have so cheerful an air with such a companion.
When Mr. Collins said anything of which his wife might reasonably be ashamed, which
certainly was not unseldom, she involuntarily turned her eye on Charlotte.
Once or twice she could discern a faint blush; but in general Charlotte wisely did
not hear.
After sitting long enough to admire every article of furniture in the room, from the
sideboard to the fender, to give an account of their journey, and of all that had
happened in London, Mr. Collins invited
them to take a stroll in the garden, which was large and well laid out, and to the
cultivation of which he attended himself.
To work in this garden was one of his most respectable pleasures; and Elizabeth
admired the command of countenance with which Charlotte talked of the healthfulness
of the exercise, and owned she encouraged it as much as possible.
Here, leading the way through every walk and cross walk, and scarcely allowing them
an interval to utter the praises he asked for, every view was pointed out with a
minuteness which left beauty entirely behind.
He could number the fields in every direction, and could tell how many trees
there were in the most distant clump.
But of all the views which his garden, or which the country or kingdom could boast,
none were to be compared with the prospect of Rosings, afforded by an opening in the
trees that bordered the park nearly opposite the front of his house.
It was a handsome modern building, well situated on rising ground.
From his garden, Mr. Collins would have led them round his two meadows; but the ladies,
not having shoes to encounter the remains of a white frost, turned back; and while
Sir William accompanied him, Charlotte took
her sister and friend over the house, extremely well pleased, probably, to have
the opportunity of showing it without her husband's help.
It was rather small, but well built and convenient; and everything was fitted up
and arranged with a neatness and consistency of which Elizabeth gave
Charlotte all the credit.
When Mr. Collins could be forgotten, there was really an air of great comfort
throughout, and by Charlotte's evident enjoyment of it, Elizabeth supposed he must
be often forgotten.
She had already learnt that Lady Catherine was still in the country.
It was spoken of again while they were at dinner, when Mr. Collins joining in,
observed:
"Yes, Miss Elizabeth, you will have the honour of seeing Lady Catherine de Bourgh
on the ensuing Sunday at church, and I need not say you will be delighted with her.
She is all affability and condescension, and I doubt not but you will be honoured
with some portion of her notice when service is over.
I have scarcely any hesitation in saying she will include you and my sister Maria in
every invitation with which she honours us during your stay here.
Her behaviour to my dear Charlotte is charming.
We dine at Rosings twice every week, and are never allowed to walk home.
Her ladyship's carriage is regularly ordered for us.
I should say, one of her ladyship's carriages, for she has several."
"Lady Catherine is a very respectable, sensible woman indeed," added Charlotte,
"and a most attentive neighbour." "Very true, my dear, that is exactly what I
say.
She is the sort of woman whom one cannot regard with too much deference."
The evening was spent chiefly in talking over Hertfordshire news, and telling again
what had already been written; and when it closed, Elizabeth, in the solitude of her
chamber, had to meditate upon Charlotte's
degree of contentment, to understand her address in guiding, and composure in
bearing with, her husband, and to acknowledge that it was all done very well.
She had also to anticipate how her visit would pass, the quiet tenor of their usual
employments, the vexatious interruptions of Mr. Collins, and the gaieties of their
intercourse with Rosings.
A lively imagination soon settled it all.
About the middle of the next day, as she was in her room getting ready for a walk, a
sudden noise below seemed to speak the whole house in confusion; and, after
listening a moment, she heard somebody
running upstairs in a violent hurry, and calling loudly after her.
She opened the door and met Maria in the landing place, who, breathless with
agitation, cried out--
"Oh, my dear Eliza! pray make haste and come into the dining-room, for there is
such a sight to be seen! I will not tell you what it is.
Make haste, and come down this moment."
Elizabeth asked questions in vain; Maria would tell her nothing more, and down they
ran into the dining-room, which fronted the lane, in quest of this wonder; It was two
ladies stopping in a low phaeton at the garden gate.
"And is this all?" cried Elizabeth.
"I expected at least that the pigs were got into the garden, and here is nothing but
Lady Catherine and her daughter." "La! my dear," said Maria, quite shocked at
the mistake, "it is not Lady Catherine.
The old lady is Mrs. Jenkinson, who lives with them; the other is Miss de Bourgh.
Only look at her. She is quite a little creature.
Who would have thought that she could be so thin and small?"
"She is abominably rude to keep Charlotte out of doors in all this wind.
Why does she not come in?"
"Oh, Charlotte says she hardly ever does. It is the greatest of favours when Miss de
Bourgh comes in." "I like her appearance," said Elizabeth,
struck with other ideas.
"She looks sickly and cross. Yes, she will do for him very well.
She will make him a very proper wife."
Mr. Collins and Charlotte were both standing at the gate in conversation with
the ladies; and Sir William, to Elizabeth's high diversion, was stationed in the
doorway, in earnest contemplation of the
greatness before him, and constantly bowing whenever Miss de Bourgh looked that way.
At length there was nothing more to be said; the ladies drove on, and the others
returned into the house.
Mr. Collins no sooner saw the two girls than he began to congratulate them on their
good fortune, which Charlotte explained by letting them know that the whole party was
asked to dine at Rosings the next day.
>
CHAPTER 29
Mr. Collins's triumph, in consequence of this invitation, was complete.
The power of displaying the grandeur of his patroness to his wondering visitors, and of
letting them see her civility towards himself and his wife, was exactly what he
had wished for; and that an opportunity of
doing it should be given so soon, was such an instance of Lady Catherine's
condescension, as he knew not how to admire enough.
"I confess," said he, "that I should not have been at all surprised by her
ladyship's asking us on Sunday to drink tea and spend the evening at Rosings.
I rather expected, from my knowledge of her affability, that it would happen.
But who could have foreseen such an attention as this?
Who could have imagined that we should receive an invitation to dine there (an
invitation, moreover, including the whole party) so immediately after your arrival!"
"I am the less surprised at what has happened," replied Sir William, "from that
knowledge of what the manners of the great really are, which my situation in life has
allowed me to acquire.
About the court, such instances of elegant breeding are not uncommon."
Scarcely anything was talked of the whole day or next morning but their visit to
Rosings.
Mr. Collins was carefully instructing them in what they were to expect, that the sight
of such rooms, so many servants, and so splendid a dinner, might not wholly
overpower them.
When the ladies were separating for the toilette, he said to Elizabeth--
"Do not make yourself uneasy, my dear cousin, about your apparel.
Lady Catherine is far from requiring that elegance of dress in us which becomes
herself and her daughter.
I would advise you merely to put on whatever of your clothes is superior to the
rest--there is no occasion for anything more.
Lady Catherine will not think the worse of you for being simply dressed.
She likes to have the distinction of rank preserved."
While they were dressing, he came two or three times to their different doors, to
recommend their being quick, as Lady Catherine very much objected to be kept
waiting for her dinner.
Such formidable accounts of her ladyship, and her manner of living, quite frightened
Maria Lucas who had been little used to company, and she looked forward to her
introduction at Rosings with as much
apprehension as her father had done to his presentation at St. James's.
As the weather was fine, they had a pleasant walk of about half a mile across
the park.
Every park has its beauty and its prospects; and Elizabeth saw much to be
pleased with, though she could not be in such raptures as Mr. Collins expected the
scene to inspire, and was but slightly
affected by his enumeration of the windows in front of the house, and his relation of
what the glazing altogether had originally cost Sir Lewis de Bourgh.
When they ascended the steps to the hall, Maria's alarm was every moment increasing,
and even Sir William did not look perfectly calm.
Elizabeth's courage did not fail her.
She had heard nothing of Lady Catherine that spoke her awful from any extraordinary
talents or miraculous virtue, and the mere stateliness of money or rank she thought
she could witness without trepidation.
From the entrance-hall, of which Mr. Collins pointed out, with a rapturous air,
the fine proportion and the finished ornaments, they followed the servants
through an ante-chamber, to the room where
Lady Catherine, her daughter, and Mrs. Jenkinson were sitting.
Her ladyship, with great condescension, arose to receive them; and as Mrs. Collins
had settled it with her husband that the office of introduction should be hers, it
was performed in a proper manner, without
any of those apologies and thanks which he would have thought necessary.
In spite of having been at St. James's Sir William was so completely awed by the
grandeur surrounding him, that he had but just courage enough to make a very low bow,
and take his seat without saying a word;
and his daughter, frightened almost out of her senses, sat on the edge of her chair,
not knowing which way to look.
Elizabeth found herself quite equal to the scene, and could observe the three ladies
before her composedly.
Lady Catherine was a tall, large woman, with strongly-marked features, which might
once have been handsome.
Her air was not conciliating, nor was her manner of receiving them such as to make
her visitors forget their inferior rank.
She was not rendered formidable by silence; but whatever she said was spoken in so
authoritative a tone, as marked her self- importance, and brought Mr. Wickham
immediately to Elizabeth's mind; and from
the observation of the day altogether, she believed Lady Catherine to be exactly what
he represented.
When, after examining the mother, in whose countenance and deportment she soon found
some resemblance of Mr. Darcy, she turned her eyes on the daughter, she could almost
have joined in Maria's astonishment at her being so thin and so small.
There was neither in figure nor face any likeness between the ladies.
Miss de Bourgh was pale and sickly; her features, though not plain, were
insignificant; and she spoke very little, except in a low voice, to Mrs. Jenkinson,
in whose appearance there was nothing
remarkable, and who was entirely engaged in listening to what she said, and placing a
screen in the proper direction before her eyes.
After sitting a few minutes, they were all sent to one of the windows to admire the
view, Mr. Collins attending them to point out its beauties, and Lady Catherine kindly
informing them that it was much better worth looking at in the summer.
The dinner was exceedingly handsome, and there were all the servants and all the
articles of plate which Mr. Collins had promised; and, as he had likewise foretold,
he took his seat at the bottom of the
table, by her ladyship's desire, and looked as if he felt that life could furnish
nothing greater.
He carved, and ate, and praised with delighted alacrity; and every dish was
commended, first by him and then by Sir William, who was now enough recovered to
echo whatever his son-in-law said, in a
manner which Elizabeth wondered Lady Catherine could bear.
But Lady Catherine seemed gratified by their excessive admiration, and gave most
gracious smiles, especially when any dish on the table proved a novelty to them.
The party did not supply much conversation.
Elizabeth was ready to speak whenever there was an opening, but she was seated between
Charlotte and Miss de Bourgh--the former of whom was engaged in listening to Lady
Catherine, and the latter said not a word to her all dinner-time.
Mrs. Jenkinson was chiefly employed in watching how little Miss de Bourgh ate,
pressing her to try some other dish, and fearing she was indisposed.
Maria thought speaking out of the question, and the gentlemen did nothing but eat and
admire.
When the ladies returned to the drawing- room, there was little to be done but to
hear Lady Catherine talk, which she did without any intermission till coffee came
in, delivering her opinion on every subject
in so decisive a manner, as proved that she was not used to have her judgement
controverted.
She inquired into Charlotte's domestic concerns familiarly and minutely, gave her
a great deal of advice as to the management of them all; told her how everything ought
to be regulated in so small a family as
hers, and instructed her as to the care of her cows and her poultry.
Elizabeth found that nothing was beneath this great lady's attention, which could
furnish her with an occasion of dictating to others.
In the intervals of her discourse with Mrs. Collins, she addressed a variety of
questions to Maria and Elizabeth, but especially to the latter, of whose
connections she knew the least, and who she
observed to Mrs. Collins was a very genteel, pretty kind of girl.
She asked her, at different times, how many sisters she had, whether they were older or
younger than herself, whether any of them were likely to be married, whether they
were handsome, where they had been
educated, what carriage her father kept, and what had been her mother's maiden name?
Elizabeth felt all the impertinence of her questions but answered them very
composedly.
Lady Catherine then observed, "Your father's estate is entailed on Mr.
Collins, I think.
For your sake," turning to Charlotte, "I am glad of it; but otherwise I see no occasion
for entailing estates from the female line. It was not thought necessary in Sir Lewis
de Bourgh's family.
Do you play and sing, Miss Bennet?" "A little."
"Oh! then--some time or other we shall be happy to hear you.
Our instrument is a capital one, probably superior to----You shall try it some day.
Do your sisters play and sing?" "One of them does."
"Why did not you all learn?
You ought all to have learned. The Miss Webbs all play, and their father
has not so good an income as yours. Do you draw?"
"No, not at all."
"What, none of you?" "Not one."
"That is very strange. But I suppose you had no opportunity.
Your mother should have taken you to town every spring for the benefit of masters."
"My mother would have had no objection, but my father hates London."
"Has your governess left you?"
"We never had any governess." "No governess!
How was that possible? Five daughters brought up at home without a
governess!
I never heard of such a thing. Your mother must have been quite a slave to
your education." Elizabeth could hardly help smiling as she
assured her that had not been the case.
"Then, who taught you? who attended to you? Without a governess, you must have been
neglected."
"Compared with some families, I believe we were; but such of us as wished to learn
never wanted the means. We were always encouraged to read, and had
all the masters that were necessary.
Those who chose to be idle, certainly might."
"Aye, no doubt; but that is what a governess will prevent, and if I had known
your mother, I should have advised her most strenuously to engage one.
I always say that nothing is to be done in education without steady and regular
instruction, and nobody but a governess can give it.
It is wonderful how many families I have been the means of supplying in that way.
I am always glad to get a young person well placed out.
Four nieces of Mrs. Jenkinson are most delightfully situated through my means; and
it was but the other day that I recommended another young person, who was merely
accidentally mentioned to me, and the family are quite delighted with her.
Mrs. Collins, did I tell you of Lady Metcalf's calling yesterday to thank me?
She finds Miss Pope a treasure.
'Lady Catherine,' said she, 'you have given me a treasure.'
Are any of your younger sisters out, Miss Bennet?"
"Yes, ma'am, all."
"All! What, all five out at once? Very odd!
And you only the second. The younger ones out before the elder ones
are married!
Your younger sisters must be very young?" "Yes, my youngest is not sixteen.
Perhaps she is full young to be much in company.
But really, ma'am, I think it would be very hard upon younger sisters, that they should
not have their share of society and amusement, because the elder may not have
the means or inclination to marry early.
The last-born has as good a right to the pleasures of youth at the first.
And to be kept back on such a motive!
I think it would not be very likely to promote sisterly affection or delicacy of
mind."
"Upon my word," said her ladyship, "you give your opinion very decidedly for so
young a person. Pray, what is your age?"
"With three younger sisters grown up," replied Elizabeth, smiling, "your ladyship
can hardly expect me to own it."
Lady Catherine seemed quite astonished at not receiving a direct answer; and
Elizabeth suspected herself to be the first creature who had ever dared to trifle with
so much dignified impertinence.
"You cannot be more than twenty, I am sure, therefore you need not conceal your age."
"I am not one-and-twenty." When the gentlemen had joined them, and tea
was over, the card-tables were placed.
Lady Catherine, Sir William, and Mr. and Mrs. Collins sat down to quadrille; and as
Miss de Bourgh chose to play at cassino, the two girls had the honour of assisting
Mrs. Jenkinson to make up her party.
Their table was superlatively stupid.
Scarcely a syllable was uttered that did not relate to the game, except when Mrs.
Jenkinson expressed her fears of Miss de Bourgh's being too hot or too cold, or
having too much or too little light.
A great deal more passed at the other table.
Lady Catherine was generally speaking-- stating the mistakes of the three others,
or relating some anecdote of herself.
Mr. Collins was employed in agreeing to everything her ladyship said, thanking her
for every fish he won, and apologising if he thought he won too many.
Sir William did not say much.
He was storing his memory with anecdotes and noble names.
When Lady Catherine and her daughter had played as long as they chose, the tables
were broken up, the carriage was offered to Mrs. Collins, gratefully accepted and
immediately ordered.
The party then gathered round the fire to hear Lady Catherine determine what weather
they were to have on the morrow.
From these instructions they were summoned by the arrival of the coach; and with many
speeches of thankfulness on Mr. Collins's side and as many bows on Sir William's they
departed.
As soon as they had driven from the door, Elizabeth was called on by her cousin to
give her opinion of all that she had seen at Rosings, which, for Charlotte's sake,
she made more favourable than it really was.
But her commendation, though costing her some trouble, could by no means satisfy Mr.
Collins, and he was very soon obliged to take her ladyship's praise into his own
hands.
>
CHAPTER 30
Sir William stayed only a week at Hunsford, but his visit was long enough to convince
him of his daughter's being most comfortably settled, and of her possessing
such a husband and such a neighbour as were not often met with.
While Sir William was with them, Mr. Collins devoted his morning to driving him
out in his gig, and showing him the country; but when he went away, the whole
family returned to their usual employments,
and Elizabeth was thankful to find that they did not see more of her cousin by the
alteration, for the chief of the time between breakfast and dinner was now passed
by him either at work in the garden or in
reading and writing, and looking out of the window in his own book-room, which fronted
the road. The room in which the ladies sat was
backwards.
Elizabeth had at first rather wondered that Charlotte should not prefer the dining-
parlour for common use; it was a better sized room, and had a more pleasant aspect;
but she soon saw that her friend had an
excellent reason for what she did, for Mr. Collins would undoubtedly have been much
less in his own apartment, had they sat in one equally lively; and she gave Charlotte
credit for the arrangement.
From the drawing-room they could distinguish nothing in the lane, and were
indebted to Mr. Collins for the knowledge of what carriages went along, and how often
especially Miss de Bourgh drove by in her
phaeton, which he never failed coming to inform them of, though it happened almost
every day.
She not unfrequently stopped at the Parsonage, and had a few minutes'
conversation with Charlotte, but was scarcely ever prevailed upon to get out.
Very few days passed in which Mr. Collins did not walk to Rosings, and not many in
which his wife did not think it necessary to go likewise; and till Elizabeth
recollected that there might be other
family livings to be disposed of, she could not understand the sacrifice of so many
hours.
Now and then they were honoured with a call from her ladyship, and nothing escaped her
observation that was passing in the room during these visits.
She examined into their employments, looked at their work, and advised them to do it
differently; found fault with the arrangement of the furniture; or detected
the housemaid in negligence; and if she
accepted any refreshment, seemed to do it only for the sake of finding out that Mrs.
Collins's joints of meat were too large for her family.
Elizabeth soon perceived, that though this great lady was not in commission of the
peace of the county, she was a most active magistrate in her own parish, the minutest
concerns of which were carried to her by
Mr. Collins; and whenever any of the cottagers were disposed to be quarrelsome,
discontented, or too poor, she sallied forth into the village to settle their
differences, silence their complaints, and scold them into harmony and plenty.
The entertainment of dining at Rosings was repeated about twice a week; and, allowing
for the loss of Sir William, and there being only one card-table in the evening,
every such entertainment was the counterpart of the first.
Their other engagements were few, as the style of living in the neighbourhood in
general was beyond Mr. Collins's reach.
This, however, was no evil to Elizabeth, and upon the whole she spent her time
comfortably enough; there were half-hours of pleasant conversation with Charlotte,
and the weather was so fine for the time of
year that she had often great enjoyment out of doors.
Her favourite walk, and where she frequently went while the others were
calling on Lady Catherine, was along the open grove which edged that side of the
park, where there was a nice sheltered
path, which no one seemed to value but herself, and where she felt beyond the
reach of Lady Catherine's curiosity. In this quiet way, the first fortnight of
her visit soon passed away.
Easter was approaching, and the week preceding it was to bring an addition to
the family at Rosings, which in so small a circle must be important.
Elizabeth had heard soon after her arrival that Mr. Darcy was expected there in the
course of a few weeks, and though there were not many of her acquaintances whom she
did not prefer, his coming would furnish
one comparatively new to look at in their Rosings parties, and she might be amused in
seeing how hopeless Miss Bingley's designs on him were, by his behaviour to his
cousin, for whom he was evidently destined
by Lady Catherine, who talked of his coming with the greatest satisfaction, spoke of
him in terms of the highest admiration, and seemed almost angry to find that he had
already been frequently seen by Miss Lucas and herself.
His arrival was soon known at the Parsonage; for Mr. Collins was walking the
whole morning within view of the lodges opening into Hunsford Lane, in order to
have the earliest assurance of it, and
after making his bow as the carriage turned into the Park, hurried home with the great
intelligence. On the following morning he hastened to
Rosings to pay his respects.
There were two nephews of Lady Catherine to require them, for Mr. Darcy had brought
with him a Colonel Fitzwilliam, the younger son of his uncle Lord ----, and, to the
great surprise of all the party, when Mr.
Collins returned, the gentlemen accompanied him.
Charlotte had seen them from her husband's room, crossing the road, and immediately
running into the other, told the girls what an honour they might expect, adding:
"I may thank you, Eliza, for this piece of civility.
Mr. Darcy would never have come so soon to wait upon me."
Elizabeth had scarcely time to disclaim all right to the compliment, before their
approach was announced by the door-bell, and shortly afterwards the three gentlemen
entered the room.
Colonel Fitzwilliam, who led the way, was about thirty, not handsome, but in person
and address most truly the gentleman.
Mr. Darcy looked just as he had been used to look in Hertfordshire--paid his
compliments, with his usual reserve, to Mrs. Collins, and whatever might be his
feelings toward her friend, met her with every appearance of composure.
Elizabeth merely curtseyed to him without saying a word.
Colonel Fitzwilliam entered into conversation directly with the readiness
and ease of a well-bred man, and talked very pleasantly; but his cousin, after
having addressed a slight observation on
the house and garden to Mrs. Collins, sat for some time without speaking to anybody.
At length, however, his civility was so far awakened as to inquire of Elizabeth after
the health of her family.
She answered him in the usual way, and after a moment's pause, added:
"My eldest sister has been in town these three months.
Have you never happened to see her there?"
She was perfectly sensible that he never had; but she wished to see whether he would
betray any consciousness of what had passed between the Bingleys and Jane, and she
thought he looked a little confused as he
answered that he had never been so fortunate as to meet Miss Bennet.
The subject was pursued no farther, and the gentlemen soon afterwards went away.
>
CHAPTER 31
Colonel Fitzwilliam's manners were very much admired at the Parsonage, and the
ladies all felt that he must add considerably to the pleasures of their
engagements at Rosings.
It was some days, however, before they received any invitation thither--for while
there were visitors in the house, they could not be necessary; and it was not till
Easter-day, almost a week after the
gentlemen's arrival, that they were honoured by such an attention, and then
they were merely asked on leaving church to come there in the evening.
For the last week they had seen very little of Lady Catherine or her daughter.
Colonel Fitzwilliam had called at the Parsonage more than once during the time,
but Mr. Darcy they had seen only at church.
The invitation was accepted of course, and at a proper hour they joined the party in
Lady Catherine's drawing-room.
Her ladyship received them civilly, but it was plain that their company was by no
means so acceptable as when she could get nobody else; and she was, in fact, almost
engrossed by her nephews, speaking to them,
especially to Darcy, much more than to any other person in the room.
Colonel Fitzwilliam seemed really glad to see them; anything was a welcome relief to
him at Rosings; and Mrs. Collins's pretty friend had moreover caught his fancy very
much.
He now seated himself by her, and talked so agreeably of Kent and Hertfordshire, of
travelling and staying at home, of new books and music, that Elizabeth had never
been half so well entertained in that room
before; and they conversed with so much spirit and flow, as to draw the attention
of Lady Catherine herself, as well as of Mr. Darcy.
His eyes had been soon and repeatedly turned towards them with a look of
curiosity; and that her ladyship, after a while, shared the feeling, was more openly
acknowledged, for she did not scruple to call out:
"What is that you are saying, Fitzwilliam? What is it you are talking of?
What are you telling Miss Bennet?
Let me hear what it is." "We are speaking of music, madam," said he,
when no longer able to avoid a reply. "Of music!
Then pray speak aloud.
It is of all subjects my delight. I must have my share in the conversation if
you are speaking of music.
There are few people in England, I suppose, who have more true enjoyment of music than
myself, or a better natural taste. If I had ever learnt, I should have been a
great proficient.
And so would Anne, if her health had allowed her to apply.
I am confident that she would have performed delightfully.
How does Georgiana get on, Darcy?"
Mr. Darcy spoke with affectionate praise of his sister's proficiency.
"I am very glad to hear such a good account of her," said Lady Catherine; "and pray
tell her from me, that she cannot expect to excel if she does not practice a good
deal."
"I assure you, madam," he replied, "that she does not need such advice.
She practises very constantly." "So much the better.
It cannot be done too much; and when I next write to her, I shall charge her not to
neglect it on any account.
I often tell young ladies that no excellence in music is to be acquired
without constant practice.
I have told Miss Bennet several times, that she will never play really well unless she
practises more; and though Mrs. Collins has no instrument, she is very welcome, as I
have often told her, to come to Rosings
every day, and play on the pianoforte in Mrs. Jenkinson's room.
She would be in nobody's way, you know, in that part of the house."
Mr. Darcy looked a little ashamed of his aunt's ill-breeding, and made no answer.
When coffee was over, Colonel Fitzwilliam reminded Elizabeth of having promised to
play to him; and she sat down directly to the instrument.
He drew a chair near her.
Lady Catherine listened to half a song, and then talked, as before, to her other
nephew; till the latter walked away from her, and making with his usual deliberation
towards the pianoforte stationed himself so
as to command a full view of the fair performer's countenance.
Elizabeth saw what he was doing, and at the first convenient pause, turned to him with
an arch smile, and said:
"You mean to frighten me, Mr. Darcy, by coming in all this state to hear me?
I will not be alarmed though your sister does play so well.
There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of
others. My courage always rises at every attempt to
intimidate me."
"I shall not say you are mistaken," he replied, "because you could not really
believe me to entertain any design of alarming you; and I have had the pleasure
of your acquaintance long enough to know
that you find great enjoyment in occasionally professing opinions which in
fact are not your own."
Elizabeth laughed heartily at this picture of herself, and said to Colonel
Fitzwilliam, "Your cousin will give you a very pretty notion of me, and teach you not
to believe a word I say.
I am particularly unlucky in meeting with a person so able to expose my real character,
in a part of the world where I had hoped to pass myself off with some degree of credit.
Indeed, Mr. Darcy, it is very ungenerous in you to mention all that you knew to my
disadvantage in Hertfordshire--and, give me leave to say, very impolitic too--for it is
provoking me to retaliate, and such things
may come out as will shock your relations to hear."
"I am not afraid of you," said he, smilingly.
"Pray let me hear what you have to accuse him of," cried Colonel Fitzwilliam.
"I should like to know how he behaves among strangers."
"You shall hear then--but prepare yourself for something very dreadful.
The first time of my ever seeing him in Hertfordshire, you must know, was at a
ball--and at this ball, what do you think he did?
He danced only four dances, though gentlemen were scarce; and, to my certain
knowledge, more than one young lady was sitting down in want of a partner.
Mr. Darcy, you cannot deny the fact."
"I had not at that time the honour of knowing any lady in the assembly beyond my
own party." "True; and nobody can ever be introduced in
a ball-room.
Well, Colonel Fitzwilliam, what do I play next?
My fingers wait your orders."
"Perhaps," said Darcy, "I should have judged better, had I sought an
introduction; but I am ill-qualified to recommend myself to strangers."
"Shall we ask your cousin the reason of this?" said Elizabeth, still addressing
Colonel Fitzwilliam.
"Shall we ask him why a man of sense and education, and who has lived in the world,
is ill qualified to recommend himself to strangers?"
"I can answer your question," said Fitzwilliam, "without applying to him.
It is because he will not give himself the trouble."
"I certainly have not the talent which some people possess," said Darcy, "of conversing