Part 3 - Pride and Prejudice Audiobook by Jane Austen (Chs 26-40)


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Transcript:
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
easily with those I have never seen before.
I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as
I often see done."
"My fingers," said Elizabeth, "do not move over this instrument in the masterly manner
which I see so many women's do. They have not the same force or rapidity,
and do not produce the same expression.
But then I have always supposed it to be my own fault--because I will not take the
trouble of practising.
It is not that I do not believe my fingers as capable as any other woman's of superior
execution." Darcy smiled and said, "You are perfectly
right.
You have employed your time much better. No one admitted to the privilege of hearing
you can think anything wanting. We neither of us perform to strangers."
Here they were interrupted by Lady Catherine, who called out to know what they
were talking of. Elizabeth immediately began playing again.
Lady Catherine approached, and, after listening for a few minutes, said to Darcy:
"Miss Bennet would not play at all amiss if she practised more, and could have the
advantage of a London master.
She has a very good notion of fingering, though her taste is not equal to Anne's.
Anne would have been a delightful performer, had her health allowed her to
learn."
Elizabeth looked at Darcy to see how cordially he assented to his cousin's
praise; but neither at that moment nor at any other could she discern any symptom of
love; and from the whole of his behaviour
to Miss de Bourgh she derived this comfort for Miss Bingley, that he might have been
just as likely to marry her, had she been his relation.
Lady Catherine continued her remarks on Elizabeth's performance, mixing with them
many instructions on execution and taste.
Elizabeth received them with all the forbearance of civility, and, at the
request of the gentlemen, remained at the instrument till her ladyship's carriage was
ready to take them all home.
>
CHAPTER 32
Elizabeth was sitting by herself the next morning, and writing to Jane while Mrs.
Collins and Maria were gone on business into the village, when she was startled by
a ring at the door, the certain signal of a visitor.
As she had heard no carriage, she thought it not unlikely to be Lady Catherine, and
under that apprehension was putting away her half-finished letter that she might
escape all impertinent questions, when the
door opened, and, to her very great surprise, Mr. Darcy, and Mr. Darcy only,
entered the room.
He seemed astonished too on finding her alone, and apologised for his intrusion by
letting her know that he had understood all the ladies were to be within.
They then sat down, and when her inquiries after Rosings were made, seemed in danger
of sinking into total silence.
It was absolutely necessary, therefore, to think of something, and in this emergence
recollecting when she had seen him last in Hertfordshire, and feeling curious to know
what he would say on the subject of their hasty departure, she observed:
"How very suddenly you all quitted Netherfield last November, Mr. Darcy!
It must have been a most agreeable surprise to Mr. Bingley to see you all after him so
soon; for, if I recollect right, he went but the day before.
He and his sisters were well, I hope, when you left London?"
"Perfectly so, I thank you." She found that she was to receive no other
answer, and, after a short pause added:
"I think I have understood that Mr. Bingley has not much idea of ever returning to
Netherfield again?"
"I have never heard him say so; but it is probable that he may spend very little of
his time there in the future.
He has many friends, and is at a time of life when friends and engagements are
continually increasing."
"If he means to be but little at Netherfield, it would be better for the
neighbourhood that he should give up the place entirely, for then we might possibly
get a settled family there.
But, perhaps, Mr. Bingley did not take the house so much for the convenience of the
neighbourhood as for his own, and we must expect him to keep it or quit it on the
same principle."
"I should not be surprised," said Darcy, "if he were to give it up as soon as any
eligible purchase offers." Elizabeth made no answer.
She was afraid of talking longer of his friend; and, having nothing else to say,
was now determined to leave the trouble of finding a subject to him.
He took the hint, and soon began with, "This seems a very comfortable house.
Lady Catherine, I believe, did a great deal to it when Mr. Collins first came to
Hunsford."
"I believe she did--and I am sure she could not have bestowed her kindness on a more
grateful object." "Mr. Collins appears to be very fortunate
in his choice of a wife."
"Yes, indeed, his friends may well rejoice in his having met with one of the very few
sensible women who would have accepted him, or have made him happy if they had.
My friend has an excellent understanding-- though I am not certain that I consider her
marrying Mr. Collins as the wisest thing she ever did.
She seems perfectly happy, however, and in a prudential light it is certainly a very
good match for her."
"It must be very agreeable for her to be settled within so easy a distance of her
own family and friends." "An easy distance, do you call it?
It is nearly fifty miles."
"And what is fifty miles of good road? Little more than half a day's journey.
Yes, I call it a very easy distance."
"I should never have considered the distance as one of the advantages of the
match," cried Elizabeth. "I should never have said Mrs. Collins was
settled near her family."
"It is a proof of your own attachment to Hertfordshire.
Anything beyond the very neighbourhood of Longbourn, I suppose, would appear far."
As he spoke there was a sort of smile which Elizabeth fancied she understood; he must
be supposing her to be thinking of Jane and Netherfield, and she blushed as she
answered:
"I do not mean to say that a woman may not be settled too near her family.
The far and the near must be relative, and depend on many varying circumstances.
Where there is fortune to make the expenses of travelling unimportant, distance becomes
no evil. But that is not the case here.
Mr. and Mrs. Collins have a comfortable income, but not such a one as will allow of
frequent journeys--and I am persuaded my friend would not call herself near her
family under less than half the present distance."
Mr. Darcy drew his chair a little towards her, and said, "You cannot have a right to
such very strong local attachment.
You cannot have been always at Longbourn." Elizabeth looked surprised.
The gentleman experienced some change of feeling; he drew back his chair, took a
newspaper from the table, and glancing over it, said, in a colder voice:
"Are you pleased with Kent?"
A short dialogue on the subject of the country ensued, on either side calm and
concise--and soon put an end to by the entrance of Charlotte and her sister, just
returned from her walk.
The tete-a-tete surprised them. Mr. Darcy related the mistake which had
occasioned his intruding on Miss Bennet, and after sitting a few minutes longer
without saying much to anybody, went away.
"What can be the meaning of this?" said Charlotte, as soon as he was gone.
"My dear, Eliza, he must be in love with you, or he would never have called us in
this familiar way."
But when Elizabeth told of his silence; it did not seem very likely, even to
Charlotte's wishes, to be the case; and after various conjectures, they could at
last only suppose his visit to proceed from
the difficulty of finding anything to do, which was the more probable from the time
of year. All field sports were over.
Within doors there was Lady Catherine, books, and a billiard-table, but gentlemen
cannot always be within doors; and in the nearness of the Parsonage, or the
pleasantness of the walk to it, or of the
people who lived in it, the two cousins found a temptation from this period of
walking thither almost every day.
They called at various times of the morning, sometimes separately, sometimes
together, and now and then accompanied by their aunt.
It was plain to them all that Colonel Fitzwilliam came because he had pleasure in
their society, a persuasion which of course recommended him still more; and Elizabeth
was reminded by her own satisfaction in
being with him, as well as by his evident admiration of her, of her former favourite
George Wickham; and though, in comparing them, she saw there was less captivating
softness in Colonel Fitzwilliam's manners,
she believed he might have the best informed mind.
But why Mr. Darcy came so often to the Parsonage, it was more difficult to
understand.
It could not be for society, as he frequently sat there ten minutes together
without opening his lips; and when he did speak, it seemed the effect of necessity
rather than of choice--a sacrifice to propriety, not a pleasure to himself.
He seldom appeared really animated. Mrs. Collins knew not what to make of him.
Colonel Fitzwilliam's occasionally laughing at his stupidity, proved that he was
generally different, which her own knowledge of him could not have told her;
and as she would liked to have believed
this change the effect of love, and the object of that love her friend Eliza, she
set herself seriously to work to find it out.
She watched him whenever they were at Rosings, and whenever he came to Hunsford;
but without much success.
He certainly looked at her friend a great deal, but the expression of that look was
disputable.
It was an earnest, steadfast gaze, but she often doubted whether there were much
admiration in it, and sometimes it seemed nothing but absence of mind.
She had once or twice suggested to Elizabeth the possibility of his being
partial to her, but Elizabeth always laughed at the idea; and Mrs. Collins did
not think it right to press the subject,
from the danger of raising expectations which might only end in disappointment; for
in her opinion it admitted not of a doubt, that all her friend's dislike would vanish,
if she could suppose him to be in her power.
In her kind schemes for Elizabeth, she sometimes planned her marrying Colonel
Fitzwilliam.
He was beyond comparison the most pleasant man; he certainly admired her, and his
situation in life was most eligible; but, to counterbalance these advantages, Mr.
Darcy had considerable patronage in the
church, and his cousin could have none at all.
>
CHAPTER 33
More than once did Elizabeth, in her ramble within the park, unexpectedly meet Mr.
Darcy.
She felt all the perverseness of the mischance that should bring him where no
one else was brought, and, to prevent its ever happening again, took care to inform
him at first that it was a favourite haunt of hers.
How it could occur a second time, therefore, was very odd!
Yet it did, and even a third.
It seemed like wilful ill-nature, or a voluntary penance, for on these occasions
it was not merely a few formal inquiries and an awkward pause and then away, but he
actually thought it necessary to turn back and walk with her.
He never said a great deal, nor did she give herself the trouble of talking or of
listening much; but it struck her in the course of their third rencontre that he was
asking some odd unconnected questions--
about her pleasure in being at Hunsford, her love of solitary walks, and her opinion
of Mr. and Mrs. Collins's happiness; and that in speaking of Rosings and her not
perfectly understanding the house, he
seemed to expect that whenever she came into Kent again she would be staying there
too. His words seemed to imply it.
Could he have Colonel Fitzwilliam in his thoughts?
She supposed, if he meant anything, he must mean an allusion to what might arise in
that quarter.
It distressed her a little, and she was quite glad to find herself at the gate in
the pales opposite the Parsonage.
She was engaged one day as she walked, in perusing Jane's last letter, and dwelling
on some passages which proved that Jane had not written in spirits, when, instead of
being again surprised by Mr. Darcy, she saw
on looking up that Colonel Fitzwilliam was meeting her.
Putting away the letter immediately and forcing a smile, she said:
"I did not know before that you ever walked this way."
"I have been making the tour of the park," he replied, "as I generally do every year,
and intend to close it with a call at the Parsonage.
Are you going much farther?"
"No, I should have turned in a moment." And accordingly she did turn, and they
walked towards the Parsonage together. "Do you certainly leave Kent on Saturday?"
said she.
"Yes--if Darcy does not put it off again. But I am at his disposal.
He arranges the business just as he pleases."
"And if not able to please himself in the arrangement, he has at least pleasure in
the great power of choice.
I do not know anybody who seems more to enjoy the power of doing what he likes than
Mr. Darcy." "He likes to have his own way very well,"
replied Colonel Fitzwilliam.
"But so we all do. It is only that he has better means of
having it than many others, because he is rich, and many others are poor.
I speak feelingly.
A younger son, you know, must be inured to self-denial and dependence."
"In my opinion, the younger son of an earl can know very little of either.
Now seriously, what have you ever known of self-denial and dependence?
When have you been prevented by want of money from going wherever you chose, or
procuring anything you had a fancy for?"
"These are home questions--and perhaps I cannot say that I have experienced many
hardships of that nature. But in matters of greater weight, I may
suffer from want of money.
Younger sons cannot marry where they like." "Unless where they like women of fortune,
which I think they very often do."
"Our habits of expense make us too dependent, and there are not many in my
rank of life who can afford to marry without some attention to money."
"Is this," thought Elizabeth, "meant for me?" and she coloured at the idea; but,
recovering herself, said in a lively tone, "And pray, what is the usual price of an
earl's younger son?
Unless the elder brother is very sickly, I suppose you would not ask above fifty
thousand pounds." He answered her in the same style, and the
subject dropped.
To interrupt a silence which might make him fancy her affected with what had passed,
she soon afterwards said:
"I imagine your cousin brought you down with him chiefly for the sake of having
someone at his disposal. I wonder he does not marry, to secure a
lasting convenience of that kind.
But, perhaps, his sister does as well for the present, and, as she is under his sole
care, he may do what he likes with her." "No," said Colonel Fitzwilliam, "that is an
advantage which he must divide with me.
I am joined with him in the guardianship of Miss Darcy."
"Are you indeed? And pray what sort of guardians do you
make?
Does your charge give you much trouble? Young ladies of her age are sometimes a
little difficult to manage, and if she has the true Darcy spirit, she may like to have
her own way."
As she spoke she observed him looking at her earnestly; and the manner in which he
immediately asked her why she supposed Miss Darcy likely to give them any uneasiness,
convinced her that she had somehow or other got pretty near the truth.
She directly replied: "You need not be frightened.
I never heard any harm of her; and I dare say she is one of the most tractable
creatures in the world.
She is a very great favourite with some ladies of my acquaintance, Mrs. Hurst and
Miss Bingley. I think I have heard you say that you know
them."
"I know them a little. Their brother is a pleasant gentlemanlike
man--he is a great friend of Darcy's."
"Oh! yes," said Elizabeth drily; "Mr. Darcy is uncommonly kind to Mr. Bingley, and
takes a prodigious deal of care of him." "Care of him!
Yes, I really believe Darcy does take care of him in those points where he most wants
care.
From something that he told me in our journey hither, I have reason to think
Bingley very much indebted to him.
But I ought to beg his pardon, for I have no right to suppose that Bingley was the
person meant. It was all conjecture."
"What is it you mean?"
"It is a circumstance which Darcy could not wish to be generally known, because if it
were to get round to the lady's family, it would be an unpleasant thing."
"You may depend upon my not mentioning it."
"And remember that I have not much reason for supposing it to be Bingley.
What he told me was merely this: that he congratulated himself on having lately
saved a friend from the inconveniences of a most imprudent marriage, but without
mentioning names or any other particulars,
and I only suspected it to be Bingley from believing him the kind of young man to get
into a scrape of that sort, and from knowing them to have been together the
whole of last summer."
"Did Mr. Darcy give you reasons for this interference?"
"I understood that there were some very strong objections against the lady."
"And what arts did he use to separate them?"
"He did not talk to me of his own arts," said Fitzwilliam, smiling.
"He only told me what I have now told you."
Elizabeth made no answer, and walked on, her heart swelling with indignation.
After watching her a little, Fitzwilliam asked her why she was so thoughtful.
"I am thinking of what you have been telling me," said she.
"Your cousin's conduct does not suit my feelings.
Why was he to be the judge?"
"You are rather disposed to call his interference officious?"
"I do not see what right Mr. Darcy had to decide on the propriety of his friend's
inclination, or why, upon his own judgement alone, he was to determine and direct in
what manner his friend was to be happy.
But," she continued, recollecting herself, "as we know none of the particulars, it is
not fair to condemn him. It is not to be supposed that there was
much affection in the case."
"That is not an unnatural surmise," said Fitzwilliam, "but it is a lessening of the
honour of my cousin's triumph very sadly."
This was spoken jestingly; but it appeared to her so just a picture of Mr. Darcy, that
she would not trust herself with an answer, and therefore, abruptly changing the
conversation talked on indifferent matters until they reached the Parsonage.
There, shut into her own room, as soon as their visitor left them, she could think
without interruption of all that she had heard.
It was not to be supposed that any other people could be meant than those with whom
she was connected.
There could not exist in the world two men over whom Mr. Darcy could have such
boundless influence.
That he had been concerned in the measures taken to separate Bingley and Jane she had
never doubted; but she had always attributed to Miss Bingley the principal
design and arrangement of them.
If his own vanity, however, did not mislead him, he was the cause, his pride and
caprice were the cause, of all that Jane had suffered, and still continued to
suffer.
He had ruined for a while every hope of happiness for the most affectionate,
generous heart in the world; and no one could say how lasting an evil he might have
inflicted.
"There were some very strong objections against the lady," were Colonel
Fitzwilliam's words; and those strong objections probably were, her having one
uncle who was a country attorney, and another who was in business in London.
"To Jane herself," she exclaimed, "there could be no possibility of objection; all
loveliness and goodness as she is!--her understanding excellent, her mind improved,
and her manners captivating.
Neither could anything be urged against my father, who, though with some
peculiarities, has abilities Mr. Darcy himself need not disdain, and
respectability which he will probably never reach."
When she thought of her mother, her confidence gave way a little; but she would
not allow that any objections there had material weight with Mr. Darcy, whose
pride, she was convinced, would receive a
deeper wound from the want of importance in his friend's connections, than from their
want of sense; and she was quite decided, at last, that he had been partly governed
by this worst kind of pride, and partly by
the wish of retaining Mr. Bingley for his sister.
The agitation and tears which the subject occasioned, brought on a headache; and it
grew so much worse towards the evening, that, added to her unwillingness to see Mr.
Darcy, it determined her not to attend her
cousins to Rosings, where they were engaged to drink tea.
Mrs. Collins, seeing that she was really unwell, did not press her to go and as much
as possible prevented her husband from pressing her; but Mr. Collins could not
conceal his apprehension of Lady
Catherine's being rather displeased by her staying at home.
>
CHAPTER 34
When they were gone, Elizabeth, as if intending to exasperate herself as much as
possible against Mr. Darcy, chose for her employment the examination of all the
letters which Jane had written to her since her being in Kent.
They contained no actual complaint, nor was there any revival of past occurrences, or
any communication of present suffering.
But in all, and in almost every line of each, there was a want of that cheerfulness
which had been used to characterise her style, and which, proceeding from the
serenity of a mind at ease with itself and
kindly disposed towards everyone, had been scarcely ever clouded.
Elizabeth noticed every sentence conveying the idea of uneasiness, with an attention
which it had hardly received on the first perusal.
Mr. Darcy's shameful boast of what misery he had been able to inflict, gave her a
keener sense of her sister's sufferings.
It was some consolation to think that his visit to Rosings was to end on the day
after the next--and, a still greater, that in less than a fortnight she should herself
be with Jane again, and enabled to
contribute to the recovery of her spirits, by all that affection could do.
She could not think of Darcy's leaving Kent without remembering that his cousin was to
go with him; but Colonel Fitzwilliam had made it clear that he had no intentions at
all, and agreeable as he was, she did not mean to be unhappy about him.
While settling this point, she was suddenly roused by the sound of the door-bell, and
her spirits were a little fluttered by the idea of its being Colonel Fitzwilliam
himself, who had once before called late in
the evening, and might now come to inquire particularly after her.
But this idea was soon banished, and her spirits were very differently affected,
when, to her utter amazement, she saw Mr. Darcy walk into the room.
In an hurried manner he immediately began an inquiry after her health, imputing his
visit to a wish of hearing that she were better.
She answered him with cold civility.
He sat down for a few moments, and then getting up, walked about the room.
Elizabeth was surprised, but said not a word.
After a silence of several minutes, he came towards her in an agitated manner, and thus
began: "In vain I have struggled.
It will not do.
My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently
I admire and love you." Elizabeth's astonishment was beyond
expression.
She stared, coloured, doubted, and was silent.
This he considered sufficient encouragement; and the avowal of all that
he felt, and had long felt for her, immediately followed.
He spoke well; but there were feelings besides those of the heart to be detailed;
and he was not more eloquent on the subject of tenderness than of pride.
His sense of her inferiority--of its being a degradation--of the family obstacles
which had always opposed to inclination, were dwelt on with a warmth which seemed
due to the consequence he was wounding, but was very unlikely to recommend his suit.
In spite of her deeply-rooted dislike, she could not be insensible to the compliment
of such a man's affection, and though her intentions did not vary for an instant, she
was at first sorry for the pain he was to
receive; till, roused to resentment by his subsequent language, she lost all
compassion in anger.
She tried, however, to compose herself to answer him with patience, when he should
have done.
He concluded with representing to her the strength of that attachment which, in spite
of all his endeavours, he had found impossible to conquer; and with expressing
his hope that it would now be rewarded by her acceptance of his hand.
As he said this, she could easily see that he had no doubt of a favourable answer.
He spoke of apprehension and anxiety, but his countenance expressed real security.
Such a circumstance could only exasperate farther, and, when he ceased, the colour
rose into her cheeks, and she said:
"In such cases as this, it is, I believe, the established mode to express a sense of
obligation for the sentiments avowed, however unequally they may be returned.
It is natural that obligation should be felt, and if I could feel gratitude, I
would now thank you.
But I cannot--I have never desired your good opinion, and you have certainly
bestowed it most unwillingly. I am sorry to have occasioned pain to
anyone.
It has been most unconsciously done, however, and I hope will be of short
duration.
The feelings which, you tell me, have long prevented the acknowledgment of your
regard, can have little difficulty in overcoming it after this explanation."
Mr. Darcy, who was leaning against the mantelpiece with his eyes fixed on her
face, seemed to catch her words with no less resentment than surprise.
His complexion became pale with anger, and the disturbance of his mind was visible in
every feature.
He was struggling for the appearance of composure, and would not open his lips till
he believed himself to have attained it. The pause was to Elizabeth's feelings
dreadful.
At length, with a voice of forced calmness, he said:
"And this is all the reply which I am to have the honour of expecting!
I might, perhaps, wish to be informed why, with so little endeavour at civility, I am
thus rejected. But it is of small importance."
"I might as well inquire," replied she, "why with so evident a desire of offending
and insulting me, you chose to tell me that you liked me against your will, against
your reason, and even against your character?
Was not this some excuse for incivility, if I was uncivil?
But I have other provocations.
You know I have.
Had not my feelings decided against you-- had they been indifferent, or had they even
been favourable, do you think that any consideration would tempt me to accept the
man who has been the means of ruining,
perhaps for ever, the happiness of a most beloved sister?"
As she pronounced these words, Mr. Darcy changed colour; but the emotion was short,
and he listened without attempting to interrupt her while she continued:
"I have every reason in the world to think ill of you.
No motive can excuse the unjust and ungenerous part you acted there.
You dare not, you cannot deny, that you have been the principal, if not the only
means of dividing them from each other--of exposing one to the censure of the world
for caprice and instability, and the other
to its derision for disappointed hopes, and involving them both in misery of the
acutest kind."
She paused, and saw with no slight indignation that he was listening with an
air which proved him wholly unmoved by any feeling of remorse.
He even looked at her with a smile of affected incredulity.
"Can you deny that you have done it?" she repeated.
With assumed tranquillity he then replied: "I have no wish of denying that I did
everything in my power to separate my friend from your sister, or that I rejoice
in my success.
Towards him I have been kinder than towards myself."
Elizabeth disdained the appearance of noticing this civil reflection, but its
meaning did not escape, nor was it likely to conciliate her.
"But it is not merely this affair," she continued, "on which my dislike is founded.
Long before it had taken place my opinion of you was decided.
Your character was unfolded in the recital which I received many months ago from Mr.
Wickham. On this subject, what can you have to say?
In what imaginary act of friendship can you here defend yourself? or under what
misrepresentation can you here impose upon others?"
"You take an eager interest in that gentleman's concerns," said Darcy, in a
less tranquil tone, and with a heightened colour.
"Who that knows what his misfortunes have been, can help feeling an interest in him?"
"His misfortunes!" repeated Darcy contemptuously; "yes, his misfortunes have
been great indeed."
"And of your infliction," cried Elizabeth with energy.
"You have reduced him to his present state of poverty--comparative poverty.
You have withheld the advantages which you must know to have been designed for him.
You have deprived the best years of his life of that independence which was no less
his due than his desert.
You have done all this! and yet you can treat the mention of his misfortune with
contempt and ridicule."
"And this," cried Darcy, as he walked with quick steps across the room, "is your
opinion of me! This is the estimation in which you hold
me!
I thank you for explaining it so fully. My faults, according to this calculation,
are heavy indeed!
But perhaps," added he, stopping in his walk, and turning towards her, "these
offenses might have been overlooked, had not your pride been hurt by my honest
confession of the scruples that had long prevented my forming any serious design.
These bitter accusations might have been suppressed, had I, with greater policy,
concealed my struggles, and flattered you into the belief of my being impelled by
unqualified, unalloyed inclination; by reason, by reflection, by everything.
But disguise of every sort is my abhorrence.
Nor am I ashamed of the feelings I related.
They were natural and just.
Could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of your connections?--to
congratulate myself on the hope of relations, whose condition in life is so
decidedly beneath my own?"
Elizabeth felt herself growing more angry every moment; yet she tried to the utmost
to speak with composure when she said:
"You are mistaken, Mr. Darcy, if you suppose that the mode of your declaration
affected me in any other way, than as it spared me the concern which I might have
felt in refusing you, had you behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner."
She saw him start at this, but he said nothing, and she continued:
"You could not have made the offer of your hand in any possible way that would have
tempted me to accept it."
Again his astonishment was obvious; and he looked at her with an expression of mingled
incredulity and mortification. She went on:
"From the very beginning--from the first moment, I may almost say--of my
acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of
your arrogance, your conceit, and your
selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form the groundwork of
disapprobation on which succeeding events have built so immovable a dislike; and I
had not known you a month before I felt
that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to
marry." "You have said quite enough, madam.
I perfectly comprehend your feelings, and have now only to be ashamed of what my own
have been.
Forgive me for having taken up so much of your time, and accept my best wishes for
your health and happiness."
And with these words he hastily left the room, and Elizabeth heard him the next
moment open the front door and quit the house.
The tumult of her mind, was now painfully great.
She knew not how to support herself, and from actual weakness sat down and cried for
half-an-hour.
Her astonishment, as she reflected on what had passed, was increased by every review
of it. That she should receive an offer of
marriage from Mr. Darcy!
That he should have been in love with her for so many months!
So much in love as to wish to marry her in spite of all the objections which had made
him prevent his friend's marrying her sister, and which must appear at least with
equal force in his own case--was almost incredible!
It was gratifying to have inspired unconsciously so strong an affection.
But his pride, his abominable pride--his shameless avowal of what he had done with
respect to Jane--his unpardonable assurance in acknowledging, though he could not
justify it, and the unfeeling manner in
which he had mentioned Mr. Wickham, his cruelty towards whom he had not attempted
to deny, soon overcame the pity which the consideration of his attachment had for a
moment excited.
She continued in very agitated reflections till the sound of Lady Catherine's carriage
made her feel how unequal she was to encounter Charlotte's observation, and
hurried her away to her room.
>
CHAPTER 35
Elizabeth awoke the next morning to the same thoughts and meditations which had at
length closed her eyes.
She could not yet recover from the surprise of what had happened; it was impossible to
think of anything else; and, totally indisposed for employment, she resolved,
soon after breakfast, to indulge herself in air and exercise.
She was proceeding directly to her favourite walk, when the recollection of
Mr. Darcy's sometimes coming there stopped her, and instead of entering the park, she
turned up the lane, which led farther from the turnpike-road.
The park paling was still the boundary on one side, and she soon passed one of the
gates into the ground.
After walking two or three times along that part of the lane, she was tempted, by the
pleasantness of the morning, to stop at the gates and look into the park.
The five weeks which she had now passed in Kent had made a great difference in the
country, and every day was adding to the verdure of the early trees.
She was on the point of continuing her walk, when she caught a glimpse of a
gentleman within the sort of grove which edged the park; he was moving that way;
and, fearful of its being Mr. Darcy, she was directly retreating.
But the person who advanced was now near enough to see her, and stepping forward
with eagerness, pronounced her name.
She had turned away; but on hearing herself called, though in a voice which proved it
to be Mr. Darcy, she moved again towards the gate.
He had by that time reached it also, and, holding out a letter, which she
instinctively took, said, with a look of haughty composure, "I have been walking in
the grove some time in the hope of meeting you.
Will you do me the honour of reading that letter?"
And then, with a slight bow, turned again into the plantation, and was soon out of
sight.
With no expectation of pleasure, but with the strongest curiosity, Elizabeth opened
the letter, and, to her still increasing wonder, perceived an envelope containing
two sheets of letter-paper, written quite through, in a very close hand.
The envelope itself was likewise full. Pursuing her way along the lane, she then
began it.
It was dated from Rosings, at eight o'clock in the morning, and was as follows:--
"Be not alarmed, madam, on receiving this letter, by the apprehension of its
containing any repetition of those sentiments or renewal of those offers which
were last night so disgusting to you.
I write without any intention of paining you, or humbling myself, by dwelling on
wishes which, for the happiness of both, cannot be too soon forgotten; and the
effort which the formation and the perusal
of this letter must occasion, should have been spared, had not my character required
it to be written and read.
You must, therefore, pardon the freedom with which I demand your attention; your
feelings, I know, will bestow it unwillingly, but I demand it of your
justice.
"Two offenses of a very different nature, and by no means of equal magnitude, you
last night laid to my charge.
The first mentioned was, that, regardless of the sentiments of either, I had detached
Mr. Bingley from your sister, and the other, that I had, in defiance of various
claims, in defiance of honour and humanity,
ruined the immediate prosperity and blasted the prospects of Mr. Wickham.
Wilfully and wantonly to have thrown off the companion of my youth, the acknowledged
favourite of my father, a young man who had scarcely any other dependence than on our
patronage, and who had been brought up to
expect its exertion, would be a depravity, to which the separation of two young
persons, whose affection could be the growth of only a few weeks, could bear no
comparison.
But from the severity of that blame which was last night so liberally bestowed,
respecting each circumstance, I shall hope to be in the future secured, when the
following account of my actions and their motives has been read.
If, in the explanation of them, which is due to myself, I am under the necessity of
relating feelings which may be offensive to yours, I can only say that I am sorry.
The necessity must be obeyed, and further apology would be absurd.
"I had not been long in Hertfordshire, before I saw, in common with others, that
Bingley preferred your elder sister to any other young woman in the country.
But it was not till the evening of the dance at Netherfield that I had any
apprehension of his feeling a serious attachment.
I had often seen him in love before.
At that ball, while I had the honour of dancing with you, I was first made
acquainted, by Sir William Lucas's accidental information, that Bingley's
attentions to your sister had given rise to a general expectation of their marriage.
He spoke of it as a certain event, of which the time alone could be undecided.
From that moment I observed my friend's behaviour attentively; and I could then
perceive that his partiality for Miss Bennet was beyond what I had ever witnessed
in him.
Your sister I also watched.
Her look and manners were open, cheerful, and engaging as ever, but without any
symptom of peculiar regard, and I remained convinced from the evening's scrutiny, that
though she received his attentions with
pleasure, she did not invite them by any participation of sentiment.
If you have not been mistaken here, I must have been in error.
Your superior knowledge of your sister must make the latter probable.
If it be so, if I have been misled by such error to inflict pain on her, your
resentment has not been unreasonable.
But I shall not scruple to assert, that the serenity of your sister's countenance and
air was such as might have given the most acute observer a conviction that, however
amiable her temper, her heart was not likely to be easily touched.
That I was desirous of believing her indifferent is certain--but I will venture
to say that my investigation and decisions are not usually influenced by my hopes or
fears.
I did not believe her to be indifferent because I wished it; I believed it on
impartial conviction, as truly as I wished it in reason.
My objections to the marriage were not merely those which I last night
acknowledged to have the utmost force of passion to put aside, in my own case; the
want of connection could not be so great an evil to my friend as to me.
But there were other causes of repugnance; causes which, though still existing, and
existing to an equal degree in both instances, I had myself endeavoured to
forget, because they were not immediately before me.
These causes must be stated, though briefly.
The situation of your mother's family, though objectionable, was nothing in
comparison to that total want of propriety so frequently, so almost uniformly betrayed
by herself, by your three younger sisters, and occasionally even by your father.
Pardon me. It pains me to offend you.
But amidst your concern for the defects of your nearest relations, and your
displeasure at this representation of them, let it give you consolation to consider
that, to have conducted yourselves so as to
avoid any share of the like censure, is praise no less generally bestowed on you
and your elder sister, than it is honourable to the sense and disposition of
both.
I will only say farther that from what passed that evening, my opinion of all
parties was confirmed, and every inducement heightened which could have led me before,
to preserve my friend from what I esteemed a most unhappy connection.
He left Netherfield for London, on the day following, as you, I am certain, remember,
with the design of soon returning.
"The part which I acted is now to be explained.
His sisters' uneasiness had been equally excited with my own; our coincidence of
feeling was soon discovered, and, alike sensible that no time was to be lost in
detaching their brother, we shortly resolved on joining him directly in London.
We accordingly went--and there I readily engaged in the office of pointing out to my
friend the certain evils of such a choice.
I described, and enforced them earnestly.
But, however this remonstrance might have staggered or delayed his determination, I
do not suppose that it would ultimately have prevented the marriage, had it not
been seconded by the assurance that I
hesitated not in giving, of your sister's indifference.
He had before believed her to return his affection with sincere, if not with equal
regard.
But Bingley has great natural modesty, with a stronger dependence on my judgement than
on his own.
To convince him, therefore, that he had deceived himself, was no very difficult
point.
To persuade him against returning into Hertfordshire, when that conviction had
been given, was scarcely the work of a moment.
I cannot blame myself for having done thus much.
There is but one part of my conduct in the whole affair on which I do not reflect with
satisfaction; it is that I condescended to adopt the measures of art so far as to
conceal from him your sister's being in town.
I knew it myself, as it was known to Miss Bingley; but her brother is even yet
ignorant of it.
That they might have met without ill consequence is perhaps probable; but his
regard did not appear to me enough extinguished for him to see her without
some danger.
Perhaps this concealment, this disguise was beneath me; it is done, however, and it was
done for the best. On this subject I have nothing more to say,
no other apology to offer.
If I have wounded your sister's feelings, it was unknowingly done and though the
motives which governed me may to you very naturally appear insufficient, I have not
yet learnt to condemn them.
"With respect to that other, more weighty accusation, of having injured Mr. Wickham,
I can only refute it by laying before you the whole of his connection with my family.
Of what he has particularly accused me I am ignorant; but of the truth of what I shall
relate, I can summon more than one witness of undoubted veracity.
"Mr. Wickham is the son of a very respectable man, who had for many years the
management of all the Pemberley estates, and whose good conduct in the discharge of
his trust naturally inclined my father to
be of service to him; and on George Wickham, who was his godson, his kindness
was therefore liberally bestowed.
My father supported him at school, and afterwards at Cambridge--most important
assistance, as his own father, always poor from the extravagance of his wife, would
have been unable to give him a gentleman's education.
My father was not only fond of this young man's society, whose manners were always
engaging; he had also the highest opinion of him, and hoping the church would be his
profession, intended to provide for him in it.
As for myself, it is many, many years since I first began to think of him in a very
different manner.
The vicious propensities--the want of principle, which he was careful to guard
from the knowledge of his best friend, could not escape the observation of a young
man of nearly the same age with himself,
and who had opportunities of seeing him in unguarded moments, which Mr. Darcy could
not have. Here again I shall give you pain--to what
degree you only can tell.
But whatever may be the sentiments which Mr. Wickham has created, a suspicion of
their nature shall not prevent me from unfolding his real character--it adds even
another motive.
"My excellent father died about five years ago; and his attachment to Mr. Wickham was
to the last so steady, that in his will he particularly recommended it to me, to
promote his advancement in the best manner
that his profession might allow--and if he took orders, desired that a valuable family
living might be his as soon as it became vacant.
There was also a legacy of one thousand pounds.
His own father did not long survive mine, and within half a year from these events,
Mr. Wickham wrote to inform me that, having finally resolved against taking orders, he
hoped I should not think it unreasonable
for him to expect some more immediate pecuniary advantage, in lieu of the
preferment, by which he could not be benefited.
He had some intention, he added, of studying law, and I must be aware that the
interest of one thousand pounds would be a very insufficient support therein.
I rather wished, than believed him to be sincere; but, at any rate, was perfectly
ready to accede to his proposal.
I knew that Mr. Wickham ought not to be a clergyman; the business was therefore soon
settled--he resigned all claim to assistance in the church, were it possible
that he could ever be in a situation to
receive it, and accepted in return three thousand pounds.
All connection between us seemed now dissolved.
I thought too ill of him to invite him to Pemberley, or admit his society in town.
In town I believe he chiefly lived, but his studying the law was a mere pretence, and
being now free from all restraint, his life was a life of idleness and dissipation.
For about three years I heard little of him; but on the decease of the incumbent of
the living which had been designed for him, he applied to me again by letter for the
presentation.
His circumstances, he assured me, and I had no difficulty in believing it, were
exceedingly bad.
He had found the law a most unprofitable study, and was now absolutely resolved on
being ordained, if I would present him to the living in question--of which he trusted
there could be little doubt, as he was well
assured that I had no other person to provide for, and I could not have forgotten
my revered father's intentions.
You will hardly blame me for refusing to comply with this entreaty, or for resisting
every repetition to it.
His resentment was in proportion to the distress of his circumstances--and he was
doubtless as violent in his abuse of me to others as in his reproaches to myself.
After this period every appearance of acquaintance was dropped.
How he lived I know not. But last summer he was again most painfully
obtruded on my notice.
"I must now mention a circumstance which I would wish to forget myself, and which no
obligation less than the present should induce me to unfold to any human being.
Having said thus much, I feel no doubt of your secrecy.
My sister, who is more than ten years my junior, was left to the guardianship of my
mother's nephew, Colonel Fitzwilliam, and myself.
About a year ago, she was taken from school, and an establishment formed for her
in London; and last summer she went with the lady who presided over it, to Ramsgate;
and thither also went Mr. Wickham,
undoubtedly by design; for there proved to have been a prior acquaintance between him
and Mrs. Younge, in whose character we were most unhappily deceived; and by her
connivance and aid, he so far recommended
himself to Georgiana, whose affectionate heart retained a strong impression of his
kindness to her as a child, that she was persuaded to believe herself in love, and
to consent to an elopement.
She was then but fifteen, which must be her excuse; and after stating her imprudence, I
am happy to add, that I owed the knowledge of it to herself.
I joined them unexpectedly a day or two before the intended elopement, and then
Georgiana, unable to support the idea of grieving and offending a brother whom she
almost looked up to as a father, acknowledged the whole to me.
You may imagine what I felt and how I acted.
Regard for my sister's credit and feelings prevented any public exposure; but I wrote
to Mr. Wickham, who left the place immediately, and Mrs. Younge was of course
removed from her charge.
Mr. Wickham's chief object was unquestionably my sister's fortune, which
is thirty thousand pounds; but I cannot help supposing that the hope of revenging
himself on me was a strong inducement.
His revenge would have been complete indeed.
"This, madam, is a faithful narrative of every event in which we have been concerned
together; and if you do not absolutely reject it as false, you will, I hope,
acquit me henceforth of cruelty towards Mr. Wickham.
I know not in what manner, under what form of falsehood he had imposed on you; but his
success is not perhaps to be wondered at.
Ignorant as you previously were of everything concerning either, detection
could not be in your power, and suspicion certainly not in your inclination.
"You may possibly wonder why all this was not told you last night; but I was not then
master enough of myself to know what could or ought to be revealed.
For the truth of everything here related, I can appeal more particularly to the
testimony of Colonel Fitzwilliam, who, from our near relationship and constant
intimacy, and, still more, as one of the
executors of my father's will, has been unavoidably acquainted with every
particular of these transactions.
If your abhorrence of me should make my assertions valueless, you cannot be
prevented by the same cause from confiding in my cousin; and that there may be the
possibility of consulting him, I shall
endeavour to find some opportunity of putting this letter in your hands in the
course of the morning. I will only add, God bless you.
"FITZWILLIAM DARCY"
>
CHAPTER 36
If Elizabeth, when Mr. Darcy gave her the letter, did not expect it to contain a
renewal of his offers, she had formed no expectation at all of its contents.
But such as they were, it may well be supposed how eagerly she went through them,
and what a contrariety of emotion they excited.
Her feelings as she read were scarcely to be defined.
With amazement did she first understand that he believed any apology to be in his
power; and steadfastly was she persuaded, that he could have no explanation to give,
which a just sense of shame would not conceal.
With a strong prejudice against everything he might say, she began his account of what
had happened at Netherfield.
She read with an eagerness which hardly left her power of comprehension, and from
impatience of knowing what the next sentence might bring, was incapable of
attending to the sense of the one before her eyes.
His belief of her sister's insensibility she instantly resolved to be false; and his
account of the real, the worst objections to the match, made her too angry to have
any wish of doing him justice.
He expressed no regret for what he had done which satisfied her; his style was not
penitent, but haughty. It was all pride and insolence.
But when this subject was succeeded by his account of Mr. Wickham--when she read with
somewhat clearer attention a relation of events which, if true, must overthrow every
cherished opinion of his worth, and which
bore so alarming an affinity to his own history of himself--her feelings were yet
more acutely painful and more difficult of definition.
Astonishment, apprehension, and even horror, oppressed her.
She wished to discredit it entirely, repeatedly exclaiming, "This must be false!
This cannot be!
This must be the grossest falsehood!"--and when she had gone through the whole letter,
though scarcely knowing anything of the last page or two, put it hastily away,
protesting that she would not regard it, that she would never look in it again.
In this perturbed state of mind, with thoughts that could rest on nothing, she
walked on; but it would not do; in half a minute the letter was unfolded again, and
collecting herself as well as she could,
she again began the mortifying perusal of all that related to Wickham, and commanded
herself so far as to examine the meaning of every sentence.
The account of his connection with the Pemberley family was exactly what he had
related himself; and the kindness of the late Mr. Darcy, though she had not before
known its extent, agreed equally well with his own words.
So far each recital confirmed the other; but when she came to the will, the
difference was great.
What Wickham had said of the living was fresh in her memory, and as she recalled
his very words, it was impossible not to feel that there was gross duplicity on one
side or the other; and, for a few moments,
she flattered herself that her wishes did not err.
But when she read and re-read with the closest attention, the particulars
immediately following of Wickham's resigning all pretensions to the living, of
his receiving in lieu so considerable a sum
as three thousand pounds, again was she forced to hesitate.
She put down the letter, weighed every circumstance with what she meant to be
impartiality--deliberated on the probability of each statement--but with
little success.
On both sides it was only assertion.
Again she read on; but every line proved more clearly that the affair, which she had
believed it impossible that any contrivance could so represent as to render Mr. Darcy's
conduct in it less than infamous, was
capable of a turn which must make him entirely blameless throughout the whole.
The extravagance and general profligacy which he scrupled not to lay at Mr.
Wickham's charge, exceedingly shocked her; the more so, as she could bring no proof of
its injustice.
She had never heard of him before his entrance into the ----shire Militia, in
which he had engaged at the persuasion of the young man who, on meeting him
accidentally in town, had there renewed a slight acquaintance.
Of his former way of life nothing had been known in Hertfordshire but what he told
himself.
As to his real character, had information been in her power, she had never felt a
wish of inquiring.
His countenance, voice, and manner had established him at once in the possession
of every virtue.
She tried to recollect some instance of goodness, some distinguished trait of
integrity or benevolence, that might rescue him from the attacks of Mr. Darcy; or at
least, by the predominance of virtue, atone
for those casual errors under which she would endeavour to class what Mr. Darcy had
described as the idleness and vice of many years' continuance.
But no such recollection befriended her.
She could see him instantly before her, in every charm of air and address; but she
could remember no more substantial good than the general approbation of the
neighbourhood, and the regard which his social powers had gained him in the mess.
After pausing on this point a considerable while, she once more continued to read.
But, alas! the story which followed, of his designs on Miss Darcy, received some
confirmation from what had passed between Colonel Fitzwilliam and herself only the
morning before; and at last she was
referred for the truth of every particular to Colonel Fitzwilliam himself--from whom
she had previously received the information of his near concern in all his cousin's
affairs, and whose character she had no reason to question.
At one time she had almost resolved on applying to him, but the idea was checked
by the awkwardness of the application, and at length wholly banished by the conviction
that Mr. Darcy would never have hazarded
such a proposal, if he had not been well assured of his cousin's corroboration.
She perfectly remembered everything that had passed in conversation between Wickham
and herself, in their first evening at Mr. Phillips's.
Many of his expressions were still fresh in her memory.
She was now struck with the impropriety of such communications to a stranger, and
wondered it had escaped her before.
She saw the indelicacy of putting himself forward as he had done, and the
inconsistency of his professions with his conduct.
She remembered that he had boasted of having no fear of seeing Mr. Darcy--that
Mr. Darcy might leave the country, but that he should stand his ground; yet he had
avoided the Netherfield ball the very next week.
She remembered also that, till the Netherfield family had quitted the country,
he had told his story to no one but herself; but that after their removal it
had been everywhere discussed; that he had
then no reserves, no scruples in sinking Mr. Darcy's character, though he had
assured her that respect for the father would always prevent his exposing the son.
How differently did everything now appear in which he was concerned!
His attentions to Miss King were now the consequence of views solely and hatefully
mercenary; and the mediocrity of her fortune proved no longer the moderation of
his wishes, but his eagerness to grasp at anything.
His behaviour to herself could now have had no tolerable motive; he had either been
deceived with regard to her fortune, or had been gratifying his vanity by encouraging
the preference which she believed she had most incautiously shown.
Every lingering struggle in his favour grew fainter and fainter; and in farther
justification of Mr. Darcy, she could not but allow that Mr. Bingley, when questioned
by Jane, had long ago asserted his
blamelessness in the affair; that proud and repulsive as were his manners, she had
never, in the whole course of their acquaintance--an acquaintance which had
latterly brought them much together, and
given her a sort of intimacy with his ways- -seen anything that betrayed him to be
unprincipled or unjust--anything that spoke him of irreligious or immoral habits; that
among his own connections he was esteemed
and valued--that even Wickham had allowed him merit as a brother, and that she had
often heard him speak so affectionately of his sister as to prove him capable of some
amiable feeling; that had his actions been
what Mr. Wickham represented them, so gross a violation of everything right could
hardly have been concealed from the world; and that friendship between a person
capable of it, and such an amiable man as Mr. Bingley, was incomprehensible.
She grew absolutely ashamed of herself.
Of neither Darcy nor Wickham could she think without feeling she had been blind,
partial, prejudiced, absurd.
"How despicably I have acted!" she cried; "I, who have prided myself on my
discernment!
I, who have valued myself on my abilities! who have often disdained the generous
candour of my sister, and gratified my vanity in useless or blameable mistrust!
How humiliating is this discovery!
Yet, how just a humiliation! Had I been in love, I could not have been
more wretchedly blind! But vanity, not love, has been my folly.
Pleased with the preference of one, and offended by the neglect of the other, on
the very beginning of our acquaintance, I have courted prepossession and ignorance,
and driven reason away, where either were concerned.
Till this moment I never knew myself."
From herself to Jane--from Jane to Bingley, her thoughts were in a line which soon
brought to her recollection that Mr. Darcy's explanation there had appeared very
insufficient, and she read it again.
Widely different was the effect of a second perusal.
How could she deny that credit to his assertions in one instance, which she had
been obliged to give in the other?
He declared himself to be totally unsuspicious of her sister's attachment;
and she could not help remembering what Charlotte's opinion had always been.
Neither could she deny the justice of his description of Jane.
She felt that Jane's feelings, though fervent, were little displayed, and that
there was a constant complacency in her air and manner not often united with great
sensibility.
When she came to that part of the letter in which her family were mentioned in terms of
such mortifying, yet merited reproach, her sense of shame was severe.
The justice of the charge struck her too forcibly for denial, and the circumstances
to which he particularly alluded as having passed at the Netherfield ball, and as
confirming all his first disapprobation,
could not have made a stronger impression on his mind than on hers.
The compliment to herself and her sister was not unfelt.
It soothed, but it could not console her for the contempt which had thus been self-
attracted by the rest of her family; and as she considered that Jane's disappointment
had in fact been the work of her nearest
relations, and reflected how materially the credit of both must be hurt by such
impropriety of conduct, she felt depressed beyond anything she had ever known before.
After wandering along the lane for two hours, giving way to every variety of
thought--re-considering events, determining probabilities, and reconciling herself, as
well as she could, to a change so sudden
and so important, fatigue, and a recollection of her long absence, made her
at length return home; and she entered the house with the wish of appearing cheerful
as usual, and the resolution of repressing
such reflections as must make her unfit for conversation.
She was immediately told that the two gentlemen from Rosings had each called
during her absence; Mr. Darcy, only for a few minutes, to take leave--but that
Colonel Fitzwilliam had been sitting with
them at least an hour, hoping for her return, and almost resolving to walk after
her till she could be found. Elizabeth could but just affect concern in
missing him; she really rejoiced at it.
Colonel Fitzwilliam was no longer an object; she could think only of her letter.
>
CHAPTER 37
The two gentlemen left Rosings the next morning, and Mr. Collins having been in
waiting near the lodges, to make them his parting obeisance, was able to bring home
the pleasing intelligence, of their
appearing in very good health, and in as tolerable spirits as could be expected,
after the melancholy scene so lately gone through at Rosings.
To Rosings he then hastened, to console Lady Catherine and her daughter; and on his
return brought back, with great satisfaction, a message from her ladyship,
importing that she felt herself so dull as
to make her very desirous of having them all to dine with her.
Elizabeth could not see Lady Catherine without recollecting that, had she chosen
it, she might by this time have been presented to her as her future niece; nor
could she think, without a smile, of what her ladyship's indignation would have been.
"What would she have said? how would she have behaved?" were questions with which
she amused herself.
Their first subject was the diminution of the Rosings party.
"I assure you, I feel it exceedingly," said Lady Catherine; "I believe no one feels the
loss of friends so much as I do.
But I am particularly attached to these young men, and know them to be so much
attached to me! They were excessively sorry to go!
But so they always are.
The dear Colonel rallied his spirits tolerably till just at last; but Darcy
seemed to feel it most acutely, more, I think, than last year.
His attachment to Rosings certainly increases."
Mr. Collins had a compliment, and an allusion to throw in here, which were
kindly smiled on by the mother and daughter.
Lady Catherine observed, after dinner, that Miss Bennet seemed out of spirits, and
immediately accounting for it by herself, by supposing that she did not like to go
home again so soon, she added:
"But if that is the case, you must write to your mother and beg that you may stay a
little longer. Mrs. Collins will be very glad of your
company, I am sure."
"I am much obliged to your ladyship for your kind invitation," replied Elizabeth,
"but it is not in my power to accept it. I must be in town next Saturday."
"Why, at that rate, you will have been here only six weeks.
I expected you to stay two months. I told Mrs. Collins so before you came.
There can be no occasion for your going so soon.
Mrs. Bennet could certainly spare you for another fortnight."
"But my father cannot.
He wrote last week to hurry my return." "Oh! your father of course may spare you,
if your mother can. Daughters are never of so much consequence
to a father.
And if you will stay another month complete, it will be in my power to take
one of you as far as London, for I am going there early in June, for a week; and as
Dawson does not object to the barouche-box,
there will be very good room for one of you--and indeed, if the weather should
happen to be cool, I should not object to taking you both, as you are neither of you
large."
"You are all kindness, madam; but I believe we must abide by our original plan."
Lady Catherine seemed resigned. "Mrs. Collins, you must send a servant with
them.
You know I always speak my mind, and I cannot bear the idea of two young women
travelling post by themselves. It is highly improper.
You must contrive to send somebody.
I have the greatest dislike in the world to that sort of thing.
Young women should always be properly guarded and attended, according to their
situation in life.
When my niece Georgiana went to Ramsgate last summer, I made a point of her having
two men-servants go with her.
Miss Darcy, the daughter of Mr. Darcy, of Pemberley, and Lady Anne, could not have
appeared with propriety in a different manner.
I am excessively attentive to all those things.
You must send John with the young ladies, Mrs. Collins.
I am glad it occurred to me to mention it; for it would really be discreditable to you
to let them go alone." "My uncle is to send a servant for us."
"Oh! Your uncle!
He keeps a man-servant, does he? I am very glad you have somebody who thinks
of these things. Where shall you change horses?
Oh! Bromley, of course.
If you mention my name at the Bell, you will be attended to."
Lady Catherine had many other questions to ask respecting their journey, and as she
did not answer them all herself, attention was necessary, which Elizabeth believed to
be lucky for her; or, with a mind so
occupied, she might have forgotten where she was.
Reflection must be reserved for solitary hours; whenever she was alone, she gave way
to it as the greatest relief; and not a day went by without a solitary walk, in which
she might indulge in all the delight of unpleasant recollections.
Mr. Darcy's letter she was in a fair way of soon knowing by heart.
She studied every sentence; and her feelings towards its writer were at times
widely different.
When she remembered the style of his address, she was still full of indignation;
but when she considered how unjustly she had condemned and upbraided him, her anger
was turned against herself; and his
disappointed feelings became the object of compassion.
His attachment excited gratitude, his general character respect; but she could
not approve him; nor could she for a moment repent her refusal, or feel the slightest
inclination ever to see him again.
In her own past behaviour, there was a constant source of vexation and regret; and
in the unhappy defects of her family, a subject of yet heavier chagrin.
They were hopeless of remedy.
Her father, contented with laughing at them, would never exert himself to restrain
the wild giddiness of his youngest daughters; and her mother, with manners so
far from right herself, was entirely insensible of the evil.
Elizabeth had frequently united with Jane in an endeavour to check the imprudence of
Catherine and Lydia; but while they were supported by their mother's indulgence,
what chance could there be of improvement?
Catherine, weak-spirited, irritable, and completely under Lydia's guidance, had been
always affronted by their advice; and Lydia, self-willed and careless, would
scarcely give them a hearing.
They were ignorant, idle, and vain. While there was an officer in Meryton, they
would flirt with him; and while Meryton was within a walk of Longbourn, they would be
going there forever.
Anxiety on Jane's behalf was another prevailing concern; and Mr. Darcy's
explanation, by restoring Bingley to all her former good opinion, heightened the
sense of what Jane had lost.
His affection was proved to have been sincere, and his conduct cleared of all
blame, unless any could attach to the implicitness of his confidence in his
friend.
How grievous then was the thought that, of a situation so desirable in every respect,
so replete with advantage, so promising for happiness, Jane had been deprived, by the
folly and indecorum of her own family!
When to these recollections was added the development of Wickham's character, it may
be easily believed that the happy spirits which had seldom been depressed before,
were now so much affected as to make it
almost impossible for her to appear tolerably cheerful.
Their engagements at Rosings were as frequent during the last week of her stay
as they had been at first.
The very last evening was spent there; and her ladyship again inquired minutely into
the particulars of their journey, gave them directions as to the best method of
packing, and was so urgent on the necessity
of placing gowns in the only right way, that Maria thought herself obliged, on her
return, to undo all the work of the morning, and pack her trunk afresh.
When they parted, Lady Catherine, with great condescension, wished them a good
journey, and invited them to come to Hunsford again next year; and Miss de
Bourgh exerted herself so far as to curtsey and hold out her hand to both.
>
CHAPTER 38
On Saturday morning Elizabeth and Mr. Collins met for breakfast a few minutes
before the others appeared; and he took the opportunity of paying the parting
civilities which he deemed indispensably necessary.
"I know not, Miss Elizabeth," said he, "whether Mrs. Collins has yet expressed her
sense of your kindness in coming to us; but I am very certain you will not leave the
house without receiving her thanks for it.
The favor of your company has been much felt, I assure you.
We know how little there is to tempt anyone to our humble abode.
Our plain manner of living, our small rooms and few domestics, and the little we see of
the world, must make Hunsford extremely dull to a young lady like yourself; but I
hope you will believe us grateful for the
condescension, and that we have done everything in our power to prevent your
spending your time unpleasantly." Elizabeth was eager with her thanks and
assurances of happiness.
She had spent six weeks with great enjoyment; and the pleasure of being with
Charlotte, and the kind attentions she had received, must make her feel the obliged.
Mr. Collins was gratified, and with a more smiling solemnity replied:
"It gives me great pleasure to hear that you have passed your time not disagreeably.
We have certainly done our best; and most fortunately having it in our power to
introduce you to very superior society, and, from our connection with Rosings, the
frequent means of varying the humble home
scene, I think we may flatter ourselves that your Hunsford visit cannot have been
entirely irksome.
Our situation with regard to Lady Catherine's family is indeed the sort of
extraordinary advantage and blessing which few can boast.
You see on what a footing we are.
You see how continually we are engaged there.
In truth I must acknowledge that, with all the disadvantages of this humble parsonage,
I should not think anyone abiding in it an object of compassion, while they are
sharers of our intimacy at Rosings."
Words were insufficient for the elevation of his feelings; and he was obliged to walk
about the room, while Elizabeth tried to unite civility and truth in a few short
sentences.
"You may, in fact, carry a very favourable report of us into Hertfordshire, my dear
cousin. I flatter myself at least that you will be
able to do so.
Lady Catherine's great attentions to Mrs. Collins you have been a daily witness of;
and altogether I trust it does not appear that your friend has drawn an unfortunate--
but on this point it will be as well to be silent.
Only let me assure you, my dear Miss Elizabeth, that I can from my heart most
cordially wish you equal felicity in marriage.
My dear Charlotte and I have but one mind and one way of thinking.
There is in everything a most remarkable resemblance of character and ideas between
us.
We seem to have been designed for each other."
Elizabeth could safely say that it was a great happiness where that was the case,
and with equal sincerity could add, that she firmly believed and rejoiced in his
domestic comforts.
She was not sorry, however, to have the recital of them interrupted by the lady
from whom they sprang. Poor Charlotte! it was melancholy to leave
her to such society!
But she had chosen it with her eyes open; and though evidently regretting that her
visitors were to go, she did not seem to ask for compassion.
Her home and her housekeeping, her parish and her poultry, and all their dependent
concerns, had not yet lost their charms.
At length the chaise arrived, the trunks were fastened on, the parcels placed
within, and it was pronounced to be ready.
After an affectionate parting between the friends, Elizabeth was attended to the
carriage by Mr. Collins, and as they walked down the garden he was commissioning her
with his best respects to all her family,
not forgetting his thanks for the kindness he had received at Longbourn in the winter,
and his compliments to Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, though unknown.
He then handed her in, Maria followed, and the door was on the point of being closed,
when he suddenly reminded them, with some consternation, that they had hitherto
forgotten to leave any message for the ladies at Rosings.
"But," he added, "you will of course wish to have your humble respects delivered to
them, with your grateful thanks for their kindness to you while you have been here."
Elizabeth made no objection; the door was then allowed to be shut, and the carriage
drove off.
"Good gracious!" cried Maria, after a few minutes' silence, "it seems but a day or
two since we first came! and yet how many things have happened!"
"A great many indeed," said her companion with a sigh.
"We have dined nine times at Rosings, besides drinking tea there twice!
How much I shall have to tell!"
Elizabeth added privately, "And how much I shall have to conceal!"
Their journey was performed without much conversation, or any alarm; and within four
hours of their leaving Hunsford they reached Mr. Gardiner's house, where they
were to remain a few days.
Jane looked well, and Elizabeth had little opportunity of studying her spirits, amidst
the various engagements which the kindness of her aunt had reserved for them.
But Jane was to go home with her, and at Longbourn there would be leisure enough for
observation.
It was not without an effort, meanwhile, that she could wait even for Longbourn,
before she told her sister of Mr. Darcy's proposals.
To know that she had the power of revealing what would so exceedingly astonish Jane,
and must, at the same time, so highly gratify whatever of her own vanity she had
not yet been able to reason away, was such
a temptation to openness as nothing could have conquered but the state of indecision
in which she remained as to the extent of what she should communicate; and her fear,
if she once entered on the subject, of
being hurried into repeating something of Bingley which might only grieve her sister
further.
>
CHAPTER 39
It was the second week in May, in which the three young ladies set out together from
Gracechurch Street for the town of ----, in Hertfordshire; and, as they drew near the
appointed inn where Mr. Bennet's carriage
was to meet them, they quickly perceived, in token of the coachman's punctuality,
both Kitty and Lydia looking out of a dining-room upstairs.
These two girls had been above an hour in the place, happily employed in visiting an
opposite milliner, watching the sentinel on guard, and dressing a salad and cucumber.
After welcoming their sisters, they triumphantly displayed a table set out with
such cold meat as an inn larder usually affords, exclaiming, "Is not this nice?
Is not this an agreeable surprise?"
"And we mean to treat you all," added Lydia, "but you must lend us the money, for
we have just spent ours at the shop out there."
Then, showing her purchases--"Look here, I have bought this bonnet.
I do not think it is very pretty; but I thought I might as well buy it as not.
I shall pull it to pieces as soon as I get home, and see if I can make it up any
better."
And when her sisters abused it as ugly, she added, with perfect unconcern, "Oh! but
there were two or three much uglier in the shop; and when I have bought some prettier-
coloured satin to trim it with fresh, I think it will be very tolerable.
Besides, it will not much signify what one wears this summer, after the ----shire have
left Meryton, and they are going in a fortnight."
"Are they indeed!" cried Elizabeth, with the greatest satisfaction.
"They are going to be encamped near Brighton; and I do so want papa to take us
all there for the summer!
It would be such a delicious scheme; and I dare say would hardly cost anything at all.
Mamma would like to go too of all things! Only think what a miserable summer else we
shall have!"
"Yes," thought Elizabeth, "that would be a delightful scheme indeed, and completely do
for us at once. Good Heaven!
Brighton, and a whole campful of soldiers, to us, who have been overset already by one
poor regiment of militia, and the monthly balls of Meryton!"
"Now I have got some news for you," said Lydia, as they sat down at table.
"What do you think? It is excellent news--capital news--and
about a certain person we all like!"
Jane and Elizabeth looked at each other, and the waiter was told he need not stay.
Lydia laughed, and said: "Aye, that is just like your formality and
discretion.
You thought the waiter must not hear, as if he cared!
I dare say he often hears worse things said than I am going to say.
But he is an ugly fellow!
I am glad he is gone. I never saw such a long chin in my life.
Well, but now for my news; it is about dear Wickham; too good for the waiter, is it
not?
There is no danger of Wickham's marrying Mary King.
There's for you! She is gone down to her uncle at Liverpool:
gone to stay.
Wickham is safe." "And Mary King is safe!" added Elizabeth;
"safe from a connection imprudent as to fortune."
"She is a great fool for going away, if she liked him."
"But I hope there is no strong attachment on either side," said Jane.
"I am sure there is not on his.
I will answer for it, he never cared three straws about her--who could about such a
nasty little freckled thing?"
Elizabeth was shocked to think that, however incapable of such coarseness of
expression herself, the coarseness of the sentiment was little other than her own
breast had harboured and fancied liberal!
As soon as all had ate, and the elder ones paid, the carriage was ordered; and after
some contrivance, the whole party, with all their boxes, work-bags, and parcels, and
the unwelcome addition of Kitty's and Lydia's purchases, were seated in it.
"How nicely we are all crammed in," cried Lydia.
"I am glad I bought my bonnet, if it is only for the fun of having another bandbox!
Well, now let us be quite comfortable and snug, and talk and laugh all the way home.
And in the first place, let us hear what has happened to you all since you went
away. Have you seen any pleasant men?
Have you had any flirting?
I was in great hopes that one of you would have got a husband before you came back.
Jane will be quite an old maid soon, I declare.
She is almost three-and-twenty!
Lord, how ashamed I should be of not being married before three-and-twenty!
My aunt Phillips wants you so to get husbands, you can't think.
She says Lizzy had better have taken Mr. Collins; but I do not think there would
have been any fun in it.
Lord! how I should like to be married before any of you; and then I would
chaperon you about to all the balls. Dear me! we had such a good piece of fun
the other day at Colonel Forster's.
Kitty and me were to spend the day there, and Mrs. Forster promised to have a little
dance in the evening; (by the bye, Mrs. Forster and me are such friends!) and so
she asked the two Harringtons to come, but
Harriet was ill, and so Pen was forced to come by herself; and then, what do you
think we did?
We dressed up Chamberlayne in woman's clothes on purpose to pass for a lady, only
think what fun!
Not a soul knew of it, but Colonel and Mrs. Forster, and Kitty and me, except my aunt,
for we were forced to borrow one of her gowns; and you cannot imagine how well he
looked!
When Denny, and Wickham, and Pratt, and two or three more of the men came in, they did
not know him in the least. Lord! how I laughed! and so did Mrs.
Forster.
I thought I should have died. And that made the men suspect something,
and then they soon found out what was the matter."
With such kinds of histories of their parties and good jokes, did Lydia, assisted
by Kitty's hints and additions, endeavour to amuse her companions all the way to
Longbourn.
Elizabeth listened as little as she could, but there was no escaping the frequent
mention of Wickham's name. Their reception at home was most kind.
Mrs. Bennet rejoiced to see Jane in undiminished beauty; and more than once
during dinner did Mr. Bennet say voluntarily to Elizabeth:
"I am glad you are come back, Lizzy."
Their party in the dining-room was large, for almost all the Lucases came to meet
Maria and hear the news; and various were the subjects that occupied them: Lady Lucas
was inquiring of Maria, after the welfare
and poultry of her eldest daughter; Mrs. Bennet was doubly engaged, on one hand
collecting an account of the present fashions from Jane, who sat some way below
her, and, on the other, retailing them all
to the younger Lucases; and Lydia, in a voice rather louder than any other
person's, was enumerating the various pleasures of the morning to anybody who
would hear her.
"Oh! Mary," said she, "I wish you had gone with us, for we had such fun!
As we went along, Kitty and I drew up the blinds, and pretended there was nobody in
the coach; and I should have gone so all the way, if Kitty had not been sick; and
when we got to the George, I do think we
behaved very handsomely, for we treated the other three with the nicest cold luncheon
in the world, and if you would have gone, we would have treated you too.
And then when we came away it was such fun!
I thought we never should have got into the coach.
I was ready to die of laughter.
And then we were so merry all the way home! we talked and laughed so loud, that anybody
might have heard us ten miles off!"
To this Mary very gravely replied, "Far be it from me, my dear sister, to depreciate
such pleasures! They would doubtless be congenial with the
generality of female minds.
But I confess they would have no charms for me--I should infinitely prefer a book."
But of this answer Lydia heard not a word.
She seldom listened to anybody for more than half a minute, and never attended to
Mary at all.
In the afternoon Lydia was urgent with the rest of the girls to walk to Meryton, and
to see how everybody went on; but Elizabeth steadily opposed the scheme.
It should not be said that the Miss Bennets could not be at home half a day before they
were in pursuit of the officers. There was another reason too for her
opposition.
She dreaded seeing Mr. Wickham again, and was resolved to avoid it as long as
possible.
The comfort to her of the regiment's approaching removal was indeed beyond
expression.
In a fortnight they were to go--and once gone, she hoped there could be nothing more
to plague her on his account.
She had not been many hours at home before she found that the Brighton scheme, of
which Lydia had given them a hint at the inn, was under frequent discussion between
her parents.
Elizabeth saw directly that her father had not the smallest intention of yielding; but
his answers were at the same time so vague and equivocal, that her mother, though
often disheartened, had never yet despaired of succeeding at last.
>
CHAPTER 40
Elizabeth's impatience to acquaint Jane with what had happened could no longer be
overcome; and at length, resolving to suppress every particular in which her
sister was concerned, and preparing her to
be surprised, she related to her the next morning the chief of the scene between Mr.
Darcy and herself.
Miss Bennet's astonishment was soon lessened by the strong sisterly partiality
which made any admiration of Elizabeth appear perfectly natural; and all surprise
was shortly lost in other feelings.
She was sorry that Mr. Darcy should have delivered his sentiments in a manner so
little suited to recommend them; but still more was she grieved for the unhappiness
which her sister's refusal must have given him.
"His being so sure of succeeding was wrong," said she, "and certainly ought not
to have appeared; but consider how much it must increase his disappointment!"
"Indeed," replied Elizabeth, "I am heartily sorry for him; but he has other feelings,
which will probably soon drive away his regard for me.
You do not blame me, however, for refusing him?"
"Blame you! Oh, no."
"But you blame me for having spoken so warmly of Wickham?"
"No--I do not know that you were wrong in saying what you did."
"But you will know it, when I tell you what happened the very next day."
She then spoke of the letter, repeating the whole of its contents as far as they
concerned George Wickham.
What a stroke was this for poor Jane! who would willingly have gone through the world
without believing that so much wickedness existed in the whole race of mankind, as
was here collected in one individual.
Nor was Darcy's vindication, though grateful to her feelings, capable of
consoling her for such discovery.
Most earnestly did she labour to prove the probability of error, and seek to clear the
one without involving the other.
"This will not do," said Elizabeth; "you never will be able to make both of them
good for anything. Take your choice, but you must be satisfied
with only one.
There is but such a quantity of merit between them; just enough to make one good
sort of man; and of late it has been shifting about pretty much.
For my part, I am inclined to believe it all Darcy's; but you shall do as you
choose." It was some time, however, before a smile
could be extorted from Jane.
"I do not know when I have been more shocked," said she.
"Wickham so very bad! It is almost past belief.
And poor Mr. Darcy!
Dear Lizzy, only consider what he must have suffered.
Such a disappointment! and with the knowledge of your ill opinion, too! and
having to relate such a thing of his sister!
It is really too distressing.
I am sure you must feel it so." "Oh! no, my regret and compassion are all
done away by seeing you so full of both.
I know you will do him such ample justice, that I am growing every moment more
unconcerned and indifferent.
Your profusion makes me saving; and if you lament over him much longer, my heart will
be as light as a feather."
"Poor Wickham! there is such an expression of goodness in his countenance! such an
openness and gentleness in his manner!"
"There certainly was some great mismanagement in the education of those two
young men. One has got all the goodness, and the other
all the appearance of it."
"I never thought Mr. Darcy so deficient in the appearance of it as you used to do."
"And yet I meant to be uncommonly clever in taking so decided a dislike to him, without
any reason.
It is such a spur to one's genius, such an opening for wit, to have a dislike of that
kind.
One may be continually abusive without saying anything just; but one cannot always
be laughing at a man without now and then stumbling on something witty."
"Lizzy, when you first read that letter, I am sure you could not treat the matter as
you do now." "Indeed, I could not.
I was uncomfortable enough, I may say unhappy.
And with no one to speak to about what I felt, no Jane to comfort me and say that I
had not been so very weak and vain and nonsensical as I knew I had!
Oh! how I wanted you!"
"How unfortunate that you should have used such very strong expressions in speaking of
Wickham to Mr. Darcy, for now they do appear wholly undeserved."
"Certainly.
But the misfortune of speaking with bitterness is a most natural consequence of
the prejudices I had been encouraging. There is one point on which I want your
advice.
I want to be told whether I ought, or ought not, to make our acquaintances in general
understand Wickham's character."
Miss Bennet paused a little, and then replied, "Surely there can be no occasion
for exposing him so dreadfully. What is your opinion?"
"That it ought not to be attempted.
Mr. Darcy has not authorised me to make his communication public.
On the contrary, every particular relative to his sister was meant to be kept as much
as possible to myself; and if I endeavour to undeceive people as to the rest of his
conduct, who will believe me?
The general prejudice against Mr. Darcy is so violent, that it would be the death of
half the good people in Meryton to attempt to place him in an amiable light.
I am not equal to it.
Wickham will soon be gone; and therefore it will not signify to anyone here what he
really is.
Some time hence it will be all found out, and then we may laugh at their stupidity in
not knowing it before. At present I will say nothing about it."
"You are quite right.
To have his errors made public might ruin him for ever.
He is now, perhaps, sorry for what he has done, and anxious to re-establish a
character.
We must not make him desperate." The tumult of Elizabeth's mind was allayed
by this conversation.
She had got rid of two of the secrets which had weighed on her for a fortnight, and was
certain of a willing listener in Jane, whenever she might wish to talk again of
either.
But there was still something lurking behind, of which prudence forbade the
disclosure.
She dared not relate the other half of Mr. Darcy's letter, nor explain to her sister
how sincerely she had been valued by her friend.
Here was knowledge in which no one could partake; and she was sensible that nothing
less than a perfect understanding between the parties could justify her in throwing
off this last encumbrance of mystery.
"And then," said she, "if that very improbable event should ever take place, I
shall merely be able to tell what Bingley may tell in a much more agreeable manner
himself.
The liberty of communication cannot be mine till it has lost all its value!"
She was now, on being settled at home, at leisure to observe the real state of her
sister's spirits.
Jane was not happy. She still cherished a very tender affection
for Bingley.
Having never even fancied herself in love before, her regard had all the warmth of
first attachment, and, from her age and disposition, greater steadiness than most
first attachments often boast; and so
fervently did she value his remembrance, and prefer him to every other man, that all
her good sense, and all her attention to the feelings of her friends, were requisite
to check the indulgence of those regrets
which must have been injurious to her own health and their tranquillity.
"Well, Lizzy," said Mrs. Bennet one day, "what is your opinion now of this sad
business of Jane's?
For my part, I am determined never to speak of it again to anybody.
I told my sister Phillips so the other day. But I cannot find out that Jane saw
anything of him in London.
Well, he is a very undeserving young man-- and I do not suppose there's the least
chance in the world of her ever getting him now.
There is no talk of his coming to Netherfield again in the summer; and I have
inquired of everybody, too, who is likely to know."
"I do not believe he will ever live at Netherfield any more."
"Oh well! it is just as he chooses. Nobody wants him to come.
Though I shall always say he used my daughter extremely ill; and if I was her, I
would not have put up with it.
Well, my comfort is, I am sure Jane will die of a broken heart; and then he will be
sorry for what he has done."
But as Elizabeth could not receive comfort from any such expectation, she made no
answer.
"Well, Lizzy," continued her mother, soon afterwards, "and so the Collinses live very
comfortable, do they? Well, well, I only hope it will last.
And what sort of table do they keep?
Charlotte is an excellent manager, I dare say.
If she is half as sharp as her mother, she is saving enough.
There is nothing extravagant in their housekeeping, I dare say."
"No, nothing at all." "A great deal of good management, depend
upon it.
Yes, yes. they will take care not to outrun their income.
They will never be distressed for money. Well, much good may it do them!
And so, I suppose, they often talk of having Longbourn when your father is dead.
They look upon it as quite their own, I dare say, whenever that happens."
"It was a subject which they could not mention before me."
"No; it would have been strange if they had; but I make no doubt they often talk of
it between themselves.
Well, if they can be easy with an estate that is not lawfully their own, so much the
better. I should be ashamed of having one that was
only entailed on me."
>