Pride and Prejudice
Part 3 out of 8
the last woman in the world who could make you so. Nay, were
your friend Lady Catherine to know me, I am persuaded she
would find me in every respect ill qualified for the situation."
"Were it certain that Lady Catherine would think so," said Mr.
Collins very gravely--"but I cannot imagine that her ladyship
would at all disapprove of you. And you may be certain when I
have the honour of seeing her again, I shall speak in the very
highest terms of your modesty, economy, and other amiable
"Indeed, Mr. Collins, all praise of me will be unnecessary.
You must give me leave to judge for myself, and pay me the
compliment of believing what I say. I wish you very happy and
very rich, and by refusing you hand, do all in my power to
prevent your being otherwise. In making me the offer, you must
have satisfied the delicacy of your feelings with regard to my
family, and may take possession of Longbourn estate whenever
it falls, without any self-reproach. This matter may be
considered, therefore, as finally settled." And rising as she
thus spoke, she would have quitted the room, had Mr. Collins
not thus addressed her:
"When I do myself the honour of speaking to you next on the
subject, I shall hope to receive a more favourable answer than
you have now given me; though I am far from accusing you of
cruelty at present, because I know it to be the established
custom of your sex to reject a man on the first application, and
perhaps you have even now said as much to encourage my suit
as would be consistent with the true delicacy of the female
"Really, Mr. Collins," cried Elizabeth with some warmth, "you
puzzle me exceedingly. If what I have hitherto said can appear
to you in the form of encouragement, I know not how to express
my refusal in such a way as to convince you of its being one."
"You must give me leave to flatter myself, my dear cousin, that
your refusal of my addresses is merely words of course. My
reasons for believing it are briefly these: It does not appear
to me that my hand is unworthy your acceptance, or that the
establishment I can offer would be any other than highly
desirable. My situation in life, my connections with the family
of de Bourgh, and my relationship to your own, are circumstances
highly in my favour; and you should take it into further
consideration, that in spite of your manifold attractions, it is
by no means certain that another offer of marriage may ever be
made you. Your portion is unhappily so small that it will in
all likelihood undo the effects of your loveliness and amiable
qualifications. As I must therefore conclude that you are not
serious in your rejection of me, I shall choose to attribute it
to your wish of increasing my love by suspense, according to the
usual practice of elegant females."
"I do assure you, sir, that I have no pretensions whatever to that
kind of elegance which consists in tormenting a respectable man.
I would rather be paid the compliment of being believed sincere.
I thank you again and again for the honour you have done me in
your proposals, but to accept them is absolutely impossible. My
feelings in every respect forbid it. Can I speak plainer? Do not
consider me now as an elegant female, intending to plague you,
but as a rational creature, speaking the truth from her heart."
"You are uniformly charming!" cried he, with an air of awkward
gallantry; "and I am persuaded that when sanctioned by the
express authority of both your excellent parents, my proposals
will not fail of being acceptable."
To such perseverance in wilful self-deception Elizabeth would
make no reply, and immediately and in silence withdrew;
determined, if he persisted in considering her repeated
refusals as flattering encouragement, to apply to her father,
whose negative might be uttered in such a manner as to be
decisive, and whose behavior at least could not be mistaken
for the affectation and coquetry of an elegant female.
Mr. Collins was not left long to the silent contemplation of his
successful love; for Mrs. Bennet, having dawdled about in the
vestibule to watch for the end of the conference, no sooner saw
Elizabeth open the door and with quick step pass her towards
the staircase, than she entered the breakfast-room, and
congratulated both him and herself in warm terms on the happy
prospect or their nearer connection. Mr. Collins received and
returned these felicitations with equal pleasure, and then
proceeded to relate the particulars of their interview, with the
result of which he trusted he had every reason to be satisfied,
since the refusal which his cousin had steadfastly given him
would naturally flow from her bashful modesty and the genuine
delicacy of her character.
This information, however, startled Mrs. Bennet; she would
have been glad to be equally satisfied that her daughter had
meant to encourage him by protesting against his proposals,
but she dared not believe it, and could not help saying so.
"But, depend upon it, Mr. Collins," she added, "that Lizzy shall
be brought to reason. I will speak to her about it directly.
She is a very headstrong, foolish girl, and does not know her
own interest but I will MAKE her know it."
"Pardon me for interrupting you, madam," cried Mr. Collins;
"but if she is really headstrong and foolish, I know not whether
she would altogether be a very desirable wife to a man in my
situation, who naturally looks for happiness in the marriage
state. If therefore she actually persists in rejecting my suit,
perhaps it were better not to force her into accepting me,
because if liable to such defects of temper, she could not
contribute much to my felicity."
"Sir, you quite misunderstand me," said Mrs. Bennet, alarmed.
"Lizzy is only headstrong in such matters as these. In everything
else she is as good-natured a girl as ever lived. I will go
directly to Mr. Bennet, and we shall very soon settle it with her,
I am sure."
She would not give him time to reply, but hurrying instantly to
her husband, called out as she entered the library, "Oh! Mr.
Bennet, you are wanted immediately; we are all in an uproar.
You must come and make Lizzy marry Mr. Collins, for she vows
she will not have him, and if you do not make haste he will
change his mind and not have HER."
Mr. Bennet raised his eyes from his book as she entered, and
fixed them on her face with a calm unconcern which was not in
the least altered by her communication.
"I have not the pleasure of understanding you," said he, when
she had finished her speech. "Of what are you talking?"
"Of Mr. Collins and Lizzy. Lizzy declares she will not have
Mr. Collins, and Mr. Collins begins to say that he will not
"And what am I to do on the occasion? It seems an hopeless
"Speak to Lizzy about it yourself. Tell her that you insist upon
her marrying him."
"Let her be called down. She shall hear my opinion."
Mrs. Bennet rang the bell, and Miss Elizabeth was summoned to
"Come here, child," cried her father as she appeared. "I have
sent for you on an affair of importance. I understand that Mr.
Collins has made you an offer of marriage. Is it true?" Elizabeth
replied that it was. "Very well--and this offer of marriage you
"I have, sir."
"Very well. We now come to the point. Your mother insists
upon your accepting it. Is it not so, Mrs. Bennet?"
"Yes, or I will never see her again."
"An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day
you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will
never see you again if you do NOT marry Mr. Collins, and I will
never see you again if you DO."
Elizabeth could not but smile at such a conclusion of such a
beginning, but Mrs. Bennet, who had persuaded herself that her
husband regarded the affair as she wished, was excessively
"What do you mean, Mr. Bennet, in talking this way? You
promised me to INSIST upon her marrying him."
"My dear," replied her husband, "I have two small favours to
request. First, that you will allow me the free use of my
understanding on the present occasion; and secondly, of my
room. I shall be glad to have the library to myself as soon as
Not yet, however, in spite of her disappointment in her husband,
did Mrs. Bennet give up the point. She talked to Elizabeth again
and again; coaxed and threatened her by turns. She endeavoured
to secure Jane in her interest; but Jane, with all possible
mildness, declined interfering; and Elizabeth, sometimes with
real earnestness, and sometimes with playful gaiety, replied to
her attacks. Though her manner varied, however, her determination
Mr. Collins, meanwhile, was meditating in solitude on what had
passed. He thought too well of himself to comprehend on what
motives his cousin could refuse him; and though his pride was
hurt, he suffered in no other way. His regard for her was quite
imaginary; and the possibility of her deserving her mother's
reproach prevented his feeling any regret.
While the family were in this confusion, Charlotte Lucas came to
spend the day with them. She was met in the vestibule by Lydia,
who, flying to her, cried in a half whisper, "I am glad you are
come, for there is such fun here! What do you think has
happened this morning? Mr. Collins has made an offer to Lizzy,
and she will not have him."
Charlotte hardly had time to answer, before they were joined by
Kitty, who came to tell the same news; and no sooner had they
entered the breakfast-room, where Mrs. Bennet was alone, than
she likewise began on the subject, calling on Miss Lucas for her
compassion, and entreating her to persuade her friend Lizzy to
comply with the wishes of all her family. "Pray do, my dear
Miss Lucas," she added in a melancholy tone, "for nobody is on
my side, nobody takes part with me. I am cruelly used, nobody
feels for my poor nerves."
Charlotte's reply was spared by the entrance of Jane and
"Aye, there she comes," continued Mrs. Bennet, "looking as
unconcerned as may be, and caring no more for us than if we
were at York, provided she can have her own way. But I tell
you, Miss Lizzy--if you take it into your head to go on refusing
every offer of marriage in this way, you will never get a husband
at all--and I am sure I do not know who is to maintain you
when your father is dead. I shall not be able to keep you--and
so I warn you. I have done with you from this very day. I told
you in the library, you know, that I should never speak to you
again, and you will find me as good as my word. I have no
pleasure in talking to undutiful children. Not that I have much
pleasure, indeed, in talking to anybody. People who suffer as
I do from nervous complaints can have no great inclination for
talking. Nobody can tell what I suffer! But it is always so.
Those who do not complain are never pitied."
Her daughters listened in silence to this effusion, sensible
that any attempt to reason with her or soothe her would only
increase the irritation. She talked on, therefore, without
interruption from any of them, till they were joined by Mr.
Collins, who entered the room with an air more stately than
usual, and on perceiving whom, she said to the girls, "Now, I do
insist upon it, that you, all of you, hold your tongues, and
let me and Mr. Collins have a little conversation together."
Elizabeth passed quietly out of the room, Jane and Kitty
followed, but Lydia stood her ground, determined to hear all she
could; and Charlotte, detained first by the civility of Mr. Collins,
whose inquiries after herself and all her family were very minute,
and then by a little curiosity, satisfied herself with walking to
the window and pretending not to hear. In a doleful voice Mrs.
Bennet began the projected conversation: "Oh! Mr. Collins!"
"My dear madam," replied he, "let us be for ever silent on this
point. Far be it from me," he presently continued, in a voice that
marked his displeasure, "to resent the behaviour of your daughter.
Resignation to inevitable evils is the evil duty of us all; the
peculiar duty of a young man who has been so fortunate as I
have been in early preferment; and I trust I am resigned.
Perhaps not the less so from feeling a doubt of my positive
happiness had my fair cousin honoured me with her hand; for I
have often observed that resignation is never so perfect as when
the blessing denied begins to lose somewhat of its value in our
estimation. You will not, I hope, consider me as showing any
disrespect to your family, my dear madam, by thus withdrawing
my pretensions to your daughter's favour, without having paid
yourself and Mr. Bennet the compliment of requesting you to
interpose your authority in my behalf. My conduct may, I fear,
be objectionable in having accepted my dismission from your
daughter's lips instead of your own. But we are all liable to
error. I have certainly meant well through the whole affair. My
object has been to secure an amiable companion for myself, with
due consideration for the advantage of all your family, and if
my MANNER has been at all reprehensible, I here beg leave to
The discussion of Mr. Collins's offer was now nearly at an end,
and Elizabeth had only to suffer from the uncomfortable feelings
necessarily attending it, and occasionally from some peevish
allusions of her mother. As for the gentleman himself, HIS
feelings were chiefly expressed, not by embarrassment or
dejection, or by trying to avoid her, but by stiffness of manner
and resentful silence. He scarcely ever spoke to her, and the
assiduous attentions which he had been so sensible of himself
were transferred for the rest of the day to Miss Lucas, whose
civility in listening to him was a seasonable relief to them all,
and especially to her friend.
The morrow produced no abatement of Mrs. Bennet's ill-humour
or ill health. Mr. Collins was also in the same state of angry
pride. Elizabeth had hoped that his resentment might shorten his
visit, but his plan did not appear in the least affected by it.
He was always to have gone on Saturday, and to Saturday he meant
After breakfast, the girls walked to Meryton to inquire if Mr.
Wickham were returned, and to lament over his absence from
the Netherfield ball. He joined them on their entering the town,
and attended them to their aunt's where his regret and vexation,
and the concern of everybody, was well talked over. To
Elizabeth, however, he voluntarily acknowledged that the
necessity of his absence HAD been self-imposed.
"I found," said he, "as the time drew near that I had better not
meet Mr. Darcy; that to be in the same room, the same party
with him for so many hours together, might be more than I could
bear, and that scenes might arise unpleasant to more than
She highly approved his forbearance, and they had leisure for a
full discussion of it, and for all the commendation which they
civilly bestowed on each other, as Wickham and another officer
walked back with them to Longbourn, and during the walk he
particularly attended to her. His accompanying them was a
double advantage; she felt all the compliment it offered to
herself, and it was most acceptable as an occasion of introducing
him to her father and mother.
Soon after their return, a letter was delivered to Miss Bennet;
it came from Netherfield. The envelope contained a sheet of
elegant, little, hot-pressed paper, well covered with a lady's fair,
flowing hand; and Elizabeth saw her sister's countenance change
as she read it, and saw her dwelling intently on some particular
passages. Jane recollected herself soon, and putting the letter
away, tried to join with her usual cheerfulness in the general
conversation; but Elizabeth felt an anxiety on the subject which
drew off her attention even from Wickham; and no sooner had
he and he companion taken leave, than a glance from Jane
invited her to follow her upstairs. When they had gained their
own room, Jane, taking out the letter, said:
"This is from Caroline Bingley; what it contains has surprised me
a good deal. The whole party have left Netherfield by this time,
and are on their way to town--and without any intention of coming
back again. You shall hear what she says."
She then read the first sentence aloud, which comprised the
information of their having just resolved to follow their brother
to town directly, and of their meaning to dine in Grosvenor
Street, where Mr. Hurst had a house. The next was in these
words: "I do not pretend to regret anything I shall leave in
Hertfordshire, except your society, my dearest friend; but we
will hope, at some future period, to enjoy many returns of that
delightful intercourse we have known, and in the meanwhile may
lessen the pain of separation by a very frequent and most
unreserved correspondence. I depend on you for that." To
these highflown expressions Elizabeth listened with all the
insensibility of distrust; and though the suddenness of their
removal surprised her, she saw nothing in it really to lament;
it was not to be supposed that their absence from Netherfield
would prevent Mr. Bingley's being there; and as to the loss of
their society, she was persuaded that Jane must cease to regard
it, in the enjoyment of his.
"It is unlucky," said she, after a short pause, "that you should
not be able to see your friends before they leave the country.
But may we not hope that the period of future happiness to
which Miss Bingley looks forward may arrive earlier than she is
aware, and that the delightful intercourse you have known as
friends will be renewed with yet greater satisfaction as sisters?
Mr. Bingley will not be detained in London by them."
"Caroline decidedly says that none of the party will return into
Hertfordshire this winter. I will read it to you:"
"When my brother left us yesterday, he imagined that the
business which took him to London might be concluded in three
or four days; but as we are certain it cannot be so, and at the
same time convinced that when Charles gets to town he will be
in no hurry to leave it again, we have determined on following
him thither, that he may not be obliged to spend his vacant hours
in a comfortless hotel. Many of my acquaintances are already
there for the winter; I wish that I could hear that you, my dearest
friend, had any intention of making one of the crowd--but of
that I despair. I sincerely hope your Christmas in Hertfordshire
may abound in the gaieties which that season generally brings,
and that your beaux will be so numerous as to prevent your
feeling the loss of the three of whom we shall deprive you."
"It is evident by this," added Jane, "that he comes back no more
"It is only evident that Miss Bingley does not mean that he
"Why will you think so? It must be his own doing. He is his
own master. But you do not know ALL. I WILL read you the
passage which particularly hurts me. I will have no reserves
"Mr. Darcy is impatient to see his sister; and, to confess the
truth, WE are scarcely less eager to meet her again. I really do
not think Georgiana Darcy has her equal for beauty, elegance,
and accomplishments; and the affection she inspires in Louisa
and myself is heightened into something still more interesting,
from the hope we dare entertain of her being hereafter our
sister. I do not know whether I ever before mentioned to you
my feelings on this subject; but I will not leave the country
without confiding them, and I trust you will not esteem them
unreasonable. My brother admires her greatly already; he will
have frequent opportunity now of seeing her on the most
intimate footing; her relations all wish the connection as much as
his own; and a sister's partiality is not misleading me, I think,
when I call Charles most capable of engaging any woman's
heart. With all these circumstances to favour an attachment, and
nothing to prevent it, am I wrong, my dearest Jane, in indulging
the hope of an event which will secure the happiness of so many?"
"What do you think of THIS sentence, my dear Lizzy?" said
Jane as she finished it. "Is it not clear enough? Does it not
expressly declare that Caroline neither expects nor wishes me to
be her sister; that she is perfectly convinced of her brother's
indifference; and that if she suspects the nature of my feelings
for him, she means (most kindly!) to put me on my guard? Can
there be any other opinion on the subject?"
"Yes, there can; for mine is totally different. Will you hear it?"
"You shall have it in a few words. Miss Bingley sees that her
brother is in love with you, and wants him to marry Miss Darcy.
She follows him to town in hope of keeping him there, and tries
to persuade you that he does not care about you."
Jane shook her head.
"Indeed, Jane, you ought to believe me. No one who has ever
seen you together can doubt his affection. Miss Bingley, I am
sure, cannot. She is not such a simpleton. Could she have seen
half as much love in Mr. Darcy for herself, she would have
ordered her wedding clothes. But the case is this: We are not
rich enough or grand enough for them; and she is the more
anxious to get Miss Darcy for her brother, from the notion that
when there has been ONE intermarriage, she may have less
trouble in achieving a second; in which there is certainly some
ingenuity, and I dare say it would succeed, if Miss de Bourgh
were out of the way. But, my dearest Jane, you cannot seriously
imagine that because Miss Bingley tells you her brother greatly
admires Miss Darcy, he is in the smallest degree less sensible
of YOUR merit than when he took leave of you on Tuesday, or
that it will be in her power to persuade him that, instead of
being in love with you, he is very much in love with her friend."
"If we thought alike of Miss Bingley," replied Jane, "your
representation of all this might make me quite easy. But I know
the foundation is unjust. Caroline is incapable of wilfully
deceiving anyone; and all that I can hope in this case is that
she is deceiving herself."
"That is right. You could not have started a more happy idea,
since you will not take comfort in mine. Believe her to be
deceived, by all means. You have now done your duty by her,
and must fret no longer."
"But, my dear sister, can I be happy, even supposing the best, in
accepting a man whose sisters and friends are all wishing him to
"You must decide for yourself," said Elizabeth; "and if, upon
mature deliberation, you find that the misery of disobliging his
two sisters is more than equivalent to the happiness of being his
wife, I advise you by all means to refuse him."
"How can you talk so?" said Jane, faintly smiling. "You must
know that though I should be exceedingly grieved at their
disapprobation, I could not hesitate."
"I did not think you would; and that being the case, I cannot
consider your situation with much compassion."
"But if he returns no more this winter, my choice will never be
required. A thousand things may arise in six months!"
The idea of his returning no more Elizabeth treated with the
utmost contempt. It appeared to her merely the suggestion of
Caroline's interested wishes, and she could not for a moment
suppose that those wishes, however openly or artfully spoken,
could influence a young man so totally independent of everyone.
She represented to her sister as forcibly as possible what she
felt on the subject, and had soon the pleasure of seeing its
happy effect. Jane's temper was not desponding, and she was
gradually led to hope, though the diffidence of affection
sometimes overcame the hope, that Bingley would return to
Netherfield and answer every wish of her heart.
They agreed that Mrs. Bennet should only hear of the departure
of the family, without being alarmed on the score of the
gentleman's conduct; but even this partial communication gave
her a great deal of concern, and she bewailed it as exceedingly
unlucky that the ladies should happen to go away just as they
were all getting so intimate together. After lamenting it,
however, at some length, she had the consolation that Mr.
Bingley would be soon down again and soon dining at Longbourn,
and the conclusion of all was the comfortable declaration,
that though he had been invited only to a family dinner, she
would take care to have two full courses.
The Bennets were engaged to dine with the Lucases and again
during the chief of the day was Miss Lucas so kind as to listen
to Mr. Collins. Elizabeth took an opportunity of thanking her.
"It keeps him in good humour," said she, "and I am more obliged
to you than I can express." Charlotte assured her friend of
her satisfaction in being useful, and that it amply repaid her
for the little sacrifice of her time. This was very amiable,
but Charlotte's kindness extended farther than Elizabeth had
any conception of; its object was nothing else than to secure
her from any return of Mr. Collins's addresses, by engaging
them towards herself. Such was Miss Lucas's scheme; and
appearances were so favourable, that when they parted at night,
she would have felt almost secure of success if he had not been
to leave Hertfordshire so very soon. But here she did injustice
to the fire and independence of his character, for it led
him to escape out of Longbourn House the next morning with
admirable slyness, and hasten to Lucas Lodge to throw himself
at her feet. He was anxious to avoid the notice of his cousins,
from a conviction that if they saw him depart, they could not
fail to conjecture his design, and he was not willing to have
the attempt known till its success might be known likewise; for
though feeling almost secure, and with reason, for Charlotte had
been tolerably encouraging, he was comparatively diffident since
the adventure of Wednesday. His reception, however, was of
the most flattering kind. Miss Lucas perceived him from an
upper window as he walked towards the house, and instantly set
out to meet him accidentally in the lane. But little had she
dared to hope that so much love and eloquence awaited her there.
In as short a time as Mr. Collins's long speeches would allow,
everything was settled between them to the satisfaction of both;
and as they entered the house he earnestly entreated her to name
the day that was to make him the happiest of men; and though
such a solicitation must be waived for the present, the lady felt
no inclination to trifle with his happiness. The stupidity with
which he was favoured by nature must guard his courtship from
any charm that could make a woman wish for its continuance;
and Miss Lucas, who accepted him solely from the pure and
disinterested desire of an establishment, cared not how soon
that establishment were gained.
Sir William and Lady Lucas were speedily applied to for their
consent; and it was bestowed with a most joyful alacrity. Mr.
Collins's present circumstances made it a most eligible match for
their daughter, to whom they could give little fortune; and his
prospects of future wealth were exceedingly fair. Lady Lucas
began directly to calculate, with more interest than the
matter had ever excited before, how many years longer Mr.
Bennet was likely to live; and Sir William gave it as his decided
opinion, that whenever Mr. Collins should be in possession of the
Longbourn estate, it would be highly expedient that both he and
his wife should make their appearance at St. James's. The whole
family, in short, were properly overjoyed on the occasion.
The younger girls formed hopes of COMING OUT a year or two
sooner than they might otherwise have done; and the boys were
relieved from their apprehension of Charlotte's dying an old
maid. Charlotte herself was tolerably composed. She had
gained her point, and had time to consider of it. Her reflections
were in general satisfactory. Mr. Collins, to be sure, was
neither sensible nor agreeable; his society was irksome, and his
attachment to her must be imaginary. But still he would be her
husband. Without thinking highly either of men or matrimony,
marriage had always been her object; it was the only provision
for well-educated young women of small fortune, and however
uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest
preservative from want. This preservative she had now
obtained; and at the age of twenty-seven, without having ever
been handsome, she felt all the good luck of it. The least
agreeable circumstance in the business was the surprise it must
occasion to Elizabeth Bennet, whose friendship she valued
beyond that of any other person. Elizabeth would wonder, and
probably would blame her; and though her resolution was not to
be shaken, her feelings must be hurt by such a disapprobation.
She resolved to give her the information herself, and therefore
charged Mr. Collins, when he returned to Longbourn to dinner,
to drop no hint of what had passed before any of the family. A
promise of secrecy was of course very dutifully given, but it
could not be kept without difficulty; for the curiosity excited
by his long absence burst forth in such very direct questions on
his return as required some ingenuity to evade, and he was at the
same time exercising great self-denial, for he was longing to
publish his prosperous love.
As he was to begin his journey too early on the morrow to see
any of the family, the ceremony of leave-taking was performed
when the ladies moved for the night; and Mrs. Bennet, with
great politeness and cordiality, said how happy they should be
to see him at Longbourn again, whenever his engagements might
allow him to visit them.
"My dear madam," he replied, "this invitation is particularly
gratifying, because it is what I have been hoping to receive; and
you may be very certain that I shall avail myself of it as soon
They were all astonished; and Mr. Bennet, who could by no
means wish for so speedy a return, immediately said:
"But is there not danger of Lady Catherine's disapprobation
here, my good sir? You had better neglect your relations than
run the risk of offending your patroness."
"My dear sir," replied Mr. Collins," I am particularly obliged
to you for this friendly caution, and you may depend upon my not
taking so material a step without her ladyship's concurrence."
"You cannot be too much upon your guard. Risk anything
rather than her displeasure; and if you find it likely to be raised
by your coming to us again, which I should think exceedingly
probable, stay quietly at home, and be satisfied that WE shall
take no offence."
"Believe me, my dear sir, my gratitude is warmly excited by
such affectionate attention; and depend upon it, you will speedily
receive from me a letter of thanks for this, and for every other
mark of your regard during my stay in Hertfordshire. As for my
fair cousins, though my absence may not be long enough to
render it necessary, I shall now take the liberty of wishing them
health and happiness, not excepting my cousin Elizabeth."
With proper civilities the ladies then withdrew; all of them
equally surprised that he meditated a quick return. Mrs. Bennet
wished to understand by it that he thought of paying his
addresses to one of her younger girls, and Mary might have been
prevailed on to accept him. She rated his abilities much higher
than any of the others; there was a solidity in his reflections
which often struck her, and though by no means so clever as
herself, she thought that if encouraged to read and improve
himself by such an example as hers, he might become a very
agreeable companion. But on the following morning, every
hope of this kind was done away. Miss Lucas called soon after
breakfast, and in a private conference with Elizabeth related the
event of the day before.
The possibility of Mr. Collins's fancying herself in love with her
friend had once occurred to Elizabeth within the last day or two;
but that Charlotte could encourage him seemed almost as far
from possibility as she could encourage him herself, and her
astonishment was consequently so great as to overcome at first
the bounds of decorum, and she could not help crying out:
"Engaged to Mr. Collins! My dear Charlotte--impossible!"
The steady countenance which Miss Lucas had commanded in
telling her story, gave way to a momentary confusion here on
receiving so direct a reproach; though, as it was no more than
she expected, she soon regained her composure, and calmly
"Why should you be surprised, my dear Eliza? Do you think it
incredible that Mr. Collins should be able to procure any
woman's good opinion, because he was not so happy as to
succeed with you?"
But Elizabeth had now recollected herself, and making a strong
effort for it, was able to assure with tolerable firmness that the
prospect of their relationship was highly grateful to her, and
that she wished her all imaginable happiness.
"I see what you are feeling," replied Charlotte. "You must be
surprised, very much surprised--so lately as Mr. Collins was
wishing to marry you. But when you have had time to think it
over, I hope you will be satisfied with what I have done. I am
not romantic, you know; I never was. I ask only a comfortable
home; and considering Mr. Collins's character, connection, and
situation in life, I am convinced that my chance of happiness
with him is as fair as most people can boast on entering the
Elizabeth quietly answered "Undoubtedly;" and after an
awkward pause, they returned to the rest of the family.
Charlotte did not stay much longer, and Elizabeth was then left
to reflect on what she had heard. It was a long time before she
became at all reconciled to the idea of so unsuitable a match.
The strangeness of Mr. Collins's making two offers of marriage
within three days was nothing in comparison of his being now
accepted. She had always felt that Charlotte's opinion of
matrimony was not exactly like her own, but she had not
supposed it to be possible that, when called into action, she
would have sacrificed every better feeling to worldly advantage.
Charlotte the wife of Mr. Collins was a most humiliating picture!
And to the pang of a friend disgracing herself and sunk in her
esteem, was added the distressing conviction that it was
impossible for that friend to be tolerably happy in the lot
she had chosen.
Elizabeth was sitting with her mother and sisters, reflecting on
what she had heard, and doubting whether she was authorised to
mention it, when Sir William Lucas himself appeared, sent by his
daughter, to announce her engagement to the family. With many
compliments to them, and much self-gratulation on the prospect
of a connection between the houses, he unfolded the matter--to
an audience not merely wondering, but incredulous; for Mrs.
Bennet, with more perseverance than politeness, protested he
must be entirely mistaken; and Lydia, always unguarded and
often uncivil, boisterously exclaimed:
"Good Lord! Sir William, how can you tell such a story? Do not
you know that Mr. Collins wants to marry Lizzy?"
Nothing less than the complaisance of a courtier could have
borne without anger such treatment; but Sir William's good
breeding carried him through it all; and though he begged leave
to be positive as to the truth of his information, he listened
to all their impertinence with the most forbearing courtesy.
Elizabeth, feeling it incumbent on her to relieve him from so
unpleasant a situation, now put herself forward to confirm his
account, by mentioning her prior knowledge of it from Charlotte
herself; and endeavoured to put a stop to the exclamations of her
mother and sisters by the earnestness of her congratulations to
Sir William, in which she was readily joined by Jane, and by
making a variety of remarks on the happiness that might be
expected from the match, the excellent character of Mr. Collins,
and the convenient distance of Hunsford from London.
Mrs. Bennet was in fact too much overpowered to say a great
deal while Sir William remained; but no sooner had he left them
than her feelings found a rapid vent. In the first place, she
persisted in disbelieving the whole of the matter; secondly, she
was very sure that Mr. Collins had been taken in; thirdly, she
trusted that they would never be happy together; and fourthly,
that the match might be broken off. Two inferences, however,
were plainly deduced from the whole: one, that Elizabeth was
the real cause of the mischief; and the other that she herself had
been barbarously misused by them all; and on these two points
she principally dwelt during the rest of the day. Nothing could
console and nothing could appease her. Nor did that day wear
out her resentment. A week elapsed before she could see
Elizabeth without scolding her, a month passed away before she
could speak to Sir William or Lady Lucas without being rude,
and many months were gone before she could at all forgive their
Mr. Bennet's emotions were much more tranquil on the occasion,
and such as he did experience he pronounced to be of a most
agreeable sort; for it gratified him, he said, to discover that
Charlotte Lucas, whom he had been used to think tolerably
sensible, was as foolish as his wife, and more foolish than his
Jane confessed herself a little surprised at the match; but she
said less of her astonishment than of her earnest desire for their
happiness; nor could Elizabeth persuade her to consider it as
improbable. Kitty and Lydia were far from envying Miss Lucas,
for Mr. Collins was only a clergyman; and it affected them in no
other way than as a piece of news to spread at Meryton.
Lady Lucas could not be insensible of triumph on being able to
retort on Mrs. Bennet the comfort of having a daughter well
married; and she called at Longbourn rather oftener than usual
to say how happy she was, though Mrs. Bennet's sour looks and
ill-natured remarks might have been enough to drive happiness
Between Elizabeth and Charlotte there was a restraint which
kept them mutually silent on the subject; and Elizabeth felt
persuaded that no real confidence could ever subsist between
them again. Her disappointment in Charlotte made her turn with
fonder regard to her sister, of whose rectitude and delicacy
she was sure her opinion could never be shaken, and for whose
happiness she grew daily more anxious, as Bingley had now been
gone a week and nothing more was heard of his return.
Jane had sent Caroline an early answer to her letter, and was
counting the days till she might reasonably hope to hear again.
The promised letter of thanks from Mr. Collins arrived on
Tuesday, addressed to their father, and written with all the
solemnity of gratitude which a twelvemonth's abode in the
family might have prompted. After discharging his conscience
on that head, he proceeded to inform them, with many rapturous
expressions, of his happiness in having obtained the affection of
their amiable neighbour, Miss Lucas, and then explained that it
was merely with the view of enjoying her society that he had
been so ready to close with their kind wish of seeing him again
at Longbourn, whither he hoped to be able to return on Monday
fortnight; for Lady Catherine, he added, so heartily approved
his marriage, that she wished it to take place as soon as possible,
which he trusted would be an unanswerable argument with his
amiable Charlotte to name an early day for making him the
happiest of men.
Mr. Collins's return into Hertfordshire was no longer a matter
of pleasure to Mrs. Bennet. On the contrary, she was as much
disposed to complain of it as her husband. It was very strange
that he should come to Longbourn instead of to Lucas Lodge; it
was also very inconvenient and exceedingly troublesome. She
hated having visitors in the house while her health was so
indifferent, and lovers were of all people the most disagreeable.
Such were the gentle murmurs of Mrs. Bennet, and they gave way
only to the greater distress of Mr. Bingley's continued absence.
Neither Jane nor Elizabeth were comfortable on this subject.
Day after day passed away without bringing any other tidings of
him than the report which shortly prevailed in Meryton of his
coming no more to Netherfield the whole winter; a report which
highly incensed Mrs. Bennet, and which she never failed to
contradict as a most scandalous falsehood.
Even Elizabeth began to fear--not that Bingley was indifferent--but
that his sisters would be successful in keeping him away.
Unwilling as she was to admit an idea so destructive of Jane's
happiness, and so dishonorable to the stability of her lover, she
could not prevent its frequently occurring. The united efforts of
his two unfeeling sisters and of his overpowering friend, assisted
by the attractions of Miss Darcy and the amusements of London
might be too much, she feared, for the strength of his attachment.
As for Jane, HER anxiety under this suspense was, of course,
more painful than Elizabeth's, but whatever she felt she was
desirous of concealing, and between herself and Elizabeth,
therefore, the subject was never alluded to. But as no such
delicacy restrained her mother, an hour seldom passed in which
she did not talk of Bingley, express her impatience for his arrival,
or even require Jane to confess that if he did not come back she
would think herself very ill used. It needed all Jane's steady
mildness to bear these attacks with tolerable tranquillity.
Mr. Collins returned most punctually on Monday fortnight, but
his reception at Longbourn was not quite so gracious as it had
been on his first introduction. He was too happy, however, to
need much attention; and luckily for the others, the business
of love-making relieved them from a great deal of his company.
The chief of every day was spent by him at Lucas Lodge, and he
sometimes returned to Longbourn only in time to make an
apology for his absence before the family went to bed.
Mrs. Bennet was really in a most pitiable state. The very
mention of anything concerning the match threw her into an
agony of ill-humour, and wherever she went she was sure of
hearing it talked of. The sight of Miss Lucas was odious to
her. As her successor in that house, she regarded her with
jealous abhorrence. Whenever Charlotte came to see them,
she concluded her to be anticipating the hour of possession;
and whenever she spoke in a low voice to Mr. Collins, was
convinced that they were talking of the Longbourn estate, and
resolving to turn herself and her daughters out of the house,
as soon as Mr. Bennet were dead. She complained bitterly of
all this to her husband.
"Indeed, Mr. Bennet," said she, "it is very hard to think that
Charlotte Lucas should ever be mistress of this house, that I
should be forced to make way for HER, and live to see her take
her place in it!"
"My dear, do not give way to such gloomy thoughts. Let us
hope for better things. Let us flatter ourselves that I may be
This was not very consoling to Mrs. Bennet, and therefore, instead
of making any answer, she went on as before.
"I cannot bear to think that they should have all this estate.
If it was not for the entail, I should not mind it."
"What should not you mind?"
"I should not mind anything at all."
"Let us be thankful that you are preserved from a state of such
"I never can be thankful, Mr. Bennet, for anything about the
entail. How anyone could have the conscience to entail away an
estate from one's own daughters, I cannot understand; and all
for the sake of Mr. Collins too! Why should HE have it more
than anybody else?"
"I leave it to yourself to determine," said Mr. Bennet.
Miss Bingley's letter arrived, and put an end to doubt. The very
first sentence conveyed the assurance of their being all settled
in London for the winter, and concluded with her brother's regret
at not having had time to pay his respects to his friends in
Hertfordshire before he left the country.
Hope was over, entirely over; and when Jane could attend to the
rest of the letter, she found little, except the professed affection
of the writer, that could give her any comfort. Miss Darcy's
praise occupied the chief of it. Her many attractions were again
dwelt on, and Caroline boasted joyfully of their increasing
intimacy, and ventured to predict the accomplishment of the
wishes which had been unfolded in her former letter. She wrote
also with great pleasure of her brother's being an inmate of Mr.
Darcy's house, and mentioned with raptures some plans of the
latter with regard to new furniture.
Elizabeth, to whom Jane very soon communicated the chief of
all this, heard it in silent indignation. Her heart was divided
between concern for her sister, and resentment against all others.
To Caroline's assertion of her brother's being partial to Miss
Darcy she paid no credit. That he was really fond of Jane, she
doubted no more than she had ever done; and much as she had
always been disposed to like him, she could not think without
anger, hardly without contempt, on that easiness of temper, that
want of proper resolution, which now made him the slave of his
designing friends, and led him to sacrifice of his own happiness
to the caprice of their inclination. Had his own happiness,
however, been the only sacrifice, he might have been allowed to
sport with it in whatever manner he thought best, but her sister's
was involved in it, as she thought he must be sensible himself.
It was a subject, in short, on which reflection would be long
indulged, and must be unavailing. She could think of nothing
else; and yet whether Bingley's regard had really died away, or
were suppressed by his friends' interference; whether he had
been aware of Jane's attachment, or whether it had escaped his
observation; whatever were the case, though her opinion of him
must be materially affected by the difference, her sister's
situation remained the same, her peace equally wounded.
A day or two passed before Jane had courage to speak of her
feelings to Elizabeth; but at last, on Mrs. Bennet's leaving them
together, after a longer irritation than usual about Netherfield
and its master, she could not help saying:
"Oh, that my dear mother had more command over herself! She
can have no idea of the pain she gives me by her continual
reflections on him. But I will not repine. It cannot last long.
He will be forgot, and we shall all be as we were before."
Elizabeth looked at her sister with incredulous solicitude, but
"You doubt me," cried Jane, slightly colouring; "indeed, you
have no reason. He may live in my memory as the most amiable
man of my acquaintance, but that is all. I have nothing either
to hope or fear, and nothing to reproach him with. Thank God! I
have not THAT pain. A little time, therefore--I shall certainly
try to get the better."
With a stronger voice she soon added, "I have this comfort
immediately, that it has not been more than an error of fancy on
my side, and that it has done no harm to anyone but myself."
"My dear Jane!" exclaimed Elizabeth, "you are too good. Your
sweetness and disinterestedness are really angelic; I do not know
what to say to you. I feel as if I had never done you justice, or
loved you as you deserve."
Miss Bennet eagerly disclaimed all extraordinary merit, and
threw back the praise on her sister's warm affection.
"Nay," said Elizabeth, "this is not fair. YOU wish to think all
the world respectable, and are hurt if I speak ill of anybody. I
only want to think YOU perfect, and you set yourself against it.
Do not be afraid of my running into any excess, of my encroaching
on your privilege of universal good-will. You need not. There
are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think
well. The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied
with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of
all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be
placed on the appearance of merit or sense. I have met with two
instances lately, one I will not mention; the other is Charlotte's
marriage. It is unaccountable! In every view it is unaccountable!"
"My dear Lizzy, do not give way to such feelings as these. They
will ruin your happiness. You do not make allowance enough
for difference of situation and temper. Consider Mr. Collins's
respectability, and Charlotte's steady, prudent character.
Remember that she is one of a large family; that as to fortune,
it is a most eligible match; and be ready to believe, for
everybody's sake, that she may feel something like regard and
esteem for our cousin."
"To oblige you, I would try to believe almost anything, but no
one else could be benefited by such a belief as this; for were I
persuaded that Charlotte had any regard for him, I should only
think worse of her understanding than I now do of her heart.
My dear Jane, Mr. Collins is a conceited, pompous, narrow-minded,
silly man; you know he is, as well as I do; and you must feel,
as well as I do, that the woman who married him cannot have a
proper way of thinking. You shall not defend her, though it is
Charlotte Lucas. You shall not, for the sake of one individual,
change the meaning of principle and integrity, nor endeavour to
persuade yourself or me, that selfishness is prudence, and
insensibility of danger security for happiness."
"I must think your language too strong in speaking of both,"
replied Jane; "and I hope you will be convinced of it by seeing
them happy together. But enough of this. You alluded to
something else. You mentioned TWO instances. I cannot
misunderstand you, but I entreat you, dear Lizzy, not to pain
me by thinking THAT PERSON to blame, and saying your opinion
of him is sunk. We must not be so ready to fancy ourselves
intentionally injured. We must not expect a lively young man to
be always so guarded and circumspect. It is very often nothing
but our own vanity that deceives us. Women fancy admiration
means more than it does."
"And men take care that they should."
"If it is designedly done, they cannot be justified; but I have no
idea of there being so much design in the world as some persons
"I am far from attributing any part of Mr. Bingley's conduct to
design," said Elizabeth; "but without scheming to do wrong, or
to make others unhappy, there may be error, and there may be
misery. Thoughtlessness, want of attention to other people's
feelings, and want of resolution, will do the business."
"And do you impute it to either of those?"
"Yes; to the last. But if I go on, I shall displease you by saying
what I think of persons you esteem. Stop me whilst you can."
"You persist, then, in supposing his sisters influence him?"
"Yes, in conjunction with his friend."
"I cannot believe it. Why should they try to influence him?
They can only wish his happiness; and if he is attached to me,
no other woman can secure it."
"Your first position is false. They may wish many things besides
his happiness; they may wish his increase of wealth and
consequence; they may wish him to marry a girl who has all the
importance of money, great connections, and pride."
"Beyond a doubt, they DO wish him to choose Miss Darcy,"
replied Jane; "but this may be from better feelings than you are
supposing. They have known her much longer than they have
known me; no wonder if they love her better. But, whatever
may be their own wishes, it is very unlikely they should have
opposed their brother's. What sister would think herself at
liberty to do it, unless there were something very objectionable?
If they believed him attached to me, they would not try to part
us; if he were so, they could not succeed. By supposing such
an affection, you make everybody acting unnaturally and wrong,
and me most unhappy. Do not distress me by the idea. I am not
ashamed of having been mistaken--or, at least, it is light, it
is nothing in comparison of what I should feel in thinking ill
of him or his sisters. Let me take it in the best light, in
the light in which it may be understood."
Elizabeth could not oppose such a wish; and from this time
Mr. Bingley's name was scarcely ever mentioned between them.
Mrs. Bennet still continued to wonder and repine at his returning
no more, and though a day seldom passed in which Elizabeth did
not account for it clearly, there was little chance of her ever
considering it with less perplexity. Her daughter endeavoured
to convince her of what she did not believe herself, that his
attentions to Jane had been merely the effect of a common and
transient liking, which ceased when he saw her no more; but
though the probability of the statement was admitted at the time,
she had the same story to repeat every day. Mrs. Bennet's best
comfort was that Mr. Bingley must be down again in the
Mr. Bennet treated the matter differently. "So, Lizzy," said he
one day, "your sister is crossed in love, I find. I congratulate
her. Next to being married, a girl likes to be crossed a little in
love now and then. It is something to think of, and it gives her a
sort of distinction among her companions. When is your turn to
come? You will hardly bear to be long outdone by Jane. Now is
your time. Here are officers enough in Meryton to disappoint all
the young ladies in the country. Let Wickham be YOUR man. He
is a pleasant fellow, and would jilt you creditably."
"Thank you, sir, but a less agreeable man would satisfy me. We
must not all expect Jane's good fortune."
"True," said Mr. Bennet, "but it is a comfort to think that
whatever of that kind may befall you, you have an affectionate
mother who will make the most of it."
Mr. Wickham's society was of material service in dispelling the
gloom which the late perverse occurrences had thrown on many
of the Longbourn family. They saw him often, and to his other
recommendations was now added that of general unreserve.
The whole of what Elizabeth had already heard, his claims on
Mr. Darcy, and all that he had suffered from him, was now
openly acknowledged and publicly canvassed; and everybody
was pleased to know how much they had always disliked Mr.
Darcy before they had known anything of the matter.
Miss Bennet was the only creature who could suppose there might
be any extenuating circumstances in the case, unknown to the
society of Hertfordshire; her mild and steady candour always
pleaded for allowances, and urged the possibility of mistakes--but
by everybody else Mr. Darcy was condemned as the worst of men.
After a week spent in professions of love and schemes of felicity,
Mr. Collins was called from his amiable Charlotte by the arrival
of Saturday. The pain of separation, however, might be
alleviated on his side, by preparations for the reception of his
bride; as he had reason to hope, that shortly after his return into
Hertfordshire, the day would be fixed that was to make him the
happiest of men. He took leave of his relations at Longbourn
with as much solemnity as before; wished his fair cousins health
and happiness again, and promised their father another letter of
On the following Monday, Mrs. Bennet had the pleasure of
receiving her brother and his wife, who came as usual to spend
the Christmas at Longbourn. Mr. Gardiner was a sensible,
gentlemanlike man, greatly superior to his sister, as well by
nature as education. The Netherfield ladies would have had
difficulty in believing that a man who lived by trade, and within
view of his own warehouses, could have been so well-bred and
agreeable. Mrs. Gardiner, who was several years younger than
Mrs. Bennet and Mrs. Phillips, was an amiable, intelligent,
elegant woman, and a great favourite with all her Longbourn
nieces. Between the two eldest and herself especially, there
subsisted a particular regard. They had frequently been staying
with her in town.
The first part of Mrs. Gardiner's business on her arrival was to
distribute her presents and describe the newest fashions. When
this was done she had a less active part to play. It became her
turn to listen. Mrs. Bennet had many grievances to relate, and
much to complain of. They had all been very ill-used since she
last saw her sister. Two of her girls had been upon the point of
marriage, and after all there was nothing in it.
"I do not blame Jane," she continued, "for Jane would have got
Mr. Bingley if she could. But Lizzy! Oh, sister! It is very hard
to think that she might have been Mr. Collins's wife by this time,
had it not been for her own perverseness. He made her an offer
in this very room, and she refused him. The consequence of it is,
that Lady Lucas will have a daughter married before I have, and
that the Longbourn estate is just as much entailed as ever. The
Lucases are very artful people indeed, sister. They are all for
what they can get. I am sorry to say it of them, but so it is.
It makes me very nervous and poorly, to be thwarted so in my own
family, and to have neighbours who think of themselves before
anybody else. However, your coming just at this time is the
greatest of comforts, and I am very glad to hear what you tell us,
of long sleeves."
Mrs. Gardiner, to whom the chief of this news had been given
before, in the course of Jane and Elizabeth's correspondence
with her, made her sister a slight answer, and, in compassion to
her nieces, turned the conversation.
When alone with Elizabeth afterwards, she spoke more on the
subject. "It seems likely to have been a desirable match for
Jane," said she. "I am sorry it went off. But these things
happen so often! A young man, such as you describe Mr. Bingley,
so easily falls in love with a pretty girl for a few weeks, and
when accident separates them, so easily forgets her, that these
sort of inconsistencies are very frequent."
"An excellent consolation in its way," said Elizabeth, "but it will
not do for US. We do not suffer by ACCIDENT. It does not often
happen that the interference of friends will persuade a young
man of independent fortune to think no more of a girl whom he
was violently in love with only a few days before."
"But that expression of 'violently in love' is so hackneyed,
so doubtful, so indefinite, that it gives me very little idea.
It is as often applied to feelings which arise from a half-hour's
acquaintance, as to a real, strong attachment. Pray, how
VIOLENT WAS Mr. Bingley's love?"
"I never saw a more promising inclination; he was growing quite
inattentive to other people, and wholly engrossed by her. Every
time they met, it was more decided and remarkable. At his own
ball he offended two or three young ladies, by not asking them to
dance; and I spoke to him twice myself, without receiving an answer.
Could there be finer symptoms? Is not general incivility the very
essence of love?"
"Oh, yes!--of that kind of love which I suppose him to have felt.
Poor Jane! I am sorry for her, because, with her disposition, she
may not get over it immediately. It had better have happened to
YOU, Lizzy; you would have laughed yourself out of it sooner.
But do you think she would be prevailed upon to go back with
us? Change of scene might be of service--and perhaps a little
relief from home may be as useful as anything."
Elizabeth was exceedingly pleased with this proposal, and felt
persuaded of her sister's ready acquiescence.
"I hope," added Mrs. Gardiner, "that no consideration with
regard to this young man will influence her. We live in so
different a part of town, all our connections are so different, and,
as you well know, we go out so little, that it is very improbable
that they should meet at all, unless he really comes to see her."
"And THAT is quite impossible; for he is now in the custody of
his friend, and Mr. Darcy would no more suffer him to call on
Jane in such a part of London! My dear aunt, how could you
think of it? Mr. Darcy may perhaps have HEARD of such a
place as Gracechurch Street, but he would hardly think a
month's ablution enough to cleanse him from its impurities, were
he once to enter it; and depend upon it, Mr. Bingley never stirs
"So much the better. I hope they will not meet at all. But does
not Jane correspond with his sister? SHE will not be able to
"She will drop the acquaintance entirely."
But in spite of the certainty in which Elizabeth affected to place
this point, as well as the still more interesting one of Bingley's
being withheld from seeing Jane, she felt a solicitude on the
subject which convinced her, on examination, that she did not
consider it entirely hopeless. It was possible, and sometimes she
thought it probable, that his affection might be reanimated, and
the influence of his friends successfully combated by the more
natural influence of Jane's attractions.
Miss Bennet accepted her aunt's invitation with pleasure; and
the Bingleys were no otherwise in her thoughts at the same time,
than as she hoped by Caroline's not living in the same house
with her brother, she might occasionally spend a morning with
her, without any danger of seeing him.
The Gardiners stayed a week at Longbourn; and what with the
Phillipses, the Lucases, and the officers, there was not a day
without its engagement. Mrs. Bennet had so carefully provided
for the entertainment of her brother and sister, that they did
not once sit down to a family dinner. When the engagement was
for home, some of the officers always made part of it--of
which officers Mr. Wickham was sure to be one; and on these
occasion, Mrs. Gardiner, rendered suspicious by Elizabeth's
warm commendation, narrowly observed them both. Without
supposing them, from what she saw, to be very seriously in love,
their preference of each other was plain enough to make her a
little uneasy; and she resolved to speak to Elizabeth on the
subject before she left Hertfordshire, and represent to her the
imprudence of encouraging such an attachment.
To Mrs. Gardiner, Wickham had one means of affording pleasure,
unconnected with his general powers. About ten or a dozen years
ago, before her marriage, she had spent a considerable time in
that very part of Derbyshire to which he belonged. They had,
therefore, many acquaintances in common; and though Wickham had
been little there since the death of Darcy's father, it was yet
in his power to give her fresher intelligence of her former
friends than she had been in the way of procuring.
Mrs. Gardiner had seen Pemberley, and known the late Mr. Darcy
by character perfectly well. Here consequently was an
inexhaustible subject of discourse. In comparing her recollection
of Pemberley with the minute description which Wickham could
give, and in bestowing her tribute of praise on the character of
its late possessor, she was delighting both him and herself. On
being made acquainted with the present Mr. Darcy's treatment
of him, she tried to remember some of that gentleman's reputed
disposition when quite a lad which might agree with it, and was
confident at last that she recollected having heard Mr.
Fitzwilliam Darcy formerly spoken of as a very proud, ill-natured
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
"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 you mother of
"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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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 struggle
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."
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
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
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
"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
"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."
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 tress 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
"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.
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
"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
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
When the ladies were separating for the toilette, he said to
"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
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
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
"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
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