Pride and Prejudice
Part 4 out of 8
not thought necessary in Sir Lewis de Bourgh's family. Do you
play and sing, Miss Bennet?"
"Oh! then--some time or other we shall be happy to hear you.
Our instrument is a capital one, probably superior to----You
shall try it some day. Do your sisters play and sing?"
"One of them does."
"Why did not you all learn? You ought all to have learned. The
Miss Webbs all play, and their father has not so good an income
as yours. Do you draw?"
"No, not at all."
"What, none of you?"
"That is very strange. But I suppose you had no opportunity.
Your mother should have taken you to town every spring for the
benefit of masters."
"My mother would have had no objection, but my father hates
"Has your governess left you?"
"We never had any governess."
"No governess! How was that possible? Five daughters brought
up at home without a governess! I never heard of such a thing.
Your mother must have been quite a slave to your education."
Elizabeth could hardly help smiling as she assured her that had
not been the case.
"Then, who taught you? who attended to you? Without a
governess, you must have been neglected."
"Compared with some families, I believe we were; but such of us
as wished to learn never wanted the means. We were always
encouraged to read, and had all the masters that were necessary.
Those who chose to be idle, certainly might."
"Aye, no doubt; but that is what a governess will prevent, and
if I had known your mother, I should have advised her most
strenuously to engage one. I always say that nothing is to be
done in education without steady and regular instruction, and
nobody but a governess can give it. It is wonderful how many
families I have been the means of supplying in that way. I am
always glad to get a young person well placed out. Four nieces
of Mrs. Jenkinson are most delightfully situated through my
means; and it was but the other day that I recommended another
young person, who was merely accidentally mentioned to me,
and the family are quite delighted with her. Mrs. Collins, did I
tell you of Lady Metcalf's calling yesterday to thank me? She
finds Miss Pope a treasure. 'Lady Catherine,' said she, 'you
have given me a treasure.' Are any of your younger sisters out,
"Yes, ma'am, all."
"All! What, all five out at once? Very odd! And you only
the second. The younger ones out before the elder ones are
married! Your younger sisters must be very young?"
"Yes, my youngest is not sixteen. Perhaps SHE is full young to
be much in company. But really, ma'am, I think it would be
very hard upon younger sisters, that they should not have their
share of society and amusement, because the elder may not have
the means or inclination to marry early. The last-born has as
good a right to the pleasures of youth at the first. And to be
kept back on SUCH a motive! I think it would not be very likely
to promote sisterly affection or delicacy of mind."
"Upon my word," said her ladyship, "you give your opinion very
decidedly for so young a person. Pray, what is your age?"
"With three younger sisters grown up," replied Elizabeth,
smiling, "your ladyship can hardly expect me to own it."
Lady Catherine seemed quite astonished at not receiving a direct
answer; and Elizabeth suspected herself to be the first creature
who had ever dared to trifle with so much dignified impertinence.
"You cannot be more than twenty, I am sure, therefore you need
not conceal your age."
"I am not one-and-twenty."
When the gentlemen had joined them, and tea was over, the
card-tables were placed. Lady Catherine, Sir William, and Mr.
and Mrs. Collins sat down to quadrille; and as Miss de Bourgh
chose to play at cassino, the two girls had the honour of
assisting Mrs. Jenkinson to make up her party. Their table was
superlatively stupid. Scarcely a syllable was uttered that did
not relate to the game, except when Mrs. Jenkinson expressed her
fears of Miss de Bourgh's being too hot or too cold, or having
too much or too little light. A great deal more passed at the
other table. Lady Catherine was generally speaking--stating
the mistakes of the three others, or relating some anecdote of
herself. Mr. Collins was employed in agreeing to everything
her ladyship said, thanking her for every fish he won, and
apologising if he thought he won too many. Sir William did not
say much. He was storing his memory with anecdotes and noble
When Lady Catherine and her daughter had played as long as
they chose, the tables were broken up, the carriage was offered
to Mrs. Collins, gratefully accepted and immediately ordered.
The party then gathered round the fire to hear Lady Catherine
determine what weather they were to have on the morrow. From
these instructions they were summoned by the arrival of the
coach; and with many speeches of thankfulness on Mr. Collins's
side and as many bows on Sir William's they departed. As soon
as they had driven from the door, Elizabeth was called on by her
cousin to give her opinion of all that she had seen at Rosings,
which, for Charlotte's sake, she made more favourable than it
really was. But her commendation, though costing her some
trouble, could by no means satisfy Mr. Collins, and he was very
soon obliged to take her ladyship's praise into his own hands.
Sir William stayed only a week at Hunsford, but his visit was
long enough to convince him of his daughter's being most
comfortably settled, and of her possessing such a husband and
such a neighbour as were not often met with. While Sir William
was with them, Mr. Collins devoted his morning to driving him
out in his gig, and showing him the country; but when he went
away, the whole family returned to their usual employments, and
Elizabeth was thankful to find that they did not see more of
her cousin by the alteration, for the chief of the time between
breakfast and dinner was now passed by him either at work in
the garden or in reading and writing, and looking out of the
window in his own book-room, which fronted the road. The
room in which the ladies sat was backwards. Elizabeth had at
first rather wondered that Charlotte should not prefer the
dining-parlour for common use; it was a better sized room, and
had a more pleasant aspect; but she soon saw that her friend
had an excellent reason for what she did, for Mr. Collins would
undoubtedly have been much less in his own apartment, had they
sat in one equally lively; and she gave Charlotte credit for
From the drawing-room they could distinguish nothing in the
lane, and were indebted to Mr. Collins for the knowledge of
what carriages went along, and how often especially Miss de
Bourgh drove by in her phaeton, which he never failed coming
to inform them of, though it happened almost every day. She
not unfrequently stopped at the Parsonage, and had a few
minutes' conversation with Charlotte, but was scarcely ever
prevailed upon to get out.
Very few days passed in which Mr. Collins did not walk to
Rosings, and not many in which his wife did not think it
necessary to go likewise; and till Elizabeth recollected that
there might be other family livings to be disposed of, she could
not understand the sacrifice of so many hours. Now and then
they were honoured with a call from her ladyship, and nothing
escaped her observation that was passing in the room during
these visits. She examined into their employments, looked at
their work, and advised them to do it differently; found fault
with the arrangement of the furniture; or detected the housemaid
in negligence; and if she accepted any refreshment, seemed to do
it only for the sake of finding out that Mrs. Collins's joints of
meat were too large for her family.
Elizabeth soon perceived, that though this great lady was not in
commission of the peace of the county, she was a most active
magistrate in her own parish, the minutest concerns of which
were carried to her by Mr. Collins; and whenever any of the
cottagers were disposed to be quarrelsome, discontented, or
too poor, she sallied forth into the village to settle their
differences, silence their complaints, and scold them into
harmony and plenty.
The entertainment of dining at Rosings was repeated about twice
a week; and, allowing for the loss of Sir William, and there being
only one card-table in the evening, every such entertainment was
the counterpart of the first. Their other engagements were few,
as the style of living in the neighbourhood in general was beyond
Mr. Collins's reach. This, however, was no evil to Elizabeth,
and upon the whole she spent her time comfortably enough;
there were half-hours of pleasant conversation with Charlotte,
and the weather was so fine for the time of year that she had
often great enjoyment out of doors. Her favourite walk, and
where she frequently went while the others were calling on Lady
Catherine, was along the open grove which edged that side of
the park, where there was a nice sheltered path, which no one
seemed to value but herself, and where she felt beyond the reach
of Lady Catherine's curiosity.
In this quiet way, the first fortnight of her visit soon passed
away. Easter was approaching, and the week preceding it was
to bring an addition to the family at Rosings, which in so small
a circle must be important. Elizabeth had heard soon after her
arrival that Mr. Darcy was expected there in the course of a few
weeks, and though there were not many of her acquaintances whom
she did not prefer, his coming would furnish one comparatively
new to look at in their Rosings parties, and she might be amused
in seeing how hopeless Miss Bingley's designs on him were, by
his behaviour to his cousin, for whom he was evidently destined
by Lady Catherine, who talked of his coming with the greatest
satisfaction, spoke of him in terms of the highest admiration,
and seemed almost angry to find that he had already been
frequently seen by Miss Lucas and herself.
His arrival was soon known at the Parsonage; for Mr. Collins
was walking the whole morning within view of the lodges
opening into Hunsford Lane, in order to have the earliest
assurance of it, and after making his bow as the carriage turned
into the Park, hurried home with the great intelligence. On the
following morning he hastened to Rosings to pay his respects.
There were two nephews of Lady Catherine to require them, for
Mr. Darcy had brought with him a Colonel Fitzwilliam, the
younger son of his uncle Lord ----, and, to the great surprise
of all the party, when Mr. Collins returned, the gentleman
accompanied him. Charlotte had seen them from her husband's
room, crossing the road, and immediately running into the other,
told the girls what an honour they might expect, adding:
"I may thank you, Eliza, for this piece of civility. Mr. Darcy
would never have come so soon to wait upon me."
Elizabeth had scarcely time to disclaim all right to the
compliment, before their approach was announced by the
door-bell, and shortly afterwards the three gentlemen entered
the room. Colonel Fitzwilliam, who led the way, was about
thirty, not handsome, but in person and address most truly the
gentleman. Mr. Darcy looked just as he had been used to look
in Hertfordshire--paid his compliments, with his usual reserve,
to Mrs. Collins, and whatever might be his feelings toward her
friend, met her with every appearance of composure. Elizabeth
merely curtseyed to him without saying a word.
Colonel Fitzwilliam entered into conversation directly with
the readiness and ease of a well-bred man, and talked very
pleasantly; but his cousin, after having addressed a slight
observation on the house and garden to Mrs. Collins, sat for
some time without speaking to anybody. At length, however,
his civility was so far awakened as to inquire of Elizabeth after
the health of her family. She answered him in the usual way,
and after a moment's pause, added:
"My eldest sister has been in town these three months. Have
you never happened to see her there?"
She was perfectly sensible that he never had; but she wished
to see whether he would betray any consciousness of what had
passed between the Bingleys and Jane, and she thought he
looked a little confused as he answered that he had never been
so fortunate as to meet Miss Bennet. The subject was pursued
no farther, and the gentlemen soon afterwards went away.
Colonel Fitzwilliam's manners were very much admired at the
Parsonage, and the ladies all felt that he must add considerably
to the pleasures of their engagements at Rosings. It was some
days, however, before they received any invitation thither--for
while there were visitors in the house, they could not be
necessary; and it was not till Easter-day, almost a week after the
gentlemen's arrival, that they were honoured by such an
attention, and then they were merely asked on leaving church to
come there in the evening. For the last week they had seen very
little of Lady Catherine or her daughter. Colonel Fitzwilliam had
called at the Parsonage more than once during the time, but Mr.
Darcy they had seen only at church.
The invitation was accepted of course, and at a proper hour they
joined the party in Lady Catherine's drawing-room. Her ladyship
received them civilly, but it was plain that their company was by
no means so acceptable as when she could get nobody else; and
she was, in fact, almost engrossed by her nephews, speaking to
them, especially to Darcy, much more than to any other person
in the room.
Colonel Fitzwilliam seemed really glad to see them; anything
was a welcome relief to him at Rosings; and Mrs. Collins's
pretty friend had moreover caught his fancy very much. He now
seated himself by her, and talked so agreeably of Kent and
Hertfordshire, of travelling and staying at home, of new books
and music, that Elizabeth had never been half so well entertained
in that room before; and they conversed with so much spirit and
flow, as to draw the attention of Lady Catherine herself, as well
as of Mr. Darcy. HIS eyes had been soon and repeatedly turned
towards them with a look of curiosity; and that her ladyship,
after a while, shared the feeling, was more openly acknowledged,
for she did not scruple to call out:
"What is that you are saying, Fitzwilliam? What is it you are
talking of? What are you telling Miss Bennet? Let me hear
what it is."
"We are speaking of music, madam," said he, when no longer
able to avoid a reply.
"Of music! Then pray speak aloud. It is of all subjects my
delight. I must have my share in the conversation if you are
speaking of music. There are few people in England, I suppose,
who have more true enjoyment of music than myself, or a better
natural taste. If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great
proficient. And so would Anne, if her health had allowed her to
apply. I am confident that she would have performed delightfully.
How does Georgiana get on, Darcy?"
Mr. Darcy spoke with affectionate praise of his sister's
"I am very glad to hear such a good account of her," said Lady
Catherine; "and pray tell her from me, that she cannot expect to
excel if she does not practice a good deal."
"I assure you, madam," he replied, "that she does not need such
advice. She practises very constantly."
"So much the better. It cannot be done too much; and when I
next write to her, I shall charge her not to neglect it on any
account. I often tell young ladies that no excellence in music
is to be acquired without constant practice. I have told Miss
Bennet several times, that she will never play really well unless
she practises more; and though Mrs. Collins has no instrument,
she is very welcome, as I have often told her, to come to Rosings
every day, and play on the pianoforte in Mrs. Jenkinson's room.
She would be in nobody's way, you know, in that part of the house."
Mr. Darcy looked a little ashamed of his aunt's ill-breeding, and
made no answer.
When coffee was over, Colonel Fitzwilliam reminded Elizabeth
of having promised to play to him; and she sat down directly to
the instrument. He drew a chair near her. Lady Catherine
listened to half a song, and then talked, as before, to her other
nephew; till the latter walked away from her, and making with
his usual deliberation towards the pianoforte stationed himself
so as to command a full view of the fair performer's countenance.
Elizabeth saw what he was doing, and at the first convenient
pause, turned to him with an arch smile, and said:
"You mean to frighten me, Mr. Darcy, by coming in all this state
to hear me? I will not be alarmed though your sister DOES play
so well. There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to
be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at
every attempt to intimidate me."
"I shall not say you are mistaken," he replied, "because you
could not really believe me to entertain any design of alarming
you; and I have had the pleasure of your acquaintance long
enough to know that you find great enjoyment in occasionally
professing opinions which in fact are not your own."
Elizabeth laughed heartily at this picture of herself, and said to
Colonel Fitzwilliam, "Your cousin will give you a very pretty
notion of me, and teach you not to believe a word I say. I am
particularly unlucky in meeting with a person so able to expose
my real character, in a part of the world where I had hoped to
pass myself off with some degree of credit. Indeed, Mr. Darcy,
it is very ungenerous in you to mention all that you knew to my
disadvantage in Hertfordshire--and, give me leave to say, very
impolitic too--for it is provoking me to retaliate, and such
things may come out as will shock your relations to hear."
"I am not afraid of you," said he, smilingly.
"Pray let me hear what you have to accuse him of," cried
Colonel Fitzwilliam. "I should like to know how he behaves
"You shall hear then--but prepare yourself for something very
dreadful. The first time of my ever seeing him in Hertfordshire,
you must know, was at a ball--and at this ball, what do you
think he did? He danced only four dances, though gentlemen
were scarce; and, to my certain knowledge, more than one
young lady was sitting down in want of a partner. Mr. Darcy,
you cannot deny the fact."
"I had not at that time the honour of knowing any lady in the
assembly beyond my own party."
"True; and nobody can ever be introduced in a ball-room. Well,
Colonel Fitzwilliam, what do I play next? My fingers wait your
"Perhaps," said Darcy, "I should have judged better, had I
sought an introduction; but I am ill-qualified to recommend
myself to strangers."
"Shall we ask your cousin the reason of this?" said Elizabeth,
still addressing Colonel Fitzwilliam. "Shall we ask him why a
man of sense and education, and who has lived in the world, is
ill qualified to recommend himself to strangers?"
"I can answer your question," said Fitzwilliam, "without
applying to him. It is because he will not give himself the
"I certainly have not the talent which some people possess," said
Darcy, "of conversing easily with those I have never seen before.
I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested
in their concerns, as I often see done."
"My fingers," said Elizabeth, "do not move over this instrument
in the masterly manner which I see so many women's do. They
have not the same force or rapidity, and do not produce the
same expression. But then I have always supposed it to be my
own fault--because I will not take the trouble of practising.
It is not that I do not believe MY fingers as capable as any
other woman's of superior execution."
Darcy smiled and said, "You are perfectly right. You have
employed your time much better. No one admitted to the
privilege of hearing you can think anything wanting. We neither
of us perform to strangers."
Here they were interrupted by Lady Catherine, who called out to
know what they were talking of. Elizabeth immediately began
playing again. Lady Catherine approached, and, after listening
for a few minutes, said to Darcy:
"Miss Bennet would not play at all amiss if she practised more,
and could have the advantage of a London master. She has a
very good notion of fingering, though her taste is not equal to
Anne's. Anne would have been a delightful performer, had her
health allowed her to learn."
Elizabeth looked at Darcy to see how cordially he assented to
his cousin's praise; but neither at that moment nor at any other
could she discern any symptom of love; and from the whole of
his behaviour to Miss de Bourgh she derived this comfort for
Miss Bingley, that he might have been just as likely to marry
HER, had she been his relation.
Lady Catherine continued her remarks on Elizabeth's performance,
mixing with them many instructions on execution and taste.
Elizabeth received them with all the forbearance of civility,
and, at the request of the gentlemen, remained at the instrument
till her ladyship's carriage was ready to take them all home.
Elizabeth was sitting by herself the next morning, and writing to
Jane while Mrs. Collins and Maria were gone on business into
the village, when she was startled by a ring at the door, the
certain signal of a visitor. As she had heard no carriage, she
thought it not unlikely to be Lady Catherine, and under that
apprehension was putting away her half-finished letter that she
might escape all impertinent questions, when the door opened,
and, to her very great surprise, Mr. Darcy, and Mr. Darcy only,
entered the room.
He seemed astonished too on finding her alone, and apologised
for his intrusion by letting her know that he had understood all
the ladies were to be within.
They then sat down, and when her inquiries after Rosings were
made, seemed in danger of sinking into total silence. It was
absolutely necessary, therefore, to think of something, and in
this emergence recollecting WHEN she had seen him last in
Hertfordshire, and feeling curious to know what he would say
on the subject of their hasty departure, she observed:
"How very suddenly you all quitted Netherfield last November,
Mr. Darcy! It must have been a most agreeable surprise to Mr.
Bingley to see you all after him so soon; for, if I recollect right,
he went but the day before. He and his sisters were well, I hope,
when you left London?"
"Perfectly so, I thank you."
She found that she was to receive no other answer, and, after a
short pause added:
"I think I have understood that Mr. Bingley has not much idea of
ever returning to Netherfield again?"
"I have never heard him say so; but it is probable that he may
spend very little of his time there in the future. He has many
friends, and is at a time of life when friends and engagements are
"If he means to be but little at Netherfield, it would be better for
the neighbourhood that he should give up the place entirely, for
then we might possibly get a settled family there. But, perhaps,
Mr. Bingley did not take the house so much for the convenience
of the neighbourhood as for his own, and we must expect him to
keep it or quit it on the same principle."
"I should not be surprised," said Darcy, "if he were to give it up
as soon as any eligible purchase offers."
Elizabeth made no answer. She was afraid of talking longer of
his friend; and, having nothing else to say, was now determined
to leave the trouble of finding a subject to him.
He took the hint, and soon began with, "This seems a very
comfortable house. Lady Catherine, I believe, did a great deal to
it when Mr. Collins first came to Hunsford."
"I believe she did--and I am sure she could not have bestowed
her kindness on a more grateful object."
"Mr. Collins appears to be very fortunate in his choice of a wife."
"Yes, indeed, his friends may well rejoice in his having met with
one of the very few sensible women who would have accepted
him, or have made him happy if they had. My friend has an
excellent understanding--though I am not certain that I consider
her marrying Mr. Collins as the wisest thing she ever did. She
seems perfectly happy, however, and in a prudential light it is
certainly a very good match for her."
"It must be very agreeable for her to be settled within so easy a
distance of her own family and friends."
"An easy distance, do you call it? It is nearly fifty miles."
"And what is fifty miles of good road? Little more than half a
day's journey. Yes, I call it a VERY easy distance."
"I should never have considered the distance as one of the
ADVANTAGES of the match," cried Elizabeth. "I should never
have said Mrs. Collins was settled NEAR her family."
"It is a proof of your own attachment to Hertfordshire.
Anything beyond the very neighbourhood of Longbourn, I
suppose, would appear far."
As he spoke there was a sort of smile which Elizabeth fancied
she understood; he must be supposing her to be thinking of Jane
and Netherfield, and she blushed as she answered:
"I do not mean to say that a woman may not be settled too near
her family. The far and the near must be relative, and depend on
many varying circumstances. Where there is fortune to make the
expenses of travelling unimportant, distance becomes no evil.
But that is not the case HERE. Mr. and Mrs. Collins have a
comfortable income, but not such a one as will allow of frequent
journeys--and I am persuaded my friend would not call herself
NEAR her family under less than HALF the present distance."
Mr. Darcy drew his chair a little towards her, and said, "YOU
cannot have a right to such very strong local attachment.
YOU cannot have been always at Longbourn."
Elizabeth looked surprised. The gentleman experienced some
change of feeling; he drew back his chair, took a newspaper
from the table, and glancing over it, said, in a colder voice:
"Are you pleased with Kent?"
A short dialogue on the subject of the country ensued, on either
side calm and concise--and soon put an end to by the entrance
of Charlotte and her sister, just returned from her walk. The
tete-a-tete surprised them. Mr. Darcy related the mistake which
had occasioned his intruding on Miss Bennet, and after sitting a
few minutes longer without saying much to anybody, went away.
"What can be the meaning of this?" said Charlotte, as soon as he
was gone. "My dear, Eliza, he must be in love with you, or he
would never have called us in this familiar way."
But when Elizabeth told of his silence; it did not seem very
likely, even to Charlotte's wishes, to be the case; and after
various conjectures, they could at last only suppose his visit to
proceed from the difficulty of finding anything to do, which was
the more probable from the time of year. All field sports were
over. Within doors there was Lady Catherine, books, and a
billiard-table, but gentlemen cannot always be within doors; and
in the nearness of the Parsonage, or the pleasantness of the walk
to it, or of the people who lived in it, the two cousins found a
temptation from this period of walking thither almost every day.
They called at various times of the morning, sometimes
separately, sometimes together, and now and then accompanied
by their aunt. It was plain to them all that Colonel Fitzwilliam
came because he had pleasure in their society, a persuasion
which of course recommended him still more; and Elizabeth was
reminded by her own satisfaction in being with him, as well as by
his evident admiration of her, of her former favourite George
Wickham; and though, in comparing them, she saw there was
less captivating softness in Colonel Fitzwilliam's manners, she
believed he might have the best informed mind.
But why Mr. Darcy came so often to the Parsonage, it was more
difficult to understand. It could not be for society, as he
frequently sat there ten minutes together without opening his
lips; and when he did speak, it seemed the effect of necessity
rather than of choice--a sacrifice to propriety, not a pleasure
to himself. He seldom appeared really animated. Mrs. Collins
knew not what to make of him. Colonel Fitzwilliam's occasionally
laughing at his stupidity, proved that he was generally different,
which her own knowledge of him could not have told her; and as
she would liked to have believed this change the effect of love,
and the object of that love her friend Eliza, she set herself
seriously to work to find it out. She watched him whenever they
were at Rosings, and whenever he came to Hunsford; but without
much success. He certainly looked at her friend a great deal,
but the expression of that look was disputable. It was an
earnest, steadfast gaze, but she often doubted whether there
were much admiration in it, and sometimes it seemed nothing but
absence of mind.
She had once or twice suggested to Elizabeth the possibility of
his being partial to her, but Elizabeth always laughed at the idea;
and Mrs. Collins did not think it right to press the subject, from
the danger of raising expectations which might only end in
disappointment; for in her opinion it admitted not of a doubt,
that all her friend's dislike would vanish, if she could suppose
him to be in her power.
In her kind schemes for Elizabeth, she sometimes planned her
marrying Colonel Fitzwilliam. He was beyond comparison the
most pleasant man; he certainly admired her, and his situation in
life was most eligible; but, to counterbalance these advantages,
Mr. Darcy had considerable patronage in the church, and his
cousin could have none at all.
More than once did Elizabeth, in her ramble within the park,
unexpectedly meet Mr. Darcy. She felt all the perverseness of
the mischance that should bring him where no one else was brought,
and, to prevent its ever happening again, took care to inform him
at first that it was a favourite haunt of hers. How it could occur
a second time, therefore, was very odd! Yet it did, and even a
third. It seemed like wilful ill-nature, or a voluntary penance,
for on these occasions it was not merely a few formal inquiries
and an awkward pause and then away, but he actually thought it
necessary to turn back and walk with her. He never said a great
deal, nor did she give herself the trouble of talking or of
listening much; but it struck her in the course of their third
rencontre that he was asking some odd unconnected questions--about
her pleasure in being at Hunsford, her love of solitary walks, and
her opinion of Mr. and Mrs. Collins's happiness; and that in
speaking of Rosings and her not perfectly understanding the house,
he seemed to expect that whenever she came into Kent again she
would be staying THERE too. His words seemed to imply it. Could
he have Colonel Fitzwilliam in his thoughts? She supposed, if he
meant anything, he must mean and allusion to what might arise in
that quarter. It distressed her a little, and she was quite glad
to find herself at the gate in the pales opposite the Parsonage.
She was engaged one day as she walked, in perusing Jane's last
letter, and dwelling on some passages which proved that Jane
had not written in spirits, when, instead of being again surprised
by Mr. Darcy, she saw on looking up that Colonel Fitzwilliam
was meeting her. Putting away the letter immediately and
forcing a smile, she said:
"I did not know before that you ever walked this way."
"I have been making the tour of the park," he replied, "as I
generally do every year, and intend to close it with a call at the
Parsonage. Are you going much farther?"
"No, I should have turned in a moment."
And accordingly she did turn, and they walked towards the
"Do you certainly leave Kent on Saturday?" said she.
"Yes--if Darcy does not put it off again. But I am at his
disposal. He arranges the business just as he pleases."
"And if not able to please himself in the arrangement, he has
at least pleasure in the great power of choice. I do not know
anybody who seems more to enjoy the power of doing what he
likes than Mr. Darcy."
"He likes to have his own way very well," replied Colonel
Fitzwilliam. "But so we all do. It is only that he has better
means of having it than many others, because he is rich, and
many others are poor. I speak feelingly. A younger son, you
know, must be inured to self-denial and dependence."
"In my opinion, the younger son of an earl can know very
little of either. Now seriously, what have you ever known of
self-denial and dependence? When have you been prevented by
want of money from going wherever you chose, or procuring
anything you had a fancy for?"
"These are home questions--and perhaps I cannot say that I
have experienced many hardships of that nature. But in matters
of greater weight, I may suffer from want of money. Younger
sons cannot marry where they like."
"Unless where they like women of fortune, which I think they
very often do."
"Our habits of expense make us too dependent, and there are too
many in my rank of life who can afford to marry without some
attention to money."
"Is this," thought Elizabeth, "meant for me?" and she coloured
at the idea; but, recovering herself, said in a lively tone, "And
pray, what is the usual price of an earl's younger son? Unless
the elder brother is very sickly, I suppose you would not ask
above fifty thousand pounds."
He answered her in the same style, and the subject dropped. To
interrupt a silence which might make him fancy her affected with
what had passed, she soon afterwards said:
"I imagine your cousin brought you down with him chiefly for
the sake of having someone at his disposal. I wonder he does
not marry, to secure a lasting convenience of that kind. But,
perhaps, his sister does as well for the present, and, as she is
under his sole care, he may do what he likes with her."
"No," said Colonel Fitzwilliam, "that is an advantage which he
must divide with me. I am joined with him in the guardianship
of Miss Darcy."
"Are you indeed? And pray what sort of guardians do you
make? Does your charge give you much trouble? Young ladies
of her age are sometimes a little difficult to manage, and if she
has the true Darcy spirit, she may like to have her own way."
As she spoke she observed him looking at her earnestly; and
the manner in which he immediately asked her why she supposed
Miss Darcy likely to give them any uneasiness, convinced her
that she had somehow or other got pretty near the truth. She
"You need not be frightened. I never heard any harm of her; and
I dare say she is one of the most tractable creatures in the world.
She is a very great favourite with some ladies of my acquaintance,
Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley. I think I have heard you say that
you know them."
"I know them a little. Their brother is a pleasant gentlemanlike
man--he is a great friend of Darcy's."
"Oh! yes," said Elizabeth drily; "Mr. Darcy is uncommonly kind
to Mr. Bingley, and takes a prodigious deal of care of him."
"Care of him! Yes, I really believe Darcy DOES take care of
him in those points where he most wants care. From something
that he told me in our journey hither, I have reason to think
Bingley very much indebted to him. But I ought to beg his
pardon, for I have no right to suppose that Bingley was the
person meant. It was all conjecture."
"What is it you mean?"
"It is a circumstance which Darcy could not wish to be generally
known, because if it were to get round to the lady's family, it
would be an unpleasant thing."
"You may depend upon my not mentioning it."
"And remember that I have not much reason for supposing it
to be Bingley. What he told me was merely this: that he
congratulated himself on having lately saved a friend from
the inconveniences of a most imprudent marriage, but without
mentioning names or any other particulars, and I only suspected
it to be Bingley from believing him the kind of young man to get
into a scrape of that sort, and from knowing them to have been
together the whole of last summer."
"Did Mr. Darcy give you reasons for this interference?"
"I understood that there were some very strong objections
against the lady."
"And what arts did he use to separate them?"
"He did not talk to me of his own arts," said Fitzwilliam, smiling.
"He only told me what I have now told you."
Elizabeth made no answer, and walked on, her heart swelling
with indignation. After watching her a little, Fitzwilliam asked
her why she was so thoughtful.
"I am thinking of what you have been telling me," said she.
"Your cousin's conduct does not suit my feelings. Why was he
to be the judge?"
"You are rather disposed to call his interference officious?"
"I do not see what right Mr. Darcy had to decide on the
propriety of his friend's inclination, or why, upon his own
judgement alone, he was to determine and direct in what manner
his friend was to be happy. But," she continued, recollecting
herself, "as we know none of the particulars, it is not fair to
condemn him. It is not to be supposed that there was much
affection in the case."
"That is not an unnatural surmise," said Fitzwilliam, "but it is a
lessening of the honour of my cousin's triumph very sadly."
This was spoken jestingly; but it appeared to her so just a picture
of Mr. Darcy, that she would not trust herself with an answer,
and therefore, abruptly changing the conversation talked on
indifferent matters until they reached the Parsonage. There, shut
into her own room, as soon as their visitor left them, she could
think without interruption of all that she had heard. It was not
to be supposed that any other people could be meant than those
with whom she was connected. There could not exist in the
world TWO men over whom Mr. Darcy could have such boundless
influence. That he had been concerned in the measures taken to
separate Bingley and Jane she had never doubted; but she had
always attributed to Miss Bingley the principal design and
arrangement of them. If his own vanity, however, did not mislead
him, HE was the cause, his pride and caprice were the cause, of
all that Jane had suffered, and still continued to suffer. He
had ruined for a while every hope of happiness for the most
affectionate, generous heart in the world; and no one could say
how lasting an evil he might have inflicted.
"There were some very strong objections against the lady,"
were Colonel Fitzwilliam's words; and those strong objections
probably were, her having one uncle who was a country attorney,
and another who was in business in London.
"To Jane herself," she exclaimed, "there could be no possibility
of objection; all loveliness and goodness as she is!--her
understanding excellent, her mind improved, and her manners
captivating. Neither could anything be urged against my father,
who, though with some peculiarities, has abilities Mr. Darcy
himself need not disdain, and respectability which he will
probably never each." When she thought of her mother, her
confidence gave way a little; but she would not allow that any
objections THERE had material weight with Mr. Darcy, whose
pride, she was convinced, would receive a deeper wound from
the want of importance in his friend's connections, than from
their want of sense; and she was quite decided, at last, that he
had been partly governed by this worst kind of pride, and partly
by the wish of retaining Mr. Bingley for his sister.
The agitation and tears which the subject occasioned, brought on
a headache; and it grew so much worse towards the evening,
that, added to her unwillingness to see Mr. Darcy, it determined
her not to attend her cousins to Rosings, where they were
engaged to drink tea. Mrs. Collins, seeing that she was really
unwell, did not press her to go and as much as possible
prevented her husband from pressing her; but Mr. Collins could
not conceal his apprehension of Lady Catherine's being rather
displeased by her staying at home.
When they were gone, Elizabeth, as if intending to exasperate
herself as much as possible against Mr. Darcy, chose for her
employment the examination of all the letters which Jane had
written to her since her being in Kent. They contained no actual
complaint, nor was there any revival of past occurrences, or any
communication of present suffering. But in all, and in almost
every line of each, there was a want of that cheerfulness which
had been used to characterise her style, and which, proceeding
from the serenity of a mind at ease with itself and kindly
disposed towards everyone, had been scarcely ever clouded.
Elizabeth noticed every sentence conveying the idea of uneasiness,
with an attention which it had hardly received on the first
perusal. Mr. Darcy's shameful boast of what misery he had been
able to inflict, gave her a keener sense of her sister's
sufferings. It was some consolation to think that his visit
to Rosings was to end on the day after the next--and, a still
greater, that in less than a fortnight she should herself be with
Jane again, and enabled to contribute to the recovery of her
spirits, by all that affection could do.
She could not think of Darcy's leaving Kent without remembering
that his cousin was to go with him; but Colonel Fitzwilliam had
made it clear that he had no intentions at all, and agreeable
as he was, she did not mean to be unhappy about him.
While settling this point, she was suddenly roused by the sound
of the door-bell, and her spirits were a little fluttered by the
idea of its being Colonel Fitzwilliam himself, who had once
before called late in the evening, and might now come to inquire
particularly after her. But this idea was soon banished, and
her spirits were very differently affected, when, to her utter
amazement, she saw Mr. Darcy walk into the room. In an
hurried manner he immediately began an inquiry after her health,
imputing his visit to a wish of hearing that she were better.
She answered him with cold civility. He sat down for a few
moments, and then getting up, walked about the room. Elizabeth
was surprised, but said not a word. After a silence of
several minutes, he came towards her in an agitated manner,
and thus began:
"In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not
be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire
and love you."
Elizabeth's astonishment was beyond expression. She stared,
coloured, doubted, and was silent. This he considered sufficient
encouragement; and the avowal of all that he felt, and had long
felt for her, immediately followed. He spoke well; but there
were feelings besides those of the heart to be detailed; and he
was not more eloquent on the subject of tenderness than of pride.
His sense of her inferiority--of its being a degradation--of the
family obstacles which had always opposed to inclination, were
dwelt on with a warmth which seemed due to the consequence he
was wounding, but was very unlikely to recommend his suit.
In spite of her deeply-rooted dislike, she could not be insensible
to the compliment of such a man's affection, and though her
intentions did not vary for an instant, she was at first sorry for
the pain he was to receive; till, roused to resentment by his
subsequent language, she lost all compassion in anger. She
tried, however, to compose herself to answer him with patience,
when he should have done. He concluded with representing to
her the strength of that attachment which, in spite of all his
endeavours, he had found impossible to conquer; and with
expressing his hope that it would now be rewarded by her
acceptance of his hand. As he said this, she could easily
see that he had no doubt of a favourable answer. He SPOKE of
apprehension and anxiety, but his countenance expressed real
security. Such a circumstance could only exasperate farther,
and, when he ceased, the colour rose into her cheeks, and she
"In such cases as this, it is, I believe, the established mode
to express a sense of obligation for the sentiments avowed,
however unequally they may be returned. It is natural that
obligation should be felt, and if I could FEEL gratitude, I would
now thank you. But I cannot--I have never desired your good
opinion, and you have certainly bestowed it most unwillingly. I
am sorry to have occasioned pain to anyone. It has been most
unconsciously done, however, and I hope will be of short
duration. The feelings which, you tell me, have long prevented
the acknowledgment of your regard, can have little difficulty in
overcoming it after this explanation."
Mr. Darcy, who was leaning against the mantelpiece with his
eyes fixed on her face, seemed to catch her words with no less
resentment than surprise. His complexion became pale with
anger, and the disturbance of his mind was visible in every
feature. He was struggling for the appearance of composure,
and would not open his lips till he believed himself to have
attained it. The pause was to Elizabeth's feelings dreadful.
At length, with a voice of forced calmness, he said:
"And this is all the reply which I am to have the honour of
expecting! I might, perhaps, wish to be informed why, with so
little ENDEAVOUR at civility, I am thus rejected. But it is of
"I might as well inquire," replied she, "why with so evident a
desire of offending and insulting me, you chose to tell me that
you liked me against your will, against your reason, and even
against your character? Was not this some excuse for incivility,
if I WAS uncivil? But I have other provocations. You know I
have. Had not my feelings decided against you--had they been
indifferent, or had they even been favourable, do you think that
any consideration would tempt me to accept the man who has
been the means of ruining, perhaps for ever, the happiness of a
most beloved sister?"
As she pronounced these words, Mr. Darcy changed colour; but
the emotion was short, and he listened without attempting
to interrupt her while she continued:
"I have every reason in the world to think ill of you. No motive
can excuse the unjust and ungenerous part you acted THERE.
You dare not, you cannot deny, that you have been the principal,
if not the only means of dividing them from each other--of
exposing one to the censure of the world for caprice and
instability, and the other to its derision for disappointed hopes,
and involving them both in misery of the acutest kind."
She paused, and saw with no slight indignation that he was
listening with an air which proved him wholly unmoved by any
feeling of remorse. He even looked at her with a smile of
"Can you deny that you have done it?" she repeated.
With assumed tranquillity he then replied: "I have no wish of
denying that I did everything in my power to separate my friend
from your sister, or that I rejoice in my success. Towards HIM
I have been kinder than towards myself."
Elizabeth disdained the appearance of noticing this civil
reflection, but its meaning did not escape, nor was it likely to
"But it is not merely this affair," she continued, "on which my
dislike is founded. Long before it had taken place my opinion
of you was decided. Your character was unfolded in the recital
which I received many months ago from Mr. Wickham. On this
subject, what can you have to say? In what imaginary act
of friendship can you here defend yourself? or under what
misrepresentation can you here impose upon others?"
"You take an eager interest in that gentleman's concerns," said
Darcy, in a less tranquil tone, and with a heightened colour.
"Who that knows what his misfortunes have been, can help
feeling an interest in him?"
"His misfortunes!" repeated Darcy contemptuously; "yes, his
misfortunes have been great indeed."
"And of your infliction," cried Elizabeth with energy. "You
have reduced him to his present state of poverty--comparative
poverty. You have withheld the advantages which you must
know to have been designed for him. You have deprived the
best years of his life of that independence which was no less his
due than his desert. You have done all this! and yet you can
treat the mention of his misfortune with contempt and ridicule."
"And this," cried Darcy, as he walked with quick steps across
the room, "is your opinion of me! This is the estimation in
which you hold me! I thank you for explaining it so fully. My
faults, according to this calculation, are heavy indeed! But
perhaps," added he, stopping in his walk, and turning towards
her, "these offenses might have been overlooked, had not your
pride been hurt by my honest confession of the scruples that had
long prevented my forming any serious design. These bitter
accusations might have been suppressed, had I, with greater
policy, concealed my struggles, and flattered you into the belief
of my being impelled by unqualified, unalloyed inclination; by
reason, by reflection, by everything. But disguise of every sort
is my abhorrence. Nor am I ashamed of the feelings I related.
They were natural and just. Could you expect me to rejoice in
the inferiority of your connections?--to congratulate myself on
the hope of relations, whose condition in life is so decidedly
beneath my own?"
Elizabeth felt herself growing more angry every moment; yet she
tried to the utmost to speak with composure when she said:
"You are mistaken, Mr. Darcy, if you suppose that the mode of
your declaration affected me in any other way, than as it spared
the concern which I might have felt in refusing you, had you
behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner."
She saw him start at this, but he said nothing, and she continued:
"You could not have made the offer of your hand in any possible
way that would have tempted me to accept it."
Again his astonishment was obvious; and he looked at her with
an expression of mingled incredulity and mortification. She went
"From the very beginning--from the first moment, I may almost
say--of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me
with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your
selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form the
groundwork of disapprobation on which succeeding events have
built so immovable a dislike; and I had not known you a month
before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I
could ever be prevailed on to marry."
"You have said quite enough, madam. I perfectly comprehend
your feelings, and have now only to be ashamed of what my own
have been. Forgive me for having taken up so much of your
time, and accept my best wishes for your health and happiness."
And with these words he hastily left the room, and Elizabeth
heard him the next moment open the front door and quit the
The tumult of her mind, was now painfully great. She knew not
how to support herself, and from actual weakness sat down and
cried for half-an-hour. Her astonishment, as she reflected on
what had passed, was increased by every review of it. That she
should receive an offer of marriage from Mr. Darcy! That he
should have been in love with her for so many months! So much
in love as to wish to marry her in spite of all the objections
which had made him prevent his friend's marrying her sister,
and which must appear at least with equal force in his own
case--was almost incredible! It was gratifying to have inspired
unconsciously so strong an affection. But his pride, his
abominable pride--his shameless avowal of what he had done with
respect to Jane--his unpardonable assurance in acknowledging,
though he could not justify it, and the unfeeling manner in
which he had mentioned Mr. Wickham, his cruelty towards whom
he had not attempted to deny, soon overcame the pity which the
consideration of his attachment had for a moment excited. She
continued in very agitated reflections till the sound of Lady
Catherine's carriage made her feel how unequal she was to
encounter Charlotte's observation, and hurried her away to
Elizabeth awoke the next morning to the same thoughts and
meditations which had at length closed her eyes. She could
not yet recover from the surprise of what had happened; it was
impossible to think of anything else; and, totally indisposed
for employment, she resolved, soon after breakfast, to indulge
herself in air and exercise. She was proceeding directly to her
favourite walk, when the recollection of Mr. Darcy's sometimes
coming there stopped her, and instead of entering the park, she
turned up the lane, which led farther from the turnpike-road.
The park paling was still the boundary on one side, and she
soon passed one of the gates into the ground.
After walking two or three times along that part of the lane, she
was tempted, by the pleasantness of the morning, to stop at the
gates and look into the park. The five weeks which she had now
passed in Kent had made a great difference in the country, and
every day was adding to the verdure of the early trees. She was
on the point of continuing her walk, when she caught a glimpse
of a gentleman within the sort of grove which edged the park;
he was moving that way; and, fearful of its being Mr. Darcy,
she was directly retreating. But the person who advanced was
now near enough to see her, and stepping forward with eagerness,
pronounced her name. She had turned away; but on hearing
herself called, though in a voice which proved it to be Mr.
Darcy, she moved again towards the gate. He had by that time
reached it also, and, holding out a letter, which she instinctively
took, said, with a look of haughty composure, "I have been
walking in the grove some time in the hope of meeting you. Will
you do me the honour of reading that letter?" And then, with a
slight bow, turned again into the plantation, and was soon out of
With no expectation of pleasure, but with the strongest curiosity,
Elizabeth opened the letter, and, to her still increasing wonder,
perceived an envelope containing two sheets of letter-paper,
written quite through, in a very close hand. The envelope itself
was likewise full. Pursuing her way along the lane, she then
began it. It was dated from Rosings, at eight o'clock in the
morning, and was as follows:--
"Be not alarmed, madam, on receiving this letter, by the
apprehension of its containing any repetition of those sentiments
or renewal of those offers which were last night so disgusting to
you. I write without any intention of paining you, or humbling
myself, by dwelling on wishes which, for the happiness of both,
cannot be too soon forgotten; and the effort which the formation
and the perusal of this letter must occasion, should have been
spared, had not my character required it to be written and read.
You must, therefore, pardon the freedom with which I demand
your attention; your feelings, I know, will bestow it unwillingly,
but I demand it of your justice.
"Two offenses of a very different nature, and by no means of
equal magnitude, you last night laid to my charge. The first
mentioned was, that, regardless of the sentiments of either, I had
detached Mr. Bingley from your sister, and the other, that I had,
in defiance of various claims, in defiance of honour and
humanity, ruined the immediate prosperity and blasted the
prospects of Mr. Wickham. Wilfully and wantonly to have
thrown off the companion of my youth, the acknowledged
favourite of my father, a young man who had scarcely any other
dependence than on our patronage, and who had been brought
up to expect its exertion, would be a depravity, to which the
separation of two young persons, whose affection could be the
growth of only a few weeks, could bear no comparison. But
from the severity of that blame which was last night so liberally
bestowed, respecting each circumstance, I shall hope to be in the
future secured, when the following account of my actions and
their motives has been read. If, in the explanation of them,
which is due to myself, I am under the necessity of relating
feelings which may be offensive to yours, I can only say that I
am sorry. The necessity must be obeyed, and further apology
would be absurd.
"I had not been long in Hertfordshire, before I saw, in common
with others, that Bingley preferred your elder sister to any other
young woman in the country. But it was not till the evening of
the dance at Netherfield that I had any apprehension of his
feeling a serious attachment. I had often seen him in love before.
At that ball, while I had the honour of dancing with you, I was
first made acquainted, by Sir William Lucas's accidental
information, that Bingley's attentions to your sister had given
rise to a general expectation of their marriage. He spoke of it
as a certain event, of which the time alone could be undecided.
From that moment I observed my friend's behaviour attentively;
and I could then perceive that his partiality for Miss Bennet
was beyond what I had ever witnessed in him. Your sister I
also watched. Her look and manners were open, cheerful, and
engaging as ever, but without any symptom of peculiar regard,
and I remained convinced from the evening's scrutiny, that
though she received his attentions with pleasure, she did not
invite them by any participation of sentiment. If YOU have not
been mistaken here, _I_ must have been in error. Your superior
knowledge of your sister must make the latter probable. If it be
so, if I have been misled by such error to inflict pain on her,
your resentment has not been unreasonable. But I shall not scruple
to assert, that the serenity of your sister's countenance and air
was such as might have given the most acute observer a conviction
that, however amiable her temper, her heart was not likely to be
easily touched. That I was desirous of believing her indifferent
is certain--but I will venture to say that my investigation and
decisions are not usually influenced by my hopes or fears. I did
not believe her to be indifferent because I wished it; I believed
it on impartial conviction, as truly as I wished it in reason.
My objections to the marriage were not merely those which I last
night acknowledged to have the utmost force of passion to put
aside, in my own case; the want of connection could not be so
great an evil to my friend as to me. But there were other causes
of repugnance; causes which, though still existing, and existing
to an equal degree in both instances, I had myself endeavoured
to forget, because they were not immediately before me. These
causes must be stated, though briefly. The situation of
your mother's family, though objectionable, was nothing in
comparison to that total want of propriety so frequently, so
almost uniformly betrayed by herself, by your three younger
sisters, and occasionally even by your father. Pardon me. It
pains me to offend you. But amidst your concern for the defects
of your nearest relations, and your displeasure at this
representation of them, let it give you consolation to consider
that, to have conducted yourselves so as to avoid any share of
the like censure, is praise no less generally bestowed on you and
your elder sister, than it is honourable to the sense and
disposition of both. I will only say farther that from what passed
that evening, my opinion of all parties was confirmed, and every
inducement heightened which could have led me before, to
preserve my friend from what I esteemed a most unhappy
connection. He left Netherfield for London, on the day
following, as you, I am certain, remember, with the design of
"The part which I acted is now to be explained. His sisters'
uneasiness had been equally excited with my own; our coincidence
of feeling was soon discovered, and, alike sensible that no time
was to be lost in detaching their brother, we shortly resolved
on joining him directly in London. We accordingly went--and
there I readily engaged in the office of pointing out to my
friend the certain evils of such a choice. I described, and
enforced them earnestly. But, however this remonstrance might
have staggered or delayed his determination, I do not suppose
that it would ultimately have prevented the marriage, had it not
been seconded by the assurance that I hesitated not in giving, of
your sister's indifference. He had before believed her to return
his affection with sincere, if not with equal regard. But Bingley
has great natural modesty, with a stronger dependence on my
judgement than on his own. To convince him, therefore, that he
had deceived himself, was no very difficult point. To persuade
him against returning into Hertfordshire, when that conviction
had been given, was scarcely the work of a moment. I cannot
blame myself for having done thus much. There is but one part
of my conduct in the whole affair on which I do not reflect with
satisfaction; it is that I condescended to adopt the measures of
art so far as to conceal from him your sister's being in town. I
knew it myself, as it was known to Miss Bingley; but her brother
is even yet ignorant of it. That they might have met without ill
consequence is perhaps probable; but his regard did not appear
to me enough extinguished for him to see her without some danger.
Perhaps this concealment, this disguise was beneath me; it is
done, however, and it was done for the best. On this subject
I have nothing more to say, no other apology to offer. If I
have wounded your sister's feelings, it was unknowingly done and
though the motives which governed me may to you very naturally
appear insufficient, I have not yet learnt to condemn them.
"With respect to that other, more weighty accusation, of having
injured Mr. Wickham, I can only refute it by laying before you
the whole of his connection with my family. Of what he has
PARTICULARLY accused me I am ignorant; but of the truth of
what I shall relate, I can summon more than one witness of
"Mr. Wickham is the son of a very respectable man, who had for
many years the management of all the Pemberley estates, and
whose good conduct in the discharge of his trust naturally
inclined my father to be of service to him; and on George
Wickham, who was his godson, his kindness was therefore
liberally bestowed. My father supported him at school, and
afterwards at Cambridge--most important assistance, as his own
father, always poor from the extravagance of his wife, would
have been unable to give him a gentleman's education. My
father was not only fond of this young man's society, whose
manner were always engaging; he had also the highest opinion of
him, and hoping the church would be his profession, intended to
provide for him in it. As for myself, it is many, many years since
I first began to think of him in a very different manner. The
vicious propensities--the want of principle, which he was careful
to guard from the knowledge of his best friend, could not escape
the observation of a young man of nearly the same age with
himself, and who had opportunities of seeing him in unguarded
moments, which Mr. Darcy could not have. Here again shall
give you pain--to what degree you only can tell. But whatever
may be the sentiments which Mr. Wickham has created, a
suspicion of their nature shall not prevent me from unfolding
his real character--it adds even another motive.
"My excellent father died about five years ago; and his attachment
to Mr. Wickham was to the last so steady, that in his will he
particularly recommended it to me, to promote his advancement in
the best manner that his profession might allow--and if he took
orders, desired that a valuable family living might be his as soon
as it became vacant. There was also a legacy of one thousand
pounds. His own father did not long survive mine, and within half
a year from these events, Mr. Wickham wrote to inform me that,
having finally resolved against taking orders, he hoped I should
not think it unreasonable for him to expect some more immediate
pecuniary advantage, in lieu of the preferment, by which he could
not be benefited. He had some intention, he added, of studying
law, and I must be aware that the interest of one thousand pounds
would be a very insufficient support therein. I rather wished,
than believed him to be sincere; but, at any rate, was perfectly
ready to accede to his proposal. I knew that Mr. Wickham
ought not to be a clergyman; the business was therefore soon
settled--he resigned all claim to assistance in the church, were
it possible that he could ever be in a situation to receive it,
and accepted in return three thousand pounds. All connection
between us seemed now dissolved. I thought too ill of him to
invite him to Pemberley, or admit his society in town. In town
I believe he chiefly lived, but his studying the law was a mere
pretence, and being now free from all restraint, his life was a
life of idleness and dissipation. For about three years I heard
little of him; but on the decease of the incumbent of the living
which had been designed for him, he applied to me again by letter
for the presentation. His circumstances, he assured me, and I
had no difficulty in believing it, were exceedingly bad. He had
found the law a most unprofitable study, and was now absolutely
resolved on being ordained, if I would present him to the living
in question--of which he trusted there could be little doubt, as
he was well assured that I had no other person to provide for,
and I could not have forgotten my revered father's intentions.
You will hardly blame me for refusing to comply with this entreaty,
or for resisting every repetition to it. His resentment was in
proportion to the distress of his circumstances--and he was
doubtless as violent in his abuse of me to others as in his
reproaches to myself. After this period every appearance of
acquaintance was dropped. How he lived I know not. But last
summer he was again most painfully obtruded on my notice.
"I must now mention a circumstance which I would wish to
forget myself, and which no obligation less than the present
should induce me to unfold to any human being. Having said
thus much, I feel no doubt of your secrecy. My sister, who is
more than ten years my junior, was left to the guardianship of
my mother's nephew, Colonel Fitzwilliam, and myself. About a
year ago, she was taken from school, and an establishment
formed for her in London; and last summer she went with the
lady who presided over it, to Ramsgate; and thither also went
Mr. Wickham, undoubtedly by design; for there proved to have
been a prior acquaintance between him and Mrs. Younge, in
whose character we were most unhappily deceived; and by
her connivance and aid, he so far recommended himself to
Georgiana, whose affectionate heart retained a strong impression
of his kindness to her as a child, that she was persuaded to
believe herself in love, and to consent to an elopement. She was
then but fifteen, which must be her excuse; and after stating her
imprudence, I am happy to add, that I owed the knowledge of it
to herself. I joined them unexpectedly a day or two before the
intended elopement, and then Georgiana, unable to support the
idea of grieving and offending a brother whom she almost
looked up to as a father, acknowledged the whole to me. You
may imagine what I felt and how I acted. Regard for my sister's
credit and feelings prevented any public exposure; but I wrote
to Mr. Wickham, who left the place immediately, and Mrs. Younge
was of course removed from her charge. Mr. Wickham's chief
object was unquestionably my sister's fortune, which is thirty
thousand pounds; but I cannot help supposing that the hope of
revenging himself on me was a strong inducement. His revenge
would have been complete indeed.
"This, madam, is a faithful narrative of every event in which
we have been concerned together; and if you do not absolutely
reject it as false, you will, I hope, acquit me henceforth
of cruelty towards Mr. Wickham. I know not in what manner,
under what form of falsehood he had imposed on you; but his
success is not perhaps to be wondered at. Ignorant as you
previously were of everything concerning either, detection
could not be in your power, and suspicion certainly not in
"You may possibly wonder why all this was not told you last
night; but I was not then master enough of myself to know what
could or ought to be revealed. For the truth of everything here
related, I can appeal more particularly to the testimony of
Colonel Fitzwilliam, who, from our near relationship and
constant intimacy, and, still more, as one of the executors of
my father's will, has been unavoidably acquainted with every
particular of these transactions. If your abhorrence of ME
should make MY assertions valueless, you cannot be prevented
by the same cause from confiding in my cousin; and that there
may be the possibility of consulting him, I shall endeavour to
find some opportunity of putting this letter in your hands in
the course of the morning. I will only add, God bless you.
If Elizabeth, when Mr. Darcy gave her the letter, did not expect
it to contain a renewal of his offers, she had formed no
expectation at all of its contents. But such as they were, it
may well be supposed how eagerly she went through them, and what
a contrariety of emotion they excited. Her feelings as she
read were scarcely to be defined. With amazement did she first
understand that he believed any apology to be in his power; and
steadfastly was she persuaded, that he could have no explanation
to give, which a just sense of shame would not conceal. With a
strong prejudice against everything he might say, she began his
account of what had happened at Netherfield. She read with an
eagerness which hardly left her power of comprehension, and
from impatience of knowing what the next sentence might bring,
was incapable of attending to the sense of the one before her
eyes. His belief of her sister's insensibility she instantly
resolved to be false; and his account of the real, the worst
objections to the match, made her too angry to have any wish of
doing him justice. He expressed no regret for what he had done
which satisfied her; his style was not penitent, but haughty.
It was all pride and insolence.
But when this subject was succeeded by his account of Mr.
Wickham--when she read with somewhat clearer attention a
relation of events which, if true, must overthrow every cherished
opinion of his worth, and which bore so alarming an affinity to
his own history of himself--her feelings were yet more acutely
painful and more difficult of definition. Astonishment,
apprehension, and even horror, oppressed her. She wished to
discredit it entirely, repeatedly exclaiming, "This must be false!
This cannot be! This must be the grossest falsehood!"--and
when she had gone through the whole letter, though scarcely
knowing anything of the last page or two, put it hastily away,
protesting that she would not regard it, that she would never
look in it again.
In this perturbed state of mind, with thoughts that could rest on
nothing, she walked on; but it would not do; in half a minute the
letter was unfolded again, and collecting herself as well as she
could, she again began the mortifying perusal of all that related
to Wickham, and commanded herself so far as to examine the
meaning of every sentence. The account of his connection with
the Pemberley family was exactly what he had related himself;
and the kindness of the late Mr. Darcy, though she had not
before known its extent, agreed equally well with his own
words. So far each recital confirmed the other; but when she
came to the will, the difference was great. What Wickham had
said of the living was fresh in her memory, and as she recalled
his very words, it was impossible not to feel that there was gross
duplicity on one side or the other; and, for a few moments, she
flattered herself that her wishes did not err. But when she
read and re-read with the closest attention, the particulars
immediately following of Wickham's resigning all pretensions to
the living, of his receiving in lieu so considerable a sum as
three thousand pounds, again was she forced to hesitate. She
put down the letter, weighed every circumstance with what she
meant to be impartiality--deliberated on the probability of each
statement--but with little success. On both sides it was only
assertion. Again she read on; but every line proved more clearly
that the affair, which she had believed it impossible that any
contrivance could so represent as to render Mr. Darcy's conduct
in it less than infamous, was capable of a turn which must make
him entirely blameless throughout the whole.
The extravagance and general profligacy which he scrupled not
to lay at Mr. Wickham's charge, exceedingly shocked her; the
more so, as she could bring no proof of its injustice. She had
never heard of him before his entrance into the ----shire Militia,
in which he had engaged at the persuasion of the young man
who, on meeting him accidentally in town, had there renewed a
slight acquaintance. Of his former way of life nothing had been
known in Hertfordshire but what he told himself. As to his real
character, had information been in her power, she had never felt
a wish of inquiring. His countenance, voice, and manner had
established him at once in the possession of every virtue. She
tried to recollect some instance of goodness, some distinguished
trait of integrity or benevolence, that might rescue him from the
attacks of Mr. Darcy; or at least, by the predominance of virtue,
atone for those casual errors under which she would endeavour
to class what Mr. Darcy had described as the idleness and vice
of many years' continuance. But no such recollection befriended
her. She could see him instantly before her, in every charm of
air and address; but she could remember no more substantial
good than the general approbation of the neighbourhood, and
the regard which his social powers had gained him in the mess.
After pausing on this point a considerable while, she once more
continued to read. But, alas! the story which followed, of his
designs on Miss Darcy, received some confirmation from what
had passed between Colonel Fitzwilliam and herself only the
morning before; and at last she was referred for the truth of
every particular to Colonel Fitzwilliam himself--from whom she
had previously received the information of his near concern in
all his cousin's affairs, and whose character she had no reason
to question. At one time she had almost resolved on applying
to him, but the idea was checked by the awkwardness of the
application, and at length wholly banished by the conviction
that Mr. Darcy would never have hazarded such a proposal, if
he had not been well assured of his cousin's corroboration.
She perfectly remembered everything that had passed in
conversation between Wickham and herself, in their first evening
at Mr. Phillips's. Many of his expressions were still fresh in
her memory. She was NOW struck with the impropriety of such
communications to a stranger, and wondered it had escaped her
before. She saw the indelicacy of putting himself forward as
he had done, and the inconsistency of his professions with his
conduct. She remembered that he had boasted of having no fear
of seeing Mr. Darcy--that Mr. Darcy might leave the country,
but that HE should stand his ground; yet he had avoided the
Netherfield ball the very next week. She remembered also that,
till the Netherfield family had quitted the country, he had told
his story to no one but herself; but that after their removal it
had been everywhere discussed; that he had then no reserves, no
scruples in sinking Mr. Darcy's character, though he had assured
her that respect for the father would always prevent his exposing
How differently did everything now appear in which he was
concerned! His attentions to Miss King were now the consequence
of views solely and hatefully mercenary; and the mediocrity of
her fortune proved no longer the moderation of his wishes, but
his eagerness to grasp at anything. His behaviour to herself
could now have had no tolerable motive; he had either been
deceived with regard to her fortune, or had been gratifying his
vanity by encouraging the preference which she believed she had
most incautiously shown. Every lingering struggle in his favour
grew fainter and fainter; and in farther justification of Mr.
Darcy, she could not but allow Mr. Bingley, when questioned
by Jane, had long ago asserted his blamelessness in the affair;
that proud and repulsive as were his manners, she had never, in
the whole course of their acquaintance--an acquaintance which
had latterly brought them much together, and given her a sort of
intimacy with his ways--seen anything that betrayed him to be
unprincipled or unjust--anything that spoke him of irreligious
or immoral habits; that among his own connections he was
esteemed and valued--that even Wickham had allowed him
merit as a brother, and that she had often heard him speak so
affectionately of his sister as to prove him capable of SOME
amiable feeling; that had his actions been what Mr. Wickham
represented them, so gross a violation of everything right could
hardly have been concealed from the world; and that friendship
between a person capable of it, and such an amiable man as Mr.
Bingley, was incomprehensible.
She grew absolutely ashamed of herself. Of neither Darcy nor
Wickham could she think without feeling she had been blind,
partial, prejudiced, absurd.
"How despicably I have acted!" she cried; "I, who have prided
myself on my discernment! I, who have valued myself on my
abilities! who have often disdained the generous candour of my
sister, and gratified my vanity in useless or blameable mistrust!
How humiliating is this discovery! Yet, how just a humiliation!
Had I been in love, I could not have been more wretchedly blind!
But vanity, not love, has been my folly. Pleased with the
preference of one, and offended by the neglect of the other,
on the very beginning of our acquaintance, I have courted
prepossession and ignorance, and driven reason away, where
either were concerned. Till this moment I never knew myself."
From herself to Jane--from Jane to Bingley, her thoughts were
in a line which soon brought to her recollection that Mr. Darcy's
explanation THERE had appeared very insufficient, and she read
it again. Widely different was the effect of a second perusal.
How could she deny that credit to his assertions in one instance,
which she had been obliged to give in the other? He declared
himself to be totally unsuspicious of her sister's attachment;
and she could not help remembering what Charlotte's opinion
had always been. Neither could she deny the justice of his
description of Jane. She felt that Jane's feelings, though fervent,
were little displayed, and that there was a constant complacency
in her air and manner not often united with great sensibility.
When she came to that part of the letter in which her family were
mentioned in terms of such mortifying, yet merited reproach, her
sense of shame was severe. The justice of the charge struck her
too forcibly for denial, and the circumstances to which he
particularly alluded as having passed at the Netherfield ball,
and as confirming all his first disapprobation, could not have
made a stronger impression on his mind than on hers.
The compliment to herself and her sister was not unfelt. It
soothed, but it could not console her for the contempt which had
thus been self-attracted by the rest of her family; and as she
considered that Jane's disappointment had in fact been the work
of her nearest relations, and reflected how materially the credit
of both must be hurt by such impropriety of conduct, she felt
depressed beyond anything she had ever known before.
After wandering along the lane for two hours, giving way to
every variety of thought--re-considering events, determining
probabilities, and reconciling herself, as well as she could, to
a change so sudden and so important, fatigue, and a recollection
of her long absence, made her at length return home; and she
entered the house with the wish of appearing cheerful as usual,
and the resolution of repressing such reflections as must make
her unfit for conversation.
She was immediately told that the two gentlemen from Rosings
had each called during her absence; Mr. Darcy, only for a few
minutes, to take leave--but that Colonel Fitzwilliam had been
sitting with them at least an hour, hoping for her return, and
almost resolving to walk after her till she could be found.
Elizabeth could but just AFFECT concern in missing him; she
really rejoiced at it. Colonel Fitzwilliam was no longer an
object; she could think only of her letter.
The two gentlemen left Rosings the next morning, and Mr.
Collins having been in waiting near the lodges, to make them
his parting obeisance, was able to bring home the pleasing
intelligence, of their appearing in very good health, and in as
tolerable spirits as could be expected, after the melancholy scene
so lately gone through at Rosings. To Rosings he then hastened,
to console Lady Catherine and her daughter; and on his return
brought back, with great satisfaction, a message from her
ladyship, importing that she felt herself so dull as to make
her very desirous of having them all to dine with her.
Elizabeth could not see Lady Catherine without recollecting that,
had she chosen it, she might by this time have been presented to
her as her future niece; nor could she think, without a smile, of
what her ladyship's indignation would have been. "What would
she have said? how would she have behaved?" were questions with
which she amused herself.
Their first subject was the diminution of the Rosings party.
"I assure you, I feel it exceedingly," said Lady Catherine; "I
believe no one feels the loss of friends so much as I do. But
I am particularly attached to these young men, and know them to
be so much attached to me! They were excessively sorry to go!
But so they always are. The dear Colonel rallied his spirits
tolerably till just at last; but Darcy seemed to feel it most
acutely, more, I think, than last year. His attachment to
Rosings certainly increases."
Mr. Collins had a compliment, and an allusion to throw in here,
which were kindly smiled on by the mother and daughter.
Lady Catherine observed, after dinner, that Miss Bennet seemed
out of spirits, and immediately accounting for it by herself,
by supposing that she did not like to go home again so soon,
"But if that is the case, you must write to your mother and beg
that you may stay a little longer. Mrs. Collins will be very glad
of your company, I am sure."
"I am much obliged to your ladyship for your kind invitation,"
replied Elizabeth, "but it is not in my power to accept it.
I must be in town next Saturday."
"Why, at that rate, you will have been here only six weeks. I
expected you to stay two months. I told Mrs. Collins so before
you came. There can be no occasion for your going so soon.
Mrs. Bennet could certainly spare you for another fortnight."
"But my father cannot. He wrote last week to hurry my return."
"Oh! your father of course may spare you, if your mother can.
Daughters are never of so much consequence to a father. And if
you will stay another MONTH complete, it will be in my power
to take one of you as far as London, for I am going there early
in June, for a week; and as Dawson does not object to the
barouche-box, there will be very good room for one of you--and
indeed, if the weather should happen to be cool, I should not
object to taking you both, as you are neither of you large."
"You are all kindness, madam; but I believe we must abide by
our original plan."
Lady Catherine seemed resigned. "Mrs. Collins, you must send
a servant with them. You know I always speak my mind, and I
cannot bear the idea of two young women travelling post by
themselves. It is highly improper. You must contrive to send
somebody. I have the greatest dislike in the world to that sort
of thing. Young women should always be properly guarded and
attended, according to their situation in life. When my niece
Georgiana went to Ramsgate last summer, I made a point of her
having two men-servants go with her. Miss Darcy, the daughter
of Mr. Darcy, of Pemberley, and Lady Anne, could not have
appeared with propriety in a different manner. I am excessively
attentive to all those things. You must send John with the young
ladies, Mrs. Collins. I am glad it occurred to me to mention it;
for it would really be discreditable to YOU to let them go
"My uncle is to send a servant for us."
"Oh! Your uncle! He keeps a man-servant, does he? I am very
glad you have somebody who thinks of these things. Where
shall you change horses? Oh! Bromley, of course. If you
mention my name at the Bell, you will be attended to."
Lady Catherine had many other questions to ask respecting their
journey, and as she did not answer them all herself, attention was
necessary, which Elizabeth believed to be lucky for her; or, with
a mind so occupied, she might have forgotten where she was.
Reflection must be reserved for solitary hours; whenever she
was alone, she gave way to it as the greatest relief; and not a
day went by without a solitary walk, in which she might indulge
in all the delight of unpleasant recollections.
Mr. Darcy's letter she was in a fair way of soon knowing by
heart. She studied every sentence; and her feelings towards its
writer were at times widely different. When she remembered the
style of his address, she was still full of indignation; but when
she considered how unjustly she had condemned and upbraided him,
her anger was turned against herself; and his disappointed
feelings became the object of compassion. His attachment
excited gratitude, his general character respect; but she could
not approve him; nor could she for a moment repent her refusal,
or feel the slightest inclination ever to see him again. In
her own past behaviour, there was a constant source of vexation
and regret; and in the unhappy defects of her family, a subject
of yet heavier chagrin. They were hopeless of remedy. Her father,
contented with laughing at them, would never exert himself to
restrain the wild giddiness of his youngest daughters; and her
mother, with manners so far from right herself, was entirely
insensible of the evil. Elizabeth had frequently united with Jane
in an endeavour to check the imprudence of Catherine and Lydia;
but while they were supported by their mother's indulgence, what
chance could there be of improvement? Catherine, weak-spirited,
irritable, and completely under Lydia's guidance, had been always
affronted by their advice; and Lydia, self-willed and careless,
would scarcely give them a hearing. They were ignorant, idle, and
vain. While there was an officer in Meryton, they would flirt
with him; and while Meryton was within a walk of Longbourn, they
would be going there forever.
Anxiety on Jane's behalf was another prevailing concern; and
Mr. Darcy's explanation, by restoring Bingley to all her former
good opinion, heightened the sense of what Jane had lost. His
affection was proved to have been sincere, and his conduct
cleared of all blame, unless any could attach to the implicitness
of his confidence in his friend. How grievous then was the
thought that, of a situation so desirable in every respect, so
replete with advantage, so promising for happiness, Jane had
been deprived, by the folly and indecorum of her own family!
When to these recollections was added the development of Wickham's
character, it may be easily believed that the happy spirits which
had seldom been depressed before, were now so much affected as to
make it almost impossible for her to appear tolerably cheerful.
Their engagements at Rosings were as frequent during the last
week of her stay as they had been at first. The very last evening
was spent there; and her ladyship again inquired minutely into
the particulars of their journey, gave them directions as to the
best method of packing, and was so urgent on the necessity of
placing gowns in the only right way, that Maria thought herself
obliged, on her return, to undo all the work of the morning, and
pack her trunk afresh.
When they parted, Lady Catherine, with great condescension,
wished them a good journey, and invited them to come to
Hunsford again next year; and Miss de Bourgh exerted herself
so far as to curtsey and hold out her hand to both.
On Saturday morning Elizabeth and Mr. Collins met for breakfast
a few minutes before the others appeared; and he took the
opportunity of paying the parting civilities which he deemed
"I know not, Miss Elizabeth," said he, "whether Mrs. Collins has
yet expressed her sense of your kindness in coming to us; but I
am very certain you will not leave the house without receiving
her thanks for it. The favor of your company has been much
felt, I assure you. We know how little there is to tempt anyone
to our humble abode. Our plain manner of living, our small
rooms and few domestics, and the little we see of the world,
must make Hunsford extremely dull to a young lady like
yourself; but I hope you will believe us grateful for the
condescension, and that we have done everything in our power
to prevent your spending your time unpleasantly."
Elizabeth was eager with her thanks and assurances of happiness.
She had spent six weeks with great enjoyment; and the pleasure
of being with Charlotte, and the kind attentions she had received,
must make HER feel the obliged. Mr. Collins was gratified, and
with a more smiling solemnity replied:
"It gives me great pleasure to hear that you have passed your
time not disagreeably. We have certainly done our best; and
most fortunately having it in our power to introduce you to very
superior society, and, from our connection with Rosings, the
frequent means of varying the humble home scene, I think we
may flatter ourselves that your Hunsford visit cannot have been
entirely irksome. Our situation with regard to Lady Catherine's
family is indeed the sort of extraordinary advantage and blessing
which few can boast. You see on what a footing we are. You
see how continually we are engaged there. In truth I must
acknowledge that, with all the disadvantages of this humble
parsonage, I should not think anyone abiding in it an object of
compassion, while they are sharers of our intimacy at Rosings."
Words were insufficient for the elevation of his feelings; and
he was obliged to walk about the room, while Elizabeth tried to
unite civility and truth in a few short sentences.
"You may, in fact, carry a very favourable report of us into
Hertfordshire, my dear cousin. I flatter myself at least that you
will be able to do so. Lady Catherine's great attentions to Mrs.
Collins you have been a daily witness of; and altogether I trust
it does not appear that your friend has drawn an unfortunate--but
on this point it will be as well to be silent. Only let me
assure you, my dear Miss Elizabeth, that I can from my heart most
cordially wish you equal felicity in marriage. My dear Charlotte
and I have but one mind and one way of thinking. There is in
everything a most remarkable resemblance of character and ideas
between us. We seem to have been designed for each other."
Elizabeth could safely say that it was a great happiness where
that was the case, and with equal sincerity could add, that she
firmly believed and rejoiced in his domestic comforts. She was
not sorry, however, to have the recital of them interrupted by
the lady from whom they sprang. Poor Charlotte! it was
melancholy to leave her to such society! But she had chosen it
with her eyes open; and though evidently regretting that her
visitors were to go, she did not seem to ask for compassion.
Her home and her housekeeping, her parish and her poultry, and
all their dependent concerns, had not yet lost their charms.
At length the chaise arrived, the trunks were fastened on, the
parcels placed within, and it was pronounced to be ready. After
an affectionate parting between the friends, Elizabeth was
attended to the carriage by Mr. Collins, and as they walked
down the garden he was commissioning her with his best
respects to all her family, not forgetting his thanks for the
kindness he had received at Longbourn in the winter, and his
compliments to Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, though unknown. He
then handed her in, Maria followed, and the door was on the
point of being closed, when he suddenly reminded them, with
some consternation, that they had hitherto forgotten to leave
any message for the ladies at Rosings.
"But," he added, "you will of course wish to have your humble
respects delivered to them, with your grateful thanks for their
kindness to you while you have been here."
Elizabeth made no objection; the door was then allowed to be
shut, and the carriage drove off.
"Good gracious!" cried Maria, after a few minutes' silence, "it
seems but a day or two since we first came! and yet how many
things have happened!"
"A great many indeed," said her companion with a sigh.
"We have dined nine times at Rosings, besides drinking tea there
twice! How much I shall have to tell!"
Elizabeth added privately, "And how much I shall have to conceal!"
Their journey was performed without much conversation, or any
alarm; and within four hours of their leaving Hunsford they
reached Mr. Gardiner's house, where they were to remain a few
Jane looked well, and Elizabeth had little opportunity of
studying her spirits, amidst the various engagements which the
kindness of her aunt had reserved for them. But Jane was to go
home with her, and at Longbourn there would be leisure enough
It was not without an effort, meanwhile, that she could wait
even for Longbourn, before she told her sister of Mr. Darcy's
proposals. To know that she had the power of revealing what
would so exceedingly astonish Jane, and must, at the same time,
so highly gratify whatever of her own vanity she had not yet
been able to reason away, was such a temptation to openness
as nothing could have conquered but the state of indecision
in which she remained as to the extent of what she should
communicate; and her fear, if she once entered on the subject,
of being hurried into repeating something of Bingley which
might only grieve her sister further.
It was the second week in May, in which the three young ladies
set out together from Gracechurch Street for the town of ----,
in Hertfordshire; and, as they drew near the appointed inn where
Mr. Bennet's carriage was to meet them, they quickly perceived,
in token of the coachman's punctuality, both Kitty and Lydia
looking out of a dining-room upstairs. These two girls had been
above an hour in the place, happily employed in visiting an
opposite milliner, watching the sentinel on guard, and dressing a
salad and cucumber.
After welcoming their sisters, they triumphantly displayed a table
set out with such cold meat as an inn larder usually affords,
exclaiming, "Is not this nice? Is not this an agreeable surprise?"
"And we mean to treat you all," added Lydia, "but you must lend
us the money, for we have just spent ours at the shop out there."
Then, showing her purchases--"Look here, I have bought this bonnet.
I do not think it is very pretty; but I thought I might as well
buy it as not. I shall pull it to pieces as soon as I get home,
and see if I can make it up any better."
And when her sisters abused it as ugly, she added, with perfect
unconcern, "Oh! but there were two or three much uglier in the
shop; and when I have bought some prettier-coloured satin to
trim it with fresh, I think it will be very tolerable. Besides,
it will not much signify what one wears this summer, after the
----shire have left Meryton, and they are going in a fortnight."
"Are they indeed!" cried Elizabeth, with the greatest satisfaction.
"They are going to be encamped near Brighton; and I do so
want papa to take us all there for the summer! It would be such
a delicious scheme; and I dare say would hardly cost anything at
all. Mamma would like to go too of all things! Only think what
a miserable summer else we shall have!"
"Yes," thought Elizabeth, "THAT would be a delightful scheme
indeed, and completely do for us at once. Good Heaven!
Brighton, and a whole campful of soldiers, to us, who have been
overset already by one poor regiment of militia, and the monthly
balls of Meryton!"
"Now I have got some news for you," said Lydia, as they sat down
at table. "What do you think? It is excellent news--capital
news--and about a certain person we all like!"
Jane and Elizabeth looked at each other, and the waiter was told
he need not stay. Lydia laughed, and said:
"Aye, that is just like your formality and discretion. You
thought the waiter must not hear, as if he cared! I dare say he
often hears worse things said than I am going to say. But he is
an ugly fellow! I am glad he is gone. I never saw such a long
chin in my life. Well, but now for my news; it is about dear
Wickham; too good for the waiter, is it not? There is no danger
of Wickham's marrying Mary King. There's for you! She is gone
down to her uncle at Liverpool: gone to stay. Wickham is safe."
"And Mary King is safe!" added Elizabeth; "safe from a
connection imprudent as to fortune."
"She is a great fool for going away, if she liked him."
"But I hope there is no strong attachment on either side,"
"I am sure there is not on HIS. I will answer for it, he never
cared three straws about her--who could about such a nasty
little freckled thing?"
Elizabeth was shocked to think that, however incapable of
such coarseness of EXPRESSION herself, the coarseness of the
SENTIMENT was little other than her own breast had harboured
and fancied liberal!
As soon as all had ate, and the elder ones paid, the carriage was
ordered; and after some contrivance, the whole party, with all
their boxes, work-bags, and parcels, and the unwelcome addition
of Kitty's and Lydia's purchases, were seated in it.
"How nicely we are all crammed in," cried Lydia. "I am glad I
bought my bonnet, if it is only for the fun of having another
bandbox! Well, now let us be quite comfortable and snug, and
talk and laugh all the way home. And in the first place, let
us hear what has happened to you all since you went away. Have
you seen any pleasant men? Have you had any flirting? I was
in great hopes that one of you would have got a husband before
you came back. Jane will be quite an old maid soon, I declare.
She is almost three-and-twenty! Lord, how ashamed I should be of
not being married before three-and-twenty! My aunt Phillips wants
you so to get husbands, you can't think. She says Lizzy had
better have taken Mr. Collins; but _I_ do not think there would
have been any fun in it. Lord! how I should like to be married
before any of you; and then I would chaperon you about to all
the balls. Dear me! we had such a good piece of fun the other
day at Colonel Forster's. Kitty and me were to spend the day
there, and Mrs. Forster promised to have a little dance in the
evening; (by the bye, Mrs. Forster and me are SUCH friends!) and
so she asked the two Harringtons to come, but Harriet was ill,
and so Pen was forced to come by herself; and then, what do you
think we did? We dressed up Chamberlayne in woman's clothes on
purpose to pass for a lady, only think what fun! Not a soul
knew of it, but Colonel and Mrs. Forster, and Kitty and me,
except my aunt, for we were forced to borrow one of her gowns;
and you cannot imagine how well he looked! When Denny, and
Wickham, and Pratt, and two or three more of the men came in,
they did not know him in the least. Lord! how I laughed! and
so did Mrs. Forster. I thought I should have died. And THAT
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