Part 2 out of 8
and she had something to say to him before he had advanced
many steps. He addressed himself to Miss Bennet, with a polite
congratulation; Mr. Hurst also made her a slight bow, and said
he was "very glad;" but diffuseness and warmth remained for
Bingley's salutation. He was full of joy and attention. The first
half-hour was spent in piling up the fire, lest she should suffer
from the change of room; and she removed at his desire to the
other side of the fireplace, that she might be further from the
door. He then sat down by her, and talked scarcely to anyone
else. Elizabeth, at work in the opposite corner, saw it all with
When tea was over, Mr. Hurst reminded his sister-in-law of the
card-table--but in vain. She had obtained private intelligence
that Mr. Darcy did not wish for cards; and Mr. Hurst soon found
even his open petition rejected. She assured him that no one
intended to play, and the silence of the whole party on the
subject seemed to justify her. Mr. Hurst had therefore nothing
to do, but to stretch himself on one of the sofas and go to
sleep. Darcy took up a book; Miss Bingley did the same; and
Mrs. Hurst, principally occupied in playing with her bracelets
and rings, joined now and then in her brother's conversation
with Miss Bennet.
Miss Bingley's attention was quite as much engaged in watching
Mr. Darcy's progress through HIS book, as in reading her own;
and she was perpetually either making some inquiry, or looking
at his page. She could not win him, however, to any conversation;
he merely answered her question, and read on. At length, quite
exhausted by the attempt to be amused with her own book, which
she had only chosen because it was the second volume of his,
she gave a great yawn and said, "How pleasant it is to spend an
evening in this way! I declare after all there is no enjoyment
like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than of a
book! When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if
I have not an excellent library."
No one made any reply. She then yawned again, threw aside her
book, and cast her eyes round the room in quest for some
amusement; when hearing her brother mentioning a ball to Miss
Bennet, she turned suddenly towards him and said:
"By the bye, Charles, are you really serious in meditating a dance
at Netherfield? I would advise you, before you determine on it,
to consult the wishes of the present party; I am much mistaken if
there are not some among us to whom a ball would be rather a
punishment than a pleasure."
"If you mean Darcy," cried her brother, "he may go to bed, if he
chooses, before it begins--but as for the ball, it is quite a settled
thing; and as soon as Nicholls has made white soup enough, I
shall send round my cards."
"I should like balls infinitely better," she replied, "if they
were carried on in a different manner; but there is something
insufferably tedious in the usual process of such a meeting. It
would surely be much more rational if conversation instead of
dancing were made the order of the day."
"Much more rational, my dear Caroline, I dare say, but it would
not be near so much like a ball."
Miss Bingley made no answer, and soon afterwards she got up
and walked about the room. Her figure was elegant, and she
walked well; but Darcy, at whom it was all aimed, was still
inflexibly studious. In the desperation of her feelings, she
resolved on one effort more, and, turning to Elizabeth, said:
"Miss Eliza Bennet, let me persuade you to follow my example,
and take a turn about the room. I assure you it is very
refreshing after sitting so long in one attitude."
Elizabeth was surprised, but agreed to it immediately. Miss
Bingley succeeded no less in the real object of her civility;
Mr. Darcy looked up. He was as much awake to the novelty of
attention in that quarter as Elizabeth herself could be, and
unconsciously closed his book. He was directly invited to join
their party, but he declined it, observing that he could imagine
but two motives for their choosing to walk up and down the
room together, with either of which motives his joining them
would interfere. "What could he mean? She was dying to know
what could be his meaning?"--and asked Elizabeth whether she
could at all understand him?
"Not at all," was her answer; "but depend upon it, he means to
be severe on us, and our surest way of disappointing him will be
to ask nothing about it."
Miss Bingley, however, was incapable of disappointing Mr.
Darcy in anything, and persevered therefore in requiring an
explanation of his two motives.
"I have not the smallest objection to explaining them," said he,
as soon as she allowed him to speak. "You either choose this
method of passing the evening because you are in each other's
confidence, and have secret affairs to discuss, or because you are
conscious that your figures appear to the greatest advantage in
walking; if the first, I would be completely in your way, and if
the second, I can admire you much better as I sit by the fire."
"Oh! shocking!" cried Miss Bingley. "I never heard anything so
abominable. How shall we punish him for such a speech?"
"Nothing so easy, if you have but the inclination," said Elizabeth.
"We can all plague and punish one another. Tease him--laugh
at him. Intimate as you are, you must know how it is to be
"But upon my honour, I do NOT. I do assure you that my
intimacy has not yet taught me THAT. Tease calmness of
manner and presence of mind! No, no--feel he may defy us
there. And as to laughter, we will not expose ourselves, if you
please, by attempting to laugh without a subject. Mr. Darcy may
"Mr. Darcy is not to be laughed at!" cried Elizabeth. "That is
an uncommon advantage, and uncommon I hope it will continue, for
it would be a great loss to ME to have many such acquaintances.
I dearly love a laugh."
"Miss Bingley," said he, "has given me more credit than can be.
The wisest and the best of men--nay, the wisest and best of their
actions--may be rendered ridiculous by a person whose first
object in life is a joke."
"Certainly," replied Elizabeth--"there are such people, but I
hope I am not one of THEM. I hope I never ridicule what is
wise and good. Follies and nonsense, whims and
inconsistencies, DO divert me, I own, and I laugh at them
whenever I can. But these, I suppose, are precisely what you
"Perhaps that is not possible for anyone. But it has been the
study of my life to avoid those weaknesses which often expose a
strong understanding to ridicule."
"Such as vanity and pride."
"Yes, vanity is a weakness indeed. But pride--where there is a
real superiority of mind, pride will be always under good
Elizabeth turned away to hide a smile.
"Your examination of Mr. Darcy is over, I presume," said Miss
Bingley; "and pray what is the result?"
"I am perfectly convinced by it that Mr. Darcy has no defect.
He owns it himself without disguise."
"No," said Darcy, "I have made no such pretension. I have
faults enough, but they are not, I hope, of understanding.
My temper I dare not vouch for. It is, I believe, too little
yielding--certainly too little for the convenience of the world.
I cannot forget the follies and vices of other so soon as I ought,
nor their offenses against myself. My feelings are not puffed
about with every attempt to move them. My temper would perhaps be
called resentful. My good opinion once lost, is lost forever."
"THAT is a failing indeed!" cried Elizabeth. "Implacable
resentment IS a shade in a character. But you have chosen your
fault well. I really cannot LAUGH at it. You are safe from me."
"There is, I believe, in every disposition a tendency to some
particular evil--a natural defect, which not even the best
education can overcome."
"And YOUR defect is to hate everybody."
"And yours," he replied with a smile, "is willfully to
"Do let us have a little music," cried Miss Bingley, tired of a
conversation in which she had no share. "Louisa, you will not
mind my waking Mr. Hurst?"
Her sister had not the smallest objection, and the pianoforte was
opened; and Darcy, after a few moments' recollection, was not
sorry for it. He began to feel the danger of paying Elizabeth too
In consequence of an agreement between the sisters, Elizabeth
wrote the next morning to their mother, to beg that the carriage
might be sent for them in the course of the day. But Mrs.
Bennet, who had calculated on her daughters remaining at
Netherfield till the following Tuesday, which would exactly
finish Jane's week, could not bring herself to receive them with
pleasure before. Her answer, therefore, was not propitious, at
least not to Elizabeth's wishes, for she was impatient to get
home. Mrs. Bennet sent them word that they could not possibly
have the carriage before Tuesday; and in her postscript it was
added, that if Mr. Bingley and his sister pressed them to stay
longer, she could spare them very well. Against staying longer,
however, Elizabeth was positively resolved--nor did she much
expect it would be asked; and fearful, on the contrary, as being
considered as intruding themselves needlessly long, she urged
Jane to borrow Mr. Bingley's carriage immediately, and at
length it was settled that their original design of leaving
Netherfield that morning should be mentioned, and the request
The communication excited many professions of concern; and
enough was said of wishing them to stay at least till the
following day to work on Jane; and till the morrow their going
was deferred. Miss Bingley was then sorry that she had
proposed the delay, for her jealousy and dislike of one sister
much exceeded her affection for the other.
The master of the house heard with real sorrow that they were
to go so soon, and repeatedly tried to persuade Miss Bennet that
it would not be safe for her--that she was not enough recovered;
but Jane was firm where she felt herself to be right.
To Mr. Darcy it was welcome intelligence--Elizabeth had been
at Netherfield long enough. She attracted him more than he
liked--and Miss Bingley was uncivil to HER, and more teasing
than usual to himself. He wisely resolved to be particularly
careful that no sign of admiration should NOW escape him,
nothing that could elevate her with the hope of influencing his
felicity; sensible that if such an idea had been suggested,
his behaviour during the last day must have material weight in
confirming or crushing it. Steady to his purpose, he scarcely
spoke ten words to her through the whole of Saturday, and
though they were at one time left by themselves for half-an-hour,
he adhered most conscientiously to his book, and would not
even look at her.
On Sunday, after morning service, the separation, so agreeable
to almost all, took place. Miss Bingley's civility to Elizabeth
increased at last very rapidly, as well as her affection for Jane;
and when they parted, after assuring the latter of the pleasure
it would always give her to see her either at Longbourn or
Netherfield, and embracing her most tenderly, she even shook
hands with the former. Elizabeth took leave of the whole party
in the liveliest of spirits.
They were not welcomed home very cordially by their mother.
Mrs. Bennet wondered at their coming, and thought them very
wrong to give so much trouble, and was sure Jane would have
caught cold again. But their father, though very laconic in his
expressions of pleasure, was really glad to see them; he had felt
their importance in the family circle. The evening conversation,
when they were all assembled, had lost much of its animation,
and almost all its sense by the absence of Jane and Elizabeth.
They found Mary, as usual, deep in the study of thorough-bass
and human nature; and had some extracts to admire, and some
new observations of threadbare morality to listen to. Catherine
and Lydia had information for them of a different sort. Much
had been done and much had been said in the regiment since the
preceding Wednesday; several of the officers had dined lately
with their uncle, a private had been flogged, and it had actually
been hinted that Colonel Forster was going to be married.
"I hope, my dear," said Mr. Bennet to his wife, as they were
at breakfast the next morning, "that you have ordered a good
dinner to-day, because I have reason to expect an addition to
our family party."
"Who do you mean, my dear? I know of nobody that is coming,
I am sure, unless Charlotte Lucas should happen to call in--and
I hope MY dinners are good enough for her. I do not believe
she often sees such at home."
"The person of whom I speak is a gentleman, and a stranger."
Mrs. Bennet's eyes sparkled. "A gentleman and a stranger! It is
Mr. Bingley, I am sure! Well, I am sure I shall be extremely glad
to see Mr. Bingley. But--good Lord! how unlucky! There is not
a bit of fish to be got to-day. Lydia, my love, ring the bell--I
must speak to Hill this moment."
"It is NOT Mr. Bingley," said her husband; "it is a person whom
I never saw in the whole course of my life."
This roused a general astonishment; and he had the pleasure of
being eagerly questioned by his wife and his five daughters at
After amusing himself some time with their curiosity, he thus
"About a month ago I received this letter; and about a fortnight
ago I answered it, for I thought it a case of some delicacy, and
requiring early attention. It is from my cousin, Mr. Collins, who,
when I am dead, may turn you all out of this house as soon as he
"Oh! my dear," cried his wife, "I cannot bear to hear that
mentioned. Pray do not talk of that odious man. I do think it is
the hardest thing in the world, that your estate should be entailed
away from your own children; and I am sure, if I had been you, I
should have tried long ago to do something or other about it."
Jane and Elizabeth tried to explain to her the nature of an entail.
They had often attempted to do it before, but it was a subject
on which Mrs. Bennet was beyond the reach of reason, and she
continued to rail bitterly against the cruelty of settling an
estate away from a family of five daughters, in favour of a man
whom nobody cared anything about.
"It certainly is a most iniquitous affair," said Mr. Bennet,
"and nothing can clear Mr. Collins from the guilt of inheriting
Longbourn. But if you will listen to his letter, you may perhaps
be a little softened by his manner of expressing himself."
"No, that I am sure I shall not; and I think it is very impertinent
of him to write to you at all, and very hypocritical. I hate such
false friends. Why could he not keep on quarreling with you, as
his father did before him?"
"Why, indeed; he does seem to have had some filial scruples on
that head, as you will hear."
"Hunsford, near Westerham, Kent,
"The disagreement subsisting between yourself and my late
honoured father always gave me much uneasiness, and since I
have had the misfortune to lose him, I have frequently wished
to heal the breach; but for some time I was kept back by my own
doubts, fearing lest it might seem disrespectful to his memory
for me to be on good terms with anyone with whom it had always
pleased him to be at variance.--'There, Mrs. Bennet.'--My
mind, however, is now made up on the subject, for having
received ordination at Easter, I have been so fortunate as to
be distinguished by the patronage of the Right Honourable Lady
Catherine de Bourgh, widow of Sir Lewis de Bourgh, whose
bounty and beneficence has preferred me to the valuable rectory
of this parish, where it shall be my earnest endeavour to demean
myself with grateful respect towards her ladyship, and be ever
ready to perform those rites and ceremonies which are instituted
by the Church of England. As a clergyman, moreover, I feel it
my duty to promote and establish the blessing of peace in all
families within in the reach of my influence; and on these
grounds I flatter myself that my present overtures are highly
commendable, and that the circumstance of my being next in the
entail of Longbourn estate will be kindly overlooked on your
side, and not lead you to reject the offered olive-branch.
I cannot be otherwise than concerned at being the means of
injuring your amiable daughters, and beg leave to apologise for
it, as well as to assure you of my readiness to make them every
possible amends--but of this hereafter. If you should have
no objection to receive me into your house, I propose myself
the satisfaction of waiting on you and your family, Monday,
November 18th, by four o'clock, and shall probably trespass on
your hospitality till the Saturday se'ennight following, which I
can do without any inconvenience, as Lady Catherine is far from
objecting to my occasional absence on a Sunday, provided that
some other clergyman is engaged to do the duty of the day.--I
remain, dear sir, with respectful compliments to your lady and
daughters, your well-wisher and friend,
"At four o'clock, therefore, we may expect this peace-making
gentleman," said Mr. Bennet, as he folded up the letter. "He
seems to be a most conscientious and polite young man, upon
my word, and I doubt not will prove a valuable acquaintance,
especially if Lady Catherine should be so indulgent as to let
him come to us again."
"There is some sense in what he says about the girls, however,
and if he is disposed to make them any amends, I shall not be
the person to discourage him."
"Though it is difficult," said Jane, "to guess in what way he can
mean to make us the atonement he thinks our due, the wish is
certainly to his credit."
Elizabeth was chiefly struck by his extraordinary deference for
Lady Catherine, and his kind intention of christening, marrying,
and burying his parishioners whenever it were required.
"He must be an oddity, I think," said she. "I cannot make him
out.--There is something very pompous in his style.--And what
can he mean by apologising for being next in the entail?--We
cannot suppose he would help it if he could.--Could he be a
sensible man, sir?"
"No, my dear, I think not. I have great hopes of finding him
quite the reverse. There is a mixture of servility and
self-importance in his letter, which promises well. I am
impatient to see him."
"In point of composition," said Mary, "the letter does not seem
defective. The idea of the olive-branch perhaps is not wholly
new, yet I think it is well expressed."
To Catherine and Lydia, neither the letter nor its writer were
in any degree interesting. It was next to impossible that their
cousin should come in a scarlet coat, and it was now some
weeks since they had received pleasure from the society of a
man in any other colour. As for their mother, Mr. Collins's
letter had done away much of her ill-will, and she was preparing
to see him with a degree of composure which astonished her
husband and daughters.
Mr. Collins was punctual to his time, and was received with
great politeness by the whole family. Mr. Bennet indeed said
little; but the ladies were ready enough to talk, and Mr. Collins
seemed neither in need of encouragement, nor inclined to be
silent himself. He was a tall, heavy-looking young man of
five-and-twenty. His air was grave and stately, and his
manners were very formal. He had not been long seated before
he complimented Mrs. Bennet on having so fine a family of
daughters; said he had heard much of their beauty, but that in
this instance fame had fallen short of the truth; and added,
that he did not doubt her seeing them all in due time disposed
of in marriage. This gallantry was not much to the taste of
some of his hearers; but Mrs. Bennet, who quarreled with no
compliments, answered most readily.
"You are very kind, I am sure; and I wish with all my heart it
may prove so, for else they will be destitute enough. Things are
settled so oddly."
"You allude, perhaps, to the entail of this estate."
"Ah! sir, I do indeed. It is a grievous affair to my poor girls,
you must confess. Not that I mean to find fault with YOU, for
such things I know are all chance in this world. There is no
knowing how estates will go when once they come to be entailed."
"I am very sensible, madam, of the hardship to my fair cousins,
and could say much on the subject, but that I am cautious of
appearing forward and precipitate. But I can assure the young
ladies that I come prepared to admire them. At present I will
not say more; but, perhaps, when we are better acquainted--"
He was interrupted by a summons to dinner; and the girls smiled
on each other. They were not the only objects of Mr. Collins's
admiration. The hall, the dining-room, and all its furniture,
were examined and praised; and his commendation of everything
would have touched Mrs. Bennet's heart, but for the mortifying
supposition of his viewing it all as his own future property.
The dinner too in its turn was highly admired; and he begged to
know to which of his fair cousins the excellency of its cooking
was owing. But he was set right there by Mrs. Bennet, who
assured him with some asperity that they were very well able to
keep a good cook, and that her daughters had nothing to do in
the kitchen. He begged pardon for having displeased her. In a
softened tone she declared herself not at all offended; but he
continued to apologise for about a quarter of an hour.
During dinner, Mr. Bennet scarcely spoke at all; but when the
servants were withdrawn, he thought it time to have some
conversation with his guest, and therefore started a subject in
which he expected him to shine, by observing that he seemed
very fortunate in his patroness. Lady Catherine de Bourgh's
attention to his wishes, and consideration for his comfort,
appeared very remarkable. Mr. Bennet could not have chosen
better. Mr. Collins was eloquent in her praise. The subject
elevated him to more than usual solemnity of manner, and with a
most important aspect he protested that "he had never in his life
witnessed such behaviour in a person of rank--such affability
and condescension, as he had himself experienced from Lady
Catherine. She had been graciously pleased to approve of both
of the discourses which he had already had the honour of
preaching before her. She had also asked him twice to dine at
Rosings, and had sent for him only the Saturday before, to make
up her pool of quadrille in the evening. Lady Catherine was
reckoned proud by many people he knew, but HE had never
seen anything but affability in her. She had always spoken to
him as she would to any other gentleman; she made not the
smallest objection to his joining in the society of the
neighbourhood nor to his leaving the parish occasionally for a
week or two, to visit his relations. She had even condescended
to advise him to marry as soon as he could, provided he chose
with discretion; and had once paid him a visit in his humble
parsonage, where she had perfectly approved all the alterations
he had been making, and had even vouchsafed to suggest some
herself--some shelves in the closet upstairs."
"That is all very proper and civil, I am sure," said Mrs. Bennet,
"and I dare say she is a very agreeable woman. It is a pity that
great ladies in general are not more like her. Does she live near
"The garden in which stands my humble abode is separated only
by a lane from Rosings Park, her ladyship's residence."
"I think you said she was a widow, sir? Has she any family?"
"She has only one daughter, the heiress of Rosings, and of very
"Ah!" said Mrs. Bennet, shaking her head, "then she is better off
than many girls. And what sort of young lady is she? Is she
"She is a most charming young lady indeed. Lady Catherine
herself says that, in point of true beauty, Miss de Bourgh is far
superior to the handsomest of her sex, because there is that in
her features which marks the young lady of distinguished birth.
She is unfortunately of a sickly constitution, which has prevented
her from making that progress in many accomplishments which
she could not have otherwise failed of, as I am informed by the
lady who superintended her education, and who still resides with
them. But she is perfectly amiable, and often condescends to
drive by my humble abode in her little phaeton and ponies."
"Has she been presented? I do not remember her name among
the ladies at court."
"Her indifferent state of health unhappily prevents her being
in town; and by that means, as I told Lady Catherine one day,
has deprived the British court of its brightest ornaments.
Her ladyship seemed pleased with the idea; and you may imagine
that I am happy on every occasion to offer those little
delicate compliments which are always acceptable to ladies.
I have more than once observed to Lady Catherine, that her
charming daughter seemed born to be a duchess, and that the
most elevated rank, instead of giving her consequence, would
be adorned by her. These are the kind of little things which
please her ladyship, and it is a sort of attention which I
conceive myself peculiarly bound to pay."
"You judge very properly," said Mr. Bennet, "and it is happy for
you that you possess the talent of flattering with delicacy. May I
ask whether these pleasing attentions proceed from the impulse
of the moment, or are the result of previous study?"
"They arise chiefly from what is passing at the time, and though
I sometimes amuse myself with suggesting and arranging such
little elegant compliments as may be adapted to ordinary occasions,
I always wish to give them as unstudied an air as possible."
Mr. Bennet's expectations were fully answered. His cousin was
as absurd as he had hoped, and he listened to him with the
keenest enjoyment, maintaining at the same time the most
resolute composure of countenance, and, except in an occasional
glance at Elizabeth, requiring no partner in his pleasure.
By tea-time, however, the dose had been enough, and Mr.
Bennet was glad to take his guest into the drawing-room again,
and, when tea was over, glad to invite him to read aloud to the
ladies. Mr. Collins readily assented, and a book was produced;
but, on beholding it (for everything announced it to be from a
circulating library), he started back, and begging pardon,
protested that he never read novels. Kitty stared at him, and
Lydia exclaimed. Other books were produced, and after some
deliberation he chose Fordyce's Sermons. Lydia gaped as he
opened the volume, and before he had, with very monotonous
solemnity, read three pages, she interrupted him with:
"Do you know, mamma, that my uncle Phillips talks of turning
away Richard; and if he does, Colonel Forster will hire him. My
aunt told me so herself on Saturday. I shall walk to Meryton
to-morrow to hear more about it, and to ask when Mr. Denny
comes back from town."
Lydia was bid by her two eldest sisters to hold her tongue; but
Mr. Collins, much offended, laid aside his book, and said:
"I have often observed how little young ladies are interested by
books of a serious stamp, though written solely for their benefit.
It amazes me, I confess; for, certainly, there can be nothing so
advantageous to them as instruction. But I will no longer
importune my young cousin."
Then turning to Mr. Bennet, he offered himself as his antagonist
at backgammon. Mr. Bennet accepted the challenge, observing
that he acted very wisely in leaving the girls to their own trifling
amusements. Mrs. Bennet and her daughters apologised most
civilly for Lydia's interruption, and promised that it should not
occur again, if he would resume his book; but Mr. Collins, after
assuring them that he bore his young cousin no ill-will, and
should never resent her behaviour as any affront, seated himself
at another table with Mr. Bennet, and prepared for backgammon.
Mr. Collins was not a sensible man, and the deficiency of nature
had been but little assisted by education or society; the greatest
part of his life having been spent under the guidance of an
illiterate and miserly father; and though he belonged to one of
the universities, he had merely kept the necessary terms, without
forming at it any useful acquaintance. The subjection in which
his father had brought him up had given him originally great
humility of manner; but it was now a good deal counteracted by
the self-conceit of a weak head, living in retirement, and the
consequential feelings of early and unexpected prosperity. A
fortunate chance had recommended him to Lady Catherine de
Bourgh when the living of Hunsford was vacant; and the respect
which he felt for her high rank, and his veneration for her as his
patroness, mingling with a very good opinion of himself, of his
authority as a clergyman, and his right as a rector, made him
altogether a mixture of pride and obsequiousness,
self-importance and humility.
Having now a good house and a very sufficient income, he
intended to marry; and in seeking a reconciliation with the
Longbourn family he had a wife in view, as he meant to choose
one of the daughters, if he found them as handsome and amiable
as they were represented by common report. This was his plan
of amends--of atonement--for inheriting their father's estate;
and he thought it an excellent one, full of eligibility and
suitableness, and excessively generous and disinterested on his
His plan did not vary on seeing them. Miss Bennet's lovely face
confirmed his views, and established all his strictest notions of
what was due to seniority; and for the first evening SHE was his
settled choice. The next morning, however, made an alteration;
for in a quarter of an hour's tete-a-tete with Mrs. Bennet before
breakfast, a conversation beginning with his parsonage-house,
and leading naturally to the avowal of his hopes, that a mistress
might be found for it at Longbourn, produced from her, amid
very complaisant smiles and general encouragement, a caution
against the very Jane he had fixed on. "As to her YOUNGER
daughters, she could not take upon her to say--she could not
positively answer--but she did not KNOW of any prepossession;
her ELDEST daughter, she must just mention--she felt it
incumbent on her to hint, was likely to be very soon engaged."
Mr. Collins had only to change from Jane to Elizabeth--and it
was soon done--done while Mrs. Bennet was stirring the fire.
Elizabeth, equally next to Jane in birth and beauty, succeeded
her of course.
Mrs. Bennet treasured up the hint, and trusted that she might
soon have two daughters married; and the man whom she could
not bear to speak of the day before was now high in her good
Lydia's intention of walking to Meryton was not forgotten;
every sister except Mary agreed to go with her; and Mr. Collins
was to attend them, at the request of Mr. Bennet, who was most
anxious to get rid of him, and have his library to himself; for
thither Mr. Collins had followed him after breakfast; and there he
would continue, nominally engaged with one of the largest folios
in the collection, but really talking to Mr. Bennet, with little
cessation, of his house and garden at Hunsford. Such doings
discomposed Mr. Bennet exceedingly. In his library he had been
always sure of leisure and tranquillity; and though prepared, as
he told Elizabeth, to meet with folly and conceit in every other
room of the house, he was used to be free from them there; his
civility, therefore, was most prompt in inviting Mr. Collins to
join his daughters in their walk; and Mr. Collins, being in fact
much better fitted for a walker than a reader, was extremely
pleased to close his large book, and go.
In pompous nothings on his side, and civil assents on that of
his cousins, their time passed till they entered Meryton. The
attention of the younger ones was then no longer to be gained by
him. Their eyes were immediately wandering up in the street in
quest of the officers, and nothing less than a very smart bonnet
indeed, or a really new muslin in a shop window, could recall
But the attention of every lady was soon caught by a young man,
whom they had never seen before, of most gentlemanlike
appearance, walking with another officer on the other side of the
way. The officer was the very Mr. Denny concerning whose
return from London Lydia came to inquire, and he bowed as
they passed. All were struck with the stranger's air, all
wondered who he could be; and Kitty and Lydia, determined if
possible to find out, led the way across the street, under pretense
of wanting something in an opposite shop, and fortunately had
just gained the pavement when the two gentlemen, turning back,
had reached the same spot. Mr. Denny addressed them directly,
and entreated permission to introduce his friend, Mr. Wickham,
who had returned with him the day before from town, and he
was happy to say had accepted a commission in their corps.
This was exactly as it should be; for the young man wanted only
regimentals to make him completely charming. His appearance
was greatly in his favour; he had all the best part of beauty, a
fine countenance, a good figure, and very pleasing address. The
introduction was followed up on his side by a happy readiness of
conversation--a readiness at the same time perfectly correct and
unassuming; and the whole party were still standing and talking
together very agreeably, when the sound of horses drew their
notice, and Darcy and Bingley were seen riding down the street.
On distinguishing the ladies of the group, the two gentlemen
came directly towards them, and began the usual civilities.
Bingley was the principal spokesman, and Miss Bennet the
principal object. He was then, he said, on his way to Longbourn
on purpose to inquire after her. Mr. Darcy corroborated it with
a bow, and was beginning to determine not to fix his eyes on
Elizabeth, when they were suddenly arrested by the sight of the
stranger, and Elizabeth happening to see the countenance of
both as they looked at each other, was all astonishment at the
effect of the meeting. Both changed colour, one looked white,
the other red. Mr. Wickham, after a few moments, touched his
hat--a salutation which Mr. Darcy just deigned to return. What
could be the meaning of it? It was impossible to imagine; it was
impossible not to long to know.
In another minute, Mr. Bingley, but without seeming to have
noticed what passed, took leave and rode on with his friend.
Mr. Denny and Mr. Wickham walked with the young ladies to
the door of Mr. Phillip's house, and then made their bows, in
spite of Miss Lydia's pressing entreaties that they should come
in, and even in spite of Mrs. Phillips's throwing up the parlour
window and loudly seconding the invitation.
Mrs. Phillips was always glad to see her nieces; and the two
eldest, from their recent absence, were particularly welcome, and
she was eagerly expressing her surprise at their sudden return
home, which, as their own carriage had not fetched them, she
should have known nothing about, if she had not happened to
see Mr. Jones's shop-boy in the street, who had told her that
they were not to send any more draughts to Netherfield because
the Miss Bennets were come away, when her civility was
claimed towards Mr. Collins by Jane's introduction of him. She
received him with her very best politeness, which he returned
with as much more, apologising for his intrusion, without any
previous acquaintance with her, which he could not help
flattering himself, however, might be justified by his relationship
to the young ladies who introduced him to her notice. Mrs.
Phillips was quite awed by such an excess of good breeding; but
her contemplation of one stranger was soon put to an end by
exclamations and inquiries about the other; of whom, however,
she could only tell her nieces what they already knew, that Mr.
Denny had brought him from London, and that he was to have a
lieutenant's commission in the ----shire. She had been watching
him the last hour, she said, as he walked up and down the street,
and had Mr. Wickham appeared, Kitty and Lydia would certainly
have continued the occupation, but unluckily no one passed
windows now except a few of the officers, who, in comparison
with the stranger, were become "stupid, disagreeable fellows."
Some of them were to dine with the Phillipses the next day, and
their aunt promised to make her husband call on Mr. Wickham,
and give him an invitation also, if the family from Longbourn
would come in the evening. This was agreed to, and Mrs.
Phillips protested that they would have a nice comfortable noisy
game of lottery tickets, and a little bit of hot supper afterwards.
The prospect of such delights was very cheering, and they parted
in mutual good spirits. Mr. Collins repeated his apologies in
quitting the room, and was assured with unwearying civility that
they were perfectly needless.
As they walked home, Elizabeth related to Jane what she had
seen pass between the two gentlemen; but though Jane would
have defended either or both, had they appeared to be in the
wrong, she could no more explain such behaviour than her sister.
Mr. Collins on his return highly gratified Mrs. Bennet by
admiring Mrs. Phillips's manners and politeness. He protested
that, except Lady Catherine and her daughter, he had never seen
a more elegant woman; for she had not only received him with
the utmost civility, but even pointedly included him in her
invitation for the next evening, although utterly unknown to her
before. Something, he supposed, might be attributed to his
connection with them, but yet he had never met with so much
attention in the whole course of his life.
As no objection was made to the young people's engagement
with their aunt, and all Mr. Collins's scruples of leaving Mr.
and Mrs. Bennet for a single evening during his visit were most
steadily resisted, the coach conveyed him and his five cousins
at a suitable hour to Meryton; and the girls had the pleasure of
hearing, as they entered the drawing-room, that Mr. Wickham
had accepted their uncle's invitation, and was then in the house.
When this information was given, and they had all taken their
seats, Mr. Collins was at leisure to look around him and admire,
and he was so much struck with the size and furniture of the
apartment, that he declared he might almost have supposed
himself in the small summer breakfast parlour at Rosings; a
comparison that did not at first convey much gratification; but
when Mrs. Phillips understood from him what Rosings was, and
who was its proprietor--when she had listened to the description
of only one of Lady Catherine's drawing-rooms, and found that
the chimney-piece alone had cost eight hundred pounds, she felt
all the force of the compliment, and would hardly have resented
a comparison with the housekeeper's room.
In describing to her all the grandeur of Lady Catherine and her
mansion, with occasional digressions in praise of his own humble
abode, and the improvements it was receiving, he was happily
employed until the gentlemen joined them; and he found in
Mrs. Phillips a very attentive listener, whose opinion of
his consequence increased with what she heard, and who was
resolving to retail it all among her neighbours as soon as she
could. To the girls, who could not listen to their cousin,
and who had nothing to do but to wish for an instrument, and
examine their own indifferent imitations of china on the
mantelpiece, the interval of waiting appeared very long. It was
over at last, however. The gentlemen did approach, and when
Mr. Wickham walked into the room, Elizabeth felt that she had
neither been seeing him before, nor thinking of him since, with
the smallest degree of unreasonable admiration. The officers of
the ----shire were in general a very creditable, gentlemanlike
set, and the best of them were of the present party; but Mr.
Wickham was as far beyond them all in person, countenance, air,
and walk, as THEY were superior to the broad-faced, stuffy
uncle Phillips, breathing port wine, who followed them into
Mr. Wickham was the happy man towards whom almost every
female eye was turned, and Elizabeth was the happy woman by
whom he finally seated himself; and the agreeable manner in
which he immediately fell into conversation, though it was only
on its being a wet night, made her feel that the commonest,
dullest, most threadbare topic might be rendered interesting by
the skill of the speaker.
With such rivals for the notice of the fair as Mr. Wickham and
the officers, Mr. Collins seemed to sink into insignificance; to
the young ladies he certainly was nothing; but he had still at
intervals a kind listener in Mrs. Phillips, and was by her
watchfulness, most abundantly supplied with coffee and muffin.
When the card-tables were placed, he had the opportunity of
obliging her in turn, by sitting down to whist.
"I know little of the game at present," said he, "but I shall be
glad to improve myself, for in my situation in life--" Mrs. Phillips
was very glad for his compliance, but could not wait for his
Mr. Wickham did not play at whist, and with ready delight was he
received at the other table between Elizabeth and Lydia. At first
there seemed danger of Lydia's engrossing him entirely, for she
was a most determined talker; but being likewise extremely fond
of lottery tickets, she soon grew too much interested in the
game, too eager in making bets and exclaiming after prizes to
have attention for anyone in particular. Allowing for the
common demands of the game, Mr. Wickham was therefore at leisure
to talk to Elizabeth, and she was very willing to hear him,
though what she chiefly wished to hear she could not hope to be
told--the history of his acquaintance with Mr. Darcy. She dared
not even mention that gentleman. Her curiosity, however, was
unexpectedly relieved. Mr. Wickham began the subject himself.
He inquired how far Netherfield was from Meryton; and, after
receiving her answer, asked in a hesitating manner how long
Mr. Darcy had been staying there.
"About a month," said Elizabeth; and then, unwilling to let the
subject drop, added, "He is a man of very large property in
Derbyshire, I understand."
"Yes," replied Mr. Wickham; "his estate there is a noble one.
A clear ten thousand per annum. You could not have met with a
person more capable of giving you certain information on that
head than myself, for I have been connected with his family in
a particular manner from my infancy."
Elizabeth could not but look surprised.
"You may well be surprised, Miss Bennet, at such an assertion,
after seeing, as you probably might, the very cold manner of our
meeting yesterday. Are you much acquainted with Mr. Darcy?"
"As much as I ever wish to be," cried Elizabeth very warmly.
"I have spent four days in the same house with him, and I think
him very disagreeable."
"I have no right to give MY opinion," said Wickham, "as to his
being agreeable or otherwise. I am not qualified to form one. I
have known him too long and too well to be a fair judge. It is
impossible for ME to be impartial. But I believe your opinion
of him would in general astonish--and perhaps you would not
express it quite so strongly anywhere else. Here you are in your
"Upon my word, I say no more HERE than I might say in any
house in the neighbourhood, except Netherfield. He is not at all
liked in Hertfordshire. Everybody is disgusted with his pride.
You will not find him more favourably spoken of by anyone."
"I cannot pretend to be sorry," said Wickham, after a short
interruption, "that he or that any man should not be estimated
beyond their deserts; but with HIM I believe it does not often
happen. The world is blinded by his fortune and consequence,
or frightened by his high and imposing manners, and sees him
only as he chooses to be seen."
"I should take him, even on MY slight acquaintance, to be an
ill-tempered man." Wickham only shook his head.
"I wonder," said he, at the next opportunity of speaking,
"whether he is likely to be in this country much longer."
"I do not at all know; but I HEARD nothing of his going away
when I was at Netherfield. I hope your plans in favour of the
----shire will not be affected by his being in the neighbourhood."
"Oh! no--it is not for ME to be driven away by Mr. Darcy. If
HE wishes to avoid seeing ME, he must go. We are not on
friendly terms, and it always gives me pain to meet him, but I
have no reason for avoiding HIM but what I might proclaim
before all the world, a sense of very great ill-usage, and most
painful regrets at his being what he is. His father, Miss Bennet,
the late Mr. Darcy, was one of the best men that ever breathed,
and the truest friend I ever had; and I can never be in company
with this Mr. Darcy without being grieved to the soul by a
thousand tender recollections. His behaviour to myself has been
scandalous; but I verily believe I could forgive him anything and
everything, rather than his disappointing the hopes and
disgracing the memory of his father."
Elizabeth found the interest of the subject increase, and listened
with all her heart; but the delicacy of it prevented further inquiry.
Mr. Wickham began to speak on more general topics, Meryton,
the neighbourhood, the society, appearing highly pleased with all
that he had yet seen, and speaking of the latter with gentle but
very intelligible gallantry.
"It was the prospect of constant society, and good society," he
added, "which was my chief inducement to enter the ----shire.
I knew it to be a most respectable, agreeable corps, and my
friend Denny tempted me further by his account of their
present quarters, and the very great attentions and excellent
acquaintances Meryton had procured them. Society, I own, is
necessary to me. I have been a disappointed man, and my spirits
will not bear solitude. I MUST have employment and society.
A military life is not what I was intended for, but circumstances
have now made it eligible. The church OUGHT to have been
my profession--I was brought up for the church, and I should at
this time have been in possession of a most valuable living, had
it pleased the gentleman we were speaking of just now."
"Yes--the late Mr. Darcy bequeathed me the next presentation
of the best living in his gift. He was my godfather, and
excessively attached to me. I cannot do justice to his kindness.
He meant to provide for me amply, and thought he had done it;
but when the living fell, it was given elsewhere."
"Good heavens!" cried Elizabeth; "but how could THAT be?
How could his will be disregarded? Why did you not seek legal
"There was just such an informality in the terms of the bequest
as to give me no hope from law. A man of honour could not have
doubted the intention, but Mr. Darcy chose to doubt it--or to
treat it as a merely conditional recommendation, and to assert that
I had forfeited all claim to it by extravagance, imprudence--in
short anything or nothing. Certain it is, that the living became
vacant two years ago, exactly as I was of an age to hold it, and
that it was given to another man; and no less certain is it, that
I cannot accuse myself of having really done anything to deserve
to lose it. I have a warm, unguarded temper, and I may have
spoken my opinion OF him, and TO him, too freely. I can recall
nothing worse. But the fact is, that we are very different sort
of men, and that he hates me."
"This is quite shocking! He deserves to be publicly disgraced."
"Some time or other he WILL be--but it shall not be by ME.
Till I can forget his father, I can never defy or expose HIM."
Elizabeth honoured him for such feelings, and thought him
handsomer than ever as he expressed them.
"But what," said she, after a pause, "can have been his motive?
What can have induced him to behave so cruelly?"
"A thorough, determined dislike of me--a dislike which I cannot
but attribute in some measure to jealousy. Had the late Mr.
Darcy liked me less, his son might have borne with me better;
but his father's uncommon attachment to me irritated him, I
believe, very early in life. He had not a temper to bear the sort of
competition in which we stood--the sort of preference which
was often given me."
"I had not thought Mr. Darcy so bad as this--though I have
never liked him. I had not thought so very ill of him. I had
supposed him to be despising his fellow-creatures in general, but
did not suspect him of descending to such malicious revenge,
such injustice, such inhumanity as this."
After a few minutes' reflection, however, she continued,
"I DO remember his boasting one day, at Netherfield, of the
implacability of his resentments, of his having an unforgiving
temper. His disposition must be dreadful."
"I will not trust myself on the subject," replied Wickham; "I
can hardly be just to him."
Elizabeth was again deep in thought, and after a time exclaimed,
"To treat in such a manner the godson, the friend, the favourite
of his father!" She could have added, "A young man, too,
like YOU, whose very countenance may vouch for your being
amiable"--but she contented herself with, "and one, too, who
had probably been his companion from childhood, connected
together, as I think you said, in the closest manner!"
"We were born in the same parish, within the same park; the
greatest part of our youth was passed together; inmates of the
same house, sharing the same amusements, objects of the same
parental care. MY father began life in the profession which
your uncle, Mr. Phillips, appears to do so much credit to--but
he gave up everything to be of use to the late Mr. Darcy and
devoted all his time to the care of the Pemberley property.
He was most highly esteemed by Mr. Darcy, a most intimate,
confidential friend. Mr. Darcy often acknowledged himself
to be under the greatest obligations to my father's active
superintendence, and when, immediately before my father's
death, Mr. Darcy gave him a voluntary promise of providing for
me, I am convinced that he felt it to be as much a debt of
gratitude to HIM, as of his affection to myself."
"How strange!" cried Elizabeth. "How abominable! I wonder
that the very pride of this Mr. Darcy has not made him just to
you! If from no better motive, that he should not have been too
proud to be dishonest--for dishonesty I must call it."
"It IS wonderful," replied Wickham, "for almost all his actions
may be traced to pride; and pride had often been his best friend.
It has connected him nearer with virtue than with any other
feeling. But we are none of us consistent, and in his behaviour
to me there were stronger impulses even than pride."
"Can such abominable pride as his have ever done him good?"
"Yes. It has often led him to be liberal and generous, to give his
money freely, to display hospitality, to assist his tenants, and
relieve the poor. Family pride, and FILIAL pride--for he is very
proud of what his father was--have done this. Not to appear to
disgrace his family, to degenerate from the popular qualities, or
lose the influence of the Pemberley House, is a powerful motive.
He has also BROTHERLY pride, which, with SOME brotherly
affection, makes him a very kind and careful guardian of his
sister, and you will hear him generally cried up as the most
attentive and best of brothers."
"What sort of girl is Miss Darcy?"
He shook his head. "I wish I could call her amiable. It gives
me pain to speak ill of a Darcy. But she is too much like her
brother--very, very proud. As a child, she was affectionate
and pleasing, and extremely fond of me; and I have devoted hours
and hours to her amusement. But she is nothing to me now.
She is a handsome girl, about fifteen or sixteen, and, I
understand, highly accomplished. Since her father's death,
her home has been London, where a lady lives with her, and
superintends her education."
After many pauses and many trials of other subjects, Elizabeth
could not help reverting once more to the first, and saying:
"I am astonished at his intimacy with Mr. Bingley! How can Mr.
Bingley, who seems good humour itself, and is, I really believe,
truly amiable, be in friendship with such a man? How can they
suit each other? Do you know Mr. Bingley?"
"Not at all."
"He is a sweet-tempered, amiable, charming man. He cannot
know what Mr. Darcy is."
"Probably not; but Mr. Darcy can please where he chooses. He
does not want abilities. He can be a conversible companion if he
thinks it worth his while. Among those who are at all his equals
in consequence, he is a very different man from what he is to the
less prosperous. His pride never deserts him; but with the rich
he is liberal-minded, just, sincere, rational, honourable, and
perhaps agreeable--allowing something for fortune and figure."
The whist party soon afterwards breaking up, the players
gathered round the other table and Mr. Collins took his station
between his cousin Elizabeth and Mrs. Phillips. The usual
inquiries as to his success was made by the latter. It had not
been very great; he had lost every point; but when Mrs. Phillips
began to express her concern thereupon, he assured her with
much earnest gravity that it was not of the least importance, that
he considered the money as a mere trifle, and begged that she
would not make herself uneasy.
"I know very well, madam," said he, "that when persons sit down
to a card-table, they must take their chances of these things, and
happily I am not in such circumstances as to make five shillings
any object. There are undoubtedly many who could not say the
same, but thanks to Lady Catherine de Bourgh, I am removed
far beyond the necessity of regarding little matters."
Mr. Wickham's attention was caught; and after observing Mr.
Collins for a few moments, he asked Elizabeth in a low voice
whether her relation was very intimately acquainted with the
family of de Bourgh.
"Lady Catherine de Bourgh," she replied, "has very lately given
him a living. I hardly know how Mr. Collins was first
introduced to her notice, but he certainly has not known her
"You know of course that Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Lady
Anne Darcy were sisters; consequently that she is aunt to the
present Mr. Darcy."
"No, indeed, I did not. I knew nothing at all of Lady Catherine's
connections. I never heard of her existence till the day before
"Her daughter, Miss de Bourgh, will have a very large fortune,
and it is believed that she and her cousin will unite the two
This information made Elizabeth smile, as she thought of poor
Miss Bingley. Vain indeed must be all her attentions, vain and
useless her affection for his sister and her praise of himself,
if he were already self-destined for another.
"Mr. Collins," said she, "speaks highly both of Lady Catherine
and her daughter; but from some particulars that he has related
of her ladyship, I suspect his gratitude misleads him, and that in
spite of her being his patroness, she is an arrogant, conceited
"I believe her to be both in a great degree," replied Wickham;
"I have not seen her for many years, but I very well remember that
I never liked her, and that her manners were dictatorial and
insolent. She has the reputation of being remarkably sensible
and clever; but I rather believe she derives part of her abilities
from her rank and fortune, part from her authoritative manner,
and the rest from the pride for her nephew, who chooses that
everyone connected with him should have an understanding of
the first class."
Elizabeth allowed that he had given a very rational account of it,
and they continued talking together, with mutual satisfaction
till supper put an end to cards, and gave the rest of the ladies
their share of Mr. Wickham's attentions. There could be no
conversation in the noise of Mrs. Phillips's supper party, but
his manners recommended him to everybody. Whatever he said,
was said well; and whatever he did, done gracefully. Elizabeth
went away with her head full of him. She could think of nothing
but of Mr. Wickham, and of what he had told her, all the way
home; but there was not time for her even to mention his name
as they went, for neither Lydia nor Mr. Collins were once silent.
Lydia talked incessantly of lottery tickets, of the fish she had
lost and the fish she had won; and Mr. Collins in describing the
civility of Mr. and Mrs. Phillips, protesting that he did not in
the least regard his losses at whist, enumerating all the dishes
at supper, and repeatedly fearing that he crowded his cousins,
had more to say than he could well manage before the carriage
stopped at Longbourn House.
Elizabeth related to Jane the next day what had passed between
Mr. Wickham and herself. Jane listened with astonishment and
concern; she knew not how to believe that Mr. Darcy could be
so unworthy of Mr. Bingley's regard; and yet, it was not in her
nature to question the veracity of a young man of such amiable
appearance as Wickham. The possibility of his having endured
such unkindness, was enough to interest all her tender feelings;
and nothing remained therefore to be done, but to think well of
them both, to defend the conduct of each, and throw into the
account of accident or mistake whatever could not be otherwise
"They have both," said she, "been deceived, I dare say, in some
way or other, of which we can form no idea. Interested people
have perhaps misrepresented each to the other. It is, in short,
impossible for us to conjecture the causes or circumstances
which may have alienated them, without actual blame on either
"Very true, indeed; and now, my dear Jane, what have you got
to say on behalf of the interested people who have probably been
concerned in the business? Do clear THEM too, or we shall be
obliged to think ill of somebody."
"Laugh as much as you choose, but you will not laugh me out of
my opinion. My dearest Lizzy, do but consider in what a
disgraceful light it places Mr. Darcy, to be treating his father's
favourite in such a manner, one whom his father had promised to
provide for. It is impossible. No man of common humanity, no
man who had any value for his character, could be capable of it.
Can his most intimate friends be so excessively deceived in him?
"I can much more easily believe Mr. Bingley's being imposed on,
than that Mr. Wickham should invent such a history of himself
as he gave me last night; names, facts, everything mentioned
without ceremony. If it be not so, let Mr. Darcy contradict it.
Besides, there was truth in his looks."
"It is difficult indeed--it is distressing. One does not know what
"I beg your pardon; one knows exactly what to think."
But Jane could think with certainty on only one point--that Mr.
Bingley, if he HAD been imposed on, would have much to suffer
when the affair became public.
The two young ladies were summoned from the shrubbery,
where this conversation passed, by the arrival of the very
persons of whom they had been speaking; Mr. Bingley and his
sisters came to give their personal invitation for the
long-expected ball at Netherfield, which was fixed for the
following Tuesday. The two ladies were delighted to see their
dear friend again, called it an age since they had met, and
repeatedly asked what she had been doing with herself since
their separation. To the rest of the family they paid little
attention; avoiding Mrs. Bennet as much as possible, saying not
much to Elizabeth, and nothing at all to the others. They were
soon gone again, rising from their seats with an activity which
took their brother by surprise, and hurrying off as if eager to
escape from Mrs. Bennet's civilities.
The prospect of the Netherfield ball was extremely agreeable to
every female of the family. Mrs. Bennet chose to consider it as
given in compliment to her eldest daughter, and was particularly
flattered by receiving the invitation from Mr. Bingley himself,
instead of a ceremonious card. Jane pictured to herself a happy
evening in the society of her two friends, and the attentions of
her brother; and Elizabeth thought with pleasure of dancing a
great deal with Mr. Wickham, and of seeing a confirmation of
everything in Mr. Darcy's look and behavior. The happiness
anticipated by Catherine and Lydia depended less on any single
event, or any particular person, for though they each, like
Elizabeth, meant to dance half the evening with Mr. Wickham,
he was by no means the only partner who could satisfy them, and
a ball was, at any rate, a ball. And even Mary could assure her
family that she had no disinclination for it.
"While I can have my mornings to myself," said she, "it is
enough--I think it is no sacrifice to join occasionally in evening
engagements. Society has claims on us all; and I profess myself
one of those who consider intervals of recreation and amusement
as desirable for everybody."
Elizabeth's spirits were so high on this occasion, that though she
did not often speak unnecessarily to Mr. Collins, she could not
help asking him whether he intended to accept Mr. Bingley's
invitation, and if he did, whether he would think it proper to join
in the evening's amusement; and she was rather surprised to find
that he entertained no scruple whatever on that head, and was
very far from dreading a rebuke either from the Archbishop, or
Lady Catherine de Bourgh, by venturing to dance.
"I am by no means of the opinion, I assure you," said he, "that
a ball of this kind, given by a young man of character, to
respectable people, can have any evil tendency; and I am so
far from objecting to dancing myself, that I shall hope to be
honoured with the hands of all my fair cousins in the course of
the evening; and I take this opportunity of soliciting yours, Miss
Elizabeth, for the two first dances especially, a preference which
I trust my cousin Jane will attribute to the right cause, and not
to any disrespect for her."
Elizabeth felt herself completely taken in. She had fully
proposed being engaged by Mr. Wickham for those very dances;
and to have Mr. Collins instead! her liveliness had never been
worse timed. There was no help for it, however. Mr. Wickham's
happiness and her own were perforce delayed a little longer,
and Mr. Collins's proposal accepted with as good a grace as she
could. She was not the better pleased with his gallantry from
the idea it suggested of something more. It now first struck
her, that SHE was selected from among her sisters as worthy of
being mistress of Hunsford Parsonage, and of assisting to form
a quadrille table at Rosings, in the absence of more eligible
visitors. The idea soon reached to conviction, as she observed
his increasing civilities toward herself, and heard his
frequent attempt at a compliment on her wit and vivacity; and
though more astonished than gratified herself by this effect
of her charms, it was not long before her mother gave her to
understand that the probability of their marriage was extremely
agreeable to HER. Elizabeth, however, did not choose to take
the hint, being well aware that a serious dispute must be the
consequence of any reply. Mr. Collins might never make the
offer, and till he did, it was useless to quarrel about him.
If there had not been a Netherfield ball to prepare for and talk
of, the younger Miss Bennets would have been in a very pitiable
state at this time, for from the day of the invitation, to the day
of the ball, there was such a succession of rain as prevented their
walking to Meryton once. No aunt, no officers, no news could
be sought after--the very shoe-roses for Netherfield were got
by proxy. Even Elizabeth might have found some trial of her
patience in weather which totally suspended the improvement of
her acquaintance with Mr. Wickham; and nothing less than a
dance on Tuesday, could have made such a Friday, Saturday,
Sunday, and Monday endurable to Kitty and Lydia.
Till Elizabeth entered the drawing-room at Netherfield, and
looked in vain for Mr. Wickham among the cluster of red coats
there assembled, a doubt of his being present had never occurred
to her. The certainty of meeting him had not been checked by
any of those recollections that might not unreasonably have
alarmed her. She had dressed with more than usual care, and
prepared in the highest spirits for the conquest of all that
remained unsubdued of his heart, trusting that it was not more
than might be won in the course of the evening. But in an
instant arose the dreadful suspicion of his being purposely
omitted for Mr. Darcy's pleasure in the Bingleys' invitation
to the officers; and though this was not exactly the case, the
absolute fact of his absence was pronounced by his friend Denny,
to whom Lydia eagerly applied, and who told them that Wickham
had been obliged to go to town on business the day before, and
was not yet returned; adding, with a significant smile, "I do not
imagine his business would have called him away just now, if he
had not wanted to avoid a certain gentleman here."
This part of his intelligence, though unheard by Lydia, was
caught by Elizabeth, and, as it assured her that Darcy was not
less answerable for Wickham's absence than if her first surmise
had been just, every feeling of displeasure against the former
was so sharpened by immediate disappointment, that she could
hardly reply with tolerable civility to the polite inquiries
which he directly afterwards approached to make. Attendance,
forbearance, patience with Darcy, was injury to Wickham. She
was resolved against any sort of conversation with him, and
turned away with a degree of ill-humour which she could not
wholly surmount even in speaking to Mr. Bingley, whose blind
partiality provoked her.
But Elizabeth was not formed for ill-humour; and though every
prospect of her own was destroyed for the evening, it could not
dwell long on her spirits; and having told all her griefs to
Charlotte Lucas, whom she had not seen for a week, she was
soon able to make a voluntary transition to the oddities of her
cousin, and to point him out to her particular notice. The first
two dances, however, brought a return of distress; they were
dances of mortification. Mr. Collins, awkward and solemn,
apologising instead of attending, and often moving wrong
without being aware of it, gave her all the shame and misery
which a disagreeable partner for a couple of dances can give.
The moment of her release from him was ecstasy.
She danced next with an officer, and had the refreshment of
talking of Wickham, and of hearing that he was universally liked.
When those dances were over, she returned to Charlotte Lucas,
and was in conversation with her, when she found herself
suddenly addressed by Mr. Darcy who took her so much by surprise
in his application for her hand, that, without knowing what she
did, she accepted him. He walked away again immediately, and
she was left to fret over her own want of presence of mind;
Charlotte tried to console her:
"I dare say you will find him very agreeable."
"Heaven forbid! THAT would be the greatest misfortune of all!
To find a man agreeable whom one is determined to hate! Do not
wish me such an evil."
When the dancing recommenced, however, and Darcy approached to
claim her hand, Charlotte could not help cautioning her in a
whisper, not to be a simpleton, and allow her fancy for Wickham
to make her appear unpleasant in the eyes of a man ten times his
consequence. Elizabeth made no answer, and took her place in
the set, amazed at the dignity to which she was arrived in being
allowed to stand opposite to Mr. Darcy, and reading in her
neighbours' looks, their equal amazement in beholding it. They
stood for some time without speaking a word; and she began to
imagine that their silence was to last through the two dances,
and at first was resolved not to break it; till suddenly
fancying that it would be the greater punishment to her partner
to oblige him to talk, she made some slight observation on the
dance. He replied, and was again silent. After a pause of
some minutes, she addressed him a second time with:--"It is
YOUR turn to say something now, Mr. Darcy. I talked about
the dance, and YOU ought to make some sort of remark on the
size of the room, or the number of couples."
He smiled, and assured her that whatever she wished him to say
should be said.
"Very well. That reply will do for the present. Perhaps by and
by I may observe that private balls are much pleasanter than
public ones. But NOW we may be silent."
"Do you talk by rule, then, while you are dancing?"
"Sometimes. One must speak a little, you know. It would look
odd to be entirely silent for half an hour together; and yet for
the advantage of SOME, conversation ought to be so arranged, as
that they may have the trouble of saying as little as possible."
"Are you consulting your own feelings in the present case, or do
you imagine that you are gratifying mine?"
"Both," replied Elizabeth archly; "for I have always seen a great
similarity in the turn of our minds. We are each of an unsocial,
taciturn disposition, unwilling to speak, unless we expect to say
something that will amaze the whole room, and be handed down
to posterity with all the eclat of a proverb."
"This is no very striking resemblance of your own character,
I am sure," said he. "How near it may be to MINE, I cannot
pretend to say. YOU think it a faithful portrait undoubtedly."
"I must not decide on my own performance."
He made no answer, and they were again silent till they had gone
down the dance, when he asked her if she and her sisters did not
very often walk to Meryton. She answered in the affirmative,
and, unable to resist the temptation, added, "When you met us
there the other day, we had just been forming a new acquaintance."
The effect was immediate. A deeper shade of hauteur overspread
his features, but he said not a word, and Elizabeth, though
blaming herself for her own weakness, could not go on. At
length Darcy spoke, and in a constrained manner said, "Mr.
Wickham is blessed with such happy manners as may ensure his
MAKING friends--whether he may be equally capable of RETAINING
them, is less certain."
"He has been so unlucky as to lose YOUR friendship," replied
Elizabeth with emphasis, "and in a manner which he is likely to
suffer from all his life."
Darcy made no answer, and seemed desirous of changing the
subject. At that moment, Sir William Lucas appeared close to
them, meaning to pass through the set to the other side of the
room; but on perceiving Mr. Darcy, he stopped with a bow of
superior courtesy to compliment him on his dancing and his
"I have been most highly gratified indeed, my dear sir. Such
very superior dancing is not often seen. It is evident that you
belong to the first circles. Allow me to say, however, that your
fair partner does not disgrace you, and that I must hope to have
this pleasure often repeated, especially when a certain desirable
event, my dear Eliza (glancing at her sister and Bingley) shall
take place. What congratulations will then flow in! I appeal to
Mr. Darcy:--but let me not interrupt you, sir. You will not
thank me for detaining you from the bewitching converse of that
young lady, whose bright eyes are also upbraiding me."
The latter part of this address was scarcely heard by Darcy;
but Sir William's allusion to his friend seemed to strike him
forcibly, and his eyes were directed with a very serious
expression towards Bingley and Jane, who were dancing together.
Recovering himself, however, shortly, he turned to his partner,
and said, "Sir William's interruption has made me forget what
we were talking of."
"I do not think we were speaking at all. Sir William could not
have interrupted two people in the room who had less to say for
themselves. We have tried two or three subjects already without
success, and what we are to talk of next I cannot imagine."
"What think you of books?" said he, smiling.
"Books--oh! no. I am sure we never read the same, or not with
the same feelings."
"I am sorry you think so; but if that be the case, there can at
least be no want of subject. We may compare our different
"No--I cannot talk of books in a ball-room; my head is always
full of something else."
"The PRESENT always occupies you in such scenes--does it?"
said he, with a look of doubt.
"Yes, always," she replied, without knowing what she said,
for her thoughts had wandered far from the subject, as soon
afterwards appeared by her suddenly exclaiming, "I remember
hearing you once say, Mr. Darcy, that you hardly ever forgave,
that you resentment once created was unappeasable. You are
very cautious, I suppose, as to its BEING CREATED."
"I am," said he, with a firm voice.
"And never allow yourself to be blinded by prejudice?"
"I hope not."
"It is particularly incumbent on those who never change their
opinion, to be secure of judging properly at first."
"May I ask to what these questions tend?"
"Merely to the illustration of YOUR character," said she,
endeavouring to shake off her gravity. "I am trying to make
"And what is your success?"
She shook her head. "I do not get on at all. I hear such
different accounts of you as puzzle me exceedingly."
"I can readily believe," answered he gravely, "that reports may
vary greatly with respect to me; and I could wish, Miss Bennet,
that you were not to sketch my character at the present moment,
as there is reason to fear that the performance would reflect no
credit on either."
"But if I do not take your likeness now, I may never have
"I would by no means suspend any pleasure of yours," he coldly
replied. She said no more, and they went down the other dance
and parted in silence; and on each side dissatisfied, though not
to an equal degree, for in Darcy's breast there was a tolerable
powerful feeling towards her, which soon procured her pardon,
and directed all his anger against another.
They had not long separated, when Miss Bingley came towards
her, and with an expression of civil disdain accosted her:
"So, Miss Eliza, I hear you are quite delighted with George
Wickham! Your sister has been talking to me about him, and
asking me a thousand questions; and I find that the young man
quite forgot to tell you, among his other communication, that
he was the son of old Wickham, the late Mr. Darcy's steward.
Let me recommend you, however, as a friend, not to give implicit
confidence to all his assertions; for as to Mr. Darcy's using
him ill, it is perfectly false; for, on the contrary, he has
always been remarkably kind to him, though George Wickham has
treated Mr. Darcy in a most infamous manner. I do not know the
particulars, but I know very well that Mr. Darcy is not in the
least to blame, that he cannot bear to hear George Wickham
mentioned, and that though my brother thought that he could not
well avoid including him in his invitation to the officers, he
was excessively glad to find that he had taken himself out of the
way. His coming into the country at all is a most insolent thing,
indeed, and I wonder how he could presume to do it. I pity you,
Miss Eliza, for this discovery of your favourite's guilt; but
really, considering his descent, one could not expect much better."
"His guilt and his descent appear by your account to be the
same," said Elizabeth angrily; "for I have heard you accuse him
of nothing worse than of being the son of Mr. Darcy's steward,
and of THAT, I can assure you, he informed me himself."
"I beg your pardon," replied Miss Bingley, turning away with a
sneer. "Excuse my interference--it was kindly meant."
"Insolent girl!" said Elizabeth to herself. "You are much
mistaken if you expect to influence me by such a paltry attack
as this. I see nothing in it but your own wilful ignorance and
the malice of Mr. Darcy." She then sought her eldest sister, who
has undertaken to make inquiries on the same subject of Bingley.
Jane met her with a smile of such sweet complacency, a glow of
such happy expression, as sufficiently marked how well she was
satisfied with the occurrences of the evening. Elizabeth instantly
read her feelings, and at that moment solicitude for Wickham,
resentment against his enemies, and everything else, gave way
before the hope of Jane's being in the fairest way for happiness.
"I want to know," said she, with a countenance no less smiling
than her sister's, "what you have learnt about Mr. Wickham.
But perhaps you have been too pleasantly engaged to think of
any third person; in which case you may be sure of my pardon."
"No," replied Jane, "I have not forgotten him; but I have nothing
satisfactory to tell you. Mr. Bingley does not know the whole of
his history, and is quite ignorant of the circumstances which have
principally offended Mr. Darcy; but he will vouch for the good
conduct, the probity, and honour of his friend, and is perfectly
convinced that Mr. Wickham has deserved much less attention
from Mr. Darcy than he has received; and I am sorry to say by
his account as well as his sister's, Mr. Wickham is by no means a
respectable young man. I am afraid he has been very imprudent,
and has deserved to lose Mr. Darcy's regard."
"Mr. Bingley does not know Mr. Wickham himself?"
"No; he never saw him till the other morning at Meryton."
"This account then is what he has received from Mr. Darcy.
I am satisfied. But what does he say of the living?"
"He does not exactly recollect the circumstances, though he has
heard them from Mr. Darcy more than once, but he believes that
it was left to him CONDITIONALLY only."
"I have not a doubt of Mr. Bingley's sincerity," said Elizabeth
warmly; "but you must excuse my not being convinced by
assurances only. Mr. Bingley's defense of his friend was a very
able one, I dare say; but since he is unacquainted with several
parts of the story, and has learnt the rest from that friend
himself, I shall venture to still think of both gentlemen as I
She then changed the discourse to one more gratifying to each,
and on which there could be no difference of sentiment.
Elizabeth listened with delight to the happy, though modest
hopes which Jane entertained of Mr. Bingley's regard, and said
all in her power to heighten her confidence in it. On their being
joined by Mr. Bingley himself, Elizabeth withdrew to Miss
Lucas; to whose inquiry after the pleasantness of her last partner
she had scarcely replied, before Mr. Collins came up to them,
and told her with great exultation that he had just been so
fortunate as to make a most important discovery.
"I have found out," said he, "by a singular accident, that there
is now in the room a near relation of my patroness. I happened
to overhear the gentleman himself mentioning to the young lady who
does the honours of the house the names of his cousin Miss de
Bourgh, and of her mother Lady Catherine. How wonderfully these
sort of things occur! Who would have thought of my meeting with,
perhaps, a nephew of Lady Catherine de Bourgh in this assembly!
I am most thankful that the discovery is made in time for me to
pay my respects to him, which I am now going to do, and trust
he will excuse my not having done it before. My total ignorance
of the connection must plead my apology."
"You are not going to introduce yourself to Mr. Darcy!"
"Indeed I am. I shall entreat his pardon for not having done it
earlier. I believe him to be Lady Catherine's NEPHEW. It will
be in my power to assure him that her ladyship was quite well
Elizabeth tried hard to dissuade him from such a scheme,
assuring him that Mr. Darcy would consider his addressing him
without introduction as an impertinent freedom, rather than a
compliment to his aunt; that it was not in the least necessary
there should be any notice on either side; and that if it were,
it must belong to Mr. Darcy, the superior in consequence, to
begin the acquaintance. Mr. Collins listened to her with the
determined air of following his own inclination, and, when she
ceased speaking, replied thus:
"My dear Miss Elizabeth, I have the highest opinion in the world
in your excellent judgement in all matters within the scope of
your understanding; but permit me to say, that there must be a
wide difference between the established forms of ceremony amongst
the laity, and those which regulate the clergy; for, give me
leave to observe that I consider the clerical office as equal in
point of dignity with the highest rank in the kingdom--provided
that a proper humility of behaviour is at the same time
maintained. You must therefore allow me to follow the dictates
of my conscience on this occasion, which leads me to perform what
I look on as a point of duty. Pardon me for neglecting to profit
by your advice, which on every other subject shall be my constant
guide, though in the case before us I consider myself more fitted
by education and habitual study to decide on what is right than
a young lady like yourself." And with a low bow he left her to
attack Mr. Darcy, whose reception of his advances she eagerly
watched, and whose astonishment at being so addressed was very
evident. Her cousin prefaced his speech with a solemn bow and
though she could not hear a word of it, she felt as if hearing
it all, and saw in the motion of his lips the words "apology,"
"Hunsford," and "Lady Catherine de Bourgh." It vexed her to
see him expose himself to such a man. Mr. Darcy was eyeing him
with unrestrained wonder, and when at last Mr. Collins allowed
him time to speak, replied with an air of distant civility. Mr.
Collins, however, was not discouraged from speaking again, and
Mr. Darcy's contempt seemed abundantly increasing with the length
of his second speech, and at the end of it he only made him a
slight bow, and moved another way. Mr. Collins then returned
"I have no reason, I assure you," said he, "to be dissatisfied
with my reception. Mr. Darcy seemed much pleased with the
attention. He answered me with the utmost civility, and even
paid me the compliment of saying that he was so well convinced
of Lady Catherine's discernment as to be certain she could never
bestow a favour unworthily. It was really a very handsome
thought. Upon the whole, I am much pleased with him."
As Elizabeth had no longer any interest of her own to pursue,
she turned her attention almost entirely on her sister and Mr.
Bingley; and the train of agreeable reflections which her
observations gave birth to, made her perhaps almost as happy as
Jane. She saw her in idea settled in that very house, in all the
felicity which a marriage of true affection could bestow; and she
felt capable, under such circumstances, of endeavouring even to
like Bingley's two sisters. Her mother's thoughts she plainly
saw were bent the same way, and she determined not to venture
near her, lest she might hear too much. When they sat down to
supper, therefore, she considered it a most unlucky perverseness
which placed them within one of each other; and deeply was she
vexed to find that her mother was talking to that one person
(Lady Lucas) freely, openly, and of nothing else but her
expectation that Jane would soon be married to Mr. Bingley. It
was an animating subject, and Mrs. Bennet seemed incapable of
fatigue while enumerating the advantages of the match. His
being such a charming young man, and so rich, and living but
three miles from them, were the first points of self-gratulation;
and then it was such a comfort to think how fond the two sisters
were of Jane, and to be certain that they must desire the
connection as much as she could do. It was, moreover, such a
promising thing for her younger daughters, as Jane's marrying so
greatly must throw them in the way of other rich men; and lastly,
it was so pleasant at her time of life to be able to consign her
single daughters to the care of their sister, that she might not
be obliged to go into company more than she liked. It was
necessary to make this circumstance a matter of pleasure,
because on such occasions it is the etiquette; but no one was less
likely than Mrs. Bennet to find comfort in staying home at any
period of her life. She concluded with many good wishes that
Lady Lucas might soon be equally fortunate, though evidently
and triumphantly believing there was no chance of it.
In vain did Elizabeth endeavour to check the rapidity of her
mother's words, or persuade her to describe her felicity in a
less audible whisper; for, to her inexpressible vexation, she
could perceive that the chief of it was overheard by Mr. Darcy,
who sat opposite to them. Her mother only scolded her for
"What is Mr. Darcy to me, pray, that I should be afraid of him?
I am sure we owe him no such particular civility as to be obliged
to say nothing HE may not like to hear."
"For heaven's sake, madam, speak lower. What advantage can
it be for you to offend Mr. Darcy? You will never recommend
yourself to his friend by so doing!"
Nothing that she could say, however, had any influence. Her
mother would talk of her views in the same intelligible tone.
Elizabeth blushed and blushed again with shame and vexation.
She could not help frequently glancing her eye at Mr. Darcy,
though every glance convinced her of what she dreaded; for
though he was not always looking at her mother, she was
convinced that his attention was invariably fixed by her.
The expression of his face changed gradually from indignant
contempt to a composed and steady gravity.
At length, however, Mrs. Bennet had no more to say; and Lady
Lucas, who had been long yawning at the repetition of delights
which she saw no likelihood of sharing, was left to the comforts
of cold ham and chicken. Elizabeth now began to revive. But
not long was the interval of tranquillity; for, when supper was
over, singing was talked of, and she had the mortification of
seeing Mary, after very little entreaty, preparing to oblige the
company. By many significant looks and silent entreaties, did
she endeavour to prevent such a proof of complaisance, but in
vain; Mary would not understand them; such an opportunity of
exhibiting was delightful to her, and she began her song.
Elizabeth's eyes were fixed on her with most painful sensations,
and she watched her progress through the several stanzas with
an impatience which was very ill rewarded at their close; for
Mary, on receiving, amongst the thanks of the table, the hint of
a hope that she might be prevailed on to favour them again, after
the pause of half a minute began another. Mary's powers were
by no means fitted for such a display; her voice was weak, and
her manner affected. Elizabeth was in agonies. She looked at
Jane, to see how she bore it; but Jane was very composedly
talking to Bingley. She looked at his two sisters, and saw
them making signs of derision at each other, and at Darcy, who
continued, however, imperturbably grave. She looked at her
father to entreat his interference, lest Mary should be singing all
night. He took the hint, and when Mary had finished her second
song, said aloud, "That will do extremely well, child. You have
delighted us long enough. Let the other young ladies have time
Mary, though pretending not to hear, was somewhat disconcerted;
and Elizabeth, sorry for her, and sorry for her father's speech,
was afraid her anxiety had done no good. Others of the party
were now applied to.
"If I," said Mr. Collins, "were so fortunate as to be able to sing,
I should have great pleasure, I am sure, in obliging the company
with an air; for I consider music as a very innocent diversion,
and perfectly compatible with the profession of a clergyman. I do
not mean, however, to assert that we can be justified in devoting
too much of our time to music, for there are certainly other things
to be attended to. The rector of a parish has much to do. In the
first place, he must make such an agreement for tithes as a may be
beneficial to himself and not offensive to his patron. He must
write his own sermons; and the time that remains will not be too
much for his parish duties, and the care and improvement of his
dwelling, which he cannot be excused from making as a comfortable
as possible. And I do not think it of light importance that he
should have attentive and conciliatory manner towards everybody,
especially towards those to whom he owes his preferment. I
cannot acquit him of that duty; nor could I think well of the
man who should omit an occasion of testifying his respect
towards anybody connected with the family." And with a bow to
Mr. Darcy, he concluded his speech, which had been spoken so
loud as a to be heard by half the room. Many stared--many smiled;
but no one looked more amused than Mr. Bennet himself, while
his wife seriously commended Mr. Collins for having spoken so
sensibly, and observed in a half-whisper to Lady Lucas, that he
was a remarkably clever, good kind of young man.
To Elizabeth it appeared that, had her family made an agreement
to expose themselves as a much as a they could during the
evening, it would have been impossible for them to play their
parts with more spirit or finer success; and happy did she think
it for Bingley and her sister that some of the exhibition had
escaped his notice, and that his feelings were not of a sort to
be much distressed by the folly which he must have witnessed.
That his two sisters and Mr. Darcy, however, should have such
an opportunity of ridiculing her relations, was bad enough, and
she could not determine whether the silent contempt of the
gentleman, or the insolent smiles of the ladies, were more
The rest of the evening brought her little amusement. She was
teased by Mr. Collins, who continued most perseveringly by her
side, and though he could not prevail on her to dance with him
again, put it out of her power to dance with others. In vain
did she entreat him to stand up with somebody else, and offer to
introduce him to any young lady in the room. He assured her,
that as to dancing, he was perfectly indifferent to it; that his
chief object was by delicate attentions to recommend himself to
her and that he should therefore make a point of remaining close
to her the whole evening. There was no arguing upon such a
project. She owed her greatest relief to her friend Miss Lucas,
who often joined them, and good-naturedly engaged Mr. Collins's
conversation to herself.
She was at least free from the offense of Mr. Darcy's further
notice; though often standing within a very short distance of her,
quite disengaged, he never came near enough to speak. She felt
it to be the probable consequence of her allusions to Mr. Wickham,
and rejoiced in it.
The Longbourn party were the last of all the company to depart,
and, by a manoeuvre of Mrs. Bennet, had to wait for their
carriage a quarter of an hour after everybody else was gone,
which gave them time to see how heartily they were wished
away by some of the family. Mrs. Hurst and her sister scarcely
opened their mouths, except to complain of fatigue, and were
evidently impatient to have the house to themselves. They
repulsed every attempt of Mrs. Bennet at conversation, and by
so doing threw a languor over the whole party, which was very
little relieved by the long speeches of Mr. Collins, who was
complimenting Mr. Bingley and his sisters on the elegance of
their entertainment, and the hospitality and politeness which had
marked their behaviour to their guests. Darcy said nothing at all.
Mr. Bennet, in equal silence, was enjoying the scene. Mr.
Bingley and Jane were standing together, a little detached from
the rest, and talked only to each other. Elizabeth preserved as
steady a silence as either Mrs. Hurst or Miss Bingley; and even
Lydia was too much fatigued to utter more than the occasional
exclamation of "Lord, how tired I am!" accompanied by a
When at length they arose to take leave, Mrs. Bennet was most
pressingly civil in her hope of seeing the whole family soon
at Longbourn, and addressed herself especially to Mr. Bingley,
to assure him how happy he would make them by eating a family
dinner with them at any time, without the ceremony of a formal
invitation. Bingley was all grateful pleasure, and he readily
engaged for taking the earliest opportunity of waiting on her,
after his return from London, whither he was obliged to go the
next day for a short time.
Mrs. Bennet was perfectly satisfied, and quitted the house under
the delightful persuasion that, allowing for the necessary
preparations of settlements, new carriages, and wedding clothes,
she should undoubtedly see her daughter settled at Netherfield in
the course of three or four months. Of having another daughter
married to Mr. Collins, she thought with equal certainty, and
with considerable, though not equal, pleasure. Elizabeth was the
least dear to her of all her children; and though the man and the
match were quite good enough for HER, the worth of each was
eclipsed by Mr. Bingley and Netherfield.
The next day opened a new scene at Longbourn. Mr. Collins
made his declaration in form. Having resolved to do it without
loss of time, as his leave of absence extended only to the
following Saturday, and having no feelings of diffidence to make
it distressing to himself even at the moment, he set about it
in a very orderly manner, with all the observances, which
he supposed a regular part of the business. On finding Mrs.
Bennet, Elizabeth, and one of the younger girls together, soon
after breakfast, he addressed the mother in these words:
"May I hope, madam, for your interest with your fair daughter
Elizabeth, when I solicit for the honour of a private audience
with her in the course of this morning?"
Before Elizabeth had time for anything but a blush of surprise,
Mrs. Bennet answered instantly, "Oh dear!--yes--certainly. I
am sure Lizzy will be very happy--I am sure she can have no
objection. Come, Kitty, I want you upstairs." And, gathering
her work together, she was hastening away, when Elizabeth
"Dear madam, do not go. I beg you will not go. Mr. Collins
must excuse me. He can have nothing to say to me that anybody
need not hear. I am going away myself."
"No, no, nonsense, Lizzy. I desire you to stay where you are."
And upon Elizabeth's seeming really, with vexed and embarrassed
looks, about to escape, she added: "Lizzy, I INSIST upon your
staying and hearing Mr. Collins."
Elizabeth would not oppose such an injunction--and a moment's
consideration making her also sensible that it would be wisest to
get it over as soon and as quietly as possible, she sat down again
and tried to conceal, by incessant employment the feelings which
were divided between distress and diversion. Mrs. Bennet and Kitty
walked off, and as soon as they were gone, Mr. Collins began.
"Believe me, my dear Miss Elizabeth, that your modesty, so far
from doing you any disservice, rather adds to your other
perfections. You would have been less amiable in my eyes had
there NOT been this little unwillingness; but allow me to assure
you, that I have your respected mother's permission for this
address. You can hardly doubt the purport of my discourse,
however your natural delicacy may lead you to dissemble; my
attentions have been too marked to be mistaken. Almost as soon
as I entered the house, I singled you out as the companion of
my future life. But before I am run away with by my feelings on
this subject, perhaps it would be advisable for me to state my
reasons for marrying--and, moreover, for coming into Hertfordshire
with the design of selecting a wife, as I certainly did."
The idea of Mr. Collins, with all his solemn composure, being
run away with by his feelings, made Elizabeth so near laughing,
that she could not use the short pause he allowed in any attempt
to stop him further, and he continued:
"My reasons for marrying are, first, that I think it a right
thing for every clergyman in easy circumstances (like myself) to
set the example of matrimony in his parish; secondly, that I am
convinced that it will add very greatly to my happiness; and
thirdly--which perhaps I ought to have mentioned earlier, that
it is the particular advice and recommendation of the very noble
lady whom I have the honour of calling patroness. Twice has
she condescended to give me her opinion (unasked too!) on this
subject; and it was but the very Saturday night before I left
Hunsford--between our pools at quadrille, while Mrs. Jenkinson
was arranging Miss de Bourgh's footstool, that she said, 'Mr.
Collins, you must marry. A clergyman like you must marry.
Choose properly, choose a gentlewoman for MY sake; and for
your OWN, let her be an active, useful sort of person, not brought
up high, but able to make a small income go a good way. This is
my advice. Find such a woman as soon as you can, bring her to
Hunsford, and I will visit her.' Allow me, by the way, to
observe, my fair cousin, that I do not reckon the notice and
kindness of Lady Catherine de Bourgh as among the least of the
advantages in my power to offer. You will find her manners
beyond anything I can describe; and your wit and vivacity, I
think, must be acceptable to her, especially when tempered with
the silence and respect which her rank will inevitably excite.
Thus much for my general intention in favour of matrimony;
it remains to be told why my views were directed towards
Longbourn instead of my own neighbourhood, where I can
assure you there are many amiable young women. But the fact
is, that being, as I am, to inherit this estate after the death of
your honoured father (who, however, may live many years
longer), I could not satisfy myself without resolving to choose a
wife from among his daughters, that the loss to them might be as
little as possible, when the melancholy event takes place--which,
however, as I have already said, may not be for several years.
This has been my motive, my fair cousin, and I flatter myself it
will not sink me in your esteem. And now nothing remains but
for me but to assure you in the most animated language of the
violence of my affection. To fortune I am perfectly indifferent,
and shall make no demand of that nature on your father, since I
am well aware that it could not be complied with; and that one
thousand pounds in the four per cents, which will not be yours
till after your mother's decease, is all that you may ever be
entitled to. On that head, therefore, I shall be uniformly silent;
and you may assure yourself that no ungenerous reproach shall
ever pass my lips when we are married."
It was absolutely necessary to interrupt him now.
"You are too hasty, sir," she cried. "You forget that I have
made no answer. Let me do it without further loss of time.
Accept my thanks for the compliment you are paying me. I am
very sensible of the honour of your proposals, but it is
impossible for me to do otherwise than to decline them."
"I am not now to learn," replied Mr. Collins, with a formal wave
of the hand, "that it is usual with young ladies to reject the
addresses of the man whom they secretly mean to accept, when
he first applies for their favour; and that sometimes the refusal
is repeated a second, or even a third time. I am therefore by no
means discouraged by what you have just said, and shall hope to
lead you to the altar ere long."
"Upon my word, sir," cried Elizabeth, "your hope is a rather
extraordinary one after my declaration. I do assure you that I
am not one of those young ladies (if such young ladies there are)
who are so daring as to risk their happiness on the chance of
being asked a second time. I am perfectly serious in my refusal.
You could not make ME happy, and I am convinced that I am