When she came to that part of the letter in which her family were
mentioned in terms of such mortifying, yet merited reproach, her
sense of shame was severe. The justice of the charge struck her
too forcibly for denial, and the circumstances to which he
particularly alluded as having passed at the Netherfield ball,
and as confirming all his first disapprobation, could not have
made a stronger impression on his mind than on hers.
The compliment to herself and her sister was not unfelt. It
soothed, but it could not console her for the contempt which had
thus been self-attracted by the rest of her family; and as she
considered that Jane's disappointment had in fact been the work
of her nearest relations, and reflected how materially the credit
of both must be hurt by such impropriety of conduct, she felt
depressed beyond anything she had ever known before.
After wandering along the lane for two hours, giving way to
every variety of thought - re-considering events, determining
probabilities, and reconciling herself, as well as she could, to
a change so sudden and so important, fatigue, and a recollection
of her long absence, made her at length return home; and she
entered the house with the wish of appearing cheerful as usual,
and the resolution of repressing such reflections as must make
her unfit for conversation.
She was immediately told that the two gentlemen from Rosings
had each called during her absence; Mr. Darcy, only for a few
minutes, to take leave - but that Colonel Fitzwilliam had been
sitting with them at least an hour, hoping for her return, and
almost resolving to walk after her till she could be found.
Elizabeth could but just _affect_ concern in missing him; she
really rejoiced at it. Colonel Fitzwilliam was no longer an
object; she could think only of her letter.
The two gentlemen left Rosings the next morning, and Mr.
Collins having been in waiting near the lodges, to make them
his parting obeisance, was able to bring home the pleasing
intelligence, of their appearing in very good health, and in as
tolerable spirits as could be expected, after the melancholy scene
so lately gone through at Rosings. To Rosings he then hastened,
to console Lady Catherine and her daughter; and on his return
brought back, with great satisfaction, a message from her
ladyship, importing that she felt herself so dull as to make
her very desirous of having them all to dine with her.
Elizabeth could not see Lady Catherine without recollecting that,
had she chosen it, she might by this time have been presented to
her as her future niece; nor could she think, without a smile, of
what her ladyship's indignation would have been. "What would
she have said? how would she have behaved?" were questions with
which she amused herself.
Their first subject was the diminution of the Rosings party.
"I assure you, I feel it exceedingly," said Lady Catherine; "I
believe no one feels the loss of friends so much as I do. But
I am particularly attached to these young men, and know them to
be so much attached to me! They were excessively sorry to go!
But so they always are. The dear Colonel rallied his spirits
tolerably till just at last; but Darcy seemed to feel it most
acutely, more, I think, than last year. His attachment to
Rosings certainly increases."
Mr. Collins had a compliment, and an allusion to throw in here,
which were kindly smiled on by the mother and daughter.
Lady Catherine observed, after dinner, that Miss Bennet seemed
out of spirits, and immediately accounting for it by herself,
by supposing that she did not like to go home again so soon,
"But if that is the case, you must write to your mother and beg
that you may stay a little longer. Mrs. Collins will be very glad
of your company, I am sure."
"I am much obliged to your ladyship for your kind invitation,"
replied Elizabeth, "but it is not in my power to accept it.
I must be in town next Saturday."
"Why, at that rate, you will have been here only six weeks. I
expected you to stay two months. I told Mrs. Collins so before
you came. There can be no occasion for your going so soon.
Mrs. Bennet could certainly spare you for another fortnight."
"But my father cannot. He wrote last week to hurry my return."
"Oh! your father of course may spare you, if your mother can.
Daughters are never of so much consequence to a father. And if
you will stay another _month_ complete, it will be in my power
to take one of you as far as London, for I am going there early
in June, for a week; and as Dawson does not object to the
barouche-box, there will be very good room for one of you - and
indeed, if the weather should happen to be cool, I should not
object to taking you both, as you are neither of you large."
"You are all kindness, madam; but I believe we must abide by
our original plan."
Lady Catherine seemed resigned. "Mrs. Collins, you must send
a servant with them. You know I always speak my mind, and I
cannot bear the idea of two young women travelling post by
themselves. It is highly improper. You must contrive to send
somebody. I have the greatest dislike in the world to that sort
of thing. Young women should always be properly guarded and
attended, according to their situation in life. When my niece
Georgiana went to Ramsgate last summer, I made a point of her
having two men-servants go with her. Miss Darcy, the daughter
of Mr. Darcy, of Pemberley, and Lady Anne, could not have
appeared with propriety in a different manner. I am excessively
attentive to all those things. You must send John with the young
ladies, Mrs. Collins. I am glad it occurred to me to mention it;
for it would really be discreditable to _you_ to let them go
"My uncle is to send a servant for us."
"Oh! Your uncle! He keeps a man-servant, does he? I am very
glad you have somebody who thinks of these things. Where
shall you change horses? Oh! Bromley, of course. If you
mention my name at the Bell, you will be attended to."
Lady Catherine had many other questions to ask respecting their
journey, and as she did not answer them all herself, attention was
necessary, which Elizabeth believed to be lucky for her; or, with
a mind so occupied, she might have forgotten where she was.
Reflection must be reserved for solitary hours; whenever she
was alone, she gave way to it as the greatest relief; and not a
day went by without a solitary walk, in which she might indulge
in all the delight of unpleasant recollections.
Mr. Darcy's letter she was in a fair way of soon knowing by
heart. She studied every sentence; and her feelings towards its
writer were at times widely different. When she remembered the
style of his address, she was still full of indignation; but when
she considered how unjustly she had condemned and upbraided him,
her anger was turned against herself; and his disappointed
feelings became the object of compassion. His attachment
excited gratitude, his general character respect; but she could
not approve him; nor could she for a moment repent her refusal,
or feel the slightest inclination ever to see him again. In
her own past behaviour, there was a constant source of vexation
and regret; and in the unhappy defects of her family, a subject
of yet heavier chagrin. They were hopeless of remedy. Her father,
contented with laughing at them, would never exert himself to
restrain the wild giddiness of his youngest daughters; and her
mother, with manners so far from right herself, was entirely
insensible of the evil. Elizabeth had frequently united with Jane
in an endeavour to check the imprudence of Catherine and Lydia;
but while they were supported by their mother's indulgence, what
chance could there be of improvement? Catherine, weak-spirited,
irritable, and completely under Lydia's guidance, had been always
affronted by their advice; and Lydia, self-willed and careless,
would scarcely give them a hearing. They were ignorant, idle, and
vain. While there was an officer in Meryton, they would flirt
with him; and while Meryton was within a walk of Longbourn, they
would be going there forever.
Anxiety on Jane's behalf was another prevailing concern; and
Mr. Darcy's explanation, by restoring Bingley to all her former
good opinion, heightened the sense of what Jane had lost. His
affection was proved to have been sincere, and his conduct
cleared of all blame, unless any could attach to the implicitness
of his confidence in his friend. How grievous then was the
thought that, of a situation so desirable in every respect, so
replete with advantage, so promising for happiness, Jane had
been deprived, by the folly and indecorum of her own family!
When to these recollections was added the development of Wickham's
character, it may be easily believed that the happy spirits which
had seldom been depressed before, were now so much affected as to
make it almost impossible for her to appear tolerably cheerful.
Their engagements at Rosings were as frequent during the last
week of her stay as they had been at first. The very last evening
was spent there; and her ladyship again inquired minutely into
the particulars of their journey, gave them directions as to the
best method of packing, and was so urgent on the necessity of
placing gowns in the only right way, that Maria thought herself
obliged, on her return, to undo all the work of the morning, and
pack her trunk afresh.
When they parted, Lady Catherine, with great condescension,
wished them a good journey, and invited them to come to
Hunsford again next year; and Miss de Bourgh exerted herself
so far as to curtsey and hold out her hand to both.
On Saturday morning Elizabeth and Mr. Collins met for breakfast
a few minutes before the others appeared; and he took the
opportunity of paying the parting civilities which he deemed
"I know not, Miss Elizabeth," said he, "whether Mrs. Collins has
yet expressed her sense of your kindness in coming to us; but I
am very certain you will not leave the house without receiving
her thanks for it. The favor of your company has been much
felt, I assure you. We know how little there is to tempt anyone
to our humble abode. Our plain manner of living, our small
rooms and few domestics, and the little we see of the world,
must make Hunsford extremely dull to a young lady like
yourself; but I hope you will believe us grateful for the
condescension, and that we have done everything in our power
to prevent your spending your time unpleasantly."
Elizabeth was eager with her thanks and assurances of happiness.
She had spent six weeks with great enjoyment; and the pleasure
of being with Charlotte, and the kind attentions she had received,
must make _her_ feel the obliged. Mr. Collins was gratified, and
with a more smiling solemnity replied:
"It gives me great pleasure to hear that you have passed your
time not disagreeably. We have certainly done our best; and
most fortunately having it in our power to introduce you to very
superior society, and, from our connection with Rosings, the
frequent means of varying the humble home scene, I think we
may flatter ourselves that your Hunsford visit cannot have been
entirely irksome. Our situation with regard to Lady Catherine's
family is indeed the sort of extraordinary advantage and blessing
which few can boast. You see on what a footing we are. You
see how continually we are engaged there. In truth I must
acknowledge that, with all the disadvantages of this humble
parsonage, I should not think anyone abiding in it an object of
compassion, while they are sharers of our intimacy at Rosings."
Words were insufficient for the elevation of his feelings; and
he was obliged to walk about the room, while Elizabeth tried to
unite civility and truth in a few short sentences.
"You may, in fact, carry a very favourable report of us into
Hertfordshire, my dear cousin. I flatter myself at least that you
will be able to do so. Lady Catherine's great attentions to Mrs.
Collins you have been a daily witness of; and altogether I trust
it does not appear that your friend has drawn an unfortunate - but
on this point it will be as well to be silent. Only let me
assure you, my dear Miss Elizabeth, that I can from my heart most
cordially wish you equal felicity in marriage. My dear Charlotte
and I have but one mind and one way of thinking. There is in
everything a most remarkable resemblance of character and ideas
between us. We seem to have been designed for each other."
Elizabeth could safely say that it was a great happiness where
that was the case, and with equal sincerity could add, that she
firmly believed and rejoiced in his domestic comforts. She was
not sorry, however, to have the recital of them interrupted by
the lady from whom they sprang. Poor Charlotte! it was
melancholy to leave her to such society! But she had chosen it
with her eyes open; and though evidently regretting that her
visitors were to go, she did not seem to ask for compassion.
Her home and her housekeeping, her parish and her poultry, and
all their dependent concerns, had not yet lost their charms.
At length the chaise arrived, the trunks were fastened on, the
parcels placed within, and it was pronounced to be ready. After
an affectionate parting between the friends, Elizabeth was
attended to the carriage by Mr. Collins, and as they walked
down the garden he was commissioning her with his best
respects to all her family, not forgetting his thanks for the
kindness he had received at Longbourn in the winter, and his
compliments to Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, though unknown. He
then handed her in, Maria followed, and the door was on the
point of being closed, when he suddenly reminded them, with
some consternation, that they had hitherto forgotten to leave
any message for the ladies at Rosings.
"But," he added, "you will of course wish to have your humble
respects delivered to them, with your grateful thanks for their
kindness to you while you have been here."
Elizabeth made no objection; the door was then allowed to be
shut, and the carriage drove off.
"Good gracious!" cried Maria, after a few minutes' silence, "it
seems but a day or two since we first came! and yet how many
things have happened!"
"A great many indeed," said her companion with a sigh.
"We have dined nine times at Rosings, besides drinking tea there
twice! How much I shall have to tell!"
Elizabeth added privately, "And how much I shall have to conceal!"
Their journey was performed without much conversation, or any
alarm; and within four hours of their leaving Hunsford they
reached Mr. Gardiner's house, where they were to remain a few
Jane looked well, and Elizabeth had little opportunity of
studying her spirits, amidst the various engagements which the
kindness of her aunt had reserved for them. But Jane was to go
home with her, and at Longbourn there would be leisure enough
It was not without an effort, meanwhile, that she could wait
even for Longbourn, before she told her sister of Mr. Darcy's
proposals. To know that she had the power of revealing what
would so exceedingly astonish Jane, and must, at the same time,
so highly gratify whatever of her own vanity she had not yet
been able to reason away, was such a temptation to openness
as nothing could have conquered but the state of indecision
in which she remained as to the extent of what she should
communicate; and her fear, if she once entered on the subject,
of being hurried into repeating something of Bingley which
might only grieve her sister further.
It was the second week in May, in which the three young ladies
set out together from Gracechurch Street for the town of - - ,
in Hertfordshire; and, as they drew near the appointed inn where
Mr. Bennet's carriage was to meet them, they quickly perceived,
in token of the coachman's punctuality, both Kitty and Lydia
looking out of a dining-room upstairs. These two girls had been
above an hour in the place, happily employed in visiting an
opposite milliner, watching the sentinel on guard, and dressing a
salad and cucumber.
After welcoming their sisters, they triumphantly displayed a table
set out with such cold meat as an inn larder usually affords,
exclaiming, "Is not this nice? Is not this an agreeable surprise?"
"And we mean to treat you all," added Lydia, "but you must lend
us the money, for we have just spent ours at the shop out there."
Then, showing her purchases - "Look here, I have bought this bonnet.
I do not think it is very pretty; but I thought I might as well
buy it as not. I shall pull it to pieces as soon as I get home,
and see if I can make it up any better."
And when her sisters abused it as ugly, she added, with perfect
unconcern, "Oh! but there were two or three much uglier in the
shop; and when I have bought some prettier-coloured satin to
trim it with fresh, I think it will be very tolerable. Besides,
it will not much signify what one wears this summer, after the
- - shire have left Meryton, and they are going in a fortnight."
"Are they indeed!" cried Elizabeth, with the greatest satisfaction.
"They are going to be encamped near Brighton; and I do so
want papa to take us all there for the summer! It would be such
a delicious scheme; and I dare say would hardly cost anything at
all. Mamma would like to go too of all things! Only think what
a miserable summer else we shall have!"
"Yes," thought Elizabeth, "_that_ would be a delightful scheme
indeed, and completely do for us at once. Good Heaven!
Brighton, and a whole campful of soldiers, to us, who have been
overset already by one poor regiment of militia, and the monthly
balls of Meryton!"
"Now I have got some news for you," said Lydia, as they sat down
at table. "What do you think? It is excellent news - capital
news - and about a certain person we all like!"
Jane and Elizabeth looked at each other, and the waiter was told
he need not stay. Lydia laughed, and said:
"Aye, that is just like your formality and discretion. You
thought the waiter must not hear, as if he cared! I dare say he
often hears worse things said than I am going to say. But he is
an ugly fellow! I am glad he is gone. I never saw such a long
chin in my life. Well, but now for my news; it is about dear
Wickham; too good for the waiter, is it not? There is no danger
of Wickham's marrying Mary King. There's for you! She is gone
down to her uncle at Liverpool: gone to stay. Wickham is safe."
"And Mary King is safe!" added Elizabeth; "safe from a
connection imprudent as to fortune."
"She is a great fool for going away, if she liked him."
"But I hope there is no strong attachment on either side,"
"I am sure there is not on _his_. I will answer for it, he never
cared three straws about her - who could about such a nasty
little freckled thing?"
Elizabeth was shocked to think that, however incapable of
such coarseness of _expression_ herself, the coarseness of the
_sentiment_ was little other than her own breast had harboured
and fancied liberal!
As soon as all had ate, and the elder ones paid, the carriage was
ordered; and after some contrivance, the whole party, with all
their boxes, work-bags, and parcels, and the unwelcome addition
of Kitty's and Lydia's purchases, were seated in it.
"How nicely we are all crammed in," cried Lydia. "I am glad I
bought my bonnet, if it is only for the fun of having another
bandbox! Well, now let us be quite comfortable and snug, and
talk and laugh all the way home. And in the first place, let
us hear what has happened to you all since you went away. Have
you seen any pleasant men? Have you had any flirting? I was
in great hopes that one of you would have got a husband before
you came back. Jane will be quite an old maid soon, I declare.
She is almost three-and-twenty! Lord, how ashamed I should be of
not being married before three-and-twenty! My aunt Phillips wants
you so to get husbands, you can't think. She says Lizzy had
better have taken Mr. Collins; but _I_ do not think there would
have been any fun in it. Lord! how I should like to be married
before any of you; and then I would chaperon you about to all
the balls. Dear me! we had such a good piece of fun the other
day at Colonel Forster's. Kitty and me were to spend the day
there, and Mrs. Forster promised to have a little dance in the
evening; (by the bye, Mrs. Forster and me are _such_ friends!) and
so she asked the two Harringtons to come, but Harriet was ill,
and so Pen was forced to come by herself; and then, what do you
think we did? We dressed up Chamberlayne in woman's clothes on
purpose to pass for a lady, only think what fun! Not a soul
knew of it, but Colonel and Mrs. Forster, and Kitty and me,
except my aunt, for we were forced to borrow one of her gowns;
and you cannot imagine how well he looked! When Denny, and
Wickham, and Pratt, and two or three more of the men came in,
they did not know him in the least. Lord! how I laughed! and
so did Mrs. Forster. I thought I should have died. And _that_
made the men suspect something, and then they soon found out
what was the matter."
With such kinds of histories of their parties and good jokes, did
Lydia, assisted by Kitty's hints and additions, endeavour to
amuse her companions all the way to Longbourn. Elizabeth
listened as little as she could, but there was no escaping the
frequent mention of Wickham's name.
Their reception at home was most kind. Mrs. Bennet rejoiced to
see Jane in undiminished beauty; and more than once during
dinner did Mr. Bennet say voluntarily to Elizabeth:
"I am glad you are come back, Lizzy."
Their party in the dining-room was large, for almost all the
Lucases came to meet Maria and hear the news; and various
were the subjects that occupied them: Lady Lucas was inquiring
of Maria, after the welfare and poultry of her eldest daughter;
Mrs. Bennet was doubly engaged, on one hand collecting an
account of the present fashions from Jane, who sat some way
below her, and, on the other, retailing them all to the younger
Lucases; and Lydia, in a voice rather louder than any other
person's, was enumerating the various pleasures of the morning
to anybody who would hear her.
"Oh! Mary," said she, "I wish you had gone with us, for we had
such fun! As we went along, Kitty and I drew up the blinds,
and pretended there was nobody in the coach; and I should have
gone so all the way, if Kitty had not been sick; and when we got
to the George, I do think we behaved very handsomely, for we
treated the other three with the nicest cold luncheon in the
world, and if you would have gone, we would have treated you
too. And then when we came away it was such fun! I thought
we never should have got into the coach. I was ready to die
of laughter. And then we were so merry all the way home! we
talked and laughed so loud, that anybody might have heard us
ten miles off!"
To this Mary very gravely replied, "Far be it from me, my dear
sister, to depreciate such pleasures! They would doubtless be
congenial with the generality of female minds. But I confess
they would have no charms for _me_ - I should infinitely prefer a
But of this answer Lydia heard not a word. She seldom listened
to anybody for more than half a minute, and never attended to
Mary at all.
In the afternoon Lydia was urgent with the rest of the girls
to walk to Meryton, and to see how everybody went on; but
Elizabeth steadily opposed the scheme. It should not be said
that the Miss Bennets could not be at home half a day before
they were in pursuit of the officers. There was another reason
too for her opposition. She dreaded seeing Mr. Wickham again,
and was resolved to avoid it as long as possible. The comfort
to _her_ of the regiment's approaching removal was indeed beyond
expression. In a fortnight they were to go - and once gone, she
hoped there could be nothing more to plague her on his account.
She had not been many hours at home before she found that the
Brighton scheme, of which Lydia had given them a hint at the inn,
was under frequent discussion between her parents. Elizabeth
saw directly that her father had not the smallest intention of
yielding; but his answers were at the same time so vague and
equivocal, that her mother, though often disheartened, had never
yet despaired of succeeding at last.
Elizabeth's impatience to acquaint Jane with what had happened