he 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 nobody 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 herself, by supposing that she did not like to go home again so soon, she added,
“But if that is the case, you must write to your mother to beg that you may stay a little longer. Mrs. Collins will be
very glad of your company, I am sure.”
“I am much obliged to your ladyship for your kind invitation,” replied Elizabeth, “but it is not in my power to
accept it.— I must be in town next Saturday.”
“Why, at that rate, you will have been here only six weeks. I expected you to stay two months. I told Mrs. Collins so
before you came. There can be no occasion for your going so soon. Mrs. Bennet could certainly spare you for another fortnight.”
“But my father cannot.— He wrote last week to hurry my return.”
“Oh! your father of course may spare you, if your mother can.— Daughters are never of so much consequence to a
father. And if you will stay another month complete, it will be in my power to take one of you as far as London, for I am going there early in June, for a week; and as Dawson does not object to the Barouche box, there will be very good room for one of you — and indeed, if the weather should happen to be cool, I should not object to taking you both, as you are neither of you large.”
“You are all kindness, Madam; but I believe we must abide by our original plan.”
Lady Catherine seemed resigned.
“Mrs. Collins, you must send a servant with them. You know I always speak my mind, and I cannot bear the idea of two young women travelling post by themselves. It is highly improper. You must contrive to send somebody. I have the greatest dislike in the world to that sort of thing.— Young women should always be properly guarded and attended, according to their situation in life. When my niece Georgiana went to Ramsgate last summer, I made a point of her having two men servants go with her.— Miss Darcy, the daughter of Mr. Darcy of Pemberley, and Lady Anne, could not have appeared with propriety in a different manner.— I am excessively attentive to all those things. You must send John with the young ladies, Mrs. Collins. I am glad it occurred to me to mention it; for it would really be discreditable to you to let them go alone.”
“My uncle is to send a servant for us.”
“Oh! — Your uncle! — He keeps a man-servant, does he? — I am very glad you have somebody who thinks of those 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 for ever.
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 developement 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 enquired 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.
n Saturday morning Elizabeth and Mr. Collins met for breakfast a few minutes before the others appeared; and he took the opportunity of paying the parting civilities which he deemed indispensably necessary.
“I know not, Miss Elizabeth,” said he, “whether Mrs.Collins has yet expressed her sense of your kindness in coming
to us, but I am very certain you will not leave the house without receiving her thanks for it. The favour of your company
has been much felt, I assure you. We know how little
there is to tempt any one 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 every thing 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
“It gives me the greatest 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 any one 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 every thing
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 entrance of the lady from whom they sprung. 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 privately added, “And how much I shall have
Their journey was performed without much conversation,
or any alarm; and within four hours of their leaving
Hunsford, they reached Mr. Gardiner’s house, where they
were to remain a few days.
Jane looked well, and Elizabeth had little opportunity of
studying her spirits, amidst the various engagements which
the kindness of her aunt had reserved for them. But Jane
was to go home with her, and at Longbourn there would be
leisure enough for observation.
It was not without an effort, meanwhile, that she could
wait even for Longbourn, before she told her sister of Mr.
Darcy’s proposals. To know that she had the power of revealing
what would so exceedingly astonish Jane, and must,
at the same time, so highly gratify whatever of her own
vanity she had not yet been able to reason away, was such
a temptation to openness as nothing could have conquered
but the state of indecision in which she remained as to the
extent of what she should communicate; and her fear, if she
once entered on the subject, of being hurried into repeating
something of Bingley which might only grieve her sister
t 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
sallad 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
“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 shewing 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 any thing 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 to table. “What do you think? It is excellent news, capital news, and about a certain person that we all like.”
Jane and Elizabeth looked at each other, and the waiter was told that 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 not it? There is no danger of Wickham’s marrying Mary King. There’s for you! She is gone down to her uncle at Liverpool; gone to stay. Wickham is safe.”
“And Mary King is safe!” added Elizabeth; “safe from a connection imprudent as to fortune.”
“She is a great fool for going away, if she liked him.”
“But I hope there is no strong attachment on either side,” said Jane.
“I am sure there is not on his. I will answer for it he never cared three straws about her. Who could about such a nasty
little freckled thing?”
Elizabeth was shocked to think that, however incapable
of such coarseness of expression herself, the coarseness of the sentiment was little other than her own breast had formerly
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, workbags, and parcels, and the
unwelcome addition of Kitty’s and Lydia’s purchases, were
seated in it.
“How nicely we are 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 Philips 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 Foster’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 Col. 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 kind 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 which occupied them. Lady Lucas was enquiring of Maria, across the table, 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 Miss Lucases; and Lydia, in a voice rather louder than any other person’s, was enumerating the various pleasures of the morning to any body 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 me drew up all 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 any body might have heard us ten miles off!”
To this, Mary very gravely replied, “Far be it from me, my dear sister, to depreciate such pleasures. They would doubtless be congenial with the generality of female minds. But I confess they would have no charms for me. I should infinitely prefer a book.”
But of this answer Lydia heard not a word. She seldom listened to any body 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 see how every body 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 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.