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
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.
<CHAPTER XV (38)>
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 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 replied, "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
"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