When the ladies returned to the drawing room, there was little to be done but
to hear Lady Catherine talk, which she did without any intermission till coffee
came in, delivering her opinion on every subject in so decisive a manner as proved
that she was not used to have her judgment controverted. She enquired into Charlotte's
domestic concerns familiarly and minutely, and gave her a great deal of advice as
to the management of them all; told her how every thing ought to be regulated in
so small a family as her's, and instructed her as to the care of her cows and her
poultry. Elizabeth found that nothing was beneath this great lady's attention, which
could furnish her with an occasion of dictating to others. In the intervals of her
discourse with Mrs. Collins, she addressed a variety of questions to Maria and Elizabeth,
but especially to the latter, of whose connections she knew the least, and who,
she observed to Mrs. Collins, was a very genteel, pretty kind of girl. She asked
her at different times, how many sisters she had, whether they were older or younger
than herself, whether any of them were likely to be married, whether they were handsome,
where they had been educated, what carriage her father kept, and what had been her
mother's maiden name? -- Elizabeth felt all the impertinence of her questions, but
answered them very composedly. -- Lady Catherine then observed, "Your father's estate
is entailed on Mr. Collins, I think.
For your sake," turning to Charlotte, "I am glad of it; but otherwise I see no
occasion for entailing estates from the female line. -- It was not thought necessary
in Sir Lewis de Bourgh's family. -- Do you play and sing, Miss Bennet?"
"Oh! then -- some time or other we shall be happy to hear you.
Our instrument is a capital one, probably superior to -- You shall try it some
day. -- Do your sisters play and sing?"
"One of them does."
"Why did not you all learn? -- You ought all to have learned.
The Miss Webbs all play, and their father has not so good an income as your's.
-- Do you draw?"
"No, not at all."
"What, none of you?"
"That is very strange. But I suppose you had no opportunity.
Your mother should have taken you to town every spring for the benefit of masters."
"My mother would have had no objection, but my father hates London."
"Has your governess left you?"
"We never had any governess."
"No governess! How was that possible? Five daughters brought up at home without
a governess! -- I never heard of such a thing. Your mother must have been quite
a slave to your education."
Elizabeth could hardly help smiling, as she assured her that had not been the
"Then, who taught you? who attended to you? Without a governess you must have
"Compared with some families, I believe we were; but such of us as wished to
learn, never wanted the means. We were always encouraged to read, and had all the
masters that were necessary. Those who chose to be idle, certainly might."
"Aye, no doubt; but that is what a governess will prevent, and if I had known
your mother, I should have advised her most strenuously to engage one. I always
say that nothing is to be done in education without steady and regular instruction,
and nobody but a governess can give it. It is wonderful how many families I have
been the means of supplying in that way. I am always glad to get a young person
well placed out. Four nieces of Mrs. Jenkinson are most delightfully situated through
my means; and it was but the other day that I recommended another young person,
who was merely accidentally mentioned to me, and the family are quite delighted
with her. Mrs. Collins, did I tell you of Lady Metcalfe's calling yesterday to thank
me? She finds Miss Pope a treasure. ``Lady Catherine,'' said she, ``you have given
me a treasure.'' Are any of your younger sisters out, Miss Bennet?"
"Yes, Ma'am, all."
"All! -- What, all five out at once? Very odd! -- And you only the second. --
The younger ones out before the elder are married! -- Your younger sisters must
be very young?"
"Yes, my youngest is not sixteen. Perhaps she is full young to be much in company.
But really, Ma'am, I think it would be very hard upon younger sisters, that they
should not have their share of society and amusement because the elder may not have
the means or inclination to marry early. -- The last born has as good a right to
the pleasures of youth, as the first. And to be kept back on such a motive! -- I
think it would not be very likely to promote sisterly affection or delicacy of mind."
"Upon my word," said her ladyship, "you give your opinion very decidedly for
so young a person. -- Pray, what is your age?"
"With three younger sisters grown up," replied Elizabeth smiling, "your Ladyship
can hardly expect me to own it."
Lady Catherine seemed quite astonished at not receiving a direct answer; and
Elizabeth suspected herself to be the first creature who had ever dared to trifle
with so much dignified impertinence! "You cannot be more than twenty, I am sure,
-- therefore you need not conceal your age."
"I am not one and twenty."
When the gentlemen had joined them, and tea was over, the card tables were placed.
Lady Catherine, Sir William, and Mr. and Mrs. Collins sat down to quadrille; and
as Miss De Bourgh chose to play at cassino, the two girls had the honour of assisting
Mrs. Jenkinson to make up her party. Their table was superlatively stupid. Scarcely
a syllable was uttered that did not relate to the game, except when Mrs. Jenkinson
expressed her fears of Miss De Bourgh's being too hot or too cold, or having too
much or too little light. A great deal more passed at the other table, Lady Catherine
was generally speaking -- stating the mistakes of the three others, or relating
some anecdote of herself. Mr. Collins was employed in agreeing to every thing her
Ladyship said, thanking her for every fish he won, and apologising if he thought
he won too many. Sir William did not say much. He was storing his memory with anecdotes
and noble names.
When Lady Catherine and her daughter had played as long as they chose, the tables
were broke up, the carriage was offered to Mrs. Collins, gratefully accepted, and
The party then gathered round the fire to hear Lady Catherine determine what
weather they were to have on the morrow. From these instructions they were summoned
by the arrival of the coach, and with many speeches of thankfulness on Mr. Collins's
side, and as many bows on Sir William's, they departed. As soon as they had driven
from the door, Elizabeth was called on by her cousin to give her opinion of all
that she had seen at Rosings, which, for Charlotte's sake, she made more favourable
than it really was. But her commendation, though costing her some trouble, could
by no means satisfy Mr. Collins, and he was very soon obliged to take her ladyship's
praise into his own hands.
<CHAPTER VII (30)>
SIR WILLIAM staid only a week at Hunsford; but his visit was long enough to convince
him of his daughter's being most comfortably settled, and of her possessing such
a husband and such a neighbour as were not often met with. While Sir William was
with them, Mr. Collins devoted his mornings to driving him out in his gig and shewing
him the country; but when he went away, the whole family returned to their usual
employments, and Elizabeth was thankful to find that they did not see more of her
cousin by the alteration, for the chief of the time between breakfast and dinner
was now passed by him either at work in the garden, or in reading and writing, and
looking out of window in his own book room, which fronted the road. The room in
which the ladies sat was backwards. Elizabeth at first had rather wondered that
Charlotte should not prefer the dining parlour for common use; it was a better sized
room, and had a pleasanter aspect; but she soon saw that her friend had an excellent
reason for what she did, for Mr. Collins would undoubtedly have been much less in
his own apartment, had they sat in one equally lively; and she gave Charlotte credit
for the arrangement.
From the drawing room they could distinguish nothing in the lane, and were indebted
to Mr. Collins for the knowledge of what carriages went along, and how often especially
Miss De Bourgh drove by in her phaeton, which he never failed coming to inform them
of, though it happened almost every day. She not unfrequently stopped at the Parsonage,
and had a few minutes' conversation with Charlotte, but was scarcely ever prevailed
on to get out.
Very few days passed in which Mr. Collins did not walk to Rosings, and not many
in which his wife did not think it necessary to go likewise; and till Elizabeth
recollected that there might be other family livings to be disposed of, she could
not understand the sacrifice of so many hours. Now and then, they were honoured
with a call from her ladyship, and nothing escaped her observation that was passing
in the room during these visits. She examined into their employments, looked at
their work, and advised them to do it differently; found fault with the arrangement
of the furniture, or detected the housemaid in negligence; and if she accepted any
refreshment, seemed to do it only for the sake of finding out that Mrs. Collins's
joints of meat were too large for her family.