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.