Read & Download Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen ebook, pdf, epub txt

Read & Download Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen ebook, pdf, epub txt

Chapter 57

The discomposure of spirits which this extraordinary visit
threw Elizabeth into, could not be easily overcome; nor
could she, for many hours, learn to think of it less than
incessantly. Lady Catherine, it appeared, had actually taken
the trouble of this journey from Rosings, for the sole purpose
of breaking off her supposed engagement with Mr. Darcy. It was
a rational scheme, to be sure! but from what the report of
their engagement could originate, Elizabeth was at a loss to
imagine; till she recollected that _his_ being the intimate
friend of Bingley, and _her_ being the sister of Jane, was
enough, at a time when the expectation of one wedding made
everybody eager for another, to supply the idea. She had not
herself forgotten to feel that the marriage of her sister must
bring them more frequently together. And her neighbours at
Lucas Lodge, therefore (for through their communication with
the Collinses, the report, she concluded, had reached lady
Catherine), had only set that down as almost certain and
immediate, which she had looked forward to as possible at
some future time.

In revolving Lady Catherine’s expressions, however, she could
not help feeling some uneasiness as to the possible consequence
of her persisting in this interference. From what she had said
of her resolution to prevent their marriage, it occurred to
Elizabeth that she must meditate an application to her nephew;
and how _he_ might take a similar representation of the evils
attached to a connection with her, she dared not pronounce.
She knew not the exact degree of his affection for his aunt, or
his dependence on her judgment, but it was natural to suppose
that he thought much higher of her ladyship than _she_ could
do; and it was certain that, in enumerating the miseries of a
marriage with _one_, whose immediate connections were so unequal
to his own, his aunt would address him on his weakest side.
With his notions of dignity, he would probably feel that the
arguments, which to Elizabeth had appeared weak and ridiculous,
contained much good sense and solid reasoning.

If he had been wavering before as to what he should do, which
had often seemed likely, the advice and entreaty of so near a
relation might settle every doubt, and determine him at once to
be as happy as dignity unblemished could make him. In that
case he would return no more. Lady Catherine might see him in
her way through town; and his engagement to Bingley of coming
again to Netherfield must give way.

“If, therefore, an excuse for not keeping his promise should
come to his friend within a few days,” she added, “I shall
know how to understand it. I shall then give over every
expectation, every wish of his constancy. If he is satisfied
with only regretting me, when he might have obtained my
affections and hand, I shall soon cease to regret him at all.”

* * * * *

The surprise of the rest of the family, on hearing who their
visitor had been, was very great; but they obligingly satisfied
it, with the same kind of supposition which had appeased
Mrs. Bennet’s curiosity; and Elizabeth was spared from much
teasing on the subject.

The next morning, as she was going downstairs, she was met by
her father, who came out of his library with a letter in his
hand.

“Lizzy,” said he, “I was going to look for you; come into my
room.”

She followed him thither; and her curiosity to know what he
had to tell her was heightened by the supposition of its being
in some manner connected with the letter he held. It suddenly
struck her that it might be from Lady Catherine; and she
anticipated with dismay all the consequent explanations.

She followed her father to the fire place, and they both sat
down. He then said,

“I have received a letter this morning that has astonished me
exceedingly. As it principally concerns yourself, you ought
to know its contents. I did not know before, that I had two
daughters on the brink of matrimony. Let me congratulate you
on a very important conquest.”

The colour now rushed into Elizabeth’s cheeks in the instantaneous
conviction of its being a letter from the nephew, instead of the
aunt; and she was undetermined whether most to be pleased that
he explained himself at all, or offended that his letter was not
rather addressed to herself; when her father continued:

“You look conscious. Young ladies have great penetration in
such matters as these; but I think I may defy even _your_
sagacity, to discover the name of your admirer. This letter
is from Mr. Collins.”

“From Mr. Collins! and what can _he_ have to say?”

“Something very much to the purpose of course. He begins with
congratulations on the approaching nuptials of my eldest daughter,
of which, it seems, he has been told by some of the good-natured,
gossiping Lucases. I shall not sport with your impatience, by
reading what he says on that point. What relates to yourself, is
as follows: ‘Having thus offered you the sincere congratulations
of Mrs. Collins and myself on this happy event, let me now add
a short hint on the subject of another; of which we have been
advertised by the same authority. Your daughter Elizabeth, it is
presumed, will not long bear the name of Bennet, after her elder
sister has resigned it, and the chosen partner of her fate may be
reasonably looked up to as one of the most illustrious personages
in this land.’

“Can you possibly guess, Lizzy, who is meant by this?” ‘This
young gentleman is blessed, in a peculiar way, with every thing
the heart of mortal can most desire,–splendid property,
noble kindred, and extensive patronage. Yet in spite of all
these temptations, let me warn my cousin Elizabeth, and
yourself, of what evils you may incur by a precipitate closure
with this gentleman’s proposals, which, of course, you will be
inclined to take immediate advantage of.’

“Have you any idea, Lizzy, who this gentleman is? But now it
comes out:

“‘My motive for cautioning you is as follows. We have reason to
imagine that his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, does not look
on the match with a friendly eye.’

“_Mr. Darcy_, you see, is the man! Now, Lizzy, I think I
_have_ surprised you. Could he, or the Lucases, have pitched
on any man within the circle of our acquaintance, whose name
would have given the lie more effectually to what they related?
Mr. Darcy, who never looks at any woman but to see a blemish,
and who probably never looked at you in his life! It is
admirable!”

Elizabeth tried to join in her father’s pleasantry, but could
only force one most reluctant smile. Never had his wit been
directed in a manner so little agreeable to her.

“Are you not diverted?”

“Oh! yes. Pray read on.”

“‘After mentioning the likelihood of this marriage to her ladyship
last night, she immediately, with her usual condescension,
expressed what she felt on the occasion; when it became apparent,
that on the score of some family objections on the part of my
cousin, she would never give her consent to what she termed so
disgraceful a match. I thought it my duty to give the speediest
intelligence of this to my cousin, that she and her noble
admirer may be aware of what they are about, and not run
hastily into a marriage which has not been properly sanctioned.’
Mr. Collins moreover adds, ‘I am truly rejoiced that my cousin
Lydia’s sad business has been so well hushed up, and am only
concerned that their living together before the marriage took
place should be so generally known. I must not, however,
neglect the duties of my station, or refrain from declaring my
amazement at hearing that you received the young couple into
your house as soon as they were married. It was an encouragement
of vice; and had I been the rector of Longbourn, I should very
strenuously have opposed it. You ought certainly to forgive them,
as a Christian, but never to admit them in your sight, or allow
their names to be mentioned in your hearing.’ That is his notion
of Christian forgiveness! The rest of his letter is only about
his dear Charlotte’s situation, and his expectation of a young
olive-branch. But, Lizzy, you look as if you did not enjoy it.
You are not going to be _missish_, I hope, and pretend to be
affronted at an idle report. For what do we live, but to make
sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?”

“Oh!” cried Elizabeth, “I am excessively diverted. But it is
so strange!”

“Yes–_that_ is what makes it amusing. Had they fixed on any other
man it would have been nothing; but _his_ perfect indifference,
and _your_ pointed dislike, make it so delightfully absurd! Much
as I abominate writing, I would not give up Mr. Collins’s
correspondence for any consideration. Nay, when I read a letter
of his, I cannot help giving him the preference even over Wickham,
much as I value the impudence and hypocrisy of my son-in-law.
And pray, Lizzy, what said Lady Catherine about this report?
Did she call to refuse her consent?”

To this question his daughter replied only with a laugh; and
as it had been asked without the least suspicion, she was not
distressed by his repeating it. Elizabeth had never been
more at a loss to make her feelings appear what they were not.
It was necessary to laugh, when she would rather have cried.
Her father had most cruelly mortified her, by what he said of
Mr. Darcy’s indifference, and she could do nothing but wonder
at such a want of penetration, or fear that perhaps, instead
of his seeing too little, she might have fancied too much.

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