FictionForest

Chapter 15

Jane AustenAug 15, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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Mr. Collins was not a sensible man,
and the deficiency of nature had been but little assisted
by education or society; the greatest part of his
life having been spent under the guidance of an illiterate
and miserly father; and though he belonged to one
of the universities, he had merely kept the necessary
terms, without forming at it any useful acquaintance. 
The subjection in which his father had brought him
up had given him originally great humility of manner;
but it was now a good deal counteracted by the self-conceit
of a weak head, living in retirement, and the consequential
feelings of early and unexpected prosperity. 
A fortunate chance had recommended him to Lady Catherine
de Bourgh when the living of Hunsford was vacant;
and the respect which he felt for her high rank, and
his veneration for her as his patroness, mingling
with a very good opinion of himself, of his authority
as a clergyman, and his right as a rector, made him
altogether a mixture of pride and obsequiousness,
self-importance and humility.

Having now a good house and a very
sufficient income, he intended to marry; and in seeking
a reconciliation with the Longbourn family he had
a wife in view, as he meant to choose one of the daughters,
if he found them as handsome and amiable as they were
represented by common report.  This was his plan
of amends ­of atonement ­for inheriting
their father’s estate; and he thought it an
excellent one, full of eligibility and suitableness,
and excessively generous and disinterested on his own
part.

His plan did not vary on seeing them. 
Miss Bennet’s lovely face confirmed his views,
and established all his strictest notions of what
was due to seniority; and for the first evening she
was his settled choice.  The next morning, however,
made an alteration; for in a quarter of an hour’s
tete-a-tete with Mrs. Bennet before breakfast, a conversation
beginning with his parsonage-house, and leading naturally
to the avowal of his hopes, that a mistress might be
found for it at Longbourn, produced from her, amid
very complaisant smiles and general encouragement,
a caution against the very Jane he had fixed on. 
“As to her younger daughters, she could
not take upon her to say ­she could not
positively answer ­but she did not know
of any prepossession; her eldest daughter,
she must just mention ­she felt it incumbent
on her to hint, was likely to be very soon engaged.”

Mr. Collins had only to change from
Jane to Elizabeth ­and it was soon done ­done
while Mrs. Bennet was stirring the fire.  Elizabeth,
equally next to Jane in birth and beauty, succeeded
her of course.

Mrs. Bennet treasured up the hint,
and trusted that she might soon have two daughters
married; and the man whom she could not bear to speak
of the day before was now high in her good graces.

Lydia’s intention of walking
to Meryton was not forgotten; every sister except
Mary agreed to go with her; and Mr. Collins was to
attend them, at the request of Mr. Bennet, who was
most anxious to get rid of him, and have his library
to himself; for thither Mr. Collins had followed him
after breakfast; and there he would continue, nominally
engaged with one of the largest folios in the collection,
but really talking to Mr. Bennet, with little cessation,
of his house and garden at Hunsford.  Such doings
discomposed Mr. Bennet exceedingly.  In his library
he had been always sure of leisure and tranquillity;
and though prepared, as he told Elizabeth, to meet
with folly and conceit in every other room of the
house, he was used to be free from them there; his
civility, therefore, was most prompt in inviting Mr.
Collins to join his daughters in their walk; and Mr.
Collins, being in fact much better fitted for a walker
than a reader, was extremely pleased to close his large
book, and go.

In pompous nothings on his side, and
civil assents on that of his cousins, their time passed
till they entered Meryton.  The attention of the
younger ones was then no longer to be gained by him. 
Their eyes were immediately wandering up in the street
in quest of the officers, and nothing less than a
very smart bonnet indeed, or a really new muslin in
a shop window, could recall them.

But the attention of every lady was
soon caught by a young man, whom they had never seen
before, of most gentlemanlike appearance, walking
with another officer on the other side of the way. 
The officer was the very Mr. Denny concerning whose
return from London Lydia came to inquire, and he bowed
as they passed.  All were struck with the stranger’s
air, all wondered who he could be; and Kitty and Lydia,
determined if possible to find out, led the way across
the street, under pretense of wanting something in
an opposite shop, and fortunately had just gained
the pavement when the two gentlemen, turning back,
had reached the same spot.  Mr. Denny addressed
them directly, and entreated permission to introduce
his friend, Mr. Wickham, who had returned with him
the day before from town, and he was happy to say had
accepted a commission in their corps.  This was
exactly as it should be; for the young man wanted
only regimentals to make him completely charming. 
His appearance was greatly in his favour; he had all
the best part of beauty, a fine countenance, a good
figure, and very pleasing address.  The introduction
was followed up on his side by a happy readiness of
conversation ­a readiness at the same time
perfectly correct and unassuming; and the whole party
were still standing and talking together very agreeably,
when the sound of horses drew their notice, and Darcy
and Bingley were seen riding down the street. 
On distinguishing the ladies of the group, the two
gentlemen came directly towards them, and began the
usual civilities.  Bingley was the principal spokesman,
and Miss Bennet the principal object.  He was
then, he said, on his way to Longbourn on purpose
to inquire after her.  Mr. Darcy corroborated
it with a bow, and was beginning to determine not to
fix his eyes on Elizabeth, when they were suddenly
arrested by the sight of the stranger, and Elizabeth
happening to see the countenance of both as they looked
at each other, was all astonishment at the effect of
the meeting.  Both changed colour, one looked
white, the other red.  Mr. Wickham, after a few
moments, touched his hat ­a salutation which
Mr. Darcy just deigned to return.  What could
be the meaning of it?  It was impossible to imagine;
it was impossible not to long to know.

In another minute, Mr. Bingley, but
without seeming to have noticed what passed, took
leave and rode on with his friend.

Mr. Denny and Mr. Wickham walked with
the young ladies to the door of Mr. Phillip’s
house, and then made their bows, in spite of Miss Lydia’s
pressing entreaties that they should come in, and even
in spite of Mrs. Phillips’s throwing up the
parlour window and loudly seconding the invitation.

Mrs. Phillips was always glad to see
her nieces; and the two eldest, from their recent
absence, were particularly welcome, and she was eagerly
expressing her surprise at their sudden return home,
which, as their own carriage had not fetched them,
she should have known nothing about, if she had not
happened to see Mr. Jones’s shop-boy in the
street, who had told her that they were not to send
any more draughts to Netherfield because the Miss
Bennets were come away, when her civility was claimed
towards Mr. Collins by Jane’s introduction of
him.  She received him with her very best politeness,
which he returned with as much more, apologising for
his intrusion, without any previous acquaintance with
her, which he could not help flattering himself, however,
might be justified by his relationship to the young
ladies who introduced him to her notice.  Mrs.
Phillips was quite awed by such an excess of good
breeding; but her contemplation of one stranger was
soon put to an end by exclamations and inquiries about
the other; of whom, however, she could only tell her
nieces what they already knew, that Mr. Denny had
brought him from London, and that he was to have a
lieutenant’s commission in the ­shire. 
She had been watching him the last hour, she said,
as he walked up and down the street, and had Mr. Wickham
appeared, Kitty and Lydia would certainly have continued
the occupation, but unluckily no one passed windows
now except a few of the officers, who, in comparison
with the stranger, were become “stupid, disagreeable
fellows.”  Some of them were to dine with
the Phillipses the next day, and their aunt promised
to make her husband call on Mr. Wickham, and give
him an invitation also, if the family from Longbourn
would come in the evening.  This was agreed to,
and Mrs. Phillips protested that they would have a
nice comfortable noisy game of lottery tickets, and
a little bit of hot supper afterwards.  The prospect
of such delights was very cheering, and they parted
in mutual good spirits.  Mr. Collins repeated
his apologies in quitting the room, and was assured
with unwearying civility that they were perfectly needless.

As they walked home, Elizabeth related
to Jane what she had seen pass between the two gentlemen;
but though Jane would have defended either or both,
had they appeared to be in the wrong, she could no
more explain such behaviour than her sister.

Mr. Collins on his return highly gratified
Mrs. Bennet by admiring Mrs. Phillips’s manners
and politeness.  He protested that, except Lady
Catherine and her daughter, he had never seen a more
elegant woman; for she had not only received him with
the utmost civility, but even pointedly included him
in her invitation for the next evening, although utterly
unknown to her before.  Something, he supposed,
might be attributed to his connection with them, but
yet he had never met with so much attention in the
whole course of his life.

 

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