FictionForest

Chapter 28

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

Light off Small Medium Large

Every object in the next day’s
journey was new and interesting to Elizabeth; and
her spirits were in a state of enjoyment; for she had
seen her sister looking so well as to banish all fear
for her health, and the prospect of her northern tour
was a constant source of delight.

When they left the high road for the
lane to Hunsford, every eye was in search of the Parsonage,
and every turning expected to bring it in view. 
The palings of Rosings Park was their boundary on one
side.  Elizabeth smiled at the recollection of
all that she had heard of its inhabitants.

At length the Parsonage was discernible. 
The garden sloping to the road, the house standing
in it, the green pales, and the laurel hedge, everything
declared they were arriving.  Mr. Collins and Charlotte
appeared at the door, and the carriage stopped at the
small gate which led by a short gravel walk to the
house, amidst the nods and smiles of the whole party. 
In a moment they were all out of the chaise, rejoicing
at the sight of each other.  Mrs. Collins welcomed
her friend with the liveliest pleasure, and Elizabeth
was more and more satisfied with coming when she found
herself so affectionately received.  She saw instantly
that her cousin’s manners were not altered by
his marriage; his formal civility was just what it
had been, and he detained her some minutes at the
gate to hear and satisfy his inquiries after all her
family.  They were then, with no other delay than
his pointing out the neatness of the entrance, taken
into the house; and as soon as they were in the parlour,
he welcomed them a second time, with ostentatious
formality to his humble abode, and punctually repeated
all his wife’s offers of refreshment.

Elizabeth was prepared to see him
in his glory; and she could not help in fancying that
in displaying the good proportion of the room, its
aspect and its furniture, he addressed himself particularly
to her, as if wishing to make her feel what she had
lost in refusing him.  But though everything seemed
neat and comfortable, she was not able to gratify
him by any sigh of repentance, and rather looked with
wonder at her friend that she could have so cheerful
an air with such a companion.  When Mr. Collins
said anything of which his wife might reasonably be
ashamed, which certainly was not unseldom, she involuntarily
turned her eye on Charlotte.  Once or twice she
could discern a faint blush; but in general Charlotte
wisely did not hear.  After sitting long enough
to admire every article of furniture in the room,
from the sideboard to the fender, to give an account
of their journey, and of all that had happened in
London, Mr. Collins invited them to take a stroll in
the garden, which was large and well laid out, and
to the cultivation of which he attended himself. 
To work in this garden was one of his most respectable
pleasures; and Elizabeth admired the command of countenance
with which Charlotte talked of the healthfulness of
the exercise, and owned she encouraged it as much
as possible.  Here, leading the way through every
walk and cross walk, and scarcely allowing them an
interval to utter the praises he asked for, every view
was pointed out with a minuteness which left beauty
entirely behind.  He could number the fields in
every direction, and could tell how many trees there
were in the most distant clump.  But of all the
views which his garden, or which the country or kingdom
could boast, none were to be compared with the prospect
of Rosings, afforded by an opening in the trees that
bordered the park nearly opposite the front of his
house.  It was a handsome modern building, well
situated on rising ground.

From his garden, Mr. Collins would
have led them round his two meadows; but the ladies,
not having shoes to encounter the remains of a white
frost, turned back; and while Sir William accompanied
him, Charlotte took her sister and friend over the
house, extremely well pleased, probably, to have the
opportunity of showing it without her husband’s
help.  It was rather small, but well built and
convenient; and everything was fitted up and arranged
with a neatness and consistency of which Elizabeth
gave Charlotte all the credit.  When Mr. Collins
could be forgotten, there was really an air of great
comfort throughout, and by Charlotte’s evident
enjoyment of it, Elizabeth supposed he must be often
forgotten.

She had already learnt that Lady Catherine
was still in the country.  It was spoken of again
while they were at dinner, when Mr. Collins joining
in, observed: 

“Yes, Miss Elizabeth, you will
have the honour of seeing Lady Catherine de Bourgh
on the ensuing Sunday at church, and I need not say
you will be delighted with her.  She is all affability
and condescension, and I doubt not but you will be
honoured with some portion of her notice when service
is over.  I have scarcely any hesitation in saying
she will include you and my sister Maria in every
invitation with which she honours us during your stay
here.  Her behaviour to my dear Charlotte is charming. 
We dine at Rosings twice every week, and are never
allowed to walk home.  Her ladyship’s carriage
is regularly ordered for us.  I should
say, one of her ladyship’s carriages, for she
has several.”

“Lady Catherine is a very respectable,
sensible woman indeed,” added Charlotte, “and
a most attentive neighbour.”

“Very true, my dear, that is
exactly what I say.  She is the sort of woman
whom one cannot regard with too much deference.”

The evening was spent chiefly in talking
over Hertfordshire news, and telling again what had
already been written; and when it closed, Elizabeth,
in the solitude of her chamber, had to meditate upon
Charlotte’s degree of contentment, to understand
her address in guiding, and composure in bearing with,
her husband, and to acknowledge that it was all done
very well.  She had also to anticipate how her
visit would pass, the quiet tenor of their usual employments,
the vexatious interruptions of Mr. Collins, and the
gaieties of their intercourse with Rosings.  A
lively imagination soon settled it all.

About the middle of the next day,
as she was in her room getting ready for a walk, a
sudden noise below seemed to speak the whole house
in confusion; and, after listening a moment, she heard
somebody running upstairs in a violent hurry, and
calling loudly after her.  She opened the door
and met Maria in the landing place, who, breathless
with agitation, cried out ­

“Oh, my dear Eliza! pray make
haste and come into the dining-room, for there is
such a sight to be seen!  I will not tell you what
it is.  Make haste, and come down this moment.”

Elizabeth asked questions in vain;
Maria would tell her nothing more, and down they ran
into the dining-room, which fronted the lane, in quest
of this wonder; It was two ladies stopping in a low
phaeton at the garden gate.

“And is this all?” cried
Elizabeth.  “I expected at least that the
pigs were got into the garden, and here is nothing
but Lady Catherine and her daughter.”

“La! my dear,” said Maria,
quite shocked at the mistake, “it is not Lady
Catherine.  The old lady is Mrs. Jenkinson, who
lives with them; the other is Miss de Bourgh. 
Only look at her.  She is quite a little creature. 
Who would have thought that she could be so thin and
small?”

“She is abominably rude to keep
Charlotte out of doors in all this wind.  Why
does she not come in?”

“Oh, Charlotte says she hardly
ever does.  It is the greatest of favours when
Miss de Bourgh comes in.”

“I like her appearance,”
said Elizabeth, struck with other ideas.  “She
looks sickly and cross.  Yes, she will do for him
very well.  She will make him a very proper wife.”

Mr. Collins and Charlotte were both
standing at the gate in conversation with the ladies;
and Sir William, to Elizabeth’s high diversion,
was stationed in the doorway, in earnest contemplation
of the greatness before him, and constantly bowing
whenever Miss de Bourgh looked that way.

At length there was nothing more to
be said; the ladies drove on, and the others returned
into the house.  Mr. Collins no sooner saw the
two girls than he began to congratulate them on their
good fortune, which Charlotte explained by letting
them know that the whole party was asked to dine at
Rosings the next day.

 

Leave a Reply