FictionForest

Chapter 31

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

Light off Small Medium Large

Colonel Fitzwilliam’s manners
were very much admired at the Parsonage, and the ladies
all felt that he must add considerably to the pleasures
of their engagements at Rosings.  It was some days,
however, before they received any invitation thither ­for
while there were visitors in the house, they could
not be necessary; and it was not till Easter-day,
almost a week after the gentlemen’s arrival,
that they were honoured by such an attention, and
then they were merely asked on leaving church to come
there in the evening.  For the last week they had
seen very little of Lady Catherine or her daughter. 
Colonel Fitzwilliam had called at the Parsonage more
than once during the time, but Mr. Darcy they had seen
only at church.

The invitation was accepted of course,
and at a proper hour they joined the party in Lady
Catherine’s drawing-room.  Her ladyship received
them civilly, but it was plain that their company was
by no means so acceptable as when she could get nobody
else; and she was, in fact, almost engrossed by her
nephews, speaking to them, especially to Darcy, much
more than to any other person in the room.

Colonel Fitzwilliam seemed really
glad to see them; anything was a welcome relief to
him at Rosings; and Mrs. Collins’s pretty friend
had moreover caught his fancy very much.  He now
seated himself by her, and talked so agreeably of
Kent and Hertfordshire, of travelling and staying
at home, of new books and music, that Elizabeth had
never been half so well entertained in that room before;
and they conversed with so much spirit and flow, as
to draw the attention of Lady Catherine herself, as
well as of Mr. Darcy. His eyes had been soon
and repeatedly turned towards them with a look of
curiosity; and that her ladyship, after a while, shared
the feeling, was more openly acknowledged, for she
did not scruple to call out: 

“What is that you are saying,
Fitzwilliam?  What is it you are talking of? 
What are you telling Miss Bennet?  Let me hear
what it is.”

“We are speaking of music, madam,”
said he, when no longer able to avoid a reply.

“Of music!  Then pray speak
aloud.  It is of all subjects my delight. 
I must have my share in the conversation if you are
speaking of music.  There are few people in England,
I suppose, who have more true enjoyment of music than
myself, or a better natural taste.  If I had ever
learnt, I should have been a great proficient. 
And so would Anne, if her health had allowed her to
apply.  I am confident that she would have performed
delightfully.  How does Georgiana get on, Darcy?”

Mr. Darcy spoke with affectionate
praise of his sister’s proficiency.

“I am very glad to hear such
a good account of her,” said Lady Catherine;
“and pray tell her from me, that she cannot expect
to excel if she does not practice a good deal.”

“I assure you, madam,”
he replied, “that she does not need such advice. 
She practises very constantly.”

“So much the better.  It
cannot be done too much; and when I next write to
her, I shall charge her not to neglect it on any account. 
I often tell young ladies that no excellence in music
is to be acquired without constant practice. 
I have told Miss Bennet several times, that she will
never play really well unless she practises more; and
though Mrs. Collins has no instrument, she is very
welcome, as I have often told her, to come to Rosings
every day, and play on the pianoforte in Mrs. Jenkinson’s
room.  She would be in nobody’s way, you
know, in that part of the house.”

Mr. Darcy looked a little ashamed
of his aunt’s ill-breeding, and made no answer.

When coffee was over, Colonel Fitzwilliam
reminded Elizabeth of having promised to play to him;
and she sat down directly to the instrument.  He
drew a chair near her.  Lady Catherine listened
to half a song, and then talked, as before, to her
other nephew; till the latter walked away from her,
and making with his usual deliberation towards the
pianoforte stationed himself so as to command a full
view of the fair performer’s countenance. 
Elizabeth saw what he was doing, and at the first
convenient pause, turned to him with an arch smile,
and said: 

“You mean to frighten me, Mr.
Darcy, by coming in all this state to hear me? 
I will not be alarmed though your sister does
play so well.  There is a stubbornness about me
that never can bear to be frightened at the will of
others.  My courage always rises at every attempt
to intimidate me.”

“I shall not say you are mistaken,”
he replied, “because you could not really believe
me to entertain any design of alarming you; and I have
had the pleasure of your acquaintance long enough to
know that you find great enjoyment in occasionally
professing opinions which in fact are not your own.”

Elizabeth laughed heartily at this
picture of herself, and said to Colonel Fitzwilliam,
“Your cousin will give you a very pretty notion
of me, and teach you not to believe a word I say. 
I am particularly unlucky in meeting with a person
so able to expose my real character, in a part of
the world where I had hoped to pass myself off with
some degree of credit.  Indeed, Mr. Darcy, it
is very ungenerous in you to mention all that you
knew to my disadvantage in Hertfordshire ­and,
give me leave to say, very impolitic too ­for
it is provoking me to retaliate, and such things may
come out as will shock your relations to hear.”

“I am not afraid of you,” said he, smilingly.

“Pray let me hear what you have
to accuse him of,” cried Colonel Fitzwilliam. 
“I should like to know how he behaves among strangers.”

“You shall hear then ­but
prepare yourself for something very dreadful. 
The first time of my ever seeing him in Hertfordshire,
you must know, was at a ball ­and at this
ball, what do you think he did?  He danced only
four dances, though gentlemen were scarce; and, to
my certain knowledge, more than one young lady was
sitting down in want of a partner.  Mr. Darcy,
you cannot deny the fact.”

“I had not at that time the
honour of knowing any lady in the assembly beyond
my own party.”

“True; and nobody can ever be
introduced in a ball-room.  Well, Colonel Fitzwilliam,
what do I play next?  My fingers wait your orders.”

“Perhaps,” said Darcy,
“I should have judged better, had I sought an
introduction; but I am ill-qualified to recommend myself
to strangers.”

“Shall we ask your cousin the
reason of this?” said Elizabeth, still addressing
Colonel Fitzwilliam.  “Shall we ask him why
a man of sense and education, and who has lived in
the world, is ill qualified to recommend himself to
strangers?”

“I can answer your question,”
said Fitzwilliam, “without applying to him. 
It is because he will not give himself the trouble.”

“I certainly have not the talent
which some people possess,” said Darcy, “of
conversing easily with those I have never seen before. 
I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear
interested in their concerns, as I often see done.”

“My fingers,” said Elizabeth,
“do not move over this instrument in the masterly
manner which I see so many women’s do.  They
have not the same force or rapidity, and do not produce
the same expression.  But then I have always supposed
it to be my own fault ­because I will not
take the trouble of practising.  It is not that
I do not believe my fingers as capable as any
other woman’s of superior execution.”

Darcy smiled and said, “You
are perfectly right.  You have employed your time
much better.  No one admitted to the privilege
of hearing you can think anything wanting.  We
neither of us perform to strangers.”

Here they were interrupted by Lady
Catherine, who called out to know what they were talking
of.  Elizabeth immediately began playing again. 
Lady Catherine approached, and, after listening for
a few minutes, said to Darcy: 

“Miss Bennet would not play
at all amiss if she practised more, and could have
the advantage of a London master.  She has a very
good notion of fingering, though her taste is not
equal to Anne’s.  Anne would have been a
delightful performer, had her health allowed her to
learn.”

Elizabeth looked at Darcy to see how
cordially he assented to his cousin’s praise;
but neither at that moment nor at any other could she
discern any symptom of love; and from the whole of
his behaviour to Miss de Bourgh she derived this comfort
for Miss Bingley, that he might have been just as
likely to marry her, had she been his relation.

Lady Catherine continued her remarks
on Elizabeth’s performance, mixing with them
many instructions on execution and taste.  Elizabeth
received them with all the forbearance of civility,
and, at the request of the gentlemen, remained at
the instrument till her ladyship’s carriage was
ready to take them all home.

 

Leave a Reply