FictionForest

Chapter 32

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

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Elizabeth was sitting by herself the
next morning, and writing to Jane while Mrs. Collins
and Maria were gone on business into the village,
when she was startled by a ring at the door, the certain
signal of a visitor.  As she had heard no carriage,
she thought it not unlikely to be Lady Catherine,
and under that apprehension was putting away her half-finished
letter that she might escape all impertinent questions,
when the door opened, and, to her very great surprise,
Mr. Darcy, and Mr. Darcy only, entered the room.

He seemed astonished too on finding
her alone, and apologised for his intrusion by letting
her know that he had understood all the ladies were
to be within.

They then sat down, and when her inquiries
after Rosings were made, seemed in danger of sinking
into total silence.  It was absolutely necessary,
therefore, to think of something, and in this emergence
recollecting when she had seen him last in Hertfordshire,
and feeling curious to know what he would say on the
subject of their hasty departure, she observed: 

“How very suddenly you all quitted
Netherfield last November, Mr. Darcy!  It must
have been a most agreeable surprise to Mr. Bingley
to see you all after him so soon; for, if I recollect
right, he went but the day before.  He and his
sisters were well, I hope, when you left London?”

“Perfectly so, I thank you.”

She found that she was to receive
no other answer, and, after a short pause added: 

“I think I have understood that
Mr. Bingley has not much idea of ever returning to
Netherfield again?”

“I have never heard him say
so; but it is probable that he may spend very little
of his time there in the future.  He has many friends,
and is at a time of life when friends and engagements
are continually increasing.”

“If he means to be but little
at Netherfield, it would be better for the neighbourhood
that he should give up the place entirely, for then
we might possibly get a settled family there. 
But, perhaps, Mr. Bingley did not take the house so
much for the convenience of the neighbourhood as for
his own, and we must expect him to keep it or quit
it on the same principle.”

“I should not be surprised,”
said Darcy, “if he were to give it up as soon
as any eligible purchase offers.”

Elizabeth made no answer.  She
was afraid of talking longer of his friend; and, having
nothing else to say, was now determined to leave the
trouble of finding a subject to him.

He took the hint, and soon began with,
“This seems a very comfortable house.  Lady
Catherine, I believe, did a great deal to it when Mr.
Collins first came to Hunsford.”

“I believe she did ­and
I am sure she could not have bestowed her kindness
on a more grateful object.”

“Mr. Collins appears to be very
fortunate in his choice of a wife.”

“Yes, indeed, his friends may
well rejoice in his having met with one of the very
few sensible women who would have accepted him, or
have made him happy if they had.  My friend has
an excellent understanding ­though I am
not certain that I consider her marrying Mr. Collins
as the wisest thing she ever did.  She seems perfectly
happy, however, and in a prudential light it is certainly
a very good match for her.”

“It must be very agreeable for
her to be settled within so easy a distance of her
own family and friends.”

“An easy distance, do you call
it?  It is nearly fifty miles.”

“And what is fifty miles of
good road?  Little more than half a day’s
journey.  Yes, I call it a very easy distance.”

“I should never have considered
the distance as one of the advantages of the
match,” cried Elizabeth.  “I should
never have said Mrs. Collins was settled near
her family.”

“It is a proof of your own attachment
to Hertfordshire.  Anything beyond the very neighbourhood
of Longbourn, I suppose, would appear far.”

As he spoke there was a sort of smile
which Elizabeth fancied she understood; he must be
supposing her to be thinking of Jane and Netherfield,
and she blushed as she answered: 

“I do not mean to say that a
woman may not be settled too near her family. 
The far and the near must be relative, and depend on
many varying circumstances.  Where there is fortune
to make the expenses of travelling unimportant, distance
becomes no evil.  But that is not the case here
Mr. and Mrs. Collins have a comfortable income, but
not such a one as will allow of frequent journeys ­and
I am persuaded my friend would not call herself near
her family under less than half the present
distance.”

Mr. Darcy drew his chair a little
towards her, and said, “You cannot have
a right to such very strong local attachment. You
cannot have been always at Longbourn.”

Elizabeth looked surprised.  The
gentleman experienced some change of feeling; he drew
back his chair, took a newspaper from the table, and
glancing over it, said, in a colder voice: 

“Are you pleased with Kent?”

A short dialogue on the subject of
the country ensued, on either side calm and concise ­and
soon put an end to by the entrance of Charlotte and
her sister, just returned from her walk.  The tete-a-tete
surprised them.  Mr. Darcy related the mistake
which had occasioned his intruding on Miss Bennet,
and after sitting a few minutes longer without saying
much to anybody, went away.

“What can be the meaning of
this?” said Charlotte, as soon as he was gone. 
“My dear, Eliza, he must be in love with you,
or he would never have called us in this familiar
way.”

But when Elizabeth told of his silence;
it did not seem very likely, even to Charlotte’s
wishes, to be the case; and after various conjectures,
they could at last only suppose his visit to proceed
from the difficulty of finding anything to do, which
was the more probable from the time of year. 
All field sports were over.  Within doors there
was Lady Catherine, books, and a billiard-table, but
gentlemen cannot always be within doors; and in the
nearness of the Parsonage, or the pleasantness of
the walk to it, or of the people who lived in it, the
two cousins found a temptation from this period of
walking thither almost every day.  They called
at various times of the morning, sometimes separately,
sometimes together, and now and then accompanied by
their aunt.  It was plain to them all that Colonel
Fitzwilliam came because he had pleasure in their
society, a persuasion which of course recommended
him still more; and Elizabeth was reminded by her own
satisfaction in being with him, as well as by his
evident admiration of her, of her former favourite
George Wickham; and though, in comparing them, she
saw there was less captivating softness in Colonel
Fitzwilliam’s manners, she believed he might
have the best informed mind.

But why Mr. Darcy came so often to
the Parsonage, it was more difficult to understand. 
It could not be for society, as he frequently sat there
ten minutes together without opening his lips; and
when he did speak, it seemed the effect of necessity
rather than of choice ­a sacrifice to propriety,
not a pleasure to himself.  He seldom appeared
really animated.  Mrs. Collins knew not what to
make of him.  Colonel Fitzwilliam’s occasionally
laughing at his stupidity, proved that he was generally
different, which her own knowledge of him could not
have told her; and as she would liked to have believed
this change the effect of love, and the object of
that love her friend Eliza, she set herself seriously
to work to find it out.  She watched him whenever
they were at Rosings, and whenever he came to Hunsford;
but without much success.  He certainly looked
at her friend a great deal, but the expression of that
look was disputable.  It was an earnest, steadfast
gaze, but she often doubted whether there were much
admiration in it, and sometimes it seemed nothing
but absence of mind.

She had once or twice suggested to
Elizabeth the possibility of his being partial to
her, but Elizabeth always laughed at the idea; and
Mrs. Collins did not think it right to press the subject,
from the danger of raising expectations which might
only end in disappointment; for in her opinion it
admitted not of a doubt, that all her friend’s
dislike would vanish, if she could suppose him to
be in her power.

In her kind schemes for Elizabeth,
she sometimes planned her marrying Colonel Fitzwilliam. 
He was beyond comparison the most pleasant man; he
certainly admired her, and his situation in life was
most eligible; but, to counterbalance these advantages,
Mr. Darcy had considerable patronage in the church,
and his cousin could have none at all.

 

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