FictionForest

Chapter 33

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

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More than once did Elizabeth, in her
ramble within the park, unexpectedly meet Mr. Darcy. 
She felt all the perverseness of the mischance that
should bring him where no one else was brought, and,
to prevent its ever happening again, took care to
inform him at first that it was a favourite haunt
of hers.  How it could occur a second time, therefore,
was very odd!  Yet it did, and even a third. 
It seemed like wilful ill-nature, or a voluntary penance,
for on these occasions it was not merely a few formal
inquiries and an awkward pause and then away, but
he actually thought it necessary to turn back and walk
with her.  He never said a great deal, nor did
she give herself the trouble of talking or of listening
much; but it struck her in the course of their third
rencontre that he was asking some odd unconnected questions ­about
her pleasure in being at Hunsford, her love of solitary
walks, and her opinion of Mr. and Mrs. Collins’s
happiness; and that in speaking of Rosings and her
not perfectly understanding the house, he seemed to
expect that whenever she came into Kent again she would
be staying there too.  His words seemed
to imply it.  Could he have Colonel Fitzwilliam
in his thoughts?  She supposed, if he meant anything,
he must mean an allusion to what might arise in that
quarter.  It distressed her a little, and she
was quite glad to find herself at the gate in the
pales opposite the Parsonage.

She was engaged one day as she walked,
in perusing Jane’s last letter, and dwelling
on some passages which proved that Jane had not written
in spirits, when, instead of being again surprised
by Mr. Darcy, she saw on looking up that Colonel Fitzwilliam
was meeting her.  Putting away the letter immediately
and forcing a smile, she said: 

“I did not know before that you ever walked
this way.”

“I have been making the tour
of the park,” he replied, “as I generally
do every year, and intend to close it with a call at
the Parsonage.  Are you going much farther?”

“No, I should have turned in a moment.”

And accordingly she did turn, and
they walked towards the Parsonage together.

“Do you certainly leave Kent on Saturday?”
said she.

“Yes ­if Darcy does
not put it off again.  But I am at his disposal. 
He arranges the business just as he pleases.”

“And if not able to please himself
in the arrangement, he has at least pleasure in the
great power of choice.  I do not know anybody who
seems more to enjoy the power of doing what he likes
than Mr. Darcy.”

“He likes to have his own way
very well,” replied Colonel Fitzwilliam. 
“But so we all do.  It is only that he has
better means of having it than many others, because
he is rich, and many others are poor.  I speak
feelingly.  A younger son, you know, must be inured
to self-denial and dependence.”

“In my opinion, the younger
son of an earl can know very little of either. 
Now seriously, what have you ever known of self-denial
and dependence?  When have you been prevented
by want of money from going wherever you chose, or
procuring anything you had a fancy for?”

“These are home questions ­and
perhaps I cannot say that I have experienced many
hardships of that nature.  But in matters of greater
weight, I may suffer from want of money.  Younger
sons cannot marry where they like.”

“Unless where they like women
of fortune, which I think they very often do.”

“Our habits of expense make
us too dependent, and there are not many in my rank
of life who can afford to marry without some attention
to money.”

“Is this,” thought Elizabeth,
“meant for me?” and she coloured at the
idea; but, recovering herself, said in a lively tone,
“And pray, what is the usual price of an earl’s
younger son?  Unless the elder brother is very
sickly, I suppose you would not ask above fifty thousand
pounds.”

He answered her in the same style,
and the subject dropped.  To interrupt a silence
which might make him fancy her affected with what had
passed, she soon afterwards said: 

“I imagine your cousin brought
you down with him chiefly for the sake of having someone
at his disposal.  I wonder he does not marry, to
secure a lasting convenience of that kind.  But,
perhaps, his sister does as well for the present,
and, as she is under his sole care, he may do what
he likes with her.”

“No,” said Colonel Fitzwilliam,
“that is an advantage which he must divide with
me.  I am joined with him in the guardianship of
Miss Darcy.”

“Are you indeed?  And pray
what sort of guardians do you make?  Does your
charge give you much trouble?  Young ladies of
her age are sometimes a little difficult to manage,
and if she has the true Darcy spirit, she may like
to have her own way.”

As she spoke she observed him looking
at her earnestly; and the manner in which he immediately
asked her why she supposed Miss Darcy likely to give
them any uneasiness, convinced her that she had somehow
or other got pretty near the truth.  She directly
replied: 

“You need not be frightened. 
I never heard any harm of her; and I dare say she
is one of the most tractable creatures in the world. 
She is a very great favourite with some ladies of
my acquaintance, Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley. 
I think I have heard you say that you know them.”

“I know them a little. 
Their brother is a pleasant gentlemanlike man ­he
is a great friend of Darcy’s.”

“Oh! yes,” said Elizabeth
drily; “Mr. Darcy is uncommonly kind to Mr.
Bingley, and takes a prodigious deal of care of him.”

“Care of him!  Yes, I really
believe Darcy does take care of him in those
points where he most wants care.  From something
that he told me in our journey hither, I have reason
to think Bingley very much indebted to him.  But
I ought to beg his pardon, for I have no right to suppose
that Bingley was the person meant.  It was all
conjecture.”

“What is it you mean?”

“It is a circumstance which
Darcy could not wish to be generally known, because
if it were to get round to the lady’s family,
it would be an unpleasant thing.”

“You may depend upon my not mentioning it.”

“And remember that I have not
much reason for supposing it to be Bingley.  What
he told me was merely this:  that he congratulated
himself on having lately saved a friend from the inconveniences
of a most imprudent marriage, but without mentioning
names or any other particulars, and I only suspected
it to be Bingley from believing him the kind of young
man to get into a scrape of that sort, and from knowing
them to have been together the whole of last summer.”

“Did Mr. Darcy give you reasons for this interference?”

“I understood that there were
some very strong objections against the lady.”

“And what arts did he use to separate them?”

“He did not talk to me of his
own arts,” said Fitzwilliam, smiling.  “He
only told me what I have now told you.”

Elizabeth made no answer, and walked
on, her heart swelling with indignation.  After
watching her a little, Fitzwilliam asked her why she
was so thoughtful.

“I am thinking of what you have
been telling me,” said she.  “Your
cousin’s conduct does not suit my feelings. 
Why was he to be the judge?”

“You are rather disposed to
call his interference officious?”

“I do not see what right Mr.
Darcy had to decide on the propriety of his friend’s
inclination, or why, upon his own judgement alone,
he was to determine and direct in what manner his
friend was to be happy.  But,” she continued,
recollecting herself, “as we know none of the
particulars, it is not fair to condemn him.  It
is not to be supposed that there was much affection
in the case.”

“That is not an unnatural surmise,”
said Fitzwilliam, “but it is a lessening of
the honour of my cousin’s triumph very sadly.”

This was spoken jestingly; but it
appeared to her so just a picture of Mr. Darcy, that
she would not trust herself with an answer, and therefore,
abruptly changing the conversation talked on indifferent
matters until they reached the Parsonage.  There,
shut into her own room, as soon as their visitor left
them, she could think without interruption of all
that she had heard.  It was not to be supposed
that any other people could be meant than those with
whom she was connected.  There could not exist
in the world two men over whom Mr. Darcy could
have such boundless influence.  That he had been
concerned in the measures taken to separate Bingley
and Jane she had never doubted; but she had always
attributed to Miss Bingley the principal design and
arrangement of them.  If his own vanity, however,
did not mislead him, he was the cause, his
pride and caprice were the cause, of all that Jane
had suffered, and still continued to suffer. 
He had ruined for a while every hope of happiness
for the most affectionate, generous heart in the world;
and no one could say how lasting an evil he might have
inflicted.

“There were some very strong
objections against the lady,” were Colonel Fitzwilliam’s
words; and those strong objections probably were, her
having one uncle who was a country attorney, and another
who was in business in London.

“To Jane herself,” she
exclaimed, “there could be no possibility of
objection; all loveliness and goodness as she is! ­her
understanding excellent, her mind improved, and her
manners captivating.  Neither could anything be
urged against my father, who, though with some peculiarities,
has abilities Mr. Darcy himself need not disdain, and
respectability which he will probably never reach.” 
When she thought of her mother, her confidence gave
way a little; but she would not allow that any objections
there had material weight with Mr. Darcy, whose
pride, she was convinced, would receive a deeper wound
from the want of importance in his friend’s
connections, than from their want of sense; and she
was quite decided, at last, that he had been partly
governed by this worst kind of pride, and partly by
the wish of retaining Mr. Bingley for his sister.

The agitation and tears which the
subject occasioned, brought on a headache; and it
grew so much worse towards the evening, that, added
to her unwillingness to see Mr. Darcy, it determined
her not to attend her cousins to Rosings, where they
were engaged to drink tea.  Mrs. Collins, seeing
that she was really unwell, did not press her to go
and as much as possible prevented her husband from
pressing her; but Mr. Collins could not conceal his
apprehension of Lady Catherine’s being rather
displeased by her staying at home.

 

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