Sir William Lucas stayed only a week at Hunsford, but his visit was long enough to convince him of his daughter's being most comfortably settled, and of her possessing such husband and such neighbour in person of Lady Catherine DeBourgh, as were not often met with. His departure to Hertfordshire left the Collinses with two young women: Miss Mariah Collins and Miss Elizabeth Bennet. The first fortnight of their visit soon passed away. Easter was approaching, and the week preceding it was to bring an addition to the family at Rosings, which in so small a circle must be important. Elizabeth had heard soon after her arrival that Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam were expected there in the course of a few weeks.
Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam were, according to Mr. Collins, Lady Catherine's nephews. The first one was an illustrious man who possessed an estate in Derbyshire and happened to be a son of Lady Catherine's sister, the second was a younger son of an earl, a brother to Lady Catherine. Both man had a habit of passing their Easters at Rosings and in the words of Mr. Collins, were extremely devoted to Lady Catherine. Elizabeth thought that Mr. Collins mistook obligation and manners for devotion but kept this reflection to herself, except for sharing it with her sister, Jane, in a letter:
If Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam make a journey to Rosings once a year then I suppose that it is not devotion but obligation that brings them here. I can hardly imagine any sensible person being truly devoted to Lady Catherine. She is the most overbearing person, I have ever met. Mr. Darcy and the Colonel are probably also members of the ton and so, I imagine, we will be excluded from the pleasure of spending evenings at Rosings, now that they have arrived. I cannot say that I am unhappy about it but I admit it was fascinating to observe Lady Catherine's fastidiousness and Mr. Collins's fawning. Anyway, with a bit of luck and if the gentlemen remain for a long enough period of time, I will not see Lady Catherine anymore except for the church...
At that moment, the door to the drawing-room opened and breathless Mr. Collins entered:
"Cousin Elizabeth! Cousin Elizabeth! They are come!"
"Who is come?"
"Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam, of course."
Mr. Collins was walking the whole morning within the view of the lodges opening into Hunsford Lane, in order to have the earliest assurance of the gentlemen's arrival and after making his bow as the carriage turned into he Park, hurried home with the great intelligence. Having informed Cousin Elizabeth of it, he hurried to find his wife who was busy with the cook. Meanwhile, Elizabeth returned to her letter:
Mr. Collins has just returned from his errand and informed the whole household of the arrival of the guests to Rosings. I confess that his effusions made me want to see them. Just like I wanted to see Miss DeBourgh and Lady Catherine, having heard about them so much. I sincerely hope for both gentlemen that Lady Catherine's traces of character do not run in the family or they will be the most insupportable men alive. I shall have the opportunity of seeing them the day after tomorrow at the church. I shall post this letter on Monday so that you will not be kept in suspense.
On the following morning, Mr. Collins hastened to Rosings to pay his respects and returned with the news that both gentlemen were interested in listening to his sermon on the morrow. This piece of information made Mr. Collins so elated that he spent the rest of the day drafting and redrafting it, asking Charlotte for opinion on every second sentence.
Sunday came and Elizabeth was looking forward to going to the church and listening to her cousin's sermon than she was ever before. They arrived earlier as was the custom. Elizabeth found a spot next to a tree on the left hand side of the church entrance which allowed her a good view of the yard. She was soon rewarded by the sight of Lady Catherine's carriage pulling down. A tall man descended first. He had noble mien and handsome features. He was followed by a fair-haired man who said something to the tall one and they both laughed. Before they could check their laughter, Lady Catherine's voice filled the air:
"What is it that you are laughing at, Fitzwilliam?"
The fair-haired man turned around and handed Lady Catherine out of the carriage, responding quietly to her ladyship. He then helped Miss DeBourgh.
"Darcy, please lead Anne to the church." Demanded Lady Catherine and the tall man turned around. Elizabeth was sure that for a split of a second, he raised his eyes to the sky and made a mute sigh. So much for devotion. thought Elizabeth and before she was able to check a smile that crept onto her face, she realised that Mr. Darcy was looking directly at her. His eyes lingered on her for what seemed a long time. She blushed but when she looked up again, he was by then occupied with leading Miss DeBourgh to the church. Behind them went Lady Catherine and the Colonel.
Mr. Collins's sermon, Elizabeth found longer and more boring than ever. This, however, gave her time to steal glances at Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam. The mass has finally ended and Mr. Collins and Charlotte bid goodbye to the parishioners.
"Mrs. Collins, I believe you have not met my nephews: Mr. Darcy," Darcy bowed in greeting, " and Colonel Fitzwilliam" continued Lady Catherine. The fair-haired man bowed as well.
"It is a pleasure to welcome you in the parish." Replied Charlotte. There was an awkward moment of silence before Charlotte realised that both men were looking at Elizabeth. "Forgive me, Gentlemen, may I present Mr. Collins's cousin, Miss Elizabeth Bennet of Longbourn, Hertfordshire and my sister, Mariah." Both gentlemen bowed in greeting, and the ladies returned the curtsey.
Feeling very unhappy that no one paid any attention to her, Lady Catherine said: "Mr. Collins, in your next sermon, do put more stress on the necessity of humble acceptance of one's life." Mr. Collins made a long speech in response to which nobody listened.
Upon their return to the Parsonage, Elizabeth went to finish her letter to Jane:
It is Sunday, just after church. I have met the illustrious Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam. Just as I have told you before, Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam are hardly devoted to their Aunt. It seems that there is nothing but a sense of obligation and proper manners that induce them to making the visit. I first saw Mr. Darcy as he stepped out of the carriage. He was followed by the Colonel. Both man are very handsome, each in his own way. Mr. Darcy is dark-haired and very tall. He was well-dressed in a dark blue suit that matched his eyes. Jane, please don't think that I have fallen in love with him but when he looked at me with that piercing look of his, I blushed. Dear Sister, imagine me blushing while being scrutinised by a stranger, a man. I felt so silly. He did not smile to encourage me. His face remained unchanged. He then looked away and led Miss DeBourgh in the direction of the church. I did not have a chance to speak to him but we were introduced. Dear Sister, I admit I stole a few glances at him during Mr. Collins's long sermon and he is handsome. There is haughtiness in him but that I surmise is the effect of his upbringing as the master of a large estate. The one thing I didn't like was the fact that when Lady Catherine wanted him escort her daughter, he raised his eyes to the sky and sighed. It looked quite ungentlemanlike but then if I were to spend days in Lady Catherine's company, I would be sighing as well. I must run now, for Charlotte is calling for dinner. I shall post this letter tomorrow, so that you can write me back with your thoughts on the gentlemen as soon as may be.
Just as Elizabeth predicted, the Parsonage party was excluded from the visits to Rosings, however it did not mean that the Rosings party forgot about them.
To the great surprise of all the party at Hunsford, Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam paid a visit to the Parsonage on Monday morning. Charlotte had seen them from her husband's room, crossing the road, and immediately running into the drawing room, told Elizabeth and Mariah what an honour they might expect. The approach of the gentlemen was announced by the doorbell, and shortly afterwards they entered the room. Mr. Collins who has managed to join the ladies before the arrival of the gentlemen, greeted Mr. Darcy and the Colonel effusively, making sure that they both heard well indeed how great an honour he considers to receive a call from them. Mr. Darcy looked slightly disgusted by Mr. Collins's behaviour but he fought with himself to cover that disgust. The Colonel, was about thirty and less handsome than his cousin but this he made up for with easy manners and charm. He entered into conversation directly with the readiness and ease of a well-bred man, and talked very pleasantly. Mr. Darcy, in turn, after having addressed a slight observation on the house and garden to Mrs. Collins, sat quietly, unless asked directly.
"Miss Bennet, so you are from Hertfordshire?" asked the Colonel.
"Indeed, I am."
"South -west. My father's estate lies near a little town of Meryton."
"Meryton? Darcy, isn't it near the place where your friend Bingley wants to lease an estate?"
"I honestly cannot remember." Replied Mr. Darcy.
"I think it was the name he mentioned when we were at your club. The estate was called Notfield ... Notford ... Netfield..." tried to remember the Colonel.
"Netherfield?" supplied Elizabeth.
"That's it. Do you know it?" asked he.
"Yes, it is not three miles from where I live."
This statement seemed to pick Mr. Darcy's interest.
"Are you familiar with it?" asked he.
"Yes. There is a rather large house and the grounds are enchanting. I remember my sister and I running to the great tree that grows between Longbourn and Netherfield.' Replied Elizabeth.
"I remember running to a chestnut tree that grew on the green, by the smithy in Lambton, a small town near Pemberley." Ventured Darcy and Elizabeth was sure that she caught a surprised look on the Colonel's face. "How many acres is there?" continued Darcy as if he did not notice look his cousin gave him.
"Must be about 100 acres"
"Was it inhabited lately?"
"Not for the last two seasons."
"The owner died and his heir, being not particularly interested in land, lives in London and prefers to lease it."
"Why not sell it then?"
"I believe he wouldn't mind selling it but there aren't many buyers." Replied Elizabeth.
"And how big is the house?" continued Darcy.
"It's half the size of Rosings and not as ... well furnished."
"But Mrs. Bennet always says that it has the best attics in the whole of Hertfordshire" added Mariah, causing everyone to laugh and Mariah to blush furiously.
The gentlemen soon bid their goodbyes and the Parsonage ladies began to discuss the visit.
Colonel Fitzwilliam's manners were very much admired at the Parsonage, and the ladies all felt that he must add considerably to any gathering. Mr. Darcy was much more enigmatic and the ladies agreed not to form any opinion before he be better known to them, however Charlotte was of the opinion that he looked at her friend a great deal. After lunch, it started to rain and Elizabeth went to her room to write a fresh account of the events to her sister:
I start another letter to you without receiving your response but there are interesting things happening here and I want to share with you all of it. Today, Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam paid us a visit at the Parsonage. The more I think about the visit, the less I can make out of our guests. Colonel Fitzwilliam is an amiable man with unassuming manners and a charming smile. He talks with ease about books and London and although I cannot find fault with him, it seems like something is missing in him. I cannot say what, and please do not think that I find him superfluous but... I just don't know what it is! Mr. Darcy is even harder to understand. He is quiet most of the time but I cannot stop thinking that he looks at me like I was an object of study, a fly that you observe as it buzzes and flies in circles. When he came, he made a comment or two to Charlotte and then lapsed into silence, only reacting when the conversation turned to Hertfordshire and the fact that some acquaintance of his, as the Colonel mentioned, wanted to lease Netherfield. Mr. Darcy was suddenly very interested in the estate and asked about it a great deal of questions.
Dearest Jane, will you think me silly when I tell you that I would like to get to know Mr. Darcy better? There is something in him that just makes me want to know more about him. Do you think I am falling in love with him? I hope not for he is not the sort of man I should be falling in love with.
Elizabeth put down the quill. The sun graced the Earth with its face again and Elizabeth decided to take a walk . She rambled in the park for quite a while already when she saw a hound coming her way and wagging his tail. The dog run to her and jumped to her chest. She fell down and the big, pink tongue started to lick her face. At first unhappy, she soon began laughing, trying to put the dog aside in order to get up. Before she was able to, she heard a familiar voice call: "Clarissa!" The dog turned around and ran to her master. Elizabeth sat up and saw Mr. Darcy approaching her fast.
"I am so sorry, Miss Bennet. Are you alright?" He helped her up. Her dress was a mess. There was mud all over it and straws of grass.
"Yes, I think I am. You have a very affectionate dog, Mr. Darcy."
"Yes. Clarissa can be very ... friendly." He grinned.
"You called your dog, Clarissa?"
"Yes, I thought it was funny."
"Is her sister Pamela?"
Darcy looked at her, obviously recognising the author she was referring to: "Yes. In fact, it was my sister's idea to call them that way. There is also Lovelace."
"May I escort you to the Parsonage?" asked he.
"Yes, thank you, Mr. Darcy." She smiled at him and he returned the smile offering her his arm.
"If truth be told, it's not my dog. It's my sister's gift to our cousin Anne." He said.
"Do you have many brothers and sisters?" asked she after a moment of silence.
"No, there is just Georgiana and myself."
"I have four other sisters."
"It must be good to have a large family."
"Yes and no as there is to everything. "
"True." He smiled knowingly.
"How old is your sister?"
"Do you spend a lot of time in Derbyshire?" asked she.
"And do you talk by rule, then, while you are walking?"
"Sometimes. One must speak a little you know. It would look odd to be entirely silent for half an hour together."
"What of the sounds of nature?" he asked but before Elizabeth could answer, Clarissa who appeared out of nowhere howled to attract Darcy's attention an both Darcy and Elizabeth erupted in laughter.
And so they reached the Parsonage.
"Goodness me, Lizzy! What happened to you? Mr. Darcy!" exclaimed Charlotte on seeing her.
"Mr. Darcy's dog wanted to get better acquainted with me." Replied Elizabeth.
"Miss Bennet, please accept my apologies for the terrible behaviour of Clarissa. She shall go to bed without supper tonight."
Elizabeth laughed heartily: "Please do not let your dog to starve because of me. I have already quite forgotten the incident."
Charlotte then invited Mr. Darcy to dinner but he had to decline as he was expected by his Aunt.
It is now Monday evening. wrote Elizabeth to Jane later that evening. It seems that I shall have my chance to get to know Mr. Darcy more. Since the above, I had a tête-à-tête with his dog and a pleasant walk with the master...
Elizabeth recounted the events of the afternoon to her sister.
... and so, fate put Mr. Darcy in my way. He has a wonderful toothy smile though he smiles far too little. I am not so sure now if he is fastidious, shy maybe. He is not as charming as the Colonel seems to be but one cannot possess all the qualities. Oh Jane, he is a very intriguing man.
I have just realised that I forgot to post my previous letter to you so I add this one and it shall go out tomorrow morning.
Elizabeth sealed the letter and left it on the dressing table. She put out the candle and having mounted the bed, fell asleep.
It was some days after Elizabeth's encounter with Mr. Darcy and Clarissa when an invitation to Rosings came. It was accepted of course, and at a proper hour the Parsonage party joined those gathered 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.
Colonel Fitzwilliam seemed really glad to see them and as for Darcy, Elizabeth could not guess. He greeted them with a smile and for a moment Elizabeth thought that the smile became warmer as he lifted his eyes towards her. Leaving Darcy in Lady Catherine's clutches, the Colonel seated himself by Elizabeth and talked agreeably of Kent, 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 that 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 Georgiana's proficiency and Elizabeth guessed that he was speaking of his sister.
"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 practise a great 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 piano forte 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 moving with his usual deliberation towards the piano forte, 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? But 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 with every attempt to intimidate me."
"Rest assured that I had no desire of frightening you. I merely wanted to spoil my cousin the pleasure of being the only one you pay your attention to."
Elizabeth blushed slightly and turned to the Colonel:
"Is you cousin always such flatterer?"
"I have to admit, I have not known this side of his character."
"Pray let me hear what you have to accuse him of," cried Elizabeth. "I should like to know how he usually behaves."
"My 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 consorting with a person so well able to expose my real character, among those among whom I had hoped to pass myself off with some degree of credit." Cut in Darcy.
"I am not afraid of you, Cousin" said the Colonel, smilingly.
There was a moment of silence and Elizabeth felt that Darcy was unhappy with the turn the conversation had taken, so she changed the subject:
"Well, gentlemen, what do I play next? My fingers await your orders."
"Darcy, here, is a strange fellow." Said the Colonel looking daringly at Darcy whose countenance remained unchanged. "For example, last month, we were at a ball. I must tell you, it is easier to find a diamond in the sand than Darcy at a ball - and at this ball, what do you think he did? He danced only four dances! I am sorry to pain you-but so it was. 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. 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." Retaliated the Colonel.
"Perhaps," said Darcy, "I should have sought an introduction, but I am ill qualified to recommend myself to strangers."
"And why is it that a man of sense and education, and who has lived in the world, is ill qualified to recommend himself to strangers?" asked Elizabeth challenging Darcy.
"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 would 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 any thing 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."
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.
The next morning Elizabeth sat by herself, reading a letter from Jane, while Mrs. Collins and Maria were gone on business into the village.
I was so glad to get a double letter from you this morning. I could barely contain myself until after breakfast to read it. My Aunt allowed me to stay at home to write back to you. Oh, dear sister, can this be that you have found someone you could love and respect? I know you have asked me not to presume you in love with Mr. Darcy but you wanting to get to know him better and finding him interesting... I like Mr. Darcy so much from your letter. He must be an honest sort of man. And the incident with his dog, you must have felt so silly, but think of him, how he must have felt, a master of a grand estate, a man of the world and suddenly he is brought down so abominably by his own dog. He must have felt it strongly. Poor man!
"Oh, Jane, only you can think about a stranger so much." Commented Elizabeth to herself.
She was suddenly 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, Colonel Fitzwilliam 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 to be within.
"I was walking the woods and with such fine a weather I thought I'd propose a walk." Ventured he.
"Indeed, it is a beautiful morning. I was planning on going out myself after reading a letter from my sister."
"Then, I have interrupted you."
"Not at all. It is always a pleasure to have company."
"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. And how do you find Rosings this year?"
"Much the same as it was the previous year and the year before it." Laughed he.
"You and Mr. Darcy come every year?"
"Darcy does but I am often called away ... on duty."
"So Mr. Darcy must be devoted to his Aunt."
"More likely to his upbringing. He rarely smiles when he comes here."
"From what you said last night, it seemed that Mr. Darcy is rather a quiet sort of person."
"I was jesting yesterday. He is a wonderful person with the people he is well acquainted with. He just tends to be..."
At that moment, Charlotte and Mariah returned and Elizabeth did not have the opportunity to learn more about Mr. Darcy.
The gentlemen from Rosings did not return to the Parsonage for the next two days and no invitation to Rosings was extended to the Collinses and their guests. Sunny afternoons, Elizabeth spent reading on a bench not far from the Parsonage. That afternoon she was reading Jane's letter:
London is as fascinating as ever. My aunt took me for a drive in the park yesterday and we all enjoyed the theatre in the evening - Much Ado About Nothing reminded me so much of us, and you in particular. My dearest sister, you and I are Beatrice and Hero. You and Beatrice possess the same wit and vivacity, while Hero possesses all the qualities that you accuse me of. She is polite, quiet, respectful, and gentle. Oh, Lizzy, is there a Benedick and Claudio for us?
"I sincerely hope so!" sighed Elizabeth.
"And what is it that you hope for, Miss Bennet?" a familiar voice came from behind.
"Mr. Darcy, I had no idea you were here!"
"Forgive me. I am afraid I interrupt your solitary ramble."
"You certainly do," she replied with a smile; "but it does not follow that the interruption must be unwelcome."
"I should be sorry indeed, if it were. You were reading?"
"Yes. A letter from my sister Jane."
"I hope your family is well."
"Yes, my mother writes me they are well. My sister Jane is in London. She visits my aunt and uncle."
"Do you often go to London?"
"But you enjoy it, when you are there?"
"I do. Especially the theatres and the bookshops."
"Do you like books?"
"I do. My father encouraged all of my sisters to read."
"Your favourite book?"
"There is so many of them. I could hardly tell which it is. There is something in every book that I find interesting, wise or simply charming. I could not decide on the one."
"I confess, I adore Shakespeare. My sister writes me that she went to see Much Ado About Nothing the other night."
"But Nature never framed a woman's heart
Of prouder stuff than that of Beatrice;
Disdain and scorn ride sparkling in her eyes,
Misprising what they look on, and her wit
Values itself so highly that to her
All matter else seems weak: she cannot love,
Nor take no shape nor project of affection,
She is so self-endeared."
"The words of Hero spoken by a man. You surprise me, Mr. Darcy, I was expecting a quote from Benedick."
"So that you could disdain me?"
"That wasn't my plan. Tease you, maybe."
"My cousin has done it again!" Colonel Fitzwilliam's exclamation.
"What have I done, pray?" asked Darcy.
"You had the pleasure of meeting Miss Bennet before me again."
"As much as I am sorry for you, I cannot say I am not glad."
"Well, now that I am here, I propose a walk. Clarissa needs some exercise or she'll become a sofa dog."
"Have no fear. This shall not happen at least as long as Lady Catherine has her say in Rosings." Replied Darcy. "Miss Bennet, I hope you bear Clarissa no ill will."
"Not at all. She is but a puppy."
They walked together, Clarissa running around them, fetching sticks that Darcy threw for her. Elizabeth and the Colonel conversed but Darcy remained silent.
That evening, Elizabeth sat to respond to her sister.
It is the third time I sit down to write to you this letter. So much is happening here that I started it before yours arrived. Now, I can finally respond to yours. I wish I could attend the theatre with you. I laughed heartily when I read that the two of us are like Hero and Beatrice. I am deeply convinced that you will find your Claudio. You cannot be so beautiful for nothing as Mother always tells us. As for my Benedick, well, with a bit of luck, I may meet another Mr. Collins for the Benedick's of this world, if they exist, seem to travel far from Hertfordshire.
I spent a pleasant afternoon in company of Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam, today. Mr. Darcy surprises me every time we meet. He is an intelligent, eloquent sort of man who if it pleases him, can add a lot to any conversation. The problem is that he chooses to do it very rarely. However, when he does, he can be witty and his smile is... well, it is hardly to be expressed... and I am at a loss for words.
Three days later the Parsonage party was invited to Rosings to bid farewell to the gentlemen. Elizabeth found that she was quite out of spirits that evening and although she continued a pleasant conversation with the Colonel, she glanced at Darcy every time she thought she was unobserved. He was quiet that evening and only while saying good-bye to her, she thought he held her hand for a moment too long.
... and so, Jane, I shall never see him again. We come from two different world, we move in different circles. No matter, how charming he may be, he shall not charm me ever again. I may be out of spirits for a few days but I shall return to my old self.
The two gentlemen left Rosings the next morning; and Mr. Collins having been in waiting near the lodges, to make them his parting obeisance, was able to bring home the pleasing intelligence of their appearing in very good health, and in as tolerable spirits as could be expected, after the melancholy scene so lately gone through at Rosings. To Rosings he then hastened to console Lady Catherine and her daughter; and on his return brought back, with great satisfaction, a message from her ladyship, importing that she felt herself so dull as to make her very desirous of having them all to dine with her.
Their first subject was the diminution of the Rosings party.-"I assure you, I feel it exceedingly," said Lady Catherine; "I believe nobody feels the loss of friends so much as I do. But I am particularly attached to these young men; and know them to be so much attached to me!-They were excessively sorry to go! But so they always are. The dear colonel rallied his spirits tolerably till just at last; but Darcy seemed to feel it most acutely, more I think than last year. His attachment to Rosings, certainly increases."
Lady Catherine observed, after dinner, that Miss Bennet seemed out of spirits; and immediately accounting for it herself, by supposing that she did not like to go home again so soon, she added,
"But if that is the case, you must write to your mother to beg that you may stay a little longer. Mrs. Collins will be very glad of your company, I am sure."
"I am much obliged to your ladyship for your kind invitation," replied Elizabeth, "but it is not in my power to accept it.-I must be in town next Saturday."
"Why, at that rate, you will have been here only six weeks. I expected you to stay two months. I told Mrs. Collins so before you came. There can be no occasion for your going so soon. Mrs. Bennet could certainly spare you for another fortnight."
"But my father cannot.-He wrote last week to hurry my return."
"Oh! your father of course may spare you, if your mother can.-Daughters are never of so much consequence to a father. And if you will stay another month complete, it will be in my power to take one of you as far as London, for I am going there early in June, for a week; and as Dawson does not object to the Barouche box, there will be very good room for one of you-and indeed, if the weather should happen to be cool, I should not object to taking you both, as you are neither of you large."
"You are all kindness, Madam; but I believe we must abide by our original plan."
Lady Catherine seemed resigned.
"Mrs. Collins, you must send a servant with them. You know I always speak my mind, and I cannot bear the idea of two young women travelling post by themselves. It is highly improper. You must contrive to send somebody. I have the greatest dislike in the world to that sort of thing.-Young women should always be properly guarded and attended, according to their situation in life. When my niece Georgiana went to Ramsgate last summer, I made a point of her having two men servants go with her.-Miss Darcy, the daughter of Mr. Darcy of Pemberley, and Lady Anne, could not have appeared with propriety in a different manner.-I am excessively attentive to all those things. You must send John with the young ladies, Mrs. Collins. I am glad it occurred to me to mention it; for it would really be discreditable to you to let them go alone."
"My uncle is to send a servant for us."
"Oh!-Your uncle!-He keeps a man-servant, does he?-I am very glad you have somebody who thinks of those things. Where shall you change horses?-Oh! Bromley, of course.-If you mention my name at the Bell, you will be attended to."
On Saturday the chaise arrived, the trunks were fastened on, the parcels placed within, and after an affectionate parting between the friends, Elizabeth was attended to the carriage by Mr. Collins, and as they walked down the garden, he was commissioning her with his best respects to all her family, not forgetting his thanks for the kindness he had received at Longbourn in the winter, and his compliments to Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, though unknown. He then handed her in, Mariah followed, and the door was on the point of being closed, when he suddenly reminded them, with some consternation, that they had hitherto forgotten to leave any message for the ladies at Rosings.
"But," he added, "you will of course wish to have your humble respects delivered to them, with your grateful thanks for their kindness to you while you have been here."
Elizabeth made no objection;-the door was then allowed to be shut, and the carriage drove off.
"Good gracious!" cried Mariah, after a few minutes silence, "it seems but a day or two since we first came!-and yet how many things have happened!"
"A great many indeed," said her companion with a sigh.
"We have dined nine times at Rosings, besides drinking tea there twice!-How much I shall have to tell!"
"Indeed, and to no one but Jane." Said Elizabeth to herself
Within four hours of their leaving Hunsford, they reached Mr. Gardiner's house, where they were to remain a few days. Jane and Elizabeth spent their first night together talking and the conversation left Jane in no doubt that Elizabeth had met with her Benedick. But Benedick was gone and not likely to return.