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As no objection was made to the young people's engagement with their aunt,
and all Mr. Collins's scruples of leaving Mr. and Mrs. Bennet for a single
evening during his visit were most steadily resisted, the coach conveyed
him and his five cousins at a suitable hour to Meryton; and the girls had
the pleasure of hearing, as they entered the drawing-room, that Mr.
Wickham had accepted their uncle's invitation, and was then in the house.
When this information was given, and they had all taken their seats, Mr.
Collins was at leisure to look around him and admire, and he was so much
struck with the size and furniture of the apartment, that he declared he
might almost have supposed himself in the small summer breakfast parlour
at Rosings; a comparison that did not at first convey much gratification;
but when Mrs. Phillips understood from him what Rosings was, and who was
its proprietor—when she had listened to the description of only one
of Lady Catherine's drawing-rooms, and found that the chimney-piece alone
had cost eight hundred pounds, she felt all the force of the compliment,
and would hardly have resented a comparison with the housekeeper's room.
In describing to her all the grandeur of Lady Catherine and her mansion,
with occasional digressions in praise of his own humble abode, and the
improvements it was receiving, he was happily employed until the gentlemen
joined them; and he found in Mrs. Phillips a very attentive listener,
whose opinion of his consequence increased with what she heard, and who
was resolving to retail it all among her neighbours as soon as she could.
To the girls, who could not listen to their cousin, and who had nothing to
do but to wish for an instrument, and examine their own indifferent
imitations of china on the mantelpiece, the interval of waiting appeared
very long. It was over at last, however. The gentlemen did approach, and
when Mr. Wickham walked into the room, Elizabeth felt that she had neither
been seeing him before, nor thinking of him since, with the smallest
degree of unreasonable admiration. The officers of the ——shire
were in general a very creditable, gentlemanlike set, and the best of them
were of the present party; but Mr. Wickham was as far beyond them all in
person, countenance, air, and walk, as <i>they</i> were superior to the
broad-faced, stuffy uncle Phillips, breathing port wine, who followed them
into the room.
Mr. Wickham was the happy man towards whom almost every female eye was
turned, and Elizabeth was the happy woman by whom he finally seated
himself; and the agreeable manner in which he immediately fell into
conversation, though it was only on its being a wet night, made her feel
that the commonest, dullest, most threadbare topic might be rendered
interesting by the skill of the speaker.
With such rivals for the notice of the fair as Mr. Wickham and the
officers, Mr. Collins seemed to sink into insignificance; to the young
ladies he certainly was nothing; but he had still at intervals a kind
listener in Mrs. Phillips, and was by her watchfulness, most abundantly
supplied with coffee and muffin. When the card-tables were placed, he had
the opportunity of obliging her in turn, by sitting down to whist.
"I know little of the game at present," said he, "but I shall be glad to
improve myself, for in my situation in life—" Mrs. Phillips was very
glad for his compliance, but could not wait for his reason.
Mr. Wickham did not play at whist, and with ready delight was he received
at the other table between Elizabeth and Lydia. At first there seemed
danger of Lydia's engrossing him entirely, for she was a most determined
talker; but being likewise extremely fond of lottery tickets, she soon
grew too much interested in the game, too eager in making bets and
exclaiming after prizes to have attention for anyone in particular.
Allowing for the common demands of the game, Mr. Wickham was therefore at
leisure to talk to Elizabeth, and she was very willing to hear him, though
what she chiefly wished to hear she could not hope to be told—the
history of his acquaintance with Mr. Darcy. She dared not even mention
that gentleman. Her curiosity, however, was unexpectedly relieved. Mr.
Wickham began the subject himself. He inquired how far Netherfield was
from Meryton; and, after receiving her answer, asked in a hesitating
manner how long Mr. Darcy had been staying there.
"About a month," said Elizabeth; and then, unwilling to let the subject
drop, added, "He is a man of very large property in Derbyshire, I
"Yes," replied Mr. Wickham; "his estate there is a noble one. A clear ten
thousand per annum. You could not have met with a person more capable of
giving you certain information on that head than myself, for I have been
connected with his family in a particular manner from my infancy."
Elizabeth could not but look surprised.
"You may well be surprised, Miss Bennet, at such an assertion, after
seeing, as you probably might, the very cold manner of our meeting
yesterday. Are you much acquainted with Mr. Darcy?"
"As much as I ever wish to be," cried Elizabeth very warmly. "I have spent
four days in the same house with him, and I think him very disagreeable."
"I have no right to give <i>my</i> opinion," said Wickham, "as to his
being agreeable or otherwise. I am not qualified to form one. I have known
him too long and too well to be a fair judge. It is impossible for <i>me</i>
to be impartial. But I believe your opinion of him would in general
astonish—and perhaps you would not express it quite so strongly
anywhere else. Here you are in your own family."
"Upon my word, I say no more <i>here</i> than I might say in any house in
the neighbourhood, except Netherfield. He is not at all liked in
Hertfordshire. Everybody is disgusted with his pride. You will not find
him more favourably spoken of by anyone."
"I cannot pretend to be sorry," said Wickham, after a short interruption,
"that he or that any man should not be estimated beyond their deserts; but
with <i>him</i> I believe it does not often happen. The world is blinded
by his fortune and consequence, or frightened by his high and imposing
manners, and sees him only as he chooses to be seen."
"I should take him, even on <i>my</i> slight acquaintance, to be an
ill-tempered man." Wickham only shook his head.
"I wonder," said he, at the next opportunity of speaking, "whether he is
likely to be in this country much longer."
"I do not at all know; but I <i>heard</i> nothing of his going away when I
was at Netherfield. I hope your plans in favour of the ——shire
will not be affected by his being in the neighbourhood."
"Oh! no—it is not for <i>me</i> to be driven away by Mr. Darcy. If
<i>he</i> wishes to avoid seeing <i>me</i>, he must go. We are not on
friendly terms, and it always gives me pain to meet him, but I have no
reason for avoiding <i>him</i> but what I might proclaim before all the
world, a sense of very great ill-usage, and most painful regrets at his
being what he is. His father, Miss Bennet, the late Mr. Darcy, was one of
the best men that ever breathed, and the truest friend I ever had; and I
can never be in company with this Mr. Darcy without being grieved to the
soul by a thousand tender recollections. His behaviour to myself has been
scandalous; but I verily believe I could forgive him anything and
everything, rather than his disappointing the hopes and disgracing the
memory of his father."
Elizabeth found the interest of the subject increase, and listened with
all her heart; but the delicacy of it prevented further inquiry.
Mr. Wickham began to speak on more general topics, Meryton, the
neighbourhood, the society, appearing highly pleased with all that he had
yet seen, and speaking of the latter with gentle but very intelligible
"It was the prospect of constant society, and good society," he added,
"which was my chief inducement to enter the ——shire. I knew it
to be a most respectable, agreeable corps, and my friend Denny tempted me
further by his account of their present quarters, and the very great
attentions and excellent acquaintances Meryton had procured them. Society,
I own, is necessary to me. I have been a disappointed man, and my spirits
will not bear solitude. I <i>must</i> have employment and society. A
military life is not what I was intended for, but circumstances have now
made it eligible. The church <i>ought</i> to have been my profession—I
was brought up for the church, and I should at this time have been in
possession of a most valuable living, had it pleased the gentleman we were
speaking of just now."
"Yes—the late Mr. Darcy bequeathed me the next presentation of the
best living in his gift. He was my godfather, and excessively attached to
me. I cannot do justice to his kindness. He meant to provide for me amply,
and thought he had done it; but when the living fell, it was given
"Good heavens!" cried Elizabeth; "but how could <i>that</i> be? How could
his will be disregarded? Why did you not seek legal redress?"
"There was just such an informality in the terms of the bequest as to give
me no hope from law. A man of honour could not have doubted the intention,
but Mr. Darcy chose to doubt it—or to treat it as a merely
conditional recommendation, and to assert that I had forfeited all claim
to it by extravagance, imprudence—in short anything or nothing.
Certain it is, that the living became vacant two years ago, exactly as I
was of an age to hold it, and that it was given to another man; and no
less certain is it, that I cannot accuse myself of having really done
anything to deserve to lose it. I have a warm, unguarded temper, and I may
have spoken my opinion <i>of</i> him, and <i>to</i> him, too freely. I can
recall nothing worse. But the fact is, that we are very different sort of
men, and that he hates me."
"This is quite shocking! He deserves to be publicly disgraced."
"Some time or other he <i>will</i> be—but it shall not be by <i>me</i>.
Till I can forget his father, I can never defy or expose <i>him</i>."
Elizabeth honoured him for such feelings, and thought him handsomer than
ever as he expressed them.
"But what," said she, after a pause, "can have been his motive? What can
have induced him to behave so cruelly?"
"A thorough, determined dislike of me—a dislike which I cannot but
attribute in some measure to jealousy. Had the late Mr. Darcy liked me
less, his son might have borne with me better; but his father's uncommon
attachment to me irritated him, I believe, very early in life. He had not
a temper to bear the sort of competition in which we stood—the sort
of preference which was often given me."
"I had not thought Mr. Darcy so bad as this—though I have never
liked him. I had not thought so very ill of him. I had supposed him to be
despising his fellow-creatures in general, but did not suspect him of
descending to such malicious revenge, such injustice, such inhumanity as
After a few minutes' reflection, however, she continued, "I <i>do</i>
remember his boasting one day, at Netherfield, of the implacability of his
resentments, of his having an unforgiving temper. His disposition must be
"I will not trust myself on the subject," replied Wickham; "I can hardly
be just to him."
Elizabeth was again deep in thought, and after a time exclaimed, "To treat
in such a manner the godson, the friend, the favourite of his father!" She
could have added, "A young man, too, like <i>you</i>, whose very
countenance may vouch for your being amiable"—but she contented
herself with, "and one, too, who had probably been his companion from
childhood, connected together, as I think you said, in the closest
"We were born in the same parish, within the same park; the greatest part
of our youth was passed together; inmates of the same house, sharing the
same amusements, objects of the same parental care. <i>My</i> father began
life in the profession which your uncle, Mr. Phillips, appears to do so
much credit to—but he gave up everything to be of use to the late
Mr. Darcy and devoted all his time to the care of the Pemberley property.
He was most highly esteemed by Mr. Darcy, a most intimate, confidential
friend. Mr. Darcy often acknowledged himself to be under the greatest
obligations to my father's active superintendence, and when, immediately
before my father's death, Mr. Darcy gave him a voluntary promise of
providing for me, I am convinced that he felt it to be as much a debt of
gratitude to <i>him</i>, as of his affection to myself."
"How strange!" cried Elizabeth. "How abominable! I wonder that the very
pride of this Mr. Darcy has not made him just to you! If from no better
motive, that he should not have been too proud to be dishonest—for
dishonesty I must call it."
"It <i>is</i> wonderful," replied Wickham, "for almost all his actions may
be traced to pride; and pride had often been his best friend. It has
connected him nearer with virtue than with any other feeling. But we are
none of us consistent, and in his behaviour to me there were stronger
impulses even than pride."
"Can such abominable pride as his have ever done him good?"
"Yes. It has often led him to be liberal and generous, to give his money
freely, to display hospitality, to assist his tenants, and relieve the
poor. Family pride, and <i>filial</i> pride—for he is very proud of
what his father was—have done this. Not to appear to disgrace his
family, to degenerate from the popular qualities, or lose the influence of
the Pemberley House, is a powerful motive. He has also <i>brotherly</i>
pride, which, with <i>some</i> brotherly affection, makes him a very kind
and careful guardian of his sister, and you will hear him generally cried
up as the most attentive and best of brothers."
"What sort of girl is Miss Darcy?"
He shook his head. "I wish I could call her amiable. It gives me pain to
speak ill of a Darcy. But she is too much like her brother—very,
very proud. As a child, she was affectionate and pleasing, and extremely
fond of me; and I have devoted hours and hours to her amusement. But she
is nothing to me now. She is a handsome girl, about fifteen or sixteen,
and, I understand, highly accomplished. Since her father's death, her home
has been London, where a lady lives with her, and superintends her
After many pauses and many trials of other subjects, Elizabeth could not
help reverting once more to the first, and saying:
"I am astonished at his intimacy with Mr. Bingley! How can Mr. Bingley,
who seems good humour itself, and is, I really believe, truly amiable, be
in friendship with such a man? How can they suit each other? Do you know
"Not at all."
"He is a sweet-tempered, amiable, charming man. He cannot know what Mr.
"Probably not; but Mr. Darcy can please where he chooses. He does not want
abilities. He can be a conversible companion if he thinks it worth his
while. Among those who are at all his equals in consequence, he is a very
different man from what he is to the less prosperous. His pride never
deserts him; but with the rich he is liberal-minded, just, sincere,
rational, honourable, and perhaps agreeable—allowing something for
fortune and figure."
The whist party soon afterwards breaking up, the players gathered round
the other table and Mr. Collins took his station between his cousin
Elizabeth and Mrs. Phillips. The usual inquiries as to his success was
made by the latter. It had not been very great; he had lost every point;
but when Mrs. Phillips began to express her concern thereupon, he assured
her with much earnest gravity that it was not of the least importance,
that he considered the money as a mere trifle, and begged that she would
not make herself uneasy.
"I know very well, madam," said he, "that when persons sit down to a
card-table, they must take their chances of these things, and happily I am
not in such circumstances as to make five shillings any object. There are
undoubtedly many who could not say the same, but thanks to Lady Catherine
de Bourgh, I am removed far beyond the necessity of regarding little
Mr. Wickham's attention was caught; and after observing Mr. Collins for a
few moments, he asked Elizabeth in a low voice whether her relation was
very intimately acquainted with the family of de Bourgh.
"Lady Catherine de Bourgh," she replied, "has very lately given him a
living. I hardly know how Mr. Collins was first introduced to her notice,
but he certainly has not known her long."
"You know of course that Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Lady Anne Darcy were
sisters; consequently that she is aunt to the present Mr. Darcy."
"No, indeed, I did not. I knew nothing at all of Lady Catherine's
connections. I never heard of her existence till the day before
"Her daughter, Miss de Bourgh, will have a very large fortune, and it is
believed that she and her cousin will unite the two estates."
This information made Elizabeth smile, as she thought of poor Miss
Bingley. Vain indeed must be all her attentions, vain and useless her
affection for his sister and her praise of himself, if he were already
self-destined for another.
"Mr. Collins," said she, "speaks highly both of Lady Catherine and her
daughter; but from some particulars that he has related of her ladyship, I
suspect his gratitude misleads him, and that in spite of her being his
patroness, she is an arrogant, conceited woman."
"I believe her to be both in a great degree," replied Wickham; "I have not
seen her for many years, but I very well remember that I never liked her,
and that her manners were dictatorial and insolent. She has the reputation
of being remarkably sensible and clever; but I rather believe she derives
part of her abilities from her rank and fortune, part from her
authoritative manner, and the rest from the pride for her nephew, who
chooses that everyone connected with him should have an understanding of
the first class."
Elizabeth allowed that he had given a very rational account of it, and
they continued talking together, with mutual satisfaction till supper put
an end to cards, and gave the rest of the ladies their share of Mr.
Wickham's attentions. There could be no conversation in the noise of Mrs.
Phillips's supper party, but his manners recommended him to everybody.
Whatever he said, was said well; and whatever he did, done gracefully.
Elizabeth went away with her head full of him. She could think of nothing
but of Mr. Wickham, and of what he had told her, all the way home; but
there was not time for her even to mention his name as they went, for
neither Lydia nor Mr. Collins were once silent. Lydia talked incessantly
of lottery tickets, of the fish she had lost and the fish she had won; and
Mr. Collins in describing the civility of Mr. and Mrs. Phillips,
protesting that he did not in the least regard his losses at whist,
enumerating all the dishes at supper, and repeatedly fearing that he
crowded his cousins, had more to say than he could well manage before the
carriage stopped at Longbourn House.