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The discomposure of spirits which this extraordinary visit threw Elizabeth
into, could not be easily overcome; nor could she, for many hours, learn
to think of it less than incessantly. Lady Catherine, it appeared, had
actually taken the trouble of this journey from Rosings, for the sole
purpose of breaking off her supposed engagement with Mr. Darcy. It was a
rational scheme, to be sure! but from what the report of their engagement
could originate, Elizabeth was at a loss to imagine; till she recollected
that <i>his</i> being the intimate friend of Bingley, and <i>her</i> being
the sister of Jane, was enough, at a time when the expectation of one
wedding made everybody eager for another, to supply the idea. She had not
herself forgotten to feel that the marriage of her sister must bring them
more frequently together. And her neighbours at Lucas Lodge, therefore
(for through their communication with the Collinses, the report, she
concluded, had reached Lady Catherine), had only set that down as almost
certain and immediate, which she had looked forward to as possible at some
In revolving Lady Catherine's expressions, however, she could not help
feeling some uneasiness as to the possible consequence of her persisting
in this interference. From what she had said of her resolution to prevent
their marriage, it occurred to Elizabeth that she must meditate an
application to her nephew; and how <i>he</i> might take a similar
representation of the evils attached to a connection with her, she dared
not pronounce. She knew not the exact degree of his affection for his
aunt, or his dependence on her judgment, but it was natural to suppose
that he thought much higher of her ladyship than <i>she</i> could do; and
it was certain that, in enumerating the miseries of a marriage with <i>one</i>,
whose immediate connections were so unequal to his own, his aunt would
address him on his weakest side. With his notions of dignity, he would
probably feel that the arguments, which to Elizabeth had appeared weak and
ridiculous, contained much good sense and solid reasoning.
If he had been wavering before as to what he should do, which had often
seemed likely, the advice and entreaty of so near a relation might settle
every doubt, and determine him at once to be as happy as dignity
unblemished could make him. In that case he would return no more. Lady
Catherine might see him in her way through town; and his engagement to
Bingley of coming again to Netherfield must give way.
"If, therefore, an excuse for not keeping his promise should come to his
friend within a few days," she added, "I shall know how to understand it.
I shall then give over every expectation, every wish of his constancy. If
he is satisfied with only regretting me, when he might have obtained my
affections and hand, I shall soon cease to regret him at all."
The surprise of the rest of the family, on hearing who their visitor had
been, was very great; but they obligingly satisfied it, with the same kind
of supposition which had appeased Mrs. Bennet's curiosity; and Elizabeth
was spared from much teasing on the subject.
The next morning, as she was going downstairs, she was met by her father,
who came out of his library with a letter in his hand.
"Lizzy," said he, "I was going to look for you; come into my room."
She followed him thither; and her curiosity to know what he had to tell
her was heightened by the supposition of its being in some manner
connected with the letter he held. It suddenly struck her that it might be
from Lady Catherine; and she anticipated with dismay all the consequent
She followed her father to the fire place, and they both sat down. He then
"I have received a letter this morning that has astonished me exceedingly.
As it principally concerns yourself, you ought to know its contents. I did
not know before, that I had two daughters on the brink of matrimony. Let
me congratulate you on a very important conquest."
The colour now rushed into Elizabeth's cheeks in the instantaneous
conviction of its being a letter from the nephew, instead of the aunt; and
she was undetermined whether most to be pleased that he explained himself
at all, or offended that his letter was not rather addressed to herself;
when her father continued:
"You look conscious. Young ladies have great penetration in such matters
as these; but I think I may defy even <i>your</i> sagacity, to discover
the name of your admirer. This letter is from Mr. Collins."
"From Mr. Collins! and what can <i>he</i> have to say?"
"Something very much to the purpose of course. He begins with
congratulations on the approaching nuptials of my eldest daughter, of
which, it seems, he has been told by some of the good-natured, gossiping
Lucases. I shall not sport with your impatience, by reading what he says
on that point. What relates to yourself, is as follows: 'Having thus
offered you the sincere congratulations of Mrs. Collins and myself on this
happy event, let me now add a short hint on the subject of another; of
which we have been advertised by the same authority. Your daughter
Elizabeth, it is presumed, will not long bear the name of Bennet, after
her elder sister has resigned it, and the chosen partner of her fate may
be reasonably looked up to as one of the most illustrious personages in
"Can you possibly guess, Lizzy, who is meant by this?" 'This young
gentleman is blessed, in a peculiar way, with every thing the heart of
mortal can most desire,—splendid property, noble kindred, and
extensive patronage. Yet in spite of all these temptations, let me warn my
cousin Elizabeth, and yourself, of what evils you may incur by a
precipitate closure with this gentleman's proposals, which, of course, you
will be inclined to take immediate advantage of.'
"Have you any idea, Lizzy, who this gentleman is? But now it comes out:
"'My motive for cautioning you is as follows. We have reason to imagine
that his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, does not look on the match with a
"<i>Mr. Darcy</i>, you see, is the man! Now, Lizzy, I think I <i>have</i>
surprised you. Could he, or the Lucases, have pitched on any man within
the circle of our acquaintance, whose name would have given the lie more
effectually to what they related? Mr. Darcy, who never looks at any woman
but to see a blemish, and who probably never looked at you in his life! It
Elizabeth tried to join in her father's pleasantry, but could only force
one most reluctant smile. Never had his wit been directed in a manner so
little agreeable to her.
"Are you not diverted?"
"Oh! yes. Pray read on."
"'After mentioning the likelihood of this marriage to her ladyship last
night, she immediately, with her usual condescension, expressed what she
felt on the occasion; when it became apparent, that on the score of some
family objections on the part of my cousin, she would never give her
consent to what she termed so disgraceful a match. I thought it my duty to
give the speediest intelligence of this to my cousin, that she and her
noble admirer may be aware of what they are about, and not run hastily
into a marriage which has not been properly sanctioned.' Mr. Collins
moreover adds, 'I am truly rejoiced that my cousin Lydia's sad business
has been so well hushed up, and am only concerned that their living
together before the marriage took place should be so generally known. I
must not, however, neglect the duties of my station, or refrain from
declaring my amazement at hearing that you received the young couple into
your house as soon as they were married. It was an encouragement of vice;
and had I been the rector of Longbourn, I should very strenuously have
opposed it. You ought certainly to forgive them, as a Christian, but never
to admit them in your sight, or allow their names to be mentioned in your
hearing.' That is his notion of Christian forgiveness! The rest of his
letter is only about his dear Charlotte's situation, and his expectation
of a young olive-branch. But, Lizzy, you look as if you did not enjoy it.
You are not going to be <i>missish</i>, I hope, and pretend to be
affronted at an idle report. For what do we live, but to make sport for
our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?"
"Oh!" cried Elizabeth, "I am excessively diverted. But it is so strange!"
"Yes—<i>that</i> is what makes it amusing. Had they fixed on any
other man it would have been nothing; but <i>his</i> perfect indifference,
and <i>your</i> pointed dislike, make it so delightfully absurd! Much as I
abominate writing, I would not give up Mr. Collins's correspondence for
any consideration. Nay, when I read a letter of his, I cannot help giving
him the preference even over Wickham, much as I value the impudence and
hypocrisy of my son-in-law. And pray, Lizzy, what said Lady Catherine
about this report? Did she call to refuse her consent?"
To this question his daughter replied only with a laugh; and as it had
been asked without the least suspicion, she was not distressed by his
repeating it. Elizabeth had never been more at a loss to make her feelings
appear what they were not. It was necessary to laugh, when she would
rather have cried. Her father had most cruelly mortified her, by what he
said of Mr. Darcy's indifference, and she could do nothing but wonder at
such a want of penetration, or fear that perhaps, instead of his seeing
too little, she might have fancied too much.