Beginning, Next Section
Posted on 2008-10-24
Mrs Bingley of Netherfield was having tea with two of her sisters, Mrs Lucas of Lucas Lodge and Mrs Collins of Longbourn. It was a busy time with the wedding preparations at Netherfield, and also at Lucas Lodge. The Bingleys' son Charley was marrying his cousin Jenny Lucas, and their daughter Beth was marrying the Darcys' son, William Darcy of Pemberley.
Mrs Bingley was saying: "Derbyshire is quite a long way off, isn't it? I'm sure that both Charles and I will miss Beth very much at first. You, my dearest sister," turning to Mrs Lucas, "are more fortunate in that respect, Jenny is only coming to us at Netherfield."
Mrs Lucas replied, "I know how fortunate John and I are that Jenny will be settled so near to us, and that she is marrying the cousin with whom she has been on such affectionate terms since childhood. But although Pemberley is quite a long way off, at least you can take comfort in the fact that Beth is not marrying a stranger or some young man with whom she had only been recently acquainted with either. I believe that Beth and William have always got along well together on his visits with his mother to Hertfordshire."
Mrs Collins put in: "Indeed, Pemberley is a very fine place. How Mama would have rejoiced at the prospect of her granddaughter being the next mistress of Pemberley! And both William and his young sister are such very nice young people too. I suppose she will be coming out next Season, and with William married to Beth, they can chaperone his sister in society whenever her parents may not feel inclined to go to parties. Such a sweet girl that she is, I hope William and Beth will help to take good care of her and keep her away from those charming rakes and scheming fortune-hunters in town. It is so much better when young people marry their relatives, or at least someone whom they have known since childhood. Both of you are indeed fortunate that Charley and Jenny, and Beth and William, are being so sensible and chose to marry each other."
Mrs Lucas and Mrs Bingley exchanged a significant look, they were both aware that their sister had begun to cherish certain hopes regarding her son, Bennet Collins and Miss Darcy of Pemberley. While their children were growing up and they themselves were approaching middle age, their middle sister occasionally reminded them of their late mother, Mrs Bennet. Of course Mrs Bennet never had a son and had been anxious to have her daughters well-married especially in view of the Longbourn entail, but no doubt if she had a son, she would also like her son to be well-married. She had been so pleased when Mr Collins had chosen one of her daughters to be her successor as the mistress of Longbourn, she would have regarded any other successor with jealous abhorrence.
Mrs Bingley said briskly: "We certainly didn't scheme for them to marry each other, it just so happen that Charley and Jenny are in love with each other, as are Beth and William."
Mrs Lucas gently added in her soft voice, "Indeed, I would not want any of my children to marry without true affection. However delighted I am to have Jenny settled so near me, I would not have wanted her to marry her cousin if they had not really cared for each other."
The three sisters proceeded to discuss the arrangements that were to be made regarding the various relatives who were coming to Hertfordshire for the double wedding. Most of the arrangements were obvious enough -- their Uncle and Aunt Gardiner would be hosting their own children who were coming for their cousins' double wedding at their home, Purvis Hall, which their uncle had bought and made several improvements to it since his retirement from business. (When Mr Gardiner had first bought the place, the Purvis attics had been dreadful.) The Hursts and the Fosters would be staying at Netherfield, the Darcys, the Morlands and the Tilneys as well as the Lucases at Lucas Lodge, and the Sandersons and the Dennys at Longbourn. The question was whether the Fitzwilliams should be invited to stay at Longbourn or Netherfield, or even at Lucas Lodge.
Mrs Collins said; "My dear sisters, Lucas Lodge will already be quite full of guests and Netherfield will be such a busy place with both my nephew and niece preparing for their weddings. It is quite proper to invite the Fitzwilliams to stay at Longbourn. Anyway Mrs Fitzwilliam and I are such dear friends, she is always so nice and gracious to me, ever since we first met at Rosings when Mr Collins brought me to Hunsford as his bride. It will also be a good opportunity for Colonel Sanderson and Colonel Denny to be with General Fitzwilliam in a more intimate setting."
Mrs Bingley observed wryly that if Colonels Sanderson and Denny hoped to make a good impression on General Fitzwilliam as well as General Foster, they had better ensure that their wives should be on their best behaviour during the visit at Longbourn. At this teasing remark, Mrs Collins who never had a quick sense of humour, exclaimed: "Oh, how can you say so, they are not silly young girls anymore."
"She's only joking, Mary", Mrs Lucas explained patiently. "None of us is young anymore, and I hope that all my sisters have matured and improved with age. How quickly the time seems to fly though. All these wedding preparations have reminded me of the days when John and I were planning for our own wedding. It seems only the other day that he and I were engaged to be married."
Mrs Bingley laughed and said, "Yes, and double weddings seem to run in our families. How delighted Mama was in planning a double wedding for the two of you, but I believed at that time that she was a little vexed with me for not being married before Mary."
Mrs Lucas smiled and responded, "But you had your own double wedding about a year later, and Mama then declared that both Mary and I were quite eclipsed by your match to Mr Bingley of Netherfield. Double weddings certainly seem to run in our families, especially among the Bingleys."
The three middle-aged sisters, three of the former Miss Bennets, three mothers of children of marriageable age, smiled at each other as they recollected the events of the past, of the days of their own courtships, engagements and weddings nearly thirty years ago.
Chapter 1 - Mr John Lucas of Lucas Lodge
Mr John Lucas was the eldest son of Sir William and Lady Lucas of Lucas Lodge. Lucas Lodge was within a short walk of Longbourn, and thus the two families were particularly intimate with each other. Sir William Lucas had been formerly in trade in Meryton, where he had made a tolerable fortune and risen to the honour of knighthood during his mayoralty. This distinction had perhaps been felt too strongly, at least by him and his wife. It had given him a disgust to his business and to his residence in a small market town, and quitting them both, he had removed with his family to a house about a mile from Meryton, denominated from that period Lucas Lodge, where he could think with pleasure of his own importance, and unshackled by business, occupy himself to being civil to all the world. For though elated by his rank, it did not render him supercilious, on the contrary, he was all attention to everybody. By nature inoffensive, friendly and obliging, his presentation at St James had made him courteous.
John was a tolerably good-looking young man who shared his father's friendly and obliging nature, but without acquiring his father's disgust for business, or thinking much of the importance of being elevated to the honour of knighthood. Both he and his sister Charlotte, the eldest Miss Lucas, were sensible and practical young people. As he grew older, John had begun to be concerned about the financial provision that could be made in the future for his two sisters, Charlotte and Maria, and also for his young brother Henry. He decided that he would not occupy himself merely by being civil to the world, but would engage himself in useful and productive employment so that he would be better able to provide financially for his future and that of his sisters and brother. He persuaded his parents that it would not be disgraceful for him to re-engage himself in the business that his father had quitted, tactfully saying that while it was understandable for his father to have quitted the business world upon being conferred a knighthood, that honour was reserved exclusively for his father. A knighthood was not a hereditary title, therefore there was no impediment for the eldest son of a knight to be engaged in trade.
His two sisters, Charlotte and Maria Lucas were on friendly terms with the Miss Bennets of Longbourn. In view of their respective ages, Charlotte was particularly friendly with the two eldest Miss Bennets, Jane and Elizabeth, while Maria was on quite friendly terms with the three younger Miss Bennets. John was particularly close to his sister Charlotte, as they were both sensible young people, and although they would not openly speak disrespectfully of their parents, they were both rather concerned about their father's preoccupation over the wonders of his presentation at St James and his knighthood, and that their parents' attitude regarding rank and social status were affecting their younger sister and youngest brother.
The Lucases' intimacy with the Bennets had brought John into contact with Mrs Bennet's brother, Mr Gardiner of Gracechurch Street, during the course of the Gardiners' regular visits to Longbourn. Mr Gardiner was a sensible, gentlemanlike man, greatly superior to his sister as well by nature as education. Some fine ladies and gentlemen would have had difficulty in believing that a man who lived by trade, and within view of his own warehouses, could have been so well-bred and agreeable. Mrs Gardiner, who was several years younger than Mrs Bennet, was an amiable, intelligent, elegant woman, and a great favourite with all her Longbourn nieces. Between the two eldest and herself especially, there subsisted a very particular regard. They had frequently been staying with her in town.
John's acquaintance with Mr Gardiner would afford him with a favourable opening in business. When he had spoken to Mr Gardiner on the subject of his intention of entering into business in order to better provide for the financial future of his family, Mr Gardiner had been impressed by the young man's good sense and sincerity. Mr Gardiner had himself been thinking of taking in a reliable young man to assist him in his business, someone whom he hoped could eventually be made a full partner in the business. He had also been thinking of possibly branchng his trade into Meryton. John was happy to accept Mr Gardiner's offer of an opening in his business in London, with the possibility of later overseeing a branch in Meryton.
Jane and Elizabeth, as well as Charlotte, had become keenly interested in John's discussions with Mr Gardiner regarding his business opening, and the offer made to him by Mr Gardiner. Jane had always liked Charlotte's brother for his civil and obliging manners, now she perceived that he was not merely an amiable young man, but also a serious-minded, far-sighted and responsible young man who was solicitous about providing for his family's future. Jane became most warmly interested in John's future prospects, and spoke to him about it. John, who had long had a boyish admiration for the beautiful Miss Bennet, was flattered and pleased by her interest. His early admiration for her began to take a more serious turn at that point. When he had first thought of going into business, he had thought mainly in terms of securing a better provision for his sisters and little brother, now he begun to think that he also needed to secure a better provision for the support of a wife and family of his own if he were to get married in the future. Such an angelic girl like Jane Bennet would deserve the very best that he or any man could give her, and he knew the from amiableness of her disposition and the goodness of her heart that she was not the kind of young woman who would attempt to dissuade a husband from being generous to his sisters, but on the contrary, would be more likely to remind him of his responsibilities in that respect.
In London, John was able to secure lodgings within a convenient distance of the Gardiner's home and not far from their place of business. Within a few months, he proved himself to be capable and diligent in his work and their business relationship gave evident satisfaction to both Mr Gardiner and himself. It was not very long after that when Mrs Gardiner realized that her husband's junior partner might soon have more than a business relationship with their family.
Mrs Gardiner had invited her eldest niece to stay with them for a few weeks that spring. Of course she knew that Mr Lucas and her nieces were old friends, so it was only natural that she should invite him to have dinner with them on the day after Jane's arrival in London. It was soon evident, when they met, that John greatly admired Jane, and to Mrs Gardiner, who knew her eldest niece well, it was equally evident to her that Jane had a great preference for John and was probably in a way to be very much in love, especially when she remembered the inquiries that Jane had made earlier in the day regarding John's prospects and well-being, and her evident pleasure when she heard her uncle's good opinion of him. Their interactions with each other in the course of their subsequent meetings confirmed Mrs Gardiner's suspicion. Anyone who did not know Jane well was not likely to have such suspicion as to the state of her heart, since Jane united, with great strength of feeling, a composure of temper and a uniform cheerfulness of manner, which would guard her from the suspicion of the impertinent. It might sometimes be a disadvantage to be so very guarded, for if a woman concealed her affection with the same skill from the object of it, she might lose the opportunity of fixing him, and it would then be but poor consolation to believe the world equally in the dark. There was usually so much of gratitude or vanity in almost every attachment, that there were not many people who would have heart enough to love without encouragement. However, Jane Bennet and John Lucas had known each other since they were very young, he was well-acquainted with her modesty and rather reserved disposition, and he believed, from the warm interest and concern that she displayed towards his current work and future prospects, that she was not indifferent to him. Thus encouraged, he soon opened his heart to her, and she did not hesitate to accept his proposal.
Mr and Mrs Gardiner were immediately informed of the understanding that had been reached between their niece and his junior partner. It had not been unexpected by them, indeed, Mrs Gardiner had mentioned such a possibility in her recent letter to Elizabeth, although since John had not yet spoken then, she had cautioned Lizzy not to hint anything about it to her mother. Knowing her mother's excitable disposition, this was the last thing that Lizzy would do. She did mention it to her father, and Mr Bennet, in his laconic way, gave her to understand that he would not be at all displeased with the match.
Once it was settled between John and Jane, and the Gardiners were informed about it, Mr Gardiner immediately gave John leave to return to Hertfordshire for a few days, in order to obtain the consent of Mr Bennet for Jane's hand in marriage and also to inform Sir William about it.
Both the Bennet and Lucas families were delighted with the match. Mrs Bennet was delighted that the business of her life, that of getting her daughters married, had successfully commenced with the engagement of her eldest daughter. Now she had the remaining four daughters to dispose of. Lady Lucas was a very good woman, not too clever to be a valuable neighbour to Mrs Bennet, and they could both look forward to their future relationship with some satisfaction. Elizabeth and Charlotte were of course delighted at the prospect of their future relationship when they would be almost sisters to each other, through the marriage of Lizzy's favourite sister to Charlotte's favourite brother.
Chapter 2 - Mr Collins' Visit to Longbourn
Posted on 2008-10-27
It was autumn time, and the wedding of Jane and John Lucas had been fixed for the New Year. John was engaged with setting up the trade branch in Meryton and was back at Lucas Lodge. Needless to say, he was spending almost all his spare time with Jane at Longbourn, and was at dinner there almost daily.
"I hope, my dear," said Mr Bennet to his wife, as they were at breakfast one morning, "that you have ordered a good dinner today, because I have reason to expect an addition to our family party."
"What do you mean, my dear? I know of nobody that is coming I am sure, except John, and I wouldn't call him an addition to the family party. He is practically a part of the family party for he has been dining here almost every day. Or do you mean that Charlotte will be coming with her brother to dinner? I should hope that if my dinners are good enough for him, they would be more than good enough for her."
"The person of whom I speak, is a gentleman and a stranger, whom I never saw in the whole course of my life."
This roused a general astonishment, and he had the pleasure of being eagerly questioned by his wife and five daughters at once. After amusing himself for some time with their curiosity, he then explained, "About a month ago, I received this letter from my cousin, Mr Collins who, when I am dead, may turn you all out of this house as soon as he pleases."
Oh! My dear!" cried his wife "How very impertinent of that odious man to write to you at all, and very hypocritical. I hate such false friends. Why could he not keep on quarrelling with you, as his father did?"
"Well, he apparently differs from his father in that respect." Mr Bennet then proceeded to read aloud to his wife and daughters parts of his cousin's letter. Mr Collins had explained, at some length, that he had received ordination at Easter, that he had been distinguished by the patronage of the Lady Catherine de Bourgh, widow of Sir Lewis de Bourgh, and that as a clergyman he felt it was his duty to promote and establish peace and goodwill in all families within the reach of his influence. He hoped that the circumstance of his being next in the entail of the Longbourn estate will not lead his cousin to reject his offer of the olive branch. He said that he was concerned at being the means of injuring the Bennets' amiable daughters, and wished to assure them of his readiness to make every possible amends. Mr Bennet had replied to the letter, and Mr Collins was due to arrive at four o'clock that afternoon.
Elizabeth observed that there was something very pompous in Mr Collins' style of letter-writing and did not think that he could be a sensible man. Mr Bennet agreed that there was a mixture of servility and self-importance in the letter, which indicated that Mr Collins was not a sensible man, "however, there is some sense in what he says about the girls, and if he is disposed to make them any amends, I shall not be the person to discourage him."
Jane thought that Lizzy was rather harsh in her observation. As Jane put it "Though it is difficult, to guess in what way he can mean to make us the atonement he thinks our due, the wish is certainly to his credit."
Mary agreed with Jane and went further, saying that "In point of composition, his letter does not seem defective. The idea of the olive branch perhaps is not wholly new, yet I think it is well expressed."
Elizabeth checked herself, perhaps she had been a little harsh and hasty about their cousin. It was true that follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies, did divert her, but she hoped that she never ridiculed what was wise or good in others. And she should also remember that good-natured people were not always the wisest or cleverest people, there were those in whom what was good and what was ridiculous was most unfortunately blended in. To Kitty and Lydia, neither the letter nor its writer was in any degree interesting. It was next to impossible that their cousin should come in a scarlet coat, and even since a regiment of militia had been quartered at Meryton some weeks ago, they had ceased to have received pleasure in the society of a man in any other colour. As for their mother, Mr Collins' letter had done away much of her ill-will, and she was preparing to see him with a degree of composure which astonished her husband and daughters.
Mr Collins was punctual to his time, and was received with great politeness by the whole family. He was a tall, heavy-looking young man of five and twenty. His air was grave and stately, and his manners were very formal. When John arrived and they were introduced to each other, Mr Collins eloquently congratulated Mr Lucas on having won the hand of his fair eldest cousin, and added that he did not doubt that her younger sisters would in due time be equally well disposed of in marriage.
When they dined, the dinner in its turn was highly praised, and he begged to know to which of his fair cousins, the excellence of its cookery was owing. But here he was set right by Mrs Bennet, who assured him with some asperity that they were very well able to keep a good cook, that she always kept servants who could do their work, and that her daughters had nothing to do in the kitchen. H begged pardon for having displeased her, and in a softened tone she declared herself to be not at all offended.
During dinner, Mr Bennet inquired after Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and Mr Collins was eloquent in her praise. He protested that he had never in his life witnessed such behaviour in a person of rank, such affability and condescension. Her only daughter, Miss Anne de Bourgh, the heiress of Rosings, was also a most charming young lady.
When tea was over after they had returned to the drawing-room, Mr Bennet was glad to invite his cousin to read aloud to the ladies. Mr Collins readily assented, and a book was produced but on beholding its title, he begged pardon, and protested that he never read novels. Kitty stared, and Lydia exclaimed. Other books were produced, and he chose Fordyce's Sermons. Lydia gaped as he opened the volume, but Mary brightened, it was the first time that somebody in her family other than herself had shown interest in that volume. However, before he had read three pages, Lydia interrupted him with,
"Mama I shall walk to Meryton tomorrow to see my Aunt Phillips, and to ask when Mr Denny comes back from town."
Lydia was bid by her mother and her two eldest sisters to hold her tongue, but Mr Collins, rather offended, laid aside the book, and said,
"I have often observed how little young ladies are interested in books of a serious stamp, though written solely for their benefit. But I will no longer importune my young cousin."
Mary was dismayed, and exclaimed, "Oh, but I am most interested in Fordyce's Sermons, sir, I was so pleased when you chose that volume. However, it is sadly true that my younger sisters have no interest in books of a serious stamp."
Mr Bennet then suggested that since Mr Collins and Mary were the ones most interested in the same volume, perhaps it would be best for the two of them to read the book quietly together, but to leave the other girls to their own trifling amusements. Mrs Bennet and Jane apologized most civilly for Lydia's lack of manners, and Mr Collins, after assuring them that he bore his youngest cousin no ill will, seated himself at another table with his middle cousin, and the two of them proceeded to go through the volume of Fordyce's Sermons together.
Mr Collins has had an unfortunate upbringing. The greater part of his life had been spent under the guidance of an illiterate and miserly father, and though he belonged to one of the universities, he had merely kept the necessary terms, without forming at it any useful acquaintance. The subjection to which his father had brought him up had given him originally great humility of manner. A fortunate chance had recommended him to Lady Catherine de Bourgh when the living at Hunsford was vacant, and the respect which he felt for her high rank, combined with his ideas as to the authority of a rector, had made him a rather curious mixture of pride and humility.
Having now a good house and very sufficient income, he intended to marry, and in seeking a reconciliation with the Longbourn family he had a wife in view, as he meant to choose one of the daughters, if he found them as handsome and amiable as they were represented by common report. The eldest Miss Bennet was already engaged to Mr Lucas, otherwise he would have chosen her, for she was the loveliest of them all and he also had strict notions as to what was due to seniority. Now he found himself to be in a bit of a dilemma. On the one hand, he thought that as Elizabeth was next to Jane in birth and beauty, she was entitled to receive his addresses, since she was now the eldest unengaged Miss Bennet. On the other hand, he was much struck by Mary's interest in Fordyce's Sermons and the similarity in views and taste in literature that he had discovered were shared between him and his cousin Mary on that very first evening at Longbourn. Mary was the plainest of his cousins, but he could not help feeling strongly inclined towards her. The two youngest girls were of course out of the question, but might it not be regarded as a slight to Elizabeth if she was passed over for her younger and plainer middle sister?
Mr Collins was not a clever young man, but he was a conscientious one and honestly wanted to do what he regarded as his duty, if only he could be sure what that duty was, and he was anxious to avoid causing any offence. It would of course be very pleasant if his duty also tallied with his inclination. During the next couple of days, he was careful to pay almost equal attentions to both Mary and Elizabeth. His interactions with the two sisters strengthened his inclination towards Mary, for he became rather disconcerted by Elizabeth's wit and vivacity. He also thought that such wit and vivacity might not always be acceptable to Lady Catherine de Bourgh, especially if it was not always tempered by the silence and respect which her rank should excite. He then made up his mind to offer for Mary, but he was solicitous to do so without causing offence to her eldest unengaged sister. He decided to ask Mr Lucas' advice about the best manner to propose to Mary, after all he and Mr Lucas would be brothers when they were married to Jane and Mary. And Mr Lucas was also a childhood friend of the Bennet girls, and should know his future sisters-in-law well.
On the day after he had decided to consult Mr Lucas, Mr Collins waited outside the garden of Longbourn at the hour when Mr Lucas was expected to arrive there. When he saw Mr Lucas on the path to Longbourn, he instantly greeted him and begged him to give him a few minutes of his time as he needed to ask his advice on a matter of great importance. Mr Lucas replied that he would be happy to give any advice that he could, and Mr Collins then unburdened his heart to him. Mr Lucas was rather amused when he realized what was the difficulty that Mr Collins fancied himself to be in -- that Mr Collins wanted to propose to Mary without causing offence to Elizabeth. However, Mr Lucas maintained a gravity of demeanour as he assured Mr Collins that he need not be worried about Elizabeth's reaction. Everybody had seen how well Mr Collins and Mary had got along together since that very first evening at Longbourn, and Elizabeth would be very happy for her sister. It was by no means necessary for the sisters to be married according to the order of their births, many younger sisters were married before their elder sisters without causing any offence to anybody. He himself had offered for the eldest Miss Bennet not because she was the eldest, but because he and Jane were warmly attached to each other.
His mind thus relieved of its anxiety, Mr Collins decided to propose to Mary on the very next day.
The next day opened a new scene at Longbourn. On finding Mrs Bennet, Mary and one of the younger girls together, soon after breakfast, Mr Collins addressed the mother in these words, "May I hope, Madam, for your interest with your fair daughter Mary, when I solicit the honour of a private audience with hr in the course of this morning?"
Mary gave a little start and blushed with pleasure, and Mrs Bennet instantly answered, "Oh, yes, certainly. I am sure Mary will be very happy, I am sure she can have no objection. Come Kitty, I want you upstairs." And gathering her work together, she hastened away.
In as short a time as Mr Collins' long speeches would allow, everything was settled between them to the satisfaction of both. Mr Collins explained to Mary his reasons for marrying -- firstly, that he thought it a right thing for every clergyman in easy circumstances like himself to set the example of matrimony in his parish, secondly, that he was convinced that it would add very greatly to his happiness, and thirdly, it was the particular advice and recommendation of both his noble patroness and her daughter. Lady Catherine had declared that a clergyman like him must marry, and urged him to properly chose a gentlewoman for her sake, and for his own, that she should be someone who would be useful as a clergyman's wife (which he did not doubt that Mary would be, considering her interest in Fordyce's Sermons), and that she would visit her at Hunsford. Miss de Bourgh had also said that she hoped there would soon be a Mrs Collins at the parsonage, someone whom she could be friends with, for she was rather lonely with only the middle-aged Mrs Jenkinson, her former governess, as her present companion at Rosings. For himself personally, the circumstance of the Longbourn entail had also made him resolve upon choosing a wife from among his cousin's daughters, and that from his very first evening at Longbourn, he had singled her out as the companion of his future life. Having explained his reasons for marrying, Mr Collins then proceeded to assure Mary "in the most animated language of the violence of his affections."
Mary was much gratified, and longed to say something equally eloquent in her reply, however, she could only come up with, "Accept my thanks for the compliment you are paying me. I am very sensible of the honour of your proposals, and it will give me great pleasure and happiness to be your wife."
Mr and Mrs Bennet were speedily applied to for their consent, and it was bestowed with a most joyful alacrity by Mrs Bennet, who congratulated both Mr Collins and herself in warm terms on the happy prospect of their nearer connection. Mr Bennet was much more tranquil in his expressions, however, he made no objection to the match. In spite of her joyful alacrity however, Mrs Bennet's happiness was not completely unalloyed, and although she did not say so before Mr Collins, what she said to Mr Bennet when they were alone together proved that Mr Collins' earlier concern about not causing offence by offering for Mary instead of Elizabeth was not wholly unfounded. Mrs Bennet was of course very happy that Mr Collins had chosen one of her daughters to be her successor as the next mistress of Longbourn, however, she could not help wondering aloud to Mr Bennet as to why Mr Collins had chosen the younger and plainer Mary instead of Elizabeth. She blamed it on Elizabeth's sharp wit and barbed manners, she hoped that Elizabeth would learn a lesson from Mary being the choice of Mr Collins and that she would amend her manners, or otherwise she might see all her younger sisters married before her. To this, Mr Bennet calmly responded by saying that if Mr Collins had offered for Elizabeth instead of Mary, he would not have given him his consent. Mrs Bennet looked at him in astonishment, and Mr Bennet briefly explained that while Mr Collins and Mary appeared to be tolerably well-suited to each other, Mr Collins would be the worst possible husband for Elizabeth, and Elizabeth would be the worst possible wife for Mr Collins.
Mr Collins soon earnestly entreated Mary to name the day that was to make him the happiest of men, and Mary dutifully referred the question to her parents. It was then decided between them that, as the wedding day for Jane and Mr Lucas had been fixed for the New Year, Mary and Mr Collins could also be married on the same day, and they would have a double wedding celebration. The Gardiners would also be visiting Longbourn for the Christmas and New Year festivities, and thus would be able to attend the double wedding without any inconvenience.
Jane was most earnest in her desire for her sister Mary's happiness with Mr Collins, and expressed the hope that they would be almost as happy as she herself with Mr Lucas. Elizabeth supposed that Mary could be tolerably contented with Mr Collins, she herself would never have accepted someone like him, but as Jane as well as Charlotte pointed out to her, she must make due allowance for difference of character and disposition. Considering Mr Collins' respectability, and Mary's own staid (not to say dull) disposition, the similarity in their literary interests, and mutual regard for one another, Mary's chance of happiness with him was as fair as most people could boast on entering the marriage state. Kitty and Lydia were far from envying Mary, for Mr Collins was only a clergyman, and not an army officer.
The double wedding -- of Mr John Lucas of Lucas Lodge to Miss Jane Bennet of Longbourn, and of the Rev Mr William Collins of Hunsford Parsonage to Miss Mary Bennet of Longbourn -- duly took place on New Year's day, with Miss Charlotte Lucas and Miss Elizabeth Bennet as the two bridesmaids. Mrs Bennet was happy in her maternal joy when she afterwards visited Mrs Lucas, and talked of Mrs Collins. I wished I could say, for the sake of her remaining single daughters, that the assurance that the next mistress of Longbourn would be a daughter of hers had produced so happy an effect as to make her a sensible, amiable and well-informed woman for the rest of her life; unfortunately however, she still was occasionally nervous, and invariably silly. In spite of her great relief over the question of the Longbourn entail, and in spite of Mr Bennet's assurance that while Mary was a suitable choice for Mr Collins, and Elizabeth certainly would not have been, Mrs Bennet could not stop occasionally fretting over the fact that Elizabeth should have married before Mary, and fearing that other eligible suitors might think that there was something wrong with Elizabeth to have been passed over by her father's heir for her younger and plainer sister.
Before she left for Kent, Mary had invited her sisters to visit her at Hunsford in the spring, when she would be well settled in her new home. Kitty and Lydia had no desire to leave Hertfordshire while the regiment of militia was quartered at Meryton, and foresaw no pleasure in such a visit, where Mr Collins would probably seek to entertain them by reading aloud from Fordyce's Sermons in the evenings. Elizabeth, however, thought that it was only right for her to accept her sister's invitation.
Mary had also promised to correspond regularly and frequently with her mother and sisters, and her first letters were received with a great deal of eagerness. Mary wrote cheerfully, seemed surrounded by comforts, and mentioned nothing that she could not praise. The house, furniture, neighbourhood and roads, were all to her taste, and Lady Catherine was most friendly and obliging. Her greatest praise, however, was reserved for her ladyship's daughter, Miss Anne de Bourgh. Miss de Bourgh and Mrs Collins had quickly became friends, Miss de Bourgh had driven over to the parsonage in her phaeton to visit Mrs Collins almost every day, and was soon confiding certain of her hopes and fears to Mrs Collins. Elizabeth gathered from Mary's letters that Anne de Bourgh had two likely suitors for her hand, both of whom were her cousins. One of them was a gentleman of large property in Derbyshire, the other was an earl's younger son who was a colonel in the army. The former gentleman was favoured by the young lady's mother, while the latter gentleman was favoured by the young lady herself. Elizabeth smiled at this, and could not help wondering whether Miss de Bourgh was a bit like Kitty and Lydia, and preferred a gentleman in a scarlet coat to any other.
Chapter 3 - Mr Darcy's dealings with Miss de Bourgh and Miss Bingley
Posted on 2008-11-01
Miss Anne de Bourgh of Rosings Park was happy to make a friend of Mrs Mary Collins of Hunsford Parsonage. The parsonage was at an easy distance from Rosings, as the garden in which the parsonage stood was separated only by a lane from Rosings Park. Miss de Bourgh had been accustomed to driving by in her phaeton almost every day, and since Hunsford Parsonage now had a mistress, she frequently stopped by to call on her. Any intimacy between Miss de Bourgh and Mrs Collins was at first rather hampered by the presence of Mrs Jenkinson, for Anne could never be quite unrestrained in her companion's presence, knowing that Mrs Jenkinson would inform Lady Catherine of anything that passed between them on those visits if her mother should ever ask her, which considering Lady Catherine's curiosity about anything and everything was not at all unlikely. Lady Catherine would not allow Anne to drive in her phaeton by herself, fortunately however, Miss de Bourgh's personal maid happened to be a niece of the new housekeeper at Hunsford. Anne tactfully suggested to her mother and Mrs Jenkinson that henceforward her maid could accompany her whenever she drove over to the parsonage, it would be a kindness to the girl to let her visit her aunt, it would be a kindness to Mrs Collins to let the girl occasionally assist the few servants at the parsonage, the Hunsford housekeeper was also a very sensible woman and could give her niece useful advice and instructions for her improvement, and Mrs Jenkinson could spend more time with Lady Catherine if she was not obliged to accompany Anne on her daily drive, so that her ladyship would not be left so much on her own. Lady Catherine acknowledged that these were sensible reasons to order Anne's maid to accompany her on her visits to the parsonage instead of Mrs Jenkinson. Lady Catherine regarded herself as a benevolent personality, and liked to think that she was taking the opportunity of doing a kindness to her daughter's maid, the Hunsford housekeeper and Mrs Collins. The friendly intercourse between Miss de Bourgh and Mrs Collins then became more unrestrained, the maid was no impediment since she would be with her aunt in the kitchen or the servants' room, and not with them in the drawing-room.
Anne was a slender built young lady of rather less than medium height with soft light eyes and delicate features. She did not take after her mother either in looks or disposition, for Lady Catherine was a tall, large woman, with strongly marked feature, which might once have been handsome. She resembled her late father, Sir Lewis de Bourgh, in looks, and may not have been altogether unlike him in disposition. She had been very lonely since her father's death, which sad event had taken place before Anne was fifteen years old. She had been plunged into quiet melancholy which had not been sufficiently understood either by her mother or anybody else around her. The widowed Lady Catherine had not grieved much for her husband, she had not understood him, he had been a man who was a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour and reserve, which had often irritated his wife in the course of their seventeen years of married life. At his death, his widow had been thankful for the fact that the Rosings estate was not entailed away from the female line, and that Sir Lewis' will provided that Lady Catherine would have the right to reside at Rosings during her lifetime, and also to half the income from the estate. The other half of the income was to be paid to his daughter once she was of age, and the whole estate would pass on to Anne after the death of her mother.
Anne had begun to enjoy life again only recently, During a visit that was made by her cousin Major the Honourable Richard Fitzwilliam to Rosings about a couple of years ago, he had one day found her moping in her late father's study over some of his old books. He had been shocked to see that she had been crying, and had pressed her to tell him what was the matter. Eventually they had talked, and Anne had revealed to him how lonely and unhappy she had been since her father's death. He had been horrified to realize that none of her family or relatives, including himself, had paid sufficient attention to Anne to be aware of her deep unhappiness. Perhaps it was not surprising however that her mother had been unaware of it, his forceful, domineering aunt was not the kind of woman to understand or sympathize with the sufferings of more sensitive natures than her own, and Anne herself did not want her mother to know that she had still been moping about for her father. Lady Catherine's overbearing reaction might only bother and upset her all the more.
From that day onwards Richard had paid more attention to his cousin Anne and had talked more to her. They had talked of books and music, and Anne realized that her cousin Richard shared some of the same tastes and interests as her father. Richard had recommended some new books for Anne to read, and he had also encouraged her to take up music again. He had extended his visit at Rosings for as long as he could, and after he had been obliged to leave to resume his duties with his regiment, Anne and Richard had corresponded regularly and frequently. At first their correspondence had been simply affectionate and cousinly, but later it became more passionate and lover-like, and the cousins' correspondence had developed into love letters. Anne had rejoiced greatly over the news of his recent promotion to Colonel, and they both hoped that his rise in rank would help to make her mother find him more acceptable as a suitor for Anne's hand in marriage. They were both aware that Lady Catherine wanted Anne to marry her other cousin Fitzwilliam Darcy, for although Darcy was an untitled gentleman, his estate of Pemberley was almost as grand as Matlock, the principal estate of Richard's father the earl of Matlock. Had Richard been his father's eldest son instead of the younger son, Lady Catherine would undoubtedly have preferred him to Darcy, indeed they also suspected that Lady Catherine had turned her hopes on Darcy because Richard's elder brother Robert, Viscount Fitzwilliam, had married the Lady Margaret when Anne was only sixteen. Lady Catherine had been unable to voice any objection against that match, because Lady Margaret was herself the daughter of an earl, and thus regarded by all of society as a perfectly eligible bride for a future earl.
Their cousin Darcy had not shown any interest in making Anne his wife, therefore both Richard and Anne hoped that when Lady Catherine realized that Darcy had no intention to marry her, she would not object to Anne's marriage to Richard. After all, from the point of view of polite society, a match with Colonel the Honourable Richard Fitzwilliam would not be a contemptible match for the daughter of a baronet. As an earl's younger son, the colonel would not inherit the title and great estate that would go to his elder brother Lord Fitzwilliam, but he was by no means propertyless, even though his portion was insignificant compared to his brother's. His wife, as the Honourable Mrs Fitzwilliam, would also enjoy the status of an earl's daughter-in-law, and sister-in-law to a future earl. Neither Anne nor Richard cared much about such things, but they were both aware that her mother did, and they needed to think of the kind of arguments that would be likely to influence Lady Catherine to consent to their marriage. They both knew that any talk about their being in love with each other would most likely be dismissed by her ladyship as romantic nonsense culled from trashy novels. Of course, if only their cousin Darcy would get married, that would be the strongest argument in their favour, for if Darcy was out of reach, Lady Catherine would regard her military nephew as a tolerable match for the heiress of Rosings.
Both Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam were coming on a visit to Rosings that spring, and Richard and Anne had agreed to take Darcy into their confidence. They planned to inform Darcy about their mutual attachment together, and to ask him to make it clear to his aunt that he had no intention to offer for his cousin Anne. Darcy arrived at Rosings a week earlier than his cousin Richard, as the colonel was unable to get leave from his military duties until the following week. Darcy was in a more than usually serious mood at that time, for his mind had been much occupied by the unhappy event that had so nearly befallen his sister Georgina at Ramsgate last summer. George Wickham, the son of his late father's steward, who was also his father's godson, had followed her to Ramsgate. Wickham had been leading a profligate life since the deaths of his father and godfather, and was in desperate need of money, having squandered the legacy that he had obtained through the late Mr Darcy's will. The will had left him a sum of one thousand pounds, and the recommendation that if he took orders, a valuable family living, Kympton Parsonage, should be his when it became vacant. Mr Wickham had declared that he had resolved against taking orders, and had requested some immediate pecuniary advantage in lieu of the preferment by which he could not be benefited. Mr Darcy was perfectly ready to accede to his request, as he knew that Wickham ought not to be a clergyman. The business had been settled by Wickham resigning all possible claims to the living, and accepting in return the sum of three thousand pounds. The interest of four thousand pounds should have provided Wickham with a modest but sufficient income, but his idleness and dissipation led him to squander away his capital within the period of three years. At Ramsgate, Wickham managed so far to recommend himself to Miss Darcy, whose affectionate heart retained a strong impression of his kindness to her as a child. Through the aid and connivance of her chaperon, Mrs Younge, who proved to have a prior acquaintance with Wickham, and in whose character Georgina's guardians had been most unhappily deceived, Georgina was persuaded to believe herself in love, and to consent to an elopement. She was then but fifteen, which must be her excuse. Wickham's object had no doubt been Georgina's dowry, which was thirty thousand pounds. By a fortunate chance, her brother had joined them unexpectedly a day or two before the intended elopement, and then Georgina, unable to support the idea of grieving and offending her brother, disclosed the whole to him.
Darcy had to think carefully on how best to act towards Wickham. Regard for his sister's credit and feelings must of course prevent any public exposure, but he could not feel completely easy if he were simply to turn Wickham loose in the world again, for that desperate man would probably seek to prey on other well-dowered young girls for the sake of their fortunes. Darcy also could not quite rid himself of a certain sense of responsibility for his father's godson, both for the sake of his own late father, as well as the late Mr Wickham, who had been a very respectable man and under whose management the estate of Pemberley had prospered. Darcy felt that he had made a mistake in giving Wickham the three thousand pounds as a lump sum to settle his claim regarding his father's bequest, and that he should have given him a modest but regular allowance instead. After consulting with his cousin and Georgina's co-guardian, Colonel Fitzwilliam, a bargain was made with Wickham. Wickham was packed off to a remote estate which the colonel's father, Lord Matlock owned in Ireland, and an allowance of two hundred pounds a year would be paid to him on condition that he lived quietly on a cottage on the estate and cause no further trouble to anybody.
Darcy was thinking that he might be able to take better care of Georgina if he had a wife, and decided to propose a marriage of convenience and affection to his cousin Anne at Rosings. He was also thinking that Anne had improved a great deal in her appearance and spirits during the last year. She had appeared quite plain only a couple of years ago, but she was almost pretty now. Darcy sought to make himself agreeable to his cousin, but as his manner was friendly and cousinly, and not lover-like, Anne had no suspicion as to his intention, and welcomed his company. One day, Darcy accompanied Anne when she drove over in her phaeton to call at Hunsford Parsonage. He found Mr Collins to be a rather pompous bore of a man, and Mrs Collins to be a plain and rather dull young woman. He supposed that Anne had made friends with Mrs Collins because she had no other congenial companion of her own age in the neighbourhood. He had also learned that Mr and Mrs Collins were cousins, and as they left the Parsonage, he thought that it was a good opportunity to introduce the subject of making a marriage of convenience and affection between cousins.
He began with "The Parsonage seems to be a very comfortable house. My aunt, I believe, did a great deal to it when Mr Collins first came to Hunsford."
"I believe my mother did, and I am sure she could not have bestowed her kindness on a more grateful object."
"I understand that Mr Collins is married to his cousin."
"Yes, and in a prudential light, it is a very suitable match for her. Mrs Collins has four sisters but no brothers, and her father's estate in Hertfordshire is entailed away from females, thus making Mr Collins the next heir in the entail."
"I suppose it is a marriage of convenience and affection then. Such family arrangements are quite proper and sensible, if the parties concerned are congenial to each other and have some regard for each other. I believe that cousinly affection may well be a good foundation for wedded love."
Anne looked at him sharply, had he already guessed about her and Richard? She and Richard had planned to take Darcy into their confidence once Richard had arrived at Rosings on the following week, but if he had already guessed about their attachment, she might as well tell him now. Before she could say anything however, he went on:
"Anne, my dear, you know what your mother has long hoped and wished for between us. I would not have proposed to you merely to please my aunt, but these last few days has shown me how very well you and I have got along together. Admittedly we have not fallen passionately in love with each other, but I believe that if neither of our affections is otherwise engaged, our cousinly regard and affection for each other should be a sufficient foundation for wedded love."
Anne's colour changed, she was horrified and dismayed. "No! Oh, no!" She exclaimed in agitation. "Does my mother know that you intend to propose to me?"
He became aware of her distress. "No, I have not informed my aunt about it. Knowing what her sentiments already are, I did not think it necessary to ask her permission."
"Oh, thank goodness for that!" cried Anne. "Cousin Darcy, I am so sorry, but it is impossible for me to marry you."
"Anne, I have no wish to distress you. I will not press my suit if it is distasteful to you, and I will not inform your mother about it. But why it is it so impossible for you to marry me? Have I been too sudden with my proposal?"
"You said -- if neither of our affections is otherwise engaged -- but my affections are already engaged."
Darcy was startled to hear that Anne's affections were already engaged. Who was the man who had won her heart? Darcy's mind flew back to that episode at Ramsgate, and Wickham's designs on Georgina. Had Anne also fallen a victim to some scheming fortune-hunter? Darcy's sentiments at that moment were not that of a rejected suitor, but of a concerned relative.
"Anne! I had no idea ... may I ask who is the man upon whom you have bestowed your affections?"
"You may, indeed, we both meant to take you into our confidence when he arrives here next week. It is Richard, of course."
Darcy felt greatly relieved that the man who had won Anne's affections was not some unworthy scoundrel but was no other than their cousin Richard Fitzwilliam. He also understood when Anne explained that she and Richard would need his help to induce her mother to consent to their marriage. He assured her that Lady Catherine would never know of his proposal to her, and that she and Richard could depend on his cousinly affection and support. He would inform her mother that there was no possibility of a marriage between him and Anne, and hopefully his aunt would then begin to consider Richard as a possible match for Anne. Darcy also suspected that he himself was Lady Catherine's second choice for Anne, after she had been disappointed in her hopes regarding her eldest nephew, Lord Fitzwilliam, and that Richard would be her third choice.
Soon after Colonel Fitzwilliam's arrival at Rosings a few days later, a perfect understanding and confidence was established between the three of them. Darcy told Lady Catherine that he had brotherly affection for Anne and that there was no possibility of a marriage between them. Lady Catherine was rendered exceedingly indignant and exclaimed:
"So, there is truth in that report after all! I thought it was a scandalous falsehood, for I could not conceive that you would so forget what is due to your family and connections and stoop so low as that!"
Darcy was bewildered, "Whatever do you mean, aunt? What report and what falsehood are you talking about?"
"You ought to know that I am not to be trifled with. A report of a most alarming nature has reached me from my acquaintance in town, that you, my nephew, are most intimate with a tradesman's family in London, that you have been constantly in the company of this young man by the name of Bingley, that he has a very attractive younger sister, and that in all likelihood, you intend to pay your addresses to her. I could not credit it, I could not believe that you would think of marrying some vulgar tradesman's daughter, even if she has a dowry of twenty thousand pounds, and anyway, what is twenty thousand ponds after all, when compared to the estate of Rosings!"
Darcy was most astonished and taken aback. So there had been gossip linking his name to that of Miss Bingley. How had it come about? He had certainly been intimate with Charles Bingley, between them there was a very steady friendship, in spite of a great opposition of character. Bingley was endeared to Darcy by the easiness and openness of his temper, though no disposition could offer a greater contrast to his own, and though with his own he never appeared dissatisfied. But he certainly had no intention of paying his addresses to Caroline Bingley.
Darcy calmly declared to his aunt that he was not going to marry Miss Bingley either. Marriage between him and his cousin Anne was out of the question, but it had nothing to do with his friendship with the Bingleys. And he was not going to be persuaded or coerced into either marrying, or not marrying, anyone, he would probably get married in good time to some woman of his choice, but it would not be either Anne or Miss Bingley. His aunt's abusive language to him upon his refusal to marry his cousin rendered it impossible for him to continue his visit at Rosings, and he left for London on that very afternoon, after taking a most confidential leave of both his cousins, and privately giving them his best wishes for their future happiness together.
Mr Darcy's premature departure from Rosings meant that he had left Kent before some visitors arrived at Hunsford Parsonage.
Mr and Mrs Lucas, and Miss Bennet, were paying a visit to their sister Mrs Collins. Mr and Mrs Lucas were only staying for a few days, then they would return to their uncle and aunt Gardiner in Gracechurch Street, for Mr Lucas was expected to spend some weeks on business in London. Miss Bennet, however, was remaining at Hunsford for several weeks.
The Collinses and their visitors soon heard the gossip as to what had been happening at Rosings. The Collins' housekeeper had heard from her niece and some of the other servants at Rosings about the row between Lady Catherine and Mr Darcy.
Miss de Bourgh and Colonel Fitzwilliam also called at the parsonage. They found Colonel Fitzwilliam to be about thirty, not handsome, but in person and address most truly the gentleman. His manners were very much admired at the parsonage. Elizabeth did not wonder that Miss de Bourgh should have a preference for him, of course she herself had not met Mr Darcy and did not know what that other gentleman was like, but from Mary's description, he appeared to be a rather proud and reserved young man.
Lady Catherine was in a very bad humour for a few days after her quarrel with Darcy, however she had sufficiently recovered her sense of hospitality, or her curiosity as to what Mrs Collins' relatives were like, to issue an invitation for dinner at Rosings for the whole party from the parsonage, on the day before the Lucases' departure to London.
The invitation was accepted of course, and at a proper hour the party from the parsonage was shown into Lady Catherine's drawing room. Her ladyship, with great condescension, arose to receive them. Her air was not conciliating, nor was her manner of receiving them, such as to make her visitors forget their inferior rank. She was not rendered formidable by silence, but whatever she said, was spoken in so authoritative a tone, as marked her self-importance. The dinner was exceedingly handsome, and there were all the servants, and all the articles of plate, which Mr Collins had promised. After dinner, when the gentlemen had joined them, and tea was over, the card tables were placed. Lady Catherine, Mr and Mrs Lucas, and Mr Collins sat down to quadrille, while the rest of the party sat down to a game of speculation. The presence of Mrs Jenkinson at their table was felt as something of a restraint by Miss de Bourgh, and scarcely a syllable was uttered that did not relate to the game. A great deal more passed at the other table. Lady Catherine was generally speaking, stating the mistakes of the three others, or relating some anecdote of herself. Mr Collins was engaged in agreeing to everything her ladyship said, while Mr and Mrs Lucas had the appearance of civilly listening most of the time. When Lady Catherine had played as long as she liked, the tables were broken up, the carriage was offered to Mrs Collins, gratefully accepted, and immediately ordered.
About a week later, Colonel Fitzwilliam formally applied to his aunt for Anne's hand in marriage. Lady Catherine, having quarreled with Darcy, and having resigned herself to the fact that Anne would not be the mistress of Pemberley as well as the future mistress of Rosings, decided that a match with her nephew Colonel the Honourable Richard Fitzwilliam would not be contemptible, after all his father was her brother and an earl, even if he was the younger son with no great estate of his own. At least the shades of Rosings would not suffer any pollution with such a master.
In the meantime, back in town, Darcy was deeply disturbed by the gossip that he now realized had been circulating about him and Miss Caroline Bingley. When Bingley had first introduced him to his sisters, Mrs Hurst and Miss Bingley, he had liked them well enough, at least he had certainly not disliked them. Miss Bingley was like many other young ladies of his acquaintance, who were not deficient in good humour when they were pleased, nor in the power of being agreeable when they chose it, but rather proud and conceited. However, he had not censured pride as a serious fault if it was under good regulation, and he supposed such young ladies would think that they had something to be proud of. Like other young ladies who had been educated in a fashionable seminary, she had acquired the usual extant of accomplishments -- in music, singing, drawing, dancing and the modern languages, but not in something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading. In general, he personally found such young ladies to be rather commonplace and boring, but as she was his good friend's sister, he had sought to be more than ordinarily civil to her.
He had also allowed and even encouraged Georgina's friendship with Bingley's sisters, they both seemed to be so fond of her, and he thought it might do her good to be well-acquainted with some fashionable young ladies who might help her to overcome some of her shyness when in company. And especially after that near-disaster with Wickham at Ramsgate, both he and Georgina's co-guardian Richard Fitzwilliam would have been glad if they could make a match between Georgina and a respectable and amiable gentleman like Bingley.
Perhaps he had been rather unguarded in being a little too friendly with Caroline, he had not at first realized that she was going to misconstrue his friendly attentions towards her as his friend's sister and his sister's friend for something more. When he realized that fact, he had endeavoured to discourage her by becoming more cool and distant, hoping that she would soon take the hint and understand that there could be nothing more than friendship between them.
Darcy was now horrified to find out that gossip had already coupled his name with hers. He decided that he must made it clear to Bingley that there was no truth in it, and to avoid further gossip or false expectations, he firmly decided not to accompany Bingley to Netherfield, the estate in Hertfordshire, which had recently been leased by his friend.
Chapter 4 - The Bingleys at Netherfield
Posted on 2008-11-09
Mr Charles Bingley had inherited a fortune to the amount of nearly a hundred thousand pounds from his father, who had intended to purchase an estate upon his retirement from business, but did not live to do so. Mr Bingley intended it likewise, and had been making inquiries into likely properties to lease or purchase. He had been of age for about three years, when he was tempted by an accidental recommendation to look at Netherfield Park. After looking at the house and pleasure gardens, he was well-pleased with the situation and the principal rooms, and decided to take a lease on the property, with a view to its possible purchase, if he should find the neighbourhood to be congenial to him.
His sisters, Mrs Hurst and Miss Bingley, were very anxious for his having an estate of his own. They believed that once their brother had an estate of his own, they would be established as being among the landed gentry, and that would hopefully wipe away the stigma of their brother's fortune and their own dowries having been acquired by trade. Louisa, the eldest in the family, was some three years older than Charles, and was married to Mr Hurst of Grosvenor Street. Mr Hurst was a gentleman of rather more fashion than fortune, but as the Hursts were an old, well-established family, the then Miss Louisa Bingley, the daughter of a merchant, had been sufficiently well-pleased with her conquest. Now she hoped that their sister Caroline, who was about a year younger than Charles, could aim even higher than she did and captivate a gentleman with both fortune and good family connections.
The sisters had been very well-pleased when their brother had first introduced his friend Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy to them. Mr Darcy was a gentleman of large property in Derbyshire, and on his mother's side, he even had connections with the nobility, as his maternal uncle was the earl of Matlock. These were important considerations, but quite apart from that, Miss Caroline Bingley had liked Mr Darcy and admired him, as so many other young women did, he was so handsome and such a fine gentleman. And, of course, to be mistress of his estate of Pemberley must be something! And his sister was such a gentle and unassuming girl, with none of the airs and pride which both Mrs Hurst and Miss Bingley would have expected and been willing to acknowledge as perfectly natural and justified in a girl of such fortune and consequence. What a perfect wife Miss Darcy would be for their brother! Of course, Georgina was little more than sixteen, but if Charles would remain unattached for another couple of years, it was possible to make up a match between them. And Mr Darcy seemed to think so too, for he had encouraged Georgina's friendship with the Bingleys, and they could perceive that he was very particular as to his sister's friendships. When Miss Bingley had first befriended Miss Darcy, it was mainly in order to get closer to Mr Darcy, but it was impossible not to become genuinely fond of Georgina, who was also so accomplished and yet was as modest of her accomplishments as she was of her fortune and consequence.
Miss Bingley had found Mr Darcy to be rather reserved except among his intimate acquaintances, with whom he was remarkably agreeable. She had been flattered and pleased to find that as his friend Bingley's sister, he had apparently included her among his intimate acquaintances. And after she had paid her first visit to Pemberley, she told herself that she was falling in love with him. Mrs Hurst had been most zealous in supporting her sister and attempting to make a match between her and Mr Darcy, giving her all sorts of advice on how best to attract him.
Caroline had followed her sister's advice and had sought to please Darcy by every means in her power, agreeing with all his opinions and paying him such attentions that a young lady may pay a young gentleman, as she thought, without impropriety. She had begun to be rather puzzled and hurt when, instead of increasing their intimacy, he had become more reserved and more distant from her, his manner towards her becoming more like that of his manner towards his ordinary acquaintances rather than towards his intimate friends. However, the sisters had taken comfort from the fact that several of their acquaintances had begun to link Darcy's name with Caroline, they were probably right if they believed that Darcy was intending to pay his addresses to her. Louisa had silenced Caroline's doubts over Darcy's increasingly reserved and distant manners, it was very probable that a gentleman, when he was thinking of proposing to a lady, but before he had quite made up his mind, would appear to be rather reserved and distracted. Caroline should therefore ensure that he would make up his mind in her favour, by not ceasing in her attentions to him.
It was perhaps fortunate that Miss Bingley was soon to be undeceived regarding Mr Darcy, before she was so far gone in her pursuit of him as to have turned it into an obsession, or to have completely hardened her character, or to have made a complete fool of herself.
Mr Darcy had been visiting his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh of Rosings Park, in Kent, and upon meeting him soon after his return to town, Mr Bingley had invited his friend to accompany him, his sisters and his brother-in-law to his newly leased estate of Netherfield in Hertfordshire. To his surprise, Darcy had firmly declined, saying that it would not do for him to accompany the Bingleys to their new home at this point in time. Darcy had appeared to be rather disturbed and upset about something, he told Bingley that what he had to say was rather awkward, but he hoped that it would not really affect the friendship between them in the future. He then informed Bingley of part of what had passed between him and Lady Catherine at Rosings, that his aunt had heard some rumours as to an attachment between him and Miss Bingley and had quarreled with him, although he had assured her that there was no truth in it and that there was nothing more than friendship between them. Darcy now wished to inform Bingley that there really was no truth in such gossip, and that he hoped he had never, in his conduct, unwittingly led Miss Bingley to think that he meant to pay his addresses to her. His friendship with Bingley meant a great deal to him, perhaps he even had a brotherly regard for Bingley's sisters, but he certainly had no romantic interest whatsoever. Bingley assured Darcy that from his observation, he knew that his friend had never flirted or behaved with any impropriety towards his sister, but if there was some gossip that was linking their names together, he realized that it was best that Darcy should not visit them in their new home just yet. Such a visit within an intimate family party at this time would certainly add fuel to the gossip, and a young lady's prospects may be seriously harmed if other possible suitors were deterred or kept away from approaching her by the mistaken belief that she was already attached to a certain gentleman.
Bingley's sisters were very upset when they heard that Darcy was not going to accompany them to Netherfield, and Bingley decided that he had to have a frank talk with both his sisters, or at least with his elder sister, perhaps Louisa could then explain the matter to Caroline. So he first spoke to Mrs Hurst about it, telling her about the rumours and what had passed between him and Darcy. Mrs Hurst's distraught exclamations and her wonder as to why Darcy had refused to prove the truth of the rumours by offering for Caroline made Bingley realize that he could not leave it to Louisa to explain things to Caroline, but that he had to speak to Caroline himself.
It was with some trepidation that Bingley approached the rather delicate task of approaching his younger sister directly on the subject of the false rumours that had been circulating about her and his friend, and of her own false hopes and expectations on that subject. He was not used to the role of a responsible elder brother, Louisa was the eldest of the three, and after their father's death not long after her marriage to Mr Hurst, perhaps he had thought that he could leave it entirely to Louisa to take care of Caroline's coming out and her conduct in society. Moreover, he himself was only a year older than Caroline, and she scarcely looked upon him as an elder brother. But he had begun to be aware that he needed to learn to take responsibilities upon himself, especially since he was thinking of settling down at an estate of his own. Among the things that he had admired and respected in his friend Darcy was that Darcy was such a good and responsible man, as a brother, a landlord and a master. He would have been very glad to have Darcy for a brother, and therefore was not without feeling some personal disappointment that there was no possibility of a marriage between Darcy and Caroline, but he knew that Darcy had never conducted himself in any way as to have given raise to rational expectations that he was a suitor for Caroline's hand. If any such expectations had been raised, they had definitely not been raised by Darcy, and thus they were not rational expectations.
Bingley therefore had a frank and open talk with Caroline and made it clear to his sister that she had no hope of Mr Darcy, and that, for her own sake, she must cease to think of him as a possible future husband. He was obliged to speak more firmly and forcefully than he had initially intended, as that was the only way to convince his sister of the futility of such hopes. He was sorry for her disappointment, but it was best that she should not continue to indulge in false hopes and realize the truth sooner rather than later. He reminded her that after all, Darcy was not the only man in the world, and that she was a good-looking and accomplished young woman. He also ventured to point out that men of sense did not care for excessive and insincere flattery but preferred reasonably intelligent women with unaffected manners, and that it was unbecoming for a woman to attempt to pursue a man who was indifferent to her. Upon being eventually convinced of Darcy's indifference, Caroline was subdued and shed a few tears in her bed that night. However, by the following day she was determined to put a good face to it so that the gossips among her acquaintances should not think that she had been hurt and disappointed, let them think that she and Darcy had drifted apart through mutual indifference. Caroline found herself unexpectedly looking forward to leaving town and taking up residence at her brother's newly leased estate of Netherfield, where she would be keeping house for him.
Bingley's arrival at Netherfield was going to cause some excitement in the neighbourhood, for it was a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
Ever since the marriage between Jane and John Lucas, and an alliance had been established between the Bennets and the Lucases, there had existed a certain unwritten pact between Mrs Bennet and Lady Lucas. Mrs Bennet had three remaining single daughters to be disposed of in marriage, while Lady Lucas had two single daughters. It was tacitly understood between these two matrons that, since there was now a marriage alliance between their families, while each would continue to give priority to seek eligible suitors for her own daughters, each would also assist to do so for the other's daughters, or at least not stand in her way. Mrs Bennet had an added incentive for wanting Charlotte and Maria to be married as well as her own daughters, for if the two Miss Lucases were to remain unmarried, they would no doubt hang on to their elder brother John, and he and Jane would have them on their hands forever.
Elizabeth had returned from her visit to Mary at Hunsford Parsonage a few days before the Bingleys were due to arrive at Netherfield. When she left Kent, Rosings had been in the midst of the wedding preparations for the marriage of Anne de Bourgh to Colonel Fitzwilliam, which was to take place in about a month's time. Lady Catherine had graciously extended an invitation to Miss Bennet to attend the wedding, if she would like to prolong her visit at Hunsford until the wedding day. However, Elizabeth, while politely professing herself to be honoured by her ladyship's invitation, excused herself by saying that her parents could not spare her for another month, and that her father had written to her expressing his wish for her return. She would of course look forward to hearing all about the wedding through her sister Mrs Collins' letters. Lady Catherine then proceeded to talk about some of the guests who would be coming to the wedding. Colonel Fitzwilliam's parents were unable to attend the wedding, as the earl was afflicted with gout and now seldom left his estate of Matlock, but the Colonel's brother and sister-in-law, Lord and Lady Fitzwilliam, would be coming, and Lord Fitzwilliam would give away the bride. Lady Catherine had also been persuaded to invite her other nephew, Mr Darcy as Anne wanted his sister Georgina to be her bridesmaid. After all, the causes for Lady Catherine's quarrel with Darcy were no longer relevant, and her ladyship was at least appeased by the assurance that Darcy was not going to marry that tradesman Bingley's daughter. Mr and Miss Darcy had of course accepted the invitation and Lady Catherine believed that Darcy was thankful to be reconciled with her.
On the day of Bingley's arrival at Netherfield, the following conversation took place between Mr and Mrs Bennet.
"My dear Mr Bennet," said his lady to him that day, "have you heard that the young gentleman who has taken the lease on Netherfield Park has arrived at last?"
Mr Bennet replied that he had not.
"But he has," returned she, "for Lady Lucas has just been here, and she told me all about it. Mr Bingley is a single man of large fortune, four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our single girls!"
"How so? How can it affect them?"
"My dear Mr Bennet," replied his wife, "how can you be so tiresome? You must know that I'm thinking of his marrying one of them."
"Is that his design in settling here?"
"Design! Nonsense, how can you talk so! But it is very likely that he may fall in love with one of them, and therefore you must lose no time in paying him a visit."
"I see no occasion for that. You and the three girls may go, or you may send them by themselves, which perhaps will be still better, for as you are as handsome as any of them, Mr Bingley might like you the best of the party."
"My dear, you flatter me. I certainly have had my share of beauty, but I do not pretend to anything extraordinary now. When a woman has two married daughters and three marriageable ones, she ought to give over thinking of her own beauty."
"In such cases, a woman has not often much beauty to think of."
"But my dear, you must indeed go and see Mr Bingley as soon as possible."
"It is more than I engage for, I assure you."
"But consider, we still have three unmarried daughters. Only think what an establishment it would be for one of them, better even than Jane's marriage to John, or Mary's marriage to William."
"I dare say Mr Bingley will be very glad to see you, and I will send a few lines by you to assure him of my hearty consent to his marrying whichever he chooses of the three girls, though I must throw in a good word for my little Lizzy."
"You are always giving Lizzy the preference, though of course it is to be hoped that with Mary married before her, she will find a husband soon, otherwise I worry that she may be an old maid together with Charlotte. And that is why you really must call on Mr Bingley, for it will be impossible for us to visit him, if you do not."
"Lizzy is not yet two and twenty, it is some time before she can be accused of being an old maid."
"But one cannot be too careful, and with a younger sister married before her ... I hope she won't put off Mr Bingley, as she put off William, luckily William has chosen to marry Mary, so if Mr Bingley is not attracted to Lizzy, I hope he will chose Kitty or Lydia instead, or even Charlotte or Maria next after them."
"On second thoughts, I think I had better make sure that Mr Bingley is not like our son Collins before assuring him of my hearty consent to his choosing Lizzy for his bride."
Mr Bennet was among the earliest of those who waited on Mr Bingley. He had always intended to visit him, even before his wife spoke to him about it. Observing his favourite daughter employed in trimming a hat in the evening upon his return from Netherfield, he addressed her with,
"I hope Mr Bingley will like it, Lizzy."
"We will not know what Mr Bingley likes, until you visit him. When are you going to do that?" her mother said fretfully.
"I have already paid the visit this afternoon."
Mrs Bennet was immediately thrown into ruptures of joy, and the rest of the evening was spent in conjecturing how soon he would return Mr Bennet's visit, and hoping that Mr Bingley would dance with her daughters at the next ball at the Meryton assembly.
In a few days Mr Bingley returned Mr Bennet's visit, and sat about ten minutes with him in his library. He saw only Mr Bennet on that first visit at Longbourn, though he had entertained great hopes of being admitted to a sight of the three Miss Bennets, for he had met the beautiful Mrs Lucas when he had returned Sir William's visit. He had thought that if her younger sisters were even half as lovely as she was, he would be very much interested in meeting them. Of course, he was far too honourable a gentleman to think of attempting a flirtation with another man's wife, be she ever so beautiful. Not that the virtuous and happily married Mrs Lucas would have allowed Mr BIngley, or any other man, to attempt to flirt with her.
On the night of the ball, everybody was eagerly waiting for the party from Netherfield to arrive. And when the party entered the assembly room, there were four of them altogether; Mr Bingley, his elder sister and her husband, and his younger unmarried sister. Mr Bingley was good-looking and gentlemanlike, he had a pleasant countenance, and easy, unaffected manners. His sisters were fine women, with an air of decided fashion, and his brother-in-law, Mr Hurst, also looked the gentleman. Mr Bingley had soon made himself acquainted with all the principal people in the room, he was lively and unreserved, danced every dance, was angry that the ball closed so early, and talked of giving one himself at Netherfield. Such amiable qualities must speak for themselves.
The evening passed off very pleasantly for the Bennets. Mr Bingley had danced with Elizabeth twice, and Kitty and Lydia had been fortunate enough to have several officers for their partners. Lieutenants Sanderson and Denny were particularly attentive to the two youngest Miss Bennets. Colonel Forster had also appeared to be enjoying himself, and had danced twice with Miss Bingley.
Mrs Bennet and the Miss Bennets therefore returned in good spirits to Longbourn. They found Mr Bennet still up. With a book he was regardless of time, and on the present occasion he had a good deal of curiosity as to the event of an evening which had raised such splendid expectations.
"Oh, my dear Mr Bennet," said Mrs Bennet as she entered the room, "we have a most delightful evening, a most excellent ball. I wish you had been there. Lizzy was so admired by Mr Bingley, he must have thought her quite beautiful, for he danced with her twice. Only think of that my dear, he actually danced with her twice, and she was the only one with whom he danced a second time. First of all, he asked Charlotte, I was rather disappointed, but it was better that he should ask her than ask someone wholly unconnected to us. However, he did not admire her, and he seemed quite struck with Lizzy as she was going down the dance. So, he enquired who she was, and got introduced, and asked her for the two next. Then, the two third he danced with Jane, and the two fourth with Maria, and the two fifth with Lizzy again, and the two sixth with that young Mrs Carter, and the Bolanger ..."
"If he had had any compassion for me," cried her husband impatiently, "he would not have danced half so much! For God's sake, say no more of his partners."
"Oh, my dear," continued Mrs Bennet, "I am quite delighted with him. He is so excessively handsome! And his sisters are charming women, and so elegantly dressed! Colonel Forster was evidently struck with Miss Bingley, for he danced with her twice ..."
Here she was interrupted again, Mr Bennet protested that he had no wish to hear of Colonel Forster's partners either. She was therefore obliged to seek another branch of the subject, and started talking about the newly-married Captain and Mrs Carter. At one time, there had been rumours that Colonel Forster was going to ask the then Miss Harriet Goulding to marry him, however, it turned out to be untrue, for it was Captain Carter who had married her instead. Mrs Carter was not much older than Lydia, so she was probably a little too young for Colonel Forster.
Chapter 5 - First Impressions
Posted on 2008-11-13
In view of their long friendship and more recent family alliance, it was absolutely necessary that the Miss Lucases and the Miss Bennets should meet to talk over a ball, and the morning after the assembly brought Charlotte and Maria, as well as Jane, to Longbourn.
"You began the evening well, Charlotte," said Mrs Bennet quite cordially to her eldest daughter's sister-in-law, "You were Mr Bingley's first choice."
"Yes, but he seemed to like his second better."
"Oh, you mean Lizzy I suppose, because he danced with her twice. To be sure, that did seem as if he admired her. Well, if so, I hope he will continue to like her, and that she won't put him off by contradicting him, or putting her own opinions against his, for gentlemen don't like to be contradicted, you know."
"I think that a gentleman of sense will respect her opinions and also enjoy Lizzy's lively conversation and her wit and vivacity."
"Oh, you are too kind, my dear Charlotte. To be sure, we will all hope for the best, and since we are all family now, I know that you and Maria will rejoice over Lizzy's prospects as much as Jane and Kitty and Lydia would, but, however, it may all come to nothing, you know. Perhaps Jane should have a talk with her and advise her on how best to conduct herself with Mr Bingley, for I sometimes think that Lizzy would listen to her eldest sister better than she would to her own mother."
Mrs Bennet certainly thought that Jane, who had been happily married to a loving husband for several months now, would be in a good position to advise her younger sister on how best to please a gentleman, including, in the first place, on how to get a gentleman to propose. Jane, Elizabeth and Charlotte were happy to have some private conversation between the three of them, while the younger girls, Maria, Kitty and Lydia were comparing their own notes about the ball. Kitty and Lydia were particularly enthusiastic over the officers, and could talk of nothing else but the officers who had partnered them at the ball. Mr Bingley's large fortune, the mention of which gave animation to their mother, was worthless in their eyes when compared to the regimentals of an ensign. Maria was perhaps not quite so enthusiastic about the officers as her two friends, although she was well-pleased that the presence of the militia regiment meant that there was no scarcity of gentlemen at the assembly ball, and that she had not been obliged to sit out any dances. Kitty and Lydia both thought that it would be a fine and exciting thing to be married to an officer and to accompany the army wherever it was ordered to go. Maria agreed that it would be exciting, but she was not sure that such excitement would exactly suit her. Maria rather thought that her friend Mary Collins' life as the wife of a respectable clergyman, occupied with taking care of her housekeeping and her poultry and helping to take care of the parish was more peaceful and comfortable than the life of an army wife.
In the meantime, Jane, Elizabeth and Charlotte were talking about their own impressions of the previous evening. They all had a good impression of Mr Bingley.
"He is just what a young man ought to be," said Jane, "sensible, good-humoured, lively, and with such easy, well-bred manners. John likes him too, and indeed, I think he is not unlike John in character as well as manners."
"He is also handsome," murmured Elizabeth, blushing slightly, "which a young man ought likewise to be, if he possibly can. His character is therefore complete."
"I was very much pleased when he asked you to dance a second time. It was such a pretty compliment to you."
"Were you surprised?"
"Well, of course, I know it is perfectly natural for any gentleman of sense to admire you, my dear Lizzy."
Lizzy laughed, "I wasn't fishing for another compliment, I assure you. But compliments always take you by surprise, and me never. Well, he is certainly very agreeable, and I enjoyed both our dances together. I'm glad that you like him too, but you have liked many a stupider person. I never heard you speak ill of a human being in my life."
"I would wish not to be hasty in censuring anyone, but I always speak what I think."
"I know you do; and it is that which makes the wonder. With your good sense, to be honestly blind to the follies and nonsense of others! And so, you like Mr Bingley's sisters too, do you? Their manners are not equal to his."
Jane smiled, "I don't suppose that you would consider anybody's manners last night to be equal to his."
"No, seriously, Jane! Didn't you notice a certain superciliousness in their manners towards almost everybody last night? Don't you agree with me, Charlotte?"
"I agree that their manners are certainly not equal to their brother's," replied Charlotte.
"Well, it is true that their manners do not appear to be equal to his, at first. But they are very pleasing women when you converse with them. Miss Bingley is to live with her brother and keep his house, and I am much mistaken if we shall not find a very charming neighbour in her. Perhaps her manners were a little stiff at first, earlier in the evening, but she seemed much more pleasant and relaxed afterwards. I think she enjoyed the dancing very much."
"I think she particularly enjoyed dancing with Colonel Forster, and he obviously enjoyed dancing with her," put in Charlotte.
"And Lizzy, if you like Mr Bingley so much, you should try to like his sisters, too," added Jane.
The Netherfield family was also speaking of the Meryton assembly among themselves. Bingley declared that he had never met with pleasanter people or prettier girls in his life, everybody had been most kind and attentive to him, there had been no formality, no stiffness, he had soon felt acquainted with all the room, and the eldest Miss Bennet was a very attractive young lady. She may not be a classical beauty like her elder sister Mrs Lucas, but her sparkling dark eyes had matched her sparkling and witty conversation and he had immensely enjoyed his dances with her. He had quite made up his mind to purchase the estate of Netherfield, the neighbourhood was certainly congenial to him. Mrs Hurst started to say that she had seen a collection of people in whom there was little beauty and no fashion and appealed to her sister to agree with her. However, to Louisa's surprise, Caroline had simply said rather vaguely that while most of the gathering was somewhat unfashionable especially when compared to the parties in town, she had passed a rather more agreeable evening than she had expected. Miss Bingley also added that Netherfield Park appeared to be a very nice estate, and they had always wanted their brother to have an estate of his own.. Bingley was delighted at this unexpected support from his younger sister, Louisa was amazed, and after rapidly reviewing the events of the previous evening in her mind -- the fact that her brother had danced twice with Miss Elizabeth Bennet, and that Colonel Forster had danced twice with her sister -- she looked at both her brother and sister with some consternation. She had often seen her brother fancying himself in love before, and would have dismissed Miss Bennet as just another unimportant flirtation had it not been for his talk about settling down in the neighbourhood. As for her sister, she knew of course that Caroline had been disappointed in her hopes regarding Mr Darcy not long before they came down to Netherfield, but surely she would not wish to throw herself away on some army officer just because she could not get the master of Pemberley! She would have many opportunities of meeting other rich and fashionable young men in the next London season. Mrs Hurst decided not to say anything further in their brother's presence, but made up her mind to have a private talk with her sister as soon as possible.
Accordingly, as soon as the two sisters were alone together, Mrs Hurst began to express her views to Miss Bingley, stressing her fears of the danger of Charles making a serious commitment to Miss Bennet if he settled down in that neighbourhood, and reminding Caroline of the delights of the society in town and her opportunities of meeting other wealthy and eligible bachelors during the next season. But Caroline appeared to be listening rather absent-mindedly, until Louisa reminded her of their hopes of making a possible future match between their brother and Miss Darcy. It was a mistake on Mrs Hurst's part to mention the name Darcy, for Caroline flushed, and retorted sharply that there was no point in attempting to pursue a match with a member of a family whose haughty relatives looked down on them because their fortunes had been acquired by their father in trade. Moreover, while Miss Darcy herself was a very nice girl, she was still very young, being little more than sixteen.
Mrs Hurst was a rather conceited and socially ambitious woman, but she was not strong-willed, and being thus unexpectedly deprived of her strongest and most reliable support by her sister's sudden change of ideas, she subsided, saying to herself that she had done her duty by her younger brother and sister in attempting to look out for good matches for them, and that she was not to blame if they chose to make fools of themselves.
Miss Bingley did not quite understand the change in herself. When she had arrived at the Meryton assembly, she had not expected to find much pleasure in such an unfashionable and unsophisticated gathering. But something had happened to her when Colonel Forster had stepped forward and asked her to do him the honour of dancing the next dance with him, and had been so pleasant and warmly attentive to her. She had attended many more fashionable balls in town, and had been partnered by many fashionable young men, but there had been something different about this particular partner. She had been delighted when he had asked her to dance with him a second time. She remembered what Charles had said about men of sense not caring for excessive flattery and preferring reasonably intelligent women with unaffected manners, and she had conversed easily and naturally with him. She had only met Colonel Forster that evening, but she realized that she felt more at ease with him than she had ever felt with Mr Darcy. When talking to Darcy, she had always been striving to say things which she had thought he would have wanted to hear, instead of conversing naturally with him. And Colonel Forster had been far more attentive to her than Darcy had ever been. Of course it was only one evening, and she must remember what some people say about the gallantry of army officers, she won't get her hopes up just yet, and she was certainly not going to pursue Colonel Forster as she had once pursued Mr Darcy. If Colonel Forster really liked her, he should pursue her, and if he did, then encouragement from her would not be long wanting. Never again would she make a fool of herself by pursuing a man who was indifferent to her, and whose haughty relatives looked down on her. And thinking of those haughty relatives brought another flush to her cheeks. What fools she and Louisa had been to think that if they talked disparagingly about tradesmen, then the members of the ton would not suspect that their own fortunes had been acquired through trade.
The ladies of Lucas Lodge and Longbourn soon waited on those of Netherfield, and the visits were returned in due form. Mrs Jane Lucas' pleasing manners grew on the good will of both Mrs Hurst and Miss Bingley. They also found both Lady Lucas and Mrs Bennet to be rather tiresome women, and the younger Miss Lucas and the two youngest Miss Bennets to be rather silly young girls. However, the elder Miss Lucas appeared to be quite sensible and intelligent, if rather plain, and the manners of the present eldest Miss Bennet, while not quite as pleasing to them as those of her married elder sister, was at least more tolerable than those of her silly younger sisters. If not for the danger to Charles, Mrs Hurst would not have minded being better acquainted with Miss Bennet as well as with Mrs and Miss Lucas. Mrs Lucas was of course married and out of the question for Charles to fall in love with, and Miss Lucas' plain looks assured his sister that she would pose no danger to Charles, who had always admired pretty women.Continued In Next Section