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With Just a Little Guidance Chapters 11 and 12

May 13, 2015 07:27PM
AN: Thanks again for your kind comments.
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Chapter 11

As no objection was made to the engagement with their aunt, and all Mr. Collins's scruples of leaving Mr. Bennet for a single evening during his visit were most steadily resisted, the coach conveyed Mr. Collins, Jane, and Kitty at a suitable hour to Meryton; and Kitty heard, as they entered the drawing-room, that Mr. Wickham had accepted their uncle's invitation, and was then in the house.

When this information was given, and they had all taken their seats, Mr. Collins was at leisure to look around him and admire, and he was so much struck with the size and furniture of the apartment, that he declared he might almost have supposed himself in the small summer breakfast parlor at Rosings; a comparison that did not at first convey much gratification; but when Mrs. Phillips understood from him what Rosings was, and who was its proprietor, when she had listened to the description of only one of Lady Catherine's drawing-rooms, and found that the chimney-piece alone had cost eight hundred pounds, she felt all the force of the compliment, and would hardly have resented a comparison with the housekeeper's room.

In describing to her all the grandeur of Lady Catherine and her mansion, with occasional digressions in praise of his own humble abode and the improvements it was receiving, he was happily employed until the gentlemen joined them; and he found in Mrs. Phillips a very attentive listener, whose opinion of his consequence increased with what she heard, and who was resolving to retail it all among her neighbors as soon as she could. To the girls, who could not listen to their cousin, and who had nothing to do but to wish for an instrument, and examine their own indifferent imitations of china on the mantelpiece, the interval of waiting appeared very long. It was over at last however. The gentlemen did approach; and when Mr. Wickham walked into the room, Kitty felt that she had neither been seeing him before, nor thinking of him since, with the smallest degree of unreasonable admiration. The officers of the ——shire were in general a very creditable, gentlemanlike set, and the best of them were of the present party; but Mr. Wickham was as far beyond them all in person, countenance, air, and walk, as they were superior to the broad-faced stuffy uncle Phillips, breathing port wine, who followed them into the room.

Mr. Wickham was the happy man towards whom almost every female eye was turned, and Kitty was the woman by whom he finally seated himself; and the agreeable manner in which he immediately fell into conversation, though it was only on its being a wet night again, and on the probability of a rainy season, made her feel that the commonest, dullest, most threadbare topic might be rendered interesting by the skill of the speaker. She thought he was actually a good example of what her aunt was trying to teach her about the ability to make small talk.

With such rivals for the notice of the fair, as Mr. Wickham and the officers, Mr. Collins seemed likely to sink into insignificance; to the young ladies he certainly was nothing; but he had still at intervals a kind listener in Mrs. Phillips, and was, by her watchfulness, most abundantly supplied with coffee and muffin.

When the card tables were placed, he had an opportunity of obliging her in return, by sitting down to whist. "I know little of the game, at present," said he, "but I shall be glad to improve myself, for in my situation of life." Mrs. Phillips was very thankful for his compliance, but could not wait for his reason. Jane joined them at whist.

Mr. Wickham did not play at whist, and with ready delight was he received at the other table between Kitty and her friend Maria Lucas. Although she had an older sister who was not yet married, Maria, at eighteen, had already been in society for more than a year. At first there seemed some danger of Maria’s engrossing him entirely for she was a most determined talker; but being likewise extremely fond of lottery tickets, she soon grew too much interested in the game, too eager in making bets and exclaiming after prizes, to have attention for any one in particular. Allowing for the common demands of the game, Mr. Wickham was therefore at leisure to talk to Kitty, and she was very willing to hear him, though what she chiefly wished to hear she could not hope to be told, the history of his acquaintance with Mr. Darcy. She dared not even mention that gentleman. Her curiosity however was unexpectedly relieved. Mr. Wickham began the subject himself. He inquired how far Netherfield was from Meryton; and, after receiving her answer, asked in a hesitating manner how long Mr. Darcy had been staying there.

"About a month," said Kitty; and then, unwilling to let the subject drop, added, "He is a man of very large property in Derbyshire, I understand."

"Yes," replied Wickham, "his estate there is a noble one. A clear ten thousand per annum. You could not have met with a person more capable of giving you certain information on that head than myself, for I have been connected with his family in a particular manner from my infancy."

Kitty could not but look surprised.

"You may well be surprised, Miss Bennet, at such an assertion, after seeing, as you probably might, the very cold manner of our meeting yesterday. Are you much acquainted with Mr. Darcy?"

"Only a little," said Kitty, "I do not really know him. I have encountered him a handful of times. He is quite reserved."

"I have no right to give my opinion," said Wickham, "as to his being agreeable or otherwise. I am not qualified to form one. I have known him too long and to well to be a fair judge. It is impossible for me to be impartial."

"Upon my word I say no more here than I might say in any house in the neighborhood, except Netherfield. He is not at all known in Hertfordshire. He keeps his own counsel."

"I cannot pretend to be sorry," said Wickham, after a short interruption, "that he or that any man should not be estimated beyond their deserts; but with him I believe it does not often happen. The world is blinded by his fortune and consequence, or frightened by his high and imposing manners, and sees him only as he chooses to be seen."

"I wonder," said he, at the next opportunity of speaking, "whether he is likely to be in this country much longer."

"I do not at all know; but I heard nothing of his going away. I hope your plans in favor of the ——shire will not be affected by his being in the neighborhood."

"Oh! No, it is not for me to be driven away by Mr. Darcy. If he wishes to avoid seeing me, he must go. We are not on friendly terms, and it always gives me pain to meet him, but I have no reason for avoiding him but what I might proclaim to all the world; a sense of very great ill-usage, and most painful regrets at his being what he is. His father, Miss Bennet, the late Mr. Darcy, was one of the best men that ever breathed, and the truest friend I ever had; and I can never be in company with this Mr. Darcy without being grieved to the soul by a thousand tender recollections. His behavior to myself has been scandalous; but I verily believe I could forgive him anything and everything, rather than his disappointing the hopes and disgracing the memory of his father."

Kitty found the interest of the subject increase, and listened with all her heart; but the delicacy of it prevented farther inquiry. She wondered though at the picture that Mr. Wickham presented of Mr. Darcy since it fit so ill with what Lady Stanford and Jane knew of him. And although he said he could not disgrace the memory of the father, he was doing exactly the opposite in this conversation. Kitty pondered the contradictions of the man and realized that her aunt was correct, there was much more to the story and one should be very careful of Mr. Wickham.
Mr. Wickham began to speak on more general topics, Meryton, the neighborhood, the society, appearing highly pleased with all that he had yet seen, and speaking of the latter especially, with gentle but very intelligible gallantry.

"It was the prospect of constant society, and good society," he added, "which was my chief inducement to enter the ——shire. I knew it to be a most respectable, agreeable corps, and my friend Denny tempted me farther by his account of their present quarters, and the very great attentions and excellent acquaintance Meryton had procured them. Society, I own, is necessary to me. I have been a disappointed man, and my spirits will not bear solitude. I must have employment and society. A military life is not what I was intended for, but circumstances have now made it eligible. The church ought to have been my profession—I was brought up for the church, and I should at this time have been in possession of a most valuable living, had it pleased the gentleman we were speaking of just now."

"Indeed!" To herself she thought, “You seem even less suited than Mr. Collins.”

"Yes. The late Mr. Darcy bequeathed me the next presentation of the best living in his gift. He was my godfather, and excessively attached to me. I cannot do justice to his kindness. He meant to provide for me amply, and thought he had done it; but when the living fell, it was given elsewhere."

"Good heavens!" cried Kitty; "but how could that be? How could his will be disregarded? Why did not you seek legal redress?" To herself, she added, “I assume that would be because you are not telling the whole story. Something very wrong is going on here. From your whole attitude, I do not think you were seriously considering taking orders. What kind of parson would you be?”

"There was just such an informality in the terms of the bequest as to give me no hope from law. A man of honor could not have doubted the intention, but Mr. Darcy chose to doubt it, or to treat it as a merely conditional recommendation, and to assert that I had forfeited all claim to it by extravagance, imprudence, in short anything or nothing. Certain it is, that the living became vacant two years ago, exactly as I was of an age to hold it, and that it was given to another man; and no less certain is it, that I cannot accuse myself of having really done anything to deserve to lose it. I have a warm, unguarded temper, and I may perhaps have sometimes spoken my opinion of him, and to him, too freely. I can recall nothing worse. But the fact is, that we are very different sort of men, and that he hates me."

"This is quite shocking! He deserves to be publicly disgraced." To herself, she thought, “Wait. If you were a child with Mr. Darcy, and the living became vacant two years ago, what have you been doing all these years? You are a little older than most of the officers just joining the militia. What are you not telling?”

"Some time or other he will be, but it shall not be by me. Till I can forget his father, I can never defy or expose him."

Kitty thought, “Wait a moment. You cannot defy or expose him? Is that not what you just did to me whom you have just met? How very curious. I will have to discuss this with my aunt. This is all very wrong.”

"But what," said she after a pause, "can have been his motive? What can have induced him to behave so cruelly?"

"A thorough, determined dislike of me—a dislike which I cannot but attribute in some measure to jealousy. Had the late Mr. Darcy liked me less, his son might have borne with me better; but his father's uncommon attachment to me, irritated him I believe very early in life. He had not a temper to bear the sort of competition in which we stood—the sort of preference which was often given me."

"I had not thought Mr. Darcy so bad as this and could did not suspect him of descending to such malicious revenge, such injustice, such inhumanity as this!"

"I will not trust myself on the subject," replied Wickham, "I can hardly be just to him."

Kitty was again deep in thought, and after a time exclaimed, "To treat in such a manner, the godson, the friend, the favorite of his father, and one, too, who had probably been his own companion from childhood, connected together, as I think you said, in the closest manner!"

"We were born in the same parish, within the same park, the greatest part of our youth was passed together; inmates of the same house, sharing the same amusements, objects of the same parental care. My father began life in the profession which your uncle, Mr. Phillips, appears to do so much credit to—but he gave up everything to be of use to the late Mr. Darcy, and devoted all his time to the care of the Pemberley property. He was most highly esteemed by Mr. Darcy, a most intimate, confidential friend. Mr. Darcy often acknowledged. himself to be under the greatest obligations to my father's active superintendence, and when immediately before my father's death, Mr. Darcy gave him a voluntary promise of providing for me, I am convinced that he felt it to be as much a debt of gratitude to him, as of affection to myself."

"How strange!" cried Kitty. "How abominable! I wonder that the very pride of this Mr. Darcy has not made him just to you! If from no better motive, that he should not have been too proud to be dishonest, for dishonesty I must call it."

"It is wonderful," replied Wickham, "for almost all his actions may be traced to pride; and pride has often been his best friend. It has connected him nearer with virtue than any other feeling. But we are none of us consistent; and in his behavior to me, there were stronger impulses even than pride."

"Can such abominable pride as his, have ever done him good?"

"Yes. It has often led him to be liberal and generous, to give his money freely, to display hospitality, to assist his tenants, and relieve the poor. Family pride, and filial pride, for he is very proud of what his father was, have done this. Not to appear to disgrace his family, to degenerate from the popular qualities, or lose the influence of the Pemberley House, is a powerful motive. He has also brotherly pride, which with some brotherly affection, makes him a very kind and careful guardian of his sister; and you will hear him generally cried up as the most attentive and best of brothers."

"What sort of a girl is Miss Darcy?"

He shook his head. "I wish I could call her amiable. It gives me pain to speak ill of a Darcy. But she is too much like her brother, very, very proud. As a child, she was affectionate and pleasing, and extremely fond of me; and I have devoted hours and hours to her amusement. But she is nothing to me now. She is a handsome girl, about fifteen or sixteen, and, I understand, highly accomplished. Since her father's death, her home has been London."

After many pauses and many trials of other subjects, Kitty could not help reverting once more to the first, and saying, "I am astonished at his intimacy with Mr. Bingley! How can Mr. Bingley, who seems good humor itself, and is, I really believe, truly amiable, be in friendship with such a man? How can they suit each other? Do you know Mr. Bingley?"

"Not at all."

"He is a sweet tempered, amiable, charming man. He cannot know what Mr. Darcy is."

"Probably not; but Mr. Darcy can please where he chooses. He does not want abilities. He can be a conversable companion if he thinks it worth his while. Among those who are at all his equals in consequence, he is a very different man from what he is to the less prosperous. His pride never deserts him; but with the rich, he is liberal-minded, just, sincere, rational, honorable, and perhaps agreeable, allowing something for fortune and figure."

The whist party soon afterwards breaking up, the players gathered round the other table, and Mr. Collins took his station between his cousin Jane and Mrs. Phillips. The usual inquiries as to his success were made by the latter. It had not been very great; he had lost every point; but when Mrs. Phillips began to express her concern thereupon, he assured her with much earnest gravity that it was not of the least importance, that he considered the money as a mere trifle, and begged she would not make herself uneasy.

"I know very well, madam," said he, "that when persons sit down to a card table, they must take their chance of these things, and happily I am not in such circumstances as to make five shillings any object. There are undoubtedly many who could not say the same, but thanks to Lady Catherine de Bourgh, I am removed far beyond the necessity of regarding little matters."

Mr. Wickham's attention was caught; and after observing Mr. Collins for a few moments, he asked Kitty in a low voice whether her relation were very intimately acquainted with the family of de Bourgh.

"Lady Catherine de Bourgh," she replied, "has very lately given him a living. I hardly know how Mr. Collins was first introduced to her notice, but he certainly has not known her long."

"You know of course that Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Lady Anne Darcy were sisters; consequently that she is aunt to the present Mr. Darcy."

"No, indeed, I did not. I knew nothing at all of Lady Catherine's connections. I never heard of her existence till the day before yesterday."

"Her daughter, Miss de Bourgh, will have a very large fortune, and it is believed that she and her cousin will unite the two estates."

This information made Kitty smile, as she thought of poor Miss Bingley. Vain indeed must be all her attentions, vain and useless her affection for his sister and her praise of himself, if he were already self-destined to another.

"Mr. Collins," said she, "speaks highly both of Lady Catherine and her daughter; but from some particulars that he has related of her ladyship, I suspect his gratitude misleads him, and that in spite of her being his patroness, she is an arrogant, conceited woman."

"I believe her to be both in a great degree," replied Wickham; "I have not seen her for many years, but I very well remember that I never liked her, and that her manners were dictatorial and insolent. She has the reputation of being remarkably sensible and clever; but I rather believe she derives part of her abilities from her rank and fortune, part from her authoritative manner, and the rest from the pride of her nephew, who chooses that everyone connected with him should have an understanding of the first class."

Kitty allowed that he had given a very calculated account of it, and they continued talking together with till supper put an end to cards; and gave the rest of the ladies their share of Mr. Wickham's attentions. There could be no conversation in the noise of Mrs. Phillips's supper party, but his manners recommended him to everybody. Whatever he said, was said well; and whatever he did, done gracefully. Kitty went away with her head full of him. She could think of nothing but of Mr. Wickham, and of what he had told her, all the way home; but there was not time for her even to mention his name as they went, for Mr. Collins could not be silent. Mr. Collins talked incessantly of the civility of Mr. and Mrs. Phillips, protesting that he did not in the least regard his losses at whist, enumerating all the dishes at supper, and repeatedly fearing that he crowded his cousins, had more to say than he could well manage before the carriage stopped at Longbourn House.

Chapter 12

As they sat in the parlor the next morning, Kitty related what had passed between Mr. Wickham and herself. Jane and Lady Stanford listened with astonishment and concern. They could not believe that Mr. Darcy could be so unworthy of Mr. Bingley's regard. They all wondered what had truly happened.

"They have both," said Jane, "been deceived, I dare say, in some way or other, of which we can form no idea. Interested people have perhaps misrepresented each to the other. It is, in short, impossible for us to conjecture the causes or circumstances which may have alienated them, without actual blame on either side."

"I think it more likely that Mr. Darcy is a victim here than Mr. Wickham, for all his amiable appearance. Can you not see the impropriety of the discussion with Kitty who was a virtual stranger? And Kitty, you were correct in your assessment. He did contradict himself. And you asked a good question about what he has been doing all these years if the living only became available two years ago. Knowing the Darcy family as I do, my guess is that there is a sprinkling of truth in his account but that it is only a portion of what actually happened,” added Lady Stanford.

Just at that point, Mr. Bingley and his sisters came to give their personal invitation for the long expected ball at Netherfield, which was fixed for the following Tuesday. The two ladies were delighted to see their dear friend again, called it an age since they had met, and repeatedly asked what she had been doing with herself since their separation. To the rest of the family they paid little attention. They were soon gone again, rising from their seats with an activity which took their brother by surprise, and hurrying off as if eager to escape from the civilities.

The prospect of the Netherfield ball was extremely agreeable to Jane and Kitty. Jane pictured to herself a happy evening in the society of her two friends, and the attention of their brother; and Kitty thought with pleasure of dancing a great deal.

Kitty's spirits were so high on the occasion that, though she did not often speak unnecessarily to Mr. Collins, she could not help asking him whether he intended to accept Mr. Bingley's invitation, and, if he did, whether he would think it proper to join in the evening's amusement; and she was rather surprised to find that he entertained no scruple whatever on that head, and was very far from dreading a rebuke either from the Archbishop, or Lady Catherine de Bourgh, by venturing to dance.

"I am by no means of opinion, I assure you," said he, "that a ball of this kind, given by a young man of character to respectable people, can have any evil tendency; and I am so far from objecting to dancing myself, that I shall hope to be honored with the hands of all my fair cousins in the course of the evening, and I take this opportunity of soliciting yours, Miss Kitty, for the two first dances especially, a preference which I trust my cousin Jane will attribute to the right cause, and not to any disrespect for her."

Kitty felt herself completely taken in. She had fully proposed being engaged by an officer such as Denny for those very dances: and to have Mr. Collins instead! There was no help for it however. Mr. Collins's proposal accepted with as good a grace as she could. She was not the better pleased with his gallantry from the idea it suggested of something more. It now first struck her that she was selected from among her sisters as worthy of being the mistress of Hunsford Parsonage, and of assisting to form a quadrille table at Rosings, in the absence of more eligible visitors. The idea soon reached to conviction, as she observed his increasing civilities toward herself, and heard his frequent attempt at a compliment on her wit and vivacity. As soon as she had this realization, she went directly to her aunt.

“I know it is probably a prudent match, but I cannot respect him. Can you and Father please do something so that he will not declare for me? It would be too embarrassing.”

“My dear, we will find a way to help direct him in another direction,” stated Lady Stanford, putting her arm around her niece. “You will have opportunity to find someone more congenial when we go to London.”

Lady Stanford went immediately to the library and knocked on the door. Upon being permitted to enter, she closed the door and said, “Thomas, we must do something to deflect Mr. Collins. He appears to have determined that Kitty is worthy of becoming his wife. However, she cannot respect him. Is there someone else we can suggest to him that might be desperate enough to agree? If Miss Lucas were not with Elizabeth, I might suggest her. Her options here are limited, and she must be looking for a secure home. However, with her gone, I am unsure who might be willing.”

Mr. Bennet suggested, “Why don’t you visit Lucas Lodge? You can find out from Lady Lucas if Maria would be interested. She may have other suggestions if Maria is not.”

“Excellent suggestion. If I may, I will stop by before luncheon to let you know who will be our suggestion. We need to reassure Kitty as soon as may be.”

Upon saying this, Lady Stanford exited the library and donned her spencer for a short walk to Lucas Lodge. Upon being admitted, she found Lady Lucas alone in her parlor.

“Lady Lucas, I am calling on a rather important matter. Mr. Collins has indicated that his visit is so that he can find an appropriate wife from among the Bennets. It seems that he has now selected Kitty who does not welcome his decision. Before he declares himself, we would like to redirect him. As you have far more intimate knowledge of the local young women, I thought you might know who would welcome his attentions. Can you help us?”

Lady Lucas considered a moment. “Were Charlotte here, I would suggest her. Maria is in the other room. Let us talk to her. If not her, I believe the older daughter of Mrs. Goulding, Caroline, might be receptive. There are just such limited prospects here now.” Whereupon, she left the room and collected Maria.

When both had seated themselves, Lady Stanford again explained herself. Maria considered for a moment. “While he is not as interesting as one of the officers, he does seem to offer a better situation than they would. I did not spend any time with him at Mrs. Phillips’ card party, so I have no impression of him other than he seems to be grateful for the consideration of others.”

Lady Stanford said, “I feel I must warn you that he is somewhat foolish and does not display remarkably good sense. However, I think the right wife might help improve his social skills, which are what are really lacking. Of course, his wife is likely to be the next mistress of Longbourn unless Thomas does something unusual like marrying again and getting himself a male heir. That should be another factor in favor of the match.”

Maria nodded and asked, “If you think he has determined on Kitty, how will you change his mind?”

“First off, we must introduce you. i understand you did not meet him at the card party. Why don’t you return with me to luncheon to visit Kitty for the afternoon? We can introduce you then. Lady Lucas, could we entice your family to join us for dinner tomorrow? That would allow more time together. Thomas and I will make a number of positive comments about how suitable Maria would be. I know Kitty and Jane would do the same for us. With any luck, he will believe it is his own idea. At the same time, we will be saying discouraging things about Kitty as a clergyman’s wife,” was Lady Stanford’s response.

Everyone agreed, so Maria left with Lady Stanford to begin her campaign for the hand of Mr. Collins. Lady Lucas went to tell Sir William of the opportunity. Since there were a few days before the Netherfield ball, they determined that day after next would be a good time for Mr. Collins and the Bennets to dine at Lucas Lodge.
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With Just a Little Guidance Chapters 11 and 12

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