More than once did Elizabeth, in her ramble within the park, unexpectedly mee_r. Darcy. She felt all the perverseness of the mischance that should brin_im where no one else was brought, and, to prevent its ever happening again, took care to inform him at first that it was a favourite haunt of hers. How i_ould occur a second time, therefore, was very odd! Yet it did, and even _hird. It seemed like wilful ill-nature, or a voluntary penance, for on thes_ccasions it was not merely a few formal inquiries and an awkward pause an_hen away, but he actually thought it necessary to turn back and walk wit_er. He never said a great deal, nor did she give herself the trouble o_alking or of listening much; but it struck her in the course of their thir_encontre that he was asking some odd unconnected questions—about her pleasur_n being at Hunsford, her love of solitary walks, and her opinion of Mr. an_rs. Collins's happiness; and that in speaking of Rosings and her no_erfectly understanding the house, he seemed to expect that whenever she cam_nto Kent again she would be staying _there_ too. His words seemed to impl_t. Could he have Colonel Fitzwilliam in his thoughts? She supposed, if h_eant anything, he must mean an allusion to what might arise in that quarter.
It distressed her a little, and she was quite glad to find herself at the gat_n the pales opposite the Parsonage.
She was engaged one day as she walked, in perusing Jane's last letter, an_welling on some passages which proved that Jane had not written in spirits, when, instead of being again surprised by Mr. Darcy, she saw on looking u_hat Colonel Fitzwilliam was meeting her. Putting away the letter immediatel_nd forcing a smile, she said:
"I did not know before that you ever walked this way."
"I have been making the tour of the park," he replied, "as I generally d_very year, and intend to close it with a call at the Parsonage. Are you goin_uch farther?"
"No, I should have turned in a moment."
And accordingly she did turn, and they walked towards the Parsonage together.
"Do you certainly leave Kent on Saturday?" said she.
"Yes—if Darcy does not put it off again. But I am at his disposal. He arrange_he business just as he pleases."
"And if not able to please himself in the arrangement, he has at leas_leasure in the great power of choice. I do not know anybody who seems more t_njoy the power of doing what he likes than Mr. Darcy."
"He likes to have his own way very well," replied Colonel Fitzwilliam. "But s_e all do. It is only that he has better means of having it than many others, because he is rich, and many others are poor. I speak feelingly. A younge_on, you know, must be inured to self-denial and dependence."
"In my opinion, the younger son of an earl can know very little of either. No_eriously, what have you ever known of self-denial and dependence? When hav_ou been prevented by want of money from going wherever you chose, o_rocuring anything you had a fancy for?"
"These are home questions—and perhaps I cannot say that I have experience_any hardships of that nature. But in matters of greater weight, I may suffe_rom want of money. Younger sons cannot marry where they like."
"Unless where they like women of fortune, which I think they very often do."
"Our habits of expense make us too dependent, and there are not many in m_ank of life who can afford to marry without some attention to money."
"Is this," thought Elizabeth, "meant for me?" and she coloured at the idea; but, recovering herself, said in a lively tone, "And pray, what is the usua_rice of an earl's younger son? Unless the elder brother is very sickly, _uppose you would not ask above fifty thousand pounds."
He answered her in the same style, and the subject dropped. To interrupt _ilence which might make him fancy her affected with what had passed, she soo_fterwards said:
"I imagine your cousin brought you down with him chiefly for the sake o_aving someone at his disposal. I wonder he does not marry, to secure _asting convenience of that kind. But, perhaps, his sister does as well fo_he present, and, as she is under his sole care, he may do what he likes wit_er."
"No," said Colonel Fitzwilliam, "that is an advantage which he must divid_ith me. I am joined with him in the guardianship of Miss Darcy."
"Are you indeed? And pray what sort of guardians do you make? Does your charg_ive you much trouble? Young ladies of her age are sometimes a littl_ifficult to manage, and if she has the true Darcy spirit, she may like t_ave her own way."
As she spoke she observed him looking at her earnestly; and the manner i_hich he immediately asked her why she supposed Miss Darcy likely to give the_ny uneasiness, convinced her that she had somehow or other got pretty nea_he truth. She directly replied:
"You need not be frightened. I never heard any harm of her; and I dare say sh_s one of the most tractable creatures in the world. She is a very grea_avourite with some ladies of my acquaintance, Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley. _hink I have heard you say that you know them."
"I know them a little. Their brother is a pleasant gentlemanlike man—he is _reat friend of Darcy's."
"Oh! yes," said Elizabeth drily; "Mr. Darcy is uncommonly kind to Mr. Bingley, and takes a prodigious deal of care of him."
"Care of him! Yes, I really believe Darcy _does_ take care of him in thos_oints where he most wants care. From something that he told me in our journe_ither, I have reason to think Bingley very much indebted to him. But I ough_o beg his pardon, for I have no right to suppose that Bingley was the perso_eant. It was all conjecture."
"What is it you mean?"
"It is a circumstance which Darcy could not wish to be generally known, because if it were to get round to the lady's family, it would be a_npleasant thing."
"You may depend upon my not mentioning it."
"And remember that I have not much reason for supposing it to be Bingley. Wha_e told me was merely this: that he congratulated himself on having latel_aved a friend from the inconveniences of a most imprudent marriage, bu_ithout mentioning names or any other particulars, and I only suspected it t_e Bingley from believing him the kind of young man to get into a scrape o_hat sort, and from knowing them to have been together the whole of las_ummer."
"Did Mr. Darcy give you reasons for this interference?"
"I understood that there were some very strong objections against the lady."
"And what arts did he use to separate them?"
"He did not talk to me of his own arts," said Fitzwilliam, smiling. "He onl_old me what I have now told you."
Elizabeth made no answer, and walked on, her heart swelling with indignation.
After watching her a little, Fitzwilliam asked her why she was so thoughtful.
"I am thinking of what you have been telling me," said she. "Your cousin'_onduct does not suit my feelings. Why was he to be the judge?"
"You are rather disposed to call his interference officious?"
"I do not see what right Mr. Darcy had to decide on the propriety of hi_riend's inclination, or why, upon his own judgement alone, he was t_etermine and direct in what manner his friend was to be happy. But," sh_ontinued, recollecting herself, "as we know none of the particulars, it i_ot fair to condemn him. It is not to be supposed that there was muc_ffection in the case."
"That is not an unnatural surmise," said Fitzwilliam, "but it is a lessenin_f the honour of my cousin's triumph very sadly."
This was spoken jestingly; but it appeared to her so just a picture of Mr.
Darcy, that she would not trust herself with an answer, and therefore, abruptly changing the conversation talked on indifferent matters until the_eached the Parsonage. There, shut into her own room, as soon as their visito_eft them, she could think without interruption of all that she had heard. I_as not to be supposed that any other people could be meant than those wit_hom she was connected. There could not exist in the world _two_ men ove_hom Mr. Darcy could have such boundless influence. That he had been concerne_n the measures taken to separate Bingley and Jane she had never doubted; bu_he had always attributed to Miss Bingley the principal design and arrangemen_f them. If his own vanity, however, did not mislead him, _he_ was th_ause, his pride and caprice were the cause, of all that Jane had suffered, and still continued to suffer. He had ruined for a while every hope o_appiness for the most affectionate, generous heart in the world; and no on_ould say how lasting an evil he might have inflicted.
"There were some very strong objections against the lady," were Colone_itzwilliam's words; and those strong objections probably were, her having on_ncle who was a country attorney, and another who was in business in London.
"To Jane herself," she exclaimed, "there could be no possibility of objection; all loveliness and goodness as she is!—her understanding excellent, her min_mproved, and her manners captivating. Neither could anything be urged agains_y father, who, though with some peculiarities, has abilities Mr. Darc_imself need not disdain, and respectability which he will probably neve_each." When she thought of her mother, her confidence gave way a little; bu_he would not allow that any objections _there_ had material weight with Mr.
Darcy, whose pride, she was convinced, would receive a deeper wound from th_ant of importance in his friend's connections, than from their want of sense; and she was quite decided, at last, that he had been partly governed by thi_orst kind of pride, and partly by the wish of retaining Mr. Bingley for hi_ister.
The agitation and tears which the subject occasioned, brought on a headache; and it grew so much worse towards the evening, that, added to he_nwillingness to see Mr. Darcy, it determined her not to attend her cousins t_osings, where they were engaged to drink tea. Mrs. Collins, seeing that sh_as really unwell, did not press her to go and as much as possible prevente_er husband from pressing her; but Mr. Collins could not conceal hi_pprehension of Lady Catherine's being rather displeased by her staying a_ome.