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Chapter 16

  • As no objection was made to the young people's engagement with their aunt, an_ll Mr. Collins's scruples of leaving Mr. and Mrs. Bennet for a single evenin_uring his visit were most steadily resisted, the coach conveyed him and hi_ive cousins at a suitable hour to Meryton; and the girls had the pleasure o_earing, as they entered the drawing-room, that Mr. Wickham had accepted thei_ncle'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 muc_truck with the size and furniture of the apartment, that he declared he migh_lmost have supposed himself in the small summer breakfast parlour at Rosings; a comparison that did not at first convey much gratification; but when Mrs.
  • Phillips understood from him what Rosings was, and who was its proprietor—whe_he 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 _omparison with the housekeeper's room.
  • In describing to her all the grandeur of Lady Catherine and her mansion, wit_ccasional digressions in praise of his own humble abode, and the improvement_t was receiving, he was happily employed until the gentlemen joined them; an_e found in Mrs. Phillips a very attentive listener, whose opinion of hi_onsequence increased with what she heard, and who was resolving to retail i_ll among her neighbours as soon as she could. To the girls, who could no_isten to their cousin, and who had nothing to do but to wish for a_nstrument, and examine their own indifferent imitations of china on th_antelpiece, the interval of waiting appeared very long. It was over at last, however. The gentlemen did approach, and when Mr. Wickham walked into th_oom, Elizabeth felt that she had neither been seeing him before, nor thinkin_f him since, with the smallest degree of unreasonable admiration. Th_fficers 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 fa_eyond them all in person, countenance, air, and walk, as  _they_  wer_uperior to the broad-faced, stuffy uncle Phillips, breathing port wine, wh_ollowed them into the room.
  • Mr. Wickham was the happy man towards whom almost every female eye was turned, and Elizabeth was the happy woman by whom he finally seated himself; and th_greeable manner in which he immediately fell into conversation, though it wa_nly on its being a wet night, made her feel that the commonest, dullest, mos_hreadbare topic might be rendered interesting by the skill of the speaker.
  • With such rivals for the notice of the fair as Mr. Wickham and the officers, Mr. Collins seemed to sink into insignificance; to the young ladies h_ertainly was nothing; but he had still at intervals a kind listener in Mrs.
  • Phillips, and was by her watchfulness, most abundantly supplied with coffe_nd muffin. When the card-tables were placed, he had the opportunity o_bliging her in turn, by sitting down to whist.
  • "I know little of the game at present," said he, "but I shall be glad t_mprove myself, for in my situation in life—" Mrs. Phillips was very glad fo_is compliance, but could not wait for his reason.
  • Mr. Wickham did not play at whist, and with ready delight was he received a_he other table between Elizabeth and Lydia. At first there seemed danger o_ydia's engrossing him entirely, for she was a most determined talker; bu_eing likewise extremely fond of lottery tickets, she soon grew too muc_nterested in the game, too eager in making bets and exclaiming after prize_o have attention for anyone in particular. Allowing for the common demands o_he game, Mr. Wickham was therefore at leisure to talk to Elizabeth, and sh_as very willing to hear him, though what she chiefly wished to hear she coul_ot hope to be told—the history of his acquaintance with Mr. Darcy. She dare_ot even mention that gentleman. Her curiosity, however, was unexpectedl_elieved. Mr. Wickham began the subject himself. He inquired how fa_etherfield was from Meryton; and, after receiving her answer, asked in _esitating manner how long Mr. Darcy had been staying there.
  • "About a month," said Elizabeth; and then, unwilling to let the subject drop, added, "He is a man of very large property in Derbyshire, I understand."
  • "Yes," replied Mr. Wickham; "his estate there is a noble one. A clear te_housand per annum. You could not have met with a person more capable o_iving you certain information on that head than myself, for I have bee_onnected with his family in a particular manner from my infancy."
  • Elizabeth could not but look surprised.
  • "You may well be surprised, Miss Bennet, at such an assertion, after seeing, as you probably might, the very cold manner of our meeting yesterday. Are yo_uch acquainted with Mr. Darcy?"
  • "As much as I ever wish to be," cried Elizabeth very warmly. "I have spen_our days in the same house with him, and I think him very disagreeable."
  • "I have no right to give  _my_  opinion," said Wickham, "as to his bein_greeable or otherwise. I am not qualified to form one. I have known him to_ong and too well to be a fair judge. It is impossible for  _me_  to b_mpartial. But I believe your opinion of him would in general astonish—an_erhaps you would not express it quite so strongly anywhere else. Here you ar_n your own family."
  • "Upon my word, I say no more  _here_  than I might say in any house in th_eighbourhood, except Netherfield. He is not at all liked in Hertfordshire.
  • Everybody is disgusted with his pride. You will not find him more favourabl_poken of by anyone."
  • "I cannot pretend to be sorry," said Wickham, after a short interruption,
  • "that he or that any man should not be estimated beyond their deserts; bu_ith  _him_  I believe it does not often happen. The world is blinded by hi_ortune and consequence, or frightened by his high and imposing manners, an_ees him only as he chooses to be seen."
  • "I should take him, even on  _my_  slight acquaintance, to be an ill-tempere_an." Wickham only shook his head.
  • "I wonder," said he, at the next opportunity of speaking, "whether he i_ikely to be in this country much longer."
  • "I do not at all know; but I  _heard_  nothing of his going away when I was a_etherfield. I hope your plans in favour of the ——shire will not be affecte_y his being in the neighbourhood."
  • "Oh! no—it is not for  _me_  to be driven away by Mr. Darcy. If  _he_  wishe_o avoid seeing  _me_ , he must go. We are not on friendly terms, and i_lways gives me pain to meet him, but I have no reason for avoiding  _him_ut what I might proclaim before all the world, a sense of very great ill- usage, and most painful regrets at his being what he is. His father, Mis_ennet, the late Mr. Darcy, was one of the best men that ever breathed, an_he truest friend I ever had; and I can never be in company with this Mr.
  • Darcy without being grieved to the soul by a thousand tender recollections.
  • His behaviour to myself has been scandalous; but I verily believe I coul_orgive him anything and everything, rather than his disappointing the hope_nd disgracing the memory of his father."
  • Elizabeth found the interest of the subject increase, and listened with al_er heart; but the delicacy of it prevented further inquiry.
  • Mr. Wickham began to speak on more general topics, Meryton, the neighbourhood, the society, appearing highly pleased with all that he had yet seen, an_peaking of the latter with gentle but very intelligible gallantry.
  • "It was the prospect of constant society, and good society," he added, "whic_as my chief inducement to enter the ——shire. I knew it to be a mos_espectable, agreeable corps, and my friend Denny tempted me further by hi_ccount of their present quarters, and the very great attentions and excellen_cquaintances Meryton had procured them. Society, I own, is necessary to me. _ave been a disappointed man, and my spirits will not bear solitude. I  _must_ave 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 bee_y profession—I was brought up for the church, and I should at this time hav_een in possession of a most valuable living, had it pleased the gentleman w_ere speaking of just now."
  • "Indeed!"
  • "Yes—the late Mr. Darcy bequeathed me the next presentation of the best livin_n his gift. He was my godfather, and excessively attached to me. I cannot d_ustice to his kindness. He meant to provide for me amply, and thought he ha_one it; but when the living fell, it was given elsewhere."
  • "Good heavens!" cried Elizabeth; "but how could  _that_  be? How could hi_ill be disregarded? Why did you not seek legal redress?"
  • "There was just such an informality in the terms of the bequest as to give m_o hope from law. A man of honour could not have doubted the intention, bu_r. Darcy chose to doubt it—or to treat it as a merely conditiona_ecommendation, and to assert that I had forfeited all claim to it b_xtravagance, imprudence—in short anything or nothing. Certain it is, that th_iving became vacant two years ago, exactly as I was of an age to hold it, an_hat it was given to another man; and no less certain is it, that I canno_ccuse myself of having really done anything to deserve to lose it. I have _arm, unguarded temper, and I may have spoken my opinion  _of_  him, and  _to_im, too freely. I can recall nothing worse. But the fact is, that we are ver_ifferent sort of men, and that he hates me."
  • "This is quite shocking! He deserves to be publicly disgraced."
  • "Some time or other he  _will_  be—but it shall not be by  _me_. Till I ca_orget his father, I can never defy or expose  _him_."
  • Elizabeth honoured him for such feelings, and thought him handsomer than eve_s he expressed them.
  • "But what," said she, after a pause, "can have been his motive? What can hav_nduced him to behave so cruelly?"
  • "A thorough, determined dislike of me—a dislike which I cannot but attribut_n some measure to jealousy. Had the late Mr. Darcy liked me less, his so_ight have borne with me better; but his father's uncommon attachment to m_rritated him, I believe, very early in life. He had not a temper to bear th_ort of competition in which we stood—the sort of preference which was ofte_iven me."
  • "I had not thought Mr. Darcy so bad as this—though I have never liked him. _ad not thought so very ill of him. I had supposed him to be despising hi_ellow-creatures in general, but did not suspect him of descending to suc_alicious revenge, such injustice, such inhumanity as this."
  • After a few minutes' reflection, however, she continued, "I  _do_  remembe_is boasting one day, at Netherfield, of the implacability of his resentments, of his having an unforgiving temper. His disposition must be dreadful."
  • "I will not trust myself on the subject," replied Wickham; "I can hardly b_ust to him."
  • Elizabeth was again deep in thought, and after a time exclaimed, "To treat i_uch a manner the godson, the friend, the favourite of his father!" She coul_ave added, "A young man, too, like  _you_ , whose very countenance may vouc_or your being amiable"—but she contented herself with, "and one, too, who ha_robably been his companion from childhood, connected together, as I think yo_aid, in the closest manner!"
  • "We were born in the same parish, within the same park; the greatest part o_ur youth was passed together; inmates of the same house, sharing the sam_musements, objects of the same parental care.  _My_  father began life in th_rofession which your uncle, Mr. Phillips, appears to do so much credit to—bu_e gave up everything to be of use to the late Mr. Darcy and devoted all hi_ime to the care of the Pemberley property. He was most highly esteemed by Mr.
  • Darcy, a most intimate, confidential friend. Mr. Darcy often acknowledge_imself to be under the greatest obligations to my father's activ_uperintendence, and when, immediately before my father's death, Mr. Darc_ave him a voluntary promise of providing for me, I am convinced that he fel_t to be as much a debt of gratitude to  _him_ , as of his affection t_yself."
  • "How strange!" cried Elizabeth. "How abominable! I wonder that the very prid_f this Mr. Darcy has not made him just to you! If from no better motive, tha_e should not have been too proud to be dishonest—for dishonesty I must cal_t."
  • "It  _is_  wonderful," replied Wickham, "for almost all his actions may b_raced to pride; and pride had often been his best friend. It has connecte_im nearer with virtue than with any other feeling. But we are none of u_onsistent, and in his behaviour to me there were stronger impulses even tha_ride."
  • "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 mone_reely, to display hospitality, to assist his tenants, and relieve the poor.
  • Family pride, and  _filial_  pride—for he is very proud of what his fathe_as—have done this. Not to appear to disgrace his family, to degenerate fro_he popular qualities, or lose the influence of the Pemberley House, is _owerful motive. He has also  _brotherly_  pride, which, with  _some_rotherly 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 o_rothers."
  • "What sort of girl is Miss Darcy?"
  • He shook his head. "I wish I could call her amiable. It gives me pain to spea_ll of a Darcy. But she is too much like her brother—very, very proud. As _hild, she was affectionate and pleasing, and extremely fond of me; and I hav_evoted hours and hours to her amusement. But she is nothing to me now. She i_ handsome girl, about fifteen or sixteen, and, I understand, highl_ccomplished. Since her father's death, her home has been London, where a lad_ives with her, and superintends her education."
  • After many pauses and many trials of other subjects, Elizabeth could not hel_everting once more to the first, and saying:
  • "I am astonished at his intimacy with Mr. Bingley! How can Mr. Bingley, wh_eems good humour itself, and is, I really believe, truly amiable, be i_riendship 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. Darc_s."
  • "Probably not; but Mr. Darcy can please where he chooses. He does not wan_bilities. He can be a conversible companion if he thinks it worth his while.
  • Among those who are at all his equals in consequence, he is a very differen_an from what he is to the less prosperous. His pride never deserts him; bu_ith the rich he is liberal-minded, just, sincere, rational, honourable, an_erhaps agreeable—allowing something for fortune and figure."
  • The whist party soon afterwards breaking up, the players gathered round th_ther table and Mr. Collins took his station between his cousin Elizabeth an_rs. Phillips. The usual inquiries as to his success was made by the latter.
  • It had not been very great; he had lost every point; but when Mrs. Phillip_egan to express her concern thereupon, he assured her with much earnes_ravity that it was not of the least importance, that he considered the mone_s a mere trifle, and begged that she would not make herself uneasy.
  • "I know very well, madam," said he, "that when persons sit down to a card- table, they must take their chances of these things, and happily I am not i_uch circumstances as to make five shillings any object. There are undoubtedl_any who could not say the same, but thanks to Lady Catherine de Bourgh, I a_emoved far beyond the necessity of regarding little matters."
  • Mr. Wickham's attention was caught; and after observing Mr. Collins for a fe_oments, he asked Elizabeth in a low voice whether her relation was ver_ntimately 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 h_ertainly has not known her long."
  • "You know of course that Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Lady Anne Darcy wer_isters; 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 i_elieved that she and her cousin will unite the two estates."
  • This information made Elizabeth smile, as she thought of poor Miss Bingley.
  • Vain indeed must be all her attentions, vain and useless her affection for hi_ister and her praise of himself, if he were already self-destined fo_nother.
  • "Mr. Collins," said she, "speaks highly both of Lady Catherine and he_aughter; but from some particulars that he has related of her ladyship, _uspect his gratitude misleads him, and that in spite of her being hi_atroness, she is an arrogant, conceited woman."
  • "I believe her to be both in a great degree," replied Wickham; "I have no_een her for many years, but I very well remember that I never liked her, an_hat her manners were dictatorial and insolent. She has the reputation o_eing remarkably sensible and clever; but I rather believe she derives part o_er abilities from her rank and fortune, part from her authoritative manner, and the rest from the pride for her nephew, who chooses that everyon_onnected with him should have an understanding of the first class."
  • Elizabeth allowed that he had given a very rational account of it, and the_ontinued talking together, with mutual satisfaction till supper put an end t_ards, and gave the rest of the ladies their share of Mr. Wickham'_ttentions. There could be no conversation in the noise of Mrs. Phillips'_upper party, but his manners recommended him to everybody. Whatever he said, was said well; and whatever he did, done gracefully. Elizabeth went away wit_er head full of him. She could think of nothing but of Mr. Wickham, and o_hat he had told her, all the way home; but there was not time for her even t_ention his name as they went, for neither Lydia nor Mr. Collins were onc_ilent. Lydia talked incessantly of lottery tickets, of the fish she had los_nd the fish she had won; and Mr. Collins in describing the civility of Mr.
  • and Mrs. Phillips, protesting that he did not in the least regard his losse_t whist, enumerating all the dishes at supper, and repeatedly fearing that h_rowded his cousins, had more to say than he could well manage before th_arriage stopped at Longbourn House.