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Chapter 28

Every object in the next day's journey was new and interesting
to Elizabeth; and her spirits were in a state of enjoyment; for she
had seen her sister looking so well as to banish all fear for her
health, and the prospect of her northern tour was a constant
source of delight.

When they left the high road for the lane to Hunsford, every eye
was in search of the Parsonage, and every turning expected to
bring it in view. The palings of Rosings Park was their boundary
on one side. Elizabeth smiled at the recollection of all that she
had heard of its inhabitants.

At length the Parsonage was discernible. The garden sloping to
the road, the house standing in it, the green pales, and the laurel
hedge, everything declared they were arriving. Mr. Collins and
Charlotte appeared at the door, and the carriage stopped at the
small gate which led by a short gravel walk to the house, amidst
the nods and smiles of the whole party. In a moment they were
all out of the chaise, rejoicing at the sight of each other. Mrs.
Collins welcomed her friend with the liveliest pleasure, and
Elizabeth was more and more satisfied with coming when she
found herself so affectionately received. She saw instantly that
her cousin's manner were not altered by his marriage; his formal
civility was just what it had been, and he detained her some
minutes at the gate to hear and satisfy his inquiries after all
her family. They were then, with no other delay than his
pointing out the neatness of the entrance taken into the house;
and as soon as they were in the parlour, he welcomed them a
second time, with ostentatious formality to his humble abode,
and punctually repeated all his wife's offers of refreshment.

Elizabeth was prepared to see him in his glory; and she could not
help in fancying that in displaying the good proportion of the
room, its aspect and its furniture, he addressed himself
particularly to her, as if wishing to make her feel what she had
lost in refusing him. But though everything seemed neat and
comfortable, she was not able to gratify him by any sigh of
repentance, and rather looked with wonder at her friend that she
could have so cheerful an air with such a companion. When
Mr. Collins said anything of which his wife might reasonably be
ashamed, which certainly was not unseldom, she involuntarily
turned her eye on Charlotte. Once of twice she could discern a
faint blush; but in general Charlotte wisely did not hear. After
sitting long enough to admire every article of furniture in the
room, from the sideboard to the fender, to give an account of
their journey, and of all that had happened in London, Mr.
Collins invited them to take a stroll in the garden, which was
large and well laid out, and to the cultivation of which he
attended himself. To work in this garden was one of his most
respectable pleasures; and Elizabeth admired the command of
countenance with which Charlotte talked of the healthfulness of
the exercise, and owned she encouraged it as much as possible.
Here, leading the way through every walk and cross walk, and
scarcely allowing them an interval to utter the praises he asked
for, every view was pointed out with a minuteness which left
beauty entirely behind. He could number the fields in every
direction, and could tell how many tress there were in the most
distant clump. But of all the views which his garden, or which
the country or kingdom could boast, none were to be compared
with the prospect of Rosings, afforded by an opening in the trees
that bordered the park nearly opposite the front of his house. It
was a handsome modern building, well situated on rising ground.

From his garden, Mr. Collins would have led them round his two
meadows; but the ladies, not having shoes to encounter the
remains of a white frost, turned back; and while Sir William
accompanied him, Charlotte took her sister and friend over the
house, extremely well pleased, probably, to have the opportunity
of showing it without her husband's help. It was rather small,
but well built and convenient; and everything was fitted up and
arranged with a neatness and consistency of which Elizabeth
gave Charlotte all the credit. When Mr. Collins could be
forgotten, there was really an air of great comfort throughout,
and by Charlotte's evident enjoyment of it, Elizabeth supposed
he must be often forgotten.

She had already learnt that Lady Catherine was still in the
country. It was spoken of again while they were at dinner, when
Mr. Collins joining in, observed:

"Yes, Miss Elizabeth, you will have the honour of seeing Lady
Catherine de Bourgh on the ensuing Sunday at church, and I
need not say you will be delighted with her. She is all affability
and condescension, and I doubt not but you will be honoured
with some portion of her notice when service is over. I have
scarcely any hesitation in saying she will include you and my
sister Maria in every invitation with which she honours us during
your stay here. Her behaviour to my dear Charlotte is charming.
We dine at Rosings twice every week, and are never allowed to
walk home. Her ladyship's carriage is regularly ordered for us.
I SHOULD say, one of her ladyship's carriages, for she has
several."

"Lady Catherine is a very respectable, sensible woman indeed,
added Charlotte, "and a most attentive neighbour."

"Very true, my dear, that is exactly what I say. She is the sort of
woman whom one cannot regard with too much deference."

The evening was spent chiefly in talking over Hertfordshire
news, and telling again what had already been written; and when
it closed, Elizabeth, in the solitude of her chamber, had to
meditate upon Charlotte's degree of contentment, to understand
her address in guiding, and composure in bearing with, her
husband, and to acknowledge that it was all done very well. She
had also to anticipate how her visit would pass, the quiet tenor
of their usual employments, the vexatious interruptions of Mr.
Collins, and the gaieties of their intercourse with Rosings. A
lively imagination soon settled it all.

About the middle of the next day, as she was in her room getting
ready for a walk, a sudden noise below seemed to speak the
whole house in confusion; and, after listening a moment, she
heard somebody running upstairs in a violent hurry, and calling
loudly after her. She opened the door and met Maria in the
landing place, who, breathless with agitation, cried out--

"Oh, my dear Eliza! pray make haste and come into the
dining-room, for there is such a sight to be seen! I will not tell
you what it is. Make haste, and come down this moment."

Elizabeth asked questions in vain; Maria would tell her nothing
more, and down they ran into the dining-room, which fronted
the lane, in quest of this wonder! It was two ladies stopping in a
low phaeton at the garden gate.

"And is this all?" cried Elizabeth. "I expected at least that the
pigs were got into the garden, and here is nothing but Lady
Catherine and her daughter."

"La! my dear," said Maria, quite shocked at the mistake, "it is
not Lady Catherine. The old lady is Mrs. Jenkins, who lives
with them; the other is Miss de Bourgh. Only look at her. She
is quite a little creature. Who would have thought that she could
be so thin and small?"

"She is abominably rude to keep Charlotte out of doors in all this
wind. Why does she not come in?"

"Oh, Charlotte says she hardly ever does. It is the greatest of
favours when Miss de Bourgh comes in."

"I like her appearance," said Elizabeth, struck with other ideas.
"She looks sickly and cross. Yes, she will do for him very well.
She will make him a very proper wife."

Mr. Collins and Charlotte were both standing at the gate in
conversation with the ladies; and Sir William, to Elizabeth's high
diversion, was stationed in the doorway, in earnest
contemplation of the greatness before him, and constantly
bowing whenever Miss de Bourgh looked that way.

At length there was nothing more to be said; the ladies drove on,
and the others returned into the house. Mr. Collins no sooner
saw the two girls than he began to congratulate them on their
good fortune, which Charlotte explained by letting them know
that the whole party was asked to dine at Rosings the next day.





Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Category:
General Fiction

Social life and customs - 19th century
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