More than once did Elizabeth, in her ramble within the park,
unexpectedly meet Mr. Darcy. She felt all the perverseness of
the mischance that should bring him 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 it
could occur a second time, therefore, was very odd! Yet it did,
and even a third. It seemed like wilful ill-nature, or a voluntary
penance, for on these occasions it was not merely a few formal
inquiries and an awkward pause and then away, but he actually
thought it necessary to turn back and walk with her. He never
said a great deal, nor did she give herself the trouble of talking
or of listening much; but it struck her in the course of their third
rencontre that he was asking some odd unconnected questions--
about her pleasure in being at Hunsford, her love of solitary
walks, and her opinion of Mr. and Mrs. Collins's happiness; and
that in speaking of Rosings and her not perfectly understanding
the house, he seemed to expect that whenever she came into
Kent again she would be staying THERE too. His words
seemed to imply it. Could he have Colonel Fitzwilliam in his
thoughts? She supposed, if he meant anything, he must mean
and allusion to what might arise in that quarter. It distressed
her a little, and she was quite glad to find herself at the gate in
the pales opposite the Parsonage.
She was engaged one day as she walked in perusing Jane's last
letter, and dwelling 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 up that Colonel Fitzwilliam
was meeting her. Putting away the letter immediately and
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 do every year, and intend to close it with a call at the
Parsonage. Are you going much farther?"
"No, I should have turned in a moment."
And accordingly she did turn, and they walked towards the
"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 arranges the business just as he pleases."
"And if not able to please himself in the arrangement, he has at
least pleasure in the great power of choice. I do not know
anybody who seems more to enjoy the power of doing what he
likes than Mr. Darcy."
"He likes to have his own way very well," replied Colonel
Fitzwilliam. "But so we 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 younger son, 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. Now seriously, what have you ever known of
self-denial and dependence? When have you been prevented by
want of money from going wherever you chose, or procuring
anything you had a fancy for?"
"These are home questions-- and perhaps I cannot say that I
have experienced many hardships of that nature. But in matters
of greater weight, I may suffer from 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 too
many in my rank 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 usual price of an earl's younger son? Unless
the elder brother is very sickly, I suppose you would not ask
above fifty thousand pounds."
He answered her in the same style, and the subject dropped. To
interrupt a silence which might make him fancy her affected with
what had passed, she soon afterwards said:
"I imagine your cousin brought you down with him chiefly for
the sake of having someone at his disposal. I wonder he does
not marry, to secure a lasting convenience of that kind. But,
perhaps, his sister does as well for the present, and, as she is
under his sole care, he may do what he likes with her."
"No," said Colonel Fitzwilliam, "that is an advantage which he
must divide with 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 charge give you much trouble? Young ladies
of her age are sometimes a little difficult to manage, and if she
has the true Darcy spirit, she may like to have her own way."
As she spoke she observed him looking at her earnestly; and the
manner in which he immediately asked her why she supposed
Miss Darcy likely to give them any uneasiness, convinced her
that she had somehow or other got pretty near the truth. She
"You need not be frightened. I never heard any harm of her; and
I dare say she is one of the most tractable creatures in the world.
She is a very great favourite with some ladies of my
acquaintance, Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley. I think I have heard
you say that you know them."
"I know them a little. Their brother is a pleasant gentlemanlike
man-- he is a great 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 those points where he most wants care. From something
that he told me in our journey hither, I have reason to think
Bingley very much indebted to him. But I ought to beg his
pardon, for I have no right to suppose that Bingley was the
person meant. 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 an unpleasant thing."
"You may depend upon my not mentioning it."
"And remember that I have not much reason for supposing it to
be Bingley. What he told me was merely this: that he
congratulated himself on having lately saved a friend from the
inconveniences of a most imprudent marriage, but without
mentioning names or any other particulars, and I only suspected
it to be Bingley from believing him the kind of young man to get
into a scrape of that sort, and from knowing them to have been
together the whole of last summer."
"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 only told 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's conduct 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 his friend's inclination, or why, upon his own
judgement alone, he was to determine and direct in what manner
his friend was to be happy. But," she continued, recollecting
herself, "as we know none of the particulars, it is not fair to
condemn him. It is not to be supposed that there was much
affection in the case."
"That is not an unnatural surmise," said Fitzwilliam, "but it is a
lessening of 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 they reached the Parsonage. There, shut
into her own room, as soon as their visitor left them, she could
think without interruption of all that she had heard. It was not
to be supposed that any other people could be meant than those
with whom she was connected. There could not exist in the
world TWO men over whom Mr. Darcy could have such
boundless influence. That he had been concerned in the
measures taken to separate Bingley and Jane she had never
doubted; but she had always attributed to Miss Bingley the
principal design and arrangement of them. If his own vanity,
however, did not mislead him, HE was the cause, 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 of
happiness for the most affectionate, generous heart in the world;
and no one could say how lasting an evil he might have inflicted.
"There were some very strong objections against the lady," were
Colonel Fitzwilliam's words; and those strong objections
probably were, her having one uncle 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 mind improved, and her manners
captivating. Neither could anything be urged against my father,
who, though with some peculiarities, has abilities Mr. Darcy
himself need not disdain, and respectability which he will
probably never each." When she thought of her mother, her
confidence gave way a little; but she would not allow that any
objections THERE had material weight with Mr. Darcy, whose
pride, she was convinced, would receive a deeper wound from
the want 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 this worst kind of pride, and partly
by the wish of retaining Mr. Bingley for his sister.
The agitation and tears which the subject occasioned, brought on
a headache; and it grew so much worse towards the evening,
that, added to her unwillingness to see Mr. Darcy, it determined
her not to attend her cousins to Rosings, where they were
engaged to drink tea. Mrs. Collins, seeing that she was really
unwell, did not press her to go and as much as possible
prevented her husband from pressing her; but Mr. Collins could
not conceal his apprehension of Lady Catherine's being rather
displeased by her staying at home.